France: demonstration against EPR plans.
(January 30, 2004) Between 10-15,000 demonstrators marched through the streets of Paris on 17 January in an anti-nuclear protest. The demonstration, which was also attended by groups from Germany and Holland, was to protest against the proposal by the French government to build a European Pressurized water Reactor (EPR). The decision could take place later in 2004. For the first few hundred meters, protestors walked backwards, to "symbolize the retrograde step in building the EPR". The demonstration ended near the Ministry of Finance and Economy, responsible for the EPR plans.
AFP, 17 January 2004.
Germany: interim storage spent fuel licensed.
(January 30, 2004) In December 2003, the Federal Radiation Protection Authority (BfS) licensed the last of 12 interim storage sites for spent fuel. At the 12 NPPs, spent fuel from the reactors will be stored in Castor casks, to be placed in small buildings. The plan for the interim storage was a consequence of the 2001 agreement between nuclear utilities and the German government. On-site storage was chosen to prevent further shipments of spent fuel to Ahaus and Gorleben (due to fierce resistance) and to the Sellafield and La Hague reprocessing plants (which is forbidden as of 1 July 2005). Presently, one storage site has been realized in Lingen while others still require building permits from concerned state governments. Many anti-nuclear groups have protested against the plans because of the increasing amount of radioactive waste at the sites. The German section of the International Physicians for Protection against Nuclear War (IPPNW) fears that the sites will house spent fuel for longer than the allowed 40 years because of the lack of perspective on a long term solution. The only protection barrier against serious accidents is in the form of the Castor casks as the storage buildings itself are described as simple and not particularly robust.
Strahlentelex (FRG), January 2004.
European Parliament supports draft safety and waste directives.
(January 30, 2004) On 13 January, the European Parliament (EP) adopted two (non-binding) resolutions supporting future European laws (directives) on nuclear safety and waste (see WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor 596/598 special edition, November 2003, European Nuclear Threats: Old and New; page 10-14). The package was proposed in November 2002 by the European Commission and is currently being discussed by the concerned ministers of national governments (Council of the European Union). The Council is strongly split between countries that refuse any European law in this matter (U.K., Sweden, Belgium and Finland) and those who are in favor (the other 10). Ireland, which is presently holding presidency of the European Union, is trying to reach a solution in the coming months. In May, a number of new countries will enter the European Union and it is clear that at least Lithuania and the Czech Republic will belong to the opponents of the package. Nevertheless it is considered unlikely that the Council will reach an agreement by May, although the Council will discuss it on 22-23 March.
The EP only has a consultative function in the process and therefore the recently adopted resolutions are non-binding. Although the EP supports the proposal for European laws, it also made its own amendments to it. The EP wants responsibility for safety issues to remain under national authorities, instead of the proposal by the European Commission to create an additional supranational authority. The EP proposes a two-step approach where the proposed spent fuel and waste directive is concerned. Instead of the proposed (unrealistic) timetable for final waste repositories, the EP wants national plans for addressing waste disposal by 2006 but will leave countries free to set their own timetables. The EP also found a majority to support the possibility of setting up multinational disposal sites. In another resolution, the EP agreed with new criteria for Euratom loans, but only if they are to be used for improving safety and decommissioning of installations. These resolutions will later be followed by another vote on a proposal to raise the ceiling of Euratom loans and the extension of the scope of it to non-member states.
Nucleonics Week, 15 January 2004; information FOE Europe, 18 January 2004
Chernobyl contaminated mushrooms still sold.
(January 30, 2004) Authorities have shut down a canning company in northern Ukraine after it discovered that the company was selling radioactive mushrooms and berries. The products were sold at regional markets and probably in the capital Kiev. Police discovered more than two tons of contaminated mushrooms and 1,800 liters of berry juice.
AFP, 28 January 2004
Czech protests against energy policy government.
(January 30, 2004) On 28 January, about 100 activists demonstrated at the government office to protest against new energy policy plans in the country. The demonstration was organized by environmental groups and mayors from possible nuclear waste disposal sites and coal mining areas. In the last months the government announced that it would discuss further expansion of the Temelin NPP, although Prime Minister Spidla denied such plans. The demonstration was supported by Austrian anti-nuclear NGOs.
WISE Austria, 28 January 2004
Namibia: Rössing uses decommissioning fund to keep mine operating.
(January 30, 2004) According to the chairperson of the Mineworkers Union of Namibia (MUN), Rössing branch, the mining company has been using money from its decommissioning fund to operate the mine. "There is only enough money left until June this year." Decommissioning funds should be used for environmental restoration, i.e. the clean up of radioactive leftovers from operation. Managing Director David Salisbury acknowledged that the company was using some of the decommissioning fund to maintain cash flow but denied exhausting the fund.
The Namibian, 28 January 2004
French money for feasibility study EPR in Lithuania.
(January 30, 2004) According to internal information from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, money is to be spent on a feasibility study for building an EPR in Lithuania. The money would come from a semi-private fund (FASEP, Fund for studies and assistance to the private sector), a government body for public aid to eastern countries (AFD, French Agency for Development) and the Export Credit Agency Coface. The idea is in line with earlier talks between the Presidents of France and Lithuania on 14 May 2003. Both countries agreed to develop nuclear cooperation and discussed the possibility of building an EPR, to replace the Ignalina NPP. Ignalina-1 and -2 are to be closed in 2005 and 2009 and are presently responsible for 80% of the country's electricity production. About half of Lithuania's electricity is exported and major investments are to be made on grid connections to Scandinavian and European grids at an expected cost of 434 million Euro (US$ 546 million), which will make it possible to increase the exports of electricity.
Information WISE-Paris, 22 January 2004
Canadian reactor for Bulgaria or just another bid?
(January 30, 2004) Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL) said it has offered to build Bulgaria a new plant to replace the old Kozloduy reactors. Bulgaria is considering restarting construction of the unfinished Belene reactors, which are of an old Soviet design. However, the country could also decide to build a new plant at the Belene site and several nuclear companies are offering their designs as the most suitable, cheapest and safest. Amongst former candidates are Westinghouse (U.S.), Atomenergoexport (Russia), Skoda (Czech Republic) and Framatome ANP (France-Germany) (see WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor 596/598 special edition, November 2003, European Nuclear Threats: Old and New; page 27). It is still very unclear whether Bulgaria will complete the Belene reactors, build a new foreign reactor or finally decide to do neither.
Reuters, 16 January 2004
Hungary: Framatome ANP to pay for Paks-2 damage.
(January 30, 2004) The Paks NPP and Framatome ANP finished negotiations on compensation for the fuel damage accident in April 2003. In the accident, fuel elements were cleaned in a system hired from Framatome but due to insufficient cooling several elements were damaged (see WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor 586.5507: "Serious incident at Hungarian Paks-2 reactor"). The definitive amount of money to be paid by Framatome remains secret but should be around 40 million Euros (US$ 50 million), around 25% of total losses from the accident. With the payment, Framatome has on one hand admitted its responsibility while demanding that Paks NPP remains silent on the details.
Energy Club Hungary, 23 January 2004
Safety anomaly in French reactors.
(January 30, 2004) A serious safety deficiency has been found in the emergency cooling system of French reactors. The problem was found in a re-circulation system, which is used in case of a loss-of-coolant accident. If the primary cooling circuit of a reactor starts to leak (for instance because of a pipe break), water will drop to the floors of the reactor chamber to be collected in a basin (the containment sump). Re-circulation pumps are supposed to recycle the water into the reactor vessel to supply necessary cooling. The problem that has now been detected concerns the possible clogging of the re-circulation pumps by debris from the originating accident. If the pumps get blocked, insufficient cooling water is pumped into the reactor risking meltdown. The problem is not limited to France, as this safety deficiency had also been detected in U.S. reactors and in other countries. Reactor operator EdF is now studying modifications to the system to prevent it from being blocked by debris. Modifications are projected to cost about 100 million Euros (US$ 127 million) for its 58 reactors. Edf plans to modify the reactors in 2005, a date which was criticized by anti nuclear groups as irresponsible and too slow. The French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) has classified the findings as level 2 on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES).
Although EdF considers the risk of clogging "very unlikely", Belgian reactors are planning for modifications this year already. Belgian safety authority AVN (Association Vincotte Nucleaire) told them in August 2002 to address the problem without delay. According to director general Van Binnebeek, the problem increases core damage frequency, "not by a hair, but by factors" of two or more.
In 2001, a similar anomaly was found in the re-circulation pumps when it appeared that insufficient cooling of valves could block the pumps and stop them from working. The problem was found in five French NPPs and was also classified as a level 2 incident (see WISE News Communique 548.5270: "France: regulator says fix those valves now").
www.asn.gouv.fr, 16 January 2004; Basler Zeitung, 8 January 2004; Nucleonics Week, 15 January 2004
U.S.: Ice condenser "initiation" halted by TVA.
(January 30, 2004) The company has stopped a longtime tradition at Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) NPPs after a report by its Inspector General's office (IG). As part of a workplace "initiation", new employees of the Sequoyah plant were sent into the ice condenser. The ice condensers, which ring the inside of the containment building, are filled with chips of ice. The system is used to reduce pressure in the containment building and to provide cooling water in case of an accident. Only nine U.S. plants have ice condensers. The IG observed that the practice was commonplace and known to managers at the plant. TVA subsequently forbade the "initiation" ritual and took disciplinary actions, ranging from warnings to sacking for involved personnel.
Nucleonics Week, 8 January 2004
Dutch NATO official convicted.
(January 30, 2004) A Haarlem court has sentenced Jan Willem Matser to a jail term of 14 months for fraud after attempting to cash forged bank securities worth 200 million Euro (US$ 250 million). (See WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor 599.5559 "Package deal on gold mine and Cernavoda-2?") The prosecution had sought a 3.5-year sentence but the judge decided to consider extenuating circumstances when making his verdict. The judge expressed sympathy with Matser, saying that as there were no previous convictions against him and since his actions were not solely for personal gain, a shorter sentence was more suitable. The two co-accused Piedro Fedino and Willem van Voorthuizen were sentence to 15 and 18 months respectively with 3 months of van Voorthuizen's sentence suspended. Both he and Matser were release immediately following sentencing as they had served the equivalent time while on remand. All three were found not guilty of being involved with a criminal organization and previous charges of money laundering leveled against Matser were also dropped.
Expatica News & ANP, 27 January 2004
Chernobyl documentary receives Oscar nomination.
(January 30, 2004) The Chernobyl Children's Project announced that the documentary "Chernobyl Heart", which features the work of the organization, has been shortlisted for the Acadamy Awards in the Best Short Documentary category. "Chernobyl Heart" is produced and directed by independent U.S. filmmaker Maryann DeLeo.
Www.chernobyl-ireland.com, 27 January 2004
European Commission to fund study on regional waste disposal.
(January 30, 2004) The EC is to fund a pilot study examining the feasibility of multinational waste repositories in Europe. It will be managed by Slovakia's DECOM and ARIUS (www.arius-world.org), which is based in Switzerland but has memberships from organizations in several countries. The initial phase will look at technical and legal requirements for a regional repository and will involve a dozen European countries.
WNA Weekly Digest, 23 January 2004