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U.S.A.: Tritium leak at Pilgrim

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#716
6088
23/09/2010
Mary Lampert
Article

Safety and PR officials at Entergy, the Louisiana-based owner of the Pilgrim nuke plant at Plymouth, Mass., are scrambling to find the source of a radioactive tritium leak that, after new monitoring wells were dug in May, flared to unacceptable during levels July and continues to show evidence of a leak.

Published reports and sources tapped by Northampton Media reveal that state public health officials are holding urgent meetings to deal with the Pilgrim’s tritium leak, and that Pilgrim plant officials meet first thing every morning to deal with the issue.

While the Pilgrim leak, documented in late spring, amounts to far less of the radioactive material than was found at Vermont Yankee last year, the fact that the reactor is located next to Cape Cod Bay and is less than 40 miles from Boston, and 20 miles as the seagull flies from Provincetown, is cause for concern.

The radioactive element tritium is a byproduct of nuclear plants, and is measured in picocuries per liter. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “acceptable level” for tritium in drinking water is 20,000 picocuries per liter, many times higher than the level considered safe by some states (including California, which uses 400 picocuries) and some countries (Canada’s standard is 540 picocuries).

Pilgrim’s radiation leak comes at an awkward time for Entergy, since the Pilgrim plant is nearing the end of a 20-year relicensing application for the 38-year-old nuclear power plant ­  especially after what happened at the Entergy’s other nuclear plant in the region, Vermont Yankee. Vermont Yankee’s operating license expires in a year and a half, but in February the Vermont Senate voted 26-4 against allowing the Public Service Board to issue a Certificate of Public Good, required for Entergy to operate the plant for an additional 20 years past March 2012 (see Nuclear Monitor 705, 12 March 2010: Vermont Senate shocks industry with 26-4 vote to close Vermont Yankee)

That turn of events came after dangerous tritium levels were found in groundwater last fall. Leaky underground pipes, like those suspected at Pilgrim, were blamed for tritium levels that were many times higher than federal limits. Although Entergy has said it has found, fixed and remediated the Vermont Yankee’s radioactive leak, relicensing is no sure thing.
 
In a report issued early September, the Vermont Department of Health detailed its investigation so far into the tritium leaks, and estimates that about 245,000 gallons of “tritium-contaminated groundwater” has been pumped from the plant site (1 U.S. gallon is 3.785 liter). The agency says the water contains tritium concentrations in the range of about 76,000 picocuries per liter. The report, however, documents that some monitoring wells there are detecting tritium levels as high as 370,000 picocuries.

At Pilgrim this May, a new groundwater monitoring well on the ocean side of the plant immediately began showing tritium levels 5-10 times higher than the other 11 test wells. And after that initial reading of 5,810 picocuries per liter, the well – dubbed MW-205 – continued to reveal rising tritium levels. On July 7, the numbers at MW-205 peaked at 25,552 picocuries, higher than even the EPA’s suspect standard of 20,000. By August 9, the state Department of Public Health’s latest published readings, tritium levels had dropped to a still-alarming level of over 12,000 picocuries.

Amazingly, groundwater monitoring at the Pilgrim plant was done voluntarily, and only started in 2007 when six test wells were dug; testing, though, was sketchy at best until April 2008. Critics of the plant’s monitoring, including the citizens group Pilgrim Watch, have called for the installation of many more wells to monitor ground water.

Samples taken by Entergy are separately analyzed by the company and by the Massachusetts Environmental Radiation Laboratory.

The Pilgrim plant is located on the edge of Cape Cod Bay, south of Boston  it was built by the Bechtel Corporation, opened in 1972, and was originally run by Boston Edison. Its maximum operating power capacity is about 688 megawatts. Over 100,000 people live within the ten-mile Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ) radius. The area is the fastest growing in the state - over 600,000 live on Cape Cod, directly South of Pilgrim. New Orleans-based Entergy bought Pilgrim in November 1999. Entergy Corporation, 2004, is the second-largest nuclear generator in the United States with annual revenues of over $9 billion and approximately 14,000 employees. In 1999, Entergy paid US$80 million for Pilgrim, buying it from Boston Edison. Only US$13 million of the price was for the facility and the 1,600-acre plant site. The remainder of the price was for the nuclear fuel.

After high levels of tritium were discovered at Pilgrim, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was notified. The federal agency issued an incident report, which caught the attention of some journalists in Plymouth and Boston, but the news stories were generally ignored by other media sources in the region. Curiously, even the NRC’s own “Event Notification Report,” dated July 21, 2010, failed to document the peak levels of 25,000 picocuries, citing instead a level of 11,072 picocuries sampled a month earlier. No other incident reports could be found on a recent search of the NRC web site.

Some news stories gave brief, one-time reports citing much lower tritium-level readings and quoting only plant spokesman David Tarantino, who said public health and safety were not impacted “in any way.” There was no follow-up. The Boston Globe ran a few stories which, while not exactly hard-hitting, did reveal some startling items. One, in a July 14 Globe story, was a statement by plant flack Tarantino, who claimed the high tritium levels were due to “washout” from water vapor returning to the ground as rain. The same article quoted Ralph Anderson, a top official for The Nuclear Energy Institute, trade-group organization for the nuclear industry, as saying the discovery of tritium showed the safety systems in place worked just fine.

Dissatisfied with the official oversight of Pilgrim, Pilgrim Watch has stepped into the breach on a number of fronts. While continuing its opposition to Pilgrim’s relicensing, the group filed a petition in August asking the NRC to order Entergy to immediately perform an updated hydrological assessment of the area under and around the Pilgrim plant. “This is necessary,” the Pilgrim Watch petition reads, “to provide reasonable assurance that the leaks are not occurring so that piping and other buried components are able to perform their intended safety function (and) for Entergy to [be] in compliance with the Industry Ground Water Protection Initiative at Pilgrim Station that they agreed to follow. . ..”

The petition includes testimony on groundwater monitoring by Dr. David Ahlfeld, a University of Massachusetts-Amherst engineering professor who heads the university’s Groundwater Management Group and is also an expert working with Pilgrim Watch. Pilgrim Watch Director Mary Lampert cites Ahlfeld’s analysis that Pilgrim’s 12 monitoring wells may have been dug in the wrong spots. The monitoring-well placement, she writes, were fixed using a 1967 hydrology study, conducted long before the power plant was built. “No subsurface investigations have been performed for over 40 years, as they clearly should have been,” Lampert concluded.

Massachusetts’ Governor Deval Patrick and U.S. Rep. Edward J. Markey have also gotten into the act this year, asking the NRC to get tough on radioactive leaks; Patrick called for the NRC to suspend relicensing of both Vermont Yankee and Pilgrim until the leak issues are resolved. In Patrick’s Feb. 9, 2010 letter to the NRC Chairman and other commissioners, he asked the NRC to order “extensive testing for leaks of tritium and other radioactive substances at both Vermont Yankee and Pilgrim” and to halt “any further consideration of the relicensing of both plants until the leak issues are resolved.”

In his position as chairman of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Energy and The Environment Subcommittee, Markey wrote NRC Chairman Jaczko on July 15 this year, after reading a Globereport on Pilgrim’s tritium leak. “Sadly, this appears to be just another in a long line of failures of buried piping systems and our nation’s nuclear plants,” Markey wrote. “This lack of a serious and comprehensive (NRC) inspection regime for buried piping systems has long been a concern of mine.. . .The current inspection regime for buried pipes – physical inspections conducted only in those rare instances when pipes are dug out for other purposes – is incapable of ensuring the integrity of decades-old piping systems.. . . “Other industries have figured out how to inspect their buried pipes in a proactive and comprehensive fashion,” Markey concluded. “How many more failures does the nuclear industry and the NRC need before they admit that aging buried systems need additional attention?”

Sources: 'Pilgrim we have a problem', 6 September 2010 at http://northamptonmedia.com / www.Prilgrimwatch.com
Contact: Pilgrim Watch,   c/o Mary Lampert, 148 Washington Street, Duxbury, MA 02332, USA.
Email: mary.lampert@comcast.net
Web: www.Pilgrimwatch.com

About: 
Pilgrim

US: Georgia Power increases risks for ratepayers

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#716
6085
24/09/2010
Article

In 2009, U.S. utility Georgia Power convinced the State legislature to pass Senate Bill 31, which approves the utility to let power customers pay for new generation facilities before the plants produce power. SB 31 was one of the most intensely lobbied measures in years. Opponents say SB 31 shifted risk to ratepayers and forced some consumers to pay for plants they will never use. Company lobbyists and the bill's sponsors all used the US$1.30 per month initial increase figure to sell the fee. But now that figure has changed and opponents said the public was tricked.

The nuclear power expansion fee that will show up on Georgia Power bills in January will be bigger than the utility indicated when lobbying for the levy, according to plans filed on September 3.

Georgia Power said the initial fee will add US$3.73 to the typical monthly residential bill in 2011 - more than double the US$1.30 figure the company and its supporters used when it convinced the state legislature to allow the fee. In the Public Service Commission (PSC) filing, Georgia Power also said the fee will ratchet up to US$9 over the following four years, rather than six as it had suggested last year.

However, the total amount collected through the fee to help pay for two new reactors will remain unchanged, Georgia Power said. It's the initial amount and pace of the increases that differs from the company's previous indications according to the utility.

But opponents said the public was tricked. "It's the old bait and switch," said Angela Speir, executive director of Georgia Watch and a former PSC member. "Georgia Power told  legislators it would be one thing, but when ratepayers get their bill, it's something else."

Under state law and utility regulatory policy, power customers don't typically pay for new generation facilities until the plants produce power. But in 2009, Georgia Power convinced the legislature to pass Senate Bill 31, which changed that for nuclear reactors. SB 31 was one of the most intensely lobbied measures in years. Company lobbyists and the bill's sponsors all used the US$1.30 per month initial increase figure to sell it.

Opponents say SB 31 shifted risk to ratepayers and forced some consumers to pay for plants they will never use.

Georgia Power's nuclear fee is intended to pay about US$1.6 billion in financing costs for constructing two Westinghouse Advanced Passive 1000 (AP1000) pressurized-water reactors (PWRs) designated as Vogtle, Units 3 and 4, near Augusta. They are scheduled to be complete in 2016 and 2017. The reactors will cost an estimated US$14 billion total.

Preliminary site work has already started for the two units. The NRC granted an Early Site Permit (ESP) as well as permission for limited safety-related construction in August 2009. However, actual construction of the new plant cannot begin until Southern receives a

combined construction and operating licence (COL) from the NRC not expected before mid 2011.

The Vogtle 3 and 4 reactors could become the first licensed nuclear reactors in the US since the 1970's. But that doesn't come cheap. Besides the fee for the construction costs (and putting th risk with the customers, Georgia Power was the recipient of the US$8.3 billion in federal loan guarantee from the Department of Energy announced by President Obama on February 16, 2010.

The new fees will come on top of whatever basic rate increase Georgia Power wins from state utility regulators later this year. Because, amid the worst recession since the Great Depression and state unemployment still topping 10 percent, Georgia Power filed a rate increase request before the Public Service Commission (PSC) of more than US$1 billion. The new billion-dollar proposal would be phased in over the next three years. By February 2013, typical household bill would shoot up US$18 per month.

In August this year, PSC approved an amendment to the construction contract between Georgia Power and Westinghouse–Shaw, the group building the two new units. Though many details of the contract dispute are still unknown, the PSC decision allows Georgia Power to shift the cost of the dispute – estimated at US$108 million – directly to customers. It comes without the slightest effort by Georgia Power to explain why its shareholders shouldn't be the ones to shoulder those costs.

Florida
On 7 September, Florida's Public Service Commission voted 3-2  to increase Florida Power & Light customers' bills by US$31 million starting in January to pay for development of the company's nuclear projects. The decision came after nearly three weeks of wrangling between the company and the commission over whether to conduct a full hearing on the issue after testimony revealed that FPL supplied the commission with inaccurate data last year regarding its nuclear projects.

By law, the commission must determine if what FPL is allowed to charge customers for planning and development of its nuclear projects is reasonable and prudent. The increase will mean that customer bills will increase 33 cents per 1,000-kilowatt hour to pay for nuclear projects, and the commission will decide sometime next year whether those costs are reasonable.

FPL is moving ahead with its plans to build two new nuclear power plants at Turkey Point.
The examiner, 10 September 2010

Sources: http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/new-reactors/col/vogtle.html /  World Nuclear News, 8 September 2010 / Nuclearfissionary.com, 23 march 2010 / The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 3 September 2010 / website of consumers advocacy organization Georgiawatch.org
Contact: NIRS

 

About: 
NIRS

Nuclear energy decreases world stability and increases inequality

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#715
6081
03/09/2010
WISE Amsterdam
Article

Jordanians are wondering why the United States is opposing efforts from Jordan to establish a uranium enrichment program. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and other international accords "guarantee the right of all nations to develop nuclear energy meant for peaceful purposes", which includes uranium enrichment.

Jordan has huge uranium reserves. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has estimated that the country has uranium deposits of nearly 112,000 tons, ranking 11th on the global chart. It has licensed French energy company Areva to extract 2,000 tons of uranium ore annually from its central and southern deserts. A British-Australian company and a Chinese firm are also exploring other regions for deposits.

Jordan Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Khaled Toukan says the country's nuclear project, including uranium enrichment "is not a choice but a national necessity that will guarantee the nation's future."

A Jordanian view:
But the US is opposing uranium enrichment in Jordan. According to the US proposal, Jordan must exchange its uranium for enriched uranium produced in foreign countries, a move that would impose a burdensome expenditure on Jordan. The US is not just trying to impose this restriction on Jordan. In fact, Washington wants to deprive all Arab states of their national and international right to enrich uranium.

Jordan and the US signed a memorandum of understanding on nuclear cooperation in 2008 that guaranteed Jordan's right to enrich uranium. In the same year, Jordan also entered into talks with two US companies for the construction of its first nuclear power plant, and without consultation with any other Arab country, waived its right to enrichment. Saudi Arabia and Egypt will probably also be forced to accept the same fate. However, the main difference is that those two countries both sit atop vast oil reserves.

Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994 and has remained one of Washington's main unwavering allies in the Middle East. It is referred to as a NATO partner. All these concessions should allow the country to demand its right to enrich uranium, as enumerated in international agreements.

One Jordanian official says the real US policy is to ban foreign enrichment and nuclear fuel production. According to this policy, nuclear programs from the Nile to the Euphrates would be required to be dependent on nuclear fuel exporting countries. In the Middle East, only Israel is allowed to enjoy access to the complete nuclear fuel cycle, and the US is opposed to any efforts that could break this monopoly.

What was that again on nuclear power and independence?

At the moment, Jordan needs to import 95% of its oil and gas needs. In 2007, the nation of 7 million people spent US$3.2 billion to buy oil. This figure swelled to US$3.9 billion in 2008, which is about 20% of Jordan's gross domestic product. Imagine the possibilities of solar and what that would mean for dependency and the gross domestic product! Because there are (too) many examples that nuclear power does not decrease dependency on oil.

Source: Press.tv, 14 August 2010

About: 
WISE

More plutonium destined for WIPP?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#715
6082
03/09/2010
Article

The Department of Energy (DOE) Savannah River Site in South Carolina is proposing to ship up to six metric tons of surplus plutonium from nuclear bombs to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in southeastern New Mexico.

Before making the decision to ship surplus plutonium to the WIPP, DOE must provide detailed information about the proposal and consider reasonable alternatives in an environmental impact statement. Public meetings will be held in Carlsbad and Santa Fe late August. The draft statement might be published in 2011 and released for public review, comment and hearings.

In the 1990s, DOE completed two environmental impact statements, but neither of them proposed that any of the surplus plutonium would be destined for WIPP. They proposed a two-track solution where the plutonium would be immobilized or made into nuclear reactor fuel.

DOE now plans to supplement those statements in order to reconsider what to do with 13 metric tons of surplus plutonium. DOE is proposing that approximately six metric tons could be prepared for disposal at WIPP and is considering how to handle the other seven metric tons, including through immobilization.

Activists agree that the scope of the new statement must address whether the plutonium will fit into WIPP, which has a capacity for about seven metric tons. Further, it must address why the plutonium should be transported again. Much of the six metric tons was already shipped from the DOE sites at Hanford, Livermore, and Los Alamos to the Savannah River Site.  DOE claims that the waste is similar to that at WIPP. Activists question why the plutonium was not shipped directly to WIPP in the first place. 

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), managed by the Carlsbad Field Office of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), is an underground repository for transuranic radioactive waste, or TRU waste, left over from the production of nuclear weapons. WIPP began operations on March 26, 1999 and is located in the remote Chihuahuan Desert of southeastern New Mexico, about 26 miles southeast of Carlsbad. TRU waste is currently stored at 23 locations nationwide. Over WIPP’s life cycle, it is expected to receive about 37,000 shipments.

Tom Clements, with Friends of the Earth, based in South Carolina, said that they support immobilization. One option in the current statement is to fill small cans with plutonium that is mixed with molten glass and high-level waste. When the small cans are cooled, they are then placed inside a much larger canister that is then filled with the molten high-level waste mixture. He said “For safety, security, non-proliferation and cost reasons, DOE should abandon the option of making surplus plutonium into nuclear reactor fuel and instead vigorously pursue the immobilization option of mixing it back into the high-level waste from which it came.”

Sources: Factsheet WIPP at www.spdsupplementaleis.com/WIPPFactsheet.pdf / CCNS news update 20 August 2010
Contact: Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, 107 Cienega Street,Santa Fe, NM 87501, USA.
Tel: +1 505 986-1973
Email: ccns@nuclearactive.org
Web: www.nuclearactive.org

U.S. nuclear "renaissance" hits a stumbling block called reality

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#714
6077
20/08/2010
Michael Mariotte at NIRS
Article

The much-hyped nuclear “renaissance” in the U.S. has run squarely into a stumbling block called reality, and at the moment at least, reality is winning. In retrospect, it may be that the peak of the renaissance occurred in October 2008, when the Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced that it had either received or was expecting by the end of 2010 23 license applications for 34 new reactors. But by June of this year, the number was down to 17 applications covering 26 new reactors, with no more applications expected during 2010.

In July, Exelon, the nation’s largest nuclear utility, became the first to formally withdraw an application, doing so for two proposed reactors at Victoria, Texas. Four of the other applications (for four new reactors) have not been formally withdrawn, but there is no work being done on them and they are all but cancelled. Every proposed reactor project has been delayed from its original schedule and at this point none has a firm date to even receive a construction/operating license, much less a date when construction actually could begin.

Two of the applicants (UniStar Nuclear’s Calvert Cliffs-3 and NRG Energy’s two-unit South Texas Project) generally considered furthest along in the process (and on the Department of Energy’s “shortlist” for taxpayer loans) announced in July that they have slashed spending on their projects, and warned that if they don’t receive taxpayer loans soon, the reactors will be cancelled. The problem for them is that currently there is only enough money in the loan guarantee pot to cover one of the projects—not both.

The factors causing their problems are not unique to them, they are industry-wide: declining natural gas prices projected to remain low for the foreseeable future; declining electrical demand due to the prolonged recession and the impact of state energy efficiency programs; the increasing competitiveness of renewable energy technologies; soaring construction cost estimates for new reactors; and revelations of safety-related design deficiencies that are delaying reactor design certifications—a prerequisite for obtaining a construction/operating license.

In the Calvert Cliffs case, the situation is so bleak that UniStar partner Electricite de France in July took a 1 billion Euro provision for anticipated losses from its US$6.5 billion (5.05 billion euro) investment in Constellation Energy’s existing reactors and in UniStar (Constellation is the other partner in UniStar). And pressure is growing among Constellation shareholders and investors to drop the Calvert Cliffs project and UniStar entirely. An analyst with Macquarie (USA) Equities Research flat out said “we are not happy” about the possibility of UniStar receiving a taxpayer loan guarantee and proceeding with Calvert Cliffs-3, citing the project’s “questionable economics.” Macquarie downgraded Constellation’s rating on July 29. Meanwhile, Constellation executives admitted in July that they are not sure they will proceed with the reactor even if they do receive taxpayer loans. (For an analysis of the Calvert Cliffs situation, see: http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2010/8/5/889695/-The-nuclear-renaissan...).

The news from Congress hasn’t been much better for the nuclear industry so far this year either. The year began with a strong endorsement of nuclear power by President Obama, a request for an additional US$36 billion (29.5 bn euro) in taxpayer loan authority by the administration, and announcement of the first loan guarantee—for US$8.3 billion—for the Vogtle reactor project in Georgia. All of that happened in February, and the industry was both delighted and hatched plans to try to get even more from Congress.

As it has turned out, however, the industry has received nothing from Congress. While the House of Representatives voted to provide US$9 billion in new loan authority (on an unrelated emergency funding bill), the Senate rejected the plan. That money would have allowed immediate support for both the Calvert Cliffs and South Texas projects.

And while the House Appropriations Committee has approved US$25 billion in new loan money, the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved only US$10 billion. But it isn’t clear at this point whether an energy appropriations bill will even be passed at all this year.

Meanwhile, the nuclear industry was pinning its biggest hopes on the Kerry-Lieberman American Power Act—the Senate’s climate change bill. That bill would not only have included the US$36 billion in loans requested by President Obama, it also would have provided tens of billions more in tax breaks and other subsidies for the industry, while further cutting regulations and making it even harder for the public to participate meaningfully in the reactor licensing process. Indeed, the bill was so larded with goodies for the nuclear industry that even many organizations that support strong climate action couldn’t support the bill.

The industry also wanted a Senate Energy Committee-passed bill that would establish a Clean Energy Deployment Administration with the power to grant unlimited loan guarantees for new reactor construction. That likely would have been added to the American Power Act.

It was the industry’s hope—and the Nuclear Energy Institute was among the most prominent supporters of the bill—that the Senate would pass the American Power Act and them steamroll the House, which passed the Waxman-Markey climate bill last year that contained little for the nuclear industry.

But the Senate proved unable to deal with the climate issue at all (which is a different and very large problem), and the bill never even came to the Senate floor for consideration. Even an attempt by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to bring a much more modest energy bill, focused on some energy efficiency programs and liability for offshore oil spills in the wake of the BP disaster, didn’t receive enough support to be considered by the Senate.

With only about three weeks left in the legislative session because of the Fall elections, it is unlikely Congress will have time, or inclination, to enact anything of major benefit for the nuclear industry. It does remain quite possible that some new loan authority will be granted—probably something between US$10 and US$25 billion, but that isn’t enough to support a nuclear renaissance. Indeed, as Congress is learning the hard way, that wouldn’t fund much at all. Back in 2007 -just three years ago- Congress thought the initial US$18.5 billion in loan guarantee authority it approved would cover 6 reactor projects. Now it is clear that will only cover two. Doubling that would only mean two more, and few, if any, reactors can be built without the loans.

The industry has gone from 34 proposed new reactors to between 4-6 potentially viable projects in only two years, and even those are in jeopardy. This is a nuclear renaissance?

Report: no new nuclear without subsidies in UK.  Britain's new generation of nuclear power stations will not be built if the Government persists with a promise to refuse them any taxpayer support, according to a KPMG report. The study, commissioned by RWE npower, says it is still uneconomic for utility companies to invest billions of pounds in nuclear power. The Government has offered to impose a minimum price on carbon permits, which would raise the cost of fossil fuel generation and make low-carbon nuclear more attractive. But it has made a promise not to offer any direct subsidies. According to the KPMG's report a carbon "floor price" is not enough for the big utilities to commit large capital investments to the nuclear sector.
Sunday Telegraph (UK), 18 July 2010

Source and contact: Michael Mariotte at NIRS

About: 
NIRS

Analysis triples US plutonium waste figures

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#714
6076
20/08/2010
WISE Amsterdam
Article

The amount of plutonium buried at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State is nearly three times what the federal government previously reported, a new analysis indicates, suggesting that a cleanup to protect future generations will be far more challenging than planners had assumed.

Plutonium waste is much more prevalent around nuclear weapons sites nationwide than the Energy Department’s (DOE) official accounting indicates, but the problem is most severe at Hanford, a 560-square-mile tract in south-central Washington that was taken over by the federal government as part of the Manhattan Project

The plutonium does not pose a major radiation hazard now, largely because it is, according to DOE, under “institutional controls” like guards, weapons and gates. But because it takes 24,000 years to lose half its radioactivity, it is certain to last longer than the controls and the gates.

The fear is that in a few hundred years, the plutonium could reach an underground area called the saturated zone, where water flows, and from there enter the Columbia River. Because the area is now arid, contaminants move extremely slowly, but over the millennia the climate is expected to change, experts say.

The finding on the extent of plutonium waste signals that the cleanup, still in its early stages, will be more complex, perhaps requiring technologies that do not yet exist. But more than 20 years after the Energy Department vowed to embark on a cleanup, it still has not “characterized,” or determined the exact nature of, the contaminated soil.

In 1996, the department released an official inventory of plutonium production and disposal. But Mr. Alvarez analyzed later Energy Department reports and concluded that there was substantially more plutonium in waste tanks and in the environment. The biggest issue is the amount of plutonium that has leaked from the tanks, was intentionally dumped in the dirt or was pumped into the ground.

Gerry Pollet, executive director of the environmental group Heart of America Northwest, said the government should embrace a cleanup plan that assures that even thousands of years into the future, an unsuspecting public will not be overexposed.  “What is reasonably foreseeable is that there are people who will be drinking the water in the ground at Hanford at some point in the next few hundred years,” Mr. Pollet said. “We’re going to be killing people, pure and simple.” 

The new analysis indicates that the chemical plutonium separation process was not nearly as efficient as the government claimed and that a lot of the plutonium was left behind in various stages. It also suggests that estimates of plutonium production by the Energy Department and its predecessors, including the Atomic Energy Commission and the Manhattan Project, were not nearly as accurate as scientists and bureaucrats said they were.

A preliminary estimate based on waste characterization data indicates that from 1944 to 2009 about 12.7 metric tons of plutonium was discarded at U.S. nuclear weapon production facilities. This is more than three times than the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) last official estimate of waste losses (3.4 tons) made in 1996. Of the 12.7 tons, about:

  • 2.7 tons in high-level radioactive wastes are stored as liquids in tanks and as granulated material in bins on the sites of former U.S. military reprocessing plants;
  • 7.9 tons are in solid waste, which DOE plans to dispose at the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) a geological repository in New Mexico for transuranic wastes. About half is already emplaced; and
  • 2.1 tons are in solid and liquid wastes buried in soil prior to 1970 or held up in facilities at several DOE sites. The DOE considers most of this plutonium to be permanently disposed.

Sources: Plutonium Wastes from the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex by Robert Alvarez, Senior Scholar, Institute for Policy Studies, Washington, D.C. July 7, 2010; available at: http://djcoregon.com/wp-files/pdfs/alvarez-plutonium-wastes-07-12-10.pdf / New York Times, 11 July 2010
Contact: Heart of America Northwest
Web: http://www.hoanw.org

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WISE

Plutonium in breathable form found near Rocky Flats

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#714
6074
20/08/2010
Article

Activists questioning the thoroughness of the cleanup at the old Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant northwest of Denver say they have found particles of weapons-grade plutonium in air samples taken near the site. Part of the site is a national wildlife refuge that is slated to open for public recreation.

The federal Department of Energy declared in 2005 that its decontamination of the Rocky Flats facility was complete, after a 10-year effort that cost US$7 billion (although the DOE originally thought the project would take 65 years and US$37 billion). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is planning to allow public recreation at a national wildlife refuge established in 2007 on part of the site.

The samples were collected in April by the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, which has criticized the quality of the cleanup and called for increased testing and other safeguards. Plutonium in breathable form was found at two locations near the site of the Rocky Flats nuclear bomb plant. Their sampling effort responded to repeated refusals of government agencies to sample surface dust at Rocky Flats for plutonium content. What the citizens found with their unofficial project counters U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service plans to open a big portion of the Rocky Flats site – the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge – to public recreation.

The plutonium contained in a sample collected in open space across the street from the Rocky Flats site was delivered by wind to this location. "The Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge should be managed as open space that is closed to the public," Colorado state Rep. Wes McKinley told AOL News. "This is not a good place for our school kids to go on field trips. At the very least, there should be a warning that you may be exposing yourself to plutonium."

“The plutonium found at the open space location was probably deposited there quite recently,“ observed environmentalist LeRoy Moore, who organized the sampling project. “Burrowing animals on the site bring buried plutonium to the surface, and the winds that scour Rocky Flats scatter plutonium particles near and far, with the risk of sending some of it into the lungs of people using Rocky Flats for recreation.”

At least equally significant, according to Moore, is the indoor sample. Hot particles with high concentrations of plutonium were found in dust collected in a crawl space under a house where it had accumulated for 50 years. Specialist Marco Kaltofen of the Boston Chemical Data Corp., who did the technical analysis of the samples, pointed out that this plutonium laden dust certainly endangered the health of anyone who spent much time in this crawl space.

Moore thinks that within the contaminated area plutonium-laden dust could be present in any indoor space where dust collects, such as in refrigerator coils, ventilation systems, ceiling fans, etc. “Its presence poses a risk to people who occupy, use or work in these indoor spaces,” he stated. “So far as I know, sampling indoor dust for its possible plutonium content has never been previously done in offsite areas around Rocky Flats.”

Kaltofen pointed out that the plutonium present in the two samples was in the form of very tiny particles. Such particles can be inhaled, ingested or taken into the body through an open wound, such as a child’s scraped knee or elbow. For as long as the plutonium is lodged in the body, it continues to bombard surrounding tissue with radiation. This may result in cancer, harm to the immune system or genetic defects that can be passed on to future generations.

“This small sampling project,” Moore observed, “indicates that Rocky Flats is a local hazard forever.”

Sources: Pressconference RMPJC, 4 August 2010 / AOL News, 4 August.
Contact: LeRoy Moore, PhD, environmentalist and consultant with the Rocky Mountain Peace & Justice Center,

About: 
Rocky Mountain Peace & Justice Center

EU agreement on ITER cost overruns

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#714
6073
20/08/2010
WISE Amsterdam
Article

Four years ago, the EU, Russia, China, India, Japan, Korea and the US picked Cadarache in the south of France as the location for the experimental nuclear fusion reactor, Iter. But since the science of how to achieve this type of fusion hasn't been settled (to put it mildly), the plans for the Iter project have been the subject of several revisions in recent years, each one leading to an increased price tag. Even opponents from within the scientific world are becoming more vocal to end the project.

Delegates at an extraordinary meeting of the Iter Council on July 28 also agreed a timeline that would see the first plasma experiments in 2019, with a fusion reactor generating significantly more power than it consumed (for a few minutes) by March 2027. But the Iter organisation was encouraged to explore ways to bring this deuterium-tritium operation forward to 2026. After research and development at Iter it should be possible to build a demonstration fusion power plant around 2030.

Coupled with the increases in costs for raw materials like steel and cement, the budget for the project has spiralled from around 5 billion euros to about 16 billion euros.

Delegates agreed that the overall costs of the project will be almost US$21 billion (16 billion euros), some three times the original price. Europe is paying 45% of the construction costs, while the other participants (China, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the USA) are paying 9% each.

Additional construction funds will have to come from within the EU's budget. The extra 1.4 billion euros will cover a shortfall in building costs in 2012-13. The EU has agreed to meet a critical short term shortfall of those 1.4 billion euros by using money that has been allocated to other research programmes. But the EU has said it will cap its overall contribution to Iter at 6.6 billion euros, leaving the fusion project to find cuts in costs of around 600 million euros.

In Europe, some scientists are unhappy with the EU proposal to take funds from unspent budgets to bail Iter out. In France, a group of physicists - including Nobel prize winner Georges Charpak - have written a letter to the press calling Iter a catastrophe and arguing that it should be shut down. They suggest that making up the shortfall in Iter's budget is costing France alone the equivalent of 20 years investment in physics and biology. According to one of the signatories, Professor Jacques Treiner from Paris University, it was time to call a halt to Iter before any more money was spent. "At a certain point especially when they say they will take money from other fields to fund this one you have to say, really a clear answer and the answer is no, don't do that."

More on the technical problems of  nuclear fusion: Fusion Illusions, Nuclear Monitor 698, 27 November 2009

Sources: BBC, 28 July 2010 / World Nuclear News, 29 July 2010

About: 
WISE

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#714
20/08/2010
Shorts

Flamanville-3 two years behind schedule. The construction of the second EPR at Flamville (France) faces the  same problems as the first in Olkiluoto (Finland). Flamanville-3 is now two years behind schedule and at least 1 billion euro (US$ 1.3 billion) over budget, EDF Group announced on 30 July. The company said “the target for beginning marketable output” from the French utility’s first Areva EPR “is now set at 2014, with construction costs now re-estimated at around 5 billion euro. The original date for operation was June 2012 and the most recent cost estimate was 4 billion euro, although the original estimate was 3.3 billion euro.

The delay at Flamanville-3 was confirmed as part of the release of information on EDF’s first-half 2010 financial results. EDF reported that first-half net income of 1.659 billion euro was down 46.9% from 3.123 billion the same time last year. First-half 2010 earnings before interest and taxes were 5.289 billion euro, down from 6.784 billion in first-half 2009, although revenues rose, EDF said.
Nucleonics Week, 5 August 2010


Canada: contaminated turbines to Sweden? Bruce Power plans to ship 16 radioactive steam generators through the Great Lakes and the Saint Lawrence River, and across the Atlantic Ocean to Sweden, later this year. Each generator weighs 110 metric tons and contains over 50 trillion becquerels of long-lived man-made radioactive materials, including five isotopes of plutonium. In Sweden, Studsvik plans to melt up to 90 percent of the radiation-laced metal and sell it as 'clean' scrap intended for unrestricted use. In this way, some of the radioactivity will be dispersed into the air (atmospheric emissions), some will be dispersed into the Baltic Sea (liquid effluents), and some will be incorporated into consumer products of all kinds -- razor blades, hair dryers, paper clips, you name it. The remaining 10 percent will be shipped back to Bruce Power for storage as radioactive waste.

Bowing to public pressure, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission recently agreed to a one-day public hearing in Ottawa on September 29 on this issue.
Gordon Edwards, CCNR, 6 August 2010 / Press release Great Lakes United, 18 August 2010


China: Criticality for fast reactor. The Chinese Experimental Fast Reactor (CEFR) achieved sustained fission for the first time on July 21, according to the owner the China Institute of Atomic Energy (CIEA). The reactor will go on to reach a thermal capacity of 60 MW and produce 20 MW in electrical power for the grid. The first sodium-cooled fast reactor in the country, it was built by Russia's OKBM Afrikantov in collaboration with OKB Gidropress, NIKIET and Kurchatov Institute.

Beyond this pilot plant, China once planned a 600 MWe commercial scale version by 2020 and a 1500 MWe version in 2030 but these ambitious ideas have been overtaken by the import of ready-developed Russian designs. In October last year an agreement was signed by CIAE and China Nuclear Energy Industry Corporation (CNEIC) with AtomStroyExport to start pre-project and design works for a commercial nuclear power plant with two BN-800 reactors with construction to start in August 2011, probably at a coastal site.
World Nuclear News, 22 July 2010


Funny. Or not…? From a local Cumbrian (U.K.) newspaper: "The issue of councilors declaring an interest during debates about the nuclear industry is again causing concern due to the amount of time it takes. At August 17th full council meeting at Millom, numerous members of Copeland Council were obliged to stand and declare a prejudicial interest in an agenda item about nuclear new builds. Coun Henry Wormstrup, who has become increasingly frustrated by the practice, said the current system needed reform due to the number of councilors employed by or linked to the industry."
Whitehaven News, 18 August 2010


Danger of tritium underestimated. The health risks of tritium may be undervalued because its possible damage to DNA may lead to genetic mutations, says an expert who participated in a White Paper published by the French Institute of Radiation Protection and Nuclear Monitoring (IRSN) on nuclear safety. This radioactive isotope of hydrogen was released in the past by atmospheric testing of atomic weapons and is now produced by nuclear reactors and the reprocessing of nuclear fuels. Its radiotoxicity is low and the impact of its waste, gaseous or liquid, is considered unimportant. However, the IRSN is calling for "further studies" including on "possible hereditary effects". The IRSN added that further research was necessary which was "representative of the actual conditions of exposure."
Le Monde (Fra.) 8 July 2010


Any plutonium in the basement? In Tbilisi, the capital of the former Soviet Republic Georgia, a container with plutonium was found at a depot of the now defunct Isotope Institute. The plutonium had not been registered with any state entity. Employees of the former institute told the Georgian Public Broadcaster that they had no idea that plutonium was stored at the depot. The plutonium-beryllium was discovered inside a “special container stored in wax and lead, which was quite safe and presented no danger for the environment,” according to Giorgi Nabakhtiani, a nuclear expert with Georgia's Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Ministry.

"Georgia plans to inform the International Atomic Energy Agency about the unregistered plutonium." Not mentioned is how many plutonium is in the container, although Nabakhtiani said that the laboratory did not contain enough plutonium-beryllium for use in a radiological "dirty bomb."
http://en.trend.az/news/politics/foreign/1728373.html; 30 July 2010 / Bloomberg, 2 August 2010


Energy Solutions opts not to store Italian nuclear waste in Utah, US. U.S. company Energy Solutions will no longer pursue agreements to dispose of Italian nuclear waste in the state of Utah. The Salt Lake City based company told Utah US Representatives of their plans not to store the imported material at the Clive Facility, 75 miles west of metropolitan Salt Lake City in the Tooele Valley. The company maintains it is not bowing to public pressure, but is making a solid business decision. Environmentalists are calling this a huge victory for the people of Utah.

Energy Solutions was hoping to import 20,000 tons of low level waste from Italy that would have been processed in Tennessee, and then the remaining 1,600 tons would have been held in storage in Utah. The company is hoping to consult with Italian nuclear power authorities to reach an agreement on opening a facility in Italy instead.
Fox13News, Salt Lake Tribune, Associated Press, 14 July 2010


Dangerous censorship. Russian authorities removed information on forest fires in radioactive contaminated regions from internet. Removing of important information may help officials to escape from responsibilities, but can not help to improve situation with forest fire.

On Augusts 13, the head of Russian Emergency Ministry Sergey Shoigu publicly demanded to stop the rumours about radiation danger as a result of forest fires in the region of Bryansk. Immediately after this statement, the governmental organization "Roslesozaschita", responsible for protecting forests, removed information about forest fire in radioactively contaminated zones in the west of Russia from its website. A week earlier, on August 6, "Roslesozaschita" officially announced that since June it registered 507 forest fires in regions partly radioactive contaminated. Moreover, the organization strongly recommended the authorities to inform local population about radiation danger. Also, "Roslesozaschita" it published a list of radioactively contaminated forests on fire (for instance 401 fires in the Chelyabinsk region)

"The Emergency Ministry and "Rosalesozaschita" are acting against Russian Constitution when removing information on fires in radioactively contaminated zones from public use. It is very well known that many fires already happened there and that radiation could be re-distributed into new areas. Instead of censorship, authorities must fully inform Russian citizens and other countries about radioactive danger in Chelyabinsk, Bryansk and other regions," said Vladimir Slivyak, co-chairman for the Russian environmental group Ecodefense.
Press-release Ecodefense, 14 August 2010


Sutyagin Freed in "Spy" Swap. After serving more than ten years of a 15 year sentence for espionage, Russian arms researcher Igor Sutyagin was freed on July 9 in what is being reported as the largest spy swap between the United States and Russia since the end of the Cold War. Sutyagin was not a spy, but reportedly shared sensitive information about Russian nuclear weapons from public sources with a London firm. His research drew the unwelcome attention of the FSB, Russia¹s secret police successor to the Soviet KGB. His case was taken up by human rights organizations, and the U.S. State Department declared he was a political prisoner. As part of the deal for his release, Sutyagin signed a confession. The Guardian (UK) reports that "Sutyagin's family said he maintained his innocence but agreed to the deal rather than face another four and half years in the 'harsh regime' of the penal colony at Kholmogory near Arkhangelsk." Sutyagin, a father of two girls, had been in prison since in arrest on October 27, 1999.
Nuclear Resister, 9 July 2010


Global Day of Action on Radioactive Waste.
US groups are calling for a radioactive waste action day on September 29, and would like it to be an international day of action! Aim is to push-back on new proposals that would expand radioactive waste production in both the civilian and military sectors

September 29 is the anniversary date for the worst radioactive waste accident (that we know of). In 1957 a tank of liquid, highly radioactive waste left from reprocessing nuclear fuel, exploded in a region of the Soviet Union called Kyshtym in the Ural Mountains of Siberia. The accident was kept secret for several decades, but we now know that it was at a secret nuclear reprocessing site called Mayak. This accident resulted in a regional disaster and a radioactive cloud that contaminated more than 300  square miles…many people received very high radiation exposures, some suffered acute radiation syndrome. Because of secrecy in the nuclear establishment it is not clear what exactly happened but estimates are at least 200 people died of “excess” cancer and scores of villages and towns were permanently abandoned due to the sever radioactive contamination.

Please sign up if you plan to participate so we can have a “master list” of coordinated action – and we can send you any materials we generate…

Contact: Mary Olson, Nuclear Information and Resource Service Southeast Office, PO Box 7586, Asheville, North Carolina  28802  USA.
Mail: maryo@nirs.org  
Or: Kevin Kamps. Radioactive Waste Watchdog, Beyond Nuclear. 6930 Carroll Avenue, Suite 400, Takoma Park, Maryland 20912, USA
Mail: kevin@beyondnuclear.org

National US grassroots summit on radwaste policy

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#713
09/07/2010
Mary Olson at NIRS
Article

On July 5, a group of seasoned anti-nuclear activists supported by an intergenerational community “crossed the line” in Oak Ridge in protest of the ramping up of nuclear weapons production the US. The 60th Anniversary year of the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is also the 30th anniversary of the Ploughshares 8 where faith activists walked into a General Electric facility and used hammers to literally “beat the swords” – the nose cone of a nuclear weapon – to ploughshares. Some three dozen peace activists were arrested at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant

The group of activists was celebrated at a weekend gathering in Tennessee along with two US based antinuclear support groups – Nukewatch based in Wisconsin and the publication The Nuclear Resister based in Arizona – both founded in 1980 and celebrating their 30 year mark as well. “Resistance for a Nuclear Free Future” drew more than 200 participants and as is typical for US anti-nuclear gatherings today was dominated by the over-60 crowd with a handful in the 40 – 60 range, joyfully laced with a contingent of youth, primarily from the growing “Think Outside the Bomb” network (see: http://www.thinkoutsidethebomb.org/ ).

While there was new information shared, the primary focus of the event was celebration of the long history of nuclear resistance activism in the US and in particular the staff of Nukewatch, The Nuclear Resister and the ongoing work of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance (OREPA) focused on Y-12, the one site of continuous industrial-scale nuclear weapons production in the US, in Oak Ridge.

One month before, another strategic gathering of activists met in Chicago: the National Grassroots Summit on Radioactive Waste Policy. A section of the event, devoted to education was entitled “A People’s History of Radioactive Waste” the balance of the Summit was peer-to-peer working groups with either a geographic or issue focus with a total of 26 peer-to-peer sessions held over three days. More than 90 people participated from 26 states resulting in seven regional working groups.

The purpose of the Summit was to initiate national-scope networking, coordination and collaboration within the US anti-nuclear and nuclear-focused communities in the wake of “destabilization” of national nuclear waste policy thanks to President Obama’s intent to cancel the Yucca dump.

Since the panel appointed by Energy Secretary Chu to formulate “post-Yucca” waste policy – (a still hoped for outcome as the question of whether Obama and the Department of Energy have the authority to cancel Yucca Mountain; a question likely to go all the way to the US Supreme Court -see box) does not have a single grassroots advocate or even nuclear critic, the Summit was called in part to form a national platform to watch-dog this group. The Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future (official name!) is almost exclusively nuclear industry operatives – including John Rowe, head of Exelon the largest US nuclear utility and former Senate Energy Committee Chair, Pete Domenici (R-NM retired), and the head of the trade union that would get many construction jobs. 

A key function of the Summit was to reaffirm that commitment that we are one community – that we share one “backyard” and that we will stand together rather than allowing the nuclear industry to “play” us against each other. One outcome of the Summit is renewed commitment to regional collaboration and networking for community-based education, engagement and action to stop any of the pro-industry proposals that the BRC is likely to endorse. Topping the list of these bad options is reprocessing which would be a reversal of nearly 40 years of prohibition of commercial plutonium separation in the US. 

Reprocessing and “centralized interim storage” of irradiated fuel (currently nearly all of this most radioactive waste is stored on the reactor site where it was generated) are somewhat interchangeable. A reprocessing site would offer a centralized location where waste would likely be stored prior to processing – and likewise, a centralized storage site might “invite” a reprocessing plant at a later date. Thus one of the strongest outcomes of the Summit was an affirmation towards the implementation of the Principles for Safeguarding Radioactive Waste at Reactors(*1). The core of this plan is to ensure that over-full fuel pools are emptied (except the hottest waste) and that dry containers are made more secure by being spread out, surrounded by earth barriers to reduce likelihood of attack, and fitted with real-time monitors. The Principles explicitly oppose making more radioactive waste and also oppose reprocessing the existing waste. This statement is the strongest consensus in the US anti-nuclear energy activist community and is supported by 283 organizations across 50 states. Two days of education and coordinated action to elevate the Principles are being planned. Hopefully international in scope, likely dates are September 29, anniversary of the terrible radioactive waste storage tank explosion in 1957 at Kyshtim and again in April on the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl devastation.

The Summit was cosponsored by Beyond Nuclear, Clean, Guacamole Fund, Loyola Student Environmental Alliance (the event was located at Loyola University), Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force  Nuclear Energy Information Service, and Nuclear Information and Resource Service.

(*1) The Principles for Safeguarding Radioactive Waste at Reactors can be found at http://brc.gov/pdfFiles/May2010_Meeting/Attachment%203_HOSS%20PRINCIPLES...

Fight over Yucca Mountain continues. The Obama Administration announced last year it would pursue other alternatives to the Yucca Mountain repository for the countries' high level waste. In March of this year, the Department of Energy (DOE) formally moved to withdraw its application to construct the facility by filing the request with the atomic licensing board. The three-member Atomic Safety and Licensing Board ruled on June 29 that the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 does not give the Energy secretary the discretion to substitute his policy for the one established by Congress in the act. “Unless Congress directs otherwise, DOE may not single-handedly derail the legislated decision-making process by withdrawing the Application,” said the board. The act requires a decision by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on the merits of the construction permit, added the board.

A DOE spokesperson said in a statement, “The Department remains confident that we have the legal authority to withdraw the application for the Yucca Mountain repository. We believe the administrative board’s decision is wrong and anticipate that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will reverse that decision.”
www.legaltimes.com, 2 July 2010

Source and contact: Mary Olson at NIRS

 

About: 
NIRSBeyond Nuclear

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#712
18/06/2010
Shorts

Russia to invest heavily in Namibia.
Russia is ready to invest US$1-billion in uranium exploration in Namibia. "We're ready to start investing already this year," the head of state corporation Rosatom, Sergei Kiriyenko, told journalists. Rosatom seeks to compete for projects with global miner Rio Tinto in the African country. Earlier in May, Russia and Turkey signed a US$20-billion project for Moscow to build and own a controlling stake in Turkey's first nuclear power plant.

Namibia, the world's fourth-largest uranium producer, is home to the Rossing mine operated by Rio Tinto, which together with Paladin Energy's Langer Heinrich mine accounts for about 10% of global output. Other firms have been joining the exploration drive, with several new mines due to come on stream in the next five years.

Although Russia plans to spent a lot of money on foreign nuclear projects, it is clear that there is not enough money to realize its domestic nuclear program. As described in Nuclear Monitor 707 the number of reactors planned to be built by 2015 will be cut by 60%. And even that number will be hard to build.
Reuters, 20 May 2010


UK: Decommissioning black hole.
The new U.K. Government will have to find an extra £4 billion for decommissioning and waste management at the UK civil nuclear. Energy minister Chris Huhne said: "as you can imagine, this is a fairly existential problem. The costs are such that my department is not so much the department of energy and climate change, as the department of nuclear legacy and bits of other things." He added that there were "genuine safety issues" so the costs could not be avoided. As a result, the Government is considering extending  the life of some of the UK's oldest reactors as a way of raising extra income for decommissioning. Extending the life of the reactors owned by the NDA would raise extra income. The Wylfa reactor on Anglesey, for example, is due to close at the end of the year, but extending its operating life for another two years would mean £ 500 million (US$ 736 million or 598 million euro) in new revenue. The NDA is also considering extending the life of the Oldbury reactor, first opened in 1968. Any application to extend the life of reactors would have to be approved by safety regulators.
N-Base Briefing, 9 and 16 June 2010


France: Subcontractors not in epidemiological surveys.
French antinuclear network 'Sortir du nucléaire' supports nuclear industry subcontractor and whistleblower Philippe Billard. As a spokesperson of the organisation 'Santé / Sous-traitance' (“Health and Subcontracting”), he has undergone some retaliation measures after having denounced workers exposure to radiation. As a  whistleblower, he’s now treated as persona non grata in nuclear power  plants. His employer refuses to re-instate him at his previous job, in  contradiction with the Labour Inspectorate’s recommendations.

The French antinuclear network “Sortir du nucléaire”, considers Philippe Billard’s ousting as a means to put pressure on whistleblower workers. “Sortir du nucléaire”  decided to bring its support to the workers who, just like Philippe Billard, suffer from the unbearable working conditions imposed by the nuclear industry and undergo irradiation without even receiving appropriate health care.

To protect its corporate image, EDF chose to give subcontractors the most dangerous tasks. These people working in the shadows have insecure jobs and are mostly temporary and/or nomad workers. Every year, 25,000 to 30,000 of them are made to carry out tasks where they are exposed to radiations. This system allows EDF to cover up a huge health scandal, since these subcontractors, who get 80% of the annual collective dose from the whole French nuclear park, are not taken into account in epidemiological surveys! (See: Annie Thébaud-Mony, « L’industrie nucléaire organise le non-suivi médical des travailleurs les plus exposés », Imagine, May-June 2007)

EDF is shamelessly multiplying talks on transparency while hushing up workers whistle blowing about the imminent catastrophe. In the ageing French nuclear park, the accident risk is increasing, all the more since maintenance periods are shortened in order to save time and money. However, the official motto remains “Nothing to report” and short-term profits are more important than common safety and security.
Press release 'Sortir du nucleaire', 31 May 2010


Switzerland: Thousands march against nuclear power.
More than 5,000 people gathered in Goesgen, canton Solothurn, in northern Switzerland on May 24, for a peaceful protest against the continuing development of nuclear energy in the country. The protest had participants from 83 groups in Switzerland, France, Germany and Austria. One of their key points was that Switzerland’s nuclear power plans are preventing the rapid development of alternative energy programs. The demonstration was one of the largest in last years.
www.menschenstrom.ch


Another subsidy for Areva in the U.S.
"As part of a broad effort to expand the use of nuclear power in the United States and reduce carbon pollution," the U.S. Department of Energy has approved a US$2 billion loan guarantee for French nuclear power developer Areva S.A. (owned for about 93 percent by the French State). The loan guarantee will support Areva's Eagle Rock Enrichment Facility near Idaho Falls, Idaho, which will supply uranium enrichment services for the U.S. nuclear power industry. Areva's US$3.3 billion nuclear enrichment facility will use centrifuge technology instead of gaseous diffusion technology that is more common in the U.S. but uses more energy. Areva had filed its application for the guarantee with the Department of Energy in September 2008.

The group can tap the guarantee once its Idaho Falls project has received full approval by the authorities. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is expected to decide sometime next year on a licence for the facility. Areva plans to have the plant in operation in 2014. 

The United Stated Enrichment Corporation (USEC) is also seeking a loan guarantee for its American Centrifuge Project under development at Piketon, Ohio. Following DOE's announcement the consensus would seem to be that 'd be bad news for USEC. But according to USEC spokesman Paul Jacobson that is not the case. Jacobson said USEC was encouraged that DOE recognizes the need for more enrichment services to supply the nuclear needs of the future. He also noted that DOE, as noted in the federal agency's press release, still has another US$2 billion in loan authority available. At one time, USEC was going head to head with Areva for the loan guarantees, and USEC played up the foreign-owned company versus domestic company, etc., but now the company -- on the public front at least -- seems to be focused on the nuclear renaissance and the idea that there's enough demand in the U.S. and abroad to support multiple new ventures in the enrichment arena.
U.S. DOE, 20 May 2010 / Reuters, 20 May 2010 / Atomic City Underground, 21 May 2010


EC: investigation non-compete clauses Areva, Siemens.
The European Commission has opened an antitrust case to determine whether non-compete clauses in civil nuclear technology arrangements between Areva of France and Germany's Siemens violate EU competition rules. The opening of antitrust proceedings on June 2, means that the EC thinks the case merits investigation. EC competition spokeswoman Amelia Torres said an investigation was triggered by a complaint from Siemens after Areva took full control last year of reactor construction and services company Areva NP, a joint venture originally set up by Framatome (which later became Areva) and Siemens in 2001. But non-compete clauses between the two companies remain, even though Siemens sold its 34% stake to Areva last year.

The shareholders' pact between Areva and Siemens for Areva NP is not public, but a French official familiar with it confirmed that it forbids either party from competing with the other in businesses covered by Areva NP for eight years after a potential divorce.

Siemens said in January 2009 that it intended to exercise its option, to sell its 34% stake in Areva NP to Areva and leave the joint venture. A few weeks later, Siemens said it had signed a memorandum of understanding on a nuclear power business partnership with Rosatom, a Russian state-owned nuclear conglomerate. After bilateral discussions failed to produce an agreement on the price at which Areva would buy the 34% stake in Areva NP, the erstwhile partners last year asked an arbitration court to decide the matter.

EC competition spokeswoman Amelia Torres said the investigation would be carried out by the EC at EU-level, rather than by national governments. There is no timescale for the investigation as this depends on the complexity of the case and the extent to which the parties cooperate. Torres said she was not able to prejudge whether a fine would be imposed if the arrangement were found to be in breach of competition rules.
Platts, 2 June 2010


U.K.: Waste costs 'not acceptable' for industry.
The nuclear industry has been heavily lobbying to change proposed charges for managing wastes from nuclear reactors. Papers released under Freedom of Information show how the French company EDF pressed the previous government to change the proposed 'high fixed cost' for managing wastes and the timetable for handing the management of wastes to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. The previous government made significant changes to the way it proposed changing companies for managing their wastes. It also agreed that responsibility for wastes should pass to the NDA after 60 years instead of the original 110 years. This would reduce the financial liabilities and costs for companies.

EDF told the government the original proposals were "non-acceptable" and made it uneconomic to develop new reactors.
N-Base Briefing 665, 9 June 2010


Chubu delays Hamaoka-5 restart after earthquake.
Japan: The Chubu Electric Power Company has extended the closure of its 1,380-megawatt Hamaoka No.5 reactor by a further two months to the end of July. Chubu Electric said the decision had been taken because the company is still analyzing why the impact of the August 11, 2009 earthquake on the reactor was greater than for other nuclear units. The company explained that, based on this measure of earthquake ground motion, the impact of the tremor was significantly higher than for other reactors. Chubu Electric will report its findings to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. It hopes to restart the reactor after METI and other government  agencies have agreed the report and local communities have consented to the restart of the reactor. The restart of the No. 5 reactor was originally planned for the end of December 2009, but pushed back several times.
Power in Asia 555,  27 May 2010


Bangladesh: cooperation agreement with Russia.
The government of Bagladesh has increased momentum for the installation of the country’s first nuclear power plant. The US$1.5-billion project will be built at Rooppur, about 300 kilometers from the capital Dhaka. A committee headed by the state minister for science and information and communication technology, Yafes Osman, has been constituted to implement the project. The 22-member committee, which has the chairman of the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission as its member secretary, will examine funding issues and assess the risks associated with the fiscal arrangements. It will also study nuclear waste management issues. Bangladesh plans to install the 2,000-megawatt plant (for US$1.5billion?) at Rooppur from 2017. It signed a five-year framework cooperation agreement with the Russian atomic energy company Rosatom in May, with the final agreement due to be signed during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to Moscow later in 2010.
Power in Asia 555, 10 June 2010


Go-ahead for Urenco's Eunice plant.
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has authorized the operation of the first cascade at Urenco's Louisiana Energy Services (LES) gas centrifuge enrichment plant at Eunice, New Mexico. LES is a wholly owned subsidiary of URENCO Ltd. Urenco said the process to bring the plant from construction status to fully operational will begin later in June. The Urenco USA plant (formerly the National Enrichment Facility)  will be the first commercial centrifuge enrichment plant to become operational in the USA. Urenco formally inaugurated the plant in early June. "At full capacity, the facility will produce sufficient enriched uranium for nuclear fuel to supply approximately 10% of the electricity needs for the US", according to the Urenco press release.
Urenco Press release, 11 June 2010

Obama brings back space nuclear power

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#712
6064
18/06/2010
Karl Grossman
Article

The Obama administration is seeking to renew the use of nuclear power in space. It is calling for revived production by the US of plutonium-238 for use in space devices -despite solar energy having become a substitute for plutonium power in space. And the Obama administration appears to also want to revive the decade-sold and long-discredited scheme of nuclear-powered rockets -despite strides made in new ways of propelling spacecraft.

In May, Japan launched what it called its space yacht which is now heading to Venus propelled by solar sails utilizing ionized particles emitted by the sun. "Because of the frictionless environment, such a craft should be able to speed up until it is traveling many times faster than a conventional rocket-powered craft," wrote Agence France-Presse about this spacecraft launched May 21.

But the Obama administration would return to using nuclear power in space despite its enormous dangers.

A cheerleader for this is the space industry publication Space News. "Going Nuclear" was the headline of its editorial on March 1 praising the administration for its space nuclear thrust. Space News declared that "for the second year in a row, the Obama administration is asking Congress for at least US$30 million to begin a multiyear effort to restart domestic production of plutonium-238, the essential ingredient in long-lasting spacecraft batteries."

The Space News editorial also noted "President Obama's NASA budget [for 2011] also includes support for nuclear thermal propulsion and nuclear electric propulsion research under a US$650 million Exploration Technology and Demonstration funding line projected to triple by 2013."

Space News declared: "Nuclear propulsion research experienced a brief revival seven years ago when then-NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe established Project Prometheus to design reactor-powered spacecraft. Mr. O'Keefe's successor, Mike Griffin, wasted little time pulling the plug on NASA's nuclear ambitions."

Being referred to by Space News, as "spacecraft batteries" are what are called radioisotope thermoelectric generators or RTGs, power systems using plutonium- 238 to provide on board electricity on various space devices including, originally, on satellites.

But this came to an end when in 1964 a U.S. Navy navigational satellite with a SNAP-9A (SNAP for Systems Nuclear Auxiliary Power) RTG on-board failed to achieve orbit and fell to the Earth, disintegrating upon hitting the atmosphere. The 2.1 pounds (1 pound is 453.6 grams) of plutonium fuel dispersed widely. A study by a group of European health and radiation protection agencies subsequently reported that "a worldwide soil sampling program carried out in 1970 showed SNAP-9A debris present at all continents and at all latitudes." Long linking the SNAP-9A accident to an increase of lung cancer in people on Earth was Dr. John Gofman, professor of medical physics at the University of California at Berkeley, who was involved in isolating plutonium for the Manhattan Project.

The SNAP-9A accident caused NASA to turn to using solar photovoltaic panels on satellites. All U.S. satellites are now solar-powered.

But NASA persisted in using RTGs on space probes -claiming there was no choice. This was a false claim. Although NASA, for instance, insisted -including in sworn court depositions- that it had no alternative but to use RTGs on its 1989, documents I subsequently obtained through the Freedom of Information Act from NASA included a study done by its Jet Propulsion Laboratory stating that solar photovoltaic panels could have substituted for plutonium-fueled RTGs.

And right now, the Juno space probe which will get its on board electricity only from solar photovoltaic panels is being readied by NASA for a launch next year to Jupiter. It's to make 32 orbits around Jupiter and perform a variety of scientific missions.

Meanwhile, in recent years facilities in the U.S. to produce plutonium-238 -hotspots for worker contamination and environmental pollution- have been closed and the US has been obtaining the radionuclide from Russia. Under the Obama 2011 budget, US production would be restarted. Last year, Congress refused to go along with this Obama request.

Source and contact: Karl Grossman
Email: kgrossman@hamptons.com

China: US - India deal justification for selling reactors to Pakistan

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#709
6050
12/05/2010
The GovMonitor.com and Carnegie Endowment For International Peace
Article

Contrary to guidelines adopted in 1992 by nuclear equipment supplier states in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), China is poised to export two power reactors to Pakistan. In April, Chinese officials said that export of the reactors to Pakistan would be justified in consideration of political developments in South Asia, including the entry into force of the U.S.–India deal and the Nuclear Suppliers Groups exemption for India. This transaction is about to happen at a time when China's increasingly ambitious nuclear energy program is becoming more autonomous.

Guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), representing 46 Non-Proliferation Treaty states, call on parties to the NPT not to supply nuclear equipment to non-nuclear-weapon states without comprehensive IAEA safeguards, including Pakistan. China joined the NSG in 2004.

The United States and other NSG states may object to the pending transaction but they cannot prevent China from exporting the reactors. Senior officials in NSG states friendly to the United States said in April they expect that President Barack Obama will not openly criticize the Chinese export because Washington, in the context of a bilateral security dialogue with Islamabad, may be sensitive to Pakistan's desire for civilian nuclear cooperation in the wake of the sweeping U.S.-India nuclear deal which entered into force in 2008 after considerable arm-twisting of NSG states by the United States, France, and Russia. The United States may also tolerate China's new nuclear deal with Pakistan because Obama wants China's support for United Nations Security Council sanctions against Iran this spring.

After years of bilateral disputes over nonproliferation issues, in 1998 the U.S. Congress allowed a 1985 Sino-U.S. nuclear cooperation agreement to enter into force. After that, U.S. nuclear cooperation with China dramatically increased, culminating in China's 2006 selection of a consortium of companies led by Westinghouse to build four AP1000 power reactors in China. Westinghouse bested bidders from France and Russia in a competition set up by China to determine which of the three would provide the technology blueprint for the future standardized development of China's nuclear power industry.

China chose Westinghouse after it agreed to transfer to China ownership of the technology for the new and untried 1,000-MW reactor. China then awarded contracts to Westinghouse and its partners to build four AP1000s in China. The first two are scheduled to be finished in 2013. Westinghouse scored another coup when in 2008 China selected AP1000 for China's first raft of inland power reactors.

Westinghouse's apparent emergence as first among foreign reactor vendors in China in 2006 was linked to the fortunes of the State Nuclear Power Technology Co. (Snptc). It was set up by China's State Council of Ministers to take charge of technology selection and transfer for China's future nuclear power program, after two decades during which China organized a handful of "boutique" reactor projects in cooperation with Canada, France, Japan, and Russia.

Shortly after China selected Westinghouse to shape its nuclear future, rival Areva made a separate deal with China to build two of its new EPR reactors in Guangdong Province in China's southeast, where French nuclear firms have been engaged since the late 1980s. Unlike Westinghouse, Areva also offered China a suite of fuel cycle technology options, and French officials hoped that a mammoth fuel cycle deal would coax China to continue building the EPR.

In the meantime, the ambitious construction schedule for the U.S.-designed reactors in China has come under heavy pressure. In part out of Chinese concern to keep construction on track, China's nuclear regulator, the National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA), will not agree to a proposal, favored by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and Westinghouse, to modify the design of the containment structure of the AP1000 to provide improved protection against an air crash. In the United States, NRC, after a design review prompted by post-9/11 concernsabout terrorist threats, asked Westinghouse to change the design of a shield building which is part of the containment and to use stronger materials. Westinghouse then urged China to also follow that advice.

China will not do that, Beijing officials said after consultations with Westinghouse and U.S. regulators. "China will build Revision 15," the AP1000 design version originally approved for construction in both the United States and in China, one official said. "It will not approve Revision 17," which incorporates the changes sought by NRC and Westinghouse, he said.

Changing the AP1000 design now would require construction in China to be halted and delayed. China also does not share NRC's view that a terrorist attack on reactors, using a hijacked passenger aircraft as a weapon, is a realistic enough scenario to warrant modifying the design.

The Westinghouse project has encountered other challenges which, so far, have not caused schedule delays. Last year, a key firm which is part of the technology transfer program, China First Heavy Industries (CFHI), failed to produce forgings to the required quality standard for the AP1000. Project executives said CFHI had difficulty handling the demanding steel material called for in critical components. The schedule was not set back because a Westinghouse partner in Korea, Doosan, had a stock of prototype forgings it had made earlier. The AP1000 has also encountered problems in main coolant pumps, which are of a unique design. Chinese officials said last year that further deployment of the AP1000 would depend on successful demonstration of these pumps, which were a critical feature of the passive cooling system billed as one of the key advantages of this reactor model. According to diplomats there have also been some Chinese bureaucratic delays for certain AP1000 project approvals.

Snptc also wants Westinghouse to increase the power of the reactor to 1,400 MW and then to 1,700 MW, matching the EPR. According to Snptc the 1,400-MW design will be ready for construction by 2013. Many foreign executives are skeptical that schedule will hold up.

Two years ago, China set up a brand new organization to take command of China's energy policy, including nuclear policy, the National Energy Administration (NEA). It is headed by Zhang Guobao, who strongly favors nuclear power development and who is also Vice-Chairman of China's leading planning agency, the National Development and Reform Council (NDRC).

NEA-which is staffed by about 170 experts, including fewer than 20 responsible for nuclear matters--cooperates with NDRC on setting planning targets, but NEA decides which reactors will be built, at what sites, and which state-owned enterprises will get contracts. It, Chinese officials said last month, will favor construction of more CPRs, and will also support China's biggest nuclear SOE, the China National Nuclear Corp. (CNNC) with a total payroll of over 100,000, in exporting more reactors to Pakistan.

China has long assisted Pakistan's nuclear energy program. In 1991 CNNC contracted with the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) to build Chashma-1, a 325 MW power reactor. It was finished and began operating in 2000.

In 2004, China joined the NSG. China then explained to the NSG that a longstanding framework agreement with Pakistan committed China to provide a second reactor, Chashma-2, more research reactors, plus supply of all the fuel in perpetuity for these units. Chashma-2 construction began in 2005. Chashma-2 is scheduled to be finished in 2011. To keep CNNC at work in Pakistan thereafter, CNNC and PAEC negotiated terms for two 650-MW reactors, Chashma-3 and -4.

In 2006 Pakistan urged China to approve the new project but China was not keen to do so. Pakistan diplomats said then China was holding back because it was not clear that the U.S.-India nuclear cooperation deal would be approved by both governments and by the NSG.

After the U.S.-India deal was approved and India's NSG exemption entered into force without any Chinese objections in 2008, China's policy evolved to support demands by Pakistan for compensation, but China did not expressly advocate awarding Pakistan a broad exemption from NSG trade sanctions matching India's.

NSG country representatives said in late April they expect that the Obama administration will accept a limited amount of additional Chinese nuclear commerce with Pakistan as a price for getting Chinese support on UN Security Council sanctions against Iran in weeks ahead. Some suggested that the United States would also enlist China in this regard to persuade Pakistan to drop its opposition to negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, which Pakistan has said it could not accept because the U.S.-India deal had tilted the nuclear balance in South Asia in India's favor.

As long as Pakistan resists outside initiatives which would limit the autonomy of its strategic nuclear program, and because China is believed to be hiding behind Pakistan in avoiding making a firm FMCT commitment in light of China's strategic dilemmas with the United States, it is doubtful whether China would have effective influence on Pakistani decisions to halt fissile material production.

Senior NSG diplomats said this month that they expect that soon after China has completed political and contractual arrangements for the reactor sale to Pakistan, China will inform the NSG of its planned transaction. The matter could then be taken up by the NSG as an agenda item or point of business at a future NSG meeting. So far no NSG meetings are scheduled in 2010 prior to an annual plenary meeting in New Zealand in late June.

The U.S. State Department, in line with its response to a 1998 reactor export from Russia to India, continues to hold that a new reactor export by China to Pakistan would be contrary to both NSG and U.S. policy, but whether the United States would record an objection at the NSG or encourage other NSG states to do so would be up to President Obama following interagency discussions and consultation with foreign governments including Pakistan and China.

Chinese officials said in April that export of the reactors to Pakistan would be justified in consideration of political developments in South Asia, including the entry into force of the U.S.-India deal and the NSG exemption for India.

Source: The GovMonitor.com and Carnegie Endowment For International Peace

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Chashma-1Chashma-2Chashma-3Chashma-4

USA: groups urge NRC to suspend nucelar licensing AP1000

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#709
6052
12/05/2010
Mary Olson - NIRS
Article

On April 21, twelve national and regional environmental organizations called upon U.S. nuclear regulators to launch an investigation into newly identified flaws in Westinghouse’s new reactor design. The coalition asked three federal agencies to suspend the AP1000 reactor from licensing and taxpayer loan consideration.

The newly discovered design flaw is tied to documentation of dozens of corrosion holes being found in existing U.S. reactor containments, which recently has raised concern at the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS), an independent arm of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Containment buildings are vital barriers against radiation releases during nuclear accidents.

“The proposed AP1000 containment design is inherently less safe than current reactors,” said Arnold Gundersen, former senior vice-president at Nuclear Energy Services PCC. Westinghouse did not analyze the scenario for failure containment warned of by Gundersen. He continued, “Westinghouse has ignored the long history of previous containment failures that indicate there is a high likelihood that the AP1000 containment might be in a failed condition [one or more undetected holes] before an accident begins. The containment leakage problem is exacerbated because the AP1000 is specifically intended to function as a chimney – to pull air up and release it through the top of the building.”
 
Gundersen, a 38-year engineering veteran of the nuclear power industry, produced a 32-page technical report(*1) detailing a history of holes and cracks found at operating nuclear plants. Such corrosion problems, if coupled with the experimental “passive” emergency cooling feature in the AP1000, could accelerate and greatly increase the early release of radiation during an accident. Gundersen’s report is backed by engineer and corrosion specialist Rudolf Hauser.

Based on the report, the coalition urged NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko to suspend license reviews of 14 proposed AP1000 reactors pending the ACRS investigation. They also urged Secretary of Energy Chu and the White House Office of Management and Budget to drop plans for taxpayer funding for the reactor due to increasing risks of projects failing in midstream. In February, the Obama Administration awarded US$8.33 billion (6.5 billion euro) in controversial taxpayer-financed loans (with a public guarantee to cover default) to an AP1000 project at Southern Company’s Vogtle plant in Waynesboro, Georgia.

Gundersen’s analysis shows that even a three-quarter inch hole in the AP1000 reactor building could, under pressure from a pipe break or other accidents, result in a large and unfiltered radiation release because the building is deliberately intended to move air and heat into the atmosphere during an emergency. That heat removal – via a gap between an inner metal containment and the outer shield building – is the very feature Westinghouse touts as its principal safety upgrade.

Gundersen explained why the probability of a radiation accident is higher with the AP1000: “Existing data shows that containment system failure occurs with moisture and oxygen.” He explained today that for the AP1000 design, leakage from the emergency water tank located above the reactor, testing the tank and/or atmospheric humidity will create, within the gap between liners, “a constant environment of moisture and oxygen that may, in fact, provoke a through-wall containment failure in locations that are difficult or impossible to inspect.”

“The Obama Administration should put the brakes on. The consequences of containment failure at Plant Vogtle would be devastating,” said Lou Zeller, Science Director for the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League. “We call upon Energy Secretary Chu and NRC Chairman Jaczko to recall the dangerously flawed AP1000 design before accidents occur and more tax dollars are wasted.”

A number of organizations are contesting design and licensing efforts of 14 AP1000s at seven sites across the Southeast. Also, four AP1000s are under construction in China, with more planned there and in India.

At least 77 instances of containment system degradation have occurred at operating US reactors since 1970. That includes eight through-wall holes or cracks in steel containments – two discovered in 2009 – and 60 instances of corrosion that thinned the liner walls below the allowable thickness. In addition to the ACRS, nuclear experts in Europe have recently expressed concern about the likelihood of containment failures at aging plants.

"The AP1000 flaw identified in this report puts into further question the reality of the so-called 'nuclear renaissance.' If Vogtle's proposed new reactors are the flagship of the nuclear industry's claimed resurgence, then everyone needs to pay closer attention because not only are billions of dollars at risk but so is the potential safety of communities living near these proposed new reactors," said Sara Barczak, High Risk Program Director with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Although Westinghouse and nuclear utilities such as Duke Energy, Progress Energy and others contend that the AP1000 design was “pre-certified” by the NRC in 2006, in the past two years the NRC has identified a daunting list of design problems involving major components and operating systems, resulting in eighteen revisions to the design. Thus, cost estimates for some of the projects have doubled or tripled. Last October the NRC stunned observers by rejecting the reactor building for its potential inability to withstand high winds and the weight of the emergency water tank.

“The so-called nuclear revival is in real trouble, so it’s no wonder the industry insists on socializing the risks,” said Mary Olson of Nuclear Information and Resource Service. “President Obama and Congress seem clueless to the construction failures occurring in Europe and design problems in the U.S. It’s tragic that industry’s lobbying money has blinded them into efforts to risk 54 billion public dollars for nuclear plants, while a fraction of that amount could help America move quickly into genuine climate protection through clean, efficient energy.”

*1 See www.fairewinds.com/reports for the engineer’s report and graphic illustrations of the chimney-effect during an accident.
 

Source: Press release 'AP1000 Oversight Group', 21 April 2010
Contact: Mary Olson at NIRS
Tel: +1 828 252-8409

About: 
NIRS South East

Florida Levy reactors: more delays and rising costs

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#709
6048
12/05/2010
Article

Progress Energy has announced that it has postponed major construction activities at the proposed Levy nuclear power plant in Florida until it has received a licence for the plant.

At the same time, the estimated cost for the project has increased by up to US$5 billion to an estimated total of US$22,5 billion for two Westinghouse AP1000 (both 1105 MWe). Remember, actual construction has not even started and a license is now expected not before late 2012.

The company said that it has delayed work for several reasons, including: the need to reduce capital spending to avoid short term rate increases; a recent downgrading to Progress Energy Florida's credit ratings; a delay in the licensing timeline; the current economic climate; and continued uncertainty about federal and state energy policies, including carbon regulation.

Levy units 1 and 2 - both Westinghouse AP1000 reactor units - were originally expected to begin operating in 2016 and 2017, respectively. However, in May 2009, Progress announced a schedule change for the project after regulators ruled that no excavation may take place ahead of full permission to build. Commercial operation of the two 1105 MWe reactors were pushed back by "a minimum of 20 months."

Rising costs
The company has filed nuclear cost for 2010 and projected costs for 2011 with the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC). These include costs for the proposed Levy plant and an uprate project at unit 3 of its existing Crystal River plant. For 2011, the company is seeking to recover US$164 million in nuclear costs. If the PSC approves Progress' 2011 nuclear cost estimates as filed, the company estimates the average residential customer would pay US$5.53 per month on a 1000 kilowatt-hour bill (US$4.99 for Levy and 54 cents for Crystal River) beginning with January 2011 bills. That is 21% lower than the US$6.99 per month customers currently pay (US$6.78 for Levy and 21 cents for Crystal River).

Meanwhile, Progress said that its current estimate for the cost of the proposed Levy plant is between US$17.2 billion and US$22.5 billion. This cost includes land, transmission lines, fuel and financing costs. The company had previously put the estimated cost as up to US$17.2 billion.

Progress says that, according to the current schedule, it expects the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to issue the combined construction and operating licence (COL) for Levy in late 2012.

Source: World Nuclear news, 7 May 2010
Contact: NIRS

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NIRS

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