Monthly Archives: September 2014

Why did nuclear plant construction costs quadruple from 1972 to 1988?

SeekerBlog | September 8, 2014

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The short answer is Greenpeace and their cronies such as Friends of the Earth (FOE):

A major source of cost escalation in some plants was delays caused by opposition from well-organized “intervenor” groups that took advantage of hearings and legal strategies to delay construction. The Shoreham plant on Long Island was delayed for 3 years by intervenors who turned the hearings for a construction permit into a circus. The intervenors included a total imposter claiming to be an expert with a Ph.D. and an M.D. There were endless days of reading aloud from newspaper and magazine articles, interminable “cross examination” with no relevance to the issuance of a construction permit, and an imaginative variety of other devices to delay the proceedings and attract media attention.

That quote is from Chapter 9 COSTS OF NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS — WHAT WENT WRONG? of the online version of the book The Nuclear Energy Option by physicist Bernard L. Cohen, University of Pittsburgh. The book was published by Plenum Press, 1990, so it is slightly dated with respect to recent developments in modular mass-manufactured reactors (SMR), etc. Other than that it is a terrific resource — a concise handbook that covers all the high priority questions about nuclear power [risk/safety, radiation, costs, nuclear “waste”, proliferation].

Prof. Cohen was there, on the scene so to speak, during the period of the 1970’s, 1980’s when Regulatory Turbulence, Regulatory Ratcheting and Intervenors quadrupled the cost of a nuclear power plant. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 9 covering Regulatory Ratcheting and Regulatory Turbulence:

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and its predecessor, the Atomic Energy Commission Office of Regulation, as parts of the United States Government, must be responsive to public concern. Starting in the early 1970s, the public grew concerned about the safety of nuclear power plants: the NRC therefore responded in the only way it could, by tightening regulations and requirements for safety equipment.

Make no mistake about it, you can always improve safety by spending more money. Even with our personal automobiles, there is no end to what we can spend for safety — larger and heavier cars, blowout-proof tires, air bags, passive safety restraints, rear window wipers and defrosters, fog lights, more shock-absorbent bumpers, antilock brakes, and so on. In our homes we can spend large sums on fireproofing, sprinkler systems, and smoke alarms, to cite only the fire protection aspect of household safety. Nuclear power plants are much more complex than homes or automobiles, leaving innumerable options for spending money to improve safety. In response to escalating public concern, the NRC began implementing some of these options in the early 1970s, and quickened the pace after the Three Mile Island accident.

This process came to be known as “ratcheting.” Like a ratchet wrench which is moved back and forth but always tightens and never loosens a bolt, the regulatory requirements were constantly tightened, requiring additional equipment and construction labor and materials. According to one study,4 between the early and late 1970s, regulatory requirements increased the quantity of steel needed in a power plant of equivalent electrical output by 41%, the amount of concrete by 27%, the lineal footage of piping by 50%, and the length of electrical cable by 36%. The NRC did not withdraw requirements made in the early days on the basis of minimal experience when later experience demonstrated that they were unnecessarily stringent. Regulations were only tightened, never loosened. The ratcheting policy was consistently followed.

In its regulatory ratcheting activities, the NRC paid some attention to cost effectiveness, attempting to balance safety benefits against cost increases. However, NRC personnel privately concede that their cost estimates were very crude, and more often than not unrealistically low. Estimating costs of tasks never before undertaken is, at best, a difficult and inexact art.

(…)

Clearly, the regulatory ratcheting was driven not by new scientific or technological information, but by public concern and the political pressure it generated. Changing regulations as new information becomes available is a normal process, but it would normally work both ways. The ratcheting effect, only making changes in one direction, was an abnormal aspect of regulatory practice unjustified from a scientific point of view. It was a strictly political phenomenon that quadrupled the cost of nuclear power plants, and thereby caused no new plants to be ordered and dozens of partially constructed plants to be abandoned.

Regulatory Turbulence

We now return to the question of wildly escalating labor costs for construction of nuclear plants. They were not all directly the result of regulatory ratcheting, as may be seen from the fact that they did not occur in the “best experience” projects. Regulatory ratcheting applied to new plants about to be designed is one thing, but this ratcheting applied to plants under construction caused much more serious problems. As new regulations were issued, designs had to be modified to incorporate them. We refer to effects of these regulatory changes made during the course of construction as “regulatory turbulence,” and the reason for that name will soon become evident.

As anyone who has tried to make major alterations in the design of his house while it was under construction can testify, making these changes is a very time-consuming and expensive practice, much more expensive than if they had been incorporated in the original design. In nuclear power plant construction, there were situations where the walls of a building were already in place when new regulations appeared requiring substantial amounts of new equipment to be included inside them. In some cases this proved to be nearly impossible, and in most cases it required a great deal of extra expense for engineering and repositioning of equipment, piping, and cables that had already been installed. In some cases it even required chipping out concrete that had already been poured, which is an extremely expensive proposition.

Constructors, in attempting to avoid such situations, often included features that were not required in an effort to anticipate rule changes that never materialized. This also added to the cost. There has always been a time-honored tradition in the construction industry of on-the-spot innovation to solve unanticipated problems; the object is to get things done. The supercharged regulatory environment squelched this completely, seriously hurting the morale of construction crews. For example, in the course of many design changes, miscalculations might cause two pipes to interfere with one another, or a pipe might interfere with a valve. Normally a construction supervisor would move the pipe or valve a few inches, but that became a serious rule violation. He now had to check with the engineering group at the home office, and they must feed the change into their computer programs for analyzing vibrations and resistance to earthquakes. It might take many hours for approval, and in the meanwhile, pipefitters and welders had to stand around with nothing to do.

Requiring elaborate inspections and quality control checks on every operation frequently held up progress. If an inspector needed extra time on one job, he was delayed in getting to another. Again, craft labor was forced to stand around waiting. In such situations, it sometimes pays to hire extra inspectors, who then have nothing to do most of the time. I cannot judge whether all of these new safety procedures were justifiable as safety improvements, but there was a widespread feeling among those involved in implementing them that they were not. Cynicism became rampant and morale sagged

Prof. Cohen goes on to document the history of how Greenpeace and friends managed to destroy the Shoreham, Long Island plant — which was eventually sold to NY state for $1.

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But the worst delay came after the Shoreham plant was completed. The NRC requires emergency planning exercises for evacuation of the nearby population in the event of certain types of accidents. The utility provides a system of warning horns and generally plans the logistics, but it is necessary to obtain cooperation from the local police and other civil authorities. Officials in Suffolk County, where Shoreham is located, refused to cooperate in these exercises, making it impossible to fulfill the NRC requirement. After years of delay, the NRC changed its position and ruled that in the event of an actual accident, the police and civil authorities would surely cooperate. It therefore finally issued an operating license. By this time the situation had become a political football, with the governor of New York deeply involved. He apparently decided that it was politically expedient to give in to the opponents of the plant. The state of New York therefore offered to “buy” the plant from the utility for $1 and dismantle it, with the utility receiving enough money from various tax savings to compensate for its construction expenditures. This means that the bill would effectively be footed by U.S. taxpayers. As of this writing, there are moves in Congress to prevent this. The ironic part of the story is that Long Island very badly needs the electricity the Shoreham plant can produce.

India-Japan Nuclear Deal

Modi’s Japan Visit: The Grand Failure of India-Japan Nuclear Deal to Materialise

Dianuke | Sukla Sen | September 4, 2014

After the flop show that the Modi-Abe summit, on Sept. 1 in Tokyo, eventually turned out to be at least as regards clinching a much trumpeted nuclear deal between the two countries – widely considered as the very heart of the Modi’s mission Japan this time, the Economic Times reported as under.

The Japanese Prime Minister said there has been “important progress” in the negotiations over the deal in the past few months.

“We had frank discussions on the issue,” added Abe, whose country is very sensitive about the issue considering that it is the only country to have faced the wrath of a nuclear attack during the World War II.
Negotiations on the civil nuclear deal have been going on for over last four years but sources said a number of issues, including concerns over liability, remain to be addressed.

Abe commended India’s efforts in the field of non-proliferation including the affirmation that goods and technologies transferred from Japan would not be used for delivery systems for Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Modi appreciated the decision of Japan government to remove six of India’s space and defence-related entities from Japan’s Foreign End User List.

[Source.]

On the previous day, the Telegraph had analysed the prospects of the deal being clinched as under:

But persisting differences on the text of a nuclear deal India and Japan have been negotiating since 2010 mean Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are now unlikely to ink the agreement in Tokyo tomorrow, senior officials said.

Those differences are rooted in the compulsions of domestic politics in Japan, the only known victim of nuclear bombs, where India’s 1974 nuclear tests code-named “Operation Smiling Buddha” and the later tests in 1998 are still viewed as evidence New Delhi cannot be trusted.

But it is the nuclear agreement that Modi and his government were most keen to sign during the current visit. That, an official said, now appears “unlikely”.

Now, India and Japan will refer to the nuclear negotiations in the joint statement the two Prime Ministers will issue Monday evening. According to one official, they may ink a minor agreement reinforcing the commitment of both nations to eventually sign the nuclear pact.

But Japan is unwilling to give up on its demand that the text of the nuclear agreement mention specifically Tokyo’s right to pull out of the pact if New Delhi conducts fresh tests.

The condition itself is not a source of friction: both countries know Tokyo will have no other option, even if the text of the pact does not mention a Japanese exit clause.

Japan has so far only inked nuclear deals with nations that are signatory to the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). India has not accepted either.

For India, any specific reference in the text that points to a lack of trust in New Delhi’s stated commitment to non-proliferation — and its self-imposed moratorium on testing — is unacceptable.

A failure to wrap up the pact during Modi’s visit will not derail the agreement — diplomatic negotiations often take several years.

But the inability of the two nations to reach a consensus on the text of the pact will dent Modi’s stated objective of focusing on hard deliverables rather than mere symbolism of foreign visits (emphasis added).
[Source]

It has also been reported that Japan wants specific Indian commitment incorporated in the deal as regards no further nuclear tests in future, and also provisions for more intrusive inspection to ensure no (surreptitious) shifting of nuclear stuff to weapons making.

Neither is acceptable to India.

Talks on a deal have been stuck on Japan’s insistence on a clause that India won’t test again and will allow more intrusive inspections of its nuclear facilities to ensure that spent fuel is not diverted to make bombs.

[Source]

The relevant portion of the Abe-Modi Joint Statement on Sept. 1 2014 issued from Tokyo is as under.

The two Prime Ministers affirmed the importance of civil nuclear cooperation between the two countries and welcomed the significant progress in negotiations on the Agreement for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy. They directed their officials to further accelerate the negotiations with a view to concluding the Agreement at an early date, and strengthen the two countries’ partnership in non-proliferation and nuclear safety. (Emphasis added.)

Prime Minister Abe commended India’s efforts in the field of non-proliferation including the affirmation that goods and technologies transferred from Japan would not be used for delivery systems for WMD. Prime Minister Modi appreciated the decision of the Government of Japan to remove six of India’s space and defence-related entities from Japan’s Foreign End User List. They looked forward to enhanced trade and collaboration in high technology.

The two Prime Ministers affirmed their commitment to work together for India to become a full member in the four international export control regimes: Nuclear Suppliers Group, Missile Technology Control Regime, Wassenaar Arrangement and Australia Group, with the aim of strengthening the international non-proliferation efforts.

[Source]

Let’s compare this with the excerpt, pertaining to the purported nuclear deal, from the last joint declaration of the then Prime Ministers, Abe and Singh, on Jan. 25 last from Delhi is reproduced below.

32. The two Prime Ministers reaffirmed the importance of civil nuclear cooperation between the two countries, while recognizing that nuclear safety is a priority for both Governments. They welcomed the substantial progress made since their last meeting in negotiations between India and Japan on an Agreement for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy and directed their officials to exert further efforts towards an early conclusion of the Agreement (Emphasis added).

33. The two Prime Ministers reaffirmed their shared commitment to the total elimination of nuclear weapons. Prime Minister Abe stressed the importance of bringing into force the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) at an early date. Prime Minister Singh reiterated India’s commitment to its unilateral and voluntary moratorium on nuclear explosive testing. They also reaffirmed their commitment to working together for immediate commencement and an early conclusion of negotiations on a non-discriminatory, multilateral and internationally and effectively verifiable Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT). They also supported the strengthening of international cooperation to address the challenges of nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism. They recognized the importance of an effective national export control system conforming to the highest international standards. Prime Minister Abe recognized India’s sound non-proliferation record. Both sides expressed their commitment to work together for India to become a full member in the international export control regimes: the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Australia Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement, with the aim of strengthening the international non-proliferation efforts.
[Source]

The similarities are too striking.

The failure, in both the cases, is papered over in customary diplomatese.

The progress since the last time, in this particular regard, if any at all made, is just too cosmetic.

The deal with Japan, by the way, is considered crucial also in the context of projected deals with the US-based companies – GE-Hitachi and Westinghoue, and the French Areva. All of them are reportedly banking on supply of nuclear reactor shells from Japan.

It goes without saying that it’s mighty good for India – the Indian people. And, it bears repetition that the credit for blocking the deal almost exclusively goes to the Japanese people – their strong and vocal anti-nuclear stand.

The last time, in January, Abe’s wife herself had gone public opposing the deal.

So, the final message emanating from the great fiasco, obviously, is: No More Hiroshima! No More Fukushima!
Long Live the Solidarity between the Japanese and Indian People!

Cancer behind 70% deaths in India’s atomic energy hubs

The Times of India | V Narayan & Malathy Iyer | Sep 6, 2014

MUMBAI: Cancer caused almost 70% of the 3,887 deaths caused by ailments in the atomic energy hubs across the country over 20 years, an RTI reply has revealed. In all, 2,600 succumbed to cancer in 19 centres between 1995 and 2014.

The query to the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), which, like the others, is under the Department of Atomic Energy, had another shocking revelation: 255 employees took their own lives while in harness in the same period, meaning over one every month for 20 years. Investigations showed they were mostly over prolonged illness or family problems.

Cancer is among the top ten killers in India, and accounts for around 7% of the roughly 9.5 million annual deaths, as has been estimated by the Centre’s ongoing Million Deaths Study.

“But such high cancer mortality (as in the DAE centres) is alarming and needs to be analyzed further to check if it occurred among people who were in touch with radioactive material or among the non-scientific staff,” said Dr Altaf Patel, a senior physician and former teacher at J J Hospital, Byculla, about the data.

The data was procured by activist Chetan Kothari. TOI repeatedly tried to contact BARC’s head of media relations R K Singh, but could not get a response.

Dr Shashank Joshi, senior endocrinologist and president of the Association of Physicians of India, said there is an established link between cancer and radiation.

“However, I am a bit sceptical of this data because it’s difficult to establish the cause-and-effect correlation without studying the cases.”

A senior oncologist with Tata Memorial Hospital in Parel was also sceptical. The death certificates in the cases need to be closely studied, he said. “A cancer patient can die of a number of causes. How can we say 70% died due to cancer?” he asked.

Another oncologist pointed out that the data says the deaths occurred while the people were still in employment. “Cancer is a disease of the old. If it occurred in so many people below 60, it is a matter of concern.”

Dr Joshi added that the incidence of cancer is rising across the world. “If the BARC data shows such high cancer mortality, it calls for stringent safety standards.”

Kothari’s RTI data showed that the remaining 1,287 of the 3,887 health-related deaths occurred due to the following reasons: cardiac arrest, strokes, liver failure, multiple organ failure, tuberculosis, cardio-respiratory diseases, septicemia, cirrhosis of liver, cerebro-vascular diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, mellitus, asthma and hypertension.

Kothari said most of the deceased in the report were between 29 and 50. Several centres have not dwelt on the reason behind the suicides or how various other illnesses were contracted by the deceased.

“A majority of deaths of its gazetted officers reported in the DAE centres across the country was found to have been caused by cancer and not radiation. It is impossible to trace one single factor as being responsible for the cancer,” said a retired senior BARC scientist.

If a person is exposed to radiation, he or she has got more chances of getting cancer. But it is necessary to identify how many radiation units the person has been exposed to and for how long to arrive at a conclusion, the scientist added.

When TOI tried to contact BARC’s head of media relations R K Singh on Wednesday, a woman staffer in Singh’s office said he was on official tour. She asked TOI to mail the query to the BARC director and controller’s office for details. Till late on Saturday evening, BARC officials had not replied.

On February 12, 2014, V Narayanasamy, then minister of state for personnel, public grievances and pensions, and Prime Minister’s Office (which handled DAE), had told the Lok Sabha all suicide cases have been investigated by the local police. Findings indicate the suicides were committed following prolonged illness and family problems.

The PMO added: “Safety and security measures to prevent casualties are in place at all nuclear power plants. Security and safety instructions issued by various security agencies and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board are strictly implemented at all nuclear power plant sites and residential townships”.

From the Women of Koodankulam

From the Women of Koodankulam: a letter to the sisters of India and the world

Dianuke | September 12, 2014

Dear Sisters,

We hope this letter finds you all well.

We also hope you remember us- the women of the tiny coastal village of Idinthakarai, closest to the famed Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) in Thirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. We have been silent for many months, not because a sense of failure engulfed us after the Supreme Court verdict that permitted the Nuclear Power Plant to be fully operational.

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We have been silent because we were involved in many activities that provided the base for raising more relevant questions and doubts that the Nuclear Power Plant and also further deals that our country is making has brought to the fore. Through the intense days of our incessant struggle, we have realized a terrible truth- governments may change, leaders will vary but the attitude of this country’s ruling centre towards Nuclear Energy and establishment of Nuclear power plants in environmentally significant areas where human communities depend for life and livelihood remains static. This calls for more concerted and vigilant coming together of all peoples groups against the anti-people, anti-nature Nuclear Policy in the name of development and interests of the people.

Today is the 1120th day of our struggle in this thatched pavilion at Idinthakarai near the Lourde Matha Church which has become our second home and to which many of you have come with your concern and support. This is a day etched forever in our minds, because this is the day 3 years back when we lost dear brother Sahayam and 2 others to the harsh police attack on our peaceful protest. The tears in the eyes of Chellama, Sahayam’s sister and his wife and young children have not dried. This is the day when we realized that our sisters have been taken away, among them the ill and week Rosalin.

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Update from Koodankulam struggle:

A grand anti-nuclear public meeting was held on September 10, 2014 at Idinthakarai from 10 am to 5 pm to honor the memories of Anthony John of Manappad, Rajasekar of Koodankulam, and Rosalin and Sahayam of Idinthakarai, who lost their precious lives in the struggle against the Koodankulam nuclear power project (KKNPP). This day also happens to be the second anniversary of the police atrocity that was unleashed on the peaceful, nonviolent protesters at Idinthakarai, and the third anniversary of the intense phase of the anti-Koodankulam stir.Leaders from various political parties and organisations participated in the meeting.

Our Demands:
[1] Don’t build the 3rd and 4th units at the KKNPP!
[2] Institute an independent scientific inquiry on the 1st and 2nd units of the KKNPP that are fraught with irregularities, scandals, corruption, shoddy, substandard parts and scores of technical problems!!
[3] Facilitate a national popular debate on Indian government’s nuclear policy!!!

Report and pictures courtesy: Amirtharaj Stephen

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Today in an extremely somber event, some of us walked the streets of our village with drums to the homes of Rosalin and Sahayam and lit lamps that we carried back to the stage where the program was on. We walked in silence by the seas shore where waves crashed on the shore and sun sparkled on the waters. We looked back at the yellow domes of the Nuclear Power Plant and wondered of the Units are truly operational, if hot and radiated waters from the plant are contaminating the life giving oceans, whether the lobsters and fish we were catching have radiation in it…who will answer our doubts?
We are overwhelmed today by the presence of friends from Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Delhi who are here to support us. We are impressed that the message of our struggle has reached a level that many political parties are not able to ignore or avoid. We know our leaders and friends are making the P-MANE as a struggle to be a model of how a People’s Movement can hold on against such a large force for so many days with no dilution or compromise. That is our strength. All the speeches made by our supporters stressed on this aspect of steadfastness, fortitude and perseverance for which we feel grateful.

We reiterate the need for
1.A transparent evaluation of the status quo of the KKNPP now- are the units 1 and 2 functioning? Is electricity being generated as per the viable levels? Have all the safety standards being compiled with?

2.A total scrapping of Unit 3 and 4which is in the offing.

This is all we ask for , as we reckon with the burning fact that we are still close to the nuclear domes. Our children play and our fishing boats bring in the oceans’s priceless wealth that burn the hearths in our homes. Babies are born and children are growing up. We till the soil and plant vegetables, our goats and cows graze here…life is going on as usual here.
We invite you to visit us and be with us. We request you to share our dreams and fears. We still do not get adequate safe drinking water, we still do not have good transportation facilities, a suitable hospital or a good road- nothing has changed for us, except that fear has increased. If establishing fear and anxiety in the minds of common people like us is the talisman of development, then that alone has been achieved ever since KKNPP became “operational”

Please join us soon

With regards
Sisters of Idinthakarai

Anitha.S in conversation with friends in the village on s
Sept 10,2014

Tony Abbot: in denial over India’s unsafe nuclear industry

Dianuke | Sep. 10, 2014

The recent Australian uranium sales deal with India is a further slide in a radioactive race to the bottom that reflects a disturbing retreat from reason and responsibility. During his time in India Tony Abbott repeatedly said that India has an ‘impeccable’ military nuclear non-proliferation record and repeatedly refused to answer questions about serious deficiencies in India’s civil nuclear sector.

In the absence of evidence Mr Abbott was reduced to white flannelled cliché declaring that Australia and India trust each other on issues like uranium safeguards because of ‘the fundamentally ethical principle that every cricketer is supposed to assimilate – play by the rules and accept the umpire’s decision’. Seriously.

Despite assurances of ‘peaceful purposes’, this deal has serious nuclear security implications. Even if all goes well, and in the shadow of Fukushima that is a big assumption, it will free up India’s domestic uranium stocks for military use and do nothing to advance Indian non-proliferation or reduce the continuing tension with nuclear rival Pakistan.

The sale of uranium to India, a nuclear armed nation that is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) nor subject to full international nuclear safeguards but is engaged in an active nuclear weapons expansion program, is also in direct conflict with Australia’s obligations under the South Pacific Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty.

Modi-and-Abbott-e1410341241583

While the new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is intent on expanding India’s civil and military nuclear ambitions, large question marks remain over the adequacy of safety and security arrangements covering India’s nuclear sector. In 2012 the Indian Auditor General released a damning report warning of a ‘Fukushima or Chernobyl-like disaster if the nuclear safety issue is not addressed’.

This frank assessment came from India’s own senior officials. Fast forward to 2014 and the issues identified by the Auditor General have not been addressed and there is no certainty they ever will be. The safety of India’s nuclear reactors remains shaky, the sectors regulation and governance deficient and the costs of errors extraordinary.

Tony Abbott’s visit to India came hot on the heels of an Australian visit from the former Japanese PM Naoto Kan, who was in Australia visiting Aboriginal people affected by uranium mining in the NT and taking his story directly to Canberra.

Mr Kan was Prime Minister in the early days of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, a continuing crisis directly fuelled by Australian uranium. As the man tasked with overseeing the fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster and deciding whether to evacuate twenty five million people from greater Tokyo Mr Kan’s message was clear: Australia and world needs to “reduce dependence on nuclear power” and fully embrace renewables.

In the context of the Indian sales deal Mr Kan’s comments have great significance. If Japan, the world’s third largest economy and a nation steeped in technology and systems could not control the atomic genie, it bodes poorly for the application of this technology in other countries. With Australia’s renewable energy expertise and resources we would be superbly placed to keep Indian village lights on while ensuring the Geiger counter stays off.

Along with Mr Kan’s cautionary tale, another of Australia’s controversial uranium customers is providing a stark lesson in the need for prudence with uranium sales. Speaking at a patriotic youth camp near Moscow recently Russian President Vladimir Putin boasted that Russia remains one of the largest nuclear powers in the world, stating: “I want to remind you that Russia is one of the leading nuclear powers….Russia’s partners … should understand it’s best not to mess with us.”

In the shadow of Fukushima instead of opening up new uranium sales in increasingly insecure and conflict-prone regions we should tread more carefully with our uranium supplies.

Uranium is not just another mineral. It fuels nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons and it all becomes nuclear waste. As home to around a third of the worlds’ uranium supply Australia’s decisions matter and this is an important moment to comprehensively re-consider the domestic and international costs and consequences of our uranium sales.

Tony Abbott has no excuse or mandate to put the promise of small time corporate profit ahead of the reality of severe and sustained human and environmental radioactive risk.

It’s just not cricket.

Dave Sweeney is the nuclear free campaigner for the Australian Conservation Foundation.

NSW uranium mines given green light

The West Australian | September 11, 2014

The NSW government has foreshadowed uranium mining in the state after inviting companies to apply for exploration licences.

Minister for Resources and Energy Anthony Roberts told question time in NSW parliament on Thursday that while the uranium mining ban still stands, there were benefits to be gained from probing the soil.

“The NSW ban on uranium remains in place; however, it makes perfect sense for NSW to have a look at what resources we have in this state,” he said.

Mining for uranium in NSW has been banned since 1986, but changes to legislation in 2012 have opened the door to exploration.

Three locations in NSW – around Broken Hill in the state’s far west, near Cobar and south of Dubbo are on the radar for possible uranium deposits.

“Any company granted an exploration licence will only be allowed to perform low-impact exploration and environmental monitoring. Any other activities will require further approvals,” Mr Roberts told parliament.

Environmental monitoring activities include mapping and desktop reviews.

The announcement follows Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s deal last week with India, which overturned a long-standing ban on uranium exports to the subcontinent.

There are already five uranium mines in Australia.

Uranium exploration and mining is carried out in South Australia, Western Australia, Queensland, Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

Mr Roberts said strict environmental, health and safety standards would be applied to the exploration licences.

The companies invited to apply for the licences are: Australian Zirconia Ltd; Callabonna Resources Ltd and HNFL Holdings Pty Ltd; EJ Resources Pty Ltd; Hartz Rare Earths Pty Ltd; Iluka Resources Ltd; and Marmota Energy Ltd.

UN officials call for renewed global commitment to ending nuclear tests

08-29-2013nucleartest

Atmospheric nuclear test conducted by the United States on 18 April 1953 at the Nevada Test Site. Photo: US Government

UN News Centre | 10 September 2014

United Nations officials today called for renewed commitment to a world free of nuclear weapons and nuclear tests, noting that nearly 2,000 such tests have taken place since 1945.

“Our collective aspiration for a world free of nuclear weapons must be reflected in a firm and formal commitment to ban nuclear tests,” Charles Thembani Ntwaagae, Vice-President of the General Assembly, said in a message delivered on behalf of President John Ashe.

“To test such weapons is to play with proverbial fire, takes us further down the treacherous path we seek to avoid and damages both human health and the environment,” he told the informal meeting convened by the Assembly to mark the observance of the International Day against Nuclear Tests.

Observed annually on 29 August, Day is meant to galvanize the UN, Member States, and non-governmental organizations to inform and advocate the necessity of banning nuclear tests.

The General Assembly resolution declaring 29 August as the International Day was initiated by Kazakhstan, which had closed its nuclear test site near Semipalatinsk on this date in 2009. Moreover, on the same date in 1949, the then Soviet Union conducted its first nuclear test, followed by another 455 nuclear tests over succeeding decades, with a terrible effect on the local population and environment.

Since nuclear weapons testing began in the mid-twentieth century, with the first test on 16 July 1945, nearly 2,000 have taken place.

Mr. Ntwaagae said that everyone can agree that there is no place for nuclear weapons in the future that Member States aspire to and in the global development agenda that they are currently mapping out.

“With their massive powers for destruction, the use of nuclear weapons would have catastrophic global consequences and would cause severe and long-lasting emergencies – humanitarian, global health, climate, social order, human development, and economic,” he stated.

“Development goals can only be achieved if we prevent such catastrophes on our planet; and accessing social goods and services is predicated on the existence of peace and security. This must be a collective effort, because we face the risks posed by these weapons collectively, as a human family, not as States with narrow national security interests.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recalled his visit to Semipalatinsk in April 2010, and added that the tests conducted there and hundreds more that occurred in other countries in the post-war period became hallmarks of a nuclear arms race.

“Our human destiny was suspended on a flimsy thread – a doctrine called mutually assured destruction, known by its fitting acronym, ‘MAD’,” he noted.

“The madness and horror of nuclear war had already been made appallingly evident in August 1945, when just two atomic bombs destroyed the entire cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki of Japan. They caused the deaths of approximately 213,000 people within five months and more than 300,000 people within five years.”

Mr. Ban said it is “regrettable” that the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), adopted by the Assembly 18 years ago, has still not entered into force.

“I wish to appeal particularly to those States that have not yet ratified the CTBT, especially the eight remaining Annex 2 States whose ratification is required for the Treaty’s entry into force. It has been already 18 years and the CTBT has not been able to be effective, while it has been contributing a great deal in practice, we need to make it legally effective.”