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Confusion and secrecy following Russian explosion, backflip on evacuation of village

Russian military orders village evacuation, then cancels it, following explosion that killed five nuclear scientists, Secrecy surrounding an explosion that killed five nuclear scientists and caused a spike in radiation levels has sparked fears of a cover-up in Russia, with authorities backflipping on orders to evacuate a nearby village.

Key points:

  • Medics who treated victims of an accident have been sent to Moscow for medical examination
  • Russia’s state weather service said radiation levels spiked in Severodvinsk by up to 16 times
  • Many Russians spoke angrily on social media of misleading reports reminiscent of Chernobyl

The explosion took place on Thursday at a naval weapons range on the coast of the White Sea in northern Russia.

State nuclear agency Rosatom said the accident occurred during a rocket test on a sea platform.

The rocket’s fuel caught fire after the test, causing it to detonate, it said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.

Two days later, after a spike in radiation levels was reported, Rosatom conceded the accident involved nuclear materials.

On Tuesday (local time), the Russian military ordered residents of the small village of Nyonoksa to temporarily evacuate, citing unspecified activities at the nearby navy testing range.

But a few hours later, it said the planned activities were cancelled and told the villagers they could go back to their homes, said Ksenia Yudina, a spokeswoman for the Severodvinsk regional administration.

Local media in Severodvinsk said Nyonoksa residents regularly received similar temporary evacuation orders, usually timed to tests at the range.

Russia’s state weather service said radiation levels spiked in the Russian city of Severodvinsk, about 30 kilometres west of Nyonoksa, by up to 16 times following the explosion.

Emergency officials issued a warning to all workers to stay indoors and close the windows, while spooked residents rushed to buy iodide, which can help limit the damage from exposure to radiation.

‘People need reliable information’

Many Russians spoke angrily on social media of misleading reports reminiscent of the lethal delays in acknowledging the Chernobyl accident three decades ago.

US experts said they suspected the cause was a botched test of a nuclear-powered cruise missile commissioned by President Vladimir Putin.

Boris L Vishnevsky, a member of the St. Petersburg City Council, told the New York Times that dozens of people had called asking for clarification about radiation risks.

“People need reliable information,” Mr Vishnevsky told the Times.

“And if the authorities think there is no danger, and nothing needs to be done, let them announce this formally so people don’t worry.”

The five scientists that died in the explosion were buried Monday in the closed city of Sarov — which houses a nuclear research facility and is surrounded by fences patrolled by the military.

While hailing the deceased as the “pride of the atomic sector”, Rosatom head Alexei Likhachev pledged to continue developing new weapons. “The best tribute to them will be our continued work on new models of weapons, which will definitely be carried out to the end,” Mr Likhachev was quoted as saying by RIA news agency.

Medics who treated victims sent to Moscow

Medics who treated the victims of an accident were sent to Moscow for medical examination, TASS news agency cited an unnamed medical source as saying on Tuesday.

The medics sent to Moscow have signed an agreement promising not to divulge information about the incident, TASS cited the source as saying.

US President Donald Trump said on Twitter on Monday the United States was “learning much” from the explosion and the United States had “similar, though more advanced, technology”.

He said Russians were worried about the air quality around the facility and far beyond, a situation he described as “Not good!”

But when asked about his comments on Tuesday, the Kremlin said it, not the United States, was out in front when it came to developing new nuclear weapons.

“Our president has repeatedly said that Russian engineering in this sector significantly outstrips the level that other countries have managed to reach for the moment, and it is fairly unique,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.Mr Putin used his state-of-the nation speech in 2018 to unveil what he described as a raft of invincible new nuclear weapons, including a nuclear-powered cruise missile, an underwater nuclear-powered drone, and a laser weapon.

Tensions between Moscow and Washington over arms control have been exacerbated by the demise this month of a landmark nuclear treaty.

August 15, 2019 Posted by | incidents, Russia, secrets,lies and civil liberties, weapons and war | Leave a comment

USA abandoned the Nuclear-Powered Missile long ago due to its extreme danger. It seems that Russia just tried it again.

Why the U.S. Abandoned Nuclear-Powered Missiles More Than 50 Years Ago

President Donald Trump says the U.S. has a missile like the one that killed seven in the Russian arctic. That’s untrue, because the U.S. abandoned the idea decades ago.

August 15, 2019 Posted by | Russia, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, technology, weapons and war | 1 Comment

No long term solution to the accumulating radioactive water at Fukushima

Fukushima: Nuclear-contaminated water raises 2020 Games site fears,The Weather Network, Caroline Floyd , Meteorologist  14 Aug 19, Beginning late next July, Tokyo and several other sites around Japan will welcome elite athletes from around the world for the 2020 Summer Games. One of the sites carries with it a stigma that organizers are hoping to help heal — Fukushima.

Tremendous amounts of water flooded the reactors in the wake of the disaster, both from the tsunami itself and from water added to cover the melted reactors and allow them to cool as part of the efforts to clean up the site and decommission the plant. Since then, groundwater has also infiltrated the site. All of this water has been contaminated by radioactive substances, like cesium and tritium. While the cesium can be removed via processing, tritium generally remains, meaning the still-contaminated water must be stored.

TEPCO, the utility which operated the reactor, has installed about 1,000 large storage tanks at the site to hold the contaminated water; currently, more than 1.05 million tons of radioactive water are being stored in the tanks, and roughly 150 tons are added every day.

TEPCO continues to install new tanks, but according to the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun, “space limitations mean that by the end of 2020, a maximum storage capacity of about 1.34 million tons will be reached.” Officials have added that if the groundwater infiltration was decreased, it will be possible to stretch that date until summer 2022.

Some scheduled baseball and softball events will take place at Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium, located about 70 km northwest of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

There may be another hitch in the road to recovery, however, and it’s looming on the horizon for next year.

Tremendous amounts of water flooded the reactors in the wake of the disaster, both from the tsunami itself and from water added to cover the melted reactors and allow them to cool as part of the efforts to clean up the site and decommission the plant. Since then, groundwater has also infiltrated the site. All of this water has been contaminated by radioactive substances, like cesium and tritium. While the cesium can be removed via processing, tritium generally remains, meaning the still-contaminated water must be stored.

TEPCO, the utility which operated the reactor, has installed about 1,000 large storage tanks at the site to hold the contaminated water; currently, more than 1.05 million tons of radioactive water are being stored in the tanks, and roughly 150 tons are added every day.

TEPCO continues to install new tanks, but according to the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun, “space limitations mean that by the end of 2020, a maximum storage capacity of about 1.34 million tons will be reached.” Officials have added that if the groundwater infiltration was decreased, it will be possible to stretch that date until summer 2022.

While more tanks can be installed, a long-term solution is still being sought and, so far, most of them aren’t going over well with the locals.

One suggestion before the central government is to dilute the water after processing and gradually release it into the Pacific. Another is to build a long-term storage facility near the plant site. Fukushima residents, and fishermen in particular, have expressed strong opposition to both ideas, not over fears of the wastewater itself but because of the negative publicity and continuing stigma that would damage their livelihoods……

Setting a deadline on the current storage situation puts additional pressure on Japanese authorities and the public to reach a consensus.

“When we talk about Fukushima’s reconstruction, the question is if we should prioritize the decommissioning at the expense of Fukushima people’s lives,” Naoya Sekiya, a University of Tokyo professor of disaster social science, told the Associated Press. “The issue is not just about science.”

August 15, 2019 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Will the propaganda ploy – the Tokyo 2020 Olympics really revitalise the nuclear industry and Fukushima

Can 2020 Summer Olympics help Fukushima rebound from nuclear disaster?, LA TIMES, DAVID WHARTONAUG. 12, 2019

Under the moniker of the “Reconstruction Olympics,” they have plotted a torch relay course that begins near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant and continues through adjacent prefectures — Miyagi and Iwate — impacted by the disaster. The region will host games in baseball, softball and soccer next summer.

“We are hoping that, through sports, we can give the residents new dreams,” said Takahiro Sato, director of Fukushima’s office of Olympic and Paralympic promotions. “We also want to show how far we’ve come.”

The effort has drawn mixed reactions, if only because the so-called “affected areas” are a sensitive topic in Japan.

Some people worry about exposure to lingering radiation; they accuse officials of whitewashing health risks. Critics question spending millions on sports while communities are still rebuilding.

“The people from that area have dealt with these issues for so long and so deeply, the Olympics are kind of a transient event,” said Kyle Cleveland, an associate professor of sociology at Temple University’s campus in Japan. “They’re going to see this as a public relations ploy.”……

The populace began to question announcements from the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) about the scope of the contamination, said Cleveland, who is writing a book on the catastrophe and its aftermath.

“In the first 10 weeks, Tepco was downplaying the risk,” he said. “Eventually, they were dissembling and lying.”……..

Reliable data on radiation risks is difficult to obtain, said Jonathan Links, a public health professor at Johns Hopkins University. …….

In terms of athletes and coaches visiting the impacted prefectures for a week or two during the Olympics, Links said the cancer risk is proportional, growing incrementally each day.

The Japanese government has raised what it considers to be the acceptable exposure from 1 millisievert to 20 millisieverts per year. Along with this adjustment, officials have declared much of the region suitable for habitation, lifting evacuation orders in numerous municipalities. Housing subsidies that allowed evacuees to live elsewhere have been discontinued.

But some towns remain nearly empty.

“People are refusing to go back,” said Katsuya Hirano, a UCLA associate professor of history who has who has spent years collecting interviews for an oral history. “Especially families with children.”……..

With infrastructure repairs continuing throughout the region, evacuee Akiko Morimatsu has a skeptical view of the Tokyo 2020 campaign.

“They have called these the ‘Reconstruction Games,’ but just because you call it that doesn’t mean the region will be recovered,” Morimatsu said.

Concerns about radiation prompted her to leave the Fukushima town of Koriyama, outside the mandatory evacuation zone, moving with her two young children to Osaka. Her husband, a doctor, remained; he visits the family once a month.

“The reality is that the region hasn’t recovered,” said Morimatsu, who is part of a group suing the national government and Tepco. “I feel the Olympics are being used as part of a campaign to spread the message that Fukushima is recovered and safe.”…..

August 15, 2019 Posted by | Japan, spinbuster | Leave a comment

Donald Trump caught in a rather serious lie about USA’s “more advanced” nuclear missile technology

Trump tries to brag about ‘advanced’ US nuclear technology and gets immediately called out

14 Aug 19,by Conrad Duncan  Donald Trump was immediately shut down by experts after he suggested the US had “more advanced” nuclear missile technology than Russia.

On Thursday, five Russian nuclear engineers were killed in a rocket engine explosion, which is thought to be linked to tests for a nuclear-powered cruise missile announced by Vladimir Putin in March 2018.

In his typically tactless style, Trump shared his thoughts on the explosion yesterday by claiming the US was “learning much” from the blast and had even more advanced technology.

Trump’s tweet caught the attention of national security experts because it meant one of two things:

  • Trump had just revealed a secret US nuclear-powered cruise missile programme
  • He was bluffing about a missile programme that the US does not have

It doesn’t exactly take, ahem, a rocket scientist to know that both of those explanations are quite bad.

For example, Michael McFaul, who worked both for the US National Security Council and as Barack Obama’s Ambassador to Russia, had no idea what Trump was talking about.

Michael McFaul   @McFaul
Other experts on nuclear weapons couldn’t find public evidence for Trump’s claim either.
Joe Cirincione   @Cirincione
David Burbach@dburbach
Stephen Schwartz @AtomicAnalyst

In fact, there was once a programme to develop a nuclear-powered cruise missile during the Cold War, called Project Pluto, but the US abandoned it because it was believed to be too dangerous – potentially creating missiles for which there was no known defence.

So if the US does have “more advanced” technology than Russia on this, the president should definitely not be tweeting about it.   Of course, there’s a good chance that Trump is bluffing again about matter that he doesn’t fully understand. It wouldn’t be the first time. 

August 15, 2019 Posted by | politics, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Arctic sea ice could disappear completely through September if temps increase 2 degrees

Arctic could be iceless in September if temps increase 2 degrees, Science Daily 

August 13, 2019
University of Cincinnati
Arctic sea ice could disappear completely through September each summer if average global temperatures increase by as little as 2 degrees, according to a new study.

Arctic sea ice could disappear completely through September each summer if average global temperatures increase by as little as 2 degrees, according to a new study by the University of Cincinnati.

The study by an international team of researchers was published in Nature Communications.

“The target is the sensitivity of sea ice to temperature,” said Won Chang, a study co-author and UC assistant professor of mathematics.

“What is the minimum global temperature change that eliminates all arctic sea ice in September? What’s the tipping point?”

The study predicted that the Arctic Ocean could be completely ice-free in September with as little as 2 degrees Celsius of temperature change. Limiting warming to 2 degrees is the stated goal of the 2009 Paris Agreement, the international effort to curb carbon emissions to address warming. The Trump Administration withdrew the United States as a participant in 2017……..

The less summer sea ice the Arctic has, the longer it takes for the Arctic Ocean to ice back over for the polar winter. That could spell bad news for Arctic wildlife such as seals and polar bears that rely on sea ice to raise pups and hunt them, respectively.

The researchers applied the new statistical method to climate model projections of the 21st century. Using the climate models, the authors found at least a 6% probability that summer sea ice in the Arctic Ocean will disappear with warming of 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. At 2 degrees, the likelihood increases to 28%…….

August 15, 2019 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change | Leave a comment

Revealed: mental health crisis at Hinkley Point C nuclear construction site

Revealed: mental health crisis at Hinkley Point C construction site.
Guardian 13th Aug 2019 Several workers on nuclear plant have killed themselves or attempted to,
says union. Hinkley is grappling with a mental illness crisis, with several
attempted suicides since work began in 2016, a Guardian investigation can
More than 4,000 workers are on site delivering the vast decade-long
building project, a central plank in Britain’s future energy strategy. But
according to union officials, there has been a surge in suicide attempts
this year, a rise in the number of people off sick with stress, anxiety and
depression, and an increase in workers suffering from mental distress.
Officials from the Unite union say they have been told of 10 suicide
attempts in the first four months of 2019. The Guardian understands at
least two workers connected to the project have taken their lives since
construction started in earnest in 2016.
The main causes of the distress
appear to be loneliness, relationship breakdown and the struggle of being
sometimes hundreds of miles away from family. At Hinkley, workers live on
special campuses in nearby Bridgwater, or else in converted digs in the
town. They work a variety of shift patterns and are shuttled to and from
the site on scores of buses. Some contractors work as much as 11 days on
with three days off, including an extra weekend day for travelling home.
But the Guardian understands that most people can cope with the stress and
pressure of the work. The problems start once they clock off.

Guardian 13th Aug 2019 Angie Young, the health and wellbeing manger at the Hinkley Point C (HPC)
site, does not hesitate when asked what the main cause of mental health
issues there is. “It’s loneliness. You’re living away from home,
living without your family. Loneliness is the big thing.” But a major
complicating factor is that tough men who build stuff are not always great
at talking about feelings. “Our guys are construction guys – they are
macho. The average age is 45-55. They haven’t got someone nagging them to
go and see someone. We’re trying to address that.”

August 15, 2019 Posted by | employment, social effects, UK | Leave a comment

UK’s nuclear waste plans – squabbles in a local Council

Carlisle News & Star 14th Aug 2019 NUCLEAR chiefs in Copeland are split on the creation of controversial
storage vaults for radioactive waste amid “moral” concerns.
The Government launched its search for a host community before Christmas,
prompting the council to come up with a statement that was broadly
supportive of the project but also non-committal in terms of the
authority’s involvement.
But it emerged at a meeting of the borough
council’s Strategic Nuclear and Energy Board (SNEB) this week that panel
members disagreed over the council’s current position. The board heard
that some councillors were “fundamentally” opposed to the very idea of
a multi-million-pound underground Geological Disposal Facility (GDF).
Speaking at the meeting, councillors Sam Pollen and David Banks both
criticised the GDF plans. Mr Pollen said he was not in a position to argue
with experts over the facility but stressed that “morality and ethics”
should also be considered. He questioned the “rush” to develop a GDF
amid concerns over safety and the lack of “retrievability” of the waste
once deposited. The councillor, who works at Sellafield, said the waste was
now stored “extremely safely” on the Sellafield site which he described
as a “big tick in a box for me”.

August 15, 2019 Posted by | politics, UK | Leave a comment

The Anthropocene is not an epoch. It’s a passing blink in geological time

The Anthropocene Is a Joke, On geological timescales, human civilization is an event, not an epoch.  The Atlantic,  PETER BRANNEN   AUG 13, 2019
Humans are now living in a new geological epoch of our own making: the Anthropocene. Or so we’re told. Whereas some epochs in Earth history stretch more than 40 million years, this new chapter started maybe 400 years ago, when carbon dioxide dipped by a few parts per million in the atmosphere. Or perhaps, as a panel of scientists voted earlier this year, the epoch started as recently as 75 years ago, when atomic weapons began to dust the planet with an evanescence of strange radioisotopes.These are unusual claims about geology, a field that typically deals with mile-thick packages of rock stacked up over tens of millions of years, wherein entire mountain ranges are born and weather away to nothing within a single unit of time, in which extremely precise rock dates—single-frame snapshots from deep time—can come with 50,000-year error bars, a span almost 10 times as long as all of recorded human history. If having an epoch shorter than an error bar seems strange, well, so is the Anthropocene.

So what to make of this new “epoch” of geological time? Do we deserve it? Sure, humans move around an unbelievable amount of rock every year, profoundly reshaping the world in our own image. And, yes, we’re currently warping the chemistry of the atmosphere and oceans violently, and in ways that have analogues in only a few terrifying chapters buried deep in Earth’s history. Each year we spew more than 100 times as much CO2 into the air as volcanoes do, and we’re currently overseeing the biggest disruption to the planet’s nitrogen cycle in 2.5 billion years. But despite this incredible effort, all is vanity. Very little of our handiwork will survive the obliteration of the ages. If 100 million years can easily wear the Himalayas flat, what chance will San Francisco or New York have?

The idea of the Anthropocene is an interesting thought experiment. For those invested in the stratigraphic arcana of this infinitesimal moment in time, it serves as a useful catalog of our junk. But it can also serve to inflate humanity’s legacy on an ever-churning planet that will quickly destroy—or conceal forever—even our most awesome creations.

What paltry smudge of artifacts we do leave behind, in those rare corners of the continents where sediment accumulates and is quickly buried—safe from erosion’s continuous defacing—will be extremely unlikely to be exposed at the surface, at any given time, at any given place, tens of millions or hundreds of millions of years in the geological future. Sic transit gloria mundi……..

Unless we fast learn how to endure on this planet, and on a scale far beyond anything we’ve yet proved ourselves capable of, the detritus of civilization will be quickly devoured by the maw of deep time.

Geological time is deep beyond all comprehension……..

For context, let’s compare the eventual geological legacy of humanity (somewhat unfairly) to that of the dinosaurs, whose reign spanned many epochs and lasted a functionally eternal 180 million years—36,000 times as long as recorded human history so far. But you would never know this near-endless age was so thoroughly dominated by the terrible reptiles by looking to the rock record of the entire eastern half of North America. Here, dinosaurs scarcely left behind a record at all. And not because they weren’t here the entire time—with millions of generations of untold dinosaurs living, hunting, mating, dying, foraging, migrating, evolving, and enduring throughout, up and down the continent, in great herds and in solitary ambushes. ……

What, then, will a few decades of industrial civilization get us? This is the central question of the Anthropocene—an epoch that supposedly started, not tens of millions of years ago, but perhaps during the Truman administration…….

The most enduring geological legacy, instead, will be the extinctions we cause. The first wave of human-driven extinctions, and the largest hit to terrestrial megafauna since the extinction of the dinosaurs, began tens of thousands of years ago, as people began to spread out into new continents and islands, wiping out everything we tend to think of as “Ice Age” fauna—mammoths, mastodons, giant wombats, giant ground sloths, giant armadillos, woolly rhinoceroses, giant beavers, etc. This early, staggered, human-driven extinction event is as reasonable a starting date as any for the Anthropocene and one that has, in fact, been proposed. However, a few thousand years—or even a few tens of thousands of years—will be virtually indistinguishable in the rocks a hundred million years hence. That is, it would not be obvious to the geologists of the far future that these prehistoric human-caused extinctions were not simultaneous with our own modern-day depredations on the environment. …… To future geologists, the modern debate about whether the Anthropocene started 10 minutes ago or 10,000 years ago will be a bit like arguing with your spouse on your 50th wedding anniversary about which nanosecond you got married.

What humans are doing on the planet, then, unless we endure for millions to tens of millions of years, is extremely transient. In fact, there exists a better word in geology than epoch to describe our moment in the sun thus far: event. ….

The idea that we’re in a new epoch is a profoundly optimistic one, for it implies that we’ll persist into the future as an industrial technological civilization on something like a geological timescale…….

The idea of the Anthropocene inflates our own importance by promising eternal geological life to our creations. It is of a thread with our species’ peculiar, self-styled exceptionalism—from the animal kingdom, from nature, from the systems that govern it, and from time itself. This illusion may, in the long run, get us all killed. ……

August 15, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, environment | Leave a comment

Solar power is now cheaper than grid electricity in cities across China

Independent 13th Aug 2019 Solar power is now cheaper than grid electricity in cities across China
which could drive a surge in uptake, according to new research. Some
experts thought China would have to wait decades until solar generation
cost the same as electricity from the grid.
However, thanks to a
combination of technological advances and support from the government,
“grid parity” has already been reached. Scientists found that all of the
344 cities they looked at could have cheaper electricity powered by solar
energy, according to the study published in the journal Nature Energy.
Twenty-two per cent of cities could also have solar systems that would
generate lower cost electricity than coal, according to the researchers,
led by Jinyue Yan from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.

August 15, 2019 Posted by | China, renewable | Leave a comment

No it wasn’t the wind turbines that caused a UK blackout

Dave Toke’s Blog 13th Aug 2019 . No it wasn’t the wind turbines that caused the blackout but batteries
likely to benefit from reaction In the aftermath of last Friday’s blackout
the usual suspects are blaming wind turbines’, but that’s not what the
electricity market nerds are saying.
They are pointing to the fact that big
power outages have happened before the age of large-scale renewable energy
penetration and that stories of crisis at the National Grid are well
overblown. I certainly remember the blackout of 2008 which was caused by
the near simultaneous disconnection of Sizewell B (nuclear) and Longannet
(coal), but then of course we did not see anything in the media about how
it was all the fault of nuclear or coal-fired power plant.
This time a large gas fired power plant tripped, followed a little later by a big
offshore windfarm. Now there is talk of how the grid has become more
unstable because of increasing renewable energy penetration (now around 35%
of electricity on an annual basis) and how, depending on people’s interest
a) we ought to stop this nonsense and get back to having real large power
plant or b) we need more batteries and/or other stuff.
In fact such an approach is decried by top electricity system management experts such as
Nigel Cornwall. He tweeted in response to stories that the National Grid
was beset with a splurge of ‘near misses’ and last-gasp efforts: “Near
misses” and “last minute contracts” is the way the system – and all
electricity systems – is designed to operate. (National Grid) has done a
huge amount to modernise its balancing services, and I am struggling to
understand whose agenda this is. Two large power stations failed at the
evening peak, when the system was already calling for more output/demand
turndown. This was almost an occurrence of Titanic probabilities. You can
of course contract for a huge amount of extra reserve but at immense cost
to consumers’

August 15, 2019 Posted by | ENERGY, UK | Leave a comment