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Nuclear News - Nuclear Monitor #820 - 16 March 2016

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

No prosecution for massive spill at Australian uranium mine

In December 2013 a tank collapse resulted in a spill of 1.4 million of radioactive slurry at the Ranger uranium mine in Australia's Northern Territory. Investigations found that damage to a rubber liner had allowed the acidic mixture to corrode the steel wall of the tank, leading to its failure. Operations at the mine were suspended for six months.

Over two years later, the NT Department of Mines and Energy has decided not to prosecute Rio Tinto subsidiary Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) for the massive spill. The Department claimed "that it is not in the public interest to prosecute ERA under the Mining Management Act" ... or any other Act.

The decision was "derelict, deficient and deeply disappointing", said Dave Sweeney from the Australian Conservation Foundation. "Many people expected the regulator to step up and regulate – these people and Kakadu deserve better than this failed and flaccid response from the Department."

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam said: "The regulator failed to prevent the spill, they took years to deliberate, and came up with nothing. They've essentially announced to mining companies in the NT that there are no legal consequences for catastrophic negligence. We urge the NT government to reverse this decision immediately and force ERA to be accountable."

Under the terms of ERA's lease all mining and processing at Ranger is required to cease by January 2021. The company is legally obliged to rehabilitate the site so it can be incorporated into the surrounding World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park by 2026.

Mapped: The world's nuclear power plants

Carbon Brief has produced a useful online resource showing the location, operating status and generating capacity of all 667 power reactors that have been built, or are under construction, around the world. The website also provides a useful snapshot of the sick and sorry state of the nuclear power industry worldwide, with statistical information on increased construction times, the aging of the global fleet of nuclear reactors, nuclear power's economic negative learning curve, and nuclear's falling share of worldwide electricity generation.

Switzerland to start nuclear phase-out in December 2019

BKW is to permanently shut down its 373 MW Muehleberg nuclear power plant in western Switzerland on December 20, 2019, the company said on March 2. Muehleberg is to be the first Swiss nuclear plant to close under a federal government plan to phase out the country's entire 3.3 GW nuclear fleet by 2035. BKW had intended to operate the plant until 2022, but in October 2013, the company announced it would close the plant in 2019, three years ahead of schedule, to avoid making long-term investments in the plant. BKW concluded that a weak power price outlook – in particular impacted by continuing expansion in renewable power in neighbouring Germany – could not justify the significant investments required for longer-term operations.

Situation of the five Swiss nuclear power reactors as of August 2015:

Beznau I

365 MW

46 years old

Beznau II

365 MW

44 years old


373 MW

43 years old


970 MW

36 years old


1190 MW

31 years old

Nuclear energy conference in Prague

The third annual Nuclear Energy Conference, 'Nuclear Energy – Expensive Gamble' will be held in Prague on Tuesday April 5, 2016. It is organized by Hnutí DUHA (FoE Czech Republic), Calla – Association for Preservation of the Environment, and South Bohemian Mothers. Emmerich Seidelberger will address risks of the nuclear power industry in the world; Ian Fairlie will reflect on the Chernobyl disaster; speakers will address nuclear safety issues in Belgium, Slovakia and France; Oda Becker and Jan Jílek will report on the results of the risk and safety assessments carried out in response to Fukushima; and Tobias Heldt will discuss the issue of limited liability for nuclear damage. The Conference is free of charge. Translation into English, German and Czech will be provided.