You are here


Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Areva buys Urenco centrifuge enrichment technology.

(December 19, 2003)  On 24 November, France's Areva bought a 50% share in the Enrichment Technology Company (ETC) of Urenco and will, with this deal, get access to Urenco's centrifuge technology. Urenco's ETC is responsible for centrifuge development and manufacturing. Areva wants to use the centrifuge technology for its planned Georges Besse II enrichment plant at Tricastin, which is expected to start operation in 2007. A new centrifuge plant consumes less electricity than its current gas diffusion plant at Tricastin. Total investment costs for the new plant will be 3 billion Euro (US$ 3.7 billion), presumably including the costs of the 50% stake in ETC. The deal is still to be agreed by the governments of France, Germany, Netherlands and the U.K.
Urenco and Areva press releases, 26 November 2003


U.K. radwaste commission: transmutation "no magic answer".

(november 13, 2003) The U.K.'s Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee (Rwmac) published a report on 3 December in which it concluded that the technique of transmutation provides little prospects. "Partitioning and transmutation" is often mentioned as the future solution for the waste problem, though it is known that the technique is complex, expensive and sometimes impossible (see WISE News Communique 503.4965: "Partitioning and transmutation: a hype"). Rwmac chairman Curtis said, "we would be fooling ourselves if we think that the nuclear industry can simply conjure its long-term waste management problems away through this means". According to Curtis, it would costs "very large amounts of money over long time periods" and a further commitment to nuclear energy and reprocessing of spent fuel to make the technique feasible. Transmutation would need new nuclear reactors or particle accelerator systems and partitioning a new reprocessing plant, separating spent fuel in more fractions than is currently done. Besides, it could only deal with a small portion of the current high level waste in the U.K.
Rwmac press release, 3 December 2003; Nucleonics Week, 4 December 2003


France: study on wind power vs. nuclear.

(november 13, 2003) Greenpeace France has published a study comparing the costs of wind power to nuclear energy. The study "Wind Vs Nuclear 2003" demonstrates that for the same investment, wind generates 5 times more jobs and 2.3 times more electricity than a nuclear reactor. A new reactor costs 3-3.5 billion Euro (US$ 3.7-4.3 billion) and results in a 1600 MW unit and 10 Tera Watt-hours/year of electricity. The same amount of money invested in wind energy would result in 7,616 MW of capacity and an annual 24 Tera Watt-hours of electricity. On the publishing day, Greenpeace activists displayed 10 wind turbines on the grounds of the Penly NPP demanding that electricity company EdF invest massively in wind power, rather than in the proposed European Pressurized water Reactor (EPR). The full version of the study (in French) is available on and an English summary on
Press release Greenpeace International, 4 December 2003


ITER: Cadarache European candidate, Canada withdraws.

(november 13, 2003)  The site selection discussions on the planned International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) resulted in the decision by the European Union on 26 November to propose the French Cadarache research center as the European candidate. Spanish candidate, Vandellos was dropped as a result. ITER construction will cost around 4.6 billion Euro (US$ 5.7 billion) and billions more to run. Were Cadarache chosen by the international partners, Europe promised to contribute 4.6 billion Euro for construction and operation. On 5 December, Canada withdrew itself as candidate for the ITER site due to a lack of federal support. Canada had promised US$ 2.3 billion (1.3 billion Euro) to site the reactor, far less than the European Union or Japan, presently the only other candidate site. Negotiations will continue on 20 December in Washington D.C., U.S.
Greenpeace International press release, 26 November 2003; AFP, 26 November 2003; Toronto Star, 8 December 2003


Sellafield pipeline adrift in Irish Sea.

(november 13, 2003) Sections of pipeline, forming BNFL's Temporary Sealine, broke clear of retaining steel cages during rough seas and more than 150 sections of plastic pipeline were found on beaches in Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Cumbrian coast. BNFL described the pipeline as "lightly radioactively contaminated" and as posing no risk to the public. The pipeline was said to be used to discharge surface water from the Sellafield site into the Irish Sea. At present, Sellafield discharges liquid waste into the Irish Sea on a daily basis using 2 kilometers of pipeline.
Core Briefing, 26 November 2003; BBC, 14 December 2003


Ireland seeks assurances over Sellafield - again…

(november 13, 2003) Irish Environment Minister, Martin Cullen, has again raised concerns regarding Sellafield with his British counterpart, Margaret Beckett during meetings in London on 1 December. On the agenda this time was the structural safety of Sellafield's aging buildings - specifically the stability of the roof of the building used to store waste product, medium active concentrate (MAC). He said that "… Ireland has and will continue by word and deed to take all necessary steps to ensure that Sellafield ceases to pose a threat to Ireland's environment and it's people." We wish them good luck.
AFP, 4 December 2003


Sellafield source of plutonium contamination in children's teeth.

(november 13, 2003) Traces of plutonium found in extracted teeth of some 3000 children can be linked to Sellafield according to Britain's Public Health Minister, Melanie Johnson. A study commissioned by the Department of Health in 1997 discovered that levels of plutonium found were twice as high in teeth taken from children living close to Sellafield than those living 140 miles from the plant. Six years on, the results have finally been validated by the DoH, fuelling Ireland's continued calls for the closure of the plant. Johnson has attempted to diffuse the row by claiming that the traces found were too minute to be a public health risk however this has been disputed by scientists, MPs and environmental campaigners calling for an immediate inquiry. One of the UK's leading experts on blood disorders, Professor Eric Wright of Dundee University Medical School, said that even tiny specks of plutonium contamination could lead to cancer.
The Irish Examiner, 2 December 2003; CORE Briefing, 10 December 2003; the Observer, 1 December 2003


Oz nuclear dump election issue.

(november 13, 2003) The Federal Court rejected the South Australian Government's bid to stop a low-level waste dump being built near Woomera. SA Environment Minister, John Hill said that there were grounds for appeal and suggested that the dump would become an election issue. Federal Government Finance Minister said that any legal challenge will be a waste of time and money and suggested that the State Government "take a sensible and cooperative approach to the establishment of this important national facility.
The Age, 8 December 2003; The Australian, 9 December 2003


Japan: no new power plant for Suzu City.

(november 13, 2003) The 28-year-old plan to build a nuclear power plant in Suzu City, Ishikawa prefecture has finally been 'frozen' (scrapped). The three utilities involved, Kansai Electric Power Co, Chubu Electric Power Co and Hokuriku Electric Power Co, said cited deteriorating electricity demand due to the regions' sluggish economy.
Reuters, 5 December 2003


Siemens to export Hanau plant to China.

(november 13, 2003) Chancellor Schroeder announced, during a recent trip to China, a deal worth an estimated 50 million Euro (US$ 85 million) that would allow Siemens to export MOX fuel fabrication equipment to China. Given German's commitment to nuclear phase-out, the deal has caused huge controversy and coupled with Siemens' application, now withdrawn, for export credits related to the Finnish EPR project, an alleged rift opened within the Red-Green coalition government. Denying rumors of a split, the SPD-Green government agreed to approve the export only if China formally agrees to allow IAEA supervision of the plant, in addition, stringent regulations would be put in place to ensure the plant was not used for military purposes. It has subsequently been suggested that Germany may have to assume the costs of any special IAEA inspections as on similar occasions when China had imported nuclear technology, IAEA inspections were only possible when the exporting nation paid. The European Commission will investigate whether the deal violates EU export rules. EU Commissioner, Michaele Schreyer warned "we should be very careful to prevent the creation of tomorrow's security problems by today's export of nuclear technology".
AFP, 7 December 2003; Deutsche Welle, 8 & 11 December; Nucleonics Week, 11 December; Hamburg Bild am Sonntag, 14 December 2003; Hamburg Financial Times, 15 December 2003


License application submitted for New Mexico.

(november 13, 2003) A license application for the construction and operation of the National Enrichment Facility has been submitted by Louisiana Energy Services to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The gas centrifuge uranium enrichment plant is to be constructed in Lea County, New Mexico. It is expected to take 18-20 months for the application to be reviewed (see WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor 591.5534; "LES switching to New Mexico?")
WNA News Briefing, 10-16 December 2003


Canada: Bruce A-3 reaches criticality.

(november 13, 2003) Following its restart on 6 December, Bruce Power reported that the 904 MW nuclear power reactor reached criticality. The reactor must now complete a series of on-power tests of its operating and safety systems before it can be reconnected to Ontario's power grid. Bruce A-4 restarted in October, both reactors had been shut down for several years due to safety problems (see WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor 588.5522; "Canada: restarting its troubled reactors").
Nucleonics Week, 11 December 2003