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The tangled web – well-being of communities has become dependent on the nuclear weapons industry


Nuclear disarmers can’t forget the communities that rely on military spending Tricia WhiteMatt Korda | October 28, 2020  If Russia were to launch a nuclear attack against the United States, what would the targets be? You might guess the most likely targets would be major cities like Washington D.C. or New York City, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But would you have also guessed Great Falls, Montana (population: 58,505) and Cheyenne, Wyoming (population: 65,165)? These small communities are part of the United States’ “nuclear sponge”—areas in Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wyoming that house the US arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and that are supposed to “soak up” hundreds of incoming nuclear warheads. Should an attack on the United States ever occur, these Midwestern states would be the first to go. And, somewhat counterintuitively, the majority of residents in these communities want to keep it that way.

It is difficult to overstate the degree to which ICBM-hosting communities rely on retaining their missiles. Missile bases like Minot in North Dakota, F. E. Warren in Wyoming, and Malmstrom in Montana are directly responsible for between eight and thirteen percent of their respective local labor forces. Additionally, the indirect economic benefits—a by-product of everyday activities like grocery shopping or school registration—certainly boost those numbers even further.

Recognizing that ICBMs could function as an economic insurance policy for local communities, politicians jockeyed to bring nuclear missiles to their states during the early stages of deployment in the 1960s.

In one particularly infamous case, Missouri Sen. Stuart Symington wrote to General Thomas Power, head of Strategic Air Command to ask, “Dear Tommy, why can’t we have one of the missile bases in Missouri?” Symington, previously the first Secretary of the Air Force, was heavily tied to weapons contractors, and his then-unique position at the intersection of business, politics, and the military prompted President Eisenhower to issue his prescient warning about the dangers of the “military-industrial complex.”

Today, this type of politicking has organized itself into the Congressional ICBM Coalition—a bipartisan collective of lawmakers from the three ICBM host states plus Utah, where ICBM sustainment and replacement activities are headquartered at Hill Air Force Base. The coalition’s members are extremely well-funded by contractors like Northrop Grumman, which spent more than $162 million on lobbying from 2008 to 2018. In a fantastic return on investment, Northrop Grumman was recently awarded a $13.3 billion contract to manufacture a replacement for the aging Minuteman III, the only land-based, nuclear-armed missile in the US arsenal. 

These weapons contractors are not just funding politicians, however. They also work in concert with local community leaders to sustain and modernize the ICBM force ad infinitum. In response to potential base closures throughout the 1990s, many ICBM communities formed coalitions via their Chambers of Commerce to advocate for their neighboring bases to stay open. Today, community-led organizations like Task Force 21 (Minot), the Montana Defense Alliance (Malmstrom), and the Wyoming Wranglers Committee (F. E. Warren) meet with Pentagon officials, weapons contractors, and their Congressional representatives to advocate on behalf of their respective bases.

It’s especially notable just how integrated these groups are with their local communities: they offer career opportunities in schools, allow weapons contractors to host community events when new project bids are occurring, and guide local businesses through the ins-and-outs of subcontracting for Northrop Grumman, Boeing, or Lockheed Martin. Since many of the organizations’ activities are in turn sponsored by these corporations, it’s effectively a win-win for everyone involved.

However, these intimate relationships between local communities, corporations, and politicians come with serious ramifications. In a cruel twist of irony, it means that in order to protect their livelihoods, community leaders are encouraged to ensure that their respective cities remain—now and forever—ground zero for a future nuclear attack.

These communities are also expected to lobby on behalf of an ICBM replacement program that is dangerous, unnecessary, and very expensive. Not only do ICBMs serve little strategic purpose in a post-Cold War environment, but they are also the only weapons in the US nuclear arsenal that force the president to make potentially catastrophic decisions within mere minutes. For these reasons, as well as their astounding $264 billion estimated life-cycle costs, several nuclear experts—and a majority of both Democrats and Republicans—agree that the Pentagon should hit pause on the ICBM replacement program while officials examine cheaper life-extension options for the current arsenal. Many even argue the United States should eliminate the ICBM leg of the nuclear triad altogether. 

Additionally, as Gretchen Heefner, a professor at Northeastern University, articulates in her book The Missile Next Door, “By insisting that new missions be found for old bases, that more money be spent to upgrade facilities and fortify defenses, Americans [have] long stopped resisting militarism and instead embraced it as an economic necessity.” And who could blame them? If the Minuteman ICBMs were to be phased out, the futures of Minot, Malmstrom, and F. E. Warren Air Force Bases—and the communities that serve them—would be thrown into jeopardy. Heefner quotes one ICBM community’s Chamber of Commerce president on the indirect impacts of such closures: “A lot of people probably won’t realize the impact until their soccer coach is gone and their Bible teacher is not here or their teacher’s aide is gone.” “Nothing so aptly demonstrates the dependency of American municipalities on the military,” Heefner concludes, “as the threat of its abandonment.” To that end, organizing to keep their nuclear ICBMs is a form of community self-defense, albeit one with far-reaching consequences.

This presents a challenging conundrum for the nuclear expert community. It is easy to advocate for the phaseout of the ICBM force by only examining the costs and benefits on paper. In fact, such a phaseout is a realistic and worthwhile security goal, but it may come at the cost of American jobs and rural towns.

If disarmament advocates really want to push for the retirement of the US ICBM force, we need to come prepared with answers to the economic problems it would have on these “nuclear sponge” communities. Is Congress willing to offer a guaranteed income to the constituents who will lose their jobs? Will there be an equivalent of the Paycheck Protection Program? How does a community that loses its predominant industry rebuild its economy, especially in the aftermath of a devastating pandemic? Without answers to these questions, disarmament could be the very thing that destroys them—long before a nuclear missile ever strikes American soil.

October 29, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, health, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The new Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty supports existing agreements, and in no way conflicts with them

This will take hard work, creativity and patience as well as political will, but it is a legitimate and universally-pursued goal ever since nuclear weapons, as well as other weapons of mass destruction, came into being. The objective of prohibiting them was already present in the very first resolution of the General Assembly, unanimously adopted in 1946.

October 29, 2020 Posted by | politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Big questions on the costs and safety of NuScale’s little nuclear reactors

NuScale Faces Questions on Nuclear Reactor Safety and Financing Its First Project

The first small modular reactor to receive federal approval must still grapple with design changes and safety concerns if it’s to be built by 2030. GreentechMedia

JEFF ST. JOHN OCTOBER 27, 2020   NuScale Power wants to build the first small modular nuclear reactor complex in the U.S. by decade’s end and has pointed to recent federal safety approvals and a cost-sharing arrangement with its first prospective public utility customers as advancing that goal.

But its reactor design faces significant safety questions that were not resolved by a Nuclear Energy Commission (NRC) review completed in August. Those include potential problems with the system that automatically shuts down its reactors in case of emergency, casting doubt on key safety claims from the Portland, Oregon-based company, critics say.

The nature of NRC’s review will leave the resolution of these key safety issues to be completed later this decade.

This could prove problematic for NuScale’s first project, the 12-reactor Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP) in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Over the past two years, the project has seen expected costs double from $3 billion to $6.1 billion and its completion date moved from 2026 to 2030, putting pressure on parent company Fluor Corp. to keep further cost increases in check and secure financial backers for the project.

NuScale won’t complete key safety reviews for its reactor design until later this decade. These design changes and safety reviews will be the responsibility of the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS), the first customer for 213 megawatts of the 720 MW the CFPP will produce, under a combined construction and operating license process. This could open up the CFPP to technical and legal challenges after significant investments in the project have already been made, critics warn.

UAMPS, a division of the Utah state government serving wholesale electric services to communities across the Intermountain West, has seen three cities vote to depart the 33-city consortium planning to agree to buy power from the CFPP in the past few months and is facing an October 31 deadline to commit to its role in the project.

And while the Department of Energy has issued a $1.36 billion, 10-year cost-share pledge to UAMPS, that funding will require future congressional appropriations in order to become reality. …..

Other U.S.-based SMR developers include Bill Gates-backed TerraPower and X-Energy, which have recently received financial support from DOE with the goal of building their first working units in the next seven years. Others include Hyperion Power Generation and Terrestrial Energy. ……

Safety questions on emergency shutdown

One of the most pressing unresolved safety issues deals with NuScale’s system to prevent overheating or meltdown during emergencies, according to the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS), which reviews reactor designs for the NRC.

NuScale’s reactor must submerge its fuel in water carrying boron, an element that absorbs neutrons and slows the fission chain reactions that generate heat and radioactivity. That water can be boiled away during emergencies, meaning that redundant safety systems are required that are capable of replacing it.

NuScale has said its system can reintroduce boronated water into the reactor without pumps that might lose power during an emergency, by venting steam into a surrounding containment vessel and condensing it back into water to inject into the core. But a March ACRS review noted that boron could be left behind as water turns into steam, yielding condensed water without enough boron to slow the chain reactions that could lead to overheating or core meltdown.

NuScale submitted design modifications to add boron to that reintroduced water supply. But in an April meeting, ACRS member Jose March-Leuba noted that the new design requires a series of 10 valves to operate without fail to solve the problem it’s geared to address, which he characterized as “10 single failure points.”

The ACRS told the NRC in a June letter that it “cannot reach a final conclusion on the safety of the NuScale design until the issue of the potential for a reactivity insertion accident” — a sudden increase in fission that cannot be halted — “is resolved to our satisfaction.” ………

Edwin Lyman, director of nuclear power safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said that the ACRS finding casts doubt on “one of the major selling points for this reactor, which is that it can passively shut down without any operator actions.”

NuScale has relied on its passive safety claims to argue that it should be exempt from other nuclear reactor safety requirements, such as maintaining emergency evacuation and planning zones within a 10-mile radius of the site and employing a security force to prevent sabotage attempts. Integrating these safety requirements into its projects may push NuScale’s power costs beyond the $55 per megawatt-hour it has targeted, he said.

“Nuclear safety is not just design. It’s the whole set of measures,” Lyman said.

Uncertain path to approval, unclear financing future

NuScale’s recent safety approval from the NRC is not as comprehensive a stamp of federal approval as the company had planned to obtain by now.

In March testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives, NuScale CEO John Hopkins said that parent company Fluor Corp. and investors have spent about $500 million to prepare a “design certification application,” which was submitted in 2016 and expected to be complete by September.

But NuScale’s recent approval from the NRC is not for a design certification application, Lyman said. Rather, it’s a “standard design approval,” which comes with less stringent rules for NRC review and allows future design changes. But it opens up NuScale’s design to future legal challenges that a design certification approval would not, he said.

NuScale also plans to increase the size of its reactor units from 50 MW to 60 MW units, which will require a separate design approval review, Lyman said. Meanwhile, NuScale’s original design certification, “when it’s approved, may never actually be used.” ……

these uncertainties have complicated the picture for UAMPS, which has pushed back its deadline for finalizing its licensing agreement with NuScale from September until October 31. UAMPS could be facing more than $100 million in commitments under its yet-to-be-finalized agreement. ….

Broader challenges for small modular reactors

In a September report, M.V. Ramana, a professor of disarmament and human security at the University of British Columbia, highlighted other risks facing NuScale. Those include further delays in licensing and certification, as well as the potential that design changes and increased safety requirements will raise the cost of power from NuScale’s reactors, which is already higher than the prices being set by new wind and solar energy today. Adding batteries or other forms of energy storage to renewables may prove a less costly solution to providing reliable zero-carbon electricity than NuScale can, he wrote.

Ramana also questioned the financial stability of NuScale’s parent company, engineering and construction giant Fluor, which has seen its share price drop about 80 percent over the past two years amid mounting financial losses and federal investigations into its accounting practices.

Fluor has invested $643 million into NuScale alongside $314 million in DOE funding, Hopkins told Congress in March. But it will need to bring more financial backers on board in the decade to come.

As for the DOE cost-share agreement, Lyman said it’s dependent on future congressional budget approvals that may not emerge. “The bottom line is, without a large subsidy, it would not be economical for them to buy this power.” ………

October 29, 2020 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA | Leave a comment

Release of methane off East Siberian coast has been triggered,

‘Sleeping giant’ Arctic methane deposits starting to release, scientists find

Exclusive: expedition discovers new source of greenhouse gas off East Siberian coast has been triggered,    Guardian,  Jonathan Watts Global environment editor  28 Oct 20 Scientists have found evidence that frozen methane deposits in the Arctic Ocean – known as the “sleeping giants of the carbon cycle” – have started to be released over a large area of the continental slope off the East Siberian coast, the Guardian can reveal.High levels of the potent greenhouse gas have been detected down to a depth of 350 metres in the Laptev Sea near Russia, prompting concern among researchers that a new climate feedback loop may have been triggered that could accelerate the pace of global heating.

The slope sediments in the Arctic contain a huge quantity of frozen methane and other gases – known as hydrates. Methane has a warming effect 80 times stronger than carbon dioxide over 20 years. The United States Geological Survey has previously listed Arctic hydrate destabilisation as one of four most serious scenarios for abrupt climate change.

The international team onboard the Russian research ship R/V Akademik Keldysh said most of the bubbles were currently dissolving in the water but methane levels at the surface were four to eight times what would normally be expected and this was venting into the atmosphere.

“At this moment, there is unlikely to be any major impact on global warming, but the point is that this process has now been triggered. This East Siberian slope methane hydrate system has been perturbed and the process will be ongoing,” said the Swedish scientist Örjan Gustafsson, of Stockholm University, in a satellite call from the vessel.

The scientists – who are part of a multi-year International Shelf Study Expedition – stressed their findings were preliminary. The scale of methane releases will not be confirmed until they return, analyse the data and have their studies published in a peer-reviewed journal.

But the discovery of potentially destabilised slope frozen methane raises concerns that a new tipping point has been reached that could increase the speed of global heating.

The Arctic is considered ground zero in the debate about the vulnerability of frozen methane deposits in the ocean.

With the Arctic temperature now rising more than twice as fast as the global average, the question of when – or even whether – they will be released into the atmosphere has been a matter of considerable uncertainty in climate computer models.

The 60-member team on the Akademik Keldysh believe they are the first to observationally confirm the methane release is already under way across a wide area of the slope about 600km offshore………………

Temperatures in Siberia were 5C higher than average from January to June this year, an anomaly that was made at least 600 times more likely by human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide and methane. Last winter’s sea ice melted unusually early. This winter’s freeze has yet to begin, already a later start than at any time on record.

October 29, 2020 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change | Leave a comment

Space exploration – to lead to dangerous nuclear-armed totalitarian societies

Professor warns space exploration will give rise to totalitarian societies equipped with nuclear weapons – but some say his forecast is too pessimistic   

  • Daniel Deudney is a political science professor at Johns Hopkins University
  • He recently published a book titled ‘Dark Skies’ that talks about space expansion
  • The text warns that space settlements could become totalitarian societies
  • Populations and resources will need to be controlled for survival
  •  Deudney notes that nuclear weapons will become the gold standard in space
  • He fears that the cosmic battles will eventually make their way to Earth 

By STACY LIBERATORE FOR DAILYMAIL.COM, 28 October 2020    Space agencies across the world are working tirelessly to design the best ships and technologies for the chance to claim a stake of the final frontier for their country.

Although it may seem like an act of national pride, a professor from Johns Hopkins University warns that space expansion may lead to the extinction of humanity, suggesting it should not be attempted at all.

Daniel Deudney recently published a book titled ‘Dark Skies’ that examines space expansionism through geopolitics revealing cosmic habitats could spark totalitarian empires.

The political science professor also notes that if these settlements stretch across the solar system, nuclear weapons will become the gold standard in war, along with using asteroids to destroy enemy planets – but other experts feel these arguments are ‘too pessimistic.’

‘I argue that the consequences of what has actually happened in space are much less positive than space enthusiasts and many others believe,’ reads ‘Dark Skies.’

‘My case for this darker net assessment of actual space activities centers on the role of space activities in making nuclear war more likely.’

‘In sum, this book argues that the large-scale expansion of human activities into space, past and future, should join the lengthening list of catastrophic and existential threats to humanity, and that the ambitious core of space expansionism should be explicitly relinquished.’

The book’s release comes at a time when many countries are muscling up to head into space.

The US announced a new branch of its armed forces called the US Space Force in 2019, which ‘is designed to protect the interests of the United States in space, deter aggression in the final frontier and conduct prompt and sustained space operations.’

Many other countries including France, Canada and Japan have since followed in suit for their chance to take a piece of space.

However, Deudney’s concludes that these countries’ efforts will come with serious consequences.

The professor used geopolitics for this work, which studies ‘the practice of states controlling and competing for territory’ – and in this case, space.

Deudeny also explains that he is not opposed to using space in ways that will benefit Earth and is not on a mission to ‘defund space’ by eliminating the many robots and satellites that currently patrol the area.

He is looked at ‘the political and military potential of a system-spanning human civilization only increases the chances of totalitarianism and the deliberate or accidental extinction of human society,’……..

Along with using objects in space, governments have revealed details over the past years for launching nuclear weapons into the final frontier.

NASA is working on a method that would send a nuclear bomb into space aboard a rocket to destroy an asteroid heading towards Earth.

Earlier this year, the US raised concerns that China or Russia may soon detonate a nuclear weapon in space ‘to fry the electronics’ of spacecraft and ‘indiscriminately’ take out satellite.

Although neither of these are a reality, the technology may be in the works and could be used to wage space war……

October 29, 2020 Posted by | politics international, space travel, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Santa Susana Field Laboratory site- historically radioactively polluted, but risks never being cleaned up

Yes, Santa Susana is a ‘landmark’ — as a historic environmental disaster,  By MICHAEL HILTZIK,  BUSINESS COLUMNIST OCT. 27, 2020

One thing is certainly true about NASA’s curious effort to place 2,850 acres above the Simi Valley on the National Register of Historic Places: The parcel is certainly a landmark.

Among the points in dispute is what makes it so.   To several local Native American tribes, including the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, the Ventura County site’s cave drawings and rock shelters bespeak a cultural heritage dating back centuries.

The time has come for us to make sure that we hold the polluters accountable for their legacy….We will make sure the site gets cleaned up and we will exercise our legal authority in pursuit of that.

To environmentalists and the site’s neighbors, it’s historic for the extent of its contamination by chemical and nuclear research performed there during the Cold War.

The Santa Susana Field Laboratory site is “one of the most toxic sites in the United States by any kind of definition,” Jared Blumenfeld, head of the California Environmental Protection Agency, told me. “It demands a full cleanup.”

Just such a cleanup should have been started years ago. The three entities controlling portions of the site — Boeing Co., the U.S. Department of Energy and NASA — reached agreements with the state in 2007 and 2010 binding them to restoring the site to “background” standards.

The term means removing contaminated soil and buildings so thoroughly that the area would be as pristine as if the polluting activities had never occurred.

That work was supposed to be completed by 2017. Yet much of it has not even started — and it may be thrown into further doubt by NASA’s nomination of the site to the historic register.

Why the cleanup has been stalled isn’t entirely clear, although one obstacle has been the state’s failure to complete an environmental impact report for the cleanup.

The report is a highly technical document on which public comments are still being collected, according to Meredith Williams, director of the state Department of Toxic Substances Control, which is overseeing the process. Williams says the document is now expected to reach completion next spring or summer.

Instead of establishing the government’s responsibilities conclusively, the 2007 and 2010 agreements became part of the battlefield trod over by state and federal agencies. As recently as Sept. 28, the DTSC crisply informed NASA that its published plans for a reduced cleanup violate the agreement.

The state agency “strongly urge[d]” NASA not to issue a formal announcement of the plans. Four days later, NASA did so anyway.

Santa Susana deserves to be recognized as another example of how powerful interests manage to dodge their responsibilities to clean up after themselves by exploiting legal delays and loopholes, to the detriment of local communities.

It’s on a par with the successful effort of Exide Technologies to avoid paying for the cleanup of pollution it caused around its battery recycling plant in Vernon, which we recently chronicled. That case involved a private firm. This one is even worse, because the entities dodging their responsibilities include agencies of the federal government.

The historical nomination by NASA, says Daniel O. Hirsch, a former environmental faculty member at UC Santa Cruz who has been following the Santa Susana saga for some 40 years and serves as president of the Committee to Bridge the Gap, an anti-nuclear group, could save Boeing, NASA and the Department of Energy hundreds of millions of dollars in cleanup expenses.

“The only people who would lose would be the public,” Hirsch says. “They would continue to face elevated cancer risk from contamination” migrating from the site.

The tribes have said in video statements that a historical designation need not interfere with the cleanup, but such a classification will give them a say in how it proceeds.

To understand the gravity of the situation — and why local residents remain agitated about the delay’s implications for their health — let’s consider the site’s noxious condition.

Over a period of 75 years, the Santa Susana Field Lab hosted what the Natural Resources Defense Council says were “hundreds of nuclear and rocket testing buildings and structures,” emitting radioactive isotopes including plutonium-239.

The soil and water table were contaminated by PCBs, heavy metals, tricholoroethylene “and a witches’ brew of other poisons,” as the NRDC put it.

Nuclear reactors at the lab suffered at least four major accidents between 1959 and 1969, including one partial meltdown, two episodes of fuel damage and a separate release of radioactive gases. The government typically kept these incidents secret for weeks, sometimes longer. 

In a 2007 paper, researchers at the University of Michigan found the incidence rate of certain cancers, including thyroid, bladder and blood system cancers, to be more than 60% higher for residents living within two miles of the site in 1988-95 than for those more than five miles away.

The document that NASA filed this summer nominating the site for the National Register of Historic Places glosses over this history as though it never happened.

Absurdly, the nomination states that despite the activities of the government and Boeing, the area is “in a state similar to when the [tribes’] ancestors used and occupied the area.”

This summer, NASA nominated the lab site for inclusion on the national landmark registry, under the name Burro Flats Cultural District, citing its rich tribal history. A 12-acre portion of the site, encompassing the Burro Flats painted cave and a parcel traditionally used by Native Americans to observe the winter and summer solstices, has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1974. NASA asserts that its archeological research justifies expanding the landmark to encompass the entire laboratory site.

Then, on Oct. 2, the agency formally announced that it was considering a scheme to clean up the site to only a fraction of what is required by the 2007 and 2010 agreements. That flouted the state’s Sept. 28 warning not to do so, lest it result in “necessary actions to enforce” the agreements.

The historical nomination is opposed by the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Committee to Bridge the Gap generally because they see the move as subterfuge through which NASA can slink away from its cleanup responsibilities.

Given this chronicle, it’s hardly surprising that any action by the government inspires skepticism.

“NASA and the DOE have a mixed history, to be polite, and the neighborhood distrusts them immensely,” says Sam Cohen, a legal advisor to the Chumash tribe.

“It’s going to take years to clean up the land,” Cohen says. “We need to be at the table at the beginning or we’re going to be disappointed at the end.”

There are, as it happens, plenty of grounds for distrust. One is that the boundaries of the nominated land correspond exactly to the Santa Susana Field Lab property lines, even though it’s rare that any historical site be chosen with regard to ownership boundaries.

Another is that the proposed designation tracks suspiciously closely to a provision in the 2010 agreement reached by the federal government and the state, exempting from cleanup “Native American artifacts that are formally recognized as Cultural Resources” — which is what NASA is requesting.

These factors and others prompted the NRDC and Committee to Bridge the Gap to warn the state Historical Resources Commission, which must rule on any federal nomination to the historical register, that NASA’s move is “an attempt by the Trump administration to breach the SSFL cleanup agreements.”

Yet the commission bulled ahead, debating the issue at a meeting Aug. 14. At that meeting tribal representatives supported the nomination while a representative of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, Hirsch and members of Hirsch’s group all spoke against it.

A NASA representative told the commission, however, that the proposed designation wouldn’t affect the cleanup at all. “NASA continues to be committed to a cleanup at Santa Susana Field Lab,” she said. The commission, apparently mollified, endorsed the designation unanimously.

But NASA’s critics noticed that the NASA representative, Rebecca Klein, chose her words carefully. “She said they were committed to ‘a cleanup,’” Hirsch observes. “She didn’t say they were committed to the 2010 agreement.”

NASA told me by email that the cleanup standards embodied in the agreement are not “scientifically and technologically achievable.” The standards cannot be met “even if we backfill all removed soil with the store-bought topsoil many of us use in our own yards and gardens,” agency spokeswoman Shannon Segovia told me. The agency says its proposed cleanup would remove up to 90% of the contamination as the agreement requires but involve removal of 70% less soil.

CalEPA’s Blumenfeld says the decision of how to perform the cleanup isn’t up to NASA. “The 2007 and 2010 agreements are legally binding and don’t leave a lot to the imagination,” he says. “They’re very descriptive and prescriptive to infinitesimal levels of detail.”

He adds that the government’s approach to Santa Susana is oddly bifurcated. The Department of Energy, which is largely responsible for the nuclear cleanup, has been relatively cooperative, having started to dismantle the radioactively contaminated buildings on the site.

NASA, however, “is in the camp of trying to spend as little money as possible to do as little work as possible.” It may see its historical nomination as a tool to undermine the 2010 agreement, “but it’s not going to achieve that,” Blumenfeld says.

As for Boeing, which inherited its share of the cleanup in 1996 when it acquired Rockwell International’s aerospace and defense businesses, also has dragged its feet, but its responsibility is currently subject to court proceedings.

All this leaves unexplained how ironclad legal agreements could be flouted with impunity for a decade or more. In the past, blame has settled upon the Brown administration for failing to pursue the cleanup aggressively.

Blumenfeld says that era is over. He says all the parties should understand that “we’re very serious about implementing the legally binding agreements and about our regulatory authority. … There’s this bizarre time in history that we’re trying to explain no longer exists where NASA feels like they get to set the cleanup standards and Boeing feels they get to set the cleanup standards.”

For years, he says, “there was the sense by the polluters that trying to push back would save money on the cleanup.” Polluters shirking their cleanup responsibilities is nothing new, he adds.

“The time has come for us to make sure that we hold the polluters accountable for their legacy. … We will make sure the site gets cleaned up and we will exercise our legal authority in pursuit of that. That hasn’t been the message that they’ve heard for the previous 10 years, but we’re changing it.”

Will that happen? Let’s hope that we don’t have to wait another 10 years to find out.

October 29, 2020 Posted by | environment, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

 Tritium is what makes nuclear reactors so dangerous, not only in Fukushima but also in S. Korea

 Tritium is what makes nuclear reactors so dangerous, not only in Fukushima but also in S. Korea,     By Kim Eun-hyoung, editorial writer, Oct.27,2020
Tritium, or hydrogen-3, is identified by the scientific symbol 3H or T. As an isotype of hydrogen, the lightest of all elements, tritium contains two neutrons, whereas ordinary hydrogen (known as protium, identified by the symbol H) contains none. That makes tritium unstable and, as a result, radioactive.

Tritium exists in the natural world, but only in negligible amounts. It’s typically produced during the fission process inside nuclear reactors. Tritium is part of the coolant that lowers the temperature in the reactor core, which is heated by fission.

The contaminated water at the Fukushima reactor that the Japanese government seeks to release into the ocean contains tritium at levels that are 10 times higher than levels permitted by the South Korean government. That has terrified people not only in Japan but also in Korea.

The Japanese government says that the contaminated water doesn’t present a problem because it will be decontaminated through Tokyo Electric Power Company’s advanced liquid processing system (ALPS), before release. But the tricky part about releasing the contaminated water is tritium, which can’t be removed by ALPS because of the strong chemical bond it forms with water.

But Fukushima isn’t the only place affected by the risk of tritium. Heavy-water reactors are cooled with heavy water (deuterium oxide, 2H2O) instead of ordinary drinking water, producing a greater amount of tritium. There are four heavy-water reactors at Korea’s Wolsong plant, including Wolsong-1, which has been in the news recently after government auditors questioned a report about its economic viability, the justification given for shutting the reactor down earlier than planned.

Tritium is regarded as a low-risk radioactive substance, causing less harm than other types of radiation. For one thing, the radiation emitted by tritium is so weak that it can’t penetrate the outer layer of the skin. And even when it is absorbed by the body, its biological half-life — the time required for half the substance to leave the body — is only 12 days.

Even now, Wolsong-2, Wolsong-3, and Wolsong-4 account for 40% of the tritium released by all of Korea’s nuclear stations. Rates of thyroid cancer among women who live near the Wolsong nuclear plant are 2.5 times higher than in other areas, which some think is linked to tritium contamination. The question of nuclear power safety affects Korea in the same way as it affects Japan. It would be foolish and contradictory to view Japanese nuclear plants through the lens of safety and Korean nuclear plants through the lens of economic viability.

But such safety observations only apply to a single dose of radiation, such as an X-ray, and the actual risk depends on the intensity of exposure. That has led various countries to develop strict safety standards for the substance. The European Committee on Radiation Risk warns that internal radiation exposure can cause mutations that could lead to cancer.

October 29, 2020 Posted by | radiation, South Korea | Leave a comment

The world’s banks must start to value nature and stop paying for its destruction

The world’s banks must start to value nature and stop paying for its destruction, Guardian, Robert Watson 28 Oct 20, As a new report spells out how financial institutions contribute to biodiversity loss, the clamour is growing for a new approach.

  • Banks lent $2.6tn linked to ecosystem and wildlife destruction in 2019 – report
  • The scientific community has long been unequivocal about biodiversity destruction. Last month, the UN reported that the world had failed to meet fully any of the 2020 Aichi bioiversity targets that countries agreed with fanfare in 2010, even as it found that biodiversity is declining at an unprecedented rate, and the pressures driving this decline are intensifying.This week’s Bankrolling Extinction report finds that financial institutions provide the capital that is funding over-exploitation of our lands and seas, putting biodiversity in freefall. Last year, the world’s 50 biggest banks provided $2.6tn (£1.9tn) in loans and other credit to sectors with a high impact on biodiversity, such as forestry and agriculture. Bank by bank, the report authors found a cavalier ignorance of – or indifference to – the implications, with the vast majority unaware of their impact on biodiversity.

    In short, this report is a frightening statement of the status quo.

  • Fortunately, signs are emerging that some governments are – slowly – taking aim at financial backers of the destruction of the natural world. They must now push more forcefully. In the wake of Covid-19, treasury cupboards may be bare, but with new policies and limited recovery funds, they can steer trillions of dollars of private capital towards a nature-positive response to coronavirus, to spur growth, prosperity and resilience without returning to business as usual over-consumption and climate and biodiversity risk.
  • Voices from economics and finance are starting to add impetus and rationale for such momentum. One of the world’s foremost business groups, the World Economic Forum (WEF), has recognised the economic importance of nature. In its annual Global Risks Report, published earlier this year, WEF found that for the first time environmental risks dominated perceived business threats. Biodiversity loss was considered among the five most impactful and most likely risks in the next decade, with concerns ranging from the potential collapse of food and health systems to the disruption of entire supply chains. …………….

October 29, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, environment, Women | Leave a comment

EDF trucks enriched uranium to the unfinished Flamanville nuclear reactor. Why so much in advance of the need for it?

Reuters 26th Oct 2020, A first truck responsible for transporting enriched uranium to the EPR
reactor in Flamanville (Manche) left Monday morning from the Framatome
plant in Romans-sur-Isère (Drôme), according to anti-nuclear associations
who denounce an EDF “maneuver” to “make it impossible to question”
the project.

Associations, including Greenpeace, France Nature
Environnement and several anti-nuclear collectives, believe in a press
release that “nothing guarantees” that the EPR “can work one day”
and therefore consider that the fact of storing fuel there now is “an
aberration”. They also consider that “the arrival of fuel in Flamanville
also questions the security of the site” and stress that this first
delivery opens “a ballet of trucks which will last several months”.

Greenpeace 26th Oct 2020,  EDF has just obtained the authorization to transport new fuel to the
Flamanville EPR nuclear reactor site. A first truck left at 8 am Monday,
October 26 from Romans-sur-Isère, in Drôme, and arrived in the evening at
Flamanville, in Manche. In the coming weeks, these nuclear road convoys
will therefore multiply… As if the EPR were ready to start. Yet this is
far, very far from being the case. Why such a rush, when the EPR is
accumulating delays? EDF once again adopts the strategy of a fait accompli,
despite common sense.

October 29, 2020 Posted by | France, politics, Uranium | Leave a comment

Iran building underground nuclear facility, replacing the damaged one.

Iran building underground nuclear facility: UN watchdog,  SMH,  By David Rising, October 28, 2020 Berlin: Inspectors from the UN’s atomic watchdog have confirmed Iran has started building an underground centrifuge assembly plant after its previous one exploded in what Tehran called a sabotage attack over the summer, the agency’s head said.

Iran also continues to stockpile greater amounts of low-enriched uranium, but does not appear to possess enough to produce a weapon, Rafael Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told the AP in an interview in Berlin.

Following the July explosion at the Natanz nuclear site, Tehran said it would build a new, more secure, structure in the mountains around the area. Satellite pictures of Natanz analysed by experts have yet to show any obvious signs of excavation at the site in Iran’s central Isfahan province……

Natanz had been targeted by the Stuxnet computer virus previously, which was believed to be a creation of the US and Israel. Iran has yet to say whom it suspects of carrying out the sabotage in the July incident. Suspicion has fallen on Israel as well, despite a claim of responsibility by a previously unheard-of group at the time.

Under the provisions of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Iran is allowed to produce a certain amount of enriched uranium for non-military purposes.

In return, Iran was offered economic incentives by the countries involved.

Since President Donald Trump pulled the US unilaterally out of the deal in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions, however, the other signatories — Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China — have been struggling to keep the deal alive.

Meanwhile, Iran has been steadily exceeding the deal’s limits on how much uranium it can stockpile, the purity to which it can enrich uranium and other restrictions to pressure those countries to come up with a plan to offset US sanctions.

Still though, Iran has continued to allow IAEA inspectors full access to its nuclear facilities, including Natanz, Grossi said………

Grossi personally visited Tehran in late August for meetings with top officials, and managed to break a months-long impasse over two locations thought to be from the early 2000s where Iran was suspected of having stored or used undeclared nuclear material and possibly conducted nuclear-related activities.

Inspectors have now taken samples from both of those sites, and Grossi said they are still undergoing lab analysis.

“It was a constructive solution to a problem what we were having,” he said. “And I would say since then we have kept the good level of cooperation in the sense that our inspectors are regularly present and visiting the sites.”

October 29, 2020 Posted by | Iran, politics | Leave a comment

Japan’s net zero emissions target should be combined with zero nuclear power

Japan’s net zero emissions target should be combined with zero nuclear power, October 28, 2020 (Mainichi Japan)   ”……………  Under Japan’s basic energy plan, the country aims to raise the ratio of renewables to 22 to 24% by fiscal 2030. But this target is far from sufficient. As the government is currently working on a revision to the plan, it should drastically review the energy mix.

It is imperative to reconsider the nuclear power ratio said to account for 20-22% of Japan’s power mix. The government is aspiring to secure constant nuclear power output by replacing aging nuclear power stations and through other measures while moving ahead with reactivation of idled nuclear plants.

However, nuclear power complexes carry the risk of severe accidents. As it costs enormous money to secure safety at those facilities, the idea of labeling nuclear power as cheap energy is not globally accepted. The government has a responsibility to provide a road map for breaking Japan’s dependence on nuclear power.

In European countries, efforts to revive their economies severely hit by the novel coronavirus pandemic through environmental investment are underway. This initiative, called “green recovery,” can come into line with the principle of a “virtuous cycle of environment and economic growth” emphasized by Prime Minister Suga.

It is hoped that Japan will achieve a decarbonized society through improvement of renewable energy technologies and active investments in research and development of hydrogen energy and retrieval and storage of carbon dioxide.

It is also necessary to build a mechanism to guarantee the realization of the promise of net zero greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to discussions on a carbon tax, levied in accordance with the volumes of greenhouse gas emissions, the government is urged to consider specifying this goal in Japan’s Act on Promotion of Global Warming Countermeasures.

Hurdles for attaining the goal remain high and we have a limited time frame. It is urgently needed to craft a strategy to prevent the net zero target from ending up as a mere empty promise.

October 29, 2020 Posted by | Japan, opposition to nuclear, politics | Leave a comment

Columbus, Cincinnati, take legal action to block Ohio’s nuclear  power plant bailout law

October 29, 2020 Posted by | Legal, USA | Leave a comment

Two more cities opt out of Utah’s dubious small nuclear reactor project

October 29, 2020 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA | Leave a comment

The very real risks of radiation accidents on Earth, from nuclear reactors in space

October 29, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, safety, space travel | Leave a comment

Finland, stuck with increasingly costly Olkiluouti nuclear nightmare, plans and even worse expense, with small nucler reactors!

Taz 26th Oct 2020, The European pressurized water reactor Olkiluoto 3 has long since developed into a Finnish BER – at least twelve years too late, three times as expensive as planned. And it’s far from being online. The same goes for the
new Hanhikivi project: years behind before construction began .

But the Finnish nuclear lobby is already planning another nuclear energy adventure: the construction of so-called Small Modular Reactors (SMR). Paul Dorfman of the UK UCL Energy Institute and co-author of an SMR study by the Nuclear
Consulting Group estimates that small reactors would provide increasingly expensive energy due to the cost of materials and personnel : the massive investments that would be required to create a supply chain so that replacing the economies of scale of large reactors with the advantage of series production would make the investment risk for SMR even higher than for standard reactors.!5720692/

October 29, 2020 Posted by | Finland, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment