U.S. utility admits cover up.
(January 27, 2006) FirstEnergy Corp. has admitted that some of its lied to regulators about safety violations at the Davis-Besse plant in Ohio but the utility has managed to reach a deal with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) in order to avoid being indicted. The company’s nuclear operating unit, FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Co. (FENOC) agreed to a pay a US$28 million penalty and cooperate with criminal and administrative investigations and proceedings. FENOC will also pay a fine of US$5.45 million to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the corrosion problem.
Davis-Besse was closed down in 2002 following the discovery of a boric acid leakage that had made a hole in the reactor vessel head. Two former plant workers and a contractor were indicted over the cover-up in Ohio on January 19. The three men are charged with working to conceal the condition of the reactor vessel head and of lying about the extent of inspections carried out at the plant. If convicted the men face 20-25 years in prison, while their former employer gets let off with a fine. The plant went back into operation in 2004 after the vessel head was replaced and various staff changes made - safety programs at the plant were also revised.
Reuters, January 23, 2006
South Carolina’s radwaste burden to triple.
(January 27, 2006) While promising to protect workers, surrounding communities and the environment, a recent U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announcement will result in the establishment of the Savannah River Site (SRS) as a permanent nuclear dump. The new DOE policy, the first regarding liquid high-level waste currently stored in tanks at SRS, will signal the dumping of an amount of radioactivity that will double that already buried at the neighbouring Barnwell nuclear dump. Barnwell, a 235-acre site, takes waste from commercial nuclear power reactors and in 2003 already held waste with an estimated radioactive burden of 3 million curies. If all the waste impacted by the DOE’s decision were to be dumped at SRS, it would be equivalent to 75 new Barwells on the Savannah River.
Joint NIRS, Action for a Clean Environment and Carolina Peace Resource Center press release, January 23, 2006
TMI workers sleeping on the job.
(January 27, 2006) AmerGen Energy, the operator of Three Mile Island and subsidiary of Exelon Nuclear, has revealed that it has been investigating reports of ‘inattentiveness’ by employees during the last two years. (Inattentiveness is industry speak for sleeping) In December, the Patriot-News reported two incidents of ‘inattentiveness’ involving a security guard and a shift manager near the control room and now AmerGen itself has disclosed three other cases, two involving security guards, found in a state of ‘inattentiveness’ in 2004 and 2005. The company said that none of the incidents had any impact on the safe operation of the plant and that the workers had been disciplined. The case of the shift manager, however, remains under investigation. Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials are said to be monitoring the case but it is unknown whether the agency will conduct its own probe. Eric Epstein of the Three Mile Island Alert watchdog group called for an independent investigation to look at just how common an occurrence ‘inattentiveness’ is at the plant and how many people regularly engaged in the activity while at work.
The Patriot-News, January 18, 2006
Radioactive produce still arriving at Moscow’s markets.
(January 27, 2006) Nearly 20 years after Chernobyl, large amounts of radioactive goods are still reaching market stalls in Moscow from the west of the country and Belarus. In 2005, some 830 kilograms of radioactive produce were seized by officials at markets in Russia’s capital according to a spokesperson from Radon, the municipal authority in charge of radioactivity security. Much of this produce consists of mushrooms and berries. Radon is called in when contaminated goods are found - all market places have a laboratory that checks goods before sale - and the agency is charged with removing and treating the goods, which are classed as radioactive waste.
AFP, January 18, 2006
EU Commission to recommend nuclear power.
(January 27, 2006) EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs has said that the Commission would put more emphasis on recommending nuclear power in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine gas row. Piebalgs told the Viennese newspaper the Standard, “Which states build atomic energy plants, they have to decide for themselves. But new nuclear power stations must be built under market conditions. I don’t see any subsidy mechanisms any more. Up till now many plants were indirectly subsidized.”
Deutsche Presse-Agentur, January 5, 2006
Sudan accused of illicit nuclear deals.
(January 27, 2006) A European intelligence assessment obtained by the Guardian newspaper suggests that Sudan has been acting as a conduit for engineering equipment that could be used in nuclear weapons programmes. Between 1999 and 2001, Sudan imported 20 million pounds (almost US$36 million) worth of dual-use equipment and it is thought that at least some of the equipment came from Germany. Front companies and third countries were used to import machine tools, gauges and hi-tech processing equipment from western Europe for Sudan’s military industries in recent years.
Western governments, intelligence agencies and international investigators have been alarmed by the extent of the black market and are especially concerned about the whereabouts of the equipment purchased, which has since disappeared from Sudan. It is thought that the goods were probably traded by the A. Q. Khan’s proliferation ring - Khan is known to have visited Sudan between 1998 and 2002. It is feared that there could also be a link to al-Qaida given that Osama bin Laden was a resident there before moving to Afghanistan.
Although Sudan does have a small civil nuclear programme, the equipment it purchased is believed to be too sophisticated for its own use.
The Guardian, January 5, 2006
Suspected DU death.
(January 27, 2006) A Peruvian security guard in Iraq as part of the country’s 200-man contingent has died a few hours after returning to Lima, Peru, and just days after having been diagnosed as suffering with severe leukemia in Baghdad. Wilder Guitierrez Rubio, 38, was immediately flown home following the diagnosis. The World Socialist Web Site.org reported that Guitierrez had been sent to Iraq in early October to provide in Baghdad’s Green Zone and is believed to have contracted leukemia due to exposure to the high levels of uranium in the country.
UPI, December 29, 2005
German renewables producing more power.
(January 27, 2006) Renewable sources are now producing more energy than nuclear power stations in Germany. The German Renewable Energy Federation (BEE) has reported that the renewable sector has also created 150,000 new jobs as well as displacing some 80 million tones of CO2 emissions in 2005. Nuclear has contributed less than six percent of the entire energy consumed in Germany for years while the renewables sector made of 6.4 percent of the electricity, heat and fuels consumed in 2005 - up from five percent in 2004. BEE manager Milan Nitzschke explained that over the years, distorted energy statistics have systematically drawn a false picture of the contribution nuclear makes to the total energy supply. “What was measured was the use of uranium, of whose energy content less than a third reaches the consumer as electricity.” Nitzschke further explains that it is not primary energy but final energy - what reaches the consumer - that counts. “If you’re clear on just how little atomic energy actually contributes to the energy supply in Germany and the world, it’s hard to follow the notion of some politicians that we could get away from fossil fuels with nuclear power.”
New Energy, No. 5, October 2005 (www.neueenergie.net)