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NRA pushing dry cask storage, not pools, for spent nuclear fuel


Japan’s nuclear watchdog will ease quake-related and other regulations on storing spent fuel to push the use of dry casks and reduce the dangers stemming from power failures at nuclear power plants.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority decided on Jan. 25 that utilities should place spent nuclear fuel in the special air cooling containers instead of the common practice of submerging the fuel rods in pools of water.

Fuel stored in pools is cooled by circulating water with pumps, but the system can shut down if earthquakes and other disasters cut off the power supply. The water could then evaporate, leaving the spent fuel and radioactive substances exposed to air.

Electric power companies have shown a positive attitude toward the dry storage system because it would enable them to keep more spent fuel when the pools are filled close to capacity.

However, municipalities that host nuclear power plants have expressed strong concerns that the system will let utilities keep spent nuclear fuel at plant sites for prolonged periods.

NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka stressed the need for safety.

It (dry cask storage) is much safer than storing fuel in pools,” he said.

The Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami cut off power to Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in March 2011. Three reactors melted down, and the cooling system would not work for more than 1,000 spent fuel assemblies in the pool in the No. 4 reactor building.

Fears arose that all water in the pool could evaporate. But emergency measures, including the pumping in of water, were taken to keep the fuel submerged.

Under the dry storage system, the fuel is sufficiently cooled in pools and placed in dedicated airtight cases. The special casks are then stored inside air-permeable facilities.

The NRA plans to promote use of casks that are currently used to transport spent nuclear fuel.

The containers have passed durability tests and can withstand falls from a height of 9 meters and high-temperature fires.

Dry storage containers are widely used in the United States and Europe.

But the use of dry casks has not spread in Japan because of the high hurdles that must be cleared. One requirement is that those containers must be stored in building that can withstand the strongest earthquake predicted in the area.

As a result, dry storage containers are used at only a few nuclear facilities in the country, such as Japan Atomic Power Co.’s Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant in Ibaraki Prefecture.

According to the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, a total of 15,000 tons of spent fuel is stored at 17 nuclear plants across Japan.

Seventy percent of their fuel pools and other storage facilities have been filled with spent fuel.

February 14, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

US admits using toxic depleted uranium against ISIS in Syria

More than 5,000 rounds of depleted uranium (DU) ammunition were used in two attacks on Islamic State oil tankers in eastern Syria, the US military has confirmed. The US-led coalition previously pledged it would not use the controversial ordnance.

A spokesman for the US Central Command (CENTCOM) told Foreign Policy that 5,265 armor-piercing DU rounds were used in November 2015, during two air raids against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) oil tanker convoys in the Deir ez-Zor and Hasakah provinces in eastern Syria.

A-10 ground attack aircraft fired the projectiles from their 30mm rotating cannons, destroying about 350 tanker trucks, according to CENTCOM spokesman Major Josh Jacques.

In March 2015, spokesman for the US-led coalition John Moore had explicitly ruled out the use of the controversial ammunition, saying that “US and coalition aircraft have not been and will not be using depleted uranium munitions in Iraq or Syria during Operation Inherent Resolve.” The Pentagon explained that armor-piercing DU rounds were not necessary because IS did not have the tanks it was designed to penetrate.

Investigative reporter Samuel Oakford first brought up the use of DU ammunition by the coalition in October 2016, when a US Air Force congressional liaison told Representative Martha McSally (R-Arizona) that A-10s flying missions over Syria had fired 6,479 rounds of “combat mix” on two occasions. The officer explained that a fifth of the “combat mix” consisted of high-explosive incendiary (HEI) rounds, while the rest were DU armor-piercers.

The first attack took place on November 16, near Al-Bukamal in the Deir ez-Zor province, with four US planes destroying 46 vehicles. The strike took place entirely in Syrian territory. According to CENTCOM, 1,790 rounds of “combat mix” were used during the strike, including 1,490 rounds of DU.

The combination of Armored Piercing Incendiary (DU) rounds mixed with HEI rounds was used to ensure a higher probability of destruction of the truck fleet ISIS was using to transport its illicit oil,” Major Jacques told RT.

Depleted uranium is prized by the US military for exceptional toughness, which enables it to pierce heavy tank armor. However, airborne DU particles can contaminate nearby ground and water and pose a significant risk of toxicity, birth defects and cancer when inhaled or ingested by humans or animals.

The coalition’s promise not to use DU munitions in Iraq was made after an estimated one million rounds were used during the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 invasion. Between Iraq and the Balkans, where they were also used in the 1990s, DU rounds have been blamed on a massive increase in cancer and birth defects.

DU is also the prime suspect in the medical condition dubbed the “Gulf War Syndrome” afflicting US veterans of the 1991 conflict and some peacekeepers deployed in the Balkans.

Article source with video;

February 14, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fukushima: the battle of France on behalf of nuclear

This french documentary does not go into much details. Still it shows the French government eagerness to minimize the Fukushima catastrophe in the eyes of the public, of the world, to push for the continuation of nuclear, so as to save its own nuclear industries from economic repercussions.

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A documentary broadcasted last Sunday February 12, 2017 in the program “Cellule de Crisis” exposed how France worked since March 11, 2011 to “safeguard the interests of nuclear”.

The matter was heard and investigated. The Fukushima disaster, which took place almost six years ago, is a “man-made disaster” as Kiyoshi Kurokawa, the chairman of the parliamentary commission of inquiry, wrote in black and white.

Since March 11, 2011, reports, investigations, Japanese and international documentaries have not failed to describe the sequence of events, unpreparedness, serial errors and the panic that seized the political- Industrialist powers in the early days of the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

The merit of this documentary is not so much in this reminder of those March days which gave cold sweats to the whole planet and during which the worst was avoided just by little.

Even though it is still necessary to remember that the Japanese authorities envisaged the catastrophic scenario: a total loss of control of the Fukushima-daiichi power plant and a nuclear crisis that would have condemned much of Japan for decades and Authorities to evacuate more than 50 million people, as told in these columns Naoto Kan, Prime Minister at the time.

Journalist Linda Bendali, who signed the investigation in this documentary, had access to key witnesses on the Naoto Kan team, among the rescuers, soldiers and members of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), which manages the plant. But if this documentary reveals secrets, it is especially on its French side that it brings a welcome light.

In constructing a narrative between Japan and France, it explains the “strategy of the French government to safeguard the interests of nuclear power”. And shows how Paris embarked on a “diplomatic and industrial battle crucial for France”.

“Risks of contamination in Europe”

Even though EDF, François Fillon – then Prime Minister – and his advisors, and Eric Besson, the then Minister of Industry, refused interview requests, the journalist was able to reconstruct the narrative on the French side. Informed by a Tepco source, the Institute of Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) was among the first to be informed of the crisis.

In Paris, IRSN is mobilizing its crisis center with 40 engineers, translators to try to understand the situation at the plant and to face possible “risks of contamination throughout Europe”.

At Areva, eight engineers give the alarm by buckling their suitcases. “The Japanese have lost control of the plant,” they said, leaving Japan in a hurry. Panic seizes expatriates in Tokyo.

From March 12, the explosions caused by concentrated hydrogen in the Fukushima plant and the tinkering of the interventions are “very scary”, as Anne Lauvergeon, then president of Areva, said.

France, the country of nuclear with the EDF and Areva giants, is seing falling prices of its nuclear industries and of uranium on its stock exchanges. It must be countered. The Prime Minister and the Industry and Ecology Ministers, the IRSN, will enter the battle to “lower the pressure and the anguish”.

Press conference, language elements, audit of French reactors, etc. Paris maneuvered so that “nuclear power does not become a subject of debate” and that “the place of the atom is not called into question in Europe”. France opposes the “hallucinatory decision of Germany”, to disconnect its power stations, in the words of Frank Supplisson, cabinet director of Eric Besson, Minister of Industry, Energy and Economy at the time, and does not hesitate to threaten its European partners who do not seem to share its views, and pressured European diplomats.

Beautiful French fiasco

In Tokyo, the French ambassador, Philippe Faure, put online a statement recommending to French nationals to leave for a few days the Japanese capital. The Quai d’Orsay Foreign Affairs Ministry ordered him to withdraw the text. Then, with delay, Paris dispatches an plane of aid with “tons of useless material”, tells a member of the embassy. “In the country of Nissan and Toyota, what was sent was bulk, not dazzling,” recalls Philippe Faure.

The documentary also tells a fine fiasco when French technical aid was refused by Japan.

“Paris rented a very expensive Antonov to transport its robots able to intervene in a contaminated environment, but Tokyo wanted French experts to pilot them. “The engineers agreed to come to Tokyo,” says Linda Bendali, “but not at the foot of the reactors.” As a result, the Japanese declined the offer.

In this diplomatic-industrial offensive, the presidential Elysee palace was not left behind. The french president, Nicolas Sarkozy, went out of his way to be the first head of state to come to Japan. Twenty days after March 11, he arrived in Tokyo to remind the need to pursue nuclear power.

Naoto Kan finally agreed to host him despite an overloaded schedule. On that day, “I was convinced that we had to stop” using nuclear, says today the former Prime Minister who became one of the most ardent anti-nuclear militants of the archipelago. But facing Nicolas Sarkozy on March 31, 2011, he kept silent.

Cellule de crise. De Paris à Fukushima, les secrets d’une catastrophe. Dimanche 12 février à 22h40. France 2. Rediffusion, jeudi 16 février à 1h40


February 14, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | 1 Comment