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Uranium exposure linked to skin cancer

Northern Arizona University researchers have linked uranium exposure to skin cancer. Biochemistry professor Diane Stearns said her team found that once uranium was present in the skin, exposure to sunlight could be chemically toxic and lead to cancerous lesions. It's a bigger threat for people with Xeroderma Pigmentosum, or XP, a disease that causes extreme sensitivity to sunlight.

"XP is a genetic disease where there are deficiencies in different steps of DNA repair and it makes a person more susceptible to skin cancer," Prof. Stearns said. "There is a sub-population of Navajo who have XP." Many Navajo people have been exposed to uranium from the reservation's abandoned mines.

GE-Hitachi puts laser uranium enrichment on the slow-track

GE-Hitachi Global Laser Enrichment LLC (GLE) has announced it will cease funding laser uranium enrichment development projects at Lucas Heights in Sydney, Australia, and put the main project facility near Oak Ridge in Tennessee in "cold storage". Activities at Oak Ridge and Lucas Heights will be consolidated into the Wilmington, North Carolina Test Loop facility. In September 2012, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a license to GLE to build and operate a laser uranium enrichment plant in North Carolina.

Silex Systems developed the technology and licences it to GLE, a consortium of GE (51%), Hitachi (25%) and Cameco (24%). Silex said the announcement was "unexpected" and GLE had already invested "hundreds of millions of dollars" in the project. Silex said it has been advised that GLE continues to negotiate with the US Department of Energy on the opportunity for enrichment of depleted tails inventories in Paducah, Kentucky.

Silex CEO Michael Goldsworthy said: "The global nuclear industry is still suffering the impacts of the Fukushima event and the shutdown of the entire Japanese nuclear power plant fleet in 2011. Demand for uranium has been slower to recover than expected and enrichment services are in significant oversupply." General Electric's CEO Jeffrey Immelt has been downbeat about the nuclear industry in general, saying in 2012: "It's just hard to justify nuclear, really hard. ... So I think some combination of gas, and either wind or solar ... that's where we see most countries around the world going."

Laser enrichment has long raised proliferation concerns. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists noted in January 2014 that laser enrichment "promises to provide a route to uranium enrichment that is less expensive and harder-to-constrain than the centrifuge enrichment pursued by Iran and North Korea." A 1999 US State Department assessment conceded that a laser enrichment facility ''might be easier to build without detection and could be a more efficient producer of high enriched uranium for a nuclear weapons program.''

US nuclear power projects delayed

Further delays have been announced for two power reactors under construction in South Carolina. The first of SCANA Corp.'s two new reactors was supposed to start operation in April 2016. The target date was pushed back to early 2017 and SCANA Corp. now says the date could be late 2018 or the first half of 2019 for the first reactor, and one year later for the second reactor.

A sister project at Plant Vogtle in Georgia has also been delayed. Toshiba-Westinghouse AP1000 reactors are under construction at both sites. The first of the Vogtle reactors was supposed to start operating in April 2016, with the second starting a year later. Delays have already pushed those dates to late 2017 and late 2018. The Vogtle project is well over US$1 billion (€0.75b) over budget and has a large outstanding lawsuit of nearly another US$1 billion between Southern Company and Westinghouse.

Greenpeace goes to court on Polish nuclear power program

On August 8, Greenpeace Poland submitted a complaint to the Regional Administrative court in Warsaw concerning the Polish Nuclear Energy Programme (PNEP) that was adopted on 28 January 2014 by the Council of Ministers. Greenpeace Poland alleges that the PNEP was adopted and approved by the Council of Ministers in breach of national and international law.

The most important issues missing in the Strategic Environmental Assessment include:

* No proper and full comparison was made with alternative energy policies, especially policies based on energy efficiency and renewable energy development.

* The PNEP does not take severe accidents into account, because it claims without evidence that no accident could lead to large emissions of radioactive substances.

* The PNEP does not investigate sufficiently how spent nuclear fuel and (other) high-level radioactive waste is to be treated and managed.

By not taking these vital points properly into account, Greenpeace alleges that the government acted in breach with article 6(8) of the Aarhus Convention, article 11(1) of the Kiev Protocol to the Espoo Convention, article 8 of the EU SEA Directive 2001/42/EC and article 42 and 55(1) of the Polish Act on providing information on the environment.

Greenpeace is asking the court to declare the government approval invalid and to order a new Strategic Environmental Assessment with a full public consultation before considering a new policy.

Poland has no power reactors operating or under construction but six are planned according to the World Nuclear Association. On January 28, Poland's Council of Ministers adopted a strategic document describing measures to be taken to introduce nuclear energy. It notes that in the case of Poland, it will be necessary to build almost the entire infrastructure required for the development and operation of a nuclear power program. The location and reactor technology for the first nuclear power plant will be selected by the end of 2016 according to the government's plan. By the end of 2018, all required approvals for the plant's construction should be obtained. The first reactor is set to start up by the end of 2024, with the second reactor starting up by the end of 2030. Completion of a second nuclear power plant is scheduled for 2035.

The full Greenpeace complaint (in Polish) is posted at:

Greenpeace's Polish energy [r]evolution scenario (in Polish):

Australia's uranium industry in a hole

Developments in South Australia highlight the uranium industry's ongoing problems. The opening of the state's latest uranium mine − the Beverley Four Mile in-situ leach mine − would normally be accompanied by considerable fanfare. The Advertiser − a Murdoch tabloid, and the only mass circulation newspaper in the state − might be expected to parrot industry lies about jobs and export revenue.[1,2]

But as The Advertiser said: "South Australia's newest mine will lose money and won't create any jobs." Part of the problem is that the uranium price is well below the cost of production. And General Atomics has put the nearby Beverley mine into care-and-maintenance and shifted the workforce to Beverley Four Mile − so no jobs have been created. Alliance Resources Ltd. which holds a 25% stake in Beverley Four Mile, is seeking to sell out of the project.[1,2]

The Honeymoon uranium mining, also in the north-east of South Australia, was equally underwhelming. Just months after first production in 2011, project partner Mitsui announced its decision to withdraw as it "could not foresee sufficient economic return from the project". And last year the mine owner − a subsidiary of Russia's Rosatom − put the mine into care-and-maintenance because it was running at a loss.

Another Murdoch newspaper, The Australian, says it may be years before uranium regains its "sexy sector".[3]

In Western Australia, United Uranium, which holds several uranium exploration licences, has decided to get out of uranium exploration and instead focus on property development. The company said its strategic review "underlined a consistent theme, that junior resource companies and in particular uranium focussed companies, are currently 'unloved' by the investment community".[4]

Also in Western Australia, Areva Resources Australia, a subsidiary of the French nuclear giant, has formally withdrawn from the North Canning exploration project because it was not viable. It is believed Areva spent up to A$5 million (€3.5m, US$4.66m) on the project. Aboriginal Traditional Owners in the region were opposed to the project and refused to negotiate with Areva.[5]

In June, RBC Capital Markets Analysts cut its 2014 spot price forecast to US$31.50 a pound, down from US$45. The 2015 target was cut to US$40 (from US$60), and targets for 2016−2018 fell to just US$40-US$45 from US$75-US$80. RBC believes the uranium market is going to be in surplus until 2021. "Active annual supply exceeds demand by a significant margin, and on top of that, significant excess inventories have been and continue to be accumulated post the Fukushima disaster, particularly in Japan," RBC said, adding that it believes only four Japanese reactors will restart this year, and just 28 (out of 50) will be online by 2018.[6]