German nuclear waste commission submits final report
After more than two years of work, a commission considering the storage of Germany's high-level nuclear waste has submitted its final report to the government. The 32-member commission was established in May 2014 to develop criteria and processes to select a repository site. The commission's report says that site selection should be determined in a three-phase process accompanied by extensive public participation. The repository could be located in salt, clay or granite.
The commission hopes that a decision on a site can be reached by 2031 and the repository opened in 2050. But even that decades-long timetable was described by commission president Michael Mueller as "ambitious". The commission's report says that the repository might not open until "the next century".
Vitrified high-level wastes arising from reprocessing are held in above-ground stores facilities at Gorleben and Ahaus. The commission said the "controversial" Gorleben rock salt formation in Lower Saxony has not been excluded as a potential repository site. On July 5, the day the commission's report was released, environmentalists protested near the chancellor's office in Berlin, and Wendland farmers drove their tractors to the capital, calling for Gorleben to be excluded.
Radiation along Fukushima rivers 200 times higher than Pacific Ocean seabed
Radioactive contamination in the seabed off the Fukushima coast is hundreds of times above pre-2011 levels, while contamination in local rivers is up to 200 times higher than ocean sediment, according to results from Greenpeace Japan survey work released on July 21.
Ai Kashiwagi, Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace Japan, said: "These river samples were taken in areas where the Abe government is stating it is safe for people to live. But the results show there is no return to normal after this nuclear catastrophe."
Riverbank sediment samples taken along the Niida River in Minami Soma, measured as high as 29,800 Bq/kg for radiocaesium (Cs-134 and 137). The Niida samples were taken where there are no restrictions on people living, as were other river samples. At the estuary of the Abukuma River in Miyagi Prefecture, which lies more than 90 km north of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, levels measured in sediment samples were as high as 6,500 Bq/kg.
The lifting of further evacuation orders in March 2017 for areas that remain highly contaminated is a "looming human rights crisis and cannot be permitted to stand", Greenpeace said. The vast expanses of contaminated forests and freshwater systems will remain a perennial source of radioactivity for the foreseeable future, as these ecosystems cannot simply be decontaminated.
The report is online: Greenpeace, 2016, 'Atomic Depths: An assessment of freshwater and marine sediment contamination The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster ‒ Five years later', www.greenpeace.org/japan/Global/japan/pdf/20160721_AtomicDepths_ENG.pdf
EDF raided by French authorities
French finance authorities have raided the offices of energy utility EDF.1 Investigators from the Financial Markets Authority (AMF) raided EDF's Paris headquarters on July as part of a probe into EDF's disclosure of information to the market. Investigators are said to be concerned about the reporting of its domestic nuclear maintenance costs as well as the plans to develop new nuclear reactors in the UK.
Meanwhile, the EDF Board will meet on July 28 to make a decision on the Hinkley Point reactor project in the UK. It is expected that the Board will agree to move ahead with the project but with a delayed project commencement date of mid-2019, leaving time for EDF to sort out its own financial problems, to lock in funding for the project ... and perhaps to back out of the project if further problems emerge before the 2019 commencement date.2
The EDF Works Council (trade unions) recently initiated new legal action to delay the decision on whether to proceed with Hinkley Point, with a Paris court hearing scheduled for August 2. The works council had already filed a separate legal action to force EDF to release confidential documents about the project.3
Canada: expert whistleblowers call for safety inquiry
Experts at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission have released a letter detailing allegations of inadequate safety standards. Writing anonymously, because of inadequate whistleblower protections, the experts point to five separate cases in which the commission's staff sat on relevant information about risk or non-compliance that might have called the safety of a nuclear plant into question.
They say nuclear hazards have been underestimated, plant operators have been permitted to skip requirements of the licensing regime, and assessments outlining what could happen in the event of a major nuclear disaster have been withheld from the commissioners and the public.
The whistleblowers' letter is posted at: http://tinyurl.com/cnsc-whistle
For more information on the problems with nuclear regulation in Canada see http://m.greenpeace.org/international/en/base/news/Blogs/nuclear-reactio...
Chain Reaction for nuclear disarmament
Chain Reaction 2016, a series of events and actions at nuclear-weapons and nuclear-disarmament related sites around the world, was launched earlier this month in Sydney, Australia during an International Peoples' Tribunal on Nuclear Weapons and the Destruction of Human Civilisation.
Chain Reaction 2016 includes a range of creative actions around the world from July until October. A number of international peace, religious, environment and law networks are participating through fasts, vigils, exhibitions, bike rides, walks, symposiums, parliamentary lobbying days, symbolic events and other actions to demonstrate that people around the world are calling for nuclear abolition.
Chain Reaction 2016 is highlighting a number of international opportunities to make progress on nuclear disarmament, including a case lodged in the International Court of Justice by the Marshall Islands against the nuclear-armed States, the UN Secretary-General's Five Point Proposal for Nuclear Disarmament, a UN Open Ended Working Group on Taking Forward Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament Negotiations, and a UN High Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament to take place in 2018.