The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry Fukushima Chernobyl Mayak Three Mile Island Atomic Testing Radiation Isotope

Highlights of the week’s nuclear news

Christina Macpherson's websites & blogs

International:  Drama continues as USA and Israeli hawks want war with Iran, while other opinions advise the difficult path of diplomacy.

More revelations of the secrecy and ineptitude of Japanese government following the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

USA’s “Blue Ribbon Panel on Nuclear Future” comes out with its Final Report  – with no solution to nuclear wastes, but no suggestion of stopping producing them!

USA’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission gets anxious about a new report on earthquake possibilities near nuclear power plants.

France in somewhat of a financial pickle over its nuclear reactors – can’t afford new ones, can’t afford to shut down existing ones, can’t afford to upgrade their safety – but forced to do the latter, by the European Union’s new safety rules.

February 1, 2012 Posted by | Christina's notes | Leave a comment

World’s most costly and slow environmental cleanup – Hanford nuclear waste

Hanford Site: Radiation Levels High, Plant Progress Slow, Care 2, by  January 30, 2012  “…..At the Hanford nuclear waste site in Washington, a 10-year project to create a functioning treatment plant has already tripled its expected budget, and at $12.3 billion so far, the costs are still continuing to grow. According to USA Today, the project is both the most costly and the most complicated environmental cleanup ever attempted.

The plant was originally supposed to be in operation last year, but it’s already been delayed to 2019, and could easily take years more, and who knows how many more billions of dollars beyond that. Engineers interviewed in the story spoke of inherent design problems and official concerns that an uncontrolled nuclear reaction could occur inside the plant. There is no less than 56 million gallons of nuclear waste waiting to be processed, but one senior scientist says they’re still trying to move forwards with their “failed design.”

NPR covered a leaked report that revealed radiation levels in the area are higher than previously believed. The nuclear sludge is currently being stored in old underground tanks that were never intended to be a permanent solution. If they begin to leak and get into ground water, the area affected could be huge. Washington Governor Chris Gregoire is urging the department of energy to hurry up with this already far-delayed project. “The Columbia River is at stake, all of that area and its vitality.”

The sad thing is this incredible quantity of nuclear waste is not even the by-product of useful energy, but the massive nuclear stockpiles produced by the US throughout the Cold War. Hanford is where Manhattan Project scientists first initiated plutonium production for some of the first atomic bombs, including “Fat Man,” dropped on Nagasaki (“Little Boy”, dropped on Hiroshima, was a simpler uranium-235 bomb). It remained open as a plutonium production site until 1968.

At its height, the US had an arsenal of some 60, 000 nuclear weapons, enough to destroy the world thousands of times over. Subsequent treaty agreements saw both the US and former Soviet Union begin to downsize their nuclear arsenals. Meanwhile, however, the overwhelming quantities of waste remain.

More time, money, and research will be needed, it seems, to erase this very messy mistake.

February 1, 2012 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Dim prospects for global nuclear industry

Prospects for Nuclear Power in 2012, Platts a leading global provider of energy, metals and petrochemicals information., London, 30 January 2012 Even before the Fukushima disaster, the long-awaited nuclear renaissance in the West seemed to be running out of steam. There were two main factors behind this failure; the new Generation III+ reactors produced to take account of the lessons of Chernobyl that would spearhead the revival were not living up to their promises, and, more importantly, banks were proving unwilling to provide finance

Energy Economist – Report.

The key markets for the renaissance were the US and the UK. As pioneers of nuclear power, potentially large markets and countries that seemed to have abandoned plans for new nuclear plants, a successful revival in these countries would have been a powerful endorsement for these new technologies. Continue reading

February 1, 2012 Posted by | 2 WORLD, business and costs, Reference, technology | Leave a comment

A nuclear world in peace – the peace of death

As they said in the streets of Delhi in 1998: “No food, no clothing, no shelter? No worry, we have the bomb.”….

not one country that had an atomic bomb in 1968 when the NPT was signed has given it up. Judging by their actions rather than the rhetoric, all are determined to remain nuclear-armed. 

The U.S. has a special responsibility to lead the way to nuclear abolition as the only country to have used atomic bombs and as the world’s biggest military power

Within our lifetime, we will either achieve nuclear abolition or have to live with nuclear proliferation and die with the use of nuclear weapons.

To prepare for nuclear war is to seek the peace of death, Japan Times, By RAMESH THAKUR , 31 Jan 12, CANBERRA — The world faces two existential threats: climate change, and nuclear Armageddon. Action on both is required urgently. Tackling the first will impose significant economic costs and lifestyle adjustments, while tackling the second will bring economic benefits without any lifestyle implications.

 Those who reject the first are derided as denialists; those dismissive of the second are praised as realists. Although action is needed now in order to keep the world on this side of the tipping point, a climate change-induced apocalypse will not occur until decades into the future.

A nuclear catastrophe could destroy us at any time, although, if our luck holds out, it could be delayed for another six decades. The uncomfortable reality is that nuclear peace has been upheld, owing as much to good luck as to sound stewardship. Continue reading

February 1, 2012 Posted by | Religion and ethics | Leave a comment

New study on earthquake risks near USA nuclear plants

Quakes and U.S. Reactors: An Analytic Tool, NYT. By MATTHEW L. WALD  With the release of a computer model of all known geologic faults east of Denver, nearly all of the nuclear power plants in the United States are about to embark on a broad re-evaluation of their vulnerability to earthquakes. The new mapping is the first major update of the fault situation for plants since 1989.

The map has been in preparation since 2008, well before the earthquake and tsunami that caused three meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi in Japan last March or the quake near Mineral, Va., last summer that shook a twin-reactor plant beyond the degree expected. Still, those events have lent urgency to the effort to assess the American plants’ ability to withstand quakes.

The new study does not calculate the risk of damage from an earthquake or even specify how much ground motion is likely at the reactor sites. That work is left to the plants’ owners, supervised by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The industry began to realize after the Fukushima disaster that engineers do not have a strong understanding of which structures and systems at the plants are most vulnerable…..

Not everyone is pleased with the route that the commission is taking when it comes to future construction. David Lochbaum, a reactor expert with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said that the agency had already approved sites for new reactors and designs for new reactors based on computer analyses of earthquake hazards.

If considerable study is needed on the quake vulnerability of existing reactors, he argues, the uncertainty surrounding the soundness of future plants must be even greater. “How can we know more about the reactors that haven’t been built than the ones that have been built?’’ he said.

February 1, 2012 Posted by | safety, USA | Leave a comment

Radioactivity poses risk in Japan’s tsunami debris

 citizens say they are worried about radioactivity or even say that we should refuse to import this debris. “They worry about their children, they are afraid that radiation levels are too high.”

Radiation experts agree that children are at greatest risk from cancers and genetic defects because they are still growing, are more prone to thyroid cancers, and because they will have more time to develop health defects…..

Radiation fears slow tsunami clear-up, News 24, 1 Feb 12,    Tokyo – Giant piles of debris from Japan’s earthquake and tsunami scar the country’s once picturesque northeast coast – and the clear-up is hamstrung by fears the rubbish may be contaminated by radiation. Continue reading

February 1, 2012 Posted by | environment, Japan | Leave a comment

France, no new nuclear reactors, and can’t afford to shut down existing ones

France must extend nuclear reactor lifespans-audit Jan 31, 2012  Some 22 nuclear reactors will reach 40 years old by 2022

* EDF wants to extend reactors lifespan to 60 years

* Heavy investments needed in short, medium term
PARIS, Jan 31 (Reuters) – France has no option but to extend the lifespan of existing nuclear plants, because any investments in new nuclear capacity or an increase in its reliance on other forms of energy would be too costly and come too late, the French Court of Audit said.

The French independent government body, which is charged with conducting financial and legislative audits, said in a report that a lack of investment decisions to build new reactors meant there were few choices left. Continue reading

February 1, 2012 Posted by | business and costs, France | Leave a comment

New costly earthquake security could close some US nuclear plants

New Quake Risks Seen for Nuclear Plants WSJ, By REBECCA SMITH, JANUARY 31, 2012,   Nuclear reactors in the central and eastern U.S. face previously unrecognized threats from big earthquakes, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Tuesday. Experts said upgrading the plants to withstand more substantial earth movements would be costly and could
force some to close. Continue reading

February 1, 2012 Posted by | safety, USA | Leave a comment

Japan’s government put use by date on nuclear reactors

Japan Cabinet OKs bill to cap nuke reactor life, By MARI YAMAGUCHI – Associated PressTOKYO, 1 Feb -12 –– Japan’s Cabinet approved bills Tuesday aimed at bolstering nuclear safety regulations following last year’s Fukushima disaster, including one that would put a 40-year cap on the operational life of nuclear reactors.
The approval came as International Atomic Energy Agency experts generally endorsed “stress test” results at two idled reactors in western Japan, bolstering the Tokyo government’s efforts to restart the facility, though the IAEA team said some safety measures needed clarification.

Japan currently has no legal limit on the operational lifespan of its 54 reactors, many of which will reach the 40-year mark in coming years. One reactor at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant had been in use 40 years when the tsunami struck last March.
The legislation, which still needs parliamentary approval to take effect, does allow for an extension of up to 20 years.

Critics have blasted that exception as a loophole,……   Critics,  ….. say the tests are meaningless because they have no clear criteria, and view the IAEA as biased toward the nuclear industry.

February 1, 2012 Posted by | Japan, politics | Leave a comment

BRICs – Brazil, Russia, China, India, all nuclear prospects looking dodgy

China is looking much less committed to nuclear power than it was a year ago.

The reality is that China needs nuclear power much less than the nuclear industry needs China. 

Prospects for Nuclear Power in 2012  Source: Platts – a leading global provider of energy, metals and petrochemicals information. London, 30 January 2012 “….BRICs   [Brazil, Russia, India and China] + South Korea China has dominated new nuclear plant orders in the past few years, accounting for 25 out of the 38 reactors on which construction started worldwide between 2008-2010. Six of these units were for Gen III+ designs, four AP1000s and two EPRs. Almost all the others used a design imported from France in the 1980s, which in turn had been licensed from Westinghouse in the early 1970s. This design, the CPR1000, is showing its age and there was an expectation, even before Fukushima, that the AP1000 would replace it. This would have been a huge boost to the AP1000, giving it the volume of orders that might have allowed costs to come down and for teething problems to be solved. The EPR, by contrast, appears to have no prospect of further orders in China.

However, there were signs that the strain of the rapid pace of construction was beginning to show. In 2011, no new starts were made, compared with ten in 2010. Fukusima explains this to a degree, but some might have been expected in the first three months of 2011 before disaster struck. The reason behind the slowdown is the high cost of the AP1000. The large Chinese utilities appear to be looking at other options.

There is now talk of pursuing indigenous advanced designs developed from the CPR1000 as well as Small Modular Reactors. China has always been adept at convincing nuclear suppliers that there was a great future for their particular technology in China.
It is unclear whether talk of SMRs and new advanced designs will go any further. Continue reading

February 1, 2012 Posted by | China, India, Reference, Russia, South Korea, technology | Leave a comment

Plebicites – the beginning of the end for nuclear power

To date only three [ plebicites on nuclear power] have been held, [in Japan] in the villages of Maki and Kariwa in Niigata Prefecture, and in Miyama, Mie Prefecture. In all three polls, voters said no to nuclear power.

NUCLEAR POWER PLEBISCITES Plebicites first step in pulling nuclear plug Japan Times, By ERIC JOHNSTON, 31 Jan 12. Last June more than 90 percent of Italian voters said no to nuclear power in a referendum, while Germany and Switzerland voted to phase out atomic energy in the coming years.

 In France, which faces a presidential election this spring, the Socialists and Greens pledged to close 24 reactors by 2025 as public opinion in what was once Europe’s strongest supporter of nuclear plants begins to falter.

In Japan, efforts to collect signatures in support of a national vote on the future of nuclear power began just after the Fukushima disaster struck. But there are also separate attempts to introduce specific plebiscites in Tokyo and in the city of Osaka. Continue reading

February 1, 2012 Posted by | Japan, opposition to nuclear | Leave a comment

Freezing weather causes 8 tons of water leakage at Fukushima nuclear plant

Freezing Fukushima Nuclear Plant Leaks Water TOKYO, Japan, January 30, 2012 (ENS) – The temperature fell to minus 8.7 degrees Celsius on Sunday morning near Japan’s crippled nuclear power plant, causing water pipes and valve seals to rupture, leaking tons of water.

Workers at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant discovered Sunday that the damaged pipes spilled nearly eight tons of water from 14 locations. Two additional water leaks were discovered today, according to plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company……

February 1, 2012 Posted by | - Fukushima 2011 | Leave a comment

USA university women to host meeting on nuclear disaster issues

Women’s group hosts meeting about nuclear disaster preparedness The Doings at La Grange (Chicago) By Chuck Fieldman January 30, 2012 With March 11 being the first anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster in Japan, the American Association of University Women is hosting a meeting about nuclear disaster preparedness from 1-3 p.m. Feb. 18 at Hinsdale United Methodist Church, 945 S. Garfield
Ave., Hinsdale. Continue reading

February 1, 2012 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

USA Dept of Energy’s poor record on nuclear waste management

Nuclear waste management needs new agency, says commission  Fierce Homeland Security January 30, 2012 —   By David Perera The Energy Department’s poor record on nuclear waste management means the federal government should set up a new, congressionally chartered federal corporation to take over dedicated responsibility for the matter, says a final set of recommendations from a blue ribbon commission chartered by President Obama in 2010.

The panel’s report, released Jan. 26, characterizes the overall record of U.S. nuclear waste management as one of “broken promises and unmet commitments.” Continue reading

February 1, 2012 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Video on US military use of depleted uranium

US used depleted uranium in recent wars Video    Press TV 31 Jan 12, A prominent investigative journalist says the United States is using illegal weaponry – particularly depleted uranium – during its wars in the Middle East.

A new report shows US forces have used massive amounts of depleted uranium in Afghanistan — causing a huge number of congenital deformities and cancers.

Numerous UN human rights commissions have prohibited the use of depleted uranium on humans, including during military conflicts.  Continue reading

February 1, 2012 Posted by | Resources -audiovicual | Leave a comment