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Serious delays in breast cancer diagnosis in Fukushima: study

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Serious delays have been seen in breast cancer diagnosis among women living in the northern coastal area of Fukushima devastated by the March 2011 earthquake-triggered tsunami and ensuing nuclear disaster, according to a study by a local doctor.

After the crisis, the proportion of women who consulted with doctors more than three months after noticing breast cancer symptoms rose to 29.9 percent of those who consulted with them about symptoms, compared with 18.0 percent before the disaster, the study found.

Many women who saw a doctor about their symptoms only did so after being encouraged by family members, according to the study. A rise in the number of single-person households and that of those composed only of elderly couples due to protracted evacuation is believed to be behind the trend.

The study was conducted by Akihiko Ozaki, a doctor at Minamisoma Municipal General Hospital in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, after he noticed that many women began visiting him after their symptoms had progressed.

Early diagnosis is the key to breast cancer treatment. If it takes a woman three months or longer to see a doctor after first noticing symptoms, she is said to face a poor prognosis.

A doctor with knowledge of medical conditions in disaster-affected areas says similar problems could occur in other areas hit by disasters or the Tokyo metropolitan area, where the population is graying just as the rest of the country.

In Japan, breast cancer is the most common cancer for women. Around 13,000 people die of it every year. The number of breast cancer patients including young women has been rising, and the issue has attracted renewed attention after popular TV personality Mao Kobayashi recently died of the disease at age 34.

Ozaki’s research, published in a British journal on cancer, covered a total of 219 breast cancer patients who, after noticing such symptoms as a lump, visited either of two hospitals in the city of Minamisoma between 2005 and 2015. Of those, 122 visited the hospitals before the disaster, while 97 did so after that.

The figures exclude patients who were diagnosed with cancer in health examinations. The average age of the patients before the disaster was 62 compared with 63 after the calamity.

Of the patients who did not see doctors until at least three months after first noticing symptoms, 37.9 percent were living in the households of their son or daughter. Of the patients who saw doctors less than three months after first noticing symptoms, 51.5 percent were living in similar households.

https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2017/07/b97b2f3d9afa-serious-delays-in-breast-cancer-diagnosis-in-fukushima-study.html

July 3, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Scrapping Tokai facility will cost 1 trillion yen and take 70 years

Tokai reprocessing site, Ibaraki.jpgThe Tokai reprocessing site in Tokai village, Ibaraki Prefecture

 

The planned decommissioning of the Tokai spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Ibaraki Prefecture will take 70 years and cost taxpayers about 1 trillion yen ($8.9 billion), according to the Japan Atomic Energy Agency.

The JAEA submitted its estimate to the Nuclear Regulation Authority on June 30 for approval.

By any measure, it will be a Herculean task to dismantle the facilities in the village of Tokai. Whether it will be possible to remove the high-level radioactive waste liquids and materials according to schedule is by no means certain.

Under the JAEA plan, the immediate task will be to assess the level of on-site contamination, decontaminate facilities and implement measures to secure safety of the site and workers, including enhancing earthquake-resistance of the facilities. That alone would take 10 years.

At the same time, the agency said it would start work to vitrify about 400 cubic meters of high-level radioactive waste liquids, a by-product of the reprocessing process.

Total costs during the first 10 years were calculated to come to 217 billion yen. Over the subsequent 60 years, the JAEA said it planned to demolish the facilities and decontaminate buildings at a total estimated cost of 770 billion yen.

That figure was broken down as follows: 250 billion yen to process the radioactive waste materials; 380 billion yen to dispose of the waste; and 140 billion yen to dismantle the facilities.

The NRA will first check safety and other issues before reaching a decision. If it gives the nod, the JAEA will start the project.

France is among countries that already have experience with dismantling reprocessing facilities, but it would be the first time to do it in Japan.

The Tokai reprocessing facilities were constructed at a total cost of 190 billion yen. It started full-scale operations in 1981, and has reprocessed 1,140 tons of spent nuclear fuel since then.

In 1997, the plant was rocked by an explosion at its bituminization facility to solidify waste.

Decommissioning of the Tokai plant was decided in 2014.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201707010038.html

 

July 3, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Anti-tsunami policy shift key to criminal trial of ex-TEPCO execs

march 11 2017 tsunami at daiichi.jpgIn this March 11, 2011 file photo, waves are seen washing over a 10-meter-high breakwater and approaching the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant

 

The key point of contention in the criminal trial of former top Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) executives over the 2011 nuclear crisis will likely be their decisions on tsunami prevention measures after the utility itself estimated in 2008 that tsunami with a maximum height of 15.7 meters could hit its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

Former TEPCO Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and former vice presidents Ichiro Takekuro and Sakae Muto were slapped with mandatory indictments by lay reviewers after public prosecutors twice decided not to press charges. Their trial began on June 30, when all three pleaded not guilty and emphasized that it was impossible for management to predict the nuclear accident.

In his opening statement, lawyer Hiroshi Kamiyama, who has been appointed prosecutor by the court, slammed the TEPCO ex-managers, saying, “After TEPCO learned that over 10-meter-tall tsunami could hit the plant, the company put off countermeasures and irresponsibly continued to operate the facility as-was.”

The key question in the nuclear crisis investigation had been whether the 2002 long-term assessment report by the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion stating that massive tsunami could occur off the Pacific Coast from the Sanriku to the Boso areas, was sufficiently credible to require TEPCO to implement countermeasures. The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office in September 2013 dropped a criminal case against the former TEPCO management, arguing that the assessment was “not academically developed enough.”

In response, Kamiya and other court-appointed attorneys argued during the June 30 hearing that those in charge of nuclear power facility management in fact tried to map out tsunami countermeasures based on the 2002 assessment, but TEPCO as a company put off implementing them.

Based on the government’s 2002 assessment, a TEPCO-affiliated company in March 2008 reported to the utility headquarters that tsunami with a maximum height of 15.7 meters could strike the Fukushima No. 1 plant. TEPCO officials at the nuclear power facility management department immediately ordered the affiliated firm to determine how tall a levee was required to prevent flooding of the plant, which stands 10 meters above sea level. The firm reported that a 10-meter-tall seawall would be necessary.

These figures were then reported to then Fukushima plant chief Masao Yoshida and then vice president Muto, who was in charge of the matter at the time. Muto, however, asked the Japan Society of Civil Engineers to re-evaluate the tsunami height estimates, and shelved countermeasures at TEPCO facilities as a whole.

The prosecution also pointed out that this “policy shift” continued to be debated within the utility. A note saying “tsunami prevention measures cannot be avoided” was circulated at a September 2008 meeting, and Yoshida told a February 2009 executive meeting — attended by the three defendants — that “some say tsunami of about 14 meters tall could hit the plant.”

However, lawyers for the former executives argued that contrary to the prosecution’s assertion of “a policy shift” in tsunami countermeasures, TEPCO had not set a particular policy to begin with. They insisted that the 15.7-meter tsunami estimate was a “trial calculation,” squarely denying the prosecution’s argument. Amid this clash, witness testimony on how the matter was understood within the utility’s ranks will be key.

Parties related to civil lawsuits over the nuclear crisis are paying close attention to the criminal trial, as many major points of dispute overlap.

The Maebashi District Court in March handed down the first ruling of the roughly 30 class action law suits filed by nuclear evacuees and other parties, in which the court acknowledged the liability of both TEPCO and the Japanese government. The Chiba and Fukushima district courts are expected to hand down rulings in other civil cases by the end of the year.

Lawyer Hideaki Omori, co-head of the legal team representing those affected by the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns, says that many details have yet to be uncovered, such as what discussions were held within TEPCO over tsunami countermeasures. He adds, “While criminal trials look into individual responsibility, the responsibility of the three defendants, who were at the center of the organization, is equivalent to that of TEPCO.”

TEPCO declined to comment on the criminal trial.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170701/p2a/00m/0na/031000c

July 3, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , | Leave a comment

With international help, Russia starts to clean up Andreyeva Bay radioactive trash

Russia begins cleaning up the Soviets’ top-secret nuclear waste dump https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/02/russia-begins-cleaning-up-the-soviets-top-secret-nuclear-waste-dump

When the Soviet Union collapsed a vast store of spent nuclear fuel was abandoned in the Russian Arctic – an environmental disaster waiting to happen. Decades later an international clean-up has finally begun, Guardian, Shaun Walker in Andreyeva Bay, 2 July 17,

As the Rossita pulled away from the pier at Andreyeva Bay, sounding a long boom of its horn, a military band struck up a jaunty march. On board the ship were nine sealed metal casks, each four metres high and weighing 45 tonnes, containing canisters of spent nuclear fuel. Dozens of Russian and foreign nuclear specialists looked on applauding, as the chilly rain of a northern summer fell on the bay deep inside the Russian Arctic.

The ceremony, held on Tuesday afternoon, marks the culmination of a long international project to begin removing nuclear fuel from the site, formerly a top-secret Soviet installation. Nuclear specialists say Andreyeva Bay contains the largest reserves of spent nuclear fuel in the world, in fragile conditions that have disturbed the international community for years.

During the Cold War period, nuclear submarines were refuelled at sea, and the spent nuclear fuel was then shipped to Andreyeva Bay, where it was placed in a special storage facility to cool off before being transported to a reprocessing plant at Mayak, in the Urals. But in the early 1980s, leaks sprung up in the storage system, causing high levels of radioactive contamination.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, transfers of the spent fuel ceased, and about 22,000 spent nuclear fuel caskets were left at Andreyeva Bay in leaky dry storage units, creating the potential for an environmental catastrophe.

“I’ve been all over the world to pretty much every country that uses nuclear power and I’ve never seen anything so awful before,” said Alexander Nikitin, a former naval officer and environmentalist who has been monitoring the site for years.

“With nuclear material, everything should be done very carefully, and here they just took the material and threw it into an even more dangerous situation.”

In the decade after the Soviet collapse, the main concern was that poorly maintained facilities could lead to an onsite disaster. Nearly 250 nuclear submarines were decommissioned in the aftermath of the Soviet collapse, and facilities such as Andreyeva Bay were left in a perilous state.

“There wouldn’t have been a big explosion, but it could still have been something serious,” said Nikitin. “With nuclear fuel, once processes start, you have no way of knowing how they will develop.”

Over the next decade, security fears also increased. “Before 9/11, nobody would really think anyone would be crazy enough to try to handle spent nuclear fuel, but with the new type of terrorist threat we face, this became a bigger worry,” said Balthasar Lindauer of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), which has managed the donor funds from western countries to help with the clean-up.

The facility at Andreyeva Bay was one of many top-secret installations in the Soviet Arctic. A two-hour drive from the regional centre of Murmansk along a road cut out of mossy rocks, still dusted with snow in late June, the entire area around Andreyeva Bay is closed to all foreigners and even Russians who are not registered there. A heavily armed military checkpoint on the outskirts of town keeps out all those who do not have security clearance . This is partly because Russia has a working nuclear submarine base on the other side of the bay at Zaozyorsk.

It might seem odd that, as Russia ploughs more money into its current military budget, western nations who see Moscow as a military threat are helping to fund the clean-up of the mess the Soviet military left behind. 13 countries have provided €165m in funding since 2003 for nuclear decommissioning in Russia’s north-west. There have also been a number of bilateral projects, with Britain, Norway and other countries funding a long project to help clean up Andreyeva Bay.

The Norwegian foreign minister, who was present at Tuesday’s ceremony, said the funding for the project was committed nearly two decades ago, when Russia was in no economic state to deal with the problems alone. He also pointed out that the Andreyeva Bay facility is only about 40 miles from the Norwegian border, making the decommissioning issue one in which Norway has long taken a strong interest.

“Nuclear challenges recognise no borders, and it is in our common interest to deal with nuclear waste now rather leaving the problems to future generations,” said the Norwegian foreign minister, Børge Brende.

A suite of new buildings has been constructed around the area where the spent nuclear fuel caskets are kept, replacing the decaying structures that stood there previously. Work to load canisters into the giant protective casks can now be done using specially commissioned machinery.

The Rossita, a ship constructed for the task, will take the huge fuel casks to Murmansk, where they will be put on fortified trains which will proceed under armed guard on the long journey from the Arctic to the Mayak reprocessing site. At the Mayak facility, the spent fuel will be recycled and the Russians say they will turn it into fuel to be used in civilian nuclear reactors.

Specialists at the plant estimate it could take 10 years to remove all the fuel. About half of the caskets have some kind of surface damage to their containers and will be dealt with after the non-problematic batches have been removed.

“This is the end of a long process, but also the beginning of another long stage in the clean-up,” said Marina Kovtun, the governor of Murmansk region. “Despite international tensions, work went on every day. Everyone who was working on this project understood that they were doing this for all of humanity and for protecting our environment.”

Indeed, in the current climate of hostility between Russia and the west, it was an unusual tale of bonhomie and cooperation, as the ceremony included the flags of 10 western nations as well as the Russian tricolour.

“The Barents Sea is maybe the cleanest sea in the world, and if something had happened here, it would have affected the whole Arctic,” said Brende. “This process is not completely without risk, but compared to doing nothing, the risks are now much lower.”

July 3, 2017 Posted by | Russia, wastes | 5 Comments

Sa n Onofre and America’s failed nuclear waste issue

1,800 tons of radioactive waste has an ocean view and nowhere to go, LA Times, By RALPH VARTABEDIAN | PHOTOGRAPHY BY ALLEN J. SCHABEN 2 July 17 [good photographs and graphs] The massive, 150-ton turbines have stopped spinning. The mile-long cooling pipes that extend into the Pacific will likely become undersea relics. High voltage that once energized the homes of more than a million Californians is down to zero.

But the San Onofre nuclear power plant will loom for a long time as a landmark, its 1,800 tons of lethal radioactive waste stored on the edge of the Pacific and within sight of the busy 5 Freeway.

Across the site, deep pools of water and massive concrete casks confine high-power gamma radiation and other forms of radioactivity emitted by 890,000 spent fuel rods that nobody wants there.

And like the other 79,000 tons of spent fuel spread across the nation, San Onofre’s nuclear waste has nowhere to go.

The nation’s inability to find a permanent home for the dangerous byproduct of its 50-year-adventure in nuclear energy represents one of the biggest and longest running policy failures in federal government history.

Now, the Trump administration and Congress are proposing a fast track fix. The new plan aims, after decades of delays, to move the waste to one or more temporary central storage sites that would hold it until a geologic repository can be built in Nevada or somewhere else.

But the new strategy faces many of the same challenges that have dogged past efforts, leaving some experts doubtful that it can succeed.

America’s nuclear waste failure The shuttered San Onofre facility — not withstanding its overlook of prime surf breaks — is similar to about a dozen other former nuclear power plants nationwide that now have to babysit waste to prevent natural disasters, human errors or terrorist plots from causing an environmental or health catastrophe.

Though utilities and government regulators say such risks are remote, they have inflamed public fear at least since 1979’s Three Mile Island reactor accident in Pennsylvania.

The sites are located on the scenic shores of northern Lake Michigan, along a bucolic river in Maine, on the high plateau of Colorado and along the densely populated Eastern Seaboard — each environmentally sensitive for different reasons.

No one wants that waste near them — including officials in the sleepy beach town of San Clemente, just north of San Onofre. Even Southern California Edison Co. officials, while insisting the waste is safe, agree it should be moved as soon as possible.

“It doesn’t make any sense to store the fuel at all these sites,” said Thomas Palmisano, chief nuclear officer at the Southern California Edison plant. “The public doesn’t want the spent fuel here. Well, the fuel is here.”

But every attempt to solve the problem almost instantly gets tangled in complex federal litigation and imposes enormous expense on taxpayers.

The Energy Department was legally bound to haul away the waste by 1998 under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, making the agency about 20 years late in fulfilling its promise. That has saddled utilities with multibillion-dollar costs to store the waste onsite.

As a result, every nuclear utility, including Southern California Edison, has sued to recover its waste storage costs. So far, they have won judgments and settlements of $6.1 billion, and the Energy Department has projected that it may be liable for up to $25 billion more.

But the new plan is fraught with complex legal, political and financial questions, and has yet to be fully defined or vetted among powerful interest groups or receive approval by Congress or survive inevitable court challenges.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee last week overwhelmingly approved legislation that could clear up many legal questions. Similar bills have been introduced in recent years and failed to move ahead, but this legislation has strong bipartisan support and is backed by the White House.

Still, a lot could go wrong with the plan, as it has for every plan for decades.

Two little-known privately held companies, New Jersey-based Holtec International and Texas-based WCS, have unveiled plans and begun licensing applications with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for interim storage sites on each side of the New Mexico-Texas border. Officials in the area, a booming center of oil production, are enthusiastic about the potential economic benefits. And nuclear utilities have offered encouragement.

Company officials and other proponents say such temporary dumps could be opened in as little as three or four years, assuming the licensing goes smoothly. But other nuclear waste experts expect a timetable of 10 to 15 years for a temporary dump and much longer for a permanent repository.

Two dozen antinuclear activist groups and leading environmental nonprofits already have signaled in letters to the NRC that they will dispute the idea of creating temporary consolidated storage sites.

The groups, along with many longtime nuclear waste technical experts, worry that temporary storage will weaken the government’s resolve to build a permanent repository. And they assert the plan would require transporting the fuel twice, first to the temporary site and then to a permanent dump, magnifying transportation costs and the fuel’s exposure to accidents or attacks by terrorists.

“These trains hauling nuclear waste would go right by Trump’s hotel in Las Vegas,” said Marta Adams, a now-retired deputy attorney general in Nevada who is consulting with the state on its renewed legal battle.

Serious business problems cloud the plan. Among the most important is who would own and be legally responsible for the waste once it leaves the utility plant sites.

The federal government promised in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 to take ownership at a government-owned dump, but it never authorized such ownership at a temporary private facility — one of the legal questions that the Energy and Commerce Committee’s legislation would clear up.

A temporary facility by Holtec or another organization is intended as a segue to a permanent dump at Yucca Mountain, about 100 miles north of Las Vegas. Along with an interim storage site, the Trump administration wants to restart licensing of Yucca Mountain, which President Obama suspended.

But reviving Yucca Mountain is a long shot………. http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-stranded-nuclear-waste-20170702-htmlstory.html

July 3, 2017 Posted by | USA, wastes | 1 Comment

Nuclear weapons ban treaty should not legitimize the failed technology of nuclear power

Hit delete on the “right” to nuclear energy in new weapons ban http://thebulletin.org/hit-delete-right-nuclear-energy-new-weapons-ban, Ray Acheson, 2 Jul 17 This week, the UN conference negotiating a nuclear weapons ban released a new draftof the proposed text. The overwhelming majority of participants who reacted spoke favorably of this version, saying it was headed in the right direction and a good basis for further work.

This is welcome news, suggesting that negotiators will reach agreement by July 7 as hoped. However, the introduction of a new paragraph on nuclear energy in the preamble is extremely problematic. This addition affirms the “inalienable right” of states party to develop and use nuclear energy for “peaceful purposes.”

The so-called right to nuclear energy is already enshrined in the existing Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and reflects an outdated understanding of the technology’s risks. It is part of an ill-conceived bargain designed to convince countries that don’t already have nuclear weapons not to develop them.

We know that nuclear energy increases proliferation opportunities. All nine nuclear-armed states have used nuclear reactors to create plutonium for their nuclear weapons. In the United Kingdom and France, civilian nuclear energy and military programs overlapped. North Korea and India acquired nuclear weapons through supposedly “peaceful” civilian nuclear programs. Fears about Iran’s nuclear energy program drove a major diplomatic effort to limit its ability to develop nuclear weapons.

We also know that nuclear energy poses grave economic, environmental, humanitarian, safety, and security risks. These are evident in the persistent health impacts of uranium mining and nuclear waste, and in disasters like those that occurred at Chernobyl and Fukushima. The new ban treaty is borne from the urgent need to prevent the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences that would result from a nuclear detonation. It must not, then, reflect a “right” to a technology that can also have devastating radioactive impacts.

The ban treaty may not be able to curb nuclear energy, but it must not give any legitimacy to this failed and destructive technology. Enshrining permission to develop nuclear energy, removed from the context in which this “right” was granted under the NPT, could actually risk establishing a broader right than already exists.

Without the NPT’s conditional framework of IAEA safeguards, which only allows states to develop nuclear energy if they are in compliance with non-proliferation obligations, adding a reference to the “right” to nuclear energy to the new ban treaty suggests that all states have this right, regardless of whether they conform to safeguards or non-proliferation commitments.

To avoid creating this kind of loophole, the focus of the new ban treaty must remain on prohibiting nuclear weapons. Nothing in the other provisions of the new draft precludes peaceful development of nuclear energy. They only prohibit nuclear weapons and nuclear explosive devices. Transplanting language on nuclear energy from the NPT to the new ban treaty only creates legal ambiguities, while being offensive to the victims of nuclear energy accidents. This provision must be deleted.

This post is part of Ban Brief, a series of updates on the historic 2017 negotiations to create a treaty banning nuclear weapons. Ban Brief is written by Tim Wright, Asia-Pacific director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, and Ray Acheson, director of Reaching Critical Will.

July 3, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

US federal reports that another Hanford radioactive waste tunnel has structural pproblems

2nd Hanford tunnel storing radioactive waste at risk of failing, federal study says Seattle Times,  July 1, 2017 “This makes it clear that the second tunnel may also pose a risk to human health and the environment,” said Alex Smith, nuclear-waste program manager for the state Department of Ecology. Hal Bernton Seattle Times staff reporter. A second tunnel storing radioactive waste at the Hanford nuclear reservation has structural problems and is at risk of failing, according to a U.S. Energy Department investigation released Friday.

July 3, 2017 Posted by | safety, USA | 1 Comment

Russia and China came close to nuclear war in 1969

Forgotten Fact: Russia and China Almost Started a Nuclear War in 1969, National Interest, Kyle Mizokami, 2 Jul 17, In 1969 the two pillars of the communist bloc, the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China, nearly went to full-scale war. Years of deteriorating ties between the two countries, once the staunchest of allies, finally led to skirmishing on the long mutual border between the two countries. While tensions were eventually de-escalated, what if the two countries had gone to war?

On March 2, 1969 Soviet troops patrolling Damansky Island (Zhenbao) on the Ussuri River came under fire from Chinese troops. The attack, just 120 miles from the major Soviet city of Khabarovsk, killed fifty Soviet troops and wounded many more. The Moscow believed that the attack was premeditated, with Beijing bringing in a special combat unit to ambush Soviet forces. Alleged atrocities against wounded Soviet troops made the Soviet leadership furious.

 Soviet border guards counterattacked Chinese forces in and around the island on March 15, according to the CIA killing “hundreds” of Chinese troops. Clashes continued through the spring and summer, and by August, CIA director Richard Helms had informed the press that the Soviet leadership had been discreetly inquiring with foreign governments about their opinion on a preemptive strike on China………

The de-escalation of the Sino-Soviet crisis in 1969 avoided what could have been yet another large, destructive war of the twentieth century. The current friendship between Moscow and Beijing is a reflection of that crisis and the realization that it’s much better for both countries to be allies than enemies. This is particularly in Moscow’s interests: given Beijing’s rapid military and economic progress over the past thirty years, next time, the Kremlin may find the tables turned. http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/forgotten-fact-russia-china-almost-started-nuclear-war-1969-21398

July 3, 2017 Posted by | China, history, Russia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Costs and dangers in “temporary” storage of San Onofre and others’ nuclear wastes

1,800 tons of radioactive waste has an ocean view and nowhere to go, LA Times, By RALPH VARTABEDIAN | PHOTOGRAPHY BY ALLEN J. SCHABEN 2 July 17  [good photographs and graphs]  “…..A decade ago, the Energy Department estimated Yucca Mountain would cost nearly $100 billion, a figure that has undoubtedly increased. The cost could be a problem for deficit-minded Republicans.

The Energy Department collected a tiny monthly fee from utility customers to build the dump, and currently a so-called trust fund has $39 billion reserved for the purpose.

But a little known clause in federal budget law 20 years ago decreed that contributions to the trust fund would count against the federal deficit. There are no securities or bonds that back up the fund, unlike the Social Security Trust Fund. As a result, every dollar spent on Yucca Mountain will have to be appropriated, and the money will add to the national debt.

“The money was collected for one purpose and used for another,” said Dale Klein, a former NRC chairman who is now associate vice chancellor for research at the University of Texas. “There is a moral obligation to address the issue. It will be a challenge to get Congress to pay for it.”

The Trump plan has also rekindled the strident bipartisan political opposition of Nevada officials, including the governor, senators, representatives and attorney general, among others. They vow to erect every legal and political obstacle to delay or kill the Yucca Mountain dump.

The state filed nearly 300 formal objections to the plan before the Obama administration suspended licensing. They must be individually examined by the NRC, a process that could take five years.

Then, the design and construction of the underground dump will require construction of about two dozen big industrial buildings and 300 miles of new railroad track. It could cost $1 billion or more every year, ranking among the largest federal operations.

A permanent repository could take 10 years to 20 years by most estimates.

On the beach

Nowhere is the nuclear waste problem more urgent than at shuttered power plants like San Onofre.

After utilities dismantle the reactors, haul away the concrete debris and restore the sites to nearly pristine condition, the nuclear waste remains. Security officers with high-powered automatic weapons guard the sites round the clock.

About five years after the spent fuel rods cool off in a 40- to 50-foot-deep pool, they are transferred to massive steel and concrete dry casks about 20 feet tall. Almost every government and outside nuclear expert considers the dry casks much safer than the pools.

The 3 Yankee Cos., which are safeguarding dry casks at three former New England reactors, spend about $10 million annually per site for maintenance and security, company officials say. The costs could be higher at San Onofre if the waste is left in place, Palmisano said.

Edison is building a massive concrete monolith for more storage, using a Holtec design called Hi-Storm UMAX. It will hold about two-thirds of the plant’s spent fuel in 73 stainless-steel canisters about 125 feet from the ocean. The 25-foot structure is about half-buried with the underground foundation just above the mean high-tide line. Tall cranes and swarms of hard hats are moving construction ahead.

The crucial question is whether it will be safe, especially if congressional inaction or litigation by opposition groups keeps it on-site for years.

“The top has four feet of steel-reinforced concrete,” said Ed Mayer, program director at Holtec. “It is remarkably strong. The … steel lids are designed to take an aircraft impact.”

NRC officials say the design is safe and meets all federal requirements. Although nuclear issues are within the NRC’s jurisdiction, the Coastal Commission also examined the potential for a tsunami, sea level rise or an earthquake to undermine the facility.

“Under our authority, which is limited, the commission approved the permit, and behind that is the evaluation that it is safe for a period of 20 years,” said Alison Dettmer, deputy director of the commission.

But suspicion lingers. San Clemente city officials have demanded that the fuel be removed as soon as possible. An activist group, Citizens’ Oversight, has sued Edison for starting construction and the California Coastal Commission for approving it.

The waste “is right down by the water, just inches from the high-tide line,” said Ray Lutz, the group’s founder. “It is the most ridiculous place they could find.”

In an effort to assuage local concerns, Edison participates in a “community engagement panel” that meets at least quarterly, led by UC San Diego professor David Victor.

“Early on, I was surprised by how many people did not understand there was no place for the fuel to go,” he said. Over the last year, the possibility of a temporary storage site has raised people’s hopes for a quicker solution, he said.

The history of nuclear waste, however, is replete with solutions that seem plausible but succumb to obscure and unanticipated legal, technical or financial issues.

Decades of delay

Two decades ago, the Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians sought to create an interim storage facility for nuclear waste on its reservation about an hour out of Salt Lake City.

The NRC spent nine years examining the license application and approved it. But Utah officials and a broad swath of major environmental groups opposed the plan. Eventually, the state blocked shipping routes to the reservation.

Michael C. Layton, director of the NRC’s division of spent fuel management, said a temporary facility would use the same technology as existing dry cask storage sites, like San Onofre.

But Layton said it is unclear how long it will take to license a consolidated storage site. The formal review is scheduled for three years, but the Skull Valley license that took nine years is the only actual licensing effort to compare it to, he added. Palmisano, the Edison executive, estimates that an off-site temporary storage facility could be operating in 10 to 15 years.

Problems have already delayed WSC, which wants to build a storage site in Andrews, Texas. It asked the NRC in April to suspend its license application.

The $7.5-million cost of just the license application review “is significantly higher than we originally anticipated,” the company said, noting that it is under additional financial stress because the Justice Department has sued it to block a merger.

Holtec officials say that WCS’ problems haven’t deterred their plans for an underground storage site, saying interim storage could save the federal government billions of dollars, particularly if the Yucca Mountain plan is again postponed.

The company has strong support in New Mexico, which already has a dump for nuclear weapons waste, a uranium enrichment plant, a nuclear weapons armory and two nuclear weapons laboratories.

“We are very well-informed,” said Sam Cobb, mayor of nearby Hobbs, rejecting arguments by antinuclear groups that the industry preys on communities that need money and don’t understand the risk.

“It is not a death grab to get money,” he said. “We believe if we have an interim storage site, we will be the center for future nuclear fuel reprocessing.”

Transportation to an interim site would cost the federal government billions of dollars under the pending legislation. Aides at the House Energy and Commerce Committee said those costs would be recovered when the federal government no longer has to pay for legal settlements for failing to take the waste in the first place.

Even if an interim site is built, it is uncertain who would get to ship waste there first. The timing of waste shipments to a permanent site is determined by the so-called standard contract queue, a legal document so complex that federal bureaucrats have dedicated their entire careers to managing it.

The queue was structured so that the oldest waste would go into a future dump first. In the unlikely event that Yucca Mountain were opened in 2024, Edison’s fuel would be in line to start shipping in 2028 with the last bit of waste arriving in 2049, Palmisano said.

Whether that queue would apply to an interim site is unclear, even under the pending legislation.

The dry casks are designed to keep spent fuel confined only for decades, while the health standard for a permanent repository covers hundreds of thousands of years — longer than humans have roamed Earth. If the radioactive waste sits around in temporary storage for hundreds of years, it could be neglected and eventually forgotten.

So one outcome that nobody seems to want is for a temporary site to eventually become permanent by default.

“It would derail momentum for a permanent repository,” said Edwin Lyman, a nuclear physicist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “This issue has always pitted one community against another and those in between.”http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-stranded-nuclear-waste-20170702-htmlstory.html

July 3, 2017 Posted by | Reference, USA, wastes | 1 Comment

Germany’s renewable energy auctions

Energy Post 27th June 2017,The introduction of renewables auctions in Germany, replacing administratively set feed-in premiums, has led to considerably lower prices and very high realization rates. However, community participation was very low in the first solar PV auctions.

Now a new rule favouring community projects in onshore wind auctions turned out to be so attractive that most
bidders created community projects to profit from them. This is turning the
market upside down. Corinna Klessmann and Silvana Tiedemann of consultancy Ecofys, a Navigant company, look at the effects of auctions on the German renewables markets and make recommendations.    http://energypost.eu/germanys-first-renewables-auctions-are-a-success-but-new-rules-are-upsetting-the-market/

July 3, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, decentralised, Germany | Leave a comment

Nottingham, England, to have Europe’s largest community solar battery installed

Solar Portal 29th June 2017, What is expected to be Europe’s largest community battery is set to be
installed at an innovative regeneration scheme in Nottingham, with a 2MWh
Tesla battery to be deployed in September as part of a housing scheme
alongside community solar.

The £100 million Trent Basin project is a new housing development built at the site of an inland dock previously derelict
for around two decades. It is expected to deliver 500 homes over five
phases with 375kW of rooftop and ground mounted solar and the Tesla battery
to be installed by EvoEnergy.

In an innovative use of the solar farm, planning permission has been granted on the basis that the site shall be
cleared by 28 February 2020. By this time, the panels from the ground
mounted installation will be removed and installed on new homes built as
part of the development.   https://www.solarpowerportal.co.uk/news/tesla_install_to_bring_europes_largest_community_battery_to_nottingham

July 3, 2017 Posted by | decentralised, UK | Leave a comment

Scotland to get the world’s first floating wind farm

Times 1st July 2017, Turbines for the world’s first floating wind farm are set to arrive in
Scottish waters within weeks after taking to the seas off Norway. Five
turbines for the £200 million Hywind project, being built by Statoil, the
Norwegian energy group, were floated near Stord island on the country’s
southwest coast. They will be towed on a four-day journey to a location 16
miles off Peterhead.

The five turbines, standing 175m above sea level, are
kept afloat by ballasted steel cylinders that extend 78m beneath the waves.
Each will be attached to the seabed by chains. Together they should
generate up to 30 megawatts of power, enough to supply 20,000 homes.
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/business/turbines-sail-closer-to-the-wind-8bfzgdxnl

July 3, 2017 Posted by | decentralised, UK | Leave a comment

NASA works on plan for small nuclear reactors on Mars

NBC 30th June 2017, As NASA makes plans to one day send humans to Mars, one of the key
technical gaps the agency is working to fill is how to provide enough power
on the Red Planet’s surface for fuel production, habitats, and other
equipment. One option: small nuclear fission reactors, which work by
splitting uranium atoms to generate heat, which is then converted into
electric power.  https://www.nbcnews.com/mach/science/nasa-revives-plan-put-nuclear-reactors-mars-ncna778536

July 3, 2017 Posted by | technology, USA | Leave a comment

Energy storage now making renewable energy cost competitive

Renew Economy 30th June 2017, Global research institute McKinsey & Company has analyzed current energy
storage prices and concluded that commercial customers are already feeling
the economic benefits of cheaper batteries and recent price falls in
lithium-ion technology.

With battery-pack costs now down to less than
$230/kWh – compared to around $1,000/kWh as recently as 2010 – storage
uptake is on the rise across Europe, Asia and the U.S. This growth is being
facilitated by a greater uptick in electric vehicle (EV) adoption, with
major players now scaling-up their lithium-ion manufacturing capacity in
order to meet demand.
http://reneweconomy.com.au/energy-storage-already-cost-competitive-commercial-sector-finds-study-20246/

July 3, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, energy storage | Leave a comment

Earth Focus Environmental Film Festival Los Angeles from 27 July

The Earth Focus Environmental Film Festival kicks off July 27 and will play five other environmental films on July 29. Los Angeles’ first film festival focused on environmental issues is set to launch in July, with Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Sequel serving as its opening-night film.

KCETLink Media Group, the national independent broadcast and digital media network, will launch the Earth Focus Environmental Film Festival through its two services, KCET public television in Los Angeles and independent satellite network Link TV nationwide.

The organizers are partnering closely on the event with the Washington-based Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital (DCEFF), which for over 25 years has been the world’s premier showcase of environmentally themed films.

The Paramount and Participant Media film An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, which first debuted at Sundance, will open the fest with a screening at Paramount’s Sherry Lansing Theatre on July 27. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with filmmakers Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk.

The festival will take place on Sat., July 29, from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. at Hollywood’s Egyptian Theatre. The free event, which is open to the public, will feature five additional films tackling the most important and relevant global environmental issues today. Celebrity environmental activists including Raphael Sbarge (Once Upon a Time, Murder in the First, Longmire), Ed Begley Jr. (Ghostbusters, St. Elsewhere, Pineapple Express), Patrick Fabian (Better Call Saul) and Sharon Lawrence (Shameless, Solace, NYPD Blue) will introduce each film that will be followed by post-screening dialogues with the filmmakers. Free general admission tickets are available here.

“With our commitment to bringing environmental conservation issues to the forefront for audiences on multiple platforms through our EARTH FOCUS franchise, we are proud to offer a free festival as a resource for enlightenment and education through powerful storytelling,” said Michael Riley, president and CEO of KCETLink Media Group. “In partnership with DCEFF, we’ve been able to curate the finest films that cover a range of issues impacting the environment today. We hope these films can encourage our community here in Southern California to play a part in helping save our planet for tomorrow.”

July 3, 2017 Posted by | Resources -audiovicual | Leave a comment