India: nuclear lobbyist heads national solar company.
India's prime minister has appointed Anil Kakodkar, former head of the Atomic Energy Commission to be in charge of the national solar mission. The Solar Energy Corporation of India was recently set up as a not-for-profit company and will work under the administrative control of the New and Renewable Energy Ministry (NREM). The move to appoint Kakodkar will likely create somewhat of a controversy, as India Today points out, calling the decision "a bizarre move that smacks of unfair public policymaking," and a "clear case of conflict of interest." His appointment as head of the solar mission is bound to upset anti-nuclear activists in the country who want the government to actively promote alternatives such as solar and wind while giving up investments in nuclear energy.
Ignoring this contribution of renewable sources of energy, Kakodkar has constantly projected nuclear energy as the "inevitable and indispensable option" that addresses both sustainability as well as climate change issues. But despite huge investments during the past half a century, nuclear power contributes just a fraction of India's energy needs. The total installed capacity of nuclear power in the country is 4,780 MW, while the total installed capacity of renewable sources of energy is 20,162 MW, according to data collected by the Central Electricity Authority.
In his new role, Kakodkar will be responsible for turning around the fortunes of the government’s Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM). The Solar Energy Corporation of India has been created to act as its executing arm. Although still in its infancy, its organization has already come under fire from both developers and politicians. In the first days of 2012 the findings of a Parliamentary panel were released, labeling the Ministry’s approach to the national solar mission as “disappointing” and “lackadaisical”. This research followed on from disappointing end-of-year installation figures, which saw just 400MW of the 1.2GW of installations forecasted by the government achieve grid connection.
India Today, 6 January 2012 / PV Tech, 6 January 2012
Netherlands: Borssele 2 delayed; EDF no longer interested.
Delta, the regional utility wanting to build a nuclear reactor at Borssele, delayed its decision about investing 110 million in a new license by at least half a year. Furthermore they announced that Delta will no longer be the leading company in the project. Although it is hard to find out what that exactly means, it is clear that Delta will not have a majority stake in the reactor if the project continues. Many people expect this is the end of the project. However, in a press statement Delta is repeating its commitment towards nuclear energy.
Another surprising outcome was that the French state utility EDF (which signed a Memorandum of Understanding about investigating the possibilities for a new reactor in the Netherlands with Delta in 2010) is not longer involved in the project. Delta CEO Boerma, a passionate but clumsy nuclear advocate, left the company, but that cannot be seen as the end of the nuclear interest in nuclear power, either. It is a sacrifice to reassure the shareholders he offended several times in the last months.
German RWE (via the Dutch subsidiary ERH Essent) is another interested partner for a new reactor at Borssele. ERH is in the process to obtain a licence and has the same decision to make as Delta to invest 110 million euro in obtaining a license. If RWE is still interested at all, it is more likely they will cooperate with a large share in the Delta project.
Public support in Zeeland for a new reactor is plummeting according to several polls early December. This is another nail in the coffin, because Delta is very keen to point out there is almost a unanimously positive feeling in the Zeeland province about the second nuclear power plant.
If Delta can not present solid partners for the project at the next stakeholders meeting planned in June 2012, those stakeholders will decide to pull the plug.
Laka Foundation, 11 January 2012
US: Large area around the Grand Canyon protected from mining.
On January 9, 2012, after more than 2 years of environmental analysis and receiving many thousands of public comments from the American people, environmental and conservation groups, the outdoor recreation industry, mayors and tribal leaders, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar withdrew more than 1 million acres (400,000 hectares) of land around the canyon from new mining claims for the next twenty years -the longest period possible under the law.
In the months immediately leading up to this landmark decision, many environmental organizations worked with conservation advocates and outdoors enthusiasts around the country to urge the Administration to halt toxic uranium mining around the Grand Canyon. Interior Secretary Salazar received comments from nearly 300,000 citizens urging him to withdraw one million acres of land from new mining claims.
The decision however would allow a small number of existing uranium and other hard rock mining operations in the region to continue while barring the new claims. In 2009 Mr. Salazar suspended new uranium claims on public lands surrounding the Grand Canyon for two years, overturning a Bush administration policy that encouraged thousands of new claims when the price of uranium soared in 2006 and 2007. Many of the stakeholders are foreign interests, including Rosatom, Russia's state atomic energy corporation.
The landscape is not the only thing at stake. Uranium mining in western states has an abysmal track-record. In Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, uranium mining has had undeniable health impacts on miners and nearby residents, including cancer, anemia and birth defects. Even the Grand Canyon itself bears the scars of uranium mining. Radioactive waste has poisoned streams and soil in and around the canyon, while abandoned and active mines are scars on the Arizona landscape. Soil levels around the abandoned Orphan Mine inside Grand Canyon National Park are 450 times more than normal levels, and visitors to the park are warned not to drink from Horn Creek. The closest mine currently in operation, Arizona 1, is less than 2 miles from the canyon’s rim. “Mining so close to the Grand Canyon could contaminate the Colorado River, which runs through the canyon, and put the drinking water for 25 million Americans at risk,” added Pyne. “Uranium mining has already left a toxic legacy across the West -every uranium mine ever opened has required some degree of toxic waste clean-up- it certainly doesn’t belong near the Grand Canyon.”
Environment America, 9 January 2012 / New York Times, 6 January 2012
Finland, Olkiluoto 3.
August 2014 is the date that Teollisuuden Voima Oyj (TVO) expects to see power flow from its new reactor, Olkiluoto 3, according to a single-line statement issued on 21 December. The announcement brought a little more clarity to the unit's schedule compared with TVO's last announcement, which specified only the year 2014. The Finnish utility said it had been informed by the Areva-Siemens consortium building the unit that August 2014 was scheduled for commercial operation.
Construction started in May 2005. A few days after the October announcement that Olkiluoto cannot achieve grid-connection before 2014 the French daily was citing a report stating that the costs for Areva are expected to 6.6 billion euro (then US$ 9.1 billion). The price mentioned (and decided on) in Finnish Parliament was 2.5 billion euro, the initial contract for Olkiluoto 3 was 3 billion euro.
World Nuclear News, 21 December 2011 / Nuclear Monitor 735, 21 October 2012
France: 13 billion euro to upgrade safety of nuclear reactors.
In response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster, French nuclear safety regulator ASN has released a 524-page report on the state of nuclear reactors in France. The report says that government-controlled power provider Electricité de France SA (EDF) needs to make significant upgrades “as soon as possible” to its 58 reactors in order to protect them from potential natural disasters. The ASN gave reactor operators until June 30 to deliver proposals meeting the enhanced security standards of sites they run. Costs for the upgrades are estimated at 10 billion euros (US$13.5 billion); previously planned upgrades to extend the life of the nation’s reactors from 40 to 60 years are now expected to cost as much as 50 billion euros. Modifications include building flood-proof diesel pumps to cool reactors, creating bunkered control rooms, and establishing an emergency task force that can respond to nuclear disasters within 24 hours. Andre Claude Lacoste, the Chairman of ASN, said, “We are not asking the operator to make these investments. We are telling them to do so.” French Energy Minister Eric Besson plans to meet with EDF and reactor maker Areva, as well as CEA, the government-funded technological research organization, on January 9 to discuss implementation of ASN’s recommendations. Seventy-five percent of France’s energy comes from nuclear power, more than that of any other country. Experts say that the cost of nuclear power in France will almost certainly rise as a result of the required upgrades. EDF shares are down as much as 43 percent in the last 12 months.
Greenpeace blog, 6 January 2012 / Bloomberg, 4 January 2012
Nuclear's bad image? James Bond's Dr. No is to blame!
James Bond movies are to blame for a negative public attitude to nuclear power, according to a leading scientist. Professor David Phillips, president of the Royal Society Of Chemistry, reckons that supervillains such as Dr No, the evil genius with his own nuclear reactor, has helped create a "remorselessly grim" perception of atomic energy. Speaking ahead of Bond's 50th anniversary celebrations, Phillips said he hopes to create a "renaissance" in nuclear power. In the first Bond film of the same name, Dr No is eventually defeated by Sean Connery's 007 who throws him into a cooling pool in the reactor. And Phillips claims that this set a precedent for nuclear power being sees as a "barely controllable force for evil", according to BBC News, since later villains hatched similar nuclear plots.
NME, 12 January 2012
North Korea: halting enrichment for food?
On January 11, North Korea suggested it was open to halting its enrichment of uranium in return for concessions that are likely to include food assistance from the United States, the Washington Post reported. A statement said to be from a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman urged the Obama administration to "build confidence" by including a greater amount of food in a bilateral agreement reportedly struck late last year shortly before the sudden death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. Washington halted food assistance to the North after the regime carried out what was widely seen as a test of its long-range ballistic missile technology in spring 2009.
While rebuking the United States for connecting food assistance to security concerns, the statement was less bombastic than the proclamations that are typically issued by the Stalinist state. The statement marked the first time Pyongyang made a public pronouncement about the rumored talks with Washington on a deal for food assistance in exchange for some nuclear disarmament steps. Washington has demanded that Pyongyang halt uranium enrichment efforts unveiled in 2010 as one condition to the resumption of broader North Korean denuclearization negotiations that also involve China, Japan, Russia and South Korea (the socalled six-party talks).
The Obama administration has been exceedingly wary about agreeing to any concessions with Pyongyang, which has a long track record of agreeing to nuclear disarmament actions in return for foreign assistance only to reverse course once it has attained certain benefits.
Global Security Newswire, 11 January 2012
Support for nuclear is not 100% any more in CR and SR.
Both Czech and Slovak Republic until recently announced intentions of keeping nuclear power and even increasing capacity by constructing new nuclear power plants – more the less for export. However, Fukushima and “nearby” Germany´s phase-out caused doubts. Mr. Janiš, the Chairman of the Economic Committee of the Slovak Parliament said today: “I have not seen an objective study on the benefits of constructing a new nuclear power plant in Jaslovské Bohunice,” said Mr. Janiš. According to him it would be a wrong decision to make Slovakia into a nuclear superpower, when e.g. Germany and Switzerland are phasing out their plants. Mr. Janiš thinks that biomass and sun are the future. Contrary to him, the minister of economy Mr. Juraj Miškov still believes that the fifth unit in Jaslovské Bohunice has a future; the feasibility study will be ready by mid 2012. He is convinced that due to the phase-out in some countries, the electricity demand will increase and Slovakia might become an even more important electricity exporting country than until now.
This comes only days after the Czech Republic announced to downsize the Temelin tender from 5 to 2 reactors thereby losing the possibility to negotiate a 30% lower price. Also here a major question is: will Austria and Germany be interested in importing nuclear power?
www.energia.sk, 10 January 2012
Russia: 25,000 undersea radioactive waste sites.
There are nearly 25,000 hazardous underwater objects containing solid radioactive waste in Russia, an emergencies ministry official said on December 26. The ministry has compiled a register of so-called sea hazards, including underwater objects in the Baltic, Barents, White, Kara, and Black Seas as well as the Sea of Okhotsk and the Sea of Japan. These underwater objects include nuclear submarines that have sunk and ships with ammunition and oil products, chemicals and radioactive waste. Hazardous sites with solid radioactive waste sit on the sea bed mainly at a depth of 500 meters, Oleg Kuznetsov, deputy head of special projects at the ministry’s rescue service, said. Especially dangerous are reactor holds of nuclear submarines off the Novaya Zemlya Archipelago and a radio-isotope power units sunk near Sakhalin Island, he added.
RIA Novosti, 26 December 2011