Friday, December 30, 2005

icWales - Secret plan for nuclear power plant

icWales - Secret plan for nuclear power plant

Dec 30 2005
Martin Shipton, Western Mail

A SECRET plan for a new nuclear power station in Wales has been hatched in Westminster.
The UK Department of Energy privately wants a nuclear power station to be built on Anglesey, a senior Government source has told us.
Although the official line is that Britain's future energy requirements are merely under review, it is understood that Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks has already decided that new nuclear power stations should go ahead, including one at Wylfa.
An existing nuclear facility at the site is due to be decommissioned in 2010.
Any attempt to build a new nuclear power station in Wales would be met by fierce resistance. But although the National Assembly would be likely to oppose such a development, energy supply is not a devolved matter and any decision about a proposed nuclear power station in Wales would be taken in London.

The Government source said, "We are convinced that nuclear power has to be part of satisfying Britain's future energy needs.
"It makes sense to build a new power station at Wylfa, because there is one there already. That will make the process simpler."
Hugh Richards, of the Welsh Anti-Nuclear Alliance, said, "Opposition to this will be implacable and united, will encompass members of all political parties and will prevail.
"If the Government seeks to pursue this course, I have no doubt that the campaign would involve civil disobedience.
"The Government has streamlined the arrangements for large planning inquiries, and the thinking is, that this has been done to make it easier to build new nuclear power stations. What they would like is an inquiry that concentrates on issues like what colour the gate should be painted. We will be demanding a proper inquiry that looks at first principles.
"Tony Blair, who for some reason has been convinced that nuclear power is needed, has a dilemma. He has to explain why the energy review his Government published just two years ago was wrong.
"That review concluded it would be unwise to invest in hugely expensive new nuclear power stations, instead recommending that the emphasis should be on energy saving and tapping into renewable energy sources like wind and wave power. The only thing that has changed since is that suicide bombers have engaged in terrorist attacks in Britain.
"Tony Blair will also find a lot of opposition to his nuclear plans within his own party, from backbenchers and even Cabinet Ministers. Peter Hain is on the record opposing new nuclear power stations. He isn't a mug, unlike some politicians who out of laziness have been duped into believing that nuclear power is the way to attain Britain's carbon emission targets.
"Slightly more savvy politicians are saying there needs to be an energy mix, with nuclear as one of the components. But that argument doesn't stand up to scrutiny either - the fact is that from an investment point of view, it's a question of either/or.
"If some nuclear power stations go ahead, investors just won't put their money into renewables."
Mr Richards said there would also need to be a high level of scrutiny of any specific nuclear proposal.
"Apart from the objection in principle to nuclear installations of any kind, there are concerns about the new kinds of reactor that may be proposed. One point that came out of the Sizewell B inquiry (into the building of a nuclear power station in Suffolk) was that in Britain it is expected that there will be more than one way of shutting down a plant if something goes wrong. The insistence that should be the case is the main reason why the cost of building Sizewell B doubled.
"The new generation of reactors like the AP100, which has been promoted by George Bush, have only one close-down mechanism. Because investors haven't been prepared to put money into building them, there is no data available on which to base any kind of assessment on how they operate."
Mr Richards said that as well as Wylfa, his group was extremely concerned that a new nuclear power station could be built at Hinckley Point in Somerset, where a previous reactor closed down five years ago.
Mr Richards said, "There are 2.5 million people living within 35 miles of Hinckley Point, 900,000 of whom are in South Wales.
"The question any politician should ask is whether they have the will to push through a nuclear programme over a period of 15 to 20 years, which is what it would take. I have no doubt that during that time there will be an attempted terrorist attack on a nuclear power station somewhere in the world. There may even be a successful attack. Instead of going down that path, we should be cutting our energy consumption now and investing for the future in renewables."
Only last month the Prime Minister hinted strongly that nuclear power was on his agenda, saying, "With some of the issues to do with climate change, and you can see it with the debate about nuclear power, there are going to be difficult and controversial decisions government has got to take.
"In the end it has got to do what it believes to be right in the long-term interests of the country. About energy security and supply, that will mean issues that are bound to be extremely controversial."

Advantages of Nuclear Power - A Debate

Amy Ridenour's National Center Blog: Advantages of Nuclear Power - A Debate

Those interested in energy development, energy independence, clean energy and/or global warming may be interested in a debate about the advantages and feasibility of nuclear energy ongoing presently in Scientific American and the Chicago Sun-Times.Writing in the December Scientific American (go here for a pdf of the article sent to me by the authors), physicists William Hannun, Gerald Marsh and George Stanford say the U.S. is missing out on a global trend as as more people worldwide are realizing nuclear power "may be the most environmentally-friendly way to generate large amounts of electricity."Furthermore, they write:
If developed sensibly, nuclear power could be truly sustainable and essentially inexhaustible and could operate without contributing to climate change. In particular, a relatively new form of nuclear technology could overcome the principal drawbacks of current methods - namely, worries about reactor accidents, the potential for diversion of nuclear fuel into highly destructive weapons, the management of dangerous, long-lived radioactive waste, and the depletion of global reserves of economically available uranium. After public policy consultant Tom Randall described key aspects of the Hannum/Marsh/Stanford thesis in a piece for the Chicago Sun-Times, Edwin Lyman, senior staff scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists wrote to the paper with a contrary view. Marsh and Stanford then responded.Addendum: John Rennie, editor-in-chief of Scientific American, writes about the Hannum/Marsh/Stanford article on the Scientific American blog here.

Britain's nuclear power industry should act its age - Analysis - Times Online

Britain's nuclear power industry should act its age - Analysis - Times Online

Business View by Vince Cable
THIS year has brought two energy-related issues to the centre of the political stage: global warming and security of energy supplies.
The political response, so far, makes a nonsense of the usual ideological labels. We have a paradoxical position in which a Labour government is baited by industrialists for failing to “plan” energy supplies. It cheekily replies, defending liberalised energy markets, with homilies about supply and demand that could have been lifted from Milton Friedman.
The serious issue is how best to deal with the challenge of climate change. On one side are the economical liberals, who believe that price signals, consumer choice, commercial risk-taking and decentralised decision-making are the best mechanisms to shape a lowcarbon future. It is a case improbably but effectively made by Greenpeace and its allies, including my own party.
On the other hand, there are those who have great faith in national, state, central planning guided by wise, strategic politicians. Nuclear power has emerged as an answer to their prayers, providing predictable quantities of apparently carbon-free energy using tried and tested technology and minimum foreign involvement. Adherents of this view now seem to include the CBI and the Prime Minister. David Cameron’s views are unclear. Yet it is surely absurd to take up philosophical positions on the basis of technologies, per se. For politicians to be “pro” or “anti” nuclear makes no more sense than to be “for” and “against” silicon chips or aeroplanes. The issue is about the relative risks and costs.
Risk in relation to nuclear power concerns the tiny probability of catastrophic events and perceived risk may, indeed, be overstated in the public mind. Costs, on the other hand, invariably are understated.
Forty years ago Fred Lee, one of the architects of Harold Wilson’s “white hot heat of the technological revolution”, promised in Parliament of Britain’s advanced gas-cooled reactor programme: “We have hit the jackpot . . . we have the greatest breakthrough of all time.”
But the first plant would take 17 years to build, be 50 per cent over budget and 20 per cent below specification. The last nuclear plant to be built in the UK, Sizewell B, generated power at the current equivalent of 6p per kilowatt hour. That is above the current wholesale price that causes such alarm and is three times the level seen two years ago. Moreover, the taxpayer recently wrote off £50 billion of decommissioning liabilities for the industry.
When the Government’s chief scientist and others urge British politicians to show courage and vision over nuclear, taxpayers and shareholders and customers need to hold on to their wallets.
There is, however, some common ground. Man-made climate change and the probability of long-term environmental damage — albeit with big uncertainties — call for a major shift from trend behaviour. Given the magnitude of the threats and risks, it seems sensible, indeed essential, to set tough objectives for reducing carbon emissions and for Britain, as a responsible member of the international community, to meet its share.
The liberal approach is to tilt the playing field towards low-carbon fuels, through carbon taxation or use of traded permits, and to let new technologies compete to meet demand. There is much scope for reducing energy demand through price incentives and setting standards to promote conservation and efficiency without prejudging which fuel mix will emerge to meet it.
There are good arguments for a liberalised energy market supporting temporary protection for infant industry. There is a case in favour of mechanisms — from research funding to the Renewable Energy Obligation — designed to ensure that the various new approaches receive sufficient but not excessive support.
Yet it is hard to sustain the argument that infant industry arguments still apply to the industrial equivalent of 40-year-olds in nappies. If the nuclear industry becomes fully potty-trained and no longer demands subsidies or guarantees or that taxpayers pay for safe waste disposal and decommissioning, then it merits a fresh look. But not before. Apart from some intensive industrial lobbying, nothing has happened to change the conclusion of the Government’s 2002 Energy Review that the long-term waste disposal problem is “unsolved”.
Underlying the demand for government patronage to deliver the expensive certainties of nuclear power is scepticism about the capacity of markets and competition to deal with big, long-term challenges. But the pessimism is groundless. The oil and gas industry regularly undertakes massive, complex deepwater exploration projects spanning decades. Commercial foresters do the same. Financial markets trade 50-year securities. Re-insurance markets already factor-in the risk of climate change.
In the power-generating sector itself, innovative, and very efficient, new approaches are emerging, using local distributed sources that could make the traditional, centralised model obsolete.
Dogma about new nuclear power is unhelpful, for and against. But the current, unwholesome alliance of big government conservatism and a powerful industry lobby campaigning to have its business underwritten by taxpayers should make us thoroughly alarmed.
Vincent Cable is MP for Twickenham and Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor

Westinghouse sale could tilt balance in global nuclear power industry�-�ENGLISH��Westinghouse sale could tilt balance in global nuclear power industry�-�ENGLISH

12/23/2005The Asahi Shimbun
Two Japanese companies have joined the final round of bidding for U.S. nuclear power plant manufacturer Westinghouse Electric Co., and if either wins, the global industry could undergo a significant realignment.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Toshiba Corp. submitted bids in the tender that Westinghouse parent British Nuclear Fuels closed this week.
Westinghouse is a major manufacturer of pressurized-water reactors, the mainstream in the world market.
Both MHI and Toshiba want to bolster their presence overseas, where construction of new plants is increasing.
The successful bidder will be selected as early as January, and the purchase price is estimated at between 200 billion and 300 billion yen.
At the end of 2004, there were 356 light-water reactors, which are used in a large majority of the world's nuclear power plants.
Three-fourths of light-water reactors are pressurized-water type, and the remainder are boiling-water type.
MHI, a partner of Westinghouse, manufactures pressurized-water reactors.
In February, MHI submitted a joint tender with Westinghouse for construction of four new nuclear reactors in China.
"It is essential to maintain our relationship with Westinghouse to expand overseas operations," a top MHI executive said.
The world's nuclear power plant industry is led by France's Areva, which is strong in pressurized-water type, and General Electric Co., a U.S. manufacturer of the boiling-water type.
The MHI executive said the company will be able to compete with the two leaders if it wins the bid to buy Westinghouse.
Toshiba, an ally of GE, manufactures boiling-water reactors, as does Hitachi Ltd., another Japanese nuclear power plant manufacturer.
Toshiba and GE are working together on research on construction of new nuclear reactors in Tennessee.
Industry analysts say Toshiba is aiming to extend its reach into the larger market of pressurized-water reactors by buying Westinghouse.
If Toshiba wins the bid, the Toshiba-GE camp would become the predominant industry leader, moving past Areva, one industry analyst said.
In that case, MHI could be forced to ally with Areva or other major manufacturers to expand international operations, the analyst added.
Westinghouse commercialized the world's first pressurized-water reactor in 1957, and more than 40 percent of nuclear power plants worldwide use the company's technology.
Westinghouse's fate is being closely watched because the industry consensus is that pressurized-water reactors will remain predominant overseas.
A number of engineers are familiar with requirements on pressurized-water reactors, making it easier to reassign technicians and train new recruits.
As of the end of 2004, 57 light-water reactors were either in planning or under construction worldwide. Forty-eight are pressurized-water types, and nine are boiling-water types.
Industry officials expect pressurized-water types to be predominant in China and the United States, two of the most promising markets.
China plans to build about 30 reactors by 2020. The 10 reactors in planning or construction stages are all pressurized-water type.
The U.S. government, which has shifted to a pro-nuclear policy, aims to begin building new reactors around 2010.
Most of the country's existing plants are pressurized-water type, which will likely be the favorite in the future.
Overseas markets are becoming more important as the Japanese market has been stalled.
In Japan, boiling-water reactors account for the majority partly because Tokyo Electric Power Co., the nation's largest electric utility, uses them.
British Nuclear Fuels, hit by sluggish performances, is selling Westinghouse only six years after its purchase.(IHT/Asahi: December 23,2005)

Labour MPs plan rebellion over nuclear power - Labour MPs plan rebellion over nuclear power

The government is set to face another backbench rebellion if it tries to push through moves to build a new generation of power stations.

Rebel Labour MPs are organising to stop what they claim would be a massively expensive and unsafe answer to the country's future energy needs.

The prime minister announced an energy review in the autumn which is thought to be positive about the nuclear option.

Former minister Alan Whitehead is leading the internal opposition, adopting the same tactic as the backbench opponents to schools' reform by publishing their own proposals.

They are trying to steer policy rather than oppose it outright in a bid to wring a compromise from ministers.

The new 9,000 word manifesto being drafted by the backbenchers will set out the case for continued investment in renewable energy, rather than taking "a dangerous leap with nuclear".

It will be published in February, as the government's energy review gets under way with a consultation document in January.

The group claims the indirect support of the environment minister Elliot Morley, who in remarks reported by the Guardian told a seminar organised by the socialist environmentalist group Sera: "I don't think nuclear development is economically viable, and since no one is offering to pay, it would certainly need to have financial support from the government.

"Is it the right time for that? Should we not be putting this money into renewables and other efficiency measures? I would prefer to see investment in carbon-capture technologies."

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Blair faces organised rebellion on nuclear issue

Guardian Unlimited Politics | Special Reports | Blair faces organised rebellion on nuclear issue

Patrick Wintour, chief political correspondent
Thursday December 22, 2005
The Guardian

Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty

A group of Labour MPs are organising to prevent Tony Blair pressing ahead with a new generation of nuclear power stations, claiming that ministers will have to subsidise the nuclear industry massively to make it viable. It is the first sign of parliamentary opposition to nuclear power since the prime minister announced an energy review in the autumn, and is backed by the environment minister Elliot Morley.
The group, brought together by a former minister, Alan Whitehead, is using the same tactic as the backbench opponents of government plans to establish semi-independent state secondary schools, publishing their own proposals in an effort to steer policy, rather than oppose it outright. Mr Whitehead is one of the authors of the alternative education white paper, which set out the terms on which the rebels would accept Downing Street's reforms.

Article continues


The new 9,000 word manifesto being drafted by the backbenchers will set out the case for continued investment in renewable energy, rather than taking "a dangerous leap with nuclear". It will be published in February, as the government's energy review gets under way with a consultation document in January.
Many Labour MPs fear that Mr Blair privately favours renewing investment in nuclear energy as the most secure way of combating climate change, in the face of evidence that global warming is speeding up and that domestic programmes to cut carbon emissions are failing. Ministers believe the economics of nuclear energy are improving as gas and oil prices rise.

The manifesto is being drawn up by Labour backbenchers with a background in green politics who have traditionally supported the government's reforms, and who cannot be dismissed as serial rebels. Those involved include two members of the environmental audit select committee, David Chaytor and Colin Challen, who hope to use the committee's imminent report to press the government to spell out the costs of nuclear power to consumers. They will also press for a pledge that no decision on nuclear power will be taken without a vote in parliament.

The group claims the indirect support of the environment minister Elliot Morley, who in previously unreported remarks told a seminar organised by the socialist environmentalist group Sera: "I don't think nuclear development is economically viable, and since no one is offering to pay, it would certainly need to have financial support from the government. Is it the right time for that? Should we not be putting this money into renewables and other efficiency measures? I would prefer to see investment in carbon-capture technologies."

The manifesto will set out a timescale showing how the contribution to the UK's energy supply of the current nuclear power stations could be run down over the next 20 years while renewables, including micro-generation and wind power, could be built up. A section will also argue that uranium provides no greater long-term security of supply than renewables or gas.

Mr Whitehead said yesterday: "If there was a free market in energy, ie no assistance for new nuclear build, no long term promise of a guaranteed market and no minimum price for nuclear, no one would build a new nuclear station. Nuclear is not carbon-free, nor is it renewable. We have been promised by government that there is a debate to be had, and no decisions have been made. But there is a change in attitude in government. Only three years ago a white paper pretty well ruled out nuclear, but it is now centre stage."

In a speech this week, the energy minister Malcolm Wicks suggested that the status quo in the energy market was not an option, saying: "By 2020 we may be importing over 80% of our annual gas requirements - last year it was around 10%. We need to ask ourselves now if we are comfortable with this scenario as investment decisions that will shape much of our energy mix for the next two or three decades ahead will be made in the next 10 years or so. Government needs to give the market the clarity it requires to ensure that these investment decisions reflect our goals for reducing carbon emissions and achieving reasonable energy security."

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Public split over new nuclear power stations

Telegraph | News | Public split over new nuclear power stations

(Filed: 27/12/2005)

The public is almost equally divided over whether to build more nuclear power stations in Britain, a new poll has shown.

Dungeness power station is nearing the end of its life
According to an ICM poll for The Guardian, 48 per cent of people oppose an expansion of nuclear energy while 45 per cent would support it.

ICM interviewed a random sample of 1,004 adults by telephone between December 15 and 18.

Tony Blair has promised a decision on whether the Government will give the go ahead for the construction of new nuclear stations by the summer.

The Prime Minister is thought to favour the nuclear option for meeting Britain's future energy needs as a way of cutting damaging greenhouse gas emissions.

But the move would be deeply controversial, with opposition from many environmentalists and from many in the Labour Party.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

AlterNet: Loving Nuclear Power

AlterNet: Loving Nuclear Power

By Peter Asmus, AlterNet
Posted on December 21, 2005, Printed on December 21, 2005
One would think that environmentalists these days would be giddy over the high price of fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas. It has long been the prediction that when these finite and polluting fuels increased in cost due to supply shortages, that we as a society would finally make the transition to the renewable, sustainable energy system that has always seemed to lie just out-of-reach, beckoning to us just over the horizon.

But then something shocking happened. Growing numbers of "green" visionaries started beating the drum for more nuclear power, a technology that in the past has been a lightening rod to spur on activists to protest and demand for a greater reliance upon efficiency and solar, wind and other renewable energy technologies.

Among those endorsing the process of splitting atoms to generate the majority of our future electricity are the following "environmentalists:"

James Lovelock, the fellow from London who came up the "Gaia" theory of the earth being a self-regenerating organism, proclaimed that nuclear power was "the only green solution" to our power supply woes, maintaining that there wasn't enough time to allow renewable energy technologies to fill the gap.

The Bay Area's Stewart Brand, the utopian thinker behind the "Whole Earth Catalog," echoed Lovelock's claims, adding that the nuclear power industry's half century of experience rendered concerns about safety and waste as obsolete.

Patrick Moore, co-founder of the radical Greenpeace activist group, has proclaimed: "There is now a great deal of scientific evidence showing nuclear power to be an environmentally sound and safe choice."

Nuclear power is suddenly in vogue. Even the alternative LA Weekly newspaper has a two-part feature touting nuclear power by author Judith Lewis, whose blog is entitled "Another Green World." In essence, she argues the good outweighs the bad when it comes to nuclear power. "Is it possible that we have come to this: a choice between a catastrophic warming trend and the most feared energy source on earth?" she asks in the first of a two part series entitled "How I tried to stop worrying and love nuclear power."

Our federal government has now launched a "Nuclear Power 2010" program that hopes to jump-start a nuclear industry that has not constructed a new power plant in two decades. Certainly, the biggest push for nuclear has come from the Bush Administration. While visiting a Maryland nuclear power plant earlier this year, President Bush proclaimed: "There is a growing consensus that more nuclear power will lead to a cleaner, safer nation. It is time for this country to start building nuclear power plants again." But you can add Democratic Senators Joe Liebermann of Connecticut and Barack Obama of Illinois to the growing list of federal lawmakers calling for the construction of new nuclear power plants.

I first learned about nuclear power in my own backyard when I was living in Sacramento, California in the late 1980s. A laundry list of safety, environmental and economic issues resulted in a ballot initiative vote to close the Rancho Seco nuclear power plant in 1989. Energy experts across the country predicted that the owner of this nuke -- the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) -- would be in dire straits once such a large portion of its power supply portfolio went away.

Interestingly enough, SMUD's closure of its nuclear power plant was the best thing to happen as it was forced to launch major solar, wind and energy efficiency programs. Instead of being viewed as one of the biggest losers among electric utilities, SMUD's embracing of clean power sources helped this troubled municipal utility turn around, gaining it respect from around the world. SMUD is now in the process of expanding its service territory due, in part, to its progressive and attractive clean power plans.

The underlying assumption of those now clamoring for a major expansion of nuclear power is that the threat of global climate change is so great, that we have no other choice. What a bunch of baloney! Wind and solar power have been the fastest growing power sources globally over the past several years, and we have barely begin to tap these abundant non-polluting and increasingly cost-effective sources of power.

Today, wind power is already cheaper than the dominant competition -- natural gas-fired power plants -- in many regions of this country and the rest of the world. Solar power, though still expensive, is the kind of modular, small-scale and customer-friendly power sources that allow communities, businesses and individuals to take control of their own energy needs, the key trend of the future if we truly want to become sustainable.

The cost (and time involved) in adding a whole new fleet of nuclear reactors around the world is just as staggering as the alternative route: a gradual shift to all renewable energy fuels, including solar, wind, geothermal steam, biomass (including urban waste streams), hydroelectric, wave, ocean current and tidal power technologies. Renewable energy technologies keep dollars in communities and spread far greater amounts of good jobs throughout rural and urban areas, In contrast, nuclear power concentrates power and money into the same entities that created our current power supply woes in the first place.

If we indeed look at the power supply imbroglio from a total systems standpoint, the goal is to make our power grid look like the Internet. In this utopian view of the future, each of us employs smart appliances, intelligently monitoring of our consumption and real-time power costs, and, where possible, generating clean electrons right on-site or right in our own communities. Nuclear power, with its emphasis on central power stations controlled by technologists trusted with guarding us against terrorist strikes, tragic safety accidents or other risks, is the outright antithesis of this vision of a decentralized, self-empowering and intelligent energy future.

The key to virtually all of society's pressing problems -- global climate change, terrorist threats, fossil fuel price spikes and poverty in the developing world -- can be solved by democratizing our energy supply through the development of indigenous renewable resources.

The basis for calling nuclear power "green" is the amount of emissions -- so-called greenhouse gases -- that are not going up into the atmosphere because of our existing fleet of nuclear reactors. If all of our nuclear reactors were suddenly replaced with coal-fired plants, 600 million tons of carbon dioxide would spew into the atmosphere. For that, I suppose, we should be thankful for. Indeed, coal is the cheapest and dirtiest source of electricity.

But does that mean nuclear power is green? What about the fact that nearly 90 percent of the US uranium deposits have been found in the Rocky Mountain States, the vast majority of which reside on Native American lands. Do we really need to find new ways to insult our own indigenous peoples? Then there is the dirty little secret that during the nuclear fuel processing process, the uranium enrichment process depends on great amounts of electricity, most of which is provided by two extremely dirty fossil fuel plants releasing all of the traditional air pollution emissions not released by the nuclear reactors themselves (albeit relatively small sums of pollution in the grand scheme of things). Still, it is not entirely accurate to say that the US nuclear industry emits no emissions contributing to global climate change.

And then there are the abandoned mines contaminated with high-level radioactive waste can continue to pose radioactive risks for as long as 250,000 years after closure. Despite all of the claims about safety, the fact remains that any catastrophic accident could easily kill as many as 100,000 people or more. And in today's scary world of smart terrorists, these risks have only increased in magnitude.

The US, with its 103 operating nuclear power plants, is already the world's top consumer of electricity generated from nuclear fission. Still, we have yet to build a federal repository for nuclear waste. Given the fact that reactors currently in operation produce about 2,000 tons of high-level waste every year of operation, calling for greater reliance upon nuclear power is not only economically questionable, but a grave disservice to the true values of the environmental movement.

Of course, the prime problem with nuclear power is that it is really the most expensive power source there is. No other technology requires greater subsidy and government intervention than nuclear. Congress, with strong backing from President Bush and other Republican leaders, just re-authorized the Price-Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act, a law dating way back to 1957 limiting the nuclear industry's liabilities in the case of a major accident. Fresh and outrageously generous tax credits for nuclear power were also just signed into law.

The fact that Republicans can call for more nuclear power with a straight face is truly an outrage, given the GOP constant calls for free markets. There has never been a more subsidized, socialized power technology as nuclear.

In the final analysis, no other technology offers so little benefit -- climate change mitigation -- with such a long list of drawbacks. If we really need to turn to nuclear power to stave off global climate change, then maybe we as a society deserve whatever calamities the weather Gods bring upon us. With a plethora of abundant and barely tapped renewable energy fuels surrounding all of us everywhere, we surely can respond to the global climate change with a more sane, innovative and democratic energy strategy!

There has been much talk recently about whether the environmental movement is dead. If nuclear power moves forward in the US with the blessings of those deeming this expensive monster of a technology as "green," I am willing to write the epitaph. Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail on global warming, and the misguided leaders pushing nuclear power will once and for all see clearly that this is a technology that will never, ever pass the laugh test if judged on the basis of our collective long-term sustainability.

Peter Asmus is author of "Reaping The Wind, Reinventing Electric Utilities and In Search of Environmental Excellence."

Academics talk up domestic nuclear power

Academics talk up domestic nuclear power - Breaking News - National

Nuclear power is a cheaper and more environmentally friendly option in Australia than has been previously thought, researchers say.

A group of scientists from the University of Melbourne, led by Associate Professor of Physics Martin Sevior, has released a study of the energy problems confronting Australia in the future.

They compared the environmental impact, health risks, economic effects and social implications of the use of fossil fuels, renewable energy sources such as wind and solar energy, and nuclear power.

The study concluded that previous research by Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen and Philip Smith - widely considered the industry standard in Australia - had overestimated the energy cost of mining uranium by as much as a factor of 10.

"This previous research overestimated the energy costs and carbon emissions generated by the construction of nuclear power plants and for mining uranium," Prof Sevior said.

"It is suggested in debates that the energy cost of extracting uranium from new mines would be so high that there is little point in developing a nuclear power industry - that is simply not true."

Professor Sevior said that with nuclear technology developing at a rapid pace and new power plant designs enabling more efficient use of uranium, there would be a significant reduction in the amount of nuclear waste.

"While we can do much to conserve energy, the fact is that Australia has increased its electrical energy consumption by over two per cent per year since 1970," the report says.

"Our electrical energy needs are forecast to increase by 50 per cent in total by the year 2020 - meeting this demand requires building the equivalent of 20 large power-plants over the next 15 years."

Prof Sevior said that if this was not done and energy demand grew as expected, Australia would face large scale blackouts such as those which occurred in NSW in 1981.

"Already the states of Victoria and South Australia are forecast to have a 500 megawatt electricity reserve deficit during the summer of 2005," he said.

"However Australia currently produces more greenhouse gases per capita than every other OECD country.

"If we build new coal-fired plants, which was what was done to solve the crisis in NSW in the 1980s, we will make this situation even worse.

"It is quite possible to utilise nuclear power, which emits almost no greenhouse gases, to provide the vast majority of an entire country's need for electricity."

The nuclear process emits 2-6 grams of carbon equivalent per kilowatt-hour, while coal, oil and natural gas emit 100-360 grams of carbon per kilowatt-hour.

Nuclear power now generates 16 per cent of the world's electricity from 439 stations in 31 countries.

The local industry accounts for 19 per cent of global uranium production - earning roughly $475 million a year.

Scientists believe about a third of the world's uranium is located at Olympic Dam in South Australia.

Australia is currently negotiating selling uranium to China, as long as it is guaranteed to be used for peaceful purposes only.

Federal Science Minister Brendan Nelson said in August he believed nuclear energy is likely to be used to power Australian homes within 50 years.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Business Panel supports the nuclear power option

Business Panel supports the nuclear power option >>

READERS of The Business overwhelmingly support the construction of nuclear power stations to meet Britain?s electricity needs, an exclusive poll reveals this weekend. Nearly 80% of readers said they supported new nuclear power stations in the first in a series of polls of 1,500 members of The Business Readers? Panel.

Compared with gas and coal plants, 70% said that electricity from nuclear plants would be easier to procure without having to rely on the co-operation of dubious regimes, 51.4% said it was better for the environment, 41.4% that it was more cost-effective, and 16.7% that it was safer to produce.

The majority of readers said the construction of nuclear power stations should be left to market forces, with only 44.6% calling for state subsidies.

But despite the support for nuclear energy, readers also believe there is a role for renewable energy. Only 2.2% of readers said renewables should have no role in meeting Britain?s energy needs ? against 48.2% who said they should have an important role, and 33% who believe they should have a small role. Only 16.2% of readers believe renewables should become the dominant source of energy.

Many readers e-mailed to explain their support or opposition to greater use of nuclear power and renewable energy. One reader said: ?China and India are industrialising at a phenomenal pace and with this comes massively increased worldwide energy usage. Nuclear seems to be the most efficient way of producing electricity?. Another added: ?I am especially against wind farms, which are most inefficient and a real eyesore.? Another commented: ?A diverse energy procurement system is desirable, but there needs to be a cornerstone. Nuclear should provide that cornerstone, with major input from (clean) gas stations.?

No single solution for Britain's energy problems, says minister

Guardian Unlimited Politics | Special Reports | No single solution for Britain's energy problems, says minister

Mark Milner
Tuesday December 20, 2005
The Guardian

Malcolm Wicks, the energy minister, said yesterday there would have to be some form of "relationship" between the government and the energy market if Britain opted to build a new generation of nuclear power stations.
But he made it clear it was far too early to discuss what form such a link would take. "If we go down that path, and I underline 'if', there would have to be some particular relationship between the state and the market. What that would be I don't know; we are not there yet."

Article continues


In a speech to the Social Market Foundation Mr Wicks made it clear that the government's energy review, announced by the prime minister last month, would not be looking to find a single solution to Britain's energy problems. "No such solution exists, no silver bullet - or uranium bullet."
He warned that Britain could not duck its energy challenges. Around 19% of the country's electricity is generated by nuclear plants and another 33% from coal-fired stations. Mr Wicks noted, however, decommissioning could see nuclear's share of UK generation fall to 7% by 2020 while European Union directives on emissions could cut coal's contribution to 16%.

"Taken together we are likely to see around 30% of our generating capacity being decommissioned over the next 15 years. In addition to already being a net importer of gas we will be a net importer of oil by the end of the decade." Unless Britain changes its energy policy "we run a real risk of falling behind our energy goals".

Mr Wicks said investment decisions taken over the next decade would determine Britain's energy mix for the next 20 to 30 years. He added that the government needs to give the industry some clarity in order to ensure that those decisions are in line with its aims of reducing carbon emissions and achieving reasonable security of supply.

Mr Wicks said that energy from renewable sources would play a key role, but it could not provide the complete answer to either generation capacity or carbon targets. "Other renewables will emerge over time as significant players such as microgeneration, wave and tidal. But currently only wind can provide meaningful levels of low carbon capacity at a cost comparable to existing non-renewable technologies such as gas, coal and nuclear."

While nuclear was already part of the mix, Mr Wicks said Britain needed to look at what will happen as its share of generating capacity falls. "While nuclear excites interest and controversy, it can never be the only answer."

He said: "Electricity generation is only 30% of the carbon emissions picture. We need to look to energy efficiency; our homes account for 30% of emissions. And transport is obviously also key - every individual and sector has a role to play if we are to meet our goal."

Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant is a problem of not Lithuania but EU - Russian News - REGNUM

Lithuanian prime minister: Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant is a problem of not Lithuania but EU - Russian News - REGNUM

During the discussion of the EU general budget on the night of December 17, the final compromise did not suit two states ? Lithuania and Poland. As a REGNUM correspondent reports, unlike Latvia and Estonia, Lithuania failed to obtain from the EU extra expenditures on the lagging industries in the country. Instead, Prime Minister of the EU-chairing Great Britain Tony Blair proposed to increase expenditures for closing the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant. According to Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas, nobody asked him to do it. Lithuania, on the contrary, was seeking increase in structural funds financing by the EU.

Brazauskas, the only one from the EU member-countries? leadership discussing the budget, twice announced at the meeting on Saturday that increasing financing Ignalina Power Plant should not be associated with Lithuania. Brazauskas stressed that to close the power plant is not Lithuania?s task, but the EU obligation. Tony Blair answered to this by an obligation to find extra money for the plant later and proposed to add extra 120 million euro into the structural funds.

Thus, Lithuania has obtained 220 million euro to structural funds, 50 million euro to close Ignalina Power Plant and extra 120 million euro. Overall, almost 400 million euro will be received by Lithuania.

At 03:00 a.m. on December 17, EU leaders adopted the EU general budget for seven years. It amounts to 862 billion euro. It is 13 billion more than it was supposed earlier. The extra money will be divided between new and old member-countries.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Nuclear power on table, McGuinty says

The Globe and Mail: Nuclear power on table, McGuinty says

TORONTO -- Premier Dalton McGuinty is promising "a very important conversation" with Ontarians before committing his government to a renewed nuclear-energy program.

Mr. McGuinty, making his first public comments since a provincial advisory agency last week recommended spending up to $40-billion to refurbish existing reactors and build new ones, said "nuclear remains on the table for us."

He said Ontario is in a difficult position in ensuring reliable supplies of electricity in the future because previous governments avoided making hard decisions. He said that he would prefer not to have to build new nuclear reactors, but his government has a responsibility to ensure the lights stay on.

"We will not duck this. We look forward to engaging Ontarians in a very important conversation."


Government officials reaffirmed yesterday that there is no guarantee that Ontario will go for Canadian-made CANDU reactors if the decision is made to build new nuclear reactors. Other technologies, from the United States and France, would be considered, they said.

On a recent trade mission to China, officials took note that the new reactors being built there were not using CANDU technology even though the Canadian reactors built earlier there had been successful.

Mr. McGuinty's comments cleared up the confusion about whether opponents of nuclear power would have the chance to air their views.

Energy Minister Donna Cansfield said last week that the report from the Ontario Power Authority would be posted on the Environmental Bill of Rights website for 60 days. She did not commit herself to the full public debate promised by her predecessor, Dwight Duncan.

However, Mr. McGuinty said public input will go beyond the website, but he did not elaborate. "This is too important a conversation to leave it just to a website."

New Democrat Leader Howard Hampton criticized the government during Question Period for considering expanding the province's nuclear fleet, when such power is expensive and unreliable.

He pointed to the fact that Bruce Power, a private consortium that operates a nuclear station on Lake Huron, was forced to shut down two reactors this week because of problems.

Jack Gibbons, chair of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance and a critic of nuclear power, welcomed the Premier's comments.

He said the OPA report is biased in favour of nuclear power and ignores the possibility of a decentralized network of small-scale generation plants across Ontario.

"We need to turn our schools, recreation centres, shopping malls, office towers and factories into mini-power plants."

Nuclear power future lies in fast neutron reactors - Kiriyenko

RIA Novosti - Russia - Nuclear power future lies in fast neutron reactors - Kiriyenko

YEKATERINBURG, December 14 (RIA Novosti) - The future of nuclear power lies in fast neutron reactors, the head of the Russian Federal Agency for Nuclear Power Sergei Kiriyenko said Wednesday.

"The BN-600 fast neutron reactor at the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant [in the Ural Federal District] is unique," Sergei Kiriyenko said, adding that these reactors were much safer.

"This is an area of our competitive advantages," he said. "Russia is a doubtless leader here. The next move is the construction of a BN-800 [reactor]."

Kiriyenko, who visited the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant Wednesday, highlighted progress in the construction of the BN-800 reactor, worth $46 billion.

He said $35 million would be allocated from the 2006 federal budget for the BN-800 construction.

Kiriyenko also said the Federal Agency for Nuclear Power would be turned into a joint stock company, but it would seek state, not private, investments.

He said Russia was involved in the construction of five nuclear power plants abroad, adding that NPP tariffs were more profitable than the tariffs of other types of power plants.

Kiriyenko also said the number of NPP facilities should be increased to prevent energy crises.

Monday, December 12, 2005

German minister eyes nuclear power rethink: paper

Science News Article |

BERLIN (Reuters) - Nuclear power should play a role in electricity production in Germany in the future, Economy Minister Michael Glos said in a newspaper interview on Sunday, calling for a rethink of plans to close the country's reactors.

"We need a broad energy mix to guarantee supplies at low prices," Glos was quoted as saying in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

"It doesn't make any sense for us to buy electricity produced by nuclear power from our neighbors but to totally turn our backs on it ourselves."

Germany's conservatives and Social Democrats (SPD) agreed to disagree on the merits of nuclear power in their coalition government deal struck last month. Glos is a member of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the sister party of the Christian Democrats (CDU).

The coalition contract said there would be no changes to a decision taken by the former Social Democrat-Greens government in 2000 to phase out nuclear power gradually.

Two nuclear reactors have already been closed. The remaining 17, owned by utilities RWE AG, E.ON AG and EnBW, are due to shut over the next 15 years. The next due to close, according to the environment ministry, is RWE's 1.225 megawatt "Biblis A" reactor, in 932 days.

Glos said he hoped for a rethink. "We should not turn our backs on a technology of the future...But I hope that the last word has not been spoken. The tussle between coalition partners who work well together over what makes economic sense never ends."

Safe Nuclear Power and Green Hydrogen Fuel

Safe Nuclear Power and Green Hydrogen Fuel

Nuclear power is being shunned. It?s not surprising, after the serious accident at Chernobyl in 1986 that made the Russian city?s name synonymous with disaster. The potential exists for more of the same and many countries have given up on nuclear power altogether.

But in other countries, they?ve been able to make it work. In France, for instance, about 75 percent of electricity is generated from nuclear power. Worldwide, it provides 17% of our energy. The US has not brought a new plant online since 1996 yet still generates 788.6 billion kilowatt-hours (KWh) yearly ? almost 20% of the US total ? accident free.

Nuclear power is like a handgun. It?s the people handling it who are dangerous. But there is one big difference: with a handgun, you shoot a few people at most. A reactor accident could wipe several hundred square miles ? permanently.

But all technologies start out crawling before they can walk or even run. The nuclear scientists have been working on the safety problems and already may have solved them.

Danger aside, what makes nuclear power attractive? It?s competitive or cheaper than other forms of power generation. It?s easy to build compact plants that generate hundreds if not thousands of megawatts ? something wind and solar can never hope to match. See the chart below to compare energy generation costs.

Image source:

Compared with coal, still used to produce 50% of the US electricity needs, nuclear is clean. It creates no greenhouse gases. Its waste, although highly toxic, is compact and when handled correctly, safe.

Uranium, the fuel reactors use, is widely available in the continental US and Canada. Australia has the largest known reserves. This makes it unlikely rouge states can affect supply. Stable supply means lower long-term costs ? especially when compared with oil and gas fired plants which are now producing about 20% of US electricity.

Reactor designs such as the Canadian CANDU can be very safe and less expensive to build than most reactors in use today. One drawback to this design, unfortunately, is its ability to produce weapons grade plutonium as a byproduct. On the plus side, it can use unenriched uranium ? about .07% uranium 235. Regular plants require between 2% and 7% uranium 235 in reactor fuel to run properly.

Physicists and engineers at Beijing's Tsinghua University have made the first great leap forward in a quarter century, building a new nuclear power facility: a pebble-bed reactor (PBR) ? sometimes also known as a Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR). This reactor is small enough to be assembled from mass-produced parts and cheap enough for emerging economies. Its safety is a matter of physics, not operator skill or reinforced concrete. This reactor is meltdown-proof.

What makes it so safe is the fuel: instead of conventional fuel rods made of enriched uranium, PBRs use small, pyrolytic graphite coated pebbles with uranium cores. As a PBR reactor gets hotter, the rapid motion of atoms in the fuel decreases probability of neutron capture by U-235 atoms. This effect is known as Doppler Broadening. Nuclei of heated uranium move more rapidly in random directions generating a wider range of neutron speeds. U-238, the isotope which makes up most of the uranium in the reactor, is much more likely to absorb the faster moving neutrons. This reduces the number of neutrons available to spark U-235 fission. This, in turn, lowers heat output. This built-in negative feedback places a temperature limit on the fuel without operator intervention.

PBRs use high-pressure helium gas, not water, for cooling. Reactors have been ?run dry? ? without cooling gas. Result: they simply stabilize at a given temperature ? lower than the pebbles? shell melting point. No meltdown can occur.

PBR from
South Africa may have the most modern PBR on the drawing board. With the help of German scientists ? acknowledged leaders in the field - they have planned to build several reactors within the next five years. Images in this article come from their design.

The reactor core is a bin of uranium fuel pebbles. Each tennis ball-sized pebble is rotated and/or checked for reactivity by removing them from the bottom of the funnel shaped reactor core. Spent pebbles are replaced by adding new ones at the top of the stack. Used ones that are still reactive also go to the top of the bin. The reactor can be re-fueled without stopping power production ? not possible in conventional rod reactors which requires a full shut down.

Pebbles, because of their round nature, allow the cooling gas to be introduced at the bottom and pass freely through the stack. The heated gas is removed to perform work like spinning a turbine to generate electricity then recycled in a closed loop back to the reactor core.

PBRs use helium, which has high thermal conductivity and inertness (read: fireproof and noncorrosive) for cooling. This makes them more efficient at capturing heat energy from nuclear reactions than standard reactor designs. The ratio of electrical output to thermal output is about 50%.

Reactor Interior ? pebbles in red: nuclear_energy/ pebble_bed/ pebble_bed.html
The high-temperature gas design also has a silver lining ? it can produce hydrogen. Think about that ? fuel cell vehicles need expensive-to-produce hydrogen to run on ? this reactor could make hydrogen as a byproduct.

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Generation of hydrogen has been the biggest stumbling block to it adoption as a clean fuel. Hydrogen, found primarily in water, is expensive to extract as a gas. While the technical problems of handling, storage and use as fuel are largely solved, the high energy cost to produce hydrogen has made it an energy transport medium, not a source.

These new reactors run at high temperatures which are perfect for cracking abundant water or helium gas into hydrogen which can then be used as a green fuel ? burning hydrogen just produces water vapor.

PBRs could produce cheap hydrogen that could be piped to areas of need or used in the local communities.

Plant sites are much smaller than traditional nuclear power plants. Their modular design allows for smaller plants that can grow with needs. A single PBR reactor would consist of one main building covering an area of about 1,300 square meters ? less than half a football field. It would be about 42m high (6 stories), some of it below ground level. Billion dollar steel reinforced concrete containment vessels are not required ? any coolant leak would be in the form of nonradioactive helium gas which would quickly disperse with out causing any ill effects.

Internal functioning with cooling diagram:

Fuel Spheres:

Each PBR would produce between 100 and 200 MW ? small, in comparison to light and heavy water reactors which typically product around 1,000 MW. But they could easily be scaled up by adding reactors.

Ten PBR reactors producing 1,100 MW would occupy an area of no more than three football fields. Each PBR could serve about 30,000 to 40,000 homes.

Control rooms - much simpler than standard ones - would have a few PCs and extra monitors instead of banks of valves and dials. Each control room could monitor and manage up to 10 reactors.

One of the key features to this technology, especially important in China where energy demand is exploding, is its modular nature. While conventional reactors in operation today are all one of a kind ? although many are based on the same designs ? PBR reactors could de built with standard rail-movable components. When a new power plant is needed, they simply load the parts on a train with a construction crew and can have it delivering power in short order. Traditional plants in the US were sunk principally by long construction times and cost overruns, not environmental regulations.

Nuclear waste disposal has become a hot-button issue. Standard nuclear waste is very radioactive for 10,000 years or more. It must be transported to and stored in special containment facilities ? normally underground. It can also be reprocessed but this is costly and technically difficult. There are only 3 reprocessing facilities worldwide: Thorpe in England, Cogema in France and Myakrt1 Chemical Combine in Russia. Far away from most of the world that needs clean, inexpensive power.

Fuel pebbles have 4 caps of containment built in. Many authorities consider pebbled radioactive waste stable enough it can be safely disposed of in geological storage ? without any additional shielding or protection. Even in tests where pebbles were exposed to very high heat without coolant for long periods, they showed no outward damage. If one did manage to break a pebble it would only release one tiny (0.05mm) uranium dioxide particle. This particle is too heavy to be wind borne and so could not be blown into other areas like the fallout from the explosion at Chernobyl.

PBR proponents state they plan to store all waste products on the plant site ? avoiding costly and dangerous radioactive material movement.

Even with the long term radioactivity and highly toxic nature of nuclear waste, some environmentalists are voicing support for nuclear energy.

James Lovelock, well known green activist and creator of the Gaia hypothesis that Earth is a single self-regulating organism, published a plea to phase out fossil fuels. Nuclear power, he argued, is the best short term hope for averting climatic catastrophe:

"Opposition to nuclear energy is based on irrational fear fed by Hollywood-style fiction, the Green lobbies, and the media. ? Even if they were right about its dangers - and they are not - its worldwide use as our main source of energy would pose an insignificant threat compared with the dangers of intolerable and lethal heat waves and sea levels rising to drown every coastal city of the world. We have no time to experiment with visionary energy sources; civilization is in imminent danger and has to use nuclear, the one safe, available energy source, now, or suffer the pain soon to be inflicted by our outraged planet." - From the London Independent ? May, 2004

Nuclear power, shunned after so many years, may be ready for resurgence. For some countries, like China, it may offer the only hope to meet its energy needs of its billion plus population in the 21st century. Indeed, they already have the first 10MW test reactor up and running.

By Philip Dunn, Copyright 2005

Finland Rekindles Interest in Nuclear Power - New York Times

Finland Rekindles Interest in Nuclear Power - New York Times

HELSINKI, Finland - Finland is nothing if not pragmatic and law abiding.

So when Finland, a country with a long memory of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 and considerable environmental bona fides, chose to move ahead this year with the construction of the world's largest nuclear reactor, the nuclear industry portrayed it as a victory, one that would force the rest of Western Europe to take note.

But the decision to build the reactor, Olkiluoto 3, Europe's first in 15 years, was not taken quickly or lightly. The proposal, which was fiercely opposed by the Green Party, wound its way through nearly every committee in Parliament, was the subject of intense lobbying and was exhaustively covered by Finland's numerous newspapers. Ultimately, the 1,600 megawatt reactor was approved in 2002 by a vote of 107 to 92. Construction began this year in Olkiluoto, a small island on Finland's southwestern shore. The plant is scheduled to open in 2009.

"There was only one question that has been discussed more in Parliament, and that was Finland's E.U. membership," said Anneli Nikula, vice president for corporate communications at Teollisuuden Voima Oy, the Finnish power group that is building Olkiluoto 3 and operates two of Finland's four existing reactors. "All the facts were on the table."

Now, with continued spikes in gas and fuel prices, fears about overdependence on foreign oil and the growing threat of global warming, Finland's decision to embrace nuclear energy appears prescient. A number of countries that have turned away from nuclear power in recent decades, including the United States, are reconsidering their options and freshening up languishing proposals to build nuclear plants. Others with a renewed interest in nuclear energy include Britain, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Hungary and Slovakia.

"There is an expectation that others will follow, both because of the way the decision was made and the boosting of confidence in being able to get through all the oppositional fear-mongering," said Ian Hore-Lacy, the director of public communications for the World Nuclear Association, an industry lobbying group.

The United States, which has not had a nuclear plant on order since 1978, is experiencing a groundswell of interest. Taking the first step in a long process, Constellation Energy, a Baltimore-based holding company, announced in late October that it would apply to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for permission to construct and operate a pressurized water reactor like the kind being built in Finland, possibly in upstate New York or Maryland. The Finnish reactor, designed by Areva, the French state-controlled nuclear power group, is being built by Framatome ANP, a joint venture of Areva and Siemens, a Germany company.

In addition, President Bush signed into law an energy bill in August that offers billions of dollars in research and development funds and construction subsidies to companies willing to build new nuclear plants. Several utility companies have applied for early site permits, a preliminary step toward building reactors.

Worldwide, the resurgent interest in nuclear power is even more pronounced. Twenty-three reactors are under construction this year in 10 countries, most of them in Asia, which has aggressively pursued nuclear energy. India is building eight reactors. China and Taiwan are building a total of four reactors and are planning eight more. Russia is building four and South Korea is planning eight.

The Finnish government first sought approval to build its fifth nuclear reactor in 1993, while memories of the Chernobyl catastrophe lingered. Few were willing to accept the risks.

Twelve years later, a skittish and uncertain energy market has changed everything. Global warming, Finland's dependence on foreign sources of natural gas and oil, and the potential impact of high electricity prices on Finland's crucial energy-intensive industries have managed to trump concerns about nuclear energy's safety and waste. That same shift is occurring in many other countries as well, with a few notable holdouts, including Germany, Sweden and Belgium.

At the same time, the nuclear industry, which says its newer reactors are safer and more affordable, deftly reframed the debate, focusing on the potential benefits to the economy and environment. Finland takes seriously its commitment under the Kyoto Protocol to lower carbon dioxide emissions, which are produced in large quantities by burning oil, coal and gas, a position that weighed heavily in the reactor's favor.

"The climate change debate was not here 10 years ago," said Oras Tynkkynen, a Green Party member of Parliament who opposed the reactor and accused the government of failing to pursue renewable energy - wind power, for example - as a solution. "Now all they say is we have this terrible problem with climate change and we need to do something about it. It's hard to refute in 15 seconds."

Nuclear energy's selling points were timely: it does not create emissions, unlike coal, oil and gas, and provides predictable electricity prices, a major bonus for Finnish industries, nuclear proponents said.

"The only viable alternative, if we want to maintain the structure of the economy, maintain our industries and meet our Kyoto targets, is nuclear," said Juha Rantanen, the chief executive officer of Outokumpu, one of the world's largest steel producers and one of Finland's biggest energy users. "We can't have a declining economy. We face huge challenges and an aging population. Something had to be done."

Environmentalists, however, argued that nuclear reactors could never be entirely safe. They are always radioactive, and their waste remains toxic for 100,000 years.

But the designers of Areva's pressurized water reactor, which is costing $3.5 billion to build, helped counter those arguments. In the event of a core meltdown, they said, the nuclear material would flow into a separate enclosure for cooling. They also said that the reactor is being built with enough concrete to withstand the impact of an airliner.

In the end, Finland's largest trade union supported the project, basically sealing the deal.

Environmentalists, who argue that building more nuclear reactors simply allows the government to put off serious investment in alternative energy, are now confronting possible plans for a sixth reactor in Finland. "It makes life nice for 10 years," Mr. Tynkkynen said. "But in the long term it causes trouble."

Report calls for $70B investment in power

Report calls for $70B investment in power

Recommendation for Ontario nuclear revamp 'crazy,' group says

Heather Sokoloff
National Post

Saturday, December 10, 2005

TORONTO - A government-appointed body is recommending Ontario refurbish or replace its fleet of 12 nuclear power plants at a cost of $30- to $40-billion, according to a report released yesterday that critics said was tainted by political considerations.

The report also recommends transforming Ontario into a North American leader in the usage of wind technology.

Total costs would be about $70-billion, estimates the Ontario Power Authority (OPA), created by the Liberal government to provide a long-term strategy for Ontario's future energy supply as demand and population increase.

The report warns the province will be facing a massive energy shortage when the government makes good on a promise to phase out Ontario's four remaining coal plants by 2009.

At the same time, existing nuclear generation will have to be taken out of service if they are not upgraded in about 10 years, leaving Ontario with an energy gap of about 24,000 megawatts by 2025, equivalent to 80% of the province's current capacity.

"We take this report very seriously," said Donna Cansfield, the Energy Minister.

"We will carefully review the report's advice and analysis as well as public input before making a decision on future supply mix."

The full 1,100-page report will be posted on the Environmental Bill of Rights and Ministry of Energy Web sites for 60 days so the public can provide input.

The government will have a long-term plan worked out by February, Ms. Cansfield said.

But critics said the report's emphasis on nuclear energy was driven by political considerations stemming from the phasing out of coal.

"This is a crazy plan," said Thomas Adams, executive director of Energy Probe, a consumer watch-dog group.

"It's completely driven by ideology. The decision to rule out Ontario's least costly option is really what's driving this."

Howard Hampton, leader of the NDP, said Dalton McGuinty, the Premier, has embraced nuclear power despite Ontario's history of plants that have suffered massive cost overruns and delays in construction.

"This is going to mean very expensive electricity," Mr. Hampton said. "Most of our electricity debt in Ontario is nuclear debt."

The Darlington nuclear plant east of Toronto was originally to be built for $4-billion but had swelled to $15-billion by the time it was completed in the 1990s.

Two years ago, another government report concluded that rebuilding four ageing reactors at Pickering nuclear generating station would cost at least $3-billion more and take five years longer than originally planned.

And critics have also accused Mr. McGuinty of cronyism because several former Liberal staffers are currently employed as lobbyists for the nuclear industry, while former Liberal leader Lyn McLeod is on OPA's board of directors and party fundraiser Jan Carr is the chief executive.

"We are not satisfied that it's appropriate to have a conversation when a large chunk of options are ruled out on the face of it," said Adam White, president of the Association of Major Power Consumers in Ontario, which represents steel, pulp-and-paper and chemical producers.

A report commissioned by his organization concluded Ontario power prices, already in the top quartile in North America, will rise by 25% by 2008.

Mr. White says he wants the government to investigate new technologies that enable coal plants to meet higher environmental standards.

But Amir Shalaby, OPA vice-president, said such technologies cannot remove all contaminants from coal and make it truly clean.

"Cleaner coal is simply not good enough for Ontario at this stage," he said.

The engineering and financing of nuclear plants has improved significantly over the past few decades, he added, suggesting that rebuilding can be done on time and on budget.

Ontario Power Generation's Darlington plant currently runs at 90% capacity all the time, a company spokesperson said.

The Ontario Power Authority report, Ms. Cansfield said, was authored within the parameters of the government's pledge to phase out coal plants, which produce 19% of Ontario's electricity.

The plan would mean nuclear would continue to satisfy half of Ontario''s electricity needs, with renewable forms of energy increasing to 43% by 2025, up from 23% today.

About half of the renewable part of the energy mix would come from installing 5,000 megawatts of wind power by 2025. The remainder would include imported hydro power and smaller solar and biomass procurements.

That much wind power would put Ontario on par with the top wind-producing jurisdictions such as Germany, Denmark and California, said Mr. Shalaby.

The report also recommends careful use of natural gas because of volatile costs, with levels tapering to about 6% of supply by 2025.

Mr. Shalaby defended the plan's $70-billion overall price tag, saying Ontario consumers should be prepared to invest between $1-billion and $2-billion a year in infrastructure for an electricity system that costs them $15-billion annually.

About half the cost could be paid within two decades, he said, with the remainder carried as a debt for the next generation.

Friday, December 09, 2005

NRC Extends Millstone License: Nuclear power plants allowed to operate another 20 years

By Julie Wernau
Published on 12/9/2005

Waterford - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced last week license renewals for Millstone Units 2 and 3, ending a nearly two-year process earlier than expected, despite activists' repeated attempts to intervene. Each plant is now permitted to operate for an additional 20 years, extending the license for Unit 2 to July 31, 2035, and Unit 3 to Nov. 25, 2045. Millstone Unit 1 no longer operates.

?The folks who did the license renewal did a really extraordinary job of getting things done,? said Peter Hyde, spokesperson for Dominion Nuclear Connecticut, Inc., owner of Millstone Power Station.

Of the 104 nuclear power plants the NRC oversees in the United States, none has ever been denied operating license renewal.

For the duration of the process, Millstone had an entire roomful of people set aside to work on the renewal process, poring through tons of paperwork and hours of inspections for every aspect of the plant's operation and impact.

?Dominion has come to realize that when you operate the plant safely, it runs economically,? Hyde said.

Waterford First Selectman Daniel Steward, himself a former supervisor at Millstone, said he was pleased by the NRC's decision to renew the power station's operating licenses.

?If they were to stop, where would Connecticut get 50 percent of its energy?? Steward said, calling the plant safe, reliable and a ?good neighbor.?

Both the Connecticut Coalition Against Millstone and Suffolk County, N.Y. ? situated across Long Island Sound, 11 miles from Millstone ? tried to stall the process because of safety concerns.

CCAM has repeatedly argued that Millstone has created ?cancer clusters? in southeastern Connecticut and that environmental problems at the plant's water intake site, among other concerns, should shut the plant down. Steward said last week that he didn't believe the cancer clusters were caused by Millstone and that it was the NRC's responsibility to regulate nuclear power.

In January, officials in Suffolk County crashed a public comment session the NRC held at Waterford Town Hall to vet the NRC's review of Millstone's environmental impact on the region.

In a protracted statement, Southold's chief executive, Joshua Horton, scolded the NRC for leaving Southold out of the relicensing process. Southold is one mile beyond the 10-mile limit the NRC sets for towns considered to be directly affected by Millstone's re-licensing and officials are concerned that they do not have a proper evacuation plan in place.

"Your generic environmental impact statement is flawed. Direly flawed. Gravely flawed," Horton said in January, accusing the NRC of promoting rather than regulating nuclear power. "...You put more effort into studying the effects of winter flounder than you did on me."

Nancy Burton from the Connecticut Coalition Against Millstone did not return calls seeking comment, but the coalition's Web site registered disappointment.

?NRC Approves Millstone Relicensing: Governor Rell, Attorney General Blumenthal and Commissioner McCarthy: Where were you? Your silence was a betrayal of the public trust!? the coalition posted on the front page of its site above a photograph of three monkeys posing as ?See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.?

Hyde said Millstone doesn't plan to celebrate the renewal, but rather, continue operations as usual. Planning in the nuclear industry generally takes place decades in advance and Millstone is looking into the future at new projects, Hyde said.

?We never really breathe a sigh of relief,? he said. ?We're really always focused on the plant.?

After nearly a year of hearings on the matter, the Connecticut Siting Council granted Dominion permission last spring to store 49 garage-sized nuclear waste modules in the town of Waterford, enough to store waste through 2025. Dominion must apply for more modules on an ?as-needed? basis, Hyde said.

In addition, an expired DEP permit for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System has been awaiting DEP approval since 1997. The DEP asked Dominion to study fish larvae entrainment at its intake area. Dominion submitted its findings in 2001 and is still waiting for word back about renewing its 1999 permit for the system. In the meantime, the company operates under its 1999 permit.

?We're hopeful that we'll have a resolution to that soon,? Hyde said.

Report set to endorse nuclear power - Report set to endorse nuclear power

Dec. 9, 2005. 01:00 AM

Premier Dalton McGuinty's government is about to go on a nuclear power building binge.

When the Ontario Power Authority delivers its long awaited "supply mix" report today, it will come as no surprise when it recommends that Ontario's thirst for energy can best be quenched with nuclear reactors.

The OPA was created by the government to make recommendations that will ensure an adequate, long-term supply of electricity in Ontario.

The 1,100-page report, commissioned by McGuinty, is the first stage of the OPA's 20-year Integrated Power System Plan, expected to start in the summer of 2006.

The Toronto Star has learned, however, that the report does not specifically state how many new nuclear reactors are needed, but rather recommends a range of the number of megawatts of power that should be supplied by nuclear power.

Critics say the Liberals have all but led this so-called arm's-length agency by the nose toward nuclear power, which supporters say is the only plausible answer to the province's energy crisis.

Ontario Power Generation's 15 operating reactors, which currently supply half the province's power, are expected to reach their life expectancy by 2020. The province needs at least 25,000 megawatts of new supply over the next 15 years.

Ontario has a poor track record when it comes to nuclear plants, new or refurbished. They usually go over budget and well past deadline.

Perhaps most notorious was the Darlington nuclear plant east of Toronto. Originally budgeted at about $4 billion, it eventually cost three times that when it started up in the 1990s.

At Queen's Park, there have been accusations of cronyism because a number of the premier's former advisers are lobbying for the nuclear industry.

"This government has already sold its soul to the nuclear industry," Hampton told reporters yesterday.

David MacNaughton, McGuinty's former principal secretary, is lobbying for Atomic Energy Canada Ltd., which is eager for more nuclear plants, while Bob Lopinski, the premier's former director of issues management and legislative affairs, is working for Hill and Knowlton where he is a lobbyist for Bruce Power.

In October, the McGuinty government signed a deal in which Bruce Power ? Ontario's largest independent electricity generator ? will put up $4.25 billion to refurbish Units 1 and 2 at its nuclear generating station complex near Lake Huron. It will in turn sell the power back to the province.

Progressive Conservative Party Leader John Tory questioned the OPA's independence, given its membership includes former Liberal leader Lyn McLeod and party fundraiser Jan Carr.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Longer-life Scottish power stations may aid Blair's pro-nuclear rethink News - UK - Longer-life Scottish power stations may aid Blair's pro-nuclear rethink

SCOTLAND'S nuclear power stations could remain in operation long past their present decommissioning date, their owner, British Energy, agreed yesterday.

The company said that while Hunterston and Torness are set for closure in 2011 and 2023 respectively, it would be technically possible to keep them running for longer. It said a decision would need to be made three years before the closure dates.

Last week the Prime Minister indicated a rethink on energy policy by the government that might include replacing Britain's existing 14 nuclear power stations, at an estimated cost of �1 billion each, as they reach the end of their projected useful life.

If that happened, it would be against fierce opposition from environmental and conservation groups who see renewable energy from wind, wave, tide, hydro and biomass sources as the future - and disposal of nuclear waste a potential disaster hanging over the Earth for tens of thousands of years to come.

The added complication for Scotland, where about 50 per cent of present electricity needs are met by Torness and Hunterston, is that a decision to build more nuclear power stations would be up to the UK government.

Planning permission for any new nuclear plant, however, would be up to the Scottish Executive, within which pro- and anti-nuclear opinions are deeply divided.

A spokesman for the Executive said yesterday that the question of extending the life of existing nuclear plants was a decision for the owners and the industry's regulators.

It has been suggested that the original approval and planning consents for both Hunterston and Torness, built in the 1960s and 1980s respectively, would be permanent and allow new plants to be built alongside.

The Executive spokesman ruled that theory out. In each case, consent had been given for a single power station only. Land is available alongside Torness, but Executive planning permission would be needed to build a new station.

A senior member of staff at Torness told a newspaper yesterday that the working life of the East Lothian nuclear plant, now supplying about 25 per cent of Scotland's electricity, could be extended well beyond 2040.

Robert Gunn, Torness's system health manager, said: "There's no hard line to say we can't go beyond, say, 2040 or whatever date we pick, as long as we and the regulators are happy we've addressed all the safety issues."

However, Sue Fletcher, spokeswoman for British Energy in Scotland, said that while there was a theoretical possibility that the working lives of Hunterston and Torness could be extended, it did not mean it would happen.

She said: "Consideration of what is happening and what might happen is continuous. So there is nothing new in the suggestion that their working lives could be extended. But a decision on whether that might happen will not be made until three years before they are due to close. That is, a decision on Hunterston in 2008, for Torness in 2020."

Such a decision, she said, would not be taken in isolation. It would also have to satisfy the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, the government's nuclear safety watchdog.

There are examples of deciding to extend a station's working life, most recently adding ten years to the Dungeness plant in Kent to take it up to 2018. But British Energy says that was an individual decision, not a precedent.

Stuart Hay, head of policy at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: "British Energy is saying that now, but it is talking about extending and replacing nuclear stations when our energy needs can be supplied by renewables if the political will is there.

"What we are saying is, 'Put the money in now' so that alternative sources like wind, hydro and biomass can eventually take over from nuclear."

At present Scotland has 570 megawatts of installed wind power capacity. A further 450 megawatts' potential is under construction, with planning approval in the pipeline for another 676 megawatts.

But wind power critics argue that - because wind power is intermittent - that total only counts as a potential 600 megawatts by 2011 when Hunterston is scheduled to close, with a loss of 2,000 megawatts of generating capacity.

It would take between seven and 13 years, from the point of decision, to build a new nuclear power station.

Yushchenko addresses burying foreign nuclear waste in Ukraine

RIA Novosti - World - Yushchenko addresses burying foreign nuclear waste in Ukraine

KIEV, December 8 (RIA Novosti) - A decision on burying foreign nuclear waste in Ukraine will be made with account for public opinion and expert viewpoints, President Viktor Yushchenko said Thursday.

"This is a long-term prospect that should be approved by society, first of all," Yushchenko said during his tour of the area around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant that was completely destroyed after an explosion in April 1986 that released radioactive emissions, badly contaminating large areas of the western Soviet Union.

Yushchenko said the proposal to bury nuclear waste in Ukraine needed a detailed discussion at all levels.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Nuclear power: no solution to climate change

2005 has seen the Federal Government reverse its position on climate change, accepting that its impact is severe and serious, and that fast action is imperative.

But the government has diverted attention away from real solutions and Australia?s poor performance on curbing emissions by insisting that Australia consider domestic nuclear power generation. In short, the government proposes something which is currently illegal, inordinately expensive, relying on government-subsidised capital investments and too slow to respond to the immediate challenge of climate change. Now Brendan Nelson and Ian Macfarlane (science and industry and resources ministers) want to waste more time and money on a high level inquiry into the feasibility of a nuclear power industry in Australia.

The nuclear debate has been based on a false claim: that nuclear power is ?greenhouse-free?. Significant emissions are produced at every stage of the nuclear fuel cycle - nuclear power can only reduce greenhouse gas emissions in comparison with fossil fuels, rather than renewable energy sources and energy efficiency. As a method of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, nuclear power is further limited because it is used almost exclusively for electricity generation, which is responsible for less than one third of global greenhouse gas emissions. A doubling of nuclear power output by 2050 would only reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about five per cent - less than one tenth of the reductions required to stabilise atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.

Nuclear power relies on an exhaustible energy source. High-grade, low-cost uranium ores are limited and will be exhausted in about 50 years at the current rate of consumption. The estimated total of all conventional uranium reserves is thought to be sufficient for about 200 years at the current rate of consumption. But in a scenario of nuclear expansion, these reserves will be depleted more rapidly. Most of the Earth's uranium is found in very poor grade ores, and recovery of uranium from these ores is likely to be considerably more greenhouse intensive.

And to this problem we must add the risk of accidents at nuclear plants; routine releases of radioactive gases and liquids, the intractable problem of nuclear waste and risks of terrorism and sabotage.

Safety concerns at reactors are not limited to the ex-Soviet states. For example, the Japanese nuclear power industry has been in turmoil since revelations in August 2002 of 29 cases of false reporting on the inspections of cracks in numerous reactors. There have also been a number of serious accidents, some of them fatal, at nuclear reactors and other nuclear facilities in Japan in the past decade.

Commercial pressures and inadequate regulation have clearly played some part in the flawed safety standards in Japan. Such pressures are by no means unique to Japan; they will intensify if liberalisation of electricity markets proceeds.

Furthermore, there?s another hazard associated with nuclear power expansion on a global scale and it?s of such concern that alone it must lead to a rejection of the nuclear proposal. As the government plans to increase Australian uranium exports, it?s time we considered the established pattern of ?peaceful? nuclear facilities being used for nuclear weapons research and production.

The proliferation problem is profound:

of the 60 countries which have built nuclear power or research reactors, over 20 are known to have used their ?peaceful? nuclear facilities for covert weapons research and or production;
four or five countries have produced nuclear arsenals under cover of a ?peaceful? nuclear program - Israel, India, South Africa, Pakistan, and possibly North Korea. Others have come close - most notably Iraq from the 1970s until the 1991 Gulf War;
nuclear power programs also provide pools of expertise for weapons programs in the five major nuclear weapons states - the US, Russia, the UK, France and China. These five countries account for almost 60 per cent of global nuclear power output;
the ?peaceful? nuclear power industry has produced sufficient plutonium to produce about 160,000 nuclear weapons, each with a yield similar to the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If 99 per cent of this plutonium is indefinitely safeguarded against military use - a monumental challenge - the remaining plutonium would suffice to produce 1,600 nuclear weapons. Australian uranium has resulted in the production of over 78 tonnes of plutonium - sufficient for about 7,800 nuclear weapons, and
the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has considered a scenario involving a ten-fold increase in nuclear power over this century and calculated that this could produce 50,000 - 100,000 tonnes of plutonium. The IPCC concluded that the security threat would be "colossal".
The International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) safeguards system still suffers from flaws and limitations despite improvements over the past decade. Statements from the IAEA and US President George W. Bush about the need to limit the spread of enrichment and reprocessing technology and to establish multinational control over sensitive nuclear facilities, are an effective acknowledgement of the limitations of the international non-proliferation system.

The NPT enshrines an ?inalienable right? of member states to all ?civil? nuclear technologies, including dual-use technologies with both peaceful and military capabilities. In other words, the NPT enshrines the ?right? to develop a nuclear weapons threshold or breakout capability.

Nuclear smuggling - much of it from civil nuclear programs - presents a significant challenge. The IAEA's Illicit Trafficking Database records over 650 confirmed incidents of trafficking in nuclear or other radioactive materials since 1993. In 2004 alone, almost 100 such incidents occurred. Smuggling can potentially provide fissile material for nuclear weapons or a wider range of radioactive materials for use in ?dirty bombs?.

Civil nuclear plants are potentially attractive targets for terrorist attacks because of the importance of the electricity supply system in many societies, the large radioactive inventories in many facilities and of the potential or actual use of ?civil? nuclear facilities for weapons research or production.

The problem of radioactive waste management is nowhere near resolution. Not a single repository exists anywhere in the world for the disposal of high-level waste from nuclear power. Only a few countries - such as Finland, Sweden and the US - have identified potential sites for a high-level waste repository.

The legal limit for the proposed repository at Yucca Mountain in the US is less than the projected output of high-level waste from the reactors currently operating in the US. If global nuclear output was increased three-fold, new repository storage capacity equal to the legal limit for Yucca Mountain would have to be created somewhere in the world every three to four years. With a ten-fold increase in nuclear power, new repository storage capacity equal to the legal limit for Yucca Mountain would have to be created somewhere in the world every single year.

Whatever Bob Hawke might think on the matter, attempts to establish international repositories are likely to be as unpopular and unsuccessful as Pangea Resources? bid to win support for such a repository in Australia. Pangea abandoned its proposal in 2002.

Synroc - the ceramic waste immobilisation technology developed in Australia - seems destined to be a permanently ?promising? technology. As even nuclear advocate Leslie Kemeny concedes, Synroc "... showed great early promise but so far its international marketing and commercialisation agendas have failed".

Enough of the bad news: renewable energy, mostly hydroelectricity, already supplies 19 per cent of world electricity, compared to nuclear's 16 per cent. The share of renewables is increasing, while nuclear's share is decreasing. Wind power and solar power are growing by 20-30 per cent every year. In 2004, renewable energy added nearly three times as much net generating capacity as nuclear power. (In Australia, only 8 per cent of electricity is from renewable energy - down from 10 per cent in 1999.)

The biggest gains are to be made in the field of energy efficiency. Energy experts have projected that adopting a national energy efficiency target could reduce the need for investment in new power stations by between 2,500 - 5,000 MW by 2017 in Australia (equal to about 2-5 large nuclear power stations). The energy efficiency investments would pay for themselves in reduced bills before a nuclear power station could generate a single unit of electricity.

The Australian Ministerial Council on Energy has identified that energy consumption in the manufacturing, commercial and residential sectors could be reduced by 20-30 per cent with the adoption of current commercially available technologies with an average payback of four years.

A July 2002 study by The Australia Institute (pdf file 139KB) maps out a plan to achieve a 60 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in Australia by 2050. The study envisages widespread energy efficiency measures, a major expansion of wind power, modest growth of hydroelectricity, significant use of biomass and niche applications for solar photovoltaic electricity.

And in 2004, the Clean Energy Future Group - which comprises renewable energy companies and the Worldwide Fund for Nature - produced a report which details how major greenhouse gas emissions reductions can be achieved. It finds that Australia can meet our energy needs and halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 using a range of commercially-proven fuels and technologies. The study envisages the following energy mix by 2040: natural gas providing 30 per cent; biomass from agriculture and plantation forestry residues, 26 per cent; wind, 20 per cent; photovoltaic and solar thermal systems, 5 per cent; hydroelectricity, 7 per cent; while coal and petroleum continue to play a minor role in electricity generation.