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Chapter 1: Introduction

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Medical radioisotopes

Medical imaging is one of the fastest growing disciplines in medicine. The development of innovative new imaging modalities and radiopharmaceuticals has improved the ability to study biological structures and functions in health and disease, and continues to contribute to the evolution of medical care. Besides the routine use of X-rays, the most common imaging techniques in current clinical practice are: computed tomography (CT or CAT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound (US), planar scintigraphy (gamma camera) and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT). The use of Positron emission tomography (PET) is less common, but is growing fast. CT and MRI scanners, ultrasound units and gamma cameras are now an essential part of clinical practice. PET and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) are also increasingly used in the management of patients with cancer and neurological disorders. Planar scintigraphy, CT, SPECT and PET make use of ionizing radiation, and except for CT, these nuclear imaging modalities make use of medical radioisotopes. SPECT/CT and PET/CT perform better than SPECT and PET respectively. Therefore the share of these hybrid modalities is increasing rapidly.

Artificially made radioisotopes, among which those for medical use, are mainly produced by  research reactors. Currently more than 80% of the medical radioisotopes are produced by research reactors. The remaining isotopes are made by particle accelerators, mostly with circular accelerators (cyclotrons) and sometimes with linear accelerators (linacs), or by other methods. Production of medical isotopes is used by the nuclear industry as public relation for nuclear research reactors. The production of medical isotopes is seen as the sole purpose of the planned replacement of the Dutch High Flux reactor by the Pallas reactor, although 50 percent of reactor-time will be used for nuclear related research. Actually, such research reactors are not necessary at all for the production of isotopes. After an intense debate in Canada the Canadian government recently decided to cancel the plan for the construction of a new research reactor and to opt for isotopes production with particle accelerators. They have learnt from their mistakes in the past and have chosen for innovation and modernization. Canada should be a shining example for the rest of the world.

Radioisotopes production with cyclotrons offers many advantages over a nuclear reactor. Firstly, the volume of radioactive waste produced by cyclotrons is far less and much less hazardous than the radioactive waste of research reactors. Secondly, the production is decentralized. Cyclotrons are located hospital-based, by which the delivery of pharmaceuticals to patients is much more secured. In addition the risk of transport accidents is practically zero. Thirdly, there are no risks due to nuclear-power accidents, because there is no need for controlled chain reactions. Fourthly, there is no nuclear proliferation risk.

This report is answering the key question: Is it possible to ban the use of research reactors for the production of medical radioisotopes? A recent bulletin of the World Nuclear Association (WNA) on nuclear medicine stated: “Over 10,000 hospitals worldwide use radioisotopes in medicine, and about 90% of the procedures are for diagnosis. The most common radioisotope used in diagnosis is technetium-99m (in technical jargon: 99mTc), with some 30 million procedures per year, accounting for 80% of all nuclear medicine procedures worldwide.”1 Other sources mentions the figure 80-85%2, and the figure of  90% of all diagnostic procedures in Europe in 20083 (European Association of Nuclear Medicine). Today, technetium-99m (99mTc) can be manufactured easily by using cyclotrons. Besides technetium-99m there are also other popular medical isotopes that can be made with cyclotrons. At the same time radiopharmaceuticals used with PET oust increasingly the 99mTc radiopharmaceuticals currently in use. In addition, there are other accelerator-based isotopes with energies that are similar to the energies of reactor-produced isotopes, currently in use in nuclear medicine. A few isotopes that can’t be made now by accelerators can be made by sub-critical systems, such as accelerator-driven systems (ADS). The rapid development of new accelerator-based isotopes can make the use of such systems redundant in the near future.

  1. Radioisotopes in Medicine. 16 April 2010:
  2. Kahn, Laura H.; The potential dangers in medical isotope production. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 16 March 2008: l%20Isotope%20pdf.pdf
  3. Public Health - Radioisotopes for Medical Use topes_en.htm

Fukushima lessons learned? The US National Academies of Science panel replicates the same collusion that led to the disaster

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

In March 2012, a panel was put together for a study by the National Academies of Sciences (NAS) to examine the lessons learned from the Fukushima accident. The study, entitled “Project on Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident for Improving Safety and Security of U.S. Nuclear Plants,” was recommended by the Blue Ribbon Commission, mandated by the United States Congress, and sponsored by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission. As of December 2012, three meetings have been held to discuss and examine the causes of the Fukushima disaster, with a particular emphasis on safety systems and regulations.

The first meeting, held on July 18th and 19th 2012, introduced the provisional panel, which was challenged almost immediately given that many members of the panel had a pronounced pronuclear bias and would be unable to provide accurate assessments of the current safety culture. On July 17th, 2012, 15 national organizations including NIRS, 25 state organizations, and 47 individuals submitted a letter (1) to the NAS expressing these concerns. One reason these concerns were so pressing was due to a report filed issued by the Japanese Diet in Mid-July 2012 on the Fukushima accident. (2) 
Within this report from the Japanese Diet much of the blame for the accident was placed on a “collusive relationship” between the industry and regulators. This relationship ultimately led to a betrayal of the public’s right to be safe. The NAS panel selection appeared to be replicating the same disastrous Japanese pattern of collusion. 

The letter added that a major problem with the panel’s conflict and bias would be revealed when they would be unable to provide an accurate self-assessment of agency conduct and actions. Involved in this assessment would be the key players in the nuclear industry. Those players are the federal agencies, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy; the industry and other advocacy groups such as Institute on Nuclear Power Operations, Nuclear Energy Institute, the American Nuclear Society, and the Health Physics Society. In the U.S., as in Japan, there is a very symbiotic relationship between federal agencies and nuclear industry advocacy groups. Several members of the panel were directly involved with or associated with the entities mentioned above, causing the concerns about self-assessment, bias and conflict. The groups writing the letter were also concerned that the panel was completely devoid of nuclear critics, which would lead to an unbalanced view on safety issues and concerns. 
This meeting, as with the others that followed, provided very little in the way of ensuring that bias and conflict would not be an issue. This panel is yet another example that the nuclear industry has a powerful and dangerous stranglehold on the National Academy of Sciences, and can impede crucial safety improvements by packing a panel with pro-nuclear enthusiasts, rather than with individuals and scientists who can make changes for public good and protection. 



Study finds increased leukemia among Chernobyl cleanup workers

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

On November 8, 2012 a study entitled “Radiation and Risks of Chronic Lymphocytic and Other Leukemias  among Chernobyl Cleanup Workers,” was released examining the risks of leukemia, specifically, the most common type, chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), in Chernobyl cleanup workers  exposed to  protracted low dose radiation (1).  The findings of this study, which examined 110,645 Ukrainian cleanup workers between 1986-2006, demonstrated that exposure to low doses of radiation from post-Chernobyl clean-up caused a significant increase in the risk of leukemia. This study was significant because while the risks of high levels of exposure are well known, the risks of low doses have been more controversial. This is crucial because during the Chernobyl disaster approximately 500,000 people were registered as emergency and recovery workers, receiving low, continuous doses.

The Ukrainian male workers examined were between the ages of 20-60 years during cleanup activities in 1986-1990 following the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident, were registered in the Chernobyl State Registry of Ukraine (SRU)before 1992, who resided in Kyiv City or in any one of five study oblasts (areas similar to a state or province: Cherkasy, Chernihiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv and Kyiv) at the time of registration. Of those 110,645 a total of 162 cases of leukemia were found. This was found by examining cancer registries, conducting expert hematologic (blood) review and case ascertainment coupled with radiation dose estimates. For all leukemia cases a significant positive association existed with continuous radiation dosage. 

The proportion of chronic lymphocytic leukemia cases in the study (roughly 58% of all leukemia cases) was higher than the 40% figure reported by most population based cancer registries and the 44% of all diagnosed leukemia ca-ses among males. The cancer registries were estimated to be missing as much as 38% of all of the chronic lymphocytic leukemia cases. 

This study confirmed and strengthened previous studies which showed significant associations between protracted radiation exposure at low doses and leukemia incidence. Increased risks of leukemia, although not statistically significant, were also reported from a study of Chernobyl cleanup workers from Belarus, Russia and Baltic countries. Additionally, the results indicate that radiation risk estimates are elevated for both chronic and non-chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL and non-CLL).  However, examining CLL is crucial given that this is the most prevalent form of leukemia and incidents of CLL are expected to rise when the population ages. Generally, studies had looked at high doses of radiation and it has been assumed that protraction of radiation dose results in a reduction of adverse biological effects; however this study has demonstrated quite the opposite. 

This study was published in Environmental Health Perspectives (2012; doi:10.1289/ehp.1204996): 


Assessment of the EU stress tests

Wenisch and Becker

The March 2011 accident at the Fukushima I nuclear power plant proved that highly unlikely incidents cannot be excluded. Contrary to accepted practice Probabilistic Safety Assessments (PSA) do not constitute a sufficient basis to declare a plant operation safe. Safety of nuclear power plants needs to be backed by deterministic assessments, which excludes initiating events and accident scenarios only if they are proven to be physically impossible.

Events at Fukushima compounded public mistrust towards nuclear power worldwide. In Europe, the European Commission welcomed a suggestion by the government of Austria to conduct stress tests at all nuclear power plants in the European Union. The EU nuclear safety regulators –ENSREG –took over this task. The tests were introduced to improve confi-dence in the safety of European nuclear power plants (NPPs). In particular, they should examine the consequences of earthquakes and floods, and the com-bination of events previously excluded. However, the tests would be limited in scope: safety features such as ageing or design faults would not be taken into account.

Assessment of stress tests
An assessment of the stress tests –by Antonia Wenisch and Oda Becker, commissioned by Greenpeace- is published recently: Critical Review of the EU Stress Test performed on Nuclear Power Plants. 

The EU stress tests are not a safety assessment of the European nuclear power plants. They represent a limited analysis of the vulnerability of such plants with respect to natural hazards. The accident scenarios are focused on external events: the quality of the struc-tures, systems and components and the degradation of the oldest nuclear power plants in Europe are not subject of the analysis. The peer review team did not consider all safety issues that could trigger or aggravate an accident situation (e.g. ageing, use of MOX fuel, safety culture).

The design of the plants with respect to natural events varies, therefore the safety margins can only be assessed through an engineering judgment. In December 2011, the IAEA has published a new guide for extreme weather hazards. Greenpeace recommends that all plants make an assessment of weather hazards according to the new IAEA guide.

Severe accident management, espe-cially regarding spent fuel pools and multi-unit accidents like at Fukushima, is an issue everywhere, but the way it is tackled varies immensely. Only one country (Slovenia) has a simulator for severe accident management.

The peer review team has not assessed the current safety level of the European nuclear power plants, but only the potential increase in the level of safety in the next decade. Currently, there are several known shortcomings with respect to the protection against earth-quake, flooding and extreme weather. Furthermore, it is well known that it will be impossible to cope with a severe accident,  especially if it is accompa-nied by earthquake or flooding. The reviewers only described the weaknes-ses they identified, but not an overall assessment of all facts, which would allow a risk

The EU stress tests have no direct effect on the European nuclear power plant fleet. ENSREG has no say on the lifetime extension applications of even the oldest plants with the most obvious problems (Mühleberg, Doel, Rivne etc.). To gain an accurate picture of nuclear risk, EU decision makers should add a third leg to the nuclear stress tests - a full assessment of emergency response preparedness, which examines the viability of emergency response plans, address weaknesses and purpose improvements.

Far from restoring faith in the safety of nuclear power in Europe, the stress tests and ENSREG report published in April 2012 serve to further undermine it. At their most basic level, nuclear plants are concrete shielding to a fission process that creates large quantities of energy. Energy Commissioner Oettinger has acknowledged that the elimination of risk at such facilities is impossible, with efforts limited to merely minimising the threat. Across Europe, the stress tests have revealed some unacceptable failures in risk management. Serious gaps have repeatedly been found in readiness for emergencies. No guarantee can be given that plants operating in earthquake zones will remain safe in the event of serious seismic activity. Many lack any form of safe containment for their spent fuel pools and some have entirely inadequate access to emer-gency power. In short, the lessons from Fukushima are clearly yet to be learned in Europe.

Yet some plants are located just 10 kilometres from major urban populations like the city of Antwerp, raising the question why evacuation plans were not considered as part of the stress tests. The tests also failed to consider the impacts of multiple disaster scenarios as experienced at Fukushima in 2011 - the very crisis that originally prompted the stress tests. On top of these questionable omissions, the test results are not standardized in any way, making comparisons effectively impossible. The results are lack of any kind of pass or fail criteria and the partiality of those carrying and vetting the tests and falls short of providing the relevant authori-ties with the necessary information to draw proper conclusions.

When EU heads of state and government meet in autumn 2012 to discuss the results of this exercise, they can only conclude that the stress tests and peer review fall far short of expectations. They should recognise that nuclear power will always remain a dangerous technology. This is why all European governments should develop a credible phaseout plan for nuclear power 
in Europe, starting with the most risky reactors.

Source: Critical Review of the EU Stress Test performed on Nuclear Power Plants. Study commissioned by Greenpeace. Authors: Antonia Wenisch, Oda Becker, May 2012 (Published 14 June 2012)
Both the full report and the executive summary are available at:
Ing. Antonia Wenisch, Mail: antonia.wenisch[at]
Dipl. Phys. Oda Becker, mail: oda. becker[at]

NAIIC report: Fukushima manmade; minor loca due to earthquake

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

Early July the National Diet of Japan published the official report of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC). The report states that although triggered by the earthquake and tsunami, the March 11, 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant cannot be regarded as a natural disaster but a "profoundly manmade disaster". Evidence that the reactors were severely damaged before the tsunami hit the coast is mounting.

"The earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011 were natural disasters of a mag-nitude that shocked the entire world. Although triggered by these cataclysmic events, the subsequent accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant cannot be regarded as a natural disaster. It was a profoundly manmade disaster – that could and should have been foreseen and prevented. And its effects could have been mitigated by a more effective human response."  

These are the first lines of the 'Message of the Chairman' in the official report of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC). On October 30, 2011, the NAIIC Act (officially, the Act regarding Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission) was enacted, creating an independent commission to investigate the Fukushima accident with the authority to request documents and request the legislative branch to use its investigative powers to obtain any necessary documents or evidence required. This was the first independent commission created in the history of Japan’s constitutional government.

The report (published early July by National Diet of Japan) reveals several chronic issues and contradicts reports by the Japanese government and Tepco. But as always it was cherrypicking for different players. While the general public opinion said the accidents was 'handmade', the nuclear industry PR did not hesitate to show that it was a 'Japa-nese accident': Japanese culture was the main culprit, implying the causes of the accident were solely Japanese and nuclear power as such has nothing to do with it. In the July 5, World Nuclear News report on the NAIIC-report, is not once mentioned that the earthquake was an important factor in how the ac-cident started: "Japanese culture itself" was the culprit. 

And indeed the collusion between the Japanese government and Tepco is an important factor why the plant was so vulnerable. But that is only partly to blame on 'Japanese culture'. But, as the UK daily The Guardian points out (July 6) by claiming the disaster was 'made in Japan', the official report reinforces, yet does not explain, unhelpful stereotypes. Bringing out the "made in Japan" argument is not helpful. It panders 
to the uniqueness idea and does not explain, but rather reinforces, existing stereotypes. Moreover, the supposedly Japanese qualities that the report outlines, such as obedience, reluctance to question authority, "sticking with the program" and insularity, are not at all unique to Japan, but are universal qualities in all societies. Putting a cultural gloss on the critical investigative report sends a confusing message to the global community particularly when it comes from a country that is a world leader in technological sophistication.

It is almost inherent of the nuclear industry to have close ties with regulators. For instance in the Netherlands, regulating and promoting nuclear power were placed under the same Ministry in 2010. Or, internationally the IAEA's main task is to promote nuclear power ('The Agency shall seek to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy') while at the same time monitoring safeguards and enhancing 'standards of safety for protection of health and minimization of danger to life and property'. But even important: it is obvious that nuclear po-wer thrives in countries with exactly that same 'culture': a centralised society, with the tendecy to critize alternative views, suppress dissent, and maintain 'reflexive obedience'; and a government bodies relying too much on assurances and complacency than true oversight. 

Record radiation detected at Fukushima reactor. 
Tepco said record amounts of radiation had been detected in the basement of
reactor number 1 on June 28, further hampering clean-up operations. Tepco took samples from the basement after lowering a camera and surveying instruments through a drain hole in the basement ceiling. Radiation levels above radioactive water in the basement reached up to 10,300 millisievert an hour, a dose that will kill humans within a short time after making them sick within minutes. The annual allowed dose for workers at the stricken site is reached in only 20 seconds.
AFP, 28 June 2012

LOCA result of earthquake
Another finding, not frequently mentioned in headlines, and contrary to all previous statements by Tepco and the Japanese government is the fact that the Fukushima-reactors were already severely damaged after the earthquake and before the tsunami hit the Japanese east-coast. A Loss-Of-Coolant-Accident (LOCA) was in progress. The Nuclear Monitor published about it several times (for the first time in the May 27, 2011 issue), but now the official report confirms this. What is important to realise (and what the NAIIC-report –or at least the executive English summary- fails to mention) is that although the earthquake was 9.0 magnitude, the epicentre was 110 miles (172 km) out at sea.

The accident is clearly attributable to the natural phenomena: the earthquake and resulting tsunami. Yet a number of important factors relating to how the accident actually evolved remain unknown, mainly because much of the critical equipment and piping relevant to the accident are inside the reactor con-tainment facility and are thus beyond the reach of inspection or verification for many years to come.

In spite of this, Tepco specified in its interim investigation report that equipment providing key safety features was not damaged by the earthquake, and that the main cause of the accident was the tsunami. Included in the report was a disclaimer that the report is based on findings “to the extent confirmed.” The government also wrote a similar accident report that was submitted to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

However, the report states, "it is impossible to limit the direct cause of the accident to the tsunami without substantive evidence." The Commission believes that this is an attempt by Tepco to avoid responsibility by putting all the blame on the unexpected (the tsunami), as Tepco wrote in their midterm report, and not on the more foreseeable earthquake.

Although there were a number of external power lines to the plant, there were only two source stations, and both were put out of commission by the earthquake, resulting in a loss of external power to all the units. The diesel generators and other internal power equipment, including the power distribution buses, were all located within or nearby the plant, and were inundated by the tsuna-mi that struck soon after. The assumptions about a normal station blackout (SBO) did not include the loss of DC power, yet this is exactly what occurred. (DC is the abbreviation for 'direct cur-rent', which is a type of electrical current that travels through a circuit in only one direction. AC stands for 'alternating current', which is an electrical current that frequently reverses direction.)

Investigate and verify causes
The Commission conducted its investigations and hearings carefully, 'conscious of not jumping to conclusions based on preordained policy'. The Commission recognizes the need for the regulators and Tepco to investigate and verify causes of the accident based on the following facts: 

  1. The emergency shut-down feature, or SCRAM (Rapid shutdown of a nuclear reactor where fission is halted by inserting control rods into the core), went into operation at Units 1, 2 and 3 immediately after the commencement of the seismic activity. Strong tremors at the facility began 30 seconds after the SCRAM and the plant shook hard for more than 50 seconds. That does not mean, however, that the nuclear reactors were incapable of being impacted by the seismic movements. It is thought that the ground motion from the earthquake was strong enough to cause damage to some key safety features, because seismic backchecks against the earthquake design basis and anti-seismic reinforcement had not been done.
  2. The reactor pressure and water levels make it obvious that a massive loss of coolant (LOCA) did not occur in the time period between the earthquake and the tsunami. However -as has been published by the Japan Nuclear Energy Safety Organization (JNES) in the “Tech-nical Findings” composed by NISA- a minor LOCA, from a crack in the piping and a subsequent leak of coolant would not affect the water level or pressure of a reactor, and could have occurred without being apparent to operators. If this kind of minor LOCA were to remain uncontrolled for 10 hours, tens of tons of coolant would be lost and lead to core damage or core melt.
  3. The government-run investigation committee’s interim report, NISA’s “Technical Findings,” and specifically Tepco’s interim report, all concluded that the loss of emergency AC power -that definitely impacted the progres-sion of the accident- “was caused by the flooding from the tsunami.” Tepco’s report says the first wave of the tsunami reached the site at 15:27 and the second at 15:35. However, these are the times when the wave gauge set 1.5km offshore detected the waves, not the times of when the tsunami hit the plant. This suggests that at least the loss of emergency power supply A at Unit 1 might not have been caused by flooding. Based on this, some basic questions need to be logically explained before making a final determination that flooding was the cause of the station blackout.
  4. Several Tepco vendor workers who were working on the fourth floor of the nuclear reactor building at Unit 1 at the time of the earthquake witnessed a wa-ter leak on the same floor, which houses two large tanks for the isolation conden-ser (IC) and the piping for IC. The Com-mission believes that this was not due to water sloshing out of the spent fuel pool on the fifth floor. However, since we cannot go inside the facility and per-form an on-site inspection, the source of the water remains unconfirmed. 
  5. The isolation condensers (A and B2 systems) of Unit 1 were shut down automatically at 14:52, but the operator of Unit 1 manually stopped both IC systems 11 minutes later. TEPCO has consistently maintained that the explanation for the manual suspension was that “it was judged that the per hour reactor coolant temperature excursion rate could not be kept within 55 degrees (Celsius), which is the benchmark provided by the operational manual.” The government led investigation report, as well as the government’s report to IAEA, states the same reason. However, according to several workers involved in the manual suspension of IC who responded to our investigation, they stopped IC to check whether coolant was leaking from IC and other pipes because the reactor pressure was falling rapidly. While the operator’s explanations are reasonable and appropriate, TEPCO’s explanation is irrational.
  6. There is no evidence that the safety relief (SR) valve was opened at Unit 1, though this should have taken place in the case of an accident. (Such records are available for Units 2 and 3.) We found that the sound of the SR valve opening for Unit 2 was heard at the Central Control Room and at Unit 2, but no one working at Unit 1 heard the sound of the Unit 1 SR valve opening. It is therefore a possibility that the SR valve might not have worked in Unit 1. In this case, a minor LOCA caused by the seismic motion could have taken place in Unit 1.

In short: The damage to Unit 1 was caused not only by the tsunami but also by the earthquake, a conclusion made after considering the facts that: 1) the largest tremor hit after the automatic shutdown; 2) JNES confirmed the possibility of a small-scale LOCA; 3) the Unit 1 operators were concerned about leakage of coolant from the valve, and 4) the safety relief valve was not operating.
Additionally, there were two causes for the loss of external power, both earthquake-related: there was no diver-sity or independence in the earthquake-resistant external power systems, and the Shin-Fukushima transformer station was not earthquake resistant.

Development of civil society
The 'Message of the chairman' in the report ends with a message for change: "The consequences of negligence at Fukushima stand out as catastrophic, but the mindset that supported it can be found across Japan. In recognizing that fact, each of us should reflect on our responsibility as individuals in a democratic society. As the first investigative commission to be empowered by the legislature and independent of the bureaucracy, we hope this initiative can contribute to the development of Japan’s civil society."
Well, despite the hundred of thousand protesting the restart of nuclear reactors and trying to build a civil society, Japanese government gave the permission for the restart of the Ohi-reactors. That decision denied the fact that all ele-ments of this catastrophe are still present in Japanese society: the tendency of relying too much on assurances and complacency than true oversight (as in many societies) as well as the chance of earthquakes.

The executive summary of the NAIIC-report is available at:
Contact: Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (CNIC), Akebonobashi Co-op, 2F-B, 8-5, Sumiyoshi-chp, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 162-0065, Japan.
Tel: +81-3-3357-3800
Email: cnic[at]


#700-701 - December 28, 2009

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
The Critical Question
Full issue

This issue is a booklet called 'Nuclear Power: The Critical Question.' It is a compilation of 'first hand reports from the frontlines of the nculear fuel chain.'

The book was published first in German by WECF (Women iN Europe for a Common Future) and an English version by WECF in cooperation with WISE and other international partners. 

You can download the issue below, or if you would like offline copies, please visit our webshop.

The nuclear power industry is failing miserably

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green − Nuclear Monitor editor

The International Energy Agency (IEA) and the OECD's Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) have released a Nuclear Energy Technology Roadmap, arguing that total installed nuclear capacity should be more than doubled to reach 930 GW by 2050 to contribute to climate change mitigation (well down from the 1200 GW figure put forward in the 2010 Nuclear Energy Technology Roadmap).1

Nuclear growth would contribute 13% of the emissions reductions envisaged in the IEA/NEA scenario (far less than 13% if all sectors are considered, not just power generation). Nuclear would account for 17% of electricity generation in 2050 − still less than the historical peak of 17.6% in 1996.

Writing in, Nick Cunningham argues that nuclear growth of the magnitude promoted in the IEA/NEA report is "highly unlikely".2 Obstacles include workforce issues, the need for greater standardisation, greater public acceptance, and a resolution to long-term nuclear waste storage.

Cunningham writes:

"Critically, however, the IEA notes that the nuclear industry is going to need to demonstrate that it can build new power plants on time and within budget. On this objective, the industry is failing miserably. Nuclear power plants have often suffered from cost overruns and delays, one factor (among many) that put the industry into a decades-long lull beginning in the early 1980's. The so-called "nuclear renaissance" was thought to put an end to these problems with a new generation of designs and modular construction. So far, it hasn't played out that way.

"Meanwhile, a tidal wave of nuclear reactors will close down over the next 20 years as their operating licenses expire. ... A massive build out of nuclear power in China is where the nuclear industry's best hopes reside, but it is unclear if even China can make up for the shrinking industry presence in the West, let alone meet the IEA's ambitious scenario for 2050."

Meanwhile, BP has released the 2015 edition of its annual Energy Outlook.3 BP projects that from 2015 to 2035:

  • Global energy consumption increases by 37% with India and China accounting for half the growth.
  • Total energy-related carbon emissions increase by 25%.
  • Coal demand growth in China and India more than makes up for declines in the rest of the world. Jointly they are projected to account for 66% of total coal demand in 2035.
  • Renewables (including biofuels) account for 8% of total energy consumption in 2035, compared to 3% today.
  • Renewable power generation overtakes nuclear in the early 2020s and hydro in the early 2030s.
  • The fastest fuel growth is seen in renewables (6.3% p.a.), followed by nuclear (1.8% p.a. − down from BP's 2014 estimate of 1.9% p.a.), hydro (1.7% p.a), natural gas (1.9% p.a.), and oil and coal (both 0.8% p.a.).
  • The shares of nuclear and hydro to total power generation continue to decline, but the scaling up of renewables is sufficient to lift the aggregate non-fossil share from 32% in 2013 to 38% by 2035.
  • Within the OECD, renewables contribute 90% of net growth in power generation from all sources. In non-OECD countries, there is significant growth in renewables, hydro and nuclear.
  • China overtakes the US as the biggest nuclear producer.
  • Nuclear power declines in Europe and North America: "Nuclear capacity in Europe and North America declines as ageing plants are gradually decommissioned, and the difficult economics and politics of nuclear energy stunts new growth."
  • Japan is assumed to restart its reactors gradually from 2015 but is not expected to recover to pre-Fukushima level of nuclear power generation by 2035.


1. International Energy Agency and the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency, 2015, 'Nuclear Energy Technology Roadmap', or
2. Nick Cunningham, 19 Feb 2015, 'Is There Any Hope Left For Nuclear Energy?',
3. BP, Feb 2015, 'Energy Outlook 2035',

Uranium Mining Issues: 2014 Review

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Peter Diehl − WISE Uranium

1. Uranium price
2. Uranium exploration projects
3. Uranium mine development projects
4. Alternate uranium recovery projects
5. Issues at operating uranium mines
6. Abandoned mines issues
7. Decommissioning issues
8. Legal and regulatory issues
9. Uranium trade and foreign investment issues
10. This and that

1. Uranium price

During the first quarter of the year, UxC's weekly spot price (in US$/lb U3O8) remained close to its first value of $34.65. It then fell to approx. $28, where it remained during June and July. Subsequently it increased until reaching a sharp peak at $44.00 on Nov. 17, from where it then declined to its year-end value of $35.50, not very far from the value at the beginning of the year.

So, once again, the uranium price remained below the lower bound of approx. US$60−70 per lb U3O8 required for the profitability of many of the mine projects currently under consideration or under development, sending the already battered uranium industry into some sort of hibernation mode − not counting the cackle of all kinds of charlatans around the November peak.

Oddly enough, though, other than in the preceding years, we noticed no further companies removing the term "uranium" from their names. On the contrary, one company even added the U-word to its name, which then became "NX Uranium, Inc.". This makes, however, sense, if the name is correctly read as "Nix Uranium, Inc."

2. Uranium exploration projects

Moratoria/Bans (establishing/extending/keeping):

− In British Columbia, Canada, a settlement agreement was closed on the C$30 million government payoff for the Blizzard deposit claim, pre-existing to the province's anti-uranium policy.
− In Québec, the inquiry commission looking into the impacts of proposed uranium mining held hearings all over the province. A temporary moratorium remains in effect until the commission's task is completed.
− Meanwhile, Strateco Resources Inc. claimed C$190 million in damages from the Québec government for losses with its Matoush uranium exploration project.
− In the US, a court denied a mining company in May the payout for the loss of expected profits over the Grand Canyon uranium mining ban imposed in 2012. In September, a federal court upheld the ban; the mining industry appealed that ruling, however.

Moratoria/Bans (lifting/weakening):

− In Denmark, a demonstration was held in Copenhagen in August against proposed uranium mining in Greenland. In Greenland, the opposition called in November for a referendum on the country's uranium policy, after the newly elected government had lifted the 25-year old zero-tolerance policy in a narrow vote in October 2013. An opinion polled showed that a majority want such a referendum.

Exploration issues:

− In Colorado, US, future development of uranium mines in the San Miguel Basin could pose a threat to an already small and vulnerable population of Gunnison sage-grouse, according to findings of the Fish and Wildlife Service.
− In Bolivia, a uranium discovery was announced in the Santa Cruz department.
− In Sweden, uranium exploration ended in northern Billingen, Västergötland, while a court upheld the license for uranium exploration in Oviken, Jämtland.
− In the Czech Republic, the Ministry of Environment again rejected uranium exploration at Osecná-Kotel in North Bohemia.
− In Slovakia, the renewal of the Kurisková exploration licence was approved in January 2014 despite opposition. In February, the Kosice City Council and the Kosice Region Council called the government to withdraw from a Memorandum of Understanding on the development of the Kurisková uranium mine. In March, 300 people held a protest against the proposed mine. In December, the company requested an extension of its exploration licence for rare earth metals; opponents suspect that this is to circumvent a local referendum on the project. With newly enacted legislation (see below), such a referendum has become mandatory for the approval of any uranium mines in the country.
− China announced the discovery of more uranium deposits around the Daying uranium mine in its Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
− In Nepal, a radiometric ground survey located a potential uranium deposit in the Upper Mustang region near the China border.
− In Australia, the government of New South Wales invited six companies to apply for the right to explore for uranium in the state, one of which oddly enough denied any interest in uranium. A 26-year-old ban on uranium exploration had been repealed by the NSW parliament in 2012.
− In Queensland, Paladin Energy Ltd announced a massive write-down on its Valhalla and Mt Isa North properties, although the state had ended its decades-long ban on uranium mining in 2012.

Environmental opposition against uranium exploration:

− In Northern Saskatchewan, Canada, a group of Dene Trappers blocked a highway in November, fighting for their livelihood and the environment and protesting against mineral and oil exploration.
− In Québec, a Regional Directorate of Public Health committee report confirmed worries about environmental impacts of proposed uranium mining in the Sept-Îles area. In September, First Nations in Québec reaffirmed their opposition to uranium mining, and in November, Northern Québec Cree held a 850 km trek to protest against uranium mining.
− In south-western Poland, a community continues the fight against uranium exploration at Kopaniec despite an unfavourable court decision.
− In Mongolia, a demonstration was held in Ulaanbaatar in June against uranium extraction in the country.

Positive preliminary economic assessments:

Positive preliminary economic assessments, preliminary feasibility studies, or scoping studies were announced for the following uranium mine projects − however, all of them assume selling prices way above current market prices:

− Anderson uranium mine / heap leach project in Arizona,
− Slick Rock uranium and vanadium mine project in Colorado,
− Laguna Salada near-surface uranium deposit in Argentina (the company boldly claimed that "the project would have a healthy operating margin even at current uranium prices", although a uranium price of $60/lb U3O8 is assumed and the ore grade is extraordinarily low at 0.0051% U)
− Reguibat mine project in Mauritania,
− Madaouéla mine project in Niger,
− MMS Viken multi-metal mine project in Sweden,
− Carley Bore in situ leach (ISL) project in Western Australia.

3. Uranium mine development projects

A license application for a new uranium mine was filed for the following project:

− Burke Hollow ISL mine project in Texas.

Mining/milling licenses were issued for:

− Ross ISL mine project in Wyoming.
− Dewey-Burdock ISL mine project in South Dakota.

Two mine development projects were temporarily suspended due to the unfavourable market situation (in addition to those already suspended in previous years):

− Cameco's Millennium mine project in Saskatchewan,
− Areva's Imouraren mine project in Niger, where Areva lost confidence in the uranium reserves (previously announced 'proven reserves' were degraded to 'probable reserves').

Two uranium mine development projects were abandoned or terminated due to the unfavourable market situation:

− Energy Fuels' Lower Gas Hills open pit / heap leach mine project in Wyoming,
− Wildhorse Energy Ltd's Mecsek Hills mine project in Hungary.

Projects currently under development, or being prepared for development:

In Canada:

− In January, the French anti-nuclear network 'Sortir du nucléaire' handed French Ministers a petition with 30,000-signatures against Areva's Kiggavik mining project near Baker Lake, Nunavut. In October, Areva submitted its Final Environmental Impact Statement on the project.
− In September, a lawsuit against the deal concluded by Cameco and Areva with the northern community of Pinehouse in Saskatchewan was dismissed; the deal provides an estimated C$200 million in benefits to the community.
− After years of delays, ore production finally began at Cameco's Cigar Lake high-grade mine in Saskatchewan in March, but had to be suspended again in July due to a freezing problem; ore production resumed in September.

In the USA:

− In July, the Navajo Nation Council reversed a standing committee resolution that allowed Uranium Resources Inc. access to its Church Rock / Crownpoint ISL mine site in New Mexico. In November, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) put the license renewal for the project on hold to give the company time to complete its discussions with the Navajo Nation Council.
− In February, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approved Cameco's Gas Hills ISL project in Wyoming.
− In March, Energy Fuels Inc. announced plans for an open pit mine with heap leaching at Juniper Ridge in Wyoming.
− In April, the NRC issued an operating licence for the Ross ISL project in Wyoming; in July, an NRC Board announced its decision to grant intervenors a hearing.
− In April, the Nichols Ranch ISL mine in Wyoming started operation; the uranium-loaded resin is sent to Cameco's Smith Ranch plant for further processing.
− In April, the NRC issued a license for Powertech Uranium Corp.'s Dewey-Burdock ISL mine project in South Dakota. The Oglala Sioux Tribe then invoked federal treaties and international agreements against the mine, and an NRC Board issued a temporary stay against the operating license. In August, an NRC Board ruled that Powertech must release geological survey data for the mine. In October, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assessment found radioactive contamination at abandoned uranium mines in the project area of the proposed Dewey-Burdock uranium mine (see below).
− The Forest Service issued a favourable draft decision for the La Sal mine in Utah.
− In July, Energy Fuels Inc. announced the sale of its Piñon Ridge uranium mill license and several mining assets in Colorado. In September, a Denver district judge suspended the license to build the Piñon Ridge uranium mill again, as the state's hearing process did not comply with the requirements.
− The EPA partly withdrew the aquifer exemption for the Goliad ISL mine project in Texas.

In Central/South America:

− In April, public comment was invited on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the Itataia uranium/phosphate mine project in Santa Quitéria, Ceará, Brazil. In July, the hearings on the project were postponed.
− In March, protestors against a uranium mining project in Quebrada de Alipán blocked a highway in La Rioja, Argentina; they blamed the project for a water shortage experienced in the area.
− An Environmental Impact Study was presented for the Sierra Pintada mine in Mendoza, Argentina.
− Residents filed an appeal to the Supreme Court to prevent mining in the UNESCO World Heritage area of Quebrada de Humahuaca in Jujuy, Argentina.

In Africa:

− The National Environmental Management Council (NEMC) of Tanzania has decided that the Madaba project which is located in the World Heritage Selous Game Reserve does not require a full Environmental Impact Assessment.
− Denison Mines further wrote down the value of its Mutanga mine project in Zambia.
− The Letlhakane mine in Botswana will be opened in 2016, according to the Botswana Chamber of Mines.
− In January, public comment was invited on the Environmental Impact Assessment for the heap leach pilot plant at Bannerman Resources' Etango mine project in Namibia. In September, contracts were awarded for the heap leach pilot plant.
− Areva announced that it has no plans to restart its mothballed Trekkopje mine project in Namibia.
− In May, the Chinese-owned Husab mine (formerly Rössing South) in Namibia was commissioned. Cameco Corp. has shown interest in buying offtake output from the mine. In August, construction of a sulfuric-acid plant was to start at the mine.
− Deep Yellow Ltd plans to develop the Tubas Sand mine in Namibia as an interim standalone project, until its Omahola project would come on stream. For the latter, heap leaching is being eyed now as the preferred development strategy.
− Construction of Forsys Metals Corp's Valencia mine in Namibia is to start in early 2015.
− In May, the first consignment of uranium was shipped from Sibanye Gold Ltd's Ezulwini plant in South Africa.

In Europe:

− In Greenland, the plan for an overseas refinery for the rare earth / uranium concentrates to be produced at the proposed Kvanefjeld mine was abandoned. Greenland Minerals and Energy Ltd now considers that the most suitable location for the hydrometallurgical refinery is in Greenland, adjacent to the mine and concentrator.
− The Czech government announced in March that it will consider reopening the Brzkov mine in the Vysocina region. In September, a demonstration was held against the re-opening of the mine. A petition against the mine project was supported by over 1,500 people. In December, the Czech Cabinet approved the preparation of a study on possible uranium mining in Brzkov.− In Spain, a mining licence was granted in April for Berkeley Resources' Retortillo deposit in Salamanca. In December, 115,000 signatures against the project were handed over to the Ministry of Industry, and a protest march was held in Retortillo.

In Asia:

− Jordan plans to develop its first uranium deposit in 2015; exports are expected by 2020.
− In India's north-eastern state of Meghalaya, neighbouring villages urge the start of uranium mining in Kylleng-Pyndeng-Sohiong, while regional parties and the District Council oppose the project.
− In Andhra Pradesh, groundwater contamination is expected to increase beyond standards once mining commences at the Lambapur-Peddagattu project, researchers say.

In Australia:

− Areva is suing the Australian government over the inclusion of the Koongarra uranium deposit in Kakadu National Park (Northern Territory).
− The Queensland government invited tender for reopening the abandoned Mary Kathleen uranium mine.
− Cameco submitted a new referral with a doubled production rate for its Yeelirrie mine project (Western Australia).
− Comments were invited on the Environmental Scoping Document for Energy and Minerals Australia Ltd's Mulga Rock mine project (Western Australia).
− The licensing process was initiated for the Millipede and Lake Maitland extensions of Toro Energy Ltd's Wiluna mine project in Western Australia. Wiluna Martu Elders have condemned the move to expand the yet unrealised Wiluna mine plan into a much larger uranium precinct spanning 100 km and which will destroy ecologically sensitive lake systems.
− Cameco's Kintyre mine project in Western Australia obtained state environmental approval; environmental groups filed an appeal (which was rejected in January 2015).
− The Beverley Four Mile ISL mine in South Australia, majority-owned by General Atomics' subsidiary Quasar Resources, started operation, while operations at the nearby Beverley Four Mile mine were put on hold due to low prices.

4. Alternate uranium recovery projects

By-product recovery of uranium from mining primarily for other ores:

− Uranium recovery is planned for the Charley Creek Rare Earth Project in the Northern Territory (Australia).
− Talvivaara's Sotkamo mine in Finland, where uranium recovery is planned as a by-product from nickel mining, still struggled with the aftermath of the major gypsum pond leak that occurred in 2012. In February, an investigation report on the pond leak blamed the company and the authorities. Cameco announced that it wrote down its investment in the uranium recovery at the mine. In March, a serious release of hydrogen sulphide occurred at the mine's processing plant. In April, Talvivaara received a (not yet final) environmental permit decision for the uranium recovery at the mine. In September, criminal proceedings started after reports that Talvivaara mine directors ignored toxic-leak warnings before the gypsum pond spill. In November, Talvivaara Sotkamo announced that it will apply for bankruptcy.

5. Issues at operating uranium mines

Mine expansion projects delayed because of the low uranium price:

− The development halt of new well fields at the Willow Creek ISL mine in Wyoming continues for another year.
− The Stage 4 expansion of Paladin Energy's Langer Heinrich mine in Namibia was postponed.

Planned expansion of existing uranium mines and mills, with licensing processes at various stages:

− In October, the McClean Lake mill produced the first uranium concentrate from ore mined at the Cigar Lake mine in Saskatchewan.
− Uranerz Energy submitted a license application for the Jane Dough ISL project as an extension of its Nichols Ranch mine in Wyoming.
− At the Caetité site in Bahia, Brazil, a new uranium mining area is in the licensing process.
− The Krasnokamensk mine in Russia starts a project for heap leaching and block in-situ leaching of low-grade deposits.
− New deposits are under development for in situ leaching at the Vitimsky mine in Buryatia, Russia.
− The Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Ranger 3 Deeps Underground Mine in the Northern Territory, Australia, was made available for comment.
− A heap leach trial to achieve lower processing cost at the Olympic Dam (Roxby Downs) mine expansion project in South Australia obtained an environmental waiver.

Natural forces affecting operating uranium mines and mills:

− In March, the Inkay ISL mine in Kazakhstan suspended operation due to floodings.

Environmental issues at operating uranium mines and mills:

− In February, a spill continued unnoticed for nine days at Uranium One's Willow Creek ISL mine in Wyoming. In December, the NRC issued a Notice of Violation to Uranium One USA Inc. for failures at the mine.
− In May, an injection well at Uranerz Energy's Nichols Ranch ISL mine in Wyoming was found to be still in use after failing a mechanical integrity test in February. In October, the state regulator issued a Notice of Violation over two spills at the mine. Uranerz Energy Corp. agreed to pay a US$5,000 penalty.
− A freeboard exceedance of holding ponds at Ur-Energy's Lost Creek ISL mine in Wyoming went unnoticed for six weeks.
− In April, the Grand Canyon Trust sued Energy Fuels over excessive radon emissions and other environmental issues at the White Mesa uranium mill in Utah. In October, the Ute Mountain Tribe and environmentalists opposed the relaxation of EPA uranium mill tailings standards, affecting the mill site. In December, the group Uranium Watch released findings of unacceptably high levels of radon emissions at the site.
− Conservation groups urged the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to suspend operations at the Pinenut mine near the Grand Canyon in Arizona in response to groundwater contamination.
− Argentina's National Nuclear Energy Commission (CNEA) was fined for negligence in avoiding discharges from the idle Sierra Pintada uranium mill site in Mendoza.− In November, NGOs warned Paladin Energy against a planned release of tailings water from the Kayelekera uranium mill in Malawi into a river used for drinking water.
− In January, Rio Tinto's Rössing mine in Namibia resumed operation after the leach tank failure in December 2013.
− In March, it became known that the provisions of Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) for the rehabilitation of its Ranger mine in the Northern Territory, Australia, may be insufficient. Operation of the open pit mine was halted due to resource depletion in December 2012, while the mill is still processing stockpiled ore. In April, ERA parent company Rio Tinto refused a guarantee to cover the rehabilitation cost.
− In June, processing operations of stockpiled ore resumed at the Ranger uranium mill after the December 2013 leach tank collapse. In July, an interim report concluded that the burst had caused no environmental impact. In October, the Australian government declared an independent expert report into the Ranger leach tank failure confidential and declined to follow its recommendation on a review of the regulatory framework.

Uranium transport incidents:

− In February, uranium ore concentrate spilled in a transport accident near Paladin's Kayelekera mine in Malawi.
− In July, a uranium ore concentrate transport from Kazakhstan to France provoked protests during transit across Germany. In August and November, activists organised blockades of trains carrying uranium ore concentrate in and near Hamburg.

Miners' health issues at operating uranium mines and mills:

− The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a Notice of Violation for three license violations at Ur-Energy's Lost Creek ISL mine in Wyoming, involving worker exposure to yellowcake dust, among others.
− A health review of miners who worked in the 1970s at Rio Tinto's Rössing mine in Namibia is still at the scoping stage. Miners from this period are said to be dying of cancers and unexplained illnesses.
− The excessive radiation doses to workers at the Rozná underground mine in the Czech Republic increased in 2013 even further, with an average annual effective dose of 8.2 mSv and a maximum annual effective dose of 35.6 mSv.

Residents' health issues at operating uranium mines and mills:

− In August, a court ordered India's Union government to prepare a report on the radiation situation around the Jaduguda mine in Jharkhand, after concerns about radiation impacts with the local population had repeatedly been raised.

Supply issues at operating uranium mines and mills:

− Niger launched the construction of a coal-fired power plant to supply cities and uranium mines in the north of the country with electricity.
− Areva's Trekkopje desalination plant in Namibia is to supply water to three other uranium mines.
− Rio Tinto's Rössing mine in Namibia is to construct a desalination plant of its own; a Draft Social and Environmental Impact Assessment was released for public comment.

Shutdown, downsizing, etc. of operating mines and mills due to poor economics:

− In July, the production rate at Ur-Energy's recently opened Lost Creek ISL mine in Wyoming almost halved due to the low uranium spot price.
− In May, Paladin Energy's Kayelekera mine in Malawi suspended production until the uranium price recovers. In October, residents opposed the reopening of the mine under the current development agreement due to lack of benefit for the local district.
− In June, Rio Tinto's Rössing mine in Namibia announced job cuts and reduced production targets.
− The closure of the depleted Rozná mine in the Czech Republic is now foreseen for 2017.
− The complete production from the years 2014 and 2015 at the newly opened Four Mile ISL mine in South Australia is to be stockpiled in expectation of higher uranium prices.

Other issues at operating uranium mines and mills:

− In May, protests were held at Cameco's Annual General Meeting in Canada, criticising the collaboration agreements with the English River First Nation and the Northern Village of Pinehouse Lake, the company's alleged tax evasion scheme via its Swiss subsidiary, and possible ill-effects of mining byproducts and waste on the environment in the long term.
− On September 8, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a Notice of Violation to Uranium One for failure to follow procedures established to prevent pressure buildup in drums filled with yellowcake at the Willow Creek ISL mine in Wyoming. The procedures had been established after pressure build up in drums filled at Willow Creek had led to a contamination incident at Cameco's Blind River, Ontario, refinery on June 23, 2012.
− Only one day later, on September 9, pressure buildup in a drum filled with yellowcake at Willow Creek again caused a contamination incident at a conversion plant − this time in Metropolis, Illinois.
− In October, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the processing of yellowcake from the mothballed South Australian Honeymoon mine at the processing plant of the Willow Creek ISL mine.
− In March, Black Range Minerals' plan to acquire Uranium One's idle Shootaring Canyon uranium mill in Utah failed. The group Uranium Watch then called for the decommissioning of the mill after 30 years of "standby". Uranium One requested a six-month license extension and postponement of obligation to begin decommissioning for the idle mill. In August, Anfield Resources Inc. announced it will acquire the mill.
− In July, the Utah state regulator approved the processing of residues from the Midnite Mine in Washington as alternate feed at Energy Fuels' White Mesa mill. The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe filed a Petition to Intervene against this approval.
− In February, the New Mexico Supreme Court upheld the designation of Traditional Cultural Property status to Mount Taylor in New Mexico.
− In November, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission renewed the license for Cameco's Crow Butte ISL mine in Nebraska.
− In January and February, hundreds protested against Areva in Niger. In October, Niger finally renewed the uranium production agreement with Areva after protracted negotiations.
− The newly opened Chinese-owned Azelik mine in Niger is struggling with high cost and low output.
− In October, contract workers claimed unfair treatment at Paladin Energy's Langer Heinrich mine in Namibia.
− In April, cost reductions were announced for Russia's flagship Krasnokamensk mine which is unprofitable due to the low uranium price and decreasing productivity. In August, the mine started processing of subeconomic ore dumps for residual uranium. In November, two mines at Krasnokamensk were to resume operations after implementation of cost reductions and use of acid block in situ leaching.
− A joint venture between Kazakhstan's national atomic company Kazatomprom and Uranium One plans to launch scandium production at uranium mines in Kazakhstan.
− In September, mining at the Jaduguda mine in Jharkhand, India, stopped following a ministry order; the license had already expired in 2007. In December, the clearance for mining work was issued.
− In May, ore transport from the Bagjata mine in Jharkhand, India, was suspended, after rebels set a truck with ore on fire.
− India's government cited "public interest" for not divulging annual uranium production figures.
− Anti-uranium mining activist Salku Chaki was murdered on August 4. His body was found in the UCIL Turamdih colony in Jharkhand, India.
− In November, protests were held outside the annual meeting of BHP Billiton, owner of the Olympic Dam copper/uranium mine in South Australia.

6. Abandoned mines issues

− In November, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission held a hearing on the licence application for the decommissioning of the former Gunnar mine site in Saskatchewan. A decision has not yet been published.
− A US EPA preliminary assessment found radioactive contamination at abandoned uranium mines in the project area of the proposed Dewey-Burdock mine in South Dakota (see above). The EPA is planning to conduct a site investigation to determine if hazardous substance releases from the abandoned mines are impacting sensitive environments.
− In April, the US Department of Justice announced that, from a settlement with Anadarko Petroleum Corp., the Navajo Nation is to get more than US$1 billion for the clean-up of about 50 abandoned uranium mines. The settlement gives another US$179 million for the clean-up of the abandoned Riley Pass mine in South Dakota. In November, the settlement received final approval from a federal judge.
− In May, a US Government Accountability Office report found that not all targets were met for the clean-up of a few uranium mining and processing sites that is currently being performed on the Navajo Reservation by several federal agencies. In August, the US EPA ordered the very first phase of clean-up work at four abandoned uranium mines in the Mariano Lake and Smith Lake areas on the Navajo Nation.
− While relocation of Tailing No. 3 − one of the abandoned uranium mill tailings piles at Mailuu Suu in Kyrgyzstan − is ongoing, Tailing No. 5, the pile found to contribute the largest amount of uranium seepage to the Mailuu-Say river, is still unsecured. At Tailing No. 12, a government inspection found that two houses were built on top of the pile.
− Remediation of the abandoned Shekaftar uranium mine dumps in Kyrgyzstan is "most urgent", according to a scientific study. Several low-grade ore heaps and waste rock piles are located along the Sumsar-Say River. One heap is exposed to the erosion of the river throughout the year, while the bases of the others become flooded annually. In addition, a giant landslide is developing on the mountain slopes around the former uranium mine.
− In Angren, Uzbekistan, local markets sell meat from cattle grazing on uranium mill tailings left abandoned in the mountain gorges between Angren and Yangiabad.
− Australia's Northern Territory is seeking A$200 million from the Federal Government to rehabilitate the abandoned Rum Jungle mine site.

7. Decommissioning issues


In the USA:

Again, not all is going well with the current groundwater restoration efforts at uranium mill tailings sites in the USA:

− Attenuation of radium concentrations in groundwater is not functioning as predicted at Umetco's former Gas Hills uranium mill site in Wyoming, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) found.
− The NRC is not convinced that the Shirley Basin South uranium mill tailings impoundment in Wyoming is not leaking.
− A groundwater contaminant plume continues to spread off-site from the ANC Gas Hills uranium mill tailings site in Wyoming. In view of insufficient reclamation funds, an extension of the site boundary is envisaged as a creative low-cost response.
− Natural flushing of the contaminated aquifer at the Riverton site in Wyoming may not be accomplished in the 100-year regulatory time frame.
− The uranium concentration in a groundwater monitoring well at the Durango uranium mill tailings disposal site in Colorado still exceeds the standard, by a factor of two.
− The NRC again demanded resumption of groundwater monitoring at the Durita uranium mill site in Colorado, finding that the state regulator's permission to Hecla Mining Co. to discontinue the groundwater detection monitoring program and plug the wells was premature. The NRC demands Hecla install new monitoring wells.
− The uranium concentration in a groundwater monitoring well at the Grand Junction uranium mill tailings disposal site in Colorado increases further, now exceeding the standard three-fold.
− Contaminated alluvial and bedrock groundwater continues to leave the former Bluewater uranium mill site in New Mexico. However, a Department of Energy (DOE) report found that the uranium plume "does not present an imminent or foreseeable risk to community water systems".
− The DOE presented a plan for an improved active groundwater remediation at the former Monticello uranium mill tailings site in Utah, replacing the failed natural attenuation scheme.
− The DOE discontinued the groundwater pump and treat scheme at the Tuba City uranium mill tailings site in Arizona due to ineffectiveness.

Other USA decommissioning issues:

− The clean-up plan for the former Midnite mine in Washington is under review by the EPA. The work is on track to begin next year.
− On May 7, 2014, the Colorado legislature approved a measure to ensure the clean-up of 30 years of groundwater contamination at Cotter Corp.'s closed Cañon City uranium mill. On August 27, 2014, heavy rains caused a mudflow at the mill site. An ATSDR Public Health Assessment report identified health hazards for residents living near the site, in particular from drinking water from private wells and from eating lots of home-grown fruits and vegetables.
− Any uranium mill tailings found in ongoing road construction in Durango, Colorado, have to be re-buried under the roadway, according to a special management plan.
− In September, the state approved a modified discharge permit for Homestake Mining Co's Grants uranium mill site in New Mexico; community members have opposed the renewal and have repeatedly advocated for relocating the tailings pile.
− A study published in June showed that contaminants added to the soil by irrigation of waste waters at the Grants reclamation site are expected to migrate deeper almost unattenuated. In December, Homestake issued a closure plan for the irrigation areas used at Grants for the disposal ("land application") of groundwater with elevated levels of uranium and selenium.
− The Moab tailings relocation project in Utah received additional funding, allowing for an uninterrupted operation. As of the end of July, a total of 7 million short tons of mill tailings (44% of the initial amount) had been removed from the DOE Moab Project Site. On Nov. 20, a rockslide hit the train line used for the tailings relocation project − again.

In Europe:

− In March, a family was evacuated from their home in the Limousin area in France; the home was built with uranium mill tailings backfill and was used for childcare; later it was decided to completely pull it down.
− In July, the government released an inventory of dispersion and usage of waste from former uranium mines in the Limousin area.
− Uranium mine waste rock on a camping ground in the Pays-de-la-Loire region in western France was found to cause gamma dose rates up to more than 20 times background.
− A 3.7 MW solar park was constructed on the site of the former l'Écarpière uranium mill in western France.
− In May, about 70 miners from the former uranium mines at Urgeiriça in Portugal held a vigil in front of the official residence of the Prime Minister, again demanding compensation for the families of those who died from occupational diseases.
− The top plateau of Wismut's reclaimed Trünzig uranium mill tailings pile in Thuringia, Germany, is now being used for grazing by a horse breeder. The vegetative cover of the deposit thus remains open land, as requested by the Nature Conservation Authority.
− Groups in Thuringia have asked the state government for more efforts to locate the whereabouts of uranium mine waste material used for road construction and other purposes in Thuringia during the GDR era. So far, 370,000 tonnes have been located and disposed of, while the total amount used was around 1.9 million tonnes.
− The €6.5 billion in funds provided by the German government for the decommissioning of Wismut's uranium mines turned out to be not sufficient to cover longterm maintenance. It is expected that the total cost until 2040 will rise to €7.1 billion.
− According to Wismut's environmental monitoring, radon concentrations in part of the town of Niederschlema in Saxony have increased above the 80 Bq/m3 target value as a result of rising radon release rates from reclaimed waste rock piles. The target value includes the background radon concentration and is meant to assure a 1 mSv/a dose limit for the public. The increase of the release rates from the reclaimed piles has been observed over several consecutive years already. Wismut provides no discussion nor any proposals for remedies of the situation. According to the Saxon state regulator, the doses actually reach 3−5 mSv/a in certain local areas.
− The new European Union Basic Safety Standards are in parts less stringent than currently applicable regulations in the framework of the Wismut project and may water down the standards for clean-up of the remaining Wismut uranium mine sites in Germany. The new reference values are of particular concern for the effective dose to members of the public in certain areas of Niederschlema (see above).
− In September, dismantling of the surface facilities started at the Hamr underground mine and the Stráz pod Ralskem uranium mill site in North Bohemia, Czech Republic.
− The six remaining uranium mill tailings ponds in Mydlovary in South Bohemia are to be reclaimed within ten years.

In Asia:

− In September, the government of Tajikistan approved a national concept on the rehabilitation of uranium mill tailings for the years 2014−2024; the total amount of tailings in the country is more than 55 million tonnes.
− In October, test production of rare earths from Kazakh uranium mine residues commenced.

8. Legal and regulatory issues

In the USA:

− In May, the US Department of Energy approved the Uranium Leasing Program, opening up 25,000 acres (101 sq kms) of land in western Colorado to uranium mining.
− In April, the US EPA released a proposed rule for revisions of radon emission standards for operating uranium mill tailings. The proposal would eliminate the numeric limit on radon emissions for pre-1989 impoundments, while it would establish a numeric minimum moisture content for heap leach piles, among others.
− In October, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration invited comment on the management and permissible exposure limits for chemicals in the workplace: time to overcome the current anachronistic uranium exposure limits in workplace air that may lead to annual doses of 5 to 16 times the 20 mSv/a limit.

In Africa:

− In Tanzania, groups released a report calling for tight regulation of proposed uranium mining in the country.

In Europe:

− In January, the European Union issued a revised directive on basic radiation protection standards, which may water down standards for the clean-up of the remaining Wismut uranium mine sites in Germany (see above).

− In June, the Slovak Parliament approved a new law that allows uranium mining in Slovakia only if approved in referendums taking place in all affected municipalities.

In Australia:

− The Australian parliament passed a bill to open the Woomera weapons test range in South Australia to mining.
− After lifting the uranium mining ban in the state in 2012, the Queensland government now released a "modern and robust" framework for uranium mining.

9. Uranium trade and foreign investment issues

Uranium trade

− China imported 18,968 tonnes of uranium in 2013 alone (about three times current requirements).
− India has imported 4,458 tonnes of uranium since 2008, when the Nuclear Suppliers Group lifted its ban on nuclear trade with India.
− The US Department of Energy plans to sell up to 2,705 tonnes of surplus uranium per year until 2021.
− Uzbekistan plans to increase its uranium exports to South Korea; and Uzbekistan also plans to supply 2,000 tonnes of uranium to India.
− Paraguay offers to export uranium to Argentina.
− The Australia − United Arab Emirates agreement on uranium sales entered into force.
− In view of the Ukraine crisis, Australia halted uranium sales to Russia, while there are currently no contracts, though.
− The European Commission is probing a uranium supply contract with Russia for the planned Pyhäjoki nuclear power plant in Finland,
− Australia's Macquarie Group buys the Deutsche Bank uranium book.

Proliferation issues and uranium trafficking

− Australia signed an agreement with India on uranium exports; the former chief of Australia's nuclear safeguards organisation raised doubts over the uranium deal. The agreement will be scrutinised by the Australian Parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Treaties in 2015.

Foreign exploration, mining investment, and cooperation

− France: Areva plans to mine uranium in Ukraine in cooperation with the Ukrainian company VostGOK.
− Turkey plans to invest in uranium mines in Niger.
− Russia and Kazakhstan signed a road map for the development of uranium deposits in Kazakhstan.
− Russia and Algeria signed a nuclear energy cooperation agreement, including uranium prospecting and mining.
− Uganda seeks India's assistance to develop its uranium deposits.
− The government-owned Uranium Corporation of India Ltd. (UCIL) eyes stakes in overseas uranium mining companies.
− China Uranium Corporation acquired a 25% stake in Paladin Energy's Langer Heinrich uranium mine in Namibia.
− China General Nuclear is looking to invest in Canadian uranium mines.
− More Chinese companies are gaining access to uranium properties abroad.

10. This and that

− Other than in previous years, no new claim stakes were found on the Maybell uranium mill tailings disposal site in Colorado in 2013: is the end to this oddity a sign that those prospectors have finally come to their senses, or is this just an indication that they have lost the last glimmer of hope that the uranium price will ever recover in the foreseeable future?
− In February, a Paris court condemned the NGO Observatoire du nucléaire to pay penalties of several thousand Euros for "defamation" of Areva in a 2012 press release titled "Nuclear/corruption: AREVA offers a plane to the President of Niger ..." The NGO appealed the court decision. (This court opinion is quite surprising: how can it ever be possible to defame a company that has 181 entries in its Hall of Infamy on the WISE Uranium website?)
− Will uranium be extracted as a by-product of tunnel construction for the Tokyo-Nagoya Maglev train line in Japan? The route runs through mountains in Mizunami, Gifu Prefecture, that have 20 to 30 uranium deposits scattered beneath the area.
− Is nuclear-free New Zealand incidentally becoming a uranium miner? Uranium in phosphate nodules that Chatham Rock Phosphate intends to mine could threaten New Zealand's nuclear-free reputation, the seafood industry has told the government.
− In February, the Mining Warden's Court approved of the opposition of mining tycoon Andrew Forrest to uranium exploration by Cauldron Energy on his Minderoo ranch in Western Australia (Forrest is Australia's richest man who made his fortune digging up iron ore). However (and we are now offering an exclusive glimpse of next years annual review) the state Minister for Mines and Petroleum overturned the Mining Warden's decision on January 7, 2015, and allowed uranium exploration in the mining tycoon's backyard. Forrest's Minderoo understandably expressed its disappointment "at the minister's decision to allow exploration by Cauldron Energy within the historical and environmentally fragile parts of Minderoo station". Have we just found the next candidate for The Prime Minister's Environmentalist of the Year Award?

Nuclear News

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

World Nuclear Association scales back projections
A new World Nuclear Association (WNA) report, 'The Global Nuclear Fuel Market: Supply and Demand 2013-2030', revises and reduces the Association's pre-Fukushima projections of nuclear power growth. Compared to current installed capacity of 334 GWe, the WNA projections range from a lower scenario of no net growth, a reference scenario of 72% growth (574 GWe by 2030; 3.0% annual growth) and an upper scenario of two-fold growth (700 GWe in 2030; 4.2% annual growth).

Both the upper scenario and the reference scenario are "significantly lower" than the projections in the WNA's 2011 report. World Nuclear News reports: "The lower projected rate of growth of the nuclear sector in the latest edition of the WNA market report (compared with the 2011 edition) reflects the current and expected increased level of challenges facing utilities aiming to commission new nuclear power plants. These challenges are not only a result of the post-Fukushima calls for the industry to demonstrate higher levels of safety, but also the need to cope with stronger competition from alternative generating technologies at a time of more modest power demand growth expectations."[2]

In the reference scenario, uranium demand would reach 97,000 tU by 2030, from today's level of 62,000 tU. Provided that all uranium mines currently under development enter service as planned, the report finds that the uranium market should be adequately supplied to 2025; beyond this time new mines need to be operating.[2]

The IAEA has recently released its Annual Report for 2012, projecting nuclear power growth of 23% to 100% percent by 2030.[3] As with the WNA, the IAEA has scaled back its nuclear growth projections. The report notes that last year the UAE became the first country in 27 years to break ground on its first nuclear power plant. On the disposal of spent nuclear fuel, the IAEA report notes that most of its 158 member states have delayed the construction of repositories.

Historically, upper scenarios from the WNA and IAEA have always been fanciful, whereas lower scenarios are usually much closer to the mark.

[1] World Nuclear Association, 'The Global Nuclear Fuel Market: Supply and Demand 2013-2030',
[2] World Nuclear News, 12 September 2013, 'Uranium supply and demand in balance for now',
[3] IAEA Annual Report 2012,


France: Energy transition
Launching a two-day conference on France's energy transition, President Francois Hollande reiterated his 2012 election pledge to see nuclear's share of French generation capped at 50% by 2025, and the closure of France's oldest nuclear power plant, Fessenheim, by the end of 2016.[1]

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told the conference that revenue from existing nuclear plants would be earmarked to fund the country's move to an energy mix featuring more renewables. The unspecified nuclear tax would augment a new tax on fossil fuel consumption, expected to amount to one billion euros annually by 2016. [1]

Over 170,000 people have taken part in regional debates concerning the energy transition. Energy minister Philippe Martin has been charged with drawing up a law enshrining the energy transition, to be voted on by the end of 2014.

The move to reduce reliance on nuclear power is contested. A French parliamentary commission recently called on the government to delay the start of the replacement of nuclear power until 2030 and to extend the process to the end of the century (which makes little sense as existing reactors will be shut down long before the end of the century).[2]

Electricite de France SA (EDF) operates 58 power reactors in France. The reactors are on average 27 years old and are spread over 19 sites.[3] In July, the regulator Autorite de Surete Nucleaire said EDF would have to improve safety at its nuclear plants including ensuring spent fuel storage and reactor vessels are secure before it can approve operation beyond 40 years. "EDF must propose ambitious improvements for the safety of spent fuel storage" and be prepared to replace equipment on a large scale, ASN said. In April, ASN head Pierre-Franck Chevet said "we are a long way from making a decision" on extensions beyond 40 years.[6]

France's Green party has threatened to withdraw support for the Socialist government over the slow pace of its energy policy initiatives.[4]

French nuclear generation fell to its lowest level in at least six years on June 22−23, after EDF reduced output by around a third to manage oversupply in the grid and prevent prices turning negative for the second consecutive weekend.[5]

Meanwhile, progress is being made at a test facility near the small village of Bure in northeastern France, which the nuclear industry hopes to turn into a repository for intermediate- and high-level nuclear waste. The test facility has been completed at a depth of 480 metres underground. ANDRA − L'Agence nationale pour la gestion des dechets radioactifs − is planning to apply for construction approval for the final disposal site in 2015 for a planned start of construction in 2019. Cost estimates range from 14 billion euros to 55 billion euros. Opponents of the proposal, including some villagers, have prevented residents' debate sessions − a necessary step for obtaining construction approval − from being held. [7,8,9,10]

[1] World Nuclear News, 23 September 2013, 'Nuclear to fund French energy transition',
[2] NucNet, 16 September 2013, 'Commission Calls On French Government To Delay Nuclear Phase-out',
[3] Tara Patel / Bloomberg, 17 May 2013, 'France Must Decide on Energy Mix Before Reactors Close, ASN Says',
[4] Tara Patel / Bloomberg, 22 September 2013, 'France to Tax EDF Nuclear Output for Energy Shift to Renewables',
[5] Argus Media, 24 June 2013,
[6] Tara Patel / Bloomberg, 3 July 2013, 'EDF Must Boost Nuclear Safety to Operate Plants Beyond 40 Years',
[7] Hiroaki Miyagawa, 19 September 2013, 'Test under way at planned nuclear waste disposal site in French village amid protests', The Mainichi,
[8] 'Public comment on French waste disposal', 16 May 2013,
[9] Tara Patel / Bloomberg, 19 June 2013, 'French Nuclear-Waste Repository Debates Postponed by Protesters',
[10] Tara Patel / Bloomberg, 13 June 2013, 'Scariest Atomic-Waste Burial Plan Has French Villages Up in Arms',

World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2013

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2013 (WNISR) was released on July 11. The report looks at nuclear reactor units in operation and under construction, with global statistics and detailed country-by-country information. The report also contains useful material on topics such as potential newcomer countries, the credit-rating performance of some of the major nuclear utilities, the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, and development patterns of renewable energies compared to nuclear power.

Some key facts from the report are listed here.

The number of operating reactors has fallen from the 2002 peak of 444 to the current 427 reactors.

Installed nuclear capacity peaked in 2010 at 375 gigawatts (GWe) before declining to the current level of 364 GWe.

Annual nuclear electricity generation peaked in 2006 at 2,660 terrawatt-hours (TWh), falling to 2,346 TWh in 2012 (down 7% compared to 2011, down 12% from 2006). About three-quarters of this decline is due to the situation in Japan, but 16 other countries, including the top five nuclear generators, also decreased their nuclear generation.

The nuclear share of the world's power generation declined steadily from a historic peak of 17% in 1993 to about 10 percent in 2012. Nuclear power's share of global commercial primary energy production fell to 4.5% in 2012, a level last seen in 1984.

The average age of the world's nuclear fleet continues to increase and in mid-2013 stands at 28 years. Over 190 reactors (45% of the total) have operated for 30 years, of which 44 have run for 40 years or more.

Fourteen countries currently are currently building nuclear power plants, one more than a year ago as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) started construction at Barrakah. The UAE is the first new country in 27 years to have started building a commercial nuclear power plant.

As of July 2013, 66 reactors are under construction (seven more than in July 2012) with a total capacity of 63 GW. However:

  • Nine reactors have been listed as "under construction" for more than 20 years and four additional reactors have been listed for 10 years or more.
  • Forty-five projects do not have an official planned start-up date on the IAEA's database.
  • At least 23 have encountered construction delays, most of them multi-year. For the remaining 43 reactor units, either construction began within the past five years or they have not yet reached projected start-up dates, making it difficult or impossible to assess whether they are on schedule or not.
  • Two-thirds (44) of the units under construction are located in three countries: China, India and Russia.
  • The average construction time of the 34 units that started up in the world between 2003 and July 2013 was 9.4 years.

Only three reactors started up in 2012, while six were shut down. In 2013, up to 1 July, only one reactor started up, while four shutdown decisions − all in the U.S. − were taken. Three of those four units faced costly repairs, but one (Kewaunee, Wisconsin) was running well and had received a license renewal just two years ago to operate up to a total of 60 years; it simply became uneconomic to run.

Engagement in nuclear programs has been delayed by most of the potential newcomer countries, including Bangladesh, Belarus, Jordan, Lithuania, Poland, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam.

In 2012, construction began on six reactors and on three so far in 2013, including on two units in the US. Those two units have been offered over US$8 billion in federal loan guarantees and other subsidies whose total rivals their construction costs, and special laws have transferred financial risks to the taxpayers and customers.

Additional costs arising from upgrading and backfitting measures following the lessons of the Fukushima crisis are only beginning to surface. They are likely to have substantial impact on investment as well as operational costs.

Nine out of 14 major utilities assessed in the WNSIR saw their earnings decline over the past five years while 13 constantly increased their debt level.

Over the past five years, 10 out of 15 assessed nuclear utilities were downgraded by credit rating agency Standard and Poor's, four remained stable, while only one was upgraded.

Renewable energy
In spite of a slight decrease in global investment in 2012, partly reflecting rapidly falling equipment prices, renewable energy development continues its rapid expansion in both, capacity and generation. China, Germany and Japan, three of the world's four largest economies, as well as India, now generate more power from renewables than from nuclear power.

Global investment in renewable energy totalled US$268 billion in 2012, down from US$300 billion the previous year but still five times the 2004 amount.

Globally, since 2000, the annual growth rates for onshore wind power have averaged 27%  and for solar photovoltaics 42%. This has resulted in 2012 in 45 GW of wind and 32 GW of solar being installed, compared to a net addition of 1.2 GW of nuclear. China has a total of 75 GW of operating wind power capacity, roughly doubled in each of the past five years.

For the first time, China and India generated more power from wind than from nuclear plants in 2012, while in China solar electricity generation grew four-fold in one year.

The World Nuclear Industry Status Report is posted at


EIA and IEA reports
The newly-released US Energy Information Administration's 'International Energy Outlook 2013' estimates that total world energy consumption will increase by 56% between 2010 and 2040, from 524 quadrillion British thermal units to 820 quadrillion. Most of that growth is anticipated in Asian and Middle Eastern countries outside the OECD, while energy use in OECD countries is expected to increase by 17%.

Global electricity generation is predicted to grow by 93% from the 2010 level to reach 39,000 TWh by 2040. The EIA predicts that renewables (including hydro, wind and solar) and nuclear power will grow by 2.5% annually between 2010 and 2040.

Electricity generation from nuclear plants is forecast to increase from 2620 TWh in 2010 to 5492 TWh in 2040. Substantial increases in nuclear generating capacity are projected, including 149 GWe in China, 47 GWe in India, 31 GWe in Russia and 27 GWe in South Korea. However, nuclear's share of global electricity production will amount to just 14% in 2040 even under the EIA's growth scenario. The share of renewables is forecast to increase from 21% in 2010 to 25% in 2040.

On June 26, the International Energy Agency (IEA) published an upbeat report on the expected progress of renewable energy worldwide. The IEA's second annual Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report (MTRMR) foresees that power generation capacity from hydro, wind, solar and other renewable sources worldwide will exceed that from gas and be twice that from nuclear by 2018. Renewable power production is expected to grow by 40% over the next five years. Renewables will make up "almost a quarter of the global power mix by 2018, up from an estimated 20% in 2011". The share of non-hydro sources such as wind, solar, bioenergy and geothermal in total power generation will double, reaching 8% by 2018, up from 4% in 2011 and just 2% in 2006.

The IEA also notes that "in addition to the well-established competitiveness of hydropower, geothermal and bioenergy, renewables are becoming cost-competitive in a wider set of circumstances. For example, wind competes well with new fossil-fuel power plants in several markets, including Brazil, Turkey and New Zealand. Solar is attractive in markets with high peak prices for electricity, for instance, those resulting from oil-fired generation. Decentralised solar photovoltaic generation costs can be lower than retail electricity prices in a number of countries."

US Energy Information Administration, 'International Energy Outlook 2013',
International Energy Agency, Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report,
World Nuclear Association, 26 July 2013, Asian growth to boost global energy demand,
Karel Beckman, 12 July 2013, 'The new energy world according to the IEA',

Lessons from Fukushima

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Greenpeace International

It has been almost 12 months since the Fukushima nuclear disaster began. Although the Great East Japan earthquake and the following tsunami triggered it, the key causes of the nuclear accident lie in the institutional failures of political influence and industry-led regulation. It was a failure of human institutions to acknowledge real reactor risks, a failure to establish and enforce appropriate nuclear safety standards and a failure to ultimately protect the public and the environment.

Greenpeace International commissioned the "Lessons from Fukushima" report that addresses what lessons can be taken away from this catastrophe. The one-year memorial of the Fukushima accident offers a unique opportunity to ask ourselves what the tragedy – which is far from being over for hundreds of thousands of Japanese people – has taught us. And it also raises the question, are we prepared to learn?

There are broader issues and essential questions that still deserve our attention:

  • How it is possible that – despite all assurances – a major nuclear accident on the scale of the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 happened again, in one of the world’s most industrially advanced countries?
  • Why did emergency and evacuation plans not work to protect people from excessive exposure to the radioactive fallout and resulting contamination? Why is the government still failing to better protect its citizens from radiation one year later?
  • Why are the over 100,000 people who suffer the most from the impacts of the nuclear accident still not receiving adequate financial and social support to help them rebuild their homes, lives and communities?

These are the fundamental questions that we need to ask to be able to learn from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The just released Greenpeace report  looks into them and draws some important conclusions:

  1. The Fukushima nuclear accident marks the end of the ‘nuclear safety’ paradigm.
  2. The Fukushima nuclear accident exposes the deep and systemic failure of the very institutions that are supposed to control nuclear power and protect people from its accidents.

End of nuclear safety paradigm
Why do we talk about the end of a paradigm? After what we have seen of the failures in Fukushima, we can conclude that ‘nuclear safety’ does not exist in reality. There are only nuclear risks, inherent to every reactor, and these risks are unpredictable. At any time, an unforeseen combination of technological failures, human errors or natural disasters at any one of the world’s reactors could lead to a reactor quickly getting out of control.

In Fukushima, the multiple barriers that were engineered to keep radiation away from the environment and people failed rapidly. In less than 24 hours following the loss of cooling at the first Fukushima reactor, a major hydrogen explosion blew apart the last remaining barrier between massive amounts of radiation and the open air.

Probabilistic Safety Assessments
At the heart of claims of nuclear safety is an assumption that accidents, which lead to significant releases of radiation, have a very low probability of occurring. International safety regulators have adopted a nuclear safety paradigm under which, for accidents that are categorised as ‘design basis’ events, the design of a plant must guarantee no significant radioactive releases will occur. These events are also often referred to as ‘credible’ accidents. Accidents involving significant radiation releases, like those at Fukushima Daiichi are called ‘incredible’ or ‘beyond design basis’ events.  These are claimed to be of an extraordinary low probability. These numbers are the results of PSA (probabilistic safety assessment) studies. However, PSAs cannot provide meaningful estimates for accident frequencies (probabilities), since they cannot take into account all relevant factors (e.g. they cannot cover inadequate regulatory oversight) and the factors that are included are beset with huge uncertainties (e.g. regarding earthquakes).

The designs for all reactors in operation, including the Fukushima Daiichi units, were established in the 1960s. The ‘design basis’ of reactors was based upon ‘reasonably foreseeable’ accidents, i.e. accidents that, according to industry experts, could be expected. Also the designs applied the antiquated engineering modelling and methodology available during that time period more than 40 years ago.

In the following decades, accidents involving significant radiation releases that were initially deemed as ‘incredible’ began to occur, such as Three Mile Island (1979) and Chernobyl (1986). Despite some development in nuclear assessments, e.g. in terms of the kind of accidents taken into account, the nuclear sector did not question the safety paradigm but carried on using the model, i.e. the probabilistic risk assessments, to justify the allowance of certain reactor weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

Regulators and the industry call nuclear power ‘safe’, because their calculational methodology depicts events that could cause a significant accident, like the one that occurred at Fukushima Daiichi, as extremely unlikely. Reactors were allowed to be constructed in ways that do not allow them to withstand such events. According to probabilistic risk assessments, the chance of a ‘beyond design basis’ accident, which causes a core melt and a significant radioactive release, is less than once in a million years of reactor operation. The Fukushima Daiichi disaster, however, has shown this theory of nuclear safety to be false.

By 2011, the world had accumulated just over 14,000 years of reactor operating experience. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safety guidelines state that the frequency of actual core damage should be less than once in 100,000 years. Hence, with more than 400 reactors operating worldwide, a significant reactor accident would be expected to occur approximately once every 250 years.

Culminating with the Fukushima Daiichi accidents in 2011 there have been five major accidents involving significant fuel melt during the past 33 years: Three Mile Island (a Pressurised Water Reactor) in 1979, Chernobyl (a RBMK design) in 1986, and the three Fukushima Daiichi units (Mark 1 Boiling Water Reactors) in 2011. Based upon these five meltdowns, the probability of significant accidents is in fact one core-melt for every 2,900 years of reactor operation. Put another way, based upon observed experience with more than 400 reactors operating worldwide, a significant nuclear accident has occurred approximately every seven years.

The theory of nuclear safety espoused by the nuclear power sector has given regulators, reactor operators, and the public a false sense of security. For industries that require a high level of reliability, such as aviation and nuclear generation, institutional failures are the major contributor to real-world accidents. Surveys of nuclear and other high-reliability industries show that 70% of real accident rates are caused by institutional failures. Despite this, the probabilistic risk studies produced by reactor operators to predict the frequency of component failures leading to radioactivity releases do not take into account failures of operators and regulators overseeing the plant. The empirical evidence shows that reactor accidents are more than one order of magnitude more likely than predicted by the nuclear industry’s modelling. This historical record clearly contradicts the industry’s claim of nuclear safety. Instead of being low-probability events as asserted by the nuclear industry, reactor meltdowns are regular events with significant consequences.

Failure of human institutions
In Japan, the failure of the human institutions inevitably led to the Fukushima disaster. The risks of earthquakes and tsunamis were well known years before the disaster. The industry and its regulators reassured the public about the safety of the reactors in the case of a natural disaster for so long that they started to believe it themselves. This is sometimes called the Echo Chamber effect: the tendency for beliefs to be amplified in an environment where a limited number of similarly interested actors fail to challenge each other’s ideas. The tight links between the promotion and regulation of the nuclear sector created a ‘self-regulatory’ environment that is a key cause of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster.

It is symptomatic of this complacent attitude that the first concerns voiced by many of the decision makers and regulators after the accident were about how to restore public confidence in nuclear power – instead of how to protect people from the radiation risks. This has also been the case with the UN’s IAEA, which failed to prioritise protection of people over the political interests of the Japanese government, or over its own mission to promote nuclear power. The IAEA has systematically praised Japan for its robust regulatory regime and for best practices in its preparedness for major accidents in its findings from missions to Japan as recently as 2007 and 2008.

Lessons to be learned
The institutional failures in Japan are a warning to the rest of the world. These failures are the main cause of all past nuclear accidents, including the accident at Three Mile Island in the US and the disaster at Chernobyl in Ukraine. There are a number of similarities between the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters: the amounts of released radiation, the number of relocated people, and the long-term contamination of vast areas of land. Also the root causes of the accident are similar: concerned institutions systematically underestimated risks, other interests (political and economic) were prioritised over safety, and both industry and decision makers were not only fatally unprepared, but were allowed to establish an environment in which they existed and operated without any accountability.

Governments, regulators and the nuclear industry have stated they have learnt big lessons from the past. Yet, once again they failed to deliver. How confident can we be that the same will not happen again?

The report "Lessons from Fukushima" is available at:

Sixty centimeters of cement on seabed off Fukushima. Tepco is to cover a large swathe of seabed near the battered reactors with cement in a bid to halt the spread of radiation, the company announced on 22 February 2012. A clay-cement compound will be laid over 73,000 square meters (equivalent to around 10 soccer pitches) of the floor of the Pacific Ocean in front of the Fukushima Daiichi plant on the nation’s northeast coast. The cover will be 60 centimeters thick, with 10 centimeters expected to be eaten away by seawater every 50 years, the Tepco official said. “This is meant to prevent further contamination of the ocean… as sample tests have shown a relatively high concentration of radioactive substances in the sea soil in the bay,” a company spokeswoman said. 'Relatively high'? sounds not worth 60 cm of cement… So, relatively high compared to what?
Japan Today, 22 February 2012

11,000,000,000,000 yen for Tepco bailout. Tepco (Tokyo Electric Power) is set to receive a government bailout that may cost as much as 11 trillion yen (US $137 billion or 102 bn euro) after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the largest in Japan since the rescue of the banking industry in the 1990s. Japan’s government included 2 trillion yen in this year’s budget for the Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund, the bailout vehicle for  Tepco. The government plans to budget 4 trillion yen in the next fiscal year and has issued 5 trillion yen of so called delivery bonds, which the state fund can cash in for financial aid to Tepco. The funds redeemed can only be used to compensate those affected by the disaster.
Bloomberg, 24 February 2012

Source and Contact: Greenpeace International, Ottho Heldringstraat 5, 1066 AZ Amsterdam,The Netherlands
Tel: +31 20 718 20 00

Blue ribbon commission issues final report on nuclear waste

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

The Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future (BRC) on January 27, released its final report to the U.S. Energy Secretary, "detailing comprehensive recommendations for creating a safe, longterm solution for managing and disposing of the nation’s spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste." The report is the culmination of nearly two years of work by the commission and its subcommittees, which met more than two dozen times since March 2010, gathering testimony from experts and stakeholders.

The United States currently has more than 65,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel stored at about 75 operating and shutdown reactor sites around the country. More than 2,000 tons are being produced each year. The Department of Energy (DOE) also is storing an additional 2,500 tons of spent fuel and large volumes of high-level nuclear waste, mostly from past weapons programs, at a handful of government-owned sites.

The Blue Ribbon Commission's Final Report noted that the Obama Administration’s 2009 decision to halt work on a repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada is the latest indicator of a nuclear waste management policy that has been troubled for decades and has now reached an impasse. Allowing that impasse to continue is not an option, the report said. “The need for a new strategy is urgent, not just to address these damages and costs but because this generation has a fundamental, ethical obligation to avoid burdening future generations with the entire task of finding a safe, permanent solution for managing hazardous nuclear materials they had no part in creating,” the Commission wrote in the report’s Executive Summary.

The strategy outlined in the Commission report contains three crucial elements.

First, the Commission recommends a consent-based approach to siting future nuclear waste storage and disposal facilities, noting that trying to force such facilities on unwilling states, tribes and communities has not worked.

Second, the Commission recommends that the responsibility for the nation’s nuclear waste management program be transferred to a new organization; one that is independent of the DOE and dedicated solely to assuring the safe storage and ultimate disposal of spent nuclear waste fuel and highlevel radioactive waste.

Third, the Commission recommends changing the manner in which fees being paid into the Nuclear Waste Fund – about US$750 million a year – are treated in the federal budget to ensure they are being set aside and used as Congress initially intended.

The report also recommends immediate efforts to commence development of at least one geologic disposal facility and at least one consolidated storage facility, as well as efforts to prepare for the eventual large-scale transport of spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste from current storage sites to those facilities. The report also recommends the U.S. continue to provide support for nuclear energy innovation and workforce development, as well as strengthening its international leadership role in efforts to address safety, waste management, non-proliferation and security concerns.

This is a bit curious recommendation because only two lines further down in the official Commission's press release it is stated: "The Commission noted that it was specifically not tasked with rendering any opinion on the suitability of Yucca Mountain, proposing any specific site for a waste management facility, or offering any opinion on the role of nuclear power in the nation’s energy supply mix." (emphasis WISE)

Logically there is a lot of criticism on the Blue Ribbon Commission from the start and only two days before the publication of the final report, 88 national, regional and local environmental organizations, and more than 5,400 individuals, sent a letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu urging him to reject the upcoming recommendation from the Commission that would encourage establishment of an “interim” radioactive waste storage dump and begin the transportation of high-level radioactive waste across the U.S. The letter was initiated by organizations representing communities around permanently closed reactor sites. The Commission's draft report cites these closed reactors, which are still storing their waste on their sites, as the reason that an “interim” storage site should be established immediately.

As the letter states, such a program runs exactly counter to the interests of these communities, “The Commission you appointed is claiming that it is acting in the interest of communities such as ours where closed nuclear power reactors are located, when in fact the Commission's recommendations are in opposition to our number one priority: isolation of radioactivity from our environment for as long as it is a hazard. Centralizing waste storage for purposes of expanded waste production or for reprocessing is contrary to this goal, and is not responsible policy.”

Below comments on some of the recommendations of the final report from Arjun Makhijani, Ph.D., President of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER).

Military waste:
"It is tragic that the Commission did not substantively address the most pressing radioactive waste contamination threats to precious water resources – for instance hundreds of times the drinking water limit at Hanford, Washington on the banks of the Columbia River. The Commission had a charter to conduct a ‘comprehensive’ review of the nuclear waste problem, including defense wastes from the nuclear bomb program. Yet, it simply said it did not have the resources to deal with all the problems and punted the nuclear weapons waste issue to Congress while focusing on commercial spent fuel at nuclear reactor sites.”

“I am even more dismayed that the Commission suggested that Congress consider the possibility of leaving the defense waste disposal in the purview of the Department of Energy (DOE). The Commission has entirely ignored the immense evidence that DOE’s plans for disposal of several types of defense waste pose much greater threats to water resources, most especially at Hanford, than from even Yucca Mountain, a poor repository site.”

On reprocessing and breeder reactors:
The commission acknowledges in its report that:

“…no currently available or reasonably foreseeable reactor and fuel cycle technology developments -including advances in reprocess and recycle technologies- have the potential to fundamentally alter the waste management challenge this nation confronts over at least the next several decades, if not longer.” (p. 100)

Makhijani: “The Commission did reject some reprocessing advocates’ claims by recognizing that it will not eliminate the need for a repository and that no form of reprocessing is economical today. But it left the door open for reprocessing existing spent fuel at some future date. Reprocessing spent fuel from existing reactors will multiply risks and costs. There is simply no economic or technical case for that, and the Commission was provided with ample evidence to that effect. Even if the chosen path is breeder reactors, it would be technically better and economically far superior to use the half million tons of depleted uranium that already exist, enough to fuel a U.S. reactor fleet at the present size for 5,000 years. The Commission unfortunately chose to ignore these facts.”

“To its credit the Commission did recognize that reprocessing is not an answer to the waste management problem (as indicated by quote above) and that use of plutonium fuel creates an ‘increased proliferation risk’ (p. 105) both as currently practiced in France and as it might in the future be practiced with breeder reactors.”

“Despite having been presented with ample evidence of the failure of the sodium-cooled fast neutron reactor program – US$100 billion has been spent worldwide on the technology and yet it is nowhere near commercial – the BRC is suggesting more of the same. This is unwarranted when there are so many renewable energy options that are far closer to reality and far safer.”

On spent fuel storage:
Makhijani: “The Commission used the Fukushima tragedy to punt on the question of hardened dry rather than wet storage of spent fuel at reactor sites. The National Academies had already concluded well before Fukushima that dry storage was safer; Fukushima has only made the risks of wet storage clearer. Nothing we learn from it will indicate that wet storage is safer than dry storage. Yet, the Commission, citing lessons yet to be learned from Fukushima called for yet another study instead of hardened on-site dry storage that has been urged by dozens of organizations.”

“IEER calls on the Administration and Congress to mandate that all spent fuel aged more than five years be moved to hardened dry storage on site, and the remaining spent fuel kept in low-density storage in reactor pools. Nuclear Waste Fund monies should be used for on-site hardened dry storage.”

On siting:
Makhijani: “The Commission made real progress in pointing out that the top-down approach by which Congress simply mandated characterization of a single site – Yucca Mountain, Nevada – had failed. It recommended a “consent-based” process that would give some regulatory muscle to state, local, and tribal governments. This is a far better approach, even if it is likely to be slower at the start, as the Commission pointed out. Yet the consent-based process must be preceded by a prolonged scientific effort before siting begins.”

Makhijani: “The site is only one of three elements in geologic isolation – the others are engineered barriers and repository sealing approaches. The three elements must work together. There should be at least ten years of research on this problem before site selection begins. Without that the risk of environmental injustice, in a consent-based process is substantial.”

Makhijani: “I am dismayed that the Commission saw fit to recommend that DOE have a large upfront role in both the next steps for repository program, “including R&D on geological media” (p. 118) and for the Interim Storage site before a new organization is put in place to take over the responsibility. DOE was in large part responsible for the mess the program is in now, which began well before Congress cut off the process in 1987, pointing to Yucca Mountain alone. On the one hand the Commission has cautioned against haste; on the other hand, it has encouraged haste in a really ill-advised way by recommending a continuing DOE role in critical activities better left to an independent agency.”

Voices heard, but disregarded
"Since Secretary Chu appointed the Blue Ribbon Commission in 2010, concerned citizens living in communities impacted by radioactive waste from across the United States have participated in the BRC meetings, sent comments, and supported experts to participate," said Mary Olson of the Radioactive Waste Project of Nuclear Information and Resource Service. "Our voices have been heard, but disregarded. This comes as no surprise since a majority of the Commissioners are individuals who have made, or supported the making of, the radioactive waste in question over the course of their careers. Of course they want to move it -they want to make more."

The Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future does include several members who are not directly tied to the nuclear industry, but a controlling share of the seats are held by individuals who, at one time or another, have had primary decision-making authority, or who have personally profited from commercial nuclear technology.

Sources: NIRS News, 25 January 2012 / Blue Ribbon Commission press release, 27 January 2012 / IEER response to BRC, 27 January 2012
Contact: Mary Olson at NIRS


Child leukemia and nuclear power plants

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

The International Journal on Cancer, published in its January 2012 magazine a new study from France, establishing a very clear correlation between the frequency of acute childhood leukemia and proximity to nuclear power stations. It confirms the study conducted in Germany by the Cancer Registry in Mainz in 2008, which had reached the same conclusion.

This rigorous epidemiological study is called "Childhood leukemia around French nuclear power plants – the Geocap study, 2002-2007", and conducted by a team from INSERM (Institut national de la sante et de la recherche medicale),  IRSN (Institut de Radioprotection et de Surete Nucleaire) and the national child cancer registry of the hospital of Villejuif, demonstrates for the period 2002-2007 in France the doubling  of occurrence of childhood leukemia: the increase is up to 2.2 among children under 5 years.

This study again confirms an earlier German study (KiKK-Study Dec 2007) that the incidence of child leukemia more than doubles near nuclear power plants for children below the age 5 living within a 5 kilometer radius of nuclear power plants, compared to children living further then 20 kilometers from a nuclear power plant.

The nation wide study includes 2753 child leukemia cases diagnosed between 2002 and 2007 and a control group of 30,000. The addresses were geocoded around 19 nuclear power plants.

This is in line with a USA study by the National Academy Press, U.S., which argues that women and children are at significantly greater risk of suffering and dying from radiation-induced cancer than a man exposed to the same dose of ionizing radiation.

Current regulation of radiation and nuclear activity ignores the disproportionately greater harm to both women and children. Radiation harm includes not only cancer and leukemia, but reduced immunity and also reduced fertility, increases in other diseases including heart disease, birth defects including heart defects, other mutations.

Sascha Gabizon, international director of the Women's environment and health network WECF says "studies in Russia have shown that radioactive contamination of pregnant women in Chelyabinsk, Russia, lead to mutations of chromosomes, being transmitted into the 3rd and 4th generation of children". Gabizon: "victims of nuclear energy will never be compensated for, as the nuclear industry pays artificially low insurance costs, which means the tax-payer and future generations pay both economically as with their health. Nuclear energy is highly subsidized, the price of nuclear energy does not include the irreversible and long-term damage caused throughout the nuclear fuel cycle". In the light of these finding Gabizon calls for immediate measure for the protection of the population, especially small children, including legislation and support for resettlement of all families currently living in the vicinity of nuclear power plants.

WECF is a unique network of over 100 grassroots women and environment organizations worldwide, working in multi-sector partnerships demonstrating sustainable development alternatives at the local level, and sharing lessons learned and promoting sustainable policies at the global level.

For years, "Sortir du nucleaire" has seen the IRSN discrediting work in all epidemiological studies showing an impact of nuclear facilities on health. Sortir du nucleaire would therefore on this all too rare occasion like to congratulate the IRSN for participating in this epidemiological study. "Even in non-accidental situation, the proof is in the pudding -nuclear technology does not belong in a civilized world."

The study is available at:

Sources: Press release Reseau Sortir du nucleaire, 11 January 2012 / WECF press release, 17 January 2012 
Contact: Chantal Van den Bossche, WECF press:
Email: chantal.vandenbossche[at]
Tel: +31 6 2812 9992


Fukushima emissions double estimates - new international study

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

A new study by an international team of researchers estimates that the emissions from the power plant started earlier, lasted longer and are therefore higher than assumed in most studies conducted before. The study estimates the emissions of the radioactive noble gas Xenon-133 and the aerosol-bound nuclide Caesium-137 from the Japanese Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant until April 20 (!) by combining a large set of measurements from Japan and worldwide, atmospheric transport model calculations, and available information and reasonable approximations on radionuclide inventories and accident events at Fukushima Daiichi.

The study led by Andreas Stohl, an atmospheric scientist at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research, was released on the website of Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions. The calculations are based on about 1000 measurements of activity concentrations and deposition conducted in Japan, USA and Europe. This is the most comprehensive investigation so far. There is no doubt that the Fukushima accident is, at least in terms of the isotopes Xenon-133 and Caesium-137,  the most significant event after the catastrophe in Chernobyl 25 years ago, says Dr. Andreas Stohl from NILU - Norwegian Institute for Air Research, lead author of the study.

Regarding the radioactive noble gas Xenon-133, the results indicate an emission of 16.7 million terabecquerel (1 Becquerel is one radioactive decay per second, 1 terabecquerel equals one million times one million becquerels). This is the largest civilian noble gas release in history, exceeding the Chernobyl noble gas release by a factor of 2.5. Xenon-133 is neither ingested nor retained in the inhalation process and therefore of less health concern, but it is important for understanding the accident events.

This study confirms there is strong evidence that emissions started already on 11 March 2011 at 6:00 UTC, which is immediately after the big earthquake. So contrary to official assumptions (Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency remains convinced the quake didn’t cause significant damage to the plant, Tadashige Koitabashi, a NISA spokesman, said by phone to Bloomberg) it becomes more and more clear that the reactors and fuel pool were already severely damaged by the earthquake before the tsunami hit. And that is despite the fact that the earthquake "did not exceed design base values significantly", according to Jan Leen Kloosterman a Dutch scientist and important nuclear advocate from the Technical University Delft. But it was a big earthquake (magnitude 9.0) out at sea but not so big 130 km from the epicentre at Fukushima. NISA and Tepco blame the tsunami, which swamped backup generators, causing a loss of cooling and the meltdowns of the three reactors operating at the time of the disaster. Explosions at the plant sent radiation into the atmosphere.

Regarding Cesium-137, which is of high relevance for human health due to its physical properties and the long half-life time of 30 years, the new estimate shows that emissions started earlier and ended later than assumed in most studies so far. The total release amounts to 36 petabecquerel (1 p-Bq is 1000t-Bq), which equals 42% of the Chernobyl emissions. 19% of the cesium was deposited on Japanese territory, while about 80% was deposited in the water.

While the winds transported most of the Fukushima emissions toward the Pacific Ocean, the plume headed inland during and following March 14-15, the period of highest cesium emissions, although “the situation could have been even much worse, as fortunately no rain occurred at the time.” During a second episode March 20-22, even larger areas of Honshu were covered by the plume, from Osaka in the south to areas north of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, and heavy rains “nearly completely cleansed the atmosphere of 137Cs  and again produced strong deposition of this radionuclide over Honshu, including Tokyo,” the study said. “This episode again followed a period of high (though fortunately not as high as on 14–15 March) 137Cs emission fluxes on 19 March, which were transported to Japan on 20 March.” There were “a few other periods” when the plume went over land, “but the areas affected were smaller and the emissions lower.”

The study also suggests that, contrary to government claims, pools used to store spent nuclear fuel played a significant part in the release of the long-lived environmental contaminant caesium-137, which could have been prevented by prompt action. The levels of cesium-137 emissions “suddenly dropped” after Tepco started spraying water on the spent fuel pool of the No. 4 reactor, they said. Reactor 4 was idle before the quake and the fuel assemblies in the core had been placed in the spent fuel pool of the unit. The radioactivity released into the atmosphere represented “nearly 2% of the available inventory of the reactor cores in units 1–3,” the study said, “and the spent-fuel pool [radioactive content] in unit 4 was discharged into the atmosphere.” Indeed, it was the spent fuel pools at Fukushima that contained the bulk of the offending material, according to the study, which looked only at the aerosol-bound cesium-137 and the noble gas xenon-133

Sit-in outside Ministry of Economy
On October 28, close to two hundred women from Fukushima began a three-day sit-in outside the Tokyo office of Japan's Ministry of Economy calling for the evacuation of children from areas with high radiation levels and the permanent shut down of nuclear reactors in Japan currently switched off. Their peaceful protest is a powerful – almost radical - act in a country where standing up for something can often mean ostracism from one's community. These are not women who regularly participate in civil protest. These are mothers who fear for their children's safety and future. These are grandmothers separated from their families. The fact that they have put their own lives and families on hold for these three days reflects the harrowing situation these women and their families have found themselves in since the nuclear disaster.
Greenpeace International, 28 October 2011


Sources: Report "Xenon-133 and caesium-137 releases into the atmosphere from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant: determination of the source term, atmospheric dispersion, and deposition" by A. Stohl, P. Seibert, G. Wotawa, D. Arnold, J. F. Burkhart, S. Eckhardt, C. Tapia, A. Vargas, and T. J. Yasunari / Nuclear Monitor, 727, 27 May 2011 / Bloomberg, 27 October 2011 / Nuclear Intelligence Weekly, 13 October 2011 / Press release NILU, 21 October 2011

The full report is available at:
Contact: Dr. Andreas Stohl, NILU - Norwegian Institute for Air Research, PO Box 100, 2027 Kjeller, Norway



Sayonara to nuclear power

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

An estimated sixty thousand people took to the streets in Tokyo on September 19 to say Goodbye to nuclear power. It was the largest anti-nuclear demonstration ever in Japan. On September 11, exactly six months after the earthquake, tsunami  and nuclear meltdowns, already many thousands had demonstrated all over Japan to vent their anger at the government's handling of the nuclear crisis. Three young men and a woman started a 10 day hunger strike in front of the Ministry of Economy Industry and Trade, the planner and sponsor of nuclear power.

In one of the largest protests on September 11, an estimated 2,500 people marched past the headquarters of the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, and created a "human chain" around the building of the Trade Ministry that oversees the power industry. Protesters called for a complete shutdown of nuclear power plants across Japan and demanded a shift in government policy toward alternative sources of energy.

Japan can switch off all nuclear plants permanently by 2012 and still achieve both economic recovery and its CO2 reduction goals, according to a new Greenpeace report. Released on September 11, the Advanced Energy [R]evolution report for Japan, shows how energy efficiency and rapid deployment of renewable technology can provide all the power Japan needs.

The report - with calculations by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies (ISEP) - shows that Japan's wind and solar generation capacity can be ramped up from the existing 3,500 MW to 47,200 MW by 2015. This represents around 1000 new wind turbines deployed per year, and an increase in the current annual solar PV market by a factor of five, supplying electricity for around 20 million households. At the same time, load reduction strategies would cut Japan's energy demand by 11,000 MW, equal to the capacity of 10 to 12 nuclear reactors.

Japan Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's effort to win public support for restarting nuclear reactors faces a setback after his minister in charge of the industry was forced to resign just nine days into the job. Yoshio Hachiro stepped down as head of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry on Sept. 10, under fire for using 'towns of death' to describe the evacuation zone around the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant and joking about radiation.

The full Greenpeace Advanced Energy [R]evolution Report for Japan can be found at:

Sources: Bloomberg, 11 September 2011 / Reuters, 11 September 2011
Contact: 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