Centrale nucléaire de Cattenom

The problem-plagued nuclear power plant in Cattenom, France.

Luxembourg and the German states of Rhineland-Palatinate and the Saarland have been urging that Cattenom be taken offline for safety reasons for years.

After a malfunction this week, one of Cattenom’s four reactors was powered down. In May 2014 there was an accident in which ten employees were irradiated. In July 2013 a transformer caught fire.

Der Spiegel reported that Cattenom has had >700 “incidents” in recent years.

Feder

Feathers, but it can also mean springs or shock absorbers.

taz.de reported that the big utility Eon is pushing for a fast restart to a nuclear power plant in Grohnde, Lower Saxony, despite safety concerns. The plant would have restarted on 11 May 2014 but there was generator damage. Then foreign bodies turned up in the reactor core—springs or shock absorbers [Feder] had broken off 9 of 131 throttle bodies, which regulate the flow of cooling water around the radioactive fuel rods. Other pressurized-water nuclear reactors in Germany use the same throttle bodies, said taz, but neither Lower Saxony’s environmental minister (Green party) nor the federal environmental minister (S.P.D.) wanted to say which plants these were.

Lower Saxony’s environmental minister has asked Hannoverian prosecutors to investigate tips the ministry received that cracks in the reactor’s secondary circuit had been fixed with temporary welding. Eon was said to have put pressure on the company doing the repairs to even get them to take on the job.

Half the throttle bodies in the Grohnde reactor core have now been replaced. And Eon says calling their welding inadequate is an “abstruse assertion.”

The Grohnde nuclear plant is scheduled to be restarted on Monday, 23 Jun 2014.

Update on 22 Jun 2014: Eon announced today that they restarted the Grohnde nuclear power plant yesterday, after Lower Saxony’s environmental ministry issued the permit to restart on Friday.

Built in 1984, the plant is scheduled to be the last Lower Saxony nuclear power plant taken offline in 2022.

(FEY da.)

Brennelementesteuer

A tax on the radioactive fuel elements used in nuclear reactors. Germany’s federal government created this tax in 2011 (the relevant law is called the, ahem, Kernbrennstoffsteuergesetz). Apparently the fuel rods tax has had a deterrent effect on the operation of nuclear power plants, while bringing in billions in revenue. Some utilities have challenged the tax in court.

Two lawsuits are pending before the Munich Financial Court. A court in Baden-Württemberg found that the fuel rods tax was okay. Relevant cases are also going to be heard by the German Constitutional Court and the European Court of Justice.

The Hamburg Financial Court referred the question of whether the fuel rods tax is “even permissible” to the European Court of Justice in November 2013. That court could take more than a year to issue a decision.

After the Hamburg Financial Court had referred the larger question to the higher instance, it then decided this week, in response to accelerated petitions from the utilities, that the utilities could be temporarily freed from paying the fuel rod tax and that the German treasury should temporarily return 2.2 billion euros of paid tax to the utilities pending the higher courts’ decisions. The court said the government could appeal though, and if the government appeals within one month they would be temporarily freed from having to make the return payment.

(Bren ell em EN tah shtoy ah.)

(CAIRN bren shtoff SHTOY ah gez ETTS.)

Meiler

A German word for a nuclear power plant. I always thought it was taken from Three Mile Island after the meltdown on 28 Mar 1979 drew the world’s attention to Pennsylvania. But an internet article said Meiler is an old word for furnace, kiln or pit and Meiler here is short for Atommeiler, a nuclear oven.

(MILE err.)

“Krysha”-Zahlungen

“‘Paving the way’ payments” in Russia. Rapprochement geld, smoothing-the-path-between-us money, also translated as “bribes” according to a Süddeutsche.de article about Germany’s third-largest power company, Energie Baden-Württemberg, saying some German prosecutors have thought for some years now the nuclear power provider used unworkable, improbable “fake contracts” [Scheinverträge] to move money into “shadow accounts” [schwarze Kassen] in Switzerland to form a pool of bribe money doled out to powerful Russian decision-makers, such as politicians or high-ranking military officers, for more access to the Russian nuclear energy and natural gas sectors. At the time, about half of EnBW was government-owned: by an association of county governments from the German state of Baden-Württemberg and by the French “energy giant” EdF, which itself was also “government-dominated.”

EnBW is said to have been aided in these endeavors by Moscow lobbyist Andrej Bykow, transferring ~280 million euros to Mr. Bykow’s Swiss companies over the course of several years.

Süddeutsche.de’s anthropological explanation of krysha said auditors from the accounting firm KPMG found that “questionable contracts with Mr. Bykow and his companies were being used to pay ‘initiation costs'” and that the auditing company’s confidential research had found that depending on the sector such expenses could run to 2% to 5% of the total cost of a project in Russia. That would make Russia one of the least corrupt countries in the world according to the experience of Siemens executives prosecuted for paying international bribes at about the same time: Siemens accountant Reinhard Siekaczek testified for example that, when he managed transfers of approx. $65 million dollars in illegal bribe money through offshore accounts from 2002 to 2006, his unit found that in the most corrupt countries bribes could be ~40% of a project’s budget, while 5% to 6% was about normal. A retired Greek official who was Greece’s defense department’s procurement director from 1992 to 2002 and recently spoke to Athens prosecutors about ~14 million euros found in his secret accounts around the world said from Russian arms deals his kickback was a “very generous” 3%, because 0.5% to 1% was his usual fee.

Germany has some rules against companies’ paying bribes in other countries, even where corruption is supposedly endemic, as can be seen from the billion-euro fines imposed on Siemens for bribery in 2008. Reporting on possible investigations into the corruption is confused by the use of tax investigations to obtain convictions or evidence in non-tax crimes and EnBW is apparently under investigation for a completely different type of tax fraud (the “carousel” sales tax scheme for avoiding value-added tax and/or collecting refunds of advance V.A.T. payments that were never made) now suspected to have become widespread in European electricity trading. Shortly after the utility’s “opaque business deals” with Mr. Bykow became known in 2011, several tax offices told S.Z., they quickly began looking for improprieties.

The passage of years since the start of these investigations, which state, federal and European offices of which types of investigators, and what pieces of this apparently large and sprawling puzzle they were examining, remains unclear to me.

Mannheim prosecutors are said to have been investigating six former EnBW managers and one current EnBW manager since 2012 for tax evasion and “breach of trust” [Untreue] though not for corruption. That could change now that the Karlsruhe tax office has started looking into the questionably documented filling and emptying of the company’s clandestine accounts in Switzerland.

Tax-wise, the power company has already offered to file adjusted German returns for the years 2000 to 2007 and has already transferred an additional 60 million euros to German tax authorities (about what the company saved in taxes by incorrectly labeling some payments to Mr. Bykow as “business expenses,” Mannheim prosecutors said). But new threads to pull keep getting teased out of EnBW’s data.

Süddeutsche.de described a strange nonprofit charity Mr. Bykow founded called “St. Nikolaus the Miracleworker”—whose board members included EnBW managers at times—which made donations to Russian churches, young Russian musicians and Russia’s Air Force, Navy, Border Patrol and “landing troops” [Landungstruppen; amphibious assault?].

“Thus, the Russian Pacific fleet’s submarine squadron Wilutschinsk Kamtschatskij Kraj named a boat after the Nikolaus charity. The charity, in its turn, gave the submarine personnel a minibus and donated a car to their commander, a vice-admiral. For the ‘maintenance of the fighter bomber SU 34, “Holy Nikolaus the Miracleworker,”‘ the foundation donated the construction of a heated airplane hanger. And every year the regiment’s top member received an automobile.”

Though it’s unclear how these arrangements were reached, with Mr. Bykow’s help EnBW ended up receiving military uranium taken e.g. from decommissioned Russian submarines. The utility was said to have used similar methods to increase its access to Siberian gas fields.

(Krysha   TSOLL oong en.)

Nur mit Bolzen genietet und nicht geschweißt

“Only riveted together and not welded,” reporter Johannes Hano’s description of many of the ~1000 containers in the leaky tank farm behind the “nuclear ruin” of Fukushima out of which tons of radioactive water have been seeping every day. On 01 Sep 2013 the Guardian.co.uk reported remeasuring had found the water in at least one of these tanks was radioactive enough to kill you within four hours. Also, employees helping clean up the mess for the past two and a half years have not been equipped with dosimetric gear showing them this danger.

A local fisherman based 40 kilometers south of the plant said, “We were just getting ready to steam out when suddenly the news was announced that the ocean had been poisoned with radioactivity, again. First they tried to verarsch us about it. They said only 120 liters had leaked out! Then suddenly it was 300,000 liters. I want to puke.”

On 02 Sep 2013 Tepco was forced to admit they’ve been actively piping some radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean rather than capturing all of it and passively letting some leak out into the sea (or capturing all of it and storing it securely, which is what they were claiming to do). They don’t have enough holding capacity for the site’s contaminated water.

Spiegel.de reported Tepco has been producing ~400 tons of new radioactive water daily that’s pumped each day through the still-seething three reactors that experienced partial meltdowns. A lot of that water just flows down through the buildings, becoming contaminated with cesium, strontium and tritium. They reuse some of it after running it through “ion exchangers” that remove some cesium, but still an extra 400 new tons of water are contaminated each day that way. There’s also an “underground river” flowing beneath the plant from the inland mountains to the sea, exposing about a thousand new metric tons of groundwater to radiation each day. Tepco wants to artificially freeze the earth around the plant into an underground ice wall but doubts have been expressed about that plan, especially after one rat was said to have caused a power outage at Fukushima Daiichi this summer.

As we searched the media for relevant science information immediately after the tsunami and explosions at Fukushima Daiichi, the Rachel Maddow Show’s reporting seemed relatively good in the first fortnight after the disaster. TRMS interviewees said the partial meltdowns at the reactor cores could create a caustic and radioactive chemical brew that could eat through the reactor and building floors and on down into the ground an unknown distance, pulled by gravity and presumably whatever more easily dissolved or traversed materials the soup encounters.

(Noor   mitt   BOLTS en   gen EE tet   oont   nichh t   gesh VICE t.)

Incendies vs. départs de feu

ASN.fr published a French nuclear safety agency report saying approximately 100 fires broke out in electricity-generating French nuclear power stations last year, mostly caused by electrical problems. The report carefully differentiated between incendies, major fires, and départs de feu, mere fire outbreaks, at French nuclear power plants.

Kernkraftwerksbeseitigung

“Nuclear power plant elimination.” Japanese journalists and engineers are travelling to Germany to see how nuclear power plants are being dismantled and disposed of there. This ZDF video for example shows metal holders for fuel rods that have been kept in water for years, then soaked in acid, hand-cleaned with high-pressure water, air and/or sand, and placed into temporary storage. There are no permanent storage sites in Germany for nuclear waste. The tour guide explained that some plant parts will be stored for at least fifty years before they can be taken apart.

(KERRRN croft verks beh ZITE ee goong.)

Energiewende

The “energy transition” from nonrenewable energy sources to a sustainable-power economy.

Update on 16 Jul 2013: After Germany began its phaseout of nuclear power by shutting down eight of its seventeen nuclear power plants in 2011 and yet was a net exporter of electricity in 2012 e.g. to France, which kept its nuclear power plants but suffered brownouts, German utility companies are now indicating they are considering shutting down dozens of coal and gas power plants as well because they are not profitable enough in the current renewable energy boom. Power plant operators want to be paid by the government for keeping the power plants available as backups, despite supply-driven reductions in their electricity selling prices. The Bundesnetzagentur can however force them by law to keep the power plants restartable, sans compensation.

(En erg EE venn deh.)

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