#483-484 - December 19, 1997

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Full issue

Quote of the month:
"The Agency considers high burn-up reactor-grade plutonium and in general plutonium of any isotopic composition (...) to be capable of use in a nuclear explosive device. There is no debate on the matter in the Agency's Department of Safeguards." Hans Blix, Letter to Nuclear Control Institute, 1990

Austria: First country with official anti-nuclear policy

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 19, 1997) A historical event on nuclear issues happened in November 1997 in Vienna. An anti-nuclear-package has been negotiated between Global 2000 and other anti-nuclear-groups with the Austrian government. The anti-nuclear package was accepted in the council of Austrian Ministries and will be realized the beginning of next year.

(483/4.4792) Global 2000 Package of Austrian anti-nuclear policies:

1. Amendment and constitutional rank for the antinuclear law.
According to the Federal Law of December 15, 1978 (BGBl. No. 676) on the ban of using nuclear fission for Austria's energy supply, nuclear power plants must neither be erected nor set into operation in Austria. Until the end of March 1998 at latest, a comprising anti-nuclear law shall in the course of its amendment reach constitutional rank.

2. No storage for foreign radioactive waste in Austria.
According to article 7 Z 8 and article 10 para.2 of the Radioactive Waste Transfer Regulation (RAbf-VV, BGBl. II No. 44/1997), even today the transfer of radioactive waste into the Federal territory for the purpose of final or intermediate storage is not possible. Moreover it is being intended to additionally embody the ban of storing and conditioning nuclear waste from foreign countries in Austria in the course of the amendment of the anti-nuclear law and elevate it to constitutional rank at the end of March 1998 at the latest.

3. New nuclear liability.

3.1 Amendment of the nuclear liability law.
Based on the decision of the National Council of July 10, 1997 the Austrian Federal Government will in the first six months of 1998 approve a new Austrian nuclear liability law adapted to modern requirements. Principles like e.g. the approximation of indemnity amounts to real risk and damage assessments, liability for damage to the environment, introduction of longer time limits for submitting a compensation claim for health damage, easier burden of evidence, easier receiving information from the tortfeaser ("damager") and a more rigorous liability for handling radionuclids will be included; the question of channeling of liability has to be reconsidered.

3.2 Initiative for a European nuclear liability regime.
At European level the Members of European Parliament of both coalition parties and members of the Federal Government will take the initiative for a rigorous European nuclear liability regime.

4. No nuclear transports through Austria.
Due to international commitments there is no direct possibility to forbid nuclear transports through Austria. Within the scope of this measurement package, however, there will be assured that all options against nuclear transports will fully be exhausted for safety reasons of the population, the transport security and environmental protection. Until the end of March 1998 an appropriate measurement package (e.g stronger conditions) will be presented by the Federal Ministry for Internal Affairs as well as the Federal Ministry for Science and Transport to the National Council (Parliament) for decision-making. A first measure was taken by the Cabinet Council with the amendment of 1997 which amongst other changes raised the compensation limit to 1,5 billion ATS (about US$117 million).

5. No signing of insufficient international nuclear liability conventions.
At the moment there is no intention for Austria to enter one of the international nuclear liability conventions. The decision for a final Austrian opinion will require broad public discussions.

6. Complete nuclear phase-out is an issue of the EU-accession negotiations with the Central- and East-European-countries.
Based on the decision of the National Council of July 10, 1997 the Federal Government committed itself to pushing for nuclear phase-out-plans in the course of the forthcoming EU accession negotiations with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and feels responsible for taking adequate actions.

7. R&D funds for renewable energy.
The Federal Government is at the moment consequently trying to claim more EU research money for renewable energy during the ongoing preparation process of the 5th framework programme. The government continues with increased force the promotion of renewable energy for PHARE and TACIS(*). Moreover the Federal Government is going to push for increased socio-economic research in the 5th framework programme. In the field of Austrian research funding the government is going to make sure that an adequate financing for the overlapping technology risk research, especially in the field of nuclear fusion is guaranteed.

8. IAEA increases verification.
The Federal Government applies for the IAEA's reorientation from promoting nuclear power to increased verifying of safety standards and proliferation. Austria will continue to point out that nuclear energy is no admissible option for fighting the anthropogene greenhouse-effect.

9. NGO-conference during the Austrian EU-presidency.
In the course of the events taking place during the Austrian European Union presidency (second half of 1998) the topic nuclear policy will find its account in the international NGO conference which is going to be supported by the Federal Government. The cooperation with like-minded countries will be continued and extended.

(*) EU programs for the former-Soviet Union (TACIS) and Central and East- European Countries (PHARE)

Source and Contact: Patricia Lorenz at Global 2000, Flurschuetzstr. 13, 1120 Vienna, Austria.
Tel: +43-1-8125730; Fax: +43-1-8125728
E-mail: global2000@t0.or.at
WWW: www.t0.or.at/~global2000


Blackmailing the world with fear

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 19, 1997) The EBRD seems to have quite some problems making the decision to support or not the K2/R4 project. The bank decided in August to let the US consultant firm Stone & Webster "refine the figures" from an earlier least-cost study. Already last spring it was made clear by the bank itself that the project (completion of the Ukraini- an Khmelnitski-2 and Rovno-4 units and in exchange closure of the Chernobyl-3 unit) did not meet even the first condition; being the least- cost option. Due to pressure by the Ukrainian government and the G7, eager to finally be able to pronounce the "successful closure of the dangerous Chernobyl-3 unit", the new study "will come up with a much better result".

(483/4.4800) WISE Amsterdam -Since the results of the last least cost-study where published in April 1997, more and more people got convinced that the project was over. But we are talking high politics, so forget the numbers. It is a matter of definitions. Or, as a G7 source says in Nucleonics Week, "it depends on how creative the bank wants to be".

Within the G7 there is a big concern that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), founded at least partly to help improve the nuclear safety heritage of the former USSR, is not able to take politically difficult decisions such as the completion of Soviet-build reactors. Up till now, none of the EBRD efforts have led to the official goal, the shutdown of unsafe Soviet-built reactors. And time is running out -- the two reactors would be completed (if started immediately) at the latest in the year 2000, the year the Cherno- byl-3 would be taken off-line. The Ukrainian government is now accusing the West of postponing the decision to pay for the K2/R4 completion. It has already announced that it would either accept Russian (or other) money to complete the K2/R4 and just not close Chernobyl-3 or, if the Russian money does not show up, at least keep the Chernobyl- 3 unit open until the two reactors are completed with Western money. The EC and G7 are so eager to complete the two reactors that delay of closure of Chernobyl-3 probably would be accepted, pressing the partners to discuss again the conditions of the Memorandum Of Understanding for its closure.

Of course this would lead to new problems for the funders -- it will become even harder to explain why they should fund two new reactors and not just provide money for the closure of Chernobyl and help the Ukraine solve its energy needs and problems in a more rational and environmentally sound way. Because the issue is so important (if this does not work out for the West every new project for completion of nuclear reactors would become more difficult) we pay extra attention to the history and background. (See also the Chernobyl Special Edition, 10 April 1996: Possibility and Necessity of Phase-out of Chernobyl)

In 1994, the European Commission authorized itself by way of Euratom, to help with (co-financing) the construction of nuclear reactors outside the European Union. Of course this had to do with the fact that no reactors could be built within the EU countries anymore. The EC formulated the condition that "a major proportion of the expenditures should be provided by a Community enterprise".

In the past three years, the EC has been actively searching for projects in Eastern Europe that fit the criteria. A number of Soviet designed, partly built reactors were or are being assessed as potential recipients of these loans; Kozloduy 5 and 6 in Bulgaria, Mochovce in Slovakia, Kalinin and Rostov in Russia and Khmelnitsky 2 and Rovno 4 (K2/R4) in the Ukraine.

In December 1995, the so-called Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between the government of the Ukraine and the European Union and the G7. Most important aim for the West was to set a date for the closure of Chernobyl, being considered as the most dangerous nuclear reactors. The Ukraine smartly used this fear to get the promises for additional funds for energy projects. The G7 and the EBRD, thus involved in the process for completion of the K2/R4 reactors, developed a new set of conditions, one of them being that the completion should also be the least-cost option. At that time it was made clear by the Ukrianian government that they would "anyway" continue completion of the K2/R4 reactors (both at that time approximately 75% complete). The European Commission declared that the total costs of completion of the two reactors as well as an additional reactor at Zaporozhe and the closure of the Chernobyl-3 reactor would cost US$1.6 billion. The initial consultant, the Germany- based firm Lahmeyer, came with a "yes" on the question if this was the least-cost option. The conclusion was clear: "Therefore, the most cost- effective option is to complete some partially constructed nuclear station which will also increase the Ukraine's energy self-sufficiency. The commission has looked at the costs of alternatives, such as updating existing coal-fired stations or new constructions, but found them to be more expensive."

Unfortunately for the EBRD and the Ukrainians the Lahmeyer findings were effectively attacked by independent panels, saying they had been using regressive analysis dating back to a period when the Ukraine had one of the highest energy intensities in the world. The EBRD was forced to overdo her homework. To review the Lahmeyer report, the EBRD announced in September 1996 the establishment of an independent panel to "assess whether the completion of K2/R4 was necessary to meet Ukraine's demand for cheap power after the closure of the Chernobyl-3 station in the year 2000". The so-called Surrey Panel, comprised of six energy experts from the West, was "undertaking its role in an entirely independent manner". The panels' report was released by the EBRD on February 19, 1997, and concluded: "K2/R4 are not economic. Completing these two reactors would not represent the most productive use of EBRD/EU funds at this time." The justification for their conclusions were:

  • electricity demand had been so reduced by the highly depressed economic situation that there is a large capacity surplus wich is likely to last until at least the year 2010;
  • there is little confidence within the panel in any of the estimated costs of completion and operating K2/R4, including waste disposal and decommissioning. This makes the whole idea a high-risk investment;
  • the need for safety upgrades at the existing VVER-1000 stations is pressing. If the safety upgrades increase reliability, the extra output of the existing nuclear reactors would make K2/R4 even more unnecessary;
  • low-energy efficiency in final uses and conversion processes and high losses in electricity transmission and gas pipelines and district heating schemes present an opportunity to improve overall productivity, reduce energy demand and increase effective electricity supply capacity -- all at relatively low cost;
  • even with the closure of Chernobyl by 2000, it is highly unlikely that there would be need for additional base load capacity before 2010.

Reading these conclusions, there is only one action to be taken; the withdrawal of the EBRD and the European Commission from the project. The national governments of the G7 countries must accept that completion of the two reactors is not in the economic interest of the Ukraine and should abandon any bilateral funding proposals. But the Ukrainian government successfully protested against some assumptions made by the Surrey Panel and so the Board of the EBRD, although not longer speaking with one mouth, requested to "reduce uncertainties" and undertake additional economic assessment work. And so the US recently decided to pay "Stone and Webster" for an additional assessment. The firm has been asked to consult various parties on what assumptions would be acceptable to use for additional least-cost modeling work, attempting to go the "consensus route".

Up till now the environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs), working on the issue, have not been consulted on this. The Surrey Panel, sticking to the viewpoint that their least cost-study was well done and complete are also no longer part of the consultations. The Board of the EBRD will again discuss the findings of the new least cost-study in a "workshop" scheduled for late January 1998 at the earliest, most likely sometime February. In their "documents for public consultation" published in the summer of 1997, the EC "Project Managament Group" gives the latest estimate of the project costs; only completing K2/R4 is now estimated at US$1,265 million.

What is wrong with the safety
Besides the economics there is of course an other issue of concern; the safety of the two reactors. Although the NGOs fighting against the financial aid for new reactors have been mostly focusing on economic arguments (of course the biggest concern for the EBRD...) there is quite some evidence that the safety situation is as bad. And thus that the EC and the G7, as parties in the Memorandum of Understanding, have problems explaining and communicating their wish to proceed with this project.

Within the MOU agreements, it was said that the involved reactors should, due to involvement by the West, reach full Western safety standards. As the commission put it (in 1995): "We insist that they (the reactors) should be completed not just to Russian or Ukrainian standards but to full Western safety levels instead." The president of the EBRD made even a stronger statement: "The safety of any nuclear plant we would be working on would have to be at the highest existing standard." After some years this safety objective was lowered and now the commission will "eventually allow the implementation of a safety level for these two units which is equivalent to the level currently achieved in Western Europe for plants of the same vintage designs". This is roughly a standard similar to that of NPPs designed in the West during the 1970s, without the modifications made following the Harrisburg and Chernobyl accidents. This change in policy is due to the results of initial analysis on the design of both reactors. Already in 1994 an international expert group stated that "in addition to their design shortcomings, most of Ukraine's nuclear plants suffer from poor quality construction materials, inadequate instruments and control, insufficient attention to maintenance". And more recently, even the IAEA and Goscomatom (Ukrainian ministry responsible for overlooking the nuclear power plants) reported "deterioration of equipment at the sites".

It is reported that, even to meet the changed standards, more than 100 design changes would be necessary. For example, the lack of separation of the cable trays (standard condition in the West since the cable tray fire in the US nuclear Browns Ferry plant in 1975); the Surrey Panel reported that the VVER 1000 design does not allow the separation of the cable trays. Because the two involved nuclear reactors are almost complete, modifications to meet the Western standard would "effectively mean tearing down large parts of the reactor building in order to rebuild cable trays, and that while this might be possible, it would cost such very large sums of money that no one has made such a proposal or calculated a probable cost".

Of course all this drew quite some international attention, not in the last place from environmental organizations. The "Bankwatch-network" and for instance Greenpeace are following the matter thoroughly, seeing it as a good chance to block any further plans from the EC and the West in general to provide funds for new nuclear reactors in the former Soviet Union.

Time is on our side. Delay will lead to victory.


  • Private conversations with the 'Bankwatch network', November and December 1997
  • Report: The European Commission, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Completion of Khmelnitsky 2 and Rovno 4 Nuclear reactors in Ukraine, Greenpeace International, February 1997
  • Financial Times Energy Economist Briefings, February 1997
  • Press release Ukraine Goscomatom, undated, approx. 15 August 1997
  • Actions and Scope Planned for Khmelnitsky 2 and Rovno 4 Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), documents for public consultation, EC Project Management Group, undated, approx. August 1997
  • Safety problems at Rovno and Khmelnitsky NPP: A preliminary survey, FOE International/Polski Club Ekologiczny/CEE Bankwatch/For Mother Earth, Summer 1997
  • Nucleonics Week, 4 & 18 September 1997

Contact: CEE Bankwatch, Peter Hlobil. c/o Biocit, Chlumova 17, Praha 3 -Zizkov 130 00, Czech Republic.
Tel & Fax: +420-2-2278 0052

Chernobyl already closed - forever? Due to more than 100 defects found in piping systems the reactor number 3 at Chernobyl will remain closed untill at least March 1998 and most probably untill next summer. Defects were found in the main coolant system and in emergency cooling systems as well. The National Academy of Sciences says that the reactor can operate without repairing the small cracks. This was done with the Kursk nuclear plant (in Russia) when simular cracks were found. But the Ukraine Nuclear Regulatory Administration, noting that there were fewer cracks involved, did not agree with the proposal and says the reactor will remain closed untill the problems are solved. This position was supported by the Ukrainian Council of Ministers. One of te biggest problems is that the repair staff is receiving a too high dose (6.5 rem where annual legal limit is 5 rem). The repairs will cost about US$ 55 million. Government has announced that this will be paid by taking money from the State Chernobyl Fund, ment to be used for solving social and environmental problems caused by the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.
(Sources: Nucleonics Week, October 16 and November 6, 1997)

Public hearings and EIA. Very recently WISE-International got directly involved in the K2/R4 completion project as well. Besides all the discussions on economics, the K2/R4 project is currently in a renewed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) phase, which requires for instance public hearings, not only in the Ukraine but also in other countries, even when they do not border the Ukraine. The public participation process has already begun in Ukraine with public meetings to discuss the scope of the EIA. However, to date there has not been sufficient involvement of interested parties in or outside of Ukraine. Under the requirements of both the European Commission and the EBRD, a condition for the loan is that there is an adequate public participation.
Working and living in a "potentially affected area" (ESPOO Convention on Tranboundery Pollution), WISE has requested the Ukrainian government to conduct a process of public participation in the Netherlands and thus organize, for instance, public hearings. Besides requesting the Ukrainians, we have also asked the Dutch government to do the same -- they should force the Ukrainians to fulfill the requirements of an EIA process. Up till now, we have not received any official response. Very recent discussions with the responsibles in the Ukrainian government and within the EBRD have made clear that the public participation process has been delayed once more -- making the whole project again more uncertain!!
Contact: Wim Kersten at WISE International, Amsterdam.

EBRD/NSA: Not a nice place to work? Since April, when Manfred Babaschik suddenly left the EBRD's Nuclear Safety Account (NSA), Mark Tomlinson headed both the NSA as well as the Banking Division's Special Energy Projects Department, the latter being responsible for both the Chernobyl shelter implementation program as well the implementation of the G7/Ukraine Memorandum Of Understanding agreements to complete the two Ukrainian reactors K2/R4. Last August, Tomlinson announced his intention to leave the EBRD by accepting a job as head of the World Bank's African Energy Program. Quite recently, another senior staff member left the bank's NSA department; F. Maltini, responsible for an ECU 118-million (US$130 million) safety upgrade, waste management and decommissioning program at Chernobyl. The NSA is, until replacement is found, run by Joachim Jahnke, EBRD's vice-president. The choice for the successor of Maltini will be between a Canadian and a Swede. Charles Frank, new first vice-president at the EBRD (coming from General Electric), will be mainly responsible for K2/R4. From an anti-nuclear point of view it is a good thing that Tomlinson left the bank -- he was, despite all the troubles and arguments against, one of the biggest advocates for the completion of the Ukrainian reactors. Unfortunately, one of the opposers of the deal, EBRD's President De Larosiere, is leaving the bank as well in January. Both France and Germany are vying for the post. Up till now it is unclear whether De Larosiere will lead another board workshop (most probably in February 1998) to decide whether the bank should review again in detail the K2/R4 project.

Dounreay: Decision to clean up waste shaft

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 19, 1997) In the first week of December the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority told ministers that the Dounreay waste shaft must be cleaned up to prevent an environmental disaster. The UK Government (taxpayers, that is) faces a 500 million pound (US$825 million) bill. The managers of Dounreay have submitted a formal recommendation to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) that the waste should be retrieved, packaged and stored above ground. Ministers are expected to give the go-ahead before the end of the year.

(483/4.4801) WISE Amsterdam -This is the first time that managers have admitted past mistakes, reflecting a new policy of openness in recent years. According to the director of Dounreay: "The whole culture has changed radically, we want to be completely open and honest now." "To say that they were lying is not an unreasonable conclusion to reach," commented Sir John Knill, former head of the government-appointed Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee.

The Dounreay 15MW fast-breeder reactor started operations in 1959. It was the first reactor designed to generate electricity and "breed" its own fuel at the same time. Scientists of the era promised home electric bills as low as one penny a year. In 1994 the fast reactor programme was abandoned when the government funding stopped. Three years later Dounreay's legacy is one of arrogance, complacency and incompetence.

The 220 feet (75 meter) deep shaft that must be cleaned was dug to remove rock carved out during construction of a low-level waste effluent pipe which runs into the Atlantic Ocean. In 1959 managers plugged the bottom and began using it as a waste repository. Over the next 18 years at least 700 cubic meters of a deadly cocktail that included highly enriched uranium and plutonium was secretly sunk in the shaft. It is not known exactly what was dumped in the shaft between 1959 and 1977, as no proper records were kept. Safety was so lax that waste was carried across the site in open-top cardboard boxes or empty paint tins before being dropped into the water at the bottom of the shaft. If containers did not sink, workers shot holes in them with air pistols. The dumping stopped in 1977 after a major accident. Two elements, sodium and potassium coolant reacted with the water and generated so much hydrogen that the mix exploded, blowing off the top of the shaft and scattering radioactive particles over the surrounding beaches. Then-director Clifford Blumheld assured the public it was "a low intensity bang" with insignificant fall-out. However later investigations revealed radiation levels were six times higher than Dounreay had admitted. Two years ago men in space suits were sent to pick up pebbles on beaches where for 18 years children had played.

Now the cliffs are eroding and the shaft is in danger of collapsing into the Atlantic. Scientists fear that radioactive particles are already leaking, meanwhile Dounreay experts say it will take up to 30 years to clean the shaft. According to industry sources the bill could rise to 500 million or even 1 billion pounds (US$1.66 billion). Six consortiums are biding for the contract. In their submission to DTI the managers of the consortiums or of Dounreay say they will freeze the waste by pumping cooled bins into the rock around the shaft and "defrost" it meter by meter, allowing robots to lift it to the surface for packaging. When the shaft is empty it will be cleaned and filled with concrete. Roy Nelson, director of Dounreay, admits it is a dangerous operation, because a potentially chemically unstable situation will be disturbed. Safety will be top priority, he says. Local people and activists are at least glad that the AEA has finally accepted responsibility for the radioactive mess Dounreay created.

Source: The Guardian, 8 & 10 December 1997.
Contact: Scotland Against Nuclear Dumping pressure group SAND, 114 Moubray Grove, South Queensferry, Edinburgh, Scotland EH 30 G PE, UK
Or: NENIG, Bain's Beach, Commercial Str. Lerwick, Shetland ZE1 OAC, UK
Tel/Fax: +44-1595-694 099
E-mail: n-base@zetnet.co.uk
WWW: www.users.zetnet.co.uk/n-base

Final report of the international MOX assessment

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 19, 1997) The "Comprehensive Social Impact Assessment of MOX Use in Light Water Reactors" was published late November 1997 by the Tokyo-based Citizens' Nuclear Information Centre. It is the final report of the IMA, the International MOX Assessment, a 2 year co-operation between nine researchers from Japan and Europe.

(483/4.4796) WISE-Amsterdam -It was a long wait, but worth it. The 350 page report is comprehensive and detailed (especially chapter 2 on security aspects and 4 on Economics of MOX use), however sometimes rather superficial (i.e chapter 6: Societal and Legal Implications of MOX Use). In general it is a very useful reference and necessary reading for those already working on the issue, who can best understand the technical language and appreciate the detailed information.

The report was written as a challenge to the nuclear industry and the (Japanese) authorities to change their policy: "We invite the Japanese Government, utilities and industry to analyze the present report and submit their comments to the director of the project. (...) We also invite the government, utilities and industry of any country, which is engaged in, has plans for or has a concern over using MOX in light water reactors, to analyze the present report and review its nuclear policy on the basis of the present findings" (page 259). Which countries are meant and the current policy on MOX-use, however cannot be easily found in the report. This is certainly a debatable choice the IMA Project made: to focus entirely and solely on Japan. But our conclusion is that the report is a very good reference work for fighting MOX! Read it!

The IMA was formed by nine researchers: Frank Barnaby (independant science consultant), Ichiro Hokimoto (Kokugakuin University), Komei Hosokawa (Saga University), Chihiro Kamisawa (CNIC), Baku Nishio (CNIC), Michael Sailer (Oeko-Institute), Mycle Schneider (WISE-Paris) and Jinzaburo Tagaki (CNIC).

Contact: The secretariat of the International MOX Assessment is at the Citizens' Nuclear Information Centre: Kotobuki Bldg., 3F, 1-58- 15, Higashi-nakano, Nakano-ku, Tokyo 164, Japan
Tel: +81-3-5330 9520; Fax: +81-3-5330 9530
E-mail: cnic-jp@po.iijnet.or.jp
WWW: www.jca.ax.apc.org/cnic

Forum against military use of depleted uranium

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 19, 1997) From November 14-16, the US-based Military Toxics Project's Depleted Uranium Citizens' Network held a forum on the risks of industrial and military use of depleted uranium (DU). Representatives from many grassroot organisations all over the US, and some from Europe, came together in Washington to discuss a common strategy against this horrible new weapon in the conventional armsrace.

(483/4.4793) H. vd Keur Despite a demanding program, spirit was high among the diverse participants, who included Gulf War veterans; workers from DU munition factories; Native Americans; neighbours from military bases, test-sites, DU plants, uranium mines and mills (etc.); as well as lawyers, physicians, scientists and researchers. On the first day a number of speakers told about the role of uranium in their daily life and work. Extracts of this testimony follow.

The worker.
Some 17 years ago John Paul Hasko organized a health safety strike at TNS, a DU munitions factory in Jonesborough, Tennessee. The union supported his claim and took it into court. An independent research study showed that the workers were exposed to high levels of uranium dust. Regular incidents took place during the manufacture of 30mm shells, exposing workers to micro-particles of DU. The results of the independent research were dramatic. The average exposure of TNS-workers to radioactive radiation doses during 1980 was ten times higher than the average radiation burden for workers in the US nuclear industry. High levels of uranium were found in workers' urine. A number of workers suffered from kidney disfunctions. Despite the stark conclusions of the study, the workers' case was denied by the National Relations Labor Board. A lawsuit on their behalf still drags on today.

The Gulf War veteran.
After six months of training, Cassandra Garner went on active duty in December 1990, just a month before the Gulf War began. Before leaving for Saudi Arabia she received several injections, but was never told what they were for. The first days after her arrival at King Khaled Military City she felt sick. Frequently alarms for chemical attacks would go off, but the troops present were always reassured that these were false alarms. At the end of the war Garner witnessed the Highway of Death, the mass slaughter by allied forces of Iraqi forces who were withdrawing from Kuwait in long columns, just after the cease-fire signal. Like many other soldiers, Cassandra climbed on and in DU contaminated tanks without protection, and put souvenirs in her pockets. Last year she learned about DU and how it was used, and how to protect yourself before entering a contaminated area. Since her return Cassandra has not been able to work and is continually under a doctor's care, at military hospitals and the Veteran Affairs, where they say her illness is stress-related. She suffers from many health problems: cramping, weakness, asthma, rashes and head aches. Her blood counts are abnormal and her over-all health is deteriorating rapidly.

The Native American.
The Navajo nation lies in the middle of a territory laced with uranium mines, mining waste "tailings", and test-sites. Anna Rondon is a board member of the Navajo Council, which represents the region between Church Rock and Gallop and has 220 members in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado. Although most of the 3000 underground and open-pit uranium mines are closed, the polluting tailings remain. In addition, Navajo lands have been used for tests of small missiles, including those used in the Gulf War. Many Navajo families suffer from a range of diseases and new medical problems have developed. Many children have birth defects. Currently additional mining and milling sites are proposed for the Rocky Mountain area. 25 companies have submitted proposals for mining and milling sites.

The citizen.
Nuclear Metals Inc. (NMI) in Concord, Massachusetts, produces DU counterweights and DU tank armour piercing penetrators. Higher rates of cancer in Concord, compared to neighbouring towns or state-wide, are strongly suspected to be linked to NMI's activities. In 1994 Dr. Harper and Prof. Jacobson from Harvard University confirmed high levels of DU in soils in Concord, 1.5 km from the NMI factory. This suggests that inhabitants of Concord are indeed exposed to DU-particles. Judy Scotnicki is actively involved in the local group Citizens, Research and Environmental Watch (CREW). For years the group has collected data on health and safety and the environmental impact of NMI on their community. CREW tries to get evidence on whether cancers in Concord could have been caused by radiation exposure. According to the first director of the Massachusetts Cancer Registry, the rate of male leukemia in Concord from '82 to '86 was one of the highest in the state. CREW reviewed the cancer registration data for Concord up to 1990, which showed thyroid cancers 2.5 times the state-wide level. In the same period there were high incidences of other cancers in Concord: breast, skin, myeloma, testicle, brain and central nervous system, and multiple myelomas. Last October members of CREW learned of a doctor in a local hospital who has been treating NMI-workers with multiple myeloma. In April 1993, the federal agency with oversight for NMI, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), wrote letters to Mass. Senator John Kerry and a CREW member about a major fire at NMI in which they stated: "credible emergency scenarios, including a major fire, do not produce a significant radiation dose to off-site individuals." A curious statement. NMI has about one million pounds of DU on site, more than the amount calculated as having been fired during the Gulf War. However there is no NMI-specific emergency evacuation plan for Concord.

Former Veteran Affairs expert.
Asaf Durakovic is a specialist on the behaviour of DU in the human body. In April 1997 he was discharged from his position as chief of the Nuclear Medicine Service of the Veterans Affairs' Medical Center in Wilmington, Delaware. A group of DU-contaminated Gulf War veterans had been referred to him as an expert in nuclear contamination. He properly referred them to different institutions dealing with transuranium elements for diagnostic tests. Subsequently all of their records were lost in his hospital and in the referring institutions. Only a small part of the information gathered was recorded in the final report of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Illnesses. Durakovic accused Veteran Affairs, the Pentagon and other institutions of a conspiracy against the U.S. veterans. In his speech, Durakovic said that one of the patients, under his care since 1991, was asked the day before his speech to sign a paper saying that he was not sick. The patient, he said, was in fact very sick and in deteriorating health, with symptoms including immunodeficiency, and several infections after having gone five surgeries of the kidneys. The doctor and radiobiologist says he was asked in 1992 by the Pentagon and the Office of the Surgeon General to deny any connection between patients' symptoms and exposure to DU. He refused, and was finally fired. But that is not all, the specialist continues: "They are trying to build a case against me, and the veterans who were under my care are brought to the VA Hospital in Bloomington by the Chief of Staff and the Directors of Public Affairs, and are asked to sign a document saying that they are perfectly healthy." Durakovic calls this criminal obstruction of his own conscience and role as a physician.
The scientist explained his concern about the accumulation of uranium in the human body: "Uranium goes to the inner compartment of the bone where it gets incorporated in the crystals of calciumphosphate or hydroxy-appetite. Once in these crystals, it gives off a high internal dose of radiation, not only because of the uranium-235, but because of the daughters of uranium-238 and uranium-235, with protactinium-234 in particular, which has the capacity to penetrate one thousand cells.

Experiences of a physician in Iraq.
Siegwart-Horst Guenther from Germany goes to Iraq frequently with medicines for local hospitals. In 1992 he saw Iraqi children playing with projectiles of DU; one of them later died from leukemia. As early as the end of 1991 he diagnosed a hitherto unknown disease among the Iraqi population, caused by renal and hepatic dysfunctions. During the last five years he visited many Iraqi communities located in the Gulf War combat areas where DU ammunition was used to study possible health impacts of the DU fragments. The results offer ample evidence that contact with DU ammunition has the following consequences, especially for children:

  1. A considerable increase in infectious diseases caused by severe immunodeficiencies in a great part of the population
  2. Frequent occurrence of massive herpes and zoster afflictions, also in children
  3. AIDS-like syndromes
  4. A hitherto unknown syndrome caused by renal and hepatic dysfunctions
  5. Leukemia, aplastic anemia and malignant neoplasms
  6. Congenital deformities caused by genetic defects, which are also found in animals

On the second day, forum participants divided into four groups to formulate goals for international networking. Two goals were decided on: education and scientific credibility. Two working groups have been established to deal with these themes.

Source and Contact: Henk van der Keur, Laka Foundation, Ketelhuisplein 43, NL-1054 RD Amsterdam, Netherlands. Tel: +31-20-6168 294; Fax: +31-20-689 2179
E-mail: laka@antenna.nl
Or: Dolly Lymburner, Military Toxics Project, 471 Main St. 2nd Floor, Lewiston, ME. 04240 USA.
Tel: +1-207-783-5091; Fax: +1- 207-783-5096
E-mail: mtp@cdh.net

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

US: "Not safe to breathe".

(December 19, 1997) On September 30, 1997, a gravel truck tipped over and dumped its entire load -- 25 tons of raw uranium ore -- onto Interstate 25, Colorado Springs, Colorado, US. The highway was closed for six hours. Hazardous materials response team members chose not to evacuate households near the freeway, but did warn the residents that if the wind picked up, it was "not safe to breathe dust particles in the area". The government reported that at least 10 of these shipments pass through the city of Colorado Springs every week. Citizens for Peace in Space, taken from Nukewatch Pathfinder, Winter 97-98

UK: What does that second siren signal mean? The British Nuclear Navy has a nuclear submarine base and refit yard in the middle of the most populated area southwest of Bristol (Southwest England). At a community meeting held at Devonport, Plymouth, the Navy outlined its plans to help the victims of a nuclear accident. Two hundred military personnel will hand out potassium iodate tablets (to block the retention of radioactive iodine-131) and 50 sailors wearing paper face masks will run around city streets posting tablets and leaflets. City councilors worried that many inhabitants would not be able to read the leaflets. When asked about the masked sailors, the Navy told the audience that the paper masks would be worn only if a release of radiation occurred. The masked men would know of releases because a second alarm would sound. Unfortunately, residents have been told that hearing a second siren would signal the "all clear". While the Navy said evacuation was the responsibility of the local authorities, the local authorities said it was the police's job and the police inspector had no comment. Plymouth Nuclear Information Group, UK, taken from Nukewatch Pathfinder, Winter 97-98

New UK waste body proposed. The parliamentarian office of Science & Technology said that the management of radwaste in the UK should be taken over by a new commission, independent of nuclear industry and answerable to government and parliament. It should be funded through a levy on the nuclear industry and be responsible for selecting a waste disposal site. Its decisions will be open for public scrutiny and it has to take into account the concerns of all stakeholders. A separate organization should take over the job of designing, financing and operating a waste disposal facili- ty. This means Nirex, owned by the nuclear industry, would be broken up; it already had laid off almost half of its 200 staff. Nirex is being criticized for lack of openness in the past and is being viewed by some as being too close to the nuclear industry. At present Nirex is still responsible for all aspects of radioactive waste disposal. (see also WISE NC 480.4769: Nirex life extension) Nature, 27 November 1997

Egypt started testing a 22 megawatt nuclear reactor in the northern Delta town of Inshass. Egypt bought the research reactor from Argentina and built it with the institutional CNEA (Comision Nacional de Energia Atomica) and technical support of 70 Argentian technicians. The plant will be used for research, mainly in the fields of agriculture, industry, medicine and other "peaceful" uses. The reactor, which costed US$100 million will be officially inaugurated during a visit to Egypt later in December by President Carlos Menem of Argentina. In May, the head of the center Hisham Fuad said he expected the reactor to be operational in October. Egypt and Argentina agreed the sale of the reactor in 1993. Egypt already has a 2-megawatt reactor in Inshass which was bought from the former Soviet Union. Argentina wants to get a share of the international market showing its comptetence. AFP, 2 December 1997

Latvia: N-research reactor preparing for retirement. A reactor built in 1961 in the town of Salaspils, some 20 km from Riga, will cease operations in December. The reactor will be closed for lack of nuclear fuel. The International Atomic Energy Agency has advised Latvia to close old reactors if safety is at risk. Dismantling the reactor will cost an estimated US$50 million. The nuclear research center and nuclear reactor employs 115 people. Of these, 48 would lose their jobs after the closure of the reactor. The Baltic Times, 4-10 December 1997

IAEA: delay in radwaste storage solution 'non-technical'. In its presentation to the Kyoto COP3 conference, the IAEA pointed to the fact that nuclear energy is the only readily and commercially available option for electrical generation other than hydro that makes a positive contribution of any magnitude to avoiding CO2 emissions. The IAEA called for political commitment to address the hurdles faced by nuclear which are not of technical origin, including excessively long lead times for plant construction and the delay in building long-term waste repositories. UI News Briefing 97.49; 3 - 9 December 1997

US: Connecticut Yankee. Connecticut Yankee is trying to locate thousands of concrete blocks and other materials given to workers over the past twenty years or so, which may have minor contamination. The blocks were offered to Connecticut Yankee employees who used them in home projects such as step-building and landscaping. Now traces of radioactivity have been discovered on some blocks and the company is trying to find and replace all the blocks taken off site. Nucleonics Week, December 4, 1997

Japanese pro-nuclear leaflet disguised as UN document. The Japanese government has scandalized environment groups by producing a million leaflets promoting the construction of 20 new nuclear power plants under the auspices of a greenhouse gas reduction program. Costing Japanese taxpayers 8 million yen (US$6.1 million), the leaflets are made to look as if they are official UN documents. The front page uses the official name and logo of the COP3 Kyoto conference, with the Japanese government identified as the source in small type at the bottom of the last page. Safe Energy [UK], November 1997-January 1998

Managing nuclear liablilities: New report on costs of the UK nuclear program

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 19, 1997) The nuclear industry often states that nuclear power alone amongst major energy technologies accounts for and deals with the effects of the entire fuel cycle, because it internalises the costs involved in waste management and decommissioning. Is this true? A recent report analysing the situation of nuclear liabilities in the United Kingdom finds important problems and offers recommendations for future analysis and action. The report may be of particular interest for other countries because of the ongoing discussion on privatisation. The report's Executive Summary follows:

(483/4.4794) Sadnicki & MacKerronNuclear liabilities are the costs of dealing with the unwanted products of the nuclear age: radioactive wastes, spent reactor fuel, and redundant nuclear structures. The unwanted products of the nuclear age have been accumulating over fifty years of nuclear operation. Even if, as now seems likely, there will be no new nuclear power stations in the UK, the legacy of liabilities is large and unavoidable. Indeed the commonly quoted figure for total UK civil liabilities is £45 billion, but this could well escalate to a staggering £70 billion. (all figures are given in British Pound (£); 1£ =US$1.65). It is important that there is a fundamental reappraisal of nuclear liability strategies. Why is this necessary when two major Government reviews - the Nuclear Review and the Review of Radioactive Waste Management Policy - were published in 1995? There are several reasons:

  • the collapse of the NIREX deep disposal programme for intermediate level wastes;
  • areas of growing concern about BNFL operations at the Sellafield site: the levels of radioactive emissions from the THORP reporcessing plant; the rationale for continued reprocessing of spent fuel; the future of plutonium stockpiles; and the planned opening of the facility to manufacture Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuels at Sellafield;
  • the need to subject the 1996 nuclear privatisation to critical scrutiny, particularly arrangements for funding liabilities;
  • the advent of a new Government in May 1997.

The aim of the report is to propose and develop a framework for such a fundamental reappraisal. This framework is built around two policy objectives, both advocated by the Government in the course of the 1995 Nuclear Review processes; sustainable development and cost-effectiveness. We explore the practical implications of these policy objectives for nuclear liability strategies.

Our procedure has been to ask two questions:

  1. Are current funding arrangements adequate?
  2. Are official liability estimates complete and adequate?

Even in a case where the liability estimates are complete and adequate, the funding arrangements may still be inadequate and require reassessment. On the other hand, in a case where the liability estimates are incomplete and/or inadequate, then the existing funding arrangements will certainly be inadequate.

A number of different questions concerning funding and liability estimates have been asked:

  • Is there an equitable distribution of financial responsibility for nuclear liabilities between the public and private sector?
  • For those liabilities in the private sector, is it probable that companies will discharge all their long-term responsibilities, or is there a risk that some may by default fall to be met by future taxpayers?
  • For those liabilities in the public sector, is there an equitable distribution of financial responsibility between the current taxpayer and the future taxpayer? Is this distribution consistent with the policy objective of sustainable development, as represented by two of its main instruments: the polluter pays and the precautionary principles
  • For those liabilities in the public sector, whether falling to current and/or future taxpayers, is the proposed method of dealing with those liabilities consistent with the policy objective of cost-effectiveness? In particular, have the technological options been identified which best satisfy cost-effectiveness criteria within a sustainable development context?

Establishing the official liability estimates.
In the first part of the study we use the official framework for liability estimates to derive a fresh estimate of total civil nuclear liabilities. Our estimate for UK civil undiscounted liabilities outstanding in 1997 is, on this official basis, £41.8 billion. Within this figure, the total for the main nuclear generators - British Energy and Magnox Electric - is estimated to be £31.4 billion undiscounted. Of the overall total, almost £3.7 billion is due to be spent in the period up to 1999 and a further £9.5 billion in the following ten years. Over £10 billion of the expenditures to 2009 fall to British Energy and Magnox Electric, mainly on spent fuel.

The analysis of official estimates of liabilities is hindered by a number of difficulties of definition and convention in official usage. The level of aggregation in industry estimates militates against firm conclusions on the equity of the split between public and private liabilities during the privatisation process. Similarly, the level of aggregation makes it impossible to distinguish between liabilities which are genuinely unavoidable costs, and those which are avoidable. Overall, the data available in the public domain for analysis of such very large sums of public money are extremely limited. Nevertheless, there are some anomalous changes in liability estimates from around the time of British Energy's privatisation which have not, to date, been satisfactorily explained. These changes have implications for the equitable distribution of financial responsibility for liabilities between the public and private sector. They appear to have operated to the disadvantage of the public sector. It is therefore of great importance that this issue is resolved.

Are current funding arrangements adequate?
The traditional approach to provisioning for nuclear liabilities in the UK - the internal unsegregated route - has collapsed and left a large funding gap. For British Energy, the arrangements put in place at the time of privatisation fall far short of solving the funding problem. The Segregated Fund only covers Stages II and III of decommissioning, with an officially expected undiscounted cost of £3.7 billion. A further £5.3 billion of undiscounted post-closedown British Energy liabilities are excluded from the Segregated Fund. These liabilities fall due for payment earlier than the longer-term liabilities included in the Fund, and this seriously aggravates the funding problem. There is a substantial risk that a significant proportion of these costs will fall to the future taxpayer. There are also risks that the Fund will not perform well enough to meet the liabilities which it is intended to cover.

On the privatisation of British Energy in 1996, Magnox Electric inherited £2.6 billion of cash, predominantly Fossil Fuel Levy moneys not used by Nuclear Electric. However, on current strategies, the cash available to Magnox Electric will be used up early in the next century, probably by 2005, through meeting the costs of short-term liabilities, mainly reprocessing. At least a further £13 billion (undiscounted) of future taxpayers' money will be needed to meet the company's liabilities. This is considerably larger than the previous Government's undertaking to provide, as needed, £3.7 billion (escalated from 1996 at 4.5% real annually, making about£5.8 billion by 2006). Taking the two main nuclear generators together, some £18.3 billion of their official liabilities of £31.4 billion - nearly 60% - is currently unfunded. In terms of the full £41.8 billion of undiscounted liabilities, about £28.7 billion is unfunded - nearly 70%. Even on the basis of official estimates of liabilities, nuclear power does not make full and secure provisions to meet all the costs associated with its operation. This applies to both private and public sectors. The limited improvements introduced on privatisation are far from adequate as a response to the funding problem. The only secure solution would be adequately funded segregated funds in both private and public sectors.

Are official liability estimates complete and accurate?
In addition to the funding problem discussed above, there are serious weaknesses in official liability estimates. We have carried out two Case Studies, in both of which we conclude that the nuclear industry has significantly underestimated the costs of managing nuclear wastes. The first Case Study looks at High Level Waste (HLW), using industry base data. For Magnox, undiscounted HLW liabilities are estimated to be nearly £1.1 billion, compared to the industry estimate in 1996 of £350 million. For AGRs, undiscounted HLW liabilities are estimated at £540 million, compared to industry estimates of £380 million. If these AGR HLW liabilities were included in its Segregated Fund, British Energy would have to contribute a further £16.7 million annually, in addition to the current annual contribution of £16 million for Stage II and Stage III decommissioning.

The second Case Study considers plutonium, again using industry base data. Under current reprocessing plans we estimate that the UK will have separated in total over 100 tonnes of plutonium by 2020. We estimate that the costs of storing this separated plutonium will be over£70 million a year. It therefore becomes important to consider plutonium disposition -managing the separated plutonium in a manner which minimises environmental impacts, the risks of proliferation, and the costs of care and maintenance. Official estimates do not appear to include such a disposition programme. We have costed a disposition programme based on vitrification with HLW and then deep disposal. This programme is estimated to cost over £2.3 billion undiscounted. This is the first public attempt at such a costing and the error band is wide due to shortage of data in the public domain. In order to meet the AGR component of these plutonium disposition liabilities, BE would have to make contributions to its Segregated Fund of a further£38.5 million annually. The Magnox component of plutonium liabilities is estimated at over£1.6 billion undiscounted, compared to the company's current provision (itself unlikely to be realisable as cash) of £200 million. The potential scale of plutonium liabilities and the lack of funds to meet them raises serious questions about the desirability of continuing the separation of plutonium through reprocessing.

In addition to the above inadequacies and omissions, nuclear liability estimates are also likely to be inadequate because of the cost escalations typically found in large and complex projects. Currently planned liability projects in the UK lie mostly towards the upper end of the spectrum in which high cost escalations can be expected: they are at an early stage of estimation; they are complex, technically novel, often with unique physical characteristics; and their implementation is often expected to be deliberately delayed for long periods. Present institutional arrangements give incentives for under-estimation, as the risks of escalation are not in most cases borne by the estimating organisation. We estimate that the overall UK total could escalate from £41.8 billion to around £70 billion, if current approaches are allowed to persist. These findings are a strong argument in favour of seeking less complex and less capital-intensive strategies for nuclear liability management. There is a further issue arising from current accounting practice, which assumes that the rate of growth of funds for provisioning will be positive until well into the 22nd century. However, the principle of avoiding potential financial burdens on future generations requires that all funds should be in place by the start of the next generation, about 30 years from now. This can be achieved by assuming a 0% fund growth rate after 30 years. Such an approach is consistent with sustainability. Under these assumptions, the British Energy contribution for HLW to the Segregated Fund, which we estimated above as £16.7 million a year, would rise to £30.1 million a year. The extra contribution to the Segregated Fund for plutonium disposition, which we estimated above as £38.5 million a year, would rise to£41.9 millions a year.

There is also an estimation issue related to the timing of decommissioning. Current Government policy is that decommissioning provisioning should be based on allowing future generations the possibility of bringing forward in time the decommissioning Stages II and III, so that we do not dictate to them when they must perform the task. The undiscounted cost of such earlier decommissioning would be higher than that of the current preferred strategy, due to higher radioactivity, by about 35%. For both Magnox and AGR, this means that the total undiscounted liabilities, and therefore the required provisions, would rise by just over 10%.

Overall conclusions on funding arrangements and liability estimates.
The 'conventional wisdom' of the nuclear industry is false. Current arrangements for nuclear liabilities are inadequate, on two counts:

  1. Present funding arrangements are plainly inadequate, even within the context of official estimates of liabilities. This applies equally to the funding arrangements for those liabilities in the private sector with British Energy, and to those for liabilities in the public sector with Magnox Electric.
  2. In addition, there are areas where the official estimates are inadequate and/or incomplete. Again, this applies in both the private and public sectors.

In addition to these inadequacies in provisioning and estimation, we have noted limitations in the current strategies for the management of nuclear liabilities. There are grounds for considerable concern in the following areas.

  • The distribution of financial responsibility between the public and private sectors following the 1996 privatisation seems not to be equitable, to the apparent disadvantage of the public sector.
  • The distribution of financial responsibility between the current taxpayer and the future taxpayer is not consistent with Government policy on sustainable development, as embodied in two of its main instruments: the polluter pays and the precautionary principles.
  • Current strategies for managing nuclear liabilities do not always seem to employ technological options which best satisfy cost-effectiveness criteria within a context of sustainable development.

Can sustainable development and cost-effectiveness be achieved?
There is a real need to identify less expensive ways to manage liabilities. In exploring the deficiencies of the current strategies, we have concluded that in some cases it will be possible to save money within a given framework of objectives. There are alternative ways to achieve given environmental objectives, and some are more costly than others. The old cost-plus structure of the industry has encouraged an institutional structure and a decision process that have often led to the choice of expensive and capitalintensive options. This is particularly serious given the under-provisioning and potential for escalation in estimates that we have noted earlier. It is essential that greater cost-effectiveness is achieved in nuclear liability management. One way to achieve this is to identify less capital-intensive, simpler technological options. We have identified two examples of this:

  1. the possibility of storage of spent fuel prior to disposal rather than the separation of plutonium through reprocessing;
  2. the surface storage of wastes rather than early deep disposal.

The second way to improve cost-effectiveness is to make careful choices about the timing of specific technological options. An example is the 'postpone and research' option for intermediate level waste disposal, rather than a move to early repository construction. This appears to contradict the expectation that sustainable solutions should involve early action, but illustrates the value of good scientific information. While the postponement option is more cost-effective, realistic appraisal of the estimates suggests that the costs will still exceed industry estimates of the costs of early construction.

Earlier analysis in this summary considered the financial implications of alternative strategies on the implicit assumption that in other respects the impacts of the strategies were broadly equivalent. However, other impacts are involved, and it is important to evaluate comprehensively all relevant impacts - financial, health, environmental, security, institutional and political. When selecting a strategy for managing a particular liability, the selection process used must include a clear definition of objectives and a rigorous and comprehensive identification of possible options. For evaluation of options, an approach using multi-criteria evaluation (MCE) should be used where possible. Public participation needs to be made effective, including public access to all relevant information. There is a need for institutional change which establishes a key role for the public in the decision-making process.

Thus we conclude that, in addition to the inadequacy in provisioning and estimation of nuclear liabilities, the 1995 Government policy objectives of sustainable development and cost-effectiveness are not yet being properly implemented. In addition, the policy objectives seem unlikely to be better implemented in the near future, unless significant corrective action is taken.

It is recommended that the Government conducts a fundamental Review of the management of UK nuclear liabilities, in the light of the inadequacies in provisioning and estimation, and of the deficiencies in current management strategies. We have proposed and developed a framework within which such a Review can take place.

The Review and its associated framework should have the following characteristics.

  1. The framework must adopt the twin objectives of Government policy of sustainable development, including the polluter pays and precautionary principles, and of ensuring cost-effective solutions.
  2. Effective public participation should be ensured, including public access to all the relevant information. The Review should encourage institutional and cultural change which recognises the key role of the public in the decision-making process for the management of nuclear liabilities.

Then the following steps (c) to (h) would apply to each category of nuclear liability.

  1. There should be a clear definition of objectives, and a rigorous identification of possible options. Full regard should be given to technological and timing alternatives, and to the potential for identifying less complex and less capital-intensive options than are currently in use.
  2. For each option identified, the impacts - financial, health, environmental, security, institutional, and political - should be evaluated comprehensively.
  3. The financial description of each option will include the future streams of capital and operating cost, having taken into account possible escalations in cost, particularly for processes which are capital-intensive, and/or unproven, and/or very long-term.
  4. The selection process should include a systematic and transparent evaluation of the possible options. This evaluation should utilise where relevant an approach using multi-criteria evaluation (MCE). The chosen option should be the one which best satisfies the policy objectives in (a) above.
  5. For chosen options, there should be an equitable allocation between the public and private sector of the responsibility for managing the future liabilities. This should include equitable allocation of future costs and of risk-bearing.
  6. In both public and private sectors, secure arrangements should be made for future liability costs, ensuring an equitable allocation between current and future taxpayers.

In the case of British Energy, there should be an examination of the scope for extending the coverage of British Energy's Segregated Fund, and for increasing the company's annual payments to be consistent with growth rate assumptions appropriate to a sustainable development approach.

For those liabilities which either remain in, or are likely to revert to, the public sector, segregated funds should be set up so that the costs to future taxpayers are minimised, again using growth rate assumptions consistent with sustainability.

During the course of this paper we have referred to a number of liability issues which should be made subject to the Review process we advocate. These are:

  1. the possibility that AGR and Magnox spent fuel might be dry-stored, with the consequent possibility of early termination of the reprocessing of such spent fuel, and of avoiding the separation of further plutonium;
  2. the disposition of stockpiles of separated plutonium, including reactor and immobilisation options;
  3. the management of Intermediate and High Level Waste (ILW and HLW), covering surface storage and disposal options, including the possible incorporation of plutonium disposition options into HLW management strategies;
  4. the timing of decommissioning of nuclear power stations and of BNFL facilities.

Source and Contact: The full 165 page report 'Managing Nuclear Liabilities' is written by Mike Sadnicki and Gordon MacKerron and published by the Science Policy Research Unit, Sussex UK in November 1997. Copies (UKP20) are available from SPRU at +44-1273-678176.
E-mail: D.P.Birchall@sussex.ac.uk

New generations: The Eureopean pressurized water reactor

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 19, 1997) After the 1979 Harrisburg (US) accident the nuclear industry faced a serious decline in selling nuclear power reactors. The 1986 Chernobyl disaster made sales drop off even more, as several countries decided not to build any new nuclear power plants. Since the early 1980s, industry has been working on the development of so-called inherently safe reactors.

(483/4.4798) WISE Amsterdam -The European Pressurized Water Reactor (EPR) is an initiative of the French-German joint venture Nuclear Power International (NPI), founded in 1989 by reactor builders Framatome and Siemens. However, this reactor cannot be called one of the long-desired inherently safe reactors; it is seen by the industry as a safer successor of the common Pressurized Water Reactor. The EPR would be the follow-up of the French N4 reactor (Chooz B1 and B2, Civeaux 1 and 2) and the German Convoy reactor (Emsland and Neckar 2). Thus far, some US$200 million has been spent on the EPR project, in which besides Siemens and Framatome, also the German electricity utilities Preussenelektra, Badenwerk, RWE Energie and the French Électricité de France (EdF) also participate. NPI thinks of finishing the design around 1998, after which a non-site-specific license procedure could start resulting finally in a first reactor in 2005 either in France or Germany.

The EPR is a pressurized water reactor: water in a cooling circuit under high pressure is heated by the heat from the reactor core. In a steam generator, the heat is passed to a second circuit in which water is formed into steam to drive an electricity-generating turbine. Characteristics of the EPR are, for example, about 1500-MWe generation capacity, doubled emergency systems, an extra concrete containment and a so-called core catcher which should prevent the penetration of a molten reactor core through the reactor containment (the "China syndrome"). The reactor would be able to use MOX fuel, even up to a 100-percent reactor core.

In September 1997, the EPR partners agreed to an economic optimization phase to be ended at the end of 1998. It is the continuation of the basic design phase that ended in June this year. The goal is to make the EPR more competitive with other sources of electricity production and cut down the costs of an EPR-produced kilowatt-hour by 15 percent. Two ideas for succeeding are an increase of power output to 1,800 MW and the abandonment of the MOX option. However, some partners doubt the idea of increasing power output, seeing it as a risk for new technical problems. Utilities ordering an EPR can make their own specific wishes on capacity and the use of MOX, EdF spokesmen Lecocq said. The optimization phase which has now started would cost about US$60 million.

Although some additional safety measures are taken in the new design, it is often said the EPR is only a kind of mixture between the existing N4 and Convoy and not a completely new design. In 1993 the German Öko-Institut finished a study on EPR and concluded that it could not meet the safety standards required by the German government. It also criticized designed systems to prevent a hydrogen explosion. Hydrogen gas is formed in an accident when hot steam reacts with fuel cladding. The idea to burn eventual hydrogen gas in the reactor building in an early stage would even promote the threat of a serious explosion, according to the Oeko-Institut. An EPR would only be able to compete financially when it is bigger than 1000 MWe. But then the design would be more unsafe because smaller reactors are less difficult to control in cases of accident. Further, the EPR could only be financially competitive when at least 8 to 10 reactors would be ordered.

The German Lower-Saxony Ministry of Environment asked the Advisory Council for Nuclear Retreat Questions to study new designs. In 1993 it concluded that the EPR would not be a totally new design and also not inherently safe. It could not fit in less risky and ecologically safe energy production. Proof of a safer reactor is based on calculations, not on practical experience with the EPR. The council points to the possibilities that planned changes in design could lead to new risks. The question of what to do with radioactive waste cannot be answered with the EPR concept.

Future prospects
In 1994, German Environment Minister Klaus Töpfer set new safety standards for new reactors. The probability of a core melt should be reduced to once in a million years and only in 1 percent of those accidents may radioactivity be released outside the containment (so once in 100 million years). Evacuations, however, should not even be necessary in such a very unlikely event. Töpfer's successor, Angelika Merkel, is strongly in favor of building an EPR in Greifswald, in former East Germany. In 1995 she asked the industry to promise an order within five years. Early this year electricity producer Bayernwerk AG said it would start a non-site-specific license procedure after the 1998 Bavaria state elections. But Bayernwerk would start the procedure only when the utilities RWE and Preussenelektra join for the states Baden-Würtemberg and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. But licensing could be a problem in Germany as seven of the nine states are ruled by the social-democratic SPD, formally anti-nuclear. According to government officials, the licensing of new reactors would be handed over to the federal government, which is in favor of new reactors. In the next three years, a new federal atomic law has to be developed to harmonize with European laws. In the new atomic law, the federal government would be responsible for licensing for safety and technical standards. The states could only deal with site-specific items like seismic conditions and local environment. The federal Ministry for Environment and Reactor Safety would submit the new law in 1999, about the same time when the first EPR license procedures can start. Although actually no new production capacity is needed till 2010 in Germany, the reactor could be built in five years, NPI claims.

In France the electricity producer EdF is interested in building an EPR. Preparation work was even started already in Le Carnet (see also WISE NC 471.4666) and (467.4642). It was an open secret that EdF wanted to build one or two EPRs at this site despite strong local protest. Wanted (past tense, because on September 16, Prime Minister Jospin announced the end of the Carnet plans and also the plan to classify the site into a protected area (see WISE NC 478.4744). New capacity is not needed in France till 2010 but EdF wanted to start sooner to gain experience with the new reactor.

NPI also hopes it might have a chance in the United Kingdom, where a series of older gas-cooled reactors will be shut down the next century. When the UK decides to keep a 20-percent nuclear share in electricity production, the EPR would be an alternative, according to Siemens KWU Power Engineering Division head Huettl. Through the recently announced BNFL-Siemens nuclear fuel cooperation (see WISE NC 482.4785), British nuclear industry is connected to the EPR project. This new cooperation between BNFL and Siemens is feared by the French nuclear industry: they see it as a serious threat to their economic position. According to French Nuclear Energy Society spokesman Vignon, the proposed UK-German deal would force Framatome to review its further cooperation with Siemens. He fears more difficulties in EPR development due to competition on the fuel market. Other possible future for the EPR is expected by Merkel in former Eastern Europe, where new capacity is needed more than in Western Europe, also for replacement of older unsafe RBMK Chernobyl-type reactors and the VVER pressurized water reactors.

The development of the EPR was said to cost over 1 billion French Francs (about US$157 million) and construction about DM4.5 billion (US$2.5 billion). In October this year, German Minister of Reactor Safety Merkel said her government would not offer financial help for utilities willing to build an EPR. She could only promise regulatory support and a generic license procedure. On a 1996 German Atomic Forum meeting, the electricity utility Preussenelektra pleaded for financial governmental help to persuade utilities to order the EPR. Building a reactor would not be justified by electricity demand reasons but necessary for the promotion of the EPR internationally.

Concluding: the new French government which does not like nuclear as much as the former; the German government which is not willing to co-finance the first plant and does not need new capacity; no outlook for new nuclear capacity in the UK and Russia has no finances to buy foreign technology. All this makes the future of the EPR very dim. China could be a possible market, but if the French are allowed to build new nuclear capacity, why not built the N4 reactor instead of the EPR?


  • Tageszeitung (FRG), 16 October 1993
  • Press release Ministry of Environment Lower-Saxony, 31 August 1993
  • Der Spiegel (FRG), 10 April 1995
  • Frankfurter Rundschau (FRG), 10 April 1995
  • Anti-Atom-Aktuell (FRG), Eastern 1997
  • Nucleonics Week, 16 January, 29 May, 16 and 23 October 1997

Contact: Öko-Institut, Bunsenstr. 14, 64293 Darmstadt, Germany
Tel: +49-6151-81910; Fax: +49-6151-819133

This is the second article in a series on new generation reactors. The first article, called "New Generations: The High Temperature Reactor" was published in WISE Newscommunique 481, 21 November 1997. The next article will appear in No. 487, February 27, 1998.


New nuclear debate in France

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 19, 1997) The overall strategy of France's nuclear power programme is under fire. It is difficult to reverse the long-term pro-nuclear strategy. But some changes are made. The new government is rethinking the whole nuclear policy, including plutonium production plus reuse and waste disposal.

(483/4.4807) WISE Amsterdam -The old French nuclear thinking was dominated by its passion for plutonium. But now the dream of fast breeders, which would burn the plutonium and breed more plutonium, has evaporated due to technical and economical problems. The closure of Superphenix meant a sharp blow to the nuclear lobby. Plutonium is now seen more and more as dangerous; for environmental and proliferation reasons. France is stockpiling growing amounts of separated plutonium (by now more than 50,000 kg plutonium) at its reprocessing plants in La Hague from its own nuclear program and from foreign spent nuclear fuel. But the MOX program in which the plutonium should be used is limited. The construction of a new reactor in Le Carnet, an EPR, is halted. Nuclear emissions from La Hague by Cogema are being critisized by the minister of environment. The government decided to postpone a decision on the construction of two underground laboratories until mid-1998. More resources will be devoted to long-term, above-ground storage of spent fuel and other nuclear waste.

A large group of new socialist members of parliament decided to oppose underground disposal. The old goal of nuclear waste disposal was based on the concept of: "out of sight, out of mind". The nuclear waste programme law from 1991 postponed a final decision on waste management until 2006. In the mean time more research into three disposal methods should be done, to be able to decide on a management strategy for High Level and Transuranic Waste. The three options are: transmutation; surface storage; underground storage. The Nuclear Waste Management Agency, Andra, wants to have all data available by that time, including on deep disposal. A group of more than 40 Socialist politicians protested that too much money went to deep storage research: more than half of the US$173 million waste budget. They also required the reopening of the public inquiry into siting of the planned underground laboratories. One site, approved by public inquiry, was found to be unsuitable by the independent National Evaluation Commission, responsible for monitoring the waste programme. In november the industry minister agreed to shift 15% of funding towards surface storage research.

A committee of the National Assembly has voted in favor of a proposal for a commission of inquiry into the health effects of nuclear facilities and waste disposal sites, as well as appropriate measures to reduce risks for inhabitants and environment. The socialist group in the National Assembly has decided to hold a debate on the entire nuclear power programme in the next weeks. By 2006 Electricité de France (EdF) must decide whether to replace the old nuclear reactors by new ones or to build some other kind of power plants, such as gas-fired combined heat-power ones. Problems or success with waste disposal will be crucial to the future of French nuclear power. That's why Andra and EdF are pushing to continue with construction of underground labs, as a guarantee of the credibility of waste policy, but also to continue research on other options. If parliament has not enough information on waste management options by 2006, it will likely postpone decision making. France has been critisized by the EU for its large dependancy of electric generation on nuclear, which is now about 80%.


  • Nature 27 november 1997, p.319,322
  • Nuclear Fuel 17 november 1997, p.9

Contact: CRII-Rad, 471 rue de Victor Hugo, 26000 Valence, France. Tel: +33-4-7541-8250

No radiation dose too low to cause any effects

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

D(December 19, 1997) uring a recent IAEA/WHO conference the argument was heard that small doses of radiation are not harmful, but in fact beneficial. Another claim was that there is a threshold below which radiation is safe. However, research since the discovery of radiation, now more than 100 years ago, show that the risks are still underestimated.

(483/4.4804) WISE Amsterdam -The debate on the risks of low-level radiation is still going on. During a conference, held November 17-21 in Sevilla, Spain, organized by the IAEA and the World Health Organization (WHO), a vocal, pro-nuclear minority argued that the radiation protection "establishment" is suppressing data that shows a small amount of radiation is not harmful but beneficial. They don't accept the linear non-threshold model that says there is no threshold dose below which radiation is harmless. The non- threshold theory is the central issue in the debate, whose outcome has huge economic, political and social consequences. This minority succeeded in setting the tone and subject of the conference. They argued that there was ample proof for the theory of "adaptive response", which says that radiation doses have positive health impacts. In fact, there is no proof for this theory, so it is rather religion than science.

The International Commission for Radiation Protection (ICRP), a self-appointed, voluntary commission that makes recommendations on radiation limits, accepted the linear non- threshold in 1991. The theory was further supported by the latest data from the continuing study of Japanese A-bomb survivors. These show significantly higher risks with doses of around 50 milliSievert (mSv). The survivor population could be divided into three groups that received doses of no more than 20, 50 or 100 mSv. There were also excess cancers in the 20 mSv group. Women were shown to be at twice the risk as men at the same age. Children under 10 were at the greatest risk. This new result is another blow for the US Health Physics Society, which claims there is no proof of negative effects from radiation doses below 100 mSv (in most countries the permitted annual dose for workers in the nuclear industry is 20 mSv - in the US, 50 mSv - and for the public 1 mSv). An opposite, "super-linear" theory was suggested by the Japanese A-bomb researchers. It says that the incidence of some cancers increases more steeply at low-level radiation doses. The scientific explanation is that radiation damage to DNA is likely to cause double-strand DNA breaks, which are more difficult to repair than single-strand damage caused by chemicals. A misrepair of the DNA may cause the cell to become a cancer cell. Another assumption of the pro-nuclear minority is also under attack. It argues that because emissions from nuclear installations are far below natural background radiation doses, there is no reason to worry. This argument is based on the assumption that natural radiation is safe, which is not. It is calculated that background radiation in the UK, US and other countries cause some 4%-5% of all cancer deaths. The ICRP also does not use background radiation as a criterion for acceptable doses.

In 1990 the ICRP recommended in its Publication 60 to lower the radiation dose limit. For workers it was lowered from 50 to 20 mSv a year and for the public from 5 to 1 mSv annually. These limits are now adopted by the European Union (EU) countries, even by France and the UK, the WHO and the IAEA. Current US standards for workers are maintained at the old 50 mSv, but for the public the new ICRP standard of 1 mSv was adopted. Many "third world" countries and Russia did not adopt the ICRP 1990 limits.

Global Collective Dose
The concept of Global Collective Dose tries to calculate the damage of radiation doses to a population, from the operation of a nuclear facility over the lifetime of the radionuclides it releases. Collective dose estimates are very uncertain, because size and behavior of future populations are unknown and unforeseen changes in habits of humans and in radiation damage assumptions make any prognosis of death rates unreliable. Still, the concept is useful in comparing risks of different nuclear facilities, as long as one is aware of the uncertainties of the estimates. The term person-Sievert is used to measure the population dose, which is the sum of individual doses in a defined population. For example, 50 persons who each received 20 milliSievert, collectively received 1 person-Sievert. The global collective dose from radionuclide releases from the British reprocessing plants at Sellafield is estimated at about 4,100 person-Sievert per year. This is very much compared to the global collective dose from a nuclear reactor, estimated at 45 person-Sievert per GigaWatt-year (the annual maximum production of a 1000-MW plant). This estimate is based on information in a 1993 report from the UN Scientific Committee on Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR). Based on present assumptions of radiation doses, all atmospheric atomic bomb tests caused a global collective dose of 30 million person- Sievert. Worldwide nuclear power production in 1989: 400,000 person-Sievert. Ten years of reprocessing at Sellafield: 40,000 person-Sievert. The ICRP also adopted the use of collective doses. Other pro- nuclear organizations, like the US Health Physics Society, are very much opposed to the measurement of collective doses, as is the US Nuclear Waste Advisory Committee. Their problem is that as knowledge of radiation effects continues to grow, it becomes more and more clear that those effects must be taken more seriously than ever thought. Both environmental agencies and activists can use this concept, despite its uncertainty, in their assessments of both civil and military nuclear operations and in criticizing Environmental Impact Statements. They can demand that global collective doses for example from uranium mines are calculated over the lifetime of uranium tailings (some 730,000 years) and that lifetime monetary costs should be calculated for all nuclear discharges. Or whether anti-nuclear activists and nuclear industry like it or not, global collective doses will play an increasing part in decision making and licensing of nuclear facilities.

The value of cancer deaths
In a capitalistic society it is normal to calculate the costs of death. What's the value of a human life, how much money are private enterprises prepared to pay to prevent one cancer death? The calculation of the risk of dying from cancer caused by a certain amount of radiation depends on the assumption of a risk factor per Sievert. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) assumed a value of US$1 million per person-Sievert in 1991 to determine whether it was economical to reduce radiation doses for workers. The US nuclear industry assumed a much lower value of US$0.15 million. This is another reason why the nuclear industry is not glad about the concept of collective doses: it can be used to calculate other costs related to nuclear energy, which tend to become higher each decade. Over the past 100 years, both the limit of allowed radiation doses and the risk factor per unit of radiation dose have been tightened as more knowledge about radiation effects was acquired. New data and theories such as the super-linear relationship between radiation and risk will probably make them more strict in the future. This will raise the environmental costs of existing and proposed nuclear facilities and help to make them even more uneconomic.


  • Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November/December 1997
  • Nucleonics Week, 13 November 1997

Contact: Institute for Energy and Environmental Research IEER, 6935 Laurel Avenue, Takoma Park MD 20912, USA
Tel: +1-301-270-5500; Fax: +1-301-270-3029
E-mail: ieer@ieer.org
WWW: www.ieer.org

Nuclear no solution for greenhouse dangers!

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 19, 1997) The Kyoto meeting has just ended. Although many media have been reporting on the outcomes there has been less attention to the efforts made by nuclear indusry present in Japan to put forward the 'nuclear solution'.

(483/4.4805) Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy Project -For China the far-to-high emissions of greenhouse gasses has been an offcial reason to plan to build more NPP's but there are more dangers. Like in the United States where the nuclear industry, for the fist time in years, sees some opportunities to bring forward the so-called advantages of nuclear. Of course there is strong opposition as well within the States but they sure can use some international support. You may send your letter to the following adress:

President William J. Clinton The White House Washington DC 20500 USA

The following letter has been sent to the President of the United States by many US-based NGO's. Use it, at least as an example. Sending in letters is useful as the US Congress begins to debate the issue of nuclear power and climate change.

Dear President Clinton,

We write you to express our concerns on the Administrations' global warming strategy. We strongly urge that you will propose meaningful action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but we strongly oppose proposals to use nuclear power as an approach for lessening emissions. The research agenda prepared by the President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) called Federal Energy Research and Development for the Challenges of the Twenty-First Century is misguided in recommending that more U. S. taxpayer money be wasted on additional research for nuclear energy. Nuclear power creates more problems than it solves including contributions to greenhouse gas emissions when considering the complete fuel cycle of nuclear power.

We were alarmed to learn that the Department of Energy (DOE) is requesting US$30 million for commercial nuclear power research & development in the FY 1999 budget request. Along with taxpayer groups and fiscal conservative members of Congress, the environmental community has successfully helped eliminate commercial nuclear research and development subsidies from the DOE's budget. This fiscal and environmental victory would be seriously undermined by such a budget request from the Administration. We oppose any attempts by the Administration to spend taxpayers' money on commercial R&D for nuclear power for the following reasons.

1) The Poor Economics of Nuclear Power.
Fossil energy and related industries have falsely characterized any real emission reduction strategy as too costly for the economy. While their effort to scare Americans with inaccurate cost estimates is a sham, using nuclear power as even a partial option will be decidedly too expensive. No reactors ordered since 1973 have been completed. Yet, the federal government has spent US$47 billion of taxpayer money in direct R&D subsidies since 1950, and billions more in indirect subsidies. With the coming restructuring of the electric utility industry, many reactors are expected to shut down, primarily due to the high cost of operating them. Additionally, the nuclear utilities are asking for a bailout of their expensive nuclear plants that could cost US$150 billion or more.

2) An Unacceptable Trade Off.
Replacing one serious environmental problem with another one is no solution to global climate change. The thousands of tons of highly irradiated nuclear waste from commercial reactors are toxic for more than a million years. Three minutes of exposure to high level waste, at a yard's distance, inflicts a lethal dose of radiation. Currently, this waste is stored on-site at nuclear plants and it will take 100,000 shipments over a period of 30 years to transport this waste to a central facility which has not yet been decided upon. No solution exists for the disposition of waste. It is irresponsible to promote the continued production of a radioactive poison which will be deadly for thousands of years in the future. Proposing to exchange global warming for global glowing is inconceivable to us.

3) Better Economic and Environmental Choices Exist.
An analysis by Keepin and Kats, Greenhouse Warming: Comparative Analysis of Two Abatement Strategies, demonstrates that energy efficiency is a better choice. "In the United States - the largest carbon emitter in the world - it is found that under current conditions, efficiency displaces nearly seven times more carbon (per dollar invested in abatement) than does new nuclear power. One consequence is that nuclear power as a strategy for reducing greenhouse warming carries an opportunity cost: for every US$100 invested in nuclear CO2abatement, one ton of CO2 is released into the earth's atmosphere that could have been avoided, had that US$100 been put into efficiency. Even under the most optimistic cost projections for future nuclear electricity, efficiency is found to be 2.5 to 10 times more cost-effective for CO2-abatement. Thus, to the extent that investments in nuclear power divert funds away from efficiency, the pursuit of a nuclear response to greenhouse warming would effectively exacerbate the problem." The Administration should be applauded for efforts to increase energy efficiency and renewable energy, but any effort to direct money to nuclear power is a waste of taxpayer resources.

4) Subsidizing Existing Reactors.
The nuclear industry has claimed that efforts to subsidize today's failing nuclear reactors must be included in the effort to reduce greenhouse emissions. Nothing could be further from the truth. Today's current nuclear power plants are encountering significant safety issues related to the age of the reactors. To date, no reactor has survived its 40-year license period. Moreover, attempts to subsidize repairs to address current reactor safety problems can be compared to making patchwork repairs on a dangerously damaged junk car. At some point, repairs cost too much, and the old car goes to the junk yard. As we have explained above, energy efficiency is the cheapest and most environmentally sound way to replace these old and dangerous reactors. Since in this case the new car is unaffordable (or a nuclear reactor), eliminating the need for the car (energy efficiency) is a far cheaper alternative.

We hope you will reconsider the dangerous, expensive, and an irresponsible course toward license extension of current nuclear reactors or construction of new reactors. Nuclear power is not a solution for climate change, instead, it is a misguided attempt to save the struggling nuclear power industry.

Sincerely, ....

Source and contact: Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy Project, 215 Penn Ave., SE, Washington DC 20003, USA
Tel: +1-202 546-4996; Fax: +1-202 547-7392
E-mail: cmep@citizen.org
WWW: www.citizen.org/cmep

Nuclear power and earthquakes

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 19, 1997) South Korea is having difficulties finding locations to build new nuclear power plants because more evidence has been found that proposed sites are in areas with dangerous seismic faults (see bottom). There is still a story that the disaster in Chernobyl (1986) occured after a earthquake took place. In the United States the Department of Energy is still willing to create a nuke waste repository at the Yucca Mountains, an area where quakes occur quite often. Enough reason to go into this issue more deeply. We took some news and backgrounds from Japan, probably the country wich is, looking at seismic faults, at most in danger.

(483/4.4802) Hiroo Komura / AMPO -There is this legend saying that a giant Catfish is buried deep in the sand beneath the Japanese islands who occasionaly shifts and changes position. When this happens the earth shakes and splits and fragile constructions of human beings collapse. It is also said that this ever present danger has contributed much to the Japanese sense of the ephemerality of all things. Well...how come they built nuclear power plants on the back of the catfish?

The nuclear industry itself gives the answer. The visitor's center at the Mihama Nuclear Power Complex has a earthquake safety demonstration display. If you ask "and what if there is an earthquake?" you can see the safety control rods drop smoothly into the reactor fuel and a voice says "see, the reactor can be safely stopped". There will be a day they will have to prove this; just under the Visititor's Center is an earthquake fault. The Japanese power company engineers keep saying "science and technology, properly employed, can overcome unpredictable accidents". When Chernobyl happened they where on TV saying that this could not happen in Japan; the NPP's are of a different type and have superior safety features. When the big earthquake hit San Francisco (USA, 1989) and all kinds of ferro-concrete buildings, highways and parts of the Bay Bridge came down engineers appeared on TV saying that the collapsed buildings and bridges where not built earthquake-proof: "In japan all large constructions are built to withstand any earthquake that might predictably occur". But than came the Kobe-disaster, January 1995, and every kind of construction came down. The experts where back on TV again, explaining: "The constructions where earthquake-proof, meaning they were built to withstand any quake that might predictably have come to Kobe. This earthquake was beyond prediction"... It occured on a number of different faults, some of which had not even been known to exist.

A government official, confronted with the question what would happen just IF such a earthquake would happen in an area with NPPs answered "that's like asking what would happen if the world blew up".

What exactly could happen is described below, kindly written by professor Komura Hiroo from the Shizuoka University, Hamamatsu, Japan.

Earthquake Would Cause Power Excursion on Nuclear Reactors
Japan is well-known as a country belonging to the unstable Pan-Pacific Earthquake Belt. Dangerous areas are specified and intensively monitored as the special zones, in which the big earthquakes did occur repeatedly in some historical span. Japan has 52 reactors in operation at present and most of these are located in or close to these dangerous zones. It is unbelievable that such dangerous zones were selected as the nuclear sites. Among them Hamaoka nuclear power station is most vulnerable, for it has been constructed at the center of the seismic source area of the anticipated Tokai Earthquake. There have been found many active faults on seabed, which are regarded as the source of earthquakes. Big earthquakes of magnitude 8 class in Richter Scale have been repeated every 120 years in this district and 140 years have passed since the last earthquake in 1854.

Pro-nuclear people are claiming that nuclear facilities are designed so as to even stand the biggest earthquake - not supposed to occur. The acceleration applied to important reactor components are determined for each facility and the largest value is 600 gals (a measuring standard for forces) for Hamaoka. But on Hanshin Earthquake some 800 or 900 gals of accelerations were actually observed. Immediately after Hanshin Earthquake, some of utilities announced their nuclear facilities could stand for such an earthquake and acceleration up to 1000 gals. But they did not give any evidence or data supporting their argument.

It is easy to suppose an earthquake causes damage on important reactor components or pipes, or reactor building walls. However, another possibility was recognized recently in Japan: Boiling Water Reactor (BWR), one of the typical light water reactor in Japan might suffer big damage from a power excursion - abrupt increase of output. This is an severe accident which might lead to a nuclear explosion or a steam explosion in the reactor. In 1993 an earthquake (M 5.9) happened in the northern part of Japan. Than Onagawa No. 1 reactor was being operated at the rated power level. It was automatically stopped (scrammed) by an earthquake. At that time actual rising of neutron flux was caused inside the reactor. In BWR's light water is used as the moderator, lowering the neutron velocity so that uranium can readily capture the neutron for a chain reaction. Usually, BWR is filled with an enormous amount of voids, that is to say, bubbles, and these bubbles do not act as moderator as liquid water does and the nuclear reaction is automatically suppressed by generation of bubbles. Quakes are likely to remove such bubbles stuck to fuel rods and push them up outside the reactor core. Then the nuclear reaction was increased and neutron flux level rose above 118 percent of rated value, at which the system is designed so as to generate the scram signal to avoid the serious condition.

This means the reactor almost went on power excursion. The scram signal was sent at 118% but this does not mean the actual value of neutron flux was restricted at that level. It only means the signal was generated. The actual neutron level can reach 400 % or even 1000 %. Fortunately, in every case the scram was successfully fulfilled so far. But this cannot be expected to be repeated all the time. Scram failures did occur in other situations and will continue to occur from now on.

Recently, cracks have been found on the core-shroud of many BWR's in United States, Japan and some European countries. The core-shroud is a huge cylinder surrounding a reactor core and regulating water flow in it. Those cracks, fairly long and deep, go along the circumferential direction and are located on the various parts of the shroud. National Regulatory Commission in the US and General Electric are very upset when cracks were found on the welded parts of the shrouds.

Most serious situation on this issue is that if the shroud would fall down to the bottom of a pressure vessel, lateral water flow will be generated and this flow disturbs the insertion of control rods at emergency situation. With the vibrating control rods and fuel rod assemblies, control rods would be blocked not to be inserted into the space gap among the fuel rods. In that case, we cannot expect the automatic shutdown - the last possibility of preventing a reactor from power excursion. And it should be noted that the falldown of a shroud is anticipated to be caused by the vibration of an earthquake. Utilities have a plan for repairing cracks on a shroud or replacing a shroud itself by new one within 5 years, but who knows when a huge earthquake will occur. From the technical point of view, nuclear reactors, especially BWR's, are extremely weak for earthquakes.

Power excursion mentioned above is likely to be caused even by a relatively small earthquake. A huge earthquake can destroy many components and pipes simultaneously. Coolant will flow out of a reactor, while water storage tanks (suppression pool etc.) attached to the reactor will be crashed. No water available for preventing loss of coolant accident. We cannot suppose what will actually happen when a nuclear reactor is exposed to a big earthquake.

Sources: AMPO magazine, Vol.26 No.3, 1995 and an article written by Hiroo KOMURA, Department of Engineering, Shizuoka University, 3-5-1 Johoku, Hamamatsu, Japan

Contact: Hiroo KOMURA, Department of Engineering, Shizuoka University, 3-5-1 Johoku, Hamamatsu, Japan
Tel & Fax : +81-53-478-1096
E-mail: h-komura@eng.shizuoka.ac.jp

"Not supposed to happen". The Republic Of Korea, already having hard times finding locations for new planned NPPs finally admits that seismic faults in the country causes extra dangers for reactors. According to safety officials "ongoing evaluations of seismic safety" will lead to stiffer standards. Three months ago a quake struck along the so-called Ulsan branch of the Yongsan fault, not far from the Kori PWR site in southeastern Korea. "This event was not supposed to happen", was the brave comment the Vice-President of the Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety gave. Evaluation of seismic safety could delay licensing of the Bonggil site, at the Sea of Japan coast, north to some known faultic area's.
(Nucleonics Week, October 9, 1997)


Reactor-grade PU also suitable in N-weapons

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 19, 1997) In WISE NC 481; New Generations: The High Temperature Reactor, it was stated that plutonium isotopes other than plutonium-239 are unsuitable in nuclear weapons. We apologize: this is a regrettable, serious mistake.

(483/4.4799) WISE Amsterdam -Contrary to the popular belief that only the uneven plutonium isotopes are fissionable (and in nuclear reactors this might be true in general), in nuclear weapons ALL plutonium isotopes will fission, because of the presence of large numbers of fast neutrons. The division between "civil" or "military" plutonium is therefore an artificial one.
It is only because higher plutonium isotopes have shorter half-lives, decay sooner and thus produce more problematic neutrons and daughter products which do not fission and are more radioactive, and that the military prefer plutonium with 90% or more plutonium-239 for the production of nuclear weapons. Especi- ally the plutonium-241 isotope is nasty, because it has a short half-life of 13.2 years. It decays into americium-241 which emits heavy radiation.

Both the US and the UK have successfully tested nuclear weapons made from reactor-grade plutonium as mentioned already several times in the Newscommunique (i.e in the WISE 'MOX-Myth' special The MOX Myth: Plutonium grades - all pu is weapons-grade, 11 April 1997). Nuclear weapons made from reactor-grade plutonium, which contains only 65% plutonium-239, even need less conventional explosives to become critical, because they spontaneously emit neutrons and their yield is less. Manufacturing nuclear weapons made of reactor-grade plutonium is more troublesome. These nuclear weapons cannot be stored for two decades or more, like nuclear bombs made of "weapons-grade" plutonium. The conclusion is that all sorts of plutonium, so-called civil and military, are suitable for nuclear weapons and do have the same proliferation risks.

Source: Albright ea, Plutonium and Highly Enriched Uranium 1996. SIPRI, Oxford University Press, 1997, p.19.
Contact: WISE-Amsterdam


Russian N-waste: Injections into the ground continue

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 19, 1997) Two years ago Russia admitted it was pumping liquid nuclear waste directly into the ground. Currently the US pays Russia about a half billion dollar a year for helping solve the waste problems of the nuclear weapon complex and prevention of proliferation of N-weapons. But nothing of the US aid is used to halt the dumping of high-level waste.

(483/4.4806) WISE Amsterdam -Nuclear scientist Bohmer from the Norwegian Bellona foundation says the Russians are still injecting nuclear waste at Tomsk and Krasnoyarsk, former nuclear weapon production complexes. An official of Minatom, the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy, visiting a conference in Pridonice near Prague (Czech Republic), confirmed this practice was still going on. That is at least what some visitors of the conference said; they asked to stay anonymous, afraid as they are that the Russian visitors might be less open to them in the future.

At Tomsk-7, about 1.1 billion curies of radioactivity have been pumped into the ground so far, at Krasnoyarsk-26 about 700 million curies were released, at depths of 280-460 meters. Both sites are in Siberia near rivers which flow towards the Arctic Ocean. US experts like Henry Kendall of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) expect that groundwater flows will bring the waste back to the surface. More serious even might be the situation at a third less well- known site, Dimitrovgrad (Ulianovsk region). The wastes could migrate into the nearby Volga river, along which many cities are. Contaminated groundwater moved faster than was thought before, so the population will be endangered. Large amounts of radioactive waste are still being dumped into the already most radioactive lake of the world, Lake Karachay near Chelyabinsk- 65, which had 700,000 curies in 1995.

Most of the US money, US$300 million in 1997, is spent on eliminating or preventing the proliferation of mass destructi- on weapons. There is no legal hurdle to use the rest of it, US$230 million, for environmental projects, but it actually goes to the protection and control of bomb-grade materials and at keeping former nuclear scientists busy. The US Congress will probably not fund Russian environmental programs because they don't benefit the US.

Source: Scientific American, December 1997
Contact: Bellona Foundation, P.O. Box 2141 Grünerlokka, N-0505 Oslo, Norway
Tel: +47-22 383 410; Fax: +47-22 383 862
WWW: www.bellona.no

Stranded costs: California is not a sunny example

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 19, 1997) What are "stranded costs" and why are they so important? "Stranded costs" are investments or assets owned by regulated electric utilities that are likely to become inefficient or uneconomic in a competitive market. Before deregulation, electricity monopolies could charge these costs back to their captive customers.

(483/4.4795) Paxus Calta - Not surprisingly, US utilities with high debts are asking the regulators to protect them before competition starts by forcing potential competitors or existing customers to pay off the transitional losses they will incur.

US customers and competitors to these existing monopolies argue that granting stranded cost:

  1. Will damage the competitive market that deregulation is trying to create, by taxing new entrants into the market.
  2. Creates a US$ 100 to U$160 billion corporate welfare policy to some of the richest companies in the country.
  3. Is unprecedented: US railroad, telecom, trucking and aviation monopolies were not granted such compensation when they were deregulated.
  4. Will hurt the environment, by giving inefficient utilities money to continue to operate older less efficient facilities (including nuclear plants).

Unfortunately, these arguments have not persuaded the regulators in California who have granted a significant stranded costs package to the power utilities of that state, which will be the first to deregulate on Jan 1, 1998. In this case, electricity prices will be fixed for 2 years at 10% less than the current costs for residential and small users, while the current utilities are allowed to recover much of their stranded costs. Larger users can immediately start negotiating with the almost 200 companies which have entered the market which used to be controlled by a small handful of regional monopolies. But by the year 2002, it is expected that all customers can choose, without having to pay for the past mistakes of the states nuclear utilities. Virtually everyone agrees that electricity prices will drop further than this, the US Department of Energy believes that nationwide they will decrease about 20%.

California is important because it has two utilities in the top 5 with stranded cost in the country. Southern California Edison with US$ 8.3 billion (which operates the two San Onofre reactors) and Pacific Gas and Electric with US$ 7.8 billion (which operates the two Diablo Canyon reactors). The most significant part of these stranded costs are related to these nuclear facilities, which are producing some of the most expensive electricity in the country at this point.

Across the US, 15 states have approved deregulation plans. Most plans call for phased in competition over the next 2 to 5 years. In some cases, like New Hampshire, virtually no stranded costs were granted and the nuclear utility (Public Service Company of New Hampshire - owner of the highly expensive Seabrook Nuclear Power plant) immediately took the state plan to court, claiming it would be bankrupted without compensation for it stranded costs.

But consumers are not sympathetic, a 1997 poll conducted by Research/Strategy/Management Inc. showed that 70% of respondents thought that utilities and their shareholders should be responsible for their own passed management decisions and thus not be permitted to force stranded costs onto past customers or future competitors.

Most of the rest of the US states (35 of them) are watching these early deregulation plans to see which ones they will mimic. The fight to block stranded costs from being granted is just beginning in the US and a similar fight is pending in many European Union states.


  • Power for the People, July 3, 1996 by Citizen Action, Environmental Action, Public Citizen and US PIRG AP, May 8, 1997
  • Electricity Deregulation: Separating Fact from Fiction in the Debate over Stranded Cost Recovery, Adam Thierer, The Heritage Foundation, 1997
  • Nuclear Power Plants and Implications of Early Shutdown for the future of Natural Gas Demand, INGAA Foundation Inc, 1997; Moodys Investors Services: Stranded Costs Will Threaten Credit Quality of US Electrics, August 1995
  • USA Today Ahead on the Shopping List: Electricity, December 10, 1997 page 15A-16A

Contact: NIRS, 1424 16th Street NW, #404, Washington, DC 20036, USA
Tel: +1-202-328-0002; Fax: 202-462-218
E-mail: nirsnet@igc.apc.org
WWW: www.nirs.org

The US, UN and Iraq & being more equal than others

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 19, 1997) Remember all the fuss about Iraq refusing entry to the US-members of a UN-inspection team? And the US threatening war, with the result that Iraq gave in? Remember? Now listen to this!

(483/4.4791) WISE Amsterdam On December 1, a group of four IAEA inspectors arrived at a uranium enrichment facility at Portsmouth Ohio, United States. It was the first time inspectors were allowed at the facility, but as we know, all inspections in the US are voluntary; only a very small number of those facilities are under scrutiny of the IAEA. This is because all the nuclear weapons states (United States, Russia -being the successor of the Soviet Union-, China, France and United Kingdom) are not obliged under provisions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to allow inspections.

Meanwhile Iraq, a signatory of the NPT but not a nuclear weapons state, has to accept inspections, which shows that the treaty is discriminatory. Iraq should also have the right to be part of the team inspecting US facilities, at least theoretically, shouldn't they? Wrong! According to a spokesman of the IAEA a 'host nation has certain rights to veto a limited number of inspectors'. And, as another excuse:'Iraq had been suspended for nonpayment of dues'. I wonder, should that mean that the IAEA also has no right to conduct inspections there? Or, isn't it time to suspend the US from the United Nations 'for non-payment of dues'?

Source: UPI, 2 December 1997
Contact: IEER, 6935 Laurel Avenue, Takoma Park, MD 20912, USA.
Tel: +1-301-2705500; Fax: +1-301-2703029
E-mail: ieer@ieer.org
WWW: www.ieer.org

Tout nucléaire: Une exception française

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 19, 1997) In November a new book was published: "Tout nucléaire: une exception française" (Everything nuclear: a French exception). It is written by Perline and published (in French) by Edition Dagorno, collection l'esprit frappeur; 112 pages; 10 French Francs plus postage.

(483/4.4797) Perline -Yesterday we said: "Inactive today, radioactive tomorrow." Yesterday Electricité de France said "Everything electrical, everything nuclear". Today one answers: "Chernobyl. And tomorrow?" Nowadays at the dawn of the 21th century our future energy use is being decided upon. The choice is simple: are we going to repeat the errors of the past, or will we realize that resources are limited, that the richness of our planet is unequally distributed and that we are contributing to the enlargement of the general destruction of our planet. Anyhow, our children will suffer from the consequences of our inconsistencies: pollution and radioactive waste.

The author, Perline, is a physical engineer, she graduated from the l'Ecole National supérieure des Mines de Paris, as a doctor of science. She is also an acknowledged antinuclear individual.

The book is published in a series called "L'esprit frappeur" (which means something like "the rapping spirit"), which wishes to awaken its readers through books which are tonic, sometimes provoking, however always corroborative and above all based on an ineradicable independence of spirit. The aim of these documents, essays or pamphlets is, if not to shock the established order, at least to call it into question by taking away the soporific and reassuring certainties by which our surrounding mediocrity tries to soothe us.

The price, 10 francs (about US$1.5) is low enough to reach a lot of people, without sacrificing quality. Perline and the publishers are looking for interested editors for translation into English and dissemination of the book.

Contact: You can order "Tout nucléaire: une exception française"at:
Perline, 2, rue Dupetit Thouars, 75003 Paris, France
Tel/Fax: +33-01-42702116

Uranium Mining in 1997

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 19, 1997) 1997 was a great year for the uranium mining industry: it brought the go-ahead for a number of important new uranium mining projects worldwide. Expectations for a further increase of the uranium price were disappointed, though. The uranium industry can, moreover, be glad about the low-cost decommissioning standards approved for a number of sites to be cleaned up.

(483/4.4803) WISE-Uranium -The end of the Cold War era had had significant implications on the uranium industry: there was no more need for uranium for nuclear weapons. Existing uranium production centers in the former Eastern Bloc suddenly were submitted to market economy conditions. Many mines and mills in Eastern Europe had to be shut down, since their production cost was too high (ten times the market price at East Germany's Wismut, for example).

During subsequent years, worldwide uranium production was considerably lower than consumption, since the large inventories accumulated during the Cold War era were drawn down. Moreover, new players entered the world uranium market, among them China and the successor states of the former USSR. And, the processing of high enriched nuclear weapons grade uranium into low enriched reactor grade uranium commenced. Consequently, the uranium spot market price declined and reached an all-time low of US$9 per lb U3O8 (restricted) in Summer 1994. It was, however, unclear, how long this period would last, since the size of the inventories was not well known.

During the subsequent two years, the uranium price recovered, and it reached US$16.50 in summer 1996. This lead to the announcement of a number of new uranium mining and in-situ leaching projects, including the restart of several uranium mills that had been on standby for more than a decade in the US. At the same time, two other developments took place: The development of the high grade uranium deposits discovered in Northern Saskatchewan (Canada) had proceeded so far, that their owners applied for operating licenses; and, in Spring 1996, the newly elected liberal (conservative) government of Australia lifted the former ban on further uranium mining projects, leading to the announcement of a number of projects. The subsequent period was a very busy time for anti-uranium activists, since submissions for the various public participation processes had to be prepared, and the resistance against the projects had to be organized. The movement against the Jabiluka project in the Kakadu National Park in Australia gained support from environmental organizations from all over the world.

In 1997, most of the proposed large scale projects received government approval, or such approval was recommended by review panels. In Canada, the McClean Lake and McArthur River projects were approved, while the approval of the Midwest and Cigar Lake projects was recommended by the Review Panel. In Australia, the Jabiluka project near Ranger in the Northern Territory was approved, but negotiations with the traditional owners are pending still.

The expansion of the Olympic Dam (Roxby Downs) copper/uranium mine received clearance from the Ministry of Environment, while the approval of the Ministry for Resources and Energy is pending. In 1997, in the US, the Vasquez (Texas) in-situ leach project received State approval, while NRC approval of the Crownpoint (New Mexico) in-situ leach project is expected for January 1998. The restart of the Shootaring Canyon and White Mesa uranium mills in Utah was approved. Production commenced at the Schwartzwalder mine and at the Sunday Mine Complex in Colorado, and at the Smith Ranch (Wyoming) in-situ leach project. In Russia, the first stage commissioning of the Dalmatovkoye in-situ leach project in Western Siberia is underway.

In spite of this rather complete march through with the licensing authorities, the uranium industry is not completely happy, since, after the Summer 1996 peak, the uranium price declined again, reaching US$10 in Summer 1997. Since then, there is a moderate increase up to US$12.75 (Nov. 21, 1997). For a number of other facilities, licenses were applied for and are pending still, for example: for the Honeymoon and Beverley in-situ leach projects in South Australia (field tests are scheduled for startup at Bevereley in December 1997), for the Reno Creek, Sweetwater and Gas Hills in-situ leach facilities in Wyoming (USA), among others.

Decommissioning projects
In the United States, surface decommissioning of the uranium mill tailings at the 24 designated UMTRA Title I sites is rather complete (sites which produced uranium for DOE's nuclear weapons program, and the reclamation of which is matter of the U.S. government). Groundwater restoration at these sites is only beginning; at Spook (Wyoming) the "no action" approach was selected, leaving 3.8 million cubic meters of contaminated groundwater uncleaned. The licenses of the following commercially operated uranium processing sites were terminated in 1997: Edgemont (South Dakota), Arco Bluewater (New Mexico), and Day Loma heap leach (Wyoming). The decommissioning of a number of other commercial sites is pending. At least at two sites, it turned out that the decommissioning bonds collected from the operators are not sufficient: at the Atlas Co., Moab (Utah), and at the Dawn Co., Ford (Washington) tailings sites. For these sites, the question is now, whether they will be decommissioned according to relaxed standards, or whether the government will have to pay for a thorough cleanup. For decommissioning of another commercial mill at Bear Creek (Wyoming) "alternate" (means: relaxed) groundwater standards were approved. Relaxed groundwater standards were also approved for the in-situ leaching sites to be decommissioned at West Cole and Zamzow (Texas). The government approval for the decommissioning of the large Elliot Lake uranium mill tailings in Ontario (Canada) is still pending, although a review panel recommended approval of the proposed low-cost non-durable water cover scheme in 1996 already. In the former Eastern Bloc, decommissioning of uranium mine and mill sites is proceeding in Eastern Germany (still without public participation), while decommissioning is only beginning at some sites in the Czech Republic. In the other countries concerned (Hungary, Bulgaria, Rumania, and others) no or very poor decommissioning efforts have been undertaken so far.

Source and Contact: WISE-Uranium