The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry Fukushima Chernobyl Mayak Three Mile Island Atomic Testing Radiation Isotope

To 15 June – climate and nuclear news

I scratch around for good news on climate. Alex Smith, of Radio Ecoshock, notes that ‘several long-time climate bloggers and Facebook activists are “retiring” to their private lives.’ He quotes one: “I’m no longer interested in awakening the masses. The masses made it clear that they are not interested.”

The grand old man of coastal science Dr. Orrin Pilkey warns: start withdrawing from the coast-line now, or wait for the coming panic. As Australia’s government promotes coal mining and coal power, and avoids any action on climate change, every State and Territory in Australia is being  hit with record heat.  Decentralising the energy supply system – renewables are creating a new world order.

On the nuclear scene, the New Nuclear Arms Race remains the biggest threat in 2019. Meanwhile, as the nuclear industry fails economically, the mainstream media continues to pour out articles about “new nukes” – Small and Medium Nuclear Reactors (SMRs)Molten salt reactors. – articles that read like straight handouts from the nuclear lobby.onal Park to get $216 million boost.

Space travel? The human body is not compatible with ionising radiation.

Japan, the U.S. and France failing in their efforts to sell nuclear reactors overseas, (or at home).

UK. UK to use Regulatory Asset Base (RAB) funding for Wylfa nuclear plant, exposing consumers to financial risk?  UK’s nuclear energy renaissance derailed, as Japanese companies step back from nuclear investment? Hitachi to post $2 billion special loss, will suspend UK nuclear power operations. Hitachi looks certain to cancel its plans for a £16bn nuclear power station in Wales. Increasing major cracks in Hunterston nuclear reactors: call to close them permanently.

USA.   State of Washington opposes federal plan to reclassify Hanford nuclear waste. State of Oregon not happy with federal govt plan to declassify some high level nuclear wastes.  Iowa Utilities Board OK’s Alliant ending nuclear power purchase: Duane Arnold nuclear plant to shut down. “Nuclear modernization” a euphemism that ushers in a new and dangerous global nuclear arms race. USA Dept of Energy again confirms its plans to use SRS plutonium for nuclear weapons.

JAPAN. Funding deadlock looks set to sink Japan’s last overseas nuclear project.  Japan abandoning ambition to sell nuclear power reactors to Turkey.   Major financial group in Japan bans lending to those developing, making or possessing nuclear weapons.  Radiation doses underestimated in study of city in Fukushima. Japan Atomic Power Co. (JAPC) denies granting local prior consent for Tokai reactor restart

OCEANIA. Nuclear weapons tests in the Enewetak Atol: rising sea levels add to the toxic legacy.

RUSSIA. Russian blogger reveals photo of venting cloud of radioactive dust from 1987 nuclear test gone wrong.  Russia might revive its fearful automatic nuclear weapons launch system.

January 15, 2019 Posted by | Christina's notes | 4 Comments

UK’s ‘nuclear renaissance’ collapsing, as Hitachi ponders exit from Wylfa project

FT 13th Jan 2019 Nick Butler: Who could blame the board of the Japanese company Hitachi if
its members decide at their meeting this week to scrap plans for a new nuclear power station at Wylfa on the North Wales island of Anglesey?

Hitachi has invested more than £840m in the project over the past six years. The technology has passed all the tests set by the UK’s nuclear regulator. But the company has been unable to get the government to put in place the clear and credible financial structure necessary to underpin the investment.

That failure has already led other investors to abandon the new plant planned at Moorside in Cumbria. Talk of scrapping the Wylfa project could be a bargaining tactic on the part of Hitachi but the reality is probably much simpler. Hitachi’s doubts have been well signalled during the
past few months and the company’s purchase of ABB’s power grid business at the end of last year gives it a range of investment choices.

Given Whitehall’s chronic indecision, the company is ready to use its capital elsewhere. Hitachi’s withdrawal would mark the collapse of the energy policy adopted in 2013 by the UK’s coalition government. Facing what were believed to be ever-rising energy prices  the policy plumped for new nuclear, promising that 35 gigawatts of new capacity would be on stream by the mid 2030s – more than replacing the first generation of nuclear plants, which would by then have reached the end of their useful lives.

Because the price of gas seemed doomed to keep rising, new nuclear would come to look highly competitive over time as well as reducing dependence on imports. Since then much has changed, and the assumptions which underpinned the old policy now look laughably wrong.

The costs of all forms of energy (apart from nuclear) have fallen dramatically and there is no shortage of supply. Electricity demand is down thanks to efficiency gains and new technology.

The contract for the first new nuclear station being built at Hinkley Point in Somerset, which enjoys a guaranteed index-linked price for 35 years from the moment the plant is commissioned, looks exorbitant. The demise of Wylfa forces the need for a comprehensive review of energy policy.

Since the UK government is too busy preparing for Brexit to focus seriously on any other issue, the review should be conducted independently. Advances in energy technology offer more
possibilities each year. But those options will never be taken up unless the old outdated policy is scrapped and a more realistic approach put in place.

January 15, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, politics, UK | Leave a comment

The shutdown of Oyster Creek Nuclear Station- is it best to hand the waste management to Holtec?

After the Shutdown: Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station Oyster Creek is done producing nuclear energy. Now comes the hard part: cleaning up five decades of radioactive waste. New Jersey Monthly, By Ian T. Shearn | | January 14, 2019 “……..At noon this past September 17, operators shut down the Oyster Creek turbine. Three minutes later, two “scram” buttons were simultaneously pushed, inserting 122 control rods into the reactor core and aborting the nuclear reaction inside the vessel. After nearly a half-century of operation, the nation’s oldest active nuclear power plant went offline for good.

That began the onerous task of decontaminating and dismantling the plant—a process known as decommissioning. The shutdown also created severe financial angst among local officials, who had grown dependent on Oyster Creek’s tax revenue. And it offered the latest painful reminder that the United States lacks a plan to deal with a growing stockpile of radioactive nuclear waste. 

The shutdown left New Jersey with three operating nuclear reactors, which produce 37 percent of the state’s electricity. With the emergence in recent years of cheap and abundant natural gas, along with a growing appetite for renewable energy, plants like Oyster Creek have lost their competitive edge. The nuclear age is on the wane in the United States, at least in the commercial energy sector. Today, there are 60 active U.S. nuclear plants with 98 reactors, down from a high of 112 operational plants in 1991. Only two reactor plants are under construction.

Oyster Creek’s license was to expire in 2029. But in 2010, the state Department of Environmental Protection ordered the plant to build cooling towers to protect Barnegat Bay from its warm-water discharges. After estimating the cost at more than $800 million, Exelon Corp., the current owner/operator, reached an agreement to close the plant in 2019. That was advanced to 2018 in part to manage costs.


Shortly after the shutdown, plant employees began the process of cooling down the reactor and removing all nuclear fuel for storage in the plant’s used-fuel pool, a bath of highly purified, chemically balanced, fresh water. The 40-foot-deep pool—with reinforced concrete walls 2-feet thick—contains 2,430 fuel assemblies, more than half of the spent fuel that has accumulated over five decades.

Exelon estimated decommissioning would take 60 years. Its method, a process known as SAFSTOR, includes waiting for the radiation—both in the fuel pool and the reactor—to diminish naturally over decades, reducing the contamination risk for workers dismantling the facility. That plan changed dramatically last summer when Exelon reached an agreement to sell the plant to Holtec International, which has a technology campus in Camden, and proposes to complete the task in less than eight years by expediting the transfer of the spent fuel from the pool to dry storage casks before its radiation has appreciably decayed. Holtec and Exelon have asked the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for an expedited approval of the sale by May 1,  prompting concern among environmentalists. 

“What’s the big hurry?” asks Janet Tauro, board chair of Clean Water Action NJ. “Holtec may be the best thing in the world, but we’re talking about 1.7 million pounds of nuclear waste.” Lacey Township, the Sierra Club and Concerned Citizens of Lacey have asked the NRC to hold a public hearing. Tauro and Clean Water Action New Jersey have asked the state attorney general for a review of the Exelon/Holtec deal.

“The NRC will try to complete a review of the application by May 1,” says NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan.  “But we have made it clear to Exelon and Holtec that achieving that will be contingent upon us receiving the information we need.” That could include information about technical aspects of the decommissioning and adequacy of funding for the project.

Exelon and Holtec officials are nonetheless optimistic the deal will be approved on their timetable. Soon, the nuclear license and the 700-acre property would be transferred to Holtec—along with control of a nearly $1 billion decommissioning trust fund generated by utility ratepayers over decades. Holtec would assume all liability for the spent nuclear fuel—and any potential accidents.

Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, says he’s fine with the expedited decommissioning schedule. “It’s very doable and it’s been done many times throughout the country,” he notes. But he would like to see the storage site for the nuclear waste elevated and upgraded to withstand potential flooding or a terrorist attack. According to an AP report, the Sierra Club and several community groups also say the $1 billion fund is insufficient for cleanup and storage.

Tittel is “most concerned,” however, about the transfer of Oyster Creek’s ownership from Exelon, an industry behemoth with deep pockets, to Holtec, a relatively small limited-liability company, which will subcontract the work to an even smaller subsidiary. “If there is some kind of accident, there will be no one to hold accountable,” he says. 

Kris Singh, who holds more than 90 patents, mostly related to nuclear energy, founded Holtec in 1986. His company has emerged as an industry leader in the management of spent nuclear fuel. Its dry-cask technology is used at 116 nuclear power plants around the world, including 65 in the United States. Those casks would be used to store Oyster Creek’s spent fuel.

But Singh’s company lacks experience in cleaning up closed nuclear plants. That’s why it teamed with a Canadian engineering firm, SNC-Lavalin, to form Comprehensive Decommissioning International (CDI). Holtec has also reached agreements to purchase nuclear plants in Massachusetts and Michigan and perform expedited decommissioning there. The Massachusetts deal is awaiting NRC approval, and the Michigan deal will be submitted at a later date. 

“CDI, headquartered in Camden, has been established to bring the expertise of both companies together to ensure safe, rapid, and economic nuclear plant decommisioning,” says Holtec marketing and communications specialist Caitlin Marmion.

What’s in it for Holtec? The company would, in effect, hire itself and its subsidiary to clean up the site by drawing fees from the decommissioning fund. Holtec also would purchase its own storage casks for the cleanup. And once the cleanup is done, it can profit from the sale of the 700-acre Oyster Creek site.


Paul Gunter, a longtime environmental activist, policy analyst and nuclear-reactor watchdog for the advocacy group Beyond Nuclear, has been following activities at Oyster Creek for decades. He is calling for a thorough inspection of the plant’s GE Mark 1 reactor before it’s disposed of, citing its well-documented design flaws and a long history of modifications and retrofits. The reactor came under intense international scrutiny in 2011, after three of the same reactors melted down at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan. 

Holtec’s decommissioning plan “is like burying a body without an autopsy,” says Gunter. He notes that 21 GE Mark 1 reactors remain operational in the United States. (Holtec’s Marmion points out that the company’s plans to dismantle and dispose of the reactor are “in accordance with regulatory requirements.”)

Gunter is also alarmed by Holtec’s partnership for the decommissioning work. SNC-Lavalin, Gunter says, currently faces federal corruption charges in Canada. Equally disturbing, he says, the company is “barred from doing any contractual work with the World Bank until 2023—again because of global corruption.”

SNC-Lavalin has had a legal cloud over its head since 2015 (the same year it began collaborating with Holtec) when allegations surfaced that former employees paid $150 million in bribes to officials in Libya to influence government policy and win contracts. In one case, a former SNC-Lavalin vice president is awaiting trial on charges he made bribes to the Gaddafi regime. In a separate case, a former SNC-Lavalin vice president of construction pleaded guilty in July to using a forged document following a widespread corruption investigation involving the construction of a super-hospital in Canada.  And in May, Canadian authorities filed charges against SNC-Lavalin after a multiyear probe related to illegal political contributions.

“Is this the company we want to be handling a $1 billion trust fund?” asks Gunter……..

The decommissioning project is not the only joint venture between Holtec and SNC-Lavalin. The two companies are also collaborating on the design and production of a small, nuclear and modular reactor, called SMR-160, at Holtec’s Technology Campus in Camden. The reactor is planned for operation by 2026.

Last February, Holtec signed an agreement in Camden that calls for the state-run nuclear operator in Ukraine to adopt the SMR-160 technology to meet its energy needs. Shortly after, Holtec announced that Ukraine may also become a manufacturing hub for SMR-160 components.

“Holtec is poised to….reinvigorate nuclear power for a world in dire need of a weather-independent and carbon-free source of energy,” CEO Singh told World Nuclear News at the time………….

January 15, 2019 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Pentagon secrecy on US military bases keeps public in the dark about them , and about tax-payer costs

Tomgram: Nick Turse, One Down, Who Knows How Many to Go?, Tom Dispatch  by Nick Turse , January 8, 2019. Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch.

The U.S. military is finally withdrawing (or not) from its base at al-Tanf. You know, the place that the Syrian government long claimed was a training ground for Islamic State (ISIS) fighters; the land corridor just inside Syria, near both the Iraqi and Jordanian borders, that Russia has called a terrorist hotbed (while floating the idea of jointly administering it with the United States); the location of a camp where hundreds of U.S. Marines joined Special Operations forces last year; an outpost that U.S. officials claimed was the key not only to defeating ISIS, but also, according to General Joseph Votel, the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, to countering “the malign activities that Iran and their various proxies and surrogates would like to pursue.” You know, that al-Tanf.

Within hours of President Trump’s announcement of a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria, equipment at that base was already being inventoried for removal. And just like that, arguably the most important American garrison in Syria was (maybe) being struck from the Pentagon’s books — except, as it happens, al-Tanf was never actually on the Pentagon’s books. Opened in 2015and, until recently, home to hundreds of U.S. troops, it was one of the many military bases that exist somewhere between light and shadow, an acknowledged foreign outpost that somehow never actually made it onto the Pentagon’s official inventory of bases.

Officially, the Department of Defense (DoD) maintains 4,775 “sites,” spread across all 50 states, eight U.S. territories, and 45 foreign countries. A total of 514 of these outposts are located overseas, according to the Pentagon’s worldwide property portfolio.  Just to start down a long list, these include bases on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa, as well as in Peru and Portugal, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom. But the most recent version of that portfolio, issued in early 2018 and known as the Base Structure Report (BSR), doesn’t include any mention of al-Tanf. Or, for that matter, any other base in Syria. Or Iraq. Or Afghanistan. Or Niger. Or Tunisia. Or Cameroon. Or Somalia. Or any number of locales where such military outposts are known to exist and even, unlike in Syria, to be expanding.

According to David Vine, author of Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World, there could be hundreds of similar off-the-books bases around the world. “The missing sites are a reflection of the lack of transparency involved in the system of what I still estimate to be around 800 U.S. bases outside the 50 states and Washington, D.C., that have been encircling the globe since World War II,” says Vine, who is also a founding member of the recently established Overseas Base Realignment and Closure Coalition, a group of military analysts from across the ideological spectrum who advocate shrinking the U.S. military’s global “footprint.”

Such off-the-books bases are off the books for a reason. The Pentagon doesn’t want to talk about them. “I spoke to the press officer who is responsible for the Base Structure Report and she has nothing to add and no one available to discuss further at this time,” Pentagon spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Michelle Baldanza told TomDispatch when asked about the Defense Department’s many mystery bases.

“Undocumented bases are immune to oversight by the public and often even Congress,” Vine explains. “Bases are a physical manifestation of U.S. foreign and military policy, so off-the-books bases mean the military and executive branch are deciding such policy without public debate, frequently spending hundreds of millions or billions of dollars and potentially getting the U.S. involved in wars and conflicts about which most of the country knows nothing.”Where Are They?

The Overseas Base Realignment and Closure Coalition notes that the United States possesses up to 95% of the world’s foreign military bases, while countries like France, Russia, and the United Kingdom have perhaps 10-20 foreign outposts each. China has just one.

The Department of Defense even boasts that its “locations” include 164 countries. Put another way, it has a military presence of some sort in approximately 84% of the nations on this planet — or at least the DoD briefly claimed this………

In the most literal sense, the Base Structure Report does indeed have the latest numbers — but their accuracy is another matter. “The number of bases listed in the BSR has long born little relation to the actual number of U.S. bases outside the United States,” says Vine. “Many, many well-known and secretive bases have long been left off the list.”

One prime example is the constellation of outposts that the U.S. has built across Africa. The official BSR inventory lists only a handful of sites there — on Ascension Island as well as in Djibouti, Egypt, and Kenya. In reality, though, there are many more outposts in many more African countries………..

According to Vine, keeping America’s African bases secret is advantageous to Washington. It protects allies on that continent from possible domestic opposition to the presence of American troops, he points out, while helping to ensure that there will be no domestic debate in the U.S. over such spending and the military commitments involved. “It’s important for U.S. citizens to know where their troops are based in Africa and elsewhere around the world,” he told TomDispatch, “because that troop presence costs the U.S. billions of dollars every year and because the U.S. is involved, or potentially involved, in wars and conflicts that could spiral out of control.”

Those Missing Bases

Africa is hardly the only place where the Pentagon’s official list doesn’t match up well with reality. ……..
If stifling domestic debate through information control is the Pentagon’s aim, it’s been doing a fine job for years of deflecting questions about its global posture, or what the late TomDispatch regular Chalmers Johnson called America’s “empire of bases.”……….  Nick Turse is the managing editor of TomDispatch and a contributing writer for the Intercept. His latest book is Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead: War and Survival in South Sudan. His website is

January 15, 2019 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Windscale/Sellefield Pt. 3 Research for a book length study — Nuclear Exhaust

Sources relating to the Black Report of 1984. 1. BBC on this day 23 July 1984 A government report into cancer levels near the controversial nuclear plant at Sellafield in Cumbria has confirmed suspicions of higher-than-normal levels of leukaemia in the area. However, it says, too little research has been done to definitely link […]

via Windscale/Sellefield Pt. 3 Research for a book length study — Nuclear Exhaust

January 15, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

In Scotland, over 700 ‘safety events’ recorded at nuclear bases

More than 700 ‘safety events’ recorded at nuclear bases, News and Star,  19. More than 700 nuclear safety events have been recorded at Scotland’s nuclear bases since 2006, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has said.

Defence Minister Stuart Andrew revealed the figures in letters to SNP MP Deidre Brock.

A total of 789 nuclear safety events were recorded at HM Naval Base Clyde at Faslane and nearby Royal Naval Armaments Depot Coulport in the 12 years between 2006 and 2018.

Earlier the MoD disclosed 505 incidents had taken place at Faslane, where the majority of the UK’s nuclear submarine fleet is based.   Now, a further letter shows 284 incidents took place at Coulport, where the nuclear warheads are stored and loaded onto the submarines, in the same period

………A Category A incident took place in 2008 when water overflowed from a now-decommissioned primary effluent barge.

Category A events have “actual or high potential for radioactive release to the environment of quantities in excess of IRR99 notification limits”.

……….In response to parliamentary questions from Ms Brock, the MoD also disclosed there have been 22 fires on its nuclear armed or nuclear powered submarines since June 2015.

“It’s a shocking record of accidents and incidents in places where the most dangerous weapons on the planet are,” Ms Brock said.

“We already knew that there were 505 nuclear safety events on board submarines while they were berthed at Faslane and now we find that there have been another 284 in other locations at Faslane and at Coulport where weapons are handled.”

She added: “One bad accident would be enough to wipe Scotland out and the safety record is appalling.

“Even the risks from the nuclear reactors on board submarines is too high – as the spillage from the effluent barge shows.”

January 15, 2019 Posted by | incidents, UK | Leave a comment

The high costs of scrapping Japan’s nuclear reactors

Japan News 14th Jan 2019 The total cost for scrapping the nation’s nuclear power facilities —
excluding Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plants and other facilities under construction — is estimated to be about ¥6.72 trillion, according to a tally by The Yomiuri Shimbun.

The assessment only includes dismantlements of nuclear power facilities for which the cost can currently be estimated. Among these estimates, the cost for closing a spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant now being built by Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. (JNFL) in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, accounts for the largest amount at ¥1.6  trillion.

The cost for decommissioning 53 commercial nuclear reactors is estimated to total about ¥3.58 trillion, for an average at ¥57.7 billion per reactor. Of the 53 reactors, 19 reactors are scheduled or are likely to be scrapped.

January 15, 2019 Posted by | decommission reactor, Japan | Leave a comment

‘There should be no nuclear in climate financing’ Jan 19

Prize-winning South African activist Makoma Lekalakala’s successful legal battle to stop a secret nuclear power deal in her homeland won her international acclaim. She tells DW about defending the environment in court.

DW: What have you been campaigning for?

Makoma Lekalakala: My major campaigning issue, it’s mitigation against climate change and with a specific focus on electricity generation in the country [South Africa] — it’s almost 90 percent from coal. And we know that coal is a major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions, so our campaign has been for a just transition towards a low carbon development.

We’re demanding a greater investment in renewable energy technologies, particularly that we can have a decentralized electricity system where solar and wind would play a major role.

The technology, we need a lot of investment in that so that we can be able to eradicate energy poverty. Local people can have their own socially-owned and community-owned renewable energy projects and co-operatives so that they can have access to electricity.

For us to be able to do that, a just transition for us would mean phasing out coal electricity generation and having no nuclear at all as part of the energy mix, and having wind and solar being increased as part of our energy mix.

Our main mission is for me to ensure that, or to advocate that, there should be no nuclear in climate financing.

Why are you against nuclear power?

Earth Life is an anti-nuclear organization, because we believe that nuclear, it’s not safe. It’s an old technology that comes from the war era and it’s not even safe for us to be able to use for various reasons. It’s not economic, it’s quite expensive, it’s not safe, it’s quite dangerous.

We can remember all the accidents that have taken place, from Fukushima, from Three Mile Island, and nuclear also leaves a legacy of radioactiveness for hundreds and hundreds of years to come.

South Africa has got a principal policy on having an energy mix as part of the energy supply of the country. However, that legislation and regulations imply that if we have an energy mix we should also decide what kind of energy we would want to be part of the mix.

What we have in South Africa, which is written in the legislation, is that the energy choice should be least cost. That is having less externalized costs to the environment, to the atmosphere.

This is not the case around nuclear. And what we’ve seen is that the government also had flouted regulations and legislation by forcing some Africans to accept nuclear power.

Can you tell us more about your legal battle against the controversial secret nuclear power deal between South Africa and Russia? 

In 2015 October, Earth Life Africa filed papers against the state president, against the Department of Energy, against the National Energy Regulator of South Africa, because we felt that these three institutions were supposed to be able to forward the information that was public information. It was suspected that the political elites in the country were actually the drivers of the nuclear deal.

We went to the court based on the legislative and regulatory processes in the country that were flouted, not followed, because all the other agreements were done in secret. That’s how the nuclear industry operates.

So we were vindicated that all the processes in the constitution, our regulations, were not followed at all in favor of the Russians to get to build or to construct the nuclear reactors.

One of the main issues why we opposed, or why we are opposing nuclear energy, is that we don’t want to turn our country, our continent and the world as a radioactive zone where life cannot exist.

What are the main environmental issues in South Africa?

The main environmental issue in South Africa, it’s pollution. As we speak now, South Africans, particularly in hotspot pollution areas, are unable to breathe. In Mpumalanga, where there’s almost about 11 coal-fired power stations and coal mines, this is an area that is very highly polluted and it’s one of the most polluted areas in the world.

Makoma Lekalakala is director of Earthlife Africa’s Johannesburg branch, an environmental non-profit organization. Together with Liziwe McDaid, she won the Goldman Environmental Prize for 2018 for stopping a controversial nuclear power deal between South Africa and Russia.

This interview was conducted by Louise Osborne and edited by Melanie Hall.

January 15, 2019 Posted by | opposition to nuclear, South Africa | Leave a comment

Wastes from Oyster Creek Nuclear Station, and concerns about Holtec’s involvement

After the Shutdown: Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station Oyster Creek is done producing nuclear energy. Now comes the hard part: cleaning up five decades of radioactive waste. New Jersey Monthly, By Ian T. Shearn | | January 14, 2019


The closing of Oyster Creek is more than a local story. It occurs amid the glaring absence of a national strategy for the permanent storage of our growing stockpile of nuclear waste. That stockpile stands at 80,000 metric tons—its radiation lasting thousands of years—and is expected to increase to about 140,000 metric tons over the next several decades as more plants close.

In 1982, Congress directed the Department of Energy to develop a permanent geological repository for used nuclear fuel. In 2002, President George W. Bush signed a law designating Yucca Mountain in Nevada as that site.  In 2010, however, the DOE, after investing $12 billion in the project, shut it down with little explanation. Nevada’s Harry Reid, then the Senate majority leader, is widely credited with scuttling the plan in his home state. 

For now, U.S. nuclear power plants are resorting to on-site storage. Most of their spent fuel is stored in cooling pools and steel-and-concrete casks at 125 sites in 35 states. The NRC claims fuel can be stored safely in this manner for more than 100 years.   

But the U.S. Government Accountability Office informed Congress in April 2017 that “spent nuclear fuel can pose serious risks to humans and the environment….and is a source of billions of dollars of financial liabilities for the U.S. government. According to the National Research Council and others, if not handled and stored properly, this material can spread contamination and cause long-term health concerns in humans or even death.” 

Holtec, which made a name for itself in on-site storage, raised eyebrows last year when it announced its plans to jump into the potentially lucrative decommissioning business. Now, it is looking to take an even bigger leap: It has applied to build and operate a mammoth interim spent-fuel repository on 1,000 acres in New Mexico.  

Holtec initially wants to store 500 canisters of spent nuclear fuel containing up to 8,680 metric tons of uranium from commercial nuclear reactors. If the NRC issues that initial license, Holtec would seek to expand the facility in 9 subsequent phases, each for an additional 500 canisters, to be completed over the course of 20 years. (If the license is approved, Oyster Creek’s spent fuel would be shipped to the site—creating yet another revenue opportunity for Holtec.) If that were to occur, the New Mexico site would swell to 163,700 metric tons—more than double the capacity assigned to Yucca Mountain. 

Opposing Holtec’s interim storage proposal last year became the singular mission of Kevin Kamps, a radioactive-waste specialist at Beyond Nuclear. His reasons are many, but mostly he is concerned that it would establish a “de facto permanent, surface storage dump” without approval by Congress.  

In addition, the interim site, he says, “would expose low-income people of color, communities already heavily polluted by fossil-fuel and nuclear industries, to yet another, major assault to their health, safety, security and environment. And it would launch tens of thousands or more high-risk mobile Chernobyls…down the roads, rails and/or waterways in shipping containers…of questionable structural integrity.”

For decades, the plant has provided as many as 700 jobs. That number has shrunk to 400 and will be reduced by another 100 during the decommissioning. Local government has become reliant on the $2.7 million in annual corporate taxes it collects from the plant. Lacey also receives $11 million annually in state Energy Tax Receipts. That covers about one-third of Lacey’s annual budget.  

Quinn says state officials have assured him the township will continue to benefit from the energy tax for a couple of years, but its share could be reduced drastically, maybe by half, after that. And when it comes time to demolish the buildings, the corporate property tax revenue will decline as well. It’s a troubling picture for Lacey’s financial future. 

With nuclear waste being stored on-site indefinitely, the prospects for residential or commercial projects are virtually non-existent, Quinn says. Township officials have begun discussions with natural gas companies to see if there is interest for a plant there, given that the hookup to the state’s power grid is basically ready to go. Quinn believes it is the best scenario for the township’s financial future. 

A bill coauthored last year by then U.S. representative Tom MacArthur would tap into a $40 billion federal nuclear storage fund to provide economic relief for towns affected by a nuclear-plant closure. The bill breezed through the House but died in the Senate. (In November, MacArthur, a Republican, lost his bid to keep his House seat to Democratic challenger Andy Kim.)

As it stands, there is no plan for the town to get anything other than 1.7 million pounds of radioactive nuclear waste. There it will sit—in steel and concrete canisters in a concrete structure next to a parking lot just off Route 9 and a few miles from the beach—until America comes up with plan. 

January 15, 2019 Posted by | USA, wastes | 2 Comments

Desalination pours more toxic brine into the ocean than previously thought  The supersalty water is a byproduct in producing potable water, BY JEREMY REHM , JANUARY 14, 2019

Technology meant to help solve the world’s growing water shortage is producing a salty environmental dilemma.

Desalination facilities, which extract drinkable water from the ocean, discharge around 142 billion liters of extremely salty water called brine back into the environment every day, a study finds. That waste product of the desalination process can kill marine life and detrimentally alter the planet’s oceans, researchers report January 14 in Science of the Total Environment.

“On the one hand, we are trying to provide populations — particularly in dry areas — with the needed amount of good quality water. But at the same time, we are also adding an environmental concern to the process,” says study coauthor Manzoor Qadir, an environmental scientist at the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health in Hamilton, Canada.

Between human population growth and climate change, water is becoming increasingly scarce (SN: 8/18/18, p. 14). Desalination technology has become a viable solution to this problem and has grown exponentially in popularity since the 1980s. Almost 16,000 plants now operate worldwide.

Desalination relies on evaporation or specialized membranes to either chemically or electrically separate pure water from a stream of saltwater. But two streams always flow out of the system: one that becomes water that people can use, and another with the leftover, extra-salty brine, which is released back into the environment.

Previous evaluations didn’t assess how much brine these facilities produced, Qadir says. Scientists assumed that desalination facilities on average equally produced brine and pure water — one liter of brine for every liter of pure water. That turned out to be wrong.

Using data on the water sources and technology used at desalination facilities around the globe, Qadir and his colleagues estimated for the first time how much brine is discharged daily. For every liter of pure water made, they found that on average 1.5 liters of highly concentrated brine is released back into the environment. Per day, that value translates to more than half the daily volume of water pouring over Niagara Falls, with 70 percent of it originating from desalination plants in arid North Africa and the Middle East.

As brine re-enters the ocean, “it creates a kind of local environment,” Qadir says. The highly concentrated discharge, which can also contain metals and antifouling chemicals, is denser than seawater, so it flows as a salty plume to the seafloor and can poison marine organisms living nearby. Some brine can also still be hot from evaporative processes during desalination. Because hot water doesn’t hold oxygen as well as cold water, ocean areas where brine enters can become depleted of oxygen.

An international standard requiring wastewater treatment and the use of environmentally friendly chemicals in desalination discharge does exist, says Yoram Cohen, a chemical engineer at UCLA. “But whether all people follow it, I don’t know.”

Save for some scientific studies, not much is being done to resolve the issue, Qadir says. “At the government level, I don’t see that there is a serious attempt that has been made.”

Suggestions have been proposed for repurposing the brine, including for watering salt-tolerant agricultural fields, extracting metals such as magnesium or uranium, or harvesting salt versus mining for it. In terms of technology, you can take the brine “and evaporate it to recover the salt,” Cohen says. “But the price is huge.”

Depending on location and type of technology, desalination alone can cost between $0.50 and over $2 to produce 1,000 liters of drinkable water — about what two people in the United States use in a day. Further evaporating the brine waste only increases the cost.

Modern desalination technologies, such as graphene oxides, are becoming more cost effective and releasing less brine discharge (SN: 8/20/16, p. 22). But they are not universally distributed and are uncommon in the Middle East where desalination is most used. “We need to make sure that with our efforts, we are able to use more of those types of technology which produce more desalinated water than brine,” Qadir says.

January 15, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, oceans, water | Leave a comment

USA-China co-operation in removing nuclear material from Nigeria

How the US and China collaborated to get nuclear material out of Nigeria — and away from terrorist groups, Defense News, By: Aaron Mehta, 14 Jan 19,    “……… Moving the nuclear material out of Nigeria has been a long-sought goal for the United States and nonproliferation advocates. But the goal has taken on increased importance in recent years with the rise of militant groups in the region, particularly Boko Haram, a group the Pentagon calls a major terrorist concern in the region.

Underscoring the importance of the operation: the key role China played in transporting and storing the plutonium, with the operation happening just hours after U.S. President Donald Trump made an explicit threat to China about growing America’s nuclear arsenal.
………….Material that is attractive to terrorists’

It was the mid-1990s when Nigeria, with technical support and backing from China, began work on what would become Nigerian Research Reactor 1, located at Ahmadu Bello University in Kaduna. The location opened in 2004, and is home to roughly 170 Nigerian workers.

NIRR-1 is classified as a miniature neutron source reactor, designed for “scientific research, neutron activation analysis, education and training,” per the International Atomic Energy Agency. Essentially, the reactor powers scientific experiments, not the local grid.

The design, however, used highly enriched uranium, or HEU, a type of nuclear substance often referred to by the general public as weapons-grade uranium. This kind of uranium forms the core of any nuclear weapons material, and the Nigerian material was more than 90 percent enriched, making it particularly attractive for anyone looking to use it.

Since NIRR-1 went online, however, improvements in technology meant that experiments involving highly enriched uranium could now be run with a lesser substance. Across the globe, the IAEA and its partners have worked to swap out weapons-grade material with lightly enriched uranium, or LEU, which is enriched at less than 20 percent, and hence unusable for weapons. In all, 33 countries have now become free of HEU, including 11 countries in Africa.

With just over 1 kilogram of HEU, the Nigerian material, if stolen, would not be nearly enough to create a full nuclear warhead. However, a terrorist group would be able to create a dirty bombwith the substance or add the material into a stockpile gathered elsewhere to get close to the amount needed for a large explosion.

In a statement released by the IAEA, Yusuf Aminu Ahmed, director of the Nigerian Centre for Energy Research and Training, was blunt about his concerns over keeping the weapons-grade material in his country. “We don’t want any material that is attractive to terrorists,” he said.
And the nature of these types of reactors, used primarily for research, means they are ideal targets for terrorist groups looking for nuclear material, said Jon Wolfsthal, a nuclear expert who served as senior director for arms control and nonproliferation at the U.S. National Security Council from 2014 to 2017.

They’re small reactors, they’re not power reactors where the fuel is so radioactive it kills you,” he said. “This is very attractive to a proliferation point of view, and they are research reactors, so they are often at universities without high security.”

All of which gave the governments involved incentive to get the material out of Nigeria sooner rather than later, and which led to the group of experts sitting in Ghana, waiting for a call………..

Replacing HEU with LEU in research reactors naturally requires caution, as anything nuclear-related comes with risks. But the Nigerian mission was particularly difficult because of security concerns, Hanlon said. He noted that Boko Haram, while not in the Kaduna region, has been operating in Nigeria for quite some time.

“We had concerns about the security on the ground, in the region. Working very closely with the U.S. embassy, there were additional security requirements put upon us and limitations for us on having people on the ground at the facility itself,” Hanlon said.
……………While the technicians were able to leave the country once their daylong mission was complete, security on site remained thick for the next five weeks as administrators worked the logistics and clearances needed to fly nuclear material over other nations’ airspace. Asked about the security level during this down period, Dov Schwartz, an NNSA spokesman, said that “extensive planning went into ensuring the removed highly enriched uranium was safe and secure prior to transport.”

“All of our partners understood that operational security was paramount,” Schwartz said. “The world is a safer place today as a result of the determined work to remove this weapons useable Uranium from Nigeria.”

Finally, on Dec. 4, the HEU was escorted by the Nigerian military toward the An-124, loaded onto the aircraft and sent on its way to its final destination.  The material was heading for China.

China’s role

The removal operation cost roughly $5.5 million, with the United States contributing $4.3 million. The United Kingdom ($900,000) and Norway ($290,000) also chipped in. But while it didn’t contribute money, China’s role in the operation was outsized — and occurred as the war of words from the Trump administration toward Beijing was reaching a fever pitch, one that did not die down in the weeks to come.

As the October operation was just hours from starting, U.S. President Donald Trump took to the press to discuss nuclear material and China.

“Until people come to their senses, we will build [the nuclear arsenal] up,” Trump told reporters just hours before the Nigeria operation was to begin. “It’s a threat to whoever you want. And it includes China, and it includes Russia, and it includes anybody else that wants to play that game. You can’t do that. You can’t play that game on me.”

By the time the Antonov plane — carrying the HEU, along with American inspectors and security — arrived at Shijiazhuang airport in China on Dec. 6, the arrest of a Chinese technology executive in Canada had inflamed fears of a trade conflict between the two countries.

Once the material landed in China, local officials took possession of the uranium, marking the end of the Nigerian mission — but not necessarily the end of the material……..
That the United States and China were able to ignore politics to get the HEU removal done shouldn’t be a surprise, Wolfsthal said. Traditionally, countries that supply uranium to partners around the world take that material back if needed.

“Even though the national level conversation is really poor because of trade and other issues, the technical collaboration between laboratories, between nuclear engineers, that’s generally gone pretty well,” he said. He added that China has invested heavily in LEU over the last decade, and therefore also has an interest in encouraging others to switch to that technology.

Whether that cooperation continues if relations between the two nations continue to deteriorate will be a true test going forward………

January 15, 2019 Posted by | China, Nigeria, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

India’s nuclear submarines

JANUARY 14, 2019, SPECIAL SERIES – SOUTHERN (DIS)COMFORT Editor’s Note: This is the 24th installment of “Southern (Dis)Comfort,” a series from War on the Rocks and the Stimson Center. The series seeks to unpack the dynamics of intensifying competition — military, economic, diplomatic — in Southern Asia, principally between China, India, Pakistan, and the United States. Catch up on the rest of the series.

After INS Arihant, India’s first ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), finished its maiden deterrent patrol in November 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphatically declared India’s nuclear triad complete. Arihant’s operationalization has catapulted India into a select group of states with an underwater nuclear launch capability. It has also raised alarm over the safety and security of India’s nuclear arsenal because a sea-based deterrent may entail a ready-to-use arsenal and less restrictive command and control procedures, increasing probability of their accidental use. For Pakistan, India’s nuclear force modernization endangers the balance of strategic forces in the region and could intensify the nuclear arms race on the subcontinent……….

Arihant’s operationalization is an opportunity for New Delhi to reflect upon its nuclear trajectory. With China and Pakistan as nuclear adversaries, India confronts a unique challenge. It has to build up its nuclear capability enough to ensure that Chinese decision-makers fear it, without sending Islamabad into panic and undermining regional stability. This “Goldilocks dilemma” will be difficult to resolve, and India should not leave it to chance — especially as the United States, once South Asia’s chief crisis manager, loses both interest and influence in the region. India should reassure Pakistan by reaffirming its policy of no first use of nuclear weapons and a retaliation-only nuclear doctrine. More importantly, India should rethink its deterrence requirements vis-à-vis China.

Ultimately, the risk is that India will fail to achieve its aim of deterring China while unintentionally provoking its smaller rival……………..

To increase stability, India should publicly reaffirm its policy of no first use and adopt a retaliation-only nuclear posture, particularly since prominent voices in India’s strategic community have questioned these principles in the recent past. It should clarify that it has no intentions to use its nuclear forces in a preemptive mode. One Strategic Forces Command official told me that Arihant will only be used for countervalue strikes — that is, retaliatory strikes against Pakistani cities. Such declarations ought to be made at the highest levels of the Indian government. Arihant’s job — and, for that matter, the job of India’s entire nuclear arsenal — is to not create “fearlessness” in the Indian mind, as Modi’s office claimed. Rather, it is to ensure that India’s nuclear adversaries fear the consequences of their actions. A nuclear dialogue with Pakistan should therefore be reopened and shielded from the vagaries of domestic politics.

The nuclear competition between China, India, and Pakistan is a classic case of a triangular security dilemma. As India pursues deterrence stability vis-à-vis one adversary, it makes another adversary feel increasingly vulnerable……..

Yogesh Joshi is a Stanton Nuclear Security Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University. He is the coauthor of India and Nuclear Asia: Forces, Doctrine and Dangers (Georgetown University Press, 2018).

January 15, 2019 Posted by | India, weapons and war | Leave a comment

USA must develop a strategy on nuclear wastes, excluding Yucca Mountain

First step to a solution on nuclear waste: End Yucca Mountain By Judy Treichel, Jan. 14, 2019 There is an interesting phenomenon at the Department of Energy when it comes to the disposal of high-level nuclear waste.

When a new concept for getting rid of waste is proposed, the reaction from the department is: “Our policy is Yucca Mountain. That’s the law.” But when someone suggests abandoning Yucca Mountain, the reaction is: “We can’t do that without a viable alternative.”

This is a circular dilemma, going nowhere.

In 2010, then-Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced that the DOE would withdraw the license application that had been submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, seeking construction authorization for a high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain. Officials and residents in Nevada were delighted — a wake was held to commemorate the death of the project, in fact.

However, the celebration was premature because Chu’s decision was challenged in court, where it was decided that the project must continue as long as there was funding.

But after years of successfully fighting to block funding for the project, it’s time for a new strategy. It’s time to permanently shut down the project.

Bringing Yucca Mountain to an end after more than 30 years of battle and expense to national taxpayers, rate payers and the people of Nevada is the right thing to do. The site cannot isolate or contain deadly poisonous waste for the thousands of years. A restart of the program would eventually cost more than other options and result in failure.

The waste is still a problem, but the good news is that although there are increasing amounts of it needing management and disposal, the pile is growing more slowly because old commercial nuclear power plants are being shut down.

Any country using nuclear power, however, recognizes that it must enact a workable plan for the permanent disposal of its waste. The U.S. is no different.

Many nuclear nations have faced problems very similar to the dilemma we’re facing in our nation, but the countries that appear to have programs moving toward their goals have discovered that the only possibility for success is if they engage the public first.

If we were to permanently pull the plug on Yucca Mountain, we wouldn’t be alone in stopping a mistake like this. That’s exactly what happened in the United Kingdom.

The first attempt at high-level nuclear waste disposal there went down because the government attempted to force a dump into an area that didn’t want it. The next program sought the consent of the public, but fizzled amid inadequate follow-through. Now, the decision has been made to make a clean break – stop and make a new start.

We should follow that example.

We all agree that there needs to be permanent disposal for dangerous, highly radioactive waste.That can only happen if all disposal options are considered, and the public is consulted and in agreement with any new program.

There must be trust and confidence in the agency or entity that is given the job of running a program. Both a government blue ribbon commission and an academic group have issued reports on the matter recently, and each said that any facility siting must be consensual with fully adequate public involvement. Both agreed that the implementer of a new program must be an entity other than the Department of Energy.

For more than 60 years, through atomic weapons testing and nuclear waste battles, Nevada has been treated unfairly and dishonestly by government agencies. We have spent our time and money fighting to stop the damage being done by weapons tests and preventing a nuclear waste dump that we know will not be safe.

Yucca Mountain should be declared unsuitable because it cannot safely isolate the waste.

It is time for the battle to end, so a new beginning can be possible.

Judy Treichel is executive director of the Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force.

January 15, 2019 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Canada’s dangerous foray into nuclear weapons in the 1960s

SMOL: Remembering Canada’s dangerous foray into nuclear weapons BY ROBERT SMOL Toronto Sun, 13 Jan 19, During the 1960s and ’70s, the prosperous bedroom community north of Montreal where I lived a carefree childhood had a dirty little secret.

One that, thankfully, never came to haunt me.

Fifty-five years ago — on Dec. 31, 1963 — the Liberal government of Lester Pearson formally acquired American-controlled nuclear weapons for use by the Canadian military.

Among the RCAF Squadrons stood up specifically for this purpose was RCAF 447 Surface to Air (SAM) Squadron at LaMacaza near Mont Tremblant, a mere hour and change drive from my childhood home.

This and its sister squadron, 446 SAM at North Bay, Ont., combined housed 56 Canadian BOMARC missiles — each carrying a 10-kiloton nuclear warhead maintained, armed and jealously guarded by in-house American servicemen.

Their mission, in layman terms, was to get the BOMARC warhead to detonate in the air close enough to the incoming Soviet bombers so as to destroy, avert or at least delay their further progress on their targets.

But the Canadian and American officers and NCOs who guarded, serviced and stood by ready to launch these U.S manufactured and nuclear-tipped Canadian BOMARCS were by no means alone. RCAF and Army bases, across Canada and into Europe, served as multi-faceted purveyors of U.S nuclear weapons………..

Though actual delivery systems were to change and consolidate over time, the Canadian Armed Forces continued to use tactical nuclear weapons until 1984, which, ironically, happened to be the same year Pierre Trudeau finally, left office. To put it another way, only when Conservative Brian Mulroney took office did the Canadian Armed Forces officially become “nuke-free” again. ………

January 15, 2019 Posted by | Canada, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Covert nuclear development in Taiwan was stopped, because a senior scientist feared danger

Colby Cosh: How Canada almost left the door to the nuclear club ajar … again, National Post, 14 Jan 19, 

Covert nuclear development in Taiwan was finally stopped cold because a senior scientist became convinced nukes were dangerous 

Maybe you have heard the story of how India got the Bomb with Canada’s inadvertent help. We sold India a nuclear reactor called CIRUS in 1954 on an explicit promise that the facility would only be used for peaceful purposes. When India astonished the world with its first nuke test in May 1974, having upgraded the fuel output from CIRUS, it duly announced that it had successfully created a Peaceful Nuclear Explosive. The permanent consequence was, for better or worse, a nuclear-armed Subcontinent.This is old news to enthusiasts of Cold War history. Here’s the new news: it almost happened twice. Canadian technology was almost used by another country to break into the nuclear club.

In November, historians David Albright and Andrea Stricker published a new book called Taiwan’s Former Nuclear Weapons Program: Nuclear Weapons On-Demand. The book pulls together the previously sketchy story of Nationalist China’s covert nuclear research, which had its roots in the postwar exodus of Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang party (KMT). Albright and Stricker describe decades of effort by the offshore Republic of China on Taiwan to play a double game with nuclear weapons. ………

The key to the story is the 40-megawatt uranium-fuelled Taiwan Research Reactor (TRR), supplied, like CIRUS, by Canada. TRR was very similar to CIRUS in design and capability. The pile went critical in January 1973, giving Taiwan an indigenous source of plutonium. Under the sales agreement, the reactor was to be “safeguarded” by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), answering to its inspectors and accounting for the whereabouts of its fuel. But Taiwanese nuclear agencies immediately began to behave suspiciously, talking to some of the slimier European industrial concerns about buying reprocessing equipment that would allow weapons manufacture

……….Covert nuclear development in Taiwan was finally stopped cold because one of the Republic’s senior scientists, Chang Hsien-yi, became convinced that nukes were dangerous to the existence of the Republic……….  Email: | Twitter:

January 15, 2019 Posted by | politics, Taiwan | Leave a comment