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In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#691
16/07/2009
Article

Spain: Zapatero’s compromise.
As mentioned in issue 690 of the Nuclear Monitor, Spain's Socialist government, had to take a decision before July 5, on the future of Santa María de Garona, the countries oldest nuclear plant, which license expires in 2011. Spain’s Nuclear Safety Board (CSN) recommended a new 10-year license. Prime Minister Zapatero, promised in his election campaign to start a phase-out of nuclear energy. So he had to take a clear stand. It became more and more clear that he had not the guts to close the 38-year old plant, which provides 1.3 percent of Spain’s electricity, and was looking for a compromise. He decided to grant Garona a new license, but not for a 10 year period, but only for two years, so until 2013. Catch is that 2013 is after the next general elections. Noo one is pleased with this decision. The conservative Popular Party said it would overturn the government's decision if it wins the 2012 general elections. Environmental organizations and parties to the left – vital to Zapatero's governing coalition in Parliament – attacked the decision to postpone the closure of Garona and questioned the prime minister's credibility and integrity.

Christian Science Monitor, 5 July 2009


IAEA: Board Formally Appoints Yukiya Amano as Director General.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors officially appointed Ambassador Mr. Yukiya Amano of Japan as the next Director General. Amano addressed the Board of Governors on July 3, following his successful bid to become the IAEA´s next Director General later this year. "I will dedicate my efforts to the acceleration and enlargement of the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world," he said.

The IAEA Director General is appointed by the Board of Governors with the approval of the General Conference for a term of four years. The General Conference meets in Vienna starting 14 September 2009. Ambassador Amano´s term as Director General would begin 1 December 2009.

Ambassador Amano, 62, is the Permanent Representative and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to International Organizations in Vienna, and Governor on the IAEA Board of Governors. Amano is seen as the choice of the western industrialized countries. According to the IAEA he has "extensive experience in disarmament, non-proliferation and nuclear energy policy and has been involved in the negotiation of major international instruments." He has held senior positions in the Japanese Foreign Ministry, notably as Director of the Science Division, Director of the Nuclear Energy Division and Deputy Director General for Arms Control and Scientific Affairs.

IAEA Staff Report, 3 July 2009


USA: no domestic commercial reprocessing; Fatal blow to GNEP?
In a notice published in the Federal Register, the Department of Energy (DoE) said that it had decided to cancel the GNEP (Global Nuclear Energy Partnership) programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) because it is no longer pursuing domestic commercial reprocessing, which was the primary focus of the prior administration's domestic GNEP program. Its decision follows a change in government policy on commercial reprocessing. Domestically, the GNEP program would promote technologies that support “economic, sustained production of nuclear-generated electricity, while reducing the impacts associated with used nuclear fuel disposal and reducing proliferation risks”. As yet, DoE has no specific proposed actions for the international component of the GNEP program. Rather, the USA, through the GNEP program, is considering various initiatives to work cooperatively with other countries. So far, 25 countries have joined the GNEP partnership.

Although the future of GNEP looks uncertain, with its budget having been cut to zero, the DoE will continue to study proliferation-resistant fuel cycles and waste management strategies. The Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 provides $145 million (105 million Euro) for such research and development (R&D). As described in the President Obama's 2010 budget request, the DoE's fuel cycle R&D's focus is on "long-term, science-based R&D of technologies with the potential to produce beneficial changes to the manner in which the nuclear fuel cycle and nuclear waste is managed." One outlet for this money is likely to be the Generation IV International Forum, which includes a research program on fast-breeder reactors, which in turn require reprocessing plants.

World Nuclear News, 29 June 2009 / Nuclear engineering International, 1 July 2009


Greenland: continuation of the zero-tolerance policy towards uranium extraction. 
The government of Greenland has stated that the country’s stance on uranium mining remains clear and unchanged. Following a request from opposition party Atassut, Premier Kuupik Kleist ruled out opening up the possibility of broadening the policy towards the extraction of uranium as a by-product. The government pointed out that whilst it acknowledged the natural presence of uranium in Greenland, the 30-year-old policy of banning mineral extraction from areas with a high level of uranium content would continue to be disallowed. The issue emerged with the recent rejection of a mining proposal for Kvane Mountain, where the uranium content is so high that it is believed to be a potential risk to the residents of the nearby town of Narsaq, western Greenland. However, despite the zero-tolerance policy, areas where mining would involve extraction of uranium as a by-product within certain defined limitations would be allowed, according to Premier Kuupik Kleist.

Sermitsiaq, 24 June  2009


Sweden: Ringhals under close scrutiny.
The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM) has placed the Ringhals nuclear plant, in the southwest of Sweden, under special supervision after a series (some sources say 60) of incidents, which could endanger the security at the nuclear plant. According to reports, the first incident occurred late in 2008 and involved the failure of an automatic safety system to switch on. The second, at the start of 2009, involved faulty control rods that are designed to regulate nuclear activity. The nuclear watchdog also cited weaknesses in how officials at the nuclear plant (operated by Vattenfall) carried out routines and how instructions were adhered to.

Ringhals' four reactors produce up to one-fifth of Sweden's electricity. It is not the first time that the SSM has placed a Swedish plant under special supervision. In July 2006, officials put the Forsmark nuclear plant under supervision after the shutdown of one of its reactors.

Deutsche Welle, 9 July 2009  / EarthTimes.org, 9 July 2009


NSG Fail to Adopt Standards for Technology Trade.
The 46-member Nuclear Suppliers Group failed in its June meeting to adopt stricter rules governing the trade of technologies that can support nuclear-weapon development. According to Arms Control Today, NSG-member states had sought to establish specific standards for potential purchasers of equipment or technology that could be used to enrich uranium or reprocess spent reactor fuel. Standards proposed by the U.S. and Canada would address whether a potential state recipient of sensitive nuclear equipment has signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and whether it has accepted the Additional Protocol to its safeguards agreement with the IAEA, according to sources familiar with the terms. The Additional Protocol gives U.N. inspectors access to more information about a signatory state's nuclear facilities and enables them to conduct snap inspections of the sites.

But concerns about the proposed criteria have been raised by other NSG members, including Turkey, Brazil, South Korea and South Africa, sources indicated. The proposed standards also include "subjective" criteria, including whether the sale could harm regional stability. Turkey has expressed concern that its nuclear purchases might be restricted if were deemed under the rules to be part of the volatile Middle East.

Arms Control Today, July/August 2009


Sellafield (U.K.): 50 year leak stopped.
For about 50 years radioactive liquid has been leaking from a waste tank at Sellafield – but in June the operators, Nuclear Management Partners, said they had finally managed to solve the problem.

The leak was from one of four huge effluent tanks which held the waste before it was discharged into the Irish Sea. The leak from a crack in the concrete wall was first noticed in the 1970s and has contaminated not only a large area of ground but has resulted in contamination of the Sellafield beach. NMP said they had managed to empty 95 per cent of the radioactive sludge from the tank and it will now be treated as intermediate level waste. A spokesman said the tank had been a known environmental risk and its emptying was a great achievement.

N-Base Briefing 618, 24 June 2009


France imports power.
France has been forced to import electricity from the UK this summer because of problems with its nuclear reactors. Fourteen of France's reactors use river water for cooling, rather than seawater, and there are regulatory limited on the temperature of water than can be discharged back into rivers.

Also the recent summer heat wave increased the river water temperature meaning it could not reduce the heat of reactor casings. The problems forced state-owned EDF to shutdown reactors. The company has encountered similar problems in the past.

Times (UK), 7 July 2009


USEC: “no loan guarantee; no enrichment plant”.
Usec could halt construction of its American Centrifuge Plant if the US Department of Energy (DOE) doesn’t give it a conditional commitment for a loan guarantee by early August. In a statement Philip Sewell, vice president of American Centrifuge and Russian HEU said a DoE decision is expected by early August. “As we have stated in the past, a DOE loan guarantee is our path forward for financing the American Centrifuge Plant. Therefore, we are making contingency plans for project demobilization should we not receive a conditional commitment or should a decision on a conditional commitment be further delayed, Sewell said. Demobilization, which would involve the partial or full halt of ACP activities and plant construction, could begin in August. So far Usec has invested $1.5 billion in the enrichment plant under construction in Piketon, Ohio. In February, due to the lack of certainty on DoE funding the company initiated cash conservation measures and delayed the ramp-up in hiring. It says it needs a loan guarantee to secure a substantial portion of the remaining financing needed to complete the project.

Nuclear Engineering International, 7 July 2009


Italian Senate passed pro-nuclear law.
On July 9, after four readings in the upper house since November last year, the Italian Senate passed a bill which will pave the way for the return of nuclear power. The package, which also greenlights class action suits and the privatisation of state railways, was passed with an almost unanimous vote after the opposition Democratic Party and Italy of Values left the Senate in the hope that the legal minimum of votes required would not be reached. Under the new law, the government will have six months to choose sites for new nuclear energy plants, define the criteria for the storage of radioactive waste and work out compensatory measures for people who will be affected by the plants. A nuclear security agency will also be set up, although the actual building of the plants is expected to take years. Industry Minister Claudio Scajola said earlier this year that Italy would begin to build its first new generation nuclear power plant by 2013 and start producing energy by 2018. Italy abandoned nuclear energy after a 1987 referendum, one year after the Chernobyl accident.

Opposition politicians meanwhile slammed the new law. Roberto Della Seta, environmental pointman for the Democratic Party, said the cost of building four nuclear plants would be ''20-25 billion euros'', while they would contribute less than 5% to the country's energy consumption. ''This law ignores all the real problems that stand in the way of Italy having a renewable and efficient energy policy, such as closing the gap with other major European countries on renewable sources and promoting research into new technology,'' he said.

ANSA, 9 July 2009


EU ministers rubber stamp weak nuclear safety rules.
On June 25, environment ministers meeting in Luxembourg rubber-stamped a Euratom Directive on Nuclear Safety. The law was meant to improve nuclear safety in Europe by setting EU-wide standards. However, the directive mainly refers to weak principles from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which all EU countries are already bound to as signatories of the Convention on Nuclear Safety. Attempts to improve the independence of nuclear regulators have also been watered down. There is no provision in the directive to guarantee the accountability of nuclear regulators.

"There is nothing new in this law to improve nuclear safety in Europe. We are still faced with a nuclear industry that sees safety as an obstacle, rather than a paramount necessity," said Jan Haverkamp, EU nuclear energy expert for Greenpeace. Greenpeace calls on the EU to base its safety rules on the principles of best available technology and best regulatory practice.

Greenpeace Press release, 25 June 2009


Belgium bans investments in depleted uranium weapons.
On July 2, the Belgian Parliament unanimously approved a law forbidding investments in depleted uranium weapons. Belgium is now the first country to prevent the flow of money to producers of uranium weapons. This law complements the country's ban on their manufacture, testing, use, sale and stockpiling which came into force on June 21st last. The use of depleted uranium armour piercing munitions during combat causes the release of chemically toxic and radioactive particles which represent a long term hazard for the environment as well as for human health.

Senator Philippe Mahoux submitted the resolution in the Belgian Senate, where it was unanimously approved on the 2nd of April 2009. Approval in the Chamber of Representatives followed on the 2nd of July. The law forbids banks and investment funds operating on the Belgian market from offering credit to producers of armor and munitions that contain depleted uranium. The purchase of shares and bonds issued by these companies is also prohibited. This law implicates that financial institutions in Belgium must bring their investments in large weapon producers such as Alliant Techsystems (US), BAE Systems (UK) and General Dynamics (US) to an end. Only investments made via index funds, and the financing of projects of these companies that are clearly unrelated to cluster munitions will be allowed. The law also obliges the government to draw up a "black list" of uranium weapon producers.

Press Release, 3 July 2009, Belgian Coalition 'Stop Uranium Weapons!'


India: National Alliance of Anti-nuclear Movements (NAAM) launched.
More than one hundred organizations, peoples’ movements and concerned citizens from across the country came together for a National Convention on “The Politics of Nuclear Energy and Resistance” on June 4-6, 2009 at Kanyakumari. They discussed all the different aspects of nuclear power generation and weapons production, the various stages of nuclearization from Uranium mining till waste management, and the commissions and the omissions of the government of India and the Department of Atomic Energy during the three-day-long convention.

Most importantly, nuclearism is a political ideology that cannot stomach any transparency, accountability or popular participation. It snubs dissent, denounces opponents and creates a political climate of fear and retribution. With the India-US nuclear deal, and the deals with Russia and France and likely private participation in nuclear energy generation, the situation is going to get out of hand in our country. The combination of profiteering companies, secretive state apparatuses and repressive nuclear department will be ruthless and this nexus of capitalism, statism and nuclearism does not augur well for the country. These forces gaining an upper hand in our national polity will mean a death knell for the country’s democracy, openness, and prospects for sustainable development.

In order to mobilize the Indian citizens against this growing nucolonization, to resist the nuclearization of the country, and to protect our people from nuclear threats and the environment from nuclear waste and radiation, an umbrella organization (tentatively named as the National Alliance of Anti-nuclear Movements) has been founded with eight committees on Documentation, Economic Analysis, Legal, Mass Media, International Liaison, Translation, Health, and Direct Action.

Contact for more info: Dr. S. P. Udayakumar, [email protected]

NAAM Press release, 7 June 2009