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Nuclear accidents make mutant bugs and birds

Biologist Timothy Mousseau has spent years collecting mutant bugs, birds and mice around Chernobyl and Fukushima. In a DW interview, he shares some surprising insights into the effects of nuclear accidents on wildlife.

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DW: Professor Timothy Mousseau, did you collect these mutant firebugs [pictured at the top of the page]?

Timothy Mousseau: Yes, the firebugs are really an eye-opener. My research partner Anders Moller and I were visiting Chernobyl on April 26, 2011. We were wandering around Pripyat collecting flowers, to study their pollen, when Anders reached down to the ground and pulled up this little bug with red and black markings. He said: “Tim, look, it’s a mutant – it’s missing an eye spot!”

From then on we started collecting these little bugs in each place we visited, from the most contaminated parts of the Red Forest to relatively clean areas in abandoned villages. Eventually we had several hundred of these little critters. It was very obvious that deformed patterns were much more prevalent in areas of high contamination.

This is just one of many similar anecdotes about the deformed critters of Chernobyl. Literally every rock we turn over, we find a signal of the mutagenic properties of the radiation in the region.

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A pair of great tit birds collected near Chernobyl – left is normal, the individual on the right has a facial tumor

Is there a threshold of radiation below which there’s no effect?

The impact of radiation on rates of mutation, cancer and mortality varies a good deal by species. But statistically, there’s a simple relationship with dose. Small dose, small effect; big dose, big effect. There doesn’t appear to be a threshold below which there’s no effect.

Interestingly, organisms living in nature are much more sensitive to radiation than lab animals – comparing mice raised in labs and mice in the wild, exposed to identical levels of ionizing radiation, the mortality rate among wild mice is eight or 10 times that of lab mice. It’s because lab animals are protected from most stressors – like cold or hunger.

Are plants and trees affected too?

Yes, we’ve collected a lot of deformed pollen. Seen a lot of deformed trees, too. Pines often show growth-form abnormalities, even in normal areas with no radionucleotide contamination. Sometimes it’s an insect infestation, sometimes a hard freeze at the wrong time – you can find such anomalies anywhere.

But in contaminated areas of Ukraine, we have a correlation between frequency of abnormality and the Chernobyl event. It’s pretty strong evidence. There was a recent paper showing a very similar phenomenon in Fukushima. The trees there are very young, but will likely also be twisted up in knots 30 years from now!

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Mousseau’s field crew collecting pollen and insect samples on the left, with the Chernobyl reactor in the distance. Right, a mutant pine tree at Chernobyl

What are the long-term effects of radiation on animal or plant species in contaminated areas? They’ve had their genomes altered. Will mutants persist?

Well, in the long run, no. The thing is, some background rate of mutations happens constantly in every species, even in uncontaminated areas – albeit at a much lower rate than in areas contaminated by nuclear accidents. So most genetic variants have been tried already. The great majority are either neutral or slightly deleterious. If a mutation had any benefit to offer, it would already be there in the population.

So the long-term effect of nuclear accidents on biodiversity is … none?

Yes, that’s right. Over evolutionary time, we expect that populations will return to normal after the mutagen disappears. Radionucleotides decay, hot sites eventually cool down, mutations become less frequent again, and healthy animal and plant populations recolonize the sites. So the genetic status quo ante returns – except if mutations have occurred that permanently enhance fitness, but that’s very rare.

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Mousseau (left) and colleague Anders Moller recording measurements in the field at Chernobyl

Some mutations might persist for a while if they’re adaptive during the hot phase. For example, there’s selection for animals whose cells produce a higher antioxidant load, which makes them more resistant to the effects of ionizing radiation. But that protection comes at a metabolic cost. After radiation levels die down, those variants will be selected back out of the population.

Where things get complicated is when the harmful mutations are recessive, that is, when it takes two copies [one for each chromosome] for the expression of the mutation. Many mutations fall into this category. They can accumulate in populations because they’re not expressed until two copies come into the same individual [one from the mother, the other from the father].

Because of this, populations can be affected by such mutations for many generations even after the mutagen is removed, and also, via dispersal, in populations that were never affected by the mutagen.

How can radioactive contamination interact with other problems that affect ecosystems, like habitat loss or climate change?

Certainly climate change is an additional stressor that is likely to interact with radiation to affect populations. We have demonstrated that while swallows in most places have moved their breeding dates forward in response to warming, in the Chernobyl area they are actually delayed. We hypothesize that this is due to the stress from the radioactive contaminants.

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The Red Forest near Chernobyl in Ukraine presents a high risk of fire, as a lack of bacteria prevents the trees from decaying

The biggest fear at present is related to the observation of hotter and drier summers in Ukraine, and the resulting increase in number and size of forest fires. Last summer there were three large fires, and one of them burned through some very contaminated areas.

We have predicted that such events could pose a significant threat to both human populations and the environment via re-suspension and deposition of radionuclides in the leaf litter and plant biomass.

In addition to the threat of catastrophic wildfire spreading nuclear contamination, birds and mammals also move around. Do they absorb radioactive elements in their food and water in contaminated sites, carry them elsewhere, thus dispersing the contamination more widely?

Do animals move radionuclides? Yes! I did a study years ago that showed very significant amounts of radionuclides are exported every year by birds. But it seems unlikely that the amount is enough to cause measurable health effects – unless you’re eating the birds. It is known that some people living outside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone are getting very significant doses from hunting the contaminated wild boar that leave the zone.

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Mouse with cataract collected near Chernobyl – the more radioactive the site, the higher the frequency of defects

This year marks five years since the Fukushima accident, and 30 years since Chernobyl. How long will the contaminated zones around Chernobyl and Fukushima be mutagenic and dangerous?

Chernobyl was a nuclear fire and ongoing fission event for 10 days, with strontium, uranium and plutonium isotopes strewn into the landscape. They have long half-lives, so many areas will remain hazardous for centuries, even thousands of years.

Fukushima was largely a cesium event, and cesium radionucleotides have a relatively short half-life. The area will mostly naturally decontaminate itself within decades, at most within a couple hundred years.

Timothy Mousseau is a professor of biological sciences at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina. He is one of the world’s leading experts on the effects of radionucleotide contamination from nuclear accidents on wild bird, insect, rodent, and plant populations.

Interview: Nils Zimmermann

http://www.dw.com/en/nuclear-accidents-make-mutant-bugs-and-birds/a-19098683?maca=en-Facebook-sharing

March 18, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

March 18 Energy News

geoharvey

Opinion:

So … was that climate change? • While the broad trends of climate change, and our role in causing it by burning fossil fuels, have been clear for decades, it was not possible until recently to tie a specific storm, drought, flood or heat wave to long-term warming trends. Thankfully, that’s changing. [CNN]

Waterspout off the Florida Keys. Photo by Dr. Joseph Golden, NOAA. US Government image. Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons. Waterspout off the Florida Keys. Photo by Dr. Joseph Golden, NOAA. US Government image. Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons.

How Cheap Oil Is Accelerating Investment In Sustainable
Energy
• An increasingly unprofitable global oil market is discouraging its own investors. Cheap oil no longer foretells disaster for renewable energy companies because investors want opportunities for growth. [CleanTechnica]

Science and Technology:

¶ February smashed the previous record for the warmest February and even became the warmest month ever compared to average, according to NOAA. February temperatures averaged 1.21° C (2.18° F)…

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March 18, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Nazi Gold: The Merkers Mine Treasure and the Planned Dumping of German Nuclear Waste on America

Mining Awareness +

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act“. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German Lutheran theologian and pastor become Anti-Nazi dissident and hung by the Nazis on April 9, 1945.
These are a few of the thousands of wedding rings the Germans removed from their victims in order to salvage the gold. U.S. First Army troops found these rings, with watches, precious stones, eyeglasses, and gold teeth fillings, in a cave adjoining the Buchenwald concentration camp near Weimar, Germany. 5/5/45.Gold rings of Nazi victims

The Schutzstaffeln’s (SS) Office for Economy and Administration, which operated the concentration camps, also wanted their loot held by the Reichsbank to be sent to Merkers for safekeeping. From August 26, 1942, until January 27, 1945, the SS made seventy-six deliveries to the Reichsbank of property seized from concentration camp victims. This stolen property was…

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March 18, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Judges clad in protective gear inspect evacuated areas in Fukushima for on-site evidence in class action suit

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Judge Hideki Kanazawa, third from right in the front row, walks through an area evacuated due to radiation while wearing protective clothing, near the homes of plaintiffs in a lawsuit over the nuclear disaster, in Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, on March 17, 2016.

FUKUSHIMA–Fukushima District Court judges inspected the houses of three evacuated plaintiffs on March 17 in connection with a lawsuit filed against the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. over the nuclear disaster.

It marked the first visit by judges to evacuation zones regarding litigation concerning the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which was caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

Called “Nariwai Sosho” (livelihood suit), the lawsuit has about 4,000 plaintiffs seeking consolation money and the restoration of their former lives that were lost because of the nuclear accident.

What was gleaned from the on-site inspections will be used as evidence in the trial.

The plaintiffs had called for the judges to visit the affected sites and hear their explanations to assess the scope of damage of the nuclear disaster.

The inspections involving about 50 people, which were closed to the media, started at 10:45 a.m. and ended around 4:30 p.m.

Three judges, including Presiding Judge Hideki Kanazawa, first visited the home of Sadatoshi Sato, a 68-year-old who raised livestock before the disaster, in Namie.

Other plaintiffs, government officials and TEPCO representatives accompanied the judges. All participants wore white protective suits and masks.

At Sato’s home, the judges viewed empty cattle sheds. Sato had been raising about 150 cattle when the nuclear accident unfolded, but most of them starved to death while he was evacuating. Sato also took the judges to the site where the dead cattle were buried.

“I want the judges to give a thoughtful ruling so that the dead cattle would rest in peace,” Sato told reporters after the inspection.

The judges also visited the homes of 67-year-old Yuji Fukuda in Futaba and a woman in Tomioka who had been operating a piano school out of her house before the nuclear accident.

Fukuda’s house is in a difficult-to-return zone about 4 kilometers from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. He showed the judges his once-thriving garden. He also told them about a local store that is now desolate.

“I told the judges from the bottom of my heart that I am not the only one who has suffered,” Fukuda said. “I had wanted the judges to come sooner. But my hope has finally come true.”

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/recovery/AJ201603180055

Judges clad in protective gear visit Fukushima in class action suit

FUKUSHIMA — Judges from the Fukushima District Court donned protective gear to make an on-site visit on March 17 to towns evacuated due to high radiation levels, as they deliberate a class action lawsuit over the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Some 3,900 people who lived in Fukushima Prefecture and adjacent prefectures at the time of the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant have sued the government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. for compensation and a restoration of their hometowns to their pre-disaster state. According to lawyers for the plaintiffs, the March 17 visit is the first time that a court handling a lawsuit over the Fukushima disaster has made an on-site visit.

The visit consisted of around 50 people, including three judges and lawyers for both the plaintiffs and the defendants. They went to three evacuated towns, Futaba, Namie and Tomioka, where they looked inside the homes of plaintiffs, thrown into disorder by scavenging animals and full of strewn furniture and bad odors. They also walked by JR Futaba Station, now unmanned and silent.

Plaintiff Yuji Fukuda, 67, who evacuated from Futaba and is now living in the city of Iwaki, said after the visit, “The judges understood that we are continuing to suffer from being driven from our towns and having to leave our homes and properties unattended.”

At his cow barn, Sadatoshi Sato, 68, livestock farmer and plaintiff from Namie, explained to the judges how most of the around 150 cattle he kept had died from starvation after the town was evacuated.

The plaintiffs in the case are seeking 20 million yen in compensation each for 40 people who lived in areas that are under evacuation order. They are also seeking a reduction in radiation doses to pre-disaster levels, and payment of 50,000 yen per month to each plaintiff for the duration until this happens.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160318/p2a/00m/0na/003000c

 

March 18, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment

NRA criticizes Asahi story on radiation dose monitors

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This radiation dose monitoring post, installed about 21 kilometers from the Sendai nuclear power plant in Satsuma-Sendai, Kagoshima Prefecture, can only measure radiation doses up to 80 microsieverts per hour.

The head of the Nuclear Regulation Authority on March 16 criticized an Asahi Shimbun story on radiation dose monitors around the Sendai nuclear power plant, saying it is misleading to residents near nuclear facilities.

The NRA demanded that The Asahi Shimbun explain the news-gathering process that led to the March 14 story headlined, “Half of the radiation dose monitoring posts around the Sendai nuclear power plant cannot measure levels that serve as criteria for evacuation,” in the vernacular Asahi Shimbun.

“(The article) is criminal in the sense the content fanned unnecessary anxieties among municipalities hosting nuclear power plants and people living around them,” Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of NRA, said.

The article, carried in the morning edition, said 22 of the 48 monitoring posts installed in the area between 5 kilometers and 30 km from the Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture can only measure radiation doses up to 80 microsieverts per hour. That means these posts are incapable of measuring doses of 500 microsieverts per hour, the criterion for judgments on issuing evacuation orders to residents immediately after a nuclear accident.

“It is not a problem that only half of the monitoring posts can measure (500 microsieverts) and the other half cannot do so,” Tanaka said. “What is important is whether those monitoring posts are sufficient for us to judge (whether to order evacuations) through monitoring.”

On the evening of March 15, the NRA released a statement on its website, saying, “There is a possibility that (the article) will cause misunderstandings.”

The statement said monitoring posts that can accurately measure low radiation doses and monitoring posts that can measure high radiation doses are installed in combination, so the mechanism to judge whether to issue evacuation orders has been “put in place.”

The NRA statement also said, “We recognize that it is important to continuously enhance monitoring systems for emergencies.”

In addition, the NRA took issue with a comment from the nuclear watchdog that appeared in the article.

“Our staff never said what was written,” the NRA said.

It demanded that The Asahi Shimbun explain whether the comment was a fact.

The Asahi Shimbun carried the article to enhance local governments’ evacuation systems as much as possible.

“As for the article, (our reporters) interviewed NRA executives several times,” the newspaper said in a statement.

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Asahi’s stance on the issue

The Asahi Shimbun believed that, in the case of radiation doses rising sharply after an accident at a nuclear power plant, 500 microsieverts per hour will become an important barometer on whether to immediately evacuate residents living in the area between 5 km and 30 km from the plant.

Therefore, the newspaper focused on whether equipment that can measure 500 microsieverts per hour has been put in place.

After the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co., the government revised its guidelines to deal with nuclear disasters. The government decided that people living within a radius of 5 km from a nuclear plant would have to evacuate immediately if an accident occurs.

For people living in the area between 5 km and 30 km from the plant, the government decided that they would have to stay indoors, and a judgment would be made on whether to issue evacuation orders to them after checking the radiation doses measured by monitoring posts.

The government decided that if a level of 20 microsieverts per hour continues for an entire day, it will instruct those residents to evacuate within a week. However, if the radiation doses reach 500 microsieverts per hour, the government will instruct them to evacuate immediately.

This year, The Asahi Shimbun asked 21 prefectures that are obliged to compile evacuation measures for residents about the installation of monitoring posts in the area between 5 km and 30 km from a nuclear plant.

With the exception of Kagoshima Prefecture, where the Sendai nuclear plant is located, 20 prefectures have installed or plan to install monitoring posts that can measure up to 500 microsieverts per hour in all or most of the spots.

Prefectural government officials said that in the accident in Fukushima, the area of high radiation doses spread widely and that it is a matter of course that the monitoring posts can measure up to 500 microsieverts.

Others said that making it possible to measure up to 500 microsieverts will lead to relief and safety of the prefecture’s people.

Officials of prefectural governments have made such remarks because of the accident that occurred at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Radiation doses could differ drastically in spots that are several kilometers away.

In the initial stage of the Fukushima disaster, measuring radiation doses while moving in a car was inadequate due to a shortage of gasoline and other reasons.

In a complex disaster combined with an earthquake or other factors, there is a possibility that measuring equipment cannot be transported because of damage to roads.

The 48 monitoring posts that are installed in the area between 5 km and 30 km from the Sendai nuclear plant are positioned so that they can be used to make judgments on evacuations from each district.

As for the Sendai nuclear plant, an NRA official in charge of the issue revealed to The Asahi Shimbun this month that when the government “approved” the evacuation system around the plant in 2014, prior to the restarts of its reactors, a then division chief of the NRA strongly asked the Kagoshima prefectural government to expand its monitoring system.

As for the current situation of monitoring systems, the NRA is also looking into the installation and capabilities of monitoring posts around nuclear power plants throughout the country.

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201603170065

March 18, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Shocking health effects in Fukushima nuclear workers found under the official radiation dose limits

The First male Daichi nuclear site worker had an official total dose of 50mSv. “I suffered damages to kidneys, heart, etc. — all important organs in my body.” The second male Daichi nuclear s…

Source: Shocking health effects in Fukushima nuclear workers found under the official radiation dose limits

March 18, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Climate and Nuclear News 18 March

Christina Macpherson's websites & blogs

Christina Macpherson’s websites & blogs

CLIMATE and RENEWABLE ENERGY Renewable energy effective in stalling greenhouse gas emissions – International Energy Agency (IEA). New study shows how warm ocean currents affect Antarctic ice shelves. . Sea levels could rise to mind-boggling levels. Antarctic ice sheets melting: when will the tipping point be reached?

Climate action a winner for USA with clean energy and transport policies.  India’s massive bet on solar power is paying off.

The Importance Of The Nuclear Security Summit – five points.

UK and FRANCE France’s auditor brands Hinkley Point nuclear project as financially risky. EDF want French tax-payers’ financial aidfor UK Hinkley Point Nuclear Project.  UK Members of Parliament to question EDF executives about Hinkley nuclear project financing. New UK nuclear project Hinkley Point C – now a”dead duck”Political importance to world’s nuclear powers, of getting Hinkley project happening.

BELGIUM 30 major European cities and districts call for shutdown of aging Belgian nuclear reactors.

JAPAN. Fukushima fuel melted through containment vessels and is “spewing radiation”. Fukushima – too toxic for humans AND for robots.   The health toll of Fukushima nuclear disaster – especially workers and children. The workers of the Fukushima nuclear clean-up. Japan, US, France to team up on Fukushima clean-up: official.

After court ruling, things are grim for Japan’s nuclear industry.

USA. 

TAIWAN. Despite rain , thousands rally across Taiwan, against nuclear power.

SOUTH AFRICA. Seven key areas for concern in South Africa’s nuclear build plan.

INDIA.   Kakrapar Nuclear Plant Is Likely Undergoing A Loss-Of-Coolant Accident: Dr. A. Gopalakrishnan

March 18, 2016 Posted by | Christina's notes | Leave a comment

Renewable energy effective in stalling greenhouse gas emissions – International Energy Agency (IEA)

renewable-energy-world-Smtext-relevantSurge in renewable energy stalls world greenhouse gas emissions

Falling coal use in China and the US and a shift towards renewable energy globally saw energy emissions level for the second year running, says IEA, Guardian, , 17 Mar 16, Falling coal use in China and the US and a worldwide shift towards renewable energy have kept greenhouse gas emissions level for a second year running, one of the world’s leading energy analysts has said.

Preliminary data for 2015 from the International Energy Agency (IEA) showed that carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector have levelled off at 32.1bn tonnes even as the global economy grew over 3% .

Electricity generated by renewable sources played a critical role, having accounted for around 90% of new electricity generation in 2015. Wind power produced more than half of all new electricity generation, said the IEA.

The figures are significant because they prove to traditionally sceptical treasuries that it is possible to grow economies without increasing climate emissions.

“The new figures confirm last year’s surprising but welcome news: we now have seen two straight years of greenhouse gas emissions decoupling from economic growth. Coming just a few months after the landmark COP21 agreement in Paris, this is yet another boost to the global fight against climate changem” said IEA director, Fatih Birol.

The two largest emitters, China and the US, both reduced energy-related emmisions in 2015. In China, they declined 1.5%, as coal use dropped for the second year running and in the US they declined 2%, as a large switch from coal to natural gas use in electricity generation took place.

However, these declines were offset by increasing emissions in most other Asian developing economies and the Middle East, said the IEA…….

seperate report by the European Environment agency (EEA) shows that the EU-wide share of renewable energy has increased from 14.3% in 2012 to 15% in 2013. This allowed the EU to cut its demand for fossil fuels by 110m tonnes of oil equivalent in 2013. This, said the EEA, is the equivalent of a gross reduction of CO2 emissions of 362m tonnes in 2013. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/16/surge-in-renewable-energy-stalls-world-greenhouse-gas-emissions

March 18, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, renewable | 1 Comment

UK Members of Parliament to question EDF executives about Hinkley nuclear project financing

scrutiny-on-costsAREVA EDF crumblingEDF Energy to be grilled by MPs over Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant , City AM. 17 Mar 16 EDF Energy will be grilled by a group of MPs next week over the controversial Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant in Somerset.

EDF’s chief executive Vincent de Rivaz, and managing director of new nuclear build Humphrey Cadoux-Hudson, will appear before the energy and climate change select committee on Wednesday.

It comes as French economy minister Emmanuel Macron pledged fresh financing for the £18bn project during a visit to a nuclear power plant there today.

EDF has been forced to defend Hinkley after its chief financial officer Thomas Piquemal resigned over the huge costs. It subsequently sent a letter to employees reiterating confidence that the project will go ahead.

“The hearing will give EDF Energy an opportunity to answer the committee’s questions on the investment plans for a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C in Somerset,” it said in a statement today……..http://www.cityam.com/237033/edf-energy-to-be-grilled-by-mps-over-hinkley-point-c-nuclear-power-plant

March 18, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, France, UK | Leave a comment

Fukushima fuel melted through containment vessels and is “spewing radiation”

Reuters: Fukushima fuel melted through containment vessels and is “spewing radiation” — Nuke Expert: Fuel has “scattered all over the place” — Gov’t: Fuel may have burned out into environment — Tepco Official: Fuel could have flowed out “like lava in a volcano” (VIDEOS) http://enenews.com/tepco-official-admits-melted-fuel-flowed-like-volcanic-lava-nuclear-expert-melt-containment-vessel-fuel-scattered-all-place-reuters-fuel-melted-containment-spewing-radiation-guardian-fuel-be?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ENENews+%28Energy+News%29

Reuters, Mar 11, 2016 (emphasis added): Today, the radiation at the Fukushima plant is still so powerful it has proven impossible to get into its bowels to find and remove the extremely dangerous blobs of melted fuel rods, weighing hundreds of tonnes… The fuel rods melted through their containment vessels in the reactors, and no one knows exactly where they are now…  Tepco has been developing robots [to] negotiate obstacles in damaged tunnels and piping to search for the melted fuel rods.

Reuters, Mar 9, 2016: Five years on, melted fuel rods still spew radiation

DW, Mar 11, 2016: The melted nuclear fuel and the destroyed pressure vessel in the nuclear reactors 1 to 3 continue to be major problems… “So far, nobody knows what exactly happened in there and how to solve it,” [Heinz Smital, a nuclear physicist] told DW. “Until now, there is no solution to recover the melted fuel rods from the reactors.”

News Corp Australia, Mar 11, 2016: Today, the radiation at the Fukushima plant is still so powerful it is impossible to extract and remove deadly melted fuel rods…  [Tepco is] grappling with the fact that they don’t have the technology to find missing melted fuel rodsin three reactors at the plant. The rods melted through containment vessels in the reactors.

Guardian, Mar 11, 2016: [It’s] the most daunting task the nuclear industry has ever faced: removing hundreds of tons of melted fuel from the plant’s stricken reactors… something no nuclear operator has ever attempted… Of greatest concern, though, is reactor 1, where the fuel may have burned through the pressure vessel, fallen to the bottom of the containment vessel and into the concrete pedestal below – perhaps even outside it – according to a report by the International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning… Masuda and Tepco engineers who spoke to the Guardian conceded that they still didn’t know where the fuel is located. “To be honest, we don’t know exactly where the fuel is”… Masuda said… “No one has ever done what we’re doing”…

PBS Newshour, Mar 11, 2016 (at 35:15 in):

  • Miles O’Brien, PBS correspondent: What about the melted fuel in the reactor cores? They aren’t even sure where it all is.
  • Lake Barrett, Tepco advisor: Is it in one big vertical lump on the floor underneath it? Or did it come down and flow like lava in a volcano and move out to the sides? We don’t know yet… Nothing of this magnitude [i.e. the attempt to remove Fukushima’s melted fuel] has ever been done by mankind

Interview with nuclear engineer Hiroaki Koide (translation by Prof. Robert Stolz, transcription by Akiko Anson), published Mar 8, 2016: We simply do not know where the core is or in what state it is… [The government and TEPCO] are convinced that the melted core fell through the bottom of the pressure vessel and now lie at the bottom of the containment vessel―basically piling up like nuggets of the melted core [See Lake Barrett’s statement above]. There’s no way this would be the case. (Laughs)… It should have been scattered all over the place… Though the containment vessel is made of steel, if the melted core has come in contact with that steel, just as it ate through the floor of the pressure vessel, it could possibly have melted through the containment vessel… There are situations in which the containment vessel can suffer a melt-throughI think this likely has already happened.

Watch: PBS Newshour | Reuters

March 18, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | 1 Comment

30 major European cities and districts call for shutdown of aging Belgian nuclear reactors

nukes-sad-Shut old nuclear reactors, says unprecedented alliance of EU cities
Communities and campaigners in Germany, the Netherlands and Luxembourg lobby for closure of two ageing 40-year old Belgian nuclear reactors close to borders,
Guardian,  17 Mar 16, An unprecedented alliance of 30 major cities and districts from three countries has joined forces to try to shut down two ageing Belgian nuclear reactors close to their borders.

Cologne and Dusseldorf in Germany, Luxembourg City and Maastricht in theNetherlands are among the cities co-funding a lawsuit to close one reactor – Tihange 2 – and calling on the European commission to prepare a separate case at the European court of justice.

“More than 30 districts have adopted resolutions to support us, and want to join the lawsuit,” said Helmut Echtenberg, the mayor of Germany’s Greater Aachen region, who is leading the campaign.

Only one plaintiff may appear in court, “but we will ensure that Tihange 2 is no longer connected to the grid in the future,“ Echtenberg said. “This is my honest conviction.”…….

The 40-year old reactors have been plagued by a litany of problems such as reactor pressure vessel micro-cracks, fire and one mysterious case of sabotage.

These have sparked what Echtenberg calls “existential fear” in Aachen, which lies 60km upwind of the plant. Anxiety is rife that house prices and business activity could soon suffer.

Anti-nuclear posters festoon the shops in Aachen town centre, stickers adorn car windows and stories about Tihange are regularly splashed across local papers.

Hartmut Falter, the owner of Aachen’s oldest bookstore, Die Mayersche, has put up a 10m x 3m anti-nuclear poster in his storefront. “The risk of a nuclear accident is not very high but if it happened, the damage would be extreme,” he told the Guardian. “Unfortunately, nuclear dangers do not stop at the frontier.”…….

Last week, it was announced that France’s oldest reactor in Fessenheim, on the German border, would close after complaints by Germany and Switzerland.

Lawyers are already working on a second nuclear lawsuit, which may be filed in Belgium by the Dutch city of Maastricht. The regional governments of North Rhine Westphalia and Rhineland Palatinate are taking separate cases against the reactors to the UN and European commission…….. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/17/shut-old-nuclear-reactors-says-unprecedented-alliance-of-eu-cities

March 18, 2016 Posted by | EUROPE, opposition to nuclear | Leave a comment

After court ruling, things are grim for Japan’s nuclear industry

judge-1flag-japanJapan’s nuclear energy policy remains in disarray after court ruling http://asia.nikkei.com/magazine/20160317-THE-LAST-MILE/Politics-Economy/Japan-s-nuclear-energy-policy-remains-in-disarray-after-court-ruling

NAOKI ASANUMA, Nikkei staff writer, Tokyo 17 Mar 16, Five years after the devastating earthquake and tsunami that caused reactors to melt down at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant, Japan’s nuclear energy policy remains in disarray. On March 9, the Otsu District Court in Shiga Prefecture ordered Kansai Electric Power to halt the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at its Takahama nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture, after taking issue with the power company’s safety protocols regarding earthquakes and tsunamis. The order is the first of its kind suspending the operation of a reactor in service in Japan and has raised questions about who among the many stakeholders — utilities, the central government, local authorities, regulators, residents and courts — has the power to start or stop them.

       The decision appeared to repudiate safety regulations born out of an exhaustive debate among experts, as well as inspections at the Takahama plant that lasted more than two years. Kansai Electric now assumes the strongest earthquake that could hit Takahama would produce a ground acceleration of 700 gal, or galileo units, up from its previous assessment of 550 gal. But that failed to satisfy the court, which held that investigations of active fault lines and other safety aspects were not thorough enough. The ruling also rejected the utility’s argument that it had taken tsunami risks under careful consideration.

Kansai Electric shut down the No. 3 reactor the day after the court order, leaving Japan with only two reactors in operation — the No. 1 and No. 2 units at Kyushu Electric Power’s Sendai plant, in Kagoshima Prefecture. The No. 4 reactor at Takahama was already shut down due to problems that occurred soon after it was reactivated in February.

Prior to the ruling, the restart of nuclear reactors had followed a formula of sorts: A power company receives the nod from the Nuclear Regulation Authority after examinations based on the regulator’s new safety standards. The central government then helps local governments of areas within a 30km radius of the plant prepare evacuation plans. After the local governments give their consent, the reactor is then fired up. The formula was upset, however, by 29 Shiga residents living outside the 30km radius, who asked the Otsu court for an injunction.

In handing down its ruling, the court said efforts by Kansai Electric and the Nuclear Regulation Authority to understand the causes of the Fukushima meltdown were insufficient.

“Japan has learned nothing from the Fukushima accident,” said Yotaro Hatamura, professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, who served as chairman of a government-appointed committee to investigate the disaster. “The reactivation [of reactors] represents nothing but irresponsibility.”

While the Strategic Energy Plan worked out by the government in 2014 calls for reducing reliance on nuclear power “as much as possible,” it positions nuclear energy as an “important baseload power source.” But with lawsuits demanding the suspension of nuclear plants and petitions seeking provisional halts proliferating, a new question in the wake of the Otsu ruling is whether nuclear plants can serve that purpose, given that they may suddenly cease to operate.

The “best mix” of energy sources for 2030, projected by the government last year, puts the ratio of nuclear power at 20% to 22%. Former Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yoichi Miyazawa said Japan “needs to operate some 35 reactors,” suggesting the difficulty of achieving the target. In a survey by The Nikkei, 60% of people said the reactivation of nuclear power plants should not be promoted.

At the Fukushima plant itself, officials cite progress with the cleanup work.

March 18, 2016 Posted by | Japan, Legal | Leave a comment

Nuclear risks don’t go away: future for UK nuclear is bleak

Pro-nuclear governments try to shield the nuclear operator from these risks, if possible. They protect the nuclear operator from lawsuits (reducing insurance costs). They guarantee debt (reducing interest
text-my-money-2costs). In the U.S. they tend to pass on unexpected (but prudently incurred) costs to the consumer.

That leads to our second point: these measures do not reduce risk, they just shift it. The risk never goes away. The government and consumer now bear part of it. But consumers do not take out nuclear risk policies with semi-annual payments. They do not see the cost so it doesn’t exist for them until the electricity bill goes up. In the same way, government can deny the costs of acting as an insurer of last resort because no line item appears in the budget to cover the costs until an accident happens (that’s the way a Congressional staffer explained it once at a meeting on the future of nuclear power).

flag-UK5 years after Fukushima: Nuclear power prospects dim http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/markets/2016/03/15/5-years-after-fukushima-nuclear-power-prospects-dim/81553524/ Leonard Hyman and William Tilles, Oilprice.com March 15, 2016 Five years after a devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident at Fukushima that killed thousands and displaced many more, the Japanese are still cleaning up, people still cannot return to their homes and, possibly the least important statistic, Tokyo Electric Power’s shares sell at one quarter of the pre-accident price.

Roughly five years ago, the British government and French utility EDF began a process to build another nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point, an investment still awaiting the approval of EDF’s board. As odd as it seems, the tragic disaster and botched business deal have a common thread (other than the fact that EDF shares sell at one-third of their 2011 price): the role of government in nuclear power. Continue reading

March 18, 2016 Posted by | politics, UK | Leave a comment

South Australian Aborigines strongly resist plans for international nuclear waste importing

18 Mar 16 Traditional Owners and members of the Aboriginal-led Australian Nuclear Free Alliance (ANFA) have today reaffirmed their opposition to the suggestion that South Australia should host a high level international nuclear waste dump. This announcement comes as the submission period closes for comments on the tentative findings of South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission

A major recommendation of the Commission to date has been that South Australia could host an international waste storage and disposal facility. This suggestion is strongly rejected by Aboriginal people across the state because of the risks posed to country and culture. Several Aboriginal communities throughout South Australia live with the negative impacts of the nuclear industry through uranium mining and nuclear weapons testing and are committed to resisting any further nuclear proposals.

“We have long memories; we remember the atomic weapons tests at Maralinga and Emu Fields and the ongoing denial around the lost lives and health impacts for Aboriginal people. We don’t want any nuclear projects here in South Australia and we won’t become the world’s nuclear waste dump,” said Arabunna elder and Australian Nuclear Free Alliance president Kevin Buzzacott.

Diagram SA Nuclear Fuel Cycle

Enice Marsh, senior Adnyamathanha woman and Australian Nuclear Free Alliance member said:
“Any kind of radioactive waste dump would put our groundwater at risk. Groundwater is about survival; we don’t want to be faced with another huge risk like this.”

Sue Coleman-Haseldine is a Kokatha-Mula woman and co-chair of the Australian Nuclear Free Alliance. She has recently travelled to Vienna to share her family’s experience with the nuclear industry: “They’ve poisoned us once and there’s no way in the world they’re going to do it again.”

“This problem doesn’t stop at South Australia’s border, there is nowhere that should be designated an international waste dump,” Ms Coleman-Haseldine concluded.

March 18, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, indigenous issues, wastes | Leave a comment

US official criticizes E Asia plans for nuclear reprocessing

    http://news.yahoo.com/us-official-criticizes-e-asia-plans-nuclear-reprocessing-200240679.html By MATTHEW PENNINGTON, 18 Mar 16  WASHINGTON (AP) — A senior U.S. official has come out strongly against major powers in East Asia pursuing nuclear reprocessing that nonproliferation experts warn could lead to spiraling quantities of weapons-usable material in a tense region.

Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Countryman told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Thursday that the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel “has little if any economic justification” and raises concerns about nuclear security and nonproliferation.

The committee’s chairman, Republican Sen. Bob Corker, accused the Obama administration of encouraging the production of plutonium, after it eased restrictions on civilian nuclear cooperation with China to allow the reprocessing of fuel from U.S.-designed reactors for nonmilitary purposes.

The U.S. has a similar arrangement with its close ally Japan. It has deferred a decision on giving similar consent to South Korea.

March 18, 2016 Posted by | general | Leave a comment