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Lithuania: poll about Visaginas construction

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

According to a survey by Prime Consulting for the Lithuanian magazine Veidas, 48% of Lithuanians may vote against the construction of the planned Visaginas nuclear power plant in a referendum in October, while 19% support the construction. The poll, conducted in the country’s largest cities among 500 people on July 16-17, didn’t provide a margin of error. 

Lithuania will hold the referendum on October 14 along with the general election (see In Brief, Nuclear Monitor 753, 3 August 2012) in which the ruling center-right coalition is widely expected to be ousted from office. Prime Consulting’s poll suggest that Lithuania’s Social Democrats – who originally called for the vote on Visaginas complaining that details on the project remain too scarce after earlier supporting the plan to build the plant – are most likely to lead the next government.

Andrei Ozharovsky, a nuclear physicist and industry expert with Bellona in Russia pointed out that previous polls had indicated a 65 percent public opposition to the plant. A 50% plus one vote against the plant with a 50 percent voter turn out will be required to scuttle the plant, he said.

The figures from the polls suggest that Hitachi, the strategic investor on the Visaginas plant, may have a dark cloud cast over its plans to enter the construction phase: With the referendum coinciding with the general election, turn out is expected to be robust. But a statement released to Bellona by Hitachi in the European Union remained optimistic in an August 8, email interview with Bellona that the polls do not reflect Lithuanian public opinion. “We believe that all main political parties in Lithuania do not object to the nuclear power plant in Visaginas and that many Lithuanian people support the project. They understand that the nuclear power plant is necessary to ensure energy security of the region.”

The country’s lawmakers approved the July referendum proposal despite Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius calling for parliament to reject the initiative because it is “not necessary.” In June, Lithuanian parliament approved an agreement which provides the contractual frame-work for Visaginas. The government had planned to sign an agreement with strategic investor Hitachi to proceed with engineering and preparation work. “At this stage Hitachi wants to set up the project company as soon as possible and we expect this can be done before the referendum,” Hitachi’s statement to Bellona said. A final investment decision on whether or not to go ahead with the project is expected in 2015, NucNet reported, and the plant would be opera-tional by 2020-2022.

Visaginas is also failing to find a niche in a small region where two other nuclear power plants are planned –Belarusian NPP in the city of Ostrovets, and Baltic NPP, to be built in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, wedged between the Baltic state and mainland Russia. The site slated for the Visaginas plant is a mere 2.3 kilometers from the Belarusian border and water for the plants cooling systems is to come from Lake Drisvyaty, a water body that straddles the borders of both countries. In a rare union, both the Belarusian government and Bela-rusian environmental group are against the Visaginas plant. This is could ramp up yet more political tit for tat between Vilnius and Minsk: Lithuania has been vociferously opposed to Belarus NPP on the grounds that Minsk has submitted insufficient proof that its plant will be safe.

Source: Bellona, 8 August 2012


In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Nuclear activists jailed in Belarus for protesting deal with Russia.
One of the few remaining countries that claims the nuclear renaissance is real is Russia. The renaissance is not so real at home, where the number of planned nuclear power stations always looks impressive, but actual construction slows down. So, Russia looks to the outside world to push new reactors. On July 18 in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, the Russian and Belarusian officials signed a general contract on the joint project that envisions Russia’s Rosatom building a 2,400-MW nuclear power plant in the Belarusian town of Ostrovets in Grodno Region. The contract specified start of operation of Ostrovets unit 1 in November 2018 and unit 2 in  July 2020. A price tag of US$10 billion was put on the turnkey project to build the two NPP-2006 model VVER-1200 pressurized water reactors and all associated power plant  infrastructure.
Several journalists and environmentalists who are critical of the plan wanted to give him a petition. Even before they were on their way to the Russian Embassy in Minsk to deliver the petition, Russian nuclear physicist and journalist Andrey Ozharovsky and his Belarussian colleague and organizer of the petition Tatjana Novikova were arrested. Both were convicted that same day, Ozharovsky was given 10 days in jail and Novikova five days. They were accused of "hooliganism." The only witnesses called were the police people who arrested them. They said Ozharovsky and Novikova had screamed foul language that was audible further than 50 meters away. Well, "hooliganism" is the new magic word to persecute unwelcome political activism in current Belarus and Russia, just remember the members of punkgroup Pussy Riot who are facing a 7-year jail sentence for playing an anti-Putin song at the altar of one of Moscow's main cathedrals. Furthermore, new legislation in Russia oblige nongovernmental groups that receive funding from abroad to register as "foreign agents" or risk heavy fines and jail time.
Bellona, 13 July 2012 / WNN, 19 July 2012 / Jan Haverkamp, Greenpeace blog, 21 July 2012

Renewables to rescue Areva?
Areva's renewable energy division contributed positive operating cash flow for the first time in the first half of this year, highlighting the emerging importance of green energy to the French group as it looks to improve its cash position and pursue costcutting measures. Revenues from the Renewable Energies division hiked four-fold on the year to Eur253 million (US$308.7 million), on growth in offshore wind, solar and biomass sectors, helping drive up group revenues by 8.3% to Eur4.3 billion. "It's an encouraging sign because we know that renewable energy can contribute to the cash generation objective that we have in general for the group," Chief Financial Officer Pierre Aubouin said July 26 at the company's results presentation. The group has undergone a slim-lining program following costly delays for the construction of third-generation nuclear plants, while the Fukushima nuclear disaster has substantially dented the commercial prospects for nuclear reactor makers. "Ongoing efforts begun in late 2011 to reduce operating costs, with savings measures at the end of June 2012 implemented for nearly 20% of the objective set for the group through 2015, on an annual basis, another 45% of the objective being secured in addition," chief executive Luc Oursel said. The group, which also suffered from major write-downs on its uranium mining assets, still believes that nuclear is to remain a reliable source of energy on a long term, notably in Asia. 
Shares in Areva over the past 12 months have lost more than 55% of their value on the worries related to the impact of Fukushima on the group's outlook, as well as the massive write-down on the mining assets.
Areva, press release, 26 July 2012 /, 26 July 2012 / Platts, 27 July 2012 

Lithuania: Referendum on new nuclear power plant.
On July 16, Lithuanian Parliament decided that there will be a referendum about Visaginas Nuclear  Power Plant project. Text of the referendum will be: "I approve construction of the new nuclear power plant in Lithuania" Yes/No. Sixty-two lawmakers voted in favour of the opposition proposal to hold the referendum, which will not be binding, in tandem with the Baltic state's general election on October 14, while 39 were against and 18 abstained. "Visaginas nuclear power plant will be built on Lithuanian land, with increased danger, therefore we must ask the opinion of the Lithuanian people," said opposition Social Democrat Birute Vesaite. Lithuania's governing Conservatives opposed the referendum plan, accusing the opposition of simply seeking pre-election political gains. The government will not be bound by the results of the referendum, but the vote may add uncertainty to the already-sluggish nuclear project, which lacks strong support from opposition parties that lead the election polls.
At the end of 2009, Lithuania closed its only nuclear power plant, located near Visaginas in the northeast. The shutdown was one of the terms of Lithuania's 2004 admission to the European Union. A referendum on extending the old plant until a new one was ready was held alongside the last general election in 2008, but while 89 percent voted in favour, turnout was only 48 percent, rendering it invalid. 
Now a new wave of propaganda and information about nuclear power is expected. But it is impossible to speak of a level playing field for pro and anti-nuclear organizations, considering the differences in financial means.
AFP, 16 July 2012

Olkiluoto-3 delayed indefinitely.
Finnish electricity company TVO says the Olkiluoto 3 EPR nuclear reactor will not be ready by the latest deadline of 2014 and a new timetable has not yet been set. Olkiluoto 3, originally due to be ready by 2009, is being built by French nuclear company Areva and German  engineering giant Siemens. In a statement, TVO said it was "not pleased with the situation" although solutions to various problems were being found one by one and work was "progressing". It said it was waiting for a new launch date from Areva and Siemens. Work on the site in south-west Finland began in 2005 but has been hit by repeated delays and has run way over budget. TVO has disagreed with the Areva/Siemens consortium over who is responsible for the delays. On July 16, it cited delays in automation system engineering and installation works.
The International Chamber of Commerce's arbitration court is processing the dispute on cost overruns between the consortium and TVO.
A similar project in Flamanville in northern France is itself running four years behind schedule.
China looks set to be the first country to operate an EPR reactor with one due to enter service in 2013. China is building two such reactors at Taishan in the south-east of the country with the first due to enter service at the end of next year and the second a year later.
On August 11, people are going to block the roads to Olkiluoto nuclear power plant in Eurajoki. Previous years have seen people blocking the roads using banners, drumming, performances and peaceful civil disobedience.
BBC, 16 July 2012 / Reuters, 16 July 2012 /

Japan: founding Green Party shows strong anti-nuclear feeling.
While a second reactor (Ohi-4) was restarted and resumed supplying to the grid on July 20, anti- nuclear sentiment is still growing. Anti-nuclear campaigners in Japan have launched the country's first green party. Greens Japan, created by local politicians and activists, hopes to satisfy the legal requirements to become an officially recognised political party in time for the general election, which must be held by next summer but could come much earlier. The party said it would offer voters a viable alternative to the two main parties, the ruling Democratic party of Japan and the minority opposition Liberal democratic party [LDP] both supported the nuclear restart. Akira Miyabe, Greens Japan's deputy leader, said voters had been deprived of the chance to support a party that puts nuclear abolition and other green policies at the top of its agenda. "We need a party that puts the environment first," he said at a launch event in Tokyo. Meanwhile, anti-nuclear protest is continuing. The Friday evening demonstration in Tokyo usually attracts over 100.000 people and a human chain against the Diet building on Sunday July 29 again brought ten of thousands to the streets. In a rare move by a former Japanese prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama joined a anti-nuclear demonstration outside his old office on July 19, another sign that the ruling party he once led is fracturing over energy and other policies. Also in other Japanese cities regularly demonstration take place.
ReUters, 20 & 21 July 2012 / Guardian, 30 July 2012 / Website Metropolitans against nukes 

Poland: the Mielno referendum and the battle for Choczewo

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Greenpeace Central Europe

Poland is struggling forwards to join the nuclear club – all of Poland? No, a small village on the coast...
When after the Chernobyl catastrophe in 1986, Poland decided to abandon its only ongoing nuclear power project near the hamlet of Zarnowiec, a vast majority of the population supported the decision. Since then, a five to ten meter high concrete ruin ran full of water and is now a paradise for fishers and a colony of gulls.

After the Fukushima catastrophe, the situation is decisively different. On 24 February, 2012, Prime Minister Donald Tusk confirmed after a meeting with his Minister for Economy Waldemar Pawlak and the Minister for Regional Development Elżbieta Bieńkowska that Poland is determined to continue the execution of its nuclear program.

Until two years ago, this program was prepared under exclusion of any public debate and prepared for Parliament by the nuclear physicist, Zarnowiec veteran, former CEO of state utility PGE and now vice-minister for nuclear energy Hana Trojanowska. Unfortunately for the Ministry, environmental NGO Greenpeace pointed out this program had to be submitted to a strategic environmental assessment (SEA). A 900 page report was prepared in a bit more than a month and published just after Christmas 2010 – the public was given three weeks to respond. After protests by several NGOs that three weeks was not acceptable under the Aarhus and Espoo Convention, the period was prolonged to three months. After pressure, also a transboundary consultation, as prescribed by the EU SEA Directive and the Espoo Convention was prepared. Germany, Austria, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and later also Luxembourg joined the procedure and demanded under more public pressure also three months for submissions instead of the three weeks they were granted originally. Deadline 4 January 2012.

But the Polish public was still largely asleep on the issue. Until PGE announced in December 2011 its proposal for three potential sites for a new nuclear power station. In the original SEA documentation, 42 places were indicated, from which 5 had a priority. One of the sites published in December, however, was not among those: Ganski in the municipality of Mielno on the Western Polish Baltic coast. The people in this tourist area did not accept their sudden fate and in January sufficient signatures were collected for a local referendum that took place on 12 February 2012. Within a matter of two months, many of the inhabitants of Ganski had educated themselves on nuclear issues and decided they did not want PGE to come and ruin their landscape, put the population at risk and refuse to address issues like nuclear waste or the look for alternative ways to produce energy. During a PGE presentation in the second preferred location of Choczewo, a few days before the referendum in Mielno, people from Ganski and Mielno took the floor to inform a growingly sceptical regional population and anti-nuclear activists from the nearby larger cities of Gdansk and Gdynia of the ways that PGE was trying to manipulate the population. The PGE representatives' attempts to explain the advantages of nuclear power for the region were booed away.

The referendum in Mielno ended successfully with 94% of the population against the construction of any nuclear installation in the municipality.

Vice-minister Trojanowska reacted with the remark that the people had voted far too early, and that they did not know anything about nuclear power. She announced the start of a multi-million zloty nuclear propaganda campaign, financed by the Polish state, starting on the first of March. PGE, in the mean time, is preparing a tender for the construction of 3000 MW of nuclear on the location of Ganski, Choczewo or Zarnowiec. The locations of Choczewo and Ganski are on the sea-coast, while the Zarnowiec has two possibilities – one on a reservoir, that has insufficient cooling water for 3000 MW of capacity, and one on the coast. Preferred bidders include Areva from France, Westinghouse / Toshiba from the US and GE / Hitachi from Japan.

So far, coordinated influence from PGE (over its power as advertiser) and the government have kept any critical sound about nuclear power out of the Polish media, whereas information from the few academics that started this push, mainly from the nuclear research centre in Swierc, is spread widely. The Mielno referendum and Choczewo public meeting started to bring some change in that, and when Greenpeace nuclear campaigner Jan Haverkamp applied for the position of CEO of PGE Nuclear Energy SA shortly after, some critical arguments also started appearing in the business press. On the question whether his application was a joke, his response that he considers seriously to take the job and close down this wing of PGE, and that the plans from PGE to build a nuclear power station are the real joke, was widely quoted.

The transboundary public procedure for the nuclear energy programme delivered in the mean time over 60.000 submissions from Germany alone – many of them over an on-line tool from the Umweltinstitut in Munich and the BUND in Brandenburg. Because of the new site choice of Ganski, the final deadline for submissions in the transboundary procedure was 27 February 2012, and the Ministries of Environment and Economy in Poland now have to take all submissions from the past year “into due account”.

In that light, the recent remarks from Tusk confirm fears that Poland lacks the sincerity to do so. And the creativity and competence to look beyond large scale centralised electricity production – the kind of thinking it is used to with its heavy dependence on coal. Poland is for the survival of the nuclear industry next to the UK and the Czech Republic (or rather, the CEZ Republic) one of the three front states in Europe, and because of its lack of experience, the easiest to manipulate.

The Mielno referendum and the Battle for Choczewo signal, however, a turning of tides of some kind. When these small starts of public opposition will spread further along the coast, there is a good chance that the bad economics of nuclear, combined with public resistance can turn Poland around and prevent another nuclear ruin on the Baltic shores.

Source and contact: Greenpeace Poland, Iwo Los
Email: iwo.los[at]

Greenpeace Central Europe, Jan Haverkamp
Email: jan.haverkamp[at]

No to nuclear power - historic victory Italian referendum

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

It was clear that a majority of the Italian people is against nuclear power, but was that enough to bring them to the polls in the Pentecost holiday weekend? Because without 50% +1 vote of all Italian voters the referendum would not be valid. Since 1995 no referendum held had been able to conquer that 50% threshold, so that was the real question. The answer is "yes': 57 percent of all voters took the opportunity to vote against nuclear power privatization of water and against Berlusconi.

Only on June 1, it became clear that the referendum would go ahead. The Corte di Cassazione, Italy's top court, ruled that the referendum could go ahead as planned on June 12-13. The center-right government of Silvio Berlusconi announced in the wake of the Fukushima a two-year moratorium on plans to relaunch the nuclear sector and in doing so, had hoped to avoid the referendum (see Nuclear Monitor 727, 27 May 2011).

Overcome the daunting task of a quorum of 50 per cent + 1 of all Italian voters in the face of a mass media controlled by Berlusconi and a government that was encouraging voters to go to the beach instead of vote on the first weekend of summer vacation for Italian grade school, middle school and high school students was the main task.

On Sunday June 12, there was a frenzy of activity in every town and city, on the streets, in the coffee bars, in the town squares, on the beaches, everywhere! The proponents of the referendums threw all caution to the wind as they called to every passerby to go to the polls and not let this important opportunity pass by. This was an incredible mobilization that had a domino effect, as students, families and co-workers pushed one another to vote. Flags sprung up on balconies, stickers on the windows of busses and walls of the metros, with bicyclists up and down the coasts whistling and shouting to get out the vote. Since 1995 no single referendum reached the 50% quorum. On Sunday evening already 41% had voted and victory was possible.

On Monday evening, June 13, the leader of the Italian of Values Party Antonio Di Pietro, who last year launched the petition drives for the referendums on nuclear energy and Legitimate Impediment held a press conference to express his pride and contentment with the outcome of this historic vote, stating that “this was a victory of the Italian People and not of the Political Establishment,” and again calling for Berlusconi to resign from power.

This is a great result also considering that there has been an almost total media blackout on all the four referendum, an institutionally driven blackout with a specific goal: not enough voters showing up to render any outcome invalid.

Over the past two months countless activities of many groups in civil society have been able to break the silence, giving back to the people the democratic right to exclude from their future and from future generations the tragic experiences the people in Chernobyl and in Fukushima have gone through, and still are.

The vote was widely seen as a poll on Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who was a strong proponent of nuclear energy.  "Following the decision the Italian people are taking at this moment, we must probably say goodbye to the possibility of nuclear power stations and we must strongly commit ourselves to renewable energy," Berlusconi said.

The Italian government planned to get 25 percent of its energy mix from nuclear power by 2020 and 25 percent from renewables. The referendum precipitated a huge boost in shares of renewables companies.

The 1987 Referendum
The November 8, 1987 Italian referendum on nuclear power, was launched after the Chernobyl accident by the Green party and backed by Socialist and Communist party. The referendum rejected the expansion of the country's nuclear power industry by the construction of new nuclear power plants. Voters were actually polled about three (technical worded) issues:

* abolishing the statutes by which the Inter-ministries Committee for the Economical Programming (CIPE) could decide about the locations for nuclear plants, when the Regions did not so within the time stipulated by Law 393; (80,6 % in favor)
* abolishing rewards for municipalities in whose territories nuclear or coal plants were to be built; (79,7 % in favor)
* abolishing the statutes allowing (state-owned energy-utility) Enel to take part in international agreements to build and manage nuclear plants. (71,8 % in favor)

Subsequently, the Italian government decided in 1988 to phase out existing plants. This led to the termination of work on the near-complete Montalto di Castro, and the early closure of Enrico Fermi and Caorso nuclear power plants, both of which closed in 1990.

Sources: Reuters, 1 June & 13 June 2-11; Greenpeace Blog, 13 June 2011;, 14 June 2011
Contact: Legambiente, Via Salaria 403, 00199 Roma, Italia.
Tel: +39 06 862681

Italy: Berlusconi trying to block nuclear referendum

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

On May 16, demonstrations have been held in many cities in Italy in the buildup to the national referendum on 12 and 13 June on restarting a nuclear program. Meanwhile, on May 15, a regional referendum on Sardinia regarding building a nuclear power plant ended in an astonishing  97.64 percent of votes against the plan. And even important, the percentage of voters (59.34%) was well above the 33% quorum for the validity of the consultation.

Italian PM Berlusconi is attempting to postpone the national referendum or delete the question on nuclear power from it. Angelo Bonelli, president of the Italian Green Party: "The referendums will be voted on anyway, despite the fact that the thieves of democracy have returned to action. The attempts of the government to steal the democratic rights of the Italian people to vote against nuclear energy and the privatization of water will not succeed".

Following Berlusconi's election victory in 2008 and his return to power for the third time since 1994, Italy's new minister of economic development Claudio Scajola -- before being forced out of office by a corruption scandal involving bribery and fraud in 2010 -- announced that the government had scheduled the start of construction for the first new Italian nuclear power plant by 2013. On February 24, 2009, an agreement between France and Italy was signed allowing Italy to share in France's expertise in the area of nuclear power station design. On July 9, 2009 the Italian legislature passed an energy bill covering the establishment of a Nuclear Regulatory Agency and giving the government six months to select sites for new plants. These sites have never been finalized. On August 3, 2009, Italy's energy giant Enel and Electricite de France established a joint venture Sviluppo Nucleare Italia Srl for studying the feasibility of building at least four reactors using a design of French reactor builder Areva -- the worlds largest nuclear energy company. These energy oligarchs, with Berlusconi as their champion, are doing everything in their power to preserve their multi-billion dollar investment in a nuclear future.

To this end Berlusconi's council of ministers announced a one year moratorium on all questions relating to the research and activation of sites for new nuclear plants in Italy on  March 24, 2011, less than two weeks after the earthquake in Japan and subsequent Fukushima nuclear disaster. This move was immediately met with skepticism from Italy's antinuclear movement and opposition political parties and was seen as a poorly veiled attempt to block the June referendum. On April 26th, the 25th anniversary of the catastrophic Chernobyl accident, Berlusconi held a press conference with French president Nikolay Sarkozy in Rome. At this press conference Berlusconi made his radioactive intentions clear for all. "We are absolutely convinced that nuclear energy is the future for the whole world," he said. He went on to detail how recent polls showed that the referendum to block nuclear power for decades to come could pass at this time and that by temporarily suspending Italy's return to nuclear program the issue would be revisited when the Italian voters had been "calmed down" and returned to the realization that Nuclear Energy was the most viable and safe way to produce electricity. He went on to explain how the "leftists and ecologists" had manipulated the emotions of the Italian voters after Chernobyl and penalized the Italian people who have to pay higher electric rates than France that operates 58 nuclear power plants. Berlusconi explained that the "situation in Japan had scared the Italian voters" and that the "inevitable return to nuclear power in Italy" would not be abandoned nor would the collaborations between Enel and Eletricite de France.

Now with Germany and Japan announcing the phasing out of their nuclear programs and the scrapping of plans for the construction of new reactors, it would seem like political suicide to barge full steam ahead with a pro-nuclear stance, but this is Italy and Berlusconi is still at the command. Berlusconi is now in control of all the major television outlets, including the state owned RAI, so getting the word out to the voters that there will be a vote on June 12 & 13, is proving difficult, and the heavy hand of State censorship has been yielded. At the annual May Day concert in Rome, sponsored by Italy's two largest labor unions and televised on the state run RAI, the performing artists were required to sign a waiver agreeing not to speak about the upcoming referendums or risk a fine of over ten thousand euros. This left a bitter taste in the mouths of many of the attendees of this May Day celebration as news surfaced almost immediately that the state media outlet had censored the event.

As of now the referendum to block nuclear power is still on the ballot. Only a last minute ruling by the Supreme Court could remove it, and the Berlusconi government is banking on this decision as a result of their so-called nuclear moratorium. The anti-nuclear referendum is accompanied on the June ballot by two other referendums, one to repeal the Berlusconi government's attempts to privatize water and the other to repeal a law called "legittimo impedimento" which was passed by the Right wing majority in order to protect Berlusconi from prosecution by giving him and members of parliament immunity from prosecution while serving in office. Each of these referendums required the gathering of half a million valid signatures and will need the high participation of 50 % plus 1 eligible voters to reach the mandated quorum in order to be considered valid. No legislative referendum has been able to reach this quorum in over a decade. Now the Berlusconi government is also trying to block the vote to keep water publicly owned. In recent legislation they created a new Water Authority in an attempt to legally block this referendum as well. While it is evident to the engaged and politically active citizenry that the Berlusconi government is pulling out all the stops to block the democratic process, the masses who get their information from Berlusconi's private and state run television empire are being kept in the dark. No news on the referendums is reported unless it is it is very late at night or the early hours of the morning.

Sources: Michael Leonardi, Counterpunch, 13-15 May / Spiked. 16 May 2011, Dominic Standish

Switzerland: closer to a nuclear phase-out or tactical pause?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Philippe de Rougemont, President, Sortir du nucléaire

A referendum on the construction of three new 1600 MW nuclear power plants (NPP) was  to be held in 2013, for a planned grid connection in 2025. That was before the Fukushima catastrophe. Since then the federal department  in charge of energy decided to uphold the entire consultation process to "learn more" from the Japanese catastrophe.

When the nuclear catastrophe started to unfold at Fukushima-1 on march 11, the Minister for energy and infrastructures, Ms Doris Leuthard, a former nuclear lobby board member, decided to uphold the non-decisionary consultation process - mandatory under the new nuclear energy law - that was to lead to a decisionary referendum expected for 2013 (see Nuclear Monitor 676, 4 September 2008). The reason given for this decision was to analyse 3 new nuclear power plants projects using new knowledge gained at Fukushima. A country without sea coastline has no tsunami warning zone, but other residual risks exist, such as major breaches in large mountain dams that could drown nuclear installations, earthquakes or human errors.

The federal council ordered new studies, on the security of the 5 existing nuclear reactors and on future energy scenarios, including nuclear phase-out plans. At first the antinuclear campaign was relieved by this, until doubts started clouding the federal decision. Had Ms Leuthard been genuinely shocked by the new nuclear catastrophe, enough to halt a process that was supposed to lead to the building of at least one new nuclear power plant that she backed until then? Or was it a tactical decision, namely, a momentary suspension, not a grounding? Was she afraid Swiss citizens wouldn't vote according to plan this time, and simply decided to postpone the vote until momentary emotional considerations receded back to normal? Since 1984, three votes on nuclear phase out initiatives (formal proposals) have been put to vote. Each one failed to phase out nuclear power, apart from a 1990 vote, 4 years after Chernobyl, that imposed a 10 year moratorium on nuclear power plant constructions.

What are the current prospects for change on the energy issue outside of the federal council?

The Swiss Green party launched a new federal initiative, gaining political and NGO support. If voted into the constitution (in 3 to 5 years), it would bar construction of new nuclear power plants and limit life cycles of existing reactors to 40 years, with a last closure in 2024. The Socialist party, also in competition for new green votes, announced parliamentary initiatives to phase out nuclear power.

Major editorialists and conservative politicians have taken position against nuclear energy, before Fukushima this wouldn't have been expected. In June the Swiss parliament will hold sessions dedicated to future energy scenarios; will the anti-nuclear drive lose momentum or will this catastrophe act as a catalyst for change? Two weeks after Fukushima, a poll showed 87% of the population wanted a progressive nuclear phase out.

Source and contact: Philippe de Rougemont, President, Sortir du nucléaire, CP 1378  CH 1001 Lausanne

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Criticism South Korean UAE contract
A news program has belatedly exposed the fact that the South Korean government agreed to provide a loan covering approximately half the construction costs for the exportation of a nuclear power plant to the United Arab Emirates. While the government explained that this was part of ordinary power plant export financing, controversy has been flaring up as this revelation couples with previous controversies over inflation of the order amount and the deployment of troops to the UAE as a condition for receiving the order. A Jan. 30 episode of the MBC program 'News Magazine 2580' revealed that in the process of signing a contract with the UAE for the power plant export in December 2009, the South Korean government agreed to provide a loan for approximately US$10 billion (7.25 billion euro) of the total order amount of US$18.6 billion through Korea Eximbank. In addition, the program reported that the repayment period was set at 28 years, and that the transaction generates a loss due to the fact that South Korea, which has a lower credit rating than the UAE, has to borrow the money at high interest rates and lend it at low interest rates. The program also reported that the construction has encountered setbacks, including a delay in the groundbreaking ceremony from its originally scheduled date in late 2010, as the Korean government has encountered difficulties coming up with the promised US$10 billion loan.

Hankyoreh, South Korea, 1 February 2011

the 1st International Uranium Film Festival is Latin America´s first film festival to highlight nuclear and radioactive issues. It is an annual event with 2 international competitions.

The Uranium Film Festival wants to inform especially the Brazilian and Latin American societies and stimulate the production of independent documentaries and movies about the whole nuclear fuel cycle, about the dangers of radioactivity and especially about the environmental and health risks of uranium exploration, mining and processing. The Uranium Film Festival will be held from May 21th to 28th 2011 in the city of Rio de Janeiro and from June 2nd to 9th in the city of São Paulo

The first 18 films have been selected: look for the list at:

Germany: Complaints against runtime extensions to Constitutional Court.

In cooperation with citizens living close to Germany's seven oldest nuclear powerplants, Greenpeace has submitted a complaint to Germany's Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht). While Greenpeace Germany generally argues that the runtime extensions endanger each citizen's right of being protected against bodily harm, the new constitutional complaint is specifically directed at the latest Nuclear Energy Law's paragraph 7d. The new §7d tells reactor operators, in rather poetic language, to reduce risks threatening "the population". This is, according to Greenpeace's law experts, a significant point. It means that individual citizens who have lately filed complaints (with support from Greenpeace) against the extension of the licenses for reactors in their neighborhood will be denied the right of action. In other words, the old Nuclear Law was designed to protect citizens and gave them the right to complain in local courts against the risks caused by the local polluter, and the new law withdraws this right.

Parallel to Greenpeace's action, two other complaints against the new Nuclear Law

will be filed at the Constitutional Court later this year. One is by a number of states of the German federation and the other is by groups of members of the federal parliament.

Greenpeace press release (in German), 3 February 2011

Norway: severe consequences of Sellafield accident.
An accident at the high-activity liquor storage at Sellafield would have severe consequences for Norway's wildlife, agricultural industry and environment. The Norwegian Radiological Protection Authority has published a second report on the consequences of a accident that releases just one per cent of the high-level liquid waste at Sellafield. This report looks at the consequences to the environment and animals, while the first report considered the fallout likely from a similar accident. The report use the typical weather experienced in October 2008 and only considers the release of caesium-137. An actual accident would release other radionuclides, particularly strontium.

It is estimated the amount of caesium-137 deposited on Norway would be about seven times that from Chernobyl. Direct costs from Chernobyl on agriculture and reindeer in Norway have been over 665 million kroner (US$118 million; 86 million euro) and there are still annual costs of 15 million kroner. Up to 80 per cent of all lambs in Norway would be expected to have excess radiation levels and restrictions apply for decades. The report is available at

N-Base Briefing 681, 25 January 2011

Canada: White Elephant 'Pointless Lepreau' reappears in New Brunswick.
The Point Lepreau nuclear generating station provides the quintessential definition of a white elephant. The aging nuclear plant opened its doors three times over budget in 1983. The Energy and Utilities Board refused to support spending on refurbishing it beyond its expected lifetime, but politicians went ahead anyway. Today, costs for the touch-and-go overhaul are already over Cdn$1.4 billion (1.4 bn US$, 1 bn Euro). The latest guess at a completion date is May 2012, a delay of almost three years. Damage to public and worker health and the environment have yet to be calculated and the final costs for taxpayers may not end for generations.

An alliance of public interest groups in New Brunswick, known as the Point Lepreau Decommissioning Caucus, is spreading a simple, but powerful message: Point Lepreau is a white elephant, we don't need it. Pointless Lepreau is old, sickly and on its last legs: Do Not Resuscitate. To underline the foolishness of refurbishing Lepreau, the groups are holding surprise events featuring their newest member, an actual white elephant costume aptly named Pointless Lepreau.

Press release, 19 January 2011

When the dust settles.
The International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW) and IKV Pax Christi have been working on a joint project to create an animated short film on the hazards of depleted uranium and the international campaign against its use and are happy to announce that the English language version has now been completed. We have sought to render down a complex issue into six and a half minutes and at present the animation is available in English and Dutch, we hope that additional languages will be available in future.

Both versions are available from our Youtube channels at the links below. ICBUW can also provide copies for use at events and to help support your national campaigns.

English version:

UK Gov't sending papers down the memory-hole. The UK government and its agencies like the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA; successor to Nirex) are trying to airbrush out the history of the attempt to find a nuclear waste repository in West Cumbria. Documents and scientific papers which were formerly available on their websites have been removed; the Nirex documents have been transferred to the safe keeping of the British Geological Survey, where they may be 'consulted' at Keyworth, Nottinghamshire. But nothing remains online, not even an index of the documents and reports. Now, David Smythe has re-scanned much of the material and collected links of other parts.

Sellafield (West-Cumbria) was disqualified for several reasons, but now NDA and government is looking again at that region for final disposal.

Papers are available at:

Monju: accident delays startup with 3 more years. The task of removing a device that accidentally fell into the prototype fast-breeder reactor Monju in August will delay its full startup about a year to 2014 or later.
The Japan Atomic Energy Agency, the operator of the 280 MW Monju reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, is expected to remove the device next summer or later and then conduct checkups, delaying the test operation initially scheduled to start next spring and subsequent full-fledged run. Removing the 3.3-ton device, which was used for fuel exchange before it fell into the reactor vessel in the Aug. 26 accident, requires special equipment, approval from the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and a followup inspection.
Monju resumed operations with limited power output in May 2010 after 14 years and five months(!) of suspension due to a sodium coolant leak and a resultant fire and coverup attempt in 1995.
Kyodo, 17 December 2010

Extended operation for Paducah enrichment plant? US uranium enrichment company USEC said that it is working to extend the operation of its Paducah plant in Kentucky beyond May 2012, when the old and inefficient gaseous diffusion plant had been expected to shut down. The company said that it will "base its decision to extend operations upon economic considerations and the ability of the plant to operate profitably." The Paducah plant – currently the only operating uranium enrichment facility in the USA - is set to be replaced by USEC's planned American Centrifuge Plant (ACP) project in Piketon, Ohio.

The full ACP plant was originally expected to commence commercial operation in early 2010 and achieve full annual capacity at the end of 2012. However, early in 2009 the whole project was slowed pending funding through the Department of Energy (DoE) loan guarantee program, and in July 2009 it was suspended due to the DoE refusing to award a US$2 billion (1.5 billion euro) loan guarantee, and asking USEC to withdraw its application. USEC refused to do this, and in July 2010, it submitted an updated loan guarantee application to the DoE. In October 2010, DoE informed USEC that it has largely completed its initial technical review of USEC's application and is proceeding to the next stage of the loan guarantee process.

Although USEC earlier secured investment of U$200 million from Toshiba and Babcock & Wilcox to support the ACP, the company maintains that additional financing is needed to complete plant construction.

World Nuclear News, 12 January 2011

Italy: referendum on relaunching nuclear power.
Italy's constitutional court ruled on January 12, a national referendum could be held against the construction of nuclear power plants, dealing a potential blow to government plans to relaunch the sector. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi wants nuclear plants to generate a quarter of the country's electricity in the future. The court allowed a request by opposition politician Antonio Di Pietro for a referendum, which will take place between on a Sunday between April 15 and June 15.

Antonio Di Pietro is leader of Italia dei Valori (Italy of Values) a centrist political party and an outspoken opponent of nuclear power. An April 2010 petition by the party successfully gathered the 500,000 signatures of Italian voters needed for the referendum to proceed through the Italian legislative system. This was presented to the Constitutional Court for it's final ruling on the admissibility of the proposed referendum.

Public opinion in Italy has been generally hostile to nuclear energy, and a 1987 referendum following the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986 closed all plants and phased out production.

Reuters, 12 January 2011, Rete Nazionale Antinucleare (RNA) International, 13 January 2011

Austria: referendum on Euratom membership

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Roland Egger

In January 2007 five organizations expressed their discontent with the role of Austria within Euratom, the European Union’s nuclear energy authority. The press conference was held in Vienna with Greenpeace, Umweltdachverband, Global 2000, Salzburger Plattform gegen Atomgefahr and Atomstopp – and they all demanded that Austria should unilaterally withdraw its membership from Euratom if Austrian politicians are not willing to enforce the Austrian antinuclear consensus within Euratom. “Out of Euratom” became the slogan.

All five organizations, participating in the "Raus aus Euratom" campaign, agreed: Euratom is undemocratic because it excludes the European parliament from decisions on nuclear issues. Because all struggles for a Euratom revision conference failed, single countries should come up with initiatives to leave the Euratom-treaty.

The Austrian organizations were deeply frustrated that despite the Austrian antinuclear consensus in the population and the legendary fight against nuclear power plants near Austrian borders like Temelin in the Czech Republic, Mochovce in Slovakia or Isar 1 in Germany, the decisions of Austrian politicians in Brussels did not reflect this rejection of the population on nuclear energy.

Anyway – the press conference in January 2007 later turned out to be the beginning of a campaign having lasted now for more than four years, bringing together regional parliaments, municipalities, organizations, churches – with the demand to leave Euratom. So by gaining strength on the one hand, the campaign was more and more discussed, became  controversially and was attacked on the other hand. Atomstopp also had to face financial cuts being the driving force behind the campaign.

The campaign “Out of Euratom”
Starting with five organizations the campaign “Out of Euratom” comprises now 86 organizations with various background: antinuclear, renewable energies, ethics, environment – even the Catholic and the Evangelic Church in Upper Austria gave favorable statements on the campaign – showed solidarity with the demand that Austria should also leave Euratom because the membership of an organization that promotes the nuclear industry is not compatible with the Austrian rejection of nuclear energy. Opinion polls showed that in 2006 63% of Austrian population was in favor of a unilateral withdrawal from Euratom – in 2008 that number already rose to 78%. While 81% disapprove that Austria supports the European nuclear industry financially.

177 municipalities throughout Austria strengthened the campaign “Out of Euratom” by resolutions to the Austrian government saying with the end of the Austrian Euratom membership the financial means formerly spent on the nuclear industry should be transferred to renewable energies.

All nine regional parliaments in Austria treated the Euratom membership in critical resolutions, expressing at least their wish to prepare the requirements for a unilateral withdrawal from Euratom if a Euratom-revision conference is unlikely in the near future.

In the last four years the opposition parties in the Austrian parliament brought eleven (11!) applications on an unilateral withdrawal from Euratom – another eleven (11!) inquiries were addressed by the opposition parties to the Austrian government on the financial aspects of the Euratom membership and the question “how much pays Austria for its nuclear membership”?. The Austrian government refused all applications in parliament. Also the inquiries on the financial aspects remained unanswered.

The government did not show any motivation to end Austrian membership of Euratom and did not show any motivation to bring antinuclear aspects to Euratom.

Position of the Austrian government
Confronted with the demand for a unilateral withdrawal from Euratom, the Austrian  government says that (a) a unilateral withdrawal is not possible for legal reasons, (b) will result in a more pro-nuclear Europe as Austria does no longer take part in nuclear decisions, (c) the financial means of Euratom are mainly spent on fusion and safety issues, (d) Euratom covers vital aspects as radiation protection and non-proliferation of fissionable material and (e) Austria is and will always be keen on a Euratom revision conference.

These arguments are very weak when analyzing the influence of Austria on the European nuclear policy in the last 15 years. There is already a pro-nuclear Europe – even with Austrian Euratom-membership: the Euratom budget was trippled in 2006 – with Austria's approval! And Austria's representative in Brussels did not hesitate in summer 2010 to give his OK for another 1400 million euro to cover the additional costs for the planned fusion reactor ITER in Cadarache. Austria gave its approval also for weak directives on safety of nuclear installations (2008) and did not show any discontent with the controversial directive on nuclear waste disposal (2010). With Austria's approval 223,5 million euro were granted as a Euratom loan for the completion of the Romanian nuclear power plant Cernavoda (2004) – and by the way: Austria's radiation protection was more rigorous before the Euratom-membership.

For the legal possibility of a unilateral withdrawal from Euratom see: Heinz Stockinger – Euratom: Countries free to step out. (Nuclear Monitor 658, 13 July 2007, p. 4). With the Lisbon Treaty being in force since December 2010 the possibility of a unilateral withdrawal is seen in Art. 50 with a reference to Art. 106a of the Euratom treaty. And those in favor of a Euratom-revision conference have to remember that one single Euratom member state can block any initiative. Who really expects France, or Great Britain, or the Czech Republic to allow any changes of the Euratom treaty as it is still their basis and legitimation for their nuclear programs?

To sum it up: If Austrian politicians made, and encouraged, a strong anti-nuclear policy within Euratom there would be no need for a campaign like “Austria -  Out of Euratom”. In such a case, all antinuclear organizations would be happy with the Austrian politicians and would have supported them in their struggle against the nuclear industry in Europe. Or will this remain a naive dream? Is it realistic to think Euratom will allow antinuclear positions? Is it realistic to hope to change Euratom from inside? Reality – and the experience of the past 15 years - shows a different picture.

The referendum
After four years campaigning, there is no sign that the Austrian government is willing to deal with the demand of regional parliaments, with the demand of the opposition parties, with the demand of 86 organizations joining the campaign and with the call from municipalities: “Out of Euratom”. A government not willing to meet NGO demands is a very common counterpart and in fact one of the reasons why we work on this topic in the first place, so to stop the campaign, as some suggested, was no option. Atomstopp_Upper Austria had no choice than to bring the campaign to a next level.

Because the Austrian government continues to ignore the demands of regional parliaments, organizations and municipalities, it was decided by atomstopp Upper Austria in spring 2010 to start with the preparation-work for a referendum on this issue to bring direct pressure on the government – direct pressure from the Austrian population. Starting the preparation-work turned out to be the end of some funding: one of the organizations stopped financial support for the "Out of Euratom" campaign.

Within a few months it was possible to collect 8.032 signatures (confirmed by municipalities) necessary to launch the referendum. Municipalities were part of this first (launching) phase. In every third municipality in Austria people signed the referendum in this phase. All political parties from the right (freedom party) to the left wing (communist party) supported this phase. Green groups supported it, mayors from the people's party supported it, too. And the socialist party in Upper Austria gave a strong signal: all delegates signed the referendum already in the launching phase, too.

100,000 signatures needed
During eight days between February 28 and March 7, it will be possible throughout Austria to sign the “Out of Euratom” referendum. When the referendum gets more than 100.000 signatures the parliament has again to handle with the demand. With this referendum we want a commitment from the Austrian government to follow the outcome and end the Austrian membership of Euratom. The unilateral withdrawal of Austria from Euratom can be the start of a Europe-wide campaign – with affects on the European nuclear and anti-nuclear policy. Every member state of the European Union should have the choice either to finance nuclear industry via Euratom or finance renewable energies.

Source and contact: Roland Egger, atomstopp_Upper Austria, Promenade 37, 4020 Linz, Austria.


Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Thanks to a referendum in 1987 Italy was the first industrialized country to phase out from nuclear power. More than 20 years after this historical popular vote, Italy's right wing government lead by Silvio Berlusconi decided to push for a “nuclear renaissance” in the country. Announced soon after the elections in 2007, the nuclear program drafted by Claudio Scajola, minister of economic development, aims to build eight new nuclear power plants in order to meet the goal of 25% of electricity production from nuclear.

Legambiente - Italy, according to a common idea shared by government and some industrial sectors, lost competitiveness by choosing to abandon nuclear power and is now paying the cost of electricity more than its neighbors. Nuclear power, as usually put forward by its supporters, will guarantee greater energy security for the country, will lead to great savings in the electricity bill and finally will help fighting climate change. After all, the thesis supported by nuclear promoters in Italy is the same as used in many industrialized countries, and is constantly denied by facts.

Starting from the analysis produced by the American Department of Energy (DoE), many studies indicate that the cost of electricity produced by nuclear power will continue in the future to be higher than the traditional energy sources. In Italy as elsewhere, according to what is also stressed in the 2009 report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, nuclear power won't be competitive if not subsided by the state. Due to the high costs and the time needed to realize new reactors, nuclear power won't have positive effects in the fight against climate change. Recently Scajola admitted that the first nuclear plant would not be ready before 2025. By that time however Italy should already have drastically reduced its greenhouses gases emissions in order to comply with the Kyoto protocol and the 2020 targets approved by the European Union last January (2009). At last nuclear power will have no positive effects on the Italian energy security due to the need of uranium importations and the nuclear waste exportations. Facts and scenarios clearly show that nuclear power will not allow the Berlusconi government to fulfill its promises. On the contrary what is clear is that new reactors will create huge consequences starting from the risk of accidents, the radioactive contamination and the waste management. All kinds of problems Italian authorities should know very well.

Twenty-two years after the referendum the authorities are still very far from getting rid of the heavy inheritance left by the four plants built in the past. Decommissioning of existing reactors is still at the beginning and there is no clear idea on how to deal with the huge amount of nuclear waste produced in 30 years of activity. According to the National Agency for the Protection of territory and environment (APAT) Italy has a hundred temporary deposit sites which host a total of 25000 cubic meters of radioactive waste and a big part of it is still stocked inside the plants. In 2003 the Berlusconi government decided to build a single temporary disposal site in Scanzano Ionico, in southern Italy, a decision also motivated by an attempt to limit the dangerous fragmentation in the control and security system. However the plan was abandoned soon afterwards due to a lack of reliable environmental evaluation, underestimation of risks and thanks to strong s mobilization lead by local environmental grassroots organizations. Today the nuclear waste remains where it is and the management costs are still paid through public resources. In the pasts 10 years more than 600 million euro is spent for the nuclear bill and a further 3 billion euro are expected to be paid in the next future. There is however another element besides costs that should worry Italian authorities: the high interest by the Mafia concerning all waste management businesses.

Denounced for several decades but more recently proved by various trials, Italy, in particularly its southern regions, has been used as a big dump for illegal disposal of industrial and urban waste. This is a business, lead by criminal organizations such as Camorra and 'Ndrangheta, that could have also involved radioactive material as recently pointed out by a Mafioso turned informant. Last September Francesco Fonti, a detained for Mafia, revealed the involvement of criminal organization in the “Poison Boats” case which regards an undefined number of ships loaded with waste and deliberately sunk in the Mediterranean coasts of Calabria. According to Fonti, who with his revelation made it possible to find a wreck supposedly used for the traffic, criminal organizations dealt also with nuclear waste and buried several radioactive drums on land near the city of Matera while some other drums were loaded on boats.

Neither the risks, nor the high cost scenarios nor the Mafia activity in the waste business are however preventing the government to keep on with the “nuclear renaissance” plan. Last July the right wing majority in the Parliament adopted a law that gives extra power to the government in order to choose sites for new nuclear plants and provides the use of military forces to make its realization possible. On December 23, a new decree fixed the criteria for the nuclear site selection and provided huge subsidies for local communities that will host nuclear plants. To compensate damages during the plant construction, government established a 3.000 Euro compensation for every MW realized, while a 0,4 Euro subsidies is set after the plant starts working. The strategy the government is drafting aims to prevent all kind of protests and demonstrations against nuclear, but the effect until now is rather the opposite.

On September 30, with the support of environmental organizations, 11 Regions, on a total of 20, contested the law approved in July, asking the intervention of the Constitutional Court.. According to the Regions and to the environmental organizations the law violates the Italian Constitution by giving the government the power to decide without the consensus of local institutions. One month later another blow to the governmental strategy came from the Puglia Region, where the local Partito delle Libertà, the Berlusconi coalition, voted together with the left wing coalition in favor of a regional law against nuclear.

Meanwhile the 'no nuclear power' movement is growing and is likely to become even more persuasive than in 1987, also thanks to the great potentials offered today in Italy by renewable sources and energy efficiency. The expansion of clean and decentralized energy is already a reality in the country. This is proved by over a hundred local communities that in the past years became energy autonomous. The antinuclear front, as written in a slogan during the last demonstrations, is “ready to win again”.

Source and contact: Andrea Cocco, Legambiente. Via Salaria, 403 - 00199 Roma, Italia, Email:, Web: