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: