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nuclear program

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

African nuclear commission takes shape.
Afcone, a new commission to coordinate and promote the development of nuclear energy in Africa, is set to become fully operational after key founding documents were finalized and adopted. South Africa has agreed to host the commission. The African Union (AU) established the African Commission on Nuclear Energy (Afcone) in November 2010, following the entry into force of the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty in July 2009, which required the parties to establish a commission for the purpose of ensuring states' compliance with their treaty obligations and promoting peaceful nuclear cooperation, both regionally and internationally. 
At a meeting in Addis Ababa on 26 July, the elected commissioners adopted the rules of procedure, structure, program of work and budget of Afcone. The commission will focus on the following four areas: monitoring of compliance with non-proliferation obligations; nuclear and radiation safety and security; nuclear sciences and applications; and, partnerships and technical cooperation, including outreach and promotion of peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The meeting agreed to a budget of some US$800,000 per year for the period 2012-2014. It also agreed on a scale of assessment for contributions to Afcone's funding. South Africa is currently the only African country to operate nuclear power plants for electricity generation, but several others - including Egypt, Ghana and Nigeria - are considering building such plants. Namibia, Niger and South Africa are major uranium producers, accounting for about 15% of world output in 2011. Other African countries have significant uranium deposits, with some having prospective uranium mines.
World Nuclear News, 13 August 2012

Koodankulam: Clearance for fuel loading.
The People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) condemns the undemocratic and authoritarian decision of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) to grant clearance for the 'Initial Fuel Loading' and 'First Approach to Criticality' of Unit-1 of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project. 
Even as the country is awaiting the Madras High Court's judgment on a batch of petitions that have challenged the legality and appropriateness of the Environmental Clearance granted to the Koodankulam project, this decision amounts to contempt of court and outright insult of the rule of law in our country. More interestingly, the AERB has given assurance to the Madras High Court that the post-Fukushima taskforce's recommendations would be fully implemented in all the nuclear installations in India and that no fuel loading decision at the Koodankulam nuclear power project would be taken until then. The current permission to load fuel is a gross violation of that commitment made at the Court and the sentiments of the struggling people.
This attitude and functioning style, however, is very much in congruence with the undemocratic, authoritarian and anti-people nature of the atomic energy department. The political parties and leaders in India, especially in Tamil Nadu, the civil society leaders and the media must take a stand and protect the interests of the 'ordinary citizens' of India and reassert the rule of law in our country. 
The struggling people will do whatever democratically possible to oppose the  authoritarian and illegal decision of the Indian nuclear establishment.
Press release, The Struggle Committee PMANE, 10 August 2012

No permanent resettlement Chernobyl Exclusion zone in next 20 years.
Despite earlier reports, the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear plant remains unfit for habitation, said Dmytro Bobro, the acting head of the State Agency for the Chernobyl Zone. Short visits to the exclusive zone are not banned, and up to 10,000 visitors arrive there on memorial days, he said at a press conference in Kyiv. Concerning people who returned to the zone of their own accord and live there, relatives are allowed to come and see them for not more than five days, but if a longer term is requested, they are placed under radiological control, he said.
Experts said at a press conference on August 15 that part of the 30-kilometer exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and Chernobyl itself are already fit for living. Chernobyl could be opened to personnel working under the Shelter project to construct the new confinement shelter. These people work in shifts now. 
But a few days later, Bobro said that some 200 square kilometers in the total area of 2,000 square kilometers are relatively safe. "But again, there is no infrastructure there, and the territory has "contaminated spots" and should not be populated, although it could be sown with crops to be used as biological fuel," he said. Humans could return to this territory in about 30 years. But if rehabilitation measures are taken, people would be able to come back even earlier to an area of 200 or even 500 square kilometers, he said. "Half of the exclusion zone will remain unfit for habitation forever as it is contaminated with plutonium isotopes," Bobro said.
Interfax, 17 August 2012 / ForUm, 17 August 2012

South Africa: develop 'Plan B'.
South Africa should work on a ‘Plan B’ if nuclear build proves too costly, the newly released National Development Plan 2030 asserts. The plan, which was handed to President Jacob Zuma on August 15, acknowledged that the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for electricity proposed that new nuclear energy plants be commissioned from 2023/24. But it also argued that South Africa needed a “thorough investigation” of the implications of nuclear energy, including its costs, financing options, institutional arrangements, safety, environmental costs and benefits, localisation and employment opportunities, and uranium-enrichment and fuel fabrication possibilities.
The National Nuclear Energy Executive Coordinating Committee (NNEECCa), which was set up late last year, had its inaugural meeting in early August, when it began deliberation on the findings of a so-called ‘integrated nuclear infrastructure review’. The review is a self-assessment of the country’s readiness to proceed with a new nuclear build and reportedly covers 19 areas. But the 26-member National Planning Commission (NPC) argued that an alternative plan be developed in the event that sufficient financing was unavailable, or timelines became too tight. The NPC did not say which entity or organ should conduct the cost/benefit analysis, only that one should be completed ahead of any decision to proceed to a procurement phase. The analysis should also not be confined to the economics of the project and should include social and environmental aspects.
Engineering News (South Africa), 15 August 2012

Sellafield: record number of hotspots found on beaches.
A record number of radioactive hotspots have been found contaminating public beaches near the Sellafield nuclear complex in Cumbria, according to a report by the site's operator. As many as 383 radioactive particles and stones were detected and removed from seven beaches in 2010-11, bringing the total retrieved since 2006 to 1,233. Although Sellafield insists that the health risks for beach users are "very low", there are concerns that some potentially dangerous particles may remain undetected and that contamination keeps being found. Anti-nuclear campaigners have called for beaches to be closed, or for signs to be  erected warning the public of the pollution. But the government's Health Protection Agency (HPA) has said "no special precautionary actions are required at this time to limit access to, or use of, beaches". But it also pointed to a series of "uncertainties" in the beach monitoring that could lead to its risk assessment being reviewed. The latest equipment might miss tiny specks that could be inhaled, it said, as well as buried alpha radioactivity that "could give rise to a significant risk to health if ingested".
Adding to the attempts to down play the radioactive state of the beaches, the official monitoring of the coast has been deliberately abandoned - at the specific request of some local authorities - during the peak periods of school and public Bank Holidays for fear of alarming the tourists.
The Guardian, 4 July 2012 / CORE press release, 4 July 2012

UK nuclear program - not dead yet as government tries to save face

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Pete Roche

The Times reported on July 15, that, according to “well placed industry sources”, EDF Energy wants a subsidy of £2.8 billion (US$3.6bn or 3.5bn euro) a year for the next 25 years to build two new nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset, England at a cost of £14 billion. The French, mostly state-owned company, will only build the two European Pressurised Water Reactors (EPRs) with huge subsidies, paid for through fixed levies on electricity bills.

In May the UK Government published a Draft Energy Bill see (Nuclear Monitor 750, June 1) which details plans for so-called Electricity Market Reform. The proposals include the introduction of a complicated support mechanism for low carbon electricity called “Contract for Difference” (CfD). Basically if the market price for electricity falls below a guaranteed “strike price” the nuclear or renewable energy operator would be paid the difference, but would also have to pay money back if the electricity price goes above the strike price. The Government doesn’t expect the Energy Bill to be passed into legislation until towards the end of next year, and strike price rates won’t be finalized until then.  However, under the terms of the draft Bill, the government can issue a likely strike price in advance of formalizing the rate and introducing CfD in 2014.

EDF Energy and its junior partner Centrica want to make their final investment decision on Hinkley before the end of 2012. So talks have begun between the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the two companies to provide them with some firmer guarantees in order to make sure plans for Hinkley Point go ahead. With RWE and E.ON having recently dropped their UK nuclear plans, EDF Energy has the Government over a barrel, and will no doubt be telling DECC what strike price it wants before going ahead – in effect writing its own subsidy cheque from the electricity consumer.

According to The Times, EDF says it needs about £165 per megawatt hour (£/MWh), almost four times the existing wholesale price of electricity, if it is to go ahead. This works out at a subsidy of £68 billion over 25 years, or an average of about £50 extra a year on every household bill. 

Let’s not forget that the Coalition Agreement between the Tories and Liberal Democrats pledged to not subsidize nuclear power.(1) Despite this, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Liberal Democrat Ed Davey, now seems to be prepared to agree a high strike price with the nuclear industry, whilst pretending the Government is not planning to subsidize dangerous new reactors at all.

The Times says the Government has warned EDF Energy, and its junior partner Centrica, that nuclear power subsidies must be lower than offshore wind power, but EDF is arguing that the giant new offshore wind projects planned for the North Sea will cost £180/MWh, making nuclear slightly cheaper. In fact currently under the UK Renewables Obligation, offshore windfarms now being installed are being paid around £135 per MWh. According to senior lecturer on Energy Policy at Birmingham University, David Toke, EDF has been forced to come clean on nuclear costs, so now it is making dubious claims about offshore wind.(2) A Government and Industry taskforce set up to reduce offshore wind costs says offshore wind costs can be reduced to £100/MWh by 2020.(3)

Ed Davey says “nuclear will not receive a higher price than comparable gene-ration technologies whether they be renewables or indeed gas generation once its emissions have been abated by carbon capture and storage.”(4) If it is more expensive to get electricity from new nuclear power stations than offshore wind then the government’s commitment to nuclear will become dif-ficult to maintain – we might as well just build more offshore wind farms.(5)

Toke asks “will the British Treasury sign off on this plan to increase average British electricity prices by 8 per cent for 25 years to produce 6 per cent of UK electricity from nuclear power?” The Government claims that energy bills will have to go up whatever we do. Its answer to this was supposed to be The Green Deal. But this now looks incre-asingly unlikely to deliver the savings to consumers promised. The plan is to offer Green Deal loans of up to £10,000 to help consumers insulate their homes and reduce fuel bills, but the interest charged will be at the usual rate of around 7.5%. So consumers will have to spend £22,000 to pay the loan back over 25 years requiring households to deliver energyefficiency savings of £900 a year to cover the cost of annual loan repayments.(6)

In contrast, in Germany, where nuclear power is being phased out by 2022, loans at very low interest rates of 1-2%, have helped insulate over 2m homes, employing 200,000 people a year in the process, and German homeowners can borrow up to €75,000 to give them a very cosy and efficient home indeed. (7)

Greenpeace and WWF wrote to The Times pointing out that the costs of nu-clear power are going up not down. The EPRs at Flamanville and Olkiluoto are now £2.7 billion and £2.6 billion over-budget respectively. The huge subsidy of £2.8 billion per year being sought for two reactors at Hinkley was in stark contrast to another fight within Whitehall over levels of support for onshore wind power with the Treasury pushing for a reduction in support for wind power that would save less than £20 million per year. (8) (The Treasury lost the battle, but only after DECC made concessions on gas).

EDF denied that it was negotiating for a strike price of £165/MWh. It said it expects to reach a transparent agreement with the Government that is fair and balanced. It will show that nuclear is affordable and cost-competitive. (9) The Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) said “if it were true, the figure of £165/MWH would make new nuclear virtually untenable. Fortunately, it is not true. Ra-ther, it is spectacular speculation.” (10) But NIA does not speculate on what the real price might be.

The cost of the EPR being built at Flamanville, has already doubled to €6 billion (about £4.5 billion) from €3 billion and the project is four years behind schedule. Flamanville-3 is the reference design for the UK EPR. At £5 billion, Ian Jackson of Chatham House estimates that EDF would need £91.50/MWh just to break even on a Hinkley Point reac-tor. In addition to breaking even, EDF is expecting to earn a return on its invest-ment which would bump the final strike price up to about £148/MWh. Other analysts, notably Peter Atherton of Ci-tibank, have publicly projected a strike price of between £150 and £200/MWh.(11) The Financial Times says a person close to the negotiations on the level of government support energy companies should receive reckons that EDF Energy and Centrica will need a price of at least £100/MWh – more than double the present wholesale power price of about £41/MWh – to justify the huge investment needed in new nuclear plants. He said the upper limit of any such support would be about £130-£140/MWh – the cost of electricity generated by offshore wind farms. “If you can’t do [nuclear] for that price, then you might as well build more wind farms”. (12)

David Toke says the Government could hardly set the strike price any higher than £100/MWh because this is the figure the Treasury wants offshore wind power to come down to. This would be a soft landing for a policy retreat. The Government may say that £100/MWh is profitable for nuclear power, but it is unlikely to lead to any being built. Lots of rumors, hopeful stories, yes, because the British Government (and the nuclear industry) does not want to admit that nuclear power is a dead duck.(13) 

The latest news is that the chief execu-tive of General Electric, has described nuclear power as so expensive com-pared with other forms of energy that it has become “really hard” to justify. (14) And now EDF says it is considering looking for more partners for its UK nuclear projects to help it share costs and limit its debt burden – an admission perhaps that French state owned industry is no longer able to afford the huge nuclear costs on its own.(15)

(1) Spinwatch, 22 May 2012
(2) David Toke’s Green Energy Blog, 16 July 2012
(3) Offshore Wind Cost Reduction Task-force Report, June 2012 www.bwea. com/pdf/publications/Offshore_Task_ Force_Report.pdf 
(4) Liberal Democrat Voice, 20 April 2012
(5) Left Foot Forward, 18 July 2012 
(6) Business Green, 17 July 2012 www. (7) Guardian, 24 May 2012 www. 
(8) The Times, 18 July 2012 www. 
(9) The Times, 19 July 2012 www.
(10)NIA Blog,  18 July 2012
(11) i-Nuclear, 19 July 2012  
(12) Financial Times, 23 July 2012 www. 8700-00144feabdc0.html 
(13) David Toke’s Blog, 24 July 2012 http://realfeed-intariffs.blogspot. 
(14) FT, 30 July 2012 00144feab49a,Authorised=false.html 
(15) Reuters, 31 July 2012 www.reuters. com/article/2012/07/31/edf-results-idUSL6E8IV2LX20120731

Contact: Pete Roche
Email: rochepete8[at]


The "self-limiting" future of nuclear power

Benjamin Sovacool

There are a very large number of studies all of which reach the similar conclusion: energy efficiency programs and renewable power technologies are better than nuclear power plants. The fact that these studies come from a variety of sources, across the political spectrum, and from different disciplines, suggests that there is a consensus among abroad base of independent, non-partisan experts that nuclear power plants are a poor choice for producing electricity. So why, then, does nuclear power persist? Is it the superficially attractive narrative associated with nuclear energy that conflates it with national progress and pride, alongside an immensely powerful and effective lobby, a new generation that has either forgotten or never known why it failed previously, deeply rooted habits that favor giant power stations, and lazy reporting by a credulous press?

In a chapter of his new book 'Contesting the Future of Nuclear Power –A Critical Global Assessment of Atomic Energy' Benjamin K. Sovacool argues that three primary culprits exist: the true costs of nuclear energy are not borne by those benefiting from it, resulting in what economists call "market failure"; many of the costs and risks involved with nu-clear electricity are passed directly onto ratepayers; and nuclear power has, since its inception, been associated with complex notions of progress and modernity that make it seductive, despi-te all of its intractable challenges. Taken together, these three culprits - market failure and externalities, the socializa-tion of risk, and hubris and technologi-cal fantasy - largely explain why nuclear power plants flourish. 

1. Why does nuclear power persist
Benjamin Franklin once wrote that "the great advantage of being a reasonable creature is that you can find a reason for whatever you do." The nuclear power industry possesses no shortage of argu-ments in favor of a nuclear renaissance, many of them reasonable at first glance. Yet, the central premise of 'Contesting the Future of Nuclear Power' is that a global nuclear renaissance would bring immense technical, economic, envi-ronmental, political, and social costs. 

Nuclear power generators cannot be mass-produced. They take much longer to build, and are therefore exposed to escalating interest rates, inaccurate demand forecasts, and unforeseen labor conflicts. Their centralization requires costly and expansive transmis-sion and distribution systems. Modern nuclear reactors are prone to a dete-riorating energy pay back ratio for the nuclear fuel cycle, produce hazardous and extremely long- lived waste, have large water requirements, and possess a larger carbon footprint than energy efficiency and every form of renewable electricity.

All is not lost, however. As this book also shows, renewable power techno-logies reduce dependence on foreign sources of uranium, and therefore cre-ate a more secure fuel supply chain that minimizes exposure to economic and political changes abroad. Renewable technologies decentralize electricity supply, so that an accidental or inten-tional outage would affect a smaller amount of capacity than an outage at a larger nuclear facility. Renewable energy technologies improve the reliability of power generation by conserving or producing power close to the end-user, and by minimizing the need to produce, transport, and store hazardous and ra-dioactive fuel. Unlike generators relying on uranium and recycled plutonium, renewable generator are not subject to the volatility of global fuel markets. They can also respond more rapidly to supply and demand fluctuations, improving the efficiency of the electricity market. Most sig-nificantly, renewable power technologies have enormous environmental benefits, since their use tends to avoid air pollution and the dangers and risks of extracting uranium. They generate electricity without releasing significant quantities of CO2 and other greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change as well as life-endangering nitrogen oxides, sulfurdioxides, particulate matter, and mercury. They also create power without relying on the extraction of uranium and its associated digging, drilling, mining, leaching, transporting, storing, sequestering, and pol-luting of land. In the end, nuclear reactors and renewable power generators do the same thing: they produce electrical energy (kWh). Why rely on a nuclear system that is subject to highly uncertain projections about uranium availability, centrally administered by technocratic elites, and vulnerable to the ebb and flow of interna-tional politics (requiring garrison- like security measures at multiple points in the supply chain), when superior alternatives exist?

The simple fact that energy effici-ency programs and renewable power technologies are better than nuclear power plants has not been advanced by this book alone. Indeed, there are a very large number of studies all of which reach a similar conclusion. The fact that these studies come from a variety of sources (academic journals, magazines, and reports) across the political spectrum (including business, science, civil society, and medicine) and from different disciplines (physics, economics, epidemiology, and poli-tics) suggests that there is a consen-sus among abroad base of indepen-dent, nonpartisan experts that nuclear power plants are a poor choice for producing electricity .

So why, then, does nuclear power persist? One study supposed that it is the superficially attractive narrative associated with nuclear energy that conflates it with national progress and pride, alongside an immensely powerful and effective lobby, a new genera-tion that has either forgotten or never known why it failed previously, deeply rooted habits that favor giant power stations, and lazy reporting by a cre-dulous press.(*1) This chapter argues that three primary culprits exist: the true costs of nuclear energy are not borne by those benefiting from it, resulting in what economists call "mar-ket failure"; many of the costs and risk s involved with nuclear electricity are passed directly onto ratepayers; and nuclear power has, since its inception, been associated with complex notions of progress and modernity that make it seductive, despite all of its intracta-ble challenges. Taken together, these three culprits - market failure and externalities, the socialization of risk , and hubris and technological fantasy - largely explain why nuclear power plants flourish. When these conditions change (i.e. when the full costs of nuclear energy become apparent or can no longer be socialized, or when the allure of nuclear fission fades), the drive towards nuclear energy stalls. In short, if nuclear energy is to have any future at all, it will be what Joseph Romm has called a "self-limiting" one.(*2)

2. Market Failure and Externalities
As almost any smart undergraduate student of economics knows, free markets for anything - from tomatoes to Tomahawk missiles – need multi-ple criteria to function properly. One of them is that all costs must be fully internalized in the price of a given good or commodity; if one person is able to shift the costs to someone else while still reaping the benefits, then the market has failed to distribute benefits equally and equitably, creating what is known as market failure. At the heart of the market failure discussion is the concept of an externality.

Defined as costs and benefits resulting from an activity that do not accrue to the parties involved in the activity, externalities have won attention in recent decades as an important (albeit often ignored) aspect of energy production and use.(*3) Externalities are part of the "overall social cost of producing energy, including the value of any damages to the environment, human health, or infrastructure."(*4) Another definition of externalities is "inadver-tent and unaccounted for effects of one or more parties on the welfare of another."(*5)

Take the classic example of unregulated pollution from a smokestack. A factory produces items that are priced by taking into account the demand for the products as well as labor, capital, and other costs, but the damages from the factory's pollution - health and other effects – are true costs borne by society that are unaccounted for in the price of the factory's product. These latter costs are commonly referred to as "externalities" because people tend to consume them as by products of other activities that are external to market transactions and, therefore, unpriced. This means that the factory produces a volume of items that is less than "socially optimal," resulting in a net welfare loss to society in the form of morbidity, mortality, and reduced productivity.

Nuclear power plants have a plethora of these types of externalities that most pro-ducers and users of nuclear energy do not have to pay for. A partial list would at least include:

  • Catastrophic risks such as nuclear meltdowns and accidents
  • An increased probability of wars due to rapid uranium extraction, the boom and bust cycles of uranium mining communities, or the inability to secure fissile materials as-sociated with the nuclear fuel cycle
  • Public health issues such as chronic exposure to radiation and its consequent advanced morbidity and mortality, as well as worker exposure to toxic substances and occupational accidents and hazards
  • Direct land use by power plants, uranium mines, enrichment stations, and storage facilities
  • The destruction of land by uranium mining and leaching, including acid drainage and resettlement
  • The effects of water pollution on fisheries and freshwater ecosystems, which are sensitive to water chemistry, as well as the release of radionuclides into water sources
  • Consumptive water use, with consequent impacts on agriculture and ecosystems where water is scarce
  • Continual maintenance of caches of spent nuclear fuel
  • Changes to the local and regional economic structure through the loss of labor and jobs, transfer of wealth, and reductions in gross domestic product
  • Incidence of noise and reduced amenity, lower property values near nuclear plants, and aesthetic objections.

Even though this list is incomplete, one study analyzed 132 externality estimates associated with electricity generation in 
a variety of countries with an assortment of different energy systems.(*6) The study found that net social costs for nuclear power ranged from a low of less than 1 cent per kWh to a high of almost 65 cents per kWh, with a mean of 8.6 cents per kWh. As Table 2 documents, the external costs for nuclear power were twice as high as that of hydroelectric systems, more than 12 times higher than that of solar power, and almost 30 times higher than that of wind power. The amount of 8.6 cents per kWh may not sound like much; but if correct, it means that, since nuclear units produced 2,601 billion kWh of energy in 2008, they also generated US $ 223.7 billion in global social and environmental damages.

In other words, nuclear power generation created US$ 223.7 billion of additional costs that are not assumed in traditional estimates of nuclear power's price. Many of these costs are "hidden" because neither nuclear producers nor consumers have to pay for these additional expenses. Instead, the external costs of nuclear energy are shifted to society at large. What is interesting is that - when one takes the negative externalities associated with nuclear power, fossil fuels, and renewable sources of electricity, and adds them on top of existing production costs - Figure 1 shows that wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, and biomass plants are already cheaper than existing nuclear units. Put simply, if the true cost of nuclear energy matched its price, nuclear energy would never be competitive with renewable energy (or energy efficiency) in any free market.

3. Subsidies and the Socialization of Risk
Because of their capital intensity and financial risk, nuclear power plants are only cost-competitive when they are underwritten with gargantuan public subsidies. Put in other terms, absent an enormous diversion of tax-payer funding, no rational investor would ever finance a nuclear power plant. As one economist put it, investing in nuclear power without the pro-vision of government subsidies is about as useful as "watching a movie with the sound turned off."(*7) One 2009 assessment of the global nuclear industry identified no less than ten types of subsidies given to nuclear power plant operators around the world, as presented in Table 3. 

Consider the US, where one would think that the electricity market operated freely and with little distortion from subsidies. In fact, the US electri-city sector is heavily subsidized, and most subsidies have gone to nuclear power plants. From 1947 to 1999, federal subsidies for nuclear power in the US totaled US$ 145.4 billion (in 1999 USD). Even in fiscal year 1979, when subsidies for renewable energy peaked in the US at US$ 1.5 billion, the Department of Energy (DOE) devoted more than 58% of its research budget to nuclear power. The Energy Policy Act of 1992 promised U S $ 100 million in new funding for reactor designs, set limits on utility pay-ments for decommissioning, and delegated the authority to set waste dis-posal standards to the National Academy of Sci-ence rather than public participation. However, it failed to incentivize any one to build a new nuclear power plant.(*9) The Energy Policy Act of 2005 only worsened the disparity by lavishing the nuclear industry with US$ 13 billion worth of loan guarantees, US$ 3 billion in research, US$ 2 billion in public insurance against delays, US$ 1.3 billion in tax breaks, an extra 1.8 cents/ kWh in operating subsidies, and limited liability for accidents. Yet even this was not enough, des-pite the fact that these subsidies covered 80% of the costs of a new nuclear plant.(*10)

These subsidies are in addition to numerous other benefits the nuclear industry already en-joys: free offsite security, no substantive public participation or judicial review of licensing, and payments to operators to store waste. The subsidy established by the Price± Anderson Act, which ironically charges tax payers for liability insurance against nuclear accidents that could kill them, alone is possibly estimated to be worth more than twice the entire research budget of the US DOE.(*11) According to one estimate, nuclear power operators would be responsible for only 2% of the cost of a worst-case accident, with tax payers picking up the rest of the tab.(*12)

Interestingly, this very issue of limited liability for nuclear plants could derail the recent "123 deal" made between the US and India. For the deal to go through, Indian legislation must cap nuclear liability; but when lawmakers put forth a Civil Nuclear Liability Bill that limited dama-ges at US$ 450 million in the event of a nuclear accident, the Indian Supreme Court argued that it violated Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The presiding judge in the case stated that the main lesson from the Bhopal disaster was that foreign hazardous industries must be made absolutely liable for any damage caused from their facilities.(*13)

One interesting comparison is to look at subsi-dies for wind, solar, and nuclear power for their respective first 15 years of operation. Nuclear power in the US received subsidies worth 
US$15.30 per kWh between 1947 and 1961, compared to subsidies worth only US$ 7.19 per kWh for solar power and 46 cents per kWh for wind power between 1975 and 1989. During the first 15 years, nuclear and wind power produced about the same amount of energy: 2.6 billion kWh for nuclear power, and 1.9 billion kWh for wind power. But, nuclear subsidies outweighed wind subsidies by more than a factor of 40, receiving US$ 39.4 billion compared to wind 's US$ 900 million over the 15-year period.(*14)

The trend of grossly subsidizing nuclear energy holds true globally, as nuclear power has received more public research funding than any other source since the 1970s.(*15) This is especially true for many other industrialized countries, inclu-ding Canada, France, Germany , Japan, Sweden, and the UK (illustrated in Figure 2). As the numbers show, nuclear energy has received 54.8% of all research subsidies among Interna-tional Energy Agency (IEA) countries, compared to only 8.7% for renewables and 8.9% for energy efficiency. It may come as no surprise that the only way for utilities to embrace new nuclear units is to receive large subsidies or raise electricity prices for consumers. Some states now allow utilities to increase electricity rates to finance new plants years before construction even begins.(*16) In Georgia, these rate incre-ases will amount to a "subsidy" of US$ 14 billion on top of an additional US$ 8.3 billion of federal loan guarantees given by the Obama administration.(*17) In Levy County , Florida, residential customers will begin paying US$ 100 per year in higher bills from 2009 to 2016 to help Progress Energy fund a new nuclear unit. South Carolina had to pass a 37% rate hike before it could consider financing a new reactor.(*18)

How does the nuclear industry get such sweet subsidies? Part of the explanation may lie in lobbying. In the US, the In-vestigative Reporting Workshop at American University found that the nuclear industry spent more than US$ 600 million on lobbying and US$ 63 million on campaign contributions from 1999 to 2009.(*19) In many ways, the nuclear power industry 's efforts to win support are a textbook case of how the influence game is played in Washington. Besides the money spent on lobbying and campaign contributions, the industry - led by the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) - has created a network of allies who give speeches, quote one another approvingly, and showcase one another on their websites. The effect is an echo chamber of sup port for nuclear power.

4. Hubris and Technological Fantasy
One final factor pushing nuclear power is its association with progress, complexity , and modernity . Early advocates pro-mised not only a future of electricity too cheap to meter, but an age of peace and plenty (without high prices or shortages) in which atomic energy would provide the power needed to desalinate water for the thirsty , irrigate deserts for the hungry , and fuel interstellar travel deep into outer space. Other exci-ting opportunities included atomic golf balls that could always be found and a nuclear- powered airplane, which the US federal government even spent US$ 1.5 billion researching between 1946 and 1961.(*20)

This section suggests that one explanation for the attractive-ness of nuclear energy could be its association with national visions of progress. While these visions vary by country and over time, John Byrne and Steven Hoffman propose that the single most consistent predictor of whether a society will embrace nuclear energy is their ability to think in the ´future tense". That is, planners and promoters become enthralled by the possible benefits of nuclear energy in the future, and are willing to accept the costs in the present to realize them. Put another way, they tend to overestimate the advantages of nuclear energy and discount its future costs in the absence of knowledge about current economic or technical compatibility; the reality of present risks and costs is discounted by the unrealized possibilities of future gain.(*21) Indeed, the energy historian Martin Melosi has noted that "it's amazing that commercialization of nuclear power occurred at all.... The energy market had little to do with this important event, since there was no pressing need for a new source of power in the United States. There was, however, strong interest in enhancing American prestige."(*22) Although these psychological bene-fits are intangible, they are often believed to be real. A cursory look at the genesis of nuclear programs in eight countries 
- China, France, India, Japan, the former Soviet Union, the US, Spain, and Canada - reveals that, in each case, optimism in the technology and an overarching vision of what nuclear energy could deliver in the future played a role in trumping concerns about present costs.

Figure 2: Government-Funded Subsidies for Nuclear Fission and Fusion Within International Energy Agency Countries , 1974 ± 2007 (in millions of 2007 USD)

China , 1953 ± 1992
The prospect of developing nuclear power was first broached in China's first Five- Year Plan in 1953, which emphasized the need for a centralized nuclear development program managed by the government and state enterprises. China's commercial nuclear program formally began in 1972, when the central government approved the first nuclear program - known as the 728 Project - to develop submarine reactors. Nuclear energy quickly became attached to aspirations of Chinese economic power and the legitimatization of China as a superpower. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, China experienced massive deficits in electricity supply, with an-nual demand for electricity surpassing supply by as much as 70 billion kWh. The government had to replace m ore than 100,000 boilers at conventional power plants between 1972 and 1978, and rolling black outs hit every major province wit-hin China at least twice a year for much of the two decades. Nuclear power was seen as instrumental in overcoming the energy supply deficits, improving Chinese economic competitiveness, "catching up" with Taiwan and other indus-trialized countries, and enhancing national prestige. Chinese officials even toyed with the idea of exporting both nuclear technology and electricity to the rest of Asia; and built one facility, the Yibin Fuel Component Factory in Sichuan, to manufacture prefabricated components of nuclear power plants for export. They sold one set of components to Pakistan in 1989, and planned to earn billions of dollars of foreign exchange exporting similar packages to Africa and the rest of the developing world.(*23)

France, 1945 ± 1970
Left in the devastation caused by the German occupation and fighting of 1944± 1945, French technical and scienti-fic experts linked nuclear power to French "radiance" and identity.(*24) Nuclear energy was central to this campaign of French economic modernization; and research, development, and construction were dominated by the government. The Commissariat à l'énergie atomique (CEA), formed in 1945, had a close association with the bureaucracy in Paris and the military, and was charged with developing indigenous French reactors.(*25)

Nuclear energy was seen as a tool to not only provide much-needed electricity to France, but also revitalize the national economy. Nuclear reactors offered the chance for French planners to rebuild infrastructure, promote industry, and augment political influence simultaneously. One key compo-nent of this push was the notion of dirigisme, or the idea that government-led intervention and planning was the best way to respond to social problems. Another component was the notion of French "national champions," or the idea that key sectors of the economy (such as the state owned nuclear ma-nufacturer Framatome) deserved special protection and sup-port from the government.(*26) After the creation and demon-stration of the atomic bomb, "nuclear technology became a quintessential symbol of modernity and national power".(*27)

India , 1945 ± 1980
The Indian government began investigating nuclear energy in 1945, when they formed the Tata Institute of Fundamental Re-search and appointed a prominent physicist, Homi Bhabha, as its director.(*28) In 1948, Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first Prim e Minister, made an impassioned speech to the General Assembly of India advocating nuclear energy; later that year, an advisory board (the Atomic Energy Commission) was es-tablished under the Indian Ministry of Natural Resources and Scientific Research to further study the issue.(*29) By August 1956, the first research reactor was operational, despite the accidental death of Bhabha.

The fledgling nuclear energy program was seamlessly connected to a vision of a prosperous and technologically advanced Indian society. Upon attaining independence, the Indian economy was dominated by the agrarian sector while the industrial sector was in a primitive state. From the outset, planners conceived of the national nuclear program as key to confirming the country's standing in the modern era, thus intersecting with the widely held belief that energy abundance underpinned social progress. Nehru argued in 1948 that India had failed to capitalize on the first Industrial Revolution due to lack of technical skill, and believed that success in the ongoing second Industrial Revolution was predicated 
on engineering prowess, typified by nuclear power. Later in the 1970s, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi reiterated Nehru's position that nuclear power was an essential technology for rescuing developing economies such as India's from "poverty and ignorance". She was convinced that a bold display of scientific and technological might could impress the populace enough to win her re-election.(*30)

Japan, 1955 ± 1990
Following defeat in World War II, much like France, Japan was in ruins. More than 30% of the Japanese population was homeless, communication and transport network s were in shambles, and industrial capacity had been bombed into insignificance.(*31) With the support of Occupation funding, Japan embarked on a modernization program that would achieve unprecedented economic success. The promise of generating cheap energy through applied nuclear technology meshed perfectly with government aspirations to enhance the international competitiveness of industry. Japan's nuclear power program was officially launched when the government passed the Atomic Energy Basic Law in 1955, which set out the criteria under which peaceful development of nuclear technology was to be undertaken. Government development funding, which commenced that year, led to the inaugura-tion of Japan's first nuclear energy plant, the Tokai Nuclear Power Plant, in 1966. Japan's nuclear energy program was an offspring of aspirations for enhanced national energy security. National planners came to see nuclear technology as an important export product - a tool to not only free the nation from energy dependence, but also extend its economic reach into the Pacific and the world at large. The sheer lack of indigenous energy resources justified a massive expansion of the nuclear program , including commitment to plutonium-fueled fast breeder reactors. Japanese officials believed that a greater national risk was posed by dependence on imported energy than by a network of nuclear power plants.

Soviet Union, 1954 ± 1986
The former Soviet Union was home to the first nuclear power plant in the world, a 5-MW graphite- moderated reactor at Obninsk that was built in 1954 and similar to the later design which failed at Chernobyl in 1986.
Atomic energy was linked to visions of a radiant communist future. The one-party Communist system, its control over the media, and the suppression of doubts about science and technology provided an ideal environment for nuclear expansion. Nuclear energy was quickly attached to the infal-libility of Soviet science and technology, as well as the idea of a progressive communist regime free from energy shortages and wants. As a central slogan of the Soviet nuclear industry put it, "Let the atom be a worker, not a soldier."(*32) Atomic energy came to represent not only a source of electricity supply for government planners, but also a pathway towards developing breeder reactors that would meet all of the coun-try's energy needs, a first step towards perfecting nuclear-powered engines for aircraft and automobiles, a system for producing radiation to preserve food, a source of knowledge about nuclear technology that could help the Soviet Union build advanced weapons, and a mechanism of political con-trol whereby planners dispersed nuclear reactors to the re-publics to strengthen ties and political adherence.(*33) It also went hand-in-hand with an agenda to convert an agrarian and peasant society into a "well oiled machine of workers" tireles-sly committed to communism.(*34)

Early successes in nuclear research were seen as positive proof of the legitimacy of the entire way of Soviet thinking, and the promise of nuclear energy also reassured Soviet leaders about the concentration of the empire's energy reserves in Siberia and the Caspian Sea. Soviet engineers quickly became caught up in the fantasy of a nuclear Soviet Union, and spoke publicly about the applications of gamma ray mineral prospecting and oil surveying, the use of radiation for industrial monitoring and quality control, the creation of atomic fertilizers and viruses, and the irradiation of food and other items to prolong their shelf life. Soviet nuclear energy was "the instruction of nature at its finest" ; and it was be-lieved that widespread use would produce the energy needed to fill deserts with water, build canals, excavate waste sites, and accelerate industry. One plan even called for the melting and diversion of Siberian rivers so that the heavily populated Ukraine and Volga Basin regions could be irrigated.(*35)

Nuclear power in the Soviet Union therefore fused together faith in Soviet science and technology, secrecy, defense, and gigantism.(*36) Russian planners were captivated by science and technology, and became fascinated with the techno-logy on display. Khrushchev encouraged Soviet scientists to "accelerate the construction of communism" by imitating Western methods of scientific experiment and management, culminating in the belief that atomic energy was almost a magical sort of alchemy. Radioisotopes were believed to help grow food quicker and cure diseases. This reaffirmed political control to an inner elite of party members, and created pres-sure for scientists to avoid delays in nuclear projects that could result in their arrest, dismissal, imprisonment, or even death. Nuclear energy was also pursued on security ground s to ensure parity with Western military might and secure Russian borders from invasion or interference; Soviet military planners spent billions of dollars researching nuclear-powered rockets, jets, ships, and satellites. 

United States , 1942 ± 1979
While the Soviet Union exhibited grand visions for nuclear energy, perhaps they paled in comparison to those in the US, where the atomic age began in December 1942 with an experiment at the University of Chicago and culminated in the completion of the Manhattan Project. By the end of World War II, planners were looking for civilian applications of the atom, and its possibilities were seen as endless. Scarcely one year after the War ended, Congress established the Ato-mic Energy Commission (AEC), which believed that atomic energy should not only enhance defense but also "promote world peace, improve the public welfare, and strengthen free competition in private enterprise."(*37) The AEC was esta-blished as an executive agency with complete control over nuclear development and exclusive ownership of fissionable materials and all facilities. The creation of the AEC gave the federal government control and authority over all aspects of the technology. Put another way, the AEC was given ”mono-poly like powers protected by the cover of national security".(*38) (This emphases on peace is a bit ironic, given that, when the US Air Force discovered that the Soviet Union had detonated a nuclear device in September 1949, the civilian reactor program was intertwined with military efforts; generals hoped that civilian reactors could produce a "quantum jump" to develop a thermonuclear weapon.)(*39)

As one example of the hype surrounding nuclear energy, the same month the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the pocket book The Atomic Age Opens was published and widely read. The book depicted a future world in which coal and petroleum would go unused, and existing hydroelectric facilities would be abandoned and as "obsolete as the stagecoach" was in 1945. To give the general public some feeling for the vast amounts of energy soon to be theirs, the authors calculated the atomic power of ordinary things: one pound of water had enough energy to heat 100 million tons of water, a handful of snow could power an entire city, and the energy in a small paper railway ticket was sufficient to power a heavy passenger train several times around the earth.(*40) Robert M. Hutchins, President of the University of Chicago, stated in 1946 that nuclear power would make "heat so plentiful that it will even be used to melt snow as it falls." Hutchins went on to suggest that "a very few individuals working a few hours a day at very easy tasks in the central atomic power plant will provide all the heat, light, and power required by the community and these utilities will be so cheap that their cost can hardly be reckoned".(*41)

Nuclear energy promotion also reinforced national values and ideas about technology and nature. The anthropologist Gary Downey argues that advanced technology has always been correlated with progress in the US, and was initially used to distinguish the American colonies from their English counter-parts. Thus, nuclear energy was seen as politically necessary to avoid the risks of communism, and was key to a postwar identity shaped in defiance to Marxism and Communism. Military planners believed that demonstrating the civilian ap-plications of the atom would also affirm the American system of private enterprise, showcase the expertise of scientists, increase personal living standards, and defend the democra-tic lifestyle against Communist intrusion.(*42)

Less than ten years after Hutchins' statement, the US government fully embraced nuclear power and passed the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 – the same year that President Dwight Eisenhower pledged to "strip the atom 's military casing and adapt it to the art of peace."(*43) The central theme behind the "Atoms for Peace project was to show that the power of the atom could be converted from a terrifying military force to a benign commodity. The role of the government was to be a custodian of atoms.(*44)

Lewis Strauss, Chairperson of the AEC, remarked that atomic power would usher in an age where:
It is not too much to expect that our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter, will know of great periodic regional famines in the world only as matters of history, will travel effortlessly over the seas and under them and through the air with a minimum of danger and at great speeds, and will experience a lifespan far longer than ours as disease yields and man comes to understand what causes him to age.

Partially captivated by such optimism, Eisenhower's "Atoms for Peace" program granted US$ 475 million in funds to pro-mote nuclear power abroad and Walt Disney even produced a television show entitled "Our Friend, the Atom."

One of the drivers behind atomic energy in the U S was competition with the Soviet Union. Developments outside the nuclear industry during the 1940s and 1950s - such as the Alger Hiss case, the pro-Soviet coup in Czechoslovakia, the Soviet blockade of West Germany, the Chinese Revolution, as well as Soviet progress in developing atom bombs, hydrogen bombs, and nuclear reactors - convinced many American planners that they were in a "race to save the world from communism." Nuclear power was one key component of win-ning this race. It is illustrative that the first nuclear plant built by the AEC in Shippingport, Pennsylvania, started in 1953 directly after the Soviet Union exploded its H-bomb, and that the reason for choosing to go forward was not to produce a "cost-competitive" plant but to show the world that the US could design and operate a reactor.(*46)

Spain, 1951 ± 1980
Spain pursued a path of nuclear power partly because of its technocratic government, imperialist ambitions, utopian thin-king, and Cold War relationships. Its quest for nuclear energy began in the early 1940s. After the atom bombs were drop-ped on Japan, Spanish leaders were convinced that military might lay in nuclear weapons, not in soldiers or ships. The country also happened to be sitting on what was believed to be one-seventh of the world's recoverable uranium depo-sits. Planners there established the Junta de Energia Nu-clear (Nuclear Energy Board, or JEN) in 1951, and promoted nuclear power on the grounds that Spain had to be involved with important developments in science. As a consequence of its dictatorship and its collaboration with the Third Reich during World War II, Spain was excluded from international forums until 1955 and did not receive economic aid under the Marshall Plan. Impoverished by war, Spanish planners therefore saw nuclear energy as an inexhaustible source of energy necessary to power Spain's national reconstruction, development, and industrialization.(*47)

Canada , 1942 ± 1994
Canada's nuclear power industry can be traced back to ura-nium mining, which was initially under private control during World War II and operated to meet the needs of British and US military research. Under the 1943 Quebec Agreement, Canada funneled high-quality uranium to the Manhattan Project and clandestine British weapons programs; but when the war ended, the government declared all "works, under-takings, and substances relating to atomic energy to be for the general advantage of Canada." One year later, in 1944, construction began on an experimental research reactor. Canada later passed the Atomic Energy Control Act of 1946, which gave the government complete control over nuclear energy, expropriated all private uranium companies, esta-blished a Crown corporation (Eldorado Mining and Refining Limited), and prohibited all other actors from selling uranium in Canada to any one other than this entity until 1959. Also, in 1952, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited was established as a government agency to coordinate research and regulate the export of nuclear materials and equipment.(*48) The belief at the time was that Canada would be well positioned to supply the world fleet of reactors with uranium, making the country a de facto power broker in the transition to a global atomic economy.

4b. Conclusion
In each of the above historical cases, planners pursued nu-clear power not solely based on its costs and benefits in the present, but with hope about potential future gains, national visions, and technological optimism. As this overview shows, these visions differed by country and overtime. Yet despite such differences, each of them painted nuclear energy as lea-ding to national “radiance,” economic revitalization, progress, and the possibility of a better future of some type. Their pre-valence reminds us that energy policy making is not always guided by coldly rational thinking alone, and that energy systems can play a forceful role in shaping norms and ideals about what the future may hold. However, it also illustrates that nuclear power was never initially designed or intended to be a cost-competitive source of electricity supply.

In the end, the choice between nuclear power and its cleaner alternatives boils down to a simple question: Do we want a nuclear economy, which is centrally administered by techni-cal specialists, completely reliant on government subsidies, dependent on future breakthroughs in research, and sure to promote international proliferation and worsen inequity 
and vulnerability, that requires draconian security measures, wastefully generates and distributes electricity, remains based on highly uncertain projections about theoretical nuclear de-signs and available fuel, fouls water and the land, and trashes the planet for many future generations? 
Or, do we want a small- to-medium - scale decentralized electricity system, which is more efficient, independent from government funding, and encompassing commercially available technologies, that operates with minimal harm to the environment, remains resilient to disruptions and terrorist assaults, is equally available to all future generations, and is highly beneficial to all income groups?

When the true costs of nuclear energy are compared to 
the true benefits of renewable technologies, the answer is almost too obvious. In a carbon constrained world, continued investment in nuclear technologies still on the drawing board makes little sense, especially as such technologies rely on diminishing stocks of usable uranium that will require more and more energy inputs in order to be enriched to fuel-grade status. Why invest in nuclear energy as a solution to global climate change when, by the time such systems come online, enriching the fuel for them will require emitting as much car-bon as today 's fossil fuel systems?
Any rational investor, regulator, and citizen would choose instead to invest in the deployment of technologies that require little to no energy inputs so as to harness free and clean fuels widely throughout the world.

Policy makers should peek beyond the smoke- and - mirrors Kabuki dance used to obscure the obvious advantages of renewable technologies and the obvious costs of nuclear sys-tems. Any effective response to electricity demand in a world facing climate change involves enormous expansion in our use of renewable technologies and a steady abandonment of nuclear power.

Published by kind permission of by Benjamin K Sovacool 
(National University of Singapore, Singapore). His new book "Contesting the Future of Nuclear Power. A Critical Global As-sessment of Atomic Energy" is available through: http://www.
ISBN: 978-981-4322-75-1

End notes
(*1) Amory B. Lovins, Imran Sheikh, and Alex Markevich, 
"Forget Nuclear", Rocky Mountain Institute Solutions 24(1) 
(Spring, 2008), p. 27.
(*2) Joseph Romm, The Self Limiting Future of Nuclear Power (Washington, D.C.: Center for American Progress Action Fund, June 2008).
(*3) John Carlin, Environmental Externalities in Electric Power Markets: Acid Rain, Urban Ozone, and Climate Change (Wa-shington, D.C.: NARUC, 1993).
(*4) Russell Lee, "Externalities and Electric Power: An Inte-grated Assessment Approach" (Oak Ridge, TN: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, 1995, CONF-9507-206-2).
(*5) US Department of Energy and the Commission of the European Communities, "U.S .- EC Fuel Cycle Study: Back-ground Document to the Approach and Issues," Report No. 1 on the External Costs and Benefits of Fuel Cycles (Oak Ridge, TN: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, November 1992, ORNL/M-2500).
(*6) Thomas Sundqvist and Patrik Soderholm, "Valuing the Environmental Impacts of Electricity Generation: A Critical Survey," Journal of Energy Literature 8(2) (2002), pp. 1-18; and Thomas Sundqvist, "What Causes the Disparity of Elec-tricity Externality Estimates? ,"Energy Policy 32 (2004), pp. 1753-1766.
(*7) Jim Giles, "When the Price Is Right: Chernobyl and the Future," Nature 440 (2006), p. 984.
(*8) Mycle Schneider, Steve Thomas, Antony Froggatt, and Doug Koplow, The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2009 (Paris: German Federal Ministry of Environment, Nature Con-servation and Reactor Safety , August 2009, UM0901290).
(*9) John Byrne and Steven M. Hoffman, "The Ideology of Progress and the Globalisation of Nuclear Power," in John Byrne and Steven M. Hoffman (eds.), Governing the Atom: The Politics of Risk (London: Transaction Publishers, 1996), pp. 17-18.
(*10) Amory B. Lovins, "Energy Myth Nine -Energy Efficiency Improvements Have Already Reached Their Potential," in Benjamin K. Sovacool and Marilyn A. Brown (eds.), Energy and American Society- Thirteen Myths (New York: Springer, 2007), pp . 259-260; and Dan Watkiss, "The Middle Ages of Our Energy Policy - Will the Renaissance Be Nuclear?, "Elec-tric Light & Power (May/June, 2008), pp. 12-18.
(*11) Benjamin K. Sovacool and Christopher Cooper, "Nu-clear Nonsense: Why Nuclear Power Is No Answer to Climate Change and the World 's Post-Kyoto Energy Challenges,"  William & Mary Environmental Law and Policy Review 33(1) 
(2008), pp. 1-119.
(*12) Quoted in Travis Madsen, Johanna Neumann, and Emily Rusch, The High Cost of Nuclear Power: Why America Should Choose a Clean Energy Future over New Nuclear Reactors 
(Baltimore: Mary;and PIRG Foundation, March 2009), p. 9.
(*13) Aarti Dhar and J. Venkatesan, "Limiting Nuclear Liability Is a Violation of Rights: Sorabjee," The Hind u (December 11, 2009), p. 12.
(*14) Marshall Goldberg, Federal Energy Subsidies: Not All Technologies Are Created Equal (Washington, D.C.: Rene-wable Energy Policy Project, July 2000, Report No. 11).
(*15) Sovacool and Cooper (2008).
(*16) Matthew L. Wald , "In Finland, Nuclear Renaissance Runs into Trouble," New York Times, May 29, 2009.
(*17) Steven Mufson, "Nuclear Projects Face Financial Obsta-cles," Washington Post, March 2, 2010, p. A1.
(*18)  Madsen et al. (2009).
(*19) Judy Pasternak, "Nuclear Energy Lobby Working Hard to Win Support," McClatchy Newspapers, January 24, 2010.
(*20) Otis Dudley Duncan, "Sociologists Should Reconsider Nuclear Energy," Social Forces 57(1) (September, 1978), pp. 1-22.
(*21) Byrne and Hoffman (1996), pp. 11-46.
(*22) Martin Melosi, "Energy Transitions in Historical Perspec-tive," in Laura Nader (ed.), The Energy Reader (London: Wiley - Blackwell, 2010), pp. 45-60.
(*23) Michael G. Gallagher, "Nuclear Power and Mainland China's Energy Future," Issues and Studies 26(12) (1990), pp. 100-120.
(*24) For an excellent history of nuclear power in France, see Gabrielle Hecht, The Radiance of France: Nuclear Power and National Identity After World War II (Cambridge, MA : MIT Press, 1998); and L. Scheinman, Atomic Energy Policy in France Under the Fourth Republic (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1965).
(*25) Wolfgang Rudig, "Outcomes of Nuclear Technology Po-licy: Do Varying Political Styles Make a Difference?" Journal of Public Policy 7(4) (1988), pp. 389-430.
(*26) See Gene I. Rochlin, "Broken Plowshare: System Failure and the Nuclear Power Industry", in Jane Summerton (ed.), Changing Large Technical Systems (San Francisco: Westview Press, 1994), pp. 231-261; and Michael T. Hatch, "Nuclear Power and Postindustrial Politics in the West," in John Byrne and Steven M. Hoffman (eds.), Governing the Atom: The Politics of Risk (London: Transaction Publishers, 1996), pp . 201-246.
(*27)  Hecht (1998), p. 2.
(*28) David Hart, Nuclear Power in India: A Comparative Analysis (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1983).
(*29)  See ibid.; and Manu V. Mathai, "Elements of an Alterna-tive to Nuclear Power as a Response to the Energy - Envi-ronment Crisis in India," Bulletin of Science, Technology, & Society 29(2) (April, 2009), pp. 139-150.
(*30) Byrne and Hoffman (1996), pp. 11-46.
(*31) J.W. Hall, Japan: From Prehistory to Modern Times 
(Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Publishers, 1990).
(*32) Paul R. Josephson, Red A tom: Russia's Nuclear Power Program from Stalin to Today (New York: W.H. Freeman, 1999), p. 38.
(*33) Josephson (1999).
(*34)  Paul R. Josephson, "`Projects of the Century'" in Soviet History: Large- Scale Technologies from Lenin to Gorbachev," Technology and Culture 36(3) (July, 1995), pp. 519-559.
(*35) Ibid.
(*36) Josephson (1999); and ibid.
(*37) Alice L. Buck , A History of the Atomic Energy Commis-sion (Washington, D.C.: US Department of Energy, July 1983, DOE/ES - 0003/1), p. 1.
(*38) Lee Clarke, "The Origins of Nuclear Power: A Case of Institutional Conflict," Social Problems 32(5) (June, 1985), p. 477.
(*39) See Buck (1983); and ibid., pp. 474-487.
(*40)  Editors of Pocket Books, The Atomic Age Opens (New York: Pocket Books, 1945), p p . 202± 203.
(*41) Daniel Ford , Meltdown: The Secret Papers of the Atomic Energy Commission (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1986), p. 30.
(*42) Gary L. Downey, "Risk in Culture: The American Conflict over Nuclear Power," Cultural Anthropology 1(4) (1986), pp. 388-412.
(*43) Richard Munson, From Edison to Enron: The Business of Power and What It Means for the Future of Electricity 
(London: Praeger, 2005), p. 80.
(*44) Shelia Jasanoff and Sang-Hyun Kim, "Containing the Atom: Sociotechnical Imaginaries and Nuclear Power in the United States and South Korea," Minerva 47(2) (2009), pp. 119-146.
(*45) Lewis Strauss, "Speech to the National Association of Science Writers, September 16th, 1954," New York Times 
(September 17, 1954), p. 1A .
(*46) Clarke (1985), pp. 474-487.
(*47) Albert Presas I. Puig, "Science on the Periphery : The Spanish Reception of Nuclear Energy," Minerva 43 (2005), pp. 197-218.
(*48) Constance D. Hunt, "Canadian Policy and the Export of Nuclear Energy," University of Toronto Law Journal 27 (Winter, 1977), pp. 69-104.

Japan's 'nuclear village' reasserting control

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green − Nuclear Monitor editor

Public opposition to reactor restarts, and the nuclear industry more generally, continues to exert some influence in Japan. Five to seven of the oldest of Japan's 48 'operable' reactors are likely to be sacrificed to dampen opposition to the restart of other reactors, and public opposition may result in the permanent shut down of some other reactors.1

However, slowly but surely, the collusive practices that led to the Fukushima disaster are re-emerging. The 'nuclear village' is regaining control.

Energy policy

After the Fukushima accident, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) government commenced a review of energy policy. After deliberations in a committee that included more or less equal numbers of nuclear critics, proponents and neutral people, three scenarios were put forward in June 2012 − based on 0%, 15% and 20−25% of electricity generation from nuclear reactors. These scenarios were put to a broad national debate, the outcome of which was that a clear majority of the public supported a nuclear phase-out. The national debate played a crucial role in pushing the DPJ government to support a nuclear phase-out.2

After the December 2012 national election, the incoming Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) government repudiated the DPJ's goal of phasing out nuclear power. The LDP government also revamped the policy-drafting committee, drastically reducing the number of nuclear critics. And the committee itself was sidelined in the development of a draft Basic Energy Plan. "From a process perspective, this represents a step back about 20 years," said Dr Philip White, an expert on Japan's energy policy formation process.2

"A major step toward greater public participation and disclosure of information occurred after the December 1995 sodium leak and fire at the Monju fast breeder reactor," Dr White wrote in Nuclear Monitor last year. "Although public participation was not conducted in good faith, at least lip service was paid. It seems that the current government has decided that it doesn't even need to pay lip service."2

The Basic Energy Plan approved by Cabinet in April 2014 contains nothing more than a meaningless nod to widespread public anti-nuclear sentiment, stating that dependence on nuclear energy will be reduced 'to the extent possible'.

Junko Edahiro, chief executive of Japan for Sustainability and one of the people removed from the energy policy advisory committee, noted in November 2014: "Now what we have is a situation where government officials and committees are back to doing their jobs as if the March 2011 disasters had never occurred. They have resumed what they had been doing for 30 or 40 years, focusing on nuclear power. ... In Japan we have what some people refer to as a "nuclear village": a group of government officials, industries, and academia notorious for being strongly pro-nuclear. There has been little change in this group, and the regulatory committee to oversee nuclear policies and operations is currently headed by a well-known nuclear proponent."3

'An accident will surely happen again'

Yotaro Hatamura, who previously chaired the 'Cabinet Office Investigation Committee on the Accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Stations of TEPCO', recently told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper that pre-Fukushima complacency is returning.4

"Sufficient investigations have not been conducted" into the causes of the Fukushima disaster, said Hatamura, professor emeritus of mechanical engineering at the University of Tokyo. The Cabinet Office Investigation Committee report called on the government to continue efforts to determine the cause of the nuclear disaster, but "almost none" of its proposals have been reflected in recent government actions, Hatamura said.

He further noted that tougher nuclear safety standards were introduced after the Fukushima disaster, but with the exception of this "regulatory hurdle ... the situation seems unchanged from before the accident."

"It does not appear that organizations to watch [government actions] are working properly," Hatamura said. "There could always be lapses in oversight in safety assessments, and an accident will surely happen again."

Hatamura questioned the adequacy of evacuation plans, saying they have been compiled without fully reflecting on the Fukushima accident" "The restarts of reactors should be declared only after sufficient preparations are made, such as conducting evacuation drills covering all residents living within 30 kilometers of each plant based on developed evacuation plans."

Japan Atomic Energy Commission

In September 2012, the DPJ government promised that a review of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) would be conducted 'with its abolition and reorganization in mind'. The government established a review committee, which published a report in December 2012. After taking office, the incoming LDP government shelved the report and commenced a new review.5

The second review recommended that the JAEC no longer produce an overarching Framework for Nuclear Energy Policy. But an LDP committee has reportedly decided that the JAEC will be tasked with putting together a nuclear energy policy that would effectively have equivalent status to the Framework for Nuclear Energy Policy.5

Two reviews, very little change − and far from being abolished, the JAEC retains a role in framing nuclear policy. Moreover, the government has proposed that the JAEC, a promoter of nuclear power, could acts as a 'third party' in the choice of a final disposal site for nuclear waste. Some experts who attended a ministry panel meeting in February questioned the JAEC's independence.6


Many have called for TEPCO to be nationalised, or broken up into separate companies, but the LDP government has protected and supported the company. The government has also greatly increased financial support for TEPCO. For example in January 2014 the government approved an increase in the ceiling for interest-free loans the Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund is allowed to give TEPCO, from 5 trillion yen to 9 trillion yen (US$41.2−74.1b; €39.0−70.2b).7

The government will also cover some of the costs for dealing with the Fukushima accident which TEPCO was previously required to pay, such as an estimated 1.1 trillion yen (US$9.1b; €8.6b) for interim storage facilities for waste from clean-up activities outside the Fukushima Daiichi plant.7

The government has also amended the Electricity Business Act to extend the period for collecting decommissioning funds from electricity rates by up to 10 years after nuclear plants are shut down. The amendments also allow TEPCO to include in electricity rates depreciation costs for additional equipment purchased for the decommissioning of the Fukushima plant.8

Media censorship and intimidation

Japan has steadily slipped down Reporters Without Borders global ranking for press freedom since the Fukushima disaster, from 11th in 2010 to 61st in the latest ranking.9,10

Journalists have been threatened with 'criminal contempt' and defamation suits, and Japan's 'state secrets' law makes investigative journalism about Japan's nuclear industry perilous.11 Under the law, which took effect in December 2014, the government can sentence those who divulge government secrets − which are broadly defined − to a decade in jail.10

Benjamin Ismaïl from Reporters Without Borders wrote in March 2014: "As we feared in 2012, the freedom to inform and be informed continues to be restricted by the 'nuclear village' and government, which are trying to control coverage of their handling of the aftermath of this disaster. Its long-term consequences are only now beginning to emerge and coverage of the health risks and public health issues is more important than ever."11

Reporters Without Borders stated in March 2014: "Both Japanese and foreign reporters have described to Reporters Without Borders the various methods used by the authorities to prevent independent coverage of the [Fukushima] disaster and its consequences. They have been prevented from covering anti-nuclear demonstrations and have been threatened with criminal proceedings for entering the "red zone" declared around the plant. And they have even been interrogated and subjected to intimidation by the intelligence services."11


1. 30 Jan 2015, 'Reactor restarts in Japan', Nuclear Monitor #797,
2. Philip White, 24 Jan 2014, Japan goes back to the future to affirm energy 'foundation', Nuclear Monitor #776,
See also: 16 March 2013, 'Abe purges energy board of antinuclear experts',
18 Oct 2013, 'Pro-nuclear voices dominate energy policy committee',
3. Junko Edahiro, November 2014, 'Toward a Sustainable Japan: Fukushima Accidents Show Japan's Challenges', JFS Newsletter No.147,
4. 10 March 2015, 'Ex-panel chief says Japan still hasn't learned lessons from Fukushima crisis',
5. Philip White, 10 July 2014, 'Reform of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission: as if Fukushima never happened', Nuclear Monitor #788,
See also: Citizens' Nuclear Information Center, Jan/Feb 2015, Nuke Info Tokyo No. 164,
6. Kyodo, 17 Feb 2015, 'Government explores options on how to store nuclear waste in the long term',
7. Kyodo, 15 Jan 2014, 'Gov't OKs new business turnaround plan for TEPCO, to give more aid',
8. Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Oct 2013,
9. Reporters Without Borders:!/index-details/JPN
10. Toko Sekiguchi, 13 Feb 2015, 'Japan Slips in Press Freedom Ranking',
11. 12 March 2014, 'Japan – Nuclear lobby still gagging independent coverage three years after disaster',

Nuclear fantasy in the United States

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Michael Mariotte − President of the Nuclear Information & Resource Service

Back in 2008, when presidential candidate John McCain was calling for construction of 45 new reactors in the U.S. (and presidential candidate Barack Obama was calling for "safe" nuclear power), Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander outdid his colleague: he issued a call for construction of 100 new nuclear reactors.

In 2008, the nuclear "renaissance" was in full swing. McCain's call didn't seem − at least to nuclear backers − far-fetched in the least. After all, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) at the time already had some 30 applications for licenses for new reactors.

Nearly seven years later, McCain doesn't talk much about nuclear power. President Obama's Department of Energy approved a taxpayer loan for two new reactors at Vogtle, a move the Department of Energy may be beginning to regret as construction costs spiral and the schedule delays keep pushing the project further back. Otherwise, the President these days talks about promoting renewables.

Most people are able to adjust to reality − in this case the reality that the short-lived nuclear "renaissance" is over.

But not Senator Alexander, who is now chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy & Water Development. In his first hearing on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's budget, Alexander recently repeated his call: "I have proposed that we build 100 new reactors, which may seem excessive, but not if about 20% of our current capacity from coal goes offline by 2020 as projected by the Energy Information Administration. If this capacity were replaced entirely by nuclear power it would require building another 48 new, 1,250-megawatt reactors – which, by the way, would reduce our carbon emissions from electricity by another 14%. Add the reactors we may need to replace in the coming decades due to aging and other factors, and my proposal for 100 may not seem so high."

Actually, 100 new reactors not only seems high, it's pure fantasy. With the experience of Vogtle, and the similar experience at two reactors under construction at the Summer site in South Carolina, no one is lining up to build new reactors. At this point, it's unlikely even the four under construction will be online by 2020, much less 96 more new ones.

If, by Alexander's logic, that 20% of coal plants going offline by 2020 needs to be replaced (and we certainly hope he's right that at least 20% of coal will be shut down by then), then nuclear reactors aren't going to replace it. For that matter, it's entirely possible 10−20% of our dangerous, aging and uneconomic reactors will close by then too.

So what's left? Perhaps some natural gas, but mostly the energy sources Alexander hates: solar and wind power. Alexander has been the Senate leader in trying to get rid of the production tax credits for renewables, especially for wind. Why? Because wind is cheaper than nuclear power, faster to install, and is pushing nuclear aside. As solar continues its rapid growth, you can be sure Alexander will go after it with the same passion. Both would reduce carbon emissions even more than nuclear power.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed last May, Alexander made his position clear: he opposes wind power's tax credit because "The wind subsidy undercuts reliable "baseload" electricity such as nuclear and coal." Yep, wouldn't want to displace dirty energy with clean energy, would we now, Senator?

It is disconcerting to have someone so disconnected from reality as Senator Alexander possessing such great power over the NRC's budget and energy policy generally. But, in a way, it's almost reassuring. A powerful nuclear advocate who isn't living in fantasyland might be able to consider small steps that might actually help the nuclear industry. Small steps aren't part of the fantasy, however. Alexander's dream may be America's nightmare, but it is just fantasy. And in the world we actually live in, reality trumps fantasy every time.

South Africa's nuclear soap opera

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green − Nuclear Monitor editor

South Africa's nuclear power program has become a soap opera over the past month. President Jacob Zuma said in his annual State of the Nation address on February 12 that the US, South Korea, Russia, France and China "will be engaged in a fair, transparent, and competitive procurement process to select a strategic partner or partners to undertake the nuclear build programme."

But the National Treasury said on February 1 that it has no idea where the money will come from, and a treasury spokesperson issued a statement saying "the government will not make a financial commitment it cannot afford." Zuma said details on financing would be released in the March budget, but in response the treasury insisted that the "nuclear build is so far not part of those decisions."1

Zuma is promoting the construction of 9.6 gigawatts of nuclear capacity in addition to the two existing Koeberg reactors (1.8 GW). He said on February 12 that the first new reactor would begin operation in 2023. The following day, Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa managing director Knox Msebenzi said the start date had been pushed back by two years: "The first plant was due in 2023, but it's been very delayed. Part of the delay has to do with politics. The latest date is 2025, but there may be other delays. Maybe we're perceived by government as not read."2

Russia's BOO boys

The September 2014 South Africa−Russia nuclear cooperation agreement has been published by the Mail & Guardian newspaper despite the South African government's refusal to release it. It appears that the agreement was leaked but was later found to be publicly available on the website of the legal department of the Russian foreign ministry.3

The agreement − which is not binding until and unless it is ratified by the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces − goes well beyond comparable agreements concluded between South Africa and Korea in 2011 and the US in 2009. It creates an expectation that Russian nuclear technology will be used in favour of alternative vendors − and may breach a constitutional requirement for open and competitive tendering. The agreement would indemnify Russian vendors from any liability arising from nuclear accidents. It would provide Russian vendors with regulatory concessions and "special favourable treatment" in tax and other financial matters.3

Officials in the department of energy, international relations, trade and industry, as well as in the treasury and the chief state law adviser, raised concerns about clauses in the draft agreement − but those concerns were largely ignored.3,4

The Mail & Guardian editorialised: "The way the Russian nuclear deal was handled can only be to ensure a politically driven process, unhampered by technical or financial considerations. ... [I]t is a lopsided, murky and legally fraught arrangement that hands most of the aces to Russia's state-owned nuclear company and carries significant risks for South Africa."5

On February 20, the Mail & Guardian reported on a "top secret" presentation by South Africa's energy department, proposing a closed government-to-government procurement of new nuclear power stations instead of a transparent and competitive tender.4

'National security' is put forward by a state law adviser as a possible justification to sidestep the constitutional requirement for open and competitive tendering.4 Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel and 'national security' is the last refuge of the nuclear industry.

There is one obvious reason why South Africa might favour Russian reactors − an expectation that Russia will provide capital funding under Rosatom's Build-Own-Operate (BOO) model. A draft of the agreement suggested that reactors would be vendor financed, but the final version defers any decision on funding.5

It is doubtful whether Russia can afford to employ the BOO model in South Africa given its heavy BOO commitments elsewhere and Russia's broader economic problems.6

Spy stories

On February 24 The Guardian newspaper reported on the contents of a cache of secret intelligence documents and cables. A December 2009 file says that foreign agencies had been "working frantically to influence" South Africa's nuclear power program, identifying US and French intelligence as the main players.7

The documents also discuss the 2007 break-in at the Pelindaba nuclear research centre. Previously believed to be a failed attempt to steal highly enriched uranium, the documents raise the possibility that the would-be thieves were acting on behalf of China and were seeking to steal design information about South Africa's Pebble Bed Modular Reactor R&D program.7 That claim has been met with scepticism.8 In any case South Africa abandoned its pebble bed program and it is a low priority project in China.

Meanwhile, Greenpeace Africa announced on February 27 that it had filed papers in the Pretoria High Court to compel the energy minister to update the country’s inadequate nuclear liability regulations. Greenpeace Africa executive director Michael O’Brien Onyeka said: "Shockingly, the levels of financial security for nuclear license holders have not been amended, updated or revised in more than 10 years. This means there is no lawfully applicable determination for the levels of financial security as required by the Act, and what is currently contained in the regulations is both out of date, and completely inadequate, which is in contravention of South Africa’s constitution.”9


1. 9 Feb 2015, 'Nuclear News Roundup for February 9, 2015',
2. 13 Feb 2015, 'Nuclear reactor now delayed until 2025',
3. Lionel Faull, 13 Feb 2015, 'Exposed: Scary details of SA's secret Russian nuke deal',
4. 20 Feb 2015, 'Top secret' nuclear plan ducks scrutiny,
5. 13 Feb 2015, 'Editorial: 'Atomic Tina' blows SA away',
6. Lisa Steyn, 20 Feb 2015, 'SA's nuclear deal with Russia is far from done',
7. Seumas Milne and Ewen MacAskill, 24 Feb 2015, 'Africa is new 'El Dorado of espionage’, leaked intelligence files reveal',
8. 1 March 2015, 'Ghosts of Pelindaba nuclear site break-in return to haunt South Africa',
9. 27 Feb 2015, 'We’re taking the Energy Minister to court: Greenpeace',

'Total stop' for new nuclear build in Sweden

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Charly Hultén − WISE Sweden


Vattenfall, the state-owned Swedish power company, announced on January 23 that it has terminated all work to develop a new generation of nuclear reactors in Sweden. The company has also withdrawn its application for a permit for new nuclear build, submitted in 2012.

In 2012, the company made it clear that the application did not necessarily mean that they intended to build a new reactor, only that they wanted to assess the prospects of launching a new generation of reactors. In order to make a full assessment, they needed to initiate a process within the regulatory agency, SSM (Swedish Nuclear Safety Authority). Hence the application.

Since then, Vattenfall has put millions into the project. But the January 23 announcement definitely has a ring of finality. The unit dedicated to developing new reactors has been disbanded. Some 40 Vattenfall employees are affected; some will be transferred to other positions, some are being offered retirement. "No one at Vattenfall will be working with New Build," said Mats Lideborn, who headed the unit, in response to a direct question. 

The withdrawal of the application has an impact on the regulator, as well; 15 or more employees assigned to deal with Vattenfall's application now face transfer or retirement.

On January 15, only days before these steps were made public, Vattenfall announced a major reorganisation at group company level. The company will henceforth be organised according to function: Heat, Wind, Distribution, Generation, etc. The company's controversial lignite operations in eastern Germany have been carved out to form an independent unit, with the intention of sale in the coming year (at the urging of the new Board of Directors).

CEO Magnus Hall described the changes as strategic: "Vattenfall operates in a challenging market climate, where cost-effectivness and sustainability are key to success. ... A first step is to establish an overarching strategy. Some elements of that strategy are already clear: we need to defend our position as a European company and to develop our portfolio so that we can offer our customers more sustainable solutions. We shall also produce electricity with a focus on emissions-free or emissions-efficient solutions."

Directive or 'reality check'?

Initial press reports suggest that the new government ordered the change of course. In September 2014, Minister of Environment and Sustainability, Åsa Romson (Green Party), announced that the government would be exercising its ownership to guide Vattenfall away from nuclear power and toward sustainable energy sources. But within 24 hours her statement was qualified – not to say countermanded – by PM Staffan Löfven (Social Democrat), who stated that the future of nuclear power would be decided by a multi-stakeholder Energy Commission (see Nuclear Monitor #793).

That Commission has yet to be appointed. Yet, Vattenfall has taken these drastic steps.

It is possible, even likely, that Vattenfall instead may be responding to its own viability studies. Sweden has the benefit of plentiful hydroelectric power. The country's base-load is covered. And the market for electricity is rapidly changing. The per-kWh cost of renewables – wind power in particular – is falling, which is encouraging many actors to 'grow their own'. Several hangar-type store chains, IKEA among them, have announced plans to become energy self-sufficient through energy efficiency measures and installing rooftop photovoltaic. Cheaper renewable capacity means that spikes in electricity prices are nowhere near as sharp as they were only a year or two ago, and there is no sign that prices will rise again.

Vattenfall, to be sure, is itself a major actor in the wind power sector, with several large-scale farms in different parts of Sweden. In November 2014, the company boasted investments in wind power amounting to SEK 40 billion (€4.3b; US$4.8b) over the past six years and a doubling of its wind power production since 2011. Investments of an additional SEK 11 billion in Sweden and Europe overall are slated for the coming four years. The simple reason is that wind power is profitable.

Wind power accounts for roughly 7% of Sweden's electricity production (13 terrawatt-hours) today, but the share is steadily growing. Vattenfall's press release adds: "Our growth objectives for renewable electricity production stand firm, despite the tougher times that Vattenfall and the energy sector as a whole face today."

In August 2014, Mikael Oldenberg – formerly a Conservative politician, now Executive Director of Svenska Kraftnät, the national distribution utility − called nuclear new build "utopian". "There is currently no rational basis for investing in new nuclear capacity," Oldenberg wrote. Perhaps Vattenfall has simply come to the same conclusion.


Ci Holmgren: "Total stopp för kärnkraft", Sveriges Radio/P1 (Eko newscast, 23 Jan 2015)
L A Karlberg: "Stopp för kärnkraft ger SSM personalproblem", Ny Teknik (23 Jan 2015)
Vattenfall: Ny organisation för Vattenfalls framtida strategi (press release, 15 Jan 2015)
Jan Nylander: "Vattenfall stoppar planer för ny kärnkraft", Sveriges Television (27 Nov 2014)
Vattenfall: Vattenfall bygger ny vindkraftpark för en halv miljard (press release, 7 Nov 2014)

A breakthrough with India's nuclear liability law?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Nuclear suppliers from the US and some other countries have balked at investing in India's nuclear power program because of India's Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act 2010. The legislation does not completely indemnify nuclear suppliers, in particular suppliers of "equipment or material with patent or latent defects or sub-standard services."

Recent media reports have trumpeted a landmark, breakthrough deal between the US and India on the liability issue which will unlock billions in investments. But a joint statement released by President Obama and Prime Minister Modi was more circumspect and vague, welcoming "understandings reached" on the issue.1

It seems likely any agreement would involve a nuclear accident insurance pool − possibly amounting to around US$250 million (€222m), and possibly with contributions from the Indian government and from five Indian government-owned insurance companies.2

But insurance pool or no insurance pool, suppliers would likely still be vulnerable to legal challenge unless Indian legislation is amended (as the US has been demanding), and it seems unlikely that the Indian government is prepared to attempt to change the legislation (or whether any such attempt would win parliamentary approval). Modi's recent statement − "we are moving towards commercial cooperation, consistent with our law" − suggests no appetite to attempt to amend the legislation.

Details remain vague, The Guardian noted on January 26, and officials stressed they were still working out the finer arrangements of the scheme, which is designed to avoid the need to change Indian law. "We think we came to an understanding of the liability" issue, said the US ambassador to Delhi, Richard Verma, which will operate "through a memorandum of law within the Indian system".3

Even if the liability issue is resolved to the satisfaction of nuclear suppliers in the US and elsewhere, other obstacles will slow the development of nuclear power in India, not least finance and public opposition.

And if nuclear suppliers believe they are indemnified, that in itself is a problem. Siddharth Varadarajan from Shiv Nadar University writes:

"US companies say that exposing them to damage claims, either by the operator of a nuclear facility or the victims of an accident, would make them unviable commercially since they would be liable for potentially unlimited claims.

"Let us parse this argument carefully. On the one hand, suppliers argue that their reactors are so safe that the probability of an accident is virtually zero. On the other, they argue that the damages from an accident are potentially so enormous that they would go bankrupt if they were held liable in any way. The latter statement is true, considering the Fukushima clean up has cost nearly $20 billion already. While this circle should be squared by asking suppliers to put their insurance money where their safety mouth is, all international liability regimes like the compensation treaty [Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage] and the Paris and Vienna Conventions shift the burden entirely on to the operator.

"This is absurd from an economic standpoint. While designing a reactor, how can a supplier decide what the optimum level of safety is if he is not forced to internalise the cost of an accident in some way? Nuclear regulators play an important role in the design and implementation of safety features but can never fully substitute for liability-driven incentives."4

In addition to progress on the liability issue, Obama and Modi claimed to have made progress on another sticking-point: India's reluctance to allow the tracking of nuclear materials through the nuclear fuel cycle to guard against diversion for weapons. In their joint statement, Modi and Obama said they welcomed "understandings reached on ... administrative arrangements for civil nuclear cooperation".

But as with the liability issue, detail is lacking. NDTV (New Delhi Television) cited "sources" saying the US "has forfeited its demand on insistence on "flagging" or tracking the nuclear material they supply to India, required under its rules to ensure it is not being used for military purposes."5 According to The Guardian, the opposite is true: "India will also allow closer tracking of spent fuel to limit the risk of it falling into terrorist hands."3


1. WNN, 26 Jan 2015, 'Deal close for Indian reactor imports',
2. M Saraswathy, 26 Jan 2015, 'Insurers to offer Rs 750 cr capacity for nuclear pool; rest from govt',
3. Dan Roberts, 26 Jan 2015, 'Obama and Modi agree to limit US liability in case of nuclear disaster',
4. Siddharth Varadarajan, 25 Jan 2014, 'Why India should say no to US demand to dilute its nuclear liability law',
5. 25 Jan 2015, 'The Short Walk Home. How PM Modi, President Barack Obama Clinched Nuclear Deal',

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,

Saudi Arabia's expensive quest for nuclear power

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
M. V. Ramana and Ali Ahmad − Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University

In the midst of all the news in recent weeks over the deal with Iran, it would have been easy to miss the news that another Middle Eastern state is moving towards acquiring its own nuclear reactors − Saudi Arabia.

In March 2015, following a meeting in Riyadh between South Korean president Park Guen­hye and Saudi's newly­crowned King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute and Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA­CARE) signed a memorandum of understanding to, inter alia, carry out a preliminary study to review the feasibility of constructing Korean Small Modular Reactors in Saudi Arabia.1 Later the same month, along with Argentina this time, Saudi Arabia set up a joint venture company to develop nuclear technology for Saudi Arabia's nuclear power program.2

Saudi Arabia has had a long-standing, although limited, interest in nuclear technology and these agreements are just the latest developments in that history. Other countries that have signed agreements with Saudi Arabia include France and China. Many more in the nuclear industry are hopeful of profiting from the Gulf country's interest. As Westinghouse chief executive Danny Roderick remarked in 2013, "We see Saudi Arabia as a good market for us."3

The stated arguments for nuclear construction are mostly familiar. As a royal decree from April 2010 put it in the case of Saudi Arabia: "The development of atomic energy is essential to meet the Kingdom's growing requirements for energy to generate electricity, produce desalinated water and reduce reliance on depleting hydrocarbon resources."4

Economic comparison

One further argument that is sometimes offered is economic competitiveness: as the President of KA-CARE stated in 2012, "nuclear energy is in many respects competitive with fossil fuels for electricity generation though the initial capital expenditure might be high."5

This is a somewhat strange argument to be making. Nuclear power has been struggling to compete in electricity markets around the world and it is hardly likely that in a country with no experience in building nuclear reactors, this world wide trend will suddenly be broken. Therefore, we decided to evaluate these arguments by examining the economics of nuclear power in the case of Saudi Arabia.6 Here we summarize our results.

We compared the electricity generation cost from nuclear reactors with three alternatives: natural gas based power plants, solar energy from photovoltaic cells and concentrated solar power stations. What we found was that unless natural gas prices rise dramatically, that would remain the cheapest source of electricity generation − nuclear electricity would be more than twice as expensive than that produced by gas. The reason is simple: the very high capital cost of constructing a nuclear reactor, typically running into several billions of dollars. For example, the latest estimate for one of the three ongoing projects in the United States, in which two new 1,117-MW reactors are being built near Jenkinsville, S.C., is $11 billion.7 Electricity from gas would continue to be cheaper even if a relatively high carbon cost (even above $150/ton-CO2 in some scenarios) were imposed.

This large cost difference also negates the oft-made point about the foregone opportunity cost that is said to result from Middle Eastern countries consuming their natural gas resources instead of exporting these. It turns out that when the costs of liquefying and shipping of natural gas are taken into account, a country like Saudi Arabia should be assured of prices well above the current and historical global average for decades before replacing a natural gas plant with a nuclear reactor becomes an economically sound choice. The downward pressure caused by U.S. shale gas expansion and the volatility of the natural gas market does not allow for reasonable confidence in such a high gas price − certainly not enough to sink in billions of dollars into nuclear reactors and natural gas liquefaction facilities.

But in the case of oil, our analysis showed that it does make economic sense to shut down oil based power plants and replace those with nuclear reactors − or natural gas. But Saudi policy makers may have already realized that and nearly 100 percent of installed capacity in recent years is based on natural gas.

Solar power

The surprising result that came out of our analysis was that solar technologies are very competitive with nuclear reactors. The key point is that it would take at least a decade, quite possibly more, for a country like Saudi Arabia to generate its first unit of nuclear electricity, even if the decision were to be made tomorrow, and solar photovoltaic and concentrated solar technologies have both been experiencing dramatic declines in prices.8 Based on current trends, the cost of electricity from solar plants would become cheaper than from nuclear plants around the end of this decade or soon after in areas like the Middle East with ample sunshine.

Nuclear reactors, in contrast, are not becoming cheaper. Some studies9 find evidence of "negative learning" wherein nuclear costs rise as more reactors are constructed.10 Past reactor construction projects have often taken longer and have cost more than initially projected; indeed, significant escalation can be taken as inevitable given the nuclear industry's tendency to under-estimate costs and construction times. The best recent example comes from Olkiluoto in Finland, where just the losses that Areva has accrued when compared to the initial contract price exceeds 5 billion euros.11 Commissioning of the reactor has been delayed by nearly a decade compared to initial projections.

The thirteen years or more that it could take to get the Olkiluoto plant to generate electricity is exceptionally long, but the average period it takes to construct a nuclear reactor anywhere in the world is about eight years. This does not include the time spent before construction on building infrastructure, regulatory activities, and so on. In general, one can assume that it would take a decade or even two for a nuclear plant to go from planning to commissioning.

Small modular reactors

The specific reactor design that was the subject of the recent agreement between Saudi Arabia and South Korea is called the SMART, one of the many designs that are called small modular reactors (SMRs). SMRs, with power outputs of less than 300 MWe, are being promoted by nuclear establishments in many countries.

The term small is used to indicate that the power level is much lower than the average power delivered by currently operating reactors. Modular means that the reactor is assembled from factory-fabricated parts or "modules". Each module represents a portion of the finished plant built in a factory and shipped to the reactor site. Modularity is also used to indicate the idea that rather than constructing one large reactor, the equivalent power output will be generated using multiple smaller reactors that allow for greater tailoring of generation capacity to demand.

SMRs such as the SMART are likely to be even more expensive ways of generating electricity than the large nuclear reactors being built today. Small nuclear reactors are cheaper in absolute terms, but they also generate less electricity. When the two factors − smaller overall cost and smaller generation capacity − are taken together, the cost per unit of electricity for small reactors generated turns out to be higher that for large reactors. This is why reactors became larger and larger over the 1960s to the 1980s/1990s. Thus, it seems likely that SMRs will lose out on the economies of scale that standard sized (roughly 1000 MW) reactors benefit from.

SMR proponents claim that because new reactor designs are different, the comparison with traditional reactor costs is invalid and the scaling law does not hold. They also claim that even if there are diseconomies of scale, these can be compensated by the economic advantages accruing from modular and factory construction, learning from replication, and co-siting of multiple reactors.12

Despite these claims, detailed and carefully conducted interviews showed that even experts drawn from, or closely associated with, the nuclear industry expect these reactors to cost more per kW of capacity than currently operating reactors.13 Therefore, if nuclear power based on large reactors is likely to be expensive, then electricity from the SMART project in Saudi Arabia will be even more non-competitive.

Unless, of course, there are large subsidies involved. In the case of South Korea's deal with the United Arab Emirates, South Korea seems to have subsidized the project substantially; some have estimated the deal with the UAE at being about 20 per cent beneath the industry average.14 Not surprisingly, the deal was criticized within South Korea as commercially weak and that future customers will demand similar terms.15

While there is a long history of systematic under-bidding in nuclear projects, especially in the case of countries with ambitious nuclear programs, this sort of subsidization can be done only for the first one or two projects, and cannot be the basis of a large-scale expansion of nuclear power in Saudi Arabia.

In addition to all the problems of nuclear power, solar power is also very appropriate to Saudi Arabia. There is substantial overlap between the electricity demand and solar insolation patterns16, and there will be little or no need for constructing expensive storage facilities to deal with the fact that the Sun doesn't shine at night.

In summary, the economic case for Saudi Arabia to build nuclear reactors is non-existent unless natural gas prices shoot up or there is some climate agreement that introduces very high carbon costs. To the extent that countries desire to move away from fossil fuels, switching to solar power makes much more financial sense, and one that might seem naturally suited to local conditions.

Now, if only some other Prime Minister or President were to make a visit to Saudi Arabia to meet with King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud and explain why solar power might be a better bet than nuclear reactors, small or large.



The French links with Iran's nuclear project (Dr. D. Lowry)

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Dr David Lowry − independent research consultant, former director of the European Proliferation Information Centre.

November 29 − Among the reasons the Geneva talks on Iran's nuclear programme had to be reconvened last week was that France objected to the deal being closed off earlier. The French objections were over Tehran's contested plutonium production plant at Arak, but whatever doubts they might have over Arak, they seem to be sanguine about Iran's involvement in uranium enrichment.

Indeed, they are in industrial partnership with the Iranians in this technology and have been for four decades since the agreement was initiated by the Shah in 1975. Oddly, this deal never gets reported in the context of the Iran nuclear negotiations. Is there any good reason why not?

The origins of the deal illustrate the dangers of international nuclear collaboration. A joint-stock uranium enrichment Eurodif (European gaseous diffusion uranium enrichment) consortium was formed in 1973, with France, Belgium, Spain and Sweden the original shareholders. In 1975 Sweden's 10% share in Eurodif was sold to Iran.

The French government subsidiary company Cogema (now Areva) and the then Iranian government established the spin-out Sofidif (Société Franco-Iranienne pour l'enrichissement de l'uranium par diffusion gazeuse) with 60% and 40% shares, respectively. In turn, Sofidif acquired a 25% share in Eurodif, which gave Iran its 10% share of Eurodif.

The former Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, lent US$1 billion (and another US$180 million in 1977) for the construction of the Eurodif factory to have the right to buy 10% of the site's production.

Although Iran's active involvement in Eurodif was halted following the 1979 Iranian revolution, Iran has retained its active involvement in Sofidif, headquartered in Rue La Fayette in Paris, to the present day.

Its current annual report is audited by KPMG. Dr Ali Daee of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran was appointed Iran's new permanent representative to Sofidef as recently as September 25 last year.

Iran's stake in Eurodif was exposed in a report written by Paris-based German nuclear expert Mycle Schneider for the Greens and the European Free Alliance in the European Parliament.

Four years ago, on October 1 2009, an earlier preliminary atomic agreement with Iran was reached involving the UN nuclear watchdog body, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), under which it was agreed to transfer three quarters of Iran's low-enriched uranium abroad.

In return, the West agreed to supply Iran with fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, which came online in 1967 and which produces medical isotopes for tests for around one million patients in Iran.

When Argentina, which had previously supplied the fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, indicated it was unwilling to do so again, it prompted Iran to ask the IAEA for help.

It turned out that France was to play a critical role in resolving the impasse over enriched uranium fuel for the reactor.

Although in principle Iran's Natanz uranium enrichment plant − officially declared to the IAEA in February 2003 − could have enriched the low-enriched uranium to the level needed for the reactor to operate, the main "uranium yellowcake" feedstock for enrichment, the uranium conversion facility in Esfahan, had been contaminated. France had both the know-how and willingness to help clean up the contaminated fuel.

Fast forward to November 2013. France, as a nuclear technology supplier to Iran, ganging up on its customer client with the other self-appointed five permanent members of the UN security council plus Germany, is guilty of breathtaking hypocrisy. It would be funny if it wasn't so serious.

Reprinted from the Morning Star,

Japan's nuclear power restart debates

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Hajime Matsukubo

After the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, the importance of separating nuclear regulation and promotion was highlighted. Therefore the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) was established in September 2012 to regulate nuclear activities. In July 2013, the NRA developed new regulatory requirements that included enhancement of nuclear safety such as severe accident countermeasures. And NRA will conduct compatibility evaluations of all nuclear power plants in Japan. Without NRA authorization, nuclear plants cannot restart operation.

Current status of review

In Japan, there are 48 nuclear power reactors. Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Ohi reactors #3 and #4 commenced periodical inspection from September 2013, so all nuclear power plants in Japan are offline now.

As described in the table below, some nuclear plant operators have applied for compatibility evaluation of new regulatory requirements. Further applications will be submitted upon satisfactory completion of compatibility evaluation.

Nuclear Power Plant

Commercial Operation Began (Reactor Years)

Submission date for compatibility evaluation


Hokkaido Electric Power Co.


1989 (25)



1991 (23)


2009 (5)

Kansai Electric Power Co.


1991 (23)



1993 (21)

Kansai Electric Power Co.


1985 (29)



1985 (29)

Shikoku Electric Power Co.


1994 (20)


Kyushu Electric Power Co.


1984 (30)



1985 (29)

Kyushu Electric Power Co.


1994 (20)



1997 (17)

Tokyo Electric Power Co.


1996 (18)



1997 (17)

Chugoku Electric Power Co.


1989 (25)


Tohoku Electric Power Co.


1995 (19)


Chubu Electric Power Co.


1993 (21)


Japan Atomic Power Co.


1978 (36)


TOHOKU Electric Power Co.


2005 (9)


HOKURIKU Electric Power Co.


2006 (8)


NRA is prioritizing Pressurized Water Reactors (PWR) because it thinks these reactors are safer than Boiling Water Reactors (BWR). Among the PWR reactors, Kyushu Electric Power Co.'s Sendai reactors #1 and #2 went to the top of the queue of the compatibility evaluation process. NRA released a report on 16 July 2014 stating that Sendai reactors #1 and #2 meet new regulatory requirements. NRA has also opened a report for public comment from the scientific and technical point of view until August 15.

NRA chairman Shunichi Tanaka said at a press conference after the release of a report of NRA's evaluation, "assessment does not guarantee safety at the Sendai nuclear power station, it shows only that the plant matches the new regulatory standards". He also said: "restarting the plant depends solely on a consensus of local residents, municipalities, and other parties concerned". Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in response to questions in the Diet in February 2014 that the government will restart nuclear plants whose safety is confirmed by nuclear regulators.

Future situation

NRA's report about the Sendai plant will be given formal approval after the public comment process unless basic defects are found. Even if plant owner Kyushu gets approval, it will need to pass four gateways − NRA's Approval of Construction Plan, NRA's Approval of Operational Safety Program, NRA's Pre-service Inspection, and local governments' approval of restart.

On August 5, Kyushu announced that the submission of the Construction Plan to NRA will be delayed until the end of September. NRA's review process will take some months, so it will be difficult for Kyushu to restart Sendai reactors #1 and #2 this year.

Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Takahama reactors #3 and #4 were thought to be in second place, but it turned out that some months of construction work are required to bolster tsunami defences. So there is no chance of Takahama reactors restarting this year.

Thirteen reactors face important problems such as active earthquake faults or ageing problems and it will be difficult to restart them − TEPCO's Fukushima Daini reactors #1−4, Japan Atomic Power Co.'s Tokai Daini nuclear power station and Tsuruga reactors #1 and #2, Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Mihama reactors #1−3, Chugoku Electric Power Co.'s Shimane reactor #1, Shikoku Electric Power Co.'s Ikata reactor #1, and Kyushu Electric Power Co.'s Genkai reactor #1.

Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Ohi reactors #3 and #4 also have a significant hurdle to overcome − the Fukui district court ruled against restarting these plants on May 21.

Debate on reactor restarts

As mentioned, NRA has assessed just whether the plant matches the new regulatory standards or not, and it will not guarantee safety of nuclear power plant. But the government said the NRA will evaluate safety. So each body sidesteps their responsibility.

How will the government ensure local residents' radiation protection in the case of severe accident? After the Fukushima disaster, NRA widened the emergency preparedness area from an 8−10 km radius to a 30 km radius around the nuclear power plant. But the NRA will not evaluate evacuation plans. Local governments have to take primary responsibility for evacuation plans. These evacuation plans do not address Japanese social reality or the complexities of disasters such as tsunamis, earthquakes and nuclear disasters.

New regulatory requirements are based on the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, but there are still a lot of ambiguities about the disaster. New regulatory requirements do not reflect the latest findings about the disaster.

Citizens' attitudes

A local newspaper, Minami Nippon Shimbun, held an opinion poll in April about the restart of the Sendai Nuclear Power Station in Kagoshima Prefecture, and found that 59.5% of voters "disagree" or "rather disagree" with reactor restarts, whereas 36.8% of voters "agree" or "rather agree". A nationwide poll by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper in July found that 59% of voters "disagree" with reactor restarts, whereas only 23% "agree". These numbers have been consistent since the Fukushima disaster.

Satsuma-Sendai City, the local municipality of Sendai Nuclear Power Station, agrees with its restart but at the adjacent Ichiki-Kushikino City (population: 29,926), more than half of the residents signed a petition against restarting the Sendai reactors. The council of Aira city, located within the 30 km radius of the Sendai Nuclear Power Station, adopted a report against restarting Sendai reactors and calling for them to be decommissioned.

Concluding remarks

It is expected that the NRA will give the approval that Sendai meets new safety standards. But as Chairman Tanaka said, it does not give a guarantee of safety. Evacuation plans, and the safety which is not ensured by the new regulatory standard, are the main battlefields of Sendai Nuclear Power Station. As part of this battle, large meetings will held at Kagoshima Prefecture on August 31 and September 28.

Belarus: Reactor construction licence issued

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

The construction of the first nuclear power plant in Belarus can commence following the issuance of a permit from the country's nuclear regulator.

The Department for Nuclear and Radiation Safety (Gosatomnadzor) of the Ministry of Emergencies has issued the State Entity Nuclear Power Plant Construction Directorate (Belarus AEC) with a licence for the construction of the first of two reactors at the Ostrovets site. The main construction contract was awarded to Russia's AtomStroyExport in October 2011, while a US$10 billion turn-key contract was finalised between Belarus and Rosatom in July 2012 for the supply of the two reactors. The 1,200 MWe AES-2006 model VVER pressurized water reactor design has been selected for use at the plant.[1]

Earlier this year, the Lithuanian government made known its deep concerns about Belarus's nuclear power project near Ostroverts. In the past month, diplomatic notes have been sent to Belarus to protest earth-moving and other initial work for the plant. "We have many concerns about safety and information we've asked for hasn't been provided," Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius said. A UN committee said in April that Belarus wasn't abiding by the terms of the Espoo Convention on cross-border environmental issues.[2,3]

In late October, the Lithuanian foreign ministry noted that the environmental impact assessment process of the Belarusian nuclear plant under the Espoo Convention has not been completed. "Therefore, the ongoing construction of the NPP and the decision to start installing nuclear equipment are obvious instances of failure to comply with provisions of the Convention."[4]

Belarus Digest reported on 27 August: "Minsk preferred to ignore not only some Lithuania's requests, but also a letter from the EU and provided the [UN] Committee with documents in Russian without a translation into English. At the same time, it manipulated with the EIA texts and held only nominal public hearing with Lithuanian residents. Isolated from many pan-European projects, the Belarusian state clearly has real problems with educating its bureaucrats on new ways of doing government business, particularly in international context."[5]

The thuggishness of the Belarusian state was on full display before and during a Chernobyl day commemoration and demonstration in Minsk earlier this year. Six journalists were arrested during and after the demonstration in a move that drew harsh criticism from Reporters Without Borders (which ranks Belarus a low 157 out of 179 surveyed countries for press freedom).[6]

Influential activists and politicians were targeted. According to Bellona, at least 15 renowned anti-nuclear activists were prevented from taking part in the march, but many more rank and file activists were roughed up by police and brutally dragged from the demonstration.[6]

Vitaly Rymashevsky, a member of the Belorusian Christian Democracy movement, told Bellona that "what happened to many participants and organisers of the march was not detention – it was siege and violent kidnapping of people in the centre of the city. ... This is a sure sign that there is no liberalisation underway in Belarus."[6]

[1] WNN, 28 Oct 2013, 'Construction licence for Ostrovets',
[2] 'Lithuania opposes new reactor in Belarus', 6 Sept 2013, Nuclear Monitor #767,
[3] 'Lithuania concerned about Belarus nuclear plant', 26 Apr 2013, Nuclear Monitor #761,
[4] 'Lithuanian Foreign Ministry Urges Belarus Not to Start Building Nuclear Plant until its Environmental Impact Has Been Assessed', 31 Oct 2013,
[5] Siarhei Bohdan, 27 Aug 2013, 'Belarus and Lithuania: A Tale of Two Nuclear Power Plants', Belarus Digest,
[6] Charles Digges, 2013, 'Thuggish arrests of activists and journalists mar Chernobyl anniversary march in Minsk, Belarus',

Rosatom BOO boys in Bangladesh

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

The foundation stone has been laid at the Rooppur nuclear power site after Russia and Bangladesh signed an agreement on the construction of the country's first nuclear power plant. The agreement covers the design stage of the project, which is expected to take about two years to complete and will form the basis for obtaining further licences and starting construction of the plant.[1,2]

Two 1,000 MWe reactors are planned for Rooppur, based on a modified version of the NPP-2006 VVER pressurised water reactor. The site is on the eastern bank of the river Ganges (in Bangladesh it is called the Padma River), 160 kms from Dhaka. Site preparation is expected to begin in early 2014, with construction beginning in 2015. The project is expected to take around five years, with the first unit beginning operation in 2020 and the second in 2022.[1,2]

The project follows Russia's BOO model − build, own and operate.[3] Under the terms of the construction deal, Russia's state-run Rosatom nuclear energy corporation will build, operate and provide fuel for the plant in addition to taking back the spent fuel for long-term management and permanent disposal in Russia. Russia will also train workers to operate the plant.[2,4]

Abdul Matin, a former chief engineer with the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission and author of the book 'Rooppur & the Power Crisis', warns about conflicts of interest: "An ideal feasibility study is usually prepared by an independent consultant in order to correctly assess the technical and economic viability of a project without any bias or prejudice so as to help all the stakeholders in the process of decision making. ... NIAEP-ASE, being a subsidiary of ROSATOM, the likely supplier and builder of the proposed nuclear power plant at Rooppur, cannot by any definition be classified as an independent consultant. Under such circumstances, the credibility of the feasibility study and EIA prepared by them may be questioned."[5]

Abdul Matin also discusses conflicts of interest regarding financing: "The economic feasibility will prepare a reasonable estimate of the capital cost of the nuclear plant which will form the basis of negotiations between the BAEC as the owner and ROSATOM as the supplier and builder. The conflict of interest is obvious in this case. While estimating the capital cost of the nuclear plant, will NIAEP-ASE try to keep it as low as possible in the interest of its employer BAEC or will it inflate it to maximize the profits of its parent company? Will it be possible for NIAEP-ASE to impartially evaluate the safety aspects of a nuclear power plant designed, supplied and built by its parent company [Rosatom]? Under such circumstance, is there any guarantee that the conflict of interest will not lead to a compromise on the safety aspects of the nuclear plant at Rooppur?"[5]

Russia has agreed to provide US$500 million to finance preparatory work and to provide future loans to finance construction of the reactors.[1] According to the World Nuclear Association, "a future loan of about $1.5 billion is expected for the nuclear build proper" or, more cryptically, "a second loan of over $1.5 billion for 90% of the first unit's construction".[6]

Implausible capital costs of US$2 billion per reactor have been cited. Quamrul Haider, a physics professor at Fordham University, New York, notes that "it would be foolish to expect a good and a safe reactor at such a bargain price."[7] Dr A. Rahman, a nuclear safety specialist with over 32 years of experience in the British civil and military nuclear establishments, notes that the capital cost for VVER-1000 reactors in China is US$4.5 billion with cheap Chinese labour and locally available technology. Dr Rahman opines: "It seems the Bangladesh Government is either deliberately misleading the public, or indulging on wishful thinking or just hallucinating!"[8]

Quamrul Haider notes that the estimated construction time of 4−5 years is "far-fetched" [7] while Abdul Matin notes the first reactor is "most unlikely to be in operation before 2023" − three years later than the planned 2020 start-up date.[9]

Claims that the reactors will operate for 60 years with options to extend by another 20 years [4] are also far-fetched.

Dr Rahman warns about water supply for reactor cooling. He notes that India built the Farakka Barrage just 40 kms upstream on the Padma River, resulting in lean summer months from January to June, insufficient for even normal riverine trade and transport. "The remaining water available during the summer months is totally inadequate to supply cooling water for even one 1000 MWe plant, let alone two plants," Dr Rahman says.[8]

Dozens of scientists, engineers, academics, doctors and other professionals have signed a statement expressing concern about the safety and economic viability of the proposed nuclear power plant at Rooppur. They express concern at:

  • "woefully inadequate" water supply for reactor cooling;
  • "outdated, unsafe and discarded" VVER reactor technology;
  • implausible claims from a government minister and the Chair of the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission that capital costs will amount to just US$2 billion per reactor;
  • the lack of technical expertise or skilled manpower in Bangladesh to undertake such a complex project, and the lack of industrial infrastructure;
  • the lack of an institutional and regulatory framework to undertake such a complex project and the consequent safety implications, and Rosatom's insistence that responsibility for ensuring safety lies with the licensee, the Bangladesh government; and
  • the lack of consideration of technical issues associated with the storage, transportation and disposal of radioactive materials and waste.[10]


The professionals state: "Given these shortcomings and insurmountable impediments, the Bangladesh government should seriously consider abandoning this project. ... When advanced countries like Germany, Italy, Switzerland have all given up nuclear power plants and with Japan is tapering down nuclear power production after the Fukushima disaster, Bangladesh seems to be charging ahead recklessly."[10]

The pro-nuclear NEI Nuclear Notes blog has a much more optimistic take on the mismatch between a dangerous, complex technology and the lack of technical and industrial infrastructure in Bangladesh: "One benefit of nuclear energy that does not get much play is the way its deployment can lead to rapid industrialization in developing nations – maybe a better way to put this is, it can help bring about an industrial revolution."[11]

Many previous plans for nuclear power in Bangladesh have been abandoned. The first such proposals date back to 1961. A 70 MWe nuclear power plant proposal was approved in 1963; 140 MW in 1966; 200 MW in 1969; and 125 MW in 1980, with proposals and offers from the US, Belgium, Sweden, USSR and France. Plans for a 300 MW reactor were developed in 1980/81. Feasibility studies were carried out in 1987 and 1988. By the 1990s, proposals for a 300−500 MW reactor were under consideration.[12]

In 1999 the then government expressed its firm commitment to build a nuclear plant at Rooppur, and in 2005 it signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with China. In 2007 the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission proposed two 500 MW nuclear reactors for Rooppur by 2015. In April 2008 the government reiterated its intention to work with China in building the Rooppur plant and China offered funding for the project. In May 2009 a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement was signed between Bangladesh and Russia − the genesis of the current project.[6]

[1] WNN, 3 Oct 2013, 'Celebrations herald Bangladesh nuclear plant'
[2] WNN, 2 Nov 2011, 'Russia agrees to build Bangladeshi nuclear',
[3] Geert De Clercq, 14 May 2013, 'Rosatom offers emerging nations nuclear package: paper',
[4] BBC, 2 Oct 2013, 'Bangladesh nuclear power plant work begins',
[5] Abdul Matin, 1 July 2013, 'Feasibility study on Rooppur NPP and conflict of interest',
[6] World Nuclear Association, accessed Oct 2013, 'Nuclear Power in Bangladesh',
[7] Quamrul Haider, 26 Oct 2013, 'Capital cost of a nuclear power plant',
[8] A. Rahman, 19 July 2013, 'Nuclear fascination and misinformation',
[9] Abdul Matin, 23 Oct 2013, 'How to repay Russian credit for Rooppur?',
[10] 30 June 2013, 'Concerns over the Safety and Economic Viability of the Proposed Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant (RNPP)',
[11] NEI Nuclear Notes, 2 Oct 2013, 'How Bangladesh Is Moving Forward',
[12] Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission, accessed 6 Nov 2013,

(Written by Nuclear Monitor editor Jim Green.)

Taiwanese nuclear politics heats up

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green - Nuclear Monitor editor

A parliamentary vote on whether to hold a referendum on the completion of the Lungmen nuclear power plant descended into a brawl between opposing parties on August 2. [1] The vote, proposed by the ruling Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang − KMT), had been scheduled to decide whether construction of Taiwan's fourth nuclear power plant, which is nearing completion, should continue. Fourty politicians from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) barricaded themselves inside the legislative chamber on August 1, remaining there overnight in an attempt to stop the August 2 vote taking place.

The brawl broke out as KMT politicians tried to take possession of the podium to allow the vote to proceed. Television footage showed politicians pushing and shoving, two male politicians wrestling on the floor, and bottles and cups of water being thrown at each other. The scuffle led to the session being suspended, without a vote on the referendum taking place.

The DPP is calling for the Lungmen plant to be scrapped without holding a referendum. At least 50% of eligible voters would have to participate in a referendum for it to be binding. Taiwan has never passed a referendum. The 50% participation threshold has not been reached in any of the six referenda held since the Referendum Act came into effect in January 2004, despite those referenda being held in conjunction with national elections in 2004 and 2008. The Taiwan Anti-Nuclear Action League is calling for the Referendum Act to be made less restrictive.

The KMT said it would arrange six shifts, each comprising 15-20 people, to break through the DPP's grip on the podium, but the ruling party later said it would put on hold a motion to allow for a referendum on the nuclear plant. "We will not rule out the possibility of holding another, or third, extraordinary session of the Legislature to deal with the issue," said Lin Hung-chih, KMT Legislator and head of the party's Central Policy Committee.[2]

Around 100 citizens protested against the Lungmen plant inside and outside the parliament on August 2 as the political parties wrestled for control of the podium.[3] Many are associated with the Taiwan Anti-Nuclear Action League, which comprises most of the anti-nuclear civic organizations in the country including the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union, the Humanistic Education Foundation and the Green Citizens' Action Alliance. Other protesters unfurled anti-nuclear banners at 12 major intersections in Taipei.

On the same day, Greenpeace Taiwan warned that in the event of a nuclear accident, none of the subcontractors working on the Lungmen power plant would shoulder any responsibility. At a press conference co-hosted by the Green Citizen's Action Alliance, Greenpeace said that General Electrics and Mitsubishi are indemnified against all responsibility. Senior Greenpeace member Ku Wei-mu said the contractors had no right to ask Taiwanese to trust the safety of nuclear reactors if they themselves were not prepared to accept liability. A Greenpeace report states that in the event of a nuclear accident at the Lungmen plant, the potential economic losses could exceed US$1.1 trillion per annum.[4]

On July 31, Lin Tsung-yao, a consultant on the Lungmen plant's safety monitoring committee, posted a report detailing a number of construction problems on the project. Lin questioned the quality of GE's structural designs, and said that the project is hampered by the dearth of professionals at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Atomic Energy Council who understand the issues and can adequately oversee the project. [5,6,7,8]

Construction began on the two 1350 MW Lungmen reactors in 1999, with the first originally scheduled to enter commercial operation in 2006 and the second in 2007. However, the project has been beset with political, legal and regulatory delays. The DPP halted construction of the plant when it came to power in 2000.

The DPP is calling for a phase-out of nuclear power, and even the KMT has pledged to make Taiwan nuclear-free by the middle of this century.[9] Six reactors at three plants currently provide about 18% of the country's electricity.

On March 9, anti-nuclear rallies swept across Taiwan ahead of the second anniversary of the Fukushima disaster. According to rally organisers around 200,000 people attended protests nationwide, with 120,000 taking to the streets in Taipei.[10] An opinion poll conducted by the Taipei City Government in March showed that 66% of residents in the capital wanted the Lungmen plant to be scrapped, with just 18% supporting its continuation.[11]

The Fukushima disaster resonated strongly owing to similarities and links between the two countries. Taiwan and Japan both suffer from seismic activity (a 1999 earthquake in Taiwan killed around 2,400 people). Both countries are hit by typhoons − in mid July, a typhoon left Taipower's Chinshan 2 reactor offline and in need of repair.[12]

Taiwan's Shihmen nuclear power plant may have been leaking small amounts of radioactive water for more than three years according to a report published in August by the Control Yuan, a government regulator.[13,14] A Taipower official said the water did not come from the storage pools, but may have come from condensation or water used for cleaning up the floor. The Control Yuan did not accept the explanation and asked Taipower to look into other possible sources of the leak such as spent fuel storage pools. The contaminated water has been collected in a reservoir next to the storage pools.

The Control Yuan said there had been a catalogue of errors, including a lack of a proper plan for how to handle spent nuclear materials and inadequate supervision by the Ministry of Economic Affairs. "The company has yet to clearly establish the reason for the water leak," it said.


Greenpeace East Asia - Taipei