Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Fears raised over pebble beds

Source: http://www.thetimes.co.za/

A new foreign report casts a further shadow over SA’s troubled nuclear project, but a local research company says there’s no need for alarm. Bobby Jordan reports.

The research centre that invented pebble bed nuclear reactors has rung alarm bells over the safety of the technology — which features prominently in SA’s R350-billion nuclear energy programme.

The safety concerns are contained in a report released this week by the world-renowned state-owned German Jülich Nuclear Research Centre.

Ironically, a team of Jülich researchers is helping SA develop a commercial-size pebble bed reactor based on the prototype that Jülich operated for more than 20 years. If successful, the project could provide much-needed electricity to the local market — and the reactors could be exported worldwide.

Now the latest report, authored by a senior Jülich nuclear safety researcher, casts a further shadow across SA’s beleaguered nuclear project. The report signposts higher-than- anticipated temperatures generated by fuel pebbles used in the prototype reactor (AVR), which was closed in 1988 — but is still the subject of much research.

The chief scientist in charge of exporting Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) technology at the Jülich Centre this week denied any crisis of confidence among the nuclear fraternity, and said that although the report was important, it would not undermine confidence in SA’s nuclear energy ambitions. The report has been slated as alarmist by SA’s PBMR company, which is spearheading local research.

PBMR spokesman Tom Ferreira said that although useful, the latest report was “no basis for concern”.

Some of the fears raised in the Jülich report include:

ý The graphite pebbles in the original reactor experiment in Germany generated much more heat than expected, sending temperatures soaring to more than 1450 C — at least 300 degrees hotter than the maximum temperature allowed for in the design of SA’s PBMR;

ý The movement of the pebbles brushing up against one another inside the reactor created a dangerous level of highly radioactive graphite dust — something that was partly unexplained;

ý The risk of graphite fires, like the one at Chernobyl in 1986, cannot be ruled out; and

ý The prototype reactor in Germany is extremely contaminated by metallic fission products, which escaped from fuel elements during operation. The contamination, possibly due to unexpectedly high temperatures, is higher by a factor of more than 10000 than acceptable for modern reactors. This also creates huge decommissioning costs.

The report suggests the SA government may have jumped the gun in pushing for a demonstration PBMR plant at Koeberg, when there is still a need for a prototype pebble bed reactor to understand reasons for high temperatures.

The German report also raises questions about whether senior SA officials have been downplaying safety concerns about pebble bed technology.

Jülich scientists this week confirmed that draft copies of the latest report have been in the possession of SA authorities since December.

So far the pebble bed programme has cost the SA taxpayer about R4-billion, is years behind schedule and is over budget. SA plans to build as many as 30 pebble bed reactors, which collectively would represent about 20% of Eskom’s potential R350-billion nuclear building programme of about 20000 MW. The country’s current mainly coalfired power supply is 39000 MW.

Ferreira said the report was not a consensus position for the Jülich centre. He said many of the points raised in the report were disputed by other scientists.

Tony Stott, Eskom senior manager of Nuclear Stakeholder Management, said: “Eskom is aware of the report and its findings. Eskom has requested independent nuclear consultants, who are assisting Eskom with the safety evaluation of the PBMR Demonstration Power Plant technology, to investigate and establish the basis of the report and determine whether any aspects warrant introduction into the safety evaluation of the technology.”

He said the safety analysis process was still under way.

Source: http://www.thetimes.co.za/

PBMR contract awarded to M&

Published: 22 Aug 08 - 17:16
Source: http://www.engineeringnews.co.za/article.php?a_id=141477

Joint-venture company Murray & Roberts SNC-Lavalin Nuclear (MRSLN) has been awarded the contract for the provision of engineering, procurement, project and construction management (EPCM) services for the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) demonstration plant project at Koeberg, near Cape Town.

The contract for the provision of the EPCM services was signed on Friday, in Pretoria.

The PBMR project entailed the building of both the demonstration reactor project at Koeberg, and a pebble fuel plant at Pelindaba near Pretoria. The current schedule was to start construction in 2010 and for the demonstration plant to be completed by 2014.

“MRSLN's expertise is critical to the success of the demonstration reactor project. While the licencing and environmental impact assessment process for the demonstration power plant still need to be successfully completed, the signing of the EPCM contract represents a significant milestone for PBMR,” said PBMR company CEO Jaco Kriek at the signing ceremony.

He noted that there was increasing international interest in advanced generation IV technology. “Our focus as a company is on developing and using this technology for the benefit of South Africa. We have already achieved many successes in this regard. We have created a large pool of intellectual resources locally and a sizeable company. As the signing of this contract shows, we partner with the best suppliers in the world. Globally, the work we are doing is having a significant impact,” Kriek added.

TSX-listed SNC-Lavalin is said to be one of the leading engineering and construction groups in the world and a major player in the ownership of infrastructure, and in the provision of operations and maintenance services, and is currently working about 100 countries.

Murray & Roberts offers civil, mechanical, electrical, mining and process engineering; general building and construction; materials supply and services to the construction industry; and management of concession operations.

Source: http://www.engineeringnews.co.za/article.php?a_id=141477

Eskom's PBMR Report Delayed

20 August 2008
Source: http://www.bday.co.za/

Siseko Njobeni

THE review of the environmental impact report and public meetings for the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) have been delayed, according to the project's environmental impact assessment consultant.

PBMR, a high temperature reactor with a closed-cycle gas turbine power conversion system, is central to the government's stated desire to diversify electricity generation mix. The PBMR is also central to Eskom's plan to double capacity by 2026.

It was not immediately clear yesterday if the delay would affect the deadlines for the project which has already fallen behind schedule. Construction work for the project was scheduled to commence in 2010.

According to initial forecasts, construction should have started last year and the demonstration plan should be ready by 2011.

In a newspaper advertisement, consultants Arcus Gibb and Acer Africa yesterday announced the delay which they attributed to unspecified "unforeseen circumstances" beyond their control.

The consultant said the report would be made available to the public during the comment period from last Thursday to September 30 in Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

Findings of the draft report and specialist studies were also scheduled to be presented in the three provinces later this month and next month.

The studies for the project are an outcome of work by a team of specialists who looked at issues such as air quality, visual impact, flora, fauna, heritage and archaeology, marine biology, radiological safety and health and seismic risk.

According to the consultants , the project would entail setting up permanent infrastructure. These include an integrated reactor and generator building, a generator and associated electrical power plant, a cooling water plant and a transmission power line.

Dalene Murie of the consultants yesterday referred queries about the delay to Eskom, owners of PBMR. Attempts to get comment from Tony Stott, Eskom senior manager for nuclear stakeholder management, were not successful.

The government has thrown its weight behind the PBMR project. Public Enterprises Minister Alec Erwin has in the past said the government wanted to produce between 4000MW and 5000MW of power from pebble bed reactors.

PBMR was established in 1999 with the intention to develop and market small-scale, high-temperature reactors .

Source: http://www.bday.co.za/

Earthquake Zone Threatens Indian Point Nuke Plant

Source: http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/aug2008/2008-08-21-01.asp

PALISADES, New York, August 21, 2008 (ENS) - The nuclear power plant closest to America's largest city is more likely to be hit by an earthquake than previously thought because it sits atop a newly identified intersection of two active seismic zones, earthquake scientists warned today.

The Indian Point nuclear power plant, with its two nuclear generating units, is situated 24 miles north of New York City, on the Hudson River at Buchanan, New York.

Researchers from Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory have located a previously unknown active seismic zone running from Stamford, Connecticut, to the Hudson Valley town of Peekskill, New York, where it passes less than a mile north of the Indian Point nuclear power plant.

The Stamford-Peekskill line intersects with the known Ramapo seismic zone, which runs from eastern Pennsylvania to the mid-Hudson Valley, passing within two miles northwest of Indian Point.

The Stamford-Peekskill line stands out sharply on the researchers' earthquake map, with small events clustered along its length, and to its immediate southwest. Just to the north, there are no quakes, indicating that it represents some kind of underground boundary.

The pattern emerged when the Earth Observatory scientists compiled a catalog of all 383 known earthquakes from 1677 to 2007 in a 15,000 square mile area around New York City. The observatory runs the network of instruments that monitors most of the northeastern United States for earthquake activity.

Their paper appears in the current issue of the "Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America." "Indian Point is situated at the intersection of the two most striking linear features marking the seismicity and also in the midst of a large population that is at risk in case of an accident," says the paper. "This is clearly one of the least favorable sites in our study area from an earthquake hazard and risk perspective."

Lead author Lynn Sykes says the data show that large quakes are infrequent around New York compared to more active areas like California and Japan, but that the risk is high, because of the overwhelming concentration of people and infrastructure.

"The research raises the perception both of how common these events are, and, specifically, where they may occur," he said. "It's an extremely populated area with very large assets."

Nearly 10 million people live within 25 miles of the Indian Point nuclear plant, including the 8.2 million in the New York metropolitan area.

Sykes, who has studied the region for 40 years, is known for his early role in establishing the global theory of plate tectonics.

Sykes and his team say the insight comes from sophisticated analysis of past quakes, plus 34 years of new data on tremors, most of them perceptible only by modern seismic instruments.

It is parallel to other faults beginning at 125th Street in New York City, so the researchers believe it is a fault in the same family. They say it is probably capable of producing at least a magnitude 6 quake, strong enough to damage structures.

Sykes said the existence of the Stamford-Peekskill line had been suggested before, because the Hudson River takes a sudden unexplained bend just to the north of Indian Point, and definite traces of an old fault can be along the north side of the bend.

"The seismic evidence confirms it," he said.

The findings come at a time when Entergy, the owner and operator of Indian Point, is trying to relicense the two operating plants for an additional 20 years - a move being fought by surrounding communities and the New York State Attorney General. Licenses for Indian Point's two reactors expire in 2013 and 2015.

Last fall New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, alerted to the then-unpublished Lamont data, told a Nuclear Regulatory Commission panel in a filing, "New data developed in the last 20 years disclose a substantially higher likelihood of significant earthquake activity in the vicinity of [Indian Point] that could exceed the earthquake design for the facility."

The state alleges that Entergy has not presented new data on earthquakes past 1979. However, in a little-noticed decision July 31, the panel rejected the argument on procedural grounds. A source at the attorney general's office said the state is considering its options.

The Earth Observatory research shows a pattern of subtle but active earthquake faults that makes the risk of earthquakes to the entire New York City area greater than scientsts had previously believed.

The evidence charts unseen but potentially powerful structures whose layout and dynamics are only now emerging, say the scientists.

Starting in the early 1970s Lamont began collecting data on quakes from dozens of newly deployed seismometers; these have revealed distinct zones where earthquakes concentrate, and where larger ones could come.

For data on the earlier quakes, coauthor John Armbruster estimated sizes and locations of dozens of events before 1930 by combing newspaper accounts and other records.

His research shows that magnitude 5 quakes - strong enough to cause damage - occurred in 1737, 1783 and 1884.

There was little human settlement in the area to be hurt by the first two quakes, whose locations are vague due to a lack of good accounts; but the 1884 quake, thought to be centered under the seabed somewhere between Brooklyn and Sandy Hook, toppled chimneys across the city and New Jersey, and panicked bathers at Coney Island.

Based on this analysis, the researchers say such quakes should be routinely expected, on average, about every 100 years.

"Today, with so many more buildings and people, a magnitude 5 centered below the city would be extremely attention-getting," said Armbruster. "We'd see billions in damage, with some brick buildings falling. People would probably be killed."

Based on the lengths of the faults, the detected tremors, and calculations of how stresses build in the Earth's crust, the Earth Observatory researchers say that magnitude 6 quakes, or even magnitude 7, are possible.

Source: http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/aug2008/2008-08-21-01.asp

Saturday, July 19, 2008

French reactors leak again

France orders tests on all nuclear power stations after leak
By Henry Samuel in Paris
Last updated: 8:18 PM BST 17/07/2008

Fears over France's nuclear reactors have been raised as the government orders ground water tests at its 58 power stations, after a uranium leak at one polluted local water supplies.

The safety lapse at a plant in Provence run by French nuclear giant Areva has raised questions over President Nicolas Sarkozy's drive to roll out reactors around the world – in Britain but also in states with less stringent safety norms.

"I don't want people to feel that we are hiding anything from them," said ecology minister Jean-Louis Borloo as he announced the blanket tests.

Residents in Bollène in the Vaucluse, southern France – a top tourist area – have been told not to drink water or eat fish from nearby rivers, after 74kg of liquid uranium was spilled on July 7 at the Tricastin nuclear plant.

Swimming and water sports were also banned along with irrigating crops with the contaminated water, which reached two rivers.

French authorities last week ordered the closure of a nuclear treatment facility at the plant, which also has a nuclear reactor, after liquid was spilled during its transfer from one container to another.

The site is run by Socatri, a subsidiary of Areva, whose president, Anne Lauvergeon, is due to visit.

Areva aims to dominate the design and construction of at least eight new power stations which are to be fast-tracked in England over the next decade.

According to Gordon Brown, they are essential to reduce Britain's dependency on fossil fuels, but environmentalists have already raised safety fears, saying the Areva reactor design is 'untried and untested'.

Ben Ayliffe, head of nuclear campaigns at Greenpeace, said: "Such unpredictable and nasty side effects are the risks you take with nuclear.

"We believe the leak in France resulted from human error.

"Liquid uranium was accidentally poured onto the ground. We're not talking about dishwater here. This is a dangerous radioactive material.

"The risk of accidents like this in the UK should be enough to make reasonable people baulk at the thought of having more nuclear power stations here."

Although ranked as only a level-one incident on a scale from zero to seven, Mr Borloo said he wanted government nuclear safety inspectors to look into the environmental conditions at all sites, in particular the state of the surrounding ground water.

"I'm told that everything is under control, but I want to be sure," Mr Borloo told Le Parisien newspaper.

French environmental group Sortir du nucléaire welcomed the move, but said that tests should be carried out by an independent body not linked to the industry or the French state – its main shareholder.

France has the world's second largest network of nuclear reactors after the United States and they generate more than 80 per cent of its electricity.

While the spill at Tricastin did not affect the reactor, Mr Borloo stressed that "there is no room for negligence" in nuclear energy.
France's IRSN nuclear safety institute said it had located four areas with abnormally high levels of uranium in the ground water and that this could not have been caused by the Tricastin leak alone.

This has led to suggestions that military nuclear waste buried nearby in an underground storage site from 1964 to 1976 may be to blame.

In 1998, a study by French nuclear body Cogema estimated that up to 900kg of uranium had leaked into underground water supplies from the site, and that another 1,700 kilogrammes were still buried there.
However, IRSN said the pollution "incident" had "nothing to do with this mound of waste" – located roughly a mile further south.

It has been declared all vegetables and crops irrigated just after the leak fit for consumption, but residents around Bollène, where the power station is located, said they feared for their health.

"We've been drinking water from this water table for 20 years," said Sylvie Eymard, who cultivates herbs and vegetables on a farm within sight of Tricastin's cooling towers. Most of her plants have died due to the water restrictions.

"We've done chemical tests before, but never thought of a radiological risk.

"I can't help thinking about the possible consequences of this pollution on my children", she told Le Parisien.

The municipality is supplying tanks of drinking water and local stores have sold out on mineral water, while some residents have stocked up on iodine pills – usually taken as protection against airborne radioactive particles.

"The local population is worried and no longer believes official figures", said André-Yves Becq, the deputy mayor. He said Socatri inspectors "suspiciously" told one family that dangerously high levels of contamination in its water supply were due to a "dirty measurement instrument".

France is fiercely proud of its nuclear prowess thanks to mainly state-owned energy giants Areva, Electricité de France and newly merged GDF Suez. The country has already embarked on the construction of a new generation of higher-yield EPR reactors.

In April, Mr Sarkozy hailed French nuclear technology as "one of the safest in the world' while on a trip to Tunisia – the latest in his nuclear sales tour of mainly Muslim states including Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Saudi Arabia, but also China.

"Without energy, you will not know growth. Without growth, you will not have development. You will have poverty, under-development and unemployment, and thus terrorism. Everything is linked", he claimed.

Story from Telegraph News:


Source: http://www.nirs.org/factsheets/llwfct.htm

"Low-Level" Radioactive Waste is one of the most misleading terms ever created. In the U.S., it is all nuclear waste that is not legally high-level waste, some transuranic waste, or mill tailings.

High-Level Radioactive Waste is: the irradiated fuel from the cores of nuclear reactors, the liquid and sludge wastes that are left over after irradiated fuel has been reprocessed (a procedure used to extract uranium and plutonium), the solid that would result from efforts to solidify that liquid and sludge from reprocessing.

Transuranic Waste is material contaminated with radioactive elements heavier than uranium, such as plutonium, neptunium, americium and curium. These elements: have extremely long hazardous lives--hundreds of thousands to millions of years and emit alpha radiation a type of radiation that is especially dangerous if inhaled or swallowed. Some transuranic waste is allowed in the "low-level" radioactive waste category. In 1983, when the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) adopted regulations on land disposal of radioactive waste (lOCFR61), it increased the allowable concentration of transuranics in "low-level" radioactive waste.

Uranium Mill tailings, resulting from mining and milling uranium for weapons and commercial reactors, are not usually included in the "low-level" waste category, but may be handled with it in some states. The large volumes of these wastes, which will emit radiation for centuries, pose serious health problems.


"Low-Level" Radioactive Waste includes:

Irradiated Components and Piping: reactor hardware and pipes that are in continual contact with highly radioactive water for the 20 to 30 years the reactor operates. The metal becomes "activated" or radioactive itself from bombardment by neutrons that are released when energy is produced. Also called Irradiated Primary System Components.

Control Rods: from the core of nuclear power plants--rods that regulate and stop the nuclear reactions in the reactor core.

Poison Curtains: which absorb neutrons from the water in the reactor core and irradiated fuel (high level waste) pool.

Resins, Sludges, Filters and Evaporator Bottoms: from cleansing the water that circulates around the irradiated fuel in the reactor vessel and in the fuel pool, which holds the irradiated fuel when it is removed from the core.

Entire Nuclear Power Plants if and when they are dismantled. This includes, for example, from a typical 1,000 megawatt nuclear reactor building floor: over 13,000 tons of contaminated concrete and over 1,400 tons of contaminated reinforcing steel bar.

The highly radioactive and long-lived reactor wastes are included in the "low-level" waste category along with the much less concentrated and generally much shorter-lived wastes from medical treatment and diagnosis and some types of scientific research.


The nuclear industry and government commonly describe "low-level" waste in terms of volume although there can be a tremendous concentration of radioactivity in a small package and a small concentration in a big package. The amount of radioactivity, measured in CURIES, indicates how much radioactive energy is being emitted by the waste. (1 Curie = 37,000,000,000 or 37 Billion disintegrations or radioactive emissions per second from a radioactive material.)

The medical waste from diagnosis and treatment shipped in one year from most states usually gives off a fraction of one curie of radiation. In contrast, each nuclear reactor generates hundreds and thousands of curies in "low-level" waste every year.

Nuclear reactor waste is concentrated: Solidified liquid emits about 2 curies per cubic meter; Filter/Demineralizer sludges emit about 10 curies per cubic meter; Cartridge filters emit about 20 curies per cubic meter; Demineralizer resins emit about 160 curies per cubic meter. Primary Components average 1000 to 5000 curies per cubic meter.

All of this material is legally considered low-level.


Radioactive elements decay by emitting energy in the form of radioactive particles and rays. As radiation is given off, other elements (some radioactive and some stable) are formed.

The Half-Life is the time it takes for HALF of the radioactive element to decay (give off half of its radioactivity). Different radioactive elements have different half-lives.

The Hazardous Life of a radioactive element is about 10 or 20 Half-Lives. (It is best to measure the amount of radiation after 10 or 20 half-lives before releasing waste from active controls.)

Reactor waste remains hazardous for a very long time. Most medical waste from treatment and diagnosis is hazardous for a very short time. Research and industrial waste can contain small amounts of some long-lived radioactive materials.

Among the radioactive elements commonly found in nuclear reactor "low-level" waste are: Tritium, with a half-life of 12 years and a hazardous life of 120-240 years; Iodine-131, half-life of 8 days, hazardous life of 80-160 days; Strontium-90, half life of 28 years, hazardous life of 280-560 years; Nickel-59, half life of 76,000 years, hazardous life of 760,000-1,520,000 years, and Iodine-129, half-life of sixteen million years, hazardous life of160-320 million years.

By contrast, common medical waste elements include Technetium-99m, with a half-life of 6 hours and a hazardous life of 2.5-5 days; Galium-67, half-life of 78 hours and hazardous life of 1-2 months; and Iodine-131, with its half-life of 8 days and hazardous life of 80-160 days.

The vast majority of medical waste is hazardous for less than 8 months. Yet, it is in the same category as reactor waste that will be hazardous for hundreds of thousands to millions of years.

Clearly, the definition of "low-level radioactive waste" must be changed. It would make sense to redefine the more concentrated and/or longer-lived waste as high-level. Active recontainerization and operational control must be provided for the entire hazardous life of the waste, yet the NRC requires only 100 years of passive institutional control. Thus, waste hazardous longer than 100 years could be forgotten. Retrievability is essential.


Waste containers and forms will not last as long as some waste remains hazardous. Therefore, waste should be placed in a manner which will facilitate recontainerization and make continued isolation from the environment possible in the future. If the waste is "disposed of" as the NRC currently requires, it will not be isolated from the environment. "Planned leakage will occur at (what NRC considers) an "acceptable" leak rate leading to "acceptable" public radiation exposures and health risks. The allowable leak rates and exposure levels are determined by federal agencies, not those experiencing the risk.

To avoid leakage, above-ground, engineered storage at or near the source of generation could allow responsible routine monitoring and repair.


States have the right and responsibility to protect their citizens' health. In 1980, Congress gave states the responsibility for "low-level" radioactive waste. How and whether states choose to take on that responsibility will be reflected indefinitely into the future.

Source: http://www.nirs.org/factsheets/llwfct.htm

Nuclearphile sabotage

Jeremy Leggett 22/06/2008
Source: http://www.theecologist.org/pages/archive_detail.asp?open=y&content_id=1892#36615

The Government wilfully suppressed renewables to make space for nuclear to be reborn, argues Jeremy Leggett

The Government released its first energy white paper almost five years ago, when oil was barely $30 a barrel. The result of a thorough consultation with more than 60 energy companies, it called for deep carbon emissions cuts by 2050, to be achieved primarily by a massive programme of renewable and efficient energy mobilisation. Nuclear energy barely survived the consultation. During the Strategic Energy Review that preceded the white paper, I saw executives from nuclear companies literally laughed out of contention during debates about the economics of future energy supply. But senior officials at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) fought a rearguard action. Nuclear was granted a place on the back burner, to be reviewed after five years.

The DTI set up a Renewables Advisory Board to advise ministers on how to execute the white-paper plan in November 2002. I was invited to join it, and at the time I was encouraged. Twelve renewable industry executives joined senior officials from all relevant ministries on the board. There was a sense that we were there to make things happen fast: to help unlock doors. But by September 2003, the industry members of the board were troubled by slow progress and issued a statement of concern. In particular, we were worried that the short tenure of the Renewables Obligation was putting off investment in wind. Faced with this rebellion by its industry advisors, the Government extended the Renewables Obligation. But other doors were proving very difficult to open, notably an early recommendation by industry that government go out and fight a strong hearts-and-minds communication campaign to persuade the public that we needed a strong mix of fast-growing renewables markets, and why.

A fellow member of the board warned me that DTI officials were deliberately going slowly, and would continue to do so, aiming to keep their hopes for nuclear alive. Renewables, he feared, would be teed up to fail. I didn’t believe it at the time. But recently I heard two of Tony Blair’s senior colleagues confirm the DTI has long suppressed renewables to make space for nuclear. The slow-motion treatment of renewables that I have witnessed in the UK during the past five years, while renewables markets abroad have grown explosively, now makes a sickening kind of sense.

In 2004, oil hit $50 for the first time. New fears about energy security meant more than $30 billion of new investment flowed into renewables globally. Very little came to the UK. Much of it went to Germany, where the Germans have created more than 200,000 new jobs since 2000 in industries now exporting globally. UK plc meanwhile has been starved of opportunities both to create new jobs and compete in new global export markets.

Along the way, the nuclearphiles have jumped the gun on their five-year review. Tony Blair called for a second energy white paper, and by July 2006 the draft already backed a new generation of British nuclear power plants. At that time, nuclear inspectors were reporting unexplained cracks in six reactor cores in the existing generation. British Energy, it seemed, did not know the extent of the damage in the reactors, could not monitor their deterioration and didn’t fully understand why the cracking had occurred. The DTI authors of the energy white paper, and their champion in Number 10, were undeterred.

Greenpeace challenged the legality of the second white paper process and in February 2007 the High Court ruled that the Government’s review had indeed been unlawful. Another consultation began. Another year had been lost.

In March, Europe agreed a union-wide target of 20 per cent renewables in the energy mix. Twenty-seven leaders signed up, Blair among them. As a result of this and other market-building initiatives, global investment in renewables companies accelerated still faster in 2007. Share prices in renewables companies soared far ahead of normal stocks, while growing numbers of experts warned oil and gas were depleting faster than expected. But in the UK it was business as usual. In August, the Guardian revealed ministers were being briefed by DTI officials (now the Department of Business and Regulatory Reform) that the UK couldn’t come close to a 20 per cent target. In a development beyond even the script of Yes Minister, options for wriggling out of the 20 per cent commitment included counting nuclear energy as renewable energy.

No doubt shamed by all this, Gordon Brown held the line, and is currently insisting the UK plays ball with the EU’s 20 per cent target. But how will he deliver it, when his government has some of the least effective market-enablement programmes for renewable energy in the industrialised world? How, surrounded by civil servants intent on seeing a re-nuclearised Britain almost at any cost?

One of those most instrumental in engineering the nuclear renaissance was Blair’s chief scientific adviser, Sir David King. People present in the crucial cabinet meeting where the 2003 energy white paper was finalised have described to me how King and other DTI officials stopped ministers shelving nuclear completely. In a Guardian interview on 12 January, King speaks with evident pride about how John Prescott became furious to the point almost of violence.

King went further in the interview and in his forthcoming books, labelling greens Luddites harming the fight against global warming. Many ‘want to get away from all the technological gizmos and developments of the 20th century,’ he professes.

Many greens I know are keen to drop 20th-century technologies, but only in that we are rather keen to progress to the technologies of the 21st century. The technologies of the present century look set to be very different from the technologies of the last, if you consider where energy investors prefer to put their money. The vast majority of venture capital investment in energy, and some of the most successful investments on stock exchanges in 2007, went to renewable and efficient technologies, and these offer at least a fighting chance of solving our energy problems.

Nuclear is one of those 20th-century technologies society has tried and found wanting. We can’t build it fast enough to make a difference either to our clear-and-present climate change problem, or our fast-emerging energy security problem. Even if we could, we haven’t found a way to deal with its hideous wastes after half a century of effort. We can’t afford it without endless blank-cheque subsidies, as opposed to the short-term, fixed-amount subsidies – or their policy equivalents – that renewables need in order to accelerate into mass markets. We haven’t found a way to stop the people that run the industry from releasing a stream of lies, falsified documents, accident- and near-miss cover-ups, and consistent, huge and almost universal cost underestimates. If we plough ahead with nuclear power regardless, we face the fact that the separation between civil and weapons programmes is wafer-thin, and so effectively issue a licence to the rest of the world to proliferate nuclear weapons. Retired nuclear bomb designers have a tendency to profess that if and when civil nuclear programmes are resurrected on any scale, it is only a matter of time before the terrorists make it into our cities with suitcase bombs. Finally, if we build a new generation of nuclear reactors, by the Government’s own admission they would need to be on existing sites: on the coast. The same government warns us, via its lead role in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are at risk of melting, which would lift global sea level many metres. Whither Dungeness then, a site where 600 tonnes of shingle already has to be dumped daily to keep the sea at bay? Some 20th-century technologies we do need to get away from. Nuclear power is one.

The book King has written to vent his rage against the greens, we are told, ends with a map of the world on which is superimposed six tiny squares. If all the light falling on those squares could be harvested, King explains, all the world’s energy needs could be met. Indeed. This remarkable fact is the product of a nuclear reactor. That reactor is more than 90 million miles from our planet, and it is called the Sun. The power it could in principle generate within those tiny squares is called solar power. David King was until recently a lead player in a government that has acted for years as though it wants to slowly strangle any prospect of solar power in Britain.

Jeremy Leggett is founder and chairman of Solarcentury and SolarAid, and author of The Carbon War and Half Gone. This article is an extended version of some of his writing on nuclear power and renewables in the Guardian

Source: http://www.theecologist.org/pages/archive_detail.asp?open=y&content_id=1892#36615

Surfers say no to 'radioactive waves'

Source: www.mg.co.za

A proposed nuclear power station at Thuyspunt would be a disaster for the environment and tourism in Jeffrey's Bay and St Francis Bay, the Supertubes Surfing Foundation said on Monday.

"Local and international surfers ... will not fancy a surf in radioactive waves at one of the best right-handers in the world," said the organisation, which takes care of beaches and protects sand dunes in Jeffrey's Bay.

The organisation said seawater would be used to cool the proposed plant's condensers and then returned to the ocean.

"We are not satisfied that pumping heated water back into the ocean will have no impact on sea life and water quality in the Jeffrey's Bay and St Francis Bay area," said the chairperson of the organisation, Tyrone Smith.

If Thuyspunt -- just 12km from Cape St Francis -- is chosen by Eskom as the site of its plant, a 4 000MW nuclear reactor will be built. This is more than twice the size of the Koeberg plant in the Western Cape, said Supertubes.

Vulnerable ecosystems and wetlands could be destroyed by building a nuclear facility at Thuyspunt.

Smith also said the large amounts of water sucked in at high velocity to cool the condensers could capture wildlife from the sea and destroy it. "The plant would have some kind of filter system and even large fish would be trapped and killed."

He also said it was a "very real possibility" that dolphins would be killed at the proposed nuclear plant.

"The risk of an accident at a nuclear plant so close to the pristine beaches of Jeffrey's Bay is unacceptable," the organisation said, adding that wind speed in the area was strong enough that if there were an accident, radiation would strike the communities of St Francis and Jeffrey's Bay within an hour.

"There would literally be no time for an evacuation as it would be impossible to warn everybody -- the local population would simply be eradicated. The agricultural land would be unusable for thousands of years."

Botanist Richard Cowling said dune fynbos in the area was endangered and that building the site would require the removal of huge amounts of sediment.

"Any disturbance of the dunes will play havoc with the complex water-flow dynamics in the area," he said.

Smith said agriculture and tourism, the two pillars of the economy in the area, would be hardest hit if the plant was built. "Would [tourists] risk their safety by spending their summer holidays so close to a nuclear plant that is spewing polluted water back into the ocean they want to swim in?"

J'Bay Boardriders' Club chairperson Andy Thuysman said many jobs could be lost. "The Baviaanskloof [40km from Jeffrey's Bay] has been declared a world heritage site and the tourism potential from this may never be realised."

Planned power lines would be driven through the wilderness area above the highway, he said.

Supertubes said it will be asking people to sign a petition at the Billabong Pro surf contest.

Eskom was not immediately available for comment. -- Sapa

Source: www.mg.co.za

Britain's nuclear clean-up increases by £10bn

Bill for Britain's nuclear clean-up increases by another £10bn
Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/

· A week after MPs criticise accounts, numbers go up
· Repairing broken reactors brings cost total to £83bn

# Terry Macalister
# The Guardian,
# Friday July 18, 2008

The credibility of the nuclear industry was shaken last night after the estimated cost of cleaning up Britain's atomic waste was raised by a further £10bn.

The latest clean-up estimate from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) suggests the commonly accepted figure of £73bn should rise to £83bn. But the agency insisted that £10bn of income from generating and fuel reprocessing plants should also be taken into account.

It said the most accurate estimate of the clean-up bill over the next 130 years was £73bn, which included £10bn for the future construction of a high level waste depositary. The NDA's estimates for that project have not been revealed before.

The government agency blamed the latest rise in costs on the decision to tackle more complicated hazard problems at Sellafield along with rising inflation in the engineering sector, and a lack of income from the Thorp and Mox fuel reprocessing plants, which have been hit by a succession of problems.

The latest clean-up estimates came as a newly restarted fuel reprocessing plant was taken out of action until the end of the year and British Energy said four broken-down reactors would not be repaired on time or within budget.

But an NDA spokesman said there was good news in its annual report and accounts because the lifetime cost of running the Drigg low-level waste depositary - now under private management - had fallen by 18% and the cost of cleaning up the Dounreay site was down by 10%.

Further savings would come from placing Sellafield under private management, he said, but admitted there could be no guarantee that the clean-up bill would not rise again: "Obviously, with a civil engineering project over 130 years there will always be risks."

Last week a report from the Commons public accounts committee criticised ministers over last year's clean-up estimate and complained about the lack of certainty over the projected cost of decommissioning Britain's nuclear sites.

Greenpeace said the NDA figures were alarming. It questioned the agency's reliance on gaining £10bn of income from plants such as Thorp, which has a history of breakdowns, and pointed out that the plant had effectively been taken out of action for the rest of the year while a new evaporator was fitted.

"In just three years the estimated cost for dealing with our nuclear legacy has risen by over £20bn," said Greenpeace's senior nuclear campaigner, Ben Ayliffe. "It now stands at over £73bn and is spiralling out of control. The NDA admits that they have no idea what the final bill will be.

"They're stuck in a radioactive quagmire and as usual it's the public who will have to carry the can. It beggars belief that Gordon Brown and his nuclear stooges want to build more atomic plants when the plans for cleaning up after our existing reactors are such a drain on this country's coffers."

The latest clean-up figures came as British Energy, the UK's main nuclear power generator, admitted that the cost of bringing back on stream two key plants that had encountered problems nine months ago would be "significantly higher" than expected and would take considerably longer to fix than anticipated.

The company originally estimated that it would cost £50m to repair reactors at the Hartlepool and Heysham 1 facilities. But yesterday BE chairman Adrian Montague said a much more complex engineering solution was required and "the final costs will be significantly higher than this initial estimate".

The four broken reactors have already soaked up a million man-hours of work and while good progress has been made, British Energy said it could not be sure of bringing the units back into service until the last quarter of this calendar year. More specific details of the cost overrun would be given next month alongside first quarter earnings.

The latest difficulties to have beset British Energy were revealed by the chairman at the company's annual shareholders' meeting in Edinburgh. Montague admitted the performance of the nuclear power stations was "disappointing", with Hartlepool and Heysham's difficulties coming on top of boiler problems at Hinkley Point B and Hunterston B.

"However, these large events mask the continued improvement in what we have seen in many of our underlying operating metrics, notably the record low level of small generation losses and the strong and sustained safety and environmental performance achieved across the fleet," he said.

Turning to expectations that a new generation of atomic power plants would be constructed in the UK, British Energy said it was making prudent investments "to secure a pivotal role" in any such developments, most obviously from preparing some of its existing sites for new plant.

"We have recently held a series of public meetings with the communities around Sizewell about our proposals for a twin nuclear unit there, and we are scheduling similar meetings for our other lead sites at Hinkley Point, Dungeness and Bradwell," Montague said.

The company, whose nuclear plants generate 14% of the UK's electricity, last month rejected takeover overtures from EDF, the French nuclear power operator which is interested in British Energy primarily for the sites which could be used for its own new atomic stations. "Our dialogue is therefore continuing and a further announcement will be made in due course," the chairman said.

The NDA's figure for clean-up costs: it says £10bn will be offset by income

The number of years the nuclear clean-up is expected to take

Percentage of the UK's electricity generated by British Energy plants

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/

Nuclear power failure

Gordon Brown says the UK is at the forefront of a global 'nuclear renaissance'. But despite all the rhetoric, the real picture is grim

* John Sauven
* guardian.co.uk,
* Friday July 18, 2008

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/

Just this week Prime Minister Gordon Brown confidently assured us that the UK was at the forefront of a global "nuclear renaissance" and that within a few years we'd be home to at least eight bright, shining new reactors. We're told a week is a long time in politics, but it must seem an absolute eternity to the ever more bedraggled British nuclear industry.

Yesterday the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) published its annual report and the predictable news was that the cost of decommissioning existing reactors and dealing with our legacy of radioactive waste has rocketed yet again. The bill now stands at a whopping £73bn, up from £53bn in 2006. That's an increase equivalent to the entire cost of the London 2012 Olympics each year.

Some experts believe that the real total might be more than £85bn. This is a staggering amount of taxpayers' money. Just to put the figure into context, it's about the same cost as the entire Apollo Programme that took man to the moon. Sadly, unlike JFK's lunar mission, in this case we have nothing to celebrate. What that money buys us is merely desperate grappling with the radioactive and toxic legacy of nuclear power.

The NDA claims the overall figure will be kept down because it will generate revenue through its commercial operations. But the idea that the NDA's commercial operations can guarantee this income is laughable. A big slice of the revenue they want to rely on for a century or more depends on two of the biggest white elephants in nuclear industry history – Thorp and the Sellafield Mox Plant. The Thorp reprocessing facility was shut for years following dangerous radioactive leaks and is now closed until Christmas while a new evaporator is fitted. Meanwhile it was recently announced to surprisingly little fanfare that the Mox plant, which cost nearly half a billion pounds, has produced next to nothing since it was built. Relying on these for a guaranteed income is like putting your faith in a sprig of flowers to ward of the plague.

The fact that the NDA is playing a central role in working out how much waste from new reactors might cost to dispose of should make all of us stop and think about the merits of any new nuclear programme. The taxpayer is picking up the tab for all these failures and cost increases now, and as the Public Accounts Committee stated recently, it is impossible to guarantee that the taxpayer will not pick up the tab for new nuclear power stations too. Government promises that there will be no subsides for its new nuclear programme are almost worthless.

Despite all the rhetoric and improbable promises about the benefits of new nuclear reactors, the real picture is grim. Much like the recent news that British Energy is paying twice as much to get two of its creaking UK reactors back on line (the bill is now more than £100m). And the rumours that French state-owned nuclear utility Electricite de France is having second thoughts about buying British Energy.

But before we conclude that this is a British malaise, this week brought the startling announcement from France that all its nuclear reactors must now be checked so that leaks of radioactive waste into local rivers, as happened at one site last week, don't happen anywhere else. This comes hot on the heels of the construction blunders at the new reactor site in Flamanville that led to the French nuclear authority suspending the project. These are the reactors and companies that are touted to deliver Brown's "nuclear renaissance", but unless stopped, the prospect is of a much more disastrous and expensive rerun.

A fall from the giddy heights of Brown's expansive nuclear dreams at the start of the week takes some beating. However, the one thing the nuclear industry really excels at is shooting itself in the foot. Which means we can probably expect more of the same before the summer's out.

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Strontium 90 in Baby Teeth near Nuclear Reactor

published by WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor on May 16, 2003
U.S.: strontium-90 in baby teeth near Florida reactors

A study on childhood cancer near nuclear power plants in Florida, U.S., was released in April. According to the study by the Radiation and Public Health Project, levels of fission product strontium-90 in the teeth of children living in southeast Florida had increased with 37% from 1986-1989 to 1994-1997. The highest levels were found near the Turkey Point and St. Lucie reactors. The amount of radioactive strontium-90 appeared to be 85% higher in the teeth of children with cancer than those without. The results might suggest a link between cancer and exposures to radioactivity from the reactors, but further studies are still needed to confirm this.

(587.5518) WISE Amsterdam - The study was conducted by the Radiation and Public Health Project (RPHP) and funded by the Health Foundation of South Florida. RHPH is an independent non-profit research organization, established by scientists and physicians to investigate the links between environmental radiation, cancer and public health. The main authors of the study are Dr. Ernest Sternglass, Professor Emiritus Radiation Physics of the Unversity of Pittsburgh, Dr. Jerry Brown, Founding Professor Florida International University and Joseph Mangano, national coordinator of RPHP.

Four nuclear reactors are in operation in southeast Florida: Turkey Point-3 and -4 in Miami-Dade County and St. Lucie-1 and -2 in St. Lucie County. Concerns have been raised about reported increases in childhood cancer. RPHP studied data on radioactive releases from the plants, radioactivity concentrations in rain- and drinking water, cancer rates in the region and levels of strontium-90 in baby's teeth in the region. The main findings of the RPHP study are:

Radioactivity emissions

Radioactivity in Miami-Dade County (Turkey Point) rainwater rose from a minimum in 1987-1988 to a plateau in 1990-1993, and later by some 60% in the last half of the 1990s. Atmospheric bomb testing by the U.S. ended in 1963 and by other countries in 1980. Accidental releases by underground bomb testing ended in 1992-1993. The releases by these test were an important source of beta-emitting radionuclides. As the activity in water still increased in the late 1990s, the persistence of (high beta) radioactivity in precipitation and drinking water near Turkey Point and St. Lucie therefore is likely to be caused by those two NPPs.

Radioactivity in drinking water

The highest levels of fission product strontium-90 in drinking water in southeast Florida were found within 5-20 miles (8-32 kilometers) of the Turkey Point and St. Lucie reactors. Fission products like strontium-90, cesium-137 and iodine-131 are always released during normal operation of a reactor. The are released by the plant by air or water discharges. The levels of strontium-90 decreased with distance from the plants. This appears to rule out past nuclear bomb tests as the source of strontium-90 in drinking water. Contamination by nuclear tests would have caused equal activity levels all over Florida instead of the highest levels found near the two NPPs.

Cancer rates in Southeast Florida

From the early 1980s to the late 1990s, cancer incidence in children under 10 rose 35.2% in the five counties closest to the Turkey Point and St. Lucie reactors. Childhood cancer in the whole U.S. had only risen with 10.8%. So, the amount of childhood cancer rose more quickly in the regions of the two NPPs. A high amount of 325.3% increase in childhood cancer was observed in St. Lucie County.

Radioactivity in Florida Baby Teeth

The authors collected baby teeth for measurements on strontium-90 concentrations. The study found that levels of strontium-90 in 250 Miami-Dade County baby teeth have been rising since the early 1980s. The current level is even as high as in the late 1950s, when the U.S., U.K., and the Soviet Union conducted atmospheric bomb tests. As the major releases of strontium-90 have ended since the atmospheric tests stopped, the authors suspect another cause for the (increased) presence of strontium-90 in teeth.
A comparison of the 461 baby teeth from six southeast counties near the two NPPs with 24 teeth from 12 other Florida counties (more than 40 miles from any NPP) showed that strontium-90 levels in the six southeast counties have a significant 44% higher concentration of strontium-90.

In 1982, the average concentration of strontium-90 in southeast Florida baby teeth was 2.23 picoCuries per gram Calcium. By 1995, it reached 5.29 picoCurie/g Calcium. That significant rise of +137% makes it almost impossible to ascribe the current levels to past atmospheric nuclear bomb tests. That is because of the fact that one would expect a decline in strontium-90 levels as the atmospheric tests had ended and strontium-90 from that cause is more and more disappearing from the natural environment.
From 17 teeth from children diagnosed with cancer and living in the counties near the NPPs, 14 were found to have strontium-90 levels above the average for those without cancer in the same counties. Furthermore, 11 out of these 14 teeth have significantly higher strontium-90 concentrations. On average, strontium-90 levels in cancer teeth were 85% higher than those found in non-cancer teeth.

Conclusions and recommendations

The authors conclude that the radioactivity releases from the Turkey Point and St. Lucie NPPs are the primary cause of rising strontium-90 levels in southeast Florida baby teeth, which is the highest in the counties near the plants.

Strontium-90 levels are significantly higher in teeth from children with cancer. The higher levels of strontium-90 in children with cancer raises the question whether exposure to emissions by the two NPPs may be a possible cause for the cancer. The authors are quite strong in their conclusions when they state that "there is now substantial evidence that exposure [...] is a significant causal factor". But as this is only a first study on strontium-90 levels in Florida they also recommend that more detailed studies on cancer rates and a relation with strontium-90 levels are necessary before full conclusions can be drawn.

The possible radiation-cancer link should also be considered in future federal policies regulating the operation of nuclear reactors, especially on renewal or extension of the licenses of aging reactors.

More information about the Radiation and Public Health Project can be found at their website: www.radiation.org. The website also includes earlier study results of the project.

1. Environmental Radiation from Nuclear Reactors and Childhood Cancer in Southeast Florida, Radiation and Public Health Project, 9 April 2003
2. Press release RPHP, 9 April 2003
Contact: J. Mangano, National Coordinator, RPHP, 786 Carroll Street, Brooklyn, NY 11215, U.S.
Tel: +1 718 857 9825
Email: odiejoe@aol.com
Web: www.radiation.org

Thursday, March 6, 2008

SA names partners for nuclear reactor programme

SA names partners for nuclear reactor programme

By: Reuters
Published: 5 Mar 08 - 10:09
Source: http://www.engineeringnews.co.za/article.php?a_id=128471

South Africa's advanced nuclear reactor technology programme will include US-based Westinghouse Electric as a partner and a new shareholders' contract is expected by the end of the month, an official said on Tuesday.

South Africa is currently testing elements of the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) and wants to build 24-30 PBMR reactors for its own energy needs.

Lynette Milne, CFO of Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (Pty) Ltd (PBMR) set up in 1999 to develop and market the technology, said a new shareholders' contract will also include South Africa's government, the Industrial Development Corporation and power utility Eskom.

"The status on the shareholders' agreement is that we still anticipate signing by the end of March 2008," Milne said in an email reply to questions.

"In terms of the existing cooperation agreement, PBMR is 100 percent owned by Eskom. This will change in the shareholders' agreement where the other contributors to the project, being IDC, Westinghouse and government (through DPE), will also be issued shares in PBMR in proportion to their contributions historically," Milne said.

Westinghouse in majority-owned by Japan's Toshiba Corp..

South Africa is gripped by a power shortage as Eskom struggles to meet demand.

The country's mining industry ground to a halt for five days in January as rolling blackouts intensified and millions of homes were left without power.

The multi-billion rand PBMR is part of the country's efforts to move away from coal and boost waning capacity through nuclear power. The government said in 2005 it aimed to produce a demonstration reactor by 2011 and a commercial model by 2012.

The reactor is an advanced design that claims to dramatically improve safety and efficiency, although environmentalists say it is unsafe and creates radioactive waste.

The high-temperature PBMR is a step change from conventional reactor technologies because the radioactive material in sealed in small "pebbles."

It will be built in modules, with groups of four or eight reactors sharing one infrastructure, facilitating expansion.

Although China and the United States are working on similar technology, South Africa is leading the field and plans to start construction of a demonstration plant next year, the PBMR company said last year.

State-owned Eskom plans to spend R343-billion increasing its generating capacity over the next five years and has invited bids for a new nuclear power station.

Source: http://www.engineeringnews.co.za/article.php?a_id=128471

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Sham of Nuke Power & Patrick Moore

The Sham of Nuke Power & Patrick Moore
by Harvey Wasserman
Source: http://www.commondreams.org/views07/0228-20.htm

Vermont was recently disgraced by an industry-sponsored visit from Patrick Moore, who claims to be a "founder" of Greenpeace, and who is out selling nuclear power as a "green" technology.

The two claims are roughly equal in the baldness of their falsehood.

But the impacts of the lies about Vermont Yankee are far more serious. Vermont is now at a crossroads in its energy and environmental future. The reactor is old and infirm. Every day it operates heightens the odds on a major accident.

In a world beset by terror, there is no more vulnerable target than an aged reactor like Vermont Yankee. Its core is laden with built-up radiation accumulated over the decades. Its environs are burdened with supremely radioactive spent fuel. Its elderly core and containment are among the most fragile that exist.

Despite industry claims, VY's high-level nuke waste is going nowhere. Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner Edward McGaffigan has told the New York Times he believes the Yucca Mountain waste repository cannot open for at least another 17-20 years, if ever. At current production levels, it will by then require yet another repository at least that size to handle the spent fuel that will by then be stacked at reactors like VY. In short: the dry casks stacked at Vermont Yankee could comprise what amounts to a permanent high level nuke dump, on the shores of the Connecticut River.

The Better Business Bureau recently recommended that the Nuclear Energy Institute pull its advertising that claims atomic reactors are clean and nonpolluting. The NEI is an industry front group. The BBB says that reactors cause thermal pollution in their outtake pipes and cooling towers, and also create substantial amounts of greenhouse gases in uranium production. In short, the Better Business Bureau has punctured the industry's claim the Vermont Yankee and other reactors are any kind of solution for climate chaos. The idea that VY is a "green" facility is utter nonsense.

Indeed, all nuclear power plants produce huge quantities of global warming gases as they are wrapped up in the mining of the uranium ore that goes into the fuel, and in the milling of that ore into fuel rods. The American West is littered with gargantuan piles of mill tailings that pour thousands of curies of radioactive radon into the atmosphere.

Fabricating fuel rods is one of the most electricity-intensive industries on earth, consuming millions of tons of coal in the process, emitting untold quantities of greenhouse gases. The radioactive emissions from the plants themselves also unbalance the atmosphere, and the heat they dump into the air and water directly heats the planet.

The alleged "renaissance" of nuclear power is nothing more than heavily funded industry hype. Wall Street financiers are not lining up to invest in these dinosaurs, and numerous utility executives have publicly doubted the wisdom of building them.

One reason is the explosive take-off of the renewable energy industry. Wind power is now very substantially cheaper than nukes. The production of photovoltaic cells, which convert sunlight directly to electricity, can barely meet demand. Investments in biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel are soaring, as are those in the cheapest form of recovered energy, increased efficiency. Shutting VY would open Vermont to the revolution that is reshaping the future. Keeping it open locks Vermont into a sorry past.

Nuclear power is a 50-year experiment that has failed. Extending the operations of Vermont Yankee will only leave the state with more radioactive waste, a Connecticut River increasingly threatened by heat and radioactive emissions, and an increasingly radioactive relic despoiling the region. Nukes cannot compete in the market, and would all cease to operate overnight if the huge subsidy of federal liability insurance was removed.

It is fitting, therefore, that the industry has insulted Vermont by sending in a spokesman of the caliber of Patrick Moore. Moore has claimed for years to be a founder of Greenpeace, an exaggeration of his actual role. Moore sailed on the first Greenpeace campaign, but he did not actually found the organization. According to Dorothy Stowe, an American Quaker, who immigrated to Canada in 1966 and founded Greenpeace with her husband Irving Stowe and other Canadian pacifists and ecologists, "Technically, Patrick Moore cannot be described as a founder of Greenpeace. He was there in early stages with a lot of others. But what he is doing now is unconscionable."

In "Greenpeace: How a Group of Ecologists, Journalists, and Visionaries Changed the World," author Rex Weyler writes "Greenpeace was founded by Quakers Dorothy and Irving Stowe, Marie and Jim Bohlen, and journalists Ben Metcalfe, Dorothy Metcalfe, and Bob Hunter. This group organized the first campaign to sail a boat into the U.S. nuclear test zone on Amchitka Island in the Bering Sea.

"Canadian ecologist and carpenter Bill Darnell coined the name "Greenpeace" in February 1970. A year later, Moore wrote to the organization, applying for a crew position on the boat and was accepted."

Moore wrote his letter on March 16, 1971, two years after the group was founded, describing himself as a graduate student "in the field of resource ecology." Clearly, then, Moore was not a founder of Greenpeace. Founders don't write letters applying to join. After the Stowes, Metcalfes and Bob Hunter left the organization, Moore briefly served as president, from 1977 to 1979. Former members recall that his bullyism nearly scuttled Greenpeace. He launched an internal lawsuit against his rivals in other Greenpeace offices, was replaced as president in 1979, and eventually drummed out of the organization as a troublemaker.

According to Steve Sawyer, who still works with Greenpeace in Amsterdam, "Moore harbored hopes of regaining his throne. Those hopes were dashed when he was chucked off the board in 1985." Moore started a fish farm, but did not succeed. He then did public relations for the Canadian forestry industry, absurdly defending massive clearcuts as an ecologically viable logging practice.

In a newspaper column in 1993, authentic Greenpeace founder Bob Hunter, called Moore "The Judas of the ecology movement." According to Hunter, Moore "burned off his old buddies because of his hubris. He was always a Green Tory at heart."

Moore says he is the "head scientist" of his public relations firm, but has never published a peer-reviewed scientific study. Moore exaggerates his role in Greenpeace and his credentials as a scientist to serve as a public relations hack for hire.

Moore now gets big money defending the indefensible, posing as a reformed environmentalist who has seen the light ... any light he is paid to see. He has hyped genetically modified crops, PVCs, and brominated flame retardants. He has soft-pedaled dioxins and toxic mine tailings dumped by Newmont mines into Indonesia bays.

Now he wants to sell Vermont on its nuke power plant. In exchange for a paycheck, he portrays Three Mile Island as a "success story." But if a melt-down turned Vermont Yankee into a TMI-type, billion-dollar liability, would he pitch in his pitch man's paychecks to help you underwrite this "success?"

Years ago, when he worked for Greenpeace, Moore wrote: "Nuclear power plants are, next to nuclear warheads themselves, the most dangerous devices that man has ever created. Their construction and proliferation is the most irresponsible, in fact the most criminal, act ever to have taken place on this planet."

Greenpeace agrees. The "revival" of nuke power is a hype being perpetrated by phony experts. Wall Street is not jumping in to a technology distinguished only by fifty years of proven failure. Vermont Yankee must be shut, dismantled and buried. Closing it now will narrow the burden of its permanent waste dump and open the door on the booming revolution in the real energy of the future: renewables and efficiency.

Harvey Wasserman, senior advisor to Greenpeace USA since 1990, is author of "Solartopia: Our Green-Powered Earth, A.D. 2030," (available at www.harveywasserman.com). This article was written with research help from past and current Greenpeace associates. A version of this piece was published by the Brattleboro Reformer.

Source: http://www.commondreams.org/views07/0228-20.htm

Friday, February 8, 2008

What to do with 'those dangerous uranium stones'

What to do with 'those dangerous uranium stones'
By Helena Kingwill, free-lance journalist and independent film-maker

Nuclear Energy is the government’s choice as “the cleaner, more eco-friendly” solution to South Africa’s increasing energy crisis. Industrialists promoting this technology use the argument that it is more environmentally friendly because in comparison to the monstrous CO2 emissions being pumped into our atmosphere by South Africa’s dinosaur coal powered power stations, the apparently slick, dinky high-tech Pebble Bed Modular reactors (PBMRs) look cleaner (in theory—they have not been built yet.) Even the controversial existing Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) at Koeberg doesn’t look like it’s contributing to global warming at the rate of her smoke-bellowing coal counterparts. However there is much more to the process of creating nuclear energy than meets the eye. The mining and processing of nuclear fuel does in fact create CO2 emissions, but that is almost beside the point. Media reports about global warming, important as they are, have given the spin doctors for nuclear energy a way to use the public’s own fear to pull wool over their eyes. What about the nuclear waste?

If Eskom's nuclear plan goes ahead, tons of nuclear waste will be produced every year. A whole radioactive industry will be built around it, from the mining of uranium to the processing of the fuel, all of which produce forms of waste. Anything that comes into contact with radiation is regarded as nuclear waste. It all has to be transported along our roads to the SA’s main nuclear waste-dump – Vaalputs near Springbok, from the city highways to the slippery gravel tracks of Namaqualand, where it is very easy for trucks to overturn.

Components of spent nuclear fuel (High-Level Waste) remain toxic for millions of years. Although we have been making it for over 20 years, South Africa still has no official plan for the safe disposal of this waste. Billions of Rands have already been spent on developing the P.B.M.R. yet the safe disposal of the waste it will produce, not to mention the decommissioning of the actual plant, have not fully been accounted for. Obviously this is much longer than any company or government can account for.

If this waste is buried, it could leak into the underground water and poison the ecosystem around it, spreading radiation like a cancer. The earth is constantly moving and shifting. According to paleontologist Dr. John Anderson, “continents drift at the rate of the growth of your fingernails.” One drop of nuclear waste can cause cancer, so by planting nuclear waste in the earth, we could be said to be planting a malignant tumor in the earth’s skin. This is the central metaphor of my documentary: “Buried in Earthskin” which has been screened at the Earthnotes Festival.

The community who are the focus of the film, and which the film constantly returns to, is a group of Namakhoi women whose husbands are workers at the nuclear waste dump Vaalputs in Namaqualand. They live in a village (Nourivier) about 100 km away from the waste dump but are extremely worried about the effects of the radiation on their health. Their greatest concern is that the nuclear waste could be seeping into the underground water supply. They are disappointed by false promises made by the apartheid government who deceived them into believing that the place was going to be a game reserve. They are surprisingly well informed about radiation and its possible effects on the environment and their health.

The Namakhoi people of Nourivier live in grass-domed homes and follow many old ways in their lifestyle. They are aware of which plants to pick for medicine and are very close to the earth. The women bake bread once a week in wood fired ovens made of clay. According to the Namaqualand Recreation and Education Centre (NAMREC) based in Springbok, although white farmers were moved off land near the dump, many "coloured" communities were not taken into account when the nuclear waste storage facility, Vaalputs, was planned. All around the world, the earth’s first peoples have been the most scarred victims of nuclear technology. In South Africa nuclear workers have suffered health problems due to being exposed to radiation, but have not been compensated due to the fact that they have not been able to prove, nor been in a position to sue or prove that their health problems are due to being exposed to radiation. “The distances are too large and the politics too big,’ one worker told me. This particular character, an ex-Vaalputs worker living in Nourivier, confided that he was never given the results of blood-tests taken one day. He felt that his body was un-naturally worn down by his work at the waste dump. (He died within a year of the interview.)

In comparison to nuclear technology, the government has paid far less interest in researching sustainable renewable alternative technologies such as solar and wind power. The reason given for this is that they will not be as reliable for big industry as centralized power stations. If they were given a chance, researchers developing this technology could find ways to store the energy generated by solar and wind technologies. More focus should be put on ways to reduce our wasteful consumption of energy. (Recent loose screws at Koeberg plunged half the Cape into darkness last year and forced us into a new awareness regarding reducing our energy consumption.)

Respected economist author and academic Patrick Bond puts us in the picture about the history of government spending with regards to energy, with the figures he has at his fingertips: “The problem of priorities appears to be getting worse, not better.” He said “Expenditure on renewable energy was less than 0.5% of the DME budget in 2002/03…. Indeed, perhaps the greatest waste remains in the area of nuclear research and development.”
He explains that historically the nuclear industry has always consumed more than its share of the national energy budget. Ironically it was started during the apartheid era, when the National Party secretly built 6 nuclear bombs. (These were officially dissembled when the A.N.C. came into power. However this new surge of interest in the technology makes one wonder if there may be a second agenda.)

“First considered in the 1960s, South Africa’s nuclear industry began in 1974 with the construction of the Koeberg nuclear station“, Bond explains. “The plant was commissioned a decade later. Nuclear development consumed two-thirds of the DME’s annual budget but only generated about 3% of South Africa’s primary energy supply and 5% of electricity in 1997”, explains Bond. “Eskom has been working on the PBMR since 1993, and therefore has a strong financial interest in keeping the programme going”, he says.

If only the present Government in its position of power on this decision about the future of our country’s energy sources would remember Nelson Mandela’s words when he spoke at the opening to the 5th session of the World Commission on the Ocean: "Our policy must rest on the solid moral foundation of dedication to the primacy of people and their long-term well being. We have to be on guard against temptations of short-term benefits and pressures from powerful forces at the expense of long-term interests of all. We cannot afford to bargain away the birthright of future generations."

The fate of future generations hangs in the balance, especially those poverty stricken communities living near the places where they will be mining, processing, burning and burying the waste from those “dangerous uranium stones’’ as Namakhoi elder, Oom Japie Dekeurs, calls them. Why not invest in even cleaner solar and wind energy projects which could be run by the communities themselves, generating revenue by selling excess power into the grid when weather is favourable, and creating far less hazardous employment for locals? Such decentralized projects would really bring power to the people thus preventing the burning of the last few trees and cutting down on lung diseases such as TB agitated by smoke, not to mention the tragic runaway fires that we see too often. Why I wonder, are we so stuck in the nuclear rut?
For more information about Buried in Earthskin, please contact Helena Kingwill at hdkingwill@polka.co.za.

About Buried in Earthskin:
A young female journalist sets off on a road trip to Namaqualand to see where the nuclear waste is buried. She meets a group of Namakhoi women living near the nuclear dump. In an attempt to understand the government’s decision to invest in nuclear as apposed to renewable energy, Helena visits experts and Nuclear facilities all over South Africa in what becomes a spiritual as well as picturesque physical journey which takes place over two years.

Credits: Helena Kingwill 2004 South Africa 56min

SOURCE: http://www.dlist-benguela.org/Monthly_Newsletter/Newsletter_4/What_to_do_with_%27those_dangerous_uranium_stones%27/

Small independent film upsets the powerful nuclear industry

Earthlife Africa Cape Town

Tel/Fax: 27 21 447 4912

Email: coordinator@earthlife-ct.org.za


7 February 2008

Press Release: Small independent film upsets the powerful nuclear industry

The South African nuclear industry has lodged a complaint with the Broadcasting Complaints Commission (BCC) over the screening on M-Net’s Carte Blanche of a documentary about the country’s nuclear industry.

Earthlife Africa is extremely concerned that this is an attempt by the powerful nuclear lobby to silence any dissenting voices.

A hearing date has been set for February 20 at the BCC’s offices in Johannesburg. The hearing is open to the public.

Entitled Uranium Road the documentary is about the history of the nuclear industry in South Africa as well as the present status of nuclear power in the country. It was screened on Carte Blanche, M-Net’s current affairs programme, in early November 2007. It sparked debate and clearly upset the powerful nuclear industry lobby. The Broadcasting Complaints Commission has received a complaint from NIASA (Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa).

“For many years now, the government of South Africa has been running headlong into a nuclear future despite the dangers and high costs of this technology and the availability of better alternatives. It is perhaps time for energy policy in South Africa to be decided upon, not by the Cabinet, but by its citizens. For this to be possible, the public needs to be informed. Clearly the nuclear industry cannot afford for an informed public to involve itself in energy choices because then the many myths and legends of nuclear power would be exposed”, said Earthlife Africa Cape Town spokesperson Maya Aberman

Earthlife Africa is staunchly against the roll-out of nuclear power and welcomes any debate that broadens the awareness about the impact of nuclear power on our environment. “We’ve spent millions of rands on researching nuclear power in the last decade but it has not been fully discussed with South African citizens.” Most South Africans are still unaware of the impact of nuclear power. The industry itself is constantly marketing ideas that nuclear power is a clean, safe and is even a renewable energy source. Nothing could be further from the truth if one considers:

· its contribution to climate change: the complete nuclear fuel chain is extremely energy intensive and dirty. The nuclear fuel cycle releases CO2 during mining, fuel production, transport, plant construction and decommissioning

· the poor economic track record of nuclear projects worldwide and in South Africa

· the fact that we are fast approaching uranium (nuclear fuel) peak

· the dangers posed by even low doses of radiation to human and environmental health

· the risk of catastrophic accident

· the fact that nuclear waste remains active and a threat to animal and human health for millions of years to come.

In addition, renewable energy can create about 27 times as many jobs as nuclear energy and jobs in the renewable energy generation sectors, like wind power, already have local people making up about 60% of their work force, and is increasing.

There are viable, safer and cleaner alternatives to nuclear power. There are sufficient renewable energy resources in South Africa to provide for 13% of the electricity demand by 2020, and easily 70% or more by 2050.

The film raises some of these concerns and has helped educate many South Africans who have little or no information about nuclear or renewable energy sources.

These developments beg the question; “Is the nuclear industry so vulnerable to open and informed debate that it finds it necessary to shut down any dissenting voices?”

For more information contact:

Maya Aberman

Earthlife Africa Cape Town

Tel: 021 447 4912

Cell: 076 754 6327

Tristen Taylor

Earthlife Africa Johannesburg

Tel: 011 339 3662

Cell: 084 250 2434