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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Risky Plutonium-Mixed Fuel used in Japan’s new nuclear reactor restart

plutonium_04Japan Restarts Nuclear Reactor Using Plutonium-Mixed Fuel   http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/japan-restarts-nuclear-reactor-plutonium-mixed-fuel-36593509, By MARI YAMAGUCHI, ASSOCIATED PRESS, 29 Jan 16, Japan on Friday restarted a nuclear reactor that uses riskier plutonium-based MOX fuel, the first of that type to resume operations under stricter safety rules introduced after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

Japan’s large stockpile of plutonium has raised international nuclear security concerns, and the government has come up with the idea of burning it in reactors to reduce the amount.

The No. 3 reactor at Takahama nuclear plant in western Japan, operated by Kansai Electric Power Co., went back online Friday. Dozens of people protested outside the plant in Fukui prefecture, where preparations for a restart of another reactor, No. 4, are also underway.

Fukui has more than a dozen reactors, the biggest concentration in one prefecture, causing safety concerns for neighbors including Kyoto and Shiga, whose Lake Biwa is a major source of drinking water for western Japan.

Two reactors that use conventional uranium fuel were restarted last year in southern Japan. Japan started burning MOX, a plutonium-uranium hybrid fuel, in some of its conventional reactors in 2009. Experts say conventional reactors can safely burn MOX for up to one-third of their fuel, but it emits more radiation and could interfere with control rods when they are needed to suppress the nuclear chain reaction.

Japan has enough plutonium, mostly from reprocessed spent fuel, to make 6,000 bombs.

Nearly five years since a massive earthquake and tsunami caused meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, about 100,000 people still cannot return to nearby areas. Workers at the plant continue to struggle with its decommissioning, which will take decades.

Aiming to help business by generating energy, Japan’s government is pushing to restart as many reactors as possible after they are deemed safe. Forty remaining workable reactors are still offline for safety checks.

Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at twitter.com/mariyamaguchi

Her work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/mari-yamaguchi

    January 30, 2016 Posted by | - plutonium, Japan, technology | Leave a comment

    The danger of transporting plutonium

    plutonium_04Too much of a bad thing? World awash with waste plutonium http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_round_up/2986959/too_much_of_a_bad_thing_world_awash_with_waste_plutonium.html Paul Brown 24th January 2016 

    As worldwide stocks of plutonium increase, lightly-armed British ships are about to carry an initial 330kg of the nuclear bomb metal for ‘safekeeping’ in the US, writes Paul Brown. But it’s only the tip of a global ‘plutonium mountain’ of hundreds of tonnes nuclear power’s most hazardous waste product.

    Two armed ships set off from the northwest of England this week to sail round the world to Japan on a secretive and controversial mission to collect a consignment of plutonium and transport it to the US.

    The cargo of plutonium, once the most sought-after and valuable substance in the world, is one of a number of ever-growing stockpiles that are becoming an increasing financial and security embarrassment to the countries that own them.

    So far, there is no commercially viable use for this toxic metal, and there is increasing fear that plutonium could fall into the hands of terrorists, or that governments could be tempted to use it to join the nuclear arms race.

    ship radiation

    All the plans to use plutonium for peaceful purposes in fast breeder and commercial reactors have so far failed to keep pace with the amounts of this highly dangerous radioactive metal being produced by the countries that run uranium-fulled nuclear power stations.

    The small amounts of plutonium that have been used in conventional and fast breeder reactors have produced very little electricity – at startlingly high costs.

    Japan, with its 47-ton stockpile, is among the countries that once hoped to turn their plutonium into a power source, but various attempts have failed. The government, which has a firm policy of using it only for peaceful purposes, has nonetheless come under pressure to keep it out of harm’s way. Hence, the current plan to ship it to the US.

    Altogether, 15 countries across the world have stockpiles. They include North Korea, which intends to turn it into nuclear weapons.

    UK’s Plutonium represents a massive cost – but no balance sheet liability recorded

    The UK has the largest pile, with 140 tons held at Sellafield in north-west England, whereplutonium has been produced at the site’s nuclear power plant since the 1950s, also using spent fuel from civilian nuclear plants such as Hinkley Point and Calder Hall. The government has yet to come up with a policy on what to do with it – and, meanwhile, the costs of keeping it under armed guard continue to rise.

    Like most countries, the UK cannot decide whether it has an asset or a liability. The plutonium does not appear on any balance sheet, and the huge costs of storing it safely – to avoid it going critical and causing a meltdown – and guarding it against terrorists are not shown as a cost of nuclear power.

    This enables the industry to claim that nuclear is an attractive and clean energy-producing option to help combat climate change.

    The two ships that set off from the English port of Barrow-in-Furness this week are the Pacific Egret and Pacific Heron, nuclear fuel carriers fitted with naval cannon on deck. They are operated by Pacific Nuclear Transport Ltd, which ultimately is owned by the British government.

    The presence on both ships of a heavily-armed security squad – provided by the Civil Nuclear Constabulary’s Strategic Escort Group – and the earlier loading of stores and the craning on board of live ammunition point to a long, security-conscious voyage ahead.

    Sent to the US for safekeeping

    The shipment of plutonium from Japan to the US falls under the US-led Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), or Material Management & Minimisation (M3) programme, whereby weapons-useable material such as plutonium and highly-enriched uranium (HEU) is removed from facilities worldwide for safekeeping in the US.

    The cargo to be loaded onto the two UK ships in Japan consists of some 331kg of plutonium from Japan’s Tokai Research Establishment.

    This plutonium – a substantial fraction of which was supplied to Japan by the UK decades ago for ‘experimental purposes’ in Tokai’s Fast Critical Assembly (FCA) facility – is described by the US Department of Energy (DOE) as “posing a potential threat to national security, being susceptible to use in an improvised nuclear device, and presenting a high risk of theft or diversion”. Or, as another US expert put it, “sufficient to make up to 40 nuclear bombs”.

    Under the US-led programme, the plutonium will be transported from Japan to the US port of Charleston and onwards to the Savannah River site in South Carolina.

    Tom Clements, director of the public interest group Savannah River Site Watch, has condemned this import of plutonium as a material that will simply be stranded at the site, with no clear disposition path out of South Carolina. He sees it as further evidence that Savannah River is being used as a dumping ground for an extensive range of international nuclear waste.

    Prime terrorist material’ at risk

    The British group Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment (CORE) has for decades tracked the transport of nuclear materials round the world.

    Their spokesman, Martin Forwood, said: “The practice of shipping this plutonium to the US as a safeguard is completely undermined by deliberately exposing this prime terrorist material to a lengthy sea transport, during which it will face everyday maritime risks and targeting by those with hostile intentions.

    “We see this as wholly unnecessary and a significant security threat in today’s volatile and unpredictable world.” The best option, CORE believes, would have been to leave it where it was, under guard.

    From DOE documents, this shipment will be the first of a number of planned shipments for what is referred to as ‘Gap Material Plutonium‘ – weapons-useable materials that are not covered under other US or Russian programmes.

    In total, the DOE plans to import up to 900kg of ‘at risk’ plutonium – currently held in seven countries – via 12 shipments over seven years. Other materials include stocks of HEU – the most highly enriched plutonium (to 93%), also being supplied to Japan by the UK.

    The voyage from Barrow to Japan takes about six weeks, and a further seven weeks from Japan to Savannah River – use of the Panama Canal having been ruled out by the DOE in its documents on the shipment. Previously, the countries near the canal have objected to nuclear transport in their territorial waters.

    January 24, 2016 Posted by | - plutonium, Reference, safety | Leave a comment

    Nuclear Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP)- what needs to be done?

    Analyses of the accidents by the DOE have documented a lack of a ‘safety culture’ at WIPP.

    The current regulatory period of 10,000 years is short relative to the 24,100-year half-life of plutonium-239, let alone that of uranium-235, which has a half-life of 700 million years.

    Policy: Reassess New Mexico’s nuclear-waste repository, Nature  Cameron L. Tracy,  Megan K. Dustin & Rodney C. Ewing 13 January 2016

    Waste Isolation Pilot Plant WIPP

    Proposals to bury plutonium from nuclear weapons must address chemical interactions and intrusion risks. More than 600 metres below ground near Carlsbad, New Mexico, is the world’s only operating deep geological repository currently accepting transuranic nuclear waste: that contaminated by elements heavier than uranium. The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), run by the US Department of Energy (DOE), is used to dispose of laboratory equipment, clothing and residues from the nation’s nuclear-defence programme. In the past 15 years, around 91,000 cubic metres (equivalent to covering a soccer field to a depth of about 13 metres) of such transuranic waste, mostly of relatively low radiation levels, has been placed there.

    The main contaminants are long-lived isotopes of plutonium (mainly plutonium-239, with a half-life of 24,100 years, and plutonium-240, with a half-life of 6,560 years) and shorter-lived isotopes of americium and curium. In rooms carved out of a 250-million-year-old salt bed, the waste is stored in hundreds of thousands of plastic-lined steel drums. The repository is now at about half of its planned capacity and is to be sealed in 2033.

    The DOE is responsible for performing safety assessments to ensure that WIPP will not exceed limits on exposure to radioactivity, as set by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for 10,000 years.

    But new demands are emerging. An arms-control agreement with Russia made in 2000 obliges the United States to dispose of 34 tonnes of plutonium from dismantled nuclear weapons1. Following the terms of the agreement, the United States planned to convert the material into a fuel — mixed (uranium and plutonium) oxide, or MOX — to burn in commercial nuclear-power plants. But faced with soaring construction costs for a MOX fabrication facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, the DOE has commissioned evaluations of alternatives2.

    The most recent report3, published in August 2015, recommends burying the weapons’ plutonium at WIPP. Judging the repository’s performance to have been “successfully demonstrated”, the DOE’s Red Team expert panel proposes that the 34 tonnes of weapons plutonium can be added to WIPP once it has been diluted to low concentrations comparable to that of the transuranic waste at WIPP.

    In fact, WIPP’s safety record is mixed. Continue reading

    January 18, 2016 Posted by | - plutonium, Reference, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

    Large shipment of plutonium to travel from Japan to South Carolina

    ship radiationJapan to send huge cache of plutonium to South Carolina under nuclear deal: report RAW STORY  05 JAN 2016 Japan will send a huge cache of plutonium — enough to produce 50 nuclear bombs — to the United States as part of a deal to return the material that was used for research, reports and officials said Tuesday.

    The plutonium stockpile, provided by the US, Britain and France decades ago, has caused some disquiet given that Japan has said it has the ability to produce a nuclear weapon even if it chooses not to.

     Some 331 kilograms (730 pounds) of the highly fissionable material will be sent by ship to a nuclear facility in South Carolina by the end of March, Kyodo News reported Monday in a dispatch from Washington that cited unnamed Japanese government sources.

    The shipment, which comes ahead of a nuclear security summit in Washington in March, is meant to underscore both countries’ commitment to nuclear non-proliferation and is part of a deal they made in 2014.

    It will be one of Japan’s most significant overseas movements of plutonium since it transported one tonne from France in 1993 to be used in nuclear reactor experiments.

    That shipment triggered an outcry at the time from countries citing environmental and security concerns.

    A Japanese official confirmed the amount of plutonium to be sent to the US and said that preparations for the shipment are under way. “But we can’t comment on further details, including the departure date and route, for security reasons,” the official in the nuclear technology section at the education ministry told AFP Tuesday.

    The material has been stored at the Nuclear Science Research Institute northeast of Tokyo, he added…….https://www.rawstory.com/2016/01/japan-to-send-huge-cache-of-plutonium-to-south-carolina-under-nuclear-deal-report/

    January 6, 2016 Posted by | - plutonium, Japan, USA | Leave a comment

    Disposal of plutonium; burial is cheaper than MOX processing

    MOXFlag-USAflag-UKnuClear news No.77, September 20156. Plutonium Conundrum A US Energy Department-commissioned study, which has been leaked to the Union of Concerned Scientists, concludes that it would be cheaper and far less risky to dispose of 34 metric tons of U.S. surplus plutonium at a federal nuclear waste repository in New Mexico than convert it into mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel for commercial nuclear power plants at the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility in South Carolina.

    The unreleased report describes in detail the delays and massive cost overruns at the half-built MOX facility, located at the federal Savannah River Site. High staff turnover, the need to replace improperly installed equipment, and an antagonistic relationship between the local federal project director and the contractor are only some of the factors undermining the project. The new report also notes that there are “no obvious silver bullets” to reduce the life-cycle cost of the MOX approach.

    According to UCS, a better alternative to turning the surplus plutonium into commercial nuclear fuel would be to “downblend” it, a method the Energy Department has already used to dispose of several metric tons of plutonium. It involves diluting the plutonium with an inert, nonradioactive material and then sending it to the nuclear waste site in New Mexico, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), for burial. The new report’s analysis supports that assessment. …….

    The US report is bound to have a negative impact of the UK Government’s preferred management option for its plutonium stockpile which is to convert it into Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel. (See ‘Slow Progress on Plutonium Stockpiles’ Nuclear News No.76).
    Don Hancock of the Albuquerque-based Southwest Information and Research Center, which closely monitors WIPP, also opposes the MOX project. But he’s sceptical about WIPP as a viable alternative and said the Energy Department should review other options, including storing the plutonium at the Savannah River Site or the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas, where thousands of plutonium pits are already warehoused. He said: “The [DoE and] the Union of Concerned Scientists may be confident that WIPP will reopen in a few years, but I don’t see any real basis for that,” Hancock said. “Going from one bad idea to another bad idea is not the solution to this problem.” (3) http://www.no2nuclearpower.org.uk/nuclearnews/NuClearNewsNo77.pdf

    August 29, 2015 Posted by | - plutonium, reprocessing | Leave a comment

    Japan’s highly dangerous plutonium stockpile

    Japan’s plutonium stockpile worries Oxford specialist, Global Post, Xinhua News Agency Aug 17, 2015  NEW YORK, — The handling of Japan’s huge plutonium stockpile remains a challenge for the whole world, an Oxford environmental expert has warned.

    When Japan marked the 70th anniversary of Nagasaki’s obliteration by a plutonium bomb on Aug. 9, its own cache of weapons-usable plutonium was more than 47 metric tons, enough to make nearly 6,000 warheads like the one that flattened the Japanese city, Dr. Peter Wynn Kirby of University of Oxford wrote in an op-ed on Monday’s New York Times……..

    Japan’s 48 standard reactors burn uranium fuel, a process that yields plutonium, a highly radioactive and extremely toxic substance.

    Although these reactors were shut down after the Fukushima tragedy, Japan still stores nearly 11 tons of plutonium on its territory, with the rest in Britain and France. Stockpiling plutonium in Japan remains hazardous given seismic instability in the country and the risk of theft by terrorists, warned Kirby…..

    As a byproduct of burning uranium, plutonium itself can be processed in so-called fast-breeder reactors to produce more energy. That step also yields more plutonium, and so in theory this production chain is self-sustaining — a kind of virtuous nuclear-energy cycle, noted Kirby.

    “In practice, however, fast-breeder technology has been extremely difficult to implement. It is notoriously faulty and astronomically expensive, and it creates more hazardous waste,” wrote Kirby.

    Many other countries that experimented with fast-breeder reactors, including the United States, had phased them out by the 1990s. But Japan continued to invest heavily in the technology, noted Kirby.

    While Japan’s record with nuclear waste is abysmal, no other country has found a safe or economically sustainable way to reuse such substances, especially not plutonium, he noted. Given Japan’s many vulnerabilities, particularly seismic activity, nuclear waste should no longer be stored in the country, he argued. “The Japanese government should pay its closest allies to take its plutonium away, permanently.”

    Britain and France respectively holds 20 tons and 16 tons of Japan’s plutonium under contracts to reprocess it into usable fuel. Under current arrangements, this fuel, plus all byproducts, including plutonium, are to be sent back to Japan by 2020.

    “Japan should pay, and generously, for that plutonium to stay where it is, in secure interim storage. And it should help fund the construction of secure permanent storage in Britain and France,” he said.

    The Japanese government should also pay the United States to remove the nearly 11 tons of plutonium currently in Japan, he argued.

    “Handling Japan’s plutonium would be a great burden for receiver countries, and Japan should pay heftily for the service. But even then the expense would likely amount to a fraction of what Japan spends on its ineffectual plutonium-energy infrastructure,” wrote the specialist.

    Making Japan free of plutonium stockpile, thus preventing nuclear catastrophe as a result of earthquakes, would be in the whole world’s interest, he concluded.http://www.globalpost.com/article/6632161/2015/08/17/japans-plutonium-stockpile-worries-oxford-specialist

    August 23, 2015 Posted by | - plutonium, Japan | Leave a comment

    UK’s Slow Progress on Plutonium Stockpiles.

    flag-UK

    No projected cost for a new MOX plant is given by AREVA (the last estimate by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority in 2011 was around £6bn) and no mention is made of the French company’s ongoing new-build reactor fiascos in France and Finland, its financial losses that have forced its merger with state controlled EDF, its involvement with the spiralling costs and decades of delay to the AREVA design MOX plant under construction in the USA at Savannah River and – as part of the disgraced Nuclear Management Partners (NMP) consortium at Sellafield – its recent stripping of a multi £billion management contract by the NDA following spiralling budget costs and inept management of crucial projects.

     

    highly-recommendedNuClear news August 2015   Since the Government confirmed in December 2011 that its preferred management option for the UK’s plutonium stockpile was to convert the ‘asset of zero value’ into Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel, further progress on the option has been conspicuous by its absence, says Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment (CORE). (1)

    Since then the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) appears to have been concentrating its efforts on evaluating alternative projects – the GE Hitachi PRISM reactor and the Candu Energy Canmox project. Both these projects were added to the list of plutonium options as an afterthought in January 2012.

    Continue reading

    August 1, 2015 Posted by | - plutonium, UK | Leave a comment

    Multiple dangers of MOX fuel used in Fukushima’s No 3 nuclear reactor

    MOX fuel rods used in Japanese Nuclear Reactor present multiple dangers, DC Bureau By March 15th, 2011 The mixed oxide fuel rods used in the compromised number three reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi complex contain enough plutonium to threaten public health with the possibility of inhalation of airborne plutonium particles. The compromised fuel rods supplied to the Tokyo Electric Company by the French firm AREVA.

    Plutonium is at its most dangerous when it is inhaled and gets into the lungs. The effect on the human body is to vastly increase the chance of developing fatal cancers.

    Plutonium diabolical

    Masashi Goto, a reactor researcher and designer for Toshiba, told the Foreign Correspondents Club in Toyko the mixed oxide (MOX) fuel used in unit 3 of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility uses plutonium, which is “much more toxic than the fuel used in the other reactors.”

    Goto said that the MOX also has a lower melting point than the other reactor fuels. The Fukushima facility began using MOX fuel in September 2010, becoming the third plant in Japan to do so, according to MOX supplier AREVA.

    Part of the process of making MOX fuel is to grind plutonium into a fine power before it is robotically inserted into fuel rods. Experts agree these tiny plutonium particles once airborne are extremely dangerous to human health. One of the unique characteristics of mixed oxide fuel is that relatively little of the plutonium in the fuel rods is used up in the fuel cycle in a reactor. “When the plutonium in the fuel rods goes into a reactor for commercial power, a very little of it is going to be consumed. I don’t know what percentage, maybe half percentage or something like that, but it’s going to generate an extraordinary amount of contamination throughout the fuel rods…,” says William Lawler, an expert on radioactive waste…….

    Mixed oxide fuel is a combination of finely ground up plutonium particles and uranium oxide fabricated into fuel rods at an AREVA subsidiary in La Hague, France.  The fuel is made from reprocessing old reactor fuel. Reprocessing was abandoned by the United States in the 1970s because of the dangers of weapons proliferation.

    The CIA has reported that Japan’s nuclear power program was not limited to the peaceful production of electrical power. The program had its roots in a secret weapons program that caused the CIA to conclude as far back as 1964 that Japan could assemble within months a nuclear weapon.

    Because of the Japanese public’s fear of nuclear weapons, the various subsequent Japanese governments have kept the program secret and have repeatedly denied its existence when news organizations made inquiries. http://www.dcbureau.org/20110315782/natural-resources-news-service/mox-fuel-rods-used-in-japanese-nuclear-reactor-present-multiple-dangers.html#sthash.NydPfWmn.dpuf

    July 10, 2015 Posted by | - plutonium, Japan, safety | Leave a comment

    New report indicates that deep burial of plutonium better and cheaper than MOX reprocessing

    text-wise-owlNuClear News, April 15  Alternatives to MOX A new report by Frank von Hippel and Gordon MacKerron reviews programs in France, Japan, the UK and the US to dispose of large stocks of separated plutonium in nuclear power reactor mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel. Most of these efforts have suffered long delays and large cost increases and all have failed to reduce plutonium stockpiles. This has led some of these countries to consider alternatives.

    A less costly and more effective approach may be to treat plutonium as a waste to be processed into a stable form and deeply buried. These alternative approaches include disposal with radioactive waste or spent fuel or disposal down a 3-mile (5-kilometer) deep borehole. The report recommends that more than one direct-disposal approach be pursued. It also recommends that the countries that share the problem of plutonium disposal collaborate on exploring direct-disposal options.

    Wastes-Deep-Borehole-Inject

    Finally, it recommends that the quantities of plutonium disposed by the weapon states be verified by the IAEA. The huge cost overruns in the under-construction MOX plant at the DOE’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina led the Obama Administration to conclude in 2013 that plutonium disposal via MOX “may be unaffordable.”

    This has revived policy interest in the U.S. in the possibilities of direct disposal of plutonium as a waste. Efforts to convert foreign separated plutonium into MOX fuel encountered technical problems in the UK, forcing the abandonment of the Sellafield MOX Plant. The UK has therefore looked, in at least a pro forma way, at direct-disposal alternatives.

    In the late 1990s, the U.S. studied in considerable depth a “can-in-canister” option in which immobilized plutonium would be embedded in some of the high-level reprocessing waste from which it had been originally separated. This was a way to create a radiation barrier around the plutonium like that around the plutonium in spent fuel, which makes plutonium inaccessible except via chemical and mechanical operations controlled remotely from behind thick radiation shields.

    The can-in-canister approach also shares the merit with MOX that it just adds marginally to the quantity of an already existing waste form for which a geological repository has to be found in any case. This option may still be of particular interest in the US, which will be disposing of reprocessing waste for several decades into the future.

    In France and the UK, where high-level waste vitrification has been ongoing in parallel with reprocessing, it may be impossible to pursue the “can-in-canister” option unless it is planned well before reprocessing ends. There are other options, however. One that appears increasingly attractive is deep borehole disposal. It does not involve a radiation barrier, but retrieval would be much more difficult than from a closed geological repository.http://www.no2nuclearpower.org.uk/nuclearnews/NuClearNewsNo73.pdf

    April 18, 2015 Posted by | - plutonium, 2 WORLD | Leave a comment

    The world’s first lump of plutonium – lost and found

    How The First Lump Of Plutonium Made On Earth Got Lost http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2015/01/how-the-first-lump-of-plutonium-made-on-earth-got-lost/ finally found it again — thankfullybefore it got thrown out as radioactive waste.

    This precious lump of plutonium dates back to 1941. Plutonium doesn’t exist naturally on Earth, except in trace amounts. So to study plutonium, scientists first had to make it. Berkeley physicist Glenn Seaborg got access to a newly built cyclotron, where he and his collaborators bombarded uranium with neutrons. The material then decays into the new element of plutonium.

    After a year, they had enough plutonium for the first sample large enough to weigh. It was all of 2.77 micrograms.

    Seaborg would go on to win a Nobel Prize for his discovery of plutonium and other transuranium elements. The room where he did his work in Gilman Hall has since become a US National Historic Landmark. That historic sample was converted into plutonium oxide and placed in a glass tube, where it was put on display in Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science.

    In the late 2000s, however, Berkeley began to worry about the dangers putting the plutonium on display. The sample was removed and put away — except no one really knew where. Some time later, a box labelled “First sample of Pu weighed” was found at the Berkeley’s Hazardous Material Facility, a waystation for hazardous waste. Thankfully, a knowledgable eye saw it and discerned its historical value.

    The label’s claim was promising, but how could we prove that this was actually Seaborg’s sample? With science, of course. The Physics ArXiv Blog explains:

    It turns out that plutonium created in a cyclotron is very different from most plutonium, which is created inside nuclear reactors and then separated from spent nuclear fuel. That’s because this stuff always contains another isotope, plutonium-241.

    This is a half-life of just over 14 years and decays into americium-241. So samples of plutonium from nuclear reactors, always contain americium-241 in amounts that grow over time. What’s more, Am-241 in turn decays producing gamma rays with an energy of 59 kiloelectron volts.

    Eric Norman’s lab at Berkeley’s Department of Nuclear Engineering monitored the sample for gamma rays with an energy of 59 kiloelectron volts. They didn’t find any, meaning the sample was most likely created in a cyclotron like Seaborg’s. In addition, the mass matches up. The evidence all points toward this being the missing plutonium.

    Now that Seaborg’s sample has been recovered, there’s talk of putting it back on display in his former office in Gilman Hall — perhaps a more fitting place than the trash bin. [The Physics ArXiv Blog]

    January 10, 2015 Posted by | - plutonium, history | Leave a comment

    Mixed Oxide Fuel (MOX) facility would further pollute and endanger Georgia and South Carolina

    MOXSavannah River Site Becoming World’s Nuclear Dumping Ground, despite Safety Risks By: GLORIA TATUM Atlanta Progressive News 6-9-2014

    “……..We are wasting money and increasing the risk of a terrorist accident if we build that MOX plant at SRS.  Plutonium fuel cost more than uranium fuel and there’s plenty of uranium on the planet.  So we are taking other people’s plutonium to keep a MOX plant running and no one wants to buy the output from it,” Gundersen told APN.

    Plutonium is a man made element derived from the transformation of uranium through fission. Plutonium, Pu-239, has a half life of 24,100 hundred years; that’s the time it will take for half of the plutonium to radioactively decay.  Radioactive contaminants are dangerous for ten to twenty times the length of their half-lives, meaning that if plutonium gets into the environment, it will be dangerous essentially forever.  If ingested into the body, it causes DNA damage in tissue, and cancer.

    The use of MOX fuel does not get rid of plutonium; instead it becomes part of the lethal soup of ingredients termed “high level nuclear waste.”  There are no safe long-term storage for nuclear waste, only interim storage solutions for waste that will remain hazardous for thousands of years.

    “When I hear plutonium in the environment, it becomes a problem not only for the next generation – we were not even a [human] species a quarter of a million years ago – we might be a new species before this stuff completely disintegrates from the environment,” Gundersen said. http://www.atlantaprogressivenews.com/nuclear-dumping-ground-despite-safety-risks.html

    Citizens living downstream from the site have complained for years of high levels of cancer and death in their community, which they attribute to the SRS and Plant Vogtle’s nuclear reactors across the river on the Georgia side.

    “The DOE is more interested in jobs this year and totally forgetting about the environmental costs for the next 300 or a thousand years.  It’s unfair to the people of Georgia and South Carolina to make some money now and pollute the Savannah River for a thousand years,” Gundersen said.  http://www.fairewinds.org/secretly-dumping-peoples-problems/#sthash.mtEhWriM.dpuf

    January 2, 2015 Posted by | - plutonium, reprocessing, USA | Leave a comment

    US government planning to spend $1 trillion on upgrading nuclear weapons

    burning-moneyThe nuclear money pit, The Economist  Does America really need a new plutonium production line? Dec 15th 2014 | LOS ANGELES THE RECENT sabre rattling by Vladimir Putin may have unwittingly done what the United States Congress has failed to do for decades: refocus attention—and billions of additional dollars—on overhauling America’s nuclear arsenal. The $585 billion defence bill for the next fiscal year sailed through the House of Representatives last week with broad bipartisan support, and then did the same in the Senate on December 12th, despite all the fractious squabbling over the $1.1 trillion government funding measure.
    More pertinently, the $11.7 billion request for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a branch of the Department of Energy that oversees nuclear weapons, naval reactors and nonproliferation activities on behalf of the military, represents a 4% increase over the previous year. The biggest chunk of that—covering work on modernising the country’s nuclear weapons—is to increase by 7%. All this at a time when mandated “sequestration” cuts are supposed to be reducing military spending.

    All told, the federal government intends allocating up to $1 trillion to upgrade the country’s missiles, bombers and submarines over the coming decades. Continue reading

    December 17, 2014 Posted by | - plutonium, Reference, USA, weapons and war | 1 Comment

    Pacific Ocean is still the sewer for the nuclear industry’s wastes

    TV: Plutonium being pumped into ocean through miles of underwater pipes — Nuclear waste left lying on beach — Kids playing on sand where machines scoop up plutonium each day — Alarming test results 1,000% legal limit (VIDEO & PHOTOS)http://enenews.com/tv-plutonium-being-pumped-ocean-miles-underwater-pipes-nuclear-waste-left-lying-beach-kids-playing-sand-machines-scoop-plutonium-day-video-photos?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ENENews+%28Energy+News%29
    Pacific-Ocean-drain

    SWR (German public television broadcaster), 2013 (emphasis added):

    • 25:00 in — The dumping of nuclear waste in the sea was banned worldwide in 1993, yet the nuclear industry has come up with other ways. They no longer dump the barrels at sea; they build kilometers of underwater pipes through which the radioactive effluent now flows freely into the sea. One of these pipes is situated in Normandy [near] the French reprocessing plant in La Hague… The advantage for the nuclear industry? No more bad press… disposal via waste pipes remains hidden from the public eye, quite literally.
    • 28:30 in — 400 km from La Hague [as well as] Holland [and] Germany… we find iodine… 5-fold higher tritium value than [reported] by the operator Areva. It’s now obvious why citizens take their own measurements.
    • 30:15 in — Molecular Biologist: “The radioactive toxins accumulate in the food chain. This little worm can contain 2,000-3,000 times more radioactivity than its environment. It is then eaten by the next biggest creature and so on, at the end of the food chain we discovered damage to the reproductive cells of crabs… These genetic defects are inherited from one generation to the next… Cells in humans and animals are the same.”
    • 32:00 in — The 2nd disposal pipe for Europe’s nuclear waste is located in the north of England… Radioactive pollution comes in from the sea. Their houses are full of plutonium dust… The pipe from Sellafield is clearly visible only from the air… nuclear waste is still being dumped into the sea. Operators argue this is land-based disposal… It has been approved by the authorities.
    • 35:45 in — Plutonium can be found here on a daily basis, the toxic waste returns from the sea… it leaches out, it dries, and is left lying on the beach. The people here have long since guessed that the danger is greater than those responsible care to admit… Every day a smallexcavator removes plutonium from the beach… In recent decadesthe operator at Sellafield has tossed more than 500 kg of plutonium into the sea.
    • 42:00 in — We take a soil sample… The result turns out to be alarming. The amount of plutonium is up to 10 times higher than the permissible limit.

    Yahoo News, Dec 5, 2014: All this radiation from the [Fukushima] disaster has definitely not been isolated to just Japan. Researchers monitoring the Pacific Ocean, in which much of the radiation spilled into, have detected radioactive isotopes this past November just 160 km [100 miles] off the coast of California. So this story will continue to unfold for many years to come.

    Watch SWR’s investigative report here

    December 8, 2014 Posted by | - plutonium, 2 WORLD, oceans, Reference | Leave a comment

    Japan’s secret nuclear weapons program, helped by USA


    Japan had a dual use nuclear program. The public program was to develop and provide unlimited energy for the country. But there was also a secret component, an undeclared nuclear weapons program that would allow Japan to amass enough nuclear material and technology to become a major nuclear power on short notice.

    That secret effort was hidden in a nuclear power program that by March 11, 2011– the day the earthquake and tsunami overwhelmed the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant – had amassed 70 metric tons of plutonium. Like its use of civilian nuclear power to hide a secret bomb program, Japan used peaceful space exploration as a cover for developing sophisticated nuclear weapons delivery systems.

    PuFlag-USAflag-japanUS circumvented laws to help Japan accumulate tons of plutonium  From National Security News Service By Joseph Trento, April 9th, 2012

    The United States deliberately allowed Japan access to the United States’ most secret nuclear weapons facilities while it transferred tens of billions of dollars worth of American tax paid research that has allowed Japan to amass 70 tons of weapons grade plutonium since the 1980s, a National Security News Service investigation reveals. These activities repeatedly violated U.S. laws regarding controls of sensitive nuclear materials that could be diverted to weapons programs in Japan. The NSNS investigation found that the United States has known about a secret nuclear weapons program in Japan since the 1960s, according to CIA reports. Continue reading

    September 29, 2014 Posted by | - plutonium, Japan, Reference, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

    Japan’s growing stockpile of plutonium trash

    Japan’s plutonium stockpile jumped to 47 tons in 2013 KYODOHTTP://WWW.JAPANTIMES.CO.JP/NEWS/2014/09/17/NATIONAL/JAPANS-PLUTONIUM-STOCKPILE-ROSE-47-TONS-2013/#.VBTITPRDUNL SEP 17, 2014  Japan had about 47.1 tons of plutonium in and outside the country at the end of 2013, about 2.9 tons more than the year before, the Cabinet Office said on Tuesday. Newly added were 2.3 tons generated through spent fuel reprocessing outsourced to Britain and 640 kg not reported to the global watchdog in 2012 and 2013. The 640 kg is part of mixed plutonium-uranium oxide (MOX) fuel stored in a reactor that was offline during that time.

    waste-storage,-Rokkasho-Jap

    Revelations of the unreported 640 kg stoked controversy in June, though the Japan Atomic Energy Commission had said it was exempt from International Atomic Energy Agency reporting requirements, insisting at that time that fuel inside reactors is considered “being used.”

    Under Japan’s nuclear fuel recycling policy, plutonium extracted by reprocessing conventional uranium fuel is consumed by existing reactors in the form of MOX fuel. But this policy is jeopardized by public concerns about nuclear power amid the Fukushima crisis.

    A further increase in plutonium could raise concerns in the international community about its possible diversion to nuclear weapons.

    The earlier unreported 640 kg of plutonium was contained in MOX fuel loaded in March 2011 into reactor 3 of Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Genkai nuclear plant in Saga Prefecture during its regular checkup, but has been left there unused as the reactor could not restart in light of the disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 complex.

    September 18, 2014 Posted by | - plutonium, Japan | Leave a comment

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