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Are thousands of new nuclear generators in Canada's future?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#872-873
4779
07/03/2019
M.V. Ramana ‒ Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia
Article

November 2018 ‒ Canada's government is about to embrace a new generation of small nuclear reactors that do not make economic sense.

Amidst real fears that climate change will wreak devastating effects if we don't shift away from fossil fuels, the idea that Canada should get deeper into nuclear energy might seem freshly attractive to former skeptics.

For a number of reasons, however, skepticism is still very much warranted.

On Nov. 7, Natural Resources Canada will officially launch something called the Small Modular Reactor Roadmap.1 The roadmap was previewed2 in February of this year and is the next step in the process set off by the June 2017 "call for a discussion around Small Modular Reactors in Canada" issued by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, which is interested in figuring out the role the organization "can play in bringing this technology to market."3

Environmental groups and some politicians have spoken out against this process.4 A petition signed by nearly two dozen civil society groups has opposed the "development and deployment of SMRs when renewable, safer and less financially, socially and environmentally costly alternatives exist."5

SMRs, as the name suggests, produce relatively small amounts of electricity in comparison with currently common nuclear power reactors. The last set of reactors commissioned in Canada is the four at Darlington. These started operating between 1990 and 1993 and can generate 878 megawatts of electricity (although, on average, they only generate around 75 to 85 per cent of that).6 In comparison, SMRs are defined as reactors that generate 300 MW or less ‒ as low as 5 MW even.7 For further comparison, the Site C dam being built in northeastern B.C. is expected to provide 1,100 MW and BC Hydro's full production capacity is about 11,000 MW.

Various nuclear institutions, such as Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, Canadian Nuclear Association and the CANDU Owners Group are strongly supportive of SMRs. Last October, Mark Lesinski, president and CEO of CNL announced: "Small modular reactors, or SMRs, represent a key area of interest to CNL. As part of our long-term strategy, announced earlier this year, CNL established the ambitious goal of siting a new SMR on a CNL site by 2026."8

Likewise, the CANDU Owners Group announced that it was going to use "their existing nuclear expertise to lead the next wave of nuclear generation ‒ small modular reactors, that offer the potential for new uses of nuclear energy while at the same time offering the benefits of existing nuclear in combating climate change while providing reliable, low-cost electricity."9

A fix for climate change, says Ottawa

Such claims about the benefits of SMRs seems to have influenced the government too. Although Natural Resources Canada claims to be just "engaging partners and stakeholders, as well as Indigenous representatives, to understand priorities and challenges related to the development and deployment of SMRs in Canada," its personnel seem to have already decided that SMRs should be developed in Canada.10

"The Government of Canada recognizes the potential of SMRs to help us deliver on a number of priorities, including innovation and climate change," declared Parliamentary Secretary Kim Rudd.11 Diane Cameron, director of the Nuclear Energy Division at Natural Resources Canada, is confident: "I think we will see the deployment of SMRs in Canada for sure." Such talk is premature, and unwise.12

Canada is a late entrant to this game of talking up SMRs. For the most part it has only been talk, with nothing much to show for all that talk. Except, of course, for millions of dollars in government funding that has flown to private corporations. This has been especially on display in the United States, where the primary agency that has been pumping money into SMRs is the Department of Energy.

In 2001, based on an overview of around 10 SMR designs, DOE's Office of Nuclear Energy concluded that "the most technically mature small modular reactor designs and concepts have the potential to be economical and could be made available for deployment before the end of the decade, provided that certain technical and licensing issues are addressed."13 Nothing of that sort happened by the end of that decade, i.e., 2010. But in 2012 the U.S. government offered money: up to $452 million to cover "the engineering, design, certification and licensing costs for up to two U.S. SMR designs."14 The two SMR designs that were selected by the DOE for funding were called mPower and NuScale.

The first pick was mPower and, a few months later, the DOE projected that a major electricity generation utility called the Tennessee Valley Authority "plans to deploy two 180 megawatt small modular reactor units for commercial operation in Roane County, Tennessee, by 2021, with as many as six mPower units at that site."15

The company developing mPower was described by the New York Times as being in the lead in the race to develop SMRs, in part because it had "the Energy Department and the T.V.A. in its camp."16

But by 2017, the project was essentially dead.17

Few if any buyers

Why this collapse? In a nutshell, because there is no market for the expensive electricity that SMRs will generate. Many companies presumably enter this business because of the promise of government funding. No company has invested large sums of its own money to commercialize SMRs.

Former Westinghouse CEO Danny Roderick: 'The problem I have with SMRs is not the technology, it's not the deployment — it's that there's no customers.'

An example is the Westinghouse Electric Co., which worked on two SMR designs and tried to get funding from the DOE. When it failed in that effort, Westinghouse stopped working on SMRs and shifted its focus to decommissioning reactors that are being shut down at an increasing rate, which is seen as a growing business opportunity.18 Explaining this decision in 2014, Danny Roderick, then president and CEO of Westinghouse, said: "The problem I have with SMRs is not the technology, it's not the deployment ‒ it's that there's no customers ... The worst thing to do is get ahead of the market."19

Many developing countries claim to be interested in SMRs but few seem to be willing to invest in the construction of one. Although many agreements and memoranda of understanding have been signed, there are still no plans for actual construction. Examples are the cases of Jordan20, Ghana21 and Indonesia22, all of which have been touted as promising markets for SMRs, but none of which are buying one because there are significant problems with deploying these.

A key problem is poor economics. Nuclear power is already known to be very expensive.23 But SMRs start with a disadvantage: they are too small. One of the few ways that nuclear power plant operators could reduce the cost of nuclear electricity was to utilize what are called economies of scale, i.e., taking advantage of the fact that many of the expenses associated with constructing and operating a reactor do not change in linear proportion to the power generated. This is lost in SMRs. Most of the early small reactors built in the U.S. shut down early because they couldn't compete economically.24

Reactors by the thousands?

SMR proponents argue that they can make up for the lost economies of scale two ways: by savings through mass manufacture in factories, and by moving from a steep learning curve early on to gaining rich knowledge about how to achieve efficiencies as more and more reactors are designed and built. But, to achieve such savings, these reactors have to be manufactured by the thousands, even under very optimistic assumptions about rates of learning.25 Rates of learning in nuclear power plant manufacturing have been extremely low. Indeed, in both the United States26 and France27, the two countries with the highest number of nuclear plants, costs went up, not down, with construction experience.

In the case of Canada, the potential markets that are most often proffered as a reason for developing SMRs are small and remote communities and mines that are not connected to the electric grid. That is not a viable business proposition. There are simply not enough remote communities, with adequate purchasing capacity, to be able to drive the manufacture of the thousands of SMRs needed to make them competitive with large reactors, let alone other sources of power.

There are thus good reasons to expect that small modular reactors, like large nuclear power plants, are just not commercially viable. They will also impose the other well-known problems associated with nuclear energy ‒ the risk of severe accidents, the production of radioactive waste, and the linkage with nuclear weapons ‒ on society.28 Rather than seeing the writing on the wall, unfortunately, NRCan and other such institutions are regurgitating industry propaganda and wasting money on technologies that will never be economical or contribute to any meaningful mitigation of climate change. There is no justification for such expensive distractions, especially as the climate problem becomes more urgent. 

M. V. Ramana is the Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia, and the author of The Power of Promise: Examining Nuclear Energy in India, Penguin Books, New Delhi (2012). https://liu.arts.ubc.ca/profile/m-v-ramana/

Reprinted from The Tycee, 7 Nov 2018, https://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2018/11/07/Nuclear-Generators-Canada-Future/

References:

1. www.cns-snc.ca/events/g4sr1/

2. www.canada.ca/en/natural-resources-canada/news/2018/02/canada_mapping_as...

3. www.newswire.ca/news-releases/cnl-seeks-input-on-small-modular-reactor-t...

4. www.cpac.ca/en/programs/headline-politics/episodes/65476551

5. www.cela.ca/sites/cela.ca/files/Joint%20Sign-on%20Letter%20-%20No%20to%2...

6. https://pris.iaea.org/pris/CountryStatistics/CountryDetails.aspx?current=CA

7. www.canadianconsultingengineer.com/energy/very-small-nuclear-reactors/10...

8. www.cnl.ca/en/home/news-and-publications/news-releases/2017/cnl-releases...

9. www.candu.org/COGNews/SMRs_BoardUpdate_PSA_Summer2018.pdf

10. www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy/uranium-nuclear/21183

11. www.marketwatch.com/press-release/cnl-releases-summary-report-on-small-m...

12. http://magazine.cim.org/en/voices/a-smrt-energy-alternative-en/

13. www.uxc.com/smr/Library%5CGeneral/2001%20-%20Report%20to%20US%20Congress...

14. www.neimagazine.com/features/featurethe-westinghouse-smr

15. www.energy.gov/articles/energy-department-announces-new-funding-opportun...

16. www.nytimes.com/2013/02/21/business/tva-and-babcock-wilcox-in-nuclear-re...

17. www.forbes.com/sites/rodadams/2017/03/13/bechtel-and-bwxt-quietly-termin...

18. http://markets.financialcontent.com/stocks/news/read?GUID=37242900

19. www.post-gazette.com/business/2014/02/02/Westinghouse-backs-off-small-nu...

20. www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421516301136

21. www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214629616301670

22. https://nautilus.org/napsnet/napsnet-special-reports/prospects-and-chall...

23. www.lazard.com/perspective/levelized-cost-of-energy-2017/

24. http://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/nuclear/the-forgotten-history-of-small-n...

25. https://acee.princeton.edu/distillates/small-modular-reactors/

26. www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421507002558

27. www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421510003526

28. www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214629614000486

Are thousands of new nuclear generators in Canada's future?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#870
4767
19/12/2018
M.V. Ramana
Article

Canada's government is about to embrace a new generation of small nuclear reactors that do not make economic sense.

Amidst real fears that climate change will wreak devastating effects if we don't shift away from fossil fuels, the idea that Canada should get deeper into nuclear energy might seem freshly attractive to former skeptics. For a number of reasons, however, skepticism is still very much warranted.

On Nov. 7, Natural Resources Canada launched something called the Small Modular Reactor Roadmap.1 The roadmap was previewed2 in February of this year and is the next step in the process set off by the June 2017 "call for a discussion around Small Modular Reactors in Canada" issued by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, which is interested in figuring out the role the organization "can play in bringing this technology to market."3

Environmental groups and some politicians have spoken out against this process.4 A petition signed by nearly two dozen civil society groups has opposed the "development and deployment of SMRs when renewable, safer and less financially, socially and environmentally costly alternatives exist."5

SMRs, as the name suggests, produce relatively small amounts of electricity in comparison with currently common nuclear power reactors. The last set of reactors commissioned in Canada is the four at Darlington. These started operating between 1990 and 1993 and can generate 878 megawatts of electricity (although, on average, they only generate around 75 to 85 per cent of that).6 In comparison, SMRs are defined as reactors that generate 300 MW or less ‒ as low as 5 MW even.7 For further comparison, the Site C dam being built in northeastern B.C. is expected to provide 1,100 MW and BC Hydro's full production capacity is about 11,000 MW.

Various nuclear institutions, such as Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, Canadian Nuclear Association and the CANDU Owners Group are strongly supportive of SMRs. Last October, Mark Lesinski, president and CEO of CNL announced: "Small modular reactors, or SMRs, represent a key area of interest to CNL. As part of our long-term strategy, announced earlier this year, CNL established the ambitious goal of siting a new SMR on a CNL site by 2026."8

Likewise, the CANDU Owners Group announced that it was going to use "their existing nuclear expertise to lead the next wave of nuclear generation ‒ small modular reactors, that offer the potential for new uses of nuclear energy while at the same time offering the benefits of existing nuclear in combating climate change while providing reliable, low-cost electricity."9

A fix for climate change, says Ottawa

Such claims about the benefits of SMRs seems to have influenced the government too. Although Natural Resources Canada claims to be just "engaging partners and stakeholders, as well as Indigenous representatives, to understand priorities and challenges related to the development and deployment of SMRs in Canada," its personnel seem to have already decided that SMRs should be developed in Canada.10

"The Government of Canada recognizes the potential of SMRs to help us deliver on a number of priorities, including innovation and climate change," declared Parliamentary Secretary Kim Rudd.11 Diane Cameron, director of the Nuclear Energy Division at Natural Resources Canada, is confident: "I think we will see the deployment of SMRs in Canada for sure." Such talk is premature, and unwise.12

Canada is a late entrant to this game of talking up SMRs. For the most part it has only been talk, with nothing much to show for all that talk. Except, of course, for millions of dollars in government funding that has flown to private corporations. This has been especially on display in the United States, where the primary agency that has been pumping money into SMRs is the Department of Energy.

In 2001, based on an overview of around 10 SMR designs, DOE's Office of Nuclear Energy concluded that "the most technically mature small modular reactor designs and concepts have the potential to be economical and could be made available for deployment before the end of the decade, provided that certain technical and licensing issues are addressed."13 Nothing of that sort happened by the end of that decade, i.e., 2010. But in 2012 the U.S. government offered money: up to US$452 million to cover "the engineering, design, certification and licensing costs for up to two U.S. SMR designs."14 The two SMR designs that were selected by the DOE for funding were called mPower and NuScale.

The first pick was mPower and, a few months later, the DOE projected that a major electricity generation utility called the Tennessee Valley Authority "plans to deploy two 180 megawatt small modular reactor units for commercial operation in Roane County, Tennessee, by 2021, with as many as six mPower units at that site."15

The company developing mPower was described by the New York Times as being in the lead in the race to develop SMRs, in part because it had "the Energy Department and the T.V.A. in its camp."16

But by 2017, the project was essentially dead.17

Few if any buyers

Why this collapse? In a nutshell, because there is no market for the expensive electricity that SMRs will generate. Many companies presumably enter this business because of the promise of government funding. No company has invested large sums of its own money to commercialize SMRs.

An example is the Westinghouse Electric Co., which worked on two SMR designs and tried to get funding from the DOE. When it failed in that effort, Westinghouse stopped working on SMRs and shifted its focus to decommissioning reactors that are being shut down at an increasing rate, which is seen as a growing business opportunity.18 Explaining this decision in 2014, Danny Roderick, then president and CEO of Westinghouse, said: "The problem I have with SMRs is not the technology, it's not the deployment ‒ it's that there's no customers ... The worst thing to do is get ahead of the market."19

Many developing countries claim to be interested in SMRs but few seem to be willing to invest in the construction of one. Although many agreements and memoranda of understanding have been signed, there are still no plans for actual construction. Examples are the cases of Jordan20, Ghana21 and Indonesia22, all of which have been touted as promising markets for SMRs, but none of which are buying one because there are significant problems with deploying these.

A key problem is poor economics. Nuclear power is already known to be very expensive.23 But SMRs start with a disadvantage: they are too small. One of the few ways that nuclear power plant operators could reduce the cost of nuclear electricity was to utilize what are called economies of scale, i.e., taking advantage of the fact that many of the expenses associated with constructing and operating a reactor do not change in linear proportion to the power generated. This is lost in SMRs. Most of the early small reactors built in the U.S. shut down early because they couldn't compete economically.24

Reactors by the thousands?

SMR proponents argue that they can make up for the lost economies of scale two ways: by savings through mass manufacture in factories, and by moving from a steep learning curve early on to gaining rich knowledge about how to achieve efficiencies as more and more reactors are designed and built. But, to achieve such savings, these reactors have to be manufactured by the thousands, even under very optimistic assumptions about rates of learning.25 Rates of learning in nuclear power plant manufacturing have been extremely low. Indeed, in both the United States26 and France27, the two countries with the highest number of nuclear plants, costs went up, not down, with construction experience.

In the case of Canada, the potential markets that are most often proffered as a reason for developing SMRs are small and remote communities and mines that are not connected to the electric grid. That is not a viable business proposition. There are simply not enough remote communities, with adequate purchasing capacity, to be able to drive the manufacture of the thousands of SMRs needed to make them competitive with large reactors, let alone other sources of power.

There are thus good reasons to expect that small modular reactors, like large nuclear power plants, are just not commercially viable. They will also impose the other well-known problems associated with nuclear energy ‒ the risk of severe accidents, the production of radioactive waste, and the linkage with nuclear weapons ‒ on society.28

Rather than seeing the writing on the wall, unfortunately, Natural Resources Canada and other such institutions are regurgitating industry propaganda and wasting money on technologies that will never be economical or contribute to any meaningful mitigation of climate change. There is no justification for such expensive distractions, especially as the climate problem becomes more urgent.

M. V. Ramana is the Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia, and the author of The 'Power of Promise: Examining Nuclear Energy in India', Penguin Books, New Delhi (2012). https://liu.arts.ubc.ca/profile/m-v-ramana/

Reprinted from The Tycee, 7 Nov 2018, https://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2018/11/07/Nuclear-Generators-Canada-Future/

References:

1. www.cns-snc.ca/events/g4sr1/

2. www.canada.ca/en/natural-resources-canada/news/2018/02/canada_mapping_as...

3. www.newswire.ca/news-releases/cnl-seeks-input-on-small-modular-reactor-t...

4. www.cpac.ca/en/programs/headline-politics/episodes/65476551

5. www.cela.ca/sites/cela.ca/files/Joint%20Sign-on%20Letter%20-%20No%20to%2...

6. https://pris.iaea.org/pris/CountryStatistics/CountryDetails.aspx?current=CA

7. www.canadianconsultingengineer.com/energy/very-small-nuclear-reactors/10...

8. www.cnl.ca/en/home/news-and-publications/news-releases/2017/cnl-releases...

9. www.candu.org/COGNews/SMRs_BoardUpdate_PSA_Summer2018.pdf

10. www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy/uranium-nuclear/21183

11. www.marketwatch.com/press-release/cnl-releases-summary-report-on-small-m...

12. http://magazine.cim.org/en/voices/a-smrt-energy-alternative-en/

13. www.uxc.com/smr/Library%5CGeneral/2001%20-%20Report%20to%20US%20Congress...

14. www.neimagazine.com/features/featurethe-westinghouse-smr

15. www.energy.gov/articles/energy-department-announces-new-funding-opportun...

16. www.nytimes.com/2013/02/21/business/tva-and-babcock-wilcox-in-nuclear-re...

17. www.forbes.com/sites/rodadams/2017/03/13/bechtel-and-bwxt-quietly-termin...

18. http://markets.financialcontent.com/stocks/news/read?GUID=37242900

19. www.post-gazette.com/business/2014/02/02/Westinghouse-backs-off-small-nu...

20. www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421516301136

21. www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214629616301670

22. https://nautilus.org/napsnet/napsnet-special-reports/prospects-and-chall...

23. www.lazard.com/perspective/levelized-cost-of-energy-2017/

24. http://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/nuclear/the-forgotten-history-of-small-n...

25. https://acee.princeton.edu/distillates/small-modular-reactors/

26. www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421507002558

27. www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421510003526

28. www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214629614000486

Cameco and Kazatomprom: World's biggest uranium producers announce cut-backs

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#857
4707
14/02/2018
Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor
Article

Slowly but surely, uranium market soothsayers are waking up to the fact that nuclear power and the uranium industry face a bleak future. Writing in Motley Fool last December, Maxx Chatsko wrote:1

"I've done a complete 180 on nuclear energy in the last year. ... The enormous headwinds facing the global nuclear power industry represent a significant long-term obstacle for Cameco shareholders. The threat of reactor shutdowns, even spread out over the next two decades, creates a cloud of uncertainty that will continue to hang over uranium prices. Although they could rebound from their current historic lows, there doesn't seem to be any catalyst on the horizon for sustained demand growth. Simply put, nuclear power is on its way out, with new construction likely to be significantly offset by retirements. That's bad news for uranium miners everywhere."

Cameco is responsible for about 17% of global uranium production, or at least that was the figure before the late-2017 announcement to reduce production. The company has been downsizing in recent years:

  • In December 2012, Cameco booked a C$168 million (US$133m) write-down on the value of its Kintyre uranium deposit in Western Australia.2
  • In 2014, Cameco cut its growth plans and uranium exploration expenses, warning that the "stagnant, over supplied short-term market" was not going to improve any time soon.3
  • In 2014, Cameco put its Millennium uranium project in northern Saskatchewan on hold ‒ where it remains today ‒ and asked the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to cease the mine approval process.4
  • In April 2016, Cameco announced that it was suspending uranium production at Rabbit Lake in Canada, reducing production at McArthur River / Key Lake in Canada, and slowing production at its two US uranium mines, both in-situ leach mines ‒ Crow Butte in Nebraska and Smith Ranch-Highland in Wyoming. About 500 jobs were lost at Rabbit Lake, 85 at the US mines, and corporate headquarters was downsized.5
  • In early 2017, Cameco announced that another 120 workers would be sacked by May 2017 at three Canadian uranium mines and mills ‒ McArthur River, Key Lake and Cigar Lake ‒ and production at McArthur River, already reduced, would be suspended for six weeks in mid-2017.6,7

And in late-2017, Cameco announced that production at McArthur River, the world's largest producing uranium mine, would be suspended from January 2018 for around 10 months. The Key Lake mill will also be put into care-and-maintenance.8,9 Cameco is 70% owner of McArthur River and 83% owner of Key Lake; Areva (now called Orano) owns the remainder.

The workforce at McArthur River and Key Lake will be reduced by about 845 workers (including contractors), with about 210 workers retained to maintain the two sites in care-and-maintenance.9

A Cameco statement said:9

"Cameco plans to meet its commitments to customers from inventory and other supply sources during the suspension, which will be reviewed on an ongoing basis until inventory is sufficiently drawn down or market conditions improve. The duration of the suspension and temporary layoff is expected to last 10 months.

"Uranium prices have fallen by more than 70% since the Fukushima accident in March 2011 and remain at unsustainably low levels. Cameco has been partially sheltered from the full impact of weak prices by its portfolio of long-term contracts, but those contracts are running out and it is necessary to position the company today to generate cash flow if prices do not improve. ...

"We have reduced supply, avoided selling into a weak spot market, resisted locking-in long-term sales commitments at low prices, and significantly reduced costs. To decrease costs, we suspended production at the Rabbit Lake operation, stopped development and curtailed production at our US operations, reduced workforce across all our sites including head office, changed air commuter services for operations in Saskatchewan, changed shift schedules at two Saskatchewan sites, and downsized corporate office functions including a consolidation of our global marketing activities."

The "other supply sources" mentioned above including buying uranium on the spot market ‒ Cameco's uranium is more valuable left in the ground at current prices.

Cameco CEO Tim Gitzel said in November that further cutting production is an option despite the repeated cut-backs in recent years and the suspension of production at McArthur River and Key Lake.10

Gitzel said last year that "obviously we're very far from requiring any new greenfield uranium projects."11

From being the top uranium stock in 2016, Cameco made a complete turn-around to become the worst-performing uranium stock in 2017, shedding 12% during the year.12

The Northern Miner reported in November 2017 on Cameco's latest cut-backs ‒ and the uranium industry's broader malaise:13

"The bottom line is that Cameco is suspending 40–45% of its mine output and laying off 20% of its workforce. Cameco is also slashing its annual dividend by 80% next year from 40¢ to 8¢ per common share ...

"In the post-Fukushima years, Cameco had always reassured stakeholders it was sheltered from the impact of weak uranium prices by its portfolio of long-term contracts, but the company now admits 'those contracts are running out, and it is necessary to position the company today to generate cash flow if prices do not improve.

"Cameco emphasizes that company-wide, it has already lowered supply, cut planned capital expenses, avoided selling into a weak spot market, resisted locking in long-term sale commitments at low prices and significantly reduced costs.

"Across mining, no one has had a harder past seven years than uranium miners, developers and explorers, and the year ahead shows little sign of improvement. If the subsector's leader Cameco is having these kinds of grave troubles, we can only imagine what the rest of the uranium pack is going through in closed-door meetings."

Kazatomprom

In January 2017, Kazatomprom announced that it planned to cut production by 10% in 2017 in response to ongoing oversupply in the uranium market.14

In December 2017, Kazatomprom announced a 20% reduction of uranium production from 2018‒2020. That reduction equates to about 7.5% of estimated global production for 2018 (Kazakhstan has accounted for about 39% of world production in recent years).8,14-16

"Given the challenging market conditions, and in light of continued oversupply in the uranium market, we have taken the strategic decision to reduce production in order to better align our production levels with market demand," Kazatomprom chairperson Galymzhan Pirmatov said.16

China has been a major buyer of uranium from Kazakhstan. That supply may be slowing as the Chinese nuclear power program slows, and China may have stockpiled as much uranium as it plans to.17 Former World Nuclear Association executive Steve Kidd estimates that China has accumulated at least 100,000 tonnes of uranium17 ‒ about 12 times its estimated 2017 requirements.18 China's stockpile may be higher ‒ Ux Consulting estimated it at about 300 million pounds U3O8 (115 tonnes of uranium) in mid-2016.19

References:

1. Maxx Chatsko, 12 Dec 2017, 'The Simple Reason I Won't Buy Cameco Corporation Stock', www.fool.com/investing/2017/12/12/the-simple-reason-i-wont-buy-cameco-co...

2. Nick Sas, 13 Feb 2013, 'Cameco puts Kintyre on ice', https://thewest.com.au/news/wa/cameco-puts-kintyre-on-ice-ng-ya-344802

3. Cameco, 7 Feb 2014, 'Cameco Reports Fourth Quarter and 2013 Financial Results', www.cameco.com/media/news/cameco-reports-fourth-quarter-and-2013-financi...

4. Cameco, 'Millenium', www.cameco.com/businesses/uranium-projects/millennium

5. World Nuclear News, 22 April 2016, 'Cameco scales back uranium production', www.world-nuclear-news.org/UF-Cameco-scales-back-uranium-production-2204...

6. Cameco, 17 Jan 2017, 'Cameco Announces Preliminary 2016 Earnings Expectations and Operational Changes Planned for 2017', www.cameco.com/media/news/cameco-announces-preliminary-2016-earnings-exp...

7. Greg Peel, 14 March 2017, 'Uranium Week: See You In Court', www.fnarena.com/index.php/2017/03/14/uranium-week-see-you-in-court/

8. MINING.com, 23 Dec 2017, 'Are Higher Uranium Prices Around The Corner?', https://oilprice.com/Alternative-Energy/Nuclear-Power/Are-Higher-Uranium...

9. Cameco, 8 Nov 2017, 'Cameco to suspend production from McArthur River and Key Lake operations and reduce its dividend', www.cameco.com/media/news/cameco-to-suspend-production-from-mcarthur-riv...

10. Rod Nickel / CNBC, 9 Nov 2017, 'UPDATE 2-Uranium miner Cameco not planning more output cuts 'right now'-CEO', www.cnbc.com/2017/11/09/reuters-america-update-2-uranium-miner-cameco-no...

11. Cameco, 9 Feb 2017, 'Cameco's (CCJ) CEO Tim Gitzel on Q4 2016 Results ‒ Earnings Call Transcript', https://seekingalpha.com/article/4044994-camecos-ccj-ceo-tim-gitzel-q4-2...

12. Neha Chamaria, 31 Dec 2017, 'Here's Where Things Went Wrong for Cameco Corporation in 2017', www.fool.com/investing/2017/12/31/heres-where-things-went-wrong-for-came...

13. Northern Miner, 22 Nov 2017, 'Editorial: Cameco suspends 40% of production in face of oversupply' www.northernminer.com/news/editorial-cameco-suspends-40-production-face-...

14. World Nuclear Association, 10 Jan 2017, 'Oversupply prompts Kazakh uranium production cut', www.world-nuclear-news.org/UF-Oversupply-prompts-Kazakh-uranium-producti...

15. Kazatomprom, 4 December 2017, 'Kazatomprom announces further production cuts', www.kazatomprom.kz/en/news/kazatomprom-announces-further-production-cuts

16. World Nuclear Association, 4 Dec 2017, 'Kazakhstan to cut uranium production', www.world-nuclear-news.org/UF-Kazakhstan-to-cut-uranium-production-04121...

17. Steve Kidd, 13 Sept 2017, 'Uranium – what are the dynamics between China and Kazakhstan?', www.neimagazine.com/opinion/opinionuranium-what-are-the-dynamics-between...

18. World Nuclear Association, February 2018, 'World Nuclear Power Reactors & Uranium Requirements', www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/facts-and-figures/world-nuclea...

19. Rhiannon Hoyle and Mayumi Negishi, 31 July 2016, 'Japan Nuclear-Power Jitters Weigh on Global Uranium Market', www.wsj.com/articles/japan-nuclear-power-jitters-weigh-on-global-uranium...

Small nuclear power reactors for Canada: Future or folly?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#849
4672
25/08/2017
M.V. Ramana ‒ Liu Institute for Global Issues, University of British Columbia
Article

Nuclear energy companies are proposing small nuclear reactors as a safer and cheaper source of electricity.1 In June, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories put out a "call for a discussion around Small Modular Reactor (SMRs) in Canada" and the role the organization "can play in bringing this technology to market."2

The news release asserts that SMRs are "a potential alternative to large-scale nuclear reactors," would be effective at "decreasing up-front capital costs through simpler, less complex plants" and are "inherently safe" designs.2 All of this warrants examination.

As a physicist who has researched and written about various policy issues related to nuclear energy and different nuclear reactor designs for nearly two decades, I believe that one should be skeptical of these claims.

SMRs produce small amounts of electricity compared to currently common nuclear power reactors. In Canada, the last set of reactors commissioned were the four at Darlington, east of Toronto, which entered service between 1990 and 1993. These are designed to feed 878 megawatts into the electric grid.

In contrast, the first two nuclear power reactors commissioned in Canada were the Nuclear Power Demonstration reactor at Rolphton, Ont., in 1962, and Douglas Point, Ont., in 1968. These fed 22 and 206 megawatts respectively to the grid.

In other words, reactors have increased in size and power-generating capacity over time. For perspective, normal summer-time peak demand for electricity in Ontario is estimated at over 22,000 megawatts.3

Cost considerations key

The reason for the increase in reactor output is simple: Nuclear power has always been an expensive way to generate electricity. Historically, small reactors built in the United States all shut down early because they couldn't compete economically.4 One of the few ways that nuclear power plant operators could reduce costs was to capitalize on economies of scale ‒ taking advantage of the fact that many of the expenses associated with constructing and operating a reactor do not change in proportion to the power generated.

Building a 800-megawatt reactor requires less than four times the quantity of concrete or steel as a 200-megawatt reactor, and does not need four times as many people to operate it. But it does generate four times as much electricity, and revenue.

Small modular reactors are even smaller. The NuScale reactor being developed by NuScale Power in the United States is to feed just 47.5 megawatts into the grid.5 This reduction is chiefly due to the main practical problem with nuclear power: reactors are expensive to build.

Consider the experience in Ontario: In 2008, the province's government asked reactor vendors to bid for the construction of two more reactors at the Darlington site. The bid from Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. was reported to be $26 billion for two 1200-megawatt CANDU reactors ‒ more than three times what the government had assumed.6 The province abandoned its plans.7

Not surprisingly, with costs so high, few reactors are being built. The hope offered by the nuclear industry is that going back to building smaller reactors might allow more utilities to invest in them.

NuScale Power says a 12-unit version of its design that feeds 570 MW to the grid will cost "less than $3 billion."8 But because the reactor design is far from final, the figure is not reliable. There is a long and well-documented history of reactors being much more expensive than originally projected.9 This year, Westinghouse Electric Company ‒ historically the largest builder of nuclear power plants in the world ‒ filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States precisely because of such cost overruns.10

Cost overruns aside, smaller reactors might be cheaper but they also produce much less electricity and revenue. As a result, generating each unit of electricity will be more expensive.

Design aims to reduce costs

The second part of the SMR abbreviation, "Modular," is again an attempt to control costs. The reactor is to be mostly constructed within a factory with limited assembly of factory-fabricated "modules" at the site of the power plant itself. It may even be possible to completely build a SMR in a factory and ship it to the reactor site.

Modular construction has been increasingly incorporated into all nuclear reactor building, including large reactors. However, since some components of a large reactor are physically voluminous, they have to be assembled on site. Again, modularity is no panacea for cost increases, as Westinghouse found out in recent years.11

Safety in scale?

SMR developers say the technology poses a lower risk of accidents, as Canadian Nuclear Laboratories suggests when it asserts "inherent safety" as a property of SMRs. Intuitively, smaller reactors realize safety benefits since a lower power reactor implies less radioactive material in the core, and therefore less energy potentially released in an accident.

The problem is that safety is only one priority for designers. They must also consider about other priorities, including cost reductions. These priorities drive reactor designs in different directions, making it practically impossible to optimize all of them simultaneously.12

The main priority preventing safe deployment is economics. Most commercial proposals for SMRs involve cost-cutting measures, such as siting multiple reactors in close proximity. This increases the risk of accidents, or the impact of potential accidents on people nearby.

At Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant, explosions at one reactor damaged the spent fuel pool in a co-located reactor. Radiation leaks from one unit made it difficult for emergency workers to approach the other units.

Looking ahead

The future for nuclear energy in Canada is not rosy. Canada's National Energy Board's latest Canada's Energy Future 2016 report that projects supply and demand to the year 2040 states: "No new nuclear units are anticipated to be built in any province during the projection period."13 It notes annual nuclear generation is forecast to decline nearly 12.5% from 98 terawatt-hours in 2014 to 77 in 2040.

Promoters of SMRs argue that investing in small reactors will change this bleak picture. But technical and economic factors, as well as the experience of small nuclear reactors built in an earlier era, all suggest that this is a mislaid hope.

Reprinted from The Conversation: 'Small nuclear power reactors: Future or folly?', 25 July 2017, https://theconversation.com/small-nuclear-power-reactors-future-or-folly...

References:

1. www.technologyreview.com/s/608271/small-reactors-could-kick-start-the-st...

2. www.cnl.ca/en/home/news-and-publications/news-releases/2017/SMR.aspx

3. www.ieso.ca/en/power-data/demand-overview/real-time-demand-reports

4. http://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/nuclear/the-forgotten-history-of-small-n...

5. www.nuscalepower.com/smr-benefits/small

6. www.thestar.com/business/2009/07/14/26b_cost_killed_nuclear_bid.html

7. http://globalnews.ca/news/894709/ontario-nixes-building-two-nuclear-reac...

8. www.nuscalepower.com/smr-benefits/economical/construction-cost

9. www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214629614000942

10. www.worldnuclearreport.org/Westinghouse-Origins-and-Effects-of-the-Downf...

11. www.wsj.com/articles/pre-fab-nuclear-plants-prove-just-as-expensive-1438...

12. www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214629614000486

13. www.neb-one.gc.ca/nrg/ntgrtd/ftr/2016updt/index-eng.html

Cameco battling uranium downturn, tax office, TEPCO

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#842
4641
26/04/2017
Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor
Article

(Click here to view a table documenting many of the accidents, incidents and scandals that Cameco has been involved in from 1981‒2017.)

Where the nuclear power industry goes, the uranium industry follows. A decade ago, the hype about a nuclear power renaissance drove a uranium price bubble: the spot price in May 2007 was six times greater than the current price. The bubble collapsed, the nuclear power renaissance never materialized, and the uranium industry's prospects were further dimmed by the Fukushima disaster.

With the current nuclear power crisis jeopardizing the existence of industry giants like Toshiba and Westinghouse, the question arises: will the crisis create similar carnage in the uranium industry? Might it bring down a uranium industry giant like Cameco, which provides about 17% of the world's production from mines in Canada, the US and Kazakhstan?1

The short answer is that Cameco will likely survive, but the company has been downsizing continuously for the past five years. Other established uranium companies ‒ such as Paladin Resources2 and Energy Resources of Australia ‒ may not survive, and an endless stream of uranium exploration companies have gone bust or diversified into such things as medicinal marijuana production3 or property development.4

Cameco's downsizing began soon after the Fukushima disaster:

  • In December 2012, Cameco booked a C$168 million (US$124m) write-down on the value of its Kintyre uranium deposit in Western Australia.5
  • In 2014, Cameco cut its growth plans and uranium exploration expenses, warning that the "stagnant, over supplied short-term market" was not going to improve any time soon.6
  • In 2014, Cameco put its Millennium uranium project in northern Saskatchewan on hold ‒ where it remains today ‒ and asked the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to cease the mine approval process.7

Cameco announced in April 2016 that it was suspending uranium production at Rabbit Lake in Canada, reducing production at McArthur River / Key Lake in Canada, and slowing production at its two US uranium mines, both in-situ leach mines ‒ Crow Butte in Nebraska and Smith Ranch-Highland in Wyoming. About 500 jobs were lost at Rabbit Lake, 85 at the US mines, and corporate headquarters was downsized.8

Another 120 workers are to be sacked by May 2017 at three Canadian uranium mines ‒ McArthur River, Key Lake and Cigar Lake ‒ and production at McArthur River, already reduced, will be suspended for six weeks in mid-2017.9,10

"We regret the impact of these decisions on affected employees and other stakeholders," Cameco president and CEO Tim Gitzel said. "These are necessary actions to take in a uranium market that has remained weak and oversupplied for more than five years. While it is positive that we are starting to see other producers announce their intent to reduce supply, we have not yet seen an actual reduction in supply. Ultimately, it will be the return of both term demand and term contracting in a significant way that will signal that market fundamentals have turned more positive."11

Cameco's revenue dropped C$323 million (US$238m) in 2016 and the company posted a C$62 million (US$46m) loss for the year. The loss was largely the result of C$362 million (US$267m) in impairment charges, including C$124 million (US$91m) related to the Rabbit Lake mine and a write-off of the full C$238 million (US$176m) value of the Kintyre uranium project in Western Australia.12

"I think it's fair to say that no one, including me, by the way, expected the market would go this low and for this long," Gitzel said.13 He said "market conditions in 2016 were as tough as I have seen them in 30 years."14

Cameco's 'tier-1' mines ‒ McArthur River and Cigar Lake in Canada and the Inkai ISL mine in Kazakhstan ‒ have been largely unaffected by the cutbacks except for the slowdown at McArthur River. But the tier-1 mines aren't safe, Cameco plans to reduce production by 7% in 2017, and new mines are off the table. Gitzel said: "In fact we're far from declaring that even tier-1 production is free from the pressure of further reductions. And obviously we're very far from requiring any new greenfield uranium projects."14

Cameco is considering selling its two US uranium mines ‒ Crow Butte in Nebraska and Smith Ranch-Highland in Wyoming. Company spokesperson Gord Struthers said the company was at an "early stage" in the process and there was no target date for a decision. "Together, our US facilities have capacity to produce up to 7.5 million pounds a year and hold 93 million pounds of reserves and resources. In a different uranium market, it would be very attractive," he said.15

Analyst David Talbot said Cameco has probably been open to selling the US mines for some time.16 The mines are potentially attractive, two US producers told Reuters, but liabilities related to reclaiming groundwater and future decommissioning of the mines may limit interest. Those costs might amount to C$257 million (US$190m), Cameco said.16

TEPCO cancels billion-dollar contract

Cameco faces a new problem with notorious Japanese company TEPCO announcing on January 24 that it had issued a contract termination notice, sparking a 15% drop in Cameco's share price over the next two days.17,18,19 The termination affects about 9.3 million pounds of uranium oxide due to be delivered until 2028, worth approximately C$1.3bn (US$959m).

TEPCO argues that a "force majeure" event occurred because it has been unable to operate its nuclear plants in Japan ‒ four reactors at Fukushima Daini and seven reactors at Kashiwazaki Kariwa ‒ for some years due to government regulations relating to reactor restarts in the aftermath of the March 2011 Fukushima disaster.

Cameco plans to fight the contract termination and will pursue "all its legal rights and remedies". Tim Gitzel said: "They've taken delivery under this contract in 2014, 2015 and 2016, so we're a bit perplexed as to why now all of a sudden they think there's a case of, as they say, 'force majeure.'"17 TEPCO has received and paid for 2.2 million pounds of uranium oxide from Cameco since 2014.

Gitzel also noted that other Japanese utilities have successfully restarted their plants ‒ three reactors are operating and seven have been approved to restart. "It is our opinion that TEPCO doesn't like the terms it committed to, particularly the price, and they want to escape the agreement," Gitzel said.19

Financial analysts told Reuters that Cameco has a winning record in previous contract disputes with customers.18 A negotiated settlement may be the outcome. Cameco reported cash receipts of C$46.7 million and C$12.3 million last year to allow two customers to cancel long-term uranium contracts.18

Japan is "swimming – some would say drowning – in uranium", the senior editor of Platts Nuclear Publications said in early 2016.20 According to Forbes writer James Conca, Japan's existing uranium inventory will suffice to fuel the country's power reactors "for the next decade".20

Nick Carter from Ux Consulting said he believes TEPCO is the first Japanese utility to terminate a long-term contract, while many others have tried to renegotiate contracts to reduce volumes or prices or delay shipments. Gitzel acknowledged that "there is concern over the risk of contagion from the TEPCO announcement" ‒ more customers might try to cancel contracts if TEPCO succeeds.14

Tax dispute

A long-running tax dispute is starting to heat up with the October 2016 commencement of a court case brought against Cameco by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). The dispute has been slowly winding its way through appeals and legal motions since 2009 when Cameco first challenged the CRA's findings. The court case is likely to conclude in the coming months but the court's decision may not be finalized until late-2017 or 2018.

Cameco is accused of setting up a subsidiary in Switzerland and selling it uranium at a low price to avoid tax.21 Thus Cameco was paying the Swiss tax rate of about 10% compared to almost 30% in Canada.22 Cameco set up the subsidiary in 1999 and established a 17-year deal selling uranium at approximately US$10 a pound, far less than the average price over the 17-years period.23 Another subsidiary was established in Barbados ‒ possibly to repatriate offshore profits.22

If Cameco loses the case in the Tax Court of Canada, it could be liable for back-taxes of C$2.2 billion (US$1.62bn).23 Last year, the company spent approximately C$120 million (US$89m) on legal costs related to the tax dispute.11

Canadians for Tax Fairness24 have been arguing the case for legislative change to stop profit-shifting schemes, and for Cameco to pay up. Last year, the NGO teamed up with Saskatchewan Citizens for Tax Fairness and the international corporate watchdog, SumOfUs, to deliver a petition with 35,000 signatures to the Prime Minister's office and to Cameco's executive offices.25

Don Kossick from Canadians for Tax Fairness said: "Cameco has a corporate responsibility to pay the $2.2 billion. They use Canadian-developed technology to dig Canadian uranium out of the Canadian ground and rely on the Canadian transportation system to bring their product to market. Cameco employs Canadian workers who developed their knowledge and skills in Canadian schools, rely on Canadian hospitals if / when they get sick and rely on the stability and legal protection that Canadian democracy provides. Canadians are exasperated with this shell game."26

Kossick noted that the C$2.2 billion could easily cover the budgetary deficit in Saskatchewan that has resulted in major cuts to health, education and human services.

References:

1. www.cameco.com/about

2. Paul Garvey, 16 Feb 2017, 'Paladin risks falling prey to Chinese nuclear firm CNNC', www.theaustralian.com.au/business/mining-energy/paladin-risks-falling-pr...

3. ABC, 17 April 2015, 'Capital Mining makes bid to be first to grow medicinal cannabis', www.abc.net.au/news/2015-04-17/capital-mining-in-bid-to-be-first-to-grow...

See also: www.wise-uranium.org/upaussa.html

4. Vicky Validakis, 6 June 2014, 'Price collapse sees junior miner ditch uranium to focus on property development', www.miningaustralia.com.au/news/price-collapse-sees-junior-miner-ditch-u...

5. Nick Sas, 13 Feb 2013, 'Cameco puts Kintyre on ice', https://thewest.com.au/news/wa/cameco-puts-kintyre-on-ice-ng-ya-344802

6. Cameco, 7 Feb 2014, 'Cameco Reports Fourth Quarter and 2013 Financial Results', www.cameco.com/media/news/cameco-reports-fourth-quarter-and-2013-financi...

7. www.cameco.com/businesses/uranium-projects/millennium

8. World Nuclear News, 22 April 2016, 'Cameco scales back uranium production', www.world-nuclear-news.org/UF-Cameco-scales-back-uranium-production-2204...

9. Cameco, 17 Jan 2017, 'Cameco Announces Preliminary 2016 Earnings Expectations and Operational Changes Planned for 2017', www.cameco.com/media/news/cameco-announces-preliminary-2016-earnings-exp...

10. Greg Peel, 14 March 2017, 'Uranium Week: See You In Court', www.fnarena.com/index.php/2017/03/14/uranium-week-see-you-in-court/

11. World Nuclear News, 18 Jan 2017, ''Cameco responds to 'discrepancy' in analyst expectations', www.world-nuclear-news.org/C-Cameco-responds-to-discrepancy-in-analyst-e...

12. The Canadian Press, 9 Feb 2017, 'Cameco swings to $62M loss on write-downs as uranium market drags', http://globalnews.ca/news/3240104/cameco-swings-to-62-million-loss-on-wr...

13. Alex MacPherson, 10 Feb 2017, ''No one…expected the market would go this low and for this long': Cameco records $62-million net loss for 2016', http://thestarphoenix.com/business/mining/cameco-records-62-million-net-...

14. Cameco, 9 Feb 2017, 'Cameco's (CCJ) CEO Tim Gitzel on Q4 2016 Results ‒ Earnings Call Transcript', https://seekingalpha.com/article/4044994-camecos-ccj-ceo-tim-gitzel-q4-2...

15. World Nuclear News, 9 March 2017, 'Cameco considers future of US operations', http://world-nuclear-news.org/C-Cameco-considers-future-of-US-operations...

16. Rod Nickel, 6 March 2017, 'Exclusive: Cameco explores U.S. mines sale as uranium slump drags on – CEO', www.reuters.com/article/us-cameco-uranium-idUSKBN16D28I

17. 6 Feb 2017, 'Cameco and Tepco in dispute over uranium contract', www.neimagazine.com/news/newscameco-and-tepco-in-dispute-over-uranium-co...

18. Dan Healing / Reuters, 1 Feb 2017, 'Cameco 'surprised' after Tepco cancels $1.3-billion uranium-supply contract', www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-and-reso...

19. David Shield / CBC News, 1 Feb 2017, 'Cameco threatening legal action after Japanese company cancels major uranium contract', www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatoon/cameco-threatening-legal-action-after-j...

20. James Conca, 4 Jan 2016, 'As The World Warms To Nuclear Power, The Outlook For Uranium Is Up', www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2016/01/04/the-2016-uranium-market-refle...

21. WISE Uranium, www.wise-uranium.org/umopcdn.html

22. Bruce Livesey, 25 April 2016, 'Did this company engineer the largest tax dodge in Canadian history?', www.nationalobserver.com/2016/04/25/news/did-company-engineer-largest-ta...

23. Ian Bickis, 3 Oct 2016, 'Cameco and the CRA head to court over potential $2.2-billion tax dispute', The Canadian Press, http://business.financialpost.com/news/cameco-and-the-cra-head-to-court-...

24. www.taxfairness.ca/en/search/node/cameco

25. Emma Paling, 23 June 2016, 'Cameco Tax Dispute: All The Things Canada Could Buy With $2.1 Billion', www.huffingtonpost.ca/2016/06/23/cameco-tax-evasion_n_10550884.html

26. 'Tax Court Battle: The People vs Cameco', www.taxfairness.ca/en/news/tax-court-battle-people-vs-cameco


Cameco's uranium deposits in Western Australia

Kintyre (70% Cameco / 30% Mitsubishi)

The Martu Aboriginal people have fought against this proposed uranium mine since the 1980s. The deposit sits between two branches of a creek called Yantikutji which is connected to a complex network of surface and groundwater systems. It is also in an area that was cut out of the Karlamilyi National Park, WA's biggest National Park. Kintyre is home to 28 rare, endangered and threatened species. The project would include an open pit 1.5 km long, 1.5 km wide, it would use 3.5 million litres of water a day and leave behind 7.2 million tonnes of radioactive mine waste over the life of the project.

In June 2016, Martu Traditional Owners led a 140 km, week-long walk to protest against Cameco's proposed uranium mine at Kintyre. Aboriginal Traditional Owners are concerned the project will affect their water supplies as well as 28 threatened species in the Karlamilyi National Park.

Joining the protest walk was Anohni, the Academy Award-nominated musician from Antony and the Johnsons. She said: "It's a huge landscape – it's a really majestic place. It's really hard to put a finger on it but there's a sense of presence and integrity and patience, dignity and perseverance and intense intuitive wisdom that this particular community of people have. There is almost an unbroken connection to the land – they haven't been radically disrupted. They are very impressive people – it's humbling to be around these women. In many regards, I think the guys who run Cameco are desolate souls, desolate souls with no home, with no connection to land, with no connection to country."

www.ccwa.org.au/kintyre

Yeelirrie (100% Cameco)

Yeelirrie in the local Wongutha Aboriginal language means 'place of death'. The local community has fought against mining at Yeelirrie for over 40 years. There was a trial mine in the 1970s which was poorly managed: the site was abandoned, unfenced and unsigned with a shallow open pit and tailings left behind. The project would include a 9 km long, 1 km wide open pit, it would use 8.7 million litres of water a day and leave behind 36 million tonnes of radioactive mine waste over the life of the mine. There are many cultural heritage sites under threat from this proposal. The project was rejected by the Western Australian Environmental Protection Agency in 2016 because of the threat that 11 species of underground microfauna would become extinct. The WA Environment Minister ignored the EPA advice and approved the project anyway.

www.ccwa.org.au/yeelirrie

Nuclear News - Nuclear Monitor #829 - 24 August 2016

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#829
24/08/2016
Shorts

Montreal Declaration for a Nuclear-Fission-Free World

International anti-nuclear campaigners are asking people and organizations to endorse a statement and help build an international network fighting for the abolition of nuclear weapons and the phasing out of civil nuclear reactors. The statement reads, in part:

"As citizens of this planet inspired by the Second Thematic World Social Forum for a Nuclear-Fission‐Free World, conducted in Montreal from August 8 to August 12, 2016, we are collectively calling for a mobilization of civil society around the world to bring about the elimination of all nuclear weapons, to put an end to the continued mass‐production of all high‐level nuclear wastes by phasing out all nuclear reactors, and to bring to a halt all uranium mining worldwide.

"This call goes out to fellow citizens of all countries worldwide who see the need, whether as an individual or as a member of an organization, for a nuclear-­fission‐free world. We are committed to building a global network of citizens of the world who will work together, using the internet and social media to overcome isolation, to provide mutual support and to coordinate the launching of joint actions for a world free of nuclear fission technology, whether civilian or military.

"We will begin by creating communication channels to share information and educational tools on legal, technical, financial, medical, and security‐related matters linked to
military and non‐military nuclear activities. We will pool our resources across national boundaries in a spirit of cooperation, allowing us to contribute to the formulation of a convergent and unified response to counteract the plans of the nuclear establishment that operates on a global scale to multiply civil and military nuclear installations worldwide and to dump, bury and abandon nuclear wastes."

The full statement is posted at www.ccnr.org/declaration_WSF_e_2016.pdf

To endorse the declaration, send name and e‐mail address to [email protected]

For background information see

www.beyondnuclear.org/canada/2016/8/18/montreal-declaration-for-a-nuclea...

www.westmountmag.ca/nuclear-forum/


Groups file for injunction to keep liquid radioactive waste off Canadian and US highways

150 truckloads of liquid nuclear waste are slated to drive through Canadian and US communities from Chalk River, Ontario, Canada to the Savannah River Site, South Carolina, USA. These shipments could begin at any time.

The liquid high-level nuclear waste in question is a corrosive acidic mixture of dozens of highly dangerous radioactive materials including cesium-137, strontium-90, iodine-129, plutonium-239, and weapons-grade uranium-235, left over from the production of medical isotopes at Chalk River.

Although it was previously determined that this liquid waste would be solidified and stored onsite in Canada, the US Department of Energy now plans to truck the 6,000 gallons in liquid form to the Savannah River Site in exchange for US$60 million.

The Nuclear Information and Resource Service has joined six other nonprofit organizations challenging these unprecedented, high-risk shipments in federal court in Washington, DC, requesting preliminary and permanent injunctions to prevent the import and transport which violates US federal environmental, atomic energy and administrative procedure laws.

The lawsuit is being filed against the Department of Energy (DOE) and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). It charges that the DOE and NNSA failed to provide a thorough public process as required under the National Environmental Policy Act to fully analyze the hazards of transporting liquid highly radioactive waste. An Environmental Impact Statement must be prepared and made available for other federal agencies and citizens to review and comment on, including a discussion of alternative ways to deal with the nuclear waste.

The import and transport of highly radioactive liquid waste is being justified under a U.S.-Canada agreement to return highly enriched uranium to the United States. However, shipping of high-level radioactive waste in liquid form over public roads has never occurred in the 75-year history of U.S. nuclear power, research, medical isotope production, and weapons programs.

U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins (NY – 26) has stated that the proposed shipments raise significant homeland security questions. The US House of Representatives unanimously passed Higgins sponsored legislation requiring an Environmental Impact Statement for the proposal.

"Liquid high-level nuclear waste is known to be among the most dangerous materials on the planet, as we have seen at the Savannah River Nuclear Weapons Site and the nuclear power and weapons reprocessing site at West Valley, NY," said Diane D'Arrigo of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service. "There is a good reason why no one has ever tried to move this stuff over public roads before. The material from Chalk River is in the same category."

"Shipping highly radioactive liquid waste to South Carolina is wildly inappropriate," said Dr. Gordon Edwards, president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility. "Chalk River has been solidifying exactly the same kind of liquid waste for over ten years already. In 2011 Chalk River promised to handle all this material on site. It was recently learned that Indonesia is going to be down-blending its high-level liquid waste on site, rather than sending it to the Savannah River Site, and Canada can do the same thing."

The liquid waste can be solidified and stored at Chalk River, or it can be converted or "down-blended" so that it contains low-enriched, non-weapons grade uranium, which the DOE has said is a viable option. The groups that filed the lawsuit are asking the DOE to thoroughly analyze down-blending as an option for dealing with the waste.

Sources:

Media Release, 15 Aug 2016, 'Groups File for Injunction to Keep Liquid Radioactive Waste Off Our Highways', http://tinyurl.com/lnw-us-canada

Court and relevant background documents: www.beyondnuclear.org/waste-transportation/

Britain Eakin / Courthouse News Service, 16 Aug 2016, 'Lawsuit Seeks to Block Energy Dept.'s Huge Nuclear Waste Transport from Canada to U.S.', http://www.allgov.com/news/us-and-the-world/lawsuit-seeks-to-block-energ...

Beyond Nuclear, 16 Aug 2016, www.beyondnuclear.org/home/2016/8/16/kamps-prepared-statement-for-press-...

Beyond Nuclear: http://www.beyondnuclear.org/waste-transportation/2016/8/12/lawsuit-file...


Belarus nuclear plant work suspended after mishap

The nuclear power program in Belarus has hit snags this year. Russia's Rosatom (and its subsidiaries) are building two VVER-1200 reactors in Ostrovets, in the Grodno region of Belarus. Operation of the first unit is scheduled for November 2018 and the second unit in July 2020.

In July 2016, construction workers preparing to install a reactor vessel failed to secure it properly and it fell.1 Local resident Nikolai Ulasevich, a member of the opposition United Civic Party, said the 330-tonne shell had fallen from a height of 2‒4m.2 The reactor was not damaged, Rosatom said, but Rosatom will replace it with another if that would help restore public confidence in the project.1

Mikhail Mikhadyuk, deputy energy minister of Belarus, said a decision would be taken on the use of the equipment only after a thorough investigation of the "abnormal situation" and that installation of the reactor shell was suspended pending the investigation. According to subsequent reports, Vladimir Potupchik, energy minister of Belarus, said that Belarus had decided it wanted the equipment to be replaced.3

The Ostrovets nuclear plant is opposed by the government of Lithuania, whose capital Vilnius lies less than 50 km from the site. The power plant will draw cooling water from the Nevis River, which also supplies drinking water in Lithuania. Lithuania agreed to close its own Ignalina nuclear facility as part of its 2004 accession agreement with the EU.2

The Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevicius said the lack of transparency on the part of Belarusian officials was unacceptable: "These incidents, happening from time to time, lack of transparency, we're learning about them from open sources, usually too late. This is not how it should be in reality." Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite said in July that Vilnius would work with the international community to block the plant coming online if Minsk failed to take steps to ensure international safety standards at the site.2

Lithuania is trying to get European countries to boycott import of electricity from the Ostrovets nuclear plant, in an attempt to force the abandonment of the reactor construction project.4

The Guardian noted on August 9 that the dropping of the reactor shell was not the only problem at the site this year: "It's not the first mishap at the construction site, nor the first time Belarusian officials have resisted divulging any details. The structural frame of the nuclear service building at the site collapsed in April, as first reported by the Belsat independent TV station. According to the report, supervisors, under pressure to meet a deadline, ordered workers to pour too much concrete causing the structure to collapse. No mention of the accident was made in the Belarusian state media or by officials, with the spokesman at the plant first denying anything had happened. In May, the Belarusian energy ministry, however, did confirm an "incident" had occurred during the pouring of concrete, but the "defect" had been dealt with."2

It's no coincidence that the only two nuclear 'newcomer' countries actually building reactors ‒ Belarus and the United Arab Emirates ‒ are both undemocratic. Climate News Network reported in April:5

"Belarus is tightly controlled by the regime of Alexander Lukashenko, in power for the last 21 years. In a 'Chernobyl day' speech in 2008 (26th April) Lukashenko even went so far as to denounce opponents of Ostrovets as "enemies of the state".

"Moreover those who raised questions about the plant have been harassed and arrested. Among them is Belarus journalist Tatyana Novikova ‒ also an environmental campaigner with the environmental NGO Ecohome and an outspoken opponent of the nuclear plant ‒ who was detained by security services on 18th July 2012. Andrey Ozharovskiy, a Russian nuclear expert, was also arrested on the same date. Both were intending to deliver a letter of protest to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, then on a visit to Minsk. But instead they were imprisoned in insanitary conditions for several days. Ozharovskiy was later deported and banned from entering Belarus for ten years."

More information:

Chris Garrard, 28 July 2014, 'Belarus - fighting nuclear power in the shadow of Chernobyl', www.theecologist.org/Interviews/2488867/belarus_fighting_nuclear_power_i...

References:

1. WNN, 2 Aug 2016, 'Belarus plant work suspended after installation mishap', www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN-Belarus-plant-suspended-after-installation...

2. The Guardian, 9 Aug 2016, 'Belarus under fire for 'dangerous errors' at nuclear plant', www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/09/belarus-under-fire-for-dangerous-e...

3, WNN, 11 Aug 2016, http://us1.campaign-archive2.com/?u=140c559a3b34d23ff7c6b48b9&id=6cf8aa7...

4. Nuclear Intelligence Weekly, 29 Jan 2016, www.energyintel.com/pages/login.aspx?fid=art&DocId=914083

5. Kieran Cooke, 25 April 2016, 'Despite Chernobyl, Belarus goes nuclear', http://climatenewsnetwork.net/despite-chernobyl-belarus-goes-nuclear/

Great Lakes nuclear waste dump: the battle continues

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#817
4530
27/01/2016
Joyce Nelson
Article

Opposition to the proposed nuclear waste facility by Lake Huron continues to grow. By the end of 2015, at least 182 communities (representing more than 22 million people) on both sides of the U.S.–Canada border have adopted resolutions opposing the plan by Ontario Power Generation to build a deep geological repository (DGR) for storage of low- and intermediate-level radioactive nuclear waste.

A Canadian federal panel approved the nuclear waste dump in May 2015, accepting testimony that Lake Huron would be large enough to dilute any radioactive pollution that might leak from the DGR.

The immediate outcry on both sides of the border prompted the Conservative government of Stephen Harper to postpone any decision until Dec. 1, 2015, after the Oct. 19 federal election – in which they were booted out of office. The new government of Liberal Justin Trudeau then pushed that decision to March 1, 2016, after a dozen members of Michigan's congressional delegation urged the new prime minister to deny the construction permits necessary for the storage facility to be built.

Meanwhile, American efforts to engage the International Joint Commission (IJC), which oversees boundary waters' issues, have come to naught. As the IJC's Public Information Officer Frank Bevacqua told me by email, both the Canadian and U.S. federal governments would have to ask the IJC to intervene on the issue. "The IJC does not review proposals for site-specific projects [like the DGR] unless asked to do so by both governments," he said.

That means a final decision on the DGR may reside with a small First Nations community.

First Nation decision

The proposed DGR would be located on the territory of the Saugeen First Nation, which is in the process of evaluating the proposal. The Saugeen First Nation has a promise from Ontario Power Generation to not proceed without their support. As Saugeen Chief Vernon Roote told Indian Country Today Media Network (ICTMN) in December, "Ontario Power Generation had given us their commitment that they will not proceed unless they have community support. That's a letter that we have on file."1

Saugeen First Nation negotiator (and former Chief) Randall Kahgee told ICTMN that "we are starting to build some momentum on the community engagement process." The Saugeen leaders are determining how to gauge the community voice, whether by polling or by vote at public gatherings, and have already held some engagement sessions on the issue.2

Randall Kahgee told ICTMN, "For the communities, this is not just about the deep geological repository but also about the nuclear waste problem within our territory. We have always insisted that while this problem is not of our own design, we must be part of shaping the solution. Gone are the days when our people, communities and Nation are left on the outside looking in within our own territory. These are complex issues that will force us to really ask ourselves what does it mean to be stewards of the land. The opportunity to be able to shape the discourse on these matters is both exciting and frightening at the same time."3

The Saugeen First Nation is especially concerned about simply moving the proposed facility into somebody else's backyard. "We might not be the best of friends when we push nuclear waste on our brothers' and sisters' territory," he told ICTMN.

Nuclear expansion

The proposal by provincial Crown corporation Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is for at least 7 million cubic feet of nuclear wastes from Ontario nuclear power plants to be buried in chambers drilled into limestone 2,231 feet below the surface and under the Bruce nuclear site at Kincardine, Ontario. The waste to be entombed in the DGR would come from the Bruce, Pickering and Darlington nuclear sites in Ontario – currently home to 18 Candu reactors.

The eight nuclear reactors at the Bruce site (the world's largest nuclear station) are leased from OPG by a private company called Bruce Power, whose major shareholders/partners include TransCanada Corp. – better known for its tarsands pipeline projects. (TransCanada earns more than one-third of its profits from power-generation.) Bruce Power pays OPG for storage of nuclear wastes, which are currently stored and monitored above-ground on site.4

In December, Bruce Power announced that it will invest $13 billion to refurbish the Bruce site, overhauling six of the eight reactors on Lake Huron beginning in 2020.5 Just weeks later, OPG announced a $12.8 billion refurbishment of four nuclear reactors at Darlington, while extending the life of its ageing Pickering nuclear power plant on Lake Ontario.6 The Pickering move requires public hearings and approval from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, but Ontario's Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli has voiced his approval and touted the nuclear industry as "emissions-free," while ignoring the issue of nuclear wastes.

OPG, Bruce Power, and the Ontario government are obviously onside with the Canadian Nuclear Association lobby, whose president and CEO John Barrett is using the COP21 Paris Climate Agreement to push for nuclear expansion. In an op-ed for The Globe and Mail, Barrett declared that "it is time to recognize the contribution – current and potential – of nuclear power in curbing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions worldwide," and he stated that Canada, with its uranium mining and nuclear reactor technology, is "ready to play an international leadership role on climate change."7

Barrett, in turn, is onside with the billionaires now pushing nuclear energy expansion worldwide: Richard Branson (Virgin Group), Peter Thiel (PayPal co-founder), Bill Gates and Paul Allen (Microsoft co-founders), and Jeff Bezos (Amazon) have all endorsed nuclear energy as the solution to climate change.8 As well, scientists James Hansen, Kerry Emmanuel, Ken Caldeira and Tom Wigley have recently called for building 115 new reactors per year as "the only viable path forward".8 They dismiss nuclear waste as "trivial" and claim that there "are technical means to dispose of this small amount of waste safely."

In that case, the resulting nuclear waste should be stored in their basements and under the billionaires' mansions, rather than near bodies of water like the Great Lakes, which provide 40 million people with their drinking water.

Reprinted from CounterPunch, www.counterpunch.org/2016/01/15/great-lakes-nuclear-waste-dump-the-battl...

Joyce Nelson is an award-winning Canadian freelance writer/researcher working on her sixth book.

References:

1. Konnie Lemay, "Saugeen Nation May Be Final Word in Nuclear Waste Storage Next to Lake Huron," Indian Country Today Media Network, December 11, 2015.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Joyce Nelson, "Nuclear Dump Controversy," Watershed Sentinel, Sept.-Oct., 2015.

5. Robert Benzie, "Bruce Power to invest $13 billion to refurbish nuclear station on Lake Huron," Toronto Star, December 3, 2015.

6. Rob Ferguson, "Ontario Power Generation to spend $12.8 billion refurbishing four Darlington nuclear reactors," Toronto Star, January 11, 2016.

7. John Barrett, "Nuclear power is key to decarbonization, and Canada can lead the way," The Globe and Mail, December 16, 2015.

8. Emily Schwartz Greco, "A Big Fat Radioactive Lie," Other words.org, December 4, 2015.

Canada: Widespread opposition to proposed nuclear dump

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#804
4472
28/05/2015
Article

A proposal by Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to build a deep geological repository near the Bruce nuclear power plant has been endorsed by a federal Joint Review Panel Report. Opponents have 120 days to file further comment, after which the Environment Minister could authorize the panel to issue a licence to prepare the site for the repository.1

OPG plans to bury as much as 200,000 cubic metres of waste within a thick layer of limestone located 680 metres below ground, barely a kilometre from the shores of Lake Huron. The repository would take waste from the Bruce, Pickering, and Darlington nuclear plants.1

The plan has met with fierce opposition from Traditional Owners. Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee from the Anishinabek Nation said: "The uncertainties and risks are too great for the Anishinabek Nation and Ontario citizens to consider. The Anishinabek Nation passed a resolution, and we have informed governments before, that 'the Anishinabek Nation will stand united and oppose any deep geological nuclear waste repositories within the Anishinabek Nation territory'."1,2

Saugeen Objiway Nation (SON) Chief Vernon Roote said: "If something were to happen with the disposal or the leakage of nuclear waste I wouldn't want to be drinking the water downstream. That means the balance of Lake Huron, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and also anyone drinking from those lakes, even into the US."1,2

"In our community that I represent ... there are no members that are agreeable to the burial at the site at this time," Roote said.3

The site is in the traditional territory of the SON. OPG says approval by the SON is necessary for the project to proceed. "As we have stated in the past and we will state again, we will not build this project without SON support," OPG spokesperson Neal Kelly said.3

There is broad public and political opposition on the Canadian and US sides of Lake Huron. Bipartisan resolutions opposing the proposed repository have been introduced in the US House and Senate.4

One hundred and fifty-five Native American First Nations, states, counties, cities, towns, and villages − including Michigan, Chicago, Toledo, and Toronto − have passed resolutions opposing the repository, representing 21 million people.5

After Chicago City Council unanimously passed a resolution opposing the repository in January, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said: "The Great Lakes hold 84 percent of North America's fresh water and Chicago's position as the paramount Great Lakes city makes OPG's proposed nuclear waste repository a threat both to public health and our environment."6

The independence of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has been called into question, and the conservative Canadian government has seriously weakened environmental protection laws in recent years.7,8

More information: www.stopthegreatlakesnucleardump.com

References:

1. Michael Erskine, 20 May 2015, 'Kincardine nuclear waste disposal site gets panel green light', www.manitoulin.ca/2015/05/20/kincardine-nuclear-waste-disposal-site-gets...

2. Ivan Radisic, 19 May 2015, 'Anishinabek Nation: Lake Huron nuke waste plan 'flawed'', www.northernlife.ca/news/localNews/2015/05/19-anishinabek-bruce-nuclear-...

3. Rob Gowan, 8 May 2015, 'First Nations oppose Ont. nuclear waste burial project', www.torontosun.com/2015/05/08/first-nations-oppose-ont-nuclear-waste-bur...

4. Beyond Nuclear, 15 April 2015, 'Canada's Great Lakes shoreline radioactive waste dump', www.beyondnuclear.org/radioactive-waste-whatsnew/2015/4/15/declarations-...

5. www.stopthegreatlakesnucleardump.com/

6. Jim Bloch, 20 Feb 20, 2015, 'Opposition to Lake Huron nuclear waste dump continues to grow', www.voicenews.com/articles/2015/02/20/news/doc54e6321e2e218830268160.txt

7. Shawn McCarthy, 23 Sep 2013, 'Impartiality of federal panel reviewing nuclear-waste plan under scrutiny', www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/impartiality-of-nuclear-waste-pane...

8. Ole Hendrickson, 8 May 2015, 'See you at the ribbon cutting? Federal panel approves nuclear dump on Lake Huron', http://rabble.ca/columnists/2015/05/see-you-ribbon-cutting-federal-panel...

Stand Against Uranium: The James Bay Crees' fight against uranium development

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#801
4457
09/04/2015
Grand Chief Dr. Matthew Coon Come − Grand Chief of the Grand Council of the Crees
Article

My people, the Eeyouch or James Bay Crees, call our lands Eeyou Istchee, which means "The People's Land". Our territory is located in northern Quebec, on the eastern shore of James Bay and Hudson's Bay. For thousands of years, we have lived off our lands by hunting, fishing and trapping. Our family hunting grounds cover the entire area of Eeyou Istchee. Our people have used and continue to use the entire territory of Eeyou Istchee to practice our traditional way of life.

For thousands of years, our identity has been shaped by our relationship with the land and all that that it contains. Today, we face the very real challenge of maintaining our culture and identity in the context of intensifying development on our territory. Our people continue to practice many aspects of our traditional way of life. We have also fought to ensure that we are active participants in many of the development activities occurring on our lands.

Recently, my people have confronted the challenge of uranium development in Eeyou Istchee. This is not the first time development has threatened our territory and our way of life, and I am certain it will not be the last. It is a challenge that we have taken very seriously.

My people have concluded that the risks associated with uranium development represent an unacceptable threat to our very way of life in Eeyou Istchee. Uranium mining could cause severe and irreparable harm to my people and the animals and lands that sustain us. Radioactive and toxic emissions and wastes from uranium mining will remain with our future generations for hundreds of thousands of years. These risks, and the burdens they create for generations to come, are unacceptable to us.

We have drawn a hard line against uranium development in Eeyou Istchee. The Cree Nation's position is that our consent and participation is required for any and all development on our land. And we have said NO to uranium.

Uranium mining in Eeyou Istchee

The Cree Nation's consideration of and eventual opposition to uranium mining began in 2006 in the community of Mistissini, Quebec, one of the nine communities of the James Bay Cree Nation. In that year, Strateco Resources, a junior mining company, commenced an intensive program of uranium exploration on the family hunting grounds of the Mistissini community in the Otish Mountains. In 2008, Strateco announced its plans to undertake advanced exploration efforts at a site in the Otish mountains at the crest of two major watersheds that bring water to Mistissini and throughout Eeyou Istchee. Eventually, if the results of the advanced exploration project were positive, Strateco intended to build a large-scale uranium mine and mill at this site.

When confronted with this prospect, Mistissini's leaders consulted experts in uranium as well as experts in the land and traditional practices. Town hall meetings were held. The community was polled and the decision was made: Mistissini would not support uranium mining on its territory.

In 2010, the Cree Nation of Mistissini passed a resolution asking the government of Quebec to impose a moratorium on uranium mining on its territory. In 2012, the Grand Council of the Crees – the political organization representing all the Cree communities and people – passed a unanimous resolution banning uranium development throughout all of Eeyou Istchee.

The Cree Nation did not make this decision lightly. We are not anti-development. We support and participate in sustainable and responsible resource development within our territory, in mining, forestry, hydroelectric development and tourism. But uranium is a special case.

Cree consent is required for all development activities on our land. We must be a real partner in development projects in our territory. Our rights must be respected, appropriate measures must be taken to protect the environment, and social and economic benefits must flow to our communities. Most importantly, we cannot support development that is incompatible with Cree values or our way of life.

The Cree Nation's Stand Against Uranium

While there is much that concerns the Cree Nation about uranium development in Eeyou Istchee, there are three areas that are particularly troubling.

First of all, uranium development presents serious health and environmental impacts. We are particularly concerned about the risk of contamination of our water, through a leak, spill or breach. As a result of the river diversions and flooding that accompanied hydroelectric development in Eeyou Istchee, the water bodies in our territory are heavily interconnected As a result, contamination of the water could have far-reaching, disastrous effects on our communities.

For Crees, our health and the environment are deeply interconnected. It is impossible to speak of environmental impacts without also speaking of the health implications that they present. Land on which we can hunt and trap without fear, healthy animals and plants, and uncontaminated drinking water are the building blocks for Cree health. Uranium development presents serious risks to the environment, to our health and, as a result, to our traditional lifestyle.

Secondly, uranium tailings present unique long-term hazards which in turn create long-term technological and institutional challenges that cannot be ignored. Uranium tailings must be monitored for thousands of years. This time period defies human understanding and generates significant uncertainties and unknowns. It makes long-term stewardship needs impossible to predict and therefore impossible to adequately plan for. At the end of the day, is the local population that truly bears the risks associated with these hazards.

Finally, the inadequacy of the financial guarantees that mining companies are required to set aside for uranium mining projects are a source of concern. This systemic deficiency raises serious questions about who will be responsible for technological failures and unforeseen events if and when they do occur.

The financial guarantees required by Canadian and Quebec regulatory bodies to cover monitoring, remediation and unforeseen events are completely insufficient to deal with the long-term obligations imposed by uranium tailings management. Under the approach adopted by provincial authorities and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Canada's nuclear industry watchdog, the evaluation of future costs is considered over decades not centuries, let alone millennia. There is therefore inadequate funding set aside to remedy the damages that could occur, reinforcing the concern that the local communities will ultimately bear the financial risks along with health and environmental risks.

Standing together against uranium

The Cree Nation has fought hard against uranium development on our land, and our refusal to back down has paid off. In 2013, the Government of Quebec refused to grant Strateco a permit to begin advanced uranium exploration efforts. The Government's decision was largely due to the fact that the project lacked social acceptability amongst the Crees, the population that would be most directly impacted by the project.

The Government of Quebec has also mandated the Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement (BAPE), Quebec's environmental watchdog, to hold public hearings and undertake a review of the industry. The Government declared a moratorium on uranium mining until the BAPE issues its recommendations.

The BAPE held public hearings throughout the province, including in Eeyou Istchee, from May to December 2014. In December 2014, as the BAPE hearings were coming to a close in Montreal, a group of Cree youth marched over 850 km through Northern Quebec, braving the elements of the Canadian winter, to hand-deliver this message to BAPE: the Cree Nation stands united in its opposition to uranium development in Eeyou Istchee, our traditional territory.

We have said from the start that once Quebecers learned the true facts about uranium development, they will join the Cree Nation in our stand against uranium. The Cree Marchers experienced this firsthand: in every community they passed through, Quebecers came out to support their position and march with them. The BAPE hearings also proved this to be true. During the BAPE's public hearings, the opposition to uranium mining in the province was overwhelming. In fact, the BAPE received more submissions regarding uranium that it had ever received for any environmental hearing it had ever conducted. It has never been more obvious that Quebec as a whole stands with the Cree Nation in our opposition to uranium.

We are grateful for the support of our allies. This support has never been more crucial. In May 2015, the BAPE will be issuing its recommendations to the Government of Quebec, and our stand must remain unwavering. Two upcoming events in Quebec will help keep uranium in the spotlight: the World Uranium Symposium will be held in Quebec City from April 14 to 16, and the International Uranium Film Festival will be held in Quebec City from April 15 to 25, with additional screenings in Mistissini (April 18) and Montreal (April 23).

Now, more than ever, the Cree Nation, its allies and all of Quebec must stand united against uranium development. There are considerable benefits associated with development, but the challenges associated with uranium mining are numerous and cannot be ignored. For the Cree Nation of Eeyou Istchee, the long-term management of uranium tailings and the stewardship obligations imposed on future generations are fundamentally incompatible with Cree values, culture and way of life. For this reason, we have taken a Stand Against Uranium. We invite you to stand with us.

Matthew Coon Come is the Grand Chief of the Grand Council of the Crees, the political body representing the Cree Nation of Eeyou Istchee (Quebec). He is known throughout Canada and internationally for his tireless leadership and advocacy to protect and advance the aboriginal, treaty and other human rights of indigenous peoples in Canada and internationally.

Stand Against Uranium:
http://standagainsturanium.com
www.facebook.com/jamesbaycreeagainsturanium
#StandAgainstUranium

Grand Council of the Crees: www.gcc.ca

 

World Uranium Symposium

The World Uranium Symposium will be held in Quebec City, Canada, from April 14 to 16. The Symposium will address issues arising from the life cycle of uranium, from mining to its end-uses and byproducts for civilian or military purposes. Both scientific and community-based, the Symposium is organized around the following themes: health, environment, economy, ethics, governance, human rights and the rights of indigenous peoples.

The Symposium is jointly organized by Physicians for Global Survival, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Nature Quebec, the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, and the Coalition pour que le Québec ait meilleure mine. It also receives support from the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (Swiss chapter), the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Sustainable Development Institute, the Cree Nation of Mistissini, MiningWatch Canada, and a number of other local, national and international partners.

http://uranium2015.com/en 

Nuclear News

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#797
30/01/2015
Shorts

Canada: Progress with non-reactor isotope production

A research team at the University of British Columbia is making progress developing non-reactor methods to produce technetium-99m (Tc-99m), the isotope used in 70−80% of diagnostic nuclear imaging procedures. Using its Triumf cyclotron, they produced enough Tc-99m in six hours to enable about 500 scans, thereby creating a "viable alternative" to the NRU reactor which is scheduled to close in 2016.1

Clinical trials involving 50−60 patients are expected to begin this year to prove that the cyclotron-produced Tc-99m behaves in the same way as that from nuclear reactors. If the three-month trials are successful, the university says, one of Triumf's cyclotrons "would likely be dedicated to medical isotope production", possibly as soon as 2016.

Only a handful of research reactors around the world produce molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), the parent of Tc-99m. The supply chain has been vulnerable to interruptions from unplanned reactor outages.

The Canadian government has invested around C$60 million (€43m; US$48m) in projects, including Triumf, to bring non-reactor-based isotope production technologies to market through its Isotope Technology Acceleration Program initiative.

Production of Tc-99m using cyclotrons does not require the highly enriched uranium targets that are commonly used in reactors to produce Mo-99 (and Mo-99 production has sometimes been used to justify the use of highly enriched reactor fuel). Instead, Tc-99m is produced by bombarding a Mo-100 target with a proton beam.

Another technique that is showing some promise uses the Canadian Light Source in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.2 The accelerator bombards a target of enriched Mo-100 with high-energy X-rays, which knock a neutron out of some of the Mo-100 atoms to produce Mo-99. If all goes to plan, two or three accelerator systems like the Canadian Light Source facility could produce enough isotopes to supply Canada's domestic needs. Production of the parent isotope Mo-99 is preferable to direct production of Tc-99, as its longer half-life (66 hours vs. 6 hours for Tc-99m) facilitates more widespread distribution.

Numerous non-reactor methods of Mo-99/Tc-99m production have been proposed over the past few decades, and some methods have been proven on an experimental scale.3 There is a reasonable chance that the looming closure of the NRU reactor in Canada will result in viable, affordable methods of large-scale, non-reactor Mo-99/Tc-99m production.

1. WNN, 9 Jan 2015, 'New record for cyclotron isotope production', www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS-New-record-for-cyclotron-isotope-productio...
2. WNN, 17 Nov 2014, 'Canada ships first synchrotron isotopes', www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS-Canada-ships-first-synchrotron-isotopes-17...
3. www.foe.org.au/anti-nuclear/issues/oz/lh/tc99

 

Belgium not ready for major nuclear accident

Contingency plans for a major nuclear accident are not up to scratch and Belgium is therefore ill-prepared for such a catastrophe. This is the conclusion of a study commissioned by Greenpeace Belgium. The study was undertaken by the French Association pour le Contrôle de la Radioactivité de l'Ouest (ACRO).

Nothing has been learned from the Fukushima disaster in Japan. Emergency preparations are very limited and "would not suffice to protect Belgians if there was serious nuclear accident."

"Zones covered by current contingency plans are too limited and must be enlarged to cover the whole country. There is no mention of the evacuation of cities such as Antwerp, Liege or Namur, in spite of their location being less than 30 kms from a nuclear power station," said Greenpeace, which also highlights power stations in Gravelines, Chooz, Cattehom (France), and Borssele (Netherlands), all along the Belgian border.

For Greenpeace, the Fukushima disaster showed that contingency plans only work to protect populations if they have been developed and tested with a worst case scenario in mind. Everyone concerned – from emergency services to potential victims – must be trained in what to do in advance of an actual incident. "This is not the case in Belgium, where the case of only a limited nuclear incident with low radioactive contamination levels has been envisaged," explains Eloi Glorieux, energy campaigner for Greenpeace Belgium.

In view of the high population density in this country, and of the problems occurring at Belgian nuclear plants in recent months, the expected lifespan of Belgian reactors should not be extended, said Greenpeace.

"Will the Belgian government act responsibly to protect Belgian citizens? For now, it seems willing to run the risk and is ignoring any lessons that were learned from Fukushima and Tchernobyl. We call this culpable negligence".

The report (in Dutch) is posted at: www.greenpeace.org/belgium/nl/nieuws-blogs/Blogs/blog-klimaat/belgi-tota...

 

Global renewable energy knowledge hub

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has launched 'REsource' − an online platform that enables users to easily find country-specific data, create customized charts and graphs, and compare countries on metrics like renewable energy use and deployment. It also provides information on renewable energy market statistics, potentials, policies, finance, costs, benefits, innovations, education and other topics.

www.irena.org/REsource

 

Renewable energy costs reaching grid parity

Maturing clean energy technologies, such as onshore wind, solar power and biomass, are reaching grid parity in many parts of the world regardless of whether or not they receive subsidies, a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has revealed.1

IRENA states: "The competitiveness of renewable power generation technologies continued improving in 2013 and 2014, reaching historic levels. Biomass for power, hydropower, geothermal and onshore wind can all provide electricity competitively against fossil fuel-fired power generation. Solar photovoltaic (PV) power has also become increasingly competitive, with its levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) at utility scale falling by half in four years."

IRENA estimates fossil-fuelled power plants produce power at between US$0.07−0.19/kWh when environmental and health costs of carbon emissions and other forms of pollution are taken into account.

Deutsche Bank has released its 2015 Solar Outlook report.2 Deutsche Bank states: "Unsubsidized rooftop solar electricity costs anywhere between $0.13 and $0.23/kWh today, well below retail price of electricity in many markets globally. The economics of solar have improved significantly due to the reduction in solar panel costs, financing costs and balance of system costs. We expect solar system costs to decrease 5-15% annually over the next 3+ years which could result in grid parity within ~50% of the target markets. If global electricity prices were to increase at 3% per year and cost reduction occurred at 5-15% CAGR [compound annual growth rate], solar would achieve grid parity in an additional ~30% of target markets globally. We believe the cumulative incremental total available market for solar is currently around ~140GW/year and could potentially increase to ~260GW/year over the next 5 years as solar achieves grid parity in more markets globally and electric capacity needs increase."

According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, global investment in renewables jumped 16% last year to US$310 billion (€89b), five times the tally of a decade earlier. Solar investments accounted for almost half the total. China led the way with renewable investments increasing almost one-third to US$89.5 billion (€79.6b), while US investment gained 8% to US$51.8 billion (€46.1b).3

A November 2014 report commissioned by the Vienna Ombuds-Office for Environmental Protection compares the economics of renewables and nuclear power.4 Five different renewable technologies were analysed: biomass, onshore and offshore wind, small-scale hydropower plants and solar photovoltaics. Calculations were conducted for five different EU Member states (UK, Poland, Germany, France and the Czech Republic) and the EU-28 overall.

The report concludes: "Generating electricity from a variety of renewable sources is more economical than using nuclear power; this is clearly shown by the model-based assessment of future developments up to 2050. Across the EU end consumers can save up to 37% on their electricity costs – in some Member States even up to 74% – when plans to build nuclear power plants are shelved in favour of renewables. In order to achieve these goals it is vital that we act quickly, but with care, to create the infrastructure and regulatory framework this requires, or to adapt that which already exists."

1. IRENA, January 2014, 'Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2014', www.irena.org/menu/index.aspx?mnu=Subcat&PriMenuID=36&CatID=141&SubcatID... . For more of IRENA's ongoing renewable energy cost analysis, see www.irena.org/costs
2. Deutsche Bank, 13 Jan 2015, 'Deutsche Bank’s 2015 solar outlook: accelerating investment and cost competitiveness', www.db.com/cr/en/concrete-deutsche-banks-2015-solar-outlook.htm
3. http://about.bnef.com/press-releases/rebound-clean-energy-investment-201...
www.theage.com.au/business/renewable-investment-dives-in-australia-bucki...
4. Austrian Institute of Ecology / e-think, Nov 2014, 'Renewable Energies versus Nuclear Power: Comparing Financial Support', www.ecology.at/wua_erneuerbarevskernenergie.htm

 

Charlie Hebdo − an ally of the anti-nuclear movement

French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has been at the forefront of the denunciation of nuclear threats − from nuclear weapons and from the nuclear fuel cycle − since its creation in 1969; indeed since its predecessor magazine Hara Kiri was first printed in 1960.

Several Charlie Hebdo staffers supported anti-nuclear struggles, including murdered editor Stéphane 'Charb' Charbonnier. Staffer Fabrice Nicolino, who was wounded on January 7, was the author of a special edition of Charlie Hebdo in 2012 called 'The Nuclear Swindle' − with democracy the victim of the swindle.

Cameco signs uranium contract with India

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#802
4464
24/04/2015
Article

A uranium supply contract was signed by Cameco and India's Department of Atomic Energy on April 15. Under the contract Cameco will supply 7.1 million pounds of uranium concentrate (about 2,730 tonnes of uranium) from 2015−2020, all of it sourced from Cameco's Canadian mines. The contract is worth around US$286 million at current spot prices.1 The two countries signed a Nuclear Cooperation Agreement in 2010 and it entered into force in September 2013.

The uranium supply agreement, and the bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement, have attracted widespread criticism.

Cameco's uranium operations in Saskatchewan are facing opposition from the Clearwater Dene First Nation. A group called Holding the Line Northern Trappers Alliance has been camping in the area to block companies from further exploratory drilling in their territory. The group set up camp in November 2014 and plans to remain until mining companies leave. Spokesperson Candyce Paul said she was opposed to Cameco's uranium deal with India and that "scientific evidence is building towards proving that the uranium mining industry is killing the Indigenous people of northern Saskatchewan."2

The uranium supply contract was criticised by delegates to the World Uranium Symposium held in Quebec City from April 14−16. Shri Prakash, one of several participants from India at the Symposium, said: "India's nuclear weapons program is very active, as demonstrated by a series of nuclear test explosions. Moreover tensions between India and Pakistan, a country with its own nuclear arsenal, are running very high. The attitude of Canada is irresponsible and alarming."3

Just hours after the uranium supply contract was signed, India test-fired a nuclear-capable Agni-III ballistic missile.4

Paul Meyer, a former Canadian representative to the UN Disarmament Conference, said: "All of this flows from decisions where we essentially sold the shop some years back, sacrificing our nuclear non-proliferation principles and objectives for some other considerations, and I think it's been a very poor deal for us in terms of the risks of nuclear proliferation. ... There was a capitulation in 2008 to essentially give India all of the benefits of membership in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, without any of its obligations or responsibilities."4

Meyer summarised Canada's capitulation on safeguards tracking standards in a November 2012 article: "India bristled at the suggestion that this little, non-nuclear weapon state should presume to exercise any form of oversight over its nuclear activity. After a few rounds of talks failed to produce an agreement and as the dates for the prime minister's trip approached, it would appear the CNSC [Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission] team was instructed to cut a deal."5

Trevor Findlay, a senior research fellow at Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, and a member of the UN Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters, said: "Normally there's some sort of tracking and accounting system so that Canada would be receiving information from India very specifically about what Canada-sourced material is being used for. In this case, because the agreement is secret, we have no idea whether that's in place, and it probably isn't because the Indians have been pushing against that."4

Australian nuclear arms control expert Crispin Rovere noted in a 2014 paper: "As with the proposed Australia–India nuclear agreement, the text of the Canadian deal likewise abrogates the widely accepted principle that the nuclear recipient is accountable to the supplier. This is ironic given it was nuclear material diverted from a Canadian-supplied reactor that led to the India's break-out in the first place. It would be like the citizens of Hiroshima deciding it would be a good idea to host American nuclear weapons within the city – the absurdity is quite astonishing. The good news is that Canada's deal has earned the Harper government pariah status with regard to nuclear safeguards."6

Assoc. Prof. Greg Koblentz from the School of Policy Government and International Affairs at George Mason University said that even if Canadian uranium is used only for civilian purposes, "whatever uranium India produces domestically will now be freed up for a military program." He added: "There's been a tremendous amount of effort invested in preventing Iran from obtaining one nuclear weapon, but this has really left the arms race in South Asia unchecked."4

Asked if he shares concerns about the potential for Canadian uranium to free up India's domestic uranium for weapons production, Malcolm Bernard from the Canadian Nuclear Association said: "Those concerns are legitimate and we share them. Everybody should."7

Trevor Findlay commented on the broader implications of the inadequate provisions of the bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement: "Countries with existing agreements will say, 'We want the same deal as India. Why should we be supplying all this information to Canada when India doesn't.' And India is a nuclear weapons states. Most of the other receivers are non-nuclear weapons states and they're being treated less favourably than India."7

References:
1. www.world-nuclear-news.org/NP-Canada-India-contract-strengthens-nuclear-...
2. www.vancouverobserver.com/national-observer/multi-million-dollar-tax-bat...
3. www.miningwatch.ca/news/sale-canadian-uranium-india-denounced-internatio...
4. www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canada-india-uranium-deal-will-spur-proliferati...
5. www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/2012/11/15/india_and_the_meltdo...
6. www.aph.gov.au/DocumentStore.ashx?id=515f34fe-2bbf-4dbd-af30-092969773ff...
7. www.cbc.ca/radio/thecurrent/the-current-for-april-16-2015-1.3035375/crit...

World Uranium Symposium

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#802
23/04/2015
Shorts

The World Uranium Symposium took place in Quebec City, Canada, from April 14−16. Over 200 people participated, from 25 countries. The Symposium addressed a range of issues including uranium mining, radioactive waste, aboriginal rights and nuclear weapons proliferation.

Chief Richard Shecapio of the Cree Nation of Mistissini said:
"The Cree Nation has been devoted to this cause for many years now. We have fought tirelessly, and have been vocal in our opposition to uranium development on our territory. Events like the International Uranium Film Festival and the World Uranium Symposium serve to tell the stories of other people – both aboriginal and non-aboriginal – who have been affected by all phases of the nuclear cycle. It has never been more clear that the legacy of uranium development is unacceptable, and we must all do our part to put an end to it."

Peer de Rijk from WISE Amsterdam said:
"The Symposium brought together a good mix of experts and activists, and people from countries involved in all aspects of the nuclear fuel chain from uranium mining to nuclear power and waste management, as well as those affected by the nuclear weapons industry. Almost all participants were already critical of the nuclear industry so in hindsight it may have been more productive to spend more time strategising and less time on information sessions."

 

Nuclear News

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#791
18/09/2014
Article

Killing the competition: US nuclear front groups exposed

A new report released by the Nuclear Information & Resource Service details US industry plans to subvert clean energy programs, rig energy markets and climate regulations to subsidize aging nuclear reactors.

A coalition of five organizations was joined by renowned energy economist Dr Mark Cooper to release the report, titled 'Killing the Competition: The Nuclear Power Agenda to Block Climate Action, Stop Renewable Energy, and Subsidize Old Reactors'.

The report details the industry's attacks on clean energy and climate solutions and the key battlegrounds in this new fight over the US's energy future. With large political war chests and armies of lobbyists, the power companies have opened up aggressive fights across the country this year:

* Blocking tax breaks for renewable energy in Congress.

* Killing renewable energy legislation in Illinois by threatening to close nuclear plants.

* Passing a resolution calling for nuclear subsidies and emissions-trading schemes in Illinois.

* Suspending renewable energy and efficiency standards in Ohio for two years.

* Ending energy efficiency programs in Indiana.

* Demanding above-market contracts for nuclear and coal plants in Ohio and New York.

Last year, the closure of several reactors highlighted the worsening economics of nuclear energy. Five reactor shutdowns were announced, and eight new reactors cancelled. The industry's rising costs − with new plants too expensive to build and old plants more and more costly to maintain − came head to head with a brewing energy revolution: low natural gas prices, rising energy efficiency, and affordable wind and solar power. As a result, Wall Street firms reassessed the industry, discovering an industry at risk and predicting more shuttered reactors in the coming years.

Energy economist Dr. Mark Cooper, of Vermont Law School's Institute for Energy and the Environment, published a paper outlining the factors contributing to nuclear energy's poor prospects and highlighting the vulnerability of dozens of reactors. Dr Cooper said: "Nuclear power simply cannot compete with efficiency and renewable resources and it does not fit in the emerging electricity system that uses intelligent management of supply and demand response to meet the need for electricity. Doubling down on nuclear power as the solution to climate change, as proposed by nuclear advocates, is a bad bet since nuclear power is one of the most expensive ways available to cut carbon emissions in the electricity sector. The nuclear war against clean energy is a last ditch effort to stop the transformation of the electricity sector and prevent nuclear power from becoming obsolete."

NIRS, 2014, "Killing the Competition: The Nuclear Power Agenda to Block Climate Action , Stop Renewable Energy, and Subsidize Old Reactors", www.nirs.org/neconomics/killingthecompetition914.pdf

Oldest Indian reactor will not restart

After 10 years in long-term outage, it was reported on September 6 that there will be no restart for the first unit of Rajasthan Atomic Power Station (RAPS-1), located at Rawatbata, 64 km southwest of Kota in the north-western Indian state of Rajasthan. The 100 MW Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor, which was supplied to India under a 1963 agreement with Canada, operated from 1972 to 2004, though with multiple extended shutdowns. Cooperation with Canada was suspended following India's 1974 nuclear weapons test; however design details for the reactor had already been transferred to India.

www.worldnuclearreport.org/Oldest-Indian-Reactor-Will-Not.html

www.deccanherald.com/content/429550/end-road-raps-1.html

Czech Republic: March against uranium in Brzkov

A march against planned uranium mining on September 7 was attended by approximately 200 people. The march was organised by the association 'Our Future Without Uranium', which expresses the disapproval of the Brzkov population with the government's intention to resume uranium mining. During the day citizens signed the petition by the civic association called "NO to Uranium Mining in the Highlands".

www.nuclear-heritage.net/index.php/March_against_uranium_in_Brzkov

What went wrong with small modular reactors?

Thomas W. Overton, associate editor of POWER magazine, writes: "At the graveyard wherein resides the "nuclear renaissance" of the 2000s, a new occupant appears to be moving in: the small modular reactor (SMR). ... Over the past year, the SMR industry has been bumping up against an uncomfortable and not-entirely-unpredictable problem: It appears that no one actually wants to buy one."

Overton notes that in 2013, MidAmerican Energy scuttled plans to build an SMR-based plant in Iowa. This year, Babcock & Wilcox scaled back much of its SMR program and sacked 100 workers in its SMR division. Westinghouse has abandoned its SMR program.

Overton explains: "The problem has really been lurking in the idea behind SMRs all along. The reason conventional nuclear plants are built so large is the economies of scale: Big plants can produce power less expensively per kilowatt-hour than smaller ones. The SMR concept disdains those economies of scale in favor of others: large-scale standardized manufacturing that will churn out dozens, if not hundreds, of identical plants, each of which would ultimately produce cheaper kilowatt-hours than large one-off designs. It's an attractive idea. But it's also one that depends on someone building that massive supply chain, since none of it currently exists. ... That money would presumably come from customer orders − if there were any. Unfortunately, the SMR "market" doesn't exist in a vacuum. SMRs must compete with cheap natural gas, renewables that continue to decline in cost, and storage options that are rapidly becoming competitive. Worse, those options are available for delivery now, not at the end of a long, uncertain process that still lacks NRC approval."

www.powermag.com/what-went-wrong-with-smrs/

India's new uranium enrichment plant in Karnataka

David Albright and Serena Kelleher-Vergantini write in an Institute for Science and International Security report: "India is in the early stages of building a large uranium enrichment centrifuge complex, the Special Material Enrichment Facility (SMEF), in Karnataka. This new facility will significantly increase India's ability to produce enriched uranium for both civil and military purposes, including nuclear weapons. India should announce that the SMEF will be subject to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, committed only to peaceful uses, and built only after ensuring it is in compliance with environmental laws in a process that fully incorporates stakeholders. Other governments and suppliers of nuclear and nuclear-related dual use goods throughout the world must be vigilant to prevent efforts by Indian trading and manufacturing companies to acquire such goods for this new enrichment facility as well as for India's operational gas centrifuge plant, the Rare Materials Plant, near Mysore."

http://isis-online.org/isis-reports/detail/indias-new-uranium-enrichment...

Iran planning two more power reactors

The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) plans to build two new nuclear power reactors, Bushehr Governor General Mostafa Salari announced on September 7. The previous week, AEOI chief Ali Akbar Salehi said that Tehran would sign a contract with Russia in the near future to build the two reactors in Bushehr. The AEOI states that the agreement with Russia will also include the construction of two desalination units.1

One Russian-supplied power reactor is already operating at Bushehr. Fuel is supplied by Russia until 2021 and perhaps beyond. Plans for new reactors may be used by Tehran to justify its enrichment program.

Meanwhile, construction licenses have been issued for the next two nuclear reactors in the United Arab Emirates by the country's Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation. Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation plans to begin construction of Barakah 3 and 4 in 2014 and 2015 respectively with all four of the site's reactors becoming operational by 2020.2

1. http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13930616001123

2. World Nuclear News, 15 Sept 2014

Depleted uranium as a carcinogen and genotoxin

The International Campaign to Ban Uranium Weapons has produced a new report outlining the growing weight of evidence relating to how depleted uranium (DU) can damage DNA, interfere with cellular processes and contribute to the development of cancer.1 The report uses peer-reviewed studies, many of which have been published during the last decade and, wherever possible, has sought to simplify the scientific language to make it accessible to the lay reader.

The report concludes: "The users of DU have shown themselves unwilling to be bound by the consequences of their actions. The failure to disclose targeting data or follow their own targeting guidelines has placed civilians at unacceptable risk. The recommendations of international and expert agencies have been adopted selectively or ignored. At times, users have actively opposed or blocked efforts to evaluate the risks associated with contamination. History suggests it is unlikely that DU use will be stopped voluntarily: an international agreement banning the use of uranium in conventional weapons is therefore required."

A report released by Dutch peace organisation PAX in June found that the lack of obligations on Coalition Forces to help clean-up after using DU weapons in Iraq in 1991 and 2003 has resulted in civilians and workers continuing to be exposed to the radioactive and toxic heavy metal years after the war.2 The health risk posed by the inadequate management of Iraq's DU contamination is unclear − neither Coalition Forces nor the Iraqi government have supported health research into civilian DU exposure. High risk groups include people living near, or working on, the dozens of scrap metal sites where the thousands of military vehicles destroyed in 1991 and 2003 are stored or processed. Waste sites often lack official oversight and in places it has taken more than a decade to clean-up heavily contaminated military wreckage from residential neighbourhoods. Hundreds of locations targeted by the weapons, many of which are in populated areas, remain undocumented and concern among Iraqi civilians over the potential health effects from exposure is widespread.

The Iraqi government has recently prepared a five year environment plan together with the World Health Organisation and UN Environment Programme but the PAX report finds that it is unclear how this will be accomplished without international assistance.

1. www.bandepleteduranium.org/en/malignant-effects

2. www.paxvoorvrede.nl/media/files/pax-rapport-iraq-final-lowres-spread.pdf

www.bandepleteduranium.org/en/no-solution-in-sight-for-iraqs-radioactive...

Clean-up of former Saskatchewan uranium mill

More than 50 years after the closure of the Lorado uranium mill in Saskatchewan, workers are cleaning up a massive pile of radioactive, acidic tailings that has poisoned a lake and threatened the health of wildlife and hunters for decades. The mill is near Uranium City, where uranium mining once supported a community of up to 5,000 people. Lorado only operated from 1957 to 1961, but during that time it produced about 227,000 cubic metres of tailings that were dumped beside Nero Lake. Windblown dust from the top of the tailings presents a gamma radiation and radon concern. Workers will cover the tailings with a layer of specially engineered sand to prevent water from running over them and into the lake. In addition, a lime mixture is to be added to the lake to counteract the acidity.

In 1982, the last of the mines near Uranium City closed, but tailings from the Lorado site and the Gunnar mine were left untouched. Uranium City has about 100 residents now.

Clean-up work also includes sealing off and cleaning up 35 mine exploration sites. Later, the Saskatchewan Research Council is to begin a cleanup of the Gunnar mine. That project is in the environmental assessment stage. Four million tonnes of tailings were produced at Gunnar during its operation from 1955 to 1963.

The clean-up project is controversial. The Prince Albert Grand Council, which represents a dozen First Nations in central and northern Saskatchewan, said in a written submission for the Lorado and Gunnar projects that many residents favour removal of the tailings rather than covering them up. The Saskatchewan Environmental Society says more investigation should have been done on the feasibility of removing the tailings. It questions how the covering will stand up as climate change delivers more severe weather, and whether government will continue to monitor the sites.

http://lethbridgeherald.com/news/national-news/2014/08/31/tough-conditio...

France: Greenpeace activists given suspended sentences

A French court has issued two-month suspended prison sentences to 55 Greenpeace activists involved in a break-in at France's Fessenheim nuclear power plant in March. Fessenheim is France's oldest nuclear plant. About 20 Greenpeace activists managed to climb on top of the dome of a reactor in Fessenheim. The activists, mostly from Germany but also from Italy, France, Turkey, Austria, Hungary, Australia and Israel, were all convicted of trespassing and causing wilful damage.

Greenpeace has identified Fessenheim's reactors as two of the most dangerous in Europe and argues that they should be shut down immediately. The area around the plant is vulnerable to earthquakes and flooding. Fessenheim lies in the heart of Europe, between France, Germany and Switzerland, with seven million people living with 100 kms of the reactors.

www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-29060086

www.english.rfi.fr/economy/20140905-greenpeace-activists-given-suspended...

http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/nuclear-reaction/g...

USA: Missouri fire may be moving closer to radioactive waste

A new report suggests an underground fire at the Bridgeton Landfill may be moving closer to radioactive waste buried nearby. The information comes just days after it was announced construction of a barrier between the fire and the waste will be delayed 18 months. The South Quarry of the Bridgeton Landfill has been smouldering underground for three years. A number of gas interceptor wells are designed to keep the fire from moving north and reaching the radioactive waste buried at the West Lake Landfill. However the wells may have failed according to landfill consultant Todd Thalhamer, who is calling for more tests to determine exactly how far the fire is from the radioactive material.

www.ksdk.com/story/news/local/2014/09/05/report-landfill-fire-may-be-mov...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Lake_Landfill

Britain's nuclear clean-up cost explosion

The cost of cleaning up Britain's toxic nuclear sites has shot up by £6bn (US$9.7b, €7.5b), with the government and regulators accused of "incompetence" in their efforts to manage the country's legacy of radioactive waste. The estimated cost for decommissioning over the next century went up from a £63.8bn estimate in 2011−12 to £69.8bn in 2012−13, with more increases expected in the coming years. This increase is nearly all due to the troubled clean-up of the Sellafield nuclear facility in Cumbria.

www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/sellafield-nuclear-cleanup-bill-w...

Nuclear News

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#771
02/11/2013
Shorts

Nuclear fuel damage in Slovenian reactor
During a regular maintenance outage at the Krsko nuclear power plant in Slovenia, nuclear fuel was damaged.

Andrej Stritar, director of the Nuclear Safety Directorate, responded to a list of questions from Focus Association for Sustainable Development and Greenpeace Slovenia. Stritar said that on October 8, during an operation to transfer fuel from the reactor to the spent fuel pool, a fuel rod length of about 0.5m broke off and fell to the bottom of the spent fuel pool. Elevated radioactivity levels in the reactor pool, first detected in 2012, suggested a problem with fuel leaks.

Stritar said a report would be prepared into the incident but would not promise public release of the full report − his excuse is that release of the full report might jeopardise commercial intellectual property of the fuel manufacturer (Westinghouse).

Stritar said there are several possible causes of the incident such as small foreign objects that may damage the metal, or a manufacturing error.

Stritar said (translation by google-translate): "A finding of leaking fuel rods have not been evaluated by the INES scale, so we can not yet say what level would be."

The maintenance outage began on October 1 and will be extended beyond the planned 35-day period.

Questions and comments from Focus Association for Sustainable Development and Greenpeace Slovenia (google-translation): http://tinyurl.com/fasd-gs
Andrej Stritar's response to questions (google-translation): http://tinyurl.com/stritar

-----------------

Canada opens uranium sector to European investment, scraps new reactor plans 
A trade accord agreed in principle between Canada and the European Union (EU) will ease restrictions on European investment in Canada's uranium industry. It opens the door for companies like Areva SA and Rio Tinto to make much larger investments in Saskatchewan's uranium-rich Athabasca Basin. Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall said that the changes would make the province's uranium mining projects "much more attractive" to EU investors and estimated that the province could see investments of up to US$2.4 billion over the next 15 years as a result of the agreement.[1]

Investment restrictions have been in place since 1970, when Ottawa introduced the non-residential ownership policy (NROP). The law prevents foreign companies from owning more than 49% of a uranium mine in Canada, unless they cannot find a Canadian partner. The NROP has limited the competition for Canadian uranium leader Cameco, which owns stakes in most of the major projects in the Athabasca. Cameco's position has been that the NROP should remain in place unless other countries open up to uranium investment as well. While this free trade deal may open up the European market for Cameco, a company spokesperson said there are no obvious uranium resource opportunities on the continent that are worth developing.[2]

The Ontario government announced in October that it has abandoned plans for two new nuclear power plants and will focus on refurbishing its ageing facilities instead.[3] Ontario Power Generation had received detailed construction plans, schedules and cost estimates for the two reactor designs under consideration for new build at Darlington. The province's other nuclear operator, Bruce Power, has brought four mothballed units at the Bruce A plant back online but pulled back from plans for new units at Bruce in 2009.[4]

[1] www.world-nuclear-news.org/NP-Trade_deal_opens_door_to_EU_investors-2210...
[2] www.theprovince.com/business/Canada+uranium+market+free+trade+deal+pushe...
[3] http://planetark.org/enviro-news/item/70024
[4] www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN-Submissions_in_for_Canadian_plant-0107137....

About: 
Krsko

Growing opposition to proposed nuclear waste dump in Canada

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#769
10/10/2013
Jim Green - Nuclear Monitor editor
Article

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) relied too much on the support of Kincardine town council when the company decided to bury nuclear waste near the town, First Nations representatives have told a federal Joint Review Panel.

OPG proposes to bury 200,000 cubic metres of low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste in 31 caverns at a depth of 680 metres near Lake Huron despite growing opposition in nearby areas of Canada and the US.

"To this point I must be absolutely clear," Chief Randall Kahgee of the Saugeen Ojibway Nations (SON) told the panel. "Kincardine cannot speak for us or our territory in these matters. We must speak for ourselves, and this must be recognized not only by OPG, but by governments as well."[1]

While the town of Kincardine invited the nuclear waste site to the area, SON was left out, Kahgee said. "We played no role. Largely, these processes operated under a policy of exclusion where we've been left on the outside looking in at our own territory."[2]

Kahgee said: "Our people are being asked to accept this project in the heart of our territory, and to accept the risk of the project forever. If we do not proceed thoughtfully and with care and caution, we will only shift our burden to future generations and subject them to permanent risk."

Kahgee said the SON is working to re-establish a fishery, and is highly dependent on tourism. Both those enterprises could be stigmatised if the public isn't persuaded that the nuclear waste site is safe, he said.

OPG has now promised that it won't proceed with the nuclear waste project without SON's support. Kahgee said SON is willing to work toward a solution to the waste storage issue, but the formal brief submitted with his presentation to the federal panel underlines that the process may not be speedy. The brief states: "SON and OPG must now build on the commitment to work together on a new model for decision-making in SON territory. This will not be a quick or easy process. ... SON communities do not currently have confidence in OPG's assessment of the potential impacts and risks of the [Deep Geological Repository] project."[3]

Growing opposition

In additional to local citizen opposition, numerous NGOs have been actively working to stop the dump plan including the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, Southwest Research and Information Center (SRIC) in New Mexico, Northwatch, Ontario Clean Air Alliance, Nukewatch (Wisconsin), the Canadian Environmental Law Association, Durham Nuclear Awareness, US Beyond Nuclear, Save Our Shores, and the Toledo Coalition for Safe Energy.

In his testimony to the federal panel, Kevin Kamps from Beyond Nuclear focused on the inadequacy of OPG's environmental assessment of cumulative impacts, as well as synergistic effects, of radiological and toxic chemical hazards in the Great Lakes bio-region caused by nuclear power facilities, as well as other dirty, dangerous and expensive energy industries, such as fossil fuel burning power plants.[4]

Gordon Edwards from the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility questioned OPG's assurance that a repository would be secure for a million years. "The great lakes were not even here 10,000 years ago and the half-life of plutonium is 24,000 years," Edwards told Kincardine News. "We have become a bit arrogant in thinking we can predict the future over such time scales."[5]

The dump proposal is expanding even before it has been approved. OPG recently said it plans to dispose of reactor decommissioning waste in the dump even though that waste is not considered in its application documents. The Canadian Environmental Law Association wants the federal panel to adjourn indefinitely until OPG can come up with a new plan that takes into account its long-term decommissioning plans.[6] Then there is the potential for new reactors, generating still more radioactive waste − and eventually still greater amounts of decommissioning waste. OPG acknowledges that waste from future reactors could also be disposed of at the planned site.

Last but not least, there is high-level nuclear fuel waste − a separate, less advanced process is in train to secure a disposal site for high-level waste. Thirty-one Canadian and US environmental and public interest groups have lodged a 'Request for Ruling' with the Joint Review Panel asking for clarification on whether or not high-level nuclear waste could be dumped in the planned repository near Lake Huron.[10]

A consultant hired by the federal panel criticised the way in which OPG had calculated the dump's environmental impact. Peter Duinker didn't comment on the merits of burying nuclear waste next to the Great Lakes. But he said OPG's analysis of why it should be allowed to do so was neither credible nor reliable.[6]

In towns along Ontario's West Coast, lawn signs proclaiming, "No Nuclear Waste Dump" and "Save Our Shores" have sprouted like weeds according to the Globe and Mail. On the US side of the Great Lakes, towns in Ohio have passed resolutions against the plan, while Michigan's State Senate unanimously endorsed a motion opposing a nuclear waste repository on the shores of the lake it shares with Canada.[7]

The role of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has also come under question. CNSC president Michael Binder met in 2009 with pro-development mayors in the region. Notes taken of the meeting by a municipal employee, later obtained under the Access to Information Act, describe Binder as telling the mayors that he next hopes to see them at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the waste dump. "The CNSC seemed to think its role was to promote the project and make people feel good and safe about it," said Pat Gibbons, a retiree in Saugeen Shores.[7]

Police intimidation

Ahead of federal panel hearings into the OPG nuclear dump plan, Ontario Provincial Police phoned and visited people who planned to testify. One of those visited was Beverly Fernandez, an organiser with Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump. Police asked if a protest was planned and told her that numerous undercover police would be attending the hearing. Fernandez said: "I wasn't intimidated because I'm not easily intimidated … but others were." Even the Nuclear Safety Commission says it was dismayed by the police tactics. Director general Patsy Thompson said: "The CNSC considered that such actions by the [police] would be perceived as harassment and intimidation."[8]

US witnesses were also contacted. Ohio resident Michael Leonardi says police phoned wanting to know if any protests were planned. Leonardi said: "[The police officer] said there was some possibility that organizations like Greenpeace might demonstrate and that police didn't want any fatalities."[9] No matter that no Greenpeace protest has ever resulted in a fatality.

"I couldn't help but think the call was meant to deter me from testifying," Leonardi said.

References:
[1] John Spears, 25 Sept 2013, 'First Nations must speak for themselves, nuclear hearing told', www.thestar.com/business/2013/09/25/first_nations_must_speak_for_themsel...
[2] John Spears, 20 Sept 2013, 'Nuclear waste: Hearings raising lots of new questions' www.thestar.com/business/2013/09/20/nuclear_waste_hearings_raising_lots_...
[3] John Spears, 16 Sept 2013, 'Securing approval for nuclear waste site won't be 'quick or easy process': First Nations', www.thestar.com/business/economy/2013/09/16/securing_approval_for_nuclea...
[4] Beyond Nuclear, 26 Sept 2013, 'Momentum building of international opposition against OPG DUD', www.beyondnuclear.org/radioactive-waste-whatsnew/2013/9/26/momentum-buil...
[5] Steven Goetz, 23 Sept 2013, 'Radioactive waste will need attention, low-level Kincardine DGR panel told', Kincardine News, www.lucknowsentinel.com/2013/09/22/radioactive-waste-will-need-attention...
[6] Thomas Walkom, 19 Sept 2013, 'Planned Ontario nuclear waste dump hits heavy weather', www.thestar.com/news/canada/2013/09/19/planned_ontario_nuclear_waste_dum...
[7] Shawn McCarthy, 12 Sept 2013, 'How Ontario plans to deal with tonnes of nuclear waste: Bury the problem', The Globe and Mail, www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/ontarios-nuclear-waste-solution-bu...
[8] Colin Perkel, 24 Sept 2013, 'OPP should stay out of homes of nuclear waste opponents: Editorial', www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2013/09/24/opp_should_stay_out_of_hom...
[9] Thomas Walkom, 22 Sept 2013, 'OPP quizzing U.S. witnesses too at Lake Huron nuclear waste hearing', www.thestar.com/news/canada/2013/09/22/opp_quizzing_us_witnesses_too_at_...
[10] Beyond Nuclear, 3 Oct 2013, 'Resolutions, legislators, and petition signatures against Canadian Great Lakes radioactive waste dump!', www.beyondnuclear.org/radioactive-waste-whatsnew/2013/10/3/resolutions-l...

More information:

Sign the petition opposing the Lake Huron nuclear waste dump: www.gopetition.com/petitions/stopthegreatlakesnucleardump.html

(Written by Nuclear Monitor editor Jim Green.)

 

Areva targeting Canadian Arctic
The French mining company Areva has already polluted Niger, Gabon, Kazakhstan, Australia and large parts of Canada. Now it has its eye on Nunavut, the Canadian Arctic territory inhabited by the Inuit. This uranium mining project threatens an ecosystem which has already been weakened by climate change, as well as the Inuit way of life.

In conjunction with Makita, an Inuit NGO active against Areva, Sortir de Nucleaire has launched a petition against the Areva project, which can be signed at: 
http://groupes.sortirdunucleaire.org/Petition-nunavut-en (English) 
http://groupes.sortirdunucleaire.org/Petition-Nunavut (French)

More information: makitanunavut.wordpress.com

Meanwhile, the Sierra Club has alleged that Cameco is releasing toxic substances well in excess of permitted limits at the Key Lake, McArthur River and Rabbit Lake uranium mines in northern Saskatchewan. Cameco has applied for renewed mining and milling licences at the mines. Cameco denies the charges and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is assessing the applications.

'Cameco, Sierra Club face off over uranium licences for Saskatchewan mines', 30 Sept 2013, The Canadian Press, www.brandonsun.com/lifestyles/breaking-news/cameco-sierra-club-face-off-...

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