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In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#737
28/11/2011
Shorts

French revolution?
They have been talking about this for months, mostly behind closed doors; the French Parti Socialiste (social-democrats) and the French Greens have agreed upon a joint positionon the future of nuclear power. The Greens will support the PS candidate in return for his promise to cut France’s reliance on nuclear energy for its electricity from about 75 per cent to just half by 2025. If François Hollande, the socialist candidate wins over current President Sarkozy in the next spring’s presidential elections it will have profound implications for state-owned EDF, now making two-thirds of its operating profit domestically, mostly from its 58 atomic reactors.

EDF is in trouble anyway; the Fukushma disaster has lead to newly to-be implemented safety measures for the French nuclear fleet, with soaring costs as a to-be expected result. The shares have lost 35 per cent of their value in a year, even though profits were healthy and management won praise for cutting its net debt from 34.4 billion euro (US$46 bn) at the end of 2010 to 29.2 billion euro (US$ 39.2 bn) by June 30 of this year. EDF, the world’s leading supplier of nuclear power, has not officially responded to Mr Hollande’s plans for reasons of political propriety. But their lobby machinery was in full-swing, warning for instance that a cut to 50 per cent supply would create additional costs of 60 bn euro and that “1 million jobs are in peril” should the country abandon atomic power completely.

Of course there is always still a chance that Mr Sarkozy, a skilled campaigner, wins the elections or that Mr Hollande waters down his policy once confronted with the realities of office. The two opposition parties agreed to campaign for the shutdown of 24 nuclear reactors by 2025 and the immediate halt of the oldest plant at Fessenheim. The Greens favor a complete halt of France’s nuclear reactors, while the PS called for the lowering of France’s dependence on atomic power to 50 percent by 2025. Dispute between the parties is still ongoing over the question of the future of the reprocessing- and MOX fabrication plant in La Hague and the question whether the new EPR in Flamanville, currently under construction.

Anti-nuclear organizations criticized the accord as not going far enough. But considering the French history of massive support for nuclear power, also or even especially in for instance social-democratic and communist left-wing circles, the development can be seen as a serious breakthrough in the French political interrelations
Financial Times, 15 November 2011 / Bloomberg, 16 November 2011


Sellafield’s ‘Reassurance’ Monitoring.
Some road drains located on the main approach road to the village centre of Seascale (near Sellafield) have shown a significant rise in levels of Caesium-137 (Cs-137) and Americium 241 (Am-241) in 2010 compared to previous years. In 1988, following the cull of an estimated 2000 feral pigeons at Seascale that were found to be highly contaminated after roosting in Sellafield buildings overnight, radioactivity in the sediment of 18 Seascale road drains was assessed by Copeland Borough Council and the National Radiological Board. Since the cull and the wholescale removal of gardens and driveways to reduce contamination levels, subsequent annual reassurance monitoring of sediment in drains has been carried out by the Environment Agency and has  shown a decline and levelling off of radioactivity levels  – until last year.

For 2010, it is reported that in one drain on the Drigg Road, levels of Cs-137 have risen from 310 Becquerels per kilogram (Bq/kg) in 2009 to 1800 Bq/kg, and an increase in Am-241 from 31 Bq/kg to 130 Bq/kg. Elevated levels of Strontium 90 (Sr-90) and plutonium were also present in the drain sediment – with a second drain on the Drigg Road also showing raised concentrations of radioactivity.

An urgent explanation of this unprecedented hike in radioactive concentrations is required from Sellafield and the Environment Agency. Until then, there can be little public reassurance on the sudden appearance of these high levels being found in Seascale some 13 years after the effects of the Seascale pigeon saga were supposed to have been remediated. Put in context, the 2010 levels of Cs-137 in drain SS233 are some 500% higher than those reported for river estuary sediment around Ravenglass – an area known to be heavily contaminated by decades of Sellafield’s reprocessing discharges.
CORE Briefing, 20 November 2011


Japanese gov't reform body: cancel Monju and ITER.
A government body tasked with reforming public policy began a four-day review session Sunday, with ruling party lawmakers and private-sector experts proposing a sweeping review of long-running nuclear research programs in the wake of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant. The review process conducted by the Government Revitalization Unit of the Cabinet Office is aimed at identifying government policies for medium- and long-term reforms and will cover 10 areas including science, education and telecommunications.

In the first such screening sessions under Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, all seven members engaged in reviewing energy policy told an open-door screening session that a program to develop the Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor needs radical revision. They recommended the cancellation of 2.2 billion yen (US$ 28.6 million, 21 million euro) of Monju-related spending included in the fiscal 2012 national budget request. According to press reports in September, the science ministry effectively froze research related to Monju  by cutting 70 to 80 percent of its current 10 billion yen budget for the next fiscal year from April.

The reactor project, on which the country has so far spent about 900 billion yen (US$ 11.7 billion or 8.6 billion euro), has been hobbled by a series of problems. The reactor first achieved criticality in 1994 but was shut down because of sodium coolant leakage and a resulting fire in 1995. On May 6 2010, Monju was restarted, after being shut down for over 14 years, but on August 26, 2010 when a 3-ton relay device used during replacement of fuel was being removed, it dropped back into the reactor vessel. Since then the reactor is closed again.

The screening body also urged the government to either halt, delay or cut spending for an international project known as ITER to build an experimental fusion reactor in southern France by holding negotiations with participating countries. ITER is a joint project being conducted by China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United States.
Mainichi Daily News, 26 Septemebr 2011 and 20 November  2011 / CNIC file on Monju


Areva: jobcuts in Germany.
Things are not going well with Areva, as mentioned in the last Nuclear Monitor. According to German weekly Der Spiegel on November 20, Areva will cut 1,300 jobs in Germany and close down two of its sites. The firm will slash its workforce by around 20 percent at its main site in Erlangen in central Germany, as well as making cuts at other sites across the country. The extent of the job cuts would be nearly twice as high as the 800 redundancies cited in the French press. Extra jobcuts in Germany could well be seen as a kind of 'revenge' for it's decision to abandon nuclear power. The company is expected to announce the move on December 13 in Paris.
Der Spiegel, 20 November 2011


Vietnam to lend 9 bn from Russia to buy Russian reactor.
Russia agreed to lend Vietnam as much as US$9 billion (6.7 bn euro) to fund the construction of the nation’s first nuclear power plant. The lending period will be as long as 28 years, but the interest rate has not been disclosed. Vietnam said last year it plans to build as many as 13 nuclear power stations with a capacity totalling 16,000 megawatts over the next two decades. The announcement attracted interest from nuclear plant builders including Russia's Rosatom and China’s Guangdong Nuclear Power Group. Construction of the two 1,000 MW advanced light-water reactors (called Ninh Thuan 1) is said to start in 2014. It is very likely that Rosatom sings the contract for construction, if the project will develop, and in that case Vietnam is lending money from Russia to buy a Russian reactor.
Bloomberg, 22 November 2011


Axpo says no to uranium from Mayak. Swiss nuclear utility Axpo has instructed Areva, its fuel supplier, to exclude uranium processed at Russia's Mayak plant from its supply chain pending the completion of environmental investigations.
Axpo owns the Beznau nuclear power station as well as stakes in the Gösgen and Leibstadt plants. It has been carrying out investigations into the quality and safety credentials of the Mayak processing plant near Chelyabinsk and at the Siberian Chemical Combine (SCC) in Seversk following criticisms from environmental groups. In the process of its investigations, Axpo was given access to Seversk by the plant's operators and had been due to visit Mayak in June, but was denied access to the plant, which is in a military area, at the last minute.
The company now says it has been able to complete enough work to enable it to conclude that current production at both plants meets statutory requirements and does not pose an environmental threat. However, its failure to gain access to Mayak means that it has now instructed its fuel supplier Areva, to exclude uranium from Mayak from its supply chain until such time as the chain can be fully monitored. Instead, it will use fuel from the SCC plant in Seversk. Greenpeace Switzerland welcomed Axpo's move towards greater transparency but questioned its decision to continue to source uranium from Seversk.
World Nuclear News, 14 November 2011

Lawyers say nuclear subsidies may be unlawful

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#737
28/11/2011
Energy Fair
Article

Lawyers working with the campaigning group Energy Fair say that some existing and proposed new subsidies for nuclear power in the UK may be unlawful under EU laws designed to promote fair competition between businesses. A formal complaint about those subsidies is now being prepared for submission to the European Commission.

The law firm BBH is working with Energy Fair in preparing the formal complaint to the European Commission. The legal team is led by Dr Dörte Fouquet. She is a senior partner in the firm and is also Director of the European Renewable Energies Federation.

The planned action by Energy Fair, to make a formal complaint to the European Commission about subsidies for nuclear power, is endorsed by the following people and organizations: Tom Burke CBE, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Eurosolar, Jean Lambert MEP, Caroline Lucas MP, Nuclear Free Local Authorities, Michael Meacher MP, People Against Wylfa B (PAWB), Jonathon Porritt CBE, Dr Jeremy Leggett and Solarcentury, Sortir du Nucléaire, Keith Taylor MEP, and Urgewald.

“Our research is in line with what others have been saying” says Dr Gerry Wolff, Coordinator of the Energy Fair group. “MPs have already raised concerns about provisions in the recent Finance Act that will produce windfall profits for the nuclear industry. The Government itself says that the industry will benefit by £50 million per year, and calculations by WWF and Greenpeace show that the subsidy could be as much as £3.43 billion between 2013 and 2026”.

Forms of support for nuclear power
Research by the Energy Fair group has identified 9 existing or proposed subsidies for nuclear power and 2 potential subsidies. Withdrawal of any one of them, via legal or political action, is likely to make new nuclear power plants uncompetitive.

They are described in the reports “Nuclear Subsidies” and “Subsidies for nuclear power in the UK government’s proposals for electricity market reform” and they are summarised here:

Limitations on liabilities: The operators of nuclear plants pay much less than the full cost of insuring against a Chernobyl-style accident or worse.
Underwriting of commercial risks: The Government necessarily underwrites the commercial risks of nuclear power because, for political reasons, the operators of nuclear plants cannot be allowed to fail.
Subsidies in protection against terrorist attacks: Because protection against terrorist attacks can only ever be partial, the Government and the public are exposed to risk and corresponding costs.
Subsidies for the short-to-medium-term cost of disposing of nuclear waste: In UK government proposals, the Government is likely to bear much the risk of cost overruns in the disposal of nuclear waste.
Subsidies for the long-term cost of disposing of nuclear waste: With categories of nuclear waste that will remain dangerous for thousands of years, there will be costs arising from the dangers of the waste and the need to manage it. These costs will be borne by future generations, but they will receive no compensating benefit.
Underwriting the cost of decommissioning nuclear plants: In UK government proposals, the Government is likely to bear much the risk of cost overruns in decommissioning nuclear plants.
Institutional support for nuclear power: the UK government is providing various forms of institutional support for the nuclear industry.
Exemption from tax. Uranium is exempted from the tax on fuels used for the generation of electricity.
Feed-in tariffs with contracts for difference. Although it is a mature technology that should not need subsidies, nuclear power would be eligible for the same system of subsidies as is proposed for renewable sources of power.
Capacity mechanism. The UK government’s proposals for a ‘capacity mechanism’ as a backstop for the power supply system are not yet finalised. However, there is potential for the proposed mechanism to be used to provide unjustified support for nuclear power.
Emissions Performance Standard. Although nuclear power emits between 9 and 25 times more fossil carbon than wind power, it appears that the effect of the proposed new standard would, for the foreseeable future, be to lump them together as if they were equivalent in their carbon emissions.

The nuclear subsidies are described in the reports “Nuclear Subsidies” and “Subsidies for nuclear power in the UK government’s proposals for electricity market reform” available at:

www.mng.org.uk/nsubsidies and www.mng.org.uk/emrdoc

Source: Pressrelease Energy Fair, 7 November 2011
Contact: Dr Gerry Wolff PhD CEng, Coordinator, Energy Fair, 18 Penlon, Menai Bridge, Anglesey, LL59 5LR, UK.
Email: nuclearsubsidies[at]gmail.com
Web: www.energyfair.org.uk

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#736
11/11/2011
Shorts

Belgian phase-out: oldest 3 reactors to close in 2015.
Belgian's political parties have reached a conditional agreement to phase nuclear power by 2025, if they can find an adequate supply of energy from alternative sources by that time. Belgium currently has seven nuclear reactors at two sites, four at Doel in the north, and three at Tihange in the south. The three oldest reactors are set to be shut down by 2015, with the rest taken off the grid by 2025. The agreement confirms a decision taken in 2003, which was shelved during Belgium's political stalemate. The country has been without a federal government for 18 months, after coalition talks repeatedly failed following the elections in April 2010. Belgian's power stations are operated by Electrabel, which is part of French GDF-Suez. The company's share price fell nearly 5 percent on Monday.

Although Belgium had long planned its nuclear exit, public hostility to nuclear power has grown since Japan's nuclear disaster at Fukushima earlier this year.  Belgium will now negotiate with investors to see how it can find new capacity to replace the 5,860 MW that will be lost if the nuclear phase-out goes ahead.
Deutsche Welle, 31 October 2011


EDF delays construction start in UK.
In Nuclear Monitor 735 (October 21, 2011) we published an article called: 'UK nuclear program: companies reconsider investments', in which it was analyzed that even EDF must be having second thoughts about investing in new build in the UK, although (Electricite de France) is the only company that did not express doubts about investing in new nuclear in UK. E.On, RWE, Centrica and SSE (which cancelled investments) all have second thoughts and started internal review processes.

But on October 28, a few days after the publication, EDF decided to delay the construction of the four planned nuclear reactors in the UK, confirming a report from the French Les Echos newspaper. According to the EDF spokeswoman, EDF is taking time to evaluate the consequences of delays at a reactor under construction in Flamanville and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. EDF will release a new calendar for the project during the fall, she said. EDF was planning to start building the first of the planned nuclear rectors in 2013, the newspaper said.

(to be continued…)
Foxbusiness.com, 28 October 2011


Mexico: natural gas cheaper than nuclear.
Mexico, Latin America’s second-largest economy and one of three Latin American nations that uses nuclear power (the other two being Brazil and Argentina), is abandoning plans to build as many as 10 new reactors and will focus on natural gas-fired electricity plants after boosting discoveries of the fuel. Mexico considered a plan to build as many as 10 nuclear power plants by 2028, according to a CFE presentation. The state company was weighing four investment plans to increase long-term capacity, the most ambitious nuclear plan included building 10 nuclear plants, according to the May 12, 2010 presentation.

The country is “changing all its decisions, amid the very abundant existence of natural-gas deposits,” newly appointed Energy Minister Jordy Herrera said in a November 1 interview. Mexico will seek private investment of about US$10 billion during five years to expand its natural gas pipeline network, he said.

Mexico’s energy ministry plans to update the nation’s long- term strategic plan to reflect the increased importance of gas, Herrera said, with the report due in the first quarter of 2012.

“Until we find a model to make renewable energy more profitable, gas is more convenient,” Herrera said. “The country has very high potential to develop renewable energy,” Herrera added. “But the renewable energy world is hurt by the cheap gas prices. And the government has to consider how much it can spend to promote alternative energy sources.”
Bloomberg.com, 3 November 2011


New IPFM-report on managing spent fuel.
The International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM) releases new report: "Managing Spent Fuel from Nuclear Power Reactors: Experience and Lessons from Around the World". The report provides an overview of the policy and technical challenges faced by efforts at long-term storage and disposal of spent fuel from nuclear power reactors over the past five decades. It analyzes the efforts to manage and dispose of spent fuel by ten countries that account for more than 80 percent of the world's nuclear power capacity: Canada, Finland, France, Germany, South Korea, Japan, Russia, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The new report also provides an overview of the technical issues relating to interim storage and transport of spent fuel, geological repositories, and the challenge of the associated international safeguards. The spent fuel from nuclear power reactors, and the high-level wastes produced in the few countries where spent fuel is reprocessed to separate plutonium, must be stored in a manner that will minimize releases of the contained radioactivity into the environment for up to a million years. Safeguards will be required to ensure that any contained plutonium is not diverted to nuclear-weapon use.
A PDF version of the report is available at www.fissilematerials.org/ipfm/site_down/rr10.pdf


2011 edition of Nukespeak published.
On October 4, 2011, Sierra Club Books published the 30th anniversary edition of Nukespeak: The Selling of Nuclear Technology from the Manhattan Project to Fukushima exclusively in e-book format. First published in 1982 in the wake of the first great nuclear plant accident at Three Mile Island, the original edition, written by Stephen Hilgartner, Richard C. Bell, and Rory O’Connor, examined the turbulent history of the nuclear industry, documenting the extraordinary public relations campaign that developers undertook to sell nuclear technology.

Nukespeak is the language of the nuclear mindset — the worldview or system of beliefs of nuclear developers and enthusiasts. The word “Nukespeak” is a  tribute to George Orwell, who in his novel 1984, used the term “Newspeak” as the name of the language of Big Brother and the totalitarian state. Unlike a living language, the state was constantly removing words from common usage, with the ultimate goal to make it (literally) impossible for a citizen to think a seditious thought.

The new 2011 edition, updated by original authors Richard C. Bell and Rory O’Connor, brings the book fully up-to-date, exploring the critical events of the last three decades—including the disaster at Chernobyl, the campaign to re-brand nuclear energy as a “clean, green” solution to global warming, and the still unfolding disaster at Japan’s Fukushima power plant. In addition, the authors argue persuasively that a language of euphemism and distraction continues to dominate public debate about nuclear weapons and nuclear power around the world.
The book can be purchased online at: Amazon, iTunes and Barnes & Noble


Radioactive and toxic mine dumps threaten Johannesburg. The 380 mine dumps and slimes dams in the the South African province Gauteng are causing radioactive dust fallout, toxic water pollution and soil contamination, according to the final draft of a new report by the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD) on mine residue areas (MRAs). The report was completed in July but is yet to be released. The report warns that if the province doesn’t act, it's capital “Johannesburg will eventually be seen as an old mining town that has reached the end of its working life”, with banks refusing to finance any homes or development near the dumps. Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa by population and the world's largest city not situated on a river, lake, or coastline.

The report found that most MRAs – including mine dumps, waste rocks dumps and water storage facilities – in Gauteng are radioactive “because the Witwatersrand gold-bearing ores contain almost 10 times the amount of uranium in gold. “These radioactive tailings co-exist in these MRAs alongside the iron sulphide mineral pyrite, which reacts in the presence of oxygen and water to form a sulphuric acid solution – the main cause of acid mine drainage,” says the report, Feasibility Study on Reclamation of Mine Residue Areas for Development Purposes: Phase II Strategy and Implementation Plan. But it says that the broader issue of “diffuse sources” of pollution represented by the mine dumps and slimes dams and their possible interactions with rainfall, seepage, surface water runoff and shallow groundwater “is possibly more important than the impact of acid mine drainage in Gauteng.

In February, the Saturday Star revealed how the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) had recommended the relocation of residents of Tudor Shaft informal settlement, on an old radioactive mine dump, in Krugersdorp. The report suggests that this NNR ruling is “likely to become a watershed ruling likely to be relevant for a number of other sites” and that high-risk informal settlements will need to be relocated to minimise human health risks.
Saturday Star (South Africa), 5 November 2011

UK nuclear program: companies reconsider investments

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#735
6180
21/10/2011
Steve Thomas, Professor of Energy Policy, University of Greenwich
Article

When, six years ago, Tony Blair announced that nuclear power was ‘back with a vengeance’, the endorsement it gave the so-called ‘Nuclear Renaissance’ was powerful. In part, this was because UK still had prestige in this area as one of the pioneers of nuclear and one that seemed to have turned away from new nuclear. In addition, the British government’s confidence in the new nuclear designs that were meant to fire the Renaissance was so strong, it promised that no public subsidies would be needed or offered to new nuclear orders.

Six years on, when construction on the first units should be starting, it is clear that orders are still at least two years away from being placed. The government has abandoned the promise of no subsidies, the credibility of the new technologies is weak and the potential suppliers and buyers of new nuclear orders are abandoning the British market.

The government planned to expedite the process of ordering by requiring the safety regulator to carry out a Generic Design Assessment (GDA) for several of the new designs. This would mean buyers could choose between several designs, all of which were ready to order with only site-specific design issues to resolve. The GDA would be completed in 2011. It was promised that more than one electricity company would build new nuclear so that there would not be an effective monopoly.

The promise of no subsidies was assumed to mean that new reactors would survive purely from the income from selling their power into the competitive electricity market. Many doubted this claim. Indeed, the Liberal Democrat, Chris Huhne, now Energy Minister and an enthusiastic supporter of the nuclear program wrote in 2006: ‘The reality is that nuclear is a tried, tested and failed technology. Investors have taken a shrewd view of the risk, and have decided not to build. The operating and running costs of nuclear power are far from attractive and these costs do not include the unknown future costs of decommissioning reactors and storing waste that remains radioactive for thousands of years.’ Under Huhne, the cracks in the ‘no subsidies’ policy that were apparent under the previous government are now clear. The promise of no subsidies has become no subsidies that are not also offered to other forms of low carbon electricity. Britain has experience of such subsidies. From 1990-96, the Fossil Fuel Levy raised about BP 6 billion (in 1996 BP and US$ had about the same exchange rates as currently, so US$ 9.5bn; the euro did not exist, but 1 BP was about 2.3 German Marks)  from consumers for non fossil fuel generation. More than 95 per cent of the proceeds went to nuclear and, to add insult to injury, much of this was spent building a new reactor, Sizewell B, which a year after its completion was effectively given away.

New nuclear reactors will now be offered a long term contract, perhaps 20 years, at prices that will have no link to any market prices and the government has put a floor on the European Carbon market price of €36/ton, far above any level the market has produced so that nuclear is guaranteed extra income above the contract price. Even this may not guarantee that the income to nuclear power plant owners will cover their expenses sufficiently for banks to be willing to offer the necessary finance.

On the technology side, four vendors entered their designs into the GDA, but two of these, a Canadian design, ACR, and the GE-Hitachi ESBWR, exited within a year. This left the French European Pressurised water Reactor (EPR) supplied by Areva and the Westinghouse AP1000. By mid-2010, the regulator had acknowledged that it would not be able to give generic design approval in July 2011 as originally planned. Interim acceptance would be given with a list of issues still to be resolved. The Fukushima disaster caused a further delay and interim approval is not now expected until December 2011.

Westinghouse, which has no customers for the AP1000 in UK (or the rest of Europe) has stopped work on resolving these issues and will not resume work unless a firm customer appears. The regulator, the Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has targeted the end of 2012 for resolution of the remaining items on the EPR but this seems highly optimistic. The ONR finds itself in the uncomfortable position of being the first regulator to complete a generic review of the EPR. The US regulator is probably a year behind the UK regulator, while the three countries already building EPRs, Finland, France and China, have all chosen to resolve detailed design issues as they go. This seems to be one of the factors behind the appalling delays and cost overruns at the Finnish and French sites. Both are now running at least four years late and expected construction costs are nearly double the original forecasts.

In addition, the Finnish, French and Chinese designs all have significant differences because regulatory issues raised during construction have come too late for the agreed solution to be incorporated in part-built plants. So the UK design will differ from the three designs already under construction. As a result of the problems in Finland and France, the French nuclear industry led by the utility, EDF and the vendor, Areva embarked this summer on a program of design rationalization to reduce costs and improve buildability. The results of this exercise are expected to come too late to be embodied in any UK orders and if they are extensive enough to make a significant dent in costs, they are also likely to require regulators in UK and USA to re-open their generic reviews.

On the utility side, the expectation that subsidies would be offered led to a large number of European utilities expressing an interest so that if the subsidies offered were large enough, they would be at the front of the queue to receive them. The four European utilities with a strong presence in the UK (EDF, RWE, EON and Iberdrola) and the two UK owned companies (Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) and Centrica) plus GDF Suez and Vattenfall all took positions. EDF (80 per cent) and Centrica (20 per cent) teamed up to buy the existing owner of some of the nuclear power plants in the UK, British Energy, giving them access to their existing sites. The German companies, EON and RWE, formed a consortium, Horizon, which bought options on land at existing nuclear sites, while SSE, GDF Suez and Iberdrola did likewise to form the NuGen consortium. However, by summer 2011, the consortia were cracking. RWE appointed consultants to look at selling all its UK assets in June and in October, it acknowledged that it was carrying out an internal review of whether to continue in the Horizon consortium. Given the firm policy to phase out nuclear in Germany by around 2020, it would be surprising if EON was not having similar thoughts. In September, SSE confirmed its withdrawal from the NuGen consortium.This leaves only EDF (Centrica has also been reported to have doubts) but given the shattered reputation of the EPR and ongoing attempts to redesign it, even EDF must be having second thoughts about building in the UK.

It would be nice to think that the government would belatedly see its policy was doomed and abandon it in favour of the German policy of energy efficiency and renewable but all the signs are that it will keep making concessions to shift the investment risk for nuclear away from plant owners on to consumers. The latest ‘rabbit from the hat’ was a claim by one of Huhne’s junior ministers, Charles Hendry that sovereign wealth funds from the Middle East and other oil-rich areas are "queuing up" to invest in UK nuclear power.


KPMG: carbon floor price not enough, more needed. Due to the huge costs and risks associated with nuclear construction plants will only be built with public support in the form of long-term power purchase agreements, according to David Simpson, global head of mergers and acquisitions at finance firm KPMG. But such contracts – Simpson expects the UK government to offer 35-year deals – could be illegal state aid under European Union competition rules. There has been no formal ruling. He said that, even if the law did not exclude those contracts, utilities’ shareholders would have to pay for their first nuclear plants, as investors would see the risks as too high to provide debt.

Yet Simpson said that if the consortia bidding to build plants in the UK used shareholder cash (assuming a €4,000/kW cost for 1,600MW plants), the net debt of all consortia member firms but one would exceed their market capitalisations. Utilities would also receive no income for years, until plants begin operating. It is also unclear whether utilities would have enough equity to begin follow-on plants – at a rate that would satisfy governments – well before initial projects were completed and generating income.

KPMG last year concluded that "Britain's new generation of nuclear power stations will not be built if the Government refuses them any more support." The study, commissioned by RWE npower, said it is still uneconomic for utility companies to invest billions of pounds in nuclear power and a carbon "floor price" is not enough for the big utilities to commit large capital investments. (WISE Amsterdam).
The Telegraph (UK), 17 July 2010 / PE, Professional Engineering, 3 October 2011


Source and contact: Steve Thomas, Professor of Energy Policy and Director of Research Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU), Business School, University of Greenwich, 30 Park Row London SE10 9LS, UK
Tel: +44 208 331 9056
Email: Stephen.Thomas[at]greenwich.ac.uk

Surface contamination HLW casks

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#735
6183
21/10/2011
WISE Amsterdam
Article

Concerns are being raised in Japan about the raised radiation levels – above legal limits - discovered on the surface of some of the canisters of vitrified High Level Waste (HLW) shipped recently from Sellafield, UK. In May 1998 a contamination affaire resulted in a ban on reprocessing transports in large parts of Europe.

In August, some 40 tons of HLW, contained in 76 canisters were shipped from Barrow docks onboard the Pacific Grebe, the newest ship in the nuclear fleet operated by Pacific Nuclear Transport Ltd (PNTL). Routed via the Panama Canal, the Pacific Grebe completed its maiden commercial voyage at the Mutsu-Ogawara port in Japan’s Aomori prefecture on September 15. As reported in Japan’s Mainichi newspaper mid-October, the Kyushu Electric utility that owns the HLW has confirmed that, from a batch of 28 canisters being safety tested during transfer to the storage facility at Rokkasho-Mura, 3 had been found to have surface levels of beta and gamma radiation that breached acceptance levels of 4 Bequerels (Bq) per square centimeter – in one case almost 50 times over the limit. Kyushu Electric, also confirmed that surface radiation levels were within the limits before leaving the UK. Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd (JNFL) which operates the Rokkasho storage facility is carrying out an investigation into the breaches of acceptance levels.

Under the contracts covering Sellafield’s reprocessing of Japanese spent fuel, around 1000 canisters of HLW are destined to be returned to Japan over the next ten years. The latest shipment of 76 HLW canisters was only the second to have been made from Sellafield to Japan. The first, undertaken in January 2010, was itself mired in controversy when, on arrival in Japan, it was discovered that the HLW within the transport flask did not fully tally with the official paperwork – a number of canisters being ‘out of position’ within the holding channels of the transport flask.

Could these high surface contamination levels be the start of an affaire similar to the one that started in May 1998. Then, on May 6,1998, following the discovery of illegal levels of radioactive contamination on the external surfaces of a number of flasks and railway wagons, the French railway company SNCF banned any further movements of flasks from Germany and Swiss nuclear power stations to the reprocessing plant at La Hague. In the following days excessive levels of Caesium 137 and Cobalt 60 was measured on the surface of other casks and the Swiss,  German, Belgian and Dutch governments banned transports to Sellafield and La Hague too. The German environmental Minister (Angela Merkel by the way!) confirmed levels of radioactivity 3000 times greater than the levels allowed (4 Bq/cm2). The French regulatory authority discovered that a quarter of the flasks and 35% of the rail wagons that arrived at Valognes rail terminal in 1997 were contaminated beyond the safety limit. These numbers were known by the nuclear industry but not reported to the authorities. Official explanation is that the contamination was caused because the flasks 'sweat' in transit. While they are loaded at the reprocessing plant, the paint and metal on their outsides absorb radioactivity that is difficult to remove.

The transport ban was lifted in most countries late December the same year.

Sources: CORE Press release, 16 October 2011 / CORE Briefing, 21 May 1998 / New Scientist, 13 June 1998 / Volkskrant (Nl), 9 December 1998
Contact: Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment (CORE). Dry Hall, Broughton Mills, Broughton-In-Furness, Cumbria LA20 6AZ, UK
Tel: +44 1229 716523
Email: info[at]corecumbria.co.uk
Web: www.corecumbria.co.uk

About: 
WISE

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#734
07/10/2011
Shorts

Oppose Nigeria's nuclear plans.
On September 15, President Goodluck Jonathan formally inaugurated Nigeria's Atomic Energy Commission and urged its members headed by Erepamo Osaisai to quickly evolve implementable plans and timelines for the delivery of atomic energy for peaceful purposes in the country. We recall that the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission was established in 1976 to investigate the development of nuclear energy but little progress was made. It was reactivated in 2006 and President Jonathan appointed a new team this year.

Nigeria has the world's seventh-largest natural gas reserves, yet the nation is blighted by persistent electricity outages which force businesses and individuals who can afford them to rely on generators. Much of this vast gas reserves sit untouched under the ground or are flared into the sky. Despite being Africa's biggest crude oil exporter, decades of corruption and mismanagement mean Nigeria has never built the infrastructure to farm its huge oil and gas resources for much-needed domestic use.

Deficits in our existing institutions remain a defining albatross on the path to meaningful development. Cut to the bone, this scenario suggests that Nigeria currently lacks the indigenous capacity, supporting infrastructure, discipline and security wherewithal to build and manage an atomic power plant. It simply is another way of courting disaster - one we cannot manage.

Let us explore and exploit other safer, rational options. These include solar, gas, hydro, wind and coal options. Nigeria has these resources in stupendous quantities. A presidential directive requesting timelines for the generation of electricity through these options is far better than the timelines he recently demanded from the newly-inaugurated Atomic Energy Commission. Our scientist-president should think again.
Editorial Leadership newspaper (Nigeria), AllAfrica.com, 3 October, 2011


Belene construction agreement extended.
Russia's AtomStroyExport (ASE) and Bulgaria's National Electricity Company (NEK) have signed a supplement to their agreement on the construction of the Belene nuclear power plant, extending it until the end of March 2012. Under an earlier extension, the agreement - originally signed in 2006 - was extended until 30 September. According to ASE, the extension 'confirms the parties' interest in the continuation of the project.' NEK said that during the next six months, the two companies will continue their activities related to completing a market study, clarifying the financial model and studying the project finance proposal submitted by financial advisor HSBC. It added that the extra time will allow Bulgaria to conduct an analysis of the results and recommendations of stress tests being performed at nuclear power plants across the European Union. ASE said that work on the foundation pit for the first reactor at Belene has now been completed. It said that a concrete plant at the site has already been put into operation and that water treatment plants have been built.
World Nuclear News, 03 October 2011


UAE: Construction first unit will start mid-2012.
According to the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec), a government establishment created last year to oversee the ambitious nuclear construction project, said it would launch construction work for the infrastructure of four planned nuclear power plants in Barrakah in the western region in mid 2012 to pave the way for their operation in 2017. The UAE will award a contract in early 2012 for the supply of nuclear fuel to run its four nuclear reactors which the country is planning to construct as part of an ambitious nuclear power program.

Under the agreement to built 4 nuclear reactors, inked on December 27, the state-owned Korea Electric Power Corp (Kepco) and is partners in the consortium will design, build and run the reactors that will produce 5,600 MW of electricity. The contract to build the reactors is worth about US$20 billion (15bn euro).

The UAE has said the project is intended to diversify its energy supply sources and meet its rapid growing electricity demand, which is projected to surge to around 40,000 MW in 2020 from nearly 15,000 MW in 2009. The nuclear project will provide nearly 25 per cent of the UAE’s total energy needs of nearly 40,000 MW in 2020. Around seven per cent will be generated through renewable energy and the rest through conventional means.
Emirates 24/7, 25 September 2011


Pyhäjoki location for Finland's sixth reactor.
Fennovoima has chosen Pyhäjoki as the site for its nuclear power plant. Pyhäjoki municipality is located in North Ostrobothnia and the nuclear power plant will be constructed on Hanhikivi peninsula on the coast of Bothnian Bay. For the basis of the site selection, assessments were carried out during some four years. In the beginning of Fennovoima project in summer 2007, the company had almost 40 alternative sites. The number of alternatives was decreased gradually based on assessments and in December 2009 Fennovoima ended up having two alternatives, both located in Northern Finland: Pyhäjoki and Simo municipalities. In the final site decision, safety, technical feasibility, environmental matters, construction costs and schedule were the main factors examined as well as the ability of the site region to support a project that will bring thousands of people to work and use services there.

Fennovoima continues now the planning work together with the municipality, authorities and the plant suppliers and prepares applying for various licences and permits. For example, more detailed bedrock, environmental and water studies will be carried out on the Hanhikivi peninsula. Simultaneously, other preparations for the future phases of the project are carried out together with Pyhäjoki and Raahe region. First preparatory works on Hanhikivi will be started in the end of 2012 at earliest. The construction schedule will be elaborated after the plant supplier has been selected. Fennovoima sent bid invitations for Areva and Toshiba in July 2011 and the plant supplier will be chosen in 2012-2013.

Fennovoima has two owners: Voimaosakeyhtiö SF and E.ON Kärnkraft Finland. Voimaosakeyhtiö SF owns 66 percent of Fennovoima and nuclear expert E.ON Kärnkraft Finland 34 percent. Altogether Fennovoima has 70 shareholders. Voimaosakeyhtiö SF is owned by 69 finnish regional and local energy companies as well as companies in trade and industry.

Finland has 4 reactors in operation (two at Lovisa and two at Olkiluoto). The fifth (Olkiluoto-3) in under construction; over budget and over time.
Press release Fennovoima, 5 October 2011 / IAEA Reactor database.


Health effects radiation suppressed by tobacco companies.
Tobacco companies knew that cigarette smoke contained radioactive alpha particles for more than four decades and developed "deep and intimate" knowledge of these particles' cancer-causing potential; however, they deliberately kept their findings from the public. The study, published online in Nicotine & Tobacco Research, the peer-reviewed journal of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco, adds to a growing body of research detailing the industry's knowledge of cigarette smoke radioactivity and its efforts to suppress that information. The UCLA researchers analysed  dozens of previously unexamined internal tobacco industry documents, made available in 1998 as the result of a legal settlement.

“The documents show that the industry was well aware of the presence of a radioactive substance in tobacco as early as 1959; furthermore, the industry was not only cognizant of the potential 'cancerous growth' in the lungs of regular smokers but also did quantitative radiobiological calculations to estimate the long-term lung radiation absorption dose of ionizing alpha particles emitted from cigarette smoke." The study’s first author, Hrayr S. Karagueuzian, a professor of cardiology who conducts research at UCLA's Cardiovascular Research Laboratory, said: ‘We show here that the industry used misleading statements to obfuscate the hazard of ionizing alpha particles to the lungs of smokers and, more importantly, banned any and all publication on tobacco smoke radioactivity.” 

The radioactive substance, which the UCLA study shows was first brought to the attention of the tobacco industry in 1959, was identified in 1964 as the isotope polonium-210, which emits carcinogenic alpha radiation. Polonium-210 can be found in all commercially available domestic and foreign cigarette brands, Karagueuzian said, and is absorbed by tobacco leaves through naturally occurring radon gas in the atmosphere and through high-phosphate chemical fertilizers used by tobacco growers. The substance is eventually inhaled by smokers into the lungs.
LA Examiner, 28 September 2011


Dounreay: Belgium waste to be returned.
Dounreay has announced the return of reprocessing wastes from the BR2 research reactor in Belgium. The BR2 reactor in Mol was a good customer for Dounreay over the years, receiving new enriched uranium fuel from the reprocessed spent fuel. It planned to send considerably more spent fuel to Dounreay but the reprocessing plant was closed by a leak and never reopened. Wastes have already been returned to France and Spain. One Dounreay reprocessing customer has requested the substitution of vitrified high-level wastes for the intermediate level wastes at Dounreay (a consultation on this was held in 2010). However, Belgium wants to take back the intermediate level waste, as required by the original contract with Dounreay. Dounreay also had contracts with Australia, Germany and for Italian-owned fuel from Denmark.

There are 153 tons of BR2 reprocessing wastes cemented into 500-liter drums and this will involve an estimated 21 shipments over four years, starting this autumn. The shipments will be from Scrabster and will probably involve the former roll-on/roll-off ferry, the Atlantic Osprey.
N-Base Briefing 689, October 2011


IAEA Inspector exposed to radiation.
On October 5, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that one of its nuclear inspectors had been exposed to radiation during a 4 October inspection of the Belgoprocess nuclear waste facility in Dessel, Belgium. The inspector, along with an inspector from Euratom and a Belgoprocess employee, apparently received a dose of radiation after a vial or flask of plutonium accidentally fell on the floor, according to releases from the company and the Belgian Federal Nuclear Control Agency (AFCN). Plutonium is dangerous if ingested, but the amount received by the inspectors was less than the legal limit, the AFCN says. No radiation has been released beyond the site.
Nature.com, 5 October 2011


Atucha II, Argentina's third nuclear power plant.
President Cristina Kirchner inaugurated Atucha II, Argentina's third nuclear power plant on September 28. The German-designed reactor is expected to be fully operational in six to eight months after engineers run a series of tests. Construction of the plant began in July 1981, but work soon stopped and did not resume until 2006, when then-president Nestor Kirchner (2003-2007), the current leader's late husband, ordered the plant to be completed.

Argentina's other nuclear plants are Atucha I (335 megawatts) and the Embalse plant (600 megawatts). Once Atucha II is online 10 percent of Argentina's electricity will be produced by nuclear power. Plans are on the drawing board for Atucha III plant as well as an overhaul of the Embalse plant to add 30 years to its operational life, said Planning Minister Julio de Vido. Embalse was connected to the grid in 1983. Atucha II is located on the banks of the Parana river in the town of Zarate, some 100 kilometers north of the capital Buenos Aires. It was built at a cost of more than 2.4 billion dollars.
AFP, 29 September 2011


Another USEC deadline for DOE loan guarantee.
On September 30, USEC, announced morning it will reduce its spending on the American Centrifuge Project (ACP) in Piketon by 30 percent over the next month. It will also send out notices to its 450 employees Ohio, Tennessee and Maryland that layoffs are possible if the company doesn’t receive a loan guarantee before October 31. USEC has invested approximately US$2 billion in the ACP but needs significant additional financing to complete the plant. In 2008, USEC applied for a US$2 billion loan guarantee from Department of Energy for construction of the ACP. USEC significantly demobilized construction and machine manufacturing activities in 2009 due to delays in obtaining financing through DOE’s Loan Guarantee Program. Since then, many 'final' deadlines were set by USEC (three in the past half year: June 30, Sept. 30 and now Oct, 31) to obtain the loan guarantee.

In a call with investors, USEC President and CEO John Welch said the company must see a loan guarantee during the next month or risk the end of the project. USEC expects October “to be a month of intense interaction with the DOE,” in hopes of securing the loan guarantee.

The company had faced a September 30 deadline with two investors — Toshiba America Nuclear Energy Corporation and Babcock & Wilcox Investment Company — to receive a US$2 billion loan guarantee. They agreed September 30 to extend that deadline to October 31. If USEC receives the loan guarantee, the companies have promised US$50 million to support the project.

In a statement, DOE Spokesman Damien LaVera said, “The Department of Energy has been working closely with USEC as the company has continued to test and validate its innovative technology, obtain private financing and meet other benchmarks that would be required for a successful loan guarantee application. We are strongly committed to developing effective, domestic nuclear enrichment capabilities and are looking at all options on a path forward.”

The ACP will utilize USEC’s AC100 centrifuge machine, which has been developed, engineered and assembled in the US. The AC100 design is a disciplined evolution of classified U.S. centrifuge technology originally developed by DOE. DOE invested already US$3 billion over 10 years to develop the centrifuge technology.
Dayton Daily News, 1 October 2011 /  ACP website: www.americancentrifuge.com


Taiwan: nuclear accident compensation increased.
On September 30, the Taiwanese Cabinet approved an amendment to the Nuclear Damage Compensation Act that imposes heavier compensation liability on nuclear power operators in the event of natural disasters such as an earthquake or a typhoon. Under the amendment, the maximum amount of compensation for losses caused by a nuclear accident was increased from NT$4.2 billion (US$138 million or 103 million euro) to NT$15 billion (US$5 mln or 3.7 mln euro) and the allowed period for compensation claims was extended from 10 to 30 years.

The amendment came after the Atomic Energy Council reviewed the act, which had not been amended since it was first enacted in 1997, in the wake of the nuclear accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin said the amendment fell short of her expectations as she had suggested further lifting the ceiling on compensation liability.
Tapei Times, 30 September 2011


36 year old construction permit extended. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has extended the construction permit for the unfinished Bellefonte unit 1 in Alabama.
The construction permit was originally granted in 1974. It was suspended in 1988, when Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) decided to halt work on the project, but the NRC agreed in 2009 to reinstate the permit. With the reinstated permit due to expire on 1 October 2011, TVA lodged an application for an extension in October 2010. The NRC has now agreed to that extension, meaning that the construction permit will remain valid until 1 October 2020. (see more in Nuclear Monitor 732, 9 September 2011)
World Nuclear News, 03 October 2011


Swiss parliament, no new reactors.
On September 28, the Council of States has followed the government’s lead by voting not to replace the country’s five nuclear power stations  and boost renewable energy resources. Switzerland currently has five nuclear power plants that will gradually come off the power grid at the end of their 50 year (!) lifespan: the first one in 2019 and the last one in 2034. The Senate followed the House of Representatives in calling on the government to ban new nuclear plants but keep parliament "informed about innovations in the field."

The clear result of the September 28 vote - with a three to one majority - came after a parliamentary committee prepared a compromise formula, promoted by the centre-right Christian Democratic Party, which will give parliament another chance to have a say at a later stage. “Even if we were to ban nuclear power plants now our successors in parliament could still one day decide on building on new reactors,” a Christian Democratic Senator, Filippo Lombardi from Ticino, said on behalf of the committee. Discussions on nuclear power are due to continue in the new parliament which is due to convene for the first time in December following general elections next month.

The Social Democrats, the Greens as well as the Christian Democratic Party hailed the Senate decision as an important step towards a new energy policy amid calls for further measures to switch to more renewable energy sources.

The government called for a withdrawal from nuclear energy in May – a proposal backed by the House of Representatives a month later.
Swissinfo.ch 28 September 2011


Hinkley Blockaded: No New Nuclear Power!
More than 300 people (even up to 400, according to a BBC-report), successfully sealed off the main entrance to Hinkley Point nuclear power station in Somerset for nine hours on 3 October in opposition to EDF Energy's plans to build two new mega-reactors on the site. EDF said of 500 employees at the plant, only essential staff had been called in and had arrived by bus at dawn.

Blockaders were joined by a theatrical troupe who enacted a nuclear disaster scenario, while Seize the Day provided a musical backdrop to the event. 206 helium balloons were released to represent the number of days since the Fukushima meltdown. The balloons will be tracked, to show which areas of the West Country would be worst affected by a nuclear disaster at Hinkley.
Indymedia.uk; www.stopnewnuclear.org.uk; BBC, 3 October 2011

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#733
23/09/2011
Shorts

Dounreay area never cleaned up completely.
Radioactive contamination that leaked for more than two decades from the Dounreay nuclear plant on the north coast of Scotland will never be completely cleaned up, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) (a Scottish government agency) has admitted. At a September 20, board meeting the Scottish government's environmental watchdog opted to encourage remediation "as far as is practically achievable" but to abandon any hope of removing all the radioactive pollution from the seabed and to give up on its aim of returning the seabed near the plant to a "pristine condition" (a recommendation it made in 1998).

Tens of thousands of radioactive fuel fragments (socalled 'particles') escaped from the Dounreay plant between 1963 and 1984, polluting local beaches, the coastline and the seabed. Fishing has been banned within a two-kilometer radius of the plant since 1997.

The most radioactive of the particles are regarded by experts as potentially lethal if ingested. Similar in size to grains of sand, they contain caesium-137, which has a half-life of 30 years, but they can also incorporate traces of plutonium-239, which has a half-life of over 24,000 years. The particles are milled shards from the reprocessing of irradiated uranium and plutonium fuel from two long-defunct reactors. They are thought to have drained into the sea with discharges from cooling ponds.

In 2007, Dounreay, which is now being decommissioned, pleaded guilty at Wick sheriff court to a "failure to prevent fragments of irradiated nuclear fuel being discharged into the environment". The plant's operator at the time, the UK Atomic Energy Authority, was fined £140,000 (US$220,000 or 160,000 euro).
The Guardian, 21 September 2011


Urenco: "No impact from Fukushima"; shareholders want to sell.
Urenco, the uranium enrichment company has dismissed concerns about the impact on its business from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The chief financial officer of Urenco said that less than 10 per cent of its forecast orders for the next two years were with Japan, and that the group "had not detected any sign that customers in other countries, other than Germany, would scale back their nuclear plans." The CFO declined to give precise figures or comment on the UK Government's planned sale of its stake. The British government has been looking into a sale of their stake since 2009. It is thought that the UK Treasury, which hopes to raise BP1 billion (US$ 1.57 bn or 1.15 bn euro) from the sale, will appoint an investment bank in September to handle the disposal.

The remainder of Urenco is split between the Dutch Government and E.ON and RWE, two German utility companies. German energy giant RWE has appointed advisers for a 'strategic review' selling its Urenco part. RWE is increasing its sell- off program from 8bn (7bn) to 11bn in the next three years. The company, which has about 27.5bn of net debt, was put under further pressure by the German government's decision to phase out nuclear energy. RWE is also in final negotiations with Gazprom over a potential split of its assets and operations, including Npower in the UK. The deadline for any agreement with Gazprom runs out on October 15. The UK energy company could be split up and sold to other buyers, such as Centrica, if no deal is agreed with Gazprom. E.ON, too, is planning to sell its stake in Urenco, German daily Handelsblatt reported on Sept. 7, citing unnamed sources.

Divestment by any party would require the approval of Urenco's other owners, and the newspaper indicated the Dutch government may try to stop the potential sales. In the past (1999-2000) the Netherlands had plans to sell (part of) its stake in Urenco but decided not to. Areva wanted to buy parts of the Dutch and RWE shares, but later it was decided to sign an agreement to cooperate in Enrichment Technology Company (ETC; 50 % Areva, 50 % Urenco).
The Times (UK) 27 August 2011 /  www.kernenergieinnederland.nl / WISE Uranium / Reuters, 7 September 2011)


Areva suspend U-production due to Fukushima.
French nuclear company Areva is suspending uranium production at two plants because of low demand from Japanese power stations in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, a spokeswoman of the company said September 15. Production at subsidiary Comhurex's Malvesi and Tricastin sites will be suspended for two months. "This decision is based on the events in Japan, which today has led to a drop in deliveries to Japanese power producers and short term downward pressure on prices in this market," Areva said in a statement.

Comurhex, which is 100 percent owned by Areva, uses a two-stage process to transform mined uranium into uranium hexafluoride, the raw material for the enrichment process that eventually produces reactor-grade fuel.

Areva said there were no plans to suspend or lay off the less than 600 workers from the plants, who will be asked to attend training sessions or use up holiday allowances while their plants are taken off-line. A number of other plants were shut down following the Fukushima accident and currently only 11 of 54 Japanese reactors are in operation.
AFP, 16 September 2011


Call for Nominations for the "2012 Public Eye Awards".
The Berne Declaration and Greenpeace Switzerland are once again searching far and wide for corporations that pursue profits without regard for social and/or environmental harm. To succeed, we need your support and the critical eye of civil society!

Whether inhumane working conditions, reckless environmental sins, deliberate disinformation, or the disregard for human rights by corporations: In the run-up to the World Economic Forum (WEF) in late January 2012 in Davos, Switzerland, the worst corporate sins will appear on the 2012 Public Eye Awards short list. We thereby place corporate offenses in the international spotlight and help NGO campaigns succeed. A number of firms have already felt the considerable pressure from the unwelcome exposure in the media

and the social Web! Over 50,000 people worldwide took part in the online voting for

the People’s Award last year.

In 2008 Areva won the Award. It won't be bad if the nuclear industry gets some extra attention this year.... Please act quickly as the deadline for nominations is September 30!

Go to http://www.publiceye.ch/en/ and vote.

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#732
09/09/2011
Shorts

French Nuclear Authority points to "weaknesses" of the EPR.
The construction of the EPR nuclear reactor being built in Flamanville, has many "weaknesses" that put the "final quality" into doubt. This is the conclusion drawn after a  thorough inspection conducted on site in May by the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN). The report of this "inspection review", highlighted by Le Canard Enchaine on August 24, is posted on the site of the ASN (www.asn.fr). It is a 20 page letter sent by the ASN on June 24 to EDF, the prime contractor for the 1600 megawatt reactor designed by Areva. The inspection has was  carried out by fifteen experts, including an observer from the British regulator. The team found deviations from the construction requirements on essential parts of the reactor: the feed of the steam generators, water injection filters, the RIS batteries of the cooling system. "EDF has to make great efforts to show the final quality of the construction of Flamanville 3", judges the ASN, which points out: "inconsistencies between the requirements specified in sub-contracting and the demands mentioned in the preliminary safety report" - that is to say a non-compliance with initial prescriptions. Concerning an essential feature of the steam generators, experts estimate that "the quality of materials taking into account their importance for safety has not been demonstrated and their use in FLA3 is not possible". In two cases, they demand from EDF to "not engage in actions that are difficult to reverse before demonstrating" compliance.
Le Monde (Fr.) 24 August 2011 (translation Jan Haverkamp)


Town produces 321% more energy than it uses.
A small Bavarian town in Germany called Wildpoldsried produces 321% more energy than it uses, from renewable and natural sources. By selling the excess energy, Wildpoldsried has eliminated all the towns debt and generates 4.0 million Euro (US$5.7 million) in annual income. The point they are at now in terms of energy production and independence was reached by starting a plan about fourteen years ago to develop more clean energy sources and green building projects. The town with a population of about 2,500 started work on a huge community initiative involving the construction of nine new buildings and energy sources. The new buildings included a school, community hall and gym, and they employ solar panels, as do 190 private households. Five biogas digesters, nine windmills, three hydroelectric projects,  ecological flood control and a natural waste water treatment system were part of the plan for energy independence. It all has worked well, and the town is debt-free. They actually formed several local companies to construct, install and manage their wind turbines, with local residents as investors.
www.care2.com, 24 August 2011


Bushehr online after 36 years of construction.
Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant has been connected to the national grid. It began supplying around 60 MW of its 1000 MW capacity on Saturday 3 September at 11:29pm, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) said. Construction on Bushehr by German company Siemens KWU started in 1975, but the work was stopped in 1979. Iran signed a deal with Russia in 1995, under which the plant was originally due to be finished in 1999, but the completion of the project was repeatedly delayed. The most recent delay, in February 2011, was caused by the discovery of damaged internals of a coolant pump supplied in the 1970s. To avoid potential consequences of metal debris getting on the fuel assemblies, they were unloaded and washed, while the reactor pressure vessel was cleaned. The fuel was reloaded in April and the plant achieved criticality in May 2011. In August 2011, the Government of Iran invited an International Atomic Energy Agency delegation to visit the country’s nuclear facilities, including nuclear power plant that has been built by Russia’s Atomstroyexport. According to Iran's nuclear officials, Bushehr power plant will reach 40% capacity during a ceremony that will be held on 12 September 2011. It is expected to reach full capacity in November or December 2011.
Nuclear Engineering International, 5 September 2011


North Anna shut down after earthquake.
The largest earthquake to hit the eastern US in 67 years has raised concerns about the safety of the country's nuclear power plants. The 5.8 magnitude quake's epicenter in Virginia on August 23, was close to the North Anna plant, 130 kilometers southwest of Washington. The plant lost power and automatically halted operations after the quake. While the operator reported no 'major' damage to the facility, three diesel generators were required to kick in and keep the reactors' radioactive cores cool. A fourth diesel unit failed. While nuclear power plants can operate safely on back-up power, failure of generators was a key reason for the disaster at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant

A spokesman for the operator said the plant was designed to withstand an earthquake of up to 6.2 in magnitude. But some groups have expressed concern about the narrow margin between the design metrics and the quake's size. 'It was uncomfortably close to design basis,' said Edwin Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists, which has pushed for stronger nuclear regulations. 'If Fukushima wasn't a wake-up call, this really needs to be to get the NRC and industry moving to do seismic reviews of all the nuclear power plants in the country.' An article in the Washington Post reports that the earthquake moved dry casks (huge concrete containers holding spent nuclear fuel), weighing between 100 to 115 tons, by as much as four inches (10 centimeters).

Twelve other nuclear plants along the Eastern Seaboard declared an "unusual event" following the quake, the lowest of the NRC's emergency classification ratings. North Anna's "alert" status is one step further up on a four-step U.S. emergency scale.

North Anna's reactors are among 27 east of the Rockies that the NRC highlighted during a seismic review last year as presenting a potential hazard, due to the amount of ground-shaking they were designed to withstand. Many nuclear experts say plants in the United States were designed with big margins of error  built in, but last year's NRC survey found that the risks posed by earthquakes were higher than  previously thought.
RTE (Ireland), 24 August 2011 / Reuters, 24 August 2011 / Washington Post, 1 September 2011


Germany: no need for nuclear reserve capacity.
Germany's grid regulator Bundesnetzagentur (BNetzA) said August 31 that it has decided against keeping one idled nuclear reactor on standby as reserve capacity for the coming two winter seasons to ensure power grid stability after the government permanently closed eight older reactors in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in March. "Our investigations have shown that even in exceptional contingencies the transmission system will remain operational without the dispatch of a reserve nuclear power plant," BNetzA President Matthias Kurth said in a statement.

The government has asked the grid regulator to investigate the need for a nuclear reserve capacity during the winter after transmission system operators in May warned of possible blackouts during extreme winter weather should the eight older reactors remain shut permanently, removing at least 5,000 MW of nuclear capacity from the market.
Platts, 31 August 2011


International blockade Olkiluoto, Finland.
On August 20, 2011 a blockade of the Olkiluoto nuclear power plant under construction took place for the second time gathering people from several regions of Finland and from other European countries on the streets. One year ago, on August 28, 2010, it was the very first public street blockade of an atomic facility in Finland ever. It had been started with the support of a number of European and Finnish environmental and anti-nuclear groups. The gathering of the Nuclear Heritage Network, an international network of anti-nuclear activists, taking part in March 2010 in Helsinki had initiated the idea of the blockade and developed it together with the variety of Finnish NGOs and groups. The goal was to question the international reputation of Finland as the country of the so-called "renaissance of nuclear power", and to show that even in this country being under strong pressure of the nuclear lobby atomic power has noch support of the citizens.

For Finnish anti-nuclear activists the Olkiluoto Blockade was also an important occassion for meeting each other and exchanging as so far there doesn't exist any other nationwide organizing structures for a common anti-nuclear strategy. In the south as well as in the north strong networks of local initiatives and organizations exist and in some cases they successfully opposed to projects of uranium mining and new nuclear reactors constructions. However, cross connections between those groups and networks are created so far only in mutual big actions like the Olkiluoto Blockade or the anti-nuclear infotour around the Baltic Sea that also took place in 2010.

This year a blockade of about 100 activists from Finland, Sweden, Germany, Russia, France, United Kingdom and Belarus several times stopped the traffic on the access roads to the disputed Olkiluoto nuclear power plant in Finland. Police had announced to prevent the blockade of roads that were supposed to take place for the second time. They forced protesters from the streets again and again towards a bus stop nearby. Nevertheless, the activists succeeded several times to blockade the main access road to the nuclear power plant for some minutes, while an additional access street had been closed for some two hours by a wooden tripod construction with an activist on the top.
www.greenkids.de


Donors agree to fund new Chernobyl shelter.
There appears to be enough money (at last after almost 15 years) for a new sarcophagus at the Chernobyl reactor in Ukraine. The Nuclear Safety Account and the Chernobyl Shelter Fund donors agreed to provide the necessary financial resources for the implementation of the Chernobyl projects. The decision was made at the Assembly of Contributors to the Chernobyl Shelter Fund meeting on July 7, 2011, in London. The new construction will help "neutralize any possible future threats to the environment from the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine".

The needed amount of financial resources for the Shelter Implementation Plan (SIP) funding is EUR 740 mln. On the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl tragedy on April 26, 2011, a fundraiser was held resulting in donors' obligations of EUR 550 mln. The new decision of the world donors allows for the immediate start of the SIP execution and its completion by 2015. The SIP involves stabilization of the existing sarcophagus and the construction of a New Safe Confinement (NSC) for the damaged nuclear reactor.

In 1988 local scientists announced that the life time of the sarcophagus was 20 to 30 years. The Chernobyl Shelter Fund (CSF) was established nearly a decade later in December of 1997 to collect funds for the NSC project. Currently, the European Union, the United States, and Ukraine cooperate to help meet the CSF's objective while the EBRD is entrusted to manage the CSF and provide oversight of the funds disbursement.

The construction of the original Chernobyl sarcophagus began on May 20, 1986 - three weeks after the accident, and lasted for 206 days.
PRNewswire, 14 July 2011


PSC shifts risks costs overruns to public.
US: Georgia utility regulators agreed on August 2, to scrap a proposal that would have eaten into Georgia Power’s profits should the costs for its nuclear expansion project exceed US$300 million. The Georgia Public Service Commission unanimously approved the plan after making sure the commissioners could review previously approved project costs if there is a budget increase. Customers would pay for cost overruns in their monthly bills unless the PSC determines the overruns are Georgia Power's fault.
Georgia Power is part of a group of utilities building two nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle. The utility is responsible for US$6.1 billion of the estimated US$14 billion project. The company has been at odds with the PSC’s advocacy staff over how to handle potential cost overruns for the project. The advocacy staff wanted to cut into the utility’s profits if the costs exceeded US$300 million over budget. The advocacy staff agreed to drop its plan if Georgia Power allowed regulators to re-examine previously approved parts of the project if there is a budget increase. If regulators determine that Georgia Power's mistake led to the cost overruns, consumers would not have to pay the additional costs.
Consumer advocates have criticized the PSC's move as shifting all of the burden of the project's cost onto Georgia Power customers, who already are paying for the plant's financing costs.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2 August 2011


Walk away from uranium mining.
Footprints for Peace, an international grassroots group that organizes walks, bike rides and runs around the world, invites families and people of all ages, background and cultures to come and support traditional owners in their opposition to uranium mining in Western Australia by taking part in the “Walk away from uranium mining” that began in Wiluna on August 19 and will finish in Perth on October 28. "We will demonstrate that we have the choice to walk away from this costly, toxic industry — which produces radioactive waste and weapons usable material — in favour of renewable energy options." Footprints for Peace are working together with the Western Australian Nuclear Free Alliance (WANFA) to organise this grassroots awareness-raising and action-based campaign. Everyone is welcome to join the walk for a few hours, a day, a few weeks or the whole way. Even if you cannot walk we still require financial assistance, drivers, kitchen crew members, media liaison volunteers, video operators and photographers, musicians, artists, singers and general support for daily events, such as camp set up and pack up, food shopping and water collection. The walkers will cover a distance of 20 to 25 kilometres a day, with a rest day every five days……… The walk’s conclusion in Perth will coincide with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. There we will deliver our well-supported and strong message that it is time to shut down the nuclear industry’s plans to expand in Western Australia and the rest of Australia.

For more information please visit: http://nuclearfreefuture.com/
GreenLeft (Aus.) 23 July 2011


Sellafield: No prosecutions for organ harvesting.
Recent correspondence has revealed that no one will be prosecuted over the body hacking scandal carried out by the nuclear industry for over 40 years in collusion with government, hospitals, coroners and doctors.

From 1960 to 1991, body parts were taken without consent from 64 former Sellafield workers and 12 workers from nuclear sites in Springfields, Capenhurst, Dounreay and Aldermaston. The liver was removed in all cases and one or both lungs in all but one incident. Vertebrae, sternum, ribs, lymph nodes, spleen, kidneys and fermur were also stripped in the majority of cases. Brains, tongues, hearts and testes were also taken on the advice of the medical officer at Sellafield.

Correspondence from Cumbria Constabulary has been seen which says that despite the findings of the Redfern Inquiry (into the scandal; see Nuclear Monitor 721, 17 December 2010)  that the relationship between the nuclear industry and fellow bodysnatching conspirators was "too close" no one will be prosecuted as it is not "in the public interest".

Extract from a letter sent by ‘Special Operations’ - Cumbria Constabulary: "the issues you raise which I have listed below;
1. That specific people and institutions have breached the Human Tissue Act and that this should be investigated.
2. That an investigation into whether there was any unlawful corruption of the coronial processes had taken place
3. The stipends made to mortuary attendants are also of particular concern.
This was a Government led review which involved both the Department for Energy and Climate Change and the Ministry of Justice. As such any requirement on the police to investigate identified breaches as outlined above would be made by the Government. No such request has been made". (end quotation Cumbria Constabulary correspondence)
Well, surprise, surprise: No such request is likely to be made.
http://101-uses-for-a-nuclear-power-station.blogspot.com/2011/07/dodgy-hacking.html


Floating Nuke Plant Seized in Bankruptcy
A St. Petersburg court seized the 70MW floating nuclear power station under construction at the Baltiisky Zavod shipyards after Rosenergoatom, the division of the Rosatom nuclear monopoly that commissioned it, demanded recognition of its right of ownership to the unfinished vessel. The July 26 court order gave the go-ahead for the seizure on the basis of "significant risk" that Rosenergoatom could lose its investment in the 9.8 billion ruble ($334 million) vessel if another claimant seized Baltiisky Zavod's assets during bankruptcy proceedings.

The ship yard, which is 88.3 percent owned by former Tuva governor Segei Pugachev's United Industrial Corporation is facing litigation from numerous disgruntled creditors. International Industrial Bank, also known as Mezhprombank, had its operating license revoked when it declared itself bankrupt in November. In January prosecutors launched a criminal case against the bank for intentional bankruptcy.

The dispute is not the first to hit Rosatom's ambitious plans to build a generation of floating nuclear power stations to serve remote coastal communities in Russia's north and Far East. Interfax on Thursday quoted an unidentified source at Rosatom saying the contract could be reassigned to another shipbuilder. If true, it would be the second time a contractor has lost the order from Rosatom, which originally commissioned the Sevmash shipyard to build the controversial floating nuclear plants in 2006. Rosenergoatom tore up that agreement in 2008 and signed a new deal with Baltiisky Zavod in 2009. Baltiisky Zavod is scheduled to finish the first station in 2012, according to the contract. The 70-megawatt plant is destined for Kamchatka.
Moscow Times, 15 August 2011

Sellafield Mox Plant axed by Fukushima fallout - says NDA

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#732
6161
09/09/2011
CORE
Article

In what came clearly as a surprise to the gathering of Sellafied stakeholders, the closure of the Sellafield MOX Plant (SMP) was officially announced at West Cumbria Site Stakeholder Group (WCSSG) August 3 meeting. The decision had been made at an NDA Board meeting last week on the grounds that the commercially impotent plant no longer ‘had customers or finance’.

In its press statement, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) says the decision was reached following discussions with Japanese utility customers on the impact on the Japanese nuclear industry of the earthquake in March, including potential delays that would effect SMP’s projected program. The Board concluded that in order to protect the UK taxpayer from a future financial burden, closing SMP at the earliest practical opportunity was the only reasonable course of action.

CORE’s spokesman Martin Forwood said today: “We shed no tears for a white elephant plant that should never have opened in the first place. Had the NDA genuinely wished to save taxpayers money, it should have grasped the many opportunities provided during SMP’s sorry commercial lifetime to put it out of its misery. The NDA has effectively passed the buck to Japan do its dirty work for it and take the blame”.

The prolonged battles to get SMP built and operating, including legal challenges, had already provided ample warning to Sellafield that the commercial prospects for the plant were less than robust. With the first planning application to the Local Authority made in 1992, SMP finally opened with the introduction of the first plutonium in 2002 and only then after five public consultation exercises stretching between 1997 and 2001. Focusing specifically on the economic business case for the plant, the later consultations raised serious doubts as to where the contracts would come from and whether the ‘overly technical and complex plant’ could actually produce the goods to customers’ rigid specifications.

Built to manufacture 120 tons of MOX fuel per year, and with an operating lifespan of 20 years, SMP produced no fuel whatsoever until its third year of operation and a total of just 13 tons in its 9 years of operation which saw a number of contracts having to be sub-contracted to SMP’s arch-rivals in Europe. Despite dire warnings in 2006 and 2007 from Government commissioned consultants Arthur D Little (who had originally provided Government glowing reports of the plant’s prospects) that without further investment the plant would never operate as originally planned, the NDA continued to support its operation and in so doing wasted an estimated BP 1.4 billion (US$ 2.25 bn or 1.6bn euro) of taxpayers money.

A final lifeline was thrown to SMP in 2010 by the NDA involving a prolonged closure for complete refurbishment to be financed at an estimated cost of BP 200 million by Japanese utility customers, with the lead customer for the ‘revamped’ SMP identified as Chubu Electric’s Hamaoka plant. Dubbed in Japan as ‘the most dangerous atomic facility in the quake-prone archipelago’, Hamaoka was forced to close earlier this year by the Japanese Government’s demand for seismic tests and safety improvements. With the postponement of any further use of MOX fuel in Hamaoka’s reactors, SMP’s sole contract and lifeline was lost.

Martin Forwood added: “As widely expected by all but Government and Industry, the ‘cast-iron’ assurances in the late 1990’s from its then owner British Nuclear Fuels that sufficient business would be secured from Japan to warrant the plant’s operation were worthless, with SMP failing to secure even one Japanese contract during its operational lifetime. It is ironic that it should be the very customers it was built to serve who have switched off its life support machine”.

SMP directly employs around 650 workers and the NDA announcement of its closure has drawn the expected outcry on job losses and prophecies of gloom and doom for Sellafield which historically and routinely accompany the slightest threat, genuine or otherwise, to any of the site’s commercial facilities. As compensation, the NDA suggested to the August 3 stakeholder meeting that there was the prospect of a new MOX plant being built and, for their part, the Unions expressed some confidence that the workers could be redeployed elsewhere on site.

SMP’s closure has however opened the proverbial can of worms, particularly in respect of a new MOX plant being built. The current rationale behind the NDA’s thinking appears to be that as long as Japan’s program of MOX use has not completely sunk under the waves of the tsunami and the Fukushima catastrophe, the 13 tons of Japanese plutonium recovered by reprocessing at Sellafield might yet be converted to MOX in the new plant which could also be used to reduce the 110 ton stockpile of UK owned plutonium for use in the UK’s new-build reactors. The cost of a new MOX plant has been put at around BP 1.4 billion.

Martin Forwood further commented: “It beggars belief that the NDA appears hell-bent on repeating its own very recent and taxpayer-costly mistakes on MOX. Whilst they may wish to ‘appease the natives’ with the prospect of a new plant, there is no evidence whatsoever that sufficient MOX demand worldwide exists or will exist – particularly in the UK where many of the proposed new reactors may never get built. This is pie-in-the sky stuff and they should be concentrating instead on putting the dangerous plutonium stockpile permanently out of harm’s way and treat it as a waste by, for example, using SMP and its current workforce to immobilise plutonium in ‘low-spec’ MOX for disposal”.

Source: Press release CORE, 4 August 2011
Contact: Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment. Dry Hall, Broughton Mills, Broughton-In-Furness, Cumbria LA20 6AZ, UK.
Tel/Fax: +44 (0)1229 716523
Email: info@corecumbria.co.uk
Web: www.corecumbria.co.uk

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#730
15/07/2011
Shorts

Centrifuge crash report allegedly delayed until after financing deadline. SONG (the Southern Ohio Neighbors Group) disclosed on July 6 that a power outage and centrifuge crash happened at USEC's project site near Piketon, Ohio. As reported in that newsrelease, Osiris Siurano, the NRC project manager for USEC's centrifuge project license, told SONG in an interview on July 5 that USEC had notified NRC and DOE "within 24-hours as required." According to NRC's "Event Notification Report" of that day, July 5, however, NRC was not actually notified of the situation until July 1.

July 1 just happened to be one day after USEC's original financing deadline of June 30, by which time USEC needed to secure a "conditional commitment" for a loan guarantee from the Department of Energy. That is, there is now evidence that USEC waited nineteen days before reporting a serious safety incident to NRC, in hopes that DOE would provide the "conditional commitment" before the incident became known. Silence from USEC, from DOE, and from USEC's two financing agents in the United States Senate, as the June 30 deadline neared, is now explained. In nuclear industry lingo, Mr. Siurano's statement that the 24-hour notification requirement had been met could be characterized as having "suboptimal veracity."

There is no decision yet on the Department of Energy's US$2 billion loan guarantee for USEC Inc. to complete the American Centrifuge Project at Piketon. USEC says it is now “most likely” looking at further cutbacks and a reduction of future investment in its planned American Centrifuge Project at Piketon. “We are reaching a critical point regarding continued funding for the American Centrifuge Project. We need to obtain a conditional commitment for the loan guarantee from DOE,“ the company said already in May.
Portsmouth Daily Times, 1 & 13 July 2011 / HuntingtonNews.net, 8 July 2011


Germany’s phase-out by 2022 sealed (again). On July 8, Germany's upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, passed the amendment to the atomic energy bill sealing Germany's exit from nuclear power by 2022. Ten days before, on June 30, the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament, approved with an overwhelming majority plans to phase-out nuclear power by 2022. The nuclear phase-out bill cleared the lower house with only the far-left voting against, while the opposition Social-Democrats and Green party both supported the bill.
Germany's new energy strategy reverses the extension of nuclear run-times, which became law earlier this year. Seven reactors built before 1980 as well as the Kruemmel reactor, which has not been online since 2007, will remain shut permanently, according to the bill. The nine remaining  reactors will be gradually phased-out between 2015 and 2022.

Germany's E.ON feels no pressure to replace nuclear power plants with alternatives after the  policy shift. "There is no strategy to replace lost nuclear capacity one-to-one. As an entrepreneur I always ask myself is my investment profitable?," Chief Executive Johannes Teyssen said on June 30. It is one of the four utilities with German nuclear power plants.

E.ON, which in an outcry earlier in June had demanded damages from the government for the closures, was holding on to the legal pursuits but had in the meantime adopted a more conciliatory stance, Teyssen said. But the group will now respect the change in policy towards renewables.
Reuters, 30 June 2011 / Platts, 30 June and 8 July 2011


Finland: inviting bids for construction npp. Finnish company Fennovoima has invited Areva and Toshiba to bid for the construction of a new nuclear power plant, which will be built at one of its greenfield sites Pyhäjoki or Simo, in northern Finland. Bids will be for the delivery and construction of the reactor and turbine islands. Infrastructure work during the first phase of construction and preparatory work such as earthmoving and excavation are excluded from the bid.

Fennovoima has already selected three alternatives for the plant design: Areva’s 1700 MW EPR, its advanced boiling water reactor the 1250 MW Kerena and the 1600 MW ABWR by Toshiba Corporation. The plant supplier and the model of delivery is due to be decided in 2012-2013. Fennovoima is planning to select the site for its nuclear power plant in 2011 and preparatory work could start by the end of 2012.
Nuclear Engineering International, news 5 July 2011


Citygroup: nuclear “uninvestable for public equity markets”. According to Peter Atherton, Citygroup’s head of European utilities research, Britain's nuclear strategy is "uninvestable" for private clients, who are only likely to put money into new plants if the government shoulders more of the risks involved. He says the investment environment is "dire." "Investors are demanding more of their returns up front in cash rather than dividends, indicating they don't trust the capital growth of the sector. "As we stand today, is (new nuclear) an investable option for Centrica, RWE? Simply put, no. The cost of capital based on those risks would be way too high to give you an electricity price which is affordable. "You would be looking at a project cost of capital of at least 15 percent. That would require a power price of about 150-200 pounds per megawatt hour (based on 2017 money) to make that project work," Atherton said, which is three to four times as much as current UK spot power prices.

"If we want (plants) built, the state will have to take on the risks," he added, saying the government could do this through direct subsidies, taxes or building new plants itself. Shares in the European utility sector have fallen about 30 percent since February 2009, according to Citigroup, as EU utilities have been more exposed to commodity price rises than in Asia or the U.S., and, most recently, due to the impact Japan's nuclear crisis.
Reuters, 6 July 2011


U.S.: Reactor proponents are batting 0-6 in state legislatures in 2011. Deep-pocketed nuclear power lobbyists may pack a big punch in Washington, D.C., but they are getting knocked out altogether at the state legislative level. So far in 2011, the nuclear power industry has a record of zero wins and six losses in Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. The nuclear power industry’s dismal track record is in keeping with its history of state legislative failures in 2010 (when it went 0-8) and 2009 (0-6).

The nuclear power industry’s 2011 state legislative failures:
* Minnesota – A heavily lobbied bill to overturn the state’s moratorium on additional reactors died in conference committee.
* Wisconsin – A push to reintroduce a bill to overturn the Badger State’s moratorium on new reactors failed.
* Kentucky – A bill to overturn the state’s moratorium on new reactors died in the House.
* Missouri – Despite a major industry push, a bill to charge utility customers in advance to pay for an “Early Site Permit” for the proposed new Callaway reactor died.
* North Carolina – A “Super Construction Work in Progress (CWIP)” bill to eliminate prudence review of CWIP expenses was proposed but never introduced due to strong on-the-ground opposition.
* Iowa – A bill pushed by MidAmerican to charge utility customers in advance for “small modular reactors” as well as potentially larger reactors stalled in the state Senate and cannot be taken up again until 2012.

In 2010, nuclear power lobbyists failed in legislative pushes in Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Vermont and West Virginia and Wisconsin. In 2009, the industry enjoyed no success whatsoever in its lobbying efforts in Kentucky, Minnesota, Hawaii, Illinois, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Safe Energy Program at Physicians for Social Responsibility, www.NuclearBailout.org, 6 July 2011


Khan: North Korea paid Pakistan for nuclear secrets. In a letter released by Abdul Qadeer Khan, the disgraced nuclear scientist and ‘godfather of Pakistan's atomic bomb’, the North Korean ruling party appears to confirm that it paid more than US$3.5m (2.5m euro) to the serving army chief and at least one other senior general for transferring nuclear weapons technology to North Korea. The 1998 letter, was released as part of an attempt by Khan to establish that he was not working on his own when nuclear secrets were passed on to Iran, North Korea and Libya before his fall from grace. The two generals named in the letter fiercely denied the allegation, and denounced the letter as a forgery.

But opinion is divided not just over the authenticity of the documents, but also whether they establish that Khan was not acting alone. The Washington Post quoted unnamed US officials as saying that the letter's contents were "consistent with our knowledge" of the events described. But David Albright, a nuclear proliferation expert with the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, disputes Khan's claims that top military officials were complicit. "[The letter] shows that Khan was a rogue agent and he colluded to provide centrifuge components to North Korea without Pakistani official approval," the AP quoted him as saying. More on Khan at www.laka.org/info/publicaties/Khan/Khan.pdf
Independent (UK), 8 July 2011

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#729
01/07/2011
Shorts

Invitation to the 2011 Nuclear Heritage Network-meeting Czech Republic.
The first international anti-nuclear networking gathering in Europe after the Fukushima disaster organized by activists of the Nuclear Heritage Network will take place from August 1-5, 2011 in Ceské Budejovice (Budweis) in the Czech Republic close to the Austrian border and near to the controversial Temelín nuclear power plant.

As part of the gathering anti-nuclear activists from several countries will also meet with Czech and Austrian activists who cooperate in a unique cross-border network, which is partly coordinated and funded by the Upper-Austrian regional government. We will visit a group of Lower-Austrian activists, who have been organizing for years now so called "energy-meetings" and have become pioneers in using and making renewable energies popular.

The gathering is also supposed to get to know each other in person, to share experiences in the anti-nuclear field, and to develop mutual projects and campaigns. Goal is to improve the international anti-nuclear cooperations and to discuss how to  provide more resources by the Nuclear Heritage Network as well as by activists and organizations out of the network for international anti-nuclear activities. Thus, the initiatives are supposed to strengthen the anti-nuclear movement as well as to face various obstacles within and outside the movement.

As the logistic frame of our meeting is limited, please announce your participation to us as early as possible, and not later than July 20: falk@nuclear-heritage.net or b.riepl@eduhi.at.


Swiss police clear Mühleberg protest camp.
On June 21, police cleared the protest camp against the Mühleberg nuclear power station which was set up in the city of Bern at the beginning of April. The city government issued a statement saying the decision to clear camp outside the headquarters of BKW Energy, which operates Mühleberg, had been taken after the activists had refused to dismantle the tents despite lengthy discussions. It said it would have been prepared to allow a permanent vigil, but had made it clear from the beginning that it would not tolerate a camp with a permanent population. It added that it had now withdrawn its permission for a vigil and would not allow the area to be re-occupied.
The Mühleberg Abschalten (Switch off Mühleberg) association accused the Bern city government of taking the side of the nuclear lobby after the cantonal parliament decided last week not to do anything to take Mühleberg out of the grid. But it said the protest would continue until the power station was switched off. Only a few hours after the eviction, about 200 people gathered around the site for a lunchtime protest picnic with flags and placar. In the evening of the same day, several hundred demonstrators marched through Bern peacefully to protest the clearing of the camp.
World Radio Switzerland, 21 June 2011 / Swissinfo.ch, 21 June 2011


Threats to nuclear reactors in US.
In July, the United States' Nuclear Regulatory Commission will release the final results of its 90-day reactor safety review. The NRC will claim that nuclear reactors in the United States are safe. But the report will leave out critical information that exposes that claim as a myth.

We've already seen in Japan the catastrophic combination of inadequate regulations, aging reactors and unpredictable weather. What will be missing from the NRC report?

*As severe weather becomes more frequent, nuclear reactors have become more vulnerable and less reliable. Flood waters have knocked out power at the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station in Nebraska. On June 27, the barrier intended to keep water from immersing the reactor grounds was breached. The plant is now reportedly running on emergency generators to maintain the cooling systems. But floods are not the only weather phenomena to threaten reactors; extreme heat and droughts also force reactors offline. Nuclear power plants consume more water than any other energy technology. In recent summers, water rationing due to heat waves in the southeast has required shutting down nuclear plants in Tennessee and Florida. Current regulations - amazingly - fail to account for possibility of a single weather event or natural disaster knocking out electricity from both the grid and emergency generators.

*U.S. nuclear reactors are being pushed well beyond their operational design and the resulting deterioration undermines their safety. In the U.S., reactors were designed and licensed for 40 years, but 66 of the 104 operating units have been relicensed to operate for 20 more years. In fact, the NRC has never denied a renewal - not even for the Vermont Yankee plant, where problems like groundwater contamination from leaking tritium led the state senate to vote against renewing its license. Corroded underground piping in aging plants is responsible for radioactive tritium leaks at 75% of U.S. commercial nuclear power sites.

*Federal regulators are far too cozy with the nuclear industry. Together they are maintaining the illusion that the nation's aging reactors operate within safety standards by repeatedly weakening those standards or simply failing to enforce them. According to a recent investigation by The Associated Press, NRC officials have - time after time, and at the urging of the industry - decided that original regulations were too strict and argued that safety margins should be eased.

Immediate steps can and must be taken to strengthen the regulation of nuclear reactors. But ultimately, we need to shift away from nuclear to renewable, safer and more efficient power choices. 
Public Citizen's Climate & Energy Program, 28 June 2011


Jellyfish block Torness.
Two reactors at the UK Torness nuclear power station have been shut down after huge numbers of jellyfish were found in the sea water entering the plant. The jellyfish were found obstructing cooling water filters. The plant's operator, EDF Energy, said the shutdown was a precautionary measure and there was never any danger to the public. A clean-up operation is under way, but according to the utility it could take a week to re-start again. Torness has two Advanced Gas Cooled Reactors but also relies on supplies of sea water to ensure it operates safely. It has filters which are designed to prevent seaweed and marine animals entering the cooling system. If these are blocked, the reactors are shut down to comply with safety procedures. Staff at the plant took the decision to shut down the reactors in the afternoon on June 30.  In February 20101 one of the two reactors was also shut down following a technical failure which affected the transformer, causing an automatic shutdown.
BBC Scotland, 30 June 2011

Oct. 3: non-violent blockade of Hinkley Point NPP

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#729
6147
01/07/2011
Stop New Nuclear
Article

The U.K. government and the nuclear industry want us to believe that nuclear new-build in Britain is a done deal. They want to discourage us from protesting – the message they want us to swallow is clear: opposition is futile, and we will be going ahead anyway!

However, that couldn't be further from the truth. Yes, the government has introduced a framework which effectively will subsidize new nuclear at our expense – as electricity consumers and taxpayers. Yes, the government has effectively deprived local communities from having a say in the planning process for new nuclear and other major infrastructure projects thus dumping a crucial cornerstone of local democracy.

But nuclear new-build in Britain is already behind schedule and has faced legal and other setbacks. Public concern is mounting following the Fukushima disaster. If we can stop the building at Hinkley, we can stop the whole process. Now is the time to mobilize and take action.

New-nuclear in Britain is far from being a done deal, and we can still stop it!

Hinkley Point is the first of eight proposed sites for nuclear new build to go ahead. We stopped them here before, and we can do it again. If they fail at Hinkley, it is unlikely the “nuclear renaissance” will have the momentum to continue.

On 3 October 2011 we, the 'Stop New Nuclear' Network, will – with hundreds of people – non-violently blockade the access to Hinkley Point nuclear power station for one day.

The Stop Nuclear Power Network is a UK-based non-hierarchical grassroots network of groups and individuals taking action against nuclear power and its expansion and supporting sustainable alternatives. We encourage and seek to facilitate nonviolent direct action, as well as more conventional forms of campaigning. The alliance has been founded by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Stop Nuclear Power Network UK, Kick Nuclear, South West Against Nuclear, Shutdown Sizewell, Sizewell Blockaders, Trident Ploughshares and Stop Hinkley. Groups in different areas of the UK are already mobilizing campaigners to travel to the protest.

While the blockade will be the key focus, there will be plenty of roles and activities for people who do not wish to risk arrest. So everyone who is anti-nuclear can come and join us on the day to express their opposition in many different ways. We will prepare ourselves for this blockade with non-violence training, and we will not be deterred by police trying to prevent our non-violent action.

The blockade on Monday October 3, will be inclusive, allowing people from all walks of life and with a wide range of experience in non-violent action – or no experience at all – to participate. We will organize a safe environment for everyone, built on trust for each other, but also on our determination to stop nuclear new-build.

In the days before the blockade, there will be local actions in Bridgwater. There will be a camp and local accommoda­tion for people over the weekend and non-violence training will be provided.

Source and contact: Stop New Nuclear, c/o 5 Caledonian Road, London N1 9DX, U.K.
Tel: +44 845-2872381
Email: campaign@stopnewnuclear.org.uk
Web: http://stopnewnuclear.org.uk

Haunted by history: nuclear new build in Britain

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#728
6143
18/06/2011
East Midlands Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
Article

Part 3: After Fukushima 
Earlier reports in the Nuclear Monitor (714 and 715) about nuclear new build in Britain stressed how the project of a ‘Nuclear Renaissance’ is haunted by its own Nuclear Dark Ages – legacies from the long history of civil nuclear power in the UK. These legacies include accumulations of radioactive waste, the burden of decommissioning generations of old reactors and a history of explicit public subsidy and failed sell-offs that show the commercial non-viability of nuclear power. The Sellafield site, a decommissioning nightmare and a nuclear House of Horrors, concentrates these problems in a single space. The memory of Chernobyl is also a figure in this nuclear dance macabre. It is assiduously minimised officially, but documented and commemorated by critical health researchers, anti-nuclear campaigners and charitable groups concerned with children’s health and well being in the contaminated areas.

Once Westminster governments, from about 2004, adopted new nuclear, they had to try to lighten this weighty inheritance. The main strategy, never wholly realised, was to split off new nuclear from old as a new dawn, a renaissance without a dark ages. This splitting occurred in political discourse, but also institutionally and financially. Disposing of the legacy was to be overseen by a new state institution, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, and financed mainly through taxation, while new nuclear was to be a work of ‘the market’ – of private companies with ‘no public subsidy’. In this context, not only is Fukushima a terrible unfolding disaster for the Japanese people, it is also a threat to the nuclear revival. It threatens to disrupt the carefully constructed dichotomies of civil versus military, past versus present, public versus private, good atom versus bad atom. It is a powerful reminder of the dangers of civil nuclear power and its military connections. Happening so near the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster gave it additional resonance.

The Conservative/Liberal-Democrat government, having largely adopted Labour’s nuclear plans, must now manage the challenge of Fukushima along with the other nuclear contradictions. It must also find solutions to its own inner conflicts on nuclear questions.

Fukushima from a British Perspective
Fukushima is as serious a nuclear accident as Chernobyl, a slow, unfolding tragedy, On 12 April, over a month after the earthquake and tsunami, it was declared a Level 7 accident – the same as Chernobyl. According to the USA’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) by 7 April the four damaged Fukushima reactors had released only a 1/10 of the radioactive material released from Chernobyl’s single reactor yet contained much more. In early June, after an IAEA inspection, the Japanese government more than doubled its estimate of leaking radioactivity from 370,000 terabequerels to 770,000, perhaps 20% of the Chernobyl count. Partly because of the Chernobyl anniversary, partly because of the wider catastrophe, the nuclear aspects were extensively covered in mainstream media. This was accompanied, however, by attempts to minimize the human impacts of both 1986 and 2011.

Though media analysis is not the aim here, it would be interesting to compare the largely pro-nuclear coverage in England with Germany, Scotland or even the USA, to explore the different nuclear cultures.

Despite official and media denials, each week brought worse news, on top of the heart-breaking scenes of destruction by quake and wave. At least eighty thousand people have been uprooted by the nuclear disaster – possibly for their lifetimes, certainly long-term – from an area 12 miles (20 km) around the reactors – and also from settlements beyond the exclusion zones, to the North West where the prevailing winds blow. The distribution of contamination has been uneven, according to landscape and weather, so no uniform perimeter can encompass it. In the latest (June) official reports further evacuations are envisaged. There has also been ‘voluntary’ flight from the region. The food chain, water supplies and the neighbouring seas have been polluted by iodine-131 (with a half-life of days) and caesium-137 (with a half life of 30 years). Raised levels of caesium-137 have been detected in school playgrounds in Fukushima province outside the exclusion zone, prompting controversies about ‘safe doses’ for children and vigorous self-help solutions by parent groups.

Caesium-137 is used as an indicator of contamination as in the post-Chernobyl mappings, but this does not mean it is the only radionuclide released. The spent fuel rods in the cooling pools (at least one of which developed cracks) lost their safety cover of water and, apart from the hydrogen explosions that sent plumes into the air, we now know there were meltdowns in three reactors and leakages from the pressure vessels (‘melt throughs’) in at least one. The release of plutonium, uniquely produced in reactors and very long-lived and poisonous to life, seems likely. Again this was confirmed in June when small amounts of plutonium were reported a mile outside the plant gates.

Workers at the site, like the ‘liquidators’ at Chernobyl, will have suffered dangerous levels of radiation the consequences of which may not show for decades. Foreign governments have taken precautions for their nationals that suggest dangers well outside the exclusion zone. Small traces of radionuclides from Fukushima have been identified in Idaho, Washington State and even Britain. It is much too soon to count the full health costs, or boast, as some British commentators have, about the resilience of the technology. The disruption to everyday life is palpable and, as protest begins there, Japan is once more the suffering and active centre of a global anti-nuclear movement.

The environmental dispersion of radionuclides is not over. NISA, the much-criticized Japanese nuclear safety watchdog, has recently assessed that no more than 1% of the fuel from three units has so far leaked. There remains a danger of more hydrogen explosions, spewing radioactive materials into the air. There are about 60,000 tons of contaminated water in the basements of the reactor buildings. On the 18th April TEPCO acknowledged it may take as long as 9 months to get the reactors ‘under control’, let alone encase buildings full of radioactive material.

Applying Fukushima: How Accidents Can Happen.
>Analysis of Fukushima suggests that three conditions, coming together, prompt accidents.

1. A design fault in a reactor.
2. A failure of regulation and/or of company compliance.
3. An unexpected event that shows up these weaknesses.

Due to the intrinsic volatility of fission, design problems are common. Regulators identify some of these when they assess a new design. There is genuine expertise and a real culture of safety in regulative bodies, hence the protracted ‘generic’ UK approval process for both EPRs and AP1000s. If, however, governments are committed in advance to nuclear, the regulators, who are never more than semi-independent, are under pressure to approve an available design. There is also much exchange of personnel and expert communication with the nuclear industry.

Other problems emerge after the design has been approved often at the building stage – witness the long delays and soaring costs for the first EPRs being built in Finland and France, or similar delays over the first PWR reactor at Sizewell. Even so, some weaknesses are discovered only when the reactors are already running and things go wrong.

This was the case with the failed cooling systems at Fukushima. The early models of water-cooled reactors depend on external power and water supplies that are vulnerable to events like earthquakes and flooding. It seems that the earthquake had already damaged the cooling systems at Fukushima No.1 before the tsunami struck (Nuclear Monitor 727). Recognition of this weakness has had surprising consequences. There is only one civil PWR reactor in the UK – Sizewell B on the Suffolk coast - but the navy’s whole fleet of nuclear submarines, including the Vanguard class that carries Trident nuclear missiles, is powered by early PWRs. Following expert demands for future submarines to be fitted with PWR3s with ‘passive systems’, the cost of replacing Trident-carrying submarines has had to be raised. This confirms the links - in case we had forgotten them - between civil and military applications and their risks.

Inspectors of nuclear installations in Britain between 2001 and 2010 reported over 1,700 incidents of non-compliance. At Fukushima the permitted volume of spent fuel rods stored in pools on the site was exceeded, making them more vulnerable to a water-cooling breakdown. During June’s post-mortem, conducted by the IAEA as well as NISA, it has been admitted that the anti-tsunami engineering was also inadequate. TEPCO has a poor compliance record under a CEO who was ‘an enthusiastic cost-cutter’ (Guardian, 30 March 2011). On the side of regulatory machinery, NISA lacked independence both from government and the industry and communication between the company and the government was poor, even during the crisis. 

Stressing discrete deficiencies like these, however, can hide the larger structural problems of which they are symptoms. A higher sea wall at Fukushima would barely have touched the endemic perils of a large-scale nuclear industry in a land prone to earthquake and tsunami. Similarly, the conflict between economy and safety is a structural feature of privatized nuclear industries, as the financial collapse of TEPCO and the travails of Japan’s regulators show.

Regulatory regimes have a fundamental role of public reassurance. Though, in Britain, minor incidents are reported, they are usually limited to specialist or local media.  When bigger stories break, a chief role of regulative bodies is to insist on palliative action and new forms of micro-management. It takes a Fukushima to lay bare deeper patterns of complicity between governments, their experts and companies. Regulatory bodies and expert institutions, like the IAEA and the Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) internationally, or the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ORN) and Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (COMARE) in the UK do attend to safety and the measurement of risk, but they are also under pressure not to reveal the whole truth if it undermines nuclear power as such.  COMARE’s recent report, reviewing the evidence on infant leukemia, including the KiKK study (Child leukemia in the proximity of nuclear power plants), is a case in point. It confirms, as Ian Fairlie notes, the widespread finding of raised rates of infant leukemia within 5km of nuclear power stations, but refuses to give it any significance, arguing that causes must lie elsewhere than proximity to power stations.

Unexpected events happen - as we all know from our own lives. The equivalent in the UK, to a major earthquake and a tsunami (which might have been predicted in NE coastal Japan) might be a major flooding episode on England’s East coast which is vulnerable to tide, erosion and sea rise. The fact that the French and British governments wish to exclude terrorist attack from the EC’s ‘stress tests’ of power stations (Nuclear Monitor 726) suggests that a genuine danger is being hushed up. When it comes to assessment of risks, the nuclear story is littered with examples of technological hubris. In 1983, the Soviet head of the IAEA’s Energy and Safety Department boasted about the safety planning for a new nuclear plant being built in Ukraine. The name of the plant was Chernobyl.

Easing in Nuclear: Coalition Policies
To understand official responses to Fukushima in Britain, we have to stress the strength of the political investment in new nuclear. Since the May 2010 general election, it has become clear that the new government is following the same pro-nuclear policy as New Labour, though with delays for yet more ‘consultations’. The political differences within the coalition on nuclear matters are being handled with some tactical skill on the Conservative side. During the election the Liberal-Democratic Party (Lib-Dem.) opposed both the replacement of the Trident and the building of new nuclear power stations, The coalition agreement, however, adopted the Conservative pro-nuclear line, while allowing Lib-Dems to dissent, so long as this did not threaten the parliamentary majority. So in its pursuit of power in government, the Lib-Dem party has been ‘beheaded’ by the old device of incorporating the leadership and disorganising the membership. As the Coalition edges towards a mainly nuclear solution, it is a Lib-Dem Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Chris Huhne) and a Lib-Dem Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Vince Cable) who lead the way.

The coalition remains committed to a future energy mix that includes new nuclear. It works closely with the nuclear industry. It has reduced the permitted sites for new build from ten to eight, all sites of existing reactors, It has changed planning procedures, retaining Labour’s relative disempowerment of local agencies but replacing its semi-independent commission with government ministers and departments as final decision-makers. In the same spirit, the Secretary of State for Local Government and Communities recently over-ruled local councils and popular referendum (voting 98% against) in order to approve the siting of a low-level nuclear waste dump near villages in Northamptonshire. This minimally engineered landfill site is likely to become the main repository of low-level nuclear waste from southern and central England (For the previous history of the Kings Cliffe conflict see Nuclear Monitor 713).

Ministers have continued to insist that there will be no public subsidies. At the same time, they have promised a carbon price floor of £16 a ton by 1 April 2013, a level that would benefit ‘the existing nuclear sector’ by £ 50m (US$82 or 57 euro) a year, twice as much as green producers. While inheriting Labour’s insistence that companies must have approved financial and technical plans for decommissioning and waste disposal before new construction begins, they are introducing a new clause (Energy Bill, Clause 102) that will prevent renegotiation of these agreements should costs rise. This allows for future public bale-outs. To cover the un-insurabilty of nuclear it is necessary to set a limit to a company’s liabilities. Under the Paris-Brussels Convention EU states can set an upper limit of Euro700m (US$ 1.01 billion).  Having started with a figure even more favourable to energy companies, the Coalition is now consulting on a £ 1bn (US$1.63bn or 1.13bn euro) limit. In any case these are subsidies designed to relieve investor anxieties. For legacy waste and the decommissioning of old plant the coalition retains Labour’s solution - public finance for new private consortia.

These forms of positive support for nuclear are accompanied by discouragement of large-scale carbon-limited alternatives. Most recently funding has been withdrawn from large-scale solar projects and a tax has been imposed on the remaining reserves of North Sea gas. Many independent green energy producers are critical of coalition policies, while the Confederation of British Industries has criticised a lack of direction in renewables policy. The UK is currently spending just over half of what France is spending and under a third of Germany’s spend on stimulating green innovation. Nor is any effort being made to limit the current rise in fuel prices, which hit consumers in hard times but benefits the same large companies that are pursuing nuclear solutions. The relative newcomer and major nuclear player EdF is rapidly increasing its UK market share. It is not yet clear how the dead stop to nuclear ambitions in Germany will affect the UK operations of RWE and E.ON, nor how Fukushima will affect investment decisions generally, but it is clear that every effort is being made to ease in new power stations in ways that amount to subsidy.

Handling Fukushima: Enter the Regulators
Unlike Germany, Switzerland and Japan itself, the British government, like France and the USA have chosen to stick with nuclear. The strategic, persuasive role of the regulative institutions is clear here, with signs of international co-ordination.

The main British response to Fukushima was to ‘pause’ new nuclear, meet with ‘representatives of the nuclear industry’ and commission Chief Nuclear Inspector Mike Weightman, to report on nuclear safety in the light of the disaster. It was clear from the beginning that Weightman would erect no barriers to new nuclear. As Energy Secretary Chris Huhne put it ‘I want to ensure that any lessons learned from Mike Weightman’s report are applied to UK’s new build programme’. Weightman himself was equally reassuring, calling Fukushima ‘unprecedented’ and aiming primarily ‘to add to our very robust safety standards and arrangements’. In something of a British coup, Weightman was also appointed to head the IAEA’s team to inspect Fukushima from May 27. As early as May 18, and before the Japan inquiry, he produced an “Interim Report’ the main conclusion of which was that ‘there is no need to curtail the operations of nuclear plants in the UK but lessons should be learned’ (Office For Nuclear Regulation 18 May 2011). While earthquake and tsunami were ‘far beyond the most extreme natural events that the UK would be expected to experience’ he nonetheless listed 25 main areas where companies and the government should review safety arrangements, including flood defences, fuel rod storage, electricity supplies and cooling systems. The Report was immediately accepted by the Minister and by the nuclear industry leaders who were consulted in its preparation and are applauded in its pages. EdF welcomed the report ’which will further enhance our strong nuclear safety performance and new build plans’. The issuing of the next Energy National Policy Statement – the basic document for future energy development -  will follow ‘as soon as possible’ and will not await Weightman’s full report in September. 

In this way reference to regulators has been used as a way to defend and even speed up lagging policies. The press, the companies and their corporate lawyers have hailed the interim report as  ‘a green light’ for nuclear new build.

Sources; Press (mostly on line) in UK, Germany, Japan and USA, especially the Guardian, Independent, Wall Street Journal, The Japan Times and Der Speigel (in English); COMARE, 14th Report, (2011), Dr Ian Fairlie, comment on COMARE published by the nuclear Free Local Authorities www.nuclearpolicy.info/docs/.../A196_(NB82)_COMARE_report.pdf; Parliamentary Debates; NuClear News No. 29 May2011; Company and corporate legal sources e.g. nuclearmatters.co.uk; www.pinsentmasons.com; Office for Nuclear Regulation, Health and Safety Executive, ‘Fukushima  - Interim Lessons Learnt’.

Contact: Richard Johnson, Chair East Midlands Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#728
17/06/2011
Shorts

Municipalities try to block Danish plans for a final LILW repository.
The five Danish municipalities that host the six sites designated by Danish Decommissioning (DD) as a potential final low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste repository (see In Brief, Nuclear Monitor 727, 27 May 2011) have all refused to host it. On 26 May they sent a letter to the Danish interior and health minister, Bertel Haarder, suggesting that Risø National Laboratory on the island of Zeeland, where almost all of the radioactive waste has been produced at three research reactors, should be the place, where the waste is kept in the future. If that is not possible, a deal should be struck to send the up to 10.000 cubic metre radioactive waste abroad to a country experienced in dealing with it. The municipalities were dissatisfied that they had not been consulted in advance and that they had to hear of DD’s recommendations through the press. The minister dismissed the protests, arguing that the decision where to place the waste is several years off in the future and that there would be plenty of time to discuss the final location. However, locating the waste will not be up to him because the Danish interior and health ministry that has so far overseen the process is expected to give up its responsibilities after the completion of the pre-feasibility studies that has now been submitted. Since 2009 three other ministries have been fighting each other in order not to have to take charge of the project. The whole process has been heavily criticised in the media as well as from political opposition parties. Most recently, the Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear Waste Review (MKG) has criticised DD for not acknowledging that some of the waste is high-level radioactive waste and that it has failed to distinguish between short and long lived intermediate-level radioactive waste. According to MKG, apart from being designed to store only the short lived low- and intermediate-level waste and not the long lived, the planned Danish repository does not live up to Swedish standards, mainly because the safety analysis is too short-term.
Ingeniøren, 29 March 2011 / Jyllandsposten, 15 April 2011 / Radio Denmark, 26 May 2011


Sit-in against Jordan nuclear program in capital Amman.
On May 31, Jordan wittnessed its first anti-nuclear action. Not a spectacle in terms of number of people and methods applied, the participants comprised many concerned Jordanian citizens who are worried of the highly dangerous potential impacts of nuclear energy in Jordan. It included people from various disciplines of life, connected with their fear about the country’s nuclear program, which calls for the establishment of a 1,000 megawatt (MW) nuclear reactor. Wearing black T-shirts reading “No to a nuclear reactor”, the 40 protesters expressed concern over the effects of a nuclear reactor and uranium mining on public health and the environment.

Basil Burgan, an anti-nuclear activist and part of a coalition of 16 NGOs, said the demonstration was the “continuation” of efforts to take Jordan’s nuclear ambitions off-line. “We have come to a point where nuclear power has begun to take priority over solar and wind energy and we want to say that a small desert county like Jordan has no need for a nuclear power program,” he said on the sidelines of the sit-in,

Adnan Marajdeh, a resident of the Hashemiyyeh District near the planned site of the country’s first reactor in Balama, some 40 kilometers northwest of the capital, said there has been growing concern among local residents over the social and environmental impact of the plant. “We already suffer from the effects of the Samra Power Station, the Khirbet Al Samra Plant, a steel factory… now they have to put a nuclear power plant on top of us as well?” added the military retiree, who is president of the Jordan Environment Protection and Prevention Society.

Despite a resurgent opposition to nuclear power, Jordan is expected to select one of three short-listed vendors - Canadian, Russian and French-Japanese technologies - by June 30 for the construction of the countries first nuclear power plant.
Jordan Times, 1 June 2011 / Blog Batir Wardam at:  http://bwardam.wordpress.com/category/anti-nuclear/


UK: No stress-test for Sellafield.
Media reports early June cited a British government spokesperson as saying that Sellafield would not be one of the 143 nuclear reactors across Europe to undergo a “stress test”. The spokesperson explained that the UK decision was based on the fact that Sellafield was a nuclear processing facility and not a power plant, therefore it did not meet the EU criteria for stress-testing. But Sellafield’s exclusion causes Irish consternation and the "renewed goodwill and neighbourliness between Ireland and Britain that has followed Queen Elizabeth’s successful visit to these shores" is facing fresh peril.

The Irish government do not seem to be taking no for an answer - a spokesperson for Environment Minister Phil Hogan said it was the department’s “understanding and expectation” that the stress test would apply to Sellafield, following a bilateral meeting on the issue in March.

“Sellafield cannot be exempted from vital safety health checks because of a technicality. It remains an active nuclear site and therefore poses risks like any other. The UK authorities should be willing to put Sellafield to the stress test, even if it’s not covered by the EU proposal, as it still represents a major safety concern for Irish citizens,” said the Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness.
www.OffalyExpress.ie, 4 June 2011


EU: directive to export radioactive waste.
EU member states should be able to send their radioactive waste to non-EU countries according to the EU Energy Committee. Voting on a draft directive on the  management of spent fuel, MEPs agreed that countries should be able to export radioactive waste outside of Europe, as long as it is processed in accordance with new EU safety rules.

Under the proposed directive, each EU state must create programs to ensure that spent fuel and waste is "safely processed and disposed of", as well as holding plans for the management of all nuclear facilities, even after they close.

MEPs also backed stricter rules for the protection and training of workers in the industry, agreeing that national governments must ensure sufficient funds are available to cover expenses related to decommissioning and management of radioactive waste under the "polluter pays" principle.

The EU Parliament's final vote on the directive will take place in June.
www.environmentalistonline.com, 27 May 2011


Albania moves away from nuclear.
Maybe it was unlikely already but Albania moved one step away from nuclear. Albanian Premier Sali Berisha hinted May 7, on the fifth anniversary of the European Fund for Southeast Europe that the country is reconsidering previous plans for the construction of a nuclear power plant. Despite not declaring a definitive step down from the project, Albania’s Prime Minister made reference to the incident at Fukushima and Germany’s decision to close all nuclear plants by 2022 as a sign his government might be moving away from plans to build a nuclear plant. At the same time, according to a report by Top Channel, Berisha asked EFSE to help provide loans to investors willing to build new hydropower plants, meaning that for the time being Albania’s priority will be water generated energy.
www.Balkans.com, 8 June 2011


France: only 22 % in favor of new reactors.
France is the world's most nuclear-dependent country, producing 80 percent of its power from 58 reactors, but public opposition is growing. An opinion poll published June 4, found just over three-quarters of those surveyed back a gradual withdrawal over the next 25 to 30 years from nuclear technology.

The Ifop survey found only 22 percent of respondents supported building new nuclear power stations,15 percent backed a swift decommissioning and 62 percent a gradual one.
Reuters, 7 June 2011

Sellafield emergency exercise postponed - wrong weather

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#726
6131
13/05/2011
CORE
Article

An on-site emergency exercise at Sellafield, scheduled for 4 November last year, was initially postponed when a real emergency unfolded in the form of a loss of coolant water to a number of Sellafield’s operating facilities when water supplies from the local lake at Wastwater were disrupted. It is not yet clear what caused the disruption or its duration. 

The planned Level 1 demonstration exercise “Magpie”, understood to have been based on a scenario whereby a truck carrying a load of plutonium contaminated material (PCM) had crashed over one of the site’s bridges, coincidentally damaging an important water pipe and posing a fire risk to the PCM, was postponed by the organisers in order to deal with the real water-loss event, and re-scheduled for 9th December. Come the day, the decision was taken to cancel the re-scheduled exercise altogether – because of inclement weather conditions (a prolonged freeze) and Sellafield’s Emergency Management Team being too busy with other work (preparing for another exercise some 4 months ahead).

Explanations for the abandonment of the ‘Magpie’ emergency exercise were provided to a local stakeholder group meeting on 7 April 2011 and drew disbelief from some members. Surely, the Emergency Management Team was not saying that Sellafield accidents could be expected to occur only on warm and sunny days and when emergency teams just happened to have time on their hands?

CORE’s spokesman Martin Forwood told the stakeholder meeting that the cancellation of any exercise was of significant concern, and later added that as there was little enough confidence in Sellafield’s ability to deal with a real accident on or offsite and to cope with public evacuations if necessary, the failure to take advantage of a practice exercise – under any conditions – was a missed opportunity that could prove costly and even fatal in the future. It was unacceptable that Sellafield’s emergency teams appeared unable to multi-task when the situation demanded.

As vividly played out in Japan recently, the loss of water supplies to nuclear facilities can have catastrophic results. For Sellafield, there would be dangerous implications for its reprocessing plants and spent fuel storage ponds, and particularly for its highly radioactive liquid High Level Waste (HLW) storage tanks that require 24/7 cooling and use water extracted from Wastwater as an emergency cooling supply. The lake is located some 11 kilometers from Sellafield, its water extracted via what is understood to be, for the most part, the original 50 year old piping.

The loss of coolant to the HLW tanks, leading to their overheating, catching fire and releasing a radioactive plume off-site, is designated as Sellafield’s ‘Reference Accident’ (the worst credible accident for the site) and forms the basis for West Cumbria’s Nuclear Emergency Plan.                                       

Source: CORE Briefing, 11 April 2011
Contact: Cumbrians Oppossed to a Radioactive Environment (CORE), Dry Hall, Broughton Mills, Broughton-in-Furness, Cumbria LA20 6AZ., U.K.
Tel:  +44 1229 716523
Web: www.corecumbria.co.uk    

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