Swiss Info: Switzerland - New nuclear plant put to a test ballot
A non-binding vote on February 13 on the construction of a nuclear power plant outside the capital Bern is seen as a test for Switzerland’s nuclear power policy. The cantonal ballot could have a key impact on the choice for the sites of two new plants considered by the country’s three electricity companies. It is widely expected that Swiss voters will have the final say on the construction of new reactors in a nationwide ballot in 2013 or 2014. Switzerland currently has five nuclear reactors which generate about 40 per cent of the country’s energy but will gradually come off the power grid as of 2019. Following months of bargaining, the three electricity companies, Axpo, Alpiq and BKW/FMB, in December agreed to apply for two new nuclear stations for an estimated SFr20 billion ($20.8 billion). The sites considered include Mühleberg – a few kilometres outside the capital – and two other locations in Gösgen and Beznau, both in northern Switzerland. All of them already host nuclear reactors that came into service from 1969 onwards. A rejection by voters in canton Bern on February 13 is likely to spell the end of Mühleberg as location for a new plant. In the past, a majority of voters in canton Bern came out in favour of nuclear energy, but those in the city of Bern recently approved the withdrawal from such energy by 2039.

Sify News: Sack Rane for threatening anti-nuke activists: Maharashtra party
Mumbai, Jan 23 (IANS) Maharashtra's opposition Republican Left Democratic Front (RLDF) Sunday demanded the sacking of state Industries Minister Narayan Rane for his threats issued to activists opposing the Jaitapur nuclear power plant. In a statement, the RLDF took strong exception to Rane's statements in Ratnagiri last Friday when the minister warned that those agitating with mala fide intentions against JNPP 'would not be allowed to return'. Slamming the remarks, RLDF leader Ramdas Athawale sought a clarification from Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan on Rane's outburst and demanded to know whether he was in agreement with them. 'If the government does not endorse Rane's views, then he must be sacked forthwith from the cabinet,' he demanded. Addressing a meeting of party workers and others Friday in Ratnagiri district where JNPP is scheduled to come up with French collaboration of Areva company, Rane said: 'You have protested and we listened to you. But if you come here with wrong intentions, we shall not tolerate it. We will not allow you to spoil the situation, and you will not return.' Athawale said that Rane had thrown all democratic norms to the wind and publicly threatened 'to finish off' those protesting against JNPP.

Seattle Times: No proof Hanford mixers will work
RICHLAND, Wash. —  It sounds like a sci-fi thriller: Dangerous gases build up in a giant drum of nuclear waste. It explodes and spews contamination, threatening workers or the public. Or it cripples a facility that cost taxpayers $12.2 billion. It could happen at Hanford's nuclear-waste-disposal plant if radioactive material isn't kept stirred. So engineers years ago proposed a solution. Inside the plant's giant drums they would put pumps that work like giant turkey basters. Using air and suction, they would slurp up and spit out radioactive sludge to keep it constantly churned. But despite hundreds of millions of tax dollars and nearly a decade of effort, builders haven't proved these "pulse-jet mixers" will work and work safely, according to interviews, audits, internal and external project documents and e-mails. The effort to perfect this mixing system is a case study of Hanford's engineering challenges and helps explain why the site's waste-to-glass project often seems to be in crisis. Tracing this one technical problem reveals how cutting-edge technology and management missteps have led to setbacks, delays, cost-overruns, investigations and accusations of malfeasance. Walt Tamosaitis, an engineer and high-level manager with one of Hanford's contractors, charges that speaking out about it cost him his career. He since has filed a whistle-blower complaint. An investigation is under way. Neither the federal Department of Energy (DOE) nor its contractors will comment on his accusation. They maintain they've solved this mixing problem. But university scientists and experts with several federal offices aren't convinced.

The Guardian: Nuclear power generators will face £1bn in clean-up costs after an accident
Nuclear operators will have to pay the first £1bn towards the cost of any accident in the UK – seven times more than the current cap on their liabilities – the government will propose tomorrow. Energy secretary Chris Huhne told the Observer that he wanted to introduce the new rule to ensure that there would be no public subsidy for nuclear power. Currently, any operator of a nuclear site only has to pay the first £140m towards clean-up costs, with the taxpayer contributing the rest. The cap, enshrined in European treaties, was introduced because no company can obtain insurance against a nuclear accident – or would want to shoulder the risk themselves – because the costs could potentially be limitless. Many environmentalists argue that agreeing to cover any costs above £140m amounts to a public subsidy, which the Conservative and Liberal Democrats have promised not to provide to the industry.

Toronto Sun: Authorities mull fate of uranium cargo
VANCOUVER – A Liberian-registered ship containing spilled uranium powder is docked at a dormant cruise ship terminal in Vancouver, while authorities determine their next move. The MCP Altona is there to replenish fuel and supplies, according to Saskatoon-based uranium company, Cameco. “Cameco is working with government agencies to finalize plans for a full remediation of the ship’s hold and determine the location where this will occur,” the company said in a statement. “All the uranium remains safely confined within the ship’s hold and the hold will remain sealed and locked until remediation activities commence.” The freighter departed Vancouver on Dec. 23 with 350 tonnes of uranium concentrate destined for refining in China, but encountered severe weather and turned back on Jan. 3.