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Nuclear News - Nuclear Monitor #870 - 19 December 2018

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Taiwan's goal to become nuclear free remains unchanged: President Tsai

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen said her administration's goal of making Taiwan a nuclear-free homeland remains unchanged, despite the November 24 referendum which saw 59% of voters calling on the government to abandon the 2025 deadline for the closure of all power reactors.1

President Tsai said the goal of phasing out nuclear power in Taiwan is part of the Basic Environment Act. "Therefore, that goal remains unchanged," she said.1

The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislated the 2025 nuclear-free deadline in 2016 but has now repealed the relevant passage in the Electricity Act.2

Ten referendum question were put to voters on November 24. All 10 proposals were supported by the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party and opposed by the government. Voters supported all 10 propositions, and also dealt the DPP serious losses in local government elections on the same day. Other referendum propositions ‒ all of them successful ‒ included stipulating that thermal power plants should cut their output by at least 1% per year on average; that Taiwan not build any new coal-fired plants; and that restrictions should be maintained on the importation of foods from areas of Japan affected by the 2011 Fukushima disaster (supported by 77% of voters).3

Cabinet spokesperson Kolas Yotaka said the Executive Yuan respects the referendum result regarding the 2025 deadline and will work with relevant ministries to re-evaluate the country's energy policies.4 Minister of Economic Affairs Shen Jong-chin said the policy review will be complete in two months.5

The anti-nuclear group National Nuclear Abolition Action Platform said that not all those who voted in favor of stopping the nuclear phase-out are unconditional supporters of nuclear power, but rather some lack confidence in Taiwan's energy transformation.6

Nuclear power generated 9.3% of Taiwan's electricity in 2017.7 Two aging reactors were permanently shut down this year (Chinsan-1 reached its 40-year limit in October and Chinsan-2 was nearing its 40-year limit). The 40-year operating licenses for Taiwan's remaining four reactors will expire in 2021, 2023, 2024 and 2025. That fate of all six reactors will be contested in the coming period, as will the partially-completed Lungmen nuclear plant. Construction of the two Lungmen reactors was suspended in 2014 and 2015, with 55% public support for the suspension.8

1. Lu Hsin-hui and Evelyn Kao, 29 Nov 2018, 'Taiwan's goal to become nuclear free remains unchanged: President Tsai',

2. Cat Thomas, 26 Nov 2018, 'Govt Sidesteps Energy Referendums as Pro-Nuclear Group Mulls Further Action',

3. Jens Kastner, 7 Dec 2018, 'Taiwan's Voters Pull Plug on Energy Sources',

4. Ku Chuan and Ko Lin, 27 Nov 2018, 'Taiwan scraps nuclear-free deadline in wake of referendum',

5. 3 Dec 2018, 'Taipower withholds returning fuel rods pending new energy policy',

6. 25 Nov 2018, 'Anti-nuclear group undeterred by passing of pro-nuclear referendum',



Langer Heinrich 'dodged' N$219 million tax

The Namibian reported on December 12:1

"The Namibian government lost N$219 million [US$15.4 million] in taxes from the sale of shares in one of the world's largest uranium mines, Langer Heinrich, because the country's tax avoidance law is not up to scratch.

"An investigation by The Namibian and UK-based journalism organisation Finance Uncovered revealed that the Australian multi-national mining corporation, Paladin Energy, pocketed N$665 million [US$46.7 million] after selling shares in the Langer Heinrich mine through a Mauritius-based offshore company.

"Paladin argues that using an offshore holding company means they are not liable to pay tax in Namibia. Tax on the proceeds of the sale would have amounted to N$219 million. 

"When presented with details of the joint investigation, the Namibian tax office said they were unaware of the Langer Heinrich deal, but in their view, taxes should have been paid on the proceeds. Tax bosses admitted that problems with legislation mean they are unable to enforce the law on offshore transactions like that of Langer Heinrich.

"Conducting transactions through Mauritius as a way to avoid paying taxes on the profits when assets are sold, is a well-known tax avoidance loophole used by many companies around the world. ... According to Tax Justice Network Africa executive director Alvin Mosioma, companies like Paladin have been involved in "aggressive tax planning schemes" that leave most countries unable to collect enough revenue, primarily through Mauritius which has countless tax treaties with most countries."

Similar accusations have been made about Paladin's Kayelekera uranium mine in Malawi (both Langer Heinrich and Kayelekera are in care-and-maintenance). United Nations' Special Rapporteur Olivier De Schutter noted in a 2013 report that "revenue losses from special incentives given to Australian mining company Paladin Energy, which manages the Kayelekera uranium mine, are estimated to amount to at least US$205 million (MWK 67 billion) and could be up to US$281 million (MWK 92 billion) over the 13-year lifespan of the mine."2

Paladin's environmental and social record has also been the source of ongoing controversy and the subject of numerous critical reports.3

And Paladin isn't the only Australian mining company embroiled in controversy in Africa. A 2015 report by the International Consortium of Independent Journalists found that that since 2004, more than 380 people have died in mining accidents or in off-site skirmishes connected to Australian mining companies in Africa.5 The report further stated: "Multiple Australian mining companies are accused of negligence, unfair dismissal, violence and environmental law-breaking across Africa, according to legal filings and community petitions gathered from South Africa, Botswana, Tanzania, Zambia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal and Ghana."

1. George Turner, Lazarus Amukeshe and Shinovene Immanuel, 12 Dec 2018, 'Langer Heinrich dodged N$219 million tax',$219-million-tax

2. 22 July 2013, 'End of mission statement by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food',

3. Nuclear Monitor #847, 21 July 2017, 'Paladin Energy's social and environmental record in Africa',



Belgium: call to close Tihange-1 reactor

Greens member of the European Parliament Rebecca Harms has called for the decommissioning of Belgium's oldest nuclear reactor, Tihange 1, as it no longer meets international safety standards.

Harms' demand coincides with the publication of a damning new study on the risks of the continued operation of Tihange 1. The author of the study is Prof. Manfred Mertins, an expert in nuclear engineering and former member of the German Nuclear Safety Authority. He presented the findings at a news briefing in the European Parliament. The academic came to the conclusion that the continued operation of Tihange 1 due to "outdated reactor design, inadequate safety management and the accumulation of frequent unplanned events represents a potential danger for the site and its surroundings." It was particularly critical "that the results of international tests and current safety standards are not adequately taken into account."

Prof. Mertins said in the exhaustive study, which was commissioned by the Greens/EFA group, that: "It should be noted that the Tihange 1 nuclear power plant does not meet the requirements of reliable hazard and accident protection. The Tihange 1 nuclear plant provides only limited basic protection. Its design does not consistently cover the state-of-the-art requirements for protection against overarching external effects. This applies in particular to protection against airplane crashes, which, given the proximity to the airport at Bierset-Liège, is a highly safety-relevant factor. The crash of an airplane ‒ larger than a sporting aircraft ‒ would have a catastrophic impact on the site and its surrounding area."

Harms, who is nuclear energy spokesperson for the Greens/EFA group, said: "The frequent problems in recent years is an indication of the deficiencies and risks arising from the ageing of the [Tihange 1] plant. The Belgian authorities' handling of the problems of the Belgian reactor fleet, which is characterised by covering up and downplaying the risks, further increases the loss of confidence. The definitive closure of the oldest Belgian reactor could be a much-needed sign that the well-known problems are taken seriously. The authorities in neighbouring countries must also take action. The 43-year-old nuclear reactor Tihange 1 is threatening not only the safety of Belgian citizens but also of the citizens in neighbouring countries."

Abridged with light editing from: Martin Banks, 11 Dec 2018, 'Rebecca Harms: Decommission 'hopelessly outdated' Belgian nuclear reactor',