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Underwater Robot Begins Probing Fukushima Daiichi’s No. 3 reactor

This image captured by an underwater robot provided by International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning shows a part of a control rod drive of Unit 3 at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Okuma town, northeastern Japan Wednesday, July 19, 2017. The underwater robot has captured images and other data inside Japan’s crippled nuclear plant on its first day of work. The robot is on a mission to study damage and find fuel that experts say has melted and mostly fallen to the bottom of a chamber and has been submerged by highly radioactive water.
Swimming robot probes Fukushima reactor to find melted fuel

TOKYO — An underwater robot entered a badly damaged reactor at Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant Wednesday, capturing images of the harsh impact of its meltdown, including key structures that were torn and knocked out of place.
Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said the robot, nicknamed “the Little Sunfish,” successfully completed the day’s work inside the primary containment vessel of the Unit 3 reactor at Fukushima, which was destroyed by a massive March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
TEPCO spokesman Takahiro Kimoto praised the work, saying the robot captured views of the underwater damage that had not been previously seen. However, the images contained no obvious sign of the melted nuclear fuel that researchers hope to locate, he said.
The robot was left inside the reactor near a structure called the pedestal, and is expected to go deeper inside for a fuller investigation Friday in hopes of finding the melted fuel.
“The damage to the structures was caused by the melted fuel or its heat,” Kimoto told a late-night news conference held nine hours after the probe ended its exploration earlier in the day.
The robot, about the size of a loaf of bread, is equipped with lights, maneuvers with five propellers and collects data with two cameras and a dosimeter. It is controlled remotely by a group of four operators.
The robot was co-developed by Toshiba Corp., the electronics and energy company charged with helping clean up the plant, and the International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning, a government-funded consortium.
It was on a mission to study the damage and find the fuel that experts say has melted, breached the core and mostly fallen to the bottom of the primary containment chamber, where it has been submerged by highly radioactive water as deep as 6 meters (20 feet).
The robot discovered that a grate platform that is supposed to be below the reactor core was missing and apparently was knocked down by melted fuel and other materials that fell from above, and that parts of a safety system called a control rod drive were also missing.
Remote-controlled robots are key to the decades-long decommissioning of the damaged plant, but super-high levels of radiation and structural damage have hampered earlier probes at two other reactors at the plant.
Japanese officials say they want to determine preliminary methods for removing the melted nuclear fuel this summer and start work in 2021.
Scientists need to know the fuel’s exact location and understand the structural damage in each of the three wrecked reactors to work out the safest and most efficient ways to remove the fuel.
Robots tested earlier became stuck inside the two other reactors. A scorpion-shaped robot’s crawling function failed and it was left inside the plant’s Unit 2 containment vessel. A snake-shaped robot designed to clear debris for the scorpion probe was removed after two hours when its cameras failed due to radiation levels five times higher than anticipated.
The robot used Wednesday was designed to tolerate radiation of up to 200 sieverts — a level that can kill humans instantly.
Kimoto said the robot showed that the Unit 3 reactor chamber was “clearly more severely damaged” than Unit 2, which was explored by the scorpion probe.
Underwater robot probe inside Fukushima plant’s No. 3 reactor begins
TOKYO — The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant began on Wednesday probing inside a contaminated water-filled reactor containment vessel at one of its units using an underwater robot.
Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., the plant operator, is hoping to discover the precise location and condition of melted fuel debris inside the No. 3 reactor, one of the three units which suffered meltdowns in the 2011 nuclear crisis following a massive earthquake and tsunami.
On March 11, 2011, a huge tsunami hit the six-reactor plant, located on ground 10 meters above sea level, and flooded power supply facilities. Reactor cooling systems were crippled and the Nos. 1-3 units suffered fuel meltdowns in the world’s worst nuclear catastrophe since the 1986 Chernobyl crisis.
Six years after the disaster, the condition of nuclear debris remains unknown as radiation levels inside the reactors are still extremely high.
Since the water levels inside the containment vessel of the No. 3 reactor are higher than those of other reactors, the utility, known as Tepco, sent in an underwater robot equipped with a camera.
The robot entered the structure around 6:30 a.m. through a pipe connected to the containment vessel, which houses the reactor pressure vessel, according to Tepco.
The remote-controlled robot, attached to cables, then headed to the area just below the reactor pressure vessel and tried to capture images there.
Based on the outcome of Wednesday’s probe, the robot will travel on Friday as far as to the bottom of the containment vessel, where the deposits of melted fuel debris are believed to have accumulated.
Tepco said about 6.4 meters of water — injected into the structure to cool the fuel — has accumulated in the bottom of the containment vessel.
From January to March, Tepco conducted robot surveys including sending a self-propelled robot into the Nos. 1-2 reactors, where water levels are lower than the No. 3 reactor, but they failed to ascertain the condition of fuel debris.
july 20 2017 reactor 3 probe
Scaffolding at No.3 Fukushima reactor missing
The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant says the metal scaffolding right below the damaged No.3 reactor appears to have gone missing after the 2011 disaster.
Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, started a full-scale robotic probe into the containment vessel on Wednesday.
In the 2011 accident, most of the nuclear fuel in the No.3 reactor is believed to have melted and fallen to the bottom of the containment vessel that covers the reactor. The nuclear fuel is thought to lie within 6-meter-deep water that was injected for cooling.
TEPCO and the Japanese government plan to remove the nuclear fuel debris as part of decommissioning of the reactor. They are trying to locate the debris.
They used a new underwater robot equipped with cameras for Wednesday’s probe. It is 30 centimeters long and 13 centimeters wide.
The robot was unable to obtain an image of the metal grating which was right below the reactor before the disaster.
TEPCO officials say the grating apparently fell along with the molten fuel.
They told reporters that they could not determine where the nuclear fuel debris is. But they said they could identify a path that might lead to areas where the debris is believed to lie.

July 19, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Japan map showing potential nuclear waste disposal sites to be released

Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko on July 18 announced the forthcoming release of a map showing the most appropriate areas in Japan to bury high-level radioactive waste from nuclear power plants.
Speaking to reporters following a Cabinet meeting on July 18, Seko said the “scientific property map” would be released as early as this month.
“Providing the map is the first step in the long path toward achieving final disposal,” Seko said. He added that an informal decision had been made to hold explanatory meetings across Japan after the release of the map.
The map will divide Japan into four colors designating the suitability of various areas for permanently storing highly radioactive waste.
Areas that are within 15 kilometers of a volcano, that are near an active fault, or that are bountiful in mineral resources, will be “presumed to have undesirable properties” and be excluded from the list of possible sites.

July 19, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Mayak: Russia’s radioactive horror that just keeps on giving

Mayak disaster

Russia’s nuclear nightmare flows down radioactive river,  Monitor, By KATHERINE JACOBSEN Associated Press. Friday, April 29, 2016  At first glance, Gilani Dambaev looks like a healthy 60-year-old man and the river flowing past his rural family home appears pristine. But Dambaev is riddled with diseases that his doctors link to a lifetime’s exposure to excessive radiation, and the Geiger counter beeps loudly as a reporter strolls down to the muddy riverbank.

Some 30 miles upstream from Dambaev’s crumbling village lies Mayak, a nuclear complex that has been responsible for at least two of the country’s biggest radioactive accidents. Worse, environmentalists say, is the facility’s decades-old record of using the Arctic-bound waters of the Techa River to dump waste from reprocessing spent nuclear fuel, hundreds of tons of which is imported annually from neighboring nations

At first glance, Gilani Dambaev looks like a healthy 60-year-old man and the river flowing past his rural family home appears pristine. But Dambaev is riddled with diseases that his doctors link to a lifetime’s exposure to excessive radiation, and the Geiger counter beeps loudly as a reporter strolls down to the muddy riverbank.

Some 30 miles upstream from Dambaev’s crumbling village lies Mayak, a nuclear complex that has been responsible for at least two of the country’s biggest radioactive accidents. Worse, environmentalists say, is the facility’s decades-old record of using the Arctic-bound waters of the Techa River to dump waste from reprocessing spent nuclear fuel, hundreds of tons of which is imported annually from neighboring nations.

The results can be felt in every aching household along the Techa, where doctors record rates of chromosomal abnormalities, birth defects and cancers vastly higher than the Russian average – and citizens such as Dambaev are left to rue the government’s failure over four decades to admit the danger.

“Sometimes they would put up signs warning us not to swim in the river, but they never said why,” said Dambaev, a retired construction worker who like his wife, brother, children and grandchildren have government-issued cards identifying them as residents of radiation-tainted territory. “After work, we would go swimming in the river. The kids would too.”

Thousands already have been resettled by Russia’s Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corp. to new homes a mile inland from the river, leaving Dambaev’s village of Muslyumovo in a state of steady decay as shops close and abandoned homes are bulldozed. The evacuations began in 2008, two decades after Russia started to admit disasters past and present stretching from Mayak’s earliest days in the late 1940s as the maker of plutonium for the first Soviet atomic bombs.

 The question, 30 years after the former Soviet Union’s greatest nuclear disaster in Chernobyl, is whether Mayak is truly cleaning up its act or remains primed to inflict more invisible damage on Russians. Nuclear regulators say waste no longer reaches the river following the last confirmed dumping scandal in 2004, but anti-nuclear activists say it’s impossible to tell given the level of state secrecy.

Vladimir Slivyak, an activist for the Russian environmentalist group EcoDefense, has visited villages downstream from Mayak many times to help document the poor health of locals in the area, 870 miles east of Moscow near Russia’s border with Kazakhstan.

“My opinion is they’re still dumping radioactive waste,” he said, “but proving that is impossible unless Mayak says: ‘Yes, we’re dumping radioactive waste.’“

The Nuclear Safety Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences, which oversees safety standards for the country’s nuclear industry, told the AP that Mayak’s nuclear waste processing system presents no danger to the surrounding population. The plant also manufactures a range of radioactive isotopes of use for specialist equipment, medical research and cancer treatments that generate lucrative contracts worldwide.

Rosatom spokesman Vladislav Bochkov, in response to several Associated Press requests seeking an interview to discuss Mayak’s safety standards and operations, sent an email Thursday denying Mayak dumps nuclear waste in the river. Bochkov said the complex “follows all the environmental protection guidelines and has all the approvals it needs for operation.”

“The level of pollution in the Techa River today completely complies with the sanitary standards of the Russian Federation,” he wrote. He said the river water is clean: “You can drink it endlessly.”

But when the AP took a Geiger counter to the riverbank outside Dambaev’s home, the meter reading surged at the water line and the machine began beeping loudly and continuously. Measurements ranged from 8.5 to 9.8 microsieverts — 80 to 100 times the level of naturally occurring background radiation. A typical chest X-ray involves a burst of about 100 microsieverts.

Nuclear Safety Institute member Leonid Bolshov bills these levels as safe, saying: “The level of pollution in the water today is incomparably less to what it used to be.”

What it used to be is pretty bad. Environmentalists estimate that Mayak tossed 76 million cubic meters (2.68 billion cubic feet) of untreated waste — enough to fill more than 30,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools — into the river from 1948 to the mid-1950s as nuclear scientists scrambled to catch up to the U.S. nuclear program.

In September 1957, underground storage tanks of overheating nuclear waste exploded, sending a cloud of nuclear fallout 300 kilometers (200 miles) northeast across 217 towns and villages containing 272,000 people, a minority of which were quietly evacuated over the following two years.

A decade later, a nearby lake used to dispose of nuclear waste dried up amid a summer drought, and high winds whipped the exposed powdery residue to many of the same population centers. Greenpeace estimates the fallout reached 68 towns and villages containing 42,000 people.

Russia suppressed all news of both disasters until the late 1980s, when it acknowledged the two accidents and the Mayak site’s very existence.

In 1993, Russia said the two accidents combined with longer-term dumping of waste into the river meant that an estimated 450,000 people had been exposed to excess radiation from Mayak. It offered no breakdown of immediate deaths, accelerated deaths or increased rates of illness and disease in the populace.

A 2005 criminal case against Mayak’s then-director, Vitaly Sadovnikov, revealed that the plant continued to dump at least 30 million cubic meters (1 billion cubic feet) of untreated nuclear waste into the river from 2001 to 2004. Prosecution documents said the dumping quadrupled the volume of the radioactive isotope strontium-90 in the river.

A study by Greenpeace in 2007, citing hospital records and door-to-door surveys of Muslyumovo residents, reported cancer rates 3.6 times higher than the Russian national average. Russian scientists have reported residents suffer 25 times more genetic defects than the general population.

A decades-long Radiation Research Society study of people living near the Techa River conducted jointly by Russian and American scientists has linked radiation particularly to higher rates of cancer of the uterus and esophagus. In their latest 2015 report, the scientists analyzed 17,435 residents born before 1956, among them 1,933 with cancer. They found that the vast majority of residents had accumulated heightened deposits of strontium-90 in their bones and such “radiation exposure has increased the risks for most solid cancers.”

Such figures come as no surprise to one of Muslyumovo’s longest-serving doctors, Gulfarida Galimova, a gynecologist and family general practitioner who started work in the village’s hospital in 1981. Galimova says she was immediately struck by the exceptional volume of pediatric emergencies involving miscarriages, early and still births, and newborns with malformed limbs and other defects.

Still, like others she did not know Mayak —unmarked on any map at the time and still off-limits to the public today — even existed. She recalls 1980s mornings of blissful ignorance washing her hair in the deceptively soft waters of the Techa.

“The water was nice and not calcified. Soft water. Your hair would be so fluffy,” Galimova recalled.

She was among some 280 households that accepted Rosatom’s offer to abandon their homes in Muslyumovo for new two-story homes away from the river in what today is called New Muslyumovo. But her 2012 move came too late for her own family. A son born in the village in 1985, and a grandson born last year, both have birth defects that she blames on Mayak radiation. Her son has a club foot; her grandson has heart deformities.

One of her neighbors in New Muslyumovo, with its rows of pastel yellow homes with red roofs, blames the new location for her family’s health problems. Alfia Batirshina, 28, says a radon deposit beneath the topsoil of the new settlement gives her chronic headaches and her 8-year-old daughter recurring nosebleeds.

She is loath to discuss her daughter’s own birth defect, a deformed leg, and keeps her out of view of journalists. Her 62-year-old father, Vakil Batirshin, struggles to say anything at all. His neck is painfully swollen from lymph nodes that have grown triple their normal size, leaving his words nearly unintelligible.

The homemaker says she and neighbors are resigned to their medical fate living in Mayak’s nuclear shadow.

“I don’t hope for anything anymore,” she said. “If we get sick, we get sick.”    Associated Press reporters Iuliia Subbotovska in Muslyumovo, Jim Heintz in Moscow and Shawn Pogatchnik in Dublin contributed to this story.

July 19, 2017 Posted by | environment, Reference, Russia, wastes | Leave a comment

Evacuations Ordered as Heavy Rains Lashed Fukushima…

Heavy rains lashed Fukushima Prefecture during the last few days, prompting evacuation orders in some areas amid fears of flooding. These rains transport lots of radionuclides from the mountainsides and forests down into the towns, redistributing the insoluble cesium particles, recontaminating places having being previously decontaminated. A never ending story.



Evacuations ordered as heavy rains lash Fukushima and Niigata prefectures
Heavy rains lashed Fukushima and Niigata prefectures on Tuesday, prompting evacuation orders in some areas amid fears of flooding.
The town of Tadami in western Fukushima ordered over 4,300 residents to evacuate, warning against river flooding and landslides. A local train service was partially suspended, according to East Japan Railway Co.
In the city of Gosen and the town of Aga in Niigata, over 1,400 residents were ordered to move to shelters amid flood concerns, according to the municipalities.
There were no reports of injuries in the towns and city on Tuesday morning.
In Niigata, including the cities of Nagaoka and Sanjo, an evacuation advisory was in effect on Tuesday, affecting over 20,000 people.
The number of deaths in flood-hit southwestern Japan climbed to 34 on Monday, with seven more people still unaccounted for.
In Kyushu, some 2,700 Self-Defense Forces personnel and firefighters continued a search for the missing, while around 9,000 volunteers worked over the three-day holiday weekend to clear mud and damaged furniture from houses.
But their work was temporarily suspended Monday as evacuation orders were issued to about 16,000 residents from almost 6,000 households in the city of Asakura and the village of Toho, both in Fukuoka Prefecture, due to potential heavy rain. They were among the areas hardest hit by torrential rains that began July 5.
The mercury hit 34.8 in Asakura and 36.2 in Hita on Monday, according to the Meteorological Agency.
In the meantime, two bodies recovered from the Ariake Sea, several dozen kilometers from the disaster-hit area, were identified as Yukie Kojima, 70, and Kazuko Ide, 59, both from Asakura.
Five bodies found in the sea have been identified as victims of the disaster.
Heavy rain triggers evacuation orders in Fukushima, Niigata municipalities
Evacuation orders were issued across the town of Tadami, Fukushima Prefecture, as of 10 a.m. on July 18 as the area was struck with heavy rainfall.
Meanwhile, according to the Niigata Prefectural Government risk management department, evacuation orders were also issued as of 10 a.m. to some areas in the districts of Minamitanaka, Aohashi, Nakanohashi, Sasanomachi, Nagahashi and Agamachi in the prefectural city of Gosen.
In addition, evacuation advisories are also in place in seven Niigata Prefecture municipalities including the prefectural capital of Niigata, Sanjo and Uonuma, covering roughly 80,000 residents.


July 19, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inconvenient financial facts about Britain’s Hinkley Point C nuclear station – cost to cosumers rising to £50 billion?

Times 19th July 2017, The storm surrounding the construction of the Hinkley Point C nuclear plant was set to break out anew today after it emerged last night that the cost to consumers could mushroom to £50 billion.

The new official estimate is more than eight times higher than the £6 billion that the National Audit
Office estimated the plant would cost consumers when ministers first struck a subsidy deal to support it in 2013. The spark that ignited the explosion in the estimate is a decline in electricity prices, which in turn have hugely inflated the subsidies that the project is expected to require.

Under the terms of the deal, which was confirmed, after some delay, last autumn by Theresa May, the nuclear developers EDF, of France, and CGN, of China, will foot the up-front construction cost in return for a guaranteed price of £92.50 for every megawatt- hour of power that the plant generates for 35 years.

If wholesale prices are below that level, the difference will be subsidised by consumers through levies on their energy bills. Wholesale prices and projections of future prices have both fallen significantly
since 2013 as the cost of fossil fuels used in conventional power generation has plunged. This has increased the estimates of the subsidy payments that will be required for Hinkley Point, making the project appear increasingly poor value. Government figures show that, as of September last year, the lifetime costs of Hinkley Point C were estimated at £49.9 billion. That compares with an estimate of £36.9 billion in 2015 and £14.5 billion in 2014.

July 19, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, politics, UK | 2 Comments

Japan’s government planning protection in fear of radioactive terrorism at 2020 Olympics

Japan taps tech to foil nuclear terrorism ahead of Tokyo Olympics, Japan Times, KYODO
 JUL 19, 2017  With the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo just three years away, the government is stepping up efforts to prevent terrorist attacks using nuclear and other radioactive materials……

At a meeting of the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry in December, Mitsuru Uesaka, president of the Atomic Energy Society of Japan and a professor at the University of Tokyo, said it was important to “enhance nuclear security” ahead of the games.

There have been numerous incidents overseas involving attempts to smuggle nuclear materials……

There are also fears that the radical militant group Islamic State might have made a “dirty bomb” capable of scattering radioactive materials. Unlike nuclear weapons, such devices can be made relatively cheaply without advanced skills.

To stop nuclear materials from entering Japan through airports, the agency developed a device to detect very small amounts of uranium concealed in luggage by irradiating luggage with a beam of neutrons. The result is available in less than a second.

Baggage screening at domestic airports usually uses X-rays, but an expert at the agency said conventional screening is not effective in detecting nuclear materials…..

As of the end of 2015, there were 454 confirmed incidents around the world involving unauthorized possession of nuclear materials and related criminal activities, 762 incidents involving reported theft or loss of such materials, and 1,622 incidents involving other unauthorized activities and events related to such materials, according to an International Atomic Energy Agency report.

July 19, 2017 Posted by | Japan, safety | Leave a comment

America’s intended new sanctions on Iran may violate the nuclear agreement

As Relations Worsen, Iran Says U.S. Sanctions May Violate Nuclear Deal, NYT,  J ULY 18, 2017Mohammad Javad Zarif, the foreign minister of Iran, charged on Tuesday that the Trump administration’s attempt to reimpose sanctions on his country was a violation of the accord signed two years ago that sharply limited Iran’s ability to produce nuclear material in return for its reintegration into the world economy.

July 19, 2017 Posted by | Iran, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Trump administration confirms Iran is following nuclear agreement, but still intends new sanctions on Iran

US sanctions 18 Iranian entities day after certifying nuclear deal compliance
Trump administration targets groups and individuals over non-nuclear behavior, after confirming that Iran is following nuclear agreement but breaching its ‘spirit’, Guardian, 18 Jul 17
The Trump administration announced on Tuesday new sanctions on 18 Iranian individuals, groups and networks over non-nuclear behavior, such as support for ballistic missiles development.

The move came a day after the administration certified to Congress that Iran is technically complying with the nuclear deal and can continue enjoying nuclear sanctions relief.

The treasury department is targeting seven groups and five people that aided Iran’s military or its elite Revolutionary Guard. The sanctions also target what the US says is a transnational criminal group based in Iran and three people associated with it, and the state department is also targeting two more groups associated with Iran’s ballistic missiles program.

The sanctions freeze any assets the targets may have in the US and prevent Americans from doing business with them.

Late on Monday, the administration insisted that Tehran would face consequences for breaching “the spirit” of the nuclear deal. Donald Trump, who lambasted the 2015 pact as a candidate, has given himself more time to decide whether to dismantle the deal or let it stand.

Officials said the US was working with allies to try to fix the deal’s flaws, including the expiration of some nuclear restrictions after a decade or more. The officials also signalled the new sanctions.

Trump, secretary of state Rex Tillerson and “the entire administration judge that Iran is unquestionably in default of the spirit” of the agreement, one official said. That assessment carries no legal force; Trump’s certification that Iran is technically complying clears the way for sanctions to remain lifted.

Monday’s late-night announcement capped a day of frenzied, last-minute decision-making by the president, exposing deep and lingering divisions within his administration about how to deal with a top national security issue.

National security advisers, including Tillerson and defense secretary James Mattis, recommended Trump preserve the deal for now in a meeting last Wednesday, according to the New York Times. An anonymous official told the Times that Trump spent 55 minutes of the meeting saying he did not want to certify Iran’s compliance. On Monday, a planned press briefing was cancelled at short notice as internal White House arguments continued.

Since early last week, Trump’s administration had been prepared to make the certification, a quarterly requirement. Trump first told Congress in April that Iran was indeed complying. With no final decision on his broader Iran policy, the White House had planned to let the status quo stand for another three months.

Iran will continue receiving the same sanctions relief that it did under former president Barack Obama………

Scuttling the deal would put further distance between Trump and foreign leaders who are already upset over his move to withdraw from the Paris global climate change accord. Other powers that brokered the nuclear deal along with the US have said there’s no appetite for renegotiating it.

July 19, 2017 Posted by | Iran, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

NASA to develop nuclear power on Mars

NASA Seeks Nuclear Power On Mars By Natalie Wickstrom  |  July 18, 2017 According to recent reports, NASA has decided to pursue nuclear reactor development on Mars once more after abandoning the project nearly 50 years ago.

This news may not come as a surprise to some, as it had already been announced that NASA was looking to send a human to Mars in the near future. That being the case, it would seem only logical that the next step would be figuring out how to guarantee some sort of energy supply for whatever contingent of the human race ends up inhabiting the planet.

The answer to this potential energy dilemma may come in the form of nuclear fission reactors, small reactors that split uranium atoms to generate heat and subsequently, electric power.

During the 1960s, NASA tested a fission reactor as part of the Systems for Nuclear Auxiliary Power program, or SNAP. These tests developed two types of nuclear power systems, both of which are still powering space probes and other reactors in space to this day. SNAP-10A, the first—and only—nuclear power plant to operate in space under U.S. control generated some 500 watts of electrical power before experiencing equipment failure that has left it orbiting in space to this day.

Though nuclear power development has been on NASA’s agenda for more than half a century now, various issues stemming from financial and political conditions However, the agency’s “Game Changing Development” backed a goal of building and testing a small reactor by fall of 2017.

If the tests are successful, this could mean that NASA could have a guaranteed method of powering an archetype of a space station designed for Mars’ red clay surface. However, until that point, it remains to be seen as to whether or not energy options such as nuclear power—or even solar power, for that matter—could be viable to support life in space.

July 19, 2017 Posted by | technology, USA | 6 Comments

Will Small Nuclear Reactors be the great white hope for the ailing nuclear industry? Probably not.

The reactor that could kick-start the nuclear sector comes in a very small package, True Viral New 

The grand promise of commercial SMRs is that they would be compact enough to prefabricate in factories and ship to their destination, where they could be stacked together to produce whatever level of energy generation is needed. …….

A number of other companies and research institutions are pursuing so-called fourth-generation SMR technologies, including molten-salt and high-temperature gas. But in general, those face tougher technical challenges, as well as regulatory ones, and may take longer to develop.

NuScale’s main financial backer is the large engineering firm Fluor, which took a majority stake in the company in 2011. In 2013, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded the company $217 million under the SMR Licensing Technical Support Program. But the Trump administration’s budget proposal includes sharp cuts to the DOE’s nuclear programs, which could jeopardize the company’s ability to secure the remaining $47 million of that grant…….

a number of Republican lawmakers urged President Trump in a letter in May to support the development of SMRs…….

Despite the promise of SMRs, the technology is not a sure bet. Notably, even if capital outlays are considerably lower, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will yield competitive electricity costs, particularly against low-cost natural gas.

Some players have reportedly already pulled back from SMRs, including Westinghouse and Babcock & Wilcox, at least in part because of competition from cheaper energy sources.

“The cost per megawatt-hour doesn’t necessarily come down just because you’re building a smaller plant,” says Ryan Fitzpatrick, deputy director of the clean-energy program at the think tank Third Way. “There have to be cost savings derived through other processes.”

Those could include things like shorter construction times and new design features that reduce regulatory expenses. But the key to driving down costs would be setting up factories to crank out a lot of reactors, says Neil Todreas, a professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT…..

That, however, may present a bit of a chicken-and-egg challenge: securing financing to build the plants will probably require a lot of orders, but it would be hard for a company to obtain those orders before it could reliably produce reactors cheaply.

In addition, the Union of Concerned Scientists has raised separate questions about how safe and secure the plants will really be. Among other issues, the group noted that a widely distributed network of smaller but more numerous reactors could make it harder to safeguard nuclear material that, among other dangers, can be used to make dirty bombs.

In the end, SMRs may or may not end up being the ideal or most economical way to add significant nuclear generation to the grid. But in a nation where it’s become nearly impossible to build any new nuclear plants, it could simply be the technology needed to get the industry moving forward again at all, Todreas says.

“I am not sure there will be a march toward small modular reactors across the U.S. for decades, or that they will completely replace large power plants,” he says. “But certainly in the near term, they’re very important for the health of nuclear power in the U.S.” In the end, SMRs may or may not end up being the ideal or most economical way to add significant nuclear generation to the grid. But in a nation where it’s become nearly impossible to build any new nuclear plants, it could simply be the technology needed to get the industry moving forward again at all, Todreas says.

“I am not sure there will be a march toward small modular reactors across the U.S. for decades, or that they will completely replace large power plants,” he says. “But certainly in the near term, they’re very important for the health of nuclear power in the U.S.”

July 19, 2017 Posted by | technology, USA | 1 Comment

An inconvenient report on USA’s energy grid: will the Trump team “disappear it”?

Coal, nuclear and renewable bombshells from Trump’s grid study, REneweconomy, By Joe Romm on 18 July 2017, Think Progress On Saturday, we reported that a leaked draft of Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s grid study obtained by Bloomberg debunks his attack on renewable energy.

ThinkProgress has now obtained a copy of that draft, and it has many more surprises — or, rather, findings that are fairly well known to energy experts but may come as an unpleasant surprise to Perry and the White House.

For instance, a large fraction of America’s aging fleet of coal and nuclear plants are simply not economic to operate anymore.

 The July draft, which ThinkProgress received from multiple sources, is here, so the public will be able to compare the final “politically-approved” version with the draft prepared by Department of Energy (DOE) staff.

It is widely feared Perry’s team of Trump appointees will simply erase the the study’s inconvenient truths before it finalreport is released to the public.

The release of the study has been delayed several weeks — and the findings in the draft might explain why.

The study was specifically requested to back up Perry’s claims that EPA regulations, along with renewable power sources like solar and wind power, were undermining the U.S. electric grid’s reliability by forcing the premature closure of “baseload” (24–7) power sources like coal and nuclear.

But the leaked July draft concludes the grid is as reliable than ever.

As for baseload plant retirements, factors like environmental regulations and renewable energy subsidies “played minor roles compared to the long-standing drop in electricity demand relative to previous expectation and years of low electric prices driven by high natural gas availability.”

The draft report finds that since 2002, “most baseload power plant retirements have been the victims of overcapacity and relatively high operating cost but often reflect the advanced age of the retiring plants.”

Overcapacity is a major cause of the turmoil in electricity markets. The report explains that because the grown in electricity demand has flattened since 2008, it is harder for “less competitive plants” to survive………

 since renewables keep dropping in price, we can expect more and more penetration.

It’s really no surprise that DOE staff would conclude renewables are not threatening grid reliability. After all, many countries around the world, such as Germany, have integrated far higher percentages of solar and wind than we have, while maintaining high reliability.

The only surprise remaining is how many of these findings Trump’s political appointees will erase.

July 19, 2017 Posted by | renewable, USA | Leave a comment

Hackers attacked Britain’s energy networks

Times 15th July 2017, Hackers backed by the Russian government have attacked energy networks
running the national grid in parts of the UK, The Times has learnt. The
hackers, who targeted the Republic of Ireland’s energy sector, intended
to infiltrate control systems, security analysts believe.

This would also have given them the power to knock out parts of the grid in Northern
Ireland. Senior engineers at Ireland’s Electricity Supply Board (ESB)
were targeted last month by a group understood to have ties to the
Kremlin’s GRU intelligence agency.

The hackers sent emails designed to trick staff by drawing on extensive surveillance of ESB practices and
contained malicious software. There is no evidence of disruption to the
network, but security analysts monitoring Russia’s cyberintelligence
groups said that the hackers probably stole information including
passwords. Ireland’s National Cyber Security Centre confirmed that it was
working on the matter.

July 19, 2017 Posted by | ENERGY, secrets,lies and civil liberties, UK | Leave a comment

If Britain’s Hinkley nuclear project is cancelled, Britain would have to pay around £22bn to EDF

Express 18th July 2017, The Government admitted an agreement made in September last year over theHinkley Point C nuclear power station means operators EDF can claim
compensation if there is a change in British, EU or international law,
policy or guidance, which forces the £24bn project to close early.

Richard Harrington, the energy and industry minister, confirmed the payments could
be “up to around £22bn” in a written answer to Labour’s Dr Alan
Whitehead at the beginning of July. Mr Harrington said: “We remain firmly
committed to bringing forward the UK’s first new nuclear power plants in
a generation.

July 19, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, Legal, UK | Leave a comment

Prominent Tory and Labour MPs agree on one thing – need for a “plan B”, if Hinkley nuclear plan collapses

Scottish Energy News 19th July 2017, Former arch-rival Scottish Tory and Labour MPs have attack delays to the UK
government’s plan to commission the new Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant. Michael (now Lord) Forsyth criticised the plans for the £18 billion project in an Economic Affairs debate in the House of Lords on the UK energy market, warning the delayed project was a “severe risk” to security of supply.

Former Tory MP Forsyth said the report amounted to a
“big red warning light” for ministers, and former Labour MP Alistair
(now Lord) Darling said he agreed with almost everything the former
minister had said.

Darling said there was a big question mark over the
future of nuclear power and challenged ministers to set out a “plan B”
should Hinkley C not go ahead. Energy security was the “number one
priority” but the public had been “short-changed”  by the Hinkley C
project, which was 10 years late and facing rapidly rising costs.

July 19, 2017 Posted by | politics, UK | Leave a comment

Huge wildfires again in Canada – 1000s forced to evacuate

Echoes of Fort McMurray — Massive Wildfire Forces the Emptying of Another Canadian City

A little more than a year after a massive wildfire forced the full evacuation of Fort McMurray in Alberta, another set of extreme wildfires in British Columbia is again forcing major population centers to empty. In the region of Williams Lake and Cariboo City, 17,400 people have been forced to flee as a wildfire is threatening the major highway exiting the area. As the fire expands, another 27,000 in the broader province may also be asked to leave. This mass evacuation has been enough to empty large urban centers — turning them into ghost towns as fires rage through the surrounding countryside.

On Saturday, 40 mph winds, hot temperatures in the 90s (F), and lightning strikes fanned flames in the region — considerably worsening the fire situation and spurring more comprehensive evacuation orders. Heavy rains earlier in the year caused rapid vegetation growth. But as much warmer than normal temperatures accompanied by dry, windy conditions entered the region in June and July, the new growth has turned into tinder — adding a serious fire hazard.

Scores of very large wildfires rage across British Columbia on July 15 — casting smoke plumes that now stretch across most of Canada. For reference, bottom edge of this image frame covers roughly 550 miles. Image source: NASA Worldview.)

Presently, 160 wildfires are now burning across British Columbia. This number is down from more than 200 fires earlier in the week. However, many of the larger fires have grown in size. The result is that the province is still under a very severe alert level 4 with a mass mobilization of firefighting resources underway. On July 15, the fires were clearly visible in NASA satellite imagery (see above).

Precipitation extremes and increasingly warm temperatures are a hallmark signal of human caused climate change resulting from continued fossil fuel burning. And it is these kinds of conditions that have dominated British Columbia over recent months. Both the strong swing from wet to dry conditions accompanied by much warmer than normal summer temperatures is climate change related

July 19, 2017 Posted by | Canada, climate change | Leave a comment