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In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#588
13/06/2003
Article

 Protest against "nuclear promotion" in European Union draft Constitution.

(June 13, 2003) Greenpeace and other NGO's held a protest action on 29 May outside the ceremony of the "Karlspreis" that was awarded to Giscard d'Estaing in the German city of Aachen. Dressed in Rococo style costumes the activists tried to hand over a golden nuclear power plant to Giscard, with a banner in the background, reading "No nuclear EU constitution". The protest was against the proposal by Giscard to include the outdated Euratom Treaty in the draft constitutional text which, thus requiring the EU to promote nuclear power. Giscard d'Estaing is head of the Praesidium, the body which produced the draft text. "Giscard d'Estaing must not endanger Europe's future through the promotion of a highly risky, outdated form of energy", said Greenpeace. The Euratom Treaty is one of the founding Treaties of the European Community. Signed in Rome in 1957, the main aim of Euratom is to undertake various measures to promote and regulate nuclear energy in Europe. According to Greenpeace: "this Treaty is entirely inappropriate to the times and in no way reflects the actual circumstances in the EU today" (see also WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor 585.5501: "Back to the Fifties; European Convention supports Euratom"). Greenpeace Germany, 29 May 2003

Sellafield still pollution 'threat' Irish Sea.
(June 13, 2003)  Radioactive discharges from Sellafield continue to be the dominant source of contamination of the Irish Sea, says a study by Ireland's nuclear watchdog, the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII). The RPII marine monitoring report was produced after analyzing about 300 fish, shellfish, seaweed and water samples from the Irish Sea. Samples were analyzed for radio-nuclides, specifically caesium-137, carbon-14, technetium-99, americium-241 and plutonium. The consumption of fish and shellfish is the main way the Irish public is exposed to radiation from Sellafield. The doses due to eating fish and shellfish (1.20 microSv in 2001), appear to have reached a plateau in recent years. The Institute has been monitoring radioactivity in the Irish Sea since 1982 and has built up an invaluable database of information which demonstrates the trends over that period. Caesium-137 is the radionuclide of greatest radiological significance, accounting for approximately 60-70% of the total radiation dose. Increased discharges of technetium-99 from Sellafield since 1994 have resulted in corresponding in-creases in the contribution of this radionuclide to the doses to seafood consumers during the period 1994-2001. Technetium-99 currently contributes up to 30% of the radiation dose.
UK national newspaper The Guardian wrote on 27 May that Cabinet ministers were warned that a BP 100 million (US$ 171 million) package is urgently required to protect public safety at Sellafield and prevent a radioactive leak from a 50-year-old waste storage facility. The confidential warning was written by the chairman of the UK environment agency and send to the UK's environment and health secretaries. It reveals that British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) wants to increase dumping of technitium-99 into the Irish Sea until 2007 to avoid spending money on the storage tanks. BNFL has 240 terabecquerels (240 TBq), or 2,000 cubic meters of technitium-99 containing wastes in aging tanks. They must be emptied by July 2007. BNFL proposes to discharge the technitium-99 into the sea in about four lots, starting with a 70 TBq discharge in September this year. This plan has angered the Irish government and Norwegian governments. Norway wants a moratorium on discharges of technetium-99 because it is damaging the fishing industries. The Irish government started on 11 June legal action under the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) at an international tribune in The Hague, Netherlands. The confidential document also mentions that "recent work [_] has indicated that the load-bearing capacity in part of the roof has weakened and that there is some corrosion of the stressing steel in the structural beams". According to BNFL, fixing the roof would cost £ 100 million. BBC News, 21 May 2003; The Guardian, 27 May 2003; Independent on Sunday, 1 June 2003

 

Nuclear industry Japan seeks government compensation for spent fuel reprocessing facility.
(June 13, 2003)  Japan's nuclear power generators want government compensation for much of the costs of the Rokkashomura spent fuel reprocessing facility. The Federation of Electric Power Companies (Fepco) officials are saying in a report that the total costs involved in the Rokkashomura plant for a planned 40-year lifetime will be about US$ 125 billion. Fepco will ask the Ministry of Economy, Trade & Industry (METI) to introduce legislation that would require the national government to pay an estimated US$ 69 billion of the costs of actually operating the facility for 40 years. Some costs may be covered by higher electricity prices, but the decommissioning and waste management costs should be funded by the government, officials said. The legal changes would be in place next year, one year before the Rokkashomura plant is scheduled to begin operation. Fepco's cost estimate for a 40-year liftetime of the reprocessing plant is based on the assumption of the reprocessing of 32,100 metric tons (MT) of spent fuel. Nucleonics Week, 5 June 2003

 

PAKS fuel event criticized by HAEA.
(June 13, 2003) The Paks' utility management's report (see WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor 587: "In brief") on the 10 April fuel damage event at Paks-2 was "incomplete" and "one-sided", the Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority (HAEA) said in its first assessment of the incident that left 30 assemblies severely damaged in a special chemical cleaning tank. According to the HAEA the technical cause of the event was the tank's inappropriate design by Framatome ANP. Furthermore the HAEA identified a long series of noncompliances by Paks management and staff in quality management, including failure to sufficiently consider safety aspects in preparing and executing the cleaning job. Hungarian environmentalists have called on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to cancel its planned review of the Paks-2 fuel damage incident, saying the Vienna agency couldn't make an independent assessment because its investigation is to be based on documentation prepared by the very organizations involved in the incident. The IAEA announced on 23 May that it had accepted a request from the Hungarian government to review the circumstances of the incident and is assembling an expert team to conduct a mission in June. On 20 May, Paks also announced disciplinary measures. Some directors were placed to lower positions.
Greenpeace Hungary sees two problems concerning those measures: "all of them are still working at the plant" and "there is no single department responsible for the incident. Almost all the departments made mistakes or were lazy". Referring to an increase in incidents from 1999-2001, Green-peace argued that this trend was associated with the "instability" of Paks' management. According to Greenpeace, "there was a big change of style" in the 1990s, after Hungary shed its communist regime. The Hungarian plant started to buy more services and equipment from the West, in anticipation of its entry into the European Union in May 2004: "At the same time, there was an increase in the number of failures and carelessness". Also lots of Hungarian people are predominantly sceptical about the reliability of the information provided by politicians and executives concerning safety and events in the Paks plant. An opinion poll, held among 1,200 people, pointed out that 61% believed the executives and the officials try to hide information from the general public and only 29% said they believed what they were told. Nucleonics Week, 29 May 2003; Hungarian News Agency, 10 June 2003

 

Belgium: nuclear phaseout law may be abrogated after elections.
(June 13, 2003) The defeat of Belgium's Green parties in the 18 May general elections has to speculations that the country's nuclear phaseout law might be abrogated by the incoming government. Ecolo, the French speaking ecologist party lost 7 of its previous 11 legislators and Agalev, which had 9 seats, was eliminated from the new parliament. The previous government, which included the Green parties in the coalition, laid down a nuclear phaseout law, which was adopted by parliament in December 2002 (see WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor 579.5474: "Belgian parliament approves nuclear phaseout"). The law limits the lifetimes of Belgium's seven PWRs to 40 years, with the oldest (Doel-1) to be closed in 2015 and the youngest in 2025. Former energy minister Olivier Deleuze said that the Greens could make a come-back in the government in 2007, and if so would force re-adoption of the phase-out law. Nucleonics Week, 22 May 2003

 

South African Eskom reaffirms PBMR support.
(June 13, 2003)  South African state-owned utility Eskom reaffirmed in May its support for the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR), a move insiders said was expected to pave the way for shareholders in the multinational company PBMR Ltd. to commit to construction of the high-temperature gas-cooled reactor at its Koeberg site. In a statement issued on 16 May, Eskom said it "is ready to proceed to the next stage of South Africa's PBMR project, subject to the required statutory approvals being obtained". PBMR Ltd. CEO David Nicholls would go to Washington D.C. (US) in the first week of June to talk to companies about investing in the project. One source said Nicholls is expected to meet with officials from outside of the energy industry. Nucleonics Week, 22 May 2003

 

France: parliament commission proposes to build EPR.
(June 13, 2003)  A French parliament commission of the Office for the evaluation of scientific and technological choices has recommended "without delay" the building of a new European Pressurized Water Reactor (EPR). The EPR was designed in the 1990's by French Framatome and German Siemens companies. To prevent capacity problems after 2020, Bataille and Birraux recommend the EPR: "the government has to adopt the decision to build an EPR in the new Energy Law, which is expected next autumn." Le Figaro, 15 May 2003

 

French security lapses.

(June 13, 2003) Events in the past weeks have shown that security at French nuclear installations is often defective to the point of being almost non-existent, according to the French Nuclear Phase-out Network (Réseau "Sortir du nucleaire). On two occasions, aircraft flew over the Civaux reactor without identifying themselves on 2 and 5 June. On 19 May, a nuclear waste train passed through the city of Bordeaux without any obvious security measures, and an activist was able to take photos and measure radiation levels without being challenged. Réseau Sortir du nucleaire press release, 9 June 2003

New safety fears Lucas Heights reactor, Australia.

(June 13, 2003) The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) admitted in May that "twenty crucial holes for pipework in 2 primary safety containments do not line up" in the new research reactor at Lucas Heights. The problem was known to the contracted builders, Argentine INVAP, in February and is the latest problem in a long line of incidents and irregularities at the site. Environment groups have feared the problems that now have arisen, based on INVAP's poor track record of their Egyptian ETRR-2 reactor. Taller Ecologista, 30 May 2003

Al Gore opposes LES enrichment plant.

(June 13, 2003) Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore took a public stand on 29 May against the proposed LES uranium enrichment plant in Trousdale County, Tennessee. "... I can say with no hesitation that this facility is not in the best interest of Middle Tennessee", Gore said. Gore, who owns a farm in neighboring Smith County, echoed the concerns of many local residents about longterm storage of depleted uranium tails: "The accumulation of hazardous, radioactive waste may become a never ending problem for local citizens, and I don't believe we can be assured that sources of drinking water, like the Cumberland River, will be adequately protected". Tennessean.com, 29 May 2003

STOP THE ENERGY BILL

(June 13, 2003)The U.S. Senate is debating the S. 14 Energy Bill at this moment. This Energy Bill includes a large increase for nuclear power coupled with a decrease in most renewable energy programs. One of the provisions would authorize federal loan guarantees to finance half the cost of 8,400 MW of new nuclear reactors, amounting to a taxpayer subsidy of tens of billions of dollars. Another provision would fund the construction of a gas-cooled high-temperature reactor for the production of hydrogen (see WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor 583.5491: "U.S. Budget Request: tax dollars for nuclear utilities").

On 10 June, an amendment (to strike the 8,400 MW reactor plans) by Senators Wyden (Dem.) and Sununu (Rep.) was rejected with a close vote of 50:48. Soon, the Senate will vote on Senator Bingaman's amendment (to strike the hydrogen-nuclear funding). After amendments have been voted upon, final passage of the S. 14 Energy Bill has to take place.

You can still ask Senators to reconsider their position, and to vote against final passage of S. 14!

What can you do:
-Call Senators through the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 (U.S. only)
-Send a free fax to your Senators at www.stopenergybill.org
-Send your own fax (regular updated fax numbers at www.visi.com/juan/congress
-Send letters to your local newspapers

More information on the S. 14 Energy Bill can be found at www.nirs.org, which will be regularly updated. Send your name, address and email address to nirsnet@nirs.org and you will be included in the NIRS' email Alert List.