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In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

France: Civaux-1 containment leaks.

(June 29, 2001) A containment integrity test in the beginning of June showed that the concrete inner containment of the Civaux-1 reactor building has a leak rate that is higher than expected. A leak rate of 2.7% of containment gas volume per day was found, whereas EDF has an internal criterion of 1% per day. When the reactor started up in 1997 the leak rate was only 0.35% per day and has thus multiplied by a factor of seven. Besides, it was also discovered that leaks were detected over much more of the containment surface than had ever been found in other large NPPs in France. The maximum leak rate specified in the generic safety report for this reactor is 1.5% per day. But according to EDF this limit is only relevant in case of an accident and under those circumstances it would concern a mixture of air and steam. Such a mixture would have a leak rate three times less than air alone. Containments of other reactors in France have been repaired with liquid concrete or resin. Civaux-1 was taken offline in March for inspection outage and will not restart before November or December. Nucleonics Week, 14 June 2001; AFP, 22 June 2001


UK energy review.

(June 29, 2001) UK Prime Minister Tony Blair announced a review of the country's energy supply on 25 June. Chairing the review is Energy Minister Brian Wilson, who is known for his pro-nuclear views. Sources said that his views would not affect the outcome of the review, but there has been considerable press speculation that the review will recommend that more nuclear power plants be built. However, even Robin Jeffrey, chairman of British Energy, admitted in May that the industry was still a "long way from making the business case for new nuclear construction" so statements of a "nuclear renaissance" are still somewhat premature. Financial Times, 18 June 2001; Reuters, 26 June 2001


Sellafield sand found to be radioactive waste.

(June 29, 2001) Sand which was collected by Greenpeace near Sellafield has turned out to be radioactive waste according to European regulations. The 120 kilograms of sand was taken from a riverbed and a road at more than 10 kilometers distance from the plant. Greenpeace presented the sand late last year to the Dutch Dodewaard reactor in protest against the reprocessing of its fuel in Sellafield. Dutch government authorities tested the sand and found high concentrations of plutonium and americium, which were above the European limits for radioactive waste. Greenpeace press release, 26 June 2001; Metro, 27 June 2001


Setback for Sellafield MOX Plant...

(June 29, 2001) Following a High Court challenge from Friends of the Earth (see box "SMP judicial review" in WISE News Communique 549.5276, "Sellafield: THORP customers threaten to withdraw business, discharge levels 20 times German standards") the UK government has agreed to an extra round of public consultation for the Sellafield MOX Plant. Friends of the Earth had complained that a study by consultants Arthur D Little on the plant's viability had been kept secret. The UK government has now agreed to publish the study, but with information deleted where this would "cause unreasonable damage to BNFL's commercial operations or to the economic case for the MOX plant itself". Friends of the Earth welcomed the extra round of public consultations but said it was "startling" that the government was planning to refuse publication of information that might expose the lack of a sound economic case for the plant. Reuters, 22 June 2001; Financial Times, 22 June 2001


... and for Kalpakkam.

(June 29, 2001) In India too, an environmental group has successfully argued that public consultation plans were inadequate. The Coastal Action Network (CAN) filed a public interest litigation, arguing that insufficient notice was given to the public and environmentalists of a public hearing on the proposed Kalpakkam NPP. This hearing - India's first attempt to hold a public hearing on the environmental aspects of a nuclear power station - was scheduled for 21 April then cancelled without publicity. Following rumors that it had been re-scheduled for 15 June, the CAN complained that the procedure was not being followed. After considering the CAN's plea, Mr. Justice P. Shanmugam, passed interim orders that the public hearing, if held, would be without prejudice to the CAN's right to seek a fresh public hearing. The Hindu, 18 June 2001


Finland: Olkiluoto safety problems.

(June 29, 2001) An INES Level 1 incident was reported in the two Finnish Olkiluoto BWRs when it turned out that the Bakelite gears of eight motorized devices might possibly not work properly in case of an accident. The gears are part of devices that open valves in the emergency cooling safety system. The problem was discovered in January when teeth from one gear had broken off, so that the gear stuck and the valve could not be opened. The other seven devices were not damaged. The Finnish Radiation & Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK) ordered the replacement of the gears. Nucleonics Week, 14 June 2001