The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry Fukushima Chernobyl Mayak Three Mile Island Atomic Testing Radiation Isotope

They’re at it again! The nuclear industry dazzles journalists with its newest hogwash – “inflection point”.

Ever inventive, the nuclear lobby has come up with this lovely new term – “inflection point” – a term pinched from geometry, and designed to dazzle journalists further into their mindless state of subservience to technical experts.

It’s quite a revealing choice of words, a 21st Century advance on their old mantra “nuclear renaissance”. That term had a comforting suggestion of biology, history, art.

The new term moves away from all that “soft” educational rubbish, and into the world of maths and technology – which are now supposed to be the only studies that matter.

The curious thing, though, is that the term used here implies that the nuclear industry is now at a very low point. It’s unpopular, people are reluctant to invest in it, perhaps now realising that small nuclear reactors have no use except for helping the development of nuclear weapons.

And, as the diagram shows, there’s a very good chance that if, in fact, this small nuclear reactor industry really does get going, before long there will be a new “inflection point”, where the industry collapses, just like the big nuclear industry is doing.

Today’s corporate media is awash with nuclear propaganda where the journalists clearly didn’t need to do any thinking, except perhaps to add a few superlatives to the industry’s jargon handouts.


January 3, 2023 Posted by | Christina's notes, media | 2 Comments

$Billions of tax-payer money to go to kickstarting the “new nuclear reactor” industry’s “inflection point”

“It’s a really great investor environment — both publicly and privately,”

said Ryan Norman, analyst
at energy think-tank Third Wa

US nuclear enjoys revival as public and private funding pours in. The US
nuclear industry has hailed 2022 as an “inflection point”, with surging
private investment and unprecedented government support breathing new life
into a sector that fell from favour in recent decades.

New federal legislation enacted in the past 18 months will pump about $40bn into the
sector over the coming decade, according to industry estimates, while
roughly $5bn in private funds has flowed into companies designing new types
of reactor in the past year alone.

“It’s a really great investor environment — both publicly and privately,” said Ryan Norman, analyst
at energy think-tank Third Way. “There’s federal recognition that nuclear
energy technologies have a key role to play in the US energy future,” he
said. “No matter how you cut it, we’re talking about billions of dollars
being poured into these advanced reactor companies.”

FT 1st Jan 2023

January 3, 2023 Posted by | politics, technology, USA | Leave a comment

The Future Remains Uncertain For Nuclear Energy

Ed note. This is a fine article, one that acknowledges the political moves in some countries towards reviving the nuclear industry , while at the same time recognises the strong opposition to this in other countries.

Still, it doesn’t address the folly of “new nukes” having the same old problems of costs, wastes, security needs. And above all – the MILITARY CONNECTION

And it doesn’t address the strange logic – that if big nuclear reactors are bad, that proves that little ones are good.

By Felicity Bradstock Editor, Tue, 3 January 2023, Several countries around the world appear to have suddenly welcomed nuclear power into the clean energy mix, particularly in response to global gas shortages and rising oil prices. But this apparent renaissance of nuclear energy is not being seen everywhere, with many countries remaining skeptical about the technology, unwilling to accept nuclear as the answer to the world’s energy problems. This divide, particularly seen in Europe, could have a major impact on the development of the nuclear power plant pipeline across the region, as some states reject plans for raising the EU’s nuclear energy capacity.

After decades of moving away from nuclear power, largely due to safety concerns following three world-renowned nuclear disasters, some major powers have put nuclear energy back on the agenda as they race to secure their energy security and transition away from fossil fuels. The U.S. and U.K. are two countries in which the governments are offering high levels of funding and political backing for new nuclear projects to support a green transition. In the U.S., the nuclear energy output has plateaued since the 1980s, providing around 19 percent of the country’s electricity at present.  But a reconsideration of the safety risk involved with nuclear operations vis a vis the current climate situation has made the U.S. more open to new nuclear projects, with President Biden including funding for nuclear projects in his Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

Meanwhile, in the U.K. the government purchased a 20 percent stake in the Sizewell C nuclear plant in Suffolk for $100 million in June. And EDF’s Hinkley Point C is expected to be up and running by 2027, at a cost of between $30 and $31.5 billion. Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson also outlined plans for the development of eight nuclear reactors by the end of the decade earlier this year.

Hungary is remaining strongly committed to a planned nuclear project with Russia. The Paks 2 project is set to be financed by Russia, with a $10.6 billion loan. It follows the Paks 1 nuclear power station, around an hour south of Budapest, that was constructed by the Soviet Union in the 1980s. With its lifecycle coming to an end in the 2030s, Prime Minister Viktor Orban signed a deal with Vladimir Putin in 2014 to construct two new 1,200 MW reactors next to the old ones. Ground-clearing work started in August after several years of delays. The plant was originally expected to come online in 2026, but this is becoming increasingly unlikely, especially due to the war in Ukraine. Finland has already abandoned a Russian-built nuclear plant on the Hanhikivi peninsula midway through its construction because of the war. And, unsurprisingly, several other European powers oppose Hungary’s close relations with Russia, encouraging Orban to cut ties with Putin.

While many are concerned about Hungary’s nuclear project because of Russia’s involvement, some other European countries are opposed to bringing new nuclear projects online altogether. Slovakia has announced plans to shift its reliance on nuclear energy in its plans for the Mochovce power plant. Built by the Soviet Union in the 1980s, a new nuclear reactor is currently being prepared to launch in 2023, offering 471 MW of power. If all goes as planned, it will cover 13 percent of Slovakia’s electricity needs, making the country self-sufficient. But neighboring Austria is staunchly opposed to the development due to the high costs involved – both in terms of money and radioactive waste. Austria also worries that Slovakia will rely on Russia for its uranium to run operations, with around one-fifth of the EU’s uranium coming from Russia. Public opinion on nuclear power is greatly divided, with 60 percent of Slovakians believing nuclear power is safe, while 70 percent of Austrians think the opposite.

At present, 13 of the EU’s 27 member states generate nuclear power, while several others are not ready to welcome nuclear to the energy mix despite the current energy crisis. While Germany has delayed the planned phasing out of its nuclear projects, and other European countries are bringing new nuclear reactors online, some believe there is no renaissance for nuclear power. Despite the Russia-Ukraine war creating a regional energy crisis, governments have generally taken little action to shift their existing policies on nuclear plans, suggesting that a move to nuclear may be exaggerated.

Nicolas Berghmans, an energy and climate expert at the France-based Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI), explained “We’re not talking about a nuclear renaissance, as such… but maybe more of a change of tide.” He added, “A real nuclear renaissance would be if Europe decides to invest in more nuclear power plants.” Meanwhile, Said Mark Hibbs, from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, suggested “I don’t see a major watershed from what’s happening in Ukraine… Instead, the situation has reinforced some trends among countries already bought into nuclear energy, while slowing some opponents’ phase-outs of the technology.”

While some believe there is a renaissance of nuclear energy taking place, others are less certain. The recent energy crisis has drawn greater attention to nuclear power, with some major powers accelerating existing plans for nuclear plants or showing openness to diversifying their energy mix further through nuclear projects. However, the divide between those for and against nuclear power remains strong and will likely shape the development of many of these projects, as regional pressures could prevent many new reactors from coming online.

Tue, 3 January 2023

January 3, 2023 Posted by | 2 WORLD, politics international | Leave a comment

Countering nuclear industry propaganda by telling the facts – Joshua Frank’s book “Atomic Days”

That the world hasn’t been the same since the ignition of the Atomic Age in
the 1940s is certainly an understatement, yet the public’s awareness of how
the nuclear industry operates has always been dismally low. Secrecy has
played a part — especially in relation to bomb-making activities — but
so too has the establishment news media, which focuses on individual events
and sidelines institutional factors.

So an accident is news (if it’s not covered up), but not the regular practices or misguided motivations that
led to it, even though they were ultimately responsible. Also, stories
about nuclear power can be complicated to tell as they involve, first,
technical processes that are arcane to people outside the field, and
second, powerful corporate interests who don’t want them told, and who
confuse and confound the discourse with slick PR.

But raising public awareness of the facts around the nuclear industry is especially important
in this third decade of the 21st century when well-meaning people who are
seeking to reduce carbon emissions out of a legitimate concern for the
climate crisis are proposing to expand the use of nuclear power to replace
fossil fuels.

That this recommendation is no solution at all cannot be
overstated, yet it’s being peddled by respected people with public
platforms. Fortunately for advocates of common sense, Joshua Frank has
brought his investigative skills to bear on the nuclear industry with his
new book, Atomic Days: The Untold Story of the Most Toxic Place in America,
in which he takes a deep dive into the subject of Hanford, that is, of the
Hanford Nuclear Site, in eastern Washington state.

Counterpunch 30th Dec 2022

January 3, 2023 Posted by | spinbuster, USA | Leave a comment

Nuclear is not the answer to the UK’s energy requirements, and honesty about Sizewell is needed

We need more honesty about the problems of the proposed Sizewell C plant, writes Rae Street 3 Jan 23

In his letter (22 December), Tom Smith describes the problems of storing the radioactive waste that is being produced by the UK nuclear reactors, and says that we need more honesty about these issues. The latter is also true of other problems with “new nuclear build”. Take, for example, the proposed Sizewell C reactor on the east coast.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has estimated that extreme “sea level events” could occur “at least once per year at many locations by 2050”. Sizewell C will be built near the sea on marshland. One engineer has estimated that the land where the reactor would be built will turn into a promontory encircled by the sea. Clearly the reactor site could be flooded.

Then there is the problem of obtaining uranium, which is currently the fuel for the nuclear reactors. The UK has to import uranium from across the world. It is mainly mined on the land of Indigenous people – in the US, in Canada, in Australia and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The miners and their families have suffered years of ill health and even death from proximity to uranium. At the same time, having to import uranium means that this is not an independent source of energy for the UK.

The government and the opposition have completely ignored all warnings; they go doggedly on, supporting the construction of the new nuclear reactor at Sizewell and considering plans to build others. But nuclear is not the answer to the UK’s energy requirements. Apart from anything else, it is vastly expensive. The money it swallows should be put into developing genuine sustainable energy: tidal, wind and solar.

January 3, 2023 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

South Korea asks US for greater role in managing nuclear weapons

AFR, Sangmi Cha, Jan 2, 2023,

Seoul | South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said his government was in talks with the US on taking a more active role in managing nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula, which would mark a significant shift in a decades-old policy among American allies to deter North Korea.

“While the nuclear weapons belong to the US, intel sharing, planning, and training should be done jointly,” Mr Yoon told South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper. “The US’ stance is quite positive,” he added, saying the policy should be conducted under the concept of “joint planning and joint exercise”.

He said the strategy of “nuclear umbrella”, or “extended deterrence”, was no longer reassuring for the public now that North Korea had developed nuclear weapons and a range of missiles to deliver them.

Since taking power last May, Mr Yoon has sought to put South Korea on a path of overwhelming military strength against North Korea, which has launched scores of missiles in defiance of United Nations resolutions and is preparing for another nuclear test………………………… more

January 3, 2023 Posted by | politics international, South Korea | Leave a comment

North Korea to have “exponential increase” in its nuclear arsenal

Kim Jong-un has vowed to ramp up the production of nuclear warheads and
build a more powerful intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), while
singling out South Korea as his country’s “undoubted enemy”, North
Korean state media reported on Sunday. In a sign of deepening animosity
towards the US, South Korea and Japan, Kim called for an “exponential
increase” in the regime’s nuclear arsenal during an address at a plenary
meeting of the ruling Workers’ party that ended on Saturday.

Guardian 1st Jan 2023

January 3, 2023 Posted by | North Korea, weapons and war | Leave a comment

President Joe Biden contradicts South Korea’s President’s claim that the two countries are planning joint

US Not Discussing Nuclear Exercises With South Korea, Biden Says, VOA news 2 Jan 23, SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA — 

President Joe Biden says the United States is not discussing holding joint nuclear exercises with its ally South Korea, even though South Korea’s president told a local newspaper that such talks were underway.

In an interview published Monday, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said the discussions centered on joint planning and exercises with U.S. nuclear forces — an arrangement he said would have the same effect as “nuclear sharing.”

Any such plan would amount to a significant change in U.S. policy toward Korea and would have almost certainly further raised tensions with North Korea.

Asked on the White House lawn late Monday whether such talks were occurring, Biden replied, “No.” He offered no further details.

Yoon made the comments in a New Year’s interview in the conservative Chosun Ilbo newspaper.

“The nuclear weapons belong to the United States, but South Korea and the United States should jointly share information, plan, and train together. The United States also feels quite positively about this idea,” Yoon said.

The United States has not stationed nuclear weapons in South Korea since the early 1990s, when it pulled tactical nukes from the peninsula as part of a disarmament deal with the Soviet Union. Instead, South Korea is protected by the U.S. “nuclear umbrella,” under which Washington vows to use all of its capabilities, including nuclear weapons, to defend its ally.

In the interview, Yoon suggested such ideas were outdated. “What we call ‘extended deterrence’ means that the United States will take care of everything, so South Korea should not worry about it,” Yoon said. “But now, it is difficult to convince our people with just this idea.”

Faced with an increasingly hostile and nuclear-armed North Korean neighbor, a growing number of prominent South Koreans have called for the country to acquire its own nuclear deterrent.

According to a poll published Monday by the Seoul-based Hankook Research organization, 67% of South Koreans support South Korea getting nuclear weapons, including 70% of conservatives and 54% of liberals. The poll is consistent with many other public opinion surveys in recent years.

As a presidential candidate in 2021, the conservative Yoon said he would ask the United States to either redeploy tactical nuclear weapons or enter a NATO-style arrangement in which South Koreans would be trained to deliver U.S. nuclear weapons in a conflict. The U.S. State Department quickly shot down the proposal………………….

many analysts are skeptical the United States would enter such an arrangement, noting it would go against Washington’s stated global non-proliferation goals, as well as its support for the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

“I don’t think the United States would be receptive to including South Korea in nuclear planning,” said Ankit Panda, a senior fellow in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. “And it’s ultimately not necessary to deter nuclear use by North Korea, which can be largely done through conventional means.”………………………………………….

Many analysts warn South Korea’s nuclear armament would be disastrous, leading to international sanctions, increased tensions with its neighbors, and the creation of a “nuclear domino effect” that could lead other Northeast Asian countries to acquire nuclear weapons.

January 3, 2023 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

German minister reignites coalition row with call to review nuclear exit

BERLIN, Jan 2 (Reuters) – Germany’s transport minister called for an expert committee to examine whether the lifespan of the country’s nuclear plants should be extended, reopening a row within Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition.

Germany’s rush to free itself from imported Russian fuels after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine spurred calls for the country’s three remaining nuclear plants to be kept open rather than shut at the end of 2022.

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Late last year, Social Democrat Scholz attempted to suppress a row between the environmentalist Greens, strong proponents of an exit from nuclear power, and the liberal Free Democrats by ordering that all three be kept running until April.

But Free Democrat Transport Minister Volker Wissing reignited the argument, telling the Frankfurter Allgemeine that the environmental benefits of electric cars would be reduced unless they were charged using nuclear energy, which is emissions-free.

“We need an expert answer to the question of how we can ensure we have stable and affordable energy supplies while also achieving our climate protection goals,” he told the newspaper in an interview published on Monday evening.

Critics of the nuclear exit say it could force Germany to rely more than planned on coal, which is more polluting than gas, during the transition to renewable energy.

The pro-business liberals, lonely centre-right figures in a coalition dominated by two centre-left parties, are languishing in the polls and have suffered setbacks in regional elections. They hope a January party conference will offer the chance of a relaunch.

January 3, 2023 Posted by | Germany, politics | Leave a comment

Letter in the Morning Star Exposes Links Between Subsea Coal Mine and Subsea Nuclear Dumping 0 BY MARIANNEWILDART

The UK Morning Star  published this letter on 31st December

Dear Editor,

In response to your recent correspondents, I would say that the proposed coal mine in Cumbria shows that the government is not serious about tackling the climate crisis. Yes, it would provide jobs in the area but a much better answer is to provide jobs in the infrastructure for genuine sustainable energy such as wind turbines and solar panels – according to the Local Government Association that could create 6,000 ‘green’ jobs in Cumbria by 2030. Alok Sharma, who led the UN Conference on Climate Change in Glasgow said:

*85% of coal produced is for export

*Two major UK steel producers have said they won’t use this coal as they are moving to hydrogen

*The government’s own Climate Change Committee has said the mine would increase UK CO2 emissions by 0.4 million tonnes with clear implications for our legally-binding carbon emissions budgets.

The mine will be a backward step in UK climate action – and will damage the UK’s international climate reputation. Once again it would be the government saying to other nations, ‘Do as I say, not as I do’.

And course with this government there is always an ulterior motive. The CEO of the coal mine is Mark Kirkbride, who has now been appointed to the Government Committee on Radioactive Waste Management to advise on the UK Government’s nuclear dump plans. He was the advisor for the hugely damaging seismic blasting which took place in August in the Irish Sea to ‘investigate’ the complex geology for a nuclear dump. This blasting is also likely to have had a disastrous effect on the sea wild life. The area of the Irish sea where the seismic blasting took place overlaps the area of the proposed coal mine. As the Coal Mine Planning Inspector warned in his recommendation to the government stated: the risk of a seismic event cannot be ruled out’. So the CEO of a seismic inducing coal mine near Sellafield is employed as an advisor on radioactive waste burial in a Geological Disposal Facility. So not only will the coal mine produce huge carbon emissions, but it looks as if the deep voids which would come with the coal mining are being sought for a radioactive waste dump with potential earthquakes in the same area.

January 3, 2023 Posted by | safety, UK | Leave a comment

Pakistan supplies India with a list of its nuclear facilities

Pakistan said it had handed a list of its nuclear installations and
facilities to the Indian mission in Islamabad on Sunday under a decades-old
agreement between the two nuclear-armed rivals. The neighbours have fought
three wars and have had a number of military skirmishes in recent years.
Last year an Indian missile accidentally landed in Pakistan, setting off
alarm bells across the world.

Reuters 1st Jan 2023

January 3, 2023 Posted by | Pakistan, politics international | Leave a comment

Why Did Portland General Electric Want to Build Trojan Nuclear Plant in the First Place?

The mighty atom had just won WWII and was enjoying George W. Bush-right-after-9/11 levels of popularity, while the invention of hippies was still decades away. By Marty SmithJanuary 02, 2023

I recall protesting against the now-defunct Trojan nuclear plant in the 1980s. One question I don’t recall anyone asking back then, however: Why did they want to build Trojan in the first place, given that our region already had (and still has) more hydropower than we can use? —Duke Nukem

I share your historical curiosity, Duke—there’s just something about this time of year that makes one want to muse about topics from Portland’s colorful past that can be researched without having to get anybody to return a call during the week between Christmas and New Year’s.

I doubt that anyone under 50 reads this column (which not only doesn’t come as video, but presumes your mastery of this tedious system of archaic glyphs in which it’s encoded), but just in case someone missed it: Portland General Electric—PGE to its friends—began construction of Trojan Nuclear Power Plant near Rainier, Oregon, in 1970 (which, perhaps fittingly, is the same year the Ford Pinto was introduced). The plant came online in 1975 and was slated to operate until 2011. However, it was plagued from the start with equipment failures and bad press, and was finally shuttered for good in 1992.

Why would PGE take on such a fraught endeavor? Well, for starters, they’d first begun exploring the possibility of building a nuclear plant way back in the late 1940s. The mighty atom had just won WWII and was enjoying George W. Bush-right-after-9/11 levels of popularity, while the invention of hippies was still decades away. Nuclear power’s downsides would become more apparent in the years to follow, but they don’t appear to have penetrated PGE’s C-suite in any significant way prior to the 1967 decision to build the plant.

But back to your question: Given that Northwest hydropower is abundant enough to make Oregon’s electricity market the nation’s third cheapest, why build a plant at all? Here’s the thing: All that juicy hydropower is controlled by the Bonneville Power Administration, a public entity. PGE, the private utility, has to buy it from them wholesale and then retail it to us. If, as seemed possible at the time, BPA had decided to cut PGE off in favor of public utilities—perhaps when PGE’s 20-year contract with BPA came up for renewal in 1973—PGE could have been in a world of hurt.

Trojan represented a hedge against such a possibility, as well as an opportunity to grow PGE as a company. Toss in a few million bucks’ worth of federal “Atoms for Peace” emoluments to the industry and, congratulations, you’ve got yourself a nuclear plant. Have fun! (Just be careful not to run into it from behind, especially with a lit cigarette.)

January 3, 2023 Posted by | history, USA | Leave a comment

Kashiwazaki Kariwa, a Distant Recovery of Confidence TEPCO Shares Crisis Awareness to Prevent Misconduct

Deputy General Manager Daito explains the operating floor. Before entering the building, biometric authentication and other enhancements were in place.

December 19, 2022
A series of scandals, including flaws in anti-terrorism measures, at the Kashiwazaki Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant (Niigata Prefecture), which Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) aims to restart, has called into question TEPCO’s efforts to restore trust. If distrust grows, it could affect the decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which caused the accident. As an operator involved in nuclear power generation, TEPCO is required to improve its internal structure to prevent misconduct, such as by ensuring that each and every employee shares a sense of crisis.

 Crisis awareness “is a weak point

 In October, the Local Newspaper Energy Study Group, a group of local newspapers in areas where nuclear facilities are located, visited the Kashiwazaki Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant to observe the status of remedial measures being taken. Masaki Daito, 56, deputy director of the Kashiwazaki Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant, admitted to a lack of awareness of the crisis, saying, “There were parts of the situation that we should have been aware of, but we were naive in our understanding of the situation.

 In September 2008, an employee of the plant took a colleague’s ID card without permission and entered the central control room illegally, and in April 2009, the Nuclear Regulation Authority issued an order prohibiting the transfer of nuclear fuel. In April 2009, the Regulatory Commission issued a de facto operation ban order prohibiting the transfer of nuclear fuel. The restart of the plant has been put on hold, and TEPCO officials stress that they will work to restore trust in the plant, saying, “Without the understanding of the local community, we will not be able to restart the plant.

 Improvement Measures, Starting with Greetings

 In response to the series of scandals, TEPCO is working on 36 improvement measures related to the protection of nuclear materials. A Security Management Department has been established within the power plant, the personnel structure has been reviewed, and the budget for equipment has been expanded from 20 billion yen to 58 billion yen. During the inspection tour, the monitoring system was strengthened, with biometric authentication required to enter the “operating floor,” the upper level of the Unit 6 reactor.

 TEPCO believes that a lack of communication with employees and workers at partner companies is behind the scandals. The company explained that as a measure to improve the situation, executives and others are standing at the main gate in the morning and making efforts to conduct a “greeting campaign,” but an unusual situation comes to mind in which a review of the basics is unavoidable.

 Response is backward and “lousy.

 How did the local administration, business community, and residents react to the scandal? The study group interviewed Masahiro Sakurai, 60, mayor of Kashiwazaki City, and Masao Nishikawa, 66, chairman of the Kashiwazaki Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Both are in favor of restarting the nuclear reactors, but they are also very critical of TEPCO in light of the scandals.

 In a word, they are lousy. Mayor Sakurai laments TEPCO’s backward steps, such as strengthening biometric authentication after the scandal. While he praises TEPCO’s measures to deal with the scandal, saying that “they are making efforts,” he also points out that a sense of tension and crisis awareness has not penetrated the company’s ranks. Chairman Nishikawa also stated that “the relationship of trust has broken down,” and revealed that he had submitted a letter of request to TEPCO to protest the situation.

 Kazuyuki Takemoto, 72, a resident of Kariwa Village who has been campaigning against the plant, questioned the government’s nuclear fuel cycle policy, including the disposal of spent nuclear fuel, saying, “The government is desperately trying to get the plant restarted, but can it really be moved? TEPCO wants to move forward with the restart, but it must not forget the lessons of the nuclear accident. In the visitor’s house at the Kashiwazaki Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant, there is a panel that reads, “Our responsibility for the recovery of Fukushima. How will they face these words and show them through their actions? The public is watching closely. (News Department, Satoshi Mizuno)

January 3, 2023 Posted by | Japan | | 1 Comment

Data rewriting and erroneous statements…Sloppy handling continues at Tsuruga Nuclear Power Plant Unit No.2 of JAERI, Regulatory Commission suggests termination of review if no improvement is made

Tsuruga Nuclear Power Plant (photo taken in January 2021)

December 19, 2022
At a special meeting on December 19, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) exchanged opinions with Mamoru Muramatsu, president of Japan Atomic Power Company (JAERI), and others regarding the review of Tsuruga Unit 2 (Fukui Prefecture), where inappropriate rewriting of geological data was discovered. Shinsuke Yamanaka, chairman of the regulatory commission, said that if the data is not improved in the future, “the commission will have to discuss whether to continue the examination,” and indicated that he would consider suspending or terminating the examination.
 The rewriting of the data was discovered in February 2020 when the regulatory commission pointed it out. In order to determine whether the fault directly under the reactor building was an active fault that could cause an earthquake, the state of the geological strata taken out by drilling was rewritten in 80 locations. Many other errors were also found.
 The regulatory commission’s examination, which had been suspended, resumed on March 9 because the company had established rules for entering data, but at that time, new errors were also found. The number of errors in the data has totaled 1,296 so far.
 At the meeting, Akira Ishiwata, a member of the committee in charge of reviewing earthquake and tsunami countermeasures, said, “There are 1,300 errors, and only JAEPCO would submit such materials. If there are any more errors, it will be difficult to continue the examination. Mr. Yamanaka expressed his distrust, asking, “Are they sure about their technical capabilities? (Nozomi Masui)

January 3, 2023 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Fukushima, Our ongoing accident.

Dec 19, 2022
What happens to the damaged reactors? The territories evacuated by 160 000 people? What are the new conditions for their return to the contaminated area since the lifting of the governmental aid procedures? Are lessons still being learned by our national operator for its own nuclear plants? We must not forget that a disaster is still unfolding in Japan and that EDF was supposed to upgrade its fleet on the basis of this feedback, which has still not been finalized.

Almost twelve years after the Fukushima disaster, Japan is still in the process of dismantling and ‘decontaminating’ the nuclear power plant, probably for the next thirty to forty years as well. In the very short term, the challenges are posed by the management of contaminated water.

  • All the contaminated water will be evacuated into the sea, by dilution over decades
  • Each intervention in the accident reactors brings out new elements
  • This has an impact on the schedule and the efficiency of the means used
  • At the same time, the Japanese government’s objective is to rehabilitate the contaminated areas at any cost
  • None of the French reactors is up to date with its safety level according to the post-Fukushima measures promulgated
  • Japan will resume its nuclear policy, time having done its work on memories

The great water cycle

Although Japanese politicians claim that they have finally mastered the monster, the colossal task of cleaning up the site is still far from being completed to allow for the ultimate dismantling, with the length of time competing with the endless financing.

After so many years of effort, from decontamination to the management of radioactive materials and maneuvers within the dismantled plant, the actions on site require more and more exceptional means, exclusive procedures, and unprecedented engineering feats (such as robotic probes), while the nuclear fuel inside continues to be cooled permanently by water (not without generating, to repeat, millions of liters of radioactive water).

But the hardest part is yet to come: containing the corium, an estimated 880 tons of molten radioactive waste created during this meltdown of the reactor cores, and managing the thousands of fuel rods. So much so that the complete cleanup and dismantling of the plant could take a generation or more for a total estimated cost of more than 200 billion dollars (according to an assessment published by the German insurer Munich Re, Japan is 150 billion euros), a low range since other estimates raise the bill between 470 and 660 billion dollars, which is not in contradiction with the costs of an accident projected by the IRSN in France.

The removal of this corium will remain the most essential unresolved issue for a long time. Without it, the contamination of this area will continue. In February 2022, the operator Tepco (Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.) tried again to approach the molten fuel in the containment of a reactor after a few more or less unsuccessful attempts, the radioactivity of 2 sieverts/hour being the end of everything, including electronic robots. This withdrawal seems quite hypothetical, even the Chernobyl reactor has never been removed and remains contained in a sarcophagus.

(source: Fukushima blog and Japan’s Nuclear Safety Authority NRA)

Until that distant prospect arrives, the 1.37 million tons of water will have filled the maximum storage capacity. This water was used to cool the molten fuel in the reactor and then mixed with rainwater and groundwater. The treatment via an Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) is touted as efficient, but does not remove tritium. Relative performance: Tepco has been repeatedly criticized for concealing and belatedly disclosing problems with filters designed to prevent particles from escaping into the air from the contaminated water treatment system: 24 of the 25 filters attached to the water treatment equipment were found to be damaged in 2021, an already known defect that resulted in no investigation of the cause of the problem and no preventive measures after the filters were replaced.

The management of this type of liquid waste is a problem shared by the Americans. On site, experts say that the tanks would present flooding and radiation hazards and would hamper the plant’s decontamination efforts. So much so that nuclear scientists, including members of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Japanese Nuclear Regulatory Authority, have recommended controlled release of the water into the sea as the only scientifically and financially realistic option.

In the end, contaminated water would have to be released into the sea through an underwater tunnel about a kilometer offshore, after diluting it to bring the concentration of tritium well below the percentage allowed by regulation (the concentration would be below the maximum limit of tritium recommended by the World Health Organization for drinking water). Scientists say that the effects of long-term, low-dose exposure to tritium on the environment and humans are still unknown, but that tritium would affect humans more when consumed in fish. The health impact will therefore be monitored, which the government already assures us it is anticipating by analyzing 90,000 samples of treated water each year.

Assessment studies on the potential impact that the release of stored contaminated water into the ocean could have therefore seem insufficient. For tritium, in the form of tritiated water or bound to organic matter, in addition to its diverse behavior according to these configurations, is only part of the problem. Some data show great variability in the concentrations of contaminants between the thousand reservoirs, as well as differences in their relative quantities: some reservoirs that are poor in tritium are rich in strontium 90 and vice versa, suggesting a high variability in the concentrations of other radionuclides and a dilution rate that is not so constant. All the ignorance currently resides on the still unknown interactions of the long-lived radioactive isotopes contained in the contaminated water with the marine biology. It is in order to remove all questions that a complete and independent evaluation of the sixty or so radioisotopes is required by many organizations.

As it stands, with the support of the IAEA so that dilution meets expectations, depending on currents, flows …, the release of contaminated materials would take at least forty years. Opponents of such releases persist in proposing an alternative solution of storage in earthquake-resistant tanks in and around the Fukushima facility. For them, “given the 12.3-year half-life of tritium for radioactive decay, in 40 to 60 years, more than 90% of the tritium will have disappeared and the risks will be considerably reduced,” reducing the direct nuisance that could affect the marine environment and even the food chain.

Modelling of marine movements could lead the waste to Korea, then to China, and finally to the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau. As such, each of the impacted countries could bring an action against Japan before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea to demand an injunction or provisional measures under international law.

Faced with these unresolved health issues, China, South Korea, Taiwan, local fishing communities continue to oppose this management plan, but the work is far from being completed and the problem of storage remains. Just like the ice wall built into the floor of the power plant, the release of contaminated water requires huge new works: the underwater pipe starts at about 16 meters underground and is drilled at a rate of five to six meters per day.

Time is of the essence. The tanks should reach their maximum capacity by the fall of 2023 (the volume of radioactive water is growing at a rate of about 130 to 140 tons per day). But above all, it is necessary to act quickly because the area is likely to suffer another earthquake, a fear noted by all stakeholders. With the major concern of managing the uranium fuel rods stored in the reactors, the risks that radioactivity will be less contained increase with the years.In France, releases to the sea are not as much of a problem: the La Hague waste reprocessing site in France releases more than 11,000 terabecquerels per year, whereas here we are talking about 22 terabecquerels that would be released each year, which is much less than most of the power plants in the world. But we will come back to this atypical French case…

Giant Mikado

The operator Tepco has successfully removed more than 1500 fuel bundles from the reactor No. 4 of the plant since late 2014, but the hundreds still in place in the other three units must undergo the same type of sensitive operation. To do this, again and again, undertake in detail the clearing of rubble, the installation of shields, the dismantling of the roofs of buildings and the installation of platforms and special equipment to remove the rods… And ultimately decide where all the fuel and other solid radioactive debris will have to be stored or disposed of in the long term. A challenge.

The fuel is the biggest obstacle to dismantling. The solution could lie, according to some engineers, in the construction of a huge water-filled concrete tank around one of the damaged reactors and to carry out the dismantling work in an underwater manner. Objectives and benefits? To prevent radiation from proliferating in the environment and exposing workers (water is a radiation insulator, we use this technique in our cooling pools in France) and to maximize the space to operate the heavy dismantling equipment being made. An immersion solution made illusory for the moment: the steel structure enveloping the building before being filled with water is not feasible as long as radiation levels are so high in the reactor building, preventing access by human teams. In short, all this requires a multitude of refinements, the complexity of the reactors adding to the situations made difficult by the disaster.

Experience, which is exceptional in this field, is in any case lacking. What would guarantee the resistance of the concrete of the tanks over such long periods of time, under such hydraulic pressures? The stability of the soils supporting such structures? How can the concrete be made the least vulnerable possible to future earthquakes? How to replace them in the future?

All these difficulties begin to explain largely the delays of 30 to 40 to dismantle. The reactors are indeed severely damaged. And lethal radiation levels equivalent to melted nuclear fuel have been detected near one of the reactor covers, beyond simulations and well above previously assumed levels. Each of the reactors consists of three 150-ton covers, 12 meters in diameter and 60 centimeters thick: the radiation of 1.2 sieverts per hour is prohibitive, especially in this highly technical context. There is also no doubt that other hotspots will be revealed as investigations are carried out at the respective sites. The Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation (NDF), created in 2014, has the very objective of trying to formulate strategic and technical plans in order to proceed with the dismantling of said reactors. Given the physical and radiological conditions, the technical and logistical high-wire act.

Also, each plan is revised as information is discovered, as investigations are conducted when they are operable. For example, the reinforcing bars of the pedestal, which are normally covered with concrete, are exposed inside Reactor No. 1. The concrete support foundation of a reactor whose core has melted has deteriorated so badly that rebar is now exposed.

The cylindrical base, whose wall is 1.2 meters thick, is 6 meters in diameter. It supports the 440-ton reactor pressure vessel. The reinforcing rods normally covered with concrete are now bare and the upper parts are covered with sediment that could be nuclear fuel debris. The concrete probably melted under the high temperature of the debris. The strength of the pedestal is a major concern, as any defect could prove critical in terms of earthquake resistance.

Nothing is simple. The management of human material appears less complex.

Bringing back to life, whatever it takes

In the mountains of eastern Fukushima Prefecture, one of the main traditional shiitake mushroom industries is now almost always shut down. The reason? Radioactive caesium exceeding the government’s maximum of 50 becquerels per kilogram, largely absorbed by the trees during their growth. More than ten years after the nuclear disaster, tests have revealed caesium levels between 100 and 540 becquerels per kilogram. While cesium C134 has a radioactive half-life of about two years and has almost disappeared by now, the half-life of cesium C137 is about 30 years and thus retains 30% of its radioactivity 50 years after the disaster, and 10% after a century.

As more than two thirds of Fukushima prefecture is covered by forests, nothing seems favorable in the short term to get rid of all or part of the deposited radioactivity, as forests are not part of the areas eligible for ‘decontamination’, unlike residential areas and their immediate surroundings.

On the side of the contaminated residential and agricultural areas, ‘decontamination’ measures have been undertaken. But soil erosion and the transfer of contaminants into waterways, frequent due to typhoons and other intense rain events, are causing the radioactive elements to return, moving them incessantly. Scientists are trying to track radioactive substances to better anticipate geographical fluctuations in doses, but nothing is simple: the phenomena of redistribution of the initial contamination deposits from the mountains to the inhabited low-lying areas are eternal.

The Ministry of the Environment is considering the reuse of decontaminated soils (official threshold of 8,000 becquerels per kilogram), with tests to be conducted. For now, a law requires the final disposal of contaminated soil outside Fukushima Prefecture by 2045, which represents about 14 million cubic meters (excluding areas where radiation levels remain high). This reuse would reduce the total volume before legal disposal.

More generally, Japan has for some years now opted for the strategy of holding radiological contamination as zero and/or harmless. This is illustrated by the representative example of the financial compensation given to farmers, designed so that the difference between pre- and post-accident sales is paid to them as compensation for “image damage”, verbatim.

Finally, in the midst of these piles of scrap metal and debris, it is necessary to make what can be made invisible. Concerning radioactive waste for example, it must be stored in time. On the west coast of the island of Hokkaidō, the villages of Suttsu and Kamoenai have been selected for a burial project. Stainless steel containers would be stored in a vitrified state. But consultation with the residents has not yet been carried out. This is not insignificant, because no less than 19,000 tons of waste are accumulating in the accidental, saturated power plants, and must find a place to rest for hundreds of years to come.

In this sparsely populated and isolated rural area, as in other designated sites, to help with acceptance, 15 million euros are being paid to each of the two municipalities to start the studies from 2020. 53 million are planned for the second phase, and much more in the final stages. This burial solution seems inevitable for Japan, as the waste cannot remain at the level of the surface power plants and is subject at all times to the earthquakes that are bound to occur over such long periods (strong earthquakes have struck off the prefecture in 2021 and 2022). The degrees of dangerousness thus allow the government to impose a default choice, for lack of anything better.

On December 6, 2022, the Director General of the IRSN met with the President of Fukushima University and with a manager of the Institute of Environmental Radioactivity (IER). What was the objective? To show the willingness of both parties to continue ongoing projects on the effects of radioactive contamination on biodiversity and environmental resilience.

But France will not have waited for the health results of a disaster to learn and commit itself to take into account any improvement likely to improve the nuclear safety of its reactors. No ?

Experience feedback

After a few reactor restarts that marked a major change in its nuclear energy policy (ten nuclear reactors from six plants out of a total of fifty-four were restarted by June 2022), the Japanese government is nonetheless planning to build new generation nuclear power plants to support its carbon emission reduction targets. (A memorandum of understanding was signed by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Mitsubishi FBR Systems with the American start-up TerraPower to share data for the Natrium fast neutron reactor project; the American company NuScale Power presented its modular reactor technology). But above all, the government is considering extending the maximum service life of existing nuclear reactors beyond 60 years. Following the disaster, Japan had introduced stricter safety standards limiting the operation of nuclear reactors to 40 years, but there is now talk of modernizing the reactors with safety features presented as “the strictest in the world”, necessarily, to meet safety expectations. Their program is worthy of a major refurbishment (GK).

But in France, where are we with our supplementary safety assessments?

The steps taken after the Fukushima disaster to reassess the safety of French nuclear facilities were designed to integrate this feedback in ten years. More than ten years after the start of this process of carrying out complementary safety assessments (CSA), this integration remains limited and the program has been largely delayed in its implementation.

Apparently, ten years to learn all the lessons of this unthinkable accident was not enough. Fear of the probable occurrence of the impossible was not the best motivation to protect the French nuclear fleet from this type of catastrophic scenario, based solely on these new standards. Concerning in detail the reality of the 23 measures identified to be implemented (reinforcement of resistance to earthquake and flooding, automatic shutdown in the event of an earthquake, ultimate water top-up for the reactor and cooling pool, detection of corium in the reactor vessel, etc.), the observation is even distressing: not a single reactor in operation is completely up to standard.

According to NegaWatt’s calculations, at the current rate of progress and assuming that funding and skills are never lacking, it would take until 2040 for the post-Fukushima standards to be finally respected in all French reactors. And even then, some of the measures reported as being in place are not the most efficient and functional (we will come back to the Diesels d’ultime secours, the DUS of such a sensitive model).

Even for the ASN, the reception of the public in the context of post-accident management could appear more important than the effectiveness of the implementation of the measures urgently imposed.

Then, let us complete by confirming that France and Japan have a great and long common history which does not stop in nuclear matters. Among this history, let us recall that Japan lacks facilities to treat the waste from its own nuclear reactors and sends most of it abroad, especially to France. The previous transport of highly radioactive Mox (a mixture of highly toxic plutonium oxide and reprocessed uranium oxide) to Japan dates back to September 2021, not without risk even for the British company specialized in this field, a subsidiary of Orano. The final request for approval for the completion of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant, an important partnership and technology transfer project, is expected in December 2022, although the last shipments to Japan suffered from defective products from Orano’s Melox plant, a frequent occurrence because of a lack of good technical homogenization of the products.

No one is immortal

In the meantime, the ex-managers of the nuclear power plant have been sentenced to pay 95 billion euros for having caused the disaster of the entire eastern region of Japan. They were found guilty, above all, of not having sufficiently taken into account the risk of a tsunami at the Fukushima-Daiichi site, despite studies showing that waves of up to 15 meters could hit the reactor cores. Precisely the scenario that took place.

Worse, Tepco will be able to regret for a long time to have made plan the cliff which, naturally high of 35 meters, formed a natural dam against the ocean and the relatively frequent tsunamis in this seismic zone. This action was validated by the Japanese nuclear safety authorities, no less culpable, on the basis of the work of seismologists and according to economic considerations that once again prevailed (among other things, it was a question of minimizing the costs of cooling the reactors, which would have been operated with seawater pumps).

The world’s fourth largest public utility, familiar with scandals in the sector for half a century, Tepco must take charge of all the work of nuclear dismantling and treatment of contaminated water. With confidence. The final total estimates are constantly being revised upwards, from 11,000 billion to 21,500 billion yen, future budgets that are borrowed from financial institutions, among others, with the commitments to be repaid via the future revenues of the electricity companies. A whole financial package that will rely on which final payer?

Because Tepco’s financial situation and technical difficulties are deteriorating to such an extent that such forty-year timetable projections remain very hypothetical, and the intervention of the State as a last resort is becoming more and more obvious. For example, the Japanese government has stated that the repayment of more than $68 billion in government funding (interest-free loans, currently financed by government bonds) for cleanup and compensation for the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster, owed by Tepco, has been delayed. Tepco’s mandatory repayments have been reduced to $270 million per year from the previous $470 million per year. It is as much to say that the envisaged repayment periods are as spread out as the Japanese debt is abysmal.

Despite this chaotic long-term management, the Japanese government has stated that it is considering the construction of the next generation of nuclear power plants, given the international energy supply environment and Japan’s dependence on imported natural resources. Once the shock is over, business and realpolitik resume.

On a human scale, only radioactivity is immortal.

January 3, 2023 Posted by | Fuk 2023, Fukushima continuing, Reference, wastes | , | 2 Comments