Crisis? What crisis!
A uranium supply crunch could be around the corner due to industry-wide cuts to development projects, rising demand, and uncertainty about Russia's plans for its decommissioned nuclear arsenal, Jerry Grandey, CEO of uranium company Cameco Corp, said on March 11. Grandey expects a situation where uranium will be in high demand because of cuts among miners left under funded due to tight credit conditions. "I think the financial crisis is clearly impacting the ability of every supplier to raise capital," he said. "When you see project cancellations, you see expansion derail, you see some projects that will just go slower. That is just simply taking away future supply and sowing the seeds of the next spike in the uranium price."
He said global mined output is 115 million pounds a year, compared with consumption of about 180 million pounds that he expects to grow at between 2 and 3 percent per year. (1 pound –lbs- is 0.45 kg) The shortfall has been made up by stockpiles, as well as annual sales of about 24 million pounds of uranium from decommissioned Russian nuclear weapons, which Cameco manages along with two partners under a 1999 commercial agreement. That deal expires in 2013, and Grandey said questions linger about how much uranium Russia may sell past that date, and how much may have degraded past the point where it can be sold. He said many expect Russian sales could fall by half.
Reuters, 11 March 2009
EDF: Slash renewables target to protect nuclear.
EDF and E.ON have warned the U.K. government they may be forced to drop plans to build a new generation of nuclear power plants unless the government scales back its targets for wind power. The demand – contained in submissions to the government's renewable energy consultation – reinforces the worries of wind developers that the two sectors cannot thrive simultaneously. Électricité de France (EDF) is calling on the government to lower its proposed renewable electricity target from 35% of supply in 2020 to just 20%. The company says building the wind capacity needed to hit a 35% target is “not realistic or indeed desirable” due to the problem of intermittency. EDF’s views were revealed early March when the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) published a summary of responses to its consultation on its renewables strategy. EDF’s response says that at times of high wind, output from wind and nuclear could exceed demand. “As a result… plant will need to be curtailed i.e. instructed not to generate.” In reality, only nuclear will be curtailed, it says, as wind generation is subsidised so operators will pay to continue generating. The UK will also need wind farms to operate to meet its EU renewable energy target. If nuclear plants have to be regularly turned off, this “damages the economics of these projects, meaning that less will be built.”
ENDS report, 12 March 2009 / Guardian, 16 March 2009
UK: Sellafield clean-up bill.
Why did the U.K. government use an emergency procedure over the Sellafield clean-up bill? The dispute over whether the government followed the rules in telling parliament that it would land the taxpayer with an unlimited bill in the event of a nuclear accident at Sellafield has taken a further twist. Paul Flynn, the Labour MP for Newport West, has tabled an early day motion asking whether the indemnity covering the private owners of Sellafield is valid.
Flynn has pursued two successive energy ministers, Malcolm Wicks and then Mike O'Brien, since the government used emergency procedures last summer to inform parliament that the taxpayer would foot an unlimited bill following a nuclear leak or explosion at the plant.
Wicks and O'Brien said the government had to do this because the matter was urgent. Both admit errors in not placing the details of the change in the House of Commons library so that any MP who wanted to object could raise this in parliament. They said that if they had not done this the contracts allowing a big US-led consortium to run Sellafield could not go ahead.
But when a parliamentary researcher, David Lowry, tabled a freedom of information request it was revealed that civil servants knew months before they applied for an indemnity that they would have to do so – suggesting the emergency procedure was not necessary in the first place. (See also NM 682, 'In brief' and 675; 'Consortium selected for Sellafield').
Guardian (UK) blog by David Hencke, 10 March 2009
IAEA: vote for new Director General in March.
The International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors will vote on March 26 for a new director in a closed session. There are two nominations to succeed Mohamed ElBaradei: Japan's ambassador to the agency, Yukiya Amano, backed mainly by industrialized countries, and South Africa's Abdul Samad Minty, with core support among developing nations. In order to be appointed, a candidate must secure a two-thirds vote of the 35-member IAEA Board of Governors by secret balloting.
IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaradei, who shared the Nobel peace prize with his agency in 2005, leaves office in November after 12 years. Industrialized nations want an IAEA chief less politically outspoken than ElBaradei, sticking more to executing the IAEA's technical mandate, whose priority they see as preventing diversions of nuclear energy to bomb making.
They believe the low-key Amano would depoliticise the agency better than Minty, a former anti-apartheid activist identified with developing nation positions on disarmament. But developing nations see Amano as too close to Western powers.
Reuters, 5 March 2009 / IAEA Staff Report, 12 March 2009
Construction means delays and cost overruns, always and everywhere.
Taiwan: on March 9, Taipower chairman Chen Kuei-ming told the legislature an additional NT$40 billion (US$1.15 billion) to NT$50 billion would be needed if the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant is to reach a stage where its two generator units can begin operations in 2011 and 2012. The additional funding would bring the construction costs at the Gongliao, Taipei County, plant to between NT$270 billion and NT$280 billion, Chen said. On the same day, Minister of Economic Affairs Yiin Chii-ming said it was unlikely that the plant would be completed tin 2009 as scheduled. “It will probably take two more years,” he said.
Taipei Times, 10 March 2009
Australia: The battle for Indigenous hearts and mines.
The Australian Uranium Association has launched a new strategy in an attempt to outflank continuing concern from many Indigenous Australians over the environmental and social impacts of uranium mining. The AUA is the industry’s main lobby group and is comprised of many of Australia’s uranium producers and explorers including resource giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto. It is attempting to reposition the uranium industry as a solution to widespread Indigenous poverty in remote and regional Australia and in February launched its Indigenous Dialogue Group – a twice-yearly forum of executives from five uranium companies and five Aboriginal representatives. The move has attracted sharp criticism from many Indigenous people who rearranged the acronym to spell DIG – the industry’s real agenda. The Australian Nuclear Free Alliance, a network of Indigenous, environment and public health individuals and organisations formed in 1997, has condemned the move as an industry PR exercise. ANFA committee member and 2008 Nuclear Free Future Award winner Jillian Marsh stated, “It is cynical for the uranium industry to act as if it can deliver for Aboriginal people. The main lasting effect of uranium mining for Aboriginal people is radioactive waste on their country and no resources to clean up the mess left by miners.”
....and more Australia:
French nuclear giant Areva has a setback to its plans to develop the Koongarra uranium deposit inside Kakadu national park in the Northern Territory with traditional Aboriginal owners strongly rejecting a company application for development consent. Koongarra is fully surrounded by but not technically part of the World heritage listed Kakadu, Australia’s largest national park. At a meeting in February traditional owners heard from the company and discussed the potential impacts of a large scale uranium operation near the highly visited and culturally significant Nourlangie Rock before rejecting the Areva plan and calling for the long term protection of the Koongarra region. Under the provisions of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act the decision means that there will be a five-year moratorium before Areva can again seek development consent.
Dave Sweeney, e-mail 17 March 2009
U.S. Department of Energy cannot account for nuclear materials at 15 locations.
A number of U.S. institutions with licenses to hold nuclear material reported to the Department of Energy (DOE) in 2004 that the amount of material they held were less than agency records indicated. But rather than investigating the discrepancies, Energy officials wrote off significant quantities of nuclear material from the department's inventory records. That's just one of the findings of a report released February 23 by Energy Department Inspector General Gregory Friedman that concluded "the department cannot properly account for and effectively manage its nuclear materials maintained by domestic licensees and may be unable to detect lost or stolen material."
Auditors found that Energy could not accurately account for the quantities and locations of nuclear material at 15 out of 40, or 37 percent, of facilities reviewed. The materials written off included 20,580 grams of enriched uranium, 45 grams of plutonium, 5,001 kilograms of normal uranium and 189,139 kilograms of depleted uranium.
"Considering the potential health risks associated with these materials and the potential for misuse should they fall into the wrong hands, the quantities written off were significant," the report says. "Even in small quantities normally held by individual domestic licensees, special nuclear materials such as enriched uranium and plutonium, if not properly handled, potentially pose serious health hazards."
Auditors also found that waste-processing facilities could not locate or explain the whereabouts of significant quantities of uranium and other nuclear material that Energy Department records showed they held. In another case, Energy officials had no record of the fact that one academic institution had loaned a 32-gram plutonium- beryllium source to another institution.
Global Security Newswire, 24 February 2009
Chinese expert warns of nuclear talents vacuum.
Even China, supposedly the country with the largest nuclear power expansion program acknowledges its limitations. The country is in great need of nuclear science talents from the young generation, a nuclear physicist said in Beijing early March. Zhu Zhiyuan, director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Shanghai Branch, said China must step up efforts to attract and cultivate more young nuclear talents, in order to meet the demand of the country's future development.
China has already strengthened nuclear science education in recent years. However, according to Zhu Zhiyuan, these efforts could not at once make up for the lack of nuclear specialist education in the country caused by previous insufficient attention towards the field for more than a decade. "Many young people at the time were simply afraid of nuclear technologies, while others assumed the prospect of nuclear power as unpromising," Zhu said. Even now, few of the students enrolled in nuclear physics departments of Chinese universities or research institutes chose the field as their top choice.
Xinhua, 3 March 2009
Philippines: Protest against re-commissioning Bataan increases.
It seems as the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) intensifies its protest over House Bill 4631 authored by Rep. Mark Cojuangco mandating the rehabilitation, re-commissioning and commercial use of the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP). In a March 5 protest action in front of the House of Representatives and coinciding with a Committee on Appropriations hearing on the BNPP, FDC advocates wore eyeball replicas with the retina part covered with a radiation symbol to symbolize the people’s vigilant watch over attempts to revive the contentious nuclear facility in Morong, Bataan through a legislative measure. “From now on, the public and the broad social movement against the revival of BNPP will keep tabs on each legislator’s position, action and/or inaction on the said issue. However, special attention will be given to the 184 legislators who have rendered their support to the said bill,” FDC said in a statement.
FDC said legislators should be wary of their constituents’ perception concerning their support for the opening of BNPP. Through a sustained information and education campaign, their constituents are being made aware of the dangers of the BNPP and its enormous weight on the economic life of the people should the bill be passed into law. The group also warned legislators vying for re-election in 2010 that support for the BNPP revival bill, without first understanding the dangers of the nuclear power plant from reliable scientific study could be a “kiss of death” come election day.
For more on the anti-Bataan campaign: http://notobnpp.wordpress.com/
Press release Free from Debt Coalition, 5 March 2009
EDF in antitrust spotlight.
On March 11, investigators from the European Commission raided the offices of Électricité de France (EDF) seeking evidence of price-fixing in the French electricity market.
Commission officials were joined by inspectors from the French Competition Authority in a raid on the utility's headquarters in Paris. The Commission said that it suspected that EDF was engaged in activity that abused its dominant position in the market. "The suspected illegal conduct may include actions to raise prices on the French wholesale electricity market," it said.
The state-controlled company generates and supplies most of the electricity used in France, while also controlling the transmission grid operator RTE. The primary sources for EDF’ s electricity is a fleet of 58 nuclear reactors, while other sources include hydro and gas. A "true internal energy market" is a main goal of European energy policy, as is a minimum of 10% interconnection between national grids and further separation of power generation and transmission.
The Times, 12 March 2009 / WNN, 12 March 2009
Germany wide protest against RWE and Belene.
From 1 to 8 March, protests took place in 54 German towns against the construction of the nuclear power station Belene in North Bulgaria. The protests focus on RWE, because Germany's second largest energy company wants to invest over 1,5 Billion Euros into the nuclear power plant on the shores of the Danube. With the week of protest, environmental groups want to commemorate the large 1977 earthquake in the Belene region. During that quake, only several kilometres from the planned nuclear site blocks of flats collapsed and over 120 people were killed. "Nuclear power stations have no place in an earthquake zone," comments Schuecking and points out that the European Seismological Commission predicts medium to heavy earthquakes for the Belene region. According to estimates of the environmental organisation, Belene is one of the most dangerous nuclear power stations currently planned in Europe.
Protest actions took place against RWE and some of their important shareholders. In the Ruhr region and Westphalia protesters picketed in front of RWE client centres. In
municipalities that are shareholders of RWE and whose mayors have a seat in the RWE board, protests were held in front of town halls. In Southern and Northern German, protests concentrated on the Allianz insurance company, which is with almost 5% the single largest German shareholder in RWE.
Urgewald, press release, 3 March 2009 / www.ausgestrahlt.de