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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Ukraine’s dangerous nuclear industry: theft of 100s of containers with radioactive materials

Specter of Chernobyl: Ukraine ‘Losing Control’ of Its Nuclear Facilities https://sputniknews.com/europe/201707191055679086-ukraine-radioactivity-theft/ 19.07.2017 Hundreds of containers with radioactive materials inside have been reportedly stolen from a nuclear storage facility in central Ukraine. An expert told Sputnik about the consequences this and other such cases could have for people in and outside the country.

According to 1+1 TV channel, the containers with Cesium-137-contaminated soil and metals, which had spent the past 30 years buried at an unguarded storage site near the city of Krapivnitsky in Kirovograd region, were supposed to stay there for at least 300 years more.After the unknown thieves dug up the containers, the radiation level in the area jumped 10 times above normal.

In an interview with Radio Sputnik, Valery Menshikov, a member of the Environmental Policy Center in Moscow, shared his fears about the dangerous situation in Ukraine.

“What is now happening is Ukraine is bedlam, period. The stringent Soviet-era controls are gone and not only there. All nuclear storage facilities in Ukraine pose a very serious radiation threat. It’s a very alarming situation we have there now,” Menshikov warned.

He underscored the need to place such nuclear storage sites under strict control.

“Such places must be fenced off, have adequate alarm systems, etc. However, it looks like [the Krapivnitsky facility] had none of these things. In addition to vials with Cesium, there was also metal there and this metal could now be used in construction or smelted, which means that radiation will keep spreading,” Valery Menshikov added.

He blamed the sorry state of Ukraine’s nuclear energy sector on the erratic policy of the Kiev government.

“There are regulations, both domestic and international, drawn up by the IAEA, but the problem is that the current political situation in Ukraine has made it possible to get rid of experienced managers and specialists  in the nuclear energy and other economic sectors and replace them (with incompetent ones),” Valery Menshikov emphasized.

“The loss of radiation safety is also evident at Ukrainian nuclear power plants, hence the strange things that keep happening there,” Menshikov concluded.

Ukraine’s nuclear industry has been in dire straits since Kiev ended nuclear energy cooperation with Russia in 2015 and specialists fear that the recurrent cases of thefts of radioactive materials and lax security at the country’s nuclear facilities are dangerously fraught with a repetition of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

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July 24, 2017 Posted by | safety, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Russia decides to fuel floating nuclear plant in Murmansk, following pressure from Norway

After pressure from Norway, Rosatom says floating nuclear plant will be fueled in Murmansk
The two reactors on “Akademik Lomonosov” will not have uranium fuel on board when being towed around Scandinavia next year, 
Barents Observer, Thomas Nilsen, 22 July 17,

In late June, State Secretary Marit Berger Røsland in Norway’s Foreign Ministry raised safety concerns about Russia’s plans to tow its first floating nuclear power plant around the coast of Norway.

“We clearly expressed that the Government is highly critical to the planed twoing of the nuclear power plant along the coast of Norway,” Berger Røsland said after meeting Rosatom officials at the annual Joint Norwegian-Russian commission on nuclear safety.

Norway and Russia has since the mid-90s cooperated on nuclear safety projects in the high north. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Oslo has in total granted some €200 million in support, mainly for nuclear waste and reactor safety projects on the Kola Peninsula.

For Norway, having a floating nuclear power plant with two reactors loaded with irradiated uranium fuel sailing outside the coast has caused public concerns about possible accident and, in worst-case, radioactive contamination of marine resources.

On Friday, Russia’s State Nuclear Corporation Rosatom announced the shift of plans.

Will be loaded in Murmansk

“The loading of nuclear fuel into the reactors of the floating nuclear power plant “Akademik Lomonosov” and the start of the reactors will take place in Murmansk after the plant has be delivered without fuel on board,” General Director of Rosatom, Alexey Likhachev says.

“We will carry out the transportation through the Baltic and the Scandinavian region without nuclear fuel on board,” he noted and said this will meet the wishes of the countries of the Baltic-Scandinavian region……..

Not everyone, though, is happy with the move. Regional environmental group Priroda i Molodezh (Nature and Youth) in Murmansk on Saturday tweeted “This is transfer of the problem to another region where people also live.”

Another tweet from the organization reads: “By this logic, St. Petersburg is a nuclear-free zone, and Murmansk is a testing ground for nuclear tests?”

Atomflot is located less than a kilometre north of the nearest apartment blocks in the Rosta district in Murmansk.

Testing in Murmansk

After testing the reactors in Murmansk, a city with some 300,000 inhabitants, the floating nuclear power plant will be towed along Russia’s northern coast to the Arctic port town of Pevek on the Chukotka Peninsula……

Rosatom has further plans to build a series of similar floating nuclear power plants, both for use in remote Arctic regions and for leasing to other countries. https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/industry-and-energy/2017/07/after-pressure-norway-rosatom-says-floating-nuclear-plant-will-be-fueled

July 24, 2017 Posted by | Russia, safety | Leave a comment

Just Moms, St Louis

The Fallout, In St. Louis, America’s nuclear history creeps into the present, leaching into streams and bodies. Guernica, 

Joe Trunko from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources … told Dawn that there is a landfill near her home, that it is an EPA Superfund site contaminated with toxic chemicals, that there has been an underground fire burning there since 2010. “These things happen sometimes in landfills,” he said. “But this one is really not good.”

Joe told Dawn that this landfill fire measures six football fields across and more than a hundred and fifty feet deep; it is in the floodplain of the Missouri River, less than two miles from the water itself, roughly twenty-seven miles upstream from where the Missouri River joins the Mississippi River before flowing out to the sea. “But to be honest, it’s not even the fire you should be worrying about,” Joe continued. “It’s the nuclear waste buried less than one thousand feet away.”

Joe explained how almost fifty thousand tons of nuclear waste left over from the Manhattan Project was dumped in the landfill illegally in 1973…….

Weeks later, she found herself standing outside the chain-link fence that surrounds the landfill with half a dozen environmental activists who had gotten hold of some air-sampling equipment……..

Karen Nickel didn’t know much about the landfill—she’d only just learned about it a few weeks before—but she knew about the waste……

Karen did look into it and learned that many of her classmates and neighbors and childhood friends had died of leukemias and brain cancers and appendix cancers—rare in the general population, but, again, apparently common among those who live or had lived near the creek. It couldn’t possibly be a coincidence…..

When Dawn and Karen learned what the EPA had proposed years earlier, in their Record of Decision, they immediately pushed back. They called the media, gave interviews, started a Facebook page. “I remember getting so excited when we hit two hundred members,” Karen told me. “Now we have over seventeen thousand.” They all lobbied their representatives, their senators, City Council members, mayors…….

“We’re just moms!” Karen and Dawn would answer. “We’re just citizens concerned about the health and safety of our kids and our community!”

Soon after, Karen and Dawn, along with another resident, Beth Strohmeyer, officially formed Just Moms STL………

After a few weeks of making these graphs, they realized the fire wasn’t under control, it wasn’t going out. It was, in fact, moving toward the waste, inching toward the known edge, spreading through the old limestone quarry. Now one thousand feet away. Now seven hundred………

Robbin and Mike Dailey moved to this house in 1999, after their kids had moved out and started families of their own. It’s a relief their children never lived here, she tells me. In this neighborhood children fall ill. There are brain cancers and appendix cancers, leukemias and salivary-gland cancers. Up the street from Robin and Mike there’s a couple with lung and stomach cancer. They bought their home just after it was built in the late 1960s.

I ask what they think might happen if the fire ever reaches the waste. The question hangs in the air for a moment as the TV flickers from the far wall. “Look, we know it won’t explode,” Robbin explains. “We’re not stupid. We know that’s not how it works. But just because there’s no explosion doesn’t mean there won’t be fallout.”…….

I’ve looked at thousands of pictures of this landfill, aerial photos and historical photos, elevation photos and topographical maps, but nothing has prepared me to see it in person, this giant belching mound of tubes and pumps and pipes. There’s some kind of engineered cover over the dirt itself, which is supposed to suffocate the fire and capture the fumes. It looks like little more than a green plastic tarp patched together over a hundred acres of sagging hills.

“This is the burning side,” Robbin tells me. “The radwaste is on the other side.” The patchwork is topographical and bureaucratic: the burning side is the southern section of the landfill and falls under the jurisdiction of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources; the radioactive waste is mostly on the northern side, and under EPA jurisdiction. On the burning side, workers drive over the tarp on utility carts, wearing hard hats and work clothes. No gloves, no masks, no protection from the destruction buried underneath their feet……….https://www.guernicamag.com/the-fallout/

 

July 24, 2017 Posted by | environment, PERSONAL STORIES, Reference, USA | Leave a comment

The enormity of decommissioning of the Fukushima Reactor No.1 shown by images of melted nuclear fuel

Melted nuke fuel images show struggle facing Fukushima plant http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201707230012.html, By KOHEI TOMIDA/ Staff Writer, July 23, 2017 Images captured on July 22 of solidified nuclear fuel debris at the bottom of a containment vessel of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant show the enormity of decommissioning of the facility.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said it will closely study the images from the No. 3 reactor’s containment vessel to determine the spread and amount of nuclear fuel debris.

After analysis, TEPCO will decide on a policy to retrieve the fuel debris. The government and TEPCO plan to start the retrieval process in one of the three crippled reactors at the plant from 2021. It will be a formidable task, given that a method of recovering debris that is stuck to the floor has yet to be considered.

The recent images were taken by a submersible robot, which was sent into the containment vessel on July 19, 21 and 22.The No. 3 reactor’s containment vessel is filled with water to a depth of 6.4 meters. On the final day, the remote-controlled robot was dispatched to the deepest part of the containment vessel.

The images showed that pieces that fell from the structure and deposited material accumulated to a height of about 1 meters at the bottom of the containment vessel.

In particular, what is believed to be nuclear fuel debris is scattered in the form of rocks in the area directly beneath the pressure vessel.

The latest investigation has confirmed TEPCO’s assumption made through analyses that most of the reactor’s nuclear fuel melted through the pressure vessel and accumulated at the bottom of the containment vessel. It also discovered that the nuclear fuel debris has spread throughout the containment vessel. The images marked the first confirmation through a robot probe of a large amount of nuclear debris in any of the embattled No. 1 through No. 3 reactors.

July 24, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

In Mosul, ISIS nearly had the means to make a radioactive “dirty bomb”

More certain is the fact that the danger has not entirely passed. With dozens of Islamic State stragglers still loose in the city, U.S. officials requested that details about the cobalt’s current whereabouts not be revealed.

They also acknowledged that their worries extend far beyond Mosul. Similar equipment exists in hundreds of cities around the world, some of them in conflict zones.

“Nearly every country in the world either has them, or is a transit country” through which high-level radiological equipment passes

How ISIS nearly stumbled on the ingredients for a ‘dirty bomb’, WP,   July 22   On the day the Islamic State overran the Iraqi city of Mosul in 2014, it laid claim to one of the greatest weapons bonanzas ever to fall to a terrorist group: a large metropolis dotted with military bases and garrisons stocked with guns, bombs, rockets and even battle tanks.

But the most fearsome weapon in Mosul on that day was never used by the terrorists. Only now is it becoming clear what happened to it.Locked away in a storage room on a Mosul college campus were two caches of cobalt-60, a metallic substance with lethally high levels of radiation. When contained within the heavy shielding of a radiotherapy machine, cobalt-60 is used to kill cancer cells. In terrorists’ hands, it is the core ingredient of a “dirty bomb,” a weapon that could be used to spread radiation and panic.

Western intelligence agencies were aware of the cobalt and watched anxiously for three years for signs that the militants might try to use it. Those concerns intensified in late 2014 when Islamic State officials boasted of obtaining radioactive material, and again early last year when the terrorists took over laboratories at the same Mosul college campus with the apparent aim of building new kinds of weapons.

In Washington, independent nuclear experts drafted papers and ran calculations about the potency of the cobalt and the extent of the damage it could do. The details were kept under wraps on the chance that Mosul’s occupiers might not be fully aware of what they had.

Iraqi military commanders were apprised of the potential threat as they battled Islamic State fighters block by block through the sprawling complex where the cobalt was last seen. Finally, earlier this year, government officials entered the bullet-pocked campus building and peered into the storage room where the cobalt machines were kept.

They were still there, exactly as they were when the Islamic State seized the campus in 2014. The cobalt apparently had never been touched.

“They are not that smart,” a relieved health ministry official said of the city’s former occupiers.

Why the Islamic State failed to take advantage of its windfall is not clear. U.S. officials and nuclear experts speculate that the terrorists may have been stymied by a practical concern: how to dismantle the machines’ thick cladding without exposing themselves to a burst of deadly radiation.

More certain is the fact that the danger has not entirely passed. With dozens of Islamic State stragglers still loose in the city, U.S. officials requested that details about the cobalt’s current whereabouts not be revealed.

They also acknowledged that their worries extend far beyond Mosul. Similar equipment exists in hundreds of cities around the world, some of them in conflict zones.

“Nearly every country in the world either has them, or is a transit country” through which high-level radiological equipment passes, said Andrew Bieniawski, a vice president for the Washington-based Nuclear Threat Initiative who once led U.S. government efforts to safeguard such materials.

“This,” he said, “is a global problem.”

A lethal dose in three minutes

The worries began within hours of the Islamic State’s stunning blitz into Iraq’s second-largest city. As TV networks showed footage of triumphant terrorists parading through Mosul’s main thoroughfares, intelligence agencies took quiet inventory of the vast array of military and material wealth the Islamist militants had suddenly acquired. The list included three Iraqi military bases, each supplied with U.S.-made weapons and vehicles. It also included bank vaults containing hundreds of millions of dollars in hard currency, as well as factories for making munitions and university laboratories for mixing chemicals used in explosives or as precursors for poison gas.

U.S. officials also were aware that the Islamic State had gained control of small quantities of natural or low-enriched uranium — the remnants of Iraq’s nuclear projects from the time of Saddam Hussein’s presidency — as well as some relatively harmless radioactive iridium used in industrial equipment.

But a far bigger radiological concern was the cobalt. Intelligence agencies knew of the existence in Mosul of at least one powerful radiotherapy machine used for cancer treatment, one that could potentially provide the Islamic State with a potent terrorist weapon.

Outside experts were becoming aware of the threat as well…..

Leaders of the Islamic State and al-Qaeda are known to have sought materials for a dirty bomb, a threat that has added urgency to efforts by U.S. agencies and private groups to improve security for machines with heavy concentrations of cobalt-60, or other radioactive elements such as cesium-137, which comes in a powdery form that is even easier to disperse.

The machines are a necessary fixture in many cancer clinics around the world, but in Western countries efforts are underway to replace the most dangerous models with new technology that cannot be easily exploited by terrorists, said Bieniawski, the former Energy Department official. His organization, the Nuclear Threat Initiative, has raised money to try to speed up the transition, but for now, he said, older machines such as the ones in Mosul are commonly found in developing countries where the risk of theft or terrorism is greatest.

“The ones we see overseas are in the highest category — the highest levels of curies — and they are also portable,” he said. “They are exactly the ones we are most worried about.”

Morris reported from Beirut. Mustafa Salim in Irbil, Iraq, contributed to this report. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/how-isis-nearly-stumbled-on-the-ingredients-for-a-dirty-bomb/2017/07/22/6a966746-6e31-11e7-b9e2-2056e768a7e5_story.html?utm_term=.564e04f5c470

July 24, 2017 Posted by | Iraq, safety, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Memoirs of 1945 photographer of the devastated city of Hiroshima

FULL VERSION OF HIROSHIMA AND NAGASAKI FILM THEY DIDN’T WANT US TO SEE 34962,

(this is not the same as the film discussed below)

Memos found from man who shot Hiroshima ‘phantom film’, Asahi Shimbun , By GEN OKAMOTO/ Staff Writer, July 23, 2017 SAGAMIHARA, Kanagawa Prefecture--Memos written by a photographer who documented the damage inflicted on Hiroshima after the atomic bombing and his personal feelings have been discovered by his grandson and will be displayed in Tokyo next month.

Kiyoji Suzuki took the notes with sketches when a documentary team, in which he was a member, roamed the flattened city between September and October 1945.

The documentary, “Effects of the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” was undertaken by a Japanese film company to scientifically record the extent of the damage done to both cities, including footage of destroyed cityscapes, injured people and the existence of vegetation.

The shooting of Nagasaki ran into difficulties as the U.S. military meddled in the project. But the crew managed to continue with their work after being commissioned by the U.S. military.

Although the documentary was completed in 1946, the U.S. military confiscated the film and didn’t return it to Japan until 1967. The footage became known as the “phantom film” on the atomic bombings.

Hiroshi Nose, also a photographer who lives in Sagamihara, found his grandfather’s memos at his home in 2013.

Suzuki’s entries began on Sept. 18, 1945, when he was living in Tokyo and assigned to the film project in Hiroshima.

His memos show sketches of a “shadow” of a person or object etched on a nearby building by the bomb’s thermal flash and of a deformed leaf of a plant.

Suzuki also mentioned which lenses he used for filming and the weather that day.

Although many of the memos concern objective data, others appeared to reveal his personal feelings in the midst of the devastation…….

Nose completed a 28-minute documentary film last fall, titled “Hiroshima Bomb, Illusive Photography Memos,” after visiting places in Hiroshima that were associated with Suzuki’s memos.

The documentary compared footage of Hiroshima today and that of the city 72 years ago shot by his grandfather.

The memos will be displayed for the first time to the public at Art Gallery 884 in Tokyo’s Bunkyo Ward on Aug. 5-9. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201707230019.html

July 24, 2017 Posted by | history, Japan, Resources -audiovicual | Leave a comment

Financially unachievable – UK govt’s £43 billion plans to replace the Trident nuclear weapons system

Plans to replace Trident slammed as “unachievable” by Westminster watchdog, http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/15427620.Plans_to_replace_Trident_slammed_as____unachievable____by_Westminster_watchdog/ THE UK Government’s £43 billion plans to replace the Trident nuclear weapons system and build a new fleet of nuclear-powered submarines for the Clyde are “in doubt” or “unachievable”, according to a high-powered Westminster spending watchdog.

A new report from the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) to the Cabinet Office and the Treasury in London has condemned three major nuclear projects run by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for being poorly managed, over-budget and beset by technical problems.

The financial rating for a submarine reactor manufacturing plant has been sharply downgraded for 2017, while two other nuclear submarine projects have had “major risks” every year for the last three years. All of the IPA’s assessment of a fourth £20bn plan to upgrade Trident warheads has been kept secret for national security reasons.

To try and combat the problems the MoD has launched a major reorganisation and set up a new Submarine Delivery Agency. It has also renamed the Trident replacement programme Dreadnought, and engaged in “rebaselining” to delay project delivery.

The IPA report, which covers 143 projects run by 17 UK Government departments, was posted online last week. Buried in a table and spreadsheet released at the same time were damning indictments of the MoD’s flagship nuclear projects.

A £1.7bn project to build new submarine reactor manufacturing plants at Rolls Royce in Derby called Core Production Capability is given the IPA’s worst rating of ‘red’ for 2017. “Successful delivery of the project appears to be unachievable,” said IPA.

“There are major issues with project definition, schedule, budget, quality and/or benefits delivery, which at this stage do not appear to be manageable or resolvable. The project may need re-scoping and/or its overall viability reassessed.”

The reactor plants were £250 million over budget and needed “rebaselining” to meet target dates, IPA said. It had previously rated the plants as “amber” in 2015 and 2016, meaning they they had “significant issues” requiring management attention.

The £31.6bn project to build four new nuclear-armed Dreadnought submarines to replace Trident and a £9.9bn programme to build seven new conventionally-armed nuclear-powered Astute-class submarines were both rated as “amber/red” for the third year running. All the submarines are due to be based at Faslane on the Gareloch near Helensburgh.

According to the IPA an amber/red rating suggests the schemes may not be viable. “Successful delivery of the project is in doubt, with major risks or issues apparent in a number of key areas,” it said.

“Urgent action is needed to address these problems and/or assess whether resolution is feasible.”

Three of the Astute submarines have been delivered to the MoD, and four are still to be completed. “Overall affordability remains the programme’s key challenge,” said the IPA.

The date when the nuclear-armed Dreadnought submarines are currently scheduled to be ready to replace ageing Trident boats has been kept secret. The Vanguard-class submarines that carry Trident nuclear missiles have already had their lives extended from 25 to 38 years.

The IPA has also assessed the financial viability of the MoD’s £20bn Nuclear Warhead Capability Sustainment Programme to upgrade the weapons. But its verdict has been deleted from its report on the grounds that it is exempt from freedom of information law under national security and defence provisions.

The Scottish National Party argued that Trident costs were escalating out of control. “A billion here – a billion there – to add to the bill for these weapons of mass destruction,” said SNP defence spokesperson, Stewart McDonald MP.

“The Westminster obsession with Trident is already squeezing conventional defence expenditure as everything else is sacrificed for these redundant, eye-wateringly expensive weapons. The Tories need to get a grip on costs if they insist on Trident renewal.”

Arthur West, chair of the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, pointed out that MoD projects kept going substantially over budget. “The Trident programme in particular continues to be a shambles from a cost point of view,” he said.

The Nuclear Information Service, which monitors nuclear activities, warned that the UK was going to encounter more problems building a new generation of nuclear weapons. “The delays and cost increases that we are already seeing cast further doubt on the MoD’s ability to deliver these projects on time and within budget,” said the group’s research manager, David Cullen.

The MoD has set aside a “contingency” of £10bn in case replacing the four Trident submarines costs more that the estimated £31bn. There were matters relating to nuclear weapons that it could not discuss openly, it said.

“These ratings reflect the complexity and scale of delivering the most advanced submarines ever commissioned by the Royal Navy, the ultimate guarantee of our national security,” stated an MoD spokesperson.

“We are determined to get our submarine programmes right. That’s why we have established a new Director General Nuclear sponsor organisation and a new Submarine Delivery Agency.”

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

We are actually on the cusp of the greatest energy revolution in history.

Morning Star 21st July 2017, Reading headlines about Donald Trump pulling the US out of the Paris climate deal, Middle East heatwaves and the rampaging activities of the Gulf oil powers, you could be forgiven for thinking the world is crashingtoward a final oil-fuelled armaggedon.

But according to renewable energy investment experts, we are actually on the cusp of the greatest energy
revolution in history. The cost of renewables like solar and cell batteries for electric vehicles are making the carbon-based economy obsolete, with the turning point only a few years away.

Tony Seba, Stanford University professor and energy futurist, sees oil consumption collapsing after 2020
due to disruptive technologies and the fact that renewables are beating the old polluting energies where it matters most: market price. “The age of centralised, command-and-control, extraction-resource-based energy sources
(oil, gas, coal and nuclear) will not end because we run out of petroleum, natural gas, coal, or uranium,” he told investment specialists Southbank Research. “It will end because these energy sources, the business models
they employ, and the products that sustain them will be disrupted by superior technologies, product architectures and business models.

Compelling new technologies such as solar, wind, electric vehicles, and autonomous (self-driving) cars will disrupt and sweep away the energy industry as we know it. For the left and Labour to reap the benefits of these technology revolutions it must embrace the renewable sector, and not make the mistake of focusing purely on distribution, while leaving control
of the energy and transport technology to the market. Public ownership of energy utilities can be part of a planned energy revolution in which we collectively reap the benefits of decentralised non-carbon based energy
systems and resist the rent-seeking plans of monopoly capital.
http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-0fd0-The-future-is-here-for-all-to-see

July 24, 2017 Posted by | renewable, UK | 1 Comment

The continuing horror story of nuclear weapons’ waste in North St Louis, USA

The reports don’t acknowledge these stories, these illnesses, those who are dying or dead. Most residents of St. Louis—including and especially the residents of predominantly African-American neighborhoods—don’t even know the contamination is there. …….

the half-life of Thorium 232: fourteen billion years, a half-life so long that by the time this element is safe for human exposure

a contradiction I can’t resolve: that the massive crime here began with a belief in a kind of care, a belief that protection comes only in the form of wars and bombs, and that its ultimate expression is a technology that can destroy in a single instant any threat to our safety with perfect precision and efficiency. But hundreds of thousands lost their lives to those bombs in Japan, and the fallout from building them has claimed at least as many lives right here at home.

The Fallout, In St. Louis, America’s nuclear history creeps into the present, leaching into streams and bodies. Guernica, By Lacy M. Johnson, 10 July 2017 “………Months ago, when a high-school friend reached out to me asking that I give my attention to this story, she told me that a company tasked decades ago with disposing of nuclear waste for the federal government had instead dumped thousands of barrels of the waste somewhere in North St. Louis County. The barrels were left exposed to the elements for decades, and the waste had leaked into the ground and into the water of a nearby creek……

When the federal government filed suit to acquire the property under eminent domain, officials refused to disclose the exact nature of the waste “for security reasons.” They assured the local government that the waste they’d be storing there wasn’t dangerous. They shook hands and signed papers. They looked people squarely in the eye.

During the next twenty years, truckload by truckload, the green patchwork of farm fields by the airfield turned into a foreign world. Mountains of raffinate rose up across from row after row of rusty black drums, stacked two or three high.

……..The reports tell only so much, only certain parts of certain versions of the story. The rest I have to piece together using articles in the local newspaper, phone calls with these residents, oral histories collected by others, newsletters from various companies celebrating one anniversary or another…..

In my pile of reports there is a series of letters from Cotter to the Atomic Energy Commission, in which Cotter tries to convince the government to take these wastes back. Commercial disposal would cost upwards of two million dollars (about twelve million dollars today). They couldn’t afford it. They knew that the AEC was using a quarry at the recently decommissioned second Mallinckrodt facility at Weldon Spring, roughly twenty miles southwest of the airport, as a dump for nuclear waste. They asked the AEC if they could use it, asked for guidance, and for help.

That help never came……

A lengthy investigation discovered that from August to October 1973, a private construction firm drove truckloads of the leached barium sulfate—along with roughly forty thousand tons of soil removed from the top eighteen inches of the Latty Avenue site—to West Lake Landfill, all around the clock, sometimes in the middle of the night. To the landfill operator it looked like dirt, so he waved the trucks in and charged them nothing, using it as landfill cover over the municipal refuse…..

the reports express the detection of this contamination in charts, as numbers and statistics. They’ve found contamination at the airport, in the drainage ditches leading away from the airport, and all along the creek—along the trucking routes, in ballfields and in parks and gardens and backyards, in driveways, in people’s basements and under their kitchen cabinets. Even now, as I write this, they are still trying to figure out just how far it has spread.

The reports measure the health risk of exposure to this contamination as an equation, with a threshold of acceptable risk. But what the reports don’t say is that the contamination has already done so much damage that cannot be measured or undone. The Mallinckrodt uranium workers are some of the most contaminated in the history of the atomic age. So contaminated, in fact, that in 2009 all former Mallinckrodt uranium workers were added as a “special exposure cohort” to the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act. The act provides compensation and lifetime medical benefits to employees who became ill with any of twenty-two named cancers as a result of working in the nuclear-weapons industry. Because of this special cohort status, if a former Mallinckrodt worker develops any of these named illnesses, exposure to the uranium is assumed. But the people who live near the creek didn’t work for Mallinckrodt. They aren’t entitled to compensation or to medical benefits.

A woman named Mary Oscko, for instance, has lived her whole life in North St. Louis County, most of it near that small creek. Now she is dying of stage-four lung cancer, though she has never smoked a day in her life. Shari Riley, a nurse who lived near the creek, died recently of appendix cancer—rare in the general population, but several dozen cases have been reported among those who live or lived near the airport or along the creek. My friend—the one who contacted me about this story—never lived in St. Louis, but her mother grew up two houses away from that creek. My friend suspects that her mother’s exposure to the contamination as a child changed her DNA in ways she passed on to her children, which would explain why my friend was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer a few years ago, at the age of thirty-five. Could it also explain why my friend’s mother once gave birth to a set of conjoined twins? Conjoined twins are an anomaly in the general population, but these make the fourth set born to women who grew up near that creek. And those are just the ones we know about.

The reports don’t acknowledge these stories, these illnesses, those who are dying or dead. Most residents of St. Louis—including and especially the residents of predominantly African-American neighborhoods—don’t even know the contamination is there. …….

“My librarian,” Kay Drey tells me—has filed the EPA’s Record of Decision for the West Lake Landfill, and then on the drawer where I might find studies that contradict the EPA’s assessment that the radioactive waste in the landfill doesn’t pose a threat to residents—the radiological surveys of the site conducted in the 1970s and 1980s by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy, as well as more current studies by independent researchers. She explains that the radioactive waste buried in West Lake Landfill covers about twenty acres in two locations in one or many layers, estimated at two to fifteen feet thick, some of it mixed in with municipal refuse and some of it sitting right at the surface. It is in the trees surrounding the landfill and the vacuum bags in nearby homes. This waste contains not only uranium, but also thorium and radium, all long-lived, highly radio-toxic elements. And because Mallinckrodt removed most of the naturally occurring uranium from this ore, the Cotter Corporation, in effect, created an enriched thorium deposit when they dumped the residues at West Lake Landfill. “In fact,” Kay muses, “West Lake Landfill might now be the richest deposit of thorium in the world.”

Thorium and uranium in particular are among the radioactive primordial nuclides, radioactive elements that have existed in their current form since before Earth was formed, since before the formation of the solar system even, and will remain radioactive and toxic to life long after humans are gone. We’re sitting back in Kay’s dining room when she pulls out a tiny booklet labeled “Nuclear Wallet Cards.” What its intended purpose is, I don’t know, but Kay flips to the back to show me the half-life of Thorium 232: fourteen billion years, a half-life so long that by the time this element is safe for human exposure, the Appalachian Mountains will have eroded away, every ocean on Earth’s surface will have evaporated, Antarctica will be free of ice, and all the rings of Saturn will have decayed. Earth’s rotation will have slowed so much that days will have become twenty-five hours long, photosynthesis will have ceased, and multicellular life will have become a physical impossibility.

“You know, tritium is my favorite,” Kay tells me before I leave. It’s produced as a side effect of operating nuclear reactors and released into the air, or leaks into the waterways; it contaminates the water supply and condenses in our food. One official who worked at the nuclear reactor Kay had tried to prevent once told her that tritium was no big deal. “It only destroys DNA molecules.” A few years ago they found tritium in the groundwater in Callaway County. “There is no way to remove it,” she says…..

….the Weldon Spring site. After it was decommissioned, the plant—a second one run by Mallinckrodt—was found to be so contaminated that the Department of Energy eventually entombed the whole site in layers upon layers of clay and soil, gravel, engineered filters and limestone rocks, creating a mountain covering forty-five acres, containing approximately 1.5 million cubic yards of hazardous waste. With its own educational center located near the base, the containment dome has become a kind of memorial for a tragedy that hasn’t finished happening. The top of the dome is the highest point in the county.

“Oh, you don’t want to go there anyway,” Kay says, waving the idea away with her slender hand. “It’s leaking.”……..

a contradiction I can’t resolve: that the massive crime here began with a belief in a kind of care, a belief that protection comes only in the form of wars and bombs, and that its ultimate expression is a technology that can destroy in a single instant any threat to our safety with perfect precision and efficiency. But hundreds of thousands lost their lives to those bombs in Japan, and the fallout from building them has claimed at least as many lives right here at home.

There is no one to arrest for this, to send to jail, to fine or execute or drag to his humiliation in the city square. Even if Karen and Dawn win their fight and convince the government to remove every gram of radioactive waste in the landfill and the creek and the airport and the backyards and gardens here, people will still be sick. Thousands of them. Chronic exposure to radiation has changed their DNA, and they’ll likely pass those changes on to their children, and to their children’s children, and on and on through every generation. In this regard, no one is immune……..

The EPA Region 7 offices are located in a sprawling modern government building in a suburb of Kansas City. The small conference room just to the side of the main entrance is filled with a surprising number of people……

During our too-short conversation I learn that the EPA has over 1,300 sites in the Superfund program, and Region 7 alone has ninety-eight sites on the National Priorities List. Each of these communities is demanding that their toxic sites be scrubbed clean. ………https://www.guernicamag.com/the-fallout/

July 24, 2017 Posted by | Reference, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Fossil fuel utilities in a “death spiral” as they fight solar energy: Nevada’s rapid increase in sun power

Dave Toke’s Blog 21st July 2017, Dramatic increase in Nevada solar output as big companies abandon utility
in favour of cheap renewables. Solar pv output in the US state of Nevada is
heading for a 60 per cent year-on-year increase in electricity output in
2017 compared to 2016 as Nevada increases its lead as the top US state for
installed solar pv per person.

Nevada, which is heading for getting 10 per
cent of its total electricity from solar pv in 2017 could be setting a
trend whereby business and residential consumers switch to solar simply
because it is the cheapest source of electricity. Of course it is very
sunny in Nevada – indeed a given solar panel will generate around twice as
much electricity per year in Nevada compared to Northern Europe.

But really what’s happening in Nevada is just an advanced guard for other places.
That’s because the costs of solar power continue to crash and so what is
happening in Nevada will happen in lots of other places very soon.

US monopoly electricity utilities are trying to fight back by charging fee
structures to consumers that reduce the benefits of installing solar pv.
But as much as they do that, the prospect of what are increasingly cheaper
battery systems to balance their load is making consumers more and more
independent from the conventional electricity generation and supply system.

Bill Ellard. a consultant for the US Solar Energy Society describes this as
a ‘death spiral’ for the US utilities. The more they fight solar, the more
expensive they become for consumers in general and the more people are
induced to go solar. Ellard favours developing more microgrid systems so
that energy requirements can be balanced more and more on a local level.
http://realfeed-intariffs.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/dramatic-increase-in-nevada-solar.html

July 24, 2017 Posted by | renewable, USA | Leave a comment

Britain’s nuclear problem with Euratom might bring the whole edifice of Brexit crashing down

New European 21st July 2017, The Euratom row lays bare the innate flaws of Brexit. But it also gives pro-Europeans their biggest chance yet to regain the initiative. Our politicians have belatedly woken up to the fact that amongst the many complex implications of Brexit are some very serious issues to do with nuclear safety, nuclear waste and nuclear medicine.

These arise because the government’s Hard Brexit plan entails leaving the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) which, in turn, arises because although Euratom is not part of the EU it falls within the jurisdiction of the ECJ. Although the ECJ has in fact made very few judgments regarding Euratom, Theresa May has made leaving all forms of its jurisdiction a non-negotiable red line, and so leaving Euratom was included in both the Article 50 letter and the parliamentary Act which authorised her to send that letter.

This may now lead to a parliamentary rebellion amongst Tory MPs against, at least, this aspect of Brexit, meaning it is possible the government will not have a majority for it.

But what is happening with Euratom points up very sharply a whole series of extremely significant questions about Brexit in general. Perhaps the most important question – the nuclear question, so to speak – is that given there are very strong and obvious reasons for avoiding the chaos, damage, cost and complexity of leaving Euratom then do these not apply even more strongly to the entire matter of leaving the EU?

Could Euratom be the first major crack that will bring down the whole ill-conceived edifice of Brexit?
http://www.theneweuropean.co.uk/top-stories/what-euratom-really-stands-for-1-5117645

July 24, 2017 Posted by | politics international, UK | Leave a comment

Nuclear weapons and the human toll of radioactive waste dumps

Even if we box it up and send it in train cars to remote places, it will be there, ready and waiting to kill any of us long after we’ve forgotten where we put it, or what “it” even is.

The Fallout, In St. Louis, America’s nuclear history creeps into the present, leaching into streams and bodies. Guernica, By Lacy M. Johnson, 10 July 2017  “……….Uranium, thorium, Agent Orange, dioxin, DDT. I am thinking of all the ways our government has poisoned its citizens as I board the plane that will take me back home. The sky grows darker; blue gives way to purple, to red and orange near the horizon. I read recently about a housing project in St. Louis, the infamous Pruitt-Igoe, where the government sprayed nerve gases off the roof to see what effect it would have on the people living there—testing it for its potential use as a weapon in war…….

A 2005 Gallup poll showed that a majority of Americans still approve of the dropping of bombs on Japan. Admittedly, this is down from near-total approval in August 1945, but it’s hardly a “moral revolution.” One factor in the decision to use the bomb was that their destructive power would end the war and save American lives—some estimated as many as a million American soldiers would have perished in a ground raid on Japan. Does saving one life require taking another? Must they both be soldiers, loyal to their countries and their neighbors? After Nagasaki was bombed, a woman walked through the burning streets asking for water for her headless baby. A four-year-old boy burned alive under the rubble of his crushed house was crying out, “Mommy, it’s hot. It’s so hot.” President Truman called this bombing an “achievement” in his solemn radio broadcast from the USS Augusta: “The Japanese began the war from the air at Pearl Harbor. They have been repaid many fold.”

In the last few months of his term President Obama was reportedly considering the idea of adopting a no-first-use policy on nuclear weapons—an official promise that we would only use them in response to an attack by our enemies—but ultimately his advisors talked him out of it, arguing that it is our responsibility to our allies to maintain the illusion of ultimate power. Now that we have a new president with access to the nuclear codes we must face the consequences of projecting, and protecting, that illusion.

There are about sixteen thousand nuclear warheads in the world right now, enough to destroy the planet many times over. The United States and Russia own 90 percent of these, and though various treaties prevent them from making additional weapons, both are working to modernize the bomb-delivery systems they do have. The US government recently approved a plan to spend one trillion dollars over the next thirty years to make our arsenal more modern, accurate, and efficient.

One trillion dollars. This number is staggering, not least of all because one factor—a minor one but still a factor—deterring the EPA from fully excavating the radioactive waste created by the program that developed these nuclear weapons in the first place is how much it will cost. Maybe as much as $400 million. That’s a lot of money for an EPA project. Budgets are not so simple that one government program—like the Department of Defense—could direct money to another, but the fact that they are not does makes our priorities apparent.

Even if every gram of radioactive waste were removed from the landfill, where would it go? There are facilities in Idaho and Utah willing to accept it. But those facilities are located in communities, or near them, and those people don’t want this waste in their backyards or their gardens or their rivers or their drinking water either. Even if we box it up and send it in train cars to remote places, it will be there, ready and waiting to kill any of us long after we’ve forgotten where we put it, or what “it” even is.  ……..https://www.guernicamag.com/the-fallout/

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

Britons unaware of the dangers of radioactive waste transport, but campaigners protest

Radiation Free Lakeland 22nd July 2017, Braving the rain in Carlisle today campaigners went to bear witness to the Nuclear Industry’s whitewashing of its seemingly never ending transports of mountains of spent fuel and nuclear materials.

The day is a great draw for thousands of railway enthusiasts who are in love with the diesel
engines. Many are unaware of the dangerous cargo of nuclear fuel, even those who live in Carlisle.

Created in 1994 by British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (now the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority) to take over British Rail’s handling of nuclear material. DRS has since diversified into other freight operations including food. This diversification serves to take the focus away from the main purpose which is the transport of nuclear materials (the only publicly owned railway we are allowed to have is that bearing nuclear freight!)  https://mariannewildart.wordpress.com/2017/07/22/beware-nuclear-trains-bearing-gifts/

July 24, 2017 Posted by | safety, UK | Leave a comment

South Korea hoping to market their nuclear wares to Britain

Koreans target £10bn Welsh nuclear plant, John Collingridge July 23 2017,  The Sunday Times A Korean state-owned power giant is drawing up plans to buy a slice of a new £10bn nuclear plant in north Wales.

July 24, 2017 Posted by | marketing, South Korea, UK | Leave a comment

Has Donald Trump unintentionally killed the nuclear industry?

Trump May Have Unintentionally Killed U.S. Nuclear 

We don’t blame the nuclear power industry for attempting to rebrand itself as providing energy and environmental improvement. However, the federal government has taken the latter rationale away from the industry. If carbon’s no longer a problem, who cares if relatively high cost nuclear power plants provide a solution? http://oilprice.com/Alternative-Energy/Nuclear-Power/Trump-May-Have-Unintentionally-Killed-US-Nuclear.html

July 24, 2017 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment