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Russian government appoints new head of Rosatom

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Vladimir Slivyak ‒ deputy chair of Ecodefence

After 10 years as head of Rosatom, Sergey Kirienko is now deputy head of Russia's Presidential Administration. What will he bring to the job?

In 2005, when Kirienko was put in charge of Russia's Federal Atomic Energy Agency (renamed Rosatom in 2007), he'd never had any experience of the nuclear power sector.

Later to make headlines as Russia's youngest prime minister, Kirienko's political career began in 1997, when he became deputy minister of fuel and energy. In 1998, he served as prime minister under Boris Yeltsin for several months before resigning over the financial crisis that led to the devaluing of the rouble and Russia defaulting on its debts. Now Kirienko is once again at the hub of power, looking after internal political matters.

Kirienko's successor at Rosatom is Alexei Likhachev, Russia's first deputy minister of economic development since 2010. Likhachev would seem to be a natural choice for the job ‒ he was born in Arzamas-16, now Sarov, the Russian centre for nuclear research and still a closed city.

Likhachev has known Kirienko for many years and was probably recommended by him. His work at the ministry of economic development centred on international relations, and he took part in negotiations on Russia's membership of the World Trade Organisation in 2010 ‒ useful experience at a time when building nuclear power plants in other countries is Rosatom's main priority.

Information and secrecy

News of these two appointments came out rather oddly. Prior to September 24, when RBC broke the story of Kirienko's appointment, there had been no rumours at all about Kirienko's move, and another two weeks passed before he was officially given his new job.

During that time speculation mounted about his successor at Rosatom, and it was not a question of specific names, but of where he or she might come from ‒ the FSB, the nuclear industry, the presidential administration. But all these rumours turned out to be groundless.

This fact illustrates the effectiveness of Kirienko's PR team: all of Rosatom's information channels are hermetically sealed, and if any important news appears, it is only by the grace of the residents of the agency's enormous headquarters building on Moscow's Bolshaya Ordynka street. There has been the odd information leak, but usually involving foreign media, which Rosatom has little control over.

The way Kirienko's appointment has developed as a story demonstrates the level of openness, or rather lack of it, which Kirienko's team has created in recent years. If a major accident had occurred at a nuclear power plant in Russia during Kirienko's time at Rosatom, it is unlikely that anyone would have heard about it for some time. Instead, there would have been a scenario reminiscent of 1986, when the Soviet government tried to hush up the scale of the Chernobyl disaster for as long as possible.

This lack of transparency is dangerous precisely because in the case of another nuclear accident, it could be a matter of life and death. And this is not a question of official secrets or nuclear weapons. Rosatom is funded by Russia's taxpayers and has to be accountable to them.

Paper power plants

Kirienko's legacy at Rosatom is a separate issue. Given this recent appointment, he is, it seems, highly regarded by the Kremlin.

There may have been two to three times fewer nuclear power plants built on his watch than were planned. There may have been plenty of corruption scandals involving the arrest of senior staff, including Kirienko's deputies, on embezzlement charges. But the corporation's "portfolio" for power plants to be built abroad is worth an astronomical US$100 billion (€91bn). And for the Kremlin, which periodically uses energy supply threats to put pressure on countries it is displeased with, nuclear power is not just a question of prestige and money.

To assess Kirienko's effectiveness as a manager, however, we need to look inside Rosatom's commission portfolio. These "orders" are not contracts specifying delivery dates, costs and a clear timescale for loan repayments (in most cases the money lent by Russia for power plant construction comes with a repayment date). Eighty to ninety per cent of these reported arrangements are agreements in principle that are vague on details, and in the overwhelming majority of cases the contracts aren't worth the paper they're printed on.

Russian media frequently give the impression that Rosatom is building reactors all over the world. It is true that there have been orders from over 20 countries, but they are actually being built in only three places ‒ China, India and Belarus. And in the case of the first two, international cooperation began long before Kirienko joined the nuclear energy sector.

So it is clear that Kirienko's team has been excellent at drawing up and signing non-binding nuclear agreements, and providing an information blockade for the industry. Actually building nuclear plants seems to be beyond them.

The situation in Russia itself is quite different. It has 35 working reactors, which supply around 18% of its energy needs.

Two thirds of these reactors are pretty old and will need to be prepared for decommissioning in the near future. There is as yet no tried and tested technology for doing this, and decommissioning and dismantling will be costly.

This will very probably be a key issue for Likhachev, who faces an unenviable task if he plans to stay at Rosatom for any length of time. He is unlikely to achieve the economic indicators achieved by his predecessor. But Kirienko had unlimited access to public funds, whereas Likhachev may need to start decommissioning reactors, which not only doesn't bring in any money, but involves astronomical costs.

With Russia's "crisis" in full swing, Likhachev can only dream of getting the same generous funding as Kirienko.

Making friends with the environmentalists (for a while)

But this isn't Kirienko's only legacy. His PR team worked not only with Russia's journalists, but environmental organizations, too. For Rosatom, criticism of nuclear energy on environmental grounds is a serious risk factor, especially on the international level. When Rosatom was in the process of being set up, the agency's head would send deputations to us at Ecodefence to ask for our "help", promising they would find a way to "thank us". Our organization refused, but there were those that didn't.

These organizations were paid pretty well for their "loyalty". Rosatom's public council would regularly donate cash to NGOs. The list of groups receiving financial help was initially published on a special website, until the council decided not to give out any information about its beneficiaries. Rosatom's most valuable and loyal partners were even awarded medals.

These organizations are evidently invisible to Russia's ministry of justice, which has been trying to force Russian NGOs to register as "foreign agents" for over two years now. Almost every group that has ever criticised the corporation has been added to the register.

It is symbolic, for instance, that my organisation Ecodefence was the first environmental organization to be registered as a "foreign agent". We were officially accused by the justice ministry of "campaigning against the construction of the Baltic Nuclear Power Plant" in Kaliningrad. Work on this new plant began in 2009, but was put on ice in 2013, a month after activists published letters from several European banks refusing to finance the project.

Russian media tell us that Kirienko and his PR team are off to the Kremlin to prepare Putin's next election campaign. Looking at Kirienko's 11 years as head of Russia's nuclear power industry, we can say that in terms of spending and achievements on paper, Rosatom's former head has few equals. Kirienko's team are experts at working with the media, putting pressure on dissenters and forging loyalty.

More information: 'Russia's Ecodefense ignores Russian foreign agent law, refuses to pay fines',

Russian reactor power experiments, extended run times spooking environmentalists

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Anna Kireeva

Ecologists are getting more uncomfortable with the fact that Russia is tinkering around with the science of extending the usual 30-year operational life span of nuclear reactors. The concern was raised during a joint conference in Oslo on December 10 of the Bellona Foundation and Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom on 'Russia's Atomic Energy: Conditions, Tendencies and Safety'. The discussion focused on the safety of Russian reactors, especially those in Northwest Russia, closest to Norway; nuclear waste and spent nuclear fuel handling; and safety upgrades to nuclear installations.

Rosatom wishes by 2020 to build nine nuclear power stations, but the plans are dubious. The construction of the so-called Baltic Nuclear Power Plant in Kaliningrad by 2018 provoked a hail of questions. These are issues tied to Rosatom's official roadmap1 for nuclear power plant construction.

Currently, Russia operates 10 nuclear power stations with a total of 33 reactors, which supply 16% of the country's electricity. Yet, 19 of these reactors are operating on state granted engineering life span extensions, and another four are operating beyond their engineered power parameters, or at more than 100%.

"This isn't Russian 'know how' – many countries do this," said Alexander Nikitin, chairman of the Environmental Rights Center (ERC) Bellona in St. Petersburg. "But Bellona is concerned by the fact that Russian atomic stations operate on excessive power output and extended reactors."

One nuclear power plant experimenting with running reactors beyond capacity is the Kola station, which is such a source of worry to Scandinavia.2 In October, the Kola station was given the go-ahead to continue running its 30-year-old No 4 reactor for an astonishing 25 more years – an unprecedented license extension in the industry.3 The extensions means all of the plant's reactors are operating longer than their engineered design limit.

"Extending the resources of the Kola plant, as well as running its reactors beyond their power capacity, is associated with regional power demands, not just because the industry wants to do it," said Sergei Zhavoronkin, secretary of Rosatom's Public Chamber on Safe Nuclear Energy Usage in the Murmansk Region.

But, as Bellona Murmansk has noted many times, the region holds an energy surplus, to which the Kola nuclear plant contributed 60% of the energy, with the remaining 40% coming from hydroelectric stations.

Nuclear power stations are yours, the waste is ours

As of December 1, 2014, Rosatom's portfolio included 27 inter-government agreements for reactor construction abroad.

"It's clear that international agreements are still not contracts, but they already contain certain prescribed requirements for the countries in question," said Alexander Nikitin.

The countries holding agreements with Rosatom for reactor construction include Turkey, Finland, Jordan, India, Bangladesh, China, Vietnam, Hungary, Armenia and Iran.

"All of these agreements stipulate that Russia takes back the spent nuclear fuel [generated by these prospective] plants, which are built abroad," said Nikitin. "No other country behaves this way aside from Russia."

And all this on top of the spent nuclear fuel being returned via the Port of Murmansk from international research reactors built by the Soviet Union.

According to Zhavoronkin, 70 containers of spent nuclear fuel from Russian-built foreign sources were safely offloaded and transported through Murmansk between 2008 and 2014.

Zhavoronkin called "rhetorical" the question of how safely these loads are actually delivered. In 2010, the vessel Puma, having offloaded spent nuclear fuel, nearly sank. And the vessels bringing these nuclear loads are not always rated to carry them.

Regarding the Puma, Zhavoronkin said it was "good that the accident happened after and not before" the offloading of spent fuel.

"And that the Puma is an old ship is a rhetorical issue," Zhavoronkin said.

What should become of spent nuclear fuel?

According to 2013 figures, Russia has amassed 24,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel. Eleven of its reactors are of the fatally-flawed RBMK-1000 Chernobyl design and produce 550 tons of spent nuclear fuel a year. Onsite storage of spent nuclear fuel at stations running RMBKs has reached 13,000 tons nationwide. Stations running VVER-1000 reactors produce 230 tons of spent fuel annually, and they've piled up a combined 6,800 tons of it.

Russia's six VVER-440 reactors have pumped out 87 tons of spent nuclear fuel, which will continue to be reprocessed at the Mayak Chemical Combine in the Southern Urals. Finally, Russia's fast neutron BN-600 reactor has produced 3.7 tons of spent nuclear fuel.

"Spent nuclear fuel is a big problem for all nuclear countries," said Nikitin. "No one knows in the world knows what to do with it, including Russia."



Jordan selects Russian nuclear power supplier

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Russia's Rosatom has been selected as the preferred bidder to supply Jordan with its first nuclear power plant. The first 1000 MW reactor of the two-unit plant is expected to start operating in 2020 − though there isn't the "slightest chance" of that deadline being met according to Prof. Steve Thomas from the University of Greenwich in London.[1]

Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom will build the AES-92 model VVER-1000 reactors, Rosatom's reactor export subsidiary AtomStroyExport will be the supplier of nuclear technology, and Rusatom Overseas will be strategic partner and operator of the plant. Russia will contribute 49% of the cost of the project, reportedly to be US$10 billion, with the Jordanian government providing the remaining 51%. However, financing has yet to be finalised and Russia could supply the plant on a build-own-operate basis.[2]

Siting remains unclear. Khaled Toukan, chair of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC), said the nuclear power plant is to be built in Jordan's Amra region, 60 kms east of the city of Zarqa. But Rosatom says the plant is to be sited near the city of Irbid, 70 kms north of Amman.[2]

In August, Jordan gave the go-ahead for a 5 MW(th) nuclear research reactor at the Jordan University for Sciences and Technology near the northern city of Irbid. Jordan's atomic agency chief Majad Hawwari said: "The reactor will help the commission build expertise and capabilities to prepare for constructing nuclear power plants in the future."[3]

In May 2012, Jordan's parliament voted to suspend the country's nuclear and uranium exploration programs, thus endorsing the recommendations of a parliamentary energy committee which accused the JAEC of "hiding facts" related to the cost of the projected nuclear reactor and deliberately omitting the cost of works other than construction.[4,5] According to Haaretz, the vote reflected "financial worries and amid rising anti-nuclear movement in the Jordan."[6] King Abdullah's government was legally obliged to adhere to the parliamentary vote − but ignored it anyway.

There are concerns that the pursuit of nuclear power is coming at the expense of expanding Jordan's renewable energy sector. Safa Al Jayoussi and Basel Burgan from Jordanian Friends of the Environment say that Jordan has 330 days of sunshine a year and is the perfect candidate for solar. "The European Union is hiring out land in North Africa for solar projects," Burgan said. "So why are we turning to nuclear without exploring the possibilities of using solar?"[7]

Jordanian environmental writer Batir Wardam argues that renewable energy "potential is in danger of being wasted due to the strong influence of the nuclear energy lobby in Jordan, which has managed to position their project as a top priority and marginalized the renewable energy sector."[8]

Ali Kassay, a member of the Coalition for Nuclear Free Jordan, told AFP: "We are very afraid of this project because it's dangerous to the entire country, people, the environment, and economy. We do not see a need for it. It's illogical to build a nuclear plant in a country known historically for earthquakes, as well as lack of capabilities, funds, human resources and water. ... There are cheaper, better and safer alternatives."[13]

Other risks with the nuclear program include sabotage and terrorism. The Arab Gas Pipeline, which transports natural gas from Egypt to Jordan, has been attacked numerous times in recent years.[9]

Environmentalist Rauf Dabbas expressed concern at the lack of community consultation, the inadequate institutional capacity to closely monitor a nuclear power program, and the marginalisation of the ministries of health and the environment in the nuclear project. "There are also security concerns," Dabbas said. "The plant's site is located near main roads linking Jordan to Iraq and Saudi Arabia."[13]

Jordan has signed nuclear cooperation agreements with France, Canada, UK, Russia, China, South Korea, Japan, Spain, Italy, Romania, Turkey and Argentina.[10] A nuclear cooperation agreement with US is under negotiation, though the US wants Jordan to emulate the United Arab Emirates and rule out 'sensitive nuclear technologies' (SNT) − uranium enrichment and reprocessing. Jordan is reportedly unwilling to agree to an SNT ban [11] though there were hints in early 2012 that perhaps Jordan would agree to a ban.[12]

One possible outcome is a non-legally-binding 'commitment' from Jordan that it will not develop sensitive nuclear technologies. JAEC vice-chair Kamal Araj said on November 11 that Jordan's desire to retain the right to enrich uranium had impeded the completion of an agreement with the US. Araj said: "We signed it a long time ago, but till now we have not finalised [it]. There was the issue of this gold standard and enrichment processing and I think we will find a solution for that. We wanted to retain the right for enrichment, although we are not going to exercise it in the future." He said Jordan wanted to be able to establish nuclear fuel fabrication facilities in the future when it becomes economical to do so.[17]

Jordan is sometimes mentioned in discussions about proliferation in the Middle East, as one of the countries that may be developing a nuclear program as a hedge against Iran.

Water worries

The two power reactors may be used for desalination as well as electricity generation.[2] However cooling water supply is a problem. An OilPrice articles notes that "what may ultimately doom Jordan's nuclear ambitions, however, is a resource even more scarce in the Kingdom than uranium – water." Jordan's water minister Hazem Nasser has noted that Jordan is "at the edge of moving from a chronic water problem into a water crisis."[9] For a two-unit plant, daily consumption (net loss) of water would be between 73 million litres and 131 million litres.[14]

According to the World Nuclear Association, site options with seawater cooling are limited to 30 kms of Red Sea coast near Aqaba. Sites with access to Red Sea cooling water were considered but in 2010 the proposed location for the first power reactor became Al Amra, about 40 kms north of Amman, due to better seismic characteristics. Cooling water will come from the municipal Khirbet Al Samra Wastewater Treatment Plant, with the cooling system modeled on that at Palo Verde in Arizona, USA, which also uses wastewater for cooling.[10]

Safa Al Jayoussi from Greenpeace Jordan says Jordan is one of the five driest countries in the world and asks how reactor cooling can be maintained in the "likely" event of shortages from the waste water plant.[1]

In the Middle East, Jordan, UAE and Saudi Arabia are pursuing nuclear power programs, while plans to introduce nuclear power to Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain have been abandoned.[15] World Nuclear News lists a swag of Middle Eastern and North African countries that "began to develop nuclear plans but have put these on the back-burner", including Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and Libya.[16] Iran is the only country in the region with an operating power reactor.

[1] 'Jordanians protest plans to go nuclear', 14 June 2013,
[2] WNN, 29 Oct 2013, 'Jordan selects its nuclear technology',
[3] Energy Business Review, 22 Aug 2013,
[4] Raed Omari, 30 May 2012, 'Deputies vote to suspend nuclear project',
[5] Hanan Al Kiswany, 11 July 2012, 'Jordan's nuclear programme comes under fire',
[6] Haaretz, 30 May 2012, 'Jordanian parliament votes to suspend nuclear power program',
[7] 'Jordanians protest plans to go nuclear', 14 June 2013,
[8] Batir Wardam, 2013, 'Jordan seeks a "solar-torch" from Germany',
[9] John Daly, 17 June 2013, 'Water Shortages May End Jordan's Nuclear Power Hopes',
[10] WNA, 'Nuclear Power in Jordan', accessed October 2013,
[13] 5 Nov 2013, 'Jordanians fret over 'dangerous' nuclear plan',
[14] 'How much water does a nuclear power plant consume?', Nuclear Monitor #770, 24 Oct 2013,
[15] Andrew Roscoe, 7 Nov 2013, 'Reviving the nuclear debate in Jordan'
[16] WNN, 18 Sept 2013,
[17] Dania Saadi, 12 Nov 2013, 'Jordan wants to retain uranium enrichment right, official says',

Finland: 15 shareholders withdraw from new reactor project

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Fifteen shareholders − one-quarter of the total number − of the Finnish nuclear consortium Fennovoima announced on November 14 that they are withdrawing from the project to build a nuclear power plant in Pyhäjoki, western Finland. Taking into account earlier withdrawals, around half of all shareholders have withdrawn.[1]

About 45 companies remain as partners to the project, but their involvement is conditional as Fennovoima is still negotiating with Russia's Rosatom.[1]

Rosatom intends to take a 34% share in Fennovoima. (Last year, German utility E.ON sold its 34% stake in the consortium.[1]) Fennovoima is negotiating with Rosatom's export subsidiary Rusatom Overseas with a view to building one 1200 MWe AES-2006 VVER pressurised water reactor. Fennovoima says the companies are aiming to sign a plant supply contract by the end of this year.[2]

Six AES-2006 VVER reactors are under construction in Russia and units are also planned in Turkey and Belarus.[3]

In August, the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK) warned that Rosatom's AES-2006 reactor design would need upgrades to meet Finnish safety standards.[4]

One complication is that Fennovoima has nowhere to dispose of high-level nuclear waste. Posiva Oy, a joint venture between TVO and Fortum, plans a deep geological repository on Olkiluoto Island but those plans do not include accommodation for spent fuel from Fennovoima's new plant. Posiva, TVO and Fortum have repeatedly said they will not accept Fennovoima as a partner.[5]

Posiva President Reijo Sundell said last year: "We're not trying to be nasty. But the simple fact is that there is not enough room. We can't expand the site under the sea. We can't create another deeper level because then it might not withstand the pressure of an ice age. And we can't build a shallower level because the underground water there is saltier and therefore more corrosive."[6]

Making the Olkiluoto bedrock repository bigger to accommodate waste from Hanhikivi would cost about 200 million euros, whereas building a separate facility would cost far more.[5]

One of the remaining consortium members is mining company Talvivaara, which is heavily in debt.[7,8,9,10] In November 2012, a massive spill from Talvivaara's nickel and zinc mine polluted wide areas of wetlands with thousands of cubic meters of toxic and radioactive waste water.[11] The company has been planning to produce uranium from the Talvivaara mine in addition to nickel and zinc. However that plan may be jeopardised by the company's financial troubles as well as low uranium prices.

Finland currently has four operating nuclear reactors, including two Russian-designed VVER-440 reactors, and a 1600 MWe EPR is under construction on Olkiluoto Island.[3] The EPR is seven years behind schedule and the estimated cost has ballooned from three billion euros to eight billion. In late October, the Areva-Siemens consortium increased its claim against Finnish utility TVO to 2.6 billion euros (US$3.5 billion) in relation to the delay and cost overruns of the Olkiluoto EPR, up from the previous claim of 1.9 billion euros (US$2.6 billion). In 2008, TVO submitted a claim to Areva-Siemens for compensation for "losses and costs incurred due to the delay" in completing the project.[12]

[1] 14 Nov 2013, 'More partners pull out of Fennovoima nuclear project',
[2] WNN, 14 Nov 2013, 'Shareholders committed to Finnish plant',
[3] 3 Sept 2013, 'Hanhikivi contract by year end',
[4] 21 Aug 2013, 'Authorities demand safety upgrade for nuclear plant plan',
[6] 24 Jan 2012, 'Posiva: No room for Fennovoima waste in nuclear cave',
[7] 23 Nov 2013, 'Talvivaara hundreds of millions in debt',
[8] Reuters, 15 Nov 2013, 'Talvivaara seeks court-supervised overhaul as fundraising flounders',
[9] 15 Nov 2013, 'Talvivaara suspending ore production, seeking corporate reorganisation',
[10] 15 Nov 2013, Talvivaara debt restructuring:
[12] WNN, 31 Oct 2013, 'Suppliers raise Olkiluoto 3 damages claim',

More information:

Rosatom nuclear exports up, uranium projects on hold

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Russia's state nuclear corporation Rosatom's foreign orders increased by 31% in 2012. Orders worth US$66.5 billion comprised nuclear power plant construction abroad (US$28.9bn), uranium products (US$24.7bn), nuclear fuel exports and other foreign activities (US$12.9bn).[1] Rosatom is building 19 reactors outside of Russia, more than any other vendor.[2]

Russia's willingness to provide billions in financing partly underpins its success, particularly in developing countries, as does the Rosatom 'build, own, operate' (BOO) model.[3,4]

Russia's willingness to accept spent fuel from Russian-built reactors overseas is another selling point. Yet Russia has nowhere to store radioactive waste and spent fuel apart from temporary on-site facilities. In October, Rosatom announced a 'roadmap' to explore the possibility of building 30 long-term repositories as well as temporary waste storage facilities in Russia.[7] Needless to say that process will be protracted and contested.

Alexander Nikitin, chair of the Environment and Rights Center Bellona in St. Petersburg, notes that waste management is problematic already without accepting spent fuel from overseas: “Who takes responsibility for what is even a problem at Mayak. Often, it's clear that spent nuclear fuel has come, for instance, from the navy, but poor documentation and lousy bureaucracy fails to establish who is actually responsible for it now.”[7]

Rosatom provides little detail about the reactors it is selling and building, due to strict internal commercial secrecy rules. Jukka Laaksonen, a former Finnish nuclear regulator now employed by Rosatom, told Reuters: "Inexperienced customers, who do not know that much about nuclear power, cannot ask as much." He pointed to a fold-out diagram of the VVER reactor, torn from an international nuclear engineering magazine, as no more detailed than most of the written information the company provides to potential clients.[2]

Nuclear power plants in Russia generated a record 177.3 TWh of electricity in 2012 − 2.7% higher than in 2011.[1] In October, Rosatom formally abandoned its previous, fanciful plan to build 35 reactors in Russia by 2020. Rosatom head Sergei Kiriyeko said the new roadmap for 2013 to 2024 involves building 18 new nuclear reactors.[8]

Rosatom reported that its uranium production reached 7,600 tonnes in 2012 (about 13% of total world output), an increase of 7% compared to 2011. Rosatom also met 45% of world demand for enrichment services in 2012 as well as 17% of fabricated fuel requirements.[1,5]

Rosatom says it will freeze uranium expansion projects in Russia and elsewhere due to low prices. "We cannot discount the dramatic fall in natural uranium prices, as a result of which over 50 percent of global uranium production is currently loss-making," said Vadim Zhivov from Rosatom's mining subsidiaries Atomredmetzoloto and Uranium One Holding.[6]

Zhivov said details of which of the company's projects are to be cancelled would be announced later. The Honeymoon mine in South Australia will be put into care and maintenance after several troubled years of operation. Other projects that could be affected include the Mkuju River mine in Tanzania, several minor projects in Russia, and the Willow Creek project in the US state of Wyoming.[6]

[1] NEI, 13 Nov 2013, 'Rosatom aims for $72bn in foreign orders for 2013',
[2] Alissa de Carbonnel and Svetlana Burmistrova, 14 Nov 2013, 'Russian nuclear exporter's foreign hires battle Soviet-style secrecy',
[3] Geert De Clercq, 14 May 2013, 'Rosatom offers emerging nations nuclear package: paper',
[4] WNN, 4 June 2012, 'Rosatom signs international deals',
[5] WNN, 13 Nov 2013, 'Rosatom sees exports jump in 2012',
[6] Reuters, 13 Nov 2013, 'Russia's Rosatom to mothball uranium mine expansion projects',
[7] Charles Digges, 18 Nov 2013, 'Russia's nuclear corporation embarks on permanently storing radioactive waste – but final solutions still distant',
[8] Charles Digges, 13 Nov 2013, 'Rosatom's new 'roadmap' slashes number of new reactors, but leaves loose ends on shut downs',

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The economics of the Russian nuclear power industry

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

The economy of the Russian nuclear energy industry is the least known and most opaque of all the many facets that make up the vast dominion that is the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom. There is, today, plenty to learn about the environmental, technological, safety, and other aspects of Rosatom’s operations – but economic information, if it is revealed at all, is only made available in relative figures and general data whose accuracy it is impossible to verify. A new report, researched by Leonid Andreev and published by Bellona, offers some estimates of the levels of expenses the Russian nuclear industry bears in its operations.

Still, many experts have made attempts lately to understand and estimate just how much exactly generating electricity from nuclear sources comes to, what it costs the Russian state budget – i.e. the Russian taxpayers – to build new nuclear power plants, including those built by Russia abroad, how big the spending is on managing spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste, and, ultimately, if it is even worth it to invest billions of dollars into developing an industry that is hardly a cure -all for existing energy woes but instead carries with it an enormous potential threat of killing everything alive on the planet.

The economics of Rosatom’s varied activities has become a topic of interest not just to the public – the ordinary taxpaying citizens, that is – but the Russian financial oversight agencies as well. For instance, one of the reasons that the newly minted draft law “On Management of Radioactive Waste” has not yet been passed, even as it remained on the legislators’ tables all throughout 2010, is the ambiguities in the economic concept of the waste management system the new law was supposed to establish. The Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation is yet to work out a  definitive position with regard to what sort of expenses the state budget will bear in order to dispose of the radioactive legacy Russia has inherited from the Soviet Union and if the system suggested by the bill – the idea that the management of radioactive waste will be the responsibility of those who produce it – will prove economically effective.

Whichever provisions have been approved in those regulatory and legislative documents that have been adopted since the State Corporation Rosatom was established – starting with the Law “On the State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom” – and that have to do with the nuclear authority’s economic activities have, as a rule, been such as to cater to the interests of Rosatom itself, rather than the public or even the Russian state. For instance, a passage in the Law “On the State Corporation Rosatom” stipulates that the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation – the federal body with a mandate to exercise oversight over fulfillment of the federal budget – can only perform external control over the corporation’s activities. As for the audits of Rosatom’s internal financial and economic operations, the efficiency of spending government-allocated financial resources or those held in special reserve funds, and other aspects – those are carried out by Rosatom’s own Audit Committee. The public has a stake in knowing how much money has been accumulated on the accounts of special reserve funds that are maintained in order to finance decommissioning of old nuclear power plants and management of radioactive waste, but that, alas, is restricted information.

Rosatom and its daughter enterprises keep to a bare minimum what financial  information they disclose in reports made available for public access or during events such as public discussions or so called forum dialogues. If questions are asked during such events – for instance, how much does reprocessing of one ton of spent nuclear fuel cost? – the answer, as a rule, is: This is commercial secret.

By adopting its financial reporting policy, Rosatom took upon itself the obligation to disclose, in annual reports made available for the public, the results and efficiency of spending funds disbursed from the state budget and other sources. But though they are posted on Rosatom’s website, these reports say almost nothing on the industry’s economy save for some general references or percentage figures which impart information of little practical use.

All of the above would indicate that everything is not as hunky-dory as the upper management’s cheerful reports would have it – something that is furthermore confirmed by many expert studies both in Russia and abroad.

The present report offers some estimates of the levels of expenses the Russian nuclear industry bears in its operations and some arguments that explain why nuclear energy is a loss-making industry today. But the main purpose of this report is to initiate a broader discussion of nuclear energy economics in expert circles and the public domain alike in order to work out a better understanding of whether developing nuclear energy and committing enormous financial resources to this end is ultimately in the public’s interest.

The full report called 'The Economics of the Russian Nuclear Power Industry' (August 2011) is available at:

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

French Nuclear Authority points to "weaknesses" of the EPR.
The construction of the EPR nuclear reactor being built in Flamanville, has many "weaknesses" that put the "final quality" into doubt. This is the conclusion drawn after a  thorough inspection conducted on site in May by the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN). The report of this "inspection review", highlighted by Le Canard Enchaine on August 24, is posted on the site of the ASN ( It is a 20 page letter sent by the ASN on June 24 to EDF, the prime contractor for the 1600 megawatt reactor designed by Areva. The inspection has was  carried out by fifteen experts, including an observer from the British regulator. The team found deviations from the construction requirements on essential parts of the reactor: the feed of the steam generators, water injection filters, the RIS batteries of the cooling system. "EDF has to make great efforts to show the final quality of the construction of Flamanville 3", judges the ASN, which points out: "inconsistencies between the requirements specified in sub-contracting and the demands mentioned in the preliminary safety report" - that is to say a non-compliance with initial prescriptions. Concerning an essential feature of the steam generators, experts estimate that "the quality of materials taking into account their importance for safety has not been demonstrated and their use in FLA3 is not possible". In two cases, they demand from EDF to "not engage in actions that are difficult to reverse before demonstrating" compliance.
Le Monde (Fr.) 24 August 2011 (translation Jan Haverkamp)

Town produces 321% more energy than it uses.
A small Bavarian town in Germany called Wildpoldsried produces 321% more energy than it uses, from renewable and natural sources. By selling the excess energy, Wildpoldsried has eliminated all the towns debt and generates 4.0 million Euro (US$5.7 million) in annual income. The point they are at now in terms of energy production and independence was reached by starting a plan about fourteen years ago to develop more clean energy sources and green building projects. The town with a population of about 2,500 started work on a huge community initiative involving the construction of nine new buildings and energy sources. The new buildings included a school, community hall and gym, and they employ solar panels, as do 190 private households. Five biogas digesters, nine windmills, three hydroelectric projects,  ecological flood control and a natural waste water treatment system were part of the plan for energy independence. It all has worked well, and the town is debt-free. They actually formed several local companies to construct, install and manage their wind turbines, with local residents as investors., 24 August 2011

Bushehr online after 36 years of construction.
Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant has been connected to the national grid. It began supplying around 60 MW of its 1000 MW capacity on Saturday 3 September at 11:29pm, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) said. Construction on Bushehr by German company Siemens KWU started in 1975, but the work was stopped in 1979. Iran signed a deal with Russia in 1995, under which the plant was originally due to be finished in 1999, but the completion of the project was repeatedly delayed. The most recent delay, in February 2011, was caused by the discovery of damaged internals of a coolant pump supplied in the 1970s. To avoid potential consequences of metal debris getting on the fuel assemblies, they were unloaded and washed, while the reactor pressure vessel was cleaned. The fuel was reloaded in April and the plant achieved criticality in May 2011. In August 2011, the Government of Iran invited an International Atomic Energy Agency delegation to visit the country’s nuclear facilities, including nuclear power plant that has been built by Russia’s Atomstroyexport. According to Iran's nuclear officials, Bushehr power plant will reach 40% capacity during a ceremony that will be held on 12 September 2011. It is expected to reach full capacity in November or December 2011.
Nuclear Engineering International, 5 September 2011

North Anna shut down after earthquake.
The largest earthquake to hit the eastern US in 67 years has raised concerns about the safety of the country's nuclear power plants. The 5.8 magnitude quake's epicenter in Virginia on August 23, was close to the North Anna plant, 130 kilometers southwest of Washington. The plant lost power and automatically halted operations after the quake. While the operator reported no 'major' damage to the facility, three diesel generators were required to kick in and keep the reactors' radioactive cores cool. A fourth diesel unit failed. While nuclear power plants can operate safely on back-up power, failure of generators was a key reason for the disaster at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant

A spokesman for the operator said the plant was designed to withstand an earthquake of up to 6.2 in magnitude. But some groups have expressed concern about the narrow margin between the design metrics and the quake's size. 'It was uncomfortably close to design basis,' said Edwin Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists, which has pushed for stronger nuclear regulations. 'If Fukushima wasn't a wake-up call, this really needs to be to get the NRC and industry moving to do seismic reviews of all the nuclear power plants in the country.' An article in the Washington Post reports that the earthquake moved dry casks (huge concrete containers holding spent nuclear fuel), weighing between 100 to 115 tons, by as much as four inches (10 centimeters).

Twelve other nuclear plants along the Eastern Seaboard declared an "unusual event" following the quake, the lowest of the NRC's emergency classification ratings. North Anna's "alert" status is one step further up on a four-step U.S. emergency scale.

North Anna's reactors are among 27 east of the Rockies that the NRC highlighted during a seismic review last year as presenting a potential hazard, due to the amount of ground-shaking they were designed to withstand. Many nuclear experts say plants in the United States were designed with big margins of error  built in, but last year's NRC survey found that the risks posed by earthquakes were higher than  previously thought.
RTE (Ireland), 24 August 2011 / Reuters, 24 August 2011 / Washington Post, 1 September 2011

Germany: no need for nuclear reserve capacity.
Germany's grid regulator Bundesnetzagentur (BNetzA) said August 31 that it has decided against keeping one idled nuclear reactor on standby as reserve capacity for the coming two winter seasons to ensure power grid stability after the government permanently closed eight older reactors in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in March. "Our investigations have shown that even in exceptional contingencies the transmission system will remain operational without the dispatch of a reserve nuclear power plant," BNetzA President Matthias Kurth said in a statement.

The government has asked the grid regulator to investigate the need for a nuclear reserve capacity during the winter after transmission system operators in May warned of possible blackouts during extreme winter weather should the eight older reactors remain shut permanently, removing at least 5,000 MW of nuclear capacity from the market.
Platts, 31 August 2011

International blockade Olkiluoto, Finland.
On August 20, 2011 a blockade of the Olkiluoto nuclear power plant under construction took place for the second time gathering people from several regions of Finland and from other European countries on the streets. One year ago, on August 28, 2010, it was the very first public street blockade of an atomic facility in Finland ever. It had been started with the support of a number of European and Finnish environmental and anti-nuclear groups. The gathering of the Nuclear Heritage Network, an international network of anti-nuclear activists, taking part in March 2010 in Helsinki had initiated the idea of the blockade and developed it together with the variety of Finnish NGOs and groups. The goal was to question the international reputation of Finland as the country of the so-called "renaissance of nuclear power", and to show that even in this country being under strong pressure of the nuclear lobby atomic power has noch support of the citizens.

For Finnish anti-nuclear activists the Olkiluoto Blockade was also an important occassion for meeting each other and exchanging as so far there doesn't exist any other nationwide organizing structures for a common anti-nuclear strategy. In the south as well as in the north strong networks of local initiatives and organizations exist and in some cases they successfully opposed to projects of uranium mining and new nuclear reactors constructions. However, cross connections between those groups and networks are created so far only in mutual big actions like the Olkiluoto Blockade or the anti-nuclear infotour around the Baltic Sea that also took place in 2010.

This year a blockade of about 100 activists from Finland, Sweden, Germany, Russia, France, United Kingdom and Belarus several times stopped the traffic on the access roads to the disputed Olkiluoto nuclear power plant in Finland. Police had announced to prevent the blockade of roads that were supposed to take place for the second time. They forced protesters from the streets again and again towards a bus stop nearby. Nevertheless, the activists succeeded several times to blockade the main access road to the nuclear power plant for some minutes, while an additional access street had been closed for some two hours by a wooden tripod construction with an activist on the top.

Donors agree to fund new Chernobyl shelter.
There appears to be enough money (at last after almost 15 years) for a new sarcophagus at the Chernobyl reactor in Ukraine. The Nuclear Safety Account and the Chernobyl Shelter Fund donors agreed to provide the necessary financial resources for the implementation of the Chernobyl projects. The decision was made at the Assembly of Contributors to the Chernobyl Shelter Fund meeting on July 7, 2011, in London. The new construction will help "neutralize any possible future threats to the environment from the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine".

The needed amount of financial resources for the Shelter Implementation Plan (SIP) funding is EUR 740 mln. On the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl tragedy on April 26, 2011, a fundraiser was held resulting in donors' obligations of EUR 550 mln. The new decision of the world donors allows for the immediate start of the SIP execution and its completion by 2015. The SIP involves stabilization of the existing sarcophagus and the construction of a New Safe Confinement (NSC) for the damaged nuclear reactor.

In 1988 local scientists announced that the life time of the sarcophagus was 20 to 30 years. The Chernobyl Shelter Fund (CSF) was established nearly a decade later in December of 1997 to collect funds for the NSC project. Currently, the European Union, the United States, and Ukraine cooperate to help meet the CSF's objective while the EBRD is entrusted to manage the CSF and provide oversight of the funds disbursement.

The construction of the original Chernobyl sarcophagus began on May 20, 1986 - three weeks after the accident, and lasted for 206 days.
PRNewswire, 14 July 2011

PSC shifts risks costs overruns to public.
US: Georgia utility regulators agreed on August 2, to scrap a proposal that would have eaten into Georgia Power’s profits should the costs for its nuclear expansion project exceed US$300 million. The Georgia Public Service Commission unanimously approved the plan after making sure the commissioners could review previously approved project costs if there is a budget increase. Customers would pay for cost overruns in their monthly bills unless the PSC determines the overruns are Georgia Power's fault.
Georgia Power is part of a group of utilities building two nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle. The utility is responsible for US$6.1 billion of the estimated US$14 billion project. The company has been at odds with the PSC’s advocacy staff over how to handle potential cost overruns for the project. The advocacy staff wanted to cut into the utility’s profits if the costs exceeded US$300 million over budget. The advocacy staff agreed to drop its plan if Georgia Power allowed regulators to re-examine previously approved parts of the project if there is a budget increase. If regulators determine that Georgia Power's mistake led to the cost overruns, consumers would not have to pay the additional costs.
Consumer advocates have criticized the PSC's move as shifting all of the burden of the project's cost onto Georgia Power customers, who already are paying for the plant's financing costs.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2 August 2011

Walk away from uranium mining.
Footprints for Peace, an international grassroots group that organizes walks, bike rides and runs around the world, invites families and people of all ages, background and cultures to come and support traditional owners in their opposition to uranium mining in Western Australia by taking part in the “Walk away from uranium mining” that began in Wiluna on August 19 and will finish in Perth on October 28. "We will demonstrate that we have the choice to walk away from this costly, toxic industry — which produces radioactive waste and weapons usable material — in favour of renewable energy options." Footprints for Peace are working together with the Western Australian Nuclear Free Alliance (WANFA) to organise this grassroots awareness-raising and action-based campaign. Everyone is welcome to join the walk for a few hours, a day, a few weeks or the whole way. Even if you cannot walk we still require financial assistance, drivers, kitchen crew members, media liaison volunteers, video operators and photographers, musicians, artists, singers and general support for daily events, such as camp set up and pack up, food shopping and water collection. The walkers will cover a distance of 20 to 25 kilometres a day, with a rest day every five days……… The walk’s conclusion in Perth will coincide with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. There we will deliver our well-supported and strong message that it is time to shut down the nuclear industry’s plans to expand in Western Australia and the rest of Australia.

For more information please visit:
GreenLeft (Aus.) 23 July 2011

Sellafield: No prosecutions for organ harvesting.
Recent correspondence has revealed that no one will be prosecuted over the body hacking scandal carried out by the nuclear industry for over 40 years in collusion with government, hospitals, coroners and doctors.

From 1960 to 1991, body parts were taken without consent from 64 former Sellafield workers and 12 workers from nuclear sites in Springfields, Capenhurst, Dounreay and Aldermaston. The liver was removed in all cases and one or both lungs in all but one incident. Vertebrae, sternum, ribs, lymph nodes, spleen, kidneys and fermur were also stripped in the majority of cases. Brains, tongues, hearts and testes were also taken on the advice of the medical officer at Sellafield.

Correspondence from Cumbria Constabulary has been seen which says that despite the findings of the Redfern Inquiry (into the scandal; see Nuclear Monitor 721, 17 December 2010)  that the relationship between the nuclear industry and fellow bodysnatching conspirators was "too close" no one will be prosecuted as it is not "in the public interest".

Extract from a letter sent by ‘Special Operations’ - Cumbria Constabulary: "the issues you raise which I have listed below;
1. That specific people and institutions have breached the Human Tissue Act and that this should be investigated.
2. That an investigation into whether there was any unlawful corruption of the coronial processes had taken place
3. The stipends made to mortuary attendants are also of particular concern.
This was a Government led review which involved both the Department for Energy and Climate Change and the Ministry of Justice. As such any requirement on the police to investigate identified breaches as outlined above would be made by the Government. No such request has been made". (end quotation Cumbria Constabulary correspondence)
Well, surprise, surprise: No such request is likely to be made.

Floating Nuke Plant Seized in Bankruptcy
A St. Petersburg court seized the 70MW floating nuclear power station under construction at the Baltiisky Zavod shipyards after Rosenergoatom, the division of the Rosatom nuclear monopoly that commissioned it, demanded recognition of its right of ownership to the unfinished vessel. The July 26 court order gave the go-ahead for the seizure on the basis of "significant risk" that Rosenergoatom could lose its investment in the 9.8 billion ruble ($334 million) vessel if another claimant seized Baltiisky Zavod's assets during bankruptcy proceedings.

The ship yard, which is 88.3 percent owned by former Tuva governor Segei Pugachev's United Industrial Corporation is facing litigation from numerous disgruntled creditors. International Industrial Bank, also known as Mezhprombank, had its operating license revoked when it declared itself bankrupt in November. In January prosecutors launched a criminal case against the bank for intentional bankruptcy.

The dispute is not the first to hit Rosatom's ambitious plans to build a generation of floating nuclear power stations to serve remote coastal communities in Russia's north and Far East. Interfax on Thursday quoted an unidentified source at Rosatom saying the contract could be reassigned to another shipbuilder. If true, it would be the second time a contractor has lost the order from Rosatom, which originally commissioned the Sevmash shipyard to build the controversial floating nuclear plants in 2006. Rosenergoatom tore up that agreement in 2008 and signed a new deal with Baltiisky Zavod in 2009. Baltiisky Zavod is scheduled to finish the first station in 2012, according to the contract. The 70-megawatt plant is destined for Kamchatka.
Moscow Times, 15 August 2011


Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

On January 20, the lower house of the Duma (the Russian parliament) adopted in first reading a new law on radioactive waste. It is expected that final approval by lower and upper houses of parliament and Russian president will happen by next summer. The legislation was developed last year by state-owned nuclear power corporation Rosatom.

WISE Kaliningrad - After legislation was passed in first reading, environmental groups started to criticize the new law for a vast amount of significant lacks related to the disposal of radioactive waste. Russian anti-nuclear group Ecodefense called for a national campaign aimed to change the law. Otherwise, new legislation will bring many more troubles than benefits, activists said.

A set of amendments for the new law, supported by nearly 30 environmental groups from all across Russia, was sent to the lower house of the Russian parliament. In the first week of February, nearly 500 letters from individuals, small business and scientific communities where sent to parliamentarians to demonstrate the support for the amendments prepared by anti-nuclear campaigners. In an attempt to calm down the protest parliamentarians invited environmental activists to join a special working group dealing with amendments to the law on radioactive waste.

“The goal of this law is to put the financial responsibility for radioactive waste on the national budget instead of that of the nuclear industry as the producer of waste. When 'Rosatom' was formed by the Russian government, its budget was filled with money for the disposal of radioactive waste. And now 'Rosatom' wants to keep this money for other needs and make taxpayers to fund the disposal of radioactive waste one more time. This is also a way for 'Rosatom' to show that nuclear power is cheap and get more subsidies from federal government for new reactors”, said Vladimir Slivyak of the Russian environmental group Ecodefense who joined the parliamentary working group. Activists oppose this attempt by 'Rosatom' because there is a lot of commercial wastes accumulated at civil nuclear reactors and the nuclear industry should pay for it.

Another serious problem with the new law is that it allows dumping of radioactive waste underground. This extremely dangerous practice was banned in Russian legislation in 2002. At the same time, nuclear industry continued to dump liquid radwaste at nuclear weapon facilities near Tomsk and Krasnoyarsk because the license for dumping was issued before the ban was adopted in legislation. As a result, so-called lens with radioactive waste was formed in underground waters threatening to contaminate drinking water for nearby cities. One of the goals of 'Rosatom' is to remove from legislation the ban on dumping liquid radwaste.

Another site where liquid waste dumped underground is the Kalinin nuclear power plant, located about 300 km from Moscow. Surrounding lakes near the plant are already contaminated with radioactive tritium – a highly dangerous substance that may cause cancer and genetic defects.

Environmental groups are strongly opposed to the approval in the new law of liquid waste dumping. Another demand by activists is to include the necessity of public approval for the construction of storage facilities or dumping sites for radioactive waste. According to the proposed law, it will be enough to get the approval for the construction from the local governor. For example, a so-called 'declaration on cooperation' which doesn’t have any legal status, would be enough. In the current situation where governors are not elected, but sent to the regions by the Russian president who may also fire them, it is very unlikely regional authorities are willing to show their opposition to any proposal coming from Moscow.

On the contrary, environmental groups now demand to count public opinion directly, for example in the form of a referendum or a special public opinion poll. This proposal was also met with resistance from 'Rosatom'. Just like another demand by campaigners – to remove from the new law a proposal to give a sort of 'tax-free' status to radwaste dumping sites. Activists say this is another hidden subsidy for the nuclear power industry.

So far, three meetings of the parliamentary working group have been held and on many principal elements of the legislation is still no agreement. It is not clear how the process will go forward if no agreement will be reached. But currently it is planned that the official set of amendments for the new law will be approved in the middle of March and then the date for second reading of the legislation in the lower house of parliament will be set.

Source and contact: WISE Kaliningrad


Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Russian leading business magazine 'Expert' reported on February 4, that Italian Enel may invest into construction of a nuclear power plant in the Russian region of Kaliningrad. According to the magazine, Enel and Russian 'Inter RAO' are in talks to set up a joint company to build two VVER-1200 nuclear reactors nearby the border of Kaliningrad and Lithuania. Lithuania is a member of the European Union. Both companies are not commenting on the issue presently. 'Inter RAO' is a Russian company dedicated to find EU-customers for electricity from Russian nuclear reactors. State-owned nuclear corporation 'Rosatom' (previously known as Minatom) owns 57,3% of 'Inter RAO' shares.

WISE Kaliningrad - This Baltic nuclear power plant was heavily criticized by environmental groups in 2009 when 'Rosatom' held public hearings on the construction of the reactors in Kaliningrad region. According to activists, the construction site is not appropriate, for instance because underground water is near surface while it must be at least 40 meters lower. The design of the reactor is new and has no confirmed safety record. Radioactive releases from the nuclear plant may affect the Neman River which runs to the Baltic Sea. The Baltic nuclear plant will be located right under an international airway but developers of the reactor design said they never analyzed the sustainability of the reactor in case of large airplane crash. Modelling was done only for a relatively small (up to 20 tons) airplane crash.

Furthermore the project of the Baltic nuclear power plant doesn’t have any realistic plan on nuclear waste disposal. According to the environmental impact assessment of the Baltic nuclear power project, done by a company owned by “Rosatom”, spent nuclear fuel will be transported out of the Kaliningrad region to a reprocessing plant. At the same time, there is no reprocessing plant in Russia which would be able to reprocess spent fuel from a VVER-1200.

An opinion poll conducted in 2007 demonstrated that 67% of local residents in Kaliningrad where opposed to the construction of the nuclear plant. Moreover, the region will fully cover its entiry electricity needs by 2013, according to the investment' plans of the local government, while the first reactor may go on-line in 2016 at the earliest. It is therefor likely that 100% of the electricity produced by the reactors will be for export, while local residents will take the risks related to reactor accidents and radiation leakages from the storage of nuclear waste.

According to 'Rosatom', the two reactors will cost around Euro 6 billion. According to 'Inter RAO', the price may increase up to Euro 9 billion including costs of additional infrastructure.

Source and contact: WISE Kaliningrad


Rosatom is planning Baltic npp on EU border

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Kaliningrad

The remote Russian region of Kaliningrad, located between Poland and Lithuania—both EU countries--may become home for a two-unit nuclear power plant. The State-owned corporation Rosatom (formerly Minatom) is planning to start construction next year and to put the first reactor on-line by 2016. But opposition in the region is growing and the federal government so far has not granted permission for the construction.

On July 11 in Sovetsk, a small town on the Russian-Lithuanian border, more than 500 local citizens took part in a protest against the construction of Baltic Nuclear Power Plant (NPP). Over two weeks, activists collected more than 1,000 signatures in an appeal to the Russian President against construction of the nuclear reactors.

The nuclear power plant is proposed to be built 18-km from Sovetsk and activists asked Rosatom to organize public hearings in this city, but nuclear officials rejected this possibility. Organizers for the protest campaign, including the national group Ecodefense and a local citizen’s group (uniting activists from several small cities around the Baltic NPP’ construction site), said there will be more protests in July and August.

Earlier this year, various protests were staged by environmentalists in Kaliningrad city, the regional administrative center located approximately 120 km from the proposed construction site.

EIA and first local victory of activists
In June, Rosatom announced a public hearing on July 24, as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) procedure in Neman, the closest city to the proposed construction site. It was also announced that the EIA of Baltic NPP will be publicly available for 30 days. But Rosatom and local authorities of Neman placed an unofficial 11-page copy of the EIA on the internet, instead of the official 180-page document with background information on reactor and the entire power plant, environmental conditions in the region, etc.

Environmental activists officially demanded to place “the full EIA on the internet so that all citizens in the Kaliningrad region have equal access to the document and are able to participate in a public discussion over Baltic NPP”. On July 4, Igor Konyshev - director of the Rosatom department responsible for relations with regions and public organizations – announced there will be no access to the full EIA via internet because there is no law demanding that.

Two days later, on July 6, Ecodefense unexpectedly announced it had placed the full 180-page EIA on internet. According to a statement by Ecodefense, “the copy of the EIA was produced without permission from any authority … an EIA must be available to everyone in order to understand what Rosatom is trying to bring into the region… the decision over a nuclear plant must be taken by citizens living in the area, not by the nuclear industry which always gets the profit and leaves the nuclear waste”.

Although Rosatom announced official public hearings only in Neman, a very small city with a high level of jobless people, local activists are putting efforts into organizing more hearings in several cities located in the 30km zone around  the nuclear construction site. The first local victory for activists was the July 7 decision of the city parliament in Sovetsk, where local parliamentarians announced their own hearing to be held on August 17. Later this summer, more city parliaments in the 30km zone will discuss the idea of holding their own hearings.

Costs, safety, electricity supply
On July 4, Rosatom organized a roundtable on Baltic NPP in Kaliningrad. Speaking on the financial aspect of the project, the deputy director of Energoatom (the State-owned national company that operates reactors) Sergey Boyarkin stated that the cost of decommissioning will be equal to the cost of construction of Baltic NPP. That will bring the total price of the project to 10-12 billion Euro (US$14-17 billion).

Last year Rosatom repeatedly stated the Baltic NPP would cost 5 billion Euro per two units (VVER-1200 design). But on June 25, state-owned news agency RIA Novosti announced the cost of the plant will be Euro 6 billion Euro. At the roundtable in Kaliningrad, it appeared that these numbers related only to construction costs and do not include decommissioning.

Another speaker at the roundtable in Kaliningrad was a chief-engineer of the Baltic NPP, Ivan Grabelnikov, who discussed the technical side of the project. According to Mr. Grabelnikov, there was some modeling done over the sustainability of the VVER-reactor under plane crash (size of a Boeing-747) scenarios and it showed that the reactor can be destroyed if an airplane crashes into a certain (not named) part of the reactor. Grabelnikov also confirmed that the probability of large accident with radioactive release is not excluded, but it’s small, he said.

Nuclear industry officials insisted during the roundtable that the Kaliningrad region cannot avoid the nuclear plant because its the only option to guarantee the security of electricity supply. The region is highly dependent on electricity and natural gas supplied by mainland Russia. But information coming from the local government in Kaliningrad paints a completely different picture. It appears that the nuclear power plant is not needed for local supply, but only for export of the electricity to the EU.

In December 2008, the governor of Kaliningrad, Georgy Boos, said a second unit of a power plant burning natural gas will be in operation by the end of 2010. According to a report by the Kaliningrad local government on development of the local economy, released in July 2009, the need for electricity in the region will be covered by 106% when the new unit of the natural gas plant is online. Presently, the first unit in operation provides 450 MWt.

Various reports in Russian business media suggested that Rosatom's attempts to create closer ties with European companies (including Siemens, EnBW and others) may be targeted at cooperation on the Baltic NPP. The Russian nuclear industry is probably looking for some kind of guarantee that electricity from the nuclear plant would be consumed in the European Union. Otherwise, it doesn’t make sense to put billions of Euros into a not-needed nuclear plant on the Russian-Lithuanian border.

The situation with the Baltic NPP is a unique one – there has been no official decision of the Russian government over the construction of this plant. It has never happened before in Russia that the official assessment process over a nuclear reactor project started before governmental approval. One of the reasons for lack of governmental approval may well be the lack of European guarantees.

According to both Rosatom (Konyshev) and Energoatom (Boyarkin), all documents required for the final governmental assessment of the Baltic NPP will be submitted by the end of August. In November this year they are planning to receive a positive conclusion. Construction license would then be issued on July 1, 2010, Boyarkin said during the roundtable on July 4.

The full 180-page EIA can be obtained at:

Source and contact: Vladimir Slyviak at Ecodefense.

Siemens leaving Areva; joining Rosatom?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Vladimir Putin has invited Siemens to enter into discussions with Rosatom, the umbrella agency for the Russian nuclear power industry. A tie-in now looks likely. The discussions follow Siemens' announcement that it wishes to leave its nuclear plant construction partnership with Areva. The Areva group will buy back Siemens 34% stake in Areva NP before the end of January 2012. “We will have to negotiate with Areva over the details” of a separation agreement “beginning right away”, Siemens announced.

According to Siemens the cooperation between it and Areva has been good, but that the minority stake "considerably limits the entrepreneurial maneuverability of Siemens within the joint venture." Siemens CEO Peter Loescher said “it was not possible” for Siemens to participate in the global nuclear power plant market through its partnership with the French firm. Loescher said Siemens was committed to doing business in that market. The company's main role in Areva NP has been heavy involvement in the conventional islands for Areva nuclear power plants - the steam turbines, generators and main systems apart from the reactor building. The company said it wanted to continue to offer its products for nuclear plants, including systems for operation and control.

According to sources close to the company, Siemens will explore setting up an equal partnership with Russian industry that would allow Siemens to participate in what the German company believes will be a major global expansion in nuclear power plant construction.

But according to Nucleonics Week, some board members have voiced caution that partnering with Moscow-controlled firms is risky, and there is no consensus so far that Siemens should take that risk. In 2007, Siemens and Russia’s Federal Agency for Atomic Energy, or Rosatom, signed a memorandum of understanding for future cooperation. That MOU, which is dormant at the time, could become the basis of a future partnership in which Russian VVER technology could be joined with Siemens’ technology for energy production and distribution systems, sources said.

By cooperating with Rosatom, Siemens could even gain a re-involvement in reactor technology, which it packaged into Areva NP. Russian nuclear technology could gain a valuable image boost, while a joint venture would allow Russia some interest in Western markets.

Siemens has already cooperated with AtomStroyExport to build the two pressurized water reactors at Tianwan in China, supplying the control systems. Atomstroyexport, a Rosatom subsidiary, is incorporating Siemens instrumentation and control in all its export nuclear power plants, and there are plans to use it in domestic Russian reactors as well. Siemens will also partner with Areva to supply electronic equipment for two new Russian reactors at Belene in Bulgaria.

The Siemens move is no surprise. More than a year ago, in November 2007, the Nuclear Monitor published an article called: 'Rebuilding the Areva group – End of German Reactor Constructor?' in which was announced the likelihood of Siemens leaving the Areva-group. Reason for the departure would be the reconstruction of Areva.

The merging of nuclear construction capacities and the know-how of the two leading West European nuclear constructors Siemens and Framatome in 2001 was meant to help to survive economically and to push for a new generation of nuclear reactors. In 2001 Siemens houses its nuclear section, Siemens Nuclear Power (SNP) in the subsidiary of Areva, Framatome. Since the first of March 2006 this subsidiary trades under the name of Areva NP.

At the time the Siemens nuclear section became part of the Areva company, it was agreed that the French state has the right to takeover the German shares in 2009 at the soonest and in 2011 at the latest. The legal effectiveness of the Areva/Siemens deal would thus be on January 1, 2012.

Areva NP is currently heavily involved in promotion of its EPR pressurized water reactor worldwide, with four planned for the UK and six under discussion for the USA. Announcements are expected soon regarding deployment in India. The units are already under construction at Flamanville and Olkiluoto, while work will start soon on two more units at Taishan in China.

Besides its involvement through Areva NP, Siemens is a consortium partner at Olkiluoto 3 in that it provides the entire conventional island. Siemens has also signed a letter of intent to cooperate on EPR deployment in the UK and should provide the conventional islands for any forthcoming EPRs in that country. Meanwhile, French rival Alstom is contracted to provide turbine islands for Flamanville 3, the two EPRs at Taishan and the three proposed Unistar Nuclear Energy EPR projects in the USA.

Areva NP

Delays at Olkiluoto-3 and Flamanville-3, cancellation of South Africa’s nuclear plant tender, and “uncertainties about the US program” are elements that could lower the value of the Areva NP business plan and future cash flow projections, Vignon, former president of Areva NP predecessor Framatome said. That could result in Areva lowering its estimate for what it owes to Siemens for the 34% stake in the joint venture. According to a January 28 report in French financial newspaper Les Echos, Siemens management evaluated the Areva NP stake at between 2 billion and 3 billion euro. But independent sources say it is 500 million less than 2 billion euro.

Areva announced net debt of 2.4 billion euro at the end of June 2008 and is scheduled to release its full-year financial results on February 25. Finnish utility Teollisuuden Voima Oy, or TVO, is seeking 2.4 billion euro in compensation from Areva and Siemens. The money is for delays in startup of the Olkiluoto-3 EPR that forced TVO to buy electricity in the market. Areva and Siemens, in turn, are seeking 1 billion euro in compensation from TVO for the utility’s delays in processing project documentation.

According to industry observers quoted in Nucleonics Week, Siemens’ announced exit from the Areva NP joint venture with Areva puts the Paris-based vendor under “tremendous financial stress” that could force it to rein in its ambitious investment plan and strain its ability to raise more money. Areva is engaged in a vast investment program that some outside the company have estimated as high as 14 billion euro (US$18.5 billion). The program includes two uranium enrichment plants, a new UF6 conversion complex, new uranium mining projects, construction of a reactor components plant in the US and similar facilities in France. Areva CEO Lauvergeon told the government in January that her company needs some 3 billion euro to support the investment program in this year alone.

Industry observers say the move will force the French government, which owns about 84% of Areva, to clarify the company’s ownership structure. It will force a government decisionon whether to pump more state money into the company, organize a merger with turbine maker Alstom, promote the entry of oil giant Total, or a combination of those options.

Meanwhile, Total, which is seeking a double-digit percentage stake in France's second EPR nuclear plant, stated that it also wants to play an active role in its construction. "We want to acquire expertise in the nuclear sector in order to one day become a true nuclear plant operator," Chief Executive Christophe de Margerie told French daily les Echos in an interview. "We do not want to be just a financial partner in this new EPR plant. We would like a significant stake, a double-digit stake, but we are also industrialists and our wish is that EDF gives us the opportunity to participate actively in the construction of the second French EPR," he said.

Nucleonics Week, 29 January 2009 / World Nuclear News, 27 January & 4 February 2009 /  Nuclear Monitor 662, 8 November 2007 / Reuters, 9 February 2009