Thursday, 20 December 2012

Guilty nuclear protesters in defiant mood

Four people who blocked workers access to the Hinkley Point nuclear complex for nearly 4 hours in November pleaded guilty to obstruction of the highway at Taunton Magistrates Court today.  The four were each given 12 months conditional discharge and ordered to pay £100 expenses.

Speaking after the verdict,  tree surgeon Zoe Smith from Bristol was in a defiant mood.  “Two days after we used lock-on tubes to form a human barrier at Hinkley Point the same tactic was used at EDF’s other planned development  at Sizewell  in Norfolk.  This is a national campaign and I expect there will be many more surprises for EDF over the coming months.   If the tories are prepared to pressurise our local representatives,   change planning laws, and rubber-stamp EDF’s reactor design without a rigourous safety assessment, then we are prepared to put our bodies on the line to oppose them.  The workers at the development site are clearing away our landscape before EDF even have planning permission”.   On the day of the protest blockade Ms Smith had said that she was also there to register opposition to plans for extending the license of the ageing reactor at Hinkley B.  The licence has since been granted by the Office of Nuclear Regulation, in spite of concerns over cracks in it’s graphite core.

Greeted by supporters outside the court,  Barnaby Hodges (29) a catering worker from Glastonbury, said “I am proud of what we did.  I have never been arrested for protesting before, but like many people in Glastonbury I am ready to take whatever non-violent action is necessary to prevent  the building of a potential Fukushima only 25 miles away.   It is a scandal that local people are being excluded from decisions which could lead literally to the evacuation of Somerset.  It’s not as if there aren’t any alternatives.”

Bob Nicholls (55) who works with the homeless in Bristol said, “I don’t consider what we did was a crime.  The real crime is that Hinkley C will be given the go ahead without any genuine consideration of the extreme danger that nuclear accidents and centuries-long radioactive  waste  storage will pose to the people of the south west.  The entire planning process has been corrupted by the governments fixation with nuclear, at a time when we urgently need to switch to safe and renewable  energy in the UK”.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012


Campaigners have accused Britain’s Office for Nuclear Regulation's nuclear regulators of caving in to government pressure and approving a new reactor before its design has been properly assessed. The ONR had previously said that outstanding design problems would not be resolved by the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) before March 2013.

In 2009, independent nuclear experts Large & Associates warned that if the EPR licensing process was allowed to proceed on a piecemeal basis it could be compromised by having to wave through unsatisfactory aspects of the final design. More recently, they called for the ONR to come clean about delays, claiming that resolving outstanding issues by the end of 2012 deadline was unachievable. (1,2)

Speaking today, John Large said, “ I was extremely surprised to hear that the ONR claim to have wrapped this all up when there are still so many unresolved problems arising from Fukushima and the central issue of Instrumentation and Control”.

UK, French and Finnish regulators have been voicing concerns over “Instrumentation and Control” of the new EPR reactors for nearly a decade. Some of these concerns relate to the independence of important systems, whilst others address problems of diversity and susceptibility to common cause failures. UK regulators have previously insisted that the reactors should have a separate non-computerised safety system as a fail-safe.  It is unclear from the documents in the public domain whether or not such a system is now actually proposed and if so, whether it has been assessed. (3)

The lengthy GDA process has been under immense strain, caused by a lack of technical assessors and by EDF being untimely with their submissions. As recently as Spring this year, the ONR stated that at least three control and instrumentation issues were subject to significant delays that “could not be recovered” and would “impact on the target closure date”. (4,5,6)

Stop Hinkley spokesperson Nikki Clark said: “We're very concerned about this development - how can the regulators claim that these issues are resolved ahead of their target deadlines, when their own reports indicate otherwise? We will be writing to the ONR to ask how they've managed to finish the GDA ahead of recent forecasts for completion.”

“The key issue of reactor safety at Hinkley C was excluded from recent public consultations by the planning inspectorate. The ONR’s speedy conclusion of the GDA process make’s permission more likely, yet the findings of the GDA decision will not be available for public scrutiny until March 2013 – AFTER approval for Hinkley C has already been granted!”

“The hurried conclusion of this assessment, without public transparency , has only added to our concern that regulators are now putting political deadlines before public safety.” (7)


Contacts:   Large & Associates, John Large: 020 8317 2860
            Stop Hinkley:   Nikki Clarke, 077369 30069  Theo Simon, 07805 666239

Notes to editors

1  Stop Hinkley press release July 2009

2  Large & Associates 2nd Interim review of Generic Design Assessment Outstanding Issues, 3rd Sept 2012 GDA Review/R3206-I2.pdf

3  Large & Associates 2nd Interim review of Generic Design Assessment Outstanding Issues, 3rd Sept 2012 GDA Review/R3206-I2.pdf

4  Office for Nuclear Regulation Generic Design Assessment Quarterly report 3rd quarter 2010

5  Office for Nuclear Regulation Generic Design Assessment Quarterly report 4th quarter 2010

6  Office for Nuclear Regulation Generic Design Assessment Quarterly report 2nd quarter 2012

7  Stop Hinkley NFLA joint press release

Sunday, 16 December 2012

France - Human chain reaction has begun - build up to THE event in Paris 9 March 2013

On Saturday afternoon in the city of Rouen, Normandy - people joined hands to send out a simple messge "yes to renewable energy and no to nuclear".  A very festive occasion with kids, parents, grand parents and in general a wide range of people from all different backgrounds.

This is the first in a series of events in Rouen, with more to follow throughout France and Europe leading up to the massive event on 9 March 2013 in Paris.  Our goal is to surround  different places where decisions are made regarding nuclear such as: Areva, EDF, parliament, the Nuclear Safety Authority, etc.. with a giant humain chain to show that enough is enough! 

For more info check out the site: (in French for now but translations to follow)

Inline images 1

Here is the flyer for the event in French:

Inline images 2

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Nuclear giant EDF postpones decision on new Hinkley Point reactor

UK energy policy cast into doubt after company breaks pledge to make investment decision by end of 2012
Hinkley Point power station in Somerset
Hinkley Point nuclear plant in Somerset, where EDF is deciding whether to build a new power station. Photograph: PA
The troubled French nuclear giant EDF has postponed its decision on whether to build a new power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset.
The delay puts the nuclear renaissance at the heart of the UK government's energy plans into further doubt after a difficult week in which EDF was hit by cost overruns and the exit of its partner from a key French project.
The new reactors at Hinkley were to be the first of a new generation of atomic plants in the UK and EDF had repeatedly pledged to make a final investment decision by the end of 2012.
But the decision to plough billions of pounds into the project is now unlikely to be taken before April 2013, according to sources close to the project, although EDF declined to comment.
"This is another broken promise from EDF on a policy that has always been failing," said Tom Burke, the founding director of the green thinktank E3G.
"To spend at least £14bn on a pair of reactors at Hinkley is very, very high risk."
The latest projections from the Department of Energy and Climate Change have reduced the amount of nuclear power expected in future, with only Hinkley expected to be up and running by 2025, he added.
The energy secretary, Ed Davey, fast-tracked negotiations over the guaranteed price EDF would be paid for electricity from Hinkley to help the end-of-year deadline to be met.
However, amid concerns that consumers would end up paying a high price, the energy minister John Hayes recently warned that the government could walk away from the talks. EDF is also awaiting planning permission to build the reactors and does not expect that decision before March 2013.
A failure to secure the building of the Hinkley reactors would be a serious blow for both the government and EDF, which is majority owned by the French state.
But it also comes in a week that EDF admitted that the cost of building its prototype European pressurised reactor (EPR) at Flamanville in Normandy had risen by €2bn (£1.6bn) to €8.5bn. The following day EDF's partner in the Flamanville 3 scheme, Enel of Italy, announced that it was pulling out.
EDF said in 2005 that it would construct the EPR, which is similar to the ones planned for Somerset, for €3.3bn. The cost overruns – and delays – have partly been blamed on changes required after the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan but they have also been put down to engineers discovering the project was more difficult than they had foreseen.
New statistics just released by Decc show the British government expects only 3.3 gigawatts of new nuclear capacity to be built by 2025 and 9.9GW by 2030.
This compares with 4.8GW by 2025 and 12GW by 2030 as recorded in Decc's energy and emissions projections 12 months ago.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

EDF raises French EPR reactor cost to over $11 billion
12:50 p.m. CST, December 3, 2012

PARIS (Reuters) - French utility EDF has raised the cost of the construction of its next-generation nuclear reactor by more than 2 billion euros on Monday, the latest in a series of overruns for the first EPR reactor built in France.

Stricter regulation in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster contributed to bringing the total cost of the 1,600-MW Flamanville European pressurized reactor to 8.5 billion euros ($11.11 billion), the group said.
In 2005, the state-owned utility estimated the reactor's cost at 3.3 billion euros.

The start-up date of the reactor, which had been delayed by two years in 2010 and another two years last year, is still expected for 2016, EDF said.

"The development of the boiler design, additional engineering studies, the integration of new regulatory requirements and everything learnt from Fukushima have also been taken into account," EDF said in a statement.

Flamanville 3 is the first nuclear reactor built in France in 15 years and a landmark project for EDF, which hopes to capitalize on three decades of experience to win deals to build nuclear plants abroad.

Repeated delays have also hit the construction of the first EPR reactor, Finland's Olkiluoto 3, built by French nuclear group Areva and Germany's Siemens.

EDF, which operates France's 58 nuclear reactors, said it had completed 93 percent of the civil engineering and 36 percent of the electro-mechanical equipment in place.
($1 = 0.7650 euros)

Friday, 30 November 2012

Shocking News. Hitachi the builder of Fukushima buys British Nuclear Venture

Japanese company Hitachi yesterday completed its acquisition of German energy companies E.ON and RWE’s UK joint nuclear venture Horizon Nuclear Power for £696 million.

How shocking, that the British government should stoop so low as to seek a bailout from the Japanese company responsible for the construction of the nuclear power plants responsible for the worst nuclear accident ever to occur in the world.

E.ON and RWE set up the 50:50 joint venture in 2009 to develop new nuclear generating capacity at Wylfa on Anglesey in Wales and at Oldbury in Gloucestershire. Earlier this year, they saw the error of their ways and decided to pull out of the nuclear business altogether. They started looking for a buyer for the venture.

Hitachi could no longer build nuclear power plants in Japan, due to the Fukushima crisis. So who offers to set themselves up like lambs to the slaughter? Britain. Hitachi now says it plans to develop two to three 1300 MW nuclear power plants at each of the sites and will be seeking regulatory approval to use Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) technology, plants that have been plagued by technical problems, argue critics.

“Hitachi is committed to helping the US achieve its vision of a secure, low-carbon and affordable energy supply,” vice president and executive officer Masaharu Hanyu commented in a statement. But we know that nuclear power is neither cheap, nor affordable. Expect to see electricity prices soar.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Radioactive leak from Uranium mine in Finland

Since the beginning of November the dams of a tailing pond of the Talvivaara
nickel and uranium mine are leaking. Hundreds of thousands of cubic
meters of toxic waste waters have been released to the rivers and
lakes. Despite the authorities hope to stop the leakage since November
14th, it now turned out that there are new leakages in the safety dam.

Activists already speak about Finland's largest environmental disaster
in history. Authorities published that the heavy metals released to
nature will kill fish and damage the environment. Uranium readings in
the water are 3 1/2 times above the "recommended level" - whatever
this means. However, operator and authorities again and again try to
downplay the impacts. Yesterday the government had to admit the new
leakage after denying it for days.

Please spread the word, support the Finnish activists to inform the
international public and to put pressure on the Talvivaara mining
company and the Finnish government to close the Talviivaara mine and
allow independent observers to monitor the leakage and safety

We have forwarded several international media releases of the Stop
Talvivaara people already. Please do the same, check the provided
media releases and send them to your media contacts and to
anti-nuclear friends around the world.

I have set up a webpage to inform on the Talvivaara spill:

Dawn blockade leaves nuclear workers locked out

At 6am this morning 10 protestors blockaded access to EDF energy's nuclear sites at Hinkley Point, preventing the morning shift from starting work. 4 people in arm locks formed a barrier across the main access road at Wick Moor Drove in a bid to prevent further ground clearance work at the planned Hinkley C site and to protest at EDF's plan to extend the life of aging reactors at the Hinkley B station.
Sitting beneath a banner saying "Nuclear Power - not worth the risk" Bristol tree-surgeon Zoe Smith said, "We want the destruction of land at the proposed Hinkley C site to stop. EDF still don't have planning permission for the new nuclear plant, the governments energy policy is in tatters. With Centrica pulling out and the long awaited Electricity Reform Act delayed, there is not even enough investment to finish the project. If the tories fix the electricity price for nuclear so that the project can go ahead it will leave a radioactive waste
dump here for hundreds of years." The early morning blockade caused long tailbacks for scores of workers contracted in to perform maintenance work on the the existing reactors at Hinkley B, EDF have signalled their intention to re-licence the reactor again in 2016.

Bridgwater mum Nikki Clark from South West Against Nuclear said, "Not only do we not need new nuclear, we certainly don't need to extend the life of the existing reactors even further. Just this year alone reactor no 4 in the B station has scrammed at least three times. EDF like to call these emergency shutdowns 'unplanned outages' but this deliberately conceals the fact that these ageing
reactors are now in a dangerous condition. In 2008 the regulators threatened British Energy with closure of the site. The reactors do not have any fewer cracks in the graphite core now than they did then. Do we have to have our own Fukushima here in Somerset before we abandon this insanity and embrace a renewables revolution in the UK?"

Stop Hinkley spokesperson Theo Simon said, "We support this protest. New nuclear is dead in the water. We need public investment in a renewables revolution which could create a million climate jobs and cut energy bills through a programme of home insulation and energy-efficiency. With it's massive marine energy resource, West Somerset is perfectly placed to lead the way in renewables, but EDF's plans would turn it into a toxic waste dump for our grandchildren."

From: South West Against Nuclear

Monday, 12 November 2012

US nuclear submarine in collision with cruiser

A United States Navy nuclear powered submarine collided with a cruiser during training exercises off the east coast of the USA on Saturday 13 October 2012.
The USS Montpelier, a Los Angeles-class attack submarine, collided with the Aegis guided missile cruiser USS San Jacinto whilst the submarine was at periscope depth.  The collision resulted in damage to the cruiser's sonar dome, located beneath the waterline on the bows of the ship.
The US navy said that no one was injured and that the submarine's nuclear propulsion plant was unaffected by the collision.  Both vessels were able to return to port under their own power, with the Montpelier arriving at the Kings Bay submarine base in Georgia the day after the collision.
An investigation will inquire into the cause of the collision and determine the responsibility for any fault, and a separate safety investigation board has been set up to identify hazards and the causal factors for the collision.

India wants to build still more nuclear power stations

Kovvada nuclear power plant will displace about 8,000 people

Author(s): M Suchitra

Date: Nov 2, 2012

Andhra government declares five villages in Srikakulam district as project affected

Proposed nuclear power plant site

The Andhra Pradesh government has issued an order, notifying villages that are likely to be affected fully or partially by the proposed nuclear power plant at Kovvada in Ranasthalam block of the coastal district of Srikakulam. The order issued on November 1 by Mrutunjay Sahoo, principal secretary, states that 1,916.27 acres (1 acre equals 0.4 hectare) of land, including 604.12 acres of private land, will have to be acquired for the 6,000 MW project. As per the government’s estimation, 1,983 families (7,960 persons) in five villages will be displaced by the nuclear plant.

The government issued the notification as per the state’s policy—Resettlement and Rehabilitation (R&R) for Project Affected Families, 2005. Villages which figure in the notification of “Project Affected Zone” are Ramachandrapuram, Gudem, Kotapalem, Tekkali and Jeeru Kovvada. The main source of income of people who would be displaced are agriculture, fishing and wage labour, notes the order.

The Department of Atomic Energy of the Central government had given in-principle approval for the 6X 1,000 MW nuclear power plant comprising light water reactors in 2009. The ambitious Rs 60,000 crore plant is being set up by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL).

The government order says the district collector of Srikakulam, in a letter dated June 20, 2012, has stated that the chief engineer of the NPCIL has submitted a proposal for acquiring 2,436.77 acres of land in these villages for installing the reactors, establishing a township and rehabilitating the displaced families. The state government had sanctioned a Land Acquisition Unit in last December for starting the land acquisition process by identifying the land. The acquisition of land and houses will be under the Land Acquisition Act of 1894, says the order. 

Land to be acquired (in acres)
Poramboke (government) land 763.51
Village sites 52.89
Assigned land (government land
distributed to the landless): 495.76
Private land 604.12
Total 1,916.27


An informal information platform for activists and scholars concerned
about the dangers of Nuclearisation in South Asia

Friday, 9 November 2012

Why I continue to fight the Hinkley nuclear plant next door

Theo Simon

While Britain’s green movement remains split over nuclear power, a determined band of campaigners are staging their own protests against a planned nuclear plant in the south-west. Activist Theo Simon gives an insider’s view.
article image
In spring, 2012, around 1,000 people blockaded the Hinkley site, where EDF plans to build a new nuclear plant. (Copyright: Adrian Arbib)
In the southwest corner of Britain, where the mighty River Severn flows into the Atlantic Ocean, a small but significant battle rages over energy and the legacy we leave for future generations.

For a thousand years people have trudged down the long lane that leads through windswept coastal farms to the headland of Hinkley Point, where a fresh water spring bubbles up beside an ancient burial mound. Within living memory villagers believed the water had curative powers and was protected by the spirits of the mound. But in the 1960s two nuclear power stations,Hinkley A and B, were built on the site. The Neolithic mound was fenced off, the lane became a driveway for nuclear workers, and the sacred well was covered by their car-park.

Read also: Nuclear waste: the 270-tonne legacy that won't go away

Now the two stations are at the end of their operational lives, but central government is supporting plans for French energy giant EDF to build a massive new nuclear plant on adjacent farmland. For the government, it looks like a way to cut carbon-dioxide emissions while still expanding the power supply. For those of us who live in Somerset county, it looks like a massive new hazard on our doorstep, a Fukushima waiting to happen, a bottomless drain on public funds and a future radioactive waste dump for our grandchildren.

If it is built, it will only be because it has been steamrollered over us. So the lane is seeing another kind of traffic now, as police vans monitor coach-loads of protesters opposing the plan with blockades, trespass and illegal camps.

Public consultation “a sham”

Because the government declared a “National Policy” to build 10 new nuclear plants in Britain, with Hinkley C as one of the likely sites, most local officials feel powerless to resist. They pressured the reluctant landowner into selling the land, then gave EDF permission to begin ripping it up before the project has even been given the go-ahead.  Ancient oak woodland has been felled, historic buildings have been demolished and precious wild-life habitats destroyed to make way for the biggest building site in Europe. 

Meanwhile, government created a new “consultation process”, replacing the old democratic form of public hearings with a National Planning Inspectorate. They will record your objections – so long as you submit them correctly in writing and don’t question the safety, toxicity, cost or necessity of nuclear power and its radioactive waste products. This reduces local representatives to showing their resistance through wrangles over bits of road widening or costs to the public purse. People believe that the decision has already been made and the consultation is just an expensive sham.

In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, 10 of us dodged security guards in February 2012 and entered the proposed development site to occupy an abandoned farm. We claimed squatter’s rights, raised anti-nuclear banners and flags, talked to the press and TV, broadcast on the internet and invited others to visit us. After three weeks, EDF took us to the High Court and asked the judge for an injunction to forbid all protest at Hinkley C.  They didn’t get the blanket ban they wanted, but did get an eviction order against the people at the farm. Some of us will now face prison if we are seen going back on the site.

None of this has stopped a growing tide of protest. A blockade by 1,000 people in the spring was followed by mass trespass and disruption to site preparation this autumn. Although the police were mobilised in force, they mainly stood by and chatted pleasantly while filming us, as it is their job to intervene only if there is violence or property damage.   They have enjoyed watching us repeatedly outwit the private security guards and dogs patrolling the site.

Read also: Chinese nuclear industry goes global
Many of the police are on our side in their hearts. They are local people themselves, with families who would face evacuation and contamination if there were a nuclear accident, and with children whose great-grandchildren will have to take care of the highly toxic radioactive waste dump which will be remain long after Hinkley C has stopped generating electricity. Recently at a roadblock one officer explained to me that the sea at Hinkley Point has the second highest tidal range in the world and is an ideal place to harvest marine energy – but state investment is lacking. Where nuclear is concerned though, the government now says it may underwrite the construction and fix the electricity price for EDF if that is what it takes to secure enough corporate or foreign state investment to keep the project afloat.

The British state has a historic attachment to nuclear power as a source of nuclear weapons material and a centralised power system that requires secretive control. While no one seriously doubts the need for urgent and rapid action to cut carbon-dioxide emissions to prevent climate change, MPs have questioned the way the decision to use such hazardous technology was made when renewable energy options of wind, sun and wave-power also exist. They believe that nuclear industry lobbyists have corrupted the democratic process. Even at a local level, the press rely so heavily on money from EDF’s advertising that they have effectively become propaganda sheets for the Hinkley C project.

Economic and environmental “blackmail”

Thanks to our protests on the one hand and the reluctance of investors to commit on the other, the nuclear edifice has now begun to crack. Eight of Britain’s 10 planned new-nuclear projects have stalled. But it is still an uphill struggle to challenge such large-scale construction when it has full government backing and a supposedly “green” justification.  Local people feel trapped. Their resistance is softened by cash handouts from EDF to the community – a kind of legal bribe – and the promise of jobs. One local teacher told me she wanted to visit our camp but felt she couldn’t as EDF had given money to her school.

Economic and environmental blackmail makes people reluctant to speak out. “Don’t tell anyone in the village I was here,” said one man who brought supplies to our farm occupation, and he was typical of many. But through direct action and social media, campaigners are making local resistance more visible and inspiring self-confidence. At a recent rally in nearby Bridgwater town, we showed that there are alternative ways to cut CO2 while creating a million new “green” jobs. We also brought survivors from Fukushima to remind workers of the terrible cost communities must pay when nuclear goes wrong. As a former senior engineer from the Hinkley B plant explained to the rally, such human mistakes are always possible when there is strong financial pressure to cut corners in construction and no genuine public scrutiny.

Climate change is global, and tackling it will require global solidarity. Globally also, Fukushima has reawakened ordinary people to the hazards of nuclear power. We have had visits from Indian and European campaigners, and we know that our common future lies in the hands of the larger so-called “emerging economies”, not with us. But hopefully we can play a small part here by successfully rejecting new-nuclear in Britain, while acting to leave our descendants a world which is as clean and safe as the world our ancestors left for us.

Theo Simon is an environmental campaigner and musician with UK band Seize The Day

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Superstorm Sandy Shows Nuclear Plants Who’s Boss

Once there was an ocean liner; its builders said it was unsinkable. Nature had other ideas.

On Monday evening, as Hurricane Sandy was becoming Post-Tropical Cyclone Sandy, pushing record amounts of water on to Atlantic shores from the Carolinas to Connecticut, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a statement. Oyster Creek, the nation’s oldest operating nuclear reactor, was under an Alert. . . and under a good deal of water.

As reported earlier, Oyster Creek’s coolant intake structure was surrounded by floodwaters that arrived with Sandy. Oyster Creek’s 47-year-old design requires massive amounts of external water that must be actively pumped through the plant to keep it cool. Even when the reactor is offline, as was the case on Monday, water must circulate through the spent fuel pools to keep them from overheating, risking fire and airborne radioactive contamination.

With the reactor shut down, the facility is dependant on external power to keep water circulating. But even if the grid holds up, rising waters could trigger a troubling scenario:
The water level was more than six feet above normal. At seven feet, the plant would lose the ability to cool its spent fuel pool in the normal fashion, according to Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The plant would probably have to switch to using fire hoses to pump in extra water to make up for evaporation, Mr. Sheehan said, because it could no longer pull water out of Barnegat Bay and circulate it through a heat exchanger, to cool the water in the pool.

If hoses desperately pouring water on endangered spent fuel pools remind you of Fukushima, it should. Oyster Creek is the same model of GE boiling water reactor that failed so catastrophically in Japan.

The NRC press release (PDF) made a point–echoed in most traditional media reports–of noting that Oyster Creek’s reactor was shut down. As nuclear engineerArnie Gundersen told Democracy Now! before the Alert was declared:

[Oyster Creek is] in a refueling outage. That means that all the nuclear fuel is not in the nuclear reactor, but it’s over in the spent fuel pool. And in that condition, there’s no backup power for the spent fuel pools. So, if Oyster Creek were to lose its offsite power—and, frankly, that’s really likely—there would be no way cool that nuclear fuel that’s in the fuel pool until they get the power reestablished. Nuclear fuel pools don’t have to be cooled by diesels per the old Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations.

A site blackout (SBO) or a loss of coolant issue at Oyster Creek puts all of the nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste at risk. The plant being offline does not change that, though it does, in this case, increase the risk of an SBO.

But in the statement from the NRC, there was also another point they wanted to underscore (or one could even say “brag on”): “As of 9 p.m. EDT Monday, no plants had to shut down as a result of the storm.”

If only regulators had held on to that release just one more minute. . . .

SCRIBA, NY – On October 29 at 9 p.m., Nine Mile Point Unit 1 experienced an automatic reactor shutdown.

The shutdown was caused by an electrical grid disturbance that caused the unit’s output breakers to open. When the unit’s electrical output breakers open, there is nowhere to “push” or transmit the power and the unit is appropriately designed to shut down under these conditions.

“Our preliminary investigation identified a lighting pole in the Scriba switchyard that had fallen onto an electrical component. This is believed to have caused the grid disturbance. We continue to evaluate conditions in the switchyard,” said Jill Lyon, company spokesperson.

Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station consists of two GE boiling water reactors, one of which would be the oldest operating in the US were it not for Oyster Creek. They are located just outside Oswego, NY, on the shores of Lake Ontario. Just one week ago, Unit 1–the older reactor–declared an “unusual event” as the result of a fire in an electrical panel. Then, on Monday, the reactor scrammed because of a grid disturbance, likely caused by a lighting pole knocked over by Sandy’s high winds.

An hour and forty-five minutes later, and 250 miles southeast, another of the nation’s ancient reactors also scrammed because of an interruption in offsite power. Indian Point, the very old and very contentious nuclear facility less than an hour’s drive north of New York Cityshut down because of “external grid issues.” And Superstorm Sandy has given Metropolitan New York’s grid a lot of issues.

While neither of these shutdowns is considered catastrophic, they are not as trivial as the plant operators and federal regulators would have you believe. First, emergency shutdowns–scrams–are not stress-free events, even for the most robust of reactors. As discussed here before, it is akin to slamming the breaks on a speeding locomotive. These scrams cause wear and tear aging reactors can ill afford.

Second, scrams produce pressure that usually leads to the venting of some radioactive vapor. Operators and the NRC will tell you that these releases are well within “permissible” levels–what they can’t tell you is that “permissible” is the same as “safe.”

If these plants were offline, or running at reduced power, the scrams would not have been as hard on the reactors or the environment. Hitting the breaks at 25 mph is easier on a car than slamming them while going 65. But the NRC does not have a policy of ordering shutdowns or reductions in capacity in advance of a massive storm. In fact, the NRC has no blanket protocol for these situations, period. By Monday morning, regulators agreed to dispatch extra inspectors to nuclear plants in harm’s way (and they gave them sat phones, too!), but they left it to private nuclear utility operators to decide what would be done in advance to prepare for the predicted natural disaster.

Operators and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokes-folks like to remind all who will listen (or, at least, all who will transcribe) that nuclear reactors are the proverbial house of bricks–a hurricane might huff and puff, but the reinforced concrete that makes up a typical containment building will not blow in. But that’s not the issue, and the NRC, at least, should know it.

Loss of power (SBOs) and loss of coolant accidents (LOCAs) are what nuclear watchdogs were warning about in advance of Sandy, and they are exactly the problems that presented themselves in New York and New Jersey when the storm hit.

The engineers of the Titanic claimed that they had built the unsinkable ship, but human error, corners cut on construction, and a big chunk of ice cast such hubris asunder. Nuclear engineers, regulators and operators love to talk of four-inch thick walls and “defense-in-depth” backup systems, but the planet is literally littered with the fallout of their folly.

 Nuclear power systems are too complex and too dangerous for the best of times and the best laid plans. How are they supposed to survive the worst of times and no plans at all?

UK anti-nuclear groups condemn Hitachi’s £700 m acquisition of Horizon Nuclear Corporation

UK-based anti-nuclear groups Kick Nuclear & Japanese Against Nuclear (UK) [1] have condemned the £700m acquisition of nuclear new build consortium Horizon by Hitachi Ltd. [2] They call on the Japanese firm to abandon its plans to build new nuclear plants in the UK [3] and are calling for a boycott of the company until it does so.
Hitachi was responsible for the manufacture of one of the reactors at the Fukushima No.1 plant in Japan, which was devastated by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. [4] There are also questions about the reliability of the reactor design Hitachi wishes to build in the UK. [5] Nancy Birch, a spokesperson for Kick Nuclear, said:
“As a Japanese company with first-hand experience of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, which continues to pollute the environment, Hitachi is only too aware of the dangers of nuclear power. Building more nuclear power plants is a danger to everyone and will do nothing to solve the long-term environmental problems we face. “If these nuclear plants are built, it will be us and future generations who will ultimately have to foot the bill for the clean up, with Hitachi walking away with any profits. "We simply don’t need dangerous new nuclear power plants in the UK. Our energy needs can be met more safely, sustainably and cost-effectively through a combination of energy saving and renewable and decentralised energy, including solar, wind and marine energy. “Instead of building new nuclear white elephants, Hitachi should invest in renewable energy. We want a future, not a disaster.”
Notes 1.
Kick Nuclear is a London-based group campaigning against the UK’s addiction to nuclear power and supporting sustainable alternatives.
Japanese Against Nuclear (UK) is a group of Japanese citizens resident in the UK who campaign against nuclear power.  
2. Hitachi news release – 30 October 2012  
3. Horizon Nuclear Power was formed in January 2009 with a view to building new nuclear power plants at Wylfa, in north Wales and Oldbury, near Bristol.
5. The reliability of Advanced Boiling Water Reactors (ABWRs) built so far is not particularly impressive, though only two of those have been built by Hitachi. Shika-2 has been in commercial operation since 2006, yet lifetime operating reliability is less than 50%. Technical problems in the turbines are blamed. Operational ABWRs include: HAMAOKA 5 (Toshiba), KASHIWAZAKI KARIWA-6  (Toshiba) , KASHIWAZAKI KARIWA-7 (Hitachi) and SHIKA-2 (Hitachi) - From list of reactors in operation worldwide in 2009. See: )
The four ABWRs in operation were often shut down due [to] technical problems. The International Atomic Energy Agency documents this with the 'operating factor' (the time with electricity feed-in relative to the total time since commercial operation start). The first two plants in Kashiwazaki-Kariwa (block 6 & 7) reach operating factors below 70%, meaning that about 30% of an average year they aren't producing electricity.[3][4] In contrast other modern nuclear power plants like the Korean OPR-1000 or the German Konvoi show operating factors of about 90%.[5] The output power of the two new ABWRs at the Hamaoka and Shika power plant had to be lowered because of technical problems in the turbines.[6] After throttling both power plants still have a heightened downtime and show other their lifetime operating factors under 50%.[7][8] The following are new Hitachi reactor projects, only one of which appears still to be going ahead:
Oma Nuclear Plant, originally scheduled for completion Nov 2014, has faced an 18- month delay after Fukushima
Shimane was due to be completed in March 2012, but was suspended in 2011
5. Image of Fukushima-1 Unit 4 vessel head being removed, draped in GE-Hitachi banner:

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Making the World a More Dangerous Place: The Eager Role of Julia Gillard

By John Pilger

October 24, 2012 "Information Clearing House" - The Australian parliament building reeks of floor polish. The wooden floors shine so virtuously they reflect the cartoon-like portraits of prime ministers, bewigged judges and viceroys. Along the gleaming white, hushed corridors, the walls are hung with Aboriginal art: one painting after another as in a monolithic gallery, divorced from their origins, the irony brutal. The poorest, sickest, most incarcerated people on earth provide a fa├žade for those who oversee the theft of their land and its plunder.

Australia has 40% of the world’s uranium, all of it on indigenous land. Prime Minister Julia Gillard has just been to India to sell uranium to a government that refuses to sign the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and whose enemy, Pakistan, is also a non-signatory. The threat of nuclear war between them is constant. Uranium is an essential ingredient of nuclear weapons. Gillard's deal in Delhi formally ends the Australian Labor Party's long-standing policy of denying uranium to countries that reject the NPT's obligation "to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament".

Like the people of Japan, Australian Aborigines have experienced the horror of nuclear weapons. During the 1950s, the British government tested atomic bombs at Maralinga in South Australia. The Aboriginal population was not consulted and received scant or no warning, and still suffer the effects. Yami Lester was a boy when he saw the nuclear flash and subsequently went blind. The enduring struggle of Aboriginal people for recognition as human beings has been a fight not only for their land but for what lies beneath it. Since they were granted a status higher than that of sheep -- up to 1971, unlike the sheep, they were not counted – many of their modest land rights have been subverted or diminished by governments in Canberra.

In 2007, prime minister John Howard used the army to launch an "emergency intervention" in Aboriginal communities in the resource-rich Northern Territory. Lurid and fraudulent stories of paedophile rings were the cover; indigenous people were told they would not receive basic services if they did not surrender the leasehold of their land. Gillard’s minister of indigenous affairs has since given this the Orwellian title of "Stronger Futures".

The tactics include driving people into “hub towns” and denying decent housing to those forced to live up to a dozen in one room. The removal of Aboriginal children has reached the level of the infamous "Stolen Generation" of the last century. Many may never see their families again.

Once the “intervention” had got under way, hundreds of licences were granted to companies exploring for minerals, including uranium. Contemporary politics in Australia is often defined by the power of the mining companies. When the previous Labor prime minister, Kevin Rudd, proposed a tax on record mining profits, he was deposed by a backroom party cabal, including Gillard, who reduced the tax. Diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks reveal that two of the plotters against Rudd were informants of the US embassy, which Rudd had angered by not following to the letter US plans to encircle China and to release uranium for sale to US clients such as India.

Gillard has since returned Australia to its historic relationship with Washington, similar to that of an east European satellite of the Soviet Union. The day before Barack Obama arrived in Canberra last year to declare China the new enemy of the “free world”, Gillard announced the end of her party’s ban on uranium sales.

Washington's other post-cold war obsessions demand the services of Australia. These include the intimidation of Iran and destruction of that country’s independence, the undermining of the NPT and prevention of nuclear-free zones that threaten the nuclear-armed dominance of the US and Israel. Unlike Iran, a founding signatory of the NPT and supporter of a nuclear-free zone Middle East, the US and Israel ban independent inspections. And both are currently threatening to attack Iran which, as the combined agencies of US intelligence confirmed, has no nuclear weapons.

The necessary inversion of reality and double standard require a “carefully orchestrated process”, the US embassy is assured by an Australian official quoted by WikiLeaks. According to the US cables, there are enthusiastic "Australian ideas" for "dredging up" information to help discredit Mohamad El Baradei who, as director of the International Atomic Energy Agency from 1997 to 2009, repeatedly refuted US claims that Iran was building a nuclear weapon. The Director of the Australian Arms Control office is portrayed as a US watchdog, warning against "a slippery slope" of governments "exercising independent judgment" on nuclear matters. A senior Australian official, one Patrick Suckling, is reporting as telling the US that “Australia wants the most robust, intrusive and debilitating sanctions possible” against Iran. Suckling’s victims are today mostly ordinary men, women and children.

On 5 October, the Australian Nuclear Free Alliance, which includes Aboriginal groups from across the country, gathered in Alice Springs. They called for a moratorium on all uranium mining and sales. Indigenous women made a special plea to Gillard, recently ordained by the white media as a feminist hero. No response was expected.

On 17 October, all the testaments of obedience and servility to the mighty patron finally paid off when Australia was rewarded with a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, known in Canberra as “the top table”. The timing is striking. An attack by Nato on Syria or Iran, or both, has never been closer. A world war beckons as 50 years are marked since "the world stood still", wrote the historian Sheldon Stern. This was the 1962 Cuba missile crisis when the US and the Soviet Union came within an ace of nuclear war. Declassified files disclose that President John F. Kennedy authorised "NATO aircraft with Turkish pilots ... to take off for Moscow and drop a bomb."

The echo today could not be clearer