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Sellafield, Britain's nuclear heartland

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Andrew Blowers

In the third of a series of articles on the local and social legacies of nuclear energy, Andrew Blowers looks at the search for a solution for radioactive wastes in the UK.

I still possess a lapel badge acquired back in the 1980s with the simple legend 'I've been to Sellafield!'. The badges were issued as part of a publicity campaign designed to lure tourists to Britain's notorious and (in)famous nuclear complex – the largest industrial site in the UK. The ironic challenge of the message was underlined more explicitly by a contemporary cartoon bearing the invitation to 'Visit Sellafield before Sellafield visits you'. Such messages endorsed and even promoted an image of Sellafield as distant but dangerous. Other soubriquets such as 'Sellafield – the nuclear laundry' or 'Britain's nuclear dustbin' hint at its mysterious and unglamorous purpose at the heart of the country's nuclear operations.

The most dangerous place on earth?

So what is Sellafield? Fundamentally, these days, it is the UK's primary nuclear waste-processing, management and clean-up facility. Concentrated on a compact site of 1.5 square miles is a jumble of buildings, pipes, roads, railways and waterways, randomly assembled over more than half a dozen decades, which together manage around two-thirds by radioactivity of all the radioactive wastes in the UK. The Sellafield radioactive waste component includes all the high-level wastes (less than 1% by volume, over half the radioactivity) held in liquid form or stored in vitrified blocks, and half the volume of intermediate-level wastes (the other half being held at various sites around the country). The bulk of the nation's low-level wastes (90% by volume, 0.1% radioactivity) are disposed of in a nearby shallow repository at Drigg.

In addition, Sellafield hosts the spent fuel from the Magnox reactors due to be reprocessed by the end of the decade, as well as some spent fuel from AGRs (advanced gas-cooled reactors) awaiting reprocessing or storage. Sellafield also has the world's largest single stockpile of plutonium, amounting to 123 tonnes in 2013 and rising to 140 tonnes by 2020, including around 15 tonnes currently foreign owned and formally due for repatriation in some form.

These wastes arise from the range of nuclear activities carried out since Sellafield (then Windscale) began operations in the early post-war years. They comprise wastes arising from the plant's initial military function of producing plutonium for the atom bomb and subsequently wastes mainly derived from reprocessing spent fuel from the civil nuclear programme (Magnox and AGR) and those originating from reprocessing foreign fuels.

In the early years, in an atmosphere of trust in technology and pride in being in the vanguard of both military and civil nuclear development, far less attention was paid to waste management. Wastes, liquids, metals, fuels, sludges and debris, uncharacterised and often unrecorded, were literally dumped into poorly constructed ponds and silos and left to stew. These structures include building B29, an open, single-skinned storage pond, and B30 ('Dirty Thirty'), considered by some to be 'the most dangerous industrial building in Europe' but rivalled for the epithet by B38, containing cladding and fuels mixed in with other wastes. These and other legacy ponds and silos have deteriorated over the years, and now 'there is increased urgency to reduce the intolerable risks they pose'.1

The probability of a major radioactivity incident may be very low indeed, but the possibility persists, a fact brought home to me some years ago when standing on a platform above a massive concrete shield below which were highly active liquor (HAL) tanks containing 99% of the radioactivity from spent nuclear fuel. I turned to my colleague, a renowned radiation scientist, and asked him how safe we were. He looked up at the miles of cables and pipes above us, indicating their exposed vulnerability in the event of disruption which could affect the cooling of the liquors below, releasing a massive burst of radioactivity, and commented: 'You could say we are standing on the most dangerous place on earth.' In rather less hyperbolic language the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) considers HAL 'the most significant hazard on the plant' and its containment a priority.2

Safe management of the legacy wastes is by far the most important and challenging function of Sellafield today. The long-term plan is to retrieve, characterise, encapsulate or vitrify the Sellafield inventory in preparation for deep burial in a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF). But that prospect is a far-off possibility; the reality is that for the foreseeable future the bulk of Sellafield's wastes will have to be managed at the surface.

A community at the periphery

Sellafield is a physical reality in a social context. Like Hanford in the USA,3 it is a classic example of a peripheral nuclear community, revealing all five characteristics associated with the concept. It is, first, geographically remote, in the sense that it is, in UK terms, relatively far from major population centres, founded on a wartime Royal Ordnance factory, offering safety, security and secrecy for the clandestine operations of the nation's military nuclear project. It is situated in West Cumbria on a plain between the iconic Lake District landscape and the Irish Sea, far from motorways, airports or mainline railways.

Its physical isolation has inspired a second social characteristic, a perception of distinctiveness on the part of West Cumbrians, whom, according to a sociological study in the early 1990s, 'saw their area as 'different' and separate from the rest of society'.4

This peculiar cultural identity, which may be described as a 'nuclear culture', has been attested to in several studies of Sellafield and West Cumbria.5 It is a complex combination of feelings, values and attitudes, pervasive yet contradictory. Within this culture is a sense of resignation, an acceptance of Sellafield as a place of risk and rejection. This inferiority is tempered by a contrary resilience – an assertion of its role as guardian of the nation's dangerous radioactive materials and waste. Overall, there is a sense of realism 'about uncertainties, about lack of power and control... mitigated by positive recognition of the industry's vital role in the area'.4

The third peripheral characteristic is economic, a condition of dominance and dependence. Sellafield is unquestionably the dominant economic activity in West Cumbria, with around 10,000 people directly employed and the local economy substantially dependent on the income and investment in related research and local economic projects that the plant produces. This dominance has some negative effects, notably the deterrent effect of Sellafield's high wages and its monopoly of available skilled labour. This is reflected in the quite stark inequalities of income and evidence of deprivation in some parts of the area, a paradox of poverty in the shadow of a nuclear leviathan.

Nevertheless, the priority given to Sellafield's clean-up pretty well guarantees an annual state investment (through the NDA – the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority) approaching £2 billion per year, and it is estimated that Sellafield will absorb around three-quarters (£120 billion) of the total of £164 billion discounted provision for future clean-up liabilities of the nation's nuclear estate over the next 120 years. Sustainable employment is assured for at least 30 years, with slow decline thereafter.

The uneven development of the West Cumbrian economy is reflected in a fourth characteristic: the inequalities of power relations encountered in the region. At one level West Cumbria evinces powerlessness, an industry and an area at the periphery where key decisions affecting wellbeing and welfare are taken outside the region, in corporate headquarters, government ministries, and regulatory bodies. A sense of paranoia is understandable from the recurrent exposures of Sellafield's poor financial management, escalating costs, under-performance, technical failures, accidents and incidents, cover-ups, and organisational deficiencies. But Sellafield seems to hold much of the local community of West Cumbria as some kind of fiefdom, such is its economic, social and political sway over the region. In the context of its national significance and regional importance, Sellafield exercises political leverage that confounds its apparent subordination.

Sellafield draws power from the fifth characteristic of peripheral communities: the fact that the community is living with environmental risk that is unwanted but unavoidable. Rather like Hanford, community and industry have developed a relationship built on a mixture of defensive pride and reluctant recognition of their role and responsibility in bearing a burden on behalf of the nation. Over the years this combination has enabled the community to endure the adversities and respond to the possibilities as it undergoes the vicissitudes of its long transition from production to clean-up.

The long transition

In the frenetic post-war years Sellafield (then Windscale) was almost wholly dedicated to the production of nuclear materials, first for military purposes, later for a range of prototype and experimental facilities. The inevitable accompanying production of waste was of little interest or account. The fundamental function, reprocessing, was initially for plutonium production, using spent fuel from the first reactors.

The scope of reprocessing widened as it became necessary to reprocess Magnox spent fuel, and, later, the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (THORP) began operating in 1997 to reprocess spent fuel from the second-generation AGR reactors as well as foreign spent fuel (mainly from Germany and Japan). THORP marked a turning point in the transition from production to clean-up at Sellafield as its function, viability and performance were challenged, and subsequently the plant experienced delays, cost overruns, technical problems and chronic under-performance, leading to failure to meet its domestic and foreign business expectations. The plutonium stockpile grew far beyond its military needs and its use in mixed-oxide fuel (MOX).

The Sellafield MOX plant proved an even more abject failure, opening in 2001 with a capacity of 120 tonnes a year, producing only 5tonnes in its first five years and declared failed and closed down in 2011.

By the end of this decade reprocessing at Sellafield will have finished. Effectively, Sellafield will then have become, like Hanford, almost wholly a waste management and clean-up complex. The transition from nuclear laundry to nuclear dustbin will be complete. Its future was summed up by Adrian Simper, the NDA's Director of Strategy and Technology, during our conversation in 2014:

'There is a hundred years of going forward. A commitment to clean-up and an important mission to carry out. There is no future in reprocessing. Employment is stable and the new priority is clean-up.'

Searching for solutions

Storage of nuclear wastes at Sellafield and at other sites around the country for however long is regarded as an interim solution. The search for a permanent solution to the problem of managing these wastes began in earnest after the Flowers Report pronounced in 1976 that there should be no further commitment to nuclear energy unless it could be demonstrated that long-lived highly radioactive wastes could be safely contained for the indefinite future.6

During the 1980s, efforts to find suitable sites, whether for deep disposal of high-level and long-lived intermediate-level wastes (ILW) or for shallow burial of short-lived ILW and low-level wastes, met with trenchant opposition, both within and between the communities, sufficient to force withdrawal of the proposals. These efforts were focused on finding suitable geology for deep disposal or available locations such as an abandoned mine at Billingham, disused airfields, munitions dumps, or sites in public ownership. They all had in common a classic exercise of 'decide, announce, defend', leading inexorably to abandonment in the face of determined opposition.7

The technical focus of these efforts had signally failed to take into account the social context. A new approach was inaugurated, combining economic and scientific criteria to identify a range of possibly suitable sites, but this time involving the public to assist in developing acceptable proposals. By this means Sellafield emerged as the most favourable site where consultation had found a measure of public support. Despite the effort to combine scientific rigour and public acceptability, the selection had all the hallmarks of a predetermined solution concocted through a closed process of decision-making and relying on Sellafield as the path of least public resistance.

Sellafield the solution, or not?

The selection of Sellafield proved premature, as the case put forward unravelled in the face of opposition at the public inquiry into the proposed underground laboratory known as a Rock Characterisation Facility (RCF). The proposal was rejected in 1997 on three counts: local environmental impacts; scientific uncertainties and technical deficiencies; and the site selection process itself. The rejection was comprehensive and decisive, forcing the government, once again, to rethink and regroup.

The turn of the century was a propitious time for a new approach. Nuclear energy had seemingly run its course in the UK, and the discourse had shifted from conflict over nuclear projects to a mood in which co-operation and consensus was possible. This was invigorated by a surging interest in participative democracy, with its emphasis on openness, transparency, partnership and engagement, backed by a panoply of processes and techniques to facilitate public and stakeholder involvement in policy-making.

Nowhere was the opportunity for dialogue more enthusiastically seized upon than in radioactive waste management. In order to find a way out of the policy impasse a new Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) was established, charged to inspire public confidence by finding the best method for the long-term management of the UK's legacy wastes, the bulk of which were at Sellafield.

In the course of its deliberations (during 2003-06) CoRWM integrated different knowledge streams, including an elaborate multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) and an extensive public and stakeholder engagement (PSE), as well as drawing on overseas experience and evaluating ethical principles and perspectives. Its main recommendation was carefully crafted: 'Within the present state of knowledge, CoRWM considers geological disposal to be the best available approach for the long-term management of all the material categorised as waste in the CoRWM inventory'8 – i.e. the legacy wastes at Sellafield and elsewhere and future known arisings. But it was carefully qualified by further recommendations emphasising the long-term nature of the process through a programme of interim storage, research and development into geological disposal, flexibility to consider other options, and a staged process of implementation.

CoRWM also set out its proposals for implementation, based on the 'three Ps' – principles of participation, partnership, and packages – to ensure acceptability, facilitate involvement, and provide the resources to encourage commitment.

The government adopted the approach in its White Paper, Managing Radioactive Waste Safely, and was keen to put these theoretical ideas into practice, to turn concepts into a process that would deliver a site for a deep underground repository (called a Geological Disposal Facility). A general invitation was issued to communities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (Scotland had adopted storage as its long-term policy) 'to express an interest in opening up without commitment discussions on the possibility of hosting a geological disposal facility at some point in the future'.9

Predictably there was no rush of volunteers but, as might be anticipated, West Cumbria was the first, and only, community to enter into a modulated exercise in participatory democracy managed by the West Cumbria Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (WCMRWS) Partnership, including councils, the voluntary sector, and business and trade union interests, and working over three years (2009-12).

The WCMRWS process founded on the tide of voluntarism eventually foundered on the rocks of geology. The claim that there were potentially suitable areas for deep disposal within the region was vigorously challenged. Uncertainties over the issue, along with other concerns including the absence of comparative strategies, combined to create a lack of trust, leading the partnership to reach a tentative conclusion: 'at this stage we are fairly confident that an acceptable process can be put in place to assess and mitigate negative impacts and maximise positive impacts'.10

This underwhelming outcome left the decision-makers – the local councils – to reach their own conclusions. The two district councils in pro-nuclear West Cumbria voted to proceed; Cumbria County Council, covering also the wider region further from Sellafield, voted against. The process had stalled in what seemed its most promising location.

Once more into the breach

With this setback the government once more had to regroup and review its policy for geological disposal. There appeared to be three areas where a revised approach was necessary.

First was the fact that site selection had given pre-eminence to voluntarism over geology, giving rise to concerns that a site would be chosen on grounds of what was acceptable to a community rather than what was the best available on scientific grounds. This would be addressed by a process of national geological screening, based on known geological information. While this would not identify specific sites, it would indicate potential geological suitability in areas where interest was likely to be expressed and provide more detailed geological information to those communities who wished to pursue their interest. While voluntarism remained the primary principle of site identification, it would now be within a context of voluntarism and geology.

Second was the question of who should be the decision-making body. Although the WCMRWS Partnership was an exercise in participative democracy to achieve consensus, the formal decision on whether to continue was in the hands of the representative authorities, the county and district councils, who had agreed that a decision should be agreed by both tiers. Thus Cumbria's reluctance to proceed was decisive. To avoid such an override in the future, the government stated that all levels of local government should have a voice in the process and that no one level should prevent the participation of another. The revised process would be managed by the government and led by the state-owned developer, working with communities. The crucial underlying principle was that the final decision-making role would sit with people in communities.

A more subtle approach to the issue of 'what is a community?' and 'who should decide?' was devised whereby communities would be 'identified' over time as the siting process evolved and the options were refined to specific locations. The fact that a repository has a 'physical existence' meant that an emerging community would ultimately need to be identified based on a geographical area. The principle that the 'community' decides would be enacted by a right of withdrawal during the process and by confirmation of the decision to develop the repository in a test of public support. The hope was that this elaborate, extended, even elegant approach to voluntarism in practice, backed by a package of community benefits, would have the flexibility and incentives to attract communities to engage willingly in achieving a site for the disposal of the nation's wastes.

Time to decide

The third area concerned the timescale of decision-making.

The technical and scientific challenges involved in making a safety case for a repository with engineered barriers within a host rock capable of ensuring containment of radionuclides for up to a million years were formidable. The key reason for Cumbria's decision to pause the process was that it would be premature to proceed; that uncertainties suggested the risks were too great, certainly in the Cumbrian geological context.

Another uncertainty was the nature and scale of the inventory ultimately destined for the repository. The CoRWM recommendations had been confined to the legacy wastes – those mainly at Sellafield and those arising from existing and known nuclear programmes. A new nuclear programme of uncertain scale being promoted by government would result in spent fuel and other wastes on the sites of new reactors, creating an indeterminate inventory extending over unknowable timescales. Storage of the nation's legacy wastes already at Sellafield was one thing, permanent disposal, including wastes from new build, was quite another. As Martin Forwood of the protest group CORE (Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment) put it to me: 'It would be ludicrous to move it from Sellafield given the risks of transport. It would be absolutely ridiculous. But Sellafield shouldn't necessarily be taking more.'

There was also resistance to the government's importunity in seeking a decision to move forward, thereby locking West Cumbria more firmly into the process.

And there we have it. The government's view that 'effective arrangements will exist to manage and dispose of the waste that will be produced from new nuclear power stations'11 is speculation at best. The problem is that effective arrangements scarcely yet exist for dealing with the legacy wastes which, for the foreseeable future, will be stored at Sellafield and other sites, let alone wastes from any new build which would have to be stored well into the next century on fragile, crumbling or inundated coastal sites.

Progress towards identifying an acceptable and suitable site for disposal will inevitably take time. The revised arrangements leave West Cumbria in the ring, probably still the favoured location. The new, evolutionary, self-defining approach to site identification is flexible, placing the veto, test of public support and distribution of investment funds in the hands of the community and not the representative political bodies. This opens up the opportunities for voluntarism, and it is highly likely volunteers will come forward from West Cumbria. Conversely, the geological screening process and the emphasis on suitable geology acts as a potential constraint on finding a suitable site in West Cumbria.

The revised process might tempt other communities into the frame, areas where public support and geological conditions are favourable. There may be potential volunteers with the requisite peripheral characteristics, but few will be likely to maintain commitment over the long timescales involved.

The inescapable fact is that the large volumes of wastes at Sellafield will not be in a fit condition for disposal for decades to come. And it would seem impossible, irresponsible even, to contemplate moving three-quarters of the nation's highly active wastes miles across the country, requiring security, transfer, surveillance and logistical arrangements.

The nation's radioactive waste is mainly held at Sellafield and there it must remain, at least until the programme of management and clean-up is concluded. New production facilities such as for MOX or reprocessing are exceedingly improbable, the proposed new reactors at nearby Moorside are doubtful, and although a GDF, if one is ever developed, might yet be located in West Cumbria, Sellafield will for long be caretaker of the nation's wastes.

Where and when the undertaker will come to bury them remains unclear, and may remain so for the foreseeable future.


1. Nuclear Decommissioning Authority: Strategy. Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, April 2016, p.27.

2. Sellafield – High Level Waste Plant – Waste Vitrification Plant – Lines 1 and 2 – Containment System. Office for Nuclear Regulation, Jun. 2014.

3. Hanford in the Pacific North West of the USA was the subject of the second article in this series ('The nuclear frontier'). The characteristics of peripheral communities were discussed in the first article ('Landscapes of the legacy of nuclear power').

4. C. Waterton, B. Wynne and R. Grove-White: Public Perceptions and the Nuclear Industry in West Cumbria – Report to Cumbia County Council. Centre for the Study of Environmental Change, Lancaster University, 1993 (amended version, 2007)

5. Paul Loeb used Nuclear Culture as the title of his book on Hanford (New Society Publishers, 1986). Among the studies of Sellafield and West Cumbria are: C. Waterton, B. Wynne and R. Grove-White: Public Perceptions and the Nuclear Industry in West Cumbria – Report to Cumbia County Council. Centre for the Study of Environmental Change, Lancaster University (see note 4); H. Bolter: Inside Sellafield. Quartet Books, 1996; S. Macgill: The Politics of Anxiety: Sellafield's Cancer-Link Controversy. Pion, 1987; J. McSorley: Living in the Shadow: The Story of the People of Sellafield. Pan Books, 1990; and H. Davies (Ed.): Sellafield Stories: Life in Britain's First Nuclear Plant. Constable & Robinson, 2012.

6. Nuclear Power and the Environment. Cmd. 6618. Sixth Report. Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution. HMSO, 1976.

7. For a brief history of early efforts at site selection see A. Blowers: 'A geological disposal facility for nuclear waste – if not Sellafield, then where?'. Town & Country Planning, 2014, Vol. 83, Dec., 545-53

8. Managing our Radioactive Waste Safely. Committee on Radioactive Waste Management, Nov. 2006

9. Managing Radioactive Waste Safely: A Framework for Implementing Geological Disposal. Cm 7386. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. TSO, June 2008.

10. The Final Report of the West Cumbria Managing Radioactive Waste Safely Partnership. West Cumbria Managing Radioactive Waste Partnership, Aug. 2012. p.6.

11. Draft National Policy Statement for Nuclear Power Generation (EN-6). Department of Energy and Climate Change, Jul. 2011.

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

African nuclear commission takes shape.
Afcone, a new commission to coordinate and promote the development of nuclear energy in Africa, is set to become fully operational after key founding documents were finalized and adopted. South Africa has agreed to host the commission. The African Union (AU) established the African Commission on Nuclear Energy (Afcone) in November 2010, following the entry into force of the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty in July 2009, which required the parties to establish a commission for the purpose of ensuring states' compliance with their treaty obligations and promoting peaceful nuclear cooperation, both regionally and internationally. 
At a meeting in Addis Ababa on 26 July, the elected commissioners adopted the rules of procedure, structure, program of work and budget of Afcone. The commission will focus on the following four areas: monitoring of compliance with non-proliferation obligations; nuclear and radiation safety and security; nuclear sciences and applications; and, partnerships and technical cooperation, including outreach and promotion of peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The meeting agreed to a budget of some US$800,000 per year for the period 2012-2014. It also agreed on a scale of assessment for contributions to Afcone's funding. South Africa is currently the only African country to operate nuclear power plants for electricity generation, but several others - including Egypt, Ghana and Nigeria - are considering building such plants. Namibia, Niger and South Africa are major uranium producers, accounting for about 15% of world output in 2011. Other African countries have significant uranium deposits, with some having prospective uranium mines.
World Nuclear News, 13 August 2012

Koodankulam: Clearance for fuel loading.
The People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) condemns the undemocratic and authoritarian decision of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) to grant clearance for the 'Initial Fuel Loading' and 'First Approach to Criticality' of Unit-1 of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project. 
Even as the country is awaiting the Madras High Court's judgment on a batch of petitions that have challenged the legality and appropriateness of the Environmental Clearance granted to the Koodankulam project, this decision amounts to contempt of court and outright insult of the rule of law in our country. More interestingly, the AERB has given assurance to the Madras High Court that the post-Fukushima taskforce's recommendations would be fully implemented in all the nuclear installations in India and that no fuel loading decision at the Koodankulam nuclear power project would be taken until then. The current permission to load fuel is a gross violation of that commitment made at the Court and the sentiments of the struggling people.
This attitude and functioning style, however, is very much in congruence with the undemocratic, authoritarian and anti-people nature of the atomic energy department. The political parties and leaders in India, especially in Tamil Nadu, the civil society leaders and the media must take a stand and protect the interests of the 'ordinary citizens' of India and reassert the rule of law in our country. 
The struggling people will do whatever democratically possible to oppose the  authoritarian and illegal decision of the Indian nuclear establishment.
Press release, The Struggle Committee PMANE, 10 August 2012

No permanent resettlement Chernobyl Exclusion zone in next 20 years.
Despite earlier reports, the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear plant remains unfit for habitation, said Dmytro Bobro, the acting head of the State Agency for the Chernobyl Zone. Short visits to the exclusive zone are not banned, and up to 10,000 visitors arrive there on memorial days, he said at a press conference in Kyiv. Concerning people who returned to the zone of their own accord and live there, relatives are allowed to come and see them for not more than five days, but if a longer term is requested, they are placed under radiological control, he said.
Experts said at a press conference on August 15 that part of the 30-kilometer exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and Chernobyl itself are already fit for living. Chernobyl could be opened to personnel working under the Shelter project to construct the new confinement shelter. These people work in shifts now. 
But a few days later, Bobro said that some 200 square kilometers in the total area of 2,000 square kilometers are relatively safe. "But again, there is no infrastructure there, and the territory has "contaminated spots" and should not be populated, although it could be sown with crops to be used as biological fuel," he said. Humans could return to this territory in about 30 years. But if rehabilitation measures are taken, people would be able to come back even earlier to an area of 200 or even 500 square kilometers, he said. "Half of the exclusion zone will remain unfit for habitation forever as it is contaminated with plutonium isotopes," Bobro said.
Interfax, 17 August 2012 / ForUm, 17 August 2012

South Africa: develop 'Plan B'.
South Africa should work on a ‘Plan B’ if nuclear build proves too costly, the newly released National Development Plan 2030 asserts. The plan, which was handed to President Jacob Zuma on August 15, acknowledged that the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for electricity proposed that new nuclear energy plants be commissioned from 2023/24. But it also argued that South Africa needed a “thorough investigation” of the implications of nuclear energy, including its costs, financing options, institutional arrangements, safety, environmental costs and benefits, localisation and employment opportunities, and uranium-enrichment and fuel fabrication possibilities.
The National Nuclear Energy Executive Coordinating Committee (NNEECCa), which was set up late last year, had its inaugural meeting in early August, when it began deliberation on the findings of a so-called ‘integrated nuclear infrastructure review’. The review is a self-assessment of the country’s readiness to proceed with a new nuclear build and reportedly covers 19 areas. But the 26-member National Planning Commission (NPC) argued that an alternative plan be developed in the event that sufficient financing was unavailable, or timelines became too tight. The NPC did not say which entity or organ should conduct the cost/benefit analysis, only that one should be completed ahead of any decision to proceed to a procurement phase. The analysis should also not be confined to the economics of the project and should include social and environmental aspects.
Engineering News (South Africa), 15 August 2012

Sellafield: record number of hotspots found on beaches.
A record number of radioactive hotspots have been found contaminating public beaches near the Sellafield nuclear complex in Cumbria, according to a report by the site's operator. As many as 383 radioactive particles and stones were detected and removed from seven beaches in 2010-11, bringing the total retrieved since 2006 to 1,233. Although Sellafield insists that the health risks for beach users are "very low", there are concerns that some potentially dangerous particles may remain undetected and that contamination keeps being found. Anti-nuclear campaigners have called for beaches to be closed, or for signs to be  erected warning the public of the pollution. But the government's Health Protection Agency (HPA) has said "no special precautionary actions are required at this time to limit access to, or use of, beaches". But it also pointed to a series of "uncertainties" in the beach monitoring that could lead to its risk assessment being reviewed. The latest equipment might miss tiny specks that could be inhaled, it said, as well as buried alpha radioactivity that "could give rise to a significant risk to health if ingested".
Adding to the attempts to down play the radioactive state of the beaches, the official monitoring of the coast has been deliberately abandoned - at the specific request of some local authorities - during the peak periods of school and public Bank Holidays for fear of alarming the tourists.
The Guardian, 4 July 2012 / CORE press release, 4 July 2012

Sellafield's German PU 'cut and pasted' to France by UK government

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

In a move that overturns one of the major contractual obligations of Sellafield’s overseas reprocessing customers, the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has announced a deal that will see German-owned plutonium already stored at Sellafield transferred into the UK stockpile rather than being repatriated to German utilities as required under the original contracts.

These contracts, in which customers committed to having their spent nuclear fuel reprocessed in the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (THORP), specifically required the physical repatriation of recovered plutonium to the country of origin. Such contracts, until now, have been robustly defended by Government as being sacrosanct with no leeway for renegotiation.

In what many will see as a significant U-turn by Government on customers’ obligations, the new deal will inevitably raise questions as to why, with a click of a computer mouse, similar arrangements cannot now be made for other foreign owned materials stockpiled at Sellafield, thus eliminating the need for further contentious shipments of highly radioactive materials to be undertaken to overseas customers. These stockpiled materials include the vitrified high level waste (HLW) scheduled for repatriation to Germany and at least 12 tons of Japanese-owned plutonium.

The 13th July 2012 announcement by DECC’s Minister of State for Energy Charles Hendry refers to ‘around 4 tons’ of German plutonium being involved in the deal, some of which had previously been earmarked for conversion to mixed oxide (MOX) fuel in the now defunct Sellafield MOX Plant (SMP). For commercial and security reasons, details of the ‘financial benefits’ to the UK under the new arrangement are not disclosed but are considered by the Government to be sufficient to pay for the estimated costs of managing the plutonium long-term in the UK.

The commercial arrangements of the deal – agreed between the Nuclear De-commissioning Authority (NDA), Fran-ce’s Areva and the German utilities – will allow the utilities to take ownership of an equivalent tonnage of plutonium held at French reprocessing facilities, and to have MOX fuel fabricated in France for their reactors in advance of Germany’s approaching national reactor shut-down. In a move that clearly recognizes the political, security and logistical problems of physically transporting prime terrorist material to Europe, this paper-swap of German plutonium holdings to the UK stockpile also fits conveniently into the Government and NDA’s ‘prefer-red option’ of reusing plutonium in the form of MOX fuel, even though the NDA appears to be having second thoughts with its belated appraisal of GE Hitachi’s PRISM fast breeder reactor to consume the plutonium as an alternative to its reuse as MOX fuel.

The new deal hastens the end the German utilities’ less than happy ex-perience of dealing with Sellafield and THORP. When the plant opened in 1994, Sellafield had secured over 1400 tons of spent fuel reprocessing business from Germany – the plant’s second largest overseas customer.

By 2005 however, when the ban on spent fuel transports from Europe came into force and with some contracts al-ready cancelled, a total of just 850 tons of German spent fuel had actually been delivered to Sellafield. Originally scheduled for completion by 2010, some of this spent fuel still awaits reprocessing today. With other European customers, German utilities have in the past voiced their frustration at Sellafield’s inability to make THORP work properly and vented their anger at the additional reproces-sing costs they consider to have been unfairly passed on to them over the years. 

Whilst DECC’s announcement does not make it clear whether the ‘around 4 tons’ swapped under the new deal accounts for Sellafield’s total holdings of German plutonium, figures from international sources suggests that it does not. They show, for example, that the reprocessing at THORP of 850 tons of German spent nuclear fuel would have resulted in a total of just over 7 tons of plutonium being recovered - including at least 4.5 tons of fissile material. Of this 7-ton total, a small quantity will already have been returned to German customers via a shipment of 4 MOX fuel assemblies from Sellafield in 1996 containing 120kg plutonium, and a further shipment of 16 MOX fuel assemblies - expected to be made in the near future - containing around 450kg of plutonium. The former MOX was fabricated at Sellafield’s MOX Demonstration Facility (MDF – the forerunner to SMP) and the latter at SMP.

Further, in May 2008, an estimated 300kg of plutonium (in dioxide powder form) was shipped from Sellafield to France as repayment for French plutonium used in making MOX fuel orders that had been subcontracted to France by the failing SMP. Of these subcontracted orders a number are confirmed to have been for German utilities and this 2008 shipment is likely therefore to account for a further amount of plutonium having been repatriated to Germany. At most, this shipment together with the 2 MOX shipments would account for a total of up to 875kg of plutonium having been exported from Sellafield’s 7-ton German stockpile. With a further 4 tons now ’exported’ under the new deal, there would appear to be at least 2 tons of German-owned plutonium still remaining at Sellafield.

Source: CORE Briefing 2/12, 15 July 2012
Contact: Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment (CORE), Dry Hall, Broughton Mills, Broughton-in-Furness, Cumbria LA20 6AZ, U.K.
Tel: +44 1229 716523
Email: info[at]

Sellafield: reprocessing to end in 2018 - or...?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s (NDA’s) strategic review has confirmed what has been expected for a while. The Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (THORP) in Cumbria, England, will complete it reprocessing contracts (both UK and overseas) and then close. However, signs that the NDA has little confidence in predicting the closure of the magnox reprocessing plant are evident in documents published in July.

THORP's reprocessing contracts should be completed by 2018, at which time THORP would cease reprocessing activities and enter a post-closure and clean out phase prior to decommissioning. Any remaining spent AGR fuel from UK reactors, including any future arisings, will be placed into interim storage pending a decision to dispose of it in a geological disposal facility.

There are, however, a number of ‘performance risks’ that could impact on the delivery of the strategy. In other words, THORP might break down, which would be no great surprise given past experience. The NDA had previously expected to complete reprocessing contracts at THORP in 2010, but operational difficulties both in THORP and in downstream support plant, had delayed the completion of that work. Operational difficulties could result in the reprocessing of less than the currently planned amount of spent fuel by late 2018. The NDA says: “We believe, therefore, we should con-tinue to examine alternative options so that we can manage these risks to the delivery of our strategy.”

The NDA says keeping THORP open significantly beyond 2018 would require a major, multibillion pound investment program with like-for-like replacement of many support facilities with little or no prospect of significant new business and hence a return on this investment.

Magnox reprocessing
If THORP does shut in 2018, it would mean that by then all site reprocessing will have ceased because Magnox reprocessing (at the so called B205 plant) was suppose to end the year before. But serious doubts about this has been raised by NDA itself. The Magnox Operating Plan (MOP9) and accompanying Strategy Position Paper reveal how the NDA has been forced into a ‘pick and mix’ approach because of what it describes as the inconsistent and unpredictable performance of the plant and associated facilities. 

When the last operating plan MOP8, published in 2010, had projected a plant closure in 2016, the date was based on a ‘single assumed’ annual throughput being achieved. Continuing poor performance however resulted in an almost immediate extension of the closure date to 2017, and even this is now is deemed to be ‘increasingly unrealistic’. MOP9 now tentatively suggests at least 2 closure dates (or something between the two) for B205 by assuming two different annual reprocessing rates – an upper bound of 740 tons per year and 450 tons per year lower bound. Put in context, the latter rate tallies almost exactly with the average throughput achieved annually by B205 over the last 5 years of operation, whilst the upper bound of 740 tons per year has not been achieved for 8 years.

As the NDA publications show, 3800 tons of magnox fuel remained due for reprocessing as at April this year - 3000 tons held in reactor/dry storage and 800 tons in pond storage at Sellafield or reactor sites. Reprocessing the 3800 tons of magnox fuel remained due for reprocessing, at 740 tons per year would see a 2017/18 closure of the reprocessing plant whereas, at 450 tons per year, reprocessing would continue to 2020 at least. Added to this workload is the 44 tons of metallic fuel from the Dounreay Fast Reactor (DFR), with transports to Sellafield expected to begin from Scotland this year. MOP9 recognises that the addition of this fuel could impact on the overall MOP program but confirms that, with priority given to magnox fuel, reprocessing the DFR fuel will not be allowed to significantly extend the pro-gram without a strategy review.

Though a number of initiatives to improve reprocessing performance are incorporated in a Magnox Throughput Improvement Plan (MTIP) set up last year, the NDA acknowledges that if improvements do not materialize, the annual throughput rate of 450 tons for B205 would ‘seem a reasonable value to select’ and will result in a 2020 end to reprocessing. If implemented, it will result in further years’ of radioactive discharges to the environment from the reprocessing plant at levels that pose an added threat – denied by the NDA - to meeting the already jeopar-dized international treaty targets on marine pollution signed up to by the UK Government at the OSPAR convention in 1998. At greatest risk would be the target of concentrations of radioactivity in the marine environment being ‘close to zero’ by 2020.

In operational terms, this ‘reasonable value’ of 450 tons per year represents a significant downgrading of reprocessing targets made by the NDA just 5 months ago in a supplement to its much vaun-ted Sellafield Plan. Described as ’the first credible and underpinned lifetime plan for the Sellafield site’, it projected throughput rates for magnox reprocessing from 2012 to 2017 which ranged from 650800 tons per year. Given the well documented frailties and problems of the ageing reprocessing plant and associated facilities – and its recent track record - these projections were patently incredible and appear to have been plucked from thin air rather than being based on a professional appraisal of the plant’s operational capabilities.

Although a large proportion of the 10,000 strong Sellafield workforce is employed on reprocessing, the anticipated number of job losses is not as great as first expected due to more focus on removing Sellafield’s high-hazard risks and increased NDA financial resources to accelerate decommissioning pro-jects. It is also possible that the government will eventually give the go-ahead for a second Mox plutonium recycling plant.

Source: NuClear News 42, July 2012 / CORE Press release, 20 July 2012
Contact: Cumbrians Opposed to a Ra-dioactive Environment (CORE), Dry Hall, Broughton Mills, Broughton-in-Furness, Cumbria LA20 6AZ, U.K.
Tel: +44 1229 716523
Email: info[at]

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Nigeria signs agreement with Rosatom. Last issue we made a funny remark about Nigeria’s announcement that it selected two sites for the construction of nuclear power reactors, but only a few days later the country signed a cooperation accord with Russia’s Rosatom towards the construction of its first nuclear power plant. Rosatom chief Sergei Kiriyenko signed a memorandum of understanding with the chairman of the Nigerian Atomic Energy Commission, Franklin Erepamo Osaisai. Its terms will see the two countries "prepare a comprehensive program of building nuclear power plants in Nigeria," including the development of infrastructure and a framework and system of regulation for nuclear and radiation safety.

Sergei Kiriyenko is quoted in Leadership newspaper to have said that  the contract would cover the building of nuclear power plant (1200MW) worth about US$4.5 billion (about N697 billion). In 2010 Nigeria said it aimed to have 1000 MW of nuclear generation in place by 2019 with another 4000 MW online by 2030. Although not all contracts Rosatom signed have materialized in the past, however, Nigeria is, one of the very few African countries pursuing a nuclear energy program.
World Nuclear News, 4 June 2012 / Leadership Newspapers (Nigeria), 13 June 2012

Fear nuclear safety is in stake in harsh competition for sales.
Nuclear-reactor makers are offering prices too low to cover costs to win orders abroad in a strategy that puts earnings at risk, according to Andre-Claude Lacoste, head of the French Autorite de Surete Nucleaire regulator. “Export contracts for nuclear plants are being obtained at pure dumping-level prices,” Lacoste fears that nuclear safety could be compromised in trying to win tenders. “Prices accepted by vendors and obtained by buyers are unsustainable,” he said. “There aren’t many tenders, which is why competitors are ripping each other off. It’s already a serious matter, and we need to make sure that there’s no dumping on safety on top of that.”
Bloomberg, 6 June 2012

Academic study on IAEA.
Just published: a new research report Unleashing the Nuclear Watchdog: Strengthening and Reform of the IAEA, by Trevor Findlay. The report is the outcome of the two-and-a-half year research project on “Strengthening and Reform of the IAEA” conducted by the CCTC and CIGI. The project aimed to carry out a “root and branch” study of the Agency to examine its current strengths and weaknesses and make recommendations for bolstering and, if necessary, reforming it. According to the preface this academic study of the Agency “is needed not just in the light of accumulating challenges to the IAEA’s future and the increasing demands made on it by its member states, but because the Agency itself is demanding more support and resources. At a time of financial stringencies, many of the countries that traditionally have offered such support seek proper justification for any increases.” Findlay concludes that the IAEA is irreplaceable: “like the United Nations itself, if it did not exist it would have to be invented”.

However, this report is a good source for general information about the Agency that was founded to “accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world,” while ensuring, “so far as it is able,” that this does not “further any military purpose”.
Unleashing the nuclear watchdog is available at: href=""

China: nuclear safety plan but no approval for new projects yet.
China has approved a nuclear safety plan and says its nuclear power plants meet the latest international safety standards, though some plants need to improve their ability to cope with flooding and earthquakes, state media said on May 31. But the government has not made any decision on when to start approving new nuclear plant projects.

China suspended approvals of new nuclear power plants in the wake of Japan's nuclear crisis in March 2011 following a devastating tsunami, and ordered nationwide safety checks on existing plants and construction sites. It also pledged to review its nuclear power development plan. The State Council, China's Cabinet, now approved a nuclear safety plan for 2011-2015 in a meeting chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao. China also aims to enhance nuclear safety standards and lower the risks of nuclear radiation by 2020, the report said.

A nine-month safety inspection of China's 41 nuclear power plants, which are either operating or under construction, showed that most of China's nuclear power stations meet both Chinese and International Atomic Energy Agency standards, according to the report. However, some individual power plants need to improve their ability to prevent damage from serious accidents such as earthquakes, flooding or tsunami, it said.
Reuters, 31 May 2012

Switzerland: court rejects Mühleberg extension.
BKW, the operator of the Mühleberg nuclear power plant, must submit a full maintenance plan, or shut down the plant in June 2013. The Federal Supreme Court has rejected BKW’s request for an injunction, after earlier this year the Federal Administrative Court pulled Mühleberg’s right to an unlimited permit. Federal environment officials had reasoned BKW could have an indefinite operating permit so long as the Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate was monitoring site maintenance and safety issues. The court ruled BKW needed to submit maintenance and safety plans, especially with known concerns over the site’s cooling system, and cracks in the core shroud.
World Radio Switzerland, 29 May 2012

Lithuania opposes construction of N-plants close to its borders.
On May 28, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis blasted plans by Russia and Belarus to build nuclear power plants close to its borders, accusing both of lax safety and environmental standards and "bypassing international safety and environmental standards." "This is not just an issue for Lithuania... it should be a matter of concern to all countries in this region. We should do everything possible to make these two projects develop according to international standards. It is vital," Azubalis said, following talks in Riga with Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics. Rinkevics offered a cautious endorsement of Azubalis' concerns.  Asked by AFP what proof Lithuania had concerning the safety of the Russian and Belarusian projects, Azubalis said he had yet to receive satisfactory responses to written requests for information through official channels including the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Espoo Convention Committee. The Lithuanian foreign ministry provided AFP with a document dated May 4 expressing "deep concern" over an alleged recent accident at Russia's Leningrad NPP-2 nuclear facility, which is still under construction. "The incident in Leningrad NPP-2 raises a number of serious questions about the safety of this and two other planned (plants) near Lithuanian borders and the capital Vilnius which are projected to be based on the same technology and possibly the same means of construction," the document states.

Lithuania and Latvia, together with Estonia and Japanese company Hitachi, have putative plans of their own to construct a joint nuclear power plant at Visaginas in northern Lithuania to replace the Soviet-era Ignalina facility which was shut down in 2009.
AFP, 28 may 2012

Flying into trouble at Sellafield
Unusual pathways by which radioactivity routinely escapes the confines of nuclear sites are well documented with one recent example to hit the headlines being the 6000 mile transportation of radioactive contamination by bluefin tuna from the polluted waters around the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant to the coasts of North America. An even more recent case has however turned up very much closer to home – at Sellafield.
No stranger to unusual pathways for radioactivity - as 2000 Cumbrian feral pigeons and a host of seagulls will know to their cost - the site’s latest victims have been identified as a number of swallows which, gorging on the mosquitos that flit over the waters of Sellafield’s radioactive storage ponds, have taken up residence in Sellafield’s transport section.  As confirmed by the Environment Agency last week to a meeting of the Environmental Health Sub-Committee of the West Cumbria Sites Stakeholder Group, the birds’ droppings from around their roost/nesting sites have been found to be radioactively contaminated. Whilst neither the contamination levels nor the number of swallows involved was provided, the Environment Agency told the Committee that measures were being taken by Sellafield Ltd to tackle the mosquito problem.
CORE’s spokesman Martin Forwood commented; “These much-loved and now radioactive birds and their offspring will unwittingly be carrying a highly toxic message from Sellafield when they migrate back to Southern Africa at the end of the summer - a distance at least equivalent to that recently undertaken by the bluefin tuna.”
CORE press release, 6 June 2012

U.K.: Chernobyl restrictions sheep lifted after 26 years.
Twenty-six years after the April 26, 1986, explosion at Chernobyl reactor 4, restrictions remained on 334 farms in North Wales, and eight in Cumbria. But as of June 1, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) regulations on these farms were lifted. In the aftermath of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, when radioactive rain swept the UK, farmers saw their livelihoods and even their families threatened. Some 9,700 farms and four million sheep were placed under restriction as radioactive cesium- 137 seeped into the upland soils of England, Scotland and Wales.

Before June 1, any livestock for breeding or sale had to be assessed with gamma monitors by officials from Defra or the Welsh government. Sheep found to exceed the legal radiation dose (1,000 Becquerel per kilo) were moved to the lowlands before sale, and had the farmers wanted to move their flock, they had to seek permission.

The FSA said the restrictions had been lifted because “the current controls are no longer proportionate to the very low risk”. No sheep in Cumbria have failed the monitoring criteria for several years, and less than 0.5 per cent of the 75,000 sheep monitored annually in North Wales fail.  But not everyone agrees with lifting the restrictions. An anonymous farmer with a flock of 1,000 ewes, was quoted in the Independent saying: “The feeling I have is that it should still be in place. The food should be kept safe.”
Independent (UK), 1 June 2012

Australia: at last: Kakadu Koongarra victory.
The Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory is set to be expanded, with the inclusion of land previously earmarked land for uranium mining known as Koongarra. The Northern Land Council (NLC) has agreed for a 1,200 hectare parcel of land containing rich reserves of uranium to be incorporated in to the park. This looks like the final step in a long battle that Aboriginal traditional owner Jeffrey Lee has waged to protect his land from mining. The uranium-rich mining lease Koongarra was excised from Kakadu when the conservation area was established in the late 1970s. The lease is held by French company Areva, which wanted to mine the area for uranium. Two years ago, Mr Lee, the sole traditional owner of the land, called on the Federal Government to incorporate it in to Kakadu. The Government accepted the offer and referred the matter to the NLC. The NLC conducted consultations and its full council has agreed to endorse Mr Lee's wishes. The council and land trust will now move to enter an agreement with national parks to incorporate Koongarra into Kakadu. The Koongarra area includes the much-visited Nourlangie Rock (Burrunggui/Anbangbang) and is important in the Rainbow Serpent and Lightning Man stories.

In June 2011, the Koongarra site was added to the World Heritage List during a meeting of the Unesco World Heritage Committee in Paris. The French nuclear energy company Areva, had unsuccessfully asked the committee to remove Koongarra from its agenda.

It is not known if Areva will attempt to take any action over the decision to include Koongarra in the Kakadu national park
Nuclear Monitor, 1 July 2012 / ABC, 1 June 2012

Japan: Smartphone capable of measuring radiation.
On May 29, the Japanese company Softbank Mobile unveiled a smartphone capable of measuring radiation levels in a bid to respond to growing demand for dosimeters in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Users can measure radiation levels by pressing and holding a button on the phone, and the device can be set to a constant measurement mode or plot readings on a map, according to Softbank.

The Pantone 5 107SH, manufactured by Sharp Corp., is equipped with a sensor that can measure between 0.05 and 9.99 microsieverts per hour of gamma ray in the atmosphere. The product is aimed at ''alleviating as much as possible the concerns of mothers with children,'' the mobile operator said in a statement, adding it will go on sale sometime in mid-July or later.
Mainichi (Japan), 29 May 2012

Public acceptance – what holds back the nuclear industry?
“Multiple structural barriers inside the nuclear industry tend to prevent it from producing a united pro-nuclear front to the general public. Efforts to change public opinion worldwide must deal with these real-world constraints.” In an article called: Public acceptance – what holds back the nuclear industry? Steve Kidd (deputy director-general of the World Nuclear Association) is asking if “we have probably begun to reach some limits in employing a fact-based strategy to improve public acceptance of nuclear. Huge efforts have been made to inform people about nuclear by freely providing a lot of good information. But the message doesn’t seem to hit home with many.” He is explaining why and how to overcome this in an article in the May issue of Nuclear Engineering International.

In the next episode he will look at the possibilities of increasing public acceptance in more detail. 
The article is available at:

Sellafield: THORP to sruggle on to 2018

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

In its recently published paper ‘Oxide Fuels – Credible Options’, November 2011, the United Kingdom's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) sets out options for the future operation of Sellafield’s Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant THORP. Opened in 1994 to reprocess UK’s domestic Advanced Gas Cooled (AGR) fuel and Light Water Reactor (LWR) fuel from overseas customers, the plant is currently operating years behind schedule. An estimated 400 tons of overseas spent fuel that should have been completed around 2004, plus some 2000 tons of UK AGR fuel remains to be reprocessed.

In addition, a further 4000+ tons of spent AGR fuel (including the currently expected lifetime arisings from the UK’s fleet of AGR power stations) are destined either for long-term storage at Sellafield prior to disposal or for reprocessing – at the NDA’s discretion. Should 5-year extensions be granted to the AGR power stations, a further 900 tons of spent fuel would arise.

A November 24, CORE Briefing provides a summary of the NDA’s assessment of three Options for THORP: - 1- Complete THORP’s reprocessing contracts; 2- Close THORP early by reprocessing less than the contracted amount of spent fuel and 3- Extend THORP operations so that more than the contracted amount of spent fuel can be reprocessed.

From its assessment, the NDA has concluded that, in line with its 2011 Strategy, Option 1 is the most viable and cost-effective - with the proviso that ‘additional new and costly infrastructure can be avoided (this would include the installation of new High Level Waste tanks), and that NDA proposals for the interim storage of AGR fuel are themselves viable. After further work to underpin the strategy, and providing the provisos are met, the NDA expects to confirm Option 1 as its preferred strategic option by summer 2012.

NDA currently rejects Option 3 – extending THORP operations to include more AGR fuel being reprocessed than currently contracted, and potential new business from domestic and overseas customers ‘if there were any’ – because:

  • extended reprocessing would require multi-billion pound investment across a wide range of infrastructure at Sellafield, with major capital build projects required to support THORP’s extension beyond 2020. Such investment would divert finite resources from the NDA’s primary role of risk and hazard reduction at Sellafield, and new capital build projects would result in energy use and carbon emissions.
  • extended reprocessing could potentially impact on the UK’s discharge commitments under the OSPAR treaty and could challenge the alpha and tritium target levels under the UK’s own Strategy for Radioactive Discharges.
  • no interest has been expressed by the potential operators of new-build reactors in the UK to have their spent fuel reprocessed and recycled. Even had they done so, bulk quantities of spent fuel would be unlikely to be ready for reprocessing until the mid-2030’s when THORP and associated facilities would be over 40 years old.

The NDA’s current rejection of closing THORP early under Option 2 is based on:

  • the provision of additional storage capacity for AGR fuel at Sellafield to ensure that incoming fuel from the power stations – at around 180 tons/yr - can be managed
  • the possible need to implement alternative arrangements for overseas fuel.
  • the requirement to manage spent fuels that are more susceptible to corrosion during storage
  • the resultant earlier reduction to the workforce – though this could be mitigated by redeploying workers to the high hazard reduction activities elsewhere on site.


However, the NDA nevertheless believes that the early closure option should continue to be examined because of concerns that should a number of performance risks associated with THORP and its support facilities arise, Option 1 might have to be abandoned before 2018.

These risks include the overall age and condition of the reprocessing infrastructure, further failures of Sellafield’s current suite of Evaporators which process the high level wastes produced by reprocessing – or a delay in bringing on-line of a new Evaporator in 2014/15 – and the viability of the plans to store AGR fuel. The success of these storage plans depends on the current program to remove redundant multi-element bottles (MEB’s used to transport overseas fuel that has now been reprocessed)) from the ponds being completed on schedule, and the ponds suitably dosed with a corrosion inhibitor.

Based on THORP’s 2018 closure, an application to the Local Authority for a change of use of the ponds from buffer storage prior to reprocessing to interim storage pending disposal is expected to be made around 2016. Subject also to Regulatory approval, the NDA believes a technical and safety case for both storage and disposal of AGR fuel can be made.

In promoting what is likely to be its preferred Option 1, the NDA says that by completing THORP’s contracts in 2018, it will have honored obligations to overseas customers (and inter-Governmental treaties); provide time to prepare facilities for the interim storage of AGR fuel and create space to receive and manage all fuel arisings from AGR stations. It would also enable fuels susceptible to corrosion to be reprocessed.

The NDA believes the costs of the next 7 years of reprocessing - taking THORP to a 2018 closure - are comparable to those of the storage and direct disposal of spent fuel – largely because the capital costs for the reprocessing infrastructure are already sunk. If this had not been the case ‘it would be more cost-effective to cease reprocessing early’.

As part of its Oxide Fuels Credible Options paper, the NDA was asked by Government to consider the wider impacts of its THORP closure decision on the potential for future reprocessing in the UK. Reviewing topics that included Fast Breeder Reactor prospects, the future use of plutonium and new-build reactor operations, the NDA concluded that the timing of THORP’s closure had little material impact on any potential future requirement to supply plutonium; that THORP’s closure would neither impact on the UK’s new-build program nor on the long-term potential for reprocessing in the UK. Should the latter be required, a new reprocessing plant would be necessary.

It also concluded that, on a like for like basis, spent fuel storage followed by disposal ‘is currently more cost-effective than reprocessing’. This was based on an anticipated rise in costs of reprocessing and MOX fuel production in the UK, and the currently low price of uranium. Not surprisingly, all cost data was omitted from the NDA’s paper on the grounds of commercial confidentiality.

Plutonium re-use - putting the cart before the white elephant. Unwilling or incapable of learning from the UK’s disastrous MOX fuel experiences, the December 1 Government approval for the re-use of plutonium as MOX fuel is branded by CORE as a ‘decision made in the dark that yet again puts the proverbial cart before the inevitable nuclear white elephant’. With a preliminary decision taken by Government even before its Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) public consultation on plutonium management had started, it nevertheless promised that final approval for the re-use option was conditional on a range of major issues – including costs and demand for MOX fuel - being tested ‘before the UK Government will be in any position to take a final view'. (emphasis added)

The weakness of its case for the re-use of plutonium as MOX fuel has undoubtedly prevented the Government from going ‘the whole hog’ and putting its weight behind the construction of a new MOX plant at Sellafield or elsewhere in the UK. In its document published December 1 ‘Management of the UK’s plutonium stocks - A consultation response on the long-term management of UK-owned separated civil plutonium’  the Government however suggests that the construction of a new MOX plant could begin around 2019 with the first MOX fuel being fabricated in 2025.

On August 3, NDA decided to close the Sellafield MOX Plant SMP, a total failure which has so far cost the taxpayer BP1.4 bn (US$2.18 bn or 1.67 bn euro). (see Nuclear Monitor 732, 8 September 2011)
CORE Press Release, 2 December 2011

Source: CORE Briefing 3/11, 24 November 2011
Contact: Martin Forwood at  CORE (Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment). Dry Hall, Broughton Mills, Broughton-in-Furness, Cumbria LA20 6AZ, UK.
Tel: +44 1229 716523
Mail: martin[at]


Surface contamination HLW casks

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

Concerns are being raised in Japan about the raised radiation levels – above legal limits - discovered on the surface of some of the canisters of vitrified High Level Waste (HLW) shipped recently from Sellafield, UK. In May 1998 a contamination affaire resulted in a ban on reprocessing transports in large parts of Europe.

In August, some 40 tons of HLW, contained in 76 canisters were shipped from Barrow docks onboard the Pacific Grebe, the newest ship in the nuclear fleet operated by Pacific Nuclear Transport Ltd (PNTL). Routed via the Panama Canal, the Pacific Grebe completed its maiden commercial voyage at the Mutsu-Ogawara port in Japan’s Aomori prefecture on September 15. As reported in Japan’s Mainichi newspaper mid-October, the Kyushu Electric utility that owns the HLW has confirmed that, from a batch of 28 canisters being safety tested during transfer to the storage facility at Rokkasho-Mura, 3 had been found to have surface levels of beta and gamma radiation that breached acceptance levels of 4 Bequerels (Bq) per square centimeter – in one case almost 50 times over the limit. Kyushu Electric, also confirmed that surface radiation levels were within the limits before leaving the UK. Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd (JNFL) which operates the Rokkasho storage facility is carrying out an investigation into the breaches of acceptance levels.

Under the contracts covering Sellafield’s reprocessing of Japanese spent fuel, around 1000 canisters of HLW are destined to be returned to Japan over the next ten years. The latest shipment of 76 HLW canisters was only the second to have been made from Sellafield to Japan. The first, undertaken in January 2010, was itself mired in controversy when, on arrival in Japan, it was discovered that the HLW within the transport flask did not fully tally with the official paperwork – a number of canisters being ‘out of position’ within the holding channels of the transport flask.

Could these high surface contamination levels be the start of an affaire similar to the one that started in May 1998. Then, on May 6,1998, following the discovery of illegal levels of radioactive contamination on the external surfaces of a number of flasks and railway wagons, the French railway company SNCF banned any further movements of flasks from Germany and Swiss nuclear power stations to the reprocessing plant at La Hague. In the following days excessive levels of Caesium 137 and Cobalt 60 was measured on the surface of other casks and the Swiss,  German, Belgian and Dutch governments banned transports to Sellafield and La Hague too. The German environmental Minister (Angela Merkel by the way!) confirmed levels of radioactivity 3000 times greater than the levels allowed (4 Bq/cm2). The French regulatory authority discovered that a quarter of the flasks and 35% of the rail wagons that arrived at Valognes rail terminal in 1997 were contaminated beyond the safety limit. These numbers were known by the nuclear industry but not reported to the authorities. Official explanation is that the contamination was caused because the flasks 'sweat' in transit. While they are loaded at the reprocessing plant, the paint and metal on their outsides absorb radioactivity that is difficult to remove.

The transport ban was lifted in most countries late December the same year.

Sources: CORE Press release, 16 October 2011 / CORE Briefing, 21 May 1998 / New Scientist, 13 June 1998 / Volkskrant (Nl), 9 December 1998
Contact: Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment (CORE). Dry Hall, Broughton Mills, Broughton-In-Furness, Cumbria LA20 6AZ, UK
Tel: +44 1229 716523
Email: info[at]


In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

French Nuclear Authority points to "weaknesses" of the EPR.
The construction of the EPR nuclear reactor being built in Flamanville, has many "weaknesses" that put the "final quality" into doubt. This is the conclusion drawn after a  thorough inspection conducted on site in May by the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN). The report of this "inspection review", highlighted by Le Canard Enchaine on August 24, is posted on the site of the ASN ( It is a 20 page letter sent by the ASN on June 24 to EDF, the prime contractor for the 1600 megawatt reactor designed by Areva. The inspection has was  carried out by fifteen experts, including an observer from the British regulator. The team found deviations from the construction requirements on essential parts of the reactor: the feed of the steam generators, water injection filters, the RIS batteries of the cooling system. "EDF has to make great efforts to show the final quality of the construction of Flamanville 3", judges the ASN, which points out: "inconsistencies between the requirements specified in sub-contracting and the demands mentioned in the preliminary safety report" - that is to say a non-compliance with initial prescriptions. Concerning an essential feature of the steam generators, experts estimate that "the quality of materials taking into account their importance for safety has not been demonstrated and their use in FLA3 is not possible". In two cases, they demand from EDF to "not engage in actions that are difficult to reverse before demonstrating" compliance.
Le Monde (Fr.) 24 August 2011 (translation Jan Haverkamp)

Town produces 321% more energy than it uses.
A small Bavarian town in Germany called Wildpoldsried produces 321% more energy than it uses, from renewable and natural sources. By selling the excess energy, Wildpoldsried has eliminated all the towns debt and generates 4.0 million Euro (US$5.7 million) in annual income. The point they are at now in terms of energy production and independence was reached by starting a plan about fourteen years ago to develop more clean energy sources and green building projects. The town with a population of about 2,500 started work on a huge community initiative involving the construction of nine new buildings and energy sources. The new buildings included a school, community hall and gym, and they employ solar panels, as do 190 private households. Five biogas digesters, nine windmills, three hydroelectric projects,  ecological flood control and a natural waste water treatment system were part of the plan for energy independence. It all has worked well, and the town is debt-free. They actually formed several local companies to construct, install and manage their wind turbines, with local residents as investors., 24 August 2011

Bushehr online after 36 years of construction.
Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant has been connected to the national grid. It began supplying around 60 MW of its 1000 MW capacity on Saturday 3 September at 11:29pm, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) said. Construction on Bushehr by German company Siemens KWU started in 1975, but the work was stopped in 1979. Iran signed a deal with Russia in 1995, under which the plant was originally due to be finished in 1999, but the completion of the project was repeatedly delayed. The most recent delay, in February 2011, was caused by the discovery of damaged internals of a coolant pump supplied in the 1970s. To avoid potential consequences of metal debris getting on the fuel assemblies, they were unloaded and washed, while the reactor pressure vessel was cleaned. The fuel was reloaded in April and the plant achieved criticality in May 2011. In August 2011, the Government of Iran invited an International Atomic Energy Agency delegation to visit the country’s nuclear facilities, including nuclear power plant that has been built by Russia’s Atomstroyexport. According to Iran's nuclear officials, Bushehr power plant will reach 40% capacity during a ceremony that will be held on 12 September 2011. It is expected to reach full capacity in November or December 2011.
Nuclear Engineering International, 5 September 2011

North Anna shut down after earthquake.
The largest earthquake to hit the eastern US in 67 years has raised concerns about the safety of the country's nuclear power plants. The 5.8 magnitude quake's epicenter in Virginia on August 23, was close to the North Anna plant, 130 kilometers southwest of Washington. The plant lost power and automatically halted operations after the quake. While the operator reported no 'major' damage to the facility, three diesel generators were required to kick in and keep the reactors' radioactive cores cool. A fourth diesel unit failed. While nuclear power plants can operate safely on back-up power, failure of generators was a key reason for the disaster at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant

A spokesman for the operator said the plant was designed to withstand an earthquake of up to 6.2 in magnitude. But some groups have expressed concern about the narrow margin between the design metrics and the quake's size. 'It was uncomfortably close to design basis,' said Edwin Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists, which has pushed for stronger nuclear regulations. 'If Fukushima wasn't a wake-up call, this really needs to be to get the NRC and industry moving to do seismic reviews of all the nuclear power plants in the country.' An article in the Washington Post reports that the earthquake moved dry casks (huge concrete containers holding spent nuclear fuel), weighing between 100 to 115 tons, by as much as four inches (10 centimeters).

Twelve other nuclear plants along the Eastern Seaboard declared an "unusual event" following the quake, the lowest of the NRC's emergency classification ratings. North Anna's "alert" status is one step further up on a four-step U.S. emergency scale.

North Anna's reactors are among 27 east of the Rockies that the NRC highlighted during a seismic review last year as presenting a potential hazard, due to the amount of ground-shaking they were designed to withstand. Many nuclear experts say plants in the United States were designed with big margins of error  built in, but last year's NRC survey found that the risks posed by earthquakes were higher than  previously thought.
RTE (Ireland), 24 August 2011 / Reuters, 24 August 2011 / Washington Post, 1 September 2011

Germany: no need for nuclear reserve capacity.
Germany's grid regulator Bundesnetzagentur (BNetzA) said August 31 that it has decided against keeping one idled nuclear reactor on standby as reserve capacity for the coming two winter seasons to ensure power grid stability after the government permanently closed eight older reactors in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in March. "Our investigations have shown that even in exceptional contingencies the transmission system will remain operational without the dispatch of a reserve nuclear power plant," BNetzA President Matthias Kurth said in a statement.

The government has asked the grid regulator to investigate the need for a nuclear reserve capacity during the winter after transmission system operators in May warned of possible blackouts during extreme winter weather should the eight older reactors remain shut permanently, removing at least 5,000 MW of nuclear capacity from the market.
Platts, 31 August 2011

International blockade Olkiluoto, Finland.
On August 20, 2011 a blockade of the Olkiluoto nuclear power plant under construction took place for the second time gathering people from several regions of Finland and from other European countries on the streets. One year ago, on August 28, 2010, it was the very first public street blockade of an atomic facility in Finland ever. It had been started with the support of a number of European and Finnish environmental and anti-nuclear groups. The gathering of the Nuclear Heritage Network, an international network of anti-nuclear activists, taking part in March 2010 in Helsinki had initiated the idea of the blockade and developed it together with the variety of Finnish NGOs and groups. The goal was to question the international reputation of Finland as the country of the so-called "renaissance of nuclear power", and to show that even in this country being under strong pressure of the nuclear lobby atomic power has noch support of the citizens.

For Finnish anti-nuclear activists the Olkiluoto Blockade was also an important occassion for meeting each other and exchanging as so far there doesn't exist any other nationwide organizing structures for a common anti-nuclear strategy. In the south as well as in the north strong networks of local initiatives and organizations exist and in some cases they successfully opposed to projects of uranium mining and new nuclear reactors constructions. However, cross connections between those groups and networks are created so far only in mutual big actions like the Olkiluoto Blockade or the anti-nuclear infotour around the Baltic Sea that also took place in 2010.

This year a blockade of about 100 activists from Finland, Sweden, Germany, Russia, France, United Kingdom and Belarus several times stopped the traffic on the access roads to the disputed Olkiluoto nuclear power plant in Finland. Police had announced to prevent the blockade of roads that were supposed to take place for the second time. They forced protesters from the streets again and again towards a bus stop nearby. Nevertheless, the activists succeeded several times to blockade the main access road to the nuclear power plant for some minutes, while an additional access street had been closed for some two hours by a wooden tripod construction with an activist on the top.

Donors agree to fund new Chernobyl shelter.
There appears to be enough money (at last after almost 15 years) for a new sarcophagus at the Chernobyl reactor in Ukraine. The Nuclear Safety Account and the Chernobyl Shelter Fund donors agreed to provide the necessary financial resources for the implementation of the Chernobyl projects. The decision was made at the Assembly of Contributors to the Chernobyl Shelter Fund meeting on July 7, 2011, in London. The new construction will help "neutralize any possible future threats to the environment from the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine".

The needed amount of financial resources for the Shelter Implementation Plan (SIP) funding is EUR 740 mln. On the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl tragedy on April 26, 2011, a fundraiser was held resulting in donors' obligations of EUR 550 mln. The new decision of the world donors allows for the immediate start of the SIP execution and its completion by 2015. The SIP involves stabilization of the existing sarcophagus and the construction of a New Safe Confinement (NSC) for the damaged nuclear reactor.

In 1988 local scientists announced that the life time of the sarcophagus was 20 to 30 years. The Chernobyl Shelter Fund (CSF) was established nearly a decade later in December of 1997 to collect funds for the NSC project. Currently, the European Union, the United States, and Ukraine cooperate to help meet the CSF's objective while the EBRD is entrusted to manage the CSF and provide oversight of the funds disbursement.

The construction of the original Chernobyl sarcophagus began on May 20, 1986 - three weeks after the accident, and lasted for 206 days.
PRNewswire, 14 July 2011

PSC shifts risks costs overruns to public.
US: Georgia utility regulators agreed on August 2, to scrap a proposal that would have eaten into Georgia Power’s profits should the costs for its nuclear expansion project exceed US$300 million. The Georgia Public Service Commission unanimously approved the plan after making sure the commissioners could review previously approved project costs if there is a budget increase. Customers would pay for cost overruns in their monthly bills unless the PSC determines the overruns are Georgia Power's fault.
Georgia Power is part of a group of utilities building two nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle. The utility is responsible for US$6.1 billion of the estimated US$14 billion project. The company has been at odds with the PSC’s advocacy staff over how to handle potential cost overruns for the project. The advocacy staff wanted to cut into the utility’s profits if the costs exceeded US$300 million over budget. The advocacy staff agreed to drop its plan if Georgia Power allowed regulators to re-examine previously approved parts of the project if there is a budget increase. If regulators determine that Georgia Power's mistake led to the cost overruns, consumers would not have to pay the additional costs.
Consumer advocates have criticized the PSC's move as shifting all of the burden of the project's cost onto Georgia Power customers, who already are paying for the plant's financing costs.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2 August 2011

Walk away from uranium mining.
Footprints for Peace, an international grassroots group that organizes walks, bike rides and runs around the world, invites families and people of all ages, background and cultures to come and support traditional owners in their opposition to uranium mining in Western Australia by taking part in the “Walk away from uranium mining” that began in Wiluna on August 19 and will finish in Perth on October 28. "We will demonstrate that we have the choice to walk away from this costly, toxic industry — which produces radioactive waste and weapons usable material — in favour of renewable energy options." Footprints for Peace are working together with the Western Australian Nuclear Free Alliance (WANFA) to organise this grassroots awareness-raising and action-based campaign. Everyone is welcome to join the walk for a few hours, a day, a few weeks or the whole way. Even if you cannot walk we still require financial assistance, drivers, kitchen crew members, media liaison volunteers, video operators and photographers, musicians, artists, singers and general support for daily events, such as camp set up and pack up, food shopping and water collection. The walkers will cover a distance of 20 to 25 kilometres a day, with a rest day every five days……… The walk’s conclusion in Perth will coincide with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. There we will deliver our well-supported and strong message that it is time to shut down the nuclear industry’s plans to expand in Western Australia and the rest of Australia.

For more information please visit:
GreenLeft (Aus.) 23 July 2011

Sellafield: No prosecutions for organ harvesting.
Recent correspondence has revealed that no one will be prosecuted over the body hacking scandal carried out by the nuclear industry for over 40 years in collusion with government, hospitals, coroners and doctors.

From 1960 to 1991, body parts were taken without consent from 64 former Sellafield workers and 12 workers from nuclear sites in Springfields, Capenhurst, Dounreay and Aldermaston. The liver was removed in all cases and one or both lungs in all but one incident. Vertebrae, sternum, ribs, lymph nodes, spleen, kidneys and fermur were also stripped in the majority of cases. Brains, tongues, hearts and testes were also taken on the advice of the medical officer at Sellafield.

Correspondence from Cumbria Constabulary has been seen which says that despite the findings of the Redfern Inquiry (into the scandal; see Nuclear Monitor 721, 17 December 2010)  that the relationship between the nuclear industry and fellow bodysnatching conspirators was "too close" no one will be prosecuted as it is not "in the public interest".

Extract from a letter sent by ‘Special Operations’ - Cumbria Constabulary: "the issues you raise which I have listed below;
1. That specific people and institutions have breached the Human Tissue Act and that this should be investigated.
2. That an investigation into whether there was any unlawful corruption of the coronial processes had taken place
3. The stipends made to mortuary attendants are also of particular concern.
This was a Government led review which involved both the Department for Energy and Climate Change and the Ministry of Justice. As such any requirement on the police to investigate identified breaches as outlined above would be made by the Government. No such request has been made". (end quotation Cumbria Constabulary correspondence)
Well, surprise, surprise: No such request is likely to be made.

Floating Nuke Plant Seized in Bankruptcy
A St. Petersburg court seized the 70MW floating nuclear power station under construction at the Baltiisky Zavod shipyards after Rosenergoatom, the division of the Rosatom nuclear monopoly that commissioned it, demanded recognition of its right of ownership to the unfinished vessel. The July 26 court order gave the go-ahead for the seizure on the basis of "significant risk" that Rosenergoatom could lose its investment in the 9.8 billion ruble ($334 million) vessel if another claimant seized Baltiisky Zavod's assets during bankruptcy proceedings.

The ship yard, which is 88.3 percent owned by former Tuva governor Segei Pugachev's United Industrial Corporation is facing litigation from numerous disgruntled creditors. International Industrial Bank, also known as Mezhprombank, had its operating license revoked when it declared itself bankrupt in November. In January prosecutors launched a criminal case against the bank for intentional bankruptcy.

The dispute is not the first to hit Rosatom's ambitious plans to build a generation of floating nuclear power stations to serve remote coastal communities in Russia's north and Far East. Interfax on Thursday quoted an unidentified source at Rosatom saying the contract could be reassigned to another shipbuilder. If true, it would be the second time a contractor has lost the order from Rosatom, which originally commissioned the Sevmash shipyard to build the controversial floating nuclear plants in 2006. Rosenergoatom tore up that agreement in 2008 and signed a new deal with Baltiisky Zavod in 2009. Baltiisky Zavod is scheduled to finish the first station in 2012, according to the contract. The 70-megawatt plant is destined for Kamchatka.
Moscow Times, 15 August 2011

Sellafield Mox Plant axed by Fukushima fallout - says NDA

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

In what came clearly as a surprise to the gathering of Sellafied stakeholders, the closure of the Sellafield MOX Plant (SMP) was officially announced at West Cumbria Site Stakeholder Group (WCSSG) August 3 meeting. The decision had been made at an NDA Board meeting last week on the grounds that the commercially impotent plant no longer ‘had customers or finance’.

In its press statement, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) says the decision was reached following discussions with Japanese utility customers on the impact on the Japanese nuclear industry of the earthquake in March, including potential delays that would effect SMP’s projected program. The Board concluded that in order to protect the UK taxpayer from a future financial burden, closing SMP at the earliest practical opportunity was the only reasonable course of action.

CORE’s spokesman Martin Forwood said today: “We shed no tears for a white elephant plant that should never have opened in the first place. Had the NDA genuinely wished to save taxpayers money, it should have grasped the many opportunities provided during SMP’s sorry commercial lifetime to put it out of its misery. The NDA has effectively passed the buck to Japan do its dirty work for it and take the blame”.

The prolonged battles to get SMP built and operating, including legal challenges, had already provided ample warning to Sellafield that the commercial prospects for the plant were less than robust. With the first planning application to the Local Authority made in 1992, SMP finally opened with the introduction of the first plutonium in 2002 and only then after five public consultation exercises stretching between 1997 and 2001. Focusing specifically on the economic business case for the plant, the later consultations raised serious doubts as to where the contracts would come from and whether the ‘overly technical and complex plant’ could actually produce the goods to customers’ rigid specifications.

Built to manufacture 120 tons of MOX fuel per year, and with an operating lifespan of 20 years, SMP produced no fuel whatsoever until its third year of operation and a total of just 13 tons in its 9 years of operation which saw a number of contracts having to be sub-contracted to SMP’s arch-rivals in Europe. Despite dire warnings in 2006 and 2007 from Government commissioned consultants Arthur D Little (who had originally provided Government glowing reports of the plant’s prospects) that without further investment the plant would never operate as originally planned, the NDA continued to support its operation and in so doing wasted an estimated BP 1.4 billion (US$ 2.25 bn or 1.6bn euro) of taxpayers money.

A final lifeline was thrown to SMP in 2010 by the NDA involving a prolonged closure for complete refurbishment to be financed at an estimated cost of BP 200 million by Japanese utility customers, with the lead customer for the ‘revamped’ SMP identified as Chubu Electric’s Hamaoka plant. Dubbed in Japan as ‘the most dangerous atomic facility in the quake-prone archipelago’, Hamaoka was forced to close earlier this year by the Japanese Government’s demand for seismic tests and safety improvements. With the postponement of any further use of MOX fuel in Hamaoka’s reactors, SMP’s sole contract and lifeline was lost.

Martin Forwood added: “As widely expected by all but Government and Industry, the ‘cast-iron’ assurances in the late 1990’s from its then owner British Nuclear Fuels that sufficient business would be secured from Japan to warrant the plant’s operation were worthless, with SMP failing to secure even one Japanese contract during its operational lifetime. It is ironic that it should be the very customers it was built to serve who have switched off its life support machine”.

SMP directly employs around 650 workers and the NDA announcement of its closure has drawn the expected outcry on job losses and prophecies of gloom and doom for Sellafield which historically and routinely accompany the slightest threat, genuine or otherwise, to any of the site’s commercial facilities. As compensation, the NDA suggested to the August 3 stakeholder meeting that there was the prospect of a new MOX plant being built and, for their part, the Unions expressed some confidence that the workers could be redeployed elsewhere on site.

SMP’s closure has however opened the proverbial can of worms, particularly in respect of a new MOX plant being built. The current rationale behind the NDA’s thinking appears to be that as long as Japan’s program of MOX use has not completely sunk under the waves of the tsunami and the Fukushima catastrophe, the 13 tons of Japanese plutonium recovered by reprocessing at Sellafield might yet be converted to MOX in the new plant which could also be used to reduce the 110 ton stockpile of UK owned plutonium for use in the UK’s new-build reactors. The cost of a new MOX plant has been put at around BP 1.4 billion.

Martin Forwood further commented: “It beggars belief that the NDA appears hell-bent on repeating its own very recent and taxpayer-costly mistakes on MOX. Whilst they may wish to ‘appease the natives’ with the prospect of a new plant, there is no evidence whatsoever that sufficient MOX demand worldwide exists or will exist – particularly in the UK where many of the proposed new reactors may never get built. This is pie-in-the sky stuff and they should be concentrating instead on putting the dangerous plutonium stockpile permanently out of harm’s way and treat it as a waste by, for example, using SMP and its current workforce to immobilise plutonium in ‘low-spec’ MOX for disposal”.

Source: Press release CORE, 4 August 2011
Contact: Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment. Dry Hall, Broughton Mills, Broughton-In-Furness, Cumbria LA20 6AZ, UK.
Tel/Fax: +44 (0)1229 716523

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Municipalities try to block Danish plans for a final LILW repository.
The five Danish municipalities that host the six sites designated by Danish Decommissioning (DD) as a potential final low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste repository (see In Brief, Nuclear Monitor 727, 27 May 2011) have all refused to host it. On 26 May they sent a letter to the Danish interior and health minister, Bertel Haarder, suggesting that Risø National Laboratory on the island of Zeeland, where almost all of the radioactive waste has been produced at three research reactors, should be the place, where the waste is kept in the future. If that is not possible, a deal should be struck to send the up to 10.000 cubic metre radioactive waste abroad to a country experienced in dealing with it. The municipalities were dissatisfied that they had not been consulted in advance and that they had to hear of DD’s recommendations through the press. The minister dismissed the protests, arguing that the decision where to place the waste is several years off in the future and that there would be plenty of time to discuss the final location. However, locating the waste will not be up to him because the Danish interior and health ministry that has so far overseen the process is expected to give up its responsibilities after the completion of the pre-feasibility studies that has now been submitted. Since 2009 three other ministries have been fighting each other in order not to have to take charge of the project. The whole process has been heavily criticised in the media as well as from political opposition parties. Most recently, the Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear Waste Review (MKG) has criticised DD for not acknowledging that some of the waste is high-level radioactive waste and that it has failed to distinguish between short and long lived intermediate-level radioactive waste. According to MKG, apart from being designed to store only the short lived low- and intermediate-level waste and not the long lived, the planned Danish repository does not live up to Swedish standards, mainly because the safety analysis is too short-term.
Ingeniøren, 29 March 2011 / Jyllandsposten, 15 April 2011 / Radio Denmark, 26 May 2011

Sit-in against Jordan nuclear program in capital Amman.
On May 31, Jordan wittnessed its first anti-nuclear action. Not a spectacle in terms of number of people and methods applied, the participants comprised many concerned Jordanian citizens who are worried of the highly dangerous potential impacts of nuclear energy in Jordan. It included people from various disciplines of life, connected with their fear about the country’s nuclear program, which calls for the establishment of a 1,000 megawatt (MW) nuclear reactor. Wearing black T-shirts reading “No to a nuclear reactor”, the 40 protesters expressed concern over the effects of a nuclear reactor and uranium mining on public health and the environment.

Basil Burgan, an anti-nuclear activist and part of a coalition of 16 NGOs, said the demonstration was the “continuation” of efforts to take Jordan’s nuclear ambitions off-line. “We have come to a point where nuclear power has begun to take priority over solar and wind energy and we want to say that a small desert county like Jordan has no need for a nuclear power program,” he said on the sidelines of the sit-in,

Adnan Marajdeh, a resident of the Hashemiyyeh District near the planned site of the country’s first reactor in Balama, some 40 kilometers northwest of the capital, said there has been growing concern among local residents over the social and environmental impact of the plant. “We already suffer from the effects of the Samra Power Station, the Khirbet Al Samra Plant, a steel factory… now they have to put a nuclear power plant on top of us as well?” added the military retiree, who is president of the Jordan Environment Protection and Prevention Society.

Despite a resurgent opposition to nuclear power, Jordan is expected to select one of three short-listed vendors - Canadian, Russian and French-Japanese technologies - by June 30 for the construction of the countries first nuclear power plant.
Jordan Times, 1 June 2011 / Blog Batir Wardam at:

UK: No stress-test for Sellafield.
Media reports early June cited a British government spokesperson as saying that Sellafield would not be one of the 143 nuclear reactors across Europe to undergo a “stress test”. The spokesperson explained that the UK decision was based on the fact that Sellafield was a nuclear processing facility and not a power plant, therefore it did not meet the EU criteria for stress-testing. But Sellafield’s exclusion causes Irish consternation and the "renewed goodwill and neighbourliness between Ireland and Britain that has followed Queen Elizabeth’s successful visit to these shores" is facing fresh peril.

The Irish government do not seem to be taking no for an answer - a spokesperson for Environment Minister Phil Hogan said it was the department’s “understanding and expectation” that the stress test would apply to Sellafield, following a bilateral meeting on the issue in March.

“Sellafield cannot be exempted from vital safety health checks because of a technicality. It remains an active nuclear site and therefore poses risks like any other. The UK authorities should be willing to put Sellafield to the stress test, even if it’s not covered by the EU proposal, as it still represents a major safety concern for Irish citizens,” said the Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness., 4 June 2011

EU: directive to export radioactive waste.
EU member states should be able to send their radioactive waste to non-EU countries according to the EU Energy Committee. Voting on a draft directive on the  management of spent fuel, MEPs agreed that countries should be able to export radioactive waste outside of Europe, as long as it is processed in accordance with new EU safety rules.

Under the proposed directive, each EU state must create programs to ensure that spent fuel and waste is "safely processed and disposed of", as well as holding plans for the management of all nuclear facilities, even after they close.

MEPs also backed stricter rules for the protection and training of workers in the industry, agreeing that national governments must ensure sufficient funds are available to cover expenses related to decommissioning and management of radioactive waste under the "polluter pays" principle.

The EU Parliament's final vote on the directive will take place in June., 27 May 2011

Albania moves away from nuclear.
Maybe it was unlikely already but Albania moved one step away from nuclear. Albanian Premier Sali Berisha hinted May 7, on the fifth anniversary of the European Fund for Southeast Europe that the country is reconsidering previous plans for the construction of a nuclear power plant. Despite not declaring a definitive step down from the project, Albania’s Prime Minister made reference to the incident at Fukushima and Germany’s decision to close all nuclear plants by 2022 as a sign his government might be moving away from plans to build a nuclear plant. At the same time, according to a report by Top Channel, Berisha asked EFSE to help provide loans to investors willing to build new hydropower plants, meaning that for the time being Albania’s priority will be water generated energy., 8 June 2011

France: only 22 % in favor of new reactors.
France is the world's most nuclear-dependent country, producing 80 percent of its power from 58 reactors, but public opposition is growing. An opinion poll published June 4, found just over three-quarters of those surveyed back a gradual withdrawal over the next 25 to 30 years from nuclear technology.

The Ifop survey found only 22 percent of respondents supported building new nuclear power stations,15 percent backed a swift decommissioning and 62 percent a gradual one.
Reuters, 7 June 2011

Sellafield emergency exercise postponed - wrong weather

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

An on-site emergency exercise at Sellafield, scheduled for 4 November last year, was initially postponed when a real emergency unfolded in the form of a loss of coolant water to a number of Sellafield’s operating facilities when water supplies from the local lake at Wastwater were disrupted. It is not yet clear what caused the disruption or its duration. 

The planned Level 1 demonstration exercise “Magpie”, understood to have been based on a scenario whereby a truck carrying a load of plutonium contaminated material (PCM) had crashed over one of the site’s bridges, coincidentally damaging an important water pipe and posing a fire risk to the PCM, was postponed by the organisers in order to deal with the real water-loss event, and re-scheduled for 9th December. Come the day, the decision was taken to cancel the re-scheduled exercise altogether – because of inclement weather conditions (a prolonged freeze) and Sellafield’s Emergency Management Team being too busy with other work (preparing for another exercise some 4 months ahead).

Explanations for the abandonment of the ‘Magpie’ emergency exercise were provided to a local stakeholder group meeting on 7 April 2011 and drew disbelief from some members. Surely, the Emergency Management Team was not saying that Sellafield accidents could be expected to occur only on warm and sunny days and when emergency teams just happened to have time on their hands?

CORE’s spokesman Martin Forwood told the stakeholder meeting that the cancellation of any exercise was of significant concern, and later added that as there was little enough confidence in Sellafield’s ability to deal with a real accident on or offsite and to cope with public evacuations if necessary, the failure to take advantage of a practice exercise – under any conditions – was a missed opportunity that could prove costly and even fatal in the future. It was unacceptable that Sellafield’s emergency teams appeared unable to multi-task when the situation demanded.

As vividly played out in Japan recently, the loss of water supplies to nuclear facilities can have catastrophic results. For Sellafield, there would be dangerous implications for its reprocessing plants and spent fuel storage ponds, and particularly for its highly radioactive liquid High Level Waste (HLW) storage tanks that require 24/7 cooling and use water extracted from Wastwater as an emergency cooling supply. The lake is located some 11 kilometers from Sellafield, its water extracted via what is understood to be, for the most part, the original 50 year old piping.

The loss of coolant to the HLW tanks, leading to their overheating, catching fire and releasing a radioactive plume off-site, is designated as Sellafield’s ‘Reference Accident’ (the worst credible accident for the site) and forms the basis for West Cumbria’s Nuclear Emergency Plan.                                       

Source: CORE Briefing, 11 April 2011
Contact: Cumbrians Oppossed to a Radioactive Environment (CORE), Dry Hall, Broughton Mills, Broughton-in-Furness, Cumbria LA20 6AZ., U.K.
Tel:  +44 1229 716523

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Criticism South Korean UAE contract
A news program has belatedly exposed the fact that the South Korean government agreed to provide a loan covering approximately half the construction costs for the exportation of a nuclear power plant to the United Arab Emirates. While the government explained that this was part of ordinary power plant export financing, controversy has been flaring up as this revelation couples with previous controversies over inflation of the order amount and the deployment of troops to the UAE as a condition for receiving the order. A Jan. 30 episode of the MBC program 'News Magazine 2580' revealed that in the process of signing a contract with the UAE for the power plant export in December 2009, the South Korean government agreed to provide a loan for approximately US$10 billion (7.25 billion euro) of the total order amount of US$18.6 billion through Korea Eximbank. In addition, the program reported that the repayment period was set at 28 years, and that the transaction generates a loss due to the fact that South Korea, which has a lower credit rating than the UAE, has to borrow the money at high interest rates and lend it at low interest rates. The program also reported that the construction has encountered setbacks, including a delay in the groundbreaking ceremony from its originally scheduled date in late 2010, as the Korean government has encountered difficulties coming up with the promised US$10 billion loan.

Hankyoreh, South Korea, 1 February 2011

the 1st International Uranium Film Festival is Latin America´s first film festival to highlight nuclear and radioactive issues. It is an annual event with 2 international competitions.

The Uranium Film Festival wants to inform especially the Brazilian and Latin American societies and stimulate the production of independent documentaries and movies about the whole nuclear fuel cycle, about the dangers of radioactivity and especially about the environmental and health risks of uranium exploration, mining and processing. The Uranium Film Festival will be held from May 21th to 28th 2011 in the city of Rio de Janeiro and from June 2nd to 9th in the city of São Paulo

The first 18 films have been selected: look for the list at:

Germany: Complaints against runtime extensions to Constitutional Court.

In cooperation with citizens living close to Germany's seven oldest nuclear powerplants, Greenpeace has submitted a complaint to Germany's Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht). While Greenpeace Germany generally argues that the runtime extensions endanger each citizen's right of being protected against bodily harm, the new constitutional complaint is specifically directed at the latest Nuclear Energy Law's paragraph 7d. The new §7d tells reactor operators, in rather poetic language, to reduce risks threatening "the population". This is, according to Greenpeace's law experts, a significant point. It means that individual citizens who have lately filed complaints (with support from Greenpeace) against the extension of the licenses for reactors in their neighborhood will be denied the right of action. In other words, the old Nuclear Law was designed to protect citizens and gave them the right to complain in local courts against the risks caused by the local polluter, and the new law withdraws this right.

Parallel to Greenpeace's action, two other complaints against the new Nuclear Law

will be filed at the Constitutional Court later this year. One is by a number of states of the German federation and the other is by groups of members of the federal parliament.

Greenpeace press release (in German), 3 February 2011

Norway: severe consequences of Sellafield accident.
An accident at the high-activity liquor storage at Sellafield would have severe consequences for Norway's wildlife, agricultural industry and environment. The Norwegian Radiological Protection Authority has published a second report on the consequences of a accident that releases just one per cent of the high-level liquid waste at Sellafield. This report looks at the consequences to the environment and animals, while the first report considered the fallout likely from a similar accident. The report use the typical weather experienced in October 2008 and only considers the release of caesium-137. An actual accident would release other radionuclides, particularly strontium.

It is estimated the amount of caesium-137 deposited on Norway would be about seven times that from Chernobyl. Direct costs from Chernobyl on agriculture and reindeer in Norway have been over 665 million kroner (US$118 million; 86 million euro) and there are still annual costs of 15 million kroner. Up to 80 per cent of all lambs in Norway would be expected to have excess radiation levels and restrictions apply for decades. The report is available at

N-Base Briefing 681, 25 January 2011

Canada: White Elephant 'Pointless Lepreau' reappears in New Brunswick.
The Point Lepreau nuclear generating station provides the quintessential definition of a white elephant. The aging nuclear plant opened its doors three times over budget in 1983. The Energy and Utilities Board refused to support spending on refurbishing it beyond its expected lifetime, but politicians went ahead anyway. Today, costs for the touch-and-go overhaul are already over Cdn$1.4 billion (1.4 bn US$, 1 bn Euro). The latest guess at a completion date is May 2012, a delay of almost three years. Damage to public and worker health and the environment have yet to be calculated and the final costs for taxpayers may not end for generations.

An alliance of public interest groups in New Brunswick, known as the Point Lepreau Decommissioning Caucus, is spreading a simple, but powerful message: Point Lepreau is a white elephant, we don't need it. Pointless Lepreau is old, sickly and on its last legs: Do Not Resuscitate. To underline the foolishness of refurbishing Lepreau, the groups are holding surprise events featuring their newest member, an actual white elephant costume aptly named Pointless Lepreau.

Press release, 19 January 2011

When the dust settles.
The International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW) and IKV Pax Christi have been working on a joint project to create an animated short film on the hazards of depleted uranium and the international campaign against its use and are happy to announce that the English language version has now been completed. We have sought to render down a complex issue into six and a half minutes and at present the animation is available in English and Dutch, we hope that additional languages will be available in future.

Both versions are available from our Youtube channels at the links below. ICBUW can also provide copies for use at events and to help support your national campaigns.

English version:

UK Gov't sending papers down the memory-hole. The UK government and its agencies like the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA; successor to Nirex) are trying to airbrush out the history of the attempt to find a nuclear waste repository in West Cumbria. Documents and scientific papers which were formerly available on their websites have been removed; the Nirex documents have been transferred to the safe keeping of the British Geological Survey, where they may be 'consulted' at Keyworth, Nottinghamshire. But nothing remains online, not even an index of the documents and reports. Now, David Smythe has re-scanned much of the material and collected links of other parts.

Sellafield (West-Cumbria) was disqualified for several reasons, but now NDA and government is looking again at that region for final disposal.

Papers are available at:

Monju: accident delays startup with 3 more years. The task of removing a device that accidentally fell into the prototype fast-breeder reactor Monju in August will delay its full startup about a year to 2014 or later.
The Japan Atomic Energy Agency, the operator of the 280 MW Monju reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, is expected to remove the device next summer or later and then conduct checkups, delaying the test operation initially scheduled to start next spring and subsequent full-fledged run. Removing the 3.3-ton device, which was used for fuel exchange before it fell into the reactor vessel in the Aug. 26 accident, requires special equipment, approval from the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and a followup inspection.
Monju resumed operations with limited power output in May 2010 after 14 years and five months(!) of suspension due to a sodium coolant leak and a resultant fire and coverup attempt in 1995.
Kyodo, 17 December 2010

Extended operation for Paducah enrichment plant? US uranium enrichment company USEC said that it is working to extend the operation of its Paducah plant in Kentucky beyond May 2012, when the old and inefficient gaseous diffusion plant had been expected to shut down. The company said that it will "base its decision to extend operations upon economic considerations and the ability of the plant to operate profitably." The Paducah plant – currently the only operating uranium enrichment facility in the USA - is set to be replaced by USEC's planned American Centrifuge Plant (ACP) project in Piketon, Ohio.

The full ACP plant was originally expected to commence commercial operation in early 2010 and achieve full annual capacity at the end of 2012. However, early in 2009 the whole project was slowed pending funding through the Department of Energy (DoE) loan guarantee program, and in July 2009 it was suspended due to the DoE refusing to award a US$2 billion (1.5 billion euro) loan guarantee, and asking USEC to withdraw its application. USEC refused to do this, and in July 2010, it submitted an updated loan guarantee application to the DoE. In October 2010, DoE informed USEC that it has largely completed its initial technical review of USEC's application and is proceeding to the next stage of the loan guarantee process.

Although USEC earlier secured investment of U$200 million from Toshiba and Babcock & Wilcox to support the ACP, the company maintains that additional financing is needed to complete plant construction.

World Nuclear News, 12 January 2011

Italy: referendum on relaunching nuclear power.
Italy's constitutional court ruled on January 12, a national referendum could be held against the construction of nuclear power plants, dealing a potential blow to government plans to relaunch the sector. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi wants nuclear plants to generate a quarter of the country's electricity in the future. The court allowed a request by opposition politician Antonio Di Pietro for a referendum, which will take place between on a Sunday between April 15 and June 15.

Antonio Di Pietro is leader of Italia dei Valori (Italy of Values) a centrist political party and an outspoken opponent of nuclear power. An April 2010 petition by the party successfully gathered the 500,000 signatures of Italian voters needed for the referendum to proceed through the Italian legislative system. This was presented to the Constitutional Court for it's final ruling on the admissibility of the proposed referendum.

Public opinion in Italy has been generally hostile to nuclear energy, and a 1987 referendum following the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986 closed all plants and phased out production.

Reuters, 12 January 2011, Rete Nazionale Antinucleare (RNA) International, 13 January 2011

Sellafield: still the dirty old man of Europe - discharges set to breach marine pollution targets

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

A report published February 17 by CORE (Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment) exposes Sellafield’s plans for substantial increases in radioactive discharges to the Irish Sea over the coming decade.

The rate of discharge from planned reprocessing operations, and subsequent concentrations of radioactivity in the marine environment, will breach international commitments and targets agreed by the UK Government in 1998 at an OSPAR (Oslo-Paris) Convention meeting in Portugal. As a contracting party, the Government committed to the ‘progressive and substantial reduction in radioactive discharges so that by the year 2020, concentrations of (man-made) radioactivity in the marine environment, above historic levels, were ‘close to zero’.

CORE’s report reveals that, despite an awareness of the threat posed to those commitments by its current plans for Sellafield – including the threat of legal action by international governments - site owner the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has been prepared to adopt contingency plans if necessary, including an agreement ‘not to meet the OSPAR deadline’.

Spokesman for CORE, Martin Forwood said: "The NDA’s cavalier hit or miss approach to meeting UK commitments is breathtakingly complacent. Unless action is taken now, simple arithmetic dictates that if its work program is to be completed by the reprocessing plants’ scheduled closure dates, the rate of reprocessing must be significantly raised above anything achieved recently - with a correspondingly progressive and substantial increase in radioactive discharges that contravenes the commitment made in 1998 to reduce discharges”.

Radioactive discharges to the Irish Sea, including plutonium, are dominated by those from Sellafield’s two reprocessing plants B205 and the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (THORP), particularly the former. The accepted correlation between annual reprocessing rates and subsequent radioactive discharge levels is amply demonstrated by the recent reduction in discharges from the site following several years of unusually low reprocessing rates.

This recent reduction however will be completely reversed by NDA plans that include the reprocessing of some 4700 tons of spent fuel from the UK’s magnox reactors in B205 in the next 6 years - requiring a rate more than double that achieved over the last 5 years – and the reprocessing of at least 3700 tons of spent fuel, mostly from the UK’s Advanced Gas Cooled reactors (AGR) but also including 600 tons of overseas fuel in THORP whose operational life has now been extended by 10 years to 2020.

CORE’s assessment also highlights the extra pressure piled on the ageing B205 reprocessing plant, already under the tightest of schedules, by the extensions recently approved for the Wylfa and Oldbury power stations – a complete U-turn on earlier decisions, and one that means more magnox fuel than necessary must now be reprocessed.

The assessment further shows that, coupled with NDA indecision on whether or not to reprocess part or all of thousands of tons of AGR fuel not specifically contracted for reprocessing, a range of technical issues currently restricting Sellafield operations - particularly the lack of capacity to treat the highly radioactive liquid wastes produced by reprocessing – could see reprocessing extended beyond its scheduled end-date of 2020.

CORE’s spokesman added: “The rise in radioactive discharges from what increasingly resembles a crash program of reprocessing will not only breach UK commitments to OSPAR but also pose a potent threat to international waters. Meeting its commitments and reducing that threat could be resolved by the urgent adoption of alternatives to reprocessing – though Government and NDA addiction to reprocessing has so far prevented positive action on alternatives being pursued - and only then as a contingency in the event of a chronic failure of the reprocessing plant rather than as a constructive means of reducing discharges”.

The Government view, that the UK is ‘on course’ to meet its commitments is made in its 2009 UK Radioactive Discharge Strategy report, mirrors OSPAR’s view that progress is being made towards meeting its targets of discharge reductions. Based almost entirely on the reductions that have followed Sellafield’s recent poor reprocessing performance, both views ignore, or are oblivious to, the implications of the NDA’s escalated reprocessing plans. Further, weaknesses in OSPAR procedures for monitoring and sampling the marine environment could, if unresolved, provide convenient loopholes through which claims of success in meeting targets might be made when OSPAR’s final analysis is undertaken in 2020.

Martin Forwood further commented that: “The political will and courage needed to honour UK’s international commitments is conspicuous by its absence. Officialdom is sleepwalking towards a situation which, unless avoiding action is taken now, will see commitments broken and the UK once again earning the Dirty Old Man of Europe tag”.

At the 1998 meeting of OSPAR at Sintra in Portugal, the then UK Minister John Prescott signed up to what were described as groundbreaking commitments for action on radioactive discharges, stating “I was ashamed of Britain’s record in the past but now we have shed the tag of Dirty old Man of Europe and have joined the family of nations”.

The CORE report 'Sellafield – Breaching International Treaty Targets on Radioactive Marine Pollution' is available via CORE

Source and contact: CORE, Dry Hall, Broughton Mills, Broughton-in-Furness, Cumbria LA20 6AZ. United Kingdom, Tel: + 44 1229 716523

The Redfern inquiry: the Sellafield body parts scandal

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

As Inquiries into nuclear activities go, the findings of the three-year Inquiry lead by Michael Redfern QC published on November 16, stand out as a refreshingly honest and hard-hitting indictment of the cavalier and unethical practices of harvesting organs from deceased Sellafield workers from the 1960’s to 1992.

Few individuals or organizations directly involved in the removal of an obscene number of organs during coroners’ or hospital post-mortems remain unscathed by the Inquiry, with criticisms leveled at British Nuclear Fuels plc (BNFL), its predecessor UKAEA, Pathologists and Coroners involved in West Cumbria at the time.

Whilst the long-held suspicions of Sellafield’s ‘Body Parts’ malpractices have been well and truly upheld by the Inquiry, the level of malpractice will have shocked most observers. For the families of the 64 Sellafield worker cases, the Inquiry’s findings may bring some level of closure, but trust in the nuclear industry will have been dented by the extent of the collusion between the authorities involved and the widespread lack of openness and consideration towards the families whose consent for the harvesting of organs was not sought.

Providing the Inquiry with over 40 files containing information relating to Sellafield families, CORE wholeheartedly welcomes the work of Michael Redfern QC and his team whose Inquiry solicitor Stephen Jones had earlier thanked CORE for giving ‘a valuable lead into everything at an early stage’.  The files had been collated by CORE over a number of years from the late 1980’s onwards during the operation of a compensation fund it had organised for Sellafield workers and families.

CORE’s spokeman Martin Forwood said today:

“The families will undoubtedly be experiencing a mixture of relief that the truth of the body-parts scandal has been exposed and dismay that they were so badly let down by those   claiming to have their welfare and best interests at heart. For those at the time grieving the loss of a family member, it is difficult to imagine a more heartless betrayal of trust by those directly involved in the scandal”.

The Inquiry paid significant attention to the role played by Dr Geoffrey Schofield (died 1985) after whom a ‘prestigious’ laboratory is named at the Westlakes Science Park near Whitehaven. As Sellafield’s Chief Medical Officer who analyzed 53 of the 64 former Sellafield workers organs, he was found to have given no consideration to the ethics of his work and to have taken dubious steps to obtain organs in cases that were of particular interest to him. His successor Dr Lawson showed an equal lack of ethical awareness and the work of both remained largely unsupervised by the BNFL Board.

Equally damning is the Inquiry’s finding that all the pathologists involved were not only profoundly ignorant of the law under which they carried out the post-mortems but also that they pandered to BNFL’s needs. In removing organs during post mortems without family consent, they breached the provisions of the Human Issue Act 1961.

Coroners too came in for criticism from the Inquiry for leaving families in the dark, failing often to read post mortem reports, and assisting BNFL, the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) and the Medical Research Council (MRC) to obtain organs heedless of whether family consent had been obtained.

With its remit widened beyond the former Sellafield worker cases, the practice of organ harvesting at other facilities in the UK was also investigated by the Redfern Inquiry - some 6000 cases in total. As with Sellafield, no family consent had been obtained.

Martin Forwood added:

“We’ve today heard the Government’s apology for these wrongdoings in West Cumbria and elsewhere, and been given assurances that a tightening of laws and regulations will ensure they will not be repeated. We trust that the industry has learned from Michael Redfern’s lesson, and does not revert to type once the dust of his Inquiry has settled”.

Source: CORE Press release, 16 November 2010.
Contact: CORE, Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment.
Tel:  + 44 1229 716523


Body parts were taken without consent from 64 former Sellafield employees and provided for analysis by their employers between 1960 and 1991. Organs were also taken without consent from 12 workers at nuclear sites in Springfields, Capenhurst, Dounreay and Aldermaston to be tested at Sellafield.

The liver was removed in all cases and one or both lungs in all but one incident. Vertebrae, sternum, ribs, lymph nodes, spleen, kidneys and femur were also stripped in the majority of incidents. Brains, tongues, hearts and testes were also taken on the advice of the medical officer at Sellafield.

All the organs were later destroyed.
Independent, 16 November 2010

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Opposition mounting against refitting Gentilly-2.
More than 250 Quebec municipalities and regional municipal governments have banded together to demand the province shut the door on nuclear energy by mothballing Hydro-Quebec's Gentilly-2 nuclear reactor instead of rebuilding it. Copies of a resolution thus far adopted by 255 municipal bodies were presented to three opposition members of the Quebec legislature on September 10 by Mayor Gaetan Ruest of Amqui, Que., who has been spearheading a campaign launched in 2009. The thick stack of identically worded resolutions will be introduced in the full legislature after the assembly reconvenes Sept. 21. Public opinion polls show almost two-thirds of Quebecers are opposed to a plan by Hydro-Quebec to rebuild Gentilly-2.
Ottawa Citizen, 11 September 2010

China: people largely distrustful of the nuclear industry.
It is not any longer a European and North-American problem: now there is a shortage in nuclear professionals for their rapid expansion of nuclear power in China too. According to senior government officials, China's nuclear power industry is demanding more professionals than the country can produce, a potential threat to safety. China has six leading universities that train nuclear specialists. Neither Zhang or Li gave specific figures for the shortage, but an official with the China Nuclear Society estimated the country would need 5,000 to 6,000 professionals annually in the next decade or so, versus a yearly supply now of about 2,000. Li also stressed that "public education was critical because people were largely distrustful of the industry." A lack of professionals has often been identified as a reason that a rapid expansion of nuclear power is unrealistic.
Reuters, 20 September 2010

Urani? Naamik.
An amendment has been made by the Greenland government to the standard terms for exploration licences under the country's Mineral Resources Act of 2009. The amendment allows the Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum (BMP) to approve that comprehensive feasibility studies can be undertaken on mineral projects that include radioactive elements as exploitable minerals. Within this framework, projects are considered on a case-by-case basis at the government's discretion. 
Australian-based Greenland Minerals and Energy has lodged an application under these new regulations that has been approved by the BMP. The company says that it is now in a position to commit to commence definitive feasibility studies in 2011 as planned. The studies, it said, will generate the necessary information to determine development parameters for the Kvanefjeld deposit. The Greenland government has stressed that although radioactive elements may now be surveyed, their extraction is still not permitted.

The Kvanefjeld deposit is eight kilometres inland from the coastal town of Narsaq, near the southern tip of the country. It has a deep water port. Uranium comprises about 20% of the value of minerals able to be produced from Kvanefjeld.
World Nuclear News, 13 September 2010

India: Further delay Kudankulam.
The commissioning of the first unit of the Kudankulam nuclear power project has been put off by a further three months from the previously revised scheduled date of completion. According to Nuclear Power Corporation of India, the first unit is expected to be commissioned in March 2011. Previously, it had mentioned December 2010 as the expected date of commercial operation. The 2,000 MW, two units of 1,000 MW each, nuclear project that is coming up at Kudankuklam, southern Tamil Nadu with Russian technology, reactors and fuel, has suffered a huge delay in commissioning.
The first of the two units was originally supposed to begin commercial operations in December 2007 which means, the project has already slipped by three years and three months. The second unit, initially scheduled to start commercial operations in December 2008, is now expected to go on stream in December 2011., 5 September 2010

Spain: blockades after rumors decision waste storage. Spain delays the decision on nuclear storage site after news that the temporary dry-storage facility for high-level radioactive waste would be built in Valencia region revived long term opposition to the plan. According to a spokeswoman for the Valencia autonomous government, Spain's industry ministry announced on September 17 that the facility would be located in Zarra, a municipality in region. But the government was later forced to say it was not a final decision because of strong public opposition, according o statements to the Europe's environmental news and information service ENDS. The industry ministry rejects this interpretation, saying it only informed the regional government that Zarra was "well placed" to house the facility and that the decision would be "discussed" at the September 17 meeting of Spain's council of ministers. A spokesman said the government "hopes to have a decision soon".

Local residents and environmentalists responded to the news by blocking the Valencia-Madrid motorway on Sunday. The Spanish government has been trying to find a site since years. The search has become increasingly urgent since existing localized storage capacity is insufficient for the high-level waste produced in the country.
ENDS, 20 September 2010

U.A.E.: Raising debt to finance nuclear project.
Abu Dhabi is expected to raise debt to finance more than half the cost of its initial US$20 billion nuclear project, defying a warning by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that lenders could shy away from nuclear development. Yukiya Amano, the IAEA director general, said international lenders were “reluctant to support nuclear power projects”, amid a surge of interest in nuclear development by new countries.  Credit Suisse Group AG has been appointed as financial adviser for the United Arab Emirates’ nuclear power program, Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp. announced. So far no other banks have been appointed as advisers for the project, according to a report in Bloomberg. HSBC Holdings Plc may also be selected to advise state-run Emirates Nuclear Energy, although the bank is yet to be formally appointed for the role, which includes securing debt commitments for the project, ('Middle East bussines intelligence since 1957') reported on its website September 15.

No firm plan for the financing exists yet but Abu Dhabi has already accessed debt markets to pay for energy infrastructure such as power plants and pipelines.  But the Abu Dhabi financing could be raised by a combination of export credit, syndicated loans and government bonds, depending on the appetite of global investors after the global recession. Credit Suisse will help develop a financing structure advantageous to Abu Dhabi.

Another way to subsidize nuclear power are export credit agencies. Those agencies from countries supplying the materials and parts are also expected to shoulder part of the financing. This would ease the pressure on Abu Dhabi’s government financing, which is already being funnelled into civic and industrial diversification projects, with a budget deficit forecast this year. Government guarantees on the loans, by contrast, can be a crucial ingredient to a 'successful financing'.
The Nation (UAE), 21 September 2010 / Bloomberg and, 15 September 2010

U.K.: The end of the towel controversy. Sellafield's towels controversy is over after a change of heart by management over plans to stop issuing and washing towels used by workers in the 'active' areas of the nuclear site. There had been protests by the site unions who feared contamination could be left on clothing and carried off the site. Sellafield Ltd wanted workers to help cut costs by bringing in their own towels and taking them back home for washing. Towels amount to more than half the site laundry wash load. Management still thinks too many towels are being used but is ready to talk to the unions about other cost-cutting options.
Whitehaven News, 8 September 2010

Bulgaria: beach contaminated by uranium mining.
The sand from the Bulgarian Black coast bay "Vromos" is radioactive and "harmful for beach goers", according to experts from the Environment and Health Ministries. A letter, send to the Governor of the Region of Burgas, Konstantin Grebenarov, asks local authorities to make people aware of the results and place signs warning visitors to not use the beach. The radiation level is twice as high than the norm for the southern Black Sea coast, but the danger is not in the air, rather in the sand which contains uranium and radium. The contamination is coming from the now-closed nearby mine which deposited large amounts of radioactive waste in the bay between 1954 and 1977. The increase of radiation levels in the area over the last three years is attributed to some radioactive waste that has not been completely removed.

In the beginning of August, Grebenarov, already issued an order banning the use of the beach located between the municipalities of the city of Burgas and the town of Sozopol, near the town of Chernomorets. At the time Grebenarov said he made the decision after consulting with experts from the Health Ministry and the Environmental Agency.

The order triggered large-scale protests among hotel and land owners around the bay, saying the order serves business interests and aims at lowering property prices in the area. The Governor says the warning signs, placed at "Vromos," and removed by local owners, but will be mounted again.

During a visit early August to Sozopol, Finance Minister, Simeon Djankov, promised the owners to make sure there would be a second measurement, and if it proves the radiation is within the norm, the ban would be lifted. But now it turns out that a separate measurement, done by the Executive Environmental Agency in mid-August, had the same results.
Sofia News Agency, 2 September 2010