Chernobyl still contaminating British sheep.
It exploded 23 years ago today more than 2,250 km away, but Chernobyl is still contaminating sheep in the United Kingdom. According to the government's Food Standards Agency (FSA), the number of farms and animals still under movement restrictions in the UK has hardly changed over the past year. New figures given in the House of Commons late April show there are still 190,000 sheep subject to restriction orders on 369 farms or holdings. The details are: Wales 355 farms 180,000 sheep; England 9 farms 3,000 sheep; Scotland 5 farms and 3,000 sheep.
Peat and grass in upland areas were polluted with radioactive caesium-137 released by the accident and brought to ground by rain. This is eaten by sheep and has persisted much longer than originally anticipated. The restrictions apply where concentrations of caesium-137 in sheep exceed 1,000 Becquerel of radioactivity per kilogram. Farmers have to mark the radioactive animals with indelible paint, and can't have them slaughtered for food until they fall below the limit.
N-Base briefing 611, 29 April 2009 / Sunday Herald, 26 April 2009
FirstEnergy finds hole in containment wall at rusty Pennsylvania reactor.
During a recent visual inspection inside the Beaver Valley Unit 1 reactor containment building, a rusty discolored bubble was discovered under the protective paint coating on the inside wall of the steel liner to the thick concrete containment. When the unbroken paint bubble was removed for further inspection, First Energy Nuclear Corporation (FENOC) found a corrosion hole had eaten through from the outside of the 3/8 inch (0.95 cm) thick steel containment liner wall. Inspectors could see the concrete wall on the other side. The containment's steel liner is a principle safety barrier designed to be leak tight to contain the radioactive gas generated under normal operations and accident conditions. FENOC says that a small piece of wet wood, trapped during the original construction and left in contact with the outside steel liner wall, was the cause of the severe corrosion. The plan is to weld a steel patch over the hole. With the reactor nearing approval of an unchallenged 20-year license extension application, the severity of the previously unnoticed corrosion caught Nuclear Regulatory Commission and company officials by surprise. The Beaver Valley reactor is located northwest of Pittsburgh.
Considering all the other debris pitched into the containment's concrete pours there is very likely more corrosion than can be found with visual inspection. Beyond Nuclear expects that NRC will issue a detailed information notice but fall short of its regulatory responsibility by not requiring industry action. In fact, NRC should require a prompt and thorough technical assessment of Beaver Valley's containment integrity in order to rule out the likely possibility that more unseen corrosion is still eating its way into the containment structure. Using state-of-the-art ultrasonic testing equipment, this could be done before the plant goes back on line and certainly before the agency approves the reactor's 20-year extension. Similarly, since debris was likely thrown into many more containment pours around the country, NRC should require an industry-wide scan of all the aging containment liners. Remember, FirstEnergy is the same company that operated its corroded Davis-Besse reactor with the hole in the head. And NRC is the same agency with its head in a hole that favored getting Davis-Besse back on line quickly despite graphic photos of severe corrosion that warned otherwise. In both cases, the NRC gambling of safety margins for production margins corrodes public confidence and increases the risks from nuclear accidents.
Beyond Nuclear Bulletin, 1 may 2009
UK: Wind farm demolished for nuclear power plant?
One of the oldest and most efficient wind farms in Britain is to be dismantled and replaced by a nuclear power station under plans drawn up by the German-owned power group RWE. The site at Kirksanton in Cumbria – home to the Haverigg turbines - has just been approved by the government for potential atomic newbuild in a move that has infuriated the wind power industry. Colin Palmer, founder of the Windcluster company, which owns part of the Haverigg wind farm, said he was horrified that such a plan could be considered at a time when Britain risks missing its green energy targets and after reassurance from ministers that nuclear and renewables were not incompatible.
The Haverigg site, on the fringes of the Lake District, was commissioned in 1992 and is believed to be one of only two of its type in this country. The scheme has been praised by Friends of the Lake District as a fine example of appropriate wind energy development and the turbines were financed by a pioneering group of ethical investors (now called the Triodos Bank). The site was subsequently expanded to a total of eight turbines. Haverigg was still one of the most efficient wind farms with a 35% "capacity factor" - or efficiency - compared with an average of 30%, said Palmer. It is a historically important wind farm for the UK, which played a key role in inspiring others.
Meanwhile, a new report by the independent think-tank, the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), has found that the UK Government's "obsession" with nuclear power is hindering development of sustainable energy alternatives which were better and cheaper. The report, 'The British Nuclear Industry - Status and Prospects', written by Dr. Ian Davis, states: "The Government's obsession with nuclear power is undermining and marginalizing more efficient and safer technologies - the real energy solutions." Renewable energy, greater energy efficient and other technologies could fill the gap when existing reactors became redundant.
The Guardian (UK), 28 April 2009 / N-Base Briefing, 29 April 2009
Kazakhstan: proposal to host fuel-bank sparks anti-nuclear protest.
On April 14, police in Almaty the capital of Kazakhstan, have prevented a small protest by opponents of a Kazak government proposal to host a “nuclear fuel bank” that would provide a secure supply to power stations across the world. It was never going to be a big demonstration, just 30 or so like-minded representatives of non-government groups involved in human rights and similar areas. But it did not even get off the ground. As they were setting out from their office for Almaty’s main square, three activists from the human rights group Ar.Ruh.Hak were detained by police. Seven members of the opposition party Azat and two journalists were picked up separately. All 12 were taken to a police station and released after making statements. In a statement, the seven NGOs which planned the protest meeting said the lack of government transparency on issues like the nuclear one should raise concerns. For opponents of the plan, the legacy of Semipalatinsk (a testing ground where over 450 atom bombs were set off by the Soviet authorities between 1949 and 1989) plus the risk that the fuel bank will not be secure, constitute serious objections. Kazakhstan is a major producer of uranium – it has about 20 per cent of the world's ore reserves.
The Fuel-Bank, which would be supervised by the IAEA would provide ‘a secure and controlled source of fissile material for peaceful use’ as the Agency likes to put it. Countries would no longer have ‘an excuse’ to develop uranium enrichment programs, which carry the risk of being uses for ‘non-peaceful meanings’. Countries would simply buy fuel from the bank when they needed it. After the IAEA first came up with the idea in 2005, Kazakhstan and Russia signed an agreement with the agency to look at setting up a storage facility in the Siberian city of Irkutsk, which has a uranium enrichment plant. Now Kazakhstan has offered its own facilities. President Nursultan Nazarbaev revealed the proposal when Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited the capital Astana on April 6 that prompted Kazak NGOs into action.
Institute For War And Peace Reporting, 17 April 2009
Nuclear safety in Canada.
Unlike the governments of other developed nations, the Canadian government and Parliament can now directly control the start-up and operation of nuclear reactors. This is the result of a recent Federal Court ruling that allows the government to remove the head of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) without cause. Unless the Supreme Court overturns this decision or parliamentarians pass legislation to remove this power from the government, protection from nuclear mishaps in Canada could depend on the political whims of sitting governments and Parliament.
The Federal Court ruled earlier in April that the Harper government had the right to remove without cause the then-president of the CNSC, Linda Keen. This means that the CNSC head serves at the pleasure of the government rather than until the end of an appointed term, subject only to good behavior. The incident that precipitated the court case was Keen's refusal, despite pressure from the Prime Minister and natural resources minister, to restart a reactor to alleviate a shortage of medical isotopes. Keen said the reactor did not met its licensing requirements. The government removed Keen as head of the CNSC, and Parliament voted to restart the reactor.
Toronto Star (Canada), 21 April 2009
IAEA Inspectors Asked to Leave DPRK.
On April 14, IAEA issued a statement on the situation in North-Korea: "The Democratic People´s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has today informed IAEA inspectors in the Yongbyon facility that it is immediately ceasing all cooperation with the IAEA. It has requested the removal of all containment and surveillance equipment, following which, IAEA inspectors will no longer be provided access to the facility. The inspectors have also been asked to leave the DPRK at the earliest possible time.
The DPRK also informed the IAEA that it has decided to reactivate all facilities and go ahead with the reprocessing of spent fuel." IAEA inspectors removed all IAEA seals and switched off surveillance cameras on April 15. They left the country the following day.
IAEA inspectors returned to monitor and verify the shutdown of the Yongbyon nuclear facilities in the Democratic People´s Republic of Korea, after a report outlining the modalities reached between the Agency and the DPRK were approved by the IAEA on 9 July 2007.
The latest move by DPRK is a reaction on an April 13 statement by the United Nations' Security Council denouncing the North’s rocket launching as a violation of a resolution after the North’s first nuclear test in 2006 that banned the country from nuclear and ballistic missile tests. The Council called for tightening sanctions.
On April 29, North Korea said that it would start a uranium enrichment program, declaring for the first time that it intended to pursue a second project unless the United Nations lifted sanctions.
IAEA Press Release, 14 April 2009 / New York Times, 29 April 2009/ IAEA Staff report, 9 July 2007
Trouble for UAE-US nuclear agreement.
The president of the U.S.-UAE Business Council, Danny Sebright, expected U.S. president Barack Obama to issue a presidential determination that the nuclear agreement with the United Arab Emirates, signed in January, in the last days of the administration of former President George W. Bush, is in the best interests of the United States. That would set the stage for U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to formally notify Congress of the United States' intention to enter into the nuclear energy cooperation deal with one of Iran's neighbors, giving lawmakers 90 days to vote down the pact if they choose.
Under the "123 deal," similar to the one the United States signed last year with India, Washington would share nuclear technology, expertise and fuel. In exchange, the UAE commits to abide by the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and the International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. The small oil-rich Gulf nation (the world's third largest oil exporter in 2007) promises not to enrich uranium or to reprocess spent nuclear fuel to extract plutonium, which can be used to make nuclear bombs. The deal is part of a major UAE investment in nuclear, and it has already signed deals to build several nuclear power plants. The United States already has similar nuclear cooperation agreements with Egypt and Morocco, and U.S. officials said Washington is working on similar pacts with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Jordan.
Lobby for the project is ongoing: a May 5, report on the economic benefits of US-UAE 123 Agreement said the UAE nuclear program would generate contracts worth more than US$41billion benefiting American companies that could participate as suppliers or as central leaders in consortiums bidding on projects. The sky is the limit.
However, opposition about the deal is growing rapidly after footage was made public in the U.S. On the tape, an Afghan grain dealer is seen being tortured by a member of the royal family of Abu Dhabi, one of the UAE's seven emirates. The ratification of the deal has been postponed.
Meanwhile, the UAE last year surpassed Israel as the United States' largest export market in the Middle East. Furthermore, the small country has become the third-biggest arms importer worldwide, SIPRI announced earlier in April. The figures from the UAE reflected what the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) described as a "worrying" regional trend of increased arms imports into the Middle East. The country accounted for 6.0 percent of the world's arms imports between 2004 and 2008, according to the new report from the (SIPRI) -- the same proportion as South Korea. Only China with 11 percent and India with 7.0 percent, had a larger share of the market, said the report. The UAE's position was all the more striking because in the previous study, covering the period 1999-2003, the UAE was only the 16th biggest importer of military equipment worldwide.
Middle East Online, 17 April 2009 / Reuters, 29 April 2009 / CNN, 29 April 2009 / Business24-7.ae, 5 May 2009
‘Near Miss’ at Sellafield’s High Level Waste Storage Tank Complex.
On April 2, an incident at Sellafield’s High Level Waste (HLW) Storage Tank Complex occurred, involving a loss of coolant water to all the storage tanks following the incorrect re-instatement of one of a number of control valves that had been isolated for maintenance. Because some of the storage tanks have a higher heat loading (the liquid HLW is physically hot as well as being highly radioactive) than others, efforts to re-instate the cooling water supply were directed first at the three tanks with the highest heat loading. Cooling was restored to the first of these after 75 minutes, and to all three tanks after 3 hours. Reporting today on the incident, Sellafield’s in-house Newsletter states that cooling was restored to all tanks within 8 hours. This is perilously close to the timescale of 10.5 hours catered for in the Sellafield site’s emergency plan (REPPIR).
Since the closure of Sellafield’s Calder Hall reactors in 2003, an accident involving the loss of coolant to the HLW tanks is designated as the ‘Reference Accident’ (worst credible accident) for Sellafield’s Emergency Plans under the Radiation and Emergency Preparedness and Public Information Regulations (REPPIR). The Reference Accident is described as being ‘a failure of the entire cooling water distribution system to the High Level Radioactive Waste Store following a single flange failure or leak from a length of pipe. The accident scenario assumes a failure to reinstate the cooling system within a period of 10.5 hours and that it has not been possible to isolate the failed section of pipe’.
The existing tanks, holding a significantly larger inventory of radioactive materials than were released during the Chernobyl accident, were commissioned between 1955 and 1990. They have long been subject of concern by the NII through the increasing failure of cooling components. Plans to construct and install new, smaller tanks are currently being assessed by Sellafield and the regulators.`
CORE Press release, 9 April 2009
IAEA: Still no successor for ElBaradei.
A total of five candidates have put themselves foward to succeed Mohamed ElBaradei as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The five come from Belgium, Spain, Slovenia, Japan and South Africa. The Japanese Ambassador to the IAEA in Vienna, Yukiya Amano, as well as South Africa's representative, Abdul Samad Minty, have reentered the contest after failing to win a majority in a first voting session among IAEA governing board members in March. The other three are:
* Jean-Pol Poncelet, a former Belgian Deputy Prime Minister who currently serves as a senior vice president at the French nuclear group Areva (responsible for sustainable development and the improvement of quality processes).
* Spanish nuclear expert Luis Echavarri, the head of the Paris-based Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development
* The fifth potential successor is the Slovenian Ernest Petric, a former ambassador in Vienna who currently serves as a judge on his country's constitutional court.
In a first session of voting among the 35 countries on the IAEA board, Amano narrowly missed the necessary two-thirds majority, while Minty had the support of only 15 countries.
The U.S. and European countries supported Amano, as they saw him as a nuclear-policy expert who is considered to be less politically outspoken than Minty or ElBaradei.
A new date for voting at the IAEA board has yet to be fixed. IAEA Board Chairperson Ms. Feroukhi is soon to initiate informal consultations on the nominations receive.
Dr. ElBaradei, who is to retire on November 30, is the IAEA´s fourth Director General since 1957. He was first appointed to the office effective December 1997. He follows Hans Blix, IAEA Director General from 1981 to 1997; Sigvard Eklund, IAEA Director General from 1961 to 1981; and Sterling Cole, IAEA Director General from 1957 to 1961.
EarthTimes, 27 April 2009 / IAEA Staff Report, 29 April 2009
China: warnings from within.
According to China's director of the National Nuclear Safety Administration, Li Ganjie, the quick expansion of China's nuclear energy production is far outpacing the regulation of its nuclear reactors. "At the current stage, if we are not fully aware of the sector's over-rapid expansions, it will threaten construction quality and operation safety of nuclear power plants," Li Ganjie told an International Ministerial Conference on nuclear energy.
The Communist Party newspaper Renmin Ribao on April 21 reported Ganjie saying in unusually strong terms that China has insufficient capacity to handle nuclear waste. Li said the storage of past nuclear waste was 'not entirely under control'. In a report presented to the IAEA-sponsored international conference on the future of nuclear power Li stated that nuclear safeguards in China are weak and insufficient to keep up with the country's need to develop nuclear energy and technology: there is a dearth of personnel, technical equipment, financing and investment.
Planetark, 21 April 2009 / www.monsterandcritics.com, 21 April 2009
U.K.: Faslane leaks.
The revelation that there have been a series of radioactive leaks into the Firth of Clyde from the Ministry of Defence's Faslane nuclear submarine base has once again focused attention on the lack of regulation for military facilities. Documents released to Channel 4 News under Freedom of Information show there have been over 40 leaks in the last three decades and at least eight in the past 10 years. Military facilities have immunity from regulation and operate under 'letters of agreement' with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and their equivalent regulators in England and Wales.
SEPA is so concerned at the leaks and general waste management at Faslane that it would have considered closing the facility down if it had the power. A Ministry of Defence report said failure to abide by safety procedures at Faslane was a "recurring theme" and was a cultural issue that must be addressed. The report also accepted Faslane failed to use the 'best practicable means' to control waste, there was poor design of holding tanks, weld defects in piping, a lack of accurate drawings of the plant and low staffing levels.
N-Base Briefing, 29 April 2009