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Even as Evacuation Orders are Lifted, Recovery Remains Distant Prospect for Many Fukushima Residents

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Six years after the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, the government has lifted evacuation orders on four municipalities around the plant, allowing residents to return home for the first time since the meltdowns. The author, who has been involved in reconstruction planning since the evacuation orders were first given, calls for a multiple-track plan to meet the complicated needs of those who return and evacuees who continue to live elsewhere as evacuees.

The Beginning of the End, or the Prelude to New Heartache?

The Japanese government on March 31 and April 1 of this year lifted evacuation orders for areas around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station it issued in the wake of the nuclear accident at the plant more than six years ago. The decision finally allowed some 32,000 residents of the four radiation-affected municipalities of Iidate, Kawamata, Namie, and Tomioka to return to their homes. Following the move, the only places still subject to evacuation orders are Futaba and Ōkuma (where the Daiichi plant is located) and parts of five neighboring towns and villages.

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The Japanese media almost universally hailed the decision as a “major milestone” toward residents of affected areas rebuilding their lives. But this supposed milestone can be taken in two quite different ways. In much of the media there was an optimistic sense of a return to normalcy, resulting in the view that the evacuation orders lifting was a long-awaited new beginning in the recovery effort, and that residents would finally be able to start rebuilding their lives and communities. Another, more cynical view, however, is that it merely marked the start of new string of woes. Considering the challenges that face residents, in my opinion this second interpretation is closer to the truth.

The optimistic view is pushed by the national and prefectural authorities in charge of advancing recovery efforts in Fukushima, and is based on the following scenario.

1. Designate evacuation zones across areas affected by radiation, and provide support to evacuees in the form of temporary housing and compensation.

2. Decontaminate the affected areas.

3. Prepare to lift the evacuation orders as radiation levels fall.

4. Rebuild local infrastructure and reestablish local services, rebuilding health, welfare, and retail facilities where necessary.

5. Lift evacuation orders.

6. Evacuees return home.

For the thousands of evacuees forced to live away from their homes over the past six years, however, there is quite a different sense to the orders being lifted. Some people will decide to return home while others will remain where they are. No matter their decision, though, we must face the fact that new challenges await both groups.

Many of those most eager to return home are the elderly, but health and welfare provisions are still far from satisfactory in many areas. There are also lingering doubts for other members of the community, such as the future of the area’s farming, forestry, and fisheries. Local economies have been devastated, raising the question of employment and whether people will even be able to buy daily necessities, let alone support themselves long term.

The situation at the power plant also remains precarious and much work remains to be done. The problem of radioactive water has yet to be solved and a medium-term storage facility must be found for huge amounts of contaminated material. However, there is not even a timetable for when these will be accomplished. Faced with such uncertainty, many people will simply choose to remain where they are rather than risk returning home. However, this decision brings a different set of problems, as many of the support systems put in place to help evacuees will be cut off now that they are no longer prevented from going back.

In surveys carried out between 2014 and 2017 by the Reconstruction Ministry, the Fukushima Prefectural government, and the evacuated municipalities, more than half of residents of Futaba, Namie, Ōkuma, and Tomioka said they did not plan to return to their homes after the evacuation orders were lifted. In other areas where more than a year has already passed since evacuation orders were rescinded, the number of residents who have returned remains at 20% or less everywhere except Tamura. These sobering figures illustrate the steep road awaiting evacuees wishing to go home.

Assessing Conditions in the Affected Areas

The fact that authorities lifted evacuation orders despite so many issues still unresolved demonstrates a disregard for the challenges confronting residents. Now more than ever, we must consider and assess the uncertainties residents face and ascertain future challenges.

In the areas recently deemed fit again for human habitation, flexible containers filled with contaminated materials still lie in heaps at various temporary storage points, where they have been since clean-up operations began. While the plan is to eventually move these to medium-term storage facilities, I wonder if authorities when deciding to lift the evacuation order really understood the anxiety and stress placed on residents who must live their lives surrounded by mountains of contaminated debris.

d00319_ph02-680x451Containers of contaminated soil in temporary storage await safety checks in Minamisōma, Fukushima, on June 11, 2016.

The town of Hirono is situated 22 kilometers from Fukushima Daiichi. Following the disaster, the town’s medical services fell to the sole efforts of the head of the local hospital, Dr. Takano Hideo. However, the future of the hospital was thrown in doubt when Takano died in a fire late last year. Nakayama Yūjiro, a physician in Tokyo, assisted for a time, spending two months earlier this year as the hospital’s resident doctor.

Nakayama wrote a diary based on his experience, which was published in April 2017 by Nikkei Business online as Ishi ga mita Fukushima no riaru (The Reality of Fukushima: A Doctor’s View). In his account, Nakayama describes the ongoing tragedy of the disaster and discusses the numerous people who have died from conditions brought on by the stress of residing in temporary living conditions. He points to three main reasons for these deaths: Separation from family and loss of community; interruption of ongoing medical treatment; and change of environment. Nakayama’s experience illustrates how in indirect ways, the death toll from the disaster continues to rise.

Giving Up on the Dream of Going Home

The situation is worse still for people whose homes are subject to ongoing evacuation orders. Sasaki Yasuko, who was evacuated from her home in Namie, spent the time since the disaster in temporary housing in the town of Koori. In a 90-page record of her life as an evacuee called Osoroshii hōshanō no sora no shita (Under a Fearsome Radioactive Sky), she writes: “I don’t want to die in temporary housing. That’s all I ask. Everyone is talking about wrapping things up and bringing an end to the disaster—but I don’t want my life to end like this. . . . Since the disaster, there seem to be slogans everywhere I go that are meant to keep our spirits up. But what more can I do than what I’m already doing? I wish someone would tell me what I’m expected to do.”

I met Sasaki for the last time in the spring of 2013. She was still living in temporary housing and was working to complete a model of her home in Namie, desperately trying to recreate from memories a place she thought she would never see again. Around a month after that, I learned that she had been hospitalized and had passed away at the age of 84. I also heard that before entering the hospital, she had taken her model and smashed it to pieces.

d00319_ph03-680x453Sasaki Yasuko toward the end of her life, at work on a model of her abandoned home in Namie.

I had many other opportunities to talk to people whose homes are in areas “closed to habitation indefinitely.” Several of them told me that when they had tried to tidy up one of their short visits home, they found their houses in a state of chaos as a result of intrusions by boars and other wild animals. The residents asked the authorities to do something about it, saying, “Can’t you catch the boars, or at least hire someone to stop them from getting into our houses?” But no business could be persuaded to take the project on as everyone was too afraid of the high radiation levels.

Faced with difficulties and indignities like this, people’s eagerness to return home slowly withered. They say that the radiation tore everything up by the roots—history, culture, community—and they wonder if any amount of compensation can make up for such a loss. Robbed of their local heritage, many residents of affected areas continue to lament the cultural implications of the disaster.

The Need to Support Both Returnees and Evacuees

The authorities imagine a simplistic scenario where lifting the evacuation orders results in everyone returning home and living happily ever after. But life is not so simple, and this storyline does not include solutions for problems like those outlined above. As well as working to restore and rebuild the physical infrastructure in the evacuated towns and villages, the authorities need to work with residents to develop programs that will help them get their lives back on track. These programs need to have realistic outlooks of the future and must consider the hopes of the residents themselves.

From the initial days after the disaster, the message from the national government and Tokyo Electric Power Company, the operator of the Daiichi plant, has been: “Leave this to us.” This has permeated their attitude in establishing support efforts for evacuees in temporary housing, setting radiation safety standards, cleanup work, compensation negotiations, livelihood support, and reconstruction plans. Everything has been handled in an ad hoc fashion, leading to misunderstanding and anxiety and opening gaps between the authorities and those they are supposedly trying to help. For residents, all these actions are closely connected. There is still no process for building consensus and bridging the gulf that has formed between the authorities and the residents who should be playing a leading role in rebuilding their communities. It is in this context that the evacuation orders were lifted.

The authorities should make it a priority to draw up a less simplistic scenario that better reflects the reality on the ground. There must be a multiple-track plan balancing programs to rebuild communities and support returnees’ lives back home with measures that provide help to evacuees who choose to remain where they are. One idea worth considering would be a program that allowed evacuees to divide their lives between two areas for a bridging period, giving them time to rebuild their hometowns while remaining in temporary housing. One way this could be accomplished is to provide residences where evacuees could live on a part-time basis as they work to rebuild their communities and repair their damaged and neglected homes.

(Originally published in Japanese on May 9, 2017. Banner photo: A photographer snaps photos of somei-yoshino cherries in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, on April 12, 2017. Most of the 2.2-kilometer stretch of cherry trees is barricaded off inside an evacuation area. Since this spring, the first 300 meters of the road have been opened to the public during the daytime. The district is now designated an “area closed to habitation provisionally.” © Jiji.)

http://www.nippon.com/en/currents/d00319/

 

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May 24, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Ex-Officials of Fukushima NPP Operator to Face Trial for 2011 Disaster in June

 

Three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, are to face trial next month for the March 2011 nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
Former TEPCO chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and former vice presidents Ichiro Takekuro and Sakae Muto are accused of failing to take appropriate safety measures despite having been able to foresee that the plant would be inundated by tsunami waves.
They have been charged with professional negligence resulting in death or injury.
In 2013, public prosecutors decided not to press charges against the 3.
But they were indicted in February last year by court-appointed lawyers, after a prosecution inquest panel of randomly selected citizens voted to do so.
Preparations for the trial are underway at the Tokyo District Court.
The 3 former executives are expected to plead not guilty at their first hearing on June 30th.
 

 

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Former executives of the TEPCO company, which operated the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (NPP) will come up for trial on June 30 for the 2011 nuclear disaster, local media reported on Wednesday
MOSCOW (Sputnik) — In February 2016, former TEPCO chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and two ex-vice presidents Ichiro Takekuro and Sakae Muto were accused of failing to take necessary security measures in the face of potential tsunami-related incidents at the NPP.
According to the NHK broadcaster, the preparations for the first hearing is ongoing at the Tokyo District Court.
In March 2011, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake triggered a tsunami that hit the Fukushima NPP and led to the leakage of radioactive materials and the shutdown of the facility. The accident is considered to be the world’s worst nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl accident that took place in the Soviet Ukraine in 1986.

May 24, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

2 more nuclear reactors in Japan clear regulator’s safety review

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The No. 3 (right) and 4 reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi Nuclear Power Plant are seen in November 2016.
TOKYO (Kyodo) — The Nuclear Regulation Authority formally confirmed Wednesday that two reactors on the Sea of Japan have met the country’s post-Fukushima safety standards, paving the way for their restart possibly this fall.
The authority gave its final approval to a screening report submitted by Kansai Electric Power Co. on the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors at Oi plant in Fukui Prefecture, bringing the number of reactors that have met the standards introduced after the 2011 nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant to 12 at six power stations.
For the restart, Kansai Electric still has to pass on-site pre-operational checks by the authority and obtain approval from the Fukui prefectural government.
The utility said in a statement it will “make utmost effort for the early restart of nuclear plants whose safety has been confirmed by gaining the understanding of local residents.”
Although the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been promoting the restart of nuclear reactors, most of them remain offline amid safety concerns among local residents following the Fukushima disaster triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami.
The nuclear safety watchdog gave the green light to the restart of the reactors despite a pending lawsuit filed by local residents seeking to block the resumption of operations. Kansai Electric has appealed a Fukui District Court ruling in 2014 which banned it from running the two reactors due to safety concerns.
Seismologist Kunihiko Shimazaki, a former commissioner of the NRA, has warned that the authority may have underestimated quake hazards at the Oi plant.
Kansai Electric applied for the screening of the two reactors at the Oi plant in July 2013. With Wednesday’s approval, all of its seven nuclear reactors at three power stations for which the utility has sought screening have cleared the safety standards.
Of the seven, the No. 4 reactor at Takahama plant in Fukui restarted operation on May 17, while the No. 3 reactor of the same plant is expected to get back online in early June.

 

May 24, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

TEPCO to look inside Fukushima reactor 3

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. will probe the inside of the containment vessel of the No. 3 reactor at its disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant this summer, company officials said Monday.
 
The aim of the move is to confirm the expected presence of melted nuclear fuel debris in the containment vessel.
 
TEPCO explained the plan at a Nuclear Regulation Authority meeting on the decommissioning process of the Fukushima plant, which suffered a triple meltdown due to damage from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
 
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May 24, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Draft treaty on banning possession and use of nuclear weapons released by UN panel

UN panel releases draft treaty banning possession and use of nuclear weapons https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/23/un-panel-releases-draft-treaty-banning-possession-and-use-of-nuclear-weapons

States would have to destroy any nuclear weapons they have and would be forbidden from transferring them, Guardian, Ben Doherty , 23 May 17, A United Nations-backed panel has publicly released a draft treaty banning the possession and use of all nuclear weapons.

The draft treaty is the culmination of a sustained campaign, supported by more than 130 non-nuclear states frustrated with the sclerotic pace of disarmament, to prohibit nuclear weapons and persuade nuclear-armed states to disarm.

Nine countries are known or believed to possess nuclear weapons: the US, UK, Russia, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel. None has supported the draft plan.

The draft treaty obliges state parties to “never under any circumstances … develop, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices … use nuclear weapons … [or] carry out any nuclear weapon test”.

States would also be obliged to destroy any nuclear weapons they possess and would be forbidden from transferring nuclear weapons to any other recipient.

Costa Rica’s ambassador to the UN, Elayne Whyte Gómez, who chaired the treaty drafting conference, said she expected revisions and there was “a good level of convergence among the delegations, especially on the core prohibitions”.

Disarmament advocates say the draft treaty, supported by dozens of countries, is now on track to be discussed at a second session in New York in mid-June that could end with the document’s adoption as a UN treaty in July.

The US and other nuclear powers have argued states should strengthen and improve the 47-year-old nuclear non-proliferation treaty instead of adopting a total ban.

US officials have cited the threat posed by North Korea, which has conducted a series of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile tests this year, as reason why nuclear deterrence – and gradual nuclear disarmament – is still needed.

Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the international campaign to abolish nuclear weapons (Ican), said the draft language was strong in categorically prohibiting nuclear weapons.

“We are particularly happy the text is rooted in humanitarian principles and that it builds on previous prohibitions of unacceptable weapons, such as biological and chemical weapons, landmines and cluster munitions.”

Fihn urged nuclear-armed and nuclear alliance states to join discussions over a ban treaty, as demonstration of their commitment to disarmament.

“Nuclear weapons are ethically unacceptable in the 21st century. Intended to indiscriminately kill civilians, this 1940s technology is putting countless of lives at risk every day. Their continued existence undermines the moral credibility of every country which relies on them. A treaty to ban them, as a first step towards their elimination, will have real and lasting impact.”

The efficacy of a ban treaty is a matter of fierce debate.

Support has been growing steadily over months of negotiations but it has no support from the nine known nuclear states, which include the veto-wielding permanent five members of the UN security council.

Critics argue that a treaty cannot succeed without the participation of the states that possess nuclear weapons, or the alliance states that enjoy their protection.

Australia, citing the deterrent effect of the US nuclear umbrella, has been the most outspoken of the non-nuclear states.

During months of negotiations, Australia has lobbied other countries, pressing the case for what it describes as a “building blocks” approach of engaging with nuclear powers to reduce the global stockpile of 15,000 weapons.

But proponents say a nuclear weapons ban will create moral suasion – in the vein of the cluster and landmine conventions – for nuclear weapons states to disarm, and establish an international norm prohibiting the development, possession and use of nuclear weapons.

Non-nuclear states have expressed increasing frustration with the current nuclear regime and the piecemeal progress towards disarmament.

With nuclear weapons states modernising and in some cases increasing their arsenals, instead of discarding them, more states are becoming disenchanted with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and lending their support for an outright ban.

May 24, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, weapons and war | 1 Comment

UK nuclear deterrent may be vulnerable to cyberattack

IB Times 22nd May 2017 In the wake of the “WannaCry” cyberattack which resulted in widespread disruption of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), attention has now turned to other forms of infrastructure.

One security expert has warned Britain’s nuclear weapons are at risk of being targeted. The UK nuclear deterrent, known as Trident, consists of four Vanguard-class submarines which can carry up to 16 ballistic missiles, each armed with up to eight warheads. Most of its computers, however, reportedly run on a legacy variant of the under-supported Windows XP operating system.  http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/are-britains-nuclear-weapons-systems-vulnerable-mass-cyberattacks-1622811

May 24, 2017 Posted by | UK, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Why the Hanford radioactive waste tunnel collapsed

The truth about the Hanford tunnel collapse https://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/9796-The-truth-about-the-Hanford-tunnel-collapse?mc_cid=0377d1b344&mc_eid=da6e209b80 West coast radioactive leak highlights US crumbling nuclear facilities, writes  Jan McGirk 17.05.2017 On May 9th, emergency sirens went off at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State, long considered the most toxic nuclear waste storage site in the United States. It’s where highly radioactive equipment from early nuclear weapon manufacturing was dumped along with the reactor fuel and core debris retrieved from the Three Mile Island meltdown in 1979.

May 24, 2017 Posted by | safety, USA | Leave a comment

South Africa’s nuclear build plans – ripe for corruption

How SA’s nuclear plant build could fuel corruption The government can restrict public and parliamentary oversight by using arguments on national security, Business Day, 23 MAY 2017 7 NEIL OVERYThe construction of a nuclear power plant is considered to be a megaproject – characterised as a significant investment, as being highly complex organisationally and technically and as having a long-lasting effect on the economy, society and the environment.

International experience shows that such projects are prime targets for corruption. Their size, complexity and longevity create thousands of contractual links — between the customer, contractor, sub-contractors, co-ordinating project offices, etc — each of which present an opportunity for corruption. A recent local example is the corruption that plagued phase 1 of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project.

Allied to this is the potential problem of central government involvement. Energy projects in particular tend to be centrally managed by governments and, by necessity, afford senior public officials discretionary powers over projects.

The construction of a nuclear power plant is particularly problematic as governments can use issues of alleged national security to restrict public and even parliamentary oversight.

In SA, apartheid-era legislation such as the National Key Points Act of 1980 could be used to withhold information about any new nuclear power plant being constructed. As Right2Know has said, “historically, the National Key Points Act has been used and abused to stifle access to information”.

In the alleged interests of national security, information about corruption (think Nkandla) or a radioactive leak could be hidden from the public. The situation is made worse by the fact that there is no public interest defence for whistleblowers in terms of the National Key Points Act.

Nuclear power plant construction is also open to corruption because of the information asymmetry between the vendor and the buyer.

SA is not able to build nuclear power plants on its own and lacks the necessary information on the technical complexity of construction processes. This means that the vendor can be confident that the buyer is not fully aware of all the features and financing needs of the power plant, creating opportunities for graft by the vendor.

The type of construction model signed with vendors can also have an effect on corruption. SA’s nuclear build front-runner Rosatom offers various models. According to Phumzile Tshelane, CEO of the Nuclear Energy Corporation of SA, the country prefers the build, own and transfer model in terms of which vendors and states work in joint venture partnerships to build and operate power plants that are eventually transferred to recipient states.

At first glance, this looks like the best model for SA because it means that anything between 25% and 50% of project implementation and construction jobs will be localised. However, in SA, where according to Transparency International, both the public and private sectors are endemically corrupt, such a model creates numerous opportunities for rent-seeking.

Already, we have seen a R171m deal for the “procurement of the nuclear build programme management system” awarded to a company called Central Lake Trading 149 that is run by the son of Vivian Reddy, long-time associate of President Jacob Zuma. While there is no indication of anything suspicious in this deal, it demonstrates the kind of opportunities created……..

How nuclear procurement has been handled to date in the country shows just how far the government has departed from best practice.

Firstly, the government has failed to show that the nuclear build is necessary. Its own  Ministerial Advisory Council on Energy recommends that no new nuclear power capacity is necessary in SA for the foreseeable future.

This view is confirmed by Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) modelling, which shows that no new nuclear power is necessary until at least 2050 (the date their modelling ended). Prof Anton Eberhard of the University of Cape Town has described the state’s determination to  pursue the nuclear procurement as “irrational”.

Secondly, the government has not properly assessed alternative ways of meeting the  perceived need.

While it has considered renewable energy options, it has done so in a fashion that artificially constrains their potential.

The government’s draft 2016 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) places completely arbitrary limits on the amount of renewable energy that can be delivered in SA despite there being, according to the CSIR, no technical reason for this.

Energy expert Chris Yelland has stated that the constraints imposed in the IRP are the result of “a political decision rather than a rational planning decision”.

Thirdly, project costs and benefits have not been estimated accurately throughout their complete life cycles.

Energy experts throughout SA agree that the draft 2016 IRP underestimates the cost of nuclear power and overestimates the cost of renewables.

The IRP suggests a cost of R0.97/kWh for new nuclear power. The CSIR has found that the “most optimistic” cost would be R1.17/kWh, while research carried out by EE Publishers suggested R1.30/kWh.

None of these calculations factor in the considerable extra costs of nuclear fuel, routine plant maintenance and refurbishment, decommissioning, or the long-term disposal of nuclear waste. For renewables, the IRP gives a price of R0.81/kWh for solar and R0.93/kWh for wind, while the CSIR shows that both now cost R0.62/kWh, with prices continuing to fall.

Lastly, particular suppliers have been favoured and deals have been reached without proper oversight.

The recent court case between the Department of Energy and Earthlife Africa-Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute demonstrates this.

The judges in the case found that Rosatom had been favoured over other potential vendors as a “a firm legal commitment existed between SA’s government and Rosatom in terms of the Intergovernmental Agreement signed with Russia in 2014”. An agreement that the judges found, “clearly required to be scrutinised and debated by the legislature” and was in breach of section 10 of the National Energy Regular Act, which calls for participatory decision-making processes.

New Energy Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi recently stated that new agreements will be signed with nuclear vendors but that she did not want to find herself “in court every day”.

She could heed best practice and ensure that before any procurement proceeds, an anti-corruption plan is in place between the government, the vendor and civil society.

This should identify where corruption could take place, make recommendations for mitigating it and should be regularly reviewed during each phase of project implementation. Transparency International calls these plans “integrity pacts” and they have been successfully implemented in 15 countries in more than 300 procurement projects.

Sadly, in the current climate, it seems inconceivable that either Eskom or Rosatom (or any other vendor) would agree to be held accountable to civil society, such is the headlong charge for nuclear power in SA.

• Dr Overy is a freelance environmental researcher. https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/opinion/2017-05-23-how-sas-nuclear-plant-build-could-fuel-corruption/

May 24, 2017 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Africa | Leave a comment

It’s practically impossible to get rid of plutonium (but they still keep making it)

How To Dismantle A Nuclear Weapon, Gizmodo, Terrell Jermaine Starr and Jalopnik, May 24, 2017  “…..Getting Rid Of Plutonium Is Harder

For one, there is no civilian use for plutonium in the United States because you can’t break it down or blend it. In other words, it is always ready to be used for weapons. In fact, according to Live Science, of its five common isotopes, only plutonium-238 and plutonium-239 are used for anything.

Pu-238 is used for powering space probes and Pu-239, the isotope we’re talking about, goes through a fission chain reaction when concentrated enough. And when that process takes place, it is nuke-ready.

By the way, Plutonium is pretty damn radioactive and contains the “worst kind of fission byproducts that could enter the environment as a result of the Fukushima nuclear disaster,” as Live Science notes (emphasis ours):

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, plutonium enters the bloodstream via the lungs, then moves throughout the body and into the bones, liver, and other organs. It generally stays in those places for decades, subjecting surrounding organs and tissues to a continual bombardment of alpha radiation and greatly increasing the risk of cancer, especially lung cancer, liver cancer and bone sarcoma.

There are documented cases of workers at nuclear weapons facilities dying within days of experiencing brief accidental exposure to plutonium, according to the Hazardous Substances Data Bank.

Furthermore, among all the bad things coming out of Fukushima, plutonium will stay in the environment the longest. One isotope of plutonium, Pu-239, has a half-life of 24,100 years; that’s the time it will take for half of the stuff to radioactively decay. Radioactive contaminants are dangerous for 10 to 20 times the length of their half-lives, meaning that dangerous plutonium released to the environment today will stick around for the next half a million years.

That is why Japan’s reported goal to use plutonium for civilian reactors have the U.S. and China worried. At one point, Japan had around 10 tons of unseparated plutonium in-country; 37.1 tons are in France and the United Kingdom. China fears Toyko could possibly use the plutonium to develop nuclear weapons, although the Japanese did give up 331kg of it in 2016.

Collina said it’s a good thing the U.S. has no plans to use plutonium for civilian purposes.

“You can’t blend down plutonium,” he says. “It’s always weapons-usable. So if you use this stuff at nuclear power plants, you’re basically spreading weapons-usable nuclear material all around. It’s a proliferation problem because we don’t want to set the example for other nations to say, ‘I’m going to use plutonium in my civilian power program’ and therefore create a cover for a secret weapons program. We want to have a pretty clear line that says, ‘Plutonium is only used for weapons and you should not use plutonium if you’re not using it for weapons.'”

As for actually getting rid of plutonium, the process is not environmentally friendly and it never will be. Most of the plutonium that is separated from nukes is stored at the Savannah River Site (SRS), near the Georgia border. Plutonium is also stored at the Pantex Plant. It’s authorised to store 20,000 plutonium pits; current estimates find that 14,000 are stored in the facility.

But here’s the catch: you can never make it truly safe, and no one wants it near them. For example, the Department of Energy, through the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, is currently overseeing construction of a facility at SRS to make MOX fuel from weapons-ready plutonium. It would then be used for commercial use.

The problem is that no one wants plutonium storage facilities in their backyards. The American ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, expressed concerns over the MOX fuel initiative when she was governor of South Carolina. Her issue was that the feds were supposed to remove a ton of plutonium from the state by January 2016 and ship it to another facility in New Mexico or process it for commercial use through the facility; neither happened, so she sued the Department of Energy. A federal circuit court dismissed the case.

Officially, MOX fuel is not being used in the United States, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Europe uses MOX fuel, but its plutonium is from spent nuclear fuel rather than nuclear weapons.

Former Nevada Senator Harry Reid resisted the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository project, which was supposed to be a deep geological repository storage facility for spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste like Pu-239. Under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act amendments of 1987, the Yucca Mountains were supposed to be the key destination for storing this waste, but Reid worked with Obama to end funding for the project.

Where To Send It?

So, if no one wants plutonium in their backyard here on planet earth, where can it be disposed? Well, there have been a bunch of wild ideas, like blasting it into the sun. Which, as the video below explains, is a pretty bad idea.

Hitting the Sun is HARD

You also have to factor in the possibility the space ship won’t make it to orbit. “Space shuttles crash,” Collina said. “So if you had just one crash with a space shuttle full of plutonium, that would ruin your whole day.”

The best plan of action the feds have to deal with weapons-ready plutonium is to simply store it someplace — a place where folks won’t complain to much about it. Good luck finding such a place.https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2017/05/how-to-dismantle-a-nuclear-weapon/

May 24, 2017 Posted by | - plutonium, 2 WORLD, Reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Nuclear chief Svinicki re-appointed to NRC

Trump names nuclear chief Svinicki to a new 5-year term, abc news, By MATTHEW DALY, ASSOCIATED PRESS, WASHINGTON — May 23, 2017  Trump had previously named her to lead the five-member panel through June. Svinicki, a Republican and a nuclear engineer, has served on the commission since 2008.

Trump also nominated two other Republicans to fill out the commission: Annie Caputo, a Senate aide and former Exelon executive, and former South Carolina Public Service Commission Chairman David Wright.

All three appointments require confirmation by the Senate.

The NRC oversees the nation’s fleet of commercial nuclear power plants, as well as storage and disposal of nuclear waste and other issues related to nuclear power.

Svinicki has worked at the Energy Department and as a GOP aide to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Trump has proposed $120 million to revive the dormant Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada, and Svinicki’s appointment was seen by supporters as a boost to that project.

Svinicki is considered supportive of Yucca Mountain, which most Nevada lawmakers strongly oppose…….http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/trump-names-nuclear-chief-svinicki-year-term-47584220

May 24, 2017 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

Donald Trump was taken in by a false story about climate

Trump’s Fox News deputy national security adviser fooled him with climate fake news https://www.skepticalscience.com/trump-mcfarland-fox-news-70s-ice-age-myth.html 22 May 2017 by dana1981

As Politico reported, Trump’s deputy national security adviser, KT McFarland, gave him a fake 1970s Time magazine cover warning of a coming ice age. The Photoshopped magazine cover circulated around the internet several years ago, but was debunked in 2013. Four years later, McFarland put the fake document in Trump’s hands, and he reportedly “quickly got lathered up about the media’s hypocrisy … Staff chased down the truth and intervened before Trump tweeted or talked publicly about it”.

Global warming vs global cooling

 

A triply wrong myth

This particular myth – that most climate scientists in the 1970s were warning of an impending ice age – is wrong on three separate levels. First and most obviously, a majority of climate science research in the 1970s anticipated global warming, not cooling

Second, there were some climate scientists whose research suggested that we could trigger an ice age – if human sulfur pollution were to quadruple. But that didn’t happen. In addition to blocking sunlight (and hence having a cooling effect), sulfur pollution causes other problems like acid rain. So various governments (including America’s) enacted Clean Air Acts to regulate that pollution (quite like the way we should be responding to carbon pollution’s dangerous impacts). Since then, human sulfur pollution has gone down, while carbon pollution has gone way up. The climate scientists weren’t wrong – the scenario they warned could have triggered an ice age didn’t happen because we took action to prevent it.

Third, although we’ve established climate scientists weren’t wrong in the 1970s, even if they had been, so what? Science advances, and we understand how the climate works today much better than we did 40 years ago, as illustrated in this funny video by Adam Levy:

To be blunt, this is a really dumb myth, and it says a lot that about the state of America’s government that the president was suckered into believing it.

KT McFarland is one of Trump’s many unqualified staffers

McFarland, second in command to Michael Flynn before he was ousted by scandal, was a Fox News analyst before Trump hired her. In fact, Fox appears to be where she developed the connections to Trump that led to her appointment in his administration. McFarland hadn’t worked in government since the 1980s, and many observers worried that she was unqualified for this important and influential position. As Media Matters reported:

McFarland, who spouted numerous misleading and bizarre comments during her time at Fox, is so unsuited for her deputy national security adviser position that retired Vice Adm. Robert Harward, an accomplished and decorated Navy vet, refused Trump’s offer to serve as national security adviser because he didn’t want her on his team. McFarland is now slated to be ousted from the National Security Council and nominated as ambassador to Singapore; she has already been “largely sidelined” at the agency

Ironically, Fox News’ Jon Scott interviewed Politico’s Shane Goldmacher about the fake magazine cover story, and noted “The president getting some fake news every once in a while, apparently, from his own staffers.” That fake news of course came from a former Fox News analyst and concerned one of Fox News’ favorite climate myths. In fact, a 2013 study found that Fox News is a major driving force behind climate denial.

Seven Democrats on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology wrote Trump a letter expressing concern that he is frequently being fooled by this sort of fake news. The committee members suggested:

May 24, 2017 Posted by | politics, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

How do you dismantle a nuclear weapon?

How To Dismantle A Nuclear Weapon, Gizmodo, Terrell Jermaine Starr and Jalopnik, May 24, 2017 Dismantling the world’s 15,000 nuclear weapons is one the most important geopolitical challenges humanity faces. That number seems bleak, given the current state of affairs. But if you wanted to dismantle just one warhead, here is what it would take.

Those warheads make the world a dangerous place, but we have to keep in mind there were more than 70,000 nuclear warheads in existence at one point. Though Cold War-era non-proliferation treaties were central to the massive cuts, most nuclear warheads were retired or dismantled during the 1990s after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. President George H.W. Bush cut 9,500 during his term as president; in 1992 alone, he cut 5,300 warheads, which was the most by any president ever in history. During the 2000s, his son cut the stockpile by more than half to 5,270 warheads. Together, the son and dad president team cut 14,801 warheads from the stockpile.

Comparatively, President Barack Obama cut a mere 507 warheads, but relations between Russia and the U.S. were quite chilly during his term and both nations increasingly saw each other as military threats.

But the U.S. and Russia have their own arms issues. The New START treaty between the United States and Russia is the most important non-proliferation treaty in the world right now, yet its extension appears to be in limbo. India and Pakistan, though they only have 250 warheads between them, could ruin the earth’s atmosphere if they ever engaged in a regional nuclear conflict.

Politics aside, however, once a nation agrees to cut its nuclear stockpile, how does it happen, where and when? We spoke with a few nuclear weapons experts who walked us through the process of how this actually happens, with the focus on how the Americans do it.

The Question Of Dismantlement Versus Retirement

Once a president decides to cut down the nuclear arsenal, he or she must decide if they want to retire or dismantle the warheads. It is important to know the difference. Tom Collina, Director of Policy at Ploughshares Fund — an anti-nuclear weapon philanthropic group — says that current treaties do not focus on the actual dismantlement of weapons.

“They only require that weapons be retired or removed from service,” he said. “They do not require that weapons be dismantled. So, you can have the New START treaty lowering the number of deployed systems you can have, but that doesn’t mean those weapons get dismantled. It just means they get put into storage.”

There is no verification process for determining if a nuclear warhead is destroyed or not once they get to storage, because they are simply are too small to see from space, Collina explains.

Missiles are different.

Those, along with bombers and submarines, are under treaty, and their dismantlement can be verified via satellite, simply because they’re so big. You can see a missile being chopped in half or a bomber’s wings clipped from space.

But a nuclear warhead itself, which is much smaller? That is simply not possible.

Right now, there are around 2,800 warheads in retirement in the U.S., meaning they are no longer stockpiled. As the State Department explains, once a retired warhead is removed from its delivery platform, it is no longer useable and is not considered part of the nuclear stockpile. The tritium bottles are also removed. Tritium is a radioactive form of hydrogen that is critical to powering a bomb. Other “limited life components,” like the neutron generators, are also removed.

The warhead is stored in a depot where they hopefully will move on to the next process of being destroyed.

Separating A Warhead

The key components of a nuclear weapon, besides the metals used to construct its exterior, are uranium, plutonium, tritium boost gas, the neutron generator and other elements, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. And separating a warhead is the hardest and most dangerous part of dismantlement.

The National Nuclear Security Administration is the governmental body that oversees the dismantlement process, which takes place at the Pantex Plant, in the Panhandle of Texas. Pantex is the primary plant where nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly occurs. The warhead is taken to an underground bunker, where its parts are separated.

just one warhead, here is what it would take.

Those warheads make the world a dangerous place, but we have to keep in mind there were more than 70,000 nuclear warheads in existence at one point. Though Cold War-era non-proliferation treaties were central to the massive cuts, most nuclear warheads were retired or dismantled during the 1990s after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. President George H.W. Bush cut 9,500 during his term as president; in 1992 alone, he cut 5,300 warheads, which was the most by any president ever in history. During the 2000s, his son cut the stockpile by more than half to 5,270 warheads. Together, the son and dad president team cut 14,801 warheads from the stockpile.

Comparatively, President Barack Obama cut a mere 507 warheads, but relations between Russia and the U.S. were quite chilly during his term and both nations increasingly saw each other as military threats.

But the U.S. and Russia have their own arms issues. The New START treaty between the United States and Russia is the most important non-proliferation treaty in the world right now, yet its extension appears to be in limbo. India and Pakistan, though they only have 250 warheads between them, could ruin the earth’s atmosphere if they ever engaged in a regional nuclear conflict.

Politics aside, however, once a nation agrees to cut its nuclear stockpile, how does it happen, where and when? We spoke with a few nuclear weapons experts who walked us through the process of how this actually happens, with the focus on how the Americans do it. Continue reading

May 24, 2017 Posted by | Reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Friends of the Earth are right about the prohibitive costs of building nuclear reacrtors

Nuclear developers stumble over technology and financing  Project delays and the Fukushima disaster have dented the appeal of atomic power, FT.COM  by: , Energy Editor, 23 May 17,

Olkiluoto island on the west coast of Finland is a showcase for the best and the worst of nuclear power…..

Construction started in 2005 on a third reactor at Olkiluoto which was supposed to come on line in 2009 at a cost of €3.2bn. More than a decade later, the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) being built by Areva of France is still at least a year from completion and almost three times over-budget at €8.5bn. The project has become an emblem of the technical and financial difficulties involved in building nuclear reactors — particularly since the 2011 meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima power plant laid bare the unique risks of the technology. Increasing safety requirements since Fukushima have been pushing up the cost of nuclear power as rapidly as those of alternative technologies, such as wind and solar, have been falling. Simon Bullock of the environmental group Friends of the Earth says nuclear power is a “stumbling, inflexible dinosaur” being overtaken by “fleet-footed mammals” in the forms of renewable energy and battery storage.

There is no shortage of evidence to support Mr Bullock’s view. Project delays such as the one at Olkiluoto have forced the French government to engineer a €5bn bailout of Areva, while Japan’s Toshiba has been plunged into financial crisis by heavy losses at its Westinghouse nuclear division. Some of the world’s biggest economies, meanwhile, are shifting decisively away from nuclear. Germany has been closing its reactors since Fukushima and most of those in Japan remain shut six years after the disaster.

With more than half the 450 operational reactors around the world over 30 years old and nearing the end of their planned lifespans, the industry faces a battle to persuade countries either to renew reactor fleets or adopt nuclear for the first time……

……..the economic case for investment in nuclear risks being undercut by rising imports of subsidised wind power from Sweden and Denmark. This has reduced the price of electricity in the Nordic market to a typical range of €25-€30 per megawatt hour, compared with €55 in 2010……https://www.ft.com/content/a4402d18-3567-11e7-99bd-13beb0903fa3

May 24, 2017 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

Timed to end subsidies to money-losing nuclear power plants

Why nuclear power subsidies must end http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/may/22/nuclear-power-subsidies-must-end/  – May 22, 2017  Should utility bills and taxes be used to subsidize money-losing nuclear power plants so they can compete with renewable energy and low-cost natural gas?

New York and Illinois, bowing to pressure from a powerful nuclear utility, believe the answer is yes. Several other states, including Connecticut, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania, may follow suit, arguing that the subsidies will save nuclear power-plant jobs and help electric utilities meet environmental mandates to reduce carbon emissions.

That’s just one side of the story. The other side is this: The bailouts (subsidies by another name) reward poor management and bad judgment and would cost homeowners and businesses billions.

 New York and Illinois already have bought into the dubious bailout scheme, which is being pushed by Chicago-based Exelon, the nation’s largest nuclear utility. Exelon’s plants have been losing money owing to competition from cheap natural gas and wind power. Without the financial aid, Exelon says, the plants won’t be able to operate at a profit and will have to be closed.

So close them; rather than shelling out as much as $10 billion in subsidies, close the plants and shift to natural gas.

I can’t help seeing the similarity between the Exelon bailout and what happened following the deregulation of electricity in the 1990s, when states allowed utilities to charge higher rates to cover some of the costs of “stranded assets” — capital investments made in a regulated environment that were no longer worthwhile in a competitive environment.

Propping up the utilities was wrong then and it’s wrong now.

There’s no point in preventing the shutdown of nuclear plants, since the claim that they’re needed for carbon mitigation is dubious at best. Thanks to the shale revolution, which has produced an abundance of low-cost, clean-burning natural gas, carbon emissions from electric power plants have been plummeting as gas-fired plants replace coal-burning facilities.

Moreover, while gas prices are likely to stay low, the operating costs of nuclear plants are almost certain to rise in the years ahead. Southern California Edison closed its San Onofre nuclear plant after deciding it would not be worthwhile replacing steam generators that cost more than $600 million. Duke Power shuttered its Crystal River plant in Florida for much the same reason.

Since 2015, six nuclear plants have been closed, utilities have announced plans to shut down another eight, and still others may face early retirement. We should allow that to happen in an orderly, businesslike fashion.

May 24, 2017 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

About allegations on safety of USA’s nuclear reactors

TVA’s Nuclear Allegators http://allthingsnuclear.org/dlochbaum/tvas-nuclear-allegators [good graphs]  DAVE LOCHBAUM, DIRECTOR, NUCLEAR SAFETY PROJECT | MAY 23, 2017, The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) receives reports about potential safety problems from plant workers, the public, members of the news media, and elected officials. The NRC calls these potential safety problems allegations, making the sources allegators. In the five years between 2012 and 2016, the NRC received 450 to 600 allegations each year. The majority of the allegations involve the nuclear power reactors licensed by the NRC.

While the allegations received by the NRC about nuclear power reactors cover a wide range of issues, nearly half involve chilled work environments where workers don’t feel free to raise concerns and discrimination by management for having raised concerns.
In 2016, the NRC received more allegations about conditions at the Watts Bar nuclear plant in Tennessee than about any other facility in America. Watts Bar’s 31 allegations exceeded the allegations from the second highest site (the Sequoyah nuclear plant, also in Tennessee, at 17) and third highest site (the Palo Verde nuclear plant in Arizona, at 12) combined.  The Browns Ferry nuclear plant in Alabama and the Pilgrim nuclear plant in Massachusetts tied for fourth place with 10 allegations each. In other words, Watts Bar tops the list with a very comfortable margin.

In 2016, the NRC received double-digit numbers of allegations about five nuclear plants. Watts Bar, Sequoyah and Browns Ferry are owned and operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Why did three TVA nuclear plants place among the top five sources of allegations to the NRC?

Because TVA only operates three nuclear plants.

The NRC received zero allegations about ten nuclear plants during 2016. In the five year period between 2012 and 2016, the NRC only received a total of three allegations each about the Clinton nuclear plant in Illinois and the Three Mile Island Unit 1 reactor in Pennsylvania (the unit that didn’t melt down). By comparison, the NRC received 110 allegations about Watts Bar, 55 allegations about Sequoyah, and 58 allegations about Browns Ferry.

TVA President Bill Johnson told Chattanooga Time Free Press Business Editor Dave Flessner that TVA is working on its safety culture problems and “there should be no public concern about the safety of our nuclear plants.” The NRC received 30 of the 31 allegations last year from workers at Watts Bar, all 17 allegations last year from workers at Sequoyah, and all 10 allegations last year from workers at Browns Ferry.

So President Johnson is somewhat right— the public has no concerns about the safety of TVA’s nuclear plants. But when so many TVA nuclear plant workers have so many nuclear safety concerns, the public has every reason to be very, very concerned.

Nuclear plant workers are somewhat like canaries in coal mines. Each is likely to be the first to sense danger. And when nuclear canaries morph into nuclear

May 24, 2017 Posted by | safety, USA | Leave a comment