[ RadSafe ] China's $8 Billion Nuclear Deal Postponed Indefinitely
sandyfl at earthlink.net
Thu Dec 29 10:27:53 CST 2005
China's $8 Billion Nuclear Deal Postponed Indefinitely
University of California Wins Los Alamos Contract
Town Has Nuclear-Powered Plans
China's $8 Billion Nuclear Deal Postponed Indefinitely
BEIJING, China (Dec. 20) - China will miss a year-end deadline for
handing out an $8 billion contract to build four nuclear reactors,
and plans to postpone its choice indefinitely, an industry source
close to the bidding said on Tuesday.
Pittsburgh-based Westinghouse Electric Co., France's Areva and
Russia's Atomstroiexport are vying for the contract to build China's
first third-generation reactors.
Beijing's original plan was to make a final decision by the end of
this year but officials have decided to put it off because of the
high price of the foreign reactors, the source said.
Even though China was considering importing only those parts of the
plants that could not be produced domestically, the prices offered by
the bidders were still considered unreasonably high.
"There will be no new deadline for the decision. When the government
announces the result will depend on how the talks are going," he
During a visit to France earlier this month, Premier Wen Jiabao
indicated Paris would have to improve its offer in terms of both
price and transfer of nuclear technology, the source said, adding the
same message had been passed to other bidders.
"The ball has been kicked to the foreign side again. We will wait and
see how they react," he said.
Industry officials have said both Westinghouse's AP 1000 and Areva's
EPR technology are very competitive, while the Russian offer is less
In contrast with the delay in introducing foreign technology, Beijing
is accelerating the construction of nuclear reactors that use
existing domestic technology.
Work began last week on the second phase of the Ling'ao plant in
southern Guangdong province. It will put two 1.0-gigawatt reactors
into commercial operation in 2010 and 2011.
"These projects have nothing to do with the third-generation
technology and will not be influenced by it," the source said.
The energy-guzzling nation plans to invest some 400 billion yuan
($49.56 billion) in building around 30 new nuclear reactors by 2020,
bringing its total installed nuclear capacity to 40 gigawatts.
It currently has nine working reactors that supply around 2.3 percent
of its electricity, but aims to boost the amount of power it gets
from nuclear plants to 4 percent within 15 years.
University of California Wins Los Alamos Contract
LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (Dec. 21) - The University of California has
retained the contract to manage troubled Los Alamos National
Laboratory, the Energy Department announced Wednesday.
The contract to run the nation's pre-eminent nuclear lab had gone out
to bid earlier this year for the first time in the lab's 63-year
Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said UC, which will team with Bechtel
Corp., had prevailed in its bid over a rival team comprised of
Lockheed Martin and the University of Texas.
Town Has Nuclear-Powered Plans
USA TODAY (Dec. 19) - Some people here have lived their whole lives
in the shadow of the twin cooling towers of the Bellefonte Nuclear
Plant. Their fathers and grandfathers helped build the facility,
which the Tennessee Valley Authority began constructing in the 1970s
but never completed.
The TVA operates three other nuclear plants within a 125-mile radius,
so many here are comfortable with the idea of a nuclear neighbor.
They celebrated in September when a consortium of utility companies
chose Bellefonte as one of two sites for new nuclear plants.
"Everybody from 35 to 40 years old that grew up around this county in
the '70s, they've seen the towers, they knew what it was," says Tommy
Bryant, 36, a utility company manager whose father worked a
construction job at Bellefonte. "Most people are really glad about
what they're planning."
Americans' confidence in nuclear power waned after the partial
meltdown of a reactor at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island in 1979 and
the explosion in 1986 at the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine that spread
radioactive material across Europe.
Today, surging demand for electricity, concerns about air pollution
and the Bush administration's push to reduce the nation's dependence
on foreign oil are prompting renewed interest in nuclear energy.
President Bush signed an energy bill in August that includes
extensive subsidies and incentives for the industry. The bill
contains subsidies for construction delays, offers loan guarantees to
utilities and limits industry liability for accidents.
Scottsboro is one of several communities around the USA that are
wooing utility companies that build nuclear plants, eager to tap the
economic benefits of an industry attempting a comeback.
More demand for electricity
The USA's existing 103 nuclear plants produce about 20% of the
"To maintain that 20%, we will have to add new nuclear plants,
because the demand is going to go up," says Marilyn Kray, president
of NuStart Energy, the consortium that has selected sites near
Scottsboro and Port Gibson, Miss., for new nuclear plants. Towns that
also vied for the plants were Aiken, S.C.; St. Francisville, La.;
Lusby, Md.; and Scriba, N.Y.
Industry opponents say new nuclear plants aren't economically
feasible without huge federal subsidies. Protecting plants from
terrorists and disposing of spent fuel, which remains lethal for
250,000 years, are also top concerns.
"The nuclear power champions are now looking to hook up an umbilical
cord to the U.S. Treasury and the American taxpayer to jump-start
their all-but-moribund industry," says Paul Gunter of the Nuclear
Information and Resource Service in Washington, D.C. "This is a
failed technology. The fact the Cheney-Bush administration is looking
to lead us back into this quagmire is more a relapse than a revival."
The industry promotes nuclear power as a non-polluting form of energy
that doesn't consume finite fuels such as coal and natural gas. But
the main selling point for Scottsboro is economic: 2,400 to 2,800
jobs during a three- to four-year construction period, followed by
400 to 600 full-time jobs once the plant starts operating, Scottsboro
Mayor Dan Deason says. "That's going to be a tremendous shot in the
arm," he says.
'We will leave here'
Scottsboro is football and bass-fishing country. Fans declare
allegiance to the University of Alabama Crimson Tide or the Auburn
University Tigers. Lake Guntersville hosts 100 largemouth bass-
fishing tournaments a year.
This town of about 15,000 is the county seat and one of 13
municipalities in Jackson County. Each of those cities' governments
passed resolutions supporting a new nuclear facility at Bellefonte,
says Rick Roden, CEO of the Greater Jackson County Chamber of
That's partly because people here are familiar with TVA nuclear
plants near Athens, Ala., Soddy-Daisy, Tenn., and Spring City, Tenn.,
says Goodrich Rogers, who recruits new industry as head of the
Jackson County Economic Development Authority. "We understand the
technology," Rogers says. "We've all got friends who work at nuclear
power plants. They come to Sunday school with us, and none of them
glow in the dark."
Not everyone is eager to see NuStart move ahead. "If it comes, we
will leave here," says Carol Womacks, 52, a former flight attendant
who has lived here for 18 years. Her house is about 5 miles from
Bellefonte. Womacks worries about an accident. "I don't think the
city is prepared," she says.
Local opposition has not yet galvanized because people in Alabama
don't believe nuclear plants are actually going to happen, says
Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean
Energy, an environmental and energy policy group based in Knoxville,
Tenn. "There will be more organized opposition as more people get up
to speed on it," he says.
Scottsboro's fortunes have long been tied to Bellefonte. "In the mid-
to late '70s, when TVA was moving ahead with Bellefonte, this was one
of the fastest-growing places in Alabama," Roden says.
Bellefonte never opened because "the projected demand for electricity
did not materialize," TVA board Chairman Bill Baxter says.
During the mid-1980s, after many textile jobs disappeared and TVA
decided not to finish the Bellefonte plant, unemployment soared to
The local economy is more diverse now. There's even a building boom.
An eight-screen movie theater is planned, as is an $8 million, 320-
acre industrial park. Tourism is up 22% the past three years, and
unemployment is 4%.
NuStart's Kray says the plan is to "start from scratch" at the
Bellefonte site, building twin reactors using safer, more efficient
technology developed since the 1970s. Her consortium, made up of nine
utilities, two nuclear reactor manufacturers and the TVA, will apply
for plant licenses from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
At Scottsboro, Kray says, the application probably will be submitted
in late 2007. If the NRC approves, construction could begin in 2011
and be completed by 2015.
After NuStart narrowed its list of potential sites to six, the
competition heated up, Kray says: "What we were surprised at was the
level of enthusiasm and the overwhelming support we received."
"All six states made substantive offers," NuStart spokesman Carl
Crawford says. "They were in the hundreds of millions of dollars in
Blast at Russian Nuclear Plant Kills One
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia AP (Dec. 16) - Molten metal splashed from a
smelter at a Russian nuclear power plant, killing one worker and
severely burning two others, but authorities said Friday that no
reactors were affected and no radiation escaped.
While relatively minor, the accident Thursday occurred on the same
day prosecutors announced a "catastrophic radioactivity situation"
involving improperly stored materials at a chemical factory in the
southern Russian region of Chechnya.
The incidents were the latest to draw questions about how Russia
stores, handles and disposes of nuclear materials and waste in the
wake of the 1986 explosion of a reactor at Chernobyl that spewed out
radioactivity for days in the world's worst civilian atomic accident.
"The level of nuclear safety, although it has been significantly
increased after the Chernobyl disaster, is still not sufficient,"
said Vladimir Slivyak at Ecodefense, a Russian environmental group.
"They used to think that there is no need for extra safety measures
and they still think that now."
The smelter accident happened at the Leningrad electricity generating
station in the closed nuclear town of Sosnovy Bor, 50 miles west of
Russia's nuclear agency, Rosenergoatom, initially reported an
explosion. It later changed course and described the incident as a
It said radiation levels remained normal. The Norwegian environmental
group Bellona, a longtime critic of Russia's nuclear programs, and
officials in nearby Finland also said they had not detected any
spread of radiation.
A 33-year-old worker died of injuries Friday, and two others were
injured, Yuri Lameko, chief doctor of the Sosnovy Bor hospital, told
The Associated Press. The Emergency Situations Ministry said two of
those involved suffered burns over 90 percent of their bodies.
Rosenergoatom said the smelter - run by a scrap metal reprocessing
company called Ekomet-S - is on the grounds of the plant's second
unit, where a reactor was shut down for repairs in July. The plant
has four reactors in all, including one of the same type that blew up
in Chernobyl during the Soviet era.
Plant spokesman Sergei Averyanov said the smelter is a half-mile from
the reactor. Oleg Bodrov, a physicist who heads the Green World
ecological group in Sosnovy Bor, said the facility is also about 150
feet from a covered liquid radioactive waste pond.
Averyanov blamed the accident on violations of technical and
Bodrov accused Ekomet-S, which also reprocesses metal from nuclear
submarines and disassembled oil and gas pipelines, of violating
environmental laws. He also complained a lack of funding had caused
the shutdown of the only environmental monitoring laboratory in the
town of 65,000.
"There is no independent environmental monitoring in the nuclear city
of Sosnovy Bor," Bodrov said, adding that he visited the Ekomet-S
facility Friday afternoon and found radiation levels were normal.
He said Ekomet-S workers told him more than two tons of molten metal
were in the smelter and several hundred pounds splashed out for
He said a previous accident involving Ekomet-S injured two workers in
summer 2003. In March 1992, an accident at the power plant let
radioactive gases and iodine leak into the air, according to nuclear
Experts and environmentalists say Russia's nuclear industries and
companies that handle radioactive materials have improved procedures
in the years since the Soviet collapse. Washington has provided an
estimated $7 billion the past 14 years to help Russia and other
former Soviet republics destroy and safeguard atomic weapons.
Still, Russia's nuclear industries, which often escape detailed
federal monitoring, are prone to industrial accidents.
Russian prosecutors opened a criminal investigation Thursday into the
improper storage of radioactive materials by a state-owned company in
the Chechen capital, Grozny.
Tests found radiation at the Grozny Chemical Factory, which stands
not far from residential buildings and a bus station, exceeded normal
levels by tens of thousands of times, prosecutors said. They called
it a "catastrophic radioactivity situation."
Nikolai Petrov of the Carnegie Moscow Center said that situation
smacked of "the usual disorder and negligence" by Russian officials
in dealing with potentially harmful materials.
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