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Donald Trump’s erratic behaviour revives the debate on the President’s unchecked nuclear authority

Trump’s Virus Treatment Revives Questions About Unchecked Nuclear Authority
Even before the president was given mood-altering drugs, there was a movement to end the commander in chief’s sole authority to launch nuclear weapons. NYT, 12 Oct 20,  By David E. Sanger and William J. Broad,

President Trump’s long rants and seemingly erratic behavior last week — which some doctors believe might have been fueled by his use of dexamethasone, a steroid, to treat Covid-19 — renewed a long-simmering debate among national security experts about whether it is time to retire one of the early inventions of the Cold War: the unchecked authority of the president to launch nuclear weapons.

Mr. Trump has publicly threatened the use of those weapons only once in his presidency, during his first collision with North Korea in 2017. But it was his decision not to invoke the 25th Amendment and turn control over to Vice President Mike Pence last week that has prompted concern inside and outside the government.

Among those who have long argued for the need to rethink presidents’ “sole authority” powers are former Defense Secretary William J. Perry, considered the dean of American nuclear strategists, who has cited the fragility of a nuclear-weapons control chain and the fear that it can be subject to errors of judgment or failure to ask the right questions under the pressure of a warning of an incoming attack.

Mr. Trump’s critics have long questioned whether his unpredictable statements and contradictions pose a nuclear danger. But the concerns raised last week were somewhat different: whether a president taking mood-altering drugs could determine whether a nuclear alert was a false alarm.

That question is a new one. The military’s Strategic Command often conducts drills that simulate actual but inconclusive evidence that the United States may be under nuclear attack. Such simulations drive home the reality that even a president asking all the right questions could make a mistake. But they rarely simulate what would happen if the president’s judgment was impaired.

“A nuclear crisis can happen at any time,” Tom Z. Collina, the policy director at the Ploughshares Fund, a private group that seeks to defuse nuclear threats, noted last week in an opinion piece. “If such a crisis takes place when a president’s thinking is compromised for any reason,” he added, “the results could be catastrophic.”

Traditionally, presidents have temporarily conveyed authority — including nuclear launch authority — to the vice president when they anticipated being under anesthesia. Ronald Reagan took that step in 1985, and George W. Bush did so in 2002 and 2007. There was no indication that Mr. Trump was unconscious, but there was reason to be concerned that the cocktail of drugs he was given could impair his judgment to make the most critical decisions entrusted to a president.

Last week in telephone interviews with Fox News and Fox Business Network, Mr. Trump said he was no longer taking experimental medications but was still on dexamethasone, which doctors say can produce euphoria, bursts of energy and even a sense of invulnerability. On Friday, he told Fox News he was off the drug, which he appears to have taken for less than a week.

But during that week, his prolific Twitter activity and rambling interviews led many to question whether the drugs had accentuated his erratic tendencies. His doctors’ refusal to describe with any specificity his condition or treatment only played up the concern.

“The history of obfuscating the medical condition of presidents is as old as the Republic,” said Vipin Narang, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has studied the nuclear command-and-control chain. “The issue here is that the dex” — shorthand for dexamethasone — “can make you paranoid and delusional.”

“We don’t know how much he was given,” Mr. Narang said. “And if he gives an order in the middle of the night, and no one is there to stop him, we are dependent on his military aide not to transmit the order or the duty officer at the national military command center to stop it.”………….

The “sole authority” tradition is unusual among the world’s nine nuclear powers; even Russia requires two out of three designated officials to sign off on a nuclear launch. While the Constitution says that only Congress can declare war, the speed of bombers and missiles made clear during the Cold War that there would be no time to convene Congress or mount a defense. As a result, Congress began delegating to the president all powers to use nuclear weapons during Harry S. Truman’s administration. He is the only president who has ordered a nuclear strike……..

“The last finger I would want on the nuclear button,” said Hans M. Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, a private group in Washington, “is that of a president on drugs.”………

October 13, 2020 Posted by | PERSONAL STORIES, psychology - mental health, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

What to do about the USA President’s sole authority to launch a nuclear pre-emptive strike?

October 13, 2020 Posted by | politics, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Climate disasters – Earth is becoming uninhabitable for millions of humans.

An uninhabitable hell’: UN says climate change ‘doubled the rate’ of disasters, SMH, By Olivia Rudgard, October 13, 2020 Climate change is largely responsible for a doubling in the number of natural disasters since 2000, the United Nations said Monday, as it warned that the Earth was becoming uninhabitable for millions of humans.

Three quarters of a billion more people were affected by catastrophic events of nature over the past two decades than in the 20 years before, the UN’s office for disaster risk reduction said.

Calling humanity “wilfully destructive”, it said the data was a wake-up call to governments that had failed to take the threat of climate change seriously or to prepare for more natural disasters.

It is baffling that we willingly and knowingly continue to sow the seeds of our own destruction, despite the science and evidence that we are turning our home into an uninhabitable hell for millions of people,” the authors said.

The report found that there were 7,348 major recorded disaster events between 2000 and 2019, compared with 4,212 between 1980 and 1999.

Climate-related disasters explained the bulk of the rise, increasing from 3,656 to 6,681. Floods and storms were the most common events. The incidence of flooding more than doubled, from 1,389 to 3,254.

Mami Mizutori, the UN’s representative for disaster risk reduction, said that NGOs and emergency services were “fighting an uphill battle against an ever-rising tide of extreme weather events”. She added: “The odds are being stacked against us when we fail to act on science and early warnings to invest in prevention, climate-change adaptation and disaster-risk reduction,” she said.

Asia was the worst-hit continent and China the worst-affected country, followed by the US. Overall, more than 4 billion people were affected by disasters, a rise from 3.25 billion. …….

October 13, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

Los Alamos National Laboratory nuclear waste is potentially explosive

Report: LANL nuclear waste mix potentially explosive, By Scott Wyland, Oct 10, 2020  

Los Alamos National Laboratory is storing hundreds, maybe thousands, of barrels of radioactive waste mixed with incompatible chemicals that have the potential to cause an explosion, putting workers and the public at risk, a government watchdog said in a report. LANL personnel have failed to analyze chemicals present in hundreds of containers of transuranic nuclear waste, making it possible for an incompatible chemical to be mixed in and cause a container to burst, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board said in a September report.
Such an explosion would release radiation in doses lethal to workers and hazardous to the public, the safety board said. And yet the radiation levels that would be released have not been sufficiently estimated, it said.

Some of LANL’s facilities store radioactive waste without any engineered controls or safeguards beyond the containers, the board wrote in a cover letter addressed to the U.S. Department of Energy.

“As such, additional credited safety controls may be necessary to protect workers and the public,” the board said.

In 2014, a LANL waste container was packaged in a volatile blend of organic cat litter and nitrate salts, which caused the container to rupture and spew radiation at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. The underground disposal site closed for three years while it underwent a $2 billion cleanup.

The incidents that released high levels of radiation at WIPP and Idaho National Laboratory have shown the importance of adding multiple layers of protection to reduce the consequences of an accident, the board said.

The report estimates that an exploding waste canister could expose workers to 760 rem, far beyond the threshold of a lethal dose. A rem is a unit used to measure radiation exposure.

Federal guidelines define a lethal dose as high enough to cause 50 percent of the population to die within 30 days. Those levels range from 400 to 450 rem.

The 760 rem estimate is equal to 380,000 chest X-rays, said Dan Hirsch, retired director of programs on environment and nuclear policy at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

“This is vastly above what’s permissible for workers’ exposure,” Hirsch said, adding that far lower doses can cause cancer.

The 760 rem estimate is actually conservative, he said, noting that the WIPP explosion released four times that amount.

A spokeswoman for the National Nuclear Security Administration said officials were aware of the board’s letter and report regarding issues with transuranic waste storage and handling. She didn’t answer questions about the board’s criticisms or how the agency would tackle the problems identified in the report.

“Maintaining the safety, security, and effectiveness of America’s nuclear deterrent remains paramount to NNSA,” she said.

About 2,000 waste containers remain at LANL because they don’t meet WIPP’s criteria for disposal, mainly because of chemical residues in the waste that make it volatile and even flammable, the report said.

“It’s elementary,” Hirsch said. “You put certain chemicals together and they explode.”

Even water seeping into a barrel of waste containing sodium can trigger an explosion, Hirsch said. That’s what made a waste container blow up at a Nevada nuclear storage site five years ago, he said.

Having the waste containers stored above ground magnifies the hazard, Hirsch said. If one of those burst, it would be far more dangerous than one exploding at an underground site like WIPP, he said.

The report points to years of waste disposal problems that haven’t been corrected, said Greg Mello, executive director of the nonprofit Los Alamos Study Group.

“LANL keeps kicking the waste problem down the road,” Mello said. “LANL has always prioritized its weapons work, and this waste problem has built up for decades.”

If the lab produces plutonium triggers for bombs as planned, it will generate more waste that must be disposed of, Mello said. So if it doesn’t make its current waste safe and acceptable for WIPP, that waste might end up being stuck at the lab as a permanent hazard, Mello said.

The board, whose access the Energy Department has tried to restrict, has again shown how vital it is to report on hazards to workers – in this case, potentially lethal doses of radiation, said Jay Coghlan, executive director of nonprofit Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

“These dangers will only grow worse as LANL becomes less and less a lab and more and more a permanent nuclear weapons production site,” Coghlan said.

Any plutonium release is extremely hazardous, Hirsch said.

If someone inhales one millionth of an ounce of plutonium, that person has a 100 percent chance of getting cancer, Hirsch said. So every effort must be made to keep it contained and stabilized – something lab officials are not doing, he said.

“They seem to cut corners,” Hirsch said. “And they’re cutting corners with the most dangerous materials on Earth.”

On our website Read this story at to view the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board’s report on Los Alamos National Laboratory’s faulty radioactive waste storage, which includes the board’s letter to the U.S. Department of Energy.

October 13, 2020 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Study shows that renewable energy is clearly better that nuclear at cutting greenhouse emissions

25-Year Study of Nuclear vs Renewables Says One Is Clearly Better at Cutting Emissions, Science Alert, DAVID NIELD 11 OCTOBER 2020

Nuclear power is often promoted as one of the best ways to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels to generate the electricity we need, but new research suggests that going all-in on renewables such as wind and solar might be a better approach to seriously reducing the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Based on an analysis of 123 countries over a quarter of a century, the adoption of nuclear power did not achieve the significant reduction in national carbon emissions that renewables did – and in some developing nations, nuclear programmes actually pushed carbon emissions higher.

The study also finds that nuclear power and renewable power don’t mix well when they’re tried together: they tend to crowd each other out, locking in energy infrastructure that’s specific to their mode of power production.

Given nuclear isn’t exactly zero carbon, it risks setting nations on a path of relatively higher emissions than if they went straight to renewables….

It’s important to note that the study looked specifically at data from 1999-2014, so it excludes more recent innovations in nuclear power and renewables, and the scientists themselves say they have found a correlation, rather than cause and effect. But it’s an interesting trend that needs further investigation.

“The evidence clearly points to nuclear being the least effective of the two broad carbon emissions abatement strategies, and coupled with its tendency not to co-exist well with its renewable alternative, this raises serious doubts about the wisdom of prioritising investment in nuclear over renewable energy,” says Benjamin Sovacool, a professor of energy policy at the University of Sussex in the UK.

“Countries planning large-scale investments in new nuclear power are risking suppression of greater climate benefits from alternative renewable energy investments.”

The researchers suggest the tighter regulations and longer lead times associated with nuclear power are responsible for some of the statistics explored here, while the large-scale development that nuclear requires tends to leave less room for renewable projects that work on a smaller scale.

There are also broader considerations to weigh up – nuclear and renewables will be two factors among many in the policies put together by governments when it comes to reducing carbon emissions.

Plus, given the time frame, a lot of the nuclear power plants covered by this study are likely to have been getting towards the end of their lifespans, which means more energy is required to maintain them.

Whatever the ins and outs of the nuclear policies, the study does show a clear link between greater adoption of renewable projects and lower carbon emissions overall.

The study authors propose that by cutting out nuclear altogether, these renewable gains could be even greater.

This paper exposes the irrationality of arguing for nuclear investment based on a ‘do everything’ argument,” says researcher for technology policy Andrew Stirling at the University of Sussex.

“Our findings show not only that nuclear investments around the world tend on balance to be less effective than renewable investments at carbon emissions mitigation, but that tensions between these two strategies can further erode the effectiveness of averting climate disruption.”………..

it is astonishing how clear and consistent the results are across different time frames and country sets,” says Patrick Schmid, from the ISM International School of Management in Germany.

“In certain large country samples the relationship between renewable electricity and CO2-emissions is up to seven times stronger than the corresponding relationship for nuclear.”

The research has been published in Nature Energy

October 13, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, renewable | Leave a comment

Analysis of risk of ecosystem collapse, biodiversity loss – a fifth of countries at risk

Fifth of countries at risk of ecosystem collapse, analysis finds
Trillions of dollars of GDP depend on biodiversity, according to Swiss Re report, 
 Damian Carrington Environment editor @dpcarrington, Mon 12 Oct 2020 .One-fifth of the world’s countries are at risk of their ecosystems collapsing because of the destruction of wildlife and their habitats, according to an analysis by the insurance firm Swiss Re.

Natural “services” such as food, clean water and air, and flood protection have already been damaged by human activity.

More than half of global GDP – $42tn (£32tn) – depends on high-functioning biodiversity, according to the report, but the risk of tipping points is growing.

Countries including Australia, Israel and South Africa rank near the top of Swiss Re’s index of risk to biodiversity and ecosystem services, with India, Spain and Belgium also highlighted. Countries with fragile ecosystems and large farming sectors, such as Pakistan and Nigeria, are also flagged up.

Countries including Brazil and Indonesia had large areas of intact ecosystems but had a strong economic dependence on natural resources, which showed the importance of protecting their wild places, Swiss Re said.

“A staggering fifth of countries globally are at risk of their ecosystems collapsing due to a decline in biodiversity and related beneficial services,” said Swiss Re, one of the world’s biggest reinsurers and a linchpin of the global insurance industry.

“If the ecosystem service decline goes on [in countries at risk], you would see then scarcities unfolding even more strongly, up to tipping points,” said Oliver Schelske, lead author of the research.

Jeffrey Bohn, Swiss Re’s chief research officer, said: “This is the first index to our knowledge that pulls together indicators of biodiversity and ecosystems to cross-compare around the world, and then specifically link back to the economies of those locations.”

The index was designed to help insurers assess ecosystem risks when setting premiums for businesses but Bohn said it could have a wider use as it “allows businesses and governments to factor biodiversity and ecosystems into their economic decision-making”.

The UN revealed in September that the world’s governments failed to meet a single target to stem biodiversity losses in the last decade, while leading scientists warned in 2019 that humans were in jeopardy from the accelerating decline of the Earth’s natural life-support systems. More than 60 national leaders recently pledged to end the destruction.

The Swiss Re index is built on 10 key ecosystem services identified by the world’s scientists and uses scientific data to map the state of these services at a resolution of one square kilometre across the world’s land. The services include provision of clean water and air, food, timber, pollination, fertile soil, erosion control, and coastal protection, as well as a measure of habitat intactness.

Those countries with more than 30% of their area found to have fragile ecosystems were deemed to be at risk of those ecosystems collapsing. Just one in seven countries had intact ecosystems covering more than 30% of their country area.

Among the G20 leading economies, South Africa and Australia were seen as  being most at risk, with China 7th, the US 9th and the UK 16th.

Alexander Pfaff, a professor of public policy, economics and environment at Duke University in the US, said: “Societies, from local to global, can do much better when we not only acknowledge the importance of contributions from nature – as this index is doing – but also take that into account in our actions, private and public.”

Pfaff said it was important to note that the economic impacts of the degradation of nature began well before ecosystem collapse, adding: “Naming a problem may well be half the solution, [but] the other half is taking action.”

Swiss Re said developing and developed countries were at risk from biodiversity loss. Water scarcity, for example, could damage manufacturing sectors, properties and supply chains.

Bohn said about 75% of global assets were not insured, partly because of insufficient data. He said the index could help quantify risks such as crops losses and flooding.

October 13, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, environment | Leave a comment

Small modular nuclear reactors create intensely radioactive wastes

A bridge to nowhere    New Brunswick must reject small modular reactors, Beyond Nuclear International, By Gordon Edwards and Susan O’Donnell, 12 Oct, 20 ”………  In New Brunswick, the proposed new reactors (so-called “small modular nuclear reactors” or SMNRs) will create irradiated fuel even more intensely radioactive per kilogram than waste currently stored at NB Power’s Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station. The non-fuel radioactive wastes will remain the responsibility of the government of New Brunswick, likely requiring the siting of a permanent radioactive waste repository somewhere in the province.

Interestingly, promoters of both new nuclear projects in New Brunswick – the ARC-100 reactor and the Moltex “Stable Salt Reactor” – claim their reactors will “burn up” these radioactive waste fuel bundles. They have even suggested that their prototype reactors offer a “solution” to Lepreau’s existing nuclear fuel waste problem. This is untrue. Radioactive left-over used fuel from the new reactors will still require safe storage for hundreds of thousands of years.

……… Until now, every effort to recycle and “burn up” used reactor fuel – in France, the UK, Russia and the US – has resulted in countless incidents of radioactive contamination of the local environment. In addition, none of these projects eliminated the need for permanent storage of the left-over long-lived radioactive byproducts, many of which cannot be “burned up.”…….

The nuclear waste problem is not going away. The recent letter from more than 100 groups across Canada, and the recent cancellation of the proposed nuclear waste dump in Ontario have shown that significant opposition to new nuclear energy generation exists. Because producing nuclear energy always means producing nuclear waste as well…….,

October 13, 2020 Posted by | Canada, Reference, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, wastes | Leave a comment

Struggling Japanese towns look to nuclear waste storing and the money associated

October 13, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, Japan, politics, wastes | Leave a comment

A positive story: We’ve had so many wins’: why the green movement can overcome climate crisis

We’ve had so many wins’: why the green movement can overcome climate crisis
Leaded petrol, acid rain, CFCs … the last 50 years of environmental action have shown how civil society can force governments and business to change,
Guardian, by Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent, Mon 12 Oct 2020 

Leaflets printed on “rather grotty” blue paper. That is how Janet Alty will always remember one of the most successful environment campaigns of modern times: the movement to ban lead in petrol.

There were the leaflets she wrote to warn parents at school gates of the dangers, leaflets to persuade voters and politicians, leaflets to drown out the industry voices saying – falsely – there was nothing to worry about.

In the late 1970s, the UK was still poisoning the air with the deadly toxin, despite clear scientific evidence that breathing in lead-tainted air from car exhausts had an effect on development and intelligence. Recently returned from several years in the US, Alty was appalled. Lead had been phased out in the US from 1975. Why was the British government still subjecting children to clear harm?

Robin Russell-Jones asked the same question. A junior doctor, he quickly grasped the nature of the lead problem, moving his family out of London. His fellow campaigner, Robert Stephens, amassed a trove of thousands of scientific papers, keeping them in his garage when his office burned down – he suspected foul play.

Their campaign took years. But in 1983, a damning verdict from the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution prompted the UK government to decree that both petrol stations and manufacturers must offer lead-free alternatives. Leaded petrol was finally removed from the last petrol pumps in the UK in 1999.

Today, it seems incredible that lead was ever used as a performance improver in car engines. Clean alternatives were available by the 1970s, but making the transition incurred short-term costs, so the motor industry, led by chemicals companies, clung on, lobbying politicians and ridiculing activists.

Faced with multiplying, and interlinked, environmental crises in the 2020s – the climate emergency, the sixth extinction stalking the natural world, the plastic scourge in our oceans, the polluted air of teeming metropolises – it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Lockdown offered a tantalising glimpse of a cleaner world, but also revealed a starker truth: that the global economy is not set up to prioritise wellbeing, climate and nature. What can we do, in the face of these devastating odds?

It is easy to forget that environmentalism is arguably the most successful citizens’ mass movement there has been. Working sometimes globally, at other times staying intensely local, activists have transformed the modern world in ways we now take for granted. The ozone hole has shrunk. Whales, if not saved, at least enjoy a moratorium on hunting. Acid rain is no longer the scourge of forests and lakes. Rivers thick with pollution in the 1960s teem with fish. Who remembers that less than 30 years ago, nuclear tests were still taking place in the Pacific? Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior ship was blown up by the French government in 1985, with one death and many injuries, in a long-running protest.

As well as giving heart to activists now, these victories contain important lessons. “The environmental movement has been very successful,” says Joanna Watson, who has worked at Friends of the Earth for three decades. “We’ve had so many campaigns and wins. Sometimes it’s been hard to claim success, and sometimes it takes a long time. And sometimes things that worked before won’t work now. But there’s a lot we can learn.”……
For Watson, the emphasis on what people have in common, despite surface divisions, is at the core of the green movement. “The thing about the environmental movement is, it crosses all barriers,” she says. “Whatever our political bent, we are all human, all people on the planet, and all interdependent. The environment is not something separate from us – we are all in the environment. It is where we live.”

October 13, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

Inadequate Emergency Planning Zones for small modular nuclear reactors

No emergency planning zones for SMRs? NRC commissioner warns against “flimsy” rule that could extend to current reactor fleet, Beyond Nuclear International By Jeff Baran,  12 Oct  20, In a 3-1 vote by NRC Commissioners on December 17, 2019, Proposed Rule: Emergency Preparedness for Small Modular Reactors and Other New Technologies (SECY-18-0103) was accepted. The Rule would eliminate the need for Emergency Planning Zones and dedicated offsite emergency planning for Small Modular Reactors. The lone dissenting vote came from NRC Commissioner Jeff Baran. These are his comments.

For the last 40 years, NRC has required emergency planning zones, or EPZs, (Emergency Planning Zones) around nuclear power plants “to assure that prompt and effective actions can be taken to protect the public in the event of an accident.” Every one of the 96* operating large light-water reactors in the country has a plume exposure pathway EPZ that extends about 10 miles around the site with dedicated offsite radiological emergency plans and protective actions in place to avoid or reduce radiation dose to the public during an accident. An ingestion exposure pathway EPZ with a radius of 50 miles around each of these sites is designed to avoid or reduce dose from consuming food and water contaminated by a radiological release.

The EPZs and dedicated radiological emergency plans are meant to provide multiple layers of protection – or defense-in-depth – against potential radiological exposure. Other NRC requirements are focused on preventing or mitigating a radioactive release. The emergency planning regulations are there to provide another layer of defense in case a release occurs despite those safety requirements.

In other words, EPZs and radiological emergency planning are designed to address low-probability, high-consequence events. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assesses the adequacy of the offsite emergency plans, and NRC regulations require licensees to hold offsite emergency preparedness drills at each plant at least once every 2 years to practice implementing the plan .

Under this proposed rule, emergency planning for small modular reactors (SMRs) and non-light-water reactors would be flimsy by comparison. Instead of a 10-mile plume exposure pathway EPZ, these reactors would have EPZs that encompass only areas where the projected dose from “credible” accidents could exceed 1 rem. An EPZ extending only to the site boundary is explicitly permitted under this methodology.

In the case of a site-boundary EPZ, NRC would not require dedicated offsite radiological emergency planning and FEMA would have no role in evaluating the adequacy of a site’s emergency plans. In addition, the proposed rule would eliminate the requirement for an ingestion exposure pathway EPZ and no longer require a specific drill frequency for emergency planning exercises. Overall, this proposed rule represents a radical departure from more than 40 years of radiological emergency planning…………

We need to take FEMA’s warnings seriously. FEMA has a key role in determining whether the emergency planning for a nuclear power plant site is adequate. Under NRC’s regulations, a nuclear power plant license cannot be issued unless NRC makes a finding that the major features of the emergency plan meet the regulatory requirements. And NRC is supposed to base its finding on FEMA’s determinations as to whether the offsite emergency plans are adequate and whether there is reasonable assurance that they can be implemented.

No new SMR or non-light-water reactor designs have yet been approved by NRC, and only one SMR design has been submitted for the staff’s review. These new designs could potentially be safer than current large light-water-reactor designs. But that does not eliminate the need for EPZs and dedicated offsite emergency planning to provide defense-in-depth in case something goes wrong…….

In addition to the issues identified by FEMA, there are several other significant problems with the proposed rule.

First, the logic of the proposed EPZ sizing methodology could be applied to the existing fleet of large light-water reactors to weaken the current level of protection. As the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards noted:

No technical basis is stated in the rule or the guidance for restricting the use of the new rule to SMRs and [other new technologies] with a limit on thermal power. The rule could apply to any reactor technology regardless of size. During our meetings, the staff acknowledged this point.

In fact, the proposed rule explicitly seeks comment on whether to apply this kind of approach to large light-water reactors. This opens the door to smaller EPZs and reduced emergency planning for the existing fleet of power reactors. If the proposed rule’s formulaic approach is adopted, a precedent will be established for applying a purely risk-based methodology to EPZ sizing. 

Second, the proposed rule does not account for the possibility of accidents affecting more than one SMR module. Even though some SMR designs contemplate several reactors at one site, the EPZ sizing methodology addresses each reactor in isolation. This ignores a key lesson of the Fukushima accident – that severe natural disasters can simultaneously threaten multiple reactors at a site. Under the draft proposed rule, a SMR is defined as a power reactor that produces less than 1,000 megawatts-thermal. The combined heat energy produced by just two SMRs of this size could be larger than that of some existing large light-water reactors in the U.S. But, under the proposed rule, each module could individually qualify for a site boundary EPZ without consideration of the other.

Third, unlike the existing regulations for large light-water reactors, the proposed rule “would not define the required frequency of drills and exercises” for emergency preparedness. As a result, SMR and non-light-water reactor licensees would not be required to conduct a full offsite emergency preparedness drill every 2 years. The NRC staff provides no basis for this weaker standard.

Finally, the proposed rule would eliminate the ingestion pathway EPZ for SMRs and non- light-water reactors . . . No FEMA evaluation of this change is provided. Nor is there any discussion of the effectiveness of ad hoc responses to previous radiological releases. Moreover, if the staff’s unbounded rationale were adopted, it could ultimately lead to ingestion pathway EPZs being dropped for the existing fleet of large light-water reactors.

For these reasons, I do not support finalizing the proposed rule in its current form. NRC needs a rule that provides regulatory certainty for potential applicants and recognizes that SMRs and non-light-water reactors will be different than traditional, large light-water reactors. It makes sense to have a graded approach that accounts for potential safety improvements in new designs. But the rule should not be purely risk-based, relying entirely on the results of a dose formula. Instead, NRC should issue a rule to establish the following emergency planning requirements for three categories of nuclear power plants………….


October 13, 2020 Posted by | safety, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA | Leave a comment

 Resisting nuclear colonialism on Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Resisting nuclear colonialism on Indigenous Peoples’ Day | NIRS The resistance of Indigenous peoples and their allies has created greater awareness about abuses and injustices that have been perpetrated against Native peoples since European empires colonized their lands. This is one of the reasons why NIRS commemorates this day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

As an anti-nuclear organization, we take Indigenous Peoples’ Day as an opportunity to acknowledge and denounce instances of nuclear colonialism committed against Indigenous peoples all over the world.

For over 70 years, the US nuclear power and weapons industry has consistently targeted Indigenous communities for contamination and environmental sacrifice. The radioactive scars of nuclear colonialism affect Indigenous peoples throughout the lands of Turtle Island (also called North America) and the Pacific Islands occupied by the United States of America, including:

Over 15,000 abandoned uranium mines, affecting Indigenous nations throughout the continent, including the Apache, Dine (Navajo), Lakota, Pueblo, and Sioux. Over 200 above-ground nuclear weapons explosions (and nearly 800 below-ground) affecting the Western Shoshone, Apache, Pacific Islanders (Marshall Islands, Northern Marianas, and Guam), and others. The 1979 Church Rock uranium tailings spill, the US’s worst nuclear disaster, which poisoned Dine (Navajo) communities for nearly 100 miles of the Rio Puerco and upper Rio Grande and has never been cleaned up. The West Valley Demonstration Project reprocessing plant, an immensely radioactive site on Seneca Nation land, which has contaminated Cattaraugus Creek and risks spilling into Lake Erie, the Niagara River, and Lake Ontario. Repeated attempts to site a high-level radioactive waste repository for the whole US nuclear power and weapons industries in Yucca Mountain (Nevada), sacred land of the Western Shoshone. A proposed nuclear waste burial ground in West Valley, California, on sacred homelands of the Chemehuevi, Cocopah, Fort Mojave, Quechan and Colorado River Indian Tribes A 1990s program that targeted Native tribes/nations as possible supposedly ‘interim’ storage places for nuclear power high-level radioactive waste.How can we start making things right for the Indigenous victims of nuclear colonialism? Here’s a step in the right direction: Acknowledging and compensating the victims of the first nuclear weapons test in the US, called ‘Trinity’, and workers poisoned by mining and processing uranium for nuclear weapons and power. Those communities, disproportionately Indigenous peoples, are still living with the fallout from Trinity and over 200 similar nuclear weapons tests—and decades of uranium mines, mills, and spills. Too many of them have never been recognized or compensated for their decades of pain and suffering.

In 1990, Congress passed a law meant to compensate victims of atomic bomb testing, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough and will expire in 2022. A bill in the House of Representatives—H.R.3783, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2019—would expand compensation more fully to more of those affected by the tests and uranium extraction. But Rep. Jerrold Nadler, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, hasn’t even scheduled a hearing for the bill yet.

The communities that live downwind from nuclear test sites (“Downwinders”) really need our support right now. Whether you’ve already written your member of Congress about this or not, they need to hear urgently from you now. Tell your member of Congress to ask Jerrold Nadler and Rep. Jim Jordan (the committee’s Republican ranking member) to schedule a hearing for this bill.

If our elected leaders truly care about the rights and sovereignty of our Indigenous relatives, they must take action to repair the harms of nuclear colonialism.

We grieve for the victims of the Trinity test and all other instances of nuclear colonialism. But we can do more. We can start setting things right. Compensating the Downwinders and uranium workers is an essential step in the right direction.

The post Resisting nuclear colonialism on Indigenous Peoples’ Day appeared first on NIRS.

October 13, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, indigenous issues | Leave a comment

India’s young anti-nuclear protestors still in trouble, police cases pending, 10 years after teir demonstration

October 13, 2020 Posted by | India, opposition to nuclear | Leave a comment

Reopening of a Cold-War era submarine base, as USA struggles to beat Russia to control the Arctic.

Arctic battlefield: Putin on alert as nuclear base reopens to counter Russian aggressionA COLD War-era nuclear submarine base has been reopened following “pressure” from the US to defend against Russian aggression in the Arctic. Express UK , By BILL MCLOUGHLIN, Mon, Oct 12, 2020  The base will now be reopened to house the US Navy’s three Seawolf submarines as Russia and America vie for control of the region. Norway’s government announced Olavsvern, near to the city of Tromso in the north of the country, will now be reopened after being closed 18 years ago. The complex has a 9,800ft deep underground water dock which has the ability to modify and refit nuclear submarines.

Norway’s national broadcaster, NPK said: “An agreement on the return of Olavsvern to the armed forces may be ready as early as this week, as a result of pressure from the US navy.”

Olavsvern will also be used to house submarines for NATO amid increased concerns over Russia’s activity in the region.

The base is located 220 miles from the Russia border and thus offers an ideal outpost for Western allies to quickly contain, and defend against any aggression from the state.

Modifications will now be made to the base in order for it to house America’s nuclear attack submarine, the USS Jimmy Carter.

The announcement of the base comes as the UK’s First Sea Lord, Admiral Tony Radakin, warned China and Russia could soon exploit the Arctic Sea.

Due to climate change, he claimed the once-frozen passages are now thawing thus opening up potential naval routes.

With these routes now appearing, Chinese and Russian ships could now have gateways through to the UK.

He added the Royal Navy was essential in stopping these ships from trespassing in the UK’s waters but also policing the vital global trade routes………..

The undersea world matters. “Because this one remaining stealth medium is also the home to our nuclear deterrent. ”……

October 13, 2020 Posted by | ARCTIC, politics international, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

New North Korean missile will prove a big diplomatic headache for US, expert warns

October 13, 2020 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Offshore Wind Energy, Not Nuclear, Is the Future

October 13, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, renewable | Leave a comment