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Assessment of the EU stress tests

4259
13/07/2012
Wenisch and Becker
Article

The March 2011 accident at the Fukushima I nuclear power plant proved that highly unlikely incidents cannot be excluded. Contrary to accepted practice Probabilistic Safety Assessments (PSA) do not constitute a sufficient basis to declare a plant operation safe. Safety of nuclear power plants needs to be backed by deterministic assessments, which excludes initiating events and accident scenarios only if they are proven to be physically impossible.

Events at Fukushima compounded public mistrust towards nuclear power worldwide. In Europe, the European Commission welcomed a suggestion by the government of Austria to conduct stress tests at all nuclear power plants in the European Union. The EU nuclear safety regulators –ENSREG –took over this task. The tests were introduced to improve confi-dence in the safety of European nuclear power plants (NPPs). In particular, they should examine the consequences of earthquakes and floods, and the com-bination of events previously excluded. However, the tests would be limited in scope: safety features such as ageing or design faults would not be taken into account.

Assessment of stress tests
An assessment of the stress tests –by Antonia Wenisch and Oda Becker, commissioned by Greenpeace- is published recently: Critical Review of the EU Stress Test performed on Nuclear Power Plants. 

The EU stress tests are not a safety assessment of the European nuclear power plants. They represent a limited analysis of the vulnerability of such plants with respect to natural hazards. The accident scenarios are focused on external events: the quality of the struc-tures, systems and components and the degradation of the oldest nuclear power plants in Europe are not subject of the analysis. The peer review team did not consider all safety issues that could trigger or aggravate an accident situation (e.g. ageing, use of MOX fuel, safety culture).

The design of the plants with respect to natural events varies, therefore the safety margins can only be assessed through an engineering judgment. In December 2011, the IAEA has published a new guide for extreme weather hazards. Greenpeace recommends that all plants make an assessment of weather hazards according to the new IAEA guide.

Severe accident management, espe-cially regarding spent fuel pools and multi-unit accidents like at Fukushima, is an issue everywhere, but the way it is tackled varies immensely. Only one country (Slovenia) has a simulator for severe accident management.

The peer review team has not assessed the current safety level of the European nuclear power plants, but only the potential increase in the level of safety in the next decade. Currently, there are several known shortcomings with respect to the protection against earth-quake, flooding and extreme weather. Furthermore, it is well known that it will be impossible to cope with a severe accident,  especially if it is accompa-nied by earthquake or flooding. The reviewers only described the weaknes-ses they identified, but not an overall assessment of all facts, which would allow a risk
assessment. 

The EU stress tests have no direct effect on the European nuclear power plant fleet. ENSREG has no say on the lifetime extension applications of even the oldest plants with the most obvious problems (Mühleberg, Doel, Rivne etc.). To gain an accurate picture of nuclear risk, EU decision makers should add a third leg to the nuclear stress tests - a full assessment of emergency response preparedness, which examines the viability of emergency response plans, address weaknesses and purpose improvements.

Conclusion
Far from restoring faith in the safety of nuclear power in Europe, the stress tests and ENSREG report published in April 2012 serve to further undermine it. At their most basic level, nuclear plants are concrete shielding to a fission process that creates large quantities of energy. Energy Commissioner Oettinger has acknowledged that the elimination of risk at such facilities is impossible, with efforts limited to merely minimising the threat. Across Europe, the stress tests have revealed some unacceptable failures in risk management. Serious gaps have repeatedly been found in readiness for emergencies. No guarantee can be given that plants operating in earthquake zones will remain safe in the event of serious seismic activity. Many lack any form of safe containment for their spent fuel pools and some have entirely inadequate access to emer-gency power. In short, the lessons from Fukushima are clearly yet to be learned in Europe.

Yet some plants are located just 10 kilometres from major urban populations like the city of Antwerp, raising the question why evacuation plans were not considered as part of the stress tests. The tests also failed to consider the impacts of multiple disaster scenarios as experienced at Fukushima in 2011 - the very crisis that originally prompted the stress tests. On top of these questionable omissions, the test results are not standardized in any way, making comparisons effectively impossible. The results are lack of any kind of pass or fail criteria and the partiality of those carrying and vetting the tests and falls short of providing the relevant authori-ties with the necessary information to draw proper conclusions.

When EU heads of state and government meet in autumn 2012 to discuss the results of this exercise, they can only conclude that the stress tests and peer review fall far short of expectations. They should recognise that nuclear power will always remain a dangerous technology. This is why all European governments should develop a credible phaseout plan for nuclear power 
in Europe, starting with the most risky reactors.

Source: Critical Review of the EU Stress Test performed on Nuclear Power Plants. Study commissioned by Greenpeace. Authors: Antonia Wenisch, Oda Becker, May 2012 (Published 14 June 2012)
Both the full report and the executive summary are available at: www.greenpeace.org/eu-unit/en/Publi-cations/2012/stress-tests-briefing/
Contact:
Ing. Antonia Wenisch, Mail: antonia.wenisch[at]chello.at
Dipl. Phys. Oda Becker, mail: oda. becker[at]web.de

Nuclear News

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#795
05/12/2014
Shorts

Spain: We are all the Cofrentes 17

Celia Ojeda from Greenpeace Spain writes:

Seventeen people face trial in Spain on charges of public disorder, damage and injury. The punishment being demanded is nearly three years in prison. In addition, Greenpeace may have to pay a fine of 360,000 euros. Why? Because on February 15, 2011, 16 Greenpeace activists and a freelance photojournalist entered Spain's Cofrentes nuclear power plant, climbed one of the cooling towers and painted "Nuclear Danger" on it. Greenpeace's protests are peaceful actions. Is punishing the painting of a cooling tower with jail fair and proportionate? Defending the environment should not carry a cost that is higher than for destroying it.

In a time when peaceful protest is being questioned, Greenpeace points to Article 45 of Spain's constitution that establishes the right of everyone to "enjoy an environment suitable for the development of the individual as well as the duty to preserve it ". That is what Greenpeace does and it is a right our people exercised on February 15, 2011. So we have launched a campaign: COFRENTES MISSION: ARTICLE 45. Because when you have exhausted all other avenues, all you have left is peaceful protest. Three years ago we expected this trial to be held on 4 December, 2014. Today [November 19] we begin a campaign that will last 17 days. During these days we will be proposing 17 missions to make bring attention to the injustice the Cofrentes 17 are facing.

Abridged from www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/nuclear-reaction/we-are-a...

In a separate post, Raquel Montón, nuclear and energy campaigner for Greenpeace Spain, lists 17 nuclear power plants that ought to be shut down immediately − one for each of the 17 Cofrentes activists. Most of the plants are ageing: Fessenheim (France), Doel 3 (Belgium), Borssele (Netherlands), Gundremmingen B and C (Germany), Tarapur 1 and 2 (India), Dukovany (Czech Republic), Paks 2 (Hungary), Krsko (Slovenia), Forsmark 1 (Sweden), Cofrentes (Spain), Rivne 1 and 2 (Ukraine), Fukushima (Japan), Santa María de Garoña (Spain).

www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/nuclear-reaction/17-nucle...

Australia: Kakadu Traditional Owner just wants a house on his country

Kirsten Blair, Community and International Liaison officer with the Gundjehmi Aboriginal Corporation, writes:

Jeffrey Lee spoke powerfully about his work to protect Koongarra from mining at the closing plenary of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia on November 18. Kakadu, in the tropical Top End of the Northern Territory, is Australia's largest National Park and is dual World Heritage listed for both its natural and cultural values. Encompassing tropical wetlands, extensive savannah and soaring sandstone escarpments and waterfalls this region has been sculptured and shaped by people and nature for many tens of thousands of years. Jeffrey Lee, the Senior Traditional Owner of the Djok clan in Kakadu fought for many years to see his country at Koongarra protected from the threat of uranium mining. In 2011 he made the long journey from Kakadu to Paris to see the World Heritage Committee include Koongarra in the World Heritage estate and in 2013 the area was formally included within Kakadu National Park and permanently protected from uranium mining. [Areva is understood to be planning legal action against the Australian government over its 2013 decision to veto mining at Koongarra.]

For decades Jeffrey was pressured to allow uranium mining on his land at Koongarra and for decades he resisted – refusing millions of dollars in promised mining payments. Now he is seeking something. After generously allowing his land to be included in Kakadu National Park Jeffrey has a modest ask of the Australian Government in return: please build a house on his country. Jeffrey spoke to thousands of delegates at the closing plenary of the World Parks Congress in Sydney and told the story of his long fight to protect Koongarra. He concluded by calling on the Australian Government to come good on their promise to build him a house on his country. "I have said no to uranium mining at Koongarra because I believe that the land and my cultural beliefs are more important than mining and money. Money comes and goes, but the land is always here, it always stays if we look after it and it will look after us," he said. "While I'm down here at this Congress, I want to tell people about Koongarra and remind the Government that I did all that work to protect that country. All I'm asking is for a place to live on my country. I don't want to wait until I've passed away, I want to live on my county now. "I don't want the Government to forget me, they came to visit me, they congratulated me on my hard work and said they will support me in this. The Government knows how hard I worked, they gave me an Order of Australia and I'm happy for that. Now I just want a commitment from them for a house so I can live on that country that I fought for."

www.mirarr.net

Environmental Justice Organisations, Liabilities and Trade reports

Environmental Justice Organisations, Liabilities and Trade (EJOLT), a collaboration between 23 universities and civil society organisations, published two significant reports on nuclear and uranium issues in November.

'Expanded nuclear power capacity in Europe, impact of uranium mining and alternatives' tackles the myths that nuclear energy is clean, reliable, cheap and climate friendly. In reality, nuclear energy capacity in Eastern Europe is characterised by hidden externalised costs, technical problems and covered-up dangers. At the same time, alternative options for energy production and measures for managing energy demand already exist. The report focuses on Bulgaria and Slovenia, where the full range of issues with nuclear energy are exposed: from zombie mines to badly managed radioactive waste. Slovenia plans one new nuclear power plant and prolongs one other, while Bulgaria is planning two new nuclear power plants. The report concludes that projected Bulgarian and Slovenian energy demand is deliberately exaggerated by competent authorities, while nuclear costs are underestimated. This is despite the existence of an economically justifiable potential for renewable energy solutions, at lower cost per kWh.

Raeva, D., et al., 2014, Expanded nuclear power capacity in Europe, impact of uranium mining and alternatives. EJOLT Report No. 12, 129p., www.ejolt.org/2014/10/expanded-nuclear-power-capacity-in-europe-impact-o...

'Uranium mining. Unveiling the impacts of the nuclear industry' argues that the EU should improve legislation and practices to limit the environmental and health impacts of uranium mining. Lead author Bruno Chareyron states: "Uranium mining is increasing the amount of radioactive substances in the biosphere and produces hundreds of millions of tonnes of long lived radioactive waste. The companies have no solutions for the confinement of this waste and for the appropriate management of contaminated water flowing from the mine sites, even decades after mine closure." The cost of remediation should be properly estimated and paid by the mining companies. Field studies done for this report reveal how zombie mines keep affecting the lives of thousands, even decades after the mines are closed.

The report draws from on-site studies performed in Bulgaria, Brazil, Namibia and Malawi in the course of the EJOLT project and from previous studies in France and Africa over the past 20 years. It gives examples of the various impacts of uranium mining and milling activities on the environment (air, soil, water) and provides recommendations to limit these impacts.

Chareyron, B., et al., 2014, Uranium mining. Unveiling the impacts of the nuclear industry. EJOLT Report No. 15, 116p., www.ejolt.org/2014/11/uranium-mining-unveiling-impacts-nuclear-industry/

UK reactor plans face obstacles

Paul Brown writes:

Plans to build two giant nuclear reactors in south-west England are being reviewed as French energy companies now seek financial backing from China and Saudi Arabia − while the British government considers whether it has offered vast subsidies for a white elephant. A long-delayed final decision on whether the French electricity utility company EDF will build two 1.6 gigawatt European Pressurised water Reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset − in what would be the biggest construction project in Europe − was due in the new year, but is likely to drift again. Construction estimates have already escalated to £25 billion (US$39.3b, €31.5b), which is £9 billion more than a year ago, and four times the cost of putting on the London Olympics last year. Two prototypes being built in Olikuoto, Finland, and Flamanville, France, were long ago expected to be finished and operational, but are years late and costs continue to escalate. Until at least one of these is shown to work as designed, it would seem a gamble to start building more, but neither of them is expected to produce power until 2017.

British experts, politicians and businessmen have begun to doubt that the new nuclear stations are a viable proposition. Steve Thomas, professor of energy policy at the University of Greenwich, London, said: "The project is at very serious risk of collapse at the moment. Only four of those reactors have ever been ordered. Two of them are in Europe, and both of those are about three times over budget. One is about five or six years late and the other is nine years late. Two more are in China and are doing a bit better, but are also running late." Tom Greatrex, the British Labour party opposition's energy spokesman, called on the National Audit Office to investigate whether the nuclear reactors were value for money for British consumers. Peter Atherton, of financial experts Liberum Capital, believes the enormous cost and appalling track record in the nuclear industry of doing things on time mean that ministers should scrap the Hinkley plans. Billionaire businessman Jim Ratcliffe, who wants to invest £640 million in shale gas extraction in the UK, said that the subsidy that the British government would pay for nuclear electricity is "outrageous". Finding the vast sums of capital needed to finance the project is proving a problem. Both EDF and its French partner company, Areva, which designed the European Pressurised water Reactor (EPR), have money troubles. In November, Areva suspended future profit predictions and shares fell by 20%.

Chinese power companies have offered to back the project, but want many of the jobs to go to supply companies back home − something the French are alarmed about because they need to support their own ailing nuclear industry. Saudi Arabia is offering to help too, but this may not go down well in Britain. On the surface, all is well. Preparation of the site is already under way on the south-west coast of England, with millions being spent on earthworks and new roads. ... But leaks from civil servants in Whitehall suggest that the government may be getting cold feet about its open-ended guarantees. ... The Treasury is having a review because of fears that, once this project begins, so much money will have been invested that the government will have to bail it out with billions more of taxpayers' money to finish it − or write off huge sums.

− Abridged from Climate News Network, www.climatenewsnetwork.net/europes-nuclear-giants-are-close-to-collapse

Belgium: Fire takes another reactor offline

Electrabel closed the Tihange 3 power reactor on November 30 after an electrical fire, leaving only three of the Belgian firm's seven nuclear plants in action. Several electrical cables outside the reactor caught fire. Electrabel operates seven nuclear reactors − four in Doel and three in Tihange − producing about half of Belgium's electricity demand.Doel 3 and Tihange 2 were off-line for almost a year in 2012−13, due to the discovery of thousands of cracks in the reactors' steel containment vessels, and they were shut down again in March 2014. Sabotage on August 5 by an unidentified staff member damaged the steam turbine of Doel 4, causing its automatic shut down.2

1. www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/30/belgium-nuclear-idUSL6N0TK0LV20141130
2. www.wiseinternational.org/node/4202

Uranium mine sludge discharge permit threatens Lake Malawi

Paladin Africa Ltd, which mines uranium ore in Malawi's northern district of Karonga, has come under fire from a coalition of Malawian civil society groups and chiefs over its proposal to discharge mining sludge into the Sere and North Rukuru rivers. The toxic substances that would flow from the tailings pond at the Kayelekera Uranium Mine into Lake Malawi 50 kms downstream include waste uranium rock, acids, arsenic and other chemicals used in processing the uranium ore, the coalition fears. A statement issued by the Natural Resources Justice Network (NRJN), a coalition of 33 civil society organisations active in the extractive industry sector, expressed grave concerns about a recommendation by the National Water Development and Management Technical Committee in the Ministry of Agriculture that the minister issue a discharge permit to Paladin Africa.

Officials from Paladin Africa at a November 4 meeting told participants, according to NRJN members present, "Paladin fears that if the water from the tailings dam is not released into Rukuru River then there is a high risk that the contaminated water from the dam would overflow as a result of the impending rains." The NRJN says it is "shocking and inhumane" for Paladin to put the lives of millions of Malawians at risk as a result of the company's failure to plan properly. "We therefore ask Paladin to build a second tailings dam as was the initial plan and consequently refrain from this malicious practice of discharging radioactive effluents into the river systems, which would subject lives of innocent Malawians to a series of acute and chronic health effects," the NRJN said in its statement. The coalition is calling for an independent team of chemists to conduct studies of the lake to ascertain whether effluents proposed for discharge from the mine are indeed safe. Paladin Africa issued a statement in February that due to the sustained low uranium price, processing would cease at Kayelekera and that the site would be placed on care and maintenance. Following a period of reagent run-down, processing was completed in early May.

Abridged from Environmental News Service, http://ens-newswire.com/2014/11/25/uranium-mine-sludge-discharge-permit-...

USA: Mismanagement at nuclear weapons bases

Problems at nuclear weapons bases continue to attract widespread media commentary. Typical of this is a BloombergView editorial which states: "The shenanigans that have been going on at U.S. nuclear bases are almost too clownish to believe: officers running a drug ring across six facilities, widespread cheating on monthly proficiency tests, blast doors on missile silos too rusty to properly seal, six nuclear-armed missiles accidentally loaded onto a plane that then flew across the country, and a curious story of crews at three bases FedExing one another an apparently magical wrench used to connect warheads to intercontinental ballistic missiles."

www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-11-24/the-pentagons-nuclear-disaster

See also:

http://nationalinterest.org/feature/atomic-anxieties-tough-choices-ahead...
www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/old-nukes-and-old-thinkin...
www.nytimes.com/2014/11/14/us/politics/pentagon-studies-reveal-major-nuc...

The European Commission's nuclear decision threatens our clean energy future

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#793
4426
30/10/2014
Jan Haverkamp, nuclear expert consultant at Greenpeace Central and Eastern Europe.
Article

The authorisation by the European Commission of massive subsidies for the UK's Hinkley Point C nuclear project is an enormous set-back for the country's development of a sustainable and clean energy future. Not only that, it may well stall the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency in large parts of Europe for the next decade.

Strong nuclear lobbies in countries like Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia are pinning their hopes for survival on the Hinkley project. The chance to funnel large sums from state coffers and consumers' pockets to these megalomaniac pet projects will cause frantic activity in those countries where old, centralised energy systems are still popular with politicians.

Plans for 19 new nuclear reactors in Europe are based in the east of the European Union. Excluding the 12 reactors planned in the UK, there are none so far in Western Europe. It's hard to believe that even multi-billion euro hand-outs could change the atmosphere in countries like Italy, Spain, Belgium, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland, who are all phasing out their nuclear fleets.

There is a small risk that this will lead to new operating nuclear reactors. Nuclear power has priced itself out of the market in Europe with massive construction costs (5000 € / kWe or more). It's simply impossible to find sufficient financial backing unless countries are willing to sell themselves out completely to Russia's Rosatom and Vladimir Putin's financial and energy moguls, as Hungary and Finland are currently doing.

More disturbing is the threat of the discussion about energy efficiency and clean (and cheaper) renewable energy sources being pushed into the margins again. Europe needs to start urgently harvesting its abundant reserves of clean energy and plans for new nuclear reactors stand in the way.

The one non-nuclear country in the midst of it all, Austria, has announced it will fight the Commission decision in the European Court. It stands a good chance, because this deal breaks too many EU rules. As my colleague, Greenpeace EU legal adviser Andrea Carta, says: "It's such a distortion of competition rules that the Commission has left itself exposed to legal challenges. There is absolutely no legal, moral or environmental justification in turning taxes into guaranteed profits for a nuclear power company whose only legacy will be a pile of radioactive waste."

Reprinted from: www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/nuclear-reaction/the-euro...

Nuclear News

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#771
02/11/2013
Shorts

Nuclear fuel damage in Slovenian reactor
During a regular maintenance outage at the Krsko nuclear power plant in Slovenia, nuclear fuel was damaged.

Andrej Stritar, director of the Nuclear Safety Directorate, responded to a list of questions from Focus Association for Sustainable Development and Greenpeace Slovenia. Stritar said that on October 8, during an operation to transfer fuel from the reactor to the spent fuel pool, a fuel rod length of about 0.5m broke off and fell to the bottom of the spent fuel pool. Elevated radioactivity levels in the reactor pool, first detected in 2012, suggested a problem with fuel leaks.

Stritar said a report would be prepared into the incident but would not promise public release of the full report − his excuse is that release of the full report might jeopardise commercial intellectual property of the fuel manufacturer (Westinghouse).

Stritar said there are several possible causes of the incident such as small foreign objects that may damage the metal, or a manufacturing error.

Stritar said (translation by google-translate): "A finding of leaking fuel rods have not been evaluated by the INES scale, so we can not yet say what level would be."

The maintenance outage began on October 1 and will be extended beyond the planned 35-day period.

Questions and comments from Focus Association for Sustainable Development and Greenpeace Slovenia (google-translation): http://tinyurl.com/fasd-gs
Andrej Stritar's response to questions (google-translation): http://tinyurl.com/stritar

-----------------

Canada opens uranium sector to European investment, scraps new reactor plans 
A trade accord agreed in principle between Canada and the European Union (EU) will ease restrictions on European investment in Canada's uranium industry. It opens the door for companies like Areva SA and Rio Tinto to make much larger investments in Saskatchewan's uranium-rich Athabasca Basin. Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall said that the changes would make the province's uranium mining projects "much more attractive" to EU investors and estimated that the province could see investments of up to US$2.4 billion over the next 15 years as a result of the agreement.[1]

Investment restrictions have been in place since 1970, when Ottawa introduced the non-residential ownership policy (NROP). The law prevents foreign companies from owning more than 49% of a uranium mine in Canada, unless they cannot find a Canadian partner. The NROP has limited the competition for Canadian uranium leader Cameco, which owns stakes in most of the major projects in the Athabasca. Cameco's position has been that the NROP should remain in place unless other countries open up to uranium investment as well. While this free trade deal may open up the European market for Cameco, a company spokesperson said there are no obvious uranium resource opportunities on the continent that are worth developing.[2]

The Ontario government announced in October that it has abandoned plans for two new nuclear power plants and will focus on refurbishing its ageing facilities instead.[3] Ontario Power Generation had received detailed construction plans, schedules and cost estimates for the two reactor designs under consideration for new build at Darlington. The province's other nuclear operator, Bruce Power, has brought four mothballed units at the Bruce A plant back online but pulled back from plans for new units at Bruce in 2009.[4]

[1] www.world-nuclear-news.org/NP-Trade_deal_opens_door_to_EU_investors-2210...
[2] www.theprovince.com/business/Canada+uranium+market+free+trade+deal+pushe...
[3] http://planetark.org/enviro-news/item/70024
[4] www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN-Submissions_in_for_Canadian_plant-0107137....

About: 
Krsko

Multinational approaches

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#746, 747, 748
Waste special
02/05/2012
Article

Siting radioactive waste repositories is considered as one of the most difficult to solve problems in waste management, so one could think it would make sense for produces of radioactive waste and waste management organizations to limit the number of repositories. For politicians and waste management authorities, the idea of a shared repository is, at least intuitively, connected more to export than to import of waste. However, it could well be that international (sometimes referred to as 'regional') repositories, could increase the siting problem, in stead of easing it. The few initiatives so far all have had to cope with fierce local opposition, putting an end to those attempts.

Past initiatives

International repositories have been discussed at least since the early 1970s,(*01) but in the 1990 a number of initiatives made the headlines. In June 1997, in the openings speech of a IAEA symposium, Director General Blix said that international repositories should be 'examined'.(*02)

In 1995, the President of the Marshall Islands proposed hosting a storage and disposal facility, but the idea ran into strong opposition from other Pacific states and the United States. There was also fierce local opposition.(*03) The idea was dropped when the government changed.(*04)

Also in the mid 1990s, a U.S. based group, U.S. Fuel and Security, with support from the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy, initiated a scheme involving fuel storage on a Pacific Island — initially Wake Island and then later Palmyra Island.(*05) The scheme was met with strong opposition and was not pursued further. The Pacific Islands Forum, formerly the South Pacific Forum, a political grouping of sixteen independent and self-governing states in the Pacific, condemned the idea of using Palmyra as a “dumping ground for nuclear waste.”(*06)

Pangea
A third project was initiated by organizations in several countries, including Pangea Resources, a British-based company. In November 1998 an anti-nuclear activist was given a video that promoted Australia as a site for an international nuclear waste dump. The video was produced by the US company Pangea Resources. It had been leaked to Friends of the Earth in the UK, and they had passed it on for release in Australia. The video extolled the virtues of a privately run, long term, high-level nuclear waste dump for outback South or Western Australia. The 15-minute video built an argument that nuclear waste is a problem that will not go away, that the best way of dealing with it is putting it somewhere in stable rocks, that these rocks must be away from population centers, in a country with strong democratic institutions, and that there are only a few places in the world where these conditions apply, and ... Australia seemed to be the best choice! Although the proposal had been on the table for several years, discussions had been behind closed doors. Until the "unauthorised" release of the video, Pangea’s operations had been "private business."

Political opposition in Australia stopped further progress on the scheme.

In 2002, Pangea Resources rebranded itself as ARIUS − the Association for Regional and International Underground Storage − and it is still scheming to build an international high-level nuclear waste dump.(*07)

Mongolia
Shortly after the Fukushima accident it became public that Japan and the United States had discussions with Mongolian officials, just before the March 21 accident, to jointly build a spent nuclear fuel storage facility in Mongolia to "serve customers of their nuclear plant exporters".(*08) This led the Mongolian authorities to issue a statement denying plans to bring nuclear waste to the country and pointing out that “Article 4.1 of  Mongolia’s law on exporting and banning import and trans-border shipments of dangerous waste unequivocally bans import of dangerous waste for the purpose of exploiting, storing, or depositing.”(*09)

On September 13 Mongolian President Elbegdorj, in response to reports of ongoing secret talks with both Japan and the U.S., issued a presidential order banning negotiations and abandoning the plans. On September 21, President Elbegdorj once again affirmed in the United Nations General Assembly that "Construction plans in Mongolia will absolutely not be accepted."(*10)

European Union
For all countries, building a national repository is a major challenge and extremely expensive. Some countries are not even in the process of developing a national repository and are looking for ways to work together to address the common challenges. In Western Europe, one of the first initiatives to explore 'shares solutions' was formed in 1992.(*11) Lately, a number of countries in the European Union consider the option of shared repositories following the experience of the SAPIERR project (Strategic Action Plan for Implementation of European Regional Repositories). Since 2003 the EC has funded SAPIERR I and II.(*12) Based on the SAPIERR findings, a Working Group has been created in early 2009 to enable the establishment of a European Repository Development Organisation (ERDO), which would contribute to develop the concept of a shared repository as a complement to the national facilities being developed. Currently, Austria, The Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Italy, Lithuania and Slovenia participate in this Working Group. The ERDO-WG is a project managed by the national waste agency of the Netherlands, Covra, and the Arius Association on behalf of its Members.(*13) Arius, as noted above, was called Pangea until 2002.

In July 2011, the European Commission adopted a directive for disposing of spent fuel, including radioactive wastes from nuclear power plants and from medical and research facilities. It sets compulsory and legally enforceable standards for all European Union member states. It does not specify specific disposal strategies, but it does permit two or more member states to share a disposal facility and also allows exports of spent fuel and radioactive waste — but not to African, Caribbean, or Pacific countries.(*14)

ERDO model for Gulf states and SE Asia?
Arius has received grants from two charitable foundations in the USA to enable the Association to extend the concept of regional, multinational cooperation to other parts of the world. Arius has explored the feasibility of adapting and applying the ERDO model to other global regions and concluded that, of various possible areas worldwide, the regions that may show the most immediate promise and potential interest are the Arabian Gulf region and South-East Asia.(*15)

Dumping waste on the poor
As long as initiatives for regional repositories exist, opponents point out that it can turn out to be an ethically risky idea. Countries that up until now have indicated some potential interest in being a host, have always been weak states that are in urgent need for money and / or do not have a developed civil society. A connection between poverty and accepting foreign waste is an ethical concern and should not be allowed: the shift from commercial to voluntary cooperation could partly answer this concern, but the debate on compensation needs carefully guarded.

Multination approaches

*01- Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists: Putting Radioactive Waste on Ice: A Proposal for an International Radionuclide Depository in Antarctica,  January 1973
*02- Nuclear Fuel: Examine international repositories, Blix urges fuel cycle symposium, 16 June 1997, p.15-16
*03- Pacific News Bulletin: Marshall Islands: Nuke waste dump concerns, June 1997
*04- Giff Johnson: Marshalls put a freeze on N-waste plans, Marshall Islands Journal, June 1997
*05- Der Spiegel: Ab auf die Insel (Away, on the island), 15 July 1996
*06- Ken Silverstein: Nuclear Burial in the Pacific, The Progressive, Vol. 61, No. 11, November 1997, pp. 32-34.
*07- More information, and the video, is available at: www.foe.org.au/anti-nuclear/issues/oz/import-waste
*08- Reuters: Japan, U.S. plan nuclear waste storage in Mongolia –paper, 8 May 2011
*09- Embassy of Mongolia in Vienna, Press release, 10 May 2011, www.embassymon.at/news/emb_news_53.html
*10- News Watch 145: Mongolian government drops nuclear disposal site plans, CNIC, Nov/Dec 2011
*11- Nuclear Fuel: Groups in western-Europe looking at idea of regional waste solutions, 28 September 1992, p.3-4
*12- Ewoud Verhoef, Charles McCombie, Neil Chapman: Shared, regional repositories: developing a practical implementation strategy, 2009
*13- ERDO Website: www.erdo-wg.eu
*14- European Council: Council Directive 2011/70/Euratom establishing a Community framework for the responsible and safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste, Brussels, 19 July 2011
*15- Arius website: www.arius-world.org/

Ukraine safety upgrade program: precondition for lifetime extension

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#745
04/04/2012
Antonia Wenisch & Patricia Lorenz
Article

In November 2010 the EBRD and the European Union's Euratom announced plans to finance what is called by Ukraine a safety upgrade project, but what is in fact a precondition for the lifetime extension of the reactors. European public money would therefore be used to expand the lifetime of Soviet-era nuclear reactors instead of investing in safe closure and decommissioning - costs which haven't been accounted for yet in Ukraine's plans.

An expert review of Ukraine's Nuclear Power Plant Safety Upgrade Program, that is to be financed by Euratom and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), shows that some of the measures included in the SUP are necessary for the lifetime expansion of the plants and not for their regular functioning until the initially planned term.

According to the ecological assessment (EA) report released in October 2011, the safety upgrade project (SUP) program costs around 1.34 billion euro, though EBRD estimates are upwards of 1.45 billion. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development intends to grant up to 300 million euro (US$ 400m) for the project, and 500 million euro (US$ 665m) is to be provided by the Euratom loan facility. Currently both institutions are preparing loans and the EBRD’s Board of Directors is scheduled to decide on this loan on 18 September, 2012 and Euratom in May 2012.

The EBRD and EC have requested a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) for the SUP. However as early as the project’s scoping stage, the public was informed that EBRD staff and Energoatom agreed only to an ecological assessment (EA) for the project in line with procedures outlined in European SEA Directive 2001/42/EC regarding public participation.

SUP includes measures for the safe modernisation of all of Ukraine’s 15 operating nuclear reactors and should be implemented by 2017. Twelve of these reactors were designed to finish operations before 2020, and two units were supposed to be taken off the grid in 2010 and 2011 but received licenses to operate for additional 20 years. The SUP is therefore designed for nuclear reactors that face the end of their designed lifetime.

In 2005 Ukrainian nuclear power plants provided about 50 percent of the electricity produced in the country. According to Ukrainian energy strategy, this proportion of nuclear power should remain until 2030. This decision is justified by the presence of domestic uranium deposits, the stable operation of existing nuclear power plants and the high costs of constructing new nuclear power plants.

According to the Energy Strategy, by 2030 seven units will have received a license for a lifetime extension of 15 years, including Zaporizhia 3-6, Rivne 3, Khmelnitsky 1, South Ukrainian 3 and two units that started operation in 2004: the Khmelnitsky 2 and Rivne 4. In 2004 the Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers approved the “nuclear reactors lifetime extension plan”, which foresees extending the lifetime of all operating nuclear reactors by an additional 15 years.

Prolonging the operation of the nuclear power plants from 30 to 45 years requires a huge effort in terms of modernisation and safety improvements in order to reach internationally-acceptable status. The EA SUP however concerns only the safety improvements, and this is only one side of the development. The other side is the material degradation of reactor components of which the most important is the reactor pressure vessel (RPV). The RPV is the only component which cannot be replaced. Due to harsh conditions in the primary system (high temperature and pressure and high neutron flux), embrittlement, corrosion, cracks and abrasion weaken the primary cooling system material. A failure of primary system components could lead to a loss of coolant accident.

To prevent the development of a severe nuclear accident, so-called accident management measures are implemented. The SUP mentions such measures as guidelines for organisational activities and emergency measures.

Another important influence is from the European Union nuclear power plants “stress test” that Ukraine has agreed to participate. In its report the Ukrainian nuclear authority has already defined some measures that are to be completely implemented at the nuclear reactors, if the operators wish to apply for lifetime extension. The peer-reviewed results will not be known until May 2012 and may offer new insights and subsequently new safety measures to be required at the Ukrainian nuclear power plants.

In fact, Euratom and the EBRD have been asked to finance a program labelled only as ‘safety upgrades’, though it is impossible to argue this both technically and economically.

SUP precondition for lifetime extension
Proponent of the SUP, the Ukrainian state nuclear operator NEC Energoatom claims that SUP measures will address only safety measures and are not a precondition for the lifetime extension of reactors. However a new report shows this claim is misleading: SUP measures will be used to provide a sufficient safety level to extend operations and are not necessary for safely shutting down the reactors.

While the Ecological Assessment (EA) for the safety upgrade project claims that the planned safety upgrade measures are not part of extending reactor lifetime beyond their designed 30-year lifetime, this study shows that the safety measures for 15 reactors are in fact connected to the lifetime extension program. SUP measures like those related to component integrity are conditions for extending the lifetime of reactors. The reasons for this are as follows:

  • Measures to address only safety issues and not lifetime extension simply do not exist. The EA SUP explains that “security systems and other essential safety equipment are kept operating until the final stop and first phase of the decommissioning, i.e. until the unloading of the spent nuclear fuel.” The dates on which Ukraine’s reactors reach the end of their design lifetime are indicative of the need of reactor’s life-time extension one unit in 2012, two in 2014, two in 2015, two in 2016, two in 2017 and two in 2019.
  • Economic viability - both loans need to be repaid, and Euratom cannot grant loans without a statement from the European Investment Bank (EIB) showing that the loans can be repaid, likely to be based on the future operation of those nuclear power plants.

Officially these European institutions have been asked to finance the programs labelled as safety upgrades, though it is impossible to argue this technically or economically. This claim seems to have been chosen because:

  1. EBRD and Euratom financing conditions allow only for safety upgrade financing so the lifetime extension needs to be concealed;
  2. this avoid a discussion about ageing problems of Soviet-era nuclear power plants once the lifetime extension plans for all 15 reactors by 15 years would become known
  3. this avoids conducting an strategic environmental assessment (SEA); the SUP is not only called a safety upgrade program but also substitute sectoral policy by intending to modernise and prolong a whole nuclear power-producing sector; even pilot projects were run. A full SEA would require assessment of alternatives to reactors life-extension and transboundary involvement.

This report finds that no information about the SUP was provided outside of Ukraine, and it is probable that neighbouring states would demand full transboundary SEA and EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) for such a sensitive topic.

Instead only the EA designed solely for the SUP was conducted in Ukraine without any transboundary assessment. The report shows that this approach is far from best practice in the nuclear field and does not comply with international conventions like the ESPOO convention on transboundary impact assessments or the Aarhus Convention on access to environmental information, nor does it even come close to fulfilling EU legislation. The EU’s SEA directive would have to be applied to assess alternatives to safety upgrades and lifetime extension; instead the EA concludes that there are no alternatives to safety upgrades and claims those measures are needed even for safe closure.

We expect Euratom, the European Commission and EBRD to follow their guidelines and to enforce good governance, public participation and information disclosure and good practice with respect to international conventions like the strategic environmental assessment protocol, Espoo and Aarhus.

More broadly nuclear energy today is causing even more concern than before the nuclear accident at Fukushima. European institutions should encourage project applicants to inform the public about their projects in line with all available tools like Espoo contact points. It is unacceptable that a major, high-risk project is being considered for financing from European institutions without the public in EU member states being informed.

One year after the Fukushima accident, the European public would welcome information about the lifetime extension of nuclear power plants that are already three decades old.

The SUP was prepared prior to the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, and it is not acceptable that decisions on the program are taken before the stress tests are completed and the EU draws its first conclusions about reactor safety. We believe that these institutions will not finance Ukrainian reactor safety measures before the peer review of Ukraine’s stress test report has been prepared.

The EBRD and Euratom want to hide the fact that they are contributing both financially and politically to at least another 15 years of nuclear risk. The argument that Ukraine would go ahead and operate the reactors even without EBRD and EURATOM funding is troubling and implicitly alleges that the Ukrainian operator and regulator would act irresponsibly.

The Ukrainian authorities already licensed lifetime extensions at Rivne reactors 1 and 2 without first applying the Espoo Convention. The Espoo implementation committee is now inquiring about violations in this case. We expect both Euratom and the EBRD to withhold a decision about SUP pending a resolution to the Rivne 1 and 2 lifetime extension decision.

Some modernisation measures are “significant changes” e.g. the planned nuclear fuel exchange and call for EIA implementation. One of the first SUP objectives is the introduction of second generation fuel with improved cycles in order to reduce neutron fluence on the reactor vessel to mitigate embrittlement effects. The switch to longer fuel cycles is not mentioned in the SUP but is an objective of the energy strategy. High fuel burn-up increases the risk of accidents, because it accelerates the accident progression.

The reliability of the Ukrainian nuclear safety programs are cause for concern. A 2006 EBRD press statement says “…a modernisation programme for all nuclear power plants in Ukraine currently being implemented will upgrade all 13 nuclear reactors to internationally recognised nuclear safety level by 2010.“ Thus the question of why are new programs, including the SUP within the „Comprehensive Safety Upgrade Program,” necessary? This study provides an overview of the very non-transparent management of safety improvement programs in Ukraine. It seems that all safety measures not implemented by 2010 were merely incorporated into the SUP for the period 2010 to 2017.

Source: 'Critical Review of the “Ukraine NPP Safety Upgrade Program” - Why the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and EURATOM should not finance the lifetime extension program of Ukrainian nuclear power plants'; March 2012 by Antonia Wenisch & Patricia Lorenz; Commissioned by CEE Bankwatch Network. Available at: http://bankwatch.org/sites/default/files/Ukraine-SUP-review.pdf
Contact: David Hoffman, Na Rozcesti 1434/6, 190 00 Praha 9 – Liben, Czech Republic
Tel: +420 274 822 150
Email: david.hoffman[at]bankwatch.org
Web: http://bankwatch.org

EU assistance for decommissioning nuclear plants Bulgaria, Lithuania and Slovakia

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#742
6230
17/02/2012
WISE Amsterdam
Article

In the frame of their European Union accession nego­tiations and in view of increasing nuclear safety, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Slovakia committed themselves to the early clo­sure and subsequent decommissioning of eight 'non-upgradeable' nuclear reactors. The European Court of Auditors found that progress has been slow, no comprehensive assessment of future needs exists, and available funding is plainly insufficient. The Court recommended making conditional any further support upon an evaluation of the EU added value.

The special report “EU Financial assistance for the decommissioning of nuclear plants in Bulgaria, Lithuania and Slovakia: Achievements and Future Challenges” by the European Court of Auditors, deals with the implementation of the decommissioning programmes from 1999 up to the end of 2010. The main objective of the Court’s audit was to "assess the effectiveness of the EU funded programs (1999–2010) in con­tributing towards the decommissioning of the nuclear reactors and addressing the consequences of their early closure." The EU provided financial assistance to the three country-programs: 2 850 million euro overall for the 1999-2013 period. The main vehicles for EU funding for decommissioning of the 8 reactors were the TACIS (providing technical assistance to the partner States in eastern Europe and central Asia) and the PHARE programs (supporting financial and technical cooperation with the candidate central and eastern European countries).

Meanwhile, Bulgaria (Kozloduy 1-4), Lithuania (Ignalina 1-2) and Slovakia (Bohunice V1 1-2) have closed the reactors between 2002 and 2008 in line with their commitment, the main process is still ahead and its finalisation faces a significant funding shortfall.

The conclusions are devastating:

(a) As a result of a relatively loose policy framework, the programmes do not benefit from a comprehensive needs assessment, prioritisation, the setting of specific objectives and results to be achieved. Responsibilities are diffused, in particular with regard to monitoring and the achievement of programme ob­jectives as a whole. The Commission’s supervision focuses on the budgetary execution and project implementation.

(b) There is no comprehensive assessment concerning the progress of the decom­missioning and mitigation process. De­lays and cost overruns were noted for key infrastructure projects.

(c) Although the reactors were shut-down between 2002 and 2009, the pro­grammes have not yet triggered the required organisational changes to al­low the operators to turn into effective decommissioning organisations.

(d) Currently available financial resources (including an EU contribution until 2013 worth 2,85 billion euro) will be insuf­ficient and the funding shortfall is sig­nificant (around 2,5 billion euro)!

The Court recommends that:

(a) The Commission should put in place the conditions for an effective, effi­cient and economical use of EU funds. It should establish a detailed needs as­sessment showing the progress of the programmes so far, the activities still to be performed and an overall financing plan identifying the funding sources. Before further spending takes place, the Commission should analyse the resourc­es available and the expected benefits. This should lead in turn to objectives being aligned with the budget made available and to the establishment of meaningful performance indicators which can subsequently be monitored and reported on as necessary.

(b) Should the EU decide, as proposed by the Commission, to provide further fi­nancial assistance in the next multi-annual financial framework, this sup­port should be made conditional upon an ex ante evaluation of the EU added value of such intervention, identifying the specific activities to be financed through the EU budget and taking ac­count of other funding facilities such as Structural Funds.


Delays and Cost-overruns
As at 31 December 2010, the programs had launched 101 projects which contributed towards the decommissioning of the eight reactors. The total value of these projects, which were almost exclusively funded by the EU, was 1 125 million euro.

An analysis of the infrastructure projects shows delays and cost overruns. In particular, key projects within the critical path of the decommissioning process are delayed, for example facilities for spent fuel and radioactive waste management (i.e spent fuel storage facili­ties and facilities for radioactive waste treatment, storage and final disposal).

In March 2011 the recipient Member States updated their de­commissioning cost estimates, to reach 5,3 billion euro. A comparison with the decommissioning funding currently avail­able at national and programme level suggests a shortfall of around 2,5 billion euro.

Slovakia has committed itself to topping up the funding need­ed for decommissioning and has created a specific funding mechanism (a tax on electricity transmission) to contribute towards reducing the funding shortfall. Lithuania and Bulgaria have not put in place any equivalent mechanism. The absence of sufficient funding arrangements puts the completion of the decommissioning processes at risk.


Sources: European Court of Auditors Special Report No 16/2011 “EU Financial assistance for the decommissioning of nuclear plants in Bulgaria, Lithuania and Slovakia: Achievements and Future Challenges”. Available at: http://eca.europa.eu/portal/pls/portal/docs/1/12036727.PDF

About: 
WISE

Status of stress tests nuclear power plants in EU

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#735
6182
21/10/2011
Patricia Lorenz, FoEE
Article

In reaction to the Fukushima nuclear disaster the European Union decided to start a process to make sure whether European Union nuclear power plants are safe and events like in Japan can be excluded in Europe. Stress tests are defined as: 'Reassessment of safety margins of nuclear power plants in the light of the events at Fukushima: extreme natural events challenging the plant safety functions and leading to severe accidents".

In a three step process all countries were to check their plants based on the ENSREG (European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group) criteria catalogue, which again is based mostly on WENRA (Western European Nuclear Regulators' Association) criteria. While the first is a legitimate body of all 27 EU nuclear regulators, WENRA is a only the club of nuclear regulators.

A major issue is transparency, often announced by the regulators and EU officials, but this did not trickle down to the regulators ye. WENRA did conduct an almost unnoticed public consultation on the criteria, but did not even acknowledge receiving contributions from the public, like e.g. fairly elaborate contributions by FOEE (Friends of the Earth Europe) or Greenpeace and other groups. Nothing was taken up, no reason given why not. The first part of the stress tests was finished in time, when in August all operators handed in the reports on their plants. Based on these, the regulator reports were made and published on the ENSREG homepage. The differences in methods, approaches and simply the number of pages of the reports, of course are substantial.

One of the most important lessons learnt from Fukushima is that the probabilistic approach is not reliable; events unlikely to happen according to models and codes used during designing, licensing and safety checks, were obviously proven wrong. This is reflected in the ENSREG paper, urging states to look into extreme natural events, like seismicity and flooding and their combinations.

A good example for business as usual is the Romanian report. For assessing the seismic risk they apply very weak criteria which are contradicting international practice. For earthquakes it would be necessary to look into a earthquake which have a return period of at least 10 000 years and use this data to prove that an NPP resists an earthquake. Instead the Romanian reports sticks with the old data and uses the 1000 years return period chosen as design basis. The Czech report with 7 pages only stands out by being of exceptionally poor quality; however, there is an understanding they will come up with more complete one in the next few weeks. Similar though the situation in the Netherlands, where the regulator so far did not receive much more than the overview over what the Borssele operator will send until October 31.

The Slovak reports went into a lot more length, but the key questions are not answered:  In case of a station black-out, when no emergency diesel generators are available, having time is a great advantage to restore power for starting up cooling pumps for removing residual heat from the reactor and cooling the spent fuel pool. The report does not show clearly, how long it is possible to keep the reactor in a safe state during severe accident measures without power. There is no prove provided on how external impacts like airplane crashes, fires, explosions can be excluded as direct hazards for the reactor buildings /containment systems, which could lead to core melt.

What is to happen next: The EU Commission and ENSREG will produce the first progress report based on the individual country reports for the EU Council meeting on December 9. This phase is followed by a unique new procedure: EU peer review, when teams will evaluate the reports and are expected to even look at the nuclear power plant site. This is something very new in nuclear safety, which is the field of national competence only. The exact conduct of those peer review is of course an issue of discussions. Currently it seems that there will be 17 peer review teams. 14 of them will be vertical (looking into all aspects - one per country) and 3 will be horizontal (looking at all countries but only one issue: earthquakes, floods, loss of power and ultimate heat sink). Coordination will be done by a supervisory board.

There are concerns about the role of Mr. Petr Krs from SUJB to head the peer review process. This leading role given to the Czech regulator is met with a lot of distrust and criticism from NGO in this field. SUJB is acting openly pro-nuclear in the domestic energy debate and there is a lot of criticism about SUJB's role in the welding case around Temelin and the national stress report.

Two major Fukushima issues are not looked into properly: the emergency preparedness in case of severe accidents in European plants and the security issues. While it is obvious, that evacuations are not possible in densely populated European countries, the issue of security threats like armed attacks and targeted airline crashes are hidden under the thick cover of confidentiality of interior ministries, secret services and similar institutions. Along those lines a European Council working group was formed and started its meetings:  The first meeting of this working group under the Atomic Question Group (ATO), called Group Ad Hoc on Nuclear Security (GAHNS) took place before the summer break. It can be seen as a success, that all EU Member States participated in this group, including UK and Czech Republic. The European Commission participates as an observer. Some information from this group is expected to be taken up in the Commission Reports to the Council in December, April and June. The group has prepared a long list of issues and questions to be addressed.

The peer review will last until mid-2012. During this phase several evaluating events are expected to take place. On the one hand NGOs will demand seminars to be held in their countries, which will be encouraged by the EU Commission. The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is organizing a conference in December in Brussels and in the Summer of 2012 ANCLI (the National Association of Local Information Committees) and the EU Commission will co-organize a major meeting on stress-tests and Aarhus Convention. For further information also concerning the broader context please read the article already published earlier in this publication.

Source: Patricia Lorenz (with information provided by Jan Haverkamp –Greenpeace International- and independent nuclear safety expert Antonia Wenisch, who contributed first evaluations of some of the country reports)
Contact: Patricia Lorenz
Mail: patricia.lorenz[at]foeeurope.org

Little stress with stress test

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#728
6144
17/06/2011
Patricia Lorenz, FoEE/Global 2000
Article

The stress tests for European Union (EU) nuclear power plants were suggested by the Austrian Minster for the Environment right after the Fukushima disaster, without concrete ideas how they should be performed. The idea was quickly adopted by Brussels and hijacked by the nuclear establishment, namely WENRA. Stress tests are defined as: "Reassessment of safety margins of nuclear power plants in the light of the events at Fukushima: extreme natural events challenging the plant safety functions and leading to severe accidents.”

The Western European Nuclear Regulators' Association (WENRA) outlined a proposal, which was put up for public commenting until May 5. Slightly more resistance than expected became visible in the run-up to agreeing on the WENRA stress test outline by EU member states: ENSREG, created in 2007, the until this point hardly known Group nuclear regulators (European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group) represents also the non-nuclear EU-27 countries. In ENSREG, some countries, mainly Austria and Germany, did not accept the WENRA suggestions and asked for much more stringent testing - with out-spoken support by EU Commissioner Oettinger, wanted more stringent stress test. However, the operator countries tried to stay in the usual routine of testing– under the political leadership of UK and France.

Negotiations were really tough, especially the EU Commission warned that negotiations might break down and no stress test and nothing similar would be achieved. The compromise was presented on May 25. (see box: EC-Memo)

Yes:  plane crash will be included in the tests – but only in an implicit manner

No: Terror is not a task of majority of ENSREG regulators, therefore terror attacks cannot be included. This matter will be discussed with the Council to determine who is responsible (intelligence, police etc.).

This part of the stress test is really not clear, it is a compromise, because Austria and Germany wanted to include air crashes, but the big nuclear countries are against. Therefore the robustness of nuclear power plants in case of external impacts are stressed regarding their ability to guarantee cooling and safe shut down (ultimate heat sink and power supply). An explosion near the plant or an air crash both challenges the structure of containment and other essential buildings directly or for example due to a fire. Severe accident management is stressed in all these events. In this context the robustness of structures, systems and components has to be proofed; weak points are to be identified and improvements should be proposed. Subject of the stress test is not the initiating event (air crash, flooding, explosion or fire) but the capability of the plant to maintain, control, safe shut down and core cooling without external support as long as necessary (the lesson from Fukushima: it could be weeks  to reclaim control over the nuclear power plant).

The Stress test is defined as: “Reassessment of safety margins of nuclear power plants in the light of the events at Fukushima: extreme natural events challenging the plant safety functions and leading to severe accidents.” (ENSREG Annex 1 EU 'Stress test' specification)

The stress test will be conducted in 3 phases:
-1: started already on June 1: the operators/utilities make a report based on stress test criteria
-2: until August 15 the reports of the operators will be submitted to the national regulators, they will review the reports until September
-3: September: the European part of the test starts; teams from member states conduct peer reviews, also in the field to check the reports of phase 1 and 2 as well as the nuclear power plants. Those teams will consist of different experts from national regulators and EU Commission experts.

The Council will receive the final report for 9 December meeting.  EU Commission might suggest measures on how to continue. Tests will be prolonged into 2012.

In addition: In mid June, the member states energy ministry representatives will invite the EU neighbouring countries (Switzerland, Russia, Ukraine, Armenia and Turkey) to join the stress test effort. Switzerland already presented the first stress test results, at the same time the Swiss government decided the phase-out.

The information which has to be prepared by the operator is listed in Annex 1:
* All natural disaster esp. earthquakes and floods, need to be reassessed, in terms of return period and severity;
* The evaluation methodology has to be described as well as the reasons for the chosen design basis; and a conclusion on the adequacy of the design basis.
* Combinations of those disasters should be included.
* Provisions to protect the plant against natural disasters
* Plant compliance with the current licensing basis

Evaluation of safety margins, weak points and provisions to improve the robustness are also to be specified; In the end assessment of the range of disaster severity the plant can withstand without losing confinement integrity.

The most important functions needed during any emergencies in a nuclear power plant should be secured: Availability of power supply, and heat removal must be evaluated regarding redundancy and diversity. The time power sources and water supply can operate without external support has to be assessed. Provisions to prolong this time and increase the robustness of the plant are to be indicated. An evaluation of robustness of essential structures, systems and components which are needed for severe accident management is also foreseen.

A lesson from Fukushima is not that not only one reactor, but several plus the spent fuel pools can be affected by a major (natural or man-made) disaster at the same time.

The set-up of the stress test as described above might lead to useful results. Reports of each phase will be made public. It will be crucial that the public stays involved and closely follows the process, because the stress-tests are voluntary and the extent and depth of testing will be determined by national regulators. Some of the regulators already made clear that they do not expect to go much further than their routine testing. The first one to state that was the ENSREG chairman Mr. Stritar who pointed out the regulators are continuously testing and improving nuclear safety in their countries, also the Czech regulator does not see much news, only admitted that the issue of flooding might have changed since the plants were designed and sited due to climate change.

A quick calculation of high-risk reactors – older than 30 years (44 reactors) or lack of containment (12 reactors) or situated in a seismic region (5 reactors) and the 6 BWRs – gives the number of 67 reactors out of the 143 to be tested in the EU.

Interesting detail: EU Commissioner Oettinger believes, that the EU Commission will be invited when planning of new NPP is on the table. However, Bulgaria already announced that the planned NPP Belene is not to be stress-tested. The EU Commission also announced that the safety directive will be updated soon.


EC- MEMO 11/339 of 25 May 2011:
“What will be assessed in the stress tests?
It will be assessed whether the nuclear power plant can withstand the effects of the following events:
1- Natural disasters: earthquakes, flooding, extreme cold, extreme heat, snow, ice, storms, tornados, heavy rain and other extreme natural conditions.
2- All man-made failures and actions. These accidents can be: air plan crashes and explosions close to nuclear power plants, whether caused by a gas container or an oil tanker approaching the plant, fire. Comparable damaging effects from terrorist attacks (air plane crash, explosives) are also covered.”


Source and contact: Patricia Lorenz, Antinuclear Campaigner, FoEE/Global 2000
Neustiftgasse 36, A-107- Vienna, Austria
Email: [email protected]

About: 
Global 2000

No-nuke EU member state coalition in the making

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#728
6141
17/06/2011
Niels Henrik Hooge
Article

For more than a decade, the idea that EU non-nuclear member states should cooperate to try to phase out nuclear power in Europe has haunted anti-nuclear activists, green politicians and lobbyists from the clean energy sector. In spite of the obvious benefits such cooperation might bring, nothing ever happened. However, the catastrophic events at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant might have changed that: At a meeting in Vienna late May, representatives of eight European non-nuclear countries decided to form a coalition to combat climate change and develop sustainable energy sources without relying on nuclear power.

On May 25, ministers and heads of delegations of Austria, Greece, Ireland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta and Portugal signed a common declaration [1] to be presented at the next meeting of the EU Environment Council on 21 June in Luxembourg. Among the principal issues under discussion were the environmental aspects of nuclear power and the potential for phasing it out in Europe. The eight countries emphasised their view that nuclear power is not compatible with sustainable development and that it is not a means to combat climate change. They also stressed the need to draw the lessons from the events in Japan in European energy policy. Among others, this means implementation of the highest possible standards for nuclear safety - including closure of nuclear reactors that cannot be upgraded within a reasonable time frame; but also that renewable energy and energy conservation must play a major role in the future.

Probably the real thing
Considering that it is not the first attempt to form an alliance against nuclear power, it seems appropriate to take critical look at its viability. Back in 2007, environment ministers from eight European countries launched a similar initiative to reduce the role of nuclear power in European climate policy and published a declaration much like the one from Vienna [2]. However, even though the initiative included large countries such as Germany and Italy and even non-EU member states such as Norway and Iceland, it quickly petered out. So what are the prospects of success this time around and what could be the role of the coalition?

At least three things are different - two of them beneficial for a no-nuke coalition and the third more complex: The first is of course the Fukushima disaster, which will not disappear any time soon and continues to undermine the so-called nuclear renaissance. The second is that Germany – the biggest economy in Europe – recently re-decided on a relatively quick nuclear phase-out, substituting nuclear with renewable energies. It is reasonable to assume that Germany, not to be put in a position of disadvantage, will be forced to strike a blow for renewables at the European level at the expense of nuclear power. Germany’s main priority will probably not be improvement of nuclear security or safety or environmental issues, but the need for a level playing field for renewable energy sources in the European energy markets. This could increase the pressure to reform or abolish the Euratom Treaty, which is considered the backbone of the European nuclear support infrastructure. In all circumstances, the probability of the no-nuke coalition having an impact will increase because of this development.

The coalition must walk on two legs
The third factor is that the coalition is not only a no-nuke, but also a non-nuclear coalition. None of the member states involved in the initiative have nuclear programs. This might warrant a common outlook, but at the same time constitutes an obvious weakness: The political capital needed to develop and push for a coherent policy on nuclear issues outside of the countries’ own borders is very small, considering that there is very little domestic interest in this subject. Furthermore, virtually no green NGOs in these countries have nuclear power on their agenda, so both the general level of motivation and knowledge is low. The only exception is Austria, whose NGOs and shifting governments have over the years taken a keen interest in the nuclear policies of its neighbouring countries and in Europe. It is not coincidental that the concept of a coalition of no-nuke EU member states was developed in Austria in the nineties [3].

On the plus-side, it must be recognised that the coalition constitutes an immense leap forward. Counting in the three countries that participated in the Vienna meeting as observers, but did not sign the declaration - Cyprus, Estonia and Denmark – the coalition covers 40 per cent of all EU member states. Its greatest asset could be its capability to transform into a coalition that is able ‘to walk on two legs’. This would imply putting together a political package combining nuclear issues of moderate political appeal – at least in non-nuclear countries - with issues pertaining to renewables that potentially could attract a lot of attention. Reforming or abolishing nuclear support infrastructures is not possible without at the same time developing an institutional framework furthering renewable energy sources. This might open the door for the newly developed concept of a European Community for Renewable Energy (ERENE) [4]. Such a community could be established on the basis of existing EU treaties as a co-operation between at least nine member states or on a new, separate treaty alongside EU and Euratom.

In all circumstances, we will know more when the coalition has its next meeting in Athens in the fall.

Sources:
[1] Declaration, 25 May 2011, Vienna, http://www.nonuclear.se/en/vienna_declaration20110525
[2] Joint Ministerial Statement on Nuclear Power and Climate Change, October 2007: http://www.bmu.de/english/international_environmental_policy/doc/40060.php
[3] Workshop, Coalition of Non-Nuclear Countries (NoNuC), Paper prepared by Anti Atom International (AAI), Vienna, February 1998, Sponsored by the Austrian Ministry of Environment, Youth and Family and the Austrian Chancellery, http://www.unet.univie.ac.at/~a9406114/aai/studien/studien.html#fuenf 
[4] ERENE, European Community for Renewable Energy, A feasibility study by Michaele Schreyer and Lutz Mez in collaboration with David Jacobs, Commissioned and published by the Heinrich Böll Foundation, June 2008, http://www.boell.de/downloads/ecology/ERENE-engl-i.pdf

Contact: Niels Henrik Hooge, Copenhagen, Denmark
Tel: +45 21 83 79 94
E-mail: [email protected]

Ukraine - EU's second backbone corridor

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#727
6138
27/05/2011
David Hoffman, coordinator of new media CEE Bankwatch Network.
Article

At the end of the nineteenth century, then-president of Mexico Porfirio Diaz likely had never visited Ukraine when he supposedly said, “Poor Mexico, so far from God, so close to the United States!” More than a century later, his quote about the US's demand on its neighbor’s resources being an ever-present factor underpinning their diplomatic relations increasingly applies to Ukraine's relations with the European Union when it comes to the energy sector.

Over the past few years, a series of strategies, agreements and loans have brought the EU and its eastern neighbor into closer cooperation on perpetuating nuclear and carbon-intensive energy infrastructure and generation, with international financial institutions (IFIs) brokering the deals. An embodiment of this collaboration are plans for the construction of the so-called “second backbone corridor”, a major section of high-voltage transmission lines connecting three nuclear power plants and two pumped storage plants across Ukraine, with a planned capacity of a potential 12 GW. The estimated cost of the project is 1.2 billion euros. Ukraine is already a net electricity exporter. According to plans of Ukraine's government in 2030 the country plans to produce 25 TWh of excess electricity - close to Slovakia's total electricity generation in 2007. The most promising market for Ukraine's electricity is, of course, the integrated energy market of the EU. The planned "second backbone corridor" stretching from the East to the West of the country could perfectly serve export purposes.

Missing in all of this, however, are steps to first address the slew of problems that plague the Ukrainian nuclear industry, as well as proposals for alternative energy scenarios that will truly benefit the Ukrainian people.

A word about the nuclear industry in Ukraine.
While most notorious for the devastating accident at Chernobyl a quarter of a century ago, the Ukrainian nuclear industry is riddled with numerous problems and the longer such issues persist, the greater the cost will be to Ukrainian taxpayers in the future.

The nuclear industry continually postpones action to address unavoidable issues: Ukraine has not yet created a unified national system for final disposal of radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel as required by nuclear legislation(*1). Neither is it currently investing in domestic infrastructure for the safe and long-term isolation of spent fuel and radioactive waste. Ukrainian nuclear plants annually produce about 150 tons of spent nuclear fuel and considering the government’s plans to extend reactor lifetime by 30 to 45 years, the total amount of spent fuel radioactive waste in Ukraine could reach 200 million tons. Estimates are that 'neutralizing' this hazardous waste will cost more money than the nuclear industry has generated in its entire existence. As Ukrainian nuclear power plants continue to age, the frequency of failures has increased, including minor emissions and leaks, cracks and short circuits. Almost every year from 2010 one nuclear unit in Ukraine will approach the end of its designed lifespan.

The recent extension of the first unit at the Rivne nuclear power plant is one example of the consequences of such inaction. Though the lifetime of reactor one had expired, in December 2010 its operation was officially extended another 20 years. Just two months later, after the nuclear industry spent about 215 million euros and declared that Rivne’s unit one was completely upgraded, in January 2011 an accident occurred and reactor one was subsequently taken down to 50 percent power output. The State Inspectorate for Nuclear Regulation later confirmed that the accident posed no radiation threat and the nuclear facility remained in a safe condition, but the situation demonstrates that even with upgrades, ageing plants cannot be guaranteed to operate safely.

So close to the EU.
To be sure, both the Ukrainian government and the EU have been clear about their respective priorities when it comes to Ukraine’s energy sector. Though Ukraine inherited from the Soviet Union an extensive nuclear industry that today only accounts for six percent of the total primary energy consumption in the country, nuclear still forms the core of Ukraine’s Energy Strategy till 2030 (*2). In addition, increasing the percentage of dirty coal in the energy balance from 22 to 33 percent by 2030 (*3), the strategy envisions life extensions of twelve operational reactor units and the construction of 22 new ones, thus more than doubling the number of nuclear power plants.

As for the EU, a recent Commission communication elaborates that, “A common EU energy policy has evolved around the common objective to ensure the uninterrupted physical availability of energy products and services on the market.”(*4) The EU estimates also that its energy import dependence will jump from 50 percent of total energy consumption to 65 percent by 2030 (*5). To satisfy this demand the communication specifies that, “the Energy Community Treaty should be implemented and extended to all those EU neighbors who are willing to adopt the EU market model.” (*6) Late last year Ukraine joined the European Energy Community with the goal of integrating into the common European energy market.

The handmaidens tasked with reconciling Ukraine's priority of expanding its nuclear energy capabilities with the EU's priority of ensuring a steady supply of cheap energy are the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). While the European banks will most likely not do anything as crass as financing the new nuclear plants themselves, in 2005 Ukraine signed a framework agreement with the EIB prioritizing “Trans-European Network projects connecting Ukraine and the European Union.” (*7, *8) In June 2010 Ukraine and the EIB signed a Host Country Agreement to set up EIB representation in the country. And a draft of the new EBRD country strategy for Ukraine specifies that, “all new public infrastructure and energy projects are prepared together with the EIB on a 50-50 basis and are expected to benefit from grant co-financing and technical assistance from the EU Neighbourhood Investment Facility.” Support to the tune of 10 million euros came from the Neighbourhood Investment Facility in 2009 to implement Ukraine’s Energy Strategy till 2030 (*9).

The EBRD and EIB together have invested more than one billion euros in Ukraine’s energy sector over the last five years. Most of this financial assistance has been provided to the state power company Ukrenergo, to both rehabilitate existing and construct new power transmission lines throughout Ukraine. While the EBRD remains coy in its intentions with these projects, having said that the loans are to increase the overall stability of the grid system and the quality, efficiency and reliability of the electricity supply, the EIB is more brazen about the transmission lines forming, “important components of the future connection to the Trans-European Energy Networks (TEN-E).”(*10)

The implementation of these transmission projects has been problematic. The level of public engagement in procedures like Environmental Impact Assessments has been abysmal. The routing for transmission lines has been slated for national parks and reserves and Ramsar sites, as well as directly through villages without compensation or prior agreement from local communities (Ramsar sites are wetlands of international importance). The situation resulted in violent clashes between locals and police in the village of Usatove in November 2009.

With the development of the second backbone corridor, designed to allow Ukrenergo to offer neighboring i.e. EU grids up to 4 GW of electricity by increasing the availability of base and peak generation mix, Ukraine is moving even further “away from God” and towards a nuclear-fuelled, export-oriented energy sector.

Towards alternatives.
An analysis by Ukrainian NGOs (*11) demonstrates that the available capacity and possibilities to apply energy-saving technologies, and alternative and renewable energy sources provides an alternative to the nuclear option for the development of the Ukrainian power industry. These alternatives make unjustified the intention of the Energy Strategy till 2030 to construct 22 new reactor units and establish a closed nuclear fuel cycle in Ukraine.

One positive move is that preparations for a new draft Energy Strategy are underway. The new draft should be based on a study of actual energy losses in different economic sectors in order to assess the overall energy conservation capacity. Forecasts of consumption of primary energy sources in Ukraine in 2030 should be reassessed downward and account for assessments of GDP growth and the reduction of GDP energy intensity. The predicted share of renewables in the overall consumption of fuel and energy resources in 2030 should be reassessed to account for higher use of bio-energy and wind power.

Additionally Ukraine should reject the option of commissioning any new reactors, and all operational units should be decommissioned as planned. Cost estimates for reprocessing and storage nuclear waste, irradiated nuclear fuel and other costs of the nuclear power complex as currently unforeseen by the Energy Strategy need to be explained. Funds currently allocated for the construction of new reactors should be invested into the development of energy efficient technologies, alternative and renewable energy sources.

At the same time, EU energy policy needs reorientation to fully reflect obligations in the Treaty of the European Union to “help develop international measures to preserve and improve the quality of the environment and the sustainable management of global natural resources, in order to ensure sustainable development, with the primary aim of eradicating poverty” and to “ensure consistency between the different areas of its external action and between these and its other policies.”

As such EU energy policy should be subordinated to its development policy and contribute to achieving the aims above rather than aggressively promoting “energy security” through new interconnections with neighboring countries like Ukraine. For electricity transmission specifically, priority should be given to low-voltage local grid (below 110kV) modernization and the development of technical solutions to integrate state of the art renewable energy sources into the outdated design of the grid in in the region.

Notes:
*1- Law of Ukraine "On radioactive waste management"
*2- Approved by its Council of Ministers in March 2006
*3- 43.5 million tons of equivalent fuel in 2005 to 101 million by 2030
*4- Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the regions: Energy 2020, A strategy for competitive, sustainable and secure energy, 10 November 2010 p.3
*5- Communication from the Commission to the European Council and the European Parliament: an energy policy for Europe 10 January 2007 p.3
*6- Energy 2020, A strategy for competitive, sustainable and secure energy, 10 November 2010 p.3
*7- http://www.eib.org/about/press/2005/2005-042-eib-and-ukraine-sign-framew...
*8- http://www.eib.org/projects/regions/eastern-neighbours/index.htm?lang=-en In December 2009 the EIB set up the Eastern Partners Facility (EPF), a EUR 1.5 bn facility under which financing is extended at the EIB's own risk (i.e. without EC guarantee). This facility enables the EIB to provide loans that sector-wise go beyond the scope of the mandate and to help support EU investment in the region, notably through European corporations.
*9- NIF Operational Annual Report, 2009 http://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/where/neighbourhood/regional-cooperation/i...
*10- http://www.eib.org/projects/pipeline/2009/20090117.htm?lang=-en
*11- See http://www.necu.org.ua/wp-content/plugins/wp-download_monitor/download.php?id=100

Source and contact: David Hoffman, coordinator of new media CEE Bankwatch Network.
Na Rozcesti 6, Prague 9 - 190 00 Czech Republic
Tel: + 420 274 816 571
[email protected]

Proposed Euratom nuclear waste directive

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#719-720
6101
12/11/2010
Jan Haverkamp, Greenpeace International
Article

European Union Member States should be aware of significant and potentially costly omissions from the European Commission’s proposed Euratom directive, delivered by Commissioner Oettinger on 3 November 2010. The risk is that a sub-standard Commission proposal leads member states to invest heavily in facilities which fail, with costly financial and environmental effects. However, Greenpeace welcomes some areas of increased transparency on the issue.

“This proposal is little more than a PR exercise to try and persuade Europeans that nuclear waste can be dealt with. What we need is a serious attempt to reduce the burden that radioactive waste is putting on future generations and the environment. It would take an engineering genius to safely bury white hot, highly-dangerous nuclear waste deep underground for longer than mankind has been on the planet. There are gaps in the science and no disposal site currently exists, yet the Commission is claiming this is a proven method. We fear a disposal facility could rupture high level nuclear waste into the water table for a hundreds of thousands of year,” says Greenpeace EU dirty energy campaigner Jan Haverkamp

A PR exercise
A 2008 Eurobarometer poll (‘Attitudes Towards Radioactive Waste’) showed that nuclear waste is a major barrier to public acceptance of nuclear power. The nuclear industry wants to overcome public resistance to new nuclear power stations. Greenpeace believes this proposal as drafted with this aim in mind. Instead of being an honest attempt to improve waste management and lessen the burden of nuclear waste on society, it is a reckless attempt to paper over the hazards of waste disposal and achieve industry aims.

The nuclear industry has been searching for a long-term disposal method for 60 years. Deep disposal has dominated the research effort put into the management of highly radioactive nuclear waste for over 30 years and takes centre stage in the proposed directive. The Commission claims a scientific consensus has been reached and construction should proceed. However, it makes no reference to scientific studies and has not ordered a literature review of research (for more information see Rock Solid? - A scientific review of geological disposal of high-level radioactive waste, Genewatch UK, 2010, see Nuclear Monitor 717, 8 October 2010). The risk is that a sub-standard Commission proposal leads member states to invest heavily in facilities which fail with costly results, both financially and environmentally. The documents do not propose to shield deadly waste from future human interference and there are no measures to monitor and retrieve waste in case of leaks.

The proposal sets out to deal with an environmental issue, yet under its ‘impact assessment’ section rules out the need for any environmental impact assessment. It also underestimates the large potential costs of long-term radioactive waste management, masking the true cost of nuclear power. The document presents no ‘plan B’ in case the scientific/engineering uncertainties are not overcome.

The proposal fails to set standards for so-called ‘authorised emissions’ allowing harmful radioactive waste from reprocessing plants and power stations to be released into the environment. Additionally, both the newly proposed Euratom directive and the EU Directive 2006/21/EC (covering waste from extractive industries) point to each other for the management of waste from uranium mining, meaning that the sector falls between the gap and is in effect unregulated. Many regions and even human settlements are blighted by radioactive waste from uranium mining, such as in Australia, the Americas, Central Asia and Africa. Additionally, the proposal fails to safeguard against international disposal sites being created, exposing less developed parts of Europe to the possibility of becoming ‘nuclear waste dumping grounds’.

Out of line with EU hazardous waste laws
The major omission in the Commission’s proposal is any attempt to harmonise radioactive waste legislation with laws covering other hazardous wastes. The Commission should integrate basic principles from EU hazardous waste legislation into this new law. This would require the EU to implement the precautionary principle and oblige firms to only use the best available technologies for nuclear related infrastructure and phase-out processes that produce waste but are not essential. In effect, this omission creates a far less stringent policy for radioactive waste, despite it being one of the most hazardous waste categories.

Civil society marginalised
Input from outside the nuclear industry amounts to two out of 17 pages. Arguments from environmentalists, concerned citizens and local municipalities were marginalized as stemming from a “fundamental opposition towards nuclear energy” instead of being judged on their merits. That the logical consequence of many of those arguments may be a phase-out of nuclear energy should not be a reason to, in effect, exclude them from the public consultation.

Greenpeace welcomes areas of the proposal showing greater transparency, greater independence of nuclear waste authorities and an obligation to implement the polluter pays principle, though questions remain how the Commission wants to secure this. Greenpeace also welcomes the obligation placed on member states to work out radioactive waste policies and implementation plans, but urges the Commission to guarantee that these are based on science and responsibility towards people and environment in this and future generations, and not, as seems to be the case now, on the short-term interests of the nuclear industry.

Retrievability
During his November 3, press conference, Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger declared repeatedly that he was of the opinion that waste would have to be reachable for inspection and oversight at all times. This could mean that the Commission is prepared to include retrievability in the conditions for radioactive waste management, a possibility that was welcomed by Greenpeace. His spokeswoman Marlene Holzner, however, retracted on that during a debate on BBC Newshour on the same day in which she limited oversight for the period in which a deep geological disposal site is filled up.

The proposal will now be forwarded to the European Parliament, where it will be discussed in the ITRE (Energy) and the ENVI (Environment) Committees for advisory comment. Parliament cannot take binding decisions under the Euratom Treaty. The proposal also will be tabled to the European Council, where it will first be discussed in the Atomic Questions Group (ATO), which consists of nuclear experts from the 27 EU Member States. The final version of the directive will then be adopted in a formal session of the General Affairs Council in about half a year from now.

Source: Greenpeace Briefing, 26 October 2010; personal mail Jan Haverkamp, 6 November 2010
Contact: Jan Haverkamp – dirty energy campaigner Greenpeace EU Unit.

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#717
08/10/2010
Shorts

EU: ITER budget 2011 cut.
Members of the European Parliament's budget committee on October 4, voted to cut planned funding for the ITER experimental nuclear fusion project in 2011. The budget committee adopted an amendment to cut the ITER budget by 57 million euro to Euro 304.76 million (US$419.77 million) in 2011 in a revision to the EU's research budget. The week before, the parliament's rapporteur on the budget, Polish center-right MEP, Sidonia Jedrzejewska, said it was difficult to find cuts in the research budget because of very tight limits in the long-term budget and the need for proposed increases in areas like entrepreneurship and innovation and other energy-related projects. MEPs agreed to compensate for increases in expenditure in these areas by making equivalent cuts in the ITER budget, based on the assumption that the fusion project, which is running behind schedule, would not need all the funds allocated to it in 2011. This did not go far enough for the Green group, which wants the ITER program scrapped. "The least costly option would be to abandon the project now before the main construction has started at all. All the more so, given the massive doubts as to the commercial viability of nuclear fusion, which even optimistic analysts agree will not be commercially functional before 2050... We are deeply concerned that the Council is planning to throw an additional Eur1.4 billion into the black hole that is the ITER budget in 2012 and 2013," German Green MEP Helga Trupel said.
Platts, 5 October 2010


Canada: 60 million for electricity not produced.
The people of Ontario paid Bruce Power nearly Can$60 million in 2009 to not generate electricity for the province. According to the Toronto based CTV news station, a deal between the nuclear generator, a private company, and the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) sets out a guarantee for a certain amount of power to be purchased -- even if it's not needed; the socalled ‘surplus baseload generation’. The OPA agreed to pay Bruce Can$ 48.33 (US$ 47.67 or 34.48 euro) for each megawatt hour of electricity that was not needed. In 2009, demand for electricity was down in Ontario, largely as a result of the recession. This meant Bruce's nuclear reactors weren't operating at full capacity. As a result, the OPA paid Bruce power Can$ 57.5 million for about 1.2 terawatt hours of electricity that was not produced. A terawatt is a million megawatts. An OPA spokesperson said the arrangement is like having a fire station: “they aren't needed all the time, but one must still pay to keep it open”. A Bruce Power spokesperson said the company is simply fulfilling its side of the deal.
CTV Toronto, 21 September 2010


Australia: no NT Government support for Angela Pamela mines.
Australia’s Northern Territory Government would not support the establishment of a uranium mine at Angela Pamela, 20km south of Alice Springs, it said 27 September. Paladin Energy Ltd, which holds an exploration licence for the Angela and Pamela uranium deposits with joint-venture partner Cameco Australia, says it is “surprised” by the announcement. Although the project is still at the exploration phase, Paladin says it has already spent “many millions of dollars,” relying on encouragement and positive support from the government.  Chief minister Paul Henderson said that the close proximity of the mine to tourist centre Alice Springs “has the very real potential to adversely affect the tourism market and the Alice Springs economy.” According to Nuclear Engineering International, the decision does not mean that the government is against development of uranium mines elsewhere. Ultimately approval for the establishment of a uranium mine will be the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government.
Nuclear Engineering International, 29 September 2010


Kuwait: opposition to nuclear fantasies.
A Kuwaiti lawmaker questioned plans by the oil-rich Gulf emirate to build a number of nuclear reactors for power generation and demanded information about the expected costs. In a series of questions to Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah on September 22, the head of parliament's financial and economic affairs panel, Yussef al-Zalzalah, asked if sufficient studies have been made on the issue. He also demanded to know the size of the budget allocated for the project and what has been spent so far. In its drive to develop nuclear energy for peaceful use, particularly to generate electricity, the Gulf state set up Kuwait National Nuclear Energy Committee (KNENEC) in 2009 headed by the prime minister. The emirate has signed memoranda of cooperation with France, the United States, Japan and Russia and, in April, upgraded its deal with France to the level of a full agreement.

KNNEC secretary general Ahmad Bishara said earlier in September that Kuwait will sign a fifth memorandum of cooperation with South Korea, which last year clinched a multi-billion-dollar deal with the neighboring United Arab Emirates. Zalzalah also inquired about press statements that Kuwait planned to build four 1,000 MW reactors by 2022, and if sufficient studies were made, and demanded documents related to the issue. Bishara has said Kuwait expects electricity demand to double in 10 to 15 years from the current 11,000 MW, which would make the country face a serious power shortage. KNNEC is conducting a series of studies on the cost of power generation by nuclear energy, setting up legal frameworks, reviews on potential sites for nuclear reactors and human resources, Bishara said. These studies are expected to be completed before the end of the year, and then the KNNEC will make the decision if Kuwait is to go nuclear, he said.

It sounds that even in a country where absolutely no civil society exits, there is still opposition to nuclear power.
AFP, 23 September 2010


Greenpeace takes radioactive waste to the European Parliament.
On October 7, Greenpeace delivered radioactive waste to the door of the European Parliament to remind MEPs in their last plenary session before considering a new nuclear waste law, that there is no solution to nuclear waste. Two qualified Greenpeace radiation specialists delivered four radioactive samples in two concrete and lead-lined containers. Dozens of trained Greenpeace volunteers zoned off areas with tape before handcuffing themselves in rings around the containers to ensure their safety.

Four samples of radioactive waste were collected from unsecured public locations: Sellafield beach in the UK; the seabed at la Hague in France; the banks of the Molse Nete River in Belgium; and from the uranium mining village of Akokan in Niger. Despite their danger, the materials are not classified as radioactive waste when discharged or left in the open environment as they stem from so-called 'authorised emissions' or from uranium mining. Yet, when collected and put in a container, the samples are classified as radioactive waste that needs to be guarded for centuries until decayed. Other nuclear waste, such as that waste from decommissioning and spent nuclear fuel, is even more dangerous and must be stored for hundreds of thousands of years. There is no way of securing this waste over such long time periods with guaranteed safety, and it continues to pile up all over the world.

Parliament will consider a nuclear waste law for Europe in November. But early drafts exclude the type of radioactive waste Greenpeace delivered. Immediately upon arrival, Greenpeace informed the Belgian national waste authority, which is responsible for containing such waste.
Greenpeace press release, 7 October 2010

EU agreement on ITER cost overruns

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#714
6073
20/08/2010
WISE Amsterdam
Article

Four years ago, the EU, Russia, China, India, Japan, Korea and the US picked Cadarache in the south of France as the location for the experimental nuclear fusion reactor, Iter. But since the science of how to achieve this type of fusion hasn't been settled (to put it mildly), the plans for the Iter project have been the subject of several revisions in recent years, each one leading to an increased price tag. Even opponents from within the scientific world are becoming more vocal to end the project.

Delegates at an extraordinary meeting of the Iter Council on July 28 also agreed a timeline that would see the first plasma experiments in 2019, with a fusion reactor generating significantly more power than it consumed (for a few minutes) by March 2027. But the Iter organisation was encouraged to explore ways to bring this deuterium-tritium operation forward to 2026. After research and development at Iter it should be possible to build a demonstration fusion power plant around 2030.

Coupled with the increases in costs for raw materials like steel and cement, the budget for the project has spiralled from around 5 billion euros to about 16 billion euros.

Delegates agreed that the overall costs of the project will be almost US$21 billion (16 billion euros), some three times the original price. Europe is paying 45% of the construction costs, while the other participants (China, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the USA) are paying 9% each.

Additional construction funds will have to come from within the EU's budget. The extra 1.4 billion euros will cover a shortfall in building costs in 2012-13. The EU has agreed to meet a critical short term shortfall of those 1.4 billion euros by using money that has been allocated to other research programmes. But the EU has said it will cap its overall contribution to Iter at 6.6 billion euros, leaving the fusion project to find cuts in costs of around 600 million euros.

In Europe, some scientists are unhappy with the EU proposal to take funds from unspent budgets to bail Iter out. In France, a group of physicists - including Nobel prize winner Georges Charpak - have written a letter to the press calling Iter a catastrophe and arguing that it should be shut down. They suggest that making up the shortfall in Iter's budget is costing France alone the equivalent of 20 years investment in physics and biology. According to one of the signatories, Professor Jacques Treiner from Paris University, it was time to call a halt to Iter before any more money was spent. "At a certain point especially when they say they will take money from other fields to fund this one you have to say, really a clear answer and the answer is no, don't do that."

More on the technical problems of  nuclear fusion: Fusion Illusions, Nuclear Monitor 698, 27 November 2009

Sources: BBC, 28 July 2010 / World Nuclear News, 29 July 2010

About: 
WISE

IN BRIEF

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#704
26/02/2010
Shorts

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

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