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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Towards a nuclear weapons-free world – theme for December 2014

nuclear weapons convention is a proposed international treaty that would prohibit the development, testing, production, stockpiling, transfer, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons, as well as provide for their elimination. It would be similar in form to existing conventions outlawing other categories of weapons, such as biological weaponschemical weaponsand anti-personnel mines.

picture at left adapted from http://globalcollab.org/publications/essays/napsnet/forum/strategy-for-a-northeast-asia-nuclear-weapon-free-zone-as-a-step-to-common-security

The model convention would require countries with nuclear weapons to destroy them in stages, including taking them off high alert status, removing them from deployment, removing thewarheads from their delivery vehicles, disabling the warheads by removing the explosive “pits“, and placing the fissile material under UN control. As well as outlawing nuclear weapons, the convention would prohibit the production of fissile materials suitable for making them, namely highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium.[citation needed]

It would establish an agency to ensure that countries comply with the terms of the treaty. This body would receive progress reports from nuclear-armed states, conduct inspections of weapons facilities, acquire intelligence through satellite photography and remote sensors, and monitor the production and transfer of materials suitable for making nuclear weapons.[citation needed]

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons campaigns for a Nuclear Weapons Convention. High profile supporters include His Holiness the Dalai Lama, former UN weapons inspector Hans Blix, Nobel laureate Jody Williams, mayor of Hiroshima Tadatoshi Akiba, former World Court judge Christopher Weeramantry, former Australian prime ministerMalcolm Fraser, and  former UN under-secretary-general for disarmament Jayantha Dhanapala,   from Wikipedia 

November 12, 2014 Posted by | Christina's themes | 1 Comment

Britain’s nuclear power plants vulnerable to attack by drones

drone-near-nuclear-plantBritain’s atomic power plants ‘could be attacked by drones’ The Independent, MARK LEFTLY Author BiographySUNDAY 21 DECEMBER 2014 Nuclear power stations are highly vulnerable to drone attack, according to a confidential report that British ministers are being urged to consider.

Compiled by a British nuclear expert, John Large, the report followed a number of unexplained, but apparently co-ordinated, flights of tiny, unmanned vehicles over French nuclear installations. The grave issues uncovered there, said Mr Large, were equally relevant to the UK’s 16 operational reactors, which generate about 18 per cent of the country’s electricity.

terrorism-targets-2In public evidence to the French parliament, Mr Large said he set the defences of a standard nuclear power plant against different types of attack that could be launched by drones, such as precisely placed explosive devices and the dropping off of equipment that would aid an insider saboteur.

Existing nuclear power plants, he said, were not designed to counter the threat of “near-cyborg technology”. He warned: “In each of the four… attack scenarios that I examined, the plant fared very badly indeed – if these scenarios had been for real, then there would have been the potential for a major radioactive release.”

Mr Large’s modelling showed that the “flexible access and manoeuvrability of the drones” means that they were able to fly over and twist around physical barriers that “belonged to a different age”. Even small, battery-powered drones can lift 10 or more kilograms of cargo, while vehicles available in high street hobbyist shops are “certainly not toys but machines capable of following and discharging intelligent commands”………..

Experts in Germany have warned that the drones could identify weaknesses before sending in an attack helicopter to blow apart thick cement walls. The subsequent meltdown then has the potential to spread radiation up to 180 miles.

Dr David Lowry, a consultant researcher for the World Institute for Nuclear Security in Vienna, said: “My general view is that all nuclear facilities are at risk of malevolent terrorist attack, but [this] is something that most politicians brush under the carpet.”……http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/britains-atomic-power-plants-could-be-attacked-by-drones-9938086.html

December 22, 2014 Posted by | safety, UK | Leave a comment

Another drone flying low over nuclear power plant – this time in Belgium

Drone spotted over Belgium nuclear plant http://www.smh.com.au/world/drone-spotted-over-belgium-nuclear-plant-20141221-12blb9.html December 21, 2014  Brussels: An unexplained drone has been spotted flying over a Belgium nuclear facility, a day after one of the plant’s reactors came back on line after a four-month closure caused by sabotage.

The mystery appearance by an unmanned aircraft on Saturday, on which Belgian authorities refused to provide much detail, resembles a spate of similar drone sightings over nuclear plants in neighbouring France this autumn.

Around 20 unidentified drones have been spotted over nuclear plants since October throughout France.

drone-near-nuclear-plant

“We can confirm that the East Flanders prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into a drone flight over the Doel nuclear plant,” a spokesman for the investigation told Belga news agency.

Advertisement  “We will not provide further information for the time being,” the spokesman added, hours after the plant’s operator, GDF-Suez unit Electrabel, first disclosed the incident, which took place early on Saturday.The imposing Doel nuclear site sits on a riverbank near the North Sea about 25 kilometres north of Antwerp. It holds four of Belgium’s seven reactors.

One of those reactors, Doel 4, was shut urgently in August after a leak, caused by tampering, resulted in a leak of 65,000 litres of oil lubricant.

A steam turbine weighing 1700 tonnes was severely damaged by the loss of lubricant, requiring a €30 million ($45 million) repair job that was carried out in Germany.

Belgian prosecutors have refused to confirm the sabotage as an act of terrorism, without excluding it either.

Agence France-Presse

December 22, 2014 Posted by | safety | Leave a comment

A critical examination of how nuclear catastrophes are “explained away”

nuke-panel-spinninghighly-recommendedFukushima and the institutional invisibility of nuclear disaster, Ecologist, John Downer 20th December 2014

The nuclear industry and its supporters have contrived a variety of narratives to justify and explain away nuclear catastrophes, writes John Downer. None of them actually hold water, yet they serve their purpose – to command political and media heights, and reassure public sentiment on ‘safety’. But if it’s so safe, why the low limits on nuclear liabilities?

Speaking at press conference soon after the accident began, the UK government’s former chief science advisor, Sir David King, reassured journalists that the natural disaster that precipitated the failure had been “an extremely unlikely event”.

In doing so, he exemplified the many early accounts of Fukushima that emphasised the improbable nature of the earthquake and tsunami that precipitated it.

A range of professional bodies made analogous claims around this time, with journalists following their lead. This lamentation, by a consultant writing in the New American, is illustrative of the general tone:

” … the Fukushima ‘disaster’ will become the rallying cry against nuclear power. Few will remember that the plant stayed generally intact despite being hit by an earthquake with more than six times the energy the plant was designed to withstand, plus a tsunami estimated at 49 feet that swept away backup generators 33 feet above sea level.”

The explicit or implicit argument in all such accounts is that the Fukushima’s proximate causes are so rare as to be almost irrelevant to nuclear plants in the future. Nuclear power is safe, they suggest, except against the specific kind of natural disaster that struck Japan, which is both a specifically Japanese problem, and one that is unlikely to re-occur, anywhere, in any realistic timeframe

An appealing but tenuous logic

The logic of this is tenuous on various levels. The ‘improbability’ of the natural disaster is disputable, for one, as there were good reasons to believe that neither the earthquake nor the tsunami should have been surprising. The area was well known to be seismically active after all, and the quake, when it came, was only the fourth largest of the last century.

The Japanese nuclear industry had even confronted its seismic under-preparedness four years earlier, on 16 July 2007, when an earthquake of unanticipated magnitude damaged the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant.

This had led several analysts to highlight Fukushima’s vulnerability to earthquakes, but officials had said much the same then as they now said in relation to Fukushima. The tsunami was not without precedent either.

Geologists had long known that a similar event had occurred in the same area in July 869. This was a long time ago, certainly, but the data indicated a thousand-year return cycle.

Several reports, meanwhile, have suggested that the earthquake alone might have precipitated the meltdown, even without the tsunami – a view supported by a range of evidence, from worker testimony, to radiation alarms that sounded before the tsunami. Haruki Madarame, the head of Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission, has criticised Fukushima’s operator, TEPCO, for denying that it could have anticipated the flood.

The claim that Japan is ‘uniquely vulnerable’ to such hazards is similarly disputable. In July 2011, for instance, the Wall Street Journal reported on private NRC emails showing that the industry and its regulators had evidence that many US reactors were at risk from earthquakes that had not been anticipated in their design.

It noted that the regulator had taken very little or no action to accommodate this new understanding. As if to illustrate their concern, on 23 August 2011, less than six months after Fukushima, North Anna nuclear plant in Mineral, Virginia, was rocked by an earthquake that exceeded its design-basis predictions.

Every accident is ‘unique’ – just like the next one

There is, moreover, a larger and more fundamental reason to doubt the ‘unique events or vulnerabilities’ narrative, which lies in recognising its implicit assertion that nuclear plants are safe against everything except the events that struck Japan.

It is important to understand that those who assert that nuclear power is safe because the 2011 earthquake and tsunami will not re-occur are, essentially, saying that although the industry failed to anticipate those events, it has anticipated all the others.

Yet even a moment’s reflection reveals that this is highly unlikely. It supposes that experts can be sure they have comprehensively predicted all the challenges that nuclear plants will face in its lifetime (or, in engineering parlance: that the ‘design basis’ of every nuclear plant is correct) – even though a significant number of technological disasters, including Fukushima, have resulted, at least in part, from conditions that engineers failed to even consider.

As Sagan points out: “things that have never happened before, happen all the time”. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 are perhaps the most iconic illustration of this dilemma but there are many others.

Perrow (2007) painstakingly explores a landscape of potential disaster scenarios that authorities do not formally recognise, but it is highly unlikely that he has considered them all.

More are hypothesised all the time. For instance, researchers have recently speculated about the effects of massive solar storms, which, in pre-nuclear times, have caused electrical systems over North America and Europe to fail for weeks at a time.

Human failings that are unrepresentative and / or correctable

A second rationale that accounts of Fukushima invoke to establish that accidents will not re-occur focuses on the people who operated or regulated the plant, and the institutional culture in which they worked. Observers who opt to view the accident through this lens invariably construe it as the result of human failings – either error, malfeasance or both.

The majority of such narratives relate the failings they identify directly to Fukushima’s specific regulatory or operational context, thereby portraying it as a ‘Japanese’ rather than a ‘nuclear’ accident.

Many, for instance, stress distinctions between US and Japanese regulators; often pointing out that the Japanese nuclear regulator (NISA) was subordinate to the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and arguing that this created a conflict of interest between NISA’s responsibilities for safety and the Ministry’s responsibility to promote nuclear energy.

They point, for instance, to the fact that NISA had recently been criticised by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for a lack of independence, in a report occasioned by earthquake damage at another plant. Or to evidence that NISA declined to implement new IAEA standards out of fear that they would undermine public trust in the nuclear industry.

Other accounts point to TEPCO, the operator of the plant, and find it to be distinctively“negligent”. A common assertion in vein, for instance, is that it concealed a series of regulatory breaches over the years, including data about cracks in critical circulation pipes that were implicated in the catastrophe.

There are two subtexts to these accounts. Firstly, that such an accident will not happen here (wherever ‘here’ may be) because ‘our’ regulators and operators ‘follow the rules’. And secondly, that these failings can be amended so that similar accidents will not re-occur, even in Japan.

Where accounts of the human failings around Fukushima do portray those failings as being characteristic of the industry beyond Japan, the majority still construe those failings as eradicable.

In March 2012, for instance, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace issued a report that highlighted a series of organisational fallings associated with Fukushima, not all of which they considered to be meaningfully Japanese.

Nevertheless, the report – entitled ‘Why Fukushima was preventable’ – argued that such failings could be resolved. “In the final analysis”, it concluded, “the Fukushima accident does not reveal a previously unknown fatal flaw associated with nuclear power.”

The same message echoes in the many post-Fukushima actions and pronouncements of nuclear authorities around the world promising managerial reviews and reforms, such as the IAEA’s hastily announced ‘five-point plan’ to strengthen reactor oversight.

Myths of exceptionality

As with the previous narratives about exogenous hazards, however, the logic of these ‘human failure’ arguments is also tenuous. Despite the editorial consternation that revelations about Japanese malfeasance and mistakes have inspired, for instance, there are good reasons to believe that neither were exceptional…………..

Plant design is unrepresentative and/or correctable

Parallel to narratives about Fukushima’s circumstances and operation, outlined above, are narratives that emphasise the plant itself.

These limit the relevance of accident to the wider nuclear industry by arguing that the design of its reactor (a GE Mark-1) was unrepresentative of most other reactors, while simultaneously promising that any reactors that were similar enough to be dangerous could be rendered safe by ‘correcting’ their design.

Accounts in this vein frequently highlight the plant’s age, pointing out that reactor designs have changed over time, presumably becoming safer. A UK civil servant exemplified this narrative, and the strategic decision to foreground it, in an internal email (later printed in the Guardian [2011]), in which he asserted that

“We [The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills] need to … show that events in Japan, whilst looking dramatic, are all part of the safety processes of this 1960’s reactor.”

Stressing the age of the reactor in this way became a mainstay of Fukushima discourse in the disaster’s immediate aftermath. Guardian columnist George Monbiot (2011b), for instance, described Fukushima as “a crappy old plant with inadequate safety features”.

He concluded that its failure should not speak to the integrity of later designs, like that of the neighboring plant, Fukushima ‘Daini’, which did not fail in the tsunami. “Using a plant built 40 years ago to argue against 21st-century power stations”, he wrote, “is like using the Hindenburg disaster to contend that modern air travel is unsafe.”

Other accounts highlighted the reactor’s design but focused on more generalisable failings, such as the “insufficient defense-in-depth provisions for tsunami hazards” (IAEA 2011a: 13), which could not be construed as indigenous only to the Mark-1 reactors or their generation.

The implication – we can and will fix all these problems

These failings could be corrected, however, or such was the implication. The American Nuclear Society set the tone, soon after the accident, when it reassured the world that:“the nuclear power industry will learn from this event, and redesign our facilities as needed to make them safer in the future.”

Almost every official body with responsibility for nuclear power followed in their wake. The IAEA, for instance, orchestrated a series of rolling investigations, which eventually cumulated in the announcement of its ‘Action Plan on Nuclear Safety’ and a succession of subsequent meetings where representatives of different technical groups could pool their analyses and make technical recommendations.

The groups invariably conclude that “many lessons remain to be learned” and recommend further study and future meetings. Again, however, there is ample cause for scepticism.

Firstly, there are many reasons to doubt that Fukushima’s specific design or generation made it exceptionally vulnerable. As noted above, for instance, many of the specific design failings identified after the disaster – such as the inadequate water protection around reserve power supplies – were broadly applicable across reactor designs.

And even if the reactor design or its generation were exceptional in some ways, that exceptionalism is decidedly limited. There are currently 32 Mark-1 reactors in operation around the world, and many others of a similar age and generation, especially in the US, where every reactor currently in operation was commissioned before the Three Mile Island accident in 1979.

Secondly, there is little reason to believe that most existing plants could be retrofitted to meet all Fukushima’s lessons. Significantly raising the seismic resilience of a nuclear plant, for instance, implies such extensive design changes that it might be more practical to decommission the entire structure and rebuild from scratch.

This perhaps explains why progress has been halting on the technical recommendations. It might be true that different, or more modern reactors are safer, therefore, but these are not the reactors we have.

In March 2012, the NRC did announce some new standards pertaining to power outages and fuel pools – issuing three ‘immediately effective’ orders requiring operators to implement some of the more urgent recommendations. The required modifications were relatively modest, however, and ‘immediately’ in this instance meant ‘by December 31st 2016′.

Meanwhile, the approvals for four new reactors the NRC granted around this time contained no binding commitment to implement the wider lessons it derived from Fukushima. In each case, the increasingly marginalised NRC chairman, Gregory Jaczko, cast a lone dissenting vote. He was also the only committee member to object to the 2016 timeline

December 22, 2014 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Reference, spinbuster | 1 Comment

Cancer rate in USA will increase, after Obama lifts the “allowable” level of radiation in drinking water

water-radiationObama Increases Allowable Levels of Radiation in Drinking Water http://sooth2012.wordpress.com/
The US governments PAGs ( Protective Action Guides) allow long-term public exposure to radiation in amounts as high as 2,000 millirems. This would, in effect, increase a longstanding 1 in 10,000 person cancer rate to a rate of 1 in 23 persons exposed over a 30-year period. Many experts are expecting elevated cancer rates due to these “allowable” levels of radiation exposure

December 22, 2014 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

Risk in Fukushima No. 4 reactor mitigated as last of nuclear fuel removed

21 dec 2014

December 21, 2014

OKUMA, Fukushima Prefecture–Tokyo Electric Power Co. removed the last four nuclear fuel assemblies that remained in the No. 4 reactor building of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant from its storage pool on Dec. 20.

The No. 4 reactor was offline at the time of the March 11, 2011, Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. However, an explosion occurred in the building four days later, seriously damaging it.

After the accident, experts pointed to the risk of nuclear fuel in the pool melting from insufficient cooling and releasing a large amount of radioactive materials. However, the threat has been mitigated with the removal of the last assemblies.

On Dec. 20, TEPCO allowed the media to watch the removal work.

Workers pulled up from the pool a cask containing the last four unspent nuclear fuel assemblies. They plan to transfer it to the No. 6 reactor building, which sustained relatively minor damage in the disaster, within a few days after decontaminating the outside of the cask.

The transfer will mean that all of the nuclear fuel in the No. 4 building has been removed from the building as scheduled by year-end.

The pool had held a total of 1,535 nuclear fuel assemblies, which consisted of 1,331 spent and 204 unspent nuclear fuel assemblies.

TEPCO started the removal of those assemblies from the pool in November 2013 after installing a new roof and a crane on the building. The removal of spent nuclear fuel assemblies concluded in November this year.

There will be no work in the No. 4 reactor building for the time being. TEPCO will be engaged in efforts at the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 reactor buildings and in dealing with the growing volume of contaminated water partly resulting from efforts to keep the reactors from overheating.

Source:  http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201412210014

21 dec 2014 bWorkers use a cask to remove unspent nuclear fuel assemblies from a storage pool at the No. 4 reactor building of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on Dec. 20.

December 22, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Anti nuclear activists challenge pro nuclear Taiwan government

Protest-No!flag-TaiwanNuclear backers, critics clash at public meeting, Taipei Times By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter 22 Dec 14 Anti-nuclear energy activists clashed with their pro-nuclear counterparts on Saturday at an event in Taipei held to gather public opinions in preparation for next month’s energy conference.

The conference is set to focus on identifying alternative energy sources after the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District (貢寮) was suspended over widespread protests about the safety risks of the facility.The wide divide among advocates and critics of nuclear energy became clear soon after the northern preliminary meeting began……………

Taoyuan Local Union director-general Pan Chung-cheng (潘忠政) said he suspects that the Atomic Energy Council has mobilized many state-sponsored and pro-nuclear academics and members of related groups to attend the meetings because the public generally opposes nuclear energy.

“The government can work with academics and provide all these scientific facts about the benefits of nuclear power, but at the end of the day, the decision as to whether to adopt nuclear energy should be decided by the public,” he said.

“I do not think they really understand how people feel about nuclear energy and their actions are a violation of democratic values,” he said.http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2014/12/22/2003607328

December 22, 2014 Posted by | opposition to nuclear, Taiwan | Leave a comment

Global danger as China and India upgrade their ballistic missiles

missile-envyflag-Chinaflag-indiaThe Most Dangerous Nuclear Threat No One Is Talking About Zachary Keck http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-most-dangerous-nuclear-threat-no-one-talking-about-11899 December 19, 2014 While Iran and North Korea’s nuclear programs are all the rage these days, the most dangerous nuclear threat facing the world continues to go largely unnoticed.

Namely, China and India are both on the cusp of deploying multiple independently targetable reentry (MIRV) vehicles on their ballistic missiles, a development that is likely to have profound, far-reaching consequences for the region and beyond.

MIRVed missiles carry payloads of several nuclear warheads each capable of being directed at a different set of targets. They are considered extremely destabilizing to the strategic balance primarily because they place a premium on striking first and create a “use em or lose em” nuclear mentality.

Along with being less vulnerable to anti-ballistic missile systems, this is true for two primary reasons. First, and most obviously, a single MIRVed missile can be used to eliminate numerous enemy nuclear sites simultaneously. Thus, theoretically at least, only a small portion of an adversary’s missile force would be necessary to completely eliminate one’s strategic deterrent. Secondly, MIRVed missiles enable countries to use cross-targeting techniques of employing two or more missiles against a single target, which increases the kill probability.

In other words, MIRVs are extremely destabilizing because they make adversary’s nuclear arsenals vulnerable to being wiped out in a surprise first strike. To compensate for this fact, states must come up with innovative ways to secure their deterrent from an enemy first strike. This usually entails increasing the size of one’s arsenal, and further dispersing to make it more difficult for an enemy to conduct a successful first strike. For example, when the U.S. first deployed MIRVed missiles in 1968, the Soviet Union had less than 10,000 nuclear warheads. A decade later, however, it had over 25,000 (of course, the Soviet Union deploying its own MIRVed missiles incentivized expanding the size of its arsenal since more warheads were needed per missile).

With regards to China and India, then, the introduction of MIRVed missiles could have profound consequences of both of their nuclear postures. One of the most remarkable aspects of every nuclear state not named Russia or the United States is they have relied on an extremely small nuclear arsenal to meet their deterrent needs. This is especially true of India and China who have generally maintained minimum deterrence and no-first use doctrines. With the introduction of countervailing MIRVed missiles, however, there will be strong incentives on both sides to vastly increase the size of their arsenals if any to guard against the threat of a first strike by the other side.

Of course, the consequences of China and India acquiring MIRVed missiles would not be limited to those states alone. Most obviously, India’s acquisition of MIRVed missiles would immediately threaten the survivability of Pakistan’s nuclear forces. In the short-term, this will probably result in Islamabad further dispersing its nuclear arsenal, which in general will leave it more vulnerable to Islamist terrorist groups in the country. Over the long-term, Pakistan will feel pressure to expand the size of its arsenal as well as acquire MIRVed capabilities of its own.

The same pressures will be felt in Moscow.Since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Russia has relied on its vast nuclear arsenal to compensate for its relative conventional weakness. In the eyes of Russian leaders, this will only grow more necessary as China continues to modernize its conventional military forces. Currently, Russia holds vastly more nuclear warheads than China, which is a source of relief for Moscow. As China MIRVs its missiles, however, as well as likely builds up the size of its arsenal, Moscow will see its nuclear superiority over Beijing rapidly erode. It can be counted on to respond by abrogating its arms control treaties with the United States, and expanding its own arsenal as well. In such a situation, a U.S. president would come under enormous domestic pressure to meet Russia’s buildup warhead for warhead.

Thus, while the prospect of North Korea and Iran acquiring operationalized nuclear arsenals may be concerning, China and India’s MIRVed missiles present far greater threats to the world.

December 22, 2014 Posted by | China, India, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Removal of nuclear fuel from Fukushima reactors goes on inch by inch, with very high radiation levels

Japan in Depth / Fukushima decommissioning inches on, Japan News  December 21, 2014 The Yomiuri Shimbun Removal of all nuclear fuel assemblies from the No. 4 reactor of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant was undoubtedly a milestone in efforts to decommission the facility, but Tokyo Electric Power Co. faces a mountain of more difficult problems to remove nuclear fuel from the pools at the three other heavily damaged reactors and extract the melted fuel inside them……….Removing all the nuclear fuel out of a reactor building is a significant step in the decommissioning process.

“If the whole decommissioning process were compared to the distance of 100 miles, this work would be only a mile,” said Akira Ono, head of the nuclear power plant, reflecting on the work that took more than one year……..

TEPCO began full-fledged activities to remove the nuclear fuel assemblies from the pool at the No. 4 reactor in November last year. The company repeated the cycle of putting the fuel in a transportation container and taking the container out of the reactor building. Then the spent nuclear fuel was transported to a shared pool about 100 meters west of the reactor building, and unspent fuel was moved to a storage pool at the No. 6 nuclear reactor about one kilometer from the building.

Next, the decommissioning efforts will be focused on the removal of the nuclear fuel from the Nos. 1-3 reactors. Since all of them melted down, radiation levels within their buildings are very high. That would make working conditions there even more difficult than those at the No. 4 reactor building, where workers could operate a crane from the roof above the pool, watching the nuclear fuel directly below them with their own eyes. However, a crane would be mostly remote-controlled at the Nos. 1-3 reactors. But workers still sometimes have to enter the buildings for maintenance and inspection of machines used there. TEPCO is planning to take measures to lower radiation levels there such as by scraping away the contaminated portions of the floors and putting up iron shielding. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001806728

December 22, 2014 Posted by | Fukushima 2014 | Leave a comment

Nuclear fuel removed from Fukushima nuclear reactor 4, but 1. 2 and 3 still to go

spent-fuel-rods-Fukushima-nFukushima nuclear fuel removed from reactor http://khon2.com/2014/12/21/fukushima-nuclear-fuel-removed-from-reactor/ By Web Staff December 21, 2014,FUKUSHIMA (AVN/NHK) The operator of the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant has completed the removal of nuclear fuel from one of the reactor buildings.

By Friday, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) had removed 1,331 units of spent fuel as well as 200 units of unspent fuel from the fuel pool of the Number 4 reactor building.

Company officials invited the media to watch the removal of the last 4 units on Saturday.

Workers lifted a container of fuel from the pool and transported it to the Number 6 reactor building. It will be placed in a pool in that building.

The plant chief, Akira Onodera, says the completion of the operation marks a step forward in the process of decommissioning the reactors.

Workers have yet to remove fuel from the Number 1, 2 and 3 reactor buildings. That work will be more difficult because of the high levels of radiation.

December 22, 2014 Posted by | Fukushima 2014 | Leave a comment

USA’s nuclear waste dilemma lingers on, as new Congress convenes

Another chapter in saga of radioactive waste disposal begins when new Congress convenes.
With no long-term disposal solution in sight, radioactive spent fuel remains an unaddressed national problem. More than 70,000 metric tons of radioactive spent fuel remains at more than 100 nuclear reactors where the waste was or is still being generated
(Paywall) http://cen.acs.org/signin.html?resource=/content/cen/articles/92/i50/Another-Chapter-Saga-Radioactive-Waste &http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/t/-3642930410418778504

December 22, 2014 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

Legal action: 344 displaced residents from Minamisoma sue TEPCO

justiceflag-japan344 displaced residents from Minamisoma sue TEPCO http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/344-displaced-residents-from-minamisoma-sue-tepco DEC. 20, 2014 – TOKYO —

A group of 344 former residents of Minamisoma in Fukushima Prefecture are suing Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) for more than 6 billion yen in compensation for being forced to leave their homes due to the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

The group’s lawyers filed the suit with the Tokyo District Court on Friday, NTV reported.

According to the suit, the plaintiffs are seeking damages for mental suffering experienced while living in less than adequate temporary housing after being forced from their homes in the Odaka area of the city in the wake of the nuclear disaster in March 2011.

Along with an individual payment of 10 million yen, the plaintiffs are also demanding monthly compensation of 200,000 yen for the next three years until the evacuation order is lifted for their hometown.

Although some areas in Minamisoma are now open for re-entry, none of the citizens has returned to their homes.

December 22, 2014 Posted by | Japan, Legal | Leave a comment

Solar panels installed in a big way in Philippines business centres

Businessmen tap the power of the sun, Manila Standard, By Alena Mae S. Flores | Dec. 20, 2014 Solar technology is now shining in the Philippines, as some businessmen began to install solar panels on rooftops of schools, office buildings and even shopping malls, seven years after the passage of Republic Act No. 9513, or the Renewable Energy Law. This year alone, the industry saw a significant number of solar rooftop projects installed, a feat that has not been immediately felt after the passage of the law, which promotes the use of renewable energy resources such as solar, wind and mini-hydro projects.

Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla expects renewable energy projects including solar rooftop installations to pick up next year, heralding the golden age of renewable energy in the country. Petilla says solar rooftop capacity will continue to increase in 2015, amid the strong interest from schools, commercial and industrial projects and even government offices.

world'slargest-solar-mall

“You can never tell how many institutions are going to be included because it depends on the size of each project. Because of so many interests for solar technology at the moment, some of them are already moving on their own even without our initiative,” Petilla says.

The European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines estimates the potential market for solar rooftop projects at $450 million yearly, based on 50,000 households or a tenth of the half a million constructions yearly, with average solar panel installations of 2 kilowatts each.

Solar rooftop installations are expected to  reach 2.5 megawatts by end-2014, as more homeowners and enterprises realize the opportunities to save money and mitigate climate change by harnessing sunlight to power homes and offices.

ECCP says with the continued drop in system prices, solar energy is approaching grid parity, opening the way for more solar rooftop installations.

“Vast installation of solar panels on rooftops of households, commercial buildings and industrial facilities could help safeguard the country’s energy security over the long term. Rooftop solar panels could be a viable solution for the Philippines given its high solar irradiation level,” ECCP says.

The Philippine Solar Power Alliance earlier estimated that the country has an untapped solar rooftop potential of about 300 MW.

One company, Propmech Corp., recently installed a solar-rooftop project at St. Scholastica’s College in Manila that will enable the school to save as much as 20 percent in electricity cost.

“We are prioritizing schools for solar projects because of the reason they more open to the public than private companies, other institutions can freely go to them to learn about solar panels,” Petilla says.

St. Scholastica’s joins the rank of other schools such as Manuel L. Quezon University, Mapua Institute of Technology and La Consolaction College-Manila, in utilizing renewable energy.

St. Scholastica’s St. Cecilla’s Hall has been turned into a 96-kilowatt solar power plant that can generate 38.88 percent of the hall’s daily energy needs.  The amount will greatly reduce St. Scholastica’s monthly electricity expenses…………….

Solar applications have also long been used as off-grid solutions in rural and remote areas in the country.

Solar systems can also power basic necessities such as lighting, water pumping, communications and a variety of livelihood activities that immediately improve the lives of Filipinos in areas where electricity from the grid is not readily available. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/12/20/businessmen-tap-the-power-of-the-sun/

December 22, 2014 Posted by | decentralised, Philippines | Leave a comment

More radioactive materials released after crisis

The Japan Atomic Energy Agency says 75 percent of the radioactive substances released from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant came more than 4 days after the accident.

The government’s investigation has not released what happened during this period. Experts say the reason needs to be determined as to why massive amounts of radioactive materials continued to be released for a prolonged period.

The nuclear accident in Fukushima has been evaluated as the worst, at level 7, on a par with the Chernobyl accident in 1986, due to the large amount of radioactive substances that were released. But the details on how the substances were released remain unknown.

A research group at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency collected new data on radiation detected near the plant over time to analyze how radioactive materials were released into the air.

The research has found that an estimated 470,000 terabecquerels of radioactive substances had been released by the end of March 2011, when the discharge is believed to have mostly subsided.

The research group says 25 percent of the radioactive materials were released during the first 4 days of the accident, as the meltdown and hydrogen explosions were happening, while 75 percent were released over the 2-week period that followed.

The group also analyzed how the radioactive materials spread, using the climate data at the time. They found that contamination in places where former residents are still not allowed to return became serious on March 15th — 4 days after the accident.

They also say radioactive substances released between March 20th and 21st spread to a wider area, including the Kanto region, and are believed to have contaminated drinking water supplies.

The outcome of the analyses indicates that radioactive materials continued to be released after the first 4 days, which is believed to be the critical time during which the situation was deteriorating out of control.

The government’s investigation has focused on the first 4 days, and has not determined the cause of the massive release of radioactive substances following that period.

Masamichi Chino of the research group says the cause needs to be determined to prevent future accidents and to bring the situation under control quickly if another accident happens.

More than 120,000 people are still forced to live in temporary shelters.

Six municipalities remain off limits due to high levels of contamination.

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20141221_16.html

December 22, 2014 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment

The pro nuclear case – is it science or propaganda?

spin-doctors-nuclearFukushima and the institutional invisibility of nuclear disaster, Ecologist, John Downer 20th December 2014 “……..Science? Or propaganda? Different sides in this contest of numbers routinely assume their rivals are actively attempting to mislead – a wide range of critics argue that most official accounts are authored by industry apologists who ‘launder’ nuclear catastrophes by dicing evidence of their human fallout into an anodyne melée of claims and counter claims.

When John Gofman, a former University of California Berkeley Professor of Medical Physics, wrote that the Department of Energy was “conducting a Josef Goebels propaganda war” by advocating a conservative model of radiation damage, for instance, his charge more remarkable for its candor than its substance.

And there is certainly some evidence for this. There can be little doubt that in the past the US government has intentionally clouded the science of radiation hazards to assuage public concerns. The 1995 US Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments, for instance, concluded that Cold War radiation research was heavily sanitised for political ends.

A former AEC (NRC) commissioner testified in the early 1990s that: “One result of the regulators’ professional identification with the owners and operators of the plants in the battles over nuclear energy was a tendency to try to control information to disadvantage the anti-nuclear side.” It is perhaps more useful, however, to say they are each discriminating about the realities to which they adhere.

In this realm there are no entirely objective facts, and with so many judgements it is easy to imagine how even small, almost invisible biases, might shape the findings of seemingly objective hazard calculations.

Indeed, many of the judgements that separate divergent nuclear hazard calculations are inherently political, with the result that there can be no such thing as an entirely neutral account of nuclear harm.

Researchers must decide whether a ‘stillbirth’ counts as a ‘fatality’, for instance. They must decide whether an assessment should emphasise deaths exclusively, or if it should encompass all the injuries, illnesses, deformities and dis abilities that have been linked to radiation. They must decide whether a life ‘shortened’ constitutes a life ‘lost’.

There are no correct answers to such questions. More data will not resolve them. Researchers simply have to make choices. The net effect is that the hazards of any nuclear disaster can only be glimpsed obliquely through a distorted lens.

So much ambiguity and judgement is buried in even the most rigorous calculations of Fukushima’s health impacts that no study can be definitive. All that remains are impressions and, for the critical observer, a vertiginous sense of possibility.

Estimating the costs – how many $100s of billions?

The only thing to be said for sure is that declarative assurances of Fukushima’s low death toll are misleading in their surety. Given the intense fact-figure crossfire around radiological mortality, it is unhelpful to view Fukushima purely through the lens of health.

In fact, the emphasis on mortality might itself be considered a way of minimising Fukushima, considering that there are other – far less ambiguous – lenses through which to view the disaster’s consequences.

Fukushima’s health effects are contested enough that they can be interpreted in ways that make the accident look tolerable, but it is much more challenging to make a case that it was tolerable in other terms. http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2684383/fukushima_and_the_institutional_invisibility_of_nuclear_disaster.html

 

December 22, 2014 Posted by | 2 WORLD, spinbuster | Leave a comment

South Korea’s nuclear waste problem

Dealing with nuclear waste in South Korea The Korea Herald/Asia News Network December 21, 2014,The much awaited nuclear waste facility in Gyeongju will begin operations next year following final approval by the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission last week. The Wolseong Low and Intermediate-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Center, consisting of six silos some 80 meters underground, can hold up to 100,000 barrels of radioactive waste.

A second-phase construction is underway to add a 125,000-barrel holding unit to the site, which is designed to store 800,000 barrels of nuclear waste over the next 60 years before it is sealed off.

A total of 23 nuclear reactors are responsible for about one-third of all power generated in Korea and produce 2,300 barrels of low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste each year.

The country’s first low- and intermediate-level radioactive repository was realized some 28 years after the country started looking for a site. Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province, was selected in 2005 after votes in four candidate cities. Almost 90 percent of voters in Gyeongju approved of the facility.

To win over communities that did not want a hazardous waste facility in their midst, the government promised 300 billion won in community support. The local community would also receive annual fees in addition to the initial grant.

The Gyeongju facility is just the first step. The country has yet to draw up a plan for dealing with the growing piles of spent nuclear fuel rods. Some 750 tonnes of spent fuel are produced each year by the country’s 23 nuclear power reactors.

Currently, spent fuel rods are stored temporarily on the reactor site pending the building of a centralized storage facility. About 13,250 tonnes were stored in different nuclear reactor sites as of end-2013 and it is estimated that the sites will become full incrementally between 2016 and 2038.

The Public Engagement Commission of 15 nuclear experts, academics, city council members and a representative of an environmental watchdog group was formed last year to engage the public in discussions about the spent nuclear fuel issues so that their opinions could be incorporated into policy decisions. The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy is expected to draw up a plan for disposing of spent fuel based on recommendations by the commission.

So far, the commission has released an interim report suggesting that a permanent disposal facility must be completed by 2055. It has not said where it could be built or what type of storage could be employed. The commission, in the meantime, has extended its mandate to June 2015.

The Gyeongju site for low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste took 28 years to complete. A facility for the more hazardous spent fuel rods will be much more controversial. Hence, the building of a permanent storage site for spent nuclear fuel rods is an urgent matter that requires immediate government attention…….http://www.chinapost.com.tw/commentary/the-china-post/special-to-the-china-post/2014/12/21/424512/Dealing-with.htm

 

December 22, 2014 Posted by | South Korea, wastes | Leave a comment

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