The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Cyber warfare now the goal of USA’s National Security Agency (NSA)

It’s a stunning approach with which the digital spies deliberately undermine the very foundations of the rule of law around the globe. This approach threatens to transform the Internet into a lawless zone in which superpowers and their secret services operate according to their own whims with very few ways to hold them accountable for their actions.

New Edward Snowden Files Reveal Scope of NSA Plans for Cyberwarfare At Der Spiegel, “The Digital Arms Race: NSA Preps America for Future Battle“: by Donald Douglas 19 Jan 15 

cyber-warThe NSA’s mass surveillance is just the beginning. Documents from Edward Snowden show that the intelligence agency is arming America for future digital wars — a struggle for control of the Internet that is already well underway.

Normally, internship applicants need to have polished resumes, with volunteer work on social projects considered a plus. But at Politerain, the job posting calls for candidates with significantly different skill sets. We are, the ad says, “looking for interns who want to break things.”

Politerain is not a project associated with a conventional company. It is run by a US government intelligence organization, the National Security Agency (NSA). More precisely, it’s operated by the NSA’s digital snipers with Tailored Access Operations (TAO), the department responsible for breaking into computers.

Potential interns are also told that research into third party computers might include plans to “remotely degrade or destroy opponent computers, routers, servers and network enabled devices by attacking the hardware.” Continue reading

January 20, 2015 Posted by | Reference, secrets,lies and civil liberties, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Nations make (optimistic) guesses at the cost of getting rid of old nuclear reactors

Getting Rid Of Old Nuclear Reactors Worldwide Is Going To Cost Way More Than People Think Business Insider,  NINA CHESTNEYGEERT DE CLERCQ LONDON/PARIS (Reuters)  20 Jan 15 –”…….The U.S. Flag-USANuclear Regulatory Commission estimates that the cost of decommissioning in the United States – which has some 100 reactors – ranges from $US300 million to $US400 million per reactor, but some reactors might cost much more.

flag-franceFrance’s top public auditor and the nuclear safety authority estimate the country’s decommissioning costs at between 28 billion and 32 billion euros ($US32-37 billion).

flag_germanyGerman utilities – such as E.ON, which last month said it would split in two, spinning off power plants to focus on renewable energy and power grids – have put aside 36 billion euros..

flag-UKBritain’s bill for decommissioning and waste disposal is now estimated at 110 billion pounds ($US167 billion) over the next 100 years, double the 50 billion pound estimate made 10 years ago.

flag-japanJapanese government estimates put the decommissioning cost of the country’s 48 reactors at around $US30 billion, but this is seen as conservative. Russia has 33 reactors and costs are seen ranging from $US500 million to $US1 billion per reactor………

January 20, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, decommission reactor, Reference | Leave a comment

Sellafield Catch Up 2015

 Unacceptable levels of high level liquid waste
a terrorist attack on the Sellafield Highly Active Liquid tanks could require the evacuation of an area between Glasgow and Liverpool, and cause around 2 million fatalities
highly radioactive liquid stored in tanks contained around 2,400
kilograms (kg) of Caesium-137 compared with the 30 kg released during the Chernobyl accident
Dilapidated nuclear waste storage ponds
Dilapidated nuclear waste storage ponds (B29 and B30) abandoned 40 years ago containing
hundreds of tonnes of fuel rods pose an immediate danger to public safety
Sellafield-11highly-recommendednuClear News Jan 15  “…….2014 began with the publication of a new report (1) from the House of Commons Public
Accounts Committee (PAC) which said progress at Sellafield has been poor, with missed targets,
escalating costs, slipping deadlines and weak leadership. The MPs made a series of
recommendations focusing on the role of Nuclear Management Partners (NMP) – the
consortium of California-based URS, France’s Areva and British engineer Amec which is
overseeing the clean-up of Sellafield. The report concluded that the consortium was to blame for
many of the escalating costs and said MPs could not understand why the NDA extended the
consortium’s contract in October 2013. (2) The bill for cleaning up Sellafield had risen to more
than £70bn, according to the report.
A critical 292-page report by the accountancy firm KPMG in 2013 showed that nine of the 11
biggest projects on the site, including the construction of a storage facility for radioactive
sludge, were a combined £2bn over-budget. Seven projects were also behind schedule. (3)
Whilst the PAC highlighted poor performance in clean-up and decommissioning work,
Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment (CORE) also sought to highlight how, over
the last decade, commercial reprocessing operational targets have been missed and the record
has been getting worse since the NDA took ownership of Sellafield in 2005. (4)
THORP to close in 2018

Continue reading

January 14, 2015 Posted by | Reference, safety, UK | 2 Comments

Russia cracks down on environmental group Ecodefense – classed as “foreign agent”

censorshipflag_RussiaReactors from Russia are unsafe and unreliable, India shouldn’t buy them: Russian environmentalist Vladimir Slivyak, 9 Jan 15  “……….You were termed anti-national and had to face govt repression for raising voice on nuclear safety and environmental impacts in Russia. What is the status now? Why do the industry and govt go so hand-in-glove?

highly-recommendedRussia approved the “Foreign agent” Act in November 2012 which was an instrument to punish civil society criticizing the government. By Summer 2014, Ministry of justice started to forcibly include human rights and environmental groups to official list of “foreign agents” published on the ministry’ web-site. My organization – Ecodefense – was one of the first 10 non-governmental groups included to this list. And first environmental organization on this list.

It is probably symbolic that anti-nuclear group became the first environmental organization on the list of “foreign agents”. Sort of main enemy of the state among environmental movement. We never had any foreign influence on our decisions, and never had foreign people in our organization. Ironically, our work was to big extend focused on stopping the import of foreign radioactive waste to Russia, and also on stopping foreign money for new reactors in Russia. We also did campaigns on education, on climate issues, on coal. But according to official statement by the Ministry of justice, Ecodefense was put on the list of “foreign agents” for specific campaign against construction of nuclear plant near the city of Kaliningrad, my hometown.

We responded to governmental action by declaring that we will not accept the status of “foreign agent” and we will not follow legal requirements for “agents”. For one simple reason – Ecodefense is not anyone’s agent. Our work aims to stop nuclear danger, and not to benefit any government, Russian or foreign. We were openly criticizing Kudankulam project and many other projects of Rosatom, and we were criticizing European company Urenco (and its shareholders RWE and E.On) for sending radioactive waste to Russia.
It’s 6 month already since government declared us a “foreign agent”. We were fined for quite big amount of money for resisting to register as “foreign agent”. We have another lawsuit filed by the Ministry of justice for not following legal requirements for “agents”, this one is in court now. We got 4 other fines, both personal and organizational. We had three branches of Ecodefense legally registered in Russia. Two are closed down by the court in December. And we are struggling in court for our third organization in court. Unfortunately, we spend now a lot of time in courts. Expectations are not good, our last organization may be closed down this year, likely……….

January 14, 2015 Posted by | civil liberties, Reference, Russia | Leave a comment

Cumbria’s call for clean-up of Sellafield’s ‘Legacy’ spent nuclear fuel ponds

text-radiation Sellafield Ltd’s announcement of two ‘unusual finds’ on West Cumbrian beaches in May and June 2014 (the discovery attributed to the new Groundhog Synergy 2 monitoring system introduced in May) should be ringing public health alarms in the corridors of those tasked to protect beach users from the radioactive materials routinely washed up on local beaches from Sellafield’s historic discharges to the Irish Sea.
Whilst the discovery of a radioactive stone in May – bearing the highest level of Caesium 137 yet discovered in over a
decade of local beach monitoring – is of grave concern, the subsequent discovery in June of a radioactive particle discovered on the more publicly accessible beach at Seascale requires immediate action to be taken by the Authorities to protect the general public.
highly-recommendedflag-UKSellafield Catch Up 2015  nuClear News Jan 15  Eddie Martin of the Cumbria Trust wrote to Stephen Henwood chair of the NDA in November about the spent fuel ponds. He said, given that the Sellafield “Legacy Ponds” are over 60 yearsold, contain significant amounts of spent Magnox nuclear fuel and other radioactively
contaminated nuclear waste items, are covered with water for cooling purposes, were originally
pronounced, in the mid 1970’s as for “short term storage until it can be reprocessed”, are open to
the elements, known to be leaking into the ground and, in the case of B30, are located within
150m of the River Calder, we would be obliged if the NDA would state what action it is taking
Prevent transfer of radioactive contamination, by birds or other creatures that may have
access to the open contents of such ponds, to members of the public and/or property,
outside the boundary of the nuclear licensed site.
 Prevent leakage, through the ground surrounding these old and known -to-have-leaked,
ponds, to areas outside the nuclear licensed site and, specifically, into the River Calder.
 Recover the contents of these ponds for assay and assessment of their nuclear and
radioactive status.
 Commence reprocessing of appropriate items of the recovered Magnox fuel
 Compact, encapsulate or vitrify, as appropriate, and the safe storage, of the contents of
these ponds.
 Decommission, demolish and safely dispose of the existing outdated and insecure pond
buildings, structures and equipment. (15)
In response Stephen Henwood said “we categorically refute the suggestion … that insufficient
attention or resources are being put into addressing this national priority which we inherited in
2005. Whilst we cannot turn the clock back to decisions that were made or not made in the past
and which have left us with the challenges we now face, we are determined to be the people that
resolve those challenges.” (16)

Continue reading

January 14, 2015 Posted by | Reference, UK, wastes | Leave a comment

Unsafe, unreliable- Vladimir Slivyak’s verdict on Russian nuclear reactors

safety-symbol1flag_RussiaReactors from Russia are unsafe and unreliable, India shouldn’t buy them: Russian environmentalist Vladimir Slivyak, 9 Jan 15 “………….Over a dozen incidents and failures have already occurred at the newly built VVER at Kalinin NPP, including one involving a hydrogen explosion.

The Russian fast breeder reactor – the only commercial unit of this type in the world – has in its over 30 years of operation experienced almost as many various accidents, including fires involving radioactive substances and coolant leaks.

Further development of the breeder technology planned by Rosatom in Russia includes experiments with plutonium fuel. VVER-1200s are also designed to operate with plutonium fuel. Introducing this nuclear material into electricity generation on an industrial scale will likely lead to new accidents that will result in plutonium contamination.

Additionally, eleven old RBMK units – all variations on the Chernobyl design – still remain in operation in Russia.

Rosatom continues to reprocess spent nuclear fuel at the disastrous Mayak facility. Not only is the stockpile of extracted plutonium growing, but there is also a constant significant increase in volumes of radioactive waste resulting from reprocessing. The Mayak nuclear facility in Chelyabinsk Region was a place of a devastating nuclear accident of 1957, which caused widespread radioactive contamination and led to the resettlement of about 20,000 of local residents in the subsequent years.

Unfortuntely, several thousands of local residents still have to  live in contaminated area because Rosatom doesn’t take responsibility for their resettlement and people themselves are too poor to move away. That’s best illustration of what is safety culture and social responsibility in understanding of the Russian nuclear industry.

Russia has no realistic and viable plan for the disposal of radioactive waste. The risk of radioactive leaks from the aging radioactive waste storage facilities is increasing. Rosatom’s attempts to build new disposal sites for radioactive waste in several regions of Russia have been met by harsh opposition from local populations and environmental groups. But even if such sites were ultimately built, their capacity would be enough to take care of only a small fraction of the waste accumulated over many decades.

How strong is the nuclear safety regulation in Russia? What have been post-Fukushima changes?

Unfortunately, it’s far from strong. In 1990s we had special safety regulator, Gosatomnadzor (or GAN). It was reporting directly to the president of country and was able to confront Rosatom on the most important safety issues. I mean there is certain difference in mandates  of operator and regulator, and they must be in confrontation to improve the safety. When regulator becomes a friend to operator we are getting into Japanese situation which in the end bring us to another Fukushima sort of disaster. But that’s not the way it went in Russia. Rosatom successfully lobbied for dissolving of independent GAN. And finally it became just the department inside of another bigger structure, without any ability to control. After Fukushima, regulator proposed to close several old reactors down but that was easily ignored by Rosatom who said Russian reactors are best in the world and Fukushima would never happen in Russia. Something like that was said by Western industry after Chernobyl and all wanted to believe in it until Western-designed Fukushima exploded several times.

The Russian nuclear giant, Atomsroyeport, has been clearly unwilling to abide by the Indian liability law which has a clause on supliers liability in case of an accident. What does it say on their claims of safety?

It just confirms old fact that there is no 100% safe reactors. Which means, sooner or later, new Chernobyl or new Fukushima (or both) will happen again somewhere in the world. Russian industry knows very well that their reactors have vulnerabilities. And they don’t want to pay in case of another Chernobyl which they know is possible. Just like the owner of Fukushima is not paying to Japanese people……….

January 14, 2015 Posted by | Reference, Russia, safety | Leave a comment

How radioactive paint contaminated workers

Pappy’s Undark Girls Ghost Stories 2012 – 2014 by Lost Dutchman Ghost“…….The Radium Luminous Material Corporation used radium from carnotite ore to make luminous paint, which was sold under the brand name ‘Undark‘.  The paint was used on military watches and compasses.  Plant workers were told the product was safe and encouraged to handle the substance with their hands and mouth.  When the girls went to the clubs after work, the paint was blazon on their lips and shone brightly in the darkness.  They were very popular, but their looks could kill.

After several workers became ill with radioactive poisoning, plant workers (Grace Fryer and four others) sued for damages.  A media sensation surrounded the case of the Undark Girls.  It established several legal precedents and triggered the enactment of regulations governing labor safety standards; in addition to the historic reference of ‘provable suffering’.

Several of the plant workers died before the litigation was complete.  The company enacted safety procedures and the illness ceased.  Even after death, the bodies of the victims were so contaminated that radiation can still be detected at their grave sites, using a Geiger counter…….

January 10, 2015 Posted by | history, radiation, Reference | Leave a comment

Fukushiama radiation reaching USA West Coast – at this stage, not a health problem

Media Silent on Fukushima Radiation Impact in U.S.highly-recommended

My take home is always, don’t trivialize it or dismiss it, but also don’t exaggerate what the effects might be,” says Woods Hole’s Ken Buesseler.

Radiation from Fukushima is reaching the West Coast — but you don’t need to freak out, WP  By Chris Mooney December 29 “…….many Americans have been concerned — sometimes overly so — that radiation from Fukushima, traveling through the vast Pacific ocean, would eventually make its way to the waters off the West Coast of the United States and Canada. And according to a new scientific paper just out in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencesthat has indeed happened.

The paper, by John N. Smith of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (a government agency) and several colleagues, is the “first systematic study…of the transport of the Fukushima marine radioactivity signal to the eastern North Pacific,” and concludes that radiation reached the continental shelf of Canada by June of last year, and has increased somewhat since.

But– and here’s the good news — the levels of radiation are very low, well below levels that public health authorities cite as grounds for concern. The radiation “does not represent a threat to human health or the environment,” reports the paper.

The new study is not the first to reach that conclusion.  Continue reading

December 31, 2014 Posted by | oceans, radiation, Reference, USA | Leave a comment

Drones – the threat to nuclear reactors, spent fuel pools, waste facilities

nuclear-spent-fuel-poolThe flyovers have also exposed vulnerabilities on the ground. For example, spent-fuel pools are often unprotected or only protected by thin tin roofs.


highly-recommendedDrones: The Threat to Nuclear Plants BY  12/27/14 From small commercial drones for express parcel delivery to military ones used to attack terrorist suspects, the past year has seen a proliferation in the use of drone-near-nuclear-plantall types of unmanned aerial vehicles. Yet the prospect of increasing numbers of drones filling the skies poses abundant security concerns for critical infrastructure—including for the nuclear industry.

Just last week, news media reported that in July a drone came within six yards of a plane landing at Heathrow airport in London. Last month, French authorities revealed that unidentified drones had breached restricted airspaceover 13 of France’s 19 nuclear power plants between early October and late November. The drones are believed to have been sophisticated civilian devices costing several thousands of pounds, and the intrusions were seemingly coordinated and generally occurred at night.

Given that the majority of security measures at nuclear power plants were conceived before the advent of drone technology, the flights over French facilities have exposed nuclear plants’ lack of adequate defenses against drones. This has left the French government—while outwardly reassuring the public that it has put in place ‘all means necessary to protect nuclear installations’—scrambling to find adequate solutions.

Drones can pose a number of problems for nuclear facilities. Flyovers could be used for reconnaissance by hostile actors, for example in the collection of photos and video footage of guard movements and the site layout. This could help to prepare for a ground-based attack. Drones could also provide air support in the event of an actual ground-based attack: They could drop explosives to damage power or communications networks, or could deliver weapons to insiders within the plant. Drones could also be used to bomb spent-fuel pools, which are less well protected than reactor cores. Continue reading

December 29, 2014 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Reference, safety | Leave a comment

USA’s Environment Protection Agency finding it hard to assess nuclear power’s greenhouse emissions

globalnukeNOhighly-recommendedE.P.A. Wrestles With Role of Nuclear Plants in Carbon Emission Rules By  NYT DEC. 25, 2014 WASHINGTON — Trying to write a complicated formula to cut carbon emissions, the Environmental Protection Agency thinks it has found a magic number: 5.8.

The agency is trying to complete a rule governing carbon emissions from power plants, and among the most complicated and contentious issues is how to treat existing nuclear power plants. Many of them are threatened with shutdowns because cheap natural gas has made their reactors uncompetitive.

The agency’s proposal gave an odd mathematical formula for evaluating nuclear plants’ contribution to carbon emissions. It said that 5.8 percent of existing nuclear capacity was at risk of being shut for financial reasons, and thus for states with nuclear reactors, keeping them running would earn a credit of 5.8 percent toward that state’s carbon reduction goal.

Since receiving tens of thousands of comments on the proposal, the agency is now reviewing the plan. It must evaluate all comments before it sets a final rule, which it hopes to do by June. That rule, however, is likely to be challenged in court. Continue reading

December 27, 2014 Posted by | climate change, Reference, USA | 1 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

Some conservation scientists misinformed by the nuclear lobby- Jim Green busts the spin

nuke-bubbleEndorsing the wishful thinking and misinformation presented in the Brook-Bradshaw journal article is no substitute for an honest acknowledgement of the proliferation problems associated with nuclear power, coupled with serious, sustained efforts to solve those problems.

‘Wishful thinking and misinformation': An open letter to nuclear lobbyists

JIM GREEN 18 DEC,  A group of conservation scientists has published an open letter urging environmentalists to reconsider their opposition to nuclear power. The letter is an initiative of Australian academics Barry Brook and Corey Bradshaw.

The co-signatories “support the broad conclusions drawn in the article ‘Key role for nuclear energy in global biodiversity conservation’, published in Conservation Biology.” The open letter states: “Brook and Bradshaw argue that the full gamut of electricity-generation sources − including nuclear power − must be deployed to replace the burning of fossil fuels, if we are to have any chance of mitigating severe climate change.”

So, here’s my open letter in response to the open letter initiated by Brook and Bradshaw:

– – –

Dear conservation scientists, Continue reading

December 19, 2014 Posted by | 2 WORLD, AUSTRALIA, Reference, spinbuster | Leave a comment

Declaration by 50 Japanese NGOs to protest the CSC which protects the nuclear power industry

flag-japan50 NGOs in Japan released a declaration to protest the CSC which protects the nuclear power industry

カテゴリー: December 6, 2014

50 non-governmental organizations in Japan released a declaration to protest the “Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage” (CSC) which protects nuclear power technology vendors from responsibility for reparations and does not protect the victims of nuclear power accidents.


To protest The Japanese Diet’s over-hasty approval of the “Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage” (CSC) , which heavily protects the nuclear power industry and encourages nuclear exports

On November 19, the “Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage” (CSC) was ratified by the House of Councilors. We strongly object to today’s vote to approve this treaty, without any discussion of its numerous problems, which was rushed through to accommodate the Abe administration’s schedule for dissolving the Lower House of the Diet.

The treaty promotes the export of nuclear power technology while ignoring the lessons of the Fukushima accident.

Specifically, we raise the following issues:

1) The exemption of nuclear power technology vendors from liability/responsibility for reparations. This will result in increased exports of nuclear power technology.

2) The use of international funds for nuclear accident damage compensation above a fixed amount. This will serve to benefit any nuclear technology vendor who causes an accident.

3) As a result of items 1 and 2, parties involved in the nuclear energy business only profit, without taking any risk – leading to moral hazard and the acceleration of nuclear exports. Continue reading

December 19, 2014 Posted by | Japan, politics, Reference | Leave a comment

Nuclear power is a distraction from the urgent task of tackling climate change

globalnukeNOflag-UKNuclear damages attempts to tackle climate change nuClear News Dec 14 It is now almost 15 years since Tony Blair asked the Number Ten Performance and Innovation Unit (PIU) to carry out a thorough review of energy policy. That review ultimately led to the 2003 Energy White Paper which concluded that the current economics of nuclear power make it an unattractive option, and that there are still important issues about nuclear waste which need to be resolved.
In launching the White Paper in Parliament the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry at the
time, Patricia Hewitt, said: “It would have been foolish to announce …a new generation of nuclear power stations, because
that would have guaranteed we would not make the necessary investments in energy efficiency and renewables.”
Unfortunately, as we know, the nuclear lobbyists got to work straight away and this policy was
eventually reversed. (1)
When the Nuclear White Paper was published in January 2008 giving the go-ahead to new reactors, Professor Gordon Mackerron, who had been a prominent member of the PIU Energy Review team and went on to Chair the first Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM), expressed concern that nuclear investments would ultimately stall. But the
expectation that new reactors would be built would hold back investment in the alternatives. So we could get to 2020 and find that neither nuclear, nor other forms of carbon abatement technology had been built. (2)
Regrettably, now we are 7 years closer to 2020, it looks as though Hewitt and Mackerron’s worst fears are coming true.
Nuclear power is a distraction from the urgent task of tackling climate change for five main
Firstly, nuclear power provides quite a small percentage of the UK’s energy needs, so it is
important that we don’t allow plans to build new reactors to disrupt plans to introduce other
forms of low carbon energy.
Secondly, Funding is limited. Even in boom times there is a limited supply of money, so we need
to maximise the carbon savings achieved from every pound spent. But, as we shall see, nuclear
is probably the most expensive way to save carbon.
Thirdly, there is a serious risk that nuclear will soak up all the funds available for low carbon
Fourthly tackling climate change is urgent, the sooner we can start making savings, the bigger the cumulative impact. New reactors at Hinkley are not expected to start operating until about 2023 at the earliest, whereas other forms of carbon abatement could start making savings now.No2NuclearPower
Finally, global markets are moving rapidly towards more decentralised low carbon energy
systems. But by promoting nuclear power, the UK will be bucking this trend and prolonging the
life of outmoded, centralised utility models. Andy Blowers, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, and
another former CoRWM member says it is this “Business As Usual” aspect of nuclear power


December 17, 2014 Posted by | climate change, Reference, UK | 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


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