#765 - August 1, 2013

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Full issue

Click here to download PDF.

Nuclear security conference commits ... to holding more conferences

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green, Friends of the Earth, Australia (and editor of the Nuclear Monitor)

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) hosted a conference titled 'International Conference on Nuclear Security: Enhancing Global Efforts' from July 1−5 in Vienna. [1] There were more than 1,300 registered participants, including 34 government ministers, from 125 countries.

In his closing statement to the Conference, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said: "This Conference has been an important milestone for nuclear security. The Ministerial Statement, from an inclusive global forum, sends a strong message that nuclear security is recognized as a priority by Governments."

Few shared that generous opinion. One of the few solid commitments from the conference was a commitment to hold more conferences. Maybe. The Ministerial Declaration calls on the IAEA "to consider organizing international conferences on nuclear security every three years."

The conference did not result in any strengthening of the patchwork of mostly non-binding, mostly underfunded nuclear security initiatives around the world. Kissinger, Nunn, Perry and Shulz noted in a March 2013 article that "no global system is in place for tracking, accounting for, managing and securing all weapons-usable nuclear materials." [2] The same can be said for the broader range of nuclear and radioactive materials that can be used in dirty bombs.

The Ministerial Declaration encourages nations to fully implement existing international accords, including the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and a 2005 amendment to the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz acknowledged that the US remains outside the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, but claimed that the US is a leader on nuclear security because the President made a speech on the topic (!) and the US government intends to host a conference on the topic in 2016 (!!). [3]

A report released by the Arms Control Association and the Partnership for Global Security details actions that the 53 countries that participated in the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in South Korea have taken since the meeting. [4] It notes that there has been some progress − for example 22 countries have taken steps to "prevent the smuggling of illicit radioactive materials by enhancing transport security, expanding border controls and developing new detection and monitoring technologies." But still the emphasis seems to be on talk-fests − 44 countries have hosted nuclear security workshops, conferences or exercises. The NGOs state that "the largely nationally focused efforts to date are inadequate" and that the lack of universal reporting requirements makes it difficult to assess the overall progress of the security summit process.

International Atomic Energy Agency
The Ministerial Declaration affirmed "the central role of the IAEA in strengthening the nuclear security framework globally and in leading the coordination of international activities in the field of nuclear security."

Many delegates called for an expanded role for the IAEA. Miles Pomper from the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies expressed scepticism, noting that member states would have to agree to fund such expanded security activities through the IAEA's regular budget, but current funding for security work relies on voluntary contributions made on an irregular basis. [5] The Ministerial Declaration went no further than to recognise "the importance of the IAEA having access to appropriate resources and expertise to undertake its work, including through further voluntary contributions to the IAEA's Nuclear Security Fund by existing and new donors."

As of 2008, the IAEA relied on voluntary funding for 90% of its nuclear security program, 30% of its nuclear safety program, and 15% of its verification/safeguards program [6]. Mohamed El Baradei, then IAEA Director-General, told the IAEA Board of Governors in 2009: "I will be cheating world public opinion to be creating the impression that we are doing what we're supposed to do, when we know we don't have the money to do it."

Limited scope
Victor Gilinsky, a former member of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, noted in 2009 that "even so-called arms controllers fall over themselves trying to establish their bona fides by supporting nuclear energy development and devising painless proposals ..." [7] That mentality was in evidence at the IAEA nuclear security conference. The Ministerial Declaration calls upon states "to ensure that measures to strengthen nuclear security do not hamper international cooperation in the field of peaceful nuclear activities."

Gilinsky advocates a reversal of priorities: "Security should come first − not as an afterthought. We should support as much nuclear power as is consistent with international security; not as much security as the spread of nuclear power will allow."

Fukushima illustrates one of the issues that ought to be addressed under the umbrella of nuclear security. Kenneth Luongo from the Partnership for Global Security said that the disaster highlighted the fact that the international community does not "have an adequate system for dealing with radiation that crosses borders." He noted that "Fukushima blurred the line between nuclear safety and nuclear security." [8]

Matthew Bunn, a Harvard University professor and former White House adviser, said at a recent briefing: "Fukushima sent a message to terrorists that if you manage to cause a nuclear power plant to melt down, that really causes major panic and disruption in a society. ... All you need to do to do that is cut off the power for an extended period of time." [9]

Conventional military strikes on nuclear plants by nation-states is another issue that the nation-states assembled in Vienna were reluctant to address.

References and Sources
1. IAEA, July 2013, 'IAEA Ministerial Meeting Concludes With Focus on Stronger Nuclear Security', www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/2013/nsfocusconcludes.html
2. Henry A. Kissinger, Sam Nunn, William J. Perry, George P. Shultz, 5 March 2013, 'Next Steps in Reducing Nuclear Risks: The Pace of Nonproliferation Work Today Doesn't Match the Urgency of the Threat', Wall Street Journal, www.nti.org/analysis/opinions/next-steps-reducing-nuclear-risks-pace-non...
3. Douglas P. Guarino, 1 July 2013, 'In Vienna, a Focus on National Responsibility for Nuclear Materials Security', Global Security Newswire, www.nti.rsvp1.com/gsn/article/vienna-focus-national-responsibility-nucle...
4. Arms Control Association and the Partnership for Global Security, 1 July 2013, The Nuclear Security Summit: Progress Report, www.armscontrol.org/pressroom/New-Report-Finds-Gaps-in-Nuclear-Materials...
5. Rachel Oswald, 19 July 2013, 'U.S. Energy Chief Hopes for Bigger IAEA Role in Global Nuclear Security', Global Security Newswire, www.nti.rsvp1.com/gsn/article/us-energy-chief-hopes-bigger-iaea-role-glo...
6. IAEA, 2008, '20/20 Vision for the Future: Background Report by the Director General for the Commission of Eminent Persons', www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/News/PDF/20-20vision_220208.pdf
7. Victor Gilinsky, 'A call to resist the nuclear revival', Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 27 January 2009, www.thebulletin.org/web-edition/op-eds/call-to-resist-the-nuclear-revival
8. Douglas P. Guarino, 14 March 2012, 'U.S. Defends Narrow Focus for Nuclear Security Summit', Global Security Newswire, www.nti.org/gsn/article/us-defends-narrow-focus-nuclear-security-summit/
9. Jonathan Tirone, 4 July 2013, 'Fukushima Shows Nuclear-Terrorism Risks at UN Meeting', www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-07-01/fukushima-shows-nuclear-terrorism-risk...

US officials warn of risks in the Middle East and North Africa

Obama administration officials have warned of the possibility that nations in Africa and the Middle East could become sources of sensitive components or materials for weapons of mass destruction. Simon Limage, deputy assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation programs, told EUobserver.com: "In North Africa and the Middle East, you have terrorist organisations, unstable governments, in some cases actual civil conflict and lack of control over sovereign territory. In the former Soviet Union we still have remaining challenges, but we are dealing with relatively stable governments with which we have a history of engagement." Anne Harrington, a US Energy Department nonproliferation official, said concerns extend beyond those regions, citing Pakistan.

Earlier this year, Algerian customs officers discovered radioactive waste in three containers shipped from China to Algiers' port. The containers were imported by an Algerian businessman, North Africa Post reported on May 18: "The origin and the final destination the radioactive cargo have not yet been determined but the investigators suspect international traffickers of nuclear waste to be involved in the affair as Africa is seemingly becoming a dumpster of radioactive waste for greedy international corporations and super powers."

'U.S. Officials: Dirty Bomb Risk in Mideast, Africa Unprecedented', 14 June 2013, www.nti.rsvp1.com/gsn/article/us-officials-dirty-bomb-risk-mideast-afric...
Radioactive Waste Found in Algiers Port, 18 May 2013, http://northafricapost.com/3684-radioactive-waste-found-in-algiers-port....

World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2013

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2013 (WNISR) was released on July 11. The report looks at nuclear reactor units in operation and under construction, with global statistics and detailed country-by-country information. The report also contains useful material on topics such as potential newcomer countries, the credit-rating performance of some of the major nuclear utilities, the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, and development patterns of renewable energies compared to nuclear power.

Some key facts from the report are listed here.

The number of operating reactors has fallen from the 2002 peak of 444 to the current 427 reactors.

Installed nuclear capacity peaked in 2010 at 375 gigawatts (GWe) before declining to the current level of 364 GWe.

Annual nuclear electricity generation peaked in 2006 at 2,660 terrawatt-hours (TWh), falling to 2,346 TWh in 2012 (down 7% compared to 2011, down 12% from 2006). About three-quarters of this decline is due to the situation in Japan, but 16 other countries, including the top five nuclear generators, also decreased their nuclear generation.

The nuclear share of the world's power generation declined steadily from a historic peak of 17% in 1993 to about 10 percent in 2012. Nuclear power's share of global commercial primary energy production fell to 4.5% in 2012, a level last seen in 1984.

The average age of the world's nuclear fleet continues to increase and in mid-2013 stands at 28 years. Over 190 reactors (45% of the total) have operated for 30 years, of which 44 have run for 40 years or more.

Fourteen countries currently are currently building nuclear power plants, one more than a year ago as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) started construction at Barrakah. The UAE is the first new country in 27 years to have started building a commercial nuclear power plant.

As of July 2013, 66 reactors are under construction (seven more than in July 2012) with a total capacity of 63 GW. However:

  • Nine reactors have been listed as "under construction" for more than 20 years and four additional reactors have been listed for 10 years or more.
  • Forty-five projects do not have an official planned start-up date on the IAEA's database.
  • At least 23 have encountered construction delays, most of them multi-year. For the remaining 43 reactor units, either construction began within the past five years or they have not yet reached projected start-up dates, making it difficult or impossible to assess whether they are on schedule or not.
  • Two-thirds (44) of the units under construction are located in three countries: China, India and Russia.
  • The average construction time of the 34 units that started up in the world between 2003 and July 2013 was 9.4 years.

Only three reactors started up in 2012, while six were shut down. In 2013, up to 1 July, only one reactor started up, while four shutdown decisions − all in the U.S. − were taken. Three of those four units faced costly repairs, but one (Kewaunee, Wisconsin) was running well and had received a license renewal just two years ago to operate up to a total of 60 years; it simply became uneconomic to run.

Engagement in nuclear programs has been delayed by most of the potential newcomer countries, including Bangladesh, Belarus, Jordan, Lithuania, Poland, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam.

In 2012, construction began on six reactors and on three so far in 2013, including on two units in the US. Those two units have been offered over US$8 billion in federal loan guarantees and other subsidies whose total rivals their construction costs, and special laws have transferred financial risks to the taxpayers and customers.

Additional costs arising from upgrading and backfitting measures following the lessons of the Fukushima crisis are only beginning to surface. They are likely to have substantial impact on investment as well as operational costs.

Nine out of 14 major utilities assessed in the WNSIR saw their earnings decline over the past five years while 13 constantly increased their debt level.

Over the past five years, 10 out of 15 assessed nuclear utilities were downgraded by credit rating agency Standard and Poor's, four remained stable, while only one was upgraded.

Renewable energy
In spite of a slight decrease in global investment in 2012, partly reflecting rapidly falling equipment prices, renewable energy development continues its rapid expansion in both, capacity and generation. China, Germany and Japan, three of the world's four largest economies, as well as India, now generate more power from renewables than from nuclear power.

Global investment in renewable energy totalled US$268 billion in 2012, down from US$300 billion the previous year but still five times the 2004 amount.

Globally, since 2000, the annual growth rates for onshore wind power have averaged 27%  and for solar photovoltaics 42%. This has resulted in 2012 in 45 GW of wind and 32 GW of solar being installed, compared to a net addition of 1.2 GW of nuclear. China has a total of 75 GW of operating wind power capacity, roughly doubled in each of the past five years.

For the first time, China and India generated more power from wind than from nuclear plants in 2012, while in China solar electricity generation grew four-fold in one year.

The World Nuclear Industry Status Report is posted at www.worldnuclearreport.org


EIA and IEA reports
The newly-released US Energy Information Administration's 'International Energy Outlook 2013' estimates that total world energy consumption will increase by 56% between 2010 and 2040, from 524 quadrillion British thermal units to 820 quadrillion. Most of that growth is anticipated in Asian and Middle Eastern countries outside the OECD, while energy use in OECD countries is expected to increase by 17%.

Global electricity generation is predicted to grow by 93% from the 2010 level to reach 39,000 TWh by 2040. The EIA predicts that renewables (including hydro, wind and solar) and nuclear power will grow by 2.5% annually between 2010 and 2040.

Electricity generation from nuclear plants is forecast to increase from 2620 TWh in 2010 to 5492 TWh in 2040. Substantial increases in nuclear generating capacity are projected, including 149 GWe in China, 47 GWe in India, 31 GWe in Russia and 27 GWe in South Korea. However, nuclear's share of global electricity production will amount to just 14% in 2040 even under the EIA's growth scenario. The share of renewables is forecast to increase from 21% in 2010 to 25% in 2040.

On June 26, the International Energy Agency (IEA) published an upbeat report on the expected progress of renewable energy worldwide. The IEA's second annual Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report (MTRMR) foresees that power generation capacity from hydro, wind, solar and other renewable sources worldwide will exceed that from gas and be twice that from nuclear by 2018. Renewable power production is expected to grow by 40% over the next five years. Renewables will make up "almost a quarter of the global power mix by 2018, up from an estimated 20% in 2011". The share of non-hydro sources such as wind, solar, bioenergy and geothermal in total power generation will double, reaching 8% by 2018, up from 4% in 2011 and just 2% in 2006.

The IEA also notes that "in addition to the well-established competitiveness of hydropower, geothermal and bioenergy, renewables are becoming cost-competitive in a wider set of circumstances. For example, wind competes well with new fossil-fuel power plants in several markets, including Brazil, Turkey and New Zealand. Solar is attractive in markets with high peak prices for electricity, for instance, those resulting from oil-fired generation. Decentralised solar photovoltaic generation costs can be lower than retail electricity prices in a number of countries."

US Energy Information Administration, 'International Energy Outlook 2013', www.eia.gov/forecasts/ieo
International Energy Agency, Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report, www.iea.org/Textbase/npsum/MTrenew2013SUM.pdf
World Nuclear Association, 26 July 2013, Asian growth to boost global energy demand, www.world-nuclear-news.org/EE-Asian_growth_to_boost_global_energy_demand...
Karel Beckman, 12 July 2013, 'The new energy world according to the IEA', www.energypost.eu/index.php/the-new-energy-world-according-to-the-iea

Uranium Mining in Niger (Jim Green)

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green, Friends of the Earth, Australia (and editor of the Nuclear Monitor)

In the latest unrest at Niger's uranium mines, one person was killed and 14 wounded in a car bomb attack at Areva's uranium mine at Arlit, northern Niger, on May 23. Two suicide bombers were also killed. On the same day, military barracks in the northern town of Agadez were attacked, resulting in the deaths of 18 soldiers and one civilian.

The Arlit attack caused sufficient damage to force a halt to mining operations, which were partially restarted on June 18.

The Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) claimed responsibility for the attacks, in retaliation for military involvement in neighbouring Mali. MUJAO was one of three Islamist groups that seized control of northern Mali last year before French-led troops drove them out.

Moktar Belmoktar, whose brigade calls itself 'Those Who Sign In Blood', also claimed responsibility for the Arlit attack and is believed to be responsible for an attack on a gas plant in Algeria in January which resulted in 80 deaths including 37 foreign hostages.

Areva and uranium mining in Niger
Areva has been mining uranium in Niger for more than 40 years and operates two mines in the north of the country through affiliated companies Somair (Arlit mine) and Cominak (the nearby Akokan mine). Areva is also working to start up a third uranium mine in Niger, at Imouraren.

In July 2007, rebels attacked the compound of an electricity company that powers the area's towns and the Arlit and Akokan uranium mines, but government troops fought them off. Around the same time, rebels made a series of attacks on government and mining interests, killing 15 government soldiers and abducting over 70 more.

Four French workers were kidnapped in 2008 by Tuareg-led rebels and released several days later. The rebel Niger Justice Movement (MNJ) said the French were seized to demonstrate to foreign mining companies that the Niger government could not guarantee the security of their operations.

In August 2008, gunmen killed one civilian and wounded another in an attack on a lorry used for transporting uranium from north Niger to a port in Benin.

In 2010 in Arlit, seven employees of Areva and one of its contractors were kidnapped. Four of them, all French nationals, are still being held. The group has repeatedly threatened to execute them in retaliation for the French-led intervention in Mali.

After the 2010 kidnapping, the French government sent special military forces to protect Areva's uranium mines in Niger, supplementing private security companies which mostly employ former military personnel. The use of French military forces to protect commercial interests led to renewed criticisms of French colonialism in Africa. (France ruled Nigeria as a colony for 60 years, ending in 1960.) In any case, French military forces and Nigerien counter-terrorism units failed to prevent the May 23 attack.

An Areva employee said questions were still being asked as to how the May 23 attack could have happened considering "the impressive military and security apparatus" that was in place. Agoumou Idi, a worker at the mine site, said: "We saw a car enter the factory and immediately it exploded. The terrorists, probably from MUJAO, took advantage of the fact that the entrance gate was open in order to let in a truck carrying the next shift of workers. They used that opening to enter the heart of our factory and explode their vehicle."

In addition to attacks and kidnappings, the Arlit mine has been subject to worker disputes. Workers began an open-ended strike on August 20, 2012 over labour conditions, but the strike ended the following day as negotiations resumed with management over conditions at the mine.

There have also been workers strikes at the nearby Akokan uranium mine. About 1,200 workers began a 72-hour strike on July 9, 2012 to demand higher wages. A 48-hour strike began on April 18, 2013 to demand the payment of a bonus on the mine's 2012 financial results. In May 2012, the social security tribunal of Melun (France) condemned Areva for the lung cancer death of a former employee of the Akokan mine. The court ordered Areva to pay 200,000 Euros plus interest in damages, and to double the widow's pension. Serge Venel died of lung cancer in July 2009 at the age of 59, after working at the Akokan mine from 1978 to 1985.

Ethnic and regional tensions
Areva's operations have exacerbated ethnic and regional tensions within Niger. Uranium production is concentrated in the northern homeland of the nomadic Tuareg minority, who have repeatedly risen in revolt, charging that whatever resources do accrue from the mining operations go primarily to the southern capital of Niamey.

According to the UN human development index, Niger is the third poorest country on the planet, with 70% of the population continuing to live on less than US$1 a day and life expectancy reaching only 45.

A 2010 Green Left Weekly article notes: "The military domination of Niger's politics has its roots in the discovery of uranium in the then-French colony shortly before independence in 1960. Independence was conditional on secret agreements giving France preferential access to mineral resources and continued military influence. Nigerien units of the French colonial army became the armed forces of the nominally independent republic and continued to be trained, armed and financed by France. French troops remained in Niger. ... The neocolonial secret agreements giving Areva below-market prices mean that very little of the wealth from Niger's uranium remains in the country. What little wealth is left over is pocketed by the military-based elite."

Likewise, Khadija Sharife wrote in a 2010 Pambazuka article: "French interests on the continent were realised through France's postcolonial Africa policy, known as Françafrique, extending to the diplomatic and political echelons of the Elysée from the days of de Gaulle. The policy comprised corporate and intelligence lobbies, multinationals intimately connected to the State such as Elf and Areva, French-backed dictators, and shadow networks named in honour of its masterminds such as Jacques Foccart, de Gaulle's chief Africa advisor who was called out of retirement at age 81 by French President Jacques Chirac to resume activities. Chirac himself would declare in the early 1990s that the continent 'was not yet ready for democracy.' ... Currently, the Niger's 12,000 armed forces are guided by 15 French military advisors, with Nigerien personnel largely trained, armed and financed by France, protecting five critical defence zones – namely geostrategic routes and mines."

In 2008, international transparency campaigners meeting under the umbrella of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative condemned the opaqueness surrounding Nigerien mining contracts and demanded their "full publication in the official gazette and the elimination of confidentiality clauses." Nigerien environmental and civil society groups have also denounced the 'vagueness' of local authorities over numerous uranium and oil prospecting licences granted to foreign firms, including Areva. In May 2008 the Nigerien parliament rejected the creation of a commission of inquiry into mining contracts.

Environmental and health impacts
Areva was one of three companies receiving the Prix Pinocchio awards in 2012, in the category "Dirty Hands, Pockets Full" (prix-pinocchio.org). Friends of the Earth France said Areva "refuses to recognise its responsibility for the deterioration of the living conditions of people living near its uranium mines in Africa", a charge that was denied by Areva.

In 2008, Areva received a Public Eye Award as one of "the world's most irresponsible companies" for its uranium mining operations in Niger (publiceye.ch). NGOs the Berne Declaration and Pro Natura alleged: "Uranium mining in Niger: mine workers are not sufficiently informed about health risks, open-air storage of radioactive materials. Workers with cancer are deliberately given a false diagnosis at the company hospital."

Niger's uranium mines have been the subject of many environmental and health controversies including leaks; contamination of water, air and soil; the sale of radioactive scrap metal; the use of radioactive ore to build roads; and poorly managed radioactive tailings dumps.

In November 2009, Greenpeace − in collaboration with the French independent laboratory CRIIRAD (Commission for Independent Research and Information about Radioactivity − criirad.org) and the Nigerien NGO network ROTAB (Network of Organizations for Transparency and Budget Analysis − rotabniger.org) − carried out a brief scientific study of the areas around the Areva mining towns Arlit and Akokan. The groups found:

  • In 40 years of operation, a total of 270 billion litres of water have been used, contaminating the water and draining the aquifer, which will take millions of years to be replaced.
  • In four of the five water samples that Greenpeace collected in the Arlit region, the uranium concentration was above the WHO recommended limit for drinking water. Historical data indicate a gradual increase in uranium concentration over the last 20 years. Some of the water samples contained dissolved radioactive gas radon.
  • A measurement performed at the police station in Akokan showed a radon concentration in the air three to seven times higher than normal levels in the area.
  • Fine (dust) fractions showed an increased radioactivity concentration reaching two or three times higher than the coarse fraction. Increased levels of uranium and decay products in small particles that easily spread as dust would point to increased risks of inhalation or ingestion.
  • The concentration of uranium and other radioactive materials in a soil sample collected near the underground mine was found to be about 100 times higher than normal levels in the region, and higher than the international exemption limits.
  • On the streets of Akokan, radiation dose rate levels were found to be up to almost 500 times higher than normal background levels. A person spending less than one hour a day at that location would be exposed to more than the maximum allowable annual dose.
  • Although Areva claims no contaminated material gets out of the mines anymore, Greenpeace found several pieces of radioactive scrap metal on the local market in Arlit, with radiation dose rates reaching up to 50 times more than the normal background levels. Locals use these materials to build their homes.

2008 CRIIRAD report
A 2008 report by CRIIRAD found that dispersal and re-use of contaminated scrap metal from the mines has been a common practice. CRIIRAD also raised concerns about the storage of tens of millions of tonnes of radioactive tailings in the open air, just a few kilometres away from Arlit and Akokan. CRIIRAD noted that radon gas and radioactive dust can be scattered by the powerful desert winds.

Bruno Chareyron, a physicist and laboratory manager with CRIIRAD, said: "When we released the results to the press, Areva organised a press trip to the Niger and paid for a plane to take a team of 30 journalists to the country – but there was no Geiger counter, no real or tangible way to discern the levels of radiation. They could have been standing on radioactive rocks built into the street and not known differently."

Niger's National Centre for Radiation Protection (CNRP) was found to be idle when visited by CRIIRAD. Chareyron said: "CNRP could not carry out analysis due to the fact that their only Gamma spectrometer was broken – a wire had been out of place since the machine was initially delivered to them."

According to CRIIRAD, analyses of water distributed by Areva in Arlit from 2003−2005 showed total alpha radioactivity of between 10 and 100 times above the WHO guidance value. Following these reports, Areva closed several of the identified wells, but never admitted this was due to uranium in the water. However, internal Areva documents showed that Somair had known for several years about the uranium levels in the drinking water they supply.

The pattern seems to be weak environmental and public health standards which are only addressed − partially − when local or international NGO scrutiny embarrasses Areva, or in response to local worker and citizen protests such as the 5,000-strong demonstration in May 2006.

Some 2,000 students held a protest in Niger's capital Niamey on April 5, 2013 against Areva to demand their country get a bigger slice of its uranium mining revenues. Marchers held placards saying "No to exploitation and neo-colonialism" and "No to Areva". Mahamadou Djibo Samaila, secretary general of the Union of Niamey University Students, said: "The partnership in the mining of uranium is very unbalanced to the detriment of our country."

The Niger Movement for Justice, a largely Tuareg-armed militia active since 2007, has demanded a more equitable distribution of uranium revenue, protection from ecological degradation and access to constitutional rights such as water and waste sanitation, education and electricity.

The government has dismissed the armed civil society movement as anti-democratic 'drug smugglers'. Yet the government has also complained about Areva's behaviour. In 2007, the government expelled Dominique Pin, head of Areva Niger, from the country. In February 2013, President Mahamadou Issoufou said the government intends to renegotiate its partnership with Areva for the exploitation of uranium resources. Mining yields "only 100 million Euros per year", Issoufou said. "It represents only 5% of our budget, that is not permissible. This is why I asked for a balanced partnership between Areva and Niger."

Areva's Imouraren uranium project
Development of the large Imouraren uranium deposit, 80 kms south of Arlit and Akokan, is slowly proceeding. The Imouraren SA joint venture is 57% owned by Areva, 33% by Sopamin, and South Korean utility Kepco holds 10%.
Production was scheduled to begin in 2012 but has been repeatedly delayed, and is currently scheduled for mid-2015. In March 2013, Areva agreed to pay the Nigerien government 35 million euros compensation for the delays. A number of factors have delayed the project − issues arising from the kidnapping of seven Areva workers in Niger's north in 2010, labour disputes, and the depressed state of the uranium market post-Fukushima. Workers held a week-long strike over labour conditions in April 2012, halting construction at the site.
Heavily-armed men attacked a camp of uranium prospectors at Imouraren on April 20, 2007, killing a security guard and wounding three other people. Some 20-30 men demanding a better deal for local Tuareg people raided the camp operated by Areva housing around 250 people and made off with six vehicles and a large number of mobile phones. The gunmen said they belonged to the Niger Movement for Justice, which emerged in February 2007. They called for the proper implementation of a 1995 accord which ended a Tuareg rebellion by promising the tribespeople priority in jobs with local mining companies.

In August 2012, the independent French radiation laboratory CRIIRAD (criirad.org) and the Nigerien NGO Aghir in'Man (aghirinman.blogspot.fr) expressed concerns that the mine will lead to the drying up and contamination of water resources and the disappearance of pasture in an area covering hundreds of square kilometres. The mine will also have impacts on fauna and flora, according to the NGO's president Almoustapha Alhacen.

CRIIRAD's Bruno Chareyron noted that the ore grade at Imouraren is very low, necessitating the excavation of 3.8 billion tonnes of rock to get at that uranium. Consequently, the open pit mine will have a length of 8 kms and a width of 2.5 kms. The pit will be surrounded by piles of waste rock with uranium concentrations too low for processing. Dust and seepage from these piles will have impacts on the health of the residents and on groundwater. CRIIRAD and Aghir in'Man demanded that Areva prepare a new Environmental Impact Assessment and provide precise answers regarding the hydrogeological impact, the long-term disposal of radioactive wastes, and compensation for affected people.

References and Sources


Azelik Uranium Mine in Niger
The Azelik uranium mine, 160 kms south-west of Arlit, began production at the end of 2010. It is operated by the Societe des Mines d'Azelik SA (SOMINA), a consortium with major China National Nuclear Corp (SinoU) equity.
The Christian Science Monitor reported on controversies surrounding the mine:
"The sun-wizened Tuareg women of Azalik have declared war on China. Like their ancestors, they once eked out a living selling dried salts from an ancestral well. Everything changed last year, when the government leased their land to the China Nuclear International Uranium Corporation (Sino-U) for uranium exploration. Left with no livelihood and no compensation, a hundred women gathered to launch stones at mining machinery. "Now it is eternal war," says Tinatina Salah, their 50-year-old leader, who still seeks compensation for the loss of her salt.
"Tuareg rebels accuse deposed president Tandja's administration and mining companies of neglecting development in the north, which is a Tuareg stronghold. Last month Nigerien workers – many of whom are Tuareg – denounced in a written statement conditions at SOMINA, claiming it resembled "a Chinese colony." Nigerien laborers sleep in dorms, separately from Chinese workers. The rooms are located in illegal proximity to open pit uranium mines, and the Nigeriens suffer chronic diarrhea on account of an unsanitary water supply, the document charged."

In March 2013, 680 workers at the Azelik mine went on a 72-hour strike, later extended, demanding better wages and bonus payments.

Nuclear News

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Stop Japan's Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant
Action Requested: Sending letter to the Japanese Embassy in your country urging Japan not to start the Rokkasho reprocessing plant.

Dear Friends,

Greetings from Japan! Sixty-eight years ago on August 9, an atomic bomb containing about 6kg of plutonium destroyed the city of Nagasaki in an instant. Next year, Japan intends to start the commercial operation of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant, the only industrial-scale reprocessing plant in a non-nuclear weapons state, to separate plutonium from fuel used in nuclear power plants at a rate of 8 tons per year, equivalent to 1,000 bombs using the IAEA formula of 8 kg per bomb.

Originally, Japan intended to use separated plutonium to fuel fast breeder reactors, which were supposed to produce more plutonium than they consumed, guaranteeing a semi-eternal energy source. As in other countries, this program stalled, however. So Japan launched an uneconomical program to consume its accumulating plutonium in light water reactors. This also stalled. As result Japan has accumulated about 44 tons of plutonium, equivalent to more than 5,000 bombs: 34 tons in Europe, from reprocessing Japan's spent fuel in the UK and France, and 10 tons in Japan.

Due to the Fukushima accident we have only two of 50 reactors operating. The number and the timing the reactors to be restarted is uncertain and the prospect of being able to consume a significant amount of the existing plutonium in reactors anytime soon is dim. Applications for review for restart of 10 reactors under the new safety rules were just submitted July 8.

The government still wants to start operation of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant. Further accumulation of nuclear-weapon-usable material is a concern for the international society and for Japan's neighbors, who wonder about its intentions.

Separated plutonium is also a security risk. And if other countries follow Japan's example, it would increase proliferation risks.

Please help us to stop Japan from further separating nuclear weapon usable material by doing the following:

Send a message/letter by fax or otherwise to the Japanese Embassy in your country by August 9 urging Japan not to start the Rokkasho reprocessing plant and send a copy of the message/letter that you have sent or intend to send to the following e-mail address by 5 August no-pu[@]gensuikin.org

List of Japanese Embassies: www.mofa.go.jp/about/emb_cons/mofaserv.html

We will deliver them to the government of Japan on August 9. We also will release them to the media.

Thank you very much in advance.


Sincerely yours,

Yasunari Fujimoto
Secretary General,
Japan Congress Against A- and H-Bombs (GENSUIKIN)

(For background information see 'Japan's Reprocessing Plans, Nuclear Monitor #763, 13 June 2013).


Canada: Cameco agreement to silence indigenous protests on uranium mining
After the Pinehouse collaboration Agreement with Cameco and Areva in December 2012, with the English First River Nation in May 2013 another indigenous community of Northwest Saskatchewan has - against protests of their community members - signed an agreement with these uranium mining companies to support their business and not to disturb it anymore.

The agreement - which members have not been permitted to see - allegedly promises $600 million in business contracts and employee wages to the Dene band, in exchange for supporting Cameco/Areva's existing and proposed projects within ERFN's traditional territory, and with the condition that ERFN discontinue their lawsuit against the Saskatchewan government relating to Treaty Land Entitlement section of lands near Cameco's proposed Millenium mine project.

− from Nuclear Heritage Network − NukesNews #10, 29 July 2013, nukenews.nuclear-heritage.net

More information:
Committee for Future Generations, http://committeeforfuturegenerations.wordpress.com/
Peter Prebble and Ann Coxworth, July 2013, 'The Government of Canadaʼs Legacy of Contamination in Northern Saskatchewan Watersheds, tinyurl.com/uran-sask

South Korea: Nuclear scandal widens
The scandal in South Korea concerning the use of counterfeit parts in nuclear plants, and faked quality assurance certificates, has widened. [1]
In May 2012, five engineers were charged with covering up a potentially dangerous power failure at the Kori-I reactor which led to a rapid rise in the reactor core temperature. The accident occurred because of a failure to follow safety procedures. [2] A manager decided to conceal the incident and to delete records, despite a legal obligation to notify the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission. [3] In October 2012, authorities temporarily shut down two reactors at separate plants after system malfunctions.

Then in November 2012, the scandal involving counterfeit parts and faked certificates erupted. [4] The reactor parts included fuses, switches, heat sensors, and cooling fans. The scandal kept escalating and by the end of November it involved at least 8601 reactor parts, 10 firms and six reactors and it was revealed the problems had been ongoing for at least 10 years. Plant owner Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP) acknowledged possible bribery and collusion by its own staff members as well as corruption by firms supplying reactor parts. [5]

Two reactors were taken offline to replace thousands of parts, while replacement parts were fitted to other reactors without taking them offline.

In recent months the scandal has continued to expand.

Late May 2013: Two more reactors were shutdown and the scheduled start of two others was delayed because an anonymous whistleblower revealed that "control cables had been supplied to [the] four reactors with faked certificates even though the part had failed to pass a safety test." [6]

June 20: Widespread police raids. [7] Prosecutors reveal that the number of plants suspected to have non-compliant parts (or at least paperwork) has widened to include 11 of South Korea's 23 reactor reactors. [8]

July 8: The former president of KHNP was arrested as part of the ongoing investigation into nuclear industry corruption. [9,10]

July 10: Search and seizure occurred at Hyundai Heavy Industries after the Busan Prosecutor's office obtained warrants relating to the nuclear parts scandal. [11]

July 11: Details emerged on the involved parties in the Hyundai headquarters raid, including persons and exchanged funds. Contract bribery is included in the charges. [12]

Even before the scandals of the past two years, a 2011 IPSOS survey found 68% opposition to new reactors in South Korea. [13] The proportion of South Koreans who consider nuclear power safe fell from 71% in 2010 to 35% in 2012. [14]

References and Sources:
1. Atomic Power Review, 14 July 2013, 'South Korea's Nuclear Energy Corruption Scandal Widens in Scope', http://atomicpowerreview.blogspot.com.au/2013/07/south-koreas-nuclear-en...
2. www.koreaherald.com/opinion/Detail.jsp?newsMLId=20120315000875
3. www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS_Safety_culture_questions_after_loss_of_pow...
4. http://planetark.org/enviro-news/item/67070
5. www.abc.net.au/news/2012-11-05/uncertified-parts-force-nuclear-reactor-s...
6. www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/nuclear-reaction/south-ko...
7. www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20130620000802
8. www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20130623000225
9. www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20130708000852
10. www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20130705000621
11. www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20130710001055
12. www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20130711000801
13. IPSOS, June 2011, 'Global Citizen Reaction to the Fukushima Nuclear Plant Disaster', www.ipsos-mori.com/Assets/Docs/Polls/ipsos-global-advisor-nuclear-power-...
14. Reuters, 7 Jan 2013, 'South Korea to expand nuclear energy despite growing safety fears', www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/08/us-nuclear-korea-idUSBRE90704D20130108


France: Activists target uranium and nuclear plants
Two uranium facilities were blocked by activists in the South of France on June 19. The collectives "Stop Uranium" and "Stop Tricastin" organised simultaneous non-violent blockades in front of two uranium facilities in the south of France. The first facility, the Comurhex Malvési (near Narbonne) is the entrance gate for yellowcake in France. The second facility was the Eurodif enrichment plant, on the Tricastin nuclear site, near Avignon.

About 30 Greenpeace activists were arrested on July 15 after breaking into an EDF nuclear power plant in southern France, saying they wanted to expose security flaws and demanding its closure. The activists said they reached the walls of two reactors at the Tricastin plant, one of France's oldest. The protesters who entered the plant at dawn unfurled a yellow and black banner on a wall above a picture of President Francois Hollande, marked with the words: 'TRICASTIN ACCIDENT NUCLÉAIRE: PRÉSIDENT DE LA CATASTROPHE?' (Tricastin Nuclear Accident: President of the Disaster?).

"With this action, Greenpeace is asking François Hollande to close the Tricastin plant, which is among the five most dangerous in France," said Yannick Rousselet from Greenpeace France. Greenpeace is pressing Hollande to honour his previous promise to close at least 10 reactors by 2017 and 20 by 2020.

In July 2008 an accident at a treatment centre next to the Tricastin plant saw liquid containing untreated uranium overflow out of a faulty tank during a draining operation. The same month around 100 staff at Tricastin's nuclear reactor number four were contaminated by radioactive particles that escaped from a pipe.

Nuclear Heritage Network − NukesNews #10, 29 July 2013, nukenews.nuclear-heritage.net
Reuters, 'Greenpeace activists break into French nuclear plant', www.euronews.com/newswires/2029444-dozens-of-greenpeace-activists-enter-...
'French Greenpeace activists break into nuclear power plant', 15 July 2013, www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jul/15/french-greenpeace-activists-n...
Angelique Chrisafis, 25 July 2008, 'It feels like a sci-fi film' - accidents tarnish nuclear dream', www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/jul/25/nuclear.industry.france


Germany: Activists blockade nuclear fuel production plant
On July 25, around 50 activists blockaded Areva's nuclear fuel production plant in Lingen, north-east Germany. The protest included a climbing action as well as Samba-band. For seven hours, traffic delivering material to the plant was blocked. Around midday, police arrived and cleared away the peaceful non-violent blockade. A number of activists were taken to the police station. A female activist was wounded and had to be taken to the hospital.

Photo from visual.rebellion: www.dropbox.com/sh/taymq41hbd0cj9h/BmermA60cG