IAEA-DG: less watchdog, more lobby.
International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano presenting his first report to the UN General Assembly on November 8, said that he aims to change the widespread perception of the agency as the world's "nuclear watchdog." The label "does not do justice to our extensive activities in other areas, especially in nuclear energy, nuclear science and applications, and technical cooperation." Established by the UN in 1957 as the "Atoms for Peace" organization, the Vienna-based IAEA gained its reputation as the world's nuclear watchdog from its nuclear verification activities and reports of "non-compliance" by states that have failed to abide by the safeguards imposed by the agency. As countries consider introducing nuclear energy and expanding their nuclear power, the IAEA will need to cement its role in assisting such developments. "When countries express an interest in introducing nuclear power, we offer advice in many areas, including on how to put the appropriate legal and regulatory framework in place and how to ensure the highest standards of safety and security, without increasing proliferation risks," he said. Amano added that "access to nuclear power should not be limited to developed countries but should be available to developing countries as well."
The IAEA chief encouraged international lending institutions to place greater consideration in funding nuclear power projects, as he drew the Assembly's attention to practical applications of nuclear energy. Meanwhile, cables leaked by Wikileaks show cosy US relationship with IAEA chief. When Yukiya Amano took over as the head of the UN nuclear watchdog last year, American diplomats described him as "director general of all states, but in agreement with us"
Source: Statement to the Sixty-Fifth Regular Session of the United Nations General Assembly by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, 8 November 2010 at www.iaea.org / Guardian (UK), 30 November 2010
News in the nuclear age: rabbits and mice trapped and killed.
A radioactive rabbit was trapped on the Hanford nuclear reservation (USA), and Washington state health workers have been searching for contaminated rabbit droppings. The Tri-City Herald reports that officials suspect the rabbit sipped some water left from the recent demolition of a Cold War-era building used in the production of nuclear weapons. The rabbit was trapped in the past week and was highly contaminated with radioactive cesium. It was killed and disposed of as radioactive waste.
Only one rabbit sipped from that water? No because a few weeks later, radioactive mouse-droppings were found. It has been difficult to find mice in the current cold and snowy weather. Sixty mouse traps were set, but the two mice reported trapping and killing the holiday were not contaminated. Now PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is asking to stop killing mice in search for contaminated ones. “Live traps should be used to catch mice and then they can be released or humanely euthanized as appropriate after they are checked for radioactivity,” PETA writes. Hanford currently is the most contaminated nuclear site in the United States and is the focus of the nation’s largest environmental cleanup. Last year, 33 contaminated animals or animal materials such as droppings were found on the site.
Source:The Associated Press, 5 November 2010 / Xinhua, 6 November 2010 / TriCityHerald, 25 November 2010
US: Vermont elects Governor that wants Vermont Yankee closed.
In an extremely close race on the November 2 House of Representatives elections, Peter Shumlin (D) defeated Brain Dubie (R) and will be the next Governor of the state of Vermont. Shumlin is an avowed opponent of extending the license of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon past its expiration in 2012, citing the plant's leaks and other problems and its owners' poor record in dealing with state officials. Dubie was open to granting the plant an extension to operate and wanted decisions about the Vermont Yankee’s future made by "experts" at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Vermont Public Service Board.
In February, in a 26 to 4 vote, the Vermont Senate decided that the continued operation of the 38-year-old nuclear reactor was not in the best interest of Vermonters. Entergy, which owns the decrepit 38 year old reactor, has vowed to challenge the state and attempt to relicense the reactor.When Entergy bought the reactor, the corporation agreed that the State of Vermont would decide whether splitting atoms beyond the 40 year license was in the best interest of Vermonters.
Within hours of the election of Peter Shumlin as the next Governor of Vermont, Entergy put the aging Vermont Yankee nuclear plant up for sale. According to Entergy, dumping the aged reactor from their books would benefit their stockholders. But Entergy's announcement has everyone wondering, who in their right mind would buy this rust bucket of a reactor?
Just days after the announced sale, Vermont Yankee was forced into an emergency shutdown due to radioactive leaks, this time inside the nuclear plant. Entergy should behave like a responsible corporate citizen and begin preparations to permanently shut down Vermont Yankee as scheduled.
Source: Blogs at www.greenpeace.org/usa; 3 and 8 November 2010
First victory for Finnish campaign on nuclear investors.
Early November, Greenpeace started a campaign aimed at a group of investors in the E.ON/Fennovoima nuclear project. One of them, with a 3% share, is Finland's largest retail & service chain called S-Ryhmä ("S Group"). On November 25, two of their regional subsidiaries, including the Helsinki area one with most weight, have pulled out. This is a very quick result, quicker than expected. The pulling out is financially small but psychologically very important. There was a major feeling of apathy and inevitability and a lot of people thought there is no more fight to be fought. With at least a year to go to the investment decision, with the cost doubled from 4 to 8 billion euro and timetable pushed back by a couple of years, there is a good chance of splitting the investor coalition. This result will show the movement and the local groups that nothing is cemented and the investors can be swayed. The first, ongoing campaign push is aimed at Christmas sales so the timing could not be better to energize the movement.
Source: Lauri Myllyvirta – Greenpeace, 25 November 2010
Czech Republic: CEZ to pay its regulator?
The Czech Green Party has voiced its alarm at government proposals to change the law so that nuclear companies - principally the semi-state owned energy giant CEZ - would directly finance the budget of the state watchdog responsible for regulating their activities. The plans to amend the Atomic Act, which are still in the draft stage but could become government policy within months, envisage saving 500 million Czech Koruna (Kc) (US$27.9 million or 25.1 million euro) from public spending over the next decade by asking nuclear firms to finance the State Office of Nuclear Safety (SUJB). Under the proposal, for example, the cost of the three permits needed to open a nuclear reactor would be increased to a total of 250 million Kc, with an annual operating fee of 30 million Kc thereafter. The opening and operation of new uranium mining facilities would also face additional fees, as would the storage of spent nuclear fuel.
The Green Party (SZ) has strongly criticized the proposals, saying the nuclear company should not be allowed to directly fund its own regulation and arguing the state is already being governed by CEZ rather than the other way round. "If it is the case that direct funding of SUJB would be moved under CEZ, that is obviously alarming," SZ spokesman Tomáš Průša said to the ‘The Prague Post’. CEZ and other semi-state firms should be taxed like private companies, he said it was important to maintain a system of indirect funding under which "the state collects fees that then become part of state budget revenue." "An independent regulator can never be under the direct financial influence of the regulated." The Greens believe that CEZ, the country's largest energy firm, was already under-regulated even before this proposed change.
Source: The Prague Post, 14 November 2010
Germany: higher cancer rates near Asse radwaste dump.
Newly published figures from the Lower Saxony state cancer registry show that in the area around Asse, the site of the controversial nuclear waste dump Asse, some cancer rates are higher than normal. Between 2002 and 2009 there were 12 cases of leukemia in the greater Asse region. The area had twice the rate expected for men. While there was no significant increase in leukemia for women, their rate of thyroid cancer was three times as high as normal. The government has not yet determined if the increase is related to the proximity to the nuclear waste site. A working group of representatives from Lower Saxony’s environment, social, and health ministries as well as the federal agency for radiation protection is set to meet to take a closer look at the data. Asse was originally a salt mine. Between 1967 and 1978 around 126,000 drums of low- and intermediate level waste were stored in the facility. More recently it's been declared unstable because of a danger of collapse and water leaks and is due to be emptied out and shut down.
Source: Deutsche Welle, 24 November 2010
Kenya (Kenya?) seeks sites for nuclear power plant.
The government of Kenya has formed a committee to help identify sites for the construction of a nuclear power plant along its coast, and ensure that all terms and conditions of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) necessary for the approval of a nuclear power plant are met. "Prepare and endorse a detailed road map for the realisation of these terms and conditions indicating the milestones and time lines for approval by the IAEA," Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi said in the notice, outlining the mandate of the 13-member committee. Earlier this year, Kenya's National Economic and Social Council (NESC) recommended that east Africa's biggest economy embark on a program to start generating nuclear energy by 2020 to meet its growing demand for electricity. Kenya relies on hydropower to generate about 65 percent of its electricity but has began channelling investments towards geothermal plants and wind farms to diversify energy sources.
Kenya's main electricity producer, KenGen, is already hunting for a partner to produce nuclear power by 2022 to help match-up rising demand and diversify from hydropower. The power producer projects that Kenya as a whole could produce some 4,200 megawatts (MW) using nuclear by 2022.
Source: Reuters, 26 November 2010
Court greenlights lawsuit seeking to open Yucca.
A federal appeals court has ruled that a lawsuit seeking to relaunch plans for a Yucca Mountain nuclear dump can go forward. The lawsuits had been on hold while the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals waited for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to decide whether DOE had the authority to withdraw its license application for Yucca Mountain. In June, an NRC legal panel ruled that DOE must move forward with the license, but the NRC commissioners have not issued a required decision since then. The Department of Energy has until Jan. 3 to file a brief defending its authority to shut down the site. The states of Washington and South Carolina and the National Association of Utility Regulators filed the suit that insists only Congress can decide Yucca Mountain's fate. The plans were to bury at least 77,000 tons of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
Source: AP, 10 December 2010 / News Tribune 12th Dec 2010
Quote of the Day
It is like in a zombie movie, where you shoot off its arms and then its head and it still comes after you. USA: Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects head Bruce Breslow, describing other states' efforts to sustain a one-time federal plan to build a massive underground nuclear-waste storage facility at Yucca Mountain.
Source: Global Security Newswire 13 December 2010
RWE wins ‘Worst EU Lobbyists 2010’ Award!
RWE (npower), Goldman Sachs and derivatives lobby group ISDA have been given the dubious honour of being named the Worst EU Lobbyists of 2010. The results of the dual climate and finance categories of the Worst EU Lobbying Awards 2010 were revealed on November 2, during a ceremony outside the ISDA office in Brussels. Citizens across Europe participated in an online public vote for the most deserving of the climate and finance nominees.
In the climate category, German energy giant RWE’s subsidiary npower, nominated for claiming to be green while lobbying to keep its dirty coal- and oil-fired power plants open, won with 58% of the total vote. BusinessEurope, nominated for its aggressive lobbying to block effective climate action in the EU while claiming to support action to protect the climate, took second place with 24% of the total votes and Arcelor-Mittal, the steel Industry “fat cat”, came in third with 18% of the total votes. Nina Katzemich, speaking for the organisers of the 2010 Worst EU Lobbying Awards, said: "These awards show that people around Europe are fed up with deceptive lobbying practices used by big business when it comes to climate regulation. RWE claims to be green but has pulled out all the stops to keep its dirty power plants open, promoting their profits over public interests. If the European Commission is serious about tackling climate change, it must stop listening one-sidedly to corporations.
Another location for Indonesia’s first nuclear power reactor.
The Indonesian government hopes to relocate the planned site of the country’s first nuclear power plant to Bangka island in Bangka Belitung province from Muria, Jepara, Central Java due to strong opposition from the local people. Public resistance has long been the main constraint for the government to build nuclear power plants. The previous plan to build a nuclear power plant in Muria, Jepara, Central Java, faced strong opposition from the local people and non-governmental institutions. Most people, particularly those living near planned nuclear power plant sites, have deep suspicion and distrust concerning the issues of the plant's operational safety.
National Atomic Energy Agency’s spokesman, Ferhat Aziz, said that people's rejection most likely came from negative opinions disseminated by anti-nuclear groups that prompted people to remember the nuclear reactor accidents on Three Mile Island, the United States, in 1979 and in Chernobyl, Ukraine, in 1985 (uh, again?). To address the public's negative perception of nuclear technology, he continued, his agency had to assist people to understand the urgency and benefits of having such technology for future electricity supply in the country.
Source: Jakarta Post, 2 December 2010
Israel stops Mordechai Vanunu getting Carl von Ossietsky Prize in Berlin.
Israel has barred Mordechai Vanunu, who spent 18 years in jail for revealing secrets of the country's nuclear program, from going to Germany to accept a prize, organisers said on December 10. Accoding to a spokesman for the International League for Human Rights Vanunu was to be awarded the Carl von Ossietsky Prize in Berlin two days later, for his work promoting disarmament but has not received permission to leave Israel. The League decided to cancel the ceremony and held a protest rally on behalf of the 56-year-old former nuclear technician instead. The group had previously appealed to Israeli leaders to allow Vanunu to come to Berlin. The medal, which the League has bestowed annually since 1962, is named after a German pacifist who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1935 and died in a Nazi concentration camp in 1938. Vanunu served time for disclosing the inner workings of Israel's Dimona nuclear plant to Britain's Sunday Times newspaper in 1986. He was kidnapped and sentenced, released in 2004 but was banned from travel or contact with foreigners without prior permission.
Source: Middle East online, 10 December 2010
Research report "The Uncertain Future of Nuclear Energy".
In late October, the International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM) has released a new research report ‘The Uncertain Future of Nuclear Energy’. The report provides an overview of the status of nuclear power worldwide, with country studies for China, India, Japan, South Korea, the United States and Western Europe. It discusses why the International Atomic Energy Agency and the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency project nuclear power as approximately maintaining but not greatly increasing during the next two to four decades its 14% of global electric power generation in 2009. The reasons include the currently very limited capacity to build nuclear power plants, high capital costs in North America and Western Europe, the perception by the private sector that nuclear power plants are risky investments, and continuing public mistrust of the nuclear industry despite the passage of two and a half decades since the Chernobyl accident. Frank von Hippel is the editor and lead author of the report, which includes contributions by Matthew Bunn, Anatoli Diakov, Tadahiro Katsuta, Charles McCombie, M.V. Ramana, Ming Ding, Yu Suyuan, Tatsujiro Suzuki, and Susan Voss.
Source: The report can be found at: http://www.fissilematerials.org/blog/rr09.pdf