Sunday, December 30, 2007

Ukraine president orders speedy closure of Chernobyl reactor

December 30. 2007

KIEV, December 27 (RIA Novosti) - The president of Ukraine ordered Thursday the country's Emergency Situations Ministry to present him with a plan for the closure of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant within 20 days.

In September Ukraine signed a contract with France's Novarka to build a cover over the damaged Chernobyl reactor, which exploded in 1986 in the world's worst nuclear disaster. The country also signed a deal to build a "dry storage" facility for spent nuclear fuel on the site of the plant with U.S. company Holtec International.

"I must have a concrete plan for decommissioning the Chernobyl NPP within 20 days," Viktor Yushchenko said as he introduced new minister Volodymyr Shandru.

The president also said that the construction of the cover for NPP should be started in the first quarter of next year to avoid anymore delays.

The plant's reactor No. 4 has been protected by a concrete Soviet-designed "sarcophagus" since the disaster occurred 21 years ago. The replacement of the crumbling structure, now long overdue, has been repeatedly put off due to funding difficulties.

On July 17 the Assembly of Chernobyl Shelter Fund Donors gave its approval for the deal with Novarka to build a steel cover over the reactor at a preliminary cost of 490 million euros (about $680 million).

The decision came after numerous delays since the organization, which comprises 28 countries including the G8 nations and is run by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), pledged in 2005 to allocate only $200 million for a new vault to contain the radioactive material still inside reactor No. 4.

In August EBRD signed a contract with the Ukrainian Ministry for Emergency Situations and a state company overseeing the plant, granting Ukraine 330 million euros (about $460 mln) to secure the damaged reactor.

The project is fraught with engineering difficulties, due to the high radiation threat. A huge steel vault, which will be constructed away from the reactor site, will then be slid into place on rails sealing the plant for 100 years, and further measures are expected to reduce the threat or remove the radioactive material from the plant.

Estimates by international bodies of the number of deaths caused by the world's worst nuclear disaster vary dramatically. Fifty-six people were reported to have been killed directly and another 4,000 to have died of thyroid cancer shortly after the accident. Several million more are believed to have been exposed to different degrees of radiation.

Vast areas, mainly in the three ex-Soviet states, were contaminated by the fallout of the explosion. More than 300,000 people were relocated after the accident. But 5 million people still live in areas of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine classified as "contaminated" with radioactive elements. An 18-mile zone around the reactor remains largely deserted to this day.

The amount of international aid to the affected territories is still to be calculated, but UN experts put the figure at hundreds of billions of dollars, some of which has been misappropriated.

Iran starts construction of first local nuclear power plant

Dec 30, 2007

Tehran - Iran has started construction of its first local nuclear power plant in Darkhowayn, Energy Minister Parvz Fatah said Sunday.

The 360-megawatt nuclear reactor in Darkhowayn, south-western Khuzestan province, will be constructed under the supervision of the country's Atomic Energy Organization and by Iranian experts only, the minister was quoted by the news network Khabar as saying.

Vice-President Gholam-Reza Aqazadeh, who is also head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said earlier this month that the new plant would be finished within four to five years.

Western nations have said that Iran had only one not yet operating nuclear plant in the southern port of Bushehr and as the fuel for that plant was provided by Russia, the country would have no need to pursue its uranium enrichment process at the current scale.

Aqazadeh and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad however argued that Iran planned to build further nuclear plants in the future and therefore would need the fuel whenever the plants were finished.

The fuel for the Darkhowayn plant is supposed to be provided by the Natanz plant in central Iran.

President Ahmadinejad said that the current 3,000 centrifuges in Natanz were to be increased to 50,000 centrifuges within the next four to five years for providing the fuel for at least one of the new plants.

The Russian state contractor Atomstroiexport has already delivered two consignments of over 80 tons of nuclear fuel to Iran and Tehran hopes that the electricity from the Bushehr plant would join the national power grid within the second quarter of 2008.

Iran might still face a third UN Security Council resolution, including financial sanctions, for having rejected the main international demand of suspending its uranium enrichment programme.

President Ahmadinejad again rejected the demand, saying that Iran's nuclear programmes, including enrichment, 'would go ahead with full gas,' and the country would not be intimidated by sanctions or military threats.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Lawmakers, environmentalists rip nuclear waste transport plan

Dec. 30, 2007

S.C. would be affected by proposal to solve Italy’s problem

S.C. would be affected by proposal to solve Italy’s problem

Exporting nuclear waste from Italy through Charleston would solve a problem plaguing the European nation for nearly 50 years: where to dispose of radioactive garbage scattered across the countryside.

But critics say solving Italy’s low-level waste problem isn’t an American responsibility — and it’s an issue Congress should address.

Unlike the United States, Italy has no permanent repository to bury or seal away low-level atomic waste. Since shuttering its nuclear power industry two decades ago, Italy has stored the radioactive material at power plants and other sites across that nation.

Now, Energy Solutions Inc. of Utah is seeking federal approval to import up to 20,000 tons of Italian low-level waste through Charleston and New Orleans for processing and disposal in the United States.

The volume, which translates to about 1 million cubic feet, is believed to be unprecedented in the United States. It is among no more than 20 requests of its kind since 1995, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Some policymakers in South Carolina say they’re worried about the danger of hauling tons of nuclear waste through the state by truck or rail.

“They need to deal with it,” state Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Richland, said of Italy.

Conservationists also have expressed concern that Italian nuclear garbage could wind up in the state’s 36-year-old atomic waste dump, which Energy Solutions operates. The company says it won’t bury the waste at the Barnwell County dump; the site is scheduled to close to the nation this summer.

Still, Lourie wants Congress to look at the impact of letting the U.S. accept low-level atomic garbage from other nations.

He and state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw, recently wrote South Carolina’s congressional delegation expressing concerns. Lourie likened the debate over importing waste to South Carolina’s struggle to close its Barnwell County nuclear dump to the nation. Despite widespread criticism that South Carolina has been the nation’s nuclear waste dump, closing the landfill took more than a decade as an Energy Solutions company lobbied lawmakers to keep it open.

“Do we want to promote that kind of industry in America, where we accept everyone else’s nuclear waste, or should we encourage other countries to deal with it on their own soil?” Lourie asked.

Lourie said he has not heard back from any members of South Carolina’s legislative delegation, but congressional members from Kentucky, Texas and Tennessee are upset. The Energy Solutions plan relies on processing in Tennessee and some disposal in Utah.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman Dale Klein says the agency would take state concerns into account when it considers issuing an import license to Energy Solutions. South Carolina, for instance, blocked a similar disposal plan from Mexico in 1995, Klein said in a recent letter obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune.

What’s the concern?

Low-level nuclear waste can be as benign as lightly contaminated booties or hospital gowns. But it also can include some more highly radioactive material that can be lethal — and it can pollute the environment.

The Barnwell County landfill, for instance, is the only one now open to the nation for the most toxic forms of low-level waste. The 235-acre landfill has leaked and is contaminating groundwater at levels comparable to the Savannah River Site nuclear weapons complex nearby.

Some state legislators have been approached this month by a waste processing company lobbyist about a bill to keep the Barnwell County landfill open, but few have expressed interest in the idea. In recent documents filed with the NRC, Energy Solutions told federal regulators it has no intention of dumping the Italian waste in Barnwell County.

The amount of waste coming from Italy would nearly fill the Barnwell County landfill if it were sent there. By agreement, that space has been reserved for nuclear refuse from South Carolina, Connecticut and New Jersey.

“We are on record as stating that we will not be pursuing legislation during the next session,” company senior vice-president Greg Hopkins said in a statement. “As for others who may be pursuing legislation, you would have to ask them. I’m not aware of any.”

Instead, Energy Solutions plans to ship about 8 percent of the Italian nuclear waste to a burial ground it operates in Clive, Utah. The rest will be “processed” or recycled at an Energy Solutions site in east Tennessee, the company recently told the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tennessee, said the congressman isn’t happy with the plan. A key concern is burning nuclear waste in that state.

“Bart thinks it’s troubling that the U.S. is disposing of nuclear waste from other countries when we have so many challenges in disposing of nuclear waste generated in the U.S.,” said his communications director, Julie Eubank. “Countries should bear more responsibility in disposing of waste they generated.”

The lack of a repository in Italy is an issue, according to Energy Solutions. Some of Italy’s high-level waste now is sent to other nations for recycling. (The U.S. also has in the past accepted high-level waste from other countries to prevent terrorist threats abroad.)

“My understanding is that with Italy, they don’t have a disposition path,” Energy Solutions spokesman Mark Walker said. “One thing they need to do is figure a way to manage this” low-level waste.

The amount of waste that would come from Italy appears to be a substantial percentage stored in that country, according to some reports. But Energy Solutions could not confirm that when asked by The State. The material would come from the country’s four closed nuclear plants and four other facilities, according to Energy Solutions.

A 2006 Italian report on nuclear waste management says the nation needs help from other countries to manage different types of nuclear waste.

“International cooperation is recognized to be of high importance,” according to the report, provided to The State by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Italy has had plans to build a low-level radioactive waste dump for some time, as well as one for high-level waste. But the 2006 report says citizen opposition has postponed those plans.

A nation of about 60 million people, Italy has four closed nuclear power stations, as well as other nuclear facilities with low-level atomic waste. Construction on the first plant began in 1958. The last of the power plants began shutting down in the late 1980s as opposition to nuclear energy grew.

Nuclear power to get green light despite legal challenge

December 30, 2007

Ministers are expected formally to back a new generation of nuclear power stations in Britain, in defiance of a fresh legal challenge from environmentalists and a damaging revolt from Labour backbenchers. Gordon Brown's first cabinet meeting of the new year is due to nod through the decision next week, and John Hutton, Secretary of State for Business and Enterprise, is expected to confirm it to the House of Commons on 7 January when MPs return from their Christmas break.

But Greenpeace, which overturned the Government's last attempt to usher in a new atomic age when a judge ruled that the decision-making process had been flawed, is confident of repeating the successful tactic. And Britain's top nuclear energy economist, who recently headed a key government advisory committee, has demolished the case for the atom and lent his support to the legal action.

Last night a senior source in Mr Hutton's department told The Independent on Sunday that the pro-nuclear decision, which follows a five-month public consultations, would be made "within days".

He added: "Dozens of individuals and organisations have contributed to the consultation and we have taken account of everything they said. Given the circumstances we will be facing over the coming years, it is inconceivable that we should prevent nuclear from being part of our energy mix."

Mr Hutton will avoid giving any details of the numbers of reactors the Government would like to see built – or even give a cast-iron undertaking that any will actually be constructed – instead stressing that it will be up to the nuclear industry to come forward with proposals. Any new atomic stations are expected to be sited at existing ones in southern England, such as at Sizewell in Suffolk, Dungeness in Kent, Hinkley Point in Somerset and Bradwell in Essex.

But ministers' hopes that this will put an end to their accident-prone attempts to ensure an atomic future are likely to be confounded. Greenpeace has already written to the Treasury solicitor with evidence that the process has been marred by similar flaws that caused the last decision to be invalidated.

The Government, while confident that it would win any new court case, is resigned to having to fight a new legal action – and fears that, if it were defeated again, the whole enterprise will start to unravel.

Professor Gordon MacKerron of Sussex University – who until last year headed the Government's committee on radioactive waste management – has lent his weight to the Greenpeace challenge, telling ministers that he has "serious misgivings about the legitimacy of the consultation process".

He adds, in a new report, that "the Government's position on the economics of nuclear power is overly optimistic" and that "the risks are very substantial".

The plan is also likely to run into opposition on the Government's back benches. One senior Labour MP said: "I will be voting against this at the first opportunity, and a lot of colleagues will do the same."

Uranium exploration spurred by hunger for cleaner, cheaper energy

December 29, 2007

LUSAKA (Zambia): Resurgent global interest in nuclear power has made Zambia, a southern African nation better known for its vast copper reserves, into a hotbed of uranium exploration.

The search for uranium in Zambia is part of a larger wave of uranium exploration and mining across mineral-rich southern Africa that is raising hopes of new jobs and tax revenue, but also sparking debates over safety and security. Many countries are looking for cleaner and cheaper alternatives to oil and coal power, and uranium prices are high after a decades-long slump.

African Energy Resources Ltd., an Australian-owned mining outfit, is drilling on the southern border with Zimbabwe. Canadian-owned Equinox Ltd. said in November that there is high-grade uranium in the Lumwana open pit copper mine in northwestern Zambia, and hopes to begin stockpiling it next year.

Zambia’s government is now completing regulations to cover the mining, processing and export of uranium products, says Maxwell Mwale, Deputy Minister of Mines and Mineral Development for large scale mining projects.

Elsewhere in Africa, exploration is ramping up across the border in Botswana. Namibia’s uranium exporting industry has seen a revival, with a $112 million expansion of the long-running Rossing open mine and the opening of a new mine in 2006 by Australian-owned Paladin Energy Limited.

It’s the “biggest push on uranium exploration since the late ’70s,” says Alasdair Cooke, executive chairman of African Energy Resources, which has poured $8 million into its exploration project with Albidon Mining Ltd., in southern Zambia over the past three years. “With the global energy market coming under so much pressure [from] new economies, uranium has become part of the mix.”

The scramble for uranium marks a stark turnaround after a decades-long industry slump brought on by the 1986 disaster at Chernobyl that made nuclear power a dirty phrase, and the end of the nuclear arms race of the Cold War.

Concerns over climate change and pollution created by coal, along with high oil prices, have sent uranium prices from less than $10 per pound at the start of the decade to a current price of about $92 per pound. Many countries, including the U.S., are planning to build new nuclear reactors, and China is looking to imported uranium for the many nuclear reactors it will use to help fuel its massive economic growth.

Though nuclear power is seen by many as the environmentally friendly energy source of the future, industry officials still face opposition from some environmental groups and other sceptics.

Just east of Zambia, in Malawi, the government’s grant of a uranium mining licence to Paladin, sparked complaints from the Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation. The Malawian government has a 15 per cent stake in the project. While the local group acknowledged that the almost $200 million mining project could create jobs and profits, it questioned its effect on the environment and whether “the economic benefits to Malawi through the introduction of uranium mining operations outweigh the social concerns and hazards associated with them,” in a recent press statement.

Experts say while radon gas emitted by uranium presents some radiation risks, modern technology makes them negligible to workers and the public. Radiation exposure is low in open cut mining, and can be further lessened by enforcing strict hygiene regulations on miners using uranium oxide concentrate, according to the industry’s World Nuclear Association. In an underground mine, modern ventilation systems are needed to keep miners safe, the association says.

In some regions, the increased demand for uranium has prompted security concerns, especially amid reports of illegal uranium mining across the border in Congo — the same area that produced some of the uranium used in the atomic bombs dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.

Counterterrorism experts worry about extremists getting radiation materials through a black market for nuclear components that operates despite attempts to tighten security. — AP

Millstone seeks source of leak of radioactive element

December 29, 2007,0,1966240.story

WATERFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Millstone Power Station is trying to find the source of a leak of tritium, a radioactive element that was first discovered leaking a month ago at the nuclear power complex.

Pipes that scale a water storage tank at the Unit 3 reactor at Millstone may be leaking water laced with small amounts of tritium, a byproduct of the fission process. It's a naturally occurring form of hydrogen found in reflective watch faces, road signs and other items.

Tritium is a low-energy isotope that emits a weak form of radiation and does not travel far through the air, though it can be absorbed in the skin.

Millstone owner Dominion has ruled out the reactor core and the spent fuel pool as sources of the tritium leak, which was first discovered Nov. 27.

The company is focusing on pipes that travel along the outside of a tank.

"We've looked in other places and found no (leak) of tritium, and that's the only place nearby that could be the source," Pete Hyde, a spokesman for Dominion, said.

Dominion has hired a contractor that will begin work next month to examine pipes and drill wells to determine how far, if at all, the tritium leak has spread.

The radioactive element is bubbling up in low levels in groundwater beneath a foundation drain sump well where water collects after it is drawn from the reactor, Hyde said.

So far, the leak has not spread in groundwater to any of 41 monitoring wells at Millstone, said Hyde and Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Levels of the isotope at Millstone exceed drinking water standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but are far below standards for water not intended for drinking, Sheehan said.

Sheehan characterized the leak as minor but said similar leaks over the past few years _ at the Braidwood Station in Illinois and Indian Point in New York _ prompted the industry to respond more rapidly to tritium leaks with voluntary reporting to federal regulators.

Officials are concerned that continued leaks of water laced with tritium could migrate through the groundwater and eventually off site into neighboring residents' wells.

The state Department of Environmental Protection is paying attention to Millstone's work, and the inability so far to isolate the leak, DEP spokesman Dennis Schain said. Staff from DEP's radiation division have been at Millstone, discussing the matter with Dominion officials, he said.

"We're definitely watching it and are in touch with (Dominion) on their findings," he said.


LONDON, December 29 (IranMania) - The second consignment of fuel for Bushehr nuclear power plant arrived in Iran, IRNA reported.

December 29, 2007

LONDON, December 29 (IranMania) - The second consignment of fuel for Bushehr nuclear power plant arrived in Iran, IRNA reported.

Deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Ahmad Fayazbakhsh told IRNA on Friday that the amount of the delivered fuel is the same as the first consignment.

He added, "The second consignment was delivered upon scheduled time table."

The first consignment arrived in Bushehr power plant on December 17, 2007.

The initial fuel for the Bushehr nuclear power plant is around 82 tons which would be delivered to Iran in 8 separate consignments from Russia within two months.

Opposition stirring against new reactors

Dec. 28, 2007

Coalition plans to fight project in Matagorda County

Texas anti-nuclear activists are rallying their forces to challenge the so-called nuclear renaissance that could see the state become home to the country's first new nuclear power plant project in nearly 30 years.

On Friday a coalition of groups said it will intervene in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's review of NRG Energy's application to build two new reactors in Matagorda County, next to the existing South Texas Project nuclear plant.

The commission filed notice this week that a 60-day public comment period is now open for groups to intervene in the review for the joint construction and operation permit.

Austin-based officials with the Sierra Club, Public Citizen and the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development Coalition said they don't yet know if they will intervene in the review separately or under one name. But they don't plan on sitting on their hands.

"We need to draw a line in the sand here in Texas and create a new nuclear resistance movement to say no to the nuclear regurgitation," said Karen Hadden, director of SEED.

Princeton, N.J.-based NRG, which already owns a 44 percent stake in the two existing reactors, filed the application in September.

CPS Energy, San Antonio's public utility, owns 40 percent of the existing project and said it plans to participate in the new one. Austin Energy, which owns 16 percent of STP, has not yet decided if it will take part in the new project.

Several other companies have expressed interest in either expanding existing plants around the country or building new facilities. Dallas-based Luminant, a part of the former TXU Corp., said it may expand its Comanche Peak nuclear plant in North Texas, while Chicago-based Exelon said it may file an application for a plant near Victoria.

NRG spokesman David Knox said building new nuclear plants like the one his company is planning will be major steps toward battling global warming.

"Nuclear is clean, safe and secure and will be critical to help meet rising electrical demand without contributing to global climate change," Knox said.

The environmental groups are challenging the project on several fronts in addition to the long-standing complaints about the dangers of storing nuclear waste indefinitely and the role it may play in nuclear weapons proliferation.

The groups point to the industry's last round of construction in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when projects regularly ran over budget and schedule, as proof new projects will also be costly.

They also criticize the industry's reliance on government incentives and subsidies — including $2 billion in risk insurance, billions in construction loan guarantees and a production tax credit for power generated in the first eight years of a project.

The groups also raise security and equipment safety issues. South Texas was the subject of a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists in 2006, a Washington-based nonprofit advocacy group, that alleged there were problems such as security guards failing to properly search vehicles and broken surveillance cameras and radio equipment.

Officials with the plant have told the Chronicle they had addressed the concerns raised in the report.

Neil Carman, director of the clean air program for the Sierra Club in Texas, said the state's environmental community hasn't addressed nuclear energy for many years. In Texas organizers spent a lot of time and effort in the past two years fighting TXU's plans to build nearly a dozen new coal-fired power plants.

"But it's been quite amazing to see a lot of people coming out of the woodwork and wanting to work on this," Carman said. "I think you will see a very strong anti-nuclear movement in Texas."

Utilities push limits of nuclear plants

December 29, 2007

They're worked longer, harder.

With new nuclear power plants still years away, the industry plans to push the nation's aging nuclear fleet to last longer and work harder.

The industry says it's perfectly safe, but not everyone agrees.

Here in Florida and across the country, utilities have asked federal regulators to extend their plants' 40-year operating licenses for another 20 years. Many of those utilities also want to alter their nuclear plants to produce more electricity.

"From an engineering and technical standpoint, there is no reason not to extend the life of the plant," said Buddy Eller, spokesman for Progress Energy Florida. "And from an economic and environmental standpoint, in terms of emissions, it's a win-win for customers."

The St. Petersburg utility has already won approval to increase the output of its Crystal River nuclear plant, and plans to ask for a 20-year license renewal, says the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Crystal River's 40-year license expires in 2016.

"Our agency doesn't look at any other factor more than 'can it be done safely?'" said NRC spokesman Roger Hannah.

But not everyone agrees that the commission's oversight is enough. Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said renewals don't take into account increased population around plants, terrorist attack risks or the effects of aging combined with making plants work harder.

"If you don't have a perfect understanding of these aging issues, then are your inspection programs adequate?" Lyman asked.

So far, the NRC has approved 20-year license renewals for 48 of the nation's 103 nuclear reactors, and has 10 more under review, Hannah said. Florida Power & Light, which provides electricity to most of southeast Florida and operates four nuclear power plants in the state, already received renewals for its Florida plants.

Progress Energy Florida's sister utility in the Carolinas won renewals for two of its three nuclear facilities in North and South Carolina. The NRC said this week that there were no environmental reasons not to give the company's third plant, Shearon Harris, a renewal.

While utilities push to make their plants last longer, they also want them to produce more electricity. In nuclear parlance, it's called an "uprate." Since 2005, the NRC has approved 11 uprates, has 13 more under review and expects about 25 more applications in the next four to five years, Hannah said. The uprates will increase electricity output anywhere from 3 percent to 20 percent.

Crystal River is working on an uprate. Florida Power & Light won Public Service Commission approval for a 414-megawatt uprate at St. Lucie and Turkey Point earlier this month.

Uprates don't compromise safety, because most plants were "over-designed," said Hannah. He likened it to driving a high-performance sports car at low speeds. It can go much faster.

Lyman said the additional vibration and heat stress, combined with aging ,could cause equipment to fail.

"The common thread is that we don't believe that the rules and oversight for these changes are adequate."

Asjylyn Loder can be reached at or (813) 225-3117.

Florida's nuclear reactors

Progress Energy Florida
- One reactor at its Crystal River power station in Citrus County. The original 40-year operating license expires Dec. 2016. It plans to ask in early 2009 for a 20-year renewal.

Florida Power & Light
- Four reactors: St. Lucie 1 and 2 and Turkey Point 3 and 4. St. Lucie 1 would have expired in March 2016, and St. Lucie 2 in April 2023. Granted 20-year license renewals to both plants in 2003.
- Turkey Point 3 license would have expired in July 2012 and Turkey Point 4 would have expired in April 2013. It was granted 20-year license renewals to both plants in 2002.

Nuclear Plants Raise Leukaemia Threat

December 27. 2007

BERLIN, Dec 27 (IPS) - It has been a miserable month for the Brosowskys, a German family in the small city of Marschacht.

On Dec. 8, physicians and health researchers from the University of Mainz, 425 km southwest of Berlin, said children living within a radius of five kilometres from nuclear power plants are at higher risk of contracting leukaemia.

Marschacht, the Brosowskys' hometown, lies only 1.5 km from Kruemmel, one of the oldest German nuclear power plants. The town is half an hour's drive from Hamburg, 300 km northwest of Berlin.

To the Brosowskys, the report from Mainz came as no surprise. The region has long been called a "leukaemia cluster". Since 1990, 18 cases of leukaemia have been reported among children in the vicinity of Kruemmel – three times the national average.

The authors of the study, looking at data collected between 1980 and 2003, listed 77 cases of children suffering from cancer, including 37 cases of leukaemia, in regions around nuclear power plants. The national average for similarly sized groups is 48 cancer cases, and 17 of leukaemia. That indicates twice as many cases of leukaemia among children living near nuclear power plants.

"Our study shows that the risk for children under five years of contracting leukaemia grows with proximity of their homes to nuclear power plants," Maria Blettner, director of the research group at the University of Mainz told IPS.

"We all hope that our children will get away with it," says Sabine Brosowsky, mother of three. "But there is always anxiety at home."

She and her family cannot leave Marschacht. "We were living here long before the nuclear power plant was installed," Brosowsky told IPS. "We want to still be living here well after the plant has been dismantled."

But December brought bad news. On Dec. 16, Rambo, the family cat, had to be put to sleep. The cat had numerous tumours suspected to be cancerous.

The Mainz findings are consistent with others in France and Britain. In France, one such study in 1997, and another in 2001, showed a higher incidence of leukaemia among children living near nuclear power plants.

Jean Francois Viel, professor in public health at the France Comte university 300 km east of Paris, had found in 1997 that children frequenting the beaches at Cotentin on the Atlantic Coast, near the nuclear power plant of La Hague, or living within a radius of 35 km from the plant, suffered leukaemia well above the national average.

The 2001 study, by Alfred Spira, researcher at the National Institute of Health and Medical Research, confirmed Viel's results. Spira, who had first rejected the results of Viel's study, found a disproportionately high number of cases of leukaemia among people below 25 living within 35 km of La Hague.

When the sample was reduced to children between five and nine years of age living within 10 km of the nuclear facility, the cases of leukaemia were 6.38 times the national average.

In Britain, a 2002 study confirmed an older one in 1990 that the incidence of leukaemia among children of workers at the Sellafield nuclear power plant 400 km north of London was twice the national average.

As with Viel's study, health and nuclear authorities had dismissed the results of the older study.

But the June 2002 investigation by Heather Dickinson and Louise Parker from the Children's Cancer Research Unit at the university of Newcastle confirmed the results. Using data from 1957 to 1991, the researchers found that children of workers at Sellafield were more likely to suffer leukaemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) -- a group of cancers affecting the white blood cells -- than the national average.

In their study, Dickinson and Parker claim that the Sellafield workers' children born in Seascale (the village near the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant) ran on average 15 times higher risk of developing leukaemia and NHL, and that the Sellafield workers' children outside Seascale ran twice the risk.

As with the studies in France and in Britain, the Mainz study has been dismissed by some as a statistical game. Minister for the environment Sigmar Gabriel, who opposes nuclear power, said he would order a review of the study, but conservative politicians criticised it as irresponsible and hysterical.

In a debate in the German parliament, the Bundestag, Dec. 16, Christian Democratic Union (CDU) representative Georg Nuesslein said "the study only shows that there is need for more research." The CDU rules Germany in coalition with the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

"You do not eliminate automobiles because every year 130 children are killed in traffic accidents," said CDU representative Jens Koeppen during the debate. Members of the opposition right-wing Liberal Democratic Party (FDP) argued similarly against the study.

Under a decision taken by the former SPD-led government in 2000, Germany should phase out nuclear power by 2020. But now the FDP and the CDU want to extend the life of nuclear power beyond that year.

Some statisticians have strongly criticised the study. "It is as with the Texan sharpshooter fallacy," statistician Hans-Peter Beck-Bornholdt was quoted as saying in the conservative weekly Die Zeit. "If you shoot at random at a barn, and draw a bulls-eye around the bullet holes afterwards, you have proof of a very high probability of hitting success."

But the federal agency for irradiation protection has called the study a key argument against nuclear power. "Given the particularly high risk of nuclear radiation for children, and the inadequacy of data on the emissions of nuclear power plants, we must take the correlation between distance of residence and high risk of leukaemia very seriously," Wolfram Koenig, director of the agency, said at a press conference.

Eberhard Greiser, member of the experts group tasked with review of the study, has said "the correlation is evident and very plausible." (END/2007)

Fuel for Bushehr

December 27, 2007

President Bush is not eager to pick another fight with the Russians. So he did the diplomatic thing last week and said that it is good that Russia finally delivered fuel for Iran’s Russian-built nuclear power reactor at Bushehr. Don’t believe it.

While the risk that Tehran might divert the low-enriched uranium for weapons use is relatively small, the political significance of the shipment is not. It is the latest reminder that the Bush administration’s Iran policy is not working and that Washington and the other major powers are going to have to be a lot more creative and a lot more tough-minded if there is any hope of restraining Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Moscow — which would like to sell more nuclear reactors to Iran — clearly decided that all the restraints are off now that the United States intelligence community has reported that Tehran halted its secret nuclear weapons program in 2003. This week, Tehran announced that Russia would also sell it a powerful new air defense system.

There are several problems with Moscow’s new anything goes attitude: Iran hid its nuclear efforts for years, still isn’t cooperating with international inspectors and is defying a Security Council order to halt making its own fuel — the hardest part of building a weapon.

By delivering nuclear fuel to Bushehr, Russia has squandered important leverage and sent a loud and clear message to Tehran that it can continue to defy the Security Council and continue with its nuclear program. The United States and its allies now need to redouble their efforts to persuade Russia to withhold remaining fuel shipments as part of a new package of intensified pressures.

Russia isn’t the only country interested in pursuing more — not less — trade with Iran. And we fear it isn’t the only one that will see the new intelligence estimate as a green light to give in to that temptation.

The Bush administration should remind everyone who will listen about the dangers posed by an Iran that even knows how to build a nuclear weapon. But it will have a lot more credibility if it backs that up with a serious offer of comprehensive talks and real rewards if Iran is willing to give up its fuel program and cooperate with international inspectors. That may not change Iran’s behavior. It may be the only way to stop the rest of the world from following Russia’s path to Tehran’s door.

Nuclear reactors: boon or bane?

Dec 29, 2007

Nuclear facilities as military targets? The drumbeat appears to be growing louder. Western leaders repeatedly declare that no option is off the table to stem Iran's nuclear ambitions. And London's Sunday Times reported last month that Israel put defenses around its Dimona nuclear reactor on "red alert" 30 times as worries grew that Syria would avenge Israel's September attack on a suspected nuclear site in Syria.

Israel's fear reflects the region's unique history. Since World War II, strikes to halt nuclear activities have taken place exclusively in the Middle East: Iraq was struck by Iran (1980), Israel (1981) and the US (1991, 2003), while Iraq bombed Iran (1984 to 1987) and Israel (1991). But raids never generated significant radiological consequences, because plants were under construction, contained inconsequential amounts of nuclear material, had radioactive elements removed prior to the attack, or because the attacker missed the mark.

A successful strike on Dimona, however, would be another matter. So, given the threat of radioactive releases, does the plant's continued operation outweigh the risks?

Dimona is unique. It is the region's largest nuclear plant and sole producer of atomic weapons materials. Since it went into operation in the mid-1960s, it has generated elements for an estimated 200 nuclear weapons. Israel's first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, inaugurated the enterprise to compensate for Israel's strategic vulnerability, a fledgling army and the West's unwillingness to enter into a formal alliance to defend the Jewish state.

Dimona is no Chernobyl. It generates only about 5 percent of that failed Soviet reactor's power. Still, the plant -- along with its spent nuclear fuel, extracted plutonium and nuclear reprocessing waste -- poses significant radiological hazards that a military strike could disperse into the environment.

Israeli officials tacitly acknowledge the risk. Authorities have distributed potassium iodide tablets to the nearby towns of Yerham, Dimona and Aruar. Potassium iodide blocks thyroid absorption of radioactive iodine, an early risk in a nuclear release. But it would not obstruct serious health consequences from other radioactive elements. And, depending on weather and the nuclear discharge, the radioactive consequences may not remain localized.

Light contamination and hot spots could impact Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian urban centers some distance away. Beyond health effects, contamination could terrorize affected populations, prompting temporary flight and permanent relocation. Serious, long-term economic consequences would follow.

For decades, Israel dealt with this risk through effective air defenses and disdain for its adversaries' ability to strike Dimona. In May 1984, after I authored a book about the consequences of military attacks on nuclear facilities, an Israeli intelligence officer came to California to question me about the vulnerability of the reactor and a proposed nuclear power plant. The officer belittled the risk, arguing that no Arab air force had ever overcome Israeli air defenses, and none ever would.

At that time, history provided odd support. Although Egyptian reconnaissance aircraft had flown near Dimona in 1965 and 1967 without incident, during the 1967 war, Israel shot down one of its own Mirage jet fighters when it strayed over the facility. In 1973, Dimona's defenders downed a wayward Libyan civilian airliner heading for the reactor, killing 108 people.

But the 1991 Persian Gulf War upset whatever solace Israel could take from the past. Iraqi Scud missiles bombarded Tel Aviv and one came close to hitting Dimona. Hezbollah's bombardment of northern Israel last year further demonstrated the country's vulnerability to missile attack. And, while Israel's Arrow ballistic missile defenses, which now surround Dimona, may be superior to the Patriot system that failed in 1991, Syria's more advanced Scuds and Iran's Shahab 3 rocket present a more capable challenge than Saddam's projectiles.

Dimona has produced all the plutonium that Israel reasonably needs, and the reactor -- one of the world's oldest -- has suffered minor mishaps and evident deterioration, raising the specter of more serious accidents. So, if Israel cannot guarantee the plant's defense against attack, it should close it.

By doing so, Israel could also derive political benefits. It could claim that closure demonstrates its commitment to reducing regional nuclear tensions, while sending a message about the wisdom of building reactors in the world's most volatile region.

Indeed, about a dozen Middle East and North African countries propose to build nuclear power plants. Given the historic targeting of atomic installations, planners should consider whether providing adversaries with radiological targets far larger than Dimona makes sense. Until the Middle East resolves its political differences, it may not.

Quebec nuclear plant closed until late January

December 28, 2007

Gentilly-2, Quebec's only nuclear power plant, will remain offline until late January because of technical problems, Hydro-Québec says.

The Bécancour installation outside Trois-Rivières was shut down in early November after problems were discovered in the regulating circuit and roboticized fuelling machine.

Repairs were scheduled to be completed by December but work is progressing slowly given the reactor's radioactive environment, said Hydro-Québec, the reactor's owner and operator.

The finish date has been pushed back to late January.

Hydro-Québec's output is not expected to suffer much as Gentilly-2 provides only a small percentage of the utility's overall power needs.

Contract reached on waste work

December 26, 2007

OAK RIDGE - URS Corp. has won a $14 million contract to process radioactive and hazardous wastes at the Y-12 nuclear plant.

The work will be performed by Washington Safety Management Solutions, an affiliate of the Washington Division of URS.

URS, which is based in San Francisco, acquired Washington Group earlier this year. The acquisition broadened the range of technical services performed by the international company with operations in 30 countries.

According to a statement from URS, the contract work will include the processing of Y-12's "radioactive, hazardous and industrial wastewaters, as well as provide uranium chip oxidation, groundwater treatment and secondary wastes transport."

The work apparently will be conducted under a subcontract to B&W Technical Services, the government's managing contractor at Y-12. However, B&W refused to confirm the project or discuss any aspects of the contract arrangements.

URS said the base contract is for two years with three one-year options.

"We are proud to be selected to safely manage these wastes and support the Y-12 mission," Charles McVay, a regional director with the Washington Division, said in a prepared statement.

Y-12 is a critical part of the nation's nuclear weapons complex. The Oak Ridge plant manufactures warhead parts from enriched uranium and other materials. Y-12 also dismantles old components after weapon systems are retired from the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Question over waste remain

Desember 26, 2007

Mystery casks of highly radioactive material were found in October 2005

OAK RIDGE - In October 2005, cleanup workers made an astonishing discovery at a Cold War scrap yard west of the K-25 uranium-enrichment plant.

Three rusty casks containing thousands of curies of radioactive cesium-137 were found amid the mountainous piles of metal scrap.

Nobody knew where they came from. The old casks were unmarked, and the highly radioactive material did not fit the profile of other junk that came to the site in the 1950s and '60s.

There were plenty of questions and - more than two years later - they remain unanswered. If anything, officials are more tight-lipped than ever about the nuclear find.

Everything seems to be a secret, including the whereabouts of the casks.

"The location of the cesium casks is a security issue," said Dennis Hill, a spokesman for Bechtel Jacobs Co., the Department of Energy's cleanup manager in Oak Ridge. "However, they are in an approved secure storage facility and pose no threat to the community or the environment."

Cesium is a product of nuclear fission that emits beta and gamma radiation. It is used in cancer treatments and industrial instruments.

Cesium also is considered an optimum material for a radiological dispersal device - also called a dirty bomb - and thus coveted by terrorist groups. That probably explains why security is such a concern.

There have been varying estimates of how much cesium was actually housed in the lead-lined casks. A state official last year said he was told one of the casks contained more than 200,000 curies, although others downplayed that report and suggested it was more in the range of 10,000 curies.

Whatever the case, it was a staggering amount of cesium-137 to be sitting out in the rain.

For several months after the discovery, Bechtel Jacobs had to increase security at the scrap yard until a new home could be found for the casks.

Specialists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory were supposed to tap into the casks and fully characterize the contents, according to reports last year, but Hill said the analytical work has been postponed.

"The characterization is now scheduled for 2012," he said without further explanation. "Once (the casks) are characterized and it is determined where they can go, they will be disposed of."

The wrap-up work at the old scrap yard, known officially as the K-770 site, also has been put on hold.

Washington Safety Management Solutions completed the scrap removal at a cost of $16.3 million, but the soil at the site has be studied to determine contamination levels.

Hill said Remediation Services Inc. was conducting that survey, with a possible excavation of dirt to follow, but funding ran out. "The project has been pushed out to 2015 because of funding," he said.

EDITORIAL: Nuclear power isn't the energy answer

December 26, 2007


The Tribune recently noted the appointment of Rep. Fred Upton R-St. Joseph to ranking member on the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality, replacing retiring Dennis Hastert. Very powerful position.

On Dec. 11. Upton voted "no" on a bill titled: "Creating Long-Term Energy Alternatives for the Nation Act." Upton loves nuclear power plants like Palisades and Cook. He thinks they're safe and we should have lots more of them. He has pushed for Federal Loan Guarantees to finance the construction of new plants and the continuation of the Price Anderson Act which insure against catastrophic accident because Wall Street won't touch it. If Upton has his way, U.S. taxpayers will construct and insure private nuclear power plants, with major equipment coming from foreign companies, significantly benefiting foreign corporations.

The last nuclear power plant in the United States was built in the '70s. There is a reason for that. Nuclear power is not cheap and not safe. "Near miss" catastrophes are legend. We have more than 60 years radioactive waste stored all over the country, including buried in shifting sand on the shores of Lake Michigan and we don't have a clue about what to do with it. We must be informed.

Let's put our minds and resources here and turn away from nuclear power, and nuclear catastrophe while we still can.

Cathy LaPointe

High levels of radioactive tritium found in Pembroke landfill

December 26, 2007

The Ministry of Environment has found elevated levels of radioactive tritium in ground water at the municipal dump serving Pembroke, Ont., and several other nearby Ottawa River valley communities.

The dump, the Alice and Fraser Township Landfill, is not licensed to receive radioactive waste, and it is not known exactly how tritium, used to make glow-in-the-dark lights, among other products, and nuclear weapons, got into the dump.

But the discovery, made earlier in December, is being played down by the ministry because the amount of radioactivity was well below Ontario's drinking-water limit.

Ministry spokesperson Kate Jordan said the Pembroke finding wasn't high enough to warrant further action. "While there was tritium in the ground water at the site, [it was] well below our ministry standards," she said. "We don't feel that they pose a risk to the community or to the environment."

December 26, 2007

The Ministry of Environment has found elevated levels of radioactive tritium in ground water at the municipal dump serving Pembroke, Ont., and several other nearby Ottawa River valley communities.

The dump, the Alice and Fraser Township Landfill, is not licensed to receive radioactive waste, and it is not known exactly how tritium, used to make glow-in-the-dark lights, among other products, and nuclear weapons, got into the dump.

But the discovery, made earlier in December, is being played down by the ministry because the amount of radioactivity was well below Ontario's drinking-water limit.

Ministry spokesperson Kate Jordan said the Pembroke finding wasn't high enough to warrant further action. "While there was tritium in the ground water at the site, [it was] well below our ministry standards," she said. "We don't feel that they pose a risk to the community or to the environment."

Friday, December 28, 2007

Japan, Kazakhstan to seal deal on uranium enrichment

December 26, 2007

TOKYO. KAZINFORM. Japan agreed to enrich Kazakhstan's uranium at the territory of the Central Asian Republic, according to Japan's leading business newspaper Nikkei.
On Wednesday, Japan's Kansai Electric Power Corporation, Sumito Corporation and Kazakhstan's state-run uranium monopoly Kazatomprom will seal the relevant deal in Astana.

In 2010 Japan's companies plan to begin enrichment of Kazakhstan-produced uranium at a Soviet time plant that needs drastic reconstruction, Kazinform quotes Itar-Tass.

The plant's technical re-equipment will cost 600-700 million US dollars, while total investments in the project will reach several billion of dollars.

As a result enriched uranium production will double Japan's current uranium demand. At present, there is only one uranium enrichment plant in Japan that meets only 40 percent of its demand. Japan exports the rest from Europe and the United States.

Japan suspended the program for creating own capacities for nuclear fuel production after a nuclear accident in Tokaimura on September 30, 1999.

The accident was caused by bringing together too much uranium enriched to a relatively high level, causing an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction. Several dozens of workers received high radiation doses.

Experts say stronger cooperation with Kazakhstan that ranks the world's second in uranium reserves will help Japan get rid of external dependence, meet its uranium demand and diversify uranium usage.

Iran needs no uranium enrichment: Russia's Lavrov

December 26. 2007

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's delivery of nuclear fuel to the Bushehr power station makes it unnecessary for Iran to pursue its enrichment program, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

Lavrov, interviewed by the Moscow daily Vremya Novostei, also said any suggestion of "regime change" in Tehran had to be ruled out in discussions on verifying Iran's nuclear program.

"We believe that Iran has no economic need to proceed with its program of uranium enrichment," Lavrov told the daily.

"We are trying to persuade the Iranians that freezing the program is to their advantage as it would immediately lead to talks with all countries of the "six", including the United States."

Such talks, he said, would aim to end any suspicion that Iran had any secret aim to produce nuclear weapons. "Iran's agreement to this proposal is in everyone's interest."

Iran was aware, he said, that should there be any deviation from agreements to build Bushehr under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency, "we will freeze our cooperation".

Russia this month delivered the first shipment of 80 metric tons of nuclear fuel to Bushehr, which Russian engineers are building under a $1 billion contract.

U.S. President George W. Bush said the delivery could help international efforts to persuade Iran to halt enrichment, but a senior Iranian official said the delivery had nothing to do with any decision on the program.

The U.N. Security Council has imposed two sets of sanctions on Iran for its refusal to halt enrichment.

In his comments, Lavrov said the six countries dealing with Iran -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States -- had a mandate to assess Tehran's program and there could be no talk of trying to change Iran's leadership.

"If, in fulfilling these declared aims, our American partners pursue the aim of regime change, this would be an improper partnership," he told Vremya Novostei. "This would be an alteration of policies and we would oppose it."

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

News release from NIRS

December 25, 2007

Below is a news release from NIRS announcing that more than 500 organizations have now signed the statement on nukes and climate on NIRS' website! Please forward this statement (you can download a formatted copy at Here ) to your local reporters, and to your politicians whenever they try to parrot the nuclear industry's preposterous claim that the environmental and safe energy movements are now considering nuclear power as a valid energy source.

We released this statement today because the House of Representatives is set to vote late tonight (Monday night or early Tuesday morning) on the omnibus appropriations bill. While some progress has been made on loan guarantees, it has not been nearly enough, and we-and many DC groups-are now urging you to call your House members and Senators and demand that they vote against the omnibus appropriations bill until loan guarantees for dirty energy are removed.

Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121

Still in the omnibus appropriations bill are $18.5 billion for new atomic reactors; $2 billion for a uranium enrichment plant in Ohio; $8 billion for coal; and $10 billion for renewable energy, energy efficiency, and distributed energy systems.

The House is slated to vote on the bill late tonight-with no money for funding the Iraq war. The Senate will then take up the bill, and add war funding. They'll send it back to the House, which will vote on it again, with the war funding this time. Congress hopes to wrap all this up by the end of the week.

If your organization hasn't signed the statement yet, please do so at
this website . To check the list of organizational signers, please go to this website


Nuclear Information and Resource Service
6930 Carroll Avenue, #340, Takoma Park, MD 20912
301-270-6477; f: 301-270-4291;;

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Michael Mariotte, Executive Director

December 17, 2007


More than 500 organizations from every corner of the U.S. and across the world have signed a statement explicitly rejecting the use of nuclear power as a means of addressing the climate crisis.

The signers include many of the world's largest and most influential environmental organizations, such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth International, Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, Rainforest Action Network and many others, along with major peace groups like Code Pink, Peace Action, and Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, and hundreds of grassroots environmental, sustainable energy, religious, peace and other groups and businesses large and small from 46 states and 38 countries on six continents. 5900 individuals also have signed the statement, and more sign every day.

The statement is being released as the U.S. Congress prepares to consider billions of dollars of taxpayer-backed loan guarantees for new nuclear reactor construction based in large part on the incorrect assumption that nuclear power is a useful means of reducing our carbon emissions.

"We keep hearing from nuclear industry lobbyists that environmentalists are 're-examining' nuclear power," said Michael Mariotte, executive director of Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), which has been collecting the signatures. "That re-examination is long over, and it is clear that nuclear power is not helpful at addressing the climate crisis. Indeed, because of its high costs, long construction times, and its own considerable carbon footprint, its use would actually make matters much worse by diverting the resources necessary to take genuinely effective steps to end carbon emissions."

"Moreover," Mariotte added, "nuclear power has not successfully addressed any of the problems that caused the failure of its first generation: safety, radioactive waste disposal and the poor economics that led to soaring electric bills, bond defaults and utility bankruptcy. Add to that the newer problem of security, and nuclear power can't win any rational argument over renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies."

"Our energy future ultimately must and will be carbon-free and nuclear-free. Fortunately, such a future is attainable, and in time to avert the worst of climate change. But the sooner we get there, the better," said Mariotte. "It's time for the Bush Administration and U.S. Congress to let go of their 20th century thinking and start taking meaningful steps to reduce both carbon and radioactive emissions and build a truly sustainable energy future. As we saw in Bali, the world is crying out for action."

The statement, signed (as of December 17, 2007) by 515 organizations, states simply: "We do not support construction of new nuclear reactors as a means of addressing the climate crisis. Available renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies are faster, cheaper, safer and cleaner strategies for reducing greenhouse emissions than nuclear power."

The statement has been translated into French, Spanish, Russian and Ukrainian.

A list of U.S. organizational signers can be seen at A list of international organizational signers is available at Both lists are updated periodically.

The statement can be signed at:

More information on why nuclear power is not a suitable choice for addressing the climate crisis can be found at www:// (Reports, Papers and Info You Can Use) and

Support for reactors builds

December 25, 2007

Lawmakers agree to increase funding for load program to guarantee the majority of nuclear plant construction costs. Big players such as Exelon stand to benefit from cheaper borrowing.

In a move designed to rally the nation's nuclear-energy revival, congressional lawmakers on Monday agreed to increase funding for a loan program to guarantee up to 80 percent of nuclear-reactor construction costs.

The legislation contains a two-year approval of the loan-guarantee program and directs the secretary of energy to provide $20.5 billion specifically for nuclear energy—$18.5 billion for nuclear reactors and $2 billion for uranium enrichment—as well as $10 billion for renewable energy and energy efficiency and $8 billion for clean-coal technology.

Nevada Republican Pete Domenici, ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said the deal is part of the fiscal 2008 omnibus appropriations bill Congress is expected to approve this week.

"Attracting investors for clean-energy projects is challenging, so we should do what we can to help get their projects off the ground," Domenici said in a release.

Three companies already have submitted complete construction and operating license applications for reactors to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, but none has committed to building plants. New plant construction is estimated to cost more than $5 billion, without a reliable loan-guarantee program.

Speaking Monday about the nation's economic health in Fredericksburg, Va., President Bush said nuclear energy was environmentally sound and new plants are needed to help satisfy increasing levels of demand. The 104 domestic operating plants generate about 20 percent of U.S. electricity.

"The administration is one step closer to issuing guarantees for loans for clean energy projects that will help reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources, boost economic competitiveness, and combat climate change," Department of Energy spokeswoman Megan Barnett wrote in an e-mail.

Environmentalists criticized the program for underwriting nuclear power plants at taxpayer expense.

"The whole point of it is to take risk off of the industry to launch them into the construction mode," said David Kraft, director of the Nuclear Energy Information Service in Chicago. "In essence, you're given a blank check whether you perform or not."

A February report by the Government Accountability Office found that 10 of the 14 borrowers defaulted during the previous Energy Department loan guarantee program during the 1970s and 1980s.

Companies such as Chicago-based Exelon Corp., the country's largest nuclear operator, would likely benefit from the program through more affordable bonds.

Without the loan guarantee program, bond issuers financing the construction of new nuclear plants would charge prohibitive interest rates, said Marilyn Kray, vice president of nuclear project development at Exelon. She said utilities are "highly unlikely" to default because of their risk-adverse mind-set.

Exelon picked a site in Texas to build a nuclear facility but has yet to file a completed license application with the government.

Dominion Resources Inc. last month became the third company to file a complete application for a new reactor, at its North Anna Power Station in Louisa County, Va., following the Tennessee Valley Authority, which in October applied for new reactors at the Bellefonte nuclear power station near Scottsboro, Ala.

In September, NRG Energy Inc. did what no energy company had done in 30 years when it submitted an application to build and operate reactors at its Bay City, Texas, power plant site. Constellation Energy Group Inc. filed a partial application earlier this year for a proposed new reactor in Lusby, Md.

No barrier to entry
Loan-guarantee applicants must pay a credit subsidy, or "risk premium," representing the value of the risk of loss to the government of each particular project. But the industry's trade group did not see that as a barrier to entry.

Nuclear Energy Institute spokesman Steve Kerekes called the fee a "new wrinkle," but said the increased funding is a "very positive development" that will help sustain the first handful of new plants. "From the beginning, we wanted a limited stimulus for a limited number of new plants for a limited time period," he said.

As the fees are collected, the loan-guarantee program will become self financing, Domenici said.

The industry has expressed concern about the untested regulatory approval process, environmental issues, waste management and the ability to produce electricity at a competitive price. Nuclear regulators say the review process for new plants will take up to 42 months.

Browns Ferry repair costs $90 million above budget -- [$1.8 billion project]

December 25, 2007

The repair and upgrade of TVA's oldest nuclear reactor ended up costing $90 million more than originally budgeted, and so far the unit has operated at less than its forecasted long-term reliability, according to TVA documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last week.

But TVA's chief operating officer said Monday that the restart this spring of the Unit 1 reactor at the Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Plant is saving TVA money and will be a better-than-expected investment because of the rising costs of other energy sources.

"Even at the higher costs, Browns Ferry still represents a significant value for TVA," said TVA Executive Vice President Bill McCollum Jr. "The payback should actually be better than the original estimates, primarily because the value of that energy is greater today."

In its first four months of operation, the Browns Ferry unit saved TVA $196 million compared with more expensive power the utility otherwise would have had to buy to meet its power demand, Mr. McCollum said.

In its annual financial report, TVA said it finished the Browns Ferry project on time and within 5 percent of its original budget forecast. That compares favorably to TVA's nuclear power construction program a generation ago when some reactors cost several times more than originally forecast.

The first reactor at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant near Spring City, Tenn., for instance, took 22 years to build and cost more than $6.8 billion, or nearly 10 times its original estimate.

Critics of nuclear power contend that the cost overruns at Browns Ferry raise concerns about the costs of nuclear plants as TVA and other utilities make plans to add more reactors. Stephen Smith, executive director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy in Knoxville, said TVA has "really hyped the advantages of nuclear power.

"Browns Ferry certainly came out better than the huge cost overruns we saw in the past with these nuclear plants, but $90 million is still a significant amount of money," Mr. Smith said. "The plant also is running below the optimistic production levels TVA said it would achieve and has had a lot of trips that raise questions about whether TVA rushed to get it finished."

Since the Unit 1 reactor at Browns Ferry resumed power generation on June 2, the plant has operated 78.8 percent of the time. The reactor has had five unplanned shutdowns, or more than 10 times the industry average for such outages at operating plants, according to data compiled by the Nuclear Energy Institute.

But TVA spokesman John Moulton said such shutdowns are more common when a new plant is being started or a unit is being reactivated after a prolonged outage. TVA shut down the Browns Ferry reactor because of safety concerns in 1985 and the unit remained idle until this spring.

"These type of outages are to be expected when you restart a unit like this," he said. "The capacity factor is comparable to what TVA saw with units 2 and 3 after prolonged outages at Browns Ferry and those reactors are now performing very well."

Inspectors for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission reviewed the five outages at the Unit 1 reactor at Browns Ferry in November. NRC spokesman Ken Clark said Monday the NRC expects to issue its findings from its review in early 2008.

Mr. McCollum said in November that he did not anticipate any problems.

"I think they (NRC staffers) were well satisfied with the work that our staff has done to investigate the causes and see what we need to do," he said.

In its financial filings, TVA said the $90 million cost overrun primarily was due to the expense of boosting the power output of the unit by another 130 megawatts. TVA conducted a detailed engineering plan to repair Browns Ferry Unit 1 before the TVA board decided in May 2002 to restart the unit.

The initial $1.8 billion, 60-month budget for the Browns Ferry repairs included plans to boost the power output of the unit by more than 10 percent. But Mr. McCollum said that portion of the project required licensing approval and costs more than originally forecast.

The restart of the unit after its 22-year outage won acclaim from industry groups and President Bush. During a visit to the plant in June, the president called the Browns Ferry reactor "a reliable source of low-cost energy."

"This is a demonstration that one is capable of doing a job on time and on budget," Mr. Bush told more than 200 plant employees during a speech touting the advantages of nuclear power.

In November, the editors of Platts Insight, a global energy news service owned by McGraw-Hill Co., recognized the recovery of Browns Ferry Unit 1 as their Energy Construction Project of the Year. During the judging of projects in London earlier this year, one of the Platts' reviewers said the restart of Browns Ferry "was like converting a DC-3 airplane to a 747 in midair."

Monday, December 24, 2007

Choir defies cold for charity

December 24, 2007

BETWEEN 30 and 40 members of Malvern Festival Chorus braved bitter cold on Saturday to sing to town centre shoppers.

The choir members gathered outside Waitrose in Edith Walk and sang favourite carols including The First Noel, Hark the Herald Angels Sing and We Wish You A Merry Christmas.

"My feet were like ice, but we raised £260 towards our charity this year, which is Chernobyl Children," said Marion Couson of the choir.

A small group of choir members will be singing at the Cottage in the Wood hotel, Malvern Wells, on Christmas Eve, at the request of proprietor John Pattin.

And Thursday, December 27, Malvern Festival Chorus is holding its Carols For All concert at Great Malvern Priory, starting at 3pm.

Collections will be taken at both these events for Chernobyl Children.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

U.S.-Iran relations still tenuous

December 23, 2007

Stuart Loory, who holds the Lee Hills Chair in Free-Press Studies at the MU School of Journalism, is the moderator of the weekly radio program “Global Journalist.” It airs at 6:30 p.m. Thursdays on KBIA/91.3 FM or at

Loory: Russia began delivering uranium fuel this month for the nuclear reactor it’s building in southern Iran. The reactor could go into operation by the Iranian New Year on March 31. The Bush administration not only refuses to criticize the Russian action but welcomes it, saying now Iran has no need to continue enriching uranium.

When Iran said the enrichment process is still necessary, the Bush administration still didn’t get excited even though that means Iran will continue to develop a process that can produce weapons-grade uranium. These developments come at a time when the United States’ intelligence community has decided that Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program four years ago.

Almost six years ago, President Bush proclaimed the “axis of evil” implicating Iran, Iraq and North Korea as three nations intent on building weapons of mass destruction and exporting terrorism. In North Korea, the U.S. is moving towards repairing relations that have been bellicose since the Korean War ended. In Iraq, the U.S. is bogged down in a war that could keep American troops there for decades to come.

For the past year, there has been increasing speculation that the U.S. might attack Iran to destroy its capability to make nuclear weapons. Are Iran’s policies toward the U.S. changing? Or is a big change developing in American attitudes toward Iran?

Barbara Slavin, senior diplomatic reporter, USA Today, Washington, D.C.: That’s putting it a bit too strongly. American casualties in Iraq have come down. Iran appears to be cooperating with the U.S. to stabilize the situation, to contain some of the Shiite militias. Although Iran is continuing its uranium enrichment program, the U.S. intelligence estimate says Iran has halted explicit efforts to produce weapons. Both developments have been helpful in changing U.S. attitudes toward Iran. But the U.S. is still working toward more U.N. Security Council resolutions against Iran, so aspects of the confrontation remain.

Loory: How does this look to the Iranian government?

Ali Akbar Dareini, reporter, The Associated Press, Tehran, Iran: The decline in the number of U.S. deaths in Iraq is a sign of Iranian cooperation. Although Iran has never accepted that it has any role in the insurgency, it’s using its influence with the Shiites in Iraq to stabilize Iraq. The possibility of military confrontation with the U.S. has become remote due to Iran’s extensive cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the decisive reports that Iran has been truthful about its past uranium enrichment activities. Those developments and U.S. intelligence estimates that Iran stopped its nuclear weapons development in 2003 facilitated the shipment of nuclear fuel to Iran by Russia. That is a major development towards reducing tensions between Iran and the outside world.

Loory: Did Russia wait until it had approval from the Western World before resuming shipments, or did it make the shipment on its own?

Mikhail Zygar, reporter, Kommersant newspaper, Moscow: The Russian government isn’t going to wait for approval because Russian foreign policy is extremely stubborn. Russia isn’t going to give up its policies either on Kosovo or Iran. Delivery of nuclear fuel to Iran is an important internal problem also because Russia’s state atomic federal agencies are being converted into nuclear corporations owned by the state. Delivery of fuel would be the first important deal for these state-held corporations. Political criticism from abroad won’t effect the Russian government’s decisions.

Loory: The U.S. press reports Russia stopped plans to provide nuclear fuel because Iran had fallen behind on payments of $25 million a month to Russia. Where did the money come from for Iran to resume payments?

Dareini: The Russian delay in completing the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran largely has been seen in Iran as a political gesture to pressure Iran to cooperate more with the IAEA, rather than a financial dispute. The Iranian government, in a rare move, criticized Russia, saying Russia had postponed the completion of the Bushehr plant five times. The Iranian government insists that Russia was expected to complete the Bushehr power plant by July 1999. Actually, Germans were building the plant in the ’70s and then Russians agreed to complete it and had some technical problems. Iranian officials insist that Iran has made payments on time and has even paid beyond what it agreed to pay.

Loory: What’s the history of Iran’s nuclear energy program?

Slavin: The Eisenhower administration began it under the Atoms for Peace program and gave Iran its first nuclear reactor. This nuclear program was continued by the Johnson, Nixon and Ford administrations, all the way up to the 1979 revolution when the program ended. It started up again during the Iran-Iraq War after the Iraqis used chemical weapons against Iranians. Now, the IAEA isn’t quite giving Iran a clean bill of health on all this. Iran has been more forthcoming recently about some of its past activities, but there are still questions. American intelligence said Iran had a military nuclear program that it halted in 2003. The published judgments say there was work on weaponization. There was reference to a laptop computer that had bomb designs and also to documents that showed how to cast uranium into bombs.

Loory: Is the U.S. being overly optimistic about Iran’s nuclear weapons program?

Slavin: That’s a possibility. The estimate said the intelligence community can only state with moderate confidence that this program is still in abeyance. The most dangerous program is the uranium enrichment program, which will give Iran the ability to make the sisal material for a bomb. The U.S. preference is for Iran to accept fuel from Russia, but Iran says it refuses to be dependent on an outside country for nuclear fuel.

Loory: Is there any implication that Iran hasn’t given up its nuclear weapons program?

Dareini: Iran has said that it isn’t testing a nuclear weapons program; it’s enriching uranium to produce nuclear fuel for nuclear power plants that it’s planning to build. Under parliamentary law, the Iranian government has to provide 7,000 megawatts of electricity for power plants. That means Iran has to build six more power plants like that at Bushehr. Iran has enriched uranium to 3.5 percent, which is the level required for nuclear fuel. It’s determined to go ahead with its uranium enrichment program because it says there isn’t any reason for Iran to deny itself modern technology.

Loory: What are the possibilities for a resumption of a dialogue between the U.S. and Iran?

Slavin: We’ve already had two talks between the U.S. and the Iranian ambassador in Iraq, and there is talk of another. The national intelligence estimate gives more space for diplomacy. It makes it almost impossible that there would be a U.S. military strike on Iran before the Bush administration leaves office. It’s difficult to believe that we’re going to get substantive comprehension between the U.S. and Iran. So many opportunities have been missed, and there is so much distrust. Perhaps it will be easier for the next administration to make some overtures towards Iran.

Loory: Whether Iran and the U.S. can repair relations is an open question despite these latest developments. It depends upon whether this is a problem of attitude by the Bush administration or of policy by an American government, no matter who the leaders are.

Related Articles:

U.S.- Iran relations still tenuous
Iran to tender construction of 19 nuclear power plants
Threats will influence Iran-IAEA cooperation: Official
Iran says its first NPP will be commissioned before March 2008
Weapons expert Blix backs launch of nuclear fuel supplies to Iran
Suspension of uranium enrichment, an outdated analyses: Saeedi
Iran to manufacture N. reactor in 8 years

EDITORIAL: Battle to shut Oyster Creek has just begun

December 23, 2007

It has been 3-1/2 years since we ran an eight-part editorial series urging citizens and state and federal officials to fight a 20-year license extension for the Oyster Creek nuclear plant in Lacey, the oldest such plant in the nation. Today, in the face of almost certain approval of license renewal by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, possibly as early as next month, our reservations are stronger than ever. The fight must continue. And it will, in a venue where opponents will get a more objective airing of the issues — the federal courts.

Last week, as expected, the licensing board of the NRC signed off on the safety of Oyster Creek's drywell, smoothing the way for approval by the full commission. Ironically, and somewhat symbolically, a pump failure at the reactor the following day forced a "hot shutdown" that resulted in the death of at least 3,300 fish and what is sure to be another hefty fine for plant operator AmerGen.

The licensing board's decision is far from the final hurdle for Oyster Creek's continued operation after its current license expires in 2009. A dissenting voice in the three-judge panel's opinion essentially echoed activists' argument that the plant's drywell monitoring plan was insufficient to ensure adequate safety margins during the life of the license extension. That could loom large in a federal court appeal. There are many other valid grounds for appeal to choose from. The citizen activists, coalition of environmental groups and Gov. Corzine must exhaust all of them.

From the outset, we expressed concerned about the NRC license renewal process, which allowed only two factors to be taken into account: whether the plant could be operated safely and whether it would have an adverse impact on the environment. The testimony presented over the past two years has glossed over many of the safety and environmental issues, raising more questions than it has answered. And the list of relevant considerations that couldn't be taken into account at all is lengthy. Among them:

— Oyster Creek's reactor building and the spent fuel rod pool that sits above it are vulnerable to terrorist attack from jet aircraft.

— The evacuation plan is grossly inadequate.

— The deregulation of the electricity industry has forced nuclear plant owners to become fiercely competitive, providing new incentives for trimming staff, reducing maintenance, deferring repairs and taking shortcuts that can improve profitability at the expense of safety.

— Environmental, safety and security lapses at Oyster Creek have raised serious questions about the competence of its management and the adequacy of resources devoted to safety and security.

— More than 50 years after electricity was first generated by a nuclear reactor, there is still no plan for the safe transport and disposal of radioactive spent fuel.

— Studies about the health effects of those living near nuclear power plants remain inconclusive.

— The Oyster Creek plant was conceived when the population in Ocean County was less than 125,000. Today, more than 560,000 people live in Ocean County and more than 3.5 million people reside within a 50-mile radius of the plant.

— The loss of Oyster Creek from the electrical grid of which New Jersey is a part would have no appreciable impact on the supply of power in New Jersey, electric rates or reliability of service.

Today, there is still no viable long-term national plan for disposing of radioactive waste. The NRC continues to resist any attempts to fortify plants with vulnerable spent fuel pools against airborne terrorist attack. A new study in Germany, which plans to shut down all its nuclear power plants by the early 2020s, showed the incidence of childhood cancer was significantly higher among those living near nuclear plants. Oyster Creek's evacuation plan continues to be a work of fiction; if ever implemented in the event of a nuclear emergency, it would quickly become a horror tale. And Oyster Creek continues to kill fish, shocking them with releases of hot, or cold, water into the south branch of the Forked River.

The citizen activists who have worked tirelessly to bring the issues to the attention of state and federal officials deserve enormous credit for exposing the flaws of the license renewal process and the dangers posed by the plant. But their work, and that of elected officials, must not cease. They must continue to fight on the following fronts:

— If the planned appeal of the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board's decision to recommend approval of a license extension is denied by the NRC, the state should join with citizen activists in appealing the denial in federal court.

— In light of the recent study in Germany, Corzine should order the state health department to conduct an immediate review of related research and fund further research of the Tooth Fairy Project, which has been exploring a possible link between childhood cancers and strontium 90, a cancer-causing, radioactive isotope produced only in nuclear weapons and nuclear reactors.

— Corzine's final draft of his new energy master plan, due out early next year, must exclude Oyster Creek as an energy source.

— Given the concerns raised about monitoring of the drywell in the licensing board report, Corzine must insist that comprehensive measurements of the drywell thickness be taken as soon as possible. The plant should be closed immediately if it can't be proven that the thickness satisfies national engineering codes.

— Corzine and state Environmental Commissioner Lisa Jackson must insist that AmerGen build a cooling tower as part of its permit to withdraw and discharge water to cool the reactor. That is the only way Oyster Creek can satisfy an Environmental Protection Agency directive requiring nuclear plants to use the best available technology to minimize adverse impact on aquatic life.

— New Jersey should join the coalition of Oyster Creek activists, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and Westchester County, N.Y., in a federal lawsuit seeking to compel the NRC to evaluate all aspects that affect a nuclear power plant's safety before renewing a license.

— Corzine should petition the courts to require that all pending license renewal applications be suspended until a recent audit highly critical of the rigor of the relicensing process by the NRC's inspector general be thoroughly reviewed by an independent body. The audit determined that agency reports on relicensing resorted to cutting and pasting applications of other plants and provided no description of the methodology used or backup data for their conclusions.

We also expressed deep reservations about the license renewal process, which severely restricted the factors to be considered in evaluating the plant, the manner in which the NRC historically had rubber-stamped license extension requests and the fact that it never denied a license renewal for a plant requesting one. All those fears have been borne out by the process.

The efforts of the citizens and environmentalists who have done battle with the NRC have been nothing short of valiant. It is time for Corzine to match their energy, ingenuity and commitment to ensuring the health of the Shore area and its inhabitants for generations to come.

More on Oyster Creek:

Exelon N.J. Oyster Creek reactor exits outrage
EDITORIAL: Battle to shut Oyster Creek has just begun
EDITORIAL:The Devil you know.Keeping Oyster Creek on line
Oyster Creek Trims Output to Valve Problem
Oyster Creek plant to stay at 92% power until April
Oyster Creek Generating Station clears last major hurdle in bid for 20-year license renewal