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Uranium Ghost Town in the Making

, Time and again, mining company Homestake and government agencies promised to clean up waste from decades of uranium processing. It didn’t happen.

Reader supported News, Mark Olalde and Maya Miller/ProPublica, 25 Aug 22

he “death map” tells the story of decades of sickness in the small northwest New Mexico communities of Murray Acres and Broadview Acres. Turquoise arrows point to homes where residents had thyroid disease, dark blue arrows mark cases of breast cancer, and yellow arrows mean cancer claimed a life.

Neighbors built the map a decade ago after watching relatives and friends fall ill and die. Dominating the top right corner of the map, less than half a mile from the cluster of colorful arrows, sits what residents believe is the cause of their sickness: 22.2 million tons of uranium waste left over from milling ore to supply power plants and nuclear bombs.

“We were sacrificed a long time ago,” said Candace Head-Dylla, who created the death map with her mother after Head-Dylla had her thyroid removed and her mother developed breast cancer. Research has linked both types of illnesses to uranium exposure.

Beginning in 1958, a uranium mill owned by Homestake Mining Company of California processed and refined ore mined nearby. The waste it left behind leaked uranium and selenium into groundwater and released the cancer-causing gas radon into the air. State and federal regulators knew the mill was polluting groundwater almost immediately after it started operating, but years passed before they informed residents and demanded fixes.

The contamination continued to spread even after the mill closed in 1990.

The failures at Homestake are emblematic of the toxic legacy of the American uranium industry, one that has been well-documented from its boom during the Cold War until falling uranium prices and concerns over the dangers of nuclear power decimated the industry in the 1980s. Uranium mining and milling left a trail of contamination and suffering, from miners who died of lung cancer while the federal government kept the risks secret to the largest radioactive spill in the country’s history.

But for four decades, the management of more than 250 million tons of radioactive uranium mill waste has been largely overlooked, continuing to pose a public health threat.

ProPublica found that regulators have failed to hold companies to account when they missed cleanup targets and accepted incorrect forecasts that pollution wouldn’t spread. The federal government will eventually assume responsibility for the more than 50 defunct mills that generated this waste.

At Homestake, which was among the largest mills, the company is bulldozing a community in order to walk away. Interviews with dozens of residents, along with radon testing and thousands of pages of company and government records, reveal a community sacrificed to build the nation’s nuclear arsenal and atomic energy industry.

Time and again, Homestake and government agencies promised to clean up the area. Time and again, they missed their deadlines while further spreading pollution in the communities. In the 1980s, Homestake promised residents groundwater would be cleaned within a decade, locals told the Environmental Protection Agency and ProPublica. After missing that target, the company told regulators it would complete the job around 2006, then by 2013.

In 2014, an EPA report confirmed the site posed an unacceptable cancer risk and identified radon as the greatest threat to residents’ health. Still, the cleanup target date continued shifting, to 2017, then 2022.

Rather than finish the cleanup, Homestake’s current owner, the Toronto-based mining giant Barrick Gold, is now preparing to ask the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the independent federal agency that oversees the cleanup of uranium mills, for permission to demolish its groundwater treatment systems and hand the site and remaining waste over to the U.S. Department of Energy to monitor and maintain forever.

Before it can transfer the site to the Department of Energy, Homestake must prove that the contamination, which exceeds federal safety levels, won’t pose a risk to nearby residents or taint the drinking water of communities downstream.

Part of Homestake’s strategy: buy out nearby residents and demolish their homes. Local real estate agents and residents say the company’s offers do not account for the region’s skyrocketing housing costs, pushing some who accept them back into debt in order to buy a new home. Those who do sell are required to sign agreements to refrain from disparaging Homestake and absolve the company of liability, even though illnesses caused by exposure to radioactive waste can take decades to manifest.

Property records reveal the company had, by the end of 2021, purchased 574 parcels covering 14,425 acres around the mill site. This April, Homestake staff indicated they had 123 properties left to buy. One resident said the area was quickly becoming a “ghost town.”

Even after the community is gone, more than 15,000 people who live nearby, many of them Indigenous, will continue to rely on water threatened by Homestake’s pollution.

The company said it has produced models showing that its waste won’t imperil the region’s water if it walks away. The NRC says it will only grant a groundwater cleanup exemption if that’s the case.

But while Homestake and other mining companies have polluted the region, it’s been the NRC and various other agencies that stood by as it happened. ProPublica found the NRC has issued exemptions from groundwater cleanup standards to uranium mills around the country, only to see pollution continue to spread. This has occurred as climate change hammers the West, making water ever scarcer.

“Groundwater moves. Groundwater doesn’t care about regulations,” said Earle Dixon, a hydrogeologist who reviewed the government’s oversight of uranium cleanup and pollution around Homestake for the New Mexico Environment Department and the EPA. Dixon and other researchers predict contamination at Homestake will likely spread if cleanup ends.

The company has denied that its waste caused residents’ illnesses, and judges ruled in Homestake’s favor in a case residents filed in 2004 alleging the site caused cancer. Doctors testified that the pollution was a substantial factor contributing to residents’ cancers, but tying particular cases to a single source requires communitywide blood, urine and other testing, which hadn’t been done…………………………………………………..

ProPublica found that, as with most uranium mills in the U.S., Homestake built no liner between the earth and the sandy waste left over from milling, known as tailings. This happened even though an engineer with the New Mexico Department of Health warned the company only weeks after the mill opened that it needed to at least compact the soil underneath its waste to prevent leaks. Without a liner, pollution seeped into aquifers that supplied drinking water. In 1961, the same engineer wrote that groundwater samples showed radium 226, a radioactive and cancer-causing element, at levels as much as 31 times higher than naturally occur in the area, indicating “definite pollution of the shallow ground water table by the uranium mill tailings’ ponds.”

A federal report a year later identified even higher levels of radium 226 in groundwater…………………………..

 More than 500 abandoned uranium mines pockmark the Navajo Nation, and Billiman’s father, a Navajo Code Talker in World War II, died of stomach cancer, an illness associated with downwind exposure to nuclear tests. Boomer has written the story of uranium into lyrics, singing about the harm caused by the waste that was left behind…………………………………………….more https://www.rsn.org/001/a-uranium-ghost-town-in-the-making.html

August 26, 2022 Posted by | environment, Uranium | Leave a comment

Bill Gates’ nuclear startup wins $750M, loses sole fuel source

TerraPower notches a record-setting investment round led by South Korea’s SK. But it has no supplier of the enriched fuel it needs, now that sourcing from Russia is off the table.

Canary Media Eric Wesoff, 18 August 2022, Nuclear fission startup TerraPower, founded and chaired by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, has raised $750 million to develop advanced nuclear reactors to serve as alternatives to the light-water reactors that make up the vast majority of the world’s civilian nuclear fleet. But cash alone won’t be enough to get the startup over the many hurdles that stand in its way.

TerraPower’s Natrium fast reactor design is radically different from the design of traditional nuclear reactors. For starters, it’s smaller. A typical reactor in the U.S. produces 1,000 megawatts of power. TerraPower’s first demonstration reactor, now being planned for a site in Wyoming, will have a capacity of 345 megawatts. The smaller size could enable the reactor to be built cheaply in a factory and not expensively on-site.

The Natrium reactor will also use a different fuel and a different coolant than standard nuclear reactors. It will be fueled by high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU), which is enriched with more uranium than the fuel used in traditional nuclear plants. And the coolant will be high-temperature liquid sodium instead of water. 

TerraPower’s new funding includes $250 million from South Korean chaebol SK Group. Previous funding for the firm has come from Gates and Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway. The company was also awarded $80 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to work on its Natrium reactor design.

Canary covered TerraPower’s technology in detail last year when the firm announced that Bechtel will build its first reactor in Kemmerer, Wyoming, near the site of a coal-fired power plant that is scheduled to be shut down. The U.S. Department of Energy and private investors will split the cost of the demonstration project. 

The startup claims that this first reactor will be in operation by 2028 and will cost $4 billion, including engineering, procurement and construction. If TerraPower comes anywhere close to meeting those wildly ambitious goals, it will strongly differentiate itself from the traditional nuclear industry, which is notorious for missed deadlines and shocking cost overruns. The only two conventional nuclear reactors currently under construction in the U.S., at the Vogtle plant in Georgia, are already six years overdue and will cost utility customers over $30 billion, more than double the original price tag.

Fuel folly?

One big new problem for TerraPower emerged earlier this year: its fuel source. The only facility currently able to supply commercial quantities of HALEU is in Russia. That wasn’t a great situation even before Russia invaded Ukraine. Now that the war in Ukraine has been grinding on for six months and shows no signs of resolution, relying on fuel sourced from Russia is untenable. 

In March, TerraPower said it had cut ties with Tenex, the Russian state-owned company from which it had planned to source HALEU, Wyoming-based nonprofit news outlet WyoFile reported. ​“When Russia invaded Ukraine it became very clear, for a whole set of reasons — moral reasons as well as commercial reasons — that using Russian fuel is no longer an option for us,” said Jeff Navin, TerraPower’s director of external affairs.

TerraPower did just get good news this week when President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law. The legislation includes $700 million to help build up a domestic supply chain for HALEU. The funding could give a boost to the U.S. Department of Energy’s plans to launch a congressionally authorized HALEU Availability Program. But developing HALEU production capacity in the U.S. will take years. 

TerraPower does not have wiggle room to delay. If it doesn’t complete its demonstration project by 2028, it stands to lose out on up to $2 billion in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program and the opportunity for expedited federal regulatory reviews. 

Some experts are skeptical that TerraPower will make the deadline, especially now that it has no source of fuel. ​“I didn’t think it was doable before this monkey wrench was thrown in,” Edwin Lyman, director of nuclear power safety for the Union of Concerned Scientists, told WyoFile in March.

A nuclear renaissance?

Despite these headwinds, TerraPower did just raise $750 million, so it’s not alone in anticipating a revival of the nuclear power industry. 

The Inflation Reduction Act will help not just HALEU-fueled TerraPower but the rest of the nuclear energy sector too: It includes a production tax credit for nuclear power, an incentive that will benefit struggling nuclear plants that already exist across the country as well as developers of new types of nuclear reactors. In addition to TerraPower, that latter category includes U.S. startups NuScale and Oklo.

…..  The bipartisan infrastructure law Biden signed late last year contains $6 billion to support existing nuclear plants and $3.2 billion for development of advanced nuclear power technology. The Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office has $11 billion in funding for nuclear plants and nuclear supply chains, according to Jigar Shah, director of the office. …………….. https://www.canarymedia.com/articles/nuclear/bill-gates-nuclear-startup-wins-750m-loses-sole-fuel-source

August 20, 2022 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, Uranium, USA | Leave a comment

Global action urged to block AUKUS plan on transfer of nuclear materials

The submarine purchase, if realized, “will be the first time” after the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty went into force in 1970 that nuclear weapon states transfer tons of weapons-grade nuclear materials to a non-nuclear-weapon state

The plan is high on the agenda of the 10th Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which is scheduled to open in New York on Aug 1

 http://global.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202207/21/WS62d898fda310fd2b29e6d83a.html By ZHANG YUNBI | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2022-07-21,

A report written by leading Chinese nuclear security researchers urged the global community to use an upcoming global conference on nuclear nonproliferation to deter the collaboration of the United States and the United Kingdom to transfer weapons-grade nuclear materials through nuclear-powered submarines to Australia.

“The weapons-grade nuclear materials to be transferred to Australia by the two countries would be sufficient to build as many as 64 to 80 nuclear weapons,” said Zhao Xuelin, a leading engineer at the China Institute of Nuclear Industry Strategy.

Such a move would be in “serious violation” of the objectives and purpose of the nonproliferation treaty and would cause enormous harm, he said.

“Washington has been busy building up blocs and small circles like AUKUS to shore up its overwhelming advantage in military areas and secure its hegemony in the Asia-Pacific and the whole world,” said Liu Chong, director of the Institute of International Security of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

“Such moves have run counter to many countries’ need to seek common security. The trilateral bloc’s members seek their own security at the cost of the other countries, sabotaging global security,” he added.

Zhang Yan, president of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, noted that the AUKUS partnership is a new political and military alliance that serves the US’ “Indo-Pacific Strategy”, which aims to provoke regional confrontation and step up a geopolitical zero-sum game.

The submarine purchase, if realized, “will be the first time” after the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty went into force in 1970 that nuclear weapon states transfer tons of weapons-grade nuclear materials to a non-nuclear-weapon state, Zhang said.

“The US, the UK and Australia should seriously respond to the concerns of the international community and earnestly fulfill their obligations under international law,” he added.

Pan Qilong, chairman of the China Institute of Nuclear Industry Strategy, said the AUKUS nuclear-powered submarine collaboration sets a dangerous example of illegal transfer of weapons-grade nuclear materials.

Such a “blatant act of nuclear proliferation” has triggered widespread concern and criticism from the international community, he added

The US, Britain and Australia should “stop taking double standards” and halt their collaboration on nuclear-powered submarines, said the research report issued on Wednesday in Beijing.

Two leading Chinese nuclear research agencies-the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association and the China Institute of Nuclear Industry Strategy-issued the report.

“The international community should take action to urge the AUKUS countries to revoke their wrong decision, and jointly safeguard the integrity, authority and effectiveness of the international nuclear nonproliferation regime,” the report said.

The research report is the first of its kind made by Chinese think tanks focused on the collaboration of the three nations, and it offers abundant evidence and data to prove how the AUKUS countries-Australia, the UK and the US-affect the international nuclear nonproliferation system and stir up the arms race, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Wednesday.

The report is the latest proof that the international community’s concerns on AUKUS collaboration “are well-founded by facts”, he added.

Washington, London and Canberra built the AUKUS trilateral security partnership last year. That prompted anger within and outside the Asia-Pacific region as they announced a plan to allow Australia to purchase nuclear-powered submarines from the UK.

The plan is high on the agenda of the 10th Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which is scheduled to open in New York on Aug 1.

The conference, a top-level global meeting that aims to prevent a nuclear arms race and checks on the status quo of nuclear materials around the world, has been delayed for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

July 19, 2022 Posted by | 2 WORLD, politics international, Uranium, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Uranium, conflict and Indigenous lives

Where will non-Russian uranium come from and who does it hurt?

Uranium, conflict and Indigenous lives — Beyond Nuclear International  https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/72759838/posts/4139419366.

Nuclear power, uranium and the war in Ukraine

By Günter Wippel, for the uranium network

Although little known to the public, the European Union obtains about 20% of the uranium it needs for nuclear power plants from Russia, and another 20% from Kazakhstan, which is considered a close ally to Russia.

While for Germany the issue of nuclear power will be settled by the end of this year in regard to demand for uranium, the EU will have to continue importing almost 100% of the required nuclear fuel. 

If sanctions against Russia are to be taken seriously, uranium supplies will have to be sourced from countries not belonging to, or not close to, the Russian Federation. 

The number of (potential) suppliers is manageably small: eight countries worldwide produce more than 90% of the uranium supply, led by Kazakhstan, followed by Australia, Namibia and Canada, Uzbekistan and Niger. Eight companies provide about 85% of the supply, with Kazakhstan’s KAZATOMPROM alone delivering 25%.

Thus, Australia or Canada, for example, might be considered as alternative sources of supply.

However, in both countries, there are regular conflicts between uranium mining companies, the state and Indigenous People. Currently operating Canadian uranium mines – all of them in the north of the province of Saskatchewan – are located on the land of the Dene and Cree, who have been opposing the mines and further exploration for decades.

In Canada’s province of Quebec, uranium companies have been trying to gain a foothold since 2008 – without success. The Cree in Quebec were able to stop uranium mining plans, also through cooperation with environmental protection organizations. Since 2016, there has been a de facto moratorium.

In Nunavut, Canada’s far North (formerly Northwest Territories), a large-scale uranium mining project was rejected by the Inuit people in 2016 after years of conflict with French uranium miner AREVA (now renamed ORANO). 

In Namibia, uranium mining is now firmly in the hands of Chinese companies, which primarily extract uranium for Chinese nuclear power plants. 

In Australia, uranium mining is also highly controversial: Indigenous / Aboriginal people are generally critical or opposed to it. Ranger Uranium mine was to be closed in 2021. An expansion to mine neighboring deposits was rejected by the Mirrar Aboriginal people and by environmental organizations.

The nearby Jabiluka Uranium Mine was rejected after more than 20 years of disagreement between Aboriginal people, environmental organizations and the company. Another Australian uranium deposit, Koongarra , was saved from exploitation by the refusal of the traditional Indigenous landowner, Jeffrey Lee, to release his land for uranium mining. Today, it is a national park and inscribed as a World Heritage Site.

The US and uranium

In the US, the situation is not much different. Domestic uranium production has dropped to nearly zero for various reasons. The fuel for nuclear power plants is 100% imported. Similar to the EU, just under 40% comes from Russia’s sphere of influence (16% from Russia, 22% from Kazakhstan). Another 22% comes from neighboring Canada, while Australia supplies 11% of the uranium needed in the US.

Attempts by the domestic mining industry to revive uranium mining in the United States were unsuccessful under Trump’s presidency, despite great efforts on the part of some companies. Under President Biden, the creation of a “national uranium reserve” was considered, but no money was allocated for it in the budget.

In May 2022, US Energy Secretary, Jennifer Granholm, stated that the US is working on a strategy to ensure a stable uranium supply. What it might look like was not clarified.

Nevertheless, some media outlets are speculating about a ‘revival ‘ of the domestic uranium industry.

In June 2022, there was discussion about allocating over $4 billion for the construction of uranium enrichment capacities, since lack of such plants makes the US also heavily dependent on Russian plants and companies. However, it is not clear yet how uranium enrichment plants might help to break the dependency on uranium imports from CIS-states. 

In any case, the risk for uraniferous regions to become a sacrifice area is growing: this applies also to the Grand Canyon region. The danger has not escaped the attention of Indigenous Peoples who view this development with great concern after their very bad experiences with uranium mining in the past, the New York Times reported.  Carletta Tilousi , Havasupai , who with her people has been resisting the Canyon Mine Uranium Mining (now renamed Pinyon Mine) for decades, found clear words: “We’ll lie down in front of the mine’s entrance to keep it from fully functioning if we have to,” she said. “We’ll make them understand this is about much more than money.” 

Günter Wippel manages the uranium network, which works to inform the world of the hazards of uranium mining.

July 16, 2022 Posted by | 2 WORLD, indigenous issues, Uranium | Leave a comment

Uranium is losing the new energy market battle.

Uranium is losing the new energy market battle. Uranium is being bypassed
in the rush to embrace renewable wind and solar energy sources, leaving
nuclear power floundering well short of its once anticipated potential.

 Mining Journal 14th July 2022

https://www.mining-journal.com/from-the-capital/opinion/1435942/uranium-is-losing-the-new-energy-market-battle

July 13, 2022 Posted by | 2 WORLD, business and costs, Uranium | Leave a comment

A big win for Yeelirrie — Beyond Nuclear International

Indigenous community keeps door closed to uranium mining in Australia

A big win for Yeelirrie — Beyond Nuclear International Cameco delays mean uranium mining permit not extended
By Maggie Wood, Acting Executive Director, Conservation Council of Western Australia
On April 6, we celebrated a huge step forward in our sustained campaign to keep the door closed to uranium mining in Yeelirrie. 
The Minister for Environment has rejected an application by the Canadian mining company Cameco to extend their environmental approval for the Yeelirrie uranium mine. 

The approval was controversially granted in 2017 in the dying days of the Barnett government and required Cameco to commence mining within five years. They have failed to do this and now they have failed in their bid to have this time extended.

This is a huge win for the local area, the communities nearby and for life itself. The special and unique lives of the smallest of creatures, endemic subterranean fauna found nowhere else on earth, would have most likely been made extinct had this project gone ahead, according to the WA EPA. 

For over five decades Traditional Custodians from the Yeelirrie area have fought to protect their Country and community from uranium mining. Over this time they have stood up and overcome three major multinational mining companies – WMC, BHP and now Cameco.

We have stood united with communities to say no to uranium mining and this consistent rejection of the nuclear industry in WA has helped secure the sensible decision to not extend the approval.

“It is possible to stand up to multinational companies and stop major mining projects from destroying sacred lands and environments – we do that from a base of strength in unity and purpose, from persistent and consistent actions and most of all perseverance against all odds to stand up for what is right …” – Kado Muir, Tjiwarl Traditional Custodian.

And this couldn’t have happened without you. Hundreds of supporters like you have spent time on country with Traditional Custodians – listening, walking, connecting with country and standing up for a nuclear free future. Traditional Custodians, unions, faith groups, health groups, environmental groups, the WA and Australian Greens and WA Labor – we’ve all had a big part to play. 

Thank you to everyone who has stood up, spoken out, donated, walked, written letters, signed petitions and online actions, bought artwork and t-shirts, volunteered, and organised to say no to uranium mining.

The campaign to protect Yeelirrie is not entirely over. While the approvals can’t be acted on currently, they do still exist, and an amendment could be made by a future government giving Cameco the greenlight to mine.

This is why we are now calling on the State Government to withdraw approvals for Yeelirrie along with expired approvals for Cameco’s Pilbara proposal at Kintyre and Toro Energy’s Wiluna uranium proposal. Doing this would be consistent with WA Labor’s policy and community expectations and – as Vicki Abdullah says – is the next step to a lasting solution.

“We’re really glad to hear the news that Yeelirrie’s approval has not been extended. It was a bad decision in the first place and after years in court and fighting to defend our country this news is a great relief. We will really celebrate properly when this government withdraws approvals altogether and then we can have more confidence the threat is over…” – . – Vicki Abdullah, Tjiwarl Traditional Custodian.  https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/72759838/posts/4098309284

June 27, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, indigenous issues, opposition to nuclear, Uranium | Leave a comment

Russian Uranium NOT Sanctioned – Why?

Russian Uranium NOT Sanctioned – Why? Russia still ships uranium-filled
nuclear fuel rods to reactors around the world – no limits. If US has
sanctions against Russian oil, gas & coal, why do we not sanction their
uranium?

Why is the nuclear industry exempt? And who decided? Linda Pentz
Gunter founded Beyond Nuclear in 2007 and serves as its international
specialist, as well as its media and development director. Prior to her
work in anti-nuclear advocacy, she was a journalist for 20 years in print
and broadcast, working for USA Network, Reuters, The Times (UK) and other
US and international outlets. She brings a clarity and precision to all her
reporting, with specific insights into international angles on nuclear
issues. To find out more on one under-represented nuclear aspect of the
Russian war on Ukraine, I spoke with Linda Pentz Gunter on Thursday, April
2

1, 2022 Nuclear Hotseat 21st April 2022

May 5, 2022 Posted by | 2 WORLD, politics international, Uranium | Leave a comment

Hungary receives nuclear fuel shipment by air from Russia

Gee, I hope they never have a crash.

    https://www.power-technology.com/news/hungary-nuclear-fuel-shipment-air-russia/ April 8, 2022

The shipment arrived via the airspace of Belarus, Poland and Slovakia.  Hungary has received its first shipment of nuclear fuel by air from Russia for its Paks nuclear power plant since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has made shipping of the fuel by rail unfeasible.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto announced the shipment in a Facebook video from Brussels, Belgium.

Szijjarto said: “Fuel (for the Paks plant) has always come from Russia by rail via Ukraine. Unfortunately, this is no longer possible, so we had to find an alternative way of shipping.”

April 26, 2022 Posted by | EUROPE, safety, Uranium | Leave a comment

Europe’s reliance on Russian nuclear supplies isn’t ending with the war

In the relevant Council Regulation of 15 March 2022, civil nuclear-related activities were excluded from the definition of the energy sector and are therefore, quite explicitly, not covered by the prohibition on investments in the Russian energy sector. 

The only difference is that while this dependence on gas has been widely discussed, the same cannot be said of the nuclear industry. And yet the EU member states have no intention of ending this nuclear dependence. 

Putin’s uranium self-enrichment — Beyond Nuclear International How dependent is Europe on the Russian nuclear sector?
The below is the second half of the Öko-Institut blog entry — “Energy policy in times of the Ukraine war: Nuclear power instead of natural gas?” — looking at Europe’s reliance on the Russian nuclear sector. Read the full blog article.

By Anke HeroldDr Roman Mendelevitch and Dr Christoph Pistner, 17Apr 22,

Europe is heavily dependent on Russia for nuclear energy as well, perhaps to an even greater extent than for gas. The main sources of uranium imports into the EU in 2020 were Russia (20%), Niger (also 20%), Kazakhstan (19%), Canada (18%), Australia (13%) and Namibia (8%). Just 0.5% of the uranium used in the EU comes from the EU itself. 

However, this apparent diversity of sources is deceptive. Russia has a close relationship with Kazakhstan, while the mines in Niger belong to Chinese state-owned companies, as do two of the three largest uranium mines in Namibia. The third Namibian mine is largely Chinese-owned. 

In other words, in 2020, only 21% of uranium imports into Europe were supplied by firms that are not owned by totalitarian regimes. It follows that here too, Europe has placed itself in a position of high import dependence.

Around 25% of uranium enrichment and some processes in fuel rod fabrication for the EU take place in Russia. Many Russian-designed reactors source their fuel rods largely from the Russian company TVEL – now part of Rosatom – on the basis of long-term supply contracts that run for 10 years or more. 

There are Russian-designed nuclear reactors in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary and Slovakia. The 16 older pressurised water reactors, type WWER-440, are totally dependent on TVEL for fuel rod fabrication. These older reactors can be found in Bulgaria, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary. 

Even the Euratom Supply Agency itself identifies this dependence as a significant vulnerability factor. The operators are dependent on imports of Russian technology. 

The Western European nuclear power plants are also far from being independent. The French company Areva collaborates with TVEL in order to supply fuel rods for seven reactors in Western Europe, including the Loviisa nuclear power plant in Finland. 

As recently as December 2021, the French nuclear company Framatome signed a new strategic cooperation agreement on the development of fuel fabrication and instrumentation and control (I&C) technologies.

The Russian fuel rod manufacturer TVEL was also keen to enter into fuel rod production at the factory in Lingen, Germany, which currently belongs to the French company ANF. Lingen supplies fuel rods to British, French and Belgian nuclear power plants. The German Federal Cartel Office approved the venture in March 2021, whereupon the Federal Economics Ministry conducted an open-ended review until the end of January 2022. 

On the day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Ministry announced that the Rosatom subsidiary TVEL had withdrawn its application. In Germany, the Rosatom Group also owns a subsidiary, NUKEM Technologies, which specialises in the decommissioning of nuclear facilities, decontamination, waste management and radiation protection. In Germany, it plans and constructs storage facilities for radioactive waste and is involved in decommissioning the Neckarwestheim and Philippsburg nuclear power plants.

So Putin manoeuvred the European nuclear industry into a position of dependence on Russia long ago, and he himself earns income from the decommissioning of the German nuclear power plants. 

The only difference is that while this dependence on gas has been widely discussed, the same cannot be said of the nuclear industry. And yet the EU member states have no intention of ending this nuclear dependence. 

In the relevant Council Regulation of 15 March 2022, civil nuclear-related activities were excluded from the definition of the energy sector and are therefore, quite explicitly, not covered by the prohibition on investments in the Russian energy sector. 

Although practically 100% of the EU’s uranium is imported, as is most of the fuel rod supply, the EU classes nuclear energy as “domestic” production because fuel rods can easily be stockpiled.

Here, we see a similar Orwellian use of language as in the EU Taxonomy, which describes nuclear energy as a technology which does not cause significant harm to the environment.

As the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on 18 March 2022, even the EU’s flight ban on Russian aircraft was lifted for a delivery of nuclear fuel into Slovakia.

So our conclusion on this topic is that as regards nuclear energy too, the dependence on Russia must be drastically reduced. Supply security with no dependence on totalitarian regimes requires a substantial reduction in nuclear energy use in Europe. Read the full blog.

April 18, 2022 Posted by | EUROPE, politics international, Uranium | Leave a comment

Macron under Putin’s thumb as Russia could CRIPPLE France’s nuclear industry, as it controls uranium supply.

Macron under Putin’s thumb as Russia could CRIPPLE France’s nuclear
industry. The recent reports of atrocities committed by Russian forces in
Bucha have finally pushed the EU into considering a ban on Russian fossil
fuels.

Oil and gas exports make up a large portion of Russia’s economy
and EU is heavily dependent on gas supplies from Moscow, making up 40
percent of its imports. The EU imported a staggering €48.5billion
(£38billion) of crude oil in 2021, and €22.5billion (£19billion) of
petroleum oils other than crude.

But even as EU leaders meet to discuss an immediate ban on Russian coal, experts have warned that aside from fossil fuels, Russia could also manipulate the EU’s energy through its control
of the global uranium supplies.

Speaking to Express.co.uk, Dr Paul Dorfman,
an associate fellow at the University of Sussex’s Science Policy Research
Unit (SPRU) and chair of the Nuclear Consulting Group said: “In terms of
energy security, Russian controlled uranium – basically reactors run on
uranium, includes both Russia and corporations in Kazakhstan, which are
Russian controlled.

 Express 9th April 2022

https://www.express.co.uk/news/science/1592617/emmanuel-macron-putin-news-russia-eu-uranium-supplies-nuclear-energynce A

April 11, 2022 Posted by | France, politics international, Uranium | Leave a comment

Scrutiny on Switzerland’s nuclear power industry- it gets uranium from Russia

Use of Russian uranium for Swiss nuclear power under scrutiny,   Russia’s state-owned nuclear firm Rosatom helps fuel two nuclear power plants in Switzerland. That commercial link is now under scrutiny as the Western world puts financial pressure on Russia to stop its aggression against Ukraine. Swiss Info March 31, 2022 

Swiss electricity company Axpo purchases fuel from Rosatom to operate the Beznau and Leibstadt nuclear power plants in canton Aargau.

In a statement published on Thursday, the environmental NGO Greenpeace urged the authorities of seven Swiss cantons – which own Axpo – to stop buying uranium from Rosatom.

This commercial relationship, the NGO argued, helps to finance Russia’s war effort in Ukraine. Competitor company Alpiq, which runs the Gösgen nuclear site, stopped sourcing from Russia in 2016.

…………………………………..  Of Switzerland’s four nuclear reactors, only Gösgen, operated by the company Alpiq, does not buy Russian uranium. Alpiq said this decision was taken in 2016 due to considerations about environmental compatibility and supply chain transparency………..

By paying for Russian uranium – Switzerland could also indirectly help finance Russia’s military apparatus. SRF points that Rosatom is the manufacturer of Russia’s warheads and now controls the operation of various Ukrainian nuclear power plants, such as at Zaporizhia, seized after fighting on March 4.   https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/use-of-russian-uranium-for-swiss-nuclear-power-under-scrutiny/47479722

April 2, 2022 Posted by | politics international, Switzerland, Uranium | Leave a comment

Russia about to announce an export ban on uranium

Putin goes nuclear: Biden faces crisis as Russia BANS uranium exports in sanction response

US PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN is currently facing a nuclear crisis as Russia announces an export ban on uranium. Express UK, By ANTONY ASHKENAZ Mar 21, 2022  Russian President Vladimir Putin has hit back the US for the crippling sanctions placed by Joe Biden on Russia following the invasion of Ukraine. Earlier this month, the US dealt a major blow to Moscow by announcing a ban on Russian oil and gas, the country’s largest export. Now as a response to the embargo, Russia is considering halting the sale of uranium to the US.

When he was asked about how he felt about imposing a ban on the export of uranium, Mr Novak said: “This issue is also on the agenda, it is being studied.”

Uranium, which is a key component of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy, is another energy resource mined in Russia.

The US energy industry relies on Moscow and its key allies Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan for roughly half of the uranium powering its nuclear power plants.

Mr Biden has faced intense lobbying from the nuclear industry to continue buying Russian uranium despite Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russia has known uranium deposits of 500,000 tonnes and accounts for 9 percent of the world’s uranium production, according to the World Nuclear Association.

Uranium is primarily used for its nuclear properties, both as a fuel for power plants and for nuclear weapons.

Earlier this month, at a White House address, Mr Biden said: ‘We’re banning all imports of

 Russian gas, oil and energy’…………….

 sources noted that these sanctions do not include a ban on imports of uranium for nuclear 

power plants………..   https://www.express.co.uk/news/science/1584053/putin-news-russia-nuclear-nightmare-uranium-exports-ban-ukraine-invasion

March 22, 2022 Posted by | politics international, Uranium | Leave a comment

People Against Wylfa-B (PAWB) calls for sanctions on UK importing enriched uranium from Russia

PAWB has written to Ynys Môn MP, Virginia Crosbie, who is a member of the
All Party Nuclear Group in Westminster. We urge the group to call for
sanctions on raw and enriched uranium from Russia, and that such sanctions
are imposed internationally. Russia has 35% of the world market for
enriched uranium.

We also condemn in the strongest terms, the All Party
Nuclear Group’s totally reckless and irresponsible call for 30 Gigawatts
(30,000 Megawatts) of electricity through nuclear by 2050. This shows an
astounding economic and environmental illiteracy. This would be 3 times the
peak of electricity generated by nuclear power in Wales, England and
Scotland during the mid 1990s.

It appears Boris Johnson is listening too
much to this completely misguided nuclear cheerleading by the All Party
Nuclear Group. The Group totally ignores the challenges of climate change,
rising sea levels and the severe threats from storm surges to all coastal
nuclear sites in Wales, England and Scotland. Also, in the context of the
war in Ukraine where 15 operational nuclear reactors are potential dirty
bombs that could poison the whole of Europe with radioactivity, can the All
Party Nuclear Group and Boris Johnson answer how the British state can
justify building new nuclear reactors, obvious targets for hypersonic
missiles by potential enemies?

 PAWB 20th March 2022

https://www.stop-wylfa.org/news/

March 22, 2022 Posted by | opposition to nuclear, politics international, UK, Uranium | Leave a comment

European countries make an exception for uranium from Russia – no sanctions on importing that!

So far, the EU has not put uranium on any sanctions list. Because only Russia can supply suitable fuel rods for many Eastern European nuclear power plants. Without Russia, the technicians at the Bohunice nuclear power plant in western Slovakia have a problem.

Here it is easy to imagine what an immediate embargo on raw materials from Russia would mean. They need uranium to keep the electricity flowing. But there is only one supplier who can supply the reactors with fuel. And that is, of all things, a Russian state-owned company. Slovakia has put itself in an awkward position.

Now Putin is bombing Ukraine. And yet uranium imports must continue. Of course, even Germany has not yet been able to bring itself to impose an energy embargo – the fear of skyrocketing prices, unemployment and cold living rooms is too great. But other European states also have red lines.
It is no coincidence that uranium is not on any EU sanctions list so far.

 Sueddeutsche Zeitung 17th March 2022

https://www.sueddeutsche.de/wirtschaft/energie-atomkraft-uran-russland-1.5549686

March 21, 2022 Posted by | business and costs, politics international, Uranium | Leave a comment

The Ukraine war is bad for USA’s nuclear industry- hard to get the Highly Enriched Uranium needed from Russia for Advanced Nuclear Reactors


How Russia’s invasion is affecting U.S. nuclear
, EE News, By Hannah Northey | 03/14/2022   

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is raising questions about the cost and flow of fuel to existing and yet-to-be commercialized advanced U.S. reactors touted by advocates as a tool for tackling climate change.

President Biden didn’t target the nuclear sector when he issued an executive order this month to block imports of Russian crude and natural gas.

But as the war drags on for a third week, the White House is consulting with the nuclear sector about the potential impact of imposing sanctions on Rosatom, Russia’s state-owned atomic energy company, according to Bloomberg, which cited anonymous sources familiar with the matter.

The White House did not immediately confirm talks with the nuclear industry.

Sanctions on Rosatom, sources told E&E News, could pose long-term challenges for the United States’ fleet of more than 90 reactors running on low-enriched uranium.

While the existing plants have enough fuel for the next six to eight months and possibly longer, experts say sanctions on Russian imports could raise the global cost of low-enriched uranium and rile U.S. plants sensitive to cost swings. Russia supplies 20 percent of the low-enriched uranium needed to run American nuclear plants, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.

Others say the larger concern may sit with advanced reactor demonstrations expected to come online around 2028 that will require high-assay, low-enriched uranium, or HALEU. That’s because Russia is the only viable commercial supplier globally and other firms are years away from readily providing such fuel, they say.

Groups like Beyond Nuclear have said the Russian invasion highlights the liability of nuclear power and spent fuel, arguing the fuel source cannot be a climate solution.

Frank von Hippel, a physicist and professor emeritus at Princeton University, said the bigger challenge for nuclear power is that the technology is not economically competitive…………..

Russia represents— about 20 percent in 2020 — of the enriched uranium making its way to American reactors. Concerns about what steps the Biden administration would take regarding uranium began surfacing publicly when Reuters, citing sources familiar with the matter, reported earlier this month that NEI urged the White House to keep uranium sales exempt from sanctions (Energywire, March 3)…………………

Focus on advanced reactors

Possible sanctions on Russia could affect the current timeline for the deployment of advanced reactors in the U.S., said Jeff Merrifield, who sat on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission during the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations and is now a Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP law firm partner.

Merrifield agreed Russia is the most readily available short-term option for providing fuel for advanced reactors that will need HALEU, uranium that’s enriched between 5 percent and 20 percent — higher rates that allow smaller designs to get more power for their size.

The first projects that would need a steady source of HALEU could be the Energy Department’s advanced reactor demonstration program, including a TerraPower plant in Wyoming and an X-energy project in Washington state. Those plants are expected to come online around 2028.

To be sure, sources of HALEU outside Russia are emerging — but industry and regulatory sources E&E News spoke with said it’s a matter of demand and timing as advanced reactors come online……………  https://www.eenews.net/articles/how-russias-invasion-is-affecting-u-s-nuclear/

March 15, 2022 Posted by | business and costs, technology, Uranium, USA | Leave a comment