Reuters Environment NewsLONDON - Poland could save about $1.8 billion per year over the next 15 years through energy efficiency, the International Institute for Energy Conservation (IIEC) said in a report.
"Poland still uses energy very inefficiently -- 2-3 times as much as energy per unit of GDP - compared to Western Europe," said Stewart Boyle, Executive Director of the IIEC-Europe.
Investment opportunities include cogeneration and gas technologies, energy efficient lighting and energy service companies (ESCOS), said the IIEC report.
From January 1 1998 new environmental regulations will require investment to upgrade or replace aged boilers and stop the use of lignite burning.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Developement (EBRD) is financing energy efficiency schemes, the report said.
The Polish government predicts that $53 billion is needed to upgrade the energy infrastructure by 2010.
--London newsroom, 542 4984
Globe and MailBy Jeff Sallot
Internal federal documents show that Marbek Resource Consultants Ltd. of Ottawa advised the government on Nov. 18 that there was not enough scientific analysis and data available to determine the environmental impact of the construction of two Candu nuclear reactors on Hangzhou Bay south of Shanghai.
The consultants recommended further studies and public environmental hearings in Canada to air the issues because taxpayers are guaranteeing $1.5-billion in loans to China to cement the deal.
Nevertheless, on Nov. 26, eight days after the Marbek report was received by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien signed the Candu agreement with China during a visit to Shanghai.
The sale of the reactors by federally owned Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. is the jewel in the crown of the Chrétien government's China trade policy.
Mr. Chrétien has met several times with China's top leaders to promote Canadian exports in general and the nuclear reactor sales specifically.
The reactor sales will create 27,000 jobs, according to briefing notes prepared by bureaucrats for cabinet ministers.
But Canada's environmental laws, requiring thorough impact studies for federal projects, were seen by the government as a potential stumbling block.
The Marbek report was released only recently under the Access to Information Act. Public-interest researcher Ken Rubin of Ottawa was told initially that no studies existed, but after a six-month battle he obtained the Marbek report from Foreign Affairs.
The consultants pointed out that electricity produced by the nuclear reactors would reduce the need for dirty coal-fired power generation in China, significantly reducing air pollution.
Even so, throughout the report the consultants point out gaps in the scientific information about the possible impact of the project. Highlights include:
(China's Communist Party authorities maintain a tight grip on information and political activity throughout the country. They have rarely allowed the concerns of local populations to stand in the way of large infrastructure projects.)
The Marbek report said there was no evidence of significant adverse environmental effects from the project, but cautioned that "it is not possible to reach a final conclusion concerning the environmental impact" because of gaps in the information.
The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act would require the government to conduct additional studies to determine whether the project complies with Canada's environmental standards, the report concluded.
This cautionary report arrived 11 days after cabinet had already dealt with the issue. On Nov. 7, in preparation for Mr. Chrétien's Shanghai trip, cabinet approved an unprecedented order waiving requirements for a full environmental-impact assessment under Canadian law.
Briefing notes prepared by the Foreign Affairs Department for cabinet ministers suggest that the politicians tell the public "we do not expect projects in other countries to conform to Canadian environmental law."
The Sierra Club of Canada and other environmental groups argue that Canadian assessment standards should apply when the project involves Canadian technology and the financing is being underwritten by Canadian taxpayers.
The Sierra Club is asking the Federal Court of Canada to order the government to conduct an environmental assessment under Canadian law.
The briefing notes say that requiring environmental assessments to Canadian standards for these kinds of projects will put Canadian technology exporters at a disadvantage with foreign competitors for sales.
The French were considered rivals for this particular project.
The briefing notes also say Canada is trying to get an international agreement on an environmental assessment process for these kinds of projects so that everyone is competing on a level playing field.
The Marbek report was completed in secrecy and with great haste. The Nov. 13 contract required the report to be completed five days later. "Time is of the essence," the contract says. The consultants were also required to treat all information provided to them in confidence.
Reuters Environment News
by Kiyoshi Takenaka
TOKYO - Local governments in Japan have approved two firm's plans to increase storage capacity for spent nuclear fuel, easing the nation's acute tightness in storage space, company spokesmen said on Friday.
Swelling stockpiles of spent nuclear fuel have been a cause of growing concern among local communities and government officials searching for sites to relocate the toxic material.
The firms which won approval are Kansai Electric Power Co Inc and Japan Atomic Power Co.
Kansai received approval to expand the capacity of its temporary storage facilities at its Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui prefecture by 1,060 tonnes to 2,284 tonnes by March 2002.
The plant, along the Sea of Japan coast, currently holds 370 tonnes of spent fuel and was expected to run out of storage space by around 2002, a Kansai Electric spokesman said.
Japan Atomic was granted permission to gradually expand its storage capacity at the Tsuruga plant, also in Fukui, by 520 tonnes to 1,210 tonnes over two years beginning in October 1998.
The Tsuruga plant was expected to run short of storage space as early as 2000, a company spokesman said.
Spent fuel from Japanese nuclear power plants had originally been scheduled to be shipped beginning this spring to a new storage facility at the Rokkashomura nuclear complex in northern Japan's Aomori prefecture.
There the spent fuel would be processed in order to extract reusable remnants of uranium and plutonium from nuclear waste.
But the plan has been derailed since an explosion in March at a separate nuclear fuel reprocessing plant that exposed 37 workers to low levels of radiation.
The explosion at the Tokaimura plant, 110 kilometres northeast of Tokyo, prompted Aomori government officials to halt talks with the operator of the Rokkashomura complex until the cause of the Tokaimura incident could be determined.
The Science and Technology Agency, which is leading the probe, said it is still unclear when the Tokaimura investigation will be concluded.
Reuters Environment News
By Matthew Jones
LONDON - Mini-power stations the size of a truck could be heating Britain's offices and factories with the by-product of their own power generation, if a new government initiative succeeds.
A Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant, such as the one already installed at Buckingham Palace, produces its own electricity and then harnesses the heat which that generates. That saves money and cuts pollution.
In traditional large scale power stations the heat from electricity production is wasted -- it literally goes up the chimney. Only 35 percent or so of the energy in the original fuel is transferred to the electricity supply line.
Even modern gas turbines achieve only 50 percent efficiency compared with CHP units which can generate both heat and electricity, giving an overall efficiency of up to 80 or even 90 percent.
"The drive to encourage more CHP plants is part of the government's wider attempt to get carbon emissions down by 20 percent by 2010," junior environment minister Angela Eagle told Reuters in an interview.
The government believes industry will want to take up CHP technology because, although it is more expensive to install initially, its cost saving benefits can be seen within a few years.
"It shouldn't be hard to convince hard-nosed businesses to save money," said Eagle.
CHP units installed at BMW subsidiary Land Rover's Solihull site are expected to save the company over six million stg in 10 years and will reduce Carbon Dioxide emissions by 48,000 tonnes a year.
Self-financed CHP schemes normally have a payback of 3-5 years with a plant life of 20 years or more.
While industry may be convinced by the long term benefits of CHP plants and have the capital to purchase the technology, more will have to be done to encourage domestic users, Eagle said.
The problem of the initial cost of CHP units, which are four times more expensive than conventional heating boilers, will be eased by a government funding.
Plans are in the pipeline to free up some capital receipts, built up by local authorities following the sale of council houses under the previous Conservative government.
The memory of the poor performance of early types of CHP plants should not deter tenants accepting the latest version, Eagle said.
"I have met tenants who have had their bills cut in half. They wouldn't go back to the old system - they'd be kicking and screaming," she said.
Reuters Environment News
LONDON - A study funded by the Department of Health has found radioactive plutonium deposits in the teeth of children across Britain, the weekly magazine New Science reported on Friday.
The contamination was linked to discharges from the Sellafield plutonium-reprocessing facility in the north of England, it said. Children living closest to the plant showed the highest levels.
But authorities said the levels did not pose a health risk.
"The Department of Health welcomes the results of this study, which show that the levels of plutonium represent an insignificant risk to health," a department spokesman said.
Plutonium, used in nuclear weapons and a by-product of nuclear power stations, is a powerful cancer-causing agent. Virtually all the world's plutonium is from human sources and its only source in Britain is the Sellafield plant, the report said.
The study's author said plutonium made up only around one thousandth of all the radioactive material to which the body is exposed and that most sources of radioactivity are natural, including radon from rocks.
Environmental pressure group Greenpeace said any level of contamination was too high and called for the immediate closure of Sellafield.
"There is no safe dose," said Greenpeace scientist Helen Wallace. "All this study shows is that the stuff is getting into people's bodies and nobody really knows what the effect is."
Greenpeace has long protested against Sellafield's radioactive emissions into the atmosphere and the Irish Sea.
Reuters Environment News
PARIS -- France on Thursday imposed an open-ended ban on fishing and swimming around the La Hague nuclear reprocessing plant on the Cherbourg peninsula because of fears about radioactive pollution.
Environment Minister Dominique Voynet told reporters she would not wait for the completion of a state study of possible health risks from nuclear waste dumped into the English Channel to put a stop to fishing and recreational activities in the area.
Voynet, a minister in France's new leftist government which took power five weeks ago, described the step as "precautionary" and said it had not yet been established that there was a danger to health.
Asked whether the plant itself might eventually be shut down, she responded, "We haven't got to that point yet."
The Greenpeace environmental group says it has found radioactivity levels exceeding European Union limits in waste spewing from a La Hague discharge pipe into the English Channel. It said it also found high radioactivity levels in sediment on the channel bottom near the plant, which is run by state nuclear company Cogema.
A study by French scientists made public in January found a concentration of leukemia cases in patients under 25 years old and living within 35 km (20 miles) of La Hague.
The Times (London)
LONDON, Eng. -- The [British] Government admitted yesterday that radioactive waste was secretly dumped in a busy shipping channel in the Irish Sea in the 1950s and 1960s despite 13 years of official denials. The Government is being urged to hold a public inquiry into the way ministers, MPs and the public were misled.
The Scottish Office confirmed that two tonnes of "low to intermediate-level" radioactive waste were dumped in Beaufort's Dyke, between Scotland and Ireland, in metal drums encased in concrete.
The news has angered environmentalists who for the past decade had been repeatedly assured that no radioactive waste was deposited. Politicians in Ireland said the announcement confirmed a long-held belief that the British Government was not telling the truth about the nuclear industry.
Beaufort's Dyke, an 894 ft trench, is already the subject of controversy after more than 4,000 phosphorous flares, dumped there in the wake of the Second World War, were washed up on Ayrshire, Clyde and Argyll beaches in the past three years. The site was a dump for hundreds of thousands of tonnes of munitions, including shells, bombs, landmines and grenades, until 1973. Some were dropped outside the designated site.
Yesterday the Scottish Office said there was no threat from the radioactive material which, according to a spokeswoman, was well within safety guidelines....
But MPs and environmentalists said they were deeply concerned at the news. Alasdair Morgan, Scottish National Party MP for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale, said: "Three ferry routes cross the site. It is regularly used by fishing vessels and is close to a gas pipeline being built between Scotland and Northern Ireland. Yet, despite the safety, environmental and economic considerations at stake, successive British governments have behaved in an appalling and irresponsible fashion."
Richard Dixon, head of research for Friends of the Earth, said unstable material should be brought to the surface. He added: "It is unbelievable that you can have two tonnes of radioactive waste sitting in the sea six miles off the coast and the Government claims not to know about it."
Michael Woods, the Irish Marine Minister, expressed "deep concern" at the revelations. He demanded that full information be provided as "firm assurances had been given in the past that no radioactive material had been dumped".
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Office said that the government documents detailing the radioactive waste had always been in the Public Record Office at Kew in west London. When asked why they had not been found before, she replied: "We weren't looking in the right place. We did not know they were there."
The waste is believed to have come from university laboratories and three companies, Babcock and Wilcox, Ferranti and Luminisers. The bulk of it is believed to be glass containers, iodine solution and luminous paint used for aircraft instruments.
-- Tom Spears
CHALK RIVER, Ont. -- Daily, for nearly 30 years, the nuclear complex in Chalk River leaked more than 4,000 litres of radioactive water through the soil to the Ottawa River.
Even though Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. removed the source of its leak in 1995, water is still percolating through soil that remains contaminated with radioactive tritium and strontium and into the river a few hundred metres away.
The Atomic Energy Control Board, which regulates nuclear safety in Canada, acknowledged last December that Chalk River's NRX reactor had experienced a "mild" leak.
The board said then, and still says, that the Ottawa River dilutes the pollution, and there is no danger to people who drink the water.
The amount of radioactivity released was 2 million times less than regulatory limits, the board said.
But an access-to-information request filed by Lynn Jones of Pembroke shows the leak carried large amounts of radioactive water into the river, which supplied drinking water for many communities downstream, for nearly two decades.
"We're appalled that they would keep this secret for so many years, Jones said. "This has made people start asking questions."
Studies by Atomic Energy of Canada show:
-- Ross Howard, B.C. Bureau, Peacewire
The B.C. government will begin interfering today with operations of a Pacific Coast military testing range frequented by U.S. warships, in a careful ratcheting up of the stakes in the Canadian - U.S. fish war.
The government plans to announce that it is cancelling the lease for the Canadian Forces' Nanoose Bay submarine and underwater weapons testing facility on the provincially controlled sea-bed off Vancouver Island....
The B.C. lease does not include the federally owned onshore facilities or actual waters at the Nanoose testing range. But the ocean floor is studded with $100-million worth of test equipment, and cutting off use of the sea-bed would seriously interfere with the naval operations. The cancellation will take full effect in six months.
The testing site, about 20 kilometres north of Nanaimo, is regularly used by U.S. nuclear submarines under a joint defence agreement, as well as by the Canadian and other navies. At least 650 ships, including 160 submarines, have used the site since 1967. About 200 personnel operate it.
An internal U.S. memo dated Jan. 3, 1996, obtained by The Canadian Press, says the facility has unique characteristics that have saved the U.S. Navy more than $2-billion in the 32 years it has been testing torpedoes there.
The lease cancellation is a cautious first step taken after public pressure for stronger action on a long-standing emotional issue on the West Coast, an official in Premier Glen Clark's office said yesterday.
The official said the Canadian salmon fishery faces major economic and ecological losses if tougher U.S. catch limits are not set before the season opens within 40 days.
U.S. interests "have been extremely belligerent in these negotiations," Mr. Clark said yesterday. "I'm not prepared to see the salmon fishery disappear. Someone has to . . . stand up for the country, even if Ottawa won't."
-- Canadian Press
TORONTO -- Environment Minister Norm Sterling is investigating allegations Ontario Hydro dumped more than 1,000 tonnes of toxic copper and zinc into Lake Ontario.
Ontario Hydro said this week it has knowingly flushed particles produced by condenser tubes in the Pickering station's eight nuclear power units since 1989. That prompted critics to accuse Ontario Hydro of failing to be trusted and calls for the resignation of its head, Alan Kupcis.
Hydro spokesman Terry Young said the emissions are "within provincial guidelines." They pose no immediate health or environmental risk, said Young. But the utility is "concerned" about the discharge levels and has taken steps to reduce them, he said.
Published reports suggested Ontario Hydro failed to take the problem seriously until an employee kicked up a fuss. A spokesman for the watchdog group, Durham Nuclear Awareness, accused the utility of a coverup. It's also calling for Kupcis to resign.
-- Canadian Press
The Pickering nuclear plant's operating license should be renewed for one year, but not the five years Ontario Hydro has requested, a panel of Atomic Energy Control Board staff is recommending.
The panel told a hearing into the renewal of Pickering's license that there have been major improvements in maintenance procedures at the nuclear plant.
But it expressed concern about Ontario Hydro's sustaining the procedures.
The panel also recommended that only six of Pickering's eight generating units should be operating at the same time, with the other two units in an approved shutdown state for maintenance.
-- The Gazette, Montreal
[ As we near Election Day '97, this article by journalist Paul McKay points out that Canadians should question Prime Minister Chrétien's "long involvement in reckless deals", the latest being Chrétien's CANDU sale to China. Noting the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989 and Canada's present failure to censure this human rights abuse, Mr. McKay also outlines Canada's CANDU sales to India, Pakistan, Argentina, Romania and South Korea. He writes: ]
"And if the Canadian government will put up $1.5 billion to grease the deal, Beijing is not going to turn it down".
-- The Gazette, Montreal
On Wednesday, May 14, Dr. Leo Yaffe, a leading expert in nuclear chemistry and a vice-principal of administration at McGill University during the 1970s and '80s, died in Montreal at the age of 81.
Dr. Yaffe earned an international reputation for promoting the safe and peaceful application of nuclear energy.
In the '60s, Dr. Yaffe led research in Vienna for the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency on the peacetime use of nuclear energy, and during his distinguished career he wrote more than 150 scientific papers.
"People, unfortunately, tend to equate nuclear with bombs," he once said. "I'm a passionate believer in the peaceful purposes of nuclear energy. What people don't realize is how many people are being helped to surmount medical problems with nuclear medicine."
For more on the subject of nuclear medicine, see Nuclear Medicine, Radio-isotopes and Nuclear Reactors. ]