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France what to do as nuclear waste site risks saturation point?

Should saturation happen, France’s reactors would have nowhere to place their spent fuel and would have to shut down

France seeks strategy as nuclear waste site risks saturation point

Reuters, By Benjamin Mallet 3 Feb 23

  • Summary
  • Macron to chair Council on Nuclear Policy on Friday
  • Macron has announced plan for at least six new nuclear reactors
  • EDF working on extra refrigerated pool
  • France also considering plan to bury waste in clay

LA HAGUE, France, Feb 3 (Reuters) – At a nuclear waste site in Normandy, robotic arms guided by technicians behind a protective shield manoeuvre a pipe that will turn radioactive chemicals into glass as France seeks to make safe the byproducts of its growing reliance on atomic power.

The fuel-cooling pools in La Hague, on the country’s northwestern tip, could be full by the end of the decade and state-owned Orano, which runs them, says the government needs to outline a long-term strategy to modernise its ageing facilities no later than 2025.

While more nuclear energy can help France and other countries to reduce planet-warming emissions, environmental campaigners say it replaces one problem with another.

To seek solutions, President Emmanuel Macron, who has announced plans to build at least six new reactors by 2050, on Friday chairs the first of a series of meetings on nuclear policy that will discuss investments and waste recycling.

“We can’t have a responsible nuclear policy without taking into account the handling of used fuel and waste. It’s a subject we can’t sweep under the rug,” a government adviser told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity…….

La Hague is the country’s sole site able to process and partially recycle used nuclear fuel.

France historically has relied on nuclear power for around 70% of its energy, although the share is likely to have fallen last year as the nuclear fleet suffered repeated outages.

Since the launch of the site at La Hague in 1976, it has treated nearly 40,000 tonnes of radioactive material and recycled some into nuclear fuel that can be re-used. The waste that cannot be recycled is mixed with hardening slices of glass and buried for short-term storage underground.

But its four existing cooling pools for spent fuel rods and recycled fuel that has been reused risk saturation by 2030, according to French power giant EDF (EDF.PA), which runs France’s 56-strong fleet of reactors, the world’s second biggest after the United States.

Should saturation happen, France’s reactors would have nowhere to place their spent fuel and would have to shut down – a worst-case scenario that led France’s Court of Audit to designate La Hague as “an important vulnerability point” in 2019.

COOL POOLS AND DEEP CLAY

EDF is hurrying to build an extra refrigerated pool at La Hague, at a cost of 1.25 billion euros ($1.37 billion), to store spent nuclear fuel – a first step before the waste can be treated – but that will not be ready until 2034 at the earliest.

Meanwhile, France’s national agency for managing nuclear waste last month requested approval for a project to store permanently high-level radioactive waste.

The plan, called Cigéo, would involve placing the waste 500 metres (1,640 ft) below ground in a clay formation in eastern France.

Construction is expected in 2027 if it gets approval. Among those opposed to it are residents of the nearby village of Bure and anti-nuclear campaigners

………… Orano, for which EDF accounts for 95% of its recycling business, says it needs clear direction from the government no later than 2025, to give it time to plan the necessary investments.

The costs are likely to be high. Just keeping up with current operations at La Hague costs nearly 300 million euros a year.

Options EDF and Orano are considering include finding a way to recycle the used fuel more than once, but critics say the recycling itself creates more radioactive waste and is not a long-term solution. For now, the backup plan is to fit more fuel containers into the existing pools.

After being cooled in a pool for about seven years, used nuclear fuel is separated into non-recyclable leftovers that are turned into glass (4% of the material), plutonium (1%) to create a new nuclear fuel called MOX, on which around 40% of France’s reactors can run, and reprocessed uranium (95%).

Options EDF and Orano are considering include finding a way to recycle the used fuel more than once, but critics say the recycling itself creates more radioactive waste and is not a long-term solution. For now, the backup plan is to fit more fuel containers into the existing pools.

After being cooled in a pool for about seven years, used nuclear fuel is separated into non-recyclable leftovers that are turned into glass (4% of the material), plutonium (1%) to create a new nuclear fuel called MOX, on which around 40% of France’s reactors can run, and reprocessed uranium (95%).

The uranium in the past was sent to Russia for re-enrichment and return for use in some EDF reactors, but EDF stopped doing that in 2013 as it was too costly.

In spite of the war in Ukraine, which has made many in the West avoid doing business with Russia, EDF is expected to resume sending uranium to Russia this year as the only country able to process it. It declined to confirm to Reuters it would do so.

The facility at La Hague, with its 1980s-era buildings and Star Wars-style control rooms, has its limitations.

“If we had to process MOX fuel in large quantities, the facility today isn’t adapted for it,” Varin said. “For multi-cycle recycling, the technology is not the same, so the modernisation or replacement of installations” would require “significant” investments, he said.

($1 = 0.9098 euros)  https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/france-seeks-strategy-nuclear-waste-site-risks-saturation-point-2023-02-03/

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February 3, 2023 Posted by | France, wastes | Leave a comment

The dirty secret of US nuclear energy

JOHN GREEN recommends an exposé of dangerous malpractice at the oldest and largest nuclear site in the US

Atomic Days: The Untold Story of the Most Toxic Place in America
By Joshua Frank

A DESCRIPTION of Hanford in Washington state — the place where the US stores much of its plutonium waste — sounds like something out of a dystopian novel by Kurt Vonnegut.

The town of Richland, a stone’s throw from Hanford’s boundary fence and where many of the workers’ families live, is an odd place. No rich mineral deposits, no surrounding agricultural landscape, no ski slopes or well-heeled tourists.

Richland was established by the atom bomb project and celebrates that history. The local pub is called Atomic Ale Brewpub. It showcases beers like Plutonium Porter, half-life Hefeweizen and Atom Bustin’ IPA.

The local school coat of arms boasts an exploding mushroom cloud. There is “a fervent mystifying patriotism” running deep in Richland, says Frank. The town also boasts more PhDs than any similar sized town in the state but voted overwhelmingly for Trump in recent elections.

Hanford’s B reactor has been designated a National Historic Landmark and was the first full scale plutonium production plant in the world. Those acting as guides do not appear to reflect on its legacy or suggest, perhaps, a moment of silence for the victims of nuclear bombs; for them it is a reason to rejoice at the ingenuity and superiority of the US war machine

Atomic Days reads at times like a political thriller, involving government lying and cover-ups, corruption, private-sector rapaciousness, spying on union “troublemakers” or anyone concerned about health and safety, and even the attempted murder of a whistleblower. There is no transparency and little accountability.

Many Hanford workers and their families have suffered serious illness as a result of radioactive contamination, from hyperthyroidism to miscarriages, disabilities and cancers, and numbers of unexplained deaths.

All this has been largely ignored by the national media, despite the fact that Hanford poses not only a danger to local people but to the whole country.

While focusing on Hanford, Frank encompasses the nuclear story on a global scale, from the US army injecting unsuspecting human guinea-pigs with plutonium in the 1940s, to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Chernobyl, Fukushima and the air crash over Spain involving nuclear weapons, to the legacy of nuclear bomb testing.

During the Cold War, the project expanded to include nine nuclear reactors and five large plutonium processing complexes, the last of which was decommissioned in 1987.

Once home to the US largest plutonium production site, the Hanford Nuclear complex is laced with 56 million gallons of radioactive waste. There have been numerous releases of radioactive isotopes into the ground water and into the atmosphere, but it has all been shrouded in secrecy. Today, the EPA has designated Hanford the most toxic place in America; it is also the most expensive environmental clean-up job the world has ever seen, with a soaring price tag of £553 billion.

At present, Hanford’s radioactive waste is stored in 177 waste tanks, 149 of them with just a single wall. The facility sits over a huge aquifer, above which 53 million gallons of radioactive and chemically hazardous waste are stored in leaky underground tanks.

These tanks are well past their life expectancy and full of boiling radioactive gunk. They are leaking, infecting groundwater supplies and threatening the nearby Columbia River. It also sits on around 750,000 cubic metres of buried solid waste, spent nuclear fuel and leftover plutonium.

The threat of an explosive accident at Hanford is all too real and could be more catastrophic than Chernobyl. There have already been numerous accidents, mostly unregistered and unknown to the public. It is one of the most radioactive wastelands on Earth.

It used to be home to several indigenous groups who once fished in the fish-rich Columbia River and hunted the deer and other animals in the surrounding woods. They were resettled from their ancestral lands once the US government determined to use the land to build the biggest plutonium production plant and waste dump in the country.

Frank’s chilling account should certainly disabuse the illusions of anyone out there who still views nuclear energy as a means of producing clean energy and saving the planet.

Joshua Frank is co-editor of the radical magazine, Counterpunch.

January 29, 2023 Posted by | culture and arts, media, safety, USA, wastes | 1 Comment

Appeals Court Tosses Suit from Environmentalists, Midland Oil Company Contesting Nuclear Waste Storage Permit

Various suits against the NRC and the storage site linger in courts across the country.

The Texan BRAD JOHNSON 27 Jan 23

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals tossed a challenge from anti-nuclear organization Beyond Nuclear, environmental groups the Sierra Club and Don’t Waste Michigan, and a Midland-based oil company against the approval of a spent nuclear fuel interim storage permit for a facility in West Texas.

In September 2021, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved a permit application for the storage of spent nuclear fuel at an Andrews County facility. Interim Storage Partners is jointly owned by Orano USA and Waste Control Specialists — the latter of which has operated a storage facility for low-level radioactive waste at the site for more than a decade.

During the second special session of 2021, Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Legislature abruptly passed legislation banning the storage of high-level radioactive waste, including spent nuclear fuel, in response to the NRC. That led to the state suing the NRC over the permit, a case still pending in court.

But the permit approval also sparked other lawsuits from a collection of activists, interest groups, and Fasken Oil & Ranch, the Midland company, consolidated into one proceeding.

On Wednesday, the court dismissed the group’s various claims and tossed the suit; Beyond Nuclear contended that the NRC acted “arbitrarily and capriciously,” the environmental groups alleged the agency “ignor[ed] deficiencies in the project’s environmental impact statement,” and Fasken asserted that it was wrongfully denied the ability to insert into the record its arguments against issuance of the permit by the NRC.

Kevin Kamps, a spokesman for Beyond Nuclear, told The Texan, “We are certainly disappointed and unfortunately the ruling focuses on a procedural technicality.” Kamps said that there is a similar permit and suit in development in New Mexico for a planned interim storage site there. He’s also optimistic that a ruling in the State of Texas’ suit will help their case here, potentially creating contradicting court decisions.

He added that “we’re not going anywhere” and hopes that courts will consider whether the NRC even has the authority from Congress to grant these permits — which he argues the agency doesn’t…………………. more https://thetexan.news/appeals-court-tosses-suit-from-environmentalists-midland-oil-company-contesting-nuclear-waste-storage-permit/

January 29, 2023 Posted by | Legal, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Japan’s Plan To Discharge Water From Fukushima Nuclear Plant Faces Pacific Opposition

  By BenarNews, By Stephen Wright

Officials from Pacific island nations will meet Japan’s prime minister in March in an effort to halt the planned release of water from the tsunami-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean, a regional leader said.

Plans to dispose of Fukushima water over four decades are a source of tension between Japan and Pacific island nations and a possible complication for the efforts of the United States and its allies to show a renewed commitment to the Pacific region as China’s influence grows.

The planned discharges “are a very serious issue that our leaders have accepted must be stopped at all costs,” Henry Puna, secretary-general of the 18-nation Pacific Islands Forum, said Thursday at a press conference in the Solomon Islands capital Honiara.

The Japanese government’s timetable for disposal of Fukushima water indicates that releases could begin as soon as April this year – part of an effort to decommission the stricken power station over several decades. Water contaminated by the nuclear reactors damaged in a 2011 tsunami is stored in dozens of large tanks at the coastal Fukushima plant.  

Japan’s method involves putting the contaminated water through a purification process known as the Advanced Liquid Processing System, which it says will reduce all radioactive elements except tritium to below regulatory levels. The treated water would then be diluted by more than 100 times to reduce the level of tritium – radioactive hydrogen used to create glow-in-the-dark lighting and signs……………………………

Data doubts

Five scientists working with the Pacific Islands Forum last week criticized the quality of data they had received from Tokyo Electric on the treated water in the tanks and expressed doubts about how well the purification process works.

Over more than four years, only a quarter of tanks had been tested for radiation, and testing rarely covered more than nine types of radiation out of 64 types that should be tested for, said the five scientists, who include Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s senior scientist Ken Buesseler.

“The accident is not over; this is not normal operations for a reactor. Therefore, extraordinary efforts should be made to prove operations are safe and will not cause harm to the environment,” the scientists’ presentation said.

The Pacific Islands Forum has described the scientists as independent nuclear experts. The forum’s secretariat didn’t respond to a question about whether the scientists are compensated for their work with the forum. 

Nigel Marks, a materials scientist at Australia’s Curtin University and former nuclear reactor engineer, who is not advising the forum, said he is sympathetic to concerns that Tokyo Electric’s data could be more complete.

“But at the same time some recognition for Japan’s unique situation must be acknowledged,” he said. “The authorities have done their very best that technology allows. Eventually they reach a point where there is too much water to store.”

Puna said the Pacific islands delegation would meet with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida around March 7. They want a delay in water releases, at the very least, while more research is carried out, he said.

“There are serious gaps in the scientific evidence on the safety or otherwise of the proposed release,” Puna said. “I am pleased that the Japanese prime minister has finally agreed to meet with a high-level delegation from our region.” 

Decades of Fukushima water discharges, Puna said, could “damage our livelihoods, our fisheries livelihoods, our livelihood as people who are dependent very much and connected to the ocean in our culture and identity.” 

Mihai Sora, a Pacific analyst at Australia’s Lowy Institute, said it’s hard to imagine a more alarming proposition for Pacific island nations given the “toxic legacy” of nuclear weapons testing and waste dumping in the Pacific. 

The timing, amidst regional geopolitical competition that has traditional powers falling over themselves to demonstrate who’s a better partner to the Pacific, could scarcely be worse,” Sora said. 

The United States, United Kingdom and France carried out more than 300 nuclear detonations in the Pacific from 1946 to 1966, according to the International Disarmament Institute at Pace University in New York, which exposed thousands of military personnel and civilians to radiation and made some atolls uninhabitable. 

“Decades of hard-won regional goodwill towards Japanese Pacific engagement are at risk with this single policy initiative,” Sora said……………….

Japan’s embassy in Suva, Fiji didn’t respond to a request for comment. https://www.eurasiareview.com/28012023-japans-plan-to-discharge-water-from-fukushima-nuclear-plant-faces-pacific-opposition/

January 29, 2023 Posted by | Japan, OCEANIA, oceans, opposition to nuclear, wastes | Leave a comment

US sweetens pot to study siting for spent nuclear fuel

  https://journalrecord.com/2023/01/27/us-sweetens-pot-to-study-siting-for-spent-nuclear-fuel/ By: Associated Press January 27, 2023

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The U.S. government has long struggled to find a permanent solution for storing or disposing of spent nuclear fuel from commercial nuclear power plants, and opposition to such a site is flaring up again as New Mexico lawmakers debate banning a facility without state consent.

The state’s prospective ban cleared its first legislative hurdle Tuesday with approval from a key committee. Supporters acknowledge that the bill has a long road ahead, but it does have the backing of Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

State Sen. Jeff Steinborn, the bill’s sponsor, said momentum against New Mexico becoming a permanent dumping ground for the nation’s nuclear waste – including spent fuel from commercial power plants – is growing and he’s cautiously optimistic this is the year that the state takes a legislative stand.

Stenborn said consent should be mandatory and that the federal government should provide states with a significant financial incentive reflecting the risks associated with managing radioactive materials.

New Mexico and neighboring Texas have sued in federal court over two proposed multibillion-dollar interim storage facilities – one in southeastern New Mexico and the other in Andrews County, Texas.

“New Mexico has not been offered anything with this deal,” Steinborn said. “And even if we had, I don’t think any amount of money would convince me that it’s the right thing.”

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved a license for a facility in West Texas in 2021, and the agency plans to make a final decision as early as March on whether to grant a license for the planned storage complex in New Mexico. The two sites would be about 40 miles apart.

Environmental and nuclear watchdog groups have filed their own lawsuits, but a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia dismissed all objections opposing the Texas project.

Federal appellate courts elsewhere have yet to rule on the state of Texas’ claims, which focus on whether federal nuclear regulators have authority to license such a facility, or on New Mexico’s claims that regulators did not do enough to vet plans by Holtec International.

The New Jersey-based company is seeking a 40-year license to build what it has described as a state-of-the-art complex near Carlsbad, which already is home to the federal government’s only underground repository for Cold War-era waste generated by decades of nuclear research and bomb-making.

From the decommissioned nuclear plant near the San Onofre Beach in Southern California to plants that have powered communities on the East Coast, spent fuel has been piling up for decades and elected officials in those communities want it shipped elsewhere.

The Biden administration sweetened the pot this month, putting up $26 million for communities interested in studying potential interim storage sites. Biden and his top energy officials have pointed to nuclear power as essential to achieving their goals of producing carbon-free electricity over the next decade.

According to the DOE, nuclear reactors across the country produce more than 2,000 metric tons of radioactive waste a year, with most of it remaining on-site because there’s nowhere else to put it. The federal government is paying to house the fuel, and the cost is expected to stretch into the tens of billions over the next decade, according to a review by independent government auditors.

January 28, 2023 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Nuclear-powered rockets to Mars – there are serious safety risks.

No one wants to see nuclear debris raining down on the Florida coast or Disneyland, and that’s not the only possible scenario.

An accident in orbit could potentially drop radioactive material into the atmosphere.

Nuclear powered rockets could take us to Mars, but will the public accept them?

Bob McDonald’s blog: NASA and DARPA are beginning development of a new fission rocket, Bob McDonald · CBC Radio · Jan 27, 2023 

NASA has signed an agreement with the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop a nuclear rocket that could shorten travel time to Mars by about one quarter compared to traditional chemical rockets. But before nuclear technology is launched into space, there are risks that need to be addressed to ensure public safety…………………….

While the technology of nuclear propulsion is certainly feasible, it may not be readily embraced by the public. The accidents at Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Fukushima have left many people skeptical about nuclear safety. And there will be risk.

A nuclear rocket wouldn’t be used to launch a spacecraft from the Earth’s surface — it would be designed to run in space only. It would have to launch into orbit on a large chemical rocket — so the public would have to accept the risk of launching a nuclear reactor on a standard rocket filled with explosive fuel.

And rockets have and will malfunction catastrophically, in what with black humour rocket scientists sometimes call RUD — “rapid unscheduled disassembly.”

No one wants to see nuclear debris raining down on the Florida coast or Disneyland, and that’s not the only possible scenario. An accident in orbit could potentially drop radioactive material into the atmosphere.

Nuclear technology in another form has been used since the very beginning of the space program, just not for propulsion. Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTGs) have provided power to deep space probes for instruments, radios and cameras on a range of missions…………………….

 The U.S. has seen several accidents, including one in 1968 when a launch failure of a Nimbus-1 weather satellite threw its RTG into the ocean. It was recovered intact and the fuel was reused on a later mission.

But there have been more serious accidents. Canadians may remember an incident from 1978, when a Soviet reconnaissance satellite scattered 50 kg of uranium from its nuclear thermal generator over 124,000 square kilometres of Canada’s North.

But a fission reactor is a much more complicated device involving higher temperatures, coolants and more nuclear fuel.

……………………. the engineers face a challenge to ensure that all checks and balances have been made to reassure the astronauts who will fly these machines — and people on the ground — that they can be operated safely before the technology is adopted. https://www.cbc.ca/radio/quirks/nuclear-powered-rockets-could-take-us-to-mars-but-will-the-public-accept-them-1.6727217

January 28, 2023 Posted by | 2 WORLD, space travel, wastes | Leave a comment

Don’t dump on us

Japan has also benefited from the (inevitable) support of the (nuclear power-promoting) International Atomic Energy Agency, an organization that never met a nuclear danger it couldn’t downplay. The agency has described the proposed discharges as “far below the Japanese regulatory limits,” in a statement last April.

Pacific Islanders, marine scientists, urge Japan not to dump Fukushima radioactive water into ocean

By Linda Pentz Gunter, Beyond Nuclear International, 24 Jan 23,

The nuclear power industry has a long history of disproportionately impacting people of color, Indigenous communities and those living in the Global South. As Japan prepares to dump more than 1 million tonnes of radioactive water from its stricken Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant site into the Pacific Ocean some time this year, history is about to repeat itself.

To remind us of that — and to warn against this reckless and entirely unnecessary action (Japan could and should expand the cask storage pad on site and keep storing the radioactive water there) — the leader of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) has spoken out.

In a recent column in the UK daily newspaper, The Guardian, Henry Puna wrote that “continuing with ocean discharge plans at this time is simply inconceivable”, given how directly it once again discriminates against — and will likely seriously harm the health of — the peoples of the Pacific. Puna took care to remind readers “that the majority of our Pacific peoples are coastal peoples, and that the ocean continues to be an integral part of their subsistence living.”

Going forward with the dump without further study and serious consideration of viable alternatives, would, Puna said, mean that “the region will once again be headed towards a major nuclear contamination disaster at the hands of others.” Victims of years of atomic testing, Pacific Islanders are rightly not ready to be dumped on yet again.

Tepco and the lapdog Japanese government announced last May that they would release around 1.3 million tonnes of radioactive waste water from the Fukushima site next spring. Recently, authorities suggested the dump could be delayed until the summer but seem undeterred by the loud chorus of opposition from multiple quarters.

The plant produces 100 cubic metres of contaminated water daily, a combination of groundwater, seawater and water used to keep the reactors cool. The water is theoretically filtered to remove most harmful isotopes, other than tritium, which is radioactive hydrogen and cannot be separated from water. It is then stored in casks on site where authorities claim they are running out of space. However, independent watchdogs are not convinced that the filter system has successfully removed other dangerous radioactive isotopes from the waste water.

Most recently, the 100-member American group, the National Association of Marine Laboratories (NAML), expressed its fervent opposition in a strongly worded position paper released last month. Their opposition, they wrote, “is based on the fact that there is a lack of adequate and accurate scientific data supporting Japan’s assertion of safety. Furthermore, there is an abundance of data demonstrating serious concerns about releasing radioactively contaminated water.”

The report went on: “The proposed release of this contaminated water is a transboundary and transgenerational issue of concern for the health of marine ecosystems and those whose lives and livelihoods depend on them. We are concerned about the absence of critical data on the radionuclide content of each tank, the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS), which is used to remove radionuclides, and the assumption that upon the release of the contaminated wastewater, ‘dilution is the solution to pollution.’”

The scientists accused Japan of ignoring the inevitable processes of bioaccumulation and bioconcentration, which contradict the dilution contention. The Association also called out what it saw as shoddy or incorrect science conducted by Tepco and the Japanese government, including “flaws in sampling protocols, statistical design, sample analyses, and assumptions, which in turn lead to flaws in the conclusion of safety and prevent a more thorough evaluation of better alternative approaches to disposal.”

Japan has consistently rejected on-going onsite storage — presumably due to the expense, given the land space is there and more casks could be provided. In the view of some, the eagerness to dump the water— largely contaminated with tritium (a form of radioactive hydrogen that cannot be separated from water) and likely other undeclared radionuclides — is a public relations exercise to make the problem “go away” and restore normal optics to the site. The site cannot also be fully decommissioned so long as the tanks are there.

Japan has also benefited from the (inevitable) support of the (nuclear power-promoting) International Atomic Energy Agency, an organization that never met a nuclear danger it couldn’t downplay. The agency has described the proposed discharges as “far below the Japanese regulatory limits,” in a statement last April.

After sending in a task force and several earlier reports, the IAEA released a new report in December in which it said “the IAEA will conduct its own independent checks of the radiological contents of the water stored in the tanks and how it will analyse environmental samples (for example seawater and fish) from the surrounding environment.” However, the IAEA has not expressed opposition to the dumping of the radioactive water even now and instead indicates that its safety reviews will continue “before, during, and after the discharges of ALPS treated water.”

Japan has faced down opposition from fishermen and environmentalists, particularly from those in the Marshall Islands who have suffered decades of horrific health issues, especially birth defects, after enduring 67 US atomic tests there. A Pacific region collective advocacy group, Youngsolwara Pacific, expressed dismay that the Japanese, of all people, would not empathize with them and condemn the Fukushima water dump…………………………..  https://beyondnuclearinternational.org/2023/01/24/dont-dump-on-us/

January 27, 2023 Posted by | OCEANIA, oceans, wastes | Leave a comment

Cost Estimate for Plutonium Pit Project at Savannah River Site Hits $16.5 Billion, $5 Billion above Current Estimate

“Given the myriad of cost and schedule threats facing the SRS pit facility, it’s simply not acceptable that DOE will for four years hide updated costs estimate and technical updates for this daunting project,”

 “The shocking cost jumps and continuous delays underscore questions about the need for the redundant SRS pit plant,

NEWS PROVIDED BY Savannah River Site Watch, January 25, 2023,

Public Interest Group Obtains and Releases DOE Assessment of the SRS Plutonium Processing Facility, to make Plutonium Pits for Provocative New Nuclear Warheads

Given the myriad of cost and schedule threats facing the SRS pit facility, it’s simply not acceptable that DOE is hiding updated cost estimates and technical information for this daunting project.”

— Tom Clements, Director, Savannah River Site Watch

COLUMBIA, SC, US, January 25, 2023 /EINPresswire.com/ — A key U.S. Department of Energy document assessing the progress of planning for the proposed plutonium pit project at the Savannah River Site reveals a cost range billions of dollars higher than what has been previously known. DOE has not made the document public and it is only now being released by a non-profit organization tracking the costly project.

The document prepared in 2021 by the DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) – the nuclear weapons agency inside DOE – estimates that the controversial project to fabricate plutonium pits (cores) for new nuclear warheads could range from $8.7 billion to $16.5 billion, far higher than the currently known cost range of $6.9 billion to $11.1 billion.

The cost estimate for the SRS Plutonium Processing Facility (SRPPF) – also known as the SRS Plutonium Bomb Plant (SRS) PBP) – is presented in a report by a NNSA team that analyzed the SRS pit project in March 2021, three months before the current cost estimate was released and the project given the go-ahead. The review of the documentation to move ahead with the pit project is titled “Critical Decision (CD)-1 Independent Project Review (IPR) – Savanah River Plutonium Processing Facility (SRPPF).” [Correct spelling is “Savannah.”]

The SRS pit “project review,” requested by the acting administrator of the NNSA, was obtained on January 9, 2023 by the public interest organization Savannah River Site Watch via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. (Key documents are linked here, in SRS Watch news release.)

The document affirms that the congressionally mandated 2030 date to fabricate 50 or more plutonium pits at SRS, in the shell of the partially finished plutonium fuel (MOX) building, cannot be met and makes the startling revelation that the facility would not produce pits until February 2036, a full 2 years after the anticipated 2034 approval to operate, in so-called Critical Decsion-4.


That 2036 start date for the SRS nuclear bomb facility is beyond the 2032-2035 start date presented in congressional testimony by NNSA. The Critical Decision-1 go-ahead decision and rough cost estimate came in June 2021 but a more refined cost estimate might not be available for four years, when Critical Decision-2 is reached in mid-2025, with a new project cost baseline and a supposed 90% design completion. The just-revealed cost estimate includes CD-1 costs.


“Given the myriad of cost and schedule threats facing the SRS pit facility, it’s simply not acceptable that DOE will for four years hide updated costs estimate and technical updates for this daunting project,” said Tom Clements, director of SRS Watch, in Columbia, SC. “The shocking cost jumps and continuous delays underscore questions about the need for the redundant SRS pit plant, which is being pursued at SRS to fill the funding hole when the MOX boondoggle was terminated in 2018,” added Clements.

This significantly higher cost estimate of the program to make new plutonium pits for questionable new nuclear warheads is actually higher as “it does not include Fee or NNSA Other Direct Cost (ODC), both of which are still being developed, typically they are 4% and 2% respectively.”

SRS Watch is a non-profit, public-interest organization working on sound policies and projects by the U.S. Department of Energy, with a focus on the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

Abandoned plutonium fuel (MOX) building at DOE’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina, coutersy High Flyer to SRS Watch; DOE aims to turn the building into the SRS Plutonium Bomb Plant.

Diagram of nuclear warhead, with plutonium pit. Image by South Carolina Environmental Law Project (SCELP).

Public Interest Group Obtains and Releases DOE Assessment of the SRS Plutonium Processing Facility, to make Plutonium Pits for Provocative New Nuclear Warheads

Given the myriad of cost and schedule threats facing the SRS pit facility, it’s simply not acceptable that DOE is hiding updated cost estimates and technical information for this daunting project.”

— Tom Clements, Director, Savannah River Site Watch

COLUMBIA, SC, US, January 25, 2023 /EINPresswire.com/ — A key U.S. Department of Energy document assessing the progress of planning for the proposed plutonium pit project at the Savannah River Site reveals a cost range billions of dollars higher than what has been previously known. DOE has not made the document public and it is only now being released by a non-profit organization tracking the costly project.

The document prepared in 2021 by the DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) – the nuclear weapons agency inside DOE – estimates that the controversial project to fabricate plutonium pits (cores) for new nuclear warheads could range from $8.7 billion to $16.5 billion, far higher than the currently known cost range of $6.9 billion to $11.1 billion.

The cost estimate for the SRS Plutonium Processing Facility (SRPPF) – also known as the SRS Plutonium Bomb Plant (SRS PBP) – is presented in a report by a NNSA team that analyzed the SRS pit project in March 2021, three months before the current cost estimate was released and the project given the go-ahead. The review of the documentation to move ahead with the pit project is titled “Critical Decision (CD)-1 Independent Project Review (IPR) – Savanah River Plutonium Processing Facility (SRPPF).” [Correct spelling is “Savannah.”]

The SRS pit “project review,” requested by the acting administrator of the NNSA, was obtained on January 9, 2023 by the public interest organization Savannah River Site Watch via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. (Key documents are linked here, in SRS Watch news release.)

The document affirms that the congressionally mandated 2030 date to fabricate 50 or more plutonium pits at SRS, in the shell of the partially finished plutonium fuel (MOX) building, cannot be met and makes the startling revelation that the facility would not produce pits until February 2036, a full 2 years after the anticipated 2034 approval to operate, in so-called Critical Decsion-4.

That 2036 start date for the SRS nuclear bomb facility is beyond the 2032-2035 start date presented in congressional testimony by NNSA. The Critical Decision-1 go-ahead decision and rough cost estimate came in June 2021 but a more refined cost estimate might not be available for four years, when Critical Decision-2 is reached in mid-2025, with a new project cost baseline and a supposed 90% design completion. The just-revealed cost estimate includes CD-1 costs.

“Given the myriad of cost and schedule threats facing the SRS pit facility, it’s simply not acceptable that DOE will for four years hide updated costs estimate and technical updates for this daunting project,” said Tom Clements, director of SRS Watch, in Columbia, SC. “The shocking cost jumps and continuous delays underscore questions about the need for the redundant SRS pit plant, which is being pursued at SRS to fill the funding hole when the MOX boondoggle was terminated in 2018,” added Clements.

This significantly higher cost estimate of the program to make new plutonium pits for questionable new nuclear warheads is actually higher as “it does not include Fee or NNSA Other Direct Cost (ODC), both of which are still being developed, typically they are 4% and 2% respectively.”

The document is mentioned in a footnote (on page 3) in a report issued on January 13, 2023 by the Governmental Accountability Office – “NNSA Does Not Have a Comprehensive Schedule or Cost Estimate for Pit Production Capability” (https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-23-104661) but the cost information in the just-released NNSA report was not mentioned or analyzed by the GAO. Rather, GAO reported the NNSA’s cost figures from the Fiscal Year 2023 budget justification – $6.9 billion to $11.1 billion. – and cited NNSA’s “concerns that publicizing preliminary or uncertain information would lead to misinterpretation over increasing costs if preliminary numbers rise.”

The GAO also said that “using NNSA’s fiscal year 2023 budget justification GAO identified at least $18 billion to $24 billion in potential costs for the 80-pit-per-year” pit production construction costs at the Savannah River Site and the Los Alamos National Lab (LANL), where NNSA is aiming for production of 30 or more pits per year………………………………..

The just-revealed $8.7 billion to $16.5 billion SRS pit plant cost could increase the range of the cost of the two pit facilities to a staggering $19.8 billion to $29.4 billion. ………………………………..

“NNSA must immediately implement transparency about the challenging SRS pit project and regularly release cost and technical information but it appears they are choosing the path of needless secrecy and obfuscation, a sure sign the project isn’t healthy,” said Clements. “The clock is ticking on this project and it sadly looks like we could have another MOX debacle in the making by an inflexible bureaucracy that urgently needs an education in openness,” added Clements.  https://www.einnews.com/pr_news/613279071/cost-estimate-for-plutonium-pit-project-at-savannah-river-site-hits-16-5-billion-5-billion-above-current-estimate

 

    

January 25, 2023 Posted by | - plutonium, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Diluted plutonium disposed of at Carlsbad nuclear waste site as program draws controversy

“DOE decided to do this before they did any of the analysis,” Hancock said. “All these documents are to give legal cover and justify decisions already made.”

Adrian Hedden, Carlsbad Current-Argus

Federal nuclear waste officials announced a shipment of diluted surplus, weapons-grade plutonium was disposed of using a repository near Carlsbad last month, after it was sent to New Mexico from South Carolina, amid criticism from nuclear watchdog groups in the state.

The shipment contained plutonium diluted using a process known as “downblending” that lowered its radioactivity to meet requirements at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, where the U.S. Department of Energy disposes of transuranic (TRU) nuclear waste in an underground salt deposit.

It was brought to WIPP from the DOE’s Savannah River Site, a laboratory where the federal government develops nuclear weapons.

After the downblending, the waste meets the definition of TRU waste, read an announcement from the DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), and can be legally disposed of at WIPP.

Disposal at WIPP was in response to a 2020 agreement between the DOE and State of South Carolina that called for the removal of 9.5 metric tons (MT) of plutonium waste from the state, reached after years of negotiations and litigation.

The waste was initially brought to Savannah River to be irradiated at a mixed-oxide (MOX) facility, converting the nuclear waste into fuel…………………………………………………………

The initial shipment was announced as the DOE was underway with a public comment period on using the same “dilute and dispose” method for 34 metric tons (MT) of plutonium waste, most of which is at the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas.

But this would entail shipping waste from Pantex to Los Alamos, then to Savannah River Site for final packaging before going to WIPP, meaning the waste would cross through New Mexico three times.

Opponents of this proposal in New Mexico feared the repeated trips through their state would increase the risk of exposing their communities to radiation.

Critics oppose use of New Mexico site to dispose of plutonium

Don Hancock, nuclear waste program manager at Albuquerque watchdog group Southwest Research and Information Center said the group and others in the state opposed the project and its use of WIPP.

He said DOE’s practice of seeking approval for separate segments of the plutonium waste, rather than for all of the waste at once was intended to protect decisions already made without public input.

“DOE decided to do this before they did any of the analysis,” Hancock said. “All these documents are to give legal cover and justify decisions already made.”…………………………………………

Hancock argued using WIPP as the disposal site for the plutonium, even after its diluted to meet the requirements of TRU waste, marked an undue expansion of WIPP’s mission beyond what the people of New Mexico agreed to when the facility was sited in their state.

“We don’t oppose geologic disposal. We don’t think WIPP is the right place,” he said. “WIPP has a limited mission. It was never intended for surplus plutonium. It’s already been decided. The public should be outraged.” https://www.currentargus.com/story/news/2023/01/20/diluted-plutonium-disposed-of-at-carlsbad-nuclear-waste-site/69811929007/

January 22, 2023 Posted by | - plutonium, USA | Leave a comment

France issues a 10,000-page dossier to convince people of the safety of the Cigeo nuclear waste site

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Nuclear waste: a 10,000-page dossier to convince people of the safety of
the Cigeo landfill site.

The National Agency for the Management of
Radioactive Waste has submitted a creation authorization application which
opens the way to an investigation phase lasting several years.

This is a major step in view of the possible burial underground in the east of
France, on a still distant horizon, of the most dangerous nuclear waste.


The National Agency for Radioactive Waste Management (Andra) announced on
Tuesday, January 17, that it had officially sent the Ministry of Energy
Transition its request for authorization to create (DAC) for the Cigéo
deep geological disposal center on Monday. This file, heavy with 10,000
pages, opens the way to several years of investigation which could lead to
a green light from the authorities for the construction of infrastructures,
on land located on the border of the departments of Meuse and Haute- Marl.

Le Monde 17th Jan 2023

https://www.lemonde.fr/planete/article/2023/01/17/dechets-nucleaires-un-dossier-de-10-000-pages-pour-convaincre-de-la-surete-du-site-d-enfouissement-de-cigeo_6158247_3244.html

January 22, 2023 Posted by | France, wastes | Leave a comment

Many years for removal and disposal of radioactive waste from historic subterranean vaults at Berkeley nuclear power station.

Work is underway to remove intermediate level radioactive waste (ILW) from
historic subterranean vaults at Berkeley nuclear power station. The removal
and transfer of this ILW into newly designed concrete boxes before moving
it into an interim on-site storage facility is a milestone step in the
decommissioning of the site.

This is part of Magnox’s strategy for dealing
with legacy waste in a consistent and cost-effective manner across its
different sites. The first concrete box of radioactive waste has now been
filled and safely stored at the Gloucestershire site, pending long-term
disposal in a future Geological Disposal Facility (GDF).

It is expected to take between four and five years to remove the full inventory of waste from
the vaults at Berkeley. ONR has maintained regulatory oversight throughout
the planning phase and will continue to do as the retrieval phases
progress.

ONR 17th January 2023

January 21, 2023 Posted by | UK, wastes | Leave a comment

France’s nuclear waste agency applies to create a long-term underground storage in Eastern France.

France’s national agency for managing nuclear waste has applied to the
ministry of ecological transition for the creation of a project for the
long-term storage of high-level radioactive waste, the agency said on
Tuesday. The application, which was filed on Monday, represents a new phase
in which French authorities will examine the plan for safety to ensure it
guards against radioactive leaks.

The project, called Cigéo, calls for the
waste to be stored 500 metres below ground in the Callovo-Oxfordian clay
formation in eastern France. Currently the waste is temporarily stored on
the surface, the agency said. Construction could begin as soon as 2027 if
the French nuclear safety authority approves the application. Authorisation
for an industrial pilot phase to store some waste could come from 2035 to
2040, with full operational approval between 2040 and 2050, the agency
said. Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands are also
examining the construction of long-term high-level radioactive waste
storage sites.

Reuters 17th Jan 2023

https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/french-nuclear-waste-agency-applies-new-storage-site-2023-01-17/

January 19, 2023 Posted by | France, wastes | Leave a comment

China urges Japan to safely dispose of nuclear-contaminated water

China Daily, Xinhua 2023-01-16

BEIJING — China once again urges Japan to take the reasonable concerns of relevant parties seriously and dispose of its nuclear-contaminated water in a science-based, open, transparent and safe manner, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Monday.

Wang made the remarks at a daily news briefing here in response to reports that Japan would pipe nuclear-contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear power station into the ocean during the spring and summer this year.

Wang said that over the past two years, the international community has strongly questioned and opposed the unilateral and erroneous decision of the Japanese government to discharge nuclear-contaminated water into the ocean, and expressed grave concerns over the impact such an action would have on the marine environment and public health.

Wang said the majority of the Japanese public is also opposed to this irresponsible approach. When polled, 55 percent of respondents opposed the disposal of contaminated water into the ocean.

“It is regrettable that the concerns of all parties have yet to be given due attention or be addressed by Japan,” Wang said, adding that Japan has failed to provide scientific and credible explanations concerning the legitimacy of its plan, the accuracy of data on the nuclear-contaminated water, the effectiveness of the treatment system, and the uncertainties about the environmental impact.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has sent three technical task forces to Japan and so far, there has been no conclusive resolution on Japan’s proposal, Wang said, noting that the agency has also issued many requests to Japan, seeking clarifications or making recommendations for improved disposal plans………. more https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202301/16/WS63c551cea31057c47eba9e94.html

January 16, 2023 Posted by | Japan, wastes | Leave a comment

Huge cost for Japanese tax-payers to clean up the botched nuclear waste storage at Tokai reprocessing plant

Righting shoddy nuclear waste storage site to cost Japan 36 bil. yen

 https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2023/01/a53b75be634e-righting-shoddy-nuclear-waste-storage-site-to-cost-japan-36-bil-yen.html – 16 Jan 23, The Japan Atomic Energy Agency estimates that it will cost taxpayers 36.1 billion yen ($280 million) to rectify the shoddy storage of radioactive waste in a storage pool at the Tokai Reprocessing Plant, the nation’s first facility for reprocessing spent nuclear fuel, an official said Sunday.

Around 800 containers of transuranic radioactive waste, or “TRU waste,” were dropped into the pool from 1977 to 1991 using a wire in the now-disused plant in Tokai, a village in Ibaraki Prefecture northeast of Tokyo. They emit high levels of radiation.

The waste includes pieces of metal cladding tubes that contained spent nuclear fuel, generated during the reprocessing process. The containers are ultimately supposed to be buried more than 300 meters below surface.

The agency has estimated that 19.1 billion yen will be needed to build a new storage facility for the containers, and 17 billion yen for a building that will cover the storage pool and the crane equipment to grab containers.

The 794 containers each are about 80 centimeters in diameter, 90 cm tall and weigh about 1 ton, with many lying on their sides or overturned in the pool. Some have had their shape altered by the impact of being dropped.

The containers were found stored in the improper manner in the 1990s. While the agency said the storage is secure from earthquakes and tsunamis, it has nonetheless decided to improve the situation.

The extractions have been delayed by about 10 years from the original plan and are expected to begin in the mid-2030s.

The Tokai Reprocessing Plant was the nation’s first plant that reprocessed spent fuel from nuclear reactors to recover uranium and plutonium. Between 1977 and 2007, about 1,140 tons of fuel were reprocessed. The plant’s dismantlement was decided in 2014 and is expected to take about 70 years at a cost of 1 trillion yen.

January 15, 2023 Posted by | Japan, space travel, wastes | Leave a comment

Nuclear waste project in New Mexico opposed in recent poll, company asserts local support

Adrian Hedden, Carlsbad Current-Argus, 14 Jan 23,

New Mexicans in every region of the state allegedly opposed storing high-level nuclear waste in their state, according to a recent poll, as a New Jersey company hoped to build a facility to do so near Carlsbad.

The poll, commissioned by Albuquerque-based Southwest Research and Information Center in a partnership with the Center for Civic Policy surveyed 1,015 voters across the state from Dec. 7 to 14.

It found 60 percent of those surveyed were in opposition to the project, with 30 percent supporting and 10 percent undecided.

Holtec International applied in 2017 for a license from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to build and operate what it called a consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) in a remote area near the border of Eddy and Lea counties.

Last year, the NRC published its final environmental impact statement (EIS), contending the project would have little impact on the environment, and recommending the license be issued.

The CISF would temporarily store up to 100,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel rods, expected to be brought into the site via rail from nuclear power plants around the country through a 40-year license with the NRC.

The 1,000-acre plot of land where the facility would be built was owned by the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance, a consortium of local leaders from the cities of Carlsbad and Hobbs, and Eddy and Lea counties.

The Alliance recruited Holtec and set up a revenue-sharing agreement with the company once the CISF goes into operations.

Despite the poll, Holtec officials argued the project was largely supported by New Mexico, after spokesman Gerges Scott said representatives traveled to local governments throughout the state.

Ed Mayer, Holtec project manager of the CISF said the company had adequate support for the project, after he and other representatives met with local leaders and first responders both around the site and along the rail lines.

“We are educating the affected populations, not only from the facility perspective in southeast New Mexico, but from a state perspective on the rail lines,” Mayer said. …………………………….

But opponents, including Southwest Research – a frequent critic of Holtec and the nearby Waste Isolation Pilot Plant repository for transuranic (TRU) nuclear waste – maintained the project would bring an undue risk to New Mexicans nearby and Americans along the waste transportation routes.

That’s why opposition was spread across political parties, gender and ethnicity, said Nuclear Waste Program Manager Don Hancock at Southwest Research and Information Center.

The poll showed more than half of those surveyed in the region were against the project, with opposition also coming irrespective of political affiliation. About 70 percent of Democrats polled opposed Holtec, along with 51 percent of Republicans and 55 percent of Independents.

When broken down by gender, more men supported the project than women, according to the poll.

A majority of Republican men polled were in favor at 51 percent, while 61 percent of Republican women were against the project, read the poll

White men were mostly for the project overall at 49 percent of voters polled in favor, while 71 percent of white women were against.

Hispanic men and women both mostly opposed the project at 51 and 78 percent against, respectively read the poll.

Central, northeast and southwest New Mexico showed opposition of 60 percent or more, while more conservative regions in the southeast and northwest showed 57 and 56 percent against, respectively, the poll showed.

Critics argue storing nuclear waste puts undue risk on New Mexico

Hancock said the poll showed temporary nuclear waste storage was not supported by New Mexico voters, arguing it was opposed through decades of proposals like Holtec’s.

“I’m not surprised by the results because for more than 45 years New Mexicans have strongly opposed high-level waste in New Mexico, whether the waste is proposed for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in the 1970s and ‘80s, for Mescalero Apache land in the 1990s, or by Holtec,” he said.

Opposition to the project also came from some of New Mexico’s highest-ranking state officials, and its Congressional delegation, with New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham calling the proposal “economic malpractice” for its potential, she said, of imperiling nearby oil and gas and agriculture industries.

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) co-sponsored a bill introduced in the U.S. Senate last year to block any federal funds from supporting such a project.

At the state level, New Mexico Sen. Jeff Steinborn (D-36) was a lead opponent of Holtec’s in the Legislature.

While Texas lawmakers recently passed a bill to ban high-level waste storage in their state, Steinborn said New Mexico policymakers should consider a similar measure to prevent the project coming to fruition.

“From the very beginning this has been a dangerous plan pushed on New Mexico, with real risks for all of our communities, and no end in sight,” Steinborn said. “It’s time for this project to be canceled and be replaced by the federal government committing to a true consent based siting process for the permanent storage of this waste.”  https://www.currentargus.com/story/news/2023/01/14/nuclear-waste-project-new-mexico-opposed-recent-statewide-poll-holtec-international-energy/69802597007/

January 15, 2023 Posted by | opposition to nuclear, USA, wastes | Leave a comment