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High fire warning continues including area of Santa Susana (Rocketdyne) nuclear irradiated area

Red Flag Warning Extended Through Tuesday As Fires Roar In LA, Ventura Counties

November 9, 2018  LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A red flag warning denoting a high risk of wildfire has been extended until Tuesday, as two fires continued to roar across Los Angeles and Ventura counties today.Gusty, strong off-shore winds fueled the flames of the Woolsey and Hill fires, burning from West Hills to Camarillo and south to PCH late into the evening.

The Hill Fire erupted at 2:04 p.m. Thursday in the area of Hill Canyon in Santa Rosa Valley; less than a half-hour later, the Woolsey Fire ignited in the area of Rocketdyne, south of the City of Simi Valley. The flames were kicked up by heavy wind gusts, reaching speeds up to 60 mph.

Friday, winds were back in the teens and single-digits across the area, helping firefighters as they tried to get a better handle on the flames.

The National Weather Service said Friday dry conditions and gusty winds would continue through Saturday evening before Santa Ana winds redevelop, however, bringing continued Red Flag conditions to both counties Sunday through Tuesday, with wind gusts expected between 40-55 mph.

Officials warn residents to use caution with ignition sources.

Woolsey And Hill Fires: Evacuations, Road Closures And School Closures November 9, 2018

November 10, 2018 Posted by | environment, safety, USA | Leave a comment

New Bill in U.S. Congress would block a nuclear deal with Saudi Arabia

House Democrat to introduce new bill punishing Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi, It would block a controversial nuclear deal that’s very important to Saudi Arabia. Vox  By A House Democrat will soon introduce legislation to punish Saudi Arabia over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi — by trying to halt an impending nuclear deal with the country.

Obtained exclusively by Vox, the bill — nicknamed the “No Nuclear Weapons for Saudi Arabia Act of 2018” — if passed would be the strongest rebuke to Saudi Arabia yet since the uproar over Khashoggi’s fate.

Khashoggi, a US resident, was killed by Saudi officials inside the country’s consulate in Istanbul last month. That led to a major international outcry over his death, including from many in the US who wanted to see the Washington-Riyadh relationship curtailed.

Most of the discussions on how to do that center on stopping billions of dollars in arms sales to the kingdom, but President Donald Trump has repeatedly said he doesn’t want to jeopardize money coming into the United States, and some members of Congress privately worry that stopping weapons shipments to Saudi Arabia might negatively impact jobs.

So instead of doing that, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) wants to stop a major nuclear deal between the US and Saudi Arabia that’s been under negotiation for months, and which he has long railed against.

“I don’t think this bill would’ve passed prior to the events in Istanbul,” Sherman told me. “Now I think we have a chance.” It’s also very possible a Republican will co-sponsor the bill when it’s officially introduced in the next 10 congressional days.

The legislation would do three main things:

  • Force Trump to submit a “123 Agreement,” or a set of rules that make it legal for the US to sell nuclear technology to another country, for congressional approval.
    • Force the administration to tell Congress that Saudi Arabia will abide by the agreement’s “Gold Standard” (more on that below) and an inspections agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the world’s nuclear watchdog
    • Require the administration to write reports on Saudi Arabia’s probe into Khashoggi’s murder and the state of human rights in the kingdom
    Sherman’s bill could completely block Saudi Arabia’s plans to obtain nuclear technology from the United States, especially since there’s growing bipartisan support to reprimand Riyadh over Khashoggi.

    It would come as a big blow to Saudi Arabia: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, more commonly known as MBS, launched a project on Monday to build his country’s first nuclear research reactor.

    There’s also some bipartisan support to stop nuclear talks with Riyadh in the Senate.

    Sens. Edward Markey (D-MA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), for example, have sent letters to Trump requesting he at least suspend negotiations with Saudi Arabia over the nuclear deal. It’s unclear if either of them will draft parallel legislation to the House version, although a spokesperson for Rubio’s office told me the senator “possibly” could consider a bill in the future. …….

    American companies have already lined up to sell and build nuclear parts for Saudi Arabia,  …….

  • Saudi Arabia could accelerate a nuclear arms race in the Middle East

    There’s legitimate concern about what Riyadh would do with a brand new nuclear reactor if this indeed happens.

    On March 18, MBS openly admitted on CBS’s 60 Minutes that obtaining a nuke was a possibility……..

  • There are other signs that Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning nuclear program is really all about weapons — and not mainly for energy — like it repeatedly says. One possible indicator is that Riyadh has focused on nuclear energy and not renewable energy to bring power to its millions of citizens. …….

November 10, 2018 Posted by | politics, politics international, Saudi Arabia, USA | Leave a comment

Solar and wind fuels emit no carbon, but “low carbon” nuclear fuel- it’s a lie! theme for November 18

Solar and wind energy both flow directly to the generating system

Not only are these fuels carbon-free, but, unlike nuclear, they leave no wastes

Only one step in that uranium-nuclear chain is low emission – though all nuclear lobbyists claim that this step is “no emission” – the reactor’s operation.  BUT – Carbon-14 is produced in coolant at boiling water reactors (BWRs) and pressurized water reactors (PWRs). It is typically released to the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide at BWRs, and methane at PWRs.

November 10, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Toshiba’s failure shows business can’t deliver a nuclear future 

Guardian,9 Nov 18 , Phillip Inman As Cumbria reactor plan stalls, it is clear that huge resources are needed for such projects.  If the government was keen to boost Britain’s nuclear industry, it was always clear that the private market would struggle to deliver.

The decision by Toshiba to close down its UK operations is a case in point. After the deal to build new reactors at Hinkley Point with the French firm EDF, Toshiba was favoured by ministers to design and construct a smaller power station on the Cumbrian coast.

Hinkley was a deal that appeared to be with a private company but the really meaningful talks were between Whitehall officials and their counterparts in the French government, EDF’s controlling shareholder. It took years of agonising brinkmanship to conclude the talks, much of them conducted on the French side by the then economy minister, Emmanuel Macron.

Toshiba, on the other hand, is a private company struggling on its own to navigate the complex politics surrounding nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

In 2006 it bought the US nuclear business Westinghouse, part of British Nuclear Fuels and home to much of the UK’s nuclear power industry. With climate change creeping to the top of the agenda and demand for new nuclear plants around the world growing, it seemed like a good idea.

However, the 2011 Fukushima disaster changed all that. Governments in Japan and other countries halted the development of new nuclear plants. Last year, cost overruns on building the first new US nuclear power plants in three decades pushed Westinghouse into bankruptcy and Toshiba into financial meltdown. The future of the Cumbrian nuclear plant has been in doubt ever since.

Earlier this year Toshiba sold Westinghouse to a private equity outfit as a services provider for existing nuclear plants. The construction of new reactors was not on the agenda. To no one’s surprise, Toshiba has now confirmed it has abandoned building any new plants in the UK.

Without entering the argument about whether nuclear is a good option – and the government advisory body, the National Infrastructure Commission, is unequivocal that renewables such as wind and solar were going to be a safer, cheaper option – it is clear huge commitments of time, resources and political capital are necessary for infrastructure projects of this scale to get off the ground and through to completion.

November 10, 2018 Posted by | business and costs, UK | Leave a comment

California’s wildfire threatens site of closed California’s closed Santa Susana nuclear site

California’s Woolsey Fire Now Threatening Malibu Went Through The Site Of A Nuclear Accident First, Forbes, Eric Mack 9 Nov 18   out of control and heading into populated areas of Malibu. All residents must evacuate immediately. ”

A mandatory evacuation is now in effect for the entire city of Malibu in southern California as a fast-moving fire dubbed the Woolsey Fire burns through the suburban hills and canyons between Simi Valley and the Pacific coast.

“MANDATORY evacuation now in effect for all of City of Malibu, and all areas south of 101 Fwy from Ventura County line to Las Virgenes / Malibu Cyn, southward to the ocean due to Woolsey Fire. Use PCH to evacuate, avoid canyons,” reads a 10 a.m. PT update from the city.

UPDATE: According to the latest alert from the city of Malibu at 12:27 p.m. PT, the Woolsey Fire “is now burning out of control and heading into populated areas of Malibu. All residents must evacuate immediately. “

A mandatory evacuation is now in effect for the entire city of Malibu in southern California as a fast-moving fire dubbed the Woolsey Fire burns through the suburban hills and canyons between Simi Valley and the Pacific coast.

“MANDATORY evacuation now in effect for all of City of Malibu, and all areas south of 101 Fwy from Ventura County line to Las Virgenes / Malibu Cyn, southward to the ocean due to Woolsey Fire. Use PCH to evacuate, avoid canyons,” reads a 10 a.m. PT update from the city. ……….

The blaze began with a brush fire ignited near the closed Santa Susana Field Laboratory (also referred to as the Rocketdyne facility) south of Simi Valley Thursday afternoon and has since grown to over 10,000 acres and claimed an undetermined number of structures.

The Rocketdyne facility was the site of a partial nuclear meltdown nearly sixty years ago and the subject of controversial and stalled cleanup efforts for decades……..

November 10, 2018 Posted by | incidents, USA | Leave a comment

Plans for a new nuclear power station in Cumbria have been scrapped

UK nuclear power station plans scrapped as Toshiba pulls out, Guardian, Adam Vaughan@adamvaughan_uk,  8 Nov 2018  Firm’s nuclear arm to wind up next year and scrap Cumbria plant leaving big hole in UK energy plans Plans for a new nuclear power station in Cumbria have been scrapped after the Japanese conglomerate Toshiba announced it was winding up the UK unit behind the project.

Toshiba said it would take a 18.8bn Japanese yen (£125m) hit from closing its NuGeneration subsidiary, which had already been cut to a skeleton staff,after it failed to find a buyer for the scheme.

The decision represents a major blow to the government’s ambitions for new nuclear and leaves a huge hole in energy policy. The plant would have provided about 7% of UK electricity.

“This is a huge disappointment and a crushing blow to hopes of a revival of the UK nuclear energy industry,” said Tim Yeo, the chair of pro-nuclear lobby group New Nuclear Watch Institute and a former Tory MP.

Greenpeace UK’s executive director, John Sauven, said: “The end of the Moorside plan represents a failure of the government’s nuclear gamble.”

After a board meeting of Toshiba on Thursday, the company said it was winding up NuGeneration because of its inability to find a buyer and the ongoing costs it was incurring. The firm has already spent more than £400m on the project.

“Toshiba recognises that the economically rational decision is to withdraw from the UK nuclear power plant construction project, and has resolved to take steps to wind-up NuGen,” the firm said in a statement………

Some industry watchers said the collapse of the scheme should be seen as an opportunity rather than a risk, for the UK to prioritise renewables instead.

Jonathan Marshall, an analyst at the ECIU thinktank, said: “Shifting away from expensive, complicated technology towards cheaper and easier to build renewables gives the UK the opportunity to build an electricity system that will keep bills for homes and businesses down for years to come.”

The government’s infrastructure advisers recently urged ministers to rethink their nuclear plans and focus on renewables instead……..

November 10, 2018 Posted by | business and costs, UK | Leave a comment

Holtec nuclear waste dry storage system (Hi-STORM UMAX) is a lemon and must be recalled

San Onofre: Defective Holtec Nuclear Waste Storage System Must Be Recalled.  SanOnofreSafety  November 8, 2018 by Donna Gilmore     (Holtec Board Member Norcross is a member of Trump’s Mar a Lago club.)
The Holtec nuclear waste dry storage system (Hi-STORM UMAX) is a lemon and is putting California’s safety, economy and security at great risk. It must be recalled. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Southern California Edison, California Coastal Commission (CCC), and California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) must reject this system on both safety and financial grounds.  They cannot make lemonade out of this lemon. 
Congress must stop focusing on where to transport this unsafely stored nuclear waste and mandate the NRC do their job of protecting our safety.  Pending federal legislation  removes current storage and transport nuclear waste safety requirements, encouraging systems like this to be built, such as a similar one proposed by Holtec in New Mexico (pending state approval and removal of state and federal environmental and other rights).
Since Holtec started loading the San Onofre highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel waste into Holtec thin-wall canisters (only 5/8″ thick), there have been numerous Holtec engineering failures that have not and likely cannot be fixed.  Each thin-wall stainless steel canister holds roughly a Chernobyl nuclear disaster. The NRC doesn’t even require pressure monitoring or pressure relief valves in these pressure vessels. 

The NRC is investigating numerous Holtec failures at San Onofre, but has yet to issue a final investigation of these engineering failures.  If it wasn’t for whistleblowers, we would not know about any of these serious safety problems that are still unresolved — and likely cannot be solved with this defective Holtec system.

Instead of requiring Holtec take their defective system back, as they likely can do under their limited manufacturing defect warranty, Edison plans to continue loading canisters in order to destroy the spent fuel pools as soon as possible.  The pools cost them millions in overhead costs every year.

Edison also wants to access the over $4 billion in ratepayer Decommission Trust Funds in order to destroy the pools and the rest of the reactor facility (except for the dry storage systems), yet have no other method to replace failing canisters.
Decommission Trust Funds would be better spent replacing the defective thin-wall canister systems with proven thick-wall cask technology used throughout the world. Thick-wall cask systems are 10″ to 19.75″ thick and can be inspected, maintained, repaired and monitored to prevent radioactive leaks and hydrogen gas explosions. They meet Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board (NWTRB) December 2017 recommendations to the United States Congress and the Secretary of Energy, regarding Management and Disposal Of US Department Of Energy Spent Nuclear Fuel, Executive Summary, page 7 – 9. They also meet Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 safety requirements.

Instead, Holtec and Edison are advocating for H.R. 3053 (pending in the US Senate) and other bills that would remove critical safety requirements for both storage and transport and remove a number of federal and state rights, including transparency, input and oversight. The House already approved this bill, under the misguided assumption they can trust the NRC to protect our safety. The bill would allow the DOE to take title to the waste at the current San Onofre site, eliminating Edison’s liability and responsibility for this mess they created.  All funding for waste management is currently mandatory.  This unfunded bill makes funding discretionary with Congress.

Edison plans to load a total of 73 Holtec canisters at the beach on Camp Pendleton.  There are 29 Holtec canisters already loaded with nuclear waste that are likely already cracking from the defective loading system. The NRC states once a crack starts in stainless steel it can grow through the wall in 16 years.  In hotter canisters, cracks can grow faster.  The NRC assumption that cracking will not start for at least 30 years ignores these canisters may already be cracked from the Holtec loading system (pit corrosion cracking by mechanical means) and the EPRI evaluation of a two-year old Diablo Canyon canister that showed it had a low enough temperature for corrosive salt to dissolve on the canister, one of the triggers for crack initiation.  The NRC is planning to “investigate” this issue, eventually.
HOLTEC FAILURE #1: Canister #29 almost dropped 18 feet due to a defective loading system design …….
HOLTEC FAILURE #2: Canister #30 was in the queue for moving to a storage hole, but is now stuck in limbo in a transfer cask in the Unit 3 fuel handling facility  …….
HOLTEC FAILURE #3: Holtec loaded fuel in four canisters with defective basket shims. ……
HOLTEC FAILURE #4: Holtec loading system caused damage in canisters walls — 29 canisters loaded so far.  

The Holtec dry storage system is a lemon and must be recalled.  Edison finally admitted their replacement steam generators were lemons, but waited until after they leaked radiation into Southern California.  They need to declare this Holtec system a lemon before these containers leak and explode in Southern California. 

  • The NRC should revoke the license of this and other Holtec nuclear waste storage and transport systems.  Holtec has repeatedly demonstrated they are not a qualified vendor.  More Holtec Nuclear Waste issues here.
  • Edison should stop loading canisters with fuel and return this system to Holtec. They should issue Requests for Proposals (RFPs) that meet NWTRB and NWPA safety requirements for both storage and transport. The RFP should include a system for replacing all existing thin-wall canisters at San Onofre with thick-wall transportable casks.  This must be done before these canisters start leaking and exploding.
  • The Governor should declare a state of emergency. The State of California should revoke San Onofre state permits until this is done. They should create a multi-agency committee to address these issues and facilitate the development of an expedited solution to this critical problem before Holtec and Edison destroy our economy, security, safety and future.
  • The CPUC should stop funding this Holtec lemon and any further activities at San Onofre until this is done.

Congress and the President should mandate the NRC enforce safety standards as outlined above and force the NRC to stop misleading them about the safety of the systems they approve.  Transporting these thin-wall cracking canisters to another location will no more solve our nuclear waste problems than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic would stop it from sinking.

November 10, 2018 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Toshiba dumps its UK nuclear business

Toshiba Ditches UK Nuclear Business, U.S. LNG Operations, Oil Toshiba will also liquidate another nuclear subsidiary in the UK, Advance Energy UK Limited. The loss that the company will book from the wind-ups will come in at US$130 million (15 billion yen) and will be booked in its 2018/19 results………

Earlier this year, Toshiba sold its U.S. nuclear power business, Westinghouse, for US$4.6 billion to a group of investment companies led by Brookfield Asset Management. The deal puts an end to a major headache for the Japanese conglomerate, which last year warned that it might have trouble surviving if it didn’t find a buyer for the nuclear power plant constructor, which it acquired in 2006 for US$5 billion.

Plagued by project delays and cost overruns that came up to US$6 billion for two large-scale projects in the United States, Westinghouse filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last March. The business had by that time generated US$6.3 billion in writedowns for the parent company that resulted in Toshiba reporting a net loss of US$9.1 billion for 2016……..

November 10, 2018 Posted by | business and costs, UK | Leave a comment

The digital danger to nuclear weapons

The argument from cyberspace for eliminating nuclear weapons  NOVEMBER 9, 2018 At the height of the Cold War in 1982, American psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton argued that the “central existential fact of the nuclear age is vulnerability.” That warning predated the proliferation of computers into almost every aspect of modern life, including nuclear weapons.

Today, the destructiveness of nuclear weapons has been coupled with the vulnerability of computers to create new pathways to disaster.

Specifically, there is now the possibility that hackers could compromise the computers that control nuclear weapons or provide information to officials about impending nuclear attacks.

Weapons security critically flawed

An October 2018 report reinforced this sense of vulnerability. In it, the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) described a number of problems commonly found in the modern weapons systems developed by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). Although the report itself doesn’t say so, officials confirmed that nuclear weapons programs were included in the study.


The findings of the GAO report echoed earlier warnings of the cyberthreat to nuclear weapons. These included a 2013 DOD report and one by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a non-governmental nuclear weapon threat reduction organization based in Washington, D.C.

Our research examines the risks associated with nuclear weapons systems, including those of accidental or inadvertent nuclear war. The most pressing concern from the GAO report is the possibility that some of these vulnerabilities might affect “nuclear command and control,” the term used to describe the computer networks that continuously monitor and direct the vast U.S. nuclear arsenal (or Russia).

The recent GAO report broadly criticized all DOD weapons systems. Over the past five years (2012 to 2017), the GAO reported, “DOD testers routinely found mission-critical cyber-vulnerabilities in nearly all weapon systems that were under development. Using relatively simple tools and techniques, testers were able to take control of these systems and largely operate undetected.”

In other words, just about every weapon system being developed by the U.S. military is vulnerable to cyberattack. What stands out are both the scale of the problem and that these problems exist in systems that should be highly protected.

The computerized military

Computers play an outsized role in the U.S. military — from providing information through various sensors to forming the backbone of communications networks. Faster communications and increased access to information are both valuable assets and these goals can be achieved with computers. Computers have become ubiquitous in the military environment as countries demand quick access to information and communications.

But computers also introduce vulnerabilities. As their role grows to include connecting the weapons systems of most advanced countries, so does our vulnerability. The vulnerability of these weapons systems should be seen as an anticipated and, arguably unavoidable, consequence of the computer-filled world we live in.

The GAO report went farther than just identifying vulnerabilities — it identified a culture within the DOD that fails to recognize and adequately address cybersecurity problems. Officials routinely assumed their systems were safe and ignored warnings until very recently.

We have observed a similar overconfidence in the military officials responsible for nuclear command and control.

This is a problem because the command-and-control system relies on complex networks of interconnected computers. These computers connect early warning satellites and radars to the president and will be used to pass on presidential orders to launch nuclear weapons should that fateful decision ever be made.

Computers must also constantly monitor and coordinate the daily operation of U.S. nuclear arsenal. Timelines for decisions in this system are extremely compressed, allowing less than 10 minutes for critical launch decisions to be made. The combination of interactive complexity and the tight timeline is typical of many other technological systems that are susceptible to unpredictable, large-scale accidents……. weapons

November 10, 2018 Posted by | safety, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Hundreds of Taiwanese academics urge public to vote for nuclear power shut-down

Taiwan’s academics urge public to vote for nuclear power shut-down, Nature, 9 Nov 18
Open letter encourages voters to support the phase out of nuclear power plants in an upcoming referendum. 
Hundreds of researchers in Taiwan have signed an open letter urging the public to vote to continue the phase out of nuclear power in an upcoming referendum.

Last year, Taiwanese legislators added a clause to the island’s electricity act to shut down all nuclear power plants by 2025……

In October, proponents of nuclear power gathered enough signatures — more than 1.5% of the electorate in Taiwan — to force a referendum that will ask the public to agree to removing the phase-out clause from the act. ……Fifty academics, including environmental sociologist Chiu Hua-Mei at National Sun Yat-sen University in Kaohsiung, released the letter on 3 November, asking the public to vote to keep the clause. More than 400 others have now signed the letter.

Risky business

Chiu says that earthquakes and tsunamis, events that can damage nuclear power stations with devastating effects, are major threats to Taiwan, and there is no feasible long-term solution yet for dealing with the radioactive waste. It is currently stored at the power stations or on Orchid Island off the east coast. “It’s too risky for Taiwan to use nuclear power,” she says.

The academics who signed the letter felt compelled to advise the public about the risks of continuing to use nuclear power in Taiwan, Chiu says. “We think that scholars should say something for us, for Taiwan.”

Even if the phase-out clause ends up being removed from the act, it is not clear what president Tsai will do in response.

Fifty academics, including environmental sociologist Chiu Hua-Mei at National Sun Yat-sen University in Kaohsiung, released the letter on 3 November, asking the public to vote to keep the clause. More than 400 others have now signed the letter.


November 10, 2018 Posted by | politics, Taiwan | Leave a comment

USA non proliferation experts, both Democrat and Republican Urge Trump to save nuclear treaty with Russia

In Bipartisan Pleas, Experts Urge Trump to Save Nuclear Treaty With Russia, NYT, By Rick Gladstone, Nov. 8, 2018 Alarmed at what they see as disintegrating curbs on nuclear weapons, a bipartisan array of American nonproliferation experts has urged President Trump to salvage a Cold War-era treaty with Russia that he has vowed to scrap.

In letters sent to the White House this week that were seen by The New York Times, the experts said the pact, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, had reduced the risk of nuclear war.

Despite the treaty’s flaws, they said, the United States should work to fix the accord, not walk away from it.

“The INF Treaty has prevented the unchecked deployment of nuclear missiles in Europe,” stated one of the letters, sent Wednesday to the White House. It was signed by more than a dozen prominent figures in arms control, including former Secretary of State George P. Shultz and former Senators Richard Lugar and Sam Nunn.

Another letter, dated Tuesday and sent by the American College of National Security Leaders, a group of former high-level military officers, said: “The INF Treaty is a bedrock to our current arms control regime and serves rather than hampers American interests.”

There was no immediate comment from the Trump administration on the letters.

The treaty’s fate may come up this weekend if Mr. Trump sees President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia during a memorial event in France celebrating the centennial of the end of World War I. But there have been conflicting accounts from the White House and the Kremlin on whether the two will even meet.

……….In the letter signed by Mr. Shultz and others, the arms control experts recognized what they called Russia’s noncompliance with the treaty. But rather than move to terminate it, they called on Mr. Trump “to direct your team to redouble efforts to negotiate technical solutions to U.S. (and Russian) INF compliance concerns.”

Both letters also urged Mr. Trump to engage in negotiations with the Russians on prolonging the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, which will expire in February 2021 unless both sides agree to an extension. That pact limits the number of long-range missiles, bombers and warheads in the American and Russian arsenals.

Should the treaty expire, the former military commanders said in their letter, it would be the first time since 1972 that the United States and Russia “have not been bound by a binding arms control agreement.”

November 10, 2018 Posted by | politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Radioactive groundwater found at Westingouse SC nuclear fuel factory

‘You guys have gotten me afraid.’ Radioactive groundwater found at SC fuel factory, The News and Observer, BY SAMMY FRETWELL, November 09, 2018 , COLUMBIA, SC 

Groundwater at Westinghouse’s nuclear fuel factory on Bluff Road is contaminated with unsafe levels of radioactive material from years-old leaks that state and federal regulators only learned about in the past year.

Recent tests found levels of radioactive uranium that exceed safe drinking-water standards at two test wells adjacent to the nuclear fuel-rod plant southeast of Columbia, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said during a community meeting.

Thursday night’s meeting was held as part of Westinghouse’s application for a new 40-year license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to operate the Bluff Road plant.

………. Thursday night’s revelation of high uranium levels in two test wells follows news this year about other leaks and spills at the Westinghouse plant, a major employer in the Columbia area since opening in 1969.

The NRC did not learn about the 2011 leak until last year and, only recently, found out about the 2008 leak from the fuel rod plant. Westinghouse did not tell the agency at the time the leaks occurred because that was not required, the company and federal officials have said. The leaks occurred in the same area of the factory, three years apart.

The 2008 and 20111 leaks are not the only concern.

In July, Westinghouse told state and federal regulators it had discovered that a uranium solution leaked through a hole in the floor in another part of the plant this summer and contaminated the ground.

Unlike the 2008 and 2011 leaks, regulators say they haven’t found that the uranium that leaked this summer got through the ground and into the water table below. The company is cleaning up that leak by excavating nine feet of tainted soil, Westinghouse spokeswoman Courtney Boone said.

Residents living near the plant expressed concerns Thursday about the safety of the facility. About 70 residents attended Thursday’s meeting at a Garners Ferry Road conference center.

Residents are concerned groundwater pollution could affect the private wells from which they draw drinking water. They also worry about the possibility of a nuclear accident.

……….. Critics of the plant say Westinghouse should not get a 40-year operating license because of problems at the site. ….

November 10, 2018 Posted by | incidents, USA | Leave a comment

Computer errors that almost started nuclear wars

The argument from cyberspace for eliminating nuclear weapons  NOVEMBER 9, 2018 “…….Computer errors that almost started nuclear wars

Unclassified reports reveal that problems within the computers of nuclear command and control date back to at least the 1970s, when a deficient computer chip signalled that 200 Soviet missiles were headed towards the U.S. Computer problems have persisted: In 2010, a loose circuit card caused a U.S. launch control centre to lose contact with 50 nuclear missiles. In both cases, the accident might have been mistaken for a deliberate attack. Failing to recognize the mistake could have resulted in the U.S. launching nuclear weapons.

These cases were presumably the result of unintentional errors, not deliberate actions. But hacking and other forms of targeted cyberattacks greatly increase the risk of accidental nuclear launch or other devastating actions. Overconfidence on the part of the officials overseeing the nuclear arsenal is therefore negligent and dangerous.

A more recent compounding factor is the ongoing, roughly trillion-dollar upgrade of the U.S. nuclear arsenal started by the Obama administration. This so-called modernization effort included upgrades to the nuclear command and control system. The Trump administration continues to make this a priority.

Modernization increases the possibility that changes to the nuclear command and control system will introduce new or reveal hitherto unknown vulnerabilities into the system. The evidence from the GAO report and other publicly available documents indicates that the officials in charge will be emphasizing speed, convenience, or cost over cybersecurity.

In its conclusion, the GAO report explained that the DOD “has taken several major steps to improve weapon systems cybersecurity.” But the DOD “faces barriers that may limit its ability to achieve desired improvements,” such as constraints on information sharing and workforce shortages. That is not reassuring.

There is a more basic problem that we have emphasized above: the risks associated with cyberattacks can be ameliorated but not fully eliminated. When this intrinsic risk is integrated with the sheer destructiveness of nuclear weapons, the only way to avoid a catastrophic accident at some point in time is to embrace efforts to abolish the weapons themselves.

November 10, 2018 Posted by | incidents, Reference, USA | Leave a comment

Tepco to temporarily stop injecting water at Fukushima reactor 

TEPCO to stop injecting water at Fukushima reactor The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant plans to temporarily stop injecting water into one of its damaged reactors to test the cooling of fuel debris.

Tokyo Electric Power Company announced it will conduct the 7-hour test at the No.2 reactor as early as March next year.

The unit is one of 3 in the 6-reactor facility that suffered a meltdown after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The damaged reactors contain a mixture of molten nuclear fuel and structural parts.

TEPCO officials say water injections keep temperatures stable in the 3 reactors at around 30 degrees Celsius.

The planned experiment is aimed at checking how the debris is being cooled. It will be the first time to halt water injections into the reactor since they were stabilized after the accident.

TEPCO’s assessment says the reactor temperature would rise by around 5 degrees per hour if injections were halted by accident. But it says the rise will be limited to about 0.2 degrees per hour when natural heat radiation is taken into account.

TEPCO officials say they will begin cutting back on water injections by around half to 1.5 tons per hour for about a week as early as in January, before halting them completely in March after checking the results.

TEPCO estimates the 7-hour stoppage may raise the reactor temperature by about 1.4 degrees but says water injections will resume if the temperature rises more than 15 degrees.

Company officials say they want to assess changes in the temperature so they can use the data in future emergency cases, including earthquakes and tsunamis.

November 10, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

For USA the cost of not funding a nuclear waste solution is becoming greater than the cost of funding it.

Failure to Fund National Spent Nuclear Fuel Repository Leaves Decommissioning Funds Partially Unsupervised,     Gina G. Scala, Nov 07, 2018

Nearly four decades ago, the federal government charged the Department of Energy with finding a long-term solution for housing spent nuclear fuel from the nation’s commercial nuclear power plants as well as U.S. Navy reactors. In 2002, Yucca Mountain in Nevada was selected as the repository site. In 2010, the DOE unceremoniously rejected its own plans for a federal repository.

As a result, the only option for U.S. nuclear power plants is to store spent fuel from the reactor vessels onsite. That includes decommissioned or decommissioning power plants, like the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station. Just last month, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved an exemption request from Exelon Generation, which owns the Lacey Township-based nuclear plant, to withdrawal monies from the plant’s decommissioning trust fund for spent fuel management and site restorations costs without first obtaining NRC approval.

“We approved these changes after reviewing the fund and projected cash flow,” said Neil Sheehan, public information officer for the NRC’s Region 1 office, noting the federal agency has approved similar requests before.

Oyster Creek, once the nation’s oldest operating commercial nuclear power plant, was taken permanently offline in September. It was licensed to operate until April 2029, but under an agreement with the state of New Jersey to forgo building cooling towers, company officials agreed to close the plant by Dec. 31, 2019. Earlier this year, citing financial costs and better opportunities for employees, the decision was made to shut down plant operations in September.

In July, Exelon Generation announced it had reached a deal with Holtec International, a New Jersey-based energy technology company, to purchase the plant and take over its decommissioning duties.

“An important note is that this exemption was based on Exelon’s earlier plan to place the plant into SAFSTOR, or long-term storage, before dismantlement work begins,” Sheehan said. “Holtec will need to submit an exemption request for the same uses of the fund based on its proposed DECON, or immediate dismantlement, approach. We anticipate receiving that request in November.”

The timeline for the NRC to review Holtec’s request to use decommissioning trust funds would be similar to what it was for Exelon’s request, which was submitted on March 22, 2018, and approved on Oct. 19, 2018, according to Sheehan.

“Holtec would not be able to withdraw any money until the NRC determines if it qualifies to take over the Oyster Creek license,” he said. “If it gets the go-ahead, Holtec would be free to begin withdrawals if and when it receives approval for the exemption.”

On Aug. 31, Exelon and Holtec filed a joint application to begin the license transfer application, asking for a decision by May 1, 2019. The public has until Nov. 8 to file a request for a public hearing on the federal agency’s review of the transfer. Written comments are being accepted until Nov. 19.

From the beginning, Holtec officials have said they would like to immediately begin decommissioning Oyster Creek. It’s their intention to expedite the dismantling of the nuclear plant and return the site, located on 779 acres of land in the Forked River section of the township, to unrestricted use in less than a decade, with the exclusion of the Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation, or spent fuel pad, on site. Exelon’s post-shutdown activity plans included taking the full 60 years permitted under federal law.

“We do track how decommissioning funds are used and where they stand,” Sheehan said. “The owners of permanently shut-down nuclear power plants must submit updates to us on an annual basis.”

While the NRC is currently reviewing applications for two potential interim sites to house spent nuclear fuel, one in Texas and the other in New Mexico, the House of Representatives earlier this year voted to revive the Yucca Mountain project to store radioactive nuclear waste.

“Electricity consumers have contributed $40 billion into the nuclear waste fund,” according to the Nuclear Energy Institute, the policy organization for nuclear technologies. “Meanwhile, taxpayers have been saddled with more than $6 billion in damages for the federal government’s inaction – an amount that grows by $800 million for every additional year the government does not act. The cost of not funding a solution is rapidly becoming greater than the cost of funding it.”


November 10, 2018 Posted by | USA, wastes | 1 Comment