[ RadSafe ] Nuclear News - Greenpeace complains to EU over Slovak nuclear plans

Perle, Sandy sperle at mirion.com
Fri Apr 11 15:47:39 CDT 2008


Greenpeace complains to EU over Slovak nuclear plans
Cat naps at U.S. nuclear plant may catch hefty fine
E. Idaho nuclear facility working on shuttle reactor device
Nuclear Protesters Descend On Offutt
Hitachi Finds Nuclear Software Fault; Undetected for 28 Years
Tri-State Generation: Nuclear plant in Holly talk is 'premature'
Japan, France agree to cooperate on climate change, nuclear energy
Will the U.S. recycle nuclear materials for fuel?

Greenpeace complains to EU over Slovak nuclear plans

BRUSSELS (AFP) - The environmental group Greenpeace filed an official complaint with the European Commission on Friday, alleging illegal Slovakian state aid for a "pre-Chernobyl" nuclear power plant project.

The complaint claims that the Slovak authorities used "market-distorting measures" to push through "what would otherwise have been an unviable and unattractive project".

"What this case highlights is pretty simple: when you take dirty tricks out of the equation, nuclear power is expensive, unreliable and underperforming," said Greenpeace EU dirty-energy campaigner Jan Haverkamp in a statement.

A spokeswoman for the commission made no comment on the matter, saying only that the European competition watchdog had not yet received such a complaint.

Slovakia's biggest electricity producer, Slovenske Elektrarne plans to build two reactors at an existing nuclear power plant at Mochovce in the west of the country.

The company, which Italian power giant ENEL has a 66-percent stake with the remaining shares owned by the state, decided last year to complete work on the two mothballed blocs by 2013 with investment expected to total around 1.81-1.84 billion euros (2.37-2.41 billion dollars).

The work had stopped 16 years ago, shortly after the collapse of the former communist regime and ahead of Slovakia's independence in 1993 following the split of Czechoslovakia.

Haverkamp said "the pre-Chernobyl 1970s design of the new reactors raise serious security and environmental questions.

"The evidence gathered by Greenpeace clearly points towards illegal competition practices. We call on the commission to put an end to the nuclear protectionism of Slovakia," he added.

ENEL will be able to operate Mochovce at artificially lowered costs and decommissioning funds in Slovakia "will not be sufficient to fully cover the future decommissioning and waste disposal costs," Greenpeace said.

The green activists claim that Slovakia manipulated the figures by artificially lowering and capping levies paid towards decommissioning and waste funds.

On top of this, the group claims, the Slovak state "plans to massively increase contributions by all electricity consumers towards the so-called historic deficit' for decommissioning and waste management.

The planned new nuclear capacity forms a fundamental part of the Slovak government's plans to boost electricity production to power its booming economy with the country facing the prospect of becoming a net electricity importer from next year.

Cat naps at U.S. nuclear plant may catch hefty fine

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Thursday may fine Florida Power & Light Co $130,000 after security officers at the company's Turkey Point nuclear power plant near Miami were found sleeping on the job.

The NRC said its investigators found that on multiple occasions from 2004 through 2006 "security officers at Turkey Point were willfully inattentive to duty or served as lookouts so other officers could sleep on duty."

An NRC inspector specifically saw on April 6, 2006, a security officer sleeping on duty while posted in a vital area of the reactor, the agency said.

In a letter to the company this week, the NRC said it "considers this matter to be a significant security concern" and sleeping security personnel "cannot be tolerated."

The company has 30 days to pay the fine or file a protest.

Dick Winn, FPL's nuclear spokesman, said the company wants to review the information the NRC has collected on the matter. He said the six security officers accused of sleeping are no longer at the plant and their actions don't reflect the professionalism of the other workers.

Winn said the company has improved the screening and testing of its security force. "We take this seriously," he said.

In January, the agency also fined FPL $208,000 for other security violations at the Turkey Point facility.

Those violations related to two events in 2004 and 2005, when security personnel disabled weapons by removing or breaking firing pins, which the NRC said would not have allowed the workers to protect the plant.

The Turkey Point power plant is located on Biscayne Bay near Homestead, about 30 miles southwest of Miami.

E. Idaho nuclear facility working on shuttle reactor device

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) - Researchers in eastern Idaho are building a device to shuttle radioactive isotopes in and out of a nuclear reactor in eastern Idaho to help produce medical devices to fight cancer.

The shuttle irradiation system will allow materials used to produce medical and industrial isotopes to be moved in and out of the Advanced Test Reactor at the Idaho National Laboratory without having to shut down the reactor.

IsoRay Medical, a Richland, Wash.-based nuclear medical company, wants to manufacture cesium-131 at the reactor.

The isotope is used to treat prostate, lung and pancreatic cancer.

Officials say without the shuttle the reactor would have to be shut down to move the isotopes in and out, making the process more expensive.

Nuclear Protesters Descend On Offutt

OMAHA, Neb. -- Nuclear power brought hundreds of protesters to Offutt Air Force Base on Friday.

The Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space and its local organization, Nebraskans for Peace, are holding the 16th Annual International Space Organizing Conference.

This year, the organization is targeting the U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt.

The conference runs through Sunday.

Hitachi Finds Nuclear Software Fault; Undetected for 28 Years

April 11 (Bloomberg) -- Hitachi Ltd., Japan's third-largest builder of nuclear reactors, discovered a programming error in software used for almost three decades to measure the impact of earthquakes on pipes at atomic power stations.

The mistake, made by a Hitachi programmer, allows the software to underestimate the quake impact on steel pipes associated with eight nuclear reactors owned by six utilities, including Tokyo Electric Power Co., Hitachi spokesman Keisaku Shibatani said by telephone.

Confidence in the safety of Japan's nuclear power plants has been shaken after a 6.8-magnitude earthquake caused a fire and radiation leaks at a Tokyo Electric facility in Niigata prefecture last July. Twelve power producers, responding to a government request, revealed in March 2007 more than 300 cases of improper safety practices. Hitachi reported the software problem to the utilities this week, Shibatani said.

``It was a human error,'' he said. ``We're closely looking into this now.''

Hitachi rose 0.5 percent to 648 yen at the close of morning trading in Tokyo compared with a 1.5 percent rise in the benchmark Topix index.

One of the eight plants was built by General Electric Co., which has an alliance with Hitachi, and the rest employ Hitachi technology. Test results using properly programmed software show the pipes can be used safely, Shibatani said.

The owners of the reactors include Tohoku Electric Power Co., Chubu Electric Power Co., Hokuriku Electric Power Co., Chugoku Electric Power Co., and Japan Atomic Power Co.

Tri-State Generation: Nuclear plant in Holly talk is 'premature'

Talk the past week of a nuclear power plant being constructed near Holly is premature said Jim Van Someren of Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association. Van Someren said the Associated Press story which ran in many papers on Monday incorrectly assumed Tri-State's property located north of the town of Holly was currently being considered for development as a nuclear site.

Van Someren said the story connected two facts that are not necessarily related, the fact the association purchased land and water rights in Prowers County in recent years and the fact the Tri-State board of directors asked to explore various generation options.

"The potential is wide open for any source of technology, we haven't decided on anything yet," Van Someren said. He said the association was exploring several different technology options for the proposed plant including coal gasification, natural gas, nuclear and traditional coal fired technologies.

"If we were going to start the permitting process right now, we'd definitely be going with coal," Von Someren said. He added that since the project has yet to reach the planning stage and is still in the research phase, a decision as to how the plant will be fired has not been made.

Van Someren said the board "simply directed Tri-State staff to pursue potential partners" for a nuclear facility. He said the staff members would be contacting regional utilities and power suppliers to explore the potential for partnerships but that no other measures were being taken at this time.

The generation company's representative said the Holly project is still potentially years away from starting. Van Someren said the Prowers County project is slated after a proposed joint venture with Sunflower Electric Power Corp. of Hays, Kan. to increase capacity at an existing coal fired plant near Holcomb, Kan. The proposed Kansas project has been delayed in recent months due to issues regarding the permitting of the expansion. The Holcomb expansion was denied air quality permits in 2007 by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The issue is currently being litigated in the Kansas court system. State lawmakers have also attempted to pass legislation approving the permits, but have been unsuccessful in enacting the legislation into law.

The Van Someren said the pending outcome of the Kansas permitting issues will determine the time frame for the Prowers County site's development. "There are a lot of ifs right now."

Van Someren said the development of the Prowers County project will be determined by the technologies that are available at the time of planning and construction. He said if the plant is eventually constructed the fuel source could be potentially be something not even in consideration at this point.

"They thought that we'd all be jumping up and down," Prowers County Administrator Linda Fairbairn said concerning rumors of the proposed nuclear plant. "We're tougher around here then they thought."

Fairbairn added that a two billion dollar price tag that has been estimated for a nuclear power plant would nearly triple Prowers County's property tax evaluations.

Local real estate agent Gene Cruikshank said both a coal fired plant and a nuclear powered plant would enhance the region's economic standing. He said he did not feel either option would adversely affect the region's real estate market, but would in fact provide a boost to the area. "We'll it sure can't hurt," Cruikshank said.

He said the coal plants are substantially cleaner now then ever before and nuclear power plants have proven to be safe and reliable and he saw no reason why the construction of either facility would negatively effect the area.

Tri-State is the state's second largest utility behind Xcel Energy. Tri-State serves as a wholesale power supplier to 44 electric cooperatives and public power districts in Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Nebraska. Locally, Tri-State provides power to Southeast Colorado Power Association which serves much of the rural and outlying areas in the region.

The wholesale energy producer currently generates the majority of its electricity through the use of coal fired plants.

Japan, France agree to cooperate on climate change, nuclear energy

TOKYO (AP)- Japan and France agreed Friday to cooperate on climate change and promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

"We agreed to work closely on global issues such as climate change and African development," Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said after talks with visiting French Prime Minister Francois Fillon.

"Japan will strengthen cooperation on nuclear power with France," he said during a joint news conference.

The two leaders "share the view that nuclear energy will play a significant role for the prosperity and sustainable development in the 21st century," said a joint declaration on the peaceful use of nuclear energy announced Friday.

While acknowledging the importance of nuclear nonproliferation, safety and security, the leaders said in the declaration that nuclear energy is becoming increasingly important for strengthening global energy security and tackling global warming.

Fillon's visit marks the 150th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries and comes ahead of this year's summit of the Group of Eight industrialized nations in Japan, where leaders are expected to focus on global warming.

"The summit will be a chance for the developed countries to present a model on how to cut back on carbon dioxide while maintaining development to the developing nations," Fillon said.

The French prime minister is to make a day trip to a nuclear power plant in the northern village of Rokkasho, about 600 kilometers (370 miles) north of Tokyo.

The Rokkasho reprocessing plant, which uses technology from France's state-run nuclear giant Areva, began test operations in March 2006 and is to eventually produce MOX fuel, a uranium-plutonium mixture.

The recycling is a central element of Tokyo's plans to reduce its dependence on energy imports by building fast-breeder reactors, which produce plutonium that can then be reused as fuel.

Resource-poor Japan, which now relies on nuclear plants for a third of its energy needs, aims to raise that to nearly 40 percent by 2010.

Will the U.S. recycle nuclear materials for fuel?

The U.S. does not recycle nuclear waste from power plants because it could be used for weapons, but that might change.

Pete Domenici, the Republican Senator from New Mexico, said the country should start to examine the benefits of recycling fuel, according to the Las Vegas Sun.

France and most other nuclear energy-producing countries recycle fuel. Doing so cuts down the amount of fuel that needs to be mined, as well as the amount of nuclear waste that needs to get buried. Recycling, however, leads to byproducts that can be used to build bombs.

Domenici also said he wants to introduce legislation that would create more nuclear depositories, possibly in New Mexico. The Department of Energy has invested billions of dollars over several years in trying to build a repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. The project, however, faces strong opposition.

No nuclear plants have been built in the U.S. in decades, but global warming, as well as higher prices for coal and natural gas, have revived the industry. An estimated 31 applications for building new nuclear plants in the United States are expected to be filed in the next few years. The applications, though, will likely draw strong opposition.

A few start-ups are also tinkering with nuclear fusion, which produces much less waste than nuclear fission, the basis of nuclear plants today. (Nuclear plants basically create heat, which is used to create steam to crank a turbine.)

Sander C. Perle 
Mirion Technologies, Inc., Dosimetry Services Division 
2652 McGaw Avenue
Irvine, CA 92614

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