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Fukushima safety scientists paid by nuclear operators

The doctor on the parliamentary panel, Hisako Sakiyama, is outraged about utility funding for Japan’s ICRP members. She fears that radiation standards are being set at a lenient level to limit costly evacuations.

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Setting off such fears are medical checks on the thyroids of Fukushima children that found some nodules or growths that are not cancerous but not normal.

No one knows for sure what this means, but Yoshiharu Yonekura, president of the National Institute of Radiological Sciences and an ICRP member, brushes off the worries and says such abnormalities are common.

The risk is such a non-concern in his mind that he says with a smile: “Low-dose radiation may be even good for you.”

[..]

7:55 AM Friday Dec 7, 2012

The New Zealand Herald

Influential Japanese scientists who help set national radiation exposure limits have for years had trips paid for by the country’s nuclear plant operators to attend overseas meetings of the world’s top academic group on radiation safety.

The potential conflict of interest is revealed in one sentence buried in a 600-page parliamentary investigation into last year’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant disaster and pointed out to The Associated Press by a medical doctor on the 10-person investigation panel.

Some of these same scientists have consistently given optimistic assessments about the health risks of radiation, interviews with the scientists and government documents show. Their pivotal role in setting policy after the March 2011 tsunami and ensuing nuclear meltdowns meant the difference between school children playing outside or indoors and families staying or evacuating.

One leading scientist, Ohtsura Niwa, acknowledged that the electricity industry pays for flights and hotels to go to meetings of the International Commission on Radiological Protection, and for overseas members visiting Japan.

He denied that the funding influences his science, and stressed that he stands behind his view that continuing radiation worries about Fukushima are overblown.

“Those who evacuated just want to believe in the dangers of radiation to justify the action they took,” Niwa told the AP in an interview.

The official stance of the International Commission on Radiological Protection is that the health risks from radiation become zero only with zero exposure. But some of the eight Japanese ICRP members do not subscribe to that view, asserting that low dose radiation is harmless or the risks are negligible.

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December 6, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Proliferation Warnings On Nuclear ‘Wonder-Fuel’, Thorium

“Small-scale chemical reprocessing of irradiated thorium can create an isotope of uranium — uranium-233 — that could be used in nuclear weapons. If nothing else, this raises a serious proliferation concern.”

 

ScienceDaily (Dec. 5, 2012) —

Thorium is being touted as an ideal fuel for a new generation of nuclear power plants, but in a piece in this week’s Nature, researchers suggest it may not be as benign as portrayed.

The element thorium, which many regard as a potential nuclear “wonder-fuel,” could be a greater proliferation threat than previously thought, scientists have warned.

Writing in a Comment piece in the new issue of thejournalNature,nuclear energy specialists from four British universities suggest that, although thorium has been promoted as a superior fuel for future nuclear energy generation, it should not be regarded as inherently proliferation resistant. The piece highlights ways in which small quantities of uranium-233, a material useable in nuclear weapons, could be produced covertly from thorium, by chemically separating another isotope, protactinium-233, during its formation.

The chemical processes that are needed for protactinium separation could possibly be undertaken using standard lab equipment, potentially allowing it to happen in secret, and beyond the oversight of organisations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the paper says.

The authors note that, from previous experiments to separate protactinium-233, it is feasible that just 1.6 tonnes of thorium metal would be enough to produce 8kg of uranium-233 which is the minimum amount required for a nuclear weapon. Using the process identified in their paper, they add that this could be done “in less than a year.”

“Thorium certainly has benefits, but we think that the public debate regarding its proliferation-resistance so far has been too one-sided,” Dr Steve Ashley, from the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge and the paper’s lead author, said.

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December 6, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

France committed to problem-hit nuclear reactor: Jean-Marc Ayrault

6th December 2012

AFP

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Thursday that the French government remains committed to finishing a new-generation nuclear reactor despite further cost overruns.

“The construction will continue right to the end,” Ayrault said on RTL (Berlin: R8L.BE – news) radio. “There are difficulties but I think we have to accept that because it is necessary.”

French energy group EDF (Paris: FR0010242511 – news) on Monday raised the total cost of its long-delayed new-generation nuclear reactor at Flamanville in western France by 2 billion euros ($2.6 billion) to 8.5 billion.

The cost of the facility, slated to begin operations in 2016, is now 5 billion euros more than initially estimated.

Built by Areva (Berlin: A9R.BE – news) and due to be operated by EDF, Flamanville is one of four European Pressurised Reactor projects in the world, including another much-delayed one planned in Finland, whose production date has been delayed indefinitely.

Two other EPR reactors are being built in Taishan in southeastern China.

Ayrault said that as Flamanville is one of the first EPR reactors to be built additional precautions have needed to be taken and the delays have been pushing up the cost.

He noted that safety standards are now higher and that the reactor was being designed to last 60 years, which also implied higher construction costs.

Ayrault also noted that the reactor had its opponents, including from the Greens inside the Socialist-led government, but said “this reactor will be the safest in the world.”

http://uk.finance.yahoo.com/news/france-committed-problem-hit-nuclear-104941565.html

December 6, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

India -SC reserves order on Kudankulam nuclear plant -Not safe, not secure!

Press Trust of India / New Delhi December 06, 2012, 16:25

The Supreme Court today reserved its order on a plea seeking a stay on commissioning of the Kudankulam nuclear plant till all safety measures are put in place.

Following a marathon arguments spanning the last three months, a bench of justices K S Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra reserved its order on the plea that questioned the safety and security of people, the environmental impact and other issues linked to the controversial plant.

The court was hearing a bunch of petition filed by anti-nuclear activists challenging the project on the ground that safety measures recommended for the plant by an expert body has not been put in place. They also raised various questions pertaining to the disposal of nuclear waste and the plant’s impact on environment.

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December 6, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment