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New IAEA report sees "possible shrinking role" for nuclear power

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has released its latest projections for the future of nuclear power.1 For the first time in many years, perhaps ever, the IAEA is up-front about the grim prospects for nuclear power. The article promoting the new report is titled: 'New IAEA Energy Projections See Possible Shrinking Role for Nuclear Power'.2

Comparable IAEA reports in September 2016 and August 2017 were headlined 'IAEA Sees Global Nuclear Power Capacity Growing Through 2030'3 and 'Long-Term Potential of Nuclear Power Remains High'.4

The recent IAEA article states:2

"Nuclear power's electricity generating capacity risks shrinking in the coming decades as ageing reactors are retired and the industry struggles with reduced competitiveness …

"Over the short term, the low price of natural gas, the impact of renewable energy sources on electricity prices, and national nuclear policies in several countries following the accident at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in 2011 are expected to continue weighing on nuclear power's growth prospects, according to the report. In addition, the nuclear power industry faces increased construction times and costs due to heightened safety requirements, challenges in deploying advanced technologies and other factors."

The IAEA report presents low and high projections. The high projection is best ignored: the IAEA has previously assessed its own performance and found that even its low projections tend to be too high!5,6

The IAEA report notes that in its latest low projection, nuclear generating capacity falls by more than 10% from 392 gigawatts (GW) at the end of 2017 to 352 GW in 2030. The high projection of 511 GW in 2030 is 45 GW less than that predicted by the IAEA just a year ago.

The IAEA has sharply reduced its low and high projections since the Fukushima disaster, so much so that its current high projection for 2030 is 35 GW lower than its 2010 low projection for 2030:






Low estimate 2030 nuclear capacity (GW)




‒194 GW

High estimate 2030 nuclear capacity (GW)




‒292 GW

Actual nuclear capacity (including idled reactors) (GW)




Actual nuclear capacity (excluding idled reactors) (GW)

375 (approx.)



According to the IAEA report, nuclear's share of global electricity generation in 2017 remained at about 10.3% while the share of renewables (including hydropower) was 25.1%.1 In the IAEA's low projection, nuclear's share will fall to 7.9% in 2030.1

The IAEA report notes the high degree of uncertainty about reactor retirements: in its low projection, 139 GW of nuclear capacity is retired by 2030 compared to 55 GW in the high projection.

The average age of the reactor fleet has been steadily rising and reached 30 years in mid-2018 according to the latest World Nuclear Industry Status Report (WNISR).8

The WNISR doesn't make projections about the future of nuclear power, but it includes calculations based on assumptions about reactor lifespans. WNISR-2018 notes that if one assumes a 40-year reactor lifespan (and ignoring 81 reactors already past that lifespan, and also ignoring 32 reactors in long-term outage), 216 reactors will enter the post-operational phase by 2030.8

WNISR-2018 states: "If all currently operating reactors were shut down at the end of a 40-year lifetime ‒ with the exception of the 81 that are already operating for more than 40 years ‒ by 2020 the number of operating units would be 12 below the total at the end of 2017, even if all reactors currently under active construction were completed, with the installed capacity declining by 2 GW. In the following decade to 2030, 190 units (168.5 GW) would have to be replaced ‒ three and a half times the number of startups achieved over the past decade."8

Here are the IAEA's regional low projections:2

  • Northern America: Nuclear capacity decreases by almost one-third by 2030.
  • Latin America & the Caribbean: Increase by 2030 but nuclear's role will remain small.
  • Northern, Western and Southern Europe: Decrease by as much as 30%.
  • Eastern Europe: Maintain current levels.
  • Africa: Remain at current low levels.
  • Western Asia: Significant increase.
  • Southern Asia: Continued growth.
  • Central and Eastern Asia: Significant increase.


1. International Atomic Energy Agency, 'Energy, Electricity and Nuclear Power Estimates for the Period up to 2050: 2018 Edition',

2. IAEA, 10 Sept 2018, 'New IAEA Energy Projections See Possible Shrinking Role for Nuclear Power',

3. IAEA, 23 Sept 2016, 'IAEA Sees Global Nuclear Power Capacity Growing Through 2030',

4. Irena Chatzis / IAEA, 7 Aug 2017, 'Long-Term Potential of Nuclear Power Remains High: IAEA Report',

5. IAEA, 2007, Energy, Electricity and Nuclear Power: Developments and Projections − 25 Years Past and Future', tables 33 and 34, p.56,

6. Nuclear Monitor #811, 23 Sept 2015, 'Fanciful growth projections from the World Nuclear Association and the IAEA',

7. IAEA series: 'Energy, Electricity and Nuclear Power Estimates',

8. Mycle Schneider, Antony Froggatt et al., Sept 2018, 'The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2018',

Fukushima Fallout: Four years on

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green − Nuclear Monitor editor

Almost four years have passed since the 3/11 triple-disaster. Around 160,000 people were relocated because of the nuclear disaster and very few have returned to their homes. Apart from the radioactive contamination, there is little for them to return to.

A steady stream of reports detail the misery faced by evacuees from the triple-disaster. The latest of these reports concerns the number of evacuees who have died in solitude. At least 145 evacuees from the triple-disaster have died in solitude since March 2011. It is believed that prolonged isolation damages their health.1

The clean-up and decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi site will take decades to complete − but no-one knows how many decades. There is little precedent for some of the challenges TEPCO faces, such as the robotic extraction of damaged nuclear fuel from stricken reactors and its storage or disposal ... somewhere.

Last October, TEPCO pushed back the timeline for the start of the damaged fuel removal work by five years, to 2025. Dale Klein, a member of TEPCO's Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee, says the decommissioning schedule is pure supposition until engineers figure out how to remove the damaged fuel.2

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report

The IAEA completed its third review of the Fukushima clean-up operations in mid-February.3 The 15-member IAEA team released a preliminary report and the final report will be released by the end of March.4 The report does not consider contamination and clean-up operations outside the Fukushima Daiichi site.

"Japan has made significant progress since our previous missions," said IAEA team leader Juan Carlos Lentijo. "The situation, however, remains very complex, with the increasing amount of contaminated water posing a short-term challenge that must be resolved in a sustainable manner. The need to remove highly radioactive spent fuel, including damaged fuel and fuel debris, from the reactors that suffered meltdowns poses a huge long-term challenge."3

The preliminary report notes that the safe decommissioning of Fukushima Daiichi "is a very challenging task that requires the allocation of enormous resources, as well as the development and use of innovative technologies to deal with the most difficult activities."

Achievements since the last IAEA mission in 2013 include the complete removal of nuclear fuel from reactor #4 (1,533 new and spent fuel assemblies); progress with the clean-up of the site; and some progress with water management. Challenges include persistent underground water ingress and the accumulation of contaminated water; the long-term management of radioactive waste; and issues related to the removal of spent nuclear fuel, damaged fuel and fuel debris.

Water management

A large majority of the 7,000 workers at Fukushima Daiichi are working on problems associated with contaminated water − groundwater that becomes contaminated, and cooling water that becomes contaminated.5

An estimated two trillion yen (US$16.7 billion; €14.8b) will be spent on water management alone, which is 20% of the estimated cost of decommissioning the entire site.6 (In 2012, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers provided a "rough estimate" of US$500 billion (€447b) for on-site decommissioning costs, clean-up of contaminated lands outside the Fukushima plant boundary, replacement power costs, and compensation payments.7)

The IAEA report states that achievements since the last IAEA mission in 2013 include:

  • Improved and expanded systems to clean contaminated water;
  • The installation of new, improved tanks to store contaminated water (fully welded tanks replacing bolted flange type tanks), construction of dykes around the tanks with enhanced water holding capacity, and provision of covers to deflect rainwater from the dykes; and
  • The installation and operation of a set of pumping wells to reduce the flow of groundwater towards the reactor buildings, sealing of sea-side trenches and shafts, and the rehabilitation of the subdrain system. Groundwater ingress has been reduced by about 25% or 100,000 litres per day.

The installation of additional measures to reduce groundwater ingress, such as a frozen (ice) wall, is ongoing. The partially-built ice wall will enclose the area around reactors #1−4 on both the sea-side and the land-side. Whether the ice wall will effectively prevent the ingress and contamination of groundwater has been the subject of debate and scepticism.8

According to the IAEA report, the rehabilitation of subdrains (wells built around reactor buildings) and the construction of a treatment system for pumped subdrain water, are nearly complete. As the subdrains are placed in operation, they are expected to further reduce the groundwater ingress by about 150,000 litres per day, and to near zero following the installation of the land-side ice wall (if it works as hoped).

As of February 2015, about 600 million litres of contaminated water was stored on-site, of which more than half has already been treated to remove some radionuclides (including most caesium and strontium, but not tritium) and TEPCO expects to complete the treatment of the remaining water in the next few months.

Nevertheless the situation remains "complex", the IAEA report states, due to the ingress of about 300,000 litres of groundwater into the Fukushima Daiichi site each day, and the ongoing use (and contamination) of water to cool stricken reactors. The IAEA states that not all of the large number of water treatment systems deployed by TEPCO are operating to their full design capacity and performance. One of the many remaining challenges for TEPCO will be to seal leakages in reactor and turbine building walls, which it plans to tackle after controlling groundwater ingress.

Leaks and spills are still occurring. On February 22, sensors detected a fresh leak of radioactive water to the ocean. The sensors, rigged to a gutter that directs rain and groundwater to a nearby bay, detected contamination levels 50−70 times greater than normal, falling to 10−20 times the normal level later that day.9,10

On February 24, TEPCO acknowledged that it had failed to disclose leaks to the ocean of highly contaminated rainwater from a drainage ditch even though it was aware of the problem 10 months ago. The ditch receives run-off from the roof of the #2 reactor building. TEPCO said it recorded 29,400 becquerels of caesium per litre in water pooled on the rooftop, and 52,000 becquerels per litre of beta-emitting radionuclides such as strontium-90.11

The governor of Fukushima Prefecture, Masao Uchibori, said the incident was "extremely regrettable". Masakazu Yabuki, head of the Iwaki fisheries cooperative, said he had been "betrayed" by TEPCO. "I don't understand why [TEPCO] kept silent even though they knew about it. Fishery operators are absolutely shocked," Yabuki said.12 The National Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations said: "The anger among local fishermen who have been waiting to resume their business is immeasurable."13

Fishing industry and ocean dumping

A Fisheries Agency survey released in February revealed that the fishing industry has been slow to recover in coastal prefectures affected by the 3/11 triple-disaster. Only 50% of the surveyed companies in five prefectures said their production capacities have recovered to 80% or more of the levels before the disaster, with Fukushima Prefecture recording the lowest figure of 25%. Selling the catch has also been problematic. In the Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures, only 28% of the fish processing businesses have seen their sales rise to 80% or more of the pre-disaster levels.14

In January, the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations called on the government not to allow the release of contaminated water into the sea.15 Yet the IAEA report reiterates earlier advice to do just that. According to the IAEA, TEPCO's present plan to continue storing contaminated water in tanks, with a capacity of 800 million litres, is "at best a temporary measure while a more sustainable solution is needed."

Meanwhile, subsidiaries of Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom are working on plans to build a demonstration plant to test technology for tritium removal from contaminated water.16 However the demonstration plant would not be operational until early 2016 and it is doubtful whether it could be deployed before the existing tank storage capacity is full.

The Prince of PR

The IAEA's latest report is one part substance, one part public relations. It is silent about the miserable situation faced by evacuees, sub-standard working conditions at Fukushima, the government's disgraceful secrecy law17, and much else besides.

Prince William's visit to Japan in late February was used for more pro-nuclear PR by the Japanese government. Escorted by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Prince William visited Fukushima prefecture, ate local produce and went to a children's playground. However they drove straight past a village where some of the Fukushima evacuees are still living as refugees.

Tokuo Hayakawa, a Buddhist priest who lives near the Fukushima plant, said: "I think Abe is using him. It's true that you can find children playing outside, and you can eat some Fukushima food. But to take that as the overall reality here is totally wrong. If I could, I would take him to these abandoned ghost towns, and to the temporary houses where people still live, so he could see the reality that we are facing."18

Worker accidents and deaths on the rise

Shortly after the third anniversary of the triple-disaster, Fukushima workers rallied outside the Tokyo headquarters of TEPCO, complaining that they were forced to work in dangerous conditions for meagre pay.19 Little has changed over the past year.20,21,22

The number of serious work-related accidents at Fukushima Daiichi doubled in 2014. Nine serious accidents occurred between March 2014 and January 2015, resulting in two deaths and eight serious injuries. The total number of accidents at Fukushima Daiichi, including heatstrokes, has almost doubled to 55 this fiscal year (which ends on March 31). "It's not just the number of accidents that has been on the rise," said labour inspector Katsuyoshi Ito. "It's the serious cases, including deaths and serious injuries that have risen."22

On January 19, a worker died at Fukushima Daiichi after falling into an empty rainwater tank, and the following day a worker at the nearby Fukushima Daini plant died after being hit on the head by a piece of heavy equipment in a waste treatment facility. In March 2014, a worker died at Fukushima Daiichi after being buried by gravel while digging a ditch.

Just one week before the two deaths in January, labour inspectors warned TEPCO about the rising frequency of accidents and ordered it to take measures to deal with the problem. The rising accident rate is partly due to the increased number of workers involved in the clean-up of Fukushima Daiichi − now around 7,000, more than double the 3,000 or so that worked there in April 2013. But other factors are at work. TEPCO acknowledged after the deaths in January that there has been a "lack of continuous safety enhancement activity, such as listing up danger zones and eliminating them." The company also noted that "because of strong pressure to comply with the schedule, accident recurrence prevention activity was not thorough, and the range of inspection and measures was restricted."21

Hazard payments

TEPCO President Naomi Hirose announced in late 2013 that the daily hazard payment for Fukushima Daiichi clean-up workers would be doubled to about US$180 (€161). But many workers are not receiving the promised pay increase. TEPCO has declined to disclose details of its legal agreements with the 800 contractors and subcontractors who employ almost all of the Fukushima workforce. Only one of the 37 workers interviewed by Reuters from July−September 2014 said he received the full hazard pay increase promised by TEPCO. Some got no increase. In cases where payslips detailed a hazard payment, the amounts ranged from US$36−90 (€32−80) per day.23

Two former and two current workers have initiated legal action against TEPCO to reclaim unpaid wages, in particular unpaid hazard payments. The four workers are seeking a total of US$543,000 (€485,000).24

In November 2014, TEPCO acknowledged that that the number of workers on false contracts has increased in the past year. Survey results released by TEPCO showed that around 30% of those workers polled said that they were paid by a different company from the contractor that normally directs them at the worksite, which is illegal under Japan's labour laws. A similar survey in 2013 found that about 20% of workers were on false contracts.25

Yet another controversy emerged on February 18 when a construction firm executive was arrested for sending a 15-year-old boy to help clean up radioactive waste outside the Fukushima plant. Japan's labour laws prohibit people under 18 from working in radioactive areas. The boy was ordered to lie about his age. He said he was paid just ¥3,000 (US$25.1; €22.4) per day and was hit when he did not work hard enough.26

A New York Times editorial in March 2014 stated: "A pattern of shirking responsibility permeates the decommissioning work at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. ... It was the Japanese government, which had been leading the promotion of nuclear power, that made the Fukushima cleanup TEPCO's responsibility. The government kept TEPCO afloat to protect shareholders and bank lenders. It then used taxpayer money to set up the Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund, which provided loans to TEPCO to deal with Fukushima. This arrangement has conveniently allowed the government to avoid taking responsibility for the nuclear cleanup."27

The government passes responsibility to TEPCO, and TEPCO passes responsibility to a labyrinth of contractors and subcontractors. The government and TEPCO shirk responsibility for the Fukushima clean-up, just as they shirked responsibility for the March 2011 nuclear disaster.


1. 1 March 2015, '44 evacuees die alone in temporary housing in ’14', Yomiuri Shimbun,
2. 7 Feb 2015, 'Mission impossible: An industrial clean-up without precedent',
3. IAEA media release, 17 Feb 2015, 'IAEA Team Completed Third Review of Japan's Plans to Decommission Fukushima Daiichi',
4. IAEA, February 2015, IAEA International Peer Review, Preliminary Summary Report: Mission on Mid-And-Long-Term Roadmap Towards the Decommissioning of TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station Units 1-4,
5. Justin McCurry, 14 Nov 2014, 'Fukushima £11bn cleanup progresses, but there is no cause for optimism',
6. Mari Yamaguchi / Associated Press, 12 Nov 2014, 'Japan's Fukushima cleanup 3 years on: little key work done',
7. American Society of Mechanical Engineers, June 2012, 'Forging a New Nuclear Safety Construct: The ASME Presidential Task Force on Response to Japan Nuclear Power Plant Events',
8. 2 May 2014, 'Nuclear expert doubts ice wall will solve Fukushima plant leaks',
9. AFP, 22 Feb 2015, 'Fukushima nuclear plant detects fresh leak of radioactive water',
10. Nuclear Regulation Authority, 25 Feb 2015, 'Possible Flow of Contaminated Water to the Outside of the Controlled Area of Fukushima Daiichi NPS',
11. 25 Feb 2015, 'Fisheries 'shocked' at silence over water leak at wrecked Fukushima No. 1 plant',
12. Arata Yamamoto, 25 Feb 2015, 'Radioactive Fukushima Water Leak Was Unreported for Months: Official',
13. Kazuaki Nagata, 27 Feb 2015, 'Fisheries group lodges protest against Tepco's failure to disclose leak of radioactive rainwater',
14. 13 Feb 2015, 'Recovery slow in disaster-zone fish processing industries',
15. 27 Jan 2015, 'Fishermen oppose dumping radioactive water into sea',
16. WNN, 18 Feb 2015, 'IAEA team sees improvements at Fukushima Daiichi',
17. Toko Sekiguchi, 13 Feb 2015, 'Japan Slips in Press Freedom Ranking',
18. Gordon Rayner / Reuters, 26 Feb 2015, 'Prince William in Japan: controversial visit to Fukushima during visit',
19. Agence France-Presse, 14 March 2014, 'Fukushima nuclear workers rally against plant operator over low pay, dangerous conditions',
20. Yu Kotsubo and Akifumi Nagahashi, 17 Feb 2015, 'TEPCO vows safety first in training program for workers at Fukushima',
21. WNN, 3 Feb 2015, 'Tepco resumes work after contractor deaths',
22. Antoni Slodkowski, 19 Jan 2015, 'Fukushima worker dies after falling into water storage tank',
23. Mari Saito and Antoni Slodkowski, 8 Oct 2014, 'Nuclear workers kept in dark on Fukushima hazard pay',
24. Justin McCurry, 9 Sept 2014, 'Fukushima fallout continues: now cleanup workers claim unpaid wages',
25. Aaron Sheldrick, 28 Nov 2014, 'Fukushima workers still in murky labor contracts: Tepco survey',
26. 18 Feb 2015, 'Construction firm exec arrested for sending teen to help Fukushima cleanup',
27. Editorial, 21 March 2014, 'Fukushima's Shameful Cleanup',

Fukushima and beyond: nuclear power in a low-carbon world

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Peter Karamoskos − Nuclear Radiologist, member of the National Council of the Medical Association for Prevention of War (Australia)

Review of: Christopher Hubbard, 2014, 'Fukushima and beyond: nuclear power in a low-carbon world', Ashgate Publishing, ISBN 978-1-4094-5491-5

When Tony Benn was Britain's Energy Secretary, he warned about people who came to you with a problem in one hand, and a solution in their back pocket. He learnt this from Britain's nuclear industry. One should keep this in mind when considering climate change as the latest rationale for expansion of the nuclear industry.

This book, authored by a lecturer in International Relations and International Security at Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia, is rooted in the premise that nuclear power is essential to climate change mitigation.

The Fukushima nuclear disaster is used as a contextual leverage point to argue the counterfactual that this event, and more particularly the response to it, has made nuclear power more desirable than he contends it previously was. As the author states, rather blithely, on the issue of safety, "... simply put, the nuclear energy sector is extremely safe because it must be."

The foundational premise of the book, that nuclear power is essential to climate change mitigation is axiomatic to all arguments which follow. If it is not, then nuclear power becomes nothing more than a 'climate choice'.

The problem with this premise, which the author does not challenge, is that if we only address greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation, then we can't avert climate change. Indeed, an important point not stated until the last chapter is that electricity does not account for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions, yet, this is the only sector that nuclear power can influence.

The latest IPCC Report1 states that the latest global greenhouse gas emissions were 49 gigatonnes (Gt) CO2-eq/yr as of 2010. Electricity and heating accounted for 12 Gt, with electricity alone about 9 Gt. Agriculture, forestry and other land use account for 12 Gt, transport 7 Gt, industry 10 Gt. Other energy sources account for the balance. So, approximately 80% of greenhouse gases (GHG) have nothing to do with electricity.

We need to reduce our GHG emissions by 40–70% of 2010 emissions by 2050 and near-zero emissions by the end of this century if we are to maintain a global temperature rise of <2 °C and thus avoid distressing climate change impacts in ecological and socio-economic systems.

If we assume the (incorrect) argument that nuclear power produces no CO2 emissions and that every kW produced avoids 500 g of CO2-e/kWh being released into the atmosphere (the average carbon intensity of global electricity generation), nuclear power currently abates 1.5 Gt per annum of GHG.

The IAEA in a report advocating nuclear power as a solution to climate change, forecasts two scenarios for the future of nuclear power: a 'low' scenario (435 GW), and a 'high' scenario (722 GW) generation capacity by 2030. However, the claim that the nuclear industry will more than double its capacity over the next few decades (in the 'high scenario') is pure fantasy.

We currently commission about one new reactor a year somewhere in the world. If under the most optimistic conditions we raise that to 8 a year for the next 10 years and 15 a year for the 10 years after that, we simply have replaced the reactors that will be de-commissioned by then. And for every year we do not meet this rate of build, the hill to be climbed gets steeper.

However, assuming that the nuclear industry pulled the proverbial rabbit out of a hat and was able to double its capacity over this time period, and (falsely) assuming that it generates no greenhouse gases itself, it would only abate an additional 2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases per annum over the existing 1.5 Gt it already abates, i.e. 4% abatement on 2010 emissions. Therefore, how can a 3.6 Gt abatement (assuming it replaces mainly fossil fuels for electricity generation and it does not generate GHG in its life cycle – clearly not the case) be considered indispensable?

Surely it can be readily and quickly replaced with renewables, which can also address several of the other non-electricity GHG-emitting sectors. In 2013 alone, the world brought online 69 GW of solar PV and wind capacity.

If simple arithmetic escapes Hubbard's sanguine assertions as to the desirability and indispensability of nuclear power, also missing from his treatise is consideration of the blatant evidence of nuclear power being in long-term decline – long before Fukushima. The nuclear share of the world's electricity generation has declined steadily from a historic peak of 17.6% in 1996 to 10.8% in 2013.

Nuclear power and renewables in China

Even in China, which has the most ambitious nuclear power programme in the world and is the poster child for nuclear boosters, including Prof. Hubbard, more renewable electricity capacity was brought online than nuclear and fossil fuels combined in 2013. This is also reflected in a new assessment by the OECD's International Energy Agency. During 2000–2013, global investment in power plants was split between renewables (57%), fossil fuels (40%) and nuclear power (3%).

China set the world record for solar PV implementation in one year at 12 GW (compared with 3 GW for nuclear) and as of the end of 2013 has more solar PV capacity than nuclear, and five times more wind power than nuclear – and the gap between renewables and nuclear in China keeps increasing. China sees electricity generation capacity as a portfolio enterprise and is clearly putting vastly more bets on renewables than nuclear – as is the rest of the world. China's plan is for 58 GW of nuclear capacity by 2020, but wind alone already exceeded this capacity last year.

Hubbard uses optimistic projections of 300–500 GW nuclear capacity in China by 2050, but doesn't divulge that these have been promoted by the industry itself and have not been approved by the government and are certainly not government policy.

Furthermore, rapid technological advances are also making low-carbon alternatives to nuclear power appear more attractive. Bloomberg New Energy Finance, an industry publisher, forecasts that onshore wind will be the cheapest way to make electricity in China by 2030.

Nuclear output accounts for only 4.4% of global energy consumption, the smallest share since 1984. Renewable energy, on the other hand, provided an estimated 19% of global final energy consumption in 2012 (electricity, heating, transport) and continued to grow in 2013. Of this total share in 2012, modern renewables accounted for approximately 10%, with the remainder (estimated at just over 9%) coming from traditional biomass. Heat energy from modern renewable sources accounted for an estimated 4.2% of total final energy use; hydropower made up about 3.8% and an estimated 2% was provided by power from wind, solar, geothermal and biomass, as well as by biofuels.

Nuclear safety

Hubbard writes off concerns of nuclear safety in the industry with the circular assertion 'safe because it must be' (although the Fukushima disaster, which he analyses in detail using the excellent independent report of the Japanese Diet which declared the 'myth of nuclear safety', actually contradicts his assertion).

Hubbard insists on using China as an exemplar of nuclear safety, yet his research is wanting. Philippe Jamet, a French nuclear safety commissioner, told his country's parliament earlier last year that Chinese counterparts were 'overwhelmed'. Wang Yi of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, an expert body, has warned that there are indeed 'uncertainties' in China's approach to nuclear safety.

Hubbard doesn't even touch on the proliferation hazards of an expansion of the nuclear industry (Iran is clearly an inconvenient truth); waves away nuclear waste disposal problems (science will fix it); and fudges the (increasingly deteriorating) economics of nuclear power (conveniently absent is the fact that private investors haven't put a cent into nuclear power for decades, unlike renewables).

Furthermore, Hubbard's description of new Generation IV and small modular reactors (these apparently will solve all major problems, e.g. waste, proliferation, accidents) might as well be no more than a cut and paste from a nuclear reactor sales brochure, in its lack of any critical appraisal of these fantasy claims. These designs are literally still only on paper with no track record, and won't be implemented for decades – if at all (too bad for GHG abatement).

The UK Government's Nuclear National Laboratories have released several reports stating that purported benefits of these new-generation reactors are at best overstated. Furthermore, proliferation hazards abound from proposals to use up existing plutonium stocks in these reactors (it needs to be converted to the bomb-ready metallic form first). Their safety is also questionable despite claims to the contrary, as their designs contravene the 'Defence in Depth' principles of nuclear safety of most nuclear regulators (most lack proper secondary containment, especially small modular reactors). In other words, they might never be licensed because they are not safe.

The author's forte is not radiation science and it shows. He lacks an understanding of the various world bodies involved in nuclear power and radiation science. This is disappointing for someone who claims expertise in the nuclear sector. For example, the IAEA is not a global regulatory body, as he claims, but an advisory body that member states join to provide guidance on implementation of nuclear activities. It has no legal jurisdiction to investigate or advise any member state without an invitation by the relevant member state.

The IAEA does have teeth to investigate suspected clandestine-prohibited proliferation-sensitive nuclear-cycle activities, but cannot impose itself (Iran is a case in point) without permission – hardly the global cop the author seems to think it is.

It is the member states themselves which regulate their own nuclear activities. This distinction is critical because it means nuclear safety is dependent on member states willingly implementing international best practice, and furthermore, not engaging in clandestine weapons development. However, where there is a lack of transparency and accountability − the two main principles of nuclear safety − safety is compromised. It is noteworthy that the main countries expanding their nuclear industries are those which rank low on Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index.

It is difficult to reconcile the author's views with the real world. The author engages in wishful, uncritical, almost magical thinking on a grand scale in its blandishments of the nuclear power industry.

1. IPCC. 2014. "Summary for Policymakers." In Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects. Edited by C. B. Field et al., pp.1–32.

Abridged from Medicine, Conflict and Survival, March 2015,

China's nuclear power plans: safety and security challenges

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green − Nuclear Monitor editor

China is pushing ahead with ambitious plans to expand nuclear power, but the risks are daunting.

China's State Council published the 'Energy Development Strategy Action Plan, 2014-2020' in November. The plan envisages an expansion of nuclear power from 19.1 gigawatts (GW) of currently installed capacity to 58 GW by 2020, with another 30 GW under construction by then. It says that efforts should be focused on promoting the use of large pressurised water reactors (including the AP1000 and CAP1400 designs), high temperature gas-cooled reactors, and fast reactors.1

Ambitious targets for renewables have also been set: 350 GW of hydro capacity by 2020, 200 GW of wind power capacity, and 100 GW of solar capacity. 1 Thus the renewable target of 650 GW greatly exceeds the 58 GW nuclear target. In 2013, for the first time, China added more new renewable capacity than new fossil and nuclear capacity.2

Chinese authorities have a history of failing to meet nuclear power forecasts:

  • In 1985, authorities forecast 20 GW in 2000 but the true figure was 2.2 GW (11% of the forecast).3
  • In 1996, authorities forecast 20 GW in 2010 but the true figure was 8.4 GW (42% of the forecast). 3
  • In late 2012, China revised its plan to have 50 GW of nuclear capacity installed by 2015 down to 40 GW − and the true figure will be around half that.4

The Economist noted in a December 6 article that plans for a massive nuclear expansion should be taken with "a big pinch of salt" and added: "It is true that China is the brightest spot in the global nuclear industry, but that is mostly because prospects in other places are bleak."5

Claims by industry bodies − such as the World Nuclear Association's forecast of 150 GW of nuclear capacity in China by 20306 − should also be taken with a pinch of salt.

In 2010, Chinese officials forecast 130 GW of installed nuclear capacity by 2020 − more than double the current forecast. And the State Council Research Office's 2011 forecast of 70 GW by 2020 has been reduced to 58 GW.2

It is unlikely that the 58 GW target can be reached by 2020. It assumes no closures of the 22 operating reactors, completion of all 27 reactors (29 GW) under construction, and completion of 10 GW that has yet to begin construction − all in the space of six years.


The South China Morning Post noted in a September 2014 article that "China will have to overcome some big hurdles, including conflicts of interest among large state-owned companies, technological uncertainties in new-generation power plants and public concerns about nuclear safety." The newspaper quotes a China Institute of Atomic Energy expert who argues that a shortage of scientists and engineers poses a "major challenge".7

Plans for inland nuclear plants have been delayed by public opposition (especially in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster), water shortages and other problems. Even the latest plan calls for nothing more than feasibility studies regarding inland plants.

A 2011 report from the State Council Research Office stated that nuclear development would require new investment of around US$150 billion (€121b) by 2020, on top of the costs of plants already under construction. The Office noted that new nuclear projects rely mainly on debt, funds are tight, and "investment risks cannot be discounted". Supply chain problems and bottlenecks could result in delays and further cost increases, the report noted.8

Safety first?

Numerous insiders have warned about inadequate nuclear safety and regulatory standards in China. He Zuoxiu, a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said last year that "to reduce costs, Chinese designs often cut back on safety".9

Li Yulun, a former vice-president of China National Nuclear Corporation, said last year that Chinese "state leaders have put a high priority on [nuclear safety] but companies executing projects do not seem to have the same level of understanding."10

Cables released by WikiLeaks in 2011 highlighted the secrecy of the bidding process for nuclear power plant contracts in China, the influence of government lobbying, and potential weaknesses in management and regulatory oversight. Westinghouse representative Gavin Liu was quoted in a cable as saying: "The biggest potential bottleneck is human resources – coming up with enough trained personnel to build and operate all of these new plants, as well as regulate the industry."11

In August 2009, the Chinese government dismissed and arrested China National Nuclear Corporation president Kang Rixin in a US$260 million (€209m) corruption case involving allegations of bid-rigging in nuclear power plant construction.12


In 2011, Chinese physicist He Zuoxiu warned that "we're seriously underprepared, especially on the safety front" for a rapid expansion of nuclear power. Qiang Wang and his colleagues from the Chinese Academy of Sciences noted in 2011 that China "still lacks a fully independent nuclear safety regulatory agency"13, and they noted that China's nuclear administrative systems are fragmented among multiple agencies; and China lags behind the US, France, and Japan when it comes to staff and budget to oversee operational reactors.14

The 2011 report by the State Council Research Office recommended that the National Nuclear Safety Administration "should be an entity directly under the State Council Bureau, making it an independent regulatory body with authority."8

China's nuclear safety agency is still not independent. And there are other problems: salaries for regulatory staff are lower than in industry, and workforce numbers remain relatively low. The State Council Research Office report said that most countries employ 30−40 regulatory staff per reactor, but China's nuclear regulator had only 1000 staff.8

In 2010, an International Atomic Energy Agency team carried out an Integrated Regulatory Review Service mission and said the review provided "confidence in the effectiveness of the Chinese safety regulatory system."8 Which just goes to prove that the IAEA sometimes says the silliest things − and in the process implicitly endorses and encourages sub-standard practices.

The Economist argued on December 6: "[T]he headlong rush to nuclear power is more dangerous and less necessary than China's government admits. One of the main lessons of Fukushima was that politicised, opaque regulation is dangerous. China's rule-setting apparatus is also unaccountable and murky, and ambitious targets for a risky technology should ring warning bells."15

Nuclear technology options

The Economist points to risks arising from China's approach to nuclear technology options:

"China's approach to building capacity has added to the risk of an accident. Rather than picking a single proven design for new reactors from an experienced vendor and replicating it widely, the government has decided to "indigenise" Western designs. The advantage of this approach is that China can then patent its innovations and make money out of selling them to the world; the downside is that there are now several competing designs promoted by rival state-owned enterprises, none of which is well tested.

"China should slow its nuclear ambitions to a pace its regulators can keep up with, and build its reactors using the best existing technology − which happens to be Western. That need not condemn it to more sooty, coal-fired years. The cost of renewable energy is dropping quickly and its efficiency is rising sharply. Last year, over half of all new power-generation capacity installed in China was hydro, wind or solar. If China wants to accelerate its move away from coal, ramping up those alternatives yet more would be a lot safer."15

Liu Baohua, the head of the nuclear office at the National Energy Administration, recently said that key technology and equipment being deployed in China's nuclear program is "still not completely up to standard". Liu said: "The third-generation reactors now under construction still have problems with the pumps and valves, and with the inflexibility of the design. ... We are working to resolve these problems and the overall situation is still under control." He said more needed to be done to improve the regulatory framework and to train nuclear personnel.16

The '12th 5-year Plan for Nuclear Safety and Radioactive Pollution Prevention and Vision for 2020', produced by the Ministry of Environment and endorsed by the State Council, said that China needed to spend US$13 billion (€10.4b) to improve nuclear safety at over the three years to 2015. The document states that "China has multiple types of nuclear reactors, multiple technologies and multiple standards of safety, which makes them hard to manage."8

China continues to build large numbers of 'Generation II' reactors which lack the safety features of more modern designs. The State Council Research Office report said that reactors built today should operate for 50 or 60 years, meaning a large fleet of Generation II reactors will still be in operation into the 2070s, when even Generation III reactors may have been superceded.8


The EPR reactors under construction at Taishan illustrate some of the problems and risks associated with China's nuclear program. "It's not always easy to know what is happening at the Taishan site," Stephane Pailler from France's Autorite de Surete Nucleaire (ASN) said in an interview this year. "We don't have a regular relationship with the Chinese on EPR control like we have with the Finnish," she said, referring to Finland's troubled EPR reactor project.

Philippe Jamet, one of ASN's five governing commissioners, testified before the French Parliament in February. "Unfortunately, collaboration isn't at a level we would wish it to be," he said. "One of the explanations for the difficulties in our relations is that the Chinese safety authorities lack means. They are overwhelmed."17

In March, EDF's internal safety inspector Jean Tandonnet noted problems evident during a mid-2013 visit to Taishan, including inadequacies with large components like pumps and steam generators which were "far" from the standards of the EPR plants in Finland and France.17

Tandonnet urged corrective measures and wrote that studies "are under way on tsunami and flooding risks."17 has assessed nuclear plants most at risks from a tsunami. Globally, it found that 23 nuclear power plants with 74 reactors are in high-risk areas. The riskiest country is China − of the 27 reactors under construction, 17 are located in areas considered at risk of tsunamis.18

Little information has been published about the Taishan reactor project − and the same could be said about many others. Albert Lai, chairman of The Professional Commons, a Hong Kong think tank, said this year that the workings of China's nuclear safety authority are a ''total black box'' and ''China has no transparency whatsoever.''17

Insurance and liability arrangements

The Economist recently noted that Communist leaders are "keenly aware that a big nuclear accident would prompt an ugly − and, in the age of viral social media, nerve-wrackingly unpredictable − public backlash against the ruling party."5

The backlash would be all the more virulent because of grossly inadequate insurance and liability arrangements. Chinese authorities are slowly developing legislation which may improve the situation. Currently, liability caps are the lowest in the world. Nuclear plant operators must have insurance that covers financial losses and injuries up to 300 million yuan (US$48.5m; €39m). If a legitimate claim exceeds that amount, the central government may provide up to 800 million yuan (US$129m; €104m) extra.19

Closing the fuel cycle, increasing the risks

China's attempt to develop a closed fuel cycle will increase safety and security risks as discussed in an October 2014 paper by Hui Zhang, a physicist and a research associate at Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.20

In 2010, China conducted a 10-day hot test at its pilot reprocessing plant, where it is also building a pilot MOX fuel fabrication facility. The China National Nuclear Corporation plans to build a medium-scale demonstration reprocessing plant by 2020, followed by a larger commercial reprocessing plant.

Hui Zhang notes that the pilot reprocessing plant lacks an integrated security system. He notes that the 2010 hot test revealed problems: "Although reprocessing operations stopped after only ten days, many problems, including safety and security issues, were encountered or identified. These included both a very high amount of waste produced and a very high measure of material unaccounted for or MUF."

If the closed fuel cycle plans proceed, the long-distance shipment of MOX fuels and metal plutonium fuels will pose major security concerns.

Hui Zhang argues that "China has no convincing rationale for rushing to build commercial-scale reprocessing facilities or plutonium breeder reactors in the next couple of decades, and a move toward breeders and reprocessing would be a move away from more secure consolidation of nuclear materials."

China ranks poorly in the NTI Nuclear Materials Security Index − it is in the bottom fifth of the countries ranked. The NTI summarises: "China's nuclear materials security conditions could be improved by strengthening its laws and regulations for the physical security of materials in transport to reflect the latest IAEA nuclear security guidelines, and for mitigating the insider threat, particularly by requiring personnel to undergo more stringent and more frequent vetting and by requiring personnel to report suspicious behavior to an official authority. China's nuclear materials security conditions also remain adversely affected by its high quantities of weapons-usable nuclear materials, political instability, governance challenges, and very high levels of corruption among public officials."21


1. WNN, 20 Nov 2014, 'China plans for nuclear growth',
2. World Nuclear Industry Status Report, 2014,
3. ACF, 2012, 'Yellowcake Fever: Exposing the Uranium Industry's Economic Myths',
4. Keith Bradsher, 24 Oct 2012, 'China Slows Development of Nuclear Power Plants',
5. 6 Dec 2014, 'Promethean perils',
6. World Nuclear Association, 9 December 2014, 'Nuclear Power in China',
7. Stephen Chen, 14 Sept 2014, 'China plans to be world leader in nuclear power by 2020', South China Morning Post,
8. World Nuclear Association, 9 December 2014, 'Nuclear Power in China',
9. He Zuoxiu, 19 March 2013, 'Chinese nuclear disaster "highly probable" by 2030',
10. South China Morning Post, 7 Oct 2013, 'China nuclear plant delay raises safety concern',
11. Jonathan Watts, 25 Aug 2011, 'WikiLeaks cables reveal fears over China's nuclear safety',
12. Keith Bradsher, 15 Dec 2009, 'Nuclear Power Expansion in China Stirs Concerns',
13. David Biello, 16 Aug 2011, 'China's nuclear ambition powers on',
14. 22 June 2011, 'China needs improved administrative system for nuclear power safety',
15. 6 Dec 2014, 'China's rush to build nuclear power plants is dangerous',
16. Reuters, 5 Dec 2014, 'China's new nuclear technology not yet fully up to standard, energy official says',
17. Tara Patel and Benjamin Haas, 20 June 2014, 'Nuclear Regulators 'Overwhelmed' as China Races to Launch World's Most Powerful Reactor',
18. Oil Price, 4 Nov 2014,
19. 26 April 2014, 'What if China has a Fukushima?',
See also WNN, 16 Sept 2014, 'Insurers can help improve the image of nuclear',
20. Hui Zhang, 8 Oct 2014, 'The Security Risks of China's Nuclear Reprocessing Facilities',
21. NTI Nuclear Materials Security Index, 2014,

Critique of nuclear safeguards in India

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green

The Australian government's plan to permit uranium sales to India has been subjected to a strong critique by the former Director-General of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office (ASNO), John Carlson.1

Others to have raised concerns include former Defence Department Secretary Paul Barratt, and Ron Walker, former Chair of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors. But Carlson's critique carries particular weight given his 21 years experience as the head of Australia's safeguards office. Moreover, Carlson is a strident nuclear advocate who oversaw the weakening of Australia's uranium export safeguards requirements and occasionally indulged in offensive and arguably defamatory attacks on nuclear critics. He's the last person you'd expect to be criticising the India−Australia nuclear cooperation agreement.

Carlson notes that agreement signed by Australia and India in September contains "substantial departures from Australia's current safeguards conditions" which suggest "that Australia may be unable to keep track of what happens to uranium supplied to India."

Carlson writes: "Disturbingly, it is reported that Indian officials will not provide Australia with reports accounting for material under the agreement, and that the Abbott Government seems prepared to waive this requirement for India. ... The reporting procedures are not optional; they are fundamental to Australia's ability to confirm that our safeguards conditions are being met. ... There is absolutely no case to waive them for India."

Carlson notes that the 'administrative arrangement' which will append the nuclear cooperation agreement may be "even more consequential than the agreement itself" as it sets out the working procedures for the agreement. But the public will never get to see the administrative arrangement. And the public will never be able to find out any information about the separation and stockpiling of weapons-useable plutonium in India; or nuclear accounting discrepancies ('Material Unaccounted For'); or even the quantity of Australian uranium (and its by-products) held in India.

The debate has international ramifications. Carlson writes: "Disturbingly, it is reported that Indian officials will not provide Australia with reports accounting for material under the agreement, and that the Abbott Government seems prepared to waive this requirement for India. The same issue has arisen under India's arrangements with the US and Canada. In response, Washington has held firm: the US-India administrative arrangement has been outstanding for several years; reportedly the US is insisting on receiving tracking information and India is refusing. In the case of Canada, the Harper Government gave in to India, an outcome described as the 'meltdown of Canadian non-proliferation policy'. The Canadian Government refuses to reveal the details of its arrangement. If Australia follows Canada down this path, it will put the wrong kind of pressure on the US, the EU and Japan in their own dealings with India."

He further states: "If India succeeds in delinking foreign-obligated nuclear material from individual bilateral agreements, making it impossible to identify which batch of material is covered by which agreement, then India could work a 'pea and thimble' trick in which no supplier could tell whether their material was being used contrary to bilateral conditions. The mere possibility of this is sufficient to call into question India's commitment to observing bilateral agreements."

There are many concerns other than those noted by Carlson. For example, nuclear material could be diverted and reports falsified with little likelihood that the falsification would be detected.

It seems reasonable that the public should be able to find out how often IAEA safeguards inspections are carried out in India, which facilities have been inspected, and whether any accounting discrepancies were detected. But national governments refuse to supply that information.2

The IAEA used to release aggregate information on the number of inspections carried out across three countries − India, Pakistan and Israel. From 2005-09, 44–50 safeguards inspections were carried out each year in those three countries, and in 2010 the figure was 67 inspections. But the 2011, 2012 and 2013 IAEA Safeguards Statements are silent about the number of inspections carried out.3

Arms Control Today thoroughly dissected the IAEA-India safeguards agreement and noted that: "Reporting provisions ... not contained in India's agreement cover information such as nuclear fuel-cycle-related research and development, nuclear-related imports, and uranium mining. The Indian additional protocol also does not include any complementary access provisions, which provide the IAEA with the potential authority to inspect undeclared facilities."4

Even if strict safeguards were in place, uranium sales to India would create an intractable problem: uranium exports freeing up India's domestic reserves for weapons production. K. Subrahmanyam, former head of the India's National Security Advisory Board, has said that: "Given India's uranium ore crunch and the need to build up our minimum credible nuclear deterrent arsenal as fast as possible, it is to India's advantage to categorise as many power reactors as possible as civilian ones to be refuelled by imported uranium and conserve our native uranium fuel for weapons-grade plutonium production."


3. IAEA Yearly Safeguards Statement,

More information:
Tsukasa Yamamura, 28 Nov 2012, 'Status of nuclear cooperation with India',
Friends of the Earth:

Nuclear cyber-security

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

IAEA computers infected. The International Atomic Energy Agency said on October 22 that in recent months malware had contaminated some of its computers but no sensitive data had been impacted. The infected computers are located at the Vienna International Centre.[1] This is not the first time the IAEA has been the target of cyber-attacks. A hacker website in 2012 published the contact information for IAEA experts that it had illicitly copied from a former IAEA computer server. The hackers were calling for an international investigation of Israel's atomic program.[2]

Stuxnet attack on Iran was more dangerous than previously thought. The Stuxnet virus that ravaged Iran's Natanz nuclear facility "was far more dangerous than the cyberweapon that is now lodged in the public's imagination," security expert Ralph Langner writes in Foreign Policy.[3,4] Stuxnet, a joint US-Israel project, is known for reportedly destroying roughly a fifth of Iran's nuclear centrifuges by causing them to spin out of control.

Langner states that Stuxnet − which was delivered into Natanz through a worker's thumb drive − also increased the pressure on spinning centrifuges while showing the control room that everything appeared normal by replaying recordings of the plant's protection system values while the attack occurred. The intended effect was not destroying centrifuges, but "reducing lifetime of Iran's centrifuges and making the Iranians' fancy control systems appear beyond their understanding," Langer writes.

Only after years of undetected infiltration did the US and Israel unleash the second variation to attack the centrifuges themselves and self-replicate to all sorts of computers. The first version was only detected with knowledge of the second. So while the second Stuxnet is considered the first cyber act of force, the new details reveal that the impact of the first virus will be much greater.

Langner writes: "The sober reality is that at a global scale, pretty much every single industrial or military facility that uses industrial control systems at some scale is dependent on its network of contractors, many of which are very good at narrowly defined engineering tasks, but lousy at cybersecurity."

In October, Jofi Joseph, a former White House national security aide, accused Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security advisor for communications, of leaking classified information about Stuxnet to the media. Joseph had earlier been fired after it came to light that he was behind the Twitter account @NatSecWonk.[5]

Stuxnet in Russia? Security firm Kaspersky has claimed that Stuxnet "badly infected" the internal network of an unnamed Russian nuclear plant after it caused chaos in Iran's nuclear facilities. Kaspersky CEO Eugene Kaspersky said a staffer at the unnamed Russian nuclear plant informed him of the infection.[6] When asked about Kaspersky's comments about the infection of one or more nuclear plants in Russia, security experts from FireEye and F-Secure said the nature of Stuxnet means it is likely that numerous power plants outside of Russia and Iran have fallen victim to the malware.[7]

Stuxnet in space? Security firm Kaspersky also claims that Stuxnet infected the International Space Station after being installed through a USB stick carried on board by a Russian cosmonaut. He did not provide details or elaborate on how the virus affected operations.[8]

New variant of Stuxnet. The Israeli and Saudi Arabian governments are working to create a new, more destructive variant of Stuxnet, according to Iranian news outlet Farsnews. Farsnews reported that an unnamed source with links inside the Saudi Arabian secret service confirmed the news, warning that the two nations plan to use it to further disrupt Iran's nuclear program.[9]

[3] Ralph Langner, 19 Nov 2013, 'Stuxnet's Secret Twin',
[4] Michael Kelley, Nov 2013, 'Stuxnet Attack On Iran's Nuclear Plant Was 'Far More Dangerous' Than Previously Thought',
[5] Allie Jones, 24 Oct 2013, 'Fired White House Tweeter Accused Ben Rhodes of Leaking Stuxnet',
[6] Lee Bell, 11 Nov 2013, 'Kaspersky claims Stuxnet infected a Russian nuclear plant',
[7] Alastair Stevenson, Nov 2013, 'Stuxnet: UK and US nuclear plants at risk as malware spreads outside Russia',
[8] Connor Simpson, 11 Nov 2013, 'Russian Cosmonauts Occasionally Infect the ISS with Malware',
[9] 3 Dec 2013,

Fukushima Fallout − Crooked clean-up, exasperated evacuees

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green - Nuclear Monitor editor

A 16-member International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) mission has lavished praise on Fukushima clean-up operations but wants authorities to work harder to convince Japanese citizens to accept higher radiation doses.[1] The IAEA was peddling similar lies in July 2011, when IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said clean-up work was "moving very smoothly".[2]

By contrast, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper has run a series of articles this year under the title 'Crooked Cleanup'.[3] The articles detail a myriad of problems including the involvement of criminal gangs in decontamination work; lax background checks; contractors tipped off about 'surprise' inspections of decontamination work; shoddy work practices such as radioactive debris being dumped in rivers; contractors lying about their decontamination work; Environment Ministry officials failing to act on a flood of complaints about shoddy work; work being concentrated around radiation monitors with little or no work carried out at less proximate locations; and much, much more.

A recent Greenpeace survey found that decontamination work has been effective for houses and many parts of major routes, but some lesser-used public roads still have high contamination levels, as do large areas of farmland and mountain areas. Jan Vande Putte, Greenpeace radiation protection adviser, said the decontaminated houses and roads were like "islands" and "corridors" in an otherwise polluted region. It would be "unrealistic" to ask residents to stay off contaminated roads and farmland, he said.[4] Tomoya Yamauchi, a professor of radiation physics at Kobe University, said he found that some decontaminated road surfaces in Fukushima had readings 18 times the target level because caesium had accumulated in cracks in the asphalt.[12]

Securing sites to store contaminated waste is proving extremely difficult. Citizens and local governments have opposed three-year 'temporary storage sites' which the national government wants to establish pending the construction of a mid-term waste storage facility. An Environment Ministry official said: "Given that no prospects are in sight for building an intermediate storage facility for soil and other waste from the decontamination process, people are distrustful and are concerned that such waste could be left abandoned in these temporary storage sites."[7]

As a result, waste is stored under tarpaulins across much of the Fukushima Prefecture, sometimes close to schools and homes.[5] About 150,000 tons of contaminated waste have been left in the open under tarpaulins − about 30% of all waste from the crisis − due to delays establishing temporary storage sites. A total of 372 temporary storage sites are planned, but so far only 139 have been established.[6]


Some evacuees will have to wait up to three years longer before they can return home as clean-up operations fall behind schedule. The Environment Ministry is revising the timetable for six of 11 municipalities in the exclusion zone. The original plan called for completing all decontamination work by March 2014.[8] Decontamination efforts are on schedule in only four municipalities. "I have run out of patience," farmer Muneo Kanno told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper. "We villagers are brimming with distrust of the central government and are concerned about whether we can eventually return. We are left deprived of our lives, and our return has been kept on hold."[9]

Meanwhile there is an unfolding discussion and debate concerning the likelihood that some evacuees will never be able to return home because of the difficulty of reducing radiation to habitable levels.[10,11]

Even in locations where decontamination operations have been completed, many former residents are reluctant to return. Reasons include concerns over the lack of jobs, services, and infrastructure; agricultural restrictions; houses being torn down because of extensive mildew; the unstable situation at the Fukushima nuclear plant and concerns about the adequacy of decontamination work.[12]

Reuters reported in August that just over 500 of the 3,000 former residents of the town of Kawauchi have returned and the "same pattern has played out across Fukushima as the nuclear accident turned the slow drip of urban flight by younger residents into a torrent, creating a demographic skew that decontamination is unlikely to reverse."[12]

Referring to a man he met during a visit to Japan in 2011, Gregory Jaczko, former chair of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, told an audience in New York on October 8: "There is nothing more challenging than to look into the eyes of a grandfather who no longer sees his children because they had to move on to find jobs. That is the tragedy and human toll that the Fukushima disaster has enacted on nearly 100,000 people in Japan. You cannot put those impacts in dollar terms, but they are very real."[13]

Some ugly victim-blaming is emerging. Nuclear apologist Leslie Corrice says evacuees "don't want to go home because being a Fukushima evacuee is a serious money-making life-style, and they don't want to lose their lucrative income."[14] Likewise, an official from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said some people don't want to return to their former homes because they don't want the compensation money from TEPCO to end. A single mother evacuated from near Kawauchi responded to the official's statement: "There's no jobs, no shops open, nothing. It's become an incredibly difficult place to live and yet they're saying 'You can go home now'. ... It's so unfair to say that. It's not that simple."[12]

[1] 21 Oct 2013, 'IAEA Expert Remediation Mission to Japan Issues Preliminary Report',
[2] Reuters, 25 July 2011, 'Fukushima cleanup going well, according to UN atomic watchdog',
[4] AFP, 10 Oct 2013, 'Fukushima decontamination insufficient: Greenpeace',
[5] 11 Sept 2013,
[6] Japan News, 14 Sept 2013
[7] 11 Sept 2013, 'Ministry angers residents by pushing back Fukushima cleanup',
[8] BBC, 21 Oct 2013,
[9] 11 Sept 2013, 'Ministry angers residents by pushing back Fukushima cleanup',
[10] 12 Nov 2013, 'Fukushima evacuees express anger, resignation at government policy shift',
[11] 4 Nov 2013, 'Debate begins for governments over Ishiba's no-return remark',
[12] Sophie Knight, 14 Aug 2013, 'Insight: Japan's nuclear clean-up: costly, complex and at risk of failing',
[13] David Biello, 'The Nuclear Odyssey of Naoto Kan, Japan's Prime Minister during Fukushima',
[14] 30 Oct 2013, 'The Business of Being a Fukushima Refugee',

More information on the plight of evacuees:


(Written by Nuclear Monitor editor Jim Green.)

Nuclear aspects to the crisis in Syria

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green - Nuclear Monitor editor

There are a number of nuclear threads to the unfolding situation in Syria:

  • Concerns are being raised about the potential consequences of a military strike on a small research reactor near Damascus, and about the radiological consequences of military strikes on other sites as well as the potential for nuclear materials to be lost or stolen;
  • Syria was probably constructing a larger research reactor but the site was hit by an Israeli military strike in 2007 and quickly demolished by the Syrian state;
  • Syria's failure to provide information to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and to allow comprehensive safeguards inspections adds another sorry chapter to the saga of the international nuclear safeguards system (while the 2007 military strike indicates that Israel has no faith in the safeguards system);
  • Even if the Syrian state was complying with IAEA safeguards requests (for access and information), it is near impossible to maintain a meaningful safeguards regime in the context of widespread conflict (in this case civil war);
  • Syria's repeated attempts to develop nuclear facilities over the decades have, for the most part, been thwarted by political pressure exerted by the US and Israel on potential nuclear supplier states such as Argentina, India and Russia; and
  • Syria may have been the first nation state to advance nuclear weapons ambitions under the guise of a purported interest in nuclear desalination − but it will not be the last.

Russia has warned that a missile strike on Syria could have catastrophic effects if it hits a research reactor near Damascus.[1] "If a warhead, by design or by chance, were to hit the Miniature Neutron Source Reactor [MNSR] near Damascus, the consequences could be catastrophic," a September 5 statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry said. The statement calls on the IAEA to "react swiftly" and present IAEA members with "an analysis of the risks linked to possible American strikes on the MNSR and other facilities in Syria". The statement said nearby areas could be contaminated by highly enriched uranium and that it would be impossible to account for the nuclear material after such a strike.

Ambassador Bassam Al-Sabbagh, a senior Syrian diplomat, said on September 10 that he had voiced his nation's "deep concern" to IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano about the possible risks of a military strike on the MNSR. Al-Sabbagh said Syria "strongly" endorsed the Russian request for an assessment by IAEA: "I expressed our deep concern regarding the possible risks of any military attack on facilities under safeguards agreement."[2]

The US Ambassador to the IAEA, Joseph Macmanus, told an IAEA Board meeting on September 9 that such "comprehensive risk analyses of hypothetical scenarios are beyond the IAEA's statutory authority. The IAEA has never before conducted this type of analysis, and it would exceed IAEA's mandate, and have far-reaching implications that exceed IAEA capabilities and authorities."[3]

Amano said on September 9 that the IAEA was considering the Russian request.[4,5] He said that 1 kg of highly enriched uranium (HEU) is contained in the MNSR.[6] The HEU fuel is enriched to nearly 90% according to an IAEA document.[4]

Mark Hibbs from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said the MNSR is a very small reactor but there could be "a serious local radiation hazard" if there was irradiated nuclear material in the reactor and it was dispersed by a military strike.[1]

Amano noted that additional radiological materials could be in storage at multiple Syrian medical and scientific facilities.[7] Former IAEA safeguards chief Olli Heinonen said Syria "should have substantial amounts" of atomic assets such as radioactive cobalt isotopes. Such holdings could be "of a greater concern, if they end up in wrong hands," Heinonen said. "Normally they are stored in protected vaults."[7]

2007 Israeli strike
On 6 September 2007, Israel bombed a desert site in Syria that US intelligence reports said was a partially completed 25MW(t) North Korean-designed gas-cooled graphite-moderated reactor, which would have been capable of producing enough plutonium for one or two weapons per year. Syria said the site was a conventional military facility.[12]

Echoing responses to Israel's strike on a research reactor in Iraq in 1981, then IAEA Director-General Mohamed El Baradei said in response to the 2007 strike: "If a country has information that another country is developing a secret nuclear program, the IAEA should be contacted because we have the power to investigate the issue."[8]

The IAEA released its latest report on this matter in late August − though it adds little to previous reports.[9] The latest IAEA report states that:

  • In June 2008, the IAEA Director General informed the Board of Governors that the Agency had been provided with information alleging that an installation at the Dair Alzour site (a.k.a. Al-Kibar), destroyed by Israel in September 2007, had been a nuclear reactor that was not yet operational and into which no nuclear material had been introduced. Information subsequently provided to the Agency included further allegations that the reactor was a gas cooled graphite moderated reactor, that it was not configured to produce electricity, that it had been built with the assistance of North Korea and that there were three other locations in Syria that were functionally related to the Dair Alzour site.
  • By the end of October 2007, large scale clearing and levelling operations had taken place at the site which had removed or obscured the remains of the destroyed building. Syria maintained that the destroyed building was a non-nuclear military installation and that Syria had had no nuclear related cooperation with the DPRK.
  • In June 2008, the Agency visited the Dair Alzour site and requested supporting documentation concerning the past and current use of the buildings at the Dair Alzour site and at three other locations allegedly functionally related to that site. Since that visit, Syria has not engaged substantively with the Agency on the nature of the Dair Alzour site or the three other locations.
  • In his May 2011 report to the Board of Governors, the Director General provided the Agency's assessment that, based on all the information available to the Agency and its technical evaluation of that information, it was very likely that the building destroyed at the Dair Alzour site was a nuclear reactor which should have been declared to the Agency. Concerning the three other locations, the Agency was unable to provide an assessment concerning their nature or operational status.
  • In June 2011, the Board of Governors voted in favour of a resolution which found that Syria's undeclared construction of a nuclear reactor at Dair Alzour and failure to provide design information for the facility constituted non-compliance by Syria with its obligations under its NPT Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA. The Board also decided to report Syria's non-compliance to the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly. (China and Russia voted against the IAEA Board of Governors resolution and subsequently opposed any action against Syria at the Security Council.)
  • During a meeting with the IAEA in Damascus in October 2011, a proposal regarding possible future actions that focused solely on the Dair Alzour site was discussed, but the IAEA concluded that the proposal was not acceptable given the conditions placed by Syria on IAEA verification activities at the site and the omission of the three other locations from the scope of the proposal. The Agency subsequently proposed to Syria to hold further discussions. In a February 2012 letter to the IAEA, Syria indicated that it would provide a detailed response at a later time, noting the difficult prevailing security situation in the country.
  • Civil conflict has further complicated the situation. In June 2013, the IAEA informed Syria that the 2013 physical inventory verification at the MNSR would be postponed until the security conditions had sufficiently improved. The IAEA continues to monitor satellite imagery of the MNSR, the yellowcake storage area at the Homs Phosphoric Acid Pilot Plant and other locations of safeguards relevance.

Furthermore, IAEA inspectors discovered undeclared anthropogenic uranium particles at the MNSR in 2008 and 2009. The investigation is ongoing, but the most recent information provided by Syria indicates that the particles originated from previously unreported activities involving the conversion of yellowcake to uranyl nitrate in 2004.[10]

Historical pursuit of nuclear facilities
According to the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), Syria has consistently pursued more advanced nuclear technologies.[10] The military has been a stakeholder in Syria's nuclear program since the 1970s, and Damascus has both openly and covertly sought the assistance of numerous parties, including the IAEA, China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea to develop its nuclear program.

The NTI notes that Syria is a very long way short of a nuclear weapons capability: it has a weak industrial infrastructure; poor scientific capabilities; lacks the trained engineers and other personnel needed to run a major civilian or weapons-oriented program; the MNSR yields only tiny quantities of plutonium in its spent fuel, while its highly enriched uranium fuel is insufficient in quantity for a nuclear weapon; and Syria has not developed full nuclear fuel-cycle expertise and is not known to possess reprocessing technologies.

Previous efforts to procure nuclear technology include the following:[8,10,11]

  • In 1990, Argentina's state-controlled National Institute of Applied Research (INVAP) agreed to provide Syria with a 10 MW(t) research reactor and a hot cell lab for producing radioisotopes, but the Argentinean government vetoed the deal in 1995, allegedly after receiving strong pressure from both the US and Israel to block the deal.
  • India's offer to provide Syria with a 5 MW(t) reactor was shelved in 1991 under significant US pressure.
  • In 1991, US and Israeli officials claimed China was working with Syria on weaponisation projects.
  • In 1998, Russia and Syria signed a deal for the peaceful use of nuclear power, which included a desalination facility powered by a 25 MW light-water reactor. The project did not progress and is likely to have collapsed under US pressure.
  • In 2003, Syria signed a deal with Russia that included a nuclear power plant and a nuclear desalination facility, but the deal did not progress.
  • A 2004 CIA report found that Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan may have provided Syria with nuclear information and equipment although the claim was rejected by then IAEA Director-General Mohamed El Baradei.

Suspected fuel development site
A report released by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) on September 12 said that ancillary facilities built to support the alleged Syrian reactor could still contain uranium and other material of potential value to terrorist groups or black-market profiteers. The Marj as Sulţān facility in Damascus may have been involved in developing reactor fuel for the reactor. The reactor would have needed about 50 tonnes of natural uranium fuel to operate.[13]

"The uranium could be anywhere within government controlled areas today, if it even remains in Syria," the ISIS report states. "Determining its fate must be a priority."

The report notes that any uranium fuel remaining in Syria is not weapons-grade and could not be used in nuclear bombs without further processing. While Syria's thousands of chemical weapons remain a higher priority, its nuclear assets "deserve significant attention". Syria also has radioactive sources and wastes which could be at risk of seizure, the ISIS report states, and these could cause greater radioactive harm than natural uranium.

Syria is not believed to have an active, secret nuclear program at this time, the ISIS report states, but it is believed to be actively hiding assets associated with its past, undeclared nuclear reactor effort. Both the Marj as Sulţān fuel development site and the (now demolished) reactor site have fallen under control of government opponents at times during the civil war. Rebels reportedly invited the IAEA to inspect the reactor site if they satisfied some unspecified conditions. The IAEA did not take up this offer, and it would have had no authority to do so, since its safeguards agreement is with the Syrian government. The UN would need to provide the IAEA with authority (and adequate protection) to inspect the site independent of the Syrian government, the ISIS report states.


Nuclear security conference commits ... to holding more conferences

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green, Friends of the Earth, Australia (and editor of the Nuclear Monitor)

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) hosted a conference titled 'International Conference on Nuclear Security: Enhancing Global Efforts' from July 1−5 in Vienna. [1] There were more than 1,300 registered participants, including 34 government ministers, from 125 countries.

In his closing statement to the Conference, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said: "This Conference has been an important milestone for nuclear security. The Ministerial Statement, from an inclusive global forum, sends a strong message that nuclear security is recognized as a priority by Governments."

Few shared that generous opinion. One of the few solid commitments from the conference was a commitment to hold more conferences. Maybe. The Ministerial Declaration calls on the IAEA "to consider organizing international conferences on nuclear security every three years."

The conference did not result in any strengthening of the patchwork of mostly non-binding, mostly underfunded nuclear security initiatives around the world. Kissinger, Nunn, Perry and Shulz noted in a March 2013 article that "no global system is in place for tracking, accounting for, managing and securing all weapons-usable nuclear materials." [2] The same can be said for the broader range of nuclear and radioactive materials that can be used in dirty bombs.

The Ministerial Declaration encourages nations to fully implement existing international accords, including the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and a 2005 amendment to the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz acknowledged that the US remains outside the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, but claimed that the US is a leader on nuclear security because the President made a speech on the topic (!) and the US government intends to host a conference on the topic in 2016 (!!). [3]

A report released by the Arms Control Association and the Partnership for Global Security details actions that the 53 countries that participated in the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in South Korea have taken since the meeting. [4] It notes that there has been some progress − for example 22 countries have taken steps to "prevent the smuggling of illicit radioactive materials by enhancing transport security, expanding border controls and developing new detection and monitoring technologies." But still the emphasis seems to be on talk-fests − 44 countries have hosted nuclear security workshops, conferences or exercises. The NGOs state that "the largely nationally focused efforts to date are inadequate" and that the lack of universal reporting requirements makes it difficult to assess the overall progress of the security summit process.

International Atomic Energy Agency
The Ministerial Declaration affirmed "the central role of the IAEA in strengthening the nuclear security framework globally and in leading the coordination of international activities in the field of nuclear security."

Many delegates called for an expanded role for the IAEA. Miles Pomper from the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies expressed scepticism, noting that member states would have to agree to fund such expanded security activities through the IAEA's regular budget, but current funding for security work relies on voluntary contributions made on an irregular basis. [5] The Ministerial Declaration went no further than to recognise "the importance of the IAEA having access to appropriate resources and expertise to undertake its work, including through further voluntary contributions to the IAEA's Nuclear Security Fund by existing and new donors."

As of 2008, the IAEA relied on voluntary funding for 90% of its nuclear security program, 30% of its nuclear safety program, and 15% of its verification/safeguards program [6]. Mohamed El Baradei, then IAEA Director-General, told the IAEA Board of Governors in 2009: "I will be cheating world public opinion to be creating the impression that we are doing what we're supposed to do, when we know we don't have the money to do it."

Limited scope
Victor Gilinsky, a former member of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, noted in 2009 that "even so-called arms controllers fall over themselves trying to establish their bona fides by supporting nuclear energy development and devising painless proposals ..." [7] That mentality was in evidence at the IAEA nuclear security conference. The Ministerial Declaration calls upon states "to ensure that measures to strengthen nuclear security do not hamper international cooperation in the field of peaceful nuclear activities."

Gilinsky advocates a reversal of priorities: "Security should come first − not as an afterthought. We should support as much nuclear power as is consistent with international security; not as much security as the spread of nuclear power will allow."

Fukushima illustrates one of the issues that ought to be addressed under the umbrella of nuclear security. Kenneth Luongo from the Partnership for Global Security said that the disaster highlighted the fact that the international community does not "have an adequate system for dealing with radiation that crosses borders." He noted that "Fukushima blurred the line between nuclear safety and nuclear security." [8]

Matthew Bunn, a Harvard University professor and former White House adviser, said at a recent briefing: "Fukushima sent a message to terrorists that if you manage to cause a nuclear power plant to melt down, that really causes major panic and disruption in a society. ... All you need to do to do that is cut off the power for an extended period of time." [9]

Conventional military strikes on nuclear plants by nation-states is another issue that the nation-states assembled in Vienna were reluctant to address.

References and Sources
1. IAEA, July 2013, 'IAEA Ministerial Meeting Concludes With Focus on Stronger Nuclear Security',
2. Henry A. Kissinger, Sam Nunn, William J. Perry, George P. Shultz, 5 March 2013, 'Next Steps in Reducing Nuclear Risks: The Pace of Nonproliferation Work Today Doesn't Match the Urgency of the Threat', Wall Street Journal,
3. Douglas P. Guarino, 1 July 2013, 'In Vienna, a Focus on National Responsibility for Nuclear Materials Security', Global Security Newswire,
4. Arms Control Association and the Partnership for Global Security, 1 July 2013, The Nuclear Security Summit: Progress Report,
5. Rachel Oswald, 19 July 2013, 'U.S. Energy Chief Hopes for Bigger IAEA Role in Global Nuclear Security', Global Security Newswire,
6. IAEA, 2008, '20/20 Vision for the Future: Background Report by the Director General for the Commission of Eminent Persons',
7. Victor Gilinsky, 'A call to resist the nuclear revival', Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 27 January 2009,
8. Douglas P. Guarino, 14 March 2012, 'U.S. Defends Narrow Focus for Nuclear Security Summit', Global Security Newswire,
9. Jonathan Tirone, 4 July 2013, 'Fukushima Shows Nuclear-Terrorism Risks at UN Meeting',

US officials warn of risks in the Middle East and North Africa

Obama administration officials have warned of the possibility that nations in Africa and the Middle East could become sources of sensitive components or materials for weapons of mass destruction. Simon Limage, deputy assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation programs, told "In North Africa and the Middle East, you have terrorist organisations, unstable governments, in some cases actual civil conflict and lack of control over sovereign territory. In the former Soviet Union we still have remaining challenges, but we are dealing with relatively stable governments with which we have a history of engagement." Anne Harrington, a US Energy Department nonproliferation official, said concerns extend beyond those regions, citing Pakistan.

Earlier this year, Algerian customs officers discovered radioactive waste in three containers shipped from China to Algiers' port. The containers were imported by an Algerian businessman, North Africa Post reported on May 18: "The origin and the final destination the radioactive cargo have not yet been determined but the investigators suspect international traffickers of nuclear waste to be involved in the affair as Africa is seemingly becoming a dumpster of radioactive waste for greedy international corporations and super powers."

'U.S. Officials: Dirty Bomb Risk in Mideast, Africa Unprecedented', 14 June 2013,
Radioactive Waste Found in Algiers Port, 18 May 2013,

Nuclear News

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Nuclear power suffers biggest ever one-year fall
Nuclear power generation suffered its biggest ever one-year fall in 2012. International Atomic Energy Agency data shows that nuclear power plants around the world produced a total of 2,346 TWh in 2012 − 7% less than in 2011, and the lowest figure since 1999. Compared to the last full year before the Fukushima accident, 2010, the nuclear industry produced 11% less electricity in 2012.

The main reasons were that almost all reactors in Japan were off-line for the full calendar year, and the permanent shut-down of eight reactors in Germany. Other issues included problems for Crystal River, Fort Calhoun and the two San Onofre units in the USA which meant they produced no power, and Belgium's Doel 3 and Tihange 2 reactors which were out of action for half of the year.

Three new reactors started up during 2012 − two in South Korea and one in China. In Canada, two older reactors came back into operation after refurbishment. This new capacity totalled 4,501 MWe, outweighing the retirements of the UK's Oldbury 1 and Wylfa 2, and Canada's Gentilly 2, which between them generated 1,342 MWe. Across the rest of the global fleet, uprates added about 990 MWe in new capacity. So total increased capacity was 4,501 + 990 − 1,342 = 4,149 MWe, a little over 1%.

The uranium spot price fell to US$39.75 / lb U3O8 on June 11, falling below $40.00 for the first time since March 2006.

At the end of 2012, world total capacity of solar photovoltaic generation reached 100 GWe, with 30.5 GWe installed in 2012 alone. There is about 2.55 GWe of concentrating solar power capacity worldwide, three quarters of this in Spain. Wind power soared in 2012 with a new record for installations − 44 GW of new capacity worldwide. Total capacity exceeds 280 GW, with plants operating in more than 80 countries. China leads the world with 75 GW of wind power capacity.

World Nuclear News, 20 June 2013, 'Nuclear power down in 2012',
Ana Komnenic, 12 June 2013, 'Uranium hits seven-year low',
REN21 Renewables Global Status Report, 2013,
J. Matthew Roney, 2 April 2013, 'Wind Power',


Fines and fire in the UK
The nuclear company Sellafield Ltd has been fined 700,000 pounds and ordered to pay more than 72,635 pounds costs for sending bags of radioactive waste to a landfill site. The bags, which contained contaminated waste such as plastic, tissues and clothing, should have been sent to a specialist facility that treats and stores low-level radioactive waste, but "significant management and operational failings" led to them being sent to Lillyhall landfill site in Workington, Cumbria. This breached the conditions of the company's environmental permit and the Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations. The mistake was only discovered by chance following a training exercise on the faulty monitoring equipment on April 20, and in the coming days the bags were recovered from the Lillyhall landfill site and dispatched to the Drigg radioactive waste dump. [1,2]

An investigation has been launched into an incident at Sellafield's THORP reprocessing plant which occurred on May 14. The incident involved mistaking two chemicals, formaldehyde and hydroxylamine. Cumbrians Against a Radioactive Environment spokesman Martin Forwood said that had the error not been spotted, "the consequences of introducing formaldehyde into the first stages of fuel dissolution could have been catastrophic for THORP's internal workings − and had the potential to initiate a site accident." The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) secretariat said it was "alarming" that Sellafield Ltd had classified the incident as a "non-radiological event." NFLA group chairman Mark Hackett said the incident "could have led to a major accident at the Sellafield Thorp plant." [3]

Nuclear waste clean-up operations at Sellafield could be taken back into state hands after a series of failings by private companies managing the site, as their 22 billion pound contract comes up for review. A consortium called Nuclear Management Partners was selected in 2008 to run the Cumbrian site for up to 17 years. But the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee have both criticised delays and cost over-runs. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) is now reviewing whether to renew the contract with the consortium ahead of a “break” point in March 2014. The NDA said it was considering three options, including stripping the consortium of the contract and taking Sellafield back into the NDA’s hands, a move that would require ministerial approval. It is understood to be drawing up plans for how the site would be run if it opted to do so. Decommissioning operations at Sellafield are expected to cost more than 67 billion pounds over the next century. [4]

Meanwhile, the company which operates the factories where the UK's nuclear weapons are manufactured has been fined for breaches of safety laws following a fire in which a member of staff was injured. AWE plc, which operates the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of its employees. On May 28 the company was fined 200,000 pounds and ordered to pay £80,258 in legal costs and 2,500 pounds in compensation to an employee who was injured during the fire. The charge followed a fire which broke out in an explosives handling facility at the AWE Aldermaston site in Berkshire on the evening of 3 August 2010. The incident left a member of AWE staff with burns to his face and arm and required the evacuation of a number of local residents and closure of roads around the site as safety precautions. [5]

[1] CORE, 14 June 2013, 'Sellafield Ltd fined £700,000 for sending LLW to local landfill − largest ever fine for site',
[2] The Guardian, 15 June 2013, 'Sellafield fined £700,000 for sending radioactive waste to landfill',
[3] Peter Lazenby, 2 June 2013, 'Sellafield bosses play down near catastrophe',
[4] Emily Gosden, 20 June 2013, 'Sellafield clean-up could be taken into state hands as £22bn contract up for review', The Telegraph,
[5] Nuclear Information Service, 28 May 2013, 'Nuclear weapons factory operators fined £200,000 for safety breaches',


Kaliningrad nuclear plant work suspended
Russia has suspended work on its new Baltic nuclear power plant in Kaliningrad. It is designed for the EU grid and is now about 20% built. Despite endeavours to bring in European equity and secure sales of power to the EU through new transmission links, the 1,200 MWe plant is isolated, with no immediate prospect of it fulfilling its intended purpose. Kaliningrad has a limited transmission link to Lithuania, and none to Poland, its other neighbour. Both those countries plan to build new western nuclear plants, and in any case have declined to buy output from the new Baltic plant. With Estonia and Latvia, Lithuania is integrating its electricity system with the EU, and is about to start on a 1000 MWe link southwest to Poland. It does not wish to upgrade its Kaliningrad grid connection to allow Baltic NPP power to be sent through its territory and Belarus to Russia.

World Nuclear News on June 1 wrote: "It is a stand-out project for Russia: the first to be opened up to investment by European utilities; the first intended to export most of its output; and the first to use an Alstom-Atomenergomash steam turbine. Construction of the first VVER-1200 reactor began in February last year, with another one planned to follow. ... Despite being 18 months into construction of its first unit, the Baltic plant is also progressing without the hoped-for foreign investors."

NGOs − including FoE France, ATTAC France, Réseau "Sortir de nucléaire", Russian Ecodefense, German Urgewald and Banktrack − are warning that the Kaliningrad project may be revived, possibly with a new design and French funding (see the Banktrack website).

World Nuclear Association, New Russian nuclear plant stranded,
Grid concerns for Baltic project 11 June 2013,

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the next episode he will look at the possibilities of increasing public acceptance in more detail. 
The article is available at:

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Construction of Ohma nuclear plant indefinitely delayed.
Japan’s Electric Power Development Co has decided to delay the construction of its Ohma nuclear power plant indefinitely. The plant, which is under construction in Aomori prefecture (northern Honshu), was expected to be complete in late 2014. However, construction has been suspended since the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011. J-Power said in a statement that it is ‘moving ahead to review safety enhancement measures in response to the accident at Fukushima Daiichi’ and that it would incorporate any necessary measures.

Work started on the Ohma plant, a 1383 MW Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) design, in May 2008. Originally due to start up in 2012, J-Power amended its scheduled start date to November 2014 towards the end of 2008. The Ohma plant has been designed to (eventually) run on a full mixed oxide (MOX) core. In 2009 J-Power entered into an agreement with Global Nuclear Fuel Japan to procure the MOX fuel for Ohman, which was to be manufactured in France.
Nuclear Engineering International, news 3 April 2012

Vermont Yankee: 130 arrests.
More than 1,000 people turned up in Brattleboro to march the 6 km from the town common to Entergy’s offices. Over 130 people trespassed on the company’s property and were arrested. Signs carried by the 1,000 protestors had messages like “time’s up” and “Entergy corporate greed”. March 22, was a monumental day for residents of the tri-state area near the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. Forty years after the plant opened, its license expired the day before, but the plant continued to operate pursuant to a federal court order.

The plant’s continued operation sets a precedent nationwide in the nuclear as well as in the legal realm. Earlier this year, federal Judge J. Garvan Murtha issued a ruling finding two Vermont laws requiring legislative approval for the plant to continue operating were unconstitutional as pre-empted by federal law. The plant hasn’t received a new license to replace the one that expired this March. The Vermont Public Service Board has yet to issue an order on the new license and no one has ordered the plant to cease operating in the interim. Entergy does have a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, but its state license is expired. The company argues state law allows it to operate while the Public Service Board proceeding to approve a new license goes on.

Meanwhile the state and Entergy have appealed Judge Murtha’s decision to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Legal experts say the case could have national ramifications. (More in Nuclear Monitor 741, 3 Febr. 2012: Showdown time for Vermont Yankee).
EarthFirst Newswire, 23 March 2012

Bidding process starts for Olkiluoto-4.
The Finnish nuclear power company Teollisuuden Voima (TVO) has started a bidding process for their Olkiluoto 4 project as a part of the bidding and engineering phase. Bids for the new nuclear power plant are expected at the beginning of 2013. TVO reported on March 23, that there are five plant supplier alternatives at the bidding phase of the OL4 project, namely the French installation company Areva, the American GE Hitachi, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power in South Korea, as well as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Toshiba in Japan. TVO is not willing to take a stand on whether the difficulties and problems experienced by the Olkiluoto 3 project will have any influence on the possibilities of Areva's involvement.

TVO is to submit an application for a building permit by the summer of 2015. In April 2010, Finland's previous government decided to grant a permit to IVO for the construction of a new reactor in Olkiluoto. The decision was approved by Parliament in July 2010. According to TVO, the electric power of the new plant unit will be in the range of 1,450 to 1,750 MWe, while the projected operational life time of the new reactor is at least 60 years.
Helsingin Sanomat (International edition), 23 March 2012

NRC approves COL for V.C.Summer.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on March 30 approved the combined construction and operating licenses (COL) for the V.C. Summer nuclear power plant in South Carolina, just the second construction license approved for a nuclear plant since 1978. The NRC voted 4-1, just as the Commission did for the Plant Vogtle COLs. The NRC is expected to issue the COLs within 10 business days.

South Carolina Electric and Gas Co. and South Carolina Public Service Authority, or Santee Cooper, the owners and operators of the existing single-unit, 1,100 MW V.C. Summer plant, submitted the application for two new 1,117 MW Westinghouse AP1000 reactors to be built at the site in March 2008. The US$10 billion project, adjacent to the company’s existing reactor approximately 40 km northwest of Columbia, S.C., began in 2009 after receiving approval from the Public Service Commission of South Carolina.

The NRC did impose two conditions on the COLs, with the first requiring inspection and testing of squib valves, important components of the new reactors’ passive cooling system. The second requires the development of strategies to respond to extreme natural events resulting in the loss of power at the new reactors.
Power Engineering, 3 April 2012

Search for Jordan's reactor site expands after protests.
The search for a potential site for Jordan's first nuclear reactor in Mafraq has expanded by a 40 kilometer radius. Officials are searching for a site near the Khirbet Samra Wastewater Treatment Plant, which, according to current plans, is to serve as the main water source to cool the 1,000 megawatt reactor.

According to a source close to the proceedings, the government directed the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) to find an alternative to the initially selected site, Balaama, near Mafraq, after coming under political pressure from tribal leaders and prominent local residents.  The announcement of the transferral of the planned site for the Kingdom's first nuclear reactor from Aqaba to Mafraq in late 2010 prompted a backlash from local residents, who held a series of protests and rallies over the past year urging decision makers to go back on their decision. 
Jordan Times, 19 March 2012

IAEA: safety concerns over aging nuclear fleet.
A 56-page IAEA document highlights safety concerns of an ageing nuclear fleet: 80%  of the world's nuclear power plants are more than 20 years old, and about 70 percent of the world's 254 research reactors have been in operation for more than 30 years "with many of them exceeding their original design life," the report said. But according IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano nuclear power is now safer than it was a year ago. The report said the "operational level of nuclear power plant safety around the world remains high".

"There are growing expectations that older nuclear reactors should meet enhanced safety objectives, closer to that of recent or future reactor designs," the Vienna-based U.N. agency's annual Nuclear Safety Review said. "There is a concern about the ability of the ageing nuclear fleet to fulfill these expectations."
Reuters, 13 March 2012

Japan after Fukushima: 80% distrust government's nuke safety measures.
A whopping 80 percent of people in Japan do not trust the government's safety measures for nuclear power plants. The results are from a nationwide random telephone survey of 3,360 people conducted by The Asahi Shimbun on March 10-11. It received 1,892 valid responses. Fifty-seven percent of the respondents said they are opposed to restarting nuclear reactors currently off line for regular maintenance, compared to the 27 percent in favor. A gap between genders was conspicuous over whether to restart the reactors. Although men were almost evenly split, with 47 percent against and 41 percent in favor, 67 percent of women are opposed, compared with just 15 percent who support the restarts.

Regarding the government's safety steps for nuclear plants, 52 percent said they "do not trust so much," and 28 percent said they "do not trust at all." Although the government has been proceeding with computer-simulated stress tests on reactors, which are necessary steps to reactivate them, people apparently have a deep distrust of the government's nuclear safety provisions.
Asahi Shimbun, 13 March 2012

Tepco: water level reactor #2 wrong by 500%.
Tepco is reporting that the results of an endoscopy into reactor #2 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant show that water levels are far lower than previously thought. The utility had estimated that water in the reactor, which is required to keep melted fuel cool and prevent recriticality, was approximately three meters deep. In fact, it is only 60 cm deep. Tepco insists that the fuel is not in danger of overheating, and continues to pump in nine tons of water every hour. However, experts say that the low water levels show that leaks in the containment vessel are far greater than previously thought, and may make repairing and decommissioning the crippled reactors even more difficult. Tepco attempted an endoscopy in January, but the effort failed because the scope used was too short.
Greenpeace blog, Fukushima Nuclear Crisis Update 28 March 2012

Tokyo soil samples would be considered nuclear waste in the US.
While traveling in Japan in February, Fairewinds’ Arnie Gundersen took soil samples in Tokyo. He explaines: "I did not look for the highest radiation spot. I just went around with five plastic bags and when I found an area, I just scooped up some dirt and put it in a bag. One of those samples was from a crack in the sidewalk. Another one of those samples was from a children's playground that had been previously decontaminated. Another sample had come from some moss on the side of the road. Another sample came from the roof of an office building that I was at. And the last sample was right across the street from the main judicial center in downtown Tokyo."

Gundersen (an energy advisor with 39-years of nuclear power engineering experience) brought those samples back to the US, declared them through Customs, and sent them to the laboratory. And the lab determined that all of them would be qualified as radioactive waste there in the United States and would have to be shipped to a radioactive waste facility to be disposed of.

Canada: court case against 2 new reactors Ontario.
A group of environmentalists has gone to court to challenge Ontario's plan to build new nuclear reactors, arguing the environmental risks and costs involved haven't been properly assessed. Lawyers for Ecojustice and the Canadian Environmental Law Association have filed arguments in Federal Court on behalf of several green agencies, saying a review panel failed to carry out a proper environmental assessment on building new reactors at the Darlington station in Clarington, Ontario. Despite a push for green energy projects, Ontario remains committed to nuclear energy, which makes up 50 per cent of its energy supply, and is moving forward with the construction of two new reactors. But the groups, which include Greenpeace, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, Northwatch  and the Canadian Environmental Law Association, argue the government provided only vague plans to the federal government-appointed review panel, which nonetheless recommended the project be approved. They argue that, contrary to the requirements of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the panel also didn't gather the evidence required to evaluate the project's need and possible alternatives.

The groups are asking Federal Court to order the review panel to take a second look at the project. A proper environmental study, the groups add, is especially important after lessons learned from the disaster at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant. They also note that the government didn't select a specific type of nuclear reactor, making its possible impact difficult to assess. "Despite the profound lack of critical information regarding the project's design and specific means by which the radioactive waste it generates will be managed, the (joint review panel) report purports to conclude that no significant environmental effects are likely," said the court filing, obtained by The Canadian Press. That assumption implies that the "sizable information gaps" will be eventually considered by other bodies, and that "numerous to-be-determined mitigation measures" will be implemented. Such a "leap before you look" approach, the filing adds, "is the antithesis of the precautionary principle, and should not be upheld by this honourable court."
CTV News, 21 March 2012

Chernobyl: Crime Without Punishment.
Alla A. Yaroshinskaya describes the human side of theApril 1986 Chernobyl disaster, with firsthand accounts. Chernobyl: Crime without Punishment is a unique account of events by a reporter who defied the Soviet bureaucracy. The author presents an accurate historical record, with quotations from all the major players in the Chernobyl drama. It also provides unique insight into the final stages of Soviet communism.

Yaroshinskaya actively began to pursue the truth about how the nuclear disaster affected surrounding towns starting April 27, 1986 - just a day after the Chernobyl accident - when the deception about the lethal radiation levels was only just beginning. She describes actions taken after the disaster: how authorities built a new city for Chernobyl residents but placed it in a highly polluted area. Secret documents discovered years after the meltdown proved that the government had known all along the magnitude of what was going on and had chosen to hide the truth and put millions of lives at risk.
Twenty-five years later, the author reviews the latest medical data and the changes in the health of 9 million Chernobyl victims in over two decades since the nuclear blast. She reveals the way the Chernobyl health data continued to change from official Kremlin lies to the current results at national research centers in independent states after the Soviet Union collapsed and the Kremlin lost its monopoly over the Chernobyl truth. The author also details the actions of the nuclear lobby inside and outside the former Soviet Union. Yaroshinskaya explains why there has been no trial of top officials who were responsible for the actual decisions regarding the cleanup, and how these top officials have managed to subvert accountability for their actions. 
Alla A. Yaroshinskaya is a Russian journalist and winner of the Right Livelihood Award. She was also a member of the Ecology and Glasnost Committees of the Supreme Soviet and advisor to former Russian president Boris Yeltsin. This book has been edited by Rosalie Bertell and Lynn Howard Ehrle, translated from Russian by Sergei Roy.
Chernobyl 25 years later. Crime without punishment, Alla A.Yaroshinskaya; 2011, Transaction Publishers. ISBN: 978-1-4128-4296-9. 409 pages, hardcover

BAS: Selected readings on TMI and Chernobyl.
The nuclear crisis in Japan following the 9.0 earthquake and tsunami on March 11, has brought the past tragedies at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl into the spotlight again. To offer a more thorough understanding of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, the Bulletin of the atomic Scientists has compiled a reading list from its archives.
Check: and then add -three-mile-island or -chernobyl

IAEA: Iran military n-program "may still be ongoing"

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

On November 9, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released its latest report on Iran. The assessment, which included a 13-page annex with key technical descriptions of suspect technology development and procurement by Tehran, says that the IAEA "has serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program." However, the report stopped short of claiming that Tehran is determined to acquire atomic weapons, nor does it argue that the Middle East state is on the cusp of becoming a nuclear power.

On November 10, one day after the IAEA rapport was published, Russia dismissed the document as “a compilation of well-known facts that have intentionally been given a politicized intonation.” IAEA officials rely in the document on “assumptions and suspicions, and juggle information with the purpose of creating the impression that the Iranian nuclear program has a military component,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in released comments.

According to most commentators and blogers there is something a little phony about all the sound and fury about the latest IAEA Iran report. There is nothing in the report that was not previously known by the major powers. The West and Israel supplied most of the original tip-offs for the annex on weapons development, while Russia was briefed and no doubt knew one of its own scientists had been lecturing the Iranians on how to make explosive implosion devices (ostensibly for making tiny diamonds).

The bulk of the report is historical, referring to the years leading up to 2003. Its interpretation depends largely on whether you are a glass half-full or half-empty sort of person. On the one hand, the IAEA is confirming beyond reasonable doubt that there was a centralized, heavily funded, program: codenamed Amad and run by a man called Mohsen Fahkrizadeh.

On the other hand, the report is also adamant that Amad was halted in 2003.

After that, the report offers evidence of lower-key computer modeling of nuclear detonations in a more diffuse, scattered manner, albeit by some of the same people. But the evidence for this is sketchier, and it is clear the UN inspectors are less confident about making assertions about the more recent period: some of the activities associated with the effort "may still be ongoing"

So again, its significance is somewhat in the eye of the beholder.

The bottom line is it is not this report or the debate over weaponization that is driving the current sense of urgency on the global stage. It is Iran's accumulation of enriched uranium, which is the potential fuel for a nuclear arsenal. The IAEA report estimated Iran now has nearly five metric tons of low enriched uranium (LEU) easily enough for four bombs, if it was further enriched to weapons grade. It also has 73 kg of 20% enriched uranium - a fraction of what would needed for one warhead but it could be turned into weapons grade much faster.

Furthermore, the Iranians are moving more and more of its enrichment work into a chamber dug under a mountain at a military base at Fordow, where it would be far harder to get at. There are now about two and half 'cascades' of 174 centrifuges there and a large cylinder of (3.5% enriched) LEU has been moved there with the intention of turning it into 20% uranium.

So Iran has the raw materials and the skills necessary to make a small arsenal, perhaps in a few months, if it decided to "break out", which means leave the NPT and throw out the IAEA which is monitoring its uranium stocks and its enrichment activities. But that would be a huge step to take, and a step the current regime has shown it has no appetite for. Rightly so, as it would be seen by many of its neighbors as a declaration of war and simultaneously a short window of vulnerability before Iran put its bomb together and tests it.

So the "break out" scenario is not the biggest threat. Far more worrisome is the possibility that Iran has a parallel, covert program underground somewhere, silently spinning away while the world and its inspectors keep eagle eyes on Natanz and Qom etc. This is very hard to pull off as the whole fuel cycle has to be kept under wraps from the moment the uranium ore comes out of the ground. There is evidence that Iran has tried to do this, but also evidence that the international community has had success thwarting those efforts.

What it should tell us is that it shows very clearly how the existence of a civilian nuclear power industry makes it easy for nations to develop nuclear weapons expertise under a peaceful camouflage. Experts in nuclear weapons construction can maintain that they are merely giving technical advice for commercial nuclear power developments.  Factories built to enrich uranium can be portrayed as part of the civilian nuclear fuel chain. Even separating and stockpiling plutonium can be excused as an exercise in planning for eventual use of "advanced fuel cycles".

Thoughtful persons everywhere should reflect on the fact that, in the absence of a civilian nuclear power industry, none of these activities could be portrayed as anything but an overt attempt to develop nuclear weapons.  If the world turns away from nuclear power and closes the door on this dangerous technology, the early detection and prevention of attempts to construct a nuclear weapons arsenal would be much easier, and the world would become correspondingly much safer. The IAEA-report: "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran" is available at

Sources: Gordon Edwards, email, 6 November 2011 / Guardian (UK), 9 November 2011 / Global Security Newswire, 9 November 2011


In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IAEA: slower nuclear growth after Fukushima

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

The Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear accident will slow growth in nuclear power but not reverse it, according to the latest projections by the IAEA. The 2011 updates take into account the effects of the 11 March 2011 accident. But this projection means that the market share of nuclear power in the world's total generation of electricity may more than halve to just over 6 percent by 2050 despite growth in the number of reactors in use.

The IAEA publishes annually two updated projections for the world's nuclear power generating capacity, a low projection and a high projection. But even in the high-growth scenario the market share will not change much from last year's 13.5 percent of total electricity generation, rising to 14 percent in 2030 before falling to 13.5 percent in 2050, the IAEA forecast said. This reflects an anticipated rapid increase in total electricity output in the world over the coming four decades - expected to more than triple by 2050.

In the updated low projection, the world's installed nuclear power capacity grows from 367 gigawatts (GW) today to 501 GW in 2030, down 8% from what was projected last year. In the updated high projection, it grows to 746 GW in 2030, down 7% from last year. A GW equals one billion watts (1000 MW) of electrical power.

The number of operating nuclear reactors increases by about 90 by 2030 in the low projection and by about 350 in the high projection, from the current total of 433 reactors. Most of the growth will occur in countries that already have operating nuclear power plants.

Projected growth is greatest in the Far East notably in China and India. From 81 GW at the end of 2010, capacity grows to 180 GW in 2030 in the low projection and to 255 GW in the high. These levels are, however, lower than last year's projections by 17 GW and 12 GW respectively.

Western Europe shows the biggest difference between the low and high projections. In the low projection, Western Europe's nuclear power capacity drops from 123 GW at the end of 2010 to 83 GW in 2030. In the high projection, nuclear power grows to 141 GW, but that is 17 GW below the growth projected last year.

In North America, the low case projects a small decline, from 114 GW at the end of 2010 to 111 GW in 2030. The high projection projects an increase to 149 GW, still 17 GW below last year's projection.

Other regions with substantial nuclear power programs are Eastern Europe, which includes Russia, and the Middle East and South Asia, which includes India and Pakistan. Nuclear power expands in both regions in both the low and high projections - to only slightly lower levels than projected last year. The same is true for regions with smaller programs - Latin America, Africa and South East Asia.

The low projection assumes current trends continue with few changes in policies affecting nuclear power. But it does not necessarily assume that all national targets for nuclear power will be achieved. It is a "conservative but plausible" projection.

The high projection assumes that the current financial and economic crises will be overcome relatively soon and past rates of economic growth and electricity demand would resume, notably in the Far East. It assumes stringent global policies to mitigate climate change.

The low and high projections are developed by experts from around the world who are assembled by the IAEA each spring. They consider all the operating reactors, possible license renewals, planned shutdowns and plausible construction projects foreseen for the next several decades. They build the projections project-by-project by assessing the plausibility of each in light of, first, the low projection's assumptions and, second, the high projection's assumptions.

IAEA's optimism. IAEA has always been over-optimistic about the future of nuclear power. In 1975 the IAEA made a forecast of 1,600 GW (1 GigaWatt = 1000MW) by the year 1990. In reality, nuclear power installed in 1990 was 325 GW. Their prognosis in 1975 for the year 2000 was 2,300 GW installed nuclear energy (which was half of the expectations a year before!). In 1997 the IAEA expected an installed capacity for the year 2000 of 360 GW. In December 2000, 438 nuclear power plants were in operation with a net stalled capacity of 351 GW. The 1995 IAEA prognosis assumes an increase of nuclear power by 50% in 20 years, from 345 GW in 1995 to 515 GW in 2015 (2.5%/year). Today's installed capacity is 367 GW.

Source: Reuters, 20 September 2011 /  IAEA September 2011: "Energy, electricity and nuclear power estimates for the period up to 2050" available at: