Nuclear curbing alternatives?

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The Ontario government’s goal of increasing the amount of green power in its 20-year electricity plan can’t be met unless it pulls back on its commitment to nuclear, a coalition of influential environmental groups argued yesterday.

The energy ministry’s response: Current nuclear levels are here to stay.

“We’re still not moving off maintaining that commitment of 50 per cent nuclear,” ministry spokesperson Amy Tang said.


Gary Griggs, Our Ocean Backyard: Nuclear not a real answer to energy problems

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“Important questions about energy confront our newly elected political leaders: What sources of energy will we depend on in the future? How long will they last? What are the impacts of using different energy sources?

In my last column, I wrote that U.S. oil reserves are limited, and even if we decide to increase drilling offshore, it would take at least five years to get a platform ready to drill. Well, it’s always encouraging to learn that people actually read this column; the president of a Texas offshore wind power company wrote to correct my statement regarding how long it would take to get a drilling rig ready.”

Nuclear is not the future for Wales

Nuclear is not the future for Wales

SIR – As a fellow exile from Neath, along with Sian Lloyd (Western Mail Business, October 15), I read with some incredulity that the West Wales Business Forum has joined the atomic advocacy club.

But generously, it is supporting a new reactor being constructed in Anglesey – just about as far away from West Wales as it is possible to go without leaving the nation.

Of course, even if planning permission for such a plant was to be given this month (which it won’t!), it would take at least 10 years before any power could be generated.

The present Wylfa reactor is due to close within 18 months, so what is Anglesey Aluminium – a major user of the nuclear electricity from Wylfa – to do in the intervening eight years?

These simple numbers demonstrate that new nuclear power is irrelevant to Anglesey Aluminium’s future.

Reliable power from other non-nuclear sources, preferably wind, or combined cycle gas turbines, both of which can be installed rapidly, are relevant, and is what all local Anglesey politicians should be backing.

Meantime, I note that Alun John Richards (Letters, October 7) has joined his fellow Swansea resident Jack Harris in praising the merits of nuclear power in your letters columns.

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NUCLEAR SAFETY IS FOR WUSSES…. For months, John McCain has blasted Barack Obama for his reluctance to support expanded nuclear power plants. Obama has pushed back, noting that he supports nuclear as part of a comprehensive energy strategy, but before an expansion, he wants to resolve lingering questions about the security of nuclear fuel and waste, waste storage, and proliferation.

Campaigning in Iowa yesterday, McCain responded with the kind of intellectual rigor and seriousness of thought we’ve come to expect of the Republican nominee.

“You know, the other night in the debate with Senator Obama, I said his eloquence is admirable, but pay attention to his words,” McCain said. “We talk about offshore drilling and he said he would quote, consider, offshore drilling. We talked about nuclear power, well it has to be safe, environment, blah, blah, blah.”

Now, the Republican activists on hand for the speech found “blah, blah, blah” to be absolutely hilarious. I haven’t the foggiest idea why.

But it does raise a question about McCain’s approach to the issue. Obama has clear concerns about safeguards for nuclear power; McCain believes these safeguards are not only irrelevant, but worthy of mockery.

I’m curious: which concerns, specifically, does McCain dismiss as trivia? The security of spent fuel, storing nuclear waste, or nuclear proliferation?

Nuclear vet families test bid

Nuclear vet families test bid

THE children and grandchildren of Britain’s nuclear test veterans could be tested to see if they suffered genetic damage as a result of their family’s exposure to radiation 50 years ago.

North Durham MP Kevan Jones promised to consider the research following a House of Commons debate in which it was revealed a similar study carried out in New Zealand showed effects had been passed down the generations.

Mr Jones, Parliamentary Under Secretary for the Ministry of Defence, also offered to meet the veterans and MPs who have been lobbying for the study.

He said: “Once that meeting has taken place, I propose to ask officials to discuss with experts the best way to design and develop a possible research programme.

“It is important that this study and the terms of reference for it are correct, and that we are not asking people to do the impossible. That is the commitment that I give.”

Up to 20,000 British troops and thousands of their Commonwealth comrades took part in a series of atomic and nuclear tests in the 1950s and 1960s on Christmas Island in the Pacific, as well as Montebello Islands, Maralinga and Emu in and around Australia. Only 3000 survivors remain.

The British Nuclear Test Veterans are bringing a class legal action against the MoD in January over claims its members suffered rare cancers and other ailments because of their exposure to radiation.

BNTV chairman John Lowe of Whitley Bay, North Tyneside, said: “We are due to meet Mr Jones this week to discuss the best way forward.

“He is also going to look into the issue of pensions as we have had many members turned down on spurious reasons.”

Anyone wanting to find out about pensions or wanting their children to be part of any future study should email:

Russia’s Nuclear Shutdown Pads Reactor Orders, Purges Chernobyl

Russia’s Nuclear Shutdown Pads Reactor Orders, Purges Chernobyl

By Yuriy Humber

Oct. 6 (Bloomberg) — “All zones, fire at the nuclear power plant,” booms a loudspeaker at 9:00 a.m. near the Volgodonsk station deep in southwest Russia.

Within 3 minutes, emergency personnel known as liquidators spill out of fire trucks wearing rubber boots and gloves to guard against electric shock as flames dance inside. At 9:14 a.m. an armored car rolls up, turret slowly twisting, measuring radiation. The command center receives a reading transmission: Abnormal.

The shutdown, staged over two days each September and involving 800 specialists, is a rehearsal for an event the Russians are trying to show will never happen again 22 years after the Chernobyl disaster. At stake this year is an $80 billion global backlog of orders for Russian reactors and nuclear fuel that underpin the industry’s future.

“Moscow, we are in the Ready-for-Emergency mode,” Volgodonsk director Alexander Palamarchuk reports over a satellite camera to his superiors in the Russian capital 1,200 kilometers (740 miles) north.

Officials from 11 countries, including Iran, South Korea and France, observed the simulation on Sept. 24 and 25. At the event, Russia staged a technical flaw, similar to one that occurred at the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania in 1979, the worst nuclear incident in U.S. history. The glitch involved a relief valve failing to close automatically.

“Globally, the issue of nuclear safety is closely tied to Russia,” said Alexander Pikayev, a nuclear non-proliferation specialist at the Institute of World Economics and International Relations in Moscow. “Russia needs to combat this image.”

Iranian Interest

Russia is seizing on record oil and natural gas prices to market its nuclear reactors abroad and plans to gain as much as 20 percent of the global market. China, India and Iran already are buyers, and Russia is the only bidder for a contract to build Turkey’s first nuclear plant, Istanbul-based utility Tetas said last month.

Bulgaria is paying ZAO Atomstroyexport, Russia’s state-run reactor builder, $5.2 billion for two units; India has an accord for four units; and China is in talks on two more, according to the company’s Web site. In addition, Rosatom Corp., the parent company of Atomstroyexport, has Russian government contracts for 26 reactors by 2020, according to the Web site of Rosatom’s energy division, OAO Atomenergoprom.

“The Russians are very scrupulous in detailing instructions for what to do in every situation,” says Hossein Abbasibilandi, an observer from the Bushehr nuclear plant in Iran. “In an emergency, the first thing people do is panic. We need to be ready to deal with a real situation.”

Chernobyl Stigma

Since 2007, Russian specialists have been training Abbasibilandi to oversee safety at Bushehr, Iran’s first nuclear power plant, which Russia may finish building this year.

The Chernobyl accident of 1986, when a cooling experiment caused a so-called RBMK reactor to explode, remains a stigma.

Last month’s simulated shutdown is designed to keep Russian authorities on alert, says Nikolai Sorokin, chief of the country’s nuclear plant emergency team.

“This is a game, but its point is to raise our reactions,” says Sorokin. “Then, should something happen, we just act.”

The United Nations estimated in 2005 that the Chernobyl explosion, which was equal to 400 Hiroshima bombs, directly killed 56 people. It may have also caused 4,000 cancer deaths and exposed 600,000 to high radiation, the UN said.

After Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, the U.S. and Russia worked in the 1990s on safety measures that exist at all reactors today, Pikayev said. Russia’s new VVER reactor can withstand the impact of a 20 metric ton jet and has a hermetic seal to keep steam from escaping should the core leak.

The safety features add 40 percent to reactor costs, says Yury Kormushkin, a nuclear physicist for 45 years who works at Volgodonsk.

`Well Equipped’

Russia’s nuclear safety program may now rank among the best in the world, says Stig Husin, an expert at the Swedish Radiation & Safety Authority who observed the exercise.

“You’re very well equipped here,” says Husin, who observed a similar drill in Russia in 2005.

The use of a video link between the power plant and crisis centers in Moscow and other cities is something other countries could learn from, Husin said. The system helped Volgodonsk stabilize the emergency within three hours.

Wan Joo Kim, senior researcher at Korea’s Institute of Nuclear Safety in Daejeon, is on his first visit to Russia after the two countries signed a nuclear cooperation accord in 2005.

“It’d be great if we had this,” Kim says, pointing to a man-size robot with tractor-tire shoes and a rotating pincer-arm.

As confidence in the Russian nuclear program rises, a group of Korean companies last week agreed to mine uranium in Russia together with state-owned ARMZ Uranium Co.

The chance of another Chernobyl, or even the combination of problems posed in the exercise, “is practically impossible now,” given advances in technology, Sorokin said. “Still, we need something very strong to test the evacuation procedures.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Yuriy Humber in Volgodonsk via the Moscow newsroom at

Are Nuke Labs ‘Vulnerable’ to Spies?

Are Nuke Labs ‘Vulnerable’ to Spies?

POSTED: 05:04 PM ET, 09/25/2008 by Derek Kravitz

The former chief of security for the Lawrence Livermore Nuclear Weapons Laboratory in California says that staffing and intelligence-collecting problems at the facility could potentially have “catastrophic consequences,” according to a letter released today before a congressional hearing on security breaches at the Department of Energy.

Terry D. Turchie, a 29-year veteran of the FBI who headed security at the Lawrence Livermore facility until last year, wrote to Rep. John D. Dingell, chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The letter describes staffing problems at the facility and the “dangerously chaotic state of counterintelligence” within the Department of Energy.

“The vulnerability of DOE personnel and facilities to hostile intelligence entities has increased exponentially,” wrote Turchie, who formerly was a deputy assistant director of the FBI’s counterterrorism division. Dingell said Turchie’s letter “raises a number of concerns.”

The letter was released ahead of today’s hearing by the energy panel’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. In it, Turchie claims that the agency’s cyber-security budget has been drastically cut, resulting in vulnerabilities, and that new policies regarding the handling of classified material have not been outlined. Turchie also wrote that more than two-dozen counterintelligence officials in the department have been forced out after challenging some of the changes imposed by the department’s director of intelligence and counterintelligence, Rolf Mowatt-Larsen.

A copy of Turchie’s letter is available after the jump:

Download This Document (PDF) | More Documents on Scribd

Other questions about the security of the Department of Energy’s nuclear labs have cropped up in recent years.

A contract employee at the department’s Oak Ridge lab in Tennessee, was indicted in July 2007 on charges he stole classified information about enriching uranium and tried to peddle it to prospective buyers.

In October 2006, New Mexico police discovered 1,000 pages of secret documents and several computer storage devices that had been stolen from the Los Alamos National Laboratory by an employee.

The University of California, which used to run the Los Alamos lab, paid a settlement of almost $1 million in 2002 to a whistle-blower who was fired after documenting mismanagement, security breaches and fraud at the troubled facility. The lab’s director later resigned.