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$41 billion for Hanford high level nuclear waste clean-up. Fiasco of Pretreatment Facility

Hanford strategy for worst nuclear waste criticized. Plant estimates skyrocket to $41 billion, Tri City Herald BY ANNETTE CARY, MAY 13, 2020 The Department of Energy’s strategy for pretreating high-level waste at Hanford is “unclear” 20 years after construction of a massive glassification plant began, while costs continue to soar, says a new federal report.

The Government Accountability Office released a report to Congress this week focusing on the plant’s Pretreatment Facility, where construction stopped seven years ago because of technical issues.

The issues involved safety concerns to prevent a possible explosion or radioactive waste leak.

U.S. taxpayers have spent $11 billion on the Hanford glassification plant, but the Pretreatment Facility is unlikely to be finished on schedule or as designed, the report said.

Under one scenario being studied, some of the worst waste at Hanford could be shipped across the nation to South Carolina to be stabilized for disposal.

Since construction stopped in late 2012 on the pretreatment plant, $752 million has been spent, with construction not ready to restart anytime soon, the GAO report indicated.

DOE also has spent $428 million developing alternatives for some of the work expected to be done at the pretreatment plant.

There is no cost estimate for completing the Pretreatment Facility, the largest facility at the plant, the GAO report said.

Completing the entire vitrification plant could cost $19 billion to $30 billion more than the $11 billion already spent, the GAO said.

That would put the total cost at $30 billion to $41 billion.

The plant, named the Hanford Waste Treatment Plant, is being built to to glassify much of the 56 million gallons of radioactive waste in underground tanks, turning it into a stable form for disposal.

The waste is left from the past production of plutonium at Hanford in Eastern Washington for the nation’s nuclear weapons program from World War II through the Cold War.


When Bechtel National was awarded a contract to build and start the plant in 2000, plans called for waste from the tanks to be sent first to the largest facility at the plant, the Pretreatment Facility

It stands about 12 stories high and covers an area larger than a football field.

There waste retrieved from underground tanks was to be separated into low activity radioactive waste and high level radioactive waste for glassification at separate facilities at the vitrification plant.

But after technical issues were raised in 2012 related to how well the pretreatment plant could handle the high level portion of the tank waste, DOE proposed a new plan.

It would first start vitrifying the low activity radioactive waste by developing other methods to separate that waste from tank waste.

A federal court judge agreed to the plan in 2016 but set a deadline for DOE to start vitrifying that waste by the end of 2023. The plant must be fully operational in 2036, the judge ordered.

DOE has since been focused on meeting the 2023 court-enforced deadline, including spending about $428 million developing those alternative pretreatment approaches, rather than on facilities that will handle high level waste, the GAO report said.

When construction stopped on the pretreatment plant it was about 40 percent complete.


DOE has spent about $323 million to resolve technical issues at the facility since late 2012, with the rest of the $752 million spent on the plant during those years paying for overhead, project management, facility maintenance and DOE oversight………

Local DOE officials said they will not develop a cost for completing the Pretreatment Facility until there is a decision about the future of the facility and any updated design changes for it, according to the GAO report……


The issue is further complicated by concerns of the Washington state Department of Ecology, a Hanford regulator……….

May 14, 2020 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

$73 billion world spent in 2019 on nuclear weapons, half of it by USA

World nuclear arms spending hit $73bn last year – half of it by US

    • Spending by nine nuclear-armed states rose 10%
    • Trump boosted nuclear funding but cut pandemic prevention  Julian Borger in Washington
      • The world’s nuclear-armed nations spent a record $73bn on their weapons last year, with the US spending almost as much as the eight other states combined, according to a

    new report

      • .

The new spending figures, reflecting the highest expenditure on nuclear arms since the height of the cold war, have been estimated by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (Ican), which argues that the coronavirus pandemic underlines the wastefulness of the nuclear arms race.

The nine nuclear weapons states spent a total of $72.9bn in 2019, a 10% increase on the year before. Of that, $35.4bn was spent by the Trump administration, which accelerated the modernisation of the US arsenal in its first three years while cutting expenditure on pandemic prevention.

“It’s clear now more than ever that nuclear weapons do not provide security for the world in the midst of a global pandemic, and not even for the nine countries that have nuclear weapons, particularly when there are documented deficits of healthcare supplies and exhausted medical professionals,” Alicia Sanders-Zakre, the lead author of the report, said.

The report comes at a time when arms control is at a low ebb, with the last major treaty limiting US and Russian strategic nuclear weapons, New Start, due to expire in nine months with no agreement so far to extend it.

Russia, which has announced the development of an array of new weapons – including nuclear-powered, long-distance cruise missiles, underwater long-distance nuclear torpedoes and a new heavy intercontinental ballistic missile – spent $8.5bn on its arsenal in 2019, according to Ican’s estimates. China, which has a much smaller nuclear force than the US and Russia but is seeking to expand, spent $10.4bn.

Those expenditures were far overshadowed by the US nuclear weapons budget, which is part of a major upgrade also involving new weapons, including a low-yield submarine-launched missile, which has already been deployed.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the cost of the US programme over the coming decade will be $500bn, an increase of nearly $100bn, about 23%, over projections from the end of the Obama administration.

Congressional Democrats failed in an attempt to curb the administration’s nuclear ambitions, but Kingston Reif, the director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association, said budgetary constraints in a coronavirus-induced recession, could succeed where political opposition failed.

“There’s going to be significant pressure on federal spending moving forward, including defense spending,” Reif said. “So, the cost and opportunity cost of maintaining and modernizing the arsenal, which were already punishing, will become even more so.”

May 14, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, business and costs, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Nuclear waste plan divides South Bruce community

residents still have concerns about a high-level nuclear waste DGR in their community.

“The folks in South Bruce, who I would consider the key and primary stakeholders in all of this, are concerned about … health and safety, and the stigma that will be attached to” nuclear waste, Grant explawelined. These stakeholders are also worried about “the value of land and businesses in the immediate vicinity as l as along the transportations route from where the high-level nuclear waste is currently stored into the community.”

The siting process has disrupted families’ property values and farm planning and decision making.

We’ve invested 25 years into this property,” Stein said. And “people aren’t interested in moving into an area that might have all of Canada’s high-level nuclear waste.” petition against the DGR has accumulated over 1,300 signatures as of early May, and community members have formed a group called Nuclear Tanks No Thanks to counter the NWMO’s plans

South Bruce divided over nuclear waste, Community members clash over the site selection for a high-level nuclear waste deep geologic repository By Jackie Clark, Staff Writer Bryon Mckee |May 12 2020  

South Bruce is an Ontario municipality that boasts “rolling hills, scenic highways and warm-hearted people,” on its website. However, over the last several months, a debate over a plan to build an underground nuclear waste facility has divided the community.

Proposals in Bruce County…….

Previously, OPG had proposed a plan to store low- and intermediate-level waste in a deep geologic repository (DGR) near Kincardine, Ont. After more than a decade of consultation, the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) members voted not to support the DGR. OPG will honour its 2013 commitment to “not build the DGR at the Bruce site, without the support of SON,” said a Jan. 31 media release.
……………Under the federal Nuclear Fuel Waste Act, the NWMO is responsible for this waste.

……….The DGR would require about 250 acres or the surface facilities and 1,500 acres for the underground repository. ……..some  residents have not found the community engagement to be satisfactory. Continue reading

May 14, 2020 Posted by | Canada, wastes | Leave a comment

USA’s record $3.7 trillion budget gap threatens Pentagon’s costly nuclear plans

Huge federal deficits may threaten Pentagon nuclear modernization program   Market Watch   May 12, 2020, By Associated Press
The deficit may lead to a lack of big defense spending on projects like rebuilding the nation’s nuclear arsenal.   
 WASHINGTON (AP) — The government’s $3 trillion effort to rescue the economy from the coronavirus crisis is stirring worry at the Pentagon. Bulging federal deficits may force a reversal of years of big defense spending gains and threaten prized projects like the rebuilding of the nation’s arsenal of nuclear weapons.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper says the sudden burst of deficit spending to prop up a damaged economy is bringing the Pentagon closer to a point where it will have to shed older weapons faster and tighten its belt.

“It has accelerated this day of reckoning,” Esper said in an Associated Press interview.

It also sets up confrontations with Congress over how that reckoning will be achieved. Past efforts to eliminate older weapons and to make other cost-saving moves like closing under-used military bases met resistance. This being a presidential election year, much of this struggle may slip to 2021. If presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden wins, the pace of defense cuts could speed up, if he follows the traditional Democratic path to put less emphasis on defense buildups.

After Congress passed four programs to sustain the economy through the virus shock, the budget deficit — the gap between what the government spends and what it collects in taxes — will hit a record $3.7 trillion this year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. By the time the budget year ends in September, the government’s debt — its accumulated annual deficits — will equal 101% of the U.S. gross domestic product.

Rep. Ken Calvert of California, the ranking Republican on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, says defense budgets were strained even before this year’s unplanned burst of deficit spending……..

May 14, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

UK’s nuclear weapons programmes $1.67 billion over budget 

Three British nuclear programs are $1.67 billion over budget By: Andrew Chuter LONDON — Critical programs aimed at updating Britain’s nuclear weapons infrastructure have been hit by long delays and huge cost increases, according to the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee.

Poor management on three nuclear projects involving warhead assembly, core reactor production and submarine building have resulted in combined cost increases of £1.35 billion (U.S. $1.67 billion) as well as delays of between 1.7 and 6.3 years, the committee revealed in a report scheduled for release May 12.

The cost overruns were caused in large part by avoidable mistakes, such as beginning construction work without mature designs, said the committee.

The cost increases and delays cited in the report could be the tip of the iceberg in the nuclear sector. The three programs investigated by the committee represent about a quarter, by initial value, of the 52 nuclear infrastructure programs that the Ministry of Defence is pursuing. A report on nuclear infrastructure late last year by the government’s financial watchdog, the National Audit Office, said the initial value of all the projects was almost £5 billion.

The parliamentary committee said the MoD admitted that costs on the three projects “could keep rising, as its poor contract design has left the taxpayer to assume financial risk, while doing little to incentivize contractors to improve their performance.

The report said the MoD has poorly managed the three programs, failed to learn from past mistakes and agreed to poorly designed contracts with the major companies that have a stranglehold on Britain’s defense nuclear sector. The contracts did not allow the ministry to share the financial risk with contractors, which meant the government bore the full impact of cost increases, including those of subcontractors.

“To utterly fail to learn from mistakes over decades, to spectacularly repeat the same mistakes at huge cost to the taxpayer — and at huge cost to confidence in our defense capabilities — is completely unacceptable,” said Member of Parliament Meg Hillier, who chairs the Public Accounts Committee.

“We see too often these same mistakes repeated,” she added. “The department [MoD] knows it can’t go on like this. It knows it must change and operate differently. The test now is to see how it will do that, and soon.”

May 14, 2020 Posted by | UK, weapons and war | Leave a comment

South Korea, Germany to bolster ties in transition towards renewable energy

S. Korea, Germany to bolster ties in transition towards renewable energy

 May 12, 2020  SEOUL, May 12 (Yonhap) — South Korea said Tuesday it has agreed with Germany to expand ties in a wide array of energy-related projects, including the decommissioning of nuclear plants, in line with their quests to utilize more sustainable resources.

The cooperation came as a follow-up to an agreement reached by Industry Minister Sung Yun-mo and German counterpart Peter Altmaier in Berlin last year, in which they vowed to bolster cooperation in the energy segment.

Seoul and Berlin will especially focus efforts on cooperating deeper on their shift towards renewable energy, while phasing out nuclear energy…….

The two countries are both making efforts to reduce their coal-based power generation as well, with Germany planning to break away from the resource by 2038. South Korea also vowed to “significantly reduce” its consumption of coal.

May 14, 2020 Posted by | Germany, renewable, South Korea | Leave a comment

Judge Puts Hold on Move to Drop Flynn Case 

Judge Puts Hold on Move to Drop Flynn Case  more
By VOA News
May 12, 2020 11:53 PM
There is another stunning development in the case of President Donald Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.  

The federal judge overseeing the case has put the Justice Department’s move to drop the criminal charges against Flynn on hold to give outside legal experts a chance to argue against the department’s decision.

Judge Emmet Sullivan said late Tuesday that “friends of the court” will be able to file briefs and that he will set up a time to hear those arguments “at the appropriate time.”

Sullivan could decide to call witnesses to testify and answer questions about the Justice Department’s extraordinary move last week to drop the charges against Flynn, and possibly reopen the entire case months before a presidential election.

Flynn pleaded guilty to charges of lying to the FBI about his talks with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. about easing U.S. sanctions during the transition period between the Obama and Trump administrations – a crime that carries a maximum five-year prison sentence.  

The charges against Flynn were part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Sullivan told Flynn at his 2018 sentencing that lying to the FBI was a “very serious offense.”

Flynn initially said he was guilty, that no one had talked him into admitting his crime and that he had no intention of taking back his plea.

But as his sentencing day approached, Flynn appealed to the court for a postponement, claiming that prosecutors set him up.

The Justice Department, led by Attorney General William Barr, shocked and angered the legal community last week when it said the case against Flynn should be dropped…

The decision opened the floodgates of criticism of Barr and the Justice Department that it is politically motivated and carrying out Trump’s wishes…

There has been no reaction to Sullivan’s decision so far from Barr or the White House.

A summary of Flynn’s Russia connections – showing why anyone who is sane would be suspicious of him.

May 14, 2020 Posted by | Legal, USA | Leave a comment

South Carolina nuclear fuel plant treatment pool leaking, polluting groundwater?

Radioactive muck found in pond; liner may be leaking at SC nuclear fuel plant, The State BY SAMMY FRETWELL, MAY 13, 2020  Nearly 40 years ago, the operators of a nuclear fuel plant near Columbia installed a liner in a treatment lagoon, hoping to trap radioactive and chemical waste before it could trickle into groundwater beneath the pond.

Now, the lagoon liner is wearing out. And that’s a concern.

Recent research suggests radioactive pollution has seeped through the synthetic barrier that was supposed to protect soil and groundwater in the Congaree River flood plain. Soil below the liner is suspected of being polluted with waste from the east lagoon, according to a new report for the plant’s operator, Westinghouse Nuclear.

’“It is expected that some contamination will exist in the soil underlying the east lagoon liner, given the long operating history of the lagoon and the potential for a liner system leak,’’ the May 8 report for Westinghouse says.

If the soil below the lagoon is polluted, as Westinghouse suspects, it could indicate that groundwater flowing away from the property and toward the Congaree River has been contaminated.

No one knows the extent of the contamination yet, but Westinghouse has a plan to dig radioactive sludge from the lagoon and haul it across the country for disposal in the Idaho desert.

Once the company has removed the mucky sludge and the lagoon’s 1980s era liner, it plans to test the soil below the waste pond to see how much contamination may be in the earth.

The new Westinghouse consulting report, released by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, says sludge in the east lagoon at Westinghouse is contaminated with low enriched uranium and technetium-99, nuclear materials generated as part of production of fuel rods at the 51-year-old factory.

Exposure to sufficient amounts of uranium can cause kidney damage in adults and children. Technetium 99, which concentrates in the thyroid and gastrointestinal tract, can increase a person’s chances of cancer if exposed to certain amounts………

For now, Westinghouse is moving forward with cleanup efforts. Although the company doesn’t plan to clean up some pollution until it closes the plant in future decades, Westinghouse has agreed to get rid of other contamination sooner. …….

The tainted material that would be shipped to Idaho, likely next year, includes 45,000 cubic feet of sludge, soil and debris from the east lagoon, a 160-foot long pond behind the plant on Bluff Road.

Radioactive pond sludge would be hauled away on railroad cars to a U.S. Ecology site in the Owyhee Desert near Grand View, Idaho, according to plans filed with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Contaminated cylinders and a polluted sludge pile also will be carted away from the site for disposal…….

May 14, 2020 Posted by | environment, incidents, USA | Leave a comment

Corona and nuclear power

May 14, 2020 Posted by | health, USA | Leave a comment