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6.0 Nuclear Waste
7.0 Sellafield News
1.1 There has been continuing speculation about the Government preparing to launch a new nuclear power programme. The Telegraph said the Government will publish a White Paper paving the way for the construction of several new nuclear power stations after the General Election. The White Paper will address a number of key concerns such as how to dispose of nuclear waste and streamline the decade-long planning process for new plants. Martin O’Neill MP, the chairman of the Energy Select Committee, said: "It will happen fairly soon, although perhaps not immediately after the General Election. 
1.2 The Independent on Sunday on 27th March reported that a secret team within the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is preparing the case for a programme of up to 10 nuclear stations. The group has carried out a study, known as "Future for Nuclear", on whether it is economically viable to build new plants. The newspaper said Blair’s special adviser on industry and business, Geoffrey Norris, has fought hard to keep nuclear on the agenda. 
1.3 The Independent on Sunday also reported  that some of the world’s leading nuclear companies are lining up UK partners to prepare bids for an £8bn reactor-building programme. The newspaper said leading nuclear and construction companies, including French nuclear giant and reprocessor, Areva, UK construction company Amec and BNFL’s US arm, Westinghouse, are already looking for potential partners. Europe’s largest nuclear operators, RWE (owners of N-Power) E.On (owners of PowerGen) and Electricite de France (owners of London Electricity) all have U.K. subsidiaries. These companies might join a consortium to build a new nuclear plant if the U.K. government came up with the right financial incentives. 
1.4 British Energy, on the other hand, having lost another £87m in the last three months of 2004, appears focussed on extending the life of existing plants and plans to apply later this year to extend the life of Dungeness B – currently scheduled to close in 2008. Speaking at a conference in London, British Energy Chairman Adrian Montague said he is not interested in building new plants in the UK. Although approval of the Company’s re-structuring agreement by the European Commission was conditional on BE not operating new nuclear stations within the next six years, there is nothing to prevent BE planning new stations to begin operation after 2011.
1.5 What few in the Press appear prepared to speculate on is how a new nuclear programme would be financed. The Independent on Sunday even said the post-election White Paper would stop short of spelling out how new reactors would be financed. Scotland on Sunday said that British Energy is in talks with City institutions to raise funds.  The same paper also suggested a system similar to the renewables obligation, which would mean electricity suppliers committed to providing 25-35% of electricity from nuclear power.  Platts Nuclear News Flashes reported (28th February) BNFL’s Chief Executive, Michael Parker, saying that discussions are under way now on how to create the right environment for new nuclear power.
1.6 A new policy on nuclear power stations will require political champions. The Independent (27th March) suggested that such a change in policy for the Government would almost certainly require a Cabinet reshuffle to bring supporters of nuclear power into the key posts of Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, and Secretary of State for Environment. The present incumbents, Patricia Hewitt and Margaret Beckett, are both anti-nuclear. Chris Lambert of the Westminster Energy Forum speculates that a Blair loyalist, like David Blunkett, would be required to champion the nuclear initiative at the DTI. 
1.7 We shouldn’t assume all this media speculation means that things will move very quickly after the General Election. There are still many practical obstacles to reviving nuclear construction. Martin O’Neil MP told Business on Sunday (27th February) that a new White Paper is likely around February 2006. Tom Burke, former Director of Friends of the Earth in London and former adviser to various Tory Environment Ministers, says there has been an orchestrated campaign by the nuclear industry.
“The brutal truth”, said Burke, “is that no one has yet managed to work out a way of getting nuclear reactors to burn uranium as effectively as they burn money – though extraordinary creativity has gone into concealing this from public view. Nor has anyone yet discovered how to make atoms work for peace without making them available for war.” 
1.8 Discussions about financing new nuclear stations are basically about how best the nuclear industry can get its hands on taxpayers’ or electricity consumers’ money. The Industry is clearly hoping climate change will prove so important that it will provide the justification for some sort of subsidy to the industry. If taxpayers’ and consumers’ money is going to have to be spent to drive carbon out of the economy, then we need to ensure it is spent in the most effective and environmentally sustainable way. Nuclear power is probably one of the least efficient ways of spending, so, given all the other problems such as the nuclear waste problem, one would have thought the Government would only countenance it as a last resort, after all else has failed. But this is far from the case. As former Environment Minister, Michael Meacher, told the “Nuclear or Not?” conference at the Open University on 15th March:
“The renewables contribution to electricity generation is still tiny – about 3% – Government has done almost nothing actually to deliver on the scale required … It is not that renewables have failed, or are bound to fail or are not up to the job. It is rather that they have never yet seriously been tried.”
1.9 The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Patricia Hewitt, has said that three separate reviews would need to be completed before any new U.K. nuclear construction could be considered: the climate change review, which should be completed by the summer; a review of how the renewable energy and energy efficiency measures set out in the 2003 White Paper are meeting targets; and finally if new nuclear construction appears necessary, a white paper on nuclear power would have to be produced. But these reviews needn’t take long. By the end of the summer the nuclear white paper could already have started.
1.10 Hewitt made the comments at the Energy & Environment Ministerial Roundtable in London in March, which was attended by energy and environment ministers from 20 countries. Crucially she said at the time the 2003 Energy White Paper was published it was very clear that if the Government had committed itself to a new generation of nuclear power stations, “then we would never have been able to get the priority for energy efficiency that we wanted.” Gordon Brown, mentioned at the meeting that “there is a clear market failure in energy efficiency in this country. There are profitable, cost-saving measures which can be taken in the management of energy which are currently going to waste.”
1.11 Much of the media  reported that the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee recommended building a new nuclear power station in Scotland.  Instead the report requested that all types of energy be considered. Commenting on the report, Friends of the Earth Scotland said:
“Despite what some people had been predicting, this report does not recommend a new nuclear build in Scotland or anywhere else for that matter. Instead, the report repeats recommendations already contained in the Government’s 2003 Energy Review that all energy options should be considered. Only pro-nuclear spin doctors would attempt to try and paint this report as any sort of green light for the building of nuclear power plants.”
1.12 Meanwhile, according to a BBC poll, 73% of Scots support building more wind farms and only 17% support the nuclear option. 
 Andrew Murray-Watson, “Labour Plots New Nuclear Power Plants”, Sunday Telegraph 30th January 2005
 Clayton Hirst, “Secret DTI team gives green light for 10 new nuclear plants”, Independent on Sunday 27th March 2005. http://news.independent.co.uk/business/news/story.jsp?story=623950
See also:- http://www.planetark.com/dailynewsstory.cfm/newsid/30107/story.htm
 Clayton Hirst and Tim Webb, “Nuclear giants team up to bid for UK reactor building programme”, Independent on Sunday 13th March 2005.
 No plans for new nuclear plants – British Energy Chairman, Dow Jones 12th April 2005.
 Iain Dey and Terry Murden, “British Energy poised as government prepares go-ahead on nuclear power”. Scotland on Sunday, 27th March 2005.
 Iain Dey, “Hitting the Nuclear Button” Scotland on Sunday 27th March 2005.
 Chris Lambert, “This year, next year, sometime, never”. Nuclear Engineering International 12th Apr 2005.
 Tom Burke, “Nuclear Delusion” Guardian 2nd March 2005.
 See for example, Gerri Peev and John Bowker “Call for new power plants, but Holyrood vetoes nuclear” Scotsman 24th March
 House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee, Meeting Scotland’s Future Energy Needs, 23rd March 2005.
2.1 The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) agreed at its Board meeting on 8th February to recommend that Dounreay be allowed to start weekly transports of radioactive waste to Drigg near Sellafield in Cumbria, despite objections. SEPA says it concluded that the waste transports – across the full length of Scotland, possibly by road down the notorious A9 – are in accordance with current Government Policy.
2.2 Shetland Islands Council and Nuclear Free Local Authorities (Scotland) have called on the Scottish Executive to reject the plans. Shetland calls the proposal “irresponsible, divisive and unnecessary” and favours the low-level waste being dealt with on site, in Caithness. Shetland council convener Sandy Cluness says even UKAEA is opposed to the plan, but was forced into the waste transport proposal by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate. 
2.3 Anger was also expressed in West Cumbria at the Sellafield Liaison meeting in early April. Chairman Dave Moore said: “Our views here in England have been ignored. I have no doubt the Scottish Executive will back SEPA.” Coun Ron Hargreaves said: “It will be absurd if a body in a different administration (Scotland) decides what happens at Drigg.” The Whitehaven News says the Scottish Executive is expected to rubber stamp the recommendation from SEPA that Cumbria receives lorry loads of nuclear waste from Scotland. 
2.4 The consultation carried out by UKAEA on long-term options for low level waste has concluded that the Best Practicable Environmental Option is to manage the waste on-site at Dounreay. UKAEA says a preference was expressed for disposal in an engineered facility. The earliest such a facility could come into operation is 2011. UKAEA says its needs to transfer waste to Drigg as an interim measure, pending agreement on the strategy. The strategy says waste will need to be transferred to Drigg until the new facility is available. Discussions are now taking place which could mean all Dounreay’s waste will be disposed of at Dounreay when a new facility is ready, or it could mean some of it continues to go to Drigg, leaving what is known as the low-activity, high-volume LLW to be disposed of at Dounreay. These decisions will be taken over the next 3 years in conjunction with the NDA, regulators and other stakeholders.
2.5 More work is needed before a decision can be made on what to do about the low level waste already disposed of in the Dounreay pits. If a post-closure safety case can be made which would for example show that the effects of coastal erosion would not be harmful, then UKAEA will seek permission to close the pits. If this cannot be demonstrated, UKAEA will have to retrieve the waste and manage it with the rest of LLW. 
2.6 UKAEA says transports, probably by road, will start within two months of approval being given by the Scottish Executive. UKAEA says it will later review transport arrangements and consider the possibility of using rail or sea transport to Cumbria.
 Council Hits Out at Nuclear Waste Plan, Press and Journal 7th April 2005
3.1 Geoffrey Minter, owner of the Sandside Beach, has received support from Iain Duncan-Smith MP, who has called for a public inquiry over the continuing appearance of radioactive particles on the beach. Four more particles were found on the beach during February and March, bringing the total to 55. SEPA has now reported UKAEA to the procurator fiscal over the particles. 
3.2 Using the new freedom of information laws, Minter has asked the UKAEA for details of the finds on Sandside beach. The authority says it has no record of the first find on Sandside beach in 1984 when Herbie Lyall, then a health physics surveyor for the UKAEA, found a particle buried 18 inches in the sand. Minter has accused the UKAEA of covering up the significance of 1984 find. He says the UKAEA described the particle as a ‘tarry agglomerate’ of no radiological significance.
3.3 Radioactive contamination was found on Dunnet Beach in early March – 14 miles east of Dounreay. The caesium-137 contamination was found on seaweed attached to a stone about 250 metres south of the beach’s main car park. Warning signs have been put up around the beach, similar to the ones at Sandside. The beach is part of the Dunnet Links national nature reserve owned by the Highland Council. The waste was discovered on the third day of the first ever survey of local beaches by UKAEA – ordered by SEPA. 
3.4 Later in March a second radioactive find was made on Dunnet Beach. This second find is understood to be a radioactive particle similar to those found at the Sandside beach, west of Dounreay, and on the seabed off Caithness. Monitoring of the Dunnet beach is now to be stepped-up – but monitoring of the Sandside beach is to be temporarily halted as all available equipment has been moved to Dunnet.
3.5 The Food Standards Agency says it has no plans to change the two-kilometre fishing exclusion zone around Dounreay as a result of the Dunnet finds. A further 37 radioactive particles have been recovered by divers from an area of seabed off Dounreay that had already been checked on a previous survey. This brings to over 600 the total number of particles recovered from a 15,000 square metre area of seabed. That represents an area of only 125 metres by 120 metres.
3.6 Work started in February to fit a final filter on Dounreay’s liquid waste discharge system. Dounreay is the only nuclear site in Scotland without such a filter which is designed to capture any solid material before it is released into the sea. SEPA only issued an instruction for the filter to be fitted at the end of last year.
 David Hencke and Gerard Seenan “Fifteen years ago it was a popular holiday beach but radioactive finds have made it a no-go area” The Guardian 7th March 2005.
 David Hencke, “Radioactive Waste on Royals’ Beach” The Guardian 15th March 2005.
4.1 Shetland Islands Council has said the UKAEA consultation on how to manage liquid, reprocessing raffinate wastes at Dounreay was ‘a sham’. The UKAEA had effectively already decided on cementing the waste in steel drums, the option favoured by the Council, and this had been approved by the full UKAEA board, a contract advertised in the European Union, and a case prepared for submission to ministers, all before the end of the public consultation.
4.2 The UKAEA has committed itself to implementing fully the radical recommendations of a consultants report on stakeholder consultations. The Faulkland Associates report last year recommended stakeholders being involved at the early stages of projects and in the strategic planning for decommissioning the whole Dounreay site. In a letter to Shetland Islands Council the director of communications for the UKAEA, Beth Taylor, said the authority fully accepted the report and would implement its recommendations.
5.1 The safety of Britain’s nuclear power stations is being put at risk by staff shortages at the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate and a prolonged industrial dispute.  The NII is struggling to cope with mounting demands for safety regulation at the same time as suffering a severe shortage of nuclear inspectors. Front-line inspections of nuclear plants have had to be cut back, while a backlog of other work has built up. “Prolonged reduction of inspection will undermine our ability to effectively monitor the safety performance of the nuclear industry,” warned Laurence Williams, the outgoing chief inspector, in December’s Nuclear Safety Newsletter.  He said that the inspectorate’s increasing workload is “starting to detract from our regulatory oversight”. Inspectors are having to help set up the government’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, to reorganise the major nuclear companies, British Nuclear Fuels and British Energy, and to combat new threats from terrorists. But at the same time the NII is having serious difficulties in recruiting new inspectors. The inspectorate was 14 inspectors short of its target of 179 in February. There has also been an unpublicised work-to-rule by nuclear inspectors over the last 18 months in protest against a 10% drop in their real rates of pay over the last 10 years.
5.2 Unauthorised access to a nuclear power station and the theft of sensitive information were among 45 security breaches reported to the nuclear security watchdog last year. Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act by the Office for Civil Nuclear Security show eight incidents classified as security failure leading to unacceptable or undesirable consequences. 
5.3 Plans to privatise the £48 billion clean-up of UK nuclear sites could put public safety at risk. The government’s nuclear safety advisory committee (NuSAC) has expressed “serious concerns” about the plans for contractorisation of decommissioning work, fearing that financial pressures will encourage the companies to cut corners and increase risks. 
5.4 The final BNFL Stakeholder Dialogue Working Group on security has described the level of resources available to deal with a serious emergency at Sellafield as “chronically inadequate”. The report recommends that BNFL and the Office of Civil Nuclear Security (OCNS) review and rewrite its emergency plan for dealing with a terrorist incident or an accident. Dr Frank Barnaby said “there are particular concerns about the funding for the OCNS”. 
5.5 Sellafield has “lost” 30 kilograms of plutonium, according to figures published by the DTI. The annual audit of nuclear material showed that “material unaccounted for” (MUF) last year at Sellafield amounted to enough plutonium for about seven or eight nuclear bombs. The discrepancy compares with 19kg “lost” in 2003 and a cumulative loss of about 50 kg over the past ten years. BNFL dismissed the figures as an “accounting issue”. But it was pointed out that with such a large loss we can never be sure that it is an accounting loss and not material which has left through the Sellafield gates.  Dounreay couldn’t account for 0.234 kg of plutonium and 0.772 kg of highly-enriched uranium.
5.6 The NII is investigating the traffic chaos caused on roads around Sellafield when about 6,000 workers were sent home early due to storm force in January. A letter to the Whitehaven News asked “should this not be a forewarning to the state of our roads leading to and from Sellafield? What on earth would happen if there was a radiological incident and there was a mass evacuation? …. It would be quicker to walk.” David Moore, chair of the Sellafield Local Liaison Committee, and a part-time fire officer was also critical. He was trying to drive a fire engine into Sellafield at the same time many of the workers were leaving. 
5.7 Cracks in the graphite core of at least six of the UK’s advanced gas-cooled reactors could force their early closure according to documents released by the NII under the Freedom of Information Act to New Scientist. The documents also reveal weaknesses in British Energy’s safety analyses. 
5.8 Trains carrying nuclear waste are travelling at speeds of up to 55mph on ancient decaying tracks according to an investigation by the Sunday People. The newspaper also discovered vital cables, that stop trains going through red lights left uncovered and an easy target for vandals or terrorists. The newspaper found rotten and cracked railway sleepers, some with massive chunks missing through decay, on the line carrying waste from Sizewell A to Sellafield.
 Rob Edwards, “Nuclear Watchdog Exposes Safety Crisis” Sunday Herald 6th February 2005
 Stefanie Marsh, “Security breaches at nuclear plants ‘serious’” The Times 10th February 2005
 Rob Edwards, “Privatising Nuclear Clean-up risks public safety” New Scientist 19th February 2005
 Angela Jameson, “Report Attacks Sellafield Security Measures”, The Times 18th February
 Angela Jameson, “Nuclear Audit says Sellafield has lost 30kg of plutonium” The Times 17th February
 Whiehaven News 20th January 2005
 Rob Edwards “Cracks may force shutdown of UK reactors” New Scientist 28th March
6.1 The MoD published its response to Lancaster University’s report on the final ISOLUS consultation on nuclear submarines in February. The Ministry announced that no further work would be carried out to find a potential interim storage site for redundant nuclear submarines until the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) has made its recommendations. 
6.2 CoRWM has launched its second public consultation on what to do with the UK’s higher-level nuclear wastes, and published a second consultation document.  The aim of this second consultation is to agree a short-list of options, and to consult on how these options should be assessed. The proposed short-list includes four options: long-term interim storage; deep geological disposal; phased deep geological disposal and near-surface disposal for short-lived wastes. The consultation closes on 27th June 2005.
6.3 CoRWM is also expected to address the issue of managing the UK’s growing plutonium surplus. The Committee will be looking at the prospect of burning the material in nuclear reactors, alongside other methods for managing or immobilising plutonium. The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) has issued a briefing on the various options. 
6.4 Meanwhile, the nuclear waste agency Nirex has been made independent of the nuclear industry. All shares have been transferred from the nuclear industry to a new holding company owned by the UK Government. Nirex is supposedly independent of the NDA but will be receiving its money via the NDA. This financial year’s funding is set at £9.4m. One of Nirex’s main tasks is setting specifications and standards for nuclear waste packaging.
6.5 But the Government has refused requests from several newspapers including the Sunday Herald, Sunday Business and Caithness Courier, under the Freedom of Information Regulations to release the secret list of sites short-listed by Nirex for a nuclear dump in the early 1990s. However, the list of ten unknown sites is expected to be released eventually, but at a time of the Government’s choosing.
 POST, February 2005, “Managing the UK Plutonium Stockpile”
7.1 BNFL has beaten its previous throughput record at its Sellafield waste vitrification plant (WVP), which converts high-level liquid waste into glass blocks, but is still well behind original design targets. In January 2001, the NII issued BNFL with an order requiring the Company to reduce the stockpile of liquid waste down to a buffer level by 2015. In practice this means if the vitrification plant operates poorly there will be limits placed on the amount of spent fuel the Company can reprocess. It is thought that throughput at THORP has been limited over the past few years because of poor performance at the vitrification plant. In the year to 31st March 2005 WVP produced 475 containers of borosilicate glass compared with 341 the previous year. There are now three lines at WVP. Originally with only two lines it was supposed to be able to produce 600 containers per year, but various setbacks led BNFL to commission a third production line. BNFL continues to push for improved throughput so it can make inroads into the backlog of highly active liquid waste. It has now signed a contract with its competitor, France’s Cogema for help in the hope of reaching 550 containers per year in two years’ time.
7.2 The Sellafield Magnox reprocessing plant had a “good” year up to the end of March 2005. B205, topped the 1,000 tonne spent fuel throughput level for the second year in a row. BNFL said it had decanned 1,006 tonnes of Magnox spent fuel – which isn’t the same as reprocessing 1,006 tonnes. Nevertheless this will inevitably mean that, as predicted, the radioactive discharges from Sellafield, apart from Technetium-99, will be on an upward trend and could continue at this new high level until 2012.
7.3 British Nuclear Fuels plc (BNFL) has started fabricating its first mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel assembly at its Sellafield MOX Plant (SMP). BNFL Chief Executive, Mike Parker, told the House of Commons’ Trade & Industry Committee that the company aims to deliver four assemblies to Swiss utility, NOK “by the middle of this year.” Various problems at the Sellafield MoX Plant meant that BNFL was forced to subcontract a fifth MOX order from one of its European customers to one of its European competitors.