Russian inquiry into rumored nuclear disaster. (November 12, 2004) An accident at Balakovo NPP on 4 November caused the shutdown of the reactor between 4-6 November after a 7cm crack was found in a pipe of the primary water circuit. Although it was not a large accident, rumors of a nuclear explosion and large radiation release spread quickly across the surrounding region. Residents rushed to buy iodine medicines (taken orally to prevent radiation damage to body's cells) but a few people were poisoned and required hospitalization. Authorities have been quick to blame "Green" activists for provoking hysteria but environmentalists have pointed to the lack of public information when the accident was first reported leading to widespread panic. In an open letter to the head of the Federal Agency for Atomic Power, Ecodefense called for independent inspections (by environmental groups) at Balakovo and other NPPs across Russia and improved communication from the industry. In an official response, the agency said it would be willing to discuss such cooperation with environmental groups.
RIA Novosti, 11 November 2004; Ecodefense by email, 10 November 2004; AFP, 8 November 2004
Israel re-arrests Vanunu.
(November 12, 2004) After already serving 18 years in prison for blowing the whistle on Israel's illicit nuclear program, Mordechai Vanunu was re-arrested on 11 November for allegedly passing classified information to unnamed international parties. The "classified information" was reportedly found during an armed police raid (with around 30 officers) of Vanunu's room at the Saint George Anglican Church where he has been staying since his release from prison. Vanunu is expected to appear in court on 12 November.
The Guardian, 11 November 2004; US Campaign to Free Mordechai Vanunu by email, 11 November 2004
European Commission reports on decommissioning.
(November 12, 2004) On 26 October, the European Commission released a report on decommissioning funding in EU countries. The report was a consequence of the "common rules for the internal market in electricity", adopted in 2003. The European parliament asked for separate funds, managed by independent bodies, but the Commission refused to turn this into law and instead proposed issuing a "recommendation" in 2005 for sufficient resources to be set aside. The present report observes widely varying methods of funding the dismantling of NPPs. Some countries opt for immediate dismantling, which requires huge sums of money while others choose to delay dismantling, which postpones the need for adequate funds. The management of these funds and transparency also varies widely from country to country. Friends of the Earth Europe called the present report contemptible and accused the Commission of shielding nuclear utilities from market discipline through an ongoing failure to uphold rules on fair competition.
Euractive.com, 1 November 2004; FOE Europe press release, 26 October 2004
Japan approves MOX-burning reactor.
(November 12, 2004) The Ehime prefectural government on 1 November approved a plutonium-thermal project by Shikoku Electric Power Co. to burn mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel at the number 3 pressurized-water reactor in Ikatacho. The town of Ikata has already given the go-ahead and once the formal go-ahead is given by the national government, Shikoku Electric will buy MOX fuel for the project.
The Japan Times, 2 November 2004; The Daily Yomiuri, 2 November 2004
Russian scientist surrenders plutonium.
(November 12, 2004) Russian atomic scientist Leonid Grigorov surrendered 8 containers of arms-grade nuclear material he had kept in his garage for 8 years to police on 2 November. The former scientist claimed to have removed the 400 grams of plutonium-238 from a disused Siberian laboratory for safekeeping after the lab was looted following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The scientist said he had tried to alert former bosses to the danger but had received no response. Although local police are quoted as saying that Grigorov was right to hide the material, he may still face criminal charges.
Reuters, 4 November 2004; BBC News, 2 November 2004
Sweden: Greens try to block cable link to Finland.
(November 12, 2004) The Swedish Greens have filed a parliamentary motion to stop a plan to construct a high-voltage undersea cable from Finland to Sweden. According to the Greens, Sweden is helping to develop the fifth Finish reactor by financing the cable project with US$ 285.7 million. The cable would export electricity from the new reactor to Sweden.
Nucleonics Week, 4 November 2004
France to sell third of Areva.
(November 12, 2004) The French government is to carry out a plan to sell one third of nuclear power company, Areva, on the Paris stock exchange early next year. The sale is expected to raise over 3.5 billion Euro (US$4.51 billion) and will increase the amount of publicly traded Areva shares from 35 to 40%.
The New York Times, 11 November 2004
Norway: study on cancer link.
(November 12, 2004) The government of Norway is preparing a report on radioactive emissions during the 1950s and 1960s from the Kjeller laboratory in an effort to determine whether those who grew up in the area are at higher risk of developing cancer or other health problems. The report should be ready by February 2005. The Norwegian NGO Bellona has been demanding a study of the emissions and noted that about 30 residents from the area who have cancer have publicly said they believe radioactive emissions from Kjeller caused their illnesses. Research reactors at Kjeller were used for isotope production and another is still in operation.
Nucleonics Week, 4 November 2004
Swiss Greens slam plans for new nuclear plants.
(November 12, 2004) Anti-nuclear groups have criticized plans for a new nuclear power station to replace aging plants in Switzerland. The groups, including WWF Switzerland, the Swiss Energy Foundation, the Greens and the Social Democratic Party, say renewable energy could produce as much power as is currently generated by the three nuclear reactors and dismissed industry allegations that Switzerland was facing a shortage of power unless electricity output could be increased. The comments came ahead of a debate in the cantonal parliament of Bern about the future of the Mühleberg power plant near the capital, Bern. The Bern energy utility company wants to extend the life span of the nuclear plant.
Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 10 November 2004
Appeal against Hungarian waste to Chelyabinsk. Russian environmental groups and over 5,000 residents of the Russian Chelyabinsk region have urged the newly appointed Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany to halt plans to export spent fuel to Chelyabinsk. The fuel is to be transported to the "Mayak" facility. In April, a special protocol was signed by both countries that allows future contracts for spent fuel handling. "Mayak" is known for its bad environmental reputation after liquid radioactive waste was dumped into open lakes and rivers over the past four decades. In 2002, the Russian Supreme Court confirmed that a 1998 transport of spent fuel was illegal. Russian NGO Ecodefense (WISE Russia) demands that such transports never happen again.
Ecodefense press release, 27 October 2004
Level 2 incident in Sweden. An incident rated at Level 2 on the INES scale has occurred in Studsvik when iridium-192 contaminated a laboratory via the ventilation system. Inspectors at the Swedish Radiation Protection Authority (SSI) have been investigating since the incident occurred on 20 September. Workers at the laboratory were said to have escaped serious injury.
Platts Nuclear News Flashes, 26 October 2004
Russian nuclear industry's math problem. According to a new study obtained by environmental group, Ecodefense, the Russian government's plan to import foreign irradiated (spent) nuclear fuel failed to include specific costing for the storage of nuclear materials and the utilization of radioactive waste. The "forgotten" amount is nearly US$34 billion, which when added to the official projected cost, brings the grand total for the scheme to over US$44 billion. The report on the economics of nuclear waste import asserts that officials failed to include various pertinent costs in the economic assessment. Ecodefense accused the government of wasting taxpayer's money while further damaging and endangering the environment and Russia's economy.
Ecodefense press release, 22 October 2004
Portugal rejects nuclear power. Portugal's center-right government said on 22 October it had ruled out using nuclear energy to reduce the nation's high dependency on oil. A government report outlining options for Portugal's energy future, which was analyzed by the cabinet, proposed using nuclear power and reviving a giant dam project in northern Portugal. But both options were unanimously rejected. The country is one of the most oil-dependent members of the European Union along with Spain, Ireland and Greece.
Agence France-Presse, 22 October 2004
Uranium found in Russian dump. Security forces in Russia have seized two containers of highly radioactive uranium-238 found by homeless people at a waste dump in Central Russia. A scrap dealer raised the alarm when the containers were offered for sale as scrap metal. Observers have been raising the issue of unsecured nuclear materials from Soviet-era nuclear facilities for some time, fearing that the materials could be used by terrorists.
The Times, 20 October 2004
Romanian smuggled machine gun into nuclear plant. Romanian police have arrested a man who smuggled a handmade machine gun into the country's sole nuclear power plant hidden in a bag. The 31-year old man, a locksmith at the 750-megawatt reactor on the river Danube in Cernavoda, told investigators that he was offered about US$3 to smuggle the bag into the plant and hide it there. Police have launched an investigation into the incident.
Reuters, 22 October 2004
Unwanted guest at Indian NPP. The Tarapur nuclear power station and the adjacent Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) are playing host to a panther that managed to evade traps set by officials. The animal has been seen roaming the number 3 and 4 reactors. Employees at both facilities have refused to work the nightshift; afraid they might become the panther's next meal…
Web.mid-day.com (Mumbai news), 25 October 2004