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IN BRIEF

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#640
23/12/2005
Article

MPs to rebel against Blair’s nuclear plans.

(December 23, 2005) Group of Labour Party MPs, reportedly backed by environment minister Elliot Morley, are organizing a parliamentary rebellion against Tony Blair’s plans for new nuclear plants in the UK. The group are publishing their own proposals in an effort to direct policy, arguing that the nuclear industry would need to be massively subsidised to make it viable. The manifesto being drafted sets out the case for continued investment in renewable energy instead of “a dangerous leap with nuclear”. One section will also point out that uranium provides no greater long-term security of supply. The MPs want the government to come clean about the real costs of nuclear power to consumers and want a parliamentary vote to be taken on any decision on new nuclear. Alan Whitehead, a former minister, said “If there was a free market in energy, i.e. no assistance for new nuclear build, no long term promise of a guaranteed market and no minimum price for nuclear, no one would build a new nuclear power station. Nuclear is not carbon-free, nor is it renewable”.
The Guardian, December 22, 2005

EU Commission’s nuclear disagreement.

(December 23, 2005) The nuclear package containing three proposals on nuclear research, decommissioning funds and non-proliferation that was to have been discussed by the European Commission this month has been dropped following a row over how financial resources should be allocated. The package proposed by the energy department of the Commission would have set up a joint undertaking between it and member states on research into advanced waste management options. But it is reported that the research department had other ideas, preferring for the money to be spent on advancing nuclear fusion instead. Commission spokesperson Ferran Tarradellas said that discussions are still on going with the research department and that proposals were expected to be revealed “early next year”. In 2003, two directives on nuclear safety and waste were withdrawn after facing resistance from governments protesting at being told how to manage decommissioning funds. Whatever the new proposal contains, it will likely still meet with disapproval from some governments opposed to what they see as EU interference. However, given that in some countries - France and Germany for example - utilities are able to spend decommissioning funds on anything other than the task they were set up to fund, it would seem that the only way to ensure that there are sufficient funds for the task is if the Commission stands firm.
European Voice, December 21, 2005

Investors pulling out of Skull Valley (U.S.).

(December 23, 2005) Entergy Corporation, one of Private Fuel Storage’s (PFS) eight original investors will hold future investments from the proposed nuclear waste storage site at the Goshute’s Skull Valley reservation in Utah. It became the fourth PFS investor to change the terms of its financial support in the last month - two others, Southern Company and Florida Power and Light have pulled out completely. The largest investor, Xcel, has also put a ‘hold’ on its funding. In a letter, Curt Herbert Jr., Executive Vice President at Entergy said “We recognize the political obstacles to finding solutions to management of spent fuel from nuclear plants and believe the Utah facility is probably not the best solution to be pursued at this time”. Happy news for the people of Skull Valley no doubt.
Deseret Morning News, December 21, 2005; NEI News, December 14, 2005

Indo-US deal on rocky ground.

(December 23, 2005) In the face of growing controversy over the nuclear cooperation deal agreed between George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in July, India has rejected demands that it curb its nuclear weapons programme.

The Indian ambassador to Washington, Ronen Sen, in November warned that any moves by the U.S. Congress to change the terms of the deal could undermine it completely. The agreement would grant India access to nuclear technology previously denied to it because it have illegally developed and tested nuclear weapons. Many prominent American critics have called for the deal to be tightening us because it undermines non-proliferation. India committed to separate its military and civilian nuclear facilities to ensure that U.S. cooperation with the civilian part does not also benefit the weapons programme but New Delhi is not believed to have make much progress in fulfilling this requirement. However, Ambassador Sen insists that India will make good on its promise to reveal the nature of its facilities and to allow IAEA inspections of civilian plants for the first time as well as signing the safeguards agreement. In the past, a Canadian supplied Cirus plant intended for peaceful uses ended up being diverted for military purposes and some U.S. critics fear that the same could happen again.

Two U.S. lawmakers have proposed a resolution expressing congressional disapproval of the agreement. Democratic Rep Edward Markey of Massachusetts, who introduced the resolution with Republican Rep Fred Upton of Michigan, said, “Supplying nuclear fuel to countries that are not party to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty derails the delicate balance that has been established between nuclear nations and limits our capacity to insist that other nations follow that important non-proliferation policy”. “We cannot break the nuclear rules (…) and demand everyone else play by them.”
Reuters, December 21 and November 22, 2005; AFP, December 7 2005

Chinese nuclear deal collapses.

(December 23, 2005) The US$ 8billion contract to build four nuclear reactors in China is off because off the massive costs involved. Westinghouse, Areva and Atomstroiexport had been competing for the lucrative contract to build the reactors but the Chinese have decided that although they only planned to import the arts of the plants that could not be produced domestically, the prices offered by the bidders were too unreasonable to consider. The Chinese government has said that new improved bids in terms of price and the transfer of nuclear technology would have to be offered before it would reconsider.
Reuters, December 20, 2005

Radiation release in Chechnya.

(December 23, 2005) High radiation levels have been detected at an abandoned factory in the Russian Republic of Chechnya. Russian state television reported that one storage facility at the plant had recorded levels of radioactivity 58,000 times higher than normal levels - half of what was released at Chernobyl - and could have serious impacts on the health of local populations. The discovery was reportedly made by a group of looters and prosecutors in Chechnya have now launched a criminal investigation. According to prosecutors, the radioactive materials have been identified as Cobalt-60, an isotope of cobalt used in food processing and by hospitals. It is also said to be one of the most likely elements to be used in the manufacturing of “dirty bombs”.
ISN Security Watch, December 18 2005; Aljazeera, December 17, 2005; BBC News, December 16, 2005

Earthlife Africa loses Eskom court case.

(December 23, 2005) Earthlife Africa’s (ELA) application for access to Eskom board minutes under South Africa’s Access to Information Act were dismissed by a Cape Town court. ELA had initiated the case in an effort to force Eskom to reveal why it had failed to provide adequate information on the health impacts and economics of the PBMR project. (See also WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor 639.5737 “South Africa’s PBMR nightmare continues”) The group were also ordered to pay all court costs. The judgement came as a huge blow to the organization but it will consider the full implications before making a decision on an appeal.
ELA press release, December 15, 2005

IAEA chief calls for disarmament.

(December 23, 2005) During his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Mohamed ElBaradei said “If we hope to escape self-destruction, then nuclear weapons have no place in our collective conscience, and no role on our security.” ElBaradei appealed to nuclear weapons states to reduce the strategic role given to nuclear weapons and said efforts towards disarmament must be accelerated. He also suggested that world regard nuclear weapons as taboo as slavery or genocide. “Imagine that the only nuclear weapons remaining are relics in our museums. Imagine the legacy we could leave our children,” he said. Imagine indeed… We hope this means that the UN agency will now concentrate its efforts on disarmament and reduce the time it spends on promoting nuclear power.
The Independent and AP, December 12, 2005; Sunday Herald (UK), December 11, 2005

Global IAEA poll.

(December 23, 2005) An 18-country IAEA sponsored survey of around 18,000 people from all regions was conducted by Globescan Inc. between May and August and has found that six out of ten people are against the construction of new nuclear plants - unfortunately, six out of ten also believe that existing plants should continue to be used. Still, it does suggest that despite the massive PR efforts of governments and the nuclear industry, the public is still not convinced by the arguments for new nuclear power. The survey also revealed that 46% did not believe IAEA inspections effective in monitoring countries’ nuclear programmes and that 54% believe that the risk of nuclear terrorism is high because of insufficient protection measures.
IAEA press release, December 17, 2005

Britain accused of Israeli nukes ‘cover-up’.

(December 23, 2005) Following an August broadcast of the BBC’s Newsnight programme - based on documents found in the British National Archive - that revealed Britain had sold heavy water to Israel more than 40 years ago, the UK is being accused of attempting to hide its role in the development of Israel’s nuclear weapons programme. Heavy water is a key element in plutonium production and shipments bought by Britain from Norway were sold back to Noratom, a Norwegian state firm and then resold to Israel. UK authorities were apparently aware that the 20 tons of heavy water was destined for Israel - Israeli ships actually collected it directly from a British port.

The Arab League requested that the IAEA investigate the allegations but UK Foreign Office minister, Kim Howells denied the UK’s involvement in a letter to the IAEA sent to all member governments. MPs are now calling for an investigation into the veracity of Britain’s response, claiming that Norway is being used as a smokescreen.

A 1958 letter from the UK Atomic Energy Authority to foreign office official Donald Cape said “it could be argued that the Israeli’s will receive the heavy water by reason of our reselling it to Noratom; that therefore we are parties to the supply to Israel”. In addition, the contract between Israel and Noratom obtained by Newsnight stated that Norway’s responsibility would be “limited” to that of “consultant”, taking a commission of two percent on the four million dollar deal. Cape has since claimed that ministers were not informed of the sale because Israel was not suspected of trying to develop weapons. However, other confidential documents obtained by Newsnight under the Freedom of Information Act showed that the Foreign Office knew that Israel had tried to buy uranium from South Africa. One letter quoted CIA reports from 1957 and 1958 that said “The Israelis must be expected to try and establish a nuclear weapons programme as soon as the means were available to them”. The author of these letters? Donald Cape. Although other documents accepted that Israel wanted an independent supply of plutonium in order to make weapons, the Foreign Office failed to impose any restrictions on how the heavy water was used. Cape said it would be “over zealous” to impose safeguards and agreed to keep the deal secret from the U.S.
BBC News, December 9, 2005

Korea in nuclear deal with Indonesia.

(December 23, 2005) Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) has entered into an agreement with PT Perusahaan Umum Listrik Negera (PLN), an Indonesian state-owned power company, to help complete a yearlong feasibility study on building the country’s first nuclear power plant. Under the memorandum of understanding, KEPCO and its affiliate Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. will work together with PLN on a business plan for the construction. Once the proposal is in place, Indonesia will open an international tender process.
The Korea Herald, December 14, 2005; Asia Times, December 15, 2005