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Nuclear power suffers biggest ever one-year fall
Nuclear power generation suffered its biggest ever one-year fall in 2012. International Atomic Energy Agency data shows that nuclear power plants around the world produced a total of 2,346 TWh in 2012 − 7% less than in 2011, and the lowest figure since 1999. Compared to the last full year before the Fukushima accident, 2010, the nuclear industry produced 11% less electricity in 2012.

The main reasons were that almost all reactors in Japan were off-line for the full calendar year, and the permanent shut-down of eight reactors in Germany. Other issues included problems for Crystal River, Fort Calhoun and the two San Onofre units in the USA which meant they produced no power, and Belgium's Doel 3 and Tihange 2 reactors which were out of action for half of the year.

Three new reactors started up during 2012 − two in South Korea and one in China. In Canada, two older reactors came back into operation after refurbishment. This new capacity totalled 4,501 MWe, outweighing the retirements of the UK's Oldbury 1 and Wylfa 2, and Canada's Gentilly 2, which between them generated 1,342 MWe. Across the rest of the global fleet, uprates added about 990 MWe in new capacity. So total increased capacity was 4,501 + 990 − 1,342 = 4,149 MWe, a little over 1%.

The uranium spot price fell to US$39.75 / lb U3O8 on June 11, falling below $40.00 for the first time since March 2006.

At the end of 2012, world total capacity of solar photovoltaic generation reached 100 GWe, with 30.5 GWe installed in 2012 alone. There is about 2.55 GWe of concentrating solar power capacity worldwide, three quarters of this in Spain. Wind power soared in 2012 with a new record for installations − 44 GW of new capacity worldwide. Total capacity exceeds 280 GW, with plants operating in more than 80 countries. China leads the world with 75 GW of wind power capacity.

World Nuclear News, 20 June 2013, 'Nuclear power down in 2012',
Ana Komnenic, 12 June 2013, 'Uranium hits seven-year low',
REN21 Renewables Global Status Report, 2013,
J. Matthew Roney, 2 April 2013, 'Wind Power',


Fines and fire in the UK
The nuclear company Sellafield Ltd has been fined 700,000 pounds and ordered to pay more than 72,635 pounds costs for sending bags of radioactive waste to a landfill site. The bags, which contained contaminated waste such as plastic, tissues and clothing, should have been sent to a specialist facility that treats and stores low-level radioactive waste, but "significant management and operational failings" led to them being sent to Lillyhall landfill site in Workington, Cumbria. This breached the conditions of the company's environmental permit and the Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations. The mistake was only discovered by chance following a training exercise on the faulty monitoring equipment on April 20, and in the coming days the bags were recovered from the Lillyhall landfill site and dispatched to the Drigg radioactive waste dump. [1,2]

An investigation has been launched into an incident at Sellafield's THORP reprocessing plant which occurred on May 14. The incident involved mistaking two chemicals, formaldehyde and hydroxylamine. Cumbrians Against a Radioactive Environment spokesman Martin Forwood said that had the error not been spotted, "the consequences of introducing formaldehyde into the first stages of fuel dissolution could have been catastrophic for THORP's internal workings − and had the potential to initiate a site accident." The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) secretariat said it was "alarming" that Sellafield Ltd had classified the incident as a "non-radiological event." NFLA group chairman Mark Hackett said the incident "could have led to a major accident at the Sellafield Thorp plant." [3]

Nuclear waste clean-up operations at Sellafield could be taken back into state hands after a series of failings by private companies managing the site, as their 22 billion pound contract comes up for review. A consortium called Nuclear Management Partners was selected in 2008 to run the Cumbrian site for up to 17 years. But the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee have both criticised delays and cost over-runs. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) is now reviewing whether to renew the contract with the consortium ahead of a “break” point in March 2014. The NDA said it was considering three options, including stripping the consortium of the contract and taking Sellafield back into the NDA’s hands, a move that would require ministerial approval. It is understood to be drawing up plans for how the site would be run if it opted to do so. Decommissioning operations at Sellafield are expected to cost more than 67 billion pounds over the next century. [4]

Meanwhile, the company which operates the factories where the UK's nuclear weapons are manufactured has been fined for breaches of safety laws following a fire in which a member of staff was injured. AWE plc, which operates the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of its employees. On May 28 the company was fined 200,000 pounds and ordered to pay £80,258 in legal costs and 2,500 pounds in compensation to an employee who was injured during the fire. The charge followed a fire which broke out in an explosives handling facility at the AWE Aldermaston site in Berkshire on the evening of 3 August 2010. The incident left a member of AWE staff with burns to his face and arm and required the evacuation of a number of local residents and closure of roads around the site as safety precautions. [5]

[1] CORE, 14 June 2013, 'Sellafield Ltd fined £700,000 for sending LLW to local landfill − largest ever fine for site',
[2] The Guardian, 15 June 2013, 'Sellafield fined £700,000 for sending radioactive waste to landfill',
[3] Peter Lazenby, 2 June 2013, 'Sellafield bosses play down near catastrophe',
[4] Emily Gosden, 20 June 2013, 'Sellafield clean-up could be taken into state hands as £22bn contract up for review', The Telegraph,
[5] Nuclear Information Service, 28 May 2013, 'Nuclear weapons factory operators fined £200,000 for safety breaches',


Kaliningrad nuclear plant work suspended
Russia has suspended work on its new Baltic nuclear power plant in Kaliningrad. It is designed for the EU grid and is now about 20% built. Despite endeavours to bring in European equity and secure sales of power to the EU through new transmission links, the 1,200 MWe plant is isolated, with no immediate prospect of it fulfilling its intended purpose. Kaliningrad has a limited transmission link to Lithuania, and none to Poland, its other neighbour. Both those countries plan to build new western nuclear plants, and in any case have declined to buy output from the new Baltic plant. With Estonia and Latvia, Lithuania is integrating its electricity system with the EU, and is about to start on a 1000 MWe link southwest to Poland. It does not wish to upgrade its Kaliningrad grid connection to allow Baltic NPP power to be sent through its territory and Belarus to Russia.

World Nuclear News on June 1 wrote: "It is a stand-out project for Russia: the first to be opened up to investment by European utilities; the first intended to export most of its output; and the first to use an Alstom-Atomenergomash steam turbine. Construction of the first VVER-1200 reactor began in February last year, with another one planned to follow. ... Despite being 18 months into construction of its first unit, the Baltic plant is also progressing without the hoped-for foreign investors."

NGOs − including FoE France, ATTAC France, Réseau "Sortir de nucléaire", Russian Ecodefense, German Urgewald and Banktrack − are warning that the Kaliningrad project may be revived, possibly with a new design and French funding (see the Banktrack website).

World Nuclear Association, New Russian nuclear plant stranded,
Grid concerns for Baltic project 11 June 2013,