Namibia: Leach tank failure
All milling operations at the Rossing uranium mine in Namibia ground to a halt after a structural failure at one of twelve leach tanks in the processing plant on December 3. A statement from Rossing said that a leak was detected and it was decided to pump out the tank for fixing, and during that process the leach tank experienced a "catastrophic structural failure". Rossing said the slurry was "channeled in trenches and contained in a holding tank". The area was evacuated.
Ben De Vries, General Manager of Operations, said: "This is obviously a very serious incident which is currently under investigation. I can assure you that we are applying a rigorous and structured approach to determine the cause of this failure and ensure that we safely return the plant to normal operations as soon as possible. At the moment the milling operation had been stopped, but is expected to restart once the failed tank has been isolated from the production process. Production in the other areas of the mine has not been affected and continues as usual."
Australia: major spill at Ranger
A tank in the processing area of the Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory failed on December 7, spilling around 1.4 million litres of radioactive and acidic slurry. It is understood the radioactive liquid then flowed outside the ''bunded area'', or nearby containment banks, onto grassed areas and into the mine's stormwater and drainage system.
Workers were evacuated. All processing operations have been suspended (mining has already ceased as the open-pit ore body has been depleted). The federal environment minister has ordered an immediate clean-up and investigation − but still plans to devolve federal uranium mine approval and assessment powers to states and territories despite their demonstrated incompetence.
More than A$80 million (US$73 million ) was wiped off the value of Rio Tinto subsidiary Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) as a result of the spill, with shares down nearly 13%.
The Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation (GAC), which represents the Mirarr Traditional Owners, has called for an audit of the site's facilities. "People living just a few kilometres downstream from the mine don't feel safe," GAC chief executive Justin O'Brien said. "How can we trust the assurances of a company which has repeatedly failed to safely manage this highly toxic material? It's a catastrophic failure on the part of not only the operator but also the government regulators in the Northern Territory and Canberra. ... This is nothing but a hillbilly operation, run by a hillbilly miner with hillbilly regulators."
About 60 Mirarr people live at Mudginberri, on Magela Creek, just 7 kms downstream from the mine. ''It's the wet now; it rains every day,'' O'Brien said. ''That creek is flowing right past the mine and into the community, where they fish and hunt, get barramundi, catfish, mussels. They drink the water. They play in it. People are worried sick.''
Monash University academic Dr Gavin Mudd said: ''ERA has form with this. The company has a history of delaying infrastructure maintenance in order to maximise profits.''
The Australian Conservation Foundation and the Environment Centre NT are calling for a halt to operations and an independent safety audit of the site and infrastructure; a review of the cumulative impacts of the Ranger operation and the adequacy of the regulatory regime; an independent assessment of the costs and consequences of the wider Australian uranium trade; a halt to any approvals or advance on the planned Ranger 3 Deeps underground uranium mining operation; and no devolving of federal powers to assess/approve uranium mining projects to state or territory governments
The Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union is calling for all operations to be suspended until a full audit and inquiry into the infrastructure on the site has been conducted. AMWU Regional Organiser Bryan Wilkins said: "This mine site has a history of not dealing with safety issues – this was an accident waiting to happen. This incident occurred after parent company Rio Tinto boasted they cut costs by $2 billion this year. They may be saving money but they are putting people's lives at risk in the process. This tank was about 20 years old and it was an accident waiting to happen – they are lucky no one was hurt this time."
British bomb factory "played down" seriousness of fire
AWE, the private consortium that runs nuclear weapons plants at Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire for the Ministry of Defence, "played down" a fire that could have caused "numerous fatalities" according to an internal investigation by the government's Health and Safety Executive (HSE). AWE was guilty of a "disturbing" catalogue of safety blunders in the handling of explosives, the HSE said, and its actions "fell far below the standard expected in an explosives manufacturing company." HSE released the report of its 10-month investigation into the fire at Aldermaston under freedom of information laws.
World Bank says no money for nukes, Goldman Sachs to sell uranium unit
The World Bank and United Nations have appealed for billions of dollars to provide electricity for the poorest nations. Announcing the 'Sustainable Energy for All' initiative, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim said US$600−800 billion a year will be needed to meet the campaign target of universal access to electricity, doubling energy efficiency and doubling the share of renewable energy by 2030.[1,2,3]
"We don't do nuclear energy," Kim said as he and UN leader Ban Ki-moon outlined efforts to make sure all people have access to electricity by 2030. Kim said: "Nuclear power from country to country is an extremely political issue. The World Bank Group does not engage in providing support for nuclear power. We think that this is an extremely difficult conversation that every country is continuing to have. And because we are really not in that business our focus is on finding ways of working in hydro electric power in geo-thermal, in solar, in wind. We are really focusing on increasing investment in those modalities and we don't do nuclear energy."
Kim added that it had been difficult to find long term capital for poorer countries but insisted: "We will show investors that sustainable energy is an opportunity they cannot afford to miss."
In July, the World Bank adopted a policy of providing "financial support for greenfield coal power generation projects only in rare circumstances," such as where there are "no feasible alternatives to coal."
Meanwhile, US bank Goldman Sachs Group has reportedly put its uranium trading business up for sale. Goldman's two-person uranium desk was inherited with the purchase of US utility Constellation Energy's London-based trading operation in 2009.
 AFP, 27 Nov 2013, 'World Bank says no money for nuclear power', www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131127/world-bank-says-no-money-nuc...
 World Bank media release, 27 Nov 2013, http://tinyurl.com/wb-no-nukes
 Sustainable Energy for All: www.se4all.org
 John Upton, 18 July 2013, 'World Bank joins war on coal', http://grist.org/news/world-bank-joins-war-on-coal/
 Scott Disavino and David Sheppard, 25 Nov 2013, 'Goldman Sachs to sell uranium unit', www.bdlive.co.za/world/americas/2013/11/25/goldman-sachs-to-sell-uranium...
Nuclear decline in OECD
The amount of nuclear-generated electricity in the OECD area declined by 5.2% between 2011 and 2012, according to the Brown Book of nuclear energy data published by the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency. Total OECD nuclear generation amounted to 1884 TWh in 2012, a 5.2% fall from 1988 TWh in 2011. Total electricity generation fell 0.1% over the same period. There were 331 operational reactors in the OECD as of 31 December 2012 − 133 in Europe, 125 in the Americas (US, Canada and Mexico) and 73 in the Pacific region (South Korea and Japan).
The Brown Book states: "The share of electricity production from nuclear power plants also decreased from 19.9% in 2011 to 18.9% in 2012. This decline reflects the permanent shutdown of three reactors that had reached the end of their operational lifetime (two in the United Kingdom and one in Canada), operational issues at some facilities and suspended operation at all but two reactors in Japan. Record electricity production at nuclear power plants in the Czech Republic and Hungary, combined with increased production in Canada, France, Spain and Sweden balanced, to some extent, declining production in Belgium, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States."
Brazil cools on nuclear power plans; favours wind
Brazil will probably scale down its plans for new nuclear plants due to safety concerns following the Fukushima disaster and pick up some of the slack with a "revolution" in wind power, the head of the government's energy planning agency said. Mauricio Tolmasquim, chief of the Energy Research Company, told Reuters it was "unlikely" the government would stick to its plans to build four new nuclear plants by 2030. He declined to specify how many might be built instead.
"After Japan, things got put on standby," Tolmasquim told Reuters. "We haven't abandoned (the plans) ... but they haven't been resumed yet either. It's not a priority for us right now."
Tolmasquim added: "This is wind power's moment. There's been a revolution in terms of cost."
Nevertheless, Brazil is proceeding with the Angra 3 nuclear power project. In November, Areva signed a contract worth 1.25 billion euros (US$1.67 billion) with the Brazilian utility Eletrobras Eletronuclear for the completion of the Angra 3 reactor, located in the state of Rio de Janeiro. The Angra 3 project has a long history. Construction started in 1984 but faltered two years later. A return to construction was approved in 2007.
Switzerland can reach 98% renewable electricity
Switzerland already gets more than half of its electricity from renewable sources. Now, German researchers say that the country could have 98% renewable power by 2050, up from the current 57%. Germany's GLR has published the country edition of its Energy evolution study for Switzerland (currently only available in German). Written on behalf of Greenpeace, the study finds that Switzerland can increase the share of renewables by quickly expanding photovoltaics, while the growth of biomass, wind power, hydropower, and geothermal would be more moderate. The Swiss plan to shut down their last nuclear plant in 2025.
Renewables International, 4 Dec 2013, www.renewablesinternational.net/swiss-energiewende-investigated/150/537/...
Energy[R]evolution Schweiz, www.greenpeace.org/switzerland/de/Themen/Stromzukunft-Schweiz/EnergyRevo...
South Africa puts nuclear on hold ... again
The South African Department of Energy has reported that new nuclear power will not be required until after 2025 or even later. The country is likely to take on other power sources, according to the updated version of the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for electricity, such as hydro and shale gas. The IRP is a 20-year plan that models demand and supply of electricity and plans for generation needs. Nuclear was seen as highly expensive compared to other available resources, however less-than-expected power demand is also playing a role in the latest projections. The National Planning Commission had cautioned against committing to an "expensive and irreversible" nuclear program, particularly when electricity demand has not grown in line with expectations.
Earlier plans to build up to 20 GW of nuclear capacity were shelved in 2008, and more recent plans to build up to 10 GW by 2023 have now been dealt a blow. In addition, the devepment of Pebble Bed Modular Reactor technology consumed a great deal of R&D funding in South Africa before being abandoned in 2010.
Two power reactors are in operation at the Koeberg Power Station near Cape Town, in the south-west of the country − the only power reactors in Africa.
 K. Steiner-Dicks, 4 Dec 2013, 'South Africa puts nuclear on hold', http://analysis.nuclearenergyinsider.com/new-build/south-africa-puts-nuc...
 Steve Kidd, 4 Dec 2013, 'South Africa: can it go further in nuclear?', www.neimagazine.com/opinion/opinionsouth-africa-can-it-go-further-in-nuc...
Germany's 'Grand Coalition' committed to nuclear phase-out
The new German 'grand coalition' between Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union party, the Christian Social Union and the Social Democratic Party will remain committed to the nuclear phase-out and the energy transition, the coalition contract between the three parties says. "No later than 2022, the last nuclear power plant in Germany will be shut down," says the coalition contract.
The coalition government will continue the implementation of a law, adopted in July 2013, for choosing a site for deep geological long-term storage of high-level nuclear waste.
The coalition contract is available online (in German only): www.cdu.de/sites/default/files/media/dokumente/koalitionsvertrag.pdf
NucNet, 28 Nov 2013, 'Germany's 'Grand Coalition' Remains Committed To Energy Transition', www.nucnet.org/all-the-news/2013/11/28/germany-s-grand-coalition-remains...
Nuclear power to stay in France
The French government won't shut any more nuclear reactors after the country's oldest plant at Fessenheim is shut down, industry minister Arnaud Montebourg said. "My answer is no, my answer is clear," Montebourg said in an interview in Paris. Nuclear power will always provide at least half of France's electricity, he said. Montebourg's comments undercut President Francois Hollande's promise, made in last year's election campaign, to cut France's atomic output from 75% to 50% of electricity production by about 2025.[1,2]
Meanwhile, Thomas Houdre from the regulator Autorite de Surete Nucleaire said that "significant safety improvements have to be made" at spent fuel pools at French nuclear power plants. "There is no way of managing an accident in a spent-fuel pool. We want the possibility of this happening to be practically eliminated," he said. Last year, EDF declared a "major safety event" after it was discovered that fuel storage pools at the Cattenom plant were vulnerable to leaks.
 Tara Patel, 12 Nov 2013, 'France Won't Shut Any More Atomic Reactors, Minister Says', www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-12/france-won-t-shut-down-any-more-nuclea...
 8 Dec 2013, 'French nuclear power here to stay, says industry minister', http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/12/08/uk-france-nuclear-share-idUKBRE...
 Tara Patel, 4 Dec 2013, 'France's 58 Nuclear Pools Must Be Safer, Watchdog Says', www.businessweek.com/news/2013-12-03/france-s-58-nuclear-pools-must-be-s...
South Korea: Nuclear power policy
Nuclear power should account for up to 29% of South Korean generation capacity by 2035, according to draft long-term energy plans submitted to the government. Previous plans called for 41% nuclear by 2035. The draft plan has been submitted to the parliament by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy prior to a public hearing. In it, the government "recognises" the role of nuclear power but also says it plans to reduce power demand over the period to 2035. Korea's 23 nuclear reactors currently account for 22% of the country's generation capacity, and 29% of its electricity output. The South Korean nuclear power industry is in crisis because of a corruption and forgery scandal (see Nuclear Monitor #771 and #765).
WNN, 10 Dec 2013, 'Nuclear to remain Korean mainstay', www.world-nuclear-news.org/NP-Nuclear-to-remain-Korean-mainstay-1012137....