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Australians the suckers as AREVA tries to sell its failed nuclear technology down under

A negative learning curve on steroids What to make of the EPR saga? Areva is backing the wrong horse − the outcome of current political debates will result in a declining role for nuclear power in France, coupled to the growth of renewables.

A new report by ADEME, a French government agency under the Ministries of Ecology and Research, concludes that a 100% renewable electricity supply scenario is feasible in France. The report estimates that the electricity production cost would be €119 per megawatt-hour in 2050 in the 100% renewables scenario, compared with a near-identical figure of €117/MWh with a mix of 50% nuclear, 40% renewables, and 10% fossil fuels.

areva-medusa1Areva has also backed the wrong-sized wrong horse: a giant reactor with a giant price-tag. That said, the backers of ‘small modular reactors‘ are having no more success than Areva. And Areva isn’t having much luck with its mid-sized ATMEA pressurised water reactor………

The EPR saga shows that developing modified versions of conventional reactors (in this case pressurised water reactors) can be complicated and protracted and can end in failure. How much more difficult will it be to develop radically new types of reactors? The French government’s Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety has recently produced an important critique of Generation IV nuclear power concepts. It states that there “is still much R&D to be done to develop the Generation IV nuclear reactors” and it is sceptical about the safety claims made for Generation IV concepts.

Feeling the pressure: Bumbling nuclear’s negative learning curve Jim Green, 21 May 2015, Climate Spectator

French state-owned nuclear giant Areva is offering to sell its ‘world leading’ nuclear technology to South Australia. The offer is being reported in the South Australian media without a hint of irony. A reality check is in order.

Areva has posted losses in each of the past four years including a €4.83 billion loss in 2014. Continue reading

May 22, 2015 Posted by | France, safety, technology | Leave a comment

Without building permit, Russian-built nuclear reactor preparations go on in Finland

flag-FinlandPyhäjoki cottages in Finland make way for Russian-built nuclear reactor  YLE News Eye on the Arctic May 21, 2015 The site of Fennovoima’s planned nuclear plant is starting to take shape at Pyhäjoki in north Ostrobothnia — despite the presence of protesters trying to stop the construction and a few landowners who have so far refused to sell up.

Trees have been felled and roads built in the area, even though the government has not yet granted the final building permit. Fennovoima only has a provisional permit granted last year and must seek a final permit this summer in addition to a permit from the local municipality to begin building work.

Most of the cottages located on the Hanhikiviniemi peninsula have already been purchased by Fennovoima, but the last few holdouts are now subject to compulsory purchase orders. According to the orders, the cottages must be vacated and handed over by the end of May, even though appeals against the compulsory purchase orders are still pending.

Protests on the way Fennovoima currently controls around 990 acres of land and water at Hanhikiviniemi, and this will increase to 1,235 acres with the new acquisitions.

The local Pro Hanhikivi group is opposed to the project, but is also resisting the influx of activists who are camped out in protest at the ongoing construction work. The group is planning a legal challenge to Fennovoima’s actions, and says it does not support protests by more radical groups.

“We want the court to take a view on the principle of whether it’s allowed to grant a permit to start construction that is irreversible,” said Pro Hanhikivi vice-chair and Green League MP Hanna Halmeenpää.

She says the local council’s decision to allow initial building work to proceed is against Finland’s municipal laws and runs counter to the principles of good governance.

Lengthy delays

The Fennovoima plant was originally approved by parliament in 2010, but planning delays and financing issues have dogged the project since then. Last autumn the Green League walked out of government in protest at the arrival of Russian firm Rosatom as the contractor and part-owner of the plant.

The Greens felt that such a major change in the plans meant they should be re-considered from scratch.

Even then, financing was not secure until state-owned energy firm Fortum stepped in to take a major stake in Fennovoima. According to the original terms on which the project was approved, a majority of the ownership should be in European, meaning European Union, hands.

The project has also prompted opposition in Sweden, where 20,000 people signed a petition opposing the new reactor. Pyhäjoki is located just 96 miles from the Swedish coast.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch News as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.

May 22, 2015 Posted by | Finland, politics | Leave a comment

First Nations land would host Ontario nuclear waste, but First Nations don’t get a say

nuke-indigenousOntario First Nations demand a say over nuclear waste storage GLORIA GALLOWAY OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail, May. 21 2015,  First Nations in Northern Ontario say municipalities are opening their doors to the federal organization that is looking for a place to dump nuclear waste but most of the sites being proposed lie outside municipal boundaries on traditional treaty land.

Isadore Day, the Lake Huron Regional Grand Chief, has written to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to ask her government to talk directly with First Nations and to “come to a fair and acceptable resolution” about the location of the $24-billion Deep Geological Repository for the waste generated by nuclear reactors.

Environmental groups and some local residents reacted angrily earlier this month when a federal review panel agreed that a repository far below ground near Kincardine, Ont., could be used to store low-and intermediate radioactive nuclear waste including clothing and used parts.

But the hunt for a place to permanently store used fuel bundles, a far more contentious form of the hazardous material, continues. The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) has narrowed its search to nine municipalities – three in the southwestern part of Ontario and six in the North.

Those municipalities have all told the organization they are willing to explore the possibility of being a host site for the repository that will take decades to build and will store the spent nuclear fuel bundles for 400,000 years or more until they are safely non-toxic. Having the site nearby will mean increased jobs and improved infrastructure for a community.

All of the municipalities that finished the preliminary phase of the assessment received a $400,000 “sustainability and well-being” payment from the NWMO for showing leadership on a difficult national public policy issue.

But, even though it is the municipalities that are being consulted and compensated, most of the sites being considered for the dump lie well outside of their jurisdictions on traditional First Nations territory, said Mr. Day.

“The actual sites being looked at are on treaty lands and municipalities have no say about what happens on those lands,” Mr. Day says in his letter to Ms. Wynne. “This matter is a discussion that must take place between treaty partners.”………Mr. Day said the site selection process has been “fraught with controversy” and will not result in the support that is being sought from First Nations. “The social contract is not with municipalities,“ he said. “It’s with treaty nations.“

May 22, 2015 Posted by | Canada, indigenous issues | Leave a comment

Japan’s Abe government relinquishing responsibility for health of Fukushima residents and workers

Fukushima; The Beginning Of The End,  A series of announcements over the last two weeks have shown the Abe administration’s true plan for Fukushima & Japan. As the political class pushes for reactor restarts, their commitment towards Fukushima has turned to outright betrayal.

Starting in 2016 local governments will be forced to pay for part of the reconstruction costs.

Last week the central government announced they plan to reopen any area below 50 mSv/year for people to return by 2017. Areas at 20 mSv/year or below would be reopened in 2016. 20 mSv/year is the international maximum annual radiation exposure for nuclear workers. Now adults and children would be expected to expose themselves to radiation levels at and even above what is permissible for nuclear workers. ICRP cites that the public should not be exposed to more than 1 mSv/year.

The central government plans to end housing assistance for voluntary evacuees by 2017. …….

May 22, 2015 Posted by | Fukushima 2015, Japan, politics | 1 Comment

Engie not willing to acquire troubled nuclear company AREVA

scrutiny-on-costsflag-franceEngie will not acquire struggling French nuclear group Areva, 21 May 15  Michael Stothard in Paris Engie would consider working with struggling French nuclear group Areva on some business lines but is not looking for any full-blown acquisitions to help rescue the company, according to the chief executive of the utility.

“If we consider something, it would be in co-operation with Areva, not simply an acquisition of some assets,” Gérard Mestrallet told the Financial Times on the sidelines of a business and climate change conference in Paris

The comments come as the French government looks to elicit the aid of French companies to help rescue Areva, which reported a €4.8bn loss last year.

Areva, which is 87 per cent government-owned, has fallen victim to a slump in global demand for new reactors that followed the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan, as well as crippling cost overruns at key projects…….

Any deal between Areva and Engie would be likely to come alongside a much larger agreement with EDF, which earlier this week outlined its preference for a broad rescue package to acquire Areva NP, the division that designs, manufactures and maintains nuclear reactors.

“The more ambitious proposal from EDF will preserve the technical expertise of Areva’s reactor business and create the possibility of partnerships with outside groups from France or elsewhere,” said Jean-Bernard Lévy, EDF’s chief executive.

The more ambitious proposal from EDF will preserve the technical expertise of Areva’s reactor business and create the possibility of partnerships with outside groups from France or elsewhere– Jean-Bernard Lévy, EDF’s chief executive

Another option on the table would see EDF, which is 85 per cent state-owned, simply recruit 1,200 Areva engineers who specialise in nuclear safety. This would require a greater injection of capital in the group from the government, however.

It is ultimately up to Paris to decide between these two options. A decision could come as early as June ……….3.

May 22, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, France, politics | Leave a comment

Investors flee Nordic nuclear company Vattenfall

graph-down-uraniumNuclear Shutdowns Are Leaving Vattenfall’s Bond Investors  Cold , Bloomberg,  , 21 May 15 A jump in power prices hasn’t been able to lift Vattenfall AB bonds as investors worry the Swedish utility will write down more nuclear assets.

While Nordic power prices have risen from record lows after Vattenfall said it would close its two oldest reactors, yield spreads on the utility’s bonds are little changed. The closing plans instead directed attention to the poor Nordic market outlook for investors who had focused on Vattenfall’s woes in Germany, according to Ebba Lindahl, an SEB AB analyst.

“We see an increased risk of smaller cash flows from nuclear generation in the future and further write downs of assets that will not be fully compensated by the increase in power prices,” she said in a phone interview…….

A surge in renewable energy output in Nordic region, coupled with demand still below 2008-levels, has pushed power prices so low that the once-steady cash cow of nuclear production has become a liability.

The company is majority owner of seven reactors in Sweden and also owns thermal coal, lignite and gas units in Germany, which are poorly suited to the European Union’s aim for a transition to low-emission energy systems, according to Ingvar Mattsson, a senior analyst at Swedbank AB.

Vattenfall’s plans to close the two reactors early “reflects a tough market situation with low power prices, and thus a lower valuation of nuclear assets,” he said by phone. “Vattenfall is also obviously exposed to political risks in both Germany and Sweden.”

May 22, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, Sweden | Leave a comment

‘Stable’ Antarctic ice sheet no longer stable

ice-sheets-melting‘Stable’ Antarctic ice sheet may have started collapsing, scientists say, Guardian, , 22 May 15 Southern Antarctic Peninsula ice sheet losing ice 8,500 times the mass of the Great Pyramid of Giza every year, satellite data shows A vast slab of Antarctic ice that was previously stable may have started to collapse, according to new analysis of satellite data.

Research published in the journal Science on Thursday found the Southern Antarctic Peninsula (SAP) ice sheet is losing ice into the ocean at a rate of 56 gigatons each year – about 8,500 times the mass of the Great Pyramid of Giza. This adds around 0.16mm per year to the global sea level.

The sheet’s thickness has remained stable since satellite observations began in 1992. But Professor Jonathan Bamber of Bristol university, who co-authored the study, said that around 2009 it very suddenly began to thin by an average of 42cm each year. Some areas had fallen by up to 4m.

“It hasn’t been going up, it hasn’t been going down – until 2009. Then it just seemed to pass some kind of critical threshold and went over a cliff and it’s been losing mass at a pretty much constant, rather large, rate,” said Bamber……

May 22, 2015 Posted by | ANTARCTICA, climate change | Leave a comment

Press freedom very much compromised in Japan

Abe NUCLEAR FASCISMThe Threat to Press Freedom in Japan, NYT  By SHIGEAKI KOGAMAY 20, 2015 TOKYO — During a press conference in March, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga expressed concern over comments I had made during a program on TV Asahi, a major private broadcasting network: I had announced that I would no longer be appearing on the show after being subjected to “fierce bashing” from the prime minister’s office. According to the daily Asahi Shimbun, Mr. Suga said, “We will closely watch how the TV station handles the issue in line with the Broadcast Law” — a veiled threat to revoke the station’s license.

On April 17, a special panel of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (L.D.P.) held a special meeting at party headquarters and summoned executives of both TV Asahi and NHK, a public broadcaster, to discuss two TV programs the party thought had been critical of the administration of Prime MinisterShinzo Abe.

After I appeared on Tokyo MX TV, a local station, on April 25, an executive member of the L.D.P. reportedly told some journalists, “I heard that there was a TV station which allowed Mr. Koga to appear on a program. What a courageous TV station, I should say!”

And so it is that the Japanese government tampers with the media’s independence. This is happening partly because of longstanding structural characteristics that govern the relationship between the media and the state in Japan. But the Abe government has been especially aggressive in using those to its advantage, and major segments of the industry are quickly internalizing its preferences.

Instead of pushing back against Mr. Suga’s intimidation, for example, TV Asahi reprimanded the employees who had produced the TV program during which I criticized the government. And instead of invoking the anti-interference provisions of the broadcasting laws to resist questioning by the L.D.P., those TV executives complied with the party’s summons.

In Japan, relations between the state and journalists are formally maintained through a network of reporters’ clubs, or kisha kurabu. There is a reporters’ club for each ministry, each local government, each political party, each industry association. Membership in the clubs is generally limited to reporters at major media companies. Typically, only members are allowed to attend the press conferences, and only members have access to the organizations’ officials. In return for endowing reporters with this privileged status, the officials take it for granted that their organizations will get favorable coverage. And very often they do.

Another problem is that the media in Japan is not regulated by an independent agency. For example, it is the government itself — specifically the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications — that grants licenses to TV stations, and these are up for renewal regularly. Consequently, TV stations are under constant supervision and fear losing their right to operate if they challenge the government. Given Japan’s parliamentary system, this means that the ruling political parties themselves have a large influence over broadcasting.

What’s more, there is virtually no separation of management and the newsroom at major media companies…..

May 22, 2015 Posted by | Japan, media | Leave a comment

Radioactive iodine – the forgotten nuclear danger

The nuclear danger of iodine , Chemistry world, 21 May 15

It has been four years since the nuclear power plant accident in Fukushima, Japan. There remains a huge amount of remedial work to be done, but in that time the scientific community has deepened its collective understanding of the chemistry of nuclear disasters, not least in relation to iodine.It may be a familiar element most associated with benign activities, such as wound treatment and water purification, but certain isotopes of iodine are harmful. The radioactive iodine from bomb testing and the Chernobyl accident has been shown to increase the rate of thyroid cancer among the general public.

In both the Fukushima and the 1986 Chernobyl accidents, volatile iodine species were released into the environment with tellurium. Of all the fission products, iodine poses a special threat to public health because it has a high fission yield, it can spread as volatile species and in mammals it accumulates readily in the thyroid, a small but vital organ. While the vast majority of iodine radioactivity is short-lived, it can have life-changing effects. A thyroid cancer patient who has lost their thyroid function as a result of surgery or 131I treatment, will require hormone replacement medication for life.

Transport properties

The problem of radioactive iodine is complicated by the variety of different species it can form. Each has different transport properties in the environment. For example, most of the airborne 131I from Chernobyl that reached Japan was in the form of organic iodine compounds.1 Furthermore, some iodine-containing compounds will pass through some accident mitigation systems. A water-filled scrubber will capture iodine oxide aerosols or other iodine-containing solids. Meanwhile, the sodium thiosulfate in the large scrubbers used in Swedish nuclear power plants will capture elemental iodine. However, although alkyl iodides will react with sodium thiosulfate to form Bunte salts, the reaction can be slow, allowing some proportion to escape. It is also important to note that, depending on the species, it is possible for some older sampling methods to underestimate the amount of radioactive iodine released in an accident.

20 May 2015Chemistry WorldOnce in the environment, the potential for human exposure increases with dangerous consequences. Research with 132I has shown that humans retain a large fraction of the iodine in inhaled methyl and ethyl iodide. But iodine can take part in lots of reactions before it even leaves the reactor. During normal operation, the temperature gradients in nuclear fuel pellets cause the iodine and caesium to migrate into the gap between the fuel and the cladding.2 The fission process forms 133Xe, which, with a half-life of 5.2 days, has plenty of time to diffuse into the cooler parts of the fuel. There, the xenon decays to form caesium, which reacts with iodine to form caesium iodide. If the fuel is overheated and damaged, caesium iodide aerosols can be delivered into the containment space.The caesium iodide can be converted by redox reactions into iodine, even without available oxygen gas: as an accident starts, the irradiation of water generates oxidants such as hydroxyl radicals and hydrogen peroxide…..

May 22, 2015 Posted by | 2 WORLD, radiation, Reference | Leave a comment

Unpredictability of the real costs of nuclear

 What does nuclear power cost? Old plants dispel easy answers The Conversation,  19 May 2015,
What is the economic cost of nuclear power? That turns out to be a very difficult question to answer.

The United States and other countries have plentiful experience building and operating nuclear power plants. Currently 438 nuclear reactors with a combined capacity of 379,000 megawatts generate more than 10% of the total electricity used worldwide.

The US has the largest fleet, with 99 reactors generating almost 20% of US electricity. France has the second-largest, with 58 reactors producing 77% of its electricity. The Chinese fleet of 27 reactors generates under 3% of its electricity.

Nevertheless, there is great uncertainty about the cost of building new plants. The existing fleet in the US and most developed countries is very old, dating back to a period of intense growth in the 1960s and 1970s. In the US, the most recent construction permit for an operating reactor was issued in 1978, although completion work on a couple of stalled projects and “uprates” – capital refurbishment that increases capacity – have occurred at a number of units.

New construction fell off in other developed countries, too. The few additions made since 1990 were mostly in Japan, Korea, Eastern Europe, Russia and China………

The estimates for the capital cost of nuclear – for plants entering service in 2019 – assume that units can be built without the disastrous delays and overruns that plagued the US industry in the past, and which have plagued some recent projects, too. And the nuclear estimate also doesn’t take into account the benefit of certain subsidies currently available for some new construction.

Fluctuating costs

Among the reasons it has become so difficult to know the price of nuclear is that supply chains have atrophied and hard-won engineering and construction experience has dissipated. Meanwhile, social pressures for improved safety – preceding the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan – forced design changes over the years, and we have yet to see what the impact will be on actual construction costs.

In 2005, the French firm Areva began construction at Olkiluoto, Finland, of its new design, the EPR reactor, a pressurized water reactor built to resist the impact of a commercial airline crash.

Unfortunately, that unit is, so far, five years overdue and projected to cost three times the original estimate. Construction of a second new EPR unit at Flammanville, France, was begun in 2007 and is already three years overdue with a more than doubling of projected costs. Regulators in France have also recently discovered “very serious” weak spots in the reactor there.

In 2013, Southern Company began construction of two new units at the Vogtle station in the state of Georgia using Westinghouse’s new AP1000 design. Those units, too, have already run into delays and cost overruns, although the process is not far enough along to draw a firm conclusion about the impact on cost. These cases evoke memories of the very bad experience with construction delays and cost overruns that plagued the US industry from the 1970s.

China’s building spree

In fact, the majority of new construction in recent years has been in China. The country has 27 reactors already in operation, all but three of which were built since 2000. The 24 reactors presently under construction in China represent more than one-third of current global construction.

So far, there has been no public record of major construction delays and cost overruns in China, although it is difficult to know what lesson to draw from that fact for projects in the West and elsewhere. It is also difficult to use the cost of their construction to inform estimates of what costs might be in the US or other developed countries.

Uncertainty about the cost of construction is overwhelmingly important in determining the cost of electricity from nuclear because building the plant accounts for nearly 80% of the total price tag. More predictable fuel and operating costs, including waste disposal, account for the remainder. …….

May 22, 2015 Posted by | general | Leave a comment