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Hot water — radiation in drinking water

Tighter controls called for as radiation contaminates US drinking water

Hot water — Beyond Nuclear International

Radioactive contamination is creeping into drinking water around the U.S.

 https://beyondnuclearinternational.org/2023/01/01/hot-water/ By Lynne Peeples, Ensia 1 Jan 2023

When Jeni Knack moved to Simi Valley, California, in 2018, she had no idea that her family’s new home was within 5 miles of a former nuclear and rocket testing laboratory, perched atop a plateau and rife with contamination. Radioactive cesium-137, strontium-90, plutonium-239 and tritium, along with a mix of other toxic chemicals and heavy metals, are known to have been released at the industrial site through various spills, leaks, the use of open-air burn pits and a partial nuclear meltdown.

Once Knack learned about the Santa Susana Field Laboratory and the unusual number of childhood cancer cases in the surrounding community, she couldn’t ignore it. Her family now only drinks water from a 5-gallon (19-liter) jug delivered by Sparkletts water service. In August of 2021, she began sending her then 6-year-old daughter to kindergarten with two bottles of the water and instructions to not refill them at school, which is connected to the same Golden State Water Company that serves her home.

A federal report in 2007 acknowledged that two wells sourced by the water company were at risk of contamination from the site. “The EPA has said we’re at risk,” says Knack. And Golden State, she says, has at times used “possibly a very hefty portion of that well water.” To date, radioactivity above the natural level has not been detected in Golden State’s water.

Concerns across the country

All water contains some level of radiation; the amount and type can vary significantly. Production of nuclear weapons and energy from fissionable material is one potential source. Mining for uranium is another. Radioactive elements can be introduced into water via medical treatments, including radioactive iodine used to treat thyroid disorders. And it can be unearthed during oil and gas drilling, or any industrial activities that involve cracking into bedrock where radioactive elements naturally exist. What’s more, because of their natural presence, these elements can occasionally seep into aquifers even without being provoked.

The nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG, a partner in this reporting project) estimates that drinking water for more than 170 million Americans in all 50 states “contains radioactive elements at levels that may increase the risk of cancer.” In their analysis of public water system data collected between 2010 and 2015, EWG focused on six radioactive contaminants, including radium, radon and uranium. They found that California has more residents affected by radiation in their drinking water than anywhere else in the U.S. Yet the state is far from alone. About 80% of Texans are served by water utilities reporting detectable levels of radium. And concerns have echoed across the country — from abandoned uranium mines on Navajo Nation lands, to lingering nuclear waste from the Manhattan Project in Missouri, to contaminants leaching from phosphate mines in Florida.

While ingesting radioactive elements through drinking contaminated water is not the only route of human exposure, it is a major risk pathway, says Daniel Hirsch, a retired University of California, Santa Cruz, professor who has studied the Santa Susana Field Laboratory contamination. “One thing you don’t want to do is to mix radioactivity with water. It’s an easy mechanism to get it inside people,” he says. “When you drink water, you think you excrete it. But the body is made to extract things from what you ingest.”

Strontium-90, for example, is among elements that mimic calcium. So the body is apt to concentrate the contaminant in bones, raising the risk of leukemia. Pregnant women and young kids are especially vulnerable because greater amounts of radiation are deposited in rapidly growing tissue and bones. “This is why pregnant women are never x-rayed,” says Catherine Thomasson, an independent environmental policy consultant based in Portland, Oregon. Cesium can deposit in the pancreas, heart and other tissues, she notes. There, it may continue to emit radioactivity over time, causing disease and damage.

Scientists believe that no amount of radiation is safe. At high levels, the radiation produced by radioactive elements can trigger birth defects, impair development and cause cancer in almost any part of the body. And early life exposure means a long period of time for damage to develop.

Health advocates express concern that the government is not doing enough to protect the public from these and other risks associated with exposure to radioactive contamination in drinking water. The legal limits set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for several types of radioactive elements in community water systems have not been updated since 1976. Further, many elements are regulated as a group rather than individually, such as radium-226 plus radium-228. And water system operators, if they are required to monitor for radioactive elements, only need to do so infrequently — say, every six or nine years for certain contaminants.

Meanwhile, private wells generally remain unregulated with regard to the elements, which is particularly concerning because some nuclear power plants are located in rural areas where people depend on private wells. More than one out of every 10 Americans use private wells or tiny water systems that serve fewer than 15 residences.

The Santa Susana Field Laboratory was rural when it was first put to use about 70 years ago. Today, more than 700,000 people live within 10 miles (16 kilometers). Recent wildfires have exacerbated these residents’ concerns. The 2018 Woolsey fire started on the property and burned 80% of its 2,850 acres (1,153 hectares). Over the following three months, the levels of chemical and radioactive contamination running off the site exceeded state safety standards 57 times.

Hirsch highlights several potential avenues for drinking water contamination related to nuclear weapons or energy development. Wind can send contamination off site and deposit it into the soil, for example. Gravity can carry contaminants downhill. And rains can carry contamination via streams and rivers to infiltrate groundwater aquifers. While vegetation absorbs radioactive and chemical contaminants from the soil in which it grows, those pollutants are readily released into the environment during a fire.

While no tests have detected concerning levels of radioactivity in Golden State’s water, advocates and scientists argue that testing for radioactive elements remains inconsistent and incomplete across the country. Federal and state regulations do not require monitoring for all potential radioactive contaminants associated with the known industrial activity on the site. For some of the regulated contaminants, water companies need only test once every several years.

“This is not an isolated matter,” says Hirsch. “We’re sloppy with radioactive materials.”

“We need stricter regulations”

In 2018, around the same time that fires stirred up radioactive elements in and around the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, drinking water concerns arose just outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Guy Kruppa, superintendent of the Belle Vernon Municipal Authority, had been noticing major die-offs of the bacteria in his sewage treatment plant. The bugs are critical for breaking down contaminants in the sewage before it is discharged into the Monongahela River. About 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) downstream is a drinking water plant.

Kruppa and his colleagues eventually linked the low bacteria numbers to leachate they accepted from the Westmoreland landfill. The landfill had begun taking waste from nearby fracking sites — material that included bacteria-killing salts and radioactive elements such as radium.

The Belle Vernon Municipal Authority subsequently got a court order to force the landfill to stop sending its leachate — the liquid stuff that flows off a landfill after it rains. “We sealed off the pipe,” Kruppa says. 

Today, radiation is no longer discharging from his plant. Yet he remains concerned about where the leachate might now be going and, more broadly, about the weak regulation regarding radioactive waste that could end up in drinking water. The quarterly tests required of his sewage treatment plant, for example, do not include radium. “The old adage is, if you don’t test for it, you’re not going to find it,” adds Kruppa.

Concerns that radioactive elements from fracking could travel into community drinking water sources have been on the rise for at least a decade. A study led by Duke University researchers and published in 2013 found “potential environmental risks of radium bioaccumulation in localized areas of shale gas wastewater disposal.” Kruppa’s actions in 2018 drove widespread media attention to the issue.

In late July 2021, the state of Pennsylvania announced it would begin ordering landfills that accept waste from oil or gas drilling sites to test their leachate for certain radioactive materials associated with fracking. The state’s move was a “good step in the right direction,” says Amy Mall, a senior advocate with the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council, which published a report on radioactive waste from oil and gas production in July. “We do need more data. But we don’t think monitoring alone is adequate. We need stricter regulations as well.”

The EPA drinking water standard for radium-226 plus radium-228, the two most widespread isotopes of radium, is 5 picocuries per liter (0.26 gallon). The California Office of Environmental Hazard Assessment’s public health goal, set in 2006 and the basis of EWG’s study, is far more stringent: 0.05 picocuries per liter for radium-226 and just 0.019 picocuries per liter for radium-228. “There is a legal limit for some of these contaminants, like radium and uranium,” says Sydney Evans, a science analyst with EWG. “But, of course, that’s not necessarily what’s considered safe based on the latest research.”

“We don’t regulate for the most vulnerable,” says Arjun Makhijani, president of the nonprofit Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. He points to the first trimester in a pregnancy as among the riskiest windows of development.

The known toxicities of radioactive contaminants, as well as technology available to test for them, have evolved significantly since standards were established in the 1970s. “We have a rule limited by the technology available 40 years ago or more. It’s just a little crazy to me,” says Evans. Hirsch points to a series of reports from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on health risks from ionizing radiation. “They just keep finding that the same unit of exposure produces more cancers than had been presumed,” he says. The most recent version, published in 2006, found the risk of cancer due to radiation exposure for some elements to be about 35% higher per unit dose than the 1990 version.

The EPA has begun its fourth review of national primary drinking water regulations, in accordance with the Safe Drinking Water Act. The results are anticipated in 2023. While advocates hope for stricter standards, such changes would add to the difficulties many drinking water providers already face in finding the finances and technology necessary to meet those regulations.

Seeking solutions

The aquifer beneath Winona, Minnesota — which supplies drinking water to residents — naturally contains radium, resulting in challenges for the city water department to minimize levels of the radioactive element.

Tests of Winona’s drinking water have found levels of radium above federal standards. In response to results, in April 2021 city officials cautioned residents that low-dose exposure over many years can raise the risk of cancer. However, they did not advise people to avoid drinking the water.


The city is now looking to ramp up their use of a product called TonkaZorb, which has proven effective in removing radium at other drinking water plants, notes Brent Bunke, who served as the city’s water superintendent during the time of the testing. The product’s active ingredient is manganese, which binds to radium. The resulting clumps are easy to sift out by the sand filter. Local coverage aptly likened it to kitty litter. Bunke notes that the city also plans to replace the filter media in their aging sand filters. Of course, all these efforts are not cheap for the city. “It’s the cost of doing business,” says Bunke.

Winona is far from alone in their battle against ubiquitous radium. And they are unlikely to be the hardest hit. “Communities that are being impacted don’t necessarily have the means to fix it,” says Evans. “And it’s going to be a long-term, ongoing issue.” Over time, municipalities often have to drill deeper into the ground to find adequate water supply — where there tends to be even larger concentrations of radium.

Some are looking upstream for more equitable solutions. Stanford University researchers, for example, have identified a way to predict when and where uranium is released into groundwater aquifers. Dissolved calcium and alkalinity can boost water’s ability to pick up uranium, they found. Because this tends to happen in the top six feet of soil, drinking water managers can make sure that water bypasses that area as it seeps into or is pumped out of the ground.

The focus of this research has been on California’s Central Valley — an agricultural area rich in uranium. “When you start thinking about rural water systems, or you think about water that’s going to be used in agriculture, then your economic constraints become really, really great,” says Scott Fendorf, a professor of earth systems science at Stanford and coauthor on the study. “You can’t afford to do things like reverse osmosis” — a spendy form of filtration technology.

In general, radiation can be very difficult to remove from water. Reverse osmosis can be effective for uranium. Activated carbon can cut concentrations of radon and strontium. Yet standard home or water treatment plant filters are not necessarily going to remove all radioactive contaminants. Scientists and advocates underscore the need for further prevention strategies in the form of greater monitoring and stronger regulations. The push continues across the country, as the issue plagues nearly everywhere — an unfortunate truth that Knack now knows.

Why doesn’t her family simply move? “I’m not saying we won’t. I’m not saying we shouldn’t,” she says. “But I don’t even know where we’d go. It really looks like contaminated sites are not few, but all over the country.”

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January 1, 2023 Posted by | Reference, USA, water | Leave a comment

UK govt goes ahead, seeks financial backing for Sizewell nuclear project, despite strong objections on environmental grounds, especially about water use.

It bears noting that EDF was refused planning consent from Suffolk County Council and the Planning
Inspectorate in 2020 on the grounds that insufficient information was provided about the project’s impacts on local communities and nature.


Particular concerns included procuring water and potential impacts on the local nature reserve.

The UK Government has confirmed approval for the Sizewell C nuclear power
plant after Chancellor Jeremy Hunt moved to back proceeding with the
development at this month’s Autumn Statement. The Department for Business,
Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has stated that the Government will
take a £679m stake in the 3.2GW project and will urge China General Nuclear
to end its involvement.

It will allocate a multi-million-pound package to
cover buy-out costs, commercial arrangements and tax. This is a significant
increase from the £100m option fee contribution for Sizewell C which the
Government confirmed back in January. It will see the Government becoming a
50% shareholder in the project’s development phase. BEIS has stated that
EDF, which is developing the power plant, will “provide additional
investment to match the Government’s stake”.

But with the total project
cost sitting around £20bn, it is clear that additional backers will need to
be found. Sizewell C will be the UK’s first project to use a new funding
model for nuclear, the Regulated Asset Base (RAB) model. This model
provides investors with regular returns before a plant begins generating
power. It has replaced the previous Contracts for Difference (CfD) approach
to nuclear funding due to the passage of the Nuclear Energy (Financing)
Bill earlier this year, when Kwasi Kwarteng was in the top job at BEIS.


Some local community groups and major environmental groups have argued that
BEIS rushed the decision on Sizewell C without accounting for key
information on impacts such as water extraction and disrupting wildlife.

On the former point, Sizewell B uses about 800,000 litres of potable water
each day. Friends of the Earth moved in August to launch a legal challenge
to BEIS over the Sizewell C approval decision. It bears noting that EDF was
refused planning consent from Suffolk County Council and the Planning
Inspectorate in 2020 on the grounds that insufficient information was
provided about the project’s impacts on local communities and nature.
Particular concerns included procuring water and potential impacts on the
local nature reserve.

The Planning Inspectorate stated that “unless the
outstanding water supply strategy can be resolved and sufficient
information provided to enable the secretary of state to carry out his
obligations under the Habitats Regulations, the case for an order granting
development consent for the application is not made out”.

Friends of the Earth argued that, when it launched its challenge, no more information had
been provided or considered about Sizewell C’s nature and water footprint.

Edie 29th Nov 2022

November 30, 2022 Posted by | UK, water | Leave a comment

China’s record-breaking heatwave, threatening water resources

The southwestern Chinese regions of Chonqging and Sichuan were battling
fires on Tuesday as they awaited a long-anticipated drop in temperatures
over the next week, but the country’s important autumn harvest remained
under serious threat. Officials warned this month that temperatures were
rising faster in China than in the rest of the world and a record-breaking
heatwave has raised concern about its ability to adapt to rapid climate
change and conserve already scarce water resources.

Reuters 23rd Aug 2022

https://www.reuters.com/world/china/chinas-southwest-battles-forest-fires-end-heatwave-approaches-2022-08-23/

August 23, 2022 Posted by | China, climate change, water | Leave a comment

Nuclear reactors at Bugey, Blayais, Saint-Alban-Sanit-Maurice, Golfech and Tricastin allowed to release hotter water into rivers

New thermal discharge limits applicable to the reactors of the Bugey,
Blayais, Saint-Alban-Saint-Maurice, Golfech and Tricastin power plants have
been set and will be valid until 11 September. The nuclear power plants of
Blayais, Saint-Alban-Saint-Maurice, Golfech, Bugey and Tricastin will
benefit until September 11 from environmental exemptions concerning water
discharge temperatures due to high temperatures, despite impacts possible
negative effects on the environment.

A decree published on Saturday in the
Official Journal sets ” new thermal discharge limits applicable to the
reactors of the nuclear power plant of Bugey, Blayais,
Saint-Alban-Saint-Maurice, Golfech and Tricastin “. It is specified that
the implementation of these measures will be “associated with a
reinforced environmental monitoring program”.

Le Figaro 6th Aug 2022

https://www.lefigaro.fr/demain/environnement/nucleaire-des-derogations-environnementales-pour-faire-tourner-5-centrales-20220806

August 8, 2022 Posted by | France, water | Leave a comment

Sizewell C nuclear station approval faces legal challenge

Campaigners have begun a legal challenge against the government’s decision to give the Sizewell C nuclear power station the go-ahead amid warnings that UK nuclear plants will be on the frontline of climate breakdown.

Citing the threat to water supplies in an area officially designated as seriously water stressed, the threats to coastal areas from climate change and environmental damage, the challenge is the first step in a judicial review of the planning consent.

The business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, overruled the independent Planning Inspectorate to grant permission for the new nuclear reactor in Suffolk in July. Kwarteng is pushing ahead with
government plans to approve one new nuclear reactor a year as part of an energy strategy that aims to bolster the UK’s nuclear capacity, with the hope that by 2050 up to 25% of projected energy demand will come from it.

But Sizewell C has faced stiff opposition from local campaigners, and environmental groups both for its cost and the environmental impact. In a letter to Kwarteng outlining their legal challenge Together Against Sizewell C (TASC) argues that the permission by the government for the plant was given unlawfully. Represented by Leigh Day solicitors and supported by Friends of the Earth, the group says there was a failure to assess the implications of the project as a whole, by ignoring the issue of whether a permanent water supply could be secured, a failure to assess the environmental impact of that project and the suggestion that the site would be clear of nuclear material by 2140, which was not upheld by evidence showing highly radioactive waste would have to be stored on site until a much later date.

The Planning Inspectorate had rejected the scheme saying “unless the outstanding water supply strategy can be resolved and sufficient information provided to enable the secretary of state to carry out his obligations under the Habitats Regulations, the case for an order granting development consent for the application is not made out”.

Pete Wilkinson, chair of TASC, said: “The case against Sizewell C is overwhelming, as has been carefully documented throughout the inquiry stage and was found by the planning inspector to have merit. “Even to consider building a £20bn-plus nuclear power plant without first securing a water supply is a measure of the fixation this government has for nuclear power and its panic in making progress towards an energy policy which is as unachievable as it is inappropriate for the 21st-century challenges we
face.”

Guardian 8th Aug 2022

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/aug/08/sizewell-c-nuclear-plant-approval-faces-legal-challenge

August 8, 2022 Posted by | climate change, Legal, opposition to nuclear, UK, water | Leave a comment

Drought may force nuclear power production cut

 https://journalrecord.com/2022/08/05/drought-may-force-nuclear-power-production-cut/ Associated Press August 5, 2022 0

PARIS — French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne warned that France is facing the “most severe drought” ever recorded in the country and announced the activation of a government crisis unit.

The crisis unit will be in charge of monitoring the situation in the hardest-hit areas and coordinate measures like bringing drinking water to some places. It will also monitor the impact of the drought on France’s energy production, transport infrastructure and agriculture.

The drought may force French energy giant EDF to cut power production at nuclear plants which use river water to cool reactors.

France now has 62 regions with restrictions on water usage due to the lack of rain.

Borne said many areas in France are going through a “historic situation” as the country endures its third heatwave this summer.

“The exceptional drought we are currently experiencing is depriving many municipalities of water and is a tragedy for our farmers, our ecosystems and biodiversity,” the statement said.

August 5, 2022 Posted by | climate change, France, water | Leave a comment

A new nuclear power station needs a vast supply of water. But where will Sizewell C get it from?

As one of the driest parts of the country, Suffolk is described by the Environment Agency as “seriously water stressed”. By 2043, eight years into Sizewell C’s 60-year operating life, the agency anticipates a water deficit in the county of more than 7m litres a day.

 https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/jul/27/nuclear-power-station-sizewell-c-water-suffolk William Atkins  28 Jul 2022 Plans for the site have got the go-ahead. The knock-on effect for Suffolk’s rivers and seawater will soon be clear

Last week, the government gave the go-ahead for a new nuclear power station to be developed on the Suffolk coast. Providing low-carbon electricity for about 6m homes, Sizewell C will stand alongside two existing stations, Sizewell B and the decommissioned Sizewell A. I live close enough to see the 60-metre tall, white dome of Sizewell B almost every day. When I want to torture myself, I look at developer EDF’s “construction phase visualisations” of the 1,380-acre building site, with its towering spoil heaps and forest of cranes, and wonder if this is what it will take to save the planet.

What might not have been immediately obvious in the coverage of the government’s decision was that the Planning Inspectorate, tasked with assessing such projects, had recommended that permission be refused. The problem, the examiners explained, was fairly simple: EDF couldn’t say exactly where it would obtain one of the main substances needed to make a nuclear power station work, that substance being water.

As well as uranium, a reactor of the kind EDF plans to build needs water in very great volumes. Saltwater will do for part of the process, which is one reason why nuclear power stations are usually built beside the sea. But fresh or “potable” water will also be needed – first, to cool the two reactors, and then, just as importantly, to cool the irradiated fuel once it has been removed from the reactors. For this, absolutely pure water is essential. Sizewell B uses about 800,000 litres of potable water per day; Sizewell C, with its twin reactors, will need more than 2m litres per day, and as much as 3.5m litres per day during construction.

Last September, during the closing hearings of the six-month public planning examination, the question of just where the developer was going to get the water to run Sizewell C, let alone build it, was becoming urgent. Those who had raised concerns about precisely this issue more than 10 years earlier would have been forgiven for feeling frustrated. As one of the driest parts of the country, Suffolk is described by the Environment Agency as “seriously water stressed”. By 2043, eight years into Sizewell C’s 60-year operating life, the agency anticipates a water deficit in the county of more than 7m litres a day. Northumbrian Water, which operates locally as Essex and Suffolk Water, had made it clear to EDF that there was not enough local groundwater for either construction or operation. EDF’s plan, therefore, was to build a pipeline to bring water from the River Waveney, 18 miles away on the Norfolk border. During at least the first two years of construction, while the pipeline was being built, EDF planned to install a temporary desalination plant on the site to turn saltwater from the sea into fresh.

Then, in August, the water company broke the news that its abstraction licenses dictating how much water it could extract from the Waveney, granted by the Environment Agency, were likely to be reduced by up to 60% to safeguard downstream levels. It subsequently confirmed that the Waveney did not, after all, have the capacity to supply water for for any of the 10-year construction phase.

Desalination, opponents of the project noted, was a solution EDF itself had discounted in January 2021 “due to concerns with power consumption, sustainability, cost and wastewater discharge”. And yet, desalination, with all the problems it had set out (including discharging millions of litres a day of saline concentrate and phosphorus into the North Sea), remains EDF’s “fallback” solution for running the station, as well as building it, if another source can’t be found. Northumbrian Water has since confirmed that: “Existing water resources (including the River Waveney) will not be sufficient to meet forecast mains water demand, including the operational demand of Sizewell C.”

Then, in August, the water company broke the news that its abstraction licenses dictating how much water it could extract from the Waveney, granted by the Environment Agency, were likely to be reduced by up to 60% to safeguard downstream levels. It subsequently confirmed that the Waveney did not, after all, have the capacity to supply water for for any of the 10-year construction phase.

Desalination, opponents of the project noted, was a solution EDF itself had discounted in January 2021 “due to concerns with power consumption, sustainability, cost and wastewater discharge”. And yet, desalination, with all the problems it had set out (including discharging millions of litres a day of saline concentrate and phosphorus into the North Sea), remains EDF’s “fallback” solution for running the station, as well as building it, if another source can’t be found. Northumbrian Water has since confirmed that: “Existing water resources (including the River Waveney) will not be sufficient to meet forecast mains water demand, including the operational demand of Sizewell C.”

The more I look at those mock-ups of the building site, the more they seem like a metaphor for another kind of despoilment. Given the government’s stated intention to build a fleet of new nuclear power stations across the country, it’s not just people who live in Suffolk who have reason to wonder what the secretary of state’s decision to wash his hands of Sizewell C’s water problem says about the resilience of the systems we entrust with safeguarding our environment. Still, the foundations will be laid, I suppose, and the cranes will rise, and after 10 years and £20bn (by EDF’s reckoning), Sizewell C will be built. And when the time comes for its reactors to go critical, there will be water, because if there isn’t, Suffolk will have a new tourist attraction to rival Framlingham Castle: the most expensive white elephant in human history.

What this fait accompli means for Suffolk’s rivers and seawater, let alone for the county’s householders and farmers, are not questions that will be answered before building begins. It’s enlightening, in this context, to consider that the past six months have been the driest in Suffolk for more than a quarter of a century, and the driest in England since 1976.

“The secretary of state disagrees with the examining authority’s conclusions on this matter,” Wednesday’s decision letter states, “and considers that the uncertainty over the permanent water supply strategy is not a barrier to granting consent to the proposed development.” During last year’s planning hearings, two stories kept coming back to me: the biblical account of Moses in the desert, making water gush from a rock by striking it with his staff; and the Brothers Grimm tale in which a giant clasps a stone in his fist, and crushes it until, finally, water is forced out.

 William Atkins is the author of The Immeasurable World: Journeys in Desert Places and The Moor

July 30, 2022 Posted by | UK, water | Leave a comment

Nuclear power is a HUGE water guzzler – so why are we guzzling the lie that nuclear is good for climate?

The video above is 2 years old – but so what? Nothing seems to have changed – this particular facility is especially water-dependent. But they all are. The current article below – is, unfortunately, behind a paywall. But it’s a rare mention in the media of this hugely significan factor in nuclear power problems.

Take France, for example. Right now, nearly half of their nuclear reactors are shut down anyway. But – come the summer – they’ll be shutting down again – due to water stress.

Huge nuclear plant in Arizona desert seeking new sources of water – it uses 23 b gallons of water per year  The Arizona Republic  2 May 22https://www.azcentral.com/restricted/?return=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.azcentral.com%2Fstory%2Fmoney%2Fbusiness%2Fenergy%2F2022%2F05%2F01%2Farizonas-nuclear-palo-verde-generating-station-wants-new-water-source%2F7306649001%2F

May 3, 2022 Posted by | climate change, USA, water | Leave a comment

What to do with closed Massachusetts nuclear plant’s wastewater?

Columbian, By Jennifer McDermott, Associated Press April 9, 2022,

1 million gallons of radioactive water could be discharged into bay, evaporated or trucked elsewhere

One million gallons of radioactive water is inside a former nuclear power plant along Cape Cod Bay, and it has got to go.

But where? And will the state intervene as the company dismantling the plant decides? These are the vexing questions.

Holtec International is considering treating the water and discharging it into the bay, drawing fierce resistance from local residents, shell fishermen and politicians. Holtec is also considering evaporating the contaminated water or trucking it to a facility in another state.

The fight in Massachusetts mirrors a current, heated debate in Japan over a plan to release more than 1 million tons of treated radioactive wastewater into the ocean from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant in spring 2023. A massive tsunami in 2011 crashed into the plant. Three reactors melted down.

Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, Mass., closed in 2019 after nearly half a century providing electricity to the region. U.S. Rep. William Keating, a Democrat whose district includes the Cape, wrote to Holtec with other top Massachusetts lawmakers in January to oppose releasing water into Cape Cod Bay. He asked the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to examine its regulations.

Keating said in late March that Holtec’s handling of the radioactive water could set a precedent because the U.S. decommissioning industry is in its infancy. Most U.S. nuclear plants were built between 1970 and 1990.

Holtec has acquired closed nuclear plants across the country as part of its dismantling business, including the former Oyster Creek Generating Station in New Jersey and Indian Point Energy Center in New York. It’s taking ownership of the Palisades Nuclear Plant on Lake Michigan, which is closing this year.

Pilgrim was a boiling-water reactor. Water constantly circulated through the reactor vessel and nuclear fuel, converting it to steam to spin the turbine. The water was cooled and recirculated, picking up radioactive contamination.

Cape Cod is a tourist hotspot. Having radioactive water in the bay, even low levels, isn’t great for marketing, said Democratic state Rep. Josh Cutler, who represents a district there. Cutler is working to pass legislation to prohibit discharging radioactive material into coastal or inland waters……………….

Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station, another boiling-water reactor, was shut down in Vernon, Vt., in 2014. It’s sending wastewater to disposal specialists in Texas and other states. Entergy operated and sold both Vermont Yankee and Pilgrim. NorthStar, a separate and competing corporation in the decommissioning business, is dismantling Vermont Yankee……………………

Why are people worried?

In Duxbury, Kingston and Plymouth Bays, there are 50 oyster farms — the largest concentration in the state, worth $5.1 million last year, according to the Massachusetts Seafood Collaborative. The collaborative said dumping the water would devastate the industry, and the local economy along with it……………..

Towns on the Cape are trying to prohibit the dispersal of radioactive materials in their waters. Tribal leaders, fishermen, lobstermen and real estate agents have publicly stated their opposition as well…………….

Who gets the final say?

Holtec wouldn’t need a separate approval from the NRC to discharge the water into the bay. However, Holtec would need permission from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency if the water contained pollutants regulated by the Clean Water Act, such as dissolved metals.

If the water contained only radioactive materials regulated by the NRC, Holtec wouldn’t need to ask the EPA for a permit modification, according to the EPA’s water division for New England. Holtec has never given the EPA a pollutant characterization of the water associated with decommissioning, the division’s director said.

Mary Lampert, of Duxbury, is on a panel created by the state to look at issues related to Pilgrim’s decommissioning. She believes the state could use its existing laws and regulations to stop the dumping and plans to press the Massachusetts attorney general to file a preliminary injunction to do so.

The attorney general’s office said it’s monitoring the issue and would take any Clean Water Act violations seriously.

Mary Lampert, of Duxbury, is on a panel created by the state to look at issues related to Pilgrim’s decommissioning. She believes the state could use its existing laws and regulations to stop the dumping and plans to press the Massachusetts attorney general to file a preliminary injunction to do so.

The attorney general’s office said it’s monitoring the issue and would take any Clean Water Act violations seriously. https://www.columbian.com/news/2022/apr/09/what-to-do-with-closed-massachusetts-nuclear-plants-wastewater/

April 11, 2022 Posted by | USA, wastes, water | Leave a comment

Very low Arctic sea ice

 Arctic sea ice has reached its maximum extent for the year, peaking at
14.88m square kilometres (km2) on 25 February. It is the 10th smallest
winter peak in the 44-year satellite record. The provisional data from the
National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) shows that this year’s Arctic
maximum extent was recorded on 25 February – marking the third earliest
maximum in the satellite record. While the past six months have been fairly
uneventful in the Arctic in general, the Earth’s other pole has seen a
record-breaking melt season.

For the first time since the satellite record
began, the Antarctic extent fell below 2m km2 this year. Unusually, the
Arctic winter peak and the Antarctic summer minimum occurred on exactly the
same day.

 Carbon Brief 22nd March 2022

March 24, 2022 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change, water | Leave a comment

Water supply problems for planned £20billion twin reactor on the Suffolk coast

Sizewell C developer EDF is being asked by government whether a temporary
desalination plant could last for the lifetime of the new nuclear power
plant if it is built. The public examination of the plans for the
£20billion twin reactor on the Suffolk coast was told a permanent water
supply for the proposed development had not yet been secured. However, a
temporary desalination plant would run during the construction of the
project.

Kwasi Kwarteng, secretary of state at the Department of Business,
Energy and Industrial Strategy, is now asking EDF what progress has been
made on securing a permanent water supply solution. But he also says: “The
applicant should confirm if it would be possible for the proposed temporary
desalination plant to permanently meet the full water supply demand for the
lifetime of the proposed development should no alternative water supply
solution be identified.”

 East Anglian Daily Times 20th March 2022

https://www.eadt.co.uk/news/business/water-supply-sizewellc-questioned-by-government-8768432

March 22, 2022 Posted by | politics, UK, water | Leave a comment

Precious waters — Tribes file to stop pollution from uranium and other hard rock mines

“The Havasupai Tribe has fought for decades to protect our beautiful water and traditional cultural lands from the harmful effects of uranium mining,”

Tribes file to stop pollution from uranium and other hard rock mines

Precious waters — Beyond Nuclear International Tribes, Indigenous groups, conservation organizations file petition to strengthen federal mining rules, By Earthworks, 7 Nov 21, Tribes, Indigenous groups and conservation organizations filed a rulemaking petition on September 16 with the U.S. Department of the Interior to improve and modernize hardrock mining oversight on public lands. The proposed revisions aim to safeguard critically important lands across the West and Alaska, including sacred lands and their cultural resources, vital wildlife habitat, and invaluable water resources.

“It’s long past time to reform the nation’s hardrock mining rules, end generations of mining-inflicted injustice to Indigenous communities, and chart a new course for public lands stewardship toward a sustainable, clean energy economy,” the petition states. “For far too long, mining companies have had free rein to decimate lands of cultural importance to tribes and public lands at enormous cost to people, wildlife, and these beautiful wild places of historic and cultural significance. The harm is undeniable, severe, and irreparable. Reforming these rules will prevent more damage, help us transition to green infrastructure, and leave a livable planet to future generations.”

The petition seeks to significantly update hardrock mining regulations, a need the Biden administration has also identified, to avoid perpetuating the mining industry’s toxic legacy. Current regulations disproportionately burden Indigenous and other disenfranchised communities with pollution and threaten land, water, wildlife and climate. New mining rules would help protect these resources and minimize the damage from the mineral demands of transitioning to a cleaner energy economy……………

“It is unacceptable for mining companies to evade scrutiny and tribal consultation requirements using outdated regulatory loopholes,” said Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris, Jr. “At this very moment, mining projects in Arizona are threatening the permanent destruction of dozens of sacred sites for the Tohono O’odham Nation and other tribes. That is why the Tohono O’odham Legislative Council has unanimously taken a position in support of righting this historic wrong. The time has come for the federal government to uphold its responsibility in ensuring that sacred lands and waters are properly protected.”

“The Havasupai Tribe has fought for decades to protect our beautiful water and traditional cultural lands from the harmful effects of uranium mining,” said Vice Chairman Matthew Putesoy, Sr. of the Havasupai Tribe. “Each day uranium mining threatens contamination of Havasu Creek, which is the sole water source that provides life to Supai Village, our tribal homeland located at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  Without this precious resource, our Tribe and our homeland will be destroyed. We know that uranium poses a serious and irreversible threat to our survival as a people. This petition is necessary to hold the Department of Interior accountable for meeting its federal trust responsibility and helping to protect our sacred traditional cultural homelands and waters from the harmful and often irreversible effects of mining.”……………….

“We face an existential climate crisis, and must move quickly to convert our infrastructure to support low-carbon energy — but we must do so without replacing dirty oil with dirty mining,” said Lauren Pagel of Earthworks. “The Biden administration has an historic opportunity to confront the legacy of injustice to Indigenous communities and damage to the public lands and waters held in trust for all Americans. Seizing that opportunity requires policies that prioritize metals recycling and reuse over new mining. Where new mining is acceptable, the mining industry must undertake the most responsible methods.”

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the metals mining industry is the single largest source of toxic waste in the United States, and hardrock mines have contaminated an estimated 40% of Western watersheds. Unlike the oil, gas, and coal industries, metal mining companies pay nothing to extract publicly owned minerals from public lands across the West and Alaska.

The Interior Department oversees the regulations governing compliance with federal mining law and other public lands laws. The petition proposes revisions to several mining regulations and includes legal and policy analysis for each proposed improvement.

Overhauling the rules is a critical step toward bringing mining regulations and policy into the 21st century to protect public health and Indigenous and public lands and resources in the West.

Proposed revisions include:
 – Clarifying that the BLM must use its authority to protect tribal and cultural resources and values, wildlife, and water quality and quantity; 
 – Requiring the BLM to verify mining rights;
 – Closing loopholes that allow the mining industry to escape public review and consultation with local tribes and governments

The Interior Department is required to respond to the petition within a reasonable amount of time and indicate whether it will revise the rules. https://beyondnuclearinternational.org/2021/11/07/precious-waters/

November 8, 2021 Posted by | indigenous issues, legal, USA, water | Leave a comment

Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium continue their fight, especially about the effect on their water supply

Rita Capitan has been worrying about her water since 1994. It was that autumn she read a local newspaper article about another uranium mine, the Crownpoint Uranium Project, getting under way near her home. Capitan has
spent her entire life in Crownpoint, New Mexico, a small town on the eastern Navajo Nation, and is no stranger to the uranium mining that has persisted in the region for decades.

But it was around the time the article was published that she began learning about the many risks associated with
uranium mining. “We as community members couldn’t just sit back and watch another company come in and just take what is very precious to us. And that is water – our water,” Capitan said.

To this effect, Capitan and her husband, Mitchell, founded Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining (Endaum). The group’s fight against uranium mining on their homeland has continued for nearly three decades, despite the industry’s disastrous health and environmental impacts being public knowledge for years.

 Guardian 27th Oct 2021

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/oct/27/human-rights-group-uranium-contamination-navajo-nation

October 30, 2021 Posted by | indigenous issues, USA, water | Leave a comment

Problems and public opposition to the plan to store high level nuclear wastes under the Great Lakes

Nuclear Question: Debate continues over long-term storage of nuclear waste in the Great Lakes. Great Lakes Now, By Andrew Reeves, 25 Oct 21,

Canada’s plan to store spent nuclear fuel 1,600 feet below ground in the Great Lakes basin, some 30 miles from Lake Huron, is continuing to ruffle feathers throughout the Great Lake states.

Earlier this month, U.S. lawmakers called out the Canadian plan for failing to prioritize the health of the Great Lakes and the 40 million residents who depend on it for clean drinking water ahead of its own energy needs.

Michigan Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee is leading a 20-member bipartisan group calling on President Joe Biden to pressure Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to halt the plans for storing an anticipated 57,000 tons of high-level radioactive material within the basin.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, in a statement on the ongoing legal battle over the future of Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline, accused the Canadian federal government of “adding even more risk to our waters” by allowing plans to store radioactive nuclear waste in a 1,400-acre underground warehouse to proceed.

Yet despite concerns within the basin from politicians and environmental groups, and unrest among local farmers worried about water contamination and potentially tanking property values, the project is moving ahead as planned. Geologic testing at one location in southern Ontario began this spring.

Even so, determining the long-term fate of Canada’s spent nuclear fuel remains far from settled as rifts develop within the host community, and between Canada and frustrated U.S. lawmakers.

“There’s a divide taking place,” Canadian Member of Parliament Brian Masse noted on a recent tour of the proposed South Bruce site with concerned residents. “I do believe there needs to be some responsibility taken on a federal level to make sure our communities aren’t broken in this process.”………

When spent nuclear fuel bundles are removed from a reactor they are currently interred in a water-filled pool for up to seven years until radioactivity decreases. From there the rods are relocated to dry storage containers made of 20-inch-thick, high-density concrete lined with steel half an inch thick. These storage facilities have a lifespan of roughly 50 years, and Canada has been generating nuclear power since the early 1960s. While the dry storage silos can be refurbished to extend their use, it does nothing to address the long-term need for safe storage solutions.

Experts at NWMO settled on a deep geological repository as the preferred storage option in 2007 after three years of discussion with European nuclear engineers.

The basic premise of the DGR is deceptively simple: bury the spent fuel. If NWMO could identify a willing host community that is situated in an area with suitable geology, the stage would be set to spend $23 billion over 40 years to construct a massive underground labyrinth of tunnels bored into rock that, in total, would be capable of storing the 57,000 tons of spent fuel that Canada currently has in cement-encased copper canisters. The aboveground footprint of buildings would be little more than a mile across.

But the question remains: Where should three million bundles of spent nuclear fuel be stored for what is, essentially, the rest of time?

Identifying a willing host community

The process for identifying a willing host community began in 2008.

From an initial pool of 22 potential locations across Canada, on-site investigations quickly whittled that list down to two, both of which are in Ontario: South Bruce, at a location some 30 miles from Lake Huron, and Ignace in northwestern Ontario. (The Ignace location, northwest of Lake Superior, is not within the Great Lakes basin; rather, it sits within the Winnipeg River basin. Borehole drilling to determine the suitability of the bedrock beneath the proposed site began in Ignace in 2017.)…………

U.S. lawmakers aren’t the only ones concerned about the proposed DGR. Public opposition to the proposal among South Bruce residents has been mounting steadily. …………. https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2021/10/storage-nuclear-waste-great-lakes/

October 26, 2021 Posted by | Canada, wastes, water | Leave a comment

Questions over water supply for the new £20billion nuclear plant for Sizewell, UK

 A regional water supplier is scrambling to work out how to provide enough
water if Sizewell C is approved, after the Environment Agency proposed a
large cut to the amount it can take from the River Waveney. EDF, the
company behind plans for the new £20billion nuclear plant, insisted today
it had a “clear and deliverable” strategy for its water supply.

 Ipswich Star 7th Oct 2021

https://www.ipswichstar.co.uk/news/business/sizewell-c-questions-over-water-supply-8392154

October 12, 2021 Posted by | UK, water | Leave a comment