France to host ITER fusion reactor.
(Juny 15, 2005) After deadlocked discussion, the partners in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor have agreed to site ITER at Cadarache, in southern France. The deal involved major concessions to Japan, which had put forward Rokkasho as a preferred site. The EU and France will contribute half of the EUR10 billion (US$12 billion) cost, with the other partners - Japan, China, South Korea, USA and Russia - putting in 10% each. Japan will provide most of the high-tech components, host a EUR 1 billion (US$1.2 billion) materials testing facility and will have the right to host a subsequent demonstration fusion reactor. The total cost of the 500 MW (thermal) ITER comprises about half for the ten-year construction and half for 20 years of operation. Currently the largest fusion reactor is the 16 MW Joint European Torus (JET), which can sustain plasmas of a few megawatts for a few seconds.
UIC Weekly Digest, 1 July 2005
Ultra low-grade deposits - the future of uranium mining?
(Juny 15, 2005) Uranco Inc., a so far unknown uranium development company from Johannesburg, has entered into an agreement to acquire the Trekkopje uranium deposits in Namibia. These are large low-grade deposits containing 33500 tonnes U at an ore grade of 0.0085% U (85 ppm U). This grade is less than one third of the grade mined at the nearby Rössing mine, which is the lowest grade commercially mined so far, and it is less than one tenth of the grade found at the nearby Langer Heinrich deposit, the development of which is currently being prepared by Paladin Resources Ltd. According to Uranco, preliminary work by its consultants indicates that its deposits would be economic, in view of the recent rise of the uranium market price. Another attempt to focus on very low grade uranium has been abandoned, however: In February 2005, Aflease Gold and Uranium Resources Ltd. announced plans to recover uranium contained in the tailings generated by gold mines of Harmony Gold in South Africa. This resource was reported to include 59,619 t U in "high grade" dump and tailings material and a further 55,772 t U in "low-grade" tailings. The project was terminated, however, after drilling results from several of the tailings showed that "the uranium resource fell short of expectations".
Business Day, 3 February, 2005; Business Report 26 May, 2005; Galahad Gold PLC release 30 June, 2005
Nuclear power costs: underestimated by factor 3.
(Juny 15, 2005) The cost of new nuclear power has been underestimated by almost a factor of three and the potential of small-scale renewables critically overlooked according to a new report from NEF (the New Economics Foundation), Mirage and Oasis, released on 29 June 2005. Nuclear power has been promoted globally as the answer to climate change and energy insecurity. But the report reveals that as a response to global warming, nuclear power is too slow, too expensive and too limited. And, in an age of terrorist threats, it is more of a security risk than a solution. In comparison, renewable energy offers safe, secure and climate-friendly energy supply systems, leaves no toxic legacy and is abundant and cheap.
Renewable energy sources like wind, solar and geothermal could, in theory each individually meet all of the world's energy needs. Practically, a broader combination of renewable sources than is currently utilized could more than meet all of our needs. Better still, they have the ability to create new access to energy supplies for millions of people around the world who currently lack basics, such as lighting or the ability to cook without inhaling lethal indoor smoke.
The report can be found at: http://www.neweconomics.org/gen/uploads/sewyo355prhbgunpscr51d2w29062005080838.pdf
UK govt's Urenco plan blocked by partners. The UK government's plan to privatise Urenco, the uranium enrichment group, via a 1.7 billion pound (US$2.99 billion) flotation is being blocked by the Dutch and German governments, the two other shareholders in the company, according to the Sunday Telegraph. Britain owns a 33 percent stake in Urenco through British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. In 2004, Urenco reported earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and goodwill amortisation of EUR 394 million (US$476 million), up 12 percent on 2003 profits, and net profit of EUR133 million (US$160.7 million).
AFX UK Focus, 26 June 2005
Earthlife Africa demands Eskom Board minutes.
(Juny 15, 2005) The Johannesburg High Court will hear Earthlife Africa's (ELA) case against Eskom on 30 August 2005. The case is to review Eskom's decision to refuse information requested under the Access to Information Act. The Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC) is representing ELA in this matter. The group has been locked in battle with Eskom since it attempted to participate in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in 2000 and discovered that insufficient information had been put forward to enable any meaningful participation. Earthlife Africa seeks to ensure the public's right to be fully informed of all the risks and impacts given that the project involves public enterprises and electricity consumers will be asked to finance it. So far both international companies involved in the early stages, Exelon and Areva, have pulled out of the project finding it an unattractive prospect and not viable for large-scale electricity generation - the project is still seeking investors. ELA will therefore using the law to force Eskom to reveal the information used to justify investment into the PBMR so that an assessment can be made as to whether this was in the public interest.
Earthlife Africa Cape Town press release, 20 June 2005
Belarussian KGB investigating new Chernobyl accident rumors.
(Juny 15, 2005) According to the Russian Interfax news agency, the Belarussian KGB is attempting to establish the origin of an organization called the National Liberation Army, which claimed responsibility for an accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant that allegedly occurred in late May according to a statement on the Internet.
Children from Southern Belarus who traveled to Ireland in June, said they were told to stay indoors and keep windows and doors closed etc in May...They say they received vague information about a possible radioactive release at Chernobyl. Authorities have not confirmed these rumors.
Interfax, 9 June 2005; Chernobyl Children's Project International, 13 June 2005
Japan switches away from FBR development.
(Juny 15, 2005) One of the few countries working on the fast breeder reactor 'white-elephant' (supposed to insure long term availability of fuel for nuclear power), Japan, is reported to be switching its focus from the fast breeder reactor to advanced light water reactors. According to the Nuclear Energy Policy Planning Division of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, new designs are to lead to a 20% reduction in construction and generation costs and a 20% reduction in spent fuel quantity, with improved safety. The Agency will seek funds for this development in next year's budget, though Hitachi is already well advanced with variants of the ABWR, and Mitsubishi with Westinghouse and four utilities is developing a 1500 MWe APWR design which is intended to be the basis of the next generation of Japanese PWRs.
Is this the beginning of the end for one of the remaining dreams (and hopes) for nuclear power?
UIC Weekly Digest, 17 June 2005
USA: LANL whistleblower attacked.
(Juny 15, 2005) Tommy Ray Hook, a whistleblower from the Los Alamos National Laboratory was attacked by a group of men seeking to intimidate him into not giving evidence against LANL. The 23-year old employee was told, "If you know what is good for you, you will keep your mouth shut". Hook claims to have uncovered fraud at the Lab (one of the main nuclear weapons laboratories in the US) and was contacted by someone claiming to be a lab auditor with proof of more wrongdoing. Hook was lured to a fake meeting at a strip club in Santa Fe, New Mexico. After waiting an hour, Hook left the club and he returned to his car in a nearby parking lot where he was then attacked. He was brought to hospital suffering from a broken-jaw, a herniated disc in his back, broken teeth and a loss of consciousness. According to Hook's attorney, who alerted the FBI, "They made statements to him during the course of the attack, which indicated that they were trying to intimidate him from continuing to engage in disclosure of wrongdoing. They left him in the parking lot for dead."
Members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce are meeting with Hook to prepare his testimony for the congressional investigation. The hearing will cover broad management concerns such as worker safety, whistleblower protections and the restart of the lab after a seven-month shutdown last summer.
The Sunflower, June 2005