Germany exporting electricity to France.
Germany has shut down many nuclear power plants after Fukushima. France, in contrast, has still a very large nuclear capacity. So one might expect (and that was highlighted by nuclear proponents in Germany and elsewhere many times) that Germany needs "to pull some power from the reliable French nuclear plants" to make up for the fact that German solar power is not contributing anything in this season. But that's not exactly what happened during the cold winter days in western-Europe early February. Though the day is short, PV power production is still peaking at an impressive level during the current cold spell in Germany.
Because France has so much nuclear power, the country has an inordinate number of electric heating systems (but what is cause and effect?). And because France has not added on enough additional capacity over the past decade, the country's current nuclear plants are starting to have trouble meeting demand, especially when it gets very cold in the winter. With each drop of 1 degree in the temperature, the demand for electricity rises with 2,300 MW. In the French Brittany, citizens were asked by EDF to reduce their consumption.
As a result, power exports from Germany to France reached 4 to 5 gigawatts – the equivalent of around four nuclear power plants – early February according to German journalist Bernward Janzing in a Taz article. And it was not exactly a time of low consumption in Germany either at 70 gigawatts around noon on February 3, but Janzing nonetheless reports that the grid operators said everything was under control, and the country's emergency reserves were not being tapped. On the contrary, he reports that a spokesperson for transit grid operator Amprion told him that "photovoltaics in southern Germany is currently helping us a lot."
die tageszeitung, 3 February 2012
UK: the powers that be.
Newly appointed Energy Secretary Ed Davey performed a spectacular U-turn on nuclear power, February 5, as he declared he would not block plans for a new generation of nuclear reactors. Liberal Democrat Davey was appointed to the Cabinet post on February 3, after Chris Huhne resigned to fight criminal charges. In the past, Davey has condemned nuclear power as dangerous and expensive. As Lib Dem trade and industry spokesman in 2006 Mr Davey was the architect of the party's anti-nuclear policy. He launched the policy with a press release entitled "Say no to nuclear", which warned a new generation of nuclear power stations would cost taxpayers tens of billions of pounds. What's that with being in power and changing positions?
Ed Davey used his first day as Energy Secretary to send a warning to more than 100 Conservative MPs that he is not prepared to back down over the issue of onshore wind farms. He insisted he was a 'lifelong supporter' of wind power.
Daily Mail, 6 February 2012 / The Times, 7 February 2012
Australia: Ferguson's Dumping Ground Fights Back.
The Gillard Government is pushing ahead with plans to host a nuclear waste dump at Muckaty in the Northern Territory (NT), despite local opposition. Traditional Owners have vowed to fight on, according to Natalie Wasley. In February 2010, Resources Minister Martin Ferguson introduced the National Radioactive Waste Management Bill into the House of Representatives, saying it represented "a responsible and long overdue approach for an issue that impacts on all Australian communities". The legislation names Muckaty, 120 kilometers north of Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory, as the only site to remain under active consideration for a national nuclear waste dump. The proposal is highly contested by the NT Government and is also being challenged in the Federal Court by Traditional Owners. Despite this, the Bill is currently being debated in the Senate — and will likely pass.
Ferguson’s law is a crude cut and paste of the Howard government’s Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act that it purports to replace. It limits the application of federal environmental protection legislation and it curtails appeal rights. The draft legislation overrides the Aboriginal Heritage Protection Act and it sidesteps the Aboriginal Land Rights Act. It allows for the imposition of a dump on Aboriginal land with no consultation with or consent from Traditional Owners. In fact, the Minister can now override any state or territory law that gets in the way of the dump plan.
Before it won government, Labor promised to address radioactive waste management issues in a manner that would "ensure full community consultation in radioactive waste decision-making processes", and to adopt a "consensual process of site selection". Yet despite many invitations, Martin Ferguson refuses to meet with Traditional Owners opposed the dump.
Medical professionals have called for federal politicians to stop using nuclear medicine as justification for the Muckaty proposal. Nuclear radiologist Dr Peter Karamoskos wrote in the NT News:
"…the contention that is most in error is that the radioactive waste to be disposed of there is largely nuclear medicine waste. Nearly all such waste is actually short-lived and decays in local storage and is subsequently disposed of safely in the normal waste systems without need for a repository. The vast bulk of the waste… is Lucas Heights nuclear reactor operational waste, and contaminated soil (10 thousand drums) from CSIRO research on ore processing in the 1950s and 1960s."
Natalie Wasley in NewMatilda.com, 13 February 2012
US: Watts Bar 2 schedule pushed back.
The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has said that it is ‘experiencing challenges’ with the cost and schedule for completion of its Watts Bar 2 nuclear power plant. The revised completion date for the plant may extend beyond 2013 and the costs are expected to ‘significantly exceed’ TVA’s previous estimate of US$2.5 billion. TVA, which operates three nuclear power plants: Browns Ferry, Sequoyah and Watts Bar, decided to restart construction at Watts Bar 2 in 2007. It originally planned to finish the plant, which was 55% complete, within a five year window. Now, the completion date has been put back to 2013 and TVA says it is performing a root cause analysis to better understand the factors contributing to the project's extended schedule and cost. According to TVA the delays to the completion of Watts Bar unit 2 may also affect the timing of the Bellefonte 1 completion. Construction is set to resume at Bellefonte 1 after initial fuel loading at Watts Bar 2. (More in Nuclear Monitor 732, 9 September 2011).
Nuclear Engineering International, 7 February 2012
Russia: Fire at nuclear sub at Murmansk
Russia’s deputy prime minister in charge of the defense industry Dmitry Rogozin has indirectly admitted that the Yekaterinburg – one of the Northern Fleet’s strategic nuclear submarines – which caught fire on December 29 while in dry dock for repairs near Murmansk had “armaments” on board when the 20-hour-long blaze broke out, injuring 9. The deputy prime minister had previously vociferously denied this in both Russian and international media – even though evidence discovered by Bellona at the time suggested otherwise. Evidence that has emerged since the fire, however, suggests that the burning vessel was loaded not only with nuclear missiles but torpedoes as well.
The Yekaterinburg Delta IV class submarine – capable of carrying 16 intercontinental ballistic missiles with up to ten nuclear warheads apiece and 12 torpedoes – caught fire in Roslyakovo when welding works reportedly went awry, though the real cause of the fire remains unknown. The fire was concentrated in the bow area of the vessel.
Had Russia’s Emergency Services Ministry –which was primarily responsible for handling the crisis– not extinguished the flames in time, the torpedoes in the front chamber of the submarine would have detonated first. Many Russian fire and resuce workers would have been killed and the blaze’s intesity would have increased. The fire would have spread to the missile compartment, which also would have detonated as a result of the high temperatures. An explosion would have then damaged the Yekaterinburg’s two nuclear reactors, resulting in a release of radiation into the atmosphere.
Murmansk (300,000-strong population, just 6 kilometers away) should have been evacuated along with other towns in the surrounding area. The fire occurred just prior to Russia’s New Year’s holidays, and an evacuation would have causes panic and chaos. Yet had things gone as they very possibly could have, even more explosions releasing more radioactivity could have resulted, making – as shown in Fukushima – efforts to extinguish the fire even more arduous, as radioactivity continued to spread.
Bellona, Charles Digges, 14 February 2012
No More 'hot' waste in WIPP.
On January 31, the New Mexico Environment Department denied a federal Department of Energy's request for permission to use new lead-lined drums for some of the more highly radioactive waste being shipped to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) (see Nuclear Monitor 739, 23 December 2011). DOE applied to the New Mexico Environment Department for a modification of the hazardous waste permit in order to dispose of "shielded containers" of remote-handled (RH) waste. The shielded containers, which have never been used before, are lead-lined in order to contain the high gamma emissions from the RH waste. DOE was proposing to bring more "remote-handled" plutonium-contaminated waste to WIPP than will fit in the remaining designated space. It is another attempt by DOE to expand the mission of WIPP beyond its original purpose.
But the NMED denied the request. The denial does not close the door on the possibility, but the Environment Department said a more detailed review, likely including the possibility of public hearings, would be required before any change is permitted.
ABQ Journal, 31 January 2012, / Nuclear Monitor 739, 23 December 2011
UK report: "A corruption of Governance?".
Parliament was kept in the dark and fed false information that boosted the case for nuclear power, campaigners claimed in a newly released report "A Corruption of Governance?" on February 3, 2012. MPs were handed a dossier which suggests that evidence given to ministers and Parliament promoting the use of nuclear power was "a false summary" of the analysis carried out by governmental departments. Specifically the report claims that on the basis of the government's own evidence there is no need for the controversial new generation of nuclear power stations if Britain is to achieve 80 per cent reductions in carbon dioxide by 2050. The report also alleges that government statements claiming that electricity supply will need to double or even triple in order to achieve a low-carbon economy are disproved by its own evidence. Katy Attwater, Stop Hinkley Point's spokesperson, said: "This scrupulously researched report shows that two of the National Policy Statements, EN-1 and EN-62, approved by Parliament, are based on false information and the public has no alternative but to deem them invalid. MPs have, likewise, no alternative but to consider them fraudulent, re-open the debate and bring those responsible for this corruption to account."
Press release Stop Hinkley Point, 6 February 2012
The EPR nuclear reactor: A dangerous waste of time and money.
The French EPR (European Pressurised Reactor, sometimes marketed as an ‘Evolutionary Power Reactor’) is a nuclear reactor design that is aggressively marketed by the French companies Areva and EDF. Despite the companies’ marketing spin, not only is the reactor hazardous, it is also more costly and takes longer to build than renewable-energy alternatives. While no EPR is currently operating anywhere in the world, four reactors are under construction in Finland (Olkiluoto 3, construction started in 2005), France (Flamanville 3, 2007) and China (Taishan 1 and 2, 2009-10). The projects have failed to meet nuclear safety standards in design and construction, with recurring construction defects and subsequent cover-ups, as well as ballooning costs and timelines that have already slipped significantly.
'The EPR nuclear reactor: A dangerous waste of time and money' is an update of the 2008 Greenpeace International briefing on this reactor. Added are some of the many new design and construction errors and the economic setbacks the EPR has run into. Greenpeace included more information on the tremendous gains in the cost performance of renewable energy and the increase level of investment.
The report is available at: www.laka.org/temp/2012gp-epr-report.pdf
Austrian NGOs: Ban on import nuclear electricty!
At a February 3, meeting with German, Czech and Austrian anti-nuclear activists in Passau, Germany, including members of The Left Party (Die Linke) faction in the German Bundestag and from the Ecological Democratic Party (ÖDP), support for an Austrian import ban on nuclear electricity was clearly signalled. Spokeswoman for the Left Party Eva Bulling-Schröter: "It is absurd that Austria, which for very good reasons abandoned nuclear energy, is exporting clean hydropower to Germany for instance and then imports nuclear power for its own use. The planned and very controversial new Czech Temelin reactors would loose important custumors if Austria and Germany woud ban the import and not buy its electricity. The campaign of the Austrian antinuclear groups is welcome and could be a model for a similar campaign in Germany."
"It is a ridiculous idea of the federal government when it says that Austria could not do without nuclear power before 2015", says Roland Egger of Atomstopp upper-Austria.
Press release atomstopp_oberoesterreich, (stop nuclear, upper-austria), 9 December 2011 & 3 February 2012