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Nuclear News - Nuclear Monitor #831 - 5 October 2016

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Pensioner holds up transportation of nuclear warheads

77-year-old anti-nuclear campaigner Brian Quail and his colleague Alasdair Ibbotson managed to hold up four trucks thought be carrying nuclear warheads on September 14, by simply flagging them down and then crawling underneath. The trucks had left the Atomic Weapons Establishment Burghfield near Reading, England before making their way to Scotland. But in Stirling, Scotland, Quail and Ibbotson managed to hold up the convoy for 15 minutes.

Quail, a retired teacher, has a successful track record when it comes to stopping convoys carrying warheads. In March this year he held up at least four 100 kiloton nuclear warheads being taken through Scotland using a pedestrian traffic crossing.

S&P warns European utilities' nuclear liabilities have "shot up"

Standard & Poor's said on September 27 that European utilities' nuclear liabilities "shot up" over the past 18 months and have moved "well beyond" the €100bn (£86bn) mark.1 The credit ratings agency warned that long-term liabilities are becoming more short-term and sometimes carry immediate funding needs.

The situation could worsen if further weakness in power prices results in more reactor closures. "We think provisions are poised to increase to cover the costs of decommissioning works and disposing of nuclear waste," S&P Global ratings analyst Pierre Georges said.

It represents another problem for a sector which is already struggling with diminishing profitability and cash flow. S&P has six of Europe's main nuclear operators on a negative outlook, meaning they could be subject to future downgrades.

Meanwhile, EU plans for financing the decommissioning of nuclear plants in Bulgaria, Lithuania and Slovakia are inadequate and more resources need to be put aside, the European Court of Auditors said in a report.2 The report criticized costly delays and warned of technical hurdles ahead. The EU's spending watchdog said the estimated cost of decommissioning the three Soviet-era plants, closed more than a decade ago, had risen 40% since 2010 to at least €5.7 billion euros. That figure doubles if the cost of final disposal of spent fuel is included.

According to EU Commission data, only three out of the 91 reactors shutdown in Europe have been fully dismantled. A working paper by the European Commission, seen by Reuters in February, showed the bloc was short of more than €118 billion needed to dismantle its nuclear plants.

1. 27 Sept 2016,

2. 20 Sept 2016,

Nuclear Power: Game Over

Professor Derek Abbott, a physicist and electrical engineer at the University of Adelaide, Australia, shows why the pipe-dreams of the pro-nuclear propagandists are precisely that. Using a wealth of empirical data illustrating global trends, he ably debunks the pro-nuclear arguments. Beyond Nuclear summarizes some of Prof. Abbott's key points: 

On China: "Nuclear apologists point to China as a role model that is actively building a number of NPPs. The fact is that China has built $160 billion in overcapacity of coal plants that are unused. Will their NPPs [nuclear power plants], which are presently under construction, become similarly redundant? ... By contrast, in 2015, China invested five times more in renewables than nuclear power. Those nuclear projects will take many years to complete, whereas renewables are deployed and put to immediate use."

Getting uranium from seawater "is a fruitless suggestion as the uranium concentration is tiny, at 3.3 parts per billion. The energy it takes to lift a bucket of sea water 50 metres is equal to the energy you'd get from the uranium."

Nuclear vs. renewables: "Nuclear power is large and centralised, with enormous entry and exit costs. By contrast, renewables are made up of small modular units that yield a faster return on investment. The revolution we are witnessing is akin to the extinction of big powerful dinosaurs versus resilient swarms of small ants working in cooperation." 

Nuclear can't solve renewable intermittency: "Generators designed for constant baseload operation are exactly what uncontrollable renewable generators don't need. Uncontrollable renewables need flexible controlled sources of power such as hydroelectric power, pumped hydro, waste biofuels, solar thermal, and solar generated hydrogen or syngas to provide power when generation from intermittent renewable sources is insufficient to meet demand. Nuclear power plants work best when they provide constant power output and they lack the agility to follow the variability of renewable generators."

Nuclear is not needed to solve grid instability: "First, nuclear power is not needed because controllable renewable sources ... already stabilise the grid. It is true that other renewable sources do give rise to grid management issues, but this is bread and butter for grid engineers. There are numerous research papers by grid engineers developing solutions for increased renewable penetration and none are suggesting the need for nuclear power."

The full article is online: Derek Abbott, Oct–Dec 2016, 'Nuclear Power: Game Over', Australian Quarterly,

AREVA / EdF safety scandal escalates

Greenpeace reports:

Greenpeace France published a report on September 29 on the safety crisis affecting much of the EdF reactor fleet due to the AREVA carbon steel scandal. The report by consulting engineers Large & Associates of London, focuses on the Flamanville EPR, on steam generators installed in EdF reactors with carbon contents in excess of regulations and finally the anomalies and falsification at the AREVA le Creusot Forge.

After several months of investigation, the conclusion reveals the gravity of the situation: a total of 28 nuclear reactors are affected by the crisis, with at least 18 EdF reactors classified as operating at risk of major accident due to carbon anomalies in steam generators, for a total of 44% of French nuclear capacity under suspicion.

Large & Associates obtained documents from the IRSN (French Institute for Radio-protection and Nuclear Safety) that rejects AREVA/EdF's assurances that there is no safety risk from steam generators with excess carbon. The IRSN warned the ASN that there is a risk of rupture which could lead to a reactor core fuel melt.

"As a result of AREVA's failures, a significant share of the French nuclear reactor fleet is at increased risk of radiological accident, including fuel core meltdown," said John Large of Large & Associates. "However, there is no simple or quick fix to this problem. The testing and inspection regime currently underway by AREVA and EdF is incapable of detecting the extent of the carbon problem and cannot ensure against the risk of rapid component failure. It is most certain that the IRSN finding will equally apply to replacement steam generators exported by AREVA to overseas nuclear power plants around the world."

The report shows that the reactor pressure vessel heads of the Flamanville EPR, which are already installed, do not have a certificate of conformity issued by the French regulator, ASN. Large demonstrates that the only sure way to ensure Flamanville EPR complies with certification standards would be to remove the two heads and install replacements.

Shaun Burnie, nuclear specialist at Greenpeace Germany, said: "In addition to the reactors at clear risk of accident, EdF plans for new AREVA steam generators must be halted given the scale of what is being uncovered and the implications for nuclear safety. Quality control and compliance procedures have been thrown out the window by AREVA, leading to what we consider the largest ever crisis in the French nuclear industry, and with no end in sight."

Large & Associates, Sept. 2016, 'Review: Irregularities and Anomalies Relating to the Forged Components of Le Creusot Forge',

Oliver Tickell, 29 Sept 2016, 'Sizewell B and 27 other EDF nuclear plants 'at risk of catastrophic failure'',

Standard and Poor downgrade EdF over Hinkley

EdF's credit rating has been downgraded after the UK government's decision to approve the Hinkley Point C reactor project. The heavily indebted French company, 85% owned by the French government, has had its rating chopped from A/A-1 to A-/A-2 by Standard & Poor's, the US ratings agency, leaving it four notches above junk status.1 S&P believes that the risk of constructing the two-reactor plant is high and the huge investment will strain EdF's already overstretched balance sheet. However, S&P issued a "stable" outlook on the group, reflecting the French government's decision to help to stabilise its finances. That was an improvement on a previous "negative" outlook.

Moody's has also downgraded EdF credit ratings across a spectrum of credit instruments.2 EdF's long-term issuer and senior unsecured ratings fell from A2 to A3 while perpetual junior subordinated debt ratings fell to Baa3 from Baa2. Moody's also downgraded to Prime-2 from Prime-1 the group's short-term ratings.

According to Moody's, "the rating downgrade reflects its view that the action plan announced by EdF in April 2016, which includes government support, will not be sufficient to fully offset the adverse impact of the incremental risks associated the Hinkley Point C (HPC) project on the group's credit profile. Moody's believes that the significant scale and complexity of the HPC project will affect the group's business and financial risk profiles. This is because the HPC project will expose EdF and its partner China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN, A3 negative) to significant construction risk as the plant will use the same European Pressurised reactor (EPR) technology that has been linked with material cost overruns and delays at Flamanville in France and Olkiluoto 3 in Finland. In addition, none of the four plants using the EPR technology currently constructed globally is operational yet."


2. Oliver Tickell, 29 Sept 2016, 'Sizewell B and 27 other EDF nuclear plants 'at risk of catastrophic failure'',