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CE pulls out of Calvert Cliffs-3 leaving EDF & EPR in the lurch

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

In many ways, Calvert Cliffs-3 was the flagship of the U.S. nuclear renaissance. In the summer of 2007, it became the first reactor to submit even a partial application for a construction/operating license from the NRC in more than 30 years. The company created to build and operate the reactor -UniStar Nuclear- was a combination of giants in the nuclear industry: Constellation Energy (CE) and Electricite de France (EdF), using the most modern reactor design available, the EPR from Areva.

Calvert Cliffs-3 would be built on a site already hosting two reactors and the idea received enthusiastic support from local officials, as well as nearly every statewide public official in Maryland -Democrats and Republicans alike. It would be located in a region with a booming economy that was projecting serious future shortfalls in electricity demand. It had come up with an innovative financing scheme to eliminate financial risk: 100% financing from U.S. and French taxpayers coupled with a protective layer of seven Limited Liability Corporations between the reactor itself and the parent companies.

What could go wrong? As it turned out, just about everything.

When Constellation announced late on Friday, October 8 -through a deliberate leak to the Washington Post- that it was pulling out of the Calvert Cliffs-3 project despite having just been offered only the second taxpayer loan for a new nuclear reactor, the reason given was the conditions attached to that loan. Constellation complained that the upfront cost of the loan -US$880 million for a US$7.5 billion (5,4 billion euro) loan, or less than 12%, was too high. And a second proposal from DOE -to cut the upfront fee to US$300 million if UniStar would simply promise to actually complete the reactor and guarantee it would sell 75% of its electricity, was “onerous.”

Really? The profit margin on a US$10+ billion reactor (UniStar earlier had received a promise of US$2.9 billion from COFACE, the French Export-Import Bank) designed to operate at least 60 years is so narrow that US$300 million would kill the deal? Not likely.

In fact, NIRS had predicted the demise of Calvert Cliffs-3 two months earlier for a bevy of reasons -none related to “onerous” loan conditions- in a lengthy post on DailyKos August 5, 2010. If you want a full explanation of the reasons, you can read the post here.

Briefly, the Calvert Cliffs-3 project collapsed because of a combination of factors, including soaring construction cost estimates; a large drop in electrical demand due to the ongoing recession and the institution of new energy efficiency programs; plummeting natural gas prices; continued revelations of EPR design deficiencies coupled with alarm over the horrific experience of EPR construction in Finland and France; determined opposition from opponents like NIRS; and unforeseen competition from renewable energy sources, especially offshore wind.

Indeed, it may only be coincidence, but almost immediately after Constellation’s announcement, a consortium led by Google announced it would spend US$5 billion to build transmission lines to bring thousands of megawatts of offshore wind power from the mid-Atlantic coast to the mainland. Earlier in the year, a small offshore wind company, Bluewater Wind, which already has received permission to build hundreds of megawatts off the Delaware coast and is seeking approval for larger projects off the coasts of Maryland and New Jersey, was bought by energy giant NRG Energy -bringing a deep-pockets competitor to Constellation’s service area.

Constellation could see the writing on the wall, and began to shift gears. With an option, contained in the contract when EDF purchased 49.9% of Constellation’s five existing reactors to bail out the company from bankruptcy (and Warren Buffett, who almost certainly would have ended the UniStar project) in 2008, to force EDF to buy a handful of ancient coal and gas plants scattered around the U.S. for US$2 billion, Constellation saw another possible future.

Those old plants are worth only about US$500 million combined. Forcing EDF to buy them for US$2 billion would leave US$1 billion plus in profit. Constellation put in a bid to buy a fleet of much more modern gas plants in New England. This would allow it to become a regional electricity powerhouse (three of Constellation’s existing reactors are in the region), and it wouldn’t even have to go into debt to do so. At this writing, Constellation has not yet exercised this “put” option, and is apparently still negotiating with EDF on the issue, but Constellation’s intent is clear.

EDF reacted to Constellation’s announcement it was leaving the project with what appeared to be genuine surprise -although anyone following the investment community’s advice, which was generally consistent in opposing Constellation’s continued involvement in Calvert Cliffs-3, shouldn’t have been shocked. Constellation’s stock went up the first week of trading after its announcement.

In any case, EDF is scrambling to resurrect the project. In an October 13 letter to Constellation, it offered “to shoulder 100% of the risk and burden until construction begins.” Alternatively, the letter said, “EDF is prepared immediately to purchase all of Constellation’s 50% interest in UniStar at fair market value…” But, EDF said Constellation would have to agree not to exercise its US$2 billion “put” option.

Constellation responded immediately, saying it would be happy to sell its share of UniStar -including the land for the reactor- for US$1, plus repayment of US$117 million it has invested in the project. But it said the “put” option was a separate issue.

That should give some idea of the value Constellation believes a new nuclear reactor in a deregulated market like Maryland’s holds -essentially zero.

For EDF to rescue the project, it would have to find another utility to take at least 50% of it -the U.S. Atomic Energy Act prohibits “foreign ownership, control or domination” of a U.S. reactor, and thus EDF could not even get a license to build a reactor. NIRS is already in litigation on this issue in the NRC’s license hearing process; we have charged that the Constellation/EDF UniStar structure is illegal under the Atomic Energy Act, even without additional involvement from EDF. For the moment, at least, that hearing process continues.

And what utility would be crazy enough to take on a US$10 billion+ project in a deregulated electricity market when the largest utility already in that market has been intimately involved with the project for years, and has determined that it is simply far too economically risky to undertake?

Meanwhile, the effects of the Calvert Cliffs case extend far beyond Maryland. Originally, EDF and Constellation had teamed up to build four EPRs in the U.S., with an eye toward additional expansion after that. The collapse of Calvert Cliffs certainly ends the UniStar project to build at Nine Mile Point in New York. An EPR proposed for Missouri, with UniStar involvement, was cancelled last year. And an EPR proposed for Pennsylvania, which even the plant’s owner PPL admits on its website would cost US$13-15 billion for a single reactor -the highest cost acknowledged to date by a U.S. Utility- appears to be on life support.

EDF’s -and the French government’s- dreams of becoming a major player in the U.S. nuclear energy future appear dashed. For its part, Areva now has no orders for reactors in the U.S. and has at least temporarily abandoned plans to build a reactor component plant in Virginia to serve what it once thought would be a growing U.S. market.

But it’s not only EDF, Areva and the French government that are being left behind by the new electricity realities in the U.S. The reactor project that actually got in the first entire application to the NRC -NRG’s South Texas Project- is also in trouble, for many of the same reasons. It too wants a loan from the Department of Energy, and presumably at less cost than offered to Calvert Cliffs. But it too operates in a deregulated market, faces increased cost estimates (one partner, the City of San Antonio, already essentially dropped out of the project due to soaring projected costs), issues of foreign ownership and control, and enormous competition from natural gas and wind power (Texas is already the U.S. leader in wind power). On October 19, NRG CEO David Crane told Associated Press that if natural gas prices are expected to stay low, NRG won’t build South Texas even if they receive a taxpayer loan. And gas prices are expected to stay very low for the foreseeable future.

Source and contact: Michael Marriott at NIRS Washington

Shares and nuclear power. After the news that Constellation Energy Group Inc had cancelled plans to build at third nuclear reactor at Calvert Cliffs in, the companys share price rose by 15 cents to ÚS$32.50. Meanwhile on the other side of the Atlantic, EdF - the largest shareholder in the Constellation Group - saw its share price fall by 3.4 per cent on the news (the share price is down 27 per cent this year).

Source: Greenpeace Nuclear Reaction, 14 October 2010


More and more questions about the EPR

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Rianne Teule, Greenpeace

On the risk of sounding like a broken record: the French nuclear flagship the EPR continues to be troubled with additional costs, delays and doubts. In France and Finland the EPR construction is further delayed and AREVA added 400 million to its provisions for the reactor under construction in Olkiluoto, resulting in a downgrading of the company’s profitability.

On 6 July 2010, the French newspaper Le Figaro posed three pressing questions about the EPR (European Pressurized-water Reactor): Is the EPR too complex? Is the EPR too expensive? Is the EPR exportable? In short the answers are: yes, the EPR is complicated to build, which makes construction expensive and the EPR difficult to sell in emerging markets. The newspaper states that EDF, the French utility building the EPR in Flamanville, France, is expected to announce a delay in construction of about 2 years. The construction started in 2007 and was originally scheduled to be finished within 4.5 years. According to an insider, the two-year delay is a low estimate, “which is essential to make public: all departments concerned within the group know that this major project is faced with numerous technical obstacles” [1].

The Flamanville story is following the same lines as Olkiluoto-3, the EPR under construction in Finland. In the beginning of June 2010, AREVA presented a new timetable for the completion of Olkiluoto-3, stating that “most of the works will be completed by the end of 2012” [2]. Since commissioning of the plant will be earliest six months after completion, operation would not start before June 2013. The total building time since start of construction in July 2005 has now doubled to more than 8 years.

A completion date of the end of 2012 is looking extremely optimistic. The most challenging phases of construction are still underway or to come, including the installation of heavy components, the design and installation of computer systems, and the final testing and licensing.

On top of that, in the case of Olkiluoto-3, the start-up time may be significantly longer than six months, especially as it is a first-of-a-kind project. The last pressurized water reactors (PWR) built in Europe, at the Temelin nuclear power plant in the Czech Republic, took over a year before the completed reactors were able to commercially operate at full output (in the early 2000s). The Temelin-1 reactor took even 18 months to start full commercial operation. Connecting major components, setting up cable connections (thousands of kilometers of cables were involved), debugging of digital control systems, and tuning up the reactor turbines all proved enormously difficult and time consuming.

Finnish parliament votes for more nuclear.  On 1 July 2010, the parliament in Finland chose to ignore the majority of the Finnish people, who according to polls oppose new nuclear power, and voted in favor of a government decision to give two political permits for new nuclear reactors. This political permit opens the way for two nuclear companies TVO and Fennovoima to plan reactors, call for vendors, try to secure financing and later apply for construction permits. Actual new reactor projects are still far away. The biggest hurdle will be the investment decisions, expected in 2012. Both TVO and Fennovoima still have various reactor designs on the table.

The debate in the Finnish parliament was not about energy arguments. In a dirty political game the decision was influenced by behind the scenes discussions and special interest groups anticipating the upcoming national elections. Finland has no need for new reactors; energy efficiency measures in combination with available sustainable energy sources can easily cover the energy demand.

Money troubles
On 24 June, AREVA was forced to announce another 400 million Euro provision to cover the additional costs of building the Olkiluoto-3 reactor [3]. This provision is on top of 2.3 billion Euro provisions put aside in previous years and brings the current estimated cost overrun to 2.7 billion Euro. The initial cost of the project was 3.2 billion Euro, hence the total bill is now approximately 6 billion Euro. It is important to note that this 400 million Euro extra loss is assuming Olkiluoto-3 startup late 2012, while in reality this will not be before mid 2013.

While the rocketing costs of the Finnish EPR have dragged down AREVA's results for years, this is the first time that they have sent the company into the red. The company reported an operating loss for the first half of 2010. In 2009, AREVA's reported operating income was just 97 million Euro. The company’s financial health suffers thanks to the Olkiluoto-3 project, while it struggles to build up its reserves for planned future investments. And most probably the latest provision for Olkiluoto-3 cost overruns will not be the last.

A few days after AREVA’s provision announcement, Standard & Poor's downgraded the company to a ‘BBB+’ rating, citing continued weakened profitability [4]. The S&P credit analyst announced: "Depressed profitability at France-based nuclear services provider AREVA is being further strained by the recently announced additional provision of €400 million (US$491mn) for the OL-3 [Olkiluoto-3] Finnish reactor." Also AREVA’s ongoing fight with EDF about the uranium enrichment plant Georges Besse in France is seen as a potential threat to the company’s profitability. The long and short-term credit ratings  on AREVA are lowered from ‘A/A-1’ to ‘BBB+/A-2’. S&P expects AREVA’s profitability "will continue to be depressed over the next couple of years", and its operating performance will continue to be severely affected by cost overruns related to Olkiluoto-3.


Contact: Rianne Teule, Nuclear campaigner Greenpeace International. Ottho Heldringstraat 5, 1066 AZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Tel: + 31 20 718 2229
Skype: rianne.teule



Revelations EDF insider: EPR prone to major accident risk

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Charlotte Mijeon

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":

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

Sortir du Nucleaire


Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Germany: debate on n-power in CDU party.

Debate is still raging in the German government over the use of nuclear power. Chancellor Merkel has distanced herself from comments by environment minister Norbert Röttgen a day earlier. On February 20, Röttgen predicted that Germany would be free of nuclear power by 2030. By 2030, Germany's youngest nuclear power stations will have reached a lifespan of 40 years, eight longer than that agreed in 2000 on by former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's centre-left coalition of Social Democrats and Greens. Röttgen, a member of the conservative Christian Democrats, told the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper that even by the most skeptical of forecasts, Germany would reach its goal of getting 40 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030, thus allowing the country's remaining nuclear power stations to shut down. Renewable sources currently supply 16 percent of Germany's electricity. "In the coalition contract it says that nuclear power is a stopgap until renewable energy can take over the supply reliably and at competitive prices. That's exactly the line I am following." But the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) believes that this target is still achievable. "We can still cover 40 percent from renewable energy by around 2020," UBA president Jochen Flasbarth told the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper on the same day.  A few days later, on February 23, Peter Mueller, Christian Democratic prime minister in the German state of Saarland, said the government should stick to its timetable to phase out nuclear power. Amending the phase-out, fixed by legislation in 2002 for about 2021, “needs plausible grounds,” Mueller is cited as saying. “I don’t see those.”
Source: The Local, 20 February 2010 / Deutsche Welle, 21 February 2010 / Bloomberg, 23 February 2010

EDF-AREVA quarrel over reprocessing resolved?

As mentioned in the January 29 issue of the Nuclear Monitor there is a lot of rivalry between the French nuclear giants AREVA and EDF. In the beginning of January AREVA stopped removing spent fuel from reactors for reprocessing at the facility at La Hague. At the end of 2008, the companies agreed on a framework for contracts for the 2008-2040 period. But since mid-2009 they have not been able to settle disagreements over prices and volumes. On January 20, the two companies were given a two-week deadline by the French government to resolve their differences on this matter. On February 5, the two companies said in a statement, they would sign a contract covering “transportation, treatment and recycling” of used nuclear fuel before the end of March. The agreement reached by the two groups lays out conditions for applying the framework agreement of Dec. 19 2008, which set out a partnership covering treatment-recycling of used fuel, and reprocessed fuel fabrication, the firms said.

Source: Reuters, 5 February 2010

European Union heading for clash on funding ITER.

European governments want to slow down construction of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) because they are paying for the bulk of the construction costs and are concerned that the budget is spiraling out of control. The EU is covering 45% of the costs of building and running ITER, which is to be built in Cadarache, France. The other six partners (the US, China, Russia, India, Japan and South Korea) are each paying 9%.  Concerned about the mounting costs, the EU rejected a construction timetable proposed by ITER's administration at a meeting of participating countries on 18-19 November. The administration had proposed that ITER, which was launched in November 2006, should conduct its first experiments in 2018. But the EU's member states agreed in a position paper in November that a 2018 deadline was “not feasible”. (see Nuclear Monitor 698, 27 November 2009: “Fusion Illusions”) They reaffirmed this at a working group of the Council of Ministers on February 1. A 2018 deadline, however, is strongly backed by all non-EU countries involved in ITER, with the exception of the US, which has shown signs of flexibility. Officials said that the EU would prefer to make construction costs less painful by spreading them over a longer period of time. Concerns about the ballooning budget led the Commission last year to set up an expert group tasked with reviewing the construction costs. The group's report, released to member states in January, said that the construction costs alone could rise as high as 1.5bn Euro (compared to a 2001 estimate of 598 million Euro).Total EU-contribution of ITER-project costs could rise to 3,5 billion Euro (US$ ) instead of the 1.5 billion estimated in 2001.The countries participating in the ITER project will hold a special high-level meeting in Paris on 23-24 February to try to resolve the dispute.

Source: European Voice, 4 February 2010

Replies safety AP1000 & EPR of 'poor quality'.

UK nuclear regulators have criticised the "long delays" and "poor quality" of replies they have received from Westinghouse and Areva following safety reviews of their reactor designs, AP1000 and the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR). The Nuclear Installations Inspectorate has raised a number of serious issues on the design of the new reactors but in its latest report says the response from the two companies is less than expected.

The inspectors have already issued a formal 'Regulatory Issue' (RI) regarding the safety and control systems of the EPR and are now considering a RI on the shield building for the AP1000. Westinghouse is planning to use a new construction method for the reactor's shield building, using a sandwich of steel plates filled with concrete, rather than the conventional reinforced concrete. Regulators say they will have to be convinced the new techniques will be sufficient to withstand an accident, including a crash of a large aircraft. Westinghouse said it changed its construction methods in response to US regulations after 9/11 requiring it to withstand an aircraft impact.

Source: N-Base Briefing 642, 10 February & 643, 17 February 2010

Kakadu mine: Uranium contamination 5400 times background.

Australia: environmental regulators for the office of the Supervising Scientist admitted to a Senate Estimates committee on February 9, that water with uranium concentrations 5400 times background and a cocktail of other radionuclides are seeping from beneath the tailings dam at the Ranger Uranium Mine in Kakadu National Park. The Office of the Supervising Scientist acknowledged to Australian Greens Senator Scott Ludlam that the contamination was occurring, and said that the estimated amount of 100,000 liters per day was based on modeling and not measurement. "The biggest surprise is that despite knowing about this leakage for years, the regulators don't know how much is seeping, where it is going, or how highly contaminated it is. The regulator suggested that directly sampling this contaminated water would be 'impractical.' I suggest that it is now essential", Senator Ludlam said. "The mining company ERA booked a 2009 profit in excess of A$270 million dollars (US$240m or 177m Euro) and yet the regulator won't compel them to undertake any water quality sampling under the tailings dam. That has to change." Uranium is only one of a number of radioactive elements present in the tailings dam – others include Thorium, Polonium, Radon, Radium, Bismuth, etc.

Source: Media release Australian Greens Party, 9 February 2010


Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

The United Arab Emirates dropped a bomb in the nuclear energy world by choosing South-Korean nuclear technology over western reactors. Market analysts and company strategists need to swiftly adapt to a new nuclear market outlook. Following this serious setback, the French nuclear giant AREVA now considers to sell generation-two reactors to countries that are new to nuclear power, even though safety standards in Western countries would not allow these old designs to be built.

Greenpeace International - The US$20 billion (14.2 billion Euro) tender for four reactors in UAE was highly contested, with GE/Hitachi and a French consortium of AREVA, GDF Suez, Total and EDF competing with the South-Koreans to build the first Arab nuclear power reactor. The South-Korean reactors were selected over France’s nuclear flagship the EPR (European Pressurized-water Reactor), and AREVA is now picking up the pieces after this rather humiliating defeat in Abu Dhabi.

Though the low costs of the South-Korean reactors are generally thought to be the main driver behind UAE’s choice, other factors have played a significant role. Serious delays and cost overruns at the first EPR under construction in Olkiluoto, Finland, have shed doubts on AREVA’s ability to live up to its promises. Also the more and more public row between AREVA and EDF, the other French nuclear company, has not helped in securing the billion dollar bid in UAE. EDF was requested to join the EPR consortium that ran in the UAE tender, but was, according to AREVA CEO Anne Lauvergeon, too late in responding. The nuclear power struggle between the French giants has since deepened, the companies disputing uranium enrichment and nuclear fuel processing. See box at end of this article

The South-Korean government and KEPCO, the company leading the consortium in the UAE bid, seemed to relish in the unexpected triumph. The first nuclear power plant in the Arab Gulf will be the first nuclear reactor exported from South-Korea. The South Korean government immediately fantasizes of expanding its nuclear industry, targeting a 20 percent share of the global nuclear reactor market by 2030 through exports of 80 nuclear reactors. The KEPCO reactor is an updated second-generation 1,400 MW light water reactor APR-1400 (Advanced Pressurised Reactor), of which the first two are currently under construction in its home country.

The UAE decision sparked an internal review of AREVA’s product range. The company considers reintroducing second-generation 1,000 MW reactors for client countries that are new to nuclear power. These reactors will be cheaper and less sophisticated than the third-generation EPR reactor that has been marketed aggressively by France all over the world.

According to a senior AREVA executive, ‘safety standards in the US and Europe would not allow a second-generation reactor to be build’. However, this does not stop France to consider selling the older, simpler designs to countries without any previous nuclear experience. The French president Sarkozy even endorses the need to broaden the array of nuclear offerings in order to prevent further failures to win deals: "There is no doubt that we need to restructure the sector and there is no doubt that we need to raise the issue of coming up with a broader set of offers."  AREVA estimates that 20 per cent of the global market could be open to second-generation reactors. Rumors suggest EDF may take the lead in selling these reactors in markets new to nuclear energy.

Sources: Financial Times, 14 & 19 January 2010 / The Times, 18 January 2010 / Nuclear News Flashes 13 January 2010 / Reuters, 22 January 2010 / Greenpeace Nuclear Reactor weblog 7 December 2009.

Contact: Rianne Teule,  Nuclear campaigner Greenpeace International. 

Nuclear turbulence.

The sibling rivalry between the French nuclear giants AREVA and EDF has become a public fight, with the French prime minister Fillon acting as referee. The ego’s of the companies’ CEO’s, Anne Lauvergeon for AREVA and Henry Proglio for EDF, seem too big for one room, and media jump eagerly on each blaming the other for failing to keep promises and responsibilities. The pot calling the kettle black..…

AREVA blames EDF for signing a contract for enrichment services with the Russian company Tenex. EDF seeks to diversify its supplies of nuclear fuel from non-French enrichment suppliers like the Anglo-German-Dutch Urenco and Tenex, instead of continuing to take uranium from the French enrichment facility Eurodif. Eurodif still uses gas diffusion technology, while the new Georges Besse II centrifuge enrichment plant is planned to be fully operational only in 2012. Unless EDF agrees to buy services from the Eurodif diffusion plant after 2009, AREVA could be forced to cancel the scheduled initial production in the new Georges Besse II plant. Though this might be an empty threat, it is clear that AREVA needs EDF to buy enrichment services in order to make a smooth transfer from gas diffusion to the new centrifuge plant. A committee of AREVA officials have denounced EDF’s uranium contracts with the Russians as ‘non-patriotic’ and ‘anti-European’.

On top of that, in the beginning of January 2010 AREVA has stopped removing spent nuclear fuel from reactors for reprocessing at the facility in La Hague, Normandy. EDF and AREVA have not been able to agree on a new contract to continue reprocessing of spent fuel from EDF’s nuclear power plants. The new reprocessing contracts have been disputed for many months without any progress. The previous contract to reprocess spent nuclear fuel at La Hague, which expired in 2008, was worth 800 million Euro (US$1.15 billion) per year. At the end of 2008, the companies agreed on a framework for contracts for the 2008-40 period, but since mid-2009 have not been able to settle disagreements over prices and volumes.

The French nuclear row plays in a setting in which the whole nuclear sector in France is challenged on its transparency on nuclear waste issues. The documentary 'Waste, the nuclear nightmare', aired in October 2009, has sparked a national debate on nuclear waste in France. The High Committee for Transparency and Information on Nuclear Safety (HCTISN) conducts a full inventory of France’s nuclear waste products and transports. Greenpeace has blocked uranium transports to Russia several times, calling for a moratorium on the waste transports to Russia.


Regulators highly critical on EPR control and command system

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

Not only the AP1000 is under fire, also the EPR becomes more and more subject of doubts regarding safety questions by the official safety authorities in countries where the reactor is built (Finland, France) or should be built (U.K.) Now the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) has just published a letter to EDF, which questions in the most serious way the ability of the control and command system of the EPR being built in Flamanville to meet safety requirements. Like British and Finnish authorities did before, ASN makes appropriate answers to these doubts a condition to the future operational license of the reactor.

In June, the U.K. Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) wrote to EDF and Areva, to express their concerns about the control and instrumentation (C&I) of Areva’s European Pressurised Reactor (EPR). C&I governs the computers and systems that monitor and control the station’s performance, including temperature, pressure and power output levels. The NII, said the EPR technology was significantly compromised because of the interconnectivity of what were meant to be independent systems designed to operate the plant and ensure its safety.

The Health and Safety Executive, which oversees the NII, said that the EPR design could be rejected for use in Britain if its concerns could not be satisfactorily addressed. “It is our regulatory judgment that the C&I architecture appears overly complex,” the NII letter said. “We have serious concerns about your proposal which allows lower safety class systems to have write access [the ability to override] to higher safety class systems,” it continued.
The letter also highlighted concerns about the absence of safety display systems or manual controls that would allow the reactor to be shut down, either in the station’s control room or at an emergency remote shutdown station.
The NII said that it would grant a license for the EPR reactor only if it was satisfied that the reactor design could be built and operated safely and securely.

That was late June, a few days later, on July 2, the Finnish safety authority raised similar concerns, but the French safety authority ASN remained very silent. It would not comment and said it was on the process of assessing this part of the design itself.

Now, on November 2, the French safety regulator, together with the safety authorities of Finland (STUK) and U.K. (HSE), released a ‘Joint Regulatory Statement on the EPR Pressurised Water reactor’ (letter dated 22 October).

The three authorities consider that "the EPR design, as originally proposed by the licensees and the manufacturer, AREVA, doesn’t comply with the independence principle" of safety and control systems, which is a basic safety principle.

In its letter to EDF, ASN concludes that "the complexity of the architecture proposed by EDF makes it difficult to provide a satisfying demonstration of the safety" and states that its acceptability is subject to changes in the design and complementary justifications. Furthermore, "the analysis of these elements [to be provided by EDF] by ASN and its technical support will be a preliminary condition to the examination of the receivability of [EDF's] future demand of operational license for the Flamanville-3 EPR reactor" [rough translation from French].

The design failure seems to be so deep that ASN even raises doubts on the feasibility of overcoming it and fulfill standard safety principles. The letter to EDF concludes that "given the range and complexity of the demonstrations that remain to be provided in order to justify that [the system] meets these principles, the ASN judges that there is no acquired certainty to build an acceptable demonstration of safety on the basis of the current architecture". Therefore ASN asks EDF, in parallel to trying to provide this justification, to "examine as from now arrangements for different options of conception"[again, rough translation from French].

Sources: Nuclear Monitor: 691, 16 July 2009 / HSE, ASN, STUK: Joint Regulatory Position Statement on the EPR, 22 October 2009 / Letter WISE-Paris, 2 November 2009
Contact: Yves Marignac. WISE-Paris. 31-33 rue de la Colonie, 75013 Paris, France.
Tel.: +33 1 45 65 47 93

WISE Paris

Areva's profits fall and dispute on Olkiluoto deepens

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Rianne Teule, Greenpeace International Nuclear Campaigner

The AREVA half-year results exhibit the financial risks of nuclear power, now that new provisions on the Finnish European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) under construction at Olkiluoto virtually wiped out AREVA’s operating profits for this period. AREVA threatens to freeze the Olkiluoto-3 construction works, blaming “TVO’s inappropriate behavior” for the delays and cost overruns. The Finnish utility Teollisuuden Voima Oyj (TVO), insists on its compliance with the contract and expects AREVA to keep the fixed-price, turn-key agreement. Both parties have taken the issue to arbitrary court.

AREVA has taken a €550 million (US$ 800 million) provision in the first half of 2009 for the EPR being built in Finland, causing the company’s operating profit to tumble 97% to €16 million and the net profit with 79% to €161 million. The latest estimate of the Olkiluoto-3 construction costs reached €5.5 billion, more than double the price of €2.5 billion originally offered to Finnish decision-makers. Anne Lauvergeon, AREVA’s CEO, admitted that there could be more provisions to come. The Finnish project is currently three years behind schedule, and it is impossible to determine the final cost at this stage, she said. Still AREVA markets the EPR as ‘a cost-effective reactor’.

AREVA threatens it will only commence the final phases of the EPR construction once TVO has agreed upon proposals or contractual modifications. AREVA’s language is strong: TVO is accused of inappropriate behaviour in contract management, of not implementing agreed measures for speeding up the work, and of persisting with conduct that is not in line with standard industry practises. Delays are caused by “inadequate resources deployed by TVO” and TVO not “respecting the deadlines for processing the documents that have been delivered (2 months, versus 11 months in practice)”.

AREVA says TVO has changed its demands on the project and is to blame for long delays in the approvals and safety authorisation processes. AREVA currently demands €1 billion compensation from TVO, claiming there is more to come. TVO in turn still concerns Olkiluoto-3 as a fixed-price delivery and claims compensation from AREVA for losses and costs incurred as a result of repeated delays. This internal nuclear fight should act as a warning for potential investors, because it demonstrates that nuclear companies have no intention whatsoever to bear the risk of delays and cost overruns in future reactor projects.

The work continues
So far, the work at Olkiluoto-3 still continues. On 6 September 2009, the dome of the reactor building was installed, representing a major milestone in the EPR construction. The steel dome, weighing 210 tons and measuring almost 47 meters across, will be welded around its circumference and covered with 7,000 tons of concrete.

AREVA also reported that the construction of the EPR in Flamanville, France, is now 65% complete, and Taishan 1 and 2 in China are 30% completed. However, Reuters recently reported that the start of construction work at AREVA’s first nuclear reactor in China was delayed from August to around mid-September because of bad weather. The Chinese authorities still needed to authorise the start of the work, but were busy due to bad weather conditions. Construction works for the Taishan-2 reactor in China are expected to start in March 2010, and the Taishan reactors are expected to come online in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

EDF said in a statement end of July that it still expects Flamanville-3 to be connected to the grid in 2012. It claims that the problems in digging the seaside discharge channel are now overcome, but that remains to be seen. EDF is putting a lot of money and effort in the construction project, supposedly trying to be the first to finish an EPR (before AREVA in Finland). There are 1,800 workers on the construction site and work is being conducted around the clock to make up for past delays.

In the meantime, Anne Lauvergeon made some astonishing remarks about the EPR at a hearing in front of a parliament committee. She described the EPR as “a box of steel and concrete producing 1.650 MW in a very small volume. (…) It resists almost everything. Whatever happens on the outside, there will be no impact on the inside, even on the impact of a commercial plane or missile. (…) The only thing it can not resist is a nuclear bomb."

Raising cash
On 30 June 2009, AREVA announced plans to raise funds for new nuclear investments by selling its transmission and distribution (T&D) unit and by opening up its capital to strategic and industrial partners. AREVA needs the money not only for its ambitious expansion plans, but also to buy out Siemens, who announced in January 2009 it wants to withdraw from the joint venture with AREVA in AREVA-NP (see Nuclear Monitor 683, 12 February 2009: 'Siemens leaving Areva; joining Rosatom?') The French government, 91% owner of Areva, was forced to take action and has been pushing for sales of the T&D unit. CEO Anne Lauvergeon long resisted the sales because the T&D division is a profitable part of AREVA representing 36% of Areva’s turnover in 2007; but Lauvergeon had to give in.

Three consortia made a bid for AREVA’s T&D unit: GeneralElectric with private equity group CVC; Toshiba of Japan; and a French partnership of the turbine group Alstom and Schneider Electric (in 2004 Areva took over the T&D business from the French company Alstom). Toshiba appears to be the least serious, leaving the GE and the French bids on the table as most promising. A decision on the T&D bidding is not expected before beginning of November 2009.

On 11 September AREVA succeeded in raising a large amount of investment money by issueing a €2.250 billion bond. There was (surprisingly?) high interest from investors in the company’s first bond issue, and there might be more to follow.

Corporate bonds seem to be in fashion in the nuclear industry: EDF has raised about €3.2 billion with a public bond issue this summer, aimed to pay for massive investments in its domestic electricity production and electricity network. Also the Finnish utility TVO issued a bond (€750 million), the money to be used for “refinancing and general corporate operations”. It was not specified whether any of the money will be used to cover the Olkiluoto-3 cost overruns. Furthermore, the Italian company ENEL announced a bond issue this autumn to raise money for its investment programme. One of the projects to receive financing from this bond issue is the Mochovce 3,4 nuclear reactor programme.

Sources: Nuclear News Flashes 18 June 2009 / AFP 9 July 2009 / Nuclear News Flashes 30 July 2009 / Financial Times 31 August 2009 / AREVA Press Release 31 August 2009 / World Nuclear News 1 September 2009 / Reuters 2 September 2009 / AREVA Press Release 6 September 2009 / AFP 17 September 2009 / Financial Times 21 September 2009
Contact: Rianne Teule, Nuclear campaigner, Greenpeace International. Ottho Heldringstraat 5, 1066 AZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Tel: +31 – 207 18 2229


In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

ElBaradei: Threat Iran ‘hyped’.
On September 14, the 53rd IAEA General Conference confirmed the appointment of Mr. Yukiya Amano of Japan, a Japanese career diplomat, as the next IAEA Director General. Mr. Amano assumes office on 1 December 2009, succeeding Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei to the Agency´s top post. His appointment is for a term of 4 years - until November 2013.

Meanwhile, in an interview with The Bulletin Of Atomic Scientists, Elbaradei stated that there is no concrete evidence that Iran has an ongoing nuclear weapons program. "But somehow, many people are talking about how Iran's nuclear program is the greatest threat to the world. In many ways, I think the threat has been hyped." ElBaradei said there was concern about Iran's future nuclear intentions and that Iran needs to be more transparent. “But the idea that we'll wake up tomorrow and Iran will have a nuclear weapon is an idea that isn't supported by the facts as we have seen them so far," said ElBaradei.

Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, 24 August 2009 / IAEA, 14 September 2009

France: charges dropped for publishing document.
The public prosecutor in Paris has decided not to press charges against Stephane Lhomme, the spokesperson for the anti-nuclear Sortir du Nucleaire organization. Lhomme had been under investigation since 2006 for breach of national security in connection with the publication of a classified document acknowledging weaknesses in the EPR reactor design's ability to withstand the crash of a commercial jetliner. After he was arrested many organizations published the documents on their website. 30,000 People, several of them wellknown political figures, intellectuals, writers and artists, signed a petition demanding the case to be closed.

Lhomme revealed in 2006 that he was in possession of an internal Electricite de France document, stamped "defense confidential," that acknowledged weaknesses in the EPR's resistance to an aircraft crash, a major issue after the terrorist attacks with airplanes in the US on September 11, 2001. The revelation came during public inquiry and licensing proceedings for EDF's first EPR unit, Flamanville-3. Lhomme was charged with endangering national security by revealing the contents of a classified document.

Nucleonics Week, 27 August 2009

SE tries to stifle opposition.
Plans by Slovak utility Slovenske Elektrarne (SE) to stifle opposition to its contested Mochvoce 3, 4 nuclear power reactors have mistakenly been leaked to Greenpeace. The leaked documents show that SE, which is jointly owned by Italian energy giant ENEL and the Slovak State, intends to manipulate public hearings on the environmental impact assessment for the project which involves the construction of two new Soviet-era reactors. The documents also mention strategies to "prevent [a] public hearing in Vienna", "reach the lowest possible media & public attention" and "avoid antinuc [sic] unrests [sic]". "These tactics are more akin to communist era manipulation and show that the Mochovce nuclear project is in dire straits," said Jan Haverkamp, Greenpeace EU dirty energy policy officer.

Construction of the Mochvoce 3,4 nuclear reactors started in the 1980s but was halted after the velvet revolution. After privatization of state utility SE to the Italian electricity giant ENEL, the Slovak government demanded from ENEL to finish the project. Because the reactors are from a 1970 Russian design and much of the civil construction already has happened in the 1980s, it is not possible to replace it with a modern design. As a result, the safety level of these nuclear reactors is lower than what is currently considered appropriate, especially after the 9/11 attacks.

Greenpeace 11 September 2009

US enrichment plant denied loan guarantee, or not?
US enrichment company USEC is preparing to 'demobilize' - or cancel - its partially built uranium enrichment plant after the US Department of Energy (DoE) denied its application for a loan guarantee in July.  As mentioned in the July 16 Nuclear Monitor In Briefs, loan guarantee from the Department of Energy was essential for continued construction. The American Centrifuge Plant is mid-construction at Piketon, Ohio. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) granted a construction and operation license for the plant in April 2007. The plant had been scheduled for commercial operation in 2010, but financing for the plant has long been a concern and earlier this year USEC announced that it was slowing the plant's schedule pending a decision on the DoE loan guarantee.  The company applied for loan guarantees amounting to US$2 billion (Euro 1.37 billion) in July 2008. After the DoE decision in late July, however, the company said it is initiating steps to demobilize the project in which it has already invested US$1.5 billion.

Two weeks later, in a surprising announcement, the Department of Energy said it has agreed to postpone by six months a final review of USEC's loan guarantee application for the American Centrifuge Plant in Piketon, Ohio. The additional time will allow USEC to address financial and technical concerns about its application that caused the DoE to deny the loan guarantee.

Sources: World Nuclear News, 28 July & 5 Augusts 2009

DOE loan guarantees.
Established under the US Energy Policy Act of 2005, the DoE loan guarantee program was set up as a way of helping to drive forward the "commercial use of new or improved technologies to sustain economic growth while delivering environmental benefits such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and providing a stable and secure energy supply".

Up to US$18.5 billion of loan guarantees are available for the construction of advanced nuclear reactors and up to US$2 billion for front-end fuel cycle projects such as enrichment plants. The only front-end projects to submit loan guarantee applications by the September 2008 deadline were USEC's American Centrifuge Plant and Areva's Eagle Rock Enrichment Facility. Together, the USEC and Areva loan guarantee applications far exceeded the US$2 billion set aside for front-end fuel cycle loan guarantees.

Saving the climate equals 8 million jobs in the power industry.
A strong shift toward renewable energies could create 2.7 million more jobs in power generation worldwide by 2030 than staying with dependence on fossil fuels would. The study, by environmental group Greenpeace and the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC), urged governments to agree a strong new United Nations pact to combat climate change in December in Copenhagen, partly to safeguard employment. “A switch from coal to renewable electricity generation will not just avoid 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions, but will create 2.7 million more jobs by 2030 than if we continue business as usual,” the report said. Under a scenario of business as usual, the number of jobs in power generation would fall by about half a million to 8.6 million by 2030, hit by mainly by a decline in the coal sector due to wider mechanization.

The report said that, for the first time in 2008, both the United States and the European Union added more capacity from renewable energies than from conventional sources including gas, coal oil and nuclear power. The report suggested the wind sector alone, for instance, could employ 2.03 million people in generating power in 2030 against about 0.5 million in 2010.

The report can be found at:

U.K.: Keeping the nuclear fire burning.
A stinging attack on the nuclear policy of the United Kingdom's Government and the role played by civil servants has been made by Jonathan Porritt. Retiring as chairman of the Government's Sustainable Development Commission he spoke of wasted years and opportunities in pursuing the revival of the nuclear industry. In 2003 the commission had worked with the Department of Trade and Industry minister Patricia Hewitt on a new White Paper which concluded that "nuclear power is not necessary for a secure low-carbon efficient UK economy". However, instead of implementing the plans, civil servants "kept the nuclear flame burning" until a new minister was appointed. "The civil servants won that battle at a great cost to energy policy in the UK. We have had years of delay on critical things that could have been done on renewable energy and energy efficiency. We had six to eight years of prevarication when we could have been getting on with it."

N-Base Briefing 622, 19 August 2009

MOX-transport delayed.
A planned transport of MOX-fuel (Plutonium-uranium mixed oxide) from Sellafield to Grohnde nuclear reactor in northern Germany, which had been planned for this autumn is to be postponed. A spokeswoman of power plant operator E.on said September 10, that the transport will not be done within the next two months (probably meaning September and October). According to E.on the reasons are purely organizational and recent discussions about routes for the planned transport did not matter in the decision.

However, at the moment there is no agreement on which harbour should be used on the route to Grohnde. Bremen (harbor management) rejected the shipment. Earlier plans for a route via Cuxhaven had been withdrawn by the applicant (either a haulage company or E.on) after (encountering) strong criticism.

But the reason may actually be political. With German parliament elections late September, which may lead to either a nuclear-friendly or an anti-nuclear government for the next 4 years, polluters may be trying not to provoke more anti-nuclear publicity.

Die Welt online, 11 September 2009 / Junge Welt, 14 September 2009

Clean energy in Germany cheaper than nuclear power.
In July a study of the German ecological NGO "Deutsche Umwelthilfe" has been published that analyzed the electricity market in Germany. The results are very interesting and maybe a good argument for anti-nuclear campaigning in other countries, too: In practice all offers of nuclear companies are more expensive than clean energy of independent ecological electricity companies!

This result was surprising as the nuclear power has been much subsidized and the reactors have been paid for itself since a long time - so they have only the costs of running the reactors, but don't have to repay the costs of the construction any longer. In addition the nuclear fuel is tax-exempted, the nuclear companies don't have to have an insurance covering all the costs of the accidents they could cause, they don't have to pay a realistic price for the final disposal of their radioactive waste and other consequences...

But it is a fact: nuclear energy is more expensive than ecological energy - at least in Germany as the study proofs!

You find the tables (German) of this study in the internet:

Regulators raise questions on EPR design

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Rianne Teule, Greenpeace International Nuclear Campaigner

Both the Finnish and UK regulators have raised serious questions about the safety of the EPR reactor design. The regulator concerns come on top of already soaring problems in the EPR’s currently under construction in Finland and France. Rejection of design approval of the EPR in the UK would be a devastating blow to the French industry plans for nuclear expansion in Britain.

On 2 July, the Finnish regulator STUK (Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority) has asked the Finnish operator TVO (Teollisuuden Voima Oyj) for further clarification of the overall design of automation systems (Instrumentation & Control systems, I&C) for the Olkiluoto-3 reactor. The I&C system, sometimes described as the ‘cerebral cortex’ of a nuclear reactor, governs computers and systems that monitor and control the reactor’s performance.

Already in summer last year, STUK demanded that TVO would revise the architecture of the plant’s automation systems, because of safety concerns. Their main point of concern was the mutual independence of automation system components that back each other up. TVO has submitted a revised plan, but so far did not answer STUK’s worries. For Jukka Laaksonen, director general of STUK, getting the instrumentation and control right is absolutely critical to the safety of the plant.

In the beginning of July, the UK Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) published a letter from April 2009, sent to Areva and EDF, the French companies that jointly applied for a ‘generic design acceptance’ (GDA) for the construction of  EPR’s in the UK. The NII has concerns similar to STUK’s, about the instrumentation and control system of the EPR.

According to the regulators, two independent computer-based systems would have a ‘high degree of interconnectivity’. Several automation system components, that are supposed to back each other up, are mutually dependent. This compromises the overall safety of the systems. The NII letter to Areva and EDF also highlighted concerns about the absence of safety display systems or manual controls that would allow the reactor to be shut down, either in the station’s control room or at an emergency remote shutdown station.

STUK has required a hardwired backup system for the I&C, but until now has not been satisfied with the hardwired system Areva has proposed. It requires a more complete hardwired safety system, including more functions, more signals and more measurements. But even that hardwired backup will still rely on software whose reliability may be difficult to demonstrate.

The French nuclear safety authority ASN is currently reviewing the EPR I&C design and expects to publish an opinion in September or October of this year. Flamanville-3 does provide for a hardwired reactor shutdown option, but this is less developed than the system STUK is demanding. ASN apparently doubts the need for a more complex hardwired system. According to ASN, I&C systems built for different operators could differ, to comply with the various regulator’s views. However, if there are differences, “we have to understand why”, according to ASN Chairman Lacoste.

The UK Health and Safety Executive, which oversees the NII, warned that the EPR design could be rejected for use in Britain if the concerns regarding the automation system could not be satisfactorily addressed. It is likely that the regulatory concerns will cause the design assessment phase to be seriously delayed. The UK design approval is critical to EDF, who wants to build four EPR reactors in Britain. Last year it spent more than BP 12 billion (14 billion Euro or US$ 20 billion) acquiring British Energy, the UK nuclear generator, to secure access to suitable sites.

In a reaction, Areva stated that the company is committed to ensuring the safety of the EPR’s and is confident to find a solution that will satisfy UK’s specific requirements. The French company blames the Finnish regulator for being slow in approving design documents, and hence being partly responsible for the currently 3-year delay in the Olkiluoto-3 project.

Meanwhile, STUK is still awaiting a report from Areva on the causes of cracking in two of three primary coolant piping hot legs, the most important pipes in the reactor from a safety point of view, that were recently welded in France. STUK wants to know the safety implications of a potentially undiscovered crack. Unlike previous French reactor designs, for the EPR the safety of high-pressure main steam lines relies on so-called break preclusion, meaning the piping needs to be so robust that a break in the main steam line can be excluded as a design-basis accident.

Sources: “UK regulator raises French nuclear concerns”, The Times, 1 July 2009 / “Nuclear dawn delayed in Finland”, BBC News, 8 July 2009 / “Finnish, UK regulators seek changes in EPR I&C design”, Nucleonics Week, 9 July 2009 / “STUK official ‘cautiously optimistic’ on Olkiluoto-3 I&C design approval”, Nucleonics Week, 21 May 2009
Contact: Rianne Teule, Greenpeace International, Ottho Heldringstraat 5, 1066 AZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Tel: +31 20 718 2229

Alliance puts Missouri EPR on hold

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Mark Haim, Missourians for Safe Energy

On April 23 -the day after Earth Day- AmerenUE, Missouri's largest utility, announced that they were abandoning their pursuit of legislation to facilitate consumer financing of Callaway 2, a proposed 1,600 MW, Areva EPR. While they have not as yet withdrawn their application pending before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, their CEO, Thomas Voss, stated at a news conference: “AmerenUE is suspending its efforts to build a nuclear power plant in Missouri.” 

It wasn't supposed to turn out like this. Ameren had greased the skids with more than US$135,000 (Euro 100,000) in political contributions in the months leading up to the 2008 elections, and heavily lobbied the Republican-dominated legislature prior to the January introduction of their Construction Work in Progress (CWIP) bills (SB 228 & HB 554). CWIP—which requires consumers to underwrite new construction by paying carrying costs on plants being built—has been prohibited in Missouri since 1976. Voters that year outlawed CWIP in an initiative election by a nearly two-to-one margin. This was one of several factors that gave the legislature pause when asked to reverse the CWIP ban.

Ameren's bills contained more than a repeal of the No-CWIP statute. Described by one consumer advocate as “CWIP on steroids,” the bills represented a veritable utility wish-list, including the prohibition of judicial review, the locking in of utility expenditures through rushed prudence reviews, and the requirement that ratepayers pay 100 percent of funds expended in the event of a plant cancellation.

Ameren had applied to the NRC for a COL (Combined License, to Construct and Operate) for Callaway 2 in July of 2008. While they claimed they’d not yet made a firm decision to build the new reactor, by the beginning of 2009 they had already spent more than U$60 million (Euro 45 million) on the project, including ordering components and preparing their license application. They also geared up an ambitious PR effort, advertising Callaway 2 as the answer to Missouri’s economic woes, and billing it as “the largest construction project in Missouri’s history.”  Ameren promised thousands of good jobs and enlisted the support of the building trades unions for whom the new nuke represented the prospect of lots of jobs on one site.

Influential politicians in both parties also came out in favor of a Callaway 2. So, by the beginning of the session, many observers expected the CWIP bills to sail through both chambers. What they didn’t foresee was opposition coming from more than just the usual suspects.

The Opposition Organizes

Anti-nuclear and environmental groups, including Missouri Coalition for the Environment, Missouri Sierra Club, Missouri Votes Conservation and Missourians for Safe Energy came together as early as August 2008 to form a coalition with any other groups interested in opposing CWIP. Immediately jumping on board were consumer groups like AARP, the Consumers Council of Missouri and the Missouri Association for Social Welfare. Also lending significant support to the effort was the Office of Public Counsel, the state agency charged with representing consumer interests. Out of this initial coalition building came a loose-knit alliance, Missourians for Fair Electric Rates (MoFER), a website, and an activist listserv to exchange information.

Another key component of the anti-CWIP alliance was Ameren’s large industrial customers, including Noranda Aluminum and Missouri Industrial Energy Consumers, an association that includes Anheuser Busch, Boeing, Monsanto, Ford, GM, ConAgra and others. While these large corporations were not eager to enter a formal alliance with the environmental community, they maintained communications and worked in tandem with Missourians for Fair Electric Rates. As the session progressed, these companies created a new entity, the Fair Electricity Rate Action Fund (FERAF) (see:, and directed tens of thousands of dollars into a multimedia effort to defeat CWIP.  Their resources and political clout were a levelizer, making this less a David and Goliath struggle.

MoFER organized an early February CWIP Truth Tour, bringing former NRC Commissioner and former chair of two state public utility commissions, Peter Bradford, to Missouri to speak in St. Louis, Jefferson City, Columbia and Kansas City. Bradford met with editorial boards, legislators and key policy advisors to Missouri Governor Jay Nixon. MoFER also mobilized a grassroots lobby campaign, encouraged members to make calls, write their legislators and joined in a lobby day at the Capitol in late February.

Before the Committees

When the bills came before the committees in mid-February, there were lengthy, contentious hearings in both houses, with strong opposition especially in the Senate. While the committees debated, Gov. Jay Nixon, a newly inaugurated Democrat, came out in opposition to CWIP, at least as proposed. Nixon simultaneously claimed to be for the Callaway plant, but opposed to having ratepayers begin paying for it until two conditions were met, that Ameren commit to building Callaway 2, and that the NRC authorize construction. Nixon essentially kicked the ball down the field, saying in effect that CWIP today is premature.

Ameren’s allies got their bill voted out of the House Utilities Committee by a nearly unanimous vote. But it was clear by late February that getting this passed in the Senate was not going to be a cake walk.

A mid-March legislative recess provided further opportunities for lobbying members.

And then the industrial users really turned up the heat. During the last week of March they launched a TV advertising blitz across the state. The message from these ads, and from the robo-calls that targeted districts of key legislators, was “Ameren Customers Face a 40% Rate Hike.” The drama peaked on Saturday, March 28, when Ameren went into Federal court in an attempt to quash the ads. They asked for an emergency temporary restraining order to prevent the ads from airing that day on the Elite Eight NCAA basketball playoffs, in which Missouri was competing.  The court, however, rejected Ameren’s tenuous claim that the ads were confusing viewers who mistook them for Ameren’s ads.

Two days later, on March 30, FERAF announced the results of a statewide poll showing 82 percent of Missourians opposed to CWIP (62 percent strongly opposed). Meanwhile MoFER held a news conference the same day and made it clear that if the legislature overturned this voter-enacted law, opponents would petition to bring the issue back for another vote. The next day, a divided Senate Commerce Committee passed a substitute version of SB 228, including some marginal changes, but giving Ameren most everything they wanted.

Filibuster, Failure & Future

By this point, however, CWIP was the most controversial, and the most media-covered issue facing the legislature. And anti-CWIP momentum was growing. When the bill was brought before the full Senate on April 7, it faced a filibuster. Senate leaders broke off debate after midnight and called upon the parties to negotiate a compromise. Two weeks later, however, it was clear that no compromise was forthcoming and Ameren pulled the plug on the legislation.

While Ameren has announced that it is “suspending its efforts to build a nuclear power plant in Missouri,” this is not at all certain. As noted, they have not pulled their NRC application and in papers filed with the Commission on May 1 the company challenged a grassroots intervention brought against the reactor and argued that the NRC should proceed reviewing the application but should indefinitely delay financial qualifications issues raised by the interveners.

There is other evidence that Ameren is simply biding its time. Scott Bond, Ameren’s Manager for Nuclear Development, told USA Today (March 30, 2009), “Ameren wants to see if the first plants are successful. That's why the utility didn't want to be in that first wave of plants.’”

This directly contradicts Ameren’s position right up until their April 23 announcement. They’d always maintained that this legislation was needed this year to help Ameren compete for federal loan guarantees.

Clearly, Ameren has had to rethink its timeline for starting construction of Callaway 2, if for no other reason than the lack of load growth to justify adding a 1,600 MW plant. Ameren had previously maintained that they intended to complete the new EPR in the 2018-2020 timeframe, and that the plant was needed to meet their projected growth in demand.

More recently, however, they’ve indicated that their intent is to seek partnerships with other Missouri utilities. They apparently intend to use only 900 MW of the plant’s output and to sell the other 700 MW to other players. They have also indicated that their timeline has been pushed back such that construction would start no sooner than 2015 or 2016.

By mobilizing opposition to a clearly unfair rate mechanism, activists have built alliances and bought some time. While Callaway 2 is not moving forward at the moment, opponents are far from placing the final nails in its coffin.

To ensure that Callaway is actually canceled, sustainable energy advocates will need to push hard for serious commitments to energy efficiency and renewables. In the November 2008 election, Missouri adopted a renewable energy standard (RES) by a two-to-one margin. Missourians want clean energy. The utilities, however, are likely to drag their feet. An immediate task is to make sure that the RES is implemented.

Beyond this, Missouri, which is ranked 45th among the 50 states in energy efficiency, will need to take advantage of the enormous opportunities to save energy while creating jobs and economic development throughout the state. The defeat of CWIP has opened a window of opportunity. If the forces that defeated CWIP can now move Missouri to embrace a sustainable energy agenda, the nuclear revival will truly be eclipsed.

Source and contact: Mark Haim, Missourians for Safe Energy, Columbia, MO, U.S.A.

Minnesota House upholds moratorium on new build. A move to open the U.S. state of Minnesota to future nuclear power plants fell short on April 30, in the House of Representatives. The vote was 72-60 against undoing a 15-year-old moratorium on the construction of new nuclear facilities. A 1994 statute prevents the Public Utilities Commission from authorizing construction of new nuclear facilities. The state already has two nuclear plants, near Monticello and Red Wing. The action showed divisions within the DFL (Democratic Farmer-Labor-Party) majority, with Democrats voting on both sides of the issue and most Republicans supporting the change. It came just four weeks after an April 2, surprise Senate vote (42-24) to scrap the nuclear moratorium, a position shared by Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

The House vote isn't the final word on the issue. It could still come up as a House-Senate conference committee works on a final energy policy bill, although the House vote shows it will be difficult to pass a change in the policy. Minnesota aims to get a quarter of its energy from renewable sources by 2025 or even sooner.

AP, 30 April 2009 /


AREVA on verge of bankruptcy: no use of public money to bail out nuclear industry

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Charlotte Mijeon

In the face of colossal losses on their EPR construction site in Finland, facing a two billion Euro invoice from the departure of Siemens from the project, some unwise investments in America, 60% fall in share prices over the last few months, Areva is staring down the barrel of business failure. The French nuclear industry is a disaster area, and public money should not be used to prop it up, but to develop renewable energies.

Nuclear company Areva is due to publish its 2008 end of year accounts any day. We already know though that this so-called “beacon” of French industry is on the verge of collapse and waiting once again for a hand-out from the French public to keep their failing nuclear industry alive. Areva is looking for a 3 billion Euro bail out just to balance its 2009 budget, and has already cancelled, on November 25, 2008, a planned uranium-mining project in Canada.

And another big setback for Areva, who were expecting such big things from this market: on December 5th South Africa cancelled its order for 12 nuclear power stations it had hoped to build.


While all this has been going on, the EPR site in Finland, started in February 2005, is rapidly turning into another catastrophe: already 38 months behind schedule, with the Finnish government invoicing Areva for 2.4 billion Euros in penalties for lateness. So, having been invoiced at 3 billion Euros, the real cost of the project is more like 5.4 billion Euros. Barring any other surcharges.

Add to that the departure of Siemens from the project, announced this January, which has hit the company with another bill for 2 billion Euros to buy out their former ally, plus acquire the work they’ve already carried out and are withholding against payment. The Elysée would be by now thinking about letting Middle-Eastern capital into Areva, but this remains very hazardous.

On the Paris Stock Exchange, Areva’s price has slipped from 820 Euros per share last June to 325 Euros by now - a loss of more than 60%!

Additionally, the various reactor construction projects announced over the last few months and representing at least some market optimism for Areva, turn out to be completely “virtual”: on his various foreign trips (Libya, Algeria, Morocco, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, South Africa, Estonia, etc…), President Sarkozy has signed a series of simple “cooperation agreements”, and whilst these make frequent mention of an eventual desire to build EPR reactors, in fact absolutely nothing is definitely signed or sealed.

That led to the Elysée government “bluffing” everyone on February 4 and 24, with their announcements of 2 EPR reactors for India and 4 more for Italy: it’s easy enough to say, much more difficult to do – specially at this time of world economic crisis – to find the kind of money necessary to fund the actual construction.

The other possible market Areva had been eying up but which isn’t looking so good now: the USA. New President Obama’s first announcement committed zero dollars to the nuclear sector… where it had hoped for up to 50 billion. Most reactor projects have been put on hold, and the few that are actually showing signs of life are run by Areva’s big business rival, the American-Japanese consortium of Westinghouse/Toshiba, General Electric/Hitachi.

None of which has stopped Areva investing heavily in America to buy into the supposed nuclear “renaissance” that is looking less and less realistic: in May 2008 Areva announced it was buying into the site at Bonneville, Idaho, to produce nuclear fuel. And in October 2008, Areva announced a 360 million dollar investment in the State of Virginia to produce heavy tolls and machinery for the American nuclear sector.

Areva is also holder of promises of orders from EDF, which bought up British Energy at a top price, just before the economic crunch! But EDF is also heavily in debt and has lost almost 70% of its stock market value by mid-March… Seemingly incapable or recognizing a problem when she sees one, Madame Lauvergeon is sailing on full steam ahead with only one possible outcome, total financial disaster.

But, with Areva being supported by the state, it’s the people of France who’ll be picking up the bill when the time comes. There’s still time to stop the whole mad affair, to stop President Sarkozy from using public money to keep Areva afloat. He should follow the excellent example of President Obama in America, investing in energy economy and renewables.

Source and contact: Sortir du Nucleaire, French Network for Nuclear Phase out. Charlotte Mijeon, International Relations Representative.
Tel: +33 675 362 020

Areva: Siemens-Rosatom breach of non-compete clause. Areva has warned Siemens, that the latter’s' plan to create a nuclear joint venture with Russian Rosatom, are a breach of Siemens' contract with Areva. Siemens has a 34% share in Areva NP and under a shareholder agreement from January 2001 entered into obligations including a non-compete clause, Areva said in a statement on March 4, one day after Siemens announced a nuclear joint venture with Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation, or Rosatom. (See Nuclear Monitor 683: “Siemens leaving Areva; joining Rosatom?”)

Under the shareholders' agreement, Siemens is not allowed to compete in activities it brought to Areva NP for a period of eight years. That includes nuclear reactor design and engineering, turnkey nuclear power plant construction, fuel design and manufacture, services, and safety-related instrumentation and control systems. Siemens said it could, however, market turbines, generators and electrical systems for nuclear power plants since Areva NP does not produce those items.

Platts, 4 March 2009

Limitations to Rosatom-Siemens joint venture. A few days after Munich-based Siemens launched the joint venture with Rosatom, forecasting the construction of some 400 new nuclear power plants worldwide by 2030, German magazine Der Spiegel wrote Siemens has to limit its high expectations. Siemens-insiders claim there is a clause in the Rosatom-Siemens agreement that excludes political unstable regions (“politisch unsicheren Regionen”) from the Joint Venture. Siemens seems to be particular cautious not to get involved again in the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran. The German company started the construction of the reactor-project more than three decades ago.

Der Spiegel online, 6 March 2009


EPR-waste seven times more hazardous

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Rianne Teule, Greenpeace International Nuclear Campaigner

Greenpeace has uncovered evidence that nuclear waste from the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR), the flagship of the nuclear industry, will be up to seven times more hazardous than waste produced by existing nuclear reactors, increasing costs and the danger to health and the environment. This was revealed –one day after French President Sarkozy's decision to build a second EPR in France- in an exclusive story in International Herald Tribune (IHT).

The alarming evidence was buried in the environmental impact assessment report from Posiva, the company responsible for managing waste at the world's first EPR under construction at Olkiluoto in Finland ("Posiva's Expansion of the Repository for Spent Nuclear Fuel, Environmental Impact Assessment Report", 2008), and in EU-funded research (Nagra Technical report 04-08: "Estimates of the Instant Release Fraction for UO2 and MOX-fuel at t = 0").

This means that not only will spent nuclear fuel produced by the EPR be more dangerous than is acknowledged by the French nuclear industry, but also storage and disposal will be more expensive than the industry and governments proclaim, and will increase the overall cost of nuclear energy. The French nuclear companies Areva and EDF, which aggressively market the EPR as safe and cheap, have completely ignored the implications of the increased hazards," explained John Large, an independent nuclear consultant.

No appropriate waste facilities exist or are being planned in Finland, France, or any of the countries considering buying the EPR, including the UK, the US, Canada and India. In Finland the plans awaiting approval for burying the nuclear waste are inadequate for preventing interim and long-term health risks and will pass on huge financial liabilities to future generations.

"Nuclear energy is fast becoming the most expensive way to produce electricity and its highly radioactive waste poses an ever-increasing problem. Despite the French government's global marketing of the EPR as cheap and safe, the evidence proves otherwise," stressed Dr. Rianne Teule, Greenpeace International Nuclear Campaigner.

The EPR is designed to extract more energy from nuclear fuel than any commercially operating reactor (high burn-up), in order to maximise electricity output. This causes the amount of readily released radioactive substances in spent fuel to increase disproportionately. The storage of the hazardous waste will be more costly for a range of reasons including required greater distances between canisters increasing the repository size, more extensive and longer-term monitoring and increased security.

Another aspect of the high burn-up of the fuel was published by the British daily Independent on Sunday. The revelations –based also on the documents by the nuclear industry itself – calls into doubt repeated assertions that the new EPRs will be safer than the old nuclear power stations they replace. Instead those documents suggest that a reactor or nuclear waste accident, although less likely to happen, could have even more devastating consequences in future; one study suggests that nearly twice as many people could die.

Information in the documents shows that the EPRs produce very much more of the radioactive isotopes technically known as the "immediate release fraction" of the nuclear waste, because they could get out rapidly after an accident. Data in one report, produced by EDF, suggests that they would produce four times as much radioactive bromine, rubidium, iodine and caesium as a present-day reactor. Information in another – by Posiva Oy – indicates that seven times as much iodine 129 is produced. And material in a third, by the Swiss National Co-operative for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste (Nagra), implies that they will give rise to 11 times as much caesium 135 and 137.

This happens because the reactors are designed to burn their nuclear fuel almost twice as thoroughly as normal ones. Independent nuclear consultant, John Large, says that this "changes the physical characteristics of the fuel" and increases the immediate danger if the radiation should escape. After comparing the consequences of an accident at the new EPR being built at Flamanville, Normandy with one at an existing reactor nearby, he found that, in the worst case, it would increase the number of deaths from 16,000 to over 28,000.

(See also "Too hot to handle: The truth of high burn-up fuel", Nuclear Monitor 671, 17 April 2008)

Sources: Greenpeace Press release, 31 January 2009 / Independent on Sunday, 8 February 2009
Contact: Rianne Teule, Greenpeace International Nuclear Campaigner, Van Walbeeckstraat 17, 1058 CG Amsterdam, The Netherlands


Nuclear Monitor Issue: 


(December 15, 2006) French nuclear energy giant Areva will take a charge of 500 million euro this year for extra costs because work on the 1600MW Olkiluoto-3 reactor in Finland is 18 months behind schedule, Les Echos reported, without naming its source. The reactor was initially due to be operational in mid-2009. Construction began in August 2005.

(650.5768) WISE Amsterdam - Finnish energy company TVO announced early December that construction of the world's first third-generation nuclear reactor is now 18 months behind schedule. 'The difficulties met since the start of work are not surprising. It is not a bag of chips that we are constructing in Finland but a nuclear reactor, which, what's more, is the first of its kind,' according to an Areva spokesman Construction of the EPR (European pressurised water reactor) began in August 2005 and the reactor was initially due to be operational in mid-2009. 'Today's estimate is that the unit will be completed at the turn of 2010-2011,' the head of the project Martin Landtman said in a statement. "The initial calendar was perhaps too ambitious", the business daily cited an Areva spokesman as saying. "Despite the 18 months delay, construction of the Finnish EPR will not take any longer than usual nuclear sites. We tend to forget, but Chooz, the last reactor completed in France, by EDF, went into service four years later than envisaged," (well, then you should be able to take that in account by now, shouldn't you?). According to Nucleonics Week, industry sources said the contractual penalty for Areva is 0.2% per week of delay past the May 1, 2009 commercial operation target for the first 26 weeks, and 0.1% beyond that. The contract limits the penalty to 10% of the total contract value, or about Euro 300 million, these sources said.

A consortium comprising Areva and Siemens AG is building the 3.2 billion Euro reactor. Areva admitted in July that the problems at the Olkiluoto 3 site will have a major impact on the company's full year results. The company announced massive loss in their profits for the first half of 2006. Income from nuclear operations fell from 373 million Euros to 73 million Euros, due to the contract for the Finnish reactor.
In June, only one year after the start of the construction, the project ran into delays of at least a year, equating to one-month delay for every month of construction. On top of that, the Finnish regulator admitted major problems in the quality control, raising safety concerns.

"The Finnish nuclear reactor was heralded as the start of a European nuclear 'renaissance' and has swiftly become the nightmare for the nuclear industry Greenpeace predicted," Jan Vande Putte of Greenpeace International. Said in July when the Areva publicised it's loss. "The reality is that the nuclear industry is in a deep crisis." "Nuclear power is not only highly dangerous, polluting and proliferating nuclear weapons," Vande Putte said, "but it is also incapable of delivering its promises to the energy market. It is however the champion in sucking up vast financial resources, which would be better used if invested in renewable energy and energy efficiency. The climate cannot afford such nuclear adventures any more."

To add to the problems, the European Commission (EC) late October launched a formal investigation to establish whether the French government's EUR570 million (US$725 million) loan guarantee financing TVO's Olkiluoto-3 reactor complies with EU rules on state aid. The loan agreement to TVO is for the purchase of equipment from Areva. Separate complaints were filed in late 2004 by Greenpeace and the European Renewable Energies Federation (EREF). Both organizations claim the loan guarantee unfairly subsidizes the project. TVO Finance Director Lauri Piekkari said the guarantee is a normal way of financing export projects and that such financing is covered by specific OECD regulations.

There is a lot to say about the claim of the nuclear industry ("Olkiluoto-3 has proven that nuclear is cheap even without government subsidies") but not that it is the truth. The tough competition between the manufacturers lowered the price of the whole project down.

Olkiluoto-3 is a crucial deal for its constructor, Framatome ANP. It is the first EPR design ever being built and a first nuclear project in a western country in a decade. Therefore the company was ready to dump the price - after securing € 575 (other sources claim even 610 million) COFACE export credits from the French government.
The agreement to construct the reactor was made for a fixed price of 3,2 billion Euro. Even this exceeded the maximal cost estimations used during the political debate by 700 million Euro. Already in 2004 there were signs indicating that the total costs would be exceeded significantly. The constructor Framatome ANP took all the risk by agreeing on a fixed price contract, which means that there's no financial risk on TVO if the project fails. This enabled TVO to get a very cheap Euro 1,95 billion loan with only 2,6 percent interest rate. TVO is a consortium of forest industry and public energy companies. TVO produces electricity for its shareholders and doesn't sell any electricity directly. The shareholders will get electricity according to their shares for the price of the production - meaning that TVO itself as a company isn't aiming for making profit. This also means that the electricity is priced based on production costs only

Sources: AFX News Limited, 5 December 2006 / Nucleonics Week, 2 November 2006 / WNA News Briefing 06.43, 25-31 October 2006 / Greenpeace International Press release, 27 September 2006 / Greenpeace Briefing, 15 October 2006 /
Contact: Kaisa Kosonen, Energy campaigner at Greenpeace Finland, Aurorankatu 11 a 2, 00100 Helsinki, Finland
Tel: +358 9 43157135; Fax: +358 9 43157137


Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

North Korea had three nuclear bombs.

(April 16, 2004) The New York Times has reported that A Q Khan, the disgraced father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programs, has revealed to investigators that he saw three nuclear bombs in North Korea five years ago. Pakistan's government is said to have released details of Khan's visit to an underground weapons facility one hour from Pyongyang 3-4 weeks ago as a warning to states within its missile range. The leaking of such sensitive information in Washington appears linked to US Vice-President Dick Cheney's visit to Beijing where he hopes to persuade China to take a tougher stance on North Korea. The Bush administration had previously been frustrated by Beijing's reluctance to apply more pressure on its former ally. Cheney has presented the Chinese with its 'new evidence' but has insisted that the US is still committed to six-party talks but would soon be seeking "real results". (See also WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor 602.5572 "North Korea welcomes US delegation")

There are suggestions that Washington may also be seeking to influence the 15 April parliamentary elections in South Korea that are expected to decide the fate of President Roh Moo-hyun, who is mistrusted by the US for his soft line on Pyongyang. Khan's report will be difficult to verify given that Pakistani authorities have refused to allow questioning by the international community. It is also unclear if Khan, who is not a trained nuclear scientist, has the expertise to recognize an actual nuclear weapon as opposed to a mock-up.
The New York Times, 13 & 14 April 2004; The Guardian, 14 April 2004


NIRS & Public Citizen petition NRC.


(April 16, 2004) NIRS and Public Citizen have jointly petitioned the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to participate in the forthcoming licensing procedure for the proposed uranium enrichment plant in New Mexico. The groups are representing their members living near the site of the proposed facility who are concerned with the inconsistencies, misrepresentations and unlawful aspects of the application, including the lack of a strategy to dispose of hazardous and radioactive wastes. NIRS and Public Citizen also cited problems with the application in its treatment of water resources, national security and nuclear proliferation, the need for the facility and the cost of decommissioning the plant once it ceases operating. This is the third attempt by Louisiana Energy Services (LES) at securing a site for its nuclear plant - earlier attempts were withdrawn following intense public opposition.
Joint NIRS, Public Citizen & Southwest Research Information Center News Release, 6 April 2004


French PM pro new nukes.


(April 16, 2004) Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin confirmed his support for the construction of new nuclear power plants on 5 April. He told parliament that France should build the experimental 1600 MWe European Pressurized Water Reactor (EPR), claiming it was 'our responsibility to ensure the future of the nuclear option' and that he would request a parliamentary debate on the issue 'within the coming weeks'.
WNA News Briefing, 7-13 April 2004


Russian researcher sentenced.


(April 16, 2004) A weapons specialist for the prestigious USA-Canada Institute has been sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for espionage in a closed trial in Moscow. Igor Sutyagin was convicted of supplying an UK firm, allegedly used as a front for the CIA, with information on submarines and missile warning systems. Sutyagin's defense argued that the researcher's work had been based on publicly available sources and that he had had no indication that the company was as intelligence cover. Human rights activists in Russia and around the world have condemned the verdict and there are reports suggesting irregularities during the trial and political motivation for the trial and conviction. The trail judge is said to have given the jury incorrect instruction by asking them to determine whether Sutyagin had passed on information, which he did not deny, rather than whether he had passed on state secrets.
AP, 5 April 2004; BBC News 7 April 2004


Fund for sick nuclear worker not paying out.


(April 16, 2004) Four years after the US Congress passed a law to aid sick nuclear plant workers, the compensation fund has only managed to process the claim of one worker who was sent a check for US$ 15,000 despite the government earmarking US$74 million for the program. The Energy Department, responsible for the program, claimed during a hearing before the Senate Energy Committee that it would require more time and money to do a better job. Approximately 22,000 eligible workers filed for assistance yet only 372 have received feedback on their applications. Robert Card, the department's undersecretary said the agency needed an another US$ 33 million, in addition to the US$ 26 million already spent on the program this year to speed up the programs pace. Card and his assistant Beverly Cook have since resigned from their posts. Some lawmakers have recommended moving the program to the Labor Department, which already runs a program for compensating workers affected by radiation exposure.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 30 March & 2 April 2004


UK government advisers consider waste disposal options.


(April 16, 2004) Last year the Blair government appointed a committee on radioactive waste management to re-examine all possibilities to find an acceptable solution to the nuclear waste problem. The 14 options considered range from firing nuclear waste into the sun, placing it in Antarctic ice sheets so it sinks by its own heat to the bedrock, putting it under the Earth's crust so it is sucked to the molten core and burying under the seabed. The government estimates that its stockpile of high-level nuclear waste will soon reach 500,000 tons. The committee of Homer Simpson wannabes is apparently still considering all 14 options and has requested an extension of its deadline from end 2005 to mid 2006. We look forward to reading its final report.
The Guardian, 14 April 2004


Nuclear industry looks to Asia for survival.


(April 16, 2004) 18 of the 31 nuclear power units currently under construction worldwide are located in Asia making the continent a haven for predatory European, North American and Russian suppliers. Following accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, the number of new nuclear projects under development in the West was drastically reduced leaving the industry in peril. Now, the vultures are circling around Asia seeking new ground on an energy-poor continent. China is expected to build four 1,000 MW plants at a cost of US$ 6 billion as part of its drive to quadruple its nuclear capacity by 2020. The export of such sensitive technologies is prohibited in most nuclear supply countries but given the lack of business elsewhere, governments are re-evaluating their policies in order to secure lucrative contracts for their supplies. Even the U.S. is expected to ease its controls on China at this year and Germany is already considering selling China its Hanau plant.
AP, 10 April 2004; Reuters, 13 April 2004