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Alarm in Nordic countries as Russia launches the world’s first floating nuclear power plant

Russia’s ‘nuclear titanic’ sets off for Swedish coast https://www.thelocal.se/20180429/russias-nuclear-titanic-sets-off-for-swedish-coast A Russian power plant dubbed a “nuclear Titanic” by environmental campaigners set off on Saturday on its way to Sweden’s Baltic coast.

Akademik Lomonosov, the world’s first floating nuclear power plant, left the Baltic Shipyard in St Petersburg on Saturday morning.
It is expected to reach the Swedish coast next week, before making its way through the narrow Öresund straits, across the Kattegat and into the North Sea.
“We are following this closely through our cooperation with other countries and through our own national agencies,” Johan Friberg, Director of the Swedish Radiation Safety Agency told Sweden’s state broadcaster SVT.
Russia’s development of a floating nuclear power plant has generated alarm among its Nordic neighbours, with Norway’s foreign minister Børge Brende last June warning that the plan to transport it fully fuelled raised “serious questions”.
Karolina Skog, Sweden’s environment minister, argued last June that floating nuclear power stations created “a new type of risk”.

“It is important that Russia makes every effort to fulfil the criteria of international agreements, which should be seen as applying to floating nuclear power stations as well,” she said.
After a meeting in Moscow that July, Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom relented on its plans to drag the reactor through the Baltic fuelled, saying that the plant would instead be fuelled in Murmansk after it had arrived in the Russian Arctic.
“We will carry out the transportation through the Baltic and the Scandinavian region without nuclear fuel on board,” Alexey Likhachev told the Independent Barents Observer.
Jan Haverkamp, nuclear expert for Greenpeace Central and Eastern Europe, has attacked the plant as a ‘nuclear Titanic’, and “threat to the Arctic”
“Nuclear reactors bobbing around the Arctic Ocean will pose a shockingly obvious threat to a fragile environment which is already under enormous pressure from climate change,” he said in a press release.
After the plant is fuelled and tested, it will be pulled across to Pevek on the Eastern Siberian Sea, where it will be used to power oil rigs.
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April 30, 2018 Posted by | Russia, technology | 1 Comment

USA and France to co-operate on fast neutron sodium-cooled reactors and on artificial intelligence

World Nuclear News 27th April 2018 ,A statement of intent to strengthen cooperation on fast neutron
sodium-cooled reactors has been signed between the US Department of Energy
(DOE) and the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission
(CEA). The partners have also a statement of intent to begin cooperation in
the field of artificial intelligence. The documents were signed yesterday
in Washington, DC, by US Energy Secretary Rick Perry and CEA’s new Chairman
François Jacq.
http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NP-France-USA-to-enhance-cooperation-on-fast-reactors-2704184.html

April 30, 2018 Posted by | France, technology, USA | Leave a comment

Cumbria County Council (CCC) notes fundamental flaws in UK’s search for a nuclear dump location

Cumbria County Council (CCC) have recognised the fundamental flaws within the latest process to find a location to bury the nation’s nuclear waste. The CCC response to the government consultation echos many of the points which Cumbria Trust has made.  In particular the failure to address the need for secure interim storage, despite the most dangerous elements within waste being too hot to bury for well over a century.  They also highlight the lack of clarity over the community’s right of withdrawal, something of particular concern to Cumbria Trust.  As we have previously stated this is a process which has been designed to be very simple to enter and very difficult to leave.

Five years ago it was CCC which called a halt to the search process, and their concerns have not gone away.

The News & Star has reported this week:

A NEW search to find a community willing to host an underground nuclear waste storage bunker is based on ‘fundamentally flawed’ government policy, council officials in Cumbria have said.

The nationwide scheme to identify a location for a £12 billion geological disposal facility buried at least 200 metres below the surface was relaunched by the government in January and is expected to take 20 years to secure.

It promises incentives including £1m per year for five years for the five communities that volunteer to be on the shortlist – with £2.5m a year for the two that go forward to the testing stage, which would see deep boreholes dug underground.

But experts within Cumbria County Council have instead called for more clarity on how the high level waste – the majority of which is currently kept in storage vessels in west Cumbria – will be kept safe if a suitable location is not identified within the time frame.

They also state the right of willing communities to withdraw from the process is not clear enough within the proposal, while there is no detail about how the waste could be retrieved at a later date if new technology to dispose of it more efficiently is developed.

Read the full report here

April 30, 2018 Posted by | UK, wastes | Leave a comment

Trump administration’s plan for 2 new types of nuclear weapons: will this increase chances of a nuclear war with Russia?

Washington Examiner 28th April 2018 ,The Trump administration’s plan to add two new varieties of nuclear
weapons into the U.S. arsenal will face one of its first legislative tests
this month. The House Armed Services Committee is teeing up a debate on the
proposed sea-based cruise missiles and lower-yield ballistic missiles
launched from submarines on May 9. The focus: whether these weapons will
make nuclear war with Russia more or less likely.
https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/policy/defense-national-security/lawmakers-get-ready-to-fight-over-mini-nuclear-weapons

April 30, 2018 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Belgian nuclear reactor shut down due to a leak

RTBF 28trh April 2018 , The reactor at the Doel 1 nuclear power plant in Beveren was shut down
earlier this week . The reason given at that time was a ” maintenance at
the level of the cooling circuit ” . Engie Electrabel confirmed to local TV
TV Oost that a leak was detected in the nuclear section during this review.
The reactor will be shut down at least until October 1st.
https://www.rtbf.be/info/belgique/detail_

April 30, 2018 Posted by | EUROPE, incidents | Leave a comment

The Destruction of an Independent Press 

Chris Hedges With Mark Crispin Miller on the Destruction of an Independent Press https://www.truthdig.com/videos/chris-hedges-with-mark-crispin-miller-on-the-destruction-of-an-independent-press/  posted by Emily Wells APR 27, 2018 

In a recent episode of “On Contact,” his video series on the RT network, Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges speaks with Mark Crispin Miller, a professor of media studies at New York University, about the destruction of the independent press in the United States.

Hedges calls attention to the algorithms of Facebook, Google and Twitter, and how they steer traffic away from anti-war and progressive websites, while Miller speaks of the frightening historical precedent of the homogenization of the press.

“I think what we have seen over the decades since the mid-’70s, and I’m going to make a provocative comparison here, is something analogous to what the Nazis called gleichschaltung, which means streamlining,” Miller says. “When they came to power, they made it their business to make sure that not only all media outlets but all industries, all sectors of the culture, would be streamlined, which meant getting rid of anyone who was not fully on board with the Nazi program.”

Miller adds that this is “unprecedented in American experience.” He says, “Even ten years ago I would have flinched if someone compared our press to the Nazi press.”

Watch the full conversation in the player above. [on original]

April 30, 2018 Posted by | media, USA | Leave a comment

North Korea’s 2017 Test and its Nontectonic Aftershock J. Liu et. al March 2018

Nuclear Exhaust

https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/2018GL077095

North Korea’s 2017 Test and its Nontectonic Aftershock
J. Liu L. Li J. Zahradník E. Sokos C. Liu X. Tian
First published: 14 March 2018 https://doi.org/10.1002/2018GL077095

Geophysical Research Letters.

Abstract
Seismology illuminates physical processes occurring during underground explosions, not all yet fully understood. The thus‐far strongest North Korean test of 3 September 2017 was followed by a moderate seismic event (mL 4.1) after 8.5 min. Here we provide evidence that this aftershock was a nontectonic event which radiated seismic waves as a buried horizontal closing crack. This vigorous crack closure, occurring shortly after the blast, is studied in the North Korea test site for the first time. The event can be qualitatively explained as rapid destruction of an explosion‐generated cracked rock chimney due to cavity collapse, although other compaction processes cannot be ruled out.

Plain Language Summary
North Korea detonated its strongest underground nuclear test in September 2017. It…

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April 29, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Nuclear weapons for Saudi Arabia?   The ultimate example of global nuclear hypocrisy – theme for May 18

As Donald Trump considers sabotaging the Iran nuclear deal, the USA also considers making a nuclear sales deal with Saudi Arabia.

They’ve got heaps of oil. They’ve got heaps of sunshine.   Clearly Saudi Arabia has no need for expensive, dangerous, out-dated nuclear power.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has admitted his readiness to develop nuclear weapons. Well  –  “peaceful” nuclear power is that essential first step.

Of course, Donald Trump would love to sell even more weaponry to Saudi Arabia.  Heck, why not just waive that requirement, (the 123 agreement) that forbids them from uranium enriching and reprocessing?  For the Trump administration,  the need to sell USA nuclear technology would surely override any concern about weapons proliferation.

 

 

April 28, 2018 Posted by | Christina's themes, Saudi Arabia, weapons and war | 3 Comments

U.S. President Trump to cancel Iran nuclear deal – in the interests of Saudi Arabia?

President Donald Trump is once again indicating he may withdraw from an international agreement designed to curb Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions.

“My view is… that he will get rid of this deal on his own, for domestic reasons,” said French President Emmanuel Macron at the end of a three-day state visit to the U.S.

France is a party to the agreement between Iran, the United States and four other nations. Macron has tried to convince Trump to stay in. But the president has continued to criticize the deal and has to decide by May 12 whether or not the U.S. will withdraw and reimpose sanctions. That action could lead to the deal’s collapse.

Return of Sanctions Encouraged

Saudi Arabia, Iran’s neighbor and regional rival, would likely applaud such an outcome.

As historian Madawi al-Rasheed says, in an April 23 opinion piece in the New York Times:

“Any rapprochement between the United States and Iran — such as the nuclear agreement under President Obama — is viewed with intense suspicion and fear as it threatens the Saudi position as the leading American client in the region.”

Al-Rasheed is a visiting professor at the London School of Economics and is the editor of “Salman’s Legacy: The Dilemmas of a New Era in Saudi Arabia.

She says the reimposition of sanctions would, in the Saudi view, constrain Iran’s influence across the Middle East. “The Kingdom seeks the shrinking, even the collapse, of the Iranian economy under sanctions,” she says.

Domestic Politics Drive Hostility

The hostility toward Iran by the Saudi government, under its powerful crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, is being driven primarily by domestic politics. “Prince Mohammed knows that a fearful enemy is a key to his own strength,” al-Rasheed says. “The crown prince has used the rivalry with Tehran to deflect attention from the complexity of his own domestic uncertainties.”

Saudi Arabia is facing numerous internal challenges, from political grievances over the methods used by Prince Mohammed to consolidate power, to inequality and unemployment among the country’s youth.

“He rubs out the criticism of his domestic policies by reminding the marginalized royals and the commoners that he is fighting an existential threat from expansionist Iran,” according to al-Rasheed.

Kingdom Seeks Economic Advantage

Saudi Arabia also seeks to maintain its economic superiority over its neighbors, she notes. The reimposition of sanctions by the United States, and possibly the United Nations, limit economic competition from Iran.

“For domestic reasons, Saudi Arabia is fundamentally trying to mitigate the possibility of the reintegration of Iran in the global community,” al-Rasheed says. “The conflict between the two countries will dissipate only if the domestic uncertainties subside or fade away.”

April 28, 2018 Posted by | Saudi Arabia, weapons and war | 1 Comment

Growing Extreme Weather Risks to Nuclear Power Plants

April 27, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A million tons of Fukushima’s radioactive water – what to do with it?

 FUKUSHIMA’S OTHER BIG PROBLEM: A MILLION TONS OF RADIOACTIVE WATER , Wired, 04.27.18

THE TSUNAMI-DRIVEN SEAWATER that engulfed Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has long since receded. But plant officials are still struggling to cope with another dangerous flood: the enormous amounts of radioactive water the crippled facility generates each day. More than 1 million tons of radiation-laced water is already being kept on-site in an ever-expanding forest of hundreds of hulking steel tanks—and so far, there’s no plan to deal with them.

The earthquake and tsunami that hammered Fukushima on March 11, 2011 triggered meltdowns in three of its six reactors. That left messes of intensely radioactive fuel somewhere loose in the reactor buildings—though no one knows exactly where. What is known, however, is that every day, as much as much as 150 tons of groundwater percolates into the reactors through cracks in their foundations, becoming contaminated with radioactive isotopes in the process.

To keep that water from leaking into the ground or the Pacific, Tepco, the giant utility that owns the plant, pumps it out and runs it through a massive filtering system housed in a building the size of a small aircraft hangar. Inside are arrays of seven-foot tall stainless steel tubes, filled with sand grain-like particles that perform a process called ion exchange. The particles grab on to ions of cesium, strontium, and other dangerous isotopes in the water, making room for them by spitting out sodium. The highly toxic sludge created as a byproduct is stored elsewhere on the site in thousands of sealed canisters.

This technology has improved since the catastrophe. The first filtering systems, installed just weeks after the disaster by California-based Kurion Inc. (which has since been bought by Veolia, a French resource management company), only caught cesium, a strong gamma radiation emitter that makes it the most dangerous of the isotopes in the water. The tubes in those arrays were filled with highly modified grains of naturally occurring volcanic minerals called zeolites. By 2013, the company developed entirely artificial particles—a form of titano silicate—that also grab strontium.

 The filters, however, don’t catch tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. That’s a much trickier task. Cesium and strontium atoms go into solution with the water, like sugar in tea; but tritium can bond with oxygen just like regular hydrogen, rendering the water molecules themselves radioactive. “It’s one thing to separate cesium from water, but how do you separate water from water?” asks John Raymont, Kurion’s founder and now president of Veolia’s nuclear solutions group. The company claims to have developed a system that can do the job, but Tepco has so far balked at the multi-billion dollar cost.

So for now, the tritiated water is pumped into a steadily growing collection of tanks. There are already hundreds of them, and Tepco has to start building a new one every four days.

Tepco has at least reduced the water’s inflow. As much as 400 tons per day was gushing in just a couple of years ago. In an effort to keep the groundwater from getting in, Tepco has built a network of pumps, and in 2016 installed an underground “ice wall”—a $300 million subterranean fence of 30-yard-long rods through which tons of sub-zero brine is pumped, freezing the surrounding earth. All of which helps, but hasn’t solved the problem……… https://www.wired.com/story/fukushimas-other-big-problem-a-million-tons-of-radioactive-water/

April 27, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | 1 Comment

Time for scientists to learn from the profound ecological knowledge of indigenous people

Native Knowledge: What Ecologists Are Learning from Indigenous People https://e360.yale.edu/features/native-knowledge-what-ecologists-are-learning-from-indigenous-people

From Alaska to Australia, scientists are turning to the knowledge of traditional people for a deeper understanding of the natural world. What they are learning is helping them discover more about everything from melting Arctic ice, to protecting fish stocks, to controlling wildfires.   

While he was interviewing Inuit elders in Alaska to find out more about their knowledge of beluga whales and how the mammals might respond to the changing Arctic, researcher Henry Huntington lost track of the conversation as the hunters suddenly switched from the subject of belugas to beavers.

It turned out though, that the hunters were still really talking about whales. There had been an increase in beaver populations, they explained, which had reduced spawning habitat for salmon and other fish, which meant less prey for the belugas and so fewer whales.

“It was a more holistic view of the ecosystem,” said Huntington. And an important tip for whale researchers. “It would be pretty rare for someone studying belugas to be thinking about freshwater ecology.”

Around the globe, researchers are turning to what is known as Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) to fill out an understanding of the natural world. TEK is deep knowledge of a place that has been painstakingly discovered by those who have adapted to it over thousands of years. “People have relied on this detailed knowledge for their survival,” Huntington and a colleague wrote in an article on the subject. “They have literally staked their lives on its accuracy and repeatability.”

Tapping into this traditional wisdom is playing an outsized role in the Arctic, where change is happening rapidly.

This realm has long been studied by disciplines under headings such as ethno-biology, ethno-ornithology, and biocultural diversity. But it has gotten more attention from mainstream scientists lately because of efforts to better understand the world in the face of climate change and the accelerating loss of biodiversity.

Anthropologist Wade Davis, now at the University of British Columbia, refers to the constellation of the world’s cultures as the “ethnosphere,” or “the sum total of all thoughts and dreams, myths, ideas, inspirations, intuitions, brought into being by human imagination since the dawn of consciousness. It’s a symbol of all that we are, and all that we can be, as an astonishingly inquisitive species.”

One estimate says that while native peoples only comprise some 4 or 5 percent of the world’s population, they use almost a quarter of the world’s land surface and manage 11 percent of its forests. “In doing so, they maintain 80 percent of the planet’s biodiversity in, or adjacent to, 85 percent of the world’s protected areas,” writes Gleb Raygorodetsky, a researcher with the POLIS Project on Ecological Governance at the University of Victoria and the author of The Archipelago of Hope: Wisdom and Resilience from the Edge of Climate Change.

Tapping into this wisdom is playing an outsized role in sparsely settled places such as the Arctic, where change is happening rapidly – warming is occurring twice as fast as other parts of the world. Tero Mustonen, a Finnish researcher and chief of his village of Selkie, is pioneering the blending of TEK and mainstream science as the director of a project called the Snowchange Cooperative. “Remote sensing can detect changes,” he says. “But what happens as a result, what does it mean?” That’s where traditional knowledge can come into play as native people who make a living on the landscape as hunters and fishers note the dramatic changes taking place in remote locales – everything from thawing permafrost to change in reindeer migration and other types of biodiversity redistribution.

The Skolt Sami people of Finland, for example, participated in a study that was published in the journal Science last year, which adopted indicators of environmental changes based on TEK. The Sami have seen and documented a decline in salmon in the Näätämö River, for instance. Now, based on their knowledge, they are adapting – reducing the number of seine nets they use to catch fish, restoring spawning sites, and also taking more pike, which prey on young salmon, as part of their catch. The project is part of a co-management process between the Sami and the government of Finland.

It’s not only in the Arctic. Around the world there are efforts to make use of traditional wisdom to gain a better and deeper understanding of the planet – and there is sometimes a lot at stake.

Record brush fires burned across Australia in 2009, killing 173 people and injuring more than 400. The day the number of fires peaked – February 7 – is known as Black Saturday. It led to a great deal of soul searching in Australia, especially as climate warming has exacerbated fire seasons there.

Land managers in Australia have adopted many of the fire-control practices of the aborigines and have partnered with native people.

Bill Gammage is an academic historian and fellow at the Humanities Research Center of the Australian National University, and his book, The Biggest Estate on Earth: How the Aborigines Made Australia, looks at the complex and adept way that aborigines, prior to colonization in 1789, managed the landscape with “fire and no fire” – something called “fire stick farming.”

They used “cool” fires to control everything from biodiversity to water supply to the abundance of wildlife and edible plants. Gammage noted five stages of the indigenous use of fire – first was to control wildfire fuel; second, to maintain diversity; third, to balance species; fourth, to ensure abundance; and five, to locate resources conveniently and predictably. The current regime, he says, is still struggling with number one.

“Controlled fire averted uncontrolled fire,” Gammage says, “and fire or no-fire distributed plants with the precision of a flame edge. In turn, this attracted or deterred grazing animals and located them in habitats each preferred, making them abundant, convenient, and predictable. All was where fire or no-fire put it. Australia was not natural in 1788, but made.”

While the skill of aborigines with fire had been noted before the giant brushfires – early settlers remarked on the “park-like” nature of the landscape – and studied before, it’s taken on new urgency. That’s why Australian land managers have adopted many of the ideas and partnered with native people as co-managers. The fire practices of the aborigines are also being taught and used in other countries.

Scientists have looked to Australian natives for other insights into the natural world. A team of researchers collaborated with natives based on their observations of kites and falcons that fly with flaming branches from a forest fire to start other fires. It’s well known that birds will hunt mice and lizards as they flee the flames of a wildfire. But stories among indigenous people in northern Australia held that some birds actually started fires by dropping a burning branch in unburned places. Based on this TEK, researchers watched and documented this behavior.

“It’s a feeding frenzy, because out of these grasslands comes small birds, lizards, insects, everything fleeing in front of the fire,” said Bob Gosford, an indigenous rights lawyer and ornithologist, who worked on the research, in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 2016.

Another recent study down under found that an ancient practice of using fire to clear land to improve hunting also creates a more diverse mosaic of re-growth that increases the number of the primate prey species: monitor lizards and kangaroos.

“Westerners  have done little but isolate ourselves from nature,” said Mark Bonta, an assistant professor at Penn State Altoona who was on a co-author on the paper on fire and raptors. “Yet those who make a point of connecting with our earth in some form have enormous knowledge because they interact with a species. When you get into conservation, [that knowledge] is even more important.” Aboriginal people “don’t see themselves as superior to or separated from animals. They are walking storehouses of knowledge,” he said.

The Maya people of Mesoamerica have much to teach us about farming, experts say. Researchers have found that they preserve an astonishing amount of biodiversity in their forest gardens, in harmony with the surrounding forest. “The active gardens found around Maya forest villagers’ houses shows that it’s the most diverse domestic system in the world,” integrated into the forest ecosystem, writes Anabel Ford, who is head of the MesoAmerican Research Center at the University of California at Santa Barbara. “These forest gardeners are heroes, yet their skill and sophistication have too long been set aside and devalued.”

Some native people have the ability to adopt the “perspective of many creatures and objects – rocks, water, clouds,” a researcher says.

Valuing these life ways is an important part of the process. For the Skolt Sami, writes Mustonen, “seeing their language and culture valued led to an increase in self-esteem and power over their resources.”

It may not just be facts about the natural world that are important in these exchanges, but different ways of being and perceiving. In fact, there are researchers looking into the relationship between some indigenous people and the very different ways they see the world.

Felice Wyndham is an ecological anthropologist and ethnobiologist who has noted that people she has worked with can intimately sense the world beyond their body. “It’s a form of enhanced mindfulness,” she says. “It’s quite common, you see it in most hunter-gatherer groups. It’s an extremely developed skill base of cognitive agility, of being able to put yourself into a viewpoint and perspective of many creatures or objects – rocks, water, clouds.

Among the most important messages from traditional people is their equanimity and optimism. There “is no sense of doom and gloom,” says Raygorodetsky. “Despite dire circumstances, they maintain hope for the future.”

April 27, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, environment, indigenous issues | Leave a comment

Global climate change underway – the message from melting Arctic sea ice

Melting Arctic sends a message: Climate change is here in a big way, The Conversation,  Mark Serreze, Research Professor of Geography and director, National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado, 

Scientists have known for a long time that as climate change started to heat up the Earth, its effects would be most pronounced in the Arctic. This has many reasons, but climate feedbacks are key. As the Arctic warms, snow and ice melt, and the surface absorbs more of the sun’s energy instead of reflecting it back into space. This makes it even warmer, which causes more melting, and so on.

This expectation has become a reality that I describe in my new book “Brave New Arctic.” It’s a visually compelling story: The effects of warming are evident in shrinking ice caps and glaciers and in Alaskan roads buckling as permafrost beneath them thaws.

But for many people the Arctic seems like a faraway place, and stories of what is happening there seem irrelevant to their lives. It can also be hard to accept that the globe is warming up while you are shoveling out from the latest snowstorm.

Since I have spent more than 35 years studying snow, ice and cold places, people often are surprised when I tell them I once was skeptical that human activities were playing a role in climate change. My book traces my own career as a climate scientist and the evolving views of many scientists I have worked with.  When I first started working in the Arctic, scientists understood it as a region defined by its snow and ice, with a varying but generally constant climate. In the 1990s, we realized that it was changing, but it took us years to figure out why. Now scientists are trying to understand what the Arctic’s ongoing transformation means for the rest of the planet, and whether the Arctic of old will ever be seen again.

Evidence piles up

Evidence that the Arctic is warming rapidly extends far beyond shrinking ice caps and buckling roads. It also includes a melting Greenland ice sheet; a rapid decline in the extent of the Arctic’s floating sea ice cover in summer; warming and thawing of permafrost; shrubs taking over areas of tundra that formerly were dominated by sedges, grasses, mosses and lichens; and a rise in temperature twice as large as that for the globe as a whole. This outsized warming even has a name: Arctic amplification.

……….  Indeed, the question is no longer whether the Arctic is warming, but how drastically it will change – and what those changes mean for the planet. https://theconversation.com/melting-arctic-sends-a-message-climate-change-is-here-in-a-big-way-95573

April 27, 2018 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change | Leave a comment

Nuclear leaks at North Korean test site ARE a radiological mess

Nuclear Leaks At Nth Korean Test Site – real or “a Furphy” according to Broinowski ? Real, says Langley 

I have been following the story of radiological dangers posed by the increasing stressed geology of the North Korean nuclear test site for some months. Over the last week the story was again raised by the Australian newspaper. This motivated me to find the closest Chinese authority. The story was, as far as I can gather, published this week in The South China Morning Post on Wednesday 25 April 2018. The article, written by Stephen Chen, is entitled “North Korea’s nuclear test site has collapsed … and that may be why Kim Jong-un suspended tests“. The first paragraph explains further: “The mountain’s collapse after a fifth blast last fall has led to the creation of a massive ‘chimney’ that could leak radioactive fallout into the air, researchers have found….” before I go any further, there are two questions to ask: 1. How credible is Stephen Chen’s reporting and 2. Who are the researchers involved? eg are they retired diplomats only or are they qualified to comment in a scientific manner? If so have their findings been peered reviewed?

(what journalists say is irrelevant to me except when the articles lead me to find the peer reviewed papers published by scientists. Newspapers seem not to put relevant links to source documents up which is a crying shame.)

1. Stephen Chen: his bio on the SCMP site states: “Stephen covers breakthoughs in science and their impact on society, environment, military, geopolitics, business – pretty much all aspects of life. His stories often travel across the globe. Stephen is an alumnus of Shantou University, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and the Semester at Sea programme which he attended with a full scholarship from the Seawise Foundation. In his spare time, Stephen reads and writes novels. He lives in Beijing with a beautiful wife and two lovely kids.”

fair enough, signs look hopeful that the article is not reporting a scientific “furphy”, as Broinowski described the generic story on the Australian ABC TV this morning. But let’s dig a nanometer deeper. Who are the researchers Chen is referencing? Does he name them and are they famous? (fame = mass readership and lots of grant money):

“A research team led by Wen Lianxing, a geologist with the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, concluded that the collapse occurred following the detonation last autumn of North Korea’s most powerful thermal nuclear warhead in a tunnel about 700 metres (2,296 feet) below the mountain’s peak.

The test turned the mountain into fragile fragments, the researchers found….” end quote from the SCMP/Chen.

Further, Chen reports: “A research team led by Wen Lianxing, a geologist with the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, concluded that the collapse occurred following the detonation last autumn of North Korea’s most powerful thermal nuclear warhead in a tunnel about 700 metres (2,296 feet) below the mountain’s peak.

The test turned the mountain into fragile fragments, the researchers found. ” source: ibid.

Describing these findings and the dangers posed by the scientific observations as reported by Chen does not smack of “Furphy” or fantasy Richard B. (No I don’t mind who your sister is, you should know better).

Wen Lianxing et al have been tracking North Korean nuclear tests, as far as I can find (hamstrung as I am, because I cannot speak or read Chinese), from at least 2006, and certainly since 2009, when the team became the first in the world to precisely locate the location of a North Korean nuclear test. : “High-precision Location of North Korea’s 2009 Nuclear Test”
Article in Seismological Research Letters 81(1):26-29 · January 2010 authors: Lianxing Wen, University of Science and Technology of China (Hefei, China); Hui Long, Stony Brook University (Stony Brook, United States).

Have a read of it Mr Broinowski. You might find it sensible and not a furphy.

Ok, on with the real matters at hand. Underground nuke tests invariably leak radionuclides into the biosphere. The US underground nuclear test regime has created a legacy of cost and risk, to put it mildly, which continues to this day. Name a US underground shot, and go to DOE Opennet and enter the shot’s code name. Up pops reams of documents detailing the test, the immediate result, and the long term consequences in terms of risk and costs.

There is no reason to suspect that the risks and costs of North Korea’s underground will be any more “furphy” ridden that the US underground tests were. And continue to be.

So without any further ado, even if I have to drag Richard B kicking and screaming into 1954, is some more non furphy from Chen and the SCMP:

“It is necessary to continue monitoring possible leaks of radioactive materials caused by the collapse incident,” Wen’s team said in the statement.

The findings will be published on the website of the peer-reviewed journal, Geophysical Research Letters, likely next month.

North Korea saw the mountain as an ideal location for underground nuclear experiments because of its elevation – it stood more than 2,100 metres (6,888 feet) above sea level – and its terrain of thick, gentle slopes that seemed capable of resisting structural damage…..

“The mountain’s surface had shown no visible damage after four underground nuclear tests before 2017.

But the 100-kilotonne bomb that went off on September 3 vaporised surrounding rocks with unprecedented heat and opened a space that was up to 200 metres (656 feet) in diameter, according to a statement posted on the Wen team’s website on Monday. ….

“As shock waves tore through and loosened more rocks, a large section of the mountain’s ridge, less than half a kilometre (0.3 mile) from the peak, slipped down into the empty pocket created by the blast, leaving a scar visible in satellite images.

Wen concluded that the mountain had collapsed after analysing data collected from nearly 2,000 seismic stations. ….

“Three small earthquakes that hit nearby regions in the wake of the collapse added credence to his conclusion, suggesting the test site had lost its geological stability.

Another research team led by Liu Junqing at the Jilin Earthquake Agency with the China Earthquake Administration in Changchun reached similar conclusions to the Wen team. ….

“The “rock collapse … was for the first time documented in North Korea’s test site,” Liu’s team wrote in a paper published last month in Geophysical Research Letters.

The breakdown not only took off part of the mountain’s summit but also created a “chimney” that could allow fallout to rise from the blast centre into the air, they said. …

“Zhao Lianfeng, a researcher with the Institute of Earth Science at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, said the two studies supported a consensus among scientists that “the site was wrecked” beyond repair.

“Their findings are in agreement to our observations,” he said.

“Different teams using different data have come up with similar conclusions,” Zhao said. “The only difference was in some technical details. This is the best guess that can be made by the world outside.” ….

“Speculation grew that North Korea’s site was in trouble when Lee Doh-sik, the top North Korean geologist, visited Zhao’s institute about two weeks after the test and met privately with senior Chinese government geologists.

“Although the purpose of Lee’s visit was not disclosed, two days later Pyongyang announced it would no longer conduct land-based nuclear tests.”

” Hu Xingdou, a Beijing-based scholar who follows North Korea’s nuclear programme, said it was highly likely that Pyongyang had received a stark warning from Beijing.

““The test was not only destabilising the site but increasing the risk of eruption of the Changbai Mountain,” a large, active volcano at China-Korean border, said Hu, who asked that his university affiliation not be disclosed for this article because of the topic’s sensitivity.

“The mountain’s collapse has likely dealt a huge blow to North Korea’s nuclear programme, Hu said.

Hit by crippling international economic sanctions over its nuclear ambitions, the country might lack sufficient resources to soon resume testing at a new site, he said.

“But there are other sites suitable for testing,” Hu said. “They must be closely monitored.”

Guo Qiuju, a Peking University professor who has belonged to a panel that has advised the Chinese government on emergency responses to radioactive hazards, said that if fallout escaped through cracks, it could be carried by wind over the Chinese border.

“So far we have not detected an abnormal increase of radioactivity levels,” Guo said. “But we will continue to monitor the surrounding region with a large [amount] of highly sensitive equipment and analyse the data in state-of-the-art laboratories.”

“Zhao Guodong, a government nuclear waste confinement specialist at the University of South China, said that the North Korean government should allow scientists from China and other countries to enter the test site and evaluate the damage.

“We can put a thick layer of soil on top of the collapsed site, fill the cracks with special cement, or remove the pollutants with chemical solution,” he said.

“There are many methods to deal with the problem. All they need [to do] is ask.” end quote . source: ibid.

For the sake of ignorant ex diplomats everywhere, let me list all the qualified scientists Chen gives as sources for his article:

1. Wen Lianxing
2. Liu Junqing
3. Zhao Lianfeng
4. Hu Xingdou
5. Guo Qiuju
6. Zhao Guodong

The above qualified people consider that North Korean nuclear tests have, and do, pose a continuing radiological risk to North Korea and to China. This is due to the geologic damage the test series have caused. As any rational person with knowledge of the US underground test era knows, such risks are extremely well documented in the case of the US tests and appalling documented in the case of North Korea.

Dissenters from my point view and the content of Chen’s reported based upon his 6 expert sources are: 1. Richard Broinowski, retired diplomat. Not a scientist.

blows rasberry at RD. so sue me.

P.S. and another thing Richard B. You won’t close the South Korean nuclear plants down by going on TV and denying the North Korean radiological mess, which is probably an undisclosed actual disaster for the people there. Underground nuke test sites have many ways of leaking radionuclides. Over the years a test site’s hydrology is main vector, but anything can happen at the time, and, in the US experience has happened. The chances of uncontained radionuclides let loose into the biosphere is very high in North Korea and no ideology can successfully hide that fact. Your comments on the ABC TV this morning were damaging to the movement and frankly, in my opinion, bloody ignorant. Would you accept the facts of the matter if the scientists Chen cites were all born in London and were named “Watt”?

This post has been posted on Mr Stephen Chen’s facebook page. with thanks to him and his sources.

April 27, 2018 Posted by | incidents, North Korea | Leave a comment

North Korea still able to test nuclear weapons – test site was not destroyed

No, North Korea’s Nuclear Test Site Wasn’t Destroyed in an Earthquake, National Interest, David Axe, 27 Apr 18, 

While it’s hard to know for sure what’s really going on in North Korea, one of the most secretive countries in the world, Pyongyang’s underground nuclear test facilities are probably intact, and the regime is likely still capable of testing its rudimentary atomic warhead designs.

Major media outlets reported on April 25, 2018 that large portions of North Korea’s underground nuclear test facility had collapsed and were unusable.

 The stories in The Wall Street Journal and other newspapers and websites, all citing a Chinese study first obtained by the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, are potentially misleading. News reports aggregating The Wall Street Journal’s own, more balanced reporting draw a line between the apparent collapse and upcoming talks between the United States and North and South Korea, but some experts are doubtful.

While it’s hard to know for sure what’s really going on in North Korea, one of the most secretive countries in the world, Pyongyang’s underground nuclear test facilities are probably intact, and the regime is likely still capable of testing its rudimentary atomic warhead designs. “The reporting has been mostly hot garbage,” Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, tweeted after reviewing satellite imagery of the 7,200-foot Mount Mantap, where North Korea’s Punggye-ri test site is located. …….

Mount Mantap didn’t collapse. Yes, seismologists registered a 6.3-magnitude earthquake under the mountain on September 3, the result of North Korea’s sixth and most recent underground atomic test. And yes, it’s possible that the quake collapsed the subterranean cavity that the buried bomb blast produced. ……


“Nuclear explosions make cavities,” Lewis explained in a tweet. “One of those cavities collapsed, which seismologists detected. Science is cool. But a cavity collapse does not mean the tunnel complex collapsed, let alone the whole mountain.”

Even if a cavity or part of the adjacent facility was destroyed, there’s no reason North Korean leader Kim Jong Un can’t simply build a new site. “Kim can dig new tunnels quickly to replace the collapsed sites if he chooses to do so,” Bruce Blair, a Princeton University nuclear expert, told me. “He could even test above ground if deemed warranted. There is really nothing technical standing in the way.”

……… Experts agree that North Korea hopes to leverage its newfound nuclear-power status for political or economic gain.  Suspending testing is a good-faith gesture and bargaining ploy that yields what Kim wants out of his testing program politically,” Blair said.   

    “Kim has agreed to stop nuclear testing because of the summit(s), not because his nuclear test mountain collapsed,” Lewis added. http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/no-north-koreas-nuclear-test-site-wasnt-destroyed-earthquake-25587

 

April 27, 2018 Posted by | North Korea, weapons and war | Leave a comment