Thursday, February 28, 2008

Don't let them relax uranium transport rules!

About 20 million packages of all sizes containing radioactive materials are transported around the world annually on public road, railways and ships.

With the comeback of nuclear power, there is an increasing demand for transportation of radioactive materials.

Wisely, regulations have been in place to strictly control their movement. But the industry is now complaining of bottlenecks and delays.

This is compounded by the fact that, sensibly, fewer and fewer transporters want to deal with the hazardous materials. Moeller Maersk, the world's largest container shipping line measured on vessel capacity, adopted a policy of not shipping radioactive materials in April 2007.

"It is a very complex problem," said Bernard Monot, external relations vice president at the logistics department of the world's biggest maker of nuclear reactors, Areva.

"The shippers complain about the port authorities, who in turn hold the shipping lines responsible and everybody accuses heavy regulations," he says.

So they want the rules cut.

For example in Holland, "It takes around six weeks to receive a permit," according to Pyter Hiemstra, spokesman for SenterNovem, the agency handling permits on behalf of the Dutch Department of Spatial Planning, Housing and Environment.

He said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had asked countries to speed this up.

"What we would be looking for is for radioactive to be accepted for transit permission normally with 24 to 48 hours notice," said John Leach, General Manager for Dangerous Cargo, Special Cargo Management at Moeller Maersk.

The Low Carbon Kid argues hat the last thing we need is a relaxing of rule around the transport of radioactive materials. The world is a dangerous enough place as it is.

It is governments and local authorities and port authorities who control these rules. Write to your MP and ask them not to let these rules be relaxed.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Stop Arctic Oil and Gas

Arctic Oil & Gas Corp. is an oil exploration venture company that has filed for the exclusive exploitation, development, marketing and extraction rights to the oil and gas resources of the seafloor and subsurface contained within the ”Arctic Claims“.

A preliminary assessment by the US Geological Survey (USGS) suggests the Arctic seabed may hold up to a quarter of the world’s undiscovered oil and natural gas reserves.

But the planet’s ecosystem could not absorb without radical change the release of the greenhouse gases their burning would release, nor the seabed’s ecosystem survive the mining.

It is madness and craziness beyond belief to exploit this resource.

It is absolutely vital that the world agree, as it did fifty years ago with Antarctica, to set aside a large percentage of the world’s surface as inviolable conservation areas, and it must be made financially worthwhile by their host nations to do so, along the lines of the agreement to pay countries with rainforests not to chop them down in return for carbon credits, in the post-2012 climate negotiations.

But this company does not care about this. Its email to me asked me to invest in the chance to make trillions of dollars from exploiting "the last frontier". It boasted greedily of how the area has more promise than Iraq.

An Exclusive Rights Claim to the Hydrocarbon Resources of the Arctic Oceans Commons was formally lodged by the Company and its partners with the United Nations and the five Arctic countries on May 9th 2006.

The Company intends to operate as the ”lead manager“ tasked to create a multinational joint venture consortium of major oil companies, whose technology and managerial expertise will be vital to recovering the oil and gas from the harsh, deep waters of the Arctic in an environmentally safe manner.

Its contact details are here:

Corporate Address:
Arctic Oil and Gas Corp.
8350 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 200
Beverly Hills, CA 90211

Investors and Press phone: 702.953.9688
Corporate phone: 323.556.0643

The company is obviously aware of the "sensitive" nature of its activities. Reading its policy on "corporate governance" is illuminating:

Arctic Oil & Gas Corp. is also committed to the highest possible standards of openness, honesty and accountability. In line with that commitment, we expect employees and others that we deal with who have serious concerns about any aspect of the company‘s work to come forward and voice those concerns.

Employees are often the first to realize that there may be something seriously wrong within the company. However, they may decide not to express their concerns because they feel that speaking up would be disloyal to their colleagues or to the company.

They may also fear harassment or victimization. In these circumstances, they may feel it would be easier to ignore the concern rather than report what may just be a suspicion of malpractice.

For this reason, the company has instituted a Whistle Blowing Policy is that is intended to encourage and enable employees to raise serious concerns within the company rather than overlooking a problem or seeking a resolution of the problem outside the company.

Then, presumably, they can be silenced.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Sustainable war

It's nice to know that even the Ministry of Defence is going green, in the battle against climate change.

Derek Twigg of the MoD told Fraser Kemp on Monday, in Parliamentary Questions, all about the measures they are taking... "improving building energy management and energy efficiency... working with the Carbon Trust ... embedding pro-rata energy efficiency targets into service delivery agreements ... trying to procure energy-efficient vehicles and offset emissions from ministerial flights."

And they will "develop and implement a carbon neutrality strategy for the MOD office estate..." etc. etc.

One day, perhaps, all wars will be carbon neutralised and solar-powered. Just like the old days.

So that's alright then.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Fire at nuclear plant put out

A fire started at Vattenfall Europe's currently closed Kruemmel nuclear plant in northern German but was quickly put out by the plant's own fire brigade on Monday, the operator and local government said [report from Reuters].

No radioactive substances had been released and all relevant authorities had been informed, Vattenfall said in a statement.

The 1,402 megawatt plant, which is jointly operated by the Swedish/German utility Vattanfall utility group and by Germany's E.ON has been closed since June 28, 2007 when a fire at a tranformer substation caused a short circuit.

The Social Affairs Ministry in the northern state of Schleswig Holstein, which supervises nuclear safety, said the incident took place around 0700 GMT and was resolved shortly after 0800 GMT.

The internal fire brigade had dealt with the fire so there had been no need to involve public fire fighters, it said. There were no injuries.

Vattenfall confirmed the details in a statement, saying there had been a smouldering fire at a ventilation system.

Germany is in the process of phasing out nuclear power by 2020 under plans agreed by the previous coalition of Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens.

The plans are being contested by the conservative parties CDU/CSU, which are currently in a coalition government with the SPD. Each safety-related incident is helping to weaken their arguments and reignite fears over the safety of the technology.

A statement from the ministry said the cause of the fire had not yet been determined but its experts were investigating at the site.

The 24-year old Kruemmel reactor is about 20 km (12.43 miles) southeast of Hamburg on the River Elbe.

Adjacent Brunsbuettel, another nuclear plant operated jointly by Vattenfall and E.ON, with 806 megawatts of capacity, also remains shut since the incidents last summer.

Environmental organisation Greenpeace called for the permanent closure of the two plants.

"The latest fire at Kruemmel shows that reactors cannot be operated safely," it said in a statement, adding that power markets were managing without the supply.

Utilities say they need to prolong nuclear operations to win time to meet increasingly ambitious goals for curbing emissions of climate-warming carbon dioxide.