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Will Sellafields nuclear waste waft to Ireland? Or waft somewhere else? #nuclearban

…Prof Chris Busby first consulted the online NOAA Hy-Split atmospheric projection software with the same date as the EPA report and got a completely different scenario showing most of Ireland being covered with meandering waves of highly radioactive particles and gases….

REPOST due to images being hacked from page on previous version and also here is a Sellafield update; Sellafield’s 11000 cubic metres of nuclear waste – UK’s storage problem  https://nuclear-news.net/2020/06/08/sellafields-11000-cubic-metres-of-nuclear-waste-uks-storage-problem/

Introduction by Shaun McGee (aka arclight2011)

Published exclusive to nuclear-news.net (Creative Commons applies)

2 February 2018

The Irish Sellafield nuclear accident fallout projection report has some issues, in my opinion.
In December 2016 the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published in Irish Media Sources a report on radioactive fallout from a “worse case” scenario.

sr8
At the time, I was in contact with the Irish EPA concerning new evidence that shows a larger health effect from radiation sources and I was trying to challenge the pro nuclear bias that underestimated the health and environmental problems using mechanisms from the EURATOM nuclear treaty in Europe. I have to say that the Irish EPA were forthcoming in their many responses to my inquiries but eventually we reached a stale mate as the EPA claimed that the specific Isotopes relevant to the Euratom Treaty are not to be found in Ireland with the exception of Iodine 131 which they claimed was unlikely to be a health problem. They said that other fission (from a nuclear reactor) isotopes were not found on the island of Ireland.
The 2016 report from the Irish EPA (link) shows, what I think, is a minimal dispersion of radioactive fallout with little impact to health or the environment. However, there are other reports of fallout plumes from the Sellafield site that show much worse contamination than the 2016 EPA report posits and I requested Prof Chris Busby (who had been involved with Irish activists and government groups concerning Sellafield) to do a report (Full report below) on the problems that seemed to be highlighted with the Irish EPA report.
Prof Chris Busby first consulted the online NOAA Hy-Split atmospheric projection software with the same date as the EPA report and got a completely different scenario showing most of Ireland being covered with meandering waves of highly radioactive particles and gases. He then consulted 2 other reports, one of which the Irish Government commissioned that was completed by 2014 using the European gold standard software fallout projection model that showed a large plume covering large sways of Ireland (reaching the south west coast).
It would seem that the 2016 report completely runs counter to the 2014 and earlier report as well as the Hy-Split projection whilst using the same date as the 2016 Irish report.
So the issue of the types of accident that the Irish EPA thought to be worse case scenario. A direct hit by a Meteorite was seen to be plausible but if a meteorite hit sellafield then much of the nuclear site would be lofted high into the atmosphere and more evenly spread around the globe. This would fudge the numbers for plumes that are moving nearer the ground.
No where in the report was the more likely and and more dangerous scenario of terrorists attacking the spent fuel pools causing low altitude fallout over many weeks that would cause a larger pollution incident that would effect local countries to the UK border such as Ireland, Norway etc.In fact such concerns have been reported in main stream media sources as well as government/private think tanks.

Thanks to Prof Chris Busby for taking the time off his busy schedule to compile a response to the Irish EPA report on Sellafields projected damage to Ireland.

Please feel free to leave a comment belowif you agree or disagree with any of the points raised, a discussion about this issue needs to be had.

Shaun McGee (aka arclight2011)

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Conclusion to report

The EPA 2016 report is unsafe and cannot be relied upon by the public, the media or administrators. The anonymous authors have shown extraordinary bias in every aspect of the report. They made elementary mistakes in their source term listing of isotopes, by including those which had short half-lives and will clearly not have been present in any significant concentration. They omitted a whole series of nuclides which are present in the tanks and the fuel pools. They choose a source term which is demonstrably too low based on available data, they choose a worst-case accident which involves only one HAST tank and only Caesium-137. They omit mentioning the spent fuel pools which are a highly likely site of a major coolant loss and subsequent fire or explosion. Their air modelling results are extremely unusual with implausibly narrow plumes, whilst a NOAA HYSPLIT model for the same day shows a completely different dispersion covering most of highly populated Ireland. Their surface contamination levels are 200 times lower than a previous computer model by Dr Taylor, which they must have had access to, and they fail to calculate the increased levels of cancer in the exposed population. This has been rectified here.

Historic releases from Sellafield to the Irish Sea have caused measurable increases in cancer and leukemia in coastal populations of Ireland. There is no doubt that the existence of Sellafield represents a potential catastrophic danger to the Irish Republic. A serious accident there could destroy the country and also most of Britain. As the Chernobyl accident effects showed, and the Fukushima accident effects will reveal (and in the case of Thyroid cancer have revealed) the ICRP risk model is unsafe for explaining or predicting health effects from such contamination. The Authors of the EPA 2016 report should be sanctioned in some way for producing such a travesty of the real picture, especially since they will have had access to the earlier study and modelling by Peter Taylor and the details of the COSYMA model employed by him.

Christopher Busby

August 17th 2017

Using recognised plume projection software for same day

sr7

UK version given to Irish EPA for same day

sr2

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The health impact on Ireland of a severe accident at Sellafield.

A criticism of the report “Potential radiological impact on Ireland of postulated severe accidents at Sellafield” Anon. (Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland: September 2016) with a re-assessment of the range of health outcomes.

Christopher Busby PhD

There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don’t know.

Donald Rumsfeld

Murphy’s Law is an adage or epigram that is typically stated as:

Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murphy%27s_law]

Introduction

The nuclear complex at Sellafield in Cumbria, UK, has always represented a real danger to the Republic of Ireland. There has been and remains a chronic danger to the people of the East Coast of Ireland. First, radioactivity released from Sellafield under licence to the Irish Sea, particularly in the 1970s did not, as had been hoped, dilute and disperse in the sea, but instead became attached to sediment particles along the coasts and inlets of Ireland (e.g. Carlingford Lough, Drogheda) and the particles represented a cause of cancer and illnesses in coastal populations and those exposed through eating fish and shellfish. A court case (Herr and Ors. Vs BNFL) was supported by the Irish State and my organisation was funded by the Irish State for 3 years from 1998 to examine the contamination and health issue. Green Audit examined the cancer rates in small areas in North and mid Wales, and also in Ireland by distance from the contaminated coasts. Results were published in Busby 2006 and showed that there had been a significant 30% increase in cancer and leukemia in coastal populations of the Irish Sea [1]. The second issue of continuing interest is the danger of a serious accident at Sellafield at a time when the wind direction is from the East and airborne material passes across Ireland. This issue became more urgent and of interest to the Irish public after the Fukushima Daiichi reactor explosions and melt-downs in Japan in 2011. However, the potential outcome of such an accident had been part of a report by Peter Taylor [2] written in 1999 for McGuill and Company, the solicitors representing the Herr and Ors vs. BNFL case which was abandoned by the Irish State for reasons which remain unclear.

In September 2016, a report was produced by the EPA Office of Radiological Protection entitled Potential radiological impact on Ireland of postulated severe accidents at Sellafield. [3]. This anonymous report has serious shortcomings and errors which will be addressed here. A more realistic assessment of the potential impact of a serious accident at Sellafield on the Republic of Ireland will be presented here using the radiological risk models both of the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP, [4]) and also the Model of the European Committee on Radiation Risk (ECRR [5]).

 

2. The baseline assumptions of maximum release.

2.1 The EPA worst case.

The EPA report discussed some possible accidents involving releases of radionuclides. It examined some potential sources of radionuclides but not others. It chose a number of possible scenarios, but excluded others. In general terms (and referring to Murphy’s Law, appropriately in this case of Ireland) it could not assess accidents which are totally unforeseen. Therefore, also in general, we should consider a worst case-scenario in which most of the radioactivity inventory of the Sellafield site becomes airborne at a time when the weather patterns were most unfavourable for Ireland.

For example, in Busby 2007 [1] the Windscale reactor fire was examined in some detail. At the time of the fire, which continued for some days, the main releases were initially offshore towards Ireland. This is contrary to the discourse promoted by the British Radiological Protection Board in 1974. It is, however confirmed by Air Ministry historical data. But the point is that at the time a cold front laying North East to South West was moving from Ireland towards England across the Irish Sea. This meant the releases from the fire and heavy radioactive rain fell along the front. This rain fell on the Isle of Man, and historical mortality data show a large increase in the death rate after this event. There have also been reports of significant birth effects (Downs Syndrome cluster) in County Louth reported by the Irish GP Patricia Sheehan, who died in an automobile accident shortly after beginning to follow this up.

In order to estimate the effects of a worst case, initially there must be a choice of the source term, that is, the quantity and radionuclide identity of the material released to the atmosphere.

The EPA report decided that this could be modelled as the contents of one of the 21 High Active Storage Tanks (HAST). The true content of one of these is unknown, probably also to the operators BNFL. The estimate for the contents was taken from a report by Turvey and Hone [6]. This is shown in Table 1 below where I note a number of concerns. In Table 2 I provide examples of some hazardous radionuclides not listed in the EPA source term table. In Table 3 I copy the source terms used by the British 1976 Royal Commission (the Flowers Report) [7]. Note that all these estimates are for a single or multiple HAST tanks on the tank farm and exclude explosions of the spent fuel ponds which could dry up and suffer prompt criticality. This could result from a domino scenario (see below).

Table 1 EPA assumed release source term. (E-notation, thus 1 x 1014 is written 1 E+14_

Radio

nuclide

Total activity Bq

Half Life

Comment

Zr-95

1.4 E+15

64days

All decayed away; almost none there

Nb-95

5.8 E+14

35 days

Daughter of Zr-95; all decayed away; none there

Ru-106

1.33 E+16

366 days

All decayed away; almost none there

Sb-125

1.6 E+15

2.7 years

All decayed away; almost none there

Cs-134

1.04 E+16

2.0 years

All decayed away; almost none there

Cs-137

5.26 E+17

30 years

Significant

Ce-144

9.65 E+15

284 days

All decayed away; almost none there

Eu-154

4.41 E+15

8.5years

Minor significance now

Eu-155

3.39 E+15

5 years

Minor significance now

Sr-90

3.6 E+17

28.8 years

Highly Significant; DNA seeker

Am-241

2.72 E+15

432 years

Highly Significant alpha; decays to Np-237 alpha; daughter of Plutonium-241

Cm-242

4.57 E+13

162 days

All decayed away; almost none there

Cm-243

1.92 E+14

32 years

Highly Significant alpha; decays to Plutonium-239, so there must be approximately the same or more Plutonium-239 (fissionable) in the mix

2.2 Concerns about the source term table of the EPA 2016 report

Table 1 gives the source terms employed by the EPA report. It lists 13 isotopes. The table is an astonishing example of bad science, produced either through bias or ignorance. Since the table is apparently taken from another report by Turvey and Hone 2000, we can perhaps blame them for the original mistakes. I have included a column showing the half-lives of their isotopes. The main concerns are as follows:


It is perfectly clear than all but four of the thirteen will have physically decayed away by 2016. For example, a half life of Zr-95 of 65 days, at 1980 would by now have had 36 x 365 days to decay. This is 202 half-lives. There would be virtually none left of the listed quantity.
A significant number of seriously hazardous radionuclides which must be in the tanks are not listed. In particular we have Plutonium-239, Plutonium- 238, Plutonium-241, Uranium and other actinide alpha emitters including Neptunium-237, Radium-226, Carbon-14 and Tritium.
The overall total activity tabulated the EPA report is about 4 times less than the quantity in a HAST tank given in the report of the UK Royal Commission 1976 (Flowers) and the 1977 Windscale Enquiry which totalled 1.8 x 1018 Becquerels of Caesium-137 plus 1.4 x 1018 Bq of Strontium-90 plus 1.1 x 1018 Bq of Ruthenium-106 [8].
Why did the EPA report reduce the quantities assumed by the earlier reports? Why did it omit the dangerous actinides Uranium, Plutonium and Neptunium with the exception of Americium-241? Why did it omit a whole range of other radionuclides like Tritium and Carbon-14?

Table 2 Some Missing isotopes from the EPA Source term with longer half-lives or present as daughters

Isotope

Half Life

U-238

4.5 E+9y

Alpha

U-235

7.1 E+8y

Alpha

U-234

2.4 E+5y

Alpha

Th-230

8 E+4y

Alpha

Ra-226

1599y

Alpha

Pu-238

86.4y

Alpha

Pu-239

2.4 E+4y

Alpha

Pu-241

14.4y

Decays to Am-241 listed by EPA

Np-237

2.1 E+6y

Am-241 daughter

Mn-54

312d

Activation

Co-60

5.27y

Activation

Y-90

64h

In equilibrium with Sr-90

H-3

12.3y

Life component; radioactive water

C-14

5730y

Life component

Table 3 HAST tank content according to Windscale Enquiry 1977 and Royal Commission 1976

Isotope
Quantity(Bq)
Cs-137
1.8 E+18
Sr-90 + Y-90
2.8 E+18
Ru-106
1.1 E+18

2.3 The more accurate source terms for HAST tanks

Taylor 1999 [2] based his calculations on only Cs-137 and assumed a source term of 1 x 1018 Bq. Therefore, his results (which I will review below) should be adjusted by a factor of 1.8 on the basis of the Table 3 results, but particularly also modified upwards by the presence of the Sr-90/Y-90 and the actinides, the Plutonium, Uranium, Radium and Americium, which, though they are present in smaller quantities each carry a weighting of 20 due to their alpha biological effectiveness. Thus the quantity of 2.72 E+15 listed by EPA in Table 1 has the effect (in Sieverts) of 5.44 E+16 due to its alpha emission.

2.4 The spent fuel pools

In addition to HAST tank scenarios, there has been reported the existence [ 9: http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2611216/leaked_sellafield_photos_reveal_massive_radioactive_release_threat.html%5D in a very dangerous state, a series of concrete spent fuel pools containing hundreds of tons of spent fuel. Loss of integrity of these tanks (drying up) would result in meltdown and prompt criticality with explosive distribution and burning of the spent fuel elements.

The approximate activity inventory of a spent fuel assembly for a Boiling Water Reactor is available from Alvarez 2014 [10] and the EIA for a Pressurized Water reactor fuel assembly from the Swedish Forsmark High Level Waste repository documents [11]. Therefore these are not exactly the same as the assemblies in the Sellafield pools. However, they will not be very different. The radioactive elements and their activity is given in Table 5 [Ref 5,6] .

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