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Workers at Waste Isolation Pilot project evacuated due to a container problem

Container problem spurs evacuation at nuclear waste site http://www.kristv.com/story/38282972/container-problem-spurs-evacuation-at-nuclear-waste-site
May 26, 2018 ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – Workers had to evacuate the U.S. government’s only underground nuclear waste repository after finding a container of waste misaligned inside its packaging, but officials confirmed Friday that no radiation was released.

    It marked another problem for the New Mexico facility where a drum of radioactive waste leaked in 2014 and shut down operations for nearly three years. The leak highlighted safety concerns and resulted in a costly recovery and sweeping changes in the way low-level nuclear waste destined for the dump is treated and handled.

In the latest incident, the contractor that runs the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant activated its emergency operations center after discovering the misaligned container Thursday night. Officials later determined conditions were stable and deactivated emergency operations.

Donavan Mager, a spokesman with Nuclear Waste Partnership LLC, said Friday that officials are investigating how the problem occurred.

In disposing the waste, seven 55-gallon drums are wrapped together in a tight formation to go deep inside the ancient salt formation where the repository is located. The idea is that the shifting salt will eventually entomb the waste.

Workers found one drum wasn’t aligned with the six others that made up the waste package. Work was immediately halted.

Procedures call for officials to develop a plan to re-enter the underground portion of the repository to deal with the pack of drums. It was not immediately known how long that would take.

“The plan is developed with extreme conservatism to ensure workers are protected,” Mager said.

Shipments to the repository resumed in 2017 following the lengthy closure stemming from the container of waste that was improperly treated at Los Alamos National Laboratory, also in New Mexico.

The repository has been receiving several shipments a week of waste that includes gloves, clothing, tools and other debris contaminated by plutonium and other radioactive elements. The Cold War-era waste was generated over years of bomb-making and nuclear weapons research.

The shipments are coming from Los Alamos lab and installations in Idaho, Tennessee, South Carolina and Texas.

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May 28, 2018 Posted by | incidents, USA | Leave a comment

Drug use among security troops on U.S. Nuclear Missile Base

Security Troops on US Nuclear Missile Base Took LSD Reader Supported News, By Robert Burns, Associated Press, 25 May 18  ne airman said he felt paranoia. Another marveled at the vibrant colors. A third admitted, “I absolutely just loved altering my mind.”

Meet service members entrusted with guarding nuclear missiles that are among the most powerful in America’s arsenal. Air Force records obtained by The Associated Press show they bought, distributed and used the hallucinogen LSD and other mind-altering illegal drugs as part of a ring that operated undetected for months on a highly secure military base in Wyoming. After investigators closed in, one airman deserted to Mexico.

“Although this sounds like something from a movie, it isn’t,” said Capt. Charles Grimsley, the lead prosecutor of one of several courts martial.

A slipup on social media by one airman enabled investigators to crack the drug ring at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in March 2016, details of which are reported here for the first time. Fourteen airmen were disciplined. Six of them were convicted in courts martial of LSD use or distribution or both.

None of the airmen was accused of using drugs on duty. Yet it’s another blow to the reputation of the Air Force’s nuclear missile corps, which is capable of unleashing hell in the form of Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs. The corps has struggled at times with misbehavior, mismanagement and low morale.

Although seen by some as a backwater of the U.S. military, the missile force has returned to the spotlight as President Donald Trump has called for strengthening U.S. nuclear firepower and exchanged threats last year with North Korea. The administration’s nuclear strategy calls for hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending in coming decades.

The service members accused of involvement in the LSD ring were from the 90th Missile Wing, which operates one-third of the 400 Minuteman 3 missiles that stand “on alert” 24/7 in underground silos scattered across the northern Great Plains.

Documents obtained by the AP over the past two years through the Freedom of Information Act tell a sordid tale of off-duty use of LSD, cocaine and other drugs in 2015 and 2016 by airmen who were supposed to be held to strict behavioral standards because of their role in securing the weapons.

“It’s another black eye for the Air Force — for the ICBM force in particular,” says Stephen Schwartz, an independent consultant and nuclear expert.

In response to AP inquiries, an Air Force spokesman, Lt. Col. Uriah L. Orland, said the drug activity took place during off-duty hours. “There are multiple checks to ensure airmen who report for duty are not under the influence of alcohol or drugs and are able to execute the mission safely, securely and effectively,” he said.

Airman 1st Class Tommy N. Ashworth was among those who used LSD supplied by colleagues with connections to civilian drug dealers.

“I felt paranoia, panic” for hours after taking a hit of acid, Ashworth said under oath at his court martial. He confessed to using LSD three times while off duty. The first time, in the summer of 2015, shook him up. “I didn’t know if I was going to die that night or not,” he said as a witness at another airman’s drug trial. Recalling another episode with LSD, he said it felt “almost as if I was going to have like a heart attack or a heat stroke.”

Airman Basic Kyle S. Morrison acknowledged at his court martial that under the influence of LSD he could not have responded if recalled to duty in a nuclear security emergency.

In prosecuting the cases at F.E. Warren, the Air Force asserted that LSD users can experience “profound effects” from even small amounts. It said common psychological effects include “paranoia, fear and panic, unwanted and overwhelming feelings, unwanted life-changing spiritual experiences, and flashbacks.”

It’s unclear how long before being on duty any of the airmen had taken LSD, which stands for lysergic acid diethylamide. The drug became popularized as “acid” in the 1960s, and views since then have been widely split on its mental health risks. Although illegal in the U.S., it had been showing up so infrequently in drug tests across the military that in December 2006 the Pentagon eliminated LSD screening from standard drug-testing procedures. An internal Pentagon memo at the time said that over the previous three years only four positive specimens had been identified in 2.1 million specimens screened for LSD.

Yet Air Force investigators found those implicated in the F.E. Warren drug ring used LSD on base and off, at least twice at outdoor gatherings. Some also snorted cocaine and used ecstasy. Civilians joined them in the LSD use, including some who had recently left Air Force service, according to two officials with knowledge of the investigation. The Air Force declined to discuss this.

Airman 1st Class Nickolos A. Harris, said to be the leader of the drug ring, testified that he had no trouble getting LSD and other drugs from civilian sources. He pleaded guilty to using and distributing LSD and using ecstasy, cocaine and marijuana.

He acknowledged using LSD eight times and distributing LSD multiple times to fellow airmen at parties in Denver and other locations from spring 2015 to early 2016.

……. In all, disciplinary action was taken against 14 airmen. In addition, two accused airmen were acquitted at courts martial, and three other suspects were not charged. https://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/318-66/50275-security-troops-on-us-nuclear-missile-base-took-lsd

May 28, 2018 Posted by | incidents, USA | Leave a comment

USA’s history of accidental dropping of nuclear bombs

Remembering A Near Disaster: U.S. Accidently Drops Nuclear Bombs On Itself And Its Allies  WUNC91.5,  24 May 18

During the Cold War, U.S. planes accidentally dropped nuclear bombs on the east coast, in Europe, and elsewhere. “Dumb luck” prevented a historic catastrophe. 
This year marks the 50th anniversary of a decision that ended a perilous chapter of the Cold War.

In 1968, the Pentagon halted a program that kept military bombers in the air, loaded with nuclear weapons to deter a Soviet attack.

The problem was the jets kept having near-catastrophic accidents.

“If you go through some of the archival evidence publicly available, it seems like once a week or so, there was some kind of significant noteworthy accident that was being reported to the Department of Defense or the Atomic Energy Commission or members of Congress,” said Stephen Schwartz, a long-time nuclear weapons analyst.

Schwartz singled out 1958 as a particularly notorious year.
“We’re actually celebrating − celebrating is probably the wrong word − but we’re marking the 60th anniversary of no fewer than eight nuclear weapons accidents this year,” Schwartz said.

Every couple of weeks, Maurice Sanders gets a reminder of one of those 1958 accidents when a car with out-of-state tags parks in front of his house just outside Florence, South Carolina. Strangers pile out and tromp around to the scrub oak forest just behind his back yard to gaze down at an odd tourist attraction.

“It’s the hole from where the bomb had dropped, years ago,” Sanders said. “I think it’s on some kind of map or something.”

The circular pit is as big around as a small house, with a pond of tea-colored water at the bottom. A fading plywood cutout that someone put up − apparently to lure more tourists − is the size and shape of the Mark 6 nuclear bomb that was dropped there by accident.

The core containing the nuclear material was stored separately on the B-47 bomber it fell from, but the high explosives that were used to trigger the nuclear reaction exploded on impact, digging the crater estimated at 35 feet deep. The blast injured six members of a nearby family and damaged their home beyond repair.

Earlier that same year, just one state farther south, a jet fighter collided with a bomber during a training exercise, and the crew jettisoned a bomb into coastal waters near Savannah, Georgia.

Two years later, in 1961, a B-52 bomber flying out of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base near Goldsboro came apart in the sky, and the two armed nuclear bombs it was carrying fell into a farming community northeast of the base. One buried itself so deeply into a tobacco field that some of its parts were never found. The other floated down on a parachute, planting its nose in the ground beside a tree.

The parachute bomb came startlingly close to detonating. A secret government document said three of its four safety mechanisms failed, and only a simple electrical switch prevented catastrophe. It was 260 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima and could have instantly killed thousands of people. The radioactive fallout could have endangered millions more as far north as New York City.

Safety takes back seat to readiness

The military’s name for serious nuclear weapons mishaps is “broken arrow.” The Pentagon has only officially acknowledged 32 broken arrows, but evidence compiled by the government shows there were thousands more accidents involving nuclear weapons, Schwartz said.

“Most of which were not that as serious as the 32 we know about, but some of them were quite bad,” he said.

Schwartz said a wave of serious accidents in the late 1950s through 1968 was partly due to programs that kept the U.S. on a war footing. A few planes were kept aloft 24 hours a day, ready to drop bombs on Russia.

And then there was the sheer number of weapons being made, which created more opportunities for things to go wrong.

Schwartz said by the year after the bomb fell on South Carolina, the U.S. was making almost 20 nuclear weapons a day……..

“Everything associated with nuclear weapons  the nuclear weapons delivery system, the command-and-control systems that make sure they go off when they’re supposed to and most importantly that they don’t go off when they’re not supposed to − all of these things are designed, built, operated, and maintained by human beings,” Schwartz said. “And human beings are fallible.”

Overseas accidents bring program’s end

It wasn’t the bombs the U.S. dropped on itself that finally ended the program. Rather, it was two accidents over friendly nations.

In 1966, a B-52 bomber – also flying out of Seymour Johnson – broke apart in the sky near the coast of Spain. One of its bombs dropped into the sea, and three fell on land where conventional explosives scattered radioactive material.

Then, in 1968, the burning-seat-cushion crash spread plutonium and uranium onto sea ice and into the sea off the coast of Greenland……..http://wunc.org/post/remembering-near-disaster-us-accidently-drops-nuclear-bombs-itself-and-its-allies#stream/0

May 25, 2018 Posted by | history, incidents, Reference, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Minot Air Force Base loses explosives on North Dakota road

Minot Air Force Base loses explosives on North Dakota road –The security forces of the 91st Missile Wing are responsible for protecting the intercontinental ballistic missile silos that Minot Air Force Base operates across the Great Plains. | 15 May 2018 | The Air Force is offering $5,000 for leads on the whereabouts of a box of explosive grenade rounds that its personnel accidentally dropped [!?!] on a road in North Dakota while traveling between two intercontinental ballistic missile silos — the facilities scattered across the U.S. heartland that stand ready to launch nuclear warheads at a moment’s notice. Airmen from the 91st Missile Wing Security Forces team were traveling on gravel roads May 1 in North Dakota when the back hatch of their vehicle opened and a container filled with the explosive ammunition fell out, according to a statement from Minot Air Force Base. On May 11, the Air Force sent more than 100 airmen to walk the entire six-mile route where the grenades were probably lost, according to a statement from the local Mountrail County sheriff. But two weeks after it was lost, the box of explosives still hasn’t been found.

May 19, 2018 Posted by | incidents, USA | Leave a comment

40% fall in electricity predicted due to cracks in Hunterston B nuclear power station

Electricity generation to fall by 40% after nuclear plant cracks find, BBC News, 3 May 2018

Electricity output from the Hunterston B nuclear power station could fall by 40% this year after dozens of cracks were discovered in one of the reactors.

The North Ayrshire power plant’s director Colin Weir said it would be necessary to reduce generation.

But he insisted that Hunterston B, which is scheduled to be in operation until 2023, was still safe.

The company running the plant, EDF Energy, expects the damaged reactor to return to service by the end of 2018.

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, Mr Weir said the reduction in output comes after the “right and appropriate” decision was taken to put one of the reactors offline after a “slight increase” in the number of defects.

He explained: “Obviously this year we will be reduced in output – it will be around a 40% reduction in our planned output for this year – taking this decision, the right and appropriate safe decision to have the unit off while we do this assessment.”

  • First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she would seek “further assurance” on safety from EDF Energy when she meets its representatives later. ……
  • In March this year a planned inspection of the graphite bricks that make up the core of Reactor 3 uncovered new “keyway root cracks”.

    These were found to be developing at a slightly higher rate than anticipated, operator EDF Energy revealed.

    The reactor had been expected to restart a few weeks after it was taken offline, but that has now been delayed.

    Operating for longer

    Cracks were previously found in one of the reactors at the plant, which was opened in 1976, following routine inspections in 2014.

    At the time, the Scottish government said the development was concerning, and asked for reassurances from nuclear regulators.

    Hunterston B was originally planned to operate until 2011 but that has been extended and it could stay in operation for another five years……..http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-43984040

May 4, 2018 Posted by | incidents, UK | Leave a comment

Belgian nuclear reactor shut down due to a leak

RTBF 28trh April 2018 , The reactor at the Doel 1 nuclear power plant in Beveren was shut down
earlier this week . The reason given at that time was a ” maintenance at
the level of the cooling circuit ” . Engie Electrabel confirmed to local TV
TV Oost that a leak was detected in the nuclear section during this review.
The reactor will be shut down at least until October 1st.
https://www.rtbf.be/info/belgique/detail_

April 30, 2018 Posted by | EUROPE, incidents | Leave a comment

Nuclear leaks at North Korean test site ARE a radiological mess

Nuclear Leaks At Nth Korean Test Site – real or “a Furphy” according to Broinowski ? Real, says Langley 

I have been following the story of radiological dangers posed by the increasing stressed geology of the North Korean nuclear test site for some months. Over the last week the story was again raised by the Australian newspaper. This motivated me to find the closest Chinese authority. The story was, as far as I can gather, published this week in The South China Morning Post on Wednesday 25 April 2018. The article, written by Stephen Chen, is entitled “North Korea’s nuclear test site has collapsed … and that may be why Kim Jong-un suspended tests“. The first paragraph explains further: “The mountain’s collapse after a fifth blast last fall has led to the creation of a massive ‘chimney’ that could leak radioactive fallout into the air, researchers have found….” before I go any further, there are two questions to ask: 1. How credible is Stephen Chen’s reporting and 2. Who are the researchers involved? eg are they retired diplomats only or are they qualified to comment in a scientific manner? If so have their findings been peered reviewed?

(what journalists say is irrelevant to me except when the articles lead me to find the peer reviewed papers published by scientists. Newspapers seem not to put relevant links to source documents up which is a crying shame.)

1. Stephen Chen: his bio on the SCMP site states: “Stephen covers breakthoughs in science and their impact on society, environment, military, geopolitics, business – pretty much all aspects of life. His stories often travel across the globe. Stephen is an alumnus of Shantou University, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and the Semester at Sea programme which he attended with a full scholarship from the Seawise Foundation. In his spare time, Stephen reads and writes novels. He lives in Beijing with a beautiful wife and two lovely kids.”

fair enough, signs look hopeful that the article is not reporting a scientific “furphy”, as Broinowski described the generic story on the Australian ABC TV this morning. But let’s dig a nanometer deeper. Who are the researchers Chen is referencing? Does he name them and are they famous? (fame = mass readership and lots of grant money):

“A research team led by Wen Lianxing, a geologist with the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, concluded that the collapse occurred following the detonation last autumn of North Korea’s most powerful thermal nuclear warhead in a tunnel about 700 metres (2,296 feet) below the mountain’s peak.

The test turned the mountain into fragile fragments, the researchers found….” end quote from the SCMP/Chen.

Further, Chen reports: “A research team led by Wen Lianxing, a geologist with the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, concluded that the collapse occurred following the detonation last autumn of North Korea’s most powerful thermal nuclear warhead in a tunnel about 700 metres (2,296 feet) below the mountain’s peak.

The test turned the mountain into fragile fragments, the researchers found. ” source: ibid.

Describing these findings and the dangers posed by the scientific observations as reported by Chen does not smack of “Furphy” or fantasy Richard B. (No I don’t mind who your sister is, you should know better).

Wen Lianxing et al have been tracking North Korean nuclear tests, as far as I can find (hamstrung as I am, because I cannot speak or read Chinese), from at least 2006, and certainly since 2009, when the team became the first in the world to precisely locate the location of a North Korean nuclear test. : “High-precision Location of North Korea’s 2009 Nuclear Test”
Article in Seismological Research Letters 81(1):26-29 · January 2010 authors: Lianxing Wen, University of Science and Technology of China (Hefei, China); Hui Long, Stony Brook University (Stony Brook, United States).

Have a read of it Mr Broinowski. You might find it sensible and not a furphy.

Ok, on with the real matters at hand. Underground nuke tests invariably leak radionuclides into the biosphere. The US underground nuclear test regime has created a legacy of cost and risk, to put it mildly, which continues to this day. Name a US underground shot, and go to DOE Opennet and enter the shot’s code name. Up pops reams of documents detailing the test, the immediate result, and the long term consequences in terms of risk and costs.

There is no reason to suspect that the risks and costs of North Korea’s underground will be any more “furphy” ridden that the US underground tests were. And continue to be.

So without any further ado, even if I have to drag Richard B kicking and screaming into 1954, is some more non furphy from Chen and the SCMP:

“It is necessary to continue monitoring possible leaks of radioactive materials caused by the collapse incident,” Wen’s team said in the statement.

The findings will be published on the website of the peer-reviewed journal, Geophysical Research Letters, likely next month.

North Korea saw the mountain as an ideal location for underground nuclear experiments because of its elevation – it stood more than 2,100 metres (6,888 feet) above sea level – and its terrain of thick, gentle slopes that seemed capable of resisting structural damage…..

“The mountain’s surface had shown no visible damage after four underground nuclear tests before 2017.

But the 100-kilotonne bomb that went off on September 3 vaporised surrounding rocks with unprecedented heat and opened a space that was up to 200 metres (656 feet) in diameter, according to a statement posted on the Wen team’s website on Monday. ….

“As shock waves tore through and loosened more rocks, a large section of the mountain’s ridge, less than half a kilometre (0.3 mile) from the peak, slipped down into the empty pocket created by the blast, leaving a scar visible in satellite images.

Wen concluded that the mountain had collapsed after analysing data collected from nearly 2,000 seismic stations. ….

“Three small earthquakes that hit nearby regions in the wake of the collapse added credence to his conclusion, suggesting the test site had lost its geological stability.

Another research team led by Liu Junqing at the Jilin Earthquake Agency with the China Earthquake Administration in Changchun reached similar conclusions to the Wen team. ….

“The “rock collapse … was for the first time documented in North Korea’s test site,” Liu’s team wrote in a paper published last month in Geophysical Research Letters.

The breakdown not only took off part of the mountain’s summit but also created a “chimney” that could allow fallout to rise from the blast centre into the air, they said. …

“Zhao Lianfeng, a researcher with the Institute of Earth Science at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, said the two studies supported a consensus among scientists that “the site was wrecked” beyond repair.

“Their findings are in agreement to our observations,” he said.

“Different teams using different data have come up with similar conclusions,” Zhao said. “The only difference was in some technical details. This is the best guess that can be made by the world outside.” ….

“Speculation grew that North Korea’s site was in trouble when Lee Doh-sik, the top North Korean geologist, visited Zhao’s institute about two weeks after the test and met privately with senior Chinese government geologists.

“Although the purpose of Lee’s visit was not disclosed, two days later Pyongyang announced it would no longer conduct land-based nuclear tests.”

” Hu Xingdou, a Beijing-based scholar who follows North Korea’s nuclear programme, said it was highly likely that Pyongyang had received a stark warning from Beijing.

““The test was not only destabilising the site but increasing the risk of eruption of the Changbai Mountain,” a large, active volcano at China-Korean border, said Hu, who asked that his university affiliation not be disclosed for this article because of the topic’s sensitivity.

“The mountain’s collapse has likely dealt a huge blow to North Korea’s nuclear programme, Hu said.

Hit by crippling international economic sanctions over its nuclear ambitions, the country might lack sufficient resources to soon resume testing at a new site, he said.

“But there are other sites suitable for testing,” Hu said. “They must be closely monitored.”

Guo Qiuju, a Peking University professor who has belonged to a panel that has advised the Chinese government on emergency responses to radioactive hazards, said that if fallout escaped through cracks, it could be carried by wind over the Chinese border.

“So far we have not detected an abnormal increase of radioactivity levels,” Guo said. “But we will continue to monitor the surrounding region with a large [amount] of highly sensitive equipment and analyse the data in state-of-the-art laboratories.”

“Zhao Guodong, a government nuclear waste confinement specialist at the University of South China, said that the North Korean government should allow scientists from China and other countries to enter the test site and evaluate the damage.

“We can put a thick layer of soil on top of the collapsed site, fill the cracks with special cement, or remove the pollutants with chemical solution,” he said.

“There are many methods to deal with the problem. All they need [to do] is ask.” end quote . source: ibid.

For the sake of ignorant ex diplomats everywhere, let me list all the qualified scientists Chen gives as sources for his article:

1. Wen Lianxing
2. Liu Junqing
3. Zhao Lianfeng
4. Hu Xingdou
5. Guo Qiuju
6. Zhao Guodong

The above qualified people consider that North Korean nuclear tests have, and do, pose a continuing radiological risk to North Korea and to China. This is due to the geologic damage the test series have caused. As any rational person with knowledge of the US underground test era knows, such risks are extremely well documented in the case of the US tests and appalling documented in the case of North Korea.

Dissenters from my point view and the content of Chen’s reported based upon his 6 expert sources are: 1. Richard Broinowski, retired diplomat. Not a scientist.

blows rasberry at RD. so sue me.

P.S. and another thing Richard B. You won’t close the South Korean nuclear plants down by going on TV and denying the North Korean radiological mess, which is probably an undisclosed actual disaster for the people there. Underground nuke test sites have many ways of leaking radionuclides. Over the years a test site’s hydrology is main vector, but anything can happen at the time, and, in the US experience has happened. The chances of uncontained radionuclides let loose into the biosphere is very high in North Korea and no ideology can successfully hide that fact. Your comments on the ABC TV this morning were damaging to the movement and frankly, in my opinion, bloody ignorant. Would you accept the facts of the matter if the scientists Chen cites were all born in London and were named “Watt”?

This post has been posted on Mr Stephen Chen’s facebook page. with thanks to him and his sources.

April 27, 2018 Posted by | incidents, North Korea | Leave a comment

Report from China that North Korea’s “nuclear mountain” test site has collapsed

 

North Korea radiation WARNING as shock report deems nuclear test site UNUSABLE https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/951489/north-korea-news-kim-jong-un-nuclear-test-site-punggye-ri-radiation

NORTH Korea’s main nuclear test site has collapsed after multiple explosions and could be vulnerable to radiation leaks, according to a team of Chinese geologists.By SIMON OSBORNE

Scientists at the University of Science and Technology of China said the partial collapse of a mountain containing test tunnels, as well as the risk of radiation leaks, have potentially rendered the site unusable. Their study was published soon after Kim said his country would stop testing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and close down Punggye-ri before his meeting with Moon.

The Chinese scientists collected data after the most powerful of the North’s six nuclear tests last September.

The controlled explosion, which caused a magnitude 6.3 tremor, is believed to have triggered four more earthquakes over the following weeks.

The study found there was “a near-vertical on-site collapse towards the nuclear test centre” about eight minutes after the test.

The report said: “In view of the research finding that the North Korea nuclear test site at Mount Mantap has collapsed, it is necessary to continue to monitor any leakage of radioactive materials that may have been caused by the collapse.”

North Korean nuclear tests have caused seismic events in Chinese border towns and cities, forcing evacuations of schools and offices, sparking fears of wind-borne radiation and leading to a backlash among some Chinese against their country’s unpredictable traditional ally.

On Saturday, Kim announced North Korea would close its nuclear testing facility and suspend nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests – a move welcomed by US president Donald Trump as “big progress” – and which comes ahead of a planned summit between the leaders in late May or early June.

But Kim stopped short of promising to give up his nuclear weapons, and the missile test ban does not include shorter-range weapons capable of reaching Japan and South Korea.

April 27, 2018 Posted by | incidents, North Korea | Leave a comment

The accidental dropping of two nuclear bombs, on North Carolina

The U.S. Once Dropped Two Nuclear Bombs on North Carolina by Accident https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/nuclear-bombs-dropped-on-north-carolinaBy sheer luck, neither detonated.,  , APRIL 26, 2018

April 27, 2018 Posted by | history, incidents, USA | Leave a comment

How the diabolically dangerous plutonium cores killed two nuclear scientists

The Nuclear ‘Demon Core’ That Killed Two Scientists https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/demon-core-that-killed-two-scientistsAfter World War II ended, physicists kept pushing a plutonium core to its edge. BY SARAH LASKOW 
APRIL 23, 2018 

Since the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, the world has been in a state of readiness for nuclear combat. In this secretive domain, mistakes and mishaps are often hidden: This week we’re telling the stories of five nuclear accidents that burst into public view.
THE WAR WAS OVER—JAPAN HAD surrendered. The third plutonium core created by the United States, which scientists at Los Alamos National Lab had been preparing for another attack, was no longer needed as a weapon. For the moment, the lab’s nuclear scientists were allowed to keep the sphere, an alloy of plutonium and gallium that would become known as the demon core.

In a nuclear explosion, a bomb’s radioactive core goes critical: A nuclear chain reaction starts and continues with no additional intervention. When nuclear material goes supercritical, that reaction speeds up. American scientists knew enough about the radioactive materials they were working with to be able to set off these reactions in a bomb, but they wanted a better understanding of the edge where subcritical material tipped into the dangerous, intensely radioactive critical state.

 One way to push the core towards criticality involved turning the neutrons it shedback onto the core, to destabilize it further. The “Critical Assembly Group” at Los Alamos was working on a series of experiments in which they surrounded the core with materials that reflected neutrons and monitored the core’s state.

The first time someone died performing one of these experiments, Japan had yet to formally sign the terms of surrender. On the evening of August 21, 1945, the physicist Harry Daghlian was alone in the lab, building a shield of tungsten carbide bricks around the core. Ping-ponging neutrons back the core, the bricks had brought the plutonium close to the threshold of criticality, when Daghlian dropped a brick on top. Instantly, the core reacted, going supercritical and Daghlian was doused in a lethal dose of radiation. He died 25 days later.

His death did not dissuade his colleagues, though. Nine months later, they had developed another way to bring the core close to that critical edge, by lowering a dome of beryllium over the core. Louis Slotin, another physicist, had performed this move in many previous experiments: He would hold the dome with one hand, and with the other use a screwdriver to keep a small gap open, just barely limiting the flow of neutrons back to the bomb. On a May day in 1946, his hand slipped, and the gap closed. Again, the core went supercritical and dosed Slotin, along with seven other scientists in the room, with gamma radiation.

In each instance, when the core slipped over that threshold and started spewing radiation, a bright blue light flashed in the room—the result of highly energized particles hitting air molecules, which released that bolt of energy as streams of light.

The other scientists survived their radiation bath, but Slotin, closest to the core, died of radiation sickness nine days later. The experiments stopped. After a cooling-off period, the demon core was recast into a different weapon, eventually destroyed in a nuclear test.

April 25, 2018 Posted by | - plutonium, incidents, USA | Leave a comment

In the 1950s, military accidents meant that nuclear warheads went missing.

When the U.S. Kept Losing Nuclear Bombs https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/has-america-ever-lost-nuclear-bombs  In the 1950s, military accidents meant that nuclear warheads went missing,  ,APRIL 24, 2018

April 25, 2018 Posted by | incidents, USA | Leave a comment

Future Nuclear-Powered Spaceships (oh by the way, one crashed to Canada in the past)

Interstellar for Real: Meet the Nuclear-Powered Spaceships of the Future Sputnik news,  22 Apr 18, Spaceships using conventional hydrogen-oxygen fuel will be able to take people to the moon, Mars or Venus. But human exploration of other planets in our solar system, and beyond it, will require the creation of ships harnessing the power of nuclear fission and nuclear fusion, including via the concept of nuclear pulse propulsion.

………Icarus envisions sending multiple probes across multiple solar systems within 15 light years of Earth to carry out detailed studies of stars and planets. Like Daedalus, the project requires helium-3 for fuel, which can be found in ample quantities on Neptune or Jupiter, but which is scarce on Earth. Based on the current pace of technological development, such foreign-planet mining, and hence such a mission, may not be possible until the year 2,300.Ultimately, Anton Pervushin believes that so long as the nuclear test ban treaty remains in force, nuclear pulse propulsion will inevitably remain a theoretical concept. Furthermore, as Pichugina explained, in addition to legal issues, a number of technical questions remain unresolved. These include how to apply fuel to the combustion chamber, how to amortize acceleration, how to protect crews from cosmic radiation, and in general determining the most efficient types of spacecraft.

Still, as Pervushin noted, if humanity wants to escape the bonds of our solar system and send large spacecraft to those close by, nuclear pulse propulsion remains the only realistic option.Postscriptum: Nuclear Fission for Electrical Propulsion

In addition to the ambitious proposals for interstellar nuclear fission and nuclear fusion propulsion, Soviet scientists worked intently from the 1960s to the 1980s on nuclear fission electric power propulsion systems, which transform nuclear thermal energy into electrical energy, which is then used to power conventional electrical propulsion systems.

The Soviet space program pioneered and worked to improve the technology with the Kosmos series of satellites, which, while generally successful, had their reputation somewhat marred following the emergency descent of Kosmos 954 in 1978, which spread radioactive debris over northern Canada.

The Soviets continued to experiment with these technologies well into the late 1980s, and even envisioned the use of nuclear fission-based energy as a realistic means to reach Mars. https://sputniknews.com/science/201804221063803318-nuclear-powered-spaceships-of-the-future/

April 22, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, incidents, technology | Leave a comment

Radioactive Sludge Barrel Ruptures at Idaho Nuclear Site

U.S. News U.S. officials say a barrel of radioactive sludge has ruptured at an Idaho nuclear site., April 12, 2018, By KEITH RIDLER, Associated Press, 

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A barrel containing radioactive sludge ruptured at an Idaho nuclear facility, federal officials said Thursday, resulting in no injuries and no risk to the public but possibly slowing progress in shipping waste out of the state.

The U.S. Department of Energy said the 55-gallon (208-liter) barrel ruptured late Wednesday at the 890-square-mile (2,305-square-kilometer) site that includes the Idaho National Laboratory, one of the nation’s top federal nuclear research labs.

The rupture triggered a fire alarm, and three Idaho National Laboratory firefighters extinguished the smoldering barrel and pulled it away from a dozen other barrels nearby.

When the firefighters left the building, emergency workers detected a small amount of radioactive material on their skin, said department spokeswoman Danielle Miller………

Federal officials said it’s the first known rupture of a barrel containing radioactive sludge at the site but might not be the last.   https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/idaho/articles/2018-04-12/incident-reported-at-idaho-nuclear-site-crews-responding

April 14, 2018 Posted by | incidents, USA | 1 Comment

March 28 – anniversary of Three Mile Island nuclear disaster and the lies about “no-one died”

Too little information clouds real impact of TMI, https://beyondnuclearinternational.org/2018/03/25/too-little-information-clouds-real-impact-of-tmi/ By Beyond Nuclear staff

The disaster at Unit 2 of the Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear power plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, began on March 28, 1979. Today, 39 years later, the reality, of what really happened, and how many people it harmed, remains cloaked in mystery and misinformation. Unlike the popular catchphrase, TMI is a story of too little information.

What happened?

The two unit Three Mile Island nuclear power plant sits on an island in the middle of the Susquehanna River, just ten miles southeast of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. TMI Unit 2 was running at full power, but had been commercially operational for just 88 days when, at 4 A.M. on Wednesday, March 28, 1979, it experienced either a mechanical or electrical failure that caused the turbine-generator and the nuclear reactor to automatically shut down.

The pressure and temperature in the reactor began to increase, but when a relief valve on top of the reactor’s primary coolant pressurizer stuck open, malfunctioning instrumentation indicated that the valve had shut. While cooling water emptied out of the reactor, operators mistakenly reduced the amount of cooling water flowing into the core, leading to the partial meltdown.

Workers deliberately and repeatedly vented radioactive gas over several days to relieve pressure and save the containment structure. Then came fears of a hydrogen explosion. But by April 1, when President Jimmy Carter arrived at the site, that crisis had been averted, and by April 27 the now destroyed reactor was put into “cold shutdown.” TMI-2 was finished. But its deadly legacy was to last decades.

How much radiation got out?

Within hours of the beginning of the nuclear disaster, onsite radiation monitors went off the scale because radiation levels exceeded their measurement capacity. There were only a few offsite radiation monitors operating that day. Subsequent examination of human blood, and of anomalies in animals and plants, suggest that significant levels of radiation were released.

In the days following the TMI meltdown, hundreds of local residents reported the same acute radiation exposure symptoms as victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings — nausea and vomiting, severe fatigue, diarrhea, hair loss and graying, and a radiation-induced reddening of the skin. For example, Marie Holowka, a dairy farmer near TMI, recalled as she left the milkhouse that morning that, outside, “it was so blue, I couldn’t see ten feet ahead of myself.” There was a “copper taste” in the air. She was later treated for thyroid problems. Given the absence of monitors and the paucity of evidence, the only real radiation meters were the people of Three Mile Island.

“No one died:” The biggest lie


Given that exposure to ionizing radiation is medically understood to cause diseases like cancer which can be fatal, there is no way to definitively state that “no one died at TMI” or later developed cancers. The opposite is far more likely to be true.

Estimates can be complicated by the long latency period for illnesses caused by exposure to radiation. Sometimes exposed populations move away and cannot be tracked. Nevertheless, long after a catastrophic radiation release, disease can still manifest, both from the initial radiation exposure and from slow environmental poisoning, as the radionuclides released by the disaster are ingested or inhaled for many generations.

The only independent study that looked at the aftermath of TMI was conducted by the late Dr. Stephen Wing and his team at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. They looked at radiation-specific markers in residents’ blood, called biomarkers, to assess dose rather than relying solely on industry measured (or mis-measured as the case was) radiation emissions. The team concluded that lung cancer and leukemia rates were two to 10 times higher downwind of the Three Mile Island reactor than upwind.

Harm to animals and plants

After the radiation release from Three Mile Island, a number of plants exhibited strange mutations including extra large leaves (gigantism), double-headed blossoms and other anomalies. These plant anomalies were documented over decades by Mary Osborn, a local resident who conducted meticulous plant research and is a founder of Three Mile Island Alert. (Her deformed rose is pictured at the top of this story.)

Robert Weber, a Mechanicsburg veterinarian, reported a 10% increase in stillbirths, and a marked increase in the need for Cesarean Sections among sheep, goats and pigs in 1979, 1980, and 1981 in a 15-mile area around the TMI site. Dr. Weber also reported significant increases in the cancer rate among animals with shorter life spans such as dogs and cats. These findings are consistent with research around Chernobyl.

Evacuation failure

During the licensing phase of the construction and operation of TMI, a nuclear disaster was considered unthinkable. Consequently, emergency plans were practically non-existent when TMI began its meltdown. Emergency planning officials were repeatedly misinformed by TMI owner, Metropolitan Edison, on the disaster’s progression, and kept in the dark about the need for public protective actions in the early days at TMI.

On March 30, Pennsylvania Governor Richard Thornburgh finally “advised” that pregnant women and pre-school age children voluntarily evacuate a five-mile perimeter around TMI, an anticipated target population of 3,500 people. Instead, approximately 200,000 people spontaneously evacuated from a 25-mile perimeter.

TMI demonstrated that managing human responses during a nuclear catastrophe is not realistic and provokes unique human behavior not comparable to any other hazard.

Competing loyalties between work duty and personal family caused a significant number of staffing problems for various emergency response roles. As the crisis intensified, more emergency workers reported late or not at all.

Doctors, nurses and technicians in hospitals beyond the five-mile perimeter and out to 25 miles, spontaneously evacuated emergency rooms and their patients. Pennsylvania National Guard, nuclear power plant workers, school teachers and bus drivers assigned to accompany their students, abandoned their roles for family obligations. A similar response could be expected in the same situation today.

You can find our full investigation — The Truth About Three Mile Island — on our website. It is free to download and reprint.

 

March 27, 2018 Posted by | history, incidents, Reference | Leave a comment

U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation confirm Russian hackers targeting U.S. nuclear plants

Union of Concerned Scientists 16th March 2018, Yesterday, the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation officially confirmed that Russian hackers have been targeting US nuclear power plants and other critical facilities since at least 2016.

Regardless, the US nuclear industry has been pressuring the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to relax its cyber security standards. Below is a statement by Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“The Department of Homeland Security alert is a stark
reminder that nuclear power plants are tempting targets for cyber
attackers. Although the systems that control the most critical safety
equipment at US nuclear plants are analog-based and largely immune to cyber
attacks, many other plant systems with important safety and security
functions are digital and could be compromised. For instance, electronic
locks, alarms, closed-circuit television cameras, and communications
equipment essential for plant security could be disabled or reprogrammed.
And some plants have equipment, such as cranes that move highly radioactive
spent fuel, that utilize computer-based control systems that could be
manipulated to cause an accident.”
https://www.ucsusa.org/press/2018/russian-cyber-attacks-call-stringent-security-standards-us-nuclear-plants-plant-owners

March 19, 2018 Posted by | incidents, Russia, USA | 2 Comments