Britain's Toxic Coast
  "It was extreme luck that Japan managed to avoid
experiencing the most disastrous day,"

Koichi Kitazawa, former chief of the Japan Science
and Technology Agency
Sellafield Energy Coast Toxic Coast Header Caption 3
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Nuclear is a rare example of where the tax-payer provides the investment, carries the insurance risk, suffers any ill events, provides the waste disposal, and yet allows profits to flow to the private company abroad
Fukushima News Drips On

It is difficult to find decent material relating to the current status at Fukushima.   Find an informative up-to-date article if you can.   As is the way of the media, the story has had its time, so, ably assisted by the I.A.E.A's propaganda, the continuing problems are out of sight and out of mind.   As noted in the article below, however, not all is well, and neither are things under control.   Large numbers of plastic containers are being used to store radioactive materials - both solid and liquid.   Huge amounts of water is escaping into the Pacific Ocean daily, and the total leakage is now well over the previous record holder, Chernobyl.   America's west coast is already receiving some of the material, and they don't seem too pleased about it.   Rainwater is running uncontrolled off the buildings and there are continuing high level leaks via the subterranean channels;  all this goes directly into the Pacific.

Interestingly back in 2003, an article noted that the ground water under Sellafield is spreading into the sandstone rocks under the area. The subject was raised by former BNFL manager Allan Whittaker as a member of the public at a meeting of the Sellafield Local Liaison meeting in Whitehaven's Civic Hall.   An Environment Agency spokesman confirmed at the meeting that it had been aware of the radioactivity getting into groundwater for some time.   The meeting was told that, "Latest results indicated that contamination of groundwater is slightly more wide spread laterally, than previously thought.   In addition both tritium and technetium99 have been detected in the sandtsone aquifer, which underlies Sellafield."  A 50 year-long leak of radioactivity 
from an underground pipeline was finally stopped.   The radioactive water is known to have seeped into the ground under the nuclear site for up to 50 years and the public was first told about it in the 1970s, since which time it has been monitored regularly at safe levels.   Where did all this radioactivity end up?   In the Irish Sea, of course.   The Environment Agency's permitted levels of tritium release have been increased on an almost annual basis, presumably on the basis that if it were not permitted it would happen anyway.

We have commented elsewhere about the changes we have witnessed in the marine life around the Sellafield beaches.   Walks from Nethertown down almost to Seascale show that the once-teeming tidal pools are decidedly bereft of the seaweeds, anenomes, starfish, shrimps, etc., that used to abound.   The green and the purple alga were collected by the sackful and dispatched by railway to Wales to be made into lava bread.   It is now almost impossible to find any.   An hour's shrimping produced just half a dozen shrimps of a worthwhile size.   Needless to say, this is nothing to do with the radiation leaking away.   After all, monitoring demonstrates that current levels of discharge are a fraction of what they used to be.    Be that as it may, the sampling only checks the top inch or so of the beach.   It is noteworthy that the Argocat vehicle's finds inevitably require a shovel to dig for the deeper, higher level particles that it detects.   Probably about the same depth as will be achieved by children holidaying or fishermen digging for worms . . .    Still, nothing to worry about, eh?

Whilst we Were Away . . .

Although we have had a break for a couple of years, Fukushima's problems still roll on four years after the triple melt-down.   Tepco, the operator of the tsunami-crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant recently reported that it had found a pool of highly contaminated water on the roof of a plant building and that it had probably leaked into the sea through a gutter when it rained.   Over eighteen months after the then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe assured the International Olympic Committee that radiation leaks at the plant were "under control".

The statement enabled Tokyo's victory over rivals Madrid and Istanbul to host the 2020 Olympic Games, a decision which followed soon afterwards.

Tepco said it has been aware since last spring that radiation levels in water running in one of the plant gutters rise when it rains but had only recently discovered the source of the contamination.   Leakage of contaminated water into the sea does not violate regulations because the outflow of radiation from the plant is controlled by monitoring radiation levels in sea water, according to a Nuclear Regulation Agency official.   Meanwhile, continuing the spin, Tepco asserts that there have been no meaningful changes in radiation levels in sea water near to the plant.   The company suggests that gravel and blocks laid on the roof of the building are the source of contamination, and said it plans to remove them by the end of March.   No other measures to stop rainwater from being contaminated and being discharged into the ocean are proposed.

According to Tepco reports, sample rainwater collected at one corner of the rooftop contained 23,000 becquerels per litre of cesium 137, more than 10 times as high as radiation levels in sample water taken from other parts of the roof.

There is another report, this time from Yahoo,relating to the same incident:

 Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said sensors, which were rigged to a gutter that pours rain and ground water at the Fukushima Daiichi plant to a nearby bay, detected contamination levels up to 70 times greater than the already-high radioactive status seen at the plant campus

TEPCO said its emergency inspections of tanks storing nuclear waste water did not find any additional abnormalities, but the firm said it shut the gutter to prevent radioactive water from going into the Pacific Ocean.

The higher-than-normal levels of contamination were detected at around 10 am (0100 GMT), with sensors showing radiation levels 50 to 70 times greater than usual, TEPCO said.

Though contamination levels have steadily fallen throughout the day, the same sensors were still showing contamination levels about 10 to 20 times more than usual, a company spokesman said.

It was not immediately clear what caused the original spike of the contamination and its gradual fall, he added.

"With emergency surveys of the plant and monitoring of other sensors, we have no reason to believe tanks storing radioactive waste water have leaked," he told AFP.

"We have shut the gutter (from pouring water to the bay). We are currently monitoring the sensors at the gutter and seeing the trend," he said.

The latest incident, one of several that have plagued the plant in recent months, reflects the difficulty in controlling and decommissioning the plant, which went through meltdowns and explosions after being battered by a giant tsunami in March 2011, sparking the world's worst nuclear disaster in a generation.

TEPCO has not been able to effectively deal with an increasing amount of contaminated water, used to cool the crippled reactors and molten fuels inside them and kept in large storage tanks on the plant's vast campus.

Adding to TEPCO's headaches has been the persistent flow of groundwater from nearby mountains travelling under the contaminated plant before washing to the Pacific Ocean.

The International Atomic Energy Agency recently said TEPCO has made "significant progress" in cleaning up the plant, but suggested that Japan should consider ways to discharge treated waste water into the sea as a relatively safer way to deal with the radioactive water crisis.

Please note the I.A.E.A.'s usual positive spin in the last paragraph.

Jam Tomorrow?

Our trustworthy friends across the Channel, those who are to provide our nuclear power at exorbitant rates with no risk to themselves, seem to have upset the nice people in Westminster.  
Indeed, so incensed are those in command, that nasty words like "blackmail" have been used since our old mates, Électricité de France, have chosen to use their strangely strong position to change U.K. government policy.   Yesterday's announcement that the company will only increase prices by 3.9% (rather less than its rivals' 9%) was made with the rider that if the government did not do away with the ECO policy - which provides subsidies for home insulation, etc.,- then the price would be increased to match the other companies.   Shock and horror have been expressed that Électricité de France could behave in this way.   Being cynical, we rightly feel that we have been telling you so for years.   No doubt Électricité de France will have worked out that with the ensuing publicity about their low increase, many people will switch their supplier to Électricité de France.   Practically all the advertising slots on Classic FM seems to have been taken over by the company in a well-timed publicity campaign.   Probably not related to this blackmail policy at all.   Ahem.

Of course, this is not the first time that nuclear generators have been accused of blackmail.   Certainly in Cumbria, where so many of the much-needed improvements to the infra-structure, roads, health service provision, community projects, et al, almost all of which should have been supplied by central government, were said to be entirely dependent on residents agreeing to nuclear expansion at Sellafield, Braystones, Kirksanton, and, of course, the dump.   By coincidence, local papers are full of altruistic deeds performed whenever the industry wishes to do something that might seem a bit dodgy without the carrot being dangled, at which point everyone seems to don blinkers.   These peaks of propaganda are on top of the marvellous publications to which Whitehaven News readers are treated every few weeks, in which the industry and all its advertising staff (most of whom seem to have posts where their presence is of benefit to the industry) and not all of whom appear on the Sellafield payroll, extoll the supposed virtues of nuclear expansion.

Yet this is only the beginning.   In future years, when the country has committed itself to going down the nuclear route regardless, then the company (and through that, the French government itself) will gain even greater power over the U.K.   This kind of blackmail is one of the reasons why there was much rhetoric about energy security.   It seems that the Wayne Rooney-alike man at DECC hasn't grasped the idea at all.   
Électricité de France has negotiated itself a wonderful deal;  the Chinese will bear the financial risk and Électricité de France will control the U.K. energy supply with a guaranteed, index-linked £1 billion a year profit, whilst insurance risks and waste disposal (the two most costly and difficult areas) will remain with the U.K..   Yup.   Sounds good.   Small wonder that Lord Lawson has criticised the deal vehemently and questioned how one man can make such a decision without recourse to parliament.   Somewhat scarily, we wholeheartedly agree with him.   According to The Times, 13/11/13, delegates of the trade body, Energy U.K., were unimpressed, too.   Only 3% of them thinking that energy reforms would provide "sufficient certainty for future investment".

As a young child, I was impressed by signs in public houses announcing "Free beer tomorrow", until my father pointed out that tomorrow never comes.   Sadly, DECC's staff never seem to have had that pointed out to them.

The European Method of Consultation

It has long been apparent that anything that the European government wishes to enact, despite dissent from the public, is merely presented over and over again until such time as either the voters get bored with voting against and leave the field clear for the pro-lobby, or the politicians just ignore any dissent and carry on regardless.

A pretty similar sort of thing is being conducted by the usual pro-nuclear lobby in Cumbria - effectively by just a handful of people who have a history of working for Sellafield or in some other way beholden to the company.   For the third time it is being proposed that the nuclear dump be hosted in the Copeland/Allerdale area, which could mean anywhere between  Maryport and Sellafield.   The original consultation, the Nirex Enquiry, back in 1970, found that regardless of the alleged willingness of the communities affected, the geology was totally unsuitable for such a construction.   The more recent one, involving a consortium of Cumbria County Council, Allerdale Council and Copeland Council, was dismissed when Cumbria County Council rejected the proposal.   We had been told that a rejection by any single body in the consortium would mean the whole project would be abandoned so far as Cumbria was concerned.   97% of the parish councils rejected the proposals, too.   DECC officials and an M.P. all said that they were disappointed with the result (on which an awful lot of money had been spent to ensure a "Yes" vote, but that was the end of the Cumbrian connection.

Two years later and they are back yet again - as if by some miracle the geology could possibly have changed.   When even the Whitehaven News publishes letters and e-mails from readers indicating substantial disagreement with the project, one wonders why these people cannot just accept defeat, collect their rewards from Sellafield and leave us in peace.

Anyone wishing to join in the consultation can do so via:

More From The "You Can Trust Us" Brigade

We have frequently aired our views on the Environment Agency and its (to our mind) strange views on the nuclear industry's waste products.   In an article in "Private Eye", issue 1347, the agency's attitude to naturally-occurring radioactive materials is explained.   The article explains how, by way of a chain of "specialist" companies, the materials' handling and disposal can be in the hands of "radiation protection supervisors" who have received just one day's training.   One of the companies involved in this particular aspect is Studsvik.   This company has a factory in Cumbria where radioactive waste is "treated".   In June, 2009, the U.K. president of Studsvik departed after auditors found that , “An internal audit of the British subsidiary has found income from a number of projects to be overstated by, in total, approximately £1m, primarily attributable to 2008".   An error a little too large to be accidental, in our opinion.   The departed president's position was filled by a man who has previously held senior management positions at AMEC Nuclear and BNFL, so that's alrright then.   We know how good they are, as they keep telling us.

Still, it seems that a lack of integrity or ethical rigour is no bar to those wishing to join the nuclear industry.   Some of the biggest companies winning contracts to work for Sellafield have been accused of illegally blacklisting trade union members and other "troublesome" workers and will be explaining their conduct to a judge in due course.   Sir Robert McAlpine, Balfour-Beatty, Skanska, Amec, Bam, Carillion, Laing O'Rourke, and Kier, are amongst those accused of working with the Consulting Association, which was closed after a raid by the Information Commissioner's Office.   An illegal database of 3,000 workers was uncovered.   The case to be heard is related to an alleged conspiracy and breaches of the Data Protection Act.

It seems that beach users in Cumbria will have to get used to higher risks of radioactive contamination after any storm.   Earlier this year the Environment Agency continued its laissez faire approach, saying that a tripling of the number of beach finds, especially around Sellafield beach, was due to a recent storm disturbing the seabed.   At long last some testing of the contamination of the seabed may take place, albeit very limited in geographical extent.

A Whitehaven News report in May, says:

' An EA report says: “The current population size, activity distribution and movement of offshore particles are not sufficiently well known to reassure regulators and other stakeholders that the health risk to seafood consumers and other beach users are ALARP (as low as reasonable practical) and will remain so in the future.”'
Radioactive Particles and Stones

The recent attendance of a Nuvia employee taking samples of seaweed on Braystones Beach led us to check the latest figures on beach finds.   According to Sellafield's figures (unless we have mis-read them) the number of finds on public beaches between Drigg in the south and Harrington in the north has now reached 1,749.   Far and away the greatest number (1,353) being recovered from the beach at Sellafield, but nevertheless, 313 were recorded at Braystones.   Both these beaches allow unrestricted access to the public and there are no warning signs for the uninformed.

Today has seen the first tests of the new vehicle designed for beach testing by Nuvia on behalf of Sellafield.

New Nuvia1a

The new vehicle for  finding radioactive material on the public beaches.    Its dune buggy style seems better able to traverse the stony terrain than the original version which sported caterpillar tracks and was thus somewhat limited.   Apologies for the poor quality which is due to the photographer being more than half a mile away - as it was the first day of tests it seemed too goo an opportunity to miss.   The following day it was back again, whilst holiday-makers and beach users shared the beach with it.  

The photo (right) shows the support vehicle and a group of staff as the vehicle starts its tests.
Rainbow over Sellafield
We were not sure whether this effect over Sellafield was entirely natural . . .
Site Assessment for Nugen
The land around Sellafield is currently being investigated for potential new reactor sites by Nugen, a company owned by a French company, GDF Suez, and a Spanish company, Iberdrola.   The usual propaganda literature is available with some being found on line at A double-sided sheet of information contains all the typical hype.   Lots of questions are posed in the text, but few are actually answered.   The more immediate ones are just fudged with meaningless promises to do their best.   Of course,   the rhetoric explains that all those involved have safety as their top priority and everything will be carried out in a professional way.   (Wasn't that always the case at Sellafield, yet spills, fires, and discharges - deliberate and accidental have always continued to poison the environment.)   Happily, heavy lorries will have scant impact on normal traffic flows, too.   We believe that, too.   When the idea of hugely expanding the nuclear industry first popped into the news five years ago, supported by jubilant politicians with vested interests, it was accompanied by fanfares and threats of lights going out, dire warnings about CO2 discharges causing global warming, etc.   Back then, the Nugen site at Sellafield was the least favoured because of the problems of radioactive contamination which resulted from the Windscale fires in the 1950s.   (Yes, 60 years on and the legacy still remains.)   It was reported that before any building could be commenced there would have to be a huge cleaning operation to remove topsoil.   This would be classed as radioactive waste, presumably, and will cost a lot ot deal with.   One wonders just what Nugen thought they were buying, and who will have to foot the bill for the clean-up. The National Grid, meanwhile, are consulting people on their plans to extend their cables to accommodate any increase in generating capacity in Cumbria.   This includes wiring up the new site at Sellafield.   To us it seems a trifle premature when no decision has been made and the site has not yet been determined to be suitable for new build.   However, such decisions are usually made well in advance of any public consultation exercises , which are held only to appease Brussels and avert any judicial reviews stemming from a lack of public involvement.   There are already rumblings, especially from Électricité de France about the lack of U.K. government funding/provision of guaranteed prices, and if the Moorside site alonside Sellafield does need cleaning up, it is quite possible that the already high commissioning price will just be too much.   We like to think that that will be the case and that the nuclear industry will come to a long-overdue conclusion. In April, 2012, the Guardian carried a subheading which read: 'French firm needs more financial incentives if it is to proceed with new nuclear plant in Cumbria, says CEO Gérard Mestrallet'.  

GDF Suez is 35% owned by the French state and is in a similar position to 
Électricité de France in terms of its demands on the U.K. taxpayers' money.   Reading between the lines, one might come to the conclusion that the majority of the running to persuade the U.K. politicians to hand over lots of money to the French and Spanish companies was undertaken by Électricité de France and it was believed that the prices for future energy provision would result.   Then the Nugen consortium could jump on the bandwagon.   Sadly for both groups the base price has not reached their demands.   Given the parlous state of the European finances it seems virtually impossible that the necessary funds could be found to allow new plants to be built.   The Guardian article goes on to say, 'Mestrallet said what was on offer was "not enough and something is missing"'.   Hmm. Could it be money?   He was also apparently at pains to point out that GDF Suez was a competitor wtih Électricité de France.   Strange when they both work for the French government. Even if the project does go ahead, there is no guarantee that the local residents will stand to gain much.   As one correspondent has already noted, the majority of nuclear money is handed to the local council and county council, who then make decisions as to its dispersal.   Most of it is spent on projects and developments far from Sellafield, where, in fact, Sellafield is not even visible, whilst those whose amenity is affected and whose health is jeopardised gain nothing.   We will see anything different this time?   Not likely.

No-one Has Died as a Result of Fukushima (Or Have They?)

Unexpected increases in excess deaths (a euphemism, surely?) in North West America following the Fukushima incident have now been put at around 22,000.   Radiation-linked illnesses have also increased correspondingly.   A study by Joseph Mangano can
be found here:

A more recent study, of the decrease in radiation-linked illnesses following the closure of an American reactor, add to the concern.   One has to wonder how many people could be saved by closing down Sellafield and its satellites.

To quote from their website:
"RPHPs Joseph Mangano and Dr. Janette Sherman have published a first-ever article examining reductions in cancer rates in Sacramento County after the 1989 shut down of the Rancho Seco nuclear plant.   In the 20 years following shut down, there were 4,319 fewer cancer cases among county residents.   The information was published in the journal Biomedicine International, and announced at a March 28, 2013 press conference."

How Walking Can Make the U.K. Healthier

In an article on the BBC's website by Robert Peston, he claims that the long-running problems with achieving a deal for 
Électricité de France to build reactors in the U.K. are costing the company £1 million every day.   To date the cost exceeds £1 billion, apparently.   Combined with the acute loss of face that would be suffered by the prime minister, et al, it seems unlikely that either side will want to walk away.   On that basis, it seems the U.K. consumer will be required to pay all the bills for the next 40 years - with all that money going out of the country.

Is there any longer-term plan for nuclear projects in the U.K. to eventually become exporters to the rest of the world - especially Europe?   We are already regarded as the nuclear dustbin of the world, after all.

One scant ray of sunlight did appear in the article:
"What may concern supporters of the Hinkley project, and not just Électricité de France, is that ministers - and especially George Osborne - seem to me to be less worried about Électricité de France ultimately walking away than about being seen to pay too high a price for the Hinkley power."

Let us hope that Électricité de France decide to take their bat and ball elsewhere to play.


Uranium Suppliers In Short Supply

For the last three years there have been moves to sell off the uranium enrichment company, Urenco for around £8 billion.   The U.K. owns a third of the shares, with the Dutch government and the two German power companies, R.W.E. and E.on, owning the balance.   The company produces over a quarter of the nuclear fuel used worldwide.   Various companies have mooted whether to beocme involved,, but more recently a Canadian company, Cameco Corp, has entered the fray.   According to the Financial Times article below, the deal could be concluded by the end of the year.

Our assertions that selling off nuclear and other forms of power generation to foreign sources makes an utter nonsense of the claim to acting to make energy secure thus seem to be correct.


The Tip of the Iceberg

The use of depleted uranium tips as an aid to armour-piercing on ordnance has long been thought to be the cause of adverse health effects, such as Gulf War Syndrome.

In an article in the national news of 22/3/13 the BBC reports that Iraqi doctors are increasingly concerned about the huge increase in birth defects that they are facing.   In Basra, defects have risen by 60% since 2003.   Similar stories are coming from other places, such as Falluja.   The number of congenital malformations in Fallujah is fourteen times higher than the rate in Hiroshima and Nagasaki following the atomic bomb detonations.

These types of birth defects are congenital malformations that doctors don’t even have medical terms for as they have never seen them before.   They’re not in any reference books or scientific literature that they have access to.  

According to Dr. Samira Alani, quoted in the under-referenced article, it’s quite common now in Fallujah for newborns to come out with 'massive multiple systemic defects, immune problems, massive central nervous system problems, massive heart problems, skeletal disorders, baby’s being born with two heads, babies being born with half of their internal organs outside of their bodies, cyclops babies literally with one eye—really, really, really horrific nightmarish types of birth defects.'

One has to wonder about the ordnance being test-fired into the Irish Sea off Eskmeals.   Between the deliberate and "accidental" Sellafield dishcarges and this ordnance one has to wonder about the chances for local residents.   Needless to say, the experts know exactly what the effects of their experiments are and the U.S. and U.K. governments both rely on an old report compiled for the WHO to absolve them from any blame.   The reliability of the WHO's independence may appear somewhat suspect at times.   Interestingly, armed forces are also subject to increasing numbers of birth defects on their return home.

Instances of increased health damage around nuclear sites and, particularly in Seascale, are also dismissed as being unrelated phenonmena.  

The reason we include this is that it, once again, illustrates the fallacy that the scientists pretending otherwise, might have any idea of the effects that radiation, in whatever amount and for whatever period, can have on the disparate human body.   We are not homogenous creatures and one size does not fit all - in any circumstances.

Source: and

It's A (British) Gas

With some wry amusement we have watched British Gas officials struggle to justify the annual profits of £606 million announced today (up 11% on last year), especially when they only recently put up their prices by 6%.   To add insult, they also say that this may not be the end of the price rises.   Not only did they increase their retail prices, but they also stopped contracts with a variety of firms who had been engaged to install various insulation projects in private houses around the country as part of a government energy efficiency move.   Poor British Gas (part of Centrica, who recently pulled out of the nuclear new-build consortium with Électricité de France in the U.K.) must be really struggling with their daily profit of only  £1.66 million!   The best excuse they have come up with to justify the high prices is that the money is needed to improve the network and to help the lights to stay on.   Now, where have we heard that before?   Nothing about the whole thing being a government-organised mess which has resulted in record prices for energy for no obvious rise in production cost and no tangible benefit from the infra-structure improvements.   (Anyone know what or where they are?)   Maybe they should invest in some better PR people - like the nuclear industry?

The government have announced that they will ensure the customer gets the best deal.   When properly considered, this is total meaningless nonsense, of course.   We still reckon these rises are purely driven by the need to make nuclear seem viable and to ensure 
Électricité de France gets what they are demanding.   The latter are now said to be concentrating on North Africa's gas.   Maybe, if they are thwarted in their plans for nuclear stranglehold in the U.K. by their excessive demands, they can hold us to ransom, by having a virtual monopoly on imported gas supplies, then?

Happily, the British Gas bossman is in line for £10 million when he leaves this summer, so he won't have to worry about his huge bills.   Anyone else think these people live in a parallel universe?

More in The Pipeline

The latest generic design assessment - for Hitachi-GE - has been received by DECC.   The relevant notices can be found here:

Out in the Cold

British Gas has pulled out of a contract which was intended to insulate thousands of homes in the U.K.   It seems that cost is more important than the environment.   Many thousands of loft insulation installers look likely to loose their jobs.  British Gas only managed to make £2½ billion in the last couple of years, and is currently making £3 million per day, so they obviously have to be very careful.

Earlier in the month, there was a suggestion of outrage from political quarters when it was realised that RWE and 
Électricité de France were making a lot of money but sending the profit home, not keeping it in the U.K.   One has to wonder whether these pecunious people can really be that naiive, or whether it is just a sham.
Slipping Through The Net

The recent discovery of a fish contaminated to a level 1,500 times the maximum dose permitted for human consumption has been announced on a variety of websites.   The official response is to install a large net to prevent fish in the same area from escaping.   We're not sure that that is the real problem.   The fish is a kind of rock fish and is not normally consumed;   this prompted one sage to ask that if it isn't consumed, what is the problem?   Obviously a prime candidate for the NDA recruitment team.

Squeezing the Pips
Our least favourite energy suppliers, Électricité de France, has apparently again deferred a decision on its planned new nuclear project at Hinkley Point.   Although Électricité de Frances little elves have been beavering away within DECC and might appear to have achieved everything necessary for the company to build a subsidised plant with guaranteed energy prices and no worries over little things like insurance or waste disposal - both of which will be carried by the U.K. taxpayer whilst profits will go home to France, it seems that they want ever more.

According Private Eye's Old Sparky, the new plant at Flamanville is now expected to cost almost three times as much as was estimated.   This plant is the same as that to be built at Hinkley, so it does not augur well.   Old Sparky goes on to say that government ministers have engaged the services of KPMG to handle business transactions with 
Électricité de France on behalf of the U.K.government.   Strange coincidence it may be, but apparently KPMG just happen to be Électricité de France's statutory auditor.

Meanwhile, some of the other companies involved in the joint enterprise are pulling out and demanding their money back.   Amusingly, three years ago we attended a meeting at which a French citizen was present.   She was amazed at the power obviously held by 
Électricité de France over the British government, and suggested that no-one should be trusting of the company as it was hardly financially viable in France.

Meanwhile, anyone still disbelieving that the current price of energy is anything other than a manipulation by the government as part of a plan to make nuclear seem viable might be interested in the figures announced by SSE last month.   Half year profits of £397½ million - a 38% increase on last year.   Sadly, that didn't stop them putting up their prices by 9%, a figure strangely similar to most of the other generating companies.   Just coincidence, surely?

Man-made or Natural Disasters?

We continue to differ from Friends of the Earth in believing that our (comparatively) modest reduction in gas usage would make much difference to the overall state of the planet.   We would be much more wary of the nuclear industry.   As we comment elsewhere, we have no idea how and why the myth about nuclear being clean and green came to be believed by so many people, when it patently isn't - as anyone familiar with Sellafield's history will be aware.   Yet this almost slavish determination to blame energy usage for the perceived climate-change scenario doesn't always make sense.   We have suggested for years that the planet has been extant for over 4½ billion years and has happily hosted all kinds of disasters and their after-effects.   It has evolved to cope with everything that is thrown at it.   It has had many ice ages and temperature rises over the millennia.   Yet scientists now reckon that by taking an extremely small sample of temperature recordings they can assess the status of the planet with any degree of accuracy.   So firm are their predictions that the initial scare story was of global warming.   When it proved that some parts of the earth were actually cooling down, this had to change and the phrase "climate change" was born.   This wonderfully broad term covers every phenomenon that nature sees fit to inflict.   Accuracy in weather forecasting is so high, having used the best computers available to predict the next six months, that hose-pipe bans were introduced and the press was full of stories about water tables being lower than ever before (how do they know?) and a barbeque summer was in the offing.   Insurance companies might well have preferred that to the current deluge that the country is suffering.   That, too, is probable due to some man-made activity and cannot possibly be a perfectly natural thing - or can it?

Currently, the Fukushima disaster is being kept very quiet (see earlier article below).   When did you last hear of any up-date of the situation on national news?   Yet 8% of Japan has been polluted by the radioactive material.  Fish are still being contaminated - despite projections that the levels would fall away they are, in fact, increasing.   There are still problems with the various reactors.   It has been pointed out that the earthquake and ensuing tsunami were natural phenomena which had a dramatic but limited effect, yet by far the greatest tragedy was the scale of leakage from the man-made nuclear reactors.   Stock piles of the material, especially water, from Fukushima cannot be expanded infinitely, obviously.   The situation at No. 4 reactor is still unclear, and the state of the ground under the whole reactor is giving cause for concern.   If the melt-down is, as suggested by a variety of sources, continuing, or there is another earthquake and tsunami, then the whole of Japan and a huge part of the Pacific area will be rendered uninhabitable for eternity.

The solution?   Build more reactors around the world.

Fukushima hasn't Gone Away

The testing of children (ages 18 and under) in Japan, resulting from the Fukushima incident, is around a third completed, with 35% of them having cysts.   Thyroid cancer is one of the many effects of exposure to radiation and we have commented on the results thus far before.   Yet Japanese citizens are greatly unhappy about the fact that they are not automatically given copy of the scans performed on their children, or the fact that it will be a further two years before the next round of scans will be performed.   Two years is a long time in terms of cancer development.   According to articles in the Japanese press, a very large anti-nuclear protest is being arranged in Japan, with up to 300,000 residents expected to attend.   Small wonder that Hitachi are looking elsewhere for business.

Still, the IAEA continue with their propaganda and say that nuclear power is safer than before the Fukushima disaster.   Not sure how that might work.   Especially when the U.K. government's select committee comes out with reports that say that Sellafield is increasingly dangerous and is putting the residents of Cumbria at risk.   Despite the £billions already spent on "cleaning up the site", only approximately 3½% of the contaminated buildings have been dealt with.   One wonders how future clean up costs will be paid for - by the private companies such as Électricité de France?   We don't find that likely.

Other reports remind us that there are now 200,000 tonnes of radioactive water being stored at the Fukushima site in containers.   In the event of another earthquake and tsunami there will be the potential for greater disaster if these rupture or get damaged.   A lot of the water is what has been used to cool down the reactors which appear to still be in a state of melt-down, with little thus far having been achieved to render the plants safe.

Japanese citizens are greatly unhappy about the fact that they are not automatically given copy of the scans performed on their children, or the fact that it will be a further two years before the next round of scans will be performed.   Two years is a long time in terms of cancer development.

Still, the IAEA continue with their propaganda and say that nuclear power is safer than before the Fukushima disaster.   Not sure how that might work.   Especially when the U.K. government's select committee comes out with reports that say that Sellafield is increasingly dangerous and is putting the residents of Cumbria at risk.   Despite the £billions already spent on "cleaning up the site", only approximately 3½% of the contaminated buildings have been dealt with.   One wonders how future clean up costs will be paid for - by the private companies such as 
Électricité de France?   We don't find that likely either.

In America, as a result of Hurricane Sandy, three nuclear reactors were forced to shut down.   Happily, weather forecasting allowed for an orderly shut-down and there should theoretically have been no problems.   Yet one plant, at Oyster Creek near Atlantic City, New Jersey, the "unusual event" produced wind, a flow tide and a storm surge.   The facility was out of use for maintenance, but lost its grid supply of electricity when more water than normal entered the plant's water-intake system.   Back-up generators were relied on to keep the cooling water circulating.

On October 16th a Japanese official, Mitsuhei Murata, explained that Fukushima's Unit 4 is gradually sinking and that the entire structure is very likely to be on the verge of collapse.   Given that the unit holds more than 1,500 spent fuel rods, that is not good news.   One of the explanations for the sinking phenomenon is that the nuclear fuel that powered the reactor at the time of the melt-down is now burning into the ground below the plant.   This would explain the vast quantities of water that are becoming contaminated, as some of this would be ground water seeping into the terrain.   The problem with the sinking is whether the pumping of concrete under the structure to stabilise it will affect the flow of contaminated water, causing it to either build up - with resultant pressures - or find an alternative way to the sea, taking with it the contamination.   An article in "Natural World" suggests that over 37 million curies of radiation will, if released by the failure of the structure, render a great part of the world uninhabitable.   The unit has already sunk over 31" since the disaster.

The Natural World article also suggests that the reactor in Unit 4 is similar to dozens of American reactors, where, according to Murata, there is the possibility of literally dozens of Fukushima situations occurring on American soil, should the right disaster situations arise.   It also suggests that the reason why Fukushima's importance is being down-played is because of this.   The Amercans must be really glad they had the foresight to set up the propaganda unit known as the I.A.E.A, and planted the idea in people's minds that the I.A.E.A. is in some way open and honest and not interested in promoting nuclear at any cost - hence the linking to such things as United Nations, where the unit is required to be independent so that it can inspect reactors in places like Iran.   That link and pseudo-independence seems to us to give the other branches of the organisation an integrity which is totally undeserved.   It exists to promote nuclear around the world, and has a budget of $billions to do so.   That is its raison d'etre.

"An Incoming £20 Billion Investment"
(David Cameron and Edward Davey)

A few days ago it was announced that Hitachi were to invest £20 billion in nuclear for the U.K.   Please note the comment by the head of General Electric, Jeff Immelt on the home page in relation to the nuclear industry's future.   G.E. is partner for Hitachi in the venture.

A number of strange things occur to one in relation to the deal.   Firstly, where is the money to come from?   Japan is hardly awash with money and their nuclear industry is still in disarray following Fu'kushima.   So why did the company pay twice the market value for the U.K. sites, laying out almost £700 million for two sites (Wylfa and Oldbury), previously ear-marked for development by RWE and Eon, before their hasty retreat from the nuclear industry?   What on earth can they have been promised or been led to expect in return and who will provide the returns?   Why the obvious desperation to supply the nuclear industry with a future?   (Note the article on the Home page re. the National Audit Office assessment of the Sellafield situation. 7/11/12.)

There is the usual stupidity of statements like, "It is a £20 billion boost for the U.K. and will provide thousands of jobs", from the (obviously-biased) energy secretary, Edward Davey.   (We don't like to think the Special Advisors or, as we call them, moles, from 
Électricité de France have got to him!)   We are, apparently, still supposed to believe that the investment will occur with no view to extracting a profit!   How gullible are we?

The thousands of jobs are again most likely to be a figment of the hyped imagination.   As with every other project, there will be jobs for construction workers which will be of comparatively short duration.   At the end of the construction period these people will be out of work - again.   Only a couple of hundred jobs (optimistically) will be on offer to highly-skilled personnel from the U.K.   In terms of future outlay for U.K. residents that is a very high price to pay for any short-term benefit.   Especially when the market is currently being distorted by those who have the market in their grip.   Quite how any company can justify an 8% rise in cost, let alone 
Électricité de France's 11%, is beyond us.   It does, however, fit with our vision of the public being made to pay for the nuclear expansion programme - the profits for which will just go abroad, along with profits from future energy charges.   We think there is a strong case for a nationalised industry - with no nuclear investment plans - setting a base level.

Big players like Babcock Engineering and Rolls-Royce are already dipping their bread in the gravy, of course, and have signed prelimary contracts.   Still, profits must be made.
The problems are:  
  • Hitachi has not yet worked out how much it will cost to build six new nuclear power plants in the UK; 
  • a government-guaranteed minimum price for nuclear-generated electricity, has not yet been worked out - despite the brinkmanship currently being undertaken by Électricité de France in order to extract the maximum profits from U.K. users (strangely the French price for electricity is fixed)
  • it is not clear when the plants would be completed, nor who would operate them; 
  • and even the reactor system that Hitachi is keen to install has yet to be granted UK safety approval.
There was some concern back in 2010 when Hitachi, against the forecasts, won the contract to supply train-sets to the U.K. against a Bombardier/Siemens consortium.   Bombardier reckoned in 2011 that the loss of the Thameslink contract to Hitachi would cost 1400 jobs.   Probably similar to the number of construction jobs that will be created by Hitachi's plans.   Nevertheless, to out manoeuvre Siemens (corruption was a way of life for us) must have taken some doing.
The government are truly desperate for some Good News is all we can say.

Man(kind) Overboard

Governments have been covering up nuclear meltdowns for 50 years and covering up the dangers of radiation and its effects for 67 years.   They have also covered up dumping of nuclear waste in the ocean. The International Atomic Energy Agency admits that thirteen countries used ocean dumping to “dispose” of radioactive waste between 1946 and 1993, including the U.K.

Since 1993, ocean disposal has been banned by agreement through a number of international treaties, including the London Convention of 1972, the Basel Convention, and MARPOL 73/78, although, of course, "accidents" and incidents continue to happen regardless of the politics.

Somalia was a favourite for some years as it muddled along with no proper government, several companies taking advantage of the opportunity to dispose of unwanted material.

78% of the nuclear materials being dumped in the Atlantic Ocean belonged to the UK (35,088TBq).   Further contributors included Switzerland (4,419TBq), USA (2,924TBq) and Belgium (2,120TBq). Sunken USSR nuclear submarines are not included.

Eight European countries happily used the Atlantic as a dump for years, but the USA, responsible for dumping 34,282, containers gave no indication of the volume or potency of the material contained therein.

In the Pacific Ocean, Russia dumped 874TBq., America 554 TBq, Japan 15.1TBq.   New Zealand admitted to dumping over one TBq and an unknown amount was added by South Korea. Copious amounts were also dumped by Japan and Russia.   Again, the Americans dumped materials, including 56,261 containers, but did not give volume or potency.

In the Sea of Japan, Russia dumped another 749TBq;  Japan dumped 15.1TBq south of the main island, whilst South Korea dumped 45 tonnes of material with unknown potency.

Norwegian environmental group Bellona Fondation reported that Russia has admitted that it dumped 19 radioactive ships plus 14 nuclear reactors – some of them containing fissible material – into the ocean:  there is also the not-so-slight problem of the nuclear submarine that was scuttled in 50 meters of water with its two reactors filled with spent nuclear fuel in in Stepovogo Bay in the Kara Sea in 1981.

Information that the reactors aboard the K-27 could reachieve criticality and explode was released at the Bellona-Rosatom seminar in February, 2012.   The latter is somewhat scarier even than the rest of the inventory, as the K-27, a unique vessel, was equipped with a liquid metal cooled reactor and was irreparably damaged by a reactor accident (control rod failure) on May 24, 1968.   Nine people were killed in the reactor accident.   After shutting down the reactor and sealing the compartment, the Soviet Navy scuttled her in shallow water of the Kara Sea on September 6, 1982, contrary to the recommendation of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).


Security is Our Priority
Elsewhere we point out the vulnerability of modern computer controlled equipment to interference from outside sources.   However, physical interference is also a major problem for the site security staff, here and abroad.   For example, in December, 2011, nine activists from Greenpeace entered a nuclear site at Nogent-sur-Seine, south east of Paris.   A banner, which read, "There is no such thing as safe nuclear power", was unfurled on the top of the reactor building.   Although the official version, as always, pretends that everything was under control at all times, it plainly was not.   That nine people can enter and make their way to the top of the reactor building without being prevented is an obvious security failing.


We recall that in 2008 a light aircraft circled Sellafield for over 20 minutes - that being the time it took the Royal Air Force to get there from the other side of the countryand tell the pilot of the light aircraft, who was in violation of the no-fly zone over the site (see paragraph 6, below) to go away.

Another paper tells the more recent story of how a Greenpeace activist paraglided onto the roof of the reactor building at the Bugey plant in southeastern France.   A red flare was dropped onto the plant before the pilot landed nearby and was arrested.


There are quite a few paragliders who make use of the thermal currents caused by on-shore winds hitting the sharp coastal slopes at Braystones, just 2 miles north of Sellafield.   One wonders what a stray one of these would cause the authorities to do.   Are they really going to risk shooting down an innocent hobby paraglider in the belief that they are under attack?   Just how close would they allow the flier to get to the sensitive bits?

Helicopters, too, are often in the area - either for aerial survey purposes or transporting members of the various nuclear bodies between the numerous sites in
the area.   Very recently a survey helicopter flew close to the no-fly zone as it checked the railway line between Sellafield and St. Bees following two landslips caused by very heavy rain and flooding.

Intriguingly, back in 2002, emergency planning funding by the government was reduced by 10%.   Aerial safety was down to an exclusion zone of 2 miles or an altitude of 22,000 feet.   (Just over 4 miles high.)   It is believed that any deviation from commercial routes would be detected by air traffic controllers before any damage could be caused in the style of the attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in America.   However, if it takes 20 minutes for Harriers to get on the scene, and an airliner flying at 25,000 feet could suddenly deviate (either as the result of terrorism or malfunction) and crash into the Sellafield site in around 2 minutes, there seems to be a little missing in the plans, even if the air traffic controllers manage to spot any deviation immediately - which on past form appears to be highly unlikely.

Perhaps more importantly there is the "when do we react" situation.   Obviously a gang of nine people breaking into a nuclear plant should have triggered a much earlier reaction from the authorities, so was there a flaw in the plans, or were they just unable to meet the challenge - as they would be unable to meet an aerial terrorist attack on Sellafield?   Let's face it, there is a much higher vulnerability to attack in Sellafield's stocks than in the French sites.

An article in the Sunday Times illustrates the desperate straits to which the nuclear industry has sunk.   Nuclear batteries are the next Good Thing on the agenda to solve the problem of nuclear waste - especially the legacy stuff.   Apparently, for the cost of a small plant to separate out the Americium, we could propel lots of things into space.   It appears that polluting the whole planet with nuclear waste is no longer sufficient.   Now we have to expand the pollution into space.   According to the article, the Russians have been making these things for years.   Even if you accept that we should be firing such material into space and beyond our control, perhaps we should recall the Russian satellite that came down over the wastelands of Canada, strewing plutonium over several acres.

We do not believe that the article represents the true facts, and certainly not that it will solve the problems of legacy waste at Sellafield.   Apart from any other considerations, what would the cost of even a single battery be - even if a process to separate out the desired materials from the rest were to be found?

If it does, as implied in the article, cure the waste problem, why has Russia dumped 1500 containers of the stuff in the Karal Sea?

. . . the volume of waste “could be between six and eleven times the size of Albert Hall"
This acknowledgement of the vastness of the dumping exercise came from Cllr. Knowles, at a meeting of the full Cumbria County Council, on 5th September, 2012, and was in response to a question from a member of the public.   Apart from anything else, it is puzzling how vague the figures are - a bit like saying it will cost between £100 billion and £200 billion.   Part of the problem may well be that, once the project has been started, it could grow.   After all most of the companies remaining in the nuclear industry are not from the U.K. and will not really be concerned if all goes wrong.   If it doesn't go wrong very quickly then it will be hailed as a successful way of disposing of hazardous high-level waste and a convenient place for all kinds of dross from around the world to end up.   (So the recent announcement of the development of Workington's port facilities would be very welcome.   How convenient.)   By some strange logic, the councillor also went on to suggest that things might change when the results of the geological survey were known.   Has he never heard of Nirex, or the evidence of respected geologists that was presented to that enquiry?   Was he not present at the Executive Cabinet meeting in Calder Bridge when MRWS received evidence from experienced experts?

At the council's 5th September meeting it seemed as if the MRWS people were not really going to take any notice of a majority decision, but would get recalcitrant councillors "round the table to try to resolve the matter".   Cynically, we think they mean that they will pick off dissenters one at a time, but that's just us.   Even so, there is still the decision of whether Copeland and Allerdale should carry on regardless - with comparisons with the series of films of the same genre being inevitable.

Still, people like Cllr. Knowles apparently think that tourism and the nuclear industry can get on with each other.   In our opinion, the only way that tourism has survived in this part of Cumbria is by keeping mum about the nuclear industry.   We have spoken to many people who have arrived at local caravan sites only to find that they are next door to the world's nuclear dustbin.   They were deeply unhappy.   Their happiness went even further into the negative zone when the purpose of the Argocat on the beaches was explained to them.   At first incredulous, then angry, as they realised that they had been misled by clever photography (spot Sellafield's ugly scars on the landscape on any of the publicity brochures for holidays in the area, if you can).   Who in their right mind would leave the undoubted beauty of the Lake District scenery to visit a huge, noisy, dusty and  disturbing nuclear industrial site.   What is going to become airborne as a result of the disturbing of the soils?   A bit like disturbing the sediments of the Irish Sea to put in submarine cabling for the new National Grid system.   Not particularly well thought-out one might agree.

Happily, however, the MRWS have plans in hand to improve the appeal for tourism.   Like improving port facilities at Workington and Whitehaven.   The former, of course, is obviously just to favour the nuclear waste shipments, whilst the latter has been justified as an attempt to attract cruise liners.   We all saw what happened with the last one - attractions laid on purely for the benefit of the passengers who, ignoring the sop, took to the ship's helicopters to fly directly to the lakes.

Besides, if the cruise ship routine doesn't work, then ships could arrive at Whitehaven to handle nuclear waste, thereby shortening the rail journey by 20 miles each time.   No doubt the nuclear industry would approve.

Safety is Paramount - (But Secondary to Successful Sales)
Those nice honest people at Areva have been at work again.   The Japanese government, panicking after the problems at Fukushima, searched the world for equipment to help them deal with the leaked radiation.   Step forward Areva with an offer too good to refuse.   Money changed hands and the equipment delivered.   However, it was not to prove reliable or value for money.   A rueful Japanese politician admitted that he suspected the equipment was second-hand and that the Areva salesmen had been very good at their job.   When it comes to helping, you really need people like that.   According to the Fukushima Diary website:

"Areva sent their female CEO to Japan soon after 3/11 and she offered various forms of help for Fukushima.   In this context, we [Tepco] asked them for the decontamination facilities though they planned to ship them somewhere else. Probably the facilities were secondhand.

Areva reacted promptly and they were skilled in sales. The final decision of purchase was done by Tepco, the government didn’t reject it. However, they had a lot of problems to operate Areva’s facilities. It’s partially because of the lack of trial operation. Probably the facilities were secondhand. We thus got to the conclusion that we have to have multiple facilities except for Areva, and bought “Sarry” from Kurion.
Talking about integrity and honesty, the sub-contractor given the job of cleaning up the Fukushima plants has admitted to making lead shields to cover the individual dosimeters it gave to its staff.   Apparently the manager decided that the constant alarms meant that the job was going to take too long, so he found a sheet of lead and made ten shields which were then used to cover the sensors.   The same contractor is reported to have ignored the official rates for the job and pocketed up to half the men's daily wage, too.   Despite doing an incredibly dangerous job the workers were being denied proper health concerns whilst at the same time being paid below the minimum wage!

Still, the official nuclear salesmen from the I.A.E A. have issued a report which announces that nuclear expansion will be around 44% this year, up from their previous forecast of 37% for the period.   Their rôle in the dimishing news from Fukyushima will no doubt emerge in a short while, and the pro-nuclear stance of the BBC will also be explained, together with some curtailment of the number of industry secondees to government.   Helpfully, a lot of effort has gone into diverting scientific discussion (and world attention to the continuing situation) into whether Fukushima's problems stem from the earthquake or from the subsequent tsunami.   In essence, whether pipework broke due to vibration of the earthquake or the plant was overwhelmed by the sea-water.   While it may be relevant for future building, at the moment surely the effort would be better concentrated on getting the whole area clean and safe?   Whatever else, it reminds us that you cannot plan for the unexpected.
*   In June, 2011, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) announced the utilisation of equipment supplied by Toshiba (oil/grease separation), Kurion (cesium removal), AREVA (cesium removal), and Hitachi (desalination) to handle external reactor water cooling system rated at 317,000 gallons/day (about 15 backyard swimming pools/day). The aim of this lash-up was to reduce the safety and environmental risks presented by the increasing and very large quantity of highly-radioactively contaminated, oily and saline water that was creating a high dose concern on site and restricting entry into the reactor and turbine buildings.

Pylon the Pressure - Part of the Carry On Regardless Masterplan
Somewhat amusingly, the BBC seem to have got thoroughly confused over plans to link the proposed new reactors at Sellafield to the national grid.   Last November it published a map of the area depicting the route most likely to be chosen.   It incorporated connections to the Heysham power station, near Morecambe, having travelled south from Sellafield.   Fast forward six months and, lo and behold, we are shown a similar map with pylons this time travelling north to join the main spine of the grid at Carlisle.   Is it any wonder that there is this degree of confusion when the much bigger project to build a nuclear dump is even more nomadic?

Hacking via the Front Door   (Come In, It's Unlocked)

Elsewhere we mention the potential for computer firmware programs causing devastating problems for large numbers of users.   The Stuxnet worm was a prime example, and was incorporated into control logic designed by Siemens - with or without their knowledge is unknown, but in any case Siemens have now withdrawn from producing equipment for the nuclear industry.   The powers-that-be announced that the corruption had probably been installed via a standard USB connection.   We warned then of the dangers to the nuclear industry of malware.   We still find it unbelievable that a standard port such as a USB connector could have been left open, but we are cynics.   It reminds us of the back-door methods of hacking into Unix computers which was prevalent decades ago.   We have to wonder whether the password to Siemens gear was PASSWORD and the log-in set to SUPERVISOR.   Or perhaps we are supposed to be gullible enough to believe official explanations.

In another example, reported recently, Iranian oil ministry and oil companies have been attacked.   The result was that the ministry website was off line for a few days, but the national oil company is still affected.   Data about users of the site had also been stolen.

Happily, we can assume that the whole U.K. nuclear industry is insulated from such problems and that there are absolutely no network connections to the internet, and every single unnecessary port is blocked.   After all, who remembers that British Aerospace's computers were hacked and the Chinese very quickly brought out a new fighter jet which was very similar to BAe's but cheaper to produce?   (Apparently the U.S. were not impressed that the hacking had not been noticed over a three year period.)

Given the potential - ultimately control of every computer-controlled process - one has to wonder just who might be behind these attacks, although there are some obvious candidates.   Regardless, just how vulnerable to outside influence are the nuclear plants around the world?   Some of these may well have bonus software integrated - but who is going to spend the man-years going through each line of computer code to try and trace any malware?   The stress tests will be meaningless if the control systems cannot be relied on to perform their safety functions.   Safety depends on every aspect of the process, not just the tin can which houses the reactor.   See the Editorial page of 27/4/12 for further comment and news on the progress of the stress tests.

At home it is reported that energy demand has fallen by 11%.   Energy costs have risen by 23%.   The latter is purely as a result of government policy and its endeavours to make nuclear power cost-effective by raising the cost of other methods of generation.   Nonetheless, the steepening decline in energy usage means that there will be no need for nuclear at all.   Even on the original projections there was no need, as energy demand would have fallen below supply capacity by 2020 anyway, but, with the combined effect of recession and more energy-efficient devices, the case for nuclear just disappears.   Sadly, the "when the lights go out" syndrome is still with us, despite having been refuted by the head of the National Grid in a Radio 4 news item over three years ago.
History Not Just Repeating Itself, but Perpetuating Itself

In 1995, then American Energy Department Secretary, Hazel O'Leary, released documents which showed that the atomic energy establishment has for decades behaved as if the human population and all living systems are its rightful guinea pigs. From feeding plutonium to unknowing children to deliberate releases of radioactive clouds at Hanford, Washington, and Los Alamos, New Mexico, to the hundreds of nuclear tests in Nevada and at the Pacific/Eniwetok test sites, the atomic establishment showed it would stop at nothing.
As one American expert has said, "Over the 50 years of the nuclear age, 'scientists' have not had the integrity, courage or decency to acknowledge publicly the enormous damage they have done to present and future generations. Instead they hide behind the wall of secrecy called 'national security.'   When they are forced into the open by court proceedings or congressional hearings, they routinely weasel-word or lie."

One of the more honest scientists has said, "The nuclear establishment will not tolerate that nuclear radiation is dangerous, and that's not limited only to the United States.   It's true in the Soviet Union, France, Great Britain.   At every opportunity you see them struggling to make it safe on paper.   I wouldn't give you two cents for any of them.   They're the scoundrels of the earth.   Basically, I wouldn't believe anything written by the Department of Defense or the Department of Energy."    Something we think we can concur with.

American Disaster Averted
The American broadcaster, CNN, have drawn attention to a nuclear power station at San Onofre, California.   The plant has been closed down and it is not known when it will reopen.   Following a "small leak of radioactive gas which posed no threat to the environment or public health" (funny how all such things are so insignificant, even Sellafield, Chernobyl and Fukushima started off that way!) during the winter, the plant has been closed while inspections take place.   Two of the reactors have a problem with vibration of the pressurised water tubes, which is causing them to rub against each other and the mounting brackets.   Whilst the older pipes are prone to leakage, these problematic ones were only installed last year.

The nuclear industry regards the Mitsubishi-built reactors as being amongst the safest and most reliable, but had it not been for the increased vigilance as a result of Fukushima, it is quite possible that the problems at San Onofre would have been just as catastrophic.   50 miles from San Diego and under 100 miles from Los Angeles, the plant supplied 1.4 million people.   An entry on Google Earth for the power stations says, "Groundwater polluted by radioactive materials".

Everything is Under Control:  Don't Panic

Things at Fukushima continue to be kept quiet.   The latest news has attracted very little attention in the world's media - certainly the BBC has had nothing to say on the matter in its television news broadcassts.

Number 2 reactor has been assessed by the use of an endoscope inserted into the reactor vessel.   Estimates by the experts said that the vessel was filled with water to a depth of 10 metres.   The visual checks demonstrate that this is not the case and that less than 60 cms (.6 metres) were present.   There seems to be some confusion as to where the rest of the stuff has gone, but a new leak was found this week and 120 tonnes of radioactive water has escaped.   Authorities in Japan acknowledge that some of the highly radioactive material has leaked into the sea.   The temperature inside the vessel is said to be under 50°C, and thus the standard for a cold shut-down is reached.   Sadly, that is not the whole picture.   Anyone reading that the reactor had reached a cold shut-down might be forgiven for thinking that things were stable and under control.   That is not the case.    Inside the reactor the radiation levels have reached 73 sieverts (no, not micro or millisieverts) - far above what they expected to find.   In the light of that, the period for dealing with just the one reactor will have to be extended by decades.   The other damaged reactors are likely to be even more seriously damaged, but they have not yet been assessed.
Burnt Fingers - Again
Those nice ethical people that are in charge of Areva SA and Siemens AG have offered to change the contracts that they have used in the past to restrict the availability of components used in the nuclear industry.   The EU's anti-trust regulator opened an investigation in 2010.  

According to Bloomberg's  report,, the changes will not result in any financial penalty being paid.   Whether the proposed changes to contracts without penalty will satisfy the regulator remains to be seen.   Cynics like us might interpret the move as being a ploy to stop a full-scale investigation into the way the two companies operate.   One by-product of such an investigation might be the extent to which politicians have been persuaded to push for nuclear new-build, especially in the U.K.   Let's hope the investigation goes ahead.

Areva's equally ethical sister company, Électricité de France, has announced that it has cancelled a request made to the National Grid for the construction of enhanced connections to accomodate the construction of more reactors at its Heysham site.   Happily, this means that the proposed west coast submarine cable is unlikely to be required.   That, in turn, reduces the abilities of the grid to import power from the north-west, including Cumbria.   Heysham was one of the parcels of land which it was anticipated would be sold off to satisfy E.C. anti-trust rules.   Instead, they have sold off some land on Anglesey.   Needless to say, and with typical regard for the local population, Électricité de France suggest that they may at some point resurrect the plans.

In November, 2011, what should have been a routine test drill turned into a bit of a fiasco when the wrong emergency message was broadcast by the Heysham operators.   People were advised to stay indoors and take iodine tablets.   Typically, however, the majority of people were unaware of the incident and carried on as usual.   Naturally, this is exactly the kind of thing that would happen in a real emergency, so the cost of emergency planning and the hours spent in devising plans to cope will prove to be entirely wasted.   Those who need to know won't be told and those who are told won't know what to do.   Just like at Fukushima.

How Secure Are All The Sensitive Computers and Control Systems?
With the revelation that BAE's computer systems were hacked to steal details about the design, performance and electronic systems of the West's latest fighter jet, we have to ask how such lax security can be allowed to continue?   The Chinese allegedly exploited vulnerabilities in BAE's computer defences to steal vast amounts of data on the $300 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a multinational project to create a plane that will give the West air supremacy for years to come.   BAE are apparently somewhat sensitive to the theft of what was described as "several terabytes of information".   According to the company they can detect and protect against such attacks - which prompts yet another question:  if their security is so good, how come the Chinese (or whoever) managed to gain access and download several terabytes?   Even with the fastest broadband such a download would take a considerable amount of time - whether contiguous or consequetively.


But That Was Then and This Is Now
Our attention has been drawn to the after-effects of the Nirex Inquiry's rejection of Cumbria as a potential site for the burial of highly-radioactive material (i.e. over 100,000 year-long life).   Frustrated that Cumbrian geology prohibited the construction of a deep dump, BNFL linked up with a Swiss company, Aurius, to form a group called Pangea.   The objective to survey the places on earth where suitable conditions exist.   Having settled on a place, they then developed the usual propaganda material to demonstrate that the world needed such a dump and that it would be extremely safe for the 200,000 years which would elapse before the dumped waste decayed to a similar level to that of the background radiation.

The video was accidentally released onto the internet in about 1998.   We have only just been told about it -  all part of our learning process.  

Suffice to say that there are some rather strange statements in the video, like, to prevent the rapid decay of the waste containers the ground needs to be very dry.   It also need to have rock which is impermeable, as any rainfall will cause the decayed containers to leach and then will carry it to the surface, where it will be extremely dangerous.

The more obvious problems of earthquakes and climate change are also mentioned.   Presumably the search for a dump-site was fairly extensive (and expensive!) and it selected the required characteristics for the dump before actually going round the world to find a place that fitted those predetermined qualities.   Why then was there no mention of places like, er, Cumbria, or at the very least other places in the U.K.?   Yes, it does seem rather obvious, but the rejection of Cumbria back then was based on facts.   Sadly, it seemed that the Australian public, having no nuclear power stations themselves, for some strange and unaccountable reason, were actually rather against the idea of housing the world's spent nuclear fuel.   Looking at the reactions to the video clip posted on the internet, it seems to have engendered a fair sprinkling of "F" words.

Amazingly, and counter to all the criteria that were demanded of the ideal site back then, because they have been told rather bluntly where to go by the Aussies, the nuclear waste can once again be dumped in Cumbria, where it is equally dry and stable, and where there is virtually no rainfall which might corrode the containers and bring the leaking waste back to the surface where it could do immense damage, even for periods greater than anything man-made has ever survived for.

Pangea Corroded Container

A clip from the Pangea video, depicting what would happen to  a container just buried underground and subjected to groundwater.  

The potential then arises for the highly-radioactive material to leach out and migrate back to the surface.   Even in dry conditions it is possible that the container may decay before its contents have decayed sufficiently to be the same as background/natural radiation.   (The buried material is likely to have a life of well in excess of 100,000 years - no man-made object has ever lasted anything like that time.)

Rebalancing the Table?   Hardly!

DECC has today stated that they are to spend over three million pounds on green causes, according to this announcement:

A total of £3.5million in funding has been announced today to help train hundreds of people in key green skills ahead of the launch of the Green Deal, delivering on the Deputy Prime Minister's announcement in March last year to create 1,000 "Green Deal" apprenticeships.   The "Green Deal" is the Government's flagship energy efficiency scheme aimed at renovating millions of draughty, energy-inefficient homes and office buildings across the UK.   This scheme will begin later this year and will support an estimated 65,000 jobs by 2015.

Trained, skilled professionals in assessing home energy efficiency and installing insulation are crucial for getting the Green Deal off the ground which is why today's money for training will go a long way to help the UK prepare for the launch.

Interestingly, the same amount of money has been spent by the West Cumbria: Managing Radioactive Waste Safely Partnership on propaganda just in Cumbria.   Still, compared to what is spent on cleaning up after nuclear . . .

Would Our People Do Any Better?
A report into the Fukushima disaster was released this week.   Over 300 people were interviewed for it, although Tepco management declined to contribute.   Amongst its findings:

. . .  a somber picture of a nuclear industry shaped by freewheeling power companies, toothless regulators and a government more interested in promoting nuclear energy than in safeguarding the health of its citizens.

. . .  widespread criticism of nuclear officials for their lax approach to safety, as well as for a bungled response

Hiroko Tabuchi
New York Times Asia Pacific Source:

There are currently reports of hundreds of thousands of deep-sea fish being washed ashore dead and dying along the Japanese coast.

Resolving Circular Arguments

The report from Association for the Conservation of Energy, which we comment on below, has highlighted the fact that government facts appear to have been manipulated in order to make nuclear power generation viable compared to more conventional and greener methods.   The life of power stations has apparently been extended by around 50%, solely on the basis that 
Électricité de France has told them that is the case.   Also in question is the amount of time a reactor will be up and running.   Figures in the past seem to be fairly consistently around the 75% mark, as incidents and routing servicing, modifications, etc., all cause either a reduced output or a complete shutdown.   Yet the figures used by DECC to bolster the need for nuclear expansion indicate a running time of 80 - 85%.   These facts would have a substantial impact on the unit cost of electricity produced.   DECC's figures biasing in nuclear's favour, naturally.

The report concludes that, as the government has been misled, there should be a re-opening of the debate about new nuclear.   What this is likely to produce is an impenetrable cloud of data (cynically we would suggest, emanating from the nuclear lobby) attempting to demonstrate that the data is correct.   We believe that the true question is not the veracity or otherwise of the data per se, but the integrity of those producing the flawed guidance given to politicians.   One might also question the gullibility of those at the helm, but, then again, that has never been in doubt.

There was also an unjustified forecast of the rise in energy demand.   When questioned on this by the association, there was no sound basis in fact.   Indeed, the figures issued by DECC today illustrate a falling demand of around 2% each year, NOT an increase.   The figures can be seen here:

Perhaps the global warming phenomenon - if that is truly what is happening - will have a self-limiting effect on the use of energy?   In that case, there will certainly be no need for nuclear expansion, and the reduced emissions from the underused power stations will help meet the CO2 targets.   Presumably, at some point, the situation will resolve itself and everything will settle become compartively stable once more.   Whatever the case, it is certain that the planet will survive.

A Delightful Exposee of the Myth of the Need for Nuclear New-build and Nuclear's Advantages

The Association for the Conservation of Energy has recently published a report.   Having ploughed through the skillfully designed mountain of material emanating from DECC to great effect, they have come to the conclusion that ministers, MPs and parliament as a whole, have been misled.   Although these individuals have arrived honestly at their conclusions, the association suggests that the information given to them was false and very misleading.   I think we have heard that suggestion before on  

Calling for the whole debate on future generation to be reopened, the association suggests that maximising energy-saving could save £2.2 trillion less than building nuclear power stations in a 40 year period.   The report also suggests that the last government did not assess the long-term demand for electricity (something which was also noted some considerable time ago by a report from Citigroup).   The government has also, according to the report, failed to consider properly scenarios in which no new nuclear power stations would be required to meet its energy targets.

Writing in the current Private Eye, 1308, "Old Sparky" suggests that the association are shocked that some of the information which should have been made available had not been.   However, for some time, we have suggested that the whole process in Cumbria has been corrupted, with many institutions becoming out-posts for the nuclear industry.   We would point again at the various committees and sub-committees, quangos, etc., which are all imbued with the aim of selling various aspects of nuclear expansion to the public.   We have already questioned whether this is the proper rôle of these bodies.   Especially when only information favourable to the industry is issued, and detrimental evidence suppressed.   Further evidence of what we see as a secret plan, to be pursued regardless of cost, is the employment of a multi-national company to look at the traffic flows in west Cumbria.   There is, we suggest, only one reason why such an expensive process should be commissioned.   Yet three local councils who have so far considered the matter have decided against the continuance of plans for the nuclear dump.   Will this put a stop to the expensive plans of those with the pro-nuclear camp?

However, there is a greater danger that in focusing on the various bits of evidence in order to deduce what has been included and what was omitted, the basic fact that someone, somewhere, has been filtering the evidence to fit a particular scenario:  that of new nuclear.   Who did that and what was their motive?  

The flawed figures used by the government (how strange that they should benefit the nuclear industry!) have ignored the fact that without new nuclear, by 2025 there will still be an over-capacity of 66% (more than 45 GW).   As we have previously quoted the head of the National Grid saying, there is no reason at all why the lights should go out.

The Farce Be With You
(We would draw your attention to the comment at the head of the Opinion page, relating to the level of comptence noted in Japan following the Fukushima meltdown.)

According to the Huffington Post (a press service used to adorn AOL's home pages) a member of staff from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), during a visit to India for a conference, lost a USB "stick" containing a safety assessment of the nuclear power plant in Hartlepool.   The assessment was undertaken in the wake of the Japanese radiation scare at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

Naturally, the ONR explain that there was no "significantly sensitive" data lost, and the majority of the report has since been put in the public domain.   Er, but surely that means that the incident took place many months ago?   Surely our civil servants haven't covered the loss up for that length of time?   Isn't there a culture of openness and honesty - isn't that what we were told?

apparently the data was not encrypted.   Have we not yet reached the stage where anyone placing data from official sources (whether nuclear, health, social services information, or banking) on portable media are deemed to have committed a criminal offence?.   There should never be any reason for sensitive data to be put on a laptop, memory stick, CD or tape and carried around without concern.   A properly secured computer system would have built-in safeguards which prevented the downloading of material.   It is easy enough to set up secure sytems which would deny access to USB sticks and optical disks.   Surely in the interests of self-defence these measures should have been taken?   The ability to use these devices renders the whole system vulnerable to hacking, data theft, corruption and damage.   A USB port was allegedly the route via which the Stuxnet virus was incorporated into Siemen's enrichment centrifuge control gear.

In the unlikely event that such portability is required then the very least we should expect is that the medium be encrypted.   This would at least ensure that casual access would reveal nothing.   Even cost is not a factor as 128 bit key encryption can be used free of charge from a number of internet sources.   Let's face it there have been so many previous incidents involving careless loss of data, we have a right to expect lessons to have been learned.

The report confirms our view by stating that,"The use of unencrypted USB pen drives is not permitted by ONR for transporting documents with a security classification. An internal investigation has been undertaken by ONR."

EU governments agreed last March that, in the wake of the Japanese earthquake and resulting tsunami which overwhelmed the Fukushima nuclear plant, all 143 of Europe's plants should undergo stress testing to common standards.

There is Nothing To Fear From Nuclear - You Cannot Prove Anything

Earlier this week the western press were full of a story about a small German village called Wewelsfleth, which is on the banks of the River Elbe, near to its mouth on the North Sea.   Apparently every family in the village has at least one member suffering from cancer.   Naturally, according to the official line, there is absolutely no connection between the village and the nuclear power stations nearby.   The Brokdorf nuclear reactors are just a few miles to the west of the village, ensuring that the residents gain the full benefit from the prevailing winds as any wind-borne materials go straight to them for maximum effect.

The two other nearby plants are currently shut-down, following Germany's decision to do away with all nuclear power.

142 cases of cancer have occurred, as against an expected 95, according to the report from ABC News (Source:  ABC News) but, despite the globally-common theme that cancer cases increase in the vicinity of nuclear power stations the scientists will not accept that this is the case here.

Strange Happenings As Temperatures Rise & Insinuations Suggest That All is Not Open and Honest Within the Nuclear World

Bulletins on the state of the reactors at the Fukushima site are being questionned by locals, for a variety of reasons.   For example, the number of thermometers that are installed and still working on the No. 2 reactor.   For several weeks now the temperature at some parts of the remains have been rising according to two of the thermometers.   Sadly, this conflicts with the official line that the whole site has entered a cold shutdown - where the temperature is below 60 degrees and stable.   Whether there are 38, 40, or 41 thermometers seems a bit of a conundrum for the officials.   Happily, the two rogue ones have now been deemed to be faulty, enabling officials to declare that everything is going to plan.   Naturally there are cynics who suggest that the "faulty" instruments may have been deliberately damaged by someone who preferred the official line.   There is not much in the way of evidence, however, and it seems a little too scary that anyone could do such a thing.   However, the various readings published do demonstrate a steady upward rather than downward trend.

The same site noting the potential problems, the Fukushima Diary,  ( , has a very sinister or amusing video, according to one's viewpoint.   Around the plant, and at various locations in the exclusion zones, there are webcams which are accessible by all and sundry.   These exist to satisfy everyone who might be interested that openness and honesty abound at Fukushima.   Nothing to hide, that sort of thing.   Scroll down the diary page to the article headed, "Cloud is erased above reactor 2 on Tepco live camera" and wonder at the ability of clouds to magically disappear from the sky.   For those unable, or unwilling to seek it out,  it may appear to a sceptic that the bottom left quarter of the video picture is frozen.   Clouds appear in the lovely blue sky, drift across the screen and then disappear at a rate of knots which would astound even Professor al Kalili!   Obviously, this is easily explained and there is nothing untoward occurring at all.   Sadly, we just don't happen to know of any reason ourselves.   We await the information with trepidation.

According to the same site, large craters are appearing on Mount Fuji. about 350 miles from Fukushima.   Some scaremongers are suggesting that, from a study of the flow of the molten rock under the area, another huge earthquake is imminent.   One scientist actually suggesting that great efforts should be made to bolster up the defences at Fukushima, as an earthquake under the site would cause even more devastation given the current vulnerability of the site.
Don't Have Babies . . .
(BNFL Health and Safety Director, 1990)

The Japanese Environment Ministry has started a study to examine the effects of radiation from the disaster-struck Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on nearby plant and wildlife, particularly their reproductive functions.

The ministry, which will be working with the Japanese Wildlife Research Center and the National Institute of Radiological Sciences, will select various species of plants and animals based on a selection recommended for study by the I.C.R.P. (the International Commission on Radiological Protection) in the event of nuclear disaster.   These include mice, shellfish, and pine tree. For comparison purposes, specimens will be collected from areas with differing radiation levels both inside and near the no-entry zone around the plant.   Today, NHK television has been explaining how earthworms from within the exclusion zone are contaminated with a variety of radioactive material.   Seems like the removal of the millions of tonnes of topsoil will have to be speeded up a bit.

Meanwhile, of course, samples of excrement and urine from children around the Fukushima area are showing high levels of radioactive contamination.   Still, as the BBC's Science Editor points out, no-one has died.   Yet.   Unless, of course you count those mentioned in the article on the Editorial page dated 7/2/12, or those from more independent informed sources.

All Hot and Bothered

An unknown rise in temperature at one of the reactors at the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant is troubling its operator. Tokyo Electric says the temperature hasn't gone down even after it increased the volume of cooling water.   One of the thermometers at the bottom of reactor No. 2 at the Fukushima Daiichi plant gradually rose to about 70 degrees Celsius since January 27th.   It had stayed around 45 degrees before, which, naturally, prompted jubilant

In an effort to lower the temperature, the operator increased the amount of water sprayed on the nuclear fuel by 3 tons to 13.5 tons per hour Tuesday morning, without conspicous improvement, as Tokyo Electric said readings were down only about three degrees after some 5 hours of operation.

The company spokesperson said the flow of water in the reactor may have altered after changes to some plumbing in late January.   These changes seem to have resulted in difficulties getting the water to the parts which most need to be cooled - the melted core and other materials - hardly a ringing endorsement of the engineering design.   Two thermometers in the same reactor showed no change (see comments elsewhere about the ineffective location of these thermometers when it comes to measuring temperatures after a melt-down).   The company said that it will continue to carefully monitor the reactor.

TEPCO has been unable to visually confirm conditions inside the reactors since the nuclear disaster last March because of high radiation.   Conditions inside the reactors are such that the cameras being used in efforts to discern the internal damage are being seriously affected - resulting in electronic interference, rendering images of only limited use.


Thorough Lack of Preparation
In a typically jargonised document, running to 139 pages, the government has set out the current state of affairs for public health.  

Entitled, "A public health outcomes framework for England, 2013-2016" and looking very pretty, it is interesting but somewhat scary to note (in Part One, Para. 3.7) that:
Comprehensive, agreed inter-agency plans for responding to public health incidents have only a placeholder - in other words there is no plan whatsoever for the protection of the public in the event of a major incident.  

The placeholder admits that further work need to be done even to formulate a definition for the item, but at present there are no co-ordinated inter-agency plans at all to protect the public.   Still, things like nuclear accidents can't happen in the U.K., as history has proved.   So we can rest assured that, in the event of a major disaster at the likes of Sellafield, one tremendous mess will ensure and none of the emergency services will interact with the others.   We can then expect the usual stupid comments that "lessons have been learned", when they haven't.

Great news then that the government cuts for the security services will see a drastic reduction in the number of MOD police employed at nuclear sites.   According to the Guardian, there is to be a cut of up to 1,500 staff, causing drastic reductions in available manpower at MOD establishments and nuclear sites, as well as docks handling nuclear submarines.   Again, we can be reassured by the total lack of accidents, and the reassurance from the head of the nuclear inspectorate that all is well with the U.K.'s nuclear industry.   One has to agree that we don't get too many earthquakes on the Japanese scale, but an earthquake is not a pre-requisite for a nuclear incident.   Stupidity and human error are difficult things to cater for.


We recount the failings that led to Fukushima's woes elsewhere.   However, a recent publication explains:

     [The interim report into the Fukushima meltdowns] reveals at times an almost cartoon-like level of incompetence.

     Crucial data estimating the dispersion of radioactive matter were not given to the prime minister’s office, so that evacuees like those from Namie were not given any advice on where to go. That is why they drove straight into the radioactive

     No one seems ever to have tried to “think the unthinkable”.

     48 out of 54 nuclear reactors across Japan remain out of service, almost all because of safety fears.
     Until somebody in power seizes on the report as a call to action, its findings, especially those that reveal sheer ineptitude, suggest that the public has every reason to remain as scared as hell.


The Waste Dump Consultation

The esoterically named group the West Cumbria: Managing Radioactive Waste Safely or, more catchily, WCMRWS, has organised a series of meetings around the county to inform the public of the likely effects of the underground nuclear dump that they have been promoting for the last few years.   Yesterday, on BBC television's North West programme one of the leading lights of the campaign appeared to express his view of the process.  

Sadly, the BBC didn't have time to mention the background of the interviewee, and his thirty years at Sellafield.   Nor did they find time for a full coverage of the history of nuclear waste, the radioactive pollution, the deaths and deformities which have occurred over the years and which led to an expert advising sexually active male employees of Sellafield to avoid having children.   No mention either of the corruption that was found by the Redfern Enquiry, or the quality of the evidence submitted to a previous enquiry into suitability of the area for dumping toxic waste.   Instead the view was painted of a small industrial estate which would blend in quite happily.   The 9.5 sq. mile hole, deep underground would lead to nothing more than a bit of soil having to be disposed of.   We're not quite sure why even the BBC fell for the suggestion that soil extends to the depth of the proposed excavation!   We have been assured by an eminent professor, an expert in geology in Cumbria, that many millions of tonnes of rock will have to be disposed of.   Listening to the WCMRWS spokesman, it was strange to think that all this could be achieved without pain, discomfort, or even the slightest disturbance to residents and visitors.   When the development was likened to the channel tunnel we expected at least a smile - if not a guffaw - from interviewer Dave Guest.   Nope, nothing.   Happily, the residents of the English Channel were not available to confirm that they had not been in the slightest inconvenienced.   Given the volume of rock to be removed there will have to be (assuming that the spoil isn't to rival Scafell) huge numbers of large lorries transporting the materials along the A595 - a road which is often closed following accidents, and is not altogether the best environment for 40 tonne wagons.   Still, we are expected to believe, these extra trips will make no difference to commuters and other road users.

It remains our belief that the expansion of the nuclear industry will bring more pain and suffering to the area.   While we are altogether in agreement with the solution proposed by Mr. Forwood - leaving new waste in situ around the country at the places where it is produced - for a variety of reasons, we see the underground dump as an extension of the Thorp idea.   Can it be possible to continue that nonsensical process without having a final resting place for the product?   It seems unlikely.   However, if both processes go ahead it is only a matter of time before waste from all over the world heads the way of west Cumbria.   After all, no other country has solved the problem of disposing of highly radioactive material.

Another point being overlooked, we believe, is that Cumbria does not belong only to the residents.   As with the rest of the world, it should be open to all.   Should the decision to permanently spoil this part of the world be made purely by some small section of the country?   It may well help the WCMRWS group and the pro-nuclear supporters to limit the extent of "consultation" but it that adequate.   After all, there are many holiday-makers who might like to express an opinion, but will not form part of the information/discussion process.   If a researcher were to stand in Sellafield canteen and seek opinions, would that research be enough?   We think not.

The article mentioned, too, the voluntary nature of the dump.   Yet, when so many of those in charge of the decision-making process are ex-Sellafield employees, are beholden to the company in some way, or a plainly pro-nuclear, what chance is there that commonsense will prevail and the findings of the thorough Nirex Enquiry upheld?   How much more money will Sellafield and the government spend before deciding that Cumbria cannot withdraw because the losses will be too great and the loss of face too embarrassing?

The Biter Bitten

Areva, under the command of Anne Lauvergeon, managed to purchase three uranium mines in Africa when uranium prices were at their zenith.  

Because such institutions as Areva are driven by corporate greed (and personal greed, on occasion) the take-overs were rushed through before proper investigations had been completed.   Sadly for Areva, the Trekkopje site, which they purchased from the Canadian mining company UraMin, is not now expected to contain the amount of uranium which they expected - estimating that only about half the amount could be mined.   Such was the rush that (concludes a report by Marc Eichinger, a consultant appointed to look into the Trekkopje deal) the deal had been completed before any production had commenced and the quantity of uranium available discerned.   The situation has not helped Areva's financial position.   Eichinger's report was commissioned by Areva's Asset Management Division without the knowledge of Lauvergeon, even though she was chief executive at the time.

Write-downs and charges of US$2.5 billion have caused three separate investigations to be instituted:  by the company itself, by the French energy ministry, and by the French government.   As yet there is no judicial investigation.

Lauvergeon was abruptly replaced as head of Areva last June.   It seems, from some sources, that there was a disagreement between Sarkozy and Lauvergeon over policy, which did not help her position.   The situation was not helped when she turned down Sarkozy's invitation to become Economy Minister, back in 2007.

Last month, the former chief executive took legal action over a confidential intelligence report into whether she or her husband had illegally benefited from the African transactions.

She complained that she had been "slandered, spied on, in an unfair way".   Quite how this might differ from the slandering, spying on, and hacking of environmental groups carried out at the behest of the company's sister, 
Électricité de France, is not explained by her.   Elsewhere we note that Électricité de France executives were jailed for two years and the company fined for those practices.   It seems that perhaps the situation is unjustifiable when the tables are turned.

Lauvergeon was in charge during the cost over-runs at several Areva sites, for example, in Finland.   The loss of a huge deal in Abu Dhabi and a public argument with the head of 
Électricité de France - a mate of Sarkozy - cannot have helped her position.

In a report for the French parliament, Marc Goua, said that the deal had, indeed, been rushed, but there was no evidence of corruption.   However, Goua said that the multi-billion dollar deals with China for Areva to build reactors in that country, depended on Areva securing uranium supplies.   Thus, in order to secure the China reactor deals, the process of purchasing uranium supplies had been rushed.

Nice to see the ethics are at least consistent.   Money does indeed seem to be the root of all evil.   Being ultra-greedy doesn't help.

Good News and Bad News
Whilst the Japanese government has announced that the rice grown in Fukushima province is too highly radioactive for consumption and has banned sales thereof, our own politicians have suggested that after a mere 25 years, the sheep from the Cumbrian and Welsh fells can once again be supplied for human consumption and restrictions will be lifted soon.   9,800 farms and 4,000,000 sheep were affected by the controls which were imposed back in 1986.   We note elsewhere that the maps of radioactive fallout from Chernobyl depict suspiciously high amounts near to where the UK nuclear plants have already had  an influence:  near to Trawsfynnyd and the Cumbrian fells adjacent to Sellafield.   Isn't it strange that there is no mention of the prior fallout which must have occurred in these areas but which owed nothing to Chernobyl?   However, this did ensure that the cost of the exercise (compensation to farmers, monitoring movement of animals, etc.) did not fall on the nuclear industry.

Alternative Views From Independent Sources
A u-tube presentation entitled "Falling Out With Nuclear", with interviews from a variety of engineers, local representatives, anti-nuclear spokespersons, and others.   Dispels the myths around the feasibility of nuclear reprocessing, its carbon footprint (i.e. it is neither clean nor green, no matter what the pro-nuclear lobbyists and politicians would have us believe!), and comparisons with more environmentally friendly methods of energy generation that do not pollute the environment or expose the population to great risk for no real reason.   Running time is about 38 minutes.   Produced by Cozmic Films. Source:
Radiation Exposure of The Population of Japan After the Earthquake

The hypothesis that dust contaminated with fallout from the Fukushima accidents is a source of human exposure to radiation was tested and led to the conclusion that, although the presence of radioactivity in the air is now diminishing, there are still many sources which have high levels of radioactive material present.   This material can become airborne again, with the potential for ingestion or inhalation - the usual routes via which people are affected by radioactive material.

The report goes on to say that the 12 mile Japanese evacuation zone appears inadequate to protect the public health, and asks if it is time to re-examine the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission 10 mile planning zone for airborne accidental nuclear releases?


Fukushima Fallout May Be Thirty Times Worse Than The Original Estimate

Two reports suggest that the nuclear fallout from the Fukushima Daiichi plant could be thirty times worse than acknowledged by Tepco and the Japanese government.   One of the reports suggests that the amount of caesium, whose half-life is around 30 years, that has leaked into the Pacific Ocean was the greatest single release of artificial radionuclides into the sea ever.

It is forecast that the levels will reach around twice the levels which occurred during the atomic weapons testing in the Pacific back in the 1960s.   Most people link those 1960s levels with increased adverse health effects in the region, especially affecting children.   Although the forecast was that the material would soon dissipate into to ocean, where its effect would be smaller, it appears that there is a gyre (miniature whirlpool) which is bringing the material back to shore on a cyclical basis, meaning that the molluscs and shellfish which are most susceptible to the pollution, are getting higher than anticipated doses.

A second report, from the Norwegian Institute for Air Reseach, concludes that the Fukushima events commenced immediately after the earthquake and thus the releases of caesium started earlier and have gone on for longer than other studies have assumed.   They suggest that the Fukushima disaster is the most significant event after Chernobyl, but point out that very little of the Chernobyl fallout, compared to Fukushima, went into an ocean.   With Fukushima it is estimated that 80% of the caesium released went into the Pacific Ocean, with only 19% falling on land.

The institute suggest that the reason for the large discrepancy between Japan's figures and their own is due to the fact that the Japanese monitoring equipment could not detect the material that was blown out to sea.   They also point out that some of the monitoring stations became too contanimated to be reliable sources of data.

Alternative Views of Nuclear

We are in no position to offer an opinion on the following article which appears on the Press TV website and which we came across as part of our information-gathering trawls.  Press TV, an Iranian media company, is widely despised as being supportive of fundamentalist propaganda messges.   We offer it merely as part of an independent view:

Secret Ministry of Defense (MoD) documents have revealed that the government has approved a £747 million funding for Project Pegasus to build a new enriched uranium facility at its Atomic Weapons establishment (AWE), which is responsible for the design, manufacture and support of UK's nuclear weapons.

This is while, the MoD earlier allocated another £500 million for Project Mensa at AWE Burghfield to improve its warhead assembly facilities.

The British government has spent £2.6 billion since 2008 to renovate the nukes production infrastructure at AWE in a clear defiance of the NPT.

Britain and its western allies that accuse Iran of leading a military nuclear program have never presented proofs for their claims as their own commitment to the nuclear non-proliferation has been always under question.

During his address at the Tory conference, [Dr. Liam] Fox [ex-defence minister] even went as far as imagining a nuclear-armed Iran saying it would trigger “a new arms race in the world's most dangerous regions” by which he apparently meant the Middle East.

He did not, however, refer to the Israeli regime's 200 nuclear warheads or the threat they pose to the region, as it is western practice.


Would such a programme assist in the disposal of the nuclear waste that we have to get rid off somehow?   Sadly, we genuinely do not know.
Nice People to Do Business With?

The world's largest supplier of uranium for processing into fuel rods for nuclear power generation is Rio Tinto.   Their mines in Australia are responsible for a large amount of the CO2 emissions of that country, and they have recently announced that they are hoping to step up production.   Back in the 1980s, they were mining copper in Papua New Guinea.   As is the nature of any body that holds the vast majority of the controlling finances, the company effectively owned the whole country.   Their money was used to finance the quashing of those who disagreed with their policies or objected to their way of doing business.   Large numbers of Papua New Guineans died as a result.   The Times, 27/10/11, informs us that the American courts are to proceed with a war crimes investigation of the company.

People like Chris Huhne and the other pro-nulcear lobbyists must be aware of this situation and the nature of the company, yet they still persist in the fallacy that nuclear is low carbon, and that putting out trust in a company like Rio Tinto will lead to energy security.   More likely, once a monopoly has been established and the UK is almost totally dependent on nuclear, we will feel pressure being applied.   With their vast income, Rio Tinto and the other participants in nuclear can buy an awful lot of influence and publish an awful lot of propaganda - something that is self-evident in the way that news from Fukushima has been suppressed and the current rash of BBC programmes supporting the safety of nuclear proves.   As someone once said, "Get them by their sensitive bits and their minds will follow."   Would you buy a used car from them, let alone hand them control of your lifeblood?

Whether it is ethically correct to say, as Ed Miliband did, that matters outside our country are of no concern to us, is surely debatable?   Can it be morally acceptable to reduce our fictitious 
CO2 emission merely by shifting it to somewhere else?   Surely the idea is for the world emissions to be reduced - not just shift the blame to somewhere else?   The reduction in quality of mined ore will certainly increase the CO2 emissions, but, happily, lots of aspects of the nuclear process omit their figures in this regard.   A very interesting document assessing the impact of uranium mining and processing concludes as follows:
Sustainability of Uranium Mining and Milling: Toward Quantifying Resources and Eco-Efficiency.  
Gavin M. Mudd and Mark Diesendorf  
(December 2007.)

In summary, the extent of economically recoverable uranium, although somewhat uncertain, is clearly linked to exploration effort, technology, and economics but is inextricably linked to environmental costs such as energy, water, and chemicals consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and broader social issues. These crucial environmental aspects of resource extraction are only just beginning to be understood in the context of more complete life cycle analyses of the nuclear chain and other energy options. There still remains incomplete reporting however, especially in terms of data consistency among mines and site-specific data for numerous individual mines and mills, as well as the underlying factors controlling differences and variability. It is clear that there is a strong sensitivity of energy and water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions to ore grade, and that ore grades are likely to continue to decline gradually in the medium- to long-term. These issues are critical to understand in the current debate over nuclear power, greenhouse gas emissions, and climate change, especially with respect to ascribing sustainability to such activities as uranium mining and milling.


CO2 emissions are rising at twice the rate of the world average - and has risen by 14% as opposed to a fall of 2% in most other developed countries.   56% of their emissions are the result of "energy generation processes", which seems to include everything from nuclear to coal  and the delightfully-named "autogenerators".   (Those companies who generate their own needs and are self-sufficient.)

Development of uranium mines is expected to take place in the Northern Territories, where there is insufficient power and water for the processes.   Consequently, the mining company will have to build a massive desalination plant (with resultant increase in carbon footprint - but it is alright as it is not in the U.K.) and electricity generating plant.   Surprisingly, Australia does not have commercial nuclear power stations.   Wonder why not?

Firmware* Threat to Nuclear Processors

Remember the Stuxnet virus which was found in industrial control gear firmware manufactured by Siemens?   The virus was allegedly introduced into the manufacturing process via a simple USB memory stick.   That virus was aimed specifically at disprupting Iran's nuclear programme, as it was configured to damage motors used in uranium-enrichment centrifuges, causing them to spin out of control.   Not, of course, that there was ever any danger to civilians (!), even though Iran did actually admit that the virus had worked and the centrifuges had been sabotaged.   The complexity and style of the Stuxnet virus caused fingers to point at governmental involvement, with the United States, China, and others having a hand in it.

Things have now moved on, and the latest version, called Duqu, has now manifested itself.   We are not told what the purpose of the variant is, but it is believed to have been created either by those who manufactured Stuxnet, or people who have somehow acquired the source code for Stuxnet.

Interestingly, despite our concerns about the safety of control equipment in nuclear establishments, we have to note that there is nothing even in the latest report from Dr. Weightman relating to the vulnerability of nuclear processes to outside interference of this nature.   He is, of course, qhite happy to emphasise the safety of everything nuclear (except perhaps the legacy gunge in ponds at Sellafield) and its robustness to withstand events like tsunami and earthquakes - not of course that there is any idea of how they would cope if such admittedly unlikely events were to take place.   What we have not seen is any sort of assessment - office-bound or in the field - of what might happen should Stuxnet or similar software find its way into a U.K. nuclear plant.

Enrichment takes place at Capenhurst, on the Wirral, a mere 15 miles from centres like Liverpool, Birkenhead, Chester, and about 30 miles from Manchester.   Scary stuff.   Happily, for unannounced reasons, Siemens (Corruption is a Way of Life) have pulled out of manufacturing components for the nuclear industry.   However, we have to wonder at the preparedness of other companies who remain in the manufacturing chain.

France is allegedly up in arms over the death of a disabled French lady who was recently captured in Kenya and taken to Somalia.   Whilst in no way diminishing the gross nature of the crime, it is nevertheless a pity that they were not so concerned over the death of a photographer who was on board the Rainbow Warrior when the French chose to blow it up because it was being a bit of a nuisance to their exploits testing nuclear warheads on Moruroa back in 1985.

*  Firmware is the built-in software embedded in processor circuitry.   Although it can be overwritten, it is not volatile (i.e. it is not deleted by the removal of power) and is not really intended to be accessed by anyone other than for essential programme development and up-dating of the programme as design flaws come to light and better ways of dealing with operations come to light.   That, in this case, the ability to change software values via a standard USB port was left in situ is extremely surprising and suspicious.


Charles Hendry, the Energy Minister, managed to spout about the virtues of nuclear energy at the Tory Party conference.   Apparently he has been trawling round Middle Eastern countries (the only ones with a bit of pocket money left) and, as a result - no doubt of his marketing abilities - they are queuing up to spend their idle cash by investing in the U.K.'s nuclear industry.   Mr. Hendry, with all the panache and trustworthyness of a used-car salesman, tells us that it will be more difficult to find the capacity to build than to find the money.   In some respects that could be good news - at least Hendry, Huhne, et al, won't need to spend their time working out how to subsidise the projects without actually giving a subsidy.   The obverse of the coin is that experts such as Citigroup have already done the maths and demonstrated to the satisfaction of anyone with an open mind (which doesn't include our politicians) that "nuclear power development is uninvestable for public equity markets".   (In other words, it is too risky for a healthy, quick return, so put your money elesewhere.)

So far, the only company able to take on those risks is EDF - effectively the French government.   Given the massive profits being extracted following their acquisition in 2008 of British Energy, that is hardly surprising.   Yet even they continue to avoid giving timetables and making decisions.   According to Private Eye's "Old Sparky", in issue 1299, investment is easier for the Middle Eastern potentates to talk about politely - it avoids embarrassment;  parting them from their money rather more troublesome.

Elsewhere, the amazingly active Stop Hinkley campaign, with lots of influential members on board, is endeav

Article on Pacific Rim Cities Accelerated Baby Death Figures

Hospitals on the Pacific rim have experienced something of major significance in terms of the region's infant mortality rate. In spite of the fact that major media has sought to downplay the danger, the conclusion that Fukushima related radiation is the culprit is difficult to resist.
 The Center For Disease Control (CDC) produces a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), and the just-published edition show a baby death rate increase of 35% in eight north-western cities suspected of receiving increased radiation floating over from Japan's critically damaged nuclear plants.   The cities affected are as follows:
    Boise, ID
    Seattle, WA
    Portland, OR
    Santa Cruz, CA
    Sacramento, CA
    San Francisco, CA
    San Jose, CA
    Berkeley, CA
Any adjacent cities (such as GEO/Christian Media's home base in Southern Oregon along the Western I-5 corridor) are almost certainly also affected, but the report focused on larger population centers. The MMWR statement showed 37 dead babies in the 4 weeks ending March 19th, plus 125 deaths in the 10 week period ending May 28th of this year. The period covers the month before and the 2 1/2 months after the Fukushima disaster, and the numbers are very significant.
To put it into perspective, while infant death spiked 35% in the affected areas, the rest of the USA saw a 2.3% increase. In short, something in the Northwest is killing infants at a sharply higher rate in that same period. Dr Janette Sherman, a physician examining the data notes the statistic correlate with patterns seen in the wake of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Similar findings are also seen in wildlife death in affected areas.

At the children's cancer hospital in Minsk, Belarus, and at the Vilne hospital for radiological protection in the east of Ukraine, specialist doctors are in no doubt they are seeing highly unusual rates of cancers, mutations and blood diseases linked to the Chernobyl nuclear accident 24 years ago.

But proving that infant mortality hundreds of miles from the stricken nuclear plant has increased 20-30% in 20 years, or that the many young people suffering from genetic disorders, internal organ deformities and thyroid cancers are the victims of the world's greatest release of radioactivity, is impossible.

Still, that does not prevent the BBC airing the views of two scientists who can happily ignore the alternative (i.e. from an unauthorised source) evidence.   Happily ignoring the much larger numbers of serious chronic illnesses that have manifested themselves since Chernobyl, Professor Jim Al-Khalili in a conveniently scheduled programme gave what was ostensibly an independent overview of the nuclear situation post-Fukushima.   After visiting Japan, where everything was alright and the major problems were not associated with nuclear radiation but the psychological effects of the trauma, he moved on to Chernobyl.   Here he spoke to a Russian medical consultant who demonstrated that the after-effects of the accident were, actually, minimal.   Given the available evidence elsewhere, we have to wonder why this alternative material was not considered in a programme claiming to be independent, yet strangely adhering to the nuclear industry's own propaganda. A couple of weeks later, the BBC's "Bang Goes The Theory" television programme, screened at 1930 hrs., also debunked the myth of potential radiation damage to the environment and the population.   A doctor appearing on that show actually said that she thought there would be no damage emerging from Fukushima.   Strangely contrasting that, on the BBC's news pages, is an article about nearly 8% of children under the age of 16 living in the Fukushima area having thryoid problems.   Whilst the Japanese authorities will not be making the findings of the investigation public, affected children will receive treatment.   Well, if it isn't made public it cannot be proved to exist, we suppose.   Our objections to the bias shown in both programmes have been studiously ignored.   We probably have been labelled "Greenies", which, for some reason, renders our opinions invalid.   Besides if the government supply your income and your pension pot is at stake, it pays to humour them.

The UN's World Health Organisation and the International Atomic Energy Agency claim that only 56 people have died as a direct result of the radiation released at Chernobyl and that about 4,000 will die from it eventually.

Not Only In Cumbria
The 1,233 radioactive particles retrieved from the shores of the Irish Sea near Sellafield have a parallel in the Scottish Douneray site.   Many radioactive particles were discovered and eventually removed, but, as with Sellafield, a significant amount of pollution has merely been washed out to sea - either as a result of a deliberate policy to reduce stored contamination or as the result of an accident.   Once it has found its way into the oceans, it can be very difficult or impossible to locate and retrieve.   Hence the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency has recently admitted that very many particles will never be recovered, ensuring that the pollution will remain virtually for ever.   As the article says in a quote from Friends of the Earth:

"Once again, we see the nuclear industry causing a problem it can't solve, and dumping the cost and consequence on the rest of us," said the environmental group's chief executive, Stan Blackley.

"Nuclear power is neither safe, clean, cheap nor low-carbon and it continues to cause problems and cost the taxpayer a hidden and open-ended fortune. Let's learn from our past mistakes and consign it to a lead-lined dustbin."

As can be discerned from the rest of this website, this is our view exactly.   Once the genie of nuclear pollution is out of the bottle, it cannot be returned to it.


Sellafield MOX Plant to Close

The inevitable closure of the MOX plant at Sellafield was announced yesterday.   The number of job losses proposed ranges between 300 and 800, according to the source, with the company saying it would re-deploy as many as possible elsewhere on the sites.   The cost of the plant thus far is reckoned to be in the region of £1.4 billion, during which time it should have handled over 120 tonnes of fuel a year, but in fact only managed to do 13 tonnes in 8 years.   It was described as being "the biggest scientific white elephant of all time".   Presumably there will be equally horrendous cleaning up costs to included in the final reckoning.

MOX (Mixed OXide) was developed to utilise the surplus atomic weapons materials that were to be disposed of following the end of the cold war between America and Russia.   Both sides having agreed to dispose of the decommissioned warheads.   About one third of the American material (17 tonnes) was to be placed in landfill after treatment to "immobilise" it, whilst a further 34 tonnes was to be used for the MOX process.   The latter process involves mixing the surplus plutonium with uranium, enriching the latter, and then using it as a fuel in commercial reactors.   Except, there weren't really enough reactors to use the amount of fuel proposed to be produced, but on which, we assume the viability figures would have been founded.   In the U.K., the plutonium is derived from civilian sources.  We can find no mention of any military stockpile, but the amount is reported at 109 tonnes, with a further 28 tonnes from foreign sources.  

Only one contract was taken up for the use of the MOX fuel: by a Japanese generator, Chubu Electric at their Hamaoka plant, which was constructed over two geological fault lines.   Following the Fukushima catastrophy, President Kan has been averse to re-opening the Hamaoka plant, which is currently shut-down to facilitate structural strengthening.   It now seems unlikely that the Hamaoka reactors will ever re-open.

The Japanese plant was intending to take 50% of Sellafield's MOX output, so the closure of Hamaoka would mean that even if the actual production difficulties at Sellafield were ever to be resolved and it managed to  reach its target output, there would still be no chance of the plant becoming economically viable.

Of course, a problem now arises as to what to do with the plutonium which was to be converted into MOX fuel.   Japan has no use for it and the only plans for nuclear waste disposal in that country were to bury it - which may not be too sensible given the number of geological problems it suffers.   Transporting such dangerous material half-way round the world, risking terrorist and pirate attacks doesn't seem too sensible either, but the proposed new design of reactors will not use either plutonium or MOX fuels.

Supported by people like Lord Marland, a junior minister, l(who admits that the Sellafiled MOX plant is unift for purpose - to use the popular euphemism), local M.P. Jamie Reed's solution to the failing plant was to build a bigger and better one at Sellafield, but nuclear industry experts are reported to view such a move with "extreme scepticism".   The problems with the contracts has meant that in the last few months a great deal of the work was subcontracted to France.   Given the potential market for any new plant's output, the billions it would cost seem highly unlikely to be found by the cash-strapped government.   Should it be stored at Sellafield?

Balancing the Field?

According to the Times Business Section, 4/7/11, oil companies are being required to pay increasing amounts towards decommissioning costs.   The ConocoPhillips platform in the North Sea was put up for sale in January as it nears the end of its productive life.   The company's stake of 23.4% is said to be worth aroung £60 million.   Originally, the government promised to allow the cost of decommissioning to be offset against tax, but this is now seemingly unlikely to happen.

According to the Times article, a PriceWaterhouseCoopers spokesman stated that, "Companies are increasingly nervous that the government won't stand behind its decommissioning liabilities."

As well as being yet another example of the methods used to tilt the playing field in favour of nuclear, it also raises the issue of whether the decommissioning liabilities for nuclear have been fully considered and the proposed cap on liabilities for the companies choosing to go that route is properly representative of what the costs will be in 160 years' times.

Out of the U.K. Spotlight, but Troubles Continue for Japan
Dangerous radioactive strontium has been detected in seawater near the Fukushima-1 plant, at 240 times over the safe limit. Some 100,000 tons of contaminated water stored in the plant threatens to put out its drainage system in days. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which operates the Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant, has declared that strontinum-90 was detected near the water intakes outside reactors 2 and 3. The levels there were shown to be 170 and 240 times higher than the limit, correspondingly. The same strontium was found in groundwater near the reactors' buildings. Strontinum-90 was also detected in samples taken from inside an inlet near the facility. The level of strontium contamination there was 53 times higher than the safety standard. The inlet has been used exclusively by the plant.  All the water samples were taken back in mid-May. According to TEPCO, it takes up to three weeks to run full tests.  With a comparatively long half-life of 29 years, radioactive strontium can accumulate in the bones if inhaled, and poses a risk of cancer.  The rainy season is approaching and concerns have surged that the contaminated water in the Fukushima plant that has been accumulating may overflow. The drainage system is expected to overpass its capacity by June 20.  Still, TEPCO had to postpone the test-run of a new system to process highly radioactive water. The operator wants to conduct a test-run on Tuesday or later, which is more than four days behind schedule, Japanese news agency NHK reports. The test had to be delayed as water seepage from a pipe joint was discovered along with the failure of a pump to siphon water.   This delays the working launch of the system until June 17-18.  Over 100,000 tons of highly radioactive water is now stored in the plant. Some 500 tons of water add up every day due to the cooling systems of several reactors that leak. The water has also been coming due to the rains pouring in Fukushima-1 area. If the water overflows it may go straight into the Pacific Ocean.   Fukushima city may be included in evacuation zone.
Reporting from Fukushima city, which is 80km away from the Fukushima-1 nuclear plant, RT’s Sean Thomas says radiation levels are very high in the city as the contaminated particles are carried there by wind and rain. At some places the readings are 1,000 times over the dose safe for health. Moreover, readings may differ dramatically at objects standing just a meter away from each other: a house giving 30 times over the dose, while a building next to it surging to 500 times over the safety limit. Grass is one of the concerns of the local residents as it attracts and absorbs radiation. The maximum acceptable dose for the public from any manmade facility is 1,000 microsieverts per year as set by the IAEA. The lowest annual dose that can cause cancer is 12 microsieverts per hour. Scientists are working to try to clean up the radiation.  Authorities are looking into whether Fukushima city should be included in the evacuation area or whether people in at least some hotspots in the city should be evacuated. James Corbett, editor of the Corbett Report, says the effects of the people’s exposure to radiation, including the increase in cancer rates, are yet to show up.  “As we know from the BEIR VII report put up by the National Academy of Sciences back in 2005, there is no such thing as a safe level of radiation exposure, that any level of radiation exposure increases the risk of cancer,” Corbett says. “And however negligible that risk may be with any particular person on any particular day and any particular spot, when it’s averaged out over the large population like is living in the Fukushima region that unfortunately means there will be over time increasing cancer rates there. “It really is just a question of how many and at this point we obviously can’t say because now we don’t even know the extent of the scope of the radiation danger, but as that report reveals, it’s obviously much higher than it has been previously supposed,” he added.

Excessive levels of strontium detected in seawater

Radioactive strontium that exceeds the government-set safety level was detected for the first time in sea water in the inlet next to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, reported that strontinum-90, at a level 53 times higher than the safety standard was detected in samples taken from inside an inlet used exclusively by the nuclear plant, on May 16.

TEPCO also said that strontinum-90 was detected at a level 170 times higher than the standard in samples also taken on May 16, near the water intakes outside reactor number 2. At the reactor number 3 water intakes, the level was 240 times higher than the legal safety limit.

The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency says the result is not beyond their expectations because the substance was detected in an inlet used exclusively by the power plant. They say they will closely monitor the fish and shellfish in the affected area.

TEPCO announced that strontium-90 was also detected for the first time in ground water near the reactors' buildings.

A ground water sample taken on May 18, around reactor number 2, measured 6,300 becquerels per liter. And for reactor number one, the sample showed 22 becquerels.

TEPCO explained it usually takes about 3 weeks to analyze the samples.

With a comparatively long half-life of 29 years, radioactive strontium can accumulate in the bones if inhaled, and poses a risk of cancer.


Green and Peaceful Land - or How to Avoid the Freedom of Information Act

Greenpeace have been chasing documents from the various nuclear councils;  Copeland, Allerdale, and Cumbria.   Needless to say, some of the information they sought was the result of "informal unminuted meetings" and thus exempted from Freedom of Information Act disclosure.   No doubt most of the material will have been forgotten, too.   Another useful get-out-of-jail-free card.

Quite why there should be surprise about the content of the documents unearthed by Greenpeace, we do not know.   The behind-the-scenes machinations by the local politicians should surely have been expected?   The fact that Cumbria will merely be generating electricity for others, freeing the customers from worry about nuclear disasters, was a point we raised over two years ago at a DECC meeting in Manchester, where we observed that the criteria issued by DECC suggested that each area needed to be sulf-sufficient in generating capacity.   We asked how the proposed (at that time) development of up to nine reactors on the Cumbrian coast could be squared with that    It was obvious, we suggested, that the energy produced would be exported to the rest of the country, especially the industrial heartlands and the south.   We also pointed out that the distribution problems alone were incredibly expensive and fraught with dangers - to the environment and marine ecology.  Our observation antagonised a nuclear industry representative who kept glowering at us and asking how much influence "these beach people" should be permitted.   It is not possible on paper to give an idea of the scathing deprecation with which the question was posed.

Other aspects of the discovered documentation, too, were just as we would expect.   The method of distributing the generated power has been a moot point since we first started.   We pointed out that the Irish Sea sediments might be a bit too risky to disturb for the undersea cabling to connect to either Heysham or the Wirral where there are potential connection points to the national grid.   We have known since 1997 that the geology of the Sellafield area is too dodgy for the underground 25 sq. km. dump.

The conflict of interest in the NDA pushing for re-use of land it owns, by offering it for sale at a favourable rate has also been known for years.   The fact seems to be that most of the land available at Sellafield would require too much effort to convert into a generating station on the scale envisaged.   Small wonder it is the industry's least-favoured site, even if they could hitch it to a barge and tow it and its amenable/gullible (according to viewpoint) inhabitants to a more convenient place to have a generating platform.

There is a certain irony in the documents, which says that Cumbria is the right place for development, but it is in the wrong place.   After half a century of propaganda from the industry, it would seem the population around Sellafield now cannot see what the rest of the country can see.

MP Jamie Reed has devoted his life, it seems to us, to the furtherance of the nuclear industry, and the poison (as we see it) is now spreading wider and wider, infecting almost every aspect of West Cumbrian life.   Mr. Reed's favourite saying, when challenged about his unfailing support for the nuclear industry is that, "There is no Plan B".   We believe that even his own political party can see the dangers inherent in the situation where a single industry is so influential because of its monopoly position.   As an MP, surely Mr. Reed should be actively seeking a Plan B to lessen the area's dependency on just one industry?

The rôle of the West Lakes Renaissance group in promoting nuclear is, to us, highly suspicious.   They seem to have gone from a budget of a few thousand pounds to several million in just a short space of time.   Almost every pro-nuclear strategist in the area has some kind of input to it:  funny how the same names keep occuring over and over again, all spouting the same thing as if from some sort of catechism.   Where would they get it from, and why?

The Greenpeace press release says:

'The Councils, and others who initiated these meetings, seem to view West Cumbria and the Lake District as their private fiefdom to be offered up for nuclear waste dumping. Their blind pursuit of nuclear jobs will cost jobs and income in the tourism, food and drink and agricultural sectors dearly.

'These minutes expose the cynical machinations behind the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely stakeholder engagement programme. Claims about openly discussing nuclear waste disposal with the people of Cumbria are nothing more than a sham based on a hidden agenda. The discussions on disposal should now be halted. The Councils should not be allowed to take any further steps on this matter until there is full disclosure and examination of all the documents concerning new build and wastes from all parties involved. 'The documents also reveal the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) was heavily involved in the closed door meetings, yet it is not meant to actively promote nuclear power. The NDA will be the developer and operator of a national nuclear dump, but it role in these behind scenes meetings raises questions about conflict of interest.'

Source: and
How Clean is Clean?

Perhaps amusingly, the Keep Britain Tidy group last week announced the beaches worthy of the EU Blue Flag award.   They include Seascale and St. Bees.   Other Cumbrian coast beaches are not so lucky, and the politicians all say that efforts will have to be made to limit the amount of unprocessed effluent being pumped into the sea.   We have to wonder whether the Keep Britain Tidy group are qualified to assess the radioactive pollution present on most of the Cumbrian beaches and thus, probably, the sea, especially the areas close to Sellafield, such as St. Bees and Seascale.   What about those like Braystones?   Perhaps that is not deemed to be a bathing beach, which leads one to wonder where all the caravan- and bungalow-dwellers go for a swim.

What about the recent announcement, too, by the Environment Agency, that they will be switching to examining the sea bed for radioactive materials . . .. ?

 "By our actions we can either compound disasters or diminish them."  

Ban Ki-moon, 10/5/11

More from the "You Can Trust Us" department.

When built in late 1966, a component manufacturing defect at the Brown's Ferry, Alabama, plant meant that a valve in one of the reactor 's safety systems would not operate correctly, thus negating its benefit.   Under certain scenarios, this could have lead to core damage had an accident involving a series of unlikely events occurred.   Well, isn't this unlikely scenario just what happened at Three Mile Island?   Even more worrying is that the defective component was not noticed despite many checks over the decades it was installed.   The failed valve was only discovered following re-fueling operations last October.   Naturally, despite protestations that they have a safe plant, Brown's Ferry nuclear plant managers have been "cited", and will have to endure supervision for some time until the Nuclear Regulatory Commission are satisfied with its operations.

There have been a few incidents involving the Brown's Ferry plant, including a fire in 1975.   The whole site was closed down (scrammed) in April, 2011, when a tornado caused loss of external power.   The reactors closed down automatically as planned, with generators providing emergency power.

Making An Honourable Exit
It is nice to see that some nations still have honourable officials:  Japan's Foshis Kosako, nuclear advisor to the prime minister Naoto Kan, resigned.  In his resignation speech he accused the Japanese leadership of ignoring his advice on how to handle the nuclear crisis, particularly the setting of radiation limits for schools.

Kosako even alleged that the government had not fully complied with the law in its response to the nuclear disaster. “There is no point for me to be here,” he concluded.  


Read more:
Meanwhile, another article exposes the anti-nuclear feelings of the average Japanese citizen:

According to a report in the New York Times, of the 9/5/11, Masayoshi Son, the founder of Softbank and Japan’s richest man, said last month that he would donate about $12 million to start a research foundation for renewable energy. 
Continued reliance on atomic energy, he told a news conference, “would be a sin against our children, grandchildren and future generations.”
Sadly, in the U.K., it seems, politicians will do anything to oblige the nuclear lobby and have no respect for either their progeny or the environment.

Surry With a Tinge On Top

According to the Washington Post (18/4/11) and a brief bulletin on Sky News, a tornado caused an automatic shutdown of two reactors at the Surry Nuclear Plant in Virginia on 16/4/11.    The tornado also caused damage to an electrical substation adjacent to the plant, causing loss of external power to the plant.   Diesel generators provided emergency power to keep the plant safe.   Power has partially been restored to both plants now.

Although not mentioned elsewhere, there is also the cryptic statement that "radioactive material release is below federally approved limits and pose no threats to station workers or the public", issued by the Nulcear Regulatory Commission.

Whitehaven News Articles

Four different articles in the Whitehaven News have attracted our interest this week:

i)     The Environment Agency wants more resources put into a seabed survey and less on monitoring local beaches for traces of radioactivity.   The article quotes them as saying, "In times of finite money we are happy in principle to accept a reduction in the beach monitoring programme so long as there is investment in looking at the seabed."   So it is about Sellafield cutting their expenses then.   We have noted the potential problems of seabed pollution for the last two years.   The toxic materials which we named the website after, have been around since the beginning - about 50 years ago - and the effects have been noted by every authority, including the Manx and Irish governments over that period.   So why has it taken the Environment Agency so long to getting round to dealing with their concerns?   Also according to the article, Core claims that over half a ton of plutonium has been discharged into the Irish Sea over 50 years from Sellafield.   It reports, "Its return to shore by storm and tide actions is well documented," said Mr. Forwood.   "Once dried and re-suspended in air in particle form, plutonium can be inhaled, ingested or enter the body through open cuts and wounds."   The Whitehaven News report was by Alan Irving, Whitehaven News, 14/4/11, P.6

ii)    A group from Norway, members of an organisation called "Neptune Network", travelled to Sellafield and parked a small car on a public crossing of the coastal railway used by Sellafield to transport nuclear flasks to Workington and Barrow-in-Furness.   Obviously there was no real attempt to cause damage or put anyone at risk, it was just a token gesture which was soon resolved.   However, given the number of accidents around the country involving vehicles and railway crossings . . .

iii)  A legal challenge is to be mounted by Cumbria County Council, supported by Allerdale Council, as they do not believe that the current method of disposal of low-level waste reflects best practise.   The challenge is against the Environment Agency's decision to permit the waste to be buried in a conventional landfill site at the Lillyhall site.

iv)  The Whtehaven News also reports the loss of cooling water to Sellafield on the same day that an emergency exercise had been scheduled.   The exercise had to be called off.   Only a few people on Sellafield's "A-list" of stakeholders were told at the time.   The water, which is piped from Wastwater, 10 miles from Sellafield, is conveyed by pipework over 50 years old.   This is the third time in less than two years that there have been interruptions to the cooling water supply.

Points From An Esteemed Organ

A whole plethora of articles appeared in the U.K. press over the last week, almost all of them suggesting that the dangers and costs associated with new nuclear are too great.   Even Lord Ashdown felt the need to re-state the Lib-Dems' anti-nuclear stance.   There must be an election coming up.   We wonder how many votes the Lib-Dems gained as a result of their initial long-voiced anti-nuclear opinions.   Given the rapidity of the change in Mr. Huhne's own opinion, we have to wonder what the true policy is.  

Private Eye notes Mr. Huhne's propensity for U-turns over such things as the Alternative Voting system currently being mooted.

Old Sparky, in Private Eye 1286, points out the con-trick in the energy bill currently being debated.   Repeating the same old mantra - that there will be no government subsidies for new nuclear, the Eye points out that the wording of the Funded Decommissioning Programme allows for a cap on private liability.   Actually, we have had this on on this site for some time now, but it is good to see them catch up.   The premise being put forward is that the government, in the shape of the Energy Minister, can forecast the cost of decommissioning nuclear sites over a 160 year period.   Clever stuff.

A further explanation of the ex-Chief Scientific Officer's interest in promoting the new build nuclear programme is suggested:  Sir David King, is senior scientific adviser to the Swiss investment bank, UBS, which was brought in by the last government to "advise on a fresh round of nuclear construction" and whose clients include many of the big nuclear players.

Lord Hutton of Furness appeared on the Andrew Marr Show (not the most incisive of interviews) a few weeks ago.   Unsurprisingly, the peer supported nuclear, saying, "The industry has got to address the safety concerns, but there is simply no alternative in energy policy.   To say goodbye to nuclear is crushingly naiive".   Sadly, presumably due to time constraints, he didn't find the time to mention that he stepped down as Labout MP for Barrow-in-Furness a couple of years ago, after 17 years, to work for the New Mexico company, Hyperion Power Generation.   Their website state:  Hyperion Power Generation Inc. is a privately held company formed to commercialize a small modular nuclear reactor designed by Los Alamos National Laboratory (“LANL”) scientists leveraging forty years of technological advancement. The reactor, known as the Hyperion Power Module (“HPM”), designed to fill a previously unmet need for a transportable power source that is safe, clean, sustainable, and cost-efficient.    Sounds a bit like Sellafield in a wheelbarrow to us.
Japanese Reporter Visits Braystones

We were charmed to meet a reporter from a Japanese national newspaper last week.   Seemingly very interested in how the public coped with disasters, such as the nuclear leaks at Chernobyl, Calder Hall/Windscale/Sellafield, as well as the natural disasters around the world, we took her on a tour of the immediate area, and explained how we felt about the nuclear industry and the proposed expansion.   At Braystones we pointed out that a bucket of sand from the beach would be classed as nuclear waste if it were taken to London, and suggested that marine life and the environment had all suffered as a consequence, not just of the 1950's fire, but of the deliberate and calculated dumping of toxic material into the Irish Sea.

Her visit to the area included interviews with a local independent councillor, a local fisherman, and the local MP.   Interestingly, requests by the paper's head office for her to meet Sellafield management were refused by them.
Independent Articles Explain The White Elephant That is The Mox Plant

Two articles appeared in The Independent today explaining the reprocessing of plutonium into an asset - as perceived by our local MP and other intellectuals.   We recommend you read them and wonder at the alternatives that could be funded given the same scale of investment, or what other services could be maintained if we hadn't been saddled with the costs of nuclear mistakes.

A collated Acrobat version can be found here:  Independent Articles, 11/4/11
The True Likely Cost of Nuclear Waste Disposal and Size of the Subsidy (which won't be available, of course) Which Will Be Required

Anyone of a mathematical bent will be interested in this presentation from Jackson Consulting.   Nuclear Subsidy Presentation.   If we have understood it correctly, then by 2047, the UK tax payer will be looking at a subsidy requirement of £4.27 billion for decommissioning.   Not to be sneezed at!
Business Failing?   Just Make It Bigger and Waste Even More!   A Recommendation from ex-government chief scientist

British taxpayers should spend up to £3bn on a new facility for reprocessing nuclear waste at Sellafield, despite the site in Cumbria already having a similar plant which has cost nearly £2bn and is labelled one of the biggest industrial failures in British history.

This is the conclusion of a report by scientists which recommends a brand-new, plutonium-uranium mixed oxide (MOX) plant at Sellafield as part of Britain's nuclear "renaissance" to build a suite of nuclear power stations that could burn MOX fuel as well as conventional uranium.   [Does the generic type-approval design actually permit this?]

The current Sellafield MOX plant cost £440m to build and the nuclear industry has squandered a further £1.5bn of taxpayers' money in operating costs and upgrades. Designed to produce 120 tonnes of MOX fuel a year for export, it has only managed 15 tonnes over nearly a decade of sub-standard operation, which was labelled by one former government minister as a catastrophic and comprehensive failure.


Not sure we approve of wasting £5 billion on white elephants - are other colours any cheaper?   No doubt it is so dear because of the amount of fudge that comes with it.

[1mg of MOX is basically two million times more powerful than 1mg of uranium.   We have concerns about the minimisation of the importance of leaked radioactive material - concentrating on an 8-day half-life of some components, which will obviously not pose a long-term threat to health or the environment, although we do wonder what effects even such a short, sharp, exposure might have on future generations of marine- and wild-life.   However,
experts have not mentioned that the half-life of plutonium-239, one of the components of MOX, is around 24,000 years. If even a small amount of this seriously nasty substance escapes from the plant, say, in a smoke plume, the particles will travel with the wind and contaminate soil for tens of thousands of years.   MOX is often discounted as non-threatening, but, in fact, the threat posed by MOX is very serious.   An NIRS report explains that inhalation of MOX radioactive material is significantly more dangerous than inhalation of normal uranium radioactive particles.]
Friends in High Places

Quote from Private Eye 1285, 1/4/11,:  "Thanks to a policy of seconding private sector employees to Whitehall, the Department of Energy's current deputy director of nuclear strategy is also a director of Costain, one of the firms hoping to profit from Britain's plan to build a new generation of nuclear power plants."   Nice to see what DECC consider to be impartiality!   Could it be interesting when it gets to judicial review time?

Emergency - What Chance With a Nuclear Disaster?

Recently speaking about the role of the emergency services during a shooting escapade in which 12 people died, Cumbria's Chief Constable acknowledged that the current protocols were unworkable.   There were comments, too, about the inability of the emergency services' radio - the system being over-loaded and difficult to understand.   One has to wonder just what would happen if there was an unscheduled event at the Sellafield complex.   It is all well and good having accidents by arrangement, as with the much-hyped event in 2009 (even that didn't go very well according to newspaper reports) but faced with a real situation we have grave concerns as to whether Cumbria's emergency services could cope with an event such as the Fukushima one.

BBC Gives 2 minute advertising space to EdF's Chief Executive

For no apparent reason, the BBC managed to give Vincent de Rivaz a slot on the Andrew Marr Show to talk about why the U.K. needed to press ahead with nuclear development.   There was no preamble to the item indicating that degree of involvement of EdF and its sister company Areva, who would stand to lose an awful lot of money if the events in Japan were allowed to influence future nuclear development.   His statements that nuclear power was needed to fulfill our energy needs went unchallenged.    In a blatent display of bias, there was no-one around to counter anything he said.   What possible attraction can there be for politicians to this company?   Answers on a post-card, please.

See:  for a replay. The poor man had already been obliged to issue a statement explaining why his company's prices were so much lower in France than the UK.   Something to do with France having nuclear energy, apparently.   Quite where much of the electricity supplied to the South East of England via a piece of wire under the English Channel comes from is not explained.   As we note elsewhere, France is a net importer of energy and a considerable proportion of its populations are in what is called "energy poverty" these days.

On Question Time on Thursday, 17/3/11, the BBC also managed to give Kelvin McKenzie space to support nuclear whilst, in the process, getting almost every fact incorrect.   Baroness Warsi suggested that the industry would go ahead with subsidies, a point picked up by a Labour politician so dynamic we have forgotten his name.   Simon Hughes, Liberal Democrat, said that there would be no development of nuclear as the industry would need massive subsidies which would not be forthcoming.   Wish we could believe him.   However, he did point out that the industry received over £1 billion p. a. just to clean up the mess - effectively a subsidy.   No doubt the subterfuge of subsidies by another name will come to the fore when the budget is announced this week.

More hopefully in the Sunday Times this week there were several articles dismissing nuclear development, perhaps significant after the editorial last week suggesting that events in Japan should not deflect us from the current course.   One letter in response suggests that only 56 people died as a result of Chernobyl, when the on-the-ground figures suggest 60,000 in Russia, 140,000 in Belarus/Ukraine.   If the letter writer was informed enough to quite the World Health Organisation's figures, then surely he must have been aware of the more realistic ones?   Perhaps even knowing Greenpeace's figure of a third of a million.  
Stupid Statements Following Fukushima's Problems

It has been interesting to see the pro-nuclear lobbyists endeavouring to minimise the dangers stemming from the radiation leaks.   Statements such as, "Let's put this into perspective:  20,000 have died as a result of the tsunami and quake, how many have died as a result of Fukushima's problems?"   Surely they must know that some effects of exposure to radioactivity take many decades to manifest themselves and that the full extent of the leakage is, as yet, unknown.   We note in our questions that the World Health Organisation puts deaths due to Chernobyl at 65, while doctors and hospitals dealing with the relevant population know it is 60,000 in Russia and 140,000 in Ukraine/Belarus.   Greenpeace suggest that a total of a third of a million people will die in time.   Most people will accept that it is impossible to protect a population from natural effects, such as the quakes and tsunamis, but do not accept that the additional threat from an unnecessary technology whose management has shown scant regard for safety and the environment - whilst remaining protected by governments.   The Tokyo Power and Electric Company have broken the regulations 29 times in recent years.   Sadly, this pattern is repeated in almost every country which has nuclear power.   The U.K. has a similar appalling record.   Tony Benn, one of those responsible for the original deployment of civil nuclear power stations, has complained that he was misled and not told of many things which he, as minister, needed to know in order to make an informed decision.   In fact, he say, he was not even told about the Windscale fire as his staff "didn't want to bother him".   After he left office he eventually discovered that the civil nuclear industry was actually producing zirconium for use in the American nuclear weapons programme, apart from many other facts that were kept from him.   One has to wonder whether Mr. Huhne believes he has all the facts, or have some well-meaning (!) civil servants decided to omit some pertinent information?

Another statement - this time from experts - "the explosions are not nuclear explosions".   In as much as they are not atomic bombs, fair enough.   In practice, however, the end result will be fairly similar - as a result of an explosion, radioactive material will be released into the surrounding water-courses and atmosphere, affecting the entire environment, causing death, injury and pollution for many many years to come.

Then there is the "the UK is not on a tectonic plate".   Presumably they mean that we are not subject to eathquakes of the magnitude experienced in Japan.   The latter's nuclear plant problems stem from a failure of cooling water supply.   On at least two occasions in the last two years, the cooling water system at Sellafield has failed.   Needless to say, managers said that there was no risk at any time.   However, an earthquake centred on Eskdale - a mere 5 miles from Sellafield's pumping station at Wastwater - occurred.  Shortly after, another earthquake occurred within 60 miles of that original one.

As well as incidents noted throughout this site, including fires and leaks, here are a few more that have escaped from the secret society that is the nuclear industry:
2010 April Sellafield nuclear processing facility dumped five bags of radioactive waste in a landfill site after a faulty scanner passed them as safe.
2010 March Sizewell B shut down for seven months following a problem with the primary cooling circuit.   The Nuclear Installations Inspectorate says that it is likely that other pressurisers pose a risk too, but still allowed Sizewell B to restart.
2010 March Magnox, fined £250,000 for allowing radioactive leaks from a holding tank to exist for 14 years at Bradwell nuclear power station in Essex.
2007 January Cooling water from the spent fuel pond of Sizewell A leaked into the North Sea. This was only detected by accident.
2010 June Unfavourable report by nuclear inspectors reveals: problems identified in the report included failure to meet a 90 per cent target for retrieving sludge from a storage pond; a (minimal) leakage of water from a storage pond; a leakage of radioactively contaminated water; a loss of cooling water on January 22; failure to ensure the training of individuals and the closure of line three of a waste vitrification plant.

Sellafield has been awarded £1.5bn by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority for hazard reduction work.

Mr Huhne said: “We are very aware of the importance of energy to West Cumbria and very aware of Sellafield, in particular, to our national strategy. The expertise that is here, the professionalism, the dedication of so many people.”

We await with interest the probable backlash from the nuclear industry once all the Fukushima problems have been taken off the front pages.

Dissenting Scientific Opinions - Any Chance They Will Be Heard?

Even more evidence that the government seem set on pressing ahead with new nuclear - regardless of its merit - comes from the Union of Concerned Scientists:

We were particularly interested (and incensed) by the by fact that the subsidies outweigh the cost of the fuel produced!

The answer to how politicians can be so readily persuaded may be found in an explanation of "The System" in "Yes, Minister!":  the lobbyists have the ear of the civil servants, who in turn have the ear of the minister. Industry thus controls the politicians.   Of course, that amenability also pays dividends when politicians and civil servants have to seek alternative employment.

Where There's a Wheel There Must be a Subsidy

The current edition of Private Eye has an amusing article about EdF sponsoring the London Eye ferris wheel.   Referring to the dawn illumination of the wheel as a cynical example of cockeyed greenwash as a stunt, the article explained that EdF's PR people had announced that the idea was a "clarion call to Britons to take action against climate change and sign up to EdF's Team Green Britain".   The Eye translated this as, "a French energy company wasting energy in order to ask British people to save energy".   Still, it no doubt helped that EdF have friends in high places . . .   Just across the river, in fact!

Not to be confused as being any kind of subsidy, more than £400 million has been committed to expanding the national grid.   All part of a £5 billion scheme to assist the likes of RWE, EdF, etc.   The grid companies investing in growth are guaranteed a 6.25%  return on their investment.   Should the unthinkable happen and there are cost over-runs (surely unlikely!) they can get back 75% of those, too.   So, not only are the public to pay very much more for their power, but they will also have to fund its distribution, regardless of the rationality of the scheme being provided with access to the grid.

Yet Another Non-Subsidy Benefit to the Energy Industry - They Would Have Us Believe
According to a recently-released press article by Greenpeace, "Energy bills will rise because Government proposals will handover £3.43bn to nuclear generators for doing absolutely nothing different. The proposals to introduce a carbon floor price as part of the ongoing Electricity Market Reform (EMR) consultation could end up benefiting existing nuclear generators to the tune of £3.43bn between 2013 and 2026".   Interestingly, British Gas has just announced record profits - up 24% from last year.   With the current middle-east situation escalating, it might seem that a vast majority of the U.K.'s residents will soon be, like the French, in fuel poverty.   No wonder that EdF want bigger subsidies with less and less risk.   The full Greenpeace press release can be found here.
Mission Impossible

Source:  Daily Telegraph, 26th January, 2011
The Energy Committee said it was "sceptical" that Britain's target of switching on two nuclear power stations a year between 2020 and 2025 would be reached. The UK needs a huge number of new nuclear power stations to make up for the coal-fired stations being switched off over the next decade. However, the committee warned that the Coalition's new planning system did not appear to be capable of making sure the 12 new stations are located in the right places to be linked up to the electricity grid. "Hooking up this amount of nuclear and other generation to the national grid poses an unprecedented challenge," said Tim Yeo, its chairman. "Two plants a year is a very high target to reach. The [system] lacks any real framework for coordinating the process of siting and linking up the new power stations." The MPs' report also cast doubt on current plans to make sure there is a deep hole for disposing of radioactive waste within 110 years. It called on the Government to insist that there are sufficient interim ways of storing the material before allowing new plants to be built.
Original article.
More from the "You Can Trust Us" Department
Sellafield security 'failings' prompt major anti-terror review
Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Alleged security weaknesses at Sellafield have prompted an anti-terror review of nuclear plants and other sensitive installations, it was claimed today.

SellafieldSellafield Ltd has declined to respond to claims in The Times newspaper that lapses may have come to light during an exercise to simulate a terrorist attack.

Sellafield is protected around the clock by its own armed police, the Civil Nuclear Constabulary.
 A spokeswoman for Sellafield said: “Security arrangements are kept under constant review as part of a continuous process to ensure existing arrangements are robust and effective.   We do not comment on detail of operational security matters.”

The Times - which has not detailed the alleged weaknesses - says that HM Inspectorate of Constabulary is carrying out an assessment of security at nuclear installations, pipelines and oil refineries, but it says the focus is on Sellafield and its plutonium stocks. Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism command and MI5 are also said to be involved.

Sellafield has about 100 tonnes of the substance, which can be used to make nuclear bombs - 
believed to be the biggest in the world.   Most are in the product and residues store, which took five years to build and opened this year.   It contains more than 36,000 cubic metres of concrete, the same amount of steel as the Eiffel Tower and enough cable to stretch from London to Paris.

A review was ordered by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown in March. This involved Sellafield opening its gates to inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Authority to make sure stocks are properly secured.   Mr Brown said he had invited the inspection as part of British backing for US President Barack Obama’s general nuclear global plan.   One of the main aims was to “secure all fissile material around the world” amid concerns of terrorist risks.

Although ordered in March, the checks were not expected to take place until this autumn.   Security at Sellafield was stepped up after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York, but arrangements for safeguarding plutonium were criticised last year by an international group of scientists and non-proliferation experts.

The British Pugwash Group described the way plutonium was stored as “manifestly ludicrous”.

Future Waste Disposal Costs to be Capped at Around £1 billion
Although it must not be construed in any way as being a subsidy, the costs of future disposal of nuclear waste are expected to be capped at around £1 billion, with any surplus being paid for by the UK taxpayer, the government announced on Tuesday.   Interestingly, the current cost of decommissioning Sellafield is running at over £1.5 billion p.a., and that is still not enough to permit the original programme of decommissioning to be carried out!   So, to be able to forecast that in 160 years time £1 billion will be sufficient . . .    Even with the current low levels of inflation, that seems unlikely.   Any excess will be funded by the taxpayer, but will still not be a subsidy.

Needless to say, the energy companies - with the exception of RWE, who are greedily suggesting that they shouldn't have to pay at all - are delighted with the deal for which they have long lobbied.

Amusingly, one company has said that there may be a delay in a 2018 completion date;  admitting that, "Sometimes these things take a little longer and come in a bit more expensive than expected."   Except, that is just what we have been saying will happen.   Should it be unexpected by more experienced people than us?

We should, perhaps be rather more concerned about what is going to happen to the waste.   Not just the legacy waste from Sellafield and Douneray, but from all the other sites around the country, if they go ahead as planned.    With only the Longlands Farm site in prospect, is it likely that all the country's waste will end up being shipped around the UK before being shoved in a deep hole in Cumbria?   It certainly seems that way.  
Interesting that some materials from other sites, ultimately destined for Sellafield, is held up because of a shortage in flasks for its transport.

The Telegraph reported on the subject:


Wednesday, 17 November 2010

FOUR Thorp workers were detained in hospital over the weekend after a chemicals incident in the Sellafield plant.

The four Thorp workers said they felt unwell while working on a chemical pumping system and were kept in hospital for observation. The men have since returned home.

Thorp was still shut down at the time for routine maintenance, as part of which work was taking place to replace a stand-by pump in the chemical plants.

A Sellafield spokesman said: “This is a routine operation which has been undertaken on many occasions using the same methodology without complication.

[This is followed by the inevitable, mandatory clause:]

“There has been no release of radioactivity and extensive checks undertaken have confirmed that all plant parameters are normal. Any incident that compromises the health and safety of the workforce very seriously.”

The company said a full investigation is under way.

We have recently come across a few articles from the Scottish Herald which we were previously unaware of.   You may find them interesting.  We have compiled them into a single document:   Click here to view them.

For some sceptics, there has been ignorance of the Redfern Inquiriy's remit.   Click here to read Mr. Darling's words to the House.
Sellafield "Like BP's Texas City Before the Fire"

Tony Fountain, a former BP executive, describes working practices at Britain's largest nuclear site as similar to those at the US refinery that resulted in a catastrophic fire

There are similarities between the poor operating practices at the Texas City oil refinery that blew up in America and the troubled nuclear complex at Sellafield in Cumbria, the former BP executive brought in to shake up the government's nuclear clean-up operation has warned.

In his first interview as chief executive of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, Tony Fountain admitted there was still a long way to go before Europe's biggest atomic site was brought up to the highest possible standards, although he said progress had been made by a new private sector management team.   "The parallel to Texas City is apparent. I have talked a lot about it with senior executives," said Fountain. "If you look at Texas City, there were many kinds of practices, operating practices among them, where people had become habituated to a state of affairs that, if you stepped in from outside and took a look, was not appropriate for the nature of the activity.

"I think that is absolutely true of what happened at Sellafield… Legacy companies had a different set of priorities. There was clearly a set of practices that developed round those [untreated waste] silos that, if you stepped in there, did not have the right level of priority, did not have the right level of challenge, did not have the right level of spend – which is why it is where it is now and needs to be dealt with with the priority it is getting."

Fountain's organisation owns Sellafield and a deadly stockpile of 100 tonnes of plutonium but handed over day-to-day control of the Cumbrian site a little over a year ago to a private-sector organisation led by the American group URS Washington and Areva of France.

The nuclear complex has recently been fined by the courts for breaches of health and safety regulations while struggling with equipment failures at a time when it is sitting on top of a mountain of plutonium described by an academic group last year as " manifestly ludicrous."

Fountain had no direct involvement in BP's Texas City fire of 2005, which killed 15 workers, but said the lessons learned were applied throughout the oil refining business he presided over in Europe, Africa and Australia. Fountain said he had "kicked the tyres" at Sellafield and 18 other NDA sites and felt relatively confident he knew the scale of the task he has to tackle. When asked if he had been shocked by anything he saw, he said: "Shock is a strong word. But it would be right to say that the ponds and silos at Sellafield are attention-grabbing; striking in nature."
Fountain comes in to his new post at a difficult time. Not only does the government's new energy policy partly depend on the NDA being seen to be
safely handling Britain's old atomic sites, but the £2.8bn annual clean-up budget is under stress as ministers attempt to pare back public spending following the credit crunch.

Fountain said he knows that there is "extreme pressure on spending" as his organisation prepares for meetings in the next few weeks to cover the 2011-2014 public spending round, and acknowledged that the government's need to prioritise expenditure was a real and pressing one.

"We need to ensure our planning is closely related to the government's Public Value Programme, to create a set of options that would be implemented if we were required to make cuts in expenditure," he said. "Against this backdrop, my overall thrust is to focus on ensuring the whole estate improves its levels of efficiency and execution."

He said he had already seen a range of areas where the NDA's work regime could be tightened up to provide some of those savings.

Sellafield, the biggest site and the biggest hazard by far in the NDA portfolio, is the obvious place to start. The Cumbrian complex, home to the now-defunct Calder Hall atomic power station plus the Mixed Oxide (MOX) and Thorp nuclear-fuel recycling plants, consumes almost half of the total NDA budget and "you don't get 100p in the pound" there, Fountain said.

And he acknowledged that the government's desire to see a new generation of nuclear plants built in Britain will depend partly on public opinion being satisfied that the decommissioning of old stations is proceeding properly.

"The legacy must be dealt with in a confident way, with value for money and as efficiently and safely as possible," he said. "We must show we are 'taking away the empties' before we build the new one, as it were. I think this is critical and I know my owners [ministers] have the same philosophy. They want to see us do this task well, stick to our knitting, because they think the dimensions of it are important so the public has confidence in the future newbuild."

But Fountain also acknowledged that there could also be competition for supplies, and for skilled staff in an era when many have left the industry. "Clearly capabilities and skills are a common agenda. We need the right skills and capabilities… The newbuild programme needs the same things so we need to act cooperatively. There is no point in Peter robbing Paul."

And Fountain sees his role not just as improving Sellafield and related sites, but also improving his own company. "The NDA feels like a start-up company... It's done a lot of things, but like a lot of start-up companies as it develops it becomes a bit cluttered," he said. "It's got quite a complex set of processes [around] itself, or around those it employs to work for it, and we need to become a much more effective delivery organisation."
From the Quarterly Report of the HSE
On 24th July 2009, the licensee promptly notified NII of a seepage of a few litres of radioactive liquor from a corroded stored uranium hexafluoride legacy “Hex Tails” cylinder, held inside a storage building.  The Site Emergency Control Centre was appropriately manned for several hours, whilst the leak was promptly brought under control and sealed by the ‘on site’ Fire & Rescue team.  There was no escape of radioactivity from the building and no personnel were contaminated.   [Comment:  this is the standard response to any event.]  The volume (about three litres) and specific radioactivity of the acidic liquor, which had leaked from the ageing “Hex Tails” cylinder in a small localised area, breached the level defined within the Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999.  This resulted in the event being notifiable to the relevant Minister.   Timely notification was made concurrently by both HSE and the licensee.  The event was categorised as category ‘One’ on the International Nuclear Event (INES) scale. 

The site inspector initially visited the scene of the event on 31st July, where appropriate arrangements were seen to have been implemented and proportionate containment measures applied.  The site inspector later discussed the licensee’s response with the site management on a number of occasions and subsequently received timely updates from the licensee.  The licensee continues to conduct appropriate tests, to establish the integrity of this cylinder and to identify other “Hex Tails” cylinders, which may be at risk of similar corrosion and hence potential leakage.  The licensee’s preliminary investigation report has appropriately called for a review of the safety case for medium term “Hex Tails” storage, informed by the emerging findings of the ongoing investigation into this event.  This approach is endorsed by NII.  The site inspector continues to monitor the licensee’s response and ongoing investigation of this event, which has been acceptable thus far.    Full details can be found here.

From the Sunday Times, 14/3/10:
Ed Miliband's adverts banned for overstating climate change

Jonathan Leake, Environment Editor
TWO government advertisements that use nursery rhymes to warn people of the dangers of climate change have been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for exaggerating the potential harm.

The adverts, commissioned by Ed Miliband, the energy secretary, used the rhymes to suggest that Britain faces an inevitable increase in storms, floods and heat waves unless greenhouse gas emissions are brought under control.

The ASA has ruled that the claims made in the newspaper adverts were not supported by solid science and has told the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) that they should not be published again.

It has also referred a television commercial to the broadcast regulator, Ofcom, for potentially breaching a prohibition on political advertising.

The rulings will be an embarrassment for Miliband, who has tried to portray his policies as firmly science-based. He had commissioned two posters, four press advertisements and a short film for television and cinema, which started appearing in October last year in the run-up to the Copenhagen climate talks.
They attracted 939 complaints — more than the ASA received for any advertisement last year. The deluge posed problems for the ASA, which is not a scientific body, so it decided to compare the text of Miliband’s adverts with the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Based on that comparison, it ruled that two of the DECC’s adverts had broken the advertising code on three counts: substantiation, truthfulness and environmental claims.

Of the two banned adverts, one depicted three men floating in a bathtub over a flooded British landscape, and the text read: “Rub a dub dub, three men in a tub — a necessary course of action due to flash 
flooding caused by climate change.  ”It then explained: “Climate change is happening. Temperature and sea levels are rising. Extreme weather events such as storms, floods and heat waves will become more frequent and intense. If we carry on at this rate, life in 25 years could be very different.”

The second showed two children peering into a stone well amid an arid, post-climate-change landscape. It read: “Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. There was none as extreme weather due to climate change had caused a drought.”

It then added: “Extreme weather conditions such as flooding, heat waves and storms will become more frequent and intense.”
It was these additional claims, rather than the nursery rhymes or illustrations, that fell foul of the ASA, which ruled it was not scientifically possible to make such definitive statements about Britain’s future climate.

The ASA said: “All statements about future climate were based on modelled predictions, which the IPCC report itself stated still involved uncertainties in the magnitude and timing, as well as regional details, of predicted climate change.” It added that both predictions should have been phrased more tentatively.

The ASA did, however, reject other complaints, including one suggesting the DECC adverts were misleading because they presented human-induced climate change as a fact.

Miliband said: “On the one issue where the ASA did not find in our favour, around one word in our print advertising, the science tells us that it is more than 90% likely that there will be more extreme weather events if we don’t act.”

Greg Barker, shadow minister for climate change, said: “It is so unnecessary to exaggerate the risks of global warming, and also counterproductive.”


Up-date:  9/3/2010

Amazingly (leastways, to us) is the oft-repeated statement that no-one has ever died as a result of working in the nuclear industry.   We know from past records of the 1950s and early 60s that death certificates did actually link some deaths with working with radioactive materials and consequence exposure to that.   When things got a little uncomfortable for the industry the root cause was usually ignored, and the specfic cause entered on the record.  

Having come across a reiteration of the statement recently in correspondence in a local paper, we asked Lord Hunt, Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, just how many people had died or been made ill as a result of working in the industry.   He has (after only two month's delay) now told us that since 1982 [when the compensation scheme started] there have been 124 successful claims.   He adds that it is not possible to ascertain, either medically or technically why a cancer is caused.   We have to note that these 124 people must have been employed by the industry in order to benefit from the scheme.   The question remains, therefore, how many other unfortunates have suffered as a result of the pollution but are nonetheless excluded from the scheme!

Watching the Inquiry into the future of the nuclear industry in the north west, we have to wonder how Phil Woolas, M.P. , can justify his repeated assertion that the Cumbrian public are overwhelmingly in favour of future developments.   Not judging from the meetings we've been to, they aren't.   A FOI request for the evidence has been submitted.

Mr. Woolas also has problems with the number of people who will find employment as a a result of any proposed expansion.   Shady deals have already been done between the government and EdF, with much bargaining and jockeying for position.   We are sure that there is no connection between the perceived favourable treatment of EdF and the fact that it employs ministers and their relatives.   However, apparently the government has achieved success in that EdF has now agreed that 50% of the permanent workforce will be from this country.   (A bit of a hazy concept?)   Of that 50% a further 50% (i.e. 25% of the whole) will be Cumbrians.   Figures given by Woolas were 5,000 construction workers and 600 - 1,000 operators.   Somewhat of a discrepancy between that and the 100,000 talked about by a local MP.   Mind you, that one had a financial interest, having just allocated many millions of pounds of taxpayers money in a contract just before joining the company he was responsible for handing the contract to.   Apparently the government have been debating how much the can chip in to assist these foreign companies to develop their unwanted nuclear power stations in remote areas.   Strange when the planning guidance has always made the developer liable for any infrastructure improvements required as a result of their proposals.

Healthcare in west Cumbria might be a little behind the requirements in the event of nuclear development.   Being linked to the population levels, there will need to be an influx of people before the funding reaches a sufficiently high level for an increase in healthcare funding.   This may be as much as three or four years at best.   On the positive side, once the construction work has been done (don't be ill during this phase!) and the builders have moved on, waiting lists should come tumbling down.

Residents can be reassured that Mr. Woolas has a firm grip on what infra-structure changes will be required to enable the proposed nuclear new-build in the north-west:  better broadband connections and improvements to the A599, according to his evidence to the inquiry.   They are going to need very broad broadband to get cement mixers on-site down these country lanes!   - Oh and the high-speed railway line will help things along.   Except that it won't serve Cumbria at all, other than as a blur on the landscape.   High-speed trains don't stop any more than is absolutely necessary for revenue purposes.   So it will be Glasgow to Manchester or Crewe, and then on to London.   However, that is all academic now, as Lord Adonis announced the high speed railway line will be built between London and Birmingham.   This will save a whopping 15 minutes on the journey and destroy a fair bit of the Chilterns, but what the heck.   It is a start.   Or rather, it will be, once the crossrail link had been completed.

We note below some recent French mishaps and, elsewhere, the long catalogue of "incidents" at Sellafield.   Just to prove that these are not isolated events, we would point to the fire at Hinkley B Power Station, near Bridgewater, Somerset on 25th November, 2009:

Nuclear reactor fire probed

Engineers are investigating a fire which shut down a nuclear power station.
The active reactor at Dungeness B in Kent, was taken offline after the blaze broke out in a boiler annexe on Monday night.   Operator British Energy said there was no risk to the public and there was no release of radioactive material as a result of the fire.   Experts were on site trying to find out what happened. A British Energy spokeswoman said: "They are looking at the cause of the fire and will be bringing the reactor back online as soon as possible."   All 52 staff on site were accounted for after the fire and there were no casualties.

Other Notes:
The Times 22 Dec 08 - Npower fined £1.8M for mis-selling gas and electricity to domestic customers.  Npower agents lied to customers by telling them that they worked for 'the electricity board', and by inducing customers to sign legally binding contracts by claiming that they were non-binding.
The Times 14 Dec 08 - RWE Npower seeks to pull out of investments in windfarms, including the one at Gwint y Mor in Wales, and the 'London array' in the Thames estuary.
Nov 08 - RWE Npower and EDF are setting up a joint company called Horizon Nuclear Power, for the joint exploitation by the two companies of the sites at Oldbury in Gloucestershire and Wylfa in Wales for new nuclear power stations.
Westinghouse reactors are only 33% efficient, which means that nearly 60% of the heat generated gets dumped in the sea.    Multiply that by the number of reactors feeding into the area and wonder what effect it will have on the various currents which affect our shores!

Nuclear Energy

Design Faults

Private Eye, 1248, 30th October to 12th November, 2009
One of the two nuclear reactor designs being proposed for Britain's atomic renaissance is already in trouble with safety inspectors in the United States.

The UK's Nuclear Installations Inspectorate is working on generic approvals for two reactor designs in an effort to speed up the country's nuclear "new build".   Once the generic approvals are made, compaines are free to build either design without further safety checks.   But last month the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission cast a shadow over one of the designs by questionning the safety of the Westinghouse AP1000.

US regulators rejected Westinghouse's design of the AP 1000's shield, which protects the nuclear reactor from severe weather and provides a radiation barrier during normal operations.   Plans for new nuclear plants are more advanced in the US than in the UK, and power firms there have already asked for licences to build 12 AP 1000s across the southern states.
Meanwhile the other reactor under consideration for the UK, Areva's "European Pressurised Reactor", or EPR, is currently being built in Finland and France.   In both countries the EPR is already running over budget and late because of quality issues concerning the reactor structure.   Thus it is that both reactors lined up for Britain have problems.   Any difficulty can be overcome by extra spending, but this makes promises that Britain will build a new generation of nuclear power stations without public subsidy look less convincing.

Government can of course introduce disguised subsidies by manipulating the "carbon tax" or by taking on more public liability for cleaning up after the power stations close.   Helpfully, the nuclear industry has direct routes into Number 10 to press its case.   The generic safety case for Areva's EPR was jointly published with its partner, French power firm EDF, with one Andrew Brown acting as chief contact.   Andrew is, of course, Gordon's brother, who when not promoting nuclear reactors arranges the cleaning of the prime minister's flat.

Nuclear Expansion
 HSE Spells Trouble
Private Eye, 1249, 13th November to 26th November, 2009
Energy secretary Ed Miliband seems more determined than ever to push through a raft of new nuclear power stations - even though the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has, like its US equivalent, now raised serious concerns about the Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear reactor (See last Eye.)

The AP1000 is supposedly one of the two destined to fuel Britain's nuclear renaissance.   The HSE's questions about the reactor, which come after the American Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the design was not secure enough, are raised in the HSE's latest "Generic Design Assessment(GDA)" progress report.   In order to speed things up, the HSE and Environment Agency are trying to approve "generic" designs for two reactors in advance so power companies can start building them without having to get each power station approved individually.   But parts of the report, spotted by Building magazine, show that Westinghouse is not helping.

The HSE flashed up various "red indicators", including inspector's worries about Westinghouse's approach to civil engineering, saying:  "Progress remains slow in providing adequate responses to our questions on design codes and standards.   We have not seen evidence that the civil structure design conforms to the kind of design standards we would expect to be applied to new nuclear construction."

The inspectors wanted details of new pressure valves but "to date, Westinghouse have shown little
 progress in addressing our concerns, and we consider that there is a significant risk that Westinghouse have underestimated the depth of the issue and the resources and effort that are needed."

The inpectors also wanted details of how the AP1000 would stand up to "external hazards", such as floods,, extreme weather or plane crashes, as well as infomration on "human factors" that might cause safety problems.   The promised detail is yet to materialise.

A company spokesman told Private Eye:  "Westinghouse recognises each of these areas as important to the successful GDA licensing action and has committed resources to the timely resolution of these issues."

The AP1000 is likely to be the choice reactor for RWE / Eon for their proposed UK nuclear stations.   EDF has chosen Areva's EPR reactor, which has its own contruction problems in France and Finland.

The HSE also has worries about the EPR.

The fact that both reactors planned for Britain are in technical difficulty means costs are likely to rise, making the need for a government subsidy even stronger.

It Cannot Happen
(Just a spot of déjà vu)
PARIS, Sept 25 (Reuters) - EDF (EDF.PA) has turned off the 1,300-megawatt Paluel power reactor 3 after fire broke out in the machine room in the non-nuclear part of the plant, it said on Friday.
The fire was put out and there were no casualties, it said.

"This had no impact on the plant's safety," an EDF spokeswoman said, but could not say when the reactor would restart.   (Sounds like Windscale in the 50s!)

PARIS, Nov 2 (Reuters) - EDF (EDF.PA) cut the production capacity of its reactor 2 at the Belleville plant in Central France to 60 percent after a fire broke out on Sunday in a non-nuclear part of the installation, the firm said on Monday.   "Smoke erruped at 1215 (1015 GMT) from the non-nuclear part of the plant," EDF said on the plant's information line.

"The fire was extinguished immediately," EDF said.


PARIS, Nov 3 (Reuters) - A new generation of French nuclear power reactors came under attack on Tuesday as opposition parties called for an inquiry into their security systems, after three nuclear safety bodies asked for changes to their design.

In a rare joint statement, nuclear safety bodies in France, Britain and Finland on Monday ordered France's Areva (CEPFi.PA) and EDF (EDF.PA) to modify the safety features on its European Pressurised Reactors (EPR) due to insufficient independence between the day-to-day systems and the emergency systems.

Opponents to nuclear power latched on to the news, with France's opposition socialist party calling for a parliamentary inquiry.

CAP21, a political party founded by Corrine Lepage, a former environment minister, also said more investment should be made in renewable energy rather than nuclear.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has championed nuclear power, both at home and abroad, where he hopes French companies will benefit from a global drive to find ways of generating electricity that produce less CO2 emissions and are independent of oil price fluctuations.

The design problems come as a blow to Areva, which has staked its export growth on the EPR and is hoping that it will beat out American rival Westinghouse, owned by Japan's Toshiba (6502.T), to become the standard-bearer for a new generation of nuclear plants.

Pierre Boucheny head of French research at financial service company Kepler capital markets told Reuters Areva's financial visibility was obscured by unexpected hitches and delays in the construction of the firm's first EPR in Finland.

"This problem (over safety) might cause a delay of a few months, maybe more, but it's hard to say what it will cost," he said.

Non-voting shares in Areva closed 3.9 percent lower at 8.75 euros.

Areva said on Monday it was in talks to modify the design of the EPR plants before the end of the year and insisted the safety of the EPR plants was not in question.

EDF, which operates all of France's 19 nuclear power plants, said on Tuesday it had been asked to conduct a closer study of secondary systems at its Flamanville EPR reactor and would respond by year-end.
Areva has started building two EPRs in China's Guangdong province and in January Sarkozy gave approval for the construction of a second EPR plant in France.

Areva has also joined forces with Total (TOTF.PA) and GDF Suez (GSZ.PA) in a consortium to bid build at least four nuclear power reactors in the United Arab Emirates

Britain also is mulling whether to relaunch its nuclear energy programme with modern plants and the Italian government has signalled that it intends to build four new nuclear plants.

The pressing need for more nuclear waste storage

The low-level nuclear waste depository at Drigg in Cumbria could be full in 20 years, one reason the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is looking to 'refine' its strategy

Terry Macalister, Monday 19 October 2009

A tiny sign outside the picturesque Cumbrian village of Drigg points the way to "LLWR". There is nothing to indicate this is the road to Britain's main nuclear waste dump.

Barely a mile away lie 10,000 large, red steel containers – many in an open trench – that contain the low-level waste legacy of an industry that was established during the Cold War but is now set for expansion in the fight against climate change.

The sense of unreality is compounded by the cigar-toting figure of Dick Raaz. The 63-year-old American is the boss at the Low-Level Waste Repository (LLWR) and a man on a mission. He aims to ensure only the most toxic of Britain's low-level waste is housed at Drigg, so that it does not fill up by 2030 – as it is threatening to do.   [So the government will have to persuade the relevant "experts" to say the site is suitable, regardless of the true situation.]

"This is a robust disposal design. It's clearly overkill when you are dealing with waste which is at the bottom end of the spectrum (of toxicity)," he says during a whirlwind minibus tour of the 98-hectare (245 acre) site, which he describes as "a ride around the ranch".

Raaz is supported by the government and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), which is trying to open up a network of landfill or other sites for the disposal of rubble, earth or other very low-level radioactive materials.

He recognises that the orderly management of this waste facility – he hates the word "dump" [a rose by any other name . . .   no matter what it is called, it is still a DUMP!] – is vital if the public is to have faith in the wider nuclear industry and allow it to build a new generation of plants. He acknowledges that the sector has been bedevilled in the past by accusations of secrecy and inefficiency.   [He could have added, "dishonesty" and "total lack of respect for the environment and innocent lives".]

Raaz estimates it would cost up to £2bn to build another Drigg and accepts that getting planning permission for such a facility could be very hard. In the meantime, the former nuclear submarine commander wants to find ways of cutting costs at his facility, which is just a few miles away from the massive Sellafield complex from where much of the waste originates.

One proposal he has made to the regulators is to do away with the traditional procedure of placing the waste in various protective membranes, putting it in one of the 10,000 containers, which cost £10,000 each, then covering it in earth and concrete. "We think it's wasteful," says Raaz.

The managing director of LLWR, itself a consortium of American, Swedish and French companies, accepts that whether he is successful partly depends on dispelling some of the myths that have grown up around what exactly is contained at Drigg.

He describes suggestions that the site is home to Chernobyl waste, for instance, as an "extreme falsehood" that never made any sense, pointing out that much of the waste is contaminated clothing [pity the poor wearer!], wood and paper.   [Where, then, did the material alleged to have been contaminated by the Chernobyl fallout end up?]

He admits not all of the records on the containers' contents are as detailed as he would wish. [How convenient!   How can anyone prove that only low-level material is here - or even the contrary!] Advertisements placed in the local paper for former staff to come forward with information alarmed environmentalists. Raaz says the exercise brought some helpful responses.

The site head says much of his job has been about building closer links with the community around the site – he lives nearby – and being open and transparent in its operations. This warmth does not extend to the media, however, with requests to check all quotes and an official from the NDA sitting in on interviews.

The NDA last month completed a 14-week consultation [with whom?] on how to deal with low-level waste and is now working to "refine" its strategy. Insiders confirm that the policy is almost certain to switch to putting more waste in landfill and other sites not used in the past.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change says the use of landfill does not represent a major shift as it has been available for use for less toxic waste since 2007, although this is usually radioactive materials from the oil and gas industry or hospitals [not to mention the odd JCB or so and similar plant].The corporate sector is already convinced that an official policy for the wider use of landfill is on its way. Leading waste management firms such as the French-owned Sita group and the American company, EnergySolutions, are trying to press ahead with plans to use Cumbrian facilities at Keekle Head and Lillyhall for dealing with nuclear waste from Sellafield and elsewhere. A British firm, Augean, is trying to do the same near Peterborough [see below].

Around 90% of the UK's nuclear waste by volume is low-level, but the government also needs to deal with the much more dangerous high-level waste.

This is being held at Sellafield itself or at the different nuclear power plants around the country, pending a final decision about what to do with it.

In 2007, the government committee on radioactive waste management recommended the use of a deep geological repository. Finland and Sweden have built vaults deep below the ground where the high-level waste can be stored for the thousands of years it needs to become harmless.

In the UK, the government has so far called for expressions of interest from areas willing to consider housing such an underground repository, subject to geological surveys proving it viable.

Two local councils in west Cumbria – site of the vast Sellafield complex – have stepped forward.   [Just how many ex-Sellafield employees were involved in the councils and various quangos to ensure a satisfactory result for the nuclear industry?] But Fergus McMorrow, the chief executive of Copeland borough, said the whole process was at a "very early stage" and there could be no certainty about what people in the area would decide.

The energy department is known to be increasingly concerned at the slow progress with its need to find a long-term solution to high-level waste. The next generation of nuclear reactors it hopes to see built will generate more highly radioactive waste. The department wrote on 1 October to all local authorities in England "offering to give presentations to interested parties".

There was relatively little interest even on the Cumbrian coast – despite high unemployment and considerable social deprivation, and despite the awareness that public money at Sellafield and the nuclear submarine plant at Barrow-in-Furness keep the regional economy afloat.

In Whitehaven, outside the struggling Pizza Piazza and next to the peeling paint of the closed-down Adrenaline tattoo parlour, Mrs Burns says no one wants atomic waste dumps in the area but you have to be realistic: "Do-gooders want to shut down nuclear, but without Sellafield we would all be crippled."


That final statement in the article above is, sadly, typical of what people in the area have been deceived into thinking is the truth.   It is so entrenched it is difficult to persuade anyone that the finances are nothing but a big conjuring trick.   If even a small percentage of the money invested in polluting Cumbria had been invested in more sustainable and less injurious industries, Sellafield and all its consequences would never have been needed in the area.   Anyone who doubts it might consider how Windermere, Ambleside and the other major tourist centres became and remain so successful.   These places are permanently packed with tourists.   A few new roads and suitable investments, better rail links (perhaps even including trains on Sundays?) and the whole of the Cumbrian coast could have become self-sufficient.  Instead, the head of tourism has written off the area, (thereby keeping his nose clean with the Great and Good,) preferring instead to concentrate on the already over-populated hotspots.   So now the coastal area is almost entirely dependent on Sellafield.   The answer may not be to further develop Sellafield but to close it down altogether.   Further development of the nuclear facilities will merely result in even greater dependency;  this, together with the permanent pollution which will then ensue, will kill off any possible green solution to the economic future.

King's Cliffe Resource Management Facility
Because the Low Level Waste Repository at Drigg is now getting rather full, the authorities are threshing about trying to find somewhere else to off-load their toxic waste.   Although they might have thought they had found a suitable site at King's Cliffe, a former landfill site near Peterborough, it seems that the path may not be too easy.   There is a strong consensus that the site should not be used for nuclear dumping.   Its owners, Augean plc, have not been supported by the local district council, and public protest is growing encouraged by a local group, Waste Watchers.

We note from the Environment Agency's site that in 2007, the Corby magistrates fined eight different operators for attempting to illegally dump inappropriate waste at the site.   The site is lined to prevent materials leaching into the soil, but some of the chemicals being brought to the site by operators such as Biffa and Veolia could well have eaten the lining and caused considerable environmental damage to ensue.

In the hopefully unlikely event that permission is ever given to dump nuclear waste at this site, one might care to bear in mind that the material has to be delivered from its source.   One has to wonder at the security and safety of such transports.
We note with some disillusion and sadness that the environmental group, Greenpeace, has, for the first time ever, omitted nuclear opposition from its current manifesto.   Given the emerging developments being proposed around the country, we find this very disturbing, especially given their extreme anti-nuclear views of the past, as noted on our home page.

We look forward to some clarification of the matter in due course, but on face value would suggest that this is a disappointing volte face.
More Pro-Nuclear Outbursts
According to the Sunday Times, 4/10/09, Professor David MacKay is a newly-appointed chief scientific advisor to the government.

The report goes on to say that Professor MacKay believes nuclear power could be the only way Britain can meet its soaring demand for electricity while keeping emissions under control


Later in the week, speaking on Newsnight on  BBC 2 television on Friday, 9th October, the minister for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (mercifully shortened to DECC), Mr. Ed. Miliband, stated that there was no alternative to nuclear development.   He repeatedly said that "nuclear has to be part of the energy mix".   Presumably government -speak for future power supply.

Strangely, this is the man who has to keep an open mind before announcing a Considered Opinion several months in the future.   No element of bias or pre-judgement then?   Happily, several academics are reported to be seeking a judicial review, in order to prevent him from making the decision because of his ill-considered remarks prejudicing the outcome.
It is worth watching again as Kirsty Wark treats Miliband like the immature juvenile fibber his statements reveal him to be but, sadly, the clip has now been removed from the BBC i-Player,

In a few seconds Kirsty Wark demonstrated that for over 12 years there had been nothing substantive in the way of energy policy - let alone decisions made to resolve the problem of energy security and reduction of pollution.   Quoting the various papers (such as the two most recent ones:  the 2006 Energy White Paper, and the 2008 Nuclear White Paper) and the fact that at the inauguration of the 1997 Labour government there had been an anti-nuclear policy.   She showed that various attempts had been made to persuade the government to formulate a policy, but nothing had actually been decided in that whole 12 year period, despite the problems having been known from the outset.

The listing of facts stunned Mr. Miliband, and Ms. Wark then turned her back on him, in what seemed to be a demonstration of her disdain, leaving Mr. Miliband with his mouth open.

Sadly, Mr. Greg Clark, the shadow energy minister didn't come across all that well, either.   The best he could do was promise that the £200 billion  needed to sort out the problem would be forthcoming - without actually stipulating how or what that investment might achieve.


Professor MacKay is whistling in the wind if he thinks it is possible to build the number of reactors he suggests in time to do anything to save the climate. The government of Ontario was recently quoted almost £14 billion for two reactors.

Ben Ayliffe
Greenpeace UK

The UK Atomic Energy Authority Sells-off its Commercial Arm
Business Secretary Peter Mandelson, said:

“Today’s announcement is good news for UKAEA Limited and its employees.  The sale will allow the company, as part of Babcock International, to continue its development and take advantage of new opportunities in the nuclear industry. It also generates good value for the tax payer.”

Actually, taken at face value, a sale price of £50 million for the assets of this company seems to somewhat of a bargain for Babcock Engineering.   According to some sources, there is £12 million in the company already, and it made £32 million profit in the year ending April, 2009.   On that basis, it might seem simple to work out that the net cost to Babcock in a year's time (assuming that the profit margin does not increase, and at least remains level) will have been just £6 million.   Is that really such a good deal for the taxpayer?   Why is it that we find it difficult to believe anything Mr. Mandleson tells us?

The chief executive of the UKAEA is Lady Barbara Judge - a favourite in the august journal "Private Eye", which makes frequent reference to the number of directorships the good lady has.   It is listed as being "not less than 30".   This might seem a touch excessive, and certainly does not comply with recommendations.   Disregarding the wisdom of such intense work - some of which requires considerable travel - how much time can she actually spend doing the work to the level required to maximise the benefit to the various companies?   Or is that not what she is paid for?   As well as the directorships, the good lady is also available for hire as an after-dinner speaker.   Contact / for details of availability and cost.
The following article is from:

As the Spectator reports, "when she (Lady Judge) came over here in 1993, more than 20 per cent of our energy was delivered by nuclear power. But if we keep decommissioning, then by 2020 just 2 per cent of our power will be delivered by nuclear. And no one's told me that we will need 18 per cent less power by then."

The report goes on to cite Britain's recent history in the Nuclear industry, "in 2006, British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) sold its two most valuable divisions, BNFL USA and Westinghouse Electric UK, for $5.4 billion. At the time, BNFL was widely considered to have pulled off a coup by ridding itself of twin burdens. Toshiba, the buyer, was accused of overpaying for outdated technology. New reactors are being built in 11 countries, including Russia, China and Abu Dhabi, with up to 70 more to  come by 2025 in the likes of Italy and Jordan. Some of these projects would undoubtedly have involved BNFL, notably those in Jordan and Abu Dhabi, where Britain has strong links. Instead they will be built by one or more of Canada's

CANDU, Toshiba's Westinghouse, a Russo-German alliance involving Rosatom and Siemens, and state-controlled Areva of France - for which President Sarkozy acts as de facto head of sales."

In her position as head of the UK's Atomic Energy Authority, Lady Judge states plainly, "we in Britain should be leading the nuclear power industry, because we have such a glorious past. When I was young, the smartest graduates would want to become nuclear engineers or physicists. Now, the dream is to do an engineering undergrad, then an MBA, then to get shipped off to a bank to become an energy analyst."

When asked about her role and the role of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, Judge is quick to point out that "we can help with safety, site selection, construction services, maintenance - and prove that we are the most competent people to plan and build a project anywhere."

Obviously fast learners from the NDA buy-them-off approach, we offer the following quote from a flyer for the Nuclear Institute's formal dinner:  "The NI Cumbria Branch would like to extend our particular thanks to NSG Ltd.  and Doosan Babcock Energy Ltd. who have secured the 2 main sponsor packages. "
Source:  Nuclear Institute flyer

Lady Barbara Judge became a director of the UK Atomic Energy Authority in 2002 and has been its Chairman since 2004, having been reappointed in 2007.  She is also Chairman of the School of Oriental and African Studies and Deputy Chairman of Friends Provident plc as well as Co-Chairman of the UK Task Force on Corporate Governance and is a Public Member of the International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants.  Until recently, she was Chairman of LIFE IC, an incubator for renewable energy technologies.  From 2003-2007 she was Deputy Chairman of the UK Financial Reporting Council which regulates UK corporate governance and accountants.  She is a Member of the Governing Body of the Ditchley Foundation and a Member of the Trilateral Commission, among others.  Her international experience includes being an Independent Director of NV Bekaert SA (Belgium) and Magna International Inc (Canada) among others.

She was the first woman member of the Board of Overseers of the Wharton School and is a founding director of the Lauder Institute of Management at the Wharton School.


Part of the presentation which was allegedly material in convincing Copeland and Allerdale councillors of the practicality of burying the evidence came from something called the "Yucca Mountain Project".   The report has now been shown to be flawed and thus irrelevant, albeit too late - as the decision had been made by then.   However, it may be of interest to know that Yucca Mountain is about 100 miles north west of Las Vegas, in a very arid area - quite unlike the parts of Cumbria being investigated.   An interesting video can viewed at the US government's site below.   However, one of the salient points has to be this quotation:

'Knowing where the cracks [in the rocks] are is vital, as it allows scientists to design a repository that keeps water away from the waste.
That's important because the enemy of any metal waste container is water.'
The median annual rainfall for Yucca Mountain, for the period 1999 - 2007 was <9½"   Source:

The median rainfall for Cumbria for the period 2000 - 2007 was 35.84"   (Directly comparable figures not available.)  Source:

Also of relevance is that the premise for global climate change predicts winter rain will increase by 30%, and there will be more storms.

"The outlook for summer is fairly weak at the moment because the supply/demand situation is pretty comfortable," said Niall Trimble, director of the Energy Contract Company, a consulting firm.

"It probably would tend to increase pressure on the big six (utilities companies) to reduce their domestic gas prices. Only two of them have actually reduced their prices at all."

Despite pressure from the government to cut bills to household consumers, only Scottish and Southern Energy and British Gas have so far done so this year. They cut prices by 4 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

The six utilities, including RWE npower, EDF Energy, E.ON UK and Iberdrola's Scottish Power, raised bills twice for both gas and electricity last year, blaming soaring wholesale energy prices since 2007.


"Good customer service is vital to our success.  So wherever possible, we want to resolve our customers’ enquiries on first contact".

Guess which energy company has the lowest star rating when it comes to customer satisfaction . . .   Yep, RWE npower.

Our own experiences have demonstrated what happens in practise.   From the outset no-one outside the cliques were informed of what was to happen to their homes.   Even at the Beckermet meeting the RWE representative had no idea - seeming not to know that the bungalows even existed.   An e-mail sent to the company's contact address on the 2nd August, asking specifically what the company's plans are in respect of Braystones Beach has been ignored for over six weeks.   We also asked why only a select few residents received letters informing them of the next development in the proposals.

Not that failures to communicate are their exclusive province.   We have been waiting for a response to a letter to the Prime Minister since 28th April.   We reminded them in June, but still no answers to our questions.  

A letter to E. Miliband, MP, minister for DECC asking a simple question about the relative cost of electricity generated in the various ways has remained unanswered and unacknowledged for over six weeks.   One might have expected that question to be so simple.

As part of our continuing investigation of things nuclear, we have been sent the following articles which, we believe, realistically illustrate the current position within the industry. Although, obviously, our interest centred around Sellafield - that being the nearest, best-known and most experienced example - it is apparent that Sellafield is not unique in the troubles it brings to a nation.

The Finnish Experience

Washington Monthly, January/February 2009
In Finland, Nuclear Renaissance Runs Into Trouble


OLKILUOTO, Finland — As the Obama administration tries to steer America toward cleaner sources of energy, it would do well to consider the cautionary tale of this new-generation nuclear reactor site.

The massive power plant under construction on muddy terrain on this Finnish island was supposed to be the showpiece of a nuclear renaissance. The most powerful reactor ever built, its modular design was supposed to make it faster and cheaper to build. And it was supposed to be safer, too.

But things have not gone as planned.

After four years of construction and thousands of defects and deficiencies, the reactor’s 3 billion euro price tag, about $4.2 billion, has climbed at least 50 percent. And while the reactor was originally meant to be completed this summer, Areva, the French company building it, and the utility that ordered it, are no longer willing to make certain predictions on when it will go online.

While the American nuclear industry has predicted clear sailing after its first plants are built, the problems in Europe suggest these obstacles may be hard to avoid.

A new fleet of reactors would be standardized down to “the carpeting and wallpaper,” as Michael J. Wallace, the chairman of UniStar Nuclear Energy — a joint venture between EDF Group and Constellation Energy, the Maryland-based utility — has said repeatedly.

In the end, he says, that standardization will lead to significant savings.

But early experience suggests these new reactors will be no easier or cheaper to build than the ones of a generation ago, when cost overruns — and then accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl — ended the last nuclear construction boom.

In Flamanville, France, a clone of the Finnish reactor now under construction is also behind schedule and overbudget.

In the United States, Florida and Georgia have changed state laws to raise electricity rates so that consumers will foot some of the bill for new nuclear plants in advance, before construction even begins.

“A number of U.S. companies have looked with trepidation on the situation in Finland and at the magnitude of the investment there,” said Paul L. Joskow, a professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a co-author of an influential report on the future of nuclear power in 2003. “The rollout of new nuclear reactors will be a good deal slower than a lot of people were assuming.”

For nuclear power to have a high impact on reducing greenhouse gases, an average of 12 reactors would have to be built worldwide each year until 2030, according to the Nuclear Energy Agency at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Right now, there are not even enough reactors under construction to replace those that are reaching the end of their lives.

And of the 45 reactors being built around the world, 22 have encountered construction delays, according to an analysis prepared this year for the German government by Mycle Schneider, an energy analyst and a critic of the nuclear industry. He added that nine do not have official start-up dates.

Most of the new construction is underway in countries like China and Russia, where strong central governments have made nuclear energy a national priority. India also has long seen nuclear as part of a national drive for self-sufficiency and now is seeking new nuclear technologies to reduce its reliance on imported uranium.

By comparison, “the state has been all over the place in the United States and Europe on nuclear power,” Mr. Joskow said.

The United States generates about one-fifth of its electricity from a fleet of 104 reactors, most built in the 1960s and 1970s. Coal still provides about half the country’s power.

To streamline construction, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Washington has worked with the industry to approve a handful of designs. Even so, the schedule to certify the most advanced model from Westinghouse, a unit of Toshiba, has slipped during an ongoing review of its ability to withstand the impact of an airliner.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has also not yet approved the so-called EPR design under construction in Finland for the American market.

This month, the United States Energy Department produced a short list of four reactor projects eligible for some loan guarantees. In the 2005 energy bill, Congress provided $18.5 billion, but the industry’s
hope of winning an additional $50 billion worth of loan guarantees evaporated when that money was stripped from President Obama’s economic stimulus bill.

The industry has had more success in getting states to help raise money. This year, authorities permitted Florida Power & Light to start charging millions of customers several dollars a month to finance four new reactors.[*1]

Customers of Georgia Power, a subsidiary of the Southern Co., will pay on average $1.30 a month more in 2011, rising to $9.10 by 2017, to help pay for two reactors expected to go online in 2016 or later.  

But resistance is mounting. In April, Missouri legislators balked at a preconstruction rate increase, prompting the state’s largest electric utility, Ameren UE, to suspend plans for a $6 billion copy of Areva’s Finnish reactor.

Areva, a conglomerate largely owned by the French state, is heir to that nation’s experience in building nuclear plants. France gets about 80 percent of its power from 58 reactors. But even France has not completed a new reactor since 1999.

After designing an updated plant originally called the European Pressurized Reactor with German participation during the 1990s, the French had trouble selling it at home because of a saturated energy market as well as opposition from Green Party members in the then-coalition government.

So Areva turned to Finland, where utilities and energy-hungry industries like pulp and paper had been lobbying for 15 years for more nuclear power. The project was initially budgeted at $4 billion and Teollisuuden Voima, the Finnish utility, pledged it would be ready in time to help the Finnish government meet its greenhouse gas targets under the Kyoto climate treaty, which runs through 2012.

Areva promised electricity from the reactor could be generated more cheaply than from natural gas plants. Areva also said its model would deliver 1,600 megawatts, or about 10 percent of Finnish power needs.

In 2001, the Finnish parliament narrowly approved construction of a reactor at Olkiluoto, an island on the Baltic Sea. Construction began four years later.

Serious problems first arose over the vast concrete base slab for the foundation of the reactor building, which the country’s Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority found too porous and prone to corrosion. Since then, the authority has blamed Areva for allowing inexperienced subcontractors to drill holes in the wrong places on a vast steel container that seals the reactor.

In December, the authority warned Anne Lauvergeon, the chief executive of Areva, that “the attitude or lack of professional knowledge of some persons” at Areva was holding up work on safety systems.

Today, the site still teems with 4,000 workmen on round-the-clock shifts. Banners from dozens of subcontractors around Europe flutter in the breeze above temporary offices and makeshift canteens. Some 10,000 people speaking at least eight different languages have worked at the site. About 30 percent of the workforce is Polish, and communication has posed significant challenges.

Areva has acknowledged that the cost of a new reactor today would be as much as 6 billion euros, or $8 billion, double the price offered to the Finns. But Areva said it was not cutting any corners in Finland. The two sides have agreed to arbitration, where they are both claiming more than 1 billion euros in compensation. (Areva blames the Finnish authorities for impeding construction and increasing costs for work it agreed to complete at a fixed price.)

Areva announced a steep drop in earnings last year, which it blamed mostly on mounting losses from the project.

In addition, nuclear safety inspectors in France have found cracks in the concrete base and steel reinforcements in the wrong places at the site in Flamanville. They also have warned Électricité de France, the utility building the reactor, that welders working on the steel container were not properly qualified.

On top of such problems come the recession, weaker energy demand, tight credit and uncertainty over future policies, said Caren Byrd, an executive director of the global utility and power group at Morgan Stanley in New York.

“The warning lights now are flashing more brightly than just a year ago about the cost of new nuclear,” she said.

And Jouni Silvennoinen, the project manager at Olkiluoto, said, “We have had it easy here.” Olkiluoto is at least a geologically stable site. Earthquake risks in places like China and the United States or even the threat of storm surges mean building these reactors will be even trickier elsewhere.

Matthew L. Wald contributed reporting from Washington.
*1   In the UK the corporations set up to build the new reactors are private companies.   Experience with, for example, GNER, has shown that in general, profits go to the company and
      losses revert to the taxpayer.   The risk must be greater if the corporation is outside UK control
.   Furthermore, the initial proposal was for the private contractors to fund their own
      reactors - something which now seems to be unlikely, with rumours and reports suggesting that the government is seeking ways to give a secret subsidy.

The American Experience

International Herald Tribune, May 29., 2009

We also offer the following precis from the original article.   You might be able to recognise the symptoms and cynical method of influencing the public's decisions.   The manipulative process certainly seems to have crossed the Atlantic.   Even some of the players are the same.
Bad Reactors
Rethinking your opposition to nuclear power?
Rethink again.

By Mariah Blake

Washington Monthly
January/February, 2009. Ref.:
Nuclear power may have some unsavory side effects, like radioactive waste and the risk of meltdowns. But no other energy source can deliver vast quantities of low- or zero-carbon energy at a price that rivals natural gas and coal, as the industry has promised the new breed of reactors will do.

With this in mind, many people who once dismissed atomic power out of hand have come to view it as a vital, if imperfect, tool in the struggle to salvage our warming planet.

But as Finland’s experience shows, the reality may be far messier than the industry lets on: a growing body of evidence suggests that new nuclear construction projects are prone to the same setbacks as those undertaken a generation ago, when lengthy delays and multibillion-dollar cost overruns were commonplace. This raises serious questions about the potential of nuclear power as a front-line solution in the battle against climate change.

In the early days of the Atomic Era, nuclear power was heralded as a panacea—a cheap, abundant energy source that would spur economic growth, cut dependence on foreign oil, and enable every imaginable human endeavor. Lewis Strauss, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, declared that future generations would enjoy electricity "too cheap to meter."

By December 1957, residents of western Pennsylvania were brewing coffee and vacuuming carpets with power from the Shippingport plant. The project’s success set off a chain reaction. Beginning in the early 1960s, utilities—lured by promises of cheap electricity and growing concerns about air pollution—were lining up to purchase new reactors, a phenomenon historians have dubbed the "great bandwagon market" for nuclear power. Between 1965 and 1967, sixty plants with 40,000 megawatts of generating capacity were ordered.

By the mid-1970s, more than 100 nuclear power stations were being planned or built. But the manic enthusiasm was fading as reactor projects ran aground amid soaring inflation, shrinking energy demand, bungled construction, and regulatory delays.

As problems piled up, the market for new reactors collapsed. Between 1973 and 1978 the number of annual orders dwindled from thirty-eight to two. Some utilities began canceling reactor plans or abandoning half-built projects. In the mid-1980s, the Washington Public Power Supply System walked away from two unfinished reactors and $2.25 billion in bonds, the largest municipal bond default on the books. Another major utility was forced into bankruptcy.

Although public opposition and safety concerns played a role in the industry’s undoing—especially after the partial meltdown at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island plant in 1979—the primary stumbling blocks were economics and an unworkable business model. Most first-generation plants were custom designed and built, and in many cases design plans weren’t finished before construction began. This opened the door to construction errors and endless regulatory delays. In 1985 the Electric Power Research Institute, an industry-funded think tank, aided by executives from nuclear utilities and Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials, came up with a set of principles for next-generation reactors with simpler, standardized designs, fewer moving parts, and more modular components. The goal was to make them not only safer than their predecessors, but also faster and less expensive to build than coal-fired power plants. Four years later, the NRC overhauled its regulatory process to help this effort along. Reactor vendors were invited to submit a limited number of designs for precertification, so utilities could simply pick one and apply for a permit to build it as a specific site. "The idea was to commit to just a few designs, and set those designs in stone to create a more efficient process," explains NRC spokesman Scott Burnell.

The first two standardized designs were rolled out in 1997, but they were never built in the United States.

In 2001, the Bush administration took office and began working to overhaul government agencies to make them friendlier to the industry.   Layers of NRC regulation were stripped away. At the DOE, the top position in the Office of Nuclear Energy was promoted to an assistant-secretary-level appointment, and a host of new programs were added to promote the resurgence of atomic energy—among them Nuclear Power 2010, under which the government pays half the cost of site selection, planning, and licensing for new nuclear reactors. The industry, meanwhile, worked to shift public perception, through an aggressive PR campaign that involved, among other things, planting ghostwritten op-eds advocating nuclear energy in local newspapers under the names of prominent local personalities, and setting up front groups that appeared to be independent environmental organizations, such as the New Jersey Affordable, Clean, Reliable Energy Coalition. It also began pressing Congress for subsidies and, starting in 2001, federal loan guarantees. Nuclear advocates made little headway on this front until 2003, when Republicans regained control of the Senate and Domenici was appointed chairman of the Energy Committee. He rehired Alex Flint, who had gone on to work as a nuclear power lobbyist, to direct the committee’s work. Flint spent the next two years wrangling with politicians, often in secret, over a new energy bill.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 fulfilled many of the industry’s key legislative ambitions. Most importantly, it provided unlimited federal loan guarantees to cover up to 80 percent of project costs for next-generation nuclear plants and other "innovative technologies" to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It also included a twenty-year extension of the Price-Anderson Act, which limits the liability of nuclear power plant operators in case of accidents, and $13 billion in direct subsidies for nuclear power, including $2 billion in "risk insurance" to pay extra costs caused by delays in construction and licensing for the first six new reactors. Bush touted these measures as a boon for the environment. "Of all our nation’s energy sources, only nuclear power plants can generate massive amounts of electricity without emitting an ounce of air pollution or greenhouse gases," he said, to a burst of applause.

The Energy Policy Act’s passage signaled a seismic shift: in less than a decade, the nuclear power industry had gone from energy pariah to political heavyweight. Its lobbying operation was now among the most formidable on Capitol Hill, thanks to a generous infusion of cash. (Since the mid-1990s, the energy and nuclear power sector has spent at least $953 million lobbying Congress and the executive branch, according to the Center for Responsive Politics—more than any group except the pharmaceutical and insurance industries.) That money helped the industry to meet most of the goals laid out at the 1998 forum and win tens of billions of dollars in new subsidies. All told, the nuclear power sector has secured more than $100 billion in federal support, at least $25 billion of it in the last four years alone, according to the nonpartisan group Taxpayers for Common Sense. That’s far more than renewable energy sources.

While Republicans—especially those with links to energy interests and the national labs—played a key role in the industry’s resurgence, this stunning second act would not have been possible without the growing support of Democratic lawmakers. By 2005, it was becoming clear that the dangers of climate change were real, and politicians saw few solutions. Renewable energy was still viewed as an expensive niche market that was decades away from providing power on a large scale (though, in reality, some renewables—wind, most notably—were becoming financially competitive with coal). As a result, many Democrats were rethinking
 their reservations about atomic energy, including longtime foes like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who was once "totally opposed to nuclear power." One sign of this newfound support was the broad backing for the Energy Policy Act, which passed the House by a margin of 275 to 156 and the Senate by 74 to 26. Four out of ten Democrats voted for it, including then Senator Barack Obama, who declared that the bill took "significant steps in the right direction on energy policy."

This emerging bipartisan consensus did not extend to Wall Street, where the new package of giveaways did little to ease doubts about the viability of new nuclear power. Months after the 2005 bill passed, the rating agency Standard & Poor’s issued a report saying that the generous new subsidies "may not be enough to mitigate the risks associated with operating issues and high capital costs" of new nuclear plants, and that companies that built or financed them would see their credit ratings slide. This was a blow to the industry; at the time, the Nuclear Energy Institute was claiming that the overnight building costs (meaning inflation isn’t factored in) for next-generation reactors would be between $1,100 and $1,500 per kilowatt capacity—roughly on par with natural gas plants and cheaper than coal. In June 2007, the Keystone Center, a Colorado-based energy think tank, published another report, funded in part by the industry, which cast fresh doubt on NEI estimates. The study (which, unlike the NEI figures, used actual hard data from reactors built in Asia in the 1980s and ’90s) projected that the overnight costs for new nuclear plants would be about $3,000 per kilowatt, or up to $4,000 per kilowatt including inflation—at least double the NEI’s estimate.    The only way to unlock capital was for taxpayers to take on all of the risk.

In October 2007, Moody’s Investor Services piled on with a report projecting that new reactors would cost $5,000 to $6,000 per kilowatt to build, or up to $12 billion per unit. This figure, which was based on actual bids for new reactors in the United States, caused considerable sticker shock. The trade magazine Nuclear Engineering International ran an article questioning whether utilities would shelve their plans for new reactors amid revelations about "prohibitively high" costs. In January 2008, Warren Buffett’s MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. scrapped plans to build a new reactor because it found the "economics of building the next generation of nuclear power plants" were "not in our customers’ best interests." But as staggering as their estimates were at the time, those who did the calculations for Keystone and Moody’s have concluded, based on newer data, that they were not high enough. "The numbers have simply gone flying past our highest 2007 estimates," says Jim Hempstead, a senior vice president at Moody’s, which now predicts new nuclear power plants will cost $7,500 per kilowatt to build. That’s more than double the capital costs for solar power and three and a half times the cost for wind. Nuclear’s high building costs are offset somewhat by low operating expenses and high operating efficiency, which in recent years has climbed from about 60 percent to more than 90 percent on average in the United States. But even taking into account these factors, according to Moody’s forecasts, the production costs for nuclear power are higher than for most large-scale renewable energy sources (though not for solar power). And Moody’s analysis was based on preliminary industry estimates—on average, first-generation nuclear plants in the United States cost three times initial projections.

How is it that new reactors make so little economic sense, even with massive government support? Part of the answer is that the industry still hasn’t solved the problems that led to its initial collapse. A decade on, the standardized plant designs, on which nuclear advocates pinned their hopes of lower costs and greater reliability, have yet to materialize. This is not to say that no one has built a uniform fleet: some countries—most notably France, where the government holds a controlling stake in the main electricity-generating company—have managed to created a degree of standardization among their own reactors. But spreading the idea to countries with different regulatory agencies and requirements, to say nothing of the patchwork American utility market, is easier said than done. Nowhere are the hurdles more evident than in the new NRC licensing process and its supposedly set-in-stone designs. Initially, the industry had hoped to limit the number of reactor models to two or three. Instead, there are eight on offer, half of them certified, the rest awaiting approval (a process that takes years). What’s more, all but one of the seventeen companies that are planning to build new reactors have chosen designs that are either not yet certified or that will need to be recertified because they have been substantially redesigned. Even the one company that has picked a fully certified model, NRG of New Jersey, isn’t sticking to the original blueprints.

Rather than working with ready-made plans and a series of simple, modular components, engineers and designers working on Finland’s new reactor are scrambling to finish plans even as construction is under way. During my visit to Olkiluoto, I met Jouni Silvennoinen, the construction manager on the plant for the Finnish utility TVO. He told me that, in his view, projects as large and complex as reactors simply don’t lend themselves to cookie-cutter solutions. "The basic design can be planned in advance," he explained. "But you still have to do the detailed design. Where exactly is the rebar? How thick are the walls? Where is the pinning for pipes? Those details have to be tailored to the individual project, and it takes a tremendous amount of work."

Another reason estimates for new reactors have been both high and unpredictable is the atrophy of nuclear expertise and the dwindling number of suppliers, which has led to labor shortages and supply bottlenecks. Today, there is only one company in the world that can produce the heavy steel forgings for a reactor core—Japan Steel Works Ltd., in Osaka—and it has a two- to three-year backlog. In the United States, once the primary source of reactor components, the number of suppliers has dropped from 400 to eighty, while the number of accredited nuclear engineers has dwindled from 900 to 200. And the worst is yet to come. Half of all employees in the nuclear energy sector are older than forty-seven, and more than a quarter will be eligible for retirement in the next four years, according to NEI research. NRC Chairman Dale E. Klein summed up the gravity of the situation in remarks before the American Nuclear Society last year, saying, "The global supply chain is stretched, if not to the breaking point, at least to the tipping point."

In August 2008, a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill to open coastal areas to offshore drilling. Buried in it were billions of dollars in subsidies for nuclear power and language exempting DOE loan guarantees from congressional oversight. Though this bill was tabled after the financial crisis struck, it had broad bipartisan backing: half of the twenty sponsors were Democrats.

There is a reason for the nuclear industry’s dogged pursuit of generous guaranteed loans: without them, or a similar public financing scheme, it doesn’t have much of a future. Even before the financial meltdown, Wall Street wasn’t willing to sink money into new reactors. Squeezing private capital from today’s ravaged markets will be nothing short of impossible, which means the only way most utilities will be able to build new nuclear plants is if taxpayers shoulder the risk. On this front, the industry has proven remarkably resourceful. UniStar, a consortium of French and American utilities, was formed for the purpose of building four new reactors in the United States, a venture it expects to cost up to $38 billion. But it doesn’t intend to sink any of its own money into construction. Instead, its plan for financing the project hinges entirely on guaranteed loans from the DOE and the French export bank, which
is offering financial support to spur investment in French nuclear technology (see "Sub-prime Nuclear Loans").

Though the financial plans for most reactor projects have yet to become public, it appears that all but a few contenders are banking on similar schemes.

Right now the DOE is weighing the first batch of loan guarantee applications, submitted in October. It includes twenty-one reactors, with an estimated total cost of $188 billion. The requested loan guarantee total is $122 billion, a hefty sum considering that the Congressional Budget Office has found the chance of default on guaranteed loans for new reactors is "well above 50 percent." And it will take roughly three times as much new nuclear capacity as those twenty-one reactors will provide just to keep a stable supply of nuclear power over the next few decades, as the aging plants that provide a fifth of our electricity are decommissioned. For nuclear power to make a meaningful contribution to the fight against climate change in the United States, the Keystone report concluded we will need to add 238 gigawatts of new capacity, or at least 140 of the most powerful reactors on the market. The cost, according to Harold A. Feiveson, a senior research policy scientist at Princeton University and a member of the Keystone panel: between $1 trillion and $1.8 trillion (an estimate that assumes capital costs of $4,000 to $7,500 per kilowatt).

The question is whether the new Democratic majority in Congress and the Obama administration will agree to anything approaching such a sweeping expansion of support for nuclear power. On the campaign trail, John McCain tried to gain advantage by painting Obama as a nuclear naysayer. In one particularly memorable instance, the Republican candidate visited the Enrico Fermi nuclear plant near Detroit, where he donned a gleaming white hard hat and toured the reactor building, then held a press conference in front of its cooling towers. "Senator Obama has said that expanding our nuclear power plants doesn’t make sense," he argued. "I could not disagree more." Obama was forced to repeatedly reaffirm his support for nuclear power as part of the energy mix. In fact, rhetoric aside, Obama was actually the candidate with the closest ties to the industry; his chief political adviser, David Axelrod, runs a political consulting firm that has lobbied on behalf of Exelon, the nation’s largest operator of nuclear plants. Exelon and its employees contributed around $250,000 to Obama’s Senate and presidential races, more than to any other candidate. In 2006, it came to light that Exelon had failed to disclose low-level nuclear leaks at an Illinois plant. Initially, Obama introduced a Senate bill that would have required nuclear utilities to notify state authorities as soon as leaks were detected. But according to the New York Times, he later stripped out the reporting requirements, as requested by Senate Republicans and Exelon lobbyists. 
In his climate plan, Obama makes the case for expanding nuclear energy, saying, "It is unlikely that we can meet our aggressive climate goals if we eliminate nuclear power as an option," though he also calls for nailing down secure storage for radioactive materials before new reactors are built. Steven Chu, Obama’s secretary of energy, also advocates boosting America’s atomic energy supply. Last August, he signed onto "A Sustainable Energy Future: The Essential Role of Nuclear Energy," a DOE manifesto, which argues that "nuclear energy must play a significant and growing role in our nation’s—and the world’s—energy portfolio" if we are to stave off catastrophic climate change. When asked by the San Jose Mercury News in June 2007 whether it was possible to tackle global warming without pursuing the nuclear option, Chu said, "If you start thinking like that, then you doom yourself." This was not a slap at other carbon-free technologies. Unlike most Bush appointees, Chu is a champion of renewable energy. He simply believes we will have to deploy every weapon in our arsenal, including nuclear fission, in our urgent struggle against climate change—a position embraced by a growing majority of politicians and pundits.

This all-of-the-above approach is smart in theory, but in practice it has two glaring flaws. One is the long, uncertain construction schedule for building new reactors. To avoid the worst effects of global warming—rapidly rising sea levels, rampant famine, severe storms, and widespread drought—we will need to reverse the growth of greenhouse gas emissions by 2015, according to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The designs for most of the reactors on the drawing board in the United States won’t be certified until 2011 or 2012. Only then can the NRC approve individual licenses—after which the plants still need to be built. Last time around, construction took an average of twelve years.

The other key problem is that, given the enormous expense and the industry’s hunger for subsidies, pursuing the nuclear path can crowd out investment in green energy. Over the last decade, federal funding for renewable energy and efficiency research has essentially remained flat, even as concerns about global warming have mushroomed. Support for nuclear power, on the other hand, has soared from zero in the late 1990s to $438 million a year in 2008. The DOE’s fiscal year 2009 budget request (which has yet to be approved) includes $630 million for nuclear energy research, a 44 percent increase from the previous year, while the request for renewable energy and efficiency R&D programs has dipped slightly to around $535 million.

Bills to foster renewable energy or rein in carbon emissions also tend to get bogged down in debate over attaching perks for nuclear power. In some cases, this struggle has derailed meaningful climate-change legislation. The bipartisan coalition backing the Lieberman-McCain Climate Stewardship Act—Congress’s first serious attempt to cap greenhouses gases—fell apart in 2005 after McCain added $3.7 billion in subsidies for nuclear power. The push for nuclear subsidies was also a key sticking point during last year’s floor debate over the Warner-Lieberman carbon cap-and-trade bill.

Elsewhere in the world, there are also signs that nuclear power and renewables aren’t as compatible as policymakers tend to believe. In 2000, Germany became the first major industrialized nation to commit to phasing out atomic power. To fill the gap, it has introduced incentives to foster investment in renewables, ushering in a green-energy boom. Despite its damp, cloudy weather, the nation now has more than half the world’s solar power generating capacity and is the leading producer of wind energy. All told, roughly 15 percent of German electricity comes from renewable sources, more than any other nation except China, which relies on hydroelectric dams for much of its power. By 2020, Germany aims to increase the share of renewables to 30 percent, roughly the same percentage nuclear supplied at its peak.

On the other end of the spectrum is Finland. Because residents believed the new reactor in Olkiluoto would drastically cut emissions, there was little effort to promote renewable energy or boost efficiency, with the result that the country is now lagging behind its neighbors. Despite its long, windswept coast, Finland has less wind power capacity than any central European state except the tiny, landlocked countries of Luxembourg and Switzerland. It also ranks near the bottom on energy efficiency, and its record on greenhouse gas emissions is dismal: between 1990 and 2006 (the most recent year for which data is available) the nation’s carbon output leapt by ten million tons a year, or 13 percent, one of the largest spikes in any developed nation. This means that to meet the European Union goals of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels by 2020, Finland will have to either resort to austerity measures or shell out hundreds of millions more dollars for emissions credits.

Happy Returns

So, for an investment approaching $1 billion the nuclear industry has won more than $100 billion in federal support.   A good investment.  

In the UK, where politicians are so pecunious some even claim for a bath plug on their expenses, it is not difficult to imagine the kind of support and influence that these sums of money might buy.   The recent events of the East Coast Main Line railway service are interesting and relevant, in that (we understand) all the risks were farmed out to small subsidiary companies, leaving the parent company with little liablility and the government shocked and surprised that they had no leverage at all. 

The Value of a Contract and Insurance Policy

Returning to the nuclear industry, let us suggest that the usual poor quality contracts are drawn up by over-worked civil servants with little experience in the nuclear industry..   How can such a contract be enforced if all the parties involved are beyond control of the UK government?   The suppliers of the reactors, Areva (France), or Westinghouse - once owned by BNFL but now a division of Toshiba (Japan), are obviously going to be difficult to bring sanctions against.   When it comes to the actual corporations involved in the bidding, RWE n-Power is German, and EDF (despite its misleading television advertisement), is French.   The insurance risks for the industry are so high as to preclude any possibility of commercial insurance, so the UK government will have to foot the bill.   (i.e. take even more of the risk.)   We have already asked how much it costs to decommission a nuclear plant and been told that nobody knows.   So, how will the government assess the cost of the energy produced?   Will they just consign the cost of commissioning to the future, as they will consign the highly toxic waste produced by the new plants?   There are no plans even to attempt to process the waste - not even the hole in the ground burial.   All waste will have to be stored on the site where it was produced.   So, the risks get even higher for accidents (incidents) or hostile actions.

What is the True Cost of Nuclear Energy?

Even assuming that no money changes hands before the proposed sites are completed,  how can an honest assessment be made of the unit cost of the energy without knowing all the costs?   How will the government manage to enforce the commissioning companies to properly decommission their obsolete plants in 50 years time?   It seems to us that the profits will all go to the parent companies and the risks will be borne by the UK taxpayer, potentially along with the decommissioning costs should the corporations decide to ignore their obligations.

Meeting the Timescale

From the above article, it seems that there is not only a difficulty in successfully designing a generic reactor, but also the materials as strictly limited by the production capabilities of other countries.

Retiring from the Arena

From the Weightman paper, we learn that there are insufficient inspectors at the moment.   It would be impossible to train sufficient numbers in the short timescale envisaged by the Department for Energy (DECC) and already the scrutiny of plans for proposed new build sites is outside the capacity of the inspectorate to cope with.   In the event of an "incident", apparently, the whole process of screening new developments will grind to a halt.   At 450, the inspection effort by the department is the lowest of any country with nuclear facilities, being only 1/3rd of the average, and less than a fifth of the effort made in Mexico (2567).

We also learn that most of the current inspection team are due to retire soon - before these new plants could possibly be built.   The rules for civil servants will prevent them from being re-employed in the same or a similar field, at least for a period.   This means that their skills will be lost and the responsibility will fall on the relatively inexperienced newcomers.   Quite how many of these newcomers will be seconded from the companies submitting proposals for new build is not yet decided, but it is likely to be quite a high percentage.   Can this possibly be sensible?   Please remember the amount of money being invested in buying good will and changing attitudes - of both the public and the government.   There is a lot at stake for these investors and the government.