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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Danger of radioactive groundwater leak at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant

JCP reveals risk of contaminated water leakage at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa NPP http://www.japan-press.co.jp/modules/news/index.php?id=9945 September 16, 2016

Japanese Communist Party parliamentarians in their recent on-site investigation found that the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant poses a serious risk of radioactive water leakage if it is hit by a powerful earthquake.

The JCP investigation team consisting of JCP Dietmembers, Fujino Yasufumi (Lower House) and Takeda Ryosuke (Upper House), on September 15 visited the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa NPP to examine its safety measures.

The group investigated Nos. 6 and 7 reactors, which the Nuclear Regulation Authority is examining TEPCO’s application for restart, and sites of subsidence damage caused by liquefaction due to the 2007 Chuestu Offshore Earthquake.

It has come to light that the amount of groundwater being used at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa NPP is much larger than the amount at other NPPs in Japan. However, TEPCO explained to the JCP group that it has no idea why so much groundwater is being pumped into the nuclear power station. After the investigation, JCP member of the House of Representatives Fujino Yasufumi said to reporters, “The utility has yet to implement measures to control its use of groundwater.” Given the fact that at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, TEPCO is struggling with a serious leakage of radioactively-contaminated water which is caused by groundwater entering the crippled NPP, it is unacceptable for the power company to bring the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power station back online.

Professor Emeritus of Seismology at Niigata University Tateishi Masaaki, who joined the JCP investigation team, pointed out that the NRA should examine the amount of groundwater used at the NPP and asses the seismic capacity of wells pumping up the groundwater.”

September 24, 2016 Posted by | Japan, water | Leave a comment

The world had better pay attention NOW – to soaring ocean temperatures

Soaring ocean temperature is ‘greatest hidden challenge of our generation’
IUCN report warns that ‘truly staggering’ rate of warming is changing the behaviour of marine species, reducing fishing zones and spreading disease,
Guardian, . 6 Sept 16, The soaring temperature of the oceans is the “greatest hidden challenge of our generation” that is altering the make-up of marine species, shrinking fishing areas and starting to spread disease to humans, according to the most comprehensive analysis yet of ocean warming.

ocean-heating

The oceans have already sucked up an enormous amount of heat due to escalating greenhouse gas emissions, affecting marine species from microbes to whales, according to an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reportinvolving the work of 80 scientists from a dozen countries.

The profound changes underway in the oceans are starting to impact people, the report states. “Due to a domino effect, key human sectors are at threat, especially fisheries, aquaculture, coastal risk management, health and coastal tourism.”…..

The scale of warming in the ocean, which covers around 70% of the planet, is “truly staggering”, the report states. The upper few metres of ocean have warmed by around 0.13C a decade since the start of the 20th century, with a 1-4C increase in global ocean warming by the end of this century.

The ocean has absorbed more than 90% of the extra heat created by human activity. If the same amount of heat that has been buried in the upper 2km of the ocean had gone into the atmosphere, the surface of the Earth would have warmed by a devastating 36C, rather than 1C, over the past century.

At some point, the report says, warming waters could unlock billions of tonnes of frozen methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, from the seabed and cook the surface of the planet. This could occur even if emissions are drastically cut, due to the lag time between emitting greenhouse gases and their visible consequences.

Warming is already causing fish, seabirds, sea turtles, jellyfish and other species to change their behaviour and habitat, it says. Species are fleeing to the cooler poles, away from the equator, at a rate that is up to five times faster than the shifts seen by species on land.

Even in the north Atlantic, fish will move northwards by nearly 30km per decade until 2050 in search of suitable temperatures, with shifts already documented for pilchard, anchovy, mackerel and herring.

The warming is having its greatest impact upon the building blocks of life in the seas, such as phytoplankton, zooplankton and krill. Changes in abundance and reproduction are, in turn, feeding their way up the food chain, with some fish pushed out of their preferred range and others diminished by invasive arrivals.

With more than 550 types of marine fishes and invertebrates already considered threatened, ocean warming will exacerbate the declines of some species, the report also found…….

Ocean acidification, where rising carbon dioxide absorption increases the acidity of the water, is making it harder for animals such as crabs, shrimps and clams to form their calcium carbonate shells.

The IUCN report recommends expanding protected areas of the ocean and, above all, reduce the amount of heat-trapping gases pumped into the atmosphere.

“The only way to preserve the rich diversity of marine life, and to safeguard the protection and resources the ocean provides us with, is to cut greenhouse gas emissions rapidly and substantially,” said Inger Andersen, director general of the IUCN.https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/sep/05/soaring-ocean-temperature-is-greatest-hidden-challenge-of-our-generation

September 7, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, oceans | Leave a comment

Climate change is affecting the marine ecosystem – krill disappearing from Antarctic waters

marine-food-chainWhales, seals and penguins could be hurting as this tiny creature–fundamental to the food web–declines, Scientific American By Andrea ThompsonClimate Central on August 29, 2016 

They may be small, but krill—tiny, shrimp-like creatures—play a big role in the Antarctic food chain. As climate change warms the Southern Ocean and alters sea ice patterns, though, the area of Antarctic water suitable for krill to hatch and grow could drop precipitously, a new study finds.

Most Antarctic krill are found in an area from the Weddell Sea to the waters around the Antarctic Peninsula, the finger of land that juts up toward South America. They serve as an important source of food for various species of whales, seals and penguins. While those animals find other food sources during lean years, it is unclear if those alternate sources are sustainable long-term.

Over the past 40 years, populations of adult Antarctic krill have declined by 70 to 80 percent in those areas, though researchers debate whether that drop is due to the effects of climate change, a rebound in whale populations after the end of commercial whaling or some combination of those pressures.

Because of its key role in the regional food chain, scientists are concerned about the impacts that future climate change may have on the krill population and the larger Antarctic ecosystem.

In the new study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, Andrea Piñones and Alexey Fedorov examined how expected changes in ocean temperatures and sea ice coverage might affect krill during their earliest life stages when they are most vulnerable to environmental conditions.

Krill has a complex, regimented life cycle that requires a delicate balance of conditions. …..

While warmer ocean temperatures help the krill hatch faster, declines in sea ice area, delayed sea ice formation, and a drop in phytoplankton populations meant that overall, the habitat suitable for young krill could decline by up to 80 percent, they found………http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/krill-are-disappearing-from-antarctic-waters/

September 3, 2016 Posted by | ANTARCTICA, climate change, oceans | Leave a comment

Radioactive waste from oil and gas fracking found in landfill

Radioactive Waste Found at Oil Field Landfill in North Dakota, Oil Price By Irina Slav – Sep 01, 2016, North Dakota has had a problem with the inappropriate disposal of this radioactive waste for years. This time, the State Health Department of North Dakota is probing an oilfield waste landfill operated by IHD Solids Management after the detection of a significant amount of illegal radioactive matter.

The radioactive material was detected twice in two separate inspections that took place in May and June. Now the HD has ordered a third-party inspection of the landfill and instructed the operator to remove 950 tons of waste and take it out of the state, after radioactivity checks of all 12 oilfield waste landfills in the state revealed levels of between 5 and 80 picocuries, the latter standing 30 picocuries above the new maximum allowed for oilfield waste…….

The company will not be fined for the transgression because it dealt with the problem by removing the suspicious waste, as did two other landfill operators in North Dakota, Secure Energy and Gibson Energy. They too had to remove over-radioactive material from their landfills and ship it to special nuclear waste facilities.

Prudently, if not a tad belatedly, North Dakota will soon start requiring oilfield waste landfill operators to verify the radioactivity level of every load that arrives, rather than taking the word of the company generating the waste for it.

The waste from oil and gas wells include uranium, thorium, radium, a radioactive isotope of potassium, as well as isotopes of lead and polonium. These are naturally occurring elements that are brought to the surface through fracking. http://oilprice.com/Latest-Energy-News/World-News/Radioactive-Waste-Found-at-Oil-Field-Landfill-in-North-Dakota.html

September 2, 2016 Posted by | environment, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

American Fukushima rescue ships still contaminated with radiation

16 US ships that aided in Operation Tomodachi still contaminated with radiation, By MATTHEW M. BURKE | STARS AND STRIPES March 13, 2016 CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Sixteen U.S. ships that participated in relief efforts after Japan’s nuclear disaster five years ago remain contaminated with low levels of radiation from the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, top Navy officials told Stars and Stripes.

In all, 25 ships took part in Operation Tomadachi, the name given for the U.S. humanitarian aid operations after the magnitude-9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami on March 11, 2011. The tsunami, whose waves reached runup heights of 130 feet, crippled the Fukushima plant, causing a nuclear meltdown.

In the years since the crisis, the ships have undergone cleanup efforts, the Navy said, and 13 Navy and three Military Sealift Command vessels still have some signs of contamination, mostly to ventilation systems, main engines and generators……

The Navy has acknowledged that the Reagan passed through a plume of radiation. Navy images showed sailors with their faces covered, scrubbing the deck of the Reagan with soap and water as a precautionary measure afterward. The Reagan and sailors stayed off the coast of Japan for several weeks to aid their Japanese allies.

The multibillion-dollar ship, projected to last at least 50 years after its launch in 2001, then was taken offline for more than a year for “deep maintenance and modernization” at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility in Bremerton, Wash., according to Navy officials…….

Sailors who performed the work said it entailed entering spaces deep within the ship, testing for high levels of radiation, and if it was found, sanding, priming and painting the areas. They say there were given little to no protective gear, a claim that the Navy denies……

Eight Reagan sailors, claiming a host of medical conditions they say are related to radiation exposure, filed suit in 2012 against the nuclear plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Co. The suit asserts that TEPCO lied, coaxing the Navy closer to the plant even though it knew the situation was dire. General Electric, EBASCO, Toshiba Corp. and Hitachi were later added as defendants for allegations of faulty parts for the reactors.

A spokesman for TEPCO declined to comment for this story because of the sailors’ lawsuit, which was slated to go forward pending appeals in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The illnesses listed in the lawsuit include genetic immune system diseases, headaches, difficulty concentrating, thyroid problems, bloody noses, rectal and gynecological bleeding, weakness in sides of the body accompanied by the shrinking of muscle mass, memory loss, leukemia, testicular cancer, problems with vision, high-pitch ringing in the ears and anxiety.

The list of sailors who have joined the lawsuit, which is making its way through the courts, has grown to 370…….

Shinzo Kimura — a professor at Dokkyo Medical University in Japan who has studied radiation exposure from Hiroshima and Nagasaki to Chernobyl and, now, Fukushima — said it wasn’t too early for sailors to show symptoms of exposure-related conditions. Doctors have seen conditions in children living near the plant that surfaced earlier than would normally be expected.

Kimura, hired by the Nihonmatsu city government for his expertise in the field, was the first scientist on the ground taking readings in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. He said each person and the way their body is affected by radiation is different.

While unable to definitively say if the sailors were sickened by the radiation, Kimura reasoned that the levels aboard the Reagan were high enough to cause illnesses. Otherwise, he said, why go through the bother of repeated cleanings to lower radiation levels?

“It is impossible to speculate or calculate how much the doses were before the two decontamination works,” he said. “The U.S. military is very good at risk-management. Considering that, it is assumed that decontaminations were conducted twice because the levels were not favorable.”

burke.matt@stripes.com

sumida.chiyomi@stripes.com    http://www.stripes.com/news/16-us-ships-that-aided-in-operation-tomodachi-still-contaminated-with-radiation-1.399094

September 2, 2016 Posted by | environment, health, USA | Leave a comment

Nuclear bombing – the start of the Anthropocene Epoch

Nuclear bombs transformed the planet and set off the Age of Humans, geologists say, WP By Sarah Kaplan August 29 16, Around 1950, as atomic bombs fell on empty deserts, crowded cities and island atolls; as highways carved concrete paths across the planet; as populations exploded; as consumption skyrocketed; and as the average global temperature began its dangerous upward creep in earnest, Earth entered the epoch of humans.

hydrogen-bomb-460

Or at least, that’s the consensus of the Working Group on the Anthropocene, the team of 35 scientists tasked with figuring out whether humans have left enough of a mark on this planet to qualify for our own unit of geological time.In January, the working group published a paper in the journal Science arguing that the Anthropocene is a “functionally and stratigraphically distinct” unit of geologic time. In other words, the planet has been altered so thoroughly by human presence that the changes are permanently inscribed in the rock record, much as scientists can still see evidence of the asteroid impact that killed the dinosaurs.

anthropocene 1

Monday, members of the group presented their findings at the annual International Geological Congress in Cape Town, South Africa…….https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2016/08/29/scientists-believe-the-age-of-humans-began-in-1950-now-they-have-to-prove-it/

August 31, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, environment | Leave a comment

The Anthropocene epoch is here

The Anthropocene epoch: scientists declare dawn of human-influenced age Experts say human impact on Earth so profound that Holocene must give way to epoch defined by nuclear tests, plastic pollution and domesticated chicken, Guardian, , 29 Aug 16, Humanity’s impact on the Earth is now so profound that a new geological epoch – the Anthropocene – needs to be declared, according to an official expert group who presented the recommendation to the International Geological Congress in Cape Town on Monday.

anthropocene 1

The new epoch should begin about 1950, the experts said, and was likely to be defined by the radioactive elements dispersed across the planet by nuclear bomb tests, although an array of other signals, including plastic pollution, soot from power stations, concrete, and even the bones left by the global proliferation of the domestic chicken were now under consideration.

The current epoch, the Holocene, is the 12,000 years of stable climate since the last ice age during which all human civilisation developed. But the striking acceleration since the mid-20th century of carbon dioxide emissions and sea level rise, the global mass extinction of species, and the transformation of land by deforestation and development mark the end of that slice of geological time, the experts argue. The Earth is so profoundly changed that the Holocene must give way to the Anthropocene………

To define a new geological epoch, a signal must be found that occurs globally and will be incorporated into deposits in the future geological record. For example, the extinction of the dinosaurs 66m years ago at the end of the Cretaceous epoch is defined by a “golden spike” in sediments around the world of the metal iridium, which was dispersed from the meteorite that collided with Earth to end the dinosaur age.

For the Anthropocene, the best candidate for such a golden spike are radioactive elements from nuclear bomb tests, which were blown into the stratosphere before settling down to Earth. “The radionuclides are probably the sharpest – they really come on with a bang,” said Zalasiewicz. “But we are spoiled for choice. There are so many signals.”

Other spikes being considered as evidence of the onset of the Anthropocene include the tough, unburned carbon spheres emitted by power stations. “The Earth has been smoked, with signals very clearly around the world in the mid-20th century,” said Zalasiewicz.

Other candidates include plastic pollution, aluminium and concrete particles, and high levels of nitrogen and phosphate in soils, derived from artificial fertilisers. Although the world is currently seeing only the sixth mass extinction of species in the 700m-year history of complex life on Earth, this is unlikely to provide a useful golden spike as the animals are by definition very rare and rarely dispersed worldwide.

In contrast, some species have with human help spread rapidly across the world. ……..https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/aug/29/declare-anthropocene-epoch-experts-urge-geological-congress-human-impact-earth

August 31, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, environment | Leave a comment

Desalinising water for drinking, by use of a Solar-powered Pipe

solar pipe desalinate California

Solar-powered Pipe desalinizes 1.5 billion gallons of drinking water for
California, http://inhabitat.com/solar-powered-pipe-desalinizes-1-5-billion-gallons-of-clean-drinking-water-for-california/ Inhabitat, by , 29 aug 16 
The infrastructure California needs to generate energy for electricity and clean water, which will be significant, need not blight the landscape. Designs like The Pipe demonstrate how the provision of public services like these can be knitted into every day life in a healthy, aesthetically-pleasing way. A finalist of the 2016 Land Art Generator Initiative design competition for Santa Monica Pier, the solar-powered plant deploys electromagnetic desalination to provide clean drinking water for the city and filters the resulting brine through on-board thermal baths before it is reintroduced to the Pacific Ocean.

“LAGI 2016 comes to Southern California at an important time,” write Rob Ferry and Elizabeth Monoian,co-founders of the Land Art Generator Initiative. “The sustainable infrastructure that is required to meet California’s development goals and growing population will have a profound influence on the landscape. The Paris Climate Accord from COP 21 has united the world around a goal of 1.5–2° C, which will require a massive investment in clean energy infrastructure.”
For this particular competition, LAGI asked designers to submit proposals that incorporate either an energy or drinking water component, since they are inextricably intertwined, or both. Khalili Engineersfrom Canada chose to power an electromagnetic desalination device using solar power. And – in keeping with the public art and educational aspect of LAGI’s overall environmental and social crusade – The Pipe is a beautiful design that allows people to seamlessly interact with their source of drinking water without any of the unpleasant side effects typically associated with energy generation.
“Above, solar panels provide power to pump seawater through an electromagnetic filtration process below the pool deck, quietly providing the salt bath with its healing water and the city with clean drinking water,” the design team writes in their brief. “The Pipe represents a change in the future of water.”

According to Khalili Engineers, their design, a long gleaming thing visible from Santa Monica Pier, is capable of generating 10,000 MWh each year, which will in turn produce 4.5 billion liters (or 1.5 billion gallons) of drinking water. Given the current drought throughout California, and the dearth of water in general, a variety of urban micro generators such as this can complement utility-scale energy generation.

“What results are two products: pure drinkable water that is directed into the city’s primary water piping grid, and clear water with twelve percent salinity. The drinking water is piped to shore, while the salt water supplies the thermal baths before it is redirected back to the ocean through a smart release system, mitigating most of the usual problems associated with returning brine water to the sea.”

The winners of LAGI 2016 will be announced on October 6, 2016 at Greenbuild 2016.  + LAGI 2016: Santa Monica  + Khalili Engineers

August 29, 2016 Posted by | renewable, USA, water | 1 Comment

Rocky Flats’ dangerous radioactive legacy

The concerns are not limited to the refuge itself. There is plenty of plutonium offsite, thanks to a combination of sloppy practices onsite and the high winds for which the area is notorious. In 2010, one researcher discovered high concentrations of plutonium in dust in the crawl space under a local home. Researchers have concluded that smoke from a series of fires and plutonium blown from waste holding areas were probably the main sources. Peer-reviewed studies have found high rates of lung and brain cancers, leukemia, and other diseases among workers at the plant. 

We are left with a conundrum: Is Rocky Flats a brilliant urban wildlife resource, or a dangerous radioactive legacy? The weird but inescapable truth is that it is both.

Rocky Flats: A Wildlife Refuge Confronts Its Radioactive Past, Environment 36016 AUG 2016: REPORT

The Rocky Flats Plant outside Denver was a key U.S. nuclear facility during the Cold War. Now, following a $7 billion cleanup, the government is preparing to open a wildlife refuge on the site to the public, amid warnings from some scientists that residual plutonium may still pose serious health risks.by fred pearce “…….In a previous life, Rocky Flats was a secret place, where over almost four decades Dow Chemical and Rockwell International, as contractors working for the U.S. government, turned plutonium from military reactors into an estimated 70,000 grapefruit-sized triggers at the heart of hydrogen bombs. Few installations were as important during the Cold War as the Rocky Flats Plant, which operated from 1952 to 1989. And by all accounts, preventing plutonium pollution of the surrounding environment, including that of the people of Denver, was low on the list of priorities…… Continue reading

August 19, 2016 Posted by | environment, Reference, USA | Leave a comment

South Africa at the crossroads – clean economic renewable energy or dirty uranium nuclear industry?

WHAT LEGACY DO WE WANT FOR SOUTH AFRICA? http://safcei.org/what-legacy-do-we-want-for-south-africa/

by  on August 2, 2016 In July we were excited to receive the news of a large-scale withdrawal of the uranium mining developers Australian Tasman Pacific Minerals Limited and Lukisa JVCo in the Karoo.

On 6 July they announced that they would withdraw their current uranium mining application and reapply for a much smaller area – in essence only 12% of the original application – and start the process at the beginning again. This we celebrated as an important step towards stopping uranium mining in its tracks, as well as nuclear down the line.

For, as Dr Stefan Cramer, who was instrumental in lifting the veil of silence on this new threat to the Karoo, points out, uranium mining is the dirty underbelly of the nuclear industry and where it all begins.

One must stop nuclear industries in (their) tracks because it leaves future generations with an immeasurable task and legacy. The best point to start is at the source, where the whole cycle of nuclear technology begins, and that is at uranium mining. Uranium mining is very much the dirtiest part of the entire industry,” he says.

Kim Kruyshaar writes on Green Audits that choosing between renewable energy and nuclear is about much more than just an energy option. Instead it is “a choice between two divergent socio-economic opportunities and the consequent legacies.” This rings even more true when one looks at the building blocks of nuclear energy.

Uranium mining will leave us with our iconic Karoo damaged for centuries to come and many people without a future or income as the jobs gained through uranium mining would in no way compensate for those lost in the agricultural, tourism and renewable industry businesses.

Mining will also deplete the already scarce water reserves of the Karoo and present serious health problems to all living beings there, as the radioactive dust can be carried for kilometres by winds.

Renewable energy in contrast presents us with a far brighter future that, very importantly, doesn’t contain a radioactive legacy. Far more jobs are created in the renewable energy industry than the nuclear industry ever can.

The speed in which renewable energy projects can be installed and the lower investment costs also make it highly attractive to a country like South Africa, where many people need access to energy now, not in 15 years time when a nuclear reactor would only come online.

Decentralising the power from Eskom and putting it into the hands of individuals and local companies would also only serve to empower South Africans and the economy. Nuclear energy would instead indebt us and future generations to a foreign company and leave us with the further enormous cost of decommissioning.

So it’s not simply a choice between two energy options, as Kim sums it up, it is a choice about what path we would like to take South Africa down.

What is needed to stop uranium mining and nuclear for good?

August 13, 2016 Posted by | environment, politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

For these Pacific Islanders, climate change is well and truly here – with sea level rise

Carteret climate refugees seek home A grassroots group in Bougainville is scrambling to relocate the Carteret Islanders before rising sea levels swallow their land forever. ABC News 7 Aug 16  By Lauren Beldi for Pacific Beat At only 1.5 metres above sea level at their highest point, the Carteret Islands are some of the first to succumb to the rising ocean tides.

se level rise Satjellia Is India

The grassroots Tulele Peisa group, which means “sailing the waves on our own” in the local Halia language, is hoping to relocate more than half of the population by 2020. They have secured land for new homes on the main island of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, to the east of mainland Papua New Guinea.Tulele Peisa formed in late 2006 after the Council of Elders on the islands decided to establish their own relocation program. The group’s chief executive, Ursula Rakova, says the encroaching tides on the islands have a major impact on people’s health. “We’re beginning to get more requests for people wanting to move because of the situation and the dire need for food,” she says.

The storm surges not only wash away houses, but also vegetable gardens, which are critical for the islanders’ survival.

With no cash economy on the Carterets, the only source of food is what people are able to grow for themselves……

Tulele Peisa has also provided thousands of mangrove seedlings to prevent the erosion of the coastline, and helped to build raised garden beds. But this will only stave off the inevitable for so long.

“Those are adaptation strategies, they aren’t really long-term solutions to containing the islands, because we know the islands are going, but we are looking at supporting our families,” Ms Rakova says.

She says the islanders want to maintain their independent way of living but that the international community should provide more support.

“The islanders on the Carterets are victims of what other people have caused and the international community needs to aid and support the work that we are doing,” she says.

“We have found our way forward [and] we would like to share the way forward with other people, but we need this process to be funded financially so that we can continue to sustain ourselves.” http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-07/carteret-climate-refugees-new-home/7693950?section=environment

August 8, 2016 Posted by | climate change, OCEANIA, oceans | Leave a comment

UK-Australian and French uranium companies polluting the “unpolluted” African States

uranium-oreUranium from Russia, with love, Ecologist, Nick Meynen 4th August, 2016

“………..the bigger issue should be that uranium mining is just a very dirty business that we didn’t clean up but source out. France used to have 200+ uranium mines but thanks to better care for environment and workers the last one closed in 2001. Instead, new ones were opened in places like NigerNamibia and Malawi. In short: places where we can shift the real costs from uranium mining to the people and environment. As a matter of fact, CEOs in the business are quite frank about that. The former CEO of Paladin, John Borshoff, an Australian uranium producer who opened mines in Namibia, said that Canadian and Australian environmental norms are “over-sophisticated“. What he actually means is that in African countries you don’t need to pay much or anything at all to “protect” either your workers or the people living in the vicinity from dying from cancer due to exposure to uranium.

He’s just implementing the Lawrence Summers Principle. This ‘principle’ originates from a 1991 memo written or dictated by Summers whilst he was the World Bank’s chief economist. In this memo, he promoted dumping toxic waste in the Third World for economic reasons: “Just between you and me, shouldn’t the World Bank be encouraging more migration of the dirty industries to the LDCs [Least Developed Countries]? […] A given amount of health impairing pollution should be done in the country with the lowest cost, which will be the country with the lowest wages. I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that.”

The uranium sector squared up to that. But for how much longer will it get away with that?

Last time rebels in Mali came too close to the AREVA mines in Niger for comfort, France suddenly sent in their army. Under some humanitarian pretext. And if rebels don’t succeed in capturing these remote mines, the global environmental justice movement might just succeed in closing a couple of them down.

The legacy from uranium mining

Being part of that movement, I’ve had the ‘pleasure’ of making a toxic tour around a now closed uranium mine in Bulgaria. Massive amounts of toxic sludge were stored behind a weak dam that showed signs of distress after heavy rains caused a spill in 2009. Old EU money was still keeping the dam up but as we’re talking about radioactive waste, money will need to keep flowing to dam repairs for millennia to come.

Since 1992, when the mines closed, and for time immemorial, that will be public money. And that’s how it goes with uranium mines in places with weak or no legislation: short-term private profits followed by perpetual public losses. In Bulgaria the people are still lucky enough to be in the EU with at least some environmental regulations and EU money for environmental protections. The same goes for other EU countries like France, which has dozens of zombie mines: dead but still active. The US also has plenty more zombie mines. The lands of the Navajo Nation include over 500 abandoned uranium mines (AUMs) as well as homes and drinking water sources with elevated levels of radiation. Despite the fact that they stopped operating in 1986, new and related lung cancers, bone cancers and impaired kidney functions keep appearing.

But while EU and US now have enough safeguards to keep their own uranium safe under the ground, there’s nothing of that in Namibia or Niger. These two countries are rising players on the uranium market, both exporting their uranium to the EU. Niger has now produced more uranium than France ever did in it’s whole history. It’s here that UK-Australian and French companies are doing the dirty digging that destroys local environment and populace.

Three reports from the EU-funded EJOLT project deal with the environmental and social issues related to uranium mining. One deals with the impacts, one concentrates on a mine in Malawi and the third dwells on the examples of successful resistance to big mining in general.

Bruno Chareyron, a French nuclear engineer who authored most of these reports, has been carrying out toxic tours along uranium mines for the last two decades. That’s not always an easy job, with for example the police confiscating most of your measuring equipment upon arrival in Niger. Nevertheless, Bruno was able to measure that radioactive scrap metal from the mines and mills is sold on the market. Waste rocks from the mines were used to pave roads, build homes and even at the local hospital where the radiation was 100 times above normal. Piles of radioactive waste were left in open air, unprotected, next to two cities with a total population of 120.000.

The missing piece of the puzzle

Where is uranium in the whole debate about nuclear energy? It’s usually only mentioned when the industry says: uranium is only a tiny part of the total cost of our energy model, unlike the situation in the gas and oil industry.

Well, there’s a reason why it’s only a tiny part of the total cost and it’s called cost shifting.

Ecological economists have given names to processes witnessed in the uranium sector:accumulation by contaminationecologically unequal exchange and ecological debt. More and more, people all over the world are coming together to resist against environmental justice.

Our EU and US based nuclear power is currently coming at the cost of poisoning people in Africa. But it begs the question: are we ready to face that reality?

This Author:

Nick Meynen is one of The Ecologist New Voices contributors. He writes blogs and bookshttp://www.epo.be/uitgeverij/boekinfo_auteur.php?isbn=9789064455803 on topics like environmental justice, globalization and human-nature relationships.

When not wandering in the activist universe or his Facebook pagehttps://www.facebook.com/nick.meynen
is dead, he’s probably walking in nature.   

@nickmeynen   http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2987988/uranium_from_russia_with_love.html

August 5, 2016 Posted by | environment, Malawi, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, politics international, Reference, Uranium | Leave a comment

Old nuclear waste from Manhattan Project contaminating Niagara County

text-radiationRadioactive hot spots pepper Niagara County, Investigative Post, July 05 By  The first hint of radioactive waste near John Grace’s home in Lewiston came from his son who carried a radiation meter for his government job. The meter would beep every time his son drove over the gravel driveway.

“He said ‘something’s not right here,’ ” said Grace, who lives at 738 Upper Mountain Road.

Turns out, he was right.

Gravel in the driveway was first tested some 40 years ago by the federal Department of Energy and found to have radiation levels some 70 times greater than what’s found in the local natural environment. The driveway was still hot when tested again three years ago by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“I just said ‘you’ve got to be kidding me,’” Grace said. “They said it was all around Niagara County.”

Indeed, this radioactive material is prevalent throughout the region.

Government documents show that state health and environmental officials have known for almost four decades that at least 60 properties throughout Niagara County and Grand Island, including the driveway near Grace’s home, are contaminated with radioactive material that resembles gravel. The radioactivity at these properties ranges from three to more than 70 times what people are naturally exposed to in the local environment, according to state and federal documents……..

Although the exposure to the radioactive waste does not pose an immediate health risk, the EPA and the National Academy of Sciences have concluded there is no safe level of radiation.

Furthermore, the group of attorneys and environmental engineers investigating some of the contaminated properties in Niagara County disagree with the state’s position that the waste does not pose a significant risk………

Radioactive hotspots identified

This story is based on a review of more than 8,000 pages of government documents requested under the Freedom of Information Law, property inspections with a radiation detector, and interviews with more than a dozen experts, attorneys, residents and government officials.

The federal Department of Energy and state Department of Health identified 100 hot-spots in Niagara County and Grand Island almost four decades ago. The federal government cleaned up about a third of the properties after determining the radioactive waste was linked to nuclear weapons development through the Manhattan Project. The remaining contaminated properties were left untouched at the time because the federal government believed the material was linked to commercial metallurgical companies, which have since closed……….http://www.investigativepost.org/2016/07/05/radioactive-hot-spots-pepper-niagara-county/

July 10, 2016 Posted by | environment, USA | Leave a comment

Antarctic is being polluted by uranium mining in Australia

Climate scientists: Australian uranium mining pollutes Antarctic http://phys.org/news/2016-06-climate-uranium-orescientists-australian-
uranium-pollutes.html
 June 30, 2016 by Beth Staples  
Uranium mining in Australia is polluting the Antarctic, about 6,000 nautical miles away. University of Maine climate scientists made the discovery during the first high-resolution continuous examination of a northern Antarctic Peninsula .

Ice core data reveal a significant increase in  concentration that coincides with open pit mining in the Southern Hemisphere, most notably Australia, says lead researcher Mariusz Potocki, a doctoral candidate and research assistant with the Climate Change Institute.

“The Southern Hemisphere is impacted by human activities more than we thought,” says Potocki.

Understanding airborne distribution of uranium is important because exposure to the radioactive element can result in kidney toxicity, genetic mutations, mental development challenges and cancer.

Uranium concentrations in the ice core increased by as much as 102 between the 1980s and 2000s, accompanied by increased variability in recent years, says Potocki, a glaciochemist.

Until World War II, most of the uranium input to the atmosphere was from natural sources, says the research team.

But since 1945, increases in Southern Hemisphere uranium levels have been attributed to industrial sources, including uranium mining in Australia, South Africa and Namibia. Since other land-source dust elements don’t show similar large increases in the ice core, and since the increased uranium concentrations are enriched above levels in the Earth’s crust, the source of uranium is attributed to human activities rather atmospheric circulation changes.

In 2007, a Brazilian-Chilean-U.S. team retrieved the ice core from the Detroit Plateau on the northern Antarctic Peninsula, which is one of the most rapidly changing regions on Earth.

More information: Mariusz Potocki et al. Recent increase in Antarctic Peninsula ice core uranium concentrations, Atmospheric Environment (2016). DOI: 10.1016/j.atmosenv.2016.06.010  Journal reference:Atmospheric Environment  websiteProvided by: University of Maine

July 4, 2016 Posted by | ARCTIC, AUSTRALIA, environment | Leave a comment

Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research reports on Fukushima and the oceans

Fukushima and the oceans: What do we know, five years on?, Science Daily  June 30, 2016

Source:
Goldschmidt Conference
Summary:
A major international review of the state of the oceans five years after the Fukushima disaster shows that radiation levels are decreasing rapidly except in the harbor area close to the nuclear plant itself where ongoing releases remain a concern. At the same time, the review’s lead author expresses concern at the lack of ongoing support to continue the radiation assessment, which he says is vital to understand how the risks are changing.
These are the conclusions of a major 5 year review, with multi-international authors who are all working together as part of a Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR) Working Group. The report is being presented at the Goldschmidt geochemistry conference in Japan. The review paper is also published in Annual Review of Marine Science*. The main points made by the report are:…….

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/06/160630214454.htm

 

July 4, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, oceans | Leave a comment