The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Hanford cars, supposedly clean, but testing positive for radiation

Hanford cars deemed clean, test positive for radiation, A Hanford employee was told their family car filter was clean, but an independent scientist determined it tested positive for radiation.  Susannah Frame, February 21, 2018

A veteran worker of the Hanford nuclear site has learned that a car filter removed and tested by a scientist in Boston came up contaminated with the radioactive isotope of americium 241. The worker’s car had been deemed “clean” in surveys conducted in December and February by the Hanford government contractor, CH2M Hill.

“I’m just stunned. I’m angry, but that goes without saying. Now I wonder, ‘How far has it gone? Did I take it home? How long has this been going on?’” said the worker who did not want to be identified for fear of retaliation.

The worker’s filter was one of two that tested positive for the dangerous element, said the principal investigator, Dr. Marco Kaltofen of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Nuclear Science and Engineering Program near Boston. Kaltofen is also a Hanford expert.

Five filters total were collected by the Seattle-based watchdog groupHanford Challenge, and sent to Kaltofen. The two that came up with radioactive isotopes had previously been declared free of contamination, said Tom Carpenter, executive director of Hanford Challenge.

“Americium is a rare radioactive element, and does not belong in anybody’s engine compartment,” said Carpenter. “The fact that vehicles were checked and released to these workers, only to find that they were still contaminated, raises disturbing questions about the credibility of Hanford’s program.”

“The kind of materials we’re talking about at Hanford are suspected to cause cancer or known to cause cancer. A person’s personal car shouldn’t contain radio-isotopes for weapons manufacturing. That’s pretty simple,” said Kaltofen.

Americium is a radioactive material used in the production of plutonium for nuclear bombs at Hanford from World War II through the Cold War. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), americium-241 emits alpha particles “poses a significant risk if enough is swallowed or inhaled. Once in the body…it generally stays in the body for decades and continues to expose the surrounding tissues to radiation. This may eventually increase a person’s chance of developing cancer.”

“I’ve driven to Oregon and others have taken their cars out of state. We have no idea how far we’ve spread (radioactive matter),” said the worker with americium on the car filter.

The US Dept. of Energy, which owns Hanford, and its contractor CH2M Hill, have been plagued with a spread of radioactive particles from a demolition project that was supposed to be completed by September 2017. Instead, the project to take down the historic and lethally contaminated Plutonium Finishing Plant (PFP) is on hold as Hanford officials try to find ways to continue the work in a safe manner………..

Since June, the Dept. of Energy reports that 41 PFP workers have tested positive for internal contamination. Forty-three more test results are yet to be returned. In the December loss of control of radiation, 27 government-owned vehicles were found to have contamination on them in addition to the seven private cars.

The PFP is where the Hanford workforce produced plutonium “buttons” throughout the Cold War for use in building nuclear warheads. Since 1989 the Hanford site has been a cleanup operation only that costs taxpayers approximately $2 billion a year.


February 22, 2018 Posted by | radiation, USA | Leave a comment

Japan Post’s delivery vehicles to measure radiation in Fukushima, JIJI   Japan Post Co. and the Fukushima Prefectural Government have signed a comprehensive partnership agreement that includes a plan for it to measure radiation in areas tainted by the 2011 nuclear disaster.

“The agreement is very assuring, as we will be able to receive support for efforts on the safety and security of the region,” Gov. Masao Uchibori said during the signing ceremony at the prefecture’s office on the same day.

It is the 15th time the unit of Japan Post Holdings Co. has concluded an agreement with a prefectural government.

Under the plan, Japan Post’s delivery minivehicles will be equipped with radiation gauges. Data will be collected automatically and wirelessly transmitted to the prefectural government. The prefecture’s coast was heavily damaged by the March 2011 mega-quake and tsunami, while much larger parts of it were contaminated by radiation by the subsequent core meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, run by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.

In addition, the two parties agreed that posters to promote Fukushima goods will be put up at post offices in areas around Tokyo, in Fukushima and five other prefectures in the Tohoku region.

Japan Post’s delivery staff will also alert the prefectural government and others when several days’ worth of newspapers are seen accumulating outside of the homes of elderly people, and when damage to roads is observed.

“We will provide maximum assistance for Fukushima Prefecture’s revitalization,” said Kunio Yokoyama, president of Japan Post.

February 17, 2018 Posted by | environment, Fukushima continuing, radiation | Leave a comment

Research into low dose radiation – a very complex issue

A better direction for low-dose radiation research, BAS, Jan Beyea 12 Feb 18, 

With bipartisan support, the US House Science, Space, and Technology Committee recently passed a bill to revitalize low-dose radiation research. The bill, which would authorize an estimated $96 million in funding, has also garnered support from researchers and groups with opposing views on the seriousness of effects of ionizing radiation in the low-dose region, defined as being below 100 millisieverts—roughly the amount of radiation from 10 CT scans.

Studies of excess cancers among survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings have estimated a 1 percent increase in long-term cancer risk for adults receiving a dose of 100 millisieverts (the risk is higher for children), with the risk below that level declining in proportion to the dose. However, stakeholders and researchers with different hypotheses continue to debate whether or not downward extrapolation by dose magnitude—the “linear no-threshold” model deemed most reasonable by a National Research Council committee of experts—is the best way to estimate risk. ……

The hope of many supporters of the proposed legislation, voiced by Rep. Roger Marshall, a Kansas Republican, is that it may assist “the development of nuclear energy opportunities,” in part by reducing the size of nuclear plant evacuation zones. The bill’s supporters presume that the finding of a threshold or hormesis region would demonstrate that the existing linear no-threshold model is an over-protection that, as Northwestern University radiation biologist Gayle E. Woloschak wrote in a letter of support for the bill, “may be wastefully expensive and deplete funds that could be used for other strategic goals for the nation.”

Past research by the Energy Department to upend the linear model has failed to fulfill that dream, finding health effects below 100 millisieverts from even protracted exposures.  There is so much existing epidemiological data from exposed workers, patients receiving medical diagnostics, and residents living around the Soviet nuclear complex—as well as the Japanese atomic bombing survivors—that new research, whatever it shows, will need to be interpreted in the light of all the evidence.

That will likely leave stakeholders and experts debating for a long time, and the public confused.

Inherent uncertainty. New radiation research is likely to carry uncertainties, which means government policy must be conservative in its choice of the best dose-response model to use. Why is it difficult to tease out risks at low doses? Individual risks from medical diagnostics and from the (fortunately) limited releases of radioactivity at Fukushima are generally low under the linear extrapolation model. They are small compared with background disease rates, challenging epidemiological methods. The difficulty of finding effects among background cancers is actually good news for exposed individuals. However, the social risk is sufficiently large to justify keeping doses as low as reasonably achievable and balancing risks against benefits.

My colleagues and I call radiological events “reverse lotteries”: The individual risk of drawing a cancer-causing “ticket” from an event such as the Fukushima meltdowns is small, but because so many people are part of the lottery, real people do get impacted when they draw losing tickets.

Prospective risks and retrospective risks are perceived differently. If I learned that my family and I had already been exposed to a 1-in-1,000 cancer risk, I would be angry, but I would realize that the odds were highly in our favor; none of us would likely be injured. However, if you asked me to relocate to contaminated land where my children would be exposed to a 1-in-1,000 chance of cancer, I would want to stay away unless there were major benefits associated with the move, or if I thought I couldn’t afford to do otherwise. Risk tradeoffs are personal, and families can be painfully split on the best decision, as happened at Fukushima………

February 14, 2018 Posted by | radiation, Reference, USA | Leave a comment

Radiation still a stumbling block to space travel

NASA lecture: Radiation still a stumbling block to space travel Daily Press, Tamara Dietrich Contact Reporter, Senior Reporter, 4 Feb 18   The dream of exploring deep space has sparked the imagination for generations, but it always runs up against one cold, hard reality: radiation.

Simply put, exposure to space radiation during a long mission or while exploring a place like Mars increases the likelihood of an astronaut dying from cancer.

Yes, astronauts are willing to take some risks, but within reason, said John Norbury, lead research physicist in the Space Radiation Group at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton.

According to the American Cancer Society, the average American male stands a roughly 22 percent chance of dying from cancer in his lifetime; an American woman, just under 19 percent.

“It’s not a do-or-die situation,” Norbury said. “It’s, rather, how much does the risk of dying from cancer increase on a mission?”……….

Senior research physicist Sheila Thibeault said “Radiation in space is much, much, much more hazardous than on Earth, so this is a space problem. And it’s a very challenging problem to try to figure out how we’re going to get astronauts to Mars and back safely. And how to get astronauts to the moon and stay there for a while and get back.” ……..

Prolonged exposure doesn’t just increase one’s lifetime cancer risk, but can cause serious acute health effects.

Here on this planet, we’re largely protected from most solar and cosmic particles by the Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field. That magnetic field also offers some protection to crews in low-Earth orbit aboard the International Space Station……..


February 5, 2018 Posted by | radiation, technology, USA | Leave a comment

Ambiguous results in research into cellphones and health

Cellphone radiation study finds mixed effects in rodents without clear implications for human health, WP,  February 2  2018

The long-awaited results of a $25 million National Institutes of Health study on the effects of cellphone radio frequency radiation exposure on animals is out, and the results are mixed. They showed a higher risk of tumors, DNA or tissue damage and lower body weight in some groups of rodents, but no obvious ill effect in others and no clear implications for human health.

John Bucher, a senior scientist involved in the 10-year study, was cautious in his interpretation of the results in a conference call with journalists on Friday. Given the inconsistent pattern of the findings, the fact that the subjects were rats and mice rather than people and the high level of radiation used, he said he could not extrapolate from the data to potential health effects on humans.

“At this point we don’t feel that we understand enough about the results to place a huge degree of confidence in the findings,” he said.

Bucher also said “I have not changed the way I use a cellphone, no.”

The study by the National Toxicology Program is believed to be the most comprehensive assessment of the health effects of such radiation on rats and mice and involved 3,000 test animals. A draft report was released on Friday for public comment and peer review, in advance of an external expert review on March 26-28. Among other things, reviewers will examine whether some of the results might be statistical noise.

The issue of cellphone radiation’s impact on human health is one that has been hotly debated for years. In 2010, the Federal Communications Commission came under fire after it dropped a long-standing recommendation that consumers buy phones with lower radiation emissions. In 2015, the city council in Berkeley, Calif., approved a disclosure ordinance that directed sellers to let buyers know of the risk of carrying devices too close to their bodies. The CTIA, which represents the wireless industry, has sued, saying the warnings are “ill-informed” and violates retailers’ First Amendment rights.

The strongest finding in the new study involved male rats — but not female rats or male or female mice — which developed tumors in the nerves surrounding their hearts. Researchers also saw increases in damage to heart tissue in both male and female rats. If these results are confirmed, Bucher said, they appear to suggest this type of radiation could be a “weak” carcinogen.

The male rat tumors were so-called malignant schwannomas. Based on limited research that shows a potentially elevated risk of schwannomas near the brain in people, the International Agency for Research on Cancer lists radio-frequency fields as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

The new NIH study showed tumors in rats and mice in other parts of the body — the brain, prostate, liver and pancreas — but the scientists said it was unclear if these were related to the radiation. …….

February 3, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, radiation | Leave a comment

Potential of yeast to stop leakage of radioactive material

Hardcore yeast’ could be the solution to nuclear waste, January 29, 2018   As we inch ever-closer to nuclear apocalypse, there may be good news for the inevitable radioactive waste: Scientists have discovered that to stop contamination from spreading, the solution could be as simple as yeast.

In a study published earlier this month, researchers discovered that yeasts are surprisingly capable of withstanding radioactive and acidic conditions, like those that would follow a nuclear detonation. A species of yeast called Rhodotorula taiwanensis can even form a type of shield, called a biofilm, to stop radioactivity from spreading. The reddish fungus — which Popular Science dubs “hardcore yeast” — was originally found in an abandoned acid mine in Maryland, and it has even proved more effective in halting radioactive spread than a microbe that researchers nicknamed “Conan the Bacterium” for its resistance to radiation.

“The potential for yeast is enormous,” said the study’s co-author Michael Daly. He and other researchers are hoping to use their newfound fungal ally to stop the leakage of Cold War-era nuclear waste, which is stored at 120 sites around the country. The largest of these, the Hanford Site in southeastern Washington, houses more than 50 million gallons of nuclear byproduct — and has contaminated 10,000 football fields’ worth of soil since it was used to assemble the first atomic bombs during the Manhattan Project.

But with the mighty yeast on their side, these scientists are hopeful that they can contain the dangerous waste. Read more at Popular ScienceShivani Ishwar

January 31, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, radiation, safety | Leave a comment

Britain’s Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) wants to increase its radiation releases by over 2,000 per cent.

Morning Star 27th Jan 2018, Fury as scandal-hit nuclear agency demands 23-fold radiation emissions
increase. CAMPAIGNERS have gone nuclear after the Atomic Weapons
Establishment (AWE) applied this week to increase radiation output from its
Berkshire site by over 2,000 per cent.

AWE, which produces Trident nuclear warheads, had two sites placed in renewed special measures last August over
safety concerns. Now the company is asking the Environment Agency to raise
the 4.4 megabecquerel radiation limit to 100MBq for tests it claims will
help counter nuclear terrorism.

But the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
(CND) said it was nuclear proliferation that increases chances of dangerous
material falling into hostile hands. The group also sounded the alarm over
the risk to public health. CND radiation expert Ian Fairlie said: “While
radiation amounts appear relatively low in the application, they represent
a 23-fold increase. If radiation is released into the water supply in
spikes, this could present a danger.”

January 29, 2018 Posted by | radiation, UK, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Nuclear medicine doctors need protection from genetic damage from radiation

Radiation damage to any cells but the reproductive organs. Genetic damage. Damage to the reproductive cells. Birth defects may result.

Genetic damage from radiation highlights need to protect physicians in cath lab, Cardiovascular Business, Jan 12, 2018 | Daniel Allar A pair of studies published in October added to the growing literature on the harmful effects of radiation exposure to interventional cardiologists in the cath lab.

January 27, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, radiation | Leave a comment

UK’s Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) wants to raise permissable levels of radiation release

AWE bids for ‘more realistic’ nuclear terrorism tests licence, The UK’s nuclear warhead factory is bidding for a licence change to run “more realistic” tests in preparation for “nuclear terrorism”.

The Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) in Berkshire wants to raise levels of radiation it can release from its site……..

January 26, 2018 Posted by | politics, radiation, UK | Leave a comment

Workers demolishing Hanford’s Plutonium Finishing Plant still vulnerable to airborne radiation

Hanford radioactive monitoring not protecting workers, By Annette Cary, Tri-City Herald,  January 25, 2018 New test results show that monitoring for airborne radioactive contamination has not protected Hanford nuclear reservation workers as the site’s highly contaminated Plutonium Finishing Plant is demolished.

Two more Hanford workers have inhaled or ingested small amounts of airborne radioactive material, with tests for 180 workers still pending, according to the Department of Energy.

The most recent results were for the first 91 workers who requested testing after a spread of radioactive material was discovered in mid-December.

In addition, air samples collected and analyzed at sites outside the demolition zone around the plant show that airborne radioactive contamination was not found in 2017 by other monitoring methods meant to more quickly warn of a potential danger to workers.

A memo with the latest results for both checks for radioactive contamination of workers and for air monitoring results was sent to Hanford workers Wednesday afternoon by Doug Shoop, manager of the DOE Hanford Richland Operations Office.

In one case, airborne contamination that appeared to be linked to demolition of the plant was found about 10 miles away, near the K Reactors along the Columbia River, workers were told. The finding follows an earlier discovery of airborne contamination in June at the Rattlesnake Barricade, a secure entrance to Hanford just off public Highway 240……..

January 26, 2018 Posted by | health, radiation, USA | Leave a comment

Space travel damages astronauts’eyes

How does space travel affect the eye? Astronauts’ retinal nerves found damaged after months in orbit

The finding comes as Nasa continues to prepare for missions to Mars and beyond. By Shubham Sharma, As Nasa continues to prepare for manned deep-space missions to Mars and beyond, a new study has highlighted a major concern for the agency – the affect of long-term space travel on astronauts’ retinal nerves, which ultimately degrades their ability to see.Nearly 50% of astronauts report cases of vision impairment after spending a prolonged time in space, sometimes months or maybe years after returning to Earth. The cases vary from person to person but the new study, published in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology and reported by Live Science, factors something that could be the key trigger for these problems.

After studying pre- and post-flight optical scans of 15 astronauts who had spent around six months in space, researchers noted a significant change in their optic nerves, the delicate transmitter that takes visual information from the retina to the vision centres of the brain, helping a person register what they see.

As per the report, the analysis of Bruch membrane openings, the gaps at the back of the eyeball through which these nerves travel, revealed that their delicate tissues were significantly swollen and warped.

The critical damage was noted weeks after the astronauts’ return to Earth and has been touted as the first direct observational evidence that highlights the critical effect of long-term space travel on optic nerves. Some of the study subjects already had vision-related problems but the patterns in the deformity could not be ignored.

Though the actual cause of this condition remains unknown, the researchers believe it could be due to the difference between normal and cosmic pressures. According to them, when astronauts reach space, the pressure increases and the eyes take their time to adjust to that change. However, when they come back to Earth, the pressure goes down suddenly, which the eyes fail to deal with.

As of now, it cannot be said for certain if this is the exact reason, but whatever it may be, Nasa will have to study this problem carefully before going ahead with its deep-space missions. The success of any manned program, whether to the Moon, Mars or any other distant planet, will depend on astronauts and how they react to changes in their surroundings several thousand kilometres away from Earth.

January 24, 2018 Posted by | health, radiation, technology, USA | Leave a comment

Wild boar in Sweden have record radiation levels – legacy of Chernobyl nuclear disaster

Record radiation levels found in Swedish wild boar,   The Local, , @thelocalsweden, 23 January 2018

January 24, 2018 Posted by | environment, radiation, Sweden | Leave a comment

Radiation problems at Hanford Plutonium Finishing Plant – 100 workers moved to new offices

100 Hanford workers moving to new offices after radiation confusion, Tri City Herald, BY ANNETTE CARY,  19 Jan 18, One hundred workers are being moved out of the trailer village of offices at the Hanford nuclear reservation’s Plutonium Finishing Plant.

January 20, 2018 Posted by | radiation, USA | Leave a comment

Long-Term Exposure to Low-Dose Radiation and Cancer: Dr. David Richardson at the Hiroshima Peace Institute (EN & JP)


The initiation of the Manhattan project in 1943 marked the emergence of the discipline of health physics and an expansion of research on the health effects of ionizing radiation. The health effects of occupational exposure to radiation were viewed from different perspectives by different members of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). There were those with immediate concerns and a focus on issues related to wartime production and health effects which were definite biological changes which are immediately evident or are of prognostic importance to health. Others had an interest in a more general understanding the effects of radiation on human health, including long term and genetic consequences. There were also managerial concerns, which persist today; Stafford Warren, medical director of the program, encouraged health research to help strengthen the government’s interest in case of lawsuits or demands for workers’ compensation. These concerns motivated a large scale epidemiological program of research on nuclear workers. Beginning in the mid-1980’s, numerous publications on cancer among workers at nuclear facilities appeared, mostly in the US and UK. Risk estimates from individual studies were uncertain, with wide confidence intervals; and, positive associations between radiation and cancer were observed in some, but not all cohorts. To summarize results across studies and improve statistical precision, pooling projects were undertaken. This lecture reviews the history of these pooled studies and then presents results from the most recent, largest, and most informative of these analyses, known as INWORKS. This is a combined study of 308,297 nuclear workers from the United Kingdom, France, and the United States of America. Quantitative results are presented and the strengths and limitations of INWORKS are discussed. (Lecture at Hiroshima Peace Institute, 30 November 2017)

January 19, 2018 Posted by | radiation | , , , | Leave a comment

The Bioaccumulation of contamination in plankton

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Quote (emphasis added) “Page 59. The problem of radioactive particles falling into the ocean raises the question of their availability to this portion of the biosphere. Plankton normally found in sea water are consumed in large quantities by fish.
These plankton concentrate mineral elements from the water, and it has been found that radioactivity may be concentrated (Page 60) in this manner by as much as a thousand fold. Thus, for example, one gram of plankton could contain a thousand times as much radioactivity as a gram of water adjacent to it. The radioactivity from these plankton which form a portion of fish diet tends to concentrate in the liver of the fish, and, if sufficiently high levels of contamination are encountered, could have a marked effect upon the ecology of an ocean area.
end quote

January 18, 2018 Posted by | radiation | , , | Leave a comment