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Japanese prime minister: "nuclear free future"

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#731
6156
29/07/2011
WISE Amsterdam
Article

“We will aim to bring about a society that can exist without nuclear power,” Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said in a television address to the country July 13. The statement was Kan’s clearest yet about the appropriate long-term energy goals for a country dealing with the consequences of the worst nuclear crisis in a quarter-century. More than two-thirds (70.3 %) of Japanese support Prime Minister Naoto Kan's call to do away with nuclear power, a media poll showed on July 24, underscoring growing opposition to atomic energy in the wake of the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

It has now been more than four months since the accident began at Fukushima Daiichi and unfortunately no end is yet in sight although much of the major media moved on from Fukushima. But the accident continues, radiation continues to be released (though much lower amounts, of course, than initially), and the risk of new problems remains.

"Japan without nuclear power"
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan's July 13, statement was his clearest yet about the appropriate long-term energy goals for a country dealing with the consequences of the worst nuclear crisis in a quarter-century: “We will aim to bring about a society that can exist without nuclear power.” One day before that statement, Kan told lawmakers that Japan must scrap a plan that calls for the country to increase its use of nuclear power to 53 percent by 2030, up from the pre-quake level of roughly 30 percent. And he took a stand against the government’s long-peddled slogan about the safety of nuclear power ­ the “safety myth” that allowed for the construction of 54 reactors over four decades. “Through my experience of the March 11 accident, I came to realize the risk of nuclear energy is too high,” Kan said. “It involves technology that cannot be controlled according to our conventional concept of safety.”

But Kan’s energy plan faces numerous obstacles, from within his own government and from the utility companies that act as regional monopolies. There is also the matter of Kan’s own domestic unpopularity and his waning authority to guide the country.

But the fact that public opinion is changing, was also highlightened  by the fact that, also on July 13, the Asahi Shimbun, Japan’s second-largest paper, ran a front-page editorial calling for the phase-out of nuclear energy. But the piece also warned against immediate abandonment. “If we go to zero suddenly, we will encounter power shortages, and our lives and economic activities will be hugely affected,” the editorial said. “It is more realistic to not try too hard but to steadily decrease the dependency.”

Nuclear establishment
But Naoto Kan's dream of creating a society free of nuclear power appears destined to die when his reign as prime minister expires. No politician considered a possible successor is taking up Kan's call to decommission all of Japan's nuclear reactors. In fact, almost all prominent Cabinet ministers and executives of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan who have supported Kan appear reluctant to go along with his nuclear-free idea.

Japan suspend nuclear talks
In what could be an important move, the Japanese government has decided to suspend negotiations with India and four other countries on civil nuclear cooperation following Prime Minister Mr Naoto Kan's call for Japan's eventual exit from atomic power, according to a media report. Any move to proceed with the talks now “could risk contradicting the Prime Minister's policy,” an unnamed government source was quoted as saying by 'Kyodo' news agency.

The report said the government will suspend talks with India, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates on the sale of Japanese-made nuclear power equipment and technology. The decision concerns negotiations over completing separate nuclear power cooperation agreements with these countries.

The source also indicated the government will not schedule any high-level talks with the five prospective nations on completing nuclear cooperation accords without getting Mr Kan's nod, the report said.

Turkey to cancel talks with Japan?
The Turkish government informed the Japanese government that it will cancel the preferential negotiations with Japan and start talks with other candidate countries on the project to build a nuclear power plant, if Japan does not make clear its intention to continue the negotiations by the end of July, (Japanese) government sources said.

Turkey plans to construct a power plant with four 1.4 million kilowatt-class nuclear reactors in the Black Sea coastal city of Sinop. It aims to start operating the plant around 2020. Toshiba Corp. hopes to win an order to construct the plant with the cooperation of Tokyo Electric Power Co.

The negotiations between Turkey and Japan have been suspended since the nuclear crisis began at TEPCO's Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Turkey ended negotiations with South Korea last December and gave the Japanese government the preferential negotiation rights. Turkey, which is also an earthquake-prone country, highly valued Japan's quake-resistance technology in awarding the priority rights, according to the sources.

After Kan's "denuclearization declaration" on July 13, it has been increasingly unclear whether Japan will be able to extend government-level support to Turkey, even if Toshiba won the order. Meanwhile, Japan's rivals, especially South Korea, are eager to extend such support.

"Stable cooling"
Tepco says it has achieved “stable cooling” of all of the reactors at the site. This might sound like good news until it is realized that Tepco does not mean the reactors are at cold shutdown. In fact, all 3 reactors with fuel in them remain above the boiling point of 100 degrees Centigrade, meaning that water continues to boil off and radiation continues to be released. Cold shutdown—bringing the temperatures below 100 degrees—is still not expected before January 2012. What Tepco really means is that it has more or less successfully set up a system for water to be recirculated through the reactors, so that constant water from outside is no longer needed. However, the recirculation system has been plagued with problems from the beginning and continues to not work at desired capacity. That is not the case for the Unit 4 fuel pool, which continues to receive water from outside. Temperature in the pool is said to be below boiling, at 80 degrees Centigrade.

Radioactive beef
The central government is considering buying all beef with levels of radioactive cesium exceeding government standards in an effort to try to address rising consumer concern and falling prices for Japanese beef. It would be the first time the central government has provided direct compensation for food products contaminated by the accident at Fukushima.

However, the current draft plan only envisages paying for beef that has been confirmed as contaminated in random tests. Meat from cows that have not been tested will not be bought. Farmers are demanding that all cows affected by shipment restrictions be bought up by the government to cover large losses from tumbling beef prices due to the radiation scare. The payment of compensation to beef farmers could lead to complaints from other farmers and fishermen of preferential treatment.

The issue of contaminated beef surfaced July 8, when meat from cattle shipped from a farm in Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, was found to have levels of cesium exceeding government standards. The contamination was caused by feeding the cattle contaminated straw. Investigators are looking into whether cattle in other areas have been similarly affected.

Industry minister Banri Kaieda said that Tepco should shoulder part of the costs of the government's planned purchase.

Iodine-131
But it’s not just beef and straw. Very high levels of Cesium-137 and other radioactive elements have been detected in all manners of agricultural products and soils across the region. Of particular note are both the Cesium-137 levels far higher that allowable limits, but also the continued presence of high levels of Iodine-131. Because of its 8-day half-life, Iodine-131 released during the initial week of the accident, when extremely large amounts of radioactive materials were ejected from all the Fukushima reactors, already has decayed to background. The continued presence of high levels of Iodine-131 is a certain indicator of the radiation releases that continue at Fukushima and will continue for months to come.

State support Tepco
A bill aimed at keeping troubled utility Tepco solvent gained approval from a Japanese parliamentary committee on July 26, with both ruling and opposition party support, paving the way for its passage through both houses of Japan's parliament. The bill would create a state-backed entity to financially support Tepco, which is in desperate need of assistance to cope with the potentially staggering costs of compensating those affected by the nuclear accident at its Fukushima Daiichi plant.

But while approval of the bill may reassure financial markets concerned about Tepco's survival, revisions to the bill to secure its likely passage mean the key issue of who pays what to fund the compensation will be decided later. Japan's two leading domestic rating agencies have already warned that parliament needs to move quickly to avert a Tepco bond rating downgrade that could trigger a major selloff in the utility's bonds, hitting the broader market.

Tepco shares have lost 76% since the accident while the yield on the utility's bonds has risen sharply, as has the cost of debt protection.


Nuclear plant workers developed cancer despite lower radiation exposure than legal limit. Of 10 nuclear power plant workers who have developed cancer and received workers’ compensation in the past, nine had been exposed to less than 100 millisieverts of radiation, according to a Mainichi Daily News report. The revelation comes amid reports that a number of workers battling the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant were found to have been exposed to more than the emergency limit of 250 millisieverts, which was raised from the previous limit of 100 millisieverts in March. The current guidelines for workers’ compensation due to radiation exposure only certify leukemia among various types of cancer. In these cases compensation is granted only when an applicant is exposed to more than 5 millisieverts of radiation a year.

According to Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry (of Japan) statistics, of the 10 nuclear power plant workers, six had leukemia, two multiple myeloma and another two lymphatic malignancy. Only one had been exposed to 129.8 millisieverts but the remaining nine were less than 100 millisieverts, including one who had been exposed to about 5 millisieverts.

Mainichi Daily News, Japan, July 27, 2011 


Sources: Washington Post, 13 July 2011 / The Statesman, 17 July 2011 / Asahi, 19 July 2011 / NIRS update, 19 July 2011 / Asahi, 23 July 2011 / Japan Times, 24 July 2011 / Reuters, 24 July 2011 / Nikkei.com, 26 july / The Yomiuri Shimbun, 27 July 2011
Contact: Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (CNIC), Akebonobashi Co-op 2F-B, 8-5 Sumiyoshi-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 162-0065, Japan.
Tel: +81 3-3357-3800
Email: cnic@nifty.jp
Web: http://cnic.jp/english

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Chernobyl: sarcophagus and new safe confinment

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#719-720
6102
12/11/2010
Article

In the run up to the 25th commemoration of the Chernobyl accidents, April 2011, the Nuclear Monitor will publish articles on several aspects of the accident and the destroyed reactor. The  first article is about the Sarcophagus and the New Safe Confinement, which has to replace it.

Following the explosion on April 26, 1986, a massive concrete ‘sarcophagus’ was constructed around the damaged Number 4 Reactor. This sarcophagus encases the damaged nuclear reactor and was designed to halt the release of further radiation into the atmosphere. However, hastily constructed this structure is now cracking open and leaking out lethal doses of radiation.

Chernobyl Sarcophagus – The end or just the beginning? Since the accident, Central and Eastern Europe have undergone momentous political changes. The USSR no longer exists. Chernobyl is now the responsibility of the respective governments of each of the affected countries, but the fallout from Chernobyl continues to kill and mar the lives of millions. Despite all the words that have been written about the accident, little has changed for the better. In fact, in many ways the situation is getting worse.

The scientists admit that the sarcophagus which encases the damaged nuclear reactor is now cracking open and leaking out lethal doses of radiation. In 1988 Soviet scientists announced that the sarcophagus was only designed for a lifetime of 20 to 30 years. Holes and fissures in the structure now cover 100 square metres, some of which are large enough to drive a car through. These cracks and holes are further exacerbated by the intense heat inside the reactor, which is still over 200 degrees Celsius. The sarcophagus’s hastily and poorly built concrete walls, which are steadily sinking, act as a lid on the grave of the shattered reactor.

Only 3% of the original nuclear material was expelled in 1986, leaving behind 216 tons of uranium and plutonium still buried inside the exploded reactor, is a chilling reminder that the explosion was not the end, but rather the beginning.

Scientists now agree that this sarcophagus will eventually collapse, and when it does there will be an even great release of radioactivity than in the initial accident.

Inside the Sarcophagus
There are 740,000 cubic metres of lethally contaminated debris inside the sarcophagus, which is ten times more than was previously thought. Locked inside lies is 30 tons of highly contaminated dust, 16 tons of uranium and plutonium and 200 tons of radioactive lava. The rain pours through causing corrosion, the weight of 3,000 cubic meters of water lodging each year further adds to the possibility of the roof caving in.

The result of the water and dust mixing is a dangerous radioactive ‘soup’. When the building became highly radioactive the engineers were unable to physically screw down the nuts and bolts or apply any direct welding of the Sarcophagus, this work was done by robotics, and unfortunately the result is that the seams of the building are not sealed thus allowing water to enter and radiation to escape on a daily basis. The problem of controlling the water and dust inside has never been resolved. This type of project has never been undertaken before and no one knows for sure if it will be effective enough to contain the radioactivity or what will happen in 100 years times.

Chernobyl’s debris will be radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years and must be treated and buried in shallow graves as an urgent priority. In 1998, finally with the help of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, a stabilization programme was completed which included securing the roof beams from collapsing.

The New Safe Confinement structure
A Chernobyl Shelter Fund was established in 1997 at the Denver G8 Summit to finance the Shelter Implementation Plan (SIP). The plan calls for transforming the site into an ecologically safe condition by stabilising the Sarcophagus followed by construction of a New Safe Confinement (NSC).

Now, according to Igor Gramotkin, Director-General of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, completion of the facility's New Safe Confinement (NSC) structure will not occur before 2013. Design delays have pushed back the structure's expected completion date.

While the original cost estimate for the SIP was US$768 million, the 2006 estimate was US$1.2 billion, which in July 2009 had increased to US$1.6 billion. The SIP is being managed by a consortium of Bechtel,  Battelle, and Electricité de France. The conceptual design for the NSC consists of a movable arch, constructed away from the shelter to avoid high radiation, to be slid over the sarcophagus.

If completed it may be the largest moveable structure ever built. After construction this structure will be the height of a 35 story building. Inside, robotic cranes and, where possible, live workers will then begin the delicate job of prying apart the wreckage and removing the radioactive materials. 

Sources: www.chernobylee.com/blog/new-safe-confinement;  www.chernobyl-international.com/chernobyl-sarcophagus.html


The New Safe Confinement Time schedule

In 1992, the Ukraine Government held an International Competition for proposals to replace the hastily constructed sarcophagus. A pan-European study (the TACIS programme) re-examined the proposals of the top three finalists of the competition. The study selected the British Sliding Arch proposal as the best solution for their further investigations and recommendations.

The structure was originally intended to be completed in 2005, but has since been postponed.

The following schedule was released in June 2003:

  • 12 February 2004 - complete the NSC conceptual design.
  • 13 March 2004 - Government of Ukraine to approve the conceptual design.
  • 13 June 2004 through 13 September 2004 - conduct a tender and sign a contract with the winner to proceed with relevant engineering and construction work.
  • 16 April 2006 through 20 May 2007 - lay foundations for the NSC.
  • 20 February through 29 February 2008 - slide the arch structure in place over the existing Shelter.                                                                                                                         But only on 17 September 2007, it was reported that the project contract was finally signed with French consortium Novarka, but not much has been heard from it since then.

     

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Confidential EDF documents show possible accident risks EPR

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#718
6099
29/10/2010
Article

On 27 September, 2010, the French anti-nuclear network Sortir du nucléaire received internal EDF documents, showing that the design and manufacture of the vessel closure head for the EPR in Flamanville could, in theory lead to a Chernobyl-type accident. Several EDF documents show that the number of welds and the type of steel used in some parts of the reactor vessel may cause leaks. EDF considers that the leaks may, in turn, develop into a Chernobyl-type of accident. The type of steel and welds used are part of the emergency shutdown system of the EPR and cover 89 points of entry into the reactor vessel.

The documents demonstrate that EDF engineers have designed parts of the vessel closure head for the EPR that not only endanger safety but also knowingly violate French law (namely violations of the decree of 12 December 2005 on nuclear pressure equipment) relating to nuclear facilities under pressure.

For Sortir du nucléaire, the conclusion is obvious: in spite of all these issues, EDF persists in a policy that sacrifices security for profits. In view of the catastrophic consequences of an accident, this attitude is unimaginable and unforgivable.

Sortir du Nucleaire is working hard to get all the technical documents translated into English, but summaries are already available. Although much has to be investigated before final conclusions can be drawn, we support Sortir du Nucleaire in exactly this call; let the French safety authorities give full disclosure of all documents and let independent specialists research the issue and come to conclusions. If there is no reason for fear it is in the interest of the French authorities and EDF to follow this route, otherwise there is a clear public interest for full disclosure. EDF has confirmed that the documents are genuine but have also already said that they see no problem; they have taken the theoretic problem into account while building the EPR. 

Summary of documents highlighting EPR weaknesses
The EDF documents reveal the weaknesses in the design and the manufacture of the control rod drive mechanism (CRDM) casing. This complex mechanism enables the emergency shutdown system of the reactor to be activated. The casing for each mechanism is connected to the closure head of the reactor's pressure vessel and contributes to the leak-tightness of the vessel up to a pressure of 155 bars. If one of the casing is weakened, the whole of the reactor's  pressure vessel becomes vulnerable. Sortir du nucleaire comes to three main conclusions

1. Weakness in the welding of the CRDM casing: 4 welds rather than 1
EDF has opted to use 4 welds for the control rod drive mechanism (CRDM) casing of the EPR, whereas only one weld was used for the casing of the CRDM of the 58 French nuclear reactors, in order to minimize the risk of leakage.[i] These four welds constitute a breach of the 12 December 2005 decree on nuclear pressure equipment; the decree states in Appendix 1 (3.3) that "socket welded connections are forbidden."[ii]

However, they are being used for the casings of the CRDM. Yet the EDF is fully aware of the regulations, as it refers to the French regulations having set "a limit on the number of welds."[iii]

A greater number of welds increases the risk of failure of the leak-tightness of the CRDM casing, and this in turn greatly increases the risk of control rod cluster ejection. The consequences of such a failure would be a loss of primary coolant and a real risk of reactor core fusion. According to the EDF's head of nuclear fuels, a control rod cluster ejection can cause a Chernobyl-type accident.[iv]

The risk of rupture of any of the mechanisms' casing in the head of the EPR pressure vessel is multiplied by the number of mechanisms penetrating the vessel head (89), in other words there are 89 weakness sites.

2. Weakness in the stainless steel used in the CRDM casing: a steel which doesn't stand the test of time
The central part of the CRDM casing used for the EPR will be made of martensitic stainless steel which becomes brittle when exposed to heat. This type of stainless steel can fracture without warning, a well-known fact.[v]

In view of its fragility, martensitic stainless steel is not suitable for pressurized equipment in the main primary circuit of a nuclear reactor. And yet this is what EDF plans to do, in full knowledge of the risks: the EDF document points out that "small errors of temperature or functioning time have a big impact on the behavior of these hardened steels".[vi]

This is the second time that there is a breach of regulations for equipment that is crucial to the safety of the EPR. This is a breach of the 12 December 2005 decree on nuclear pressure equipment which stipulates that "the ratio between elastic limit at ambient temperature and resistance to traction at ambient temperature must not exceed 0.85 for martensitic steels".[vii]

The decree states that these are "essential safety requirements for nuclear pressure equipment". EDF engineers are fully aware of this: "Using this type of steel for pressurized equipment in the main primary circuit has always been prohibited in any nuclear reactor. Its use for EPR mechanisms has therefore come under scrutiny, particularly since this steel does not meet the NPE (Nuclear Pressure Equipment) criteria stipulating that the ratio between elastic limit at ambient temperature and resistance to traction at ambient temperature must not exceed 0.85.[viii]

The use of this type of stainless steel increases the risk of sudden rupture of the CRDM casing and control rod cluster ejection. Such a rupture would cause a loss of primary coolant and a real risk of fusion of the nuclear core. According to the EDF's head of nuclear fuels, a control rod cluster ejection can cause a Chernobyl-type accident.[ix]

As said, the risk of fracture of the stainless steel casing of one of the mechanisms in the head of the EPR pressure vessel is multiplied by the number of mechanisms penetrating the vessel head (89), in other words there are 89 weakness sites.

3. Weakness due to the lack of mechanism preventing control rod cluster ejection
The welding weaknesses of the CRDM and the type of steel used in their casing increase the risk of ejection of the control rod cluster. According to a memo written by EDF's head of  nuclear fuels in 2001,[x] ejection of the control rod cluster could cause a Chernobyl-type accident: "The Chernobyl accident in 1986 was due to uncontrolled reactivity, leading to core melt and explosion. Until then, only a few calculations had taken into account this type of accident. The Three Miles Island accident (sic) had already raised this problem. At the time, I took part in an intercompany working group looking at this issue, to carry out a risk analysis of such an accident for our PWRs (Pressurized Water Reactor). Reactivity accidents could occur when the reactor is running at full power. A rupture in the winch or the vessel head could cause one or several of the control rod clusters to be ejected."[xi]

What follows reveals that a Chernobyl-type reactivity accident could happen in any French nuclear reactor: "During such an accident, the fuel close to the ejected control rod will suddenly become very reactive. It is likely to reach very high reactivity values. This power excursion may cause the rupture of  the casing, and a fuel pellet explosion, with uranium dispersing into the main circuit water. This could be followed by a steam explosion. If not controlled, a steam explosion produces a huge amount of energy likely to rupture the pressure vessel."[xii]

Finally, according to the same document, a locking device for the rod cluster control ejection would limit the risk of reactivity accident[xiii]. Yet not locking device for rod cluster control ejection has been planned for the EPR[xiv].

EDF's head of nuclear fuels suggests at the end of his memo: "Ideally, we should try not to take into account this type of accident when planning future reactors"[xv].

Notes:
[i] Doc n°2 Synthèse des choix de conception des mécanismes de commande, 5.1. Modification et contrôle des soudures p.11-12, F.Odier, EDF-SEPTEN, (08.12.2008).
[ii] Arrêté du 12 décembre 2005 relatif aux équipements sous pression nucléaires
http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichTexte.do?cidTexte=JORFTEXT0000004539...
[iii] Doc n°2 Synthèse des choix de conception des mécanismes de commande, 5.1 Modification et contrôle des soudures p.11-12, F.Odier, EDF-SEPTEN, (08.12.2008).
[iv] Doc n°3 Management des activités Physique des Coeurs et Combustibles, p.112 EDF-SEPTEN, A. Berthet (20.12.2001).
[v] "Suite à des constats sur site de fragilisations et de ruptures brutales de tiges de vanne en aciers inoxydables martensitiques", Doc n°4 Note de synthèse sur le vieillissement des aciers martensitiques, III.1, p.9, EDF-Direction Production Ingénierie (08.08.06).
[vi] Doc n°4 Note de synthèse sur le vieillissement des aciers martensitiques, III.3, p.11, EDF-Direction Production Ingénierie (08.08.06).
[vii]Arrêté du 12 décembre 2005 relatif aux équipements sous pression nucléaires, annexe 1, point 4. http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichTexte.do?cidTexte=JORFTEXT0000004539...
[viii] Doc n°2 Synthèse des choix de conception des mécanismes de commande, 5.4, p.12-13, EDF-SEPTEN (08.12.2008).
[ix] Doc n°3 Management des activités Physique des Coeurs et Combustibles, p.112 EDF-SEPTEN, André Berthet (20.12.2001). [x] Doc n°3 Management des activités Physique des Coeurs et Combustibles, p.112 EDF-SEPTEN, André Berthet (20.12.2001).
[xi] Id.
[xii] Id.
[xiii] Doc n°3 Management des activités Physique des Coeurs et Combustibles, p.115 EDF-SEPTEN, A. Berthet (20.12.2001).
[xiv] L'EPR sous pression, p.4, document anonyme reçu en septembre 2010.
[xv] Doc n°3 Management des activités Physique des Coeurs et Combustibles, p.115 EDF-SEPTEN, A. Berthet (20.12.2001).

List of EDF documents:

  • Document 1: L'EPR sous pression (EPR under pressure), p.4, anonymous document received in September 2010.
  • Document 2 : Synthèse des choix de conception des mécanismes de commande, F.Odier, EDF-SEPTEN, (08.12.2008).
  • Document 3 : Management des activités Physique des Coeurs et Combustibles, EDF-SEPTEN, A. Berthet (20.12.2001).
  • Document 4 : Note de synthèse sur le vieillissement des aciers martensitiques, III.1, p.9, EDF-Direction Production Ingénierie (08.08.06).

Link to EDF documentation and detailed analysis (in French): http://www.sortirdunucleaire.org/dossiers/EPR-revelations2.html
More information about all problems of EPR: http://www.sortirdunucleaire.org/dossiers/EPR.html

Source and contact: Sortir du Nucleaire, 9 rue Dumenge, 69317 LYON cedex 04, France.
Mail: contact@sortirdunucleaire.fr
web: www.sortirdunucleaire.fr

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Revelations EDF insider: EPR prone to major accident risk

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#705
6024
12/03/2010
Charlotte Mijeon
Article

The French Network for Nuclear Phase-out (Réseau "Sortir du nucléaire") reveals confidential documents disclosed by an anonymous insider from EDF (Electricité de France, the main French power utility). These documents show that the “design of the EPR presents a serious risk of a major nuclear accident” - a risk deliberately taken by EDF to increase its profitability. Because it is potentially vulnerable to a situation which could have uncontrollable consequences, the EPR reactor is extremely dangerous.

"Sortir du nucléaire" has set up a group of experts to analyse these recently received documents thoroughly. Here are the first lessons we can learn from them, which are of the utmost importance.

Some operating modes could cause the EPR reactor to explode because of a control rod cluster ejection accident (these control rod clusters moderate the nuclear reaction). These operating modes are mainly related to an objective of economic efficiency, requiring the power of the reactor to adapt to electricity demand. Thus, in order to find a hypothetical economic justification for the EPR, its designers chose to take the very real risk of a major nuclear accident.

EDF and Areva (the leader of the French nuclear industry) have tried to find a solution to the problems related to the operating mode of the reactor: these efforts have failed. The French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) has apparently been kept in the dark about these issues.

So the EPR reactor design seems to increase the risk of a major accident, which would lead to the destruction of the confinement and mass dispersion of radionuclides in the atmosphere.

The accident scenario in detail:
According to calculations by EDF and Areva, the reactor's RIP (Instant Return to Power) control mode and the control rod cluster configuration can induce a rod ejection accident during low-power operation, and lead to the rupture of the control rod drive casing (i). This rupture would cause the coolant to leak outside the nuclear reactor vessel. Such a loss of coolant accident (LOCA - a very serious type of nuclear accident) would damage a large number of fuel rods by heating fuel pellets and claddings (ii), and thus cause the release of highly radioactive steam into the containment. So there is a great risk of a criticality accident resulting in an explosion (iii), the reactor power being increased in an extremely brutal way. Following the ejection of control rod clusters during low-power operation, the reactor emergency shutdown may fail (iv). Whatever the configuration of the control rod clusters, a rod ejection accident induces a high rate of broken fuel rods and therefore a high risk of a criticality accident (v).

For more details, see the documents disclosed by an anonymous EDF source (especially document No. 1) on the website of "Sortir": www.sortirdunucleaire.org

Notes:
i See. paragraph 6.1.6 Document No. 4
ii Cf. Table 3, Document No. 4
iii See Document n°4, Document n°5 Part 2, Rapport Préliminaire de Sûreté EPR 15.2.4.e
iv See Document n°2, note 9
v See Document n°2, note 8.2.1

Source: Press release, 6 March 2010, Réseau "Sortir du nucléaire"
Contacts: Charlotte Mijeon, International Relations Representative +33-675 3620 20 / Nuclear physicists: Monique and Raymond Sené, +33-160 1003 49 / English-speaking Media: Steven Mitchell, +33-952 4950 22 / German-speaking Media: Jean-Yvon Landrac, +33-687 3041 10

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KOLA NPP FIRST HIDES, THEN DOWNPLAYS INCIDENT

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#704
6015
24/02/2010
Article

On January 15, 2010, an energy transformer exploded into bits and pieces at the Kola Nuclear Power Plant, located on the Kola Peninsula, in Northwest Russia. The incident led to a 50% reduction of power output from two reactor units leaving onsite spent nuclear fuel storage without energy supply. The authorities at the plant neglected to report about the incident.

WISE Amsterdam Kola Nuclear Power Plant is located in the south-eastern part of the Kola Peninsula and operates four VVER-440 reactors, commissioned in 1973, 1975, 1982, and 1984, respectively. The two first reactor units are first generation. The 30-year life span design designated for the reactors was extended by 15 years for the first two reactors. The life span of the other two reactor units will be expanded to so that they are in operation 25 to 30 years more.

"While the plant was operating at 1433 MW capacity, due to a failure in the energy transformer, two 330 kilowatt electric mains, which supply consumers in the Murmansk region, were switched off. Units 3 and 4 reduced their capacity to 50% of nominal output in accordance with the guidelines,” reported the press service of the Kola Nuclear Power Plant on February 3, 18 days after the incident took place.

'The failure in energy transformer' was in fact a powerful explosion which completely trashed the transformer, damaging the surrounding facilities in an 80 meter radius. As a result of the damage, not only were two electric mains switched off, but the energy supply to the onsite ponds holding spent nuclear fuel was also cut off, in effect stopping water circulation pumps and water cooling units.

The Kola plant personnel managed to restart the supply to the electricity mains within 1 minute and 14 seconds, employing a reserve supply. But the electricity supply to the fuel cooling ponds was restored only at 20:05 — more than three hours after the incident.

“The incident could have had serious consequences if there was “hot,” or recently unloaded fuel. Insufficient cooling of “hot” fuel can lead to damage in the fuel encapsulation and massive release of radioactivity into the pond with severe consequences,” says Andrey Ponomarenko, Nuclear Project Coordinator at Bellona Murmansk.

Nils Bøhmer, Director of the Bellona Foundation and a nuclear physicist, is concerned with the warning routings between the Russian and Norwegian authorities. The Kola Nuclear Power Plant is located only 200 kilometers from the Norwegian border. The agreement between Norway and Russia stipulates that Russia informs Norwegian authorities about accidents that can lead to transboundary radioactive contamination.

Source and contact: Bellona, PO Box 15, 191 015 St. Petersburg, Russia, Email: mail@bellona.ru, Web: www.bellona.org

 

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India: contamination & liability issue

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#702
6002
15/01/2010
South Asians Against Nukes
Article

Excessive exposure to radioactivity was reported late November 2009, by workers of the nuclear power station at Kaiga near Bangalore, India. According to official figures, over 55 workers had to be hospitalised. The incident had created a big scare in the country that has witnessed one the world's worst industrial accidents at the former Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal. Meanwhile, Indian cabinet has approved a legislation to be introduced in parliament on civil nuclear liability, demanded by the U.S..

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh put on a brave face and said he had received a briefing from aides about the Kaiga contamination. He said, "It is a small matter of contamination and is not linked to any leak. There is nothing to worry. All our systems are intact and under control. An inquiry has been ordered."

The contamination was first detected November 24, when the results of routine urine tests of employees working in the service building showed higher than normal traces of tritium. After checks at all plant systems found radiation levels to be normal, the source of the contamination was zeroed in on a water cooler located in the service building. Out of the 800 employees in the vicinity of the cooler, 92 had "higher than normal" tritium content in their urine samples.

The theory went that an insider had mixed radioactive tritium in drinking water in a cooler kept in the operating island. The reactor was under annual maintenance. Former chief of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Anil Kakodkar had told the State-run media, PTI, "Somebody deliberately put the tritiated water vials into a drinking water cooler." He said the AEC was investigating "who is behind the malevolent act". Kakodkar happens to be the key negotiator from the Indian side to almost wrap up the controversial India-US civil nuclear cooperation agreement.

Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) is the agency tasked with ensuring radiation safety in India. In an official report in February 2001, the AERB revealed that workers received collective radiation dose that was three times the internationally permitted level. The administration slammed Dr SP Sukhatme, AERB chief, who urged the NPCIL to act upon the excessive tritium leakages from the heavy water in power stations.

On January 12, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission Srikumar Banerjee announced again that the country plans to have 35,000 Mw of installed nuclear capacity by 2020 and 60,000 Mw by 2032. He said India would set up five 'energy parks' by 2032 with a 40,000 Mw to 45,000 Mw total capacity.

India is well known (as many other countries) to make completely unrealistic plans regarding nuclear new build. The current total nuclear capacity is around 4000 Mw (19 reactors).

Meanwhile, in December the cabinet has approved a legislation to be introduced in parliament on civil nuclear liability. Such a bill is being brought to meet the demand of the United States that a law be enacted to protect the US suppliers of nuclear equipment from liability to pay compensation in the case of a nuclear accident. The US has linked the completion of the Indo-US nuclear agreement to India's capping of nuclear liability and that is why the hasty move to introduce this in parliament. The UPA government had, already before the ratification of the 123 agreement, given a written commitment that India will buy 10,000 MW of nuclear reactors from US companies. The nuclear liability regime, demanded by the United States, is to put a cap on the liability of nuclear operators and also remove all liabilities of the equipment suppliers.

The suppliers’ liability is also being considerably weakened in the proposed bill. Instead of the normal contract law, where recourse of the operator to claim damages is inherent, the bill limits this recourse only if it is explicitly mentioned in the contract. Otherwise, the nuclear operator cannot claim compensation from the supplier of equipment even if it is shown to be faulty. It is evident that contracts for buying US nuclear reactors will explicitly exclude any liability on the part of the supplier and therefore by the law to be adopted they will go scot free even if an accident occurs due to a defect in the equipment supplied by a US company.

It is imperative that parliament reject this legislation when it is presented. All political parties represented in parliament will have to take a stand in defence of the basic interests of the Indian people.

Sources: Business Standard (india), 11 January 2010; Hardnews, January 2010;  People's Democracy, 20 December 2009; Thaindian News, 30 November 2009; IAEA PRIS reactor database
Contact: South-Asians Against Nukes, SAAN, http://s-asians-against-nukes.org

 

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Global days of actions to commemorate Chernobyl and oppose nuclear power

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#688
07/05/2009
Article

On April 26, 1986, Reactor No 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in the Ukraine exploded. Even though it is 23 years ago the world remembers it as the day the biggest technological and industrial disaster ever began. The irreversible and catastrophic impact on health, environment and economy will affect generations to come. Here we list, at random, a few of the actions that took place in different corners of the world.

Indonesia: Some 1,500 residents of the Kembang district staged a rally protesting against a government plan to build a nuclear power station in their village. The rally, also held to commemorate the Chernobyl tragedy, was started from Proliman Balong. Wearing bandages bearing writings saying "No to PLTN" (nuclear power station) they rode on trucks to a site near Kembang district administration office. There they spread a 500-meter banner, on which they signed names to express support for the refusal of the nuclear project.

Namibia: Earthlife and the Labour Research and Resource Institute (LaRRI) are working together on an ongoing awareness campaign, which aims to inform the public of the dangers of a nuclear power plant. As part of this campaign, Earthlife produced a booklet ‘Uranium - Blessing or Curse’ informing about general issues regarding the uranium industry, while LaRRI  published a booklet ‘Uranium Mining in Namibia: The mystery behind low level radiation’, which focuses on the impacts of uranium on mine workers health. On April 27 they organized meetings, screenings of movies and debates in the Namibian capital Windhoek.  

Belarussia: A few hundred demonstrators gathered in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, to mark the anniversary of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. The anniversary had traditionally had the most impact in Belarus, the country worst affected by the catastrophe, with about one-quarter of its territory contaminated. The annual Chernobyl commemoration in Minsk reached a peak on the disaster's 10th anniversary in 1996, when tens of thousands of protesters clashed with police in central Minsk.

Turkey: Besides a demonstration in Sinop (the place still being named as the location for a Turkish nuclear power station) a small group of activists is holding a ‘cycle tour against cancer’ alongside the Black Sea. The cycling trip is set to be completed in 33 days and will follow the Black Sea coast because this was the region most affected by Chernobyl in Turkey. “We aim to inform and raise the awareness of people in the Black Sea area, where the possibility of getting cancer has increased by 40 percent since the Chernobyl disaster. We want to inform people about cancer, types of treatment, the rights of patients and the effects that Chernobyl had. As part of this project, the authorities responsible for Chernobyl will be asked for reparations to meet the financial costs of patients in Turkey. We are also aiming to bring to the attention of the authorities the necessity of appointing experts to the region’s early diagnosis center to serve the public.”

Finland: An antinuclear rally organized by a platform of many groups including Greenpeace and the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation gathered 800-900 people for a demonstration in front of the Finnish national parliament. According to the platform “Finns are quite hard to get on the streets. It’s been a while since we have felt that kind of energy on the streets in Helsinki and that makes me all the more optimistic about our struggle. Participants weared masks, banderols and a Trojan horse with yellow stones symbolizing nuclear waste. The main banner read "Risks for Finland - electricity for export?"

Australia: Noisy protesters targeted a global nuclear conference in Sydney, saying they wanted attendees to know they were not welcome. About 60 people from the Sydney Anti-Nuclear Coalition were demonstrating against the ‘World Nuclear Fuel Cycle’ conference. The police dragged several protesters away after they tried to get into the building and ordered the demonstrators to move on, but made no arrests. Australian Conservation Foundation spokesman Dave Sweeney praised the group. "It's been a bright and bouncy protest. It's had a bit of passion as it should, because there's high stakes here," he said.

France: Too much to list, more than 160 actions and activities took place, sometimes more than 10 in one big city. Demonstrations, debates, blockades, meetings, film screenings.

Germany: About 1,000 people demonstrated against nuclear power generation in the north-western German city Münster. The city is surrounded in close proximity by a nuclear waste dump at Ahaus, Germany's only uranium enrichment plant at Gronau and another such plant at Almelo in neighboring Holland (95 km northwest). The demonstrators demanded that nuclear power production be stopped immediately. One day later, two similar demonstrations took place in northern- and southern Germany, also with about 1,000 demonstrators each.

United Kingdom:  The Chernobyl disaster is still felt in the Lakes (district in England) with nine Cumbrian farms still under restrictions. The damage to the Children of Chernobyl is ongoing. Chernobyl Children’s Project (UK) says: “Time has not been a healer for the people of Belarus and the greatest fear is for the children of future generations”. In Cumbria, ‘Radiation Free Lakeland’ along with other anti nuclear groups, former Sellafield workers and Green Party Representatives walked around Wastwater Lake talking to tourists and locals. The lake, England’s deepest, is used to provide fresh water coolant for Sellafield, with over four million gallons (a UK –or Imperial- gallon is 4.5liter) of fresh water abstracted every day.

Please take a look at www.chernobyl-day.org for more action reports.

Sources: thejakartapost.com, planetark.org, several emails, www.chernobyl-day.org

About: 
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Animals worse affected by Chernobyl radiation than though

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#686
5940
01/04/2009
LAKA Foundation
Article

A French-American study proves that radiation from Chernobyl nuclear disaster has affected animals far more than previously thought. Three years of extensive research shows a significant correlation between increasing radioactivity and declining number of species of insects and other invertebrates in the vicinity of Chernobyl. The numbers of bumblebees, butterflies, spiders, grasshoppers and other invertebrates are lower in contaminated sites than other areas because of high levels of radiation left over from the blast more than 20 years ago.

The authors of the study note: “Pollination and predation are considered important ecosystem services, and disruption may affect the overall ecosystem functioning, suggesting that the Chernobyl region and its surroundings is a perturbed ecosystem.” Team leaders Anders Møller, a researcher at the National Center for Scientific Research in France, and Timothy Mousseau, at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, report their findings in an article called “Reduced abundance of insects and spiders linked to radiation at Chernobyl 20 years after the accident.” in Biology Letters, a journal published by The Royal Society.

Møller and Mousseau say they are amazed to see that there had been no other studies on this subject. There had been published a few articles more than ten years ago on genetic damage caused by Chernobyl radiation, on mice and barn swallows, but not on abundance of animals in relation to the disaster. In an earlier publication (2006) the scientists said to be surprised that up to now only little research has been done on the biological and ecological consequences of Chernobyl in general. They stated: “This research is the consequence of investment by a few individuals, despite the fact that the effects of the disaster are continent-wide.” More than a year ago the researchers and two colleagues of them mopped the floor with most of the studies on the consequences of Chernobyl that had been done and had received wide attention by the international media. They state: “Although Chernobyl is perhaps the largest environmental disaster ever, there has been minimal monitoring of the status of free-living organisms or humans in stark contrast to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where careful monitoring has continued for over 60 years.” They asked themselves: “Why has there been no concerted effort to monitor the long-term effects of Chernobyl on free-living organisms and humans?” And further on: “The official reports by IAEA, WHO and UNDP were narrative renditions of parts of the literature [..]. Scientific enquiry depends on rigorous analysis of data rather than rendition of anecdotal evidence.”

The only comparable data for abundance and diversity of insects and other invertebrates at Chernobyl is a study on birds that show similar patterns. Almost two years ago Møller and Mousseau studied birds around Chernobyl. They examined 7700 barn swallows from Chernobyl and compared them with birds from elsewhere. They found that Chernobyl’s swallows were more likely to have tumors, misshapen toes and feather deformities than swallows from uncontaminated parts of Europe. Rather than the impact of relocation and stress and deteriorating living conditions, as suggested by the IAEA in 2006, they suggested that nuclear fallout might be responsible for human birth defects in the region. “We don’t fully understand the consequences of low doses of radiation,” said Mousseau. “We should be more concerned about the human population.”

Their latest findings challenge earlier research that suggested animal populations were rebounding around the site of the Chernobyl. These studies ignored the fact that animal populations had grown unimpeded in the absence of humans for many years after the blast, Møller said. The scientists claim they did the first study that was focusing the abundance of animal populations by comparing animal populations in radioactive areas with less contaminated plots. Some areas appeared to be nearly completed depleted of animal life.

Though not yet published, the researchers told Reuters they also found that animals living near the damaged reactor or sarcophagus had more deformities, including discoloration and stunted limbs, than normal. To a science reporter of BBC News Mousseau explained: “We want to expand the range of our coverage to include insects, mammals and plants. This study is the next in the series.”

Møller is suggesting not to restrict their activities to the direct vicinity of Chernobyl. He said that many researchers are erroneously focusing on the 30-kilometer radius around Chernobyl reactor, because the fallout from the explosion covered a vast swathe of Eastern Europe, including parts of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. He expects that their findings probably apply to those areas as well.

An extensive and detailed chronology on Chernobyl and its consequences can be found on the Laka website.

Sources: Reuters, 18 March 2009 / BBC, 18 March 2009 /Anders Pape Møller and Timothy A. Mousseau, “Reduced abundance of insects and spiders linked to radiation at Chernobyl 20 years after the accident.” Biology Letters, published online 18 March 2009  / Anders Pape Møller and Timothy A. Mousseau, “Biological consequences of Chernobyl: 20 years on.” Trends in Ecology and Evolution Vol.21 No.4 April 2006 / A.P Møller, T.A Mousseau, F de Lope and N Saino, “Anecdotes and empirical research in Chernobyl.” Biology Letters, 23 February 2008 vol. 4 no. 1 65-66 / WISE NC,  31 October 1997: “Chernobyl swallows suffer genetic damage”

Contact: Laka Foundation, Ketelhuisplein 43, 1054 RD Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Tel: +31 20 6168 294
Email: info@laka.org
Web: www.laka.org/english.html


Call to participate in international "Chernobyl Day" action
On Saturday, the 25th and Sunday, the 26th of April 2009, let's get involved against nuclear power! Let's rally to organize a local "Masks against Denial" action. The action of April, the 26th 2008 found broad echo in the press (179 actions worldwide). In 2009, let's act locally for an even stronger mobilisation.

The main action is easy to take even with few people and simply consists in wearing a mask while standing on a symbolic place. 3000 original masks branded with radioactivity signs, symbolising Chernobyl victims and people suffering because of civil and military uses of nuclear technology worldwide, have been designed for this very occasion. Our organisation, Réseau "Sortir du nucléaire", will see to a broad national communication campaign.

 

We can propose you an example for a press release, flyers for the public and a big poster recalling World Health Organisation's 50 years of submission to the International Atomic Energy Agency. All together, during this day, we will make a strong address to the global public opinion. Register your action and order material for your action at: www.chernobylday.org

 

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The curse of Three Mile Island

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#685
5936
19/03/2009
LAKA Foundation
Article

As the nuclear era approaches the 30th anniversary of Three Mile Island’s (TMI) partial-core meltdown, the worst commercial nuclear accident in American history, nuclear energy nowadays even appears to be fashionable in certain European green circles these days. At the same time non-political social organizations and conservative groups oppose nuclear power for purely economical reasons. What have been the consequences of the Harrisburg accident aftermath for the nuclear industry and what are the prospects for nuclear power?

The US – until the accident, beginning on March 28 - was expecting to derive about 14 percent of its generating capacity from nuclear power stations in 1979. The US industry had begun confidently of taking new orders totaling 5,000 – 8,000 MW that year – more than any year since 1974. Instead, after ‘Harrisburg’ president Carter ordered an inquiry into the accident and said he would expedite efforts to expand the number of nuclear inspectors. But mid-April he added that “there is no way for us to abandon nuclear power in the foreseeable future,” reiterating his administration’s intention to introduce fresh legislation to accelerate the licensing of new nuclear plants. Intentions that were embedded in forecasts to build between 200 and 500 more nuclear power stations by the year 2000. The only thing on which Carter had been sure was to quit the fast breeder project, the last experimental one at Clinch River in Tennessee. Because of proliferation concerns, he was a consistent opponent of fast breeders. In a May 4, 1979 speech he called the Clinch River breeder reactor a technological dinosaur. Instead of investing public resources in the breeder demonstration project, he urged attention to improving the safety of existing nuclear technology. Finally, despite the fact that at the time of the TMI-accident, 17 utilities had applied to build 30 new nuclear plants in the United States, not a single nuclear power plant started construction in the US since the accident at Three Mile Island - 30 years ago this month.

When the world leading economy doesn’t build new nuclear power plants anymore, there isn’t any doubt that Harrisburg turned out to be disastrous for the nuclear industry. It is true that before the accident at Three Mile Island the great growth of nuclear plant ordering across the Western World in 1960s and 1970s had already slowed dramatically. In the United Sates the stagnancy started already in 1974. Projects were stopped and the building of new ones had been delayed. This was in fact mainly a correction on the too high expectations on the share of nuclear power on the grid in the future. The impact of Harrisburg on the Western World outside the US is, however, indisputable too. The accident boosted the growth of the anti-nuclear movement in Europe and nuclear power became a serious discussion issue within established political parties, leading to a strong public opinion against the continuing use of nuclear energy. In Sweden it had been clear that Harrisburg disturbed a political agreement to build 12 nuclear power plants. Harrisburg was a watershed in the development of nuclear energy. The then executive director of the International Energy Agency Ulf Lantzke admitted that dwindling public confidence was becoming a serious threat to nuclear growth.

Other modifying factors why all previous estimates on nuclear generating capacity for the year 1985 had been reduced step by step in the western world by the end of the 1970s was due to the much slower growth in energy demand in the slipstream of the 1973-74 oil crisis. This caused climbing construction costs and high interest rates, meaning a poor climate for capital investment. Only France and states with dictatorships built their nuclear power stations fast. From 1979 to 1982 France spent US$3bn a year on nuclear power plants and was put into service every two months (18 to be precise). For comparison: construction started of only 17 reactors after 1982 in France and of those only 5 reactors were ordered after 1982 (including the Flamanville EPR). The building of new plants was delayed in Germany, Scandinavia, and in America. But in Russia, in Iran, in South Korea they sprung up. Despite this continuing use of nuclear energy, the TMI accident was a turning point for the nuclear industry. The infamous accident and its once unthinkable partial meltdown of the reactor core brought new construction of nuclear power plants in the US to a grinding halt. Or not?

New nuclear power plants in the US?

Currently there are 17 applications for 26 nuclear plants under consideration. Recently, Oklahoma House lawmakers passed a nuclear power bill, 26 years after Public Service Company of Oklahoma proposed the Black Fox nuclear power plant in eastern Oklahoma, which was abandoned after nine years of protests. The proposal is supported by Republican House leaders that emphasize alternative forms of energy, among which they include nuclear, as a way to ease the state and nation’s dependence on foreign energy sources. Among other things, the measure establishes a review process for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to consider nuclear power proposals and creates a task force to consider tax changes that would encourage construction of a plant in Oklahoma.

Opponents said the huge cost of a nuclear power plant, estimated at between US$6 bn and US$10 bn, would mean customer rates would rise significantly to help pay for the plant. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), which publicly opposes the plan, has said consumer rate increases of 20 to 40 per cent are possible, based on an analysis of similar legislation in other states. Officials of the senior advocacy group said Oklahoma's elderly residents are struggling just to pay their medical and prescription drug costs and that raising electric rates during a bad economy is a bad idea. Today there are 104 nuclear power plants in the US in 34 states, but none in Oklahoma.

The question can be raised how much will remain of the current plans to build nuclear power plants. Since the early years of this century there is much talk about the resurrection of the nuclear industry. Up to now, however, there isn’t any sign of it. Even the pro-nuclear NEI Magazine sounds pessimistically. In his article “Will nuclear rebound?” Chris Gadomski, the managing editor of Nuclear, New Energy Finance, voiced the unrest within the US nuclear lobby about Obama’s views on nuclear power with descriptions as “not optimal” or “not a nuclear energy proponent”, and of course his budget cuts for the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste facility.

Necessity to build new coalitions?

The position against nuclear energy of a non-political organization as AARP makes clear that the established groups against nuclear energy can make use of that.

While some leading (European) environmentalists have become pro-nuclear, because they are of the opinion that nuclear energy is a necessary source of energy in the struggle against climate change, there are American conservatives against nuclear energy because of economical reasons. Something that has become clear at a recent panel on nuclear energy in Harrisburg. Two speakers at opposite ends of the political spectrum took the floor at a Commonwealth Foundation panel on nuclear power. Eric Epstein, chairman of Three Mile Island Alert, a group that advocates for alternatives to nuclear power, and Jerry Taylor, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, an authoritative Washington based conservative think-tank, for whom it’s purely a matter of economics. There is, however, not so much difference in the outcome of their different reasoning. Epstein explained - before the meltdown of unit 2 - the extreme over budgeting and delayed completions of the two TMI reactors. The construction of the first TMI unit, started in 1968, concluded two year behind schedule before it was put into service in 1974, while the costs had been risen from US$183m to US400m. The second TMI unit was completed five years behind schedule while the expenses were more than three times the original estimated costs, US$700m instead of US$206m. The reactor operated just three months when the accident happened. Epstein estimated the total cleanup costs at US$805m and noted that the electricity ratepayers mainly pay this bill.

Many would expect that a vast majority of the public identify Epstein’s view on nuclear power skeptically, the view of a ‘labor democrat’. But Jerry Taylor, who is advocating smaller government and freer markets, has taken much the same view, though citing different reasons for a no-nuke stance. “Whenever they have been asked the markets have said ‘no’ to nuclear power,” he said, stating that it serves roughly 20 per cent of America’s energy needs, a statistic he blamed to its strong subsidization. While many policymakers have debated changing of regulations to allow the construction of new power stations, Mr. Taylor said, the real barrier is the cost to build them. Currently one new plant costs between US$6 million and US$9 million to build, he said. Even with large subsidies, investors have been unwilling to take a chance, according to Taylor. He said he personally was neutral on nuclear power, however, as long as it is not economically viable he doesn’t see any reason to go on with this. A regional newspaper quoted: “In Finland, where the first privately funded new nuclear plant in decades is being built, construction is two years behind schedule and 60 per cent over budget. Nuclear plants continue to be built in places like France, China and India because they are dictated by the government, not investors, said Taylor.” (But, he is optimistic about that, too).

Prospects

In order to stop the new rise of fallacies that nuclear power is a solution to overcome the climate change the remains of the old anti-nuclear movement has to build new coalitions, though the political views of some groups might be totally different, if groups can deal with each other in a pragmatic way as long as their interests coincide in the field of nuclear power there’s nothing wrong to align with them. For instance with conservatives (Cato) or non-political groups as AARP.

If the current economical crisis is deepening, however, the choice for nuclear power might evaporate by oneself. As noted above the dramatic slowdown of nuclear ordering by the end of the 1970s was due to a complex mixture of factors in which the oil crisis played a dominant role. The same was true in the 1980s. Since the late 1980s worldwide capacity has risen much more slowly, from 300 GW in the late 1980s to 366 GW in 2005. This happened again in the slipstream of an economical crisis mixed up with the political results of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. Though in general you can’t say that the current crisis is the same as the crises before, however for energy use you certainly can. The current economy is shrinking very fast. Moreover, a whole battery of scientists and economist are predicting crises in the short term that are orders of magnitude larger than the current one, of which it is still not yet clear how long it will last.

No time to waste (money)!

For the sake of argument, let’s suppose societies make a clear choice for nuclear power. What if there will be a nuclear accident comparable with Three Mile Island or Chernobyl in let's say 2017? Due to economics (nuclear companies will face huge losses and bankruptcy) and reviving popular resistance all proposed project will be cancelled; half or three quarter of the projects of which construction already started will be abandoned and even countries which rely on nuclear energy (like Italy after Chernobyl) will phase out nuclear.

All the money available (and necessary) in the coming decade to combat climate change has been wasted on nuclear energy, which is not even a solution for climate change in the first place! Remember: every coin can be only spent one time.

Sources:

  • De Volkskrant (NL), 9 October 1974 / The Economist, 19 March, 1977 / Financial Times, 19 April, 1979 / Financial Times, 4 February 1981 / The Bulletin, March 12, 2009 (Pennsylvania) / Lancaster New Era, 12 March, 2009 (Pennsylvania) / AP, 13 March, 2009 / World Nuclear Industry Handbook / Graphic from Energy Watch Group paper: Uranium-Resources-Nuclear Energy

Contact:
Three Mile Island Alert 
315 Peffer Street
Harrisburg PA 17102, USA
Tel: +1 717 233 7897
Email: ericepstein@comcast.net
Web: www.tmia.com

About: 
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BNG, GUILTY OF 'SERIOUS FAULTS AND FAILURES', FINED £500,000 FOR THORP ACCIDENT

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#650
15/12/2006
Article

(December 15, 2006) At Carlisle Crown Court, British Nuclear Group (BNG) was fined £500,000 (currently about 575.000 Euro) for the accident in April last year at Sellafield's THORP. The accident was classified at Level 3 on the International Nuclear Event Scale, the worst recorded accident at Sellafield for many years.

(650.5775) Laka Foundation - BNG, who operate Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (THORP) under contract to site owners the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), had pleaded guilty in an initial hearing at Whitehaven Magistrates Court earlier this year to three charges brought by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE). The charges, under the Nuclear Installations Act 1965, related to breaches of Sellafield site licence conditions, and were summarized by HSE as (i) failing to make and comply with written instructions, (ii) failing to ensure that safety systems are in good working order and (iii) failing to ensure that radioactive material is contained and, if leaks occur, that they are detected and reported.

In fining BNG, Judge Openshaw told the Court that as BNG had pleaded guilty to the offences, he was reducing what he considered to be an appropriate level of fine of £750,000 to £500,000. In reminding the Court of the 'cumulative failures' and the 'worker culture of tolerating alarms' that had lead to the accident, he added that BNG's failure to detect the leak 'probably within days' rather than 8 months was a serious failure worthy of condemnation.

The accident, reported to the HSE's Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) on April 20, 2005, entailed the undetected spillage of 83,000 litres of highly radioactive dissolved nuclear fuel and nitric acid over an estimated 8 month period from fractured pipework in the plant's Feed Clarification Cell. The plant was closed immediately and has remained shut down since then. During the closure, which has seen 18 months of reprocessing business put on hold, 2 improvement notices and 49 recommendations have been served on BNG by the NII along with a further 18 recommendations imposed by BNG following its own Board of Investigation into the accident..

At the time of the accident, (THORP's 11th year), the plant was running almost 3 years behind schedule, with just 5729 tonnes of spent fuel reprocessed from a total of 7000 tonnes originally scheduled for completion in the first 10 years of operation (the baseload). The outstanding fuel includes over 700 tonnes of foreign fuel, with the remainder being UK fuel from British Energy's (BE) Advanced Gas Cooled reactor stations. If and when these 'baseload' contracts are completed, a further volume of fuel (post-baseload), largely from BE, is also contracted for reprocessing at THORP.

Restart of the plant, already re-scheduled a number of times, is now set for early 2007, providing all required recommendations have been 'closed out' to the satisfaction of the NII and with the agreement of the NDA. THORP's future however currently remains under close review by the NDA and by the Government who will make the final decision as to whether further reprocessing at the plant can be justified.

The costs of the accident, not yet fully quantified, have been put variously between £50M and hundreds of £M. Modifications (rather than repairs) to THORP's damaged Cell, now completed, will allow an eventual re-start of the plant by by-passing the damaged equipment and pipework. As a result of the modified system, THORP's future throughput rate is expected to be limited to well below the plant's design specification.
Martin Forwood added: "We have major concerns about the restart of THORP given that the systems and pipework that will be used share exactly the same history as that which failed so comprehensively during the accident from metal fatigue and other stresses. As the plant can never again operate as originally designed, there are no good grounds for resuscitating this White Elelephant. We will continue to call for its immediate closure".

More Sellafield News:
Reprocessing at the Sellafield complex has been halted completely early December as a safety precaution following discovery that radioactivity has been leaking into an evaporator's cooling water. This means Magnox reprocessing will not be able to restart until the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate gives the all-clear, which is not expected before January.
Meanwhile, British Nuclear Group has signed a new MOX fuel supply contract with German utility EnBW kernkraft, for the supply and transport of MOX fuel to the Neckarwestheim 2 reactor. It also requires EnBW to commit to convert all the plutonium arising from their reprocessing contract at Sellafield into MOX. But this presumably means BNG has to get the Sellafield MOX-plant and THORP working properly.

Sources: CORE Press Release, 16 October 2006 / Whitehaven News, 8 December 2006 / Renew, the NATTA newsletter # 164, Nov/Dec 2006
Contact: CORE, 98 Church Street, Barrow In Furness, Cumbria LA14 2HT, U.K.
Tel: +44 (0)1229 833851; Fax: +44 (0)1229 812239
web: www.corecumbria.co.uk
Email: info@core.furness.co.uk

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