#721 - December 17, 2010

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
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The Redfern inquiry: the Sellafield body parts scandal

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

As Inquiries into nuclear activities go, the findings of the three-year Inquiry lead by Michael Redfern QC published on November 16, stand out as a refreshingly honest and hard-hitting indictment of the cavalier and unethical practices of harvesting organs from deceased Sellafield workers from the 1960’s to 1992.

Few individuals or organizations directly involved in the removal of an obscene number of organs during coroners’ or hospital post-mortems remain unscathed by the Inquiry, with criticisms leveled at British Nuclear Fuels plc (BNFL), its predecessor UKAEA, Pathologists and Coroners involved in West Cumbria at the time.

Whilst the long-held suspicions of Sellafield’s ‘Body Parts’ malpractices have been well and truly upheld by the Inquiry, the level of malpractice will have shocked most observers. For the families of the 64 Sellafield worker cases, the Inquiry’s findings may bring some level of closure, but trust in the nuclear industry will have been dented by the extent of the collusion between the authorities involved and the widespread lack of openness and consideration towards the families whose consent for the harvesting of organs was not sought.

Providing the Inquiry with over 40 files containing information relating to Sellafield families, CORE wholeheartedly welcomes the work of Michael Redfern QC and his team whose Inquiry solicitor Stephen Jones had earlier thanked CORE for giving ‘a valuable lead into everything at an early stage’.  The files had been collated by CORE over a number of years from the late 1980’s onwards during the operation of a compensation fund it had organised for Sellafield workers and families.

CORE’s spokeman Martin Forwood said today:

“The families will undoubtedly be experiencing a mixture of relief that the truth of the body-parts scandal has been exposed and dismay that they were so badly let down by those   claiming to have their welfare and best interests at heart. For those at the time grieving the loss of a family member, it is difficult to imagine a more heartless betrayal of trust by those directly involved in the scandal”.

The Inquiry paid significant attention to the role played by Dr Geoffrey Schofield (died 1985) after whom a ‘prestigious’ laboratory is named at the Westlakes Science Park near Whitehaven. As Sellafield’s Chief Medical Officer who analyzed 53 of the 64 former Sellafield workers organs, he was found to have given no consideration to the ethics of his work and to have taken dubious steps to obtain organs in cases that were of particular interest to him. His successor Dr Lawson showed an equal lack of ethical awareness and the work of both remained largely unsupervised by the BNFL Board.

Equally damning is the Inquiry’s finding that all the pathologists involved were not only profoundly ignorant of the law under which they carried out the post-mortems but also that they pandered to BNFL’s needs. In removing organs during post mortems without family consent, they breached the provisions of the Human Issue Act 1961.

Coroners too came in for criticism from the Inquiry for leaving families in the dark, failing often to read post mortem reports, and assisting BNFL, the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) and the Medical Research Council (MRC) to obtain organs heedless of whether family consent had been obtained.

With its remit widened beyond the former Sellafield worker cases, the practice of organ harvesting at other facilities in the UK was also investigated by the Redfern Inquiry - some 6000 cases in total. As with Sellafield, no family consent had been obtained.

Martin Forwood added:

“We’ve today heard the Government’s apology for these wrongdoings in West Cumbria and elsewhere, and been given assurances that a tightening of laws and regulations will ensure they will not be repeated. We trust that the industry has learned from Michael Redfern’s lesson, and does not revert to type once the dust of his Inquiry has settled”.

Source: CORE Press release, 16 November 2010.
Contact: CORE, Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment.
Tel:  + 44 1229 716523
Web: www.corecumbria.co.uk


Body parts were taken without consent from 64 former Sellafield employees and provided for analysis by their employers between 1960 and 1991. Organs were also taken without consent from 12 workers at nuclear sites in Springfields, Capenhurst, Dounreay and Aldermaston to be tested at Sellafield.

The liver was removed in all cases and one or both lungs in all but one incident. Vertebrae, sternum, ribs, lymph nodes, spleen, kidneys and femur were also stripped in the majority of incidents. Brains, tongues, hearts and testes were also taken on the advice of the medical officer at Sellafield.

All the organs were later destroyed.
Independent, 16 November 2010

December 8: nuclear phase out day

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Kazuhide Fukada

December 8 is “Phase Out Nuclear Energy Day” in Japan. The “Phase Out Nuclear Energy Day” campaign, which now includes a wide range of people, is supporting campaigns around country and wants to remain rooted in people’s daily lives.

“Phase Out Nuclear Energy Day” Organizing Committee - In September this year a few people formed a “virtual group” to initiate a “Phase Out Nuclear Energy Day” campaign. They created an email list and drafted a statement about the nature and purpose of the campaign and publicized it through “Twitter” and “Mixi”. Supporters began to join the email list and a poster and Blog were created to gather supporters, further publicize the campaign and generate “phase out nuclear energy” actions all over Japan around the December 8 date. The campaign, which now includes a wide range of people, wants to remain rooted in people’s daily lives.

The “virtual” group is limiting its aim for this year to getting “Phase Out Nuclear Energy Day” known. We do not plan to organize a major event ourselves this year, but we are supporting other events (see below).

Why December 8?
December 8 is the fifteenth anniversary of the sodium leak and fire at the Monju Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor in Tsuruga City, Fukui Prefecture. About a month later Shigeo Nishimura, deputy general manager of PNC's general affairs department and one of the team leaders of the in-house team tasked with looking into the cover-up, jumped to his death from a hotel in Tokyo and many details of the accident remain unclear to this day.

What is clear, however, is that plutonium-fueled, sodium-cooled Monju is an exceptionally complicated and dangerous nuclear reactor, subjecting the public to even greater risks than “normal” light water reactors and exacerbating the problem of nuclear proliferation.

Believing that the Monju accident should have been the end of nuclear power in Japan, we chose December 8 as “Phase Out Nuclear Energy Day” to simultaneously commemorate the Monju accident, call for the closure of Monju and call for a total phase out of nuclear power.

Why phase-out nuclear energy?
Unfortunately, in spite of strong opposition, Monju was restarted in May this year. There has been a series of problems, culminating in an accident on August 26 in which a 3-ton fuel-loading device dropped into the reactor when it was being removed. Monju has been out of action since then.

Monju is part of Japan’s failed nuclear fuel cycle program. The Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant, another core nuclear fuel cycle facility, is also in serious trouble. Commercial operations were officially postponed for the eighteenth time in September.

In earthquake-prone Japan, nuclear power is the most unsuitable way of generating electricity. There are now 54 nuclear power plants operating in Japan (not including Monju). Besides the danger of accidents, the warm water released from nuclear power plants damages the marine environment and radioactivity released into the environment during the course of regular operations bio-accumulates in the food chain and exposes human beings to radiation.

Nuclear energy is unable to contribute to solving the problem of global warming. Rather it exacerbates the problem. There is an urgent need for the whole of Japan to shift to renewable forms of energy.

Specific actions
The “Phase Out Nuclear Energy Day” campaign is supporting campaigns around Japan, including the 28-year opposition of the people of the island of Iwaishima to Chugoku Electric Power Company’s plan to construct the Kaminoseki Nuclear Power Plant in Yamaguchi Prefecture. We are sponsoring a film screening and public meeting on December 4 in Yamaguchi City.

Our Japanese blog is on the following link http://ameblo.jp/datsugenpatsu1208/entry-10696488685.html

Source: Mari Hoshikawa, Member of the “Phase Out Nuclear Energy Day” Organizing Committee
Contact: Kazuhide Fukada
Email: datugen@gmail.com


Chernobyl study on consequences available online

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Most people understand that radiation from nuclear weapons production or civilian nuclear power plant accidents carry large potential health threats. Since the 1986 catastrophic Chernobyl nuclear accident in the former Soviet Union, a conservatively estimated 9,000 people have contracted or died from radiation-caused cancers. And an area of the Earth that is home to three billion people was contaminated by Chernobyl fallout which is found in every country in the Northern Hemisphere. Twenty-five years after the accident, sheep from parts of Wales cannot be sold because their pastures are still contaminated with radioactive Cesium-137.

CCNS - In the five years following the accident a staggering 750,000 Soviet citizens worked at the impossible task of cleaning up Chernobyl. It is this nearly one million clean-up workers, plus several million more living near or downwind of the destroyed reactor, that have suffered the worst health effects, including more cancer, heart disease, cataract of the eye, birth and health damage in children, psychological problems and damaged immune systems. In the case of the latter, a damaged immune system can open the body to non-radiation related diseases, chronic infections, colds and flu.

Because of the health risks of nuclear technology, commercial and government interests as well as international agencies who set nuclear policy have tried to control the public's understanding of the health effects of radiation. The Department of Energy (DOE) conducts the US nuclear weapons program, but also funds research on radiation's health effects. Many non-government health scientists view DOE-funded radiation studies as skeptically as they view studies funded by tobacco companies on lung cancer and smoking. The world's nuclear powers have always given nuclear weapons and nuclear power priority over the public health impact of nuclear technology. For instance, is it good public health policy to legally allow nuclear power plants to routinely release radioactive gases even though we now have proof that no dose, however small, is free of added cancer risk?

The UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), whose mission statement includes global promotion of nuclear power, also puts weapons and power generation before health concerns. In fact, the IAEA and the UN World Health Organization have a written agreement that keeps radiation-health studies by the health agency from public release until the atomic agency gives its permission.

The cover up of radiation's health effects started immediately after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. In the following four years, while 100,000 weakened survivors died, the US authorities forbade all medical studies. The 1986 Chernobyl accident in the former Soviet Union is another example of the same cover up. Soviet doctors were forbidden to mention radiation in Chernobyl patient reports. Instead health problems were attributed to fatigue, smoking, diet, lifestyle, or irrational fear of radiation. Health data were kept secret, even from patients themselves, for three years after the accident.

Since Chernobyl, Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian regional researchers have conducted thousands of health studies on the survivors. Western scientific committees have dismissed these studies because they are written mainly in Russian or fall short of the arguably arbitrary standard for statistical significance. In December 2009, however, leading Russian scientists published an English summary covering more than 5,000 studies of the health impacts of Chernobyl. These studies often showed worse health damage than did studies funded by Western governments or the UN. In 2009, summaries of 5,000 of these studies were first published in English by the New York Academy of Sciences.

Some of the findings include:

 *1. Although half of Chernobyl's radioactivity fell outside of European Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine, no health studies have included these areas. In other words, half of the total exposure to Chernobyl's radiation has been ignored.

 *2. The list of health damages is longer than Western studies show. Examples include: radiation-accelerated aging; brain damage in exposed individuals and their children; fully developed eye cataracts in young people; tooth and mouth abnormalities; blood, heart, lung, stomach, intestine and urinary problems plus bone and skin diseases; glandular problems, especially thyroid cancer and thyroid dysfunction. Genetic damage and birth defects were also found, especially in the children of clean-up workers and newborns in areas with high radiation areas. Immune system damage also increased viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections. For over 20 years, overall illness continues high in exposed populations and these health problems affect millions.

 *3. Of an estimated 750,000 Chernobyl clean-up workers, approximately 117,000 had died by 2005. Most of these were healthy young people in 1986.

 *4. Official sources say that in the 70 years following Chernobyl, cancer will claim about 18,500 lives and twice that number will get cancer. The independent scientists say that 18,500 is low by a factor of 21; that cancer deaths will be around 230,000 in Europe plus 19,000 outside Europe; and that environmental contamination will generate new cancers for hundreds of years.

Chernobyl's core lesson is that a very serious nuclear accident can risk the health of millions of people. And we never can eliminate all possibility of a shattering nuclear accident from engineering failure, human error, or terrorist threat.

Now these studies are available online for the first time.

'Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment' was published December 2009 by the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS). Its hardcopy sale price from the NYAS has been US$150 for Nonmembers; out of reach, of course, for most all-volunteer anti-nuclear groups. Besides that, NYAS only printed 700 hardcopies of the book to begin with. Now, no copies are left, and it is unknown if more will be printed. But now all 335 pages are viewable online at no charge in PDF format. Go to: http://www.nyas.org/Publications/Annals/Detail.aspx?cid=f3f3bd16-51ba-4d.... Click on 'Full Tex'. Then, under 'Annals Access', next to 'Nonmembers', click on 'View Annals TOC free'. This will allow you, chapter by chapter, to download and/or view the entire text of the book, for free.

Sources: Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS) News Updates, 29 October & 5 November 2010 / Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear

Rehabilitation Chernobyl-area. If Ukrainian authorities have their way, the fields surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear reactor could soon be growing fruit and vegetables. Ukrainian officials feel it is time to start a rehabilitation process for the land affected. A report will be published next March, before the disaster's 25th anniversary in April. One plan previously mooted involved growing rapeseed rather than edible crops in the areas. Rapeseed can be used to make biofuels and is relatively resistant to radiation. Scientists were split over the plan. Some said that in areas where intensive rehabilitation programs had been done, soil-radiation levels could be reduced to near-normal levels, but others said disturbing the land would risk catastrophe.

New Zealand Herald, 20 November 2010



African NGO's trained on uranium mining issues

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Fleur Scheele, WISE Amsterdam

Continued interest of international uranium mining companies in the possibilities of extracting uranium from African soil has attracted the attention of non-governmental organizations worldwide. Many organizations work both individually and in groups on uranium mining in various African countries. In November 2010, a training week for NGOs was organized on the issue in Tanzania. An extremely diverse group of African and non-African experts and organizations joined and shared their knowledge and strategies in order to obtain information and inspiration for further action on uranium mining in Africa.

Representatives from 21 organizations from 9 African countries were present during the training week. All of them have had experiences with international mining companies working in their countries, whether this be in exploiting or exploring uranium resources. Some, such as a few Namibian and Nigerien NGOs, have been working on the issue for years, whereas others have only recently been confronted with uranium exploration and/or exploitation, as is the case with the Central African NGOs.

The training week was organized and partially paid by WISE Amsterdam, and was co-financed by various international organizations: Cordaid, NIZA, Eirene, SOMO and OxfamNovib. Other organizations, such as CRIIRAD, Greenpeace International and the Australian Conservation Foundation kindly contributed by allowing some of their uranium mining experts to be present as trainers in Tanzania.

Aims and background
The backgrounds of the participating organizations appeared to be remarkably diverse: they work on development issues, poverty alleviation, labor rights, human rights, peacekeeping, nuclear issues, and/or environment. A few of these organizations do not necessarily aim at stopping uranium mining operations, but would rather impose boundary conditions on uranium mining. They wish to ensure that local communities can give consent on whether or not uranium mining should take place on their land, that public participation is taking place during every step of the mining processes, that rights of local communities are respected, and that the communities at the very least gain significant economic benefits.

Most organizations, however, prefer to avoid any kind of uranium exploitation in their countries and keep the standpoint ‘Leave Uranium in the Ground’. Experienced NGOs claim that many years of uranium mining worldwide have shown that the expectations of great economic development and increased welfare do not actually become a reality for local communities. In the long term, uranium mining does not provide a single benefit for communities. The promises often made by governments and companies have proven to be empty. This view was clearly expressed by Australian activist Dave Sweeney when he quoted Aboriginal Senior Traditional Owner Yvonne Margarula: “None of the promises last, but the problems always do.“

Tanzania, being one of the countries where international companies are now eagerly exploring uranium resources, proved to be a suitable host for the uranium training week: many Tanzanian NGOs, journalists, and members of parliament showed their interest by attending and actively contributing to the training week. They had mostly been invited by the Foundation for Environmental Management and Campaign Against Poverty (FEMAPO). FEMAPO has already been working in the Bahi district of Tanzania, where currently uranium exploration is taking place. They have worked with the communities of the Bahi district, and has informed them about the environmental hazards of uranium exploration in their region. Like FEMAPO, its sister organization CESOPE is currently working on informing the Tanzanian public and the affected communities. Uranium mining is a substantial threat to the Bahi people, as their livelihoods often entirely depend on their natural environment.

Central African organizations ACAPEE and OCDN, as well as some other Central African NGOs which did not attend the training week, are critically following French multi-billion dollar corporation AREVA. Assisted by several foreign organizations, they put pressure on their government as well as on the company to increase transparency of revenues and mining contracts. Also the necessary Environmental Impact Assessment is critically being followed by ACAPEE.

Central African citizens are not familiar with uranium mining and the public is not informed about its hazards. The capital-based NGOs try to improve their communication with the Bakouma community, in whose region AREVA is exploring uranium. Communication is difficult in the Central African Republic (CAR) due to limited infrastructure, the remoteness of many areas, and differences in languages. Therefore, NGOs in the CAR not only scrutinize the most prominent decision-makers, but also continuously search for the best strategies to inform the public, such as by gathering with other NGOs, trying to find ways to physically reach the remote area of Bakouma, and using radio stations.  

Cameroonian organizations CED (Centre for Environment and Development) and RELUFA (Reseau de Lutte contre la Faim, the Network of Poverty Alleviation) showed impressive material on their campaigns in Cameroon. They have provided villagers in exploration areas with GPS devices and training on GPS use. Thus equipped, the villagers can create their own village maps, on which land use is indicated. Sacred sites, agricultural land, rivers: anything can be included in these maps. After mapping the region, the maps can be used as a tool for discussions with the company as the villagers can point out exactly what land is important to them. CED and RELUFA do not only wish to empower the villagers and lobby at government and industry, they also strongly feel the need to do baseline studies on soil, water, and air and will soon start measuring radiation levels with their newly acquired Geiger-Mueller counter.

Several NGOs from Nigers capital Niamey were inexperienced on uranium mining issues and learned much about radiation, company structures, and social issues. They have all decided to start spending more time on the issue and to start informing the public in their country. Niger has seen uranium exploitation for several decades. This has had impacts on the country’s geography, economy, and environment. However, the communities are not well-informed on radiation, and the general public has not benefited from uranium revenues. ROTAB, a network of organizations for transparency and budgetary analysis, is working on the international Publish What You Pay campaign and has lately been paying much attention to the extractive industries in Niger. GREN, which also aims at the extractive industries, also participates in the PWYP campaign. In the past, these organizations focused  on gold and oil extraction in Niger. The international peace advocacy organization Eirene is active in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger, and is now planning to start working on uranium mines with the organization GENOVICO. All have decided to increase their attention for uranium mining.

Organisation Aghir-in-Man was also present during the training. This NGO is based in the mining community of Niger and has worked exclusively on uranium mining over the past years. Aghir-in-Man has worked with several international NGOs in the past, whereby the last successful collaboration was with Greenpeace International and CRIIRAD, who published a report on the environmental pollution around Niger’s uranium mines in 2010. Aghir-in-Man draws attention to the issue internationally, but also organizes meetings with local communities on practical issues. As a result of meetings where women were informed about the dangers of washing their husbands’ dirty mineworkers clothes from the mine, women now refuse to wash uranium-contaminated clothes. The dusty clothes, that can contaminate people internally, are now being washed by the company at the mine.

In Malawi, the recently opened mine of Australian firm Paladin Energy has drawn attention of ActionAid Malawi and Citizens For Justice. They are keeping an eye on the developments in their country. Paladin Energy proves to be very non-communicative towards civil society: both the country offices in Malawi and Namibia and the headquarters in Australia have not responded to repeated WISE requests for interviews or email contact. That Paladins first concern is not its corporate social and environmental responsibility is not surprising if one keeps in mind the words of its CEO John Borshoff: “Australia and Canada have become overly sophisticated. They measure progress in other aspects than economic development, and rightly so, but I think there has been a sort of overcompensation in terms of thinking about environmental issues, social issues, way beyond what is necessary to achieve good practice.” Keeping in mind the shocking environmental pollution and neglect of Aboriginal rights in Australia by the uranium mining companies, Borshoff’s explanation that this Australian situation is already beyond ‘good practice’ makes one fear for Paladin’s corporate behavior when working in Africa. Not only has Paladin Energy managed to obtain very favorable contracts in Malawi, so that people’s rights are not guaranteed and the Malawi state does not make much profit from mining, the mine is also based close to Lake Malawi, upon which many people depend for its water and food. Activists fear contamination of the lake. CFJ and ActionAid try to inform and assist local communities and will do more research on a rumor about illegal nuclear transports from Malawi to Namibia. They are also keen on doing more radiological measurements themselves, something they have already done with river water recently.

Meanwhile, Earthlife Africa is working hard in South Africa and Namibia. Both countries have to deal with mine waste from uranium- and other mines, communities that are being exposed to radiation, and authoritarian governments that ignore the concerns of civil society. The limited knowledge of the public on mining hazards, along with a repressive political culture in both countries, proves it difficult for Earthlife and other NGOs to force governments and industry to mitigate environmental and social problems. Other countries can learn from South Africa’s problems when it comes to managing abandoned mines. South Africa has a long mining history: gold, platinum, chrome, manganese, diamonds and other metals were and are being exploited on a large scale. This has left behind a legacy: today, there are over 6000 abandoned mines in South Africa. These are not only dangerous to enter; they also cause great environmental problems. Many of them fill up with extremely acid water which contaminates ground water and river systems, and they have toxic and radioactive mine waste stored next to them. As the mining companies which owned them are no longer existing, the abandoned mines have now become the responsibility of the government. The extent of the problems, the impact on environment and communities, and the associated costs are so high that the government is reluctant to start working on tackling even the most urgent problems. South Africa’s Federation for a Sustainable Environment and Earthlife are continuously battling to hold the authorities accountable. The campaigns of FSE have long been neglected, but the lobbying now seems to have drawn some national and international attention to the issue and the issue is being discussed in parliament – these first steps can provide the South African NGOs with some hope.

Namibian human rights organization NamRights has observed Namibia change from a new and promising independent country, proud of its independence and wealthy with natural and human resources, into a country where government is letting its wealth being exploited to the benefit of a few individuals in the highest ranks of industry and government. A study by Labour Resource and Research Institute LaRRI in 2008 has shown that mineworkers in the Rossing uranium mine are suspecting their illnesses are related to their occupation. However, there is no possibility for them to go see a specialized medical doctor who is independent from the mine, and any claims towards company Rio Tinto are therefore no option. Unfortunately, government lacks the means and the willingness to carry out proper radiological measurements, and does not assist the sick people. There might be a role for NamRights to draw attention to these ill workers and community members, and remind Namibia’s uranium-keen government that they have a greater responsibility than just to attract wealthy international corporations to Namibia.

Inspired by the numerous examples of successful activism the NGOs will continue to work individually and together on uranium mining. Every country needs to find its own solution. Yet international NGOs can support, motivate, and strengthen one another. All NGOs mentioned in this article are more than willing to share their information and thoughts with you. Please contact them if you wish.

For freely available reports on uranium mining in Africa, please contact NIZA, SOMO, and WISE. WISE is preparing a full report of the training week, including all presentations. A copy can be obtained via WISE in January 2011. Also, SOMO and WISE are about to publish a report on revenues for African states, and will distribute an extensive publication on African uranium mines and their social and environmental impacts by February 2011.

Source: Fleur Scheele, WISE Amsterdam
For more information, contact: Marieke van Riet, WISE Amsterdam

Earthlife Africa

China: pressure on nuclear power

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Wen Bo, China Coordinator of Global Greengrants Fund

Nuclear energy is regarded by Chinese government as an important way to meet the country's growing appetite for energy and as a way to reduce emission of climate change gases. At local level, provincial government officials also believe nuclear energy projects would stimulate local economy.

Wen Bo - One important nuclear development in China is more and more inland nuclear power plants are being planned. Traditionally, the nuclear power plants are being constructed in coastal provinces where energy needs are greater. As Beijing government starts to focus more on economic growth of inland provinces, nuclear industry has been welcomed by local governments. Among these inland provinces with nuclear plant planned, Hunan and Jiangxi are two important uranium-producing provinces.

Nuclear Safety Concerns
Below are a few documented and reported nuclear-related accidents in China:

  • Factory No. 404 in Gansu, January 7th, 1969, China's first nuclear reactor, about 70 people exposed to excessive radiation.
  • The 300 megawatt Qinshan 1 plant in Zhejiang province was shut down in July, 1998 and left crippled for over 12 month, (source: BBC news report.) According to an interview with a nuclear official, the problem caused bolts holding guide pipes to the main body of the reactor to fall off under strong water pressure.
  • On April 6, 2002, Urunima mine No. 794 under China National Nuclear Corporation at Lantian County, Shaanxi province, 12 people died of poisonous gas.
  • 274 kg Depleted uranium waste material was illegally smuggled from Kyrgyzstan to Akesu of Xinjiang by three metal waste dealers who were not aware what it was.
  • Daya Bay Nuclear Power Station on May 23, 2010, occurred a small leakage at a fuel rod at Unit 2 reactor. A fuel rod leaked traces of radioactive iodine into the surrounding cooling fluid.

Though China has a self-claimed sound nuclear waste storage facility in Northwest Gansu province, nuclear waste transportation over vast Chinese territory still poses potential safety threats. Safety problems over nuclear waste transportation are still being overlooked and the public has no information on these nuclear waste transfers and potential hazardous leaks and impacts.

China Nuclear Safety Bureau Chief Li Ganjie pointed out that China nuclear power development still face problems with lack of qualified experts and technicians, lax operation management and equipment manufacturing. In the light of rapid nuclear power expansion, this would turn into a severe threat towards quality and safety of nuclear power plants.

In China's building construction sector, it was reported that many builders cheated and used less rebar. China nuclear power plant construction is not totally immune to such widespread cheating in building sector. It was reported by apparently individual staff that at Hongheyan Nuclear Power Plant in Liaoning province, after nuclear island foundation excavation, it was discovered in June, 2008, that lowest cemented layer was short of rebar. Local residents near Hongheyan Nuclear Power Plant also reported that some rebars and metals were stolen from the plant's construction site.

Anti-nuclear efforts in China
Victory over Rushan Nuclear Power Plant

Rushan Hongshiding Nuclear Power Plant in Shandong province was first proposed in 2003. At the time, the location for the plant was a remote and sparsely populated coastal region dotted by villages. The place is also adjacent to a beautiful coastal resort called Silver Beach. In the past few years, large number of housing compounds and villas have been constructed. They were mostly purchased by city dwellers around the North China in search of a cheap summer homes or retirement haven, with little or no knowledge of proposed Rushan nuclear power station.

Since 2006, many of these home owners became strong advocates against the proposed project and in 2007, they joined a Beijing-based environmental group Ocean Commune in submitting a petition to State Environmental Protection Agency (now known as Ministry of Environmental Protection) and State Oceanographic Administration. Their argument was to protect the famous Silver Beach from potential destruction and that the area was a more populated community. In addition, they argued the three planned nuclear power stations in Shandong province were too close to each other and investment would be wasted. Due to their persistent efforts, the State Environmental Protection Agency and National Development and Reform Commission did not approve the Rushan project.

While the nuclear power industry is booming, in all the regions where either a nuclear power plant is being built or proposed, local anti-nuclear voices have been raised on websites and internet bulletin boards. However, most of these concerned citizens lack organizations and concrete actions beyond cyberspace.

Corruption in nuclear sector
Kang Rixin, former head of China National Nuclear Corporation was sentenced for life imprisonment in late November. He was charged with accepting bribes of several million dollars from Areva, a French nuclear engineering company for winning bidding of two Guangdong Taishan nuclear reactors in 2007.

Chinese media has widely publicized the arrest of Kang Rixin and subsequent charges and final sentence. Many believe such high profile scandal rocked China's nuclear industry as Kang Rixin was also a member of top level anti-corruption department with Chinese Communist Party.

Though public concern over such high level corruption case has been high, it was viewed as a regular case of governmental anti-corruption drive. Due to the secrecy of the nuclear power plans and deals, the public has yet to relate this case with nuclear safety and potential quality problems.

Road Ahead
Anti-nuclear campaigns are getting momentum and increased media attention in China.

Anti-nuclear campaigns are more likely to succeed if the communities are not limited to nimbyism. There is need to establish a board support base, not limited to one region, against a proposed nuclear power project.

Anti-nuclear efforts need coordination and persistency. Outcries over Internet and media outlets would not generate continuous pressure for possible change of a nuclear power plan. Organized and coordinated actions would provide important opportunities for decision makers who might not be in favor of a nuclear power project and looking for an excuse at the right moment to veto or cancel a nuclear power project.

Though concerns over nuclear safety failure and radiation are legitimate, this concern alone can also easily be bullied aside by repeated assurance from nuclear industries and officials. There is a need to have arguments such as damage to natural and cultural heritage, maintenance of an ecosystem and agricultural production etc.

A nuclear power project would be more likely to be vetoed by decision makers, not due to safety concerns, but over financial security concern. More often, the financial burden and economic bankruptcy become decisive factors for cancellation of a nuclear power project. Thus, anti-nuclear activists need to present a sound and reasonable argument in economical and financial terms.

There is need for broad and basic education on potential nuclear crisis among general public. And a vocal and active campaign to promote renewable energy to replace nuclear power investment are also urgently needed.

Source and contact: Wen Bo, China Coordinator of Global Greengrants Fund
Email: savechinaseas@163.com

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

IAEA-DG: less watchdog, more lobby.

International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano presenting his first report to the UN General Assembly on November 8, said that he aims to change the widespread perception of the agency as the world's "nuclear watchdog." The label "does not do justice to our extensive activities in other areas, especially in nuclear energy, nuclear science and applications, and technical cooperation." Established by the UN in 1957 as the "Atoms for Peace" organization, the Vienna-based IAEA gained its reputation as the world's nuclear watchdog from its nuclear verification activities and reports of "non-compliance" by states that have failed to abide by the safeguards imposed by the agency. As countries consider introducing nuclear energy and expanding their nuclear power, the IAEA will need to cement its role in assisting such developments. "When countries express an interest in introducing nuclear power, we offer advice in many areas, including on how to put the appropriate legal and regulatory framework in place and how to ensure the highest standards of safety and security, without increasing proliferation risks," he said.  Amano added that "access to nuclear power should not be limited to developed countries but should be available to developing countries as well."

The IAEA chief encouraged international lending institutions to place greater consideration in funding nuclear power projects, as he drew the Assembly's attention to practical applications of nuclear energy. Meanwhile, cables leaked by Wikileaks show cosy US relationship with IAEA chief. When Yukiya Amano took over as the head of the UN nuclear watchdog last year, American diplomats described him as "director general of all states, but in agreement with us"

Source: Statement to the Sixty-Fifth Regular Session of the United Nations General Assembly by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, 8 November 2010 at www.iaea.org / Guardian (UK), 30 November 2010

News in the nuclear age: rabbits and mice trapped and killed.

 A radioactive rabbit was trapped on the Hanford nuclear reservation (USA), and Washington state health workers have been searching for contaminated rabbit droppings. The Tri-City Herald reports that officials suspect the rabbit sipped some water left from the recent demolition of a Cold War-era building used in the production of nuclear weapons. The rabbit was trapped in the past week and was highly contaminated with radioactive cesium. It was killed and disposed of as radioactive waste.

Only one rabbit sipped from that water? No because a few weeks later, radioactive mouse-droppings were found. It has been difficult to find mice in the current cold and snowy weather. Sixty mouse traps were set, but the two mice reported trapping and killing the holiday were not contaminated. Now PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is asking to stop killing mice in search for contaminated ones. “Live traps should be used to catch mice and then they can be released or humanely euthanized as appropriate after they are checked for radioactivity,” PETA writes. Hanford currently is the most contaminated nuclear site in the United States and is the focus of the nation’s largest environmental cleanup. Last year, 33 contaminated animals or animal materials such as droppings were found on the site.

Source:The Associated Press, 5 November 2010 / Xinhua, 6 November 2010 / TriCityHerald, 25 November 2010

US: Vermont elects Governor that wants Vermont Yankee closed.

In an extremely close race on the November 2 House of Representatives elections, Peter Shumlin (D) defeated Brain Dubie (R) and will be the next Governor of the state of Vermont. Shumlin is an avowed opponent of extending the license of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon past its expiration in 2012, citing the plant's leaks and other problems and its owners' poor record in dealing with state officials. Dubie was open to granting the plant an extension to operate and wanted decisions about the Vermont Yankee’s future made by "experts" at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Vermont Public Service Board.
In February, in a 26 to 4 vote, the Vermont Senate decided that the continued operation of the 38-year-old nuclear reactor was not in the best interest of Vermonters. Entergy, which owns the decrepit 38 year old reactor, has vowed to challenge the state and attempt to relicense the reactor.When Entergy bought the reactor, the corporation agreed that the State of Vermont would decide whether splitting atoms beyond the 40 year license was in the best interest of Vermonters.
Within hours of the election of Peter Shumlin as the next Governor of Vermont, Entergy put the aging Vermont Yankee nuclear plant up for sale. According to Entergy, dumping the aged reactor from their books would benefit their stockholders. But Entergy's announcement has everyone wondering, who in their right mind would buy this rust bucket of a reactor?

Just days after the announced sale, Vermont Yankee was forced into an emergency shutdown due to radioactive leaks, this time inside the nuclear plant. Entergy should behave like a responsible corporate citizen and begin preparations to permanently shut down Vermont Yankee as scheduled.

Source: Blogs at www.greenpeace.org/usa; 3 and 8 November 2010

First victory for Finnish campaign on nuclear investors.

Early November, Greenpeace started a campaign aimed at a group of investors in the E.ON/Fennovoima nuclear project. One of them, with a 3% share, is Finland's largest retail & service chain called S-Ryhmä ("S Group"). On November 25, two of their regional subsidiaries, including the Helsinki area one with most weight, have pulled out. This is a very quick result, quicker than expected. The pulling out is financially small but psychologically very important. There was a major feeling of apathy and inevitability and a lot of people thought there is no more fight to be fought. With at least a year to go to the investment decision, with the cost doubled from 4 to 8 billion euro and timetable pushed back by a couple of years, there is a good chance of splitting the investor coalition. This result will show the movement and the local groups that nothing is cemented and the investors can be swayed. The first, ongoing campaign push is aimed at Christmas sales so the timing could not be better to energize the movement.

Source: Lauri Myllyvirta – Greenpeace, 25 November 2010

Czech Republic: CEZ to pay its regulator?

The Czech Green Party has voiced its alarm at government proposals to change the law so that nuclear companies - principally the semi-state owned energy giant CEZ - would directly finance the budget of the state watchdog responsible for regulating their activities. The plans to amend the Atomic Act, which are still in the draft stage but could become  government policy within months, envisage saving 500 million Czech Koruna (Kc) (US$27.9  million or 25.1 million euro) from public spending over the next decade by asking nuclear firms to finance the State Office of Nuclear Safety (SUJB). Under the proposal, for example, the cost of the three permits needed to open a nuclear reactor would be increased to a total of 250 million Kc, with an annual operating fee of 30 million Kc thereafter. The opening and operation of new uranium mining facilities would also face additional fees, as would the storage of spent nuclear fuel.

The Green Party (SZ) has strongly criticized the proposals, saying the nuclear company should not be allowed to directly fund its own regulation and arguing the state is already being governed by CEZ rather than the other way round. "If it is the case that direct funding of SUJB would be moved under CEZ, that is obviously alarming," SZ spokesman Tomáš Průša said to the ‘The Prague Post’. CEZ and other semi-state firms should be taxed like private companies, he said it was important to maintain a system of indirect funding under which "the state collects fees that then become part of state budget revenue." "An independent regulator can never be under the direct financial influence of the regulated." The Greens believe that CEZ, the country's largest energy firm, was already under-regulated even before this proposed change.

Source: The Prague Post, 14 November 2010

Germany: higher cancer rates near Asse radwaste dump.

Newly published figures from the Lower Saxony state cancer registry show that in the area around Asse, the site of the controversial nuclear waste dump Asse, some cancer rates are higher than normal. Between 2002 and 2009 there were 12 cases of leukemia in the greater Asse region. The area had twice the rate expected for men. While there was no significant  increase in leukemia for women, their rate of thyroid cancer was three times as high as normal. The government has not yet determined if the increase is related to the proximity to the nuclear waste site. A working group of representatives from Lower Saxony’s environment, social, and health ministries as well as the federal agency for radiation protection is set to meet to take a closer look at the data. Asse was originally a salt mine. Between 1967 and 1978 around 126,000 drums of low- and intermediate level waste were stored in the facility. More recently it's been declared unstable because of a danger of collapse and water leaks and is due to be emptied out and shut down.

Source: Deutsche Welle, 24 November 2010

Kenya (Kenya?) seeks sites for nuclear power plant.

The government of Kenya has formed a committee to help identify sites for the construction of a nuclear power plant along its coast, and ensure that all terms and conditions of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) necessary for the approval of a nuclear power plant are met. "Prepare and endorse a detailed road map for the realisation of these terms and conditions indicating the milestones and time lines for approval by the IAEA," Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi said in the notice, outlining the mandate of the 13-member committee. Earlier this year, Kenya's National Economic and Social Council (NESC) recommended that east Africa's biggest economy embark on a program to start generating nuclear energy by 2020 to meet its growing demand for electricity. Kenya relies on hydropower to generate about 65 percent of its electricity but has began channelling investments towards geothermal plants and wind farms to diversify energy sources.

Kenya's main electricity producer, KenGen, is already hunting for a partner to produce nuclear power by 2022 to help match-up rising demand and diversify from hydropower. The power producer projects that Kenya as a whole could produce some 4,200 megawatts (MW) using nuclear by 2022.

Source: Reuters, 26 November 2010

Court greenlights lawsuit seeking to open Yucca.

A federal appeals court has ruled that a lawsuit seeking to relaunch plans for a Yucca Mountain nuclear dump can go forward. The lawsuits had been on hold while the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals waited for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to decide whether DOE had the authority to withdraw its license application for Yucca Mountain. In June, an NRC legal panel ruled that DOE must move forward with the license, but the NRC commissioners have not issued a required decision since then. The Department of Energy has until Jan. 3 to file a brief defending its authority to shut down the site. The states of Washington and South Carolina and the National Association of Utility Regulators filed the suit that insists only Congress can decide Yucca Mountain's fate. The plans were to bury at least 77,000 tons of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Source: AP, 10 December 2010 / News Tribune 12th Dec 2010

Quote of the Day                                

It is like in a zombie movie, where you shoot off its arms and then its head and it still comes after you. USA: Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects head Bruce Breslow, describing other states' efforts to sustain a one-time federal plan to build a massive underground nuclear-waste storage facility at Yucca Mountain.

Source: Global Security Newswire 13 December 2010

RWE wins ‘Worst EU Lobbyists 2010’ Award!

RWE (npower), Goldman Sachs and derivatives lobby group ISDA have been given the  dubious honour of being named the Worst EU Lobbyists of 2010. The results of the dual climate and finance categories of the Worst EU Lobbying Awards 2010 were revealed on November 2, during a ceremony outside the ISDA office in Brussels. Citizens across Europe participated in an online public vote for the most deserving of the climate and finance nominees.

In the climate category, German energy giant RWE’s subsidiary npower, nominated for claiming to be green while lobbying to keep its dirty coal- and oil-fired power plants open, won with 58% of the total vote. BusinessEurope, nominated for its aggressive lobbying to block effective climate action in the EU while claiming to support action to protect the climate, took second place with 24% of the total votes and Arcelor-Mittal, the steel Industry “fat cat”, came in third with 18% of the total votes. Nina Katzemich, speaking for the organisers of the 2010 Worst EU Lobbying Awards, said: "These awards show that people around Europe are fed up with deceptive lobbying practices used by big business when it comes to climate regulation. RWE claims to be green but has pulled out all the stops to keep its dirty power plants open, promoting their profits over public interests. If the European Commission is serious about tackling climate change, it must stop listening one-sidedly to corporations.

Source: http://www.worstlobby.eu/

Another location for Indonesia’s first nuclear power reactor.

The Indonesian government hopes to relocate the planned site of the country’s first nuclear power plant to Bangka island in Bangka Belitung province from Muria, Jepara, Central Java due to strong opposition from the local people. Public resistance has long been the main constraint for the government to build nuclear power plants. The previous plan to build a nuclear power plant in Muria, Jepara, Central Java, faced strong opposition from the local people and non-governmental institutions. Most people, particularly those living near planned nuclear power plant sites, have deep suspicion and distrust concerning the issues of the plant's operational safety.

National Atomic Energy Agency’s spokesman, Ferhat Aziz, said that people's rejection most likely came from negative opinions disseminated by anti-nuclear groups that prompted people to remember the nuclear reactor accidents on Three Mile Island, the United States, in 1979 and in Chernobyl, Ukraine, in 1985 (uh, again?). To address the public's negative perception of nuclear technology, he continued, his agency had to assist people to understand the urgency and benefits of having such technology for future electricity supply in the country.

Source: Jakarta Post, 2 December 2010

Israel stops Mordechai Vanunu getting Carl von Ossietsky Prize in Berlin.

Israel has barred Mordechai Vanunu, who spent 18 years in jail for revealing secrets of the country's nuclear program, from going to Germany to accept a prize, organisers said on December 10. Accoding to a spokesman for the International League for Human Rights Vanunu was to be awarded the Carl von Ossietsky Prize in Berlin two days later, for his work promoting disarmament but has not received permission to leave Israel. The League decided to cancel the ceremony and held a protest rally on behalf of the 56-year-old former nuclear technician instead. The group had previously appealed to Israeli leaders to allow Vanunu to come to Berlin. The medal, which the League has bestowed annually since 1962, is named after a German pacifist who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1935 and died in a Nazi concentration camp in 1938. Vanunu served time for disclosing the inner workings of Israel's Dimona nuclear plant to Britain's Sunday Times newspaper in 1986. He was kidnapped and sentenced, released in 2004 but was banned from travel or contact with foreigners without prior permission.

Source: Middle East online, 10 December 2010

Research report "The Uncertain Future of Nuclear Energy".

In late October, the International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM) has released a new research report ‘The Uncertain Future of Nuclear Energy’. The report provides an overview of the status of nuclear power worldwide, with country studies for China, India, Japan, South Korea, the United States and Western Europe. It discusses why the International Atomic Energy Agency and the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency project nuclear power as approximately maintaining but not greatly increasing during the next two to four decades its 14% of global electric power generation in 2009. The reasons include the currently very limited capacity to build nuclear power plants, high capital costs in North America and Western Europe, the perception by the private sector that nuclear power plants are risky investments, and continuing public mistrust of the nuclear industry despite the passage of two and a half decades since the Chernobyl accident. Frank von Hippel is the editor and lead author of the report, which includes contributions by Matthew Bunn, Anatoli Diakov, Tadahiro Katsuta, Charles McCombie, M.V. Ramana, Ming Ding, Yu Suyuan, Tatsujiro Suzuki, and Susan Voss.

Source: The report can be found at: http://www.fissilematerials.org/blog/rr09.pdf