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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Cyber attack knocks out the radiation monitoring system of Chernobyl nuclear plant

Chernobyl nuclear plant’s radiation monitoring hit by cyber attack: Officials http://www.newindianexpress.com/world/2017/jun/28/chernobyl-nuclear-plants-radiation-monitoring-hit-by-cyber-attack-officials-1621663.html  By AFP  28th June 2017 UKRAINE: The radiation monitoring system at Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear site has been taken offline after a massive cyber attack, forcing employees to use hand-held counters to measure levels, officials said on Tuesday.

“Due to the cyber attack, the website of the Chernobyl nuclear plant is not working,” said Ukraine’s exclusion zone agency which oversees the Soviet plant that exploded in 1986 and is now surrounded by an uninhabited contaminated zone.

“Due to the temporary shutdown of the Windows system, the radiation monitoring of the industrial area is being done manually,” the agency said on its website.

“That means that our measurers go out with hand-held meters on the Chernobyl plant like it was decades ago,” a spokeswoman for the agency, Olena Kovalchuk, told AFP.

The plant’s destroyed reactor was enclosed in a huge metal structure last year in a bid to stop radiation leaks at the site, where more than 200 tonnes of uranium remain.

 Ukraine, along with Russia and companies across Europe, was hit on Tuesday in a wave of cyberattacks which IT experts identified as a modified version of the Petya ransomware that struck last year.

Ukraine’s exclusion zone agency said that Chernobyl’s “technological systems are working as usual” and that radiation control is “without delays”.

June 28, 2017 Posted by | incidents, Ukraine | Leave a comment

The rate of sea level rising is increasing

Sea level rise isn’t just happening, it’s getting faster, WP,  June 26 17 In at least the third such study published in the past year, scientists have confirmed seas are rising, and the rate of sea level rise is increasing as time passes — a sobering punchline for coastal communities that are only now beginning to prepare for a troubling future.

What was a 2.2 millimeter per year rise in 1993 was a 3.3 millimeter rise in 2014, based on estimates of the mass changes of a number of key components of sea level rise, such as the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, the study in Nature Climate Change found. That’s the difference between 0.86 and 1.29 inches per decade — and the researchers suggest further sea level acceleration could be in store.

The chief cause of the acceleration was the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which went from contributing under 5 percent of all sea level rise in 1993 to contributing over 25 percent in 2014, the study found.  The loss of ice in Antarctica and  smaller glaciers over the same time period also contributed to quicker sea level rise.

The increase in the rate of sea level rise “highlights the importance and urgency of mitigating climate change and formulating coastal adaptation plans to mitigate the impacts of ongoing sea level rise,” write Xianyao Chen of the Ocean University of China and Qingdao National Laboratory of Marine Science and Technology, and colleagues. Chen’s co-authors hailed from institutions in China, Australia and the United States……

The key components of sea level rise in this equation include thermal expansion of ocean water as it heats up — previously the dominant component but, as the study notes, not any more — and the melting of Greenland, Antarctica and smaller glaciers distributed across the globe. Finally, there is terrestrial water storage or loss if, due to rainfall or other factors, the continents end up storing more water on their surfaces, or alternatively, lose it to the ocean.

The new study finds that losses of ice, and from Greenland in particular, are now becoming a bigger contributor to sea level rise than thermal expansion. And it notes rather pointedly that this contrasts with what the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the top authority on climate science, predicted would unfold across the course of the century in 2013. The more Greenland and Antarctica contribute to sea level rise, the higher it can go, since these are the two largest sources of land-based ice on the planet.

For coastal communities, Harig said, the significance of the paper is that there’s no way to avoid the reality that sea level rise acceleration, which was already expected to occur based on scientific projections, is now here.

“It’s no longer a projection, it’s now an observation,” he said. “It’s not something that they can continue to put off into the future.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/06/26/sea-level-rise-isnt-just-happening-its-getting-faster/?utm_term=.6609e7fa5219

WP,  June 26 17 In at least the third such study published in the past year, scientists have confirmed seas are rising, and the rate of sea level rise is increasing as time passes — a sobering punchline for coastal communities that are only now beginning to prepare for a troubling future.

What was a 2.2 millimeter per year rise in 1993 was a 3.3 millimeter rise in 2014, based on estimates of the mass changes of a number of key components of sea level rise, such as the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, the study in Nature Climate Change found. That’s the difference between 0.86 and 1.29 inches per decade — and the researchers suggest further sea level acceleration could be in store.

The chief cause of the acceleration was the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which went from contributing under 5 percent of all sea level rise in 1993 to contributing over 25 percent in 2014, the study found.  The loss of ice in Antarctica and  smaller glaciers over the same time period also contributed to quicker sea level rise.

The increase in the rate of sea level rise “highlights the importance and urgency of mitigating climate change and formulating coastal adaptation plans to mitigate the impacts of ongoing sea level rise,” write Xianyao Chen of the Ocean University of China and Qingdao National Laboratory of Marine Science and Technology, and colleagues. Chen’s co-authors hailed from institutions in China, Australia and the United States……

The key components of sea level rise in this equation include thermal expansion of ocean water as it heats up — previously the dominant component but, as the study notes, not any more — and the melting of Greenland, Antarctica and smaller glaciers distributed across the globe. Finally, there is terrestrial water storage or loss if, due to rainfall or other factors, the continents end up storing more water on their surfaces, or alternatively, lose it to the ocean.

The new study finds that losses of ice, and from Greenland in particular, are now becoming a bigger contributor to sea level rise than thermal expansion. And it notes rather pointedly that this contrasts with what the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the top authority on climate science, predicted would unfold across the course of the century in 2013. The more Greenland and Antarctica contribute to sea level rise, the higher it can go, since these are the two largest sources of land-based ice on the planet.

For coastal communities, Harig said, the significance of the paper is that there’s no way to avoid the reality that sea level rise acceleration, which was already expected to occur based on scientific projections, is now here.

“It’s no longer a projection, it’s now an observation,” he said. “It’s not something that they can continue to put off into the future.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/06/26/sea-level-rise-isnt-just-happening-its-getting-faster/?utm_term=.6609e7fa5219

June 28, 2017 Posted by | climate change | Leave a comment

Cyber intrusion at USA multiple nuclear power generation sites this year

Nuclear breach opens new chapter in cyber struggle, Blake Sobczak and Peter Behr, E&E News reporters Energywire: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 U.S. authorities are investigating a cyber intrusion affecting multiple nuclear power generation sites this year, E&E News has learned.

There is no evidence that the nuclear energy industry’s highly regulated safety systems were compromised. But any cybersecurity breach — targeted or not — at closely guarded U.S. nuclear reactors marks an escalation of hackers’ probes into U.S. critical infrastructure.

Electricity-sector officials confirmed yesterday that they are working to unpack the significance of the secretive cyber event, code named “Nuclear 17.”

Asked about the case, a representative from the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) said the nonprofit grid overseer “is aware of an incident” and has shared information with its members through a secure portal.

U.S. energy utilities pass around information on the latest hacking threats and vulnerabilities through NERC’s Electricity Information Sharing and Analysis Center. That organization “is working closely with the government to better understand any implications this incident might have for the electricity industry,” NERC spokeswoman Kimberly Mielcarek said in an emailed statement.

E&E News has reached out to nearly two dozen owners and operators of nuclear power plants for comment. None of the companies that replied by last night shared additional information on the incident, the details of which may be classified…….

Nuclear 17 and recent threats

An incident of this kind would almost certainly attract the attention of the Department of Homeland Security and the broader intelligence community, though a DHS spokesman did not confirm whether the agency was involved yesterday. If the threat rises to a certain level, members of Congress with intelligence oversight would also be looped in. Senate staff members would not confirm if they’re looking into the nuclear breach when asked for comment yesterday afternoon.

Even relatively routine cyber intrusions at sensitive facilities can trigger a high-level response from government and industry, given the potential stakes involved. In another recent nuclear breach, a South Korean state-owned utility reported losing potentially sensitive data to hackers in 2014 and 2015, though the attackers didn’t get into operational systems (Energywire, July 14, 2015).

Earlier this month, however, back-to-back cybersecurity warnings from U.S. officials put grid operators on high alert.

The twin threats came from Hidden Cobra, the U.S. government’s nickname for North Korean government-sponsored hackers, and Electrum, a separate group that cybersecurity firm Dragos Inc. has linked to a first-of-its-kind hacking tool designed to disrupt power grids.

NERC posted its first public alert of the year this month about that grid-focused malware, which Dragos calls “CrashOverride.” Experts claim it was used last December to briefly knock out power to part of Ukraine in an attack tentatively linked to Russia-based hackers. DHS issued its own alert about CrashOverride, then followed up with a separate report on a far-reaching campaign of North Korean cyber activity hitting “critical infrastructure sectors” in the United States and globally.

It’s not clear where Nuclear 17 fits into that timeline of recent cyber events. But even if it never jeopardized nuclear processes or grid reliability, a successful breach of non-safety systems at a nuclear power plant is troubling, said David Lochbaum, director of the Nuclear Safety Project for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“If they are able to introduce mayhem there, what else could they do?” he said.

Nuclear plants had an extra margin of safety in their legacy controls that were “old tech” and thus harder for outsiders to penetrate. “As more and more systems are converted to digital controls, there could be more and more opportunities for problems to crop up, deliberate or inadvertent,” Lochbaum said.

“The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the industry are not unaware of that threat,” he added. Even if safety systems were not apparently affected as part of Nuclear 17, malicious actions directed against comparatively less critical equipment could still have knock-on effects if hackers managed to unexpectedly disconnect a nuclear plant from the grid, experts say.

Such a sudden disruption would send a pressure “pulse” back to the reactor and turbine, which would still be generating electricity with no place to send it. The reactor would immediately “trip,” setting in motion a series of planned actions designed to bring the reactor to a safe shutdown condition…… https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060056628

June 28, 2017 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

China “looks to small nuclear reactors” – but it’s not really a very good look

This article is surely meant as a promotional boost for small nuclear reactors, SMRs.  BUT – it doesn’t quite read that way.  We learn that only the most enthusiastically pro-nuclear nations are interested in SMRs.

Another giveaway is that remarkable confession at the end  – that success of SMRs hinges on investors seeing new large-scale plants coming online and building on those successes.

Well, seeing that large nuclear reactors projects are now stalling, all over the place, with delays, safety problems, and ballooning costs –  those successes are looking very unlikely. Which leaves SMRs very much in the fantasy world – waiting for investors who never appear.

China looks to small nuclear reactorsnews.com.au, JUNE 27, 2017. David Stanway, Reuters China is betting on new, small-scale nuclear reactor designs that could be used in isolated regions, on ships and even aircraft as part of an ambitious plan to wrest control of the global nuclear market.

Within weeks, state-owned China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) is set to launch a small modular reactor (SMR) dubbed the “Nimble Dragon” with a pilot plant on the island province of Hainan, according to company officials.

…..But these so-called “third-generation” reactors have been mired in financing problems and building delays, deterring all but the most enthusiastically pro-nuclear nations.

The challenges of financing and building large, expensive reactors contributed to the bankruptcy of Toshiba Inc’s nuclear unit, Westinghouse, and to the financial problems that forced France’s Areva to restructure.

SMRs have capacity of less than 300 megawatts (MW) – enough to power around 200,000 homes – compared to at least 1 gigawatt (GW) for standard reactors.

China aims to lift domestic nuclear capacity to 200 GW by 2030, up from 35 GW at the end of March, but its ambitions are global.

CNNC designed the Linglong, or “Nimble Dragon” to complement its larger Hualong or “China Dragon” reactor and has been in discussions with Pakistan, Iran, Britain, Indonesia, Mongolia, Brazil, Egypt and Canada as potential partners.

“The big reactor is the Hualong One, the small reactor is the Linglong One – many countries intend to co-operate with CNNC’s ‘two dragons going out to sea’,” Yu Peigen, vice-president of CNNC, told a briefing in May.

…….The success of new small-scale reactors hinges on investors seeing new large-scale plants coming online and building on those successes, said Christopher Levesque, Terrapower’s president.

“We’re not competing with those folks, we’re rooting for them,” he told an industry forum in Shanghai last month. http://www.news.com.au/finance/business/breaking-news/china-looks-to-small-nuclear-reactors/news-story/fa30465507d75bb2efef3bb1de827eca

June 28, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, China, technology | Leave a comment

Russia’s nuclear marketing may create unhealthy dependency in Middle East nations

Russian Nuclear Power in the Middle East http://vestnikkavkaza.net/analysis/Russian-Nuclear-Power-in-the-Middle-East.html 26 June17 Eurasia Review Nuclear energy is losing its luster in many parts of the world. In the United States, the drop in the cost of renewables production is making them a more attractive electricity-generation option than nuclear power. France, a country long associated with nuclear power, is also looking to reduce its reliance on reactors. And even China is now investing more in developing wind farms than it is in nuclear infrastructure. Russia, though, is bucking the trend.Eurasia review reports in its article Russia And Nuclear Power that nuclear energy accounts for 11 percent of domestic power production, while the share of wind and solar power generation remains negligible, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Overall, more than 40 percent of Russian power is generated by natural gas. Meanwhile, hydropower is the main renewable source of power in Russia, responsible for a roughly 20-percent share of the overall mix. Russia has taken steps in recent months to develop its wind power potential. But development efforts are hampered by legislation that requires at least 40 percent of all renewable-energy infrastructure to be locally produced. To meet the requirement, Russia needs to find a substantial amount of foreign investment. In the realm of international trade, Russia is trying to turn its slow embrace of renewables into an advantage.

Rosatom, Russia’s state-owned nuclear company, is by far the most active player these days in the international market for nuclear power technologies. Rosatom currently has agreements to provide plants, fuel or expertise in 20 countries in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Latin America. With the notable exception of the Barakah Atomic Energy Station in the United Arab Emirates, which is being built by the Korea Electric Power Corporation, Russia is the most heavily involved of any nuclear-exporting countries in developing nuclear power facilities in the Middle East.

Rosatom’s most recent move in the Middle East was a deal, sealed in late May, to construct Egypt’s first nuclear power plant, pending final approval by the Egyptian government. The pact is the latest of four bilateral agreements signed by Egypt and Russia concerning the nuclear power station at El Dabaa, approximately 200 miles west of Cairo on Egypt’s north coast. The first of these, signed in late 2015, covered the construction and maintenance of the plant for a 10-year period, and included a stipulation that Russia would provide fuel for the plant for 60 years.

The plant would consist of four VVER-1200 reactors, a new design based on the earlier VVER-1000 model developed in the Soviet Union in the mid-1970s. The first VVER-1200 was brought online earlier this year at Russia’s Novovoronezh plant. It is projected to begin producing power in 2024. Egypt is one of four countries in and around the Middle East where Rosatom has built, or plans to build, nuclear power facilities. Rosatom’s subsidiary, Atomenergostroy, which handles the company’s overseas construction projects, has contracts to build plants in Jordan and Turkey. In addition, it is building additional reactors at Iran’s Bushehr facility. The company will provide financing, staff, and fuel, while retaining ownership of the plants and receiving revenue from the power they produce.

Russia has provided approximately 50 percent of the financing for Turkey’s plant at Akkuyu, and will provide fuel for its operation once construction is complete. Upwards of 85 percent of the financing for the El Dabaa project in Egypt is to come in the form of loans from Russia, a country in the midst of an economic downturn brought on by the global fall in fossil fuel prices. Egypt is also exploring options for a second nuclear power plant to be built on its coast.

During the Cold War, both the United States and the Soviet Union provided supplies, facilities, and training to Middle Eastern countries in an effort to promote nuclear power. The governments of Jordan and Egypt expressed interest at the time in developing nuclear power facilities in the mid-1950s, and the Soviet Union began construction on a research reactor in Egypt in 1961. Similar reactors were built in Iraq in 1967 and in Libya in 1981. In 1995, Russia’s Ministry of Atomic Energy signed a contract to take over construction of the Bushehr plant. In 2010, Rosatom was granted the right to open offices in embassies abroad by a change in laws governing its operations. It did so in Dubai and Beijing in April of 2016, and the company’s website now boasts over $133 billion USD in overseas orders for its products. Rosatom has also partnered with the International Atomic Energy Agency to fund nuclear infrastructure development internationally, pledging $1.8 million as well as equipment and expertise to equip countries that hope to develop nuclear power capacities in the future. Experts have expressed concern that these ambitious development plans are proceeding without adequate plans for disposal of nuclear waste. The Bellona Foundation, an organization that conducts independent research into international nuclear and environmental issues, has been critical of the lack of planning for nuclear waste processing and disposal, and has pointed out that dependency on Russia for nuclear fuel may leave countries particularly vulnerable in the event of a sour political climate.

June 28, 2017 Posted by | marketing, MIDDLE EAST, Russia | Leave a comment

South Africa’s govt and nuclear power utility Eskom undermine renewable energy development

Nuclear and coal lobbies threaten to scupper renewables in South Africa The Conversation,  Hartmut Winkler
Professor of Physics, University of Johannesburg June 27, 2017 South African power utility Eskom recently repeated that it will not conclude supply contracts with the developers of new renewable energy power stations. These developers were selected under a programme to facilitate private sector involvement in the building of medium-sized renewable energy power stations.

The programme has won plaudits for its success in facilitating the establishment of multiple solar and wind farms in record time. But Eskom is once again stalling.

The power utility’s stand threatens the viability of the entire renewable energy sector in the country. It’s hostility also defies logic given that the whole world is embracing renewable energy as key to a clean energy future and combating climate change.

So what lies behind the opposition?

The answer lies in the fact that two powerful lobbies are at work in South Africa. One is pro-coal, the other pro-nuclear. This has made the success of the renewable energy projects a target for attacks from interested parties in both. Disrupting the renewable energy sector would ensure that the coal sector remains dominant. And that, over time, it is gradually displaced by nuclear.

The lobby groups attached to coal and nuclear appear to have had powerful allies on the state utility’s board. There is mounting evidence that they have been furthering the interests of a group linked to the Gupta family. It in turn has been accused of capturing state entities to further its own ends, as well as those of President Jacob Zuma, his family and allies.

t has also been widely argued that the massively expensive proposed nuclear build is being driven by the same interest groups.

The battle over renewables is therefore closely linked to a wider political confrontation over control of key aspects of the South African economy.

Eskom’s flawed argument

The renewables dispute centres on the state utility’s refusal to endorse 1121 MW of new renewable energy….

The Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown has been disingenuous in citing cost as a reason to stop the last phase of renewables. The higher costs she recently quoted were presumably those associated with the first round of renewable energy projects. These contracts were concluded in 2012 and prices for renewables have come down considerably since.

For its part Eskom has pointed to the oversupply of electricity as the reason for its objection. But elsewhere it has trumpeted the need for more nuclear power. It can’t have it both ways.

Powerful forces at play

Until two years ago Eskom was seen as a neutral player committed to effectively provide electric power in the best interests of the country. It threw its weight behind previous power procurement plans.

But that all changed in 2015 after Brian Molefe was appointed CEO.

Molefe and his successor Matshela Koko are both linked to the controversial Gupta family. Their names featured in the Public Protector’s State of Capture report as well as in a bulk leak of emails which implicated the Guptas and other leading figures in the state capture network.

Molefe and Koko played a pivotal role in helping the Guptas purchase a coal mine – the Optimum mine – and to secure a lucrative coal supply contract with Eskom. Both are also strongly pro-nuclear. They have also gone on record to argue that renewable energy is too expensive……https://theconversation.com/nuclear-and-coal-lobbies-threaten-to-scupper-renewables-in-south-africa-79799

June 28, 2017 Posted by | politics, renewable, secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Africa | Leave a comment

Safety mishaps imperilledscientists at Nevada and New Mexico nuclear sites

Nuclear Weapons Site Alarms Shut Off, Scientists Inhale Uranium, Most scientists were not told of risks for months after 2014 incident; investigation shows more mishaps at Nevada and New Mexico nuclear sites, Scientific American  By Patrick MalonePeter CaryR. Jeffrey SmithThe Center for Public Integrity on June 27, 2017 

At the nation’s top nuclear weapons labs and plants, safety mishaps have imperiled life and limb, and hindered national security operations.  This Scientific American story is part of a one-year investigation by reporters at the Center for Public Integrity that reveals many problems and little accountability. In addition to the Nevada accidents, a near-fission calamity in 2011 at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico led to an exodus of nuclear safety engineers and a four-year shutdown of operations crucial to the nation’s nuclear arsenal. Yet penalties for these incidents were relatively light, and many of the firms that run these facilities were awarded tens of millions of dollars in profits—or even new contracts—after major safety lapses occurred.

Not a clue.

The government scientists didn’t know they were breathing in radioactive uranium at the time it was happening. In fact, most didn’t learn about their exposure for months, long after they returned home from the nuclear weapons research center where they had inhaled it.

The entire event was characterized by sloppiness, according to a quiet federal investigation, with multiple warnings issued and ignored in advance, and new episodes of contamination allowed to occur afterward. All of this transpired without public notice by the center.

Here’s how it happened: In April and May 2014, an elite group of 97 nuclear researchers from as far away as the U.K. gathered in a remote corner of Nye County, Nev., at the historic site where the U.S. had exploded hundreds of its nuclear weapons. With nuclear bomb testing ended, the scientists were using a device they called Godiva at the National Criticality Experiments Research Center to test nuclear pulses on a smaller and supposedly safe scale.

But as the technicians prepared for their experiments that spring—under significant pressure to clear a major backlog of work and to operate the machine at what a report called Godiva’s “upper energy range”—they committed several grievous errors, according to government reports.

The machine had been moved to Nevada nine years earlier from Los Alamos, N.M. But a shroud, descriptively called Top Hat, which should have covered the machine and prevented the escape of any loose radioactive particles, was not reinstalled when it was reassembled in 2012.

Also, because Godiva’s bursts tended to set off multiple radiation alarms in the center, the experimenters decided to switch the alarm system off. But because the alarms were connected to the ventilation and air filter system for the room, those were shut off as well. The only ventilation remaining was a small exhaust fan that vented into an adjacent anteroom where researchers gathered before and after experiments.

On June 16, 2014, a month after the experiments were completed, technicians doing routine tests made an alarming discovery—radioactive particles were in the anteroom. They then checked the room holding Godiva, and found radiation 20 times more intense there. The Nevada site’s managers, who work for a group of private, profit-making contractors—like most U.S. nuclear weapons personnel—ordered the rooms decontaminated. But they didn’t immediately check exposures among the scientists and researchers who had gathered for the tests, many of whom had already gone back to their own labs.

None had any clue about the mishap until two months after the experiments, on July 17, when one of them—a researcher from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory nuclear weapons lab in California—got the results from his routine radiation monitoring. His urine tested positive for exposure to enriched uranium particles.

National Security Technologies,, LLC (NSTec), the lead contractor that runs the Nevada site, subsequently collected urine specimens from its own workers who’d been in the room with Godiva during the experiments. It discovered three of its technicians also had inhaled highly-enriched uranium.

News of trouble spread–but only among the scientists and their bosses, who were accustomed to a shroud of official secrecy covering their work. No public announcement was made. According to an initial U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) investigative report dated April 28, 2015, calls eventually went out to test the 97 people present for the Godiva experiments. But for reasons that remain unclear the testing went very slowly, and not until 2016 did the DoE state that 31 were discovered to have inhaled uranium.

In a letter last summer to the Los Alamos and Nevada lab directors, National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Administrator Frank Klotz suggested that the employees’ radiation doses were not large—at the high end, they were roughly equivalent to 13 chest x-rays. But once inhaled, uranium particles can keep emitting radiation for years, and so they pose an added cancer risk. Klotz’s letter deemed the exposures “safety-significant and preventable.” It could have been even worse, of course, given the absence of any timely warning.

LAB OPERATIONS RIDDLED WITH ERRORS

The four key national facilities involved in the underlying experimentation—Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore, the Nevada Test Site and Sandia National Laboratory—are among the U.S.’s premier scientific labs. They collectively employ more than 26,000 people engaged in cutting-edge and often dangerous work, governed by myriad nuclear safety regulations, with two major contract enforcement mechanisms meant to inflict financial pain when needed on the private corporations that operate them.

And yet in this case, and in others like it, not only were the labs’ procedures and responses riddled with errors, but even after attention was called to these incidents, other safety mishaps occurred. And the financial penalties imposed by the government didn’t seem to have a major impact on the labs’ conduct.

review by The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) of more than 60 safety mishaps at 10 nuclear weapons–related federal sites that were flagged in special, internal reports to Washington, along with dozens of interviews of officials and experts, revealed a protective system that is weak, if not truly dysfunctional: Fines are frequently reduced or waived while contractors are awarded large profits. Auditors say labs and production plants are overseen by an inadequately staffed NNSA and DoE, which as a result largely rely on the contractors to police themselves.

The CPI probe, partly based on documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, reveals a system in which extra profit is awarded under a rating profile that persistently places higher priority on the nuclear weapons labs’ national security “mission” than on worker protections, putting production far ahead of safety. Experts say it is a practice in keeping with a culture of urgent, no-holds-barred work that took root in the nuclear weapons complex during World War II. These production pressures flow down to the highly secured rooms where workers labor with special clearances, routinely handling highly toxic and explosive materials……..

A WORKPLACE HAZARDOUS TO WHISTLE-BLOWERS……

NO FINES FOR REPEATED SAFETY INFRACTIONS….

IMPUNITY FOR TOP MANAGERS……   https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/nuclear-weapons-site-alarms-shut-off-scientists-inhale-uranium/

June 28, 2017 Posted by | health, safety, USA | Leave a comment

Russia’s nuclear goliath Rosatom now branching into renewable energy export projects

For nuke biggies, answer’s blowing in the wind  http://indianexpress.com/article/india/for-nuke-biggies-answers-blowing-in-the-wind-4725180/ Despite a relatively robust position in its nuclear business, Russia’s state atomic energy corporation Rosatom is pushing the envelope by revving up renewable projects in sectors such as wind energy and small hydro. by Anil Sasi June 28, 2017, Little less than a decade ago, nuclear shills could get away by scoffing at renewables, given the promise at that time of a nascent ‘nuclear renaissance’. In the intervening years, while the script has changed overwhelmingly in favour of green energy, the nuclear-versus-renewables debate too has progressively veered off from an ‘either-or’ debate to a more overlapping narrative.

Russia’s state atomic energy corporation Rosatom figures among a handful of nuclear utilities to have bucked the broader downturn in the atomic power business, with eight reactor units in Russia and 36 nuclear reactors in various stages of planning and construction across more than a dozen countries — the largest shelf of projects globally. Creditable, considering the fate of some of its peers — Toshiba has recently pulled its US nuclear subsidiary Westinghouse out of the nuclear construction business while French utility Areva’s continues to struggle with accumulated losses of Euro 10 billion on its books. Despite the relatively robust position in its mainstay nuclear business, Rosatom is now pushing the envelope by revving up renewable projects in sectors such as wind energy and small hydro. Experts suggest that even for other major utilities invested entirely in the nuclear value chain, a move to diversify some of the sectoral risks could make sense.

The Russian nuclear major has started by rolling out wind farm projects in its home market of Russia, with plans to take wind projects to the international market in the due course “after accumulating enough experience on the domestic market”, First Deputy Director of Rosatom Corp, Kirill Komarov told reporters on the sidelines of the Atomexpo 2017 conference in Moscow last week. “We plan to develop renewable energy sources in all parts of the world and not only in Russia, but we’ll start doing it after we accumulate enough expertise here,” he said.

A licensing agreement with the Dutch company Lagerwey for the transfer of technology involved in manufacturing component parts of the windfarms is a step in that direction, with Saudi Arabia likely to be one of Rosatom’s first international markets for wind. The group has also initiated preliminary talks with the Indian government and private companies to expand its presence in India beyond the nuclear sector to the new area of mini hydro power projects, with units ranging from 0.5 to 2 megawatts, an official said. The discussions are being done through Ganz Engineering and Energetics Machinery, a 100 per cent Hungarian subsidiary of Rosatom’s engineering division Atomenergomash.

Areva too has tried its hand at renewables, with a portfolio of four energies: wind energy, bioenergy, solar power and hydrogen power. The French company offers turnkey solutions to meet both short — and long — term requirements for clients to bridge the energy demand in standard and peak consumption periods.

Rosatom’s Komarov has exuded confidence that Russian utility is in a good position for bagging contracts for construction renewable energy facilities abroad. “On the whole, we think our chances for working abroad are fair enough because whatever country we come to, we settle firmly there,” he said at the three-day expo held in the Russian capital last week. At a series of bidding rounds held during the last two years, Rosatom has bagged bids for construction of wind farms in Russia with the overall output capacity of almost 1,000 MWs.

Rosatom considers wind energy projects to be one of the most promising of their non-nuclear growth projects, with estimates suggesting that the it expects the wind energy market in Russia to reach a turnover of about 200 billion Rubles a year ($3.3 billion) by 2024. In July 2016, Rosatom announced that the company plans to build three wind farms in Russia with a total capacity of 610 MW. This amounts to about 17 per cent of the total wind power capacity planned to be commissioned in Russia until 2024.

Among the pacts signed at the expo, Rosatom’s international branch initialled an agreement to cooperate with Saudi Al-Yamama Group on potential projects in the construction of wind farms in Saudi Arabia.In markets such as India, where Rosatom is already involved in building the Kudankulam nuclear power project, the Corporation is betting on a specialised technology for mini hydro projects. Rosatom is already in preliminary talks with the Indian government and private companies to expand its presence in India beyond the nuclear sector to the new area of mini hydro power projects, with units ranging from 0.5 to 2 MW.

The discussions are being done through Ganz Engineering and Energetics Machinery, a 100 per cent Hungarian subsidiary of the Rosatom’s engineering division Atomenergomash. “We consider this as another opportunity for cooperation between Rosatom and India, and our office in India is working in this direction. We are discussing, the issues both with the government, and private bodies,” Rusatom International Network president Alexander Merten told journalists on the sidelines of the Atomexpo.

Rusatom International Network is involved in marketing and business development of a number of Rosatom projects abroad. The small hydro-power plants are pre-fabricated, and assembled in the factory and then supplied to the customer, with the cost of these projects pegged at approximately 1 million euro per megawatt (around Rs 7.1 crore per MW, varying with topography). A pilot installation of the mini hydel plants is currently on in Georgia, with discussions also underway with Turkey and the Middle East countries.

(The writer’s trip to Atomexpo was sponsored by Rosatom)

June 28, 2017 Posted by | renewable, Russia | Leave a comment

American government scientists prevented by Trump govt from attending international nuclear meeting

Trump Administration Blocks Government Scientists from Attending International Meeting on Nuclear Power  http://allthingsnuclear.org/elyman/trump-admin-blocks-government-scientists-from-meeting, 2The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) recently sent a comment letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), recommending several actions aimed at helping prevent nuclear plant shutdowns ….NEI urged FERC to make preserving nuclear plants a fundamental guiding principle and not to interfere with legitimate state public policy goals regarding nuclear energy. …

The letter also recommended that FERC direct RTOs and ISOs to develop mechanisms that provide additional revenues in recognition of nuclear’s attributes such as long-term rate stability, system resiliency and fuel diversity.

While comprehensive, enduring reforms are being developed, the commission should ensure that interim measures are in place to prevent further loss of secure and resilient nuclear generation,” NEI said…..https://dailyenergyinsider.com/news/6098-nuclear-energy-institute-urges-ferc-take-action-prevent-nuclear-plant-closures/

June 28, 2017 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

Hinkley Point C nuclear project obsolete already, but would cost £22 billion compensation if it were to be scrapped

Times 27th June 2017,The lesson of the Hinkley Point C saga is not to repeat it. Contractors
started pouring concrete for the Hinkley Point C power station three months
ago and could be still at it in ten years‘ time.

By then, there is a chancethat the economics of energy will have suffered a surprise upheaval making
nuclear power genuinely affordable, but that chance is slim to vanishing.
It is more likely that current trends driving down the cost of renewable
and gas-fired power stations will continue.

Hinkley Point C will meanwhile be vulnerable to the sort of delays and cost-overruns that have plagued
every other reactor so far built to the same design, none of which is yet producing power. If experience is any guide, electricity from Hinkley Point will command more than twice the price of power from other sources,
including low-carbon renewables.

The value of subsidies to honour that “strike price”, which is meant to compensate the contractors for taking on
the risk of the project, will have more than quintupled since being agreed.

Hinkley Point C will create jobs but in a white elephant that will be technologically out of date before being connected to the grid. It is being built in part to keep the lights on without relying on highly polluting coal, but mainly because technology moves faster than bureaucracy. In complex matters politicians tend to rely on bureaucrats’ advice, and many
backed the plan before Theresa May gave her final approval last year.

Not one had the courage to cancel it when it was still possible to do so without exposing taxpayers to the risk of multibillion-pound compensation claims.

Sources close to an internal review of the project under way at EDF, the lead contractor, say that its budget is already edging up towards £20 billion from last year’s £18 billion estimate. Its completion date is now expected to be 2027 rather than 2025. The value to EDF and its Chinese partner of the “contract for difference” agreed in the deal has risen from
£6 billion to £30 billion as the price of gas and renewables, especially solar, has fallen.

The most alarming figure in the NAO report is an estimate of £22 billion that investors in Hinkley Point C could claim in
compensation were it to be scrapped. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/comment/nuclear-options-n9b7sc5bq

June 28, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, politics, UK | Leave a comment

Flamanville nuclear reactor’s safety problems add to concerns about Britain’s similar nuclear projects

Reuters 26th June 2017, The cover of the reactor vessel EDF is building in Flamanville, France, may not be able to function more than a few years unless the utility can do additional tests which so far it has not be able to, nuclear regulator ASN said in a report.

While the long-awaited report, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, concludes the European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) is fit for service, EDF may have to replace its vessel cover soon after its
scheduled start-up in 2018. The requirement is a major blow for EDF, which
will have to start planning for a costly replacement of a key part before
the reactor even starts up.

The reputational damage could also add to concerns in Britain about its 18 billion pound ($23 billion) project to
build two similar EPR reactors in southwest England.

The French regulator had ordered a deep review of the Flamanville vessel following the discovery
in 2015 of carbon concentrations in the base and cover of the containment vessel, which make its steel more brittle. The report – led by the IRSN, the ASN’s technical arm – is being reviewed by a group of independent experts on Monday and Tuesday.

This autumn, ASN will partly base its final ruling on Flamanville on the experts’ recommendations. The ASN report
states that while the base of the vessel is fit for service despite the need for increased monitoring over its lifetime, manufacturer Areva NP has not been able to conduct sufficient tests on the cover as it is no longer accessible. These controls are indispensable in order to ensure the reactor’s safety over its 60-year lifetime, the report says.
http://uk.reuters.com/article/edf-flamanville-nuclear-idUKL8N1JN2OC

June 28, 2017 Posted by | France, safety, UK | Leave a comment

Greenland ice melting – a big contributor to sea level rise

Melting Greenland ice now source of 25% of sea level rise, researchers say, Japan Times, AFP-JIJI, JUN 27, 2017 Ocean levels rose 50 percent faster in 2014 than in 1993, with meltwater from the Greenland ice sheet now supplying 25 percent of total sea level increase compared with just 5 percent 20 years earlier, researchers reported Monday.

The findings add to growing concern among scientists that the global watermark is climbing more rapidly than forecast only a few years ago, with potentially devastating consequences.

Hundreds of millions of people around the world live in low-lying deltas that are vulnerable, especially when rising seas are combined with land sinking due to depleted water tables, or a lack of ground-forming silt held back by dams.

Major coastal cities are also threatened, while some small island states are already laying plans for the day their drowning nations will no longer be livable.

“This result is important because the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)” — the U.N. science advisory body — “makes a very conservative projection of total sea level rise by the end of the century,” at 60 to 90 cm (24 to 35 inches), said Peter Wadhams, a professor of ocean physics at the University of Oxford who did not take part in the research.

That estimate, he added, assumes that the rate at which ocean levels rise will remain constant.

“Yet there is convincing evidence — including accelerating losses of mass from Greenland and Antarctica — that the rate is actually increasing, and increasing exponentially.”….

“This is a major warning about the dangers of a sea level rise that will continue for many centuries, even after global warming is stopped,” said Brian Hoskins, chair of the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/06/27/world/science-health-world/melting-greenland-ice-now-source-25-sea-level-rise-researchers-say/#.WVGy2lMrJAY

June 28, 2017 Posted by | climate change, ARCTIC | Leave a comment

Rick Perry wants to ‘make nuclear energy cool again’

Washington Examiner by John Siciliano |  Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Tuesday that one of his agency’s goals is to push nuclear energy.

“One of the things we want to do at [the Department of Energy] is to make nuclear energy cool again,” Perry said during a lengthy news conference at the White House Tuesday….”..when I was younger in the ’60s, and a lot of kids wanted to go into the nuclear energy field.”

But that isn’t the case now, he said, “because this industry has been strangled all too often by government regulations.”

He wants the U.S. to begin again to “bring us to that place where nuclear energy is part of a portfolio, and be able to sell it in great truthfulness and honesty about what it can add to America from an environmental standpoint and from a security standpoint.”…..

On the nuclear power side, the U.S. has the largest fleet of nuclear reactors in the world, although it is becoming too expensive to run many of the plants because of increased cost pressures and competition from natural gas.

Perry mentioned that the U.S. will engage with India on nuclear power development as part of a three-part plan to export energy technologies to foreign markets. The first part of new cooperation with India will be exporting liquefied natural gas, the second area will be on clean coal, and the third will be nuclear energy. http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/perry-wants-to-make-nuclear-energy-cool-again/article/2627250

June 28, 2017 Posted by | spinbuster, USA | Leave a comment

Russia’s Rosatom deputy director-general for international business urging increase in nuclear power capacity

Russia urges more ambitious nuclear capacity target, WNN, 27 June 2017Rosatom’s deputy director-general for international business has described the World Nuclear Association’s aim to add 1000 GWe of new capacity by 2050 as fully achievable and “perhaps modest”. Kirill Komarov spoke to World Nuclear News during the AtomExpo conference and exhibition held last week in Moscow.

Komarov, who becomes the chairman of the London-based Association next year, said the annual event had attracted a record number of participants, with about 6500 attendees, representatives from 64 countries (not including Russia) and 32 official government delegations.

He told WNN: “The consensus of everyone gathered here, including those who are not part of the nuclear community, is that nuclear energy has a place in the global energy mix…..

Komarov said investment in wind and solar power technology was ten times higher than in nuclear generation.

“That’s not because those technologies are better and ours are worse,” Komarov said. “Perhaps we as a nuclear community missed out and didn’t put sufficient effort into explaining safety and mankind’s need for nuclear power, not only in terms of energy, but also knowledge, education and science, as well as the non-energy uses of nuclear technologies.”…..

2016 was a “very successful year” for Rosatom, he said, and its portfolio of orders is worth $134 billion over the next decade. Many of these contracts are “now active” and cover the full life cycle of nuclear facilities, he said…….

Rosatom’s earnings and profit are growing, Komarov said, but that growth has been curtailed by lower nuclear fuel cycle prices. “The uranium enrichment spot price was once $180 per kg SWU, now it’s about $50/kg, and the uranium spot price has gone from $137 per pound U3O8 to about $20/lb.   We’re still profitable because we have worked seriously on our costs, even during years that were good for us,” he said. “We keep on expanding our business with new products and try to offset what we have under-earned by creating new business. ……http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/C-Russia-urges-more-ambitious-nuclear-capacity-target-27061701.aspx

June 28, 2017 Posted by | marketing, Russia | Leave a comment

Troubled SCE&G, Santee Cooper nuclear project could soon be scrapped

SCE&G, Santee Cooper nuclear project could be scrapped within 45 days, BY SAMMY FRETWELL AND CLIF LEBLANC, sfretwell@thestate.comcleblanc@thestate.com  27 June 17, South Carolina utilities SCE&G and Santee Cooper expect to decide by this fall, if not sooner, whether to pull the plug on a $14 billion nuclear expansion project that has been plagued by financial troubles, lengthy delays and intense criticism over the amount of money the effort is costing customers.

June 28, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, USA | Leave a comment