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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Illinois nuclear reactors – continuing rdaioactive leaks

Problems persist a decade after discovery of chronic radioactive leaks Chicago Sun Times, 11/19/2017, Brett Chase and Madison Hopkins | Better Government Association More than a decade after the discovery of chronic leaks led to national outrage, a $1.2 million government settlement and a company vow to guard against future accidents, an investigation by a government watchdog group found.

Since 2007, there have been at least 35 reported leaks, spills or other accidental releases in Illinois of water contaminated with radioactive tritium, a byproduct of nuclear power production and a carcinogen at high levels, a Better Government Association review of federal and state records shows.

No fines were issued for the accidents, all of which were reported by the company.

The most recent leak of 35,000 gallons occurred over two weeks in May and June at Exelon’s Braidwood plant, southwest of Chicago. The same facility was the focus of a community panic in the mid-2000s after a series of accidents stirred debate over the safety of aging nuclear plants.

A 2014 incident at Exelon’s Dresden facility in Grundy County involved the release of about 500,000 gallons of highly radioactive water. Contamination was later found in the plant’s sewer lines and miles away in the Morris, Ill., sewage treatment plant……..

Industry watchdogs and government whistleblowers contend oversight is compromised by a cozy relationship between companies and the NRC.

Government regulators concede they must balance the safety needs of aging plants, which require more maintenance, versus ordering cost-prohibitive upgrades at facilities that inherently are just a slip-up away from catastrophe.

No player in the nuclear industry is bigger than Exelon, the Chicago-based energy company that last year reported $31 billion in revenue and operates 14 nuclear plants in Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Five of the six Illinois plants reported leaks over the last decade, records show. Clinton, in DeWitt County, had no leaks and Byron, in Ogle County, reported only one that contained low levels of radioactivity…….

At least seven of the 35 documented accidents since 2007 involved contamination of groundwater. Other contamination was found in sewers and other water systems where it isn’t supposed to be………

The BGA investigation also found:

  • Of the 35 documented incidents, 27 occurred at Dresden. Following the big 2014 leak, which emanated from an aboveground storage tank, Exelon asked a state inspector whether the public would have access to the incident report under open records laws, a state report showed.
  • An NRC report on the 2007 Quad Cities leak noted radiation levels went “well beyond that seen anywhere else in the industry” and that plant staff estimated the leak had been active for years before it was discovered.
  • In 2010, Exelon’s Marseilles generating plant in LaSalle County reported a spill from a storage tank, initially estimated at more than 150 gallons but later classified as “unknown.” Groundwater tritium tests later showed levels 59 times the EPA’s drinking water limit. Exelon said no tritium left the plant’s boundaries, but records show plant workers continued to monitor a body of highly contaminated groundwater sitting on plant property at least five years after the accident.
  • In 2009, Dresden reported another hole in a storage tank led to a leak of as much as 272,000 gallons of radioactive water. Onsite groundwater testing showed levels of tritium 160 times higher than allowed under federal standards for drinking water.

This story was provided to The Associated Press by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Better Government Association of Chicago: http://www.bettergov.org   https://chicago.suntimes.com/news/investigation-radioactive-leaks-at-illinois-nuclear-plants/

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November 19, 2017 Posted by | incidents, USA | Leave a comment

Illinois nuclear stations continuing to leak radioactively

Probe Finds Ongoing Radioactive Leaks at Illinois Nuclear Plants VOA News, 17 Nov 17Radioactive waste continues to pour from Exelon’s Illinois nuclear power plants more than a decade after the discovery of chronic leaks led to national outrage, a $1.2 million government settlement and a company vow to guard against future accidents, an investigation by a government watchdog group found.

Since 2007, there have been at least 35 reported leaks, spills or other accidental releases in Illinois of water contaminated with radioactive tritium, a byproduct of nuclear power production and a carcinogen at high levels, a Better Government Association review of federal and state records shows.

No fines were issued for the accidents, all of which were self-reported by the company.

The most recent leak of 35,000 gallons (132,000 liters) occurred over two weeks in May and June at Exelon’s Braidwood plant, southwest of Chicago. The same facility was the focus of a community panic in the mid-2000s after a series of accidents stirred debate over the safety of aging nuclear plants.

A 2014 incident at Exelon’s Dresden facility in Grundy County involved the release of about 500,000 gallons (1,900,000 liters) of highly radioactive water. Contamination was later found in the plant’s sewer lines and miles away in the Morris, Illinois, sewage treatment plant.

Another leak was discovered in 2007 at the Quad Cities plant in Cordova. It took eight months to plug and led to groundwater radiation readings up to 375 times of that allowed under federal safe drinking water standards.

Exelon had threatened to close the Quad Cities plant, but relented last year after Gov. Bruce Rauner signed bailout legislation authorizing big rate hikes……..

David Lochbaum, an analyst with the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists, says “Leaks aren’t supposed to happen. Workers and the public could be harmed. There is a hazard there.”

Among the 61 nuclear power plants operating in the U.S., more than half have reactors that are at or near the end of their originally expected lifespans — including the Dresden and Quad Cities plants.

November 17, 2017 Posted by | incidents, USA | Leave a comment

False information tweeted by US military command error – upset North Korea

World War 3: US military command ‘ERROR’ sent North Korea ‘false nuclear arsenal’ info
US MILITARY command tweeted false information about its nuclear arsenal sparking fears of an escalation from paranoid North Korea.
 Express UK, By TARYN TARRANT-CORNISHAn article that falsely boasted of “secret” US silos and B-1 bombers that can drop nuclear warheads was quickly debunked by experts online.

It is feared this move could lead to a catastrophic escalation of tensions with a military force seeming to confirm Pyongyang’s suspicions that B-1s can carry nukes, Asian security expert Van Jackson has warned.

The article that US Strategic Command shared said: “The USS Kentucky is part of what is called the ‘nuclear triad’.

“The triad are the three components of a nuclear defence system: land-based missiles fired from secret silos, B-1 bombers that can drop them from the air, and submarine launched ballistic missiles.” This could provoke a retaliation from North Korea next time the US flies a B-1 bomber over the Korean peninsula, it is feared.

Nuclear expert Vipin Narang said: “What the hell guys. Secret silos and B-1s? Don’t spread false information through the official handle.”….https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/880181/North-Korea-nuclear-weapons-Twitter-USA-Kim-Jong-un-World-War-3

November 16, 2017 Posted by | incidents, USA | Leave a comment

Series of incidents, with safety significance, at French nuclear power plant

Sortir du Nucleaire 31st Oct 2017, France: Gravelines: Cooling problems and temperature rise, 4 incidents in
less than 3 weeks The plant operator has just declared 2 new incidents
significant for safety. These events, which took place on October 20 and
21, 2017, bring to 4 the number of level 1 events declared since the
beginning of the month and enrich a series that is worrying.
http://www.sortirdunucleaire.org/France-Gravelines-Problemes-de-refroidissement-et-montee-en-temperature-4-incidents-en-moins-de-3-semaines

November 4, 2017 Posted by | France, incidents | Leave a comment

Collapsed tunnel at North Korea nuclear weapons site – report of hundreds killed

Hundreds killed at North Korea nuclear base: Report http://www.news.com.au/world/asia/hundreds-killed-at-north-korea-nuclear-base-report/news-story/455c8b425e9fa6df84bb07384f28f6ee  AT LEAST 200 people have reportedly died at Kim Jong-un’s nuclear test site, and there are fears of a radioactive leak. A TUNNEL at an underground North Korea nuclear site has collapsed with up to 200 people killed, according to reports.

The collapse happened at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in the northeast of the country on October 10, according to Japan’s TV Asahi.  The disaster has prompted fears of a massive radioactive leak which could spark a Chernobyl- or Fukushima-style disaster, The Sun reported.

A North Korean official said the collapse happened during the construction of an underground tunnel, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reports.

Some 100 people are said to have been trapped by the initial tunnel collapse, with a further 100 lost in a second collapse during a rescue operation, Asahi reported.

Lee Eugene, a spokeswoman at South Korea’s unification ministry, said: “We are aware of the report but do not know anything about it.”

The accident is believed to have been caused by Kim Joing-un’s sixth nuclear test which weakened the mountain, according to the report.  It was reported earlier this year that the mountain under which the base is believed to be hidden was at risk of collapsing and leaking radiation into the region.

Experts said if the peak crumbles, clouds of radioactive dust and gas would blanket the region, the South China Morning Post reported.

The Punggye-ri test site is carved deep into the side of Mount Mantap.  Geophysicist Wen Lianxing and his team at the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, Anhui province, said they were “confident” underground detonations were occurring underneath the mountain.

They posted an analysis of data collected from more than 100 seismic monitoring sites across China.

This has narrowed down the location of Pyongyang’s nuclear tests with a margin of error of just 100m. They’ve all been under the same mountain.

Seismic data showed the underground test triggered an earthquake of magnitude 6.3, around 10 times more powerful than the fifth test a year ago.

Satellite images showed the blast caused numerous landslides around the Punggye-ri test site, according to the Washington-based 38 North monitoring project.

But Chinese nuclear weapons researcher and chair of the China Nuclear Society Wang Naiyan told the Morning Post a collapse could spark a major environmental disaster.

He said: “We call it ‘taking the roof off’. If the mountain collapses and the hole is exposed, it will let out many bad things.

“A 100 kiloton bomb is a relatively large bomb. The North Korean government should stop the tests as they pose a huge threat not only to North Korea but to other countries, especially China.”

Satellite photos taken just a day after the blast reveal new gravel and scree fields shaken loose by the blasts at an elevation of about 2205m.

Analysts said these appeared more numerous and widespread than those caused by previous detonations — which would be in keeping with the increased size of the bomb.

Wang said there are limited mountains in North Korea that are “suitable” to conduct a nuclear test.

He said if the North had simply drilled into the side of the mountain, this increased the risk of “blowing the top off”.

News of the tunnel collapse comes after it emerged Russia and the US have both flown nuclear bombers near the country as tensions grow over Kim’s nuke threats.

Nuclear devices are often tested underground to prevent radioactive material released in the explosion reaching the surface and contaminating the environment.

This method also ensures a degree of secrecy.

A test site is carefully geologically surveyed to ensure suitability — usually in a place well away from population centres.

The nuclear device is placed into a drilled hole or tunnel usually between 200-800m below the surface, and several metres wide.

A lead-lined canister containing monitoring equipment is lowered into the shaft above the chamber.

The hole is then plugged with gravel, sand, gypsum and other fine materials to contain the explosion and fallout underground.

The release of radiation from an underground nuclear explosion — an effect known as “venting” — would give away clues to the technical composition and size of a country’s device.

November 2, 2017 Posted by | incidents, North Korea, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Drug use by British navy sailors on nuclear Trident submarine

British navy sailors on nuclear Trident submarine fired after failing drug tests, ABC News, 29 Oct 17,  Britain’s navy has fired nine sailors serving on a nuclear-armed submarine after they tested positive for cocaine, the country’s defence ministry says.

The crew were from HMS Vigilant, one of four Royal Navy submarines which operate the Trident nuclear missile system.

“We do not tolerate drugs misuse by service personnel. Those found to have fallen short of our high standards face being discharged from service,” a Royal Navy spokesman said.

The Daily Mail newspaper reported that the sailors had failed drugs tests while the submarine was docked in the United States to pick up nuclear warheads and undergo work, and the sailors had been accommodated in hotels on shore……http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-28/british-navy-sacks-nuclear-submariners-over-cocaine-use/9096396

October 29, 2017 Posted by | incidents, UK, weapons and war | Leave a comment

False data on nuclear equipment from Kobe Steel – sent to Japanese company

Kobe Steel sent products with tampered data to nuclear companies, Cars, trains, planes … and nuclear facilities. REUTERS, Oct 27th 2017 TOKYO — Kobe Steel supplied parts with false specifications for nuclear equipment owned by Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd, JNFL said on Friday, adding that the products were not used.

October 28, 2017 Posted by | incidents, Japan, secrets,lies and civil liberties | 1 Comment

Sellafield authorities play down the seriousness on chemical emergency at nuclear reprocessing site

Times 22nd Oct 2017, The emergency removal of unstable chemicals from Sellafield yesterday hasraised fresh concerns over safety at the nuclear site.

Army bomb disposal specialists were called to the nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Cumbria
after a routine audit found canisters of potentially explosive solventsdating back to the early 1990s.

Officials sought to reassure the public that it was “not a radiological event” and that the solvents had been
safely destroyed in two controlled explosions. However, one expert who
spoke on condition of anonymity claimed that although the solvents were not
radioactive they had been kept in the main laboratory near far more
dangerous materials. “This substance was in a dangerous oxidised state and
if it had exploded in that location it had the potential to distribute
radioactive material over the site and beyond,” the engineer said.
“Sellafield appears to be downplaying the severity of it to the public.”

The chemicals are understood to include tetrahydrofuran, an organic solvent
that can become unstable when exposed to air. Sellafield Ltd, part of the
government’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, said that after the
disposal the site was “working as it would be on any other Saturday“.
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/sellafield-chemicals-scare-defused-by-army-98pkzxcln

October 23, 2017 Posted by | incidents, UK | Leave a comment

Chemical incident at UK’s Sellafield nuclear station: plutonium kept in degrading plastic bottles

Evacuations after emergency at UK nuclear plant, explosives experts rush to scene, BOMB disposal specialist have been called to the Sellafield nuclear plant to deal with a chemical incident. Sunday Express, By SIMON OSBORNE, Oct 21, 2017 “…….Initial reports suggest the incident involved five bottles containing a number of non-nuclear chemicals. …..”An operational decision will be taken in due course on how best to dispose of the material.”
Sellafield reprocesses and stores nearly all of Britain’s nuclear waste.

There have been safety concerns at the plant after a tip-off from a whistleblower, including allegations of inadequate staffing levels and poor maintenance.

The programme discovered that liquid containing plutonium and uranium has been kept in thousands of plastic bottles for years. The bottles were only intended for temporary storage and some of them are degrading.

Researchers were was also told that parts of the facility are dangerously rundown.

Sellafield insisted the site in Cumbria is safe and has been improved with significant investment in recent years. http://www.express.co. uk/news/uk/869238/sellafield- nuclear-reprocessing-plant- chemical-alert-bomb-disposal- experts

October 23, 2017 Posted by | incidents, UK | Leave a comment

100 employees evacuated from office of French nuclear station , due to mysterious package found

Valeurs 17th Oct 2017,[Machine Translation] Security. According to information from France Bleu,
around a hundred employees were evacuated on Monday 16 October after the
discovery of a suspect package at one of the offices of the Cruas-Meysse
nuclear power plant in the Ardèche.
https://www.valeursactuelles.com/societe/ardeche-une-centrale-nucleaire-evacuee-en-urgence-89799

October 20, 2017 Posted by | France, incidents | Leave a comment

Japan: Disturbing Plutonium Exposure Accident

 Chihiro Kamisawa, Masako Sawai, CNIC  BY CNIC_ENGLISH · AUGUST 4, 2017 At around 11:15 on June 6, 2017, a plutonium release and exposure accident occurred in an analytical lab (Room 108, a controlled area) at Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s (JAEA) Research and Development Center Fuel Research Building. During work to inspect a storage canister (unopened in 26 years since 1991) containing plutonium and other nuclear fuel materials in laboratory fume hood H-1, the canister lid rose up after four of the six bolts were removed and the instant the remaining two bolts were removed the plastic bags inside the canister burst. The polyethylene container in which the nuclear fuel material was placed was double wrapped in two plastic bags. When these bags burst, the materials in the polyethylene container were abruptly released. The main person carrying out the task stated that he “felt wind pressure on his stomach.” The five persons, who were wearing half-face masks to carry out the task, inspected themselves with an α radiation surface contamination detector, confirming that they had all been contaminated.
While there are many unknowns regarding the accident and its cause, the exposure of the task personnel and other matters, we report here on what has become clear thus far and the problems that the accident poses. The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) is scheduled to release the agency’s “report” about a month after the accident.
Occurrence of the plutonium dust release
Table 1 [on original] shows a timeline of the events based on releases by the JAEA, NRA and news media.
Several black lumps fell onto the floor in Room 108, from which a maximum of 55 Bq/cm2 were detected. The facility management supervisor instructed that a greenhouse (a temporary enclosure to implement detection and decontamination when retreating from the contaminated area) be set up at 11:54, and it is reported that this was completed at 14:29. More than three hours passed between the time of the accident and the time when the five task personnel exited the greenhouse. Concerning the delay in setting up the greenhouse, JAEA explained to NRA that “(The delay occurred because) the main work personnel in the Fuel Research Building were carrying out this work and other staff were engaged in stabilizing procedures for nuclear fuel materials (and could not leave their positions).”
As a result of a nasal smear (to detect contamination in the nostrils) taken inside the greenhouse, contamination of a maximum of 24 Bq (α radiation) was detected in the nostrils of three of the five personnel.
The five task personnel finally exited the controlled area at 18:55. Since α radiation had been detected in their nostrils and there was a strong possibility that the five people had inhaled plutonium, they were transported to the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Engineering Labs in Tokai Village, where measurement of plutonium inside their lungs was carried out using a lung monitor. Lung monitors detect the weak X-rays emitted by plutonium-239 and the gamma radiation emitted from americium-241 inside the lungs from outside the body. However, not only is this detection extremely difficult, it has poor sensitivity. The JAEA measurement results are shown in Table 2. [on original]………
This inappropriate long-term storage problem clearly shows, if one looks back at the historical series of organizations – the Nuclear Safety Commission, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency and the NRA, that for 30 years or more none of these organizations made any public announcements on the issue, or knew what was happening and simply turned a blind eye. The regulatory organizations’ neglect thus far and the defensive awareness that they do not want this to be aired in public has undoubtedly been one of the remote causes of the accident at Oarai. This extremely facile method of dealing with plutonium and nuclear fuel materials is apparent from the notion that, since no serious accident has taken place up to now, it is fine to have the facility operators quickly sweep the problem under the carpet……. http://www.cnic.jp/english/?p=3910

October 16, 2017 Posted by | incidents, Japan | Leave a comment

Earthquake hits area near to North Korea’s nuclear test site

North Korea earthquake hits near nuclear test site THE AUSTRALIAN, 13 Oct 17 A series of tremors and landslides near North Korea’s nuclear test base probably mean the country’s sixth and largest blast has destabilised the region, and the Punggye-ri nuclear site may not be used for much longer to test nuclear weapons, experts say.

A small quake was detected early today near the North’s nuclear test site, South Korea’s weather agency said, but unlike quakes associated with nuclear tests, it did not appear to be man-made.

The tremor was the latest in a string of at least three shocks to be observed since Pyongyang’s September 3 nuclear test, which caused a 6.3 magnitude earthquake.

Today’s quake was a magnitude 2.7 with a depth of 3km in North Hamgyong Province in North Korea, the Korea Meteorological Administration said. The United States Geological Survey measured the quake at 2.9 magnitude at a depth of 5km.

“This event occurred in the area of the previous North Korean nuclear tests. The event has earthquake-like characteristics, however, we cannot conclusively confirm at this time the nature (natural or human-made) of the event,” the US agency said.

But the Korea Meteorological Administration in the South said on its website that “analysis shows it was a natural quake”. “It is believed to have caused no damage,” it added.

The series of quakes has prompted experts and observers to suspect the last test – which the North claimed to be of a hydrogen bomb – may have damaged the mountainous location in the northwest tip of the country, where all of North Korea’s six nuclear tests were conducted.

“The explosion from the September 3 test had such power that the existing tunnels within the underground testing site might have caved in,” said Kim So- gu, head researcher at the Korea Seismological Institute.

“I think the Punggye-ri region is now pretty saturated. If it goes ahead with another test in this area, it could risk radioactive pollution.”

According to 38 North, a Washington-based project that monitors North Korea, numerous landslides throughout the nuclear test site have been detected via satellite images after the sixth test. These disturbances are more numerous and widespread than seen after any of the North’s previous tests, 38 North said.

The explosion from the sixth test was large enough for residents of the Chinese border city of Yanji, 200km north of North Korea’s nuclear test site, to feel the ground shake beneath their feet.

“The reason why Punggye-ri has become North Korea’s nuclear testing field is because this area was considered stable and rarely saw tremors in the past,” said Hong Tae-kyung, a professor of earth system science at Yonsei University in Seoul.

“The recent small quakes suggest that the test might have triggered crust deformation.” South Korea’s spy agency said recently the North was readying possibly two more tunnels following its latest test, according to ruling Democratic Party members who had been briefed on the issue…..http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/north-korea-earthquake-hits-near-nuclear-test-site/news-story/be93e835ed073f95743d480f98c772db

October 14, 2017 Posted by | incidents, North Korea | Leave a comment

Earthquake detected near North Korea’s nuclear site – raising fears of a new nuclear test

Fears of new nuclear test in North Korea after earthquake is detected near test site, Mirror UK, 12 Oct 17 All of North Korea’s previous six nuclear tests registered as earthquakes and the country’s latest tremor has struck on Friday the 13th A small earthquake has been detected in North Korea where previous nuclear tests have been carried out.

The United States Geological Survey said a 2.9 magnitude quake with a depth of 5km was recorded 23km north-east of Sungjibaegam.

 The area is has been used previously by the country to carry out nuclear drills which have resulted in subsequent tremors.

A statement on the US Geological Survey website reads: “This event occurred in the area of the previous North Korean Nuclear tests.

“The event has earthquake like characteristics, however, we cannot conclusively confirm at this time the nature (natural or human-made) of the event.”

All of North Korea’s previous six nuclear tests registered as earthquakes of magnitude 4.3 or above.

The last test the country carried out on September 3 registered as a 6.3 magnitude quake.

The US Geological Survey said that quake struck 55 km north northwest of Kimchaek. There was no reports of damage or casualties…….. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/fears-new-nuclear-test-north-11333338

October 13, 2017 Posted by | incidents, North Korea, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Greenpeace protestor show poor security at French nuclear station – by breaking in!

Protesters Broke Into a Nuclear Power Plant to Prove How Badly Defended It Is Stunt was to show poorly defended France’s nuclear plants are, Fortune, By Reuters  12 Oct 17 

Greenpeace activists broke through two security barriers and launched fireworks inside the grounds of a French nuclear plant on Thursday to highlight the vulnerability of the plants to attacks.

The environmentalist group issued video footage showing several of its members inside the fence of EDF’s Cattenom nuclear plant in northeast France, and launching several rounds of fireworks over the plant.

Local police said eight people had been detained. EDF said there had been no impact on Cattenom’s security and condemned Greenpeace’s intrusion as “irresponsible.”

“Do we need to wait for a malicious attack on a nuclear plant before EDF gets out of denial?” asked Greenpeace anti-nuclear campaign head Yannick Rousselet.

Olivier Lamarre, deputy head of EDF’s French nuclear fleet, said on a call with reporters that Greenpeace activists had broken through two barriers and reached the reactor’s nuclear zone to within a few tens of meters of the nuclear installations.

He said that as the activists had raised their hands in the air and unfurled a Greenpeace banner, police officials present on the site arrested them without violence within eight minutes……..

Greenpeace this week published a report saying the spent-fuel pools of EDF’s nuclear reactors are highly vulnerable to attacks as their confinement walls have not been designed with malicious attacks in mind……..http://fortune.com/2017/10/12/greenpeace-cattenom-nuclear-plant-security/

October 13, 2017 Posted by | France, incidents, opposition to nuclear | Leave a comment

UK Navy officer bungled: torpedo fired into nuclear dockyard. A nuclear close call.

TORPEDOH! Bungling Navy officer accidentally fired a torpedo into a nuclear dockyard while doing maintenance  Seaman was given a ‘get well soon’ package to restore his confidence after he attempted spur-of-the-moment missile test without an instruction manual while moored in Plymouth , The Sun, UK By Jacob Dirnhuber 6th October 2017

October 6, 2017 Posted by | incidents, UK | Leave a comment