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IN BRIEF

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#658
13/07/2007
Article

IAEA celebrating it's 50th birthday: budget "far from adequate".

(June 21, 2007) Budget constraints are jeopardizing the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) ability to perform vital parts of its mission, particularly those most closely related to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei has warned in recent months. Requirements for IAEA safeguards and inspections are expected to increase dramatically over time" because more countries are likely to increase their reliance on nuclear power. Based on a UN formula, each member-state contributes a certain amount of funds to the IAEA's "regular budget." The agency's total regular budget for fiscal year 2007 is approximately US$211 million. The IAEA also receives voluntary contributions from member states. The agency's fiscal year 2007 verification budget, which includes the implementation of safeguards, is less than $83 million. The budget for nuclear safety and security, which includes measures to secure nuclear materials, is approximately $17 million.
Starting in the mid-1980s, a group of wealthy countries imposed a "zero real-growth" budget on the IAEA. Beginning in 2003, however, the agency has received modest budget increases.
On July 9, the Fiscal Year 2008-2009 Budget has been adopted [by the Board of Governors] with a 4.2% increase. ElBaradei: "However, I made it clear to the Board that this is far from adequate to meet our increasing responsibilities in the area of verification, safety, security and development." He installed a high-level panel of experts which have to look at programmatic and financial requirements for the next decade. His expectation is that the panel will come with a recommendation for a major increase in the budget, maybe even doubling the budget.
Arms Control Today, July/August 2007 / IAEA: DG speaks on budget, 9 July 2007

UK: Bombers had Sizewell B plans.

(June 21, 2007) Documents including "detailed plans" of Sizewell B were found in a car connected to the failed bomb attacks on the London transport system of 21 July 2005. An unidentified expert told the BBC that he had distributed the notes at a series of university lectures, and that they originated from the Sizewell B public enquiry. The expert said that the bombers had held the documents for "at least two years". Police could release the information only after the conviction of the four. They were each sentenced to life imprisonment to serve a minimum of 40 years on 9 July.
WNN, 11 July 2007

Canada: 32 Radioactive Devices Missing.

(June 21, 2007) The Canadian government agency tracking radioactive devices gave four different answers in late June when asked how many are missing until finally settling on July 7, on 32. The confusion has raised questions about how closely the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is keeping tabs on items that experts say could be used to make a dirty bomb. Some 3,200 Canadian license holders, from engineering firms to blood banks, use tens of thousands of sealed radioactive devices in their work. Of the 32 devices they say are still missing, the commission classified 10 as posing a medium safety risk at the time they were lost. The others were considered low risk.
The Canadian Press news agency first challenged the commission's initial responses after compiling its own database of more than six dozen items - from measuring gauges to electron-capture detectors - that have been lost or stolen, according to the commission's library of incident reports. Those documents were obtained under Canada's Access to Information Act. The varying figures emerged as anti-terrorism experts and emergency responders warned that even low-level nuclear materials found in gauges, dials and other equipment could be turned into a crude radiological device or dirty bomb.
Associated Press, 7 July 2007

Australia: opened Howard the door to nuke dump?

(June 21, 2007) Radical measures announced by Prime Minister Howard elate June to crackdown child sexual abuse in indigenous communities, include welfare restrictions, compulsory health checks for children, bans on alcohol and pornography, abolition of the Aboriginal lands permit system and extra police and defence forces to restore order.
Dr Helen Caldicott, an anti-nuclear activist of more than 20 years, said she feared Howard would turn Australia into the dumping ground for the world's nuclear waste. She said the takeover of Aboriginal land titles, part of the Government's crackdown of child sexual abuse, was a ruse to clear the way for the dumping of waste in remote areas. "The land grab from the Aborigines is actually about uranium and nuclear waste. It is obvious - you don't take land away from people just because their children are being sexually abused." Dr Caldicott said Australia should reject nuclear power, ban uranium mining and concentrate on developing renewable energies such as wind, solar and hot rocks. "They (the Government) are being pushed by the economy and wealthy corporations, like Western Mining and BHP Billiton, who seem to have no regard for the health and well-being of this generation and all future generations."
Meanwhile, feminist writer Germaine Greer says Howard's emergency measures to deal with child abuse are a land grab which he knows will be a certain vote-winner. Ms Greer said the move was a mask to remove native title rights to allow freer access to mining companies. "Howard has never been happy with the fact that small groups of illiterate hunter-gatherers can still hamper and delay exploitation of Australia's mineral wealth for as long as they did in the case of the Ranger uranium mine and Jabiluka," Ms Greer says, she believes the suspension of the permit system by which outsiders' movements to and from communities was the worst aspect of the intervention...
Howard has refused to guarantee that Aboriginal land leased for five years by the Commonwealth will be handed back to the communities. In the meantime, it may be sub-leased to a mining company or any other company. Mining operations could be up and running within five years and by then the damage will have been done. The Howard Government has always been an enthusiastic servant of these corporations.
Indymedia Perth, 4 July 2007

Waste coming back from Peru to Dounreay.

(June 21, 2007) The UKAEA at Dounreay is preparing to receive 2.9 tons of radioactive thorium from Peru. The thorium was secretly sent to Kukala, a company in Lima that makes gas mantles, in 1998 when the UKAEA was desperate for new business. But not only was the company incapable of using the thorium because it lacked the technology to purify it, but there was also no waste management option in Peru.
Nine years after the thorium was shipped to Peru, the UKAEA has now agreed to take it back. No details have been given on when the shipment will be made. Dounreay applied to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency for permission to return the waste earlier this year. No consultation on the application has yet been held. The thorium was produced as a by-product of a German fuel contract in 1991 and it will now join another ton of radioactive thorium from Germany already in store at Dounreay. All the thorium will be mixed with cement and kept in the site's intermediate waste store.
Several other shipments of radioactive waste have yet to be sent to Dounreay. Radioactive sodium at the UKAEA's site in Winfrith is due to returned to Dounreay along with 1.5 tons of sodium from the French site at Cadarache. The material will be put through the site's sodium treatment plant. In addition there is 946 kg of plutonium and nearly 7.5 tons of uranium still at Cadarache that is due to be transported back to Dounreay. All the material in France is owned by the UKAEA and was sent there as part of the fast reactor research program.
N-Base Briefing 531, 23 June 2007

No agreement on Lithuania-3.

(June 21, 2007) The Baltic states and Poland failed on July 6 to sign a formal agreement to proceed with a joint US$9 billion (6.7 bn euro) nuclear power plant in Lithuania and instead charged their energy companies to negotiate a shareholder deal. A meeting of prime ministers in Vilnius had been expected to rubber stamp the deal, but Poland's Jaroslaw Kaczynski failed to attend, due to "domestic political reasons." Poland, with Latvia and Estonia, has disagreed with a law passed by Lithuania's parliament, under which Vilnius is to have 34 percent of the project and other partners 22 percent each. The talks will focus on how the plant is run, shareholdings and on the size of the reactor, the prime ministers said. The plant will replace Lithuania's ageing Ignalina facility, which has to be shut for safety reasons under a deal with the European Union, and is seen as a key instrument in helping the participating countries reduce their reliance on Russian gas.
Environmentalists said they were glad a final deal to build a new nuclear plant had not been signed and they criticized the governments for failing to consider renewable energy sources. "The new Baltic nuclear power plant has no economic or environmental justification," the Green movements of Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia said in a joint statement.
Reuters, 6 July 2007

Indonesians say 'No' to nuclear plant.

(June 21, 2007) On June 12, 3,000 people took to the streets in Kudus regency, Central Java, to reject the central government's plan to build a nuclear power plant in nearby Jepara regency. The protests are supported by the Kudus local officials. "I reject the plans to develop a nuclear-based power plant. People have rejected the plan. I'll send a letter on the Kudus people's rejection of the plan to the central government," Kudus regent Muhammad Tamzil said. He said the plan was made without agreement from residents. Protest coordinator Mochammad As'ad said the nuclear power plant could have disastrous consequences. An activist from the Indonesian Forum for the Environment, Arif Zayyn, said people were protesting against the plan for several reasons, such as the country's already abundant natural resources. "Moreover, the technology to be used in this nuclear power plant is a pressurized water reactor, old reactor technology whose safety is questionable," Arif said. He said that a 1,000 megawatt-capacity nuclear power plant would need four million liters of water to cool it every minute, a demand that could threaten local marine life and the fishing industry. The central government is planning to construct the nuclear power plant in stages, to eventually produce 4,000 megawatts. The first phase of the power plant is expected to be completed in 2016 and produces 1,000 megawatts to supply Java, Bali and Madura. Apart from the massive protests in the heart of Kudus city, a similar protest was also held outside the Kudus Legislative Council building.
The Jakarta Post, 13 June 2007

LANL Plutonium Reported in Santa Fe Drinking Water.

(June 21, 2007) The Santa Fe Water Quality Report for 2006 was delivered with the June water bills. The report stated that there was a "qualified detection of plutonium 238" in Buckman Well Number 1. This means that plutonium from the development and production of nuclear weapons at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) was detected in Santa Fe drinking water supplies. However, the actual amount of plutonium contamination could not be determined by the test performed. The Water Quality Report is issued each year as required by the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. In 2006, all contamination detections were below federal and state drinking water quality limits.
Plutonium is the main ingredient in the core or trigger of a nuclear weapon, known as a plutonium pit. At the same time that the detection of plutonium is being reported, LANL is celebrating the certification of the first plutonium pit accepted by the government for use in the nation's nuclear-weapons stockpile since 1989, when Rocky Flats was raided by the FBI for environmental crimes. According to Nuclear Watch New Mexico, a Santa Fe based NGO, this new pit cost approximately US$2.2 billion (1.6 bn euro). Approximately 12,000 cubic meters of plutonium contaminated waste remains in unlined burial areas on the LANL site, which is a source of the groundwater contamination. LANL is located above the regional aquifer, which flows towards the Buckman Well Field, where the City of Santa Fe gets 40% of its drinking water.
Registered Geologist, Robert H. Gilkeson, said that intermittent and low level detections can be an early indication of an approaching contaminant plume. In addition, a recent independent study of the area surrounding LANL found elevated and potentially harmful levels of radioactivity in materials which humans are routinely exposed to, such as dusts and plant life. The Government Accountability Project performed the study, with technical assistance from Boston Chemical Data, Inc.
Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety News Update, 6 July 2007

Turkey: first set back to nuclear renaissance in Middle East

(June 21, 2007) On May 24, the President of the Turkish Republic vetoed a law providing the legal and financial framework for the construction and operation of nuclear plants in Turkey. Currently there are no nuclear plants in Turkey. This is a huge success in the long campaign to stop the law.
Early May the President had asked Greenpeace for a file, in which they argued how the law violates the Constitution. Motivating his veto, the President now uses Greenpeace arguments. Two of those may be noteworthy here. Greenpeace Mediterranean (GP Med) pointed out that not the plant operator but the State would pay all cost of plant decommissioning and nuclear waste disposal. Furthermore, GP Med provided evidence that the law had in fact been drafted by the Canadian nuclear plant operator AECL, as proof of an unhealthy level of control of public decision making by a private (and foreign) company. The President emphasized that involved articles indeed violate Constitution and public good. Other Greenpeace arguments weren't explicitly used in the veto. GP warned that in case of an accident, the Paris Convention would not cover all liability. They also pointed out that the feed in tariff system for nuclear energy that the law creates is unacceptable: don't subsidize death, bring about an energy revolution. This is the first victory, having worked on this law for nearly one year. But it is not over yet. Turkey faces general election in July and it is expected the government will resent the law to the President and the President to go to the Supreme Court. If the President doesn't, opposition parties have to do so.
E-mail from GP Med, 25 May 2007

 

New Book: "Updating International Nuclear Law"

(June 21, 2007) One month after this year's Chernobyl anniversary, in May, PLAGE brought out "Updating International Nuclear Law" at NWV Publishers, Vienna, with BWV (Germany) and Intersentia (Belgium) as co-distributors. The 24 papers assembled in this omnibus volume derive from the 1st conference ever to bring together experts in international environmental law, law practitioners with experience in legal action against nuclear threats or damages (both transboundary and domestic), radiation scientists with experience in court action, and NGO representatives - from 5 continents. The 3-day conference was held in Salzburg, Austria, in October 2005 - delay due to the obvious material limitations of a small regional NGO, not necessarily a disadvantage, though: the papers have been updated on relevant developments since.
Nuclear research and nuclear industry have managed to grow, and survive, because of highly favorable structures found in international law and institutions. This book explores the necessities and ways to adjust the law to the dimensions of risks and real costs of nuclear energy, with its legacy of waste for posterity in mind. Nuclear energy is often touted as "cheap", but it is "cheap" only if one ignores the costs and challenges for present and future communities with regard to potential accidents, uranium mining, the disposal and transportation of radioactive materials and wastes and their long-term effects on health and the environment, and the decommissioning of nuclear plants.
This book exposes the inadequacies in transgenerational equity, competition rules, international and national liability and compensation regimes and other legal dispositions governing nuclear activities. Twenty-four distinguished scholars, scientists, lawyers, nuclear experts and leading NGO figures have contributed essays covering a wide range of aspects of this important topic. Through their papers, private, state and university jurists will participate in a fascinating legal debate. Those living near nuclear facilities or routes of transportation, law practitioners and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) will benefit from the lessons of exemplary actions in court. Policy and decision-makers will know how to better protect the health of people and the environment affected by nuclear activities and will evaluate better the real costs of nuclear energy when choosing among energy alternatives. Nuclear operators will get a look of what may be "in the pipeline" in terms of the law and legal action. With the fight for and against a nuclear revival getting fiercer, this book is a profound contribution to the debate.
Details of the book: isbn: 978-3-7083-0449-6, 508 pages, paperback, Euro 38,80
Ordering via: Amedia GnbR, Sturzgasse 1a, 1141 Wien, Austria
Tel: +43 1 982 13 22; email: [email protected]

 

Conference "Science or fiction: Is there a future for nuclear?"

(June 21, 2007) Friends of the Earth Austria invites you to attend their conference about the relapse of the nuclear power industry. The aim of this one-day conference is to review and critically assess new concepts for fission and fusion reactors. Proponents of latest nuclear energy generating technologies will present their plans for a nuclear future and critical experts will provide counter arguments. Conference participants will gain overview of the current state of discussions regarding these technologies and will be enabled to form their own informed opinion. Nuclear power is back on the political agenda, promising to be the answer to the new challenges of securing energy supply and fighting climate change. The problems regarding safety, nuclear waste and proliferation remain unsolved. In addition, the question surrounding the limited availability of uranium as an energy resource remains. The nuclear industry is attempting to respond to these open questions with two strategies: The 'new' reactors of Generation IV and nuclear fusion. Euratom is financing nuclear fusion and Generation IV research. Both projects have very long time horizons (25- 50/70 years) and aim to contribute to a secure and climate-friendly energy supply. Critical analyses of these visions must be carried out now. It is today that we take the decisions about the energy of the future.
Contact address: Sylvia Hermann at Global 2000 / Friends of the Earth Austria, Neustiftgasse 36 A-1070 Vienna, Austria. Tel: +43 1 812 57 30;Web: www.global2000.at

 

Iran and Russia dispute Bushehr startup.

(June 21, 2007) The Bushehr nuclear power plant which Russia is constructing in Iran will be completed in September, according to Mohamed Amiri, head of a group of Iranian nuclear and radiation safety agencies. He said that Iran planned to start operating the plant shortly after. "Construction will be completed in two months, and we should receive nuclear fuel for the launch of the reactor in accordance with the contract with the Russian side," Amiri told ITAR-TASS. He added that Iran "expects the delivery of fuel from Russia for the Bushehr plant at any time." However, Irina Yesipova, a spokeswoman for Russian plant constructor AtomStroyExport (ASE), said, "Construction cannot be finished in September." She also pointed out that Russia has stated that it will not ship the fuel to Iran until six months before the plant's start-up. In addition, Sergei Kislyak, a Russian deputy foreign minister, said, "It would be too ambitious, I think, to say that it can be commissioned within two months." He added, "That is unachievable physically." Sergei Kiriyenko, head of Russia's Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom), said that it was "unrealistic" the plant would start-up in 2007. He said, "It's perfectly clear... that the launch can happen no earlier than 2008." The US$1 billion project has been hit with repeated delays, most recently in a dispute between Moscow and Tehran over payment.
At least this clarifies the report in the last Nuclear monitor issue about the fuel already being shipped to Bushehr.
WNN, 6 July 2007

 

Chernobyl shelter completed

(June 21, 2007) A consortium, led by Atomstroyexport CJSC, has completed the three-year stabilization project at Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, and as a result, the stability of the "sarcophagus" has been significantly enhanced, while the life of the plant has been prolonged for 10-15 years. This project is a temporary measure before the construction of a new safe confinement.
Nuclear Engineering International, 27 May 2007

 

Australia: 1980's secret enrichment program revealed.

(June 21, 2007) Australian Broadcasting Company's Investigative Unite revealed that uranium was secretly being enriched at Sydney's Lucas Heights reactor 20 years ago and that enrichment technology was secretly being developed during the mid-1980s before the program ran out of money. Senior staff at Lucas Heights say that at the time they devised a plan to continue their work even after the then-Hawke government moved to shut down the enrichment program. According to the 2004 Greenpeace Report "Secrets, Lies and Uranium Enrichment" most research about enrichment at Lucas Heights was on the classified Laser Isotope Separation. "I don't think anyone at the really high level in the Government understood what we were trying to do, to preserve this technology for the good of the country," said Dr. Clarence Hardy who worked for 20 years at Lucas Heights. Another nuclear scientist Don Mercer, who worked on the program says the research was conducted for 'Australia's benefit'. Well, doesn't that sound familiar: "Nobody but we, understand what's good for the country". Dr Hardy is now a director of the company Nuclear Fuel Australia Ltd (NFAL) and is planning to put a proposal to the Federal Government to build an enrichment plan in Australia.
Now Hardy thinks Urenco's National Enrichment Facility (NEF) under construction in New Mexico, USA, made a "very good reference model" for the potential future plant. NFAL is essentially repeating an exercise undertaken in 1982 by the Uranium Enrichment Group of Australia (UEGA) consortium, which Hardy was also involved in. UEGA also submitted a plan to government concerning an enrichment plant, but a change of government the next year meant an end to the project, well, officially at least.
According to ABC possible sites have already been earmarked near Brisbane and near Port Pirie in South Australia. Federal Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane says he has not been approached about plans to build a commercial nuclear enrichment site in Australia, but would not rule out discussing such a proposal.
ABC News Online, 14 June 2007 / World Nuclear News, 14 June 2007