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Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Two Russian anti-nuke activists arrested while protesting in Yekaterinburg.

(August 22, 2003) While protesting against the use of plutonium at Russian NPPs and the construction of a new reactor at the Beloyarsk plant, two climber-activists from the anti-nuclear group Ecodefence (WISE/NIRS Russia) were arrested on 15 August. About 40 environmentalists from the International Antinuclear Camp (held between 6 and 16 August) took part in the action. The action took place in the centre of Yekaterinburg, close to the election headquarters of the acting Sverdlovsk regional governor Rossel, who is in favour of the plutonium development. A group of activists unfurled a 100 square meters banner that read "No new reactors" on the building. Also a banner was unfolded near the entrance to the election headquaters saying "Stop Plutonium!". The new breeder reactor at Beloyarsk is scheduled for start-up in 2008. The plant is just 30 kilometers from Ekaterinburg city with 1,5 million people who every day risks to be contaminated with plutonium as a result of even relatively small accidents at the power plant, says Ecodefence.
Bellona Foundation, 16 August 2003; Ecodefence (announcement), 14 July 2003


Former U.S. nuke engineer finds fault with power increase Vermont Yankee reactor.

(August 22, 2003) Citing internal utility Entergy Nuclear documents, a former nuclear engineer said on 19 August that the 31-year old Vermont Yankee reactor is in no shape to boost its power output. Earlier this year Vermont Yankee asked for permission to boost its current power level output of about 510 MW to about 620 MW. The plant has been running since 1972 and its current license runs through 2012. Entergy officials have said they want to seek a license extension that would allow them to run the Vernon plant past that date. But Arnie Gundersen, a former nuclear engineer, stated at a news conference called by the anti-nuke New England Coaltion, that the plant will be lucky to get to the end of its current life at its current power level. He released copies of expert testimony he filed on 19 August with the Public Service Board. Gundersen said he has been able to obtain numerous examples of deteriorated components, only marginally reliable without uprate. Several of the documents are highly technical and concern the corrosion with age of individual plant components. One internal memo said "the planned power upgrade project under way at VY will require a complete review of program evaluations, piping modeling and procedures to account for changes in equipment and flow regimes in plant piping systems".
The Providence Journal, 19 August 2003


Increased radioactive releases from shutdown Main Yankee reactor.

(August 22, 2003) Maine Yankee, first on-line in 1972, has been shut down permanently since 1996. In 1980 the State of Maine legally required the plant to report emissions of radioactive gas and liquid on a daily basis. Not a day has passed when it could report NO radioactive release to the environment. Now, while moving old irradiated fuel from the cooling pool to on-site dry storage casks, it has estimated a release of one half a curie (18,500,000,000 Becquerels) of radioactive gas every day for at least two months, "mostly Krypton-85" according to the state on-site inspector who says this may go on for a few weeks more. From 20 years of reporting it is known that one-half curie of radioactive gas is the average total amount released routinely each month when the reactor was functioning "normally". Like most others, the plant experienced damaged fuel. When at last it must be taken out of the irradiated fuel pool and moved to other storage it will inevitably continue to release more radioactivity. A "dead" nuclear plant can yet be deadly.
NIRS/Citizens' Monitoring Network, July 2003


Scottish Dounreay nuclear plant breached safety regulations.

(August 22, 2003) A judge at the Court of Session in Edinburgh has ruled that the operators of the Dounreay reprocessing breached safety regulations. Geoffrey Minter, who lives near the plant in Caithness, went to court after radioactive particles were found on a beach. By the time the case reached court in February the number of particles was 22 but it had jumped to 38 before the proceedings ended. The judge held that the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), which operates the plant, had failed its duty under the Nuclear Installations Act 1965. This says the UKAEA must ensure that nuclear material causes no injury or damage to property. However according to the judge, the law does not allow her to order the detailed clean-up which Mr Minter had demanded in place of the current monitoring regime. He welcomed though the ruling and said he had been motivated to 'restore' the beach for his family and the public. He now is considering to seek.
BBC News, 15 August 2003


South African Chamber of Commerce wants to re-evaluate PBMR.

(August 22, 2003) The South African Cape Chamber of Commerce has called for a re-evaluation of the economics of Eskom's proposed PBMR at Koeberg. The chamber said that Eskom's planned reactor should be re-evaluated in view of changing economic circumstances since the discovery of a vast gas field off the West Coast. A new economic study by Forest Oil had found that a major gas turbine power station on the West Coast was economically viable and would have "far-reaching implications" for the economic development of the Western Cape. This came just days before the deadline on 25 July, for the public to appeal against the decision by the department of environmental affairs and tourism which has given the green light for the project from an environmental aspect.
Cape Times, 22 July 2003 & Mail and Gardian online, 18 August 2003


Contamination found on shipment of spent nuclear fuel.

(August 22, 2003) At the end of July a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) inspection detected nearly twice the amount of allowable radiation limits on a spent nuclear fuel rail shipment cask in North Carolina. The shipment came from Progress Energy's Robinson NPP and went to the company's Harris plant near Raleigh. According to Progress nothing had leaked from the container. It was not a breach, but instead was a cask that was not properly inspected or decontaminated before leaving South Carolina, a Progress spokesman stated. He furthermore noted that the NRC will conduct an investigation. The director of the Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force, Judy Treichel, is concerned. Also, because of the fact that only a few details were made public on the incident. Watchdog Public Citizen and North Carolina Waste Awareness and Reduction Network sent a letter to the North Carolina Attorney General saying it is unacceptable for the NRC to withhold information from the public about surface contamination of a container.
Las Vegas Sun, 11 August 2003


No nuclear waste storage on Arctic Island Novaya Zemlya.

(August 22, 2003) Russia has decided not to construct a nuclear waste storage facility on the island of Novaya Zemlya in the Arctic Ocean. Nuclear Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev announced on 26 July that the Federal Nuclear and Radiation Safety Inspectorate had decided that the project should not go ahead. Scientists and geologists conducted an analysis of potential changes to the region's climate and came to the conclusion that rising temperatures over the next 150-200 years threatened to thaw the region's permafrost. This could lead to leaks of the radioactive materials. Rumyantsev said that the ministry is looking into building a storage facility in a remote part of the Kola Peninsula. The Nuclear Energy Ministry had approved the construction of a US$70 million waste storage facility on Novaya Zemlya in June 2002. The storage facility is needed to hold liquid radioactive waste from decommissioned nuclear submarines.
Pravda, 28 July 2003


Tokyo Electric found leaks in Fukushima Daichi reactor.

(August 22, 2003) Tokyo Electric Power Co., Japan's largest power supplier, said it found leaks in a reactor in its Fukushima Daichi NPP when it conducted safety checks before seeking approval to restart the closed reactors. The reactor no. 2 at the Fukushima Daichi (BWR 784 MW) plant leaked coolants on 24 July. The reactor was shut for safety checks on 31 March. According to Tokyo Electric the leakage has been stopped. The company is looking at the cause of the leakage and ways to prevent such leaks in the future. The utility was forced to shut all its 17 reactors in Fukushima and Niigata prefectures for safety checks by 15 April after admitting last year its employees falsified plant safety documents for a decade. The company has since restarted four of the reactors after passing safety checks.
Bloomberg, 25 July 2003


Repair at US South Texas Project nuclear plant poses challenge.

(August 22, 2003) The tiny leaks that shut down the South Texas-1 reactor have been fixed, but plant officials have to prove they've fixed them for good. According to Jim Riccio, nuclear policy analyst with Greenpeace in Washington D.C., the vessel is not the same strength as it was before. "This is not a repair. It's a patch". However, according to the plant officials the leaks have been repaired to their satisfaction, but the plant's Unit 1 (PWR 1312 MW) remains closed until they convince federal regulators that it is safe to bring back on line. The problem began when two tubes that contain instruments that monitor the reactor core were found to have small amounts of boric acid residue on them where they enter the reactor vessel. That indicated the radioactive cooling water that contains boric acid had leaked from the vessel through the wall of tubes. Tests revealed small vertical cracks in two of the tubes at the bottom of the vessel, where the trace amounts of boric acid were found. Never before such a leak had occurred on the bottom of a reactor vessel. The cracks were so small that they likely existed for as long as four years until they grew enough for water to seep through them.
Houston Chronicle, 19 July 2003


No radiation risk in Indian Kalpakkam NPP?

(August 22, 2003) The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) has denied any link between radiation release from the KAPS Kalpakkam plant (PHWR 170 MW, Madras) and the reported high incidence of "polydactyly", a condition in which children are born with extra fingers or toes. According to AERB secretary K.S. Parthasarathy radiation close to population from an NPP is too small to cause any health effect. The controversy arose following documented evidence of 12 cases of polydactyly in children living within a 16 kilometers radius from KAPS. In contrast, there were only two such children beyond this limit but in both cases their mothers had come from within the exclusion zone. A medical practitioner in Kancheepuram, who did the survey, told the Press Trust of India (PTI), that the affected children were all born after KAPS was set up. The oldest is 15 years and the youngest child with six fingers is 15 months.
PTI, 14 July 2003


U.S. Savannah River suspends waste tank closures following court decision.

(August 22, 2003) The plan to close tanks holding as much as 34 million gallons (128 million liters) of high-level nuclear waste at South Carolina's Savannah River site has been temporarily stopped following a federal court decision. The court overruled the U.S. Department of Energy's decision to reclassify some high-level nuclear waste in order to seal it in temporary storage tanks, such as those at Savannah River, and leave it. National legislation enacted in 1982 requires high-level waste to be buried in a deep geologic repository. The National Resources Defense Council - a private, non-profit conservation organization - won the federal court ruling. The council said the energy department had violated the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act. There are 51 tanks at Savannah River. Two of them were emptied except for about 3,000 gallons of residue, which was sealed inside with concrete. Operations to close any more tanks will stop until the ruling is reviewed by government lawyers. Some South Carolina officials, however, said the court ruling may give the state's citizens more voice in deciding whether high-level waste will remain in the state.
Greenville News, 16 July 2003


Problems shut British Wylfa nuclear power plant.

(August 22, 2003) The owners of the Wylfa NPP (Magnox 670 MW), British Nuclear Fuels Limited, in Wales have shut down the plant because of technical problems. A reactor was closed down after problems were detected during a routine maintenance check, which has to take place every two years. A decision was then taken to close the plant's other reactor. The latest problem is yet another blow to the future of the power station, which was openend in 1971. Full scale electricity production was re-started two years ago after safety concerns forced a 15-month shutdown. The latest difficulties are said to be unrelated to the technical problems suffered in 2001. According to BNFL, reactor -1 has been shut down for its statutory overhaul. Each reactor is shut down every two years. Inspections inside the reactor vessel showed there were a few defects present in a small number of welds associated with brackets which support the boiler tubed in the reactor.

On 27 July there was another problem at the reactor. BNFL confirmed carbon dioxide gas, used as a coolant in the reactors, escaped from storage tanks. Inspite of a statement by BNFL which said that the gas was clean and not radioactive, spokesman Dylan Morgan of People against Wylfa B, said it was the latest in a worrying series of incidents at the station. According to Morgan the incident is indicative of an ageing station that is way past its orginal working life. Friends of the Earth Cymru said it calls again for the closure of the plant on safety grounds. Only two years ago two people were treated for shock and workers ordered to evacuate the site after carbon dioxide gas was released in the basement of one of the reactor buildings. On 15 August a worker at the plant was airlifted to hospital after a steam pipe fractured. The contractor suffered injuries to the lower body from a boiler pipe burst. According to a spokesman for operator BNFL Magnox Generation the water was clean, not radioactive.
BBC News, 25 July 2003, Daily Post, 29 July 2003, icNorthWales, 15 August 2003