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Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

French industry minister proposes government decision on EPR.

(October 10, 2003) French industry minister Nicole Fontaine has asked Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin to approve construction of a demonstration type of the European Pressurized water reactor (EPR). On 8 October, she said that a decision should be taken "as soon as possible". Raffarin is likely to follow her advice. The formal request to the Prime Minister came earlier than expected as, only one month ago, Fontaine had said that she would make up her mind in the beginning of 2004 (at the latest) (see WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor 593.5544: "French energy debate: wise men's committee report"). The demonstration unit is estimated to cost 3 billion Euro (US$ 3.5 billion). Anti-nuclear groups reacted furiously, as the energy debate (and a wise men's report) concluded that there was be no urgency to make rapid decisions.
Nucleonics Week, 9 October 2003

Nuclear Free Future Awards 2003.

(October 10, 2003) The Nuclear Free Future Awards for people who contributed in a special way to a world without nuclear weapons and energy will be presented in Münich, Germany, on 12 October. Three Dominican sisters will receive the price for resistance for their action in October 2002, when they entered a nuclear weapons launch site in Colorado (U.S.) and hammered symbolically on the rockets. The sisters were sentenced to 2.5-3.5 years in prison. The price for scientific work and clarification will be awarded to the Iraqi geologist Dr. Souad Naij Al-Azzawi for his work on depleted uranium. The Native American Corbin Harney of the Western Soshone Nation will receive the solutions-price for his efforts to prevent his nation from becoming a nuclear waste dump. The planned Yucca Mountain repository is planned on Western Soshone land. The German scientist Prof. Inge Schmitz-Feuerhake will be awarded the special prize for her lifework on research on leukemia occurrence in the German Elbe region, near two nuclear facilities.
Nuclear-Free News,

Toxic Turkey Award 2003.

(October 10, 2003) In the U.S., the "Toxic Turkey" award of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center has been won by Senator Pete Domenici (Rep.). The price is awarded yearly to someone who "consistently and recklessly disregarded the best interests of the environment and communities in New Mexico". Domenici won the price because of his support for and introduction of anti-environmental, anti-democratic and anti-Native American legislation in the Senate. Domenici is also known for his pro-nuclear initiatives in the Senate.
Press release NM Environmental Law Center, 14 September 2003

Two major electricity blackouts in Europe within one week.

(October 10, 2003) The first big blackout occurred when Copenhagen and large parts of Sweden on 23 September were hit by a power cut, leaving up to 2 million people without electricity for three hours. A combination of problems at three Swedish reactors likely caused the failure. Oskarshamn-3 was manually scrammed and stopped delivering electricity to the grid. Almost simultaneously, Ringhals-3 and -4 scrammed after technical problems at a relay station. Because of the loss of 3,000 MW of power, the connection line between central and southern Sweden disconnected leaving as well Denmark without electricity. The blackout was the worst to hit the countries for 20 years.

Italy was hit by a blackout on 28 September, when the grid lost 6,000 MW of imported power. The failure started due to problems in a high-voltage connection line between Switzerland and Italy possibly because of storms. On their turn, French lines to Italy overloaded and disconnected. And eventually Italian electricity plants tripped in cascade and shut down, leaving 57 million people in dark. Italy is heavily dependent on electricity imports (mainly nuclear energy from Switzerland and France), at the time of the blackout as much as 25% of the country's needs.

The blackouts in Sweden and Italy look similar to the big electricity blackout in the U.S. and Canada on 14 August (see WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor 591.5532: "U.S. electricity crisis: unfortunate but entirely predictable"). In all three cases, problems at one single line or station resulted in a cascading event when more lines and stations started to trip and disconnect.
Nucleonics Week, 25 September 2003 and 2 October 2003

Thai government approval for Ongarak research reactor.

(October 10, 2003) On 29 September, the Thai government approved the construction of a 10 MWth research reactor. Despite the fact that the government had rejected the Environmental Impact Assessment for the reactor plans (see WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor 592.5538: "Thailand: EIA report Ongkarak reactor rejected"), the construction can now start. The EIA must still be improved but can now be conducted during construction. The EIA appeared to be flawed and suffered from lack of qualified personnel involved and will likely be completely redrafted. It may take as long as a year before the U.S. company General Atomics (GA) will start construction. GA wants to renegotiate the contract price and schedule that was signed in 1997
Nucleonics Week, 9 October 2003

Finnish Vantaa Energia plans investment in 5th NPP.

(October 10, 2003) Vantaa Energia plans to invest in the country's fifth nuclear power reactor. The utility plans to take shares in a new company expected to be established as a cooperative around the fifth unit. In exchange, it will have the right to a specified amount of power from the planned unit. Vantaa Energia is 60% owned by the city of Vantaa and 40% by the city of Helsinki. The Vantaa City Council still has to make a final decision. Helsinki, through wholly-owned Helsingin Energia, is also likely to join the project. Although the 5th unit still has to be ordered, utility TVO wants even to build a sixth unit, said sources.
Nucleonics Week, 25 September 2003

Terror fear for Welsh nuclear cargo train.

(October 10, 2003) A train carrying nuclear fuel through Wales in the U.K., could be tracked by terrorists, using a timetable in the guide, Freightmaster, bought in shops. The 2001 anti-terrorism act outlaws the disclosure of information on nuclear material transports, but an £11.75 booklet details the nuclear train's journey. The trains travel from the Wylfa NPP to Sellafield, carrying spent fuel. The only acknowledgement that the information could be dangerous comes in a short note: "for operational and security reasons, the days of operation of nuclear trains are often changed, and trains can therefore run on days other than those listed". According to Freightmaster's managing editor, the question should not be about the timetable, but about whether trains must transport nuclear waste.
Wales on Sunday, 28 September 2003

Australian aborigines plan anti-dump campaign.

(October 10, 2003) Indigenous elders from across Australia in the last week of September held a three-day camp at 10 Mile Creek near Coober Pedy (in Southern Australia's far north) to discuss tactics to prevent a nuclear waste dump in the region. The bush camp also marked the 50th anniversary of British nuclear tests at Emu Field and Maralinga (1950s). The meeting was organized by Kupa Piti Kunga Tjuta, aboriginal women elders of Coober Pedy (see: The federal government has acquired land near Woomera to build a low level nuclear waste dump (see WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor 587.5515: "Australia: planned waste dump faces opposition").
Australian Associated Press, 29 September 2003

U.K. Dounreay staff contaminated by radioactivity.

(October 10, 2003) An investigation has begun after two workers at the Dounreay nuclear plant were contaminated early September in a shut down reprocessing facility. The men were dismantling equipment when hydraulic fluid leaked onto their protective overalls. The two men had spots of radioactivity on parts of their forearms and legs and the hair of one of them. According to a spokesman of the plant both men were cutting through pipes while working on an old hydraulic lift, once used to move the flasks containing spent fuel.
BBC News, 12 September 2003

Switzerland's first nuclear plant decommissioned.

(October 10, 2003) Swiss authorities have begun removing the last radioactive waste from the country's oldest nuclear power station in Lucens, which was located in an underground cavern. The reactor was shut down after an accident in 1969 when a pressure tube burst, creating a power surge, and the reactor malfunctioned. Fuel elements partially melted and some radioactive gas escaped from the cavern and the reactor had to be shut down. Some 300 tons of material are now being transported 160 kilometres to an interim storage site in the north of the country. The Vaud canton will use the decontaminated space to store cultural and archaeological goods. The reactor was of an experimental gas-cooled heavy water-moderated (GCHWR) design and had opened in 1962.
Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 18 September 2003

Small leak at Japanese Hamaoka-1 reactor.

(October 10, 2003) A small radioactive leak occurred at Hamaoka-1 on 17 September. Officials discovered that about 1.6 gallons (6 liters) of radioactive water had leaked from the reactor. The leak from a tunnel in the reactor's waste processing system was discovered during regular inspections. In November 2001, Hamaoka-1 was shut down after a pipe burst and leaks at the control rod mechanism system (see WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor 558.5339: "Japan: a grave situation at Hamaoka BWR").
Associated Press, 17 September 2003

South African Koeberg PBMR to cost R10 billion.

(October 10, 2003) The prototype PBMR planned at Koeberg is estimated to cost R10 billion (US$ 1.6 billion). PBMR Ltd, the company developing the reactor, already spent R1,5 billion (US$ 230 million) on the project and looks for overseas investors. The company asked the government to make an "unconditional commitment" to fund the next steps of the project in order to attract new investors. Electricity utility Eskom has signed an agreement to order ten PBMRs if the demonstration model at Koeberg will be successful. According to Earthlife Africa, the costs should have been made public during the environmental impact assessment.
Cape Times, 11 September 2003

Ukraine wants to complete K2/R4 without EBRD.

(October 10, 2003) The Ukrain energy minister has informed the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) that his country is no longer interested in completing the K2/R4 reactors with loans from the EBRD. Involvement of the EBRD would be impossible seen the deadlines for completion work (August 2004). An EBRD loan of US$ 215 million was approved two years ago but withdrew its application one year later, saying the conditions for financing were unacceptable. Since then, new negotiations have started.
Nucleonics Week, 25 September 2003

Italian spent fuel sent to Sellafield.

(October 10, 2003) On 22 September, a shipment of spent fuel from shut down NPPs in Italy was sent to Sellafield for reprocessing. Greenpeace activists chained themselves to the rails and blocked the transport for several hours. It was the fourth shipment since April in a planned series of 13, totalling 53.3 tons of spent fuel.
AFP, 22 September 2003

Dutch Queen opens HLW storage facility.

(October 10, 2003) Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands opened on 30 September a storage bunker for high-level waste at the Borssele interim storage COVRA. The building will house later this year spent fuel elements from research reactors and vitrified reprocessing waste from France and the U.K. WISE and other NGOs protested against the opening by the Queen. In a letter to her, WISe demanded not to go because the building would be no solution for the waste problem.
WISE Amsterdam