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U.S. Navy’s safety culture’s deficiencies

Faults Cited After A 2008 Nuclear Carrier Fire Exacerbated The Bonhomme Richard Conflagration, Forbes,
Craig Hooper,  Senior Contributor, 27 Jul 20,   
In the aftermath of the disastrous fire aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) the U.S. Navy is cracking down on lax waterfront safety practices. This is not enough. Unless the U.S. Navy wants to risk a repeat of the Bonhomme Richard fire at sea, the Navy’s safety standup must extend beyond the pier, encompassing fire safety across the entire Navy enterprise.

As the USS Bonhomme Richard fire—and as at least 4 other major pier-side fires have demonstrated since a shipyard arsonist torched the attack submarine USS Miami (SSN-755) in 2012—the pier is a dangerous place for any naval vessel. Earlier in the month, as the wrecked amphibious assault ship still smoldered, the Navy’s waterfront chronic safety culture shortcomings were re-emphasized and emphasized again after workers inexplicably sparked two minor fires aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) and America’s undelivered super carrier, the John F. Kennedy (CVN-79).

The Navy’s pier-side safety standup is as welcome as it is overdue.  . But the Navy also needs to take a closer look at fire safety at sea and throughout the enterprise. In the past month, far too many have sought to minimize safety culture,……………

Conclusion:

The fact that the Navy is moving so quickly to address almost exactly the same deficiencies as those identified after the 2008 fire aboard the USS George Washington is concerning. At a minimum, it suggests that most of the firefighting deficiencies and lax pier-side safety culture that contributed to the demise of the USS Bonhomme Richard are well-known and widely disseminated across the Navy enterprise.

The fact that exactly the same firefighting and safety deficiencies still exist little more than decade after a fire sidelined an underway and strategically critical U.S. Navy platform is inexplicable. The lack of urgency in driving and sustaining a solution to the Navy’s lax fire safety culture is mind-boggling. This is a massive vulnerability. And with Navy’s fire safety proven to be a large—and systemic—national security risk, America must assume sophisticated rivals have noted the Navy’s lax safety culture and are currently targeting these vulnerabilities at individual, command and enterprise levels.

If a rival knows that the persistent encouragement of bad safety practices and the deliberate minimization of real safety risks can effectively sink a carrier for less than the cost of a single carrier-killing missile, there is no reason not to try it.

July 28, 2020 Posted by | safety, USA | Leave a comment

A series of accidents and near misses between surface vessels and submarines in the waters round Scotland.

The National 26th July 2020, IN a crowded field for shocking headlines this past month, readers may not
have noticed news of an alarming near-miss between a Royal Navy nuclear
submarine and a ferry on the Belfast-Cairnryan crossing.

The Maritime Accident Investigation Branch’s recently published analysis of this
incident makes for worrying reading and follows on from a series of
similarly dangerous accidents between surface vessels and submarines in the
waters round Scotland.

https://www.thenational.scot/news/18607663.scots-deserve-free-nuclear-sub-risks/

July 27, 2020 Posted by | incidents, UK | Leave a comment

Cause of blast at Iran nuclear site – still shrouded in mystery

OREIGN REPORTS HAVE ATTRIBUTED THE ATTACK TO ISRAEL

Iranian MP: Blast at nuclear site was ’caused by a security breach’       https://www.timesofisrael.com/iranian-mp-blast-at-nuclear-site-was-caused-by-a-security-breach/   Javad Karimi Qoddousi rules out a strike ‘by an external object’ as the cause of a fire that damaged an advanced centrifuge plant at Natanz
By TOI STAFF  22 July 20, 

A building damaged by a fire, at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility some 200 miles (322 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, Iran, in a photo released on July 2, 2020. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)

An Iranian lawmaker said Wednesday that a recent blast and fire at the Natanz nuclear site was caused by a “security breach.”

MP Javad Karimi Qoddousi, a member of the Iranian parliament’s National Security Committee, ruled out “a strike on the complex by an external object” as the cause of the blast, appearing to deny the possibility of a missile attack or airstrike.

“If it was from the outside, we should have seen shrapnel, but there are absolutely no remnants left on the site,” he said, according to Radio Farda.

Qoddousi did not elaborate on what he meant by a “security breach.” Radio Farda noted the Persian term he used can also be translated as an infiltration of security, suggesting the blast came from inside the building.

The blast, which US media reports have attributed to Israel, damaged an advanced centrifuge development and assembly plant.

According to a New York Times report earlier this month, the blast was most likely the result of a bomb planted at the facility, potentially at a strategic gas line, but that it was not out of the question that a cyberattack was used to cause a malfunction that led to the explosion.

The July 2 Natanz explosion was one of a series of mysterious blasts at Iranian strategic sites in recent weeks, which have once again been largely attributed to either Washington, Jerusalem, or both.
The substantial damage done by an explosion and a fire at an advanced centrifuge assembly plant at Iran’s Natanz nuclear site. (satellite image from Planet Labs Inc. via AP)

Intelligence officials who assessed the damage to the Netanz centrifuge facility told The Times they believed it may have set back the Iranian nuclear program by as much as two years.

A spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry has said that the cause of the Natanz explosion was not yet known, but warned that the country would retaliate severely if it emerges that a foreign entity was involved.

Iran has also called for action against Israel following the damage to the Natanz facility. “This method Israel is using is dangerous, and it could spread to anywhere in the world,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei said, during a press conference on July 7.

July 23, 2020 Posted by | incidents, Iran | Leave a comment

In the event of a nuclear bombing, electromagnetic pulse would be the least of our worries

The electromagnetic pulse that comes from the sundering of an atom, potentially destroying electronics within the blast radius with some impact miles away from ground zero,  is just one of many effects of every nuclear blast. What is peculiar about these pulses, often referred to as EMPs, is the way the side effect of a nuclear blast is treated as a  special threat in its own right by bodies such as the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, which, despite the official-sounding name, is a privately funded group.

 These groups continue a decadelong tradition of obsession over EMPs, one President Donald Trump and others have picked up on. These EMP-specific fears are wholly divorced from the normal risk calculations of a war between nuclear-armed states and the threat of nuclear oblivion. Doing so obscures the history—and misunderstands the dangers.

EMPs were anticipated before they existed. Enrico Fermi of the Manhattan Project hardened sensors at the Trinity test site so that the detonation would remain useful science. Later nuclear tests would look at the way this pulse risked disabling other warheads in flight, and what would happen if a warhead was detonated so high above Earth that the pulse was its primary effect.

For the early planners of the apocalypse, the greatest risk posed by an EMP was to nuclear warheads themselves. Strategic planning called for multiple warheads to obliterate a city, and the engineers were worried about what might happen if the first nuke to explode disabled the electronics inside the other warheads, causing them to land inert instead. This was called “warhead fratricide,” and researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory ran Monte Carlo simulations to estimate the odds.
Once understood, the problem of nuclear weapons disabling other nuclear weapons was solved, primarily, by engineering around the known parameters of EMPs. Hardening electronics, with special shielding that directs current around sensitive parts of machines, has been a staple of nuclear weapon design for decades. It is a known, solvable problem. The U.S. Department of Defense absolutely requires hardening for military electronics critical to nuclear command and control, while standards exist to harden other electronics, as well as civilian infrastructure that the military depends on for non-nuclear threats.
That hasn’t stopped it becoming a perpetual bugbear of strategists. …………..

at a time when the primary concern of the U.S. nuclear enterprise was preparing for, and deterring, a war with the Soviet Union. That arsenal, now Russian, remains the primary concern of nuclear forces. Russia, like the United States, maintains a standing arsenal of over 1,500 deployed nuclear weapons. That’s the scale where, should either country decide to launch a nuclear attack, a warhead or three could be spared to create a high-altitude EMP effect against another country without significantly reducing the total harm caused by the more familiar blasts and pressure waves of nuclear detonation. The destruction to electronics, as in Hiroshima, would be a very low-level concern compared to the charred bodies of children and cities on fire.

For the rest of the nuclear-armed world, with total arsenals estimated at between 35 to 320 warheads, using one of them for an EMP effect makes even less strategic sense.
What is known about nuclear weapons is the damage they cause to people, to cities, and to physical objects from physical force. These are the effects that haunt our understanding of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A nuclear blast is an unsubtle form of harm. Focusing on EMPs outside the context of a broader nuclear war assumes a wholly unique strategic calculus, one that sits outside any understanding of war or even terrorism. It ascribes nearly supernatural powers to electronics and the threatened loss thereof. And it assumes that detonating a nuclear weapon in orbit over a country would not be met with the same immediate and hostile reaction as detonating a nuclear weapon in a city.
To fear the EMP is to look at the vast military strength of the United States, and see, as Franks did, that strength as a surrogate for a unique vulnerability. It is to imagine that the United States has built itself an Achilles’ heel, one that when pricked will lead to the collapse of all of Western civilization…………
Nuclear war is a serious threat. It has been for decades, however much we might want to forget about it. But the idea of a nuclear weapon creating an EMP without immediately sparking a nuclear war is entirely laughable.   https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/07/21/electromagnetic-pulses-emp-weapons-nuclear-explosion/

July 23, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, safety | Leave a comment

The Fukushima Diiachi Accident Chain, Part 6

The Fukushima Diiachi Accident Chain, Part 6, Nuclear Exhaust, 22 July 20

A Discussion of Official Reports Describing the Fukushma Diiachi  Nuclear Disaster

 The references used for this discussion are:

The Official report of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission Executive Summary”, The National Diet of Japan, 2012.

“FUKUSHIMA DAIICHI: ANS Committee Report”, A Report by The American Nuclear Society Special Committee on Fukushima, March 2012.

“The Fukushima Daiichi Accident, Technical Volume 1/5 Description and Context of the Accident, IAEA, Vienna, 2015.

 FACT AND CAUSE OF FUKUSHIMA NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS ACCIDENT”, Hideki NARIAI, Proceedings of the International Symposium on Engineering Lessons Learned from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, March 1-4, 2012, Tokyo, Japan.

Other sources, such as press reports, industry and authority regulations and technical bulletins will also be used.

The very great complexity of the disaster and of the human and systems responses to the challenges which confronted, and confront, the Fukushima Diiachi nuclear plant and the people operating and tending to the plant is obvious. The aim of this discussion is to attempt to produce, in review, a coherent picture of the events as reported by the authorities given above.

While the nuclear industry and permanent nuclear authorities – the IAEA – tend to agree closely in their reports of the events, the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, appointed by the Japanese national Parliament (Diet) reports various aspects of the disaster with pointedly local questioning of events based upon witness accounts and the Committee’s own findings. And these perceptions, based on local knowledge of both the plant and witness statements actually challenge, in aspects, the findings of the other authorities.

As a preamble to the discussion of the disaster, a central consideration to all nuclear power plants in use today has to be included.   The long term, intermediate term and short term safety of nuclear power plants depends upon the availability of electrical grid connection and power to the reactors and the entire plant. This is not an opinion, it is a technical fact which nuclear authorities have repeatedly reported upon.

The surprising fact is, that although nuclear reactors can supply electrical power to the world’s largest cities and nations, when the grid goes down, there is no ability for any nuclear reactor to power itself and its systems on any long term basis. There is nothing integral to the reactors which allows the energy resident in the reactors’ cores and pressure vessels to be controlled and managed so as to manage the cooling of the reactors.

While the nuclear industry and nuclear authorities have touted the virtues of nuclear power plant emergency cooling systems for over 50 years.   However:

 “The emergency cooling systems started. However, they did not work for so long time, and the fuels became to heat up and melt down, resulting the severe accident. “ Source: English translation of “FACT AND CAUSE OF FUKUSHIMA NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS ACCIDENT , Hideki NARIAI, Proceedings of the International Symposium on Engineering Lessons Learned from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, March 1-4, 2012, Tokyo, Japan.

As we shall see later, the workers at the Fukushima Diiachi site during the early stages kept the emergency cooling systems going for many hours longer than the systems were designed to last. And these systems are designed to work for 8 hours only. (See the ANS report)..………. 

It is beyond me why the nuclear industry, for more then 50 years, has been so wilfully dumb, ignorant and arrogant in the design of its emergency systems. And everything else.  It seems to me the main aim of the industry is to sell reactors by any means.  Whereas the industry should have the main aim of assuring safety in the context of the modern world and the modern world energy market.   The problem is, though solar panels mounted on the Fukushima Shima Diiachi reactor building roofs could have save the day by keeping cooling pumps going, the obvious thought is this: why not just replace the Fukushima Diiachi with a solar and wind farm?  

No danger of meltdown at all.  As soon the 2009 scientific assessment came in demonstrating that an earthquake and tsunami was due “within the next 30 years”. that is precisely what should have been down.  Perhaps Barry Brook and Pam Sykes, two academic non nuclear experts in Australia, were right. No human skill could have saved Fukushima Diiachi. So why leave it there? Pity the authorities in the nuclear industry hid and suppressed the scientific warnings of 2009, including TEPCOs own confirmation of the growing threat.  This is standard procedure for the nuclear industry. It is not a particularly Japanese culture.  It is nuclear norm.

The IAEA requirements for electricity grids which supply Nuclear Power Plants.

The following text is a straight quote from : ” “ELECTRIC GRID RELIABILITY AND INTERFACE WITH NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS” IAEA NUCLEAR ENERGY SERIES No. NG-T-3.8, IAEA, ….

Quote: ““The safe and economic operation of a nuclear power plant (NPP) requires the plant to be connected to an electrical grid system that has adequate capacity for exporting the power from the NPP, and for providing a reliable electrical supply to the NPP for safe startup, operation and normal or emergency shutdown of the plant.

“Connection of any large new power plant to the electrical grid system in a country may require significant modification and strengthening of the grid system, but for NPPs there may be added requirements to the structure of the grid system and the way it is controlled and maintained to ensure adequate reliability.

“The organization responsible for the NPP and the organization responsible for the grid system will need to establish and agree the necessary characteristics of the grid and of the NPP, well before the NPP is built, so that they are compatible with each other. They will also need to agree the necessary modifications to the grid system, and how they are to be financed.

“For a Member State that does not yet use nuclear power, the introduction and development of nuclear power is a major undertaking. It requires the country to build physical infrastructure and develop human resources so it can
construct and operate a nuclear power plant (NPP) in a safe, secure and technically sound manner. ” end quote. Source: “ELECTRIC GRID RELIABILITY AND INTERFACE WITH NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS” IAEA NUCLEAR ENERGY SERIES No. NG-T-3.8, IAEA,

Hmm. very interesting. NPPs require a specifically designed and modified baseload capable grid network before they can be expected to safely start up, operation and shut down. Further the grid is needed, according to the world nuclear authority, for SAFE EMERGENCY SHUTDOWN.

The Earthquake and the Grid in Japan on the day of the disaster

One would have thought the following information would have been clearly discussed by the nuclear authorities from the day of the disaster. It’s nearly 10 years and still no word from them:

““Vibrations from the magnitude 9.0 earthquake triggered an immediate shut down of 15 of Japan’s nuclear power stations. Seismic sensors picked up the earthquake and control rods were automatically inserted into the reactors, halting the fission reaction that is used to produce electricity. This sudden loss of power across Japan’s national power grid caused widespread power failures, cutting vital electricity supplies to Fukushima Daiichi. There were three reactors, one, two and three, operating at the time when the earthquake hit while reactors four, five and six had already been shutdown as part of routine maintenance work.” “Japan earthquake: how the nuclear crisis unfolded”. Richard Gray, Science Correspondent, The Telegraph, 20 March 2011. end quote.

The first thing the earthquake did was to cause the shutdown of nuclear power feed into the grid. 15 Nuclear Power Plants threw in the towel because they cannot safely operate during an earthquake. Apparently. Nuclear power guarantees black out in an earthquake.

July 23, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima continuing, Reference, safety | Leave a comment

770-ton nuclear reactor pressure vessel completes trip to Utah

July 21, 2020 Posted by | decommission reactor, safety, USA | Leave a comment

Too many near misses – get UK’s nuclear submarines out of Scotland

End the nuclear risk to Scotland  Herald Scotland,  Margaret Forbes, 17 Jul 20, Kilmacolm. I NOTE your article regarding the near miss between between the ferry crossing between Scotland and Northern Ireland and the nuclear submarine (“Ferry was forced to change course to avoid nuclear submarine, inquiry told”, The Herald, July 16). CND has been warning about the dangers of nuclear submarines in busy sea lanes for years – this latest incident was the third such incident in four years. If there is any accident with these nuclear vessels the whole of the Central Belt of Scotland would have to be evacuated. Where would the population be evacuated to? The nuclear convoys travelling the length of Britain from the south of England pose a similar threat.

…….The modern nuclear weapons are even more dangerous – we risk wiping out the whole of humanity. There is a peace walkat Barshaw Park in Paisley on August 6 at 5pm. We need as many people as possible to come to tell the Westminster Government that we do not wish any nuclear weapons on Scottish soil. If Westminster wants them, Westminster can take them. The Americans can take the warheads to a naval yard in the US.  https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/18588148.letters-end-nuclear-risk-scotland/

 

July 18, 2020 Posted by | safety, UK | Leave a comment

British nuclear sub narrowly missed passenger ferry near Belfast

British nuclear sub narrowly missed passenger ferry near Belfast,  By BRIAN NIEMIETZ, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS |JUL 16, 2020 An Irish passenger ship avoided colliding with a British nuclear sub when the ferry’s crew spotted the sub’s periscope sticking out of the water and quickly changed course.

The vessels came as close as 164 feet from each other, according to a report released Thursday that all aboard both vessels were “in immediate danger.”

Great Britain’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch found that the November 2018 incident was a result of the submarine crew miscalculating the speed of the Stena Superfast VII ferry, which was carrying 215 passengers and 67 crew members, according to the Belfast Telegraph.

The investigation found the ferry ship’s captain clear-headed decision making offset a “serious risk of collision.”…. https://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/ny-british-nuclear-sub-narrowly-missed-passenger-ferry-near-belfast-20200716-mxckhhhxw5gwnm4h57qbh3ureu-story.html

July 18, 2020 Posted by | safety, UK | Leave a comment

Because of the pandemic, nuclear power plants haveto have safety checks done by remote means

Pandemic drives plant operators to employ remote checks, WNN, 17 July 2020  Nuclear power plant operators are carrying out remote quality and safety related assessments of systems, structures and components (SSCs) to overcome physical distancing and mobility restrictions during the global COVID-19 pandemic, participants in a recent International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) webinar said. SSCs must be regularly monitored, replaced and have their quality verified.

…….limitations such as reduced on-site staffing and travel restrictions have forced both operators and suppliers to rethink their practices……. https://www.world-nuclear-news.org/Articles/Pandemic-drives-plant-operators-to-employ-remote-c

July 18, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, health, safety | Leave a comment

Alarm at USA plan to exempt NuScam etc new nuclear reactors from emergency planning

Proposed Emergency Plan Exemption for New Nuclear Designs Raises Concerns, https://www.publicnewsservice.org/2020-07-13/energy-policy/proposed-emergency-plan-exemption-for-new-nuclear-designs-raises-concerns/a70806-1  July 13, 2020  Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service – ID

BOISE, Idaho — A proposal from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission exempting emergency planning for new nuclear plant designs is raising alarms.

The NRC proposal would allow facilities to end emergency preparedness zones at their boundaries.

That zone is currently set at a 10-mile radius around plants and a 50-mile ingestion zone to protect against contaminated food and water.

Timothy Judson, executive director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, says emergency zones have been required since the Three Mile Island accident in 1979.

“Having the emergency evacuation plans and emergency response plans is part of the social contract with nuclear power and has been in the U.S. for over 40 years now,” he points out.

One NRC commissioner says it’s a radical departure from past practices.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has expressed concerns about the proposal to exempt the agency from evaluating evacuation plans.

In support of the proposal, the Nuclear Energy Institute says NRC is modernizing the rules for new nuclear power designs that don’t have the same risks as old designs.

The NuScale small modular reactor project at the Idaho National Laboratory could benefit from these new rules. But Judson says exempting this project from emergency planning regulations exposes why these rules are a bad idea.

“They’re designed to have 12 of these reactors all built in the same building and together, those 12 reactors would be larger than many commercially operating nuclear reactors in the country right now,” he points out.

Judson says the proposal would keep everyone, including utility companies to nearby communities, in the dark on nuclear safety plans.

“Whether you support nuclear power or don’t support nuclear power, everyone supports nuclear safety,” he stresses.

The NRC is accepting public comment on the proposal through July 27.

 

July 14, 2020 Posted by | safety, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

Problems and dangers face the dismantlement of damaged Three Mile Island nuclear reactor

It’s been more than 41 years, but Stephen Mohr still remembers how he knew something went wrong at the nuclear power plant on Three Mile Island.

“I knew something happened because I went out to get the newspaper and I could smell it,” said Mohr, a lifelong resident of Conoy Township — only yards south of the Dauphin County island.

“The smell was a combination of rotting eggs, diesel fuel and a smoldering fire pit,” he said.

The plant’s Unit 2 reactor had partially melted down about 4 a.m. March 28, 1979, and as Mohr remembers it, locals panicked, fearing for their safety. Some fled, others hid inside.

“I can remember this like it was yesterday,” said Mohr, who has been a longtime township supervisor. “There was definitely an air of uncertainty. People were confused.”

Four decades later, confusion and concern have returned near the now-inactive power plant as officials at Utah-based EnergySolutions plan to dismantle the historic reactor.

It’s a plan that has state environmental officials and local nuclear watchdogs ringing proverbial alarm bells, pointing to concerns that money set aside for the decommissioning could run out before the work is finished.

That’s in addition to fears about the potential for indefinite radioactive contamination on the island, which sits just upstream from Lancaster County on the Susquehanna River.

Old concerns resurface

To Arthur Morris, Lancaster city’s mayor from 1980 to 1990, some of those worries are familiar. They existed in the years after the 1979 accident, when Morris sat on a state advisory board that focused on radioactive decontamination of Unit 2.

Back then — and now — the Susquehanna River served as the primary source for several downstream Lancaster County drinking water systems, including in Lancaster city.

As mayor, Morris said one of his priorities on the panel was to make sure radiation wasn’t carried downstream and piped through Lancaster residents’ faucets — a priority that led to regular testing near the plant that persists today.

Last week, Morris said he isn’t surprised that some of those old concerns have resurfaced with Unit 2 coming back under scrutiny.

“Those things don’t go away until the island is cleaned up,” Morris said.

‘Worst-case scenario’

However, it’s a cleanup plan that has nuclear watchdog Eric Epstein speaking out on signs of pending danger.

“It’s the worst-case scenario,” said Epstein, a leader of the Harrisburg-based group Three Mile Island Alert.

Last fall, Unit 2’s owners at Ohio-based FirstEnergy Corp. announced that they planned to transfer all related licenses and assets to TMI-2 Solutions LLC, an EnergySolutions subsidiary.

The transfer would mean that EnergySolutions also would take over the responsibility of eventually dismantling the Unit 2 reactor.

And that eventuality had already been planned for by the time the proposed transfer was announced in October. Then, EnergySolutions revealed plans to contract decommissioning work out to New Jersey-based construction company Jingoli, which has had past success with nuclear projects in the United States and Canada.

Despite a track record, state Department of Environmental Protection officials warned that planning for and beginning decommissioning work too early could put the island and surrounding areas at risk.

After all, DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell noted, Unit 2 is the site of the worst commercial nuclear accident in United States history — an accident that released radioactive gases and grossly contaminated the reactor and its surrounding buildings.

“Because of this, we understand there are very high radiation areas within TMI Unit 2 that present a grave risk to personnel that enter,” a letter signed by McDonnell reads.

That high radiation has prevented all but minor exploration of the Unit 2 area, meaning the radiological conditions inside large portions of the plant remain a mystery, according to the letter.

“I firmly believe TMI Unit 2 is the most radiologically contaminated facility in our nation outside of the Department of Energy’s weapons complex,” it reads.

Postponing the cleanup for “several decades” could allow for a decrease in radioactive potency, possibly lessening the chance of further environmental contamination, McDonnell wrote.

All of that is in addition to raising questions about how radioactive waste will be disposed, transported and stored. That includes concerns about whether any of that waste will be stored on the island — a site that Epstein believes could remain indefinitely radioactive.

Both McDonnell’s writings and Epstein’s concerns were submitted this spring to officials at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which must approve the FirstEnergy-to-EnergySolutions transfer request.

Commission officials have been reviewing the request since November, and similar reviews have been completed in a year or less, according to spokeswoman Diane Screnci.

Financial concerns

But it’s not only environmental issues that will be weighed as part of that review, with Epstein and state officials also raising serious financial concerns.

Specifically, they’ve drawn attention to a largely ratepayer-funded $901 million trust set aside to cover the cost of decommissioning, which has been estimated at upward of $1.2 billion.

Further complicating the issue, according to McDonnell’s letter, is the fact that trust fund dollars are tied to the stock market, which has seen large fluctuations due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Given the obvious uncertainties and complexities associated with cleaning up the remains … the demonstration of adequate funding to complete the decommissioning of TMI-2 and restoration of the site, is a significant concern of the department and the citizens of Pennsylvania,” McDonnell wrote.

Beyond sharing McDonnell’s letters, DEP officials said they could not further discuss the proposed decommissioning, citing litigation. Nondisclosure agreements stipulated by EnergySolutions also prevent DEP and Epstein from sharing some details.

EnergySolutions spokespeople did not respond to multiple requests for comment, though they indicated they are aware of concerns about their work.

Jennifer Young, a FirstEnergy spokeswoman, said company officials have faith the job will be completed on budget despite the existing disparity between the trust fund and estimated cost.

Cost estimates show there are sufficient funds given the project schedule for decommissioning,” she said. “Keep in mind that those funds will continue to accumulate value throughout the decommissioning process, which takes place over many years. Not all the money will be required or spent at one time.”

Epstein said it’s important to point out that the Unit 2 trust is full of ratepayer money, which will be under the full control of EnergySolutions’s TMI-2 Solutions LLC, a private company, with little public scrutiny.

Right company for the job

Despite those concerns, Young said FirstEnergy officials believe EnergySolutions is the right company to dismantle Unit 2. In fact, EnergySolutions decommissioning proposal was selected over offers from two other companies, she said. The unsolicited EnergySolutions proposal was made in 2018, Young said.

By Nuclear Regulatory Commission decree, the plant must be decommissioned within 60 years of halting operation, and Three Mile Island’s functioning Unit 1 was taken offline by its owner, Exelon, in 2019.

“We were faced with a decision to decommission the unit now or wait to start in the 2030s,” Young said.

“Waiting would not guarantee there would be companies available to start the dismantlement in time to comply with the 60-year requirement due to the large number of nuclear plant licenses that will expire in the 2030s,” he said.

Still, Epstein said he’d like a Nuclear Regulatory Commission decision on the transfer to remain delayed until his and DEP’s concerns can be worked through.

Like a big gravestone

Back in Conoy Township, Mohr said his full faith is in the commission to make the right decision — an opinion steeped in the immediate aftermath of the 1979 partial meltdown.

It was a commission official, Harold Denton, who shared the first details with locals, offering assurances that everything would be alright, he said.

“When he was done speaking, it was like the world calmed down,” Mohr said of the commission official. “He put it into a perspective that even we understood.”

For decades since, the plant has meant local jobs and local money, but since the 2019 shutdown, much of that has fallen by the wayside, he said. And it’s mostly for that reason that Mohr said he’s indifferent to the island’s fate.

“It’s almost to the point now that it was never there. If we drive north, we see it,” he said. “It reminds me of the biggest gravestone that I ever saw.”

July 13, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, decommission reactor, safety, USA | Leave a comment

Dangerous nuclear waste casks should stay off roads and rails

Nor was the potential for cracked or corroded canisters to leak radiation studied
proposal only addresses a new destination for the high-level nuclear waste – not the removal and transport of the fuel storage canisters from nuclear power plants
Even transport casks with canisters that are not damaged will release radiation as they are transported from nuclear power plants to the storage facility, exposing populations along the transport routes in a majority of states and tribal communities in New Mexico to repeated doses of radiation.

Radioactive rail wreck,   Dangerous nuclear waste casks should stay off roads and rails ,  rails  https://beyondnuclearinternational.org/2020/07/12/radioactive-rail-wreck/,   Beyond Nuclear  By Laura Watchempino 12 July 20, 

If the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) conclusion that it’s safe to move spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power plants across the country to a proposed storage facility in Lea County sounds vanilla-coated, it’s because the draft environmental impact statement for a Consolidated Interim Storage Facility submitted by Holtec International did not address how the casks containing the spent fuel would be transported to New Mexico.

It’s likely the casks would be transported primarily by rail using aging infrastructure in need of constant repair. But our rail systems were not built to support the great weight of these transport casks containing thin-wall fuel storage canisters.

Nor was the potential for cracked or corroded canisters to leak radiation studied because an earlier NRC Generic EIS for the Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel assumed damaged fuel storage canisters would be detected during an intermediary dry transfer system or a pool.

But Holtec’s proposal only addresses a new destination for the high-level nuclear waste – not the removal and transport of the fuel storage canisters from nuclear power plants to New Mexico.

Even transport casks with canisters that are not damaged will release radiation as they are transported from nuclear power plants to the storage facility, exposing populations along the transport routes in a majority of states and tribal communities in New Mexico to repeated doses of radiation.

Other issues not considered in the draft EIS were the design life of the thin-wall canisters encasing the nuclear fuel rods and faulty installation at reactor sites like San Onofre, or the self-interest of the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance in using the land it acquired for a consolidated interim storage site.

Thin-wall canisters cannot be inspected for cracks and the fuel rods inside are not retrievable for inspection or monitoring without destroying the canister. NRC does not require continuous monitoring of the storage canisters for pressure changes or radiation leaks. The fuel rods inside the canisters could go critical, or result in an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction, if water enters the canisters through cracks, admits both Holtec and the NRC. None of us are safe if any canister goes critical.

Yet a site-specific storage application like Holtec’s should have addressed NRC license requirements for leak testing and monitoring, as well as the quantity and type of material that will be stored at the site, such as low burnup nuclear fuel and high burnup fuel.

Irradiated nuclear fuel is safer (but not safe) stored at the reactor site rather than transported thousands of miles to New Mexico. (Image: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission)

With so many deficiencies in the draft EIS, a reasonable alternative is to leave this dangerous radioactive nuclear waste at the nuclear plants that produced it in dry cask storage rather than multiply the risk by transporting thousands of containers that could be damaged across many thousands of miles and decades to southeastern New Mexico, then again to a permanent repository.

Interim storage of spent nuclear fuel at existing nuclear plant sites is already happening – there are 65 sites with operating reactors in the United States and dry cask storage is licensed at 35 of these sites in 24 states. But since the thin-wall canisters storing the fuel rods are at risk for major radioactive releases, they should be replaced with thick-walled containers that can be monitored and maintained. The storage containers should be stored away from coastal waters and flood plains in hardened buildings.

Attempting to remove this stabilized nuclear waste from where it is securely stored across hundreds or thousands of miles through our homelands and backyards to a private storage facility also raises some thorny liability issues, since the United States will then be relieved of overseeing the spent nuclear fuel in perpetuity.

The states and nuclear plants that want to send us their long-lived radioactive waste will also be off the hook, leaving New Mexico holding a dangerously toxic bag without any resources to address the gradual deterioration of man-made materials or worse, a catastrophic event. It’s a win/win, however, for Holtec International and the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance.

Ironically, just a few years ago, the US Environmental Protection Agency had expressed opposition to mass transportation of another kind of radioactive waste. In a classic example of environmental injustice, the EPA balked at removing uranium mine waste on the Navajo Nation, because, it said, “Off-site disposal, because of the amount of waste in and around these areas, means possibly multiple years of hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of trucks going in and out of the community and driving for miles”.

The agency told the affected communities, during discussion about digging up the uranium mine waste and transporting it to a licensed repository in different states outside the Navajo Nation, that this option, also the Nation’s preference, was the most expensive. But now New Mexico is the destination for precisely the reverse, with hundreds and thousands of transports from different states coming to deposit the country’s nuclear waste site radioactive debris on Native soil.

Laura Watchempino is with the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment/Pueblo of Acoma. A version of this article first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal and is republished with kind permission of the author

July 13, 2020 Posted by | safety, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

The massive task of transporting a massive dead nuclear reactor

July 11, 2020 Posted by | safety, USA | Leave a comment

In 2020, a new radioological danger in Chernobyl

Chernobyl Is Again Close To A Disaster! What Happened There In 2020?  http://www.thesentrybugle.com/2020/07/chernobyl-is-again-close-to-disaster.html#.XwZuet3J6Vg.twitter    Ukrainian officials have sought calm after forest fires in the restricted zone around Chernobyl, scene of the world’s worst nuclear accident, led to a rise in radiation levels.

Firefighters said they had managed to put out the smaller of two forest fires that began at the weekend, apparently after someone began a grass fire, and had deployed more than 100 firefighters backed by planes and helicopters to extinguish the remaining blaze.
The fire had caused radiation fears in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, which is located about 60 miles south of the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Government specialists on Monday sent to monitor the situation reported that there was no rise in radiation levels in Kyiv or the city suburbs.
“You don’t have to be afraid of opening your windows and airing out your home during the quarantine,” wrote Yegor Firsov, head of Ukraine’s state ecological inspection service, in a Facebook post about the results of the radiation tests.
As of Monday afternoon, the country’s emergency ministry said that the remaining fire in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone covered about 20 hectares and was still being extinguished. Footage released by the ministry showed firefighters dousing flames on the forest floor, and clouds of smoke rising.
Police have arrested a suspect believed to have caused the blaze, a 27-year-old man from the area who reportedly told police he had set grass and rubbish on fire in three places “for fun”. After he had lit the fires, he said, the wind had picked up and he had been unable to extinguish them.
An earlier post by Firsov had warned about heightened radiation levels at the site of the fire, which he said had been caused by the “barbaric” practice of local grass fires often started in the spring and autumn. “There is bad news – radiation is above normal in the fire’s center,” Firsov wrote on Sunday.
The post included a video with a Geiger counter showing radiation at 16 times above normal. The fire had spread to about 100 hectares of forest, Firsov wrote.
The country’s emergency ministry put out a warning for Kyiv on Monday about poor air quality but said it was related to meteorological conditions, and not to the fire.
The service had said on Saturday that increased radiation in some areas had led to “difficulties” in fighting the fire while stressing that people living nearby were not in danger. On Monday, it said that gamma radiation levels had not risen near the fire.
Chernobyl polluted a large area of Europe when its fourth reactor exploded in April 1986, with the region immediately around the power plant the worst affected. People are not allowed to live within 30km of the power station.
The three other reactors at Chernobyl continued to generate electricity until the power station finally closed in 2000. A giant protective dome was put in place over the fourth reactor in 2016.
Fires are common in the forests near the disused power plant.

July 9, 2020 Posted by | climate change, safety, Ukraine | 1 Comment

Iran says world ‘must respond’ to Israel after blast at nuclear site

July 8, 2020 Posted by | incidents, Iran, Israel, politics international | Leave a comment