[ RadSafe ] Nuclear News - More nuclear power OK'd

Perle, Sandy sperle at mirion.com
Tue Jul 8 18:29:13 CDT 2008


More nuclear power OK'd
Report urges U.S. to embrace nuclear power growth, despite risks
Liquid with traces of uranium leaked from nuclear site in southern France
Alberta nuclear plant would create 2,700 jobs: report.
Minister: Nuclear capacity would not be needed until 2025 - Chile
South Africa: Eskom Neglects Regional Power Projects in Favour of Nuclear Expansion

More nuclear power OK'd
G8 calls it an 'essential instrument' in cutting use of fossil fuels

TOYAKO, Hokkaido - The Group of Eight leaders gave the green light Tuesday to expanded development of nuclear power, saying it is a vital energy source in the fight against global warming.

But they warned that further development of nuclear plants must adhere to nonproliferation standards.

"A growing number of countries have expressed interest in nuclear power programs as a means to addressing climate change and energy security concerns. These countries regard nuclear power as an essential instrument in reducing dependence on fossil fuels, and hence greenhouse gas emissions," the leaders said in a statement on environment and climate change.

At the same time, the G8 leaders said those nations wishing to pursue atomic power must assure the international community that nuclear materials are tightly controlled and not diverted for arms.

"We reiterate that safeguards (against nuclear nonproliferation), nuclear safety and nuclear security are fundamental principles for the peaceful use of nuclear energy," the statement added.

Some 29 countries worldwide have indicated they wish to introduce nuclear power, while countries that currently use the energy source, especially Japan, the United States and Russia, have announced plans to expand capacity. In a separate report on global energy security principles, Japan said it plans to increase nuclear power generation to as much as 40 percent of total electricity generation by 2030. 

However, plans to continue to build not only conventional uranium-powered plants but also a spent fuel reprocessing plant in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, and to promote plutonium-burning fast-breeder reactors have long been a source of controversy within and without the G8.

Antinuclear activists and environmental NGOs have dismissed G8 plans to increase reliance on nuclear power as a solution to climate change, while nonproliferation experts and many IAEA officials have expressed concerns about increased proliferation.

"All this talk of a worldwide nuclear renaissance is just that. The reality is that no new plants have come on line in years, and given the huge investment and long time frame it takes to start up a nuclear power plant, it's unrealistic to think that they can help alleviate climate change anytime in the future," said Jurgen Maier, a German NGO representative.

Report urges U.S. to embrace nuclear power growth, despite risks

WASHINGTON, July 8 (UPI) -- A report from a State Department advisory panel says a coming large expansion in global nuclear power generation poses proliferation risks, but the United States must embrace it to ensure that nuclear supplier nations build safeguards into the growing market.

The report highlights division among experts about the future of civil nuclear power across the globe, the risks it poses, and the degree to which U.S. policy should support its spread. Some critics of the report say the expansion of nuclear power is not inevitable and should be resisted.

A task force of the International Security Advisory Board -- chaired by former Pentagon and World Bank official Paul Wolfowitz -- produced the report, titled "Proliferation Implications of the Global Expansion of Civil Nuclear Power," in response to a request from Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Robert Joseph.

The task force, led by former Reagan and Bush I arms negotiator and government scientist C. Paul Robinson, produced their relatively brief (10 pages, with about twice that in appendices and introductory material) report in just two months earlier this year. A copy was posted recently on the State Department Web site.

The report says global demand for power is likely to rise by 100 percent by 2030. "Nuclear energy is likely to be in great demand because of the large price increases for oil and natural gas and the fact that nuclear power produces no carbon (or other) emissions."

Robinson bluntly says the expansion of civil nuclear energy generation is not just inevitable, it is already under way.

"You just have to read the newspapers to see that this is the case," he told United Press International.

The report cites a list prepared by the State Department in 2007 of a dozen countries planning to join the nuclear power club, or "giving serious consideration" to it, within the next 10 years -- including the former Soviet Central Asian nations of Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan; Islamic giants Indonesia, Egypt and Turkey; and Poland and the Baltic states. 

Fifteen other nations -- including Algeria, Ghana, Libya, Malaysia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen -- have "longer-term plans or studies under way," according to the State Department list.

While wealthier countries "can try to buy their way out" of the looming energy crunch, "the Third World does not have that option," and there are few real alternatives to nuclear power for many countries. "There has proved to be no silver bullet in renewable or other alternative energy sources." 

The report says there are currently 435 nuclear reactors operating around the world, with 28 new ones currently under construction. It says 222 more are being planned.

"It's a pretty depressing prospect," Robinson concluded.

One of the key concerns is the two principal ways of making nuclear fuel -- the enrichment of uranium, for instance, in huge installations of centrifuges; and the reprocessing of spent fuel into plutonium -- can too easily be used to make weapons-grade material for nuclear bombs.

So the panel recommends the United States -- in partnership with other countries that already have the capacity to make fuel, the "supplier nations" -- volunteer to "provide reliable, economical supplies of fuel to nations undertaking new or additional nuclear energy plants" with tough safeguards to prevent them developing their own capacities.

But critics challenge their premise, saying the idea that the growth of nuclear power generation is inevitable is a canard. 

Many of those 435 reactors currently operating are due to be retired in the next 20 to 30 years, points out Henry Sokolski, a proliferation expert who worked for Wolfowitz in the Bush I administration and currently sits alongside him on the congressionally mandated blue-ribbon panel examining the threat of terrorist attacks using nuclear material or other weapons of mass destruction.

Nuclear energy is too expensive and too risky to be a commercially viable venture without government support, he told UPI.

"There's a reason no one in the private sector wants to do this with their own money," Sokolski said. "Nuclear power is a hard sell, literally. ... What the (U.S.) nuclear industry is doing is asking for government handouts, in the form of tax credits, loan guarantees and insurance caps."

Reprocessing is also not economically feasible without government financial support. "Working with plutonium requires special safety measures which are very expensive," Sokolski said.

The idea that new technologies could help make generation or reprocessing economical is "atomic pie in the sky. The advances required are as far off as making fusion-generation practical, in terms of technology."

Expansion is "not inevitable, it is contingent" on U.S. policy changes. "Maybe nuclear power won't expand. It shrank by 2 percent last year," he said. 

Sokolski called the report "disappointing."

He said its authors "seem to be in the business of promoting the expansion of nuclear power, rather than examining the risks associated with its expansion. ... They should have explained in more detail why we should be concerned."

But the report does make a bald statement, that the expansion of civil nuclear generating capacity "particularly within Third World nations, inevitably increases the risks of proliferation. What the United States must do," it concludes, "is find ways to mitigate those risks." 

"Something is afoot, and we can't put on blinkers and pretend it's not happening," said Robinson.

Liquid with traces of uranium leaked from nuclear site in southern France 

PARIS (AP) July 8 - France's nuclear safety agency says liquid containing traces of unenriched uranium leaked at a nuclear site in southern France. 

The agency says some of the solution ran into two rivers. 

Authorities are banning the consumption of well water in three nearby towns and the watering of crops from the two rivers. 

Swimming, water sports and fishing are also banned in the area. 

A spokeswoman for the nuclear safety agency says about 30,000 litres of solution containing uranium spilled at a factory at the Tricastin nuclear site. 

The site is about 40 kilometres from the historic city of Avignon. 

Another nuclear safety agency official said the liquid contained about 360 kilograms of unenriched natural uranium, which he said is toxic but only slightly radioactive. 

"The risk is slight," Charles-Antoine Louet said. 

The factory handles materials and liquids contaminated by uranium, the fuel for nuclear power plants. 

The liquid spilled from a reservoir that overflowed. It leaked both into the ground and into two rivers, the Gaffiere and the Lauzon, the nuclear safety agency said. It said the cause of the spill was not yet known. Local authorities said the leak happened during the washing of a tank. 

The nuclear safety agency said uranium concentrations in the Gaffiere river were about 1,000 times the normal levels but were dropping rapidly. 

Alberta nuclear plant would create 2,700 jobs: report.

EDMONTON (Canwest News Service ) July 8 - A nuclear power plant proposed for northern Alberta would create about 2,700 long-term jobs and $280 million in annual labour income for the area, says the company that may build the facility.

The 10-year site preparation and construction period alone would generate $12 billion for the Alberta economy, and $7.3 billion for the Peace River region, according to a preliminary study commissioned by Ontario-based Bruce Power Alberta.

There would be about 1,900 full-time jobs at the plant, and 800 indirect jobs in the region, it says.

President Duncan Hawthorne of Ontario's Bruce Power says a new nuclear plant proposed for northern Alberta would bring good economic benefits to the region.

The report is the first step toward a more thorough assessment of the social and environmental impact of the $6.2-billion plant, CEO Duncan Hawthorne said Tuesday.

"While more work needs to be done, this early report paints a good picture of the economic benefits our proposal would bring to Peace Country."

Earlier this year, the company filed an application with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission for permission to prepare the site at Lac Cardinal, 30 kilometres west of the town, for two to four Candu reactors that would generate as much as 4,000 megawatts of electricity.

The company has said nuclear power would be a greener alternative to natural gas to fuel Alberta's oilsands projects. 

But the proposal has faced strong criticism from provincial opposition parties and environmental groups, who say the province is producing enough power without a nuclear plant.

Liberal Leader Kevin Taft said Tuesday the report is all part of the company's public relations efforts.

"The public needs to realize the nuclear industry is very sophisticated at lobbying, and this is part of a lobbying and public relations campaign," he said.

"It's not all milk and honey. There are very significant financial and environmental risks with nuclear power plants." 

Most nuclear plants receive huge public subsidies, and should be a last resort after improving energy efficiency and using more wind and hydro power, he said.

"We are way behind the rest of the world in energy efficiency."

A panel appointed by the province in April is examining issues associated with nuclear plants, including safety, toxic waste, health and environmental impacts.

It's expected to take 10 years for the plant to get through all the regulatory and construction stages.

Minister: Nuclear capacity would not be needed until 2025 - Chile

The time needed to develop a nuclear power program, however, can take 12-15 years, according to the minister. 

"We haven't reached the point where we need to make a decision on the potential use of nuclear energy in Chile," Tokman said after speaking at a conference on nuclear energy hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) in Santiago. "We're not yet even in a condition to make such a decision." 

"But it would be irresponsible to approach 2020 hoping that any one of the other policies we are using will be a magic solution," he added. 

Chile, meanwhile, has enough planned new capacity from hydro, coal and renewable sources to provide a safe margin between installed capacity and power demand to last until 2020. The timeframe could extend further if efficient practices are implemented. 

If no new major source of power is developed however, the country will begin to face a long-term power gap after 2020. By 2030, capacity demand in Chile is expected to reach 25GW, which would require an installed capacity of 35GW for an appropriate safety margin, according Tokman's presentation. 

The country's current installed capacity is around 12GW. 


The efforts required to implement a nuclear program, meanwhile, would be tremendous, according to the minister. 

"The efforts that we would need to make to implement a safe nuclear program would be equivalent to what the US had to do to put a man on the moon," Tokman said. 

"We can't make this decision using the prospective of our current tight power situation." 


Chile will continue with its studies of nuclear energy, as no country can rule out the power source, he said, citing some of the benefits that could be seen from the implementation of nuclear energy. 

The power source could cushion the country - which imports 90% of its fossil fuels - from prices shocks like the one Chile is facing. 

Uranium, which can be purchased from a wide variety of suppliers, does not account for a large portion of the total cost of power generated by nuclear plants. The power source also emits relatively low amounts of CO2, the minister said. 

"Nuclear power is competitive, reliable and safe if it's done right," Tokman said. 

The country will continue studying the potential use of the power source. 

"It's a very serious discussion and you have to have the answers beforehand," Tokman said, adding that no company would invest in a project if a large part of society were against the use of nuclear energy.

South Africa: Eskom Neglects Regional Power Projects in Favour of Nuclear Expansion

South Africa's power utility Eskom is going slow on regional energy projects to enable it to put in place its nuclear power option - putting a question mark over longer term regional strategies.

This was the view of energy analysts at this week's Africa Energy Forum, which took place in Nice, France this week.

Representatives of international and regional power utilities  were surprised at the absence of Eskom at the annual gathering - some saw it as reflecting the company's embarrassment after the power blackouts that have been hitting hit SA and its neighbours since January.

Eskom has been using use gas turbine plants to cope with the demand at a cost of 23.08 cents/kWh, substantially higher that 1.28 cents/kWh average cost to operate coal-fired plant. The power crisis has also meant that mining production in the first quarter declined 11.4% over 2007. Eskom's expansion plans will only bring relief by 2012.

To bridge the gap, Eskom plans to double its current generation capacity, reaching 80,000MW by 2025, and is investigating options to build a conventional nuclear power 20,000MW capacity equivalent to 25% of the total projected capacity.

Five sites have already been identified - Brazil and Schulpfontein on the Northern Cape west coast, Duynefontein and Bantamsklip on the Western Cape coast and Thyspunt on the Eastern Cape coast. Analysts quoted in the ESI Africa magazine anticipate that by 2030 some 30% of South Africa's energy mix will be nuclear.

Eskom will have to bridge the gap between now and 2012 but has clearly decided to downgrade its regional projects. Since last year there has been no major progress elsewhere. The Mmamabula coal-fired power station in Botswana is expected to produce 2,400MW during its first phase but the development of the project is experiencing delays. The start of commercial operations was scheduled for early 2012, but in Nice the head of the Canadian CIC-Energy company, Gregory Kinross, said that a power purchase agreement between the company and Eskom for most of the electricity generated has not yet been signed. This means that commercial operations may have to wait another year to 2013.

Meanwhile, Margaret van der Merwe, the head of the 675MW Kudu gas power station project in Namibia, complained that "Eskom's risk appetite is limited". Likewise, representatives of the Congolese SNEL electricity parastatal told SouthScan that over the last few months neither Eskom nor other South African entities had been involved in the development of the Inga III or Grand Inga projects.

Other Southern African utilities have shown much more enthusiasm because they fear that in the event of a further power crunch they will come second in Eskom's supply priorities; Eskom shares power with other SADC countries.

In the view of a South African-based energy consultant, Eskom, which has a good deal of control over the regional energy market, is deliberately dragging its feet, preferring to rely on costly "interim solutions" offered by diesel-powered engines in order to secure a market for its future nuclear industry.

But the result could be a deterioration of Eskom's relationship with other countries in the region. The Inga dam project, for instance, is much more than just a hydro power scheme; it is projected to be the centre of a grid that will supply much of Africa and will integrate SA's industrial hub into the wider region. This is as much a political strategy as an economic one.
"If Eskom tends to think less regional, we may be forced to reassess our projects under a more local scenario", a representative from another power utility in the region told SouthScan.

This would be a blow to South Africa's ambition to be the locomotive of the regional energy sector. However, it indicates the extent to which the nuclear power option has become central to the SA government's strategy forthe coming decades, as exemplified in its just agreed nuclear programme.

Sander C. Perle 
Mirion Technologies
Dosimetry Services Division 
2652 McGaw Avenue
Irvine, CA 92614
+1 (949) 296-2306 (Office)
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