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Fukushima’s wrecked reactors: radioactive water is in no way under control

Toxic water level at Fukushima plant still not under control, THE ASAHI SHIMBUN, July 28, 2019 Almost six years after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe famously declared the contaminated water problem at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant “under control,” today it remains anything but.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) continues to face difficulties in dealing with water contaminated with radioactive substances at its crippled plant.

About 18,000 tons of highly contaminated water remain accumulated in reactor buildings and other places.

Abe made the declaration in September 2013 while Tokyo was bidding to win the 2020 Summer Games.

In reality, however, the situation is not under control even now.

In a meeting of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) in June, one of its members, Nobuhiko Ban, told TEPCO officials, “I want you to show whether you have a prospect (for the reduction of contaminated water) or you have given up.”

The water level did not fall as planned in an area of a basement floor at the No. 3 reactor building for two months. Asked why the level did not drop, TEPCO officials offered only vague explanations in the meeting. Ban made the remark out of irritation.

Highly contaminated water that has accumulated in reactor buildings and turbine buildings is a major concern at the Fukushima plant. In addition to water that was used to cool melted nuclear fuel at the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 reactors, groundwater also has flowed into those buildings through cracks.

The concentration of radioactive substances in the highly contaminated water is about 100 million times that of the contaminated water that has been processed and stored in tanks………

Eight years since the nuclear accident occurred, the volume of highly contaminated water in the buildings has fallen to 18,000 tons. TEPCO aims to reduce the volume further to 6,000 tons by the end of fiscal 2020.

However, work to decrease the water has not progressed as expected.

As for the area in the basement of the No. 3 reactor building, it is known that water used to cool melted nuclear fuel is flowing into the area. But why the water level does not drop only in that area is not known.

If the water level in the building remains high, highly contaminated water there could leak into the ground through cracks when the groundwater level outside the building drops. If the leaks occur, the entire effort to decrease the amount of highly contaminated water will be stalled.

The NRA is also requiring TEPCO to take anti-tsunami measures because if a huge tsunami engulfs the buildings again, it could send highly contaminated water pouring into the sea

However, anti-tsunami measures are also delayed……

July 29, 2019 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

The horrors of nuclear weapons testing – 460,000 premature deaths

460,000 Premature Deaths: The Horror That Was Nuclear Weapons Testing  As we mark the seventy-fourth anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings in a handful of days, we will rightly remember the horrors of nuclear war.
by Zack Brown, Alex Spire 28 Jul 19,  For a brief fraction of a second on an early March morning in 1954, the United States summoned a second sun into existence above Bikini Atoll.

As the four-mile wide fireball bathed the Pacific seascape in its angry, white-red light, onlookers recognized something nearly divine—and unquestionably ominous. “It was a religious experience, a personal view of the apocalypse or transfiguration,” said one observer. Another remembered feeling “like you stepped into a blast furnace,” even though he was over thirty miles away.

This was the Castle Bravo thermonuclear test, one of several dozen nuclear detonations the United States carried out in the Marshall Islands during the Cold War. At 15 million tons of TNT—one thousand times more powerful than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima—it was the largest explosion ever set off by Americans.
It was also the dirtiest, as a new study published this month shows. Researchers from Columbia University, analyzing soil samples from several Marshall Island atolls, discovered widespread radioactivity. Bikini Island itself was declared unsafe for human habitation, while the three other atolls had significant radionuclide concentrations—mainly americium, cesium, and plutonium. In some cases, the level of radioactivity—more than sixty years since the last mushroom cloud loomed over Bikini’s azure lagoon—exceeded that found at Chernobyl or Fukushima.
The process that led to this long-standing radioactivity is relatively simple, even if it wasn’t fully understood as the Cold War heated up. As the Castle Bravo fireball ascended into the sky, it carried with it tons of vaporized coral, rock, and dirt. This debris intermingled with radioactive isotopes before settling back down to the ground as deadly fallout. In one case, ignorant of its lethal effects, children on a neighboring atoll played in the falling powder, believing it was snow.

But American nuclear testing didn’t just occur in the middle of the Pacific. Throughout the Cold War, the United States detonated hundredsof atomic bombs in Nevada at a test site just northwest of Las Vegas. Many of these tests were above-ground, exposing the continental United States to the same radioactive fallout that fell over those remote atolls.

As with the Marshall Islands, the radiological effects of this testing were widespread—and immense. A 2017 study from the University of Arizona suggested that the fallout generated by the Nevada nuclear explosions exposed millions of Americans to its lethal radiation.
The exposure mechanism wasn’t always direct, either. Once caught in high-altitude winds, fallout from these tests would travel for hundreds or even thousands of miles before settling back down over the vast fields of the American heartland. Unsuspecting cattle would graze on grass freshly laced with this fallout, including Iodine-131, a highly potent radionuclide that spews beta and gamma radiation.
The cows concentrated this iodine in their milk, which would then be quickly consumed by the local population through the dairy industry. Because they’re chemically indistinguishable, the human body can’t tell the difference between normal iodine and the radioactive variety, and so deposits both in the thyroid gland. Once securely lodged there, Iodine-131 bombards nearby tissue on a cellular level, damaging DNA strands and eventually causing cancer.

This was just one of the exposure mechanisms; there were many others. Taken together, the 2017 study suggested that fallout from the Nevada nuclear testing could have led to between 340,000 and 460,000 premature deaths, mostly Americans and mainly through cancer.

If that death toll seems unreal, consider the scale of the radiation involved. Using a figure of 81 million Curies for the radioactive material released at Chernobyl as a baseline, one estimate held that the Nevada-based nuclear testing emitted 12 billion Curies into the atmosphere between 1951 and 1963. That’s the equivalent of nearly 150 Chernobyl disasters—or one a month for more than a decade. If you added in the Marshall Islands nuclear tests over this same period, that figure would be even higher.

As we mark the seventy-fourth anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings in a handful of days, we will rightly remember the horrors of nuclear war. But we should also recognize the deadly tests that followed. Because any nuclear explosion—even a “peacetime test” in a Pacific paradise or the dry desert of Nevada—can put human lives at risk.

Just ask the children who played in the snow.

July 29, 2019 Posted by | health, weapons and war | 2 Comments

Boris Johnson’s secret instructions on nuclear action

EXPLAINER: The Letters of Last Resort – Boris Johnson’s secret instructions on nuclear action,  There are, at most, nine countries on earth with nuclear weapons. Joe, 28 July 19

Before today, two of those arsenals were in the hands of Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. As of today, they have been joined by Boris Johnson.

Among the very first things that will happen as Johnson begins is premiership, is a briefing from the Chief of the Defence Staff, who will tell him exactly the kind of devastation and death a nuclear Trident missile would cause. Johnson will then be tasked with composing the “letters of last resort.”

The letters of last resort are an almost mythical device, the kind of thing that would make more sense in a Tom Clancy novel than they do in real life. But they are real, and they are terrifying.

They are four letters, each one issued to the commanding officers of each of the United Kingdom’s four nuclear-capable ballistic missile submarines. They are only to be opened under one specific circumstance: the destruction of the government of Britain through a major, likely nuclear, bombing campaign.

The letters are only to be opened under the assumption that the Prime Minister and any designated deputies are dead, and that it is up to the UK’s military submarines to respond.

Typically, the UK has one of these submarines patrolling at any given time, armed with 40 of its 120 operational nuclear warheads. The other three subs are based in Faslane naval base in Scotland.

And right now, those letters are being written by Boris Johnson. Cool.

Four possible directives are known:

  • That the UK should retaliate.
  • That the UK should not retaliate, and should retreat to a commonwealth nation.
  • That the commanding officer should use their own judgment.
  • Place the submarines under the command of an allied country, such as the United States.

It is very possible, however, that a PM will be much more specific than this.

When quizzed on the matter of their own letters by the BBC, former Prime Ministers John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown all revealed that they had included a caveat that under no circumstances should civilians be targeted with nuclear weapons.

Nobody will ever know for sure though, since the letters are burned in their unopened state as soon as an outgoing premiership comes to a close………

July 29, 2019 Posted by | politics, UK, weapons and war | Leave a comment

‘Thermal limits’ – extreme heat effects on the body

How extreme heat affects your body

Independent 27th July 2019 Extreme global temperatures are pushing the human body “close to thermal limits”, according to a climate scientist. Record-breaking heat has swept
through Europe this week with temperatures topping 40C in a number of

However, in places such as South Asia and the Persian Gulf,
people are already enduring temperatures reaching up to 54C. Despite all
the body’s thermal efficiencies, these areas could soon be uninhabitable,
according to Loughborough University climate scientist Dr Tom Matthews in
The Conversation.

July 29, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

Unprecedented wildfires in the Arctic release huge CO2 to the atmosphere

Telegraph 27th July 2019 An unprecedented outbreak of wildfires in the Arctic has sent smoke across Eurasia and released more carbon dioxide in two months than the Czech
Republic or Belgium does in a year.

As 44C heatwaves struck Europe,
scientists observed more than 100 long-lasting, intense fires in the Arctic
in June, the hottest month on record, and are seeing even more in July,
according to Mark Parrington of the European Centre for Medium-Range
Weather Forecasts.

Mostly in Alaska and Russia, the infernos have
collectively released more than 120 million tonnes of CO2, more than the
annual output of most countries. It is the most carbon emitted since
satellite monitoring began in the early 2000s. This will further exacerbate
climate change and has sent smoke pouring toward more populated parts of
the world. Pollutants can persist more than a month in the atmosphere and
spread thousands of kilometres.

July 29, 2019 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change | Leave a comment

San Onofre’s nuclear waste: an intractable problem

But is interim storage really interim?……. the communities that give the OK to build an interim storage facility may end up having the waste stuck in their backyards for decades to come.
“Until there is an idea of a long-term repository,” said Maria Korsnick, CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute, at a recent Senate hearing, “anybody that raises their hands for that consolidated interim storage [site] is, de facto, the long-term” site. 
Finding a repository for San Onofre plant’s nuclear waste is a difficult task L A Times,ROB NIKOLEWSKI

July 29, 2019 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Tax-payers still on the hook for UK’s planned ‘nuclear renaissance’

Despite Hinkley, the new plan for nuclear is hardly better than the old one

EDF Energy’s deal to build Hinkley Point C, Britain’s first new nuclear power plant in a generation, has been dubbed the world’s most expensive power plant of all time, a “white elephant” in a changing energy landscape, and a risky and expensive gamble with taxpayers’ money.

There was little chance that a deal so politically unpalatable could be repeated for EDF’s follow-on project at Sizewell B. Instead, officials returned to the drawing board to re-engineer a multibillion-pound funding framework that could help lower the eye-watering costs of constructing a nuclear reactor.

The £20bn Hinkley Point C project will cost energy bill payers £92.50 for every megawatt-hour of electricity it produces for 35 years. It is a price well above both the UK’s wholesale energy price of around £55 a megawatt-hour, and the new breed of offshore wind farms.

The new funding model promises to cut the cost of building a new nuclear plant by a fifth – but this, too, comes at a cost. The government’s plans to make nuclear affordable means Britons will twice shoulder the risk of building new nuclear reactors.

First, by paying upfront for the reactors through energy bills to help fund their construction. Second, by taking on the cost of any overruns or construction delays through a taxpayer guarantee. The public purse would also compensate nuclear investors if the project were scrapped.

It is the same model used to fund London’s £4.2bn super-sewer project, the Thames Tideway tunnel, which has drawn criticism for raising water bills while investors reap financial rewards.

By shifting the risk from private investors to taxpayers, nuclear developers will be able to borrow money at cheaper rates, which will lead to lower bills for consumers.

On paper, the proposal is a better deal than Hinkley, but it’s far from perfect.

The National Infrastructure Commission has taken a dim view of the model. “This makes projects appear cheaper as consumers are effectively financing the projects at zero interest. At least some of the risk associated with construction costs also sit with consumers, a further hidden cost, since consumers are not paid to hold these risks in the way investors would be,” it said.

In addition, the sums hold true only if the project remains on schedule and on budget for the decade it takes to construct a nuclear plant. There are worryingly few examples where this has been the case; EDF Energy’s forerunner to the Hinkley project, at Flamanville in Normandy, is expected to cost four times original estimates. It was expected to begin generating electricity in 2012, but is now expected to start up in 2022.

he French energy giant has said the lessons learned from Flamanville mean Hinkley Point will avoid a similar fate. Sizewell will be at an even greater advantage because it will use the same UK workers once Hinkley is complete.

Why take the risk at all, though?

“If ministers want affordable and clean energy, the fastest, safest and cheapest way to do that is to boost renewables like wind and solar,” said Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace.

There have been major advances in flexible renewable energy technologies in recent years, but ministers retain an appetite for the “firm” low-carbon electricity generated by nuclear reactors despite the financial hurdles to building them.

The UK’s energy landscape is littered with stalled nuclear plant projects which have so far failed to make a financial case. Already half the projects proposed three years ago have foundered.

But the government’s commitment to a new atomic era is still the most reliable element of its nuclear programme to date.

July 29, 2019 Posted by | politics, UK | Leave a comment

Nuclear power losing its appeal in Eastern Europe

Eastern Europe’s Love Affair With Nuclear Is Hitting the Rocks

Countries in the former Soviet bloc are desperately trying to upgrade facilities but are squeezed by time and money. Bloomberg, By James M Gomez and Zoltan Simon, July 28, 2019 Zoltan Gorog is ready for the Russian invasion. The real estate agent in the Hungarian town of Paks has added Cyrillic to the blue and white sign hanging above his offices. He’s set up empty desks for when he needs to expand to cope with the surge in business.

Rather than a flood of people, though, there’s barely a trickle. Five years after Hungary’s government signed an agreement with nuclear energy company Rosatom Corp. to build two new reactors at the aging plant near the town, there’s still no start date for the bulk of the work….. (subscribers only)

July 29, 2019 Posted by | EUROPE, politics | 1 Comment

Iran intends to restart activities at Arak heavy water nuclear reactor

Iran intends to restart activities at Arak heavy water nuclear reactor, CNBC, JUL 28 2019  

  • Heavy water can be employed in reactors to produce plutonium, a fuel used in nuclear warheads.
  • In May Iran announced planned measures to breach the nuclear agreement with major world powers following the U.S. withdrawal from deal……..
  • On July 3, President Hassan Rouhani said Tehran would increase its uranium enrichment levels and start to revive its Arak heavy-water reactor after July 7 if the nations in the nuclear pact did not protect trade with Iran promised under the deal but blocked by the U.S. sanctions.

Foreign forces would stoke regional tension: Rouhani

The presence of foreign forces would be the main source of tension in the Gulf, said on Sunday in a meeting with Oman’s foreign minister in Tehran, according to the official presidency website……….

Britain’s seizure of Iranian tanker is a violation of the nuclear deal: Iranian deputy foreign minister……….

July 29, 2019 Posted by | Iran, politics international | Leave a comment

Constructive talks between Iran and Europe, but no definite result

Emergency talks on nuclear deal constructive but inconclusive, Iranian minister says WP, By Adam Taylor, July 28 

DUBAI — Iran’s deputy foreign minister said Sunday that an emergency meeting in Vienna between Tehran and its partners in the Iran nuclear deal had yielded positive developments but had not “resolved everything.”

The atmosphere was constructive, and the discussions were good,” Abbas Araghchi told reporters.

Araghchi said he and his partners from Germany, France, Britain, China, Russia and the European Union remain determined to save the deal.

The fate of the agreement remains uncertain after the Trump administration pulled out last year and reimposed sanctions on Iran. That move prompted Tehran to scale back its commitments under the pact.

Iran said this month it had breached a stockpile limit for low enriched uranium allowed under the deal and was enriching uranium at a higher levelthan permitted. Officials have said they will continue to reduce their obligations if the remaining parties to the deal do not help alleviate Iran’s economic isolation.

Salehi also said Iran was moving to restart activity at the heavy-water nuclear reactor at its Arak facility, according to the reports.

Iran’s uranium enrichment capabilities and its heavy-water nuclear reactor were restricted under the 2015 deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, for fear that they could be used by Iran to pursue a nuclear weapons program.

To be used in nuclear weapons, uranium must be highly enriched. The JCPOA placed a limit on the amount of enriched uranium Iran could possess and the level to which it could be enriched.

The claim that Iran’s enriched-uranium stockpile had exceeded the 300-kilogram limit was subsequently confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency. But in Iranian media on Sunday, Salehi was reported to have said that it went further than this………

The IAEA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Analysts see Arak’s heavy-water reactor as a risk for proliferation because it could allow Iran to produce weapons-grade plutonium. The nuclear deal required Iran to pour concrete into the pipes of the reactor’s core as part of a redesign.

Salehi said last week that the redesign, in partnership with China and Britain, was making progress. Britain replaced the United States in the project after the Trump administration pulled out of the nuclear deal.

In his meeting with lawmakers on Sunday, Salehi was reported to have said that the developments were not indicative of an intent to produce nuclear weapons. 

We do not intend to produce nuclear weapons because of religious reasons,” lawmaker Mehrdad Lahouti quoted Salehi as saying, according to the Iranian Students News Agency.

Though Iran and Britain are working together on the heavy-water reactor, relations between the countries have been tense in recent weeks, since British marines helped seize an Iranian-flagged tanker near Gibraltar and Iran seized a British-flagged tanker that was passing the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf.

July 29, 2019 Posted by | EUROPE, Iran, politics international | Leave a comment

Heading for a Nuclear and Ballistic Missile Arms Race in the Middle East

Barreling Toward a Nuclear and Ballistic Missile Arms Race in the Middle East By Dr. James M. Dorsey BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,239, July 28, 2019 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The Middle East is barreling toward a nuclear and ballistic missile arms race. That race is being aided and abetted by a US policy that views the region through the dual prism of the need to stop an aggressive, expansionary, and destabilizing Islamic Republic that seeks to dominate it, and the view of the region as a lucrative market for the US defense and nuclear industry.

US policy is not the only factor feeding the burgeoning nuclear and ballistic missile arms race in the Middle East. It is also being enabled by the inability or unwillingness of the other major powers – Europe, Russia, and China – to counter crippling US sanctions against Iran in ways that would ensure that Tehran maintains an interest in adhering to the 2015 international agreement that curbed its nuclear program despite last year’s US withdrawal from the deal.

With the Middle East teetering on the brink of a military confrontation, Iran has vowed to start breaching the agreement next month if the international community, and particularly Europe, fails to shield it from US sanctions.

Former International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) deputy director general Olli Heinonen, a hardliner when it comes to Iran, asserted recently during a visit to Israel that Iran would need six to eight months to enrich uranium in the quantity and quality required to produce a nuclear bomb.

US and Chinese willingness to lower safeguards in their nuclear dealings with Saudi Arabia further fuels Iranian doubts about the value of the nuclear agreement and potentially opens the door to a nuclear arms race.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently visited Saudi Arabia and the UAE before joining President Trump for visits to India and South Korea and talks with world leaders at a G20 summit in Japan.

“We’ll be talking with them about how to make sure that we are all strategically aligned, and how we can build out a global coalition, a coalition not only throughout the Gulf states, but in Asia and in Europe…to push back against the world’s largest state sponsor of terror,” Pompeo said as he departed Washington.

Trump detailed the prism through which he approaches the Middle East in a wide-ranging interview with NBC News. He deflected calls for an FBI investigation into last October’s murder by Saudi government agents of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

“Iran’s killed many, many people a day. Other countries in the Middle East ― this is a hostile place. This is a vicious, hostile place. If you’re going to look at Saudi Arabia, look at Iran, look at other countries,” Trump said, suggesting that crimes by one country provide license to others……..

July 29, 2019 Posted by | MIDDLE EAST, weapons and war | Leave a comment

International Symposium for Peace: The Road to Nuclear Weapons Abolition

Individuals must get involved to help rid world of nuclear weapons, Asahi Shimbun , By ROY K. AKAGAWA/ AJW Staff Writer. July 28, 2019  HIROSHIMA--With a treaty to ban medium-range, ground-based nuclear missiles ending in less than a week, an international symposium here on July 27 addressed stopping a new Cold War from breaking out.

The International Symposium for Peace: The Road to Nuclear Weapons Abolition was sponsored by the Hiroshima city government, the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation and The Asahi Shimbun. The theme for this year’s event was “Stop the New Cold War.”

In his keynote speech, Masaru Sato, an author and former Foreign Ministry intelligence analyst, said that the high level of nationalism and realism demonstrated by leaders around the world in terms of nuclear weapons and defense policy represented a risk that had to be changed.

He explained that history often swung like a pendulum between realism and idealism as well as between nationalism and international cooperation.

“Military escalation usually occurs when the pendulums swing in the direction of realism and nationalism,” Sato said. “But such escalation eventually spreads a sense of crisis among the leaders of those nations that have been building up their military arsenals and have led to courageous efforts to stop a nuclear disaster.”

He cited as an example the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty agreed to in 1987 by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Union General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev to remove intermediate-range nuclear missiles from Europe. ……

“We as citizens must demand of our own leaders that they enter seriously into dialogue that leads to the abolition of nuclear weapons.”

Meanwhile, the other participants in the panel discussion touched upon the importance of moving toward actual implementation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which was passed in July 2017 with the approval of 122 nations, although none of the nuclear states as well as those protected by a nuclear umbrella, such as Japan, took part.

Bonnie Docherty, a lecturer at the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic who was actively involved in the TPNW, said the principles of humanitarian disarmament were the key in leading to the passage of the treaty after years of little, if any, progress on eliminating nuclear weapons.

“Emphasizing the humanitarian threat made nuclear weapons a matter of global concern and motivated countries to look beyond their national interests,” Docherty said about the treaty. “In so doing, it helped break down the barriers to diplomatic action that had stalled nuclear disarmament.”

She addressed the concerns of some that the TPNW appears to have provisions that do not make it compatible with other international obligations. In Japan’s case, that would be the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to which it is a party as well as the nuclear umbrella provided by the United States.

By joining the TPNW, Japan would comply more fully with the NPT’s Article VI obligation (to work toward reducing nuclear weapons) and advance that treaty’s purported goal of general and complete disarmament,” she said.

She added that the treaty does not prohibit the alliance Japan has with the United States and noted that the Security Treaty between the two nations makes no mention of nuclear weapons.

Moreover, she said, Japan joining the TPNW would have a huge symbolic effect and place Japan in a leadership role in nuclear disarmament because it is the only nation that has been hit in war by atomic bombs. She added that as a nuclear umbrella state, Japan joining the treaty could have a domino effect on other nations that are also currently under a similar umbrella………

July 29, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Iran links tanker row to nuclear deal

At crisis talks, Iran links tanker row to nuclear deal, Aljazeera 29 Jul 19
Envoys from UK, Germany, France, Russia, China and Iran met in Vienna to discuss how to salvage historic 2015 pact. 
Iran considers Britain’s seizure of an Iranian oil tanker a breach of the 2015 nuclear deal, a senior official said on Sunday, as remaining signatories to the ailing accord met in the Austrian capital for emergency talks.

Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and Iran have been trying to salvage the landmark pact since the United States withdrew from it in May 2018 and re-imposed sanctions on Tehran, crippling an already weak economy.

Iran-Europe ties are under strain, however, after British authorities detained an Iranian oil tanker carrying two million barrels of crude off the coast of Gibraltar earlier in July.  They cited alleged violations of European Union sanctions against Syria for the move.

Days later, Iranian forces impounded a British-flagged ship in the Strait of Hormuz. ……..

July 29, 2019 Posted by | Iran, politics international | Leave a comment

The often forgotten nuclear disaster in Russia’s Ural Mountains

River of radiation: Life in the area of the world’s 3rd-worst nuclear disaster  28 Jul, 2019 Before Fukushima and Chernobyl, the worst-ever nuclear disaster was a massive leak from a plant in the eastern Urals. RT went to see how people live in areas affected by the fallout from the USSR’s risky rush to the nuclear bomb.

Chernobyl and Fukushima are the two names that are most likely to come to mind when one thinks about nuclear disaster, and rightfully so. People in the US will likely recall the Three Mile Island accident, while Britons may say the “Windscale fire.”

The name “Kyshtym” will probably mean nothing to the wider public, despite it belonging to the third-worst nuclear accident in history. An RT Russian correspondent traveled to the area to speak with locals, some of whom personally witnessed the 1957 disaster, to find out what living in such a place feels like.

Bomb at any cost

Kyshtym is the name of a small town in what is now Chelyabinsk Region in Russia, located in an area dotted by dozens of small lakes. A 15-minute car ride east will bring you to another town called Ozyorsk. Six decades ago, you wouldn’t find it on any publicly available map because it hosted a crucial element of the Soviet Union’s nascent nuclear weapons program, the Mayak plant.

The Soviet leadership considered building up a stockpile of weapons-grade plutonium to be a high priority, while environmental and safety concerns came as an afterthought. Some of the less-dangerous radioactive waste from Mayak was simply dumped into the Techa River, while the more-dangerous materials were stored in massive underground tanks.

The sealed steel containers, reinforced with meter-thick concrete outer walls, were considered strong enough to withstand pretty much anything. In September 1957 this assumption was proven wrong, when one of the tanks exploded with an estimated power of 70-100 tons of TNT. This happened due to an unrepaired cooling system, which allowed radioactive waste to build heat and partially dry up, forming a layer of explosives, an investigation later found. An accidental spark was then enough to blow off the 160-ton lid of the tank, damage nearby waste storages, and shatter every window pane within a 3km radius.

A plume of radioactive waste was ejected high into the air. Some 90 percent of the material fell right back, contaminating the area and adding to the pollution in the Techa River, but some was atomized and traveled northeast with the wind. A 300km long, 10km wide stretch of land running through three Russian regions is what’s left by the fallout. The worst-affected part of it was designated a natural reserve a few years after the disaster.

Cover up

The disaster was covered up in the Soviet media, which reported that the strange lights in the night sky – actually a glow caused by ionization from radioactive waste – was a rare event related to the aurora. The locals knew something was wrong, of course, due to the evacuation of two dozen nearby villages and the large-scale decontamination work that was to be carried out over the next several years.

Later, the military came to get radiation readings in it. Afterwards, soldiers demolished the banya and took away not only the house but even the layer of soil on which it was built.

Officially, the scale of the disaster remained a state secret until the late 1980s.

Poisoned river

The Techa River remains contaminated now, long after Mayak stopped dumping waste in it. The radiation is relatively low, however: standing next to it is no worse than traveling on an airplane. Thousands of people cross it every day via a bridge road that connects Chelyabinsk and Ekaterinburg – the two nearest provincial capitals.

The only inhabited village down the river is called Brodokalmak and is about 85km downstream from Ozyorsk, and 50km away from the bridge crossing  …….

Ghost village

Halfway between the bridge and Brodokalmak is another village, Muslyumovo. It was inhabited until about a decade ago, when Rostatom, the Russian nuclear monopoly, offered to relocate its 2,500 residents. Now it’s a ghost village………

Triple exposure

Another place that had a close brush with Mayak’s waste is Metlino, a town about 25 minutes east from Ozyorsk. Some residents were unfortunate enough to have been exposed to radiation three times in their lives, according to Lyudmila Krestinina, who heads a lab at a local radiation research medical center.

First, they lived on the Techa River when it was used to dump waste. Then the disaster happened, and the cloud went past, close enough for some fallout but not close enough for it to become a major risk. The third time happened in 1967.

“There was drought and the Karachay bog, where waste was dumped from the Mayak, caught fire. The wind brought radioactive smoke over Metlino,” she said. “Now the contamination level has decreased several times, but it’s still higher than background radiation.”

The bog used to be a lake in the early days of Mayak, which started to dry up in the 1960s. The 1967 incident prompted major landscaping work to cover its shallow parts with earth and provide greater water supply. This solution was ultimately deemed unfeasible, so the rest of the lake was covered as well. The work ended just four years ago. …….

July 29, 2019 Posted by | environment, incidents, Reference, Russia | Leave a comment

Problematic issue of cremation of radioactive bodies

A Dead Man Was Cremated in Arizona Without Anyone Realising He Was Radioactive, Science Alert PETER DOCKRILL, 28 JUL 2019

In 2017, a 69-year-old man with pancreatic cancer went to hospital with abnormally low blood pressure. Sadly, he died only two days later, and his remains were cremated.

What nobody at the hospital or the crematorium knew, was that this hadn’t been the man’s only recent trip to hospital. ust one day earlier, in fact, he had been injected with a radioactive compound at another hospital to treat his tumour – and when his mortal remains were incinerated, this radioactive and potentially dangerous dose of lutetium Lu 177 dotatate was still inside his body.

This alarming case, reported in a research letter published in February this year, illustrates the collateral risks potentially posed by on average 18.6 million nuclear medicine procedures involving radiopharmaceuticals performed in the US every year.

While rules regulate how these drugs are administered to living patients, the picture can become less clear when those patients die, thanks to a patchwork of different laws and standards in each state – not to mention situations like the 69-year-old man, whose radioactive status simply slipped through the cracks.

“Radiopharmaceuticals present a unique and often overlooked postmortem safety challenge,” researchers from the Mayo Clinic explained in a case note.

“Cremating an exposed patient volatilises the radiopharmaceutical, which can then be inhaled by workers (or released into the adjacent community) and result in greater exposure than from a living patient.”……..

Given more than half of all Americans eventually get cremated, postmortem management of individuals who receive radioactive drugs is an area the US health system needs to work on, the researchers say.

This includes better ways of evaluating radioactivity in deceased patients (prior to them being cremated), and also standardising ways of notifying crematoriums about their clients.

After all, nobody really has any idea how often this is happening.

As nuclear scientist Marco Kaltofen from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, who wasn’t involved with the research, told BuzzFeed News: “They only happened to catch this one case because normally they don’t look.”

The findings were reported in JAMA

July 29, 2019 Posted by | radiation, USA | Leave a comment