EDF looking to keep flawed part in reactor to save $115 million

In September, the French nuclear safety authority, ASN, will render its final verdict on whether or not a flawed reactor vessel head, installed in the Flamanville reactor under construction in France, should stay put. ASN already hinted in July that it will greenlight the reactor to operate with the flawed part, as long as owner EDF replaces it about seven years into operation. But now EDF is asserting that maintenance and vigilance will likely be enough to avoid replacing the part altogether. The vessel head has carbon anomalies that could result in cracking and rupture of containment and a meltdown. But clearly EDF wants to avoid the hefty $115 million price tag for replacing the part. The Flamanville project, a French EPR design, has already tripled its original cost estimate, ballooning to more than $12 billion and is years behind schedule.

The flawed component came from the Creusot Forge, now closed as a investigation looks into how many similarly flawed parts might have been installed in other reactors, including 17 in the U.S. identified by Areva which owns the forge. Activists in France have a petition to ASN urging the agency not to approve the flawed component at all and calling for an end to the ill-fated an unnecessary EPR project. More


France puts a number on amount of reactors to be closed: 17

For the first time, the French government has put an actual number on planned nuclear reactor closures. It’s 17. The estimation was made by Environment Minister, Nicolas Hulot, a former environmental campaigner. While the reduction would achieve the same objective identified by the previous Hollande government — a 50% share from nuclear power, down from 75% by 2025 — it still represents a shift in approach, says Yves Marignac, director of WISE-Paris.

“Hulot is the first Minister to come out with a number of reactors to shut down,” wrote Marignac. “Neither Hollande nor any of his prime ministers and environment ministers have ever dared to give such a number.” This reluctance was a tactic, Marignac said, to avoid angering EDF, trades unions and politicians.

Hollande's pronouncements about shutdowns were vague and non-committal with the closure of France's oldest commercial reactor, Fessenheim, perpetually delayed. Campaigners have agitated for years for the plant's closure, often in large demonstrations (pictured.) But for Hollande, voicing empty rhetoric to keep pro-nuclear foes at bay, was politically and strategically simpler than putting a number and a date on actual nuclear plant shutdowns.

Hollande's predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, was an international nuclear salesman with no interest in ending French nuclear pre-eminence internationally. But now, with the virtual bankruptcy of Areva, and falsification scandals surrounding the forge it owns at Le Creusot -- which has manufactured what are now believed to be major safety components with serious technical flaws -- the French nuclear star is rapidly waning.

Anti-nuclear groups in France have historically been largely ignored by the media, but the “overall positive way this statement was received by the mainstream media somehow shows an increasing readiness of economic and political spheres to support such a change,” wrote Marignac of Hulot's announcement. 

Seeing this as “ the opening of an unprecedented process,” and “a first step in the right direction,” Marignac says, can lead to the crucial next steps of identifying the reactors to be shut down and creating a real timeline and deadline for this to happen. This represents, Marignac says, “a huge opportunity” to accelerate the French energy transition, and those who support it should get firmly behind the initiative to push it through to fruition.


Many hundreds of clean energy groups oppose dirty energy bill in U.S. Senate

A coalition of many hundreds of clean energy groups, including Beyond Nuclear, has written a letter to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Republican-Kentucky) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (Democrat-New York), in opposition to Senate Bill 1460, the Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017.

The Washigton Post has reported on the letter of environmental opposition (see the section labeled "More on the Murkowski-Cantwell Energy Bill.")


122 countries endorse treaty to ban nuclear weapons

A treaty designed to lead to the eventual elimination of all nuclear weapons was endorsed today at the United Nations by 122 countries. Inevitably, none of the nine nuclear weapons states signed the treaty, with, shamefully, the United States as the most vocal critic.

“It’s been seven decades since the world knew the power of destruction of nuclear weapons and since day one there was a call to prohibit nuclear weapons,” Elayne Whyte Gómez, president of the UN conference, told the Guardian. “This is a very clear statement that the international community wants to move to a completely different security paradigm that does not include nuclear weapons.” (Read the Guardian article.)

According to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which took a leading role in making the treaty a reality, "Until now, nuclear weapons were the only weapons of mass destruction without a prohibition treaty, despite the widespread and catastrophic humanitarian consequences of their intentional or accidental detonation. Biological weapons were banned in 1972 and chemical weapons in 1992." (Read more from ICAN).


2017 Nuclear-Free Future Award winners announced








Today at the United Nations, a majority of the world community signed a historic treaty: a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination. This historic outcome is the result of the tireless work of dedicated individuals from across the globe. And it could not be more urgent and timely, given the recent ICBM launch by North Korea and heightened tensions between that country and the United States 

The Nuclear-Free Future Award (NFFA) has, since 1998, recognized that without these efforts such achievements can never be attained. To reward this work, the NFFA annually honors unsung heroes whose efforts and struggles, sometimes at risk to their own lives, and often unsupported financially, deserve international recognition and acclamation. 

Winners of the 2017 Nuclear-Free Future Award, each worth $10,000, are from Niger, Great Britain and Japan. The NFFA also offers two non-monetary Special Recognition awards. The ceremony will take place on September 15, in Basel, Switzerland.

The 2017 winners are: Almoustapha Alhacen (pictured left), Niger, for Resistance; Janine Allis-Smith and Martin Forwood, (pictured above) Great Britain, for Education; and Hiromichi Umebayashi, Japan, for Solutions. Jochen Stay of Germany and the Swiss anti-nuclear movement will receive the Special Recognition awards. 

Almoustapha Alhacen, a Tuareg, worked until recently at the French-owned Areva uranium mine in Arlit, Niger. When he saw how his sick and dying co-workers were ignored by the company, and how the environment was affected, he founded the NGO, Aghirin’man, (“Protection of the Soul,” in the language of the Tuareg). Alhacen has courageously spoken out, both in Niger and on international stages, against human rights abuses and the negative health impacts caused by uranium mining, and continues to do so even after losing his job and livelihood in 2015. 

Janine Allis-Smith and Martin Forwood are the two-person heart of Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment (CORE). For several decades, the pair have unmasked, publicized and challenged the often secret operations at the Cumbria-based Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant in northwest England and its short-lived and failed MOX fuel fabrication plant there. Today, they are also helping lead opposition to proposed new nuclear reactors at Moorside, adjacent to Sellafield. CORE is an indispensable pillar of the British anti-nuclear movement.

In 1980, physicist Dr. Hiromichi Umebayashi (pictured left) left his teaching post at the Tokyo Metropolitan Technical College in order to dedicate himself to achieving world peace and to eliminating nuclear weapons. His vision: a Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone; no atomic missiles stationed on the ground in Japan, North Korea, or South Korea; and a guarantee from Russia, China, and the United States that no nuclear weapons would be deployed or used within the zone. He is the founder of Peace Depot Inc., a non-profit initiative that focuses on peace research and education and promotes ideas for national defense systems not reliant on atomic deterrence or outright military supremacy. 

The ceremony honoring this year’s Nuclear-Free Future Award winners takes place in cooperation with the international congress “Human Rights, Future Generations, and Crimes in the Nuclear Age,” September 14th-17th, Kollegienhaus, University of Basel, Petersplatz 1.  More