Reuters Environment News
WASHINGTON - The Clinton administration was very close to agreeing on its proposal to restructure the nation's electricity markets, Energy Secretary Federico Pena said Friday.
But Pena said the White House still had not fully agreed on issues concerning carbon emissions from power plants, and he declined to say when the plan would be released.
"We're getting very, very close," Pena told reporters at a briefing.
Pena indicated the long-awaited plan would be in the form of a proposal instead of legislative language. "I think we're headed in the direction of a very specific strategy or proposal," he said, adding that it was difficult to settle on an administration position "in a 200-page bill."
Pena also said the administration intended this year to push a national plan to introduce retail competition in electricity markets, despite the dwindling number of days that Congress will be in session to deal with the complex issue.
"I am still hopeful that we can encourage key leaders on the Hill to also move their bills forward. While there are some people saying this year is over, I don't accept that," Pena said.
The administration will "push this issue as hard as we can. Does that mean we'll get it done this year? I can't say," he said.
Pena said the administration wanted to make sure that electricity restructuring "supports our commitment to protect the environment," and said various agencies "made different assumptions, used different calculations and reached different conclusions" on how restructuring would affect power plant emissions.
He said the administration was very close to resolving inter-agency differences on how to deal with power plant emissions of heat-trapping carbon gases in the plan.
The Environmental Protection Agency has said that restructuring would increase emissions of carbon as well as smog-forming pollutants, while the Energy Department has said it would reduce emissions.
President Clinton has said he wanted restructuring to help the nation reduce carbon emissions as part of its effort to fight global warming. But a number of congressmen, including Democrats, have said incorporating rules to reduce carbon emissions in the utility plan would likely kill the legislation's chances.
Reuters Environment NewsBy Fiona Fleck
AHAUS, Germany - Riot police with water cannon dispersed several hundred protesters who failed to prevent a train carrying nuclear waste from southern Germany reaching a dump near the Dutch border.
Six steel containers with 60 tons of spent fuel rods reached the dump on the outskirts of Ahaus, a market town about 160 km (100 miles) north of Cologne, after a controversial 17-hour journey across Germany.
Police charged about 400 protesters outside Ahaus stations who pelted them with bottles, cans and eggs.
The clashes erupted moments after the train had passed through the station.
A few demonstrators fired flares at police. Several protesters were injured, one seriously by a police baton, police said.
"Nuclear waste out of Ahaus", the protesters chanted.
They were unable to penetrate a fenced-off area from where the six silvery containers of waste travelled 3.5 km (two miles) over a privately-owned track to the storage depot.
About 30,000 police were deployed across the country to protect the shipment, but could not prevent the train being delayed during its journey by protesters chained to the rails. It was then diverted because one demonstrator had cemented himself to the track.
One policeman guarding the track in southern Germany was accidentally killed by another train.
Germany, as the home of the environmental movement and "green politics" in Europe, has a long tradition of opposition to nuclear power.
The police measures against activists with a record of sabotaging trains had all the hallmarks of similar moves last year that became Germany's biggest security operation since World War Two.
"I don't think we will stop the nuclear waste shipment but the public will see our opposition to it," said Karl Lindermann, 45, a local farmer.
"We want to make it clear that this type of transport is dangerous and there is too much opposition from the public to justify it."
The shipment of waste over 400 km (250 miles) has also fuelled a political row in an election year in Germany, which relies on nuclear power for nearly a third of its energy.
Environment Minister Angela Merkel said moving nuclear waste was safe. She said cross-country rail shipments would be needed for years to come.
Police sealed off Ahaus to keep out about 6,000 demonstrators but more than one thousand still managed to sit on the rail tracks. The police brought up water cannon and hauled the protesters away, detaining about 400.
The authorities had caught activists off guard by starting to move the waste earlier than expected on Thursday, although hundreds, many from the environmentalist group Greenpeace, still tried to block the trucks as they set off from the Neckarwestheim power station.
Germany's anti-nuclear lobby has in the past organised bigger protests numbering in the hundreds of thousands against the transport of nuclear waste.
A year ago, about 30,000 police were deployed to guard a shipment of nuclear waste to the Gorleben storage depot. A police federation official estimated that a similar number had been used this time.
Politicians for Chancellor Helmut Kohl's Christian Democrats (CDU) accused Clement and the SPD of trying to make political capital out of opposition to the shipment.
Reuters Environment NewsBy Lawrence Chung
TAIPEI - Taiwan is rapidly running out of room to dump its nuclear waste.
International protest looks set to scrap a deal to send the waste to North Korea and residents of a Taiwanese islet where another dump is planned have expressed "unshakeable determination" to block it.
The island already has three nuclear power plants and two generators at a fourth facility are due to come on stream in 2003 and 2004.
Moreover, Taipower's main waste dump on Lanyu island southeast of Taiwan has nearly reached its capacity of 98,112 barrels and must be cleared and closed by 2002 under an agreement made with local residents.
Possible overseas locations have been considered including the Marshall Islands, Russia and even Taiwan's rival China, the state-run Taiwan Power Company (Taipower) has said.
The company succeeded in signing a multi-million U.S. dollar contract with North Korea in January 1997 to ship up to 200,000 barrels of the low-radiation waste - contaminated gloves, clothes, hats and tools - to the Stalinist nation.
PROTEST BLOCKS WASTE
But international protest, mainly from the North's bitter rival South Korea as well as Japan, has stalled the company's proposed shipment.
Despite assurance from Taipower that it will honour the deal, analysts said it was becoming less likely the contract would be carried out.
"The government has faced strong international pressure and most likely will eventually drop the deal although this might mean Taipower has to pay off North Korea for breach of contract," said environmental protection expert Cheng Hsien-yu.
Under the contract, Pyongyang would provide a 4.8 sq-km (1.85-sq.mile) site in Pingshan to store the waste, barring anyone from living within a five-km (three-mile) radius, Atomic Energy Council officials said.
Financial details have not been disclosed, but unconfirmed reports say the deal could mean US$230 million to North Korea, which is starved for cash and reported to be suffering widespread famine.
South Korea has claimed the dump would be a health hazard for both sides of the divided Korean peninsula.
So as the possibility of sending the waste to North Korea fades, the state utility has turned back to Taiwan.
LOCALS DON'T WANT IT EITHER
Taipower recently offered T$3.15 billion (US$98.4 million) to a township on the islet of Hsiao Chiu, part of the offshore defence outpost of Wuchiu on the doorstep of rival China, in exchange for a new dump site.
"Taipower has chosen the islet Hsiao Chiu as its priority dump site for its nuclear waste," said Chiou Syh-tsong, director of Radwaste administration of the Atomic Energy Council.
But the company still needs to complete its geological and environmental evaluation reports in six months and obtain approval from both the council and the Environmental Protection Administration before it can set up the waste dump, he said.
Hsiao Chiu, which is under military administration, is just 15 kilometres (9 miles) from China, Taiwan's rival since the two sides split at the end of a civil war in 1949.
Residents on Hsiao Chiu and environmentalists have vowed to block the dump site.
"We may be small in number, but we are unshakeable in our determination to fight Taipower's dumping plan - even at the cost of our lives," a Hsiao Chiu resident said during a recent protest.
Wang Tu-fa, chairman of the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union, said his group would mobilise all available manpower to back the residents in their protest.
"We will stop our protests and consider allowing Taipower to find a new local dump site only after the government abandons its construction of any new nuclear power plants," Wang said.
SO WHERE SHOULD IT GO?
Some environmentalists believe the waste should be sent back to the country that supplied Taiwan with its generators.
"The waste can go to the United States which is the nuclear generator supplier for Taiwan," said environmentalist expert Cheng Hsien-yu, a biology professor at the Chinese Cultural University.
Cheng said the United States had the experience and the capability to handle and dispose of the waste.
The generators of Taiwan's three existing nuclear power plants were supplied by General Electric Co and Westinghouse Electric Division.
Yang Chao-yueh of the Ocean Institute of the National Taiwan University agreed the United States was the ideal choice. "It is spacious and has many years of disposing of the waste."
Yang said Taipower could dump the waste in a barren site in Taiwan only if it revealed the danger levels of the waste.
"But most important of all, it must agree to stop building any new nuclear power plants," Yang said.
Reuters Environment News
ADELAIDE - Canada's Southern Cross Resources Inc had been given approval to begin field leach trials for its Honeymoon uranium project in north-eastern South Australia, the state government said on Tuesday.
"The declaration of environmental factors (DEF) was approved today which means that the field leach trial at Honeymoon can proceed," a spokesman for Natural Resources Minister Rob Kerin told Reuters.
Southern Cross has said the Honeymoon deposit, about 75 km north-west of Broken Hill, contains about 7.5 million pounds of recoverable uranium oxide (U3O8).
The company plans to use the in-situ leaching method to extract uranium oxide, which is also being used at the nearby Beverly uranium deposit by Heathgate Resources Property Ltd, a subsidiary of the United States' General Atomics Corp.
The spokesman said the government expected the Honeymoon trial to take about 12 months, gathering valuable data for the environmental impact statement (EIS) which would determine final approval for the mine to go ahead.
"The project will only be allowed to go ahead if the trial proves there will be minimal environmental impact," he said.
Reuters Environment NewsBy Pelin Turgut
ISTANBUL - International environmental groups on Monday urged the Turkish government to say no to plans to build the country's first nuclear power plant with technology to be brought in from abroad.
"I call on Turkey's government not to make the same mistakes as Western countries...Nuclear power has been a disaster in Canada," Dave Martin of the Canadian Nuclear Awareness project told a news conference held by Canadian-German anti-nuclear activists in Istanbul.
Turkey is expected to announce the tender result for its first nuclear power plant in June. The plant is scheduled to be built near Akkuyu village on the southern Mediterranean coast.
Greenpeace Germany told he conference that nuclear power was on the decline in Europe due in part to the lack of acceptable solutions for radioactive waste management.
"Nuclear power plants are disadvantaged when lower cost, smaller alternatives that are appealing to the general public exist," said representative Michael Kuehn.
The speakers later partook of the season's first strawberries brought in to Istanbul from a village nearby the Akkuyu area, near the plant site.
"We don't want the threat of radiated strawberries, please help us," a local village resident said at the news conference.
A consortium led by Nuclear Power International (NPI) - a French-German group including Siemens and Framatome - and several Turkish construction companies, gave the lowest bid in October for the Akkuyu tender.
Another consortium led by Canadian AECL, and including Turkey's Guris, Gama and Bayindir is also in the running. The third consortium is led by U.S. Westinghouse and includes Mitsubishi, Raytheon and Turkey's Enka.
Martin voiced concerns over the Canadian firm's proposed export of CANDU reactors, saying "it is ironic Canada wants to export CANDU reactors now, when eight of the 22 reactors in Canada have been closed down for safety reasons."
The nuclear plant plans have also drew strong criticism from local residents, Turkish politicians, and the influential Chamber of Electrical Engineers for its potential environmental risks.
Reuters Environment News
TOKYO - Japan's nuclear power reactors can run safely for as long as 60 years if maintained properly, according to a study on Monday by three electric power firms.
There are no laws in Japan stipulating the lifespan of nuclear reactors, but commercial reactors have been designed to operate for about 30 years, said a Tokyo Electric Power Co Inc (TEPCO) spokesman.
However, the study conducted by TEPCO, Kansai Electric Power Co Inc and Japan Atomic Power Co, showed existing reactors could run safely for up to 60 years with appropriate checks and replacement of parts, he said.
A spokesman for Japan Atomic Power said the study was carried out by the three firms because some of their reactors are turning 30 in a few years.
The study will be submitted to the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, which supervises the operation of commercial reactors, by the end of March.
Japan's first commercial reactor, which started operations in 1966 at Japan Atomic Power's Tokai plant on the Pacific coast, is due to be permanently closed at the end of March.
Japan Atomic Power earlier said the 31-year-old reactor could technically continue running safely for many more years.
But it decided to close the reactor because operation and maintenance of the 166,000-kilowatt unit cost twice as much as other commercial reactors due to its unique design.
The Tokai unit is Japan's only commercial reactor using graphite as a moderator and carbon dioxide gas as a coolant.
The other 51 reactors use water as the moderator and coolant.
Nuclear reactors account for about one-third of Japan's electricity production. ((Tokyo Energy Desk +81-3 3432-3708 email@example.com)).
Reuters Environment News
AHAUS, Germany - Thousands of demonstrators rallied on Sunday in Germany to protest against a forthcoming shipment of nuclear waste.
Police estimated around 4,000 people gathered in Ahaus, western Germany, for a march against the nuclear convoy, due to arrive at a waste dump near the town later this month.
Around 25 tractors headed the procession from the town's main square to the nuclear dump. Demonstrators carried banners calling for an end to nuclear power.
"We want our children to smile, not radiate!" one slogan read.
About 2,000 protesters also held a rally outside a nuclear power station in Neckarwestheim, southwestern Germany, police said. Spent nuclear rods from the power plant are scheduled to form part of the shipment for Ahaus.
Police expect large protests around Ahaus when the shipment arrives there around March 25.
The use of nuclear power is controversial in Germany. Both the opposition Social Democrats and Greens are in favour of abandoning nuclear power for environmental reasons.
The transport of nuclear waste can attract huge protests. Police mounted their biggest operation in Germany's post-war history, involving around 30,000 officers, to protect a shipment to the Gorleben storage dump in northern Germany last year.