EDF ran secret lobbying campaign to reduce nuclear waste disposal levy
‘The nuclear industry is being offered what campaigners claim is a taxpayer subsidy on the disposal costs of waste from new reactors following a secret lobbying campaign, the Guardian has learned. The revelation will put further scrutiny on the new government's promise that there will be no subsidy for nuclear power. Liberal Democrat Chris Huhne, the new energy and climate change secretary of state, admitted to the Guardian this week that the government already faces a £4bn funding black hole over existing radioactive waste. A spokesman from Greenpeace said: "These documents blow EDF's claim that they won't need any subsidies for new nuclear clean out of the water. They know full well that the economics of nuclear don't stack up and that new reactors will only ever happen if the British taxpayer is forced yet again to carry the atomic can." In an effort to protect the taxpayer from having to pick up the tab, last year the government proposed charging a very high fixed unit price for waste disposal. But EDF argued it was much too high. The revised proposal would allow operators to set aside a much lower amount for the first 10 years of a reactor's operation.’

Brussels to probe Areva-Siemens venture
‘The acrimonious nuclear power joint venture between Areva and Siemens is to be probed by the European Commission after the German company revealed previously undisclosed “non-compete” clauses to the regulator. Siemens, Europe’s largest engineering group, last year announced plans to quit the joint venture which was formed in 2001 after the French government refused to consider the German’s group’s demand to swap its stake in the engineering partnership for one in state owned Areva. Siemens now wants to create another, rival joint venture with Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear company, to tap into the global nuclear revival. The two signed a memorandum of understanding in March 2009, a move that strained already tense Franco-German relations. Since then Areva and Siemens have been wrangling over the value of the German group’s stake in Areva NP, the engineering joint venture. The French company has accused Siemens of breach of contract, which imposed an eight year non-compete clause and the discussions are now the subject of arbitration proceedings in Switzerland.’

Urenco unveils enrichment plant
‘EUNICE, N.M. Urenco, an international nuclear fuel company, unveiled a long awaited uranium enrichment plant at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday that attracted most of New Mexico’s bigwigs as well as dignitaries from all corners of the world. Local and state officials lauded the $2 billion facility as an extraordinary accomplishment and a step in the right direction toward clean energy. The site’s opening came as British Petroleum continued its efforts to contain the nation’s worst-ever oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, a catastrophe that has emboldened officials who believe the country should work to reduce its dependence on oil. "We are writing part of global history here," said Helmut Engelbrecht, CEO of Urenco Ltd. The site, built and operated by the Urenco subsidiary Louisiana Energy Services, is expected to expand in the next few years and eventually provide half of the enriched uranium for the country’s nuclear power plants.’

Iran ready for nuclear fuel swap talks
‘Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki says Tehran is ready to sit down with the West to work out a written agreement on a nuclear fuel swap declaration. “We are ready to negotiate with the Vienna group [the IAEA, the US, Russia, and France] in order to draw up a written agreement,” Mottaki told his Belgian counterpart Steven Vanackere in Brussels on Wednesday. The Belgian foreign minister expressed approval of the recent Tehran declaration and welcomed the prospect of talks between Iran and Europe, which he said could promote mutual understanding between the two sides. The foreign ministers of Iran, Turkey, and Brazil signed a declaration in Tehran on May 17, according to which Iran would ship 1200 kilograms of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey to be exchanged for 120 kilograms of 20 percent enriched nuclear fuel rods to power the Tehran research reactor, which produces radioisotopes for cancer treatment.’

U.S. Says No, but Nuclear Option for Spill Gains Support
‘The chatter began weeks ago as armchair engineers brainstormed for ways to stop the torrent of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico: What about nuking the well? Decades ago, the Soviet Union reportedly used nuclear blasts to successfully seal off runaway gas wells, inserting a bomb deep underground and letting its fiery heat melt the surrounding rock to shut off the flow. Why not try it here? The idea has gained fans with each failed attempt to stem the leak and each new setback — on Wednesday, the latest rescue effort stalled when a wire saw being used to slice through the riser pipe got stuck. “Probably the only thing we can do is create a weapon system and send it down 18,000 feet and detonate it, hopefully encasing the oil,” Matt Simmons, a Houston energy expert and investment banker, told Bloomberg News on Friday, attributing the nuclear idea to “all the best scientists.” A senior Los Alamos scientist, speaking on the condition of anonymity because his comments were unauthorized, ridiculed the idea of using a nuclear blast to solve the crisis in the Gulf. It’s not going to happen,” he said. “Technically, it would be exploring new ground in the midst of a
disaster — and you might make it worse.”’

Livermore Lab helps test for nuclear cargo
‘Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory helped law enforcement officers practice finding nuclear or radiological cargoes in small ships in San Diego last month. Researchers from the lab worked with people from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Coast Guard and other federal, local and state police agencies in the May 18 practice exercise. This test was run out of Homeland Security’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, or DNDO, which set up a program to look for threats from small vessels in 2007. Searchers used hand-held detectors to look for low-level radiation sources put onto small ships as part of the test. Vessels searched were under 300 gross tons and included recreational boats as well as small commercial ships. They were screened in two security zones in San Diego Bay and in Mission Bay, a few miles to the north.’

Sellafield bosses to act on safety report
‘SELLAFIELD bosses have said problems identified by a government report are due to ageing facilities. The Health and Safety Executives’ report into the site’s performance in the first three months of this year found a number of problems. The closure of a vitrification line and lack of training to personnel were among issues the report highlighted. John Reynolds, a Sellafield press officer, said many of the issues raised were not new. Mr Reynolds said: “We have three vitrification lines which effectively turn high-level liquid waste into glass blocks. “One line had been operating on a limited basis for a number of months which we had been wanting to continue. “The HSE were not entirely happy with the safety case for that; it’s not as if they have put a block on that, what they have said is: ‘We need to be convinced further before you resume limited operations.’” He added: “There are some long-standing issues we have been dealing with for some time.” In a statement, the company said: “We acknowledge that there are challenges at Sellafield. Many of the challenges identified by the HSE are a direct result of ageing facilities and assets.”’