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Nuclear reactor threatened by Michigan flooding, but news media ignores this

 

Current Event Notification Report for May 20, 2020   https://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/event-status/event/en.html#en54719

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Operations Center

Event Reports For
5/19/2020 – 5/20/2020
Event Text

NOTICE OF UNUSUAL EVENT DUE TO DAM BREAK AND POTENTIAL FLOODING AT SITE

At approximately 1930 EDT on May 19, 2020, the Dow Chemical Company TRIGA Reactor received notification of an upstream dam break in Sanford, Michigan and the potential to flood the facility. A Notification of Unusual Event was subsequently declared at 1930 EDT.

The reactor was in a shutdown condition at the time of the event and has been due to COVID-19.

The licensee is monitoring the flood situation in the area and licensee personnel have responded to the site. The NRC remains in the normal mode of operations.
Notified DHS SWO, FEMA Operations Center, CISA IOCC, FEMA NWC (email), DHS Nuclear SSA (email), and FEMA NRCC SASC (email).

May 21, 2020 Posted by | climate change, safety, USA | Leave a comment

Michigan flood – a setback to cleanup of toxic waste Superfund site

Michigan flood displaces thousands, threatens chemical plant    Brynne Connolly  21 May 20, MIDLAND, Mich. (AP) — Floodwaters have overtaken dams and forced the evacuation of about 10,000 people from communities in central Michigan, where the governor warned that Dow Chemical Co.’s hometown could end up under 9 feet of water by Wednesday evening and said the state will investigate the dam operators.

Families living along the Tittabawassee River and connected lakes in Midland County were ordered to leave home Tuesday evening, the second time in less than 24 hours. By Wednesday morning, water several feet deep covered streets, parking lots and parkland and had reached a hotel near the river in downtown Midland.

No injuries or fatalities related to the flooding have been reported, city spokeswoman Selina Tisdale said.

The river topped a previous record of 33.9 feet (10.3 meters) set during flooding in 1986, the National Weather Service said. Its flood stage is 24 feet (7.3 meters), and it was expected to crest by day’s end at about 38 feet (11.6 meters).

The Weather Service urged anyone near the river to seek higher ground following “catastrophic dam failures” at the Edenville Dam, about 140 miles (225 kilometers) north of Detroit, and the Sanford Dam, about seven miles (11 kilometers) downriver.

Midland City Manager Brad Kaye said Wednesday that the Sanford Dam is overflowing but the extent of structural damage isn’t yet known.

If the entire dam structure were to fail, “there would be a much higher surge that will come down the river and that could raise the level much more quickly than what we’re seeing right at the moment,” Kaye said.

Michigan is under a stay-at-home order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The state has been a national hot spot for COVID-19, with more than 52,000 cases and 5,000 deaths, but Midland County has had fewer than 80 cases and under 10 deaths. Still, residents were advised to take precautions and schools set up as shelters spaced cots to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said downtown Midland, a city of 42,000 and home to Dow Chemical Co., faced an especially serious flooding threat.

“In the next 12 to 15 hours, downtown Midland could be under approximately 9 feet of water,” the governor said during a late Tuesday briefing. “We are anticipating an historic high water level.”

On Wednesday, Whitmer told reporters that her office has been in touch with federal officials and will ask FEMA for support. “This is an event unlike anything we’ve ever seen before,” she said.

President Donald Trump tweeted that he was closely monitoring the situation and praised first responders. But he also took a jab at Whitmer, whom he has criticized for her stay-at-home orders: “We have sent our best Military & @fema Teams, already there. Governor must now ‘set you free’ to help. Will be with you soon!”

Whitmer said the state would investigate the operators of the dams and “pursue every line of legal recourse we have.”

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said it has directed Boyce Hydro to establish an independent investigation team to determine the cause of the damage to Sanford Dam, and that it would reach out to state officials regarding the Edenville Dam. It will send an engineer to assist with the investigation when it’s safe to do so.

In 2018, the commission revoked Boyce Hydro’s license to operate the Edenville Dam due to non-compliance issues that included spillway capacity and the inability to pass the most severe flood reasonably possible in the area. That year, the state rated the dam, built in 1924, in unsatisfactory condition.

The Sanford Dam, which was built in 1925, received a fair condition rating. Both are in the process of being sold.

“The initial readout is that this was a known problem for a while and that’s why its important that we do our due diligence,” Whitmer said.

Dow Chemical, with 9,000 employees and contractors in Midland, on Tuesday shut down all operating units except those needed to contain chemicals, spokesman Kyle Bandlow said. By Wednesday, floodwater was mixing with on-site containment ponds prompting the company and U.S. Coast Guard to activate emergency plans, Dow said in a statement.

It said there was no threat to the public or the environment, and that it has uncovered no product releases.

The flooding likely will pose a significant setback to the cleanup of a federal Superfund site caused by Dow’s release of dioxins in the last century, which contaminated sediments and floodplains along 50 miles (80 kilometers) of the Tittabawassee and Saginaw rivers, said Allen Burton, a professor of environment and sustainability at the University of Michigan……  https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/110336978/posts/1018052  

May 21, 2020 Posted by | climate change, environment, USA | Leave a comment

Trump govt, desperate to save the failing nuclear industry, rushes to build geewhiz new nukes

May 21, 2020 Posted by | spinbuster, USA | Leave a comment

Feds spent 20 years warning Michigan dam was in danger before it failed

Feds spent 20 years warning Michigan dam was in danger before it failed, By Kyle Feldscher

May 21, 2020    Thousands in Michigan evacuate after two dams fail  (CNN)Federal regulators have warned for more than 20 years of inadequate spillways at a Michigan dam that was breached Tuesday, sending floodwaters raging into a city of more than 40,000.

Documents available on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission website show federal regulators warned multiple companies that the Edenville Dam was not ready to handle a massive flood. The federal government threatened large fines against one private company that operated the dam until eventually revoking its license in 2018.
Although federal regulators repeatedly warned about the dam’s inability to handle a large flood, it took years for federal authorities to crack down on the dam’s operator after more than 13 years of cajoling them to abide by the terms of their license…….
The Edenville Dam, built in 1924, failed Tuesday evening, leading to the evacuation of thousands of people from Midland and the surrounding communities. The flood could have lasting environmental effects after waters from the Tittabawassee and Tobacco rivers mixed with a Dow Chemical containment pond and inundated a federal Superfund site downriver that was caused by Dow’s release of dioxins years ago. …… https://edition.cnn.com/2020/05/20/politics/ferc-edenville-dam-midland-michigan-flooding/index.html

May 21, 2020 Posted by | climate change, USA | Leave a comment

10 buildings to be demolished at Santa Susana Nuclear Field Laboratory

…The Trump administration said on Wednesday it would tear down 10 buildings at the U.S. government’s former Santa Susana Field Laboratory northwest of Los Angeles that was left contaminated by decades of nuclear, rocket fuel and liquid metal testing. The buildings set for demolition were part of a radioactive materials handling facility at the more than 2,800-acre Santa Susana site in the Ventura County foothills, which opened in the late 1940s ordered cleaned up under a court-ordered 2010 consent decree. … https://www.devdiscourse.com/article/international/1060091-reuters-us-domestic-news-summary

May 21, 2020 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Earthquake close to Yucca Mountain’s selected nuclear waste site

Nevada Earthquake Raises More Doubts about Yucca Mountain by John Freeland  https://blogs.agu.org/terracentral/2020/05/17/nevada-earthquake-raises-more-doubts-about-yucca-mountain/   17 May 20, On Friday, May 15, 2020, a magnitude 6.5 earthquake rocked Nevada and portions of California. With the epicenter located about 22 miles west of Tonopah, NV, no serious damage was recorded aside from cracked highway pavement in the mostly remote surroundings, far from population centers.

Reportedly, Nevada has not seen an earthquake of this size since 1954. Worth noting, the earthquake epicenter is about 100 miles away from the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository, as depicted on the above aerial image.

The Yucca Mountain Nuclear Repository is, by authority of legislation passed in 1982 and 1987, currently the designated single facility for permanent disposal of high level nuclear waste. A time-line of the related events briefly describes the story of the Yucca Mountain Repository. Locals see the project as a source of jobs but state-wide there is strong opposition. After all, there are no nuclear power generating facilities in Nevada. According to Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev), “if you generate nuclear waste, you should keep it in your own backyard. Don’t send it to our backyard.”

The safety of Yucca Mountain has been debated for nearly forty years. I’ve previously posted on the topic here and here. An interesting analysis of political and other factors swirling around the project is “How Safe is Yucca Mountain?”As the map to the right (USGS craton map) [on original] shows, the Yucca Mountain site is not in an ideal location in terms of tectonic activity.

Located near the boundary of the “accretionary belt” and the “deformed craton” the region has a history of volcanic activity within the past 2 million years and Nevada is ranked third in the nation for earthquakes. As Dr. Cochran points out in his paper cited above, Nevada was selected largely for political reasons. The federal government already owned the Nevada Test Site property, which had been used for years for weapons testing. It is remote, however, remote areas of the United States are often found out west where there is higher seismicity. Whether we want to or not, we as a nation will have to figure out a solution to permanent nuclear waste disposal with some 90,000 tons now in temporary storage.

So where should it go? North or South Dakota? Eastern Montana? Predicting the long-term future of seismic events appears to be dicey. As Nevada Seismological Laboratory Director Graham Kent puts it “We like to think everything’s the way it is and it doesn’t change that much,” he said. “I think the last few months we’ve learned with the pandemic that that’s not the case.”

May 21, 2020 Posted by | safety, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Global heating is making hurricanes more extreme

Global warming is making hurricanes stronger, study says,  Doyle Rice, USA TODAY, 18 May 20 

  • Scientists studied 40 years of satellite images to reach their conclusions.
  • Tropical cyclones are some of nature’s most powerful and destructive storms.
  • Much of the death and destruction from hurricanes comes from storms of Category 3 strength or higher.

Who says we can’t control the weather?

Human-caused global warming has strengthened the wind speeds of hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones around the globe, a new study released Monday said.

These storms, collectively known as tropical cyclones, are some of nature’s most powerful and destructive storms. Category 5 Hurricane Dorian, for example, laid waste to portions of the Bahamas last year as the storm’s 185-mph winds cut through the nation like a buzzsaw.

Scientists studied 40 years of satellite images to reach their conclusions.

“Our results show that these storms have become stronger on global and regional levels, which is consistent with expectations of how hurricanes respond to a warming world,” said study lead author James Kossin of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Global warming, aka climate change, is caused by the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas, which release greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide into the Earth’s atmosphere. This has caused the planet to warm to levels that cannot be explained by natural factors.

The study was led by scientists from NOAA and the University of Wisconsin and was published in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Kerry Emanuel, a hurricane expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who was not involved in the study, said the findings were “much in line with what’s expected,” according to the New York Times.

Scientists said that the chances of hurricanes becoming a Category 3 or higher have increased each of the past four decades. Much of the death and destruction from hurricanes comes from storms of Category 3 strength or higher, which are known as “major” hurricanes……. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/05/18/global-warming-making-hurricanes-stronger-study-suggests/5216028002/

May 21, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

Over 100 public interest organisations call on Canadian govt to halt decision on nuclear waste disposal

Groups ask Ottawa to press ‘pause’ on nuclear  waste disposal  https://www.tbnewswatch.com/local-news/groups-ask-ottawa-to-press-pause-on-nuclear-waste-disposal-2361184   ‘There’s no rules’ for evaluating an underground storage site, spokesperson says.   By: Gary Rinne  OTTAWA — More than 100 public interest organizations, environmental groups and others are calling on the federal government to suspend all decision-making regarding radioactive nuclear waste disposal.

In a letter to Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan, they describe Canada’s current nuclear waste policy as “deficient,” saying it must be improved in consultation with the public and Indigenous peoples.

Among the signatories are numerous groups in northern Ontario, including Thunder Bay-based Environment North and Keep Nuclear Waste Out of Northwestern Ontario.

The letter follows a February report from the International Atomic Energy Agency which recommended that the government “enhance” its existing radioactive waste management policy.

The IAEA said the policy framework “does not encompass all the needed policy elements nor a detailed strategy” required for long-term nuclear waste management.

The signatories say their request is urgent because the regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, is pressing ahead with licensing decisions on a number of radioactive waste projects.

“Fearing Canada’s deficient radioactive waste framework will imprint itself on decisions affecting the health and safety of future generations and the environment, signees urged Canada to provide leadership, and establish sufficient guidance and federal policy,” they said in a statement Tuesday.

The groups also want Ottawa to establish objectives and principles to underly a nuclear waste policy, and that the government identify “the problems and issues exposed by existing and accumulating radioactive waste.”

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization is currently studying potential future underground nuclear waste storage sites in the Ignace area and South Bruce in southern Ontario.

Brennan Lloyd of North Bay-based Northwatch said NWMO’s search for a future repository is “part and parcel” of concerns about Canada’s overall approach to managing radioactive waste issues.

Nuclear waste disposal isn’t the only pressing matter, Lloyd said, but “we have lots of concerns about the Nuclear Waste Management Organization, their operation…going back to 2002 when the Nuclear Waste Fuels Act allowed the industry to create the NWMO.”

She added that “the lack of a solid set of rules around radioactive waste, we believe, does affect how the NWMO has conducted itself, but even more importantly it may affect the review process if the NWMO ever actually arrives at a site that they can in some way present as having the support of a host community.”

According to Lloyd, there are no rules as to how such a proposal would be evaluated.

She said that in 1996, the federal government presented a Radioactive Waste Policy Framework that’s less than a page long, and it’s problematic that “almost 25 years later, that’s still all we have in the way of real policy, strategy, rules around radioactive waste at the national level.”

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission staff have recently proposed regulatory documents, Lloyd said, “which are really very general descriptions of how they might go about issuing a licence for various activities. And they really lack rigour.”

She said two of the five regulatory documents the CNSC plans to bring forward next month deal directly with nuclear waste burial.

“One is around how you would assess the long-term performance of a deep geological repository, and one is about how you would characterize a site that was being considered. And both of them are just incredibly weak documents,” Lloyd maintained.

“The dividing line is between ‘shall’ and ‘should.’ The CNSC documents are all ‘should’ or ‘may.’ Which means there’s no rules.”

Lloyd and the other signatories to the letter ask Minister O’Regan to instruct the CNSC to stop developing radioactive waste management and nuclear decommissioning documents until new, overarching policies and strategies are in place.

May 21, 2020 Posted by | Canada, wastes | Leave a comment

Massive deregulation of America’s radioactive wastes

Environmentalists Fault Sending ‘Very Low Level’ Nuclear Waste to Landfills  https://www.nbcbayarea.com/investigations/environmentalists-fault-sending-very-low-level-nuclear-waste-to-landfills/2292805/  BJaxon Van Derbeken,-20 May 20 The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission has proposed a rule “reinterpretation” that would allow commercial landfills to start taking in low level radioactive waste, in lieu of the four currently licensed disposal facilities nationwide.

Environmentalists were quick to attack the proposed rule change by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, saying that under the plan, the public would not be automatically notified when a landfill qualifies for a waiver of the current regulations.

This is the most massive deregulation of radioactive waste in American history,” said Daniel Hirsch, head of an environmental watchdog group and former director of the Program on Environmental and Nuclear Policy.  “And they are doing it under the cover of the coronavirus pandemic, when everyone’s attention is rightly focused on other things.”

Under Proposed Rule No. 2020-0065, what the commission considers a “reinterpretation” of existing rules, hundreds of landfills nationwide could submit applications for an exemption of the current rules requiring that all low-level nuclear waste be sent to either Washington state, Utah, Texas or South Carolina.

Environmentalists were quick to attack the proposed rule change by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, saying that under the plan, the public would not be automatically notified when a landfill qualifies for a waiver of the current regulations.

“This is the most massive deregulation of radioactive waste in American history,” said Daniel Hirsch, head of an environmental watchdog group and former director of the Program on Environmental and Nuclear Policy.  “And they are doing it under the cover of the coronavirus pandemic, when everyone’s attention is rightly focused on other things.”

Under Proposed Rule No. 2020-0065, what the commission considers a “reinterpretation” of existing rules, hundreds of landfills nationwide could submit applications for an exemption of the current rules requiring that all low-level nuclear waste be sent to either Washington state, Utah, Texas or South Carolina.

To qualify for an exemption, a landfill would need to submit an analysis of the types of waste they would receive and that they could meet radiation exposure limits.

Hirsch said that under the proposed regulatory language, private landfills wouldn’t have to notify neighbors.

“You could be living next to a nuclear dump, and never even know it,” he said.

The NRC contends its plan is safe. In a statement, the commission said it intends to relax regulations for disposing of “very low level” waste, such as the concrete from decommissioned nuclear reactors. Such waste, the commission says, poses little risk to the public, while allowing for reduced costs and lower radiation exposure to drivers while they are transporting it.

Critics, like Jeff Ruch, West Coast head of PEER, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, say there aren’t nearly enough safeguards.

“If you get the exemption, you could put it in your backyard,” he said. “There’s no tracing process, there’s no monitoring — this, in essence exempts them from any form of regulatory or public health safeguard, and that’s the concern.”

The NRC told us that companies that are disposing of the radioactive materials, along with participating landfills, would share the responsibility of complying with the rules under the exemption system, adding:  “We would not allow such disposals if we felt public health and safety and the environment would not be protected.”

Disclosure aside, critics said they are concerned that the restrictions for landfills would not be as strict as the ones in place for the four licensed facilities. Under the proposed rules, residents near newly participating landfills could be exposed to as much as two and half times the level regulatorily allowed around the four licensed disposal sites, Hirsch said.

The commission said that the proposed permitted landfill exposure level would be the same as allowed around decommissioned nuclear plants.

The nuclear industry has yet to weigh in on the proposal, but the deadline for public comment has been extended to July. The five member commission is then expected to take up the matter.

If the plan is approved, it could mean dramatically reduced costs of disposing contaminated soil around San Francisco’s old Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, which is slated for development. Clearing that site could involve hauling away as many as 100,000 truckloads of contaminated soil. Right now, the soil in the area is being retested following allegations of wrongdoing by the previous testing firm, Tetra Tech, that the company denies.

May 21, 2020 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Nuclear power policy now a low priority for Philippines govt

May 21, 2020 Posted by | Philippines, politics | Leave a comment