Monthly Archives: January 2016

Niger grants permit to GoviEx

Niger grants permit to GoviEx for $676 mln uranium exploitation project

Reuters | Abdoulaye Massalaki & Makini Brice | January 27, 2016

NIAMEY (Reuters) – Niger has awarded a permit to GoviEx Niger Holdings Ltd., the Niger branch of GoviEx, to exploit uranium for investments worth $676 million at the 243-km Madaouela Project in the Agadez region, according to a government statement.

The landlocked West African country is a major uranium producer and the ore is central to France’s nuclear energy program.

Niamey also granted four permits for uranium exploration to GoviEx Niger Holding Ltd. and two other companies, said the statement, which is read on public television.

French state-owned nuclear company Areva also operates in the central Nigerien region. The relationship has been fraught; in April its workers launched a strike before a court declared it to be illegal.

Niger is one of the world’s poorest countries and is ranked 188 of 188 in the U.N. Human Development Index.

(Reporting by Abdoulaye Massalaki; Writing by Makini Brice)


Jeremy Corbyn ‘to address 50,000 in biggest anti-nuclear demonstration for a generation’

The Telegraph | Ben Riley-Smith | 26 January 2016

Labour leader to join march through central London on February 27 as anti-Trident campaign gears up ahead of expected vote in March

Labour is locked in an internal debate about its stance on renewing Trident Photo: MoD Crown Copyright

Jeremy Corbyn will address an estimated 50,000 people in Trafalgar Square in the biggest anti-nuclear march for a generation as campaigners begin a “mass lobby” of MPs over Trident.

With a parliamentary vote expected as early as March, MPs were approached in their constituencies over the weekend by Trident critics in a “coordinated” drive to convince them to scrap the nuclear deterrent.

A mass email campaign is expected in the coming weeks to increase pressure on those MPs – especially in the Labour Party – who are undecided over renewal.

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour leaderJeremy Corbyn, Labour leader  Photo: Nick Edwards/The Telegraph

Campaigners want to deliver a message to Parliament that spending more than £100 billion on Trident renewal during a period of austerity is a “ridiculous diversion of funds”.

However Trident backers fear a repeat of the pressure that Labour MPs faced before the Syrian air strikes vote, which triggered complaints of bullying and intimidation.

The Labour leader will put himself at the front of the campaign alongside Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister, by attending a march through central London on February 27, according to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament’s (CND) website.

Two campaign sources told The Telegraph that Mr Corbyn has confirmed he would be attending the demonstration.

TridentTrident  Photo: PA

A message on CND’s website reads: “Join us to say No to government plans to buy a new system at a cost of over £100 billion. Parliament will be voting on this in 2016. So this is urgent – we can’t delay.”

Around 10,000 people have already signed up and some backers hope more than 50,000 people will attend – though others are reluctant to predict turnout.

A campaign source said: “We are hoping to make it the biggest demonstration against nuclear weapons since the 1980s. We are really going all out to make this as big as possible.”

Both Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP, and Leanne Wood, Plaid Cymru’s leader, are expected to attend.

Pro-Trident renewal: Tom Watson (clockwise from tpo left), Hilary Benn, Andy Burnham, Vernon Coaker, Gloria De Piero, Lord Falconer of ThorotonPro-Trident renewal: Tom Watson (clockwise from tpo left), Hilary Benn, Andy Burnham, Vernon Coaker, Gloria De Piero, Lord Falconer of Thoroton

A mass leafleting campaign is also being planned, with CND urging opponents of Trident to distribute campaign literature at train stations, churches and community centres.

A “coordinated” move to lobby MPs at constituency events was also held over the weekend with hundreds of politicians understood to have been targeted.

With the SNP opposing Trident and the vast majority of Tories expected to back renewal, Labour MPs are seen as the key undecided voters when Parliament is asked to make a decision.

The Telegraph revealed earlier this week that less than a quarter of Mr Corbyn’s shadow campaign back his opposition of Trident renewal – though the Labour leader’s allies believe MPs are more evenly divided.

Mr Corbyn’s office has been approached for a comment.

EDF struggling to fund new Hinkley Point nuclear reactors

Final decision on £18bn project delayed, despite backing by China’s state nuclear firm CGN

The Guardian | Rob Davies | 26 January 2016


The site where EDF Energy’s Hinkley Point C nuclear power station will be constructed – if funding can be found. Photograph: Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters

The UK’s first new nuclear power plants for decades face fresh delays amid reports that French energy giant EDF is unsure it can finance the £18bn project.

Directors were expected to meet this week to sign off on a plan to build two nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset.

A final decision has been on the cards since October, when China’s state nuclear firm CGN announced that it would take a 33.5% stake in the project during a visit to the UK by the premier, Xi Jinping.

But executives at state-owned EDF, which owns the rest of the project, have delayed a final decision amid funding problems, according to French financial journal Les Echos.

It said EDF was putting pressure on the French government to help find new backers to come on board alongside CGN.

While directors are due to discuss the issue at a board meeting on Wednesday, Les Echos reported, no decision will be made until the next board meeting, which will happen before final results are released on 15 February.

EDF did not return requests for comment.

The opening of Hinkley Point C has been delayed twice, from 2017 to 2025, while the UK government has faced criticism for agreeing to pay EDF £92.50 per unit of electricity, around double the market rate.

A group of its own employee-shareholders have also urged EDF to ditch the Hinkley plan, saying it could put the company’s survival at risk.

Green campaigners said any fresh delay unmasked multiple flaws in a deal intended to kickstart a new generation of nuclear power in the UK.

“The EDF board is clearly rattled as they delay yet again this crucial investment decision,” said Greenpeace executive director John Sauven, adding that the delay “could well signal curtains for Hinkley”.

“EDF managers as well as employee representatives on the board are deeply concerned this project is too risky and too expensive,” Sauven added. “George Osborne is almost alone in defending Hinkley’s honour.”

French regulator delays decision on EDF Flamanville reactor to end-2016

Reuters | Geert De Clercq | January 20, 2016

* Regulator delays ruling on Flamanville reactor weak spots

* Might impact EDF schedule for 2018 startup

* ASN says existing reactors’ extension not a given

* Industry’s financial problems cause for safety concern (Adds Chevet comments, background)

PARIS, Jan 20 French nuclear regulator ASN has pushed back until the end of this year a decision on what to do about weak spots in the vessel of a new-generation EPR nuclear reactor that utility EDF is building in northern France.

In October, ASN said it would rule “soon” on EDF and nuclear group Areva’s plans for dealing with weak spots in the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) in Flamanville.

Pushing back the decision could lead to further delays at the reactor, which is years behind schedule. EDF said in September Flamanville would not be operational before 2018 and would cost 10.5 billion euros ($11.5 billion), up from an initial budget of 3 billion.

“The companies will have to run tests, then analyse them. Then we need to analyse them. Normally, we should be able to rule on this by the end of the year,” ASN chief Pierre-Franck Chevet told a news conference.

ASN said in April that tests had shown that in some zones of the EPR’s reactor vessel and cover there was a significant concentration of carbon, which weakens the mechanical resilience of the steel and its ability to resist the spreading of cracks.

If ASN were to decide that Areva needs to replace the reactor vessel or lid because of the weak spots, the Flamanville project could face significant further delays and cost overruns.

EDF plans to build two EPRs (European Pressurised Reactors) at Hinkley Point in Britain.

Chevet said that it was not a given that EDF would be allowed to extend the life of its other reactors and that a first decision was due around 2018.

In January 2015, Chevet had said the ASN would give a preliminary opinion about the possible lifespan extension of EDF’s nuclear reactors by the end of 2015.

Chevet said that a first document about the life extension will be put up for public consultation in coming weeks.

EDF CEO Jean-Bernard Levy said last year he was confident EDF could make its reactors work for 50 or 60 years.

Chevet also said the financial difficulties of France’s nuclear sector are a major worry for the regulator.

Areva is virtually bankrupt after years of losses wiped out its capital, while EDF needs to find funds to take over Areva’s reactor arm, upgrade its own nuclear fleet, build new nuclear plants in Britain, and generate provisions for decommissioning and nuclear waste storage. ($1 = 0.9167 euros) (Reporting by Geert De Clercq; editing by Jason Neely and Adrian Croft)


Scrap Jaitapur: citizens oppose nuclear project as French President arrives in India

India Resists | January 25, 2016

In a Press Conference organised in New Delhi, activists opposed the nuclear power project in Maharashtra’s Jaitapur where India is setting up 6 nuclear plants imported from France.

Eminent social activist Aruna Roy, Priya Pillai of Greenpeace India and Kumar Sundaram of Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace(CNDP) addressed the press conference. Here is the press statement that they jointly released:

The French President will be the Chief Guest at this Republic Day parade; but 1800kms from New Delhi, farmers and fisherfolk in Jaitapur will be protesting this week against Mr. Hollande’s visit as the nuclear reactors that India is importing from France threaten their lives, livelihoods and the local ecology.

The Jaitapur project has serious and insurmountable problems – large-scale devastation of pristine and fragile ecosystem of Konkan, destruction of livelihoods for thousands of local farmers, fisherflk, alfonso cultivators and traders engaged in agro-business. Independent experts have underscored some crucial risks like the active seismic faultlines beneath the proposed site, the vulnerabilities of Areva’s reactor design exposed by the French nuclear regulator itself, the lack of independent regulator and safety culture in India and the larger democratic deficit in consulting people about their destinies.

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for Jaitapur was conducted in a farcical and hurried manner by the previous govt, without even looking into look into the crucial aspects radiological releases, decommissioning and nuclear waste, besides summarily neglecting the vital issues of ecosystems and livelihoods, terrestrial ecosystems and farming, mangrove forests and the fragile marine ecology and fisheries in the region. The BJP had then demanded a fresh EIA for the project.

Similarly, the Modi govt has taken a u-turn on nuclear liability and has gone further than the previous regime in placating the nuclear vendors. In case of any nuclear accident, the Modi govt has provided a insurance pool to the supplier companies from the public money, essentially channeling back the liability to the common people.
Although the former chief of India’s Atomic Energy Commission promised a tariff of maximum Rs. 6.50 per unit for the electricity produced in Jaitapur, independent experts have claimed it will be much higher – between 15 to 20 rupees a unit, far expensive than even domestic nuclear power plants. If we go by costs of EPRS in Britain, each EPR in India would cost Rs. 60,000 crore, meaning the 2 reactors in Jaitapur’s first phase would cost equal to the total expenditure on science and technology.

In the interest of common people of India, we oppose this unsafe, expensive, eco-destructive and anti-people project. The govt must initiate a democratic dialogue for a sustainable future for India.


California has higher number of thyroid cancer cases than national average

ABC7 | Denise Dador | January 14, 2016

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (KABC) — Recent research shows that cases of thyroid cancer, especially in young women, are on the rise. In some cities in California, the rates are higher than the national average.

Thyroid cancer is the No. 1 cancer for women ages 15 to 30 and No. 2 behind breast cancer for women ages 30 to 39, according to Dr. Melanie Goldfarb with Providence St. John’s Medical Center.

UCLA researcher Dr. Avital Harari led the study that discovered the alarming data.

“We just found that on a whole all of California had more advanced cases than the average, statistically significant, not just a random difference,” she said.

Harari studied 10 years of information. She found that Alpine, Amador and Calaveras counties had the most advanced cases. In Southern California, Santa Barbara County ranked fifth, San Bernardino County was 12th and Los Angeles County was 14th.

Providence St. John’s Medical Center pathologist Dr. John Jalas studies how cancer cells mutate and spread. He said sun, diet and tobacco are the big environmental causes.

While radiation is a known thyroid cancer risk factor, Harari is now looking into whether pesticides might be behind California’s higher numbers.

“I believe, just based on the geographic difference, that there is something environmental,” she said.

Air Force withheld nuclear mishap from Pentagon review team

AP | Robert Burns | January 23, 2016

WASHINGTON (AP) — In the spring of 2014, as a team of experts was examining what ailed the U.S. nuclear force, the Air Force withheld from them the fact that it was simultaneously investigating damage to a nuclear-armed missile in its launch silo caused by three airmen.

The Air Force on Friday gave The Associated Press the first substantive description of the accident after being questioned about it by the AP for more than a year.

The accident happened May 17, 2014, at an underground launch silo containing a Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM. The silo, designated Juliet-07, is situated among wheat fields and wind turbines about 9 miles west of Peetz, Colorado. It is controlled by launch officers of the 320th Missile Squadron and administered by the 90th Missile Wing at F.E. Warren Air Force Base at Cheyenne, Wyoming.

The Air Force said that while three airmen were troubleshooting the missile, a “mishap” occurred, causing $1.8 million in damage to the missile. The service declined to explain the nature of the mishap, such as whether it caused physical damage, saying the information is too sensitive to be made public.

The three airmen were immediately stripped of their certification to perform nuclear weapons duty. The missile was taken offline and removed from its silo. No one was injured and the Air Force said the accident posed no risk to public safety.

More than a year later the three airmen were recertified and returned to duty.

At the time of the accident, a group of nuclear weapons experts was nearing the end of a three-month independent review of the entire U.S. nuclear force, an examination prompted in part by a series of AP stories on troubles within the force. The experts were operating on orders from then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who asked them to begin their review in March. They reported their results to him June 2.

The AP asked Lt. Col. John Sheets, spokesman for the Air Force Global Strike Command, which is responsible for the ICBM force, whether the May 17 accident had been reported to the Hagel-appointed review group. The experts were looking at a range of issues, including shortcomings in training, equipment, morale and leadership.

“No. The accident was going through the investigative process when” the review teams made their visits to ICBM bases, Sheets said. Pressed further, he said he could say no more and referred questions about this to the Pentagon, which did not immediately comment.

The Accident Investigation Board did not begin its work until Aug. 25, more than three months after the mishap. A safety investigation was begun sometime earlier. The Air Force denied an AP request for the accident investigation report in 2015 under the Freedom of Information Act.

Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, said Saturday the fact that the Hagel review group was not told about the accident “raises questions about what other accidents and incidents may have been overlooked by that investigation.”

On Friday evening, the AP was given a brief summary of the report. It said the Minuteman 3 missile “became nonoperational” during a diagnostic test on the evening of May 16, 2014. The next morning a “mishap crew” chief, who was not identified, “did not correctly adhere to technical guidance” during troubleshooting efforts, “subsequently damaging the missile.” No further details about the damage or errors were disclosed.

The investigation report summary said there were four contributing factors to the accident, and two were identified. One was the mishap chief’s failure to follow technical guidance. The other was that the mishap chief “lacked the necessary proficiency level” to anticipate the consequences of his actions during the troubleshooting.

In seeming contradiction of that second point, the Air Force said in its separate statement to the AP that the mishap team chief was properly trained for the task he was performing.

Sheets said it is possible that some or all of the three could still face disciplinary action.

The summary said the central cause of the mishap was established by “clear and convincing evidence,” but the Air Force would not disclose the cause or the evidence. It said the cause is cited in the investigation report. The Air Force refused to make that public, saying the report is classified, even though the service’s own policy requires the public release of accident board reports.

The amount of damage to the missile — $1.8 million, according to the Air Force — suggests that the airmen’s errors might have caused physical damage, Kristensen said. If so, he said, it could have been categorized by the Air Force as a “Bent Spear” event, which is an official reporting code word for a significant nuclear weapon incident. The Air Force refused to reveal how it categorized the Juliet-07 accident.

“By keeping the details of the accident secret and providing only vague responses, the Air Force behaves as if it has something to hide and undermines public confidence in the safety of the ICBM mission,” Kristensen said.

Sheets, the Global Strike Command spokesman, said Pentagon leaders were briefed on the results of the accident investigation in December. Members of Congress also were briefed, he said.