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Reuters Environment NewsBy Scott Miller, Frankfurt Newsroom
FRANKFURT - Germany's Daimler-Benz said on Wednesday it was making major strides in developing a pollution free "fuel cell" car, dramatically shrinking the technology to fit in one of its new, small A-Class models.
Unveiling a fuel cell A-Class at the Frankfurt car show, Daimler said the vehicle already performed similarly to cars powered by internal combustion engines and could become a practical alternative to traditional cars early next century.
"The revolutionary new vehicle, which is based on the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, represents a decisive breakthrough in the quest to develop an automobile drive system with extremely low emissions," Daimler said in a statement.
In a fuel cell car, hydrogen gas is fed into a fuel cell membrane where it reacts with atmospheric oxygen to produce electrical energy.
The process, which creates no emission other than a small amount of water, has had one big draw-back -- the hydrogen tanks are large and developing an infrastructure to refuel them is expected to be extremely expensive.
But the car presented by Daimler on Wednesday gets around those problems by using methanol as the primary fuel, transforming the liquid into hydrogen with a reformer device.
"Dispensing with the hydrogen tanks and batteries not only reduces vehicle weight, but it also greatly improves the everyday practicality of the new vehicle," Daimler said.
Filling stations can easily sell methanol and the performance of the car is very close to cars powered by gasoline or diesel.
Daimler said the car it showed here, known as NECAR 3 within Daimler, had a range of 400 km (250 miles) on a full tank of 40 litres.
The German car giant has taken great strides toward bringing fuel cell cars to the market.
Only a year and a half ago, it displayed the technology in a van, a large portion of which was consumed with fuel cells and which carried a large hydrogen tank on top.
Daimler said that while good progress was being made, it did not expect to start selling fuel cell-powered cars until 2005 and even then mostly to municipal fleets.
The head of Daimler's passenger car division, Juergen Hubbert, told a news conference at the car show that the company must still cut production costs and it would not bring a fuel cell car to market until it could compete on a cost basis with traditional cars.
Daimler says, for example, that it must reduce the cost of the fuel cell itself by a factor of 10.
Many around Daimler's Stuttgart headquarters, however, are optimistic that with mass production and expected technological breakthroughs, production costs will fall.
Although some at Daimler see fuel cells eventually replacing the internal combustion engine, Hubbert suggested such a historic watershed was some way off.
"The internal combustion engine, especially the diesel, still offers a lot of potential and will, no doubt, remain the dominant form of propulsion for the foreseeable future," Hubbert said.
Reuters Environment NewsPARIS - Greenpeace on Thursday started legal action against France's nuclear reprocessing company, accusing it of dumping nuclear waste into the Channel during operations to clean up a clogged discharge pipe.
The environmental group said it lodged a complaint with an investigating magistrate in the Channel port of Cherbourg against state company Cogema, saying its La Hague plant had polluted the sea and harmed marine life.
Greenpeace said some 50 kilos (110 lb) of nuclear waste spewed out into the sea during operations to clean up the plant's five-kilometre-long (three mile) discharge pipe.
It said underwater films showed that the company had built up an infrastructure of pipes and barrels underwater showing that "Cogema is desperately trying to conceal pollution generated by its so-called cleaning up activities".
The Health Ministry said earlier this week that the clean-up had been carried out without incident, but a few dozen kilos of sediment and other deposits had been observed near the mouth of the pipe and would be removed.
The Environment Ministry asked Cogema for clarification.
Greenpeace has long been locked in battle with Cogema. Earlier this year, it said it had found high radioactivity levels in waste spewing into the Channel, and in sediment on the sea bottom near the plant.
Cogema has insisted the measurements were invalid because the samples were taken too close to the pipe.
Environment Minister Dominique Voynet, the head of the Greens Party, has indefinitely banned fishing and yachting in the zone, saying she would not wait for additional safety studies before acting.
A mainstay of France's powerful nuclear industry, La Hague reprocesses spent nuclear fuel, [to extract] plutonium, from countries including Britain, Germany and Japan.
Reuters Environment NewsBy Matthew Jones ,
LONDON - A Scottish safety watchdog is reexamining rules on radioactive nuclear waste which could have far reaching implications for Britain's billion pound nuclear industry.
The U.K. is a leading destination for reprocessing and storing and the attraction has been a provision that foreign radioactive waste can be stored in Britain for up to 25 years.
Countries faced with the political and logistical difficulties of dealing with spent nuclear fuel have favoured turning the problem into a long-term one, by sending the material abroad. A significant proportion makes its way to the U.K.
But this could change if a ruling by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) is upheld in Scotland and a precedent is set for England and Wales.
In August this year SEPA reduced the time waste can be stored at the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority's (UKAEA) Dounreay nuclear plant in northern Scotland to 10 years from 25.
It was subsequently asked by the British government to engage in fresh consultations and SEPA expects to make a report before the end of the year.
A source close to the watchdog said the time limit for radioactive waste stored at Dounreay was "unlikely to go up from 10 years and could be cut lower."
Dr Rachel Western, senior nuclear research officer at environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth, said, "Cutting the time limit to store material to 10 from 25 years makes sending nuclear waste less attractive for foreign countries."
"If other countries can dump their waste in Britain for 25 years it won't return within the career span of the politicians and bureaucrats making the decision. But, if it's 10 years, that's closer to home," she added.
Western said the U.K. was becoming a nuclear dumping ground with foreign waste taking up semi-permanent residency.
A 10-year limit on storing reprocessed nuclear fuel compared with 25 years was likely to have some impact on business, the UKAEA conceded.
"It would prove difficult for some of our customers," a spokesman at Dounreay said.
If the Scottish time limit were applied it could set a precedent for nuclear reprocessing operations in England and Wales which are covered by the Environment Agency and not SEPA.
"If the 10-year limit is applied, it will have drastic implications for Sellafield (operated by BNFL)," said SEPA spokeswoman Maggie Hamilton.
"If the Environment Agency were to go with a 10-year limit it would make life harder for Sellafield. Future contracts would be more difficult because of the political and route difficulties of repatriating waste," agreed Dr Andy Blowers, professor of social science at the Open University and a member of the Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee (RWMAC), a government advisory body.
BNFL disagrees, saying the SEPA decision will not affect the company's reprocessing operations which are mainly in England, not Scotland.
"The U.K. government position is that any waste arising from reprocessing should be returned to the country of origin. This 'return of waste' clause has been included in all BNFL's reprocessing contracts since the mid-1970s," the state-owned company said in a statement.
"The company expects to start returning waste to overseas customers within the decade."
The movement of nuclear waste has often sparked protest outside the U.K. Last week campaigners demonstrated at the Brunsbuettel nuclear plant in northern Germany to protest against the transfer of spent nuclear fuel to a reprocessing plant in France.
As SEPA's fresh consultation period draws to a close both sides in the nuclear debate are expected to increase their lobbying efforts.
Reuters Environment NewsNora Hallberg, Helsinki newsroom
HELSINKI - Finland can meet its future need for more electricity output capacity without building a new nuclear power plant, environment experts told a seminar this week.
They agreed with assessments by various industry groups that new capacity would be needed. This could be generated by increased use of coal, natural gas and bio fuels and by raising the capacity of existing nuclear reactors, said Markku Nurmi, director at the environment ministry.
"Finland has many possibilities ... we will face no energy shortage," he said.
"Arguments for a new nuclear plant are from the 1970s and have become an end in itself," he said.
Markku Koski, deputy chairman of parliament's environment committee, said the nuclear power discussion remained "stuck, playing the same old tune."
Finland was the only country in western Europe even considering to build a new nuclear power plant in the next five years. Canada and Sweden, for example, had decided to close down some of their nuclear plants, Nurmi noted.
Parliament voted in autumn 1993 in favour of a motion opposing the use of more nuclear power in Finland.
Led by heavy-industry trade unions fearing for members' jobs, the pro-nuclear lobby has stepped up in the past year its campaign to persuade MPs to reconsider that decision.
But Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen, eager to keep intact his rainbow coalition including the staunchly anti-nuclear power Green Party, has ruled out an "atomic vote" during his term to March 1999.
Finnish electricity consumption is projected to increase to between 102 terawatt hours (TWh) and 118 TWh by the year 2025 from almost 70 TWh in 1996, the ministry of trade and industry (KTM) said in a report earlier this year.
Some 2500-3000 megawatts in new baseload capacity would be needed by 2005.
"Finland has a very broad energy palette and it will remain so in the future", Koski said. The focus should be on natural gas, which offered considerable opportunities, he said, but did not give any specific details.
Finland currently imports all its natural gas from Russia. Efforts to open a western supply route from Norway's North Sea gas fields have so far stranded on Sweden's unwillingness to participate in building a gas pipe-line, the experts said.
Last year, natural gas turbine power stood for 0.04 percent of total Finnish electricity supply while natural gas accounted for 9.4 percent of total energy consumption, KTM data show.
"The prerequisite for increased use of natural gas is that it could be used more in electricity production alone rather than only in combined production of heating and electricity," the government said in an energy strategy report to parliament.
The report also said the possibility to build more nuclear power should not be ruled out as a future alternative.
Koski called this a "political compromise." Finance Minister Sauli Niinisto, among others, has spoken for more nuclear power.
US Dept of Energy
[Although this Press Release dates from August 18, 1997, it only came to our attention in the first week of September. We have been told that written interventions from Canadian individuals and groups which are submitted by September 17, 1997, will be accepted by the US DOE and will be given due consideration. If any significant environmental impacts are identified as feasible, the project -- called the Proposed Action -- will be delayed pending the production of a full-scale Environmental Impact Statement, and a more formal review will then be conducted.]
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) proposes to fabricate [in the US] and transport [to Canada] a limited amount of mixed oxide (MOX) fuel [plutonium fuel] as part of a test and demonstration project named Parallex (parallel experiment).
This MOX fuel would be fabricated at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and would involve mixing weapons-usable plutonium as a mixed oxide with uranium dioxide to form dry fuel pellets. The dry fuel pellets would then be loaded into fuel rods for transport to Chalk River Laboratories in Chalk River, Ontario, where they would be used for tests in a heavy-water-moderated reactor.
DOE must test and demonstrate the feasibility of burning MOX fuel as part of its on-going mission to evaluate the disposition of surplus weapons-grade fissile materials. A pre-decisional draft Environmental Assessment (EA), which analyzes the proposed action will be available for public review and comment for 28 days starting August 20, 1997.
Copies of the pre-decisional draft EA are available in DOE Public Reading Rooms located in Los Alamos at 1350 Central Avenue and in Albuquerque at the T-VI Montoya Campus Library, 4700 Morris NE. Additionally, the pre-decisional draft EA is available on the INTERNET, Los Alamos Area Office's home page. Questions regarding this issue can be directed to Dean Triebel, 528 35th Street, Los Alamos, NM 87544, or call (505) 665-6353.
(of the Pre-Decisional EA Statement)
In order to safeguard and manage the 41.9 tons (38 metric tons) of weapons-usable plutonium declared surplus to the United States' defense needs, the Department of Energy (DOE) has decided to implement a program to provide for safe and secure storage of the material, and a strategy for the dispositioning of weapons-usable plutonium obtained from decommissioned nuclear weapons, as specified in the Record of Decision for the Storage and Disposition of Weapons-Usable Materials Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (S&D PEIS).
The S&D PEIS examines an alternative for the dispositioning of weapons-usable plutonium as a mixed oxide (MOX) fuel in a reengineered heavy-water-moderated reactor, such as a Canadian Deuterium Uranium (CANDU) reactor.
MOX reactor fuel would be made by mixing weapons-usable plutonium in oxide form with uranium dioxide and pressed into dry fuel pellets. These pellets are then loaded into fuel rods.
DOE must test and demonstrate the feasibility of burning MOX fuel in CANDU reactors as part of its ongoing mission to evaluate the disposition of surplus weapons-grade fissile materials. The ability to successfully reengineer and operate heavy-water-moderated CANDU reactors with MOX fuel cycles has never been demonstrated on any industrial scale.
The Proposed Action is for DOE to fabricate and transport a limited amount of MOX fuel as part of the Parallex Project. This test and demonstration project has been named Parallex (PARALLel EXperiment) because of the roles the United States, Russia, and Canada would have in this project -- the U.S. and Russia supplying test material [plutonium] to Canada as a neutral third country.
The U.S. MOX fuel would be fabricated at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), New Mexico and transported in one, two, or three shipments in a Department of Transportation approved package container(s) to a Canadian port(s) of entry on one of three approved routes.
At the Canadian border, the Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) would take possession of the fuel and complete its shipment to the test reactor at Chalk River Laboratories in Chalk River, Ontario. The AECL would be responsible for conducting all subsequent fuel performance tests in their National Research Universal (NRU) reactor.
The NRU test reactor is the only available reactor specifically redesigned to test MOX fuel performance as related to CANDU reactors. All spent fuel resulting from the tests would be disposed of in Canada under the Canadian spent fuel program.
A "sliding-scale" approach is the basis for the analysis of effects in this Environmental Assessment (EA). That is, certain aspects of the Proposed Action have a greater potential for creating adverse environmental effects than others; therefore, they are discussed in greater detail in this EA than those aspects of the action that have little potential for effect.
The Proposed Action would result in the fabrication of MOX test fuel at LANL [Los Alamos National Laboratory] and its delivery to the AECL NRU test reactor in Canada. A successful MOX fuel test could lead to the disposition of surplus weapons-grade plutonium from the U.S. and Russia by irradiation in CANDU reactors in Canada. [This would involve importing about 100 tonnes of plutonium into Canada from Russia and the USA over a period of about 25 years.] The parallel disposition of weapons-grade plutonium would support the American and Russian goals of nuclear materials nonproliferation.
The fabrication of the MOX fuel at LANL would generate small amounts of low-level and transuranic radioactive waste, and very small radioactive air emissions. The MOX fuel fabrication would not result in adverse health effects in the involved workers or public. The shipment(s) of MOX fuel would not adversely affect the environment at LANL or along the transportation routes. During the shipment(s), the truck crew and public would not be adversely affected by the low amount of penetrating radiation from the MOX fuel in the package container(s).
Under the No Action Alternative, no MOX fuel would be fabricated at LANL and no MOX fuel would be shipped to Canada. The existing MOX fuel already made would continue to be stored at LANL until a decision on its use or disposition is made. The AECL would have no source of U.S. MOX fuel and, therefore, would have to delay its testing program at the NRU reactor in parallel with Russian MOX fuel, or if Russian fuel were available, operate the testing program in the absence of U.S. supplied MOX fuel.
Two hypothetical MOX fuel fabrication and transportation accident scenarios were analyzed that evaluated a potential radiation release to the involved workers and public. Another transportation accident scenario not involving a radioactive release was also analyzed. The three accident scenarios did not result in potentially serious health effects to the involved workers or public during MOX fuel fabrication and transportation.
It is expected that activities associated with the Proposed Action would not amplify cumulative effects, because the contributions to adverse effects from the Proposed Action would be extremely small.
Winnipeg Free PressBy Kim Guttormson
Seventeen years after low-level radioactive waste leaked from an underground pipe at the Whiteshell lab in Pinawa, Manitoba, trace levels can still be detected in weeds growing from the ground.
Aly Mortada Aly, of the Atomic Energy Control Board, said the board has requested that AECL "go back and do some investigation. It's a follow-up action, really. Right now the request is limited to that particular site." Aly said the investigation was requested because of queries from the public about the old leak and because the lab is in negotiations to be turned over to private interests.
No one from Canadian Nuclear Projects Ltd., a consortium of companies looking to take over the lab, would comment on possible on-site contamination or what that means to negotiations.
In July of 1980 an underground pipe carrying waste water began leaking because of pit corrosion. The leak was noticed, according to a 1981 report on the incident obtained through access to information provisions, but the contaminated soil couldn't be removed at the time because of rain.
In August, 1980, someone turned on the valve that was marked "do not operate," sending more waste water through the corroded pipe and leaking more waste water into the soil.
The report says about 370 square metres was affected. The soil was removed and buried at the lab's waste management site.
Larry Shewchuk, spokesman for the lab, said they began to notice some surface radiation above the site, but he doesn't know when they began looking for it. "The indication seems to be a very small amount of soil was left in the initial clean-up," Shewchuk says. "We've put gravel overtop the grass area as a safety routine."
"There is no threat to human health, the environment or groundwater."
Shewchuk said the radiation has been measured at one micro-sievert. Tee Boon Goh, a soil scientist at the University of Manitoba, said that level is "very low."
"Whether it's low enough to worry about, you'd get 10.000 different opinions. (Some people think) no amount of radiation is safe."
Shewchuk said it's a lower level than occurs naturally in rocks containing uranium.
But he said since radiation isn't supposed to be in that particular site, even a low level will be removed.
Dave Taylor, of Concerned Citizens of Manitoba, said they want an environmental audit of the site.
"Seventeen years later we're getting this information about a contaminated site," he said. "I'd like to know what's out there and an accounting of what it will cost to clean it up."
Reuters Environment NewsBy Gillian Handyside
BRUSSELS - Britain and France announced on Friday they planned to end dumping radioactive waste at sea in a policy change welcomed by the European Commission and the environmental pressure group Greenpeace.
The shift was announced in a statement issued at the end of the annual meeting of the OSPAR Convention -- an inter-governmental body monitoring and regulating pollution in the northeast Atlantic from the Arctic to Gibraltar.
"This is a very important event," a senior Commission representative to the meeting told Reuters.
The week-long OSPAR meeting brought together 15 European countries and the Commission to negotiate a new international convention strictly curbing marine pollution.
The new convention is due to be signed by ministers from the OSPAR states in Lisbon in July.
Greenpeace issued a statement hailing the shift in British and French policy as "a considerable blow to the polluting nuclear industries at La Hague (France), Sellafield (England) and Dounreay (Scotland)".
Officials representing the OSPAR members will meet in January to hammer out a timetable for cutting radioactive discharges from the three nuclear reprocessing plants, which Greenpeace says account for over 90 percent of all radioactive pollution in the northeast Atlantic.
Britain's indication this week that it would join other OSPAR members in trying to reduce sea dumping of hazardous waste had allowed OSPAR to make significant headway in agreeing on a new strategy for disposing of redundant oil rigs, the Commission official said.
He said OSPAR was aiming for a new convention which would offer "definitely a high level of protection".
But the environmental group the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said in a statement that the planned measures were "too weak to make any significant difference" and attacked a number of OSPAR states for failing to abide by existing dumping rules.
OSPAR signatories are Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the European Union.
Toronto StarBy Jason Scott
About 2.5 litres of tritium-laced heavy water leaked into Lake Ontario from a reactor at the Pickering A plant during an 11-hour period beginning shortly before midnight Wednesday.
"It just confirms the fact that the plant is one catastrophe after another and it's breaking down on a weekly basis,'' said Maurice Brenner, a Durham Region councillor who thinks the plant should be mothballed.
"Whether it's two litres or whether it's three litres or whether it's 100 litres, the volume to me is irrelevant,'' said Brenner. "It's still cancer-causing and there's still going to be some long-term effects in the environment and in some people's health.''
Dave Martin of Durham Nuclear Awareness agrees: "After this accident surely even Ontario Hydro should get the message that these reactors are too old and too accident-prone and that they should be shut down for good.''
According to Ontario Hydro, water tests following the leak indicated tritium concentrations at the outflow into Lake Ontario to be about 177 becquerels per litre (bq/l). That's well below the provincial drinking water standard of 7,000 bq/l.
And while the wind was blowing toward the Ajax water supply plant, health officials were not concerned that there was a danger to drinking water supplies.
"There's certainly no health risk but we are double-checking to make sure of that,'' said Dr. Linda Panaro of the Durham Region health department. A Hydro spokesperson said the leak was "minor.''
In the Legislature, New Democrat Leader Howard Hampton said the government is talking tough but doing nothing to rein in Hydro and that means an independent public inquiry is needed.
But Premier Mike Harris snapped back that the government has already agreed to hold a legislative committee in the coming weeks into Hydro's nuclear woes, which he labelled an "abominable mess we inherited from you.''
Friends of the Earth
It was revealed on Saturday that critical pages 48-75 of the departmental environmental assessment report had been missed out when Senator Hill [ Minister of the Environment ] released his recommendation that the Jabiluka project should proceed. These pages raised concerns about flow-on effects to the park's World Heritage values, the incomplete nature of baseline biological surveys, and the very long-term hazard of uranium tailings and the likelihood that these tailings will be released to the environment 1,000-10,000 years from now.
Green groups have objected to the Jabiluka project on grounds related to the World Heritage value of the National Park, the long-term effect of uranium tailings, and Aboriginal objections to the mine. In addition, environmental groups have always been opposed to participation by Australia in the nuclear fuel cycle.
According to Friends of the Earth Nuclear spokesperson John Hallam,
Yesterday's revelations of deliberate omission in the way the environmental assessment report has been released proves that the objections we have raised to the Jabiluka project are solidly grounded, and show that this project needs to be reconsidered by the cabinet as a whole. It seems that the departmental assessment report actually has many of the very same concerns we have raised ourselves.
The assessment report points out that the 60 million tonnes of tailings that will be created by the combined Jabiluka and Ranger projects could well be released to the environment any time between 1,000 and 10,000 years after the mine has been closed. FOE pointed out that uranium tailings will be significantly radioactive for at least 300,000 years, while current containment practices only aim to contain them for 200-1000 years.
In addition, the assessment report has detailed concerns related to flow-on impacts on the surrounding World Heritage area.
Friends of the Earth Australia, the Wilderness Society, and many overseas groups have already expressed extreme concern over these impacts, going to the extent of writing to the World Heritage Committee in Paris and asking them to place the Kakadu National Park on the 'World heritage in Danger' list, following similar representations by the Aboriginal Traditional Owners, and the Australian Conservation Foundation.
The concerns indicated by Hill's department show that there are serious problems with the project which Senator Hill has tried to cover up. Jabiluka needs to be reconsidered by the entire cabinet, and a decision needs to be taken based on the very broadest considerations of World Heritage, Australia's standing in the world environmental community, impacts on our tourist trade, and our role in the nuclear fuel cycle. If a truly objective decision is taken, it is clear that only one decision is possible: Jabiluka must not proceed."
Contact: John Hallam,
(02)9283-2006, 9283-2004, h(02)9810-2598.
Reuters Environment NewsBy Peter Lardner
TOKYO, (Reuter) - Government supervisors raided the offices of Japan's Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corp (PNC) on Friday after it admitted misusing funds intended for cleaning up a radiation leakage, witnesses said.
The raid follows revelations this week that as many as 2,000 metal drums storing low-level radioactive waste at PNC's facility northeast of Tokyo have been leaking for the past 30 years.
An official from Japan's Science and Technology Agency, the body which oversees the PNC, said investigators were seeking further evidence that the troubled nuclear firm misappropriated some 80 percent of the funds intended to clean up the leakage and rehouse the drums.
PNC officials admitted the leakage of the waste on Tuesday after a national newspaper published photographs of the corroding drums. It admitted the misappropriation of funds at a news conference on Thursday.
Both the PNC and the Science and Technology Agency were sharply criticised by Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto on Thursday over the nuclear group's failure to deal with the leakage, which was first discovered by a team of inspectors in April 1982.
Hashimoto described the incident as "unbelievable".
PNC officials said on Thursday that some 625 million yen ($5.3 million) had been budgeted for the clean up and rebuilding of the storage facility, of which only 100 million yen ($840,000) was actually used for the purpose.
Jinzaburo Takagi, executive director of Japan's Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (CNIC) told Reuters on Friday that the remainder of the budget was actually used for the 1995 cleanup of a plutonium processing facility at Tokaimura, where as much as 70 kg (165 pounds) of plutonium -- enough to make eight atomic bombs of the size used to bomb the Japanese city of Nagasaki in World War Two -- was sticking to the inside of pipes in the plant.
Revelations of the 1995 incident provoked a wave of international criticism, including an order from the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Association to address the problem.
CNIC's Takagi said the PNC had said it had removed about 60 kg (132 pounds) of the unwanted plutonium, but he added that rumours persisted that as much as 4O kg (88 pounds) of the substance remained in the pipes.
The source of funding for the 1995 cleanup was never revealed until the PNC's admission on Thursday that the lion's share came from the money earmarked for the corroding drums at Tokaimura, Takagi said.
Although the PNC had reported to the Science and Technology Agency that the cleanup of the leaking drums at the storage facility was on schedule, Tuesday's discovery made it clear that the PNC had done little to reconcile the problem.
This week's admissions by the the PNC are just the latest in a litany of revelations of accidents, sloppy safety procedures and lack of transparency in PNC's operations that have undermined the nation's faith in the country's nuclear energy policy and prompted the national government to order a complete overhaul of the PNC.
The storage facility, at Tokaimura on the Pacific coast about 100 km (65 miles) northeast of Tokyo, is near the site of a nuclear waste reprocessing plant where an explosion took place in March, exposing 35 workers to minor levels of radiation in Japan's worst nuclear incident. ($1=119 yen)
Reuters Environment NewsCANBERRA - Australian Environment Minister Robert Hill said on Thursday an official environmental assessment cleared a planned new uranium mine at Jabiluka in the outback Northern Territory.
"On the evidence available to me there does not appear to be any environmental issue which would prevent the preferred Jabiluka proposal from proceeding," Hill told journalists.
Energy Resources of Australia Ltd, operator of the nearby Ranger uranium mine, plans to develop Jabiluka, one of the world's richest uranium deposits.
The proposal still requires final approval from Resources and Energy Minister Warwick Parer.
The environmental report prepared for Hill forms part of Parer's decision-making process.
He said the study's approval of the proposal was conditional on further studies in some areas and the provision of baseline data against which to measure future environmental impact.
Hill said he had passed his recommendations to Parer.
"I'd be very surprised if he does other than accept them," Hill said.
"We are confident on the basis of the information that we have ... that this mine can be conducted in an environmentally safe way."
Construction at Jabiluka is scheduled to start in May 1998, with production commencing around 2000.
ERA, which is 68.4 percent owned by miner North Ltd, welcomed the government's decision.
"The company notes the Minister for Environment's recommendations and will now await the advice of the Minister for Resources and Energy on the company's proposal to mine uranium at Jabiluka," chief executive Phillip Shirvington said in a statement.
ERA company is still in negotiations with some Aboriginal landowners who have challenged the validity of the mining lease in Federal Court. ERA denies the claim that the mining lease was improperly granted.
The Jabiluka mine is expected to generate more than A$12 billion in revenue over its anticipated 28-year life.
Reuters Environment NewsTOKYO - A furious Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto said on Wednesday it was "unbelievable" the country's state-run nuclear corporation turned a blind eye for 30 years to a low-level radiation leak from a storage plant.
Hashimoto's harsh comments were just part of an angry outcry at the latest scandal in Japan's nuclear industry.
The furore erupted on Tuesday when the Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corp (PNC) admitted a radioactive waste storage facility at a nuclear reprocessing plant northeast of Tokyo leaked low-level radiation for about 30 years.
"It is unbelievable that the PNC did nothing despite the fact that the company even received a verbal warning from the Science and Technology Agency in 1982," Hashimoto told reporters.
The radiation leaked from about 2,000 drums each containing 200 litres (53 gallons) of low-level radioactive waste produced by uranium processing. The drums were in an open swimming pool-like pit exposed to rain which rusted some of the containers.
Hashimoto also questioned the credibility of the Science and Technology Agency, which oversees PNC operations.
"It is truely unbelievable if the Science and Technology Agency did not conduct any follow-up work on the problem since 1982," Hashimoto said.
PNC president Toshiyuki Kondo visited the site after the incident to apologise to local residents.
"After visiting the site yesterday, I got the impression that the accident happened because of carelessness," Kondo told a news conference.
The storage facility, at Tokaimura on the Pacific coast about 100 km (65 miles) northeast of Tokyo, is near the site of a nuclear waste reprocessing plant where an explosion took place in March, exposing 35 workers to minor levels of radiation in Japan's worst nuclear accident.
A string of revelations of sloppy safety procedures and a lack of transparency about its problems had angered local governments near the plants and prompted the national government to carry out a complete overhaul of the PNC.