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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Living with a nuclear North Korea – a better idea than panicking into nuclear war

Why can’t we live with a nuclear North Korea?, The Week,  Gracy Olmstead  6 Dec 17 How do you “solve” the North Korea problem? This question has dominated U.S. foreign policy discussions for years. Former President Barack Obama warned President Trump before his inauguration that the small, poor, nuclear-armed country could pose the most urgent foreign policy challenge of his presidency.

Despite extensive economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure, North Korea continues to advance its military power. Last week, North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that could potentially reach the entire continental U.S. American politicians are scrambling to figure out how to respond.

Unfortunately, the first and primary position on the part of most U.S. policymakers has been panicked overreaction. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told CNN, “If we have to go to war to stop this, we will. If there’s a war with North Korea it will be because North Korea brought it on itself, and we’re headed to a war if things don’t change.”…….

North Korea is an oppressive and dictatorial country, one that has committed a plethora of human rights atrocities against its citizens, and which uses propaganda and antagonism to anger its opponents on the world stage. We know this. But while concerning, this new step by North Korea is neither unexpected nor revolutionary. The fundamentals of the situation remain unchanged. Policymakers need to take a deep breath.

Calling for war or military strikes to remove their nuclear capabilities is a counterproductive and dangerous policy. U.S. resources and presence in the region are already considerable — as American University scholar Joshua Rovner explains, “The best way to deter nuclear powers from using their arsenals to act more conventionally aggressive is by maintaining local conventional superiority. This enhances deterrence without risking escalation, which in turn reduces questions about credibility and alleviates stress on alliances.”

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in opposes preventive strikes in response to North Korea’s recent tests, and has expressed some concern that the U.S. might act prematurely. “We must stop a situation where North Korea miscalculates and threatens us with nuclear weapons or where the United States considers a pre-emptive strike,” he said at a recent emergency meeting in Seoul.

Attempting to overthrow or undermine North Korea’s regime would have massive implications for South Korea, as well as for China and North Korea’s vulnerable citizenry. In this instance, preventive military action would result in a bevy of unintended consequences, yet nobody in the Trump administration talks about this…….

Calling for war or military strikes to remove their nuclear capabilities is a counterproductive and dangerous policy. U.S. resources and presence in the region are already considerable — as American University scholar Joshua Rovner explains, “The best way to deter nuclear powers from using their arsenals to act more conventionally aggressive is by maintaining local conventional superiority. This enhances deterrence without risking escalation, which in turn reduces questions about credibility and alleviates stress on alliances.”

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in opposes preventive strikes in response to North Korea’s recent tests, and has expressed some concern that the U.S. might act prematurely. “We must stop a situation where North Korea miscalculates and threatens us with nuclear weapons or where the United States considers a pre-emptive strike,” he said at a recent emergency meeting in Seoul.

Attempting to overthrow or undermine North Korea’s regime would have massive implications for South Korea, as well as for China and North Korea’s vulnerable citizenry. In this instance, preventive military action would result in a bevy of unintended consequences, yet nobody in the Trump administration talks about this.

…….”Maximum pressure” will not work with North Korea. The U.S. must instead consider a strategy that acknowledges North Korea’s purpose and personality — and one that inspires confidence and respect in our allies, most especially South Korea, whose confidence in us seems to have been shaken by recent events…….

Although a nuclear North Korea is far from ideal, descending into panic will not serve U.S. interests abroad, and it won’t keep America safe. The Trump administration must consider the dangerous ramifications of their belligerent stance toward North Korea, before they make a catastrophic miscalculation. http://theweek.com/articles/740247/why-cant-live-nuclear-north-korea

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December 6, 2017 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Russia’s deception, denial and propaganda over the nuclear event at Mayak

Nuclear Russia Scares The World (Again), Lobe Log, DECEMBER 5, 2017, by Tatyana Ivanova

“…….Denial, Pressure, and Propaganda

As soon as information about the likely Russian origin of the ruthenium cloud over Europe appeared in the mass media, the Russian nuclear state corporation sprang into action to prevent any Russian investigation. Rosatom and then Mayak stated that their facilities couldn’t be a source of Ru-106 release and that the background radiation around them is normal. At the same time, they didn’t provide any specific data on Ru-106 concentrations in the air. Rosatom only made reference to its website, which is monitoring the gamma background.

A Russian regulatory agency “inspected” Mayak, and after only one day came to the hasty conclusion that there had been no accidents or events at the plant. Its public report contained only one number: the Ru-106 concentration in Bucharest that the IAEA had already published.

Some days later Russian pro-government mass media published a flurry of propaganda, denying that the contamination was of Russian origin and making fun of the journalists and citizens who wrote of a cover-up. Some of the Russian mass media disseminated false information that the release could have been caused by a downed American spy satellite or even an alien spaceship.

The most radical websites started a second wave of defamation against Nadezhda Kutepova, blaming her for espionage and intentional misinformation about Mayak. Some Russian officials blamed IRSN for issuing “false information” about the Russian trace, saying that the French regulator is competing with Rosatom.

Rosatom went further by publishing a poster on behalf of Ru-106 with the headline “Everyone accuses the little one” in the style of a propaganda cartoon for children. The poster states that Ru-106 is “small and good” and does not appear at nuclear waste reprocessing plants. Then the official Rosatom Facebook page invited journalists and bloggers to visit Mayak to “touch and smell” Ruthenium-106. They selected 16 people from 200 who expressed interest, stating that experts were not invited because they “already understand all the fictitiousness of the hype.”

At the same time, the Russian regulatory agency altered its published report, removing the words “extremely high concentrations of Ru-106” in reference to the villages around Mayak and reported instead that the levels did not exceed the limits. Last week a special commission including representatives of all the aforementioned Russian state organizations began another inspection of Mayak. The results have not yet been announced.

The situation is reminiscent of the Chernobyl catastrophe of 1986, during the Soviet era. Indeed, the Mayak facility, which specializes in nuclear fuel reprocessing and the production of nuclear weapons materials, never really left the Soviet era. The enterprise avoids publishing any detailed figures on emissions In its environmental impact assessments. An iron veil of secrecy, as well as Rosatom’s influence over decision-makers at the highest level, protect it from the scrutiny of Russians and everybody else.

Tatyana Ivanova is a Belarusian journalist residing in the United States  https://lobelog.com/nuclear-russia-scares-the-world-again/

December 6, 2017 Posted by | Russia, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

New evidence on thyroid cancer incidence near New York’s nuclear power station

Is This Nuclear Plant to Blame for Soaring Thyroid Cancer Rates in New York? https://www.ecowatch.com/indian-point-thyroid-cancer-2515063468.html, By Joseph Mangano, 5 Dec 17,

In the late 1970s, the rate of new thyroid cancer cases in four counties just north of New York City—Westchester, Rockland, Orange and Putnam counties—was 22 percent below the U.S. rate. Today, it has soared to 53 percent above the national rate. New cases jumped from 51 to 412 per year. Large increases in thyroid cancer occurred for both males and females in each county.

That’s according to a new study I co-authored which was published in the Journal of Environmental Protection and presented at Columbia University.

This change may be a result of airborne emissions of radioactive iodine from the Indian Point nuclear power plant, which is located at the crossroads of those four counties and has been operating since the mid-’70s.Exposure to radioactivity is the only known cause of thyroid cancer. Indian Point routinely releases more than 100 radioactive chemicals into the environment. These chemicals enter human bodies through breathing and the food chain, harming and killing healthy cells. One of these chemicals is radioactive iodine, which attacks and kills cells in the thyroid gland, raising the risk of cancer.

The new study calls for much more research on thyroid cancer patterns. According to the New York State cancer registry, the 1976-81 four-county thyroid cancer rate was 22 percent below the U.S. rate. Since then, thyroid cancer has increased across the U.S., but the local increase was much greater—rising to 53 percent above the U.S. rate from 2000-2014. That’s statistically significant.

“The statistical aberration of increased cancer rates should be a concern to us all,” said Peter Schwartz, a Rockland County businessman diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 1986. “After Fukushima, it finally occurred to me that my thyroid cancer was connected to Indian Point.”

“I am concerned that radiation may have contributed to thyroid cancer in my family,” says Joanne DeVito, who spoke at the Columbia University event. She was diagnosed with the condition, as were each of her three daughters. “Our family has no history of thyroid disease, and doctors are at a loss to explain why this happened,” said DeVito. She now lives in Connecticut, but for many years lived close to Indian Point.

Little is known about thyroid cancer causes. Risk factors according to the Mayo Clinic include being female, genetic syndromes and exposure to ionizing radiation. Earlier studies found high rates of thyroid cancer in those treated with head and neck irradiation (which ceased in the 1950s), survivors of the 1945 Hiroshima/Nagasaki atomic bombs, and the 1986 Chernobyl and 2011 Fukushima reactor meltdowns.

A 1999 National Cancer Institute study concluded that as many as 212,000 Americans developed thyroid cancer from the above-ground nuclear weapons tests in Nevada. Radiation exposures from those test were considered low-dose. Above-ground testing was banned in a 1963 treaty.

From 1980 to 2014, the U.S. thyroid cancer incidence rate more than tripled for all ages, races and genders. Most scientific articles in the professional literature concluded that improved diagnosis cannot be the sole reason.

In a recent study in the journal Laryngoscope, researchers at Hershey Medical Center found local residents near the Three Mile Island plant diagnosed with thyroid cancer after the 1979 partial meltdown had a significantly lower proportion of the BRAFV600 mutation, which is not associated with radiation-induced thyroid cancer, compared to cases diagnosed before the accident and many years afterwards. The authors suggested the meltdown could have contributed to the disease.

Indian Point is located in Buchanan, New York, in northwest Westchester County. Its two functioning reactors began operating in 1973 and 1976. An agreement to close the plant by 2021 between Entergy (which owns and operates the plant) and New York State was reached in January of this year.

Joseph Mangano is the executive director of the Radiation and Public Health Project.

December 6, 2017 Posted by | health, USA | Leave a comment

Nuclear industry would like to assess itself for safety, efficiency etc; (wouldn’t we all?)

Nuclear industry wants power to self-assess plants, Cape Cod Times  Christine Legere  Dec 4, 2017   The federal agency in charge of overseeing the nation’s 99 commercial nuclear reactors is looking at ways to make its engineering inspection program more efficient, and one suggestion being entertained would allow plant operators to inspect, or “self-assess,” their own operations.

Nuclear watchdogs are speaking out against the proposal, arguing that inspection of plant systems should remain in the hands of an independent organization like the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to protect safety and ensure public confidence…….

charge of overseeing the nation’s 99 commercial nuclear reactors is looking at ways to make its engineering inspection program more efficient, and one suggestion being entertained would allow plant operators to inspect, or “self-assess,” their own operations.

Nuclear watchdogs are speaking out against the proposal, arguing that inspection of plant systems should remain in the hands of an independent organization like the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to protect safety and ensure public confidence.

A Duxbury citizens group called Pilgrim Watch also pushed for keeping the plant inspections in the hands of the NRC.

“Pilgrim provides the perfect example why NRC nuclear safety inspections are necessary and why industry self assessments would be dangerous,” stated Pilgrim Watch in its letter to the working group.

Pilgrim is one of three plants in the country classified in Column 4, a category established by the NRC for the worst performers. The plant is expected to be permanently shut down by May 31, 2019.

Referencing Pilgrim’s current classification, Yarmouth Port resident James Garb wrote that the plant’s decline is the result of lack of attention to safety matters and failure to perform safety procedures properly.

“How could you possibly expect a nuclear plant to conduct honest, effective safety inspections?” Garb wrote. “We certainly couldn’t.”……

Congressman William Keating, D-Mass., will oppose efforts toward self-assessment.

“We are currently reaching out to the NRC for any information on a potential self-policing proposal, which I would vehemently oppose,” said Keating in a statement provided by his office.

David Lochbaum, director of the Nuclear Safety Program for the Union of Concerned Scientists, said his organization expects that self-assessments will be one of the options the work group presents to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission once their study is complete.

His organization does not support that option…….. http://www.capecodtimes.com/news/20171203/nuclear-industry-wants-power-to-self-assess-plants

December 6, 2017 Posted by | safety, USA | Leave a comment

Fundamental problems with the Russian nuclear industry

Nuclear Russia Scares The World (Again), Lobe Log, DECEMBER 5, 2017, by Tatyana IvanovaAn international scandal involving ruthenium-106 (Ru-106) contamination of the atmosphere in most European countries has revealed fundamental problems with the Russian nuclear industry. The Russian State Corporation (Rosatom) has denied the massive leak at its Ural reprocessing facility. Instead, it has withheld data and spread propaganda in the best Soviet tradition.

During the last two months, Western European countries have been trying to identify the source of the Ru-106 cloud, which according to the French IRSN drifted over a majority of European countries. Several European networks involved in the monitoring of atmospheric radioactive contamination detected Ru-106 in late September. Then, German and French nuclear regulators found traces in the atmosphere at low but not dangerous levels. Later, 36 countries reported their measurements of Ru-106 to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The countries were puzzled by the source of contamination. Such a large-scale spread of a man-made radionuclide—not routinely detected in the atmosphere—could indicate a serious accident at a nuclear facility. The IAEA’s Incident and Emergency Centre (IEC) therefore asked European member states to share information about “any recent events associated with an atmospheric release of Ru-106.” Member states reported their own measurements of Ru-106, but none of the countries (including Russia) reported an incident. The agency said that the contamination did not pose a danger, because of the low concentrations of Ru-106.

The agency nevertheless detailed the kinds of situations that do not cause such a leak. The lack of other fission products accompanying the Ru-106 precludes the possibility of an accident at a nuclear reactor or spent nuclear fuel storage. The IEC also said that relatively small amounts of Ru-106 used in cancer treatment are unlikely to cause the reported air concentration. Also, Ru-106 can be used in a satellite as a source for a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG). However such usage is not common, and no satellite containing Ru-106 has fallen back to earth during this period.

There are not many options left. Experts say that one of two kinds of events could cause such contamination. IRSN concluded that the origin of the mysterious Ru-106 is to be found either in nuclear fuel cycle facilities or in radioactive source production. There are very few such facilities in the world.

Since the IAEA didn’t find the source of contamination, the French IRSN and later the Ukrainian nuclear regulator carried out their own investigations.

Russian Traces 

The results of independent modeling carried out by the IRSN and the Ukrainian regulator—based on the aggregated Ru-106 pollution data and meteorological conditions—indicate that the release zone lies “between the Volga and the Urals.” IRSN also calculated its total activity, which was considerable – between 100 and 300 TBq.

The Russian meteorological agency (Roshydromet), which monitors radioactive environmental pollution, then corroborated these findings. It also revealed measurements of “extremely high levels” of Ru-106 air contamination at two Russian villages in the Urals: Argayash and Novogorny. The levels were about 400 and 900 times higher then usual.

In this region of the Southern Urals, about 30 kilometers from these two polluted sites, there is only one potential large-scale polluter: the “Mayak” nuclear waste reprocessing plant. Accordingly, suspicion has fallen on it. Mayak is part of the Russian Rosatom State Corporation and is located at the closed secret town of Ozersk, in the Chelyabinsk district.

The source of the Ru-106 release could be facility number 235, which vitrifies highly radioactive waste. The same accident, according to the IAEA, occurred in 2001 in a similar nuclear fuel reprocessing plant at La Hague in northern France. A new vitrification furnace—the SverdNIIkhimmash EP-500/5—was put into operation in plant number 235 at Mayak at the end of December 2016.

According to Edwin Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists, the vitrification process oxidizes high-level waste solutions before they’re added to the glass melter. This tends to convert ruthenium into the tetroxide state, which is volatile. Reducing agents are added to prevent tetroxide formation. Lyman hypothesizes that an insufficient quantity of reducing agent added to a particular batch could result in the accidental production of ruthenium tetroxide, which would exceed the capacity of the off-gas filters. “Gaseous ruthenium tetroxide would then condense into small aerosol particles that could be transported large distances,” he concludes.

Rashid Alimov, from Greenpeace Russia, points out that the Russian furnace EP-500/5 has a special ruthenium tetroxide filter, which could fail. He notes that, according Rosatom’s 2015 annual report, Mayak routinely emits ruthenium tetroxide, but the recent release was significantly larger and exceeded the annual limit.

If such a large scale release had happened in France, IRSN reports, inhabitants within a radius of several kilometers would have been evacuated and local food produced within tens of kilometers would have been declared unsafe for human consumption.

Greenpeace Russia has already appealed to the Russian prosecutor’s office to investigate this accident. But “to date, everything points to Mayak,” says Alimov. Nadezhda Kutepova, a Russian human rights defender from Ozersk who is now a political refugee in France, added that an accident with the vitrification furnace is probable because of a number of problems that occurred during its installation and testing…………https://lobelog.com/nuclear-russia-scares-the-world-again/

December 6, 2017 Posted by | Russia, safety | Leave a comment

UN General Assembly endorses a Japanese anti-nuclear resolution

UN adopts Japan’s nuke abolition motion, but support down http://www.scmp.com/news/asia/east-asia/article/2122891/un-adopts-japans-nuke-abolition-motion-support-down   Among other things the resolution renews the determination of all states to take united action toward the total elimination of nuclear weapons    05 December, 2017 , The UN General Assembly on Monday endorsed a Japanese anti-nuclear resolution by a wide margin, although fewer countries backed it than in previous years amid perceptions of its back-pedalling on disarmament.

The motion, submitted by Japan for the 24th year in a row, was supported by 156 nations, down 11 from last year. It was opposed by the same four nations as last year – China, North Korea, Russia and Syria – while 24 abstained, up by eight.

The vote this year took place against the backdrop of the July 7 adoption of the landmark Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which for the first time bans nuclear weapons. Its supporters have consistently criticised the text of Japan’s latest resolution, saying its language backtracks on previous agreements and makes no mention of the ban treaty.

Among other things the resolution “renews the determination of all states to take united action toward the total elimination of nuclear weapons through easing of international tension and strengthening the trust between states … to facilitate disarmament and through strengthening the nuclear non-proliferation regime.”

Meanwhile, an official from a nuclear possessor state who requested anonymity praised Tokyo for “reflecting what is actually happening in the world” through its revised text.

In Tokyo, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono stressed the breadth of support for the resolution, saying it was backed by 95 countries agreeing with the ban treaty as well as nuclear powers the United States, Britain and France.

“Out of all the motions on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation submitted to the United Nations, Japan’s has the most support from countries taking various different positions,” Kono told a press conference.

The ban treaty got an extra boost in October when the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons for their work highlighting the plight of atomic bomb survivors, such as Setsuko Thurlow. She has often spoken out at the United Nations and will be among those there at the Oslo award ceremony for the prize.

A UN committee in late October backed Japan’s motion by 144 votes, with four ‘no’ votes and 27 abstentions. The greater number of yes votes at the General Assembly was due to some countries not present for the committee vote casting positive votes, including Fiji, Vanuatu, Sierra Leone and Gambia.

December 6, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, politics international | Leave a comment

Antarctica – so remote, but so significant in climate science

Why remote Antarctica is so important in a warming world  The Conversation.Chris Fogwill, Professor of Glaciology and Palaeoclimatology, Keele UniversityChris Turney, Professor of Earth Sciences and Climate Change, UNSWZoe Robinson, Reader in Physical Geography and Sustainability/Director of Education for Sustainability, Keele University

“……..What was once thought to be a largely unchanging mass of snow and ice is anything but. Antarctica holds a staggering amount of water. The three ice sheets that cover the continent contain around 70% of our planet’s fresh water, all of which we now know to be vulnerable to warming air and oceans. If all the ice sheets were to melt, Antarctica would raise global sea levels by at least 56m.

Where, when, and how quickly they might melt is a major focus of research. No one is suggesting all the ice sheets will melt over the next century but, given their size, even small losses could have global repercussions. Possible scenarios are deeply concerning: in addition to rising sea levels, meltwater would slow down the world’s ocean circulation, while shifting wind belts may affect the climate in the southern hemisphere.

  1. In 2014, NASA reported that several major Antarctic ice streams, which hold enough water to trigger the equivalent of a one-and-a-half metre sea level rise, are now irreversibly in retreat. With more than 150m people exposed to the threat of sea level rise and sea levels now rising at a faster rate globally than any time in the past 3,000 years, these are sobering statistics for island nations and coastal cities worldwide.

    An immediate and acute threat

    Recent storm surges following hurricanes have demonstrated that rising sea levels are a future threat for densely populated regions such as Florida and New York. Meanwhile the threat for low-lying islands in areas such as the Pacific is immediate and acute.

  2. Multiple factors mean that the vulnerability to global sea level rise is geographically variable and unequal, while there are also regional differences in the extremity of sea level rise itself. At present, the consensus of the IPPC 2013 report suggests a rise of between 40 and 80cm over the next century, with Antarctica only contributing around 5cm of this. Recent projections, however, suggest that Antarctic contributions may be up to ten times higher.Studies also suggest that in a world 1.5-2°C warmer than today we will be locked into millennia of irreversible sea level rise, due to the slow response time of the Antarctic ice sheets to atmospheric and ocean warming.

    We may already be living in such a world. Recent evidence shows global temperatures are close to 1.5°C warmer than pre-industrial times and, after the COP23 meeting in Bonn in November, it is apparent that keeping temperature rise within 2°C is unlikely.

  3. So we now need to reconsider future sea level projections given the potential global impact from Antarctica. Given that 93% of the heat from anthropogenic global warming has gone into the ocean, and these warming ocean waters are now meeting the floating margins of the Antarctic ice sheet, the potential for rapid ice sheet melt in a 2°C world is high.In polar regions, surface temperatures are projected to rise twice as fast as the global average, due to a phenomenon known as polar amplification. However, there is still hope to avoid this sword of Damocles, as studies suggest that a major reduction in greenhouse gases over the next decade would mean that irreversible sea level rise could be avoided. It is therefore crucial to reduce CO₂ levels now for the benefit of future generations, or adapt to a world in which more of our shorelines are significantly redrawn.

    This is both a scientific and societal issue. We have choices: technological innovations are providing new ways to reduce CO₂ emissions, and offer the reality of a low-carbon future. This may help minimise sea level rise from Antarctica and make mitigation a viable possibility.

    Given what rising sea levels could mean for human societies across the world, we must maintain our longstanding view of Antarctica as the most remote and isolated continent. https://theconversation.com/why-remote-antarctica-is-so-important-in-a-warming-world-88197

December 6, 2017 Posted by | ANTARCTICA, climate change | Leave a comment

Tepco officials warned workers and journalists not to stand too long next to Fukushima nuclear reactor storage pool

Steve Dale Nuclear Fuel Cycle Watch South Australia, 6 Dec 17 

Poor workers, poor reporters – “TEPCO officials cautioned media representatives about standing too long right next to the storage pool, which could be seen located about six meters below the roof. Debris was found within the pool while insulating material floated on the pool surface.

The radiation level near the pool was 0.68 millisieverts per hour. While that was a major improvement from the 800 millisieverts per hour recorded in the immediate aftermath of the nuclear accident close to seven years ago” – 0.68 millisieverts is 6800 times the background radiations level of Adelaide (0.1 MICROsieverts/hour)Fukushima dome roof takes shape, but radiation remains high:The Asahi Shimbun

High radiation levels are still limiting recovery work at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, a stark

December 6, 2017 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

Hanford, USA and Mayak, Russia – their hidden radioactive megapollution

Radioactive Waste And The Hidden Costs Of The Cold War,  Forbes, David Rainbow, Assistant Professor, Honors College, University of Houston, 4 Dec 17, Hanford, a dusty decommissioned plutonium production site in eastern Washington state, is one of the most polluted places in the country. The disaster is part of the inheritance of the Cold War.

A few months ago, a 110-meter-long tunnel collapsed at the site, exposing an old rail line and eight rail cars filled with contaminated radioactive equipment. This open wound in the landscape, which was quickly covered over again, is a tiny part of an environmental and human health catastrophe that steadily unfolded there over four decades of plutonium production. Big Cold War fears justified big risks. Big, secretive, nuclear-sized risks.

Hanford and other toxic reminders of the Cold War should serve as a cautionary tale to those who have a say in mitigating geopolitical tensions today, as well as to those who promote nuclear energy as an environmentally sustainable source of electricity. The energy debate must balance the downside – not just the risk of a nuclear meltdown but also the lack of a permanent repository for the still-dangerous spent fuel rods – with the environmental benefits of a source of electricity that produces no greenhouse gases. People on both sides of the issue have a vested interest in how the current geopolitical tussling over nuclear weapons plays out……

Even if, as we all hope, the “new Cold War” never gets hot, escalating tensions can have seriously harmful effects at home. The radioactive cave-in at the Hanford site earlier this year should serve as a reminder of that.

Nuclear refinement at Hanford began as a part of the Manhattan Project during World War II, the highly secretive plan to develop a nuclear bomb.

Initially, the drive to mobilize for war justified substantial costs, among them significant damage to human and environmental health in the U.S. resulting from the nuclear program. Hanford was integral to the program: its plutonium fell on Nagasaki. But after the end of the war, the scale of production at the site increased to a fevered pitch thanks to the ensuing competition for global influence between the U.S. and the Soviet Union that became the Cold War.

Our gargantuan stockpiles of nuclear arms demanded gargantuan quantities of plutonium. Forty-five years of work at Hanford – from 1943 to 1987 – yielded 20 million uranium metal plugs used to generate 110,000 tons of fuel. The process also generated 53 million gallons of radioactive waste, now stored in 177 underground tanks at the facility, and created 450 billion gallons of irradiated waste water that was discharged onto “soil disposal sites,” meaning it went into the ground. Some of the irradiated discharge simply ran back to where it had originally been taken from, the nearby Columbia River. The Office of Environmental Management at the Department of Energy is currently overseeing a cleanup project involving 11,000 people. It is expected to take several decades and cost around $100 billion.

Kate Brown’s award-winning book, “Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters,” is a history of the Hanford plant and its Soviet doppelgänger, a plant in the Ural Mountains called Maiak. Brown points out that over the course of a few decades, the two nuclear sites spewed two times the radiation emitted in the Chernobyl explosion. Yet few Americans at the time, even those involved in plutonium production, realized this was going on or how dangerous it was.

Naturally, the hidden nature of the project meant that information was hard to come by. As Brown shows, even the experts, managers and scientists involved directly in overseeing the production process knew little about the seriousness of the risk. Doctors studying the effects of radiation on people didn’t have access to the research related to environmental pollution. Scientists studying fish die-offs had no way of connecting their findings to the deteriorating immune systems of humans in the same areas. Most poignantly, researchers measuring the effectiveness of nuclear bombs on the enemy did not communicate with researchers measuring the threat of nuclear bombs on the workers making them.

Consequences for the workers were grave. Hanford and Maiak’s hidden mega-pollution was collateral damage in the fight to win the Cold War. Russia, like the U.S., is still living with the damage, and trying to bury it, too.

Within two days of the tunnel collapse at the Hanford site this past May, workers filled the breach with 53 truckloads of dirt and narrowly avoided a radiological event. However, these eight railcars are hardly the only waste left behind in the U.S. from our cold conflict with the Soviet Union, in which our willingness to risk human and environmental health was proportionate to our fears. It’s going to be a while before it’s all cleaned up. In the meantime, hopefully our leaders will work to keep the new Cold War from getting any worse. https://www.forbes.com/sites/uhenergy/2017/12/04/the-hidden-costs-of-cold-war/#a3593c1136ff

December 6, 2017 Posted by | - plutonium, Russia, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Japan struck by two earthquakes

Two earthquakes strike Japan https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20171206_04/An earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 5.2 struck Nagano Prefecture in central Japan around 12:13 AM on Wednesday.
The Meteorological Agency says the epicenter was in the central part of the prefecture and the depth was 10 kilometers. It says there is no risk of tsunami.

The jolt registered 4 on the Japanese seismic scale of 0 to 7 in cities including Matsumoto and Ueda in Nagano Prefecture. It registered 3 in Nagano and other cities, as well as Itoigawa City in neighboring Niigata Prefecture.

Highway traffic and railway operations have not been disrupted.

Another earthquake hit northeastern Japan around 12:22 AM on Wednesday. No tsunami is expected.

The quake registered 3 on the Japanese scale in Yamatsuri Town in Fukushima Prefecture and Hitachiota City in Ibaraki Prefecture.

Officials at the Meteorological Agency say the epicenter was in the northern part of Ibaraki Prefecture and the depth was 10 kilometers. They estimate that the magnitude was 4.4.

December 6, 2017 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

United Nations’ political chief makes rare visit to North Korea

U.N. political chief makes rare visit to North Korea for ‘wide-ranging’ discussions, Japan Times, AP, AFP-JIJI, KYODO, STAFF REPORT

The U.N.’s political chief, and America’s highest-ranking national in the U.N. Secretariat, arrived in North Korea on Tuesday to begin a rare four-day visit at the invitation of Pyongyang, for a “wide-ranging” discussion on policy issues “of mutual interest and concern.”

The trip comes a week after the isolated regime launched its most powerful missile to date, and during a massive joint air exercise by the U.S. and South Korea on the Korean Peninsula involving 230 aircraft and 12,000 American troops.

 The highest-level U.N. official to visit North Korea in more than six years, U.N. Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman had met with China’s Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong on Monday before setting off for North Korea’s capital the next day, according to U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric. Feltman was later confirmed to have arrived in Pyongyang, after being seen earlier Tuesday in a U.N.-flagged car at the Chinese capital’s international airport from which North Korea’s Air Koryo operates flights.

Asked whether Feltman would meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Dujarric said that his current schedule included meetings with Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, Vice Minister Pak Myong Guk, diplomats and U.N. staff for “wide-ranging” discussions.”………

Feltman’s visit comes at a time of heightened tensions between North Korea and South Korea, Japan and the United States, sparked by the reclusive country’s frequent missile launches and recent nuclear test, and particularly by its latest long-range ballistic missile launch.

Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump have traded insults and engaged in escalating rhetoric in recent months……..https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/12/05/asia-pacific/politics-diplomacy-asia-pacific/u-n-political-chief-jeffrey-feltman-heads-north-korea-rare-visit-tensions-soar/#.WicB7NKWbGg

December 6, 2017 Posted by | North Korea, politics international | Leave a comment

France to reduce its use of nuclear power as soon as possible, and discredit the myth of “cheap” nuclear energy

France to reduce share of nuclear in power mix ‘asap’: minister, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-electricity/france-to-reduce-share-of-nuclear-in-power-mix-asap-minister-idUSKBN1DZ17YGeert De Clercq, PARIS (Reuters) – France will reduce the share of nuclear energy in its electricity mix “as soon as possible”, French junior environment minister Brune Poirson said on Tuesday, although she did not give a target date.

The PPE…will lay out how we increase the share of renewable energy in our electricity mix and little by little reduce the share of nuclear,” she said.

Matthieu Orphelin, a member of parliament for President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling LREM party and an energy specialist and former spokesman for environment minister Nicolas Hulot, said everybody knew the 2025 target was not achievable.

He added he expected the share of nuclear will be cut to 50 percent between 2025 and 2030.

What counts is that we end our total dependence on nuclear as soon as possible after 2025. Whether that is 2027 or 2028 is not important,” he said at the UFE conference.

He said France must irreversibly get on a path to use energy more efficiently, to use more renewable energy and thus mechanically reduce its reliance on nuclear energy.

We are finally dropping the myth that nuclear energy will forever be the cheapest energy in the world,” he said.

December 6, 2017 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

U.S. Electrical Vehicle Sales Rose by 30 Percent in November, Likely to Hit Near 200,000 by Year End

robertscribbler

Good news continues in the U.S. on the renewable energy front where electrical vehicle sales increased by about 30 percent in November of 2017 vs November of 2016.

In all, 17,178 electrical vehicles sold on the U.S. market in November. This number compares to 13,327 sold during November of 2016. Top selling brands for the month were the Chevy Bolt EV, The Tesla Model X, the Chevy Volt, the Toyota Prius Prime, and the Tesla Model S. The Chevy Bolt topped the list of monthly best sellers with nearly 3,000 vehicles going to owners during the month. The top annual seller remains the Model S (at 22,085 estimated sales so far) — which the lower-priced Bolt is unlikely to surpass this year.

(Over the past few years, the performance of electrical vehicles has been steadily catching up to or outpacing that of conventional fossil fuel vehicles. The…

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December 6, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment