Welcome to AtomWatch - world nuclear power news and analysis

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.

Monday, November 30, 2009

New radiation treatment saves cancer-stricken rhinoceros

[Thought this was an interesting special case in applied radiation.]


By Cristina Chang

Nov. 30, 2009 at 2:11 a.m.

Leah Greer was running out of options.

The senior clinical veterinarian at the Los Angeles Zoo had performed three surgeries on Randa the rhino, immobilizing her and removing part of her horn, but the bacterial infection persisted. The third biopsy confirmed squamous cell carcinoma, a skin cancer, in Randa’s horn. Three surgeries later, Greer realized that the cancer was more aggressive than previously thought.

Discussing the case at a meeting with the zoo’s medical advisory board, she sought a cost-efficient way to perform radiation treatment on the 4,000-pound Indian rhinoceros, which was too large to be carried into a radiation facility.

Dr. James Economou, a UCLA oncologist and member of the board, advised she speak to a colleague of his, Dr. Michael Steinberg.

Steinberg was working with Xoft, Inc., a company specializing in radiation oncology, to develop affordable and portable radiation devices, Greer said.

Steinberg, the chair of radiation oncology at UCLA, said Economou described the complicated situation.

“We can’t put her in a room since she’s a big wild animal,” Steinberg said.

As a result, Steinberg said he worked with Xoft, Inc., medical physicists and surgeons and the zookeeper to find a way to treat the animal.

During the summer, Randa was again immobilized with anesthetics while surgeons, including Economou, removed her horn. Steinberg and the radiation team then slipped Randa’s head into a portable device.

A week later, she went through another round of radiation.

The device emits soft radiation but is shielded with thin strips of lead sheeting about an inch thick to prevent the rays from penetrating others, Steinberg said.

“We basically applied basic principles of cancer,” he added. “We generalized what we knew about humans for this treatment.”

He said working with a wild animal is different from dealing with a person but added that squamous cell carcinoma can also occur in humans on the skin, tonsils, tongue and esophagus.

Seven surgeries and a removed horn later, Randa is doing well and remains extremely loving and tactile, said Stephanie Zielinski, Randa’s primary keeper.

Zielinski was placed in charge of Randa two years ago, around the time that the rhino developed cancer.

“It’s like when someone’s been ill for quite some time and (you) see light back in their eyes,” she said.

Every day at lunchtime, the rhino enclosure is a gathering place for keepers, and the rhino comes to play around and be touched, Zielinski added.

“She taught me how to be patient,” she said. “Even at her most ill, she would participate and try and do what we were asking for us.”

Greer has also seen improvements in Randa’s health and mood.

“She’s really a fantastic animal, 40 years old now,” Greer said. “It’s amazing how well she feels (the past few months),” she said, adding that Randa has been acting playfully as though she were young again.

French watchdog concerned over nuclear skills


France’s nuclear watchdog has expressed concern over the loss of skills in the atomic energy industry after a near 20-year gap in building reactors.

In an interview with the Financial Times, André-Claude Lacoste, head of the French Nuclear Safety Authority, said:

“The relaunch of construction, and monitoring that relaunch, are not simple. We have to regain experience. We have not built reactors for more than 15 years.”

Lacoste said this issue was preoccupying all countries embarking on new nuclear construction.

“We discuss this often with our international colleagues,” Lacoste said. “They have the same problem as us. How can an authority which may have lost some of its habits monitor the construction of a reactor when the construction groups have also got out of the habit?”

The issue will be of particular concern to the UK industry, where the construction of 10 new stations has just been approved.

The UK has less nuclear capacity than France and suffers from a similar skills gap.

The last nuclear station to be built in the UK, at Sizewell in Suffolk, was completed in 1995.

A recent report by the Aldersgate Group pointed out that EDF's nuclear arm in Britain is expecting to see about a third of its staff retire in the next 10 years.

The UK government set up a nuclear skills academy to improve training two years ago.

The academy oversaw the opening of a training centre in the North West, and another centre will open in the South West next year.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

French bid for Emirates nuclear plant at risk


A French attempt to win a 41-billion-dollar (27.2-billion-euro) contract to build nuclear power stations in the Emirates is at risk over pricing, the La Tribune newspaper reported on Wednesday.

The newspaper reported that the top official at the presidential Elysee Palace, Claude Geant, had held a meeting with the heads of big French companies concerned on Tuesday to discuss a further reduction in the price which the government in Abu Dhabi considered too high.

Present at the meeting were the head of French nuclear power group Areva, Anne Lauvergeon, the head of GDF Suez, Gerard Mestrallet, Christophe de Margerie who leads oil group Total and Henri Proglio of the electricity group EDF, the report said.

The report said that the bidding consortium comprising these companies and the US firm Bechtel were handicapped by the fall of the dollar.

The report said that a few days ago, under political pressure, the partners had reduced the price of their offer to build new-generation EPR (European pressurised reactor) power stations by 10 percent.

This was because the offer was considered too high by comparison with bids by competitors.

The rival companies are Hitachi of Japan which is allied with US group General Electric, and the South Korean company Kepco working with another South Korean group, Hyundai.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


[I find this story ironic, as there were so few nuclear jobs when I entered the profession in the late 1980s.]


Engineers in recession stricken industries are being urged to consider transferring their skills to the nuclear sector after the Government unveiled 10 sites to house a new generation of power stations.

Merseyside based Scantec Personnel, says there are now massive opportunities for engineers in the nuclear sector with each new power station expected to create 9,000 jobs in the building process and 1,000 once the plants are up and running.

Adam Spelman, the head of Scantec’s nuclear division, said UK-wide opportunities are also being created by the Government’s multi billion pound decommissioning programme as well as the construction of a new generation of reactors. He said skills in demand included a wide range of engineers, skilled tradesmen and surveyors.

“The recession is wreaking havoc with the jobs market,” s he said. “So the key phrase we are repeating to workers is ‘transferable skills’. Engineers need to understand that their skills are in demand in the nuclear sector and that real long term, well paid opportunities now exist in the nuclear industry. It is important to point out that the nuclear sector is willing to train up staff with core skills. Our advice to workers is talk to a specialist nuclear recruiter like Scantec and find out what opportunities exist for your skills set.”

Turkish nuclear tender may not be canceled - Energy Min


Ankara, November 10 (MIA) - A Turkish court has stalled the government's plans to generate nuclear energy by voiding parts of the tender to build its first plant, won by a Russian-led consortium, the TMMOB industrial body said on Tuesday.

Russia's Inter RAO, Atomstroiexport and Turkey's Park Teknik won the tender last year to construct and operate the nuclear plant, but the consortium has been in protracted negotiations with the government over electricity pricing.

"The Council of State has decided to suspend three articles in the tender process," said Mehmet Soganci, chairman of the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects, or TMMOB, which brought the case against the tender.

The tender process, in which the Russian consortium was the only bidder, had been criticised for lack of transparency, media reports say.

"The Council of State has found the nuclear power plant invalid," Soganci said.

It was not clear what the next step in the tender process would be or if there would be an appeal by the government or the consortium.

Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said it was "too early to say" whether plans to build the country's first nuclear power have been cancelled after a court annulled parts of a government tender.

The site for the plant is near the town of Akkuyu in the eastern Mediterranean. Turkey aims to build at least two more plants, with potential sites near the city of Sinop on the Black Sea, as it seeks to cover a looming electricity shortage and cut dependence on foreign energy imports.

The government wants nuclear energy to meet 20 percent of Turkey's power needs in 20 years.

Turkey and Russia have greatly strengthened their cooperation in energy, and Russia has promised Turkey its participation in several projects, while Russia plans to build a multibillion-dollar pipeline off Turkey's Black Sea coast.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Kenya plans nuclear plant in next five years: PM


by Staff Writers
Nairobi (AFP) Nov 7, 2009

Kenya hopes to build its first nuclear power plant in the next five years with help from France, Prime Minister Raila Odinga said on Saturday.
"We want to establish a nuclear plant. We want to start with a plant of the average of between 1,000 and 2,000 Megawatts (output) and we are looking at five years from now," Odinga said in an interview with AFP.

Odinga said nuclear power was one option Kenya was considering as it looked for ways to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

"We want to begin the cooperation right now so we can begin the training of personnel who will man this plant in the future, and France has offered to cooperate in that scheme of things," he said.

France was more experienced in nuclear power than many other countries, Odinga said, as nearly 80% of the country's energy is nuclear-generated, and Kenya hoped to draw on this expertise.

Thursday, November 5, 2009



TIANJIN, Nov 05, 2009 (AsiaPulse via COMTEX) --

The design and first-phase construction of three inland nuclear power stations in China has begun, Wang Binghua, chairman of State Nuclear Power Technology Corp., said Wednesday at 2009 China Power Forum.

The new sites are Xian'ning City in the central Hubei Province,Taohuajiang City in the central Hunan Province and Pengze City in the eastern Jiangxi Province.

China's existing nuclear power stations are sited along the eastern coast.

Building more nuclear power stations is essential to China's endeavor to cope with energy shortage and pollution, said Ye Qizhen, deputy director of the science and technology committee of the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) and member of Chinese Academy of Engineering.

In other countries, most nuclear power stations are sited inland. For example, 65.1 per cent of nuclear power stations are sited inland in France and 75.1 per cent in the United States, Ye said.

China's vast inland areas need nuclear power stations to drive economic growth, especially in regions that lack coal and water resources, Ye said.

A massive power failure in January and February, 2008, caused by blizzards in central and southern China, signaled the risk of power shortage in China's hinterland.

Inland nuclear power stations will enter a phase of mass production and construction in 2013, said Sun Qin, general manager of the CNNC.

The inland nuclear power stations will all adopt the most advanced Westinghouse-designed AP1000 pressurized water reactors to meet the stringent safety and environment standards, Sun added.

China's installed capacity of nuclear power is expected to reach 70 million KW by 2020, 200 million KW by 2030 and 400 million KW by 2050, Ye said.

"It means nuclear power will account for seven per cent of China's overall power capacity in 2020, 15 per cent in 2030 and 22 per cent in 2050." Ye added.

Now China is able to simultaneously design and construct several nuclear power stations and is capable of independent designing of pressurized water reactor nuclear power stations with the capacity of more than one million KW, Ye added.

Currently, China has 11 operating nuclear power generating units with the total capacity of 9.1 million KW, said Zhou Zhenxing, chairman of Uranium Industry Company, a subsidiary of China Guangdong Nuclear Power Holding Corporation.

Another 12 newly approved units under construction have a capacity of 34.76 million KW, Zhou said.

(XIC) rw

France pledges help in developing Polish nuclear power plants


Associated Press
11/05/09 7:00 AM PST PARIS — France pledged Thursday to help Poland develop nuclear power plants and deepen cooperation on energy policy, a move which could help Poland lessen its dependence on natural gas from Russia.

Poland will send scientists to France for training starting this fall, while France will provide Poland with technical assistance and the two countries will cooperate in nuclear research and development, a joint statement said.

"We take this very seriously," French President Nicolas Sarkozy told a news conference at the Elysee Palace following his meeting with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk. Sarkozy said that France would be Poland's "exclusive" partner in nuclear development, but Tusk later said that Poland's energy policy had to be taken in a European context and that other countries down the road could participate once the projects were better defined.

"The plan is to have Poland's first nuclear power plant around the year 2020 and another one by the mid-20s," Tusk said.

France and Poland also said they want to work on developing convergence in the European gas market in order to "assure the security of (the natural gas) supply in Europe," the declaration said.

French-Polish ties appeared to be improving after several bumpy years, and Sarkozy paid tribute to Poland's stature as one of the "big" EU countries. "It's very easy to work with the Polish prime minister, with the Polish government," Sarkozy said.

On defense matters, the two countries appeared to have made progress in deepening their relations. France long has been wary of the primacy that Poland has put on its transatlantic relations with the United States. The two countries pledged to reinforce European security policy and in a significant new development said they would discuss nuclear dissuasion as well.

"Convinced of its importance, they (Poland and France) decided to open a bilateral dialogue on the role of nuclear dissuasion in the context of current security. Poland is the first country that does not have a nuclear weapon with which we (France) engage in such a dialogue," the summit communique said.

Agriculture, the environment and climate change also were on the agenda.

The two countries also decided to celebrate jointly the "Year of Chopin" in 2010 to celebrate the bicentennial of the pianist's birth and pay tribute to his Polish and French roots. They also announced a wide range of cultural events, including a retrospective on film director Andrzej Wajda and painter and writer Josef Czapski, who died in exile in France.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

UAE eyes stakes in nuclear companies


3 November 2009 - The UAE is setting up a new investment vehicle to take stakes in global nuclear companies as it prepares to award a contract to develop the first civilian nuclear plants in the Arab world.

According to the Financial Times, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation is expected to be formally established within weeks. It will oversee the development of the nuclear programme and act as a government investment arm by making strategic investments in the sector, domestically and internationally.

The government hopes an agreement with the US will be finalised shortly, which would allow civilian nuclear trade with the UAE. Similar deals have been reached with France and Korea.

The Gulf state is then expected to award contracts - estimated to be worth about $20bn - for the construction of the first nuclear power plants, which could produce between 4000 MW and 5500 MW of electricity by 2020.

The project is being led and funded by Abu Dhabi , the UAE's capital, which is spending hundreds of billions of dollars to develop the emirate and diversify its economy.

Three different consortia are thought to be competing for the nuclear contract. These include one led by France's Areva, another headed by General Electric of the US and a South Korean team that includes Korea Electric Power Corporation and Hyundai Engineering & Construction.

Areva has already been talking with Middle East investors about the possibility of selling a minority stake.

Abu Dhabi's Mubadala, a state investment vehicle, last year announced a target of becoming a top 10 investor in GE, with which it has also agreed to an $8bn joint venture to set up a commercial finance entity in Abu Dhabi modelled on GE Capital.

safety concerns may delay third-generation nuclear reactor

[For those who do not follow the industry, digital I&C has been a focus item for nuclear regulators. There are several articles in the industry press on the conversion to digital in the US nuclear plants.]


Paris - Nuclear safety authorities in France, Britain and Finland have issued a joint statement questioning the reliability of the new European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) currently being developed, the daily Les Echos reported Tuesday.

The statement raises concern over the reactor's command-control software which regulates its daily running and shuts it down in case of an incident. In its current state, the software cannot guarantee the necessary safety requirements, the report noted.

Potentially more problematic, the French nucear saftey authority ASN demanded that the French utilty EDF draw up an alternative plan for the EPR it will be running in the western French city of Flamanville.

According to Marcial Jorel, director of nuclear reactor safety at the Institute of Nuclear Safety and Radioprotection, "Either EDF takes our recommendations into account, or it must develop a new system, which will take years."

According to Les Echos, the Olkiluoto EPR nuclear power plant in Finland, which has already been delayed for three years and is scheduled to go online in 2012, may suffer an additional six-month delay because of the command-control problem.

French nuclear manufacturer Areva, which is building the Olkiluoto reactor, must now provide changes to its software and additional information by June of next year.

Both Areva and EDF said the concerns presented no unsurmountable problems.

"This is a process of step-by-step validation that is typical for projects of this kind. We have sufficient time to respond to the demands," Claude Jaouen, head of Areva's reactor division, told Les Echos.

However, the environmental group Greenpeace said the safety concerns expressed by the three authorities cast doubt over the entire industry.

"The nuclear industry is clearly showing its inability to manage the dangerous substances it manipulates and the waste it generates," Yannick Rousselet of Greenpeace France said Tuesday. "It is intolerable that the nuclear companies EDF and Areva continue their activities with impunity." (dpa)