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Another blow for nuclear: AREVA's financial woes

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

In 2009, multinational financial services corporation Citigroup called nuclear power – with its skyrocketing costs, disastrous economics and dependence on public bailouts – a "corporate killer". Now, in 2011, are we witnessing the slow death of one of the world’s largest nuclear companies? French nuclear giant Areva (the French state owns 87 per cent of the company), which designs, builds and exports nuclear reactors is in big financial trouble.

On December 13, Areva announced that operating losses for this year could reach 1.6 billion euro (US$ 2.1 bn), primarily as a result of the Fukushima disaster on the value of its uranium mining operations, and that it is sacking up to 1,500 workers in Germany, reducing jobs through attrition in France, freezing wages, and selling some assets while reducing the value of others. Areva will also cut its dividends to investors and its global investment for the next four years by a third. Not only that, the company is suspending planned "capacity extensions" at four nuclear sites in France and scale back planned investment at uranium mines in Africa. Central to Areva’s financial woes is a provision for an asset write-down of US$1,97 billion for property and equipment at its UraMin operations, which include Trekoppje in Namibia, as well as Bakouma in the Central African Republic and Ryst Kuil in South Africa. In addition, Areva slashed its uranium resource estimates at Trekkopje by nearly 42 per cent, the Trekkopje deposit is now estimated to carry only 26 000 tons of uranium – down from 45 200 tons previously. Trekkopje was expected to reach full capacity next year, producing 3 000 tons of uranium a year. In February this year, however, Areva said full production would be delayed until 2013, because of the “complexity” of the project.

Eagle Rock
Areva chief executive Luc Oursel also announced to halt work at its Eagle Rock enrichment plant near Idaho Falls in the US. Oursel's move to stop work at the Eagle Rock plant abandons an effort which includes an NRC license granted in October to build and operate the plant and a conditional commitment by the U.S. Department of Energy for a US$2 billion loan guarantee. The total cost of the plant is estimated to be between US$2.5 and US$3 billion. The federal loan guarantee covers US$2 billion of the costs. Oursel says that if the project is economically viable, investors will be found for the remaining US$1 billion. In October Areva postponed ground breaking to spring 2012. Its U.S. office assured the media that it planned to move ahead with the project saying that it was too late in the year to mobilize a contractor in the face of the oncoming harsh Idaho winter. Economic development leaders in Idaho Falls were skeptical having long experience with that environment. However, they had little choice but to accept the firm's explanation. And the combination of the NRC license and loan guarantee made the plant look like a sure thing from a financial perspective.

Besides the shut down of Trekkopje, (an announcement every informed mining analyst was expecting for some months) Areva also announced the shut down of their South American, West African and South African operations. In a comprehensive statement,  Areva says it will reconsider its entire uranium operation conducted under Uramin. While the statement is full of legalese and mineralogical terminology, the message it conveys is that Areva has lost money by the billions and is forced to reconsider and reconsolidate its financial position before re-opening any of their uranium operations. The overall tone is negative.

The company paid 1.8bn Euro for UraMin, a Canada-based company with assets in Namibia, the Central African Republic and South Africa, when uranium was about US$138 a pound. Today the commodity used to power atomic reactors is trading at about US$50 after demand slumped following this year's nuclear disaster in Japan.

Hubris vs. Nemesis
So, what is happening to Areva? Simply put, with the likes of Germany, Belgium, Italy and Switzerland turning their backs on nuclear power, and public opinion hardening against nuclear power in the aftermath of Fukushima (not least in Areva's native France), the company is facing a fast dwindling number of countries willing to buy its massively expensive and incredibly complex nuclear reactors. It’s currently building four of its next generation EPRs (European –often mentioned Evolutionary- Pressurised Reactors) in Finland, France and China. The Finnish and French reactors are years behind schedule and billions of euros over budget. Meanwhile, the two EPRs being built in China are suffering the same construction defects and safety concerns. (see Nuclear Monitor 735, October 21 2011)

It’s a classic case of hubris meeting nemesis. Areva bet the farm by hoping it would sell 50 new nuclear reactors this decade. It hasn’t received a single order for a reactor since 2007. Apart from the UK, whose own nuclear reactors are increasingly delayed, nobody in Europe wants to buy Areva reactors. Areva hopes to sell the EPR to India but the country’s nuclear power ambitions are currently strongly opposed by the public and liability in case of nuclear accidents. Add to that the global financial situation (there has yet to be a nuclear reactor anywhere in the world built without public cash which is in short supply right now) and it doesn’t add up to a recipe for nuclear success.

The company plans to cut new capital investment to 7.7bn euro between 2012 and 2016, a reduction of around a third on investment over the previous five years. This could represent a blow to the UK's plans for a new fleet of nuclear reactors, given that Areva was one of the main firms expected to support new projects.

Areva's new chief executive Luc Oursel was appointed in June after the Fukushima accident forced Areva to drop its financial targets and as its long-serving CEO Anne Lauvergeon was battling with project delays and cost overruns, and a public spat with nuclear giant EDF. Oursel said on December 13, he expected Areva to win 10 new orders for the EPR between 2012 and 2016.

Source: Financial Times (UK), 13 December 2011 / Reuters, 13 December 2011 / / Idaho Samizdat: Nuke Notes, blog, 13 December 2011 /, 13 December 2011 / The Namibian, 14 December 2011 / Nuclear reaction, Greenpeace blog, 16 December  2011 / Namibia Economist, 16 December 2011
Contact: Reseau Sortir du nucleaire, 9 rue Dumenge, 69317 Lyon cedex 04, France.
Email: contact[at]

WISESortir du Nucleaire

Areva: layoffs and restructuring

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

Unions at nuclear reactor maker Areva fear up to 4,000 staff, or 10 percent, will lose their jobs as part of a massive restructuring program that is to be set up in reaction to a drop in demand caused by the German nuclear phase-out and the Fukushima disaster. Areva is "world leader in nuclear power", active in 45 countries, but 38% of it's revenues and 63% of workforce is in France. Areva is expected to present a plan in December on a rethink of its corporate strategies in the wake of the Japanese disaster.

On October 25, after weeks of rumors Areva announced its intention to close its subsidiary  FBFC (Franco-Belge de Fabrication du Combustible) Dessel MOX-fuel plant in Belgium due to “a decrease of demand in Western Europe and an over-capacity on the market”. FBFC operates plants in Dessel (with a capacity of 500 mt a year) and in Romans, France (1,400 mt/y). Total demand supports production of only 1,000 mt/y, Areva said. That is more than Dessel can support alone; in addition, the Belgian plant does not make uranium oxide powder, which it has to import from the Romans facility. Management of FBFC International had informed the labor-management committee at Dessel that it intended to gradually phase out activities there, Areva said. This phase-out, if it is confirmed, would begin by halting fuel assembly fabrication, which supports 120 jobs, in early 2012. Rod assembly and dismantling activities could continue until 2015, Areva said, preserving 30 jobs.

In another move, Areva suspended work on developing the Bakouma mine, which is estimated to hold about 32,000 tons of uranium, in the Central African Republique “until the market value of the commodity rises again”, an Areva spokesman. The price of uranium subsequently dropped by about 30 per cent, at a time when Areva was hoping for a global nuclear power renaissance.

Areva began development works at the mine under a deal signed in 2007 and to date has spent 106 million euros (US$146 million) on developing the site. The 2007 deal ended friction between Areva and the country's authorities, who had handed mining rights to British-Canadian firm UraMin in 2006. Areva bought out UraMin in July 2007 to the displeasure of the government, which said the "irregular" sale showed "disregard for the rights and interests" of the Central African people.....

Areva shares
The price of Areva shares decreased extremely after Fukushima. The highest price in the last year was on February 14 (37.90 euro), the price of one Areva ordinary share on November 7, was 20.15 euro, so it had lost 40% of its value.

Sources: RTBF & Platts, 25 October 2011 / Reuters, 21 October 2011 / SMH, 3 November 2011 / Dow Jones, 4 November 2011 /, 10 November 2011
Contact: Reseau Sortir du nucleaire, 9 rue Dumenge, 69317 Lyon cedex 04, France.
Email: contact[at]

Sortir du Nucleaire

EPR construction in China: same problems

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

Finland’s English-language news desk, YLE , has obtained evidence of problems in the construction of a nuclear power plant being built in China by Areva. The French company is building a reactor of the same model as Finland's Olkiluoto, which has experienced similar shortcomings. Meanwhile, costs of Olkiluoto are now estimated at 6.6 billion euro. The price mentioned (and decided on) in Finnish Parliament was 2,5 billion euro, the initial contract for Olkiluoto 3 was 3 billion euro.

The first two European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) construction projects at Olkiluoto and in Flamanville, France, have been plagued by problems. Now it turns out that there have been similar setbacks with another EPR project, a double reactor in Taishan, southern China, near Hong Kong. YLE has obtained inspection reports from China's National Nuclear Safety Administration based on visits in 2009, as construction was beginning there. The results are familiar to observers of the Finnish and French ventures.

When building work began on the new, third reactor at Olkiluoto, the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK) detected quality-control shortcomings in areas such as concrete pouring. In 2005 and 2006, it also found that some subcontractors were inexperienced, documentation was incomplete and that there were linguistic difficulties among the workforce, 80 percent of whom are foreigners. Four years later, the list of problems at Taishan is very similar: concrete quality problems, unqualified or inexperienced subcontractors, shortcomings in documentation and language problems.

Areva has not learned from its mistakes, according to Greenpeace. "There seem to be serious ongoing problems in the company's safety culture," says Greenpeace energy specialist Jehki Härkönen. "This is their third such project, and exactly the same mistakes are being made as in the past."

STUK, the Finnish nuclear safety watchdog, declines to draw conclusions about Areva based on the Chinese report, as Areva is just a subcontractor in Taishan. However when STUK was shown the report by YLE, it immediately requested further details from the Chinese. STUK Director Petteri Tiippana says that the allegations are serious. "If there are insufficient language skills, there can be problems," he told YLE. "If builders are not qualified, it can lead to shortcomings in quality. The Chinese authorities are drawing attention to exactly the right issues."The success of Areva's projects is a crucial question in Finland, as it is one of the main contenders to build the planned Fennovoima reactor in Pyhäjoki.

Further delays Olkiluoto
Finnish nuclear company Teollisuuden voima (TVO) announced officially that the Olkiluoto 3 EPR cannot achieve grid connection before 2014. At that point, OL3 would be five years late from the original four year planned construction time and it would have taken twelve years years from gaining license to operation. However, further delays are still possible.

TVO cites problems with the I&C system as the main reason and delays with wiring and piping as secondary reasons.

Areva has yet to comment on the issue. On October 10 CEO Luc Oursel was still boasting his plan to build new nukes in Finland. TVO has asked Areva to come up with new timeline for finishing the project. The delay announcements are usually followed by increased cost estimates, which currently is at 5.9 billion euros. And indeed, on October 12, the French daily Les Echos was citing a report stating the costs for Areva are expected to 6.6 billion euro (US$ 9.1 billion).

But this number can still be an underestimation of the real price considering the evidence that cheap labour is being employed at the construction site. At worst, some Polish workers are paid less than two euros an hour. The roughly 250 euro monthly salary is printed on pay slips obtained by YLE. The Finnish Electrical Workers' Union says this is not an isolated case, but TVO says it has no evidence of pay irregularities. But it plans to look into its subcontractors. The Finnish Construction Trade Union previously voiced concerns regarding subcontracting chains at Olkiluoto that are difficult to trace.

Areva appealed to the Finnish utility firm TVO for "intense cooperation and mutual commitment" during the testing phase for Okliuoto 3. In a statement it said that commissioning the reactor would require "significant efforts from all parties" after TVO earlier on the same day (Oct. 12) blamed Areva for further delays to the construction of the nuclear plant.

Source: YLE (, 23 September & 11 October 2011 / Jehki Härkönen, climate & energy campaigner Greenpeace Nordic, Helsinki, Finland, 12 October 2011 / Reuters, 12 October 2011
Contact: Jehki Harkonen, Greenpeace Finland.
Email: jehki.harkonen[at]


Uranium activists arrested in Central African Republic

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

Six uranium activists were arrested and imprisoned without charge in the Central African Republic on September 16. After a week in detention, during which it was insinuated that the activists were involved in terrorist activities, espionage, and/or general destabilizing of the country, all were released.  

The activists were on their way to a workshop in Bakouma, where French nuclear company AREVA owns a uranium mine, when they were halted by armed military forces. Without being informed about the reason for arrest, they were transported back to the country’s capital Bangui, interrogated, and immediately detained. 

Purpose of the activists travelling to Bakouma was to organise a workshop for local citizens and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to inform them about the social, economic, and environmental impacts of uranium mining.

Upon arrest, the authorities claimed that the activists were not authorised by the Ministry of Mining to travel to Bakouma. In fact, the activists had demanded and received permission from the Ministry previous to their trip – even though the authorisation was officially only needed for the one foreigner in the group of activists. This surprising and obviously erroneous claim by the authorities make one wonder what the real reasons for the arrest might have been.

Infrequent uranium exploration activities have been conducted in the region since decades. Although ore grades at the Bakouma deposit are relatively high compared to some other African mining sites, the infrastructural and political situation made the Central African deposit less attractive for commercial mining operations.

Until today, only French nuclear company AREVA has opened a uranium mine in Bakouma. The Central African government, desperate to attract any kind of foreign investment into the economically underdeveloped country, was hoping for the first uranium production to be realised by 2010. However, despite government pressure and promises by AREVA, the French still have not shown much interest in starting production.

Meanwhile, the habitants of the region remain uninformed about the developments taking place at government and company level. Local populations live in a remote area where access to education, services, health care and justice is absolutely minimal. Scarce and biased information is provided by government and industry.

With the aim to inform the communities about mining hazards, NGOs based in Bangui are making efforts to get access to the Bakouma population. For information and support, the Central African NGOs are supported by various international organisations. The arrested activists were representatives of the Organisation Centrafricaine pour la Défense de la Nature, l’Observatoire Centrafricain des Droits de l’Homme, the Groupement des Agriculteurs pour la Lutte contre la Désertification et la Pauvrété, the Association pour la Protection Environnementale et le Développement Durable, the Association Centrafricaine des Professionnels en Evaluation Environnementale, and Capacity for Development.

As serious problems related to uranium mining operations are undoubtedly occurring in the Central African Republic – lack of public participation, radiological and toxic contamination of the mining area, neglect of human rights, etc – the Central African human rights and environmental experts who were arrested are receiving much support from foreign organisations, who offer their expertise and support. Organisations such as Capacity for Development (Belgium), CED (Cameroon) and Croissance Saine Environnement (Gabon), along with other organisations, are actively involved in empowering the Central African organisations, and are closely monitoring the Central African developments.

Now that the Central African activist movement to struggle for more information, more public participation, and better protection of environment and humans, becomes better-organised and more powerful, it seems that the Central African government are not so pleased with this new, more mature civil society: hence the arrest of the activists. AREVA, equally, has proven to find it difficult to accept the role of civil society in decision-making on mining activities. The company has not shown much willingness to keep Central African citizens informed and to communicate openly with NGOs.

Meanwhile, the activists do not at all seem discouraged by the unexpected turn of events. Fiercefully claiming their rights and confronting their authorities, while enjoying support and protection by the international community, it is expected that the activists will continue to enhance public participation and disclosure of information in the Central African Republic.

The prisoners were suddenly released on September 22. One of the activists, a foreigner, forcibly returned to Europe. All other activists, of Central African nationality, remain in the country. The Central African activists are planning to discuss their arrest with the authorities and will seek clarification from them. It is still unknown when the activists will attempt once again to reach the communities in Bakouma.

Sources: personal contact with involved activists
Contact: WISE Amsterdam


The troubled recent history of nuclear power in South Africa

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Greenpeace South Africa

Six days after the nuclear catastrophe at Fukushima in Japan in March 2011, South Africa’s Minister of Energy Dipuo Peters declared her country’s intention to add 9,600 MW of nuclear electricity - or six new nuclear reactors. On September 15 she said she had signed off on a proposal for new nuclear power plants and said it would be presented to cabinet soon. Peters said she expects the cabinet to decide on the plan by the end of this year and the bid process to start early in 2012. The last attempt to build a nuclear plant, led by state-owned power utility Eskom, was scratched on funding woes.

Speaking at the second regional conference on energy and nuclear power in Africa in Cape Town on May 30 this year, Ms Peters went even further, trumpeting the development of a nuclear-export market to the rest of Africa, supported by both the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the African Union.

South Africa spent 13 years pursuing the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor, wasting billions of rands in the process (R9-billion was spent on research and development and another R22-billion would have been needed to complete a demonstration model) as investors across the world shied away from having anything to do with it. Eventually the state cancelled the project and wrote off the monies it had spent. The government and its wholly owned power utility Eskom remain hell bent on securing what it believes will be a cheap and sustainable nuclear solution for its energy supply crisis.

By 2006, South Africa was beginning to run short of power generation capacity. It was clear that the PBMR would not be available to order for a long time. Eskom began to talk about ordering ‘conventional’ nuclear power plants. First in line were the EPR supplied by the French company, Areva and the AP1000 supplied by the Japanese owned company, Westinghouse. Eskom’s implication was that such designs were well proven. In fact, at that point, only one order had been placed for an EPR and none for the AP1000. By 2011, there were four orders for EPRs, two for China, one for France and one for Finland and four for AP1000s, all for China. None of these orders were in service by 2011 and the two EPR orders for France and Finland were seriously over budget and late.

In 2006, the South African government forecast that a new unit could be on-line between 2010 and 2012. By mid-2007, Eskom was targeting construction of 20,000 MW of new nuclear capacity by 2025, although completion of the first unit had slipped to 2014. It expected an overnight construction cost of US$2,500/kW. (Overnight cost is the cost of a construction project if no interest was incurred during construction, as if the project was completed "overnight.")

In January 2008, Eskom received two bids in reply to its call for tenders from November of the previous year for 3,200-3,400 MW of new nuclear capacity in the near term and up to 20,000 MW by 2025. One bid was from Areva for two EPRs (plus 10 more for the long-term) and the other from Westinghouse for the three AP1000s (plus 17 more in the long term).

It was later reported that the bids were for around US$6,000/kW (overnight) – more than double the expected price. It was therefore no surprise when Eskom abandoned the tender in December 2008 on the grounds that the magnitude of the investment was too much for it to handle. This was despite the willingness of Coface, the French government’s loan guarantee body, to offer export credit guarantees and despite Areva’s claims that it could have arranged 85% of the financing.

Eskom in crisis
Three weeks into January 2008, Eskom had hit a brick wall. It could no longer meet all the country’s electricity demands without melting the national grid. Eskom turned to the bulk users, and appealed to them to ration their demand. Even so, for some months the country faced a series of electricity outages (euphemistically called “load shedding”). Not only was this a blow to businesses, agriculture, schools, hospitals and households, but it coincided with global recession.

Eskom had also run out of money and its credit ratings were reduced. Eskom could no longer afford to invest in new infrastructure, without massive extra income. It would take three years before it could make new orders, and until then the board was saying no to new investments. The biggest blow to the nuclear industry was the decision to scrap the tender process for Nuclear-1, the first of a number of new large-scale reactors. The government had to inform vendors Areva and (Toshiba-owned) Westinghouse that their bids would not be considered for the meantime. The policy was not being suspended, but the orders were temporarily shelved.

Newly appointed CEO Brian Dames tried to rebuild Eskom’s reputation and finances. A big hurdle was the steady loss in Eskom’s credit ratings. Eskom hoped to raise electricity tariffs substantially, despite this being opposed by the trade union movement and other sections of civil society. The National Energy Regulator reduced Eskom’s application for 35% increases for three years to 25%, amounting to a doubling of tariffs over the same period, hitting poor and middle-class households, who objected strongly to the sweetheart commercial deals which Eskom had made in the past with smelters and other large users to be charged minimal tariffs.

The government then guaranteed Eskom’s massive investment in two giant coal-fired power stations. Medupi, the first of the two to be built, will be funded by the World Bank despite the enormous carbon emissions the 4,800 MW plant will produce. The loan of US$3,75 billion, was strongly opposed by local NGOs, and even caused countries like the Netherlands, Britain, the US, Norway and Italy to abstain from voting at the bank’s decision making committee.

To help Eskom get funding for its future nuclear power stations, companies like Areva have said they will help to intercede with the French government to release development finance. The potential Chinese bidders for Nuclear-1 (China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group) have linked up with the Standard Bank of South Africa, 20% owned by a Chinese bank (Industrial and Commercial Bank of China), in order to assist Eskom to purchase future reactors.

As a result, Eskom’s financial woes are less of an obstacle to re-launching the bids for Nuclear-1.

2010 onwards
The South African government seemed to assume that cheap reactors can be found, if only they could be identified. This led it to look at a design offered by Korea, which had won four orders for the Unityed Arab Emirates (UAE) with a bid worth about US$4,000/kW (overnight costs), well below the levels offered by Areva and Westinghouse, but 60% above the level assumed by the South African government in 2006.

Despite the precariousness of the Korean option, the South African government has had discussions with the Korean government about the supply of such reactors.

The other design being considered by South Africa is the one that makes up the majority of Chinese orders. China dominates the world market for nuclear power plants accounting for 25 out of 38 of the reactors on which construction has started since January 2008. Of the 25, 19 are supplied by Chinese companies and this CPR-1000 design is based on the design China imported from France in the 1980s. This is the same design as is already installed at Koeberg. Some updating will have taken place, for example taking advantage of better IT equipment, but it is clear that it is fundamentally a 40 year old design. The South African government has also been talking to the Chinese government about importing such reactors.

However, a number of assumptions seem to underlie this attempt:
• That the reactors would be much cheaper than more modern designs, partly because they are older and partly because they would be manufactured in China;
• That China has the spare component manufacturing capacity to export plants; and,
• That the NNR would be comfortable licensing a design that fell well short of the requirements of Western regulators, for example on protection against impact by aircraft.

Eskom seems remote from this process and it is not clear whether it supports the idea of importing older technology. As with its reservations with the PBMR, Eskom could be uncomfortable raising any concerns about South African government policy.

The lessons from the Fukushima disaster in March 2011 have yet to be fully identified, but there does seem to be a strong probability that older designs will be seen, worldwide, not just in the West, as inadequate for new orders. In particular, designs with a greater level of ‘passive’ safety – ones that in an emergency situation do not require the operation of engineered safety systems to bring them to a safe condition – will be required. Even the French EPR does not incorporate strong passive safety features and the Chinese and Korean designs certainly do not have passive safety.

The new call for nuclear tenders
The call for tenders expected for 2012 is based on the Integrated Resource Plan 2010. The rationale for the integrated resource planning process is that it should identify the lowest cost way to meet electricity demand by considering all resources including energy efficiency measures. The plan includes 9,600 MW of new nuclear capacity to be completed between 2023 and 2030. Whether this nuclear capacity really represents the least cost way of meeting demand depends on the accuracy of the assumptions made on the cost.

The IRP 2010 bases its assumptions on a report commissioned from the US Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI, 2010), a US research organisation funded primarily by US electric utilities. Nuclear power costs are dominated by the costs associated with the construction of the plants, the overnight cost of construction and the cost of borrowing, which is related to the discount rate. For the construction cost, the EPRI report gives an overnight cost of R28,375/kW for an Areva EPR and R33,235/kW for a Westinghouse AP1000. If we assume an exchange rate of US$1=R6.75, this equates to about US$4,200/kW and US$4,900/kW. It is hard to understand why the South African government should assume costs that are only 70-80% of the prices bid two years earlier. There is certainly no evidence that estimated nuclear costs have gone down since then.

The discount rate of 8% adopted by the South African government also appears too low. For example, the UK government assumed a discount rate of 10% in 2008 when it assessed the economics of nuclear power. The discount rate is effectively a tool to allocate the limited quantity of capital available as profitably as possible. It should ensure that only projects that achieve the given rate of return on capital – the discount rate – are pursued. If nuclear power is assessed using too low a discount rate, it is likely that relatively unprofitable projects will be pursued at the expense of more profitable projects. The use of too low a discount rate is particularly serious because one of the key reasons the previous tender failed appears to have been because affordable finance was not available. Cape Times reported that Rob Adam, CEO of Necsa, has said:

‘The country’s nuclear programme had been canned in 2008 because “we couldn’t get a bank to lend the money for long enough. Commercial banks’ time frames are too short. So now the vendor must come with a bank or financial institution”, and South Africa would repay this over time.’

It appears the South African government did not learn from the previous tender when it assumed far too low a construction cost and proceeded with a call for tenders that had to be abandoned because the prices bid could not be financed. The government also seems heavily involved with the process, with ministers and sometimes the president conducting negotiations and signing agreements with governments of potential suppliers. These efforts have been particularly intense with France with whom an undertaking to explore an intergovernmental agreement on spent-fuel management, co-operation between the countries’ nuclear safety authorities, and implementation of the agreement on nuclear R&D between the Necsa and its French counterpart have been agreed.

Sources: This article (except the lead) is reprinted from a new Greenpeace South Africa report, called 'The true costs of nuclear power in South Africa'. It is available at:
Contact: Greenpeace South Africa, 10A and 10B Clamart House, Clamart Road, Richmond, Johannesburg, South Africa

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the People’s Award last year.

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

Go to and vote.

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Areva suspends work on US nuclear manufacturing facility.
Areva Newport News, a joint venture of Areva NP Inc. and Northrop Grumman, has postponed indefinitely further construction of a nuclear power reactor component manufacturing facility in Newport News, USA, "until market conditions become more favorable," spokesman Jarret Adams said on May 9. And "the situation in Japan" is not helping the market, according to Adams. The facility is for the manufacture of heavy components for Areva power reactors, such as reactor vessels and steam generators, including components for its US-EPR design being considered for construction by utilities in Maryland, Missouri and Pennsylvania.

When ground was broken for the facility in July 2009, the companies said manufacturing would begin in mid-2012. In August 2010, that date was pushed back to 2013. The plant represents a US$360 million investment, the partners said in 2009.
Platts, 10 May 2011

Still funding needed for new shelter Chernobyl reactor. 
On April 19, at a pledging conference in Kiev, Ukraine, representatives of about 30 countries promised to collectively provide Euro 550 million (US$ 785 million) to finish the shelter, called the New Safe Confinement for the Chernobyl-4 reactor, and a long-term spent fuel storage facility. According to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the funding gap before the conference was estimated at Euro 740 million — Euro 600 million for the shelter and Euro 140 million for the spent fuel facility — out of a total cost estimated for the two projects of about Euro 1.9 billion.

The projects have been delayed repeatedly and the price tags have crept up due to increases in labor and materials costs, as well as the requirement for more detailed technical knowledge.The NSC is currently estimated to cost Euro 1.6 billion and the spent fuel facility Euro 300 million. (More on the NSC project: Nuclear Monitor 719/20, 12 November 2010).
Nucleonics Week,  21 April 2011

Italy: WikiLeaks documents show nuclear industry corruption.
In the wake of the emotion prompted by Fukushima and at a time when the Italian government appears to be reluctant to implement a policy of redeploying nuclear power (phased out following a referendum in 1987), the Italian magazine L'Espresso publishes in its March 18 "All'Italia mazzette sull'atomo" article, a series of American diplomatic cables that reveal how "bribes could have a major impact on the future of the country’s energy industry." The documents obtained by WikiLeaks provide details of a four-year US campaign, which began in 2005, to encourage Italy to re-start a nuclear power program with a view to reducing its energy dependence on Russian gas and limiting the influence of the partnership between Italian energy company ENI and Russia’s Gazprom. To this end, according to the article in the March 18 issue of L'Espresso, Washington fought a prolonged battle with the French nuclear power specialist EDF-Areva in which it took advantage of its close ties with several Italian companies. In the end, writes L'Espresso, the American lobbyists succeeded in convincing Rome to set aside EU safety standards for new power stations and to adopt more flexible OECD norms — a victory for US industry, obtained at the expense of the safety of the Italian people.
Presseurope, 18 March 2011, WikiLeaks - nuclear industry corruption

Arrests at antinuclear action Belarus.
Activists from Belarus and Germany arrested brutally at peaceful anti-nuclear action. On  April 25, six activists from Germany and five activists from Belarus, as well as one activist from Poland have been brutally arrested in the Belarus capital of Minsk. Around 40 activists have protested peacefully against the construction of the first nuclear power in Ostrovetz, Belarus. They held banners saying «Chernobyl, Fukushima --- Ostrovets?» and «We are against nuclear power plants» and handed out leaflets. There were two flashmobs - the first lasted around 5 minutes.

However, the second flashmob was interrupted immediately. After around one minute two vehicles with civil police stopped, as well as a red prisoner's transport. Peaceful protestors were thrown to the ground and arrested using brutal force.

All German people and the person from Poland were deported by train to Warsaw on the evening of April 27.
Indymedia Germany, 25 & 27 April 2011

India: state repression in Jaitapur

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

A year ago, the Jaitapur-Madban area in Ratnagiri district of western Maharashtra turned into a hotbed of anger and protests when it became known that the area had been selected for the establishment of a massive nuclear power complex. The French company Areva is scheduled to develop six such reactors, each of 1,650 MW, which are to be operated by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL). If the 'nuclear park' comes up in the area it will be the largest integrated nuclear power complex in the world.

From 2005 onwards the government of Maharashtra has been acquiring land for a nuclear power plant, the site having been identified for a plant as far back as the late 1990s. Yet, the people of the area still do not know how much land will be needed and how many thousand families will be displaced. So far nearly 2,335 farmers have lost their lands to the project, with 938.026 ha acquired mainly from Madban, Karel, Mithgavane and Niveli villages. Other than a small number, the landowners have refused to accept the compensation that has been offered to them.

The issue came to a boil in December when, on the eve of French President Sarkozy's visit to India, the NPCIL proposal was given a conditional environmental clearance. With landowners and villagers of the area taking to public protests, worried as they are about what the future is to bring, the government's response has been to resort to intimidation and repression and to belatedly organize a public meeting in, of all places, Mumbai (nearly 400 km away), to address the apprehensions of the people.

In the entire process the state government's role has been marked by a lack of transparency and increasingly by intolerance. The government has lathi (baton)-charged protestors, promulgated Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC, relating to unlawful assembly) and Section 37(3) (1) of the Bombay Police Act (prohibiting different kinds of assembly), slapped cases on the agitators, including for an attempt to murder, and intimidated the local people against expressing their anger.

To the villagers already incensed at the government's failure to address their anxieties about the project's impact on their livelihoods and the environment, the police repression is further proof that the government is dumping a harmful project on them. The pre-emptive action by the police has prevented them from even registering their protest on issues crucial to them. A number of leaders of the Konkan Bachao Samiti, the Konkan Vinashkari Prakalp Virodhi Samiti and the Janahit Seva Samiti have been arrested or simply prevented from entering the district. The 70-year-old former judge of the Mumbai High Court, B G Kolse-Patil, was jailed for defying prohibitory orders while former Supreme Court judge P B Sawant and retired chief of Naval Staff Admiral L Ramdas were prohibited from entering the district.

All the signs, as in a number of large 'development' projects elsewhere in the country, are of a rising tide of discontent in the area to which the government has no answer other than the use of force. Going by the number of charges slapped against the protestors and their leaders, the police intend to keep them 'busy' and ensure that there is hardly any time to plan, mobilize and participate in the movement. The villagers, aware that the government intends to wear down opposition by 'harassment', are prepared for a long battle. The police have gone to the absurd extent of informing the media that all agitations in the state are being monitored for 'possible links with Naxalites' and that the Jaitapur agitation is also being closely watched. (Naxalite is a generic term used to refer to militant Communist groups  operating in different parts of India).

The state government is using another time-tested intimidatory tactic. Police presence in the area along with a large number of the force's vehicles is overwhelming. All this however has led to developments that perhaps the government did not envisage. Professionals who would not ordinarily have joined in the agitations have taken the initiative to do so. In Sindhudurg, appalled by the legal repression, 46 lawyers have signed a collective vakalatnama in favor of the protestors. Similarly, doctors, whose lands have been acquired, are supporting the agitation.

Envisaged as the centerpiece of Indo-French commercial cooperation in the 21st century, the Jaitapur nuclear park is instead fast becoming a symbol of people's anger against an infrastructure project.

Source: The Economic and Political Weekly, January 22, 2011
Contact: South Asians Against Nukes (SAAN)

Jaitapur nuclear park

The proposed nuclear 'park' at Jaitapur, with six reactors, each of 1,650 MW, made by the French company Areva, will displace thousands of people, affect thriving agriculture, fruit cultivation and fishing activities, and permanently harm the region's vulnerable ecosystem. Ratnagiri is home to the world's best-known mango, the delicate and rare Alphonso, and to cashew, jackfruit, coconut, arecanut and kokum. It lies in the Sahyadri mountains, one of India's biodiversity hot spots, with stunning lush natural beauty and stupendous plant and animal genetic resources. The Sahyadris are one of India's great water towers, the source of the Krishna and the Godavari and of streams vital to life in the surrounding valleys. The plateaus around Jaitapur are extremely biodiversity-rich. According to the Botanical Survey of India, they are, for their size, India's richest repository of endemic plant species. It would be criminal to destroy these in the name of 'development'.

The local people also know of the sad experience with rehabilitation faced by the repeatedly uprooted population of Tarapur, the site of India's first nuclear reactors, for which land was acquired in the early/mid-1960s. Tarapur is not far from Jaitapur, and there has been exchange of information between the people. Tarapur once had flourishing fisheries. Now, these are crisis-ridden because of a drop in the catch around the plant's hot-water outflow channel into the sea. Three fishing harbors have vanished altogether as have hundreds of livelihoods. Once prosperous farmers and fisherfolk around Tarapur have become casual menial laborers often tasked with hazardous jobs, such as removing leaked radioactive water from reactor buildings. The plant authorities claim to monitor the local people's health but refuse to give them their medical records.

The Jaitapur Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) prepared by the National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) is deeply flawed. It ignores the local ecosystem's unique specificities and carrying capacity, the vital issue of biodiversity, and the cumulative environmental impact. NEERI self-confessedly lacks the competence to assess radiological hazards and their impact. It does not even mention the crucial issue of storage and disposal of radioactive waste, which remains hazardous for centuries. Nor does it address the project's nuclear-specific safety issues. (This Column has repeatedly highlighted them, including nuclear reactors' unique potential for catastrophic core meltdowns.) The EIA also certifies that the temperature of the plant's discharge, which is 5° Celsius higher than the sea temperature, is safe. The claim has been convincingly demolished by the well-respected Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), which argues that even a 0.5°C rise would seriously harm marine life, including fish, mangroves and micro-organisms.

Praful Bidwai, Frontline Magazine,. 29 January 2011

African NGO's trained on uranium mining issues

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Fleur Scheele, WISE Amsterdam

Continued interest of international uranium mining companies in the possibilities of extracting uranium from African soil has attracted the attention of non-governmental organizations worldwide. Many organizations work both individually and in groups on uranium mining in various African countries. In November 2010, a training week for NGOs was organized on the issue in Tanzania. An extremely diverse group of African and non-African experts and organizations joined and shared their knowledge and strategies in order to obtain information and inspiration for further action on uranium mining in Africa.

Representatives from 21 organizations from 9 African countries were present during the training week. All of them have had experiences with international mining companies working in their countries, whether this be in exploiting or exploring uranium resources. Some, such as a few Namibian and Nigerien NGOs, have been working on the issue for years, whereas others have only recently been confronted with uranium exploration and/or exploitation, as is the case with the Central African NGOs.

The training week was organized and partially paid by WISE Amsterdam, and was co-financed by various international organizations: Cordaid, NIZA, Eirene, SOMO and OxfamNovib. Other organizations, such as CRIIRAD, Greenpeace International and the Australian Conservation Foundation kindly contributed by allowing some of their uranium mining experts to be present as trainers in Tanzania.

Aims and background
The backgrounds of the participating organizations appeared to be remarkably diverse: they work on development issues, poverty alleviation, labor rights, human rights, peacekeeping, nuclear issues, and/or environment. A few of these organizations do not necessarily aim at stopping uranium mining operations, but would rather impose boundary conditions on uranium mining. They wish to ensure that local communities can give consent on whether or not uranium mining should take place on their land, that public participation is taking place during every step of the mining processes, that rights of local communities are respected, and that the communities at the very least gain significant economic benefits.

Most organizations, however, prefer to avoid any kind of uranium exploitation in their countries and keep the standpoint ‘Leave Uranium in the Ground’. Experienced NGOs claim that many years of uranium mining worldwide have shown that the expectations of great economic development and increased welfare do not actually become a reality for local communities. In the long term, uranium mining does not provide a single benefit for communities. The promises often made by governments and companies have proven to be empty. This view was clearly expressed by Australian activist Dave Sweeney when he quoted Aboriginal Senior Traditional Owner Yvonne Margarula: “None of the promises last, but the problems always do.“

Tanzania, being one of the countries where international companies are now eagerly exploring uranium resources, proved to be a suitable host for the uranium training week: many Tanzanian NGOs, journalists, and members of parliament showed their interest by attending and actively contributing to the training week. They had mostly been invited by the Foundation for Environmental Management and Campaign Against Poverty (FEMAPO). FEMAPO has already been working in the Bahi district of Tanzania, where currently uranium exploration is taking place. They have worked with the communities of the Bahi district, and has informed them about the environmental hazards of uranium exploration in their region. Like FEMAPO, its sister organization CESOPE is currently working on informing the Tanzanian public and the affected communities. Uranium mining is a substantial threat to the Bahi people, as their livelihoods often entirely depend on their natural environment.

Central African organizations ACAPEE and OCDN, as well as some other Central African NGOs which did not attend the training week, are critically following French multi-billion dollar corporation AREVA. Assisted by several foreign organizations, they put pressure on their government as well as on the company to increase transparency of revenues and mining contracts. Also the necessary Environmental Impact Assessment is critically being followed by ACAPEE.

Central African citizens are not familiar with uranium mining and the public is not informed about its hazards. The capital-based NGOs try to improve their communication with the Bakouma community, in whose region AREVA is exploring uranium. Communication is difficult in the Central African Republic (CAR) due to limited infrastructure, the remoteness of many areas, and differences in languages. Therefore, NGOs in the CAR not only scrutinize the most prominent decision-makers, but also continuously search for the best strategies to inform the public, such as by gathering with other NGOs, trying to find ways to physically reach the remote area of Bakouma, and using radio stations.  

Cameroonian organizations CED (Centre for Environment and Development) and RELUFA (Reseau de Lutte contre la Faim, the Network of Poverty Alleviation) showed impressive material on their campaigns in Cameroon. They have provided villagers in exploration areas with GPS devices and training on GPS use. Thus equipped, the villagers can create their own village maps, on which land use is indicated. Sacred sites, agricultural land, rivers: anything can be included in these maps. After mapping the region, the maps can be used as a tool for discussions with the company as the villagers can point out exactly what land is important to them. CED and RELUFA do not only wish to empower the villagers and lobby at government and industry, they also strongly feel the need to do baseline studies on soil, water, and air and will soon start measuring radiation levels with their newly acquired Geiger-Mueller counter.

Several NGOs from Nigers capital Niamey were inexperienced on uranium mining issues and learned much about radiation, company structures, and social issues. They have all decided to start spending more time on the issue and to start informing the public in their country. Niger has seen uranium exploitation for several decades. This has had impacts on the country’s geography, economy, and environment. However, the communities are not well-informed on radiation, and the general public has not benefited from uranium revenues. ROTAB, a network of organizations for transparency and budgetary analysis, is working on the international Publish What You Pay campaign and has lately been paying much attention to the extractive industries in Niger. GREN, which also aims at the extractive industries, also participates in the PWYP campaign. In the past, these organizations focused  on gold and oil extraction in Niger. The international peace advocacy organization Eirene is active in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger, and is now planning to start working on uranium mines with the organization GENOVICO. All have decided to increase their attention for uranium mining.

Organisation Aghir-in-Man was also present during the training. This NGO is based in the mining community of Niger and has worked exclusively on uranium mining over the past years. Aghir-in-Man has worked with several international NGOs in the past, whereby the last successful collaboration was with Greenpeace International and CRIIRAD, who published a report on the environmental pollution around Niger’s uranium mines in 2010. Aghir-in-Man draws attention to the issue internationally, but also organizes meetings with local communities on practical issues. As a result of meetings where women were informed about the dangers of washing their husbands’ dirty mineworkers clothes from the mine, women now refuse to wash uranium-contaminated clothes. The dusty clothes, that can contaminate people internally, are now being washed by the company at the mine.

In Malawi, the recently opened mine of Australian firm Paladin Energy has drawn attention of ActionAid Malawi and Citizens For Justice. They are keeping an eye on the developments in their country. Paladin Energy proves to be very non-communicative towards civil society: both the country offices in Malawi and Namibia and the headquarters in Australia have not responded to repeated WISE requests for interviews or email contact. That Paladins first concern is not its corporate social and environmental responsibility is not surprising if one keeps in mind the words of its CEO John Borshoff: “Australia and Canada have become overly sophisticated. They measure progress in other aspects than economic development, and rightly so, but I think there has been a sort of overcompensation in terms of thinking about environmental issues, social issues, way beyond what is necessary to achieve good practice.” Keeping in mind the shocking environmental pollution and neglect of Aboriginal rights in Australia by the uranium mining companies, Borshoff’s explanation that this Australian situation is already beyond ‘good practice’ makes one fear for Paladin’s corporate behavior when working in Africa. Not only has Paladin Energy managed to obtain very favorable contracts in Malawi, so that people’s rights are not guaranteed and the Malawi state does not make much profit from mining, the mine is also based close to Lake Malawi, upon which many people depend for its water and food. Activists fear contamination of the lake. CFJ and ActionAid try to inform and assist local communities and will do more research on a rumor about illegal nuclear transports from Malawi to Namibia. They are also keen on doing more radiological measurements themselves, something they have already done with river water recently.

Meanwhile, Earthlife Africa is working hard in South Africa and Namibia. Both countries have to deal with mine waste from uranium- and other mines, communities that are being exposed to radiation, and authoritarian governments that ignore the concerns of civil society. The limited knowledge of the public on mining hazards, along with a repressive political culture in both countries, proves it difficult for Earthlife and other NGOs to force governments and industry to mitigate environmental and social problems. Other countries can learn from South Africa’s problems when it comes to managing abandoned mines. South Africa has a long mining history: gold, platinum, chrome, manganese, diamonds and other metals were and are being exploited on a large scale. This has left behind a legacy: today, there are over 6000 abandoned mines in South Africa. These are not only dangerous to enter; they also cause great environmental problems. Many of them fill up with extremely acid water which contaminates ground water and river systems, and they have toxic and radioactive mine waste stored next to them. As the mining companies which owned them are no longer existing, the abandoned mines have now become the responsibility of the government. The extent of the problems, the impact on environment and communities, and the associated costs are so high that the government is reluctant to start working on tackling even the most urgent problems. South Africa’s Federation for a Sustainable Environment and Earthlife are continuously battling to hold the authorities accountable. The campaigns of FSE have long been neglected, but the lobbying now seems to have drawn some national and international attention to the issue and the issue is being discussed in parliament – these first steps can provide the South African NGOs with some hope.

Namibian human rights organization NamRights has observed Namibia change from a new and promising independent country, proud of its independence and wealthy with natural and human resources, into a country where government is letting its wealth being exploited to the benefit of a few individuals in the highest ranks of industry and government. A study by Labour Resource and Research Institute LaRRI in 2008 has shown that mineworkers in the Rossing uranium mine are suspecting their illnesses are related to their occupation. However, there is no possibility for them to go see a specialized medical doctor who is independent from the mine, and any claims towards company Rio Tinto are therefore no option. Unfortunately, government lacks the means and the willingness to carry out proper radiological measurements, and does not assist the sick people. There might be a role for NamRights to draw attention to these ill workers and community members, and remind Namibia’s uranium-keen government that they have a greater responsibility than just to attract wealthy international corporations to Namibia.

Inspired by the numerous examples of successful activism the NGOs will continue to work individually and together on uranium mining. Every country needs to find its own solution. Yet international NGOs can support, motivate, and strengthen one another. All NGOs mentioned in this article are more than willing to share their information and thoughts with you. Please contact them if you wish.

For freely available reports on uranium mining in Africa, please contact NIZA, SOMO, and WISE. WISE is preparing a full report of the training week, including all presentations. A copy can be obtained via WISE in January 2011. Also, SOMO and WISE are about to publish a report on revenues for African states, and will distribute an extensive publication on African uranium mines and their social and environmental impacts by February 2011.

Source: Fleur Scheele, WISE Amsterdam
For more information, contact: Marieke van Riet, WISE Amsterdam

Earthlife Africa

India: thousands arrested during Jaitapur protests

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Karuna Raina, Greenpeace India

World's largest nuclear park is planned in Jaitapur, in Ratnagiri district on the coast of southern Maharashtra, India. The park would comprise up to six large EPR nuclear reactors bought from the French nuclear giant- Areva. In addition to the inherent hazards of nuclear power, the project threatens the livelihoods of about 10 000 farmers and fishermen and their families.

On October 29, despite preventive arrests, prohibitory orders and road blocks more than 3000 villagers' courted arrests, as part of their 'Jail Bharo' agitation. By 6 pm, the police requested the leaders of the agitation to stop the flow of people. The agitation was primarily in response to the government claim that the villagers were quiet and only a handful of outsiders were leading the agitation against the proposed 10,000 MW Jaitapur nuclear power project in the village.

The agitation started peacefully at noon at Bhagwati temple in the village. Hundreds of women including the elderly queued up to be arrested, followed by the men folks. The police had arranged for four buses, but they failed awfully short, as villagers of Madban and the neighboring villages continued to pour in.

The 250-strong contingent of policemen came prepared with riot gear and rifles, but there was not even slogan shouting. "This is a show of strength and the government must now realise that we cannot be taken for granted," Pravin Davankar of the Janhit Seva Samiti, which has been opposing the project for the past five years.

The villagers were angry because the government was refusing to tell them the truth and releasing information in bits and pieces. "After all, we are the ones to be directly affected," said Sanjay Gavankar, a villager, who runs a cashew nut factory. The local people are against forced acquisition of their land by the government. They consider their land to be of much more value than a job at NPCIL and some money in lieu of the land. The local people have unanimously rejected the compensation package offered by the government and even lit bon fires with it.

Satyajit Chavan, an activist protesting in Jaitapur, said: “It seemed more like a police state, where emergency measures are evoked to apparently maintain law and order. The state seems to act against wishes of its own citizens.”

Retired High Court judge B G Kolse-Patil, who had being served orders preventing him from entering Ratnagiri District, flouted the ban and attended the rally. While the police were looking for him on the road, he took a different route and appeared dramatically in the temple at 3 pm. "I will oppose this sort of high-handedness by the state tooth and nail," he said. The police had to physically carry him off to arrest him. Retired Admiral L Ramdas and retired Supreme Court Judge P B Samant, who were coming to the rally, were stopped by the police on the Highway. The Jaitapur project is characterized by shocking neglect – from the choice of an earthquake-prone and ecologically valuable site, to a timetable that leaves insufficient time to review the risks of the nuclear reactor design, not yet in operation anywhere in the world. Because of these and many other flaws the reactors would entail unacceptable hazards.

A joint report by Greenpeace and European solar panel manufacturers showed earlier this week that solar power can deliver electricity at a competitive cost by 2015. This is 3 years before the first planned reactor could be in operation in Jaitapur. Wind power and biomass can do that already now. There is no need to import dangerous and destructive nuclear reactors.

Sources: Blogpost by Karuna Raina, Greenpeace India, 29 October / Times of India, 29 October 2010

Greenpeace India - New Delhi

Areva workers in trouble, in Niger

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

An al Qaeda claim of responsibility for the kidnapping of five French nationals in Niger has surfaced on Islamist websites. Five French nuclear experts who work for Areva, are kidnapped by ‘Al Qaeda in Mahgreb’, the al Qaeda terror movement's affiliate in North Africa.

"Despite the high military preparations in the area and the security belt around it, those lions of Islam were able to break in and kidnap five nuclear experts who work for Areva," the message said. “…we claim our responsibility to this blessed operation and we tell the French government that our fighters will deliver their lawful demands to them." The message noted that the Niger region "is one of the world's most important uranium producing areas" and that France has stolen the "strategic resource for decades." "We want to remind our Muslim brothers and public opinion that the uranium thieves caused the killing of thousands of poor Muslims in the area and abusing them in those mines and exposing them to dangerous radiation from radon gas while denying them any protection or health care," the message said. "The crusaders' companies who steal our resources and abuse our sons should know that the fighters' goals are lawful and they must leave”.

Its the first time that a kidnapping has been claimed by ‘Al Qaeda in Mahgreb’. In past events (see NM # 663, November 29, 2007: “China's emerging antinuclear movement" and NM 658, July 13 2007: "Nomadic rebels in Niger attacked uranium mining firms") kidnaps were always claimed by rebel nomadic Touareg groups, demanding more financial revenues from the uranium mining industry.

Although we think kidnapping people is not the best solution it is at least very understandable that there is much anger about the activities of Areva and uranium mining in Niger in general.

An interview with a local leader in Arlit, Niger, in a report for Greenpeace International, perfectly illustrates why its not very surprising that staff members of French uranium company Areva have been targeted in Niger. In one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking last in the Human Development Index of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), where more than 40% of children are underweight for their age, water and access to improved water sources is scarce and almost three quarters of the population are illiterate1, the French nuclear giant Areva extracts precious -and deadly- natural resources, earning billions for its Fortune 500 corporation, and leaving little behind but centuries of environmental pollution and health risks for the citizens of Niger.

Local leaders like Alhacen feel that the problems caused by Areva only compound the existing ills in Niger. Although Areva claims the production of uranium fights the 'curse of poverty', Alhacen says the opposite is true. "What we are seeing for 40 years is that this problem has only increased! In the belt around Arlit, people are very poor: neither water nor electricity...  The risk is that the same could happen at Imouraren (the new to be opened uranium mine in Niger). It is therefore necessary that the public be more vigilant so that there is less pollution and more benefits from the uranium.”

One of the ironies of Areva's rush for uranium in order to provide electricity to the world is that many Nigeriens don’t even have electricity. He makes the argument that instead of driving out poverty, they have inherited enduring pollution.

“I must tell you that in Arlit, they use oil lamps in the suburbs! In Arlit, some have no water...The little Nigerien lights a kerosene lamp to read his lessons... Many homes are without electricity. We regret it! We are neither pro-nuclear or anti-nuclear. 90% of Nigeriens do not even know that we produce uranium today in Niger. 100% of Nigeriens do not know what radioactivity is! 100% of Nigeriens do not know that uranium is used to make electricity! The problem of Niger is the following: uranium must contribute in the reduction of poverty. It is evident that if it does not contribute, so it is not worth it."

Fears about AREVA expansion and the creation of the third mine, Imouraren, are many. Alhacen says the effects from the mining will affect the ecosystem, as well as the Touareg and other nomadic populations. “They will first run out of places for pasture, which will be altered. Areva needs 40 km of radius for operation. Then come all the impacts that we know: the detonations and the light will disturb the entire ecosystem. Animals do not like the light at night. The noise of the engines… They will also burn a lot of wood. All this of course before the radioactivity and the draining of the groundwater.”

According to research by the NGO ‘FUSAD’  the country has hardly benefited from the uranium mining: “After 40 years of operation and Areva's presence in Niger, us Nigeriens, we feel we have not had our fair share. We evaluate this in terms of what benefits the state of Niger has received -a little more than 10% -since more than 2500 billion CFA francs (1 CFA franc is about 0,0015 euro) went to Areva, of which an estimated 292 billion have returned to the state of Niger.”

Source: “Left in the dust, Areva’s radioactive legacy in the desert towns of Niger”, Greenpeace International, April 2010, CNN website, September 23, 2010


Roussely report: saving French nuclear industry with outrageous measures

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

After France's failure to win the contract for four nuclear power plants in the United Arab Emirates, president Sarkozy ordered a report on the French nuclear industry. The outline of the Roussely report (named after Francois Roussely, a former EDF-president), dated June 16, was made public –in French- by the Elysée Palace on 27 July 2010

In the report, author Francois Roussely recognizes the scale of problems facing the French nuclear industry: lack of export competitiveness, falling domestic load factor, delays and cost overruns in EPR construction projects.

French nuclear industry: disastrous economic and industrial results
The Roussely report recognizes the scale of the setbacks experienced by Areva and EDF at the EPR reactor construction sites in France and Finland: “the credibility of both the EPR model and the French nuclear industry's ability to build new reactors has been severely eroded by the difficulties encountered at the Finnish construction site of Olkiluoto and at the site of the third tranche of the Flamanville plant.” At fault is the “complexity of the EPR” which “without doubt hinders its construction and consequently impacts on its cost.”

By stating that “the nuclear industry must become sufficiently competitive to attract private investment”, Roussely admits that the nuclear industry has so far never been competitive nor economically efficient, in contrast with the claims made by Areva, the merchant of nuclear plants. Roussely points out the inadequate performance of the French nuclear reactors: “whereas global average nuclear plant availability has significantly increased during the last 15 years, nuclear plant availability in France has seen a marked decrease in the last few years.”

The failure of the EPR is such, according to Roussely, that “it is the credibility, and therefore the very existence” of the French nuclear industry which is at stake. In the face of this, Roussely uses all available means to recommend various equally outrageous “emergency measures”. 

Passing the cost onto the consumer and misuse of public funding
Roussely recommends “a moderate but regular increase of electricity tariffs, opening the way towards financing the renewal of nuclear installations”. Is nuclear power too costly? That's no problem, the consumer can pay. By becoming "regular", the tariff increase is unlikely to remain "moderate" for any length of time...

Roussely proposes the diversion of some of the funding available for renewable energy to benefit the nuclear industry.

The uranium used in nuclear plants is a finite mineral resource and is non-renewable: nuclear power is a fossil energy as much as oil and coal. Yet Roussely suggests “taking firm political action to ensure that all multilateral funds for renewable energy should also be available to the nuclear industry”.

Savings at the expense of safety
The Roussely report confirms a dangerous trend: the reduction of safety and security requirements in the face of economic constraints: “Continually increasing safety requirements cannot be the only rational way forward”. Roussely calls for the optimal realignment between safety requirements and economic constraints. This politically correct jargon means that safety requirements are governed by the industry’s criteria of profitability and profit. “Safety indeed, but only if we can afford it!”

Nuclear energy is not “attractive enough for private investment”, so the construction of new reactors is not a foregone conclusion. Roussely recommends an increase in the lifespan of French nuclear power stations to 60 years, when they were designed to operate for 30! The oldest French reactors have already experienced incidents far more numerous than the average across nuclear installations as a whole. To pretend they can operate for another 30 years is therefore a high-risk strategy, totally irresponsible. Several hundred million euros would be needed to repair each reactor, which would still be cheaper than the 5 billion required to (maybe) build an EPR. And how much would a major accident like Chernobyl cost, in euros and in human lives?

Given the economic constraints, Roussely gives little thought to the appalling working conditions of the 20,000 external workforce employed by 600 subcontracting firms. Last May, eight temporary workers were forced to go on strike at the CEA site at Carradache: they were not being paid and had to buy their own radioactive protection gear! Yet Roussely only proposes a working conditions “charter”, i.e. a non-binding list of commitments left to the goodwill of companies...

Gagging a cautious French Safety Authority
Roussely calls for a reduction in the scope of the Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN) in favor of the government: “the government must define a balanced modus vivendi with the ASN, it must re-establish a sovereignty which it shouldn't relinquish to an independent authority.”  This is clearly a way to reduce the small margin of autonomy available to the official organization controlling the nuclear industry.  

Although very muted, criticisms from the ASN remain an embarrassment for Areva and EDF: “events with very limited effects [i.e. incidents and design errors documented by the ASN] should not result in undeserved suspicion of [nuclear] technology as a whole.”

The Roussely report confirms the fact that the government sees the ASN as a useful alibi, a tool to “reassure” the population. Does the French Safety Authority only have authority in name?

Making nuclear waste acceptable to the public
Roussely admits that “public acceptance [...] is an essential condition for developing the civilian nuclear industry”. Roussely points out that “[nuclear waste] is the most convincing argument against nuclear power for 60 to 70% of French people”.  

Yet there is no solution to the serious problem of nuclear waste, some of which remains dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years. Roussely lets slip a telling confession: “a list of realistic specifications” is yet to be drawn up for the nuclear waste burial site at Bure, due to become operational in 2015. So Roussely admits in veiled terms that all the fine words uttered for years by the French National Radioactive Waste Management Agency ANDRA are not “realistic”.

Thus, one shall not be surprised that Roussely is panicking to such an extent that he addresses all the industry's players: “It is now essential that ANDRA determines as a matter of urgency the detailed operational plans being set up for 2015 in relation to the deep disposal centre. To achieve this, it is proposed that ANDRA urgently involves EDF, AREVA and the CEA (French Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies Commission) in defining the best possible specifications for the deep disposal center and its completion.”

An English translation of the published summary of the Roussely report is available at:

Source and contact: Sortir du nucleaire, 9, rue  Dumenge, 69317 Lyon Cedex 04, France.

Sortir du Nucleaire

More and more questions about the EPR

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Rianne Teule, Greenpeace

On the risk of sounding like a broken record: the French nuclear flagship the EPR continues to be troubled with additional costs, delays and doubts. In France and Finland the EPR construction is further delayed and AREVA added 400 million to its provisions for the reactor under construction in Olkiluoto, resulting in a downgrading of the company’s profitability.

On 6 July 2010, the French newspaper Le Figaro posed three pressing questions about the EPR (European Pressurized-water Reactor): Is the EPR too complex? Is the EPR too expensive? Is the EPR exportable? In short the answers are: yes, the EPR is complicated to build, which makes construction expensive and the EPR difficult to sell in emerging markets. The newspaper states that EDF, the French utility building the EPR in Flamanville, France, is expected to announce a delay in construction of about 2 years. The construction started in 2007 and was originally scheduled to be finished within 4.5 years. According to an insider, the two-year delay is a low estimate, “which is essential to make public: all departments concerned within the group know that this major project is faced with numerous technical obstacles” [1].

The Flamanville story is following the same lines as Olkiluoto-3, the EPR under construction in Finland. In the beginning of June 2010, AREVA presented a new timetable for the completion of Olkiluoto-3, stating that “most of the works will be completed by the end of 2012” [2]. Since commissioning of the plant will be earliest six months after completion, operation would not start before June 2013. The total building time since start of construction in July 2005 has now doubled to more than 8 years.

A completion date of the end of 2012 is looking extremely optimistic. The most challenging phases of construction are still underway or to come, including the installation of heavy components, the design and installation of computer systems, and the final testing and licensing.

On top of that, in the case of Olkiluoto-3, the start-up time may be significantly longer than six months, especially as it is a first-of-a-kind project. The last pressurized water reactors (PWR) built in Europe, at the Temelin nuclear power plant in the Czech Republic, took over a year before the completed reactors were able to commercially operate at full output (in the early 2000s). The Temelin-1 reactor took even 18 months to start full commercial operation. Connecting major components, setting up cable connections (thousands of kilometers of cables were involved), debugging of digital control systems, and tuning up the reactor turbines all proved enormously difficult and time consuming.

Finnish parliament votes for more nuclear.  On 1 July 2010, the parliament in Finland chose to ignore the majority of the Finnish people, who according to polls oppose new nuclear power, and voted in favor of a government decision to give two political permits for new nuclear reactors. This political permit opens the way for two nuclear companies TVO and Fennovoima to plan reactors, call for vendors, try to secure financing and later apply for construction permits. Actual new reactor projects are still far away. The biggest hurdle will be the investment decisions, expected in 2012. Both TVO and Fennovoima still have various reactor designs on the table.

The debate in the Finnish parliament was not about energy arguments. In a dirty political game the decision was influenced by behind the scenes discussions and special interest groups anticipating the upcoming national elections. Finland has no need for new reactors; energy efficiency measures in combination with available sustainable energy sources can easily cover the energy demand.

Money troubles
On 24 June, AREVA was forced to announce another 400 million Euro provision to cover the additional costs of building the Olkiluoto-3 reactor [3]. This provision is on top of 2.3 billion Euro provisions put aside in previous years and brings the current estimated cost overrun to 2.7 billion Euro. The initial cost of the project was 3.2 billion Euro, hence the total bill is now approximately 6 billion Euro. It is important to note that this 400 million Euro extra loss is assuming Olkiluoto-3 startup late 2012, while in reality this will not be before mid 2013.

While the rocketing costs of the Finnish EPR have dragged down AREVA's results for years, this is the first time that they have sent the company into the red. The company reported an operating loss for the first half of 2010. In 2009, AREVA's reported operating income was just 97 million Euro. The company’s financial health suffers thanks to the Olkiluoto-3 project, while it struggles to build up its reserves for planned future investments. And most probably the latest provision for Olkiluoto-3 cost overruns will not be the last.

A few days after AREVA’s provision announcement, Standard & Poor's downgraded the company to a ‘BBB+’ rating, citing continued weakened profitability [4]. The S&P credit analyst announced: "Depressed profitability at France-based nuclear services provider AREVA is being further strained by the recently announced additional provision of €400 million (US$491mn) for the OL-3 [Olkiluoto-3] Finnish reactor." Also AREVA’s ongoing fight with EDF about the uranium enrichment plant Georges Besse in France is seen as a potential threat to the company’s profitability. The long and short-term credit ratings  on AREVA are lowered from ‘A/A-1’ to ‘BBB+/A-2’. S&P expects AREVA’s profitability "will continue to be depressed over the next couple of years", and its operating performance will continue to be severely affected by cost overruns related to Olkiluoto-3.


Contact: Rianne Teule, Nuclear campaigner Greenpeace International. Ottho Heldringstraat 5, 1066 AZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Tel: + 31 20 718 2229
Skype: rianne.teule



In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

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.

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

Operations of nuclear giant Areva put lives at risk in Niger

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Rianne Teule - Greenpeace

In one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking last in the Human Development Index of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), where more than 40% of children are underweight for their age, water and access to improved water sources is scarce and almost three quarters of the population are illiterate, the French nuclear giant AREVA extracts precious -and deadly- natural resources, earning billions for its Fortune 500 corporation, and leaving little behind but centuries of environmental pollution and health risks for the citizens of Niger.

Nuclear energy giant AREVA is attempting a new nuclear revolution. The company has activities in over 100 countries throughout the world and aggressively pushes nuclear energy in new markets. Its public relations teams have been working overtime to convince governments, investors and the general public - hungry for clean energy - that nuclear energy is now a safe, clean, and ’green’ technology. The devastating effects caused by this alarming misconception are already being felt.

Generating nuclear energy requires fuel that is acquired through the destructive and deadly activity of uranium mining. Uranium mining can have catastrophic effects on nearby communities and the environment for thousands of years to come. There are few places where these harmful effects are felt more distinctly than Niger, Africa.

A landlocked-Saharan country in West Africa, Niger has the lowest human development index on the planet. Arid desert, scarce arable land and intense poverty are hugely problematic - unemployment, minimal education, illiteracy, poor infrastructure and political instability are rife. However, Niger is rich in mineral resources - like uranium.

AREVA established its mining efforts in northern Niger 40 years ago, creating what should have been an economic rescue for a depressed nation. Yet, AREVA’s operations have been largely destructive. There are great clouds of dust, caused by detonations and drilling in the mines; mountains of industrial waste and sludge sit in huge piles, exposed to the open air; and the shifting of millions of tonnes of earth and rock could corrupt the groundwater source, which is quickly disappearing due to industrial overuse.

AREVA’s negligent mismanagement of the extraction process can cause radioactive substances to be released into the air, seep into the groundwater and contaminate the soil around the mining towns of Arlit and Akokan, all of which permanently damages the environmental ecosystem and can create a multitude of health problems for the local population.

Exposure to radioactivity can cause respiratory problems, birth defects, leukaemia and cancer, to name just a few health impacts. Disease and poor health abound in this region, and death rates linked to respiratory problems are twice that of the rest of the country. Yet AREVA has failed to take responsibility for any impacts. In fact, its company-controlled hospitals have been accused of misdiagnosing cases of cancer as HIV. It claims there has never been a case of cancer attributable to mining in 40 years—what it doesn’t say is that the local hospitals do not staff any occupational doctors, making it impossible for someone to be diagnosed with a work-related illness.

The governmental agency in place to monitor or control AREVA’s actions is understaffed and underfunded. For years, NGOs and international agencies have attempted to test and assess the dangerous levels of radiation that Niger is being exposed to. A comprehensive, independent assessment of the uranium mining impacts has never taken place.

However, in November 2009, Greenpeace – in collaboration with the French independent laboratory  CRIIRAD and the Nigerien NGO network ROTAB - was able to do a brief scientific study of the area, measuring the radioactivity of the water, air and earth around the AREVA mining towns. While not exhaustive, the results were disturbing:

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

After Greenpeace published some initial findings at the end of November 2009, AREVA had to take action. Some radioactive spots indicated by Greenpeace in one of the mining villages were cleaned up. However, this limited clean-up does not diminish the need for a comprehensive study so that all areas can be made safe for the community.

Greenpeace is calling for an independent study around the mines and towns of Arlit and Akokan, followed by a thorough clean up and decontamination. Controls must be put in place to ensure that AREVA follows international safety norms in its operations, taking into account the well-being of its workers, the surrounding populations and environment. AREVA must start to act like the responsible company that it claims to be. It must inform its workers and the local community about the risks of uranium mining; many of people in Niger have never heard of radioactivity and do not understand that uranium mining is dangerous.

The people of Arlit and Akokan continue to be surrounded by poisoned air, contaminated soil and polluted water. With each day that passes, Nigeriens are exposed to radiation, illness and poverty – while AREVA makes billions from their natural resources. The Nigerien people deserve to live in a safe, clean and healthy environment, and to share in the profits from the exploitation of their land.

AREVA, with its attempt to create a nuclear renaissance, brings to these communities the threat of losing the most basic elements necessary for life - poisoning their air, water and earth.

This report shows that nuclear power gambles with our lives, health and environment from the very beginning of the nuclear chain - mining for uranium. Dangerous and dirty nuclear power has no role in our sustainable energy future. Greenpeace calls for an energy revolution based on sustainable, cheap and safe renewable energies and energy efficiency.

Source: 'Left in the dust, AREVA’s radioactive legacy in the desert towns of Niger', Greenpeace International, May 2010. The report is available at:
Contact: Dr. Rianne Teule, Nuclear campaigner Greenpeace International. Ottho Heldringstraat 5, 1066 AZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Tel: + 31 20 718 2229
Skype: rianne.teule