Monday, September 24, 2007

No to nuclear energy

No to nuclear energy

While plans are being made for building more nuclear reactors in South Africa, on the other side of the coin are groups such as Earthyear Africa which are actively campaigning against their development. 

Earthlife Africa has published a 36 page factsheet on nuclear energy in South Africa. Titled: What you need to know about South Africa's nuclear programme, the document is part of the Nuclear Energy Costs The Earth Campaign. In it they they provide an overview of nuclear energy, its efects on humans, plants and animals, climate change and tourism, seeking to gain support in declaring South Africa a nuclear free zone. They question who actually stands to gain financially from the PBMR given that the partners are international, even suggesting that South Africa is being used as a "guinea pig" for testing the PBMR. Below follows a short insert from the document providing some background to their arguments.

Eskom wishes to build more nuclear reactors, based on a full scale model that has been tried and abandoned in the North. These reactors are called Pebble Bed Modular Reactors (PBMRs). The first is planned for Koeberg, near Cape Town. The proposal is that the fuel for these PBMRs be produced at Pelindaba.

In addition there are fourteen thousand tons of radioactive weapons scrap metal at Pelindaba from decommissioned nuclear facilities. NECSA (Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa) wishes to smelt this waste and sell the metal on the open market, followed by commercialisation of the smelter process - this process is not international best practice, and could turn South Africa into the North's radioactive waste dumping ground.

The proposed reactors, radioactive fuel plant, and the proposed radioactive waste smelter, will emit many kilograms of radioactive emissions into the air, water and soil every year. Pelindaba is located within two kilometres of a World Heritage Site, The Cradle of Humankind, and ten kilometres from the townships of Atteridgeville and Diepsloot.

At full production, for all the planned reactors, there would be nine trucks carrying nuclear material, and 145 trucks carrying chemicals every day between Durban, Pelindaba and Koeberg for forty years!

There is no doubt that radiation is harmful. Furthermore, the level of what is considered a "safe" dose has been lowered consistently, and now stands at a few percent of what was originally considered a "safe dose".

One of the arguments for the PBMR is that South Africa will need massive amounts of new power. This will not be true for at least ten years. In this time, we will be able to install all of South Africa's power requirements using safe and clean Renewable Energy Technologies, which are available off the shelf, and can be installed within weeks.

Further, the planned ten nuclear reactors for South Africa in the near future will generate less than 2.5% of our current electricity generation capacity, but with hazardous consequences for hundreds of thousands of years.

Safe, clean, and sustainable alternatives exist, which are proving far more viable, from an economic and health, safety and environmental point of view.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Flogging Nuclear Energy to the African Continent



If nuclear power is okay for South Africa, what about Zimbabwe? Or how about Rwanda, or Sierra Leone? If we are concerned about South Africa's ability to provide safe transport for nuclear fuel and waste, risks of sabotage and smuggling of nuclear materials - what about nations in Africa that have been torn by civil war? What about a neighbouring nation like Zimbabwe where inflation is now at 7000%? South Africans may not be aware that despite poverty and starvation, Zimbabwe is somehow still considering the hugely expensive option of nuclear power. How comfortable do South Africans feel about President Mugabe sitting with a potential finger on the nuclear button? 


The nuclear industry's multi-million dollar marketing programme (courtesy of the taxpayer) is making security in Africa about as predictable as a game of roulette. Spin the nuclear wheel of fortune and the dial could point to any one of a number of African countries, where despite a majority of impoverished people, certain governments have still managed to spend millions on weaponry.


Countries in Africa currently prospecting for uranium, include: Algeria, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Gabon, Guinea, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and of course, Zimbabwe.


In Harare Zimbabwe's Minister of Energy Michael Nyambuya said nuclear energy was an option, although Zimbabwe still had to verify uranium deposits. The company responsible for prospecting uranium in Zimbabwe is Omegacorp Ltd.

However, the same names pop up in each country - like Uramin, Brinkley Mining, Paladin and Areva. And while the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (Necsa) has gone out of its way to reassure South Africans that an expanded nuclear programme in this country would be "safe", there is no way that they can make any guarantees concerning other nations. Despite this, Necsa and the fabled Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) project intend - not only to manufacture nuclear reactors for South Africa - but also to export to the rest of Africa.


What about the Congo? This country's uranium mines produced material for the nuclear bombs the US dropped on Japan in World War II. They were officially closed since 2000, but illegal mining continued. Negotiations between the Congo and Brinkley Mining ground to a halt when the government official who set up the deal was imprisoned on charges of illegally selling uranium.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is suspected of trying to reopen the Shinkolobwe uranium mine with help from North Korea. (In 2000, North Korea denied reports that it might be importing uranium from Congo to manufacture nuclear weapons).

In Malawi, five Non-Governmental Organisations oppose uranium mining. They are extremely concerned about Malawi's natural heritage including treasures such as Sere Stream, Rukuru River and Lake Malawi. "This is an ecological disaster in waiting," they said. They were aware of the detrimental impact uranium mining would have on the health of workers and nearby communities, radioactive mine wastes, environmental damage and water contamination.


In Niger, the uranium mining industry has been plagued by violence. In April 2007, heavily-armed men attacked a camp of uranium prospectors in northern Niger, killing a security guard and wounding three other people. Between 20-30 men from the Niger Movement for Justice raided French nuclear company Areva's camp. A Chinese employee from a uranium mining company was captured on July 6, 2007, by the same group. 


Despite this, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has directed his energy ministry to establish a nuclear unit and in Zambia, Albidon Ltd and African Energy Resources Ltd have begun feasibility studies for uranium mining. The Omega Corporation wants to open up a uranium mine in Siavonga with an investment of 60 million US dollars and Equinox Minerals Ltd is considering extracting uranium from Lumwana in Zambia.


In South Africa, Uramin Inc wants to expand into the Beaufort West area of the Karoo and produce 1745 tonnes of uranium oxide per year. Interestingly, an American comapny - SRK Consulting - was to conduct the feasibility study. 

The Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) granted Uranium One a new order mining right for the Dominion Uranium Project for 30 years covering an area of 14 000 hectares. First Uranium intends to produce 342 tonnes of uranium annually. This year, Uranium One produced ammonium diuranate (ADU) at Dominion Reefs Uranium Mine near Klerksdorp. This was shipped to the Nuclear Fuels Corporation of South Africa (Nufcor SA) to be processed into U3O8 (yellow cake) in Nufcor's calcining plant.


Just as there is no smoke without a fire, so there is no nuclear without the uranium fuel. Unfortunately, the nuclear industry has been selling nuclear as a "sustainable" energy source, which it obviously is not. In fact uranium reserves will be depleted before coal reserves run out and the nuclear industry is even asking for coal to power its nuclear smelter at Pelindaba.


The nuclear industry has also been marketing itself as "safe" which again has proven to be a false claim. South Africa has one nuclear reactor at Koeberg and yet at least three men have been caught and stood trial for smuggling nuclear materials. If, as the South African government intends, the nuclear programme in this country expands to include 30 nuclear reactors for South Africa and others marketed to Africa, how much illegal nuclear trade will go on?


The construction of "dirty bombs" and international terrorism is only one of the deadly faces of the nuclear industry. Wherever uranium mines are sited, radioactive contamination spreads to soils and water sources and the dust is blown by the wind into the homes of nearby communities. Primary cancers are recognized as a health hazard of uranium mining and the inhalation of uranium dust is second only to tobacco smoking for producing lung cancers.


From the cradle to the grave, the nuclear process is deadly. And for Africa - regarded as the cradle of life - this would seem to be the final desecration of a once beautiful and fertile continent.


Yours sincerely



Thursday, September 20, 2007

Vodacom -Diallog Group


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Experts will decide on nuclear information

Experts will decide on nuclear information 

06 September 2007

Two expert referees will decide what information should be released to the public about Eskom’s nuclear Pebble Bed Modular Reactor development, the Supreme Court of Appeal held.

Judge-President Craig Howie made an agreement between Eskom and Earthlife Africa (ELA) on how a request for information over South Africa’s nuclear energy programme must be handled an order of the court.

Representing ELA, Open Democracy Advice Centre spokeswoman Alison Tilley said Eskom’s records on the development would now be referred to expert referees.

“They are going to look at the records and read them and make a decision around whether it should be released or not.”

The referees will compile a report on what could be released as public interest, which would be handed to a court.

If no party challenged the findings of the referees’ report it would be final and information as recommended would be made public.

The ELA appealed a high court judgment which denied it access to Eskom’s board meeting minutes about the development of a Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) demonstration model at Koeberg.

The environmental lobby group launched an application in 2005 for information under the Access to Information Act. The high court ruled against them.

Tilley said the benefit of the Bloemfontein court’s finding was that ELA would now know exactly what documents there were and what they contained.

She said a better decision could now be made on what information must be public knowledge. “Up to now we did not know what documents there were.”

ELA Cape Town campaign coordinator Maya Aberman, who attended the hearing, said she was pleased with the finding.

“Today’s judgment moved us closer towards accessing the information we try to have. We welcome that step closer.”




Monday, September 17, 2007

The nuclear credit card



Some people may remember the heady feeling of power when aquiring their first credit card. There is the shiny piece of plastic with the power to buy anything you want. It doesn't look or feel like money so it doesn't hit so hard when you hand it over. So people buy and buy and buy with the virtual money they don't actually have.


The nuclear industry has been marketing its product along similar appealing lines. Nuclear energy just won't run out according to its marketers - some ministers in South Africa have even called it "sustainable". This would be laughable if it were not so deadly serious. The uranium that fuels nuclear reactors will run out before coal reserves do - and ironically, the nuclear industry is now also demanding a share of that coal to power its nuclear smelter at Pelindaba.


Nuclear propaganda has even spread to schools, where children are taught that nuclear energy is "safe", "green" and "sustainable". But just like the infamous credit card, the nuclear industry is already spending millions of government/taxpayers' money on the premise that it will recoup this money - one day.


However, as all credit card holders know, that final day of payment arrives sooner than you think or want - with plenty of interest added onto those loans. Those days of carefree spending come to an end when you have to tally up your repayments, plus interest for borrowing from the bank. This is again where the nuclear industry hides some nasty surprises, because when bank loans on construction of nuclear plants are called in, interest payments can cripple third world nations that just cannot afford this expensive form of energy.


During the cold war, when Russia and the US built up nuclear munitions as fast as they could in deadly competition, President Reagan was asked who he thought would "go bust" first. Well, it turned out to be Russia; a country paying so much for nuclear weapons that in the end it could not afford food or basic consumer goods for its people. The nuclear arms race truly crippled the might of the former Soviet Union.


Nations in Africa might heed this warning. How can a country pay millions for weapons when it cannot afford to feed its people? Signing all those cheques or handing over the nuclear credit card may seem very appealing initially - but the account will be called in - sooner rather than later. And the national debt will skyrocket.


More progressive nations have come to realise that truly "sustainable" energy sources are to be found in renewables like solar and wind power. It is just unfortunate that in South Africa, these have not received the same kind of advertising or government investment as nuclear has been lucky enough to enjoy.


Yours sincerely




South Africa 



Money spent on nuclear weapons in the US from 1940 to 1996 "exceeded the combined total federal spending for education; training, employment, and social services; agriculture; natural resources and the environment; general science, space, and technology; community and regional development (including disaster relief); law enforcement; and energy production and regulation. On average, the United States has spent $98 billion a year on nuclear weapons. Where did all this money go?"

This crucial question was asked in a report on "The Hidden Costs of Our Nuclear Arsenal" by Stephen I. Schwartz, June 30, 1998.
Schwartz showed that from 1940 to 1996 the US spent nearly $5.5 trillion on nuclear weapons and weapons-related programs. The government never tried to track all nuclear weapons costs either annually or over time and as a result records were "extremely spotty and in numerous instances non-existent".

The army discovered that nuclear weapons, far from being cost-efficient killing machines, were in fact immensely expensive. One nuclear weapon could kill or injure hundreds or thousands of troops at a time, so large numbers of reserve forces would be necessary to maintain the advantage. Large numbers of wounded would require an expanded medical corps.

From 1948 to 1996, the United States spent $165.5 billion manufacturing plutonium, highly-enriched uranium, tritium, and other materials necessary to make nuclear explosives. So much highly-enriched uranium was produced that the United States halted production in 1964 having achieved a huge surplus.

The Department of Energy proposed to spend at a least $4.5 billion a year on "stockpile stewardship" to maintain the nuclear stockpile for the future. This would be more than was spent on average over the entire Cold War (1948-1991), $3.6 billion, when hundreds to thousands of new warheads were being built annually and nuclear testing was common.

From 1945 the United States conducted more nuclear tests than all other nuclear powers combined. A great deal of uncertainty remains about how many weapons the USSR actually produced. The arsenals of Great Britain, France and China are only a fraction of the superpowers' arsenals.

The bomb that destroyed Hiroshima exploded with a force of 15,000 tons of TNT or 15 kilotons. In 1960 the US had the equivalent of nearly 1.4 million Hiroshima-sized bombs. In 1998 the US had the equivalent of 120,000 to 130,000 Hiroshima-sized bombs.

In the spring of 1958, after the Army proposed deploying the Nike Zeus missile to shoot down incoming Soviet warheads, then-Secretary of Defense Neil McElroy said, "We should not spend hundreds of millions on production of this weapon pending general confirmatory indications that we know what we are doing."

This warning still resonates today, as proposed defensive systems fail test after test.

The large, daunting "cleanup" program is because so little money was spent on this in the past. Since government placed production of nuclear weapons and weapons materials ahead of everything else, the US faces a bill of as much as several hundred billion dollars for a program stretching to 2070 and beyond to rectify past wrongs.
Most of the money in the "cleanup" budget goes toward managing existing wastes. The cost of cleaning up nuclear weapons facilities will come close to or equal the cost of producing the weapons in the first place.

The strict secrecy surrounding these programs increases the potential for officials to place production first, cut corners, look only at short-term gains and ignore real and dangerous long-term costs to the environment, and public health.

In 1998, the US was spending $35 billion to operate and maintain its nuclear force, address the legacies of the Cold War - nuclear waste "cleanup" and victims of radiation exposure from nuclear weapons - and enact and enforce arms control agreements and try to develop missile defenses.

When Admiral Arleigh Burke, Chief of Naval Operations, stated that the equivalent of 720 warheads on Polaris submarines would be enough to deter the Soviet Union, the United States already had almost six times as many deployed.

When retired Army Chief of Staff General Maxwell Taylor wrote that "a few hundred missiles" would satisfy deterrence, the United States already had 7,000 strategic nuclear weapons.

And when Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara argued that within a few years the equivalent of 400 megatons would be enough to achieve destruction and hence deterrence, the U.S. stockpile had almost 17,000 megatons.

There has always been a tremendous gap between what informed military and civilian leaders thought necessary for deterrence and what was actually deployed.

Hundreds of billions of dollars were expended on programs which contributed little or nothing to deterrence, diverted critical resources and effort away from those that did or created long-term costs that exceeded their benefits.

The costs of nuclear weapons, have never been fully understood nor compiled by the government. Congress has only taken action to terminate nuclear weapons programs a handful of times and has never held a hearing, debate or vote on the cost, scale, pace or implications of the overall program even though the potential for waste, fraud and abuse is equal to that for entitlement programs, as indicated by the approximately equal share of spending for each.
With nuclear weapons still consuming a sizable percentage of the military budget, it is vital to understand how the figures in the plan were derived.

The annual congressional debate usually focuses on the minute details of a few programs at a the expense of the overall effort those programs are supposed to support. This approach can be likened to building a house by carefully examining the cost of only a few of the obvious elements, largely ignoring the rest, and rarely pausing to consider what the house will actually cost or look like, or if it will even meet one's needs.

The time has come to consider carefully the costs and consequences to the United States, and the world, of producing tens of thousands of nuclear weapons and basing national security on the threat of nuclear annihilation.

We cannot rectify our mistakes or build on our achievements if such a crucial part of our nuclear history remains incomplete. Neither can we hope to prevent other countries from acquiring nuclear weapons if we do not fully comprehend the forces that have driven our own program and affect it still.

Given the enormous sums expended and the substantial risks incurred, we owe it to ourselves and future generations to seek answers to these questions, to fill the gaps in the atomic ledger.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Eskom is blowing in the wind !!!

The following article describes how Eskom will only (maybe) start construction next year of a 100 MW wind power plant but it will only (maybe) be operational by 2010. The Eskom expert then says we only have a potential of 1000 MW wind producing power along the Cape coast which is questionable. What is most disconcerting is that in other countries, they assemble massive wind power generators in a few months and countries like Germany produce over 20,000 MW from Wind power. Why will it take Eskom over 2 years just to knock out 100 MW of Wind Power? Clearly Eskom still does not want to commit to renewable energies and prefers instead to stick to their hard line, hard headed approach of multiple nuclear power stations. According to another source less than 1% of Eskom’s budget is allocated to renewable energies. They also like to continually claim that the cost of producing power from wind is still too high and this is what’s restricting its growth as an energy source, but it is okay to spend upwards of R400 Billion of taxpayers’ money on Nuclear power stations, that’s not too expensive is it?

Eskom may start building pilot 100-MW wind farm next year

Published: 12 Sep 07 - 10:33

Matthew Hill & Mariaan Olivier

State power utility Eskom could start building a 100-MW wind power plant, on the West Coast of South Africa, as early as mid-2008, to be operational by the beginning of 2010, a company spokesperson said on Wednesday.

Eskom communications project manager for new build Annamarie Murray said that the firm was expecting a record of decision from the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism by the middle of next year, after which construction on the plant, to be built opposite Koekenaap, would start.

The 100-MW plant would have the scope to be enlarged, but she said that Eskom was more likely to first investigate other sites.

Resources and strategy GM Greg Tosen said that Eskom believed South Africa had a resource base of 1 000 MW for wind-power generation along the country’s coastal regions.

It is already operating a much smaller plant than the planned 100-MW operation, but Tosen said that the new one would serve as a pilot project for future projects on the same scale.

Eskom had already built three wind turbines at an experimental wind energy farm at Klipheuwel, on the West Coast near Cape Town.

In July, Eskom called for expressions of interest from wind turbine makers with experience in the design, construction, commissioning and maintenance support of mainstream turbines.

The company was looking for suppliers to supply turbines between 1,5 MW and 2,5 MW. It was understood that it would be mainly foreign suppliers that would be able to supply the turbines.

Eskom embarked on an active programme investigating possible renewable energy options with plans to boost its power generation from these sources to 1 500 MW.

Tosen said that the company’s primary focus was on solar water heating.

The firm was currently involved in a feasibility study on concentrating solar power.

Renewable power generation would mainly be used for peaking power requirements, and coal would clearly be a “dominant force” in Eskom’s future, he said.

It also had plans to generate 20 000 MW from nuclear plants by 2025, as part of plans to double generating capacity to 80 000 MW by the same time.

Environmentalists view wind power as a renewable and clean technology to generate power, but the high cost of generating electricity by using wind technology was still standing in the way of the technology being used on a larger scale.

Murray said that it was, in general, hard to make a direct comparison between the cost of power generated from wind technology, and electricity generated by other renewable energy sources.

“The cost of the various renewable energy options vary according to the available resource and other site specific requirements, such as the distance to electrical infrastructure, roads, etcetera,” she commented.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sure, nuclear power is safer than in the past - but we still don't need it

Sure, nuclear power is safer than in the past - but we still don't need it
It's true that another Chernobyl couldn't happen in a new reactor, but the case against is as strong as ever

George Monbiot
Tuesday July 11, 2006
The Guardian

If someone had worked out how to cause a war within the environment movement, they could not have developed a better means than nuclear power. In public we will line up to attack the energy review published by the government today. But in private we will reserve some of our venom for each other, as we start to ask ourselves whether we have made the right decision.

The UK's dying nuclear power stations are, at the moment, its principal source of low-carbon energy. Electricity produced by a pressurised light water reactor, when all its carbon costs have been taken into account, emits around 16 tonnes of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour. Gas produces 356 tonnes and coal 891. If our nuclear power stations are replaced by thermal plants, the UK's annual output of CO2 will rise by roughly 51m tonnes, or 8% of the total. Zac Goldsmith, arguing against new nukes, calls this percentage "miniscule". This is breathtaking. We campaign to prevent electrical appliances being left on standby, hoping to save some 4m tonnes of CO2 a year. How can we then dismiss a cut 13 times as great?

Some groups, such as Greenpeace, the New Economics Foundation and the Sustainable Development Commission, have produced reports showing that we can meet the government's target - a 60% cut in carbon emissions by 2050 - without recourse to atomic power. They are right, but the target is now irrelevant. In the book I am publishing in September, I will show that when you take into account both human population growth and the anticipated reduction in the biosphere's ability to absorb carbon, we require a worldwide cut of roughly 60% per capita by 2030. If emissions are to be distributed evenly, this means that the UK's need to be cut by 87% in 24 years.

In seeking the best means by which this cut can be made across all sectors (transport, electricity, heating and construction), I have been forced to set aside my prejudices. I hate nuclear power, but do we need it to help prevent the planet from cooking?

Answering this question means challenging people on both sides of the debate. Anti-nuclear campaigners have a tendency to believe anything that casts the industry in a bad light. Last month's edition of The Ecologist magazine, for example, contends that 14m tonnes of concrete are required to build a nuclear power station, resulting in a massive release of carbon dioxide. Specifications are notoriously hard to come by, but I have managed to find the figures for Calder Hall A, opened in 1956. It used 72,500 cubic yards of concrete, which equates to 108,000 tonnes, or less than 1% of the Ecologist's estimate. Modern power stations are smaller.

We have made similar mistakes over the global supplies of uranium. Noting that the world possesses "assured reserves" of high-grade ores sufficient to last for 40 or 50 years at current rates of use, some environmentalists have argued that if new nuclear plants are built, they will run out of fuel before they reach the end of their lives. But they have confused assured reserves with total global resources. In other words, they have assumed that no further discoveries will ever take place. Forty to 50 years is in fact a very high level of assurance.

There's little doubt that extracting these ores kills. Last month New Scientist reported that the 400,000 uranium miners working in East Germany between 1946 and 1990 were exposed to an increased risk of lung cancer of about 10%. But it didn't say whether this is the case elsewhere, or how it compares to other kinds of mining. One tonne of uranium, according to government figures, produces as much energy as 75,000 tonnes of coal. It is impossible to believe that coal has the lesser impact.

I am forced to admit that an accident like Chernobyl's could not take place in a new nuclear power station. Secondary containment of the reactor core and new safety systems make a total meltdown impossible. Nor do I believe that new reactors would present a useful target for terrorists. It would not be difficult to make the containment buildings strong enough to resist an impact with an airliner.

But there are other arguments that do stand up. The most fundamental environmental principle - one that all children are taught as soon as they are old enough to understand it - is that you don't make a new mess until you have cleared up the old one. To start building a new generation of nuclear power stations before we know what to do with the waste produced by existing plants is grotesquely irresponsible. The government's advisers have determined only that it should be buried. No one yet knows where, how or at what cost.

This is just one of the factors that make a nonsense of the economic projections. How on earth can we say what nuclear power stations will cost if we don't even know what their decommissioning entails? The government will assure us today that there will be no subsidies and no guaranteed prices for the nuclear industry. This should allow us to forget about the cost, and leave the market to determine whether nuclear power stations should be built. But in order to guarantee public safety, the government must be ready to rescue our power stations or their waste piles if the nuclear operators are in danger of going bankrupt. To ensure that the operators don't fudge their figures, the government must make it clear that it is not prepared to rescue them. It is a paradox that cannot be resolved.

And how does any system - political or technological - cope with the timescales involved? If, as a result of slow leakage into the groundwater, radioactive materials from a burial site were to kill an average of only one person a year for one million years, those who made the decision to bury them will - through their infinitesimal and unrecorded impacts - be responsible for the deaths of a million people.

It has also become clear that we will never rid the world of nuclear weapons if we do not also rid it of nuclear power. Every state that has sought to develop a weapons programme over the past 30 years - Israel, South Africa, India, Pakistan, North Korea, Iraq and Iran - has done so by manipulating its nuclear power programme. We cannot deny other states the opportunity to use atomic energy if we do not forswear it ourselves.

But perhaps the strongest argument against nuclear power is that we do not need it, even to reach the extraordinarily ambitious target that the science demands. With similar levels of investment in energy efficiency and carbon capture and storage, and the exploitation of the vast new offshore wind resources the government has now identified, we could cut our carbon emissions as swiftly and as effectively as any atomic power programme could. In North America, where natural gas supplies have already peaked and are in long-term decline, this is a much tougher challenge than in Eurasia; but while our supplies of gas persist we should use them, and bury the carbon dioxide that our power stations produce, while developing the electricity storage systems that will eventually replace them.

Some of our arguments against nuclear power have collapsed, but it seems to me that the case is still robust.


Waste storage dilemma crimps nuclear future

Waste storage dilemma crimps nuclear future

David R. Baker, Chronicle Staff Writer
The San Francisco Chronicle
Jun 11, 2006

Avila Beach, San Luis Obispo County -- In a quiet, air-conditioned room deep inside the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant sits a small pool filled
with water colored an unnatural blue. It's packed with radioactive waste. The pool holds roughly half of all the used fuel ever pulled from the
plant's reactors. The other half sits in a second concrete tank nearby, slowly cooling beneath 25 feet of water. Some fuel rods have been there
about 20 years. Both pools are nearly full. Neither was designed to store this much waste. But there's nowhere else to put it.

The government long ago promised Diablo's owner, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., that it would haul away the waste and entomb it deep below Nevada's
Yucca Mountain. But, in the face of unrelenting opposition from Nevada residents irate over the prospect of becoming a dumping ground for nuclear
waste, the repository never opened.

With the nation's appetite for energy growing, the U.S. nuclear industry appears poised for a renaissance. President Bush has made building nuclear
plants, for the first time in decades, a cornerstone of his energy policies. And some former foes are willing to give the technology another
look, lured by the promise of generating abundant power without belching greenhouse gases from more fossil fuel plants.

But the industry and its supporters in Washington still have not resolved one of the biggest issues that derailed nuclear power in the 1970s and
1980s -- what to do with the waste, which remains radioactive for thousands of years. Yucca Mountain remains bottled up by Nevada

One alternative would be to recycle spent fuel rods, extracting radioactive material for reuse and reducing the amount of waste that would
need to be stored. But the idea has long been blocked by fears that plutonium removed from old rods could fall into the hands of terrorists or
rogue countries trying to build nuclear weapons.

So Diablo and other nuclear plants must keep their waste on-site -- indefinitely. PG&E installed replacement racks that pack more rods into
Diablo's pools and has even started building another storage facility that could cost up to $200 million on a hillside behind the plant.
"The government hasn't lived up to its contracts, so what's happening now is Plan B," said David Vosburg, a PG&E project manager. "The extra racks
are filling up. The same thing's happening across the country."

Extra storage sites next to nuclear plants, however, won't solve the problem. They will just buy time.

"You just have to hope that there's a national solution, because this won't be a Diablo issue -- it will be a national issue," said Richard
Hagler, project engineer for the new storage facility.

Anyone living near a nuclear plant also lives near a long-term storage site for radioactive waste. Those facilities aren't long-term by the
standards of engineers, who must consider what happens to radioactive material over centuries. Homeowners, however, find themselves spending
decades close to used fuel rods, with no end in sight.

"They promised us that the waste would be removed and the government would come to the rescue," said Jack Biesek, 58, who lives in a lushly wooded
canyon about 7 miles downwind of Diablo. "I think it's going to stay there. The handwriting's on the wall."

Without a long-range solution for the waste problem, America's much-heralded "nuclear spring" may never come.

"Obviously, waste storage is the elephant in the room," said Frank Bowman, president and chief executive officer of the Nuclear Energy Institute, the
industry's main lobbying group. America now has roughly 40,000 metric tons of spent radioactive fuel, according to the institute, with another 2,000 metric tons added each
year. Even if Yucca Mountain opens, the nation would soon need another facility just like it. Reprocessing the fuel would relieve that pressure, but it's far from clear that reuse will ever happen.
"If we don't recycle, we're going to have to build a new Yucca Mountain every few decades," said U.S. Deputy Energy Secretary Clay Sell.

Used fuel rods are hot and highly radioactive when they emerge from a reactor. Both the heat and the radioactivity drop substantially within the
first several years, the radiation falling by a factor of 1,000 in a decade, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute. But the rods remain
dangerously radioactive for many thousands of years.

Diablo Canyon has relied on its twin spent-fuel pools to store waste since the plant began commercial operation in 1985.

They sit not far from the towering containment domes that hold Diablo's reactors, separated from the outside world by steel walls and concrete
floors. The plant refuels every 18 to 21 months, plugging some new rods into the reactors and transferring old ones to the storage pools.
Standing 12 feet tall, each rod is a metal tube filled with uranium pellets -- the source of the plant's power. The rods are narrow, about the
width of a fat pencil, and are bundled into assemblies that weigh 1,350 pounds each. Workers maneuver the assemblies into the pools through a
series of water-filled channels to keep the fuel cool, making sure it never touches open air. A crane grabs the assemblies underwater and lowers
them into waiting racks.

Each pool was designed to hold 270 assemblies. Now, the racks have been reconfigured to store 1,324.

One pool already has 1,064. The other, 1,100.

"Five percent of the state's electricity generation for the last 20 years is sitting in that pool," Vosburg said, as a current of circulating water
rippled the surface. The water, surrounded by concrete walls 6 feet thick, dissipates heat coming from the fuel rods and shields the outside world
from radiation. Boric acid, added to the water to absorb neutrons, gives the pool its deep blue tint.

Later this year, PG&E will install temporary racks in both pools to provide 154 more storage slots each. Even so, they will run out of room by
2010. So PG&E, like operators of the nation's 64 other nuclear power plants, is trying to make do.

On a shaved-off hillside overlooking the plant, workers pour the concrete floor for Diablo's next storage facility. Instead of using a pool, PG&E
will seal old fuel assemblies inside 20-foot-tall canisters lined up like squat obelisks on an open field. There will be no walls or ceiling of any
kind -- just the canisters themselves.

The technology is called dry cask storage, and it isn't new. Its use at Diablo, however, has alarmed many of the plant's long-standing opponents.
They fear that the field, which could eventually hold 138 casks, will make an even more alluring target for terrorists than the plant itself, perched
on a rocky stretch of the central California coast. A commandeered jet, they say, could approach Diablo from the water, fly over the plant and
crash into the casks, spewing radioactive material into the air. "How is that safe from terrorism, especially when there's no 'no fly
zone' at the plant?" asked Rochelle Becker of the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility. "California needs to know, how much radioactive waste are
we willing to store on our coast, for how long?"

Last week, a federal court ruled that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission should have examined the possibility of a terrorist assault on Diablo
before giving PG&E permission to build the dry cask facility. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ordered the commission to
study what threat an attack could pose to the local environment. However, a PG&E spokesman said construction will continue during the review, with
the first casks scheduled to be loaded with fuel next fall. The company considers the facility secure.

Standing above the field, PG&E engineer Hagler sketched out possible lines of terrorist attack. Fly a commercial airliner in from the west, over the
ocean, and the hillside would rip off the plane's right wing before it could reach the casks. Approach from the east, and the pilot would have to
hug the contours of several protecting hills before making a swift, steep plunge into the field.

Those obstacles wouldn't matter as much to a small plane. But small aircraft, he said, lack the mass to smash open the steel-and-concrete casks.
"An aircraft that size? It'd be like a bee hitting a windshield," Hagler said. "I know the cask is going to win."

To some neighbors, terrorism isn't the only issue. They object to the possibility that Diablo's waste will never leave, staying decade after
decade on the coast they love until its presence becomes permanent. "This whole area is going to be a carbuncle ruined for millennia," Biesek

Since 1976, he has lived in nearby See Canyon, along a stream shaded by oak and pine trees. He and his wife, Susan, have long opposed the plant.
They keep a Geiger counter in the house, although it needs new batteries. The Bieseks question whether any storage technology can isolate nuclear
waste from the environment forever, particularly in a place prone to earthquakes and other disasters. If radioactive material from Diablo found
its way into an aquifer or the ocean, they said, who knows how widespread the effects could be?

"It's not like this backyard dump is just our dump," Susan Biesek said one recent morning, as birdsong filled the canyon's cool air. "Where do you
move that's safe?" Such talk drives nuclear engineers to distraction. Used nuclear fuel does pose risks, they say, but those risks can be controlled.
"I hate the word 'dump,' " said Mark Somerville, a PG&E physicist specializing in radiation protection. "I sympathize with people who, like
we did, thought there'd be an endgame where things would be handled long term. ... But it's anything but a dump. It's a very carefully controlled

Meanwhile, the Bush administration keeps pushing to open Yucca Mountain and recycle used fuel. Storing waste on-site, Deputy Energy Secretary Sell
said, is safe but won't solve the problem.

"As an interim solution, it's acceptable," he said. "As a long-term solution, it's not." E-mail David R. Baker at

Sunday, September 9, 2007

7 Myths of the nuclear renaissance

Jim Harding

Seven Myths of the Nuclear Renaissance


Presented to Conference on the 50th Anniversary of the Euratom Treaty Brussels, Belgium

Sponsored by the Greens, European Free Alliance, and the Heinrich Boll Foundation March 7-8, 2007

Thirty years ago, my now-deceased colleague David Comey was asked to make a presentation before the annual meeting of the Atomic Industrial Forum, then the major trade association backing expansion of nuclear power worldwide. He was asked to deliver that speech because he had built credibility with the press and with key decision makers by being scrupulously careful with his facts and analyses. The industry understood that its reputation – particularly with the media – was poor, and they wanted to understand how David had received such good results. In Comey’s view, there was an easy explanation - the nuclear industry regularly exaggerated and misled.

In the intervening years, not much has changed; the industry still seems to prefer the veneer of a splashy argument to a defensible case. Popular articles in the press, some opinion leaders and politicians, and even some environmentalists have bought the myth of a nuclear renaissance. I have not; you should not, and your job is to put this myth in its place. The Power Point slides will fly by quickly, and I do not intend to read them. All of you can do that at your leisure, and ask questions afterwards or tomorrow.

(Slide two) Of the seven myths I plan to talk about, the one that is most irritating to my ear is that nuclear power is cheap. Existing plants may be, but new ones are not, despite a number of often-cited studies claiming the opposite. (Slide three.) If you look closely at these studies, you find that, with the exception of the MIT study, they are vendor projections, reference each other, and are wildly optimistic with respect to construction time, capital cost, regulatory support, and many other factors. As you’ll see later on, these aren’t so much assumptions as a wish list. Reactors are approved based on what government think they will cost when finished – in the interim, the industry wants valuable commitments of scarce public funds. Nuclear power is therefore like a fat kid at the front of the line, insisting to be fed before anyone else, and promising in exchange to grow into another Schwarzenegger. His appetite and promises haven’t changed in twenty years, and governments would be wise to stop feeding him.

(Slide four.) The last time the United States tried to build a number of reactors, costs rose spectacularly, particularly for those plants built during the inflation plagued 1980s. (Slide five.) Whether built in the early or later years, US nuclear reactors – on average - exceeded their original construction budgets by factors of between 2-4.

So where are we today with respect to construction costs – after a period of relative stability? (Slide six.) We have seen a steep rise in costs, mainly driven by steel, concrete, and other raw materials – averaging 4 percent above inflation since 2002. (Slide seven.) If you compare the recent slope to that of the 1980s, it is steeper. To get a grasp on the cost of new reactors, we have to toss out the paper studies and begin with real data (slide eight) – average the cost of eight recent Asian plants completed before the recent run-up in materials costs, escalate those costs at recent rates, and we end up at 11 cents/kWh in the US or about 4-5 times more expensive than a December 2005 study by the World Nuclear Association, and substantially higher than for wind energy or energy efficiency investments. One might expect the World Nuclear Association to amend their recent study or drop it from the website, much like a department store running an 80% off sale stops advertising when it runs out of inventory. Instead it ranks prominently.

(Slide nine.) The industry says, “give us a chance. Trust us. There’s a lot we’ve learned, and we’ll learn more if we build lots of new plants.” That’s not the way it worked before, and two decades ago, in the US, we had 400 nuclear suppliers and 900 holders of N-stamp certificates from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Today we have 80 suppliers and 200 N-stamp holders. Only two companies in the world can do heavy forgings – Japan Steel and Creusot Forge in France for pressure vessels, steam generators, and pressurizers. We also have 6 year lead-times for reactor cooling pumps, diesel generators, and control and instrumentation equipment, plus inexperienced contractors and skilled laborers. All translate into pinch points throughout the supply chain.

(Slide ten.) While the industry talks about a renaissance, it will have a very difficult time simply keeping pace with planned retirements – eight new plants per year in this decade and twenty new ones per year in the following decade. (Slide eleven.) Of course, governments can try to subsidize new reactors, as the US did with multi-billion dollar promises in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The dollar contributions from the US taxpayer are far from trivial, but the effects are; the Energy Information Administration sees a US nuclear industry in 2030 barely larger than the one that exists today. And it will take truly heroic efforts to solve the fuel problem.

(Slide twelve.) Current uranium consumption in existing reactors is about 60% higher than uranium production, and one wonders how that can be. The answer is that current fuel supplies are supplemented by finite, but inexpensive inventories from cancelled and shutdown plants, and Russian and US government inventories – all driving prices down and mines and enrichment plants out of business since the late 1980s. These inventories will go away, and many are problematic.

(Slide thirteen.) Today, utilities have long term contracts for uranium and enrichment, typically with price ceilings. These contracts fall off substantially in the next two years and most are over in five years. With price ceilings in contracts and a relatively small spot market, mining companies aren’t raking in huge profits or expanding rapidly. The same holds true for enrichment companies. Meanwhile, the spot market uranium prices have soared – nine times higher today than five years ago, doubling in the last four months. (Slide fourteen.) This presentation was from October 2006 – today’s price ($85) is not just off the chart, but off the slide.

(Slide fifteen.) This is a complicated, but important slide and I won’t spend much time with it. It and the following are from a recent presentation by Tom Neff, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The little box in the left corner shows existing uranium and enrichment capacity. The larger box to the right shows what’s currently planned in both. We couldn’t meet today’s needs with the output of current and planned mines and enrichment facilities, and the green curves describe what’s needed in both uranium and enrichment to support reactors in existence in 2015 and beyond. To some extent uranium and enrichment can substitute for each other; by operating the enrichment facilities with less uranium wasted in the tails, uranium requirements are decreased but enriched uranium production declines by about 25%.

Utilities will soon have to enter that market, and it will not be a friendly one, as the mines, mills, and enrichment plants needed to deliver these products and services do not exist today. We hear, meanwhile, that nuclear fuel is cheap, but that is only one side of the coin. The other side of the coin tells us that there are no substitutes and no price elasticity - a nuclear operator would pay almost any price to avoid shutting down. (Slide sixteen.) I agree with Neff that heroic measures will be needed merely to meet near term demand, prices for both products will rise – perhaps spectacularly. Miners and enrichers have monopoly pricing power in this situation, and it would be a mistake to think they won’t use it.

(Slide seventeen.) The historical answer to high uranium prices has been chemical reprocessing of nuclear fuel, to extract unburned uranium 235 and plutonium 239 that can be used in existing reactors as a substitute for natural uranium. But reprocessing capacity is limited and the cost is enormous. So too is the cost of fabricating this type of fuel. Moreover, most current reactors cannot use a full core of reprocessed fuel without physical modification. (Slide eighteen.) In the best possible case, without reprocessing, there are no physical shortages, but fuel prices treble. With reprocessing, it takes no magic to calculate a septupling. One might expect parts of the nuclear industry – especially the utility operators – to recoil at such numbers. A three-fold fuel price increase for plants trying to survive in a more competitive wholesale market may be unavoidable and painful, but a seven-fold increase could be fatal. Instead we hear silence.

(Slide nineteen.) Capital cost and fuel supply are major challenging facing the industry, but so too is the waste problem. We easily forget the awful legacy on the front end of the fuel cycle – uranium mill tailings contain 85 percent of the radioactivity of the original ore body (thorium, radium, and radon gas) plus selenium, arsenic, vanadium, and lead – all quite dangerous, and sad for members of the Navajo tribe, documented recently in a six-part Los Angeles Times series.

The US approach to waste storage – the Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada – is also in jeopardy. It can take no more waste from the civilian nuclear industry without exceeding its statutory volume limit, and recent statements from the former US DOE project manager and a current NRC commissioner suggest the entire project may collapse.

(Slide twenty.) Meanwhile, the Bush administration has invented a preposterously silly answer to the Yucca problem – GNEP, or the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership. On the domestic side, the proposal is reprocess the waste, and store two of the hottest and most dangerous products (Cesium 137 and Strontium 90) on the surface for hundreds of years, so that more waste can be crammed into Yucca Mountain. As mentioned earlier, this approach vastly increases nuclear fuel cost, relies on unproven technologies, and increases the risks of waste storage. Abroad, nuclear power would be free to expand, but countries without either enrichment or reprocessing capacity would be forced to rely on the superpowers for fuel supply. Too many countries will reject this proposal in the near term, and turn to highly proliferative enrichment and reprocessing technologies as forms of self protection.

(Slide twenty one.) The good news in all of this, and you will not hear it from the nuclear industry, is that alternative renewable and cogeneration resources are growing very rapidly in the near term, while nuclear power – at least in the near term either declines or stays flat. You need to add all these curves together to get the full measure of the growth rate. (Slide twenty two.) Perhaps an even more important resource is the potential for energy efficiency improvements. This slide shows the difference between average per capita electricity use for the US as a whole, and for California, which has pursued that alternative aggressively - the equivalent of 22 reactors since 1970, neither possible to site nor finance.

(Slide twenty three.) Some people argue that efficiency is a limited resource, and that we’ve already grabbed the low hanging fruit. This slide shows the absurdity of that argument – the fruit can grow as quickly as we can pick it. Since 1970, US refrigerators, large then, have gotten 10 percent bigger. Efficiency improvements have cut electricity use by 75 percent, and the cost of the larger, more efficient fridge has fallen 60 percent. In short, the cost of this efficiency improvement is negative, and the slope continues to impress. The same basic chart could be shown for industrial electric motors or lighting.

(Slide twenty four.) I cannot end without talking about costs and prospects for new renewable resources. All of you know the experience with wind in Spain, Denmark, Germany, and elsewhere. Turbines are becoming more efficient, cheaper, and more reliable, and that is unambiguous good news.

We are also beginning to see truly exciting news in solar electric cell technology, and the one example I would cite here is a California firm, Nanosolar, started by Google’s two founders, and backed, among others by Swiss Re, now building two 430 megawatt per year production facilities in California and Germany, using a non-silicon material and production process they equate to newspaper printing. Those two plants increase global solar cell production capacity by nearly 50%, and should be completed this year. Their target price - $0.50/peak watt – which would bring them into competition with delivered electricity prices in a large part of the world, and certainly below the nuclear costs I’ve shown earlier. Will it work? I don’t know, but we will know quite soon, and if Nanosolar doesn’t reach its ambitious goals this year or next, it might the following year. Twenty years from today, light water reactor technology will be about the same as it is today.

So what does this mean for the nuclear renaissance? To me, it means that the renaissance may end before it even begins. Nuclear power is challenged on many fronts, and it is cannot expand rapidly without a compelling story to tell in terms of public acceptability, investor confidence, cost relative to alternatives, security and availability of fuel supply, safety, and resolution of waste issues. The industry nevertheless asks for our trust and support, in the absence of a credible case on any of these issues.

Myths survive for thousands of years throughout all our cultures, when they bring practical significance and inspiration to our lives. They are, in fact, important, and it is denigrating to call the nuclear renaissance a myth. The nuclear renaissance is a story based on a tall stack of fallacies, unsupported by past experience or future promises. This one seems to getting a second reading, but it does not deserve a third.

Nuclear Blackout - South Africa

by Ingela Richardson

Unless the average South African reads Mining Weekly, Creamers Weekly, The Financial Mail or trade journals related to mining, energy supplies, stocks and shares, they will have missed out on the government's national plan to "roll-out" nuclear power by next year.

It seems that in general the Department of Minerals and Energy has attempted to forge ahead with deals with multinational companies that will affect all of South Africa, but without the element of public participation that is supposed to be entrenched in law. The government seems to be following a policy of stating their plan of action and then defending it at all costs, regardless of public protest. Participation by the public by registering as IAPs or attending meetings, or even the issue of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) seem to be given no importance at all and protesters to certain projects have even found themselves attacked and vilified through the press - as in the case of the Coega development outside Port Elizabeth.

In cases like these, industrial magnates not only have had financial backing to railroad communities into compliance, but have also used certain media groups as their own personal public relations organizations - advertising all their business and industrial developments with the highest praise. This kind of media bias then calls into question the media groups' owners allegiances - and in most cases the vested interests of media owners in mining and industry projects have caused their publications to become mere advertising pamphlets or mouthpieces for industrial developers.

In the case of South Africa's nuclear programme, the avoidance of general media to report comprehensively on issues that would affect the public and relegating nuclear to a few letters or comments, shows another bias that is of more concern. Concerned scientists in countries overseas who have seen the problems caused by nuclear programmes then refer to the "atomic mafia" as being those who have such a high financial stake in nuclear development that they will do anything to ensure the programme goes ahead. Even if it means sacrificing the rights of the people to participate in government and also moving as far from "transparent governance" as possible to the point of denying environmental groups the rights to documents affecting public health in court.

Eskom is of course notifying nuclear suppliers in advance - just not the South African people. In fact the Department of Minerals (DME) wants to push nuclear through legislation so that projects will move ahead quickly without any need for public participation. They want to be able to build nuclear reactors on sites they have chosen without public protest. How much will this cost? Only about R80 billion - but check again next month, because this figure keeps going up.

Eskom will go ahead and apply for licences and security approval - but who in the community will know that a section of land next door is earmarked for a nuclear reactor? Possibly not until it is built, and then it is too late. This is a hard lesson people around Coega have learned. They objected before the project went ahead and government departments ignored them. They objected during and after construction and were told "it’s too late now". And what role did the press play? Certain "technocrats" had a field day disguising themselves as modern day Robin Hoods who were going to "uplift the poor". But unfortunately not only did they "uplift the poor" but they uplifted themselves to the tune of a package - in the case of Coega CEO Pepi Silinga - that rivalled the president of the country. The media in this case became a mouthpiece for industrialists and turned any concerned protester (whether motivated by environment or pure survival concerns) into a whipping boy.

Now Eskom wants 20 000 MW of electricity to come from nuclear plants - 700-MW and 1 600-MW. Do you know how big this is? Have you seen pictures? Possibly because government does not want people to see what they are paying for.

Public Enterprises Minister Alec Erwin said nuclear energy should play a far greater role in South Africa. Why? Possibly because President Bush has a few million in this project on behalf of the American people who ironically are trying to move away from his global warming policies. The US and Australia were not party to the Kyoto Protocol that aimed to cut down on global warming industries. Erwin protests that nuclear addresses global climate change, but unfortunately when you include poisoning from uranium mining, processing, transport and waste storage, this just isn't true.

Unfortunately again, South Africa is a dry country - water is a precious resource. Yet nuclear reactors need water to cool spent fuel rods. Where does that water come from? Where does it go? Perhaps it is better for the community not to know that certain discharges from nuclear reactors are deemed fit to re-enter air and water sources. Better still not to know of examples such as the cancer cluster discovered by researchers in Wales affecting people who lived near a dam used by a nuclear reactor.

How many members are there in the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor company? The PBMR government company advertises itself as the answer to nuclear energy problems and how much has it cost? Necsa CEO Rob Adams will have us know that PhDs don't come cheap. So they have spent a few million. How cheap is nuclear power again?

Perhaps we need to try other questions like "Why not solar?" We live in a country with plentiful sunshine after all and have local developers. South African Rands would not have to go to Russia, Japan and whoever else advertises nuclear technology skills. The DME thinks it is fine to trade food from South Africa for Russian nuclear scientists. Let's think about that one. Does South Africa need food or nuclear science? Can anyone afford nuclear energy at these prices? Who knows. Someone is being selective with the truth.

Yours sincerely

Nuclear Energy is Not clean or green

Not clean or green
Mike Kantey, via-mail

Having read the FM for some decades now as a reliable source of business intelligence, I was disappointed with the fanfare given to nuclear power in the article by Sven Lünsche (FM Fox December 22).

How can the man fall foul of nuclear PR spin?

When he says that "the running costs are considerably cheaper" [than coal], how was this calculated? Did he take into consideration the insurance waiver; the subsidised research & development; the subsidised electricity supplies to the industry itself (astronomical); the costs of mining; milling; enrichment; fuel fabrication; decommissioning and long-term waste storage (not disposal)?

His point that "... most of the safety concerns having been addressed and nuclear power deemed cleaner than coal-fuelled power stations" is a far more serious problem. Is Lünsche aware of a multiparty European Union study that put the blame for increased cancers in the vicinity of nuclear installations squarely at the door of the nuclear industry? Does he know that every year since 1984, Koeberg has put out millions and millions of carcinogenic isotopes, such as strontium-90 and cesium-137, and that the last Pebble Bed Modular Reactor environmental impact report blithely called for an increase in radioactive isotope emissions to both air and water, as well as an increase in radioactive solid waste products per MWe, compared with Koeberg?

On the allegation of cleanness, veteran antinuclear activist and medical doctor Helen Caldicott writes in the introduction to her new book, Nuclear Power is not the Answer :

"Nuclear power is not clean and green', as the industry claims, because large amounts of traditional fossil fuels are required to mine and refine the uranium needed to run nuclear power reactors... In addition, large amounts of the now-banned chlorofluorocarbon gas (CFC) are emitted during the enrichment of uranium. CFC gas is not only 10 000 to 20 000 times more efficient as an atmospheric heat trapper (and therefore a more potent greenhouse gas) than CO², but it is a classic pollutant' and a potent destroyer of the ozone layer."

Finally, in the Weekend Argus of December 30 2006, it was reported that the UK would close down two of its oldest reactors: Magnox Sizewell A and Dungeness A. According to the article ( by Reuters), the sites would be unusable for 100 years because of radioactive contamination.

It follows, therefore, that under no circumstances can nuclear power be declared a "cleaner, safer and cheaper" technology than any other. Please, let the reputable FM first undertake a thorough investigation into all the relevant facts and then compare and contrast one technology with another for electricity-generation purposes.

FM Fox seems to have been scavenging on the shredded waste dump of nuclear spin doctors, rather than outwitting and outfoxing the industry specialists with a free-thinking and free-ranging approach to sound financial journalism.

Eskom looks to nuclear plants

Note: I warn the public of South Africa not to believe a word from Eskom's mouths. They are turning out to be the biggest liars of all. They say one thing and then 3 months later they say something completely different. They do not even seem "able" to even read their own "tripe" that they fed the press in the past. They just continue to feed more bull**** into the system ... and everyone just believes it because they are Eskom "surely" they must know what they are talking about? .... nonsense !!!!! The media of this country have FAILED democracy, they have become a mouthpiece for the government and they fail to print anything from those opposing nuclear energy. Nobody can honestly be stupid enough to believe nuclear energy is just the great, wonderful, god-sent saviour ..... world-wide this industry has caused nothing but turnmoil, heartache, cancer and death. Now they want to poison South African's too so that a few men can excercise their EGO's and Bank Balances so that the rest of South Africa can suffer.

Eskom looks to nuclear plants
James Macharia | Johannesburg, South Africa
05 September 2007 07:21

South Africa's largely coal-driven power utility Eskom has hit the limits of its capacity and aims to double output by 2025, with nuclear plants supplying more than a quarter of future energy compared with 6% now.

Eskom's chief executive Jacob Maroga told a coal conference on Tuesday the state-owned firm would cut back on polluting coal-fired plants that have made South Africa the world's lowest cost electricity producer.

"The issues we're faced with are costs and lead time, but the debate around global warming is key, because coal is a big contributor to carbon dioxide emissions," Maroga told the Coaltrans conference.

"We can now finally say we have run out of surplus capacity."

Maroga said plans to boost output to 80 000 megawatts (MW) by 2025 would include adding 20 000 MW of nuclear-supplied energy as well as extra renewable capacity.

The proportion of output from coal would fall below 70% by 2025 from 86% currently.

"All over the world nuclear is coming back," he said. "Going forward the electricity prices we have will not be sustainable."

The two reactors at South Africa's Koeberg, Africa's only nuclear-fired facility, generate some 6% of the country's electricity, mainly used around Cape Town.

Maroga said South Africa, one of the biggest producers of uranium, was building a multi-billion dollar new technology pebble bed modular reactor (PBMR), and has mooted building more conventional plants to add to Koeberg.

Eskom was currently planning to expand yearly by 4%, to keep up with a projected 6% growth in the gross domestic product of Africa's biggest economy.

The company has already outlined a R150-billion spending programme from 2007 to 2011, with more to follow. - Reuters


Nuclear NO-NO

Nuclear energy no-no
Mike Kantey, Coalition Against Nuclear Energy

Your nuclear power editorial on August 17 caught my eye not so much for its accuracy as for its supercilious tone.

You may not have heard the muttering on the street, closer to Pelindaba, and of the good citizens dying of horrible illnesses in Atteridgeville and Mamelodi.

Nuclear power may not produce much carbon but it was banned from the Kyoto Protocol for carbon trading purposes.

Everyday emissions from Koeberg nuclear power station include carcinogenic strontium-90 and cesium-137, not to mention long-lived plutonium-239 from the spent fuel.

The spent fuel has produced no lasting solution since the Manhattan Project in 1942. We're building skyscrapers globally with no toilets.

Pebble-bed technology was yanked off the German market after blowing up in May 1986 (its fallout blamed on Chernobyl) and flogged to some refugees from Armscor under the banner of IST.

Uranium reserves are not forever, therefore it is not sustainable.

As far as the funding of the nuclear ambitions is concerned, have you noticed that Eskom wants an 18% increase in electricity tariffs? This is after agreeing with Nersa last year to a 6% increase.

Why have they jumped from a projected R90bn to a projected R140bn overnight? Could it be the extra R50bn for nuclear power suggested by your own editorial?

And if you want the private sector to get involved in this fiasco, ask them why they have never taken up the offered share in this enterprise. And why no commercially driven investor has coughed up anywhere for a nuclear power programme.

Uranium is a bubble. One more Chernobyl is all we need.

Should that be in SA, where we can't even run a rail service properly?


Article referred to:

Let private sector in on nuclear power

No subject riles environmentalists in the West as much as nuclear power. Not so in SA. With the exception of an insignificant green movement, this week's adoption by government of a draft nuclear energy policy won plaudits all round. For government, nuclear power ticks all the right boxes: it produces little carbon, the technology is proven and uranium is fairly plentiful in SA. In Eskom it has a useful ally (some would say tool), in that half of its new power generation over the next two decades will be nuclear energy.

But there is a significant drawback: the cost of constructing nuclear power stations is significantly higher than that of building coal-fired ones, though in the long run they become cheaper to operate. Eskom currently runs a fleet of 23 coal-fired power stations - and is building a further two - which provide SA industry and consumers with the lowest-cost electricity in the world.

Preliminary estimates put the cost of Eskom's first planned nuclear plant at over R120bn, compared with the R80bn it costs to develop a similar-sized coal-based station. Similarly, enriching uranium, as the national strategy envisages, is a costly but necessary business if SA's plentiful uranium resources are used to power nuclear plants. A price tag of R10bn is the minimum to be expected. Government's draft document is conveniently short on detail on how its ambitious nuclear policy will be funded. It talks of a range of state institutions that will be used as legal entities to arrange the funding.

If there is one flaw in government's nuclear ambition it is the fact that private-sector involvement is limited to the mining of uranium. In other countries, private-sector companies are involved through the entire energy process, from uranium enrichment to running nuclear power stations. As the policy develops it makes financial and operational sense to let the private sector play a much more critical role.


Thursday, September 6, 2007

SA - nuclear threat?

Nuclear threats, of course, have historically been at the heart of U.S. foreign policy and have proven extremely useful for justifying U.S. actions.[3] This time around, however, there is a new twist added to the more traditional threats by the U.S. to unleash nuclear devastation on any nation challenging its powers.[4] In the past, preventing nuclear proliferation had been a low priority for U.S. policymakers. Now, the U.S. claims the right to intervene militarily around the world to stop alleged proliferation. . . .

While the U.S. richly rewarded Israel, South Africa, and Pakistan, which all had extensive clandestine nuclear facilities, it used Iraq's primitive bomb-building efforts to justify a war. In that conflict, the U.S. and its allies dropped 88,500 tons of high explosives (seven times the Hiroshima bomb), killed perhaps 200,000 to 300,000 people, and according to the U.N., reduced the country to a "preindustrial" state. . .

Clearly, South Africa's vast nuclear program . . . dwarfs the puny Iraqi program by several orders of magnitude and can generously supply both its own and Israel's need for fissionable materials.[14] The exact figures on South African plutonium refinement capability are unknown because Pretoria had refused to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) until 1991. Iraq, by contrast, was a signatory to the NPT, allowed inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) every six months, and only possessed about 50 pounds of enriched uranium. . . .

Compare the unsubstantiated charges of imminent nuclear capability launched against Iraq with the solid evidence provided six years earlier by Israeli defector Mordechai Vanunu. The nuclear technician claimed that Israel possessed possibly several hundred atomic bombs, developed at the secret Dimona plant, and even sent color photographs of the nuclear bomb cores to the "London Sunday Times." According to Vanunu, Dimona produces 1.2 kilograms of pure plutonium per week, or enough to manufacture four to twelve atomic bombs per year. Despite this evidence, the U.S. publicly supported the convenient fiction that Israel did not possess nuclear capability.[15] . . .

A journalist once asked President Reagan whether the rightwing strategy of "spending Russia into a depression" might backfire; might not the U.S. be spent into a depression instead? In one of the few lucid moments of his presidency, Reagan answered, "Yes...but they'll bust first." For once, Ronald Reagan was correct. The Soviets indeed did bust first, but there are indications that the U.S. may be next.

The national security states of hypocritical america are well described below. Why worry about vague abstractions like "moral authority" when you can simply cop-out with rule-of-the-club/might-makes-right kind of neanderthal "thinking"? For the sake of accuracy, simply replace "may" with "will" in the last excerpted sentence above.