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Japan-caught marine products not properly identified in South Korea

Japan is using South Korea and Taiwan desire to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, an 11-member trade pact that includes Japan and Australia, as a leverage to force them to lift their Fukushima contaminated food import ban.

Ascidians are caught off Yagawahama in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, in April 2019. Sales of the seafood are being affected by an import ban by South Korea.

December 26, 2021

SEOUL — There were more than 200 incidents of Japan-caught fishery products being sold in South Korea without proper identification of their origin from January through November, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned from South Korea’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries.

The total number of cases was 203, the highest such figure since the 2011 accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, and 1.5 times the previous record of 137 registered for the whole year of 2019. Damage from groundless rumors related to Japan-caught marine products appears to be widespread under the administration of South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

The cases were identified by the National Fishery Products Quality Management Service, which is under the wing of the ministry.

The ministry has tightened its controls since the Japanese government decided in April on the planned discharge into the ocean of treated water from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc. This has led to greater exposure of cases involving marine products whose place of origin is not properly identified.

Since the nuclear accident that occurred at the Fukushima plant in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake, the South Korean government has continued to prohibit the import of marine products caught in eight prefectures of Japan, including Fukushima and Miyagi.

There is tendency in South Korea to avoid even Japanese fishery products caught outside those eight prefectures. This has led to the problem of sellers offering Japan-caught marine products without indicating they are from Japan, or claiming the products are from South Korea.

Harm from false rumors related to Japan’s fishery products seems to have spread further with the Japanese government’s decision to release treated radioactive water into the sea.

Experts at the International Atomic Energy Agency, and from the United States and South Korea, have judged that TEPCO’s planned release of the treated water is safe.

In a report released in April, the Korean Nuclear Society called on the South Korean government and the nation’s mass media to create appropriate policies and news reports concerning the discharge of treated water, based on scientific facts.

It also appealed to the public on the need for “civic awareness mature enough to determine truth from falsity amid a deluge of information.”

The South Korean government on Dec. 13 made clear its policy of applying to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, an 11-member trade pact that includes Japan and Australia.

Seoul’s lifting of import restrictions on fishery products is expected to be one of the focal issues amid the procedures for joining. The South Korean government is also likely to be urged to take steps to deal with the harm from groundless rumors, by conveying information domestically based on scientific assessments.


December 27, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , | Leave a comment

Taiwan will not import contaminated food products from Fukushima, Japan

Foreign Minister Joseph Wu affirms Taiwan’s high food safety standards

Simple: When asked whether importing food from Fukushima would guarantee Taiwan’s acceptance to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, Wu reiterated that in order to enter Taiwan, food must not be contaminated.

December 23, 2021

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) has emphasized that Taiwan will not import food products from Fukushima, Japan, that are contaminated.

In a Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee meeting at the Legislative Yuan on Thursday (Dec. 23), Wu said that Taiwan has strict food safety regulations and that no radiated food can be imported. The government will protect the health of Taiwanese and check food safety in accordance with international standards and scientific evidence, CNA cited him as saying.

When asked whether importing food from Fukushima would guarantee Taiwan’s acceptance to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, Wu reiterated that in order to enter Taiwan, food must not be contaminated. Taiwan has been in contact with Japan regarding the issue, the foreign minister said, but the matter has not been formally discussed and there is no timetable yet.

December 27, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Daiichi Unit 2 Spent Fuel Removal Process

December 23, 2021

TEPCO has been progressing with the preparation work for the eventual removal of the spent fuel from unit 2 at Fukushima Daiichi. New details of the fuel removal process have also been released.

Spent fuel removal is scheduled to begin in 2024 and be completed by 2026. Further decontamination work inside is underway as is work outside the building to remove debris and prepare the ground for the spent fuel removal building. The control room on the refueling floor is slated for removal to make way for the opening between the refueling floor and the new spent fuel removal building to be constructed.

Decontamination work on the refueling floor is underway. Starting in January 2022 shielding materials will be installed on the refueling floor.

Shielding appears to be slated to go along certain walls and over the reactor well area. The existing spent fuel crane will be moved over the reactor well to make room for the new fuel handling crane.

Spent fuel removal building progress as of December 2021

The floorplan (below) shows a tall shielding system to be installed around the spent fuel pool area, isolating it from the reactor well. This will act as a shielded access hallway for workers to enter the area. The floorplan also shows the spent fuel removal building where it will be installed adjacent to the spent fuel pool.

The shielding locations are shown in green in the diagram (below).

Ground foundation work is underway near unit 2 for the spent fuel removal building. This work is being done with remote equipment due to the radiation levels between units 2 and 3. The levels are still considered too hazardous for human workers a decade after the initial disaster.

The original TEPCO report in Japanese can be found here.

All original images credit, TEPCO.

December 27, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Daiichi’s radioactive water discharge pipe construction

December 22, 2021

TEPCO’s long-term plan to dump contaminated water into the Pacific has progressed closer to reality. Regulators have given initial approvals and with those, TEPCO has moved quickly to start this project.

Today TEPCO filed for official approval of the water discharge pipe construction.
In mid-December boring tests to examine the geologic status of the sea bed began. These were preceded by magnetic ground surveys. This work is needed to design and construct the discharge pipe TEPCO plans to use to dump contaminated water into the sea. TEPCO plans to have this discharge pipe completed by 2023.

TEPCO has insisted this water is safe and “clean” but admits it still contains some radioactive contamination. The plan has received plenty of criticism including local fishing and environmental groups, international environmental groups, and nearby countries who have all lodged formal complaints with the Japanese government.

Magnetic survey rig near the port of Fukushima Daiichi.
Geologic boring test rig pontoon in use outside the port at Fukushima Daiichi.
Location of discharge pipe at Fukushima Daiichi port
Diagram of the construction plan to dig the pipe route.
Location of the pipe route from land out to sea through the port area.

Some concerns about this siting exist. The port has been concreted over twice and had some other work done to attempt to reduce or isolate radioactive contamination that leaked into the port in the early years of the disaster. Digging through this to install the discharge pipe could resuspend these contaminants and fuel microparticles, releasing new environmental contamination to the sea.
Original TEPCO document in Japanese

December 27, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , | Leave a comment

Fukushima fishermen worry about Japan’s plan of releasing nuclear wastewater 

December 25, 2021

People in Japan are strongly opposing and greatly concerned as the government moves forward with a plan to dump approximately 1.3 million tons of nuclear wastewater into the sea from the crippled Fukushima plant starting from the spring of 2023.

The fishery in Fukushima was heavily hit after the nuclear plant was destroyed. Dumping contaminated water into the sea will undoubtedly result in another strike on the local fishing industry.

December 27, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , , | Leave a comment

China opposes Japanese decision to release nuclear-contaminated water into ocean

December 22, 2021

BEIJING, Dec. 22 (Xinhua) — China is seriously concerned about and firmly opposes Japan’s unilateral decision to discharge the nuclear-contaminated water into the sea and its proceeding with the preparatory work, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Wednesday.

Zhao Lijian made the remarks when asked to comment on a media report that Tokyo Electric Power Company has submitted an application to Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority with a detailed plan of discharging nuclear-contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the sea.

Since April this year, the international community has raised concerns to the Japanese side over the legitimacy of the discharge into the sea, the rationality of the discharge plan, the credibility of the data about the nuclear contaminated water and the reliability of the equipment to purify the nuclear-contaminated water, Zhao said.

The work of the IAEA technical working group on the handling of the nuclear-contaminated water from Fukushima is still undergoing, he added.

“In total disregard of the legitimate and reasonable concerns of the international community, the Japanese side only continues to proceed with the preparations for the discharge both policy-wise and technology-wise,” Zhao said.

“Obviously, it wants to impose its wrong decision on the entire international community, and it is all the littoral countries of the Pacific Ocean that will have to take the risk for such move. The Japanese side is extremely irresponsible in doing so.”

He said that over the past eight months, Japan has constantly tried to defend the decision to discharge the nuclear-contaminated water into the sea, claiming the discharge is safe.

“However, many countries and international environment groups have questioned that if the water is truly harmless, why doesn’t the Japanese side discharge it into lakes or use it for civil purposes instead of releasing it into the ocean? To say the least, why doesn’t it try to build more storage tanks for the water at home? How can the international community trust Japan’s own words regarding whether the water to be discharged is safe or not? The Japanese side should give responsible answers to all these fundamental questions,” Zhao said.

He stressed that the handling of the nuclear-contaminated water from Fukushima is never Japan’s private matter. Instead, it bears on the marine environment and public health of the whole world.

Japan should heed and respond to the appeals of neighboring countries and the international community, and rescind the wrong decision of dumping the water into the sea.

“It mustn’t wantonly start the ocean discharge before reaching consensus with stakeholders and relevant international institutions through full consultations,” Zhao said.

December 27, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , , | Leave a comment

Their unheard voices: The fishermen of Fukushima

Mitsuhisa Kawase 20 December 2021

In April 2021, the Japanese government decided to discharge radioactive water stored inside the TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station into the Pacific Ocean. TEPCO’s plan is to build a pipeline along the ocean bed and release diluted processed radioactive water 1 km off the coast of Fukushima. In November, Greenpeace conducted its 33rd Fukushima radiation survey since the nuclear disaster, during which we had the opportunity to interview local fisherman Mr. Haruo Ono. Mr. Ono opens up about the pain he feels, saying that discharging radioactive water into the ocean will throw Fukushima’s fishing industry back down into the abyss.

Greenpeace Japan has been regularly conducting radiation survey in the Fukushima Prefecture after the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in March 2011, and conducted its 33rd survey in November 2021. © Greenpeace

It has taken us 10 years to get to where we are

“How can such a thing be allowed to happen,” sighed Mr. Ono with a thick Fukushima accent. As he scanned the newspaper in his home, his eyes came to rest on an article and comments about the plan, announced by TEPCO the previous day, to discharge radioactive water from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station into the ocean. “The ocean’s alive, too, you know!” The hand that gripped the newspaper turned white.  

Mr. Haruo Ono from Shinchi Town, Fukushima was born into a family of three generations of fishermen, and has helped out with the family business from as early as he can remember. Then in March 2011, everything fell apart. His town was badly hit by the tsunami that followed the Great East Japan Earthquake and then, to make matters even worse, vast amounts of radiation were released from the stricken Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. The fish they landed were found to contain radioactive substances, and fishermen were left with no choice but to voluntarily cease all fishing off the coast of Fukushima for approximately one year.

In June 2012, just over a year after the disaster, fishing trials were restarted and the sale of certain seafood, such as octopus and some shellfish was subsequently permitted. In February 2020, the ban was finally lifted for all seafood, and now Mr. Ono is permitted to go out to sea to fish up to ten times in a month. However, in April 2021, a month after the ten year anniversary of the disaster, the Japanese government made a cabinet decision to discharge radioactive water into the ocean.

Mr. Haruo Ono, who has lived half his life as a fisherman in Shinchi Town, Fukushima (November 2021) © Greenpeace

“Fish are finally starting to return after ten years, but if they now pour tritium into the water, no matter how much they dilute it, who’s going to buy those fish? Who wants to eat poisoned fish? ”

For a decade since the nuclear disaster, Mr. Ono has endured the frustration of not being able to fish freely, and the unfairness of having his catch overlooked simply because it’s from Fukushima. “So then why didn’t they discharge it into the sea ten years ago? That’s because it would have been wrong, right?” Unable to hold back any longer, his frustration poured out. 

Voices going unheard

After the decision was made to discharge the polluted water into the ocean, the government held a number of information sessions for the residents of Shinchi Town, which Mr. Ono attended. However, he says he still hasn’t received an answer as to why they are going to discharge the water into the ocean. 

“The person in charge arrives at 3:30, and the session is over at 5. There’s 30 minutes for questions. Out of the blue, they hand us a huge stack of documents, and they expect us to understand,” said Mr. Ono. “We have a right to ask questions, we have a right to know. If there is no option but to discharge the water into the ocean, then we want an acceptable answer about this decision.” 

TEPCO’s “Radiological Impact Assessment Regarding the Discharge of ALPS Treated Water into the Sea”1 that was released in November 2021, reflected exactly the same stance. “TEPCO is skilled at spinning the story. They make it seem as if we have accepted the decision. They are very good at manipulating the language, and on top of that, how many people are even going to actually read such a huge document”.

Fukushima’s fishing industry was severely damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, and subsequent nuclear power disaster (Soma City, November 2021) © Greenpeace

Behind the enduring mistrust is a decade of repeated dishonesty by the government and TEPCO towards the local fishermen. Firstly, in 2015 TEPCO made a promise to the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations that it “would neither treat nor dispose of” the contaminated water stored inside the buildings, “in any way, without the understanding of those concerned”2. Furthermore, with reports that the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) treated water actually contained levels of radiation other than tritium, such as carbon-14, that exceeded permitted levels, they have repeatedly betrayed the trust of local residents and those involved in the local fisheries.

“Why do they have to put TEPCO first so much? Shouldn’t it be the victims, the local residents, who need protecting?” Mr. Ono protested. “Nobody has agreed to this. And then they go and make such a thoughtless decision regardless. The ocean is our place of work. Can you imagine what it feels like for that to be intentionally polluted?”

Responsibility to the future up in the air

As of 8 December 2021, there’s a total of approximately 1.285 million tonnes of radiation contaminated water stored in the tanks inside the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station3. During 2020, with groundwater flowing into the nuclear reactor buildings, and the cooling of fuel debris, the amount of water increased at a pace of approximately 140 tonnes a day4

According to TEPCO, the tanks will be full by spring 2023, hence their decision to discharge the polluted water into the ocean. However, a subcommittee of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, set up in 2019, suggested that there is room to build more tanks within the plant5. “If we can continue to store the polluted water, then there’s no need to rush to a decision. Why are they rushing to make a decision, when we might find a better way to process the water in the future?”

TEPCO plans to eliminate radionuclides, other than tritium, to levels below regulatory standards, and dilute the tritium to 1/40 of permitted levels before discharging the water into the ocean. TEPCO says that the level of tritium discharged annually will not exceed 22 trillion becquerels per year – the maximum annual limit that was in place prior to the nuclear disaster – and that it will conduct regular reviews. 

10 years since the disaster, radioactive water inside the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear power plant continues to increase (Namie Town, November 2021) © Greenpeace

However, whether you dilute the polluted water or employ new techniques to discharge it, the total amount of radiation released into the environment does not change. While the half-life of tritium might be 12 years, the half life of carbon-14 is 5730 years. As long as water is being discharged, radioactive material will continue to accumulate in the ocean.

“It’ll be 30 or 40 years before we see the effects. The causal relationship will have become unclear and it’ll be impossible to prove anything. What’s going to happen to the future of our children, our grandchildren? It’s not even clear who will take responsibility.”

The ocean is alive too

“It feels like – it’s our ocean, but it’s not our ocean”. This is something that Mr. Ono often said and seems to reflect the persistent sensation that things are moving forward without the people who have lived alongside the ocean for so long, the fishermen. 

The fishermen of Fukushima face a harsh reality. They are only allowed to go out fishing up to 10 times a month, and their monthly income comes to about 120,000 Yen (~940 Euro). The future is unclear, and their troubles just keep increasing. “Who would want to continue fishing in such an environment, who would want their children to become fishermen? If it goes on like this, there won’t be another generation of fishermen. Discharging the water into the ocean is the last straw.”

In response to the ocean discharge plan, the government and TEPCO have promised compensation and measures to counteract reputation damage, to local forestry and fishery businesses. However, this is beyond the point. “They’re focusing solely on things like mitigating damage to the reputation of local produce, or promises to buy our fish, but that’s not what’s important. We’re not catching fish so that they can be thrown away. We want to catch them so that people can eat and enjoy them,” he says with a sigh. 

On occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, Greenpeace Japan activists hold up a banner saying “Stand with Fukushima” in front of the national Diet (Parliament) building, calling for the Japanese government to shift to a renewable energy future. A decade has passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake that brought about the triple meltdown and evacuation of 160,000 people. The earthquake and tsunami led to the shutdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. The overheated reactors melted down, causing a steam explosion that followed with a large amount of radioactive materials scattering around.

“Firstly, why is it not okay to release radiation on land, but okay to put it in the ocean? You’ve got the mountains and the water from the rivers flowing into the sea, plankton grows, small fish eat the plankton and bigger fish eat the smaller fish. That’s the cycle. Polluting it is easy, but once you’ve polluted you can’t go back to how it was. The ocean is alive too, you know.”

The ocean that Mr. Ono is trying to protect is the same ocean that took away his brother’s life ten years ago, in the tsunami. “The ocean can kill, but it can also give life. If we don’t protect it, who will? The fish don’t have a voice.”

“The ocean is alive too. And we’re citizens of this country, too, you know. I’m begging, somebody, please listen to us.”

Currently, at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Station, preparations are underway to discharge the polluted water into the ocean in spring 2023. This is going to destroy the livelihoods and dignity of Fukushima’s fishermen, and their heartbreaking pleas have yet reached the government or TEPCO, who are focused only on maintaining the superficial appearance of “recovery”.

1Radiological Impact Assessment Regarding the Discharge of ALPS Treated Water into the Sea (Design stage) at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station

2TEPCO (Japanese only)

3TEPCO Treated Water Portal Site

4TEPCO How much contaminated water is being generated

5METI The Subcommittee on Handling ALPS Treated Water

Mitsuhisa Kawase is Senior Communication Officer at Greenpeace Japan.

December 27, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima operators to use tunnels and pumps to release contaminated water into the sea

22 December 2021

The operator of Japan’s destroyed Fukushima nuclear power plant, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), has submitted plans to the country’s nuclear regulators to release contaminated water from the site into the sea.

According to Reuters, Tepco proposes to discharge the water via pumps and and underwater tunnels to a location about 1km offshore.

Tepco will process the water first to remove radioactive contamination, except for tritium, which cannot be removed.

Nearly 1.3 million tonnes of contaminated water have accumulated at the site – enough to fill 500 Olympic swimming pools.

The water has built up over the past ten years, after the site was ravaged by an earthquake and tsunami – causing the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

Currently, the water is stored in huge tanks at an annual cost of around $880m, and space is running out.

Although international authorities support the water discharge effort, the plans do have raised concern from neighbours China and South Korea and worried both local farmers and the fishing industry.

The operator will continue to discuss the issue with residents and others before construction, set to start in the middle of next year.

December 27, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , , | Leave a comment

Nuclear news – last week in December

It would be so good to welcome in the New Year with really great news. But, at least there are some indications of better news on the way, both in the unfolding pandemic story, and in efforts to stall global heating.    

As for nuclear, in a bizarre way, the pandemic has been helpful to the clean energy cause.  The pandemic has caused delays in the ”supply chains”. Among other effects, this has made the push for small nuclear reactors (SMRs)  even more likely to fail. For example, despite the hype, Rolls Royce’s plan for SMRs for Qatar resulted in a fall for their share price, as the transport of parts is problematic.

Pandemic.  Omicron: bleak new year or beginning of the end for the pandemic?.   Scientists are cautiously optimistic that the variant may be a sign the virus is losing its power, despite the high infection figures.

Climate.  Earth’s Climate: Rapid and Dramatic Changes.

Julian Assange’s lawyers start process for UK Supreme Court appeal against his extradition to America.

The science-based case for excluding Nuclear Fission Technologies from the EU Taxonomy .

Spent FuelThe risky resurgence of nuclear power.

Nuclear power has no business case and could make climate change worse.

Is the thorium-fueled “Molten Salt reactor a proven technology?

Report:  “Moving Beyond Missile Defense and Space Weapons”

Nuclear liabilities – the tax-payer is the insurer of last resort.

Some bits of good news – Costa Rica was the star at COP26 Climate Summit.   The rare spots of good news on climate change.

ARCTIC. A second great nuclear ice breaker for Russia to keep the Northern Sea Route open.

EUROPE. European Commission experts call on EU not to label nuclear ‘green‘. European Commission will decide in 2022 if it considers nuclear energy as a ”climate friendly” investment. European Commission facing a backlash from Greta Thunberg and environmentalists over plans to include nuclear and gas in the EU ”green” taxonomy.

FRANCE. France short of electricity, as it shuts down 2 nuclear reactors due to safety concerns.

BELGIUM. Belgian government to close its nuclear plants by 2025 .

ASIA. Rapid shrinking of glaciers in the Himalayas.

JAPAN. Plight of Fukushima’s fishermen . USA puts pressure on Japan to not attend nuclear ban treaty meeting, not even as an observer. TEPCO files for approval of Fukushima plant water release. Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear powerplant out of action for many months due to 74 instances of defective welding..

CHINA. China opposes Japanese decision to release nuclear-contaminated water into ocean.

CANADA. Canada to be the guinea pig for America’s probably unviable small nuclear reactor.


FRANCE. The French government asked EDF for earlier restart of nuclear reactors (now on maintenance). EDF HAS DECIDED TO CLOSE TWO NUCLEAR PLANTS AFTER FINDING CRACKS. Tricastin nuclear power station: a radioactive leak in groundwater. The Environmental Authority requires a list of all the problems encountered in building the Flamanville EPR nuclear reactor.

GERMANY. Germany steadfast in rejecting nuclear power, aims for 100% renewables.

IRAQEnvironmental Ruin in Modern Iraq – largely due to depleted uranium.

IRAN. Iran holds air defence drill near Bushehr nuclear plant. Iran Diplomat Condemns West’s ‘Psychological Warfare’ in Nuclear Deadlock. The chance for nuclear diplomacy shouldn’t be wasted. Iran Simulated Attack On Israel’s Dimona Nuclear Site In Recent Wargames.


FINLANDOlkiluoto EPR nuclear reactor starting up, 12 years late .

SWEDEN. Swedish environmental groups sound a warning on the government’s plans for a new radioactive waste dump.

SLOVENIA and CROATIA. Lack of transparency on radioactive waste , on intake of international nuclear waste.

RUSSIA. Depleted uranium exports to Russia are not a ”resource” – they are radioactive waste.

TANZANIA. Tanzania seeking information on ‘nuclear waste’ ship detained in Mombasa.

AUSTRALIA. Australian government and Labor opposition ignore the suffering of Julian Assange. Can they afford to, as election looms?    Traditional owners lodge legal challenge to planned Kimba nuclear waste dump.

December 27, 2021 Posted by | Christina's notes | Leave a comment

The science-based case for excluding Nuclear Fission Technologies from the EU Taxonomy 

The question whether nuclear fission energy complies with the ‘do no significant harm’ (DNSH) criteria of the EU Taxonomy was the focus of the Technical Expert Group (TEG) DNSH assessment on nuclear fission technologies which recommended to the Commission that nuclear should not be included in the EU Taxonomy of environmentally sustainable activities.  

The independent scientific evidence which the TEG presented to the European Commission, shows evidence of adverse impacts to the natural environment arising from the many processes involved in the nuclear power lifecycle (from uranium mining to waste disposal) that are operational today. 

The Argument against Nuclear Power as Sustainable for, 26 Dec 21, Europe’s ‘science-based’ Sustainable Finance Taxonomy is politicised to include nuclear power. 

The Science-based case for excluding Nuclear Fission Technologies from the EU Taxonomy One of the most influential policy initiatives of the European Commission in the past years has been the “EU Taxonomy”, essentially a shopping list of investments that may be considered environmentally sustainable across six environmental objectives. 

To be deemed EU Taxonomy aligned, the activity must demonstrate a substantial contribution to one environmental objective, such as climate change mitigation, whilst causing no significant harm to the remaining five environmental objectives (climate change adaptation, sustainable use and protection of water and marine resources, transition to a circular economy, pollution prevention and control, and protection and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems). 

All eligible activities are required to comply with technical screening criteria (TSC) for ‘substantial contribution’ and ‘do no significant harm’ and to demonstrate that social safeguards are in place. 

The EU Taxonomy provides a common language for sustainability reporting, a foundation for green bond reporting and much more. It is intended to be used by international financial markets participants whose products are sold within the EU in order to evaluate the sustainability of their underlying investments.  The use of the EU Taxonomy is furthermore compulsory for the EU and member states when introducing requirements and standards regarding environmental sustainability of financial products, such as an EU ecolabel for investment products or an EU Green Bond Standard. 

It will also apply to 37% of activities earmarked as ‘climate-friendly’ financed by the EU COVID-19 recovery funding. Its science-based approach is designed to give confidence to a wide range of international stakeholders that environmental claims are not greenwashing.

The question whether nuclear fission energy complies with the ‘do no significant harm’ (DNSH) criteria of the EU Taxonomy was the focus of the Technical Expert Group (TEG) DNSH assessment on nuclear fission technologies which recommended to the Commission that nuclear should not be included in the EU Taxonomy of environmentally sustainable activities.  

Taking into account the significant financial implications of adopting the TEG recommendations, it became the starting point of intense behind-door lobbying. France led a coalition of 10 EU Member States arguing that nuclear fission as well as gas-fired power plants should be included in the Taxonomy. Together with Finland (Olkiluoto-3), France is at present the only EU country constructing a new nuclear power plant (Flamanville-3). The Finnish and French construction sites were meant to be the industrial demonstration of an evolutionary nuclear technology (the “European Pressurised water Reactor” or EPR). Olkiluoto-3 was meant to start generating power in 2009, followed by Flamanville-3 in 2012. Instead, the projects turned out to have multiple engineering difficulties and financial constraints that resulted in significant delays culminating in missed deadlines for various production start dates and tripling unit cost……………………. the independent scientific evidence which the TEG presented to the European Commission, shows evidence of adverse impacts to the natural environment arising from the many processes involved in the nuclear power lifecycle (from uranium mining to waste disposal) that are operational today.  …………

Does the present generation of nuclear fission power plants ‘do no significant harm’? To answer this question, two specific issues for nuclear power stand out: the risk of a catastrophic accident and the management of high-level nuclear waste (HLW)………………………………

Especially relevant for nuclear fission power is the fact that the liability of the operator in the case of a severe accident is limited and the remaining costs are (largely) taken on by the state (privatization of profits, socialization of risks).

The Taxonomy architecture is not designed to cater for such risks that carry an intergenerational impact lasting for thousands of years, making it an unsuitable instrument to decide on the sustainable nature of nuclear power. The characteristics and nature of HLW generated by the nuclear fission process presents long-term intergenerational risks and thereby challenge the principle of  ‘do no significant harm’ to the extent that nuclear fission energy may not be considered eligible for the EU Taxonomy. 

This was made abundantly clear to the Commission in the TEG’s recommendations, which were not published in their entirety. Independent, scientific, peer-reviewed evidence compiled by TEG provided confirmation of the risk of significant harm arising from nuclear waste. The back end of the fuel cycle is currently dominated by the containment of spent fuel rods and waste from nuclear power facilities. Safe and secure long-term storage of nuclear waste remains unresolved and has to be demonstrated in its operational complexity. ……….

The fact that a ‘solution’ has to be found for the existing quantities of waste (as well spent fuel as conditioned high level waste forms), and that geological disposal is the least bad solution for this, does not imply that nuclear power can suddenly be classified as a ‘green’ energy source. 

Other concerns with regard to DNSH criteria Nuclear fission power plants require about three cubic metres of cooling water per megawatt hour (MWh) produced. A nuclear plants’ cooling water consumption is higher than that of fossil-fuel plants. Throughout the world, new nuclear plants and existing plants increasingly face cooling water scarcity induced by heat waves, a situation that is likely to be aggravated by climate change…..

For reasons of having access to enough cooling water, nuclear plants are mostly sited in coastal or estuarine locations, but this makes them vulnerable to flooding and extreme events that climate change may occasion. The siting of nuclear power plants along coastal zones presents adaptation risks associated with sea-level rise, water temperature rise, coastal erosion as well as natural catastrophes such as the Fukushima disaster demonstrates. ………………..

when major nuclear plant accidents occur significant land areas become unsuitable for human habitation (e.g. Chernobyl, Fukushima). …….

Surface or underground mining and the processing of uranium ore can substantially damage surrounding ecosystems and waterways. The huge volumes of associated mining waste in developing countries are normally not considered in life cycle waste inventories of nuclear energy producing countries. More critically, the adverse effects on local environmental conditions of routine discharging of nuclear isotopes to the air and water  at reprocessing plants have not been considered thoroughly enough. A number of adverse impacts (of radiation) on soil/sediment, benthic flora and fauna and marine mammals has been demonstrated.  

Should nuclear fission power be included in the taxonomy as a transition activity? According to Article 10 (2) of the Taxonomy Regulation, which is the law underpinning the EU Taxonomy, activities that are incompatible with climate neutrality but considered necessary in the transition to a climate-neutral economy can be labelled and supported as ‘transition activities’…………

 A key principle of the EU Taxonomy is to avoid environmentally harmful ‘lock-in’ effects of activities. Lock-in describes the phenomenon whereby it is difficult to set a technical and political system on a new path once it has developed a momentum of its own and once it is ‘locked-in’ on a certain path. ……

Nuclear fission plants require at least 10 years to be built (with recent experience even pointing in the direction of 20 years for the EPR), while they have to remain operational for 50-60 years. Decommissioning will then take another 20-50 years. This means that a decision to build new nuclear power plants will lock in societies for some 80-130 years, not counting the years needed to store spent fuel or dispose of high-level waste. …

 A decision to include nuclear fission into the energy mix of the EU Taxonomy sustainable activities will during this period therefore channel much needed capital away from renewable energy technologies, which do not present long-term and catastrophic risks to humans and the environment as nuclear fission does. ……………………………………..

Signed by EU Taxonomy subgroup DNSH TEG members and expert supporters:

Dawn Slevin, Dr. Erik Laes, Paolo Masoni, Jochen Krimphoff, Fabrizio Varriale, Andrea Di Turi, Dr. Ulrich Ofterdinger, Dr. Dolores Byrne, Dr. Petra Kuenkel, Ursula Hartenberger, Kosha Joubert  

Link to PDF Version of the Statement of Concern sent to the Commission on 21 Dec 21:

December 27, 2021 Posted by | climate change, EUROPE | Leave a comment

Julian Assange’s lawyers start process for UK Supreme Court appeal against his extradition to America

Julian Assange’s lawyers start process for Supreme Court appeal to stop WikiLeaks founder being extradited to US and tried on espionage charges

  • Fiancee Stella Moris said application to bring appeal filed after 11am Thursday
  • Judges must now decide whether to hear the case before any appeal takes place
  • He is wanted in the US over alleged conspiracy to disclose national defence information

Daily Mail. By TOM PYMAN FOR MAILONLINE, 24 December.   Julian Assange‘s lawyers have started the process for a Supreme Court appeal to stop the WikiLeaks founder being extradited to the US and tried on espionage charges, his fiancee has said.

Stella Moris said Assange filed an application to bring an appeal shortly after 11am on Thursday.

As his lawyers have applied to take his case to the Supreme Court, the UK’s highest court, judges must now decide whether to hear the case before any appeal takes place.  Ms Moris, a lawyer and the mother of his two children, said in a statement on Thursday the High Court must first ‘certify that at least one of the Supreme Court appeal grounds is a point of law of general public

importance’ before the application has a chance to be considered by the Supreme Court.

A decision is not expected before the third week of January, Ms Moris added.

Birnberg Peirce Solicitors, who are representing Assange, said in a statement: ‘We believe serious and important issues of law of wider public importance are being raised in this application.

They arise from the Court’s judgment and its receipt and reliance on US assurances regarding the prison regimes and treatment Mr Assange is likely to face if extradited.

‘Because this application is now the subject of judicial consideration, his lawyers do not propose to comment further at the moment.

‘We hope and trust the High Court will grant a certificate on the questions raised as well as giving permission to appeal in order that they can thereafter be fully argued before the Supreme Court.’………………..

December 27, 2021 Posted by | Legal, UK | Leave a comment

Thorium and nuclear weapons.

The Hype About Thorium Reactors, by Gordon Edwards, Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, December 26 2021.

There has recently been an upsurge of uninformed babble about thorium as if it were a new discovery with astounding potentiality. Some describe it as a nearly miraculous material that can provide unlimited amounts of problem-free energy. Such hype is grossly exaggerated.

Thorium and Nuclear Weapons

One of the most irresponsible statements is that thorium has no connection with nuclear weapons. On the contrary, the initial motivation for using thorium in nuclear reactors was precisely for the purposes of nuclear weaponry.

It was known from the earliest days of nuclear fission that naturally-occurring thorium can be converted into a powerful nuclear explosive – not found in nature – called uranium-233, in much the same way that naturally-occurring uranium can be converted into plutonium.

Working at a secret laboratory in Montreal during World War II, nuclear scientists from France and Britain collaborated with Canadians and others to study the best way to obtain human-made nuclear explosives for bombs. That objective can be met by converting natural uranium into human-made plutonium-239, or by converting natural thorium into human-made uranium-233. These conversions can only be made inside a nuclear reactor. 

The Montreal team designed the famous and very powerful NRX research reactor for that military purpose as well as other non-military objectives. The war-time decision to allow the building of the NRX reactor was made in Washington DC by a six-person committee (3 Americans, 2 Brits and 1 Canadian) in the spring of 1944.

The NRX reactor began operation in 1947 at Chalk River, Ontario, on the Ottawa River, 200 kilometres northwest of the nation’s capital. The American military insisted that thorium rods as well as uranium rods be inserted into the reactor core. Two chemical “reprocessing” plants were built and operated at Chalk River, one to extract plutonium-239 from irradiated uranium rods, and a second to extract uranium-233 from irradiated thorium rods. This dangerous operation required dissolving intensely radioactive rods in boiling nitric acid and chemically separating out the small quantity of nuclear explosive material contained in those rods. Both plants were shut down in the 1950s after three men were killed in an explosion.

The USA detonated a nuclear weapon made from a mix of uranium-233 and plutonium-239 in 1955. In that same year the Soviet Union detonated its first H-bomb (a thermonuclear weapon, using nuclear fusion as well as nuclear fission) with a fissile core of natural uranium-235 and human-made uranium-233.

In 1998, India tested a nuclear weapon using uranium-233 as part of its series of nuclear test explosions in that year. A few years earlier, In 1994, the US government declassified a 1966 memo that states that uranium-233 has been demonstrated to be highly satisfactory as a weapons material. 

Uranium Reactors are really U-235 reactors

Uranium is the only naturally-occurring material that can be used to make an atomic bomb or to fuel a nuclear reactor. In either case, the energy release is due to the fissioning of uranium-235 atoms in a self-sustaining “chain reaction”. But uranium-235 is rather scarce. When uranium is found in nature, usually as a metallic ore in a rocky formation, it is about 99.3 percent uranium-238 and only 0.7 percent uranium-235. That’s just seven atoms out of a thousand!

Uranium-238, the heavier and more abundant isotope of uranium, cannot be used to make an A-Bomb or to fuel a reactor. It is only the lighter isotope, uranium-235, that can sustain a nuclear chain reaction. If the chain reaction is uncontrolled, you have a nuclear explosion; if it is controlled, as it is in a nuclear reactor, you have a steady supply of energy. 

But you cannot make a nuclear explosion with uranium unless the concentration of uranium-238 is greatly reduced and the concentration of uranium-235 is drastically increased. This procedure is called “uranium enrichment”, and the enrichment must be to a high degree – preferably more than 90 percent U-235, or at the very least 20 percent U-235 – to get a nuclear explosion. For this reason, the ordinary uranium fuel used in commercial power reactors is not weapons-usable; the concentration of U-235 is typically less than five percent.

However, as these uranium-235 atoms are split inside a nuclear reactor, the broken fragments form new smaller atoms called “fission products”. There are hundreds of varieties of fission products, and they are collectively millions of times more radioactive than the uranium fuel itself. They are the main constituents of “high-level radioactive waste” (or “irradiated nuclear fuel”) that must be kept out of the environment of living things for millions of years.

In addition, stray neutrons from the fissioning U-235 atoms convert many of the uranium-238 atoms into atoms if plutonium-239. Reactor-produced plutonium is always weapons-usable, regardless of the mixture of different isotopes; no enrichment is needed! But that plutonium can only be extracted from the used nuclear fuel by “reprocessing” the used fuel. That requires separating the plutonium from the fiercely radioactive fission products that will otherwise give a lethal dose of radiation to workers in a short time.

Thorium Reactors are really U-233 reactors

Unlike uranium, thorium cannot sustain a nuclear chain reaction under any circumstances. Thorium can therefore not be used to make an atomic bomb or to fuel a nuclear reactor. However, if thorium is inserted into an operating nuclear reactor (fuelled by uranium or plutonium), some of the thorium atoms are converted to uranium-233 atoms by absorbing stray neutrons. That newly created material, uranium-233, is even better than uranium-235 at sustaining a chain reaction.  That’s why uranium-233 can be used as a powerful nuclear explosive or as an exemplary reactor fuel.

But thorium cannot be used directly as a nuclear fuel.  It has to be converted into uranium-233 and then the human-made isotope uranium-233 becomes the reactor fuel. And to perform that conversion, some other nuclear fuel must be used – either enriched uranium or plutonium

Of course, when uranium-233 atoms are split, hundreds of fission products are created from the broken fragments, and they are collectively far more radioactive than the uranium-233 itself – or the thorium from which it was created.  So once again, we see that high-level radioactive waste is being produced even in a thorium reactor (as in a normal present-day uranium reactor). 

In summary, a so-called “thorium reactor” is in reality a uranium-233 reactor. 

Some other nuclear fuel (enriched uranium-235 or plutonium) must be used to convert thorium atoms into uranium-233 atoms. Some form of reprocessing must then be used to extract uranium-233 from the irradiated thorium. The fissioning of uranium-233, like the fissioning of uranium-235 or plutonium, creates hundreds of new fission products that make up the bulk of the high-level radioactive waste from any nuclear reactor. And, as previously remarked, uranium-233 is also a powerful nuclear explosive, posing serious weapons proliferation risks. Moreover, uranium-233 – unlike the uranium fuel that is currently used in commercial power reactors around the world – is immediately usable as a nuclear explosive. The moment uranium-233 is created it is very close to 100 percent enriched – perfect for use in any nuclear weapon of suitable design.

Uranium-232 — A Fly in the Ointment

Continue reading

December 27, 2021 Posted by | Reference, thorium, Uranium, weapons and war | 1 Comment

Environmental Ruin in Modern Iraq – largely due to depleted uranium.

In particular, she points to depleted uranium, or DU, used by the U.S. and U.K. in the manufacture of tank armor, ammunition, and other military purposes during the Gulf War and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The United Nations Environment Program estimates that some 2,000 tons of depleted uranium may have been used in Iraq, and much of it has yet to be cleaned up.

‘Everything Living Is Dying’: Environmental Ruin in Modern Iraq, Decades of war, poverty, and fossil fuel extraction have devastated the country’s environment and its people. Undark, BY LYNZY BILLING, 12.22.2021 All photos by LYNZY BILLING for UNDARK  ”’,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,   Miscarriages, of course, are common everywhere, and while pollution writ large is known to be deadly in the aggregate, linking specific health outcomes to local ambient pollution is a notoriously difficult task. Even so, few places on earth beg such questions as desperately as modern Iraq, a country devastated from the northern refineries of Kurdistan to the Mesopotamian marshes of the south — and nearly everywhere in between — by decades of war, poverty, and fossil fuel extraction.

As far back as 2005, the United Nations had estimated that Iraq was already littered with several thousand contaminated sites. Five years later, an investigation by The Times, a London-based newspaper, suggested that the U.S. military had generated some 11 million pounds of toxic waste and abandoned it in Iraq. Today, it is easy to find soil and water polluted by depleted uranium, dioxin and other hazardous materials, and extractive industries like the KAR oil refinery often operate with minimal transparency. On top of all of this, Iraq is among the countries most vulnerable to climate change, which has already contributed to grinding water shortages and prolonged drought. In short, Iraq presents a uniquely dystopian tableau — one where human activity contaminates virtually every ecosystem, and where terms like “ecocide” have special currency.

According to Iraqi physicians, the many overlapping environmental insults could account for the country’s high rates of cancer, birth defects, and other diseases. Preliminary research by local scientists supports these claims, but the country lacks the money and technology needed to investigate on its own. To get a better handle on the scale and severity of the contamination, as well as any health impacts, they say, international teams will need to assist in comprehensive investigations. With the recent close of the ISIS caliphate, experts say, a window has opened.

While the Iraqi government has publicly recognized widespread pollution stemming from conflict and other sources, and implemented some remediation programs, few critics believe these measures will be adequate to address a variegated environmental and public health problem that is both geographically expansive and attributable to generations of decision-makers — both foreign and domestic — who have never truly been held to account. The Iraqi Ministry of Health and the Kurdistan Ministry of Health did not respond to repeated requests for comment on these issues……………………….

experts who study Iraq’s complex mosaic of pollution and health challenges say. Despite overwhelming evidence of pollution and contamination from a variety of sources, it remains exceedingly difficult for Iraqi doctors and scientists to pinpoint the precise cause of any given person’s — or even any community’s — illness; depleted uranium, gas flaring, contaminated crops all might play a role in triggering disease……………………………

This is Eman’s sixth year at the hospital, and her 25th as a physician. Over that time span, she says, she has seen an array of congenital anomalies, most commonly cleft palates, but also spinal deformities, hydrocephaly, and tumors. At the same time, miscarriages and premature births have spiked among Iraqi women, she says, particularly in areas where heavy U.S. military operations occurred as part of the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 to 2011 Iraq War. 

Research supports many of these clinical observations. According to a 2010 paper published in the American Journal of Public Health, leukemia cases in children under 15 doubled from 1993 to 1999 at one hospital in southern Iraq, a region of the country that was particularly hard hit by war. According to other research, birth defects also surged there, from 37 in 1990 to 254 in 2001.

But few studies have been conducted lately, and now, more than 20 years on, it’s difficult to know precisely which factors are contributing to Iraq’s ongoing medical problems. Eman says she suspects contaminated water, lack of proper nutrition, and poverty are all factors, but war also has a role. In particular, she points to depleted uranium, or DU, used by the U.S. and U.K. in the manufacture of tank armor, ammunition, and other military purposes during the Gulf War and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The United Nations Environment Program estimates that some 2,000 tons of depleted uranium may have been used in Iraq, and much of it has yet to be cleaned up. The remnants of DU ammunition are spread across 1,100 locations — “and that’s just from the 2003 invasion,” says Zwijnenburg, the Dutch war-and-environment analyst. “We are still missing all the information from the 1991 Gulf War that the U.S. said was not recorded and could not be shared.”

Souad Naji Al-Azzawi, an environmental engineer and a retired University of Baghdad professor, knows this problem well. In 1991, she was asked to review plans to reconstruct some of Baghdad’s water treatment plants, which had been destroyed at the start of the Gulf War, she says. A few years later, she led a team to measure the impact of radiation on soldiers and Iraqi civilians in the south of the country.

Around that same time, epidemiological studies found that from 1990 to 1997, cases of childhood leukemia increased 60 percent in the southern Iraqi town of Basra, which had been a focal point of the fighting. Over the same time span, the number of children born with severe birth defects tripled. Al-Azzawi’s work suggests that the illnesses are linked to depleted uranium. Other work supports this finding and suggests that depleted uranium is contributing to elevated rates of cancer and other health problems in adults, too.

Today, remnants of tanks and weapons line the main highway from Baghdad to Basra, where contaminated debris remains a part of residents’ everyday lives. In one family in Basra, Zwijnenburg noted, all members had some form of cancer, from leukemia to bone cancers.

To Al-Azzawi, the reasons for such anomalies seem plain. Much of the land in this area is contaminated with depleted uranium oxides and particles, she said. It is in the water, in the soil, in the vegetation. “The population of west Basra showed between 100 and 200 times the natural background radiation levels,” Al-Azzawi says.

Some remediation efforts have taken place. For example, says Al-Azzawi, two so-called tank graveyards in Basra were partially remediated in 2013 and 2014. But while hundreds of vehicles and pieces of artillery were removed, these graveyards remain a source of contamination. The depleted uranium has leached into the water and surrounding soils. And with each sandstorm —  a common event — the radioactive particles are swept into neighborhoods and cities.

Cancers in Iraq catapulted from 40 cases among 100,000 people in 1991 to at least 1,600 by 2005.

In Fallujah, a central Iraqi city that has experienced heavy warfare, doctors have also reported a sharp rise in birth defects among the city’s children. According to a 2012 article in Al Jazeera, Samira Alani, a pediatrician at Fallujah General Hospital, estimated that 14 percent of babies born in the city had birth defects — more than twice the global average.

Alani says that while her research clearly shows a connection between contamination and congenital anomalies, she still faces challenges to painting a full picture of the affected areas, in part because data was lacking from Iraq’s birth registry. It’s a common refrain among doctors and researchers in Iraq, many of whom say they simply don’t have the resources and capacity to properly quantify the compounding impacts of war and unchecked industry on Iraq’s environment and its people. “So far, there are no studies. Not on a national scale,” says Eman, who has also struggled to conduct studies because there is no nationwide record of birth defects or cancers. “There are only personal and individual efforts.”…………………..

After the Gulf War, many veterans suffered from a condition now known as Gulf War syndrome. Though the causes of the illness are to this day still subject to widespread speculation, possible causes include exposure to depleted uranium, chemical weapons, and smoke from burning oil wells. More than 200,000 veterans who served in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere in the Middle East have reported major health issues to the Department of Veterans Affairs, which they believe are connected to burn pit exposure. Last month, the White House announced new actions to make it easier for such veterans to access care.

Numerous studies have shown that the pollution stemming from these burn pits has caused severe health complications for American veterans. Active duty personnel have reported respiratory difficulties, headaches, and rare cancers allegedly derived from the burn pits in Iraq and locals living nearby also claim similar health ailments, which they believe stem from pollutants emitted by the burn pits.

Keith Baverstock, head of the Radiation Protection Program at the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for Europe from 1991 to 2003, says the health of Iraqi residents is likely also at risk from proximity to the burn pits. “If surplus DU has been burned in open pits, there is a clear health risk” to people living within a couple of miles, he says.

Abdul Wahab Hamed lives near the former U.S. Falcon base in Baghdad. His nephew, he says, was born with severe birth defects. The boy cannot walk or talk, and he is smaller than other children his age. Hamed says his family took the boy to two separate hospitals and after extensive work-ups, both facilities blamed the same culprit: the burn pits. Residents living near Camp Taji, just north of Baghdad also report children born with spinal disfigurements and other congenital anomalies, but they say that their requests for investigation have yielded no results.  ………………………………………

December 27, 2021 Posted by | children, environment, Iraq, secrets,lies and civil liberties, wastes, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Canada to be the guinea pig for America’s probably unviable small nuclear reactor.

There’s lots of enthusiasm among nuclear reactor designers, developers and national laboratories, and academic nuclear engineering departments” about SMRs, said Edwin Lyman, director of nuclear power safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists, who published a report on SMR reactor designs in early 2021. “

There’s a lot of supply but there’s not much demand, because utilities don’t want to be guinea pigs.”

cost escalation is practically inevitable.

Canada’s first new nuclear reactor in decades is an American design. Will it prompt a rethink of government support? The Globe and Mail,  MATTHEW MCCLEARN, 26 Dec 21
, Ontario Power Generation’s selection of GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy to help build a small modular reactor (SMR) at its Darlington station in Clarington, Ont., set in motion events that could shape Canada’s nuclear industry for decades to come.

OPG’s choice, announced in December, is the BWRX-300. It’s a light water reactor, the variety most popular in developed countries, and quite unlike Canada’s existing fleet of CANDU heavy water reactors. Though not exactly small – the BWRX’s 300-megawatt nameplate capacity is roughly equivalent to a large wind farm – it would produce only one-third as much electricity as traditional reactors. It would use different fuel, produce different wastes and possibly have different safety implications.
The Darlington SMR would be the first BWRX-300 ever constructed. By moving first, OPG hopes Ontario will become embedded in a global supply chain for these reactors.

“OPG ourselves, we don’t really get anything out of it – it’s a lot of work,” said Robin Manley, OPG’s vice-president of nuclear development. “Our goal is to have as many contracts signed with Canadian suppliers as we possibly can.” But that might not satisfy some critics, who’ve protested OPG’s selection of a U.S. design by GE Hitachi, which is based in North Carolina.

Ontario Power Generation chose GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy to build a light water reactor .

It does seem to confirm the end of Canada’s tradition of homegrown reactors. The BWRX-300 would be Canada’s first new reactor since Darlington Unit 4 in Ontario, completed in 1993. According to Mycle Schneider Consulting, the average age of the country’s 19 operational reactors is 38 years. Attempts to update the CANDU design proved largely fruitless; OPG and Bruce Power opted to refurbish reactors at Darlington and Bruce stations to operate another few decades, while sizing up SMRs as a possible next act.

Time is running short. This decade is widely regarded as crucial for building emissions-free generation capacity. SMRs will be late to that party even if this BWRX-300 is built on time. Delays and cost overruns, ever-present risks with any reactor, could kill its prospects.

The partnership with OPG represents a major coup for GE Hitachi, a U.S.-Japanese alliance that set up its SMR subsidiary in Canada less than a year ago. There are at least 50 SMR designs worldwide, but most exist only on paper; vendors compete vigorously to sell to experienced nuclear operators such as OPG because they represent an opportunity to build a bona fide reactor that might entice other clients. For the same reason, OPG’s decision is a blow to the losing candidates, Oakville, Ont.-based Terrestrial Energy Inc. and X-energy, an American vendor

“There’s lots of enthusiasm among nuclear reactor designers, developers and national laboratories, and academic nuclear engineering departments” about SMRs, said Edwin Lyman, director of nuclear power safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists, who published a report on SMR reactor designs in early 2021. “There’s a lot of supply but there’s not much demand, because utilities don’t want to be guinea pigs.”

Nuclear industry executives and government officials hope the Darlington SMR will be the first of many deployed in Ontario and beyond. SaskPower is also shopping; it has collaborated with OPG since 2017, and said the BWRX-300 is among its candidates. Canada has a small population, so observers doubt the country could support supply chains for multiple reactor designs.

But OPG’s selection of an American SMR has drawn some sharp criticism. Some observers assumed Terrestrial enjoyed a home turf advantage, particularly in light of the federal government’s decision to invest $20-million toward its Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR). The Society of Professional Engineers and Associates, a union representing engineers and others working on CANDU reactors, complained that “priority should have been given to Canadian design.”

“It is a slap in the face for Terrestrial,” said M.V. Ramana, professor at the University of British Columbia’s Liu Institute for Global Issues. “It is not a good sign for Canada’s nuclear industry.”

Prof. Ramana added that OPG’s decision may prompt a rethinking of government support to SMR developers. In addition to Terrestrial’s funding, Moltex Energy received $50.5-million from the federal Strategic Innovation Fund and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency to advance the Stable Salt Reactor-Wasteburner it is working on in New Brunswick. ARC Clean Energy received $20-million from New Brunswick’s government toward its ARC-100 reactor.

“If these companies are not able to persuade OPG, then maybe we should stop funding them,” he said…………………..

Unlike CANDUs, which consume unenriched uranium, light water reactors require fuel enriched to increase Uranium-235 content. Mr. Lyman said that by adopting any non-CANDU design, Canada will become dependent on enriched fuel imported from the U.S., Europe or elsewhere.

The industry would also need to learn how to dispose of unfamiliar wastes. The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), which is in the final stages of selecting an underground storage site for Canada’s radioactive spent fuel, said spent BWRX-300 fuel would generate more heat and radioactivity than CANDU fuel, but could be stored in fewer containers, placed further apart.

“We will learn from our international partners who already have plans to permanently store this type of waste in a deep geological repository,” the NWMO said in a statement.

All this assumes OPG’s reactor gets built. To begin with, the BWRX-300 actually isn’t licensed to be built anywhere. GE Hitachi is participating in the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s Vendor Design Review, through which it receives early feedback from the regulator on its reactor. ………

critics say completing the reactor by 2028 is a tall order. According to Mycle Schneider Consulting, one in eight reactors that have begun construction since 1951 were never connected to the grid. Many survivors, meanwhile, arrived years later than promised.

Mr. Manley said 2028 is “an aspirational goal” rather than a hard deadline. The project schedule will firm up over the next two years.

OPG has yet to publish a cost estimate, but according to a report published by PwC, the SMR project “is expected to spend $2-billion over seven years.” That’s already higher than the US$1-billion price tag GE Hitachi promised for a BWRX-300 in 2019. (In public presentations, GE executives declared that keeping the price below US$1-billion was crucial to its plans to exponentially grow its customer base.)……

Prof. Ramana said cost escalation is practically inevitable……….

December 27, 2021 Posted by | Canada, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

Thorium nuclear reactors pose the same weapons proliferation and safety problems, and mining pollution problems – as uranium nuclear reactors.

Is the thorium-fueled “Molten Salt reactor a proven technology?

The first thorium-fueled molten salt reactor ever built was intended to power an aircraft engine in a long-range strategic bomber armed with nuclear weapons. Despite massive expenditures, the project proved unviable as well as prohibitively costly and was ultimately cancelled by President Kennedy. However, the Oak Ridge team responsible for the aircraft engine reactor project, under the direction of Alvin Weinberg, was allowed to conduct a further thorium-fuelled molten salt reactor experiment for a period of four years, from 1965 to 1969. At the beginning, only U-235 was used; soon afterwards, a smaller amount of U-233 was used.

During its four years of operation under experimental conditions, the Oak Ridge molten salt reactor experienced over 250 shutdowns, most of them completely unplanned.  The molten-salt thorium fuelled experience of 52 years ago at Oak Ridge – the only such experience available to date – consumed about one quarter of the total budget of the entire Oak Ridge nuclear complex. It is difficult to understand how anyone could construe this experiment as demonstrating that such a technology would be viable in a commercial environment.

There are, at the present time, no thorium reactors operating anywhere in the world.

Summary (Thorium Reactors)

It appears that thorium-fuelled reactors pose the same kinds of problems, qualitatively speaking, that afflict existing nuclear reactors. Problems associated with the long-term management of nuclear waste, and the potential for proliferating nuclear weapons, are not fundamentally different even though the detailed considerations are by no means identical.

Since a nuclear reactor accident will have off-site consequences only due to the unintended release of high-level nuclear waste materials into the environment, there is no qualitative difference there either.  Thorium reactors pose the same risk of reactor accident risks as in the case of a comparable non-thorium reactor.

The “Front End” of the Nuclear Fuel Chain

So much for the “back end” of the fuel chain, but what about the “front end”? What about the dangers and environmental consequences associated with mining a radioactive ore body to obtain the uranium or thorium needed to sustain a uranium-based or thorium-based reactor system?

Thorium versus Uranium

Uranium and thorium are naturally occurring heavy metals, both discovered a couple of centuries ago. Uranium was identified in 1789. It was named after the planet Uranus, that was discovered just 8 years earlier. Thorium was identified in 1828. It was named after Thor, the Norse god of thunder.

In 1896, Henri Becquerel accidentally discovered radioactivity. He found that rocks containing either uranium or thorium give off a kind of invisible penetrating light (gamma radiation) that can expose photographic plates even if they are wrapped in thick black paper.

In 1898, Marie Curie discovered that when uranium ore is crushed and the uranium itself is extracted, it is indeed found to be a radioactive substance, but the crushed rock contains much more radioactivity (5 to 7 times more) than the uranium itself. She identified two new elements in the crushed rock, radium and polonium – both radioactive and highly dangerous – and won two Nobel Prizes, one in Physics and one in Chemistry. 

The radioactive properties of both radium and thorium were used in medical treatments prior to the discovery of fission in 1939. Because of the extraordinary damage done to living tissues by atomic radiation (a fact that was observed before the advent of the twentieth century) these radioactive materials derived from natural sources were used to shrink cancerous tumours and to destroy ringworm infections in the scalps of young children. It was later observed that while acute doses of atomic radiation can indeed kill malignant as well as benign growths, atomic radiation can also cause latent cancers that will not appear until decades later, even at chronic low dose radiation levels that cause no immediately perceptible biological damage.

Uranium Mining and Mill Tailings

It turns out that 85 percent of the radioactivity in uranium ore is found in the pulverized residues after uranium is extracted, as a result of many natural radioactive byproducts of uranium called “decay products” or “progeny” that are left behind. They include radioactive isotopes of lead, bismuth, polonium, radium, radon gas, and others. Uranium mining is dangerous mainly because of the harmful effects of these radioactive byproducts, which are invariably discarded in the voluminous sand-like tailings left over from milling the ore. All of these radioactive decay products are much more radioactive and much more biologically damaging than uranium itself.

Thorium Mining and Mill Tailings

Thorium is estimated to be about three to four times more plentiful than uranium. Like uranium, it also produces radioactive “decay products” or “progeny” – including additional radioactive isotopes of lead, bismuth, polonium, radium, radon gas, thallium, and others. These radioactive byproducts are discarded in the mill tailings when thorium ore is milled. See .

Most of the naturally-occurring radioactivity found in the soil and rocks of planet Earth are due to the two primordial radioactive elements, uranium and thorium, and their many decay products. There is one additional primordial radioactive element, potassium-40, but it has no radioactive decay products and so contributes much less to the natural radioactive inventory.

Gordon Edwards.

P.S. I have written about thorium as a nuclear fuel several times before, beginning in 1978.

See  ; ; ;  and

December 27, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Reference, thorium | Leave a comment