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U.S.: radioactive waste issue: suspension of new reactor licenses

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

A Perfect Storm is brewing on radioactive waste issues in the U.S., one that will inevitably lead to major changes in radioactive waste policy. Already, elements of this storm have led to a full suspension of all new reactor licenses and license renewals in the U.S..

This confluence of events began with President Obama’s decision, early in his term to end the proposed Yucca Mountain, Nevada radioactive waste dump and, in tandem with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, to end Department of Energy funding to pursue this project. Energy Secretary Chu then appointed a Blue Ribbon Commission to recommend a new approach to radioactive waste issues.

Given that decision, former NRC Chair Greg Jazcko refused to spend any more NRC money or resources on reviewing the Yucca Mountain license application despite harsh criticism from the industry and some in Congress. Jazcko has now been replaced by Yucca-skeptic Allison Macfarlane, who was a member of the Blue Ribbon Commission.

The Commission reported its recommendations earlier this year. They include establishment of a new, but largely undefined entity to handle radioactive waste policy -essentially removing the responsibility from the Department of Energy. The Commission also urged adoption of a new, but also undefined, community “consent” process for siting of a radioactive waste dump. Of most immediate concern to environmentalists, the Commission also recommended speedy establishment of a “centralized interim storage” site for radioactive waste. There is no real scientific, technical or safety basis for such a site -it would use the same dry cask technology as can be used, and is being used, at reactor sites. But it would encourage the generation of more radioactive waste and set off the widespread transport of radioactive waste across the U.S. In the 1990s, this concept was dubbed Mobile Chernobyl, and was defeated by a veto from President Clinton, which was upheld by the U.S. Senate.

The Commission’s recommendations are now reflected in new legislation (S. 3469)(*1) offered by retiring Senate Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and will be included, although probably in somewhat different form, in a new proposal slated to come from the Obama administration in September 2012. Sen. Bingaman said his committee will hold a hearing on the bill in September, but a date has not yet been set. And Bingaman has publicly acknowledged that his bill so far has little support and will not pass this year. What he wants to do is to begin to lay the groundwork for Congressional consideration next year. A key stumbling block is that his bill does not establish centralized interim storage fast enough or large enough for some members of Congress -meaning that the environmental community has substantial work to do to explain to Congress- many of whose members were not there in the 1990s -the reasons for our unaltera-ble opposition to centralized interim storage.

Meanwhile, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had re-issued its “waste confidence rule, which states that the NRC need not consider radioactive waste generation in licensing new reac-tors or extending licenses of existing reactors, because the NRC was confident that a permanent radioactive waste site would be licensed eventually and that, if not, existing onsite storage is good enough in any case. The agency was sued by several states and environmental groups like NRDC, and this sum-mer a federal court ruled in their favor, saying that the NRC has no valid reason to believe a permanent site ever will be established and has no technical basis for stating that existing on-site storage methods are good enough.

Responding to the court decision, grassroots intervenors (including NIRS) filed new contentions in every current new reactor and license renewal case arguing that the NRC no longer has any basis to issue new reactor licenses or renewals. The NRC, in Chairwoman Macfarlane’s first major decision, ruled in favor of the intervenors and said the agency indeed cannot grant any new reactor licenses, or approve any new license renewals, until it has addressed the waste confidence problem and provided a technical basis for its rule. Early indications are that this could take a year or more. 

In the meantime, pro-nuclear forces are marshaling to try to force Yucca Mountain on Nevada and the American people, and to try other mechanisms to speed nuclear power development, create new radioactive waste sites regardless of environmental impact, and to ignore the hard lessons learned from the past 25 years of failed radioactive waste policy.

The Fukushima disaster and the frightening reality of severe damage to a reactor's irradiated fuel pool have crept into public awareness. At the same time, fuel stored in dry casks at Fukushima was apparently not adversely affected by either the earthquake or tsunami. Add to that a growing recognition that fuel pools at U.S. reactors are typically much fuller than those at Fukushima, and thus are both more vulnerable and carry a larger radioactive inventory, and concern over radioactive waste issues has grown in the U.S. The specter of widespread transport of radioactive waste likely will lead to greater public concern.

Over the past few years, the nation's anti-nuclear, environmental community has managed to coalesce behind a statement of principles for radioactive waste. These principles are known as HOSS -for Hardened On-Site Storage- and reflect a belief that high-level radioactive waste should remain where it has been generated, but that the fuel pools should be emptied to the extent possible as soon as possible into dry cask storage that is additionally protected by berming and other features from natural disasters, terrorism and the like.(*2) No one believes that dry casks are a permanent solution to the problem, but after years of discussion, the nation's anti-nuclear movement believes they are the best answer for the present for the waste that already has been generated. Of course, ending the generation of any more radioactive waste is also vital, and demonstrating the shortcomings of every possible waste storage method -including the preferred method of HOSS- is a key step toward ending waste generation generally.

It is clear that major changes are coming to radioactive waste policy, probably over the next 18 months. What isn’t clear yet is what those changes will be. There is both opportunity and threat. This could be the chance to finally obtain a policy that can withstand public and scientific scrutiny, or it could be a return to the failed approach of seeking short-term industry gain at the expense of long-term scientific and public credibility.

*1- available at: gov/public/index.cfm/featureditems?ID=b6de054d-b342-...
*2- available at:

Source and contact: NIRS Washington


The future of the nuclear suppliers group

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

After the first Indian nuclear explosive test in 1974, seven nuclear supplier governments were convinced that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) alone would not halt the spread of nuclear weapons. Seven governments formed the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), and over the course of more than three decades, it is described by Mark Hibbs in a new report "the world’s leading multilateral nuclear export control arrangement, establishing guidelines that govern transfers of nuclear-related materials, equipment, and technology."

To encourage the Nuclear Suppliers Group to consider issues that have a significant impact on its future credibility and effectiveness, the Carnegie Endowment held a workshop in Brussels, “The Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Future of Nuclear Trade,” from May 9 to 10, 2011. The workshop, supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, which assumed the NSG chair in June, was attended by 75 experts, including officials from 30 NSG-participating governments.

One month after the workshop, at the NSG’s 2011 plenary meeting held in the Netherlands formally assumed the chairmanship of the NSG for one year. (see for a report on the NSG plenary meeting Nuclear Monitor 729 –July 1, 2011: New NSG guidelines limit India's access to sensitive nuclear technology)

It was agreed that Carnegie would publish an open report based on the proceedings of the workshop in the interest of informing the broader policy community about the discussion held during the meeting. A compendium of suggestions and recommendations emerging from the workshop is included in the recently published  report: "The future of the Nuclear Suppliers Group" written by Mark Hibbs. The report, however, is broader in scope than the workshop, and it concerns itself with the history of the NSG from its inception as well as with events that transpired after the workshop was held.

One of the main conclusions of the workshop was that the NSG must decide how to manage its future relationship with states outside the group and how to define itself with respect to the NPT, whose 190 parties are committed to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, and promoting disarmament and the peaceful use of nuclear technology. International nuclear commerce is rapidly evolving into a system of complex transactions involving destinations and actors that until now have been disconnected from the world of nuclear trade controls, be they governments that are members of budding regional customs unions or independent brokers, traders, and financiers such as those who have been affiliated with Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan. As the world’s nuclear industry expands, engaging those countries outside the NSG framework will be far more critical than at any time in the NSG’s history.

India is one such country. As a state with undeclared nuclear activities outside the NPT, India was barred by the NSG and the NPT from most international nuclear commerce, but the group lifted nuclear trade sanctions against India in 2008 at the request of the United States, supported by other major nuclear exporting governments, including France and Russia. Workshop participants addressed the question of whether the India decision was a “singular exception” to principles set by the NPT parties and adopted by the NSG, as its main advocates claimed, or whether it marked a significant course correction by the NSG toward the goal of obtaining the adherence and participation of all nuclear supplier states, including those outside the NPT that enrich uranium, reprocess irradiated nuclear fuel, and have nuclear weapons. Attendees presented arguments for both cases but came to no consensus.

Now, three years after the India exception, China intends to export more power reactors to Pakistan, which is, like India, a state outside the NPT with nuclear arms. According to NSG guidelines, Pakistan would have to commit to full-scope International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards as a condition for the transaction. That will not happen, and workshop participants discussed whether China can be persuaded not to export the reactors or instead to seek a formal exception to NSG guidelines. China claims the exports are “grandfathered” by a long-standing agreement with Pakistan. Presently the NSG has not formulated a response to China’s challenge, but if Beijing does not come to some agreement with the NSG, the group’s credibility will be damaged, workshop attendees warned.

The NSG must be prepared to include new exporters, many of them developing countries previously outside the fabric of nuclear trade rule making. It will also have to address concerns that the organization is an exclusive club that undercuts states’ rights to nuclear commerce. The NSG incorporated China into the group in 2004 and should consider this experience in any future expansion. The United States has forced the pace of this discussion by advocating full NSG membership for India. Though workshop participants from India, Israel, and Pakistan presented arguments as to why these countries should be included in the arrangement, there was no consensus among the attendees that that should happen in the near future.

All of this will affect the rules by which the NSG operates. According to the report the NSG needs to consider how its voluntary participation and consensus-based decision making will fare as more states join the group. Voluntary commitments are difficult to enforce. But many workshop participants saw little upside to turning the NSG into a more formal organization. That is exactly one of the main criticisms. Basically, the NSG is a group countries selling nuclear technology, which means that the access to that technology should not be hindered too much.

The full report 'The future of the Nuclear Supplier Group' written by Mark Hibbs and published by the Carnegie Endowment can be found online, at:

Source: Media Release Carnegie Endowment, 14 December 2011
Contact: The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20036 United States


ALP export policy: dollar signs over danger signs

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Dave Sweeny, Australian Conservation Foundation

With around 40% of the world’s uranium and currently supplying around 20% of the global market from three commercial mines, the issues of safety, radioactive waste management and the proliferation of nuclear weapons underpin Australia’s uranium mining and export debate. At its National Conference in December 2011 the Australian Labor Party (ALP) took a big step down a dangerous and divisive path with its decision to clear the way for uranium sales to India.

A cornerstone of the governing Australian Labor Party’s (ALP) uranium policy has been a pre-condition to only supply nations that have signed the UN’s nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT).

In operation since 1970 and with 190 nations signed on, the NPT is one of the worlds most subscribed to Treaty’s. Only India, Pakistan and Israel have never signed the NPT while North Korea withdrew in 2003. Although imperfect, the NPT remains one of the world’s best ways to restrict the spread of its worst weapons.

In November 2011 Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard abruptly announced she would seek to weaken Labor’s commitment to the NPT by exempting India and freeing up uranium sales. This move led to a high profile and close fought debate at the ALP’s National Conference in early December.

Selling uranium to India would breach Australia’s clear obligations under the South Pacific Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty – the Treaty of Rarotonga – which requires treaty partners to only supply nuclear materials, including uranium, to nations that accept comprehensive ‘full-scope’ international safeguards. India does not and has stated it will not. Around 50% of Indian nuclear facilities remain exempt from international inspection and review. Any move to sell Australian uranium to India would put further pressure on the already stressed, under-resourced and under-performing international nuclear safeguards regime.

Proponents of the policy change relied on internal ALP political machinations and enforced crude factional bloc voting rather than assessment or analysis to advance their position.

There was no clear and compelling case made to justify dropping such a long standing and prudent policy position or to address the fact that the sale of uranium to India is inconsistent with the ALP’s view that Australia can make a significant contribution to promoting nuclear disarmament and the reduction of nuclear stockpiles.

Critics of the plan highlighted India’s active weapons development program, the deep and continuing hostility between India and its nuclear armed rival and neighbour Pakistan and the increasing tension with China. Adding Australian uranium into this volatile context would further these divisions and risks, free up domestic Indian uranium supplies for use in India’s military nuclear program and lead to calls for future uranium sales to Pakistan.

Pro-nuclear and conservative commentators with strong nuclear industry links joined the chorus of concern ahead of Conference to call for a halt to the rushed and ill-conceived sales plan. Australian NGO’s and anti-nuclear groups like the Australian Conservation Foundation, Friends of the Earth, the Beyond Nuclear Initiative and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons joined with other civil society groups to highlight the issue.

Many of the 400 Conference delegates received letters, briefing materials, phone calls and visits. The corridors of Canberra were walked and talked. Opinion and commentary pieces were written, media comment and briefings provided and there was an active presence at the Conference itself.

Sadly, the potential dollar signs shone brighter than the very real danger signs. Debate over Australia’s obligations under international law and role and responsibility as a provider of a dual use mineral was deliberately clouded by unrelated issues including the Prime Minister’s ability to ‘deliver’, absurdly optimistic economic projections and the fact that India is ‘friendly’.

The one credible argument raised by proponents of sales was India’s pressing need for increased energy and electricity.

The provision of Australian uranium to India is not a responsible or effective response to India’s aspiration to increase access to electricity to address widespread poverty.

Instead of using the cumbersome, costly and contaminating 20th Century technologies of coal and nuclear India could leapfrog into the rapid and widespread utilisation of clean and contemporary renewable systems.

These would cause the lights to work across India while ensuring the alarms stayed silent across Pakistan and would provide a lasting and local solution to India’s growing power needs.

The continuing Fukushima nuclear emergency highlights the vulnerability of nuclear power – even in a technically sophisticated country as Japan. Nuclear reactors in India, like nuclear missiles on the India – Pakistan border, would be ticking time bombs.

But such arguments did not carry the day amid the glare of the TV cameras and the shallow mantra of jobs and safeguards. On Sunday December 4, 2011 the ALP National Conference narrowly voted (206 to 185) for Australia to undermine the NPT, reject its treaty obligations and abandon any pretence of nuclear responsibility.

It has been said that opponents of the deal won the debate but lost the vote. The issue was fiercely contested within the Labor Party, including by senior Cabinet Ministers and around 45% of delegates. Many in Labor are angry with the content and process of the decision and the issue remains unfinished business both within the Labor Party and the wider community.

It is a long way from policy on the run to uranium on a ship and Australian activists are increasing their call for an independent assessment of the impacts, costs and consequences of Australia’s involvement in the uranium and nuclear trade.

In the shadow of Fukushima it is time to stop cutting corners and start raising standards.

Source and contact: Dave Sweeny (Dave is the national nuclear campaigner with the Australian Conservation Foundation.) Floor 1, 60 Leicester St, Carlton VIC 3053, Australia.
Tel: +61 3 9345 1130

Taiwan: fallacies and truths behind official nuclear phase-out plan

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Green Citizen Action Alliance

On November 3, Taiwan government declared a new energy policy which confirms that current reactors will be phased out, but the nuclear power plant under construction will be brought into commercial operation. This “pseudo” nuclear phase-out plan implies that Taiwan can become nuclear free as early as 2055. Furthermore, this new energy policy is formulated based on fallacies which will only place Taiwan under the darkest shadow of nuclear threat. 

On November 3, President Ma Ying-Jeou held a press conference by himself, declared a new energy policy which confirms that the current three nuclear power plants (with six reactors) will be phased out during 2018 to 2025, but the fourth nuclear power plant (at Lungmen, consisting of  two 1350 MW reactors) under construction will be brought to into commercial operation over the next five years.

With the concerns on energy security, reasonable electricity price and greenhouse gas emissions reduction, he insisted that Taiwan only can take a gradual path toward a nuclear free homeland, which is stated clearly by Environmental Basic Law.

In the “new” energy policy, the government provided a scheme to ensure the nuclear safety of all nuclear power plants and several counter-measures on energy efficiency enhancement and renewable energy promotion. Comparing to the situation before Fukushima catastrophe, the government deed takes a U-turn on nuclear power policies which seek the life extension and add more reactors at existing plants during past three years. It seems that government had finally responded to the public demand shown by the demonstrations in March and April. However, there are three key fallacies hiding behind this pseudo nuclear phase-out plan, and those fallacies will only place Taiwan under dark shadow of nuclear threat. 

Fallacy 1: de-growth of electricity demand is not possible
Implementation of this policy implies that Taiwan will still be trapped by energy-intensive development pathway in next two to three decades. Taiwan government emphasizes that the efforts on energy efficiency enhancement will be maximized, but at the same time intimidates citizens that if the fourth nuclear power plant is not able to fully operational in 2016, we will suffer electricity shortage that will lead to huge economic consequence and downward quality of life. But the covered truth is that this policy is actually built on the assumption that electricity demand will grow 3.2% annually, which then will lead to a 24% increase of electricity consumption at 2016 compared to 2010. The manufactured gap of electricity supply is created based on the assumption that the improvement rate of energy efficiency is only able to increase slightly, and the material output of electronics, petrochemical and steel industries will be expanded 30% in next five years. The upsurge growth of electricity demand contradicts the crucial measures in the nuclear phase-out scenarios being proposed in Germany and Switzerland: electricity demand should be restrained. But it is also against the vision of a true energy revolution that Taiwanese long for.

Fallacy 2: international peer-review process can ensure the safety
Owing to the enormous design and engineering errors of the fourth nuclear power plant revealed during the past three years the official 'Oversight Commission on the safety of the fourth nuclear power plant' (which includes representatives from environmental NGO, local community and engineering experts) even made a resolution this August, stating that the construction process should be stopped, unless Taipower reforms their engineering procedure before the end of this year.  Ignoring those warnings, the government still attempted to persuade the public that the safety of the fourth nuclear power plant can be ensured through a peer-review process by international experts. However, from the government's perspective, the only want to invite experts from World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) and Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) from the United States. The credibility of these two organizations hasn’t been questioned in Taiwan, even after the Fukushima catastrophe.

As we witness all kinds of flaws exposed by the Fukushima catastrophe, we also need to point out that the existing peer-review process is not equal to safety, since Fukushima Daiichi power plant just went through WANO peer-review process in 2009.

Like Indian government used the result of WANO peer-review process to suppress the public opposition on the construction of Koodankulam nuclear power plant in recent months, this scene will repeat in Taiwan and many other countries. Hence, to expose the fallacy of the existing peer-review process should be viewed as an important issue for global anti-nuclear movement.

Fallacy 3: existing stress test is well-organized and useful
President Ma pointed out that all current reactors are examined through the stress test that follows EU criteria. However, according to the first stage near-term safety assessment of nuclear power plants released this October by the regulatory body, Atomic Energy Council (AEC), only few key safety issues are answered. Even AEC already recognizes that the seismic design of the Chin-Shan nuclear power plant is not sufficient; however Taipower Company is still reluctant to take practical actions. Under this loose stress test, not only extreme climate events or terror attacks are absent, the most fundamental issue such as loss of electric power, AEC only asked Taipower to provide measure to response to a 24 hours blackout, not 72 hours blackout as occurred at Fukushima Daiichi. The most unacceptable issue is the lack of public participation during the whole stress test process, neither hearings or public consultations were held, only selected scholars were invited to comment on the report.

From Grassroots to Politician's Drama    
The above three fallacies exhibit that the promise of a nuclear free future made by President Ma, is merely hot-air.In the meantime, the President Candidate from the Democratic Progressive Party, Miss Tsai Ing-Wen declared that she will seek a true nuclear free homeland which includes retirement of existing reactors and abolishment of fourth NPP commercialization. However, she didn’t seem to be aware that de-growth of electricity consumption is the necessity to a nuclear free Taiwan, thus her commitment is not more reliable. This circumstance implies NGOs should keep generating political pressure to fight for the true alternative. After the two major demonstrations, NGOs chose diverse approaches to increase political pressure and raise public awareness, which included petition for a referendum on the fourth nuclear power plant, public education on nuclear disasters in primary school, or minor demonstrations in different forms. In memory of Fukushima catastrophe, all main NGOs involved in the anti-nuclear movement have a joint action at every 11th day of the month.

After ten years of absence on the main political agenda, the Fukushima catastrophe opens a new window of opportunity for the anti-nuclear movement in Taiwan. However, the anti-nuclear NGOs are all aware that the realization of nuclear free homeland should not solely relay on the overturn of the ruling party. Therefore, we need global support to help us to expose the above fallacies, to earn the public trust that a nuclear free Taiwan is necessary. Moreover, the global energy revolution cannot be achieved without a model for newly industrialized countries; Taiwan could be such a model to present a different development pathway and proof it is possible.

Source and contact: Chia-Wei Chao, Member of Executive Board, Green Citizen Action Alliance.

U.S.: Washington continues to pretent nuclear emperor is wearing clothes

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Michael Marriott

The Fukushima accident has exposed a deep and growing gulf between the people of the United States and U.S. policymakers. How this plays out over the next couple of years likely will determine the future of nuclear power in the U.S.

On one hand, the public—after several years of at least lukewarm support for new nuclear reactors—has turned solidly against new reactor construction, against taxpayer support for the nuclear industry, and is increasingly skeptical about the operation of existing reactors.

According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll released April 20, for example, 64% oppose new reactors versus 33% supporting them. Strong opposition was even more striking: 47% strongly oppose new reactors, only 20% strongly support them. The opposition runs across party lines, with majorities of Democrats, Republicans and Independents all against new reactor construction.

Other recent polls show that about 75% of the public opposes taxpayer loan guarantees for new reactors. One might think this overwhelming public sentiment might cause a similar re-examination of the issue by policymakers. But in Washington, being tone-deaf to public opinion appears to be considered a virtue (consider, for example, Republican insistence on dismantling the Medicare program in the face of 70-80% opposition).

In official Washington, support for nuclear power remains strong. In mid-March, even while his Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman was recommending that U.S. citizens within 50 miles (80 kilometers) of Fukushima evacuate (an area five times larger than U.S. standards), President Obama reiterated his support for nuclear power as a “clean” energy source and repeated his call for US$36 billion more in taxpayer loan money for new reactors.

Congressional hearings have produced a parade of Congressmembers and witnesses asserting that “it can’t happen here, U.S. reactors are safe;” ignoring the fact that the Fukushima reactors were General Electric Mark I designs, 23 of which happen to be operating in the U.S. now and 22 of which already have been relicensed to operate another 20 years.

Just days after the accident began, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission—also apparently deciding there is nothing to learn from Fukushima--authorized a 20-year license renewal for the most controversial reactor in the U.S., Vermont Yankee, which the State of Vermont has vowed to close when its initial license expires next year. Vermont Yankee, of course, is a GE Mark I of the same vintage as the Fukushima reactors. Fortunately for the people of Vermont, the State is likely to prevail in legal battles to close the reactor.

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a longtime nuclear critic, introduced a bill in Congress to improve nuclear safety by setting new requirements for backup power supplies, among other measures, but so far has been able to rustle up only a handful of co-sponsors. And with Republicans in charge of setting hearing schedules, it is highly unlikely hearings will be held on the issues or that the bill will go anywhere. Markey is also pressing hard to force implementation of a law that passed in 2002 requiring stockpiling of potassium iodide near reactors—and even that effort, to implement a law Congress passed and was signed by President Bush, is finding opposition.

On the Senate side, the first post-Fukushima nuclear legislation that will be considered is most likely to be a bill to encourage development of new “small modular reactors” in the U.S., with the government offering to pick up half the price tag for the design work. (see box)

And over at the Environmental Protection Agency, a program to provide enhanced radiation monitoring for Fukushima fallout reaching the U.S. has been ended—despite the fact that the accident hasn’t ended and, especially in Hawaii, radiation levels significantly above legal limits have been detected in milk. Move along, nothing to see here….

But even as official Washington continues to pretend the nuclear emperor is wearing clothes, the reality is that Fukushima is already having and will continue to have its inevitable impact.

NRG Energy already has backed out of its plans to build two new reactors at South Texas, which were to be financed by a combination of U.S. Department of Energy and Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) loans. One of NRG’s partners in the project was Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), which no longer has the financial means to participate, and Japan’s new stance on nuclear power makes the already questionable JBIC loans exceedingly unlikely. Another NRG partner, Toshiba, is officially attempting to continue the project, but can’t obtain a license or build them on its own.

In Maryland, UniStar Nuclear’s Calvert Cliffs-3 project is on the verge of final collapse. Onetime UniStar partner Constellation Energy dropped out of the project last fall and sold its share to Electricite de France (EdF), which now owns 100% of UniStar. In April, the NRC staff ruled that EdF cannot legally obtain a construction/operating license because of the Atomic Energy Act’s prohibition against foreign ownership, control or domination of a U.S. reactor project and the NRC’s licensing board in the case is now considering whether to deny a license and end the process.

The odds of UniStar finding a U.S. partner seem vanishingly small in the post-Fukushima climate, and grew even smaller when the largest U.S. nuclear utility, Exelon, announced a merger with Constellation Energy. Questioned about rejoining the Calvert Cliffs-3 project, Exelon CEO John Rowe emphatically said Exelon has no interest in that reactor.

Meanwhile, the NRC is in the midst of a 90-day review of U.S. reactors to determine whether there are regulatory changes that must be made immediately to incorporate lessons from Fukushima. Most observers believe this very limited review will result in modest changes at most. But a longer-term (6-month) review will follow closely, and is likely to include more public participation and have a much broader mandate than the initial review, which is both limited in scope and is being conducted entirely internally within the NRC. Some top NRC officials have privately speculated that this broader review may well lead to more significant regulatory changes, some delays in the reactor licensing processes and perhaps even some reactor closings.

And President Obama’s request for US$36 billion more in nuclear loan money? He made the same request last year, and didn’t get it. This year, both because of hesitance over Fukushima and because of opposition to basically any federal spending among many in Congress, Congressional approval appears even less likely.

Source and contact: Michael Mariotte at NIRS

No private money for Next Generation Nuclear Plant.

The United States' Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) project faces a number of challenges as the Department of Energy (DOE) struggles to find private investors to share the program’s cost. The Energy Policy Act of 2005, which initiated the NGNP program, specified that private companies have to share at least 50% of the cost of the NGNP, a gas-cooled design that would produce combined heat and power.

The NGNP Alliance said the September 2021 deadline to complete the demonstration plant as specified in the Energy Policy Act “is in jeopardy” due to delays and lack of funding. The NGNP Industry Alliance is an industry group aiming to facilitate the commercialization of a high-temperature reactor, consists of reactor developers, potential end users such as petrochemical companies and nuclear utility Entergy. DOE also believes the 2021 deadline is not feasible because “we haven’t got the level of funding we needed, or done the level of design and licensing reviews” necessary for the project to proceed on schedule, according to a spokesperson

Nucleonics Week, 28 April 2011



Peligro nuclear: new law removes 40 year npp operating life limit

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

The Spanish government has ratified a law removing a statutory 40-year limit on nuclear power plant operating life.
The wide-ranging Sustainable Energy Act, known by its Spanish acronym LES (Ley de Economía Sostenible), was approved by 323 votes to 19, with one abstention, in the lower house of the Spanish government on 15 February. The amendment on nuclear energy within the LES was approved by 334 votes to 10, with no abstentions. The law had already passed through the upper house.

The nuclear energy amendment states that the government will determine nuclear's share in Spanish generation and also the lifetimes of existing nuclear plants based on a variety of considerations including regulatory requirements for nuclear safety and radiological protection as advised by the Spanish nuclear regulator, plus trends in demand, the development of new technologies, security of supply, costs of electricity production and greenhouse gas emissions.
Previous legislation imposed a 40-year operating life on Spain's nuclear reactors, which would have seen all of Spain's eight operating reactors facing closure between 2011 and 2018. However, in 2009 the Spanish government granted a four-year life extension to the Garona nuclear power plant, extending its life to 42 years and signaling the start of a political shift from earlier plans by the ruling PSOE (Socialist Party) to progressively phase out nuclear.

'Peligro nuclear'

'Nuclear Danger’ is the message Greenpeace Spain took to the country’s Cofrentes nuclear energy plant on February 15, as activists scaled one of the plant’s cooling towers. Greenpeace are demanding that Spain’s Nuclear Security Council refuse to renew the plant’s permit to operate - which expires on March 19 – because of the extremely poor levels of security at Cofrentes. The aging Cofrentes reactor is in bad shape. It has an endless list of bugs and unresolved security issues. Among the many weaknesses it has identified, Greenpeace has expressed concerns about the fire-fighting systems, access to the control room, the increasing radioactivity received by maintenance workers, and delays in the analysis of events and incidents.

Meanwhile, take a look at the renewable energy sector in Spain. According to a study by the Institute for Energy Diversification and Saving of Energy released in November last year, the number of current direct jobs provided by the renewables industry is more than 75,000. Taking into account the official renewable growth forecast, Spain can expect to see a further 128,000 created by 2020. On the other hand, the nuclear sector in 2005 had just 4,124 employees, of which 52.8% were the permanent staff at nuclear power plants. Spain is a leading nation when it comes to the production of renewable energy. It is showing we can live in a world without nuclear energy.

Sources:, 16 February 2011 /  World Nuclear News, 17 February 2011.
Contact: Grup de Cientifics i Tecnics per un Futur No Nuclear

Santa Maria de Garona

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

U.K. wants to sell Urenco stake.
The U.K. Government’s stake in Urenco, which owns nuclear enrichment plants in Britain, Germany and the Netherlands, will be sold off to help to repay the country’s escalating debt mountain, the Prime Minister announced on October 12. The plan to sell off the Government’s one-third stake in Urenco could be the most controversial. The stake is controlled by the Shareholder Executive, which was created in 2003 to better manage the Government’s performance as a shareholder in businesses. The other two thirds are owned by the Dutch Ultra-Centrifuge Nederland and German Uranit. Downing Street sources said that the sale would be subject to national security considerations, which could lead to the Government maintaining a small interest in the company or other restrictions placed on the sale.

Meanwhile, the Dutch state took over the last 1.1% of the stakes in Ultra-Centrifuge Nederland, the Dutch part of Urenco, from private companies. Now, The Netherlands, owns the full 100% of the company. The Netherlands is not in favor of selling the uranium enrichment company to private parties.

The Times (U.K.) 12 October 2009 / Letter Dutch Finance Minister, 12 October 2009

Belarus: EIA Hearing new NPP.
On October 9, a public hearing took place in Ostrovets, in the Grodno Region, on the question of construction of a nuclear power plant in Belarus. All the entrances to the cinema where the hearings were held got blocked by riot police and streets were filled with plainclothes police. Documents and leaflets critical of the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) were confiscated illegally, because of their 'doubtful' contents. Employees of state institutions were brought to the hearings by busses. Forcedly assembled audience was registered in advance, in violation of regulations. Many registered participants were however not let inside the building. Speaking was allowed only to state employees in favor of nuclear power plant construction, others were denied to speak. The denial was motivated by the fact that they supposedly have been registered too late. It is clear that the procedure of these hearings didn't meet the standards and therefore the results can't be recognized as independent. Russian expert in nuclear physics Andrey Ozharovskiy was arrested in the morning on a charge of disorderly conduct when he wanted to enter the building and handing out a critical response to the EIA. He was released only after 7 days in jail. Thus, the authorities showed their true face again - they are not going to let the dissident speak openly on the matters important to those in power.

Belarus Anti-Nuclear Resistance, 10 October 2009

Sellafield: Dramatic rise to discharge limit.
Sellafield Ltd is expected to ask the U.K. Environment Agency (EA) for an almost 5-fold increase in gas discharge limit for Antimony 125 (Sb-125) so that the Magnox reprocessing plant can continue to operate. Sb-125 has a radioactive half-life of 2.75 years and emits beta radiation.

Disclosed in its Quarterly Report to the local West Cumbria Sites Stakeholder Group meeting scheduled for 1st October, the EA confirms that Sellafield wants the limit to be raised from its current level of 6.9 to Gigabequerels (GBq) to 30GBq. The bulk of Sellafield’s Sb-125 gas discharges arise during the de-canning  (removal of the fuel’s outer casing) of spent Magnox fuel, particularly the higher burn-up fuel, in the site’s Fuel Handling Plant prior to its transfer to the reprocessing plant.

In early 2008 the Sb-125 discharge limit stood at just 2.3GBq but later had to be raised to its current level of 6.9GBq when the discharge chimney sampling equipment was found to be under-reporting. In October 2008 Sellafield Ltd indicated to the EA that, as part of its Periodic Review submission, it would be seeking to increase the limit from 6.9GBq to 11.6 GBq. In a spectacular misjudgment of its discharge requirements, Sellafield now needs to raise the limit to 30GBq to allow the de-canning and subsequent reprocessing of the larger volumes of higher burn-up fuel being received in the Fuel Handling Plant from UK’s Magnox power stations.

Since 2007, processing higher burn-up fuel in the Fuel Handling Plant has lead to Sellafield breaching its discharge Quarterly Notification Level on a number of occasions, and in late 2008 exceeding the site’s internal trigger level. Subsequently, in April this year, as releases of Sb-125 from the Fuel Handling Plant threatened to breach the Sellafield site limit itself, Magnox reprocessing had to be abandoned for several weeks. Currently, the EA expects the current discharge limit to be breached again but is permitting Magnox reprocessing to continue – as the lesser of two evils.

The proposed increase in site discharge limit to 30GBq is unlikely to be authorized until April next year when approval from the European Commission, under Euratom Article 37, is expected to be given. Whilst the current limit of 6.9GBq is likely to be breached between now and then, it is understood that discharges of other fission products released during the de-canning of Magnox fuel in the Fuel Handling Plant, whilst also on the increase, will remain within their respective site discharge limits

CORE Press release, 30 September 2009

Ratings NEK downrated due to Belene.
On 5 October, according to the Platts News Flashes, the rating agency Standard & Poor's Rating Services down rated the credit ratings for Bulgaria's dominant state power utility NEK from BB to BB- partly because of its involvement in Belene. The down rating "reflects our view of a weakening of NEK's financial profile and liquidity on the back of large investments and in the context of a deteriorating domestic economy," said S&P credit analyst Tania Tsoneva. The spending that NEK did "prior to the project's financing, coupled with large regular investments, have significantly weakened NEK's financial metrics". In November there will be an update of S&P's CreditWatch.

Email: Greenpeace, 6 October 2009

U.A.E. Passes Nuclear-Energy Law.
On October 4, the United Arab Emirates issued the Federal Law Regarding the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy. The law provides for "the development of a robust system for the licensing and control of nuclear material." Federal Law No. 6, which was issued by U.A.E. President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, establishes the independent Federal Authority of Nuclear Regulation to oversee the country's nuclear energy sector, and appoints the regulator's board. It also reiterates the U.A.E.'s pledge not to domestically enrich uranium as part of its plans to build nuclear power plants, the first of which is slated for commercial operation in 2017. The law makes it illegal to develop, construct or operate uranium enrichment or spent fuel processing facilities within the country's borders.

The bilateral agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation between the U.A.E. and the U.S., or the 123 Agreement, could come into force at the end of October, when a mandatory 90-day period of Congressional review is expected to end.

Wall Street Journal, 5 October 2009

Uranium waste: Urenco transports to Russia stopped.
A TV-report by the German/French-TV-station ARTE brought a new wave of media coverage concerning uranium waste transports from France and Germany to Russia. One of the positive results of the media interest: Urenco has confirmed that the UF6-transport from Gronau to Russia on 26 August was indeed the last one!

This is a major success for the joint campaign involving Russian, Dutch, French, Finnish, Swedish and German activists and organizations for the last three-four years. Thanks to this hard campaign the anti-nuclear groups have finally stopped this part of the dirty export of nuclear waste to Russia. Considering that they were up against several of the biggest nuclear players in Europe and various governments they have done very well!

But the same documentary, aired on October 13, made clear that France’s energy giant EDF is still sending its uranium hexafluoride to the Seversk facility in Siberia, Russia. According to the ‘Liberation’ newspaper, 13 percent of French radioactive waste produced by EDF could be found in the open air in the town in Siberia to which access is forbidden. An EDF spokeswoman declined to confirm the 13 percent figure, or that waste was stored in the open air, but confirmed EDF sends nuclear waste to Russia. Because a small part (10-20 %) of the depleted uranium is send back after being enriched to natural levels U-235, authorities claim it is not waste but raw material.

Reuters, 12 October 2009 / Email: SOFA Muenster (Germany) , 16 October 2009

Bad news for American Centrifuge Plant.
On October 15, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced it could not support a program to prove USEC’s centrifuge technology. The loss of US$30 million (Euro 20 million) for the next financial year comes after the DOE's July decision to refuse USEC a loan guarantee to help it secure finance for the American Centrifuge facility at Piketon, Ohio. At the time the company said it would have to 'demobilize' the project, on which it had already spent US$1.5 billion (see Nuclear Monitor 691, 16 July 2009, In Brief). The DOE placed USEC's application on hold and gave the company a chance to improve its application by proving the commercial viability of its technology. The DOE was to financially support a proving program with US$30-45 million per year, starting in the financial year 2010.

However, the US$30 million for the first financial year was recently denied by Congress during the appropriations process. And in another piece of bad news for USEC it has emerged that a manufacturing fault in its centrifuges will mean several months' delay while replacement parts are made and the units rebuilt. In a statement, the DOE noted that the deal with USEC still stands to postpone review of its loan guarantee application until certain "technical and financial milestones are met," which would probably take six months even without the delay of rebuilding. The department noted that it had "worked closely" with USEC this year on its loan guarantee application, and had put an extra $150-200 million per year into Cold War clean-up at an adjacent site managed by the company. This boost should lead to 800-1000 new jobs, the DOE said, which would offset the 750 jobs at risk on the American Centrifuge.

World Nuclear News, 16 October 2009

Jordan: site studies begin for Aqaba nuclear plant.
On October 13, the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) launched environmental and feasibility studies for the location of the countries’ first nuclear power plant. It marked the first gathering of the implementing parties of the site-selection and characterization study, a two-year process that will examine the proposed site, located in the southern strip of Aqaba, nine kilometers inland and 450 meters above sea level.

Over the next three months, nuclear engineering and consultant bureau’s, will determine whether the site, some 20km outside Aqaba city, will be suitable for the construction.

The JAEC selected Aqaba due to the abundant water sources of the nearby Red Sea and the proximity to infrastructure such as the Port of Aqaba and the electrical grid, the chairman said, noting that there are plans in place to establish up to six reactors at the site.

During the meeting on October 13, JAEC Chairman Khaled Toukan indicated that the JAEC is also considering a proposal to establish two power plants at the site simultaneously. The measure would decrease costs by 20 per cent through utilizing economies of scale, he added.

A week later Toukan announced that Jordan is coming up with 'strong results' indicating the country would emerge as a key exporter of uranium by the end of 2011. He made the remarks during a tour of the uranium exploration operations, which are being carried out in central Jordan by the French atomic energy conglomerate, Areva.

Jordan Times, 14 October 2009 / Deutsche Presse Agentur, 20 October 2009

French Polynesia: nuclear compensation very restricted.
There was much praise in July when the French National Assembly approved a bill for compensating the victims of tests carried out in French Polynesia and Algeria over more than three decades. About 150,000 civilian and military personnel took part and many later developed serious health problems. (see Nuclear Monitor 686, 2 April 2009; In Brief) But now activists fighting for victims of French nuclear testing in the Pacific are stunned by conditions imposed in the compensation bill by France's upper house.

Roland Oldham, president of Mororua e Tatou Association, representing French Pacific nuclear test workers, said the actions of the upper house Senate reflected arrogance in metropolitan France towards its territories. He said the Senate has imposed strict requirements on applicants to prove their case on various grounds. The geographic zone from which claims would be considered had been greatly limited. The Senate had further rejected a bid by his organization - fighting for years for compensation - to be part of a compensation committee, which would now be only made of people nominated by the French Ministry of Defence. "It's the same people that have done the nuclear testing in our place, in our island," Mr Oldham said. "And finally, there's only one person decides if the case is going to be taken into account, (if a victim) is going to have compensation or not - and that's the Ministry of Defence. "For our Polynesian people it's going to be hard. A lot of our people won't be part of compensation."

Radio Australia News, 15 October 2009

Taiwan: life-time extension of oldest plants.
State-owned Taiwan Power Company has asked to keep using the oldest nuclear power plant, Chinshan, operational since 1978 in a coastal area of north Taiwan, after the licenses of its two reactors expire in 2018 and 2019, the Atomic Energy Council said. The application is for extending the life of the plant's two generators from 40 to 60 years. Environmental activists voiced severe concerns about what they called a risky plan, also citing a shortage of space to store the nuclear waste. “We strongly oppose the measure. We cannot afford taking such as risk," Gloria Hsu, a National Taiwan University professor, told AFP.

Taiwan Power operates three nuclear power plants, while a fourth is being constructed.

AFP, 21 October 2009

Japan: nuclear energy policy under a new government

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

After winning a landslide victory in the House of Representatives election held on August 30, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) has formed a coalition government with the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the People's New Party (PNP). It might be hoped that a change of government would herald a change of nuclear energy policy, but we should not be too sanguine about the chances of a significant improvement.

There is a wide range of views about nuclear energy within the DPJ (as indeed there is in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which ruled Japan for most of the last fifty odd years). While minor coalition partner SDP favors a nuclear phase out, its influence on nuclear policy within the new government is likely to be quite limited. PNP is a relatively recent breakaway from the LDP and is unlikely to rock the boat on nuclear energy issues.

The prospects for policy change are likely to depend very much on the ability of civil society to make serious proposals that have the potential to garner widespread support. The first opportunity will be the budget estimates for the 2010 fiscal year. Anyone can see that allocating 20 billion yen (US$ 220 million, 150 million Euro) for the Monju prototype fast breeder reactor (FBR) is throwing good money after bad. This should be the first item cut from the budget request. Funding for fairyland proposals like the demonstration FBR to follow the Monju prototype should also be reviewed. It should also be obvious that a review of the Atomic Energy Commission's fundamental policy statement, Framework for Nuclear Energy Policy, should be scheduled as soon as possible.

Before the election DPJ issued a policy Manifesto in which it said that "[w]hile placing safety first and gaining the understanding and confidence of the people," it would "take steady steps toward the use of nuclear power." This quote is from the English summary. The same section in the full Japanese version refers also to "secure supply". Given that Japan's nuclear power program has been a failure with respect to "safety first", "secure supply", and "understanding and confidence of the people", if the DPJ were to get serious about these issues, that in itself would represent a major change.

In regard to "safety first", DPJ's Manifesto states, "a highly independent nuclear safety regulatory commission will be established under Article 3 of the National Government Organization Act." The existing Nuclear Safety Commission was established within the Cabinet Office in 1978 under the Nuclear Energy Basic Law, the same law that covers the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). Article 1 of the Law states, "The Objectives of this Law shall be to secure energy resources in the future, to achieve the progress of science and technology and the promotion of industries by encouraging the research, development and utilization of nuclear power..." Thus NSC's safety assurance role is compromised from the start by association with the promotion of nuclear energy.

NSC is supposed to act as a double check on the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), which regulates the nuclear industry. However, as part of the Ministry for Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), the ministry with prime responsibility for promoting nuclear power, NISA's independence is also compromised. NSC and NISA, or any regulatory body that replaces them, should have nothing to do with the promotion of nuclear power. Serious consideration should also be given to the question of whether the double check relationship should be retained, or whether it would be better to merge NSC and NISA into a single regulatory body. Likewise the question of whether the AEC should continue to exist in its current form should be openly debated.

Another area that should be openly debated is the respective responsibilities of government and industry. DPJ's Manifesto states, "Reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel and disposal of radioactive waste from nuclear power plants are long term projects, so the government should take final responsibility for establishing the technology and for the project." If they are not careful this type of loose wording could have the effect of reinforcing industry's already irresponsible attitude. Electric power companies have primary responsibility for safety assurance and for dealing with the problems of spent fuel and radioactive waste produced in their nuclear power plants. On the other hand, the role of government is to regulate so that the failures of industry do not lead to nuclear disasters or become an excessive economic burden. Government is also responsible for averting potential disasters when all else fails. In this sense the government has "final responsibility", but industry must not be allowed to offload its rightful responsibilities onto the government or the general public.

Our hope is that the new government will reassess recent trends that are inconsistent with the principle of "safety first". These include reducing the time taken for periodic assessments, extending the time between inspections, and life extensions and uprates for aging reactors. We hope the DPJ led government will strive to create a rigorous and rational nuclear regulatory system.

Source: Nuke Info Tokyo 132,  September/October 2009
Contact: Baku Nishio (Co-Director), Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (CNIC), Akebonobashi Co-op 2F-B, 8-5 Sumiyoshi-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 162-0065, Japan.
Tel: +81-3-3357-3800

Monju restart february next year?
On July 12 replacement of degraded fuel was completed at Japan Atomic Energy Agency's (JAEA) Monju Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (FBR, 280 MW) located in Tsuruga City, Fukui Prefecture. Then on August 12 final confirmation tests of the overall integrity of the plant were completed. The same day, Toshio Yamauchi, Senior Vice Minister of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), visited Fukui Governor Issei Nishikawa and Tsuruga Mayor Kazuharu Kawase to officially communicate the government's aim of restarting Monju as early as February 2010. This would be two years later than the target date of February 2008 announced when modification work began in March 2005. The Prototype FBR is closed since a sodium leak and fire in December 1995. Construction of Monju started in 1986 and the reactor was only connected to the grid for four months when the accident happened!

Nuke Info Tokyo, 132, Sept/Oct. 2009 / PRIS Reactor database.


U.S.A.: industry efforts to overturn state bans on new nuclear reactors fail

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

The so-called "nuclear renaissance" is finding few friends among state lawmakers in the United States. The nuclear power industry has been shut out across the board in 2009 in its efforts in all six states -- ranging across the nation from Kentucky to Minnesota to Hawaii -- where it sought to overturn what are either explicit or effectively bans on construction of new reactors, according to the Washington based Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS). Efforts to overturn bans also have failed to advance in Illinois and West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Beyond failing to reverse a single state-level ban on new reactors, the industry also suffered a wide range of major defeats, including an effort to repeal a ban on "Construction Work in Progress" (CWIP) payments that would have been imposed on Missouri ratepayers to finance a new nuclear power plant, which was then promptly mothballed. Industry efforts to get nuclear declared "renewable" by the states of Indiana and Arizona also failed to achieve results. Also going nowhere is a California bill to lift the state's pioneering law banning new reactors until a high-level waste dump is in place. That follows a 2008 California statewide referendum drive with the same focus that failed for lack of sufficient signatures to get it on the ballot.

Michael Mariotte, executive director, NIRS, said: "While the nuclear power industry and a few members of Congress claim the U.S. is on the verge of a nuclear power resurgence, the industry looks more like a critical patient struggling to get by on life support out in the real world beyond the Beltway. No one seriously expects the industry to go away. But the truth is that things will be even tougher for their state lobbyists in 2010 now that the freeze on Yucca Mountain has taken long-term waste disposal off the table and also in the wake of new evidence of runaway construction costs that make nuclear power even more of a boondoggle."

Dave Kraft, director, Nuclear Energy Information Service, Chicago, IL., said: "Authorizing construction of new nuclear reactors without first constructing a radioactive waste disposal facility is like authorizing construction of a new Sear's Tower without bathrooms. Neither makes sense; both threaten public health and safety." Jennifer Nordstrom, Carbon-Free Nuclear-Free coordinator, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Madison, WI., said: "Telling states to build new nuclear plants to combat global warming is like telling a patient to smoke to lose weight: There are too many other serious downsides that cannot be ignored. Fortunately, it is both technically and economically feasible to go both carbon-free and nuclear-free by 2050. Here in Wisconsin, we have a carbon-free, nuclear-free coalition in support of Wisconsin's current law on nuclear power, and a 100 percent renewable Wisconsin."

Commenting on the defeat of an industry-sought CWIP repeal in the Missouri Legislature this year, Mark Haim, chair, Missourians for Safe Energy, Columbia, MO., said: "New nuclear plants are far too risky and expensive to attract investor funding. Utilities will only build them if they can transfer the risk to the taxpayers or their ratepayers. Here in Missouri AmerenUE attempted to repeal a voter-enacted state law that bans Construction Work in Progress charges. Their goal was to get the ratepayers to assume the risks. When our legislators heard from consumer, senior, low-income and industrial groups all opposing CWIP, the CWIP repeal went nowhere. Once Ameren realized they couldn't get CWIP, they announced that they were abandoning efforts to build a new nuclear reactor. The pattern is clear, investors find nuclear too risky and utilities will only go down the nuclear path if their customers or the taxpayers underwrite the project."

According to NIRS, the nuclear industry's 2009 defeats in 10 or more state capitols -- including all six efforts to overturn bans on new reactors (in Minnesota, West-Virginia, Wisconsin, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky) -- were offset by only one win. Georgia state lawmakers approved CWIP, empowering a subsidiary of the Atlanta-based Southern Co. to collect US$2 billion (Euro 1.37 billion) from its customers before a single watt of power is produced from two planned nuclear reactors. Outside of the South, CWIP bail-outs for the industry have made little headway to date.

Source: Press release, 27 August 2009
Contact: NIRS Washington, or Leslie Anderson


The senate clean energy bank proposal

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Michael Marriott

These days, clean energy ranks right up there with Mom, apple pie and ice cream as an All-American attribute. You can barely sit through a TV show, listen to the radio, or even read a blog without coming across an ad from someone extolling the virtues of some "clean" energy form or another. Never mind that some of them—from nuclear power to "clean" coal—bear no resemblance to genuinely clean energy sources. Some industries have more money to spend on ads than others...

So what could be more virtuous than a federal Clean Energy Bank? The idea sounds perfect: the federal government would set up a bank to support the development and implementation of clean energy technologies, especially those that private investors can’t or won’t fund. In fact, it’s so perfect the Senate Energy Committee has already approved the concept as part of its upcoming energy bill, as has the House Energy Committee in its Waxman-Markey cap and trade climate bill.

So why has much of the environmental community been lining up to oppose the Clean Energy Bank?

Well, there are a couple of teeny-tiny little problems with the concept, especially in the Senate version. Kind of like there were teeny-tiny little problems with unregulated derivatives trading, or lack of federal oversight and regulation, or corporate greed, that brought the U.S. economy to its knees last October.

It is not far-fetched—indeed, it’s completely foreseeable—that, as the Senate Clean Energy Bank legislation is currently written, we could see trillion dollar or more taxpayer bailouts of "clean energy" technologies within the next decade. You didn’t like TARP? Wait until taxpayers have to bail out the likes of Duke Power, UniStar Nuclear,  and Southern Company at levels that might make even Citigroup or General Motors blush.

The Senate' s Proposal
Let’s face it: it’s pretty tough for environmentalists to oppose something called a Clean Energy Bank.

But here’s the reality: Sen. Bingaman’s Clean Energy Bank, which is incorporated in S. 949, the Senate Energy bill still being considered by the Senate Energy Committee, would provide more concrete government backing for dirty energy technologies than anything any lobbyist for the nuclear power or coal industries could have dreamed of even a year ago.

Indeed, Sen. Bingaman’s bank would place NO limit to the amount of money that can be federally guaranteed for "clean energy" technologies by this proposed bank. US$10 billion? No problem. US$100 Billion? No problem. US$1 Trillion? No Problem!

The Bingaman bank would authorize this new entity—the Clean Energy Development Administration, which would have an administrator and a nine-member Board of Directors, and virtually no other oversight—to issue as much money in taxpayer-backed loan guarantees as it wants for any projects that fall under an exceedingly broad "clean energy" definition.

In this case, “clean energy” would include—and this is clearly part of the intent --new nuclear reactors, as many as the industry might consider building. That alone has the environmental community up in arms, since no matter what industry propaganda may say, the U.S. environmental movement remains adamant that nuclear power is not a solution to the climate crisis.

"Clean coal" could also be funded under this definition, including such environmentally dubious concepts as coal-to-liquids and unproven carbon sequestration technologies.

But even if this Bank were only oriented toward renewable energy and energy efficiency, it would still be problematic. With all respect and love toward those designing and building new solar PV, solar thermal, wind, geothermal and other 21st century technologies, even they don’t deserve unlimited taxpayer backing for their projects.The Congressional Budget Office and Government Accountability Office both have projected a 50% or greater failure rate for loan guarantees for new nuclear reactors. And there is no denying that the failure rate for renewable energy projects is going to be above zero. While it’s fine for taxpayers to take some risk for new energy technologies, it’s not so fine to bet potentially hundreds of billions of dollars on risks of 50% or more, especially on such capital intensive projects as new reactors, which are now projected to cost US$10 billion or more each.

And the nuclear power industry is the one most in need of this money. Why? Because there is no private capital available to support construction of new nuclear reactors, private investors simply won’t take that risk. If Bank of America or Citigroup have been thinking for the past few years that nuclear reactors are too risky but subprime mortgages aren’t, then a 50% projected failure rate might be too low.

The reality is that the nuclear industry already has asked for US$122 billion in taxpayer-backed loan guarantees (most of which would actually be taxpayer-funded as well, through the Federal Financing Bank). And that would cover only about 20 reactors. Getting to the Republicans’ dream of 100 new reactors by mid-century (outlined by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) in the GOP Saturday radio address early May and repeated late May as a goal for both Senate and House legislation), would cost at least five times that amount—and that’s before the cost overruns start rolling in. For comparison, a Department of Energy study of 75 existing reactors found an average cost overrun of 207%. If that level holds true for a new generation of reactors, we’d be looking at trillions of taxpayer dollars at risk.

The House Clean Energy Bank
The House Energy Committee approved as part of the climate bill a different version of the Clean Energy Development Administration. Reflecting discomfort with some of the more outlandish provisions of the Senate version, the House rejected unlimited loan guarantees, and instead would subject the bank to the normal annual Congressional authorization and appropriations process—a major improvement.

And the House version, which came as an amendment offered by Reps. John Dingell (D-MI), Jay Inslee (D-WA) and Bart Gordon (D-TN), places some priority on those technologies that can reduce carbon emissions the fastest and at the lowest cost per emissions reduced—neither of which would necessarily benefit either nuclear or coal.It also would prohibit any single technology from receiving more than 30% of bank funds. Still, theoretically nuclear and coal together could receive 60% of this “clean energy” money. So while better than the Senate version, it still reflects a misguided vision of what constitutes clean energy.

There is a long way to go for both of these versions: there are likely to be amendments offered when each reaches its respective floor and differing House-Senate versions would have to be reconciled if they get that far. But leave it to the U.S. Congress to take a concept as simple and potentially beneficial as a clean energy bank, and turn it into a bureaucratic nightmare that could provide most of its funding for decidedly dirty technologies.

Source and contact: Michael Mariotte at NIRS Washington


If nuclear is the answer, the question is not about climate policy

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

In The United Kingdom, environmentalists have recently started coming out in favor of nuclear, citing climate concerns as the reason. But this ideological u-turn ignores the realities of nuclear power. The United Green Parties of Europe (the European Greens) reacted.

The steady drip of converts to the 'nuclear renaissance' continued as four prominent environmental activists in UK outed themselves as having found a heart for nuclear. In an Independent February 23 article, Stephen Tindale, former director of Greenpeace; Lord Chris Smith of Finsbury, chairman of the Environment Agency; Mark Lynas, author of the Royal Society’s science book of the year, and Chris Goodall, a Green Party activist and prospective parliamentary candidate announce a policy u-turn.

However, while they claim that climate change is the reason for their atomic shift, they fail to explain how nuclear power can contribute to our current efforts to combat climate change.

Before getting into any analysis of nuclear power, it is important to look at what the challenge of climate change is. According to the officially accepted scientific advice of the UN IPCC, greenhouse gas emissions need to peak by 2015 and start to decline thereafter if we are to have any chance of limiting warming to 2 degrees and, thus, preventing dangerous, runaway climate change.

The IPCC advice to policy makers is that industrialized countries should reduce their emissions by 25-40% (based on 1990 levels) to have a 50:50 chance of preventing 2 degree warming (which new research suggests would be too great an increase anyway). A lot of the more recent peer-reviewed science goes far beyond this, calling for much more deep and immediate reductions. Clearly a 40% reduction by 2020 is the very least the EU can credibly commit to as part of a meaningful international climate agreement.

So, we have ten or eleven years to act. Even if you were to ignore (which is not a good idea) all the other persisting problems of nuclear power (proliferation, safety, cost etc), what can nuclear power contribute to this urgently-needed emissions reduction effort in the EU?

Very, very little.

The nuclear industry in the EU is in decline. The number of nuclear reactors being operated in EU member states stood at 146 at the end of 2007, having decreased from 177 in 1989. The average age of those reactors still operating continues to rise, with the result that many will be decommissioned over the coming years.

Coupled with the fact that the nuclear 'fleet' is ageing and being retired, there is the long lead-in for any new build and the lack of skilled workers. The average lead time for a new reactor is 8-10 years. So, even if the decision were made today to build 50 reactors in Europe to ensure a growth in nuclear power, they would not be online in time to contribute to our 2020 emissions reduction targets.

The flagship project of the European (French) nuclear industry is the new European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) currently being built at Olkiluoto in Finland. However, the latest estimates suggest that it will be delivered more than 3 years past deadline.

This brings us on to the lack of skilled workers. A major nuclear expansion would only be possible with the required amount of workers with relevant skills to operate these reactors. However, even the nuclear industry has expressed concern about "competence renewal", with an ageing workforce and low numbers of graduates in the relevant disciplines to this highly specialized field. Long story longer, who will man these reactors?

All of this, of course ignores the unresolved issues of proliferation, safety, cost and so on. This is not because they have gone away or because they are not important.

Clearly, any increase in nuclear power would increase the risk of proliferation. The question of how to deal with the highly dangerous radioactive nuclear waste is no closer to being resolved (while reprocessing is also responsible for radioactive contamination and is unviable). The huge costs associated with nuclear power - such as on liability and decommissioning - that are inevitably borne by the taxpayer are also unchanged

The main purpose is merely to point out that, regardless of what these new nuclear acolytes claim, if nuclear power is the answer, the question has nothing to do with climate change.

Greenpeace writes: We've disagreed with Stephen Tindale, the former head of Greenpeace UK about nuclear power for a while now, because it's clear to us that nuclear power can't solve the problem of climate change.

In 2008 the total number of nuclear reactors connected to the world's electricity grids fell by one. In January two more were taken offline. The first attempts to construct third generation nuclear reactors are massively delayed and over budget. The nuclear industry is in no position to provide a solution to anything, certainly not climate change, and not even to its own problems with radioactive waste and proliferation. We need technologies that can deal with the world that exists in reality, not fantasy.

Meanwhile China installs a new wind turbine every two hours (in 2008 China added 6300 MW of wind capacity; one 1,5 MW turbine every 125 minutes).

The world needs an energy revolution built on renewable energy and energy efficiency. The first and most effective action is to use our energy more efficiently. Imagine if the billions wasted on the nuclear industry had been spent instead on energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Then we'd really be matching our big problems with big solutions.


In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

South-Africa: PBMR Ltd. in trouble.

 According to a PBMR Ltd press release, the global financial crisis and related impact on funding – particularly on the South African electricity utility Eskom – has prompted the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor company to "consider near-term market opportunities based on customer requirements  to service both the electricity and process heat markets", as they call it. Basically it wil be a shift towards non-power options. One of the considerations is the modification of the design planned for the Demonstration Power Plant project at Koeberg near Cape Town to also service potential customers such as the Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) project in the US, which is funded by the US Department of Energy, oil sands producers in Canada (to produce the temperature and associated pressure needed to extract bitumen from oil sands) and the South African petro-chemical company Sasol (to either produce process steam and/or hydrogen to upgrade coal products). Another potential application is the use of the PBMR’s waste heat for desalination.

According to Jaco Kriek, CEO of PBMR (Pty) Ltd, discussions are underway with suppliers to put certain contracts on hold "to prevent unnecessary spending", although he emphasises that no contracts have been cancelled. But is is clear that business is not running smoothly (nothing new one can argue). The development of the PBMR is way behind schedule and in December Eskom cancelled the construction of pressurized water reactors (see Nuclear Monitor 681, 18 December 2008).

Press release PBMR Ltd, 5 February 2009

Japan: Nuclear industry rebuked for misleading advertising.

On 25 November 2008 the Japan Advertising Review Organization (JARO)  sent a letter to the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan  (FEPCO) regarding a complaint concerning an advertisement placed by  FEPCO in a Japanese magazine in April 2008.

The complaint claimed that the following words in FEPCO's advertisement  were incorrect and inappropriate: "Nuclear power ... is a "clean way of producing electricity", which  does not release CO2 when generating electricity." The complaint pointed out that these words could mislead consumers.

JARO judged that the word "clean" does not fit well with nuclear   energy. It said that many consumers would have misgivings about the  claim that nuclear energy is "clean", on the sole grounds that it does  not emit CO2 during electricity generation, when there is no  accompanying explanation about safety or radioactive waste. JARO  recommended that claims that nuclear energy is "clean", without  adequate explanation of safety and the effect of nuclear energy on the  environment, should not be made in future.

For most people JARO's conclusion is plain common sense, but it is   refreshing to see the nuclear industry rebuked by an advertising watch  dog for misleading advertising. JARO's letter was supposed to be confidential, but it was reported in  the media.

CNIC, 6 February 2009

Asian Development Bank Energy Policy Paper.

The Asian Development Bank will maintain its current policy of non-involvement in the financing of nuclear power generation. That is the conclusion in the Banks's Energy Policy Paper, published in January 2009. ADB writes (page 30/31):  "Nevertheless, in spite of its sustainable and operational benefits, nuclear power development faces a number of barriers, such as public concerns related to nuclear proliferation, waste management, safety issues, high investment costs, long lead times, and commercial acceptability of new technologies. Overcoming these barriers is  difficult and open public debate will be required to convince the public about the benefits of nuclear power. MDBs have traditionally avoided financing nuclear power plants. In the context of the former Soviet Union states, the EBRD¹s current energy policy includes financing safety measures of nuclear plants, decommissioning and environmental rehabilitation, and promoting an efficient nuclear regulatory framework. In view of concerns related to nuclear technology, procurement limitations, proliferation risks, fuel availability, and environmental and safety concerns, ADB will maintain its current policy of non-involvement in the financing of nuclear power generation."

Pakistan: Khan released from house-arrest.

On February 6, a Pakistani court freed Abdul Qadeer Khan from house arrest, lifting the restrictions imposed on him since 2004 when he publicly confessed to running an illicit nuclear network. Khan, 73, considered in the West as a rogue scientist and a pariah who sold technology to North Korea, Libya and Iran, is revered as a national hero in Pakistan for his role in transforming the country into a nuclear power.

The ruling to set him free seemed as much a political decision as a legal one, intended to shore up support for the government of President Asif Ali Zardari, which has been derided in the Pakistani press as being too close to the U.S. The government has been under intense domestic pressure to free Mr. Khan, and that outweighed the backlash that Mr. Zardari knew the action would cause in Washington. The ruling was accompanied by a secret agreement between Mr. Khan and the civilian government, the contents of which were not disclosed, which may continue to place restrictions on him. It was not entirely clear whether Mr. Khan would be free to leave the country.

The Foreign Ministry said Pakistan had investigated Khan's past proliferation, shared its findings with the IAEA, and put in tight controls to prevent anything similar from happening again. "A. Q. Khan is history." The US State Department condemned the move: “He’s still a proliferation threat. We’re very troubled by this.”

The civilian government had eased the restrictions placed on the scientist in 2004. Right from the time of Khan's confession, the US has been persistently demanding permission to question him on his alleged proliferation activities. Pakistan has been equally consistent in denying this permission.

New York Times, 6 February 2009 / AP, 8 February 2009 / The Hindu, 9 February 2009

ITER could cost twice as much as budgeted.

According to the British newspaper The Guardian, the experimental ITER fusion reactor could cost twice as much as governments had planned for. The project, which absorbs almost half of Britain's energy research budget (!), will test complex machinery needed to make the world's first operational fusion power plants. ITER was originally planned to cost €10bn, but the rising price of raw materials and changes to the initial design are likely to see that bill soar. The warning came as scientists gathered in Finland to unveil the first component of the reactor, which will effectively act as its exhaust pipe. The reactor is currently expected to take nearly 10 years to build and is scheduled to be switched on in 2018.

The Guardian (UK), 29 January 2009

Ukraine to join International Uranium Center.

The Russian government has approved a request by the Rosatom corporation for Ukraine to join the international uranium enrichment project set up by Russia and Kazakhstan. The International Uranium Enrichment Centre would see uranium from member countries enriched at Angarsk in Russia under international supervision. The scheme is not yet finalised, but in theory it would offer member countries assured supplies of nuclear fuel under some sort of arbitration by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). An additional possibility is that such a scheme would take back highly-radioactive used nuclear fuel from client countries for reprocessing and recycling or for permanent storage.

The concept of an international fuel cycle has come to the fore in recent years partly due to suspicions that Iran's uranium enrichment facilities were once part of an undeclared nuclear weapons program. Countries that agree to abide by the global non-proliferation regime and within which the IAEA is confident nuclear power is only used peacefully would be guaranteed supplies of uranium fuel. The theory is that those countries would never need to develop their own uranium enrichment or reprocessing facilities, which otherwise could potentially be misused for weapons production.

The international uranioum project is only one of the several Multilateral approaches, the US GNEP (Global Nuclear Energy Partnership) and the IAEA Fuel Bank, being two other initiatives.

World Nuclear News, 10 February 2009

Spain: no new reactors. 

On January 21 Spain reaffirmed its policy of not commissioning new nuclear power plants a day after its biggest utility unveiled plans to build them in Britain, while repeating pledges to boost renewables and save energy.  "There will be no new nuclear plants," Spain Industry Minister Miguel Sebastian told journalists when asked to comment on Iberdrola's joint venture with British companies to build nuclear power stations.  Sebastian noted that Spanish energy consumption per head was 20 percent above the European average. "Saving 20 percent would be the equivalent of doubling the number of nuclear power plants. It seems easier and cheaper to me," he said. "Furthermore, it (saving) is immediate, whereas nuclear plants take 15 years. There is no controversy, no waste or security problems, nothing," he added.

Spain's government has said it may extend the working lives of the country's eight ageing nuclear power plants. Operating permits for seven of the plants are up for renewal between this year and 2011, or well within the mandate of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialist government. Spain's nuclear power plants supply about 7,300 megawatts and wind farms now have the capacity to generate more than 16,000 MW due to a boom in renewable energy, (but in practice provide less).

Reuters, 21 January 2009

New Nuclear madness in Britain.

The UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has  announced that it expects to nominate land near Sellafield, Wylfa, Oldbury and Bradwell, for  consideration under the Government’s Strategic Siting Assessment (SSA) process to identify sites suitable for nuclear new build. Whilst the NDA is not proposing to develop new nuclear plants itself and will not seek planning permission, it expects to nominate land into the SSA process in order to enhance the value of its land and in turn generate income which will help fund the decommissioning programme.

NDA, 23 January 2009

Sweden: phase-out removed; new-build unlikely

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Johan Swahn. Director MKG - Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear Waste Review

On Thursday February 5, the Swedish Government announced its new energy and climate policy. Both in Sweden and around the world focus of the media was that Sweden is reversing the policy of phasing out nuclear power. The decision appeared sudden and came to many as a shock. But what really happened? And how likely is it that Sweden will build new nuclear power?

The Swedish Government is a coalition of four parties with widely different views on nuclear power. The Liberals (Folkpartiet) have for a number of years had a pro nuclear agenda. The Center Party on the other hand is strongly anti-nuclear and has been working together with the Social Democrats and the Left Party with the phase-out of nuclear power. The Conservatives (Moderaterna) have leant towards nuclear but understand that new nuclear is not economical. The Christian Democrats are much more against than for.

Since over a year the Government has been pressed to reach an agreement on a joint energy and climate agenda. It is vital for the Government that there is a common policy before the Swedish chairmanship of EU starts in July. Sweden is to lead the EU in the important negotiations at the Copenhagen climate conference in the autumn.

In the beginning of February the issue had become critical. The Liberals had made an ultimatum that nuclear power had to be in the policy. In order to get a strong policy paper with a focus on renewable energy and efficiency measures the Christian Democrats and the Center Party had to give with great convulsions in both parties. A yearlong huge publicity campaign by the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise for nuclear power made the decision easier. There is presently an unfortunate and false general perception in Sweden that nuclear power is necessary to combat climate change.

But the deal that was brokered, and still needs parliamentary approval, is not pro-nuclear. It is focused on a large-scale effort to support renewable energy and energy efficiency measures. As an example Sweden's wind power supply is to increase from 2 to 30 TWh until 2020. This represents about half the present nuclear power supply. It this policy was continued Swedish wind power would be bigger than nuclear power by 2030. And all this energy would part of an enormous overcapacity. The nuclear power plants are at the same time being upgraded and their lifetimes are extended into the 2030s. And the electricity use in Sweden is expected to fall due to efficiency measures.

But the legal ban on building new nuclear power reactors will be removed as will the  still-existing phase-out law that the Centre Party had so far refused to remove. But the total number of reactors cannot be more than the ten that exist today. They cannot be constructed on other sites than the three now used (Forsmark, Ringhals and Oskarshamn). Thus no reactors can be built on the Barsebäck site near Denmark where the two reactors that have been phased out used to be. No state support can be given to nuclear power And as the nuclear industry plans to keep the present reactors until the 2030s nothing will happen for a very long time with regards to Swedish nuclear new-build. All other statements are just happy-talk, wishful thinking or propaganda. In the Parliament only the Liberal Party is in support of new-build.

The Government's new policy has forced the three opposition parties to show their cards. The Social Democrats, Left Party and Greens, who hold a relatively large but shrinking lead in the polls, have announced a common policy of not supporting new nuclear power. They will examine the possibility of continuing the phase-out if they win the elections in 2010.

Suddenly there is a nuclear divide in Swedish politics. Nuclear power is debated strongly and the media interest is high. Nuclear power may become an election issue at the next elections in September 2010. Opinion polls have been showing a clear lead for the opposition. How the Government's new nuclear policy will affect the public opinion remains to be seen.

Will we see new Swedish nuclear reactors being built in the 2030s? It's very unlikely. The Swedish mainstream politics and general public prefer renewable energy and energy efficiency. Which are real today.

Document by the Swedish Government: "A sustainable energy and climate policy for the environment, competitiveness and long-term stability"