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Nuclear News - Nuclear Monitor #844 - 25 May 2017

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#844
25/05/2017
Shorts

Close Tihange – 60,000 people to take to the streets

On June 25, around 60,000 people from Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium will literally join hands when they form a human chain of 90 km from the German city of Aachen, via Dutch Maastricht to Belgium Liege and Tihange. It has been decades since the Belgian antinuclear movement has called for such a big action.

The three old nuclear power reactors in Tihange are much debated, not only in Belgium itself but – even more – in neighboring Germany. The reactors are located about 60 km from the border of both Germany and the Netherlands. All three reactors have been plagued in the past years with incidents, accidents and unsolved problems.

On 18 November 2016, the Belgian newspaper La Libre reported that the CEO of the Belgian nuclear regulator FANC, Jan Bens, expressed his anger to the owner of the nuclear power stations, Electrabel. In two letters to the government and Electrabel itself, he says "Electrabel didn't show any initiative in order to improve the level of safety." Bens described in the published letters an "alarming probability of a nuclear meltdown", especially in Tihange-2. He warned of the possibility of a new disaster "as in Fukushima and Tsjernobyl".

In the pressure vessels of not only Tihange-2 but also Doel-3 (in the west of Belgium), thousands of cracks have been discovered. During ultrasonic testings in 2012/13, approximately 13,000 cracks were found, a few millimeters long at first. By now, some are documented with a length up to 17.2 centimeters. The decision of the Belgian government to postpone closure of the reactors has been widely criticized all over Europe, and the federal governments of Germany and Luxembourg have officially called on the Belgian government to permanently close the reactors.

After a year of intense lobbying work by WISE and other Dutch NGOs, the national parliament of the Netherlands on May 25 passed (with the smallest possible majority, 76 to 74) a resolution which calls on the Dutch government to join forces with Germany and Luxembourg in calling on Belgium to permanently close the reactors.

In the meantime, mobilization for the human chain on June 25 intensifies. Numerous local governments in the southern part of the Netherlands (Limburg) support the action and are encouraging their citizens to join. One of the biggest pop festivals of the Netherlands (Pinkpop, in early June) supports the action and will call all their visitors to join the human chain. Local groups are popping up and are organising buses. Well-known artists, politicians and scientists are saying that they will join.

The action is organised by groups in the Netherlands (WISE), Germany (Aktionsbündnis gegen Atomenergie Aachen) and Belgium (11Maar Beweging and Fin du Nucleaire) and is widely supported by dozens of other national and local NGOs. Join us if you can!

More information: www.chain-reaction-tihange.eu/en/

‒ Peer de Rijk ‒ WISE Director


Switzerland: referendum supports nuclear power phase-out

Voters in Switzerland supported a May 21 referendum on a package of energy policy measures including a ban on new nuclear power reactors. Thus Switzerland has opted for a "gradual nuclear phase out" in the words of the World Nuclear Association. There are no definitive dates for the closure of the existing five reactors ‒ they can remain in operation as long as the Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate deems them safe ‒ but they will probably all be closed by the late 2020s or early 2030s.

Before the Fukushima disaster, plans were in train to build new reactors to replace Switzerland's aging fleet. However those plans were shelved in the aftermath of Fukushima.

In a November 2016 referendum, Swiss citizens narrowly rejected a Green Party initiative that called for a 45-year limit to be placed on the lifespan of power reactors, which would have resulted in the closure of all plants by 2029.

In the May 21 referendum, 58.2% of Swiss citizens voted in support of the revisions to the Energy Act. Only four of the country's 26 cantons voted 'no'.

In addition to the ban on new power reactors, no "basic changes" to existing nuclear power plants will be permitted. In 2003, Switzerland imposed a moratorium on the export of spent nuclear fuel for reprocessing until 2020 and the Energy Strategy 2050, approved by the May 21 referendum, extends this ban indefinitely.

To support the expansion of renewables, 480 million swiss francs (US$492 million) will be raised annually from electricity consumers to fund investment in wind, solar and hydro power. Power generation from solar, wind, biomass and geothermal sources is to increase at least four-fold by 2035 ‒ from 2,831 gigawatt-hours (GWh) to at least 11,400 GWh by 2035. Hydro currently accounts for 60% of Switzerland's power generation, with nuclear providing 35%.

An additional 450 million francs (US$461m) will also be set aside from an existing tax on fossil fuels to help reduce energy consumption in buildings by 43% by 2035 compared with 2000 levels.

"This is a historic day for the country," Green Party parliamentarian Adele Thorens Goumaz said. "Switzerland will finally enter the 21st century when it comes to energy."

REACTOR

 CAPACITY

COMMISSIONED

AGE (YEARS)

Beznau I

365 MW

1969

48

Beznau II

365 MW

1971

46

Mühleberg

373 MW

1971

46

Gösgen

970 MW

1979

38

Leibstadt

1190 MW

1984

33

www.world-nuclear-news.org/NP-Swiss-voters-approve-gradual-nuclear-phase...

www.nuclearpowerdaily.com/reports/Swiss_vote_for_gradual_nuclear_phaseou...

Nuclear News - Nuclear Monitor #835 - 6 December 2016

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#835
06/12/2016
Shorts

Switzerland: Referendum rejects quick exit from nuclear power

Swiss voters in a November 27 referendum rejected a proposal to impose time limits on the operation of the country's five power reactors.1,2,3 The proposal failed by a margin of 54:46. Forty-five percent of voters participated in the referendum.

If it had succeeded, the proposal would have imposed a 45-year lifespan limit on all reactors, leading to three closures next year and the closure of the other two reactors in 2024 and 2029.

Before Fukushima, plans were in train to build new reactors to replace the aging fleet. Applications for three new reactors were submitted to the government. The plan for new reactors was to be put to a referendum, possibly in 2012.

Days after Fukushima, the seven-person Swiss executive council (Federal Council) decided to ban the construction of new reactors. In June 2011, three months after Fukushima, the Swiss government approved a gradual phasing out of nuclear power (without specified dates for reactor closures) and reaffirmed the ban on new reactors. Despite all the twists and turns since then, that remains government policy.

The World Nuclear Association was crowing about the referendum defeat, saying that "the sensible Swiss have prioritised science and their extensive nuclear experience ahead of green energy dogma" and calling on Swiss policy-makers to remove the ban on new reactors.4

The World Nuclear Association asserted that the current fleet of reactors will "typically" operate for about 60 years "with most closing in the 2030s-2040s."5 But that is wishful thinking. Swiss utility BKW AG already plans to close the Muehleberg reactor in 2019, citing the high costs of maintenance and upgrades.6 The Beznau 1 reactor has been shut down for over one year due to concerns about its pressure vessel; the regulator is currently considering an application to restart the reactor.7 In August 2015, all five reactors were offline for two days due to problems with two reactors and routine maintenance at the other three.8

Worldwide, only 22 of the 164 shut-down power reactors operated for 40 years or more.9 All or nearly all of Switzerland's five reactors will likely be closed by the end of the 2020s ... the same outcome as that envisaged in the defeated referendum proposal.

REACTOR

 CAPACITY

COMMISSIONED

AGE (YEARS)

Beznau I

365 MW

1969

47

Beznau II

365 MW

1971

45

Mühleberg

373 MW

1971

45

Gösgen

970 MW

1979

37

Leibstadt

1190 MW

1984

32

1. www.reuters.com/article/swiss-nuclearpower-vote-idUSL8N1DS0MF

2. www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-38097478

3. www.world-nuclear-news.org/NP-Swiss-reject-rapid-nuclear-phase-out-27111...

4. World Nuclear Association, 28 Nov 2016, Press Release.

5. http://us1.campaign-archive1.com/?u=140c559a3b34d23ff7c6b48b9&id=69827eb...

6. http://analysis.nuclearenergyinsider.com/swiss-start-shutdown-dec-2019-d...

7. www.ensi.ch/en/2016/11/16/ensi-reviews-reactor-pressure-vessel-safety-ca...

8. www.wiseinternational.org/nuclear-monitor/809/nuclear-news-nuclear-monit...

9. www.worldnuclearreport.org/IMG/pdf/20160713MSC-WNISR2016V2-HR.pdf


Progress moving from research reactors to cyclotrons for medical isotope production

A consortium of institutions led by TRIUMF, Canada's national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics and accelerator-based science, has granted sole rights for its proprietary cyclotron-based technetium-99m (Tc-99m) production technology to ARTMS Products Inc. The license includes all the required products and procedures for the production of Tc-99m using common hospital-based and commercial cyclotrons, through the bombardment of a high-energy proton beam against specific chemical targets. 

Tc-99m is used in over 80% of all nuclear medicine imaging procedures (and diagnostic imaging accounts of over 90% of nuclear medicine with palliative and therapeutic procedures making up the remainder). Typically sourced from an aging global reactor fleet, Tc-99m has been subject to occasional supply disruptions over the past decade.

"The ARTMS production technology offers many advantages, and that is why we believe our technology is truly disruptive and that it will gain widespread adoption," said ARTMS CEO Dr. Paul Schaffer. "Not only does the ARTMS production technology provide regional supply security of Tc-99m, it also offers favourable economics, and aids to eliminate the need for highly-enriched uranium, which is currently used by nuclear reactors to produce this isotope."

Dr. Jonathan Bagger, Director of TRIUMF, said the agreement with ARTMS "marks the completion of a major milestone as we move to commercialize a decentralized, green, and Canadian-made, technology that can produce Tc-99m daily at hundreds of hospital-based cyclotrons around the world. This licensing agreement marks the beginning of a new era in Tc-99m production and supply security." 

www.triumf.ca/current-events/artms%E2%84%A2-products-inc-licenses-canadi...

www.triumf.ca/sites/default/files/20160914_TRIUMF-ARTMS%20media%20backgr...

www.triumf.ca/research-program/research-topics/nuclear-medicine

What is the half-life of the 'Fukushima effect' in Swiss politics?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#833
4597
08/11/2016
Philippe de Rougemont ‒ Sortir du nucléaire board member, Geneva, Switzerland.
Article

In Switzerland as in most western countries, citizens show a pattern of slowly shifting from initial enthusiasm towards nuclear power to resilience and now defiance. By Sunday November 27 we will know if defiance finally wins in Switzerland. It will be the country's fourth citizens vote on a nuclear phase-out plan. Anti-nuclear organizations failed in similar votes in 1984, 1990 and 2003. All hopes rely now on the November 27 vote. Let's take a look at how the campaign is doing.

What is Switzerland's' current energy mix?

Today electric power demand in Switzerland is covered by its national capacities, even though by the end of each year, Swiss utilities will have imported a considerable amount of electrons and exported as much. The country's "white gold" ‒ hydroelectric dams in the Alps ‒ provide 60% of the power generation capacity, while 38% is provided by nuclear and the remaining 2% is mostly new renewables (solar, biomass) and cogeneration.

What does the public proposal ask for?

If a majority of Swiss citizens as well as cantons vote yes, a new article in the Swiss constitution will limit to 45 years the maximum duration of operation for its five nuclear reactors. This means a phase-out in three steps:

1. By 2017 the reactors connected to the grid in 1969, 1971 and 1972 will be shut down. These are the smallest and represent half of the country's nuclear power output.

2. The Gösgen (1979) reactor will be taken off-grid by 2024.

3. The most recent and most powerful reactor, Leibstadt (1984), will be taken off-grid by 2029, closing the last reactor in operation.

The proposal states that replacement for nuclear power will have to come from renewables (domestic or imported) and energy savings.

How did this vote come about?

Days after Fukushima, the seven-person Swiss executive council (Federal Council) took the decision that Switzerland would not authorize the construction of other nuclear power plants. Parliament followed suit. This was a decision we celebrated. Before Fukushima, we had been preparing for a referendum against central states expected approval for the construction of at least one more nuclear power plant.

Federal elections were held a few months after the Fukushima meltdown. The 'Fukushima effect' created a boost in favour of moderately progressive candidates. The anti-nuclear movement was hopeful parliament was going to accelerate the development of renewables and energy efficiency. It was hopeful but not naive. This is why a public proposal (the one we are about to vote on) was crafted by the Greens, and officially validated by 100,000 signatures collected across the country, to serve in case of parliament's failure.

With this proposal in the waiting list of upcoming votes, a solid Plan B was in place in case Parliament failed to pass the appropriate legislation. The proposal was to serve as a 'Damocles-sword' over parliament. And indeed, five years later the 'Fukushima effect' in Parliament had faded and passed its half-life. Parliament hadn't scheduled a phase out of the countries' reactors, it hadn't boosted its feed-in tariffs, it refused to make security retrofits mandatory for nuclear reactors and it scrapped the Federal Council's bill to set energy saving tax returns to encourage utilities to run demand-side-management programmes.

Finally, building retrofits would not be seriously encouraged through subsidies. The energiewende à la Suisse, prepared by the Federal Council, failed almost completely in Parliament. Because anti-nuclear people expected this outcome, they prepared the proposal that will now be voted upon.

What are the alliances in place?

In the "yes" alliance, there are political parties and NGOs. The Greens, the Liberal-Greens (right-wing secession from the Greens), the Socialists, and the small evangelist and red political parties. In some cantons, the local Christian Democratic section is campaigning for a yes vote. The youth chapters of most political parties, including, in Geneva, the rightist-populist-conservative party of M. Blocher, joined the yes campaign. With them, 40 environmental NGOs and citizens' groups. The main financial force is Greenpeace.

In the 'no' alliance are the wrongly-named "conservatives" of the political spectrum, as well as the energy giants Alpiq, Axpo and BKW who run the five nuclear reactors on behalf of their public shareholders (major cantons and city authorities). The main financer is Axpo, one of the three big energy corporations. Regretfully the confederation of small- and medium-sized enterprises is also in the no camp. Last but not least in a country where citizens' respect for state authorities is high, the Federal Council as well as parliament are in the no camp.

What are the pro-nukes saying?

They are framing the proposal as being "the Greens' proposal", omitting that several famous conservatives are in favour of the proposal ‒ including personalities from the energy minister's own political party, the Christian Democrats.

The no camp says nuclear should indeed be phased out, but in "due time", not now; thus failing to note that parliament refused to schedule any date for a phase-out. Currently the Energy Minister Doris Leuthard claims that if there is a safety issue, nuclear plants will be shut. Why didn't anybody simply tell Tepco to "shut down" Fukushima when the tsunami struck?

When they turn aggressive, pro-nukes claim a yes to the proposal would create a blackout, and Switzerland would have to import coal- or nuclear-fired energy from the EU.

Finally, conservatives warn voters that utilities will claim damage reparations amounting to four billion swiss francs (US$4.1 billion).

What are the anti-nukes saying?

Switzerland is passively watching the energy transition being implemented in neighbouring countries. Germany has 14 times more solar panels installed per capita than Switzerland. Parliament has given in to pressure from the nuclear lobby and this is costing the countries industrial development.

The feed-in tariff is very weak. More than 40,000 solar power projects are awaiting co-financing from federal funds. These dormant projects amount to 50% of the Swiss nuclear output. No other sector has such a potential to boost the country's job creation, in an era where delocalization of jobs is running high due to cheaper wages in other countries and to rationalization of processes by IT and mechanization.

New renewable power is intermittent but Switzerland has very large pumped-storage hydroelectricity capacity. Nuclear power is not reliable in Switzerland: since 2015, two reactors, including the large Leibstadt reactor, have been shut down due to safety reasons. This is half of the country's nuclear capacity down, for how long? The real blackout risk comes from our dependence on nuclear power.

These past 10 years have seen the constant rise of population, economic growth and market intake of new electronic gadgets; however electricity consumption has remained stable. In the canton of Geneva, the local utility SIG was even able to boast a 2% net demand reduction in 10 years, a result of pioneering programs aimed at helping customers reduce consumption.

Finally, damage reparations are not justified because nuclear operators are running their plants at a loss (low energy market prices).

What are the prospects for the vote?

Much better than in previous votes, but still not good enough for optimism. This is why: In a federal country like Switzerland, a majority has to be double ‒ a majority of the country's population and a majority of the 26 cantons (states) need to be reached to pass proposals into the constitution.

Considering the vast majority of cantons are rural and mountainous, the values and thinking predominant in these isolated cantons outweigh urban cosmopolitan cantons such as Geneva, Basel and Zurich. Perhaps this factor explains why Switzerland is considered to be rather conservative by international comparison.

Someone said that between a physical impossibility (safe nuclear power) and a political impossibility (conservatives voting for a nuclear phase-out), the choice is easily made: go on and prove political impossibility wrong! Stay tuned to news from Switzerland, Sunday November 27 by 3pm (Central European Time). If we vote yes, this will be a boost for the nuclear phase-out campaigns in the other 32 countries still operating power reactors.

A chronology of Switzerland's nuclear phase-out: the decision is drawing near

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#823
4555
04/05/2016
Nils Epprecht ‒ energy and nuclear campaigner, Schweizerische Energie-Stiftung (Swiss Energy Foundation)
Article

Switzerland is approaching an energy policy period with great consequences. Before the summer recess, the passage of the first package of 2050 Strategic Energy Measures promoting the expansion of renewable energy. In autumn, this "compulsory program" is then followed by the "free skating" main event, a national referendum on an orderly exit from nuclear energy. With these decisions, the belated Swiss energy transformation may finally gain momentum – or else the tentative testing of the waters of a renewable future will once again be stifled by the overpowering conservative electricity industry.

Let's review events over the past eight years.

2008: New reactors on the planning horizon

Back in 2008, everything seemed to be taking an orderly course, when the three large Swiss energy suppliers, Axpo, Alpiq and the BKW – each predominantly in public hands – submitted to the government the first of a total of three applications for the construction of a new Evolutionary Power Reactor (EPR). With this, the three aging reactors, which according to the operators were unsafe, in Mühleberg (commencement of operations in 1972) and Beznau I and II (1969 and 1971) should one day be replaced, and together with the two other reactors in Gösgen (1979) and Leibstadt (1984), the foundation for the future of nuclear energy in Switzerland should be laid.

Since in Switzerland, the construction of new reactors is subject to a discretionary referendum, it was reckoned that a vote would be taken in 2012. At the same time, the search by energy producers for a final disposal site for nuclear waste – one of the requirements of the new reactors – was apparently intensified, at least outwardly. The opposition from nuclear critics was intact but not insurmountable from the point of view of the nuclear proponents.

2011: The turning point

The turning point in the chronology took place on 11 March 2011: The Fukushima disaster and its global political fallout. The quick decision of Germany to accelerate the 2000 agreement to phase out nuclear energy had – as is the case with many decisions in that large, neighboring country – an influence on the debate in Switzerland. In June 2011, the Swiss government also decided on a "gradual" phasing out of nuclear energy. New reactors should be forbidden; unlike in Germany, no specific shutdown date for the existing nuclear power plants was set.

With this, the Swiss energy minister anticipated the new political reality: a referendum for a new reactor one year after Fukushima would certainly end in a crushing defeat. As a consequence, a comprehensive strategy was developed by the government that showed how the approximately 33% nuclear energy in the Swiss power mix should be replaced. To do so, an overall package was created in which the medium- and long-term reduction in the dependence on fossil fuels was also integrated. The decision to phase out nuclear energy therefore became an actual about-face in energy policy. No fewer than 10 laws must be revised for this purpose as part of the "first package of 2050 Strategic Energy Measures."

However, the government is not alone in its thirst for action. Just two months after the Fukushima disaster – and thus even before the government's phase-out decision – the Green Party began collecting signatures for a national public initiative for an orderly nuclear power exit. Besides a ban on all new construction, this also provides for a 45-year time limit on the operation of existing reactors. The Green Party initiative proved to be a good campaign resource as well. In the national elections in the fall of 2011, anti-nuclear parties were the clear winners. Political scientists talk about the "Fukushima Effect".

2013: The legislative mill

What followed was the protracted, orderly Swiss legislative process. First a nationwide consultation and review process on one of the first draft laws. Afterwards, beginning in 2013, the government's draft bill was discussed back and forth in both parliamentary chambers during which not all of the original supported intentions remained intact. The phasing out of nuclear energy was also pruned: the laws dealing with the existing reactors are left in their pre-Fukushima version to the greatest extent possible. The requirement of a so-called "long-term operation concept", which provides for a maximum of 10 years extension in each case, was not inserted into the law against the wishes of the Nuclear Supervisory Commission. The principle of "operation as long as safe" remains the maxim for existing reactors.

2015: The great forgetfulness

The laws had not yet been fully discussed when national elections appeared on the agenda in the fall of 2015. Without the nuclear mushroom cloud on the horizon, the general drift to the right in Switzerland's political landscape continued. Instead of nuclear disasters, the topic of migration stands atop the "Swiss Worry Barometer." And the parliament already showed its new vision in the continuation of the consultation proceedings on the 2050 Strategic Energy Measures: the draft bill was watered down bit by bit. The original proponents of the 2050 Strategic Energy Measures appeared ready to swallow the bitter pill under the motto "a bird in hand is worth two in the bush."

2016: New realities

The Green Party's initiative for a real phasing out of nuclear energy, which was repeatedly tabled by the government as part of the 2050 Strategic Energy Measures, finally comes to a vote in the coming autumn. Apart from the fifth anniversary, there are few reminders of Fukushima during the run-up period. But a new reality emerges: low energy prices and electricity market liberalization create major financial problems for Swiss energy suppliers. In March, an Alpiq paper is leaked in which the ailing corporation presents considerations about the nationalization of nuclear power plants, which are operating at a loss.

The decision made by BKW to definitively shut down its reactor in Mühleberg in 2019 became official with the decommissioning application – the various required retrofits demanded by the regulatory authorities on the basis of the findings from Fukushima are too costly. And the Beznau I reactor has been shut down for almost one year because of anomalies in the reactor pressure vessel; its future is uncertain.

Thus many voters suddenly begin to ask themselves whether an economically moribund technology will be carried to its grave anyhow through the forthcoming vote. There is really no alternative to an exit and it is now a matter of minimizing the – until now only economic – damage as much as possible. The regulatory authorities have already warned about a growing risk of the reactors because of the lack of investments in their final years of operation. The fixed operational time limit of 45 years and the soon deactivation of Beznau linked to that provide the clearest answer to these considerations.

We will vote this fall. Instead of the question: "What is the half-life of the Fukushima disaster in the minds of Mr and Ms Schweizer?", it seems that the question we are perhaps posing much more quickly than thought possible is: "How do we best say goodbye to obsolete technology?" Or if we return to the figure skater's programme mentioned at the outset: After countless pirouettes around the 2050 Strategic Energy Measures, will we finally be able to end the entire compulsory and free programme brilliantly? It would be desirable for an advanced, high-technology and scenically rich Switzerland if she could bid farewell to her ancient collection of reactors.

Nuclear News - Nuclear Monitor #820 - 16 March 2016

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#820
16/03/2016
Shorts

No prosecution for massive spill at Australian uranium mine

In December 2013 a tank collapse resulted in a spill of 1.4 million of radioactive slurry at the Ranger uranium mine in Australia's Northern Territory. Investigations found that damage to a rubber liner had allowed the acidic mixture to corrode the steel wall of the tank, leading to its failure. Operations at the mine were suspended for six months.

Over two years later, the NT Department of Mines and Energy has decided not to prosecute Rio Tinto subsidiary Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) for the massive spill. The Department claimed "that it is not in the public interest to prosecute ERA under the Mining Management Act" ... or any other Act.

The decision was "derelict, deficient and deeply disappointing", said Dave Sweeney from the Australian Conservation Foundation. "Many people expected the regulator to step up and regulate – these people and Kakadu deserve better than this failed and flaccid response from the Department."

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam said: "The regulator failed to prevent the spill, they took years to deliberate, and came up with nothing. They've essentially announced to mining companies in the NT that there are no legal consequences for catastrophic negligence. We urge the NT government to reverse this decision immediately and force ERA to be accountable."

Under the terms of ERA's lease all mining and processing at Ranger is required to cease by January 2021. The company is legally obliged to rehabilitate the site so it can be incorporated into the surrounding World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park by 2026.

www.acfonline.org.au/news-media/media-release/no-bark-no-bite-plenty-fle...

http://scott-ludlam.greensmps.org.au/content/media-releases/what-regulat...

www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS-Ranger-leach-tank-investigation-closed-120...

Mapped: The world's nuclear power plants

Carbon Brief has produced a useful online resource showing the location, operating status and generating capacity of all 667 power reactors that have been built, or are under construction, around the world. The website also provides a useful snapshot of the sick and sorry state of the nuclear power industry worldwide, with statistical information on increased construction times, the aging of the global fleet of nuclear reactors, nuclear power's economic negative learning curve, and nuclear's falling share of worldwide electricity generation.

www.carbonbrief.org/mapped-the-worlds-nuclear-power-plants

Switzerland to start nuclear phase-out in December 2019

BKW is to permanently shut down its 373 MW Muehleberg nuclear power plant in western Switzerland on December 20, 2019, the company said on March 2. Muehleberg is to be the first Swiss nuclear plant to close under a federal government plan to phase out the country's entire 3.3 GW nuclear fleet by 2035. BKW had intended to operate the plant until 2022, but in October 2013, the company announced it would close the plant in 2019, three years ahead of schedule, to avoid making long-term investments in the plant. BKW concluded that a weak power price outlook – in particular impacted by continuing expansion in renewable power in neighbouring Germany – could not justify the significant investments required for longer-term operations.

http://analysis.nuclearenergyinsider.com/swiss-start-shutdown-dec-2019-d...

Situation of the five Swiss nuclear power reactors as of August 2015:

Beznau I

365 MW

46 years old

Beznau II

365 MW

44 years old

Mühleberg

373 MW

43 years old

Gösgen

970 MW

36 years old

Leibstadt

1190 MW

31 years old

Nuclear energy conference in Prague

The third annual Nuclear Energy Conference, 'Nuclear Energy – Expensive Gamble' will be held in Prague on Tuesday April 5, 2016. It is organized by Hnutí DUHA (FoE Czech Republic), Calla – Association for Preservation of the Environment, and South Bohemian Mothers. Emmerich Seidelberger will address risks of the nuclear power industry in the world; Ian Fairlie will reflect on the Chernobyl disaster; speakers will address nuclear safety issues in Belgium, Slovakia and France; Oda Becker and Jan Jílek will report on the results of the risk and safety assessments carried out in response to Fukushima; and Tobias Heldt will discuss the issue of limited liability for nuclear damage. The Conference is free of charge. Translation into English, German and Czech will be provided.

Contact: [email protected]

Web: www.nec2016.eu/images/pdf/NEC_2016_EN.pdf

Nuclear News

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#772
15/11/2013
Shorts

Switzerland − Mühleberg NPP will be shut down early
Operator BKW FMB Energy will permanently shut down Switzerland's Mühleberg nuclear power plant in 2019 − three years ahead of the planned 2022 shut down. BKW chair Urs Gasche said the main factors behind the decision were "the current market conditions as well as the uncertainty surrounding political and regulatory trends." BKW said it will invest US$223 million to enable continued operation until 2019. The Swiss canton of Bern is the majority shareholder in BKW.[1]

The single 372 MWe boiling water reactor began operating in 1972. In 2009, the Swiss environment ministry issued an unlimited-duration operating licence to the Mühleberg plant. This decision was overturned in March 2012 by the country's Federal Administrative Court (FAC), which said the plant could only operate until June 2013. BKW subsequently lodged an appeal with the Federal Court against the FAC's ruling, winning the case this March and securing an unlimited-duration operating licence.[1]

In the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, the Swiss government adopted a nuclear power phase-out policy, with no new reactors to be built and all existing reactors to be permanently shut down by 2034, along with a ban on nuclear reprocessing.[2,3]

[1]www.world-nuclear-news.org/C-Political-risks-prompt-early-closure-of-Swi...
[2] www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/Publications/PDF/CNPP2013_CD/countryprofiles/Switzerland/Switzerland.htm
[3] www.world-nuclear.org/info/Country-Profiles/Countries-O-S/Switzerland/

---

US−Vietnam nuclear deal − fools' gold standard
A senior Republican senator wrote to the Obama administration in late October voicing concerns about a recently negotiated nuclear trade agreement with Vietnam that does not explicitly prohibit the country from developing weapons-sensitive enrichment and reprocessing technology.[1]

Bob Corker (Republican-Tennessee.) wrote: "The administration's acceptance of enrichment and reprocessing [ENR] capabilities in new agreements with countries where no ENR capability currently exists is inconsistent and confusing, potentially compromising our nation's nonproliferation policies and goals. ... The absence of a consistent policy weakens our nuclear nonproliferation efforts, and sends a mixed message to those nations we seek to prevent from gaining or enhancing such capability, and signals to our partners that the ‘gold standard' is no standard at all. The United States must lead with high standards that prevent the proliferation of technologies if we are to have a credible and effective nuclear nonproliferation policy."[2]

Corker is requesting a briefing from the Obama administration prior to the submittal of the US-Vietnam trade agreement to Congress. Once the agreement is submitted, the legislative branch will be required within 90 days of continuous session to decide whether to allow, reject or modify the accord.[1]

Shortly after the October 10 signing of the nuclear trade agreement, a US government official told journalists that Hanoi has promised "not to acquire sensitive nuclear technologies, equipment, and processing". But unidentified US officials told the Wall Street Journal that Vietnam would retain the right to pursue enrichment and reprocessing.[3]

Prior to the October 10 signing, Vietnam repeatedly said it would not accept restrictions on enrichment and reprocessing in a formal agreement with the US. According to Global Security Newswire, Hanoi "may make some effort ... to reassure the nonproliferation community, outside of the agreement text".[4]

In short, the agreement does not meet the 'gold standard' established in the US/UAE agreement of a legally-binding ban on enrichment and reprocessing [5] − notwithstanding contrary claims from US government officials and many media reports. Instead, it applies a fools' gold standard − a non-legally binding 'commitment'. There are many parallels in nuclear politics, such as India's 'moratorium' on nuclear weapons testing while Delhi refuses to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

US labour and human rights groups have urged President Obama to suspend free-trade negotiations with Vietnam because of its treatment of workers and government critics. Analysts say a sharp increase in arrests and convictions of government detractors could complicate the nuclear deal when it is considered by Congress.[9]

Vietnam has also signed nuclear cooperation agreements with Russia, France, China, South Korea, Japan and Canada. Plans call for Vietnam to have a total of eight nuclear power reactors in operation by 2027. Russia and Japan have already agreed to build and finance Vietnam's first four nuclear power units − two Russian-designed VVERs at Ninh Thuan and two Japanese reactors at Vinh Hai − although construction has yet to begin.[7] Vietnam intends to build its first nuclear-power reactor in a province particularly vulnerable to tsunamis.[8]

Progress − albeit slow progress − is being made with an IAEA low-enriched uranium fuel bank in Kazakhstan, which IAEA member countries could turn to if their regular supplies were cut. The fuel bank is designed to stem the spread of enrichment capabilities.[6]

[1] www.nti.org/gsn/article/senior-gop-senator-concerned-us-vietnam-nuclear-...
[2] www.foreign.senate.gov/press/ranking/release/corker-inconsistency-in-civ...
[3] www.nti.org/gsn/article/us-vietnam-announce-new-atomic-trade-deal/
[4] www.nti.org/gsn/article/us-vietnam-could-initial-nuclear-trade-pact-week...
[5] Nuclear Monitor #766, 'Sensitive nuclear technologies and US nuclear export agreements', www.wiseinternational.org/node/4019
[6] www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/02/us-nuclear-fuel-iaea-idUSBRE9910JJ201...
[7] www.world-nuclear-news.org/NP-Agreement_opens_US_Vietnam_nuclear_trade-1...
[8] www.nti.org/gsn/article/vietnam-nuclear-power-program/?mgs1=b5a1drpwr4
[9] www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/oct/10/us-signs-nuclear-technology-...

---

Thousands protest against Areva in Niger
Thousands of residents of the remote mining town of Arlit in Niger took to the streets on October 12 to protest against French uranium miner Areva and support a government audit of the company's operations.[1]

The Nigerian government announced the audit in September and wants to increase the state's revenues from the Cominak and Somair mines, in which the government holds 31% and 36.4% stakes, respectively. The government is also calling on the company to make infrastructure investments, including resurfacing the road between the town of Tahoua and Arlit, known as the "uranium road".[1]

Around 5,000 demonstrators marched through Arlit chanting slogans against Areva before holding a rally in the city centre. "We're showing Areva that we are fed up and we're demonstrating our support for the government in the contract renewal negotiations," said Azaoua Mamane, an Arlit civil society spokesperson.[1]

Arlit residents complain they have benefited little from the local mining industry. "We don't have enough drinking water while the company pumps 20 million cubic metres of water each year for free. The government must negotiate a win-win partnership," Mamane said. Areva representatives in Niger and Paris declined to comment.[1]

Another resident said: "The population has inherited 50 million tonnes of radioactive residues stocked in Arlit, and Areva continues to freely pump 20 million cubic metres of water each year while the population dies of thirst."[2]

Areva is also developing the Imouraren mine in Niger, where first ore extraction is due in 2015.[3]

Meanwhile, four French nationals from Areva and contractor Vinci have been released after three years in captivity. They were kidnapped by Islamic militants near the Arlit uranium mine. Seven people were kidnapped on 15 September 2010 by what has been described as the Islamic Mahgreb Al-Qaida group; three were released in February 2011. In May 2013, a terrorist car bomb damaged the mine plant at Arlit, killing one employee and injuring 14.[4]

[1] www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/12/niger-areva-protest-idUSL6N0I20H22013...
[2] www.france24.com/en/20131012-thousands-protest-niger-against-french-nucl...
[3] www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-10-06/areva-urges-clients-to-buy-uranium-as-...
[4] WNN, 30 Oct 2013, www.world-nuclear-news.org/C_Hostage_relief_for_Areva_3010132.html

More information:

  • Nuclear Monitor #769, 10 Oct 2013, 'Niger audits U mines, seeks better deal'
  • Nuclear Monitor #765, 1 Aug 2013, 'Uranium mining in Niger'
About: 
Muehleberg

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#751
15/06/2012
Shorts

Nigeria signs agreement with Rosatom. Last issue we made a funny remark about Nigeria’s announcement that it selected two sites for the construction of nuclear power reactors, but only a few days later the country signed a cooperation accord with Russia’s Rosatom towards the construction of its first nuclear power plant. Rosatom chief Sergei Kiriyenko signed a memorandum of understanding with the chairman of the Nigerian Atomic Energy Commission, Franklin Erepamo Osaisai. Its terms will see the two countries "prepare a comprehensive program of building nuclear power plants in Nigeria," including the development of infrastructure and a framework and system of regulation for nuclear and radiation safety.

Sergei Kiriyenko is quoted in Leadership newspaper to have said that  the contract would cover the building of nuclear power plant (1200MW) worth about US$4.5 billion (about N697 billion). In 2010 Nigeria said it aimed to have 1000 MW of nuclear generation in place by 2019 with another 4000 MW online by 2030. Although not all contracts Rosatom signed have materialized in the past, however, Nigeria is, one of the very few African countries pursuing a nuclear energy program.
World Nuclear News, 4 June 2012 / Leadership Newspapers (Nigeria), 13 June 2012


Fear nuclear safety is in stake in harsh competition for sales.
Nuclear-reactor makers are offering prices too low to cover costs to win orders abroad in a strategy that puts earnings at risk, according to Andre-Claude Lacoste, head of the French Autorite de Surete Nucleaire regulator. “Export contracts for nuclear plants are being obtained at pure dumping-level prices,” Lacoste fears that nuclear safety could be compromised in trying to win tenders. “Prices accepted by vendors and obtained by buyers are unsustainable,” he said. “There aren’t many tenders, which is why competitors are ripping each other off. It’s already a serious matter, and we need to make sure that there’s no dumping on safety on top of that.”
Bloomberg, 6 June 2012


Academic study on IAEA.
Just published: a new research report Unleashing the Nuclear Watchdog: Strengthening and Reform of the IAEA, by Trevor Findlay. The report is the outcome of the two-and-a-half year research project on “Strengthening and Reform of the IAEA” conducted by the CCTC and CIGI. The project aimed to carry out a “root and branch” study of the Agency to examine its current strengths and weaknesses and make recommendations for bolstering and, if necessary, reforming it. According to the preface this academic study of the Agency “is needed not just in the light of accumulating challenges to the IAEA’s future and the increasing demands made on it by its member states, but because the Agency itself is demanding more support and resources. At a time of financial stringencies, many of the countries that traditionally have offered such support seek proper justification for any increases.” Findlay concludes that the IAEA is irreplaceable: “like the United Nations itself, if it did not exist it would have to be invented”.

However, this report is a good source for general information about the Agency that was founded to “accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world,” while ensuring, “so far as it is able,” that this does not “further any military purpose”.
Unleashing the nuclear watchdog is available at: href="http://www.cigionline.org/iaea"www.cigionline.org/iaea


China: nuclear safety plan but no approval for new projects yet.
China has approved a nuclear safety plan and says its nuclear power plants meet the latest international safety standards, though some plants need to improve their ability to cope with flooding and earthquakes, state media said on May 31. But the government has not made any decision on when to start approving new nuclear plant projects.

China suspended approvals of new nuclear power plants in the wake of Japan's nuclear crisis in March 2011 following a devastating tsunami, and ordered nationwide safety checks on existing plants and construction sites. It also pledged to review its nuclear power development plan. The State Council, China's Cabinet, now approved a nuclear safety plan for 2011-2015 in a meeting chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao. China also aims to enhance nuclear safety standards and lower the risks of nuclear radiation by 2020, the report said.

A nine-month safety inspection of China's 41 nuclear power plants, which are either operating or under construction, showed that most of China's nuclear power stations meet both Chinese and International Atomic Energy Agency standards, according to the report. However, some individual power plants need to improve their ability to prevent damage from serious accidents such as earthquakes, flooding or tsunami, it said.
Reuters, 31 May 2012


Switzerland: court rejects Mühleberg extension.
BKW, the operator of the Mühleberg nuclear power plant, must submit a full maintenance plan, or shut down the plant in June 2013. The Federal Supreme Court has rejected BKW’s request for an injunction, after earlier this year the Federal Administrative Court pulled Mühleberg’s right to an unlimited permit. Federal environment officials had reasoned BKW could have an indefinite operating permit so long as the Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate was monitoring site maintenance and safety issues. The court ruled BKW needed to submit maintenance and safety plans, especially with known concerns over the site’s cooling system, and cracks in the core shroud.
World Radio Switzerland, 29 May 2012


Lithuania opposes construction of N-plants close to its borders.
On May 28, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis blasted plans by Russia and Belarus to build nuclear power plants close to its borders, accusing both of lax safety and environmental standards and "bypassing international safety and environmental standards." "This is not just an issue for Lithuania... it should be a matter of concern to all countries in this region. We should do everything possible to make these two projects develop according to international standards. It is vital," Azubalis said, following talks in Riga with Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics. Rinkevics offered a cautious endorsement of Azubalis' concerns.  Asked by AFP what proof Lithuania had concerning the safety of the Russian and Belarusian projects, Azubalis said he had yet to receive satisfactory responses to written requests for information through official channels including the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Espoo Convention Committee. The Lithuanian foreign ministry provided AFP with a document dated May 4 expressing "deep concern" over an alleged recent accident at Russia's Leningrad NPP-2 nuclear facility, which is still under construction. "The incident in Leningrad NPP-2 raises a number of serious questions about the safety of this and two other planned (plants) near Lithuanian borders and the capital Vilnius which are projected to be based on the same technology and possibly the same means of construction," the document states.

Lithuania and Latvia, together with Estonia and Japanese company Hitachi, have putative plans of their own to construct a joint nuclear power plant at Visaginas in northern Lithuania to replace the Soviet-era Ignalina facility which was shut down in 2009.
AFP, 28 may 2012


Flying into trouble at Sellafield
Unusual pathways by which radioactivity routinely escapes the confines of nuclear sites are well documented with one recent example to hit the headlines being the 6000 mile transportation of radioactive contamination by bluefin tuna from the polluted waters around the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant to the coasts of North America. An even more recent case has however turned up very much closer to home – at Sellafield.
No stranger to unusual pathways for radioactivity - as 2000 Cumbrian feral pigeons and a host of seagulls will know to their cost - the site’s latest victims have been identified as a number of swallows which, gorging on the mosquitos that flit over the waters of Sellafield’s radioactive storage ponds, have taken up residence in Sellafield’s transport section.  As confirmed by the Environment Agency last week to a meeting of the Environmental Health Sub-Committee of the West Cumbria Sites Stakeholder Group, the birds’ droppings from around their roost/nesting sites have been found to be radioactively contaminated. Whilst neither the contamination levels nor the number of swallows involved was provided, the Environment Agency told the Committee that measures were being taken by Sellafield Ltd to tackle the mosquito problem.
CORE’s spokesman Martin Forwood commented; “These much-loved and now radioactive birds and their offspring will unwittingly be carrying a highly toxic message from Sellafield when they migrate back to Southern Africa at the end of the summer - a distance at least equivalent to that recently undertaken by the bluefin tuna.”
CORE press release, 6 June 2012


U.K.: Chernobyl restrictions sheep lifted after 26 years.
Twenty-six years after the April 26, 1986, explosion at Chernobyl reactor 4, restrictions remained on 334 farms in North Wales, and eight in Cumbria. But as of June 1, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) regulations on these farms were lifted. In the aftermath of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, when radioactive rain swept the UK, farmers saw their livelihoods and even their families threatened. Some 9,700 farms and four million sheep were placed under restriction as radioactive cesium- 137 seeped into the upland soils of England, Scotland and Wales.

Before June 1, any livestock for breeding or sale had to be assessed with gamma monitors by officials from Defra or the Welsh government. Sheep found to exceed the legal radiation dose (1,000 Becquerel per kilo) were moved to the lowlands before sale, and had the farmers wanted to move their flock, they had to seek permission.

The FSA said the restrictions had been lifted because “the current controls are no longer proportionate to the very low risk”. No sheep in Cumbria have failed the monitoring criteria for several years, and less than 0.5 per cent of the 75,000 sheep monitored annually in North Wales fail.  But not everyone agrees with lifting the restrictions. An anonymous farmer with a flock of 1,000 ewes, was quoted in the Independent saying: “The feeling I have is that it should still be in place. The food should be kept safe.”
Independent (UK), 1 June 2012


Australia: at last: Kakadu Koongarra victory.
The Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory is set to be expanded, with the inclusion of land previously earmarked land for uranium mining known as Koongarra. The Northern Land Council (NLC) has agreed for a 1,200 hectare parcel of land containing rich reserves of uranium to be incorporated in to the park. This looks like the final step in a long battle that Aboriginal traditional owner Jeffrey Lee has waged to protect his land from mining. The uranium-rich mining lease Koongarra was excised from Kakadu when the conservation area was established in the late 1970s. The lease is held by French company Areva, which wanted to mine the area for uranium. Two years ago, Mr Lee, the sole traditional owner of the land, called on the Federal Government to incorporate it in to Kakadu. The Government accepted the offer and referred the matter to the NLC. The NLC conducted consultations and its full council has agreed to endorse Mr Lee's wishes. The council and land trust will now move to enter an agreement with national parks to incorporate Koongarra into Kakadu. The Koongarra area includes the much-visited Nourlangie Rock (Burrunggui/Anbangbang) and is important in the Rainbow Serpent and Lightning Man stories.

In June 2011, the Koongarra site was added to the World Heritage List during a meeting of the Unesco World Heritage Committee in Paris. The French nuclear energy company Areva, had unsuccessfully asked the committee to remove Koongarra from its agenda.

It is not known if Areva will attempt to take any action over the decision to include Koongarra in the Kakadu national park
Nuclear Monitor, 1 July 2012 / ABC, 1 June 2012


Japan: Smartphone capable of measuring radiation.
On May 29, the Japanese company Softbank Mobile unveiled a smartphone capable of measuring radiation levels in a bid to respond to growing demand for dosimeters in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Users can measure radiation levels by pressing and holding a button on the phone, and the device can be set to a constant measurement mode or plot readings on a map, according to Softbank.

The Pantone 5 107SH, manufactured by Sharp Corp., is equipped with a sensor that can measure between 0.05 and 9.99 microsieverts per hour of gamma ray in the atmosphere. The product is aimed at ''alleviating as much as possible the concerns of mothers with children,'' the mobile operator said in a statement, adding it will go on sale sometime in mid-July or later.
Mainichi (Japan), 29 May 2012


Public acceptance – what holds back the nuclear industry?
“Multiple structural barriers inside the nuclear industry tend to prevent it from producing a united pro-nuclear front to the general public. Efforts to change public opinion worldwide must deal with these real-world constraints.” In an article called: Public acceptance – what holds back the nuclear industry? Steve Kidd (deputy director-general of the World Nuclear Association) is asking if “we have probably begun to reach some limits in employing a fact-based strategy to improve public acceptance of nuclear. Huge efforts have been made to inform people about nuclear by freely providing a lot of good information. But the message doesn’t seem to hit home with many.” He is explaining why and how to overcome this in an article in the May issue of Nuclear Engineering International.

In the next episode he will look at the possibilities of increasing public acceptance in more detail. 
The article is available at: www.neimagazine.com/story.asp?sectioncode=147&storyCode=2062367

South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#746, 747, 748
Waste special
01/05/2012
Article

South Africa

Nr. of reactors

first grid connection

% of total electricity 

2

1984-04-04

5.19%

The 2008 National Radioactive Waste Disposal Institute Act provides for the establishment of a National Radioactive Waste Disposal Institute which will manage radioactive waste disposal in South Africa. The responsibility for nuclear waste disposal has been discharged by the Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) until now.  Necsa has been operating the national repository for low- and intermediate-level wastes at Vaalputs in the Northern Cape province. This was commissioned in 1986 for wastes from Koeberg and is financed by fees paid by Eskom. Some low- and intermediate-level waste from hospitals, industry and Necsa itself is disposed of at Necsa's Pelindaba site.(*01)

Koeberg spent fuel is currently stored in pools as well as in casks. The site has enough storage capacity for the spent fuel that will be generated during the current operational lifetime of Koeberg.

Pending the outcome of current investigations into possible reprocessing of spent fuel, it is not classified as radioactive waste. Rather than been in its final form for disposal used fuel is. Interim storage takes place on site, awaiting investigations into the best long term option for the management of spent fuel.(*02) If chosen as a preferred option in South Africa, geological disposal of radioactive waste shall take place with an option for retrieving the waste.(*03)

Plans by Eskom to seek contracts for reprocessing surfaced in August 2009. The stae owned utility and operator of Koeberg said the resulting MOX-fuel could be sold to other countries rather than used at home. It turned out to be a plan to try to finance new build.(*04) Not surprisingly it was never heard of again.

According to Nesca CEO Rob Adams South Africa would need a fully operational high-level waste management site by 2070 to deal with spent fuel. The negotiations with the National Nuclear Regulator to identify a high-level waste disposal site would likely start before 2015. Three possible disposal sites would have to be identified, and three individual environmental impact assessment studies would have to be conducted. Necsa would then argue the case of the most suitable site. Vaalputs will most likely be one of them.(*05)

Spain

Nr. of reactors

first grid connection

% of total electricity 

8

1968-07-14

19.48%

Low- and intermediate level wastes is stored at ENRESA's storage facility at El Cabril, Cordoba. Spent fuel is stored at the reactor sites awaiting a centralized interim storage and geological disposal A final geological disposal facility is not expected before 2050, at the earliest. No reprocessing of spent fuel takes place, but in the past spent fuel of Vandellos-1 reactor has been reprocessed.

Low-level Waste
In the 1950s, the El Cabril uranium mine was shut down and started to be used for storing low and intermediate level waste. In 1986 ENRESA took responsibility for El Cabril and moved the waste from the mines to new built buildings on the same site.(*01) It is planned to receive waste until 2015.(02) The state-owned radioactive Waste management organization ENRESA, created in 1984, is responsible for managing radioactive waste and decommissioning of nuclear plants.(*03)

High-level waste and spent fuel
ENRESA is since 1987 developing a disposal program aimed at providing a final solution for the spent fuel and high level waste. The program comprised of three areas: identification of suitable sites, conceptual design and performance assessment of a geological repository and research and development.(*04) At that time a repository was expected to be realized by 2020. By end-1990, some 25,000 km2 of possible regions were found. Finally, some 30 areas were identified for further research.(*05)

Although ENRESA had identified favorable areas for further underground research, work was halted in 1996 due to public opposition; or in the words of ENRESA: "the reaction of the public advised to discontinue any field work in 1996."(*06) In 1995, it had become known among environmental groups that ENRESA had plans for the construction of underground disposal laboraties and a list of possible locations was released. The groups accused ENRESA of not having informed the public and of having inspected possible sites. Large demonstrations were organized which culminated in a demonstration of 20,000 people in 1998 at Torrecampo.(*07)  At the end of 1996, the Senate Commission for Industry established an inquiry commission to develop a new waste policy. It had to study the difficulties in finding a site for waste disposal and should include socio-political and public acceptance aspects. The  commission’s work was expected to result in guidelines for the government to develop a legal framework for siting. The commission received contributions from groups and institutions and visited other countries for comparison.(*08)

In 1999 the 5th Radioactive Waste Plan was adopted with a new policy: construction of a centralized interim HLW storage by 2010 for reprocessing waste as well as spent fuel; and no decisions about final disposal before the year 2010.(*09)

In mid 2006 Parliament approved ENRESA's plans to develop an interim centralized high-level  waste and spent fuel storage facility by 2010, and the Nuclear Safety Council CSN approved its design, which was similar to the Habog facility near the Borssele power plant in the Netherlands. In December 2009 the government called for municipalities to volunteer to host this €700 million Almacen Temporal Centralizado (ATC) facility. The government offered to pay up to €7.8 million annually once the facility is operational. It is designed to hold for 100 years 6700 metric tons of used fuel and 2600 m3 of medium-level wastes, plus 12 m3 of high-level waste from reprocessing the Vandellos-1 fuel. The facility is to be built in three stages, each taking five years.  Fourteen towns volunteered, attracted by the prospect of a €700 million investment over 20 years and the annual direct payments, plus many jobs, but only eight were formally accepted.(*10)

In September 2011 the Ministry for Industry announced its selection and rankings: Zarra (Valencia) 736 points; Asco (Tarragona) 732 points; Yebra (Guadalajara) 714 points; Villar de Canas (Cuenca) 692 points. In December 2011 the Ministry announced that Villar de Canas had been selected, though only a 60-year storage period was mentioned. Pending construction, low- and medium-level wastes continues to be sent to ENRESA's storage facility at El Cabril, Cordoba, which has operated since 1961. Used fuel remains at individual power plants.(*11)

For Jose Maria Saiz, the mayor of Villar de Canas, the financial compensation and the promise of 300 jobs were compelling arguments to get the storage to his place. That doesn’t alter the fact that environmental groups and trade unions are against the storage.(*12)  And in March 2012 it turned out that promised regional jobs were not materializing and little is left of the initial optimism.(*13)

The General Plan on Radioactive Waste suggests that the operation of a deep repository in Spain would probably start in 2050. Therefore, the period between 2025 and 2040 would be focused on decision-making process and site characterisations, whereas from 2040 to 2050 construction would take place. A programme of activities between 2006 and 2025 to meet the objective of having a repository by 2050 is lacking (Fundación para Estudios sobre la Energía, 2007).

The high level of priority given to the interim storage facility has delayed the interest and the research efforts in deep geological disposal. Furthermore, the construction of the centralised storage facility allows decisions on final management to be postponed.(*14)

Sweden  

Nr. of reactors

first grid connection

% of total electricity 

10

1964-05-01

39.62%

Since the mid-1970s spent nuclear fuel is to be disposed of in a geologic repository. Early plans for reprocessing the spent fuel were abandoned already in the early 1980’s. In the 1970's Svensk Kärnbränslehantering AB (Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company), SKB, was established to manage the waste (*01 Sweden once dumped low-level waste in the Atlantic Ocean (in 1969) and twice (1959 and 1961) in the Baltic Sea.(*02)

The country wants to dispose its nuclear waste, packed in copper to ensure long-term safety, in granite from 2023/25 on. But problems with copper and geological stability have been published widely. Awaiting final disposal spent fuel is stored in an interim facility in Oskarshamn, called Clab. Low and intermediate-level waste is currently stored in a final repository 50 meters deep in the crystalline basement near the nuclear power plant in Forsmark.(*03)

Long-lasting search
In Sweden, the Parliament decided to a Nuclear Power Act in 1977, which asked for an “absolutely safe solution” for final disposal of nuclear waste and makes the nuclear industry responsible for the management of the waste. The Swedish government started a procedure, called scientific mediation, to clarify the scientific differences. This was followed by discussions with the public, aimed at participation in the decision-making.(*04)

Research to find a final disposal site has taken place for since 1977. Eleven sites were examined, with extensive work undertaken at 7. Test-drillings was planned in 5, but only two of these allowed SKB to carry out even an initial feasibility study: Storuman and Malaa. Several possible locations for the final disposal have been dropped out after referendums, such as Storuman, Malaa(*05) and Gaellivare.(*06) It was obvious by then that the best chance for a repository would be in a municipality that has a nuclear power plant: Forsmark and Oskarshamn, or at the Studsvik research reactor.(*07) The idea is that in these locations such an initiative will most likely gain sufficient support, and SKB limited themselves to the choice of  a site with nuclear power activities. (*Sw08) Municipalities can present themselves voluntarily as a host location, but can also withdraw in a later stage. Although there is a law enabling the government under very specific conditions to overrule such a veto, but this provisions seems very hard to use for any government: this will not happen in practice.(*09)

In 1998, SKB director Peter Nygaards stated that the Swedish government should be prepared to offer financial incentives to a community willing to host the repository. He compared this with the money the government pays to local communities to take in refugees. Similarly, any disposal of nuclear waste must also be reimbursed. Nygaards also said he don’t want to fix the moment of permanently sealing a repository. If the repository is full one should consider if closing is not a better option so that "future generations can open it if they need to?" Nygaards said: "It is not wise to make a decision today for 100,000 years from now".(*10)
 Besides the locations with nuclear power plants, only Tierp volunteered to be a host community for the repository. (*11)

 In November 2001 the government approved research in Tierp, Forsmark and Oskarshamn,(*12) but in April 2002, the city council of Tierp decided to withdraw.(*13)  In June 2009 SKB selected Forsmark.(*14) The repository is proposed to be sited adjacent to the Forsmark nuclear power plant on the Baltic Sea coast. On 16 March 2011, SKB applied for a permit.(*15) It plans to begin site works in 2013, with full construction starting in 2015, and operation after 2020.(*16)

Criticism on safety
The KBS method was developed in the 1970s. The basis is a geologic repository at about 500 meter depth in granite bed-rock and the long-term safety is to be guaranteed by artificial barriers – copper canisters surrounded by a bentonite clay buffer.(*17)

There is severe criticism on the disposal method. The nuclear waste is disposed of at 500 meters depth in granite. According to SKB, this is a stable geological formation. But paleo-geophysicist Nils-Axel Mörner states that the stability is not true. Since the end of the last Ice Age the ground went upwards with a rate of one millimeter per day, there were 58 serious earthquakes and 16 tsunamis. As a consequence of these and other factors Mörner finds the repository unstable and not safe.(*18)
In November 2009 another problem arose: the use of copper. The nuclear waste is encased in a copper layer of five centimeters, which has to remain intact for 100,000 years.

Copper corrodes in environments where oxygen is present. The process is easy to observe on copper roof materials that turn green from oxidation. When the industry’s KBS-method was developed in the 1970’s the understanding was that copper does not corrode at all in an anoxic (oxygen-free) environment in the bedrock. During the 1980's a researcher from the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm, Gunnar Hultquist, presented new findings that showed that copper could corrode in environments without oxygen, as long as there is water present. The new findings were denied by SKB and ignored by the authorities. During the autumn of 2007 Gunnar Hultquist and a colleague Peter Szakálos presented the findings again, this time with more experimental results.(*19) This is noticed by investigation of copper artifacts from the Swedish warship Vasa, which sunk in 1628: the copper had become much thinner than expected.(*20) Copper corrosion has caused a discussion about the KBS method in Sweden as the findings threaten basic assumptions underlying the long-term safety of the KBS method.

A geologic repository in Swedish bedrock at a depth of 500 m has groundwater flowing through the repository, says Dr. Johan Swahn, Director of the Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear Waste Review (MKG) at a hearing on the management of nuclear waste at the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy.(*21) A repository using the KBS method therefore has to rely on manmade barriers (clay and copper) to isolate the nuclear waste from the environment. The chemical and biological environment will in the long term threaten the artificial barriers of copper and clay in ways that are difficult to foresee. The relatively dry rock (for the KBS method) chosen by SKB in Forsmark puts stress on the clay barrier and opens up for new questions on copper corrosion processes. In Sweden there will be one or more Ice Ages during the next 100,000 years and glaciation will lead to variations in the chemical and biological environment that will affect the man-made barriers.

The safety case for Swedish KBS method is severely questioned and licensing is uncertain. The problems for the KBS method has opened up for questioning whether disposal methods relying on artificial engineered barriers should be implemented at all. The Swedish and Finnish repository programs for spent nuclear are entirely interdependent. If the Swedish program fails, so does automatically the Finnish.(*22)

In short, also in Sweden, nuclear waste disposal is not a fait accompli.

The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM) has recommended a tripling of the fee paid by the country's nuclear power industry towards paying for management of the country's nuclear waste. Basing its assessment on information gathered from the relevant organizations - including cost estimates from SKB - SSM has recommended to the government that the fee should be set at 3 öre per kWh of nuclear electricity produced. The current level is 1 öre per kWh. (1 öre is worth approximately US$0.002)  According to SSM, much of the increase is down to new estimates from SKB indicating that the remaining costs of the country's planned final repository for used nuclear fuel have grown by about SEK 18 billion (US$2.7 billion) from previous estimates made in 2008. SSM also says it believes that SKB has underestimated future costs, and it has adjusted the proposed fee increase to reflect this.(*23)

Switzerland

Nr. of reactors

first grid connection

% of total electricity 

5

1968-01-29

40.85%

In 1969, the first Swiss nuclear power plant, Beznau 1, entered service. As of 1 March 2012 this plant is the oldest nuclear plant in the world.(*01) A geological final repository for high level waste will not be available before 2040, at the earliest: 70 years after the first reactor began operation. Switzerland dumped low- and intermediate level radioactive waste in sea 12 times from 1969-1982.(*i02) It transported the waste by train to the Netherlands, from where it was dumped in the Atlantic Ocean together with the Dutch radioactive waste.(*i03) Spent fuel is temporary stored at the Zwilag central storage facility.

Nagra
In December 1972, the Nationale Genossenschaft fuer die Lagerung radioaktiver Abfaelle (Swiss organization responsible for the storage of nuclear waste) was created: Nagra:(*04) The operators of the nuclear power plants are 95% owned by Nagra, the government has a share of 5%.(*05) Nagra immediately began investigating the storage of low, intermediate and high-level radioactive waste. This resulted in the project "Gewähr" of 1985. In June 1988 the government decided to take the first steps for low and intermediate radioactive waste, but for high-level waste further research was needed. This was because siting feasibility, i.e. the demonstration that a suitable rock body of sufficient extent could be found at an actual site in Switzerland, had not been demonstrated.(*06)

Low and medium radioactive waste: Wellenberg drops out
In 1993, from a 1978 list of originally 100 sites, Nagra chose Wellenberg (in the canton of Nidwalden). Nagra found Wellenberg suitable for safety reasons, but also because there would be
sufficient storage available.(*07) In the Wellenberg-debate critics of the repository project articulated new concepts: the disposal should be retrievable and verifiable. The Nagra, however, did not agree with that and the debate culminated in a June 1995 referendum. A majority of the Nidwalden population voted against the storage. Given the distribution of powers in Switzerland, storage at Wellenberg was off.(*08) The Nagra then examined how the people of Nidwalden would have voted if the requirement of retrievability and monitoring would have been granted. It turned out that 60.8 percent would have voted 'yes'.(*09)

But Nagra wanted to hold on to Wellenberg and the government agreed to this. In 1998 the Department of Energy repeated that Wellenberg is suitable for retrievable and verifiable disposal of low and intermediate level waste.(*10) So another referendum was organized and on 22 September 2002, a majority (57.5%, turnout was 71%) of the population voted again against the disposal at WellenbergThe government reacted by saying that with this result disposal plans were canceled. This was a hard blow to the nuclear industry, which has spent 80 million francs (€55 million) for research and to propitiate the population.(*11)  But it turned out that Wellenberg was not off the table for ever.

Spent fuel policy
From July 2006 on , there is a 10-year moratorium on the export of spent fuel for reprocessing. Before the moratorium, utilities were free to choose between reprocessing and direct disposal of the spent fuel. The reprocessing took place abroad (France and UK). Dry storage buildings at the Beznau nuclear power plant and at the Zwilag central storage facility have been built for the interim storage of spent fuel and of radioactive waste returned from reprocessing abroad. In addition, a building for the wet storage of spent fuel at the Gösgen nuclear power plant was commissioned in 2008.(*12)

2008: new plan for high-level radioactive waste
On 6 November 2008, the Nagra came with a new waste disposal roadmap: 'Zeit zum handeln'.(*13) Surprisingly, Wellenberg was candidate again for storage of low and intermediate level. In February 2011, for the third time, the population Nidwalden voted against (74.5%) the storage.(*14) But unlike earlier, the district no longer has a right to veto: the government has abolished that in 2002.(*15) Therefore, Wellenberg remains on the list.

In the new roadmap, as a first step, there three regions were chosen: Zürcher Weinland, Nörlich Lägeren and Bözberg. These are three regions in northern Switzerland, where a certain kind of clay (opalinus clay) is found. From 2011 on, regional conferences (attended by 100-200 people) should be held several times per year.(*16) The costs, for each region 1.5 million francs (€1 million) is made available, of which 80% is paid by the Nagra.(*17) Somewhere between 2014 - 2016 two locations in each region should be selected and before 2020 a referendum can take place. After that one site will be chosen for the geological repository. After the repository is constructed and the procedures are completed, the storage can start in 2030 for low- and intermediate-level waste and for high-level waste in 2040 at the earliest. (*18)

The plans raised much protest, as extensively described in the May 2010 issue of Energie und Umwelt (Energy and Environment) of the Swiss Energy Foundation (SES).(*19) In all regions, groups work together to prevent that the nuclear waste goes to the site with the least resistance. Although the government announced it wants to give action groups financial support to make their own studies, this was not settled in May 2010. And while the Nagra asserts that a repository has regional benefits, a study of the canton of Schaffhausen shows the contrary: great regional economic damage is expected. Therefore, SES calls the participation a form of sham democracy.

The government, however, continued the plans and on 1 December, 2011, decided that those sites may remain appropriate on 1 December 2011.(*20) The next four years, further investigation will take place at all sites, and interested parties can participate in regional conferences. After those four years, so in 2016, one site is selected and an application process for a license will start. In 2040, Nagra expects, the actual disposal can start. The Swiss Energy Foundation (SES) together with local groups are protesting the continuation of the process. According to these groups there are 12 unresolved questions about safe disposal of nuclear waste.(*21) These 12 questions should first be resolved before the people can be involved in the disposal. Therefore, these groups are in favor of the suspension of the government's plans.(*22) On March 6, the government, however, sees no reason to stop the procedure and announced that a repository has positive outcomes on the regional economy.(*23)

References:

South Africa
*01- World Nuclear Association: Nuclear Power in South Africa, December 2011
*02- Nesca: South African National Report for the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, First National Report, October 2008, p.14
*03- Nesca, p.90
*04- Idaho Samizdat: SouthAfrica to reprocess spent nuclear fuel, 28 August 2008
*05- Engineering News: High-level nuclear waste may be disposed of at Vaalputs, 25 March 2009

Spain
*01- COWAM: Nuclear Waste Management in Spain : El Cabril and on site storage, COWAM European Concerted Action,  February 2005
*02- Damveld/Van den Berg: Discussion on nuclear waste: A Survey on Public Participation, Decision-making and Discussions in Eight Countries; Spain, January 2000, p.65
*03: ENRESA: Who we are, company website, April 2012
*04- J.L. Santiago, J. Alonso, et al: Geological disposal strategy for high level waste in Spain, in: Distec Proceedings, Conference on Disposal Technology, Hamburg, September 1998, p. 206-211
*05- P. Richardson: The Virtual Repository of Radwaste Information: Spain, July 1997 (currently pay site).
*06- J.L. Santiago, J. Alonso, et al.
*07: WISE News Communique: Spain: protests against possible radwaste storage site, Nr. 489, 3 April 1998
*08- J.L. Santiago, J. Alonso, et al.
*09- OECD/NEA: Radioactive waste management programmes in OECD/NEA Member countries: Spain, 2005, p.4-5
*10- World Nuclear News: Spain selects site for waste storage, 3 January 2012
*11- World Nuclear Association: Nuclear Power in Spain, Update April 2012
*12- Deutschlandradio: Ein spanisches Dorf jubelt, weil es Atommüll lagern darf (A spanish town rejoices, because it can store nuclear waste),  16 February 2012
*13- Ee-news: Spanien: Atommüll-Lager bringt den Fortschritt nicht (Spain: nuclear waste storage does not bring progress), 21 March 2012 
*14- Meritxell Martell Lamolla: Identifying remaining socio-technical challenges at the national level: Spain, InSOTEC Working Paper (Draft), 1 March 2012

Sweden
*01- See for an extensive historical overview of the waste problem in Sweden: Miles Goldstick et.al.: Nuclear waste in Sweden –The problem is not solved!, FMKK, August 1988
*02- IAEA: Inventory of radioactive waste disposals at sea, IAEA-Tecdoc-1105, August 1999
*03- SKB: Our current facilities, company website, visited April 2012
*04- Matthijs Hissemöller and Cees J.H. Midden, Technological Risk, Policy Theories and Public Perception in Connection with the Siting of Hazardous Facilities, Charles Vlek and George Cvetko­vitch (eds), Social Decision Methodology for Technological Projects, Kluwer Academic Publis­hers, 1989, p. 173-194
*05- PJ Richardson, Public Involvement in the Siting of Contenti­ous Facilities; Lessons from the radioactive waste repository siting programs in Canada and the United States, with special reference to the Swedish Repository Siting Process, Swedish Radiation Protection Institute, August 1997, p 26-27
*06- Nuclear Fuel: Another Swedish community rejects repository, 16 June 1997, p.17
*07- Nucleonics Week: Malaa voter rejection turns SKB back to plant sites for repository, 25 September 1997, p.15
*08- Marianne Löwgren: Nuclear Waste Management in Sweden: Balancing Risk Perceptions and Developing Community Consensus, in: Eric B. Herzik and Alvin H. Mushkatel, Problems and Prospects for Nuclear Waste Disposal Policy, Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut / London, 1993, p. 105-121
*09- Olof Söderberg: Who Makes Which Decisions When?, in Proceedings DisTec'98, Disposal Technologies and Concepts 1998, International Conference on Radioactive Waste Disposal, 9-11 September, Hamburg, pp. 633-639
*10- Nuclear Fuel: New SKB head endorses cash incentives for repository host, 9 March 1998, p. 8-9
*11- Mark Elam and Göran Sundqvist, The Swedish KBS project: a last word in nuclear fuel safety prepares to conquer the world?, In: Journal of Risk Research, Volume 12 Issue 7 & 8 2009, December 2009, p. 969–988
*12- Nuclear Fuel: Swedisch government gives SKB approval to study 3 sites for possible repository, 12 November 2001, p. 8
*13- Nuclear Fuel: Tierp town council votes against site testing for Swedish repository, 15 April 2002, p.10-11
*14: SKB: SKB selects Forsmark for the final repository for spent nuclear fuel, press release 3 June 2009
*15: SKB: SKB turns in application for permit to build a final repository in Forsmark, press release 17 March 2011
*16- World Nuclear Association: Nuclear Power in Sweden, February 2012
*17- SKB: Our method of final disposal, company website,
*18- Nils-Axel Mörner: The Shameful Nuclear Power, presentation 16 April 2008. See also: The uplift of Fennoscandia at: http://www.pog.nu/01research/1-2_fennoscandia.htm
*19- MKG: Copper corrosion, website MKG (Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear Waste Review)
*20- Technisch Weekblad, 21 November 2009
*21- Dr. Johan Swahn: Considerations on nuclear waste management in Sweden, presentation at the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy public hearing on management of nuclear waste, 1 December 2010
*22- Johan Swahn: The Scandinavian Nuclear Waste Strategies, MKG, Expert Hearing Greens in het European Parliament, 8 juni 2010, p.10
*23- World Nuclear News: Swedish waste fees rise to reflect repository cost, 10 October 2011

Switzerland
*01- ee News: Beznau: Aeltestes AKW der Welt wird sichergerechnet, 29 February 2012
*02– IAEA: Inventory of radioactive waste disposals at sea, IAEA-Tecdoc-1105, August 1999, p.50
*03- Dutch Minister of Health and Environmental sanitation: Zwitsers radioactief afval in IJmuiden (Swiss radioactive waste in IJmuiden), Tweede Kamer 15 676 nr 2, 20 July 1979
*04- Nagra: Entwicklung der Nagra 1972 bis 1980 (Development of Nagra 1972-1980), company website, visited April 2012-04-09
*05- Damveld/Van den berg: Discussions on nuclear waste, Laka Foundation, 2000, p.103
*06- Nagra: Opalinus Clay Project. Demonstration of feasibility of disposal (“Entsorgungsnachweis”) for spent fuel, vitrified high-level waste and long-lived intermediate-level waste, December 2002, p.7
*07- M. Fritschi: Standortwahl, (Site selection) in: Nagra Informiert, Nr. 24, June 1994, p.6-12
*08-Luzerner Neuste Nachrichten: Nagra scheitert am Wellenberg, (Nagra fails at Wellenberg) 26 June 1995
*09- Nagra Report: Was halten die Nidwaldner von Wellenberg? (What does population of Nidwalden think of Wellenberg?), Nr. 1/1996, p. 2-3
*10- Nucleonics Week: New Wellenberg studies confirm its safety and feasibility, 24 September 1998, p. 9-10
*11- Nagra News: Sondierstollen in Wellenberg abgelehnt –Wie geht es weiter? (Exploratory tunnels in Wellenberg rejected –How to continue?), December 2002, p.1
*12- NEA/OECD: The control of safety of radioactive waste management and decommissioning in Switzerland, 2011
*13- Nagra: Zeit zum Handeln, (Time to act), November 2008
*14- Allianz Nein zu neuen AKW: Nidwalden will keinen Atommüll – Atomstrom schon (Nidwalden does not want nuclear waste, but nuclear electricity), 14 February 2011
*15: Das Schweizer Parlament: Curia Vista, Zusammenfassung: 01.022; "MoratoriumPlus" und "Strom ohne Atom". Volksinitiativen und Kernenergiegesetz
*16- Neue Zürcher Zeitung, “Das nationale Endlager wird zur lokalen Frage; Neuartiges Partizipationsverfahren zur Atommüll-Tiefenlagerung”;   10 december 2009
*17- Tagesanzeiger, “Nagra zahlt für Endlager-Regionen”, 5 december 2010
*18- Nagra: Zeit zum Handeln, November 2008
*19- Energie & Umwelt: Das Atommuellproblem ist nicht geloest (The nuclear waste problem has not been solved), Schweizerische Energie Stiftung, 3/20, May 2010
*20- Bundesrat: Standortsuche für geologische Tiefenlager: Bundesrat legt sechs Gebiete fest und startet Etappe 2 (Search for geological disposal sites: Federal Council sets six sites and starts Stage 2), 1 December 2011
*21- Schweizerische Energie Stiftung: Die 12 ungelösten Fragen der Schweizer Atommüllentsorgung, (The 12 unanswered questions about the Swiss radioactive waste disposal), December 2011
*22- Schweizerische Energie Stiftung: Atommüll-Fragen müssen jetzt geklärt werden (Radioactive waste questions must be answered now), 9 January 2012
*23- Neue Zürcher Zeitung: Endlager-Standorte haben keine Garantie auf Entschädigung (Final disposal sites have no right for compensation),  6 March 2012

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#744
16/03/2012
Shorts

One year Fukushima: people demand end to nuclear power!
In the weekend of 10-11 March, one year after Fukushima, hundreds of thousands of people took to the street to demonstrate against nuclear power. In Japan, many thousands demanded the abolition of nuclear power; 16,000 in Fukushima, 14,000 in Tokyo and 15,000 in Osaka were the largest demonstrations. In Germany a total of 50,000 people took part in 6 demonstrations; in the UK the largest antinuclear action in over three decades took place near Hinkley Point, where 1,000 people surrounded the nuclear power station and blocked it for 24-hours. In Switzerland 8,000 people demanded the immediate closure of nuclear power plants. In Hong Kong (China), Taipeh (Taiwan), Seoul (South Korea) and many places in North and South America, demonstrations or other actions were held too.

By far the largest demonstration was right in the 'heart of the nuclear beast': in France. Demonstrators in the Rhone valley formed a human chain that stretched for 230 kilometers between Lyon and Avignon. About 60,000 people participated. This is an enormous succes and one of the largest antinuclear demonstrations ever in France. This highlights a shift in public opinion and in a few weeks time presidential elections will be held with one of the two main candidates sceptical about the future importance of nuclear power in France.

The Rhone valley has Europe's highest concentration of nuclear reactors and other nuclear facilities. France's 58 nuclear reactors generate about 75 percent of the country's electricity, making it the world's most nuclear-dependent nation.


Mühleberg: Time to go.
One of the world's oldest nuclear power plants in operation is Mühleberg in the Swiss canton of Bern. A boiling water reactor bought from General Electric and first put into operation in 1972, Mühleberg is aimed at by the Swiss antinuclear movement because of cracks in the vessel around the heart of the reactor. The Würgassen NPP in Germany and Millstone I in the USA were shut down because of the same problem. So when the Swiss Federal Department of Energy gave an unlimited operating license to the Mühlebergs' legal owners (BKW) in 2009, this was seen as a provocation. Neighbors of Mühleberg gathered to attack the decision in court. The city of Geneva, historically antinuclear, as well as other smaller towns gave in all 120,000 fr (100,000 euros) to finance the cost of the appeal. And finally, on March 8, the Federal  Administrative Tribunal released its decision: BKW must shut down Mühleberg by end of June 2013, unless a plan to fix the numerous faults is presented and accepted. Previously, the Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Institute released a guarantee stating Mühleberg posed no security threat. The courts' decisions gives a strong blow to this Institute, regularly criticized for its partiality in favor of the nuclear industry. After being at first very surprised by this decision, one can with hindsight acknowledge that the federal court simply took a fresh new look at nuclear safety, new since Fukushima: In Japan too, security authorities told the government that Fukushima Daiichi would resist foreseeable major natural catastrophes...

Five days after the judgment, 8000 demonstrators gathered in front of the old power plant of Muhleberg. BKW has until April 8 to decide whether they will attack the decision in the countries' highest court.

(Update: On March 14, BKW appealed the court ruling on Mühleberg)
Philippe de Rougemont, Sortir du nucléaire Suisse romande, 14 March 2012


DPRK: agreement on suspension of enrichment.
North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) has agreed to implement a moratorium on long-range missile launches, nuclear tests and nuclear activities at Yongbyon, including uranium enrichment activities. The DPRK has also agreed to the return of IAEA inspectors to verify and monitor the moratorium on uranium enrichment activities at Yongbyon and confirm the disablement of the 5-MW reactor and associated facilities. In return, the US has agreed to meet with the DPRK to finalize administrative details necessary to move forward with the proposed package of 240,000 metric tons of nutritional assistance "along with the intensive monitoring required for the delivery of such assistance."

This was announced on February 29, after the U.S. delegation returned from Beijing following a third exploratory round of U.S.-DPRK bilateral talks.
Press statement, US Department of State, 29 February 2012.


The mysterious flash near South Africa in 1979.
A new paper written by Leonard Weiss, reviews the history of the September 22, 1979 double flash recorded by the VELA satellite and concludes that the flash was an Israeli nuclear test assisted by South Africa. The paper also relates a personal experience of the author in 1981 while working in the U.S. Senate that reinforces the conclusion. The paper calls for the declassification and release of documents that could remove any lingering uncertainty regarding the event. One of the likely reasons that the U.S. government is withholding the declassification of relevant documents is to assist Israel to maintain its policy of opacity in nuclear affairs, a policy which had its origin in a bargain made with the U.S. during the Nixon presidency, and whose abandonment accompanied by the admission that Israel violated the Limited Test Ban Treaty would create some uncomfortable political fallout for both countries. It is hard to argue that helping Israel in this way contributes to U.S. national security at a time when the U.S. demands openness in the nuclear activities of Iran, North Korea, Syria, and all other countries who may be engaged in clandestine weapon-related nuclear activities.

The Iraq war has shown the harm that can result from the politicization of intelligence in order to support a desired policy outcome whose support by the public would otherwise be problematic. In the case of the VELA event, U.S. administrations on both sides of the political fence have sought to ignore or demote the value of legitimately collected and analysed intelligence information in order to reduce or eliminate pressure to take an action with unpredictable or negative political repercussions. Obfuscating or denigrating hard intelligence data in order to avoid a political problem can be as dangerous to national security and democracy as inventing bogus intelligence in order to smooth the way into a war.

The paper 'Israel’s 1979 Nuclear Test and the U.S. Government’s Attempt to Cover It Up', is available at: http://armscontrolcenter.org/IsraeliTestPDF.pdf

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#743
05/03/2012
Shorts

Dounreay: 'significant' hot particle found on beach.
Experts have discovered the most significant radioactive particle yet on a public beach two miles (approximately 3km) west of the redundant nuclear site of Dounreay, Scotland, UK. Dounreay clean-up contractor DSRL has informed the Scottish Environment Protection Agency of additional tests being carried out on a particle recovered during routine monitoring of a beach near the redundant nuclear site. The particle was detected at the water's edge at Sandside. The beach at Sandside is located. The particle - detected on February 14 - was the 208th to be recovered from the beach at Sandside in the last 15 years.

Provisional checks carried out on the beach indicated the particle had a higher than normal beta dose rate. A spokesman for DSRL said it was the first time a particle classed as significant - the highest classification in terms of radioactivity - had been found on the beach, although many had been found on the seabed and foreshore at Dounreay as well as on the site itself. Any particle with radioactivity above one million Becquerel (Bq) units is classed as significant.

Work is due to resume in May to clear particles from the seabed near the site. More than 1800 have been recovered so far from the seabed where there is evidence of a "plume" from historic effluent discharges dating back 50 years. Particles are fragments of irradiated nuclear fuel.
Dounreay Site restoration Ltd, website, February 20, 2012 / The Herald, Scotland,  21 February 2012


Defend democracy; Unite to shut Vermont Yankee down!
In 2010, the citizens and legislature of the State of Vermont, with support from their neighbors in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, decided to close the Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor permanently by March 21, 2012, when VY's 40-year license expires. In 2011, Entergy, the New Orleans mega-corporation that owns Vermont Yankee, sued the State of Vermont, defying the democratic will of the people, to keep their aged, accident-plagued reactor running for 20 more years. On January 19, 2012, federal district court judge J. Garvin Murtha sided with Entergy against the State of Vermont and the people of New England. On February 18, the State of Vermont appealed Murtha's ruling. With the future of VY still hanging in the balance, nonviolent citizen action is more important than ever.

Let us make clear: We will NOT allow unbridled corporate power to deprive us of our inalienable right to live in safety on our homes, and to determine our own energy future – a future that is safe and green for our children and our children's children. Many events have taken place and will take place to shut Vermont Yankee down. The most important one is 'Occupy Entergy HQ' on March 22. There will be a brief rally at the Brattleboro, VT Commons starting at 11:00am, then a walk to Entergy Headquarters on Old Ferry Rd. in Brattleboro (3.5 miles) where there be a direct action, likely to include civil disobedience.
More information at: http://sagealliance.net/home


Franco-British nuclear cooperation agreement.
On February 16, UK Prime Minister Cameron met his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris at a joint summit for the first time since their bitter clashes over Europe. The joint declaration on energy made contained a range of goals, the greatest of them being to encourage "the emergence of a Franco-British industry that is highly competitive across the whole supply chain at the international level." Most prominent in this will be the work of France's majority state-owned firms EDF and Areva and their cooperation with privately held UK firms for the construction of new reactors in Britain.

The agreement to co-operate on developing civil nuclear energy is meant to pave the way for the construction of new nuclear power plants. It was accompanied by the news of a deal between Rolls-Royce and French nuclear reactor developer Areva. Areva has asked Rolls to make complex components and provide engineering and technical services for two reactors to be built at Hinkley Point, Somerset.

But not everybody is confident that the agreement will bring much for Britian's industry. According to Tim Fox, head of energy at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers "Although some relatively small contracts are to be awarded to Rolls-Royce and BAM Kier, it looks increasingly likely that the vast majority of the contracts involved in the manufacture and construction of the new nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point and Sizewell will go to France rather than the UK." Friends of the Earth's Energy Campaigner Paul Steedman said: "Cameron's deal today will leave British taxpayers footing a massive bill for new nuclear plants we don't need and can't afford - while EDF continues to rake in huge profits."
World Nuclear News 17 February 2012 / FOE Press release,  17 February 2012 / The Manufacturer, 17 February 2012


Meanwhile at Hinkley Point ….
From Febr. 12 on, following an occupation of trees a week earlier, activists are occupying a farmhouse close to Hinkley Point, to stop EDF Energy trashing land for the planned new nuclear power station. Anti-nuclear campaigners have been joined by members of Seize the Day as the first residents of Edf-Off Cottage which is on the 400-acre site earmarked for two new reactors.

At the High Court on February 27, EDF Energy failed in their bid to impose an injunction to stop an alliance of anti-nuclear groups from protesting on the 400-acre site set aside for two new mega-reactors at Hinkley Point. This injunction was being sought to remove these campaigners, but it was simultaneously designed to restrict future demonstrations. The Orwellian language even prohibits campaigning groups from 'encouraging other persons' to protest at the site. Speaking on behalf of the Stop New Nuclear alliance, Kate Hudson from CND stated "It should be inconceivable that private companies could restrict basic civil liberties in this way. They are not the arbiters of the nuclear debate, nor the guarantors of our freedoms. We will fight to ensure the rights of future generations to peaceful protest and to preserve essential democratic principles."

On 10 and  11 March, one year since the Fukushima nuclear disaster began, antinuclear groups call for a human chain/blockade around the station to show "our determined opposition to new nuclear".
www.stopnewnuclear.org.uk


Spain: OK for 41-year old Garona life extension. Spain's nuclear security agency CSN has determined that the country's oldest nuclear reactor, the 468 MW Santa Maria de Garona nuclear power plant, is safe to operate until 2019, in response to a request by the industry minister to review the installation. The approval, disclosed on February 17, clears the way for the recently installed Spanish conservative government to overturn the previous socialist government's 2009 order to have the generator closed in 2013. Although the CSN said there was "no safety or security issue that should impede continued operation of the power plant", the agency added that it would still have to review any formal application by the operator to extend the installation's license, including scrutiny of its latest operating data and future security measures being considered. Garona was first connected to the grid in March 1971!
The CSN in 2009 had given authorization for the station to operate for another 10 years, but the government at the time opted instead for an earlier expiration date. Since then, new regulations have been put in place, particularly following the accident at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant early last year.
Platts, 20 February 2012


World oldest reactor (44 years) closed. The world's oldest operating nuclear power reactor – Unit 1 of the Oldbury nuclear power plant in the UK - has been closed after 44 years of power generation on 29 February 2012. Unit 2 was shut down in June 2011, while unit 1 was expected to continue operating until the end of this year. Plant operator Magnox Ltd announced last October that it had decided to end operations ten months early as it was "no longer economically viable."
World Nuclear News, 29 February 2012


Beznau now oldest in world; call for closure.
After Oldbury's closure, Switzerland's Beznau nuclear plant holds the dubious record of being the oldest nuclear plant in the world and should be shut down, a group of environmental organizations said on February 23. Switzerland is phasing out nuclear energy but not fast enough, say the groups. They list a number of problems and point out that the company that runs it is planning to increase the earmarked CHF500 million (US$ 557m or 415m euro) to make it safe, money they believe could be better spent shutting it down and moving to safer energy sources.
Genevalunch.com, 23 February 2012


U.S.: Fourth Legislative Attack on Grand Canyon Uranium Ban Fails… The fourth legislative attempt to block the Obama administration's ban on new uranium development across 1 million acres of public land surrounding Grand Canyon National Park died February 14, when the House rules committee ruled it out of order. The amendment was sponsored by the same three Republican congressmen who sponsored three previous failed anti-Grand Canyon legislative proposals - Jeff Flake, Trent Franks and Paul Gosar, all from Arizona. The most recent amendment sought to overturn a January decision by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar enacting a 20-year 'mineral withdrawal' that bans new mining claims and development on existing claims lacking rights-to-mine across Grand Canyon's million-acre watershed (see Nuclear Monitor 740, 13 January 2012, In Briefs).

In 2010 and again in 2011, Flake, Franks and Gosar sponsored legislation that would have prohibited the Interior Department from enacting the mining ban; in 2011 they attempted to add a rider to a budget bill - their third failed attempt prior to this most recent amendment.

Over the past few years, nearly 400,000 people from 90 countries wrote the Department of the Interior urging it to ban new uranium mining around the canyon after a uranium boom threatened to bring a new wave of destructive mining threatening recreation, tourism, wildlife habitat and waters in Grand Canyon National Park. The mining ban has won wide support among American Indian tribes, regional businesses, elected officials, hunting and angling groups, scientists and conservationists.
Press release Centre for Biological Diversity, 16 February 2012


….but next attack imminent. The withdrawal of lands in northern Arizona from mining activities is unconstitutional, unlawful and violates the National Environmental Policy Act, said organisations representing the US mining and nuclear industries in a lawsuit against US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

The suit has been filed with the US Federal District Court in Arizona by the National Mining Association (NMA) and the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the US nuclear energy industry's organization. The Department of the Interior (DoI), US Bureau of Land Management (BLM), US Forest Service and US Department of Agriculture are named as co-defendants alongside Salazar, in his capacity as Interior Secretary.

The NEI and NMA argue that Salazar does not have the legal authority to make withdrawals of public lands in excess of 5000 acres, citing a landmark 1983 Supreme Court ruling that such withdrawals would be unconstitutional. Furthermore, they claim, the decision to withdraw the land is "arbitrary, capricious, and not in accordance with law." Finally, the environmental impact statement (EIS) and record of decision on the withdrawal violate the terms of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in failing to take a "hard look" at the economic and environmental consequences of the withdrawal.
World Nuclear News, 28 February 2012


Finland: Uranium mine granted permission.
The Finnish Talvivaara mine today gained permission to extract uranium and process it into uranium oxide. The UO4 would be transported away by rail and ships, possibly to Russia. The mine was opened a few years ago mainly as a zinc mine. It's using an experimental biosoaking process to extract small amounts of minerals from the ore. The company has been crippled by scandals from the beginning, with sulphuric acid and other chemicals continuously spilling all over nearby woods and lakes. The company has failed to make any profit so far and its CEO was forced to quit last year.

In a strange technocratic turn of events, the environmental authorities concluded that instead of closing down the mine, it would be beneficial to grant the mine a permission to separate the uranium from the rest of the waste so that the further spills bound to happen at least wouldn't contain radioactive materials. As a last minute effort, environmentalists tried to convince the government to at least demand a description of the separation process so as to ensure this doesn't just produce a lot more radioactive/toxic sludge. The government decided not to do so and instead just granted the permission "because it brings 40 million euros worth of investment to the area".

The local municipality and just about every major business in the area was opposed to the permission after the previous scandals and their trade being spoiled by the smelly pollution in the environment.
Jehki Harkonen, energy campaigner Greenpeace Nordic, Helsinki, 1 March 2012


Rosatom-owned company accused of selling shoddy equipment to reactors.
Russian Federal Prosecutors have accused a company owned by the country’s nuclear energy corporation, Rosatom, with massive corruption and manufacturing substandard equipment for nuclear reactors under construction both at home and abroad.  The ZiO-Podolsk machine building plant’s procurement director, Sergei Shutov, has been arrested for buying low quality raw materials on the cheap and pocketing the difference as the result of an investigation by the Federal Security Service, or FSB, the successor organization to the KGB. It is not clear how many reactors have been impacted by the alleged crime, but reactors built by Russia in India, Bulgaria, Iran, China as well as several reactor construction and repair projects in Russia itself may have been affected by cheap equipment, given the time frame of works completed at the stations and the scope of the investigation as it has been revealed by authorities.
Bellona, 28 February 2012

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#737
28/11/2011
Shorts

French revolution?
They have been talking about this for months, mostly behind closed doors; the French Parti Socialiste (social-democrats) and the French Greens have agreed upon a joint positionon the future of nuclear power. The Greens will support the PS candidate in return for his promise to cut France’s reliance on nuclear energy for its electricity from about 75 per cent to just half by 2025. If François Hollande, the socialist candidate wins over current President Sarkozy in the next spring’s presidential elections it will have profound implications for state-owned EDF, now making two-thirds of its operating profit domestically, mostly from its 58 atomic reactors.

EDF is in trouble anyway; the Fukushma disaster has lead to newly to-be implemented safety measures for the French nuclear fleet, with soaring costs as a to-be expected result. The shares have lost 35 per cent of their value in a year, even though profits were healthy and management won praise for cutting its net debt from 34.4 billion euro (US$46 bn) at the end of 2010 to 29.2 billion euro (US$ 39.2 bn) by June 30 of this year. EDF, the world’s leading supplier of nuclear power, has not officially responded to Mr Hollande’s plans for reasons of political propriety. But their lobby machinery was in full-swing, warning for instance that a cut to 50 per cent supply would create additional costs of 60 bn euro and that “1 million jobs are in peril” should the country abandon atomic power completely.

Of course there is always still a chance that Mr Sarkozy, a skilled campaigner, wins the elections or that Mr Hollande waters down his policy once confronted with the realities of office. The two opposition parties agreed to campaign for the shutdown of 24 nuclear reactors by 2025 and the immediate halt of the oldest plant at Fessenheim. The Greens favor a complete halt of France’s nuclear reactors, while the PS called for the lowering of France’s dependence on atomic power to 50 percent by 2025. Dispute between the parties is still ongoing over the question of the future of the reprocessing- and MOX fabrication plant in La Hague and the question whether the new EPR in Flamanville, currently under construction.

Anti-nuclear organizations criticized the accord as not going far enough. But considering the French history of massive support for nuclear power, also or even especially in for instance social-democratic and communist left-wing circles, the development can be seen as a serious breakthrough in the French political interrelations
Financial Times, 15 November 2011 / Bloomberg, 16 November 2011


Sellafield’s ‘Reassurance’ Monitoring.
Some road drains located on the main approach road to the village centre of Seascale (near Sellafield) have shown a significant rise in levels of Caesium-137 (Cs-137) and Americium 241 (Am-241) in 2010 compared to previous years. In 1988, following the cull of an estimated 2000 feral pigeons at Seascale that were found to be highly contaminated after roosting in Sellafield buildings overnight, radioactivity in the sediment of 18 Seascale road drains was assessed by Copeland Borough Council and the National Radiological Board. Since the cull and the wholescale removal of gardens and driveways to reduce contamination levels, subsequent annual reassurance monitoring of sediment in drains has been carried out by the Environment Agency and has  shown a decline and levelling off of radioactivity levels  – until last year.

For 2010, it is reported that in one drain on the Drigg Road, levels of Cs-137 have risen from 310 Becquerels per kilogram (Bq/kg) in 2009 to 1800 Bq/kg, and an increase in Am-241 from 31 Bq/kg to 130 Bq/kg. Elevated levels of Strontium 90 (Sr-90) and plutonium were also present in the drain sediment – with a second drain on the Drigg Road also showing raised concentrations of radioactivity.

An urgent explanation of this unprecedented hike in radioactive concentrations is required from Sellafield and the Environment Agency. Until then, there can be little public reassurance on the sudden appearance of these high levels being found in Seascale some 13 years after the effects of the Seascale pigeon saga were supposed to have been remediated. Put in context, the 2010 levels of Cs-137 in drain SS233 are some 500% higher than those reported for river estuary sediment around Ravenglass – an area known to be heavily contaminated by decades of Sellafield’s reprocessing discharges.
CORE Briefing, 20 November 2011


Japanese gov't reform body: cancel Monju and ITER.
A government body tasked with reforming public policy began a four-day review session Sunday, with ruling party lawmakers and private-sector experts proposing a sweeping review of long-running nuclear research programs in the wake of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant. The review process conducted by the Government Revitalization Unit of the Cabinet Office is aimed at identifying government policies for medium- and long-term reforms and will cover 10 areas including science, education and telecommunications.

In the first such screening sessions under Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, all seven members engaged in reviewing energy policy told an open-door screening session that a program to develop the Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor needs radical revision. They recommended the cancellation of 2.2 billion yen (US$ 28.6 million, 21 million euro) of Monju-related spending included in the fiscal 2012 national budget request. According to press reports in September, the science ministry effectively froze research related to Monju  by cutting 70 to 80 percent of its current 10 billion yen budget for the next fiscal year from April.

The reactor project, on which the country has so far spent about 900 billion yen (US$ 11.7 billion or 8.6 billion euro), has been hobbled by a series of problems. The reactor first achieved criticality in 1994 but was shut down because of sodium coolant leakage and a resulting fire in 1995. On May 6 2010, Monju was restarted, after being shut down for over 14 years, but on August 26, 2010 when a 3-ton relay device used during replacement of fuel was being removed, it dropped back into the reactor vessel. Since then the reactor is closed again.

The screening body also urged the government to either halt, delay or cut spending for an international project known as ITER to build an experimental fusion reactor in southern France by holding negotiations with participating countries. ITER is a joint project being conducted by China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United States.
Mainichi Daily News, 26 Septemebr 2011 and 20 November  2011 / CNIC file on Monju


Areva: jobcuts in Germany.
Things are not going well with Areva, as mentioned in the last Nuclear Monitor. According to German weekly Der Spiegel on November 20, Areva will cut 1,300 jobs in Germany and close down two of its sites. The firm will slash its workforce by around 20 percent at its main site in Erlangen in central Germany, as well as making cuts at other sites across the country. The extent of the job cuts would be nearly twice as high as the 800 redundancies cited in the French press. Extra jobcuts in Germany could well be seen as a kind of 'revenge' for it's decision to abandon nuclear power. The company is expected to announce the move on December 13 in Paris.
Der Spiegel, 20 November 2011


Vietnam to lend 9 bn from Russia to buy Russian reactor.
Russia agreed to lend Vietnam as much as US$9 billion (6.7 bn euro) to fund the construction of the nation’s first nuclear power plant. The lending period will be as long as 28 years, but the interest rate has not been disclosed. Vietnam said last year it plans to build as many as 13 nuclear power stations with a capacity totalling 16,000 megawatts over the next two decades. The announcement attracted interest from nuclear plant builders including Russia's Rosatom and China’s Guangdong Nuclear Power Group. Construction of the two 1,000 MW advanced light-water reactors (called Ninh Thuan 1) is said to start in 2014. It is very likely that Rosatom sings the contract for construction, if the project will develop, and in that case Vietnam is lending money from Russia to buy a Russian reactor.
Bloomberg, 22 November 2011


Axpo says no to uranium from Mayak. Swiss nuclear utility Axpo has instructed Areva, its fuel supplier, to exclude uranium processed at Russia's Mayak plant from its supply chain pending the completion of environmental investigations.
Axpo owns the Beznau nuclear power station as well as stakes in the Gösgen and Leibstadt plants. It has been carrying out investigations into the quality and safety credentials of the Mayak processing plant near Chelyabinsk and at the Siberian Chemical Combine (SCC) in Seversk following criticisms from environmental groups. In the process of its investigations, Axpo was given access to Seversk by the plant's operators and had been due to visit Mayak in June, but was denied access to the plant, which is in a military area, at the last minute.
The company now says it has been able to complete enough work to enable it to conclude that current production at both plants meets statutory requirements and does not pose an environmental threat. However, its failure to gain access to Mayak means that it has now instructed its fuel supplier Areva, to exclude uranium from Mayak from its supply chain until such time as the chain can be fully monitored. Instead, it will use fuel from the SCC plant in Seversk. Greenpeace Switzerland welcomed Axpo's move towards greater transparency but questioned its decision to continue to source uranium from Seversk.
World Nuclear News, 14 November 2011

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#734
07/10/2011
Shorts

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), AllAfrica.com, 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.
Nature.com, 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: www.americancentrifuge.com


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.
Swissinfo.ch 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.
Indymedia.uk; www.stopnewnuclear.org.uk; BBC, 3 October 2011

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#733
23/09/2011
Shorts

Dounreay area never cleaned up completely.
Radioactive contamination that leaked for more than two decades from the Dounreay nuclear plant on the north coast of Scotland will never be completely cleaned up, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) (a Scottish government agency) has admitted. At a September 20, board meeting the Scottish government's environmental watchdog opted to encourage remediation "as far as is practically achievable" but to abandon any hope of removing all the radioactive pollution from the seabed and to give up on its aim of returning the seabed near the plant to a "pristine condition" (a recommendation it made in 1998).

Tens of thousands of radioactive fuel fragments (socalled 'particles') escaped from the Dounreay plant between 1963 and 1984, polluting local beaches, the coastline and the seabed. Fishing has been banned within a two-kilometer radius of the plant since 1997.

The most radioactive of the particles are regarded by experts as potentially lethal if ingested. Similar in size to grains of sand, they contain caesium-137, which has a half-life of 30 years, but they can also incorporate traces of plutonium-239, which has a half-life of over 24,000 years. The particles are milled shards from the reprocessing of irradiated uranium and plutonium fuel from two long-defunct reactors. They are thought to have drained into the sea with discharges from cooling ponds.

In 2007, Dounreay, which is now being decommissioned, pleaded guilty at Wick sheriff court to a "failure to prevent fragments of irradiated nuclear fuel being discharged into the environment". The plant's operator at the time, the UK Atomic Energy Authority, was fined £140,000 (US$220,000 or 160,000 euro).
The Guardian, 21 September 2011


Urenco: "No impact from Fukushima"; shareholders want to sell.
Urenco, the uranium enrichment company has dismissed concerns about the impact on its business from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The chief financial officer of Urenco said that less than 10 per cent of its forecast orders for the next two years were with Japan, and that the group "had not detected any sign that customers in other countries, other than Germany, would scale back their nuclear plans." The CFO declined to give precise figures or comment on the UK Government's planned sale of its stake. The British government has been looking into a sale of their stake since 2009. It is thought that the UK Treasury, which hopes to raise BP1 billion (US$ 1.57 bn or 1.15 bn euro) from the sale, will appoint an investment bank in September to handle the disposal.

The remainder of Urenco is split between the Dutch Government and E.ON and RWE, two German utility companies. German energy giant RWE has appointed advisers for a 'strategic review' selling its Urenco part. RWE is increasing its sell- off program from 8bn (7bn) to 11bn in the next three years. The company, which has about 27.5bn of net debt, was put under further pressure by the German government's decision to phase out nuclear energy. RWE is also in final negotiations with Gazprom over a potential split of its assets and operations, including Npower in the UK. The deadline for any agreement with Gazprom runs out on October 15. The UK energy company could be split up and sold to other buyers, such as Centrica, if no deal is agreed with Gazprom. E.ON, too, is planning to sell its stake in Urenco, German daily Handelsblatt reported on Sept. 7, citing unnamed sources.

Divestment by any party would require the approval of Urenco's other owners, and the newspaper indicated the Dutch government may try to stop the potential sales. In the past (1999-2000) the Netherlands had plans to sell (part of) its stake in Urenco but decided not to. Areva wanted to buy parts of the Dutch and RWE shares, but later it was decided to sign an agreement to cooperate in Enrichment Technology Company (ETC; 50 % Areva, 50 % Urenco).
The Times (UK) 27 August 2011 /  www.kernenergieinnederland.nl / WISE Uranium / Reuters, 7 September 2011)


Areva suspend U-production due to Fukushima.
French nuclear company Areva is suspending uranium production at two plants because of low demand from Japanese power stations in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, a spokeswoman of the company said September 15. Production at subsidiary Comhurex's Malvesi and Tricastin sites will be suspended for two months. "This decision is based on the events in Japan, which today has led to a drop in deliveries to Japanese power producers and short term downward pressure on prices in this market," Areva said in a statement.

Comurhex, which is 100 percent owned by Areva, uses a two-stage process to transform mined uranium into uranium hexafluoride, the raw material for the enrichment process that eventually produces reactor-grade fuel.

Areva said there were no plans to suspend or lay off the less than 600 workers from the plants, who will be asked to attend training sessions or use up holiday allowances while their plants are taken off-line. A number of other plants were shut down following the Fukushima accident and currently only 11 of 54 Japanese reactors are in operation.
AFP, 16 September 2011


Call for Nominations for the "2012 Public Eye Awards".
The Berne Declaration and Greenpeace Switzerland are once again searching far and wide for corporations that pursue profits without regard for social and/or environmental harm. To succeed, we need your support and the critical eye of civil society!

Whether inhumane working conditions, reckless environmental sins, deliberate disinformation, or the disregard for human rights by corporations: In the run-up to the World Economic Forum (WEF) in late January 2012 in Davos, Switzerland, the worst corporate sins will appear on the 2012 Public Eye Awards short list. We thereby place corporate offenses in the international spotlight and help NGO campaigns succeed. A number of firms have already felt the considerable pressure from the unwelcome exposure in the media

and the social Web! Over 50,000 people worldwide took part in the online voting for

the People’s Award last year.

In 2008 Areva won the Award. It won't be bad if the nuclear industry gets some extra attention this year.... Please act quickly as the deadline for nominations is September 30!

Go to http://www.publiceye.ch/en/ and vote.

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#729
01/07/2011
Shorts

Invitation to the 2011 Nuclear Heritage Network-meeting Czech Republic.
The first international anti-nuclear networking gathering in Europe after the Fukushima disaster organized by activists of the Nuclear Heritage Network will take place from August 1-5, 2011 in Ceské Budejovice (Budweis) in the Czech Republic close to the Austrian border and near to the controversial Temelín nuclear power plant.

As part of the gathering anti-nuclear activists from several countries will also meet with Czech and Austrian activists who cooperate in a unique cross-border network, which is partly coordinated and funded by the Upper-Austrian regional government. We will visit a group of Lower-Austrian activists, who have been organizing for years now so called "energy-meetings" and have become pioneers in using and making renewable energies popular.

The gathering is also supposed to get to know each other in person, to share experiences in the anti-nuclear field, and to develop mutual projects and campaigns. Goal is to improve the international anti-nuclear cooperations and to discuss how to  provide more resources by the Nuclear Heritage Network as well as by activists and organizations out of the network for international anti-nuclear activities. Thus, the initiatives are supposed to strengthen the anti-nuclear movement as well as to face various obstacles within and outside the movement.

As the logistic frame of our meeting is limited, please announce your participation to us as early as possible, and not later than July 20: [email protected] or [email protected].


Swiss police clear Mühleberg protest camp.
On June 21, police cleared the protest camp against the Mühleberg nuclear power station which was set up in the city of Bern at the beginning of April. The city government issued a statement saying the decision to clear camp outside the headquarters of BKW Energy, which operates Mühleberg, had been taken after the activists had refused to dismantle the tents despite lengthy discussions. It said it would have been prepared to allow a permanent vigil, but had made it clear from the beginning that it would not tolerate a camp with a permanent population. It added that it had now withdrawn its permission for a vigil and would not allow the area to be re-occupied.
The Mühleberg Abschalten (Switch off Mühleberg) association accused the Bern city government of taking the side of the nuclear lobby after the cantonal parliament decided last week not to do anything to take Mühleberg out of the grid. But it said the protest would continue until the power station was switched off. Only a few hours after the eviction, about 200 people gathered around the site for a lunchtime protest picnic with flags and placar. In the evening of the same day, several hundred demonstrators marched through Bern peacefully to protest the clearing of the camp.
World Radio Switzerland, 21 June 2011 / Swissinfo.ch, 21 June 2011


Threats to nuclear reactors in US.
In July, the United States' Nuclear Regulatory Commission will release the final results of its 90-day reactor safety review. The NRC will claim that nuclear reactors in the United States are safe. But the report will leave out critical information that exposes that claim as a myth.

We've already seen in Japan the catastrophic combination of inadequate regulations, aging reactors and unpredictable weather. What will be missing from the NRC report?

*As severe weather becomes more frequent, nuclear reactors have become more vulnerable and less reliable. Flood waters have knocked out power at the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station in Nebraska. On June 27, the barrier intended to keep water from immersing the reactor grounds was breached. The plant is now reportedly running on emergency generators to maintain the cooling systems. But floods are not the only weather phenomena to threaten reactors; extreme heat and droughts also force reactors offline. Nuclear power plants consume more water than any other energy technology. In recent summers, water rationing due to heat waves in the southeast has required shutting down nuclear plants in Tennessee and Florida. Current regulations - amazingly - fail to account for possibility of a single weather event or natural disaster knocking out electricity from both the grid and emergency generators.

*U.S. nuclear reactors are being pushed well beyond their operational design and the resulting deterioration undermines their safety. In the U.S., reactors were designed and licensed for 40 years, but 66 of the 104 operating units have been relicensed to operate for 20 more years. In fact, the NRC has never denied a renewal - not even for the Vermont Yankee plant, where problems like groundwater contamination from leaking tritium led the state senate to vote against renewing its license. Corroded underground piping in aging plants is responsible for radioactive tritium leaks at 75% of U.S. commercial nuclear power sites.

*Federal regulators are far too cozy with the nuclear industry. Together they are maintaining the illusion that the nation's aging reactors operate within safety standards by repeatedly weakening those standards or simply failing to enforce them. According to a recent investigation by The Associated Press, NRC officials have - time after time, and at the urging of the industry - decided that original regulations were too strict and argued that safety margins should be eased.

Immediate steps can and must be taken to strengthen the regulation of nuclear reactors. But ultimately, we need to shift away from nuclear to renewable, safer and more efficient power choices. 
Public Citizen's Climate & Energy Program, 28 June 2011


Jellyfish block Torness.
Two reactors at the UK Torness nuclear power station have been shut down after huge numbers of jellyfish were found in the sea water entering the plant. The jellyfish were found obstructing cooling water filters. The plant's operator, EDF Energy, said the shutdown was a precautionary measure and there was never any danger to the public. A clean-up operation is under way, but according to the utility it could take a week to re-start again. Torness has two Advanced Gas Cooled Reactors but also relies on supplies of sea water to ensure it operates safely. It has filters which are designed to prevent seaweed and marine animals entering the cooling system. If these are blocked, the reactors are shut down to comply with safety procedures. Staff at the plant took the decision to shut down the reactors in the afternoon on June 30.  In February 20101 one of the two reactors was also shut down following a technical failure which affected the transformer, causing an automatic shutdown.
BBC Scotland, 30 June 2011

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#727
27/05/2011
Shorts

Iran: Busher reaches first criticality
According to Russian builder AtomStroyExport (ASE),  Iran's first nuclear power reactor Bushehr achieved criticality on 8 May 2011 and is now functioning at the minimum controlled power level. Final commissioning tests will now be carried out prior to start of commercial operation. According to Iranian news agency Fars, the plant is expected to be connected to the national grid within the next two months.
Construction work began on two German-designed pressurised water reactors (PWRs) at the Persian Gulf site in the mid-1970s but was abandoned in 1979 following the Islamic revolution when unit 1 was substantially complete. In 1994, Russia's Minatom agreed to complete unit 1 as a VVER-1000 making use of the infrastructure already in place. However, this necessitated major changes, including fabrication of all the main reactor components in Russia under a construction contract with AtomStroyExport. The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) said in 2008 that it was no longer planning to complete Bushehr unit 2. Further delays ensued for negotiations over fuel supply for the plant, but two agreements were signed early in 2005 covering the supply of fresh fuel for the reactor and its return to Russia after use, securing the plant's fuel supply needs for the foreseeable future.
In February 2011, only weeks before operation was expected to start, the discovery of debris from damaged coolant pumps meant that all the fresh reactor fuel had to be unloaded, checked and cleaned, and the reactor internals and main circulation pipeline flushed through. Bushehr will produce about 1000 MWe for the Iranian grid; about 3% of the country's power supply.
The following table shows which countries produced nuclear energy for the first time after the 1970’s. Currently, only 10 countries did so (of which 3 weren't independent countries at that time), and if we look at countries who started construction of their first nuclear power station, we find that only China and Romania did so after the 1970’s (as said, Iran started in the 1970's)

Country         start of construction             first power of           

of first n-power plant          first n-reactor           

Slovenia                      3-1975                                    10-1981

Brazil                          5-1971                                    4-1982

Hungary                     8-1974                                    12-1982

Lithuania                    5-1977                                    12-1983

South Africa               7-1976                                    4-1984

Czech Republic          1-1979                                    2-1985

Mexico                       10-1976                                  4-1989

China                          3-1985                                    12-1991

Romania                     7-1982                                    7-1996

Iran                             -1975                                       -2011

So which country will be next? According to the World Nuclear Association nuclear power is under serious consideration in over 45 countries which do not currently have it. However, that is in most cases more whish than reality. It is difficult to predict which country will start with the construction of its first nuclear reactor next: will it be Poland, Belarus, Lithuania, Turkey, Jordan or after all the United Arab Emirates?

World Nuclear news, 10 May 2011 / Nuclear Monitor, 21 June 2007 / World Nuclear Association, Emerging nuclear energy countries (visited 25 May 2011)


Big antinuclear demonstration Switzerland. An estimated 20.000 people have held a massive demonstration in northern Switzerland against a possible decision by the government to rely on nuclear energy. The demonstration, staged near the Beznau nuclear power plant, was also attended by people from Germany, Austria and France. According to Maude Poirier, spokeswoman for Sortons du nucleaire, the rally was the biggest protest at nuclear power in Switzerland in 25 years.

Over a thousand high school students went on strike and marched to the centre of Bern on May 24Tuesday, to protest against Switzerland's nuclear energy policy, even though local police had not granted permission for the demonstration.

A day later, on May 25, the Swiss cabinet has called for the phasing out of the country’s five nuclear power reactors and for new energy sources to replace them. The recommendation will be debated in parliament, which is expected to make a final decision in June. If approved, the reactors would be decommissioned between 2019 and 2034 after they have reached their average lifespan of 50 years.

But the delay will anger the antinuclear movement, Greens and the Social Democrats (SP) who had called for nuclear reactors to be closed earlier. And indeed, it looks less like a phase-out scenario and more like an attempt to 'save' nuclear power.

The decision is likely to please business groups who had warned that "a premature shut down of Switzerland's nuclear reactors could lead to higher electricity costs and negatively impact the country's energy-hungry manufacturing sector."

Swiss utility companies Axpo, Alpiq and BKW had expressed an interest in building new nuclear plants and decisions on sites had been expected in mid-2012. (more on Switzerland: Nuclear Monitor 726; 13 May 2011)

Financial Times, 26 May 2011 / Reuters, 25 May 2011 / The Local (Sw.), 24 may 2011


Six potential locations for Danish LLW & ILW repository.
A major step towards a repository for Denmark's low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste has been made with the submission of three pre-feasibility studies to the Danish interior and health ministry. The first study, prepared by national decommissioning body Dansk Dekommissionering (DD), looks at different disposal concepts in terms of types of repository, waste conditioning, safety analyses, costs and long-term impact assessments. Overall, the studies conclude that a moderately deep repository would be the most appropriate from a security point of view, although this would be more expensive than a near-surface repository. From 22 areas suggested in preliminary studies, the reports recommend that six potential sites are taken forward for further study. The six identified locations will now be narrowed down to a shortlist of two or three by an inter-ministerial working group in a process that will include the affected municipalities and regions.

Denmark never implemented a commercial nuclear power program but operated a total of three scientific research reactors over the period from the late-1950s up to 2000, as well as associated fuel fabrication facilities. All three reactors – DR-1, DR-2 and DR-3 – were located at the Risø National Laboratory north of Roskilde on the island of Zeeland. Most of the used fuel from the reactors has been returned to the USA, but the country still has a sizeable amount of low and intermediate level radioactive waste which is being stored at Risø pending the selection and construction of a final repository.

World Nuclear News, 5 May 2011


SKB Turns in application for permit to build a final repository.
On March 16, the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company, SKB, applied for a permit to build a final repository for spent nuclear fuel and a facility where the fuel will be encapsulated before being transported to the final repository. SKB's application will now be reviewed by the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority and the Environmental Court. The application will subsequently be presented for political decision in the relevant municipalities and by the government. SKB wants to use the so-called KBS-3 method for the repository, in which spent fuel would be placed in copper and steel canisters before being placed in granite bedrock 500 meters below the surface. Bentonite clay would be put around the canisters as a barrier to radioactive leakage. Critics of the plan have repeatedly questioned the choice of copper and its potential for corrosion, among others issues.

The Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear Waste Review, or MKG, an organization that opposes the KBS-3 method, said that SKB has “shown arrogance in the face of criticism” about the method. The group called on Swedish politicians to “take responsibility” and require alternative methods to be further reviewed. MKG  favors a so-called deep-borehole repository, which would be deeper underground than the repository planned by SKB.

SKB is applying for permission to build an encapsulation facility in Oskarshamn Municipality and a final repository for spent nuclear fuel at Forsmark in Östhammar Municipality. (see more on the SKB plans in: Nuclear Monitor 706, 26 March 2010: “Nuclear fuel waste storage: end of the road for the Swedish solution”).

In December 2009 SKB, the industry's jointly owned company for nuclear waste solutions, published a "preliminary" environmental impact statement (EIS) on the KBS-3 scheme. The report failed to meet even rudimentary requirements of an EIS. In January 2010 the SKB unilaterally declared the termination of public consultations on the project (consultations mandated by the Swedish Environmental Code, 1998). SKB makes no apologies, but simply notes that long-awaited updates will be filed together with the formal application.

SKB, 16 March 2011 / Nuclear Fuel, 21 February 2011 / Nuclear Fuel, 21 March 2011 / Nuclear Monitor 706, 26 March, 2010


The 'greying' of the nuclear industry.
Almost a third of Britain's nuclear inspectors are eligible to retire within three years, leaving a potential 'knowledge gap' within the regulator. The Office for Nuclear Regulation has hired 93 new inspectors since 2008. But of the 217 inspectors, 30 per cent are over the age of 57, 11 per cent are over 60 and 70 could retire by 2015. The regulator said that new recruits were needed soon so that the older generation could pass on their expertise and bridge the knowledge gap. Is that what they mean by saying that the nuclear industry has matured?

The Times (UK), 19 May 2011

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