News October 2006

31 October 2006

New nukes

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. plans to start talking with General Electric Co. about co-operation in the nuclear business to better compete with the Toshiba Corp. and Westinghouse camp in the rapidly growing market, a newspaper said on Tuesday. The report comes after Mitsubishi Heavy and France’s Areva, the world’s largest maker of nuclear reactors, said earlier this month they would jointly develop mid-sized nuclear power reactors.
Reuters 31st Oct 2006

Electricite de France is ready to spearhead the UK’s nuclear power plant building drive, the CEO of the French power giant’s UK arm said on Monday. Vincent de Rivaz and other speakers at a nuclear energy finance forum in London said a report by former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern on the economic and environmental fallout from global warming, emphasized the need for new nuclear power plants.
Reuters 30th Oct 2006

An American coalition of groups called Grass Roots Action Center for the Environment (GRACE) has launched a new report called “False Promises: Debunking Nuclear Industry Propaganda”. The report is a compelling exposé of the nuclear industry propaganda and highlights misleading public relations attempts while offering cheaper, faster, safer solutions to mitigate climate change. With a foreword by Robert Alvarez, Senior Policy Advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Energy (1993-1999), the new report shows why the nuclear industry’s claims are misleading and why nuclear power is not part of the solution to our energy crisis.
Grace Energy Initiative

Letter from Dr Paul Aron and Duncan McLaren: Nuclear Energy is not the answer. Aron says: I am concerned by the government’s enthusiasm for nuclear power, to which renewable-energy sources are taking second place. This is a terribly short-sighted solution, notwithstanding the problem of radioactive waste disposal.
Independent 31st Oct 2006

China

China yesterday announced that it would sign a treaty establishing a “nuclear weapons free” zone in south-east Asia, a largely symbolic move that signals its increasing willingness to forge closer ties with regional nations.
FT 31st Oct 2006

Nuclear skills

The government will agree to plans for a national nuclear skills academy today as the industry gears up for a £65bn clean-up programme and the possibility of a new generation of reactors.
Guardian 31st Oct 2006

Trident

Pensioners from Bristol have been arrested during an anti-nuclear protest in Scotland.At least four of the 16 Quakers who made the journey to Glasgow were among those arrested at the Firth of Clyde naval base, home to the UK’s nuclear-armed Trident submarines.
Bristol Evening Post 30th Oct 2006

North Korea

The commander of U.S. Forces in South Korea said on Monday he expects North Korea to explode another nuclear device but added the North’s test earlier this month did not change the balance of power on the peninsula.
Reuters 30th Oct 2006

Terror

Morocco called on the international community to tackle poverty and regional conflict as root causes of “nuclear terrorism” during a meeting on Monday on ways to jointly prevent the threat. “The international community must address the profound causes of this phenomenon (nuclear activity by terrorists) by resolving international and regional conflicts and the fight against injustices, frustrations and misery,” the Moroccan representative at the Rabat conference, Omar Hilale, said in remarks published by Morocco’s MAP news agency. The two-day meeting is the first held by the “Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism” — jointly launched by US President George W. Bush and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at July’s G8 summit in Saint Petersburg.

Interactive Investor 30th Oct 2006

Climate

Climate change has been made the world’s biggest priority, with the publication of a stark report showing that the planet faces catastrophe unless urgent measures are taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Independent 31st Oct 2006
Telegraph 31st Oct 2006

The UK is to use the warnings of irreversible climate change and the biggest economic slump since the 1930s, outlined in yesterday’s Stern review, to press for a new global deal to curb carbon emissions. The government is urgently pushing ahead on the issue because the existing Kyoto protocol runs out in 2012, and there is no binding agreement to extend it. Downing Street is seeking the outline of a package with the G8 industrial nations and five leading developing countries by next year, or 2008 at the latest.
Guardian 31st October 2006

Posted: 31 October 2006

30 October 2006

Trident

THE Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett, yesterday called for a national debate on the future of Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent.
Scotsman 30th Oct 2006
Daily Mail 30th Oct 2006
Times 30th Oct 2006

Nuclear Waste

Environment Secretary David Miliband has moved to quell fears that a nuclear waste dump could be built in the Warwickshire countryside.
Birmingham Post 30th Oct 2006

Letter from David Nowell, Fellow of the Geological Society. What is the point of asking local authorities to bid for consideration as a possible site for burying nuclear waste (report, October 25) when no geological template has been drawn up to see if these areas are suitable in the first place? While the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management, set up by the Government with no geologist or civil engineer on it, wasted three years reaching the obvious conclusion that deep burial was the only option, organisations such as the British Geological Survey have been sidelined from the decision-making process, for fear of jumping the gun. Now, with no expert geological opinion, as no broad specification has been agreed, local councils are asked to draw up what in many cases will be unsuitable bids.
Telegraph 30th Oct 2006

North Korea

The Deputy Prime Minister, a surprise choice to represent the Government in a region that is facing a nuclear showdown with North Korea, has become averse to any publicity. Since he arrived in Japan on Sunday on a four-nation tour he has pointedly declined to speak to reporters about the diplomatic crisis that he is supposed to be helping to resolve.
Times 30th Oct 2006

Climate

Britons face the prospect of a welter of new green taxes to tackle climate change, as the most authoritative report on global warming warns it will cost the world up to £3.68 trillion unless it is tackled within a decade. The review by Sir Nicholas Stern, commissioned by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and published tomorrow, marks a crucial point in the debate by underlining how failure to act would trigger a catastrophic global recession. Unchecked climate change would turn 200 million people into refugees, the largest migration in modern history, as their homes succumbed to drought or flood.
Observer 29th Oct 2006
Times 30th Oct 2006
Independent 30th Oct 2006

Britain is to send the author of today’s landmark review on global warming to try to win American hearts and minds to the urgent cause of cutting carbon emissions – as it emerged yesterday that the government has already signed up former US vice-president Al Gore to advise on the environment.
Guardian 30th Oct 2006
FT 30th Oct 2006

Israel

The United Nations Environment Programme is investigating allegations, first published in The Independent, that Israel may have used uranium-based weapons during this summer’s war in Lebanon. Twenty UN experts, working with Lebanese environmentalists, have spent two weeks assessing various samples. They are planning to report their findings in December.
Independent 30th Oct 2006

Posted: 30 October 2006

29 October 2006

North Korea

SOUTH Korean military officials fear the North may be making preparations for a second nuclear test. They claim to have observed activities today at the original testing site.
Edinburgh Evening News 28th Oct 2006

Trident

MARGARET BECKETT, the foreign secretary, has reopened the controversy over Britain’s nuclear deterrent by calling for a public debate on whether the country still needs Trident missiles.
Sunday Times 29th Oct 2006

The Government was accused last night of covertly beginning work on a new nuclear warhead, despite ministers’ assurances that no decision on replacing the Trident nuclear deterrent had been made. The chief scientist at Aldermaston, the UK’s top-secret atomic weapons facility, has told potential recruits that “most of our research” is devoted to “the ability to provide a new warhead”.
Independent on Sunday 29th Oct 2006

THE secrets of Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent are feared stolen, the Sunday Express can reveal. It is claimed they disappeared from a high-security base in the US. CIA and FBI agents launched an inquiry after top-secret material was found under a mattress in a caravan near the base during a drugs raid.
Sunday Express 29th Oct 2006

Israel

AMID mounting fears that Iran is planning to obliterate their country, wealthy Israelis are shelling out on underground nuclear shelters in the gardens of their luxury homes.
Sunday Times 29th Oct 2006

Scotland

It’s Scotland’s Waste. Labour think they have scored a direct hit on the SNP’s nuclear policy, and they may be right. But Jack McConnell may also have deepened Labour’s own divisions over energy policy. Last week, SNP parliamentary leader Nicola Sturgeon insisted that an SNP government would not use the national deep waste repository in England to store Scotland’s nuclear waste, but keep the stuff above ground in Scotland. Jack McConnell says he was genuinely surprised to learn this.
Sunday Herald 29th Oct 2006

Letter: It would seem that when Jack McConnell stated that, as part of the Union Dividend, any nuclear waste that we have will “most likely” end up in the north-west of England, he was straying off the Labour Party script. The reaction from his Labour colleagues there suggest that this is hardly party policy and unlikely to be easily achieved. The likelihood of getting all the UK nuclear waste here in Scotland remains a distinct possibility.
Aberdeen Press and Journal 28th Oct 2006

Nuclear Waste

CONCERNED South Tynesiders are opposed to the borough ever becoming a dumping ground for nuclear waste.
Shields Gazette 28th Oct 2006

Energy Efficiency

As many as half of all new houses built in Scotland could breach energy-saving rules, blowing a gaping hole in government attempts to combat climate chaos. An investigation by the Sunday Herald has uncovered evidence that insulation and draught-proofing in new homes is often so poor that they fail to comply with building regulations. As a result they cause more of the pollution that is warming the globe.
Sunday Herald 29th Oct 2006

Privatisation

While the era of large-scale privatisations may be over, experts reckon that the current government could raise an additional £15bn if it sold all of the assets that are still on its books, such as British Energy, the Tote, the bookmaker, and Channel Four. The government’s own target, announced by Gordon Brown, the chancellor, earlier this year is to raise £30bn by 2010, but the bulk of this is expected to come from selling land and buildings, not business assets.
Sunday Telegraph 29th Oct 2006

Posted: 29 October 2006

28 October 2006

Iran

US President George W Bush says the international community must “redouble” efforts to prevent Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. He spoke after reports Iran had stepped up work to enrich uranium by activating a second cascade of centrifuges at its Natanz plant.
BBC 27th Oct 2006

Iran has started enriching uranium in a second experimental network of centrifuges, Iran’s student news agency ISNA said on Friday, expanding a programme which the West fears is intended to make nuclear bombs.
Reuters 28th Oct 2006

Scotsman 28th Oct 2006
http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/international.cfm?id=1595792006
Times website 27th Oct 2006

Trident

ROSIE Kane, the Scottish Socialist MSP, was jailed for two weeks yesterday after refusing to pay a fine imposed for breaking the law during a nuclear demonstration.
Scotsman 28th Oct 2006
Guardian 28th Oct 2006

Scotland

Jack McConnell warned one of the benefits of keeping the kingdom united was that Scotland would be able to dump its nuclear waste in England. SNP deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon was able to accuse him at First Minister’s Questions of “crude anti-English posturing”, an insult Labour usually likes to aim at the nationalists.
Glasgow Evening Times 27th October 2006

Nuclear Waste

Britain will bury its most hazardous radioactive waste in underground rock formations, the Government said on Thursday as it set out long-term plans for dealing with waste from the country’s nuclear power plants.
Edie 27th Oct 2006

Controversial plans to bankroll a nuclear waste disposal programme through taxes, at a possible cost of £20bn, have been unveiled by the government.
Finance Director 27th Oct 2006

Middle East

Did Israel use a secret new uranium-based weapon in southern Lebanon this summer in the 34-day assault that cost more than 1,300 Lebanese lives, most of them civilians? We know that the Israelis used American “bunker-buster” bombs on Hizbollah’s Beirut headquarters. We know that they drenched southern Lebanon with cluster bombs in the last 72 hours of the war, leaving tens of thousands of bomblets which are still killing Lebanese civilians every week.
Independent 28th Oct 2006

Posted: 28 October 2006

27 October 2006

Scotland

Jack McConnell faces defeat at his party’s conference next month, as supporters of new nuclear power stations in Scotland press for a firm commitment to build them.
Both sides of the debate within Labour say the pro-nuclear lobby has the votes to demand a shift to clear backing for replacement atomic plants.
Herald 27th Oct 2006

Jack’s bet is that Scottish councils will spurn the chance to “voluntarily” store Britain’s nuclear waste under the bed. Therefore we had better stick with the Union if we want to tip our garbage in next door’s garden.
Herald 27th Oct 2006

FIRST MINISTER Jack McConnell again found himself on the rack over nuclear policy when he went head-to-head with the SNP deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon at Holyrood yesterday. Once more he refused to say whether or not he supports building new nuclear power stations and he floundered over his stance on nuclear waste. Earlier this week, Mr McConnell said Scotland’s nuclear waste was “most likely” to be disposed of in the north-west of England. Ms Sturgeon seized on the comments to accuse the First Minister of scaremongering and “crude anti-English posturing.”
Dundee Courier 27th Oct 2006

NDA

THE bill for cleaning up atomic waste has soared by £2 billion to £65 billion, with the watchdog set up to deal with Britain’s nuclear legacy warning that costs could rise further. Estimates of the long-term costs of radioactive waste disposal were unveiled by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), set up in April 2005 to oversee the dismantling of Britain’s ageing nuclear power stations.
Scotsman 27th Oct 2006
FT 27th Oct 2006

The agency overseeing the dismantling of old nuclear power stations raised the estimated cost of operations, closure and clean-up to 72.3 billion pounds on Thursday.
Reuters 26th Oct 2006

US

The FBI is investigating whether information from a US nuclear weapons laboratory was found in a police drugs search of a New Mexico trailer park.
BBC 27th Oct 2006

Nuclear research

West Cumbria is to become a centre for nuclear excellence with the construction of a national nuclear laboratory.
West Cumbria Times and Star 27th Oct 2006

Nuclear Waste

The Environment Secretary insists there are no plans to dump nuclear waste in former Notts collieries. David Miliband was answering a question in Parliament by Sherwood MP Paddy Tipping yesterday. Mr Miliband has invited councils to take part in talks on the long-term disposal of higher activity radioactive waste.
Nottingham Evening Post 26th Oct 2006

Q&A on Nuclear Waste:- David Miliband, the Environment Secretary, announced this week that the country’s most dangerous radioactive waste, accumulated over the past half century, will be buried in deep underground facilities. He said these repositories will be built in “geologically suitable” areas and with the support of local authorities.
Independent 27th Oct 2006

Councils across the UK are to be asked if they have any suitable sites for a deep underground bunker to store Britain’s nuclear waste.
Western Daily Press 26th Oct 2006

Lithuania

A steering committee consisting of representatives from power firms Lietuvos Energija, Latvenergo and Eesti Energia has concluded that the construction of a new nuclear power plant in Lithuania is feasible. The committee’s decision came during a meeting in Vilnius to review the results of a feasibility study for construction of the new power plant.
Energy Business Review 27th Oct 2006

Italy & Slovakia

Enel has rejoined the World Association of Nuclear Operators, allowing the Italian company access to information and services to help ensure the safe running of its Slovenske Elektrarne subsidiary. Enel was previously a member of the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) until 1999, when the operation of Italy’s nuclear power plants was transferred to Sogin, the public entity responsible for handling their decommissioning. Now, however, following its acquisition of Slovenske Elektrarne, Enel has rejoined the association.
Energy Business Review 27th Oct 2006

Hunterston

IMMINENT cracking in the Hunterston nuclear station will affect its ability to operate safely, the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate has warned. Its assessment of the Ayrshire plant and its twin, the Hinkley Point station, raised concerns about the safe running of Britain’s ageing nuclear reactors.
Scotsman 27th Oct 2006

Iran

The Russian government is responsible for approving the delivery of nuclear fuel to Iran’s planned Bushehr power station, said AtomStroyExport, the Russian constructor in charge of the project.
Interactive Investor 26th Oct 2006

Nuclear Waste Transport

TRANSPORT bosses demanded answers after a train carrying nuclear waste broke down in Sunderland city centre. The city’s central station was evacuated after the train, carrying two nuclear flasks from Hartlepool to Sellafield reprocessing plant, ground to a halt when an axle overheated.
Sunderland Echo 26th Oct 2006
Carlisle News and Star 26th Oct 2006

Korea

With the world teetering on the brink of a nuclear showdown with North Korea, there is a widespread belief that the situation calls for a delicate, diplomatic touch. There was therefore a raised eyebrow or two at Westminster yesterday when it emerged that the government had sent John Prescott, the gaffe-prone deputy prime minister, to marshal the international response to the impending crisis.
Guardian 27th Oct 2006

Nuclear Security

Enough uranium for thousands of bombs, in decaying facilities, amid doubtful security – and this is in the US.
New Scientist 28th Oct 2006

Posted: 27 October 2006

26 October 2006

Nuclear Waste

TENDERS are to be invited from town halls to site nuclear waste bunkers in their areas in return for multimillion-pound investment in local services.
Times 26th Oct 2006
Telegraph 26th Oct 2006
Daily Mail 26th Oct 2006
ITV 25th Oct 2006
Carlisle News and Star 25th Oct 2006
BBC 25th Oct 2006

“The UK has been creating radioactive waste for 50 years without any clear idea of what to do with it,” says Gordon MacKerron, who chaired the committee charged with showing a way forward that would end this deadlock. Yesterday, ministers in Westminster, Edinburgh and Cardiff issued a statement accepting the key proposal of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management: to offer communities the dubious privilege of competing to host a hole large and deep enough to accommodate all of Britain’s nuclear waste, estimated at 470,000 cubic metres. The government hopes that by offering millions of pounds of infrastructure investment, communities that have already swallowed their doubts about nuclear safety will be persuaded to volunteer, bringing a new twist to the adage about the relationship between muck and brass.
Herald 26th Oct 2006

The Government began the search yesterday for a site to to store Britain’s nuclear waste in a deep underground bunker.
Yorkshire Post 26th Oct 2006

The UK government’s decision today to subsume independent waste body Nirex into the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) could cause any future waste repository to be blocked by a legal challenge from nuclear protesters, sources said today.
Forbes 25th Oct 2006

The Government’s proposals include giving responsibility for securing geological disposal of radioactive waste to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. GMB has reacted with distain.
GMB Press Release 25th Oct 2006

Taxpayers will be expected to foot the bulk of a bill of up to 20bn for the deep underground burial of -radioactive
waste from nuclear plants, it emerged yesterday. The government’s decision to store and then bury nuclear waste angered environmentalists, who called the strategy “haphazard” and “reckless”. The Conservatives warned of a potential conflict of interest inhanding responsibility for finding a suitable site to the Nuclear Decommissioning
Authority, which owns nuclear facilities. But the biggest concern voiced by MPs was the uncertainty over how the cost of disposal and the construction of a bunker 1km below ground would be met. Although private operators could build new reactors in coming years and would contribute to the bill, tax revenues would provide most of the financing.
FT 26th Oct 2006

Scotland

JACK McConnell has come under fire after saying that Scotland could have its nuclear waste dumped in north-west England. The First Minister’s suggestion was made after a keynote speech about the benefits of devolution. In a question-and-answer session, Mr McConnell said: “Nuclear waste is most likely in the UK to be placed in the north-west of England. And that is part of the partnership that we have here, that we share each other’s challenges for the future. I think those that would throw away that partnership don’t realise the immense dividend we get from it.” But David Miliband, the UK Environment Secretary, said: “We should not have central diktats”, adding that it was for local authorities in Scotland, England or Wales to come forward and volunteer to accept nuclear waste.
Scotsman 26th Oct 2006
Herald 26th Oct 2006
Dundee Courier 26th Oct 2006
BBC 25th Oct 2006
Times 26th Oct 2006

It is unlikely the dump will be in Scotland and Highland Council, whose area includes the Dounreay plant, confirmed they don’t want it.
Daily Record 26th Oct 2006

Iran

Washington wants restrictions on Russia’s construction of an Iranian nuclear reactor as part of a European draft U.N. resolution that imposes sanctions on Tehran’s atomic-related activities, diplomats said on Wednesday.
Reuters 26th Oct 2006

Iran announced yesterday that a second set of equipment for enriching uranium was just days from being completed, deepening its defiance over its nuclear programme.
Telegraph 26th Oct 2006
FT 26th Oct 2006
BBC 25th Oct 2006

Norway

Tougher controls on the slaughter of sheep have been imposed in Norway after they were found to be contaminated with unusually high levels of radioactivity from the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. The Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority (NRPA) says the problem has arisen because the sheep have feasted on an unusually large crop of mushrooms, which were more plentiful than usual because of wet weather. Previous research has shown that fungi take up more radioactivity from the soil than grasses or other plants.
New Scientist 28th Oct 2006
RobEdwards.com 26th Oct 2006

Nuclear Waste Transport

SUNDERLAND train station was closed yesterday after a train carrying nuclear waste broke down. The station was evacuated by fire crews after smoke was seen coming from the train. An axle on the train, bound for Sellafield reprocessing plant, had overheated. British Transport Police said there was no danger to the public at any time.
Sunderland Echo 26th Oct 2006

Decommissioning

The European Commission has adopted a new recommendation that contains measures to ensure adequate and properly managed financial resources for nuclear decommissioning activities, as well as for the safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste. As there is currently a debate on the revival of nuclear energy in several European Union member states, the Commission recommendation has paid special attention to new nuclear constructions. While a segregated fund with appropriate controls on use is the preferred option for all nuclear installations, a clear recommendation to this effect has been made for the newly established facilities, the Commission said.
Energy Business Review 25th Oct 2006

Hinkley & Hunterston

The future of some of Britain’s ageing nuclear power stations was yesterday thrown into doubt as government inspectors claimed cracks in the graphite cores of the oldest plants were so serious that a safety case for the stations operating much longer could not be made. An assessment report on the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate website stated yesterday that there were expectations that most of the graphite bricks in the core of the 1976 Hinkley Point station, and its twin station, Hunterston, in Ayrshire, would crack in the near future, jeopardising the safe running of the reactors.
Guardian 26th Oct 2006

Questions are being raised about the future of Hinkley Point B nuclear power station in Somerset.
BBC 26th Oct 2006

Problems with British Energy’s nuclear power plants will probably push up UK power prices and could, at worst, pose risks to power supply security, according to consultants Wood Mackenzie.
Reuters 25th Oct 2006

BRITAIN is facing an increased risk of power shortages this winter, analysts warned yesterday. Problems with five ageing nuclear power stations, including Hunterston B in Scotland, combined with a cold winter would put the country’s energy supply “at risk”.
Scotsman 26th Oct 2006

WHILE Britain has been enjoying its hottest summer on record, events have been conspiring which threaten electricity shortages when winter eventually comes.
Scotsman Editorial 26th Oct 2006

BNG Privatisation

The Liberal Democrats have attacked the Government’s proposal to break up and sell off British Nuclear Group and establish a National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) as yet more backdoor subsidy.
Society of Procurement Officers 25th Oct 2006

Trade Unions at Sellafield say they are disappointed about the decision to break up BNG.
Carlisle News and Star 25th Oct 2006

State-owned British Nuclear Group (BNG) has moved a step closer to private ownership after the government decided it wants to sell it off piecemeal.
BBC 25th Oct 2006

Posted: 26 October 2006

25 October 2006

Nuclear Waste

Towns, cities and villages are to be granted the dubious privilege of volunteering to play host to a pile of nuclear waste in a deep underground bunker, with the government expected on Wednesday to back plans for disposal far underground. In return, the lucky winner will be offered inducements including investment in local transport infrastructure and their social fabric.
FT 25th October 2006

The Environment Secretary David Miliband will set out the government’s strategy for dealing with its stock of nuclear waste, according to sources. AFX has learned that Miliband, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, will outline to parliament whether the government intends to follow the recommendations of its own Committee for Radioactive Waste Management (CORWM) which reported in August.
Interactive Investor 24th Oct 2006

South Africa

Ill-health has not always been Mcephe’s constant companion – he insists he was a healthy man before he started working for the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (NECSA) at the state-owned Pelindaba nuclear reactor, about 40km from Johannesburg.
Reuters 24th Oct 2006

North Korea

China said yesterday that North Korea had no immediate plans to conduct a second nuclear test, damping speculation of another blast after the imposition of United Nations sanctions on the reclusive state.
FT 25th Oct 2006

China has denied earlier reports that the North Korean leader apologised for this month’s atomic weapons test and said yesterday that Kim Jong-il has reserved the right to escalate the nuclear crisis.
Guardian 25th Oct 2006

Tony Blair was accused yesterday of wasting thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money by sending John Prescott on a pointless mission to the Far East. The Conservatives said it was “a joke” to dispatch the discredited deputy prime minister to a region plunged into crisis by North Korea’s nuclear bomb test. The cost of the trip is likely to be about £10,000. But aides for Mr Prescott, who yesterday held talks with Shinzo Abe, the Japanese premier, on the Korean nuclear crisis, hit back by stressing his strong links with the Far East.
Telegraph 25th Oct 2006

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited the region last week to meet leaders from neighbouring countries and discuss ways to detect and intercept illicit nuclear stocks. But proliferation experts disagree about whether such a screening regime is practical or even possible. Spotting radioactive material aboard ships, trucks and aircraft is technically difficult and would require unprecedented regional cooperation.
Nature 24th Oct 2006

Finland

France came under close regulatory scrutiny yesterday for its decision to provide a €570m loan guarantee to finance the construction of the first nuclear reactor in Europe since the Chernobyl catastrophe in 1986. The European Commission said it had opened an in-depth investigation into a guarantee that helped Teollisuuden Voima, the Finnish electricity producer, buy equipment from Areva. The French nuclear group, together with German engineering group Siemens, won the contract to build a new nuclear reactor at Finland’s Olkiluoto plant.
FT 25th Oct 2006

The European Commission confirmed it is launching an in-depth investigation into the guarantee that French government insurer Coface has given Areva and its Framatome-ANP unit for the funding for a European pressurised water nuclear reactor in Finland.
Interactive Investor 24th Oct 2006

BNG Privatisation

The Government ended months of uncertainty about its privatisation plans for the country’s remaining nuclear assets, confirming that British Nuclear Group would be broken up and sold off piecemeal. After protracted behind-the-scenes lobbying by companies seeking a slice of Britain’s nuclear businesses, Alistair Darling, the Trade and Industry Secretary, fired the starting gun for interested parties to formally make themselves known. By far the biggest prize is a five-year contract to manage the clean-up of Sellafield, the most complex nuclear site on earth. Companies around the world have shown intense interest because they hope an initial five-year deal might be extended. They also see it as a springboard for winning much more work in the UK, both cleaning up spent reactors and participating in the programme to build new nuclear power stations, which the Government confirmed in this year’s Energy Review.
Telegraph 25th Oct 2006
Scotsman 25th Oct 2006
Times 25th Oct 2006
Guardian 25th Oct 2006

Commenting on the announcement today by the DTI on the future of the British Nuclear Group, Shadow Trade and Industry Secretary Alan Duncan said: “When the Government comes to sell BNG’s reactor sites business it is essential that only those companies with an impeccable health and safety record should be allowed to qualify.”
Conservative Party Press Release 24th Oct 2006

GMB, the largest union in the nuclear industry, has reacted with anger at the announcement by Alistair Darling, the Trade and Industry Secretary, that the Government will support the break up of British Nuclear Group.
GMB Press Release 24th Oct 2006

Nuclear Research

West Cumbria is to become a centre of nuclear excellence with the construction odf the National Nuclear Laboratory.
North west Evening Mail 24th Oct 2006

Posted: 25 October 2006

24 October 2006

Trident

Building work, costing £1bn, at a weapons research base and the creation of hundreds of new jobs have sparked claims of new nuclear developments.
BBC 23rd Oct 2006

Israel

EHUD Olmert, Israel’s prime minister, yesterday put a controversial ultra-nationalist in charge of handling Israeli policy towards Iran’s nuclear programme as part of a deal to broaden his troubled coalition.
Scotsman 24th Oct 2006
Times 24th Oct 2006

Iran

The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has called for a baby boom to almost double the country’s population to 120 million and enable it to threaten the west, as he boasted that the country’s nuclear capacity had increased “tenfold”.
Guardian 24th Oct 2006

Nuclear research

The Government is preparing to unveil plans for the creation of a national nuclear laboratory which it hopes will ensure key skills in the nuclear sector are preserved in the UK. An announcement in the House of Commons could come as soon as today. The Department of Trade and Industry is expected to say the basis for the new laboratory will be Nexia Solutions, the rump of British Nuclear Fuels which is not up for sale to the private sector.
Telegraph 24th Oct 2006

British Energy

All four reactors at British Energy’s Hinkley Point B and Hunterston B nuclear power plants lay dormant on Monday because of possible boiler problems, a spokesman for the company said, while some of its nuclear power plants were restarted over the weekend.
Reuters 23rd Oct 2006

Proliferation

The US administration’s double standards in dealing with the intensifying nuclear crisis in North Korea further strengthens the argument that President George W Bush’s colonial designs are either exasperated by the vulnerability of his foes or deterred by their lethal preparedness. Considering the US-North Korea protracted standoff, one can only imagine how foolishly disposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein must now feel that he didn’t pursue a more determined programme of weapons of mass destruction.
Middle East Online 23rd Oct 2006

Nuclear Waste

Football managers excepted, we Brits don’t do bungs: it offends our sense of fair play. Given that we don’t like nuclear waste much either, you’d think the government would avoid combining the two. That, however, may not be possible. Over the past 50 years, UK nuclear power stations have amassed 478,000 cubic metres of toxic gunk that has to be safely disposed of in a deep hole somewhere. Given that no one in his right mind is going to actively volunteer to take it, the Government’s Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CORWM) has looked abroad and come up with a solution worthy of any football agent: offer the host community a bribe.
First Post 23rd Oct 2006

Energy Strategies

Amory Lovins Interview
Toronto Star 22nd October 2006

The government is facing legal action from the European Commission for failing to implement legislation to save energy and combat global warming. If the rules for insulating homes and offices aren’t brought up to scratch, ministers could end up being fined in court for breaking the law.
RobEdwards.com 22nd Oct 2006

New nukes

More than 3,000 reactors would need to be built worldwide before the nuclear industry could make significant reductions in greenhouse gases, an academic claims. Professor Rodney Ewing, of Michigan University, said that building the reactors would take too long to curb climate change. [One of the editors of “Uncertainty Underground” – see reviews]
Times 24th October 2006

Posted: 24 October 2006

23 October 2006

Nuclear Power and the Scottish Parliamentary Elections

There seems to be some confusion in the Press about whether the serious cracks found in boiler tubes at some of British Energy’s nuclear stations, including Hunterston, will make it more or less likely that there will be more reactors built in Scotland.

Labour’s policy on new reactors in Scotland is still being debated and the manifesto for next May’s Holyrood elections won’t be decided until the November conference. But First Minister Jack McConnell has made it clear that he hopes to see the lives of Scotland’s nuclear plants extended so that new reactor building can be avoided, and giving time for renewables to develop further. (1) The Scotsman has now suggested that the boiler-tube cracking problem might put this policy in jeopardy. (2)

On the other hand, The Independent asked whether the reactor problems would put the kibosh on new reactors. “It remains highly unlikely”, it said “given the experience of privately owned nuclear capacity in this country, that the City could be persuaded to invest without some form of government subsidy or market subvention. An inconvenient truth, perhaps, but a rather important one which ministers seem determined to ignore as they grapple with their planned, nuclear White Paper”. (3)

There is probably some truth in what both newspapers say. Clearly, not being able to extend the life of Hunterston B is going to make meeting Scotland’s electricity demand without exceeding climate change emissions targets more difficult, but, as a recent Garrad Hassan report (4) shows, still quite feasible, especially given the amount currently exported. It also means we need to get serious about developing renewable and energy efficiency programmes now. But British Energy’s problems are also going to make private investors even more wary about getting involved with this risky technology. (5)

For most, the idea of throwing good money after bad in the hope that the next generation of reactors might work properly is simply ludicrous. The opposition SNP said the cracks mean the credibility of building nuclear power stations in Scotland was in tatters, while LibDems called for investment in renewables. (6)

Scottish Elections

The Scottish Executive is run by a coalition of the Labour and Liberal-Democrat Parties, so might not necessarily follow the same policies as the Labour Government in London. Energy policy is officially reserved to Westminster, but the Executive has the power to approve or refuse planning consent for new power stations. In addition, other areas relating to energy policy are devolved – such as the promotion of renewable energy and energy efficiency, building regulations, environmental regulation, climate change, fuel poverty, and transport.

The Partnership Agreement, which is a joint statement of policy by the two parties in the governing coalition, states that: 
“We will not support the further development of nuclear power stations while waste management issues remain unresolved.”(7)

First Minister Jack McConnell has stressed that planning decisions have to be taken purely on planning grounds, and should not be influenced by politics. But he also says the Electricity Act of 1989 gives Scottish ministers complete control over decisions on electricity generating stations. He has spent most of this year saying that he wants to wait until the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management produces its report before making any decisions on new nuclear reactors (8)

Labour’s Conference

Labour’s Annual Scottish conference backed seemingly contradictory resolutions on nuclear power in February. The first resolution sponsored by Amicus and the NUM said the government must “support the fact that immediate plans must be started to replace or renew our existing coal-fired and nuclear generating stations where required.” The second resolution, which was put forward by the Socialist Environment Resources Association and supported by the Co-op Party, was passed unanimously, unlike the first. It recognised “the concerns about nuclear waste, acknowledging that all forms of energy have a carbon footprint and that uranium is not a renewable resource.” (9)

The Union resolution will undoubtedly have put more pressure on McConnell to come out in favour of new reactors, and the CoRWM report has now been published. But it is clear that Jack McConnell is doing everything he can to put off a decision on new nuclear power stations for Scotland until after next May’s Scottish Parliamentary elections. Having said he wants to wait for the final CoRWM report, which was published in July, he now wants a “period of reflection” to consider the issue. (10)

2007 Election Manifesto

The Scotsman reported that Labour’s manifesto for the elections will pave the way for a new generation of nuclear power stations. (11) In fact the manifesto won’t be agreed until the Party conference in Oban at the end of November, so we won’t know the final position until then. And even if Labour remains the largest Party after the election, they will have to form a coalition with at least one other Party.

Nicol Stephen, the Deputy First Minister and leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, has signalled his determination to challenge Labour over nuclear power and make it the defining issue of next year’s election campaign, although the Greens are not convinced they will not sell-out, as they have been accused of doing on other environmental issues. (12)

Nuclear waste problem not resolved

Doubtless at least some advocates of nuclear power will argue that the CoRWM report has now resolved waste management issues, so there is nothing stopping the Scottish Executive approving an application to build a new reactor. CoRWM has said that disposal deep underground is the “best available” long-term solution for the waste, but has not expressed any preference for the type of geology in which a repository should be built. Nor has the committee chosen a site.
The idea that the CoRWM report has somehow ‘resolved’ the nuclear waste issue was described by New Scientist magazine as “optimism gone mad”. It said: “deciding to put waste down ahole, with no idea what form the repository should take or where it should be, is no more of a plan than has existed for the past 30 years.” (13)

Scottish Environmentalists say CoRWM’s report must not be used by the Executive as a pretext for new reactors. Dr Richard Dixon, director of WWF Scotland, said: “The vague possibility of a hole in the ground, at an unknown site, in 70 years, is hardly a green light.

Although CoRWM says that “geological disposal” represents the best available approach, it also says that interim storage will be required because of the uncertainties surrounding implementation; the creation of suitable facilities “may take several decades” and there may be technical problems or community concerns in siting which could make it difficult, or even impossible. The Committee says there are still uncertainties with regard to the safety of deep geological disposal in general, and there will be uncertainties if and when a specific site is chosen, so there will need to be much more research. Community involvement in proposals for any waste facility should be based on volunteerism. Participation should be based on the expectation that the well-being of the community will be enhanced. (14)

CoRWM says its recommendations “should not be seen as either a red or green light for nuclear new build … New build wastes would extend the time-scales for implementation, possibly for very long but essentially unknowable future periods. Further the political and ethical issues raised by the creation of more wastes are quite different from those relating to [existing] wastes.” (15)

When he was specifically asked at CoRWM’s Brighton Press Conference on 27th April if he thought the recommendations had resolved the problem of nuclear waste, chairman, Gordon MacKerron said “no”. CoRWM has previously said: “If Ministers accept our recommendations, the UK’s nuclear waste problem is not solved. Having a strategy is a start. The real challenge follows.” (16) So there is nothing in the CoRWM report which means the Scottish Executive Partnership Agreement should change.

Overseas Experience

In a new book called Uncertainty Underground about the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump being built in Nevada, (17) the editors point out that the site was identified in the early 1980s as a potential site for nuclear waste. Yet it is still not open and its fate hangs in the balance. Several billion dollars have been spent, and a large number of scientists and engineers have engaged in every aspect of the problem, yet there are still delays. The key to understanding the scientific challenge involved is to recognise the large uncertainties involved with such an undertaking. 
“… an expansion in nuclear energy production simply cannot move forward without resolving the problem of the safe disposal of nuclear waste.”

Clearly, although the Americans appear to be more than 20 years ahead of us, their nuclear waste problem is still not resolved.
Incidentally, John Ritch, director-general of the World Nuclear Association, speaking at a conference in Sydney, has suggested we need a 20-fold expansion in global nuclear capacity. (18) Uncertainty Underground says a ten-fold increase – using a once-through cycle as opposed to reprocessing the spent fuel – would require the opening of a Yucca Mountain repository every year. 

New reactors quadruple waste problem

Advocates of nuclear power also say ten more reactors would add only 10% to the volume of radioactive waste, but this is highly misleading because the majority of existing waste is made up of bulky, less hazardous material. As the nuclear waste management body Nirex, points out, the volume is not the whole story, we also need to know what type of waste we will be left with by a programme of new reactors. (19) CoRWM’s latest Radioactive Waste Inventory shows that existing reactors will produce 9,900m3 of packaged high level waste and spent fuel. But ten new AP1000 reactors would leave a legacy of 31,900 m3 – three times the amount already created. (20)

Scotland leads dash for renewables

Whatever the final Labour manifesto position on new reactors, the Scottish Executive’s submission to the UK Energy Review called for more support for renewables, particularly wave and tidal power, and energy efficiency, as well as carbon capture and storage. (21) The Executive says the need to produce lower carbon energy is creating many new business opportunities and green jobs in Scotland. It wants to promote Scotland as a leading location for the development of renewable energy technology, and “invites” the UK to set a more ambitious renewable energy target.

The Executive makes several recommendations on energy efficiency including actively promoting the growth of Energy Services Companies – creating market mechanisms that incentivise energy suppliers and consumers to reduce energy consumption in buildings.

On security of supply the Executive says local generation of electricity, combined heat and power, and renewable heat should have a role to play in reducing the UK’s high reliance on gas for heating, reducing energy costs, and tackling fuel poverty. The Executive therefore invites UKgovernment to examine whether it should be encouraging Combined Heat and Power schemes.

Cracks in Scottish policy?

The Executive’s submission also supported extending the operating lives of Scotland’s two existing nuclear stations. The Scotsman had already reported back in July that life extensions have been thrown into doubt, but this was because of cracks in graphite bricks, rather than boiler tubes. This, the newspaper said, “could fatally undermine the compromise offered to Westminster by Jack McConnell, the First Minister, to extend the life-cycle of the reactors only until renewable energy sources can take their place”. But this claim was rejected by British Energy. (22)

Should the Scottish Executive be reconsidering its position that Scotland does not need new nuclear stations, it should read two papers published this year, one by Garrad Hassan for the Nuclear Free Local Authorities Scotland, and one by environment NGOs. Both show that Scotland can cope without new nuclear reactors, even without life extensions. (23)

To go nuclear or not, that is the question

McConnell appeared to reject nuclear power just before the summer break, in a speech in Dumfries when he said: “I am not in favour of new nuclear generation in Scotland until the issue of waste is satisfactorily resolved. Nuclear waste is virtually permanent and potentially very, very lethal, so we should not in Scotland countenance any extension of nuclear power.” (24) 

Yet on September 3rd, the Sunday Times reported that McConnell is set to abandon his “staunch opposition to nuclear power” in a major U-turn that challenges public opinion and threatens an irrevocable split with the Liberal Democrats. (25) This was an odd story that might well have been overly influenced by nuclear spin doctors. The same paper had previously only said of Jack McConnell that there is a “suspicion that he is instinctively anti-nuclear”. (26)

The Sunday Times said McConnell’s change of direction will be signalled in the Labour manifesto for next year’s Holyrood election. It will recommend a balanced energy policy in
which nuclear, as well as renewables and coal, will play a part. The paper must have psychics working for it.

The newspaper, however, did raise an important question about the Scottish Executive’s powers. It said that sources close to the executive say ministers have no choice other than to
keep the nuclear option open. The waste issue can be only one consideration among many others. If the Executive just says ‘we’re going to rule out new nuclear power stations in principle until the waste issue is sorted out’, it could end up being taken to court for a judicial review by any company whose application to build a reactor is turned down.

Clearly this is a grey area, which ultimately can only be decided by the courts. But any company wanting to build a new reactor in Scotland will want a measure of public and political support – it is not going to take the Scottish Executive to a judicial review if there is overwhelming public opposition to new reactors in Scotland. Time to make our feelings known then.

The so-called ‘balanced energy policy” being promoted by some of the Trade Unions in Scotland suggests that ‘we need every energy technology’ in order to successfully tackle the climate change problem. This implies that we have infinite amounts of money to spend on energy projects, which is obviously nonsense. Resources are scarce, so we need to make choices. Because climate change is a serious and urgent problem then we must spend our limited resources as effectively and quickly as possible – best buys first, not the more the merrier. For each pound we spend we need to buy the maximum amount of ‘solution’ possible. On both criteria, cost and speed, nuclear power is probably the least effective climate-stabilizing option on offer.

As well as being more expensive, and taking longer to implement, the problem with spending on nuclear power is that it will detract from spending on other more effective options. Not only does nuclear power drain resources away from other options, but it also distracts attention from important decisions that have to be made to support those other options. And because there are so many problems associated with getting new reactor construction off the ground, it might not work. So in the worst case we might find that efforts to tackle climate change are seriously damaged by a decision to go ahead with reactor construction. (27)

As the Scottish Executive has been keen to point of, Scotland has the opportunity to develop a sustainable energy industry and a renewable energy manufacturing base. Let’s not mess it up now by adding to the uncertainty for potential investors. The Executive needs to rule out new reactors once and for all and get on with implementing its vision of a sustainable energy system for Scotland. 


 

(1) BBC 27th June 2006

(2) Scotsman 17th Oct 2006

(3) Independent 17th October 2006

(4) Commissioned by Nuclear Free Local Authorities Scottish Forum from consultants Garrad Hassan

(5) See Energy Review Update No.8 “The Jury s still out on whether nukes will actually be built”

(6) Herald 18th October 2006

(7) http://www.scotland.gov.uk/library5/government/pfbs-00.asp

(8) Scotsman 13th April 2006

(9) Labour’s Nuclear Backing, Glasgow Herald 27th Feb 2006

(10) Scotsman 28th April 2006

(11) Scotsman 18th May 2006

(12) Scotsman 25th May 2006

(13) New Scientist 6th May 2006
Rob Edwards’ website 9th May 2006

(14) http://www.corwm.org.uk/content-898

(15) CoRWM’s Final Report – Overview para 28, CoRWM New Build Statement, March 2006

(16) CoRWM Draft report

(17) “Uncertainty Underground: Yucca Mountain and the Nation’s High-Level Nuclear Waste” edited by Alison Macfarlane and Rodney Ewing, MIT (2006)

(18) BBC 16th October 2006

(19) Guardian, 9th January 2006

(20) CoRWM’s Radioactive Waste and Materials Inventory July 2005

(21) RobEdwards.com 14th June 2006
Scottish Executive Response to the UK Energy Review

(22) Scotsman 6th July 2006
See Greenpeace Press Release on documents btained under the Freedom of Information Act

(23) Commissioned by Nuclear Free Local Authorities Scottish Forum from consultants Garrad Hassan
Power of Scotland – produced by RSPB Scotland, WWF Scotland and FoE Scotland

(24) Herald 21st June 2006

(25) Sunday Times 3rd September 2006

(26) Sunday Times 16th July 2006

(27) More profit with less carbon, by Amory Lovins, Scientific American, September 2005

Posted: 23 October 2006

23 October 2006

Iran

Iran said on Sunday the West’s “carrot and stick” method for getting it to halt sensitive nuclear fuel work was doomed to failure. Iran’s case has been returned to the U.N. Security Council because the Islamic Republic failed to heed a U.N. demand to suspend uranium enrichment, a process the West believes Tehran is using to develop atomic weapons, despite Iranian denials.
Reuters 22nd Oct 2006

North Korea

Relatively little is known about its approach to the nuclear crisis, other than that it has spent several years resisting Washington’s calls for stronger actions. Beneath this reluctance, however, lies a long-term strategy of integration across the China-North Korea border that is designed to replicate China’s own transformation into a more open and stable society and serve its own interests by promoting economic regeneration of the north-eastern provinces.
Guardian 23rd Oct 2006

NORTH Korea’s plans for another nuclear test hinge on US policy, leader Kim Jong II has allegedly said. He is claimed to have told a Chinese envoy last week there will be no immediate second test – but Pyongyang “would have to respond if America continues to apply pressure”.
Daily Mirror 23rd Oct 2006

British Energy

British Energy engineers will launch a wave of inspections this week to quantify the extent of the damage across its plants that last week undermined both the share price and prospects for eventual full privatisation. The company expects to get a clearer picture of the extent of its operational problems by the end of November, when the inspections should be completed.
FT 23rd Oct 2006

Posted: 23 October 2006