Top 100 Energy Stories Dec. 21st – 27th 2009

radbull Anybody have a best of the year list of articles?  What’s your pick for the top nuclear stories for 2009? I’m considering putting together a special addition of the bulletin just to put the year in perspective.

In a major surprise, considering just the week before UAE had claimed that it was putting off making any decision over picking a contractor for who would win their $40 billion construction of reactors, the country which has a dismal human rights track record, came out and selected South Korea as the contractor for their multi-reactor construction plan.  And we have to thank Obama for this considering that just the week before he personally signed Bush’s treaty that set up this disastrous event.  This really sticks in my craw because first and foremost it represents a huge shot in the arm to the nuclear industries super-ego, but it also represents a failure of the anti-nuclear movement in this country to take international issues seriously as there has not once been a peep out of over this or also the disastrous 123 treaty that Obama also licked up that allowed India to become a nuclear club player without having to fulfill international treaty obligations. Isn’t it about time we see a single major group in this country call for the Nobel committee to pull his peace prize as we are watching as countries like Japan have now pointed out his duplicity in failing to truly reverse the Bush Policy, and in fact with North Korea and Iran, fall into the same kind of traps.  Worse yet, with Obama’s Afghanistan decision, combined with the shift towards supporting India, we are potentially watching a new nuclear failed state in Pakistan setting up what could very well be Bush’s proverbial Mushroom cloud warning.  Yeah, Obama, there is evil in the world, and its America’s global foreign policy that most the world believes that best fits that definition! Bush’s GNEP agenda is now a matter of years from becoming reality as american anti-nuclear activists all but ignore the implications.

Oh, and yeah, how about that the global community failed to reach any kind of binding agreement on climate-change.  Harvey Wasserman suggests that this is a good thing in that the nuclear component that was being pushed globally and in the U.S. may lose some of its momentum. Yet, in the week following the talk’s collapse, China and as mentioned above UAE came out with announcements to push nuclear.  Anybody think that this isn’t more than a mere coincidence?

In other stories there was a 220,000 gallon tritium spill in Canada, The Swiss government gave an open ended license renewal to a reactor there, and against the will of people in South Africa the government has decided to go ahead with new reactor construction. We are also watching as one of the most destabilized countries in the world, Nigeria also was given a blessing to start developing a new reactor program by the IAEA. Any wonder such a poor country with few power lines as to who the recipient of that power will be?

Not a big news week other than DOE accidentally blowing up a building and a major scandal uncovered about one of the NRC’s commissioners but then, if you really think that that gives you permission not to review just what happened then you aren’t paying attention… There’s 100 stories, and some of the best from last week are carried over, if you didn’t check them out or are following the major battle out in Utah, or want to see Helen Calidicott’s speech, then make sure to look!!!  Season’s Greetings.

Top Nuclear Stories Index

Reactors Safety NRC Fuel Cycle N-Waste
Policy Weapons DOE Energy News OpEd


Nuclear Reactor News

YONHAP NEWS: S. Korea signs nuclear deal worth potential US$40 bln with UAE
South Korea signed a US$20 billion deal with the United Arab Emirates to build four nuclear power plants in the oil-rich country, a deal expected to generate contracts for South Korean companies worth an additional $20 billion for decades to come, South Korea’s presidential office said Sunday.

The agreement marks South Korea’s first nuclear power plant export deal.

The biggest energy deal contracted ever either by South Korea or UAE was signed by a consortium led by South Korea’s state-run Korea Electric Power Corp. and Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp. shortly after a summit between South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and his UAE counterpart Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan here.

Cement makers see huge opportunity in UAE nuclear plants
Cement and ready-mix companies in the UAE are gearing up for a massive opportunity for supplying cement and concrete for nuclear power plants in the UAE.

The UAE is expected to award contracts estimated to be worth $40 billion (Dh147bn) to build several nuclear reactors.

According to a senior industry official, the contract for nuclear power plants would be a blessing for cement companies already struggling with falling demand and reduced profits.

Defect found in the back-up system at Plymouth nuclear plant – Quincy, MA – The Patriot Ledger
A defective alarm switch and a leaky seal on a water pipe caused the back-up containment system at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in Plymouth to be declared inoperable for about an hour on Tuesday morning.

A defective seal on the water pipe was allowing air to escape from the reactor building. While an alarm is supposed to respond in these situations, the alarm did not work. The defect was discovered during an engineering check of the plant.

Dallas Morning News: Is it melt down for NRG’s plans to build more Texas reactors?
CPS Energy, San Antonio’s electricity company, sued NRG Energy for $32 billion because of contractual disputes involving the expansion of the South Texas Project nuclear power facility. CPS owns a stake in the facility, which NRG also owns and operates.

CPS says in the lawsuit that NRG, NRG’s Nuclear Innovation North America joint venture, and Toshiba, “made misrepresentations and also failed to disclose project critical information to induce CPS Energy to participate in the project.”

Nej tak to nuclear after all
Danes don’t support the use of nuclear power despite a poll indicating a majority is in favour

A new study on attitudes towards nuclear power counterclaims one published two weeks ago, which demonstrated a majority support the use of the energy source, reports trade publication Ingeniøren.

Two weeks ago, a Gallup/Berlingske Tidende newspaper poll claimed a majority of people supported the use of nuclear power. The new A&B Analyse poll, conducted for political news website, shows there is considerable resistance to atomic energy.

Ottawa is right to get out of the reactor business
Almost every vision of a world with much less greenhouse gas includes nuclear power. And no wonder: Nuclear power has the lowest carbon footprint of any stable and substantial energy source.

True, nuclear technology presents challenges of its own, but as the world focuses on climate change, nuclear technology becomes more and more appealing.

So this might seem like a strange time for the federal government to be selling off the nuclear-reactor branch of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. But, in fact, the long-expected pasting of a “For Sale” sign onto the reactor side of AECL is just the right thing for Ottawa to be doing.

U.S. agencies responsible for nuclear data leak : GAO | Reuters
Several federal agencies share responsibility for the inadvertent publishing by a government office of sensitive U.S. nuclear power information on the Web last May, Congressional investigators said on Wednesday.

The Government Printing Office published the 266-page document, which gave details on nuclear power sites, locations, facilities and activities, on the Web on May 7.

It included 14 diagrams of buildings or facilities at U.S. nuclear sites, two of which were marked “Official Use Only” and described activities at national laboratories.

None of the agencies that had prepared the draft document for the International Atomic Energy Association — the Departments of Energy and Commerce and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission — had made sure it was marked with U.S. security designations, the Government Accountability Office said in a report about its investigation.

Nuclear Energy – The New York Times
Nuclear power plants use the forces within the nucleus of an atom to generate electricity.

The first nuclear reactor was built by Enrico Fermi below the stands of Stagg Field in Chicago in 1942. The first commercial reactor went into operation in Shippingport, Pa., in December, 1957.

In its early years, nuclear power seemed the wave of the future, a clean source of potentially limitless cheap electricity. But progress was slowed by the high, unpredictable cost of building plants, uneven growth in electric demand, the fluctuating cost of competing fuels like oil and safety concerns.

N.Y. man: Entergy lied about shortfall – Brattleboro Reformer
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has accepted a petition from a New York man to investigate whether Entergy has lied about the adequacy of the decommissioning funds for its nuclear power plants.

“Without swift and drastic enforcement action on the part of the NRC and its staff, human health and the environment around these licensed facilities is at risk and citizen safety (is) at risk,” wrote Sherman Martinelli, of Peekskill, N.Y., in a document he filed in August.

Martinelli lives within three miles of Entergy’s Indian Point, in the Hudson Valley.

On Dec. 17, the NRC responded that its Petition Review Board would consider his allegations. The NRC also forwarded his claims of wrongdoing on the part of the NRC to its Office of the Inspector General.

In pushing nuclear power, Udall battling the Homer Simpson factor « Colorado Independent
Turns out Colorado U.S. Sen. Mark Udall is battling environmentalists and public fear of nuclear meltdowns on his new pro-nuke bill less than he’s battling the lingering stigma that Homer Simpson and his scofflaw boss Mr. Burns generated at their Springfield nuclear power plant.

homer simpson

Where does this bit of wisdom on the hurdles facing the nuclear industry revival come from? From the staid Wall Street Journal, which Tuesday blogged about a Canadian professor who’s been talking up the Simpson factor on north-of-the-border radio shows in the wake of the regulatory rejection of a nuclear power plant in Saskatchewan.

Would-be nuke plant builder delays NRC application – KIVITV.COM | Boise
A small Idaho company that wants to build a nuclear power plant has delayed the date when it expects to apply for a federal operating license to 2011, a year behind a previous estimate.

Alternate Energy Holdings Inc. chief executive officer Don Gillispie told the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission he now expects to apply for a combined license for the Elmore County plant in the fourth quarter of 2011, the Times-News reported.

Gillispie also told the federal commission he plans to seek licenses for two other plants: one in Payette County in the second quarter of 2011 and one for a site near Pueblo, Colo., in the second quarter of 2012.

New Times SLO | PG&E dogged over Diablo relicensing
Members of the state’s main energy policy and planning agency spoke out against the decision by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. to apply to renew the company’s operating license for the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant before addressing their concerns.

The topic came up at a Dec. 16 California Energy Commission (CEC) hearing in Sacramento for the adoption of he 2009 Integrated Energy Policy Report, which outlines and analyzes energy-related issues affecting the state. CEC Vice Chair James Boyd chastised PG&E and contrasted their behavior with that of Southern California Edison Co., which operates the nuclear generating station in San Onofre.

I’m very disappointed with what PG&E has done, CEC Vice Chair James Boyd said at the hearing. I think now it’s time to single out Edison for their statement of wanting to collaborate and cooperate on all the commitments while another utility has chosen to kind of go around behind us.

I can’t speak for Commissioner [Jeffrey] Byron, but I for one know there was great disappointment with that action, Boyd said. But we’ll address it in due time.

Nuclear power plant of Mahleberg wins unlimited licence – swissinfo
An environment ministry decision to grant an unlimited licence to the Mahleberg nuclear power station has prompted mixed reaction.

The operators of the plant outside the capital Bern said they welcomed the move because it finally puts all five nuclear power stations in Switzerland on par with each other.

The Mahleberg facility became operational in 1972 and had a licence that was due to run out by the end of 2012. An application has already been handed in to built a new reactor in ten years’ time.

However, critics of nuclear power described the decision as irresponsible and scandalous. They pledged to challenge it in court.

China to launch 2-3 Westinghouse nuclear projects -media | Reuters
China will start building another “two or three” third-generation Westinghouse nuclear reactors by the end of next year once they have been approved by the government, the China Daily newspaper said on Tuesday.

The newspaper, citing unnamed sources, said the AP1000 reactor projects would also be the first to be built in the country’s interior provinces, with central China’s Hubei, Hunan and Jiangxi likely candidates. All of China’s existing reactors are located along the eastern coast.

China signed an agreement with Westinghouse Electric in 2006 to build four AP1000 reactors in the coastal provinces of Shandong and Zhejiang.

VPR News: Yankee May Close Down Without Approval Of Spin-off
The owners of Vermont Yankee say they might shut the plant down in 2012, if Vermont doesn’t approve of a new spin-off corporation that would own the reactor.

Legislative leaders say they remain strongly opposed to the spin-off.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) In the next few months, the PSB is expected to rule on the spin-off plan. Under the proposal, the current owners of Vermont Yankee, Entergy, would reorganize six of its unregulated nuclear power plants into a new corporation known as Enexus.

Jay Thayer is a vice president for Entergy. He says it’s a good plan because Enexus will have greater financial resources available to help support Vermont Yankee for the next 20 years:

The Associated Press: Univ. of Ariz. plans to shut down research reactor
The University of Arizona plans to shut down its 51-year-old nuclear reactor by mid-2010, ending a half-century of specialized nuclear research and training at the Tucson school.

The writing has been on the wall for the reactor’s demise since the late 1990s, said the professor who runs the UA Nuclear Research Lab. That’s when falling demand for nuclear engineers led the university to end specialized degree programs that had fed hundreds of engineers into the nuclear Navy and private nuclear industry.

The reactor’s license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission expires next year, and with a rigorous re-licensing process, the decision was made to shut the reactor down.

Japan’s nuclear reactors delayed by islanders | Business | ICM Commercial & Business News
The construction of two nuclear reactors in the Japanese town of Kaminoseki has been delayed by at least two years as a result of strong resistance from the locals.

The Chugoku Electric Power Co. is expected to delay the start of work to build one of two 1,373-megawatt reactors at its planned nuclear power plant in Yamaguchi Prefecture for at least two years amid strong opposition from residents around the site, pushing back the start of commercial operations to March 2018.

Protest over removal of no-nukes signs –
The Canadian province of Alberta is being challenged for its removal of nuclear protest signs from private property along roads, the Edmonton Journal said.

In a region along the Peace River in northwestern Alberta, “No to Nuclear” protest signs sprang up after the provincial government recently expressed interest in pursuing nuclear power, the Journal said.

This week, contracted Alberta Transportation crews began taking down the signs from public and private property, citing a provincial law that prohibits signage within 300 yards of a highway right-of-way.

The agency said it sent letters out last week advising property owners of the law.

UPDATE 2-Saskatchewan nixes nuclear power plan | Reuters
* Says more information and consultation needed

* Bruce Power, gov’t panel had urged reactor be built

By Cameron French

TORONTO, Dec 17 (Reuters) – The Canadian province of Saskatchewan, a top uranium producing region, said on Thursday it will not go ahead with construction of Western Canada’s first nuclear power plant due to uncertainty about costs.

However, the government left the door open to future development and raised the possibility of co-operation with the neighboring Prairie provinces of Alberta and Manitoba.

AFP: Canada seeks bids for atomic energy firm
The Canadian government on Thursday moved to get out of the nuclear energy business, inviting bids for its commercial reactor division amid heady global demand for atomic energy.

“Nuclear energy is an emission-free source of power that is experiencing a renaissance around the world,” said Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt in a statement.

Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL)’s CANDU reactor division “needs strategic investors to take full advantage of this opportunity, strengthen its global presence and reduce the financial risks carried by taxpayers.”

Proposals are to be assessed based on the buyer’s ability to grow the division’s domestic and foreign reactor sales, helping to retain some 30,000 Canadian jobs in the sector.


Nuclear Health and Safety News

Radiation mishap prompts inquiry – John O’Groat Journal and Caithness Courier
They want to find out why a group of workers were subjected to a higher than expected dose while moving a flask containing intermediate-level waste (ILW) on November 25.

Checks are ongoing to determine the exposure levels of between six and nine workers, though it has been established they do not breach legal or site-imposed limits.

The probe follows an incident in the summer when two workers had to have low-level contamination removed from their hands while working on a clean-up job in the site’s sphere-shaped reactor.

The two problems come in the wake of a steady improvement in both the nuclear and industrial safety record of operators, Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd.

It is understood management are keen to tighten up standards in the site’s Fuel Cycle Area – which houses the complex of reactor and waste stores – to maintain the recent progress.

DSRL spokesman Colin Punler yesterday gave details of the latest incident. / | Tritium spills into Lake Ontario after Darlington accident
Investigation into why Darlington workers were filling wrong tank

CLARINGTON — Workers at the Darlington nuclear station filled the wrong tank with a cocktail of water and a radioactive isotope Monday, spilling more than 200,000 litres into Lake Ontario.

Ontario Power Generation is investigating how the accident happened and officials say hourly tests of the lake water show that the level of tritium  the radioactive isotope of hydrogen  poses no harm to nearby residents.

2 exposed to plutonium at SRS 122309 – The Augusta Chronicle
Two Savannah River Site workers were discovered with traces of plutonium 238 on their clothing in November, but followup monitoring concluded they received no internal exposure.
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“In this case, the two people had contamination on their clothing, but not on themselves,” said Will Callicott, spokesman for Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, the site’s primary contractor. “The contamination was detected through routine monitoring while exiting the work area, so the radiation detection system worked as designed.”

The incident occurred the week of Nov. 13 in the site’s Solid Waste Management Facility, according to a report made public this month by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.

$41M ASU project targets nuclear disasters – Phoenix Business Journal:
Arizona State University will lead a $41 million research project to develop systems to help first responders assess radiation exposure in the event of a large-scale nuclear disaster.

The five-year contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority will focus on the development of prototypes to enable more rapid triage of patients.

Details revealed about radioactive contamination spread by MU researcher – Columbia Missourian
The MU lab out of which a researcher inadvertently spread radioactive material last month has been temporarily suspended from using radioactive material, according a report prepared by Peter Ashbrook, director of Environmental Health and Safety at MU.

The lab in Schlundt Annex, headed by Frank Schmidt, professor of biochemistry, will have its radioactive material privileges reviewed in February by MU’s Radiation Safety Committee, according to the report.

MU lab suspended from using radioactive material – Missouri | State & regional –
A lab at the University of Missouri-Columbia has been temporarily suspended from using radioactive material after a researcher inadvertently spread radioactive material on the soles of his shoes.

The Columbia Missourian, citing a report from the school’s director of Environmental Health and Safety, also reported that a university committee will review the lab’s radioactive material privileges in February.

Frank Schmidt, a professor of biochemistry who heads the lab, told the Missourian that he had no comment about the report, which he had not yet seen.

Radiation found outside TMI after incident – The York Daily Record
An Exelon Nuclear monitor located about a mile away from Three Mile Island in Dauphin County picked up trace amounts of radiation during the same week workers were exposed to contamination at the plant.

Between Nov. 18 and Nov. 24, one of TMI’s seven remote monitors detected an increase of 0.02 millirems, said Beth Archer, an Exelon spokeswoman. A millirem is a measure of radiation exposure.

A second monitor recorded a statistically insignificant change in its reading, she said.

A typical person receives about 360 millirems of radiation annually from natural sources, such as soil and rocks, cosmic rays, food and consumer products.

VA apologizes but denies radiation violations | Philadelphia Inquirer |
The Department of Veterans Affairs yesterday apologized repeatedly for a prostate-cancer program that gave incorrect radiation doses to veterans for six years at its main Philadelphia hospital.

At the same time, officials from the Philadelphia VA Medical Center and the Veterans Health Administration mounted a vigorous defense against charges by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission that they had apparently violated eight regulations in the medical use of radioactive materials.

In a hearing that was often pointed, VA officials also withdrew their own previous estimates of the number of patients who were affected, asserting that the mistakes were far less common than previously believed.

Chernobyl Still Radioactive After 23 Years – Even more so than originally expected – Softpedia
Speaking at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) on Monday, experts revealed a troublesome fact about Chernobyl, the Ukrainian nuclear power plant that blew up in 1986. Recent measurements in the exclusion zone, where no humans can go without protective equipment, have revealed that the radioactive material that was spilled in the area was nowhere near the decay level that was predicted for it. In other words, the scientists are saying that it will take a lot more time for the land to be cleansed than originally believed, Wired reports.

Previous estimates, based on the fact that the Cesium 137’s half-life is 30 years, estimated that the restriction zone could be lifted, and then re-inhabited soon. But experiments reveal that the radioactive material is not decaying as fast as predicted, and scientists have no clue as to why this is happening. The April 26, 1986 accident was the largest nuclear accident in the world, and only a level 7 event on the International Nuclear Event Scale. Its fallout was made worse by the Soviet Union’s attempt at covering up the incident, which saw a lot of people exposed to lethal doses of radiations.


NRC News

IG Found Former NRC Commissioner Merrifield Violated Ethics Laws
The Project On Government Oversight has obtained hundreds of pages of internal NRC documents from an NRC Inspector General investigation into then-Commissioner Jeffrey Merrifield. The documents outline, among other things, how he disregarded advice from NRC’s General Counsel and voted on two matters that “could have potentially” financially benefitted three companies—Shaw Group, Westinghouse, and General Electric—during the time he was directly involved in employment negotiations with those companies. The IG investigation found that in the two months before accepting a job created for him at the Shaw Group, Commissioner Merrifield voted both to approve China’s purchase of AP 1000 reactors (in which the Shaw Group had a financial interest) and to change criteria of emergency cooling systems that would directly benefit Westinghouse (of which the Shaw Group owned a 20 percent interest). The IG referred the case to the Department of Justice.


Nuclear Fuel Cycle News

Tulsa World: Vian, Cherokees fight waste-well plan
The Town of Vian and the Cherokee Nation are asking the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to overturn a decision that re- commends approval of a commercial disposal well in the city limits.

I-MAC Petroleum Services of Muskogee is seeking to construct the well for disposal of salt water that comes from the natural gas drilling process at wells in Arkansas.

Greg Riepl, a geologist for I-MAC, said that Arkansas doesn’t have a lot of underground rock formations that are conducive for water disposal.

“Arkansas put a moratorium (on salt water injection wells) until they can gin up some regulations,” because some of the gas companies were not following the existing rules, Riepl said.

Ideal sites for injecting salt water are thick formations that are porous and permeable so that fluids can move through them, Riepl said.

Boom and bust of the area uranium industry
The uranium industry was born on the west end of Energy Alley, the run from Green River, Utah, to Rifle. It has burst into bloom and sputtered to obscurity more than once.

Like the half-lives by which radiation is judged to decay, though, the industry never has died. Two companies are burrowing into the red bluffs and canyons of western Colorado and eastern Utah to dig out uranium and start the process of generating electricity.

Although the history of the uranium industry in the region goes back to Madame Curie and her discoveries in the late 19th Century, the supply is far from played out.

Miners dug out about 250 million pounds of uranium for the World II and Cold War efforts, said George Glasier, president and CEO of Energy Fuels Inc., a Canadian, publicly traded company.

Residents voice uranium project concerns | The Coloradoan
Speakers at Nunn meeting share opinions about proposed uranium mine and pump test

NUNN – Standing before a crowd of more than 100 people Monday night, Fort Collins resident Diane Marschke said she doesn’t think it matters if Powertech USA’s proposed Centennial Project uranium mine pollutes the water.

“When people hear there’s a uranium mine 10 miles away, they aren’t going to come here,” she said.

Marschke and about 15 others confronted U.S. Environ-mental Protection Agency officials at the Nunn Community Center with their opinions about a proposed water pump test that will tell Powertech if its in situ leaching method of uranium mining is viable in the area.

To conduct the test, the company needs a “Class V” permit from the EPA, which will allow Powertech to pump water out of the uranium-containing Fox Hills aquifer, store it, then reinject the water back into the aquifer. The permit will not allow the company to mine for uranium.

Uranium ghost returns to haunt Meghalaya in 2009
Hopes were rekindled in mid 2009 that the proposed uranium mining project in Meghalaya will finally see the light of the day but these were dashed towards the end of the year by renewed protests prompting the government to put it in on the back burner.

Within three months of clinching power after the collapse of the NCP-led coalition of regional parties, the Congress-led government headed by Chief Minister D D Lapang sought to break the deadlock over the uranium mining project that has been hanging fire over two decades now.

The Lapang cabinet on August 24 decided to lease 422 hectares of land to the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) for 30 years in the uranium-rich West Khasi Hills district for “pre-project” developmental works.

The weapons-to-power nuclear argument |
There’s been a lot of megatons-to-megawatts activity in recent years, but some folks aren’t too sure if that’s going to continue to be a big factor in the downsizing of the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals. Of course, a lot of folks are skeptical, period, about a nuclear renaissance.

Darrel Kohlhorst isn’t one of them. I’ve had a couple of opportunities in recent weeks to talk to the general manager at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant. During a conversation at a hearing for Y-12’s Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement, he offered some views on nuclear power.

Here’s what he said:

Report: BLM OKs plan to drill near Colorado nuclear-blast site – Denver Business Journal:
The federal Bureau of Land Management has agreed to Noble Energy’s plan to drill 79 natural-gas wells in western Colorado near the site of an underground nuclear blast 40 years ago, according to a news report Monday.

The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported that Noble Energy will drill the wells over the next three to five years, and that gas produced by the wells will be tested for radioactivity.

In 1969, a federal test called Project Rulison was conducted to determine if nuclear blasts could be used to retrieve natural gas deep underground. A nuclear device was set off about 8,400 feet underground near Rulison, Colo.

Powertech USA on track for Centennial Project uranium mining northeast of Fort Collins | | The Coloradoan
“Hot Town,” a 1971 story in Time Magazine, begins this way:

“Except on the coldest days of the Colorado winter, the doors of the Pomona Elementary School annex, on the outskirts of Grand Junction, are opened during recess. The reason is that the building is radioactive.

“Unless the rooms are aired, radioactive gases and particles seeping through the floors cause radiation in the school rooms to rise dangerously above safe levels.”

The school, just like 593 other homes and buildings across the city, was built on radioactive fill from a uranium mill on the south side of Grand Junction.

Radiation-related illnesses began to appear, spurring a massive federal cleanup project that lasted for more than 15 years.

Since cleansed of much of its radioactive waste, Grand Junction’s nuclear legacy remains near the heart of Colorado’s colorful 139-year uranium mining history, which is full of stories of uranium boom, bust and massive cleanup efforts statewide.

Uranium digs up major players | | The Coloradoan
In situ leach uranium mining has a lot of followers these days.

Also called solution mining, it is the method Powertech USA plans to use in extracting uranium at its Centennial Project site in Weld County, about 15 miles northeast of Fort Collins.

But Powertech isn’t the only solution uranium mining player in Weld County. Two other companies, Geovic Mining Corp. and Black Range Minerals, are on the sidelines waiting for the right time to push their in situ leach uranium mining plans forward.

In situ, or “in place,” leach mining works this way: Water infused with sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda, is pumped underground and into the formation containing uranium.

The uranium is dissolved in the sodium bicarbonate solution as it is pumped through the ore and then to the surface, where the solution is processed and the uranium is recovered.

Proposal for uranium mill moves to next phase
The Pinon Ridge Uranium Mill to be located 12 miles west of Naturita got initial approval Friday on its application to build a mining facility.

But that doesn’t mean the Paradox Valley plant is anywhere near approved to actually be built, said Warren Smith, community involvement manager for the radiation program of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

All Friday’s announcement means is Energy Fuels Resources Corp. had all the pieces it needed to go forward with the next licensing phase, which is far more technical, he said.

Smith said the approval triggers a yearlong comprehensive technical review by the department, which means the company will have to provide detailed information about various aspects of the project’s construction and hold a series of formal public hearings on each.

Associated Press: Moody’s downgrades USEC ratings
Moody’s Investor Service on Friday downgraded its ratings for USEC Inc., citing expectations of weak credit metrics over the next several years, increased competition and liquidity risks.

The company, which is based in Bethesda, Md., is a global supplier of low enriched uranium for nuclear power plants.

The ratings agency lowered the company’s corporate family and probability of default ratings to Caa1 from B3. It also cut the rating for its 3 percent convertible senior notes to Caa2 from Caa1. All new ratings are considered junk grade.

In addition to concerns over credit, competition and liquidity, Moody’s said the ratings are also constrained by USEC’s dependence on a single production facility, regulatory risk and the potential for higher costs of electric power, which accounts for up to 75 percent of the company’s costs to enrich uranium.

Shares of the company fell 4 cents to $4.02 in afternoon trading.


Nuclear Waste News

Court expected to rule early next year on nuclear waste dump in Barnwell County | | The Greenville News
After a six-year legal war over safety at a nuclear waste dump, South Carolina environmentalists hope a pending court decision will force stricter disposal practices for the Barnwell County site.

The S.C. Court of Appeals, which heard the case last fall, is expected to render a decision early next year on the Sierra Club’s challenge to the site’s operating permit. The landfill closed to the nation in 2008, but remains open to bury low-level nuclear waste for South Carolina and two other states.

If the appeals court sides with the Sierra Club, it could force Chem-Nuclear to improve the way it buries garbage, which would better prevent leaks of radioactive material into groundwater, club lawyer Jimmy Chandler said.

For years, landfill operators have allowed rainwater to fall on open trenches lined with clay, instead of plastic. Burial vaults also have holes in them, allowing water to escape.

EnergySolutions Launches Ad Campaign Against Reps Who Oppose Italian Nuclear Waste Storage
EnergySolutions Inc. has started airing commercials critical of a U.S. congressman who wants to prevent the company from importing Italian nuclear waste for disposal in Utah’s west desert.

The company is fighting a bill in Congress sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, that would ban the importation of foreign low-level radioactive waste unless it originated in the U.S. or served a strategic national purpose.

EnergySolutions contends jobs will be put at risk if it isn’t allowed to dispose of the waste at its facility, about miles west of Salt Lake City. Meanwhile, Matheson said that any country that creates nuclear waste should dispose of it itself. | Business: Magnum Minerals will buy WIPP salt 12/23/09
The Energy Department’s Carlsbad Field Office has reached an agreement to sell salt from the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, N.M., to a Hereford company that will use it as a livestock feed supplement.

In 2008, Washington TRU Solutions issued a request for interest in salt tailings that have accumulated on the surface at the WIPP site since mining began in the 1970s. Through the years, uncontaminated salt has been mined from the WIPP Plant, which stores radioactive waste in rooms mined from ancient salt formations 2,150 feet below the surface, according to information from the Department of Energy. WIPP, which began waste-disposal operations in 1999, is 26 miles outside Carlsbad.

Hereford-based Magnum Minerals, which is owned and operated by Tim and Keith Ann Gearn and sons Jason and Dustin Gearn, specializes in providing minerals for the livestock industry.

DOE officials said the project will save taxpayers money and benefit private industry. The salt tailings normally would be disposed of in a landfill. Magnum Minerals will pay the government about $600,00 for the contract, which could have cost the government $4.5 million in disposal costs, said Tim Gearn, president of Magnum Minerals.

EnergySolutions, Matheson duel over nuke dump – Salt Lake Tribune
U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, and EnergySolutions Inc. are going public with their complaints about one another, with dueling press conferences Wednesday and mailers.

EnergySolutions also aired an ad last weekend on four television stations to attack what the Salt Lake City radioactive waste company calls the congressman’s “playing politics with Utah jobs” and “catering to left-wing fringe groups.” The company accused the congressman of inciting fear and misleading the public about the safety of their operations.

“Everything we put into our ad is factual,” said EnergySolutions President Val Christensen.

The company operates a specialized landfill in Tooele County that serves as the sole disposal site for
low-level radioactive waste from 36 states.

Dealing with nuclear waste
Recently, columnist Murray Mandryk, in writing about a nuclear waste facility for this province, suggested that because we have been responsible for digging up uranium since 1953, we are hypocritical in not dealing with the end waste.

I should like to point out that, for decades, we were assured that our democracy was under threat and we needed nuclear weapons for self-defense. Mining uranium seemed the right thing to do at the time. Were we mislead or misinformed?

In the days of Tommy Douglas (and ever since), we were always assured by the nuclear industry not to worry. A safe, long-term method of waste storage would be established.

Depleted uranium shipment arrives at Utah site – Salt Lake Tribune
State inspectors will be on hand today as EnergySolutions Inc. begins unloading a trainload of depleted uranium from the federal government’s Savannah River cleanup site in South Carolina.

The low-level radioactive waste, which arrived Sunday night, won’t be buried just yet, thanks to an agreement hammered out last week between Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and the U.S. Energy Department.

Instead, the 5,408 drums of low-level radioactive waste will be placed in a specialized landfill for storage until Utah regulators can finish updating state disposal requirements, provisions aimed at making sure the state does not get stuck with radioactive waste that cannot be effectively contained at the EnergySolutions disposal site.

Dane Finerfrock, director of the Utah Division of Radiation Control, said his staff was on hand Monday to review the shipping papers for the waste and check the manifests against the content of a sampling of drums.

EnergySolutions, which operates the landfill about 80 miles west of Salt Lake City, had little to say about the controversial cargo. – Toxic dump for sale for $15,000 per acre
U.S. EPA’s severe limits on use of Uniontown site might put damper on chance of a transaction

UNIONTOWN: A federal Superfund site, contaminated but slightly cleaner, is for sale.

Any new owners will be severely limited in what they can do at the now-closed Industrial Excess Landfill off Cleveland Avenue Northwest.

Depleted uranium train arrives at Utah site – Salt Lake Tribune
EnergySolutions Inc. opened its gates Sunday night to the latest shipment of depleted uranium from the Savannah River cleanup site in South Carolina.

But the waste won’t be buried just yet, under an agreement between Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and the U.S. Energy Department. Instead, the 5,408 drums of low-level radioactive waste will be unloaded tomorrow and placed in a specialized landfill cell for storage until Utah regulators have an opportunity to wrap up a proposed license change and a proposed regulation change.

Dane Finerfrock, director of the Utah Division of Radiation Control, said his staff was on hand Monday to review the shipping papers for the waste and check the paperwork against the content of a sampling of drums. They will also be on hand to watch the drums be placed into the landfill cell, probably on Tuesday.

Court: nuclear spent fuel can be stored at plants – California –
A federal appeals court has refused a request by several states to force the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to declare spent fuel pools at nuclear power plants a serious environmental threat.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday in Manhattan. It denied appeals by New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts that it review the NRC’s rejection of a request by Massachusetts and California that it raise the risk level.

The states had argued that spent fuel causes a greater risk of fire than previously appreciated. The appeals court said it must defer to the regulatory agency’s expertise.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said he will continue legal actions to force the agency to create a central national site to store nuclear waste.

Deseret News | No thanks: 2 dozen protest trains bringing depleted uranium to Utah
Two dozen protesters braved the cold Saturday morning to protest plans to ship more than 3,000 tons of depleted uranium through the state to Utah’s western desert.

The protest was organized by the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah as a train carrying the first of three planned shipments of depleted uranium nears the state.

“We cannot allow this waste to be buried here, and we are asking Gov. Herbert to help us turn these trains around,” said Christopher Thomas, policy director for HEAL Utah.

Thomas said a compromise worked out between Gov. Gary Herbert and the U.S. Department of Energy Thursday is inadequate. Under the agreement, the state will allow the first of three trains loaded with the radioactive waste to enter the state, but not to bury the material at EnergySolutions disposal site near Clive until additional safety measures can be taken.

Radioactive ruse – Salt Lake Tribune
EnergySolutions seems hell-bent to increase its revenue stream by diversifying the waste stream flowing to its low-level radioactive waste disposal facility in Tooele County.

Its efforts to serve as the depository for the nation’s depleted uranium and the world’s low-level radioactive waste are well-documented. And now, the for-profit firm is arguing in favor of “blending” trash , which would allow it to introduce even hotter trash to the Beehive State.

Company officials made their case for blended waste before the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission Tuesday. The process, if approved, would allow hotter Class B and C low-level wastes to be mixed with Class A waste as long as the blended waste does not exceed the standards for Class A waste, the least radioactive of low-level wastes and the only type Utah law allows.

It should come as no surprise that the nuclear industry would endorse such a practice. EnergySolutions is a private company looking to improve its bottom line. And the nuclear power industry is seeking a repository for its Class B and Class C waste, after a disposal site in South Carolina stopped accepting waste from 36 other states in 2008.

Is Utah disposal site safe for depleted uranium? – Salt Lake Tribune
Some Utahns say there’s no need to worry about burying more depleted uranium in a Utah landfill. Others want the radioactive waste shipped back where it came from, the government cleanup of an atomic weapons site in Savannah River, S.C.

Tussling over the issue continued all week, culminating in a statement Friday by Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon.

“I continue to be concerned about putting the County residents at risk,” he wrote, “and would urge the Governor to do everything in his power to stop the transfer and disposal of depleted uranium in Utah.”

But, after a full week of controversy over DU, as the waste is often called, the only certainty appears to be that both sides will have to wait before the debate is settled.

The first third of three planned shipments from Savannah River was already on its way to Utah on Thursday, when Gov. Gary Herbert reached a compromise with the U.S, Energy Department. The deal allows new, state controls to be put in place for DU before any of those 5,408 drums are buried and before the remaining 10,000 are hauled to Utah.

Radioactive waste heading our way? (From Daily Echo)
RADIOACTIVE waste from the controversial Sellafield nuclear plant is set to be disposed of in Hampshire, the Daily Echo can reveal.

Under a proposal out to consultation today, ten trucks a year would make the 350- mile journey from Cumbria to an incinerator in Fawley, on the edge of the New Forest.

Each truck would carry about 40 barrels of low-level radioactive waste oil to the Spanish-owned facility.

Up to 100 cubic metres of radioactive waste would be sent to Hampshire each year, a spokesman for Sellafield said.

Common Approach to the Nuclear Waste Issue
Whether of the extremely radioactive high-level, long-lived kind or the short-lived, low-level type, the issue of nuclear waste and methods of its disposal remain one of the most pressing problems facing the nuclear sector.

“Technical solutions for waste disposal do exist and they are certainly safe,” explains Didier Louvat, who heads the IAEA´s Waste and Environmental Safety Section.

“However, what has been missing so far is a uniform, international approach to this issue at a normative level.”


Nuclear Policy News

Councilman shone in nuclear debate
In 2009, the local political sleeper was  drumroll, please  District 8 Councilman Reed Williams.

Williams was anything but a brand name when he was elected. He’d worked 35 years in the oil industry but wasn’t part of the small clique of local business leaders who regularly influence City Hall.

At 62, Williams has an unassuming demeanor and zero political ambitions. Yet when it came to the debate over expansion of the South Texas Project, he played a critical behind-the-scenes role. He offered expertise and common sense that has made him a key voice in charting the city’s energy future.

He started out inclined to support the nuclear expansion. When he had an interview with the Sierra Club during the campaign, one of the leaders asked where he and the organization would differ.

Nuclear Power | Renewable Energy
The fall-out from Copenhagen has left the world’s biggest “carbon criminals”, among them Australia, exposed on climate change. With the overthrow of Malcolm Turnbull in the Liberal party along with the proposed ETS, the ascension of Tony Abbot and his emphasis on “direct action” it was inevitable that the federal Opposition would revisit nuclear power as an option for a low-carbon future in Australia. Given the recent sobering Government report on carbon capture and storage, “clean coal” seems less and less as the likely saviour.

A nuclear reactor in Egypt? – Haaretz – Israel News
“Egypt will not enjoy its sovereignty unless it has the strength to implement a just peace, and therefore developing a nuclear program is part of national security,” says Dr. Rashad Al-Qubaisi, the former head of the International Center for Nuclear Weapons at the United Nations and the person responsible for preparing a report on establishing a nuclear reactor in Egypt. “I am of the opinion that possessing an atom bomb is essential if you want to enjoy power and sovereignty. I will not forget what the Indian ambassador said to me when we discovered that India was holding nuclear experiments in 1997 – ‘Our national security is more important to us than water or food.'” Qubaisi, who criticizes the Egyptian government for not approving nuclear supervision in its territory, says no country in the region, including Israel, has conducted nuclear experiments because they are so simple to trace. “Israel conducts its experiments via computer simulations – impossible to detect,” he says.

The Associated Press: Canadian nuclear company strikes deal with Japan
Atomic Energy of Canada Limited has signed a multimillion-dollar contract with Tokyo Electric Power Company, the Canadian government-owned corporation’s first contract in Japan.

The Canadian energy company announced the deal Tuesday, but did not reveal specific financial details of the agreement.

AECL said the first pump seal was installed in early November on the boiler system of a Japanese nuclear power plant that began operations earlier this month.

Atomic Energy of Canada Limited is a full-service nuclear technology company, providing services to nuclear utilities around the world.

t r u t h o u t | Helen Caldicott Slams Environmental Groups on Climate Bill, Nuclear Concessions
Dr. Helen Caldicott, the pioneering Australian antinuclear activist and pediatrician who spearheaded the global nuclear freeze movement of the 1980s and co-founded Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), has joined with left-leaning environmental groups here in an uphill fight to halt nuclear power as a “solution” to the global warming crisis. “Global warming is the greatest gift the nuclear industry has ever received,” Dr. Caldicott told Truthout.
The growing rush to nuclear power was only enhanced, experts say, by the weak climate deal at the Copenhagen 15 climate conference. The prospects for passage of a climate bill in Congress – virtually all versions are pro-nuclear – were enhanced, most analysts say, because it offered the promise that China might voluntarily agree to verify its carbon reductions and it could reassure senators worried about American manufacturers being undermined by polluters overseas. But at the two-week international confab that didn’t produce any binding agreements to do anything, Caldicott and environmental activist groups were marginalized or, in the case of the delegates from Friends of the Earth, evicted from the main hall.

AFP: Areva wins 200-million-euro Dubai contract
French nuclear energy giant Areva said Monday it would supply Dubai with 11 electricity substations for 200 million euros (286 million dollars), as the emirate grapples with a serious debt crisis.

“The order is the largest ever for Areva T&D (Transmission and Distribution) in the United Arab Emirates,” Areva said in a statement.

Philippe Guillemot, chief executive of Areva T&D, called it a “prestigious contract” that would strengthen his company’s presence in the region.

News – Development: Cape residents oppose nuclear power station
Residents opposed to the building of a nuclear power station at Bantamsklip on the southern Cape coast staged a protest march through Hermanus on Saturday and handed a memorandum to the Overstrand municipality, saying the local authority had failed to represent their interests by supporting the proposed nuclear power plant.

John Williams, chairperson of the Save Bantamsklip Association, said on Sunday that about 300 people had marched through the town to protest against a proposal by Eskom to build nuclear reactors in “one of the hottest biodiversity hot spots in the world”.

Can nuclear solve the global water crisis? – Telegraph
As the global population expands, demand for water for agriculture and personal use will increase dramatically, but there could be a solution that will produce clean drinking water and help reduce carbon emissions as well. That process is nuclear desalination.

Many areas of the world are suffering from a water crisis and it’s not just arid, developing countries that are suffering. The Western US is particularly vulnerable and its water crisis is getting more severe by the day.

CAUSE – PART 6 of 6: The solution is sustainable energy
The solution according to members of CAUSE is sustainable energy in these three alternatives: wind, solar and geothermal. CAUSE totally supports other alternative forms of energy generation as stated in the Pembina Institute’s Greening the Grid, Powering Alberta’s Future with Renewable Energy. The informative piece can be found at:

Rather than follow the global agenda, Alberta and Canada have these options in Greening the Grid available to them and can use them in a big way. The question as to why global leaders are turning back the clock to reinvigorate a 50 year-old industry plagued with safety and cost issues is bewildering.

They want a quick fix solution as a way to resolve the carbon emissions problem but Schacherl disputes this fact. Nuclear is not emission free and it is definitely not a quick fix solution.’ It takes a minimum of 10 years for a nuclear reactor to be approved and built and likely longer. As global leaders pour money into this 50 year-old problem-plagued industry, money needed for research and development for cleaner, safer energy alternatives, will be taken away.

CAUSE – PART 5 of 6: The pros and cons of nuclear energy
Some claim that nuclear energy has become safer and that the public is more accepting of it because it releases less emissions into the air compared to coal. As for the benefits of nuclear energy, Schacherl has strong views on this too. “Nuclear energy has no benefits to the public, not even in lower CO2 emissions when the full nuclear cycle is taken into effect. Nuclear is expensive and dangerous, and the only benefit is to the nuclear industry itself. The claim that the third generation reactors are safer is just a joke, since none of them have ever been built and for the ACR1000, not even the design is completed. How can you claim they are safer when the safety analysis showing the probability of a nuclear accident has not even been completed?

Schacherl is emphatic that nuclear energy be phased out and replaced by renewable energy that is safer, more cost-effective and sustainable. Schacherl also encourages the public to do their homework since there is a lot of misinformation out there. “The provincial government’s nuclear panel report was full of misinformation. Albertans should do their own research on nuclear. The nuclear industry provides very little solid, factual information. They just ask us to trust them.

CAUSE – PART 4 of 6: The Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP)
The purpose of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership is to encourage the growth of nuclear power worldwide. It was a Bush initiative that Canada joined in December 2007 without any debate in parliament, explains Schacherl.

An article printed in The Toronto Star on November 29, 2007 called on Canada to join a controversial nuclear partnership. The plan proposes re-using nuclear waste, a practice effectively banned in Canada and the U.S. since the 1970s for security reasons. It was announced in this article that Canada would be a part of the GNEP. Dave Martin of Greenpeace Canada insisted that “no matter which side of the nuclear debate you fall on  pro or anti everyone should be able to agree this is something which deserves public scrutiny.”

Schacherl adds, One of the principles of the GNEP partnership is that those countries who sell uranium will agree to take back the spent fuel. The United States, who initiated the partnership, benefits the most as it has a huge nuclear waste problem. Yucca Mountain, where long-term storage was once planned, has now been shelved for a number of reasons including community opposition. Countries such as Canada clearly don’t benefit as they will take

CAUSE – PART 3 of 6: The nuclear agenda for Alberta
Schacherl describes the nuclear agenda for Alberta. Bruce Power, a private nuclear operator from Ontario, is proposing to build four large first-of-a-kind nuclear reactors in the Peace River region that would produce 4,000 megawatts of nuclear power. As the Pembina Institute has shown in Greening the Grid, ( all of our electrical needs can be met in Alberta over the next 20 years through energy efficiency, cogeneration and renewable energy such as wind, power and geothermal.

From wind power alone, there is 11,500 megawatts in applications waiting to be considered. The excess energy that nuclear would produce would end up being exported likely to the United States, verifies Schacherl.

One of the reasons why nuclear energy is being installed in Northern Alberta is for assisting oil sands operation for the purpose of extracting bitumen. However, Schacherl explains that in March 2007, the Standing Committee on Natural Resources concluded that “classic nuclear plants are too big for oil sands development and that smaller plants would have to be considered.

CAUSE – PART 2 of 6: Nuclear energy operations will tax Alberta’s water system
It is still dubious as to how many nuclear reactors will be installed in Alberta since it all depends on water and approval after the environmental assessment. Schacherl claims that Energy Alberta Corporation, the original nuclear proponent, was intending to build 13 nuclear reactors in Alberta as part of their business plan. Then Bruce Power bought them out. Elena Schacherl founder of CAUSE explains, “When Bruce Power first came to Alberta, CEO Duncan Hawthorne stated that the Peace River region reactors are ‘just the start’ of development in Alberta. He admitted that the company has a very aggressive growth program.’

What will be problematic for this plan in going forward, aside from public opposition, will be insufficient water for cooling. Nuclear uses 50% more water to generate electricity than fossil fuels. Bruce Power is now planning to build cooling towers and a cooling pond for the reactors proposed in Northern Alberta because there is not enough water for a ‘once through cooling system’ in the Peace River. But even then they have to pipe in water from the river to keep the cooling pond sufficiently filled. Not sure where they will find the water to venture into southern Alberta as well, warns Schacherl.

Founder of Calgary-based grassroots movement CAUSE comments on nuclear versus sustainable energy
Elena Schacherl initiated the grassroots organization Citizens Advocating the Use of Sustainable Energy (CAUSE) in January 2007. Many of the people who are members of CAUSE come from diverse backgrounds. The announcement of possible plans for extensive nuclear development in Alberta by a company at the time called Energy Alberta Corporation was the inspiration behind its formation. The Alberta Environmental Network circulated the notice of the first meeting according to Schacherl.

Our mandate is to oppose nuclear development in Alberta by educating the public about the safety, environmental, health and economic risks of nuclear power. We support energy efficiency and renewable energy such as wind, solar and geothermal as safer, less expensive and more environmentally friendly means of conserving and generating electricity, explains Schacherl.

Vermont Supreme Court upholds discharge ruling – Brattleboro Reformer
The Vermont Supreme Court has upheld a 2008 Environmental Court decision to allow Entergy Vermont Yankee to release thermal discharge water into the Connecticut River that is expected to raise the temperature of the river by one degree.

And while environmental groups that argued against the release say the decision will adversely affect aquatic life, Entergy officials celebrated the decision by the state’s high court.

“We are very pleased with this decision,” Yankee spokesman Rob Williams said after the Supreme Court issued its ruling Friday. “Vermont Yankee is a responsible steward of the river and this small leeway granted on temperature limit will help ensure the plant’s reliability output during the warmer summer months for the region’s electric consumers.”

Yankee plans on releasing the warmer water into the river this summer, Williams said.

The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources first granted Yankee a permit to increase the temperature of the Connecticut River near the plant by one degree in 2004.

TedRockwell Blog: Nuclear facts
Beyond ecological imperialism

Climate change isn’t just a battle between rich and poor – it shows how an obsession with economic growth is a dead end

o, Monday 21 December 2009 12.30 GMT

So the Copenhagen summit did not deliver any hope of substantive change, or even any indication that the world’s leaders are sufficiently aware of the vastness and urgency of the problem. But is that such a surprise? Nothing in the much-hyped runup to the summit suggested that the organisers and participants had genuine ambitions to change course and stop or reverse a process of clearly unsustainable growth.

Part of the problem is that the issue of climate change is increasingly portrayed as that of competing interests between countries. Thus, the summit has been interpreted variously as a fight between the “two largest culprits” the US and China or between a small group of developed countries and a small group of newly emerging countries (the group of four China, India, Brazil and South Africa), or at best between rich and poor countries.

The historical legacy of past growth in the rich countries that has a current adverse impact is certainly keenly felt in the developing world. It is not just the past: current per capita greenhouse gas emissions in the developed world are still many multiples of that in any developing country, including China. So the attempts by northern commentators to lay blame on some countries for derailing the result by pointing to this discrepancy are seen in most developing countries as further evidence of an essentially colonial outlook.

But describing this as a fight between countries misses the essential point: that the issue is really linked to an economic system capitalism that is crucially dependent upon rapid growth as its driving force, even if this “growth” does not deliver better lives for the people. So there is no questioning of the supposition that rich countries with declining populations must keep on growing in terms of GDP, rather than finding diff

Greentech Media: Nuclear Industry Wish List
The industry is angling for 25 to 30 new plants, loan guarantees and fuel recycling.

To meet the current goals for greenhouse gas emissions, the U.S. would have to build 187 new nuclear plants by 2050, according to former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, who now co-chairs the Case Energy Coalition, which advocates increased nuclear power in the U.S.

But the industry will settle for 25 to 30 by 2030, she said. That would be enough to meet the expected growth in demand for electricity in the U.S. while keeping nuclear around 20 percent of the mix. The U.S. currently has 104 reactors.

U.S. hails Emirates nuclear deal as model | Reuters
The United States formally signed a civilian nuclear cooperation deal with the United Arab Emirates on Thursday, hailing it as a “new bargain” that could help prevent the spread of dangerous atomic technology.

“This is a new bargain for the Middle East region and the United States welcomes and applauds the UAE’s decision,” Ellen Tauscher, undersecretary for arms control, said at the signing ceremony.

The pact, which President Barack Obama approved in May and sent to Congress for a 90-day review period, is potentially worth billions of dollars to General Electric Co (GE.N) and Westinghouse Electric, a subsidiary of Toshiba Corp (6502.T).

Entergy handed setback over holding company – Bennington Banner
Entergy was dealt another setback in its efforts to form a new holding company for six of its nuclear reactors after a pair of New York state administrative law judges told the state’s Public Service Commission it shouldn’t issue its final decision until Feb. 11.

The judges wrote that the PSC needs time to determine whether Enexus’ forecasted financial position is “at least as good as Entergy’s,” considering that Enexus is currently a shell corporation with no financial history that can be examined, as reported in SNL Energy Finance Daily on Dec. 15.

That’s especially important, wrote the judges, because Enexus would be an “unaffiliated” owner of nuclear generating facilities, and there is “no other company in the world” like it, reported SNL. Entergy wants to spin off Vermont Yankee in Vernon, Indian Point and FitzPatrick in New York, Palisades in Michigan and Plymouth in Massachusetts into an independent company named Enexus. The plants are considered merchant plants because they sell electricity directly to the power market with price controls set by the states they are located in.

When the transaction was first proposed, Entergy said that Enexus would have $4.5 billion in debt. That didn’t sit well with the PSC, so Entergy came back with the lower figure of $3.5 billion and assured the PSC that Enexus would have liquidity of $350 million and an unrestricted cash balance of $750 million.


Nuclear Weapons News

Russia’s New Military Doctrine Stipulates Preventive Nuclear Strike – Pravda.Ru
In October 2009, Nicolai Patrushev, Russia’s Security Council Secretary, announced that the new military doctrine was on its way. The old one was dated back in 2000 and written even earlier, under Yeltsin. Patrushev named the announcement of Russia’s right for a preventive nuclear strike the key provision of the new doctrine. He kept his word, and this provision does exist in the text of the doctrine approved by the Security Council. The President of Russia is expected to sign the document by the end of the year. Experts believe that the doctrine is fair and properly reflects the current state of affairs.

Israeli Whistleblower Helped Us Daunt Others
Former head of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission says the Israeli nuclear whistleblower has served the regime because his revelations helped Tel Aviv intimidate others.

Yet Uzi Eilam, a retired army brigadier-general who ran the commission between 1976 and 1986, says the whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu did a service by alerting foes to the country’s military might.

Vanunu was sentenced to 18 years as a traitor in a secret trial in 1986. He was abducted at that time from Italy after revealing information about an illegal nuclear program at Israel’s Dimona reactor to Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper.

France compensates nuclear test victims
France’s parliament has passed a law to compensate victims of nuclear tests in Algeria and the South Pacific, a response to decades of complaints by people sickened by radiation.

The law cleared France’s Senate on Tuesday, its final legislative hurdle following approval in the National Assembly in June.

France “can at last close a chapter of its history”, Defence Minister Herve Morin said in a statement.

He called the law “just, rigorous and balanced.”

The text, hammered out with help from victims’ associations, recognises the right for victims of France’s more than 200 nuclear tests to receive compensation.

Some 150,000 people, including civilian and military personnel, were on site for the 210 tests France carried out, both in the atmosphere and underground, in the Sahara Desert and the South Pacific from 1960-1996.

2010 to be key year in fight against nuclear arms | Reuters
In April, U.S. President Barack Obama declared in a speech in Prague that the United States was committed “to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” In September he chaired a meeting of the U.N. Security Council that unanimously supported this vision.

Analysts and Western government officials say Obama’s ability to begin delivering on his promise will be tested next year when Moscow and Washington resume haggling on an arms reduction pact and again at a key U.N. nuclear arms conference in May.

They say success of a month-long review of the troubled 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) will depend largely on whether U.S. and Russian negotiators can first agree on a successor pact to replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty

Priest who protests nukes convicted of trespassing
A jury has convicted a 76-year-old Roman Catholic priest from St. Louis of damaging and trespassing on a nuclear missile silo facility in northeastern Colorado last August.

After the verdict Tuesday, Carl Kabat was immediately sentenced to 137 days in jail, which he has already served since his arrest Aug. 6. He is now free.

Since 1980, Kabat has been protesting nuclear weapons on the anniversary of the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. Authorities say that last summer he went to a Weld County missile silo site, hung banners for his cause, cut a hole in the fence, waited inside and prayed until he was arrested by authorities from Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyo.

Kabat acknowledged entering the property and cutting the fence.

French Polynesians march against new French nuclear compensation law
An estimated 3,000 people have joined a march in French Polynesia to demonstrate against the new French law to compensate nuclear weapons test victims, saying it doesn’t go far enough.

The march in Papeete had been organised by test veterans, the Maohi Protestant church and the pro-independence Tavini Huiraatira Party of Oscar Temaru.

The demonstration coincided with a visit to the territory of a French defence ministry delegation, which excluded the minister after he decided to pull out the day before he was due to leave Paris.

The marchers claim that the compensation law, which is to be voted on in Paris this week, is too restrictive as it only considers the fallout in parts of the territory and excludes a reference to the environment.

IAEA Applying a Nuclear Double-Standard by Gareth Porter —
In 2004, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) revealed that a member state had violated its Safeguards Agreement by carrying out covert uranium conversion and enrichment activities and plutonium experiments for more than two decades. The nature of certain of those enrichment activities, moreover, raised legitimate suspicions of interest in a nuclear weapons program.

The state was found to have lied to the IAEA even when it began investigating these suspicious activities, claiming that its laser enrichment research did not involve any use of nuclear material.

Maralinga veterans still battling for justice – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
While the Maralinga Tjaratja people are excited and relieved about this week’s land hand-back, the veterans who served at the British nuclear testing site are still fighting for compensation.

Yesterday, the final parcel of land at Maralinga was returned to the Tjaratja people after years of remediation work by the Federal Government.

However, the thousands of Australian servicemen involved in the series of atomic tests there in the 1950s are still battling for their compensation and are turning to the British courts for justice.

Yearender: U.S. power diplomacy loses steam in first year _English_Xinhua
The power diplomacy of the United States has sensed in the past year that the country’s diplomatic drive is losing steam to mostly unintended practice leaks and a few intentional policy picks.

The power — hard, soft, or smart — was stretched too thin by concurrent maneuvers in Baghdad, Beijing, Brussels, Copenhagen, Geneva, Islamabad, Jerusalem, Kabul, Moscow, New York, Pyongyang and Tehran, to list just a few hotspots where Americans had been busy mending rather than making diplomacy.

“(George W.) Bush’s (hard power) foreign policy left the United States weaker. The new administration must work more closely with allies, friends, and multilateral institutions than Bush did in dealing with the problems,” Joseph Nye, who coined the term “soft power” in 1990, asserted.

To the Harvard scholar, soft power is the ability to get what one wants through attraction, whereas hard power is to get it through coercion.

Nuclear site handover ends fight for ‘justice’ – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
A ceremony in the South Australian outback has marked the formal handover of the former nuclear test site at Maralinga to Indigenous people.

The British Government tested weapons at Maralinga in the state’s far west in the 1950s and 1960s, including seven full-scale nuclear tests.

The South Australian Government says the land has been decontaminated but some will be fenced off because it remains unsafe.


Department of Energy News

Schmidt asked DOE for investigation of Areva – Chillicothe Gazette
U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt said it was her initial complaint that has led the Department of Energy’s Inspector General to investigate Areva, a competitor with USEC’s American Centrifuge Plant in Piketon for federal loan guarantee money.

Schmidt said federal law prohibits the DOE from entering into contracts with companies that have business operations in the Sudan under the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act of 2007.

Areva is a French company and, according to Schmidt, it conducts gold mining operations in the Sudan.

Nuclear Bomb Researchers Accidentally Blow Up Building – Science – Gawker
According to an “Occurrence Report” obtained by the non-profit Project on Government Oversight (POGO), researchers blew up their building with a powerful cannon used to study the types of forces produced by a nuclear explosion:

“On December 16, 2009, Shock and Detonation Physics Group researchers heard a loud unusual noise from Technical Area 15, Building 562 after firing a shot from a large-bore powder gun (LBPG)…. the researchers conducted surveillance outside TA-15-562 and observed that two doors had been blown off the facility and concrete shielding blocks on the west and east side of the building were separated from the wall.”

Although no one was hurt, a POGO source puts the damage at around $3 million. We’re going to say it: That was $3 million of taxpayer funds well-spent. Forget those stem cell thingies. Blow up a couple buildings every month and we’ll have high school students flooding science classes like they were Jonas Brothers concerts.

DOE to Study Storage Options for Spent Nuclear Fuel, Small Reactors — Official –
The Energy Department is close to naming a blue-ribbon committee to consider new policies for dealing with spent nuclear reactor fuel but has further to go in completing negotiations on loan guarantees for a first group of new nuclear reactors, Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman said.

Poneman also said he is interested in the possibilities for development of smaller modular nuclear reactors, calling this a potentially important carbon policy option in the United States and abroad. “I certainly agree with the premise that small, modular reactors are a very interesting path to explore,” Poneman said in an interview this week.

Little Chicago Review -Barrasso grills the DOE over excess uranium management
Tuesday, during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing, Senator John Barrasso criticized the Department of Energy’s (DOE) management of its excess uranium stockpiles. He noted that DOE’s policy of forcing too much of its uranium stockpile into the market will artificially drive down uranium prices, undercutting domestic uranium mining and hurting jobs in Wyoming.

There is a lot at stake for Wyoming jobs and the uranium industry’s investment in Wyoming. The Department’s short-sighted proposal promises temporary jobs in Ohio at the expense of long-term jobs in Wyoming, said Barrasso.

DOE scraps cheaper waste treatment plan  | Tri-City Herald
The Department of Energy has dropped a proposal for a less expensive alternative to treating and disposing of some of Hanford’s radioactive tank waste.

The alternative could have saved as much as $459 million, according to figures in an earlier Government Accountability Office report, but Hanford officials were unable to win the regulatory support of the states of Washington and New Mexico. About $40 million has been spent on the project.

Less than two months ago, DOE released a draft environmental impact study that included the less expensive option of sending some of Hanford’s tank waste to a federal repository in New Mexico rather than glassifying it at the $12.2 billion vitrification plant being built at Hanford.


Other Energy News

AFP: China adopts law to boost renewable energy industry
China’s national assembly Saturday signalled the country’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by adopting a law supporting its renewable energy industry.

The new law, an amendment to one on renewable energy adopted by the National People’s Congress standing committee, obliges electricity grid companies to buy all the power produced by renewable sources.

It also empowers the State Council’s energy department, the electricity regulatory agency and its finance departments to determine the amount of renewable energy available in the country’s overall power generating capacity.

Power companies will be obliged to take up all of that capacity, and those refusing to do so will be fined an amount up to double that of the economic loss of the renewable energy company, Ni Yuefeng, vice-president of the assembly’s environmental affairs commission, told reporters.

Innovation in solar technology helps conserve water, create jobs  – Las Vegas Sun
It seems cruelly ironic that tapping into Southern Nevada’s vast solar energy potential could slowly drain our desert. Traditional solar thermal power plants that use wet cooled technology require millions of gallons of water over time in the process of converting solar rays into clean, renewable power for our community.

Southern Nevada received some good economic news last month when Solar Millennium, a division of one of the world’s top solar power generators, announced new plans to use a dry-cooling system on two proposed solar power plants in Amargosa Valley, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. This dry-cooling system will use 90 percent less water than previously planned.

Sunny days ahead? – Las Vegas Sun
NV Energy deal, legislation in Congress could help state develop solar power

SolarReserve, a California energy company, is planning to build a 100-megawatt solar thermal power plant near Tonopah, and on Tuesday it announced that NV Energy had agreed to buy power from the plant.

As Stephanie Tavares reported on the Las Vegas Sun’s Web site, the plant is designed to use heat storage technology that will allow its steam turbines to run at night.

The Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project is being vetted by the Bureau of Land Management. The company says it could break ground by 2011 and expects construction to last two years.

Selfishness Abounds: Copenhagen Reveals a Vicious Circle of Mistrust – SPIEGEL ONLINE – News – International
Who is to blame for the summit disaster? The US? China? The EU? The G-8? In fact, all of the above. It was a coming together of states that killed off a vital resource for the world: trust.

In Copenhagen, the outlines of a dangerous world were there for all to see. The climate summit did not end in a fist fight between tens of thousands of people, despite the fact that serious global problems were not resolved. Barack Obama did not have to fly out from the roof of a burning conference center. Nevertheless, it was palpable that this is a world in which trust is harder to come by than oil, and where there is more mistrust than CO2 emissions.

And yet Copenhagen has proven that trust is the most important resource for the transformation of the current oil-based system into a green civilization. It is more important than all the money that will be required for new technology, more efficient machines, dams and the survival of forest inhabitants.

BBC News – What did the Copenhagen climate summit achieve?
It is difficult to foresee the order that may result from the chaos of the Copenhagen climate change conference (COP15), but as the dust settles, traces of a path forward are becoming visible.

The outcome – a decision to “take note of” an accord drawn up by a core group of heads of state on Friday evening – is far from the legally binding treaty which some had expected and for which many hoped.

However, this does not change the fact that the Copenhagen conference was a unique moment in history.

What Copenhagen changed:

BBC News – Key powers reach compromise at climate summit
Key states have reached what they call a “meaningful agreement” at the Copenhagen climate summit.

Five nations, including China and the US, reached a deal on a number of issues, such as a recognition to limit temperature rises to less than 2C.

US President Barack Obama said it would be a foundation for global action but there was “much further to go”.

The Associated Press: Obama says ‘unprecedented’ deal reached on climate
President Barack Obama declared Friday a “meaningful and unprecedented breakthrough” had been reached among the U.S., China and three other countries on a global effort to curb climate change but said much work was still be needed to reach a legally binding treaty.

“It is going to be very hard, and it’s going to take some time,” he said near the conclusion of a 193-nation global warming summit. “We have come a long way, but we have much further to go.”

The president said there was a “fundamental deadlock in perspectives” between big, industrially developed countries like the United States and poorer, though sometimes large, developing nations. Still he said this week’s efforts “will help us begin to meet our responsibilities to leave our children and grandchildren a cleaner planet.”


Nuclear Editorial and Opinions

Toward Freedom – The Dangers of Nuclear Energy and the Need to Close Vermont Yankee
With nuclear energy, uranium atoms split inside a reactor, and radiation heats water to its boiling point creating steam to spin a giant turbine. It all seems like ingenious, efficient, and clean energy production. So where’s the mess?

Now consider plutonium, a horribly carcinogenic and highly fissionable substance, radioactive for more than half a million years. If exposed to air, it will ignite. Like little pieces of confetti, very fine plutonium particles will disperse after ignition. A single particle — like talc, to give you some perspective — can give you lung cancer. In the words of Helen Caldicott, M.D.: “Hypothetically, if you could take one pound of plutonium and could put a speck of it in the lungs of every human being, you would kill every man, woman, and child on earth” — not immediately, but over time “from lung cancer,” Caldicott explains.

Bringing radioactive waste to Utah is madness | Standard-Examiner – Ogden, Layton, Brigham, Weber, Davis, Top of Utah News
)I have lost a lot of sleep lately thinking about the nuclear train that is headed to Utah. During that time I have tried to think of something that I could do to help reverse the path that we are now on. The only thing that I could think of is to tell you my story and hopefully it will only be one of many, many Utahans putting a voice this issue.

I know the effects of past radiation policies. I lost my father to leukemia after the nuclear testing in the 1950’s and early 1960’s that blanketed Utah. This has affected my entire life since I was 12 years old.

I also fought my own battle with cancer in 1995. Ironically, it was radiation that saved me then BUT oh what a price I have paid! I was never really afraid of hell until I faced the effects of going through that treatment. The effects still linger even after 14 years. If I had known the true short-term and long-term effects of radiation treatment then, I would not have gone through with having the treatment.

We should be asking what Utah gets out of the Energy Solutions deal to become the nuclear dumping ground for the world.

How can we place short term gains and profits by gambling the entire future of Utah?

Don’t weaken state’s nuke law – JSOnline
Weakening Wisconsin laws regulating new nuclear reactors should not be part of a climate change bill. The Clean Energy Jobs Act, unveiled in the state Legislature recently, is a significant step toward addressing global warming while strengthening our state economy. Although much of the bill is a positive step to addressing global warming, it weakens Wisconsin’s current law on building new nuclear reactors.

Wisconsin’s current law is common sense and protects citizens and the environment from radioactive nuclear waste, which poses considerable risks for tens thousands of years and contains plutonium, which can be used to make nuclear weapons if separated. Available renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies are faster, cheaper, safer and cleaner strategies for reducing greenhouse emissions than nuclear power.

Nuclear option risky business | Bill Kaufmann | Columnists | News | Calgary Sun
Alberta is wide open to smashing atoms and taxpayers won’t be footing the bill.

Despite decades of nuclear fiscal black pits showing taxpayer subsidies rivalling uranium as an indispensable fuel for the nuclear industry, we’re told Alberta will be different.

No need to look at Ontario’s experience, where nuclear power has become too big to fail — and even then, sticker shock has left the industry in a state of suspended animation.

Last June, the province yanked the plug on a 20-year, $26-billion plan to refurbish Ontario’s 18 aging nuclear plants after the bill for replacing just two of the reactors proved stunningly high — a figure the province’s government won’t reveal.

And as sure as the sun rises in the east, even those bids would eventually be seen as dramatically low-balled.

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