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Chilcot: UK insists it has 'no long-term legal responsibility to clean up DU from Iraq'

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Doug Weir

The Chilcot report reveals that the UK has disclaimed any duty to decontaminate the toxic, radioactive ash left behind by its depleted uranium (DU) munitions, or even monitor the impacts on human health, writes Doug Weir, coordinator of the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons ( But Iraq and other countries are working towards a UN Resolution this October that would hold contaminating governments like the UK and the US legally accountable for DU pollution.

Hidden in the Chilcot report: a previously classified Ministry of Defence (MoD) paper setting out the UK Government's thinking on depleted uranium (DU) munitions. In it, the clearance of unexploded ordnance and DU is considered and the MoD argues that it has "no long-term legal responsibility to clean up DU from Iraq". Instead it proposes that surface lying fragments of DU only be removed on "an opportunity basis" ‒ i.e. if they come across them in the course of other operations.

In other words, the UK's stance is that chemically toxic and radioactive DU 'ash' from spent munitions is strictly the problem of the country in which the munitions were used, in this case Iraq ‒ and that the UK, which fired the DU shells, has no formal responsibility of cleaning up the mess.

The question is examined in Section 10-1 of the Chilcot inquiry which briefly considers DU in the context of the UK's obligations as an occupying power.1 The MoD had submitted the paper2 to the then newly established Ad Hoc Group on Iraq Rehabilitation.

Unlike landmines and cluster munitions, there is no treaty to ensure that affected countries receive international assistance or are themselves obligated to protect their own people. Nor is anyone required to record the impact of the weapons on individuals and communities.

Vehicles contaminated by DU ‒ for example destroyed tanks, armoured personnel carriers - pose a particular risk to civilians, both to workers in the scrap metal industry3 and to children who may play on them. Levels of contamination can be high and, because the interiors are not exposed to the elements, DU may remain in the vehicles for long periods.

Just how high these levels can be was a question of scientific interest to the MoD at the time and, while tanks suspected of being struck by DU would be marked, this would be "pending examination by an MoD-led team scientific team for research purposes." The MoD gave no guarantees that vehicles identified as contaminated would be dealt with appropriately.

DU in the UN General Assembly this October

This October, governments at the United Nations General Assembly will be debating a sixth resolution on DU weapons. Thanks to the experiences of Iraq ‒ who in 2014 called for assistance from the international community in dealing with contamination, and for a global ban on DU weapons4 ‒ attention is increasingly being focused on the lack of obligations on nations that use DU weapons to clean up the areas they contaminate.

These same governments are often extremely conscious of the financial and technical burden of clearance as they have domestic firing ranges that are contaminated. Earlier this year, the US Army lost a long-running battle with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission over legacy DU contamination at 15 of its facilities. Meanwhile in the UK, the Scottish government continues to oppose further test firing into the Solway Firth.5

The cost and complexity of dealing with DU contamination at home is not the only issue focusing minds on how governments and their militaries should be obliged to address DU following its use in conflicts. New research that has revealed the presence of DU in people 30 years after they were exposed is also showing how urine testing could identify civilians affected by the UK and US's use of DU in Iraq in 1991 and 2003.

Between 1958 and 1982, Colonie, a suburb of Albany, New York was home to National Lead Industries (NLI), a factory that manufactured products containing DU. The plant made penetrators for DU munitions, counterweights for aircraft and vehicles, and shielding for medical devices.

Lax controls on the facility meant that waste was burnt in a furnace on site, which routinely operated without filtration controls. Over the period, it is believed that more than 5,000 kg of DU oxide escaped the facility in the form of micron-sized particles, to be dispersed in a plume over the surrounding community, as well as contaminating the factory itself.

For eight of those years, NLI also processed enriched uranium from fuel for experimental reactors.

Persistent US contamination akin to that in conflict zones

If the uncontrolled dispersal of DU particles into residential areas sounds familiar, it should, and the studies from Colonie have been viewed by some as analogous to the use of DU weapons in conflict settings.

Research into the shape and composition of the Colonie particles has demonstrated that they are similar to those produced by DU weapons when they hit hard targets. A UK study published in 2014 agreed that these kinds of particles are persistent in the environment, in that case surviving unaltered for 30 years in the wet conditions of a firing range in southern Scotland.6

That the contamination occurred in the US itself should in theory have made the environmental and health monitoring studies that followed easier to undertake than would be the case a post-conflict setting.

However this would prove not to be the case, largely thanks to the US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) ‒ the government public health body dealing with exposures to hazardous substances. The local community would have to fight tooth and nail for recognition and research into the risks posed by the site following its closure, including collecting evidence from their friends and neighbours on the rates of health problems, which included rare cancers and immune disorders.

In 2007, and thanks to a campaign from the community that had lasted 25 years, the results of a study7 combining forensic environmental studies with urine analysis were published, garnering international media coverage.8

The study was led by Professor Randall Parrish, then of Leicester University in the UK. All five of the former workers that they tested revealed uranium in their bodies 23 years after production had ceased, meanwhile 20% of the residents they tested were also excreting DU and, although the human sample size was small, their environmental analysis also revealed the presence of DU in homes and gardens at concentrations exceeding US intervention levels.

The publication of the results coincided with the conclusion of the main remediation programme at the NLI, which was managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers after the site was transferred to the government for a token US$10. The project cost US$190m, involved the removal of 150,000 tons of uranium, thorium and lead contaminated soil and debris, extracted from depths of up to 40ft, which was then sent 2,000 miles by rail to an underground radioactive waste facility in the Rockies.

Failings in the official response delayed health research

Prior to the remediation work, and Parrish and colleagues' research, an initial study by the ATSDR had already concluded that there was a real and significant health risk to the public from past DU emissions from the plant. However it had decided not to pursue any environmental surveying or health surveillance activities.

The ATSDR had been coming under pressure9 over the quality and independence of its work for many years and in 2009, Randall Parrish and other experts would provide evidence10 to a congressional committee on the ATSDR's conduct in relation to the Colonie case. In his testimony, Parrish argued that "In most respects other than providing information on toxins, [the ATSDR report] failed to deliver its remit for the Colonie site."

This April, a follow-up study on exposure rates among workers and residents was finally published.11 It had a larger sample size than Parrish's 2007 study, analysing the urine of 32 former workers and 99 residents. For the workers, 84% showed DU exposure, with a further 9% showing exposure to both DU and enriched uranium, whereas just 8% of the 99 residents tested were excreting DU.

One of the arguments used by the ATSDR when it had failed to act on community concerns was that too much time had passed for DU to be detected. Parrish's 2007 study was the first to show that DU was still detectable after 20 years. The latest study shows that even after 30 years it is still possible to detect the signs of DU exposure.

Just as important are the techniques they used, which can differentiate between the different isotopes of uranium, provide valuable clues to the original source of the exposure ‒ although ascertaining how much people have been exposed to remains difficult.

Persistent particles and pernicious politics

The refusal of the ATSDR to act in the interest of the local community in the Colonie case has parallels with the behaviour of the governments who employ DU weapons in conflicts.

This is often characterised by a lack of transparency over where the weapons are fired, what they are fired at and in the quantities used. This is data that is crucial for not only determining the risk to civilians from the use of the weapons but also to facilitate the management of contamination after conflicts. It is therefore no coincidence that these themes come up time and again in United Nations' resolutions.

There has also been, and continues to be, a studied disinterest on behalf of the DU weapon users in supporting civilian exposure studies of the kind seen in Colonie. They argue that assessing harm, and the costly and technically challenging task of clearance, is the sole responsibility of the affected state ‒ arguments they also used to make for land mines and cluster bombs.

When the United Nations last discussed DU two years ago, 150 governments recognised the need for states to provide assistance to countries like Iraq.12 This October, our Coalition will add our voice to those of the states affected by DU weapons in calling for an end to the use of DU weapons and for the users to finally accept responsibility for their legacy.13

Colonie eventually got its exposure studies and remediation, Iraq is still waiting. 

Reprinted from The Ecologist, 11 July 2016,















Fresh revelations cast doubt over reliability of Iraq birth defect study

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Trust in the findings of a study into rates of congenital birth defects in Iraq, undertaken by the WHO and Iraqi Ministry of Health, has continued to decline after interventions from three former UN officials. The International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW) continues to argue that full transparency is the only way for the WHO and Iraqi Ministry of Health to rebuild the study's credibility.

The interim results of the study which, following a BBC documentary earlier this year had been expected to make a link between increased incidence of congenital birth defects and areas subject to heavy fighting, found completely the opposite. The study claimed that, although rates across Iraq had increased since the early 90s, they are now largely similar to those seen in the EU. The exceptions were Basrah and Fallujah, where, it was claimed, rates are around half that expected in high income settings. The results contrasted starkly with those from previous studies.

Critics, including Dr Keith Baverstock, have questioned the study methodology's reliance on household questionnaires instead of analysis of hospital records, which are typically seen as more accurate. Baverstock, who worked for the WHO on radiation and health for 13 years, told The Guardian that the report "is not of scientific quality. It wouldn't pass peer review in one of the worst journals."

Baverstock said: "The way this document has been produced is extremely suspicious. There are question marks about the role of the US and UK, who have a conflict of interest in this sort of study due to compensation issues that might arise from findings determining a link between higher birth defects and DU. I can say that the US and UK have been very reluctant to disclose the locations of DU deployment, which might throw further light on this correlation."

Meanwhile Neel Mani, who served as the WHO's Iraq director between 2001 and 2003 has shed light on previous examples of political interference in Iraq's public health research. In an article for The Huffington Post, Mani argues that while he does not feel that WHO staff have ever sought to block or downplay research, "it is clear that the imbalances that exist in its funding, particularly for those public health projects that go beyond its regular country budgets, are open to state influence. In a system in which the financing is so disparate among member states, it is obvious that those who influence the purse influence the spend."

Mani had direct experience of political interference in health research in the country during his tenure when UN Security Council members repeatedly blocked his attempts to fund research into rates of cancers and birth defects in Iraq. He writes: "any project that proposed to investigate abnormal rates of birth defects in southern Iraq and their relation, if any, to environmental contamination, never got through the Security Council's approval process." In his article, Mani accuses Security Council members of appalling cynicism and the Coalition Provisional Authority of arrogance.

Speaking to The Guardian about the study findings, a third UN official, the former UN assistant secretary general and UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq Hans von Sponeck, said: "The brevity of this report is unacceptable... Everybody was expecting a proper, professional scientific paper, with properly scrutinised and checkable empirical data. Although I would be guarded about jumping to conclusions, WHO cannot be surprised if people ask questions about whether the body is giving into bilateral political pressures."

Von Sponeck said that US political pressure on WHO had scuppered previous investigations into the impact of DU on Iraq: "I served in Baghdad and was confronted with the reality of the environmental impact of DU. In 2001, I saw in Geneva how a WHO mission to conduct on-spot assessments in Basra and southern Iraq, where depleted uranium had led to devastating environmental health problems, was aborted under US political pressure. ... It would not be surprising if such US pressure has continued. There is definitive evidence of an alarming rise in birth defects, leukaemia, cancer and other carcinogenic diseases in Iraq after the war. Looking at the stark difference between previous descriptions of the WHO study's findings and this new report, it seems that someone, somewhere clumsily decided that they would not release these damning findings, but instead obscure them."

ICBUW supports Fallujah paediatrician Dr Samira Al'aani's call for the full dataset to be released and for the open and independent peer-review of the study's findings and methodology.

Abridged from a 15 October 2013 International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons web-post,
With additional material from: Nafeez Ahmed, 14 Oct 2013, 'How the World Health Organisation covered up Iraq's nuclear nightmare',
See also: Neel Mani, 15 Oct 2013, 'Iraq: Politics and Science in Post-Conflict Health Research'

Birth defects: Did the occupation of Iraq leave a toxic legacy?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Doug Weir - Coordinator of the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons

During the occupation of Iraq, the city of Fallujah bore witness to some of the most intense US combat operations since Vietnam, with 2004's Operation Phantom Fury widely condemned for its ferocity and disregard for international law.[1]

Paediatrician Dr Samira Al'aani has worked in the city since 1997.[2] In 2006 she began to notice an increase in the number of babies being born with congenital birth defects (CBD). Concerned, she began to log the cases that she saw. Through careful record keeping she has determined that at Fallujah General Hospital, 144 babies are now born with a deformity for every 1000 live births. This is nearly six times higher than the average rate in the UK between 2006 and 2010, and one strong suspicion is that contamination from the toxic constituents of munitions used by occupying forces could be the cause. Now a new nationwide study by the Iraqi Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the World Health Organisation, has the potential to catalyse efforts to understand and confront the issue, but only if science can be allowed to rise above politics.

The politicisation of health research in Iraq has deep roots. In April 2001, plans were beginning to be put in place for a framework agreement between the WHO and Iraqi government that was intended to establish projects aimed at improving public health care in the country.[3] Among the projects were plans to improve the recording and registration of cancers and congenital malformations, and efforts to identify substances in the environment that might be responsible for the increases in those diseases reported since the 1991 Gulf War. Controversially for some states, depleted uranium from US and UK munitions was among the environmental risk factors to be investigated.

After six months, the plans were in disarray. While Baghdad had initiated the project, after consultation the WHO had announced that any costs associated with the projects would need to be borne by Iraq itself. "None of these projects can really start until funding has been found for them, and funding, it has been agreed, will be at the Iraqi initiative," said Neel Mani, incoming director of the WHO's Iraq programme at the time.[4] The Iraqi government, convinced that the health problems had been caused by the 1991 Gulf War and were thus the fault of the US and its allies, refused to cooperate. Political concerns had trumped the needs of the Iraqi people.

The United States has long been the WHO's largest single state donor and the institution has not been free of the criticism directed at other international bodies, such as the World Bank, in recent years that it is disproportionately influenced by its largest patron. The reality is that vast sums of money are involved and state donors have been keen to see returns that are consistent with their interests and principles, whether this is protection of Big Pharma's intellectual property rights or promoting neoliberal approaches to health care provision. Yet in order to be effective the WHO must be, and be seen to be, genuinely independent. The WHO's governing body, the World Health Assembly, reopened the issue of reform back in 2009 but progress has been slow, particularly as different parties are pushing the reform agenda in different directions.

When the WHO announced in 2011 that it was to work with Iraq's Health Ministry on a nationwide study to assess the rates and geographic spread of CBDs in the country, optimism began to build that this could be a significant first step in the long path towards reducing harm and providing assistance to affected families.[5] Prior to the announcement, studies into rates had been limited in scope to a single hospital, and questions were raised about their methodology. Taken in isolation these studies were insufficient to generate the political will for action. Additionally, concerns were expressed over Iraq's internal bureaucracy and power struggles after researchers reported that medical staff were being pressured into not speaking out. Gradually, hopes began to fade that effective research would ever see the light of day.

From the outset, phase one of the project was never due to consider causality – a fact that has drawn criticism from some quarters. Its original aim was to gather baseline data from selected districts and analyse spatial and temporal trends in the incidence of CBDs. Progress on the project was slow, with data collection hit by repeated delays, but during 2012 the WHO, which had posted a FAQ on the project in response to growing interest from the public and media, announced that: "The data collection process has been recently completed and the results are being analysed by the Ministry of Health and WHO. The data analysis process will conclude at the end of 2012 following which time the report writing process will start." [6]

The FAQ was notable in that it pre-empted questions on causality. Of these the possible link between depleted uranium use and CBD rates was covered; the tone was exasperated: "Is the study looking at a possible link between prevalence of child birth defects and the use of depleted uranium? No, absolutely not. The study is only looking at the prevalence of congenital birth defects in selected governorates."

This was understandable, the term birth defect covers a diverse spectrum of disorders; causes include single gene defects, chromosomal disorders, multi-factorial inheritance, environmental teratogens, maternal infections such as rubella and micronutrient deficiencies. Amidst the wreckage of post-war Iraq, there was no shortage of potential risk factors.

In March 2013, BBC World broadcast a documentary on the story. As with other media reports, Born Under A Bad Sign visited the hospitals and spoke with parents and doctors – all of whom were convinced that the health problems they were witnessing were linked to the war.[7] Journalist Yalda Hakim took this up with staff from the Ministry of Health and was able to discuss the CBD data with them. Although nervous, and reluctant to provide too many answers, citing political pressure, they confirmed that the study would find a link between increased incidence of CBDs and areas subject to the most intense fighting in 2003.[8]

If true, this is a hugely significant and profoundly political outcome, and while it doesn't identify a single causal factor for the increase in CBD rates, it narrows the field considerably. While the long-term impact of explosive remnants of war such as landmines and cluster bombs are familiar to most, questions are increasingly being asked about the public health legacy of toxic remnants of war.[9] While the two most notorious examples are depleted uranium and the dioxin contaminated Vietnam-era herbicide Agent Orange, an analysis of commonly used military substances – from heavy metals to explosives − demonstrates significant potential for harm from a range of materials.

Unfortunately data on the toxicity, environmental behaviour and dispersal of these substances is limited as militaries have often only undertaken research into the effects on their own troops or when faced by domestic regulations over emissions from firing ranges. This lack of data and the unpredictability of conflict means that accurately predicting the risk to civilians is enormously challenging. That no system of comprehensive post-conflict environmental assessment exists will ensure that many of these data gaps will remain.

Broadcast of the BBC report in March was followed by updates to the WHO's FAQ. Gone was the petulant 'No, absolutely not' from the line on depleted uranium and the first of a series of procedural delays was announced as committees were formed and new analyses proposed.[10] For campaigners seeking disclosure of the data as a first step towards focused research and humanitarian assistance in Iraq, the delays were worrying.

By July, further delays were announced, with the WHO's FAQ stating: "It was established that this large data set has a great deal of potentially valuable information and that additional analyses not originally conceived of should be done."[11] The WHO added that: "... in addition to further analyses, it was determined the work should also undergo the scientific standard of peer review. A team of independent scientists is now being recruited to review the planned analyses."

The political ramifications of the study are obvious and, while the alterations to the project may be scientifically justified on the basis of the dataset, it was felt that the best way to ensure confidence in the findings was to call for the study and analyses to be subject to genuinely independent and transparent peer review in an open-access journal. The WHO has used open-access journals in the past so the request is not without precedent. Crucially, any experts involved would be selected independently of the WHO.

So how can civil society and individuals influence an organisation as monolithic and apparently compromised as the WHO? On July 31, Dr Al'aani launched an online petition through ( − with the associated twitter hashtag of #Act4Iraq) calling for the WHO to immediately publish the collected data for independent peer review, so that scientific conclusions can be drawn and the affected parents can finally understand what has happened to their children.[12] For them, and for Dr Al'aani, the unfolding health crisis concerns far, far more than a debate over numbers and statistics. For those of us who are citizens of the states that invaded Iraq, it is vital to understand whether we carry a share of responsibility for those parents' suffering, and to demonstrate to Iraqis that the world has not forgotten about their country.


Doug Weir is Coordinator of the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons and manages the Toxic Remnants of War Project (, which explores the link between conflict toxics and civilian and environmental harm.

This article is reprinted from New Left Project.

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Italian activists continue the anti-nuclear struggle.
“Ready to win again against Nuclear!” With this slogan Italian anti-nuclear activists organized on October 31, a new demonstration in the village of Montalto di Castro against the government, that intends to build eight new reactors in the country. This in spite of the 1987 referendum that succeeded in closing all existing nuclear plants. “In the late 80s Montalto was one of the locations chosen for a nuclear plant” reminds Legambiente, the association that promoted the demonstration, “but thanks to the referendum victory environmentalists managed to stop any project”. Today this little village situated in between Rome and Florence is again under the threat of nuclear. Its name recently appeared together with other 9 sites in an informal list indicating the places suitable for the authorities to host nuclear plants.

Legambiente, 4 November 2009

U.K.: Waste to stay at Dounreay?
The Scottish Government is considering allowing foreign intermediate level reprocessing wastes to remain at Dounreay instead of being return to the overseas customers. Instead vitrified high-level waste from Sellafield, contained in glass blocks, would be returned to the Dounreay customers. Until now Dounreay has insisted the wastes, from reprocessing overseas highly-enriched uranium spent fuel, would be sent back to the country of origin. The wastes have been mixed with concrete, like other wastes at the site, and there are about 500 drums weighting around 625 tonnes. Documents released under Freedom of Information Act show the Scottish Government favours the 'waste substitution' proposals and a public consultation is expected before the end of the year. There has already been a consultation on a 'waste substitution' policy for Sellafield's wastes and this has been approved by the Westminster government. The Dounreay proposal has been criticised as turning Scotland into a "nuclear dumping ground", in the words of Green MSP Patrick Garvie. The future of the overseas low level reprocessing wastes is uncertain, although it will probably also remain at Dounreay. In the past spent fuel from Dounreay has been sent to Sellafield for reprocessing, so the site already holds some wastes from the Scottish plant.

N-Base Briefing 630, 27 October 2009

DPRK: more Pu-production for n-weapons.
On November 2, North Korea’s official news agency, K.C.N.A., announced that the country completed reprocessing the 8,000 fuel rods unloaded from its nuclear reactor in Yongbyon, two months ago and had made “significant achievements” in turning the plutonium into an atomic bomb. In early September, North Korea had told the United Nations Security Council that it was in the “final phase” of reprocessing the 8,000 rods and was “weaponizing” plutonium extracted from the rods. With this announcement North Korea put further pressure on the United States to start bilateral talks. “We have no option but to strengthen our self-defense nuclear deterrent in the face of increasing nuclear threats and military provocations from hostile forces,” the news agency said. North Korea conducted underground nuclear tests in October 2006 and in May this year. In April, it also test-fired a long-range rocket. North Korea has also said it was also enriching uranium. Highly-enriched uranium would give it another route to build nuclear bombs

The figure on this page shows background information on bare critical masses for some key fissile isotopes. A bare critical mass is the spherical mass of fissile metal barely large enough to sustain a fission chain reaction in the absence of any material around it. Uranium-235 and plutonium-239 are the key chain-reacting isotopes in highly enriched uranium and plutonium respectively. Uranium-233, neptunium-237 and americium-241 are, like plutonium-239, reactor-made fissile isotopes and could potentially be used to make nuclear weapons but have not, to our knowledge, been used to make other than experimental devices. (source: Global Fissile Material Report 2009, October 2009)

New York Times, 3 November 2009

U.K. Submarine radioactive wastes.
Up to five sites in Scotland have been considered by the Ministry of Defence for storing radioactive waste from decommissioned nuclear submarines - including Dounreay in Caithness, according to documents obtained by the Sunday Herald. In total 12 possible storage sites in the UK have been considered by the MoD.  There are already 15 decommissioning submarines lying at Rosyth or Devonport and a further 12 are due to leave active service by 2040. Rosyth and Devonport will be used to cut up and dismantle the submarines, but the MoD's problem is what to do with the waste, especially the large reactor compartments which are the most heavily contaminated. In Scotland the MoD is apparently considering Dounreay, Faslane, Coulport, Rosyth and Hunterston. Among possible sites in the England are Devonport, Aldermaston and Burghfield.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has warned that use of many of the sites would be "contentious". Highland Council, for example, is opposed to any non-Dounreay wastes being taken to the site and this is included in planning conditions for the new low level facility.

N-Base Briefing 631, 4 November 2009

Austrian courts cannot shut Temelin.
The Austrian region of Oberoesterreich, backed by a number of local landowners, is not entitled to sue for the closure of Czech Temelin nuclear power plant, the European Court of Justice, Europe's highest court, ruled on October 27. The case had been brought under an Austrian law that states a landowner can prohibit his neighbor from causing nuisance emanating from the latter's land if it exceeds normal local levels and significantly interferes with the usual use of the land. If the nuisance is caused by an officially authorized installation, the landowner is entitled to bring court proceedings for compensation.

 In a bid to close the Temelin plant, the Land Oberösterreich (Province of Upper Austria) made an application under this law to the Landesgericht Linz (Linz Regional Court), claiming that ionizing radiation and the risk of an accident was spoiling use of its agricultural land. Oberoesterreich owns an agricultural school.

However, the regional court has now been told it has no power over organizations operating in another EU member state, after it sought clarification from the European Court of Justice (ECJ). In a statement, the ECJ said: "Austria cannot justify the discrimination practiced in respect of the official authorization granted in the Czech Republic for the operation of the Temelin nuclear power plant on the ground that it is necessary for protecting life, public health, the environment or property rights."

Reuters, 27 October 2009 / World Nuclear news, 27 October 2009

Iraq Plans New Nuclear Reactor Program.
The Iraqi government has approached the French nuclear industry about rebuilding at least one of the reactors that was bombed at the start of the first Gulf war. The government has also contacted the International Atomic Energy Agency and United Nations to seek ways around resolutions that ban Iraq’s re-entry into the nuclear field.

Iraqi Science and Technology Minister Raid Fahmi has insisted that a new Iraqi nuclear program would be solely for peaceful applications, “including the health sector, agriculture...and water treatment.”

However, many people fear that a nuclear reactor would be a tempting target for those who wish to cause significant death and destruction. Additionally, after widespread looting during the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, much nuclear material remains missing from the site of the Tuwaitha nuclear research center.

The Guardian (UK), 27 October 2009

Covert network UK's nuclear police.
The UK's nuclear police force carries out surveillance on anti-nuclear activity and also uses informers. Details of the work of the 750-strong Civil Nuclear constabulary (CNC) are revealed in documents seen by the Guardian and in reports from the official watchdog released under Freedom of Information. The role of the CNC is to protect the UK's civil nuclear sites and guard nuclear material when it is transported by ship, rail, sea or air - including shipments to Japan and Europe.

However, the CNC has the power to use informers or infiltrate organisations under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA). Access to data such as phone numbers and email address is also available to the CNC. The watchdog for RIPA, Sir Christopher Rose, says the aims of the CNC ares to counter the threat from terrorism and "public disquiet over nuclear matters". He said the level of CNC surveillance was "relatively modest".

N-Base Briefing 630, 27 October 2009

EDF (not) out of U.S.A.?
There were some press-reports (rumours) coming out of France that said the new EDF CEO Henri Proglio wanted an out of the deal with Constellation Energy in Maryland that would solidify there commitment to build a new nuclear power plant in Maryland U.S.A. However, the reports turned out to be no more than rumours, because, the order on the deal was issued on Friday October 30 -approved with conditions- Constellation's board of directors promptly approved the deal and (state-owned) EDF's board followed suit. One of the terms is that EDF will establish a headquarters in Maryland. Looks like they are there to stay -at least for now. 

Ratings downgrades nearly pushed Constellation into bankruptcy last year, but the company agreed to merge with MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. Constellation later ended that agreement in favor of the EDF deal, which, many people say, does not represent the best interests of consumers.

Breakingviews, 2 November 2009 / Public Citizen Energy Program, Email 5 November 2009

Increase in cancer for males exposed to above ground N-Tests.
A new study by the Radiation and Public Health Project reveals a 50% increase in cancer rates for boys who were exposed to above ground nuclear tests during the 1950s and early 1960s.  More than 100 nuclear bombs were detonated in the atmosphere over the Nevada Test Site between 1951 and 1962, which emitted radioactive Iodine-131, Strontium-90 and other toxic materials.  The results are based on analyses for Strontium-90 in baby teeth that were stored for over three decades at the University of Washington in St. Louis.  The baby teeth were collected through a program where children were given a little button with a gap tooth smiling boy that said, "I gave my tooth to science", in exchange for their tooth. The Radiation and Public Health Project is a nonprofit educational and scientific organization, established by scientists and physicians dedicated to understanding the relationships between low-level radiation and public health.

The Project said that the study has groundbreaking potential; declaring little information  exists on harm from Nevada above-ground nuclear weapons testing.  In 1997 and 2003, the federal government produced reports downplaying the human health impacts from exposure to the fallout. In his new book, 'Radioactive Baby Teeth: The Cancer Link,' Mangano describes the journey and how exposure to Strontium-90 increases the risk of childhood cancer. The first chapter may be downloaded at

CCNS News Update, 23 October 2009

Restart go-ahead for refurbished Canadian units. Two reactors at Canada's Bruce A nuclear power plant that have been out of service for over a decade have been given regulatory approval for refuelling and restart.
Units 1 and 2 at the Bruce A plant have been undergoing a major refurbishment to replace their fuel channels and steam generators plus upgrade ancillary systems to current standards. The announcement by regulator CNSC that refuelling can go ahead means the project looks to be on line for the projected 2010 restarts.

Units 1 and 2 at the four-unit Bruce A plant started up in 1977, but unit 2 was shut down in 1995 because a steam generator suffered corrosion after a lead shielding blanket used during maintenance was mistakenly left inside. In the late 1990s then-owner Ontario Hydro decided to lay up all four units at the plant to concentrate resources on other reactors in its fleet, and unit 1 was taken out of service in December 1997 with units 3 and 4 in following in 1998. The four units at sister power station Bruce B continued to operate. Bruce Power took over the operations of both Bruce plants from Ontario Hydro in 2001 and restarted units 3 and 4 by early 2004. Bruce A units 3 and 4 are likely to undergo a similar refurbishment once units 1 and 2 are back in operation.

Bruce Power decided to withdraw its application for a third nuclear power station at Bruce in July, saying it would focus on the refurbishment of the existing Bruce plants rather than building Bruce C. It also announced it was scrapping plans for a second new nuclear plant at Nanticoke in Ontario. On June 29, the government in Ontario announced that it has suspended the procurement of two new reactors for the Darlington nuclear site: the bids were 'shockingly high' (see Nuclear Monitor, 691, 16 July 2009)

World Nuclear News, 3 November 2009

US nuclear industry calls for more federal support.
The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), which represents the nuclear industry in the US, is calling for a comprehensive package of federal policies, financing and tax incentives to support a major expansion. The NEI wants to see the creation of a Clean Energy Deployment Administration to act as a permanent financing mechanism for new plants. It is also calling for significant tax incentives to support industry development.

However, the Union of Concerned Scientists says the plans amount to a request for US$100 billion (Euro 67 bn) in new federal loan guarantees on top of the US$110 billion loan guarantees already agreed by Congress. “It is truly staggering that an industry this big and this mature can claim to need so much government help to survive and thrive in a world in which technologies that don’t emit global warming pollution will benefit,” says Ellen Vancko of the UCS. “If the nuclear industry gets its way, Christmas will come early this year – thanks to US taxpayers.”
Energy efficiency news, 2 November 2009

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

U.K.: What's in our dump?

The operators of the Drigg national low-level waste facility have asked former workers to tell them what is buried there. In an advert in local papers LLW Repository Limited asked workers who tipped nuclear waste into the site's open trenches over a 25-year period from 1960 to try and remember what it was they dumped. The company said it did have records of what was dumped but they wanted "a clearer picture".

Cumberland News 14 February 2009

Greenpeace: illegal state aid Romania and Bulgaria.

On February 25, Greenpeace has filed complaints to the European Commission over alleged illegal state aid for the construction of two nuclear reactors in Romania and two in Bulgaria. The environmental organization argues that both countries violate EU competition rules. Jan Haverkamp, EU energy campaigner for Greenpeace, said: "We have been investigating for many months the unfair competition conditions that have been granted to the nuclear sector in Romania and Bulgaria. We have now submitted the evidence we have collected to the European Commission, and are calling for urgent action to correct these flagrant market distortions."

The Romanian government earmarked 220 million Euro for the Cernavoda 3 and 4 nuclear power plant. On top of this, the state spent EUR350 million in taxpayers´ money for the purchase of heavy water for the new power station, as well as EUR800 million to increase the capital of state utility S.N. Nuclearelectrica - S.A., with the purpose of supporting its financial contributions to the project.

The Bulgarian government has invested 300 million Bulgarian Leva (154 million Euro) in state utility NEK for the construction of the Belene nuclear power station, as well as another 400 million Leva (205 million Euro) in NEK's parent holding BEH, partly also meant for Belene. According to Greenpeace, all of these investments are in violation of EU competition law.

Press release, Greenpeace EU Unit, 25 February 2009

EDF debt increased to nearly 25 billion Euro.

French energy group and the world’s biggest operator of nuclear power stations, EDF could be forced to sell some of its power stations in France to help to fund its £12.2 billion acquisition of Britain’s nuclear industry. EDF shocked investors by unveiling a fall of nearly 40 per cent in annual profits (slipped to 3.54 billion euro in 2008, compared with 5.6 billion Euro in 2007) and warning that its debt pile had increased to nearly €25 billion (US$ 32 billion) after a string of acquisitions, including those of British Energy and America’s Constellation Energy.

EDF, which is 85 % owned by the French State, is aiming to cut its debt by at least 5 billion Euro by the end of 2010 and much of this would be achieved through asset sales. A number of foreign energy companies, including Enel, of Italy, have previously expressed an interest in entering the French power market.

The Times (U.K.), 13 february 2009

GDF Suez pulls out of Belene!

An important victory and another sign that the Belene project is too risky! French utility GDF Suez has decided to pull out of Bulgaria's planned nuclear plant of Belene. GDF Suez's Belgian subsidiary Electrabel had been in talks to take part in German utility RWE's 49-percent stake in Bulgaria's 4 billion Euro plant. RWE confirmed it had not reached an agreement with GDF Suez but said it would continue to develop the project as planned. "Financial, technical, economic and organization questions are in focus and safety of course comes first in all our considerations," a RWE spokesman told Reuters. Sources familiar with the Bulgarian nuclear project have said the global financial crisis and tighter liquidity have made raising funding extremely difficult and that it was likely the plant's starting date would go beyond the planned 2013-2014.

GDF Suez is focusing on its other nuclear projects, a company spokesman said. The company is trying to grab a share of the nuclear revival with plans to take part in the second and possibly the third new-generation French nuclear reactors as well as in nuclear power projects in Britain, Romania and in Abu Dhabi.

Reuters, 28 February 2009

More delays for Rokkasho.

The commercial start-up of Japan’s Rokkasho reprocessing plant has suffered a further delay. On January 30, its owner, Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd (JNFL), filed an application with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) to change its construction plan, pushing the scheduled completion date of the plant back to August 2009. A few years ago JNFL had planned to commence full operation of the plant in November 2007.

Groups and individuals have been campaigning against this plant ever since 1985, when Aomori Prefecture agreed to allow it to be constructed. If the Rokkasho reprocessing ever operates at full capacity, it will reprocess 800 tons of spent fuel and extract about 8 tons of plutonium per year. In the course of regular operations, when spent fuel assemblies are cut up (shearing), radioactive gases are released from the chimney stack. These include radioactive isotopes of krypton, xenon, iodine, cesium, etc.. Later in the process, other radioactive materials are released into the sea as liquid waste. These include tritium, carbon-14, iodine-129, plutonium, etc.. It is said that a reprocessing plant releases as much radioactivity in one day as a nuclear reactor releases in one year.

In addition, there are international concerns that the operation of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant will accelerate trends towards nuclear proliferation. The process used at Rokkasho will produce a 1:1 mixed oxide of plutonium and uranium. The Japanese government says that it is difficult to produce nuclear weapons from this. However, this is not true. Scientists in the US, and also the International Atomic Energy Agency, recognize that this material can readily be transformed into nuclear weapons.

Nuclear Engineering International, 18 February 2009 / Nuke Info Tokyo (CNIC)

U.K.: Leaked for 14 years.

Radioactive waste leaked from a decontamination unit at the Bradwell nuclear power station for 14 years, Chelmsford Crown Court was told late January. The operators, Magnox Electric, were found guilty of allowing unauthorized disposal of radioactive waste from 1990 to 2004 when the problem was discovered. The court was told the leak was caused by poor design and no routine inspection or maintenance. Chief inspector for the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, Mike Weightman, said it was not possible to "inspect or check every feature of a complex plant" but once the leak was discovered regulators took quick action.

N-base 601, 11 February 2009

Iraq takes first step to nuclear power, again….

On February 22, Iraqi Electricity Minister Karim Wahid says Baghdad is taking initial steps to construct the country's first nuclear power plant in cooperation with France. "I am willing to enter into contacts with the French nuclear agency and to start to build a nuclear power plant, because the future is nuclear," said Wahid. Iraq had sealed a contract with France to construct a nuclear reactor during Saddam Hussein's regime in 1976. The construction of the Osirak reactor however remained unfinished after Israeli warplanes bombed the facility in 1981. Tel Aviv accused the regime of building nuclear weapons. In the 1990 Iraq was accused of having a secret nuclear weapons program. Already in 1991 in the first few days of Gulf War I Iraqi nuclear energy capability (research reactor, hot-cells, etc.) was said to be destroyed by the US-led international coalition. However, in the decade that followed Iraq was still accused of having a covert nuclear program, but in search of such a program, after the Gulf War-II in 2003 nothing was found.

Press TV (Iraq), 22 February 2009 / Laka Foundation, sources 1992 & 2003

France: TV show reveals radioactive risk.

Fears that radioactive material taken from France’s old uranium mines has been used in construction have been raised by a TV documentary. According to investigators for the program Pièces à Conviction (Incriminating evidence), there are many sites where radioactive material is a potential health risk including schools, playgrounds, buildings and car parks. Very little uranium is now mined in Europe, but France carried out mining from 1945 – 2001 at 210 sites which have now been revealed by IRSN, the Institute of Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety on its website. Problems stem from millions of tons of reject rock which contained small amount of uranium which are still stocked at some of the sites along with 50 million tons of waste from extraction factories.
The documentary on France 3 also revealed that some reject rock has also been used as construction rubble in areas used by the public, that there have been some radioactive leaks into the environment from waste and that some “rehabilitated” areas where building has been taken place had been contaminated with radon. Before the program went out Areva had lodged a complaint about it with the Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel concerned that its intention was to make accusations against the firm. The program makers said they had “opened a national debate on uranium waste in France”.

The Connection (Fr.), 13 February 2009

Largest Pu transport ever from Europe to Japan.

Secret preparations are underway in Britain and France for shipping 1.8 tons of plutonium, the largest quantity of plutonium ever shipped by sea. The plutonium is contained in 65 assemblies of MOX (mixed plutonium and uranium oxide) fuel and is being shipped to Japan for use in the nuclear power plants of three Japanese electric utilities. No details have been revealed, but it is reported that the fuel will be transported by two British-flagged vessels, escorting each other.

The vessels are to depart Europe anytime on or after March 1st. Neither the hour of departure nor the maritime route to be used will be revealed before the ships depart. The United States must approve the transport plan before the shipment can proceed. The MOX fuel to be transported has been fabricated in France by Areva NC. The three possible routes for the shipment are around the Cape of Good Hope and through the South Pacific, around South America, or, through the Panama Canal.

Japanese electric utilities hope the fuel to be shipped will start its troubled MOX fuel utilization program which was to begin a decade ago in 1999. Many more shipments are scheduled to follow and could take different routes.

Green Action (Japan) Press Release 24th Feb 2009

IAEA: Syrian uranium-traces manmade.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said traces of uranium taken from the site of an alleged nuclear reactor in Syria were manmade. The report by the IAEA on the Dair Alzour site puts strong pressure on Damascus as it rejects the Syrian explanation for the presence of uranium.

The IAEA-report says that after an initial visit in June 2008, which revealed the presence of processed uranium, inspectors had not been allowed back to Dair Alzour and other sites where debris might have been stored, on the grounds they were "military installations".

IAEA denounces the Syrian government for its lack of cooperation with the agency's inquiry. "Syria has stated that the origin of the uranium particles was the missiles used to destroy the building," the IAEA report says. "The agency's current assessment is that there is a low probability that the uranium was introduced by the use of missiles as the isotopic and chemical composition and the morphology of the particles are all inconsistent with what would be expected from the use of uranium-based munitions."

The IAEA says Israel also failed to cooperate, but its findings give weight to the Israeli and US allegation that Dair Alzour was a secret reactor intended for eventual production of weapons. The report explicitly questions Syria's denials.

Circulation of the IAEA-report is restricted; it cannot be released to the public unless the IAEA Board decides otherwise. However, it can be found at:

Guardian, 19 February 2009