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In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Ash from biofuel plants considered as radioactive waste.

(June 9, 2000) Swedish radiation protection authorities have issued recommendations for the handling of ashes from biomass-fueled electricity plants. It was observed that the caesium content in trees had increased after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. The cause is said to have been the deeper penetration of caesium into the ground over the years. Older trees with deeper roots have absorbed more of it. Ashes with a concentration of over 5 kiloBeqcuerel per kilogram has to be disposed of in special facilities with clay and other barrier materials, and not anymore in existing industrial landfills. It was calculated that about 5%-7% of the yearly amount of 110,000 tons of biofuel ash has to be stored as radioactive waste. Nucleonics Week, 18 May 2000


Kashiwazaki-Kaiwa 6 shut down after radiation release. On May 29, the Japanese Kashiwazaki-Kaiwa unit 6 was manually shut down after high concentrations of fission-product iodine was detected in the primary coolant. Rare gas concentrations also increased. According to the operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), no radioactivity was released into the atmosphere. Since the Kashiwazaki-Kaiwa unit 6 reactor went critical in 1995, it has experienced several reactor trips which led to an automatic or manual shutdown. Besides, other technical problems have also occurred during the 4.5 years of operation, as for instance the malfunction of an internal recirculation pump in February 1996, the iodine leak from a fuel rod in August 1996, the turbine breakdown due to a lightning strike in August 1998, and a generator breakdown in May 1999. In August 1999, a similar increase in iodine concentrations was observed, but the operators were unable to identify the cause. Magpie Country Nukes Headliner, 30 May 2000


Former nuclear fuel plant worker sues Siemens for lung fibrosis. A former worker at the Hanau nuclear fuel plant has sued Siemens AG for payment of a compensation of DM3 million (US$1.4 million) after he contracted lung fibrosis during work. Michael Weber used to work in 1971 as a contract worker at the Reaktor-Brennelemente-Gesellschaft (RBG) nuclear fuel production plant in Hanau, Germany. Siemens AG is the legal successor of the owner of the plant which has closed. During an accident, Weber was completely covered with UO2 dust and he inhaled part of it. In 1981, he developed lung fibrosis, decreasing his lung function by 85% and leaving him permanently disabled. An expert of nuclear medicine has confirmed that the disease has been caused by radiation, and the employers' liability insurance has acknowledged Weber's lung fibrosis was work-related.
On May 24, 2000, Weber rejected a proposal for a settlement offered by a judge which was accepted by Siemens. Siemens would have paid the cost of the proceedings in the amount of DM 60,000 (US$28,000), but would not have acknowledged any liability to Weber. In the opinion of the judge, it is very likely that Weber's claims have come under the statue of limitations. Frankfurter Rundschau, 23 and 25 May 2000


Luxembourg bans electricity imports from the East. On 23 May, a law on the liberalization of the electricity market was adopted in Luxembourg. The law, which followed the 1996 EU directive creating a single European electricity market, opens the country's electricity market for competition. Modeled on Austria's electricity law, it contains a provision that allows the government to reject contracts for electricity from countries outside the European Union if it determined that the power would come from facilities whose technology doesn't correspond to "state of the art", that pose a "direct or indirect danger" to persons, or that fail to demonstrate a state-of-the-art waste management plan or concept. The provision is directed against imports from Soviet-design reactors in the East. Nucleonics Week, 1 June 2000


Russian reactors completed by investment of Gazprom? Rosenergoatom (REA), an industrial subsidiary of the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy (Minatom), is seeking investment from natural gas giant Gazprom for the completion of the Kalinin-3 reactor. The state-owned companies negotiate about an arrangement under which Gazprom would lend REA funds to complete one or more nuclear reactors and REA would pay back the loan in electricity. REA operates eight of Russia's nuclear power stations. First priority of REA, the new executive director Yuri Yakovlev explained, is to finish Kalinin-3 and Rostov-1. If REA could raise U$7.3 billion, it could complete and commission a total of 10 nuclear power units. By completing these reactors, more natural gas can be freed up for export. The deal would return U$32 billion to Russia over 2000-2010 through the increased exports of natural gas, according to Yakovlev. REA wants to finish and operate Rostov-1 and -2, Kalinin-3, Kursk-5, and Balakov-5. Except Kursk, which is a third generation RBMK-1000, all of these are VVER-1000s. Nucleonics Week, 25 May 2000


EBRD meeting in Riga faces anti-nuclear protest. Four members of Greenpeace were detained and questioned by the police in Riga, Latvia, on May 22, outside the Congress House, where the annual meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) was in session, according to a May 23 report from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. The protesters, who would not be charged, were removed for staging an unsanctioned demonstration against the EBRD's plans to finance the construction of the K2/R4 nuclear power stations in Ukraine, the report said. Green Horizon, 6 June 2000


Pacific Islanders win judgment. The 145 residents removed in 1947 from Enewetak, about 2,500 miles southwest of Hawaii, were allowed to return in 1980 and beheld the devastating sight of parts of their atoll aporized by 43 nuclear blasts, while the rest was pockmarked by explosions or contaminated by radiation from the US nuclear tests in 1946-1958. The Marshall Islands Nuclear Claims Tribunal announced in May that it would pay islanders US$199 million for loss of the use of Enewetak, US$108 million to clean up and restore the atoll, and US$34 million for their 33-year exile and hardship. The Sunflower, June 2000


Swedish Forsmark NPP security criticized. Swedish regulators have warned the operators of the Forsmark NPP to improve its security measures. They said that the physical protection of the plant is so poor that the nuclear plant is open to break-in and sabotage. The regulators observed technical shortcomings, such as old alarm systems, but they were especially concerned about a lack of training and motivation of employees responsible for physical protection. The regulators ordered improvements no later than June 18, but also warned the operators with closure when permanent improvements have not been made before June 30. Nucleonics Week, 1 June 2000


BNFL facing bankruptcy? British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) denied a report in the Sunday Telegraph that the company is facing bankruptcy, following the discovery of a BP9 billion (US$13.45 billion) black hole in its accounts. The newspaper reported that a confidential internal report indicated that unexpected costs would bring the total long-term liabilities of BNFL accounts up to 36 billion pounds (US$54.8 billion), threatening the company with financial ruin. BNFL pointed out that its liability review is still in progress and expected to be published in September, possibly sooner. Uranium Institute News Briefing 00.23, 31 May to 6 June 2000


Strike in North Korea threatens reactor project. A prolonged strike by North Korean workers might delay the construction of two internationally financed reactors. The reactors, which would cost US$4.6 billion and to be operated from 2003, are part of a 1994 agreement aimed at freezing Pyongyang's suspected nuclear weapons program and replacing Soviet-designed reactors. North Korea pulled out half of its 200-man work force, demanding pay hikes. The North Koreans have been hired for US$110 a month since 1997, with annual pay hikes of no more than 2.5%. North Korea is now threatening to pull out the rest of its work force unless the pay is raised up to US$600 a month. Associated Press, 26 May 2000


Westinghouse eager to win Akkuyu bid. In April, the Turkish government announced to have delayed, until July 24, a decision making on the construction of the Akkuyu nuclear reactor. Several reports suggested that the delay was at request of the Treasury Department, which has refused to give a state guarantee for the loans until 2003, which could cost up to US$3.3 billion. The US has reportedly continued lobbying for one of the bidders, Westinghouse, possibly linking a Westinghouse win to continued US support for the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline project. Now it has been reported that Westinghouse even offered to conduct the deal without a state guarantee. Nuclear Awareness Project, 31 May 2000


British Energy (BE) buys Canadian plant. BE has reportedly completed a US$1 billion deal to operate Ontario Power Generation's (OPG) Bruce nuclear power plant for up to 20 years. BE, in partnership with a consortium of Canadian investors, is expected to pay OPG an initial US$200 million for the rights to run the plant, with the remaining payments to be staged over a number of years. Uranium Institute News Briefing 00.23, 31 May to 6 June 2000


Australia: bill introduced in parliament to forbid waste imports. A bill to ban the import and storage of intermediate- and high-level waste in South Australia has been introduced into the state parliament. The bill would prohibit the construction and operation of a storage facility for such wastes, as well as banning the transport of nuclear waste to such a site. The bill is a direct challenge to the federal government, which has identified five sites in the state as possible locations for storing low-level waste, but is now seeking sites for intermediate-level waste. Uranium Institute News Briefing 00.23, 31 May to 6 June 2000


Lake drained in hunt for uranium from crashed 747. UK air accident investigators are to search the bottom of a lake for three peaces of tailplane containing depleted uranium weights, which are still missing after the December 1999 crash of a Korean Boeing 747 near Stansted Airport. Essex county council has drained the fishing lake in Great Hallingbury where the 747 cargo plane crashed after catching fire on take-off and exploding. Seventeen of the 20 weights, used as counterweights in the plane's tail, have been found. Searchers suspect that the three panels were hurled into the lake, which covers about an acre. Radiation Bulletin, 31 May 2000


Austrian provincial government pledges money to fight Temelin. The province of Upper Austria has set aside AUS16 million (US$1.1 million), for activities in opposition of the completion of the Temelin nuclear power plant, in the Czech Republic and close to Austria. The Czech Minister of Trade and Industry has called this a direct violation of the sovereignty of the Czech Republic. According to a representative of the Upper Austrian provincial government, the funds are being used primarily to gather information on the Temelin nuclear power plant, particularly information on both safety and economic questions, and is being carried out in co-operation with Czech institutions. A spokesperson from the Ministry of Industry and Trade told the Czech News Agency, however, that the ministry has so far received no requests for information from Upper Austria. Green Horizon, 6 June 2000


BNFL fined for leak. BNFL was fined BP40,000 (US$59,930) last week and ordered to pay BP35,000 (US$52,440) in costs for its sixth breach of health and safety at the reprocessing plant Sellafield in the past decade. BNFL and its wholly-owned subsidiary BNFL Engineering were fined in Carlisle Crown Court following a March 1999 spillage of 1,500 gallons (6,800 liters) of pressurised nitric acid which caused damage estimated at BP750,000 (US$1.12 million), slightly injured two workers and left one firefighter suffering from inhaling toxic fumes. The accident was partly caused by the failure to introduce promised new safety procedures following another acid spillage in 1996. N-Base Briefing 231, 6 June 2000


One step closer to waste transportation. Tokyo Electric announced on May 24, 2000 that the company and other utilities have submitted an application for 88 canisters to be stored at the Vitrified Waste Storage Center at Rokkasho, Japan. The utilities have already applied for 104 canisters on December 17, 1999 to be stored at the facility, and all together a transportation of 192 canisters is planned. Japan has its spent fuel reprocessed at England and France. The high-level waste that is produced as a by-product of reprocessing is vitrified and then returned to Japan. Already 5 shipments of such waste have been carried out. In order for the vitrified high-level waste to be returned from Europe, Japanese utilities must apply for the approval from the Science and Technology Agency to store such waste at the Vitrified Waste Storage Center at Rokkasho. All 192 canisters were prepared at La Hague, France by a French company COGEMA. The utilities plan to have the transportation take place between September 2000 and March 2001. Citizens Nuclear Information Center, 25 May 2000


Action against CEZ electricity exports. Twenty activists of Greenpeace, from Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria and Germany, protested June 7 near the Czech Temelin nuclear power plant against the dumping of cheap electricity by its operator CEZ. The activists climbed a high tension pylon and hang banners with the texts "Stop Dumping" and "Stop Temelin". Greenpeace states that CEZ exports 20 percent of its electricity at a price of half the generating costs. The dumping of electricity abroad should hide the present surplus of it in the country itself. In fact, the completion of the Temelin plant is thus not necessary. Centrum ENERGIE, 8 June 2000


Vieques: Uranium rounds missing. Environmental activists clashed with a US Nuclear Regulatory Commission official Tuesday, June 6, over cleanup plans that could leave buried some of the radioactive depleted uranium rounds mistakenly fired on the Navy's Vieques, Puorto Rico, bombing range. Activists have been demanding the Navy to clean up 263 rounds mistakenly fired from two Marine jets on February 19, 1999, in violation of rules that restrict their use to combat zones. The Navy recovered 57 rounds last year, but the cleanup equipment the Navy uses can penetrate only 10 inches into the sandy ground while the ammunition, designed to explode through an armored tank, may be buried much deeper. The Navy notified the commission about the February 1999 accident but failed to tell the Puerto Rican government. The news surfaced only three months later and fueled resentment against the bombings on the island. Protesters invaded the range and camped out there for a year until federal agents forced them out last month. Associated Press, 6 June 2000