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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Stresses on North Korea’s nuclear test mountain – becoming unstable?

After six tests, the mountain hosting North Korea’s nuclear blasts may be exhausted, SMH, Anna Fifield, 21 Oct 17 Tokyo: Have North Korea’s nuclear tests become so big that they’ve altered the geological structure of the land?

Some analysts now see signs that Mount Mantap, the 2200-metre-high peak under which North Korea detonates its nuclear bombs, is suffering from “tired mountain syndrome”.

The mountain visibly shifted during the last nuclear test, an enormous detonation that was recorded as a 6.3-magnitude earthquake in North Korea’s northeast. Since then, the area, which is not known for natural seismic activity, has had three more quakes.

“What we are seeing from North Korea looks like some kind of stress in the ground,” said Paul G Richards, a seismologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

“In that part of the world, there were stresses in the ground but the explosions have shaken them up.”

Chinese scientists have already warned that further nuclear tests could cause the mountain to collapse and release the radiation from the blast.

North Korea has conducted six nuclear tests since 2006, all of them in tunnels burrowed deep under Mount Mantap at a site known as the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Facility. Intelligence analysts and experts alike use satellite imagery to keep close track on movement at the three entrances to the tunnels for signals that a test might be coming.

After the latest nuclear test, on September 3, Kim Jong Un’s regime claimed that it had set off a hydrogen bomb and that it had been a “perfect success”.

After the latest nuclear test, on September 3, Kim Jong Un’s regime claimed that it had set off a hydrogen bomb and that it had been a “perfect success”.

Images captured by Airbus, a space technology company that makes earth observation satellites, showed the mountain literally moving during the test. An 85-acre area on the peak of Mount Mantap visibly subsided during the explosion, an indication of both the size of the blast and the weakness of the mountain.

Since that day, there have been three much smaller quakes at the site, in the 2 to 3 magnitude range, each of them setting fears that North Korea had conducted another nuclear test that had perhaps gone wrong. But they all turned out to be natural.

If the mountain collapses and the hole is exposed, it will let out many bad things.

Wang Naiyan, former chairman of the China Nuclear Society

That has analysts Frank V. Pabian and Jack Liu wondering if Mount Mantap is suffering from “tired mountain syndrome”, a diagnosis previously applied to the Soviet Union’s atomic test sites.

“The underground detonation of nuclear explosions considerably alters the properties of the rock mass,” Vitaly V. Adushkin and William Leith wrote in a report on the Soviet tests for the United States Geological Survey in 2001. This leads to fracturing and rocks breaking, and changes along tectonic faults.

Earthquakes also occurred at the US’ nuclear test site in Nevada after detonations there.

“The experience we had from the Nevada test site and decades of monitoring the Soviet Union’s major test sites in Kazakhstan showed that after a very large nuclear explosion, several other significant things can happen,” Richards said. This included cavities collapsing hours or even months later, he said.

Pabian and Liu said the North Korean test site also seemed to be suffering.

“Based on the severity of the initial blast, the post-test tremors, and the extent of observable surface disturbances, we have to assume that there must have been substantial damage to the existing tunnel network under Mount Mantap,” they wrote in a report for the specialist North Korea website 38 North.

But the degradation of the mountain does not necessarily mean that it would be abandoned as a test site – just as the United States did not abandon the Nevada test site after earthquakes there, they said. Instead, the US kept using the site until a nuclear test moratorium took effect in 1992.

For that reason, analysts will continue to keep a close eye on the Punggye-ri test site to see if North Korea starts excavating there again – a sign of possible preparations for another test.

The previous tests took place through the north portal to the underground tunnels, but even if those tunnels had collapsed, North Korea’s nuclear scientists might still use tunnel complexes linked to the south and west portals, Pabian and Liu said.

Chinese scientists have warned that another test under the mountain could lead to an environmental disaster. If the whole mountain caved in on itself, radiation could escape and drift across the region, said Wang Naiyan, the former chairman of the China Nuclear Society and senior researcher on China’s nuclear weapons programme.

“We call it ‘taking the roof off’. If the mountain collapses and the hole is exposed, it will let out many bad things,” Wang told the South China Morning Post last month……http://www.smh.com.au/world/after-six-tests-the-mountain-hosting-north-koreas-nuclear-blasts-may-be-exhausted-20171021-gz5ixm.html

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October 23, 2017 Posted by | environment, North Korea, safety, weapons and war | Leave a 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

Cyberattacks targeting nuclear facilities, an increasing threat

U.S. says cyberattacks have targeted nuclear, energy, aviation, water and critical manufacturing industries, Japan Times, 21 Oct 17  REUTERS – The U.S. government issued a rare public warning that sophisticated hackers are targeting energy and industrial firms, the latest sign that cyberattacks present an increasing threat to the power industry and other public infrastructure.

The Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation warned in a report distributed by email late on Friday that the nuclear, energy, aviation, water and critical manufacturing industries have been targeted along with government entities in attacks dating back to at least May.

 The agencies warned that hackers had succeeded in compromising some targeted networks, but did not identify specific victims or describe any cases of sabotage.

The objective of the attackers is to compromise organizational networks with malicious emails and tainted websites to obtain credentials for accessing computer networks of their targets, the report said.

U.S. authorities have been monitoring the activity for months, which they initially detailed in a confidential June report first reported by Reuters. That document, which was privately distributed to firms at risk of attacks, described a narrower set of activity focusing on the nuclear, energy and critical manufacturing sectors……..

The report said the attacker was the same as one described by Symantec in a September report that warned advanced hackers had penetrated the systems controlling operations of some U.S. and European energy companies……https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/10/22/world/u-s-says-cyberattacks-targeted-nuclear-energy-aviation-water-critical-manufacturing-industries/#.We0JJI-CzGg

October 23, 2017 Posted by | safety, USA | Leave a comment

Danger of military explosives, depleted uranium weaponry flying in and out of Ireland airport

US Military Cargo, Explosives, Depleted Uranium Weaponry Transit through Ireland’s Shannon Airport https://www.globalresearch.ca/us-military-cargo-explosives-depleted-uranium-weaponry-transit-through-irelands-shannon-airport/5613597

October 23, 2017 Posted by | EUROPE, safety | 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

Seaweed clogging up cooling system of EDF’s Hunterston B nuclear station in Scotland

Largs and Millport News 20th Oct 2017, A seaweed solution is being sought by EDF Energy to prevent cooling water being clogged up with seaweed. Hunterston B has made an application to
Marine Scotland to remove seaweed from the seabed next to the cooling water
intake jetty to help to reduce the amount of seaweed entering the cooling
water system. The consultation period on the application has ended,
responses have been received and the station is awaiting a license decision
from Marine Scotland.

Two years ago, a reactor at the nuclear power station
had to be taken offline due to high levels of seaweed in the waters around
the plant. The plant relies on water taken from the sea for cooling. Back
in 2015, in a letter to stakeholders, station director Colin Weir said:
“Hunterston B power station’s reactor 3 was manually shut down at 18.40
on Monday 1 June due to severe seaweed ingress, accompanied by strong winds
and storm surges. “This was done as a precautionary measure when it was
clear that the seaweed levels weren’t reducing. “Reactor 4 was also
reduced in power and remains operating at a reduced power.”

Mr Weir said staff at the station were monitoring the weather and seaweed levels would
begin the return to normal service when it was determined conditions were
“in a stable state”. At the time, cooling to the reactor was maintained
at all times and there were no health, safety or environmental impacts.
http://www.largsandmillportnews.com/news/15607469.Seaweed_solution_sought_for_Hunterston_B/

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

Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board – (nuisance to the nuclear industry) to be got rid of?

Efforts underway to remove ‘redundant’ nuclear safety board, Santa fe – New Mexican , By Rebecca Moss | The New Mexican, Oct 19, 2017 

Efforts have been underway to defund and dismantle an independent board charged with overseeing safety and security at nuclear weapons sites, and much of that work has been spearheaded by the board’s own Republican chairman, according to an investigative report released Thursday.
The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, a five-person panel appointed by the U.S. president, has been charged for three decades with conducting independent safety reviews at Los Alamos National Laboratory and other nuclear sites, as well as with advising the U.S. energy secretary and informing Congress about potential health and safety risks to workers and communities, accidents and contamination events at the sites, and efforts to remedy problems.

The board’s recommendations do not require action by the labs or the Energy Department but have led to more intense scrutiny of labs — including Los Alamos, which has had a poor safety record in recent years, with several serious breaches — and more stringent regulations.

 In June, Sean Sullivan, a Republican member of the nuclear safety board who was appointed chairman by the Trump administration, proposed in a letter to the White House Office of Management and Budget that the board be eliminated. He called it a Cold War legacy that is no longer relevant and said it creates “myriad unnecessary costs for the Department of Energy.”……

The efforts to disband the board and undermine its independence come amid increasing questions about the safety culture at a number of national labs, but particularly at Los Alamos.

In the past year, Los Alamos has faced a federal investigation for improperly shipping nuclear materials out of state and violated nuclear safety protocol in August at its plutonium facility. A small fire there in April also caused one worker to suffer second-degree burns.

Most of these issues were made public by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, which posts its weekly reports online.

Earlier this year, the safety board voiced concerns to Congress about Los Alamos’ ability to handle nuclear materials and raised questions about whether the lab’s nuclear facilities are structurally sound.

In early June, the board held a hearing in Santa Fe to question lab and Energy Department officials about whether the lab would be prepared to manage increasing quantities of nuclear material as ramped-up production of plutonium pits — the grapefruit-sized triggers inside nuclear bombs — begins as part of a plan to modernize the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

Given the protracted and ongoing safety issues at Los Alamos, a number of safety board members and lawmakers have objected to any relaxed oversight at the lab.

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., told the Center for Public Integrity that repeated safety issues, “including the two [labs] in New Mexico, are among the reasons for strengthening — not eliminating the outside oversight board.

“These incidents have demonstrated that there is a need for a strong watchdog that does not have a direct financial or political stake in the success of the labs,” Udall added………http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/efforts-underway-to-remove-redundant-nuclear-safety-board/article_73572fa5-362a-53dc-ba80-640b03e52f2b.html   Contact Rebecca Moss at 505-986-3011 or rmoss@sfnewmexican.com.

October 21, 2017 Posted by | politics, safety, USA | Leave a comment

Dangerous Whitehaven coal mine plan – CLOSE TO RADIOACTOVE SELLAFIELD SITE !

Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole, Crowd Justice,    https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/keep-cumbrian-coal-in-the-hole/  20 Oct 17 , by Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole Group of Cumbrians opposed to the first deep coal mine in the UK for 30 years. 

OLD KING COAL RESURRECTED?

There is a statue in Whitehaven, a poignant memorial to coal miners who lost their lives.

“End of an Era” …..Only apparently it isnt!

Now there is a plan to expand the dangerous Whitehaven mines with undersea coal mining. There has been lots of greenwashing heaped on the plan by West Cumbria Mining to reopen Whitehaven coal mine, the most gaseous, dangerous pit in the Kingdom.  In 1815, Sir Humphrey Davy’s invention of the miner’s safety lamp was first tested in Whitehaven Coking Coal Mine because of its reputation for “firedamp” (methane) and fatal explosions.

That was in the pre atomic age.  Now in the same area, just 8km away we have the most dangerous nuclear site in the world, Sellafield.   “Windscale – later renamed Sellafield, 8km away is too close”

What People are Saying:

“We are particularly concerned in regard to the potential impact upon the wider marine and coastal environment of the discharge of water into the sea, which has been pumped from the flooded anhydrite mine.” National Trust

“ The application site is in proximity (Solway Firth 1.5km) to a European designated site (also commonly referred to as Natura 2000 sites), and therefore has the potential to affect its interest features.”Natural England

“The impact of any level of subsidence upon the terrestrial or marine heritage assets and designated sites and landscapes could be significant and permanent, therefore having a detrimental impact ..The history of contamination of watercourses in the areas raises concerns for some local residents in relation to the impact of the development on the complex hydrology of the area.” Colourful Coast Partnership

“Our position is to object to the proposed development on the grounds of the adverse impact on groundwater, surface water and biodiversity.”Environment Agency

“It is clear that this is a very large mine, with a very long life span…of 20-50 years and a peak of 2.8 million tonnes a year. Assuming a 40 year life (following construction), and an average of 2 million tonnes a year, that is a total production of 80 million tonnes, which will emit around 175 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. The level of emissions and proposed life-time of the mine is of major concern….We would also query whether or not there has been robust enough analysis of the potential for seismicity (and subsidence) relating to well-known nuclear facilities in the wider area, including Sellafield and proposed new facility at Moorside? What potential is there for seismicity to effect these and other facilities (including the low level waste repository at Drigg) and the possible high level waste radioactive waste facility which has been proposed in West Cumbria for some time.” Friends of the Earth

“The application should be rejected because it is not in the national interest. From reviewing the documents submitted by West Cumbria Mining it is clear that the intention is to export the coal to Europe and Asia…The application to mine is too close to the Sellafield nuclear site and the proposal for another nuclear power station at Moorside. Underground mining can have a significant impact on the surrounding areas, recently a coking coal mine in Russia triggered an earthquake.” Coal Action Network

Just some of the “Star Species” found in this Heritage Coast and Marine Conservation Zone are listed by the RSPB as: Fulmar, Guillemot, Herring Gull, Kittiwake, Razorbill and so many more that would be impacted on by the plan for a new coal mine with possible subsidence of the Irish Sea bed impacting on food sources such as sandeels (and not to mention disturbing decades of Sellafield discharges which have settled there).

There are so many reasons to oppose this coal mine plan.  That is why we are campaigning hard to stop the plan.

TAKE ACTION

 Specialist law firm, Leigh Day have agreed to help which is amazing.  So we are raising funds for the cost for counsel to provide a written Opinion on Potential Grounds for Judicial Review.   This is to ensure that we will still have a chance of stopping the coal mine plan should Cumbria County Council ignore the advice of Natural England, the National Trust, Coal Action Network, the Environment Agency, Colourful Coast Partnership, Friends of the Earth and others and rubberstamp the plan.
People can get involved in many ways. You can write to the leader of Cumbria County Council and let him know you oppose the plan
by West Cumbria Mining for the new Woodhouse Colliery (planning application number 4/17/9007 )
Cumbria County Council is scheduled to be making a decision on the 24th of January, 2018.  The decision will be taken by the Development Control Committee.  Their contact details are here .  The more letters they get the better.   If you feel you can speak in opposition to the plan on the 24th of January then please do, whether as an individual or as a member of a group.  The meeting is open to public participation and you can register to speak by contacting Cumbria County Council.
We need to stop this diabolic plan for a new coal mine dangerously near Sellafield, if you can help in ANY way either by donation or by action then the better chance we have.
If you can help, you will be making history in the battle to stop the first deep coal mine in the UK for 30 years.  All donations no matter how small will be used directly to challenge West Cumbria Mining’s diabolic plan.  https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/keep-cumbrian-coal-in-the-hole/

October 21, 2017 Posted by | safety, UK | Leave a comment

£1.3bn Chernobyl New Safe Confinement planned for completion this year

BBC 17th Oct 2017, A manufacturer from Torfaen is helping to dismantle the remains of the
Chernobyl nuclear power station. A concrete and steel arch will cover the
reactor which was destroyed in the 1986 disaster. Pontypool-based
manufacturer Flamgard Calidair has developed fire and shut off dampers for
the project, known as the Chernobyl New Safe Confinement. The £1.3bn
(€1.5bn) building is set to be completed before Christmas 2017.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-south-east-wales-41654257

October 20, 2017 Posted by | safety, Ukraine | 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

America’s nuclear industry wants to ‘self assess’ for safety, efficiency: that’s not a good idea

Why NRC Nuclear Safety Inspections are Necessary: Columbia Generating Station, UCS,  DAVE LOCHBAUM, DIRECTOR, NUCLEAR SAFETY PROJECT | OCTOBER 17, 2017 The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) adopted its Reactor Oversight Process (ROP) in 2000. The ROP is far superior to the oversight processes previously employed by the NRC. Among its many virtues, the NRC treats the ROP as a work in progress, meaning that agency routinely re-assesses the ROP and makes necessary adjustments.

Earlier this year, the NRC initiated a formal review of its engineering inspections with the goal of making them more efficient and more effective. During a public meeting on October 11, 2017, the NRC working group conducting the review outlined some changes to the engineering inspections that would essentially cover the same ground but with an estimated 8 to 15 percent reduction in person-hours (the engineering inspections and suggested revisions are listed on slide 7 of the NRC’s presentation). Basically, the NRC working group suggested repackaging the inspections so as to be able to examine the same number of items, but in fewer inspection trips.

The nuclear industry sees a different way to accomplish the efficiency and effectiveness gains sought by the NRC’s review effort—they propose to eliminate the NRC’s engineering inspections and replace them with self-assessments. The industry would mail the results from the self-assessments to the NRC for their reading pleasure.

UCS is wary of self-assessments by industry in lieu of NRC inspections. On one hand, statistics might show that self-assessments increase safety just as a community firing all its law enforcement officers would see a statistical decrease in arrests, suggesting a lower crime rate. I have been researching the records publicly available in ADAMS to compare the industry’s track record for finding latent safety problems with the NRC’s track record to see whether replacing NRC’s inspections with industry self-assessments could cause nuclear safety to go off-track.

This commentary is the first in a series that convinces us that the NRC’s engineering inspections are necessary for nuclear safety and that public health and safety will be compromised by replacing them with self-assessments by industry.

Columbia Generating Station: Not so Cool Safety Moves………

UCS Perspective

Under the Atomic Energy Act as amended, the NRC is tasked with establishing and enforcing regulations to protect workers and the public from the inherent hazards from nuclear power reactor operation.

Owners are responsible for conforming with applicable regulatory requirements. In this case, the owner made a series of changes that resulted in the plant not conforming with applicable regulatory requirements for the air temperature within the control room. But there’s no evidence suggesting that the owner knew that the changes were illegal yet made them anyway hoping not to get caught. Nevertheless, ignorance of the law is still not a valid excuse. The public is not adequately protected when safety regulations are not met, regardless of whether the violations are intentional or inadvertent.

This case study illustrates the vital role that NRC’s enforcement efforts plays in nuclear safety. The soundest safety regulation in the world serves little use unless owners abide by it. The NRCs inspection efforts either verify that owners are abiding by safety regulations or identify shortfalls. Self-assessments by owners are more likely to sustain mis-interpretations and misunderstandings than to flush out safety problems.

The NRC’s ROP is the public’s best protection against hazards caused by aging nuclear power reactors, shrinking maintenance budgets, and emerging sabotage threats. Replacing the NRC’s engineering inspections with self-assessments by the owners would lessen the effectiveness of that protective shield.

The NRC must continue to protect the public to the best of its ability. Delegating safety checks to owners is inconsistent with that important mission. http://allthingsnuclear.org/dlochbaum/why-nrc-inspections-are-necessary-columbia

October 18, 2017 Posted by | politics, safety, spinbuster, USA | Leave a comment

29 French nuclear reactors at risk, warns France’s Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN).

29 French nuclear reactors vulnerable to natural disaster – safety watchdog 

Another nine reactors at four nuclear sites are at “risk of partial loss,”which is ‘level 0’ according to the INES. The scale has 7 levels that describe the safety significance of nuclear and radiological events, with the highest level classified as a ‘major accident,’ and events from levels 1 to 3 classified as ‘incidents.’ Events without any safety significance are rated as Below Scale/Level 0.

The French company EDF, which operates the country’s nuclear reactors, said earlier that 20 reactors might not be able to withstand earthquakes, which could cause a collapse of their cooling systems, and nine reactors’ cooling systems could also be at risk.

The ASN said that thickness measurements of pipeline systems at the Belleville Nuclear Power Plant in May and June 2017 revealed the metal is too thin to resist an earthquake. After discovering the vulnerabilities, “a thickness measurement campaign” was carried out by EDF at potentially at risk nuclear facilities.

EDF said on October 11 that it was fixing pipe problems at 20 nuclear reactors to prevent the collapse of cooling systems, and the ASN is currently checking the progress.

Last week, Greenpeace activists staged a fireworks display on the premises of the Cattenom Nuclear Power Plant to highlight “security risks” at the facility. Four reactors at the site were included among reactors at risk level 2 by the ASN.

France operates 58 nuclear reactors with total capacity of 63.2 GWe. Concerns over seismic safety were among the reasons it was decided to shut down the Fessenheim plant by April 2020.

October 18, 2017 Posted by | France, safety | Leave a comment

Idaho National Laboratory – promoter and also umpire for nuclear reactors’ safety

National lab is cheerleader and umpire for reactors’ future Peter Behr, E&E News reporter, SCOVILLE, Idaho — Nuclear power for the grid was born here in 1951, when an experimental reactor’s football-sized core sent current flowing to a quartet of lightbulbs at the isolated government laboratory on Idaho’s southeast desert.

And the nuclear industry’s future may be written here, as well — at least key parts of it — inside the Energy Department’s Idaho National Laboratory testing complex.

INL’s scientists, with colleagues at other DOE labs, are keeping a close watch on the health of the nation’s commercial nuclear reactors, most of them built before the mid-1980s in the flush of excitement about nuclear energy that would be “too cheap to meter,” as an early promoter predicted. How long can the plants keep going before critical steel, concrete and wiring systems are overcome by the aging effects of heat, radiation and mechanical stresses?

And now, with the nuclear industry struggling to compete against low-cost natural gas generation, INL is also stepping up a search for ways to lower reactor operating costs, from research on “accident tolerant” reactor fuels to designing more efficient control rooms and using technology to reduce reactor safety inspection time and costs……..

The NRC has licensed 84 reactors to continue operating beyond the initial 40-year span for an additional 20 years. Nine more relicensing applications are pending, and four reactors are expected to apply, the NRC said……..

The Energy Department’s 2016 report on the reactor longevity campaign notes the potential for damaging surprises. The specialized stainless steel alloys chosen for reactors in the 1960s had many plus factors, DOE said, but concerns, as well. Reactor radiation can add to stress-related corrosion cracking, threatening structural integrity. DOE researchers noted this year that “limited information is known about the long-term performance” of these alloys. Concrete structures have borne thermal shock and radiation, and reactor wiring has lived in harsh environments. Aging issues are “expected to become more severe” as time passes, DOE said.

An essential test process at Idaho and other DOE labs is to bombard sample reactor materials with enormous radiation levels inside test reactors, accelerating stress testing to mimic impacts of operations far beyond 40 years.

“It’s possible plants could run into aging problems that were too expensive to fix, and the operators would decide to shut it down,” Wagner said.

“Nearly all of the fleet will go offline between 2029 and 2055” if plants cannot operate beyond 60 years, Wagner said. “That may seem like a long time away, but it’s really not when you consider replacing that level of assets.”…….https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060063769

October 18, 2017 Posted by | politics, safety, USA | Leave a comment

China forced to close top skiing area, due to earthquake concerns about North Korea’s nuclear tests

North Korean Nuclear Tests Close Chinese Ski Area, Outside, 17 Oct 17, 

Border resort shuttered amid earthquake and volcano concerns after a series of underground detonations China announced an indefinite closure of the country’s only cat-access ski resort due to earthquakes that were caused by a series of underground nuclear tests conducted by North Korea.

Changbaishan Ski Resort is part of China’s Changbaishan National Nature Reserve, a nearly 800-square-mile preserve along North Korea’s northern border that sits within 70 miles of the nation’s nuclear test site at Punggye-ri. The underground nuclear detonations in late September registered a seismic magnitude of 6.3, and eight seconds later produced a burst of seismic energy measuring 4.1, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The events triggered a landslide on a mountain within Changbaishan, prompting China to close a large section of the reserve—the only section with ski access.

“For the safety and convenience of travelers, we have temporarily closed the zone of Changbai Mountain. Officials are thoroughly investigating the safety of the tourist area,” reads a message from Chinese authorities, adding that the area will remain closed until “the potential risks disappear.”………

But the mountain range along the border of North Korea and China is sacred to more than just powder hounds. According to North Korean legend, its highest peak, Paektu Mountain, is the birthplace of the country’s former dictator Kim Jong-il. According to geological history, the range is also the skeleton of a violent volcanic eruption, an event that turned an ancient peak into the ring of mountains that appear today.

Aside from earthquakes and the subsequent landslides and avalanches, researchers worry that continued nuclear tests could recreate that explosive scenario, reactivating magma chambers and kicking off what would be a catastrophic modern-day volcanic eruption. A Newsweekarticle said that for a nuclear detonation to cause serious damage to a volcano, a preceding underground blast would need to measure at least 100 kilotons. The explosion in September was estimated to be around two and a half times that size. https://www.outsideonline.com/2251541/north-korea-nuclear-tests-are-affecting-skiing-china

October 18, 2017 Posted by | China, North Korea, safety | Leave a comment

Part of the giant Hinkley Point nuclear plant will have to be demolished and rebuilt

Times 15th Oct 2017, Part of the giant Hinkley Point nuclear plant will have to be demolished
and rebuilt after inspectors found problems with its concrete foundations,
in the latest setback for the £20bn project.

EDF, the owner, is understood to have found weaknesses in a small area of the foundations that have been laid on the Somerset coast. The French energy giant insisted the problem is
isolated to 150 cubic metres where pipes and cables are due to be laid, and
said it will not delay construction. Yet the discovery will raise concerns
about the plant, which will house Britain’s first new nuclear reactors in
a generation.

EDF admitted in July that costs at Hinkley, which is being
bankrolled by the French and Chinese governments, would rise by £1.5bn to
£20.3bn and that it may be completed 15 months later than its December
2025 deadline.

Hinkley’s two sister plants, Flamanville in France and
Olkiluoto in Finland, have suffered hefty cost hikes and long delays. The
problems were found in a patch of “substitution” concrete that forms
the foundations of the first of the site’s 5 miles of “galleries” —
a series of deep trenches that will house the plant’s pipes and electric
cables. The inspection found problems including “weak concrete”,
“poor-quality cleanliness” and an area of concrete that was not wide
enough.

Fixing the problem will mean demolishing another layer of
“slab” concrete that had been poured on top of the foundations. ….
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/business/hinkley-nuclear-planthit-by-concrete-flaws-found-by-owner-edf-gq5j3lbqg

October 16, 2017 Posted by | safety, UK | Leave a comment