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This blog is aimed at tracing the world news related to nuclear power development internationally and in particular countries. Being an independent resource, we accept all kinds of opinions, positions and comments, and welcome you to discuss the posts and tell us what you think.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Pro-Nuclear PR

Recently Belarusian informational agencies such as BELTA, BelaPAN, Interfax and others are frequently publishing news pieces and interviews that are focused on the future project of Belarusian nuclear power plant building.
Here is a digest I picked out of several day's reading of national news portal tut.by (for those of you who read Russian here are the links to the articles:

Ministry of Energetics: Electicity costs for Belarus to go down 25-30% after nuclear power plant launch
Message from press conference of Vladimir Bobrov, head of investment and development department of Ministry of Energetics
September 13, 2007
He stated that “…nuclear power plant can make Belarus’ energetics more balanced”. After launch of a nuclear power plant with 2 thousand megawatt productive capacity it will take over more then 14% of total volume of electricity produced in the country and will be able to influence the initial costs of electricity production cost in Belarus. “As preliminary estimated (sounds like figure "from the air" - Alexandra Prokopenko), the costs may go down 25-30%” – Vladimir Bobrov said. He explained that the calculations were made on the basis of information received from the experience of similar nuclear power plant construction projects in Russia and other countries.
The specialist stated that involvement of nuclear power into energetic balance of Belarus is one of the important issues of energy security of Belarus (the aim of the initial PR campaign - Alexandra Prokopenko).


No doubt, today Belarus stands in a difficult position when it comes to energy independency. But does the nuclear power plant building mean that Belarus may become less dependent from such large players as Russia? It's almost obvious that the construction of the plant will be done by Russian specialists (Atomstroyexport), and paid from national budget of Belarus that has a significant debt to Russia already (recent gas price rised this year were not planned into the budget initially). Nuclear power plant also needs well trained specialists, technical service, fuel and also storage or removal of spent fuel which adds on a lot of additional costs. Will the benefit of launching the plant cover these costs and is it possible that it will make Belarus even more dependent on Russia?
Myself I see nothing wrong in interdependency of countries while diplomacy and geopolitical interests sometimes turn useful connections into chains that the master holds the dog with.
The article above is a classical example of PR positioning stage of the campaign. Means the officials started acting, decision is already made, but how to make the public to accept it?
Another article:

Business plan of nuclear power plant construction in Belarus will be ready by 2008-beginning 2009. 13 september, 2007 BELTA
The same official, same press conference, same date, same agency but brought out into a different piece of news. Message this time is that the nuclear power plant’s project is being prepared “on basis of the similar projects in Russia, France, USA and other countries”.

Interesting fact that initially there were 3 main potential “constructors” for nuclear power plant in Belarus – Russia, France (AREVA group) and USA. American constructors were excluded from the beginning for political reasons, as for the French AREVA there were several rounds of talks that ended in nothing. As for Russia, it's more a matter of principle to take the project in its hands. Which is far not the worst variant for Belarus - but again if you consider the political concequences...

Next article, only the headline and lead is enough to recognise the trace of the same bear:

Zabolotets: Reliable energy supply of Belarusian economics can be reached only by own nuclear power plant 12 september 2007 BelaPAN
BelaPAN interviews vice-speaker of Chamber of Representatives S. Zabolotets.

Here is an official of a higher level, and his statements touch upon the legal basis of energetics in Belarus. For instance, law "About non-traditional and renewable energy sources" was already in the parlament but did not pass and was sent for improvement, while "About nuclear power usage" being actively developed.
He also mentiones that Belarus' 85% dependent on energy supply from abroad, and presents nuclear power plant construction as the only means of survival in conditions of world monopoly on oil and gas redistribution, hoping Belarus will finally overcome the "Chernobyl sindrome" and turn its face to nuclear power.

Here I would argue using the example of Sweden which has 3 active nuclear power plants and 2 closed ones, and plans to close all nuclear power objects by 2010 for ecological and many other reasons. One will say Sweden has hydropower from northern rivers - right! Sweden also uses wind power, thermal power, electricity and heat from trash and wood waiste burning... Belarus could as well develop those technologies thinking about future, considering that trash and wood is much cheaper for Belarus then nuclear fuel. From many points - both economical and political.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Nuclear accidents calendar

Here one can find a calendar of nuclear accidents day by day showing technical failures before 1996, listed by months.
There are for sure more recent ones, but this one can at least show the tendency for past 50 years. Chernobyl was for sure the biggest and most known accident, but far not the only one.

More recent IAEA report (pdf downloadable, more general but still to be considered)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Chernobyl far away - Sweden to abandon nuclear power

Althought it is not so often spoken about in relation to Chernobyl, not only Russia, Belarus and Ukraine were affected by pollution in 1986. The radioactive cloud's traces were found practically all around Europe. But first it was discovered in Sweden. Here is a map of Caesium fallout in Europe after Chernobyl:

Forsmark nuclear power plant's staff was first to discover the raise of radiation level - which was first considered as concequence of some failure on their own station.

Here you can find a detailed chronology of how it happened:

http://www.zetterberg.org/Papers/ppr1986b.htm - It's a paper by Hans L Zetterberg was prepared prepared for the Eleventh Annual Symposium of the Uranium Institute in London, September 2-4, 1986. It gives a lot of interesting data of public opinion surveys of the population's relation to nuclear power plants in Sweden before and after Chernobyl. One can notice a dramatic change from a rather positive position to quick raise of negative tendencies and actually fear of nuclear energy. In many ways those tendencies still exist today. Although the distance between Chernobyl and Stockholm is more than 1,000 km, Sweden was more polluted than many neighboring countries due to radioactive rain.

Quoting Zetterberg here:

Sweden achieved its consensus on nuclear energy in a referendum in 1980 which approved of the nuclear investment in 12 reactor blocks, and in a parliamentary decision later the same year that nuclear power should be phased out by the year 2010. Sweden is the only country in the world with a formal decision to eventually abandon nuclear power. There is even a law prohibiting anyone from making plans for future investments in nuclear energy.
The decision to abandon nuclear power by 2010 has not been taken very seriously in all quarters of government and industry. It has often been said that a future parliament may reverse the decision when reviewing the track record of nuclear power. The environmentalists fear that the talk of phasing it all out by 2010 is a ritual that is designed to protect the heavy investment already taken.
In the coming posts we will take a closer look at modern situation with nuclear power in Sweden and its neighbouring countries.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Some Useful Links on Chernobyl

http://www.chernobyl.info/index.php - Here is a good website of interest when it comes to information about Chernobyl, available in English, Russian and German. The site is positioned as a source of independent information on Chernobyl disaster concequences, ongoing event etc.

http://chernobyl.undp.org/english/ - UN page on Chernobyl. There you can find links to several international documents like UN studies and recomendations to governments of affected countries, could be worth considering :)

http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/chernobyl/inf07.htm Chernobyl accident by World Nuclear Association, includes detailed information like Chernobyl-type reactor drawing and detailed explanation of what happened and how.

http://www.chernobyllegacy.com/ This site was produced for the 20th anniversary of the world's biggest nuclear accident and aims to draw lessons from “Chernobyl”. - Touches upon the issue of Chernobyl myth in the media - quite a curious number of article selected here - http://www.chernobyllegacy.com/index.php?cat=3&sub=8 . Looks alternative to what is mostly written about Chernobyl in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine where information sources tend to play on emotions more then facts (although, why not balancing both? Easy to write on a problem when it does not touch you directly :))

http://www.greenfacts.org/en/chernobyl/index.htm - Collection of Chernobyl facts.

http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/nucene/cherno.html -Some interesting diagrams and facts on Chernobyl.