Uranium important for Australia?
Do you think uranium is an important factor for the economy of Australia? Well, in the ocean of Australia's mineral exports, uranium makes up little more than a drop. The minerals industry shipped about A$ 160 billion (US$150 bn, Euro 98 bn) in commodities last financial year, and less than 1 per cent of that was uranium. But the story of uranium has never been just about the money. A result of the country's long political unease with the uranium sector is the unique patchwork of regulations in different states. The federal Labor Party shed its 1984 ''three mines'' policy in 2007; this July, the former anti-nuclear campaigner and present Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, approved the country's fourth mine, FourMile, in South Australia. The policies of the states and territories, however, remain more ambivalent. South Australia permits both uranium mining and exploration, as does the Northern Territory. The Territory's resources minister, Kon Vatskalis, made much last week of his dedicated Chinese and Japanese investment strategy. ''We are expecting a number of significant announcements over the coming months,'' Vatskalis said, citing prospective investment deals across a number of commodities including iron ore, copper, lead, zinc, nickel, and uranium. In Western Australia, the state's Coalition Government has rescinded the ban on uranium mining. The Labor Opposition is committed to reinstating the ban. And in Queensland, the Labor Government permits exploration but not mining.
Sydney Morning Herald, 1 November 2009
Wanna have a laugh?
South Africa, plagued by chronic power shortages, plans to have 20,000 megawatts new nuclear capacity up and running by 2020, Energy Minister Dipuo Peters told a nuclear conference on November 20. "It's a huge project, and in any project situation you plan with the end in sight, so we are looking at 2020," she said.
Last year, state-owned power utility Eskom, which operates Africa's sole nuclear power plant with a total capacity of 1,800 MW, reported record losses and has no money for its aggressive expansion program that also included at least two 1,200 MW light water reactors (LWR). Eskom postponed a contract award for the LWR units last December.
Besides that, the development of the High Temperature PBMR reactor was plagued by setbacks, and Speaking at the World Nuclear Association (WNA) on September 11, PBMR CEO Jaco Kriek said construction of a prototype plant has been "indefinitely postponed" due to financial constraints. According to the Energy Minister, the South African government has since taken the lead in developing the next power station, saying it wants to develop a local nuclear industry in partnership with a technology firm rather than adopt a commercial bidding process used by Eskom.
Laughed enough? Oke, one more…
The Energy Collective.com, 12 September 2009 / Reuters, 20 November 2009
Petten: flashlight missing results in near-meltdown.
No, not a joke, or plot of the latest John Grisham book; it really happened at the research reactor in Petten, The Netherlands. It goes like this:
"On a winter night in December 2001 there was a power failure in North Holland, where Petten is located. The nuclear reactor is a research reactor, not a power reactor; it needs electricity to operate, for instance to pump cooling water. The reactor has a back-up cooling system to prevent meltdown of the core in case of a power failure. But this evening the back-up cooling system failed to come into action and the operators did not know what to do. There is an extra safety system by convection cooling for which the operators had to open a valve, but the control room was dark. When they reached for a torch that should have been there, it had been taken away by a colleague to work under his car. Trying their luck the operators put the valve of the convection cooling in what they thought was the `open position. But then the lights came back on and the operators discovered they had actually closed the back-up convection cooling system. Had the power failure lasted longer it would have meant meltdown and a major disaster. When I learned about this some months later - they thought they could keep it secret - I did not think I could take responsibility any longer and I resigned from the ECN."
This is one paragraph in a more philosophical book ('Darwin meets Einstein') which was published on November 23. Especially this section got some attention (although not as much as expected), also because the nuclear regulator (Kernfysiche Dienst) did mention it on a list of accidents in 2001 (in December 2002), but was clearly not informed about the seriousness and possible consequences of the accident stating that "there has not been an unsafe situation".
Laughed enough now? Then back to work!
Laka Foundation, 24 November 2009
Economics don't add up.
Building new reactors in the UK doesn't make financial sense for companies according to a new study by leading investment analysts Citigroup. Developers face five major risks according to the report - planning issues, construction, the price of power, operational risks and decommissioning, adding that the Government has only taken action on planning which is the least important. The Citigroup analysts says the risks are unacceptable to the private sector.
Three of the risks, construction, power price and operational, "are so large and variable that individually they could each bring even the largest utility company to its knees financially, This makes new nuclear a unique investment proposition for utility companies."
The UK Government's stated policy is that the private sector must accept full exposure to these three risks, but the reports says "nowhere in the world have nuclear power stations been built on this basis." The Citigroup report says the Government will have to change its position to see new reactors being built. Developers are likely to want financial guarantees, minimum power prices and other measures.
Read the full report at www.citigroupgeo.com/pdf/SEU27102.pdf
Nuclear madness reaches Finland.
The cargo ship Happy Ranger made port in Finland on November 18, carrying its cargo of steam generators from France, intended for a nuclear reactor under construction at Olkiluoto. In addition, it is also carrying a protest camp, complete with eight Greenpeace activists from Finland, France, Germany and Sweden. Greenpeace is calling for the plant's construction to be halted. "Areva said if we wanted to inspect the cargo we could have just asked," said Lauri Myllivirta, Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace Nordic, on board the Happy Ranger. "This isn t about inspections. The official inspector has already found over 3,000 technical and safety deficiencies during the construction of this plant. Minister Mauri Pekkarinen, who is responsible for nuclear power, must end the construction work immediately. These generators should be sent back to France." Six activists boarded the Happy Ranger on November 16, to highlight how the decision to opt for dangerous nuclear reactors undermines effective climate protection. One day later, on Noember 17, they were joined by a second team. Relations with the captain and crew have been positive.
Greenpeace press release, 18 November 2009
Australia: “No Uranium for India”.
Autralian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd doesn't consider lifting a ban on uranium sales to India. India remains eager to buy Australian uranium but the Rudd Government overturned a previous Coalition government decision to let sales go ahead even though New Delhi hadn't signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. The issue was expected to be canvassed again during Rudd's visit to India, but Mr Rudd indicated Australia had no intention of budging from its position. "Our policy remains governed by the provisions of the non-proliferation treaty. That has been the case in the past," he said in New Delhi on November 11. "The non-proliferation treaty, and our policy in relation to it as underpinning our attitude to uranium sales, is not targeted (at) any individual country." However, Australia, through its membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, was instrumental in getting international support for the deal struck between India and the U.S.
The Herald Sun (Australia), 13 November 2009