The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

‘Catastrophic’ Nuclear leak at Washington’s infamous Hanford Site

text ionisingFlag-USANuclear leak at Washington’s infamous Hanford Site is CATASTROPHIC, former worker claims, as eight inches of radioactive waste escapes core of ‘the world’s safest’ tank, Daily Mail , 20 Apr 16  [EXCELLENT PHOTOS] 

  • Tank has two shells; a crack was spotted in the inner one in 2011
  • Now that crack has widened, spilling waste into the gap between the shells
  • It happened after attempts to pump the waste out of the tank
  • The Department of Energy says this was ‘anticipated’
  • But workers at the plant said they weren’t told it was a possibility 
  • The double-shell tank can contain up to a million gallons of deadly waste
  • It was supposed to be the safest possible container for radioactive liquid 
  • The Hanford Site provided plutonium for the first atomic bomb 


A nuclear leak first spotted five years ago at Washington state’s Hanford Site has got dramatically worse with eight inches of radioactive liquid escaping a protective carbon steel shell.

The tank, named AY-102, has two shells, with the inner steel layer containing up to one million gallons of the deadly waste, and the outer concrete one providing a two-foot-wide gap to collect the waste if the inner shell broke.

Now a small leak in the inner shell first seen in 2011 has worsened, allowing eight inches of the dangerous goo to leak out in an event that one ex-worker is calling ‘catastrophic.’

Former Hanford worker Mike Geffre was the first to spot the leak in AY-102’s inner shell in 2011, but it took the government a year to actually announce what had happened.

Back then, the small leak only allowed a slow flow of radioactive waste into the gap between the shells, or ‘annulus’. That liquid which would quickly dry up into a white powder. But after five years, they discovered on Sunday that the crack had got worse.

‘This is catastrophic,’ he told ‘This is probably the biggest event to ever happen in tank farm history. The double-shell tanks were supposed to be the saviors of all saviors.’

The Hanford Site was a major Second World War and Cold War nuclear site; it provided plutonium for the first atomic bomb.

It now houses millions of gallons of nuclear waste – two-thirds of all high-level radioactive waste in America in 2007 – and cleanup on the site has been ongoing since 1989.

As well as AY-102, six single-shell tanks were noted to be leaking in 2013.

Ironically, the original cracks in AY-102 appear to have been further widened by government efforts to pump waste out of the tank, sources told KGW.

Pumping began three weeks ago, after Washington state spent three years petitioning the federal government, which owns the tanks, to deal with the damaged structure.

But the change in pressure appears to have ‘blown out’ the weakened wall, causing the increased leak and bringing the waste closer to the nearby Columbia River.

‘The primary tanks weren’t designed to stage waste like this for so many years,’ a current worker told KGW. ‘There’s always the question, “Are the outer shells compromised?”‘…………

workers at the plant told KGW that despite claims the breach was ‘anticipated,’ they had not been made aware that something like this could occur.

And Geffre said that he was frustrated that his warnings in 2011 hadn’t been acted on for an entire year. ‘It’s an example of a culture at Hanford of “We don’t have problems here. We’re doing just fine.” Which is a total lie,’ he said.

Construction on the Hanford site began in 1943, and it went on to house the world’s first full-scale plutonium production reactor, and to provide plutonium for the first atomic bomb.

After the Cold War ended, the site housed 53 million gallons of high-level radioactive waste and 25 million cubic feet of solid radioactive waste.

There were 200 square miles of contaminated groundwater beneath the site.

April 20, 2016 Posted by | incidents, USA | Leave a comment

Chernobyl’s nuclear nightmare – a timeline

Chernobyl: Timeline of a nuclear nightmare Kim Hjelmgaard and USA TODAY ,  April 17, 2016  

Chernobyl 1986

Timeline of a disaster

February 1986:  

Ukraine’s Minister of Power and Electrification Vitali Sklyarov tells Soviet Life magazine that the odds of a meltdown at Chernobyl’s nuclear power plant are “one in 10,000 years.”

April 25, 1986:

The plant’s operators prepare to conduct a special test to see how an emergency water cooling system would fare in the event of a complete loss of power.

April 26, 1986:
The test begins at 1:23.04 a.m.

Fifty-six seconds later, pressure builds in the reactor No. 4 in the form of steam. This causes an explosion that lifts a 1,000-ton lid that covers volatile fuel elements. Radiation is immediately released into the air.

As oxygen pours into the reactor, a graphite fire begins. A chemical reaction causes a second explosion, and burning debris lands on the roof of reactor No. 3.

Meanwhile, the engineer responsible for the night shift, Alexander Akinhov, does not yet think the reactor’s core is damaged. “The reactor is OK, we have no problems,” he says. Akinhov subsequently dies from radiation illness.

Thirty separate fires develop. An alarm goes off at a local fire station.

At 1.45 a.m. firefighters arrive. They know nothing about radiation and aren’t wearing any protective clothing. Driver Grigory Khmel later recalls: “We saw graphite lying everywhere. I kicked a bit of it. Another fireman picked up a piece and said ‘hot.’ Neither of us had any idea of radiation. My colleagues Kolya, Pravik and others all went up the ladder of the reactor. I never saw them again.”

At 3:12 a.m. an alarm goes off at an army base deep in the Soviet Union. The general in charge decides to send troops. They arrive in Ukraine’s capital of Kiev at 2 p.m.

At 5 a.m. reactor No. 3 is shut down. Reactors No. 1 and 2 are stopped about 24 hours later.

April 27, 1986: 
As more emergency response teams arrive, evacuations begin in a radius of 6 miles around the plant.  April 28, 1986:

The Soviet Union publicly admits for the first time that an accident happened but gives few details.

An alarm goes off at a Swedish nuclear plant after the soles of shoes worn by a nuclear safety engineer there test positive for radioactivity. The radiation is traced to Chernobyl.

May 1, 1986:
May Day parades to celebrate workers go ahead as planned in Kiev and Belarus’ capital Minsk despite huge amounts of radiation continuing to be released. Wind, and radioactive clouds, blow back toward Kiev after initially drifting northwest toward Europe. Authorities believe that by holding these celebrations they will prevent panic.

May 14, 1986:
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev talks about the accident live on television. He subsequently mobilizes hundreds of thousands of people, including military reservists from all parts of the Soviet Union, to help in the cleanup.

They become known as “liquidators.” Many will become ill and die from radiation-related diseases.

Gorbachev, in a 2006 memoir, says Chernobyl “was perhaps the real cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union.”

April 18, 2016 Posted by | history, incidents, Reference, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Allison MacFarlane on nuclear safety

Macfarlane, AllisonHow to protect nuclear plants from terrorists, PhysOrg April 14, 2016 by Allison Macfarlane, The Conversation  In the wake of terrorist attacks in Brussels, Paris, Istanbul, Ankara and elsewhere, nations are rethinking many aspects of domestic security. Nuclear plants, as experts have long known, are potential targets for terrorists, either for sabotage or efforts to steal nuclear materials.

Currently there are 444 nuclear power plants operating in 30 countries around the world and 243 smaller research reactors, which are used to produce isotopes for medical uses and to train nuclear engineers. The nuclear industry also includes hundreds of plants that enrich uranium and fabricate fuel for reactors. Some of these facilities contain materials terrorists could use to build a nuclear or “dirty” bomb. Alternatively, power plants could be “hijacked” to create an accident of the sort experienced at Chernobyl and Fukushima, sending clouds of radioactivity over hundreds of miles.

At last month’s Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C., representatives from 52 countries pledged to continue improving their nuclear security and adopted action plans to work together and through international agencies.

But significant countries like Russia and Pakistan are not participating. And many in Europe are just beginning to consider physical security measures. From my perspective as a former nuclear regulator and now as director of the Center for International Science and Technology Policy at George Washington University, it is clear that  are vulnerable to .

It is not news that security is weak at many civilian  and research facilities.

In October 2012, Greenpeace activists entered two nuclear power plants in Sweden by breaking open a gate and scaling fences without being stopped by guards. Four of them hid overnight on a roof at one reactor before surrendering the next morning.

Just this year, Sweden’s nuclear regulatory agency adopted a requirement for armed guards and additional security measures at the plants. However, these upgrades do not have to be in place until early 2017.

In 2014 French nuclear plants were plagued by unexplained drone overflights. And Greenpeace activists broke into the Fessenheim nuclear plant near the German border and hung a large banner from the reactor building.

In light of the recent Brussels attacks, reports from Belgium are more alarming. In 2012 two employees at the country’s Doel nuclear power station left Belgium to fight in Syria. In 2014 an unidentified saboteur tampered with lubricant in the turbine at the same reactor, causing the plant to shut down for five months. And earlier this year authorities investigating the Paris attacks discovered video surveillance footage of a Belgian nuclear official in the home of one of the Paris suspects.

One has to assume that potential attackers may understand how the sites and materials can be used.

Given the heightened state of alert in Europe, governments should, I believe, immediately increase security at civilian . They could emulate the United States, where security at nuclear facilities has substantially increased since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

American role model

U.S.  now are some of the most well-guarded facilities in the world.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regulates both safety and security at nuclear power plants. After 9/11, these sites were required to add multiple layers of protection, with the cores of reactors (where the fuel is located) the most highly defended areas………

The United States has also adopted regulations to ensure cybersecurity at reactors. As new, entirely digital reactors come online, such measures will be more necessary than ever.

The successful 2010 Stuxnet attack, for example, in which a computer worm infiltrated computers at Iranian nuclear facilities and caused machines to malfunction, showed how vulnerable unprotected computer networks can be.

Improving security worldwide

There are no global standards for physical protection at civilian nuclear facilities. Each country adopts its own laws and regulations dictating what nuclear site owners are required to do to protect plants from attack.

As a result, measures at plants can vary widely, with some countries depending on the local police force for protection and leaving guards unarmed. Often the level of security depends on cultural norms and attitudes, but the recent attacks in Europe suggest a rapid adjustment is needed.

Here are steps that, in my view, all countries can take to make nuclear plants more secure……..

To prevent an attack at a nuclear site, governments must take security at nuclear sites seriously now, not a year from now.

In light of the current terrorist threat and with four Nuclear Security Summits completed, countries with nuclear  need to up their game with regards to physical  at nuclear power facilities before it’s too late.

April 15, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, incidents, safety | Leave a comment

Spanner in the works of Japan’s planned nuclear power revival

radiation-sign-sadflag-japanJapan’s Nuclear Energy Comeback Takes a Tumble IEEE Spectrum, By John Boyd, 29 Mar 16,  Just when it seemed Japan was poised to get its nuclear plants up and running again after the 2011 accident at Fukushima Daiichi brought about the shutdown of all the country’s nuclear operations, a series of mishaps has raised doubts over the government’s ability to achieve its goal of supplying 20-22 percent of Japan’s energy needs with nuclear power by 2030.

Last month, TEPCO, the regional electric utility that operated the Fukushima plant, issued a press release admitting that according to the results of a recent investigation, staffers had not followed guidelines requiring them to quickly declare a meltdown following the Daiichi accident.

“In the course of our investigations, it was discovered that TEPCO’s internal manual at the time clearly stated that a core meltdown was to be determined if the percentage of core damage exceeded 5%,” states the release. It goes on to say that, “We have confirmed that there were events where it may have been possible to issue notifications and reports more promptly immediately after the tsunami hit on March 11, 2011.”

Two days before last month’s TEPCO announcement, Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO, which serves the Osaka and Kyoto regions) revealed that it had found a leak on 20 February in the filtering system of the Unit 4 reactor at its Takahama Nuclear Plant in Fukui Prefecture, some 500 kilometers west of Tokyo. A contaminated pool of water was also discovered. The incident happened during preparations to restart the reactor after Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority’s (NRA) had deemed it safe to go back on line.

“Subsequently, the puddle was wiped [up] and it was confirmed that there was no remaining contamination,” the KEPCO announcement explained.

Convinced that all was well, KEPCO started up the reactor on 26 February. It shut down automatically three days later due to a “main transformer/generator internal failure,” the company reported.

But the biggest blow came on 9 March, when the District Court in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, located near the Takahama plant—though unprecedentedly not in the same prefecture—ordered the immediate shutdown of Units 3 and 4. The decision came after it agreed with a group of local plaintiffs that the plant did not satisfy all the NRA safety requirements. The Unit 3 reactor had gone back online in January………

, says the University of Tokyo’s Terai, “Should there be more legal actions of this kind inside and outside the prefectures where the plants are located, the power companies would face serious problems in starting up their nuclear power plants.”

Given that some 30 lawsuits and petitions for injunctions have been reported in the press, such an outcome seems likely. Currently, the NRA is reviewing 20 nuclear reactors in 16 power stations to see if they meet the new regulatory rules. Meanwhile, the Takahama closures leave just two reactors in operation—both at the Sendai plant run by Kyushu Electric Power Co., also in western Japan.

Clearly, the power companies’ missteps are not helping the NRA’s efforts to rebuild trust with citizens—a critical factor in winning the necessary approval of local governments……

March 30, 2016 Posted by | incidents, Japan | Leave a comment

Troubled history of New York’s Indian Point nuclear power station

reactor-Indian-PointIndian Point nuclear plant reeks of troubled history As New York’s governor and other critics wage an ongoing campaign to shut the facility down citing leaks and old age, nearby residents explain complicated tale, Guardian, , 29 Mar 16  Outside the Westchester Diner in Peekskill, New York, about 40 miles from New York’s Central Park, a reactor dome crests the trees behind an overpass like a giant’s bald head.

It’s one of two at Indian Point Energy Center, at the bank of the Hudson river in neighboring Buchanan, among the oldest nuclear power plants still in operation, and a monument to the energy industry’s resistance to years of work by concerned scientists, locals and state officials to close down a facility that only last month dumped a plume of radioactive waste into their groundwater.

Indian Point’s two working reactors opened in the early 1970s and have had a lot of people worried for a long time. Five years ago the New York Times wondered if it was “America’s Fukushima” – the Japanese site of the world’s worst radiation crisis since Chernobyl. In February the New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, called its operation “unacceptable” – he wants the plant closed.

It’s easy to see the source of his concern. The population density around Indian Point is of more than 2,100 people per square mile, by far the greatest for any of the US’s 61 nuclear power plants. Many of those people live and work in the plant’s shadow with growing unease.

In May 2015, an electrical transformer in the reactor called Unit 3 exploded, causing water to flood a room near the explosion where electrical distribution panels are housed and pouring 3,000 gallons of oil into the Hudson. The Union of Concerned Scientists classified the incident as a “near miss” in its annual review.Last year near misses occurred at eight nuclear facilities in the US. “Had the flooding not been discovered and stopped in time, the panels could have been submerged, plunging Unit 3 into a dangerous station blackout, in which all alternating current (AC) electricity is lost,” the report’s authors wrote. “A station blackout led to the meltdown of three nuclear reactor cores at Fukushima Dai-ichi in 2011.”

In February, radiation levels at three monitoring wells around the plant spiked, in one spot by 65,000%. Patricia Kakridas, a spokeswoman for Entergy, said the source was likely “water which exited a temporary filtration system that was set up and dismantled in late January 2016” in preparation for refueling; the company said radioactive material won’t leach into drinking water.

And in March, when the plant was being refueled, a breaker tripped and cut power in one of the reactors; when the diesel generators kicked in, they died while trying to restart the first electrical system. Fortunately a second backup worked.

Because the plant is cooled in large part by water from the Hudson – up to 2.5bn gallons a day – it kills about 1 billion fish and other aquatic organisms a year.

Incidents such as these are among the reasons Cuomo wants it closed, and Indian Point is now in a vulnerable position. The operating license for Indian Point 3 expired in December. The license for Indian Point 2 expired in 2013 (Indian Point 1 was decommissioned in 1974). Yet both remain active as the company pursues a license renewal and in the meantime Spectra, a pipeline company, is planning to add a gas pipeline that runs underneath the property to the two that have been there since the plant was built………

The fuel remains onsite at Indian Point, as it does at most nuclear power plants, and must be carefully maintained, for example it must be cooled for at least a decade before it can be sealed in concrete “dry casks”. Sheehan (and others) point out that moving it out of the state along Interstate 95 is impractical given the population density along the busy transport corridor. The plant has produced about 1,500 tons of waste and continues to produce more.

At this point, the license renewal process for Indian Point is scheduled through at least September of 2016 but the legacy of Indian Point, whether it closes or no, has a half-life of far, far longer.

March 30, 2016 Posted by | incidents, safety, USA | Leave a comment

Unexpected shutdown of Washington nuclear power station

Nuclear Power Plant in Washington Unexpectedly Shut Down, abc news, By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS RICHLAND, Wash. — Mar 29, 2016 Washington state’s only nuclear power plant has been shut down after operators received an indication that a system used to cool equipment wasn’t working. Officials said there was no release of radiation and no danger to the public.

The Columbia Generating Station near Richland was shut down about 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Energy Northwest spokesman John Dobken said.

Officials hope to restart the plant sometime this week, Dobken told The Associated Press early Tuesday.

The Tri-City Herald reported that the plant was shut down after operators were alerted to problems with the system that uses water to cool heat exchangers and pumps, including those that control the power level of the reactor.

Energy Northwest says it seems that a water system valve may not have been in the right position, but adds that an investigation is ongoing…….

March 30, 2016 Posted by | incidents, USA | Leave a comment

Shot dead – Belgian nuclear security guard, and his security badge stolen

murder-1Guard at Belgian nuclear plant shot dead; his security badge was stolen. By Kellan Howell – The Washington Times – Saturday, March 26, 2016  Just two days after terrorists attacked the Brussels airport and subway system, a security guard for a Belgian nuclear facility was murdered and his security access badge was stolen, Belgian media reported Saturday.

The security guard’s badge was de-activated as soon as it was discovered it was stolen, according to French newspaper Derniere Heure.

He was shot dead in the Charleroi region of Belgium as he walked his dog, International Business Times reported

March 28, 2016 Posted by | EUROPE, incidents | Leave a comment

Belgium: staff refused access following news that terrorists had considered attack on nuclear plant

safety-symbol1Nuclear Staff Lose Access After Brussels Attacks 25 Mar 16 

A number of workers at the Tihange plant have their passes withdrawn as reports say nuclear sites could have been targeted. The entry badges of some workers at Belgium’s nuclear sites have been withdrawn amid reports the suicide bombers who attacked Brussels may have originally planned to target a nuclear power plant.

Nuclear control agency spokeswoman Nele Scheerlinck confirmed that “in recent days, several people have been refused access to the nuclear sites”.

The El Bakraoui brothers, who blew themselves up at the airport and metro station on Tuesday, had secretly filmed the home of the head of Belgium’s nuclear research and development programme, it has been reported. :: Terror Suspect Linked To Paris Ringleader The footage recorded the nuclear chief’s routine and caused investigators to conclude the terrorists “could have put national security in danger like never before”, according to Belgian media.

However, the arrest of Paris attacker Salah Abdeslam forced them to switch to targets, said reports.

A police source is quoted as saying: “There is no doubt that they rushed their operations because they felt under pressure. “Even if one couldn’t prevent these (Brussels) attacks, one can say that their magnitude could have been much bigger if the terrorists had been able to implement their original plan and not opted for easier targets.”

In the immediate aftermath of Tuesday’s attacks at the airport and subway, security was boosted around Belgium’s nuclear sites and hundreds of staff were evacuated.

Belgian media reports said 11 staff had their badges withdrawn at the Tihange plant. Ms Scheerlinck said the move is “not necessarily linked with the terrorist attacks”. However, she added that the decision usually takes weeks and is based on information from the intelligence services and police, as well as a person’s criminal record.

The head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog warned of Friday that countries need to do more to prevent “nuclear terrorism”.Yukiya Amano, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said that it was not impossible that militants could manufacture a “primitive” device.   It is now an old technology and nowadays terrorists have the means, the knowledge and the information,” he said.

Mr Amano also warned about the dangers of a “dirty bomb”.  “Dirty bombs will be enough to (drive) any big city in the world into panic,” he said. “And the psychological, economic and political implications would be enormous.”

March 26, 2016 Posted by | incidents, safety | Leave a comment

Kakrapar radiation leakage highlights need for investigation of All of India’s nuclear reactors

Kakrapar leakage: Call for stronger regulation, investigation  Of all nuclear reactors in the country, after determining what went wrong at the atomic power station, termed ‘lucky’ for having a radiation disaster averted, Business Standard,  BS Reporter  |  Ahmedabad March 26, 2016 Those worried say Kakrapar was lucky to have witnessed leakage of heavy and light water from the coolant channel without any serious damage to fuel bundles in the reactor

The recent leak in coolant channels of the unit-1 reactor at the Kakrapar Atomic Power Station (KAPS, near Surat in Gujarat) is a warning which necessitates thorough investigation of all such reactors in the country, experts say.

At 9 am on March 11, a leakage in the Primary Heat Transfer (PHT) system led to the reactor being shut down and a plant emergency declared at KAPS. It has two units of pressurised heavy water reactors of 220 Mw each;Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCI) is the operator.  According to site officials, one of the channels carrying the fuel bundles and the heavy water coolant had leaked. The high-grade radioactivity from the fuel itself was confined within the fuel bundles and no radioactive substances escaped from the reactor containment building.

The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) has stated that, as of now, KAPS’ Unit-1 is in a shutdown state, even as all plant systems are “functioning normally”……

Any damage to fuel bundles could have resulted in thousands of times more severe  radiation leakage from the reactor, and some of it could have eventually escaped into the public domain, he said.

Seconding him is nuclear activist and physicist Surendra Gadekar, monitoring the Indian nuclear industry since 1987.  “The problem has been isolated but the fact is it took them 10 days to do that, with the plant emergency ending on March 22. They claim it is a ‘small leak’, which otherwise does not call for a plant emergency for 10 days. They were lucky that they didn’t find any radiation in a 20-km radius,” says Gadekar…….

March 26, 2016 Posted by | incidents, India | Leave a comment

Cocaine use among staff at Nuclear Missile Base

Air Force Investigating Cocaine Use at Nuclear Missile Base Sam Biddle 18 Mar 16, Cocaine and nuclear weapons: A good mix? That’s what an official probe into coke abuse by “about a dozen airmen” at the F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming will investigate, the AP reports.

The coked-up airmen in question are, reassuringly, not the people who have their fingers on the literal button required to begin a nuclear war. But they are, scarily, the people tasked with defending the 150 Minuteman III ICBMs (each with an explosive yield roughly eight times greater than the bomb that leveled Hiroshima, easily capable of destroying an entire large modern city) from the rest of the world. As the AP notes, they’re crucial to the operation and safety of America’s vast nuclear stockpile:

Security forces at nuclear missile bases are entrusted to patrol the missile fields and respond to any security emergencies. They are highly trained and given enormous responsibility. Just last month, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work visited F.E. Warren and observed a demonstration by security forces of the techniques and equipment they would use to recapture a missile silo that had been taken over by intruders.

In other words, not the kind of people you want doing key bumps in the bathroom. This is the second time in two years that F.E. Warren has been under investigation: In 2014, missile officers responsible for actually launching those ICBMs were caught cheating on their proficiency tests and also doing a lot of illegal drugs.

This sounds like it would be a very fun job were it not for the possibility of fucking up and beginning a nuclear holocaust.

March 19, 2016 Posted by | incidents, USA | Leave a comment

Union of Concerned Scientists Annual Review of U.S. Nuclear Plant, Near Misses 

March 17, 2016 :: Staff infoZine
In 2015, three of the ten near misses reported at U.S. nuclear power plants occurred at reactors owned by one company—Entergy. Washington DC – infoZine – There were only 10 “near miss” incidents at U.S. nuclear reactors last year, but more than 60 percent of the near miss safety violations occurred at three plants owned by Entergy Corp., according to the Union of Concerned Scientists’ (UCS) annual review of Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) performance and nuclear plant safety.

A near miss incident is an event or condition that could increase the chance of reactor core damage by a factor of 10 or more, prompting the NRC to send an inspection team to investigate. The number of near miss incidents has declined since UCS initiated its annual review in 2010. In 2010, there were 19; last year there were nine. All told, from 2010 through 2015 there were 91 near misses………

“Many U.S. reactors are entering their fourth decade, and as they age, safety equipment will wear out and need to be repaired or replaced,” said Lochbaum, who worked in the nuclear industry for 17 years before joining UCS. “Given the very real possibility that one of these screw-ups could lead to a serious accident, plant owners have to make sure their workers make repairs correctly. If they don’t do it right the first time, aging reactors will experience even more problems.”

March 19, 2016 Posted by | incidents, USA | Leave a comment

USA’s nuclear regulator ineffective, as radiation leaks continue

water-radiationFlag-USANuclear Plants Leak Radiation, and Regulator Faces Scrutiny Five years after one of the worst nuclear disasters in history, America’s nuclear plants still face safety issues. Indian Point nuclear power plant sits on the Hudson River outside New York City.USA News, By  March 15, 2016
In its liquid form, tritium looks just like water: clear and odorless.

Yet it’s radioactive, and in the past two months, two nuclear power plants outside New York City and Miami were found to be leaking tritium: the former into groundwater within the facility’s confines, the second straight into Biscayne Bay.

The leaks, revealed in news reports, apparently haven’t contaminated drinking water and don’t pose a threat to human health. But tritium, while less potent than other substances like cesium or strontium or radium, can still be harmful in high enough concentrations, even lethal. And that’s before taking the public reaction into account: The New York incident made headlines across the region, anti-nuclear groups warned the state was “flirting with catastrophe,” and Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered an investigation.

The incidents came just a few weeks before the fifth anniversary of the meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which was sparked by a tsunami and earthquake and became the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. They also occurred as the industry was working to burnish its image on safety: All of the nation’s 61 nuclear plants are at least 20 years old, many are over 40, and at least one plant operator has announced it hopes to extend its reactors’ licenses to 80 years.

Yet more than three-quarters of the country’s commercial nuclear power sites have reported some kind of radioactive leak in their life spans, an investigation by the Associated Press found in June 2011 – three months after Fukushima. At the same time, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has repeatedly weakened federal regulations to allow plants to keep operating, despite thousands of problems ranging from corroded pipes to cracked concrete and radioactive leaks.

Late last month, seven NRC engineers went public with a petition urging the agency to fix a critical design flaw in the electrical systems of all but one of the nation’s nuclear plants – a highly unusual move for federal employees.

“We have a very ineffective regulator that will not impose any costs that will jeopardize the economics of these plants,” says Paul Blanch, a longtime engineer and industry worker turned watchdog. While a tritium leak may not imperil human health, “it indicates a very sloppy operational environment of aging management and fixing obvious sources of leaks.”………

since finalizing the new standards, the agency has reportedly inspected and approved just two of the country’s 61 plants for compliance: one in Tennessee, the other in Virginia, Bloomberg BNA found. It’s also unclear whether new equipment for maintaining power at the plant during a prolonged outage will even work, experts say: while the NRC’s mandate called for buying the new equipment, it apparently lacked minimum performance standards.

Meanwhile, last fall, Indian Point in New York – the plant leaking tritium – suffered four unplanned outages in two months………

March 16, 2016 Posted by | incidents, USA | Leave a comment

Is India’s Government Hiding A Serious Accident Underway In Gujarat?

India’s Former Nuclear Regulator Says, Govt Might Be safety-symbol-Smflag-india, CounterCurrents  By Kumar Sundaram 13 March, 2016 The retired chief of India’s nuclear regulator, Dr. A Gopalakrishnan has sent out an urgent note in which he has cautioned that a ‘loss of coolant accident(LOCA)’ might be underway in Gujarat’s Kakrapar Nuclear Power Station(KAPS). A LOCA accidents is the most serious accident that can happen in nuclear plants and it might lead to the meltdown of the reactor fuel core.

The same reactor had a major accident in 1994 when floodwaters drowned Kakrapar. The floodgates meant to release excess water could not be opened and the water kept increasing–which could lead to a major accident–but it was prevented with the efforts of local engineers. Mr. Manoj Mishra, a worker in the power station then who blew whistle on that accident was terminated by the NPCIL. He was denied justice even by the Supreme Court in India which bought the NPCIL’s argument that he cannot be a whistle-blower as he did not have technical degrees. Mr. Mishra had years of experience in the reactor and he was a strong leader of the workers’ union.

Kakrapar is situated not very far from the Vansda-Bharuch earthquake faultline running through Gujarat, which has experienced several major earthquakes.

Exactly on the 5th anniversary of Fukushima, a leak has been reported in the Unit-1 of the Kakrapar Nuclear Power Station near Surat in Gujarat.

Here is the note by Dr. Gopalakrishnan:

The Kakrapar Unit-I nuclear reactor in Gujarat is undergoing a moderately large leakage of heavy water from its Primary Heat Transport (PHT) system since 9.00 AM on March 11,2016. From the very limited information released by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) of the government , as well as from the conversations I had with press people who have been in touch with nuclear officials, few inferences can be drawn.

Till 7.00 PM on March 12,2016 , the DAE officials have no clue as to where exactly the PHT leak is located and how big is the rate of irradiated heavy water that is leaking into the reactor containment . However, some reports indicate that the containment has been vented to the atmosphere at least once , if not more times , which I suspect indicates a tendency for pressure build up in that closed space due to release of hot heavy water and steam into the containment housing . If this is true, the leak is not small , but moderately large , and still continuing. No one confirms that any one has entered the containment (in protective clothing) for a quick physical assessment of the situation , perhaps it is not safe to do so because of the high radiationfields inside . When NPCIL officials state that the reactor cooling is maintained , I believe what they may be doing is to allow the heavy water or light water stored in the emergency cooling tanks to run once-through the system and continue to pour through the leak into the containment floor through the break .

All this points to the likelihood that what Kakrapar Unit-1 is undergoing is a small Loss-of-Coolant Accident (LOCA) in progress. It is most likely that one or more pressure tubes (PT) in the reactor (which contain the fuel bundles) have cracked open , leaking hot primary system heavy-water coolant into the containment housing . ……….

. It may be possible that , having built more than 20 PHWRs , NPCIL and AERB in recent years have become overconfident and relaxed their strict adherence to this Aging Management Program , which might have been the reason for the current accident.

Let me caution the reader that the above conjecture is based on bits and pieces of reliable and not so reliable information gathered from different people close to the accident details and in positions of authority. Future detailed evaluation may or may not prove my entire set of conclusions or part of them to be not well-founded. But , technical experts are compelled to put out such conjectures because of the total lack of transparency of the Indian cilvilian nuclear power sector and the atomic energy commission (AEC) , the Dept. of Atomic Energy (DAE) , the NPCIL and the AERB . Public have a need to know and , therefore , the AEC and its sub-ordinate organizations need to promptly release status reports on the progressing safety incident which could affect their lives , to alleviate their concerns and anxieties . It is a series of such lapses in communication over the years which has built up the ever-increasing trust deficit in the DAE system among the general public. All future plans for expanding the civilian nuclear power sector should be put on hold until a truly independent nuclear safety regulator is put in place , who is not controlled by the AEC or the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) , who will then be answerable to openly communicating with the public on all civilian nuclear power matters.

Kumar Sundaram is a senior researcher with Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP) and Editor of

March 14, 2016 Posted by | incidents, India, secrets,lies and civil liberties | 1 Comment

Major leak shuts down India’s Gujarat Nuclear Plant

safety-symbol-Smflag-indiaGujarat Nuclear Plant Shut Down After Major Leak, All Workers Safe NDTV, All India | Written by Pallava Bagla March 12, 2016 NEW DELHI: 

 An emergency has been declared within the nuclear plant at Kakrapar in Gujarat after a major heavy water leak in a nuclear reactor. No worker has been exposed to radiation, said officials, adding that the employees remained sequestered till their shift ended, which is standard operating procedure for a crisis.

The workers were allowed to go home after they had been counted and accounted for as officials checked to ensure that no radioactivity was reported outside the plant.
Officials at India’s nuclear operator, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), told NDTV “The reactor has shut down safely and no radiation has leaked out”. According to Nalinish Nagaich a senior official at NPCIL, no worker was stationed in the affected area.

Officials said the safety checks and systems kicked in as intended for emergencies.

The nuclear reactor is slowly cooling down and is in a “safe stage” confirmed Dr Sekhar Basu, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission.

The heavy water leak affected the reactor’s cooling system. If emergency cooling systems do not kick in after this sort of glitch, the temperature can rise so much that the core of the reactor can melt down completely.

Heavy water, formed with a hydrogen isotope, is used in Indian reactors as a preferred cooling agent.

March 12, 2016 Posted by | incidents, India | Leave a comment

Florida Nuclear Station is leaking radioactive material into Biscayne Bay

water-radiationFPL nuclear plant canals leaking into Biscayne Bay, study confirms

Radioactive ‘tracer’ detected at up to 215 normal levels near canals

County commission set to discuss cooling canal problems Tuesday

Threat from pollution to public, marine life not addressed in report

Recent sampling of water in Biscayne Bay found higher than normal levels of tritium, a rare hydrogen isotope produced by nuclear reactors and used to track water leaking from Turkey Point’s cooling canals. Tim Chapman Miami Herald Staff MIAMI HERALD BY JENNY STALETOVICH

A radioactive isotope linked to water from power plant cooling canals has been found in high levels in Biscayne Bay, confirming suspicions that Turkey Point’s aging canals are leaking into the nearby national park.

According to a study released Monday by Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, water sampling in December and January found tritium levels up to 215 times higher than normal in ocean water. The report doesn’t address risks to the public or marine life but tritium is typically monitored as a “tracer” of nuclear power plant leaks or spills.

The study comes two weeks after a Tallahassee judge ordered the utility and the state to clean up the nuclear plant’s cooling canals after concluding that they had caused a massive underground saltwater plume to migrate west, threatening a wellfield that supplies drinking water to the Florida Keys. The judge also found the state failed to address the pollution by crafting a faulty management plan.

This latest test, critics say, raise new questions about what they’ve long suspected: That canals that began running too hot and salty the summer after FPL overhauled two reactors to produce more power could also be polluting the bay………

Over the last two years, problems with the canals have worsened exponentially. After the 2013 plant expansion to increase power output by 15 percent, the canals began running dangerously high. FPL officials blamed problems on an algae bloom that worsened after the canals were temporarily shut down during the project. But when a summer drought hit in 2014, temperatures spiked. At least twice, when temperatures soared to 102 degrees, the utility was nearly forced to power down reactors.

After obtaining permission from nuclear regulators to operate the canals at 104 degrees, the hottest in the nation, FPL officials began plotting a course to fix the canals by pumping in millions of gallons of fresh water from a nearby canal as well as increasing the amount of water drawn from the Floridan aquifer.

But the growing saltwater plume triggered regulatory scrutiny. After the county complained, the state ordered a new management plan, called an administrative order, to address problems……..

Over the last five years, the report said, cooling canal water typically has tritium at levels 60 to more than 800 times higher than in the bay. Tritium at the bottom of the bay close to the canals ranged from more than 130 to 215 times higher — high enough to suggest a consistent flow from the sprawling cooling system.

County staff concluded the findings are “the most compelling evidence” that canal water has spread into the bay.

March 9, 2016 Posted by | incidents, USA | 3 Comments


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