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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...

EU state aid victory

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

The European Commission (EC) has ruled out creating specific State Aid guidelines for nuclear power; guidelines which would facilitate increased public funding of nuclear power programs. A draft of new guidelines by the EC specifically addressed the possibility of allowing public support for nuclear power. However, that proposal has been withdrawn after protest from some European governments − e.g. Austria and Germany − and a strong civil society campaign.

A spokesperson for EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said the decision not to proceed with guidelines for nuclear power did not make it illegal to use public money to help finance nuclear power: "This simply means that state aid notifications by member states will continue to be assessed directly under (EU) treaty rules and the standard in this field will be determined by the Commission's case practice.".[1]

European Commission spokesperson Antoine Colombani said on July 23: "State aid for nuclear power is currently not prohibited by EU rules: member states' plans in that respect are notified to the commission and assessed directly under the Treaty rules, in the absence of specific commission guidelines in this sector. The purpose of this assessment is to check that such subsidies do not unduly distort competition in the EU single market, as member states are of course free to make their own choices when it comes to nuclear power."[2]

Colombani noted that the EC is planning to adopt guidelines on state aid for energy and environmental protection next year. While the establishment of guidelines facilitating increased state aid for nuclear power has been excluded for now, the pro-nuclear forces will likely continue lobbying.

The inclusion of guidelines for state aid for nuclear power may have made it easier for the UK to secure EC approval under competition laws for the subsidies it is offering to EDF and other partners in the Hinkley Point C nuclear power project. However there are many variables and unknowns, and Hinkley will be a test case for the EC. A spokesperson for the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change said: "The Commission's draft guidelines have not been published yet. It is already possible to seek approval for aid for new nuclear, whether this is explicitly provided for in the new guidelines or not."[3]

State aid to renewable energy sources and energy efficiency is covered by an exemption in current guidelines for environmental state aid dating back to 2008.[4]

A draft report by the European Union Energy Director-General indicated that in 2011, 35 billion euros were spent on public subsidies for nuclear power, compared to 26 billion for fossil fuels and 30 billion for all types of renewable energy sources combined. The figures were not included in a subsequent draft.[5]

Several countries in central and eastern Europe are planning to expand or introduce nuclear power.[6] Speaking on behalf of the governments of four of these countries − Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia − Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban made a stridently pro-nuclear speech in mid-October. The statement cautioned against over-regulation of nuclear power and called for the EU's stance on state aid for energy projects to be reconsidered "because in our view, nuclear energy is being discriminated against." He said the four nations "expect the European Union to facilitate the increase of Central Europe's nuclear capacity, rather than impede it."[7]

References:
[1] www.utilityweek.co.uk/news/rules-gap-makes-hinkley-point-c-test-case-for...
[2] www.ft.com/cms/s/0/acef27e8-eb1f-11e2-9fcc-00144feabdc0.html *
[3] www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/09/uk-britain-nuclear-aid-idUKBRE9980H82...
[4] www.energypost.eu/index.php/state-aid-for-nuclear-are-you-kidding/
[5] www.my-voice.eu
[6] www.dw.de/nuclear-power-on-the-rise-in-eastern-europe/a-17177810
[7] www.world-nuclear-news.org/NP-Dont_impede_our_nuclear_V4_tells_EU-151013...

More information:

 

Buying a future for nuclear – EU Commission proposes new state aid for new nuclear

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#766
23/08/2013
Patricia Lorenz - nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth Europe and GLOBAL 2000 / FoE Austria
Article

Since Spring the EU Commission has been preparing a review for state aid rules, and in Summer a leaked draft caused a shock, mainly in German speaking media. The governments of Austria and Germany made clear they are opposed to state aid proposals, but only Austria handed over a statement of opposition. Denmark took a negative stance at the energy summit in May, and German Chancellor Merkel is clearly against it – at least in German media, at least before elections on September 22.

Under EU law state aid is forbidden, unless allowed according to a very complex system. One exemption from the ban on state aid is based on environmental protection in the EU Treaty. This made the so-called block exemption for renewables possible, when different national systems introduced the new technologies for producing energy using wind or sun as fuel into the market. The current plan for the new environmental and energy guidelines for 2014−2020 constitutes a major change by introducing a technology-neutral approach, based on carbon only and recognising nuclear alongside renewables as a viable solution to climate change. A change of those rules − which was pushed forward mainly by UK, Czech Republic and France − would have very practical implications.

The experience of past years has proved that nuclear power plants cannot be built without subsidies. This is now acknowledged by those states who called for the freest of all markets − in the UK this is nuclear power project Hinkley Point C and Temelin in the Czech Republic and all other potential plants which might be under consideration (Poland, Hungary).

The Czech nuclear power project Temelin 34 is directly depending on the possibility of direct subsidies. After years of hammering that nuclear is cheap and will be only market based and without any public subsidies, the strategy changed. For the past months the two-third state-owned utility CEZ is officially in negotiations to find a way the Czech government will guarantee fixed feed-in tariffs for the new units "at least for a while after operation started" as they like to add. In numbers this is 30 years, the model being copied from the UK, the strike price model, which is currently under negotiation between EdF and the UK government.

The current review of the guidelines for environmental and energy state aid is a precondition, because the EU Commission has to agree to this extreme form of state aid consisting of a guaranteed minimum feed-in price for nuclear for 30–40 years. Energy Commissioner Oettinger calling this idea "Soviet" says it all.

While the EU Commission is hiding behind the fact that the paper leaked is only a draft and up for discussion, a look at the draft itself shows that it is clearly pro subsidy of nuclear and obviously added the EURATOM Treaty (compared to earlier drafts) as an argument:

"Insofar as these Guidelines set out rules on state aid for nuclear, the assessment under the TFEU will take due account the objectives of the Euratom Treaty. …

6.2 Aid to nuclear energy:
(157) Pursuing the development of nuclear energy, in particular by facilitating investment in nuclear energy, is an objective covered under Article 2(c) of the Euratom Treaty and therefore the Commission does not question that such support measures are aimed at a common EU objective."

Timing and Action
GLOBAL 2000 / FoE Austria will start the following activities via the relaunched campaign site www.my-voice.eu in early September: A petition open for signatures by citizens emailed to all EU Commissioners, because it is them who decide and only them. Not only the networks usually involved, but a much broader involvement of political players is under preparation.

As soon as DG Competition starts the last consultation on this review – not earlier than September 22 because Germany obviously asked to have it postponed until after national elections – we will inform about the start and provide a statement people can send as a contribution against the EU plan of giving nuclear a lifeline via state funding. The www.my-voice.eu website will be regularly updated with press releases and key info. A new legal analysis on state aid for nuclear will be published in September and in November the phase-out nuclear power in Europe study. Though the new guidelines should be in force by 1 January 2014, most likely the decision will not be taken by the EU Commissioners until next year.

 

About: 
Global 2000

Legal bid to halt nuclear construction

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#741
6218
03/02/2012
Energy Fair
Article

A formal complaint about subsidies for nuclear power has been sent to the European Commission (DG Competition). If it is upheld, it unlikely that any new nuclear power stations will be built in the UK or elsewhere in the EU. The complaint may be followed by legal action in the courts or actions by politicians to reduce or remove subsidies for nuclear power.

The complaint to the European Commission about subsidies for nuclear power has been prepared by lawyers for the Energy Fair group, with several other environmental groups and environmentalists.

Research by the Energy Fair group has identified 7 existing subsidies for nuclear power and at least 2 potential subsidies. They are summarised in “Forms of support for nuclear power”(*1). One of the largest subsidies in the complaint is the low cap on liabilities for nuclear accidents. “Like car drivers, the operators of nuclear plants should be properly insured” says Energy Fair. A report by the Insurance Forum, Leipzig (“Calculating a risk-appropriate insurance premium to cover third-party liability risks that result from operation of nuclear power plants”)(*2), a company that specializes in actuarial calculations, shows that full insurance against nuclear disasters would increase the price of nuclear electricity by a range of values -- Euro 0.14 per kWh up to Euro 2.36 per kWh -- depending on assumptions made. Even with the minimum increase, nuclear electricity would become quite uncompetitive. Without the other subsidies for nuclear power, it would be even more expensive. Counting only the Three Mile Island disaster in 1979, Chernobyl in 1986 and Fukushima in 2011 -- and excluding the near-disasters at the Narora nuclear plant in India in 1993, the Davis-Besse plant in Ohio in 2002, and the Forsmark plant in Sweden in 2006 -- we are averaging one nuclear disaster every 11 years

In summary, the “grounds of complaint” are:

* That the so-called “carbon price floor”, introduced in the Finance Act 2011, is a de facto tax on fuels used for the generation of electricity and that the exemption of uranium from that tax is incompatible with EU state aid rules, Articles 107 and 108 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).

* That the cap on liabilities for nuclear accidents of the Paris/Brussels Conventions constitutes state aid in the sense of Article 107 of the TFEU. Since Article 351 of the TFEU requires EU Member States to adapt and align their pre-existing Treaty obligations to be compliant with EU law, since relevant UK laws have not been amended in the light of that requirement, and since the cap on liabilities has not been notified to the European Commission, it is, technically, illegal under EU law.

* That the proposed cap on liabilities of nuclear operators for the disposal of nuclear waste falls under the definition of state aid in Article 107(1) of the TFEU; that, unless or until it is notified to the Commission, it is illegal under EU law; and that, since the measure cannot be justified (Article 107(3) of the TFEU), it should not be approved by the Commission and should not enter into force.

* That the proposed “feed-in tariff with contracts for difference”, as applied to nuclear power, is, under Article 34 of the TFEU, a measure having an effect that is equivalent to “quantitative restrictions on imports” and is thus contrary to EU law.

Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion and leader of the Green party of England and Wales, said: “The Government’s planned Electricity Market Reform is set to rig the energy market in favor of nuclear -- with the introduction of a carbon price floor likely to result in huge windfall handouts of around £50m (US$ 78,5 mln or 60 mln euro) a year to existing nuclear generators. Despite persistent denials by Ministers, it’s clear that this is a subsidy by another name, which makes a mockery of the Coalition pledge not to gift public money to this already established industry. If these subsidies are found to be unlawful, I trust the European Commission will take action and prevent the UK’s nuclear plans from seriously undermining the shift towards new green energy.”

Dr Dörte Fouquet, the lawyer who has been leading the preparation of the complaint, said: “The European Union has opted for opening up the energy market and is vigilant about creating a level playing field. In this regard, the Commission over the last years repeatedly underlined that distortion of the market is to a large extent caused by subsidies to the incumbents in the energy sector. This complaint aims to shed some light on the recent shift in the energy policy of the United Kingdom where strong signals point to yet another set of subsidies to the nuclear power plant operators.”

“There is no justification of any kind for subsidising nuclear power” says Dr Gerry Wolff of Energy Fair. “It is a mature technology that should be commercially viable without support. Renewables have clear advantages in cost, speed of construction, security of energy supplies, and effectiveness in cutting emissions of CO2. There are more than enough to meet our needs now and for the foreseeable future, they provide diversity in energy supplies, and they have none of the headaches of nuclear power.”

*1: The Energy Fair group report “Forms of support for nuclear power” is available at: www.mng.org.uk/ns
*2: The report by the Insurance Forum, Leipzig is available at: www.mng.org.uk/gh/private/20111006_NPP_Insurance_Study_Versicherungsfore....

Source: Energy Fair, News release, 19 January 2012
Contact: Energy Fair, Dr Gerry Wolff PhD, 18 Penlon, Menai Bridge, Anglesey, LL59 5LR, UK.
Tel: +44 1248 712962
Email: gerrywolff65[at]gmail.com
Web: www.energyfair.org.uk

European Commission misled over safety geological disposal

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#717
6090
08/10/2010
Jan Haverkamp - Greenpeace EU Unit
Article

A new study released today shows European leaders are being misled over the safety of underground nuclear waste disposal which could poison ground waters for centuries. The European Commission is due to publish a draft nuclear waste directive this autumn. The new report, 'Rock Solid? A scientific review of geological disposal of high-level radioactive waste' by Helen Wallace for Greenpeace International examines the current state of scientific evidence regarding the geological disposal of spent nuclear fuel and other high-level and long-lived radioactive wastes.

Deep disposal has dominated the research into the management of highly radioactive nuclear waste for over 30 years and is expected to be central to the directive. However, the European Commission has been misinformed of the dangers of deep disposal by its most critical advisors, the Joint Research Centre (JRC) and European Implementing Geological Disposal Technology Platform (IGD-TP). Both claim that a scientific consensus has been reached and construction should proceed. However, there is evidence to suggest that this is biased and deep geological storage projects could have serious problems that have not been identified because of lack of resources and funding for independent scrutiny.

The European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), which was founded in 1957 to promote the use of nuclear power in Europe, has been financing research in the area of geological disposal of high level radioactive waste for more than three decades and has provided considerable support to national research and development programs.

Worldwide, thirteen countries are actively pursuing long-term waste management programs for high-level radioactive wastes resulting from nuclear electricity generation, but no country has yet completed an operational geological disposal facility for such wastes.

The 2009 Euratom-funded Vision Document of the European Implementing Geological Disposal of Radioactive Waste Technology Platform (IGD-TP) states that “a growing consensus exists” that deep disposal is the most appropriate solution to disposing of spent nuclear fuel, high-level waste and other long-lived radioactive wastes, and that it is time to proceed to licensing the construction and operation of deep geological repositories for radioactive waste disposal. This conclusion is supported by the 2009 report of the European Commission’s (EC’s) Joint Research Centre (JRC), which states that “our scientific understanding of the processes relevant for geological disposal has developed well enough to proceed with step-wise implementation”.

The IGD-TP Vision Document has been prepared by an Interim Executive Group with members from the nuclear waste management organizations SKB (Sweden), Posiva (Finland) and Andra (France) and the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi). It adopts the vision that by 2025 the first geological disposal facilities for spent nuclear fuel, high-level waste and other long-lived radioactive waste will be operating safely in Europe. The Director of Energy (Euratom) for the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research states in the Foreword:

These will not only be the first such facilities in Europe but also the first in the world. I am convinced that through this initiative, safe and responsible practices for the long-term management of hazardous radioactive waste can be disseminated to other Member States and even 3rd countries, thereby ensuring the greatest possible protection of all citizens and the environment both now and in the future.

The IGD-TP states that inherent in “all the successful outcomes to date in European nuclear waste management programs” are judgments that safe geological disposal of spent nuclear fuel, high level waste, and other long-lived radioactive waste is achievable: “In this context, the future RD&D [Research, Development and Demonstration] issues to be pursued, including their associated uncertainties, are not judged to bring the feasibility of disposal into question.” This statement reflects the view expressed by the Radioactive Waste Management Committee (RWMC) of the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) that “geological disposal is technically feasible” and that a “geological disposal system provides a unique level and duration of protection for high activity, long-lived radioactive waste”.

However, the OECD/NEA position is merely a collective statement, based on the views of the RWMC, not an analysis of the existing scientific evidence. Similarly, the IGD-TP report relies on a road map towards radioactive waste management developed by the European Nuclear Energy Forum, and includes no references to papers in scientific journals. The EC’s JRC report is largely a description of ongoing research projects; it cites only three papers published in academic journals (one of which dates from 1999) plus lists of background reports, largely published by the NEA and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and a few conference papers. The report makes no obvious links between these summaries of research activity and its conclusion that Europe is ready to proceed to implementation of deep geological disposal. In a rare example of a referenced claim, the JRC’s statement that corrosion of steel (and the generation of hydrogen gas by this process) will not compromise the safety of a repository is based solely on an unpublished note of a panel discussion held in Brussels in 2007. Further, the report falsely claims that repository programs in Germany and the UK have “(temporarily) foundered mainly for reasons of public acceptance”, rather than because of safety issues.

In contrast, the present report is based on a literature review of research on deep disposal published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. It provides an overview of the status of research and scientific evidence regarding the long-term underground storage of highly radioactive wastes, and asks whether this evidence supports the view that such wastes can be disposed of safely underground. It finds that significant scientific uncertainties remain and it accordingly questions whether strong conclusions in favor of deep disposal can be drawn until all the relevant issues have been addressed.

This review identifies a number of phenomena that could compromise the containment barriers, potentially leading to significant releases of radioactivity:

* Copper or steel canisters and overpacks containing spent nuclear fuel or high-level radioactive wastes could corrode more quickly than expected.

* The effects of intense heat generated by radioactive decay, and of chemical and physical disturbance due to corrosion, gas generation and biomineralisation, could impair the ability of backfill material to trap some radionuclides.

* Build-up of gas pressure in the repository, as a result of the corrosion of metals and/or the degradation of organic material, could damage the barriers and force fast routes for radionuclide escape through crystalline rock fractures or clay rock pores.

* Poorly understood chemical effects, such as the formation of colloids, could speed up the transport of some of the more radiotoxic elements such as plutonium.

* Unidentified fractures and faults, or poor understanding of how water and gas will flow through fractures and faults, could lead to the release of radionuclides in groundwater much faster than expected.

* Excavation of the repository will damage adjacent zones of rock and could thereby create fast routes for radionuclide escape.

* Future generations, seeking underground resources or storage facilities, might accidentally dig a shaft into the rock around the repository or a well into contaminated groundwater above it.

* Future glaciations could cause faulting of the rock, rupture of containers and penetration of surface waters or permafrost to the repository depth, leading to failure of the barriers and faster dissolution of the waste.

* Earthquakes could damage containers, backfill and the rock.

Although computer models of such phenomena have undoubtedly become more sophisticated, fundamental difficulties remain in predicting the relevant complex, coupled processes (including the effects of heat, mechanical deformation, microbes and coupled gas and water flow through fractured crystalline rocks or clay) over the long timescales necessary. In particular, more advanced understanding and modelling of chemical reactions is essential in order to evaluate the geochemical suitability of repository designs and sites.

The suitability of copper, steel and bentonite as materials for canisters, overpacks and backfill also needs to be reassessed in the light of developing understanding of corrosion mechanisms and the effects of heat and radiation.

Unless and until such difficulties can be resolved, a number of scenarios exist in which a significant release of radioactivity from a deep repository could occur, with serious implications for the health and safety of future generations. In this light, the existence in a number of countries of ‘road maps’ for the implementation of deep disposal, and the rejection of other options, do not automatically mean that deep disposal of highly radioactive wastes is safe.

At present, the following issues remain unresolved and have implications for policy development:

* the high likelihood of interpretative bias in the safety assessment process because of the lack of validation of models, the role of commercial interests and the pressure to implement existing road maps despite important gaps in knowledge. Lack of (funding for) independent scrutiny of data and assumptions can strongly influence the safety case

* lack of a clearly defined inventory of radioactive wastes, as a result of uncertainty about the quantities of additional waste that will be produced in new reactors, increasing radioactivity of waste due to the use of higher burn-up fuels, and ambiguous definitions of what is considered as waste

* the question of whether site selection and characterization processes can actually identify a large enough volume of rock with sufficiently favorable characteristics to contain the expected volume of wastes likely to be generated in a given country

* tension between the economic benefits offered to host communities and long-term repository safety, leading to a danger that concerns about safety and impacts on future generations may be sidelined by the prospect of economic incentives, new infrastructure or jobs. There is additional tension between endorsement of deep disposal as a potentially ‘least bad’ option for existing wastes, and nuclear industry claims that deep repositories provide a safe solution to waste disposal and so help to justify the construction of new reactors

* potential for significant radiological releases through a variety of mechanisms, involving the release of radioactive gas and/or water due to the failure of the near-field or far-field barriers, or both

* significant challenges in demonstrating the validity and predictive value of complex computer models over long timescales

* risk of significant escalation in repository costs.

Source: The report 'Rock Solid? A scientific review of geological disposal of high-level radioactive waste', written by Helen Wallace for Greenpeace International is available at: http://www.greenpeace.org/eu-unit/press-centre/reports/rock-solid-a-scie...
Contact: Greenpeace EU Unit, Jan Haverkamp
Email: [email protected]

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#712
18/06/2010
Shorts

Russia to invest heavily in Namibia.
Russia is ready to invest US$1-billion in uranium exploration in Namibia. "We're ready to start investing already this year," the head of state corporation Rosatom, Sergei Kiriyenko, told journalists. Rosatom seeks to compete for projects with global miner Rio Tinto in the African country. Earlier in May, Russia and Turkey signed a US$20-billion project for Moscow to build and own a controlling stake in Turkey's first nuclear power plant.

Namibia, the world's fourth-largest uranium producer, is home to the Rossing mine operated by Rio Tinto, which together with Paladin Energy's Langer Heinrich mine accounts for about 10% of global output. Other firms have been joining the exploration drive, with several new mines due to come on stream in the next five years.

Although Russia plans to spent a lot of money on foreign nuclear projects, it is clear that there is not enough money to realize its domestic nuclear program. As described in Nuclear Monitor 707 the number of reactors planned to be built by 2015 will be cut by 60%. And even that number will be hard to build.
Reuters, 20 May 2010


UK: Decommissioning black hole.
The new U.K. Government will have to find an extra £4 billion for decommissioning and waste management at the UK civil nuclear. Energy minister Chris Huhne said: "as you can imagine, this is a fairly existential problem. The costs are such that my department is not so much the department of energy and climate change, as the department of nuclear legacy and bits of other things." He added that there were "genuine safety issues" so the costs could not be avoided. As a result, the Government is considering extending  the life of some of the UK's oldest reactors as a way of raising extra income for decommissioning. Extending the life of the reactors owned by the NDA would raise extra income. The Wylfa reactor on Anglesey, for example, is due to close at the end of the year, but extending its operating life for another two years would mean £ 500 million (US$ 736 million or 598 million euro) in new revenue. The NDA is also considering extending the life of the Oldbury reactor, first opened in 1968. Any application to extend the life of reactors would have to be approved by safety regulators.
N-Base Briefing, 9 and 16 June 2010


France: Subcontractors not in epidemiological surveys.
French antinuclear network 'Sortir du nucléaire' supports nuclear industry subcontractor and whistleblower Philippe Billard. As a spokesperson of the organisation 'Santé / Sous-traitance' (“Health and Subcontracting”), he has undergone some retaliation measures after having denounced workers exposure to radiation. As a  whistleblower, he’s now treated as persona non grata in nuclear power  plants. His employer refuses to re-instate him at his previous job, in  contradiction with the Labour Inspectorate’s recommendations.

The French antinuclear network “Sortir du nucléaire”, considers Philippe Billard’s ousting as a means to put pressure on whistleblower workers. “Sortir du nucléaire”  decided to bring its support to the workers who, just like Philippe Billard, suffer from the unbearable working conditions imposed by the nuclear industry and undergo irradiation without even receiving appropriate health care.

To protect its corporate image, EDF chose to give subcontractors the most dangerous tasks. These people working in the shadows have insecure jobs and are mostly temporary and/or nomad workers. Every year, 25,000 to 30,000 of them are made to carry out tasks where they are exposed to radiations. This system allows EDF to cover up a huge health scandal, since these subcontractors, who get 80% of the annual collective dose from the whole French nuclear park, are not taken into account in epidemiological surveys! (See: Annie Thébaud-Mony, « L’industrie nucléaire organise le non-suivi médical des travailleurs les plus exposés », Imagine, May-June 2007)

EDF is shamelessly multiplying talks on transparency while hushing up workers whistle blowing about the imminent catastrophe. In the ageing French nuclear park, the accident risk is increasing, all the more since maintenance periods are shortened in order to save time and money. However, the official motto remains “Nothing to report” and short-term profits are more important than common safety and security.
Press release 'Sortir du nucleaire', 31 May 2010


Switzerland: Thousands march against nuclear power.
More than 5,000 people gathered in Goesgen, canton Solothurn, in northern Switzerland on May 24, for a peaceful protest against the continuing development of nuclear energy in the country. The protest had participants from 83 groups in Switzerland, France, Germany and Austria. One of their key points was that Switzerland’s nuclear power plans are preventing the rapid development of alternative energy programs. The demonstration was one of the largest in last years.
www.menschenstrom.ch


Another subsidy for Areva in the U.S.
"As part of a broad effort to expand the use of nuclear power in the United States and reduce carbon pollution," the U.S. Department of Energy has approved a US$2 billion loan guarantee for French nuclear power developer Areva S.A. (owned for about 93 percent by the French State). The loan guarantee will support Areva's Eagle Rock Enrichment Facility near Idaho Falls, Idaho, which will supply uranium enrichment services for the U.S. nuclear power industry. Areva's US$3.3 billion nuclear enrichment facility will use centrifuge technology instead of gaseous diffusion technology that is more common in the U.S. but uses more energy. Areva had filed its application for the guarantee with the Department of Energy in September 2008.

The group can tap the guarantee once its Idaho Falls project has received full approval by the authorities. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is expected to decide sometime next year on a licence for the facility. Areva plans to have the plant in operation in 2014. 

The United Stated Enrichment Corporation (USEC) is also seeking a loan guarantee for its American Centrifuge Project under development at Piketon, Ohio. Following DOE's announcement the consensus would seem to be that 'd be bad news for USEC. But according to USEC spokesman Paul Jacobson that is not the case. Jacobson said USEC was encouraged that DOE recognizes the need for more enrichment services to supply the nuclear needs of the future. He also noted that DOE, as noted in the federal agency's press release, still has another US$2 billion in loan authority available. At one time, USEC was going head to head with Areva for the loan guarantees, and USEC played up the foreign-owned company versus domestic company, etc., but now the company -- on the public front at least -- seems to be focused on the nuclear renaissance and the idea that there's enough demand in the U.S. and abroad to support multiple new ventures in the enrichment arena.
U.S. DOE, 20 May 2010 / Reuters, 20 May 2010 / Atomic City Underground, 21 May 2010


EC: investigation non-compete clauses Areva, Siemens.
The European Commission has opened an antitrust case to determine whether non-compete clauses in civil nuclear technology arrangements between Areva of France and Germany's Siemens violate EU competition rules. The opening of antitrust proceedings on June 2, means that the EC thinks the case merits investigation. EC competition spokeswoman Amelia Torres said an investigation was triggered by a complaint from Siemens after Areva took full control last year of reactor construction and services company Areva NP, a joint venture originally set up by Framatome (which later became Areva) and Siemens in 2001. But non-compete clauses between the two companies remain, even though Siemens sold its 34% stake to Areva last year.

The shareholders' pact between Areva and Siemens for Areva NP is not public, but a French official familiar with it confirmed that it forbids either party from competing with the other in businesses covered by Areva NP for eight years after a potential divorce.

Siemens said in January 2009 that it intended to exercise its option, to sell its 34% stake in Areva NP to Areva and leave the joint venture. A few weeks later, Siemens said it had signed a memorandum of understanding on a nuclear power business partnership with Rosatom, a Russian state-owned nuclear conglomerate. After bilateral discussions failed to produce an agreement on the price at which Areva would buy the 34% stake in Areva NP, the erstwhile partners last year asked an arbitration court to decide the matter.

EC competition spokeswoman Amelia Torres said the investigation would be carried out by the EC at EU-level, rather than by national governments. There is no timescale for the investigation as this depends on the complexity of the case and the extent to which the parties cooperate. Torres said she was not able to prejudge whether a fine would be imposed if the arrangement were found to be in breach of competition rules.
Platts, 2 June 2010


U.K.: Waste costs 'not acceptable' for industry.
The nuclear industry has been heavily lobbying to change proposed charges for managing wastes from nuclear reactors. Papers released under Freedom of Information show how the French company EDF pressed the previous government to change the proposed 'high fixed cost' for managing wastes and the timetable for handing the management of wastes to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. The previous government made significant changes to the way it proposed changing companies for managing their wastes. It also agreed that responsibility for wastes should pass to the NDA after 60 years instead of the original 110 years. This would reduce the financial liabilities and costs for companies.

EDF told the government the original proposals were "non-acceptable" and made it uneconomic to develop new reactors.
N-Base Briefing 665, 9 June 2010


Chubu delays Hamaoka-5 restart after earthquake.
Japan: The Chubu Electric Power Company has extended the closure of its 1,380-megawatt Hamaoka No.5 reactor by a further two months to the end of July. Chubu Electric said the decision had been taken because the company is still analyzing why the impact of the August 11, 2009 earthquake on the reactor was greater than for other nuclear units. The company explained that, based on this measure of earthquake ground motion, the impact of the tremor was significantly higher than for other reactors. Chubu Electric will report its findings to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. It hopes to restart the reactor after METI and other government  agencies have agreed the report and local communities have consented to the restart of the reactor. The restart of the No. 5 reactor was originally planned for the end of December 2009, but pushed back several times.
Power in Asia 555,  27 May 2010


Bangladesh: cooperation agreement with Russia.
The government of Bagladesh has increased momentum for the installation of the country’s first nuclear power plant. The US$1.5-billion project will be built at Rooppur, about 300 kilometers from the capital Dhaka. A committee headed by the state minister for science and information and communication technology, Yafes Osman, has been constituted to implement the project. The 22-member committee, which has the chairman of the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission as its member secretary, will examine funding issues and assess the risks associated with the fiscal arrangements. It will also study nuclear waste management issues. Bangladesh plans to install the 2,000-megawatt plant (for US$1.5billion?) at Rooppur from 2017. It signed a five-year framework cooperation agreement with the Russian atomic energy company Rosatom in May, with the final agreement due to be signed during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to Moscow later in 2010.
Power in Asia 555, 10 June 2010


Go-ahead for Urenco's Eunice plant.
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has authorized the operation of the first cascade at Urenco's Louisiana Energy Services (LES) gas centrifuge enrichment plant at Eunice, New Mexico. LES is a wholly owned subsidiary of URENCO Ltd. Urenco said the process to bring the plant from construction status to fully operational will begin later in June. The Urenco USA plant (formerly the National Enrichment Facility)  will be the first commercial centrifuge enrichment plant to become operational in the USA. Urenco formally inaugurated the plant in early June. "At full capacity, the facility will produce sufficient enriched uranium for nuclear fuel to supply approximately 10% of the electricity needs for the US", according to the Urenco press release.
Urenco Press release, 11 June 2010

ITER: costs overruns, again.

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#709
6053
12/05/2010
WISE Amsterdam
Article

In 2005, after deadlocked discussions, it was agreed to site I International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) at Cadarache, in southern France. The deal involved major concessions to Japan, which had put forward Rokkasho as a preferred site. 1996 was originally supposed to have been the year when the countries involved in the project would decide where the reactor would be located. But costs are skyrocketing. Now, the European Commission is asking member states for another 1400 million euro to cover just two years of extra spending.

The years 2012 and 2013 are linked to the FP7-Euratom budget that, due to treaty limitations, only runs over five years 2007-2011. (The general research budget runs over seven years.) The EU as host party will contribute around 45% of ITER's estimated construction costs while the rest is equally divided amongst the other six parties: US, China, Japan, India, Russia, South Korea.

The European Commission has adopted a Communication to the European Parliament and the Council which concludes that in view of substantial overall cost increases for International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), which have more than doubled the costs for Europe (to around €7.2 billion instead of an initial expected €2.7 billion), a sustainable financial framework should be established. Member States should provide a clear financial commitment throughout the life of the project and a mechanism for dealing with any further overruns should be agreed, subject to an overall cap. In particular, a total of around €1.4 billion is needed to meet the estimated cost increases in the Euratom Community contribution to ITER in 2012 and 2013. This funding should be found either by raising the ceiling in the EU budget or through additional finance directly from the Member States.

EU's commitments to the ITER Agreement is delivered through the European Joint Undertaking for ITER – "Fusion For Energy" (F4E), established as the European Domestic Agency by the Council in March 2007.

The European Union wants to “ensure the success of the project at acceptable cost and with reasonable financial and technical risks”. The critical step for the project is now for the international partners in ITER to agree on the project's “Baseline”, in other words its scope (specifications of the fusion reactor to be built), the schedule (time table for construction) and the cost. The aim is for this to be agreed at the next meeting of the ITER Council, which includes representatives of all the participating countries, scheduled for mid-June 2010.

How is ITER financed?
During the construction phase Euratom contributes a value of 5/11 (around 45%) of the total, of which 80% is funded from Euratom and 20% from France, the rest being equally divided among the other 6 ITER Parties (1/11 or around ~9% each). During the subsequent operation and deactivation phases, Euratom will contribute 34% of the total costs.

The 2001 cost estimated the total ITER construction at 5.9 billion euro. The Euratom contribution, amounted to 2.7 billion euro (around 45%, 2680 million in 2008 value), corresponding to euro 1 735 million for the components/systems to be provided “in kind”, and 945 million euro to be provided "in cash" to the ITER Organization.  Each Party has committed to provide the agreed contributions in kind independently of  the final cost of procuring and delivering those components.

The F4E current cost estimates for the construction period (cost for Europe only), updated according to the proposed schedule (2007-2020) and presented to the F4E Governing Board in March 2010, amount to 7.2 billion  euro: 6.6 billion euro for the contribution to ITER construction and 650 million euro for the F4E running costs and other activities. These estimates would require a Euratom contribution of 5.9 billion euro and 1.3 billion euro of funding from France (all figures in 2008 value).

Euro 2.1 billion (current value) of commitment appropriations from the FP7 Euratom

Budget are needed for the years 2012-2013 in order to commit the procurements needed early in the construction process. Programmed appropriations available in the current Multiannual Financial Framework (346 million euro for 2012 and 344 million euro for 2013 in current value) mean that Euratom is facing an estimated gap on commitment appropriations of about 1.4 billion euro for the years 2012-2013 (550 million euro in 2012 and 850 million euro in 2013).

Sources: European Commission MEMO/10/165, Brussels, 5 May 2010 / See also Nuclear Monitor 698, 27 November 2009: ‘Fusion illusions’

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WISE

European support for nuclear power as a solution to climate change plummetes

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#709
6047
12/05/2010
Greenpeace International
Article

On April 29, the European Commission released its Europeans and Nuclear Safety Eurobarometer report. The report attempts to measure EU citizen’s attitudes to nuclear power. It makes for very interesting reading indeed.

In the 2006 report, 62% of EU citizens people thought that nuclear power could help combat climate change. That number has plummeted to 46%. The number of people who answered ‘don’t know’ has risen in France, Spain, Finland, UK, Belgium, Luxemburg, Ireland, Estona, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Romania, Malta and Cyprus. France, UK and Finland are at the heart of the faltering nuclear ‘renaissance’.

  • In Bulgaria, Germany, France and Romania the number of people who think nuclear reactors can be run safely has fallen. The number of EU citizens that want to increase nuclear in the energy mix increased from 14% in 2006 to 17% now but ‘Europeans still do not consider nuclear energy as an option to tackle the energy supply/use challenges faced by developed societies.’
  • EU citizens ‘consider that the current share of nuclear energy in the energy mix should be maintained or reduced’. Not, you’ll notice, increase.
  • ‘Lack of security to protect NPPs against terrorist attacks and the disposal and management of radioactive waste remain the major dangers associated with nuclear energy’
  • 'Citizens would like to know more about radioactive waste management and environmental monitoring procedures.'

Bear this in mind, however. The report is produced against the background of the European Commission launching the European Nuclear Energy Forum (ENEF), in 2007. It is promoted as ‘a platform aiming to promote broad discussion, free of any taboos, on issues of transparency as well as the opportunities and risks of nuclear energy’.

So interested is the nuclear-industry dominated ENEF in ‘broad discussion’, breaking ‘taboos’ as well as discussing the ‘transparency‘, ‘opportunities’ and ‘risks’ of nuclear power that Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and Sortir du Nucléaire pulled out of the body ‘accusing ENEF of stifling critical voices, ignoring their concerns and riding roughshod over alternative scientific evidence.’

(thanks to www.greenpeace.org)

The full report (6,6 MB) is available at: http://ec.europa.eu/energy/nuclear/safety/doc/2010_eurobarometer_safety.pdf