[ RadSafe ] Nuclear Power Rebirth Still Far From Reality For All the Talk

Sandy Perle sandyfl at earthlink.net
Fri Mar 3 16:38:10 CST 2006


Nuclear Power Rebirth Still Far From Reality For All the Talk
Chubu Electric Seeks OK to Use Plutonium-Mix Fuel at Nuclear Plant
Hungary Has No Plans to Build New Nuclear Plant
EPA in hot seat over nuclear storage radiation
Finns to test mobile phone radiation on human skin 
Radiation-fallout compensation reaches $1 billio
What to Expect When You Need Nuclear Imaging
India nuclear power generation sector

Nuclear Power Rebirth Still Far From Reality For All the Talk, Few 
Reactors Are Being Built, and Some Say They Shouldn't Be

International Herald Tribune - Red Orbit (Mar 3) Amid signs of a 
revival in orders for nuclear power reactors, the sale of 
Westinghouse's former nuclear division to Toshiba last month might 
stand out as a landmark but not necessarily because the industry 
seems ready to take off. 

In fact, nuclear experts around the world, both skeptics and 
supporters of the technology, are surprised by the high price. 
Toshiba agreed to pay $5.4 billion for a collection of nuclear power 
manufacturing facilities, of which Westinghouse was the centerpiece, 
that had been assembled by British Nuclear Fuels. The sale closed at 
three times the price markets expected just six months ago. 

There is much talk of a rebirth of the nuclear construction industry, 
but analysts say that most of it is just that. In the United States, 
the secretary of energy recently referred to 16 new reactors on the 
drawing boards, but not one has been ordered, and industry experts do 
not expect to see any orders until late 2007 at the earliest. "I 
think we all were surprised by the price," said Michael Morris, 
president and chief executive of American Electric Power, the largest 
power generator in the United States. With his company serving five 
million customers in 11 states, Morris favors more nuclear power. 
Peter Bradford, a former member of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory 
Commission, and later head of the state public service commissions of 
both New York and Maine, said: "It's hard to imagine people putting a 
$5 billion bet on new reactors as matters stand now, with uncertainty 
around climate change policy and impossibility of getting financing 
for them in private markets."

China has announced its intention of quadrupling its nuclear output 
in the next 20 years, which suggests about 30 more reactors, but only 
two are under construction. China has also stated that it wants to 
develop its own reactor. In Europe, politicians in Italy, Britain and 
Poland have been examining the merits of new nuclear plants. But the 
only nuclear plant being built in Europe outside the former Soviet 
bloc is a Finnish reactor that was the focus of 12 years of debate 
before construction began last year. Much of the optimism on nuclear 
construction is based on the expectation that two recent trends will 
continue. The first is the rising cost of competing fuels, as well as 
increasing government controls on carbon emissions. The second is the 
inability of methods for reducing such emissions from other energy 
sources, like coal, to become widespread. Nuclear power plants are 
more expensive to build than natural gas or coal plants, and take 
several years longer to construct. But once they are built, they 
generate energy steadily and cheaply and emit negligible amounts of 
greenhouse gases. "Climate change gets people to think nuclear is 
going to pay off, in five years or 20," said Richard Sedano, a former 
member of the Vermont Public Service Commission and now director of 
the Regulatory Assistance Project, which advises regulators on 
electric policy. In European countries where rules about carbon 
emissions are already firmly established, some critics of nuclear 
power have started to question whether building new reactors is a 
cost-effective way of reducing these emissions. More nuclear power 
generation "doesn't make sense economically and environmentally," 
said Norman Baker, deputy environment minister for Britain's Liberal 
Democrat Party. Spending a pound on improving energy efficiency cuts 
carbon emissions seven times as much as spending the same pound on 
new nuclear construction, Baker said. "If you're interested in 
climate change, you should demand clean coal and renewable 
resources." European energy markets have changed significantly since 
the 1970s, the last time large numbers of nuclear plants were built. 
Many power companies have been privatized, and the energy market has 
been opened up to competition in many countries. Any new construction 
would need to be financed by a private company, which in turn would 
need to guarantee to investors that the reactor would eventually make 
a profit. It is not a sure bet, energy analysts say. It is "too early 
to speak about a nuclear renaissance," according to a recent report 
on the European market by Standard & Poor's, the rating agency. Peter 
Kernan, an S&P analyst who helped write the report, said, "The market 
environment is now significantly riskier than it was when the 
original nuclear plants were built." Predicting sale prices for 
energy is nearly impossible. "Operators would need to be convinced 
there is a sound and robust business case" for building a plant 
before they start devoting capital to it, Kernan said. He said there 
is no evidence yet to suggest that. Marc Herlach, a lawyer at 
Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan who represented British Nuclear Fuels in 
the Toshiba deal and who specializes in energy asset sales, defended 
the price, saying it made sense because of the rising cost of other 
fuels and concerns over greenhouse gases. "This is a different 
environment," he said. 

In the United States, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently 
approved the design of a new Westinghouse reactor, the AP-1000. The 
letters stand for "advanced passive," because the reactor would have 
fewer moving parts in its safety systems. No one has bought it yet. 
Toshiba licenses technology from General Electric, which sells 
reactors that boil water in the reactor vessel and then run the water 
through a turbine to convert energy to mechanical energy, and then to 
electricity. In contrast, the Westinghouse design heats water in the 
reactor but under high pressure, so it does not boil; that water is 
then run through a heat exchanger to make steam that goes through the 
turbine. With the sale, Toshiba becomes the only vendor to sell both 
boiling-water and pressurized-water designs. But in the short term, 
the least glamorous parts of Westinghouse's business may prove the 
most valuable for Toshiba: the company's extensive repair and 
maintenance services.

Chubu Electric Seeks OK to Use Plutonium-Mix Fuel at Nuclear Plant

Mar. 3--TOKYO -- Chubu Electric Power Co. applied Friday to the 
Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry for permission to start using 
plutonium-containing mixed fuel at a nuclear power plant in Shizuoka 
Prefecture from fiscal 2010, company officials said. 

Japan's third-largest electric power utility follows three other 
power companies that have already obtained state permission for the 
so-called "pluthermal" project to make use of plutonium from spent 
nuclear fuel at power plants. 

Under the "pluthermal," or plutonium-thermal power generation, 
scheme, power plants would burn plutonium-uranium mixed oxide fuel, 
or MOX, made from spent fuel, stockpiles of which have been growing 
rapidly. No MOX plans have yet been put into practice in Japan. 

Four cities, including Omaezaki, Shizuoka Prefecture, affected by 
Chubu Electric Power's plan for the No.4 reactor of the Hamaoka 
nuclear power plant, on Tuesday endorsed the move by the utility to 
seek permission from the ministry. 

State approval will be given after examinations are conducted by the 
Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency of the Economy, Trade and 
Industry Ministry and the safety examination panel of the 
governmental Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan. 

Tokyo Electric Power Co. and Kansai Electric Power Co. had obtained 
state approval for using the "pluthermal" method but have hit snags 
in the face of local concerns following Tokyo Electric Power's 
coverup of safety defects and a fatal nonradioactive accident at a 
nuclear plant run by Kansai Electric Power. 

Kyushu Electric Power Co. followed the Tokyo and Kansai utilities in 
securing state permission but is now getting ahead of them in 
promoting the project as a local governor has given his approval for 
the plan. 

Shikoku Electric Power Co. has also applied for government approval. 
The safety panel is expected to present a report on the Shikoku plan 

Hungary Has No Plans to Build New Nuclear Plant

BUDAPEST, March 2 (Xinhua) -- Hungary has no plans to expand its only 
nuclear plant, the Paksi Atomeromu plant, or build a new one, 
Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany said Thursday. 

"We know that nuclear energy experts have been working for several 
years on the issue of whether it will be necessary or possible in 
Hungary in the long term to build a new block. If anybody tables a 
proposal regarding the issue, a decision should be made by a 
referendum. But we are nowhere near that," Gyurcsany said. 

Gyurcsany's remarks came in response to reports by Russian newspapers 
which suggested that Russian investors were ready to invest in 
nuclear energy development in Hungary. 

Russian media referred to a memorandum, signed by Hungary's national 
electricity company MVM owning the Paks facility and Russia's energy 
holding company KES and nuclear plant developer Atomstroieksport in 
Budapest this week during Russian President Vladimir Putin's there. 

After signing the memorandum, KES declared it was willing to co- 
finance the extension of the lifespan of the Paks nuclear plant and 
to increase its output by 15-20 percent, the Russian papers reported. 

"The document was signed to provide a framework for actual agreements 
in the future," MVM said, adding that extending the life of the plant 
at Paks, which provides 40 percent of the country's power supply, was 
a key responsibility. 

Two incidents have occurred at the Paks nuclear plant, which is 
located 110 km south of Budapest. 

EPA in hot seat over nuclear storage radiation

WASHINGTON - The Environmental Protection Agency will issue a final 
rule by the end of the year on how much radiation can be released 
from the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump, an agency official told 
senators at a hearing Wednesday.

William Wehrum, acting assistant administrator of EPA's office of air 
and radiation, defended the agency's proposed rule against criticism 
from Nevada lawmakers and a Democratic senator from California who 
said it wouldn't adequately protect human health.

"Our job at EPA is to set standards for the Yucca Mountain repository 
that are fully protective of human health and safety," Wehrum said at 
a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing.

He received strong support from the committee's chairman, Republican 
Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who asked whether the rule might be 
"too conservative" compared with approaches taken in Europe. Wehrum 
said the standard was consistent with international approaches.

Store more there?
Inhofe also said after the hearing that he'd be open to voting to 
increase the storage capacity of Yucca Mountain, which by law is 
supposed to hold 77,000 tons of radioactive waste. Because of waste 
already waiting at reactor sites nationwide, the repository will be 
full soon after it opens.

Spent fuel from U.S. nuclear plants — which supply about 20 percent 
of U.S. electricity — is piling up. More than 50,000 tons of it is 
stored at over 100 temporary locations in 39 states.
The EPA in August proposed limiting radiation exposure near the 
planned dump 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas to 15 millirems a year 
for 10,000 years, then increasing the allowable level to 350 
millirems a year for up to 1 million years.

That higher level is more than three times what is allowed from 
nuclear facilities today by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. A 
standard chest X-ray is about 10 millirems.

The EPA issued the rule under consideration after a federal court 
said the agency's first standard was inadequate because it didn't 
establish exposure limits beyond 10,000 years. A public comment 
period for the rule ended Nov. 21, and the agency is reviewing 
comments and will finalize the rule by year's end, Wehrum said.

Weighing radiation risks
Nevada Sens. Harry Reid and John Ensign criticized the standard. 
Ensign, a Republican, called it "a farce."

Reid and Ensign have instead proposed handling nuclear waste through 
“dry cask storage,” a process that would allow nuclear reactors to 
store waste on-site. 

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., cited a study that she said showed 
cancer risks at the 350 millirem level increasing to one in four for 
women and one in five for men.

"This is such a nightmare that we're abandoning ... what we consider 
to be an acceptable cancer risk," Boxer said.

But a scientist who testified before the committee, Dade Moeller, 
former president of the Health Physics Society, said his estimates 
show a smaller increase of cancer risk under the proposed rules — 
perhaps 1 percent or less. Moeller's company has done contract work 
for the Energy Department.

The radiation issue and other problems with the project have caused a 
series of delays. The Energy Department originally was supposed to 
submit its application for a license to operate the dump to the 
Nuclear Regulatory Commission by December 2004.

Paul Golan, acting director of the department's Office of Civilian 
Radioactive Waste Management, couldn't provide senators a new date 
but said the department would release a schedule this summer.

Finns to test mobile phone radiation on human skin 

HELSINKI (Reuters) Mar 3  - Finland's radiation watchdog is to study 
the effects of mobile phones on human proteins by direct tests on 
people's skin, to see if handset transmissions affect their health. 
A pilot study, to be conducted next week, will expose a small area of 
skin on volunteers' arms to cellphone radiation for the duration of a 
long phone call, or for one hour, research professor Dariusz 
Leszczynski said on Friday.

Researchers will then take a skin sample to study and compare with 
one taken before the radiation exposure, he told Reuters.

Cell samples used in previous laboratory tests by the Radiation and 
Nuclear Safety Authority were all from women, and to keep consistency 
in the data, 10 female volunteers will be used in the new study -- 
all of them employees at the watchdog.

In previous tests, Leszczynski's group found evidence of mobile phone 
radiation causing cell-level changes such as shrinkage, but he said 
it was still impossible to say if that had significant health 

"Cells function in a different way when they are in the body than in 
laboratory surroundings. Now we want to confirm whether radiation 
causes cell level changes in humans as well," he said.

The results of the study are due by the end of the year, and 
Leszczynski's team hopes to show if radiation has any impact on the 
body's natural barrier that prevents toxins and other dangerous 
proteins that might be in the bloodstream from reaching brain cells.

Some researchers suspect brain cancer has become more common as a 
result of cellphone use, but there is no clear evidence to support 
that, Leszczynski said.

"If harmful proteins get through to the brain, it could have an 
indirect link with cancer, but this is pure speculation," he added.

Finland, home to top global mobile maker     Nokia, has one of the 
most mature telecom markets in the world, with almost everyone having 
a mobile handset.

Radiation-fallout compensation reaches $1 billion 

WASHINGTON Mar 3 - The U.S. government has paid out more than $1 
billion to people affected by atomic tests at the Nevada Test Site, 
including some $213 million to Utahns. The program to compensate 
downwinders passed the $1 billion mark this week, a “huge milestone” 
to Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, who wrote the Radiation Exposure 
Compensation Act in 1990. More than 3,700 Utahns have received 
payments under the program, which covers 10 counties in the states 
where winds carried radioactive clouds from the nuclear tests in the 
1950s and 1960s. Each payment, Hatch said in a statement, “shows the 
nation's commitment to helping victims of radiation exposure,” Hatch 
said. “Thousands of Utahns were harmed by nuclear testing, and we can 
never do enough to right this.” In fact, more people were affected 
than previously thought, according to a study released recently by 
the National Academies of Science and the National Research Council. 
The report says an estimated 11,000 extra cancer deaths may occur in 
America “as a result of external exposure to fallout” from the tests. 
A 1997 study said that as many as 212,000 cases of thyroid cancer may 
be related to the atomic tests in Nevada. Idaho and Montana are 
fighting to get included in the compensation fund, which doles out 
one-time payments of $50,000 for civilians affected by the fallout, 
$75,000 for ore transporters and up to $100,000 for mill workers. 
Overall, some 15,000 people have received payments, according to 
Hatch's office. But there are more who need help, says Vanessa 
Pierce, program director of the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah. 
“It's an important milestone,” Pierce said, “but it sadly represents 
just a tiny fraction of the whole cost” of America's nuclear weapons 
program. While applauding Hatch's work to ensure downwinders are 
compensated, Pierce says Hatch should help get the rest of Utah, 
Idaho and Montana added to the list of covered areas 

What to Expect When You Need Nuclear Imaging

ABC News (Mar 3) If your doctor is concerned about a problem in your 
blood vessels, he may recommend that you undergo some form of nuclear 
imaging. While it has a scary name, this test allows your doctor to 
outline your blood vessels and look for abnormalities. Here's what 
you need to know about these tests. 

There are several types of imaging tools that use nuclear particles 
to look at your cardiovascular system. These machines include 
positron emission tomography (PET) and single photo emission computed 
tomography (SPECT). 

A PET scan consists of a moving table, where you lie down under a 
large, donut-shaped ring. Before the scan, a doctor injects a special 
liquid near the area that needs to be examined. Electrons in your 
body react with this liquid and emit gamma rays, which are harmless 
radioactive particles. A device in the PET scan then rotates around 
the ring and measures these radioactive particles as they leave your 
body. A computer then determines where the reflected particles are 
coming from and creates a three-dimensional image of your vascular 

A SPECT scan works similarly to a PET scan, but it creates images 
which aren't as detailed. The advantage of this tool is simply that 
it tends to be cheaper and more available than a PET scan. 

While the idea of radiation passing through your body seems 
dangerous, the procedure is completely safe. However, if you are 
pregnant, be sure to tell your doctor; you may need another type of 
scan to limit the radiation exposure. Also, if you are having a scan 
of your stomach, you may need to fast for 24 hours before the 
procedure, but usually no other special preparation is necessary. 

These nuclear imaging scans are most often used to view blood flow in 
certain areas of the body. For example, if there is a weak spot in 
your blood vessel, such as an aneurysm, the PET scan can pick up this 
abnormal bulge on an artery. This tool is also helpful in determining 
the cause of poor blood flow to certain organs and identifying a 
blockage to the gallbladder. Its most promising use seems to be in 
finding the early reemergence of tumors in patients who have already 
battled cancer. 

"This tool has taken off in the detection of recurrent tumors," says 
Dr. Robert Zimmerman, the executive vice-chair of radiology at New 
York-Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical Center, who went 
on to explain that because PET scans detect active blood flow, it can 
help specialists distinguish between scar tissue from an old, 
inactive tumor and a newly-growing one.

India nuclear power generation sector

New Delhi (The Hindu Business Line) Mar 3 Reliance Energy and NTPC 
Ltd are among companies in talks with Nuclear Power Corporation of 
India Ltd (NPCIL) for possible forays into the nuclear power 
generation sector. 

Coming in the wake of the new Indo-US civil nuclear deal, NPCIL 
estimates the country could add 20,000-40,000 MW of nuclear power 
generation capacity over the next 10 years or so if several more 
players, including private sector companies, enter the sector. 

"We are talking of adding 20,000-40,000 megawatts in 10 years... It 
would not be possible for NPCIL to achieve this kind of capacity on 
its own. We have had discussions with a number of interested players, 
including NTPC and Reliance Energy, who have plans to enter nuclear 
generation as and when the Government permits their entry into the 
sector," a senior NPCIL official said. 

NPCIL is the only firm permitted by the Government to generate 
nuclear power. 

The country's nuclear power generation capacity, currently pegged at 
3,310 MW, forms less than 3 per cent of the country's total installed 
generation capacity of about 1,20,000 MW. 

Thermal power meets 70 per cent of India's requirements, while hydro 
contributes about 24 per cent at present. 

India and the US had, on Thursday, signed an agreement for 
cooperation in civilian nuclear technology. 

The NPCIL official said that with the Indo-US nuclear deal in place, 
it is expected that the international nuclear fuel supply market 
would open up for Indian nuclear power players. 

The benefits from the deal with the US, in terms of imports and 
nuclear technology, are expected to start trickling over the next 18 
months or so. 

He said access to higher imports of natural uranium, which NPCIL 
currently uses to run most of its power plants, would help the 
company increase power generation at its existing facilities without 
any additional investment. 

"The plant load factor of existing natural uranium utilising power 
plants can be increased to 90 per cent from the present average of 
68.5 per cent, based on fresh imports of uranium," the official said.

NTPC, the country's largest generation company, also has a plan to 
set up a 2,000 MW capacity nuclear plant by 2017. 

"We are actively exploring the nuclear option, besides other emerging 
areas such as the use of hydrogen," an NTPC official said. In the 
private sector, besides Reliance Energy, Tata Power has also evinced 
interest in entering the field.

Sandy Perle
Senior Vice President, Technical Operations
Global Dosimetry Solutions, Inc.
2652 McGaw Avenue
Irvine, CA 92614 

Tel: (949) 296-2306 / (888) 437-1714  Extension 2306
Fax:(949) 296-1144

E-Mail: sperle at dosimetry.com
E-Mail: sandyfl at earthlink.net 

Global Dosimetry Website: http://www.dosimetry.com/ 
Personal Website: http://sandy-travels.com/ 

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