You are here


Nuclear News

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Canada: Progress with non-reactor isotope production

A research team at the University of British Columbia is making progress developing non-reactor methods to produce technetium-99m (Tc-99m), the isotope used in 70−80% of diagnostic nuclear imaging procedures. Using its Triumf cyclotron, they produced enough Tc-99m in six hours to enable about 500 scans, thereby creating a "viable alternative" to the NRU reactor which is scheduled to close in 2016.1

Clinical trials involving 50−60 patients are expected to begin this year to prove that the cyclotron-produced Tc-99m behaves in the same way as that from nuclear reactors. If the three-month trials are successful, the university says, one of Triumf's cyclotrons "would likely be dedicated to medical isotope production", possibly as soon as 2016.

Only a handful of research reactors around the world produce molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), the parent of Tc-99m. The supply chain has been vulnerable to interruptions from unplanned reactor outages.

The Canadian government has invested around C$60 million (€43m; US$48m) in projects, including Triumf, to bring non-reactor-based isotope production technologies to market through its Isotope Technology Acceleration Program initiative.

Production of Tc-99m using cyclotrons does not require the highly enriched uranium targets that are commonly used in reactors to produce Mo-99 (and Mo-99 production has sometimes been used to justify the use of highly enriched reactor fuel). Instead, Tc-99m is produced by bombarding a Mo-100 target with a proton beam.

Another technique that is showing some promise uses the Canadian Light Source in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.2 The accelerator bombards a target of enriched Mo-100 with high-energy X-rays, which knock a neutron out of some of the Mo-100 atoms to produce Mo-99. If all goes to plan, two or three accelerator systems like the Canadian Light Source facility could produce enough isotopes to supply Canada's domestic needs. Production of the parent isotope Mo-99 is preferable to direct production of Tc-99, as its longer half-life (66 hours vs. 6 hours for Tc-99m) facilitates more widespread distribution.

Numerous non-reactor methods of Mo-99/Tc-99m production have been proposed over the past few decades, and some methods have been proven on an experimental scale.3 There is a reasonable chance that the looming closure of the NRU reactor in Canada will result in viable, affordable methods of large-scale, non-reactor Mo-99/Tc-99m production.

1. WNN, 9 Jan 2015, 'New record for cyclotron isotope production',
2. WNN, 17 Nov 2014, 'Canada ships first synchrotron isotopes',


Belgium not ready for major nuclear accident

Contingency plans for a major nuclear accident are not up to scratch and Belgium is therefore ill-prepared for such a catastrophe. This is the conclusion of a study commissioned by Greenpeace Belgium. The study was undertaken by the French Association pour le Contrôle de la Radioactivité de l'Ouest (ACRO).

Nothing has been learned from the Fukushima disaster in Japan. Emergency preparations are very limited and "would not suffice to protect Belgians if there was serious nuclear accident."

"Zones covered by current contingency plans are too limited and must be enlarged to cover the whole country. There is no mention of the evacuation of cities such as Antwerp, Liege or Namur, in spite of their location being less than 30 kms from a nuclear power station," said Greenpeace, which also highlights power stations in Gravelines, Chooz, Cattehom (France), and Borssele (Netherlands), all along the Belgian border.

For Greenpeace, the Fukushima disaster showed that contingency plans only work to protect populations if they have been developed and tested with a worst case scenario in mind. Everyone concerned – from emergency services to potential victims – must be trained in what to do in advance of an actual incident. "This is not the case in Belgium, where the case of only a limited nuclear incident with low radioactive contamination levels has been envisaged," explains Eloi Glorieux, energy campaigner for Greenpeace Belgium.

In view of the high population density in this country, and of the problems occurring at Belgian nuclear plants in recent months, the expected lifespan of Belgian reactors should not be extended, said Greenpeace.

"Will the Belgian government act responsibly to protect Belgian citizens? For now, it seems willing to run the risk and is ignoring any lessons that were learned from Fukushima and Tchernobyl. We call this culpable negligence".

The report (in Dutch) is posted at:


Global renewable energy knowledge hub

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has launched 'REsource' − an online platform that enables users to easily find country-specific data, create customized charts and graphs, and compare countries on metrics like renewable energy use and deployment. It also provides information on renewable energy market statistics, potentials, policies, finance, costs, benefits, innovations, education and other topics.


Renewable energy costs reaching grid parity

Maturing clean energy technologies, such as onshore wind, solar power and biomass, are reaching grid parity in many parts of the world regardless of whether or not they receive subsidies, a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has revealed.1

IRENA states: "The competitiveness of renewable power generation technologies continued improving in 2013 and 2014, reaching historic levels. Biomass for power, hydropower, geothermal and onshore wind can all provide electricity competitively against fossil fuel-fired power generation. Solar photovoltaic (PV) power has also become increasingly competitive, with its levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) at utility scale falling by half in four years."

IRENA estimates fossil-fuelled power plants produce power at between US$0.07−0.19/kWh when environmental and health costs of carbon emissions and other forms of pollution are taken into account.

Deutsche Bank has released its 2015 Solar Outlook report.2 Deutsche Bank states: "Unsubsidized rooftop solar electricity costs anywhere between $0.13 and $0.23/kWh today, well below retail price of electricity in many markets globally. The economics of solar have improved significantly due to the reduction in solar panel costs, financing costs and balance of system costs. We expect solar system costs to decrease 5-15% annually over the next 3+ years which could result in grid parity within ~50% of the target markets. If global electricity prices were to increase at 3% per year and cost reduction occurred at 5-15% CAGR [compound annual growth rate], solar would achieve grid parity in an additional ~30% of target markets globally. We believe the cumulative incremental total available market for solar is currently around ~140GW/year and could potentially increase to ~260GW/year over the next 5 years as solar achieves grid parity in more markets globally and electric capacity needs increase."

According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, global investment in renewables jumped 16% last year to US$310 billion (€89b), five times the tally of a decade earlier. Solar investments accounted for almost half the total. China led the way with renewable investments increasing almost one-third to US$89.5 billion (€79.6b), while US investment gained 8% to US$51.8 billion (€46.1b).3

A November 2014 report commissioned by the Vienna Ombuds-Office for Environmental Protection compares the economics of renewables and nuclear power.4 Five different renewable technologies were analysed: biomass, onshore and offshore wind, small-scale hydropower plants and solar photovoltaics. Calculations were conducted for five different EU Member states (UK, Poland, Germany, France and the Czech Republic) and the EU-28 overall.

The report concludes: "Generating electricity from a variety of renewable sources is more economical than using nuclear power; this is clearly shown by the model-based assessment of future developments up to 2050. Across the EU end consumers can save up to 37% on their electricity costs – in some Member States even up to 74% – when plans to build nuclear power plants are shelved in favour of renewables. In order to achieve these goals it is vital that we act quickly, but with care, to create the infrastructure and regulatory framework this requires, or to adapt that which already exists."

1. IRENA, January 2014, 'Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2014', . For more of IRENA's ongoing renewable energy cost analysis, see
2. Deutsche Bank, 13 Jan 2015, 'Deutsche Bank’s 2015 solar outlook: accelerating investment and cost competitiveness',
4. Austrian Institute of Ecology / e-think, Nov 2014, 'Renewable Energies versus Nuclear Power: Comparing Financial Support',


Charlie Hebdo − an ally of the anti-nuclear movement

French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has been at the forefront of the denunciation of nuclear threats − from nuclear weapons and from the nuclear fuel cycle − since its creation in 1969; indeed since its predecessor magazine Hara Kiri was first printed in 1960.

Several Charlie Hebdo staffers supported anti-nuclear struggles, including murdered editor Stéphane 'Charb' Charbonnier. Staffer Fabrice Nicolino, who was wounded on January 7, was the author of a special edition of Charlie Hebdo in 2012 called 'The Nuclear Swindle' − with democracy the victim of the swindle.

Belgium: three reactors offline

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Reactor #4 at Belgium's Doel power station shut down automatically on August 5 after "significant damage" was inflicted on a high-pressure steam turbine. The reactor will remain out of operation until at least the end of this year, Electrabel said. The reactor shut down following the loss of oil in its steam turbine. Initial inspections found that the oil had been discharged through a valve which had probably been left open by a worker, according to Electrabel. Belgium's nuclear safety regulator, the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC), said the oil loss probably resulted from "voluntary manual intervention." A spokesperson for GDF Suez, Electrabel's parent company, said the oil loss resulted from "intentional manipulation". Electrabel, FANC and the Public Prosecutor of Dendermonde municipality are investigating.1

In addition to the Doel 4 incident, the Doel 3 and Tihange 2 reactors are offline because of cracks in steel reactor casings. FANC ordered the temporary shut down of the two reactors in 2012 for inspections when ultrasound testing suggested the possible presence of cracks in their reactor vessels. Further investigations indicated that the defects are so-called hydrogen 'flakes' and were introduced during the manufacturing process.2

In early 2013, FANC set out a list of 16 requirements, with 11 to be met before the reactors could restart. Electrabel submitted an action plan and the reactors restarted in May 2013. But they were closed again in March 2014 after additional tests on hydrogen flakes suggested they may affect the mechanical properties of their reactor vessels. The latest outages were expected to last about six weeks, but the reactors remain offline awaiting the results of further tests.

Belgian state media VRT reported that interim test results show the vessels are weakened by the cracks and may need to remain closed until some time next year or may even remain shut permanently. Electrabel responded: "The tests are making good progress and it is totally premature to draw conclusions from them. The first partial results do not in any case allow us to anticipate a definitive shut down. Once tests are completed, a report will be sent to the FANC, which will in turn decide on the restart of the power plants." The Atomic Power Review blog suggests that the outcome may be ongoing operation of the reactors, but with restrictive operating limits.

In addition to safety risks and sabotage allegations, another concern is that FANC chief Jan Bens appears to have a slender grasp on reality. He said in May 2013: "The harbour of Antwerp is being filled with windmills, and the chemical industry is next to it. If there is an accident like a break in one of the wings, that is a guillotine. If that goes through a chloride pipe somewhere, it will be a problem of a bigger magnitude than what can happen at Doel. Windmills are more dangerous than nuclear power plants."3






Argentina, Armenia, Belgium

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#746, 747, 748
Waste special


Nr. of reactors

first grid connection

% of total electricity 




The April 1997 National Law of Nuclear Activity assigns responsibility to the National Atomic Energy Commission CNEA (Comisión Nacional de Energía Atómica, founded in 1950) for radioactive waste management, and created a special fund for this purpose. Operating nuclear power plants pay into this. Awaiting final disposal interim storage of spent fuel takes place at cooling ponds on site, and some interim dry storage at Embalse.(*01) No reprocessing has taken place.

Final disposal
Final disposal of low-level waste takes place in engineering enhanced surface semi containment systems at the Ezeiza Radioactive Waste Management Area (AGE), operated by CNEA. For intermediate level wastes a monolithic near surface repository is foreseen, similar to those in operation in L’Aube, France and El Cabril, in Spain. (*02) Especially after a scandal in 2005 on high levels of water contamination with uranium in Ezeiza and Monte Grande, near the atomic center, doubts have risen about the conditions of and safety procedures at the AGE. The response from the CNEA and the government to the obvious contamination did not help to calm citizens’ worries, as it was marked by obscuring and silencing the real impact. A few years later the provincial government was forced to acknowledge the contamination values measured by independent laboratories, although official reports stated, that there was no contamination from nuclear waste but just high radioactive background level.(*03)

In 1994, during the nation's constitutional reform, a broad Argentinean environmental movement won a momentous victory to make Article 41, which bans the import of toxic and radioactive waste, part of the national constitution.(*04)

The Argentine Strategic Plan has provided three types of technological systems for final disposal:

  • Engineered Surface System, for LLW requiring isolation periods of up to 50 years.
  • Monolithic Near-Surface Repository, for ILW  requiring isolation periods of up to 300 years.
  • Deep Geological Repository, for HLW and SF requiring isolation periods in excess of 300 years.

With regard to spent fuel originating from research or radioisotope production reactors, the strategy considers two alternatives: Shipping them back to the country where they were originally enriched, if possible, or conditioning for final disposal.(*05)

The Strategic Plan, updated in March 2006, at present covers the period from 2006 through 2095.

The deadline to adopt a decision on the possible reprocessing or final disposal of spent fuel is subject to the completion of the studies for the siting of the Deep Geological Repository which have to be concluded at the latest by 2030. At such time the installation of the underground geological laboratory must have been started, which allows the design and construction of a deep geological repository, which must be operative by the year 2060. (*06)


Nr. of reactors

first grid connection

% of total electricity 




The Government of Republic of Armenia established state regulatory authority for nuclear and radiation safety (ANRA). ANRA’s task is the state regulation of nuclear energy, including the safe management of radioactive waste. ANRA regulates the nuclear and radiation safety of Armenian NPP, dry spent nuclear fuel storage facility, ionizing radiation sources, RADON radioactive wastes storage facility, and of other facilities where practices with nuclear materials are implemented.(*01)

Spent fuel is stored in spent fuel pools. After five years of storage the spent fuel is placed into dry spent fuel storage (DSFS) and are placed into horizontal concrete storage modules (HSM). After Unit-1 shutdown its spent fuel pool is used as a temporary storage facility for spent fuel. (*02) DSFS started operation on 1 August 2000. The license validity is 20 years. DSFS consists of 11 horizontally placed concrete modules for storage of 616 spent fuel assemblies. In 2005 the National Assembly based on proposal from the government made decision to extend the DSFS. It will enable storing 1890 fuel assemblies at least 50 years.(*03)


Nr. of reactors

first grid connection

% of total electricity 




In Belgium, after many years of discussion, a storage location has been selected for low-level and medium-level radioactive waste. It will take until 2070/80 before disposal of high-level radioactive waste will begin in clay layers.

Storage in sea
In Belgium, NIRAS (National Agency for Radioactive Waste and Enriched Fissile Materials) has been responsible for the storage of all nuclear waste. NIRAS, established in 1980, is supervised by the Ministry of Economic Affairs. From 1960 to 1982 Belgium dumped low-level radioactive waste in the Atlantic Ocean(*01) –described by NIRAS as "sea disposal at great depths".[*02] Since then NIRAS is studying the disposal of all types of nuclear waste aboveground or underground.

Low- and medium-level radioactive waste
In April 1994, NIRAS published a report on the aboveground storage of low-level radioactive waste. In all 98 mentioned suitable locations (in 47 municipalities), the report led to motions in town councils, in which storage was rejected.(*03).The government ask NIRAS if it would be possible to store the waste on one of the 25 military bases no longer in use. In June 1997, NIRAS published a report which "ultimately had only been a preparatory exercise, based on bibliographic data,"(*04) but nevertheless gave rise to concern again. Only the town council of Beauraing, where the military base Baronville is situated, was in favour of storage, but on 28 June 1998, in a local referendum 94 percent voted against.(*05) This brought embarrassment to the government, and as it often goes in politics, the government came with a woolly policy to work towards "a final solution or a solution with definite, progressive, flexible and reversible destination."(*06) According to this decision the low- and medium-level radioactive waste can be stored either close to the surface as well as in deep geological clay formations.(*07) The government no longer points to any sites, but puts the emphasis on public support and it assumes public support can be found at existing nuclear zones. These are Doel and Tihange (nuclear power stations), Mol (Center for Nuclear Energy Research), Dessel (manufacture of fuel elements) and Fleurus (Institute for radio-elements). But towns may present themselves also voluntarily.(*08) NIRAS adopted the government's policies and stated in 1998: "To strive for a real partnership from the beginning, rather than merely an exchange of arguments, means a modernization for the nuclear waste sector."(*09)

In 1999, after much deliberation, NIRAS signed a partnership agreement with Dessel and Mol, and on June 23, 2006 the choice fell on Dessel. In 2004, the population of Dessel had already voted in favour of the so-called surface disposal, which is planned to start in 2016.(*10) The waste (appr. 70,000m3) will be stored in what ultimately will be a hill of 160 by 950 meters and 20 meters high. Barrels put in boxes filled-up with concrete (monoliths), will be placed in modules and covered with mutiple layers. Taking into account the additional buildings, the storage requires 74 acres (30 ha). After 50 years, the storage is completed, and then it can be decided whether the roof is replaced by a definitive cover. It should be possible to retrieve the monoliths in the first 200-300 years when there will be active monitoring of the waste.(*11)

High-level radioactive waste
Since the early 1970s, Belgium has plans to store high-level radioactive waste in clay layers. From 1974 to 1989 research and construction of an underground mine (at a depth of 230 meters) into the clay under Mol in the Kempen region took place. This is a particular type of clay, the so-called “Boomse klei” (Boom clay), which is also present in some parts of the Netherlands. According to NIRAS, Belgium opted for clay because there was data available. The choice fell on Mol ("Apart from its intrinsic qualities, the Boom clay has the advantage of being located under the nuclear site at Mol-Dessel.") because this town is hosting the national Center for Nuclear Energy Research with the (closed) Eurochemie reprocessing plant: "to have available a local solution for eventual disposal of reprocessing waste from the Eurochemic plant".(*12)

Between 1990 and 2000 methods to assess the safety and the properties of clay for the long term were studied. One of the important questions what would happen if nuclear waste is leaking from the barrels and ends up in the clay? The NIRAS 2002 SAFIR (Safety Assessment and Feasibility Interim Report) 2 report states that many questions about the safety of storing nuclear waste in clay remain unanswered: until 2017, therefore eleven issues have to be examined with priority.

Until 2017, NIRAS will show the feasibility of the studied solution and demonstrate how the nuclear waste has to be disposed of. Then construction of the storage mine may start. In the complicated words of NIRAS: "Without frustrating the basic choice of the Boom clay, at this moment there still remain important questions unanswered, therefore it is premature to make a definitive statement today on the technical feasibility of storage in this formation or on the operational and long-term safety of such disposal."(*13)

Keeping in mind there is still no decision on disposal of high-level radioactive waste in clay yet),  the NIRAS' Board of Directors adopted a 'Waste Plan' on 23 September 2011.(*14) "Now the legal procedure for the Waste Plan is completed and the dossier is ready to be delivered to the government which then will have all the ingredients to make a decision. With a basic decision of the government clarity will be obtained which direction further work has to be done on how long-term safety can be guaranteed. The basic decision will be the first step in a gradual, lengthy decision-making process in which the society will be involved. The process leading to the implementation of a long-term management option will take several decades. Currently, it is not about selection of a location. That choice, at which the local population will be 'closely involved', will be made at a later stage in the decision-making process.”(*15) If the government opts for storage in clay, it will take until 2070-2080 before the disposal of high-level radioactive waste can begin.(*16)


*01- World Nuclear Association: Nuclear Power in Argentina, November 2011
*02- Republica Argentina: Third National report Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, 2008, section B-7
*03- Michael Alvarez Kalverkamp: Argentina: Uncertainty about the nuclear future, Heinrich Boell Foundation, 18 April 2011
*04- Greenpeace: Argentina next nuclear dump for the world?, 8 November 2002
*05- IAEA: Country profile: Argentina
*06- Republica Argentina, Section B-1

*01- ANRA: ANRA Regulatory Activity, Installations subject to Regulation and Legal Bases, website, April 2012.
*02- ANRA: Convention on Nuclear Safety, Fifth national report of the Republic of Armenia, September 2010.
*03- ANRA: Dry Spent Fuel Storage Facility, website, April 2012

*01- IAEA: Inventory of radioactive waste disposals at sea, IAEA-Tecdoc-1105, August 1999
*02- NIRAS: Het beheer van het radioaktieve afval, vouwblad 7: De berging van het radioaktieve afval, (The management of radioactive waste. Folder 7; the disposal of radioactive waste), Brussels, no date.
*03- Erik van Hove: Accounting for Socio-economic Effects in Nuclear Waste Disposal Projects, in: Nuclear Energy Agency, "Informing the Public about Radioactive Waste Management", Proceedings of an NEA International Seminar, Rauma, Finland, 13-15 June 1995, Paris, 1996, p 161-171
*04- NIRAS: press release, Brussels, 16 March 1998, p 3
*05- TV België-1: journaal (national TV-channel news) 19.00 hr, 28 June 1998
*06- NIRAS: Informatiefiche, Brussels, 2 March 1998
*07- Nuclear Energy Agency: Radioactive Waste Management Programmes in OECD/NEA Member Countries, Belgium, Paris, 25 May 1998
*08- NIRAS: Informatiefiche, Brussels, 2 March 1998, p. 11
*09- NIRAS: Partnerschap staat centraal in nieuw werkprogramma van NIRAS, (Partnership is central issue in new working program of NIRAS), press release, Brussels, 16 March 1998, p. 3-4
*10- NIRAS: Het langetermijnbeheer van categorie-A afval  (2006) (The long-term management of Category-A waste)
*11- NIRAS: Final report De berging, op Belgisch grondgebied, van laag- en middelactief afval met korte levensduur, 2006 (The storage, on Belgian soil, of short lived low and intermediate level waste)
*12- NIRAS: SAFIR Syntheseverslag (SAFIR Synthesisreport), Brussels, June 1989, pp. 7 and 8
*13- NIRAS: Naar een duurzaam beheer van radioactief afval (Towards a durable management of nuclear waste), SAFIR 2 and it's context, report NIROND-2001-07N, 4 February 2002.
*14- NIRAS: Press release Afvalplan (Wasteplan) Brussels, 23 September 2011
*15- ONDRAF/NIRAS, Executive summary Afvalplan voor het langetermijnbeheer van geconditioneerd hoogradioactief en/of langlevend afval en overzicht van verwante vragen, September 2011. (Waste plan for long term management of conditioned high-level waste and/or long-living waste and overview of relevant questions) report NIROND 2011-04.
*16- Sigrid Eeckhout (NIRAS), email to Herman Damveld on 8 December 2009, 15.51 hr.

Accelerator-driven nuclear reactor and transmutation

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

Guinevere, a first-of-a-kind reactor system has been set up in Belgium by coupling a subcritical assembly with a particle accelerator. The work is heralded as a major step in the program to research advanced radioactive waste management.

Transmutation of long-lived isotopes into short lived ones would simplify the permanent geologic disposal of radioactive waste.

The equipment, Guinevere, is a demonstration model that supports the project for a larger version that will be called Myrrha (Multipurpose Hybrid Research Reactor for High-tech Applications). It was assembled by France's National Centre for Scientific Research and is managed by the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK-CEN) at Mol, about 50 kilometers east of Antwerp. The overall project is supported by 12 other European laboratories and the European Commission. The research infrastructure for Guinevere was inaugurated on March 4, 2010, at the Belgian Nuclear Research center SCK-CEN in Mol.

Nuclear terminology classifies an item of equipment as in a critical state if the chain fission reaction is self-sustaining and each reaction leads on average to one more. The term supercritical means the number of fissions is increasing, while subcritical means it is decreasing and will therefore dwindle to nothing.

Guinevere is designed to be subcritical if it were not for an accelerator system that sends a constant stream of protons to a target that emits neutrons to trigger fission. According to a SCK-CEN statement, "This type of reactor is very safe because the reactor section relies on a particle accelerator: when it is turned off, the reactor will stop immediately."

As well as this kind of accelerator-driven operation, Guinevere is also capable of 'classic' criticality triggered by a neutron source in the reactor core and maintained by the reactor geometry and operation of its lead cooling system. This mode of operation was 'inaugurated' in February 2011.

Guinevere has "very limited power" and is being used to learn more about the operation and control of this kind of reactor arrangement. The knowledge will be put to use at Guinevere's larger relation, Myhrra.

Myrrha, a flexible fast spectrum research reactor (50-100 MW-th) is conceived as an accelerator driven system (ADS), able to operate in sub-critical and critical modes. It contains a proton accelerator of 600 MeV, a spallation target and a multiplying core with MOX fuel, cooled by liquid lead-bismuth (Pb-Bi).  Myrrha will be operational at full power around 2023. Until 2014 the Front End Engineering Design (FEED), the associated R&D program, the licensing process and the set-up of the international consortium will take place. Construction of the facility and assembly of the components is foreseen in the period 2015-2019. Three years (2020-2022) are foreseen for the full commissioning of the facility. The total investment cost was estimated in 2009 at 960 million euro.

The Belgian government will support 40 % (384 million euro) of the total budget (M€ 960) of which 60 million euro until construction phase in 2014. Almost three years into the project, SCK-CEN is still looking to set up an international consortium to ensure additional financing and, according to a World Nuclear News article, it has completed a memorandum of understanding with the Chinese Academy of Sciences focusing on Myrrha.

Myrrha will be able to produce radioisotopes and doped silicon, but its research functions would be particularly well suited to investigating transmutation. This is when certain radioactive isotopes with long half lives are made to 'catch' a neutron and thereby change into a different isotope that will decay more quickly to a stable form with no radioactivity. If achievable and on an industrial scale, transmutation could greatly simplify the permanent geologic disposal of radioactive waste.

Partitioning and Transmutation 
The purpose foreseen for ADS is the "burning" of transuranic elements, particularly the minor actinides (Neptunium, Americium and Curium) that place severe constrains on geological disposal of nuclear waste, more effectively and more safely than is achievable in critical reactors. The fraction of neutrons which are delayed in the fission of minor actinides is much smaller than for uranium, with the result that control of a critical core comprising mostly minor actinide fuel is expected to be difficult, yet using few largely-minor-actinide-fuelled reactors may prove more advantageous than distributing (transporting) minor actinide fuel throughout the whole reactor fleet. ADS can achieve the required control and safely burn the transuranics in a largely minor-actinide fuelled core.

Although the driver fuel proposed for Myrrha does not contain minor actinides, it would demonstrate the essential features of ADS for the first time, that is, the combination of a high-power proton-beam accelerator, spallation source and a subcritical core. "The scientific and technological value of this demonstration would therefore be very high is successfully achieved", is written in a 2009 'independent' evaluation of the Myrrha project. Well, independent…? The international team of experts only existed of experts from the nuclear sector, who all believe in the necessity of nuclear power and the possibility to fix technological problems with technological solutions.

And even these independent experts admit the technical problems to be overcome are not trivial. A high-power proton-beam accelerator that meets the project reliability requirements has yet to be developed, the techniques for precise positioning and controlled displacement of the proton beam need to be mastered; maintaining a stable, free surface of flowing lead-bismuth liquid target is also necessary: these are all formidable challenges.

It should also be pointed out that there may be a question of timing, of whether the demonstration of ADS will eventually prove necessary within the time frame proposed for Myrrha, as Belgian and/or European fuel cycle and waste management strategies evolve. It should also be kept in mind that the successful demonstration of ADS is only part of partitioning and transmutation (P&T); advanced fuel cycle technology in which substantial amounts of minor actinides are handled and incorporated into new fuel is also necessary. This is still in a very early stage of development.

Even the most elaborate transmutation schemes will leave behind substantial amounts of long-lived radionuclides requiring disposal, while generating large new volumes of operating and decommissioning wastes. Transmutation does not eliminate the need for a high-level waste repository. Waste from prior reprocessing operations, whether for commercial or military purposes, is highly unlikely to be transmuted since almost all of it will have been vitrified for safety reasons before a transmutation program can be put into place. This large amount of waste would have to be sent directly to the repository. In other words, there are fundamental and substantial limitations to the reduction in long-lived radioactivity that can be achieved even with an elaborate and very expensive transmutation program.

All transmutation schemes require reprocessing and separation of transuranic radionuclides. The current use of commercial reprocessing and MOX-fuel, the simpliest of schemes to transmutate a small fraction of existing plutonium, results in the separation of significant quantities of plutonium, which is undesirable from a proliferation standpoint. Transmutation would greatly increase separation of –weapons-usable material and/or the diffusion of technologies that would facilitate such separation. It will thereby considerably increase the risks of proliferation.

Reprocessing, which is required in all transmutation schemes, is one of the most damaging components of the fuel cycle. It results in the discharges of large volumes of waste and radioactive emissions to air and water.

Sources: Nuclear Alchemy, An assessment of Transmutation as a nuclear waste management strategy, Hisham Zerriffi & Annie Makhijani, May 2000 / Independent evaluation of the MYRRHA project, OECD Nuclear Energy Agency, 2009 / Press releases SCK-CEN, 4 & 12 March 2010 /
World Nuclear News, 11 January 2012
Contact: WISE Amsterdam


Belgium: next nuclear domino to fall

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Eloi Glorieux, Energy Campaigner Greenpeace Belgium

In the early 1960,  the Nuclear Research Center (SCK) in Mol accommodated the very first PWR in Europe. In the late 1960, without any political or public debate, the Belgian government decided at one singe minister council meeting to launch a nuclear power program. Just like France, the intention was to build up a 100 percent nuclear electricity system. In the small and very densely populated country, it was not easy to find suitable sites. Finally, two sites were selected:  Doel, near the Schelde river, at only 11 km from the city of Antwerp with half a million inhabitants; and  Tihange, near the Meuse river at only 3 km from the city of Huy.

In 1975, the three first reactors were connected to the grid: Doel 1 and Doel 2 (500 MW each) and Tihange 1 (1.000 MW). All of them were second generation PWR's from US and French design. Between 1982 and 1985 four more 1.000 MW reactors were build: two at Doel and two more at Tihange. The construction works for the eight Belgian nuclear reactor were stopped in 1986, due to the Chernobyl disaster. From that moment onwards the consecutive federal governments put a moratorium on new reactors.  

Turning point: 2003 nuclear phase-out law
The elections of 1999 brought a political earthquake. The Christian democrats moved, after many decades of power, to the opposition and a coalition of liberals, social democrats and greens took over. The greens managed to get the nuclear phase-out into the governmental agreement and on the initiative of the green energy secretary of state the parliament voted with a vast majority in 2003 the nuclear phase-out law.

The 2003 phase-out law stipulates that all seven commercial nuclear power reactors will be decommissioned after 40 years of operation. This gives the following calendar:
Reactor                                start-up          closure

Doel 1 (500 MW)                   1975                2015

Doel 2 (500 MW)                   1975                2015

Tihange 1 (1.000 MW)           1975                2015

Doel 3 (1.000 MW)                1982                2022

Tihange 2 (1.000 MW)           1983                2023

Doel 4 (1.000 MW)                1985                2025

Tihange 3 (1.000 MW)           1985                2025

However, in order to get the liberals to vote the law, a paragraph was added, stating that the lifetime of the reactors could be extended if the security of supply would be endangered.

The nuclear lobby at its best
After the federal elections of June 2003, a few months after the phase-out law was voted, a new government of liberals and social democrats, but without greens, was formed. This new government confirmed the phase-out law in its governmental agreement, but did nothing to initiate replacement capacity. Electrabel (now taken over by GDF-Suez) and the Nuclear Forum started an unseen PR-offensive. The elections of 2007 brought the Christian democrats back in power in a conservative coalition with liberals and Flemish nationalists. One of the first statements of the new prime minister Leterme was that he would go for a ten years lifetime extension of the three oldest reactors and twenty years for the four other reactors. In October 2009 prime minister Van Rompuy, who succeeded Leterme, signed a draft protocol with GDF-Suez CEO, Mestrallet, in which they agreed to extend the lifetime of Doel 1, Doel 2 and Tihange 1 with ten years in exchange for a yearly nuclear tax of 250 million euro. This was a gift to the French multinational, because the Belgian energy regulator, CREG, calculated the windfall profits for GDF-Suez at 2,1 billion euro. This protocol, however, had no legal basis as long as the 2003 nuclear phase-out was not changed. So the government prepared a new law proposal. But in March 2010, before the new law had been presented to the parliament, the government fell. At the elections, the voters reshuffled the political cards so drastically, that it finally took more than one and a half year before a new government with full competences to change the law could be formed (a government-of-current-affairs is not entitled to change the law).

Fukushima created a new awareness
The nuclear disaster in Fukushima created a new awareness, not only in the public's mind, but also within the political parties. An opinion poll showed that 66% of the citizens wanted the nuclear power stations to close as foreseen in the 2003 phase-out law, only 21% opposed.  76% preferred investments in renewables over lifetime extension of nuclear reactors. October 2011 brought a breakthrough in the political impasse and finally, in December, after more than one  and a half year, a new government of social democrats, christian democrats and liberals was formed. 

The governmental agreement stipulates that the 2003 nuclear phase-out law will be respected, but the exact closing date of the three oldest reactors would depend on the availability of replacement capacity. Within six months, i.e. by May 2012, a study will be made about when the replacement capacity will be ready to come on line. It will than, depend on the government to decide whether to stick to the original decommissioning calendar (2015 for the three oldest reactors) or to extend the lifetime of (some of) those reactors with a couple of years. Because they agreed to respect the principle of the phase-out, an automatic lifetime extension of ten years, as wanted by GDF-Suez Electrabel, is out of the question. GDF-Suez Electrabel plays it very hard by blackmailing the government. They threaten to disinvest in Belgium and to withdraw their administrative center out of the country. They also oppose the governmental decision to increase the nuclear tax from 250 to 510 million euro.

A lot now will depend on the political decision of the new secretary of state responsible for Energy, the christian democrat Wathelet, who has always been a rather pro-nuclear guy.

There is already enough replacement capacity
The three oldest reactors  produce some 16% of the electricity in Belgium. A report on energy efficiency commissioned by Greenpeace shows that there is an unused electricity saving potential that can be realized on the short term at low cost, covering 2/3 of the capacity produced by the three oldest reactors. The Dutch electricity producing company Eneco declares that it has all the environmental and construction licenses for the construction of two steam and gas plants with the capacity of Doel 1 and Doel 2. However, they will not start the construction as long as they are not sure that the oldest nuclear reactors will be closed in 2015.  As a matter of fact, it is the government itself who can determine whether or not there will be enough replacement capacity. If they would take right now the clear decision that the three oldest reactors will be closed in 2015 and not one year later, other electricity companies would be eager to establish themselves on the Belgian market. As long as the door for a lifetime extension of even only a few years is kept open, nobody will move.

Source and contact: Eloi Glorieux, Energy Campaigner Greenpeace Belgium. Haachtsesteenweg 159, 1030 Brussels, Belgium.
Tel: +32 475 982093
Mail: eloi.glorieux[at]


In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Belgian phase-out: oldest 3 reactors to close in 2015.
Belgian's political parties have reached a conditional agreement to phase nuclear power by 2025, if they can find an adequate supply of energy from alternative sources by that time. Belgium currently has seven nuclear reactors at two sites, four at Doel in the north, and three at Tihange in the south. The three oldest reactors are set to be shut down by 2015, with the rest taken off the grid by 2025. The agreement confirms a decision taken in 2003, which was shelved during Belgium's political stalemate. The country has been without a federal government for 18 months, after coalition talks repeatedly failed following the elections in April 2010. Belgian's power stations are operated by Electrabel, which is part of French GDF-Suez. The company's share price fell nearly 5 percent on Monday.

Although Belgium had long planned its nuclear exit, public hostility to nuclear power has grown since Japan's nuclear disaster at Fukushima earlier this year.  Belgium will now negotiate with investors to see how it can find new capacity to replace the 5,860 MW that will be lost if the nuclear phase-out goes ahead.
Deutsche Welle, 31 October 2011

EDF delays construction start in UK.
In Nuclear Monitor 735 (October 21, 2011) we published an article called: 'UK nuclear program: companies reconsider investments', in which it was analyzed that even EDF must be having second thoughts about investing in new build in the UK, although (Electricite de France) is the only company that did not express doubts about investing in new nuclear in UK. E.On, RWE, Centrica and SSE (which cancelled investments) all have second thoughts and started internal review processes.

But on October 28, a few days after the publication, EDF decided to delay the construction of the four planned nuclear reactors in the UK, confirming a report from the French Les Echos newspaper. According to the EDF spokeswoman, EDF is taking time to evaluate the consequences of delays at a reactor under construction in Flamanville and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. EDF will release a new calendar for the project during the fall, she said. EDF was planning to start building the first of the planned nuclear rectors in 2013, the newspaper said.

(to be continued…), 28 October 2011

Mexico: natural gas cheaper than nuclear.
Mexico, Latin America’s second-largest economy and one of three Latin American nations that uses nuclear power (the other two being Brazil and Argentina), is abandoning plans to build as many as 10 new reactors and will focus on natural gas-fired electricity plants after boosting discoveries of the fuel. Mexico considered a plan to build as many as 10 nuclear power plants by 2028, according to a CFE presentation. The state company was weighing four investment plans to increase long-term capacity, the most ambitious nuclear plan included building 10 nuclear plants, according to the May 12, 2010 presentation.

The country is “changing all its decisions, amid the very abundant existence of natural-gas deposits,” newly appointed Energy Minister Jordy Herrera said in a November 1 interview. Mexico will seek private investment of about US$10 billion during five years to expand its natural gas pipeline network, he said.

Mexico’s energy ministry plans to update the nation’s long- term strategic plan to reflect the increased importance of gas, Herrera said, with the report due in the first quarter of 2012.

“Until we find a model to make renewable energy more profitable, gas is more convenient,” Herrera said. “The country has very high potential to develop renewable energy,” Herrera added. “But the renewable energy world is hurt by the cheap gas prices. And the government has to consider how much it can spend to promote alternative energy sources.”, 3 November 2011

New IPFM-report on managing spent fuel.
The International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM) releases new report: "Managing Spent Fuel from Nuclear Power Reactors: Experience and Lessons from Around the World". The report provides an overview of the policy and technical challenges faced by efforts at long-term storage and disposal of spent fuel from nuclear power reactors over the past five decades. It analyzes the efforts to manage and dispose of spent fuel by ten countries that account for more than 80 percent of the world's nuclear power capacity: Canada, Finland, France, Germany, South Korea, Japan, Russia, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The new report also provides an overview of the technical issues relating to interim storage and transport of spent fuel, geological repositories, and the challenge of the associated international safeguards. The spent fuel from nuclear power reactors, and the high-level wastes produced in the few countries where spent fuel is reprocessed to separate plutonium, must be stored in a manner that will minimize releases of the contained radioactivity into the environment for up to a million years. Safeguards will be required to ensure that any contained plutonium is not diverted to nuclear-weapon use.
A PDF version of the report is available at

2011 edition of Nukespeak published.
On October 4, 2011, Sierra Club Books published the 30th anniversary edition of Nukespeak: The Selling of Nuclear Technology from the Manhattan Project to Fukushima exclusively in e-book format. First published in 1982 in the wake of the first great nuclear plant accident at Three Mile Island, the original edition, written by Stephen Hilgartner, Richard C. Bell, and Rory O’Connor, examined the turbulent history of the nuclear industry, documenting the extraordinary public relations campaign that developers undertook to sell nuclear technology.

Nukespeak is the language of the nuclear mindset — the worldview or system of beliefs of nuclear developers and enthusiasts. The word “Nukespeak” is a  tribute to George Orwell, who in his novel 1984, used the term “Newspeak” as the name of the language of Big Brother and the totalitarian state. Unlike a living language, the state was constantly removing words from common usage, with the ultimate goal to make it (literally) impossible for a citizen to think a seditious thought.

The new 2011 edition, updated by original authors Richard C. Bell and Rory O’Connor, brings the book fully up-to-date, exploring the critical events of the last three decades—including the disaster at Chernobyl, the campaign to re-brand nuclear energy as a “clean, green” solution to global warming, and the still unfolding disaster at Japan’s Fukushima power plant. In addition, the authors argue persuasively that a language of euphemism and distraction continues to dominate public debate about nuclear weapons and nuclear power around the world.
The book can be purchased online at: Amazon, iTunes and Barnes & Noble

Radioactive and toxic mine dumps threaten Johannesburg. The 380 mine dumps and slimes dams in the the South African province Gauteng are causing radioactive dust fallout, toxic water pollution and soil contamination, according to the final draft of a new report by the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD) on mine residue areas (MRAs). The report was completed in July but is yet to be released. The report warns that if the province doesn’t act, it's capital “Johannesburg will eventually be seen as an old mining town that has reached the end of its working life”, with banks refusing to finance any homes or development near the dumps. Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa by population and the world's largest city not situated on a river, lake, or coastline.

The report found that most MRAs – including mine dumps, waste rocks dumps and water storage facilities – in Gauteng are radioactive “because the Witwatersrand gold-bearing ores contain almost 10 times the amount of uranium in gold. “These radioactive tailings co-exist in these MRAs alongside the iron sulphide mineral pyrite, which reacts in the presence of oxygen and water to form a sulphuric acid solution – the main cause of acid mine drainage,” says the report, Feasibility Study on Reclamation of Mine Residue Areas for Development Purposes: Phase II Strategy and Implementation Plan. But it says that the broader issue of “diffuse sources” of pollution represented by the mine dumps and slimes dams and their possible interactions with rainfall, seepage, surface water runoff and shallow groundwater “is possibly more important than the impact of acid mine drainage in Gauteng.

In February, the Saturday Star revealed how the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) had recommended the relocation of residents of Tudor Shaft informal settlement, on an old radioactive mine dump, in Krugersdorp. The report suggests that this NNR ruling is “likely to become a watershed ruling likely to be relevant for a number of other sites” and that high-risk informal settlements will need to be relocated to minimise human health risks.
Saturday Star (South Africa), 5 November 2011

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Oppose Nigeria's nuclear plans.
On September 15, President Goodluck Jonathan formally inaugurated Nigeria's Atomic Energy Commission and urged its members headed by Erepamo Osaisai to quickly evolve implementable plans and timelines for the delivery of atomic energy for peaceful purposes in the country. We recall that the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission was established in 1976 to investigate the development of nuclear energy but little progress was made. It was reactivated in 2006 and President Jonathan appointed a new team this year.

Nigeria has the world's seventh-largest natural gas reserves, yet the nation is blighted by persistent electricity outages which force businesses and individuals who can afford them to rely on generators. Much of this vast gas reserves sit untouched under the ground or are flared into the sky. Despite being Africa's biggest crude oil exporter, decades of corruption and mismanagement mean Nigeria has never built the infrastructure to farm its huge oil and gas resources for much-needed domestic use.

Deficits in our existing institutions remain a defining albatross on the path to meaningful development. Cut to the bone, this scenario suggests that Nigeria currently lacks the indigenous capacity, supporting infrastructure, discipline and security wherewithal to build and manage an atomic power plant. It simply is another way of courting disaster - one we cannot manage.

Let us explore and exploit other safer, rational options. These include solar, gas, hydro, wind and coal options. Nigeria has these resources in stupendous quantities. A presidential directive requesting timelines for the generation of electricity through these options is far better than the timelines he recently demanded from the newly-inaugurated Atomic Energy Commission. Our scientist-president should think again.
Editorial Leadership newspaper (Nigeria),, 3 October, 2011

Belene construction agreement extended.
Russia's AtomStroyExport (ASE) and Bulgaria's National Electricity Company (NEK) have signed a supplement to their agreement on the construction of the Belene nuclear power plant, extending it until the end of March 2012. Under an earlier extension, the agreement - originally signed in 2006 - was extended until 30 September. According to ASE, the extension 'confirms the parties' interest in the continuation of the project.' NEK said that during the next six months, the two companies will continue their activities related to completing a market study, clarifying the financial model and studying the project finance proposal submitted by financial advisor HSBC. It added that the extra time will allow Bulgaria to conduct an analysis of the results and recommendations of stress tests being performed at nuclear power plants across the European Union. ASE said that work on the foundation pit for the first reactor at Belene has now been completed. It said that a concrete plant at the site has already been put into operation and that water treatment plants have been built.
World Nuclear News, 03 October 2011

UAE: Construction first unit will start mid-2012.
According to the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec), a government establishment created last year to oversee the ambitious nuclear construction project, said it would launch construction work for the infrastructure of four planned nuclear power plants in Barrakah in the western region in mid 2012 to pave the way for their operation in 2017. The UAE will award a contract in early 2012 for the supply of nuclear fuel to run its four nuclear reactors which the country is planning to construct as part of an ambitious nuclear power program.

Under the agreement to built 4 nuclear reactors, inked on December 27, the state-owned Korea Electric Power Corp (Kepco) and is partners in the consortium will design, build and run the reactors that will produce 5,600 MW of electricity. The contract to build the reactors is worth about US$20 billion (15bn euro).

The UAE has said the project is intended to diversify its energy supply sources and meet its rapid growing electricity demand, which is projected to surge to around 40,000 MW in 2020 from nearly 15,000 MW in 2009. The nuclear project will provide nearly 25 per cent of the UAE’s total energy needs of nearly 40,000 MW in 2020. Around seven per cent will be generated through renewable energy and the rest through conventional means.
Emirates 24/7, 25 September 2011

Pyhäjoki location for Finland's sixth reactor.
Fennovoima has chosen Pyhäjoki as the site for its nuclear power plant. Pyhäjoki municipality is located in North Ostrobothnia and the nuclear power plant will be constructed on Hanhikivi peninsula on the coast of Bothnian Bay. For the basis of the site selection, assessments were carried out during some four years. In the beginning of Fennovoima project in summer 2007, the company had almost 40 alternative sites. The number of alternatives was decreased gradually based on assessments and in December 2009 Fennovoima ended up having two alternatives, both located in Northern Finland: Pyhäjoki and Simo municipalities. In the final site decision, safety, technical feasibility, environmental matters, construction costs and schedule were the main factors examined as well as the ability of the site region to support a project that will bring thousands of people to work and use services there.

Fennovoima continues now the planning work together with the municipality, authorities and the plant suppliers and prepares applying for various licences and permits. For example, more detailed bedrock, environmental and water studies will be carried out on the Hanhikivi peninsula. Simultaneously, other preparations for the future phases of the project are carried out together with Pyhäjoki and Raahe region. First preparatory works on Hanhikivi will be started in the end of 2012 at earliest. The construction schedule will be elaborated after the plant supplier has been selected. Fennovoima sent bid invitations for Areva and Toshiba in July 2011 and the plant supplier will be chosen in 2012-2013.

Fennovoima has two owners: Voimaosakeyhtiö SF and E.ON Kärnkraft Finland. Voimaosakeyhtiö SF owns 66 percent of Fennovoima and nuclear expert E.ON Kärnkraft Finland 34 percent. Altogether Fennovoima has 70 shareholders. Voimaosakeyhtiö SF is owned by 69 finnish regional and local energy companies as well as companies in trade and industry.

Finland has 4 reactors in operation (two at Lovisa and two at Olkiluoto). The fifth (Olkiluoto-3) in under construction; over budget and over time.
Press release Fennovoima, 5 October 2011 / IAEA Reactor database.

Health effects radiation suppressed by tobacco companies.
Tobacco companies knew that cigarette smoke contained radioactive alpha particles for more than four decades and developed "deep and intimate" knowledge of these particles' cancer-causing potential; however, they deliberately kept their findings from the public. The study, published online in Nicotine & Tobacco Research, the peer-reviewed journal of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco, adds to a growing body of research detailing the industry's knowledge of cigarette smoke radioactivity and its efforts to suppress that information. The UCLA researchers analysed  dozens of previously unexamined internal tobacco industry documents, made available in 1998 as the result of a legal settlement.

“The documents show that the industry was well aware of the presence of a radioactive substance in tobacco as early as 1959; furthermore, the industry was not only cognizant of the potential 'cancerous growth' in the lungs of regular smokers but also did quantitative radiobiological calculations to estimate the long-term lung radiation absorption dose of ionizing alpha particles emitted from cigarette smoke." The study’s first author, Hrayr S. Karagueuzian, a professor of cardiology who conducts research at UCLA's Cardiovascular Research Laboratory, said: ‘We show here that the industry used misleading statements to obfuscate the hazard of ionizing alpha particles to the lungs of smokers and, more importantly, banned any and all publication on tobacco smoke radioactivity.” 

The radioactive substance, which the UCLA study shows was first brought to the attention of the tobacco industry in 1959, was identified in 1964 as the isotope polonium-210, which emits carcinogenic alpha radiation. Polonium-210 can be found in all commercially available domestic and foreign cigarette brands, Karagueuzian said, and is absorbed by tobacco leaves through naturally occurring radon gas in the atmosphere and through high-phosphate chemical fertilizers used by tobacco growers. The substance is eventually inhaled by smokers into the lungs.
LA Examiner, 28 September 2011

Dounreay: Belgium waste to be returned.
Dounreay has announced the return of reprocessing wastes from the BR2 research reactor in Belgium. The BR2 reactor in Mol was a good customer for Dounreay over the years, receiving new enriched uranium fuel from the reprocessed spent fuel. It planned to send considerably more spent fuel to Dounreay but the reprocessing plant was closed by a leak and never reopened. Wastes have already been returned to France and Spain. One Dounreay reprocessing customer has requested the substitution of vitrified high-level wastes for the intermediate level wastes at Dounreay (a consultation on this was held in 2010). However, Belgium wants to take back the intermediate level waste, as required by the original contract with Dounreay. Dounreay also had contracts with Australia, Germany and for Italian-owned fuel from Denmark.

There are 153 tons of BR2 reprocessing wastes cemented into 500-liter drums and this will involve an estimated 21 shipments over four years, starting this autumn. The shipments will be from Scrabster and will probably involve the former roll-on/roll-off ferry, the Atlantic Osprey.
N-Base Briefing 689, October 2011

IAEA Inspector exposed to radiation.
On October 5, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that one of its nuclear inspectors had been exposed to radiation during a 4 October inspection of the Belgoprocess nuclear waste facility in Dessel, Belgium. The inspector, along with an inspector from Euratom and a Belgoprocess employee, apparently received a dose of radiation after a vial or flask of plutonium accidentally fell on the floor, according to releases from the company and the Belgian Federal Nuclear Control Agency (AFCN). Plutonium is dangerous if ingested, but the amount received by the inspectors was less than the legal limit, the AFCN says. No radiation has been released beyond the site., 5 October 2011

Atucha II, Argentina's third nuclear power plant.
President Cristina Kirchner inaugurated Atucha II, Argentina's third nuclear power plant on September 28. The German-designed reactor is expected to be fully operational in six to eight months after engineers run a series of tests. Construction of the plant began in July 1981, but work soon stopped and did not resume until 2006, when then-president Nestor Kirchner (2003-2007), the current leader's late husband, ordered the plant to be completed.

Argentina's other nuclear plants are Atucha I (335 megawatts) and the Embalse plant (600 megawatts). Once Atucha II is online 10 percent of Argentina's electricity will be produced by nuclear power. Plans are on the drawing board for Atucha III plant as well as an overhaul of the Embalse plant to add 30 years to its operational life, said Planning Minister Julio de Vido. Embalse was connected to the grid in 1983. Atucha II is located on the banks of the Parana river in the town of Zarate, some 100 kilometers north of the capital Buenos Aires. It was built at a cost of more than 2.4 billion dollars.
AFP, 29 September 2011

Another USEC deadline for DOE loan guarantee.
On September 30, USEC, announced morning it will reduce its spending on the American Centrifuge Project (ACP) in Piketon by 30 percent over the next month. It will also send out notices to its 450 employees Ohio, Tennessee and Maryland that layoffs are possible if the company doesn’t receive a loan guarantee before October 31. USEC has invested approximately US$2 billion in the ACP but needs significant additional financing to complete the plant. In 2008, USEC applied for a US$2 billion loan guarantee from Department of Energy for construction of the ACP. USEC significantly demobilized construction and machine manufacturing activities in 2009 due to delays in obtaining financing through DOE’s Loan Guarantee Program. Since then, many 'final' deadlines were set by USEC (three in the past half year: June 30, Sept. 30 and now Oct, 31) to obtain the loan guarantee.

In a call with investors, USEC President and CEO John Welch said the company must see a loan guarantee during the next month or risk the end of the project. USEC expects October “to be a month of intense interaction with the DOE,” in hopes of securing the loan guarantee.

The company had faced a September 30 deadline with two investors — Toshiba America Nuclear Energy Corporation and Babcock & Wilcox Investment Company — to receive a US$2 billion loan guarantee. They agreed September 30 to extend that deadline to October 31. If USEC receives the loan guarantee, the companies have promised US$50 million to support the project.

In a statement, DOE Spokesman Damien LaVera said, “The Department of Energy has been working closely with USEC as the company has continued to test and validate its innovative technology, obtain private financing and meet other benchmarks that would be required for a successful loan guarantee application. We are strongly committed to developing effective, domestic nuclear enrichment capabilities and are looking at all options on a path forward.”

The ACP will utilize USEC’s AC100 centrifuge machine, which has been developed, engineered and assembled in the US. The AC100 design is a disciplined evolution of classified U.S. centrifuge technology originally developed by DOE. DOE invested already US$3 billion over 10 years to develop the centrifuge technology.
Dayton Daily News, 1 October 2011 /  ACP website:

Taiwan: nuclear accident compensation increased.
On September 30, the Taiwanese Cabinet approved an amendment to the Nuclear Damage Compensation Act that imposes heavier compensation liability on nuclear power operators in the event of natural disasters such as an earthquake or a typhoon. Under the amendment, the maximum amount of compensation for losses caused by a nuclear accident was increased from NT$4.2 billion (US$138 million or 103 million euro) to NT$15 billion (US$5 mln or 3.7 mln euro) and the allowed period for compensation claims was extended from 10 to 30 years.

The amendment came after the Atomic Energy Council reviewed the act, which had not been amended since it was first enacted in 1997, in the wake of the nuclear accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin said the amendment fell short of her expectations as she had suggested further lifting the ceiling on compensation liability.
Tapei Times, 30 September 2011

36 year old construction permit extended. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has extended the construction permit for the unfinished Bellefonte unit 1 in Alabama.
The construction permit was originally granted in 1974. It was suspended in 1988, when Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) decided to halt work on the project, but the NRC agreed in 2009 to reinstate the permit. With the reinstated permit due to expire on 1 October 2011, TVA lodged an application for an extension in October 2010. The NRC has now agreed to that extension, meaning that the construction permit will remain valid until 1 October 2020. (see more in Nuclear Monitor 732, 9 September 2011)
World Nuclear News, 03 October 2011

Swiss parliament, no new reactors.
On September 28, the Council of States has followed the government’s lead by voting not to replace the country’s five nuclear power stations  and boost renewable energy resources. Switzerland currently has five nuclear power plants that will gradually come off the power grid at the end of their 50 year (!) lifespan: the first one in 2019 and the last one in 2034. The Senate followed the House of Representatives in calling on the government to ban new nuclear plants but keep parliament "informed about innovations in the field."

The clear result of the September 28 vote - with a three to one majority - came after a parliamentary committee prepared a compromise formula, promoted by the centre-right Christian Democratic Party, which will give parliament another chance to have a say at a later stage. “Even if we were to ban nuclear power plants now our successors in parliament could still one day decide on building on new reactors,” a Christian Democratic Senator, Filippo Lombardi from Ticino, said on behalf of the committee. Discussions on nuclear power are due to continue in the new parliament which is due to convene for the first time in December following general elections next month.

The Social Democrats, the Greens as well as the Christian Democratic Party hailed the Senate decision as an important step towards a new energy policy amid calls for further measures to switch to more renewable energy sources.

The government called for a withdrawal from nuclear energy in May – a proposal backed by the House of Representatives a month later. 28 September 2011

Hinkley Blockaded: No New Nuclear Power!
More than 300 people (even up to 400, according to a BBC-report), successfully sealed off the main entrance to Hinkley Point nuclear power station in Somerset for nine hours on 3 October in opposition to EDF Energy's plans to build two new mega-reactors on the site. EDF said of 500 employees at the plant, only essential staff had been called in and had arrived by bus at dawn.

Blockaders were joined by a theatrical troupe who enacted a nuclear disaster scenario, while Seize the Day provided a musical backdrop to the event. 206 helium balloons were released to represent the number of days since the Fukushima meltdown. The balloons will be tracked, to show which areas of the West Country would be worst affected by a nuclear disaster at Hinkley.;; BBC, 3 October 2011

Belgian nuclear phase-out to be aborted?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Bond Beter Leefmilieu

At the end of the sixties Belgium decided to start producing a large share of its electricity with nuclear. Between 1975 and 1985 a total of 7 reactors were put online. Today nuclear is responsible for 55 % of total power production, making Belgium the fourth most nuclear country worldwide, after France, Lithuania and Slovakia.

In 2003, with the Green Party in government, a phase-out law was passed, deciding to stop the nuclear reactors after 40 years of lifetime. Under the phase-out law, the oldest nuclear plants (Doel I and II and Tihange I) representing one third of the nuclear capacity, should thus be closed in 2015. But the new federal government, elected in 2007, now decided to extend the life of the oldest plants by 10 years at least.

The decision of the government was carefully prepared by the Social-Democrat energy-minister, Paul Magnette. The possibility of a extension of the lifetime of the nuclear power plants was foreseen under the phase-outlaw, but submitted to very strict conditions (‘major risk for supply’). Minister Magnette ordered a study that should have proved that these conditions had been met, but failed to do so. Most legal specialists agree that, in order to legalise the government’s decision, the parliament will have to change the phase-out law.

The official position of the government is that the energy supply could be at risk, if the date of 2015 is kept. This position is based on the conclusions of the ‘Gemix-study’ that was ordered by minister Magnette. But in the first parliamentary debate about the Gemix-study, the conclusions where under severe attack. The spokesperson of the national energy-regulating body, the CREG, informed the MP’s that the calculations in the Gemix study where not based on the correct figures. This was remarkable, for the Gemix-study mentioned CREG as the source of the figures, whereupon the conclusions were based. The CREG added they have analysed the situation and came to the conclusion that even after closing the 3 nuclear reactors in 2015, the capacity of the remaining Belgian electricity production plants, will still meet the electricity needs.

Environmental organisations, such as Greenpeace, had already criticized some major elements in the Gemix-study, such as the unrealistic growth of demand (1,2% a year), underestimation of the energy-efficiency potential; and underestimation of the capacity available from gas fired STEG’s (combined heat-power): 63 % instead of 90 %.

All this leads to the conclusion that the Gemix-study has been strongly manipulated in order to meet the goals set by the government. One of the international experts, which contributed to the study, Dr. Eichhammer of the German Frauenhofer Institute, does not support the Gemix-conclusions.

The chances, however, that the government will change its position, are considered to be very small, as all parties in the cabinet seem to agree on the issue.

Link to the budget
The decision by the Belgian government is strongly linked to the national budget-issue. The deficit, due to the bank- and economical crisis, reaches more than 25 billion euro’s. Minister Magnette linked the ending of the nuclear phase-out to a major contribution of the nuclear monopolist Electrabel (Group Suez /Gaz de France) to the Belgian budget. The  benefits of the written out old reactors for Electrabel are calculated to be over 1.2 billion euro (US$1.7 bn) a year, but Electrabel does not seem to be prepared to pay more than 215-245 million euro till 2015. This is far below what Magnette first announced. But now the government seems to have accepted the Electrabel figures, even though it remains unclear if Electrabel will finally pay any contribution at all. As usual, government and Electrabel meet behind closed doors and decision making is far from being transparent.

Electrabel is traditionally very strongly linked to the Belgian political parties and has kept control over the Belgian energy-policy for more than 30 years. Only after the Christian-Democrats lost control over the federal government (period 1999-2007) the power of Electrabel was strongly weakened, but as the elections of June 2007 brought the Christen-Democrats back to the centre of power (first with prime minister Yves Leterme, now with his successor Herman van Rompuy, both CD&V – Flemish Christian democrats), ‘old politics’ seem to be restored. Besides that, also the Walloon Socialist Party has renewed its long lasting relationship with Electrabel. Only the Green parties and the Flemish socialists (all opposition parties currently) criticize the governmental decision. Right winged opposition parties do support the majority on the principle of stopping the nuclear phase out. 

For the environmental movement, the abandoning of the nuclear phase-out would be a major defeat. It would mean a serious set back for the development of renewable energy and for energy efficiency. Environmentalists have failed to convince the public opinion that closing the first reactors would not lead to ‘switching off the light’, as conservatives and nuclear lobbyists have repeatedly stated.

Source and contact: Jan Turf, Bond Beter Leefmilieu, Antwerpselaan 20, 1000 Brussel, Belgium.
Tel: +32 2 282.17.36

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Spain: Zapatero’s compromise.
As mentioned in issue 690 of the Nuclear Monitor, Spain's Socialist government, had to take a decision before July 5, on the future of Santa María de Garona, the countries oldest nuclear plant, which license expires in 2011. Spain’s Nuclear Safety Board (CSN) recommended a new 10-year license. Prime Minister Zapatero, promised in his election campaign to start a phase-out of nuclear energy. So he had to take a clear stand. It became more and more clear that he had not the guts to close the 38-year old plant, which provides 1.3 percent of Spain’s electricity, and was looking for a compromise. He decided to grant Garona a new license, but not for a 10 year period, but only for two years, so until 2013. Catch is that 2013 is after the next general elections. Noo one is pleased with this decision. The conservative Popular Party said it would overturn the government's decision if it wins the 2012 general elections. Environmental organizations and parties to the left – vital to Zapatero's governing coalition in Parliament – attacked the decision to postpone the closure of Garona and questioned the prime minister's credibility and integrity.

Christian Science Monitor, 5 July 2009

IAEA: Board Formally Appoints Yukiya Amano as Director General.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors officially appointed Ambassador Mr. Yukiya Amano of Japan as the next Director General. Amano addressed the Board of Governors on July 3, following his successful bid to become the IAEA´s next Director General later this year. "I will dedicate my efforts to the acceleration and enlargement of the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world," he said.

The IAEA Director General is appointed by the Board of Governors with the approval of the General Conference for a term of four years. The General Conference meets in Vienna starting 14 September 2009. Ambassador Amano´s term as Director General would begin 1 December 2009.

Ambassador Amano, 62, is the Permanent Representative and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to International Organizations in Vienna, and Governor on the IAEA Board of Governors. Amano is seen as the choice of the western industrialized countries. According to the IAEA he has "extensive experience in disarmament, non-proliferation and nuclear energy policy and has been involved in the negotiation of major international instruments." He has held senior positions in the Japanese Foreign Ministry, notably as Director of the Science Division, Director of the Nuclear Energy Division and Deputy Director General for Arms Control and Scientific Affairs.

IAEA Staff Report, 3 July 2009

USA: no domestic commercial reprocessing; Fatal blow to GNEP?
In a notice published in the Federal Register, the Department of Energy (DoE) said that it had decided to cancel the GNEP (Global Nuclear Energy Partnership) programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) because it is no longer pursuing domestic commercial reprocessing, which was the primary focus of the prior administration's domestic GNEP program. Its decision follows a change in government policy on commercial reprocessing. Domestically, the GNEP program would promote technologies that support “economic, sustained production of nuclear-generated electricity, while reducing the impacts associated with used nuclear fuel disposal and reducing proliferation risks”. As yet, DoE has no specific proposed actions for the international component of the GNEP program. Rather, the USA, through the GNEP program, is considering various initiatives to work cooperatively with other countries. So far, 25 countries have joined the GNEP partnership.

Although the future of GNEP looks uncertain, with its budget having been cut to zero, the DoE will continue to study proliferation-resistant fuel cycles and waste management strategies. The Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 provides $145 million (105 million Euro) for such research and development (R&D). As described in the President Obama's 2010 budget request, the DoE's fuel cycle R&D's focus is on "long-term, science-based R&D of technologies with the potential to produce beneficial changes to the manner in which the nuclear fuel cycle and nuclear waste is managed." One outlet for this money is likely to be the Generation IV International Forum, which includes a research program on fast-breeder reactors, which in turn require reprocessing plants.

World Nuclear News, 29 June 2009 / Nuclear engineering International, 1 July 2009

Greenland: continuation of the zero-tolerance policy towards uranium extraction. 
The government of Greenland has stated that the country’s stance on uranium mining remains clear and unchanged. Following a request from opposition party Atassut, Premier Kuupik Kleist ruled out opening up the possibility of broadening the policy towards the extraction of uranium as a by-product. The government pointed out that whilst it acknowledged the natural presence of uranium in Greenland, the 30-year-old policy of banning mineral extraction from areas with a high level of uranium content would continue to be disallowed. The issue emerged with the recent rejection of a mining proposal for Kvane Mountain, where the uranium content is so high that it is believed to be a potential risk to the residents of the nearby town of Narsaq, western Greenland. However, despite the zero-tolerance policy, areas where mining would involve extraction of uranium as a by-product within certain defined limitations would be allowed, according to Premier Kuupik Kleist.

Sermitsiaq, 24 June  2009

Sweden: Ringhals under close scrutiny.
The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM) has placed the Ringhals nuclear plant, in the southwest of Sweden, under special supervision after a series (some sources say 60) of incidents, which could endanger the security at the nuclear plant. According to reports, the first incident occurred late in 2008 and involved the failure of an automatic safety system to switch on. The second, at the start of 2009, involved faulty control rods that are designed to regulate nuclear activity. The nuclear watchdog also cited weaknesses in how officials at the nuclear plant (operated by Vattenfall) carried out routines and how instructions were adhered to.

Ringhals' four reactors produce up to one-fifth of Sweden's electricity. It is not the first time that the SSM has placed a Swedish plant under special supervision. In July 2006, officials put the Forsmark nuclear plant under supervision after the shutdown of one of its reactors.

Deutsche Welle, 9 July 2009  /, 9 July 2009

NSG Fail to Adopt Standards for Technology Trade.
The 46-member Nuclear Suppliers Group failed in its June meeting to adopt stricter rules governing the trade of technologies that can support nuclear-weapon development. According to Arms Control Today, NSG-member states had sought to establish specific standards for potential purchasers of equipment or technology that could be used to enrich uranium or reprocess spent reactor fuel. Standards proposed by the U.S. and Canada would address whether a potential state recipient of sensitive nuclear equipment has signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and whether it has accepted the Additional Protocol to its safeguards agreement with the IAEA, according to sources familiar with the terms. The Additional Protocol gives U.N. inspectors access to more information about a signatory state's nuclear facilities and enables them to conduct snap inspections of the sites.

But concerns about the proposed criteria have been raised by other NSG members, including Turkey, Brazil, South Korea and South Africa, sources indicated. The proposed standards also include "subjective" criteria, including whether the sale could harm regional stability. Turkey has expressed concern that its nuclear purchases might be restricted if were deemed under the rules to be part of the volatile Middle East.

Arms Control Today, July/August 2009

Sellafield (U.K.): 50 year leak stopped.
For about 50 years radioactive liquid has been leaking from a waste tank at Sellafield – but in June the operators, Nuclear Management Partners, said they had finally managed to solve the problem.

The leak was from one of four huge effluent tanks which held the waste before it was discharged into the Irish Sea. The leak from a crack in the concrete wall was first noticed in the 1970s and has contaminated not only a large area of ground but has resulted in contamination of the Sellafield beach. NMP said they had managed to empty 95 per cent of the radioactive sludge from the tank and it will now be treated as intermediate level waste. A spokesman said the tank had been a known environmental risk and its emptying was a great achievement.

N-Base Briefing 618, 24 June 2009

France imports power.
France has been forced to import electricity from the UK this summer because of problems with its nuclear reactors. Fourteen of France's reactors use river water for cooling, rather than seawater, and there are regulatory limited on the temperature of water than can be discharged back into rivers.

Also the recent summer heat wave increased the river water temperature meaning it could not reduce the heat of reactor casings. The problems forced state-owned EDF to shutdown reactors. The company has encountered similar problems in the past.

Times (UK), 7 July 2009

USEC: “no loan guarantee; no enrichment plant”.
Usec could halt construction of its American Centrifuge Plant if the US Department of Energy (DOE) doesn’t give it a conditional commitment for a loan guarantee by early August. In a statement Philip Sewell, vice president of American Centrifuge and Russian HEU said a DoE decision is expected by early August. “As we have stated in the past, a DOE loan guarantee is our path forward for financing the American Centrifuge Plant. Therefore, we are making contingency plans for project demobilization should we not receive a conditional commitment or should a decision on a conditional commitment be further delayed, Sewell said. Demobilization, which would involve the partial or full halt of ACP activities and plant construction, could begin in August. So far Usec has invested $1.5 billion in the enrichment plant under construction in Piketon, Ohio. In February, due to the lack of certainty on DoE funding the company initiated cash conservation measures and delayed the ramp-up in hiring. It says it needs a loan guarantee to secure a substantial portion of the remaining financing needed to complete the project.

Nuclear Engineering International, 7 July 2009

Italian Senate passed pro-nuclear law.
On July 9, after four readings in the upper house since November last year, the Italian Senate passed a bill which will pave the way for the return of nuclear power. The package, which also greenlights class action suits and the privatisation of state railways, was passed with an almost unanimous vote after the opposition Democratic Party and Italy of Values left the Senate in the hope that the legal minimum of votes required would not be reached. Under the new law, the government will have six months to choose sites for new nuclear energy plants, define the criteria for the storage of radioactive waste and work out compensatory measures for people who will be affected by the plants. A nuclear security agency will also be set up, although the actual building of the plants is expected to take years. Industry Minister Claudio Scajola said earlier this year that Italy would begin to build its first new generation nuclear power plant by 2013 and start producing energy by 2018. Italy abandoned nuclear energy after a 1987 referendum, one year after the Chernobyl accident.

Opposition politicians meanwhile slammed the new law. Roberto Della Seta, environmental pointman for the Democratic Party, said the cost of building four nuclear plants would be ''20-25 billion euros'', while they would contribute less than 5% to the country's energy consumption. ''This law ignores all the real problems that stand in the way of Italy having a renewable and efficient energy policy, such as closing the gap with other major European countries on renewable sources and promoting research into new technology,'' he said.

ANSA, 9 July 2009

EU ministers rubber stamp weak nuclear safety rules.
On June 25, environment ministers meeting in Luxembourg rubber-stamped a Euratom Directive on Nuclear Safety. The law was meant to improve nuclear safety in Europe by setting EU-wide standards. However, the directive mainly refers to weak principles from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which all EU countries are already bound to as signatories of the Convention on Nuclear Safety. Attempts to improve the independence of nuclear regulators have also been watered down. There is no provision in the directive to guarantee the accountability of nuclear regulators.

"There is nothing new in this law to improve nuclear safety in Europe. We are still faced with a nuclear industry that sees safety as an obstacle, rather than a paramount necessity," said Jan Haverkamp, EU nuclear energy expert for Greenpeace. Greenpeace calls on the EU to base its safety rules on the principles of best available technology and best regulatory practice.

Greenpeace Press release, 25 June 2009

Belgium bans investments in depleted uranium weapons.
On July 2, the Belgian Parliament unanimously approved a law forbidding investments in depleted uranium weapons. Belgium is now the first country to prevent the flow of money to producers of uranium weapons. This law complements the country's ban on their manufacture, testing, use, sale and stockpiling which came into force on June 21st last. The use of depleted uranium armour piercing munitions during combat causes the release of chemically toxic and radioactive particles which represent a long term hazard for the environment as well as for human health.

Senator Philippe Mahoux submitted the resolution in the Belgian Senate, where it was unanimously approved on the 2nd of April 2009. Approval in the Chamber of Representatives followed on the 2nd of July. The law forbids banks and investment funds operating on the Belgian market from offering credit to producers of armor and munitions that contain depleted uranium. The purchase of shares and bonds issued by these companies is also prohibited. This law implicates that financial institutions in Belgium must bring their investments in large weapon producers such as Alliant Techsystems (US), BAE Systems (UK) and General Dynamics (US) to an end. Only investments made via index funds, and the financing of projects of these companies that are clearly unrelated to cluster munitions will be allowed. The law also obliges the government to draw up a "black list" of uranium weapon producers.

Press Release, 3 July 2009, Belgian Coalition 'Stop Uranium Weapons!'

India: National Alliance of Anti-nuclear Movements (NAAM) launched.
More than one hundred organizations, peoples’ movements and concerned citizens from across the country came together for a National Convention on “The Politics of Nuclear Energy and Resistance” on June 4-6, 2009 at Kanyakumari. They discussed all the different aspects of nuclear power generation and weapons production, the various stages of nuclearization from Uranium mining till waste management, and the commissions and the omissions of the government of India and the Department of Atomic Energy during the three-day-long convention.

Most importantly, nuclearism is a political ideology that cannot stomach any transparency, accountability or popular participation. It snubs dissent, denounces opponents and creates a political climate of fear and retribution. With the India-US nuclear deal, and the deals with Russia and France and likely private participation in nuclear energy generation, the situation is going to get out of hand in our country. The combination of profiteering companies, secretive state apparatuses and repressive nuclear department will be ruthless and this nexus of capitalism, statism and nuclearism does not augur well for the country. These forces gaining an upper hand in our national polity will mean a death knell for the country’s democracy, openness, and prospects for sustainable development.

In order to mobilize the Indian citizens against this growing nucolonization, to resist the nuclearization of the country, and to protect our people from nuclear threats and the environment from nuclear waste and radiation, an umbrella organization (tentatively named as the National Alliance of Anti-nuclear Movements) has been founded with eight committees on Documentation, Economic Analysis, Legal, Mass Media, International Liaison, Translation, Health, and Direct Action.

Contact for more info: Dr. S. P. Udayakumar,

NAAM Press release, 7 June 2009

Belgian nuclear phase-out law coupled with windfall profit tax

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Bram Claeys, Bond Beter Leefmilieu

Federal prime minister Van Rompuy contemplates filling the budget deficit with a tax on the depreciated nuclear power plants. The Belgian nuclear energy production indeed delivers a profit of at least 1 billion Euro a year to Electrabel (GdF/Suez). They have been depreciated quicker in the regulated market, at the expense of the Belgian consumer. Therefore, it is more than legitimate to try to recuperate this windfall profit, something that the environmental movement, the trade unions and the consumer’s organizations, have been advocating for over a year now. There is however no reason at all to couple this windfall profit tax with a lifetime extension of the nuclear power plants.

The windfall profit tax is a compensation for the faster depreciation of the power plants. It increased the Belgian power prices, and therefore the Belgian consumer has a right to compensation, now that the markets have been deregulated. Electrabel does not need to get something in return. To the contrary, if in return for the tax, the power plant’s lifetime would be extended, this would mean an extra bonus for Electrabel. They would thus be able to maintain their domination over the Belgian energy market with their depreciated power plants.

And of course there is no logic to the train of thought of the prime minister, as he is looking for a solution to the budget deficit today, with a fix that would only enter into force as of 2015, the date the first reactors should shut down.

The energy minister, Paul Magnette, ordered a team of Belgian and international experts to advise him on the ideal energy mix for Belgium. The so-called GEMIX-commission produced their draft report on July 2. The purpose of the report is to help decide the Belgian government what to do with the nuclear power plants.

The primary advice of the commission is to focus much more on energy efficiency. They also advocate strongly in favor of a windfall profit tax on the nuclear power plants. The commission puts a lot of emphasis on the sub-ideal functioning of the Belgian power market. And of course they discuss at length the possibilities for lifetime extension of the nuclear power plants. The report considers all options as still open, including the maintenance of the phase out as planned. It does however not consider the building of a new nuclear power station as a realistic option at this point, due to uncertainties over the economics and technical aspects of the new generations of nuclear power plants.

The argumentation in connection with the lifetime extension is very weak, however. Notably the feasibility and financial aspects of the extension is very poorly documented, and omits key aspects. The report now enters a phase of public consultation.

Source and contact: Bram Claeys, Bond Beter Leefmilieu. Tweekerkenstraat 47, B-1000 Brussels, Belgium