Drop in global nuclear output. Nuclear power plants provided 2601 billion kWh during 2008. This lowest figure for five years drops its contribution to world electricity supplies to an estimated 4%.
No new reactors started operation in 2008, but, according to the World Nuclear Association, construction did begin on ten units: China (six units), Russia (two) and South Korea (two).
World Nuclear Association, 29 May 2009
Sellafield – a lost cause..
In February, in an embarrassing case of remembering ‘where but not what’, operators of the Low Level Waste repository near Drigg had to resort to place an ad in a local newspaper asking past employees if they could remember what items of nuclear waste they had tumble-tipped into the site’s open trenches way back in the 1960’s & ‘70’s. Now, in an equally embarrassing reversal of misfortune – a case of ‘what but not where’, Sellafield operators admit that whilst they can describe two items of waste listed on their books at Sellafield - they can’t remember where they put it. Sellafield’s in-house Newsletter of April 29, reports that a routine stock take had identified that two storage cans containing a small quantity of legacy material were missing from their expected location. A detailed and extensive search was underway and the incident had been classified at Level 1 on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES).
Whilst the May 8, edition of the Sellafield Newsletter makes no further mention of the loss, the local Whitehaven News newspaper helpfully reveals that the radioactively ‘hot’ storage cans, capable of giving off a high dose of radiation, are still missing and the search for them could take several more weeks. The cans, described as being the size of thermos flasks, can only be handled by remote control robotic equipment and were listed as being stored in a sealed cave within the Windscale Active Handling Facility which analyses old reactor fuel and where human entry is forbidden because of the high radiation levels.
Though Sellafield Ltd is clinging to the hope that the lost cans, described only as containing historic or legacy waste, have been moved to another secure facility on the site, they have so far offered no explanation as to how remotely controlled robots could have effected such a removal service unobserved by managers and workers alike, or by the site’s alert security services. The Regulators have been informed.
CORE Briefing, 8 May 2009
EDF calls for support for nuclear industry. New nuclear power stations will not be built in Britain unless the government provides financial support for the industry. According to the Financial Times, Vincent de Rivaz, chief executive of the UK subsidiary of EDF, said that a “level playing field” had to be created that would allow the nuclear industry to compete with other low-emission electricity sources such as wind power.
However, Mr de Rivaz said the company still needed to assure its investors, which include the French government with an 85 per cent stake, that the investment made commercial sense. “We have a final investment decision to make in 2011 and, for that decision to give the go-ahead, the conditions need to be right,” he said. Mr de Rivaz suggested that the best way to support the nuclear industry would be to make sure penalties paid by rival fossil fuel power generators under the European Union’s emissions trading scheme were kept high enough to make nuclear investment attractive. Since the emissions trading scheme began operating in 2005, however, the price of the permits has proved highly volatile and has fallen sharply in the past year.
His comments call into question the government’s plans for a new generation of nuclear power stations, which ministers have insisted can be delivered without any additional subsidy.
Financial Times, 26 May 2009
German nuclear waste storage site developed illegally?
The salt dome at the Gorleben nuclear waste depot in north Germany was developed illegally into a permanent storage facility claims a newspaper, citing an internal assessment by the government agency that runs the depot. After first refusing to say whether the internal assessment exists, the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) now denies that the salt deposit has already been made a final repository. And it also emerged that Angela Merkel, now German prime minister, in 1996 ignored scientific warnings by the environment ministry she then headed that keeping nuclear waste in the Gorleben salt was likely to contaminate regional drinking water supplies. Since work began on the underground facility in the 1980s, only permission for ‘exploration’ has been granted.
The May 28 edition of the daily Frankfurter Rundschau alleged that without official authorization, the costs of assessing the salt dome’s suitability were high because ’the construction of the permanent storage depot was begun parallel to the investigation’. Although not wanting to confirm the existence of the document, the paper said, the agency did admit that costs had been higher than necessary. Some 1.5 billion Euro (US$ 2.13 billion) has been invested in the site.
Work on the Gorleben mine has been suspended since 2000, when the government decided to wait until 2010 to resume the controversial project. The appearance of the documents has confirmed the doubts of nuclear energy opponents, who all along have alleged that Gorleben was earmarked as final repository before the safety of the salt was adequately investigated.
Diet Simon, Email 29 May 2009
U.S.: Obama signs US-UAE nuclear deal.
President Barack Obama gave official backing to the agreement allowing the U.S. to share nuclear technology with the United Arab Emirates. Obama at first planned to sign the deal in April but a number of lawmakers voiced concern, particularly following the airing on U.S. television networks of a video showing an Abu Dhabi sheikh brutally beating an Afghan businessman (see Nuclear monitor 688, 'InBrief'). Some lawmakers argued Abu Dhabi doesn't have enough legal safeguards against leakage of nuclear technologies. U.S. officials said they viewed the nuclear agreement and video as separate issues. The Obama administration has praised the legal infrastructure Abu Dhabi is developing in support of its nuclear program as well its close cooperation with the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, the IAEA. The U.A.E. has renounced its right to enrich uranium or reprocess plutonium, which, according to U.S. officials, minimizes the risk of nuclear materials being diverted for military purposes. Once the State Department submits the U.A.E. legislation to Congress, lawmakers will have 90 days to amend or seek to kill it. Some U.S. representatives, including Republican vice chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, have said they will fight it. Some say the deal could spark a nuclear arms race across the Mideast.
Wall Street Journal, 21 May 2009
Alberta, Canada: Pro-nuclear vandals strike.
The nuclear debate in Peace River is no longer peaceful. Pro-nuclear vandals attacked a trailer used by nuclear opponents to get their message out. The pro-nuclear vandals painted a swastika and profanity on the side of the trailer. They also threw Molotov cocktails to further destroy the sign. The damage to the sign was bad enough but the situation could have been much worse. They cut the farmer's fence along highway 743 to get into the trailer. The horses in the field could have easily got on the highway and been involved in a collision with a vehicle. It was fortunate that the flames from the Molotov cocktail did not ignite the surrounding dry grass as the ensuing fire could have easily travelled to the farmer's home which was only 200 feet (70 meters) away. The fire could have spread a long way before anyone noticed as the vandals attacked during the middle of the night. This attack on our message came a day after two nuclear opponents received a death threat because of letters they wrote to the newspapers voicing their concerns about the impact the nuclear reactors will have on their farms. The police are investigating both occurrences.
Bruce Power announced they have set aside Can$50 million (US$45m, 32m Euro) to promote the construction of a nuclear reactor at Peace River. Grass-roots organizations and community residents have virtually no resources to publicize the nuclear information that Bruce Power doesn't want the public to know about. The trailer that was attacked by "pro-nuclear vandals" used up the majority of our resources.
Peace River residents are being asked to be the nuclear sacrifice zone for Alberta yet the local, provincial and national media have provided scant coverage of our concerns. This week, it was vandalism and death threats. Will someone have to be hurt or killed before our struggle becomes newsworthy?
Email: 10 May 2009, Pat McNamara, firstname.lastname@example.org