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EU agreement on ITER cost overruns

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

Four years ago, the EU, Russia, China, India, Japan, Korea and the US picked Cadarache in the south of France as the location for the experimental nuclear fusion reactor, Iter. But since the science of how to achieve this type of fusion hasn't been settled (to put it mildly), the plans for the Iter project have been the subject of several revisions in recent years, each one leading to an increased price tag. Even opponents from within the scientific world are becoming more vocal to end the project.

Delegates at an extraordinary meeting of the Iter Council on July 28 also agreed a timeline that would see the first plasma experiments in 2019, with a fusion reactor generating significantly more power than it consumed (for a few minutes) by March 2027. But the Iter organisation was encouraged to explore ways to bring this deuterium-tritium operation forward to 2026. After research and development at Iter it should be possible to build a demonstration fusion power plant around 2030.

Coupled with the increases in costs for raw materials like steel and cement, the budget for the project has spiralled from around 5 billion euros to about 16 billion euros.

Delegates agreed that the overall costs of the project will be almost US$21 billion (16 billion euros), some three times the original price. Europe is paying 45% of the construction costs, while the other participants (China, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the USA) are paying 9% each.

Additional construction funds will have to come from within the EU's budget. The extra 1.4 billion euros will cover a shortfall in building costs in 2012-13. The EU has agreed to meet a critical short term shortfall of those 1.4 billion euros by using money that has been allocated to other research programmes. But the EU has said it will cap its overall contribution to Iter at 6.6 billion euros, leaving the fusion project to find cuts in costs of around 600 million euros.

In Europe, some scientists are unhappy with the EU proposal to take funds from unspent budgets to bail Iter out. In France, a group of physicists - including Nobel prize winner Georges Charpak - have written a letter to the press calling Iter a catastrophe and arguing that it should be shut down. They suggest that making up the shortfall in Iter's budget is costing France alone the equivalent of 20 years investment in physics and biology. According to one of the signatories, Professor Jacques Treiner from Paris University, it was time to call a halt to Iter before any more money was spent. "At a certain point especially when they say they will take money from other fields to fund this one you have to say, really a clear answer and the answer is no, don't do that."

More on the technical problems of  nuclear fusion: Fusion Illusions, Nuclear Monitor 698, 27 November 2009

Sources: BBC, 28 July 2010 / World Nuclear News, 29 July 2010


Uprating nuclear reactors reduces safety

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

The process of increasing the licensed power level of a commercial nuclear power plant is called a “power uprate.” Power uprates are generally categorized based on the magnitude of the power increase and the methods used to achieve the increase. Currently a significant number of the nuclear power plants have plans for power uprate by larger or smaller amounts.

The increase in the electricity produced in a nuclear power plant can be achieved in two ways. One way of increasing the thermal output from a reactor is to increase the amount of fissile material in use. The amount of fissile material is increased either by increasing the degree of enrichment, or the density of the fuel. In boiling water reactors, the increased core power is achieved by increasing the core feed water flows and steam flows. In pressurized water reactors, the increased power outputs call for an increase either in the core coolant flows or in the main coolant temperature rise across the cores, or both.

In Japan, in February 2009 a working group on uprating was established within the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Subcommittee of the Advisory Committee for Natural Resources and Energy. The working group met on six occasions and released a report on March 2 this year.

The first reactor slated for uprating is Tokai No. 2 (BWR, 1100MW), owned by Japan Atomic Power Company (JAPCO). The company is likely to apply in 2011. According to JAPCO's management policy for the 2010 fiscal year, the plant will be uprated during a periodic inspection in the latter half of 2012. However, the other nuclear power companies do not appear to be very enthusiastic. Plans were supposed to be released during the 2009 fiscal year, but they have not appeared yet.

Method of uprating
Both the thermal and electrical output of Tokai No. 2 will be uprated by 5%. When completed the plant will have an electrical output of 1150MWe.

A 5% increase in electrical output will be produced by a 5% increase in the flow of steam to the turbines. The rate of revolution of the high-pressure turbine will be increased by replacing the stationary blades with blades with a wider flow-path surface area. It is said that this is the only change required.

To increase the flow of steam to the turbines by 5% it is necessary to raise the flow of water to the reactor core by 5%. To produce extra steam it is also necessary to increase the thermal output of the core. So as to avoid the need to make adjustments to the core, more new fuel assemblies will be loaded during periodic inspections. The average uranium-235 enrichment of the fuel assemblies is 3.7%. Although the output of individual fuel assemblies will not change, the total amount of fissile material in the core will increase, thus increasing thermal output overall.

It is said that this approach will raise output with the minimum of changes. There will be no need to make major modifications, or to increase the uranium enrichment. Nevertheless, many safety issues arise as a result of the increased supply of feedwater and steam generation.

Problems arising as a result of uprating
Safety-related problems include the following:

* The increased number of fission reactions will produce more radiation within the reactor building. Embrittlement of the pressure vessel due to neutron irradiation will proceed at a faster rate. This will reduce safety, especially if nuclear power plants are to be operated for 50 or 60 years.

* Replacing fuel at a faster rate will increase the amount of spent fuel. This will put extra stress on the cooling equipment of the spent fuel pools and will affect future treatment and disposal.

* Increased fission reactions will reduce the effectiveness of the control rods and reduce their life. They will have to be replaced more frequently. This will increase the volume of waste produced.

* The increased flow of steam will cause more wear and tear and hence exacerbate wall thinning of the steam tubes. There will also be more wear and tear on the turbine blades.

* The increased feedwater flow will place extra stress on the feedwater pump.

Another problem relates to cost. Although JAPCO has not said anything so far, it can be expected that costs will rise as a result of uprating. In the first place, a 7% increase in the rate of replacement of fuel assemblies results in only a 5% increase in electrical output. Add to this the increased rate of replacement of control rods and the increased wear and tear on pipes and turbine blades and one would expect costs to rise.

The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Subcommittee's report claims that there are "basically no safety problems", but it can be seen from the problems listed above that uprating reduces the safety margin. The chair of the working group tried to defend the uprating program on the grounds of "the needs of the people".

Uprating is one of many fronts on which Japan's nuclear safety is being whittled away. Others include extended operation cycles, life extensions for aging reactors and the use of MOX fuel in light water reactors. There is little sign so far that the Democratic Party led government will fulfil the pledge in its 2009 election Manifesto to place safety first in Japan's nuclear administration.

Source: Nuke Info Tokyo, May/June 2010 / IAEA;
Contact: CNIC, (Citizens' Nuclear Information Center), Akebonobashi Co-op 2F-B, 8-5 Sumiyoshi-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 162-0065, Japan.
Tel:  + 81-3-3357-3800



NDA announce Japanese MOX with the Sellafield MOX plant

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Martin Forwood at CORE

Over a decade after British Nuclear Fuels plc (BNFL) had persuaded the UK Government that they should be allowed to build and operate Sellafield Mox Plant (SMP) to satisfy the then currently perceived demand by Japan for Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA who took ownership of Sellafield from BNFL in 2005) has announced that contracts with SMP from 10 Japanese power companies have now been secured.

Whilst the news throws a lifeline to the struggling SMP – a plant originally designed to produce 120 tons of MOX fuel per year, but which has managed a total of little over 10 tons in 8 years of operation – the deal is far from being ‘done and dusted’ and will be entirely dependent on the installation of new equipment and extensive modifications to the plant, all of which will be paid for by the Japanese.

Whilst the timescales for the work has not been divulged by the NDA, it is likely to extend over many, many months and can only begin once SMP’s current order has been completed. This is for a German utility and could be expected to be completed this summer. Once finished, SMP must be closed to undergo a full clean-out, followed by modification and installation of new equipment, and then be re-commissioned – a process that will require the necessary approvals of the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII). Such approvals are likely to be required in separate stages as different parts of the plant are worked on.

Once SMP is re-commissioned and has secured consent from the Japanese companies that it is ‘fit for purpose’, a test run of plutonium fuel production will be carried out by SMP on behalf of Japan’s Chubu Electric – one of a number of Japanese customers who placed reprocessing business with Sellafield’s Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (THORP) thirty years ago. THORP secured orders from Japan amounting to 2864 tons of spent fuel for reprocessing (including 162 tons from Chubu Electric). From the reprocessing of this fuel, some 12 tons of plutonium have been recovered and stockpiled at Sellafield and on May 13, the NDA confirmed to CORE that it is the intention of the Japanese companies to convert all 12 tons of plutonium into MOX fuel at SMP.

THORP’s reprocessing of the Chubu Electric fuel sourced from its Hamaoka 1, 2 and 3 power stations (Boiling Water Reactors, BWR), which are located on Japan’s eastern coast south of Tokyo, will have recovered 1 ton of plutonium - sufficient to make some 100 BWR MOX fuel assemblies for Hamaoka. It remains unknown whether this, or a smaller number of assemblies, will form SMP’s test-run once the plant has been re-commissioned.

It also remains unknown what will happen to the bulk of the Japanese orders if SMP’s test-run for Chubu Electric fails to live up to NDA’s optimistic expectation, and it is unclear how the newly secured business from Japan will be dovetailed with the plant’s few remaining European contracts (Germany, Sweden and Switzerland).

German utilities, facing the possibility of the phase-out of their nuclear power stations, will be particularly concerned that the apparent preference now given by the NDA to SMP’s use for Japanese business, could see their orders fail to materialise in time for reactor use. 

SMP began production in 2002 when the first plutonium was introduced into the plant. Though BNFL originally applied to build the plant in 1992, and sought approval to operate it in 1996, the planning process was delayed by 5 periods of public consultation and legal challenges. Government approval to operate SMP was finally secured in 2001, but only after any hopes of winning MOX orders from Japan had been scuppered when, in 1999, bored Sellafield workers admitted falsifying the quality assurance data for a small consignment of Japanese MOX fuel which had been produced in Sellafield’s MOX Demonstration Facility (MDF) - the forerunner to SMP.

With a number of orders having to be sub-contracted to its rival fabricators in Europe because of its poor performance, SMP’s future has remained under constant review by the NDA and Government, with threat of closure if performance failed to improve and no new business was secured. In its current state, with production bottlenecks and little hope of working automatically, the plant’s annual production rate has been downgraded from 120 to 40 tons. Given recent operational evidence, even this target appears unachievable. In early 2007 for example, work was started on a German order for 8 MOX fuel assemblies (around 4 tons). These were finally completed over 2 years later in August 2009. A second batch of 8 assemblies, also for Germany’s Grohnde power station, is currently underway in SMP and is likely to be the last order before the plant is closed for modification in advance of the Japanese business.

Source: CORE Briefing, 13 May 2010
Contact: Martin Forwood at Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment, (CORE) Dry Hall, Broughton Mills, Broughton-in-Furness, Cumbria LA20 6AZ, U.K..
Tel: + 44 1229 716523

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Finland: building nukes for electricity export?
On April 21, the Finnish government proposed two new nuclear power plants. The parliament will make the final decision on the issue earliest in the summer, but most likely in the autumn. On both reactors will be voted separately - there are possibilities to have 2, 1 or 0 new nuclear plants. Building twe nuclear power units would lock Finland's energy consumption to unrealistic, artificially high levels, and are clearly aimed for electricity export. However, Parliament has taken the line that it opposes the construction of generating capacity for export purposes.

Minister of Economic Affairs Mauri Pekkarinen (Centre Party) insisted on April 21, that Finland would adhere to this principle of opposing the construction for export. But the Greens are accusing Pekkarinen of turning his coat on the matter by endorsing two new reactors just a year after saying that Finland’s need for new nuclear energy units was “zero, or one at the most”. “Now he is proposing two units on the basis of the same electricity consumption estimates. This certainly shows how poorly founded Pekkarinen’s proposal is”, Sinnemäki says. The Greens also point out that the forest company UPM, a part owner of TVO, has put forward the idea of electricity exports. “Nobody in Finland -not even the forest industry- has proposed such a fantasy in electricity production that this proposal would not mean export. It becomes clear even in all of the most daring consumption estimates. We simply cannot consume this much electricity.”

Environmental organisations are organizing a large anti-nuclear demonstration in Helsinki on May 8.
Helsingin Sanomat (Int. edition) 22 and 24 April 2010

Japan: Restart Monju expected in May.
The Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor, which was shut down in December 1995 after sodium leaked from the cooling system, is set to resume operations in May.  Fukui Governor Issei Nishikawa signaled his willingness to approve reactivation of the experimental reactor, located in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, during a meeting with science and technology minister Tatsuo Kawabata and industry minister Masayuki Naoshima on April 26. In the 1995 incident, the reactor operator was heavily criticized after it was found to have concealed information about the accident. During the past 14 years or so that Monju has been in limbo, the operator has come under fire for delaying reports on alarm activation incidents and flawed maintenance work.

Under the government's plan, the next stage in the fast-breeder project will be the construction of a demonstration reactor, which is larger than Monju, around 2025. It would be followed by the development of a commercial reactor around 2050. But the outlook for the plan is bleak, to say the least.

Some 900 billion yen (US$ 9.6 billion or 7.3 billion euro) of taxpayer money has already been spent on the construction and operation of the Monju reactor. It will require additional annual spending of about 20 billion yen (US$ 215 million / 162 million euro).

More on the history and current status of Monju and Japan's fast breeder programm: Nuclear Monitor 702, 15 January 2010: "Restarting Monju – Like playing Russian roulette"
The Asahi Shimbun (Japan), 27 April 2010

Belene contruction halted until investors are found.
Belene construction was halted in search for Western strategic investors after Bulgaria dismissed an offer from Russia to finance the coming two years of construction with an option for a complete Russian take-over of the project. The Bulgarian government has opened a tender for a financial consultant to work out a new financial model for the project. This consultant is expected to be chosen in June 2010. On the basis of this new financial model, strategic investors will be invited for participation. After EU Energy Commissioner Günther Öttinger warned Bulgaria for the dependency that a fully Russian Belene project would create, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borrisov made it clear that Belene only will be continued if it can pay for itself and if it is developed under participation of European and/or US partners. Russia was not to expect more than a 25% participation, if any at all. In his straightforward way, Borissov characterised Belene as either a  European project or no project.

On 16 April, it was also announced that the Bulgarian Energy Holding, which was set up in 2008 to create a pool of assets that could lure possible lenders to the Belene project, will be dismantled before summer. Deputy Minister for Economy, Energy and Tourism Maya Hristova said that BEH was set up to the secure the construction of Belene by the assets generated in the holding, "but this is no longer feasible." She told the Bulgarian press agency BTA that the assets of all state-owned energy companies are of lower value than the estimated value of  Belene. Daily Dnevnik announced that there is currently a discussion to bring the electricity  assets of BEH, including the Kozloduy nuclear power plant and the Maritsa East power station under in state utility NEK and the gas assets in a seperate holding.
Email Jan Haverkamp, Greenpeace EU Unit, 26 April 2010

U-price low: "explosive growth in nuclear power hasn't yet happened". 
The spot price of uranium has dropped below US$42/lb (1 lb = 453.59 grams) through in April, down almost US$4 from the 2009 average of US$46 as, according to, weakening demand has depressed transaction pricing. Lyndon Fagan, an analyst at RBS in Sydney Australia, tells Bloomberg that spot prices indeed have weakened in recent months because the explosive growth in nuclear power hasn't yet happened. Current uranium prices are well down from the levels reached in 2007, when the prices spiked to nearly US$140. Supply concerns drove the price up at that time, and while there's no guarantee that prices could once again reach those levels, such past performance does imply that the potential for such dramatic price moves is possible.

Meanwhile, Admir Adnani, CEO of US-based UraniumEnergy, tells Reuters that a renewed focus on nuclear energy and current mining shortfalls are likely to drive prices of uranium, higher in the coming years. "In the next two to three years, we will see a period of rising uranium prices," Adnani says. "There is absolutely no doubt that the nuclear renaissance and the construction of new reactors plus the existing reactor requirements will bring growing demand... and we need uranium prices to be higher for new mines to be built." But in the Canadian province of New Brunswick, for instance, only two companies have done exploration work over the past couple years, a notable drop from the 10 or so firms that were searching for uranium back in 2007, according to the Canadian Department of 

Natural Resources., 14 April 2010 / Telegraph Journal (Canada), 21 April 2010

Regulators investigating Olkiluoto piping.
Nuclear safety authorities in Finland, France, the UK and US are assessing the significance of undocumented welding on primary circuit piping for the EPR reactor under construction at Olkiluoto, Finland. However, Petteri Tiippana, director of the nuclear reactor regulation department at the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority STUK, told Platts in an interview on April 8, that regulators from those four countries are not preparing a joint statement on the piping quality issue. He reacted on a statement made by a commissioner of French nuclear safety authority ASN,

The piping was manufactured by Nordon, a subcontractor to Areva, the French vendor which is supplying the nuclear part of the Olkiluoto-3 unit under a turnkey contract to utility Teollisuuden Voima Oy. Nordon, based in Nancy in eastern France, is a unit of the Fives group and has long been a major supplier of piping for nuclear power plants. In October 2009, STUK found that small cracks in piping made for the main coolant lines of Olkiluoto-3 had been repaired with welding procedures that were not documented. Tiippana said the piping is still in France and that analysis of the significance of the undocumented welding could be finished within several weeks. STUK will then do final inspections, probably before summer, he said. Until the piping is approved by STUK, it cannot be transported to Olkiluoto.The design of Areva's EPR reactor is under regulatory review for construction in the UK and the US.
Platts, 8 April 2010

Australian uranium for India?
Not that long ago, Australia took a firm stand against selling uranium to India (or any Non-Nuclear proliefration Treaty signatory for that matter): in January 2008, Australia’s new Labor government outlawed uranium sales to India. Stephen Smith, Australian foreign minister emphasizes that in saying in October 2009: “We have had a long-standing principal position which is not aimed at India, it is the long-standing position that we do not export uranium to a country that is not a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,”

Now, just over a half year later, Australia is planning to change its domestic rules to allow India to import uranium from the country.

India is signing the Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement and many other civil nuclear agreements with different countries. The 46-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) has also granted a waiver to India in September 2008 allowing nuclear fuel from other nations. However, Australia being a member in that group, didn’t allow India to import nuclear fuel from the country. Now, South Australia’s Department of trade & economic development director Damian Papps said Australia would like to amend the current regulations to enable uranium export to India.
Press TV, 14 October 2009 / Spectrum, April 26, 2010

Further increase heavy forging capacity.
Known as a leader in the ultra-heavy forgings required for the highest capacity nuclear reactors, Japan Steel Works set about tripling its capacity and has completed its second press for ultra-large nuclear forgings. It has now completed the ¥50 billion (US$530 million, 390 million euro) first phase of the expansion with the installation of a new forging shop complete with heavy cranes, heat treatment facilities and the necessary 14,000 ton press.

JSW told World Nuclear News that the new shop was the core of the first investment phase and that the second ¥30 billion (US$320 million, 235 million euro) investment round should be completed in 2011. At that point, JSW said, it would have tripled the nuclear capability that it had in 2007 - enough for about 12 reactor pressure vessels and main component sets per year. The increase in capacity should be felt by mid-2012 as new components are planned to emerge from the factories. Muroran also manufactures generator and steam turbine rotor shafts, clad steel plates and turbine casings for nuclear power plants.

While JSW may be the current leader in the global market for large nuclear components, there are several other (Russian, Chinese and South-Korean) manufacturers tooling up to the same levels for domestic supply. Britain's Sheffield Forgemasters and India's Bharat Forge will join JSW as global ultra-heavy suppliers around 2014.
World Nuclear News, 1 April 2010

Switzerland: Canton slams radioactive waste plans.
Plans for a radioactive waste disposal unit in the canton of Schaffhausen has come under fire in a study published by the local government. The National Cooperative for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste outlined two possible sites for the unit: one in Zurich Weinland and one near Sudranden in the canton of Schaffhasusen. That’s just a few kilometers from the city of Schaffhausen, where 80 percent of the canton’s population live and work. The report published on April 21 says a disposal centre would have a detrimental effect on the town of Schaffhausen, and on the development of both the canton’s economy and population. The report estimates it would lose between 15 and 33 million francs in tax revenue a year and the population would drop by up to 5,000 people.
World Radio Switzerland, 21 April 2010

U.K.: Low-level radwaste in a landfill.
Five bags of radioactive waste from the Sellafield nuclear processing facility were dumped in a landfill site after a faulty scanner wrongly passed them as safe. Environment Agency inspectors have found one of the bags but is still searching for the other four at the Lillyhall landfill site near Workington, Cumbria. The bags contained waste collected in restricted areas of Sellafield where disposal of all items, including protective clothing, is strictly controlled because of the risk of radioactive contamination. The error was discovered by a member of staff who became suspicious when a scanning machine declared as safe a bag that had come from the restricted area. Staff checked the machine's records and found that five other contaminated bags had been passed as safe and sent to the nearby landfill site, which handles a mixture of household and industrial waste. A Sellafield spokeswoman was unable to say for how long the machine had been malfunctioning. The waste should have been sent for storage in concrete vaults at the Low Level Waste Repository near Drigg in Cumbria.

The incident may undermine the nuclear industry's plan to save billions of pounds by adopting lower safety standards for thousands of tonnes of low-level radioactive waste from decommissioned reactor sites. Several landfill sites have applied for permits to handle low-level waste.
Times online (U.K.), 26 April 2010

U.K. political parties and nukes.
The political party manifestos for the General Election show no surprises concerning nuclear policies - and they reveal the fundamental difference on nuclear issues between the Liberal Democrats and both the other two main parties. These difference will make for some tough bargaining in the event of a hung Parliament in which no political party has an outright majority of seats.

The Conservatives commit themselves to "clearing the way for new nuclear power stations - provided they receive no public subsidy". The party is also committed to the new Trident nuclear submarine system.

Under the heading 'Clean Energy' the Labour manifesto says "We have taken the decisions to enable a new generation of nuclear power stations" and the party is also committed to the Trident replacement.

The Scottish National Party wants Trident scrapped, rejects nuclear energy and the deep geological disposal of radioactive wastes.

The Liberal Democrats don't want a "like-for-like" replacement for Trident and promise a review of the proposals. They also reject new reactors "based on the evidence nuclear is a far more expensive way of reducing carbon emissions" than renewable energy and energy conservationAccording to the LibDem spokesperson on energy and climate issues, Simon Hughes, the curent government plans for a new fleet of nuclear reactors are based on a "completely foolish delusion". And he added; "they are too costly, wil take too long to build, will require government subsidy and will drain investment away from the renewable energy sector".  He says the party will not soften anti-nuclear stance.

General elections in the UK will be held on May 6.
N-Base Briefing 649, 21 April 2010 /, 26 April 2010

Rand Uranium: no super dump tailings in Poortjie area.
South-Africa: following a successful protest march on April 23 by emerging black farmers and the Mhatammoho Agricultural Union, and the potentially affected landowners against the proposed super dump (centralized tailings storage facility -TSF) Rand Uranium decided to abandon the project. The protest march, the second in a few weeks, took place at the offices of Rand Uranium in Randfontein. Soon after the protest, Rand Uranium, which had proposed to establish the TSF within the Poortjie area on high agricultural land, issued a statement. The last paragraph of the document reads:  "Through the assessments, and in consideration of planning requirements of the City of Johannesburg, Area 45 is not considered appropriate for the long term TSF." The protest was against Site 45 (Poortjie area).  This means, Rand Uranium has abandoned its intention to establish a super dump in the Poortjie area. 

The proposed super dump would contain 350 million tons of uraniferous tailings and will be established on 1 200 hectares of land. The farmers and landowners claim that the public participation process was fatally flawed and that they were not consulted. It would have impacted the Vaal Barrage Catchment, a highly compromised Catchment. In terms of the Water Research Report No 1297/1/07 (2007) only 21% of the Vaal Barrage showed no evidence of cytotoxicy (i.e. toxic to human cells).  The Report suggests that the underlying problems of this catchment are largely due to heavy metals.  It furthermore states:  "It is clear that mining operations, even after they have been discontinued, are still having a major impact on water quality in the Vaal Barrage catchment, to the extent that it can no longer be compared with other natural water systems."
Emails Mariette Liefferink, 21 and 24 April 2010

U.A.E.: First nuclear site named. Braka has been named as the site for the United Arab Emirate's first nuclear power plant. Limited construction licence applications and environmental assessments for four reactors have been submitted.
The Braka site is in a very sparsely populated area 53 kilometers from Ruwais and very close to the border with Saudi Arabia. It is closer to Doha, the capital of Qatar, than to Abu Dhabi about 240 kilometers to the east. Dubai is another 150 kilometers along the coast. The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec) said Braka was selected from ten shortlisted sites, all of which were suitable for nuclear build, on the basis of its environmental, technical and business qualities.

Two requests have been made to the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR). One is for a site preparation licence for the four-reactor power plant to allow Enec to conduct non-safety related groundwork at Braka such as constructing breakwaters and a jetty. The other is for a limited licence to "manufacture and assemble nuclear safety related equipment."  In addition, a strategic environmental assessment for the project has been submitted to the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) addressing environmental impacts and mitigation including for construction work.

But since there is no civil society whatsoever, there will be no independent scrutiny of those documents.
World Nuclear News, 23 April 2010

Contract for ITER buldings.
The Engage consortium has been awarded the architect engineer contract for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) buildings and civil infrastructures. The contract, worth some €150 million (US$200 million), was signed by the Engage consortium and Fusion for Energy (F4E) on 13 April. F4E is the European Union's (EU's) organization for Europe's contribution to ITER. The Engage consortium comprises Atkins of the UK, French companies Assystem and Iosis, and Empresarios Agrupados of Spain. The architect engineer will assist F4E during the entire construction process, from the elaboration of the detailed design to the final acceptance of the works. The contract covers the construction of the entire ITER complex, including 29 out of a total of 39 buildings, site infrastructure and power supplies.

Seven parties - China, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the EU - are cooperating to build ITER, a 500 MWt tokamak, at Cadarache. The partners agreed in mid 2005 to site Iter at Cadarache. The deal involved major concessions to Japan, which had put forward Rokkasho as a preferred site. The EU and France will contribute half of the €12.8 billion (US$18.7 billion) total cost, with the other partners - Japan, China, South Korea, USA and Russia - putting in 10% each. Site preparation at Cadarache began in January 2007. The facility is expected to be in operation around 2018. As part of the reactor's phased commissioning, it will initially be tested using hydrogen. Experiments using tritium and deuterium as fuel will begin in 2026. Much later than expected a few years ago.
World Nuclear News, 15 April 2010

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

New York thwarts reactor relicensing.
The U.S. New York state's Environment Department has told Entergy that its Indian Point nuclear power plant (units 2 and 3) can no longer use water from the Hudson River for direct (once-through) cooling, whereby a large volume of water is drawn from the river and discharged back into it, a few degrees warmer. In March the Environment Department introduced a draft policy requiring certain industrial facilities - including nuclear and other power plants - to recycle and reuse cooling water through "closed cycle cooling" technology with large evaporative cooling towers. Water use from the river is then much lower, to replace that evaporated and allow some discharge to maintain quality. (see Nuclear Monitor 706: 'Proposal: cooling towers required for New York reactors')

Entergy has applied to renew the operating licences for the two reactors for 20 years from 2013 and 2015. It estimates that building new cooling towers would cost some US$1.1 billion (805 million euro) and involve shutting down the reactors for 42 weeks.

According to Michael Mariotte of NIRS Entergy is making so much money with the 20-year lifetime extension at Indian Point, "there is a pretty good chance they'll go ahead and build the cooling towers".
World Nuclear news, 6 April 2010 / NIRS statement, 12 April 2010

U.K.: Higher bills for nuclear.
UK energy minister Ed Miliband has confirmed the Government intends introducing a new 'carbon levy' on consumer electricity bills. While Mr Miliband insisted the levy was to help all low-carbon forms of generation, it is widely accepted the main reason is to help the financing of building new nuclear reactors.

The Conservative Party also wants to introduce a tax on electricity generation to encourage renewables and nuclear power. A clear commitment to nuclear power was also given by the party's energy spokesman, Greg Clark. He said there would be "no limit" on the growth of nuclear power and they wanted to see a new reactor completed every 18 months.

The Government has also announced it will create a new 'green bank', using private money, to finance low-carbon energy developments.

General elections in the U.K. will take place on May 6.
N-Base Briefing 646, 1 April 2010

Regulators investigating Olkiluoto piping.
Nuclear safety authorities in Finland, France, the UK and US are assessing the significance of undocumented welding on primary circuit piping for the EPR reactor under construction at Olkiluoto, Finland. However, Petteri Tiippana, director of the nuclear reactor regulation department at the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority STUK, told Platts in an interview on April 8, that regulators from those four countries are not preparing a joint statement on the piping quality issue. He reacted on a statement made by a commissioner of French nuclear safety authority ASN,

The piping was manufactured by Nordon, a subcontractor to Areva, the French vendor which is supplying the nuclear part of the Olkiluoto-3 unit under a turnkey contract to utility Teollisuuden Voima Oy. Nordon, based in Nancy in eastern France, is a unit of the Fives group and has long been a major supplier of piping for nuclear power plants. In October 2009, STUK found that small cracks in piping made for the main coolant lines of Olkiluoto-3 had been repaired with welding procedures that were not documented. Tiippana said the piping is still in France and that analysis of the significance of the undocumented welding could be finished within several weeks. STUK will then do final inspections, probably before summer, he said. Until the piping is approved by STUK, it cannot be transported to Olkiluoto.The design of Areva's EPR reactor is under regulatory review for construction in the UK and the US.
Platts, 8 April 2010

Further increase heavy forging capacity.
Known as a leader in the ultra-heavy forgings required for the highest capacity nuclear reactors, Japan Steel Works set about tripling its capacity and has completed its second press for ultra-large nuclear forgings. It has now completed the ¥50 billion (US$530 million, 390 million euro) first phase of the expansion with the installation of a new forging shop complete with heavy cranes, heat treatment facilities and the necessary 14,000 ton press.

JSW told World Nuclear News that the new shop was the core of the first investment phase and that the second ¥30 billion (US$320 million, 235 million euro) investment round should be completed in 2011. At that point, JSW said, it would have tripled the nuclear capability that it had in 2007 - enough for about 12 reactor pressure vessels and main component sets per year. The increase in capacity should be felt by mid-2012 as new components are planned to emerge from the factories. Muroran also manufactures generator and steam turbine rotor shafts, clad steel plates and turbine casings for nuclear power plants.

While JSW may be the current leader in the global market for large nuclear components, there are several other (Russian, Chinese and South-Korean) manufacturers tooling up to the same levels for domestic supply. Britain's Sheffield Forgemasters and India's Bharat Forge will join JSW as global ultra-heavy suppliers around 2014.
World Nuclear News, 1 April 2010

Egypt looking for investors.
State-owned National Bank of Egypt (NBE) is seeking to raise funds with other banks to help fund the country's aim to build four nuclear power plants by 2025, the business newspaper Al-Alam al-Youm said on April 6. According to a report in the paper NBE, the country's largest bank by assets and chief financier for the project, will meet officials from the Electricity and Energy Ministry to discuss plans to raise the required funding.

In March, Egypt announced its very optimistic (and very unrealistic) plans to build four nuclear reactors (4000 MW total) by 2025 and inaugurate the first in 2019.
Reuters, 6 April  2010

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Utility tries to 'block' sun in Hawaii.

In a popular Simpsons episode, the diabolical Mr. Burns builds a giant disc to eclipse the sun and force Springfield's residents into round-the-clock reliance on electricity from his nuclear power plant. It's pitch-perfect cartoon sarcasm, but with a foot firmly in reality: the fledgling U.S. solar industry faces an array of Burnsian obstacles to its growth across the country.

In Hawaii, for example, the state's largest utility Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) is making a blatant effort to block homes and businesses from installing rooftop solar panels, a move that could strangle Hawaii's burgeoning homegrown solar industry, prevent residents and businesses from saving money, and keep the state addicted to imported oil. If there is anywhere that should be blazing the trail to a clean energy future, it is Hawaii. The islands are blessed with abundant sun, winds, and waves, yet today rely on imported fossil fuels for more than 96 percent of their energy. Hawaii consumers pay the highest electric rates in the nation. The state is trying to chart a new course, but the utility is resisting change and fighting to limit solar access to the local grid.

In so doing, HECO is holding back much more than just Hawaii. It is hindering an important experiment with solar energy that could provide valuable information to consumers, entrepreneurs, utility owners and policymakers throughout the U.S., because the program Hawaii is considering is the feed-in-tariff., 18 March 2010

German minister lifts 10-year ban on Gorleben.

The political and technical battle over the fate of Germany’s repository for high-level nuclear waste accelerated, as German Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen announced he was lifting the 10-year moratorium on investigation of the Gorleben salt dome in Lower Saxony. The moratorium was declared in 2000 as part of the nuclear phase-out agreement between the nuclear industry and the then Socialist-Green government. On March 15, Roettgen promised "an open decision-making process and a safety analysis that would be subjected to international peer review". The Gorleben opponents allege that the government plans to privatize nuclear waste storage. "If these plans are implemented, those producing the waste would also be in charge of determining its ultimate repository,” the opponents argue.
Gorleben has been under consideration for the disposal of high- and intermediate-level waste and spent fuel since 1977, when it was selected by the Lower Saxony government as the only candidate for investigation, in a process that is still criticized for eliminating alternative sites too early. A total of about 1.5 billion Euro (US$2 billion) was spent on the site investigation between 1977 and 2007. Opponents have just presented to the media a CD compilation of leaked government documents from the 1970s and 1980s showing that expert studies showing Gorleben to be unsuitable were simply ignored.

First spontaneous protests about the resumption of work have taken place in Gorleben.
Immediately after the announcement of lifting the moratorium, some 300 people demonstrated and were forcibly evicted by the police using pepper spray. At the same day some 5.000 people demonstrated at the Neckarwestheim nuclear power plant in southern-germany against possible life-time extension. It was the biggest demonstration at the plant in over 20 years. The national anti-nuclear power movement is gearing up for Chernobyl day, when demonstrations in Biblis (southern Germany), Ahaus (middle Germany) and a 120 km (!) human chain in northern Germany will take place to show massive popular resistance against nuclear power.

Nuclear Fuel, 22 March 2010 /

Sellafield: Radioactive birds.

Seagull eggs at Sellafield (U.K.) are being destroyed in an attempt to control bird numbers because of fears they might spread contamination after landing and swimming in open nuclear waste ponds. Sellafield said the pricking of eggs was reducing gull numbers around the site and stressed there was no public health concerns. However Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment (CORE) said the gulls could fly well away from the site and spread contamination. In 1998 there was a cull of pigeons because they landed on buildings around Sellafield and spread contamination off-site. One garden in Seascale had its soil declared as low level waste because of the problem.

N-Base Briefing 644, 11 March 2010

S-Korea to build nuclear reactor in Turkey? 

On March 10, an agreement was reached between Turkey's state power company Elektrik Uretim (EUAS) and Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO), a state-controlled utility, on technical studies for the construction of a nuclear power plant to be built in Sinop, on Turkish northern coast of Black Sea. The South Korean company had earlier said it was in talks with Turkey to sell APR1400 (Advanced Power Reactor 1400), pressurized water reactor. Turkey, again, plans to build two nuclear power plants, one in Sinop on the northern coast of Black Sea and the other in Mersin on the southern coast. Construction of nuclear infrastructure could start in the short-term, said South Korean Deputy Prime Minister Young Hak Kim, speaking at a Turkish-South Korean business conference in Istanbul.

Turkey has long been eager to build nuclear power plants. A Turkish-Russian consortium led by Russia's Atomstroyexport had been the only bidder in a 2008 tender to build Turkey's first nuclear power plant in Mersin. However, Turkey's state-run electricity wholesaler TETAS canceled the tender following a court decision in November 2009. (See Nuclear Monitor 698, 27 November 2009: "Another setback on Turkey's nuclear dream"). Turkey has cancelled four previous attempts to build a nuclear plant, beginning in the late 1960s, due to the high cost and environmental concerns.

Xinhua, 10 March 2010 / Reuters, 10 March 2010

RWE: U.K. hung parliament danger for new reactors.

RWE chief executive designate Volker Beckers has warned that a hung Westminster parliament following the forthcoming election could threaten the prospects of new reactors being built in the UK. He said a hung parliament might make it inconceivable that utility companies would invest the huge sums needed to build the reactors. The Liberal Democrats opposed any new reactors and they might be involved in a new government, he said.

A 'hung parliament' is one in which no one political party has an outright majority of seats. This situation is normal in many legislatures with proportional representation, or in legislatures with strong regional parties; in such legislatures the term 'hung parliament' is rarely used. However in nations in which single member districts are used to elect parliament, and there are weak regional parties, such as the United Kingdom, a hung parliament is a rarity, as in these circumstances one party will usually hold enough seats to form a majority. A hung parliament will force either a coalition government, a minority government or a dissolution of parliament.

N-Base briefing 645, 17 March 2010

Announcement: Anti Nuclear European Forum (ANEF) on June 24, in Linz, Austria.

ANEF was established 2009 as counter-event to ENEF (European Energy Forum) since ENEF failed to fulfill ENEF´s official objectives and was/is used one-sided as a propaganda instrument for the promotion of nuclear power instead. Within ANEF negative aspects of nuclear energy will be discussed on an international level. ANEF is organized by the Antinuclear Representative of Upper Austria in cooperation with “Antiatom Szene” and “Anti Atom Komitee”. The participation of international NGOs is very important because it needs a strong signal against the nuclear renaissance.

The organizers would like to warmly invite you to participate in ANEF. Please let us know as soon as possible if you, or someone else from your organization, is considering to participate in ANEF by sending an informal email to The detailed program will be available soon and will be send to you upon request. Accommodation will be arranged for you. Further information on ANEF is published on

Learn about ANEF-Resolution here: 

Pakistan: US-India deal forces it to keep making weapons material.

Pakistan cannot participate in global negotiations to halt the production of high-enriched uranium and plutonium for nuclear weapons because the US-India nuclear cooperation agreement has tilted the regional strategic balance in India’s favour, a leading Pakistani nuclear diplomat said February 18. Zamir Akram, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva said that under the US-India deal on nuclear cooperation, India may now import uranium under IAEA safeguards for its civilian power reactors. Because of that, India can devote its domestic uranium resources to production of fissile material for nuclear weapons, he said.

Last year, the Nuclear Suppliers Group, NSG, representing 45 members of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, NPT, agreed to lift nuclear trade sanctions against India, a non-NPT party. That action permitted the US-India deal to enter into force. In coming months, the US-India deal will most likely cause friction at the 2010 NPT Review Conference. Every five years, the NPT’s 189 parties hold such a review conference. The 2005 event was bbitter and sharp in language and tone and resulted in no consensus conclusion between developing nations and advanced nuclear countries. How to deal with Israel and Pakistan (non-NPT-parties) in the wake of the US-India deal now deeply divides non-proliferation and disarmament advocates.

Nucleonics Week, 25 February 2010

U.K.: Camp against nuclear rebuild.

From 23 to 26 April 2010 at the Sizewell nuclear power stations, Suffolk. The U.K. government is planning to go ahead with a new generation of nuclear power stations. Not only is this a totally daft idea with heavy consequences, but it also diverting attention and investment way from the real solutions to climate chaos. Come and join us for a weekend of protest, networking and skill sharing. The camp will be held very near the existing power stations and the weekend will include a tour of the proposed site for Sizewell C and D reactors and anything else you would like to add.

For many more actions on Chernobyl day visit:

Japanese islanders oppose nuke plant construction.

On Tuesday March 23 opponents of the construction of a nuclear power plant on an island in Kaminoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan, forced Chugoku Electric Power Corporation to cancel an explanatory meeting. More than 100 residents of Iwaishima island refused to allow officials of the company to disembark after they arrived by boat at the harbor. Kaminoseki's jurisdiction includes several islands. The proposed construction will take place on the island Iwaishima.

The company has held 15 meetings in other areas under the Kaminoseki town jurisdiction after applying for construction approval in December. The Tuesday meeting was to be the first for Iwaishima island residents, many of whom are opposed to the plan first proposed in 1982. Chugoku Electric officials said they will try again.

The Asahi Shimbun, 24 March 2010


Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Japan's Monju Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (FBR, 280MWe) is scheduled to restart by the end of the 2009 fiscal year (March 31, 2010). If it does so, it will be the first time the plant has operated since it was shut down as a result of a sodium leak and fire fourteen years ago. This article reviews the history and current status of Monju and Japan's FBR program.

CNIC Japan - Construction of the Monju Fast Breeder Reactor began in May 1986. It first achieved criticality on April 5, 1994 and was temporarily connected to the grid on August 29, 1995. At the time of the accident Monju was undergoing tests at 40% power output in preparation for full operation.

The sodium accident
On December 8, 1995 at 19:47 an alarm went off indicating high sodium temperature at the exit of the intermediate heat exchanger in C-loop of Monju's secondary coolant system. One minute later an alarm sounded indicating a sodium leak. At 19:52 staff confirmed that white fumes were coming from the area near the alarm sensors. The reactor was tripped manually at 21:20. Draining of sodium out of C-loop was started at 22:40 and completed at 0:15 on December 9. In other words, the operators waited for about an hour and a half before stopping the reactor and nearly three hours before taking action to stop the leak

The leaked sodium reacted with the air in secondary coolant piping room C, causing a spray-fire and filling the room with fumes. It melted scaffolding and a ventilation duct and damaged the floor's steel liner. According to official reports, the temperature of the steel liner reached 700oC~750oC. Had the sodium melted through the metal liner and come in contact with the concrete below, the accident would have been even more serious. It was eventually estimated that about 640 kilograms of sodium leaked into the piping room.

The Monju reactor is cooled by molten sodium flowing through a three-loop primary system. Heat from the primary loops is transferred to secondary loops, which are also filled with sodium. Heat from the secondary system is then transferred via steam generators to the tertiary system to produce steam to drive the turbines. Since sodium reacts explosively with water, it is essential that sodium not come into contact with the water and steam in the tertiary system. Cracks and holes in the steam generator pipes must be prevented at all costs. The direct cause of the accident was a broken thermocouple in a pipe in the secondary system. Sodium leaked through the aperture that was created. The thermocouple sheath broke as a result of metal (high-cycle) fatigue from vibration caused by the sodium flow. It was finally recovered over four months later 160m downstream from its original location. The thermocouple, manufactured by Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries (IHI), suffered from a fatal design error. The angular structure of the section that penetrated the pipe meant that it was exposed to resonant vibration caused by a symmetrical vortex in the sodium flow. It is suspected that it was already cracked at least six months and perhaps as long as two years before the accident. It could be said, therefore, that this was an accident waiting to happen.

Besides the direct technical cause, it is possible to identify institutional and policy failures that created an environment in which such accidents were bound to happen. CNIC organized a Monju Committee to make an overall assessment of the accident from technological, legal/institutional and policy perspectives. The Monju Committee pointed out that the rules governing the Monju project as a whole made it virtually impossible to check in advance for design flaws. It also noted that the manual for dealing with accidents was flawed in that portions of it contradicted the original safety review for licensing. More fundamentally, with respect to the government's plutonium policy the report said that no lessons were learned from fast breeder development in other countries and that the accident may well have been caused by the high priority placed on getting Monju operational as quickly as possible. The report called for a thorough reconsideration of the underlying assumption of the government's plutonium policy, namely that breeding plutonium is an effective way of addressing Japan's future energy needs.

The official review process was flawed from the beginning. The initial investigations were carried out by Monju's owner and operator, Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corporation (PNC)(*1). PNC's controlling agency, the Science and Technology Agency (STA)(*2) also carried out an investigation, as did the Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC). However, these reports lacked objectivity and provided minimal information to the public. It was only as a result of massive public pressure that STA gradually became more willing to release information. The Monju accident triggered an outburst of dissatisfaction with the government's handling of nuclear power development. On January 23, 1996 the governors of Fukui, Fukushima and Niigata Prefectures (these three prefectures are home to the overwhelming majority of Japan's nuclear power plants. Monju is located in Tsuruga City in Fukui Prefecture) issued a joint statement and resolutions were adopted by over two hundred local and prefectural assemblies. The resolutions called either for the decommissioning of Monju, or for a reassessment of its development plan.

PNC initially attempted to cover up the seriousness of the accident. Video footage was released immediately after the accident, but it was later discovered that this one-minute tape was an edited version of two original videos, which PNC judged too shocking to release. The edited version only showed a lump of sodium product in a corner of the room, while all other pipes and structures appeared to be intact. The longer versions showed serious damage to the pipes and ducts, as well as large amounts of sodium product spread all around.

An in-house team was tasked with looking into the cover-up, but the investigation took a tragic turn on January 13, 1996, when one of the team leaders, Shigeo Nishimura, deputy general manager of PNC's general affairs department, jumped to his death from a hotel in Tokyo. His widow, Toshiko, has been pursuing justice for her deceased husband ever since, suing PNC for failing in its duty of care. She appealed to the Supreme Court after the Tokyo High Court rejected her case on October 29, 2009.

Obstacles and delays
On January 27, 2003 the Nagoya High Court's Kanazawa branch handed down a historic ruling nullifying the government's 1983 permission for construction of Monju. The verdict recognized three main areas in which the Nuclear Safety Commission's (NSC) pre-construction safety review was inadequate.

In light of inadequacies in the design of the steel floor liner, which became evident as a result the Monju accident, the Court accepted that the radioactive substances in the nuclear reactor container could be released into the environment in a situation where the secondary cooling system ceased to function.

The Court recognized that NSC's safety review did not fully address preventive measures against simultaneous rupture of steam generator tubes, where the rupture of one tube triggers ruptures in peripheral tubes under high temperatures. The Court concluded that NSC's analysis was inadequate in relation to prevention of core meltdown.

On May 30, 2005 the Supreme Court reversed the Nagoya High Court decision on the narrow grounds that NSC's safety assessment was "not unreasonable" and that it did not "contain flaws that could not be overlooked". However, the Supreme Court did not say that Monju was safe to operate.

Shortly before the Supreme Court verdict, on February 7, 2005, Fukui Governor, Issei Nishikawa, granted approval for the start of modifications to Monju. The modifications began on September 1, 2005 after the reactor had been shut down for nearly ten years and were completed on August 30, 2007. Modifications included the following: removal and replacement of the temperature gauge that was the cause of the accident; modification of the sodium drainage system; installation of insulation on walls and ceilings, nitrogen gas infusion apparatus, and a comprehensive video monitoring system; and measures to deal with a water-sodium reaction accident arising from a water leak from the steam generator heat transfer tubes. These measures mainly relate to sodium, but other dangers inherent to the Monju design, including the possibility of a run-away chain reaction and problems related to seismic safety, remain unchanged.

The danger of a loss of control over reactivity leading to collapse of the reactor core is much greater in FBRs than in light water reactors (LWR). FBR fuel assemblies are packed much more densely than in LWRs. If the fuel assemblies bend for any reason, the distance between them is reduced even further, increasing core reactivity and creating the risk of a runaway chain reaction and core melt down. FBRs of Monju class and larger have the additional weakness of a "positive void", meaning that if bubbles form in the coolant, core reactivity tends to increase. Although not an FBR, a positive void was instrumental in causing the 1986 Chernobyl accident. Both these weaknesses could come into play if a loss of electric power caused the primary coolant pumps to stop working.

In regard to seismic safety, there are problems with the design of Monju's piping system. To cope with sudden temperature changes due to the high heat conductivity of sodium, Monju's piping is much thinner than in light water reactors. Also, it is not fixed and it is not straight. Instead, it winds around above the reactor. This represents a very real danger in earthquake-prone Japan, especially given that the Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion discovered a previously unknown active fault. The Urasoko fault connects with the Yanagaseyama fault on the ocean floor of Tsuruga Bay, with the latter extending to Shiga Prefecture. The seismic safety assessment is now being redone by a subcommittee of the Nuclear Industrial and Safety Agency (NISA).

The original target date for restart was February 2008, but this date has been delayed on four occasions. The main reasons for the delay are JAEA's inability to rectify problems with its sodium leak detectors, corrosion in the exhaust duct and the need to replace degraded fuel. The leak detectors have gone off repeatedly in various locations, even though there was no sodium leak. The exhaust duct had not been inspected for ten years, because no inspection plan had been prepared. The problem with the fuel was that since it was first fabricated over half of the original "fissile" plutonium-241 (241Pu has a half-life of 14 years) had decayed into americium-241. In order for Monju to reach criticality, new fuel assemblies had to be fabricated.

Recent developments
On December 8, 2009 JAEA announced its schedule for performance testing leading to full operation of Monju. The tests are scheduled to begin by the end of March 2010 and will be conducted over a period of three years in the following three phases: reactor core confirmation tests, plant confirmation tests at 40% power, tests raising power output. If the tests proceed according to plan, Monju will begin full operations by the end of March 2013.

After carrying out four special safety inspections from May 2008 to March 2009, on April 22, 2009 NISA finally reported to the Advisory Committee for Natural Resources and Energy's Investigation Committee for Confirmation of the Safety of Monju that an independent quality control system had begun to operate. However, the overall structure has not changed and it is unclear from NISA's report how the organizational reforms will solve the problems. Monju is owned by JAEA, but it is managed in cooperation with the nuclear power companies and major plant makers Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Toshiba and Hitachi. Below these there are numerous subcontractors and sub-subcontractors. The channels of communication between top and bottom of the chain were not operating effectively and morale was very low.

On July 14, 2009 84 fuel assemblies and 19 control rods were replaced. Then on August 12 a 141-point plant confirmation test was completed. The same day JAEA announced that it planned to restart the plant by the end of the 2009 fiscal year. No doubt there were political considerations behind the announcement. JAEA needed to indicate that it would restart Monju in FY2009 in order to secure its FY2010 budget allocation for Monju. There was a change of government shortly after the announcement and the new government is seeking areas where it can cut spending.

According to JAEA, another reason for the target start-up date was that seismic safety improvements would take until the end of November to complete. However, the logical thing would have been to wait for NISA to complete its seismic safety checks before commencing seismic safety improvements, especially considering that Monju had not yet commenced full operations when the sodium accident occurred. When Monju was first constructed the design base ground motion for an "extreme design earthquake" (S2) was set at 450 Gal. Revised seismic design guidelines published in September 2006 established a new design base ground motion, Ss. At first, Ss for Monju was set at 600 Gal, but after consideration by NISA it was raised to 760 Gal. Confirmation of seismic safety based on this figure has not been completed.

Problems continue with the sodium leak detectors. On October 7, 2009 the electric power supply was switched off in order to check the leak detectors, but at the same time the power supply to the equipment for measuring the sodium level in the reactor was switched off. This caused another false alarm. The fact that the power supply for both items of equipment was connected had not previously been noticed. Then on October 23 the pumps for sodium leak detectors in both the primary and secondary circuits went down. As a result, the detectors were out of action for one hour and fifteen minutes. JAEA is trying to get an exemption from the requirement that false alarms during inspections be reported. So far NISA has not approved such an exemption. Nor should it. Such an exemption would create a dangerous grey zone. The fact that JAEA has the audacity to ask for such an exemption is a problem in itself.

Cost without benefit
Documents published by the new government's Administrative Reform Council, which was established to identify wasteful projects, show that up to and including FY2009 the government has spent over 900 billion yen (US$ 9.8 billion or 6.7 billion Euro) on construction and maintenance of Monju. Of this 230 billion yen represents maintenance costs since the accident. This does not include other FBR-related research and development.

Monju's fuel was not removed after the accident, remaining submerged in sodium. Circulation of sodium was maintained in the three loops of the primary system and in one of the three secondary loops. The other two secondary loops were filled with argon gas. Electric motors have continued to pump sodium, electrically heated to 200oC, through the pipes. The need to keep the molten sodium circulating means that Monju has continued to consume a large quantity of electricity.

On November 11 a working group of the Administrative Reform Council recommended that Monju be allowed to restart, but that the rest of the FBR program should be frozen while the respective responsibilities and roles of METI and MEXT are sorted out. However, in the new government's draft budget for the 2010 fiscal year 23.3 billion yen (US$254 million or 175 million Euro) is allocated for Monju (an increase of 2.9 billion yen compared to 2009), while 37 billion yen is allocated for FBR related research (1.4 billion yen less that the original budget request, but still an increase of 2.3 billion yen compared to 2009.)

International context
It is a great irony that the first nuclear reactor to generate electricity was a FBR. The Idaho National Laboratory's EBR-I generated a tiny amount of electricity in 1951, but in 1955 it suffered a runaway chain reaction resulting in a partial core meltdown. FBRs have been plagued by cost, safety and proliferation problems ever since. Nevertheless, the dream of a virtually inexhaustible source of energy still mesmerizes some, while the counter-intuitive theory that these reactors might help solve the problem of radioactive waste has taken on a life of its own in recent years. Besides Japan, there is still political support of some sort or other for fast reactor development in countries including the US, France, Russia, China and India, although the degree and nature of the support varies from country to country.

The US withdrew from FBR development in response to India's 1974 nuclear test. In 1977 the Carter Administration froze the US's commercial plutonium use program, including FBR, on non-proliferation grounds. Congress stopped funding for the Clinch River FBR project in 1983 and finally halted the FBR program altogether in 1994. The idea of fast reactors made a come back in February 2006 under the Bush Administration's Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). However, the focus was no longer on breeding plutonium, which was still seen as a proliferation risk, but rather on burning surplus plutonium and minor actinides to reduce the radioactive waste burden. The pendulum swung back the other way again in June 2009, when the Obama Administration cancelled the program to develop spent nuclear fuel reprocessing and fast reactor technologies in cooperation with other countries. GNEP's domestic research and development initiative was retained, but the aim is no longer to develop near-term commercial projects. Instead the focus is on long-term R&D on advanced reprocessing and fast-reactor technologies.

France achieved criticality with its first FBR, Rapsodie, in 1967 and connected the demonstration FBR Superphenix (at 1,200 MWe the world's largest FBR ever built) to the grid in 1986. However, the 1991 nuclear waste law shifted the focus of Superphenix from breeding plutonium to transmuting surplus plutonium and minor actinides into shorter-lived isotopes as a radioactive waste management strategy. In 1998 Superphenix was finally closed down permanently. With a cumulative load factor of just 7.79% it had proved to be a costly white elephant. France's Phenix fast reactor, first connected to the grid in 1973, was finally disconnected in March 2009. A ceremony to mark the end of operation was held on September 12, 2009.

The US and France now face practical problems if they want to develop fast reactors. The US has been out of the business for so long that it has a skill shortage, while France no longer has a fast reactor to carry out transmutation tests. They are therefore looking to Japan for support. In August 2009 France, Japan and the US amended an earlier agreement to cooperate on sodium-cooled fast reactor research and development. One focus is to determine whether Monju could be used for international transmutation research. If Monju is restarted, the three countries plan to use it to carry out an irradiation program in the framework of the Generation IV International Forum.

Russia and China have FBR programs, although they are significantly different from Japan's program. Russia's BN-600 reactor (Beloyarsk-3), which was connected to the grid in 1980, uses chiefly uranium dioxide fuel with an enrichment of 17-26%. It is probably the only fast reactor in the world still generating electricity, unless the Indian fast breeder test reactor at Kalpakkam is still generating a tiny amount of electricity. BN-600 is not well suited to a breeder program, but Russia is currently constructing a BN-800 demonstration FBR (Beloyarsk-4), which can use MOX fuel and might be used to breed plutonium. Start-up of Beloyarsk-4 is currently scheduled for 2014, two years later than originally planned.

China's FBR program is based on Russia's. In October 2009 China and Russia signed an agreement to start pre-project and design works for two BN-800 reactors in China. Russia and China are already cooperating on one fast reactor, a small 65 MWt sodium-cooled unit known as the Chinese Experimental Fast Reactor at the China Institute of Atomic Energy near Beijing.

India is constructing a 500 MWe prototype FBR at Kalpakkam. However, it is important to remember that the Indian program is not "peaceful". In 2008 the Nuclear Suppliers Group made a special exception to its rules to allow nuclear trade with India. In return, India agreed to place more of its nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, but India's FBRs were not included in the list of "civilian" facilities submitted to the IAEA. They are officially military facilities and India is still producing fissile material for weapons use. Therefore, Japan would be wise not to point to India as evidence that it is not alone in pursuing a plutonium-breeding program.

Monju shares the same problems of nuclear proliferation, safety and cost that have plagued fast breeder reactors in other countries. There is no sign that the benefits that are supposed to compensate for these dangers, namely breeding of plutonium as an inexhaustible civilian energy source and transmutation of radioactive waste, will ever be viable. The Japanese government will try to trumpet the value of Monju for international transmutation research, but it is highly unlikely that Monju will be used as a breeder reactor.

Japan's fuel cycle program, of which Monju is a key part, represents a serious nuclear proliferation problem. The rationale for Japan separating plutonium from spent nuclear fuel was to supply its FBR program, but there were warnings from all around the world about the massive stockpile of surplus plutonium that Japan would accumulate in the process. These warnings were proved correct. Japan now has about 47 tons of separated plutonium, nearly 10 tons of which is stockpiled in Japan. The rest is held in France and the UK. Regardless of Japan's own intentions, this plutonium stockpile sets a bad example for other would-be nuclear proliferators.

From a safety perspective, if anything the danger of operating Monju is even greater than it was before the sodium accident. During the fourteen years that Monju has been sitting idle, pipes and equipment would have degraded. However, it is impossible to check for cracks and holes throughout the whole plant, especially where sodium prevents visual inspection. Furthermore, JAEA's attitude has not changed. Its instinct is still to cover up problems, as evidenced by its proposal not to report false alarms of sodium leaks. The condition of the plant and the nature of the operator both suggest that more trouble lies ahead. To restart Monju now would be like playing Russian roulette.

Regarding cost, Monju is one of Japan's most wasteful projects. If the government is serious about redirecting taxpayers' money to where it is most needed, it should not wait for further troubles to arise before withdrawing support for Monju and the FBR program.

Notes and references
*1. Plagued by problems, PNC subsequently changed its name to Japan Nuclear Fuel Cycle Development Institute (JNC). JNC later merged with the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute (JAERI) to form the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), which is now under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT).
*2. STA was headed by a Cabinet Minister, but government ministries were restructured on January 6, 2000. STA's R&D role was transferred to the JNC later merged with the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute (JAERI) to form the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), which is now under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) and its regulatory role was transferred to the Nuclear Industrial and Safety Agency (NISA) within the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).

Sources: Philip White and Hideyuki Ban, Nuke Info Tokyo nr. 134, Nov/Dec. 2009, CNIC, Email:, Web:


Japan's troubled plutonium program

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Green Action Japan

Japan's beleaguered 'pluthernal' program, MOX (mixed plutonium-uranium oxide) fuel use in commercial power plants, got off to a troubled start at Kyushu Electric's Genkai Unit 3 Nuclear Power Plant Unit 3 in Saga Prefecture on November 5, with the use of 16 MOX fuel assemblies. Full-time operation of the reactor is scheduled to begin December 2.

A round-the-clock sit-in began on the same day in front of Kyushu Electric headquarters in Fukuoka City and messages of support are pouring in from around the country. In less than two days 673 NGO groups signed on to protest and petition METI, Kyushu Electric, and Saga Prefecture demanding that use of MOX fuel at Genkai not go forward. The number of sign-on groups continue to grow.

Over 460,000 citizens are demanding that use of MOX fuel at Genkai be suspended. This and Kyu-shu Electricâ's rush to start use of MOX fuel caused an unprecedented move by the Saga prefectural legislature last month to demand that the utility rescind its original 2 October start-up date, which it did.

On 28 October Japan's nuclear regulator NISA (Nuclear Industrial Safety Agency) admitted that there are no legal grounds for the government's criteria for imported fuel assembly inspection of MOX fuel. This admission was made to an Upper House Diet office. Citizens, and national and Saga prefectural legislators demanded that NISA come to Saga to explain. NISA is yet to do so.

The 'pluthermal' program is one part of Japan's troubled plutonium program. The other two parts which are in deep trouble are the fast breeder program and reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel. Commercialization of the fast breeder reactor program has been delayed 8 times and is nearly 80 years behind original schedule (set for early 1970s, now set for 'by 2050'.) Commercial operation of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant has been delayed 17 times. Completion of active tests is now set for October 2010. However, with a dysfunctional high-level waste vitrification facility, the future of Rokkasho is murky.

On 7 October, NISA stated that it couldn't deny the possibility that the same quality fuel Kansai Electric rejected in August is in Genkai's MOX fuel. (Kansai Electric rejected one-quarter of the fuel that had been manufactured for use in its Takahama Unit 3 and 4 reactors.) Both utilities -- MOX fuel was fabricated at Areva -- MELOX plant in Marcoule, France.

Subsequently, Kyushu Electric refused to disclose pertinent information concerning its self-inspection criteria, stating that Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, their principle contractor for MOX fuel fabrication would not allow the disclosure. (The same kind of information has been released by Kansai Electric and their principle contractor Nuclear Fuel Industries, Ltd.) Kyushu Electric stated that MELOX as-sured them that Kyushu's MOX fuel had no problems like the one found in Kansai Electric MOX fuel, but the utility admitted they were not shown data to confirm this was correct. The concentration of plutonium in Genkai's MOX fuel is unprecedented and exceeds even that used in France.

German nuclear authorities (BMU) initiated an investigatation after Kansai Electric's rejection of Areva MOX fuel. BMU is reported to take the issue seriously. The status of the investigation is unknown.

'The Japanese government spends 64% of its R&D for energy on nuclear. This program to utilize plutonium is the biggest stumbling block to development of renewable energy and energy efficiency in Japan. Prime Minister Hatoyama is woefully ignorant about this reality. The new government must become aware that this detrimental program is merely a lobbyist and bureaucratic haven. It should shut down the program immediately,' stated Aileen Mioko Smith, executive director of Green Action, a Japanese citizens organization campaigning to stop Japan's plutonium program.

The shipment of MOX fuel for use at Genkai and two other plants which took place this spring did not meet MLIT (Ministry of Land, Transport and Infrastructure) requirements. On 26 February, twenty Diet members signed on to an open letter addressing this concern. One of them includes the current MLIT minister Seiji Maehara, and, two other ministers in the Hatoyama government. Future shipments can-not meet this requirement (MOX fuel cask drop test) at this point.

In April a report commissioned by 70 nuclear free local authorities in the UK found that the British-flagged vessels which transport the MOX fuel from Europe to Japan have serious design flaws. Japan's program is dependent on these shipments since there is no commercial MOX fuel plant in Japan to supply electric utilities. Japanese nuclear transports are protested by dozens of en route countries.

Japan's pluthermal program start-up is a decade behind schedule due to a quality control data falsification scandal of Kansai Electric MOX fuel in 1999, citizen protest, nuclear inspection data falsification by Tokyo Electric in 2002, etc. In June electric utilities announced a multi-year delay in the deadline to use MOX fuel in 16-18 reactors, originally scheduled for 2010.

Source: Green Action (Kyoto, Japan) news release, 5 November 2009
Contact: Aileen Mioko Smith at Green Action, Suite 103, 22-75, Tanaka Sekiden-cho, Sakyo-ku Kyoto 606-8203 Japan. Tel: +81-90-3620-9251, E-mail:, Web:

Japan: nuclear energy policy under a new government

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

After winning a landslide victory in the House of Representatives election held on August 30, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) has formed a coalition government with the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the People's New Party (PNP). It might be hoped that a change of government would herald a change of nuclear energy policy, but we should not be too sanguine about the chances of a significant improvement.

There is a wide range of views about nuclear energy within the DPJ (as indeed there is in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which ruled Japan for most of the last fifty odd years). While minor coalition partner SDP favors a nuclear phase out, its influence on nuclear policy within the new government is likely to be quite limited. PNP is a relatively recent breakaway from the LDP and is unlikely to rock the boat on nuclear energy issues.

The prospects for policy change are likely to depend very much on the ability of civil society to make serious proposals that have the potential to garner widespread support. The first opportunity will be the budget estimates for the 2010 fiscal year. Anyone can see that allocating 20 billion yen (US$ 220 million, 150 million Euro) for the Monju prototype fast breeder reactor (FBR) is throwing good money after bad. This should be the first item cut from the budget request. Funding for fairyland proposals like the demonstration FBR to follow the Monju prototype should also be reviewed. It should also be obvious that a review of the Atomic Energy Commission's fundamental policy statement, Framework for Nuclear Energy Policy, should be scheduled as soon as possible.

Before the election DPJ issued a policy Manifesto in which it said that "[w]hile placing safety first and gaining the understanding and confidence of the people," it would "take steady steps toward the use of nuclear power." This quote is from the English summary. The same section in the full Japanese version refers also to "secure supply". Given that Japan's nuclear power program has been a failure with respect to "safety first", "secure supply", and "understanding and confidence of the people", if the DPJ were to get serious about these issues, that in itself would represent a major change.

In regard to "safety first", DPJ's Manifesto states, "a highly independent nuclear safety regulatory commission will be established under Article 3 of the National Government Organization Act." The existing Nuclear Safety Commission was established within the Cabinet Office in 1978 under the Nuclear Energy Basic Law, the same law that covers the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). Article 1 of the Law states, "The Objectives of this Law shall be to secure energy resources in the future, to achieve the progress of science and technology and the promotion of industries by encouraging the research, development and utilization of nuclear power..." Thus NSC's safety assurance role is compromised from the start by association with the promotion of nuclear energy.

NSC is supposed to act as a double check on the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), which regulates the nuclear industry. However, as part of the Ministry for Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), the ministry with prime responsibility for promoting nuclear power, NISA's independence is also compromised. NSC and NISA, or any regulatory body that replaces them, should have nothing to do with the promotion of nuclear power. Serious consideration should also be given to the question of whether the double check relationship should be retained, or whether it would be better to merge NSC and NISA into a single regulatory body. Likewise the question of whether the AEC should continue to exist in its current form should be openly debated.

Another area that should be openly debated is the respective responsibilities of government and industry. DPJ's Manifesto states, "Reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel and disposal of radioactive waste from nuclear power plants are long term projects, so the government should take final responsibility for establishing the technology and for the project." If they are not careful this type of loose wording could have the effect of reinforcing industry's already irresponsible attitude. Electric power companies have primary responsibility for safety assurance and for dealing with the problems of spent fuel and radioactive waste produced in their nuclear power plants. On the other hand, the role of government is to regulate so that the failures of industry do not lead to nuclear disasters or become an excessive economic burden. Government is also responsible for averting potential disasters when all else fails. In this sense the government has "final responsibility", but industry must not be allowed to offload its rightful responsibilities onto the government or the general public.

Our hope is that the new government will reassess recent trends that are inconsistent with the principle of "safety first". These include reducing the time taken for periodic assessments, extending the time between inspections, and life extensions and uprates for aging reactors. We hope the DPJ led government will strive to create a rigorous and rational nuclear regulatory system.

Source: Nuke Info Tokyo 132,  September/October 2009
Contact: Baku Nishio (Co-Director), Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (CNIC), Akebonobashi Co-op 2F-B, 8-5 Sumiyoshi-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 162-0065, Japan.
Tel: +81-3-3357-3800

Monju restart february next year?
On July 12 replacement of degraded fuel was completed at Japan Atomic Energy Agency's (JAEA) Monju Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (FBR, 280 MW) located in Tsuruga City, Fukui Prefecture. Then on August 12 final confirmation tests of the overall integrity of the plant were completed. The same day, Toshio Yamauchi, Senior Vice Minister of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), visited Fukui Governor Issei Nishikawa and Tsuruga Mayor Kazuharu Kawase to officially communicate the government's aim of restarting Monju as early as February 2010. This would be two years later than the target date of February 2008 announced when modification work began in March 2005. The Prototype FBR is closed since a sodium leak and fire in December 1995. Construction of Monju started in 1986 and the reactor was only connected to the grid for four months when the accident happened!

Nuke Info Tokyo, 132, Sept/Oct. 2009 / PRIS Reactor database.


In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Indonesia: Tender postponed indefinitely.
Indonesian State Minister of Research and Technology Kusmayanto Kadiman announced late last month (May) that the tendering process for new nuclear power plants, expected to be completed by the end of the year, have been postponed indefinitely. The process has lacked political support and with presidential elections due in July, the government has pulled the plug. Kusmayanto said, ‘It's impossible to decide now. For the fastest, it will possibly take at last six more years.’ This destroys plans to have a nuclear power plant operating in the 2016-2019 timeframe established by Indonesian Law No. 17/2007.

Nuclear Reaction, 18 June 2009

Sweden: smiling sun banned from Parliament.
Seven antinuclear activists who went to the Swedish Parliament to listen to the energy debate on June 16, were forced to leave the public gallery and were thereafter taken into inquiry by the police. This has never happened before. The reason was that five of them where wearing t-shirts with the smiling sun, the well known antinuclear symbol. Most of them activists were members of the Swedish antinuclear movement and some belong to the Swedish Green woman.

Email: Eia Liljegren-Palmær, 19 June 2009

U.K.: Serious accident averted at Sizewell.
A serious accident at the Sizewell A Magnox reactor was only averted because a worker cleaning clothes in a laundry noticed cooling water leaking from a spent fuel storage pond. In January 2007 40,000 gallons of radioactive water (1 gallon (UK) is about 4.54609 liter)  leaked from a 15ft (4.5 meter) split in a pipe in the cooling pond, containing 5,000 spent fuel rods and alarms failed to warn staff or were ignored. If the pond had emptied of water and exposed the highly-radioactive rods would have caught fire with an airborne release of radioactivity. Thanks to the worker in the laundry staff were able to contain the leak - discharging the radioactive waster into the sea - and re-fill the pond.

A new report on the accident has now been published. It is written by nuclear consultant Dr John Large, commissioned by the Shut Down Sizewell Campaign and based on Nuclear Installation Inspectorate reports released under Freedom of Information. The NII report highlighted a number of serious concerns surrounding the accident. Not only did the pond alarms fail, but had it worked it would have triggered another alarm that had already been on for two days but ignored by staff. There was also poorly designed and poorly installed instrumentation and control equipment. The NII report also suggests that it chose not to prosecute the operators because of staff shortages.

N-base briefing 618, 17 june 2009

Spain: renewal of operation license Garona?
On June 8, the five-member board of Spain's Nuclear Safety Council (CSN) unanimously agreed to recommend that the Garona nuclear plant in northern Spain should get a new 10-year operating licence if it upgrades its safety equipment. The 38-year-old nuclear plant's licence expires on July 5. Nuclear Safety Council chairwoman Carmen Martinez Ten said the decision was taken on technical and security grounds and not for reasons of "energy policy, economics or another nature".

The Spanish government will have to take a clear stand for or against nuclear power before July 5, when it decides whether to renew the operating licence Garona, the oldest of the country's six nuclear plants. Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, whose socialist government has backed the developmentof  renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, has said he wants to phase out nuclear energy in the country when the life span of its six nuclear plants expires. A decision to prolong the life of the Garona plant would be a major u-turn for Zapatero, who pledged to gradually phase out nuclear power during general elections in 2004 and 2008. However, the prime minister said. "The decision regarding Garona will be coherent with the commitments in our election programme as long as the supply of power is guaranteed," This statement was seen by some observers as a sign that the government was leaning towards renewing, maybe for a short period. Later in June, CSN said the government asked their opinion about renewing the permit for two, four or six years, rather than the 10 years. The 500 megawatt Garona plant provided just 1.3 percent of Spain's electricity last year and grid operators say its closure would pose no supply problems.

The Spanish branch of Greenpeace has urged the government not to renew the licence of the plant, arguing it is unsafe. It has called it the "plant of 1,000 fissures". The two utilities running the plant, Iberdrola and Endesa, estimate it will cost 50 million euros (US$70 million) to carry out the upgrades to the plants safety equipment recommended by the CSN.

Spain, along with Denmark and Germany, is among the three biggest producers of wind power in the European Union and the country is one of the largest world producers of solar power.

AFP, 11 June 2009 / Reuters, 19 June 2009

Blows for IAEA Fuel Bank proposal. Developing countries blocked plans by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for nuclear fuel banks that aim to keep countries from acquiring sensitive nuclear technology by offering them alternatives. The Vienna-based agency and Western countries had hoped the IAEA's governing board would give the green light for fleshing out plans to sway countries to buy rather than make nuclear fuel, by offering an insurance in case their supply is cut off for political reasons. But a June 18, joint statement by the Group of 77 (a coalition of developing countries and the Non-Aligned Movement) said that "none of the proposals provide a proper assurance of supply of nuclear fuel." The plans "should not be designed in a way that discourages states from developing or expanding their capabilities in the nuclear fuel cycle". The 35 members of the board agreed only that the nuclear agency "may continue its consultations and discussions" to further work on the fuel bank proposals, according to diplomats at the meeting.

The idea of the IAEA Fuel Bank was to keep countries from acquiring uranium enrichment and reprocessing technologies, which can be used not only for energy purposes, but also for making nuclear bomb material. However, developing countries fear that such plans would pressure them to give up their right to peacefully using nuclear energy.

Meanwhile, in May the Dutch minister of Foreign Affairs Verhagen, concluded that the British, German and Dutch (the countries that form the Urenco enrichment consortium) initiative for assured supply for low enriched nuclear fuel failed. In May he wrote to Dutch Parliament that “many countries see this condition (giving up enrichment and reprocessing) as discriminating and an unacceptable violation of their rights under the non-proliferation treaty”.

Another blow for the concept of Multilateral Approaches, which is seen by many proponents of nuclear power as one of the main ways to counter proliferation worries.

Earthtimes, 18 June 2209 / Laka Foundation, 18 may 2009

Discussion on new-build in Germany heats up. Germany's economy minister ruled out building new nuclear power stations but said the life of some reactors might be extended and the development of alternative technologies stepped up. "We need limited extensions until we are able to work with sensible alternative technologies in an economical and environmentally friendly manner," Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily in an interview, published on June 19.. "That includes the possibility of equipping existing nuclear power stations with state-of-the-art technology in order to make them even safer and more efficient," the conservative minister said. "But I see no need to build new nuclear reactors." General elections are due in September. On September 5, a nationwide demonstration will take place in Berlin.

Nuclear Reaction, 22 June 2009

Japan: MOX target delayed. Japanese plans for 16-18 reactors to be using mixed oxide (MOX) fuel by 2010 have been put back by five years, the country's Federation of Electric Power Companies (FEPCO) has announced. Up until 1998, Japan sent the bulk of its used fuel to plants in France and the UK for reprocessing and MOX fabrication. However, since 1999 it has been storing used fuel in anticipation of full-scale operation of its own reprocessing and MOX fabrication facilities. Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd's (JNFL's) reprocessing plant under construction at Rokkasho-mura is scheduled for completion in August 2009, but earlier this year the company put back the completion date for its planned J-MOX fabrication facility from August 2012 to August 2015. Construction work on the fabrication facility is scheduled to begin in November 2009. Four shipments of reactor-grade plutonium recovered from used fuel have been sent back to Japan from European reprocessing plants since 1992. The most recent arrived in Japan from France in May 2009.

World Nuclear News, 12 June 2009

Australia: union action on radioactive waste. The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has welcomed the support of Australia’s peak trade union body ACTU in pushing for an end to any federal government move to impose a radioactive waste dump on the Northern Territory and developing a credible and responsible approach to radioactive waste management in Australia. On June 4, the ACTU Congress in Brisbane passed a resolution critical of the government’s delay in delivering on a 2007 election commitment on radioactive waste management and called for an independent and public inquiry into the best options for dealing with radioactive waste.

“The ACTU’s active support in this issue is powerful and very welcome,” said ACF nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney. “The federal government was elected on a promise to scrap the heavy handed waste dump laws and make radioactive waste policy responsible and transparent.  It has failed to deliver on this promise and this resolution is an important reminder to the government and to Resources Minister Ferguson that the community expects better.”

The ACTU now joins a broad range of environment and public health groups, Indigenous organisations and state, territory and local governments concerned by the federal government’s lack of responsible and inclusive action on this issue.

ACF Press release, 5 June 2009

U.S.: doubts about decommissioning funds. Two days after Associated Press reported that operators of nearly half of the US' 104 nuclear reactors are not setting aside enough funds to cover projected decommissioning costs, the NRC has contacted owners of 18 nuclear power plants asking them to explain how the economic downturn has affected funds they must set aside to cover future decommissioning costs. The AP report said the shortfalls have been caused by a combination of falling investments and rising decommissioning costs. Plant operators are required to establish funding during a reactor's operating life to ensure the reactor site will be properly cleaned up once the plant is permanently closed, the NRC said, adding that its review of the latest reports from reactor operators "suggests several plants must adjust their funding plans." Tim McGinty, director of policy and rulemaking in the NRC's Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation said: "This is not a current safety issue, but the plants do have to prove to us they're setting aside money appropriately."

Platts, 19 June 2009

Restart KK-7: emergency cooling malfunctions

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

In the latest issue of the Nuclear Monitor (688, published on May 7) we ran an article on the pressure to restart Kashiwazaki-Kariwa reactor number 7 in Japan. A few hours before printing the issue came the news that the reactor would be restarted in the next days. Too late to rewrite the article but just in time to do a “latest news” box. Just a few days after the restart the emergency cooling-system failed, twice.

On May 9, after months of intense pressure from Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and the central government, the Governor of Niigata Prefecture and the Mayors of Kashiwazaki City and Kariwa Village gave their permission to TEPCO to restart Unit 7 of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant (KK) for the first time since the 16 July 2007 Chuetsu-oki Earthquake. In doing so, they are gambling with the safety of the people of Niigata Prefecture and beyond.

Their decision flies in the face of scientific arguments presented in two subcommittees established by Niigata Prefecture to investigate the impact of the earthquake on the plant. Neither of these subcommittees has resolved crucial questions about the nature of the earthquake, the impact of the earthquake on the plant, or the future safety of the plant. In the end, pressure from TEPCO and the central government have prevailed over sound science.

In particular, the following issues have not been resolved (see Nuclear Monitor 688 for more details).

(1) Seismic Safety
TEPCO, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) and the Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC) argue that it is sufficient to set the magnitude of the design-basis earthquake at M7.0. By comparison, the Chuetsu-Oki Earthquake was M6.8 on the Japanese scale.

(2) Unstable Ground
The ground beneath the buildings is moving. The ground level has been measured on three occasions since the earthquake, but each time the direction and size of the inclination of the buildings was different.

(3) Seismic Safety of Equipment in Doubt
There are concerns that during an earthquake in excess of M7 the casing within which the recirculation pump motors are contained could buckle and break.

Important technical questions under the following three broad headings have not been answered:

  • "What magnitude earthquake should the plant be designed to withstand?"
  • "Why does the ground continue to move?"
  • "Can the plant withstand the next earthquake?"

As long as scientific answers to these questions are not found, there can be no basis for confidence in the safety of the plant.

TEPCO, the central government and the prefectural and local governments are making the same mistakes that have been repeated throughout the history of KK. As in the past, once again they have decided to sacrifice sound science and public safety for the sake of national policy.

Reactor malfunctions after restart

TEPCO began withdrawing the control rods at 1:53pm on May 9 and started up the reactor. Problems first arose that night at 11:15pm in a valve in the main steam system. More problems occurred on May 11. TEPCO's press release described the May 11 problems, which occurred at 6:43am and 6:53am, as follows:

"[W]hile performing an activation test of the reactor core isolation cooling system (RCIC), water level of the suppression pool went beyond the normal level...[T]he RCIC could not be shut down by normal procedure and had to be shut down manually at the site."

The problems led to a departure from the "Limiting Condition for Operation" stipulated in the Technical Specification. TEPCO had intended to start the turbines and begin sending electricity to Tokyo on May 15, but as a result of these problems it was not able to do so until May 19.


Sources: Statement of Protest, Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (CNIC), 8 May 2009 / Asahi Shimbun (Japan), 12 May 2009 / Nuke Info Tokyo, May/June 2009
Contact: Philip White (CNIC International Liaison Officer).
Tel: +81-3-3357-3800           

Kashiwazaki Kariwa-7

KK-7: to restart or not to restart?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Philip White at Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (CNIC)

It is now almost 22 months since the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant was struck by the Chuetsu-oki Earthquake. The Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Company want to restart Unit 7. But currently, debate over three serious problems has not been resolved, one of them being the irregular movement of reactor and turbine buildings. Will science be sacrificed for the sake of national policy?

Of the seven reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant (KK), all of which have been shut down since the Chuetsu-Oki Earthquake in July 2007, Unit 7 (ABWR, 1356 MW) is said to have suffered least damage. On February 18 the Nuclear Safety Commission (located within the Cabinet Office) approved the restart of this reactor. The following day Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) applied to Kashiwazaki City, Kariwa Village and Niigata Prefecture for permission to restart the reactor. It appeared that it wanted all the necessary approvals in place by March 31, the end of the fiscal year.

However, things are not going as TEPCO planned. A fire in Unit 1 on March 5 increased the concerns of the local residents. This is the eighth fire since TEPCO began work in preparation for restart. The cause on this occasion was that workers had not received training about the danger of inflammable vapor in the area. Residents are very critical of TEPCO. They say that TEPCO's claim that it places top priority on safety is an empty slogan and that it is not qualified to operate nuclear reactors. On March 11 Niigata Governor, Hirohiko Izumida, said that he would not give his approval for restart of KK Unit 7 until the appropriateness of TEPCO's plan to revise its fire prevention system is accepted. He indicated that he did not think public understanding for restart had been obtained. Kashiwazaki Mayor, Hiroshi Aida, and Kariwa Mayor, Hiroo Shinada expressed similar sentiments.

2. Jumping the gun
On March 8 Niigata Prefecture's technical committee on safety control of nuclear power plants held its third meeting since the Chuetsu Oki Earthquake. It agreed that a chairman's opinion supporting restart should be presented at the next meeting, scheduled for March 18. However, the March 8 meeting was sadly lacking in scientific and technical debate and failed to answer scientifically based questions raised by committee members opposed to restarting KK-7. The reason for the unscientific nature of the discussion was that it was based on a sloppy summary of issues debated in two technical subcommittees, when the deliberations of these subcommittees have not even been concluded.

3. Unresolved problems
At this stage, debate over three serious problems has not been resolved.

(1) KK's seismic safety
TEPCO, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) and the Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC) argue that it is sufficient to set the magnitude of the design-basis earthquake at M7.0. NISA and NSC approved restart of Unit 7 on this basis. (By comparison, the Chuetsu-Oki Earthquake was M6.8 on the Japanese scale.) However, some scientists have said that this is inadequate. They believe a M7.5 earthquake should be chosen. Although they have provided clear scientific evidence, their arguments have been ignored.

The issue relates to questions about the seismic fault plane that caused the Chuetsu-Oki Earthquake and the form of the marine terrace running from Kashiwazaki to Niigata. The critics claim that the F-B fault was not the source of the Chuetsu-Oki Earthquake. They say the source was the much longer Eastern Boundary Fault of Sado Basin. Historically, this fault has moved repeatedly and it has had a fundamental influence on the form of the marine terrace in the region. There is no scientific basis for refuting this argument.

The basic earthquake ground motion was set at 2,300 Gal for Units 1~4 and 1,209 Gal for Units 5~7 on the basis of a M7.0 earthquake, but these levels are clearly inadequate.

(2) Irregular movement of reactor and turbine buildings
The ground level has been measured on three occasions since the earthquake, but each time the direction and size of the inclination of the buildings was different. This shows that the plant was not built on firm ground. The fact is that the ground beneath the buildings is moving [see box].

Building on tofu?

An issue relevant to the work of both sub-committees is how to interpret the fact that the reactor and turbine buildings have continued to move since the earthquake. TEPCO has measured the elevation of the buildings on three occasions since the earthquake - immediately after the earthquake, in February 2008 and again in August 2008. There are suspicions that the continued movement could be because the bedrock has broken up, or for some other similar cause. Alternatively, it could be related to the Madogasaka Fault, which NSC claims is not active.

During the December 23 meeting in Kariwa Village hosted by the Niigata Prefecture sub-committees, the chair of the subcommittee into equipment integrity and earthquake resistance and safety, Haruo Yamazaki, responded to a question with an example of a nuclear power plant floating on a cup of starch. When construction of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant was first planned, people said it was like building a nuclear power plant on tofu. Now it looks like the ground on which the plant is built is no more solid than a cup of starch.

Nuke Info Tokyo 128, Jan/Febr. 2009

The seismic safety guidelines in force when the plant was constructed (the old guidelines) required that nuclear power plants be constructed on firm ground. The construction of KK violated these guidelines. The excuse is given that the inclination is within the permitted limits and will not interfere with insertion of the control rods, but this avoids the real issue. Can the plant withstand the next earthquake? Why does the ground continue to move in this irregular way? As long as scientific answers to these questions are not found, residents will not have confidence in the safety of the plant.

At the beginning of March a research team from Niigata University carried out a second boring near the plant. Results have just come in and there is a difference of 20 meters between the Niigata University team's measurement and TEPCO's measurement of the Nishiyama stratum. This suggests fault activity contrary to the analysis of the ground structure around the KK plant carried out by TEPCO and accepted by the government. My view is that this is because KK is indeed "a nuclear power plant floating on a cup of starch".

(3) Can the casing of the reactor coolant recirculation pump motor survive the next earthquake?
KK-6&7 are Advanced Boiling Water Reactors (ABWR). This type of reactor has internal recirculation pumps. ABWR reactors have 10 recirculation pumps, which are welded onto the bottom of the wall of the reactor vessel. There are concerns that during an earthquake in excess of M7 the casing within which the recirculation pump motors are contained could buckle and break.

The stress applied by a M7 earthquake is calculated to be 195 megapascals. By comparison, the design standard is 207 megapascals. That means there is a leeway of just 6%, suggesting that the casing would not withstand a M7.5 earthquake. There is a danger that it could break off. In such a case, the reactor coolant would drain out leading to a major accident.

Considering the abovementioned unresolved issues, TEPCO should not be allowed to restart KK Unit 7. To restart the reactor would be a huge gamble. It would fly in the face of the safety-first principle.

4. Radioactive pine needles
Measurements commissioned by CNIC of radioactive carbon-14 in the needles of pine trees growing by the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant raise questions about how much radioactivity was actually released during the Chuetsu-Oki Earthquake. Pine needles which grew in 2007, the year of the Chuetsu-Oki Earthquake, on trees in TEPCO's public relations center had elevated specific activity of carbon 14 (294.8 mBq/gC from 2007 pine needles compared to 251.2 mBq/gC for 2008 pine needles). This suggests that more radioactivity was released during the earthquake than TEPCO claimed. It is unclear where the carbon 14 came from, but it is conceivable that it could have leaked from damaged fuel assemblies. This is further evidence that the full effects of the earthquake are still not properly understood.

TEPCO failed to carry out measurements of environmental samples to assess radioactivity released during the earthquake. As it happened, CNIC already had a project to measure radioactivity around Rokkasho, so we decided to measure carbon 14 in pine needles from KK at the same time.

April: Another fire; more delays

Meanwhile, on April 17, the central government and the mayors of Kashiwazaki City and Kariwa Town had given their approval for the restart of KK Unit 7. Only the approval of the governor of Niigata Prefecture remains.

Governor Izumida said recently that he wanted an explanation to be provided to the Prefectural Assembly before making his final decision. It was expected that the explanation would be provided on April 21, but the date was postponed after yet another fire at the plant. The fire, which arose in a storehouse on April 11, was the ninth fire at the plant since the earthquake. Tokyo Electric Power Company's inability to develop an effective fire control system has severely damaged its credibility in safety management.

Nevertheless, there is tremendous pressure on the governor to approve restart of reactor 7. The local movement against restart of the plant is fighting valiantly, but it will be difficult to prevent restart of the reactor for much longer. There are no immediate signs that any of the other reactors will be restarted soon.

Under these circumstances, people might be interested in material to help them refute the propaganda that is likely to accompany the restart of Unit 7. CNIC recently added to its website a report on the history of the seismic design of KK. This report shows how politics has always been prioritized over seismic safety in the design and operation of KK. We hope the report will be useful for people trying to stop nuclear power plants in other earthquake prone regions.

The April 6, 2009 report “Seismic Design of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant: a Historical Perspective”, by Philip White and Yukio Yamaguchi can be found at:


Source: Nuke Info Tokyo 129, March/April 2009 & update CNIC, 17 April 2009
Contact: Philip White at Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (CNIC). Akebonobashi Co-op 2F-B, 8-5 Sumiyoshi-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 162-0065, Japan
Tel: + 81-3-3357-3800

Latest: Restart KK-7 May 8?

As stated in the article, there is “tremendous pressure on the governor to approve restart” of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa reactor 7, and it is “difficult to prevent restart (…) for much longer”. And indeed, on May 6, Reuters reports that the restart is imminent and the reactor may begin a trial-run as soon as May 8, expecting the approval of the governor on May 7.

Reuters, 6 May 2009


Kashiwazaki Kariwa-7

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

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

South-Africa: PBMR Ltd. in trouble.

 According to a PBMR Ltd press release, the global financial crisis and related impact on funding – particularly on the South African electricity utility Eskom – has prompted the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor company to "consider near-term market opportunities based on customer requirements  to service both the electricity and process heat markets", as they call it. Basically it wil be a shift towards non-power options. One of the considerations is the modification of the design planned for the Demonstration Power Plant project at Koeberg near Cape Town to also service potential customers such as the Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) project in the US, which is funded by the US Department of Energy, oil sands producers in Canada (to produce the temperature and associated pressure needed to extract bitumen from oil sands) and the South African petro-chemical company Sasol (to either produce process steam and/or hydrogen to upgrade coal products). Another potential application is the use of the PBMR’s waste heat for desalination.

According to Jaco Kriek, CEO of PBMR (Pty) Ltd, discussions are underway with suppliers to put certain contracts on hold "to prevent unnecessary spending", although he emphasises that no contracts have been cancelled. But is is clear that business is not running smoothly (nothing new one can argue). The development of the PBMR is way behind schedule and in December Eskom cancelled the construction of pressurized water reactors (see Nuclear Monitor 681, 18 December 2008).

Press release PBMR Ltd, 5 February 2009

Japan: Nuclear industry rebuked for misleading advertising.

On 25 November 2008 the Japan Advertising Review Organization (JARO)  sent a letter to the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan  (FEPCO) regarding a complaint concerning an advertisement placed by  FEPCO in a Japanese magazine in April 2008.

The complaint claimed that the following words in FEPCO's advertisement  were incorrect and inappropriate: "Nuclear power ... is a "clean way of producing electricity", which  does not release CO2 when generating electricity." The complaint pointed out that these words could mislead consumers.

JARO judged that the word "clean" does not fit well with nuclear   energy. It said that many consumers would have misgivings about the  claim that nuclear energy is "clean", on the sole grounds that it does  not emit CO2 during electricity generation, when there is no  accompanying explanation about safety or radioactive waste. JARO  recommended that claims that nuclear energy is "clean", without  adequate explanation of safety and the effect of nuclear energy on the  environment, should not be made in future.

For most people JARO's conclusion is plain common sense, but it is   refreshing to see the nuclear industry rebuked by an advertising watch  dog for misleading advertising. JARO's letter was supposed to be confidential, but it was reported in  the media.

CNIC, 6 February 2009

Asian Development Bank Energy Policy Paper.

The Asian Development Bank will maintain its current policy of non-involvement in the financing of nuclear power generation. That is the conclusion in the Banks's Energy Policy Paper, published in January 2009. ADB writes (page 30/31):  "Nevertheless, in spite of its sustainable and operational benefits, nuclear power development faces a number of barriers, such as public concerns related to nuclear proliferation, waste management, safety issues, high investment costs, long lead times, and commercial acceptability of new technologies. Overcoming these barriers is  difficult and open public debate will be required to convince the public about the benefits of nuclear power. MDBs have traditionally avoided financing nuclear power plants. In the context of the former Soviet Union states, the EBRD¹s current energy policy includes financing safety measures of nuclear plants, decommissioning and environmental rehabilitation, and promoting an efficient nuclear regulatory framework. In view of concerns related to nuclear technology, procurement limitations, proliferation risks, fuel availability, and environmental and safety concerns, ADB will maintain its current policy of non-involvement in the financing of nuclear power generation."

Pakistan: Khan released from house-arrest.

On February 6, a Pakistani court freed Abdul Qadeer Khan from house arrest, lifting the restrictions imposed on him since 2004 when he publicly confessed to running an illicit nuclear network. Khan, 73, considered in the West as a rogue scientist and a pariah who sold technology to North Korea, Libya and Iran, is revered as a national hero in Pakistan for his role in transforming the country into a nuclear power.

The ruling to set him free seemed as much a political decision as a legal one, intended to shore up support for the government of President Asif Ali Zardari, which has been derided in the Pakistani press as being too close to the U.S. The government has been under intense domestic pressure to free Mr. Khan, and that outweighed the backlash that Mr. Zardari knew the action would cause in Washington. The ruling was accompanied by a secret agreement between Mr. Khan and the civilian government, the contents of which were not disclosed, which may continue to place restrictions on him. It was not entirely clear whether Mr. Khan would be free to leave the country.

The Foreign Ministry said Pakistan had investigated Khan's past proliferation, shared its findings with the IAEA, and put in tight controls to prevent anything similar from happening again. "A. Q. Khan is history." The US State Department condemned the move: “He’s still a proliferation threat. We’re very troubled by this.”

The civilian government had eased the restrictions placed on the scientist in 2004. Right from the time of Khan's confession, the US has been persistently demanding permission to question him on his alleged proliferation activities. Pakistan has been equally consistent in denying this permission.

New York Times, 6 February 2009 / AP, 8 February 2009 / The Hindu, 9 February 2009

ITER could cost twice as much as budgeted.

According to the British newspaper The Guardian, the experimental ITER fusion reactor could cost twice as much as governments had planned for. The project, which absorbs almost half of Britain's energy research budget (!), will test complex machinery needed to make the world's first operational fusion power plants. ITER was originally planned to cost €10bn, but the rising price of raw materials and changes to the initial design are likely to see that bill soar. The warning came as scientists gathered in Finland to unveil the first component of the reactor, which will effectively act as its exhaust pipe. The reactor is currently expected to take nearly 10 years to build and is scheduled to be switched on in 2018.

The Guardian (UK), 29 January 2009

Ukraine to join International Uranium Center.

The Russian government has approved a request by the Rosatom corporation for Ukraine to join the international uranium enrichment project set up by Russia and Kazakhstan. The International Uranium Enrichment Centre would see uranium from member countries enriched at Angarsk in Russia under international supervision. The scheme is not yet finalised, but in theory it would offer member countries assured supplies of nuclear fuel under some sort of arbitration by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). An additional possibility is that such a scheme would take back highly-radioactive used nuclear fuel from client countries for reprocessing and recycling or for permanent storage.

The concept of an international fuel cycle has come to the fore in recent years partly due to suspicions that Iran's uranium enrichment facilities were once part of an undeclared nuclear weapons program. Countries that agree to abide by the global non-proliferation regime and within which the IAEA is confident nuclear power is only used peacefully would be guaranteed supplies of uranium fuel. The theory is that those countries would never need to develop their own uranium enrichment or reprocessing facilities, which otherwise could potentially be misused for weapons production.

The international uranioum project is only one of the several Multilateral approaches, the US GNEP (Global Nuclear Energy Partnership) and the IAEA Fuel Bank, being two other initiatives.

World Nuclear News, 10 February 2009

Spain: no new reactors. 

On January 21 Spain reaffirmed its policy of not commissioning new nuclear power plants a day after its biggest utility unveiled plans to build them in Britain, while repeating pledges to boost renewables and save energy.  "There will be no new nuclear plants," Spain Industry Minister Miguel Sebastian told journalists when asked to comment on Iberdrola's joint venture with British companies to build nuclear power stations.  Sebastian noted that Spanish energy consumption per head was 20 percent above the European average. "Saving 20 percent would be the equivalent of doubling the number of nuclear power plants. It seems easier and cheaper to me," he said. "Furthermore, it (saving) is immediate, whereas nuclear plants take 15 years. There is no controversy, no waste or security problems, nothing," he added.

Spain's government has said it may extend the working lives of the country's eight ageing nuclear power plants. Operating permits for seven of the plants are up for renewal between this year and 2011, or well within the mandate of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialist government. Spain's nuclear power plants supply about 7,300 megawatts and wind farms now have the capacity to generate more than 16,000 MW due to a boom in renewable energy, (but in practice provide less).

Reuters, 21 January 2009

New Nuclear madness in Britain.

The UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has  announced that it expects to nominate land near Sellafield, Wylfa, Oldbury and Bradwell, for  consideration under the Government’s Strategic Siting Assessment (SSA) process to identify sites suitable for nuclear new build. Whilst the NDA is not proposing to develop new nuclear plants itself and will not seek planning permission, it expects to nominate land into the SSA process in order to enhance the value of its land and in turn generate income which will help fund the decommissioning programme.

NDA, 23 January 2009