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Reuters Environment News
Police said the protesters had tried to prevent a railway engine from entering the grounds of the Kruemmel power plant, just east of Hamburg, on Tuesday morning.
A spokesman for the power plant's operators said the train had departed in the early afternoon for the Sellafield reprocessing plant in northern England.
Police sealed off the railway line in a Hamburg suburb to stop demonstrators staging a blockade on the tracks.
The activists have vowed to stage protests at several points along the train's route in western Germany before it crosses into France.
The transport of nuclear waste remains a highly controversial issue in Germany. Thousands of police and demonstrators clashed in March this year as one shipment made its way to the Gorleben waste dump.
Globe and Mail
Union president John Murphy said in an interview Monday that the Power Workers Union has been holding informal talks with management of the Crown-owned utility on a number of issues, including the nuclear recovery plan and the possible restructuring of Hydro by the Ontario government, that could quickly lead to formal labour negotiations between the two.
"We're getting close to that point and my guess is that we'll be at that point in a couple of weeks," he said.
Hydro is extremely concerned that the provisions of the current contract, which set up a cumbersome and time-consuming system for the redeployment of unionized workers, could impede the implementation of the utility's $5-billion to $8-billion nuclear recovery plan.
Reuters Environment News
Far-fetched perhaps, but that's what a team of students proved theoretically possible when they set a new record at a "mileage marathon" competition in Britain.
The students, from Lycee la Jolivérie in Nantes, France, clocked up the equivalent of 7,947 miles per gallon (mpg) at the Silverstone motor racing circuit in central England.
The contest, sponsored by oil company Shell, saw 100 teams compete from schools and universities to see whose vehicle could travel furthest on a gallon of fuel.
Shell said the new record run easily surpassed last year's 5,348 mpg.
--London newsroom +44 171 542 6280
Reuters Environment NewsBy Vicki Allen
The House voted 307 to 120 for the bill to start stashing high-level radioactive waste at the Nevada nuclear test site in 2002, more than the 290 votes needed to override a veto.
House members also rejected amendments by Nevada's two congressmen and other opponents of the bill to stall the dump, impose tougher safety standards, and restrict its financing.
The Senate in April passed an interim storage bill on a 65-34 vote, two votes short of those needed to block a veto.
Senate Energy Committee Chairman Frank Murkowski, who pushed the Senate bill, said in a statement that he expected to get enough votes in the Senate to send a veto-proof bill to the White House early next year.
"We'll be treated to all sorts of Halloween shrieks and howls as opponents put on masks and try to scare everyone. But what's scarier is doing nothing," the Alaska Republican said.
But Massachusetts Democrat Rep. Edward Markey, who serves on the House Energy and Power Subcommittee, called the bill "a nuclear trick or treat -- treats for the nuclear utilities and tricks on the American people, who are being told the bill will protect their health when in fact it exposes them to dangerous levels of radiation."
Backers of the temporary storage bill said it was essential to avoid huge lawsuits as the government was under a court order to start accepting the nuclear waste next year that is accumulating at utilities' reactors. The Clinton administration has said it will not meet that deadline.
The bill's supporters also said a collective dump, which also would store military spent fuel, would be safer than continuing to store the waste at some 70 sites in 41 states.
But the Clinton administration has said the temporary dump would detract from efforts to build a safer permanent repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, while failing to adequately protect public health and the environment.
Environmentalists and nuclear watchdogs have dubbed the bill "the Mobile Chernobyl," saying the scheme of putting deadly contaminants in trucks and railcars to be shipped through 43 states to Nevada from reactors mostly in the East or Midwest was inherently unsafe.
They also said the bill would set a radiation exposure standard that was more lenient than other federal standards.
Grassroots consumer group Public Citizen called the bill dangerous and misguided, and said it would expose 50 million Americans in 43 states to the risks of a nuclear waste transportation accident.
Under the bill, the first phase of the facility would be licensed for up to 20 years with a capacity of 10,000 metric tons of uranium, and the second phase would be up to 100 years with a 40,000 metric ton capacity.
Nuclear utilities that have lobbied hard for the interim storage plan praised the House vote.
"Electricity ratepayers who have paid the Department of Energy billions of dollars to safely manage used nuclear fuel ... deserve to see this comprehensive legislation enacted into law," said Joe Colvin, head of the Nuclear Energy Institute that lobbies for utilities with nuclear power plants.
Since the early 1980s, nuclear power customers have paid nearly $13 billion into a federal fund to build a central waste storage facility intended to contain the deadly substances safely for 10,000 years.
That originally was to have been completed by 1998, but the government has spent some $5 billion so far evaluating whether Yucca Mountain, about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, is the suitable site. The interim storage bill calls for continuing to pursue a permanent dump.
Reuters Environment NewsBy Randall Palmer
He immediately drew fire from the opposition Reform Party, which asked why Chrétien's policy was based on what the United States had proposed rather than on what was best for Canada or the world.
"We want our position to be better than the one by the Americans," Chrétien told Parliament.
President Bill Clinton announced last week a U.S. proposal to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2008 to 2012, leaving Canada as the only leading industrialized country which has not presented its position.
The European Union and Japan have proposed deeper cuts.
The Canadian cabinet is divided between those who favor tough curbs and those who worry about the effect these could have on the economy, and is grappling with how to put into effect Chrétien's directive to beat the U.S. targets.
"Why are they more concerned about winning a little ego war with Bill Clinton, than listening to Canadians. Whose deal is this anyhow?" the Reform Party's Deborah Grey asked Parliament.
"He brags about how he's going to beat Bill Clinton, whatever he does... Surely that is not the first priority of this government."
Many, though not all, scientists say emissions of gases like carbon dioxide -- caused when coal, oil and gas are burned -- will warm the global climate, with potentially disastrous effects ranging from flooding to drought.
Canada freely admits having missed the emission targets it agreed to at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. A follow-up meeting in Kyoto, Japan, is to try to set new targets for signatory countries.
Part of the Canadian government's problem is convincing a public which often endures six-month winters that more warmth would be bad. It also has to deal with a vibrant energy industry in Alberta.
Chrétien had been pressed on Tuesday on whether he was trying to outdo Clinton but failed to respond.
Reuters Environment News
In June, newly-elected Prime Minister Lionel Jospin said he would shut the controversial 60-billion-franc ($10 billion) reactor, which has been downgraded from being a power plant to carrying out experiments on nuclear waste.
The protesters say that closing the reactor will cost around 1,000 jobs directly and some 3,000 jobs in related industries. They have been occupying the reactor's administrative building last week.
The fate of the fault-prone nuclear reactor, at Creys-Malville near the Alpine town of Grenoble, has pitted environmentalists against local people ever since it was built 20 years ago.
Since the 1,200-megawatt reactor started up in 1977, it has been beset by faults. It fed the electricity grid for only 10 months, despite being on line for three times as long.
Reuters Environment News
In another step in the long process to establish the controversial Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), the EPA proposed to certify that the Energy Department project in Carlsbad would protect public health and the environment.
But the EPA -- which judges whether the facility is safe to hold long-lived waste of contaminated sludge, tools, clothing and other byproducts of nuclear weapons -- proposed conditions the Energy Department must meet.
The EPA said the Energy Department must show that its personnel know contents of waste containers at the generating sites, must seal waste storage at the WIPP with reinforced concrete barriers, and must report any changes at the facility the might violate safety requirements.
Energy Secretary Federico Pena issued a statement late Thursday saying he was pleased with the EPA decision, which he said followed a "vigorous" review.
Pena said he appreciated EPA's timely analysis and its effort to finalize certification by spring 1998, and encouraged the public to attend hearings and file comments with the EPA.
"Certifying WIPP will allow the Department of Energy to take a major step toward solving one of the key elements in the nation's nuclear waste disposal program," Pena said.
The EPA said it will have a 120-day public comment period on its proposal, and will have public hearings in Carlsbad, Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
Congress authorized development of the WIPP in 1979. and the facility was built 10 years ago, but has yet to open amid public oppostion and questions on its safety.
Reuters Environment News
Assistant Energy Secretary Al Alm in a statement said he ordered an analysis to be done within 30 days of the report by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER).
The United States has spent billions of dollars trying to clean up contamination from the nuclear weapons program at some 130 sites across the country.
But critics have said there is little to show for the program, expected to end up costing more than $200 billion.
"While the technical challenges are huge, we have concluded that institutional flaws are the main factor preventing the creation of sound remediation and waste management plans," Arjun Makhijani of IEER said at a news conference.
"DOE (Department of Energy) seems incapable of learning lessons from its many failures. It continues to rush into large projects without adequate preparatory work, grants huge budget increases to contractors without engineering review, and repeats the same mistakes," Makhijani added.
The report said the Energy Department failed to recognize findings that contamination from transuranic waste -- such as plutonium-contaminated sludge and clothing from nuclear weapons production -- travels much faster than was believed.
It said the department was pursuing a risky, unsound cleanup plan for the highly contaminated Hanford facility in Washington state.
It added that the department continued with a scheme to immobilize radon-producing contamination at the Fernald site near Cincinnati even though the pilot program was a failure.
Reuters Environment NewsBy Vicki Allen
Some environmentalists said it was too little, too late to prevent environmental disaster. Lobbyists for industrial groups said it could wreck U.S. industry, send gasoline prices soaring and give nations like China an unfair competitive advantage.
Clinton announced that the United States wanted industrialized countries to stabilize emissions from burning fossil fuels at 1990 levels by 2010.
The proposal also offered $5 billion in tax cuts and research to improve U.S. energy efficiency, and promised to restructure the electric industry to lower fuel bills.
Environmentalists had urged Clinton to press for reductions of heat-trapping gases below 1990 levels, while fossil-fuel dependent industries said the U.S. economy would be hammered by the energy cutbacks needed to curb emissions.
The Clinton proposal was unveiled at virtually the last possible minute, as international climate negotiators met in Bonn to negotiate a global deal. Final negotiations are set for December in Kyoto, Japan.
"We think the proposal is too little, too late. Unless we are able to get out of Kyoto an agreement that makes significant reductions sooner than the president is proposing, we're going to pass the problem down to future generations," said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Business groups said the plan went too far and would disrupt the U.S. economy.
"We find it unacceptable. It's going to set a cap on greenhouse gas emissions that in the end will result in high gasoline taxes or rationing," said Gail McDonald, president of the industry-backed Global Climate Coalition.
The coalition of heavy industries and fossil fuel companies said Clinton's proposal is too drastic because U.S. emissions have climbed well above 1990 levels. Studies show that the United States already is eight percent above the 1990 level.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said it opposed any plan that exempted China, India and Mexico from pollution restrictions.
"We regard this proposal as a one-way ticket to ship America's industrial capacity overseas," said Chamber President Thomas Donohue.
American workers, ranging from farmers to assembly line laborers, said they would be hurt by the proposal. "It is clear that it's going to take an increase in the cost of motor fuels to reduce petroleum emission levels, possibly in the neighborhood of 25 to 50 cents a gallon," said Dennis Stolte of the American Farm Bureau. "This proposal could send shock waves through American agriculture."
Ford Motor Co. said the plan "should not be the final U.S. position" because it did not include developing nations.
Environmental groups said the Clinton proposal was unlikely to win international support at talks in Kyoto.
"If the president is not willing to do better than that in Kyoto, the president will be responsible for the collapse of talks," said Philip Clapp, president of the Environmental Information Center.
Angry Europeans said the U.S. proposal reneged on climate promises made at a U.N. earth summit in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, where industrial nations committed to hold emissions at 1990 levels by the year 2000.
In Washington, European Union Ambassador Hugo Paemen said he was not hopeful Europe and the United States could forge a common position ahead of the Kyoto meeting. The two sides had "quite substantial differences," he said.
And in the U.S. Congress, where the Senate must approve any agreement on climate change made by Clinton, the reception for the plan was also cool.
Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican from Nebraska, called the plan "complete folly and nonsense" for failing to hold developing nations to pollution limits. Last summer, Hagel co-sponsored a resolution to reject any global warming treaty that exempted nations, a measure which won overwhelming approval from the Senate.
Amid the flurry of criticism, a few groups supported the the Clinton proposal as a modest start.
"This proposal starts early, starts small and leads with the expectation that developing countries will follow," said Michael Marvin of the Business council for Sustainable Energy, a coalition of renewable energy and natural gas groups.
The Environmental Defense Fund said Clinton deserved credit for setting a 2008 start date which is earlier than the European proposal. "This is the first time the president has committed to real incentives domestically to reduce greenhouse gases, and that's a very significant piece of the story," said Fred Krupp, president of the fund.
Reuters Environment NewsCALGARY, Alberta - Canadian Finance Minister Paul Martin said on Friday that Canada would seek credit at the upcoming Kyoto climate change summit for exporting environmental technology rather than simply agree to force emission cuts on its industries.
"There is no reason we cannot transmit to the developing world, where in fact the problems of pollution are galloping ahead . . . that technological capacity," Martin told students at the University of Calgary.
"That is a far more positive way of dealing with global climate change than simply passing a lot of rules and regulations," he said.
Canada has yet to complete its official negotiating position for the United Nations Climate Change Convention in December and is still gathering opinions on the contentious issue from provincial governments, industries and environmental organizations.
Martin said Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and Environment Minister Christine Stewart would unveil Canada's negotiating points "in the course of the next month, well before Kyoto."
The Alberta government and Canada's energy industry, which is largely based in Alberta, have warned that major cuts to emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide would have dire effects on the country's economic growth, especially in the west.
At the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janiero, Canada committed to stabilize emissions at 1990 levels by the year 2000, but emissions have actually increased since then.
Seeking to calm long-lingering fears in Alberta that the Canadian government would impose a carbon tax to fight growing levels of greenhouse gas emissions, Martin repeated such a plan was not in the offing.
"There will not be a carbon tax, unequivocably," he said.
Instead, Canada should be recognized for its growing environmental services industry and should should lead efforts to implement a worldwide program of emissions trading, Martin said.
Reuters Environment NewsBy Abigail Schmelz
The Finnish government has paid for radiation sensors scattered across the heavily militarised Kola peninsula in Russia's bleak northwest -- also home to Russia's fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.
"Since the spring of 1996 the phone has been cut because the bills have not been paid," Heikki Reponen, a senior advisor at Finland's Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, told Reuters.
He blamed the breakdown of the system on the Murmansk meteorological institute, which he said had failed to pay its telephone bill.
The bill in question was only for about 10,000 to 20,000 Finnish markka ($1,900-$3,800), so it was more a question of principle than cash, he said.
"I think they are using the phone lines for other purposes. Sending the measurements is not the only thing they are being used for," he added.
Norway, the only NATO member to share a land border with Russia, also has detectors near the plant which are not working.
No one at the meteorological institute was available for comment.
Reponen added it was doubtful the situation would be resolved before next year.
Radiation detectors placed around the Sosnovy plant near St Petersburg are at least functioning, but the Kola plant is a bigger worry. Two of its four reactors are a 1960s design that is no longer considered safe.
Carl-Erik Christofferson, a spokesman for the Norwegian Protection Radiation Agency, said the Russians were also dragging their feet over allowing a satellite to be installed which could help to provide information.
Fears about the dangers of ageing and poorly designed Soviet reactors have been high since the Chernobyl reactor blew its lid in history's worst nuclear accident in 1986.
Sweden, Norway and Denmark -- all of which received radioactive fall-out from the Chernobyl accident -- have spent large sums to increase safety at plants near their borders. ($ = 5.273 Finnish Markka)
Friends of the EarthBy John Hallam
Yesterday was the annual general meeting of Energy Resources of Australia, the company that plans to mine Jabiluka.
Anti-Jabiluka activists had a whale of a time both inside and outside the meeting, and our activities attracted massive publicity from radio, with TV coverage on channels 7 and 10.
We started with a press conference held outside the meeting, attended by representatives of environment groups, (Friends of the Earth, The Wilderness Society, and The Australian Conservation Foundation), as well as church groups and doctors.
At the press Conference, we launched a "contract with the Australian people", between ERA and the Australian peole, represented by the ACF, People for Nuclear Disarmament, the National Union of Students, the Environment Centre of the Northern Territory, Doctors and Health Professionals against Uranium Mining, and the Mineral Policy Institute.
The contract aims to make Energy Resources of Australia accept the following commitments:
This was followed by an impressive demonstration in front of the Regent Hotel in which the meeting took place, as some of us who had acquired shares in the company entered the meeting to ask questions.
While waiting to go in in the luxurious lobby of the hotel, clutching my proxy form, I was approached by the Ranger mine manager Ken Lonie, grinnning like a Cheshire cat, and then by ERA's executive director, Phillip Shirvington, both of whom shook my hand.
I was subjected to the bizzarre experience of standing right next to Shirvington while outside, louder and louder, we could hear 'Stop Jabiluka Mine' being chanted, and while we could hear shouts and running as people inside the hotel let loose more shouts of 'Stop Jabiluka Mine' while being chased by big security guys.
That was however, only a diversion, as in front of the assembled Board of Directors, a huge 'Stop Jabiluka' banner complete with the wonderful hand symbol, was let down 12 metres from the third floor mezzanine of the hotel foyer.
Inside, questioning of the Board of Directors was very sharp, and ERA was forced to admit that the Jabiluka mineral lease was in no way inferior in terms of environmental value to the surrounding Kakadu National Park.
Questioned over whether ERA was willing to take responsibility for the environmental effects of its operations for the very long periods of time for which tailings are radioactive (300,000-700,000 years) ERA said it was willing to take actions which would ensure the safety of the tailings waste for the next 100,000 years!
ERA failed to offer a satisfactory response to questions on medical effects of its operations.
According to our press release issued after the meeting,
Friends of the Earth - Sydney,
Suite 15, 1st Floor, 104 Bathurst Street,
Sydney, NSW, 2000 Australia.
Fax: (61)(2)9283-2005 Phone: (61)(2)9283-2004.
- Reactor Coolant Leaks at Japanese Nuclear Power Plant
Reuters Environment NewsTOKYO - Japan's Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corp (PNC) said on Friday there had been an accident involving a leakage of radioactive coolant water at its nuclear reactor on the Sea of Japan coast on Thursday.
Spokesmen at the state-run firm said about two tonnes of primary cooling water had leaked from pressure tubes into the reactor containment vessel of the prototype nuclear reactor Fugen.
They said the accident did not pose a threat to the environment nor to workers at the facility and that the cause was under investigation.
The 165,000-kilowatt [165 MW] Fugen advanced thermal reactor (ATR) has been undergoing routine maintenance checks since August. Checks are due to be completed in December, the spokesmen said.
The Fugen reactor, located in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture 350 km (220 miles) west of Tokyo, is due to be scrapped in about three years as part of a review of PNC that was prompted by a series of accidents at the corporation.
PNC, which carries out research and operates nuclear plants, has been under intense public scrutiny since revelations that it tried to conceal the way it handled a string of recent accidents and the extent of damage.
The accidents include a massive coolant leak at the Monju prototype fast breeder reactor in December 1995, which has remained shut since.
Another PNC-operated facility -- a spent-nuclear fuel reprocessing plant -- has also been shut since a fire and explosion in March.
Earlier this month, PNC said two workers were exposed to radiation during checks of equipment at the Fugen reactor.
Tokyo energy desk (813) 3432-3708
- Shell Oil bets on renewable energy boom in the near future
Reuters Environment NewsBy Tony Roddam
Shell said it would set up a new business -- Shell International Renewables -- as a fifth core business to sit alongside its traditional oil exploration, production, products, chemicals, gas and coal sectors.
Shell said it expected renewable energy to account for half of the world's power sources by the middle of the next century. By 2020 alone, sales of renewable energy -- wind power, biomass (recycled biological material) and photovoltaic -- were expected to reach $248 billion from less than $10 billion at present while fossil fuel use was set to level off.
"We not doing this for the hell of it...We think there are commercially viable opportunities," SIR president Jim Dawson told a news conference.
Dawson denied that Shell, which came under fire for its proposed disposal of the Brent Spar oil storage platform at sea two years ago, was setting up SIR as a public relations exercise or to appease environmental pressure groups.
"We are not reacting in a knee-jerk way to Greenpeace criticism but we would be stupid to ignore them," he said.
Compared with overall group investment of more than $10 billion annually, the $500 million over five years looks modest. But Dawson described the renewable energy plans as a "step-change", noting that spending on its renewable forestry business had totalled $20 million per annum in the past and only "a few million dollars" in the company's photovoltaic business.
Dawson said the $500 million would be invested equally between its already-profitable forestry business and the other renewable energies. In addition, the company would be pushing extra funds into wind power research, helped by its experience offshore with machinery, he said.
Shell has solar cell plants in Japan and the Netherlands and said it planned to set up more factories world-wide. Dawson said the solar cell business was at present making a small loss owing to depreciation on capital investment.
Dawson said Shell was aiming to capture 10 percent of the solar energy market by 2005 and predicted demand would grow by 15 percent per annum, with manufacturing costs declining by four percent per annum.
He said Shell saw great potential for solar panel and biomass technologies in rural areas, particularly for driving small engines, home lighting, appliances and small-scale industry.
"Fifty percent of the world's population has no electricity or grid. We have a vision of biomass and photovoltaic technologies feeding rural markets," he said.
He noted that World Bank surveys showed several hundred millions of rural households could potentially spend around $150 a year for basic lighting and energy needs.
Shell officials said they saw no contradiction in the world's largest hydrocarbons producer pushing into renewable energy technology.
"This is logical for Shell. We moved from coal to oil at the start of this century and from heating oil to natural gas. And in the same way, renewables will have an impact," Jeroen van der Veer, Royal Dutch/Shell Group managing director responsible for renewable energy activities, told the news conference.
Dawson noted that Shell was already a major player in the forestry industry, with a planted area in Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, New Zealand and the Congo of a size equivalent to Greater London. He said the commercial prospects for large scale power generation from biomass would drive the planting and harvesting of much larger areas of renewable forest.
--London Newsroom +44 171 542 4017
- Japan delays launching its nuclear fuel reprocessing plant
Reuters Environment NewsBy Kiyoshi Takenaka
TOKYO - The long-awaited opening of a key spent nuclear fuel storage unit in northern Japan could suffer yet another setback due to possible changes in the country's nuclear programme, a local government official said on Thursday.
The 3,000-tonne storage facility was built as part of a spent fuel reprocessing plant that extracts reusable uranium and plutonium, which are then fed to fast-breeder reactors (FBR).
It was originally meant to start accepting spent fuel in June from nuclear power plants nationwide, some of which are expected to run out of storage capacity as early as 2000.
But the facility's opening has met with repeated delays, the latest from government rumblings that Japan might take a step back from its commitment to its controversial FBR technology.
Fast-breeder reactors, which in theory create more fuel than they have consumed, have been the cornerstone of Japan's long-term energy policy.
"Our governor will not approve the shipment of spent nuclear fuel to the storage unit until he makes sure the (central) government is 100 percent behind the fast-breeder reactor programme," said the official for Aomori Prefecture.
"If we won't develop (commercial) FBR, we don't need spent fuel reprocessing plants, either," the official added.
A subgroup of the Atomic Energy Commission said in a preliminary report released in late September that it was premature to decide whether the commercial application of FBR technology was economically feasible.
The commission is the ultimate arbiter of Japan's nuclear policy.
The report marked a notable shift from Japan's conventional nuclear policy, which has been aiming to put the technology into practical use by 2030.
A revised version of the report, released last week, reiterated the need for the programme to be "flexible" in setting a target date for a commercial launch of the technology, but played down any worries about its future.
The report is the latest in a series of setbacks for the Rokkashomura storage facility, the most notable of which was a March explosion at Japan's sole spent fuel reprocessing plant on the Pacific coast.
The incident derailed talks between the plant's operators and the Aomori prefectural government, located at the north end of Japan's main island of Honshu.
If the programme to develop commercial fast-breeder reactors is abandoned after the storage unit has started receiving spent fuel, officials are concerned the prefecture could end up with the high-level radioactive waste forever.
The Aomori official said no schedule had been set for Aomori governor Morio Kimura to meet senior officials at the Science and Technology Agency (STA) to make sure the government has not budged in its support for the fast-breeder reactor programme.
STA officials defended the commission's reports saying they proposed careful, step-by-step progress in Japan's nuclear agenda, and should not be seen as signalling waning government confidence in FBR technology.
- Tokyo energy desk (813) 3432-3708
email : firstname.lastname@example.org
- EU: Energy Efficiency is the key to curbing greenhouse gasses
Reuters Environment NewsBRUSSELS - The European Commission on Wednesday said the European Union would need to encourage more efficient use of fossil fuels if it wanted to curb greenhouse gas emissions which cause global warming.
The EU's executive said using energy more efficiently was "the single most important" aspect of the 15-member EU's plans to curb emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2).
It said that cogeneration -- the combined use of heat and power (CHP) -- was one of the few technologies which could significantly help achieve this but that there were still too many barriers to its development in Europe.
During cogeneration, electricity is produced and the heat generated in the process, which is wasted in conventional electricity production, is recuperated to provide steam to turn industrial turbines or heat buildings.
In a paper setting out a strategy for promoting CHP, the Commission said studies showed up to 40 percent of the EU's electricity could be generated using CHP plants but the technology had not penetrated the market in most countries.
This "disappointing" result was due mainly to national energy policies and to the relationship between cogenerators and electricity production utilities.
"Obstacles to free access to the grid, inadequate payments for sales of surplus capacity to the grid and high tariffs for stand-by and top-up supplies are key factors impeding the penetration of CHP even in a partly liberalised European energy market," the Commission said.
Another major barrier was the fact that fuel taxes did not reflect the environmental costs of using different energy sources.
The Commission said it would be technically feasible to double the percentage of EU energy generated by CHP from nine to 18 percent by the year 2010, and that this would reduce CO2 emissions by four percent.
The EU wants developed nations to agree at global climate change talks in Kyoto, Japan, in December to its goal of bringing greenhouse gas emissions to 15 percent below 1990 levels by 2010.
National governments could promote CHP by exempting it from energy taxes, setting strict emissions limits for combustion plants, imposing CHP purchasing obligations on energy distributors and encouraging city authorities or other investors to finance cogeneration schemes, the Commission said.
The European Association for the Promotion of Cogeneration (Cogen Europe) said on Wednesday it should be possible to increase the cogeneration share in EU electricity production to 30 percent by 2010, at very little cost.
Cogen Europe director Michael Brown said the prospects of market penetration for CHP would be improved significantly if a forthcoming EU law partially liberalising the gas sector allowed all cogenerators to compete for supply contracts.
Brown said cogenerators also wanted strictly implemented EU laws which would open the electricity market to competition from 1999 and impose emissions limits on large combustion plants from 1998.
The pollution control directive says power plants must use the "best available technology" for electricity production and Cogen Europe wanted CHP to come under that definition.
- Soviet nuclear subs and nuclear waste haunt the eastern arctic
Reuters Environment NewsBy Abigail Schmelz
SVANVIK, Norway - Russia's arctic north is sitting on a timebomb of sunken nuclear submarines, an unstable reactor and a pile of radioactive waste that could blight the entire area, Norwegian and Swedish officials said on Wednesday.
In particular, Russia's rusting nuclear-powered submarines based on the Kola peninsula near the city of Murmansk have the potential to contaminate the adjoining waters of Finland, Sweden and Norway.
"The big problem is the subs that have already sunk. Nothing is leaking out yet but this is not a storage facility, it's a graveyard for sunken subs. It's just a matter of time before they start to leak," said physicist Mikael Jensen of the Swedish Radiation Protection Institute.
He said more than a dozen submarines, once part of the Soviet Union's mighty northern fleet, had been dumped in the shallow waters off the coast of the uninhabited arctic island of Novaya Zemlya, and about half still had their nuclear reactors intact.
Norway, especially concerned because of its billion-dollar fishing industry, maintains these are the cleanest waters in Europe and wants them to stay that way.
At the moment, it says, most radiation found in the Barents Sea can be traced back to the Sellafield nuclear processing plant on England's west coast or to fallout from atmospheric testing carried out in the 1950s and 1960s.
"You can track it all the way from there," said Inger Eikelmann, adviser to the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority.
The Norwegian and Swedish radiation protection authorities were making their comments in Svanvik, on the border between Norway and Russia which was once the only land frontier between the Soviet Union and a NATO country.
Even though the military threat has abated, the Norwegians are not comforted by the sight of Nickel, the Russian town which can be seen across the Pasvik River.
Home to the Pechenganickel smelter built by Soviet workers after World War Two and operated by RAO Norilsky Nikel NKEL.RTS, its poisonous fumes have turned the immediate surroundings into a wasteland, experts say.
Norway has budgeted more than 315 million crowns ($44.7 million) for the Barents Sea in the past three years for projects which Oslo hopes will reduce the chances of a major nuclear disaster.
Some of the money has gone towards safety improvement at an ageing Soviet reactor just 200 km (130 miles) from Norway.
"The Kola nuclear power plant is potentially an explosive situation for the Nordic region if there was an accident," Jensen said.
Another menace, for which there is no foreseeable solution, is the increasing store of spent nuclear fuel rods and other waste. Much Russian nuclear waste is reprocessed at a plant in Mayak, near the Ural mountains.
"They can't even afford to transport it to where it should be reprocessed. It's just piling up," Jensen said.
"It's not a bad policy to invest in reactor safety but in the long run I think the waste problem will be the bigger one."
Environmental activists say they would prefer to see the waste stored as close as possible to the source to reduce dangers of transport. But while progress has been made in passing on high Nordic environmental standards, money is a major obstacle.
In addition, any changes to Russia's vast nuclear complex, said to employ between 500,000 and one million people in some 16 cities, some of them still secret, are channelled through a central authority in Moscow, Gosatomnadzor. The process is extremely slow.
But the end of the Cold War has nevertheless brought more access to Russian nuclear sites than researchers ever dreamed of.
"The military is less concerned about guarding secrets and more inclined to cooperate," Jensen said.
But one incident has marred improved relations. Retired Russian navy captain Alexander Nikitin has been charged with treason for his attempts to uncover the hazards of Russian nuclear military waste in the Murmansk region.
His findings, published by Norwegian environmental group Bellona, were considered state secrets by Moscow. He is awaiting trial in St Petersburg. ($ = 7.047 Norwegian Crowns)
- Toyota hybrid is not Japan's only effort at producing a "Green Car"
Reuters Environment NewsTOKYO - Toyota's hybrid car unveiled on Tuesday, powered by both a gasoline engine and an electric motor, is only the latest example in the search among Japan's carmakers for fuel-efficient and environment-friendly cars.
Just last month, Nissan Motor Co Ltd announced a similar hybrid system which, like Toyota Motor Corp's vehicle, also cuts greenhouse and noxious gas emissions by 90 percent.
Both systems feature a continuously variable transmission, but unlike Toyota's nickel-metal hydride battery, Nissan's electric motor is powered by a lithium ion battery.
Nissan said it plans to introduce new cars equipped with its hybrid system in March 1999.
Honda Motor Co Ltd also announced last month it had completed research on a hybrid system.
Honda's model features an "ultra capacitor" as the source of electric power instead of a heavy battery, a choice which considerably lowers the weight of the entire vehicle.
But Honda has not announced plans to make a passenger car equipped with the system.
Besides hybrid systems, three Japanese carmakers have begun to sell passenger cars equipped with engines using the gasoline direct-injection (GDI) method, an improved gasoline engine format which substantially improves fuel efficiency.
Mitsubishi Motors Corp announced a GDI passenger car model last year, promptly followed by Toyota. Nissan announced a GDI car this month.
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- Bishops visit weapons lab, say nuclear deterrence is ethical bankruptcy
By Peter Weiss
LIVERMORE -- The moral fiber of Lawrence Livermore Laboratory is being stretched to the breaking point by the weight of its billion-dollar superlaser and other nuclear weapons projects, two Catholic bishops said Tuesday after visiting the lab.
Bishops Thomas Gumbleton and Walter Sullivan are longtime foes of U.S. nuclear weapons policies who have played key roles in shaping national Catholic views on nuclear arms.
They decided to tour the lab and chat with weapons scientists to help figure out if weapons labs are really ushering the nation toward disarmament, as the labs claim -- or if they are instead creating a new and more sophisticated arsenal, as the bishops suspected.
"One of the last remarks of the scientists was, 'Get real We can't have a world without nuclear weapons,' " Gumbleton said after five hours behind the lab fences.
To him and his delegation, that symbolized the lab's undying commitment to nuclear might. A new $4 billion-per-year program of nuclear weapons research for which the lab is building the $1.2 billion National Ignition Facility superlaser is just the latest incarnation of the old ways, they said.
"I would reaffirm very strongly that it is wrong to do what we're doing here," Gumbleton said.
Lab officials challenged the bishops' conclusions and Gumbleton's rendition of that particular scientist's words.
The problem with reaching total disarmament is that nuclear warhead know-how is already in human minds, but, "He said we should try to get as far as we can" toward disarmament, said Paul Brown, the head of arms control issues for the lab's weapons programs.
As for the superlaser and other new programs to replace nuclear testing, they are the way to assure that the arsenal stays in good shape as long as U.S. policy dictates that we have one, Brown said.
In 1983, Gumbleton played a key role in persuading American bishops to issue a historic "pastoral letter" that condemned the arms race and found the policy of nuclear deterrence to be morally acceptable only if it was linked to disarmament.
His visit to Livermore lab Tuesday convinced him that the link, if it ever existed, is gone, he said. So, it is time for American bishops to remove that moral prop to the lab's work, he said.
"The policy of nuclear deterrence is morally bankrupt," he said.
It's too late to win widespread support for a new Catholic position in time for the National Council of Catholic Bishops meeting next month, Gumbleton said. But he and Sullivan are hoping that, by spring, they might persuade their roughly 350 colleagues to come aboard. The drive will get a boost if their efforts now under way to get a strong condemnation of deterrence from the Pope succeeds, they said.
Gumbleton and Sullivan are leaders of the national Catholic peace movement known as Pax Christi. They said there are 147 U.S. bishops affiliated with their group.
Although there has been a shift in the church as a whole toward pacifism since the 1950s, Pax Christi still represents a minority, said the Rev. Richard McCafferty, S.J., pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Livermore.
But the pacifists' influence could be tremendous if bishops nationally go along with it, he said.
- Weapons-grade plutonium fuel could come to Canada quite soon
Uranium Institute: Spent Fuel
A joint US-Russia test programme on burning surplus weapons plutonium as MOX fuel in Candu reactors could begin early next year after the signature of a contract for MOX fuel pellet manufacture by the Bochvar plant in Russia and Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL). The programme would see both Russia and the US supply MOX pellets derived from surplus weapons plutonium, to make four fuel bundles for irradiation at AECL's National Research Universal Reactor at Chalk River in Canada. Studies on the irradiated fuel would be held towards a feasibility decision on a larger scale programme.
- Superpowers end production of weapons-grade plutonium
Reuters Environment News
The US and Russia have agreed to end the production of weapons grade plutonium. Under the agreement, the US will assist Russia to the tune of US$80 million, with the conversion of its three operating plutonium production plants to civilian power plants by the year 2000. Russia has also agreed not to restart 10 other such reactors, already off-line. The US has made similar promises, agreeing not to start its 14 plutonium production reactors, which have been off-line since 1989.
- Russia offers to sell tritium for nuclear weapons to USA
Close on the heels of reports that only 2 US utilities have expressed interest in producing tritium for the Department of Energy's (DOE) maintenance of its nuclear weapons inventory, a senior Russian defence official has indicated that the Russian Federation would consider selling the US the tritium it needs.