Spain: We are all the Cofrentes 17
Celia Ojeda from Greenpeace Spain writes:
Seventeen people face trial in Spain on charges of public disorder, damage and injury. The punishment being demanded is nearly three years in prison. In addition, Greenpeace may have to pay a fine of 360,000 euros. Why? Because on February 15, 2011, 16 Greenpeace activists and a freelance photojournalist entered Spain's Cofrentes nuclear power plant, climbed one of the cooling towers and painted "Nuclear Danger" on it. Greenpeace's protests are peaceful actions. Is punishing the painting of a cooling tower with jail fair and proportionate? Defending the environment should not carry a cost that is higher than for destroying it.
In a time when peaceful protest is being questioned, Greenpeace points to Article 45 of Spain's constitution that establishes the right of everyone to "enjoy an environment suitable for the development of the individual as well as the duty to preserve it ". That is what Greenpeace does and it is a right our people exercised on February 15, 2011. So we have launched a campaign: COFRENTES MISSION: ARTICLE 45. Because when you have exhausted all other avenues, all you have left is peaceful protest. Three years ago we expected this trial to be held on 4 December, 2014. Today [November 19] we begin a campaign that will last 17 days. During these days we will be proposing 17 missions to make bring attention to the injustice the Cofrentes 17 are facing.
In a separate post, Raquel Montón, nuclear and energy campaigner for Greenpeace Spain, lists 17 nuclear power plants that ought to be shut down immediately − one for each of the 17 Cofrentes activists. Most of the plants are ageing: Fessenheim (France), Doel 3 (Belgium), Borssele (Netherlands), Gundremmingen B and C (Germany), Tarapur 1 and 2 (India), Dukovany (Czech Republic), Paks 2 (Hungary), Krsko (Slovenia), Forsmark 1 (Sweden), Cofrentes (Spain), Rivne 1 and 2 (Ukraine), Fukushima (Japan), Santa María de Garoña (Spain).
Australia: Kakadu Traditional Owner just wants a house on his country
Kirsten Blair, Community and International Liaison officer with the Gundjehmi Aboriginal Corporation, writes:
Jeffrey Lee spoke powerfully about his work to protect Koongarra from mining at the closing plenary of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia on November 18. Kakadu, in the tropical Top End of the Northern Territory, is Australia's largest National Park and is dual World Heritage listed for both its natural and cultural values. Encompassing tropical wetlands, extensive savannah and soaring sandstone escarpments and waterfalls this region has been sculptured and shaped by people and nature for many tens of thousands of years. Jeffrey Lee, the Senior Traditional Owner of the Djok clan in Kakadu fought for many years to see his country at Koongarra protected from the threat of uranium mining. In 2011 he made the long journey from Kakadu to Paris to see the World Heritage Committee include Koongarra in the World Heritage estate and in 2013 the area was formally included within Kakadu National Park and permanently protected from uranium mining. [Areva is understood to be planning legal action against the Australian government over its 2013 decision to veto mining at Koongarra.]
For decades Jeffrey was pressured to allow uranium mining on his land at Koongarra and for decades he resisted – refusing millions of dollars in promised mining payments. Now he is seeking something. After generously allowing his land to be included in Kakadu National Park Jeffrey has a modest ask of the Australian Government in return: please build a house on his country. Jeffrey spoke to thousands of delegates at the closing plenary of the World Parks Congress in Sydney and told the story of his long fight to protect Koongarra. He concluded by calling on the Australian Government to come good on their promise to build him a house on his country. "I have said no to uranium mining at Koongarra because I believe that the land and my cultural beliefs are more important than mining and money. Money comes and goes, but the land is always here, it always stays if we look after it and it will look after us," he said. "While I'm down here at this Congress, I want to tell people about Koongarra and remind the Government that I did all that work to protect that country. All I'm asking is for a place to live on my country. I don't want to wait until I've passed away, I want to live on my county now. "I don't want the Government to forget me, they came to visit me, they congratulated me on my hard work and said they will support me in this. The Government knows how hard I worked, they gave me an Order of Australia and I'm happy for that. Now I just want a commitment from them for a house so I can live on that country that I fought for."
Environmental Justice Organisations, Liabilities and Trade reports
Environmental Justice Organisations, Liabilities and Trade (EJOLT), a collaboration between 23 universities and civil society organisations, published two significant reports on nuclear and uranium issues in November.
'Expanded nuclear power capacity in Europe, impact of uranium mining and alternatives' tackles the myths that nuclear energy is clean, reliable, cheap and climate friendly. In reality, nuclear energy capacity in Eastern Europe is characterised by hidden externalised costs, technical problems and covered-up dangers. At the same time, alternative options for energy production and measures for managing energy demand already exist. The report focuses on Bulgaria and Slovenia, where the full range of issues with nuclear energy are exposed: from zombie mines to badly managed radioactive waste. Slovenia plans one new nuclear power plant and prolongs one other, while Bulgaria is planning two new nuclear power plants. The report concludes that projected Bulgarian and Slovenian energy demand is deliberately exaggerated by competent authorities, while nuclear costs are underestimated. This is despite the existence of an economically justifiable potential for renewable energy solutions, at lower cost per kWh.
Raeva, D., et al., 2014, Expanded nuclear power capacity in Europe, impact of uranium mining and alternatives. EJOLT Report No. 12, 129p., www.ejolt.org/2014/10/expanded-nuclear-power-capacity-in-europe-impact-o...
'Uranium mining. Unveiling the impacts of the nuclear industry' argues that the EU should improve legislation and practices to limit the environmental and health impacts of uranium mining. Lead author Bruno Chareyron states: "Uranium mining is increasing the amount of radioactive substances in the biosphere and produces hundreds of millions of tonnes of long lived radioactive waste. The companies have no solutions for the confinement of this waste and for the appropriate management of contaminated water flowing from the mine sites, even decades after mine closure." The cost of remediation should be properly estimated and paid by the mining companies. Field studies done for this report reveal how zombie mines keep affecting the lives of thousands, even decades after the mines are closed.
The report draws from on-site studies performed in Bulgaria, Brazil, Namibia and Malawi in the course of the EJOLT project and from previous studies in France and Africa over the past 20 years. It gives examples of the various impacts of uranium mining and milling activities on the environment (air, soil, water) and provides recommendations to limit these impacts.
Chareyron, B., et al., 2014, Uranium mining. Unveiling the impacts of the nuclear industry. EJOLT Report No. 15, 116p., www.ejolt.org/2014/11/uranium-mining-unveiling-impacts-nuclear-industry/
UK reactor plans face obstacles
Paul Brown writes:
Plans to build two giant nuclear reactors in south-west England are being reviewed as French energy companies now seek financial backing from China and Saudi Arabia − while the British government considers whether it has offered vast subsidies for a white elephant. A long-delayed final decision on whether the French electricity utility company EDF will build two 1.6 gigawatt European Pressurised water Reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset − in what would be the biggest construction project in Europe − was due in the new year, but is likely to drift again. Construction estimates have already escalated to £25 billion (US$39.3b, €31.5b), which is £9 billion more than a year ago, and four times the cost of putting on the London Olympics last year. Two prototypes being built in Olikuoto, Finland, and Flamanville, France, were long ago expected to be finished and operational, but are years late and costs continue to escalate. Until at least one of these is shown to work as designed, it would seem a gamble to start building more, but neither of them is expected to produce power until 2017.
British experts, politicians and businessmen have begun to doubt that the new nuclear stations are a viable proposition. Steve Thomas, professor of energy policy at the University of Greenwich, London, said: "The project is at very serious risk of collapse at the moment. Only four of those reactors have ever been ordered. Two of them are in Europe, and both of those are about three times over budget. One is about five or six years late and the other is nine years late. Two more are in China and are doing a bit better, but are also running late." Tom Greatrex, the British Labour party opposition's energy spokesman, called on the National Audit Office to investigate whether the nuclear reactors were value for money for British consumers. Peter Atherton, of financial experts Liberum Capital, believes the enormous cost and appalling track record in the nuclear industry of doing things on time mean that ministers should scrap the Hinkley plans. Billionaire businessman Jim Ratcliffe, who wants to invest £640 million in shale gas extraction in the UK, said that the subsidy that the British government would pay for nuclear electricity is "outrageous". Finding the vast sums of capital needed to finance the project is proving a problem. Both EDF and its French partner company, Areva, which designed the European Pressurised water Reactor (EPR), have money troubles. In November, Areva suspended future profit predictions and shares fell by 20%.
Chinese power companies have offered to back the project, but want many of the jobs to go to supply companies back home − something the French are alarmed about because they need to support their own ailing nuclear industry. Saudi Arabia is offering to help too, but this may not go down well in Britain. On the surface, all is well. Preparation of the site is already under way on the south-west coast of England, with millions being spent on earthworks and new roads. ... But leaks from civil servants in Whitehall suggest that the government may be getting cold feet about its open-ended guarantees. ... The Treasury is having a review because of fears that, once this project begins, so much money will have been invested that the government will have to bail it out with billions more of taxpayers' money to finish it − or write off huge sums.
− Abridged from Climate News Network, www.climatenewsnetwork.net/europes-nuclear-giants-are-close-to-collapse
Belgium: Fire takes another reactor offline
Electrabel closed the Tihange 3 power reactor on November 30 after an electrical fire, leaving only three of the Belgian firm's seven nuclear plants in action. Several electrical cables outside the reactor caught fire. Electrabel operates seven nuclear reactors − four in Doel and three in Tihange − producing about half of Belgium's electricity demand.1 Doel 3 and Tihange 2 were off-line for almost a year in 2012−13, due to the discovery of thousands of cracks in the reactors' steel containment vessels, and they were shut down again in March 2014. Sabotage on August 5 by an unidentified staff member damaged the steam turbine of Doel 4, causing its automatic shut down.2
Uranium mine sludge discharge permit threatens Lake Malawi
Paladin Africa Ltd, which mines uranium ore in Malawi's northern district of Karonga, has come under fire from a coalition of Malawian civil society groups and chiefs over its proposal to discharge mining sludge into the Sere and North Rukuru rivers. The toxic substances that would flow from the tailings pond at the Kayelekera Uranium Mine into Lake Malawi 50 kms downstream include waste uranium rock, acids, arsenic and other chemicals used in processing the uranium ore, the coalition fears. A statement issued by the Natural Resources Justice Network (NRJN), a coalition of 33 civil society organisations active in the extractive industry sector, expressed grave concerns about a recommendation by the National Water Development and Management Technical Committee in the Ministry of Agriculture that the minister issue a discharge permit to Paladin Africa.
Officials from Paladin Africa at a November 4 meeting told participants, according to NRJN members present, "Paladin fears that if the water from the tailings dam is not released into Rukuru River then there is a high risk that the contaminated water from the dam would overflow as a result of the impending rains." The NRJN says it is "shocking and inhumane" for Paladin to put the lives of millions of Malawians at risk as a result of the company's failure to plan properly. "We therefore ask Paladin to build a second tailings dam as was the initial plan and consequently refrain from this malicious practice of discharging radioactive effluents into the river systems, which would subject lives of innocent Malawians to a series of acute and chronic health effects," the NRJN said in its statement. The coalition is calling for an independent team of chemists to conduct studies of the lake to ascertain whether effluents proposed for discharge from the mine are indeed safe. Paladin Africa issued a statement in February that due to the sustained low uranium price, processing would cease at Kayelekera and that the site would be placed on care and maintenance. Following a period of reagent run-down, processing was completed in early May.
Abridged from Environmental News Service, http://ens-newswire.com/2014/11/25/uranium-mine-sludge-discharge-permit-...
USA: Mismanagement at nuclear weapons bases
Problems at nuclear weapons bases continue to attract widespread media commentary. Typical of this is a BloombergView editorial which states: "The shenanigans that have been going on at U.S. nuclear bases are almost too clownish to believe: officers running a drug ring across six facilities, widespread cheating on monthly proficiency tests, blast doors on missile silos too rusty to properly seal, six nuclear-armed missiles accidentally loaded onto a plane that then flew across the country, and a curious story of crews at three bases FedExing one another an apparently magical wrench used to connect warheads to intercontinental ballistic missiles."