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Mitsubishi Heavy, Japan Nuclear Fuel to invest in France’s Areva

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Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. is reportedly making final arrangements to invest tens of billions of yen in French atomic energy company Areva jointly with Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. are making final arrangements to invest tens of billions of yen in atomic energy company Areva, which is being bailed out by the French government, sources close to the matter said Thursday.

Through the investment, the heavy machinery manufacturer and the spent-fuel reprocessing firm hope to improve technical cooperation with Areva on decommissioning reactors and reprocessing nuclear fuel.

Areva has been reeling from weak global demand since the 2011 Fukushima disaster triggered a slump in the nuclear power industry.

Areva is being bailed out by the French government, which has been asking Mitsubishi Heavy to invest since last year.

MHI President Shunichi Miyanaga had said that investing in Areva, which has expertise in decommissioning procedures and fuel reprocessing, would benefit Japan as it faces the prospect of decommissioning more aging nuclear reactors amid high public concern over nuclear safety.

A major Chinese nuclear power company is also considering investing in the state-owned group.

Mitsubishi Heavy is also planning to invest in Areva’s plant-building arm in hopes of winning orders to build nuclear power plants in emerging economies where demand is growing.

The heavy machinery maker and Areva are already involved in a joint venture to develop nuclear plants with advanced reactors.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/12/08/business/corporate-business/mitsubishi-heavy-japan-nuclear-fuel-invest-frances-areva/#.WEtA0Vzia-d

December 9, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima radiation has reached U.S. shores

Its official. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute has samples of Fukushima-sourced cesium-134 in salmon off the Pacific Coast of Oregon. Given cesium-134 has such a short half-life the source is linked to the on-going leaks from Japan’s 2011 nuclear disaster. While the amount is still very, very low, it remains a concern given the Fukushima disaster is still not contained after more than five years.
SALEM, Ore. — For the first time, seaborne radiation from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster has been detected on the West Coast of the United States.
Cesium-134, the so-called fingerprint of Fukushima, was measured in seawater samples taken from Tillamook Bay and Gold Beach in Oregon, according to researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Because of its short half-life, cesium-134 can only have come from Fukushima.
For the first time, cesium-134 has also been detected in a Canadian salmon, according to the Fukushima InFORM project, led by University of Victoria chemical oceanographer Jay Cullen.
Should we be worried? In both cases, levels are extremely low, the researchers said, and don’t pose a danger to humans or the environment. Massive amounts of contaminated water were released from the crippled nuclear plant following a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. More radiation was released to the air, then fell to the sea.
Woods Hole chemical oceanographer Ken Buesseler runs a crowd-funded, citizen science seawater sampling project that has tracked the radiation plume as it slowly makes its way across the Pacific Ocean.
The Oregon samples, marking the first time cesium-134 has been detected on U.S. shores, were taken in January and February of 2016 and later analyzed. They each measured 0.3 becquerels per cubic meter of cesium-134.
Buesseler’s team previously had found the isotope in a sample of seawater taken from a dock on Vancouver Island, B.C., marking its landfall in North America.
In Canada, Cullen leads the InFORM project to assess radiological risks to that country’s oceans following the nuclear disaster. It is a partnership of a dozen academic, government and non-profit organizations.
Last month, the group reported that a single sockeye salmon, sampled from Okanagan Lake in the summer of 2015, had tested positive for cesium-134.
The level was more than 1,000 times lower than the action level set by Health Canada, and is no significant risk to consumers, Cullen said.
Buesseler’s most recent samples off the West Coast also are showing higher-than background levels of cesium-137, another Fukushima isotope that already is present in the world’s oceans because of nuclear testing in the 1950s and 1960s.
Those results will become more important in tracking the radiation plume, Buesseler said, because the short half-life of cesium-134 makes it harder to detect as time goes on.
Cesium-134 has a half-life of two years, meaning it’s down to a fraction of what it was five years ago, he said. Cesium-137 has a 30-year half-life.
A recent InFORM analysis of Buesseler’s data concluded that concentrations of cesium-137 have increased considerably in the central northeast Pacific, although they still are at levels that pose no concern.
“It appears that the plume has spread throughout this vast area from Alaska to California,” the scientists wrote.
They estimated that the plume is moving toward the coast at roughly twice the speed of a garden snail. Radiation levels have not yet peaked.
“As the contamination plume progresses towards our coast we expect levels closer to shore to increase over the coming year,” Cullen said.
Even that peak won’t be a health concern, Buesseler said. But the models will help scientists model ocean currents in the future.
That could prove important if there is another disaster or accident at the Fukushima plant, which houses more than a thousand huge steel tanks of contaminated water and where hundreds of tons of molten fuel remain inside the reactors.
In a worst-case scenario, the fuel would melt through steel-reinforced concrete containment vessels into the ground, uncontrollably spreading radiation into the surrounding soil and groundwater and eventually into the sea.
“That’s the type of thing where people are still concerned, as am I, about what could happen,” Buesseler said.
Scientists now know it would take four to five years for any further contamination from the plant to reach the West Coast.
Tracking the plume
Scientists are beginning to use an increase in cesium-137 instead of the presence of cesium-134 to track the plume of radioactive contamination from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster. These figures show the increase in cesium-137 near the West Coast between 2014 and 2015.
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137 Cesium Activity in 2014. (Photo: Dr. Jonathan Kellogg / InFORM)
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137 Cesium Activity in 2015. (Photo: Dr. Jonathan Kellogg / InFORM)
Graphic courtesy Dr. Jonathan Kellogg of InFORM, with data from Dr. John Smith, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and Dr. Ken Buesseler, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.

December 9, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

France’s new nuclear reactors mired in debt

plants-downFrench taxpayers face huge nuclear bill as EDF financial crisis deepens, Ecologist, Paul Brown 8th December 2016 “………New nuclear stations  Even more money is required to finish new nuclear stations EDF is already committed to building. The first, Flamanville in northern France, is five years late and billions over budget. Questions over the quality of the steel in its reactor are still not resolved, and it may never be fully operational.

Add to that the need for €12 billion (or potentially considerably more) capital to complete the two nuclear stations EDF is committed to building at Hinkley Point in southwest England, and it is hard to see where all the money will come from.

To help the cash-strapped company, its ultimate owner, the French state, has already provided €3 billion in extra capital this year, and decided to forego its shareholder dividend. But that is a drop in the ocean.

Mycle Schneider, a Paris-based independent international consultant on energy and nuclear policy, says: “The French company overvalues its nuclear assets, and underestimates how much it will cost to decommission them.

“However, EDF’s biggest problem is the cost of producing power from these ageing power stations. The cost is greater than the wholesale price, so everything they sell is at a loss. It is impossible to see how they can ever make a profit.”

He says that is not the company’s only problem: France has not dealt with the problem of nuclear waste, and has badly underestimated the cost of doing so: “With German electricity prices going down and production increasing in order to export cheap electricity to France, it is impossible to see how EDF can ever compete. It is really staggering that no one is paying any attention to this.”

Even former EDF director Gérard Magnin agrees. He resigned from the board in July as he thought the Hinkley Point project too risky for the company because of its already stretched finances. Now he says that, with the reactors closed for safety checks, the French nuclear industry faces “its worst situation ever”.

The company’s troubles do not stop in France, as EDF also owns the UK nuclear industry. Ironically, it took over 15 reactors in the UK after British Energy went bankrupt in 2002 because the cost of producing the electricity was greater than the wholesale price – exactly the situation being repeated now in France.http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2988433/french_taxpayers_face_huge_nuclear_bill_as_edf_financial_crisis_deepens.html

December 9, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, France, politics | Leave a comment

Sendai Reactor Back Online

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Workers in the control room restart reactor 1 at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear plant in Kagoshima Prefecture Thursday night

Sendai reactor goes back online

Operators have powered on a nuclear reactor at a plant in western Japan on Thursday night after 2 months of inspections.
Officials at Kyushu Electric Power Company say workers have begun pulling control rods out of the Number One reactor at their Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture.
The reactor has been offline since October. Before that, it operated for 14 months as the first reactor in the country to go online under new regulations following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
The utility says it found no abnormalities during its regular and special inspections.
The special checks were added at the request of Kagoshima Governor Satoshi Mitazono, who took office in July. He asked the utility to see if strong earthquakes that occurred at nearby Kumamoto Prefecture in April had affected the plant.
Officials say they expect the reactor to reach criticality on Friday and begin transmitting electricity to the grid on Sunday. They also expect the plant to resume commercial operations in early January.
A group opposing the restart held a rally on Thursday outside the facility. Group leader Yoshitaka Mukohara said a proposed prefectural panel should first give a judgment before the reactor is brought online.
Governor Mitazono had promised to set up an expert panel to look into the reactor’s safety, but it has yet to be launched. Mukohara urged the governor to stick to his position.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20161208_30/

Kyushu Electric fires up Kagoshima reactor after governor gives OK

FUKUOKA – Kyushu Electric Power Co. restarted a nuclear reactor in Kagoshima Prefecture on Thursday after the prefectural governor, who is opposed to nuclear power, effectively permitted the move last week.

Reactor No. 1 at the Sendai nuclear power complex is one of five reactors to have been reactivated under stricter safety regulations adopted in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima reactor meltdowns. Following resumption in August 2015, its operation had been suspended for a regular checkup since Oct. 6.

The utility pulled out control rods from the reactor at around 9:30 p.m. The reactor is expected to achieve criticality by Friday morning and to start power generation from Sunday. Commercial operation is set to resume from Jan. 6.

Kyushu Electric on Tuesday notified Kagoshima Gov. Satoshi Mitazono of the planned restart of the reactor and was not requested to suspend it this time, it said.

Mitazono, who was elected in July on an anti-nuclear platform, asked the utility in August and September to immediately suspend operation of the plant. Reactor No. 1 came to a halt in October for a regular checkup.

The Sendai complex’s reactor No. 2 is scheduled to be suspended for regular checks from Dec. 16 to Feb. 27.

Mitazono had told the prefectural assembly earlier this month that he had no legal power to decide whether to restart the reactor, paving the way for the latest move.

On Thursday, however, Mitazono said that he will take “strong action, regardless of the reactor’s operation,” if an experts’ committee, which he plans to set up to examine safety at the plant, finds any safety problems.

Some 30 local residents and anti-nuclear group members gathered in front of the Sendai plant Thursday morning to protest the reactivation.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/12/09/national/kyushu-electric-fires-kagoshima-reactor-governor-gives-grudging-nod/#.WEp11lzia-d

December 9, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

India’s push for solar energy is gaining steam

sunIndia has just built the world’s largest solar plant in record time The nation’s push for solar power is gaining steam. Scroll In  At the end of November, the country turned on the world’s largest solar power plant spanning 10 km sq in Kamuthi in the state of Tamil Nadu. It packs 648 megawatts of power – nearly 100 more than California’s Topaz Solar Farm, which was previously the largest solar plant at a single location. At full capacity, the Kamuthi plant can provide enough electricity to power around 150,000 homes.

The Rs 45.5 billion solar project consists of 380,000 foundations, 2.5 million solar modules, 576 inverters, and 154 transformers, according to the Deccan Chronicle. Each day, the plant is cleaned by a robotic system that is charged by its own solar panels, Al Jazeera reported…….http://scroll.in/article/823530/india-has-just-built-the-worlds-largest-solar-plant-in-record-time

December 9, 2016 Posted by | India, renewable | Leave a comment

China’s global nuclear marketing drive -= now looking to Bulgaria

nuclear-marketing-crapChina eyes nuclear project in Bulgaria http://www.euractiv.com/section/energy/news/china-eyes-nuclear-project-in-bulgaria/ A delegation from the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), the country’s largest state energy company, visited Sofia and met with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, to possibly resuscitate a shelved nuclear power plant project.The Belene nuclear power plant, situated near the Danube, was frozen in 2012, reportedly due to a lack of funds.

December 9, 2016 Posted by | Bulgaria, China, marketing | 1 Comment

Beyond Nuclear relieved that dangerous Palisades nuclear plant will be shut down

nuclear-dominoeslogo-Beyond-NuclearAnti-nuclear group applauds closing of Palisades nuclear plant   Entergy Corp., has announced in a news release Thursday, Dec. 8, that the Palisades nuclear power plant in Covert Township will close in 2018. (Mark Bugnaski / MLive.com) By Mark Tower | mtower@mlive.com December 08, 2016  COVERT, MI — Kevin Kamps, a representative of the anti-nuclear group Beyond Nuclear, has long called for the closure of the Palisades nuclear power plant near South Haven.

It appears that Kamps will soon have his wish.

Entergy Corp., the plant’s owner, announced the facility’s impending closure in a news release Thursday, Dec. 8. The plant will receive its final load of fuel in 2017 and close permanently on Oct. 1, 2018, according to the company.

Kamps praised the announcement in a news release issued Thursday.

“Entergy’s announcement today that it will permanently shut down the Palisades atomic reactor by Oct. 1, 2018 is most welcome to the large number of Michiganders, and beyond, who have fought so hard, for so long, to get it shut down,” he said……

Kamps pointed to the fact that the plant’s reactor is one of the most “embrittled” nationwide, arguing that keeping it open until 2018 poses serious risks.

“Nearly two more years of operation is a frightening prospect for a catastrophic release of hazardous radioactivity due to pressurized thermal shock fracture of the vessel,” he said. “The good news is that, after permanent shutdown and removal of irradiated nuclear fuel from the reactor core, no more meltdown can happen, and no more high-level radioactive waste will be made.”

The “embrittled” reactor puts it at risk of cracking, prompting the NRC in 2014 to begin a three-year review of results of tests on the reactor.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission determined that the plant operated safely in 2015, but it was under increased NRC oversight for the first three quarters of 2015 due to its failure to accurately calculate radiation doses to workers during an activity in 2014. ……..

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, urged the community to not turn its back on those employees in the coming years.

The plant’s closure will not noticeably impact the power grid, according to Consumers Energy.

After the plant closes for good in 2018, Kamps said area residents and environmental watchdogs should remain vigilant as the facility and dismantled and any lingering contamination is addressed. http://www.mlive.com/news/kalamazoo/index.ssf/2016/12/anti-nuclear_group_applauds_cl.html

December 9, 2016 Posted by | opposition to nuclear, USA | Leave a comment

South Africa will not review its nuclear power plans

Plan to go to market for nuclear proposals not open for review http://www.iol.co.za/news/politics/plan-to-go-to-market-for-nuclear-proposals-not-open-for-review-7140535 9 December 2016,  Emsie Ferreira Cabinet will not revisit its decision to endorse plans to proceed with a request for proposals to build new nuclear reactors, Presidency Minister Jeff Radebe said on Friday.

December 9, 2016 Posted by | politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

December 9 Energy News

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Opinion:

¶ “Why clean energy is the next big business opportunity” • The American political landscape shifted drastically on November 8, but the scientific facts of climate change remain steadfastly the same as ever. Transitioning to clean energy will not only reduce the economic risks of climate change but will create economic opportunities. [CNN]

Workers installing a turbine (Photo: Dennis Schroeder, National  Wind Technology Center, public domain, Wikimedia Commons) Workers installing a turbine (Photo: Dennis Schroeder, National
Wind Technology Center, public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

World:

¶ Wholesale electricity prices in two of the most coal dependent grids in Australia, those in New South Wales and Queensland, have soared in recent weeks. According to official data, they were more than twice the price of wholesale electricity in renewable-rich South Australia. And they have also had prices spike as high as $13,000/MWh. [CleanTechnica]

¶ Air pollution in Paris has hit dangerous levels prompting city officials to curb car use and make public…

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December 9, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

For 2016, Atmospheric CO2 Concentrations are Rising at the Fastest Rate Ever Seen

robertscribbler

“The MMCO [Middle Miocene Climate Optimum] was ushered in by CO2 levels jumping abruptly from around 400ppm to 500 ppm, with global temperatures warming by about 4°C  and sea levels rising about 40m (130 feet) as the Antarctic ice sheet declined substantially and suddenly. ” — Skeptical Science

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(Fossil fuel carbon emissions are about 100 times that of volcanoes during any given year. And so much heat trapping carbon dumped into the atmosphere is forcing the world’s climate to rapidly change. Image source: The Union of Concerned Scientists.)

Human beings have never seen atmospheric CO2 values that are so high as they are today. They significantly predate our species — even preceding our distant relative Australopithecus by about 7 million years. And weather and climate conditions to which we are not adapted — either as individuals or as a civilizations — are well on the…

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December 9, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Climate Change will lead to uncontrollable migration #auspol #refugees 

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Climate change will lead to uncontrollable rise in migration: Study
NEW DELHI: Climate change will cause “uncontrollable” escalation in migration in South Asia, including India, three major international organisations working on the issue warned today.
Ahead of the Global Forum on Migration and Development, which is scheduled to start from Friday in Dhaka in Bangladesh, the study ‘Climate Change Knows No Borders’ by ActionAid, Climate Action Network South Asia and Bread for the World (Brot Fuer Die Welt) cautioned about the devastating and increasing impact of climate change on migration.
The study, which looks at climate change and its impact on migration in South Asia, particularly in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, also underlined the need for action by all governments of the world to tackle the issue.
It said the region is particularly vulnerable to climate change events, including droughts, heat waves, cyclones, rising sea levels, heavy rainfall…

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December 9, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ionizing Radiation from Chernobyl and the Fraction of Viable Pollen

Tim Mousseau – latest Chernobyl paper in International Journal of Plant Sciences:

Oct 05, 2016

Pollen viability is an important component of reproductive success, with inviable pollen causing failure of reproduction. Pollen grains have evolved mechanisms to avoid negative impacts of adverse environmental conditions on viability, including the ability to sustain ionizing radiation and repair DNA. We assessed the viability of 109,000 pollen grains representing 675 pollen samples from 111 species of plants in Chernobyl across radiation gradients that spanned three orders of magnitude. We found a statistically significant but small and negative main effect of radiation on pollen viability rates across species (Pearson’s r = 0.20). Ploidy level and the number of nucleate cells (two vs. three) were the only variables that influenced the strength of the effect of radiation on pollen viability, as reflected by significant interactions between these two variables and background radiation, while there were no significant effects of genome size, pollen aperture type, life cycle duration, or pollination agent on the strength of the effect of radiation on pollen viability.

Introduction

Most organisms are susceptible to environmental perturbations—such as climate change, extreme weather events, pollution, changes in nutrient availability, and changes in ionizing radiation levels—but the effects of such perturbations on individuals, populations, and ecosystems are variable (Candolin and Wong 2012; IPCC 2013; Møller and Mousseau 2013). In order to better understand these effects and to predict how a given species would respond to environmental disturbances, a study of the specific effects at different stages of organisms’ life cycles is required. Since reproduction is a key phase in the life cycle of any organism, reproductive effects are of particular interest. In the case of the effects of ionizing radiation, the negative consequences for reproduction in response to acute irradiation have been studied for decades and are well established (review in Møller and Mousseau 2013). However, the effects of long-term chronic exposure to low dose radiation are poorly understood.

Pollen grains are susceptible to the effects of environmental perturbations, which can have significant negative consequences for plant reproduction through pollen limitation (Delph et al. 1997; Ashman et al. 2004). Potential negative environmental effects include those resulting from elevated levels of ionizing radiation (Koller 1943). Therefore, plants have mechanisms to protect themselves from such effects, such as DNA repair, bi- or trinucleate cells, or redundancies in the genome resulting from duplications.

The area around Chernobyl in Ukraine has proven particularly useful for studying the effects of radioactive contamination on ecological and evolutionary processes at a large spatial scale. The Chernobyl nuclear accident in April 1986 led to the release of between 9.35 × 103 and 1.25 × 104 petabecquerel of radionuclides into the atmosphere (Møller and Mousseau 2006; Yablokov et al. 2009; Evangeliou et al. 2015). These radioactive contaminants were subsequently deposited in the surrounding areas of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine but also elsewhere across Europe and even in Asia and North America. The pattern of contamination is highly heterogeneous, with some regions having received much higher levels of radionuclides than others, owing to atmospheric conditions at the time of the accident (fig. 1). To this day, the Chernobyl area provides a patchwork of sites that can differ in radioactive contamination level by up to five orders of magnitude across a comparatively small area. Even decades after the accident, the amount of radioactive material remaining around Chernobyl is enormous (Møller and Mousseau 2006; Yablokov et al. 2009).

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Fig. 1. Map of the distribution of radioactive contamination in the Chernobyl region, with pollen sampling locations marked. Adapted from DeCort et al. (1998).

Because of the unprecedented scale and global impact of the Chernobyl event, it is not surprising that it generated significant interest in both the scientific community and the general public. As a result, studies have been conducted to assess the consequences of Chernobyl for human health and agriculture as well as its biological effects, ranging from the level of DNA to entire ecosystems. Since ionizing radiation has long been well established as a mutagen (Nadson and Philippov 1925; Muller 1950), a large proportion of the research effort has focused on examining changes in mutation rates in areas that have been radioactively contaminated to different degrees as a result of the accident. Although there is considerable heterogeneity in the results of these studies, most have detected significant increases in mutation rates or genetic damage following the Chernobyl disaster, with the rates remaining elevated over the following 2 decades (reviewed in Møller and Mousseau 2006). For example, the mean frequency of mutations in Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) is positively correlated with the level of background radiation, and it is 10 times higher in contaminated areas compared with control sites (Shevchenko et al. 1996). A study of Scots pine seeds detected elevated mutation rates within the exclusion zone over a period of 8 yr following the accident (Kal’chenko et al. 1995). In wheat (Triticum aestivum), the mutation rate was six times higher in radioactively contaminated areas compared with controls (Kovalchuk et al. 2000). Likewise, the frequency of chromosomal aberrations in two varieties of wheat grown within the Chernobyl exclusion zone 13 yr after the disaster was elevated compared with the spontaneous frequency of chromosomal aberrations in these cultivars (Yakimchuk et al. 2001). The levels of chromosome aberrations in onions (Allium cepa) were also positively correlated with the intensity of radioactive contamination in plants grown 20 yr after the accident (Grodzinsky 2006). Therefore, there is considerable evidence showing increased mutation rates in plants in the most contaminated sites (Møller and Mousseau 2015).

On the basis of the results of these studies, one might expect that a similar relationship between radiation level and the frequency of abnormalities would be seen in pollen. Indeed, Kordium and Sidorenko (1997) reported that the frequency of meiotic anomalies in microspore formation and the frequency of pollen grain viability was reduced in 8%–10% of the 94 plant species studied as a function of the intensity of gamma radiation 6–8 yr after the accident. In violets (Viola matutina), the proportion of viable pollen was negatively correlated with background radioactive contamination (Popova et al. 1991). While it is evident that plants differ in their susceptibility to ionizing radiation, the reasons for this variation are not entirely clear. It is likely that some species develop tolerance and/or resistance to mutagenic effects of radiation to a greater extent than others (Baer et al. 2007). For example, pollen of silver birch (Betula verrucosa), which grows in areas contaminated by the Chernobyl accident, showed elevated DNA repair ability compared with pollen from control areas, consistent with adaptation or epigenetic responses to increased radiation (Boubriak et al. 2008). There are also indications that genome size might affect the response of different species to radiation. Among the plants studied by Kordium and Sidorenko (1997), the rate of pollen viability decreased with increasing radiation to a higher degree in plants with smaller genomes (Barnier 2005), although the actual mechanism remains unknown. One potential explanation is that a larger genome might contain multiple copies of some genes as a result of duplication, rendering mutations in one of these copies less deleterious than if there were only a single copy present, although this explanation may not universally apply (Otto 2003).

In order to assess the effects of radioactive contamination on plant reproduction and to further assess species-specific differences in the effects of ionizing radiation on pollen viability, we analyzed pollen samples from plants growing in the Chernobyl region. We expected that the effects of radiation would differ among species, with some plants showing higher pollen inviability rates than others as a result of elevated radiation levels. A second objective was to test whether observed differences in pollen viability rates could be attributed to differences in phenotype among species, with possible explanatory factors including pollen size, the number of pollen apertures, ploidy, genome size, bi- or trinucleate cells, life span (annual vs. perennial), and pollination agent. We hypothesized that each of these factors could be related to the plants’ ability to resist or to tolerate radiation-induced mutations. Pollen size, genome size, and ploidy are all related to the amount of DNA and the number of copies of genes contained in the pollen grain. Because the pollen aperture—as the site of pollen germination—could be particularly susceptible to radiation-induced damage, we included the number of apertures as a potential explanatory variable. Furthermore, whether a plant is annual or perennial is related to individual longevity and, consequently, to the number of mutations that can accumulate over its lifetime as well as to the number of generations from the time of the Chernobyl accident until the time of sample collection. This may be particularly relevant for plants, given that germ tissue is derived from somatic tissues during each reproductive event as opposed to most animals, in which germ cells terminally differentiate very early during embryonic development (Buss 2006). Pollen viability depends on the ability of pollen to assess the integrity of its DNA and to repair the DNA of the generative nuclei before division (Jackson and Linskens 1980). This process is particularly important for binucleate pollen cells in which this happens during pollen germination, which is in contrast to trinucleate pollen cells, in which the need for DNA repair during pollen germination is less evident. DNA repair efficiency and adaptation of plants to chronic irradiation may also depend on the composition of radiation at the contaminated sites (Boubriak et al. 1992, 2008).

Across all plant species, we found a statistically significant relationship between radiation and the frequency of viable pollen of an intermediate magnitude (Cohen 1988). We also documented significant interactions between species and radiation, radiation and cell number, and radiation and ploidy. However, the significant effect of ploidy disappeared when both ploidy and whether cells were bi- or trinucleate were entered simultaneously in a single model. Most effects were small to intermediate in magnitude, as is commonly the case in studies of living organisms (Møller and Jennions 2002). We emphasize that our study included by far the largest sample size so far reported to detect effects of chronic radiation on pollen viability. However, we also emphasize the limits of our study. Many plant species could not be included simply because we could not locate multiple flowering specimens during our fieldwork. These and other sampling limitations reduced the number of pollen grains and the number of species that could be included.

Species differ in their susceptibility to radiation, as demonstrated for birds at both Chernobyl and Fukushima (Møller and Mousseau 2007; Møller et al. 2013; Galván et al. 2014), and in terms of adaptation to radiation (Galván et al. 2014; Møller and Mousseau 2016; Ruiz-González et al. 2016). The observed interspecific differences in radiation effects reported here for the proportion of viable pollen could be due to adaptation to radiation through tolerance of radiation-induced mutations or through induction of increased DNA repair in organisms living in contaminated areas. Another possibility is that some species are more resistant to radiation because of historical exposure in radiation hotspot areas with high natural levels of radiation (Møller and Mousseau 2013).

We observed a significant relationship between the proportion of viable pollen and the interaction between ploidy and radiation. Such a finding might suggest that resistance to deleterious effects of radiation is based on redundancy in the genome, where species with higher ploidy levels have an advantage if they have multiple copies of a given gene. We failed to detect an effect of selected physical attributes of pollen grains—such as genome size, pollen size, and aperture type—on the susceptibility of pollen to radiation. Furthermore, whether a plant was annual or perennial or whether it was insect or wind pollinated did not affect the proportion of viable pollen. Finally, whether plants produced bi- or trinucleate pollen had a significant effect on pollen viability, and the interaction between radiation and cell number was also significant.

While we confirmed the general finding of Kordium and Sidorenko (1997) that in approximately 10% of species the proportion of viable pollen is negatively correlated with radiation level, we were unable to reproduce their findings with respect to the overall magnitude of this effect. Our observed effect size was much smaller, and the slopes for individual species differed significantly from those reported by Kordium and Sidorenko (1997). Because more than 10 yr have passed between the two studies, we suggest that a change in radiation effects has taken place over time, for example, as a result of adaptation or accumulation of mutations. Another possible explanation for the discrepancy has to do with sample size, since our study included a much larger number of pollen samples and sampling locations than the study by Kordium and Sidorenko (1997). These explanations are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Whereas other studies have demonstrated significant negative effects of radioactive contamination around Chernobyl on mutation rates and fitness in general, our study of pollen viability shows a very small effect, and some species even show positive relationships between pollen viability and radiation that is suggestive of adaptation to increased levels of radiation. However, on the basis of the current study, it is not possible to determine whether the observed heterogeneity reflects evolved adaptive responses or is the consequence of unmeasured selective effects on characters correlated with pollen viability, which could in part explain an overall positive effect of radiation (for a discussion of evolutionary responses in Chernobyl, see Møller and Mousseau 2016). Experimental approaches would be needed to decipher the mechanisms underlying the heterogeneity in plant responses observed here (Mousseau 2000).

The observed variability in susceptibility to radiation is a common finding in studies of the effects of radiation from Chernobyl (Møller and Mousseau 2007; Galván et al. 2011, 2014; Møller et al. 2013). While our results are consistent with earlier findings that DNA repair mechanisms may play an important role in adaptation to life in radioactively contaminated environments—especially for plants, which are sessile and hence cannot move to less contaminated areas—further research is required to test this explicitly. Finally, because of the observed differences in resistance to radiation among species, it is likely that even small overall effects of radiation—such as the one on the proportion of viable pollen described here—can have significant consequences for species composition and abundance at a given location and, therefore, for ecosystem characteristics and functioning.

In conclusion, we have found a statistically significant overall negative relationship between radiation intensity and the frequency of viable pollen in plants growing in contaminated areas around Chernobyl. The magnitude of this effect across species included in our study was intermediate. We only found a significant relationship between the proportion of viable pollen and ploidy × radiation interaction, bi- or trinucleate cells, and bi- or trinucleate cells × radiation interaction. This suggests that DNA repair mechanisms could play an important role for the ability of plants to resist increased radiation, at least when it comes to pollen formation.

Acknowledgments

We thank Puri López-García for use of a microscope for pollen counts. This work has benefited from the facilities and expertise of the cytometry platform of Imagif (Centre de Recherche de Gif; http://www.imagif.cnrs.fr). We thank Spencer Brown and Mickaël Bourge for their help with the flow cytometry measurements and Srdan Randić for help with pollen counts. Field collections for this study were supported in part by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (France), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Collaborative Linkage Grant program, the Fulbright program, the University of South Carolina College of Arts and Sciences, and the Samuel Freeman Charitable Trust. Two reviewers provided constructive criticism.

Read full paper at:

http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/full/10.1086/688873

 

 

 

December 9, 2016 Posted by | radiation | , , , | Leave a comment

Kyushu Electric Restarts Sendai Nuclear Reactor

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FUKUOKA (Kyodo) — Kyushu Electric Power Co. restarted a nuclear reactor in the southwestern Japan prefecture of Kagoshima on Thursday after the prefectural governor, who is opposed to nuclear power, effectively permitted the move last week.
The No.1 reactor at the Sendai nuclear power complex is one of five reactors to have been reactivated under stricter safety regulations adopted in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. Following resumption in August 2015, its operation had been suspended for a regular checkup since Oct. 6.
The utility pulled out control rods from the reactor at around 9:30 p.m. The reactor is expected to achieve criticality by Friday morning and to start power generation from Sunday. Commercial operation is set to resume from Jan. 6.
Kyushu Electric on Tuesday notified Kagoshima Gov. Satoshi Mitazono of the planned restart of the reactor and was not requested to suspend it this time, it said.
Mitazono, who was elected in July on an antinuclear platform, asked the utility in August and September to immediately suspend operation of the plant. The No. 1 reactor came to a halt in October for a regular checkup.
The Sendai complex’s No.2 reactor is scheduled to be suspended for regular checks from Dec. 16 to Feb. 27.
Mitazono had told a prefectural assembly earlier this month that he had no legal power to decide whether or not to restart the reactor, paving the way for the latest move.
On Thursday, however, Mitazono said that he will take “strong action, regardless of the reactor’s operation,” if an experts’ committee, which he plans to set up to examine safety at the plant, finds any safety problems.
Some 30 local residents and antinuclear group members gathered in front of the Sendai plant Thursday morning to protest the reactivation.

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December 9, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Loan ceiling for TEPCO to be raised

 

Japan’s government has decided to lift the ceiling for interest-free loans to the operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
The government now estimates the facility will end up costing Tokyo Electric Power Company more than 194 billion dollars.

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Decommissioning the plant is expected to cost 4 times the original estimate of 17 billion dollars. Compensation for farmers is expected to rise to 70 billion dollars from 47 billion dollars.
The cost of decontamination work and constructing intermediate storage facilities for contaminated soil and waste materials is also likely to increase to 53 billion dollars from 31 billion dollars.
Against this backdrop, the government plans to raise the upper limit of its loans to TEPCO from the current 79 billion dollars to 123 billion dollars.
The government plans to have TEPCO and other utilities pay back the loans. It says the utilities include newcomers to the market following deregulation of the retail power business this year.
Speculation is growing that the decision may result in higher electricity prices, which will increase the burden on consumers.

December 9, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Reclaimed Land for Okinawa US Base Filled With Fukushima Radioactive Waste?

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According to one of my Japanese contacts,  Ryouichi Kawaguchi,  the Fukushima’s radioactive waste accumulated in Chiba Prefecture is brought to the reclaimed land of Henoko, Okinawa, via Fukuoka.
Consequently, the U. S. soldiers who will be stationed at the Henoko new base will be exposed to radiation like the Fukushima population.
As substitute land of the Futenma base, Japan and the United States should build the new base on Nozakijima island which is uninhabited, offshore from Hirado city, in Nagasaki prefecture rather than reclaim the foreshore from the sea at Henoko, Okinawa. The Japanese Government could build a long bridge from Hirado-city of Nagasaki prefecture to the Nozakijima Island.
The fact that the Abe Administration would be using Fukushima’s radioactive waste to reclaim land from the sea at Henoko, Okinawa should be dug into, and if confirmed exposed to world public attention.
I do not think US needs more irradiated US soldiers, having already those of Operation Tomodachi to deal with.
Source: Ryouichi Kawaguchi

December 9, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment