[ RadSafe ] Nuclear renewal rooted in new political climate: NEA

Sandy Perle sandyfl at earthlink.net
Sun Oct 8 20:03:40 CDT 2006


Nuclear renewal rooted in new political climate: NEA 
Bushes christen dad's nuclear-powered aircraft carrier
Group files longshot bid for control of lab 
US Navy denies radiation leak from nuclear submarine off Tokyo  
Research seeks pills for anti-radiation

Nuclear renewal rooted in new political climate: NEA 

PARIS (AFP) Oct 8 - Nuclear power is poised for a renaissance as 
governments turn to the technology to face down fears about global 
warming and energy security, the head of the Nuclear Energy Agency 
In an interview with AFP, NEA director-general Luis Echavarri 
explained how changes in the political climate have cast nuclear 
energy in a new light, putting a number of countries on the path to 
vast new investment programmes.

"The important element is the change in the mind of policymakers," 
Echavarri says.

"More policymakers are telling their populations that energy security 
is a big concern, that we have to be careful, and that protection of 
the environment is another concern," says Echavarri.

The tripling of oil prices since 2002, instability in the Middle East 
and the Russia-Ukraine gas dispute at the beginning of the year have 
made securing reliable future sources of energy a matter of national 

The main resource required for nuclear power is uranium, more than 
half of which is produced in relatively stable OECD countries, all 
developed industrialised democracies, according to NEA data.

The NEA is the nuclear research arm of the Organization for Economic 
Cooperation and Development, a multilateral economic coordination 
agency based in Paris.

Furthermore, nuclear power emits no greenhouse gases, giving it 
advantages over rival technologies at a time when climate change and 
its apparent danger for the planet are in the spotlight.

"If you put these two things together (energy security and global 
warming), it is very logical that policymakers are now looking at 
nuclear with the interest of newcomers," he says.

In a broad look at likely new projects in the next few years, 
Echavarri says that China is expected to build 30 new reactors in the 
next 20-25 years while 15-20 nuclear units are under consideration in 
the United States.

He says that 6-10 reactors are being reviewed in Britain, while 
Finland and France have begun construction of new plants.

Japan and        South Korea have never stopped their nuclear 
programmes, while Russia and India already have nuclear experience 
and it is "very realistic" to expect them to add capacity to provide 
the electricity required to fuel their economic development.

However, Echavarri says that nuclear power will remain steady as a 
proportion of total electricity production in the next 20 years -- 
despite these new projects -- because of surging demand.

His statement reveals more about the need to find increased capacity 
from other sources of energy to meet demand than it does about the 
world's dependence on nuclear power.

"In the next 20 years, the percentage of nuclear power in total 
electricity will be relatively stable.

"There will be more reactors come in and some reactors will be 
decommissioned at the end of their life, but there will be growth in 
electricity demand overall."

Nuclear power currently provides 17 percent of world electricity 
supply, with a higher proportion, 23 percent, in OECD countries.

The OECD and NEA predict a doubling in energy demand by 2050 compared 
to the level of 2000 based on a scenario of modest growth over the 

Nowhere is the trend of rising nuclear production struggling to keep 
up with accelerating demand more evident than in east Asia and 
Echavarri has some arresting statistics to illustrate the point. 

"To give you an idea of the order of magnitude of the Chinese 
programme, the percentage of electricity from nuclear in China is 
currently 1.6 percent from nine reactors. 

"By 2030, if they have 40 reactors in operation, this will represent 
only 4.0 percent of total electricity in China." 

Installed nuclear capacity in east Asia is set to double by 2020, 
according to projections by the NEA. 

China has announced its intention to buy technology from foreign 
companies, with the main players, AREVA of France and Westinghouse of 
the United States, shadowed by competition from Canada and Russia. 

"The company that gets the first orders logically is in a very good 
position for many new orders in the future," says Echavarri. 

Echavarri even believes that nuclear power has been able to win over 
some of its critics in the environmental world, with some campaigners 
now recognising the role of the technology in reducing greenhouse gas 

Nevertheless, the influential lobby group Greenpeace remains 
fervently opposed and public opposition rooted in fears about 
proliferation, safety and waste remains strong in many European 

In the meantime, the nuclear industry, which Echavarri describes as 
"mature" 30 years after its creation, has begun work on a fourth-
generation reactor. 

Third-generation reactors are now off the drawing board and under 
construction in Finland and France among others. 

The fourth-generation is expected to be cheaper, more efficient, 
safer and less vulnerable to proliferation. 

"The idea is to have the technology available from 2020-2030, so that 
prototypes could be operated and then used normally from 2040-2050."

Bushes christen dad's nuclear-powered aircraft carrier

NEWPORT NEWS, Virginia (AP) Oct 7-- Spraying the bubbles from 
sparkling wine across the enormous gray bow of the USS George H.W. 
Bush, the Bush family on Saturday christened the nuclear-powered 
aircraft carrier named for the 82-year-old former president.

"I know you join me in saying to our father, President Bush, your 
ship has come in," the current president said during a ceremony for 
the last of the Nimitz-class carriers, the CVN 77.

"She is unrelenting, she is unshakable, she is unyielding, she is 
unstoppable," Bush said, lauding the warship's state-of-the-art 
design before pausing for a punch line aimed at his mother's well-
known steely constitution. "As a matter of fact, probably should have 
been named the Barbara Bush."

The elder Bush, a decorated Navy pilot in World War II, joined the 
armed forces on his 18th birthday, June 12, 1942. "After our nation 
was attacked at Pearl Harbor, you simply couldn't find anyone who 
wasn't anxious to sign up," he told the audience as a heavy rain 
fell. (Watch former Lt. Bush recall his time aboard a World War II 
carrier -- 3:11 )

"The point is that our nation was totally united against the 
insidious totalitarian threat against freedom," he said, adding, "In 
my humble view, we were no greater than the kids that serve today."

The current president said that in the 21st century, "freedom is 
again under attack and young Americans are volunteering to answer the 

Doro Bush Koch, the elder Bush's daughter, handled the ritual 
smashing of a bottle of sparkling wine against the flattop's bow. 

Bush father and son and several relatives joined hundreds of others, 
from government dignitaries to shipyard workers, at Northrop Grumman 
Newport News, where the $6 billion, 1,092-foot-long carrier is being 
built. It is not yet finished and is scheduled to be delivered to the 
Navy in late 2008.

The christening ceremony was scheduled to be nearly two hours long, 
but deafening thunderclaps, lightning, wind and intermittent heavy 
rain left the speakers mostly abandoning their prepared remarks to 
merely introduce the next in line.

The elder Bush choked up during his informal and sentimental address, 
while talking about the men with whom he served in World War II.

Four Navy veterans who served with Bush during the war traveled to 
the ceremony, an event the former president called the "third 
happiest day of his life," after his wedding and the day when two of 
his sons were elected governors.

"This is every naval aviator's dream," he said

The 10th of the Nimitz-class carriers -- the largest warships in the 
world -- features technological advancements that make it a bridge to 
the next generation of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.

On Sunday, the carrier was to be launched from its dry-dock into the 
James River and taken to an outfitting berth, where work on interior 
systems will continue.

The former president was the youngest pilot in the Navy when he 
joined, receiving his commission and naval aviator wings before age 

Bush flew torpedo bombers off the aircraft carrier USS San Jacinto. 
In 1944, he was on a mission over the Pacific when Japanese anti-
aircraft fire hit his plane. Bush parachuted into the sea and was 
rescued by a Navy submarine. He later was awarded the Distinguished 
Flying Cross and three Air Medals for his Navy service in the Pacific 

Capt. Kevin O'Flaherty, the carrier's prospective commanding officer, 
is in charge of about 330 sailors now attached to the ship. He said 
he eventually will be responsible for about 3,000 crew members when 
the ship is put into service. It is not known where the carrier is to 
be stationed.

Group files longshot bid for control of lab 
Anti-nuclear activists, partners want Lawrence Livermore to focus on 
peaceful pursuits

San Francisco Chronicle Oct 8 - It's a classic David versus Goliath 

A band of nuclear disarmament advocates, college educators and wind-
energy developers is positioning itself to go up against a consortium 
led by the University of California and the politically powerful San 
Francisco-based Bechtel Corp. for control of one of the nation's top 
nuclear design labs. 

The band, which includes longtime advocacy group Tri-Valley CAREs, 
acknowledges it has little chance of outbidding the UC-Bechtel group 
for management rights to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, 
which has been run by UC for more than half a century. But it plans 
to press ahead anyway. 

The U.S. Department of Energy has given all comers until Oct. 27 to 
submit their contract bids. 

"We do not believe the Department of Energy is going to choose our 
bid. But that isn't how I define 'winning,' " said Marylia Kelley, 
one of the Bay Area's best-known critics of the lab. She runs Tri-
Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment), an 
activist group that in its 23 years of existence has won widespread 
respect for its serious and studied approach to its work. 

But, Kelly said, if her group's bid encourages public support for 
phasing out the lab's nuclear weapons work and diverting its 
thousands of scientists into research on global warming, alternative 
energy sources and other subjects, that'll be a moral victory. 

Short of that, it'll be a moral victory if the campaign stirs enough 
public interest to put pressure on Lawrence Livermore officials to 
run the lab in a more environmentally conscious way and to be less 
secretive about their work developing and refining the world's 
scariest weapons. 

On Sept. 21, Kelley and her colleagues announced they were bidding 
for the contract, teaming up with New College of California, Nuclear 
Watch of New Mexico and WindMiller Energy, a small wind-energy firm 
in rural New York state. 

"It's important for us to try to push for citizen oversight of this 
laboratory (so it can) use science for the benefit of the human 
experience," said New College President Martin Hamilton. 

The Energy Department is expected to name the winning bid in March. 

So far, the UC-Bechtel consortium has been the only other competitor 
to step forward. A UC spokesman could not be reached to comment on 
the rival bid. Susan Houghton, chief spokeswoman for Lawrence 
Livermore, declined to comment. 

The bid marks the first time UC has had to compete to run the lab it 
has managed for more than half a century under exclusive contract 
with the Energy Department. In 2003, Congress and the department, fed 
up with security, safety, management and financial scandals, ordered 
that all future contracts with national labs be open to competition. 
Last December, UC-Bechtel beat out Lockheed Martin Corp. and the 
University of Texas for control of Los Alamos National Laboratory in 
New Mexico, a lab that UC has also managed for decades. 

UC and Bechtel officials say they'll refuse to release a public copy 
of their bid for Lawrence Livermore on the grounds that the 
information might be exploited by other competitors. In an attempt to 
shame UC-Bechtel, the activists plan to post their entire bid for the 
contract online later this month. 

"Lawrence Livermore is a publicly funded institution, funded off 
taxpayers' dollars," said Tara Dorabji, outreach director for Tri-
Valley CAREs. "All bids should be public, and we'll make ours 

Dorabji said that if her group manages to win the contract through an 
extraordinary set of circumstances, the lab would undergo a 
transformation. The group, she said, would: 

-- Spend the majority of lab research funds -- largely provided by 
the Energy Department and the Pentagon -- to develop cleaner, 
renewable energy and to fight global warming. "Currently, the lion's 
share (of money) is going to weapons development," Dorabji said, but 
the lab is already doing "unclassified, fabulous research" on global 
warming that should be expanded. 

-- Greatly speed up plans to move the lab's huge cache of plutonium 
to a safer, remote site. Lab officials currently plan to remove the 
plutonium -- perhaps initially to a site in New Mexico, then perhaps 
to final storage elsewhere -- by 2014. By contrast, Dorabji's group 
would get rid of the plutonium four years earlier, after holding 
public hearings to locate the safest, most secure new site. 

-- Cancel the lab's current plans to expand its "biodefense" research 
facility to study far more dangerous microbes. Accidental release of 
killer bugs "could cause many, many, many deaths in the Bay Area as a 
whole," Dorabji said. 

-- Ban secret experiments using the National Ignition Facility, the 
lab's multibillion-dollar superlaser, which is used primarily to 
simulate nuclear explosions to test the existing stockpile. Rather, 
the group would encourage scientists to use the laser for peacetime 
research, such as experimental simulations of natural phenomena deep 
inside the Earth and in outer space. 

-- Mop up chemically and radioactively contaminated sites at the lab. 

"None of us want to close the lab," said Barbara Dyskant, vice 
president of WindMiller Energy, a three-employee firm that she runs 
with her engineer husband, Barry K. Miller. "They have wonderful 
scientists there whose expertise could be very, very well rewarded by 
working on non-weapons research." 

Hamilton said New College's participation in the bid for the 
Livermore contract is consistent with the 1,000-student school's 
innovative activities, among them its recent move to save the Roxie 
Cinema by blending it with the campus' media studies program. 

The Livermore contract bid "is a challenge I could not pass up," 
Hamilton said. "A lot of us use Don Quixote as a metaphor (for our 
work)." But unlike the fictional Quixote, "we don't want to attack 
windmills -- we want to use them to generate energy." 

US Navy denies radiation leak from nuclear submarine off Tokyo  

TOKYO (AP) Oct 6 _ The U-S Navy says a Pearl Harbor-based nuclear 
submarine wasn't responsible for a radiation leak detected in waters 
near Tokyo. 

A Japanese ministry has said tests found radioactive material, 
including substances such as cobalt 60, in waters off Yokosuka as the 
U-S-S ``Honolulu'' left port September 14th. 

The ministry says the amount of radiation was so small that there was 
no danger to surrounding residents or the environment. 

The Commander of the U-S Naval Forces in Japan says an investigation 
concluded there was no ``deliberate'' or ``accidental'' discharge of 
radioactivity from the ``Honolulu.'' 

The Navy statement also said the leakage reported by Japan was far 
lower than the Japanese commercial nuclear power plant regulatory 

Research seeks pills for anti-radiation

The Salt Lake Tribune Oct 8 - Scott Miller holds a portion of a bone 
from Russia. Miller just received a grant to... (Rick Egan)«12»Scott 
Miller spends his days envisioning worst-case scenarios of a nuclear 
    Then he huddles in his lab at the University of Utah and develops 
treatments the federal government hopes will protect Americans from 
the awful consequences of radiation exposure. 
    Lung cancer. Liver cancer. Bone cancer. 
    Now, he and his colleagues are on a fast track to deliver new 
drugs that help the human body excrete radioactive materials, whether 
they're inhaled, ingested or absorbed through the skin. 
    The drugs must be easy to take, available on a wide scale, and, 
of course, nontoxic themselves. 
    Perhaps most important, they need to be effective against any 
number of materials an enemy might use in a dirty-bomb attack. 
    "The dirty bomb changes things," says Miller, who heads the 
School of Medicine's radiobiology division. "If you have a nuclear 
worker working in a nuclear production plant, you know what they're 
going to be exposed to. If you have a dirty bomb, golly, that could 
be a lot of different things." 
   "A nasty situation": Last month, the National Institute of Allergy 
and Infectious Disease awarded Miller a $675,000 grant to develop 
anti-radiation treatments - ideally in the form of a pill - that can 
be added to our national stockpile. 
    Researchers at two other universities and one federal lab 
received a combined $3.3 million under the same initiative. 
    The national stockpile has a few countermeasures for radiation 
exposure, but they're effective against only a handful of materials, 
and they have to be given by injection, said Bert Maidment, associate 
director of product development in the agency's Division of Allergy, 
Immunology and Transplantation. 
    "If you have a mass-casualty situation, that's probably not going 
to work for us, so we want to develop a [treatment] that's more 
easily distributable to an exposed population," he said. "We want to 
develop an oral formulation for these drugs so they will be more 
easily used in a nasty situation." 
   A dirty bomb isn't capable of causing Hiroshima-scale devastation 
because it lacks nuclear technology. What makes a dirty bomb so scary 
is its unpredictability. 
    Its radioactive ingredients can be delivered via an explosive 
device, an aerosol device or even a stationary object - such as a 
public trash can - that quietly emits radioactive materials as 
pedestrians pass by. 
   "Now, we've moved into the terrorism era," says Miller, who has 
been working in anti-radiation for 30 years. "We used to fear the 
threat from Russia, and now we fear whatever, wherever it might come 
   How to help victims: Miller received one of the grants because of 
his previous research in anti-radiation treatment. 
   He is one of the few scientists in the world the Russian 
government has allowed to analyze tissue samples and medical records 
of 27,000 former Soviet workers who built the country's first 
plutonium production plant under Josef Stalin. 
    "There are no humans left in the world who have these kinds of 
exposure," he says. "They didn't really know what they were working 
with, and they contaminated everything." 
    He and his colleagues already have developed compounds called 
chelators (KEE-lay-tors) that grab specific radioactive metals inside 
the body and help eliminate them naturally through urine or feces. 
    Their chelators are especially effective at getting rid of 
    Their task now is to develop compounds that work against other 
elements, including mercury, uranium, lead and cadmium. 
    "Our chelators are meant to work in the absence of knowing too 
much about what [people] are exposed to," he says. 
    Ridding the body of radioactive material should minimize exposure 
and adverse health effects, Maidment says. 
    Miller and colleagues from several academic disciplines - 
including engineering, pharmacy, and geology and geophysics - will 
test those compounds in mice exposed to various radioactive 
    In 18 months, he and researchers from the other institutions will 
share their preliminary data with Maidment's agency. 
   The government then will decide whether to press ahead with drug 
development and the Food and Drug Administration approval process. 
   If the drugs look promising, the agency will spend another 18 
months to three years testing them in human safety trials and in 
animal trials that predict their effectiveness in removing 
radioactive materials from humans. 
   It could be three to five years before the drugs are tested, 
manufactured, purchased and added to the national stockpile, even on 
an emergency basis, Maidment says. 
    Believe it or not, that's a fast pace in the drug-development 
    "Even at this advanced, targeted, product-development phase, it's 
going to take time," he says. "You've got to do it right the first 
time. It has to work, and it has to be safe." 
   rlynn at sltrib.com 
   A look back at the U.'s division of radiobiology 
    * Opening the lab: The federal Atomic Energy Commission launched 
the Radiobiology Laboratory at the U. in 1950 to study long-term 
health effects of exposure to radioactive materials used in nuclear 
technologies. It was one of a handful of U.S. labs doing this kind of 
work. The commission owned the lab but contracted with the U. to 
operate it. 
   * Early research: In the 1950s, scientists at the lab studied 
plutonium, a newly discovered element found effective in nuclear 
power reactors. They also began studying how radioactive materials 
cause cancer. This work continues today. 
   * Looking for solutions: Scientists in the 1970s tested whether 
certain compounds bind to radioactive elements and promote their 
excretion from living organisms. 
   * U. takes over: The U. assumed ownership of the lab but continued 
to draw funding from the U.S. Department of Energy. 
   * Helping victims: Since the 1990s, division director Scott Miller 
and other university faculty have lent their expertise in radiation 
exposure cases, including those near the Nevada test site, American 
uranium workers, victims of the Chernobyl explosion and former 
workers who helped build the Soviet Union's first plutonium plant. 
   * Patented design: In 1995-96, Miller and scientist Fred Bruenger 
patented several orally administered compounds that eliminate 
plutonium from the body. 
   * A broader goal: Last month, Miller secured a federal grant to 
develop drugs that eliminate several radioactive materials from the 
human body. 
   Source: Scott Miller, director of the division of radiobiology at 
the University of Utah's School of Medicine

Sandy Perle

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