Archive for June, 2013

Multinational nuclear corporations press Japan to restart nuclear power

June 10, 2013

Is it safe? Ruling party pushes nuclear village agenda BY JEFF KINGSTON  JAPAN TIMES, 26 May 13,  ”…..The election of the pro-nuclear Liberal Democratic Party to power in December 2012 was not about energy policy, but has revived prospects for the nuclear village; citizens may favor phasing out nuclear energy, but they will not get to decide. Hitachi, Toshiba and Mitsubishi tie-ups with General Electric, Westinghouse and Areva mean that Japan stands at the nexus of the global nuclear-energy industry. The recent award of a $22 billion contract by Turkey to a Japanese-led consortium indicates how high the stakes are, explaining why domestic firms’ nuclear-policy preferences are fully reflected in government policy.

If Japan terminated nuclear power, the pain would extend beyond the utilities and vendors; lenders and investors, including Japan’s major banks and insurance firms, would also face huge losses. Pulling the plug on nuclear power could also drive some of Japan’s 10 utilities into insolvency. In addition, there have been strident voices from the political right calling for the retention of nuclear energy because it leaves available the nuclear-weapons option. Washington, too, has warned Tokyo that phasing out nuclear energy would harm bilateral relations because it would raise concerns about Japan’s large stockpiles of plutonium and uncomfortable questions about the consistency of U.S. nuclear non-proliferation efforts targeting Iran and North Korea…….

Kentucky’s nasty radioactive mess at USEC’s Paducah uranium enrichment plant

June 10, 2013

The Paducah plant cannot legally stay open, and it can’t safely be shut down—a lovely metaphor for the end of the Atomic Age and a perfect nightmare for the people of Kentucky.

Countdown to Nuclear Ruin at Paducah  EcoWatch May 22, 2013 by Geoffrey Sea Disaster is about to strike in western Kentucky, a full-blown nuclear catastrophe involving hundreds of tons of enriched uranium tainted with plutonium, technetium, arsenic, beryllium and a toxic chemical brew. But this nuke calamity will be no fluke. It’s been foreseen, planned, even programmed, the result of an atomic extortion game played out between the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the most failed American experiment in privatization, the company that has run the Paducah plant into the poisoned ground, USEC Inc.

As now scheduled, main power to the gargantuan gaseous diffusion uranium plant at Paducah, Kentucky, will be cut at midnight on May 31, just nine days from now—cut because USEC has terminated its power contract with TVA as of that time [“USEC Ceases Buying Power,” Paducah Sun, April 19, page 1] and because DOE can’t pick up the bill.

DOE is five months away from the start of 2014 spending authority, needed to fund clean power-down at Paducah. Meanwhile, USEC’s total market capitalization has declined to about $45 million, not enough to meet minimum listing requirements for the New York Stock Exchange, pay off the company’s staggering debts or retain its operating licenses under financial capacity requirements of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The Paducah plant cannot legally stay open, and it can’t safely be shut down—a lovely metaphor for the end of the Atomic Age and a perfect nightmare for the people of Kentucky.

Dirty Power-Down

If the main power to the diffusion cascade is cut as now may be unavoidable, the uranium hexafluoride gas inside thousands of miles of piping and process equipment will crystallize, creating a very costly gigantic hunk of junk as a bequest to future generations, delaying site cleanup for many decades and risking nuclear criticality problems that remain unstudied. Unlike gaseous uranium that can be flushed from pipes with relative ease, crystallized uranium may need to be chiseled out manually, adding greatly to occupational hazards.

The gaseous diffusion plant at Oak Ridge, TN, was powered-down dirty in 1985, in a safer situation because the Oak Ridge plant did not have near the level of transuranic contaminants found at Paducah. The Oak Ridge catastrophe left a poisonous site that still awaits cleanup a quarter-century later, and an echo chamber of political promises that such a stupid move would never be made again. But that was before the privatization of USEC.

Could a dirty power-down at Paducah—where recycled and reprocessed uranium contaminated with plutonium and other transuranic elements was added in massive quantities—result in “slow-cooker” critical mass formations inside the process equipment?

No one really knows.

Everybody does know that the Paducah plant is about to close. Its technology is Jurassic, requiring about ten times the energy of competing uranium enrichment methods around the world. The Paducah plant has been the largest single-meter consumer of electric power on the planet, requiring two TVA coal plants just to keep it operating, and it’s the largest single-source emitter of the very worst atmospheric gasses—chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)…….

Meanwhile, the Kentucky DOE field office in charge, managed by William A. Murphie, has advertised a host of companies “expressing interest” in future use of the Paducah site, with no explanation of how the existing edifice of egregiousness will be made to disappear. “Off the record,” the Kentucky field office has floated dates like 2060 for the completion of Paducah cleanup.

That’s two generations from now……

Stop making nuclear waste – one option to be examined, say 4 US State Attorneys General

June 10, 2013

eventually, someone in America would think of the idea of shutting down nuclear plants, at least till there’s a way to permanently solve the wastes problem


Flaws in the NRC’s review to date, the attorneys general said, include that it has not given adequate consideration to two alternatives:

— A rule saying that after five years cooling in specially constructed pools, the waste would have to be moved to hardened concrete and steel casks on plant grounds. That would leave much less radioactive material in spent fuel pools that have been described as more vulnerable to earthquakes or terrorist attacks.

— “The alternative of not allowing further production of spent fuel until the NRC determines that there is a safe and environmentally acceptable permanent waste repository to receive the additional spent fuel.” Not allowing further production of spent fuel would mean shutting down the entire U.S. nuclear industry.

Federal Nuclear Waste Rules Need To Be Improved, Attorneys General Petition NRC AP   By By DAVE GRAM : 05/23/2013  MONTPELIER, Vt.   — Attorneys general in Vermont, New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut announced Thursday they are petitioning the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a more thorough environmental review of storage of highly radioactive nuclear waste at plant sites. (more…)

Australia’s obligated plutonium re-transferred to Japan

June 10, 2013

Australia-Euratom Nuclear Safeguards: Plutonium Retransfers …..The Agreement will enter into force when Australia notifies the Delegation to the European Commission that all domestic requirements necessary to give effect to the Agreement have been satisfied…. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade – Australian Government 01/06/2013 | Press release distributed by noodls

Australia and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) exchanged diplomatic notes in Canberra on 28 May 1998 as the first step towards bringing into force an Agreement under which Australia will – subject to certain conditions – broaden its consent for the return from the European Union to Japan of Australian obligated plutonium following the reprocessing of Japanese spent fuel in Europe. The European Union is an important provider of nuclear fuel cycle services for countries purchasing Australian uranium and Japan is a major market for Australian uranium exports.

The new Agreement will represent a further refinement of Australia’s advance consent to plutonium retransfers under the 1981 Australia-Euratom Agreement concerning Transfers of Nuclear Material. In September 1993, Australia gaveEuratom its consent for the retransfer from the European Union to Japan of plutonium bearing both Australian and United States safeguards obligations; the latter obligation acquired as a result of Australian nuclear material undergoing processing at some stage of the fuel cycle in the United States Under the new treaty-level Agreement Australia will give consent for the retransfer from the European Union to Japan of the small proportion of Australian obligated plutonium which does not also carry a United States safeguards obligation and is thus not covered by the 1993 agreement.

The refinement of prior consent rights under the Australia-Euratom Agreement is seen as desirable by both Euratomand Japan, and is consistent with the practice of their other major uranium suppliers; Canada and the United States. The Agreement is consistent with Australia’s non-proliferation and security objectives. Plutonium covered by the Agreement will continue to be accounted for by the Australian Safeguards Office.

The Agreement stipulates that retransfers of Australian obligated plutonium can only take place if it is transported with plutonium which is subject to the United States-Japan Agreement on nuclear cooperation – i.e. which also carries a United States safeguards obligation – and is thereby subject to the stringent and very detailed security arrangements for the transport of plutonium which the United States requires of Japan. The Agreement also provides for direct assurances from Euratom to Australia concerning the security arrangements being applied to transfers involving Australian obligated plutonium. Any retransfers of Australian obligated plutonium not conforming to the agreed conditions would continue to require case-by-case consideration by Australia.

In accordance with Australia’s treaty-making procedures, the exchanged diplomatic notes constituting the Agreement will be tabled in Parliament for fifteen sitting days and considered by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties.

The Agreement will enter into force when Australia notifies the Delegation to the European Commission that all domestic requirements necessary to give effect to the Agreement have been satisfied.

Myths of the Australian uranium industry

June 10, 2013

Yellowcake Fever.  Exposing the Uranium Industry’s Economic Myths  Report in full at:  by Dr Jim Green (FoEA) & Dave Sweeney (ACF), Australian Conservation Foundation, April 2013 (33 page PDF)  Executive Summary: The Australian uranium industry involves serious and unresolved domestic and international security, environmental and inter-generational concerns and remains a contested and controversial sector that lacks a secure social license. This report examines the sectors small economic and employment contribution in relation to its significant risks and legacies and seeks to build the case for an independent cost-benefit analysis and a comprehensive and transparent assessment of the impacts and implications of Australia’s uranium trade.

Uranium is a small contributor to Australian export  revenue and employment. From 2002 to 2011, uranium  sales averaged $627 million annually and accounted  for only 0.29% of all national export revenue. In the 2011/12 financial year, uranium revenue of  $607 million was 4.4 times lower than Australia’s 20th  biggest export earner, 8.7 times lower than Australia’s 10th biggest export earner and 103 times lower than the biggest earner, iron ore. Small industrial sectors can play an important economic role but the unique  properties and risks of uranium mining relative to any  benefits means its role requires particular scrutiny. (more…)