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March 28 – anniversary of Three Mile Island nuclear disaster and the lies about “no-one died”

Too little information clouds real impact of TMI, By Beyond Nuclear staff

The disaster at Unit 2 of the Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear power plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, began on March 28, 1979. Today, 39 years later, the reality, of what really happened, and how many people it harmed, remains cloaked in mystery and misinformation. Unlike the popular catchphrase, TMI is a story of too little information.

What happened?

The two unit Three Mile Island nuclear power plant sits on an island in the middle of the Susquehanna River, just ten miles southeast of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. TMI Unit 2 was running at full power, but had been commercially operational for just 88 days when, at 4 A.M. on Wednesday, March 28, 1979, it experienced either a mechanical or electrical failure that caused the turbine-generator and the nuclear reactor to automatically shut down.

The pressure and temperature in the reactor began to increase, but when a relief valve on top of the reactor’s primary coolant pressurizer stuck open, malfunctioning instrumentation indicated that the valve had shut. While cooling water emptied out of the reactor, operators mistakenly reduced the amount of cooling water flowing into the core, leading to the partial meltdown.

Workers deliberately and repeatedly vented radioactive gas over several days to relieve pressure and save the containment structure. Then came fears of a hydrogen explosion. But by April 1, when President Jimmy Carter arrived at the site, that crisis had been averted, and by April 27 the now destroyed reactor was put into “cold shutdown.” TMI-2 was finished. But its deadly legacy was to last decades.

How much radiation got out?

Within hours of the beginning of the nuclear disaster, onsite radiation monitors went off the scale because radiation levels exceeded their measurement capacity. There were only a few offsite radiation monitors operating that day. Subsequent examination of human blood, and of anomalies in animals and plants, suggest that significant levels of radiation were released.

In the days following the TMI meltdown, hundreds of local residents reported the same acute radiation exposure symptoms as victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings — nausea and vomiting, severe fatigue, diarrhea, hair loss and graying, and a radiation-induced reddening of the skin. For example, Marie Holowka, a dairy farmer near TMI, recalled as she left the milkhouse that morning that, outside, “it was so blue, I couldn’t see ten feet ahead of myself.” There was a “copper taste” in the air. She was later treated for thyroid problems. Given the absence of monitors and the paucity of evidence, the only real radiation meters were the people of Three Mile Island.

“No one died:” The biggest lie

Given that exposure to ionizing radiation is medically understood to cause diseases like cancer which can be fatal, there is no way to definitively state that “no one died at TMI” or later developed cancers. The opposite is far more likely to be true.

Estimates can be complicated by the long latency period for illnesses caused by exposure to radiation. Sometimes exposed populations move away and cannot be tracked. Nevertheless, long after a catastrophic radiation release, disease can still manifest, both from the initial radiation exposure and from slow environmental poisoning, as the radionuclides released by the disaster are ingested or inhaled for many generations.

The only independent study that looked at the aftermath of TMI was conducted by the late Dr. Stephen Wing and his team at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. They looked at radiation-specific markers in residents’ blood, called biomarkers, to assess dose rather than relying solely on industry measured (or mis-measured as the case was) radiation emissions. The team concluded that lung cancer and leukemia rates were two to 10 times higher downwind of the Three Mile Island reactor than upwind.

Harm to animals and plants

After the radiation release from Three Mile Island, a number of plants exhibited strange mutations including extra large leaves (gigantism), double-headed blossoms and other anomalies. These plant anomalies were documented over decades by Mary Osborn, a local resident who conducted meticulous plant research and is a founder of Three Mile Island Alert. (Her deformed rose is pictured at the top of this story.)

Robert Weber, a Mechanicsburg veterinarian, reported a 10% increase in stillbirths, and a marked increase in the need for Cesarean Sections among sheep, goats and pigs in 1979, 1980, and 1981 in a 15-mile area around the TMI site. Dr. Weber also reported significant increases in the cancer rate among animals with shorter life spans such as dogs and cats. These findings are consistent with research around Chernobyl.

Evacuation failure

During the licensing phase of the construction and operation of TMI, a nuclear disaster was considered unthinkable. Consequently, emergency plans were practically non-existent when TMI began its meltdown. Emergency planning officials were repeatedly misinformed by TMI owner, Metropolitan Edison, on the disaster’s progression, and kept in the dark about the need for public protective actions in the early days at TMI.

On March 30, Pennsylvania Governor Richard Thornburgh finally “advised” that pregnant women and pre-school age children voluntarily evacuate a five-mile perimeter around TMI, an anticipated target population of 3,500 people. Instead, approximately 200,000 people spontaneously evacuated from a 25-mile perimeter.

TMI demonstrated that managing human responses during a nuclear catastrophe is not realistic and provokes unique human behavior not comparable to any other hazard.

Competing loyalties between work duty and personal family caused a significant number of staffing problems for various emergency response roles. As the crisis intensified, more emergency workers reported late or not at all.

Doctors, nurses and technicians in hospitals beyond the five-mile perimeter and out to 25 miles, spontaneously evacuated emergency rooms and their patients. Pennsylvania National Guard, nuclear power plant workers, school teachers and bus drivers assigned to accompany their students, abandoned their roles for family obligations. A similar response could be expected in the same situation today.

You can find our full investigation — The Truth About Three Mile Island — on our website. It is free to download and reprint.


March 27, 2018 Posted by | history, incidents, Reference | Leave a comment

China’s progress in nuclear power is not as sure as it used to be

Is China losing interest in nuclear power?  China Dialogue Feng Hao  19.03.2018  Slowing demand for electricity and competition from renewables have halted new reactor approvals.Globally, the outlook for new, large nuclear reactors is gloomy, according to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) World Energy Outlook. A lot of countries have backed away from nuclear power in recent years due to concerns over public safety, cost and the complex challenge of getting plants built.

March 27, 2018 Posted by | business and costs, China, politics | Leave a comment

Will Trump’s new national security adviser John Bolton steer Trump in the direction of attacking North Korea?

John Bolton’s Radical Views on North Korea, The president’s new national-security adviser doesn’t seem to think the current strategy is likely to work.The Atlantic, Joshua Roberts / Reuters URI FRIEDMAN,  MAR 23, 2018,  The Trump administration’s plan for dealing with North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program currently consists of two main components: an international campaign of economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure against the Kim regime, plus direct nuclear talks this spring between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un. The president’s new national-security adviser, John Bolton, doesn’t seem to believe that either of these approaches is likely to work.

Bolton is instead one of the most prominent proponents of a radical idea, which some hardline U.S. officials in Congress and the White House have refused to rule out but have not recommended with Bolton-like conviction: striking North Korea now, and risking the most destructive war in living memory, to prevent it from threatening the United States with nuclear weapons later.
……….. Once ensconced in his West Wing office, Bolton could surprise everyone and become a convert to a North Korea policy of pressure and engagement. But Bolton’s firm belief in the purifying power of regime change, his confidence in the efficacy of war and distrust of measures short of war, suggest he’s more likely to steer the Trump administration in an even more hardline direction. And that doesn’t just apply to North Korea. Bolton has asserted that Iran “is nearly as imminent” a threat because the Obama administration’s 2015 nuclear deal has given the Iranians access to money to purchase nuclear hardware from North Korea. What’s at stake in North Korea and Iran, he claims, is nothing less than whether nuclear weapons become “commonplace” throughout the world.

March 27, 2018 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

How America could come to terms with a nuclear-armed North Korea

The Strategic Wisdom of Accommodating North Korea’s Nuclear Status

What if Washington came to terms with a nuclear North Korea but remained on the peninsula? The Diplomat , By Graham W. Jenkins, March 28, 2018  

March 27, 2018 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Russia’s sunken submarine- still with nuclear weapons

In 1989, Russia Left a Nuclear Submarine Dead in the Ocean (Armed with Nuclear Weapons) National Interest , Kyle Mizokami , 27 Mar 18 

Komsomolets sank in 5,250 feet of water, complete with its nuclear reactor and two nuclear-armed Shkval torpedoes. Between 1989 and 1998 seven expeditions were carried out to secure the reactor against radioactive release and seal the torpedo tubes. Russian sources allege that during these visits, evidence of “unauthorized visits to the sunken submarine by foreign agents” were discovered.

In the mid-1980s, the Soviet Union constructed a super submarine unlike any other. Fast and capable of astounding depths for a combat submersible, the submarine Komsomolets was introduced in 1984, heralded as a new direction for the Soviet Navy.

Five years later, Komsomolets and its nuclear weapons were on the bottom of the ocean, two-thirds of its crew killed by what was considered yet another example of Soviet incompetence.

The history of the Komsomolets goes as far back as 1966. A team at the Rubin Design Bureau under N. A. Klimov and head designer Y. N. Kormilitsin was instructed to begin research into a Project 685, a deep-diving submarine. The research effort dragged on for eight years, likely due to a lack of a suitable metal that could withstand the immense pressures of the deep. In 1974, however, the double-hulled design was completed, with a titanium alloy chosen for the inner hull.

Project 685, also known as K-278, was to be a prototype boat to test future deep-diving Soviet submarines. The Sevmash shipyard began construction on April 22, 1978 and the ship was officially completed on May 30, 1983. The difficulty in machining titanium contributed to the unusually long construction period.

K-278 was 360 feet long and forty feet wide, with the inner hull approximately twenty-four feet wide. It had a submerged displacement of 6,500 tons, and the use of titanium instead of steel made it notably lighter. It had a unique double hull, with the inner hull made of titanium, that gave it its deep-diving capability. The inner hull was further divided into seven compartments, two of which were reinforced to create a safe zone for the crew, and an escape capsule was built into the sail to allow the crew to abandon ship while submerged at depths of up to 1,500 meters.

……….On April 7, 1989, while operating a depth of 1266 feet, Komsomolets ran into trouble in the middle of the Norwegian Sea. According to Norman Polmar and Kenneth Moore, it was the submarine’s second crew, newly trained in operating the ship. Furthermore, its origins as a test ship meant it lacked a damage-control party.

A fire broke out in the seventh aft chamber, and the flames burned out an air supply valve, which fed pressurized air into the fire. Fire suppression measures failed. The reactor was scrammed and the ballast tanks were blown to surface the submarine. The fire continued to spread, and the crew fought the fire for six hours before the order to abandon ship was given.

 ………. Only four men had been killed in the incident so far, but after the submarine sank many men succumbed to the thirty-six-degree (Fahrenheit) water temperatures. After an hour the fishing boats Alexi Khlobystov and Oma arrived and rescued thirty men, some of whom later succumbed to their injuries. Of the original sixty-nine men on board the submarine when disaster struck, forty-two died, including Captain First Rank Vanin.

Komsomolets sank in 5,250 feet of water, complete with its nuclear reactor and two nuclear-armed Shkval torpedoes. Between 1989 and 1998 seven expeditions were carried out to secure the reactor against radioactive release and seal the torpedo tubes. Russian sources allege that during these visits, evidence of “unauthorized visits to the sunken submarine by foreign agents” were discovered.

Kyle Mizokami is a defense and national security writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in the Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and the Daily Beast. In 2009 he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami.

This first appeared back in 2016.


March 27, 2018 Posted by | oceans, Russia, wastes, weapons and war | 2 Comments

Over 100 U.S. nuclear security experts urge Trump not to scrap Iran nuclear deal

National security veterans urge Trump not to scrap Iran nuclear deal, By Zachary Cohen, CNN March 27, 2018  Washington (CNN)A bipartisan group of more than 100 US national security experts — including nearly 50 retired military officers and more than 30 former ambassadors — is urging President Donald Trump to remain in the Iran nuclear deal as sources say it is becoming increasingly likely he will withdraw.

March 27, 2018 Posted by | politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Another aging nuclear reactor in western Japan to be scrapped 

KYODO, MAR 27, 2018 Shikoku Electric Power Co. decided Tuesday to scrap the aging reactor 2 at its Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture because the required safety investments would make it too expensive to keep in service………

March 27, 2018 Posted by | business and costs, Japan | Leave a comment

Who REALLY benefits from uranium mining in Grand Canyon country?

Uranium in Canyon Country: Part 2 of 2: Who benefits from uranium mining? Grand Canyon News, By Erin Ford , 27 Mar 18,   GRAND CANYON, Ariz. — There are currently 831 mining claims in the roughly 1 million acres withdrawn by former Interior Secretary in 2012, according to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

There may be a healthy profit to be made on the claims, as legal action by mining industry groups and a recommended review of the ban by the Forest Service seems to indicate. But who is making the profit?

The BLM’s report indicates that only about 2 percent of the 831 mining claims are held by U.S.-based companies – those belong to Liberty Star Uranium and Metals in Tucson, Arizona. The rest, discounting privately-held claims (5 percent), belong to foreign-based companies. Of the remaining 93 percent, companies based out of Canada hold 712 claims (86 percent) and a UK-based Vane Minerals holds 60 claims (7 percent).

Uranium production in the U.S. has not been a profitable enterprise since the bottom fell out of the uranium market in the early 1990s. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), there are currently 61 nuclear-based power plants in the U.S. — no new plants have been commissioned since the near-catastrophic incident at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island facility in 1979. The end of the Cold War in 1991 meant that proliferation of nuclear weapons was suspended, a pact that remains largely in place. As a result, demand for uranium fell sharply, prices bottomed out and uranium extraction became a pricey enterprise with low return on investment.

………Where’s the profit?

In a petition filed with the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC), Energy Fuels Inc., a Canadian company with a 12 percent stake in uranium mining claims around Grand Canyon, asserts that the commercial uranium stockpile was 6 percent higher than 2015 levels.

If demand is lower and supplies are higher, how do these companies plan to profit off increased mining activity?

The answer may lie in three things: President Donald Trump’s energy dominance agenda, potential U.S. Supreme Court ruling and Energy Fuels’ petition to the DOC……….

Who benefits?

Energy Fuels, Inc. recently filed a petition with the DOC for relief under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. In simplest terms, the company is asking the administration to issue a buy American requirement by limiting uranium imports as a threat to national security. The premise is the same as the tariffs to be potentially imposed on steel and aluminum imports — to revive a U.S.-based industry by steeply taxing competitors or eliminating them altogether.

But Reimondo points out that uranium mining isn’t a strong economic driver in northern Arizona, and even if it was, the U.S. doesn’t reap any rewards. The government, which receives royalty payments from industries that extract minerals or other commodities from federal lands, doesn’t receive royalties from uranium mining.

Comparatively, the tourism and travel economy pumps more than 900 million into the region each year, and supports nearly 20,000 jobs, according to a joint 2011 report by the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Forest Service and BLM. The report also estimates that uranium mining could support only about 650 local jobs — and those jobs aren’t permanent. Once a mine is depleted, on-site jobs will evaporate. Energy Fuels says its Canyon mine, which is currently permitted to operate near Red Butte about six miles from the South Rim, is expected to employ about 60 people at peak production.

“Mining does not drive our economy here,” said Coconino County Supervisor Art Babbott in an interview. “Access to public lands, that’s what is our important economic driver here.”


March 27, 2018 Posted by | business and costs, Uranium, USA | Leave a comment

Women lead in USA campaign to protect the world from a U.S. nuclear trigger finger

Some cities and states are taking their own initiative to protect the world from a U.S. trigger finger. And they’re mostly led by women.

Dropping an atomic bomb doesn’t happen as fast as it does in the movies. There’s no room with a red, shiny “nuclear button” primed for the pressing. But in the U.S., launching a nuclear weapon does depend on just one trigger finger: The President’s.

Peace builders, activists, and congressional leaders have tried unsuccessfully to take away this unilateral ability since the Cold War, when nuclear war with Russia felt imminent daily. Now, the threat looms again, as tensions between North Korea and the U.S. simmer—and a new group of local legislators are taking the lead.

A broad coalition of representatives, delegates, and state senators from eight states (California, Georgia, Vermont, Maryland, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Iowa) have begun pushing resolutionsthat put additional pressure on Congress to stop the president’s first-strike powers. And cities such as Northampton, Massachusetts; San Francisco, California; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and counties across Washington State have drafted local resolutions of their own.

 As it turns out, almost all of them are sponsored by women. This is no coincidence. In fact, women have been leading nuclear deterrence efforts since the height of the Cold War………

March 27, 2018 Posted by | USA, weapons and war, Women | Leave a comment

US navy’s Virginia attack submarines will now be able to fire nuclear weapons

THE Pentagon’s current nuclear weapons deterrence range has received a huge boost following deadly changes to its attack submarines., Matthew Dunn@mattydunn11, 28 Mar 18 

ONCE a conventionally armed attack submarine, the US navy’s Virginia-class underwater vessels will now be capable of firing nuclear-armed cruise missiles.

US navy director of undersea warfare Rear Admiral John Tammen said the enhancement would see the submarine shifting into a nuclear deterrence role, reports The Maven.

“While Virginia-class submarines can use conventional deterrence to keep adversaries in check, a sub-launched cruise missile with a nuclear warhead would be incorporated into Virginias and give national command authority additional escalation control,” he said.

The current administration called for the weapon in the Nuclear Posture Review, with hopes it would benefit the Pentagon’s current nuclear weapons deterrence range. Currently only larger ballistic missile submarines are equipped to fire nuclear weapons.

As it stands, Virginia-class attack submarines are armed with tomahawks, which are long-range, all-weather, subsonic cruise missiles, and torpedoes, which are self-propelled weapons with explosive warheads.

Admiral Tammen said adding nuclear weapons capability would give combatant commanders new options to access high-risk areas and coastal regions previously unreachable by surface ships……….

March 27, 2018 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

UK considers Tidal Power Contract, with assistance from Welsh government

U.K. Weighs Tidal Power Contract Aping Hinkley Nuclear Deal, Bloomberg ,By  Alex Morales, 
  • Swansea Bay plan could open up 40 billion pounds of spending
  • U.K. and Welsh ministers seek to forge deal to enable project

U.K. officials are in intensive talks with their Welsh counterparts to kick-start a tidal power plan by copying the controversial contract awarded to Electricite de France SA for its Hinkley Point nuclear power project.

 Tidal Lagoon Power Ltd.’s Swansea Bay project would tap the ebb and flow of the tides to generate electricity. It’s been in limbo for 15 months since a government-commissioned review recommended giving it the go-ahead. The delay reflects a reluctance by ministers to accept costs for consumers that were once estimated at double the power price EDF will get.

Amid pressure from more than 100 backbench lawmakers who want the tidal plant to move ahead, ministers are grappling with how to make it palatable. The developer had proposed an initial power price a third higher than Hinkley’s. But an offer of assistance from the Welsh government has changed the game. Officials are now debating a deal on the same terms as Hinkley, according to Richard Graham, a lawmaker with the ruling Conservatives who chairs Parliament’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Marine Energy. ……..

March 27, 2018 Posted by | renewable, UK | Leave a comment

USA has fewer nuclear warheads now, but more capable ones

US nuclear stockpile decreasing in size, but not capability, Defense News, Daniel Cebu , 27 Mar 18 WASHINGTON — The number of nuclear warheads kept in U.S. stockpiles decreased by nearly 200 since the end of the Obama administration, according to information released by the Defense Department in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Federation of American Scientists. This reduction brings the total number of warheads down to 3,822 as of September 2017.

March 27, 2018 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Another mechanical problem at Pilgrim nuclear plant

Problems at Pilgrim nuclear plant continue, Cape Cod Times, Incorrectly installed clamps must be fixed before reactor starts up again

PLYMOUTH — Another equipment snafu at Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station was discovered on Sunday, this time in the critical safety system used to stop fission from occurring in the plant’s reactor during an emergency.

It marked the third mechanical problem at the 45-year-old beleaguered plant in as many weeks. The reactor is going into its fourth week of shutdown.

During a check on Sunday, a Pilgrim engineer found the support clamps for nine pipes that are part of the hydraulic control rod system appeared to be incorrectly installed.

The control rods are a key component in getting a reactor to shut down. They contain a powdered form of neutron-absorbing boron, slowing or stopping the fission process as the rods are inserted into the reactor core………


March 27, 2018 Posted by | general | Leave a comment