Two Pressurized Water Reactors under construction at Kudankulam nuclear power plant, India (photo: IAEA, 2013)
Nuclear power has had a makeover. What was once seen as a futuristic source of limitless energy has been reframed as a response to global warming, an ideal solution for countries looking for a continuous source of low-carbon power. Nuclear advocates claim that nuclear power capacity is expanding, but according to Paul Dorfman, Honorary Senior Research Associate at the Energy Institute at University College London, in reality the global picture is mixed at best.
At the moment 31 different nations operate nuclear power plants (see page 14 here, with a total of 388 reactors, and before Fukushima, most planned nuclear power plant projects were in Asia and Eastern Europe, extending a trend from earlier years.
Industry lobbyists the World Nuclear Association suggests that nuclear power capacity worldwide is increasing steadily, with more than 60 reactors under construction in 13 countries. They say that eight countries are either planning to build for the first time (Belarus and United Arab Emirates), have signed contracts (Lithuania and Turkey), or have some plans to build (Bangladesh, Jordan, Poland, and Vietnam).
In contrast, the more independent World Nuclear Industry Status Report describes a declining trend, with annual nuclear electricity generation reaching a maximum of 266 GW in 2006 and dropping to 235 GW in 2013 – with 50 fewer operating reactors than the peak in 2002, and total installed capacity comparable to levels last seen two decades ago. This decline is also confirmed in BP’s recent Energy Outlook.
Oil and coal are set to decline but renewables not nuclear will take up the slack. BP energy outlook 2035
In terms of new build, 67 reactors are under construction worldwide with a total capacity of 64 GW. For the nuclear industry this at first sounds promising, but then “under construction” doesn’t necessarily mean it will be finished any time soon – work first began on one reactor opened in Argentina last year back in 1981.
It’s true to say that the risk to people, the environment and to the future of nuclear energy from another major incident is still very real, and reactor accidents from “beyond design-base” cascading events, such as the Fukushima disaster and all other major nuclear accidents, are the single largest financial risk – far outweighing the combined effect of market, credit, construction and operational risks. The thing is, in trying to “design out” these accidents, reactors have become much more expensive, complex, and hence, difficult to build on time and on budget.
Of the 67 currently being built, eight reactors have been under construction for more than 20 years, another for 12 years; and at least 49 have significant delays. For the remaining 18 reactor units, either construction began within the past five years or the reactors haven’t reached projected start-up dates, with construction projects in Finland and France very many years behind schedule. Average construction times are increasing:
Note: bubble size is equivalent to the number of units started up in the given year. MSC based on IAEA-PRIS 2014
The Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom is building in Russia, China, and Belarus, and claims more than 20 export reactor orders in Iran, Turkey, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Jordan, Hungary, Finland, Egypt, India and South Africa. But there are questions about whether it’s got the finances and supply chain resources to carry out more than a small fraction of these – most depend on Russian finance, hit hard by the recent downturn, and Rosatom is already facing delays in its homeland due to lack of resources.
Meanwhile, the World Nuclear Status Report shows that China has 28 reactors under construction – 42% of the world’s total new-build – with 21 reactors (17 GW) in operation, which in 2013 provided 2.1% of the country’s electricity. If all their reactors under construction come online before 2020, this would bring the total to 49 reactors. To put this into perspective, in 2013 alone, China installed 12 GW of solar, a threefold increase over 2012.
And recent events have challenged China’s plans for nuclear. There’s been the usual construction delays, cost increases, doubts over the siting of reactors in provinces inland, and questions over safety and regulatory oversight – and, remarkably, just last month, significant faults were found in the reactor pressure vessels already installed in the Areva EPRs at Taishan 1 and 2.
Nuclear Reactors listed as World Nuclear Industry Status Report/IAEA-PRIS, MSC, 2014
While nuclear carries very real technical and regulatory risk – construction cost represents a key challenge. New builds will only go ahead after government guarantees public subsidies, including long-term power purchase agreements. This is because the private sector can’t afford to build new nuclear plants themselves. The reality is that nuclear new builds are high-value, high-risk projects with a marked tendency for significant delay and delay claims, cost growth and investor risk.
For example, in Finland, their nuclear corporation TVO is pressing a €2.7 billion compensation claim for delays to the Olkiluoto EPR nuclear power plant. Perhaps amusingly, the French nuclear corporation Areva is in turn demanding €3.5 billion from TVO. The project’s turn-key price was €3 billion in 2005 and the current estimated price stands at €8.5 billion, with a construction time of 13 years and rising. And just recently, TVO has dashed Areva hopes of building any more EPRs in Finland.
So the general post-Fukushima situation in the EU implies there will be limited construction in the coming decade. Although new builds are still planned in Finland, France and the UK – Italy and Switzerland have cancelled plans for new reactors, Belgium has confirmed a nuclear phase-out, and eight EU countries have signed a declaration that nuclear power is incompatible with the concept of sustainable development.
At the heart of the nuclear question are differing views on value for money, foresight and responsibility. Huge long-term investments are needed and it’s clear there are critical social, environmental and economic decisions to be made.
Germany, Europe’s dominant electricity user, has made its choice. Its decision to phase out nuclear power by 2022 and to instead invest in renewables, efficiency measures, grid infrastructure and energy storage, will prove significant for both European and international energy policy. Editor’s Note This article was first published on The Conversation and is republished here with permission from the author.
Forest fire threatens Ukraine's Chernobyl nuclear zone
Date: 29-Apr-15 Country: UKRAINE Author: Natalia Zinets and Alessandra Prentice
Forest fire threatens Ukraine's Chernobyl nuclear zone Photo: Andrew Kravchenko/Pool An aerial view through a window of a helicopter shows fire and smoke from buildings of an abandoned village are on fire in northern Ukraine, April 28, 2015. Photo: Andrew Kravchenko/Pool
Emergency services were battling on Tuesday to prevent Ukraine's largest forest fire since 1992 from spreading towards the abandoned Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said.
Earlier, the interior ministry had warned that high winds were blowing the fire in northern Ukraine towards Chernobyl, where in 1986 a reactor fire led to the world's worst nuclear disaster.
A 30 km (18.6 miles) exclusion zone remains in place around the plant, which remains contaminated by radioactive particles.
"The situation is being controlled, but this is the biggest fire since 1992. We've not had this scale of fire," Ukraine's Interfax news agency reported Yatseniuk as telling journalists.
"It is around 20 kilometers (from the fire) to the plant. Our emergency services are actively working there to prevent the fire spreading further," he said.
In February, international experts warned that a large amount of dangerous isotopes remained in the forests near Chernobyl, which could be spread by forest fires.
"Wildfires ... pose a high risk of redistributing radioactivity," according to a paper published in Ecological Monographs, titled 'Fire evolution in the radioactive forests of Ukraine and Belarus: future risks for the population and the environment.'
Chernobyl's Reactor 4, the epicenter of the 1986 blast, is covered with a concrete casement that the Ukrainian authorities plan to replace by 2016.
Dana Durnford’s odyssey, in 2014 and 2015, has been to document what has happened and is happening since Fukushima to wild life, plant and animal, in the waters and tidal zone and pools on the West Coast of Canada. His boat is a little Zodiac water craft, almost impossible to sink, but no comfort inn. He has sailed it largely alone, with his intrepid old dog Zoey, for months and for many hundreds of kilometers along the shores of British Columbia and its islands and out to the Queen Charlotte Islands.
Resourceful and brave and determined is Dana, as he struggles and endures many troubles and hardships. For an able bodied person to undertake what Dana has done would be heroic. Dana is physically handicapped from an accident and relies on a wheelchair and crutches.
Dana has taken many thousands of photographs, and has been interviewed weekly many times by Jeff Rense on his radio show at Rense.com. These are archived at Rense.com
Dana is plain spoken and usually low key, sometimes nearly inaudibly so, as he brings us news of the Pacific Ocean’s palliative condition. Even Dana’s angry comments seem muted by his grief and disbelief, as he describes his voyage and his observations and shares his thoughts. His web site already has much photographic and other information, and his current journey will add many thousands more.
Dana’s observations underline that we have reached the end, a dead end, at least for civilization on its contemporary terminally dysfunctional basis, and announces a time of grievous troubles for much of life as we have known it.
From his website:
Fukushima will kill the entire Pacific Ocean
October 9, 2014
Day 18 on the beaches we hit Pine Island off the north east of Vancouver Island and several other islands in a 75 km 7 hour trip. We stayed out till dark it took about 80 minutes to ride back with a full moon behind the heavy rain clouds. We still only found just a small handful of kelp and algae out of 600 known species. We have to hunt to find any species to take a picture of. The chances of finding the same species anywhere else is tiny we still have not seen any sea cucumbers or sea squirts or sea fans or large snails or rocks full of snails and limpets etc etc or life in tidal pools. Underwater life is clinging for the time being but we are not even trying to stop fukushima….
Out of 70 species of sea anemones we have found 5 species collectively throughout the coast lines but only two species on these islands today and they are very few and very random.
We see all along Vancouver Island coast line only 5 species of star fish out of 64 known local species that were everywhere pre Fukushima. Did you know Fukushima really happened and the Jet Streams are real, yea go figure. Did you know that three reactors are bleeding and hemorrhaging into the pacific ocean 24/7 – 365 days a year and that the media and nuclear crazy apologist use numbers from a single release from a single reactor and have never included the ongoing massive plumes pouring into the sea every freaking day and into the jet stream from three 100% melt downs and melt outs all day every day unrelenting.
In BC life accumulates [that is, used to, until Fukushima: RS] in every millimeter of its 26,000 km shore line, after all it was the nursery of the ocean. The B.C. entire coast line’s biodiversity is well known because all universities have [been] categorizing and counting the species around BC coast line for decades, many times over.
I only wonder … what point of extinction will it take before the world cares….[?]
Part transcript of March 9th, 2015 Rense radio interview:
Jeff Rense: “Okay, and we’re going to go up this half hour, somewhere along the wilds of the coast of British Columbia to talk to another remarkable man who has put his life on the line over and over again to try to bring the truth about what’s happening to our west coast whether you be Canadian or American, and that the government will not tell us…. “
Dana: [describing the coastline of Canada] “… less than a hundred species, total, throughout the entire coastline, out of …”
Jeff: “Out of 6500 that ought to be there.”
Dana: “The visible ones and another 5500 or so of invertebrates….
….the divers a couple of days ago found starfish legs and there was two of them [divers] and they were horrified, because, and rightly so, but I mean the whole sea floor was covered in, in ah, star fish legs, a lot of leather starfish, in particular, and just the legs, didn’t find the bodies, just the legs everywhere, and they’re pretty convinced that it’s radiation ….
.... no snails to be found anywhere whatsoever, I couldn’t even find one….
…. normally you would find millions and millions and millions [of snails] on each beech and on the rocks and all the mussels were missing and the algae [is missing and] a lot of them look’s like they’re petrified, but they all look really, really bad, they look really unhealthy, and once again the rocks are bare everywhere else.
…. folks don’t understand, in that entire day of hunting at the low tide zone I could put everything I found in the back of a pickup truck, and that, you should be able to do that on any beach, let alone the entire, you know mile after mile after mile, ah we’re coming to an anniversary of the fourth year, I guess you could call it that.
…. and there was around 50 eagles, that’s the most eagles I’ve seen at any given time since August … to see 50 eagles was really impressive. That was a spectacular event. I stopped and got pictures of it. And it looked like they were feeding and this is something we haven’t seen along the entire coastline. We should see that every mile. And I covered, a few weeks back, I covered over 700 nautical miles and never seen a single flock and there should have been 700 flocks or more if not five times that, because that’s how this coastline used to be, always, no matter where you went, so all of that is missing, there’s just a handful of any species out of 160 odd migratory and 148 residential, there’s only a handful throughout the entire coastline and you’re only finding them in tiny groups so we’re in a lot of trouble….
[Dana’s effort is …]…. so stressful at night time, just trying to come to a stop and have a meal and get some sleep and not drag anchor all night wrong, and have the waves pound you all day and all night, relentless, but … my brain will not let me stop it until we complete it, because it has to get done and nobody else is going to do it. And if we don’t get the job done [recording the situation on the British Columbia coastline] we’ll regret that for ever.
…. but they [Canadian Coast Guard] came all the way into the beach just to yell out and ask me what I was up to. So I told him …. I said I’m checking for damage from the radiation fallout from Japan and he said you finding any? I said “Everything is missing!” I said “Are you blind?!” I named out the species to him and I think I scared the daylights out of him cause they went away but … I was pretty angry…. I was heartbroken, I was on this beach after beach after beach and this little group of islands this morning, it’s blowing really hard, and I’m got up tight to an island, and I went to the island and got up on the beach cause you couldn’t do anything else, and it’s stunning that I couldn’t find anything in the microscopic world or the small world ….”
From March 16th, 2015 interview on Rense radio.
Jeff: “…. Mr. Dana Durnford is there, our special guest, who god knows where he is, where are you?”
Dana: “Hi Jeff, yes, I’m back in Queen Charlotte City.
Been a rough ride. Today was a very rough one, so both of the boat motors went down on me today, in rough water….
…. an interesting thing is yesterday I went out at high tide and that high tide strip is really visible. The ocean comes right up to the rain forest here on the coastline and so it’s only like a foot, two foot, at the really highest tide, with a full moon, there will be like a 2 foot gap there. Now yesterday there was probably a four foot gap there and you still couldn’t see any kind of life whatsoever at that high tide line, and that ought to be the best part of it. That’s very telling, because that should be full of the fauna, the flora, the sea anemones and all kinds of little critters that live in that particular zone. That’s a very unique strip along British Columbia that is actually missing. And that was the big thing about getting out here to see, to really say, okay, look, it’s actually missing here too. Cause people won’t believe it until you actually show it to them. You actually basically have to go look and get pictures of it and actually show the people before they’ll ultimately believe you, I know that in my soul, and so that’s why I do the things I do because I know that if we don’t get that data you can’t have a lucid conversation with anybody, but if you got the data they ain’t got no wiggle room, and they’re gonna have to pay attention and they got no way of just disregarding what you say.”
From February 23rd, 2015 interview on Rense radio:
Dana: “….it’s just impossible to imagine that a couple of years ago you could break your neck trying to go ashore at the low tide line and anywhere in British Columbia, this is what I specialize in, these low tide zones, and now you can go ashore anywhere in British Columbia, there’s nothing to worry about, ….[whereas previously, due to all the kelp and algae] you would slip and slide, dangerous, extremely dangerous, very slippery, unimaginable, nobody could make it up the high tide line, at low tide, without really hurting their elbows, or knees, or twisting an ankle, or really being an acrobat, and now anybody can walk ashore. It’s inconceivable! It’s just devastating to the entire eco-system. It’s the nursery of the ocean. It’s all missing!: The very nursery of the ocean itself. And the biggest carbon sequesterer of the ocean is the phytoplankton. And that’s missing. And that was also the biggest oxygen producer obviously. And the basis of the food chain. But it was also the biggest carbon sequesterer on the planet. And so to blame everything on carbon, but there’s nothing there to sequester, like it’s normally been doing throughout whoever knows how long this process has been going on. And so that is all missing. And all I’m trying to, when I say things like they can’t hide it much longer, I truly mean they can’t hide it much longer. I can’t see how they can. They can lie about it all they want for a short period of time, but it’s going to be impossible to ignore a dead ocean…Like I can’t ignore what I’m seeing out there. It’s enough to make you cry. I kid you not.
This is being completed on April 16th, 2015. Over the last couple of weeks, which is far beyond late - after the most despicable dishonesty about, and censorship of, information about Fukushima, a bit more of the disturbing light of reality regarding Fukushima is escaping into view via more or less ‘official’ Japanese spokesmen. The problems at Fukushima are declared “insurmountable”, the technology to fix the situation is declared not to exist. And as Jeff Rense has pointed out, talk of “decommissioning” the Fukushima reactors is propaganda nonsense. Decommissioning is the daunting challenge which can be attempted pertaining to, typically, aged reactors that exist in something of their original form: Much of the plutonium etc of Fukushima has evacuated the scene of the crime, to join the global environment, and extremely radioactive cauldrons of unknown location, and quantity, and makeup, remains. (1)
The official response, globally, has been to tell lies and to censor.
The massive damage to life within and adjoining the Pacific Ocean – on the West Coast of North America, an ecocide - has been demoted to an egregiously distorted footnote. Fukushima is an extreme assault on the blueprint for life of much of the planet.
This is screaming proof of the pathology, and the terminal dysfunction, of our current culture, and especially of our basic institutions of government, and mass communications. We are being fatally misled.
Now, very, very late, Fukushima remains a salvage-what-we-can-operation of the most extreme urgency, and requires our utmost honest and intelligent fullness of attention and discourse. WAKE UP!
Canada last week, April 2015 Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed a deal with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa to confirm the export of 3,220 tonnes of uranium from northern Saskatchewan to India, a country that has never signed the United Nations Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). That very day in Quebec City, Indigenous activists from all over the world working to end uranium mining were meeting with allies at the World Uranium Symposium. The symposium brought together 200 activists and organisers, physicians, environmentalists, and researchers from the natural and social sciences, all working with the intent to dismantle the nuclear industry and the huge costs associated with it. Polls suggest that Canadians oppose a nuclear deal with New Delhi, perhaps out of fear of the proliferation of nuclear weapons. But Indigenous activists reminded the symposium that the most obvious costs were already being felt by their communities, even without the immediate threat of nuclear war. Uranium mining, nuclear power generation, and nuclear waste all result in grievous harm to ecological and human health that lasts for countless generations. Additionally, the social cost is high, in the public subsidies necessary to keep nuclear energy viable, in the diversion of immense amounts of water resources for nuclear industry use, and in the high carbon costs associated with mining, transport, and storage of uranium, which makes nuclear power a dubious choice to fight climate change. The only tangible benefit to Harper's deal with India is the profit distributed to shareholders of Cameco, the company responsible for uranium mining in northern Saskatchewan. Attendees from Saskatchewan's Committee for Future Generations suggested that the complicity between government and industry has led to a health system that refuses to acknowledge problems related to the industry. Saskatchewan environmentalist and former MLA Peter Prebble recalled that when it started in 1952, uranium mining was established in the province to provide plutonium for the nuclear arms industry of the USA, and baseline health studies were never done. While Harper appeases his constituents, the agreement must also be viewed in the context of longstanding grassroots resistance in India to nuclear plants, most famously at the plant in Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu, where the full repressive force of the Indian state has been deployed against anti-nuclear activists. Similar popular resistance occurs in Maharashtra at the Jaitapur plant. India's civil nuclear programme has also been placed under scrutiny through the country's mechanism for public interest litigation. Indian researchers attending the Symposium affirmed that lax industry regulations are a concern, with companies preying on the poor. But Modi too is pandering to those who can extract profit in the short-term from the building and maintenance of nuclear power plants, rather than those who will deal with its long-term costs. Prime Minister Harper stated that the moratorium on export of nuclear industry materials to India, which has been in effect ever since New Delhi used Canadian technology to develop a nuclear bomb in the 1970s, had exerted an unnecessary pall over the collaboration possible between the two countries. While diversion of uranium into military purposes remains a concern, the Symposium did note that the most pressing threat for nuclear war remained in the stockpiles of nuclear weapons still held by the five traditional nuclear powers, the vast majority of them in the United States and Russia, and called for complete disarmament. The symposium's declaration also notes the dangers associated with uranium in all phases of its extraction and use; from mining, processing, civilian and military use, and storage. It calls for a worldwide ban on the exploration and use of uranium, especially in that such activities violate the rights of Indigenous peoples to free, prior and informed consent for activities on their territories. It insists that accountability for those harmed by uranium should last generations into the future while the mineral remains radioactive. That this list of demands has to be stated at all may seem depressing. But there is hope. World experts such as Mycle Schneider reported to the Symposium that the world's generation of nuclear power is decreasing, dropping in 2012 by 12 per cent over the historic maximum in 2006. Additionally, the world's largest builder of reactors, French state-controlled company AREVA, lost up to 88 per cent of its share value between 2008 and 2012. Germany is now creating more jobs in renewable energy than in nuclear and coal energy production.' The declaration also highlights that Quebec is now also home to some of the most promising work against uranium exploitation. The Cree Nation of Eeyou Itschee has stood in solidarity with its citizens in Mistissini who have resisted uranium exploration near their community, with Cree youth walking 850 km across Quebec last year to demonstrate their opposition to the plan. Their work has galvanised opposition around uranium mining, with the Inuit of Nunavik in northern Quebec, the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador which includes 10 Indigenous nations across 43 communities, and over 300 municipalities in Quebec rejecting uranium mines. Meanwhile, Saskatchewan's premier Brad Wall has welcomed the deal with India, stating that the 4,000 workers, including many Indigenous employees, stand to benefit from the deal. The struggle against uranium is not over, not across Canada, not in India, nor elsewhere. An immigrant who made Montreal home, Baijayanta Mukhopadhyay is currently a rural family doctor in northern Ontario. He is an organizer with the Canadian chapter of the People's Health Movement and a co-representative for the North America region on its global steering council. Lori Hanson is on the global steering council of the People's Health Movement. She is a professor in community health and epidemiology and lives in Saskatoon. Declaration of the World Uranium Symposium 2015 Quebec City, Canada | April 16 2015 To endorse this resolution go to the link below: "http://uranium2015.com/en/news/quebec-declaration-uranium">http://uranium2015.com/en/news/quebec- declaration-uranium
, the participants of the World Uranium Symposium 2015, coming from 20 countries on five continents, having gathered in Quebec City, Canada, the traditional territory of the Huron-Wendat Nation, in April 2015; Acknowledging that in 1943 Quebec City was the site where the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada entered into a formal cooperation agreement to develop the first atomic bombs, resulting in the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945; Respecting the moratorium imposed by the Cree Nation of Eeyou Istchee in Northern Quebec on all uranium-related activities on their lands, as well as the broad consensus against uranium development by the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, the Inuit of Nunavik and over 300 municipalities across the province of Quebec;
Recognizing the growing awareness that nuclear power is not a cost-effective, timely, practical or safe response to climate change, and applauding the enormous expansion of the use of renewable energy and the significant strides made in recent years to phase out nuclear power;
Acknowledging the need for sustainable development and responsible environmental stewardship;
Recognizing the unique health, environmental and social dangers present at all stages of the nuclear chain, from the exploration, mining and milling of uranium, to nuclear power generation, the development of nuclear weapons and the storage of radioactive waste;
Recognizing that the risk of contamination resulting from the extraction, use and storage of radioactive substances presents a unique and grave threat to all living creatures, their environments and watersheds, transcending all political and geographic boundaries and enduring for eons to come;
Recognizing that there are stores of radioactive waste throughout the world that have not been effectively isolated;
Recognizing that there is compelling scientific evidence that there is no safe dose of exposure to radioactive emissions, and that even small doses can present health risks to miners and local populations, animals and plant life;
Recognizing that more must be done to understand, recognize and acknowledge the full scope and extent of all social, health and environmental short and long term impacts of uranium and nuclear-related activities on human life, wildlife and plant life;
Recognizing both that the technological development of nuclear energy opens the door to the development of nuclear weapons against which there is no effective protection, and that nuclear power generation facilities present a serious threat in and of themselves;
Insisting that nuclear regulating bodies be independent and work solely in the best interests of people, animals and plant life;
Recalling the tragedies at Three-Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima Daiichi and many other places around the world;
Convinced that all non-military end-uses of uranium, including medical uses, can be readily satisfied in an alternative manner;
Insisting that nuclear weapons and those using depleted uranium be criminalized and that all signatories be held accountable to the obligations set out in the Non-Proliferation Treaty;
Appalled by the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, alarmed by the maintenance and proliferation of nuclear arsenals, and convinced that the devastating consequences of nuclear detonations can be avoided only when all nuclear weapons and the systems that manufacture them have been eliminated;
Affirming that it is in the interest of the survival of humanity and of life on this planet that nuclear weapons are never used again, under any circumstances;
Recognizing that those most immediately affected by uranium and nuclear related activities often lack proper capacity and resources and that, as a result, such activities infringe their fundamental human rights to life and security of the person;
Affirming our commitment to the principles of sustainable and equitable development, and respect for the fundamental human rights of all individuals and peoples for all time;
Acknowledging that unique and irreplaceable cultures and landscapes have been and continue to be endangered by uranium and nuclear related activities;
Acknowledging that the world’s Indigenous Peoples have disproportionately borne the harmful burdens of the global uranium industry, nuclear activities (including nuclear testing) and the dumping of radioactive waste;
Recalling that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples affirms the rights of the world’s Indigenous Peoples to self-determination, and to territorial, social and environmental integrity which includes free, prior and informed consent achieved through an independent, fair, transparent and impartial process, and recognizing that the survival and well-being of Indigenous Peoples depends on full respect for these fundamental and inalienable rights;
Determined to reduce the burden on future generations resulting from the extraction and use of radioactive substances;
Dedicating ourselves to a nuclear-free future;
WE SOLEMNLY DECLARE THAT:
1. We reaffirm the Declaration of the World Uranium Hearing in Salzburg, Austria in 1992, of the Indigenous World Uranium Summit in Window Rock, Navajo Nation, USA in 2006, and of the IPPNW-World Conference in Basel, Switzerland in 2010: Uranium and all radioactive substances must remain in their natural location.
2. We demand a worldwide ban on uranium exploration, mining, milling and processing, as well as the reprocessing of nuclear waste, and the irresponsible management of radioactive waste;
3. We call on all states, authorities and Peoples to recognize and respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples including the right to self-determination and to free prior and informed consent achieved through an independent, fair, transparent and impartial process, and to cease the pursuit of uranium- and nuclear-related activities on Indigenous Peoples’ lands in violation of these rights;
4. We urge all states, authorities and Peoples to provide full, fair and equitable redress to all those harmed by uranium- and nuclear-related activities and to ensure that those responsible are held accountable for their actions and failures;
5. We demand that all states, authorities and Peoples phase out and eliminate nuclear power generation and use, and dedicate themselves to the development and use of intelligent energy services based on sustainable, safe and renewable energy resources;
6. We call on all states, authorities and Peoples to strengthen their commitments to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, to eliminate all existing nuclear weaponry, to cease any and all development of nuclear weapon technologies, and to support and advance a legal treaty to ban all nuclear weapons;
7. We call on all states, authorities and Peoples to ensure that all existing radioactive products, material and structures from all phases of the nuclear weapons and power systems are secured and managed in accordance with the best and safest available technology for the people, animals and plant life.
Fallout from the world's worst nuclear accident just won't go away. Radioactive clouds may once again spread
over Europe, as rising fires release radiation locked up in the upper layers of soil in the dense forests near
Chernobyl in Ukraine and Belarus
Forest fires there have already been re-distributing that radioactivity over Europe. But the situation is set to
worsen with climate change, political instability – and a bizarre effect of radiation on dead leaves.
After a reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear plant exploded in 1986, people were evacuated from 4800 square
kilometres of the most heavily contaminated areas in Ukraine and neighbouring Belarus.
This "exclusion zone" became ahaven for wildlife and a dense boreal forest.
Nikolaos Evangeliou at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research and colleagues have analysed the impact of
forest fires in the region, and calculated their future frequency and intensity. To do so they fed satellite
images of real fires in 2002, 2008 and 2010, and measurements of radioactive caesium-137 deposited
on the area, to models of air movements and fires.
They estimate that of the 85 petabecquerels of radioactive caesium released by the Chernobyl accident,
between 2 and 8 PBq still lurk in the upper layer of soil in the exclusion zone. In another ecosystem this
might gradually fall with erosion or the removal of vegetation. But in these abandoned forests,
says Evangeliou, "trees pick up the radioactive ions, then dead leaves return it to the soil".
The team calculates that the three fires released from 2 to 8 per cent of the caesium, some 0.5 PBq,
in smoke. This was distributed over eastern Europe, and detected as far south as Turkey and as far west
as Italy and Scandinavia.
"The simulation probably underestimates the potential risks," says Ian Fairlie, former head of the
UK government's radiation risk committee, who has studied the health impacts of Chernobyl.
That's because the estimate depends on the half-life the team assumed for Cs-137, he says,
and some investigators believe it is longer.
The team's calculated release would have given people in the nearby Ukrainian capital, Kiev, an average
dose of 10 microsieverts of radiation – 1 per cent of the permitted yearly dose. "This is very small," says Tim Mousseau of the University of South Carolina at Columbia, a co-author of the study. "But these fires
serve as a warning of where these contaminants can go. Should there be a larger fire, quite a bit more
could end up on populated areas."
And the average dose isn't the problem. Some people will get much more, as fires dump radioactive
strontium, plutonium and americium as well as caesium unevenly, and as some foods concentrate these
heavy metals, for example caesium in mushrooms. "The internal dose from ingestion can be significant,"
says Mousseau. The resulting cancers might be hard to spot among many other less-exposed people.
"But they will be very significant for those who experience them."
Increased forest fires seem likely. The area is due to get drier, according to the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change. The team found thatdroughts are already worsening forest fires in both area
and intensity, and those are predicted to worsen.
This may be down to a range of factors, including lack of management of the forests. Most forests are
managed by removing dead trees, clearing roads or cutting fire breaks but this isn't being done here.
Moreover, dead vegetation that fuels fires is accumulating at a rate that has doubled since 1986, the team says.
This is partly because the radiation itself seems to inhibit the decay of leaf litter, perhaps because it kills
key insects or microorganisms. "We brought litter from an uncontaminated zone into a contaminated
area and found it decayed only half as fast," says Evangeliou.
The models predict peaks of forest fires between 2023 and 2036. By 2060, fires might continue, but much
of the radioactive fallout will have decayed away.
To cap it all, once a fire starts, local fire-fighters in Ukraine have seven times fewer crews and equipment per
1000 hectares than elsewhere in the country – a situation unlikely to improve given the ongoing conflict.
The UN Environment Programme is installing video surveillance for fires, but much of the forest is
inaccessible or slow to reach due to blocked roads. "It's like a jungle in there," says Evangeliou.
"This is clearly an important problem and one that applies also to Fukushima, where a significant amount
of forest land has been contaminated," says Keith Baverstock of the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio,
formerly head of radiation protection at the World Health Organization's European office. "They have a very
valid point. The lack of management of forests, the apparently slower decay of vegetation exposed to
radiation, climate change leading to drought and the expansion of forested areas all contribute to increasing
the risk of forest fire and therefore further dispersal of long-lived radioactive nuclides."
The actual amount of radioactivity redistributed by the recent fires is about a tenth of what was deposited
on Europe in 1986, and its health effects are still a matter of debate among epidemiologists.
But long-lived emitters of radioactivity persist and accumulate, so any dose is bad news, says Mousseau.
"A growing body of information supports the idea that there is no threshold below which they have no effect."