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Analysis triples US plutonium waste figures

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#714
6076
20/08/2010
WISE Amsterdam
Article

The amount of plutonium buried at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State is nearly three times what the federal government previously reported, a new analysis indicates, suggesting that a cleanup to protect future generations will be far more challenging than planners had assumed.

Plutonium waste is much more prevalent around nuclear weapons sites nationwide than the Energy Department’s (DOE) official accounting indicates, but the problem is most severe at Hanford, a 560-square-mile tract in south-central Washington that was taken over by the federal government as part of the Manhattan Project

The plutonium does not pose a major radiation hazard now, largely because it is, according to DOE, under “institutional controls” like guards, weapons and gates. But because it takes 24,000 years to lose half its radioactivity, it is certain to last longer than the controls and the gates.

The fear is that in a few hundred years, the plutonium could reach an underground area called the saturated zone, where water flows, and from there enter the Columbia River. Because the area is now arid, contaminants move extremely slowly, but over the millennia the climate is expected to change, experts say.

The finding on the extent of plutonium waste signals that the cleanup, still in its early stages, will be more complex, perhaps requiring technologies that do not yet exist. But more than 20 years after the Energy Department vowed to embark on a cleanup, it still has not “characterized,” or determined the exact nature of, the contaminated soil.

In 1996, the department released an official inventory of plutonium production and disposal. But Mr. Alvarez analyzed later Energy Department reports and concluded that there was substantially more plutonium in waste tanks and in the environment. The biggest issue is the amount of plutonium that has leaked from the tanks, was intentionally dumped in the dirt or was pumped into the ground.

Gerry Pollet, executive director of the environmental group Heart of America Northwest, said the government should embrace a cleanup plan that assures that even thousands of years into the future, an unsuspecting public will not be overexposed.  “What is reasonably foreseeable is that there are people who will be drinking the water in the ground at Hanford at some point in the next few hundred years,” Mr. Pollet said. “We’re going to be killing people, pure and simple.” 

The new analysis indicates that the chemical plutonium separation process was not nearly as efficient as the government claimed and that a lot of the plutonium was left behind in various stages. It also suggests that estimates of plutonium production by the Energy Department and its predecessors, including the Atomic Energy Commission and the Manhattan Project, were not nearly as accurate as scientists and bureaucrats said they were.

A preliminary estimate based on waste characterization data indicates that from 1944 to 2009 about 12.7 metric tons of plutonium was discarded at U.S. nuclear weapon production facilities. This is more than three times than the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) last official estimate of waste losses (3.4 tons) made in 1996. Of the 12.7 tons, about:

  • 2.7 tons in high-level radioactive wastes are stored as liquids in tanks and as granulated material in bins on the sites of former U.S. military reprocessing plants;
  • 7.9 tons are in solid waste, which DOE plans to dispose at the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) a geological repository in New Mexico for transuranic wastes. About half is already emplaced; and
  • 2.1 tons are in solid and liquid wastes buried in soil prior to 1970 or held up in facilities at several DOE sites. The DOE considers most of this plutonium to be permanently disposed.

Sources: Plutonium Wastes from the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex by Robert Alvarez, Senior Scholar, Institute for Policy Studies, Washington, D.C. July 7, 2010; available at: http://djcoregon.com/wp-files/pdfs/alvarez-plutonium-wastes-07-12-10.pdf / New York Times, 11 July 2010
Contact: Heart of America Northwest
Web: http://www.hoanw.org

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WISE

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#713
09/07/2010
Shorts

The IPPNW World Congress in Basel, Switzerland,  (August 25 – August 30, 2010) to also talk about nuclear power.
Nuclear weapons and disarmament are still hitting media headlines. The signing of the new START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) was an important step towards the reduction of global nuclear arsenals. European governments are pushing for a withdrawal of US nuclear weapons from European NATO member countries. Leading politicians of several countries are calling for active and far-reaching reductions in the numbers of nuclear weapons in the interests of world security. It was hoped for that the Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in May in New York would bring further concrete measures. And although this did not happen the ‘Atomic Scientists’ decided to set back the Doomsday Clock one minute – from 5 minutes to 6 minutes to midnight.

On the other hand, some countries want to keep the prestige of being a nuclear power and some are becoming greatly interested in acquiring such power. Thousands of nuclear missiles still exist – decades after the end of the Cold War – on high alert, ready to be launched at a moment’s notice. Added to this, the interest of powerful companies in the military-industrial complex to continue building nuclear missiles is strongly influential. These companies put forward persuasive arguments for retaining the status quo through the use of intense political lobbying.

“Global Zero” is the desire of many millions of people and is also the vision of  the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). Join them in sharing this vision in August at the 19th IPPNW World Congress in Basel, Switzerland. Traditionally the IPPNW only talks about nuclear weapons. This time their pre-conference programme also touches upon the issue of nuclear energy. Take this opportunity to discuss with them the important role ”civil” nuclear energy plays in increasing proliferation risks.
Check the programme at http://www.ippnw2010.org/


Italy: Regions have no say in siting nuclear reactors.
On June 30, Italy's highest court rejected an appeal by 10 Italian regions to have a say on the location of any nuclear power plants built.

Last July, the right wing majority in the Parliament adopted a law that gives extra power to the government in order to choose sites for new nuclear plants and provides the use of military forces to make its realization possible. On September 30, with the support of environmental organizations, 10 of 20 regions contested that law asking the intervention of the Constitutional Court. According to the regions the law violates the Italian Constitution by giving the government the power to decide without the consensus of local institutions. The June 30 ruling by the Constitutional Court effectively means the central government will have the final say on the site of the plants.

Nuclear power was abandoned in Italy nearly 25 years ago after a referendum in 1987. Enel and France's EDF would like to start building four nuclear power stations in Italy in 2013. Public opinion in Italy has been generally hostile to nuclear energy and local authorities had demanded a say in their approval.
Reuters, 23 June 2010 / Nuclear Monitor 702


After N-Korean 'nuclear breakthrough': xenon levels, eight times higher. Abnormal radiation was detected near the inter-Korean border days after North Korea claimed to have achieved a nuclear technology breakthrough, South Korea's Science Ministry said June 21. It failed to find the cause of the radiation but ruled out a possible underground nuclear test by North Korea, because there is no evidence of a strong earthquake that must follow an atomic explosion.
 

On May 12, North Korea claimed its scientists succeeded in creating a nuclear fusion reaction - a technology also necessary to manufacture a hydrogen bomb. South Korean experts doubted the North actually made such a breakthrough. On May 15, however, the atmospheric concentration of xenon - an inert gas released after a nuclear explosion or radioactive leakage from a nuclear power plant - on the South Korean side of the inter-Korean border was found to be eight times higher than normal.

Nuclear fusion as cause for the Xenon-measurement is very unlikely (to say the least). To start with: the alledged fusion breakthrough supposedly took place in mid-April and the half-lives of its radioisotopes are counted in hours or days. So a measurement almost a month  later is very unlike. But most important: a fusion reaction doesn’t produce fission products. Radioactive Xe isotopes, besides from a weapons test, can also be produced from operating a fission reactor with cracked fuel rods or from fission occurring in cooling water from released fuel. So possibly the higher levels could have been from built up Xe within a reactor containment vessel from an accident. A Science Ministry official said the wind was blowing from north to south when the xenon was detected and said it could have come from Russia or China, not necessarily from North Korea.
The Associated Press, 21 June 2010 / Armscontrolwonk.com, 21 June 2010


Nuclear projects in Baltic Region.
On June 16, antinuclear activists with protest banners greeted IAEA head Y.Amano and  Lithuanian Prime Minister A. Kubilius during their participation in the Roundtable discussion on "Regional nuclear energy projects" in Vilnius, Lithuania. Activists called to cancel development of the three nuclear energy projects in the Baltic region and to switch investments and cooperation to renewables and energy efficiency. Ostrovec nuclear power plant (Belarus), Baltic npp (Russia, Kaliningrad region) and the Visaginas nuclear power plant (Lithuania) are  primary targets for the criticism of environmentalists from Lithuania, Belarus and Russia. All these planned nuclear power plants face similar problems: safety, environmental, radioactive waste management, fake plans for investment.Later activists took part in the roundtable discussion as observers. Main issue there was that each country was convincing others how important their nuclear project is for the country and how good for the region. Lithuania was raising doubts about various aspects of Belarussian and Kaliningrad nuclear projects, promoting its own as "more transparent and safer".
Email: Lina Vainius, 17 June 2010


New name for GNEP: INFEC.
The Global Nuclear Energy Partnership Steering Group met in Accra, Ghana on June 16-17, 2010 and approved unanimously several transformative changes. This to "reflect global developments that have occurred since the Partnership was established in 2007".  The transformation includes a new name - the International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation (INFEC)-- and the establishment of a new Statement of Mission. One of the main points of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), announced by the United States in 2004, was to limit spread of enrichment (as well as reprocessing) technology. At the core of the strategy was the idea that countries that don't have fuel cycle facilities would refrain from acquiring them and accept the status of "fuel customers". Fuel services would then be provided by "fuel suppliers", who already have the necessary technology. There were doubts about the viability of this strategy from the very beginning.

The IFNEC acronym brings back echoes of the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation (INFCE) program under the IAEA in the late 1970s. It too was set up on the initiative of the USA and worked on the "urgent need to meet the world's energy requirements," to make nuclear energy more widely available and "to minimize the danger of nuclear weapons proliferation without jeopardizing energy supplies or the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes" all with special attention for the needs of developing countries. One interesting difference was the inclusion of Iran as co-chair of INFCE's group on uranium enrichment availability.

Last year in June, the US. Department of Energy (DoE) decided to cancel the GNEP programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) because it is no longer pursuing domestic commercial reprocessing, which was the primary focus of the prior administration's domestic GNEP program. That decision followed a change in government policy on commercial reprocessing since president Obama took over from Bush.

Jordan formally announced that it will host the next meeting of the International Framework's Executive Committee in the fall of 2010. Some 25 countries have joined the GNEP.
Press release US. Department of Energy, 18 June 2010 / World Nuclear News, 21 June 2010 / Nuclear Monitor 691, 16 July 2009


China bends international rules to sell reactors to Pakistan.
China has agreed to sell two nuclear reactors to Pakistan. Under the Nuclear Suppliers Group’s (NSG) guidelines, countries other than China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States (the five recognized nuclear weapon states) are not eligible to receive nuclear exports from NSG members unless they agree to inspections known as full-scope safeguards. Pakistan currently does not open all of its nuclear facilities to international inspections.

The US government “has reiterated to the Chinese government that the United States expects Beijing to cooperate with Pakistan in ways consistent with Chinese nonproliferation obligations.” Given that the US has signed a major nuclear deal with India – like Pakistan, a non-signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) – the move smacks of hypocrisy. The US pushed the IAEA into conceding to country-specific safeguards for India’s reactors, then lobbied for country-specific concessions for India from the NSG. As a result, lucrative nuclear contracts are being signed by India and countries like France, Russia and the UK. As such, when experts cite the violation of the NPT’s international guidelines by the Pakistan-China civilian nuclear deal, the IAEA and NSG concessions to India give this posturing little credibility.

(More on the deal and its consequences: Nuclear Monitor 709, 12 May 2010: "China: US-India deal justification for selling reactors to Pakistan")
The Sunflower (eNewsletter of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation), issue 156, July 2010.


Brazil: Angra 3 To Cost US$ 550 million more.
The overall budget for the construction of the Angra 3 nuclear power plant in Brazil will be around R$ 9.9 billion (US$ 5.06 billion or 4.03 billion euro), according to the manager of Planning and Budgeting of Eletronuclear, Roberto Travassos. The increase of more than R$ 1 billion (US$ 550 million or 438 million euro) over the previous estimate (R$ 8.77 billion/ US$ 4.875 billion), is the result of contract  revisions and monetary correction of former estimates.
Global Energy (Brazil), 1 July 2010


Outgoing UN Inspector: dubious role on Iran.
Olli Heinonen, the Finnish nuclear engineer who resigned July 1, after five years as deputy director for safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was the driving force in turning that agency into a mechanism to support U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iran. Heinonen was instrumental in making a collection of intelligence documents showing a purported Iranian nuclear weapons research program the central focus of the IAEA’s work on Iran. The result was to shift opinion among Western publics to the view that Iran had been pursuing a covert nuclear weapons program. But his embrace of the intelligence documents provoked a fierce political struggle within the Secretariat of the IAEA, because other officials believed the documents were fraudulent.

Heinonen took over the Safeguards Department in July 2005 – the same month that the George W. Bush administration first briefed top IAEA officials on the intelligence collection. The documents portrayed a purported nuclear weapons research program, originally called the "Green Salt" project, that included efforts to redesign the nosecone of the Shahab-3 missile, high explosives apparently for the purpose of triggering a nuclear weapon and designs for a uranium conversion facility. Later the IAEA referred to the purported Iranian activities simply as the "alleged studies." The Bush administration was pushing the IAEA to use the documents to accuse Iran of having had a covert nuclear weapons program The administration was determined to ensure that the IAEA Governing Board would support referring Iran to the U.N. Security Council for action on sanctions, as part of a larger strategy to force Iran to abandon its uranium enrichment program.

Long-time IAEA Director-General Mohammed ElBaradei and other officials involved in investigating and reporting on Iran’s nuclear program were immediately skeptical about the authenticity of the documents. According to two Israeli authors, Yossi Melman and Meir Javadanfar, several IAEA officials told them in interviews in 2005 and 2006 that senior officials of the agency believed the documents had been "fabricated by a Western intelligence organizations." Heinonen, on the other hand, supported the strategy of exploiting the documents to put Iran on the defensive. His approach was not to claim that the documents’ authenticity had been proven but to shift the burden of proof to Iran, demanding that it provide concrete evidence that it had not carried out the activities portrayed in the documents.
Gareth Porter at Antiwar.com, 2 July 2010


U.K.: Waste costs 'not acceptable' for industry.
The nuclear industry has been heavily lobbying to change proposed charges for managing wastes from nuclear reactors. Papers released under Freedom of Information show how the French company EDF pressed the previous government to change the proposed 'high fixed cost' for managing wastes and the timetable for handing the management of wastes to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. The previous government made significant changes to the way it initially proposed charging companies for managing their wastes. It also agreed that responsibility for wastes should pass to the NDA after 60 years instead of the original 110 years. This would reduce the financial liabilities and costs for companies.

EDF told the government the original proposals were "non-acceptable" and made it uneconomic to develop new reactors.
N-Base Briefing 665, 9 June 2010

National US grassroots summit on radwaste policy

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#713
09/07/2010
Mary Olson at NIRS
Article

On July 5, a group of seasoned anti-nuclear activists supported by an intergenerational community “crossed the line” in Oak Ridge in protest of the ramping up of nuclear weapons production the US. The 60th Anniversary year of the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is also the 30th anniversary of the Ploughshares 8 where faith activists walked into a General Electric facility and used hammers to literally “beat the swords” – the nose cone of a nuclear weapon – to ploughshares. Some three dozen peace activists were arrested at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant

The group of activists was celebrated at a weekend gathering in Tennessee along with two US based antinuclear support groups – Nukewatch based in Wisconsin and the publication The Nuclear Resister based in Arizona – both founded in 1980 and celebrating their 30 year mark as well. “Resistance for a Nuclear Free Future” drew more than 200 participants and as is typical for US anti-nuclear gatherings today was dominated by the over-60 crowd with a handful in the 40 – 60 range, joyfully laced with a contingent of youth, primarily from the growing “Think Outside the Bomb” network (see: http://www.thinkoutsidethebomb.org/ ).

While there was new information shared, the primary focus of the event was celebration of the long history of nuclear resistance activism in the US and in particular the staff of Nukewatch, The Nuclear Resister and the ongoing work of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance (OREPA) focused on Y-12, the one site of continuous industrial-scale nuclear weapons production in the US, in Oak Ridge.

One month before, another strategic gathering of activists met in Chicago: the National Grassroots Summit on Radioactive Waste Policy. A section of the event, devoted to education was entitled “A People’s History of Radioactive Waste” the balance of the Summit was peer-to-peer working groups with either a geographic or issue focus with a total of 26 peer-to-peer sessions held over three days. More than 90 people participated from 26 states resulting in seven regional working groups.

The purpose of the Summit was to initiate national-scope networking, coordination and collaboration within the US anti-nuclear and nuclear-focused communities in the wake of “destabilization” of national nuclear waste policy thanks to President Obama’s intent to cancel the Yucca dump.

Since the panel appointed by Energy Secretary Chu to formulate “post-Yucca” waste policy – (a still hoped for outcome as the question of whether Obama and the Department of Energy have the authority to cancel Yucca Mountain; a question likely to go all the way to the US Supreme Court -see box) does not have a single grassroots advocate or even nuclear critic, the Summit was called in part to form a national platform to watch-dog this group. The Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future (official name!) is almost exclusively nuclear industry operatives – including John Rowe, head of Exelon the largest US nuclear utility and former Senate Energy Committee Chair, Pete Domenici (R-NM retired), and the head of the trade union that would get many construction jobs. 

A key function of the Summit was to reaffirm that commitment that we are one community – that we share one “backyard” and that we will stand together rather than allowing the nuclear industry to “play” us against each other. One outcome of the Summit is renewed commitment to regional collaboration and networking for community-based education, engagement and action to stop any of the pro-industry proposals that the BRC is likely to endorse. Topping the list of these bad options is reprocessing which would be a reversal of nearly 40 years of prohibition of commercial plutonium separation in the US. 

Reprocessing and “centralized interim storage” of irradiated fuel (currently nearly all of this most radioactive waste is stored on the reactor site where it was generated) are somewhat interchangeable. A reprocessing site would offer a centralized location where waste would likely be stored prior to processing – and likewise, a centralized storage site might “invite” a reprocessing plant at a later date. Thus one of the strongest outcomes of the Summit was an affirmation towards the implementation of the Principles for Safeguarding Radioactive Waste at Reactors(*1). The core of this plan is to ensure that over-full fuel pools are emptied (except the hottest waste) and that dry containers are made more secure by being spread out, surrounded by earth barriers to reduce likelihood of attack, and fitted with real-time monitors. The Principles explicitly oppose making more radioactive waste and also oppose reprocessing the existing waste. This statement is the strongest consensus in the US anti-nuclear energy activist community and is supported by 283 organizations across 50 states. Two days of education and coordinated action to elevate the Principles are being planned. Hopefully international in scope, likely dates are September 29, anniversary of the terrible radioactive waste storage tank explosion in 1957 at Kyshtim and again in April on the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl devastation.

The Summit was cosponsored by Beyond Nuclear, Clean, Guacamole Fund, Loyola Student Environmental Alliance (the event was located at Loyola University), Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force  Nuclear Energy Information Service, and Nuclear Information and Resource Service.

(*1) The Principles for Safeguarding Radioactive Waste at Reactors can be found at http://brc.gov/pdfFiles/May2010_Meeting/Attachment%203_HOSS%20PRINCIPLES...

Fight over Yucca Mountain continues. The Obama Administration announced last year it would pursue other alternatives to the Yucca Mountain repository for the countries' high level waste. In March of this year, the Department of Energy (DOE) formally moved to withdraw its application to construct the facility by filing the request with the atomic licensing board. The three-member Atomic Safety and Licensing Board ruled on June 29 that the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 does not give the Energy secretary the discretion to substitute his policy for the one established by Congress in the act. “Unless Congress directs otherwise, DOE may not single-handedly derail the legislated decision-making process by withdrawing the Application,” said the board. The act requires a decision by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on the merits of the construction permit, added the board.

A DOE spokesperson said in a statement, “The Department remains confident that we have the legal authority to withdraw the application for the Yucca Mountain repository. We believe the administrative board’s decision is wrong and anticipate that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will reverse that decision.”
www.legaltimes.com, 2 July 2010

Source and contact: Mary Olson at NIRS

 

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NIRSBeyond Nuclear

Kings Cliffe and the low-level waste crisis in UK

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#713
07/07/2010
Article

Kings Cliffe is a beautiful village, built of the gold-colored local stone typical north Northamptonshire in the English East Midlands. It has a population of 2000, including agricultural workers and also professionals who can commute to the rapidly expanding city of Peterborough. The village is about the same distance - 10-20 km - from two market towns Stamford and Oundle and the industrial town of Corby, which up to 1979 was a major center for steel making. North Northants, however, has joined West Cumbria (in the English Lake District) as epicenters for a struggle over nuclear waste in Britain.

Concern centers on the ‘East Northants Resource Center’, a curiously named landfill site on the outskirts of Kings Cliffe already certified to receive hazardous waste. It is owned and run by Augean plc, which has seven treatment and recycling centers and over two hundred employees nationally but no record of handling nuclear material. The group offers ‘to help you to dispose of your waste safely’, using ‘commercial and compliance led solutions in a complex, legislation driven market’. It asserts that ‘best practice is considered normal practice’.

In July 2009, it applied to the planning authority, Northamptonshire County Council, for permission to receive 250,000 tons of low-level nuclear waste each year. Since 2007, companies are permitted to use landfill sites for the dumping of ‘low level’ nuclear waste (with radioactive content of not more than 4GBq/t (4 Giga-becquerel per ton –1000kg) of alpha radiation and not more than 12 GBq/t of beta/gamma radioactivity) and ‘very low level nuclear waste’ (complexly defined in relation to volume and permitted amounts of tritium and carbon-14 especially).

Apart from the local authority, they must also obtain permission from the Environmental Agency, the regulative body under the 1993 Radioactive Substances Act. In practice once permission is given, on the basis of a radiological and environmental assessment by the company itself, the system is largely ‘self-regulating’.

Up until now, low-level waste has been held temporarily where it is produced or transported to the low-level depository at Drigg, Cumbria. Drigg has now almost reached full capacity, and consignments of waste are being refused there. Yet large amounts of low (and high and intermediate) waste will be produced from the decommissioning of the first generations of nuclear power stations and an alternative to Drigg is also urgently required by industrial, medical and military producers of waste. There is therefore a desperate need to persuade local populations to receive large amounts of irradiated cement, steel and organic materials, containing different radio-nuclides, each with different half-lives and posing rather different environmental dangers.

The waste crisis is accompanied by conflict over the building of up to 10 new nuclear power stations. The Blair and Brown governments, closely allied to the nuclear industries, speeded up the privatization of the nuclear cycle and energy supply. Nuclear was promoted as ‘solution’ to climate change and energy security. The new Conservative/Liberal-Democrat coalition government is less keen on nuclear. Indeed the Liberal Democrats probably benefitted electorally from their anti-nuclear stance in the May election. Contradictions within the government are being handled by reassurances to the nuclear companies and fierce warnings that there will be ‘no subsidies’. Since paying for the massive costs of decommissioning and waste storage is the key element in subsidies, struggles like those in Kings Cliffe and West Cumbria are critical. If legacy waste can be stored only by spreading it across the country, what will happen to waste from an expanded nuclear industry? There is also pressure on the receiving companies to decrease the costs of storage.

Kings Cliffe is notable too because of the villagers’ model campaign against Augean’s plans. They have explicitly set local anxieties within the context of national and European policies and the current scientific debates, citing for instance the principle of ‘proximity to source’ and the dangers of transporting waste across large distances. They use the contemporary media of Facebook, websites, e-mail lists and power-point presentations, as well as old-fashioned access to local media, pressure on local politicians, placards in village windows, street demos and public meetings in village halls. A pantomime horse recently showed the frailty of Augean’s security measures by frolicking in and around the dump. The decisive meeting of the Northamptonshire Planning Committee in March 2010 was attended by many citizens, with demonstrations outside and about 20 local people speaking against the proposal. Support for Waste Watchers also came from ‘expert’ groups, especially Peterborough Friends of the Earth (FoE) and the East Midlands Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament (CND). Even so, most commentators were surprised when the planning committee, consisting mainly of Conservative and Liberal Democrat councilors, voted unanimously to refuse Augean planning permission.

The hearing showed that the company was cutting its costs. Its technical specifications fell far behind ‘best practice’: no exclusion of water, plastic linings and bags, rather than concrete casing and metal drums, inadequate security and no solution to the build up of ‘leachate’ or radioactive water. The very rational local fear is that minute radioactive particles of different radio-nuclides will enter the atmosphere, food and ground water around the site, with effects on the local populations that will persist for aeons beyond the reach of monitoring or regulation.

The company is appealing the March decision to refuse permission. The appeal will be heard by a single Inspector in October 2010 but the government Minister responsible – who is or was a anti-nuclear Liberal-Democrat – has announced that the decision will be ‘called in’ – that is made the subject of a national political decision.

Sources include: www.augeanplc.com / The Guardian, 15 March 2010 / www.no2nuclearpower.org.uk / www.kingscliffewastewatchers.co.uk
Contact: Kings Cliffe Waste Watchers,
Web: www.kingscliffewastewatchers.co.uk

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CND

Australian waste dump challenged in court

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#712
6062
18/06/2010
Beyond Nuclear Initiative
Article

Aboriginal Traditional Owners of Muckaty Station in the Northern Territory of Australia have launched a federal court challenge over a proposed nuclear waste dump on their traditional land. In mid 2005, the former Howard government began targeting Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory for a federal radioactive waste dump.

The government worked closely with the Northern Land Council (NLC), one of four Aboriginal land councils in the Northern Territory, to secure the nomination of a site in the Muckaty Land Trust, 120km north of Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory.  This occurred despite strong opposition from many Traditional Owners of the Land Trust who had requested the NLC not pursue the nomination process.

Though a small group of Traditional Owners signed a deal for Aus$ 12 million (US$ 10.3 million or 8.4 million euro) in exchange for roads, housing and infrastructure, senior Elders from all five of the clan groups that comprise Muckaty maintain that they did not consent to the waste dump proposal. The NLC has continued to publicly support the group in favor of the dump but has failed to provide similar legal and media support to their other constituents who are opposed. Accordingly, Traditional Owners from all of the five groups requested external legal assistance to challenge the nomination process.

A team of lawyers from around the country visited the small town of Tennant Creek to meet with Muckaty people, and have subsequently launched the federal court action. The Commonwealth government and the NLC are listed as defendents.

Human Rights Lawyer George Newhouse, says “The Northern Land Council and the Commonwealth have a moral and legal duty to look after and protect the interests of the Indigenous people affected by the proposed dump. The most basic principles of justice and fairness do not appear to have been applied in this case.”

Mark Lane Jangala has been campaigning for many years against the proposed site because of its cultural significance.

 “I am senior Ngapa man for Muckaty and I did not agree to the nomination of the site, along with other senior Ngapa elders for Muckaty Station who did not agree. We don’t want it. There was not even a meeting in town to consult all of the traditional owners.”

“I want to look after my Country and Dreaming, look after the Sacred Sites I am responsible for and to make sure my children are raised properly in their Country.”

Pursuit of the contentious Muckaty nomination and refusal to release important documents, including the key anthropological report and site nomination, lends little credibility to the promise of Australian Labor Party (ALP) before general elections, of a process that would “restore transparency, accountability and procedural fairness" in siting a nuclear waste facility.

New laws before Parliament in June give Resources Minister Ferguson extraordinary power to make unilateral decisions about site selection, and the power to acquire land in any State or Territory with regard to building, servicing or transporting radioactive material to the facility.

The Muckaty campaign has recently been launched to an international audience, with the release of a short film on You-tube, “Muckaty Voices”. This film was also screened at a conference in the Unites States in early June, America’s Nuclear Waste Future. The gathering was a national summit in Chicago and included papers and participation from academics, public health experts, environmentalists and Indigenous and community organizations from across the USA.

Muckaty Voices can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcuNpT84Ovo

(see also: Nuclear Monitor 708, 29 April 2010: Australia: Aboriginal landowners oppose radwaste storage)

Source and contact: Natalie Wasley, Beyond Nuclear Initiative coordinator, Alice Springs
www.beyondnuclearinitiative.wordpress.com

 

About: 
Beyond Nuclear

Consulation for a new Euratom directive on radioactive waste

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#709
6049
12/05/2010
Jan Haverkamp - Greenpeace EU Unit
Article

The European Commission has started a consultation for the preparation of a new Euratom Directive on nuclear waste. The goal of this Directive is basically to try to convince the citizens in Europe that the radioactive waste problem is solved, in order to make a large group of those who oppose nuclear power change their mind. We ask your help to prevent this from happening. To be clear: we feel an EU Directive on Nuclear Waste Management could be beneficial - but it should not be used as a tool of nuclear manipulation. We therefore ask you to participate in this consultation.

Over the last weeks it has become increasingly clear that the Commission is wanting to push deep geological storage through the throats of European citizens as the solution to nuclear waste. It furthermore becomes clear that it wants to do so in breakneck speed - this generation needs to 'solve' the problem and wipe all open issues under the carpet (with the waste - deep deep geologically under the carpet - out of sight, out of mind), and that in order to be able to support a new wave of new nuclear power stations that will increase the problems for another three generations more. Another issue that becomes increasingly clear is that the Commission wants to step away from the national responsibility for nuclear waste and open the options for regional dumps. That combined with the current trend to locate possible dump-sites on the location with the lowest public resistance instead of best technical suitability (see Finland, Sweden, Belgium, UK, Czech Republic, Slovenia) is enough reason to raise the alarm.

Here some recent quotes from EU and Euratom Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger during a conference on 4 May for the nuclear lobby group Deutches AtomForum in Berlin. Oettinger wanted "concrete steps" toward construction of "modern, operational final" nuclear waste repositories in the EU. He said that Europeans must resolve the nuclear waste disposal issue "in our [countries], in our generation." and that it was unacceptable that no final repository has been built despite decades of work on the issue and that operation of a repository is still decades away. 

He announced that the nuclear waste directive will ban export of nuclear waste outside of the EU. The reason is not responsibility, but to ensure European control over final waste management. This is as such good as it would stop Bulgaria hopes on exporting waste to Mayak for indefinite storage or packages with the Russians in which they deliver fuel and take back the waste (although that is currently more strictly forbidden already under Russian law). But... it will NOT stop the exports of Depleted Uranium wastes to Russia, as DU will not be defined as waste but resource (for future fast breeder reactors - remember Monju in Japan was just restarted last week after a repair that took 14 years...). Nor will it stop export of spent nuclear fuel to Mayak or other places outside the EU, because SNF is not defined under nuclear waste.

He furthermore said that the idea of state responsibility would not rule out the possibility that "two or more" EU states with small nuclear programs could construct a common dump, "But please, not outside the EU."

Please, get experts in your country, region, town, get mayors and interested inhabitants from locations that oppose a nuclear waste dump, get other NGOs express their concerns in the consultation.

It would be good if you send us a confirmation that you have filled in the form and a copy of your 'free space' submissions from question 7, so that we can keep an eye on whether the Commission takes your submissions into due account: jan.haverkamp@greenpeace.org

Or send a printed version to:

European Commission
DG ENER/Unit Nuclear energy, transport, decommissioning & waste management
(DDG2.D2) Euroforum building L - 2920 Luxembourg

In that case, also send a copy to:

Jan Haverkamp
Greenpeace EU Unit
Rue Belliard 199
B - 1040 Brussels

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#708
29/04/2010
Shorts

Finland: building nukes for electricity export?
On April 21, the Finnish government proposed two new nuclear power plants. The parliament will make the final decision on the issue earliest in the summer, but most likely in the autumn. On both reactors will be voted separately - there are possibilities to have 2, 1 or 0 new nuclear plants. Building twe nuclear power units would lock Finland's energy consumption to unrealistic, artificially high levels, and are clearly aimed for electricity export. However, Parliament has taken the line that it opposes the construction of generating capacity for export purposes.

Minister of Economic Affairs Mauri Pekkarinen (Centre Party) insisted on April 21, that Finland would adhere to this principle of opposing the construction for export. But the Greens are accusing Pekkarinen of turning his coat on the matter by endorsing two new reactors just a year after saying that Finland’s need for new nuclear energy units was “zero, or one at the most”. “Now he is proposing two units on the basis of the same electricity consumption estimates. This certainly shows how poorly founded Pekkarinen’s proposal is”, Sinnemäki says. The Greens also point out that the forest company UPM, a part owner of TVO, has put forward the idea of electricity exports. “Nobody in Finland -not even the forest industry- has proposed such a fantasy in electricity production that this proposal would not mean export. It becomes clear even in all of the most daring consumption estimates. We simply cannot consume this much electricity.”

Environmental organisations are organizing a large anti-nuclear demonstration in Helsinki on May 8.
Helsingin Sanomat (Int. edition) 22 and 24 April 2010


Japan: Restart Monju expected in May.
The Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor, which was shut down in December 1995 after sodium leaked from the cooling system, is set to resume operations in May.  Fukui Governor Issei Nishikawa signaled his willingness to approve reactivation of the experimental reactor, located in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, during a meeting with science and technology minister Tatsuo Kawabata and industry minister Masayuki Naoshima on April 26. In the 1995 incident, the reactor operator was heavily criticized after it was found to have concealed information about the accident. During the past 14 years or so that Monju has been in limbo, the operator has come under fire for delaying reports on alarm activation incidents and flawed maintenance work.

Under the government's plan, the next stage in the fast-breeder project will be the construction of a demonstration reactor, which is larger than Monju, around 2025. It would be followed by the development of a commercial reactor around 2050. But the outlook for the plan is bleak, to say the least.

Some 900 billion yen (US$ 9.6 billion or 7.3 billion euro) of taxpayer money has already been spent on the construction and operation of the Monju reactor. It will require additional annual spending of about 20 billion yen (US$ 215 million / 162 million euro).

More on the history and current status of Monju and Japan's fast breeder programm: Nuclear Monitor 702, 15 January 2010: "Restarting Monju – Like playing Russian roulette"
The Asahi Shimbun (Japan), 27 April 2010


Belene contruction halted until investors are found.
Belene construction was halted in search for Western strategic investors after Bulgaria dismissed an offer from Russia to finance the coming two years of construction with an option for a complete Russian take-over of the project. The Bulgarian government has opened a tender for a financial consultant to work out a new financial model for the project. This consultant is expected to be chosen in June 2010. On the basis of this new financial model, strategic investors will be invited for participation. After EU Energy Commissioner Günther Öttinger warned Bulgaria for the dependency that a fully Russian Belene project would create, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borrisov made it clear that Belene only will be continued if it can pay for itself and if it is developed under participation of European and/or US partners. Russia was not to expect more than a 25% participation, if any at all. In his straightforward way, Borissov characterised Belene as either a  European project or no project.

On 16 April, it was also announced that the Bulgarian Energy Holding, which was set up in 2008 to create a pool of assets that could lure possible lenders to the Belene project, will be dismantled before summer. Deputy Minister for Economy, Energy and Tourism Maya Hristova said that BEH was set up to the secure the construction of Belene by the assets generated in the holding, "but this is no longer feasible." She told the Bulgarian press agency BTA that the assets of all state-owned energy companies are of lower value than the estimated value of  Belene. Daily Dnevnik announced that there is currently a discussion to bring the electricity  assets of BEH, including the Kozloduy nuclear power plant and the Maritsa East power station under in state utility NEK and the gas assets in a seperate holding.
Email Jan Haverkamp, Greenpeace EU Unit, 26 April 2010


U-price low: "explosive growth in nuclear power hasn't yet happened". 
The spot price of uranium has dropped below US$42/lb (1 lb = 453.59 grams) through in April, down almost US$4 from the 2009 average of US$46 as, according to Purchasing.com, weakening demand has depressed transaction pricing. Lyndon Fagan, an analyst at RBS in Sydney Australia, tells Bloomberg that spot prices indeed have weakened in recent months because the explosive growth in nuclear power hasn't yet happened. Current uranium prices are well down from the levels reached in 2007, when the prices spiked to nearly US$140. Supply concerns drove the price up at that time, and while there's no guarantee that prices could once again reach those levels, such past performance does imply that the potential for such dramatic price moves is possible.

Meanwhile, Admir Adnani, CEO of US-based UraniumEnergy, tells Reuters that a renewed focus on nuclear energy and current mining shortfalls are likely to drive prices of uranium, higher in the coming years. "In the next two to three years, we will see a period of rising uranium prices," Adnani says. "There is absolutely no doubt that the nuclear renaissance and the construction of new reactors plus the existing reactor requirements will bring growing demand... and we need uranium prices to be higher for new mines to be built." But in the Canadian province of New Brunswick, for instance, only two companies have done exploration work over the past couple years, a notable drop from the 10 or so firms that were searching for uranium back in 2007, according to the Canadian Department of 

Natural Resources. www.purchasing.com, 14 April 2010 / Telegraph Journal (Canada), 21 April 2010


Regulators investigating Olkiluoto piping.
Nuclear safety authorities in Finland, France, the UK and US are assessing the significance of undocumented welding on primary circuit piping for the EPR reactor under construction at Olkiluoto, Finland. However, Petteri Tiippana, director of the nuclear reactor regulation department at the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority STUK, told Platts in an interview on April 8, that regulators from those four countries are not preparing a joint statement on the piping quality issue. He reacted on a statement made by a commissioner of French nuclear safety authority ASN,

The piping was manufactured by Nordon, a subcontractor to Areva, the French vendor which is supplying the nuclear part of the Olkiluoto-3 unit under a turnkey contract to utility Teollisuuden Voima Oy. Nordon, based in Nancy in eastern France, is a unit of the Fives group and has long been a major supplier of piping for nuclear power plants. In October 2009, STUK found that small cracks in piping made for the main coolant lines of Olkiluoto-3 had been repaired with welding procedures that were not documented. Tiippana said the piping is still in France and that analysis of the significance of the undocumented welding could be finished within several weeks. STUK will then do final inspections, probably before summer, he said. Until the piping is approved by STUK, it cannot be transported to Olkiluoto.The design of Areva's EPR reactor is under regulatory review for construction in the UK and the US.
Platts, 8 April 2010


Australian uranium for India?
Not that long ago, Australia took a firm stand against selling uranium to India (or any Non-Nuclear proliefration Treaty signatory for that matter): in January 2008, Australia’s new Labor government outlawed uranium sales to India. Stephen Smith, Australian foreign minister emphasizes that in saying in October 2009: “We have had a long-standing principal position which is not aimed at India, it is the long-standing position that we do not export uranium to a country that is not a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,”

Now, just over a half year later, Australia is planning to change its domestic rules to allow India to import uranium from the country.

India is signing the Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement and many other civil nuclear agreements with different countries. The 46-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) has also granted a waiver to India in September 2008 allowing nuclear fuel from other nations. However, Australia being a member in that group, didn’t allow India to import nuclear fuel from the country. Now, South Australia’s Department of trade & economic development director Damian Papps said Australia would like to amend the current regulations to enable uranium export to India.
Press TV, 14 October 2009 / Spectrum, April 26, 2010


Further increase heavy forging capacity.
Known as a leader in the ultra-heavy forgings required for the highest capacity nuclear reactors, Japan Steel Works set about tripling its capacity and has completed its second press for ultra-large nuclear forgings. It has now completed the ¥50 billion (US$530 million, 390 million euro) first phase of the expansion with the installation of a new forging shop complete with heavy cranes, heat treatment facilities and the necessary 14,000 ton press.

JSW told World Nuclear News that the new shop was the core of the first investment phase and that the second ¥30 billion (US$320 million, 235 million euro) investment round should be completed in 2011. At that point, JSW said, it would have tripled the nuclear capability that it had in 2007 - enough for about 12 reactor pressure vessels and main component sets per year. The increase in capacity should be felt by mid-2012 as new components are planned to emerge from the factories. Muroran also manufactures generator and steam turbine rotor shafts, clad steel plates and turbine casings for nuclear power plants.

While JSW may be the current leader in the global market for large nuclear components, there are several other (Russian, Chinese and South-Korean) manufacturers tooling up to the same levels for domestic supply. Britain's Sheffield Forgemasters and India's Bharat Forge will join JSW as global ultra-heavy suppliers around 2014.
World Nuclear News, 1 April 2010


Switzerland: Canton slams radioactive waste plans.
Plans for a radioactive waste disposal unit in the canton of Schaffhausen has come under fire in a study published by the local government. The National Cooperative for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste outlined two possible sites for the unit: one in Zurich Weinland and one near Sudranden in the canton of Schaffhasusen. That’s just a few kilometers from the city of Schaffhausen, where 80 percent of the canton’s population live and work. The report published on April 21 says a disposal centre would have a detrimental effect on the town of Schaffhausen, and on the development of both the canton’s economy and population. The report estimates it would lose between 15 and 33 million francs in tax revenue a year and the population would drop by up to 5,000 people.
World Radio Switzerland, 21 April 2010


U.K.: Low-level radwaste in a landfill.
Five bags of radioactive waste from the Sellafield nuclear processing facility were dumped in a landfill site after a faulty scanner wrongly passed them as safe. Environment Agency inspectors have found one of the bags but is still searching for the other four at the Lillyhall landfill site near Workington, Cumbria. The bags contained waste collected in restricted areas of Sellafield where disposal of all items, including protective clothing, is strictly controlled because of the risk of radioactive contamination. The error was discovered by a member of staff who became suspicious when a scanning machine declared as safe a bag that had come from the restricted area. Staff checked the machine's records and found that five other contaminated bags had been passed as safe and sent to the nearby landfill site, which handles a mixture of household and industrial waste. A Sellafield spokeswoman was unable to say for how long the machine had been malfunctioning. The waste should have been sent for storage in concrete vaults at the Low Level Waste Repository near Drigg in Cumbria.

The incident may undermine the nuclear industry's plan to save billions of pounds by adopting lower safety standards for thousands of tonnes of low-level radioactive waste from decommissioned reactor sites. Several landfill sites have applied for permits to handle low-level waste.
Times online (U.K.), 26 April 2010


U.K. political parties and nukes.
The political party manifestos for the General Election show no surprises concerning nuclear policies - and they reveal the fundamental difference on nuclear issues between the Liberal Democrats and both the other two main parties. These difference will make for some tough bargaining in the event of a hung Parliament in which no political party has an outright majority of seats.

The Conservatives commit themselves to "clearing the way for new nuclear power stations - provided they receive no public subsidy". The party is also committed to the new Trident nuclear submarine system.

Under the heading 'Clean Energy' the Labour manifesto says "We have taken the decisions to enable a new generation of nuclear power stations" and the party is also committed to the Trident replacement.

The Scottish National Party wants Trident scrapped, rejects nuclear energy and the deep geological disposal of radioactive wastes.

The Liberal Democrats don't want a "like-for-like" replacement for Trident and promise a review of the proposals. They also reject new reactors "based on the evidence nuclear is a far more expensive way of reducing carbon emissions" than renewable energy and energy conservationAccording to the LibDem spokesperson on energy and climate issues, Simon Hughes, the curent government plans for a new fleet of nuclear reactors are based on a "completely foolish delusion". And he added; "they are too costly, wil take too long to build, will require government subsidy and will drain investment away from the renewable energy sector".  He says the party will not soften anti-nuclear stance.

General elections in the UK will be held on May 6.
N-Base Briefing 649, 21 April 2010 / BusinessGreen.com, 26 April 2010


Rand Uranium: no super dump tailings in Poortjie area.
South-Africa: following a successful protest march on April 23 by emerging black farmers and the Mhatammoho Agricultural Union, and the potentially affected landowners against the proposed super dump (centralized tailings storage facility -TSF) Rand Uranium decided to abandon the project. The protest march, the second in a few weeks, took place at the offices of Rand Uranium in Randfontein. Soon after the protest, Rand Uranium, which had proposed to establish the TSF within the Poortjie area on high agricultural land, issued a statement. The last paragraph of the document reads:  "Through the assessments, and in consideration of planning requirements of the City of Johannesburg, Area 45 is not considered appropriate for the long term TSF." The protest was against Site 45 (Poortjie area).  This means, Rand Uranium has abandoned its intention to establish a super dump in the Poortjie area. 

The proposed super dump would contain 350 million tons of uraniferous tailings and will be established on 1 200 hectares of land. The farmers and landowners claim that the public participation process was fatally flawed and that they were not consulted. It would have impacted the Vaal Barrage Catchment, a highly compromised Catchment. In terms of the Water Research Report No 1297/1/07 (2007) only 21% of the Vaal Barrage showed no evidence of cytotoxicy (i.e. toxic to human cells).  The Report suggests that the underlying problems of this catchment are largely due to heavy metals.  It furthermore states:  "It is clear that mining operations, even after they have been discontinued, are still having a major impact on water quality in the Vaal Barrage catchment, to the extent that it can no longer be compared with other natural water systems."
Emails Mariette Liefferink, 21 and 24 April 2010


U.A.E.: First nuclear site named. Braka has been named as the site for the United Arab Emirate's first nuclear power plant. Limited construction licence applications and environmental assessments for four reactors have been submitted.
The Braka site is in a very sparsely populated area 53 kilometers from Ruwais and very close to the border with Saudi Arabia. It is closer to Doha, the capital of Qatar, than to Abu Dhabi about 240 kilometers to the east. Dubai is another 150 kilometers along the coast. The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec) said Braka was selected from ten shortlisted sites, all of which were suitable for nuclear build, on the basis of its environmental, technical and business qualities.

Two requests have been made to the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR). One is for a site preparation licence for the four-reactor power plant to allow Enec to conduct non-safety related groundwork at Braka such as constructing breakwaters and a jetty. The other is for a limited licence to "manufacture and assemble nuclear safety related equipment."  In addition, a strategic environmental assessment for the project has been submitted to the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) addressing environmental impacts and mitigation including for construction work.

But since there is no civil society whatsoever, there will be no independent scrutiny of those documents.
World Nuclear News, 23 April 2010


Contract for ITER buldings.
The Engage consortium has been awarded the architect engineer contract for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) buildings and civil infrastructures. The contract, worth some €150 million (US$200 million), was signed by the Engage consortium and Fusion for Energy (F4E) on 13 April. F4E is the European Union's (EU's) organization for Europe's contribution to ITER. The Engage consortium comprises Atkins of the UK, French companies Assystem and Iosis, and Empresarios Agrupados of Spain. The architect engineer will assist F4E during the entire construction process, from the elaboration of the detailed design to the final acceptance of the works. The contract covers the construction of the entire ITER complex, including 29 out of a total of 39 buildings, site infrastructure and power supplies.

Seven parties - China, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the EU - are cooperating to build ITER, a 500 MWt tokamak, at Cadarache. The partners agreed in mid 2005 to site Iter at Cadarache. The deal involved major concessions to Japan, which had put forward Rokkasho as a preferred site. The EU and France will contribute half of the €12.8 billion (US$18.7 billion) total cost, with the other partners - Japan, China, South Korea, USA and Russia - putting in 10% each. Site preparation at Cadarache began in January 2007. The facility is expected to be in operation around 2018. As part of the reactor's phased commissioning, it will initially be tested using hydrogen. Experiments using tritium and deuterium as fuel will begin in 2026. Much later than expected a few years ago.
World Nuclear News, 15 April 2010

West Valley: DOE delays 10 more years on reprocessing waste cleanup

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#708
6043
29/04/2010
Diane D’Arrigo at NIRS
Article

On 16 April, The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced its decision for only partial cleanup of the West Valley nuclear waste site 30 miles (45 km) south of Buffalo and upstream of Western New York's main water supply. Members of the West Valley Action Network which includes local, state, national and international environmental, religious, labor, recreational, sports and government entities advocating full clean up of the intensely radioactive site, expressed extreme disappointment, but not surprise.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s decision on the site is expected later in April. Major concerns include Department of Energy’s giving only lip-service to the clear call by all sectors of the public for full cleanup decision now, ignoring the state-funded, ground-breaking independent study on long-term health and economic effects on the region of leaving nuclear waste buried at West Valley, the lack of commitment to full legal Environmental Impact Statement process for Phase 2 (which involves the majority of the radioactivity at the site), and the appearance of a setup to allow the rest of the deadly waste to be left in the highly erosion-prone ground permanently.

DOE chose to split the cleanup into phases: the first to cleanup one major building and part of a spreading radioactive leak already in groundwater and making its way to creeks that flow to Lake Erie. Meanwhile, DOE will take up to a decade to decide whether to carry out a second phase, which could be to leave the rest of the waste, which comprises the majority of the radioactivity, buried there. The high level radioactive waste tanks with intensely radioactive sludge from reprocessing, radioactive burial grounds with long-lasting waste from 1960s and 70s nuclear power and weapons reactors, including damaged irradiated fuel will be left to potentially leak more.

DOE will begin to clean up part but not all of a spreading plume of dangerous radioactivity that was first detected in the early 1990s which they attribute to a 1968 spill in the reprocessing building. That huge building is slated to be dismantled in phase 1, but some of the underground pipes could be left in the ground. Studies will be carried out to “inform” the decision on whether to remove all waste from the rest of the site or to leave the buried waste and merely cover it over.

"Phase I will only address 1% of buried radioactive waste. The public must have a say in the final cleanup; we cannot afford to allow federal and state government agencies to merely walk away from the remaining 99% of buried radioactivity in the high level underground tanks and the two radioactive burial areas," according to Barbara Warren, Executive Director, Citizens' Environmental Coalition.

Despite requests from the West Valley Action Network that DOE study HOW to cleanup the rest of the site, DOE is choosing to continue analyzing WHETHER to clean it up.

The 2008 West Valley Full Cost Accounting Study by independent scientists analyzed the geology, economics and radiological consequences of full clean up versus leaving buried waste at the erosion-prone site. The study assessed long range costs whereas DOE discounted and ignored future economic and environmental costs and risks. The report concluded that it is less expensive in the long run and more protective of health to dig up the West Valley waste before it leaks into the Cattaraugus Creek and Lake Erie.

The West Valley site
West Valley is a complex radioactive waste site with long-lasting nuclear waste mainly from atomic weapons and power production and some other generators. The site has high-level, so-called “low-level,” transuranic and mixed (radioactive and hazardous) wastes buried, stored and leaking. Burial of radioactive waste in 20-30 foot deep trenches began in the early 1960s and continued until 1974 when water filled up the trenches, burst through the trench caps and flowed into surrounding streams that run into Cattaraugus Creek, through Zoar Valley and the Reservation of the Seneca Nation of Indians, into Lake Erie, upstream of the intake water intake for Buffalo and other major cities in the US and Canada.

From 1966-1972, irradiated nuclear fuel from both atomic weapons and commercial power reactors was brought in and reprocessed (to extract uranium and plutonium remaining and formed in the fuel rods), resulting in high worker exposures, high levels of radioactive contamination into the streams that drain the site and gush into the Great Lakes, and many fires. Reprocessing wastes were also buried at the site. Plans to resume reprocessing were cancelled when earthquake dangers were identified and improvements were projected to cost too much. Shortly thereafter the US decided to stop all reprocessing of commercial nuclear fuel because of the nuclear weapons proliferation danger. Geologically, the site is in a bedrock valley that is expected to erode into the Great Lakes in centuries to come, but the nuclear waste buried at the site will remain dangerously radioactive much longer than the projected erosion rate.
(NIRS Radioactive Waste Project)

Source: Press Release: NIRS, Sierra Club, CHEJ, 16 April 2010
Contact: Diane D’Arrigo at NIRS

About: 
NIRS

Australia: Aboriginal landowners oppose radwaste storage

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#708
6041
29/04/2010
Dave Sweeney, ACF
Article

Aboriginal landowners in Australia’s far north are battling government plans to construct this country’s long-term nuclear waste storage facility on their land. Diane Stokes, an indigenous woman from the Warumungu and Warlmanpa tribes in the Northern Territory, is opposed to radioactive waste being dumped on her clan’s land at Muckaty Station, a former cattle station located some 200 kilometres north of the Territory town of Tennant Creek. "We don’t want it to come to the Northern Territory. Nobody wants it there," said Stokes at a public meeting held in the southern city of Melbourne on Apr. 21.

The question of what to do with Australia’s radioactive waste from the country’s medical, industrial, agricultural and research use of nuclear material has been ongoing for decades and remains far from resolved. The waste is currently stored at numerous sites around the country and some Australian radioactive waste is also stored at reprocessing plants at Europe (UK and France).

The current Kevin Rudd-led government, as well as the previous government under John Howard, have regarded these sites as temporary and have looked to develop a permanent facility at which to store the waste. A bill presently before parliament rules out the possibility of using one of three previously nominated sites on Australian Defence Force land in the Northern Territory, effectively leaving Muckaty Station as the only potential site currently up for consideration.

While the Minister for Energy and Resources, Martin Ferguson, said that the bill "means that a site can no longer be automatically imposed on a community in any state or territory," the proposed legislation also recognises the "voluntary" nomination of the Muckaty site made by Ngapa clan members in 2007. The clan is one of several aboriginal family groups who are the traditional owners of land at Muckaty Station. "We made our decision; we nominated our land because we wanted to make a better life for our children," said Ngapa spokeswoman Amy Lauder at a senate hearing into the bill on Mar. 30.

Lauder and her kin are expected to receive upwards of A$12 million Australian dollars (US$11.14 million) as compensation for building the waste facility on their land. "We are satisfied that the waste can be stored safely, provided it has been through the environmental impact process to be followed over the next few years. We are united on this decision as the Ngapa clan," Lauder told the senate committee.

It is a position supported by the Northern Land Council (NLC), which represents aboriginal landowners in the north of the Northern Territory. The NLC nominated the Muckaty site on behalf of the Ngapa clan in 2007. Kim Hill, chief executive officer of the NLC argues that "not one person is disputing that the area in question belongs to the Lauder clan."

But that is exactly what appears to be in dispute. "The waste dump that they’re going to put in that land is not Amy Lauder’s country," Diane Stokes, an indigenous woman from the Warumungu and Warlmanpa tribes in the Northern Territory, told those in attendance at the Melbourne public meeting April 21. And Stokes is not alone in disputing the issue of land ownership. A joint letter from members of the Milwayi and Wirntiku clans, as well as other Ngapa clan members, was read out at a second senate hearing on April 12. The letter states that the proposed site is actually on Milwayi land rather than on land belonging to Lauder’s family group. "We are demanding to see the anthropologists’ evidence provided to the Northern Land Council regarding Ngapa clan," say the letter’s signatories.

 "Numerous traditional owners outlined how they and their people were completely excluded from the shared decision making process, which is the norm in aboriginal custom on issues to do with kinship of land. Despite claims to the contrary, it is clear that they were not consulted and have never given consent," says Australian Greens senator Scott Ludlam. He has called for Muckaty to be scrapped as a potential site for radioactive waste storage as the nomination process for the site was "flawed."

Dave Sweeney, an anti-nuclear campaigner at the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), has slammed Minister Ferguson for breaking away from the principles set out by his own party regarding radioactive waste. The ACF activist said that in 2007 the governing Australian Labor Party promised "a new process, a new site selection study based on community inclusion and consent, based on best science, based on robust and transparent processes and principles."
 

Source: IPS, 26 April 2010
Contact: Dave Sweeney, ACF, First Floor 60 Leicester Street Carlton VIC 3053, Melbourne, Australia.
Tel:  +61 3 9345 1111
Email: acf@acfonline.org.au

About: 
WISE

U.S.: national grassroots summit & forum on radwaste policy

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#708
6042
29/04/2010
Summit planning group
Article

Earlier this year, the Obama Administration's Dept. of Energy announced the creation of its "Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC) on the Future of Nuclear Power in America", ostensibly to "study and recommend" what the U.S. should do about its radioactive  waste problems. Many of us watched or attended the first meeting of the Commission in April -- and are deeply disturbed by what we have seen and  heard.

As a response to the first meeting of the Commission a number of organizations have come together to create a  National Grassroots Summit and Forum on Radioactive Waste Policy -- to articulate a national radioactive waste policy for the other 350 million Americans the DOE Panel seems intent on ignoring.

Having both an educational and strategic planning component, this Summit and Forum in June will create an activist tool to tell the DOE and Administration what the real public wants in terms of radioactive waste disposal; educate ourselves and interested members of the public on radioactive waste options and techniques; and establish a "Peoples Green Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Waste Future" on radioactive waste policy that will monitor and critique the work of the BRC, and develop its own list of recommendations and body of public testimony to be offered to the DOE as guidance in developing national radioactive waste policy.

Goals of the Summit will be to identify common ground (geographically and in terms of challenges, concerns and goals) and bottom lines. We will work in small groups and  as a spokes council in addition to sharing time all together. In addition, a Green Ribbon Commission on  America's Nuclear Waste Future will be elected and charged to produce a report which will provide an  alternative plan from that of the federal Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future. In order to  set the outlines of the debate, we will issue the Green Ribbon Commission Report before the federal Blue  Ribbon Commission issues its report over the next 18 -- 24 months.

This event is the next step in a dialog that has been on-going since the first pile of nuclear waste was generated by the Manhattan Project -- most irradiated fuel is still  sitting on the reactor sites where it was made. The cancellation of Yucca Mountain creates an enormous new set of  questions and challenges for the nuclear industry and the public interest. Similarly, the restriction  of waste allowed at the Barnwell, South Carolina so-called "low-level" waste dump in 2008, leaves nuclear  power plants (the primary generators of this waste in the civilian sector) in more than 30 states  with no place to bury this enormous, and often highly radioactive waste category; similar challenges exist in  the military waste world. The new plan to expand both the civilian reactor fleet and the nuclear weapons  production complex threaten our heart-felt goal to see the end to more radioactive waste production. 

Come join this discussion on June 4, 5, 6 at the Loyola University, Lake Shore Campus, Chicago.
For more information on the Summit contact Mary Olson at NIRS – maryo[at]nirs.org (+1 828-252-8409 or Alfred Meyer at Alfred.c.meyer[at]gmail.com, (+1 202-215-8208).

Interim storage of DU waste in Utah remains to raise questions

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#707
6036
15/04/2010
LAKA
Article

While the debate on what to do with Savannah River Site’s depleted uranium (DU) waste lingers on, the US Energy Department’s Inspector General calls a plan to store two trainloads of this DU waste in Texas unnecessary and wasting taxpayers' money.

The radioactive material, left over from decades of nuclear weapons production and contaminated with reactor originated radionuclides, was stored in 15,600 drums and intended for disposal at EnergySolutions Inc.’s facility in Clive, 70 miles (110 km) west of Salt Lake City, Utah. This is a facility for the disposal of low-level radioactive waste or Class A waste. Though the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) recently decided against reclassifying DU as hotter than Class A waste, after the arrival of the first shipment of 5,408 drums from Savannah River Site (SRS) in December, Utah's governor protested further shipments. The Department of Energy (DOE) then idled two trainloads that remain at the nuclear weapons facility in South Carolina.

It wasn't immediately clear if the radioactive waste would remain in South Carolina or be disposed of elsewhere. In a November presentation given to the SRS Citizens Advisory Board, the DOE said if shipments to Utah were interrupted, the waste would be diverted to the Nevada Test Site, 65 miles north of Las Vegas. The total amount of the SRS waste covers 6,500 tons. The cleanup program was accelerated through the Federal Recovery & Reinvestment Act, which allocated US$1.4 billion (1 billion euro) to SRS, mostly to speed up environmental-management projects.

According to the Inspector General’s report, the newest proposal calls for moving the material to a facility owned by Waste Control Specialists in Andrews, Texas, for interim storage. The auditors note (April 9): “Clearly, this choice carries with it a number of significant logistical burdens, including substantial additional costs for, among several items, repackaging at SRS, transportation to Texas, storage at the interim site, and, repackaging and transportation to the yet-to-be determined final disposition point.” A local newspaper, the Augusta Chronicle is citing information from an unnamed source within the department suggesting that it might be better to keep the material at SRS, where it has been ‘safely stored for decades’, until a permanent disposal solution is found.

Despite assertions by EnergySolutions that the action is unnecessary, the Utah Radiation Control Board signed off on a new rule that imposes additional restrictions on the disposal of DU.

EnergySolutions can take no more DU until it shows its radioactive landfill can contain the radioactive waste for thousands of years. The rule, which requires the Clive facility to conduct a performance assessment for disposal of the radioactive material, will be published May 1 and go into effect by June 1. Yet, EnergySolutions is first in line to accept up to 1.4 million tons of DU in coming years - about half from uranium enrichment plants coming online and half from government stockpiles. DU is different from most other Class A because it becomes most hazardous after 1 million years. About 49,000 tons is already buried at  EnergySolutions, and DOE has put the disposal of another 11,000 tons on hold until the state agrees it can come to the Clive facility.

EnergySolutions is building a processing facility for blending more hazardous Class B and Class C waste with Class A waste and has proposed to dispose this waste at its Clive facility. Members of the Utah Radiation Control Board opted against trying to regulate this nuclear industry's practice of mixing low-level radioactive waste with more hazardous B&C waste so that reactors can dispose of waste that now has nowhere else to go. “At very least, DU is incompatible with the state's ban on B&C waste,” said board member Jenkins, “It will present an unacceptable risk after 100 years.”

Meanwhile the NRC is studying on options on how to dispose the DU waste in the mid- and long-term.

The entire report by the U.S. Energy Department's Inspector General is available at http://www.ig.energy.gov/documents/OAS-RA-10-07.pdf

Sources: Augusta Chronicle, The Salt Lake Tribune, Deseret News, all 13 April 2010.
Contact: Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah (HEAL): 68 S Main St, Suite 400, Salt Lake City, UT 84101, USA.
Tel: +1 801 355-505
Email: info@healutah.org
Web: www.healutah.org

About: 
Laka

Nuclear fuel waste storage: end of the road for "The Swedish Solution"?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#706
6031
26/03/2010
Charly Hultén
Article

After nearly three decades of R&D efforts, close observers are asking themselves if perhaps the Swedish nuclear industry hasn't reached a dead end concerning nuclear waste storage. The question arises after SKB AB, the industry's jointly owned company for nuclear waste solutions, published a "preliminary" environmental impact statement (EIS) on the KBS-3 scheme in December of last year. The report fails to meet even rudimentary requirements of an EIS. On the whole, it seems a half-hearted effort.

In January 2010 the SKB AB unilaterally declared the termination of public consultations on the project (consultations mandated by the Swedish Environmental Code, 1998). SKB AB makes no apologies, but simply notes that long-awaited updates will be filed together with the formal application. This is a blatant violation of the Code (ch. 6, para. 4), which requires that the public be given an opportunity to discuss and question all the aspects covered in an EIS.

Consultations are an integral part of the approval process. It should be noted, however, that the consultations have never been the dialogues envisaged by the lawmakers. (*1) SKB has shown a lack of interest that borders on hostility on the part of SKB AB. As the largest umbrella organization, MKG (the Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear Waste Review*2), puts it: "The company's chief purpose in the consultations appears to have been to rebut and reject participants' comments and questions rather than discuss them in any open manner".

It is a matter of public record that the KBS project has encountered difficulties with both of the man-made barriers that are intended to isolate the fuel waste. KBS-3 involves storage of spent fuel rods in copper canisters, about 400 meters down in granite bedrock. No resolution of the problems (uncertainty about the behavior of the clay buffer in the repository after closure, and empirical evidence that copper corrodes, even in the absence of atmospheric oxygen) has been reported.

Add to this a recommendation in January of this year from the Swedish National Council for Nuclear Waste, a body of scholars that advises the Swedish Government on issues relating to nuclear waste storage, that retrievability of the waste should be considered. The recommendation is a total reversal of government policy. SKB AB has earlier made a point of how difficult it would be for anyone to access and retrieve the contents of a KBS repository, once sealed.

The approval process

An EIS, addressed to one of Sweden's Environmental Courts, must accompany all applications for permits to undertake a project. Sets of requirements concerning aspects that have to be taken into account are set out in the Code and in the Law on Nuclear Technology (KTL) (1983).

Briefly the approval process is this: SKB AB submits an application as provided in both the Environmental Code and KTL, which incorporates criteria set out in the Radiation Protection Law. The application under the Environmental Code is considered by the Environmental Court; the application under KTL is considered by the regulator, the Nuclear Safety Authority. The Court and the Authority submit their findings to the Cabinet, which decides whether or not the project is allowable. (The Cabinet may choose to override the findings of the Court. This happened in a previous case involving the upgrading of reactors at Ringtails)

A "preliminary" EIS
The essential purpose of an Environmental Impact Statement is to describe a project's actual, probable and possible consequences for human beings and the natural environment. The document SKB AB issued in December 2009 is marked "preliminary", but even that label hardly prepares the reader for what is to come. The most central issues – those relating to the long-term safety of the repository, the choice of method and evaluation of alternative methods, the siting – receive the least attention. The company states, without supporting argumentation, that the proposed method for storing nuclear fuel waste will not have any impacts on human beings or the natural environment.

The principal faults – those to be discussed here – are (1) a nearly total absence of discussion of radiological consequences, in either the short or long term, (2) a failure to update safety analyses since the most recent report in 2006, then clearly "work in progress", (3) an overall limitation of the time-frame to the construction and loading phases, (4) no attempt to justify the choice of KBS-3 in terms of "best available technology", which would entail serious evaluation of alternative methods, (5) SKB AB's literal interpretation of the so-called "zero alternative", i.e., as making no attempt to do anything, only to "make do" with what already exists, and last, but hardly least (6) no attempt to convince either the court or the general public that the location (immediately adjacent to the Forsmark reactors in Östhammar) is the best Sweden has to offer.

The Swedish environmental groups are unanimous in their criticisms of an extraordinarily poor document and focus on essentially the same points. Interestingly, in addition, two municipalities – one of which the intended site of the repository – criticize the document, as does the provincial government of Åland (Finland). The following comments synthesize these comments.

Radiological consequences and safety
 
Three of the document's 348 pages are devoted to long-term safety. 

The criticisms of the environmental movement fall into two categories: complaints about SKB ABs procedure, and concern about the actual safety of the KBS project.

Procedure
The procedural complaints are specifically Swedish. Briefly, they focus on SKB AB's failure to submit updated safety data and analysis for consultation.

The most recent safety report (SR-Can) was published in 2006. A lot has happened since then. For one thing, the more detailed investigation of the two prospective sites has produced a lot of data. Also, SKB AB has acquired and presumably implemented new modeling software. A progress report published in 2007 assured readers that new modeling software would greatly improve the company's ability to understand interactive processes and to assess risks. Also, the above-mentioned problems concerning bentonite clay and copper corrosion have surfaced since the 2006 report. None of these developments are discussed in the EIS document.

Secondly, the preliminary EIS is essentially limited to the construction and loading phases of the project, i.e., the next 70 years or so. The reason given for this is that there will not be any leakage from the repository for at least 100.000 years. Consequently, there are no effects and environmental consequences to be reported. This is pure conjecture on SKB AB's part.

The EIS comes nowhere near fulfilling the requirements of an EIS according to Swedish law.

Scenarios should be elaborated for all possible contingencies: one or more broken canisters, erosion of the buffer, climate-instigated flooding of the repository in sea water, a serious accident in a Forsmark reactor, deliberate incursion, a terrorist attack, societal developments that lead to abandonment of the facility, etc. Low probability does not eliminate the need to consider all that may go wrong.

Time and again the radiation protection authority, SSI (now part of SSM) has urged the company to pay more attention to risk management and safety analysis. As late as 2007 authorities called for better quality assurance of the predictive models and pointed to the need to consider the eventuality that the repository might leak early on in the process. Time and again the company has procrastinated. First, until the prospective locations were inventoried, then until the safety follow-up would be published (it hasn't been), and now for the findings of dozens of technical reports that both exist (there are references to specific pages) and do not exist (they have yet to be published). Why the secrecy?

Safety concerns 
The key factors in terms of long-term safety are the toxicity of the waste, the extreme length of time involved, and the risk of nuclear proliferation.

The radiological safety of the project remains by far the most important aspect. In contacts with the public, however, SKB AB has consistently played down issues relating to the high rates of radiation in the fuel waste and the long-term threat from long-lived isotopes. As MKG, the largest umbrella group puts it: "Had the environmental movement not been present at the consultations, the average citizen would most probably have been left with the impression that it was simply a question of burying a bunch of copper canisters”.

A major question with regard to long-term safety is the prospect of a coming ice age. The repository must withstand at least one period of glaciation, which entails enormous stresses.

The integrity of the bedrock will have been compromised by the installation itself. Will a KBS-3 repository only 400 m. down in the midst of a tectonic zone survive?

Retrievability

Non-retrievability is a criterion for what may be considered a "final storage" solution in Swedish law. Two of the original aims of the KBS project were to produce a repository that (1) prevents unlawful handling of nuclear waste, and (2) requires no supervision or maintenance. Neither of these aims has been achieved.

There is no discussion of the need to guard or monitor the KBS-3 repository. On the contrary, the company continues to maintain that no supervision will be necessary.

The environmental movement's position is this: There is plutonium in a nuclear waste repository for over 100.000 years. This means that a repository of the KBS type has to be guarded that long. And, clearly, there is a need to monitor emissions from the repository after it is sealed.

BAT? Who's to say?
Back in the 1980s, SKB engineers were quick to settle on the KBS concept. For many years, any backing away from KBS-3 might endanger the nation's commitment to nuclear energy.

The environmental movement's principal complaints concern
• Uncertainty about the performance of the man-made barriers (copper canisters and clay buffer);
• The scarcity of copper as a resource;
• The waste of the remaining energy in spent fuel;
• No fuel waste repository should rely primarily on man-made barriers.

The KBS-3 system is often described as a "multiple barrier system", in which the barriers are copper, bentonite clay and the bedrock. We consider this description misleading. There may be three tiers in the system, but they are all mutually dependent. Functional redundancy is a fundamental principle in safety engineering. That is, all functions of importance to safety should be independent, each able to guarantee safety on its own.

The task before SKB AB today, as they finalize their application for permits to build, is to demonstrate that the Best Available Technology (BAT) will be used at every step and in every phase of the handling and storage of fuel waste and other high-level nuclear waste, while showing that the methods in question have been proven reliable. SKB must show that the KBS-3 method uses raw materials and energy efficiently and economically, and the company is expected to discuss the pros and cons of each alternative relative to the KBS-3 method.

Is this Mission Impossible? To show that KBS-3 makes use of the best available technology presumes that other methods have been evaluated. Consideration of alternative methods has been required by law since the late 1980s, but SKB AB has consistently refused to spend time, money or effort on any of them. That refusal now undermines the company's claim that KBS-3 is the best available technology.

Deep boreholes have emerged as the principal alternative to KBS-3. (*3) MKG, who recommend this alternative, characterize its treatment:

"Over the years, MKG notes, the company's treatment of the literature on deep boreholes has increasingly focused on the problems associated with the method, and most recently, SKB AB has constructed additional problems on its own that have no basis in empirical study”.

SKB AB, for their part, has stated that the company has no need of further data.

The barriers
Nuclear fuel waste needs to be kept away from human beings and the biosphere for hundreds of thousands of years. It is unreasonable to believe that man-made barriers can do this over such a long time span.

The gaps between the models' predictions and actual performance of the clay and copper have widened considerably in recent years. At the same time SKB AB has shown less interest in further empirical study of the barriers. As the deadline for the application approaches, the company finds itself unable either to describe the performance of the barriers or to verify the accuracy of the models.

A key assumption from the start of the KBS project is that there would be no corrosion of the copper canisters in an oxygen-free environment. Judging from what has been published, however, no long-term studies of corrosion in a simulated repository setting have been done since the early 1980s. There has been no systematic follow-up, and no evidence has been published to support the models' (theoretical) assurance that the rate of corrosion will decline one thousand-fold in the repository environment. On the contrary, say researchers at the Royal Technological University in Stockholm, the KBS canisters may fail after only 1000 years. Obviously, SKB AB's presumption of safety requires some form of validation.

There are concerns about the behavior of the bentonite clay buffer. Will it swell at the rate posited? Analyses of data presented in the most recent safety analysis performed by Swedish regulatory authorities (2006) suggest that it may take thousands of years before the clay has filled the repository chambers. Will the clay remain in the repository through an ice age, considering all the hydrological and seismic events glaciation entails? The Radiation Safety Authority has expressed concern that SKB AB has been optimistic about the risks of erosion.

Finally, most of the empirical studies done to date have approximated the bedrock formation at Oskarshamn, not the much drier rock at Forsmark. No replications adapted to the actual site are planned, SKB AB has announced.

Is Forsmark really the best place?
SKB ABs localization process has not been systematic, has not been based on a priori criteria, and has been guided by other priorities than long-term environmental safety. The criteria for selection of the location have changed with the progress of the process. In the end, the company confined its investigations to the two nuclear energy municipalities, Oskarshamn and Östhammar (Forsmark). The choice seems to have been made more on the basis of political acceptance than geological suitability – which, of course, loses all relevance in the context of 100.000 years. Is Forsmark really the best Sweden has to offer?

SKB AB has not seen fit to outline the motives underlying the choice of site. Some drawbacks are obvious, however. The proposed site is coastal, the bedrock is in a (currently passive) shear zone (i.e. a fault), and the rock is drier than that originally envisaged for the KBS concept. The shallow positioning (400 m. underground) leaves the repository at risk of inundation by sea water – which may have chemical as well as mechanical impacts on the crucial clay buffer.

The environmental movement also questions the wisdom of siting repositories next to reactors.

We also favor an inland site, where leakage can better be contained and retarded (up to one thousand-fold), and the Baltic Sea is not the immediate recipient.

The Baltic Sea – a "robust recipient"?
FUD-report 2007 (p. 362) describes the Baltic as "the ultimate destination" of leakage from the KBS-3 repository – which the company believes will occur sooner or later in the "life" of the repository. Planned reliance on dilution in the biosphere is not acceptable to environmentalists.

To consider any sea an "appropriate recipient" for radioactive leakage reflects a poor understanding of ecological relationships. The best farmland in the province around Forsmark was sea bottom "only yesterday" in relation to the time the waste will remain a danger.

SKB AB has to clarify how they can state that the environmental impact of releases of drainage from the repository will be "modest" in as much as "the recipient is judged to be relatively robust". No support for the statement is given.

Åland, an archipelago between Sweden and Finland, lies only 60 kilometers from the proposed site. Consequently, the islanders – including the provincial government and the Municipality of Eckerö – are particularly sensitive to the use of the Baltic Sea as a recipient of possible leakage from the repository. Ålanders urge that cumulative effects of nuclear installations around the Baltic Sea be taken into account. The Municipality calls for a stop to the radiological pollution of the Baltic. All comments from Åland object to a coastal siting of the Swedish repository.

The people of Åland are also concerned that SKB AB plans to transport all fuel waste to Forsmark by sea. The EIS, they point out, lacks all discussion of how an accident at sea might be handled. In view of the overall condition of the Baltic Sea they question the wisdom of allowing transports of this kind in Baltic waters.

Conclusion
When one has read the EIS and the well-founded criticisms of it, the question arises: How could SKB AB get it so wrong?

The responses reviewed offer a number of possible explanations.

• Might it be over-confidence on the part of the company's engineers and management? Are they so convinced that all will function perfectly, that they see no reason to problematize their scheme? Does the corporate culture at SKB encourage critical thinking?
• Can it be that SKB still believes that the Environmental Code should not apply to nuclear technologies – a standpoint they lobbied for intensively for many years?
• Some groups put it down to the company's subversion of the consultation process. Had they only been willing to listen ....

Whether or not consultations are a futile exercise, the environmental groups and the Municipality of Östhammar argue that the process cannot be terminated until all relevant data and information have been put on the table. Several groups call for a continuation, but with some other, less partisan body in charge of the meetings and their documentation.

Whatever the reasons, the fact remains that SKB AB seems to have a long way to go before they can fulfill the requirements of the law. And the issue of retrievability alone is enough to send the company's engineers back to their drawing boards for a long, long time.

Notes:
*1- For a personal assessment of the consultation process, see Hultén, C (2007) "Still Waiting for Glasnost", posted at http://www.nonuclear.se/archive/
*2- The umbrella organization includes the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation with nearly 140.000 members and local chapters throughout Sweden. MKG has full-time staff devoted to nuclear waste storage issues.
*3- For a presentation of the deep borehole approach see Åhåll, KI (2006). Final Deposition of High-level Nuclear Waste in Very Deep Boreholes, posted at http://www.nonuclear.se/archive/

See also: Nuclear Monitor 661, 11 October 2007: "Comparative study of public involvement in radioactive waste management" and Nuclear Monitor 673, 5 June 2008: "Sweden: radiation protection authority faults fundaments in KBS repository scheme"

With one exception the documents, in Swedish only, may be downloaded at www.nonuclear.se/archive/. The Eckerö community response may be accessed at mkg.se/uploads/Samradsinlaga_Eckero_2010000305.

Contributors: Ålands Natur & Miljö/ Aktionsgruppen för ett atomkraftsfritt Åland; Milkas (Swedish Environmental Movement's Nuclear Waste Secretariat); OSS/Avfallskedjan (OSS/The Waste Network); SERO – Sveriges Energiföreningars Riks Organisation

Sveriges Naturförening/MKG (Swedish Society for Nature Conservation/Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear Waste Review); Eckerö community (Åland); Östhammar community (Sweden); Ålands landskapsregering

Source and contact: WISE Sweden, Charly Hultén

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WISE Sweden

US DOE motion to withdraw Yucca license "with prejudice"

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#705
6025
12/03/2010
Mary Olson, NIRS Southeast
Article

March 3, 2010 will hopefully mark the real beginning of the end for the failed nuclear waste dump proposed for Yucca Mountain on Western Shoshone Land in Nevada, more than 30 years ago. The US Department of Energy (DOE) filed a motion with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that would withdraw its application for a license to build and operate a nuclear waste repository with the added stipulation that the NRC rule not only to let DOE withdraw, but to do so with prejudice, meaning that there could be no future application for the site.

This action not only spells a clear intention by the Obama Administration to deliver its promise to kill the site, it actually grants a 1998 petition made by Nuclear Information and Resource Service and signed by more than 200 organizations calling on the Secretary of Energy to disqualify the site since it was known at that point it could not meet a key site suitability criteria on ground water travel time. The DOE motion effectively grants the NIRS petition, 12 years later.

In response to the DOE motion to withdraw its application for a license with prejudice, a number of entities have filed motions to join the licensing proceeding in order to object to the DOE action including: the States of South Carolina and Washington, the County of Aiken in SC, and a business association based in the Hanford, WA area. It is rumored that other entities including the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) are considering similar action. Their arguments against the NRC granting DOE’s motion are based on a very thin reading of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act which requires that the Secretary of Energy make a license application for Yucca Mountain, but failed to anticipate a situation where that license might be withdrawn.

In addition, a growing number of lawsuits have been filed which argue a very tenuous thread which assumes that since a dump application was submitted a dump license will be granted. Taking that assumption as the basis of both “standing” and also the “harm” that DOE’s action would cause, various South Carolina entities are arguing that not building Yucca will harm the people of South Carolina, even to the point of diminishing property values because of radioactive waste generated in SC staying there; no mention is made of the massive, long-term storage of radioactive wastes at Savannah River Site (SRS). Ironically, many of these same entities are boosters for the idea of a reprocessing center at SRS.

Since the NRC has the power to determine this outcome, this will be a turning point for that agency: is it simply a “rubber stamp?” or is it capable of policy determinations. Unfortunately, until there is a change in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, no one can officially declare this dump dead, however a ruling in favor of DOE’s motion to withdraw the license with prejudice would go a long way in that direction.

Source and contact: Mary Olson is Southeast Regional Coordinator for Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS)
Email: maryo@nirs.org

About: 
NIRS South East

NEW LAW ON RADIOACTIVE WASTE UNDER DISCUSSION IN RUSSIA

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#704
6016
26/02/2010
Article

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

IN BRIEF

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#703
29/01/2010
Shorts

Germany: phasing out the phase-out. Utility companies and the government have agreed to allow two nuclear power plants which were scheduled for closure soon, to keep operating.

The two older reactors scheduled to be taken offline in the near future, Biblis A in Hesse and Neckarwestheim I in Baden-Württemberg, will remain operational until the current government finalizes its general energy program, expected in October. The move appears to be another step in reversing a 2001 plan passed by Germany's Social Democratic-Green party government under Gerhard Schröder to eventually phase out nuclear power in Germany. According to the media report, energy companies are using something of an accounting trick to enable the plants to stay online: unused allocations of electricity from newer plants will be transferred to the Biblis and Neckarwestheim facilities. The federal government met with the country's top four energy providers in Berlin on January 21 about possibly extending the life spans of nuclear power plants. While the government played down the meeting as "routine," anti-nuclear activists protested throughout the day.
Source: The Local (Germany), 23 January 2010
 

UK: Higher-burnup fuel needs century cooling period.

The higher-burnup fuel proposed for new reactors being considered in the UK could require a spent fuel cooling period so long that a UK geologic repository, as currently planned, would close before some of the fuel was ready for disposal. The concern surfaced in a response from Westinghouse to a study by the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s Radioactive Waste Management Division, or RWMD, on the “disposability” of waste from the Westinghouse AP1000. In a similar study of the waste from the Areva EPR, the RWMD postulated that a 90- to 100-year cooling period would be necessary for the higher-burnup fuel planned for use in both companies’ reactors. As currently envisioned, a geologic repository is “assumed” to accept its first spent fuel and high-level waste around 2075, according to the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, or NDA. A repository is expected to operate 90 years before it is closed in 2165. However, if an AP1000 or EPR begins operation in 2020 — the date assumed in the RWMD studies — and operates for 60 years and the fuel needs 100 years to cool, spent fuel from the final years of reactor operations would not be cool enough for disposal until 2180, after the repository had closed.

More on high-burnup fuel in Nuclear Monitor 671, 17 April 2008: “Too Hot To Handle. The truth of high-burnup-fuel”

Source: Nuclear Fuel, 14 December 2009

Nuclear lobby: 4 key issues for 2010. In the January 2010 issue of Nuclear Engineering International Dan Yurman (“Serving nuclear energy markets since 1989”) sees four key priorities for 2010 to let a nuclear renaissance in the United States happen. Priorities, because he sees problems and uncertainties ahead: “Critics are exploiting the fault lines that have already appeared, and some, under the guise of scholarship, cherry pick their sources to make the case for failure. Their objective is to sow fear, uncertainty, and doubt in the minds of business and government decision makers.” (January 28, 2010) Stating that “he is not prepared to accept a long term future for the U.S. as being an agnostic on nuclear energy while the U.K. France, Italy, India, China, and other countries put the pedal to the metal to build dozens of new reactors to meet the challenge of global climate change” he analyses four areas where things have to change.

1- US$200 billion loan guarantees for companies to build new reactors. “Without the loan guarantees, few utilities have the market capitalization to ‘bet the company’ on a multi-billion dollar investment in a new nuclear reactor.”

2- developing a “cadre of nuclear engineers and skilled trades capable of building new reactors on time and within budget”. Foreign competition will raid U.S. engineering programs for talent unless the “federal government” (again the government) puts in place a scholarship program.

3- The third priority is “revitalizing U.S. manufacturing capabilities including development of a facility to produce large forgings, e.g., 400 tons or more, for reactor vessels.” Because despite increases in capacity, Japan Steel Works (one of the few companies worldwide able to produce those large forgings) reports a three to- four year wait time for 400 ton reactor vessels. Currently three production facilities are under construction in the U.S.: by Areva in Virginia, Shaw in Louisiana, and Babcock & Wilcox/McDermott at locations in Ohio and Indiana.

4- If you think these three are difficult enough, read the fourth critical issue: re-invent the fuel cycle: two strategically located 500 ton/year reprocessing plants; a commercial MOX fuel manufacturing capability and the development of fast (breeder) reactors to “burn the MOX-fuel en complete the fuel cycle”.

It’s time to make clear that nuclear energy had its chance (after 50 years of pouring money in it),  admit it is something of the past and move forward to real energy solutions (but, that’s not Yurman’s conclusion).

Source: Nuclear Engineering International, January 2010 / blog Yurman at http://djysrv.blogspot.com/

Albania: Approval of Atomic Energy Agency.

On January 20, the government of Albania approved the creation of the country s National Atomic Agency, an institution that is suppose to supervise the development of nuclear projects. Earlier Prime Minister Sali Berisha had announced that the government was looking at the possibility of constructing a nuclear power plant. Albania’s power generation system has not seen major investment since the early 1980s, when the cash-strapped former communist regime stopped investing in new hydropower dams. Berisha's statements over constructing a nuclear power plant, have drawn interest from Italy Italian energy giant Enel who has expressed interest in locating a nuclear power generating project  in the Balkans, possibly in Albania or Montenegro. The Prime Minister said the government’s goal is to make his country a regional energy  superpower. However most commentators believe that Berisha’s statements are little more than hot air and will do little to help end electricity shortages.

Source: Balkan insight, 21 January 2010

Black workers got more radiation.

U.S.A.: A Tennessee company that processes nuclear waste has agreed to settle federal claims black employees were subjected to higher levels of radiation than others. The Studsvik Memphis Processing Facility, formerly known as Radiological Assistance Consulting and Engineering, or RACE, has signed a consent agreement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported. Under the agreement, 23 black employees are to receive a total of US$650,000 (461,000 Euro).  The EEOC alleged the company assigned black employees to work with radioactive waste and manipulated dosimeters to show lower levels of radiation than the actual ones. Black employees were also paid less and subjected to other kinds of discrimination. Lewis Johnson, president of Studsvik, said the alleged discrimination took place before the Swedish-based company bought the Memphis facility.

Source: UPI, 16 January 2010

Radiation leak at Germany's uranium enrichment facility.

A radiation leak at Germany's sole uranium enrichment facility in Gronau (North Rhine Westphalia) has left one worker in hospital under observation. On January 21, in the preparation of a container at the Gronau uranium enrichment plant, a release of radioactive waste occurred. One employee of Urenco  Deutschland, who was operating at that time, has been admitted to hospital as a precaution for observation. He was contaminated on hands and feet with UF6 while opening a supposedly "empty and washed" container. It seems he also enhaled some. He was expected to be released within 24 hours on Friday, but had to stay over the weekend, when uranium was found in his urine. But press reports on Monday claim, he has to stay in hospital longer.According to the plant's operating company, Urenco Deutschland, there was no danger at any time to the local population. Urenco, is currently determining the cause of this incident, according to their press release.The national news in Germany reported widely on the accident. Even the prosecutor has started - on demand of local antinuclear organisations - an investigation against Urenco. On January 22 and 24 there were demonstrations in Gronau - with up to 100 people.

Source: Deutsche Welle, 22 January / Urenco press release, 22 January / WDR, 25 January 2010

U.S.: Power to corporate society.

On January 21, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out six decades of established law by granting corporations the right to use their incredible wealth and power to influence elections -- thereby diminishing the power of voting.. Imagine ExxonMobil, AIG or Entergy-Louisiana for that matter, throwing huge sums of money directly into Congressional or Legislative attack ads. And this on top of the already unbelievable amount of influence corporations have on elections. Such a scenario used to be illegal. But no longer, since the Supreme Court ruled to lift the ban that kept corporations from contributing directly to campaigns and candidates. The tortured legal argument is this: We the People are infringing on corporations' "rights" by preventing them from using all of the special advantages they have over real human beings (like unlimited life, limited liability, and lots of other ways of amassing great wealth) to influence political elections. A corporation is not a person. Corporations cannot vote. They do not live, breathe or die - at least not in the way people do and are not a part of "We the People." Giving corporations the rights of people is a cynical political move that fundamentally changes democracy. Unless we stand up, the problem of corporate money in politics could go from bad to unimaginably worse.Thankfully, some legislators are working to strengthen our campaign finance laws to prevent this. Congress needs to prevent a flash flood of corporate money into elections and there is a need to move fast. The alternative is an undemocratic system in which large corporations have even more power to drown out the voices of regular voters

Source: U.S. Public Interest Research Groups, www.pirg.org, 21 January 2010

Spain: Nuclear law reformed.

Spain’s 1964 nuclear energy law is to be reformed to give nuclear plants greater possibility of functioning beyond the 40 years “useful life” for which they were designed, the Council of Ministers decided on December 23. The country’s eight nuclear plants must now be owned by a single limited company whose “exclusive object should be the management of the plants”, ministers decided. This is to “increase the transparency of the accounts and investments of the installations.” Ministers approved a series of measures to “clarify the criteria for the renewal” of operating licences. The 40-year “useful life” has been ratified, with extensions accepted “giving consideration to the general interest and the energy policy in effect, and the security of energy supply.” Utilities may now exchange participations to ensure that a nuclear plant belongs to a single company. Many of the eight are shared by two or three utilities, such as Garoña which is to be closed in 2013 shortly after completing 40 years’ operation. Garoña’s company, Nuclenor, was created by its 50-50 owners, utilities Iberdrola and Endesa. The ministers also approved tougher nuclear insurance conditions, increasing the obligatory insurance of a plant in case of an accident from 700 million Euro to 1.2 billion Euro (US$ 1.68 billion)

Source: Power In Europe, 11 January 2010

Scotland: New waste policy published.

The Scottish Government has published its proposed new intermediate level waste policy which is out to consultation until 9 April. In 2007 the Scottish Government broke away from the rest of the UK by rejecting the idea of a deep geological repository for its higher activity wastes. Instead it favoured long-term storage of waste in on- or near surface facilities, near the site where it was produced. The announcement was widely welcomed by environmental groups, the Nuclear Free Local Authorities and the Green and Liberal Democrat parties.Over the past two years Scottish Government officials have been consulting with stakeholders. The fact this consultation was almost entirely with regulators and the nuclear industry is reflected in changes to the original announcement that are likely to be widely questioned by the same people who initially supported the 2007 decision. It is now proposed that disposal of waste should be the preferred option, rather than storage, unless there are technical reasons why disposal of a waste stream is not possible. The concept of near-surface waste facilities has now been extended to depths of "tens of metres". The principle of waste facilities at or near where it is produced has also been widen to allow greater transport of material over longer distances. Surprisingly the Scottish Government has also revived a suggestion that storage or disposal facilities might be constructed under the seabed, but accessed from land. When this concept was proposed by the UK Government in the past there was considerable international opposition as its intended that any leakage would go into the marine environment. 'Export' of wastes to the UK or overseas is also explicitly allowed if treatment facilities are not available in Scotland.

Full details of the consultation documents are available at www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Environment/waste-and-pollution/Waste-1/16293...

Source: N-BASE Briefing 639, 20 January 2010

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