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French Nuclear Testing in Algeria: The Follow-Up? --posted Dec. 3, 2007

A Reality Check on the Nuclear Industry

       The nuclear industry is on its way out rather than experiencing a renaissance, the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2007 demonstrates.  The report, released November 21, was commissioned by the Greens-European Free Alliance group in the European Parliament and written by Mycle Schneider with the assistance of Antony Froggatt. Currently 339 reactors are in operation worldwide, five fewer than five years ago.  The total capacity of the 339 is 371,000 MW.  They thus furnish 16% of the electricity, 6% of the commercial primary energy, and 2-3% of the final energy in the world, less than hydropower.  If a lifetime of 40 years per reactor is assumed (a generous assumption given that the 117 reactors that have been shut down operated for an average of only about 22 years each), 261 new reactors would have to go into operation between now and 2025, in addition to the 32 reactors already under construction, just to replace the units that would be shut down in that period.  This would mean one new reactor going online every month and a half to 2015 and one every 18 days for the following ten years. Given the length of time necessary to license and construct a reactor, such a schedule would be virtually impossible to implement.  The situation is exacerbated by "lack of a trained workforce, massive loss of competence, severe manufacturing bottlenecks (a single facility in the world, Japan Steel Works, can cast large forgings for reactor pressure vessels), lack of confidence of international finance institutions," and strong competition from natural gas and renewable energy systems.  Schneider also wrote Industry Status Reports in 1992 and 2004 and cites figures from them to show trends.  The complete report is available online at http://www.greens-efa.org . (Click on English at the bottom of the first page to enter the site.)

                                                                                --posted November 25, 2007

NBC Nightly News Incorrect on French Nuclear Industry--posted November 9, 2007

The Risk Posed by a European Pressurized Water Reactor

            In Risks and Hazards of the Proposed and Existing EPR/PWR Nuclear Power Plants  in France, John H. Large argues that operating a 1600 MWe European Pressurized Water Reactor (EPR) at Flamanville as planned would place the public at tremendous risk.  The EPR can be fueled entirely with mixed oxide fuel containing plutonium (MOX).  Large compares the results in terms of human health of an accident or terrorist attack resulting in a containment bypass or failure at the EPR when using entirely MOX fuel, entirely low-enriched uranium fuel (LEU), or a mixture of 30% MOX and 70% LEU.  He also  calculates the results of such a severe accident for certain smaller, currently operating plants, including a 1330 MWe reactor with an LEU core at Flamanville.

            Large states that a loss of containment at the EPR with a 100% MOX core could result in a maximum 650 early deaths, 60,760 late fatal cancers, and 1,307 thyroid cancer deaths.  The maximum land area that should be evacuated would total 44,810 sq kilometers and the number of people that should be evacuated, 3,319,000.  The EPR with all LEU or with 30% MOX, and the other reactors would cause fewer deaths of the various types.  With an LEU core, the EPR, for example, would cause a maximum of 381 early deaths and 26,430 late fatal cancers. 

            Reasons for the high figures even with LEU fuel include the higher levels of fuel irradiation (burn-up) planned for the EPR as compared with operating reactors. Highly irradiated fuel contains a larger inventory of fission products than fuel that has been in a reactor for a short time. With MOX fuel, the presence of greater quantities of plutonium and other actinides, increases the health risk. 

            For the calculations Large uses European Community Standard modeling software (COSYMA).  Using the same methods, Electricité de France (EDF) produced different figures.  The worst case scenario that EDF has made public concerns the EPR with 100% LEU fuel. The maximum early deaths would be 0, late fatal cancers, 11; and thyroid cancer deaths 1.  The land area that should be evacuated is 123 sq km, and the number of people 2,952.

             The basic reason for the discrepancy between the results of Large and those of EDF is that EDF does not believe that there are any foreseeable circumstances in which the EPR would experience a catastrophic release of radioactivity.  The plant is capable of resisting even a terrorist attack from the air, EDF holds. Large argues that, like all high-technology systems, the EPR is at risk of catastrophic failure due to circumstances that cannot be foreseen. 

            The report was commissioned by Greenpeace France .  A summary of the report  in English and the report itself can be accessed on the Web site of Large and Associates, www.largeassociates.com/PapersReports.htm .

                                                  --posted February 25, 2007

A Propos of a Change in the Presidency of French Polynesia    --posted December 28, 2006              

Enrichment Sites in Running for GNEP Projects

            The US DOE has selected the three sites of former or operating enrichment plants as possible host facilities for the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP).  Along with eight other sites, Oak Ridge , Paducah , and Piketon will share up to $16 million in grants from DOE for detailed site studies for a Consolidated Fuel Treatment Center and/or an Advanced Burner Reactor.  The Fuel Treatment Center will receive, store, and reprocess irradiated fuel, i.e. chemically treat irradiated fuel to extract uranium, plutonium, and other substances. The Advanced Reactor is a fast reactor intended to reuse and consume materials extracted from the fuel.    

            The Applications for the grants were made by the Community Reuse Organization of East Tennessee, Paducah Uranium Plant Asset Utilization, Inc., and the Piketon Initiative for Nuclear Independence, LLC.   Fourteen applications for the grants were submitted; twelve made the cut but two of them decided to work together.  Therefore, eleven sites will now compete for the facilities.


US Department of Energy, Press Announcement, November 29, 2006   

                                                                 --posted December 28, 2006

Joint Agreement on Enrichment

July 3, Areva and Urenco signed an agreement establishing the joint venture ETC (Enrichment Technology Company), which will own all of the uranium enrichment technology developed by Urenco..  The technology will be used by Areva for the Georges Besse II centrifuge plant it will build at Tricastin in France and by Urenco for the plant that it is planning for New Mexico.  Areva and Urenco will continue to compete in the provision and marketing of uranium enrichment services.

Sources:  News releases from Areva and jointly from Urenco and Areva, July 3, 2006.

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  Go to updates on the Primal Nature web site. 


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