You are here

UK

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#723
25/02/2011
Shorts

Criticism South Korean UAE contract
A news program has belatedly exposed the fact that the South Korean government agreed to provide a loan covering approximately half the construction costs for the exportation of a nuclear power plant to the United Arab Emirates. While the government explained that this was part of ordinary power plant export financing, controversy has been flaring up as this revelation couples with previous controversies over inflation of the order amount and the deployment of troops to the UAE as a condition for receiving the order. A Jan. 30 episode of the MBC program 'News Magazine 2580' revealed that in the process of signing a contract with the UAE for the power plant export in December 2009, the South Korean government agreed to provide a loan for approximately US$10 billion (7.25 billion euro) of the total order amount of US$18.6 billion through Korea Eximbank. In addition, the program reported that the repayment period was set at 28 years, and that the transaction generates a loss due to the fact that South Korea, which has a lower credit rating than the UAE, has to borrow the money at high interest rates and lend it at low interest rates. The program also reported that the construction has encountered setbacks, including a delay in the groundbreaking ceremony from its originally scheduled date in late 2010, as the Korean government has encountered difficulties coming up with the promised US$10 billion loan.

Hankyoreh, South Korea, 1 February 2011


URÂNIO EM MOVI(E)MENTO,
the 1st International Uranium Film Festival is Latin America´s first film festival to highlight nuclear and radioactive issues. It is an annual event with 2 international competitions.

The Uranium Film Festival wants to inform especially the Brazilian and Latin American societies and stimulate the production of independent documentaries and movies about the whole nuclear fuel cycle, about the dangers of radioactivity and especially about the environmental and health risks of uranium exploration, mining and processing. The Uranium Film Festival will be held from May 21th to 28th 2011 in the city of Rio de Janeiro and from June 2nd to 9th in the city of São Paulo

The first 18 films have been selected: look for the list at:

http://www.uraniumfilmfestival.org/html/selected_films.html


Germany: Complaints against runtime extensions to Constitutional Court.

In cooperation with citizens living close to Germany's seven oldest nuclear powerplants, Greenpeace has submitted a complaint to Germany's Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht). While Greenpeace Germany generally argues that the runtime extensions endanger each citizen's right of being protected against bodily harm, the new constitutional complaint is specifically directed at the latest Nuclear Energy Law's paragraph 7d. The new §7d tells reactor operators, in rather poetic language, to reduce risks threatening "the population". This is, according to Greenpeace's law experts, a significant point. It means that individual citizens who have lately filed complaints (with support from Greenpeace) against the extension of the licenses for reactors in their neighborhood will be denied the right of action. In other words, the old Nuclear Law was designed to protect citizens and gave them the right to complain in local courts against the risks caused by the local polluter, and the new law withdraws this right.

Parallel to Greenpeace's action, two other complaints against the new Nuclear Law

will be filed at the Constitutional Court later this year. One is by a number of states of the German federation and the other is by groups of members of the federal parliament.

Greenpeace press release (in German), 3 February 2011


Norway: severe consequences of Sellafield accident.
An accident at the high-activity liquor storage at Sellafield would have severe consequences for Norway's wildlife, agricultural industry and environment. The Norwegian Radiological Protection Authority has published a second report on the consequences of a accident that releases just one per cent of the high-level liquid waste at Sellafield. This report looks at the consequences to the environment and animals, while the first report considered the fallout likely from a similar accident. The report use the typical weather experienced in October 2008 and only considers the release of caesium-137. An actual accident would release other radionuclides, particularly strontium.

It is estimated the amount of caesium-137 deposited on Norway would be about seven times that from Chernobyl. Direct costs from Chernobyl on agriculture and reindeer in Norway have been over 665 million kroner (US$118 million; 86 million euro) and there are still annual costs of 15 million kroner. Up to 80 per cent of all lambs in Norway would be expected to have excess radiation levels and restrictions apply for decades. The report is available at www.nrpa.no/dav/0942d3dc93.pdf

N-Base Briefing 681, 25 January 2011


Canada: White Elephant 'Pointless Lepreau' reappears in New Brunswick.
The Point Lepreau nuclear generating station provides the quintessential definition of a white elephant. The aging nuclear plant opened its doors three times over budget in 1983. The Energy and Utilities Board refused to support spending on refurbishing it beyond its expected lifetime, but politicians went ahead anyway. Today, costs for the touch-and-go overhaul are already over Cdn$1.4 billion (1.4 bn US$, 1 bn Euro). The latest guess at a completion date is May 2012, a delay of almost three years. Damage to public and worker health and the environment have yet to be calculated and the final costs for taxpayers may not end for generations.

An alliance of public interest groups in New Brunswick, known as the Point Lepreau Decommissioning Caucus, is spreading a simple, but powerful message: Point Lepreau is a white elephant, we don't need it. Pointless Lepreau is old, sickly and on its last legs: Do Not Resuscitate. To underline the foolishness of refurbishing Lepreau, the groups are holding surprise events featuring their newest member, an actual white elephant costume aptly named Pointless Lepreau.

Press release, 19 January 2011


When the dust settles.
The International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW) and IKV Pax Christi have been working on a joint project to create an animated short film on the hazards of depleted uranium and the international campaign against its use and are happy to announce that the English language version has now been completed. We have sought to render down a complex issue into six and a half minutes and at present the animation is available in English and Dutch, we hope that additional languages will be available in future.

Both versions are available from our Youtube channels at the links below. ICBUW can also provide copies for use at events and to help support your national campaigns.

English version: http://www.youtube.com/user/ICBUW


UK Gov't sending papers down the memory-hole. The UK government and its agencies like the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA; successor to Nirex) are trying to airbrush out the history of the attempt to find a nuclear waste repository in West Cumbria. Documents and scientific papers which were formerly available on their websites have been removed; the Nirex documents have been transferred to the safe keeping of the British Geological Survey, where they may be 'consulted' at Keyworth, Nottinghamshire. But nothing remains online, not even an index of the documents and reports. Now, David Smythe has re-scanned much of the material and collected links of other parts.

Sellafield (West-Cumbria) was disqualified for several reasons, but now NDA and government is looking again at that region for final disposal.

Papers are available at: http://www.davidsmythe.org/nuclear/nuclear.htm


Monju: accident delays startup with 3 more years. The task of removing a device that accidentally fell into the prototype fast-breeder reactor Monju in August will delay its full startup about a year to 2014 or later.
The Japan Atomic Energy Agency, the operator of the 280 MW Monju reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, is expected to remove the device next summer or later and then conduct checkups, delaying the test operation initially scheduled to start next spring and subsequent full-fledged run. Removing the 3.3-ton device, which was used for fuel exchange before it fell into the reactor vessel in the Aug. 26 accident, requires special equipment, approval from the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and a followup inspection.
Monju resumed operations with limited power output in May 2010 after 14 years and five months(!) of suspension due to a sodium coolant leak and a resultant fire and coverup attempt in 1995.
Kyodo, 17 December 2010


Extended operation for Paducah enrichment plant? US uranium enrichment company USEC said that it is working to extend the operation of its Paducah plant in Kentucky beyond May 2012, when the old and inefficient gaseous diffusion plant had been expected to shut down. The company said that it will "base its decision to extend operations upon economic considerations and the ability of the plant to operate profitably." The Paducah plant – currently the only operating uranium enrichment facility in the USA - is set to be replaced by USEC's planned American Centrifuge Plant (ACP) project in Piketon, Ohio.

The full ACP plant was originally expected to commence commercial operation in early 2010 and achieve full annual capacity at the end of 2012. However, early in 2009 the whole project was slowed pending funding through the Department of Energy (DoE) loan guarantee program, and in July 2009 it was suspended due to the DoE refusing to award a US$2 billion (1.5 billion euro) loan guarantee, and asking USEC to withdraw its application. USEC refused to do this, and in July 2010, it submitted an updated loan guarantee application to the DoE. In October 2010, DoE informed USEC that it has largely completed its initial technical review of USEC's application and is proceeding to the next stage of the loan guarantee process.

Although USEC earlier secured investment of U$200 million from Toshiba and Babcock & Wilcox to support the ACP, the company maintains that additional financing is needed to complete plant construction.

World Nuclear News, 12 January 2011


Italy: referendum on relaunching nuclear power.
Italy's constitutional court ruled on January 12, a national referendum could be held against the construction of nuclear power plants, dealing a potential blow to government plans to relaunch the sector. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi wants nuclear plants to generate a quarter of the country's electricity in the future. The court allowed a request by opposition politician Antonio Di Pietro for a referendum, which will take place between on a Sunday between April 15 and June 15.

Antonio Di Pietro is leader of Italia dei Valori (Italy of Values) a centrist political party and an outspoken opponent of nuclear power. An April 2010 petition by the party successfully gathered the 500,000 signatures of Italian voters needed for the referendum to proceed through the Italian legislative system. This was presented to the Constitutional Court for it's final ruling on the admissibility of the proposed referendum.

Public opinion in Italy has been generally hostile to nuclear energy, and a 1987 referendum following the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986 closed all plants and phased out production.

Reuters, 12 January 2011, Rete Nazionale Antinucleare (RNA) International, 13 January 2011

Sellafield: still the dirty old man of Europe - discharges set to breach marine pollution targets

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#723
6115
25/02/2011
CORE
Article

A report published February 17 by CORE (Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment) exposes Sellafield’s plans for substantial increases in radioactive discharges to the Irish Sea over the coming decade.

The rate of discharge from planned reprocessing operations, and subsequent concentrations of radioactivity in the marine environment, will breach international commitments and targets agreed by the UK Government in 1998 at an OSPAR (Oslo-Paris) Convention meeting in Portugal. As a contracting party, the Government committed to the ‘progressive and substantial reduction in radioactive discharges so that by the year 2020, concentrations of (man-made) radioactivity in the marine environment, above historic levels, were ‘close to zero’.

CORE’s report reveals that, despite an awareness of the threat posed to those commitments by its current plans for Sellafield – including the threat of legal action by international governments - site owner the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has been prepared to adopt contingency plans if necessary, including an agreement ‘not to meet the OSPAR deadline’.

Spokesman for CORE, Martin Forwood said: "The NDA’s cavalier hit or miss approach to meeting UK commitments is breathtakingly complacent. Unless action is taken now, simple arithmetic dictates that if its work program is to be completed by the reprocessing plants’ scheduled closure dates, the rate of reprocessing must be significantly raised above anything achieved recently - with a correspondingly progressive and substantial increase in radioactive discharges that contravenes the commitment made in 1998 to reduce discharges”.

Radioactive discharges to the Irish Sea, including plutonium, are dominated by those from Sellafield’s two reprocessing plants B205 and the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (THORP), particularly the former. The accepted correlation between annual reprocessing rates and subsequent radioactive discharge levels is amply demonstrated by the recent reduction in discharges from the site following several years of unusually low reprocessing rates.

This recent reduction however will be completely reversed by NDA plans that include the reprocessing of some 4700 tons of spent fuel from the UK’s magnox reactors in B205 in the next 6 years - requiring a rate more than double that achieved over the last 5 years – and the reprocessing of at least 3700 tons of spent fuel, mostly from the UK’s Advanced Gas Cooled reactors (AGR) but also including 600 tons of overseas fuel in THORP whose operational life has now been extended by 10 years to 2020.

CORE’s assessment also highlights the extra pressure piled on the ageing B205 reprocessing plant, already under the tightest of schedules, by the extensions recently approved for the Wylfa and Oldbury power stations – a complete U-turn on earlier decisions, and one that means more magnox fuel than necessary must now be reprocessed.

The assessment further shows that, coupled with NDA indecision on whether or not to reprocess part or all of thousands of tons of AGR fuel not specifically contracted for reprocessing, a range of technical issues currently restricting Sellafield operations - particularly the lack of capacity to treat the highly radioactive liquid wastes produced by reprocessing – could see reprocessing extended beyond its scheduled end-date of 2020.

CORE’s spokesman added: “The rise in radioactive discharges from what increasingly resembles a crash program of reprocessing will not only breach UK commitments to OSPAR but also pose a potent threat to international waters. Meeting its commitments and reducing that threat could be resolved by the urgent adoption of alternatives to reprocessing – though Government and NDA addiction to reprocessing has so far prevented positive action on alternatives being pursued - and only then as a contingency in the event of a chronic failure of the reprocessing plant rather than as a constructive means of reducing discharges”.

The Government view, that the UK is ‘on course’ to meet its commitments is made in its 2009 UK Radioactive Discharge Strategy report, mirrors OSPAR’s view that progress is being made towards meeting its targets of discharge reductions. Based almost entirely on the reductions that have followed Sellafield’s recent poor reprocessing performance, both views ignore, or are oblivious to, the implications of the NDA’s escalated reprocessing plans. Further, weaknesses in OSPAR procedures for monitoring and sampling the marine environment could, if unresolved, provide convenient loopholes through which claims of success in meeting targets might be made when OSPAR’s final analysis is undertaken in 2020.

Martin Forwood further commented that: “The political will and courage needed to honour UK’s international commitments is conspicuous by its absence. Officialdom is sleepwalking towards a situation which, unless avoiding action is taken now, will see commitments broken and the UK once again earning the Dirty Old Man of Europe tag”.

Note
At the 1998 meeting of OSPAR at Sintra in Portugal, the then UK Minister John Prescott signed up to what were described as groundbreaking commitments for action on radioactive discharges, stating “I was ashamed of Britain’s record in the past but now we have shed the tag of Dirty old Man of Europe and have joined the family of nations”.

The CORE report 'Sellafield – Breaching International Treaty Targets on Radioactive Marine Pollution' is available via CORE

Source and contact: CORE, Dry Hall, Broughton Mills, Broughton-in-Furness, Cumbria LA20 6AZ. United Kingdom, Tel: + 44 1229 716523
Email: martin@core.furness.co.uk
Website: www.corecumbria.co.uk

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#722
21/01/2011
Shorts

US embassy cable on Belene.
A US diplomatic cable, originating from the WikiLeaks organisation and published in the Guardian newspaper just before Christmas, relates the serious misgivings of US Ambassador in Bulgaria, Nancy McEldowney, over the planned Belene nuclear power plant in Bulgaria. Commenting in 2009, McEldowney notes that the controversial nuke project, slated for construction in an earthquake zone, “is dogged by cost overruns, financing woes, construction delays, and now serious safety and quality assurance concerns. Belene may end up costing Bulgaria more than money in the long run.” 
The high-level revelations thus confirm the concerns consistently raised in recent years by campaign NGOs such as the BeleNE! Coalition, CEE Bankwatch Network, Greenpeace, Urgewald, BankTrack and many others in Bulgaria and across Europe. The project-related information described by the US Embassy in Sofia is derived from various sources, including project experts and Bulgarian governmental officials.
The cable also presents the problems experienced by RWE, the German energy utility giant that was involved in Belene as a strategic investor throughout 2007-2009. “RWE is clearly feeling 'buyer's remorse' about its participation in Belene. Belene experts said that RWE remains 'in the dark' on most on-site day-to-day and technical issues. During a late May 2009 Belene project meeting, RWE asked numerous basic questions, indicating that they have not seen any of the on-site safety and environmental reports.”
This confirmation about the project's serious shortcomings comes during a period of renewed pressure from the Russian government to speed up Belene's construction. Meanwhile, the British-based bank HSBC has been recently selected as the financial consultant to organise financing for the Bulgarian nuke. In 2009 French bank BNP Paribas pulled out of a similar role following its own fruitless attempts to convince private and public European investors to put up money for Belene.
In parallel, and following invitations from Bulgaria's prime minister Boyko Borisov to invest in Belene, none of the other countries in the region has as yet confirmed their participation. Croatia has already declared no interest, while Serbia and Macedonia await more documents before taking their decisions. The most damning – and credible – Belene documentation looks already to have been delivered.

Source: The Guardian (UK), 20 December 2010


Extended operation for Paducah enrichment plant?
US uranium enrichment company USEC said that it is working to extend the operation of its Paducah plant in Kentucky beyond May 2012, when the old and inefficient gaseous diffusion plant had been expected to shut down. The company said that it will "base its decision to extend operations upon economic considerations and the ability of the plant to operate profitably." The Paducah plant – currently the only operating uranium enrichment facility in the USA - is set to be replaced by USEC's planned American Centrifuge Plant (ACP) project in Piketon, Ohio.

The full ACP plant was originally expected to commence commercial operation in early 2010 and achieve full annual capacity at the end of 2012. However, early in 2009 the whole project was slowed pending funding through the Department of Energy (DoE) loan guarantee program, and in July 2009 it was suspended due to the DoE refusing to award a US$2 billion (1.5 billion euro) loan guarantee, and asking USEC to withdraw its application. USEC refused to do this, and in July 2010, it submitted an updated loan guarantee application to the DoE. In October 2010, DoE informed USEC that it has largely completed its initial technical review of USEC's application and is proceeding to the next stage of the loan guarantee process.

Although USEC earlier secured investment of U$200 million from Toshiba and Babcock & Wilcox to support the ACP, the company maintains that additional financing is needed to complete plant construction.

Source: World Nuclear News, 12 January 2011


USA: another huge victory.
More than 15,000 letters were sent to Congress in December and many, many phone calls made to stop US$8 billion (6 billion euro) in taxpayer loans for new nuclear reactor construction. And the final government funding bill, signed by President Obama, contains not one dime for new nukes! The Senate was forced to pull the "Omnibus" funding bill it had proposed, which included the US$8 billion in taxpayer loans for the nuclear industry, and instead a "Continuing Resolution" was passed that funds the government through mid-March.

That makes at least seven major efforts over the past two years by nuclear industry backers to increase taxpayer loans for new reactors -and every one of those efforts has been blocked! Grassroots people power works! Michael Mariotte: "Take a moment to celebrate … and get ready to do it all over again early in the new year -because the nuclear industry will surely be back, hat-in-hand, looking for your money again. We will, of course, keep you informed."

NIRS, nirsnet@nirs.org, 23 December 2010


Monju: accident delays startup with 3 more years.
The task of removing a device that accidentally fell into the prototype fast-breeder reactor Monju in August will delay its full startup about a year to 2014 or later.
The Japan Atomic Energy Agency, the operator of the 280 MW Monju reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, is expected to remove the device next summer or later and then conduct checkups, delaying the test operation initially scheduled to start next spring and subsequent full-fledged run. Removing the 3.3-ton device, which was used for fuel exchange before it fell into the reactor vessel in the Aug. 26 accident, requires special equipment, approval from the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and a followup inspection.
Monju resumed operations with limited power output in May 2010 after 14 years and five months(!) of suspension due to a sodium coolant leak and a resultant fire and coverup attempt in 1995.

Kyodo, 17 December 2010


Italy: referendum on relaunching nuclear power.
Italy's constitutional court ruled on January 12, a national referendum could be held against the construction of nuclear power plants, dealing a potential blow to government plans to relaunch the sector. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi wants nuclear plants to generate a quarter of the country's electricity in the future. The court allowed a request by opposition politician Antonio Di Pietro for a referendum, which will take place between on a Sunday between April 15 and June 15.

Antonio Di Pietro is leader of Italia dei Valori (Italy of Values) a centrist political party and an outspoken opponent of nuclear power. An April 2010 petition by the party successfully gathered the 500,000 signatures of Italian voters needed for the referendum to proceed through the Italian legislative system. This was presented to the Constitutional Court for it's final ruling on the admissibility of the proposed referendum.

Public opinion in Italy has been generally hostile to nuclear energy, and a 1987 referendum following the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986 closed all plants and phased out production.

Reuters, 12 January 2011, Rete Nazionale Antinucleare (RNA) International, 13 January 2011


UK: more no-subsidies.
The government's Green Investment Bank could fund the building of new nuclear reactors, it has emerged. It is the latest form of public financial support on offer to the industry from the government which continues to insist that the industry will not receive any more subsidies. The Conservatives' pre-election manifesto promised that the Green Investment Bank - which was also in the coalition agreement - would finance "new green technology start-ups". But documents issued before Christmas by Vince Cable's business department list new reactors, along with offshore wind farms and new electricity grids, as one of the three proposed "target sectors" on which the bank would initially focus.

Guardian (UK), 13 January 2011


Israel: Founders antinuclear information network died.
Shirley Rose Benyamin died late last year and Herschell Benyamin died early January in Jerusalem. After the Chernobyl disaster of 1986, Shirley Benyamin "decided to do something to stop Israel from going down the nuclear power pathway," as environmentalist Alon Tal recounted in his book Pollution in a Promised Land. In addition to her husband, she enlisted the late Dr. Dvora Ben-Shaul, a journalist and scientist. The group founded the Israel Agency for Nuclear Information, but in the post-Vanunu affair atmosphere, the Interior Ministry refused to register the non-profit. The group reconstituted itself with broader environmental goals as EcoNet and was approved. The establishment was suspicious of the couple, but Shirley was undeterred. Funds she raised made it possible to examine the state of health of employees of the Dimona reactor, for which EcoNet won the Israel Prize in 1994. Donations she solicited also helped provide seed money for the Israel Union for Environmental Defense, Green Action and others.

Haaretz.com, 7 January 2011

The Redfern inquiry: the Sellafield body parts scandal

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#721
6105
17/12/2010
Article

As Inquiries into nuclear activities go, the findings of the three-year Inquiry lead by Michael Redfern QC published on November 16, stand out as a refreshingly honest and hard-hitting indictment of the cavalier and unethical practices of harvesting organs from deceased Sellafield workers from the 1960’s to 1992.

Few individuals or organizations directly involved in the removal of an obscene number of organs during coroners’ or hospital post-mortems remain unscathed by the Inquiry, with criticisms leveled at British Nuclear Fuels plc (BNFL), its predecessor UKAEA, Pathologists and Coroners involved in West Cumbria at the time.

Whilst the long-held suspicions of Sellafield’s ‘Body Parts’ malpractices have been well and truly upheld by the Inquiry, the level of malpractice will have shocked most observers. For the families of the 64 Sellafield worker cases, the Inquiry’s findings may bring some level of closure, but trust in the nuclear industry will have been dented by the extent of the collusion between the authorities involved and the widespread lack of openness and consideration towards the families whose consent for the harvesting of organs was not sought.

Providing the Inquiry with over 40 files containing information relating to Sellafield families, CORE wholeheartedly welcomes the work of Michael Redfern QC and his team whose Inquiry solicitor Stephen Jones had earlier thanked CORE for giving ‘a valuable lead into everything at an early stage’.  The files had been collated by CORE over a number of years from the late 1980’s onwards during the operation of a compensation fund it had organised for Sellafield workers and families.

CORE’s spokeman Martin Forwood said today:

“The families will undoubtedly be experiencing a mixture of relief that the truth of the body-parts scandal has been exposed and dismay that they were so badly let down by those   claiming to have their welfare and best interests at heart. For those at the time grieving the loss of a family member, it is difficult to imagine a more heartless betrayal of trust by those directly involved in the scandal”.

The Inquiry paid significant attention to the role played by Dr Geoffrey Schofield (died 1985) after whom a ‘prestigious’ laboratory is named at the Westlakes Science Park near Whitehaven. As Sellafield’s Chief Medical Officer who analyzed 53 of the 64 former Sellafield workers organs, he was found to have given no consideration to the ethics of his work and to have taken dubious steps to obtain organs in cases that were of particular interest to him. His successor Dr Lawson showed an equal lack of ethical awareness and the work of both remained largely unsupervised by the BNFL Board.

Equally damning is the Inquiry’s finding that all the pathologists involved were not only profoundly ignorant of the law under which they carried out the post-mortems but also that they pandered to BNFL’s needs. In removing organs during post mortems without family consent, they breached the provisions of the Human Issue Act 1961.

Coroners too came in for criticism from the Inquiry for leaving families in the dark, failing often to read post mortem reports, and assisting BNFL, the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) and the Medical Research Council (MRC) to obtain organs heedless of whether family consent had been obtained.

With its remit widened beyond the former Sellafield worker cases, the practice of organ harvesting at other facilities in the UK was also investigated by the Redfern Inquiry - some 6000 cases in total. As with Sellafield, no family consent had been obtained.

Martin Forwood added:

“We’ve today heard the Government’s apology for these wrongdoings in West Cumbria and elsewhere, and been given assurances that a tightening of laws and regulations will ensure they will not be repeated. We trust that the industry has learned from Michael Redfern’s lesson, and does not revert to type once the dust of his Inquiry has settled”.

Source: CORE Press release, 16 November 2010.
Contact: CORE, Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment.
Tel:  + 44 1229 716523
Web: www.corecumbria.co.uk

 

Body parts were taken without consent from 64 former Sellafield employees and provided for analysis by their employers between 1960 and 1991. Organs were also taken without consent from 12 workers at nuclear sites in Springfields, Capenhurst, Dounreay and Aldermaston to be tested at Sellafield.

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 femur were also stripped in the majority of incidents. Brains, tongues, hearts and testes were also taken on the advice of the medical officer at Sellafield.

All the organs were later destroyed.
Independent, 16 November 2010

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#719-720
12/11/2010
Shorts

UK & US regulators: unresolved safety issues EPR and AP1000.
On November 10, the UK nuclear regulator said it expects both the Areva EPR and the Westinghouse AP1000 reactors to have unresolved safety issues when the generic design assessment, or GDA, program completes next year. In a quarterly progress report, the NII said it has potential open issues in 10 out of 18 topical areas on the Areva EPR design review and in 16 out of the 18 topical areas on the Westinghouse AP1000 design. The GDA program was set up to issue design acceptance confirmations, or DACs, to the reactor vendors, which would see the regulator sign off on all but site specific licensing issues. The DAC could then be referenced in site license applications by utilities building the reactors. But the program has been plagued by delays resulting from NII Staff shortages and "a failure on the part of the reactor vendors to satisfy the regulator's queries", as Platts puts it.

A day earlier, World Nuclear News reported that Westinghouse has been told by the U.S. NRC that it's AP1000 aircraft impact study is not adequate. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said that documents put to it in order to demonstrate a 2009 requirement did not include 'realistic' analyses and that this amounted to a violation of requirements that Westinghouse must explain and rectify. A rule introduced by NRC in 2009 states that  new nuclear power plant buildings and safety systems must maintain containment, cooling of the reactor core and the integrity or cooling of used fuel facilities in the event of the impact of a large passenger jet. All reactor vendors must fulfill this requirement for their designs. For Westinghouse this regulatory work comes in addition to a 2007 design amendment to the original AP1000 design, which was certified by the NRC in 2006.

In February, UK regulators already criticized the "long delays" and "poor quality" of replies they received from Westinghouse and Areva following safety reviews of their reactor designs.
Source: World Nuclear News, 9 November 2010 / Platts, 10 November 2010 / Nuclear Monitor 704, 26 February 2010


Update Belene, Bulgaria
The situation around the planned nuclear power station in Belene in Bulgaria has become unclear again. Under heavy Russian pressure (among others directly from Prime Minister Putin) and political pressure from a faction within his own party GERB around the Parliament Chair Tsetska Tsacheva, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov declared he is dedicated to the construction of the power plant on the shores of the Danube. Russian Atomstroyexport, a part of Rosatom, prolonged the construction contract with half a year under the condition of a price increase of maximally 2,5 billion Euro on top of the initial 4 Billion price tag. According former director of the Bulgarian Nuclear Regulatory Agency and current professor in risk analysis at the university of Vienna, Georghi Kashchiev, during a round table discussion on 18 October in Sofia, this does, however, not include the first load and large parts of the non-nuclear equipment. With that, the demand from Borisov that the total cost of the project remain under 7 billion Euro come under severe pressure. It is also unclear whether the 500 Million Euro already sunk into Belene are part of this budget. On 1 November, Bulgaria's finance minister Simeon Djankov once more confirmed that no state finances would flow into the project.

In a surprise move, Prime Minister Borisov declared on 25 October after a visit to Muenich a week earlier, that he had found a strategic investor from Bavaria for Belene. Bulgarian media speculate interest from Siemens, the engineering firm that recently broke its alliance with Areva and partnered instead with Rosatom. Siemens, however, refuses to comment on these speculations. An announcement from the Bulgarian Ministry of Economy, Energy and Tourism that the new strategic investor would be announced in the first week of November was not realised, however, and German media have remained suspiciously silent about a possible deal. On 5 November, Borisov announced an offer of up to 2% participation to each Serbia and Croatia in what he said was a pragmatic attempt to secure markets for the output of Belene.

… and Mochovce, Slovakia

Slovakia has asked and received an extension of the period of comment on the draft verdict of the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee, that the Environmental Impact Assessment for the Mochovce 3,4 project has violated the rules of the Convention. The NGOs that originally filed the complaint, Za Matku Zem, Greenpeace Slovakia, Global2000 and the Oeko-buero Wien, did not object to an extension to 30 November. The ACCC is expected to come with a final verdict in December. A spokesperson of the Slovak nuclear regulator UJD, which was responsible for issuing construction licenses in spite of the fact that the EIA procedure had not been finalised, is currently looking for possibilities to implement a likely final verdict of the ACCC, but stated to Greenpeace that it has problems finding a proper legal pathway to do so.

An ACCC verdict is, however, binding and a breach of the Aarhus Convention is also a breach of EU legislation on Environmental Impact Assessments, which means that the European Commission would be obliged to start corrective procedures against Slovakia in case the ACCC verdict concludes a violation of the rules.

… and Temelin, Czech Republic

The submission date for the tender for five new nuclear power stations issued by the Czech utility CEZ has been extended with a year to 2013. CEZ argued that some of the contenders had asked for such an extension, though analysts are of the opinion that the lack of growth in electricity demand in the Czech Republic has bitten into the economic viability of the project. The tender for five blocks, two for Temelin and one for Dukovany in the Czech Republic, one for Jaslovske Bohunice in Slovakia and one for a still to be decided project is expected to cost around 500 billion Czech Crowns or 25 billion Euro. Each block is supposed to deliver between 1000 and 1600 MW capacity.
Source of these 3: Jan Haverkamp, Greenpeace EU Unit, email, 6 November 2010


Another fiasco at Monju, Japan.
A12-meter-long, 46-centimeter-wide, 3.3-metric-ton heavy fuel exchange component that lodged in the reactor vessel of the Monju fast-breeder reactor after being dropped on August 26, cannot be extracted using "usual methods," the Japan  Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) has stated. The JAEA made the announcement November 9, after examining the component -a cylinder now stuck in an opening in the reactor vessel cap- with a camera. The agency believes that to get the part out, equipment on the reactor vessel cap will have to be removed, and an entirely new structure built to prevent sodium now covering the cylinder from mixing with the outside air and igniting during the process. The agency is now considering ways to do this, but gave no hint when testing of the reactor may recommence.

Since Monju resumed test operations on May 6 after shut down since a 1995 sodium leak, it has undergone the first stage of testing. These core confirmation tests were completed on July 22. Preparations were being made for the next stage, which involves increasing power output to 40%, planned for July 2011. However,  the jammed relay cylinder has made further long delays probable.
Source: Nuke Info Tokyo 138, Sept/Oct 2010 / The Mainichi Daily News, 10 November 2010


UK: What 'no subsidies' means: more help will be given.
Following lobbying by the nuclear industry the Government has accepted that it needs to give more financial incentives in order to ensure a new generation of reactors are built in the UK. Energy minister Charles Hendry said he now agreed with the industry that fixing a high minimum price for carbon emissions was not enough. Instead he thought other financial incentive measures would be need to encourage nuclear and other low-carbon energy sources.
Source: N-Base Briefing 674, 10 November 2910


IEA: US$312 billion subsidy annually for fossil.
On November 10, the International Energy Agency published its World Energy Outlook 2010. The IEA report clearly states that fossil fuels are heavily subsidized by more than US$312 billion per year globally! This leads obviously to unfair competition with clean and climate friendly renewable energies. IEA is increasingly recognizing the important role renewable energy can play to fight climate change and improve security of supply. However, it is failing to shift technology recommendations from unproven, dangerous and expensive technologies such as CCS and nuclear power plants.
Source: Press release Greenpeace, 9 November 2010

Nukespeak: subsidies not allowed? Let's call it 'take on financial risks' then

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#718
6096
29/10/2010
Article

On October 18, the U.K. listed eight potential sites in England and Wales for new nuclear power stations that should be operational by 2025, the first in 2018. And Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne was repeating his mantra: "There will be no public subsidy for new nuclear power."

But 'no public subsidy for nuclear power' is problematic if you actually do want to support new-build, not only political but also financial. So he decided to no longer call it subsidies. Now the text-to-be-explained is as follows, “the U.K. is not ruling out action to take on financial risks or liabilities of nuclear operators for which they (the government) are appropriately compensated or for which there are corresponding benefits” Huhn said. The Lib.Dem. minister campaigned against new nuclear power stations during the election.

The new-nuke-speak provoked several questions by MP’s in the British Parliament. The questions are interesting but the answers are even much more interesting. 

1. “What estimate the Minister has made of the maximum compensation payable to the Government for taking on financial risks or liabilities; and what mechanism he proposes to use to

(a) define and

(b) measure benefits arising from taking on such risks or liabilities ?

Minister of State Charles Hendry, second in line after Huhn: "As the 18 October 2010 statement on 'no subsidy for new nuclear power' made clear, we are not ruling out action by the Government to take on financial risks or liabilities for which they are appropriately compensated or for which there are corresponding benefits. The Government would consider any potential measures in this area on a case-by-case basis, in line with the policy as set out in the statement."

2. “How much support

(a) the Department and its predecessor and

(b) non-departmental public bodies for which the Department is responsible

have provided to the nuclear industry in the form of

(i) full-time equivalent staff,

(ii) facilities, and

(iii) research and development expenditures

in each of the last 10 financial years; and if the Department will indicate in each such case which costs

(A) arise from the UK’s nuclear legacy and

(B) are associated with possible new nuclear power stations.

Charles Hendry: "The Department of Energy and Climate Change does not hold the information requested centrally and providing a breakdown of the support referred to would result in a disproportionate cost."

3. “What information the Department holds for benchmarking purposes on the level of private insurance cover available to operators of nuclear installations in other countries”?

Charles Hendry: "We do not hold any specific information on the level of private insurance cover available to nuclear operators in other countries."

Time for action.
Several groups and individuals in the UK have come together to initiate a more coordinated campaign against new-build. One of the results of these gatherings is theNo Money for Nuclear” (NM4N) campaign-group which believes that the level of support received by the nuclear industry in the UK is unjustified and a serious drain on public finance, especially at a time when the weak and vulnerable are suffering from significant cuts in public expenditure. In addition, the way waste disposal and decommissioning costs of new nuclear power stations are gathered poses a serious risk to the public purse in the future.

The government claims that nuclear power and renewable energy can exist together in a competitive market place. However, the nature of nuclear power is that much of the costs, those for waste disposal and decommissioning, do not materialise until the end of the working life, even though these costs become inevitable once the power station starts operating. The flat rate nuclear levy will act as a substantial subsidy to these capital costs. NM4N believe that it is possible to move to a much more sustainable energy economy without the need for nuclear power.

NM4N spokesperson, Pete Rowberry said “The coalition government has promised that nuclear power stations would not be built if they needed public subsidy. However, they have not changed any of the significant public support which the industry already receives. It also seems that they are determined that support for the nuclear industry will be extended further by allowing it to benefits of the carbon pricing and emissions trading regimes, in spite of the fact that nuclear power is significantly higher producer of CO2 than any renewable source. It continues to cover the industry’s liability in the case of a nuclear accident, in spite of the statement by Rt Hon Chris Huhne MP, Secretary of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change that this subsidy would be ended, yet another example of the coalition’s broken promises."

Sources:  Bloomberg, 18 October 2010 / Press release NM4N, 25 October 2010 / email D. Lowry, 27 October 2010

About: 
WISE

Hinkley Point Blockaded

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#717
6092
08/10/2010
Stop Nuclear Power Network (SNPN)
Article

On Monday 4 October 2010, activists from the Stop Nuclear Network in  the UK blockaded the entrance to Hinkley Point Nuclear Station in Somerset. Hinkley Point is one of the sites where EDF wants to build new nuclear power stations in Britain, and very likely the first one. At present, there are two reactors: Hinkley Point A, which is being decommissioned, and Hinkley Point B, which is still producing electricity.

An eyewitness report: To block traffic onto the site, four activists lay in the road locked-on together using metal and plastic tubes. The action started at 6.30am before the workers shift change could happen. It took a while for the Security and Nuclear Police to respond and when they did they just closed the gate. Not long after that we could hear the public address system going 'lock down lock down lock down', so we had succeeded in disrupting the running of the Station.

By 7am there was a long tail back of workers' cars and delivery trucks, as there is only one road into Hinkley, so they weren't going anywhere. When the local Avon and Somerset police liaison officer arrived he seemed sympathetic to why we were there and asked if we had any demands. Besides shutting down Hinkley B, we did ask to speak with the Manager of Hinkley B and the Manager for the proposed Hinkley C. They eventually arrived, and a slightly heated debate took place over the issues nuclear waste and the proposed building of Hinkley C, being the first EPR Reactors that EDF want to build here in the UK. At 10.30 we decided to end our Blockade which was the first time a action of this type had ever happened at Hinkley and it won't be the last especially if EDF are granted planning permission some time in 2011.

Boycott EDF
Even before EDF has secured planning permission for Hinkley Point C, the company wants to begin with 'enabling works', which has upset the local community. Nikki, a Bridgwater Mum said: "From this autumn on, EDF wants to dynamite and bulldoze 435 acre of green fields - habitats for badgers, bats, and other wildlife, and in close proximity to Bridgwater Bay, which is a sanctuary for thousands of waders, ducks, and other sea birds. It is a joke to think this land could be restored - as EDF claims - should Hinkley C not be built." "If EDF wants to nuke the climate and the planet, the nonviolent resistance is not just an option, but a duty - at Sizewell, and here at Hinkley Point", says Nicola Deane from Suffolk.

To resist EDF's plans for nuclear expansion, not only here at Hinkley Point, but also at Sizewell, Bradwell, Hartlepool, and Heysham, the Stop Nuclear power Network is calling for a boycott of EDF.

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.

A national gathering of the Stop Nuclear Power Network will take place in Bristol on, Saturday 23 to Sunday 24 October. The weekend is to meet people from your region and from around the country who are taking action against nuclear power. Make plans together and build solidarity with people who live next door to Hinkley Point. Crash space available on a dry, warm and quiet floor space. If you need a bed, please get in contact ASAP and we'll try and help you out. Email: nonewnuclear [at] aktivix.org

For more information on the campaign to boycott EDF, see http://boycottedf.org.uk

Source and contact: Stop Nuclear Power Network (SNPN), c/o 5 Caledonian Road, London N1 9DX United Kingdom
Web: http://stopnuclearpoweruk.net

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#716
24/09/2010
Shorts

Opposition mounting against refitting Gentilly-2.
More than 250 Quebec municipalities and regional municipal governments have banded together to demand the province shut the door on nuclear energy by mothballing Hydro-Quebec's Gentilly-2 nuclear reactor instead of rebuilding it. Copies of a resolution thus far adopted by 255 municipal bodies were presented to three opposition members of the Quebec legislature on September 10 by Mayor Gaetan Ruest of Amqui, Que., who has been spearheading a campaign launched in 2009. The thick stack of identically worded resolutions will be introduced in the full legislature after the assembly reconvenes Sept. 21. Public opinion polls show almost two-thirds of Quebecers are opposed to a plan by Hydro-Quebec to rebuild Gentilly-2.
Ottawa Citizen, 11 September 2010


China: people largely distrustful of the nuclear industry.
It is not any longer a European and North-American problem: now there is a shortage in nuclear professionals for their rapid expansion of nuclear power in China too. According to senior government officials, China's nuclear power industry is demanding more professionals than the country can produce, a potential threat to safety. China has six leading universities that train nuclear specialists. Neither Zhang or Li gave specific figures for the shortage, but an official with the China Nuclear Society estimated the country would need 5,000 to 6,000 professionals annually in the next decade or so, versus a yearly supply now of about 2,000. Li also stressed that "public education was critical because people were largely distrustful of the industry." A lack of professionals has often been identified as a reason that a rapid expansion of nuclear power is unrealistic.
Reuters, 20 September 2010


Urani? Naamik.
An amendment has been made by the Greenland government to the standard terms for exploration licences under the country's Mineral Resources Act of 2009. The amendment allows the Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum (BMP) to approve that comprehensive feasibility studies can be undertaken on mineral projects that include radioactive elements as exploitable minerals. Within this framework, projects are considered on a case-by-case basis at the government's discretion. 
 
Australian-based Greenland Minerals and Energy has lodged an application under these new regulations that has been approved by the BMP. The company says that it is now in a position to commit to commence definitive feasibility studies in 2011 as planned. The studies, it said, will generate the necessary information to determine development parameters for the Kvanefjeld deposit. The Greenland government has stressed that although radioactive elements may now be surveyed, their extraction is still not permitted.

The Kvanefjeld deposit is eight kilometres inland from the coastal town of Narsaq, near the southern tip of the country. It has a deep water port. Uranium comprises about 20% of the value of minerals able to be produced from Kvanefjeld.
World Nuclear News, 13 September 2010


India: Further delay Kudankulam.
The commissioning of the first unit of the Kudankulam nuclear power project has been put off by a further three months from the previously revised scheduled date of completion. According to Nuclear Power Corporation of India, the first unit is expected to be commissioned in March 2011. Previously, it had mentioned December 2010 as the expected date of commercial operation. The 2,000 MW, two units of 1,000 MW each, nuclear project that is coming up at Kudankuklam, southern Tamil Nadu with Russian technology, reactors and fuel, has suffered a huge delay in commissioning.
The first of the two units was originally supposed to begin commercial operations in December 2007 which means, the project has already slipped by three years and three months. The second unit, initially scheduled to start commercial operations in December 2008, is now expected to go on stream in December 2011.
www.Steelguru.com, 5 September 2010


Spain: blockades after rumors decision waste storage. Spain delays the decision on nuclear storage site after news that the temporary dry-storage facility for high-level radioactive waste would be built in Valencia region revived long term opposition to the plan. According to a spokeswoman for the Valencia autonomous government, Spain's industry ministry announced on September 17 that the facility would be located in Zarra, a municipality in region. But the government was later forced to say it was not a final decision because of strong public opposition, according o statements to the Europe's environmental news and information service ENDS. The industry ministry rejects this interpretation, saying it only informed the regional government that Zarra was "well placed" to house the facility and that the decision would be "discussed" at the September 17 meeting of Spain's council of ministers. A spokesman said the government "hopes to have a decision soon".

Local residents and environmentalists responded to the news by blocking the Valencia-Madrid motorway on Sunday. The Spanish government has been trying to find a site since years. The search has become increasingly urgent since existing localized storage capacity is insufficient for the high-level waste produced in the country.
ENDS, 20 September 2010


U.A.E.: Raising debt to finance nuclear project.
Abu Dhabi is expected to raise debt to finance more than half the cost of its initial US$20 billion nuclear project, defying a warning by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that lenders could shy away from nuclear development. Yukiya Amano, the IAEA director general, said international lenders were “reluctant to support nuclear power projects”, amid a surge of interest in nuclear development by new countries.  Credit Suisse Group AG has been appointed as financial adviser for the United Arab Emirates’ nuclear power program, Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp. announced. So far no other banks have been appointed as advisers for the project, according to a report in Bloomberg. HSBC Holdings Plc may also be selected to advise state-run Emirates Nuclear Energy, although the bank is yet to be formally appointed for the role, which includes securing debt commitments for the project, Meed.com ('Middle East bussines intelligence since 1957') reported on its website September 15.

No firm plan for the financing exists yet but Abu Dhabi has already accessed debt markets to pay for energy infrastructure such as power plants and pipelines.  But the Abu Dhabi financing could be raised by a combination of export credit, syndicated loans and government bonds, depending on the appetite of global investors after the global recession. Credit Suisse will help develop a financing structure advantageous to Abu Dhabi.

Another way to subsidize nuclear power are export credit agencies. Those agencies from countries supplying the materials and parts are also expected to shoulder part of the financing. This would ease the pressure on Abu Dhabi’s government financing, which is already being funnelled into civic and industrial diversification projects, with a budget deficit forecast this year. Government guarantees on the loans, by contrast, can be a crucial ingredient to a 'successful financing'.
The Nation (UAE), 21 September 2010 / Bloomberg and Meed.com, 15 September 2010


U.K.: The end of the towel controversy. Sellafield's towels controversy is over after a change of heart by management over plans to stop issuing and washing towels used by workers in the 'active' areas of the nuclear site. There had been protests by the site unions who feared contamination could be left on clothing and carried off the site. Sellafield Ltd wanted workers to help cut costs by bringing in their own towels and taking them back home for washing. Towels amount to more than half the site laundry wash load. Management still thinks too many towels are being used but is ready to talk to the unions about other cost-cutting options.
Whitehaven News, 8 September 2010


Bulgaria: beach contaminated by uranium mining.
The sand from the Bulgarian Black coast bay "Vromos" is radioactive and "harmful for beach goers", according to experts from the Environment and Health Ministries. A letter, send to the Governor of the Region of Burgas, Konstantin Grebenarov, asks local authorities to make people aware of the results and place signs warning visitors to not use the beach. The radiation level is twice as high than the norm for the southern Black Sea coast, but the danger is not in the air, rather in the sand which contains uranium and radium. The contamination is coming from the now-closed nearby mine which deposited large amounts of radioactive waste in the bay between 1954 and 1977. The increase of radiation levels in the area over the last three years is attributed to some radioactive waste that has not been completely removed.

In the beginning of August, Grebenarov, already issued an order banning the use of the beach located between the municipalities of the city of Burgas and the town of Sozopol, near the town of Chernomorets. At the time Grebenarov said he made the decision after consulting with experts from the Health Ministry and the Environmental Agency.

The order triggered large-scale protests among hotel and land owners around the bay, saying the order serves business interests and aims at lowering property prices in the area. The Governor says the warning signs, placed at "Vromos," and removed by local owners, but will be mounted again.

During a visit early August to Sozopol, Finance Minister, Simeon Djankov, promised the owners to make sure there would be a second measurement, and if it proves the radiation is within the norm, the ban would be lifted. But now it turns out that a separate measurement, done by the Executive Environmental Agency in mid-August, had the same results.
Sofia News Agency, 2 September 2010

Haunted by history: nuclear new build in Britain

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#715
6080
03/09/2010
East Midlands Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
Article

Part 2 The Force of ‘Legacy’.

In January 2008, Gordon Brown’s cabinet formally decided to permit private businesses to build new nuclear power stations in England and Wales. Politically, there was nothing surprising about the news. Key decisions had been made well before 2008. Tony Blair, as Prime Minster, had declared for new nuclear as early as July 2004.

(This is the second and last part on the history of new build in Britain. Part 1 was printed in Nuclear Monitor 714, 20 August 2010).

New Nuclear and Coalition
The May 2010 election in Britain changed the prospects of building new nuclear power stations significantly. Labour under Blair and Brown favored new nuclear from around 2004-5. This was not shared by the parties that came to form the coalition. The Conservatives changed to conditional support for nuclear only in December 2007. The Liberal Democrats opposed both the replacement of the Trident nuclear weapon system and nuclear new build and went to the electorate on this basis:

‘More nuclear power will soak up subsidy, centralize energy production and hinder development of Britain’s vast renewable resources. Nuclear has a dirty legacy and increases global security risks. We oppose construction of further nuclear power stations’.

As a result the coalition’s statement on nuclear power seems ambiguous  – in a country where coalitions are unfamiliar. The parties’ positions are recapitulated, the Conservative position being described as ‘allowing the replacement of existing power stations provided they are subject to the normal planning process for major projects … and also provided they receive no public subsidy’. Liberal Democrats agree to allow the government to put a new ‘National Planning Statement’ to Parliament, where one Liberal Democrat MP may speak against, but the rest must abstain from voting. The issue is not ‘a matter of confidence’ that can threaten the coalition and its government.

Liberal Democratic opposition is absorbed in a solution similar to Labour’s. The joint program insists on ‘no public subsidy’ without defining what a subsidy is. It promises to modify Labour’s changes in the planning process, increasing ministerial powers, abolishing Labour’s new quango - the Infrastructure Planning Commission  - and strengthening Parliamentary oversight. It implies only the ‘replacement’ of existing power stations, a retreat from Labour’s embrace of whatever ‘the market’ allows.

The Minister with the new powers is the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, a post now held by Christopher Huhne, a Liberal-Democrat, who was previously an opponent of nuclear power. In the latest Commons debate he reaffirmed coalition policy, insisting that

as an economist, I am skeptical about the economics of nuclear power, but I recognize that it is entirely up to investors to make that decision. If there is no public subsidy and if investors think that it is worth taking the risk, as they increasingly do, looking forward to rising oil and gas prices and a rising carbon price, then they will take those decisions.

Asked to explain why Labour’s loan to the Sheffield Forgemasters (to produce large metal vessels for reactors) had been cancelled, he replied that this was a subsidy. Subsidy, he declared, is now impossible for, to quote the Chancellor of the Exchequer, ‘there is no money left’. Generally, the Coalition adopts an anti-Keynesian approach to the crisis in state finance caused by rescuing the banking system. It blames Labour for the deficit and is cutting and privatizing public services. It hopes that the private and the voluntary sectors will fill the gaps in employment and in vital social functions (Cameron’s ‘Big Society’). This has implications too for financing nuclear revival. The coalition’s neoliberal consensus bars open subsidies, it seems, but the underlying instability of the financial system remains and the banks are reluctant to lend.

The companies, however, have been reassured that the government welcomes nuclear power in its energy strategy, although they must submit definite financial and technical programs for the subsequent decommissioning. A new Nuclear National Plan will be submitted ‘in the autumn’, followed by more ‘consultation’, and a proposal to Parliament in Spring 2011. It is to be expected that the industry is already lobbying hard, without enjoying perhaps Labour’s preferential access. According the KPMG, one of the Big Four auditors, all that is currently on offer is to fix the carbon floor price and this is insufficient security for investors. RWE, hoping to build in Britain, argues that nuclear should get the same level of public subsidy as renewables, a position also pushed by the CBI, the national employers’ organization. This demand comes on top of more hidden subsidies that include fixing the carbon price, indemnity for accident and government finance for legacies of waste and decommissioning. Government is therefore faced with dilemmas. Can it depend on a renewables sector, grossly under-supported in the past and lagging by European standards? Can it make an explicit break from ‘no subsidy’? Will nuclear split the coalition? Can government make a secret deal with the industry or can subsidies be further fudged? Will the public stand a hike in energy prices to accommodate nuclear?

The government’s difficulties are increased by the revival of anti-nuclear campaigning after a period of relative quiet, broken mainly by Greenpeace and the Shut Down Sizewell campaign in Suffolk. The need for carbon reduction, and the (usually exaggerated) claims for nuclear on this score, complicated issues for some green activists, while anti-nuclear movements, especially the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) has focused on weapons.  Latterly, however, issues have been clarified and new local movements have sprung up. These are centred on nuclear waste dumping (e.g. Kings Cliffe Waste Watchers - Northants; Radioactive Landfill No Thanks! - Keekle Head, Cumbria) and new power station sites (e.g. Stop Hinkley; Shut Down Sizewell; BANNG – Bradwell, Essex; Heysham Anti-Nuclear Alliance; Stop Wylfa – Anglesey and a number of movements in Cumbria (Cumbrians Opposed to A Radioactive Environment, Radiation Free Lakeland, Save Kirksanton, Toxic Coast). CND, locally and nationally, increasingly stresses the overlaps between the global proliferation of uranium and plutonium weapons and the civil nuclear cycle and has joined other NGOs in an umbrella group opposing nuclear power. The local movements are also networking through meetings and campaigning and educational websites (e.g. No New Nukes; Energy Fair; Stop Nuclear Power; NuclearSpin). A substantial body of independent expert opinion opposes nuclear new build for health and economic reasons. There are plausible projections of how to meet (reduced) energy needs without nuclear power and convincing arguments for the superior employment impacts of green investment compared with the nuclear industries and the arms trade. 

If the new waste dumps and power stations are finally approved they will face non-violent direct action as well as the citizen strategies already being used. Because opportunities for intervening in formal planning processes have been reduced, local non-violent direct action may grow.

Legacy Lesson I: Subsidy
As we have seen, pro-nuclear governments and industry seek to split the awkward past of civil nuclear power off from its future promise and prospects, repeating an older story about the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ atom. The new stations, it is said, will produce less waste and be safer. This splitting of old from new is discursive, with the ‘Nuclear Renaissance’ presumably contrasting with the Nuclear Dark Ages, but it is also institutional and a matter of balance sheets. The creation of a new public body, the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency (NDA) in April 2005, was a crucial institutional move because it allocated ‘legacy waste’ and decommissioning to a public balance sheet. Moreover the NDA wields a complicated system of sponsorship, ‘parent bodies’ and subcontracting that will obscure further subsidies.

Actually the past history of civil nuclear power has effects in the present both as lessons from the past and as material legacies or burdens – as very material ghosts in fact.

The major lesson from the past is that nuclear electricity generation means public subsidy. This arises from the high capital costs of construction and the uncertainty that investors can recoup large loans. The object lesson in the British case was the near insolvency of the monopolistic nuclear energy company British Energy in 2002. This required a major government bail out and led to the creation of the NDA, siphoning off some industry obligations.

The high capital costs arise in large part from the dangers to life on earth from ionizing radiation. Epidemiological research shows that these dangers arise not only from accidents, which can be catastrophic, but also from the routine operation of nuclear installations. For example, the repeated finding of higher rates of childhood leukemia near nuclear installations has been confirmed by the important German KIKK study, large-scale ‘hard science’ in terms of the discipline. (see Nuclear Monitor 703, 29 January 2010). Regulatory agencies argue that radiation from emissions is ‘too low’ to affect health, but developments in cellular biology and genetics show that risk levels need to be revised. The science is complex and contested and needs fuller treatment, but, in sum, policy needs to take due account of the effects of ‘internal emitters’– particles of  radionuclides found inside the body, spread to the environment from nuclear installations or contained in waste. Omnibus categories like ‘low level radiation’ or ‘low level waste’ are unsafe. The way is now open for more adequate explanations of childhood leukemia and other contested findings.

In economic terms, the intense radioactivity of reactor cores demands fortress-like containment and shielding, complex accident prevention measures, close monitoring and protection of workers, rigorous management, well-trained staff and tight regulative surveillance and policing. It is arguable that there should be regular epidemiological checks on surrounding populations. Should accidents or attacks with evil intent occur, damage could be massive, costly, and in many ways irreparable. All this adds to economic risk and pressure on costs. Moreover, especially with privatization, the narrow margin of profitability sets up a dangerous dynamic, a balancing of safety with profit, with companies under pressure to cut costs by reducing safeguards and to campaign for looser safety codes and inspection. Lower tenders may be accepted from less competent subcontractors, with a lowering of knowledge and skill at a time of skill shortages. There is already evidence, in the case of low-level waste, that companies will try to dump on the cheap without adequate engineering. If the new power stations really are safer, they are likely to cost more.

In building power stations, delays, rising costs and reduced ambitions have been commonplace. In the UK this has meant eleven Magnox stations instead of twenty, reduced and slow building of the AGR fleet, one PWR reactor instead of four, one failed fast-breeder reactor only. The last power station built in Britain was the one and only PWR Sizewell B. Costs rose from a budget of £1.69 billion to the eventual cost of £2.5 billion (US$3.8 bn or 3 bn euro); the design was approved in 1987, generation started in 1995. Areva and Siemens’ EPR power station at Olkiluoto, Finland was already more than three years over schedule and 55% over budget in August 2009. In May 2009 the Finnish government’s Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority threatened to halt construction, because of faulty safety systems, lack of expertise in design and construction and ‘evident errors’ in building. Costs are high or unpredictable where designs are new or when a design approved in one country encounters a new regulatory regime. Public opposition may also cause delays as at Sizewell. Construction in England and Wales of the AP1000 and the EPR risks these delays and neither design has yet been passed by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate. 

Critics of nuclear power have listed the many forms of indirect subsidy. In Britain, subsidy has also been direct, most clearly since the industry was privatised. From 1990, for example, a nuclear levy was introduced to cover the difference between nuclear and coal-fired generation adding 11% to electricity bills. Intended for a decommissioning fund, the levy was diverted to pay for Sizewell B.

More Ghosts in the Material World: Legacy Waste and Decommissioning
Similar problems arise in waste storage, reprocessing and decommissioning. Since 2005, one public institution, the NDA has inherited these problems. They are also concentrated spatially in a nuclear House of Horrors, the Sellafield site on the Cumbrian coast, home to many ghosts that haunt the nuclear industry today. These include Calder Hall, the first power station built primarily to provide fissile material for nuclear weapons; a plutonium pile at ‘Windscale’ which caused the most serious nuclear accident in Britain in October 1957; the Magnox plant built to reprocess spent fuel for first generation reactors; the Thorp Reprocessing plant closed because of serious incidents for much of its history; the troubled vitrification plants which prepare high-level waste for long-term storage; the Actinide Removal Plant, source of the radioactive pollution of the Irish Sea; the MOX plant which was supposed to use excess plutonium and natural uranium to create reactor fuel; and a large number of radioactive waste stores. The Drigg low-level waste depository is 6km away.

Sellafield’s and the NDA’s problems figure in concerned official reports from 1992 to late 2008. The NDA was in a state of administrative disarray by 2008, the critical year for accepting consortia bids for decommissioning and waste management. By July 2008 42% of budget of the department responsible (then called Business, Environment and Regulative Reform) was going to the NDA, £15 million (US$23 million or 18.1 million euro) of it switched from funding for renewables and some even from the wartime military budget. Sub-contracting companies like AMEC complained of ‘turbulence’, with key NDA executives leaving and staff sent for retraining. Decommissioning started then stopped on key projects, including removing old reactors from sites where new are planned. Several waste projects were also curtailed. Overall, the cost of decommissioning the 19 nuclear plants within NDA’s remit has risen steadily from £61 billion to £73bn (January 2008) to £83bn (July 2008) (US$127.3 bn or 100.4 bn euro), far outstripping any possible earnings.

Apart from military applications, the hope of making money from waste from civil nuclear activity has been disappointed. Vitrification, long-term storage and Thorp’s reprocessing have been dogged by breakdowns, broken contracts and financial losses. There is a long history of expert anxiety about safety at Sellafield, about Magnox ‘swarf’ (which contains plutonium), the 23 separate intermediate-level waste streams, and about contaminated buildings. The storage of large amounts of very radioactive material in liquid form is vulnerable to leakage, earthquakes and sabotage. Clean-up costs at Sellafield are estimated at just over £45.5bn  (US$70 bn or 55 bn euro). The new private managing consortium will surely be back with urgent safety-backed requests for additional public funds.

Meanwhile long-term waste storage is in crisis. Material from decommissioning generations of old plant must go somewhere. For low-level waste, with Drigg almost full, waste disposal companies are looking to ‘go nuclear’ and use their ordinary hazardous waste landfills. Apart from offers from Cumbria County Council to host waste storage at the cost of £75 million (US$ 115m or 90.7m euro) compensation from public funds, little progress is being made with vitrification and the building of deep level storage. Generally public opposition to the dumping of waste is growing.

Pro-nuclear advocates argue that the threat of climate chaos and increases of oil and gas price favour nuclear as part of ‘the energy mix’. An economic nationalist case for ‘energy security’ is also argued, yet, in UK today, nuclear means dependence on French, German, American and Spanish companies who can take capital and skills elsewhere. New nuclear will add further accumulations of radioactive plant and waste. Given the geological time-spans involved, nuclear ‘clean up’ and waste storage maybe problems beyond human capacity to solve. Certainly the technical knowledges, institutional frameworks and longer-term political wisdom do not yet exist. Neoliberal doctrine disallows firm correctives to the short-term competitive interest that rules under capitalist conditions. If new nuclear goes forward, it will add weighty burdens to over-stressed world, while safer green alternatives will be stifled, as nuclear enterprise gobbles up public resources. In the end, the best approach to nuclear electricity generators (or nuclear weapons of course) is simply not to have them.

Sources (in addition to those cited in Part 1 in NM 714): Health and Safety Commission, Advisory Committee on the Safety of Nuclear Installations (HMSO 1992); National Audit Office Press Release 30th Jan 2008 (on Decommissioning  and the NDA) http://www.nao.org.uk/pn/07-08/0708238.htm  Internal BERR audit of NDA reported Guardian 24 July 2008; Liberal Democrat Policy Briefing  - Climate Change and Energy, May 2010; The Coalition: Our Programme for Government, May 2010;  Sunday Telegraph 17 July 2010, reported in NM 714.
Contact: Richard Johnson, Chair East Midlandss Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. 3, Westhill Road,  Leicester, LE3 6GB, UK.
Email: richard.johnson61@btinternet.com

Haunted by history: nuclear new build in Britain

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#714
6072
20/08/2010
East Midlands Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
Article

Part I: Shaping the Deal

In January 2008, Gordon Brown’s cabinet formally decided to permit private businesses to build new nuclear power stations in England and Wales, the Scottish executive having already refused permission. Politically, there was nothing surprising about the news. Key decisions had been made well before 2008. Tony Blair, as Prime Minster, had declared for new nuclear as early as July 2004, trailing the Bush administration by two years. Brown himself had come out decisively in favor of new nuclear to the Confederation of British Industries in November 2007 and also to the G8.

Institutionally a key turning point was the Energy Review, initiated by Blair in 2005 and issued by the Department of Trade and Industry in 2006. The Review revised the findings of the Department of the Environment’s Energy White Paper of 2003, which had been critical of nuclear economics and concerned about the waste issue. The 2006 Review argued that new nuclear had a role to play in the future ‘energy mix’ in the light of the imperatives of climate change and energy security. It must, however, be run by the private sector, without subsidy, and with companies bearing the cost of decommissioning and ‘their full share of long-term waste management costs’. Government, however, would provide a framework: planning procedures would be simplified and speeded up and regulative and other issues extensively consulted upon.

The Review also noted ‘solutions’ to the problems of inherited nuclear waste. In April 2005 after a series of scandals at the reprocessing and storage complex at Sellafield in West Cumbria and the near bankruptcy of the main nuclear generator British Electric, a new public non-departmental body was created – the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency (NDA). The NDA took temporary charge of 19 nuclear sites, including Sellafield, the first generation Magnox power stations and Dounreay a failed experimental fast-breeder reactor in the north of Scotland. In 2003, the government also set up a Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) to make recommendations on the best way to manage high-level waste. Its interim recommendations had already argued for ‘deep geological disposal’.

This review set the guidelines of government policy right up to the present:

  • private enterprise (implying further privatization)
  • dependence on corporate decision-making and financial markets for commencing nuclear new build (and even deciding its extent)
  • eagerness to ease the way of the industry by changing planning laws and by other forms of support as long as they could evade the label - ‘subsidy’

Within this framework corporations and government could negotiate the details, which, of course, were critical.

It seems likely that by January 2008, after a particularly intense period of industry lobbying, a more specific agreement was reached with leading energy companies. This included the possible underpinning of the price of carbon, financially supporting decommissioning and waste storage, and minimizing company liability in case of accidents. Also included was a plan to offer local communities public compensation, bribing them that is, for hosting waste storage facilities - and also perhaps for accepting new nuclear power stations. The actual work of decommissioning, managing the Sellafield complex and existing waste sites was to be undertaken by private consortia, who would bid to the NDA for limited term contracts, three years in the first instance. In some versions it would be the NDA that would run the waste facilities where companies could then lease space, a device that may eventually be used for the long-promised storage facility for high level wastes.

Although its supporters complained of delays, around January 2008 events were moving quickly. In May 2007 the government had issued its Planning White Paper, which after a rapid consultation, led to a new Planning Act in November 2008. The Act created a new procedure for major infrastructural projects - like nuclear power stations and waste depositories – that centralized decision-making and limited the scope of local planning objections. A parallel Act required providers of new nuclear plants to submit a definite technical and financial plan for decommissioning. In December 2007, the Conservative Party had withdrawn its ‘only in the last resort’ qualifications about new nuclear, a necessary political assurance for companies and investors. The Liberal Democrats, their future coalition partners, remained opposed to new nuclear up to the May 2010 General Election. In April 2009 11 sites were officially designated for new power stations. All but two were old nuclear sites, the remaining two being in the already concentrated nuclear complex – the so-called ‘Energy Coast’ - of West Cumbria. As Irish press and politicians pointed out, most were on the coast of the Irish Sea, an environment already threatened by emissions from Sellafield. In December the Labour leadership of Cumbria County Council expressed interest in hosting a high-level nuclear waste dump (and in receiving compensation).

2008 saw much trading in nuclear assets as companies jockeyed for competitive positions in the newly-created market. The NDA announced the leasing to ‘parent companies’ or subcontractors of all the Sellafield sites, plus the sale of the government’s third-share in British Energy, and even of existing stocks of plutonium and enriched uranium. In April it awarded the contract for the Drigg (Cumbria) repository for low and intermediate level waste to a multinational consortium consisting of URS Washington Division (USA), Areva (France), Studsvik (Sweden) and Serco Assurance (UK) as the ‘UK Nuclear Waste Management Ltd’. In July it gave the Sellafield Licence to ‘Nuclear Management Partners’, an overlapping consortium of URS, Areva and Amec (UK/Canada), a deal which included a surreptitious waiver of even limited liability for accidents, a decision not properly laid before the House of Commons. The deal included the Capenhurst uranium enrichment plant in Cheshire. In May Electricité de France (EDF) made its first bid for British Energy’s power stations and, importantly, its existing sites. A deal was finally signed in September for £12.5 billion (US$ 19.5 billion or 15.1 billion euro), with EDF planning four new reactors and selling off some sites and a 25% stake to Centrica, the parent company of British Gas. This Anglo-French deal, with the French state-owned company clearly in dominance, was foreshadowed by the signing of a grand ‘nuclear alliance’ between Gordon Brown and President Sarkozy during his state visit to Britain in March 2008. After Sarkozy’s visit and the EDF’s success, Gordon Brown could at last declare “new nuclear is becoming a reality’ and even, despite a massive expatriation of assets, ‘good value for the taxpayer’. The selling and buying ended with RWE planning three new reactors in Anglesey and then entering a partnership with another German energy company E.On to build on two other sites. In October 2009 a consortium of Iberdola (Spanish owners of Scottish Power), the giant French utility company GdF, and the hitherto anti-nuclear Scottish and Southern put in a bid for a new site near Sellafield. In the last months of the Labour government Lord Mandelson as Business Secretary unveiled a major loan to Sheffield Forgemasters to aid the production of large-scale castings for nuclear plants and the funding of a nuclear research and development centre in south Yorkshire, involving Rolls Royce and Westinghouse/Toshiba.

A Pause for Thought
This movement towards new nuclear in Britain has often appeared like a juggernaut, powered by government, a business-oriented civil service, and powerful energy companies committed to the nuclear route. It has seemed unstoppable by ordinary citizens, who, except in communities which hope to benefit economically, have often remained sceptical at best. This sense of powerless was even shared by many anti-nuclear campaigners, at least until the last year or two.

The confident tone and ‘unstoppable’ momentum are, however, misleading. In Part 2 of this outline (See Nuclear Monitor 715) it will be argued that launching new nuclear in Britain is haunted by the ill-success of past civil nuclear enterprises and by their material, economic and ideological legacies. ‘Haunted’ is appropriate here, for there is a constant effort to keep these negative stories out of public hearing and perhaps out of pro-nuclear consciousness. There is therefore a persistent misfit between the optimistic rhetoric and grand designs on one side and persistent ‘bad news’ on the other. Except in critical media, these stories are often split off and labelled ‘legacy’ (e.g. ‘legacy waste’) as though they have nothing to do with the present. History cannot be allowed to enter into official memory or future calculations, let alone seed a process of growth or learning. Actually, material and economic legacies actively impede the new project and undermine its credibility while also teaching salutary lessons about how not to manage our vital energy needs. This poses the question, addressed below, how was it possible for nuclear revival (however fantastic) to be pursued at all?

The Fall and Rise of Nuclear Power: Some Key Conditions
We can date the nadir of the nuclear industries to the later 1980s and 1990s. After peaks in the mid-1970s and mid-1980s, global start-ups of nuclear reactors declined rapidly to pre-boom levels by the 1990s. The suppression of knowledge about the Chernobyl disaster of April/May 1986 did not prevent the widespread growth of anti-nuclear public sentiment and a refusal by local citizens to tolerate new nuclear installations on their doorstep. Independent scientific research into long-term exposure to ionizing radiation was, and remains, very important here. At the same time the privatization of electricity generation, including nuclear, has had contradictory effects. On one side it has helped to create a powerful international corporate interest in favor of new nuclear, which can include state-owned companies (like EdF) operating in countries other than their own. Under neo-liberal globalization, privatization is often expatriation and threatens domestic political accountability. These effects are accentuated in the case of nuclear energy: once governments are committed to this very expensive project, urgent concerns for safety, carbon reduction and energy supply make them especially susceptible to corporate pressure.

At the same time, as Schneider et al. argued in 2009, privatization rendered more evident a key truth about nuclear: that it never was economically freestanding and always relied on complex and hidden forms of subsidy. As we shall see in Part 2 there is plenty of evidence in the British case for this, often a cause for scandal. Under public ownership such profligacy can be covered by explicit subsidy or disguised by ‘creative accountancy’. New nuclear now faces its sternest test – can it in fact be financed? Meanwhile, the government’s bluff is called – how can subsidy be avoided?

So why did going nuclear become a major political project for New Labour politicians around 2004, only a year after being ‘an unattractive option for new carbon-free generating capacity’? (2003 Energy White Paper) The new urgency of man-made climate change, together with concerns about the rising costs and unreliable supply of oil and gas have been levers for the pro-nuclear interest. In arguing their case, many pro-nuclear companies have turned very vividly green. It has become possible once more to split the ‘good atom’ (nuclear power saves the world!) from the ‘bad atom’ (1945 and the proliferation of nuclear weapons) despite their many linkages. It may also be that carbon trading and the likely long-term rise in fossil fuel prices has significantly adjusted the economic prospects of nuclear. However, given the difficulties of accurate prediction, much hangs on political conditions and what governments actually do.

New (as opposed to Old) Labour has made much of its changed relation to business. In policy terms this has meant adopting a version of neo-liberalism. New Labour’s version is not quite ‘Thatcherism’ but Labour leaders have nurtured a governing circle uncritically accessible to people and ideas from big business. Neo-liberal theory systematically blurs the distinctions between private and public interest and provides ethical validation for what others see as corruption. New Labour was neo-liberal but also in its own way authoritarian, minutely regulative of social life, preferring centralised direction and ‘big ideas’ in science and management. These features come together in a political modus operandi in which spin is preferred to sincerity, cosy consultations to genuine accountability, and where even parliament is bypassed. Although a House of Commons vote on new nuclear was promised in May 2008, no such vote – on the principle of new nuclear- was ever allowed.

This political setting enhanced the power of the nuclear interest that has always thrived on secrecy. There is evidence for intensive lobbying to secure the initial pro-nuclear decision and the enabling conditions. The energy companies and their public relations firms have led the lobbying. Industry bodies have also been important: the Nuclear Industry Association, representing, it says, 195 companies, and the Transatlantic Nuclear Energy Forum run by a former Labour MEP, who, in a not untypical career, left parliament in 2005 to become a director of AMEC (an international company carrying out high-value consultancy, engineering and project management services for the world's natural resources, nuclear, clean energy, water and environmental sectors). Trade unions with members in the industry and communities living next to existing power stations have played a part. In the weeks around January 2008 at least nine secret meetings were held at Downing Street with energy company executives. March 2008 saw a formidable spin operation launched in favour of the new deal: ministerial announcements, the Anglo-French summit, union meetings, warnings by industry leaders on the need for further easing and for haste.

The direction of policy shows clearly the effect of this influence. Those of us who were involved in the promised ‘consultations’ can testify to the weight of industry voices and the exclusion of critical questions. Beside, while we ‘consulted’ or objected, the companies often took action in advance of decisions. As early as November 2007, for instance, British Energy had applied for additional connections to the national energy grid for four of its existing nuclear sites. Similarly, by May 2007 consultants had already suggested nine sites for possible new stations, prompting purchases of neighboring land by some companies. In December 2007, despite an adverse legal judgment on the first part of the consultation process, a forced re-run and many complaints from experts and campaigners, the minister responsible could confidently announce ‘we have taken account of everything they said.’ The question is who were ‘they’?

It has taken time for the anti-nuclear forces to mobilize and for the tangled threads of the climate change and energy debates to be unpicked a little. 2009-2010 saw the growth of more organized opposition to new nuclear, the May general election and the defeat of New Labour. It remains to be seen what kind of bargain the industry can strike with a somewhat more sceptical and probably more business-savvy coalition, dominated as it is by public school boys and millionaires. In Part II we will look more closely at the destabilizing issues: decommissioning and waste storage, financing large and indeterminate capital costs without subsidy, and the serious health questions issues posed by developments in radiation science.

Sources (a selection): Newspapers: The Guardian, Independent on Sunday, Daily Telegraph; BBC Radio and TV News; UK Government White Papers and Departmental Reviews on Energy (Environment 2003, Trade and Industry 2006) on Nuclear Waste Management (2002) on Planning (2007); Hansard Parliamentary Debates; Paul Brown, Voodoo Economics and the Doomed Nuclear Renaissance : A Research Paper (London: Friends of the Earth n.d. [2008]); Nuclear Power in the United Kingdom 24 May 2010 www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf84.html accessed 24/7/2010; Mycle Schneider, Steve Thomas, Antony Froggatt, Doug Koplow, The World Nuclear Industry Status Report with particular emphasis on economics 2009 www.bmu.de/files/english/pdf/application/pdf/welt_statusbericht_atomindu... accessed 24/7/2010.
Contact: Richard Johnson, Chair East Midlands Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

 

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#713
09/07/2010
Shorts

The IPPNW World Congress in Basel, Switzerland,  (August 25 – August 30, 2010) to also talk about nuclear power.
Nuclear weapons and disarmament are still hitting media headlines. The signing of the new START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) was an important step towards the reduction of global nuclear arsenals. European governments are pushing for a withdrawal of US nuclear weapons from European NATO member countries. Leading politicians of several countries are calling for active and far-reaching reductions in the numbers of nuclear weapons in the interests of world security. It was hoped for that the Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in May in New York would bring further concrete measures. And although this did not happen the ‘Atomic Scientists’ decided to set back the Doomsday Clock one minute – from 5 minutes to 6 minutes to midnight.

On the other hand, some countries want to keep the prestige of being a nuclear power and some are becoming greatly interested in acquiring such power. Thousands of nuclear missiles still exist – decades after the end of the Cold War – on high alert, ready to be launched at a moment’s notice. Added to this, the interest of powerful companies in the military-industrial complex to continue building nuclear missiles is strongly influential. These companies put forward persuasive arguments for retaining the status quo through the use of intense political lobbying.

“Global Zero” is the desire of many millions of people and is also the vision of  the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). Join them in sharing this vision in August at the 19th IPPNW World Congress in Basel, Switzerland. Traditionally the IPPNW only talks about nuclear weapons. This time their pre-conference programme also touches upon the issue of nuclear energy. Take this opportunity to discuss with them the important role ”civil” nuclear energy plays in increasing proliferation risks.
Check the programme at http://www.ippnw2010.org/


Italy: Regions have no say in siting nuclear reactors.
On June 30, Italy's highest court rejected an appeal by 10 Italian regions to have a say on the location of any nuclear power plants built.

Last July, the right wing majority in the Parliament adopted a law that gives extra power to the government in order to choose sites for new nuclear plants and provides the use of military forces to make its realization possible. On September 30, with the support of environmental organizations, 10 of 20 regions contested that law asking the intervention of the Constitutional Court. According to the regions the law violates the Italian Constitution by giving the government the power to decide without the consensus of local institutions. The June 30 ruling by the Constitutional Court effectively means the central government will have the final say on the site of the plants.

Nuclear power was abandoned in Italy nearly 25 years ago after a referendum in 1987. Enel and France's EDF would like to start building four nuclear power stations in Italy in 2013. Public opinion in Italy has been generally hostile to nuclear energy and local authorities had demanded a say in their approval.
Reuters, 23 June 2010 / Nuclear Monitor 702


After N-Korean 'nuclear breakthrough': xenon levels, eight times higher. Abnormal radiation was detected near the inter-Korean border days after North Korea claimed to have achieved a nuclear technology breakthrough, South Korea's Science Ministry said June 21. It failed to find the cause of the radiation but ruled out a possible underground nuclear test by North Korea, because there is no evidence of a strong earthquake that must follow an atomic explosion.
 

On May 12, North Korea claimed its scientists succeeded in creating a nuclear fusion reaction - a technology also necessary to manufacture a hydrogen bomb. South Korean experts doubted the North actually made such a breakthrough. On May 15, however, the atmospheric concentration of xenon - an inert gas released after a nuclear explosion or radioactive leakage from a nuclear power plant - on the South Korean side of the inter-Korean border was found to be eight times higher than normal.

Nuclear fusion as cause for the Xenon-measurement is very unlikely (to say the least). To start with: the alledged fusion breakthrough supposedly took place in mid-April and the half-lives of its radioisotopes are counted in hours or days. So a measurement almost a month  later is very unlike. But most important: a fusion reaction doesn’t produce fission products. Radioactive Xe isotopes, besides from a weapons test, can also be produced from operating a fission reactor with cracked fuel rods or from fission occurring in cooling water from released fuel. So possibly the higher levels could have been from built up Xe within a reactor containment vessel from an accident. A Science Ministry official said the wind was blowing from north to south when the xenon was detected and said it could have come from Russia or China, not necessarily from North Korea.
The Associated Press, 21 June 2010 / Armscontrolwonk.com, 21 June 2010


Nuclear projects in Baltic Region.
On June 16, antinuclear activists with protest banners greeted IAEA head Y.Amano and  Lithuanian Prime Minister A. Kubilius during their participation in the Roundtable discussion on "Regional nuclear energy projects" in Vilnius, Lithuania. Activists called to cancel development of the three nuclear energy projects in the Baltic region and to switch investments and cooperation to renewables and energy efficiency. Ostrovec nuclear power plant (Belarus), Baltic npp (Russia, Kaliningrad region) and the Visaginas nuclear power plant (Lithuania) are  primary targets for the criticism of environmentalists from Lithuania, Belarus and Russia. All these planned nuclear power plants face similar problems: safety, environmental, radioactive waste management, fake plans for investment.Later activists took part in the roundtable discussion as observers. Main issue there was that each country was convincing others how important their nuclear project is for the country and how good for the region. Lithuania was raising doubts about various aspects of Belarussian and Kaliningrad nuclear projects, promoting its own as "more transparent and safer".
Email: Lina Vainius, 17 June 2010


New name for GNEP: INFEC.
The Global Nuclear Energy Partnership Steering Group met in Accra, Ghana on June 16-17, 2010 and approved unanimously several transformative changes. This to "reflect global developments that have occurred since the Partnership was established in 2007".  The transformation includes a new name - the International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation (INFEC)-- and the establishment of a new Statement of Mission. One of the main points of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), announced by the United States in 2004, was to limit spread of enrichment (as well as reprocessing) technology. At the core of the strategy was the idea that countries that don't have fuel cycle facilities would refrain from acquiring them and accept the status of "fuel customers". Fuel services would then be provided by "fuel suppliers", who already have the necessary technology. There were doubts about the viability of this strategy from the very beginning.

The IFNEC acronym brings back echoes of the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation (INFCE) program under the IAEA in the late 1970s. It too was set up on the initiative of the USA and worked on the "urgent need to meet the world's energy requirements," to make nuclear energy more widely available and "to minimize the danger of nuclear weapons proliferation without jeopardizing energy supplies or the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes" all with special attention for the needs of developing countries. One interesting difference was the inclusion of Iran as co-chair of INFCE's group on uranium enrichment availability.

Last year in June, the US. Department of Energy (DoE) decided to cancel the GNEP programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) because it is no longer pursuing domestic commercial reprocessing, which was the primary focus of the prior administration's domestic GNEP program. That decision followed a change in government policy on commercial reprocessing since president Obama took over from Bush.

Jordan formally announced that it will host the next meeting of the International Framework's Executive Committee in the fall of 2010. Some 25 countries have joined the GNEP.
Press release US. Department of Energy, 18 June 2010 / World Nuclear News, 21 June 2010 / Nuclear Monitor 691, 16 July 2009


China bends international rules to sell reactors to Pakistan.
China has agreed to sell two nuclear reactors to Pakistan. Under the Nuclear Suppliers Group’s (NSG) guidelines, countries other than China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States (the five recognized nuclear weapon states) are not eligible to receive nuclear exports from NSG members unless they agree to inspections known as full-scope safeguards. Pakistan currently does not open all of its nuclear facilities to international inspections.

The US government “has reiterated to the Chinese government that the United States expects Beijing to cooperate with Pakistan in ways consistent with Chinese nonproliferation obligations.” Given that the US has signed a major nuclear deal with India – like Pakistan, a non-signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) – the move smacks of hypocrisy. The US pushed the IAEA into conceding to country-specific safeguards for India’s reactors, then lobbied for country-specific concessions for India from the NSG. As a result, lucrative nuclear contracts are being signed by India and countries like France, Russia and the UK. As such, when experts cite the violation of the NPT’s international guidelines by the Pakistan-China civilian nuclear deal, the IAEA and NSG concessions to India give this posturing little credibility.

(More on the deal and its consequences: Nuclear Monitor 709, 12 May 2010: "China: US-India deal justification for selling reactors to Pakistan")
The Sunflower (eNewsletter of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation), issue 156, July 2010.


Brazil: Angra 3 To Cost US$ 550 million more.
The overall budget for the construction of the Angra 3 nuclear power plant in Brazil will be around R$ 9.9 billion (US$ 5.06 billion or 4.03 billion euro), according to the manager of Planning and Budgeting of Eletronuclear, Roberto Travassos. The increase of more than R$ 1 billion (US$ 550 million or 438 million euro) over the previous estimate (R$ 8.77 billion/ US$ 4.875 billion), is the result of contract  revisions and monetary correction of former estimates.
Global Energy (Brazil), 1 July 2010


Outgoing UN Inspector: dubious role on Iran.
Olli Heinonen, the Finnish nuclear engineer who resigned July 1, after five years as deputy director for safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was the driving force in turning that agency into a mechanism to support U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iran. Heinonen was instrumental in making a collection of intelligence documents showing a purported Iranian nuclear weapons research program the central focus of the IAEA’s work on Iran. The result was to shift opinion among Western publics to the view that Iran had been pursuing a covert nuclear weapons program. But his embrace of the intelligence documents provoked a fierce political struggle within the Secretariat of the IAEA, because other officials believed the documents were fraudulent.

Heinonen took over the Safeguards Department in July 2005 – the same month that the George W. Bush administration first briefed top IAEA officials on the intelligence collection. The documents portrayed a purported nuclear weapons research program, originally called the "Green Salt" project, that included efforts to redesign the nosecone of the Shahab-3 missile, high explosives apparently for the purpose of triggering a nuclear weapon and designs for a uranium conversion facility. Later the IAEA referred to the purported Iranian activities simply as the "alleged studies." The Bush administration was pushing the IAEA to use the documents to accuse Iran of having had a covert nuclear weapons program The administration was determined to ensure that the IAEA Governing Board would support referring Iran to the U.N. Security Council for action on sanctions, as part of a larger strategy to force Iran to abandon its uranium enrichment program.

Long-time IAEA Director-General Mohammed ElBaradei and other officials involved in investigating and reporting on Iran’s nuclear program were immediately skeptical about the authenticity of the documents. According to two Israeli authors, Yossi Melman and Meir Javadanfar, several IAEA officials told them in interviews in 2005 and 2006 that senior officials of the agency believed the documents had been "fabricated by a Western intelligence organizations." Heinonen, on the other hand, supported the strategy of exploiting the documents to put Iran on the defensive. His approach was not to claim that the documents’ authenticity had been proven but to shift the burden of proof to Iran, demanding that it provide concrete evidence that it had not carried out the activities portrayed in the documents.
Gareth Porter at Antiwar.com, 2 July 2010


U.K.: Waste costs 'not acceptable' for industry.
The nuclear industry has been heavily lobbying to change proposed charges for managing wastes from nuclear reactors. Papers released under Freedom of Information show how the French company EDF pressed the previous government to change the proposed 'high fixed cost' for managing wastes and the timetable for handing the management of wastes to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. The previous government made significant changes to the way it initially proposed charging companies for managing their wastes. It also agreed that responsibility for wastes should pass to the NDA after 60 years instead of the original 110 years. This would reduce the financial liabilities and costs for companies.

EDF told the government the original proposals were "non-acceptable" and made it uneconomic to develop new reactors.
N-Base Briefing 665, 9 June 2010

Kings Cliffe and the low-level waste crisis in UK

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#713
07/07/2010
Article

Kings Cliffe is a beautiful village, built of the gold-colored local stone typical north Northamptonshire in the English East Midlands. It has a population of 2000, including agricultural workers and also professionals who can commute to the rapidly expanding city of Peterborough. The village is about the same distance - 10-20 km - from two market towns Stamford and Oundle and the industrial town of Corby, which up to 1979 was a major center for steel making. North Northants, however, has joined West Cumbria (in the English Lake District) as epicenters for a struggle over nuclear waste in Britain.

Concern centers on the ‘East Northants Resource Center’, a curiously named landfill site on the outskirts of Kings Cliffe already certified to receive hazardous waste. It is owned and run by Augean plc, which has seven treatment and recycling centers and over two hundred employees nationally but no record of handling nuclear material. The group offers ‘to help you to dispose of your waste safely’, using ‘commercial and compliance led solutions in a complex, legislation driven market’. It asserts that ‘best practice is considered normal practice’.

In July 2009, it applied to the planning authority, Northamptonshire County Council, for permission to receive 250,000 tons of low-level nuclear waste each year. Since 2007, companies are permitted to use landfill sites for the dumping of ‘low level’ nuclear waste (with radioactive content of not more than 4GBq/t (4 Giga-becquerel per ton –1000kg) of alpha radiation and not more than 12 GBq/t of beta/gamma radioactivity) and ‘very low level nuclear waste’ (complexly defined in relation to volume and permitted amounts of tritium and carbon-14 especially).

Apart from the local authority, they must also obtain permission from the Environmental Agency, the regulative body under the 1993 Radioactive Substances Act. In practice once permission is given, on the basis of a radiological and environmental assessment by the company itself, the system is largely ‘self-regulating’.

Up until now, low-level waste has been held temporarily where it is produced or transported to the low-level depository at Drigg, Cumbria. Drigg has now almost reached full capacity, and consignments of waste are being refused there. Yet large amounts of low (and high and intermediate) waste will be produced from the decommissioning of the first generations of nuclear power stations and an alternative to Drigg is also urgently required by industrial, medical and military producers of waste. There is therefore a desperate need to persuade local populations to receive large amounts of irradiated cement, steel and organic materials, containing different radio-nuclides, each with different half-lives and posing rather different environmental dangers.

The waste crisis is accompanied by conflict over the building of up to 10 new nuclear power stations. The Blair and Brown governments, closely allied to the nuclear industries, speeded up the privatization of the nuclear cycle and energy supply. Nuclear was promoted as ‘solution’ to climate change and energy security. The new Conservative/Liberal-Democrat coalition government is less keen on nuclear. Indeed the Liberal Democrats probably benefitted electorally from their anti-nuclear stance in the May election. Contradictions within the government are being handled by reassurances to the nuclear companies and fierce warnings that there will be ‘no subsidies’. Since paying for the massive costs of decommissioning and waste storage is the key element in subsidies, struggles like those in Kings Cliffe and West Cumbria are critical. If legacy waste can be stored only by spreading it across the country, what will happen to waste from an expanded nuclear industry? There is also pressure on the receiving companies to decrease the costs of storage.

Kings Cliffe is notable too because of the villagers’ model campaign against Augean’s plans. They have explicitly set local anxieties within the context of national and European policies and the current scientific debates, citing for instance the principle of ‘proximity to source’ and the dangers of transporting waste across large distances. They use the contemporary media of Facebook, websites, e-mail lists and power-point presentations, as well as old-fashioned access to local media, pressure on local politicians, placards in village windows, street demos and public meetings in village halls. A pantomime horse recently showed the frailty of Augean’s security measures by frolicking in and around the dump. The decisive meeting of the Northamptonshire Planning Committee in March 2010 was attended by many citizens, with demonstrations outside and about 20 local people speaking against the proposal. Support for Waste Watchers also came from ‘expert’ groups, especially Peterborough Friends of the Earth (FoE) and the East Midlands Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament (CND). Even so, most commentators were surprised when the planning committee, consisting mainly of Conservative and Liberal Democrat councilors, voted unanimously to refuse Augean planning permission.

The hearing showed that the company was cutting its costs. Its technical specifications fell far behind ‘best practice’: no exclusion of water, plastic linings and bags, rather than concrete casing and metal drums, inadequate security and no solution to the build up of ‘leachate’ or radioactive water. The very rational local fear is that minute radioactive particles of different radio-nuclides will enter the atmosphere, food and ground water around the site, with effects on the local populations that will persist for aeons beyond the reach of monitoring or regulation.

The company is appealing the March decision to refuse permission. The appeal will be heard by a single Inspector in October 2010 but the government Minister responsible – who is or was a anti-nuclear Liberal-Democrat – has announced that the decision will be ‘called in’ – that is made the subject of a national political decision.

Sources include: www.augeanplc.com / The Guardian, 15 March 2010 / www.no2nuclearpower.org.uk / www.kingscliffewastewatchers.co.uk
Contact: Kings Cliffe Waste Watchers,
Web: www.kingscliffewastewatchers.co.uk

About: 
CND

Chernobyl restrictions for sheep consumption ending in Scotland; not in Wales

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#713
6067
09/07/2010
Article

Nearly a quarter of a century after the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl in the Ukraine  exploded and spewed radioactivity across the world, it has finally stopped making Scottish sheep too "hot" to eat. In Northern Ireland restrictions ended in 2000. In Wales however, the restrictions are far from over.

For the first time since the 1986 Chernobyl accident, levels of radioactive contamination in sheep on all Scottish farms, 2300 kilometers to the west,  dropped below safety limits, enabling the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to lift restrictions. Controls on the movement and sale of sheep have been in force since after the explosion in 1986. Peat and grass in upland areas of Scotland were polluted with radioactive caesium-137 released by the reactor, blown across Europe and brought to ground by rain. This grass was eaten and recycled by sheep, and has persisted in the environment far longer than originally anticipated. In 1987, the restrictions covered 73 farms across southwest and central Scotland.

In April 2009, there were still 3,000 sheep at five farms under restrictions. But now, according to an announcement from the FSA, there are none.

An FSA spokesperson said: "Over time, radioactivity levels have continued to decline, and, as of February 2010, only two areas in Scotland remained under restrictions. Of these, one area has been taken out of agricultural use, so is no longer being used to farm sheep, and the other area was removed from restrictions on 21 June 2010."

A maximum limit of 1,000 becquerels per kilogram (Bq/kg) of radiocaesium is applied to sheep meat affected by the accident to protect consumers. This limit was introduced in the UK in 1986 (after Chernobyl), based on advice from the European Commission's Article 31 group of experts.

Under powers provided in the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 (FEPA) Emergency Orders have been used since 1986 to impose restrictions on the movement and sale of sheep exceeding the limit in certain parts of Cumbria, North Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Emergency Orders define geographical areas, often termed 'Restricted Areas', within which the controls must be followed. Under the FEPA Orders, sheep with levels of contamination above the limit are not allowed to enter the food chain. Initially these restricted areas were large, but have reduced substantially as levels of radioactivity have fallen, with all restrictions lifted in Northern Ireland in 2000.

When the disaster happened in April 1986, some 9,700 farms and more than four million sheep were under restriction across the UK after downpours rained radioactive material onto land across northern Europe.

Hundreds of Welsh farms continue to bear the brunt of UK sheep movement restrictions.

Glyn Roberts, vice-president of the Farmers’ Union of Wales, said the continuing restrictions were an inconvenient but necessary evil. The farmer said: “I remember watching the disaster happen on the television but we never had any idea the rain falling on us in the days after would affect us as well. The disaster was so far away that we never thought it would have an impact in Wales and push some farms to the brink.”

It was only days later, when the Government announced the ban on the sale and movement of sheep – that had grazed on plants grown in radioactive soil across large swathes of North Wales, Cumbria and Scotland – that it hit home.

In May (2010), 369 UK farms were still restricted in the way they were able to use land and rear sheep because of fallout. The vast majority of the restricted farms – 355 – are in Snowdonia, Wales, involving 180,000 of the 190,000 affected sheep. It is understood the restrictions could continue for many years to come.

Sources: Herald Scotland, 4 July 2010 / Wales online, 10 May 2010 / Food Standard Agency: http://www.food.gov.uk/science/surveillance/radiosurv/chernobyl/
Contact: CORE, Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment, Dry Hall, Broughton Mills, Broughton-In-Furness, Cumbria LA20 6AZ, U.K.
Tel: +44 1229 716523
Email: info@corecumbria.co.uk
Web: www.corecumbria.co.uk

About: 
Chernobyl-4

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#712
18/06/2010
Shorts

Russia to invest heavily in Namibia.
Russia is ready to invest US$1-billion in uranium exploration in Namibia. "We're ready to start investing already this year," the head of state corporation Rosatom, Sergei Kiriyenko, told journalists. Rosatom seeks to compete for projects with global miner Rio Tinto in the African country. Earlier in May, Russia and Turkey signed a US$20-billion project for Moscow to build and own a controlling stake in Turkey's first nuclear power plant.

Namibia, the world's fourth-largest uranium producer, is home to the Rossing mine operated by Rio Tinto, which together with Paladin Energy's Langer Heinrich mine accounts for about 10% of global output. Other firms have been joining the exploration drive, with several new mines due to come on stream in the next five years.

Although Russia plans to spent a lot of money on foreign nuclear projects, it is clear that there is not enough money to realize its domestic nuclear program. As described in Nuclear Monitor 707 the number of reactors planned to be built by 2015 will be cut by 60%. And even that number will be hard to build.
Reuters, 20 May 2010


UK: Decommissioning black hole.
The new U.K. Government will have to find an extra £4 billion for decommissioning and waste management at the UK civil nuclear. Energy minister Chris Huhne said: "as you can imagine, this is a fairly existential problem. The costs are such that my department is not so much the department of energy and climate change, as the department of nuclear legacy and bits of other things." He added that there were "genuine safety issues" so the costs could not be avoided. As a result, the Government is considering extending  the life of some of the UK's oldest reactors as a way of raising extra income for decommissioning. Extending the life of the reactors owned by the NDA would raise extra income. The Wylfa reactor on Anglesey, for example, is due to close at the end of the year, but extending its operating life for another two years would mean £ 500 million (US$ 736 million or 598 million euro) in new revenue. The NDA is also considering extending the life of the Oldbury reactor, first opened in 1968. Any application to extend the life of reactors would have to be approved by safety regulators.
N-Base Briefing, 9 and 16 June 2010


France: Subcontractors not in epidemiological surveys.
French antinuclear network 'Sortir du nucléaire' supports nuclear industry subcontractor and whistleblower Philippe Billard. As a spokesperson of the organisation 'Santé / Sous-traitance' (“Health and Subcontracting”), he has undergone some retaliation measures after having denounced workers exposure to radiation. As a  whistleblower, he’s now treated as persona non grata in nuclear power  plants. His employer refuses to re-instate him at his previous job, in  contradiction with the Labour Inspectorate’s recommendations.

The French antinuclear network “Sortir du nucléaire”, considers Philippe Billard’s ousting as a means to put pressure on whistleblower workers. “Sortir du nucléaire”  decided to bring its support to the workers who, just like Philippe Billard, suffer from the unbearable working conditions imposed by the nuclear industry and undergo irradiation without even receiving appropriate health care.

To protect its corporate image, EDF chose to give subcontractors the most dangerous tasks. These people working in the shadows have insecure jobs and are mostly temporary and/or nomad workers. Every year, 25,000 to 30,000 of them are made to carry out tasks where they are exposed to radiations. This system allows EDF to cover up a huge health scandal, since these subcontractors, who get 80% of the annual collective dose from the whole French nuclear park, are not taken into account in epidemiological surveys! (See: Annie Thébaud-Mony, « L’industrie nucléaire organise le non-suivi médical des travailleurs les plus exposés », Imagine, May-June 2007)

EDF is shamelessly multiplying talks on transparency while hushing up workers whistle blowing about the imminent catastrophe. In the ageing French nuclear park, the accident risk is increasing, all the more since maintenance periods are shortened in order to save time and money. However, the official motto remains “Nothing to report” and short-term profits are more important than common safety and security.
Press release 'Sortir du nucleaire', 31 May 2010


Switzerland: Thousands march against nuclear power.
More than 5,000 people gathered in Goesgen, canton Solothurn, in northern Switzerland on May 24, for a peaceful protest against the continuing development of nuclear energy in the country. The protest had participants from 83 groups in Switzerland, France, Germany and Austria. One of their key points was that Switzerland’s nuclear power plans are preventing the rapid development of alternative energy programs. The demonstration was one of the largest in last years.
www.menschenstrom.ch


Another subsidy for Areva in the U.S.
"As part of a broad effort to expand the use of nuclear power in the United States and reduce carbon pollution," the U.S. Department of Energy has approved a US$2 billion loan guarantee for French nuclear power developer Areva S.A. (owned for about 93 percent by the French State). The loan guarantee will support Areva's Eagle Rock Enrichment Facility near Idaho Falls, Idaho, which will supply uranium enrichment services for the U.S. nuclear power industry. Areva's US$3.3 billion nuclear enrichment facility will use centrifuge technology instead of gaseous diffusion technology that is more common in the U.S. but uses more energy. Areva had filed its application for the guarantee with the Department of Energy in September 2008.

The group can tap the guarantee once its Idaho Falls project has received full approval by the authorities. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is expected to decide sometime next year on a licence for the facility. Areva plans to have the plant in operation in 2014. 

The United Stated Enrichment Corporation (USEC) is also seeking a loan guarantee for its American Centrifuge Project under development at Piketon, Ohio. Following DOE's announcement the consensus would seem to be that 'd be bad news for USEC. But according to USEC spokesman Paul Jacobson that is not the case. Jacobson said USEC was encouraged that DOE recognizes the need for more enrichment services to supply the nuclear needs of the future. He also noted that DOE, as noted in the federal agency's press release, still has another US$2 billion in loan authority available. At one time, USEC was going head to head with Areva for the loan guarantees, and USEC played up the foreign-owned company versus domestic company, etc., but now the company -- on the public front at least -- seems to be focused on the nuclear renaissance and the idea that there's enough demand in the U.S. and abroad to support multiple new ventures in the enrichment arena.
U.S. DOE, 20 May 2010 / Reuters, 20 May 2010 / Atomic City Underground, 21 May 2010


EC: investigation non-compete clauses Areva, Siemens.
The European Commission has opened an antitrust case to determine whether non-compete clauses in civil nuclear technology arrangements between Areva of France and Germany's Siemens violate EU competition rules. The opening of antitrust proceedings on June 2, means that the EC thinks the case merits investigation. EC competition spokeswoman Amelia Torres said an investigation was triggered by a complaint from Siemens after Areva took full control last year of reactor construction and services company Areva NP, a joint venture originally set up by Framatome (which later became Areva) and Siemens in 2001. But non-compete clauses between the two companies remain, even though Siemens sold its 34% stake to Areva last year.

The shareholders' pact between Areva and Siemens for Areva NP is not public, but a French official familiar with it confirmed that it forbids either party from competing with the other in businesses covered by Areva NP for eight years after a potential divorce.

Siemens said in January 2009 that it intended to exercise its option, to sell its 34% stake in Areva NP to Areva and leave the joint venture. A few weeks later, Siemens said it had signed a memorandum of understanding on a nuclear power business partnership with Rosatom, a Russian state-owned nuclear conglomerate. After bilateral discussions failed to produce an agreement on the price at which Areva would buy the 34% stake in Areva NP, the erstwhile partners last year asked an arbitration court to decide the matter.

EC competition spokeswoman Amelia Torres said the investigation would be carried out by the EC at EU-level, rather than by national governments. There is no timescale for the investigation as this depends on the complexity of the case and the extent to which the parties cooperate. Torres said she was not able to prejudge whether a fine would be imposed if the arrangement were found to be in breach of competition rules.
Platts, 2 June 2010


U.K.: Waste costs 'not acceptable' for industry.
The nuclear industry has been heavily lobbying to change proposed charges for managing wastes from nuclear reactors. Papers released under Freedom of Information show how the French company EDF pressed the previous government to change the proposed 'high fixed cost' for managing wastes and the timetable for handing the management of wastes to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. The previous government made significant changes to the way it proposed changing companies for managing their wastes. It also agreed that responsibility for wastes should pass to the NDA after 60 years instead of the original 110 years. This would reduce the financial liabilities and costs for companies.

EDF told the government the original proposals were "non-acceptable" and made it uneconomic to develop new reactors.
N-Base Briefing 665, 9 June 2010


Chubu delays Hamaoka-5 restart after earthquake.
Japan: The Chubu Electric Power Company has extended the closure of its 1,380-megawatt Hamaoka No.5 reactor by a further two months to the end of July. Chubu Electric said the decision had been taken because the company is still analyzing why the impact of the August 11, 2009 earthquake on the reactor was greater than for other nuclear units. The company explained that, based on this measure of earthquake ground motion, the impact of the tremor was significantly higher than for other reactors. Chubu Electric will report its findings to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. It hopes to restart the reactor after METI and other government  agencies have agreed the report and local communities have consented to the restart of the reactor. The restart of the No. 5 reactor was originally planned for the end of December 2009, but pushed back several times.
Power in Asia 555,  27 May 2010


Bangladesh: cooperation agreement with Russia.
The government of Bagladesh has increased momentum for the installation of the country’s first nuclear power plant. The US$1.5-billion project will be built at Rooppur, about 300 kilometers from the capital Dhaka. A committee headed by the state minister for science and information and communication technology, Yafes Osman, has been constituted to implement the project. The 22-member committee, which has the chairman of the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission as its member secretary, will examine funding issues and assess the risks associated with the fiscal arrangements. It will also study nuclear waste management issues. Bangladesh plans to install the 2,000-megawatt plant (for US$1.5billion?) at Rooppur from 2017. It signed a five-year framework cooperation agreement with the Russian atomic energy company Rosatom in May, with the final agreement due to be signed during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to Moscow later in 2010.
Power in Asia 555, 10 June 2010


Go-ahead for Urenco's Eunice plant.
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has authorized the operation of the first cascade at Urenco's Louisiana Energy Services (LES) gas centrifuge enrichment plant at Eunice, New Mexico. LES is a wholly owned subsidiary of URENCO Ltd. Urenco said the process to bring the plant from construction status to fully operational will begin later in June. The Urenco USA plant (formerly the National Enrichment Facility)  will be the first commercial centrifuge enrichment plant to become operational in the USA. Urenco formally inaugurated the plant in early June. "At full capacity, the facility will produce sufficient enriched uranium for nuclear fuel to supply approximately 10% of the electricity needs for the US", according to the Urenco press release.
Urenco Press release, 11 June 2010

NDA announce Japanese MOX with the Sellafield MOX plant

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#712
6063
18/06/2010
Martin Forwood at CORE
Article

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: CORE Briefing, 13 May 2010
Contact: Martin Forwood at Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment, (CORE) Dry Hall, Broughton Mills, Broughton-in-Furness, Cumbria LA20 6AZ, U.K..
Tel: + 44 1229 716523
Email:  martin@core.furness.co.uk
Web: www.corecumbria.co.uk

Pages