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Nuclear power leaves a terrible legacy of radioactive trash – new book

text-relevantThe Legacy of Nuclear Power,This fascinating short article on four nuclear communities tellingly demonstrates why radioactive waste is a moral issue and explains what the priorities for its management should be.   Routledge, By Andy Blowers. 7 Oct 16 


1. Hanford, USA

Scattered across a vast site in Washington state in America’s North West is Hanford, one of the most contaminated places in the world. During the war Hanford was the scene of frenzied activity as the chosen location for the manufacture of the plutonium for the ‘Fat Man’ nuclear weapon that devastated Nagasaki on 9 August, 1945. In the subsequent Cold War, Hanford’s nuclear activities expanded comprising eight nuclear reactors along the banks of the Columbia River, the sinister looking reprocessing ‘canyons’ in the middle of the reservation and a variety of production and experimental facilities scattered around its fringes. Production at Hanford has ceased but a vast nuclear legacy remains especially in the tank farms containing high-level liquid waste and sludge, some leaking towards the Columbia, in the abandoned reactors and decommissioned reprocessing works and in waste management facilities and clean-up projects. Cleaning up the legacy is a long-term, costly ($2billion federal funding a year), intractable and complex task but it is an inescapable one.

2. Sellafield, UK

Sellafield, the heart of the UK’s plutonium economy, is in a stage of transition from production to clean-up. Like Hanford, Sellafield’s nuclear legacy stretches back to the early days of the military nuclear programme when little attention was paid to the wastes. Unlike Hanford, the Sellafield site is very compact, a mere 2 sq. km., but crammed on to it is around two-thirds of all the radioactivity from the UK’s nuclear programme. The legacy comprises all the country’s high level wastes, most of the spent fuel, a stockpile of around 140 tonnes of plutonium and complex streams of wastes. Hemmed in within a complex of buildings, many of them redundant, are large grey anonymous structures containing often unrecorded mixtures of fuel, skips and other highly radioactive debris tipped into the notorious ponds and silos which pose what has been called an ‘intolerable risk’ to the public and the environment. Cleaning up this legacy is a task that stretches decades ahead absorbing around £1.7 billion from the government a year.

3. La Hague, France 

In France, where three-quarters of the country’s electricity is produced by its 58 reactors, the nuclear industry is mainly focused around the reprocessing facilities at La Hague at the tip of the Cotentin peninsula in Normandy. At this remote location spent fuel is reprocessed for recycling in the form of mixed oxide fuel (MOX) or vitrified and stored pending disposal. After much searching, an underground laboratory has been developed in eastern France at Bure, a nuclear no-man’s land, stealthily and steadily becoming established as the country’s nuclear disposal site, but still a long way off. Meanwhile, the French nuclear legacy continues to accumulate at power stations soon to be decommissioned, at La Hague and other sites of reprocessing and experimental reactors.

4. Gorleben, Germany

In Germany there has been fierce resistance for more than three decades to the prospect of shipping casks of highly radioactive wastes across the country to Gorleben in the middle of the country. The casks are sent to an interim store for possible burial in a neighbouring excavated salt mine. Gorleben has played both a symbolic and political role in bringing down the German nuclear industry. The symbols of protest festoon the countryside. There are the ubiquitous wooden yellow crosses on farms and villages, the bright orange sun on a green background displayed on posters and flags proclaiming the ‘Free Republic of Wendland’ and the slogan ‘Stop CASTOR’ (the soubriquet for the flasks) daubed on walls and electricity sub-stations. These gave identity to this fiercely independent land of forest, heath and waterlands close by the River Elbe. Drawing on this real and invented cultural legacy, the Gorleben movement became an inspiration for the wider German anti-nuclear protest.

Places on the Periphery

These four places, Hanford, Sellafield, La Hague/Bure and Gorleben with their different histories exemplify and explain the physical imprint and social conditions that are the continuing legacy of nuclear power. They constitute what may be defined as peripheral communities, places where hazardous activities are located and which are, as it were, physically and socially set apart from the mainstream. They tend to be geographically remote. They may be located at the edge whether of a country, as at La Hague, in relatively inaccessible sub-regions as at Sellafield or in areas of sparse population as Hanford was before the war and as Bure is today. They may be areas with a distinctive (real or invented) cultural identity or isolation like Gorleben, in the self-declared Wendland once on the border with Eastern Germany. Peripheral communities tend also to be economically marginal, monocultural and dependent on government investment and subsidy or state owned companies………..

October 8, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Reference, wastes | Leave a comment

Why is there a media and politics blackout on climate change, in the USA election campaign?

climate-changeUSA election 2016What About the Planet?,NYT   OCT. 7, 2016 Our two major political parties are at odds on many issues, but nowhere is the gap bigger or more consequential than on climate.

October 8, 2016 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

USA needs to be prepared for nuclear terrorism

Preparing the country for nuclear terrorism   JEROME M. HAUER Jerome M. Hauer has served in cabinet-level positions at the local and state level and as an acting assistant secretary for the Office of Public Health Emergency Preparedness at the US Department…

The candidates for president of the United States continue to discuss preventing nuclear proliferation and the threat of nuclear terrorism, yet we hear little about how well prepared the nation is to manage the aftermath of terrorist use of an improvised nuclear device. Some may think the notion of such an attack is apocryphal. So allow me to explain just how likely such a possibility is, how devastating the result of such a detonation would be, and—in particular—just how poorly prepared the United States is to respond.

In 2005, Kofi Annan, former secretary general of the United Nations, said, “Nuclear terrorism is still often treated as science fiction. I wish it were. But unfortunately we live in a world of excess hazardous materials and abundant technological know-how, in which some terrorists clearly state their intention to inflict catastrophic casualties. Were such an attack to occur, it would not only cause widespread death and destruction, but would stagger the world economy … [creating] a second death toll throughout the developing world.

In 2007, US Sen. John McCain was quoted as saying, “My greatest fear is the Iranians acquire a nuclear weapon or North Korea and pass enough highly enriched uranium (HEU) to a terrorist organization. And there is a real threat of them doing that. Just 55 kilograms, roughly 122 pounds of HEU, can be used to make a 10 kiloton IND, similar to the bomb dropped over Hiroshima.”

In 2005, Graham Allison, director of Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, asked, “Is nuclear mega-terrorism inevitable? Harvard professors are not known for being subtle or ambiguous, but I’ll try to the clear. Is the worst yet to come? My answer: Bet on it. Yes.

Matthew Bunn, also at the Belfer Center, argued in 2007, “Theft of the essential ingredients of nuclear weapons is not just a hypothetical worry, it is an ongoing reality.”

Nuclear physicist Frank Barnaby has been quoted as saying “The really frightening thing about HEU is that it is so easy to make an atom bomb out of it. You only need a couple of PhD students and a small amount of material. I think we should be very frightened about the possibility of nuclear terrorism; I’m surprised it hasn’t happened yet.”

The aftermath of a detonation of a relatively small improvised nuclear device—one that is roughly the yield of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima—in a US city would be almost unimaginably gruesome. In New York City, for example, most buildings within one quarter of a mile would be destroyed. Some 300,000 to 400,000 people would be killed instantly, with several hundred thousand more requiring various levels of medical care. Electrical and communications systems would be severely damaged, at best. And medical and other responders would face radiation dangers and a host of other problems.

In a search of both media and scholarly literature, however, I was able to find only one mention of US preparedness for nuclear terror. “The United States is unprepared to mitigate the consequences of a nuclear attack,” Pentagon analyst John Brinkerhoff wrote in a July 2005 confidential memo to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “We were unable to find any group or office with a coherent approach to this very important aspect of homeland security.”

Several federal agencies have been aggressively working to address this deficit. The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response has made significant strides in medical and public health preparedness. But much more work needs to be done across the federal behemoth.

After spending untold millions of dollars since its establishment, the Department of Homeland Security—the umbrella agency in which the Federal Emergency Management Agency resides—still does not have adequate radiation detection technology for use in the aftermath of a nuclear detonation and confuses local responders with inconsistent units of measure for radiation emitted by various nuclear isotopes. In Homeland Security advisories to first responders, the terms REM, rad, Sieverts and Gray are thrown about as if interchangeable. They’re not, and knowing the difference is important if responders are to feel and be safe in the aftermath of a nuclear blast.

Because there is such a clear history of concern about the threat of nuclear terrorism, the presidential candidates must cross the bridge from merely accepting the possibility of an attack with an improvised nuclear device, to planning an effective response that reduces the mass morbidity and mortality such an attack inevitably will cause—and then leads beyond the attack, toward recovery.

The road to preparedness. The detonation of a Hiroshima-yield improvised nuclear device in New York would level or significantly damage a significant portion of the city and instantaneously kill and maim hundreds of thousands of people. Trauma, burns, and radiation damage to organ systems are just some of the injuries that would place extraordinary demands on health care systems. In most multi-casualty incidents, there are one or two triage points where victims are taken for assessment and routing to treatment. Following a nuclear detonation in a major city, there could be need of 25 to 75 such triage points—or more—because of the vast geographical footprint of the detonation and the number of victims involved. Coordination will be difficult; much of the communication infrastructure will be demolished or rendered unusable. Moving patients to definitive care will be a monumental task and deciding which patients are triaged for medical care and which are triaged to receive end-of-life services will vary by triage point.

C. Norman Coleman and colleagues at the Department of Health and Human Services have developed criteria for establishing a triage network in the event of a nuclear explosion, but training for emergency physicians and pre-hospital care providers has not been integrated into the fabric of primary or continuing education for those responders.

Finally, studies—including research I conducted in 2012— have shown that between 30 and 50 percent of critical personnel will not be present at or be unable to travel to work in the aftermath of a nuclear detonation. Many of those non-responding responders will want to be with their families; others will fear the personal health threat of radiation.

This dismal picture of US preparation for an incident of nuclear terrorism could be improved with strong leadership at the White House, particularly from the homeland security advisor to the president. The following areas need support, both in terms of funding and in developing uniform plans for managing a nuclear incident in a major city:

  • Threat-based funding is important. We no longer have the luxury of giving money to buy toys—aka equipment that is unlikely to be used—to smaller cities and rural counties. Walla Walla, Washington is a lot less likely to be attacked with an improvised nuclear device than Washington, DC. But hundreds of millions of dollars have been wasted on inappropriate terrorism-response “toys” for small governments that will likely never use them. A robust, mobile medical infrastructure needs to be created—one that is capable of handling tens of thousands of patients at once. The Department of Defense will be central to any response plan developed by Health and Human Services; the White House should make certain they are cooperating on that plan—starting yesterday.
  • The president should request and Congress should approve additional funding for communication systems that don’t rely on the local infrastructure likely to be destroyed or heavily damaged in a nuclear terror attack. Satellite-based operability would meet the need, making a seamless transition to undamaged communication channels available in high-threat cities. Competition as to which cities are included in such a system needs to be transparent, and political gamesmanship must be discouraged. The communications issue is too central to any effective response to delay it through influence peddling.
  • HHS funding should be increased to accelerate research on medical countermeasures for acute radiation sickness. Such research is being conducted, but at an insufficient scale, given to potential for mass death that an improvised nuclear device poses. This research program should be the new Manhattan Project.
  • A commission that includes the best minds in radiation, emergency medicine, emergency medical services, the fire service, law enforcement, the Defense Department, HHS, radiation medicine, and high target states and cities should be formed to address the gaps in response plans for a nuclear detonation. That commission should finalize a report to the new president in 180 days. There is no room for delay.The report should suggest the funding required to close each gap.
  • A federal government structure for responding to an improvised nuclear device detonation in a major city should be completed within one year in the new administration.

I realize that the program I’ve suggested is daunting. But it’s absolutely not an insurmountable goal. Millions of lives depend on it. What is more important to an incoming administration than saving millions of lives?

October 8, 2016 Posted by | safety, USA | Leave a comment

Climate change is disastrous for poor nations. Will the rich nations step up and help?

Oxfam called on countries to target 35% of funding by 2020, and 50% by 2025. “The share is not only too low, it is also declining. It was 21% in 2013. No share or specific amount has been agreed for vulnerable countries in the Paris agreement,” the spokeswoman said

Poor countries urge fast action on Paris deal to stop catastrophic warming  As the climate agreement is ratified, developing nations warn that money pledged is still nowhere near enough to adapt to expected sea level rises, Guardian, , 7 Oct 16, UN back-slapping for the record speed at which the Paris agreement on climate change has been ratified this week has been tempered by the reality that the new treaty will not stop catastrophic warming as it stands, and that the money so far pledged by rich countries is nowhere near enough to allow developing countries to adapt to expected sea level rises and more extreme weather.

Kiribati 15

The agreement, which will come into force on 4 November, is hoped to hold temperatures to a maximum 2C rise, and for the first time commits both rich and poor countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

But, say scientists, the historic measures pledged in Paris last year by the big greenhouse gas emitters like Europe, the US and China set the world on track to a temperature rise of about 3C over the next 50 years – enough to render many of the world’s poorest countries uninhabitable.
The world’s 48 least developed countries (LDCs), which unanimously pressed for a global commitment to a 1.5C warmer world in Paris, said this week that they welcomed the ratification of the agreement, but warned that the rich must act urgently.
“Now we need to now turn our words into action. Without action, the Paris agreement will just be a piece of paper,” said Hilda Heine, president of the Marshall Islands. “We need to see finance quickly flow to those who need it most so we can all implement our own ambitious plans to reduce emissions. Without [that] there is no way we will be able to stay within 1.5 degrees.”
Abdallah Wafy, Niger’s ambassador to the UN, added: “Despite Africa’s insignificant contribution to the causes of climate change, it is suffering from drought, flooding, climate-induced displacement and other climate-related challenges. The international community should accelerate efforts to curb those negative effects.”…….. 

A UN report calculated that the cost for all developing countries to adapt to climate change could go as high as $500bn a year by 2050 – four to five times higher than previous estimates.

Where the money is going to come from is uncertain. Rich countries have agreed to “mobilise” $100bn a year from 2020 onwards but the details are still vague. Much of the money is expected to be channelled through the Green Climate Fund, which has been set up and has attracted nearly $10bn, but is said by developing countries to be bureaucratic, slow and inaccessible.………

Oxfam called on countries to target 35% of funding by 2020, and 50% by 2025. “The share is not only too low, it is also declining. It was 21% in 2013. No share or specific amount has been agreed for vulnerable countries in the Paris agreement,” the spokeswoman said.

October 8, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

Intensity of hurricanes is increased by global warming

Dahr Jamail | Record Heating of Earth’s Oceans Is Driving Uptick in Hurricanes  Thursday, 06 October 2016 By Dahr JamailTruthout | Report As Hurricane Matthew impacts the East Coast of the US this week, it is important to consider how rising ocean temperatures are contributing to the intensification of storms worldwide.

Earlier this year, a scientific study titled “Industrial-era global ocean heat uptake doubles in recent decades” was published in the journal Nature Climate Change. The study showed that half of the total global ocean heating increase that has happened since 1865 has occurred in just the last 20 years.

Given that oceans absorb more than 90 percent of Earth’s excess heat generated by anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD), the fact that the oceans are warming at a non-linear pace is, while not surprising, extraordinarily troubling.

To see more stories like this, visit “Planet or Profit?”

This ongoing trend is showing no signs of changing for the better.

This July, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA)monthly global analysis report showed that the worldwide ocean surface temperature for that month was .79 degrees Celsius (1.42 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 20th century average, which, according to NOAA, was “the highest global ocean temperature for July in the 137-year record.” The previous record had been set just the year before. Moreover, this July was the 40th consecutive July that saw global ocean temperatures above the 20th century average. NOAA reported, “The 13 highest monthly global ocean temperature departures have all occurred in the past 13 months.” July saw record-high sea surface temperatures across portions of the western, southwestern, central and southeastern Pacific, the southern and western Atlantic, and the northeastern Indian Ocean, according to NOAA.

n August, which is at the time of this writing the most current month of NOAA’s global analysis report, oceanic surface temperatures were nearly as high as July’s, and were the second highest August temperatures on record — only .04 degrees Fahrenheit less than 2015’s record. As in July, large areas of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans’ all saw record warm temperatures persisting.

In 2014, US government climate scientists stated that the warming of oceans due to ACD was unstoppable. At that time scientists warned that the impacts of the warming ocean temperatures would be felt for centuries to come, even if there were immediate and dramatic efforts to cut CO2 emissions globally.

Needless to say, nothing like those types of cuts have occurred. Emissions have continued to slowly increase or stay at roughly the same levels that have caused the crisis we are in, and dramatic impacts from rising oceanic water temperatures are on the rise.

Record-Breaking Storms and Rainfall

Warmer-than-normal tropical waters are one of the key factors in the formation ofHurricane Matthew, which is now easily one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes in the last decade. At the time of this writing, the massive storm had lashed Haiti with 145 mph winds, driving rains and claimed at least 17 lives.

Record-Breaking Storms and Rainfall

Warmer-than-normal tropical waters are one of the key factors in the formation ofHurricane Matthew, which is now easily one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes in the last decade. At the time of this writing, the massive storm had lashed Haiti with 145 mph winds, driving rains and claimed at least 17 lives.

Current models show the hurricane on track to scour much of the eastern seaboard of the US, with the storm still being a Category 3 hurricane by the time it reaches Florida on Friday.

Across the Pacific, Typhoon Megi, the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane, became the third tropical cyclone of the season to pummel Taiwan, knocking out power to 3 million people across the country while dumping an incredible three feet of rain over parts of the island.

Meanwhile, major flooding events in the US have been coming in quick succession. August saw record floods across much of Louisiana, in what became the worst flooding since Hurricane Sandy, according to the Red Cross. That is only one example of many, as at least 18 major flooding events have struck Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Arkansas since March 2015, according to The Weather Chanel.

Marine Life Impacted

The impacts of warming ocean waters on marine life are far too numerous and vast to detail here. However, some broad-brushstrokes include, according to a National Environmental Education Foundation report from earlier this year:

  • More than 80 percent of Earth’s marine life is migrating to different places and changing their breeding and feeding patterns due to warming waters.
  • Ocean species are migrating in response to climate change 10-times faster than land species.
  • Some marine species have migrated as much as 600 miles from where they were abundant just a few decades ago.

Warming waters cause certain nutrients to be more or less available, which causes redistributions of global marine species, which then opens the migrating species to new diseases, new predators and other issues.

A recent example of this is evident in a study, released in September, that showed that baby lobsters are struggling to survive when they are reared in water 5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the temperatures that are currently typical of the western Gulf of Maine. “The UN’s [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)] expects the Gulf of Maine’s temperature to warm by [5 degrees Fahrenheit] by the year 2100,” Truthout recently reported. “Keep in mind, too, that thus far, the IPCC’s temperature predictions have consistently been too low.”

The entire food web of the oceans is being disrupted, and many global fisheries are undergoing dramatic, deleterious changes.

As we watch the weather worsen, we must not forget the links between weather and climate — and how warming oceans affect us all.

October 8, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | 1 Comment

Russia’s ceremony to mark start of construction of floating nuclear power station

Work starts on on-shore infrastructure for Russian floating plant, World Nuclear News  07 October 2016
A ceremony was held on 4 October in Pevek, Russia, to mark the start of construction of the coastal infrastructure for the first-of-a-kind floating nuclear power plant. The floating power and heat plant is set to be commissioned there in 2019.
The event in Pevek in the Chukotka Autonomous Region – the northern most city of Russia – was attended by, among others, the regional governor Roman Kopin; Rosenergoatom deputy CEO and director of special projects and initiatives Pavel Ipatov; and head of the floating nuclear power plant construction administration Sergey Zavyalov.

During the ceremony, the first sheet pile driving into the foundation of the on-shore infrastructure was carried out. A memorial plaque and a time capsule were then installed to mark the start of construction of the infrastructure…….

Zavyalov said, “We expect that the works on elaborating the technical conditions for the floating plant’s power delivery we carry out jointly with the Department of Energy, Chukotenergo, and RAO EES Vostok will be completed by October-November 2016.” He added, “In December, we plan to be ready to submit operational documents and to order the electric technical equipment to be installed on our site.”……

The Akademik Lomonosov is undergoing trials at the Baltic Shipyard. These trials are expected to be completed by late October 2017 and it should be ready to be transported to Pevek later that year. Rosenergoatom plans to start installation of the plant in September 2019, followed by trials and operational launch.

October 8, 2016 Posted by | Russia, technology | Leave a comment

Nuclear reactors in Florida in the path of Hurricane Matthew

Safety fears as Hurricane Matthew hits TWO nuclear reactors: Storm also sweeps past heads Cape Canaveral and Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort Hurricane Matthew started hitting Florida early this morning with heavy rain and strong winds 

Experts say there is very little risk of a repeat of the Fukushima accident in Japan in 2011  Daily Mail. By CHRIS SUMMERS FOR MAILONLINE  The storm arrived on shore on Friday north of Palm Beach County, which has a population of 1.4 million people, and the National Hurricane Center predicted it would push along the Interstate 95 corridor towards Jacksonville.

The St Lucie nuclear reactor was right in the storm’s path while Turkey Point in southern Florida was also affected by high winds.

The Department of Energy said: ‘Some reactors were shut as a precaution to protect equipment from the storm; others were forced to shut down or reduce power output due to damage to plant facilities or transmission infrastructure serving the plant.’………

The strongest winds of 120 mph were just offshore, but Matthew’s wrath still menaced more than 500 miles of coastline and 26 million Americans.

Government officials declared a state of emergency in several states in an effort to plan ahead since the deadly Category Three storm is expected to wreak havoc with its 120mph winds.

Two million people across the Southeast have been warned to flee inland as tens of millions along 500 miles of coastline battened down the hatches. ……..

October 8, 2016 Posted by | climate change, USA | Leave a comment

Now – nuclear bombs with the power of 3,333 Hiroshimas

The True Scale of Nuclear Bombs Is Totally Frightening Casey Chan, 8 Oct 16  Nuclear weapons are already scary enough, but when you dig deeper and find out how powerful the weapons truly are, they get even more terrifying. The weapons we’ve built after the first atomic bombs are so strong that you can basically use Hiroshima as a unit of measurement. The largest nuclear explosion in human history, the Tsar Bomba, detonated with a force of 50 megatons or the power of 3,333 Hiroshimas.

Discovery Channel – Ultimates – Explosions – Tsar bomb segment


The Russians had another bomb planned that would have been double the force of the Tsar Bomba at 100 megatons (and 6,666 times the force of Hiroshima) but luckily they never tested it. I mean, the Tsar Bomba was already as scarily powerful as it can get, since it almost destroyed the plane that dropped it and shattered windows as far as Norway and Finland. (The bomb was tested at Novaya Zemlya in Northern Russia).

Even something like the B83 bomb (which is the largest nuke in the US arsenal) explodes with a mushroom cloud taller than where commercial airlines fly. The true scale of nuclear weapons is really something, man. Learn more about it with this video by RealLifeLore, which also shows what kind of damage these nukes would do if they were dropped on New York

October 8, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Desperate times for the uranium industry, and no hope in sight

burial.uranium-industryDesperate uranium miners switch to survival mode despite nuclear rebound, Reuters, By Geert De Clercq 7 OCT 16  LONDON   “……..BULGING INVENTORIES  Mining executives partly blame the slump on their customers’ wait-and-see attitude, as utilities believe that the uranium market’s over-capacity will persist for years and see no need to rebuild their dwindling stockpiles.

Demand for uranium is determined by the number of nuclear plants in operation worldwide, but supply and demand are disjointed by huge stocks and uranium’s long production cycle……..

In the five years before Fukushima, utilities worldwide bought about 200 million pounds of uranium per year, he said. Although Japan’s consumption averaged only around 25 million pounds per year, when it closed its reactors demand was cut far further, falling by half. European and U.S. utilities saw that the market was over-supplied and reduced inventories, buying less.

Mining firm Energy Fuels estimates global uranium stocks held by utilities, miners and governments are now at around 1 billion pounds. That is down from a peak around 2.5 billion pounds in 1990, but still many years’ worth of consumption.

Despite the plunge in uranium prices after the 2008 financial crisis and again after Fukushima, uranium production has doubled from 80-90 million pounds in the mid-1990s to about 160 million pounds last year, according to Energy Fuels data……


With so much new supply, and demand sliding, prices have fallen to a level where most uranium miners operate at a loss.

“At today’s spot prices, the primary uranium mining industry is not sustainable,” US uranium producer Energy Fuels COO Mark Chalmers told the World Nuclear Association’s London conference last month.

He added that many legacy long-term supply contracts will expire in 2017-18, which will force many mines to close or throttle back even further than they already have.

Miners like Canada’s Cameco, France’s Areva and the uranium arms of global mining companies have closed or mothballed several mines and deferred new projects in order to cut back supply.

Paladin – the world’s second-largest independent pure-play uranium miner after Cameco and the seventh or eighth-largest globally – has production capacity of 8 million pounds of yellowcake uranium but produced just 4.9 million pounds last year at its Langer Heinrich mine in Namibia.

Molyneux said the firm will produce about 4 million pounds this year and will cut output further to about 3.5 million pounds next year if prices do not recover.

Paladin suspended production at its 2.3 million pounds per year capacity Kayelekera mine in northern Malawi in 2014 but maintains equipment so it can resume when prices recover.

Meanwhile it is trying to further reduce its debt, which already fell from $1.2 billion five years ago to $362 million.

Paladin has agreed to sell 24 pct of Langer Heinrich to the China National Nuclear Company and plans to use the expected proceeds of 175 million dollars to further reduce debt.

Bigger peer Cameco in April suspended production at its Rabbit Lake, Canada mine while also curtailing output across its U.S. operations, saying market conditions could not support the operating and capital costs needed to sustain production.

Cameco marketing head Tim Gabruch told the WNA conference that “desperate times call for desperate measures”.

Supply adjustments and producer discipline had not yet been sufficient to counter the loss of demand, he said.”As difficult as those decisions have been, we recognize that those actions may not be enough.”(Reporting by Geert De Clercq; editing by Peter Graff)

October 8, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, business and costs, Uranium | Leave a comment

Kazakhstan’s unfinished, unfixed, problem of radioactivity at Semipalatinsk

The Nazarbayev government, lacking financial resources, has done very little to address the security problems at Semipalatinsk and has not spent a penny to clean up the area.
map-semipalatinsk-kazahkstanThe continuing danger of Semipalatinsk 6 OCTOBER 2016 Magdalena Stawkowski  During the Cold War, the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site in Kazakhstan was the Soviet Union’s primary nuclear weapons testing ground. Between 1949 and 1989, more than 450 nuclear bombs were exploded above and below ground on its once secret, 7,000-square-mile territory. In the post-Soviet period,Kazakhstan has attracted much international praise for its “extraordinary leadership” and “courage” in closing Semipalatinsk, for giving up its nuclear weapons stockpile, and for helping to create a nuclear weapon free zone in Central Asia. Kazakhstan has also been celebrated for having an extraordinary record in advancing nuclear security and thus was judged to be perfectly suited to host an international fuel bank for low-enriched uranium. The Obama administration has described Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, as “really one of the model leaders in the world” on non-proliferation and nuclear safety issues.

These commendations are perhaps overly enthusiastic. They exaggerate Kazakhstan’s commitment to nuclear safety; actually, Kazakhstan’s leadership has done little to address pressing humanitarian issues at Semipalatinsk, failing to provide adequate funding for environmental clean up and adequate security for the site itself. How can the world talk about nuclear safety in Kazakhstan when it is the only place on Earth where thousands of people still live in and around an atomic test site? How can there be safety, when residual radioactivity and environmental damage are a normal part of life for people who live there? Nuclear security should mean more than the physical protection of nuclear materials. Nuclear security must also mean the physical protection of individual citizens from radioactivity.

Today, most of the abandoned Semipalatinsk territory is accessible to anyone who wishes to enter. Except for a 37-mile area “exclusion zone” at the Degelen Mountain complex, guarded by drones and other surveillance equipment, few signs indicate radiation danger. For the thousands living nearby, it is no secret that the former nuclear testing area is poorly secured. I have been conducting anthropological fieldwork in the region since 2009, living in Koyan, a remote village on the nuclear test site’s border. I know first hand the ease with which people make use of the territory. (“Koyan” and “Tursynbek,” the name of an ethnographic interlocutor mentioned later in this article, are pseudonyms, used to protect village residents and the interlocutor following the convention of confidentiality spelled out in the American Anthropological Association Code of Ethics on professional responsibility).

Koyaners, like most everyone else living in and around Semipalatinsk, use the test site in a number of ways: They drive across the dusty steppe during warmer months to visit relatives in nearby villages. In July and August, men, women, and children come back from the site, buckets brimming with wild strawberries they have picked from its shallow valleys. Many graze their herds of sheep, goats, horses, and cows on the Semipalatinsk pastures, sometimes near craters formed by underground explosions. Many of these places are known to contain radioactive “hot spots,” but since the area around Koyan is mostly unmarked, no one in the village is certain where the hot spots are. Koyaners are not privy to this information, because no one in the government shares it with them.

On a hot, sunny day in July 2015, Tursynbek, a burly stockbreeder and miner in his mid-50s, decided we should go out and measure radiation on our own. As we got in the car, he complained that when he has had a chance to ask scientists, who occasionally do research in the area, if there is radiation, they dismiss his concerns by saying, “There is nothing here; no radiation.” I made sure to bring my Geiger counter on this trip, and a short car ride later I was looking down from the rim of a nuclear crater, trying to hear the Geiger counter readings Tursynbek was shouting. His camouflage jacket was barely visible on the steep pitch, among the tall grasses; a rather sizeable water hole was beyond, inside the crater. He scanned the ground for radioactivity, his white paper sanitary mask pulled down under his chin, rather than over his mouth. The sanitary mask was meant to protect against small particles of plutonium or other radioisotopes that are dangerous when inhaled but can be stopped by a sheet of paper. But Tursynbek was not afraid. Tursybek knows this area well; he was born in Koyan and has decades of experience raising livestock, sheep, goats, cows, and horses, which includes grazing them on the test site.

Still, he had never been here on this kind of mission. As he climbed out, he eagerly used the Geiger counter to check the wreckage of the atomic landscape: trenches, mangled barbed wire enclosures, scattered cement blocks with clusters of electrical cables jutting from them. The frantic clicking of the Geiger counter disturbed the otherwise calm summer afternoon. Not far from us, Kazakhstan’s Institute of Radiation Safety and Ecology (IRSE) wazik (van) carrying “geologists,” as the scientists are known to Koyaners, passed by. “They have never shared any of this information with us,” Tursynbek said motioning to the van and pointing at the .700 milliRem per hour reading displayed by the counter.

Normal background is between .008-.015 milliRem/hr. According to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Americans receive an average radiation dose of about 620 milliRem per year. Half of this dose comes from naturally occurring radiation found in soil, rocks (uranium), and air (radon). The other half comes from man-made sources, like radiation therapy, x-rays, and nuclear power plants. At the crater, five weeks is enough time to receive the average yearly dose of radiation described by the NRC. In one year that dose is equal to 6,136 milliRem.

Looking around the abandoned test site, it is almost never obvious what went on here, except at a few key experimental locations, which have decaying cement structures and other visible points of interest. The once high levels of security have long since disappeared. Yet for 40 years various technical sites at Semipalatinsk were used to experiment with different types of nuclear explosions. At “Ground Zero” for example, 116 aboveground tests were conducted, as part of a full-scale experiment designed to record damage done to animals (sheep, goats, cows, and pigs), plants and soil, building construction, military equipment, and people living in settlements found near the site. At other technical areas, more than 300 underground nuclear explosions were used to test their peaceful applications. Several of these high-yield tests produced nuclear craters and contaminated much of the area nearby.

Near the nuclear crater Tursynbek and I visited, only a small and badly faded radiation warning sign clung to a mangled barbed wire enclosure that once provided some level of protection. The plight of people who suffered from radiation exposure during the Soviet-era is well known in the country and abroad, even if the level of radioactive pollution and its impact on human health are hotly disputed, in local and international peer-reviewed scientific journals.

In an August 2015 editorial for the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Kazakhstan’s ambassador to the United States, Kairat Umarov, highlighted the fate of 1.5 million Kazakh citizens whose lives continue to be affected by nuclear testing. He wrote with the optimism of a man hoping to promote a nuclear-weapons-free world. But Umarov ignored an obvious fact: The Nazarbayev government, lacking financial resources, has done very little to address the security problems at Semipalatinsk and has not spent a penny to clean up the area. Praise of the nation’s leadership for making Kazakhstan a non-nuclear state has come at a price: It has overshadowed and limited conversations about lack of oversight of Semipalatinsk and the toxic mess that the Soviet nuclear testing program left behind and continues to endanger thousands of citizens living in the area. Given this unresolved and underreported situation at Semipalatinsk, the international community should offer financial help and expertise for the cleanup of Semipalatinsk, or at the very least help with cordoning off the most contaminated areas of the site.

October 8, 2016 Posted by | environment, Kazakhstan, secrets,lies and civil liberties, weapons and war | 1 Comment

US military bosses predict World War III -extremely lethal and fast

World War Three will be ‘extremely lethal and fast’: US Army bosses reveal what could happen if the US took on Russia or China 6, 2016 t is a chilling vision of war – and one unlike any other ever fought.

US military bosses have revealed their predictions for a major conflict, and say war between nation states at some point in the future “is almost guaranteed”.

Artificial intelligence and smart weapons would be at the fore – with a “modern nation-states acting aggressively” the likely enemy

“A conventional conflict in the near future will be extremely lethal and fast, and we will not own the stopwatch,’ said Major General William Hix on a future-of-the-Army panel at the annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army in Washington, according to Defence One.

“The speed of events are likely to strain our human abilities,’ Hix said.

“The speed at which machines can make decisions in the far future is likely to challenge our ability to cope, demanding a new relationship between man and machine.”

China and Russia are both mustering conventionally massive militaries that are increasingly technological – and forcing the Pentagon to contemplate and prepare for “violence on the scale that the U.S. Army has not seen since Korea,” said Hix .

Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, Army deputy chief of staff for operations, plans, and training said the US faces threats from “modern nation-states acting aggressively in militarised competition.”

Who does that sound like? Russia?” he said.

War between nation states at some point in the future ‘is almost guaranteed,’ said Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley at the same event.

Future adversaries could end the air superiority the U.S. Air Force has provided since the Korean War, Milley said, and anti-access, area-denial capabilities could prevent the Navy from getting to the fight, he warned.

So “land forces will have to enable sea forces,” and the Army ‘is definitely going to have to dominate the air above our battle space,’ he said.

Milley said the Army also must be prepared to engage in cyber warfare, operate without the space-based communications and precision navigation it has taken for granted, and fight in a complex urban setting.

Milley cited a long list of ‘fundamental changes’ confronting the nation and the Army, including the renewed threat from Russia, the growing economic power and military strength of China, an expanding number of fragile nation states, and climate change that could lead to more instability.

“While we’re ready now, we are being challenged,” he said.

If the aim is to deter war, “our Army and our nation must be ready.”

The Army’s future weapons will also need to be better designed, Katharina McFarland, acting assistant Army secretary for acquisition, logistics, and technology said.

“You travel all over the world, don’t you?’ McFarland asked the gathered audience of soldiers, Army civilians, and industry reps.

“You can pretty much get in a car anywhere and drive it.”

“As an engineer, I think in terms of a simple interface – no matter what helicopter, you can get in and operate it.”

October 8, 2016 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

The Florida Power & Light Co shuts down St. Lucie Power Plant, due to hurricane

St. Lucie Power Plant shut down because of Hurricane Matthew, TC Palm ,,  October 6, 2016 RIVIERA BEACH — The Florida Power & Light Co. shut down its St. Lucie County Nuclear Power Plant in preparation for Hurricane Matthew, but no customers are expected to lose power because of it, a company spokesman said.

October 8, 2016 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

The inherently immoral nuclear industry and its radioactive trash problem

There’s been the usual evasion and wilful dishonesty on the part of both EdF and the Government as to exactly how the costs of managing that waste over the projected 30-year lifetime of Hinkley Point will be paid for. In the first instance, how best should EdFbe required to accrue for a sufficient share of revenue to cover those costs arising during the reactor’s lifetime – and then for decades/centuries beyond that once HinkleyPoint has stopped generating?

This is such a huge issue – financially and morally. The sums of money involved in treating, storing and finally disposing of nuclear waste are eye-watering, and if they were properly factored into the day-to-day operating costs of all nuclear power stations, it would make the whole ludicrous edifice finally topple over.

this is not just a managerially incompetent, technologically redundant, financially bankrupt and wilfully dishonest industry – it is inherently immoral.

The Hinkley Horror Story: Don’t Mention the Waste! I haven’t been able to bring myself to write anything about Hinkley Point since the UK Government gave the go-ahead on 15th September. I suppose I’ve lived for so long with the inevitability of this insane project being approved, at some point, notwithstanding the endless delays, that I wasn’t particularly surprised when it happened. Just a weird mixture of resigned, weary and enraged.

Deep down, I still don’t believe that Hinkley Point will ever be completed. I’ve no doubt work will start in one or two years’ time (just as soon as a mountain of continuing problems at EdF’s project at Flamanville have either been resolved or permanently buried), but it won’t be long before the inherent ‘unconstructability’ of this particular reactor design (the EPR) sees exactly the same inevitable delays and cost overruns kick in – and keep on kicking in from that point on.

And somewhere along the way, there’s an equally strong likelihood of EdF/Areva going bust – or having its role comprehensively redefined by the French Government so that it focusses solely on managing upgrades in the French reactor fleet and dealing with all the legacy issues.

And those legacy issues are vast. As they are for all nuclear operators all around the world. Which is the main reason, I suspect, why hardly anyone has been talking about what’s been agreed in terms of dealing with all the new nuclear waste that would be generated by Hinkley Point.

There’s been the usual evasion and wilful dishonesty on the part of both EdF and the Government as to exactly how the costs of managing that waste over the projected 30-year lifetime of Hinkley Point will be paid for. In the first instance, how best should EdFbe required to accrue for a sufficient share of revenue to cover those costs arising during the reactor’s lifetime – and then for decades/centuries beyond that once HinkleyPoint has stopped generating?

This is such a huge issue – financially and morally. The sums of money involved in treating, storing and finally disposing of nuclear waste are eye-watering, and if they were properly factored into the day-to-day operating costs of all nuclear power stations, it would make the whole ludicrous edifice finally topple over.

Nobody’s thought more about these legacy issues, going back to the origins of the nuclear industry here in the UK in the 1950s, than Andy Blowers. His new book, ‘The Legacy of Nuclear Power’, has just been published, and even for those who have been tracking this particularly wretched aspect of an almost entirely wretched industry, it’s a pretty mind-boggling story that emerges.

Here are the words that I contributed by way of an endorsement for ‘The Legacy of Nuclear Power’:

“The nuclear industry invites us, all the time, to look forward – never to look back. Andy Blowers’ compelling study shows why: its legacy, all around the world, is a shocking one, with no long-term solutions to the problem of nuclear waste in sight, and countless communities blighted, in one way or another, by the nuclear incubus in their midst.”

Unbelievably, the UK’s dismal record in managing its nuclear waste (for both military and civilian facilities) is no worse than that of the USA (with the Hanford site in Washington State posing equally horrendous, ongoing legacy issues as Sellafield here in the UK) or of France, with its reprocessing waste management facilities at La Hague. Only Germany can demonstrate a rather better record – though that has little to do either with the industry or with the German Government, and everything to do with an implacably hostile anti-nuclear movement which has fought for decades to ensure that Germany’s nuclear waste should not be dumped at the designatedGorleben site and then forgotten about.

Andy has written an excellent summary article about these four sites.

(And for the story about what’s going on at Sellafield – in terms of the UK’s nuclear fuel reprocessing debacle – check out this article from Ian Fairlie, commenting on BBC Panorama’s recent exposé.)

What I most admire about Andy’s analysis is that it not only covers the all-but-unbelievable financial consequences of our nuclear legacy, but forces people to confront the moral implications of an industry that defers costs not just into the future but across generations.

One of the reasons why I’m still passionate about the concept of sustainable development (rather than the environment per se) is its unwavering advocacy ofintergenerational justice: being explicit about what any one generation owes to all those generations that succeed it. The nuclear industry today only survives by ruthlessly ignoring those intergenerational obligations: the economics of nuclear power only ‘work’ because it dumps the intractable problems of managing its waste onto future generations.

In other words, this is not just a managerially incompetent, technologically redundant, financially bankrupt and wilfully dishonest industry – it is inherently immoral.

And yet, even now, there are a few misguided environmentalists who tell us that our low-carbon future depends on investing yet more countless billions of dollars in this failed horror story of an industry.

October 8, 2016 Posted by | Religion and ethics, UK, wastes | Leave a comment

There should be no new nuclear build. We cannot manage the existing nuclear wastes, let alone more

The focus should be on managing it where it is rather than a premature search for new places and possibly new communities for deep disposal. The problem we already have is difficult enough and will only be compounded if new reactors are built extending the time-scales for implementation for very long, unknowable periods in the future. The burden of the existing legacy is unavoidable; we should not entertain having to deal with the avoidable wastes of a new build programme………

book-legacy-of-nuclear-powerThe Legacy of Nuclear Power,This fascinating short article on four nuclear communities tellingly demonstrates why radioactive waste is a moral issue and explains what the priorities for its management should be.   Routledge, By Andy Blowers. 7 Oct 16 

Peripheral communities tend also to be politically powerless. Although nuclear industries tend to have a dominant position in their dependent communities, strategic decisions are taken elsewhere by governmental and corporate institutions. Key political decisions affecting peripheral communities are vested in national governments to which local governments, even in federal systems like the USA and Germany, are subordinated in terms of nuclear decision making.

These nuclear peripheral communities also express distinctive cultural characteristics. Although it is difficult to pin down the complex, ambiguous and sometimes contradictory values and attitudes encountered in these places, there does seem to be a particular ‘nuclear culture’, that is both defensive and aggressive. This may be summarised in three distinguishing and complementary cultural features – realism, resignation and pragmatism – which combine to convey a resilience that provides the flexibility and resolution necessary for cultural survival.

Nuclear communities fulfil a fundamental social role in that they take on (or more usually have to accept) the radioactive legacy of nuclear power. They bear the burden of cost, risk and effort necessary to manage the legacy on behalf of the wider society, a responsibility extending into the far future. This social role enables places like Sellafield, La Hague and Hanford to exercise some economic and political leverage. Economically they are relatively secure for, once production ceases, there remain decades of clean up activity often sustaining a large workforce with continuing and open ended commitment from the state. Politically they are able, with varying success, to gain compensation, investment and diversification. By contrast, there are those communities which have mobilised resources of power sufficient to prevent or halt the progress of nuclear power. The story of the Gorleben movement provides a compelling example of the power of resistance.

Finding a Solution

It is in places like Hanford, La Hague and Sellafield that the nuclear legacy has accumulated and which face the problem of managing it now and for generations to come. There is a recognised obligation, stated in principle by the International Atomic Energy Agency, that the legacy shall be managed in ‘such a way that will not impose undue burdens on future generations’ (IAEA, Principle 5). Much of this effort to find a final solution has been focused on deep geological disposal, removing the problem altogether by burying it deep underground. Yet, this solution is controversial since some radionuclides remain harmful for thousands of years and over infinitely long time-scales the uncertainties about safety and security of engineered barriers and geological containment in a repository become incommensurable……….

Seeking and securing disposal sites which is the contemporary approach, has in most countries thus far proved a slow, tedious and unsuccessful process. Successive attempts to secure political or social blessing for a site near Sellafield have failed and in Germany the resistance of Gorleben has been legendary. The history of trying to find sites for a repository for radioactive wastes is littered with examples where, to transcribe a biblical expression, many sites have been called but few chosen. The idea of the accumulating legacy of nuclear wastes from existing nuclear programmes being neatly and routinely packaged and transferred to a welcoming and pristine repository there to be entombed for ever is, with rare exceptions, little more than a distant prospect at this point in time……..

Given the time-scales involved there is no need to hurry towards a disposal solution that may, in terms of proving a concept and finding a site, be difficult to implement. Society can, and should, take its time in dealing with its nuclear legacy. Meanwhile the focus should be on managing it where it is rather than a premature search for new places and possibly new communities for deep disposal. The problem we already have is difficult enough and will only be compounded if new reactors are built extending the time-scales for implementation for very long, unknowable periods in the future. The burden of the existing legacy is unavoidable; we should not entertain having to deal with the avoidable wastes of a new build programme………

This article previews a new book by Andrew Blowers, The Legacy of Nuclear Power, Routledge, 2016, isbn 9780415869997. It is published at a critical time when the future of nuclear energy is high on the political agenda across the world. With the political focus on whether to build new nuclear power stations, this important book is a timely reminder that nuclear energy comes with a legacy of radioactive waste and clean-up that will be a burden on communities and generations far into the future. Written from the author’s perspective of active involvement in nuclear policy making, as academic, politician, government advisor and activist, this is a book that demonstrates the scale of the problem of nuclear’s legacy.

October 8, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, wastes | Leave a comment