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Exelon plays dirty in Illinois

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Michael Mariotte − President, Nuclear Information and Resource Service

It should surprise no-one that a utility that relies on dirty energy to make its money also plays dirty when its money is threatened or when a state legislature is considering whether to bail out the company with its constituents' money.

So don't be surprised that yes indeed, gasp, Exelon is playing dirty in Illinois. And just about everywhere else too.

Dave Kraft of Illinois' Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS) reports that some NEIS members have received unidentified robocalls on their home phones, urging them to call their state legislators to "support clean renewable energy."

The problem is, the bill the robocalls support is Exelon's bill to establish a "low carbon portfolio standard" − that's the bill that was written to bail out Exelon's uneconomic reactors in Illinois and prevent the expansion of "clean renewable energy" in the state.1

NEIS, the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) and those honestly in favor of clean energy are supporting a different bill also before the legislature, SB 1485/HB 2607, that actually would encourage clean energy in the state − and wouldn't bail out Exelon's failing nukes in the process.

Crain's Chicago Business, which continues to be the best source of reporting on Exelon and its machinations, recently reported that Exelon subsidiary Commonwealth Edison − the state's largest distribution utility − "wants to make it illegal in Illinois to count the benefits of lowering energy prices when deciding which energy efficiency projects should qualify for ratepayer-funded financial assistance."2

In other words, while even Commonwealth Edison can't discount the fact that energy efficiency is cleaner than electricity generation, it wants the other main benefit of improving efficiency − lower electricity prices for ratepayers − to be ignored entirely.

Why? Because holding back gains in energy efficiency would help out Exelon's six uneconomic reactors. Improving efficiency means less generation is needed. By attempting to sabotage the state's efficiency programs, Commonwealth Edison is trying to ensure that electricity demand goes up, making it at least somewhat more likely those reactors would be useful. In fact, those reactors still wouldn't be needed; but the numbers conceivably could be manipulated enough to make it appear so.

It is vital that we reach everyone possible in Illinois to counter Exelon's proposed nuclear bailout. That's a bailout that would cost ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars and provide them with nothing but the electricity they would receive even without the bailout. But instead of coming from cleaner energy sources, and helping to expand Illinois' clean energy programs, the bailout would ensure that Illinois' power would continue to come from dirty, aging and expensive nuclear reactors.

Stopping Exelon's efforts to promote nuclear power at the expense of renewables and energy efficiency is the most important state action this year − and the outcome will have national implications.3

If you have any friends at all, any relatives, business colleagues, if a part of any e-mail list you're on, includes anyone from Illinois, please send them this link to the NIRS action page:



US NRC approves radwaste rule; ends reactor licensing moratorium

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

NM790.4408 On August 26, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved its controversial replacement for its "waste confidence" rule that was slapped down in 2012 by a federal court and also approved a resumption of new reactor licensing and license renewal activities.

The new replacement rule essentially gives up on the notion of "confidence" that a permanent high-level radioactive waste repository will be built in any foreseeable time frame and instead expresses the agency's support for the concept that "continued storage" in the absence of a permanent repository − even for millenia − is OK with them. The votes on the two actions were both 4-0, although NRC Chair Allison Macfarlane dissented on part of the final version of the "continued storage" rule.

In 2012, a federal three-judge panel (DC appeals court) asserted that NRC had no basis for "confidence" since there is, in fact, no plan for how to manage or isolate the most concentrated radioactive wastes ever produced. Since 2012 NRC has fast-tracked an effort to recover its streamlined licensing authority by instituting a new "Waste Confidence" policy. Originally, NRC staff indicated it would take as much as seven years to truly evaluate the dangers of waste storage. A quicker way was found: use all the old assumptions, produce a generic analysis and allow the nuclear waste generators to skip any local, specific analysis of risks and impacts at nuclear power reactor sites. NRC has simply removed the word "confidence" and now writes about "continued storage" while insisting there is no significant environmental impact from this waste

In a statement on the vote, Nuclear Information and Resource Service Executive Director Tim Judson said "For two years we had hoped that logic would prevail: but no such luck. An irrational, industry-dominated NRC has affirmed carte blanche to dirty energy corporations: 'go ahead, produce as much highly radioactive waste as you want; tell us it is safe and we, the NRC, will believe you.' This decision makes it impossible for NRC to claim that it is independent. We agree with grassroots activists in nuclear power communities who have decided that this is a con job. NRC has done nothing to increase our confidence in its performance as a regulator of safety."

The NRC's "continued storage" rule almost certainly will be challenged in court on numerous grounds and by numerous parties. But in the meantime, the NRC has now lifted its moratorium on reactor licensing activities. In practical terms, there are no new reactor license applications that have been particularly inhibited by the moratorium, so unless some utility decides it really wants to press ahead with a new reactor, there will be little change there. The major license renewal case underway is that of Indian Point in New York, and the NRC is expected to resume activity on that case quickly. But the battle over Indian Point is being waged on several fronts and the NRC long has been expected to approve license renewal for those reactors. So it's not clear the NRC action will have a profound effect there either.

In her partial dissent, Macfarlane expressed concern about the failure of the Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) underpinning the rule to address what would happen in the event institutional controls over long-term waste storage collapsed − a not unreasonable position given the eons that radioactive waste is lethal and must be strictly overseen. She noted that the NRC staff acknowledged that even a temporary loss of institutional control "would have impacts similar to spent fuel storage accidents" and that a permanent loss of control "would be 'a catastrophe to the environment.'"

But the staff decided not to analyze or effectively address these possibilities in the GEIS.

Macfarlane also said that the GEIS should be a living document − revised every 10 years to take into account changing circumstances. And Macfarlane pointed out that when waste is stored on-site, as the GEIS essentially presumes, the costs are borne by the utilities. The Nuclear Waste Fund, which currently is blocked from receiving more funds by the Department of Energy, goes for a permanent repository and is far short of anticipated costs in any event. Macfarlane wrote that while "funding near-term storage is not a crisis," the NRC, and the GEIS, should recognize the "genuine reality" that the federal government − i.e. taxpayers − will pay for the long-term storage of radioactive waste.

Every proposed permanent US dumpsite has been seriously flawed. The formerly proposed nuclear dump at Yucca Mountain would leak much faster than would meet even lax safety standards. Many have recently promoted the theoretical concept of expanding the mission for WIPP (the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant) nuclear weapons waste deep geological repository in New Mexico to take civilian highly radioactive wastes; this proposal is clearly technically flawed and, given the recent fire and leaks at site, make it questionable it can even continue for that waste let alone adding more.

NRC 'waste confidence' decision:

NRC order on resuming licensing activities:

NRC press release:

Nuclear Information and Resource Service statement:

Belarus: Reactor construction licence issued

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

The construction of the first nuclear power plant in Belarus can commence following the issuance of a permit from the country's nuclear regulator.

The Department for Nuclear and Radiation Safety (Gosatomnadzor) of the Ministry of Emergencies has issued the State Entity Nuclear Power Plant Construction Directorate (Belarus AEC) with a licence for the construction of the first of two reactors at the Ostrovets site. The main construction contract was awarded to Russia's AtomStroyExport in October 2011, while a US$10 billion turn-key contract was finalised between Belarus and Rosatom in July 2012 for the supply of the two reactors. The 1,200 MWe AES-2006 model VVER pressurized water reactor design has been selected for use at the plant.[1]

Earlier this year, the Lithuanian government made known its deep concerns about Belarus's nuclear power project near Ostroverts. In the past month, diplomatic notes have been sent to Belarus to protest earth-moving and other initial work for the plant. "We have many concerns about safety and information we've asked for hasn't been provided," Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius said. A UN committee said in April that Belarus wasn't abiding by the terms of the Espoo Convention on cross-border environmental issues.[2,3]

In late October, the Lithuanian foreign ministry noted that the environmental impact assessment process of the Belarusian nuclear plant under the Espoo Convention has not been completed. "Therefore, the ongoing construction of the NPP and the decision to start installing nuclear equipment are obvious instances of failure to comply with provisions of the Convention."[4]

Belarus Digest reported on 27 August: "Minsk preferred to ignore not only some Lithuania's requests, but also a letter from the EU and provided the [UN] Committee with documents in Russian without a translation into English. At the same time, it manipulated with the EIA texts and held only nominal public hearing with Lithuanian residents. Isolated from many pan-European projects, the Belarusian state clearly has real problems with educating its bureaucrats on new ways of doing government business, particularly in international context."[5]

The thuggishness of the Belarusian state was on full display before and during a Chernobyl day commemoration and demonstration in Minsk earlier this year. Six journalists were arrested during and after the demonstration in a move that drew harsh criticism from Reporters Without Borders (which ranks Belarus a low 157 out of 179 surveyed countries for press freedom).[6]

Influential activists and politicians were targeted. According to Bellona, at least 15 renowned anti-nuclear activists were prevented from taking part in the march, but many more rank and file activists were roughed up by police and brutally dragged from the demonstration.[6]

Vitaly Rymashevsky, a member of the Belorusian Christian Democracy movement, told Bellona that "what happened to many participants and organisers of the march was not detention – it was siege and violent kidnapping of people in the centre of the city. ... This is a sure sign that there is no liberalisation underway in Belarus."[6]

[1] WNN, 28 Oct 2013, 'Construction licence for Ostrovets',
[2] 'Lithuania opposes new reactor in Belarus', 6 Sept 2013, Nuclear Monitor #767,
[3] 'Lithuania concerned about Belarus nuclear plant', 26 Apr 2013, Nuclear Monitor #761,
[4] 'Lithuanian Foreign Ministry Urges Belarus Not to Start Building Nuclear Plant until its Environmental Impact Has Been Assessed', 31 Oct 2013,
[5] Siarhei Bohdan, 27 Aug 2013, 'Belarus and Lithuania: A Tale of Two Nuclear Power Plants', Belarus Digest,
[6] Charles Digges, 2013, 'Thuggish arrests of activists and journalists mar Chernobyl anniversary march in Minsk, Belarus',

US NRC to find out just how confident public is in radioactive waste policy

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Michael Mariotte

Against the backdrop of this year's unprecedented spate of reactor shutdowns and cancellations, attention in the US is turning this Fall to the complete breakdown of radioactive waste policy.

Featured will be 12 public meetings across the country over the next 45 days to discuss the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's "waste confidence" policy, and likely action in the Senate on legislation that might − or might not − set a new path on radioactive waste.

Last summer, a federal court threw out the NRC's "waste confidence" policy, which forced the agency to institute a moratorium on licensing new reactors and relicensing old ones. The policy was established in the 1980s, after Congress decided that the federal government would be responsible for disposal of high-level nuclear waste.

At the time, Congress also decided that the government would begin accepting the waste for disposal in 1998 and directed the Department of Energy to sign contracts to do so. So much for bad ideas and poor prognostication. More than 25 years since the legislation was passed, the government has been unable to make good on any of those contracts − and is therefore being sued by nuclear utilities − and is also no closer to a radioactive waste solution than it was in the 1980s.

At the core of the "waste confidence" policy was the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) assertion that it was confident high-level radioactive waste would always be stored or disposed of safely, no matter where it was and that, in any case, a permanent waste disposal site was just around the corner. This assertion allowed the NRC to license and relicense reactors which otherwise would have been prohibited (as it is today).

But the court ruled that the utter lack of progress toward establishing a permanent site and the Obama Administration's efforts to end the Yucca Mountain, Nevada project meant there is no reason to assume a permanent site ever will be established. Further, the court said the NRC had provided no technical basis whatsoever to assume that waste would, or even could, be stored indefinitely onsite. Thus, the "waste confidence" policy was merely an assertion without foundation.

The NRC vowed to provide a basis for its waste confidence policy and resume licensing within two years − even though the agency's own experts said doing the job properly likely would take seven years. The result is a new proposed rule that asserts that radioactive waste can be stored indefinitely − as in essentially forever − in dry casks and even in fuel pools even without a permanent disposal site. The rule is backed by a 600-page "Generic Draft Environment Impact Statement" (DEIS) that conveniently understates, downplays and just plain ignores most of the possible, some would say likely, pitfalls and problems posed by long-term storage at both casks and pools.

For example, the DEIS determined that the risks of a fuel pool fire are "inconsequential". That's not because a fuel pool fire itself would be inconsequential − in fact, it would be calamitous. But the NRC says the odds of such a fire are so low the agency doesn't have to worry about it. The NRC put the odds at 1 in 60,000 per reactor year. Multiply that by 99 reactors over the next hundred or so years, and the odds grow scarily close to inevitable. And before March 11, 2011, most experts would have put the odds of three simultaneous meltdowns and four endangered fuel pools at well below 1 in 60,000.

Nor does the DEIS attempt to determine the relative value of dry cask versus fuel pool storage, apparently assuming both are equally safe − a view not shared by most outside experts. And while dry casks are the preferred technology for most concerned with nuclear safety issues at this time, few believe they are a permanent solution and the DEIS fails to consider any of the potential dangers they might pose in the future. For example, the NRC believes dry casks should last 100 years; then the fuel would have to be transferred to new dry casks − but unloading a cask full of extraordinarily radioactive fuel roads and re-loading them into a new cask is a job that never has been done. The potential effects of climate change-related sea-level and other water-level rise on dry casks also has been sloughed off, among other issues.

On October 1, the NRC will hold a public meeting (although industry and anti-nuclear groups already have been briefed by the agency) at its Rockville, Maryland headquarters to begin trying to sell its DEIS and proposed rule to the public. The next week it takes its show on the road, starting with a meeting in Denver, Colorado on October 3 and ending back in Rockville on November 14. In between, there will be meetings in California, Ohio, Minnesota, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina and Florida.

Activists across the country have vowed to pack the meetings to challenge both the technical details of the DEIS as well as to protest the very notion that new radioactive waste should be generated at all. The Nuclear Information and Resource Service has a new webpage with location and schedule information, talking points, and more:

Note, however, that Tea Party interests seem intent on forcing a government shutdown over President Obama's attempt to ensure that most Americans are able to obtain some sort of health care. If a shutdown occurs, some or all of the meeting dates may be changed.

New independent agency?
Meanwhile, in the Senate momentum seems to have slipped from Energy Committee efforts to pass a bill (S.1240) to establish a new independent agency to take over the Department of Energy's (DOE) radioactive waste program. That bill, which is based on the recommendations of the DOE's Blue Ribbon Commission on waste (, would also set up a new consent-based process for finding a permanent waste disposal site. In addition, it would allow creation of one or more new "consolidated interim storage" sites − a gift to the nuclear industry so that it could begin shipping high-level waste off its property and let the federal government take responsibility for it.

But the bill hasn't received the kind of support its backers had hoped. Environmentalists oppose it because the idea of "interim" storage would lead to massive transport of high-level waste across the country ("Mobile Chernobyl") to an unsuitable site from where it would have to be transported again. The Nuclear Information and Resource Service has collected about 40,000 signatures on petitions opposing the bill for that reason.

The program also would take a lot of the impetus away from the search for a scientifically-defensible permanent site since the industry's only real interest is in getting the stuff off its property and into government hands. Moreover, the bill fails to ensure that fuel pools would be emptied as quickly as feasible into dry casks, which environmentalists believe are much safer than the overcrowded pools.

And some Republicans don't want to see the establishment of a new federal agency of any kind for any reason, and don't really care that a new agency might be able to begin making up for the myriad of mistakes the DOE has made on waste policy over the years; thus they are at best lukewarm toward that idea. What they really want − especially in the House of Representatives, which would also have to approve radioactive waste legislation for it to become law − is a return to the discredited and failed Yucca Mountain project.

Republicans have seized on a recent federal court decision that ruled the NRC improperly ended its licensing review of Yucca Mountain; the NRC has said it will comply with the decision and is now working on how to restart its review. In the US, the DOE currently is responsible for finding a permanent disposal site and submitting an application for it to the NRC, which has final approval to license the site. But the NRC only has about $11 million left in its fund for the license review, and it will cost about half that just to re-establish the computer system to provide access to the literally millions of pages of documents involved in the licensing process.

As long as Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is Senate Majority Leader, Congress won't approve any more money for the NRC to complete the process (nor will it approve any legislation to mandate Yucca Mountain), so it's unlikely that either the court decision or legislative efforts to bolster the Yucca site will have any actual practical effect.

But despite the relatively poor outlook for radioactive waste legislation, sources indicate that S.1240's sponsors in the Senate Energy Committee are still hoping to hold a mark-up session and committee vote on the bill in mid-October. Whether any changes to the bill, one way or the other, will be sufficient to move it beyond the Committee level remains to be seen.

Author: Michael Mariotte − Executive Director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service.
Email: nirsnet[@]


Uranium price slumps, Paladin Energy in trouble

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green - Nuclear Monitor editor

The spot uranium price fell to US$34.50 / lb U3O8 in late July, a price not seen since December 2005 during the upswing of a spectacular price bubble which peaked in June 2007 at US$138 / lb. The 12% price slump in July was the biggest monthly loss since March 2011. Since September 2, the spot price has been still lower, at US$34.00. Those prices are just over half the spot price of US$66.50 / lb on 11 March 2011, the first day of the triple-disaster in north-east Japan.[1]

The long-term contract price has been reasonably stable in recent months at US$57 / lb. At that price, the value of annual global uranium requirements for power reactors is around US$10 billion.

FNArena wrote on September 17: "The issue of low uranium prices discouraging new supply is not just one of the spot price itself but one of the marginal cost of new supply. Producers suggested to Ux that the average marginal cost of production of operating mines is around where the spot price is now, but the marginal cost of developing a new mine is more like US$65-70/lb. From the nuclear energy prospective, respondents rated the most significant demand-side influences as, in descending order of influence, Japanese reactor restarts, Chinese reactor build, the premature shutdown of older US reactors and the emergence of newcomer countries to nuclear energy (about equal), and the upcoming French nuclear licence renewals."[19]

Raymond James analyst David Sadowski expects an average spot price of $40 per pound this year, $52 in 2014, and $70 in both 2015 and 2016.[2] Michael Angwin from the Australian Uranium Association expects low prices until about 2017/18, and a article states that "the road to recovery for this battered commodity will be a long haul".[3,4] Rob Atkinson, outgoing CEO of Energy Resources of Australia, says the uranium spot price is woeful, making it extremely difficult to make the case for developing a new mine, and the market will remain difficult for at least another two years.[21]

The industry hopes that reactor restarts in Japan will improve the situation − but restarts will be slow and in many cases strongly contested. The industry hopes that new build in China will improve the situation − but pre-Fukushima nuclear growth projections have been sharply reduced and China now plans to approve a "small number" of new reactors projects each year.[5]

The industry hopes that the end of the US-Russian 'Megatons to Megawatts' program − downblending highly enriched uranium from weapons programs for use in power reactors − will improve the situation. But mine production has met an increasing proportion of demand in recent years − 78% in 2009 and 2010, 85% in 2011 and 86% in 2012 (the shortfall was around 10,000 tonnes of uranium in 2011 and 2012).[6] This suggests that the end of the Megatons to Megawatts program will have a moderate impact. There is scope for weapons material to continue to supply the civil market regardless of future bilateral US-Russian agreements.[7] Ux Consulting noted last year that reduction in demand stemming from the Fukushima accident "essentially negates much of the reduction in supply resulting from the end of the US-Russia HEU deal".[8] Utilities have built up uranium stockpiles in recent years as a result of low uranium prices (the World Nuclear Association estimated commercial inventories totalling 145,000 tonnes of uranium in 2010 − enough to supply global demand for two years).[9]

Jeb Handwerger, described by Uranium Investing News as a "uranium bull and stock guru", says that "Smart money recognizes the bottom."[10] But smart money is heading for the door. At the Paydirt Uranium Conference in February 2012 in Australia, it was clear many companies were looking elsewhere, prompting an industry veteran to quip that copper and gold had never before enjoyed so much airtime at a uranium conference.[11] A year later, attendance was so poor that the conference was reduced from two days to one day and shifted from the Hilton Hotel to a less opulent venue.

Uranium gloom and doom is also being felt in the enrichment sector. Urenco posted a 45% drop in revenue for the first half of 2013 and a 31% fall in earnings (compared to the first half of 2012). Revenue fell to 384 million euros and earnings dropped to 319 million euros. Urenco said it expects a "substantial rebalance" during the second half of the year due to continued capacity expansion in its US facility and the construction of a new unit in the UK. The UK government owns one third of Urenco, as does the Dutch government, with the final third held by German utilities E.On and RWE. All the owners have been looking to sell their stakes but have so far failed to secure a deal.[20]

Paladin Energy
Australian-based Paladin Energy operates two uranium mines in Africa − Langer Heinrich in Namibia and Kayelekera in Malawi. CEO John Borshoff told a mining conference in Western Australia in July that the uranium industry faces a number of "major problems" such as the lack of greenfields development, dwindling investment capital and the sickly uranium price.[12]

Borshoff said: "[T]he uranium industry is definitely in crisis, I believe, and is showing all the symptoms of a mid-term paralysis if this situation does not demonstrably change. How can there not be a problem when you have an effective moratorium with nearly all major companies making no commitment to greenfields development until the price gets about US$70 and it is believed it can stay above that level. And how can there not be a problem when you have a strong chance that some of the more expensive, smaller operations will be mothballed − putting more pressure on current production. ... Only at this price level [US$70/ lb] − and above − can sufficient capital for new products be raised and returns on investment be justified to finally give some risk reward to the shareholder. And this appears to be a long way away."

Borshoff said much of the blame lies with the uranium industry's customers, who he said had focused on the expediency of current cheap prices rather than the supply−demand gap forecast to open in coming years.

Shares in Paladin plummeted on August 5 after the company announced a heavily discounted A$88 million raising through the issuing of 125.6 million shares.[13] The company's cash position dropped to A$78.1 million at June 30, down from A$112.9 million at the end of the previous quarter.[14]

The news followed a decision by the company to scrap negotiations for the sale of its interest in Langer Heinrich. Langer Heinrich produced 5.3 million pounds out of the company's total output of 8.26 million pounds of U3O8 in the year to June 30.[13] Borshoff said: "The current depressed uranium price has meant that it is unlikely that a price that appropriately reflects the strategic value of the asset will be achieved and accordingly proceeding at this time would be detrimental to long-term shareholder value."[15]

Andrew Shearer, an analyst at PhillipCapital Ltd., said: "The decision to terminate the asset sale is contrary to the company's guidance that the process was continuing well and heading toward a conclusion."[14]

Stockbroker RFC Ambrian said: "From a technical perspective, Paladin can be satisfied that it has achieved record sales but the fact remains that it has not had a profitable annual result since commencing operations. Our modelling forecasts continued negative cash flow and the company running out of cash in early 2014 and consequently [being] unable to service its substantial debt position. This was expected to be covered through the strategic sale of a minority interest in Langer Heinrich for cash."[16]

The share offering bought the company some breathing space if nothing else. Paladin had about US$670 million of debt at the end of March 2013 according to data compiled by Bloomberg.[14]

On August 30, Paladin Energy had more bad news, reporting a net loss of US$420.9 million for the 2013 financial year, more than double the previous year's loss of US$172.8 million and not far short of the company's record net loss of US$480.2 million in financial year 2009.[17,18] Borshoff launched into another spray about the low uranium price, labelling it ''diabolical'', ''extremely depressed'' and ''of great concern''.

Borshoff would not rule out closing one of Paladin's two mines (most likely the Kayelekera mine in Malawi) as part of the company's efforts to cut costs. Analyst Andrew Shearer said the Kayelekera mine was unlikely to be profitable at present prices, but the decision was complex: ''They would have to weigh up the cost associated with putting it on care and maintenance and whether they have any contractual agreements in terms of uranium sales.''

As Paladin does not make enough profit at current uranium prices to meet its debt repayments, the company will once again try to sell down its stake in its Namibian mine. Extra funding is needed to repay US$300 million in convertible notes that mature in 2015.[18]

As of late August, Paladin's share price was A$0.56, barely one-tenth the figure of A$5 the day before the Fukushima disaster.

According to Fairfax journalist Peter Ker, Paladin's "parlous state has some whispering about executive renewal."[17]


(Written by Nuclear Monitor editor Jim Green.)


Paladin threatens pensioner
Last December, Paladin Energy threatened 75-year old Australian pensioner Noel Wauchope with legal action for posting on her website an article critical about Paladin's uranium operations in Karonga, Malawi. The threat backfired when it was publicised in the widely-read Fairfax press.

Fairfax business columnist Michael West wrote: "The price of Noel Wauchope's concern for the people Karonga was a long and intimidating letter of demand from Ashurst on behalf of the uranium company Paladin Energy and its general manager of international affairs, Greg Walker. If she did not comply with these demands, warned Ashurst, she would face court action. ...

Among other things, the Ashurst letter accused the anti-nuclear campaigner of imputing that Mr Walker was 'insensitive'.

In any case, these kinds of threats to muzzle free speech are on the rise. At a time when the mainstream media is under pressure from falling revenues, lawyers are threatening and shutting down websites around the country at an alarming clip. ...

As to the threats against the mild-mannered antinuclear campaigner from Caulfield, Ashurst laid down a long list of supposedly defamatory imputations then noted, "The above details of falsity are not comprehensive and it should be assumed that any imputation not addressed is also false, unless otherwise stated".

This is just buffoonery. Yet the overall message of such threats is always crystal clear: back off, do what we tell you or you could lose your house. It looks like bullying, pure and simple."

Australia: waste bill passed; Muckaty community determined to stop nuclear dump

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Dave Sweeney

The National Radioactive Waste Management Bill passed the Australian Senate on March 13, and the amended legislation finally passed through the House of Representatives the next day. The legislation preserves the highly contested Muckaty nomination, which is currently the subject of a federal court challenge by senior Traditional Owners opposed to the plan. The dump would house a range of radioactive waste including spent nuclear fuel rods form the Lucas Heights research reactor and decommissioned reactor parts.

The National Radioactive Waste Management Bill now passed in the Senate, was introduced two years ago and is strongly opposed by the Northern Territory government, Traditional Owners and a growing number of trade unions and civil society groups. Anti-nuclear protesters have tried to stop debate in Federal Parliament by disrupting th eproceedings.

The Government has consistently stated the National Radioactive Waste Management Bill did not specify a site for the dump, but it has offered to give the Northern Territory Aus$10 million if it accepts the waste dump. The Greens managed to get included an important amendment against international wastes being included. Greens spokesman on nuclear issues Scott Ludlam says he is confident the community will continue to fight any plan to use the Northern Territory site. The Greens will continue to fight the project: "The site is in an earthquake zone, it floods regularly, there are very long transport corridors, there are no jobs being applied and it's opposed from people on the ground, on the front line from Tennant all the way up to the NT Government and people around the country," he said. Donna Jackson, from the Australian Nuclear Free Alliance, says she is shocked the legislation has been passed while there is still a legal challenge before the courts about the ownership of the Muckaty site.

The Beyond Nuclear Initiative  says radioactive waste management legislation passed this afternoon in the Senate is deeply flawed and will not slow down the campaign against the proposed Muckaty radioactive waste dump in the Northern Territory. The dump is earmarked for low and long-lived intermediate level waste, including spent fuel rods and decommissioned reactor parts from the Lucas Heights nuclear facility in Sydney.

Minister Ferguson’s legislation repeals three Department of Defence site nominations made by the Howard government- Harts Range, Mt Everard and Fisher’s Ridge- but preserves the highly contested Muckaty nomination. Mitch, a spokesperson for Harts Range and Mt Everard said “It is almost seven years since the NT dump plan was announced. We are happy that Harts Range is now off the list but we support the Muckaty people to say no. This proposal is based on politics not science. This is a very sad day”.

Muckaty Traditional Owners have launched a federal court case against both the federal government and the Northern Land Council, which nominated the Muckaty site in 2007. Muckaty Traditional Owner Penny Phillips said, “At the start Senator Nigel Scullion said ‘not on my watch’ will the waste dump happen. He should be fighting against it and look after people in the Territory. Its very confusing for us- the Senators are meant to represent us. Do they care about Traditional Owners, do they care about people in the Barkly, the cattlemen? The government should come and see this country. We have been inviting them many times and they have ignored us”.

Beyond Nuclear coordinator Natalie Wasley concluded “Beyond Nuclear Initiave welcomes the passing of Senator Scott Ludlam’s amendment that international waste cannot be stored at the facility, however, the rest of the legislation is neither new nor good. It builds on the mistakes of the Howard era and lacks credibility and consent. There are still many hurdles for the government before a dump is up and running, and this proposal will be challenged every step of the way.”

At its most basic, advancing the Muckaty site is a case of politicians in capital Canberra dumping the most dangerous and poisonous radioactive waste we produce on one of Australia's poorest and least resourced Indigenous communities. It has happened without transparent or democratic processes and in clear contravention of international obligations, including under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. If Muckaty were to become home to Australia's radioactive waste it, would be a body-blow to the reconciliation process set in motion with the apology to the stolen generations.

It is crucial to realise that what is being proposed is Australia's new 'greenfield' approach to radioactive waste management. However, instead of developing a credible process the government has been obsessed with identifying a vulnerable postcode. To place Australia's worst radioactive waste on the lands of some of its poorest people - without broad community understanding or consent - is not cutting edge scientific thinking, robust policy or best practice.

Sources: Beyond Nuclear Initiative, Media Alert, 13 & 15 March 2012, Green Left Weekly, 13 March 2012 / Dave Sweeney, Australian Conservation Foundation, 28 March 2012
Contact: Dave Sweeney, Australian Conservation Foundation, First Floor, 60 Leicester Street, Carlton VIC, 3053, Australia.
Tel: +61 3 9345 1111
Email: D.Sweeney[at]

WISEBeyond Nuclear

Taiwan after Fukushima

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Taiwan Environmental Protection Unit

Since the Fukushima disaster, NGOs hosted two major demonstrations, on March 20 and April 30, as well as many ongoing nationwide activities. Two days after the Fukushima disaster, Deputy Chair of the Atomic Energy Council, Taiwan’s regulatory body, assured the Legislators that Taiwan’s six operating nuclear reactors are as safe as “Buddha sitting comfortably on her lotus platform“.

NGOs and some Legislators called for abolishing the construction of the 4th nuclear power plant, and immediate stopping the 6 operating reactors for thorough safety check-ups. Taiwan has three operating nuclear power plants: Chinshan, Kuosheng, and Maanshan, with two reactors each. The fourth plant, Lungmen, two 1300MW ABWR, is under construction.

On March 15, President Ma, of the pronuclear KMT party, said there is no need to change the current nuclear policy. “The existing 6 reactors will keep running till serious incidences emerge. Since no signs of emergency occurs, no need to stop these reactors.” “Once real serious incidences occur, reactors will be abandoned immediately to protect the public”. President Ma’s announcements were criticized as “nonsense and stupidity” by non-governmental organizations. In addition, AEC officials said that radioactivity from Fukushima reaching Taiwan is impossible. Only a few days later they were forced to admit that vegetables in northern Taiwan were found to be contaminated.

One survey conducted by the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, DPP, on March 16, shows 50.6% of the Taiwanese population has little confidence in nuclear plant operation; 61.1% has little confidence in government’s ability of handling the crisis and 76.5% agrees that the construction of the 4th nuclear power plant should temporarily be stopped till reactor safety are warrant. Another survey conducted by the Taiwan Thinktank, on March 17th shows 58% agrees that construction of 4th nuclear power plant should be stopped and should be re-evaluated; 65% worries about nuclear safety; 79% does not know how to evacuate and how to cope with a nuclear accident if it occurs in Taiwan; 56% suspect that radioactive nuclei from Fukushima can travel to Taiwan; and finally 74.6% of people in Taiwan do not accept AEC’s analogy that Taiwan’s nuclear plants are as safe as Buddha on her lotus seat.

On May 30, maybe concerned about possible influences of the nuclear issue on the Presidential and parliamentary elections next January, the Ministry of Economic Affairs announced “no lifetime extensions (after 40 years’ operation) for current reactors” and “no 4th nuclear power plant operation unless safety is guaranteed”. Before the Fukushima incident, the Ministry of Economic Affairs sent its energy policy to the Environmental Protection Agency for policy Environmental Impact Assessment. That particular energy policy was formed August 2010, with expansion of nuclear and coal at its core. One week before the May 30 announcement, the Ministry quietly retracted its energy policy from EPA.

As reported in the Nuclear Monitor 688, May 7, 2009, the Atomic Energy Council revealed that between January and November 2007, state-owned Taipower changed the 4th nuclear plant design in 395 places without applying permission from the Atomic Energy Council, as law requires. Taipower was fined 4 million NT dollars for misconduct (US$ 139,000 or 100,000 euro). However, additional more than 700 safety related design changes without approval were discovered in January 2011. On March 8, three days before the Fukushima disaster, AEC fined Taipower 15 million NT dollars, and sent the case to the prosecutor for violating ”Nuclear Reactor Facilities Regulatory Acts”. This is a bold and unprecedented act from the rather weak AEC. At the deadline of this article, July 25, one cannot be sure whether AEC will act as strong in the future, and eventually shut the 4th nuclear power plant, or if AEC is just a dummy testing political winds.

Source and contact: Gloria Hsu, Taiwan Environmental Protection Union, TEPU.
2nd Fl., No. 107, Section 3, Ting Chou Road, Taipei, Taiwan.

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Centrifuge crash report allegedly delayed until after financing deadline. SONG (the Southern Ohio Neighbors Group) disclosed on July 6 that a power outage and centrifuge crash happened at USEC's project site near Piketon, Ohio. As reported in that newsrelease, Osiris Siurano, the NRC project manager for USEC's centrifuge project license, told SONG in an interview on July 5 that USEC had notified NRC and DOE "within 24-hours as required." According to NRC's "Event Notification Report" of that day, July 5, however, NRC was not actually notified of the situation until July 1.

July 1 just happened to be one day after USEC's original financing deadline of June 30, by which time USEC needed to secure a "conditional commitment" for a loan guarantee from the Department of Energy. That is, there is now evidence that USEC waited nineteen days before reporting a serious safety incident to NRC, in hopes that DOE would provide the "conditional commitment" before the incident became known. Silence from USEC, from DOE, and from USEC's two financing agents in the United States Senate, as the June 30 deadline neared, is now explained. In nuclear industry lingo, Mr. Siurano's statement that the 24-hour notification requirement had been met could be characterized as having "suboptimal veracity."

There is no decision yet on the Department of Energy's US$2 billion loan guarantee for USEC Inc. to complete the American Centrifuge Project at Piketon. USEC says it is now “most likely” looking at further cutbacks and a reduction of future investment in its planned American Centrifuge Project at Piketon. “We are reaching a critical point regarding continued funding for the American Centrifuge Project. We need to obtain a conditional commitment for the loan guarantee from DOE,“ the company said already in May.
Portsmouth Daily Times, 1 & 13 July 2011 /, 8 July 2011

Germany’s phase-out by 2022 sealed (again). On July 8, Germany's upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, passed the amendment to the atomic energy bill sealing Germany's exit from nuclear power by 2022. Ten days before, on June 30, the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament, approved with an overwhelming majority plans to phase-out nuclear power by 2022. The nuclear phase-out bill cleared the lower house with only the far-left voting against, while the opposition Social-Democrats and Green party both supported the bill.
Germany's new energy strategy reverses the extension of nuclear run-times, which became law earlier this year. Seven reactors built before 1980 as well as the Kruemmel reactor, which has not been online since 2007, will remain shut permanently, according to the bill. The nine remaining  reactors will be gradually phased-out between 2015 and 2022.

Germany's E.ON feels no pressure to replace nuclear power plants with alternatives after the  policy shift. "There is no strategy to replace lost nuclear capacity one-to-one. As an entrepreneur I always ask myself is my investment profitable?," Chief Executive Johannes Teyssen said on June 30. It is one of the four utilities with German nuclear power plants.

E.ON, which in an outcry earlier in June had demanded damages from the government for the closures, was holding on to the legal pursuits but had in the meantime adopted a more conciliatory stance, Teyssen said. But the group will now respect the change in policy towards renewables.
Reuters, 30 June 2011 / Platts, 30 June and 8 July 2011

Finland: inviting bids for construction npp. Finnish company Fennovoima has invited Areva and Toshiba to bid for the construction of a new nuclear power plant, which will be built at one of its greenfield sites Pyhäjoki or Simo, in northern Finland. Bids will be for the delivery and construction of the reactor and turbine islands. Infrastructure work during the first phase of construction and preparatory work such as earthmoving and excavation are excluded from the bid.

Fennovoima has already selected three alternatives for the plant design: Areva’s 1700 MW EPR, its advanced boiling water reactor the 1250 MW Kerena and the 1600 MW ABWR by Toshiba Corporation. The plant supplier and the model of delivery is due to be decided in 2012-2013. Fennovoima is planning to select the site for its nuclear power plant in 2011 and preparatory work could start by the end of 2012.
Nuclear Engineering International, news 5 July 2011

Citygroup: nuclear “uninvestable for public equity markets”. According to Peter Atherton, Citygroup’s head of European utilities research, Britain's nuclear strategy is "uninvestable" for private clients, who are only likely to put money into new plants if the government shoulders more of the risks involved. He says the investment environment is "dire." "Investors are demanding more of their returns up front in cash rather than dividends, indicating they don't trust the capital growth of the sector. "As we stand today, is (new nuclear) an investable option for Centrica, RWE? Simply put, no. The cost of capital based on those risks would be way too high to give you an electricity price which is affordable. "You would be looking at a project cost of capital of at least 15 percent. That would require a power price of about 150-200 pounds per megawatt hour (based on 2017 money) to make that project work," Atherton said, which is three to four times as much as current UK spot power prices.

"If we want (plants) built, the state will have to take on the risks," he added, saying the government could do this through direct subsidies, taxes or building new plants itself. Shares in the European utility sector have fallen about 30 percent since February 2009, according to Citigroup, as EU utilities have been more exposed to commodity price rises than in Asia or the U.S., and, most recently, due to the impact Japan's nuclear crisis.
Reuters, 6 July 2011

U.S.: Reactor proponents are batting 0-6 in state legislatures in 2011. Deep-pocketed nuclear power lobbyists may pack a big punch in Washington, D.C., but they are getting knocked out altogether at the state legislative level. So far in 2011, the nuclear power industry has a record of zero wins and six losses in Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. The nuclear power industry’s dismal track record is in keeping with its history of state legislative failures in 2010 (when it went 0-8) and 2009 (0-6).

The nuclear power industry’s 2011 state legislative failures:
* Minnesota – A heavily lobbied bill to overturn the state’s moratorium on additional reactors died in conference committee.
* Wisconsin – A push to reintroduce a bill to overturn the Badger State’s moratorium on new reactors failed.
* Kentucky – A bill to overturn the state’s moratorium on new reactors died in the House.
* Missouri – Despite a major industry push, a bill to charge utility customers in advance to pay for an “Early Site Permit” for the proposed new Callaway reactor died.
* North Carolina – A “Super Construction Work in Progress (CWIP)” bill to eliminate prudence review of CWIP expenses was proposed but never introduced due to strong on-the-ground opposition.
* Iowa – A bill pushed by MidAmerican to charge utility customers in advance for “small modular reactors” as well as potentially larger reactors stalled in the state Senate and cannot be taken up again until 2012.

In 2010, nuclear power lobbyists failed in legislative pushes in Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Vermont and West Virginia and Wisconsin. In 2009, the industry enjoyed no success whatsoever in its lobbying efforts in Kentucky, Minnesota, Hawaii, Illinois, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Safe Energy Program at Physicians for Social Responsibility,, 6 July 2011

Khan: North Korea paid Pakistan for nuclear secrets. In a letter released by Abdul Qadeer Khan, the disgraced nuclear scientist and ‘godfather of Pakistan's atomic bomb’, the North Korean ruling party appears to confirm that it paid more than US$3.5m (2.5m euro) to the serving army chief and at least one other senior general for transferring nuclear weapons technology to North Korea. The 1998 letter, was released as part of an attempt by Khan to establish that he was not working on his own when nuclear secrets were passed on to Iran, North Korea and Libya before his fall from grace. The two generals named in the letter fiercely denied the allegation, and denounced the letter as a forgery.

But opinion is divided not just over the authenticity of the documents, but also whether they establish that Khan was not acting alone. The Washington Post quoted unnamed US officials as saying that the letter's contents were "consistent with our knowledge" of the events described. But David Albright, a nuclear proliferation expert with the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, disputes Khan's claims that top military officials were complicit. "[The letter] shows that Khan was a rogue agent and he colluded to provide centrifuge components to North Korea without Pakistani official approval," the AP quoted him as saying. More on Khan at
Independent (UK), 8 July 2011

US: Georgia Power increases risks for ratepayers

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

In 2009, U.S. utility Georgia Power convinced the State legislature to pass Senate Bill 31, which approves the utility to let power customers pay for new generation facilities before the plants produce power. SB 31 was one of the most intensely lobbied measures in years. Opponents say SB 31 shifted risk to ratepayers and forced some consumers to pay for plants they will never use. Company lobbyists and the bill's sponsors all used the US$1.30 per month initial increase figure to sell the fee. But now that figure has changed and opponents said the public was tricked.

The nuclear power expansion fee that will show up on Georgia Power bills in January will be bigger than the utility indicated when lobbying for the levy, according to plans filed on September 3.

Georgia Power said the initial fee will add US$3.73 to the typical monthly residential bill in 2011 - more than double the US$1.30 figure the company and its supporters used when it convinced the state legislature to allow the fee. In the Public Service Commission (PSC) filing, Georgia Power also said the fee will ratchet up to US$9 over the following four years, rather than six as it had suggested last year.

However, the total amount collected through the fee to help pay for two new reactors will remain unchanged, Georgia Power said. It's the initial amount and pace of the increases that differs from the company's previous indications according to the utility.

But opponents said the public was tricked. "It's the old bait and switch," said Angela Speir, executive director of Georgia Watch and a former PSC member. "Georgia Power told  legislators it would be one thing, but when ratepayers get their bill, it's something else."

Under state law and utility regulatory policy, power customers don't typically pay for new generation facilities until the plants produce power. But in 2009, Georgia Power convinced the legislature to pass Senate Bill 31, which changed that for nuclear reactors. SB 31 was one of the most intensely lobbied measures in years. Company lobbyists and the bill's sponsors all used the US$1.30 per month initial increase figure to sell it.

Opponents say SB 31 shifted risk to ratepayers and forced some consumers to pay for plants they will never use.

Georgia Power's nuclear fee is intended to pay about US$1.6 billion in financing costs for constructing two Westinghouse Advanced Passive 1000 (AP1000) pressurized-water reactors (PWRs) designated as Vogtle, Units 3 and 4, near Augusta. They are scheduled to be complete in 2016 and 2017. The reactors will cost an estimated US$14 billion total.

Preliminary site work has already started for the two units. The NRC granted an Early Site Permit (ESP) as well as permission for limited safety-related construction in August 2009. However, actual construction of the new plant cannot begin until Southern receives a

combined construction and operating licence (COL) from the NRC not expected before mid 2011.

The Vogtle 3 and 4 reactors could become the first licensed nuclear reactors in the US since the 1970's. But that doesn't come cheap. Besides the fee for the construction costs (and putting th risk with the customers, Georgia Power was the recipient of the US$8.3 billion in federal loan guarantee from the Department of Energy announced by President Obama on February 16, 2010.

The new fees will come on top of whatever basic rate increase Georgia Power wins from state utility regulators later this year. Because, amid the worst recession since the Great Depression and state unemployment still topping 10 percent, Georgia Power filed a rate increase request before the Public Service Commission (PSC) of more than US$1 billion. The new billion-dollar proposal would be phased in over the next three years. By February 2013, typical household bill would shoot up US$18 per month.

In August this year, PSC approved an amendment to the construction contract between Georgia Power and Westinghouse–Shaw, the group building the two new units. Though many details of the contract dispute are still unknown, the PSC decision allows Georgia Power to shift the cost of the dispute – estimated at US$108 million – directly to customers. It comes without the slightest effort by Georgia Power to explain why its shareholders shouldn't be the ones to shoulder those costs.

On 7 September, Florida's Public Service Commission voted 3-2  to increase Florida Power & Light customers' bills by US$31 million starting in January to pay for development of the company's nuclear projects. The decision came after nearly three weeks of wrangling between the company and the commission over whether to conduct a full hearing on the issue after testimony revealed that FPL supplied the commission with inaccurate data last year regarding its nuclear projects.

By law, the commission must determine if what FPL is allowed to charge customers for planning and development of its nuclear projects is reasonable and prudent. The increase will mean that customer bills will increase 33 cents per 1,000-kilowatt hour to pay for nuclear projects, and the commission will decide sometime next year whether those costs are reasonable.

FPL is moving ahead with its plans to build two new nuclear power plants at Turkey Point.
The examiner, 10 September 2010

Sources: /  World Nuclear News, 8 September 2010 /, 23 march 2010 / The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 3 September 2010 / website of consumers advocacy organization
Contact: NIRS




Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Germany; coalition lost majority in Bundesrat.
After the May 9, elections in North Rhine-Westphalia, Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right coalition may have trouble pushing through planned nuclear lifetime extensions. Both Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Free Democrat (FDP) allies lost heavily and were left short of their previous state majority, leaving the make-up of the next government unclear.

Merkel, whose coalition has a majority in parliament's Bundestag lower house, could now be blocked on many issues in the Bundesrat upper house, which represents the states. "The nuclear extension has become politically more difficult because the

majority in the Bundesrat has been lost," said an analyst at Merck Finck. If the nuclear life extension plan can go ahead without needing approval by the Bundesrat, Merkel's government could in theory ignore the North Rhine-Westphalia result and grant longer life cycles for the reactors. But a panel of legal experts advising the Bundestag said the upper house has to approve any agreement to extend the lifetime of nuclear plants. Opponents to this view say the original nuclear phase-out law did not need Bundesrat approval.
Reuters, 10 May 2010

India: Nuclear liability legislation introduced to parliament.
On May 7, the "Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill" was introduced to parliament after the Indian Government deferred the introduction at the last minute at March 15.
The legislation faces tough opposition in the Indian parliament, and it may not pass. Communist parties and the right wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who could not prevent the government from going ahead with the nuclear agreement in 2008, are vehemently opposing this bill, and together with some other parties have the numerical strength in the parliament to obstruct its passage. "This is an opposition for the sake of opposition," Arundhati Ghose, India's former permanent representative to the United Nations told World Nuclear News, "People who are opposing this bill are those who oppose nuclear energy all together." (So…?) The critics of the bill also allege that the government is putting a low price tag on human lives.

The bill is crucial to the operationalisation of the Indo-US nuclear deal. Critics say Inia is under no obligation to pass the bill, which , in reality, attempts to convert the liability of a foreign supplier to be paid by the Idian taxpayer. (More on the legislation in Nuclear Monitor 706, 26 March 2010; 'India: Profits for foreign investors, risks for taxpayers')
World Nuclear News, 7 May 2010 / Nuclear Monitor 607, 26 March 2010

Lithuania says official, decisive “no” to Belarusian nuclear power plant. The government of Lithuania expressed its official disapproval of a plan pushed by the neighbouring Belarus to build a nuclear power plant in the Belarusian town of Ostrovets, just 55 kilometres away from the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius. The former Soviet republic’s concerns were stated in an official note that was prepared by the Ministry of Environment and will be extended to Minsk, said the Lithuanian news agency on May 8. Lithuania’s note of concern states, in particular, that Minsk has yet to deliver a comprehensive environmental impact evaluation report on the future NPP and asks that Belarusian officials hold a new hearing in Lithuania where such information may be made available to the public.

Both Lithuania and Belarus, two neighbouring nations that used to be part of the Soviet Union, are parties to the 1991 Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context – or the Espoo Convention, called so because it was signed in the Finnish town of Espoo. Since the new NPP is projected to be built just 23 kilometres off

the Belarusian-Lithuanian border, any harmful potential impact it may have will also affect the environment and well-being of the population of Lithuania. A bilateral discussion of the issue is thus a requisite procedure.
Bellona, 9 May 2010

Bulgaria halts nuclear plant project.
‘Prime Minister Boyko Borisov says Bulgaria has put on hold construction of its second nuclear power plant until it finds a new investor and funds to complete the project. "The country has no money for an atomic power plant," the DPA news agency cited Borisov as saying in the May 4 edition of the 24Casa newspaper. "We will build it when investors come." The Russian company Atomstroiexport had originally been commissioned to build the planned 2,000-megawatt Belene nuclear power plant on the Danube River - 180 kilometers (about 112 miles) northeast of the capital Sofia - for 4 billion euros. The contract had been signed between the Russian firm and previous Socialist-led Bulgarian government. When new center-right government swept power in July elections, Borisov's conservative GERB party put the Belene under review due to rising costs. It recently announced a tender for a new consultant after German utility RWE walked out of the project due to funding problems and Sofia decided to redesign it to attract new investors.’
Nuclear Reaction, 5 May 2010

India: profits for foreign investors, risks for taxpayers

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Brahma Chellaney

At the last minute, the Indian Government deferred the introduction of the “Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill” on March 15, after strong opposition. Aware that the bill's non-introduction was seen as a setback, the government belatedly initiated a major salvage operation to retrieve lost ground with briefing a panel of Congress MPs on the legislation. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reportedly wanted the bill passed in advance of his visit to Washington in April but could now aim for its passage before US President Barack Obama visits India, likely later this year.

The civil nuclear liability bill is a deeply flawed piece of legislation that the government has done well to develop cold feet about. The fatal flaw is the bill's perspective. The aim of any reasonable nuclear liability law should be to provide adequate and speedy compensation to the victims of a nuclear accident.

But this one, the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill seeks to burden the Indian taxpayer and encumber the rights of victims of any potential radioactive release from a foreign-built plant. The special Indian law limiting liability in amount and in time has been sought by Washington for its nuclear-exporting firms, with the largest two, Westinghouse and General Electric (GE), set to win multibillion-dollar contracts to build several commercial nuclear power reactors.

The Indian government had finally released the text of its controversial nuclear-accident liability Bill early March. The text not only confirms the concerns expressed earlier over key elements of the proposed law but also raises additional issues of worry. This proposal is risky for several reasons, including the fact that it provides the nuclear reactor manufacturers the option to maximise profits by reducing building and safety standards without fear of prosecution.

The bill is crucial to the operationalisation of the Indo-US nuclear deal, but India is under no international obligation to pass this bill which, in reality, attempts to convert the liability of a foreign reactor supplier into a rather pathetic compensation, to be paid by the Indian taxpayer. Though the bill is America-centric, if passed it will apply equally to reactors supplied by France and Russia for which presumably different, and as yet unpublicised, conditions would have been put in the contracts.

What stands out in the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill is the extent to which it goes to aid the business interests of the foreign reactor builders.

Under the Bill, the foreign reactor builder — however culpable it is for a nuclear accident — will be completely immune for any victim-initiated civil suit or criminal proceedings in an Indian court or in a court in its home country. The Bill actually turns the legal liability of a foreign reactor supplier for an accident into mere financial compensation — that too, pegged at a pittance and routed through the Indian state operator of the plant. Foreign suppliers will have no direct accident-related liability.

Another key issue relates to the rights of victims. The Bill ensures that victims of a disaster involving a foreign-built reactor will not be able to sue the builder in its home country. Worse still, the Bill blocks the victims from suing the foreign supplier even in Indian courts.

In fact, the Bill seriously shackles Indian courts. All nuclear-damage claims will be dealt with by a Claims Commissioner or a Nuclear Damage Claims Commission, and any award made “shall be final” and cannot be appealed in any court. “No civil court shall have jurisdiction to entertain any suit or proceedings in respect of any matter which the Claims Commissioner or the Commission, as the case may be, is empowered to adjudicate under this Act and no injunction shall be granted by any court or other authority in respect of any action taken or to be taken in pursuance of any power conferred by or under this Act,” according to Clause 35.

The Bill also limits liability in time, with Clause 18 stating: “The right to claim compensation for any nuclear damage caused by a nuclear incident shall extinguish if such claim is not made within a period of 10 years from the date of incident…” . That provision was retained despite the Environment Ministry's note of caution that the 10-year time limit was untenable because damage to human health from a serious radioactive release “involves changes in DNAs, resulting in mutagenic and teratogenic changes, which take a long time to manifest.”

And although the Finance Ministry, in its comments on the Bill, had warned the proposed law would “expose the government to substantial liabilities for the failings of the private sector,” the Bill essentially seeks to give foreign reactor builders a free ride at the Indian taxpayer's expense.

The Indian Bill, in effect, amounts to a huge hidden subsidy by protecting foreign reactor builders from the weight of the financial consequences of accidents. If the Bill is passed, the costs of doing business in India for foreign suppliers will be low but the assured profits will be high. To cover the maximum potential compensation payable for an accident, a foreign builder will need to take insurance for a mere Rs. 500 crore (US$109 million or 80 million Euro). What is more, the foreign builders are being freed from the task of producing electricity at marketable rates. The state operator NPCIL (Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited) will run the foreign-built reactors, with the state subsidising the high-priced electricity generated.

Sources: Brahma Chellaney in The Hindu (India), 13 March 2010 / The Asian Age, 15 March 2010 / UPI, 16 March 2010 / The Times Of India, 17 march 2010
Contact: WISE India


Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(September 16 2005) In what has been strongly condemned by major Dutch environmental organisations as a "perverted deal", the Dutch government on September 5 agreed, with the owners of the last Dutch nuclear power plant, to keep the reactor open until 2033.

In early spring of this year the State Secretary for the Environment hired two consultants to initiate talks, behind closed doors, with the main stakeholders to identify possibilities for making a dirty deal; if the environmental movement would accept the postponement of closure to 2033 then the 'saved' money (from not compensating the utility) would then be spent on renewable energy projects and investments.

Since the environmental community refused to participate, the consultants played the divide-and-rule game by trying to expose some groups as supporters of a deal and were rather successful with this ploy. In the current three-party government coalition, the smallest party (D66, progressive liberals) has always expressed opposition to nuclear power but have now bowed to strong pressure from the other two coalition partners. Although the State Secretary in early spring claimed that closure in 2013 (agreed upon when this government took office) would cost approximately 1 billion Euros (US$1.2 billion), the basis on which this agreement has now been reached is that the two owners of the plant will invest 250 million Euro (US$307 million) into seeking extra measures to cut CO2-emissions.
The exact wording of the deal remains a secret but it is widely expected that the two owners (Essent and Delta) will invest this money in increasing efficiency efforts in their coal-burning power stations - an action that they would have been forced to do anyway under the Dutch Kyoto targets and policies.

See also WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor 628, May 27, 2005
Contact: WISE Amsterdam


Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(May 27, 2005) On May 18, activists from Greenpeace occupied the site of Borssele, the sole remaining nuclear power reactor in The Netherlands as a result of the renewed debate on its future, which re-started when members of the government again put the official closure date into question.

(628.5690) WISE Amsterdam - On February 16, when most NGOs involved in energy issues were celebrating the entering into force of the Kyoto protocol, the Dutch Secretary of State for the Environment (The Netherlands no longer has a Minister for Environmental Affairs) announced that the government is seeking ways to keep the Borssele nuclear power plant open for 20 more years. The coalition government (three parties of right-wing Conservatives), in 2002, agreed upon the closure of the last Dutch commercial nuclear power station in 2013, at the end of its natural lifetime (40 years).

However, the government has so far failed to come up with a comprehensive and/or inspiring plan for more renewables, energy efficiency or even new investments in cleaner power stations or wind farms. The Dutch will probably only be able to meet the Kyoto targets because half of the savings on CO2-emission are to be met with projects in other countries via the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

And as the Dutch energy market has gradually been liberalized and left to the market, the owners of the Borssele nuclear reactor can successfully claim that it is not up to the government to decide when the reactor should close. The Dutch system allows a plant that fulfills safety requirements to be awarded an open-ended license; Borssele has one. The utility, EPZ, has stated that it should receive between 700 and 1200 million Euros in compensation from the government if 'forced' to close in 2013. This claim has led the Dutch NGO world and communities at large to re-start their opposition for the first time in maybe 15 years. Groups are increasing efforts to put pressure on parliament and the government to stick to the original closure date of 2013.

The State Secretary for the Environment hired two consultants to initiate talks with the main stakeholders, behind closed doors, to identify possibilities for making a dirty deal; if the environmental movement would accept the postponement of closure to 2033 then the 'saved' money (from not compensating the utility) would then be spent on renewable energy projects and investments.

Divide and rule
In the first round of this tense and highly political game all the environmental NGOs refused to participate, not wanting to "…bargain on nuclear energy". The offer of such a deal has served to galvanize the Dutch anti-nuclear movement and in response to the political war games, a coalition of eight environmental groups responded with an action. Greenpeace Netherlands and WISE have been increasing the number of its actions against nuclear energy and earlier this year, 200 drums with 'radioactive waste' were placed in front of parliamentary buildings. On May 18, Greenpeace managed to occupy the Borssele site and some activists even climbed onto the reactor dome. This was a major embarrassment for both the government and the utility as just a few months ago, the entire nation was shaken by the news that a would-be Muslim terrorist had been arrested with detailed maps of the nuclear power station. Greenpeace easily walked onto the site with 40 people and 12 of them occupied the dome for a day, painting a huge crack to symbolize the expected problems of ageing reactors.

Other players (opinion makers, civil servants, environmental and energy consultants, etc) in the debate are much more open to the idea of a deal (postponed closure in exchange for money for renewables). The consultants are now attempting to play the divide-and-rule game by trying to expose supporters of a deal.

Although not written in stone yet, it seems that the government wants to keep Borssele open until at least 2033. This has far reaching consequences for the discussion on radwaste and reprocessing. In a new report ("Ontwikkelingen met betrekking tot eindverwerking van gebruikte brandstof", NRG, April 2005), the government published new details on the status of Dutch plutonium stocks; in the last 15 years, despite almost annual parliamentary debate on reprocessing, no details were ever published on the exact status of Dutch reprocessing contracts. The government has decided that there are still no relevant developments to stop reprocessing (despite, for instance, the 'new' terrorism threat).

The State Secretary and his staff have, of course in confidentiality, been allowed to view the reprocessing contracts with Cogema for the first time ever. After some discussions both Cogema and Borssele agreed to reveal the following information on Dutch plutonium:


  • EPZ claims that ownership of Dutch plutonium (Pu) stocks is transferred, or will be transferred, to others for recycling as MOX fuel. Borssele itself does not and will not use MOX. This counts for both the already produced (separated) Pu as well as the Pu still to be produced

  • Of the 2,5 tons Pu already produced, 23% was sold to the Kalkar and Superphenix fast breeder projects, 31% was sold for recycling in MOX, 31% is still in storage with the aim to be used in MOX later, as is the remaining 15%. The total amount of separated plutonium owned by The Netherlands is 2.3 tons (Dec. 31, 2004): 0.4 tons from Dodewaard and 1.9 tons from the Borssele reactor.

  • Of the 280 tons of reprocessed uranium produced till now, 126 tons has already been re-enriched and used for re-loading into Borssele and 139 tons has been transferred to others. EPZ "expects to find a solution" for the remaining 15 tons.


    In February when the future of Borssele was debated, a Dutch businessman announced his intention to build a small (25 Mw) Pebble Bed nuclear reactor in the Netherlands, to be used as a stand-alone energy source for high-energy consuming industry in the Rotterdam harbor area. As he put it, "the question whether I will go to the Ministry and start the process for a license depends largely on how much resistance I meet in society".

    The large utilities active in the Dutch energy market are also reviewing their positions on nuclear power. Although none are expected to announce plans to build a large reactor, it is clear that there is a rapid change in thinking occurring, not only within the general public (polls show support for nuclear growing steadily) but, and more importantly in the short term, also within the circles of decision makers.

    Source and contact: WISE Amsterdam.

BorsseleGKN DodewaardWISE