The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Former boss of BP’s Russian arm is the frontrunner to take charge of Europe’s biggest nuclear waste dump

Rowland Dye HANG ON…DID I READ THE CLEANUP COSTS ARE ……..£117BILLION FFS………The former boss of BP’s Russian arm is the frontrunner to take charge of  Europe’s biggest nuclear waste dump. David Peattie, 62, is being lined up
to run the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), the state-owned body that manages the vast Sellafield site in Cumbria.

Peattie spent more than three decades with BP, leaving in 2013 to become boss of North Sea oil explorer Fairfield Energy. Unfortunately, the move coincided with the oil price collapse, and Peattie left the private equity-backed company two
years later.

The high-flyer’s imminent appointment reflects Whitehall’s determination to get a grip on the NDA. The authority faces a huge damages bill after a court ruling that it botched the award of the £7bn contract to clean up Magnox sites. It is considering an appeal. The NDA’s £3bn annual budget consumes 25% of the business department’s spend¬ing. The clean-up bill for the country’s nuclear plants is estimated at £117bn.

Ex-BP boss lined up for nuclear job Sun Times 19th Feb 2017

The former boss of BP’s Russian arm is the frontrunner to take charge of Europe’s biggest nuclear waste dump. David Peattie, 62, is being lined up to run the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA)…

February 20, 2017 Posted by | UK, wastes | Leave a comment

SOMETIMES there’s A BIT of good news at Hanford nuclear facility

Fortunately, there is a bit of good news in his heap of radioactivity. Last November, a settlement was reached between the US Department of Justice, Bechtel Corp. and AECOM (formerly URS) for a whopping $125 million. The civil lawsuit alleged taxpayer funds were mismanaged and that both companies performed shoddy work. The lawsuit also claimed that government funds were illegally used to lobby members of Congress. Brought on by whistleblowers Gary Brunson, Donna Busche, and Walter Tamosaitis (Busche and Tamosaitis’s sagas were highlighted in two Investigative Fund reports I authored for Seattle Weekly in 2011 and 2012), the settlement was one of the largest in DoE history.

No doubt it was a substantial victory for whistleblowers and government accountability, despite the fact that the defendants did not admit guilt. Now, Washington State legislators are pushing HB 1723, a bill that would protect and treat Hanford workers for certain health problems that are a result of the work they’ve done at the facility, such as respiratory problems, heart issues, certain cancers like bone, breast, lung and thyroid, as well as neurological issues.

Hanford-waste-tanksGood News and Bad News at Hanford, America’s Most Polluted Site 9, 2017“The people running Hanford need to have a moral compass that directs them in the right way, as human beings, to do the right thing to protect these people,” retired Hanford employee Mike Geffre, who worked at Hanford for 26 years, told KING 5. “They’re trying to save money and save face. They’re standing behind their old position that there’s no problem. That’s absurd. They need to accept the fact that they made mistakes and get over it.”


Toxic odors at an old nuclear depot? This would be startling news anywhere else. But this is Hanford after all, where taxpayer money freely flows to contractors despite the snail-paced half-life of their work. Twenty years and $19 billion later, Hanford is still a nightmare — likely the most toxic site in the Western Hemisphere. Not one ounce of nuclear waste has ever been treated, and there are no indications Hanford will be nuke free anytime soon. To date, at least 1 million gallons of radioactive waste has leaked and is making its way to the Columbia River. It’s an environmental disaster of epic proportions — a disaster created by our government’s atomic obsession during the Cold War era.

No doubt, Hanford is a wreck in search of a remedy, yet the costs covered by American taxpayers appears to be growing exponentially. At the tail end of 2016, the estimated cost of turning the radioactive gunk into glass rods bumped up a cool $4.5 billion (adding to the ultimate price tag for the remaining Hanford cleanup, which had already reached a whopping $107.7 billion). These sorts of increases are so common they hardly make news anymore.

Donald Trump’s pick for Department of Energy Secretary, Rick Perry, who infamously stated he’d like to do away with the DoE altogether, now admits that Hanford’s one of the most dangerous facilities in the nation. But his commitment to cleaning up the fiscal and nuclear boondoggle remains to be seen. The plant that is to turn the waste into glass rods is set to open in 2023, but it’s a safe bet that won’t be happening. It’s already two decades behind schedule.

Meanwhile, workers on the front lines of the cleanup are often put in situations that are poorly monitored and exceedingly unsafe. Over the past three years KING 5 News in Seattle has tracked dozens of employees who were exposed to chemical vapors at Hanford and found their illnesses to include “toxic encephalopathy (dementia), reactive airway disease, COPD, and painful nerve damage.”

“The people running Hanford need to have a moral compass that directs them in the right way, as human beings, to do the right thing to protect these people,” retired Hanford employee Mike Geffre, who worked at Hanford for 26 years, told KING 5. “They’re trying to save money and save face. They’re standing behind their old position that there’s no problem. That’s absurd. They need to accept the fact that they made mistakes and get over it.”

Fortunately, there is a bit of good news in his heap of radioactivity. Last November, a settlement was reached between the US Department of Justice, Bechtel Corp. and AECOM (formerly URS) for a whopping $125 million. The civil lawsuit alleged taxpayer funds were mismanaged and that both companies performed shoddy work. The lawsuit also claimed that government funds were illegally used to lobby members of Congress. Brought on by whistleblowers Gary Brunson, Donna Busche, and Walter Tamosaitis (Busche and Tamosaitis’s sagas were highlighted in two Investigative Fund reports I authored for Seattle Weekly in 2011 and 2012), the settlement was one of the largest in DoE history.

No doubt it was a substantial victory for whistleblowers and government accountability, despite the fact that the defendants did not admit guilt. Now, Washington State legislators are pushing HB 1723, a bill that would protect and treat Hanford workers for certain health problems that are a result of the work they’ve done at the facility, such as respiratory problems, heart issues, certain cancers like bone, breast, lung and thyroid, as well as neurological issues.

“Currently, many Hanford workers are not receiving necessary medical care because they are put in the impossible situation of being unable to specify the chemicals to which they have been exposed, and in what concentrations, making it difficult for their doctors to connect their disease with their exposures,” Randy Walli, Business Manager for the pipefitters union, Local 598, told King 5.

Compensation for whistleblowers and employees whose health is impacted by their work are steps in the right direction. But Hanford’s contractors and the DoE that oversees them still have much to do to make the increasingly expensive nuclear cleanup at Hanford, safe, effective and transparent.

This piece first appeared at The Investigate Fund.

February 10, 2017 Posted by | Legal, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Failure of nuclear waste treatment facility in Idaho

strandedFlag-USASpent nuclear fuel shipment to Idaho lab remains in limbo WT – Associated Press – Sunday, January 22, 2017  IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP)  – The director of the Idaho National Laboratory says it’s problematic whether a small quantity of spent nuclear fuel needed for research will be allowed into Idaho this spring.

The lab renegotiated a research agreement to allow the shipment to be received later this year, Mark Peters told the Post Register (

However, the continued failure of a treatment facility to process 900,000 gallons of high-level nuclear waste stored at the 890-square-mile U.S. Department of Energy site in eastern Idaho has caused the federal agency to violate a 1995 agreement with Idaho.

 Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden as a result is refusing to allow research quantities of spent nuclear fuel into Idaho until the facility, called the Integrated Waste Treatment Unit, is operating.

“We still have the need to bring in small quantities,” Peters said. “And the official position of the attorney general is, until IWTU is running hot, he will not allow that to happen. So this is problematic. Very problematic.”

A previous research shipment has instead been sent to Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. Peters said his lab could potentially lose the next shipment as well.

“If IWTU goes beyond (spring), then we need to continue to rethink,” Peters said.

The shipment from the Byron Nuclear Generating Station in Illinois was originally scheduled for last June.

Late last month, the Department of Energy said a small-scale version of a key component of the waste treatment facility was being sent to Colorado to better understand why the treatment facility isn’t operating as planned.

The continued failure to get the treatment facility operating is a blow to the federal agency’s desire to bring in the research shipments of spent commercial nuclear fuel to the lab in Idaho, one of 17 Department of Energy labs in the nation and the primary lab for nuclear research…..

January 23, 2017 Posted by | USA, wastes | 1 Comment

Testing a deep borehole as a potential way to bury highly radioactive nuclear trash

Christina Macpherson's websites & blogs

Christina Macpherson’s websites & blogs

It is a good idea to at least test the feasibility of deep boreholes. As one resident said “Something must be done with the wastes”. There is no obligation on that community to agree to actually accept high level nuclear waste – only to host the testing of the deep bore concept.

The whole project would really make sense if it were combined with a definite plan to STOP MAKING TOXIC RADIOACTIVE WASTES, by closing down all nuclear reactors. This could be done, with genuine good will, and planning for compensation and transition to other employment for workers in the nuclear industry.

New Mexico town steps up for nuclear borehole project  LMT Online, , January 15, 2017 “……. The U.S. Energy Department, Quay County and two energy development companies say the nation’s latest nuclear waste experiment could inject as much as $40 million into the county’s economy. Nara Visa residents just have to agree to let the companies drill a three-mile-deep borehole — seven times deeper than the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad — into the crystalline, granite crust of the earth a few miles outside of town, on land currently occupied by fat, black cattle.

Right now, the project is pegged as a scientific experiment. The Energy Department says no nuclear waste will be placed in the test borehole.

The ultimate goal is to find a permanent place to dispose of the ever-growing and deadly stockpile of spent nuclear fuel rods and high-level radioactive waste collected at nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons laboratories nationwide.

Until this year, no town in the U.S. had agreed to the proposal. But when the Quay County Commission approved the plan in October, it put Nara Visa on track to become the first.

About seven miles outside Nara Visa, there is a small, gravel roadside park where semi-truck drivers pull off U.S. 54 to sleep. Below the earth, the granite is devoid of oil but just right for deep drilling.

These 10 acres belong to Louis and Elaine James, who’ve agreed to lease it to the government………

As far as the nuclear waste component is concerned, Louis James, 69, said, “I have more of a problem with it sitting over at Pantex 100 miles away than I do with it being under the ground, because you know it will get you if they ever attack those spots.” He was referring to the Pantex Plant, a nuclear weapons assembly facility outside Amarillo, Texas……

The test hole planned for the James’ property is meant to be just 8 1/2 inches wide but would go deep below ground, first through the water table and a mile through sediment before hitting the top of a crystalline rock layer. From there, the hole would be drilled another two miles into the Earth. This is the layer where nuclear waste would be stored, then sealed off with a steel casing and concrete to protect the environment and water in the mile span separating the waste from the land’s surface.


Utah-based DOSECC Exploration Services LLC and Enercon Federal Services, Inc., based in Atlanta, are developing the Nara Visa proposal and are one of four groups that have been granted the go-ahead from the Energy Department for Phase 1 of the project. This is referred to as “community buy-in,” gaining not only public approval but also support for the project, and securing the land for the borehole site.

If DOSECC and Enercon win this bid, they will get $35 million over a five-year period to drill the first hole. The Energy Department will grant an additional $50 million to drill a second, wider borehole if the first is successful……

State Rep. Dennis Roch said that after meeting with the companies, he felt confident there was “no connection between this viability test and the ultimate decision of where to dispose of nuclear waste way down the road.”…….

The Nara Visa site would only be permitted for drilling, he added. Nuclear waste storage would require an entirely different permitting and regulatory process…….

WIPP, after being closed for nearly three years following the radiation leak, began depositing waste below ground for the first time in December. But the stagnation of waste disposal at these facilities left the Energy Department scrambling for alternatives, and in 2012, deep boreholes resurfaced as a potential alternative, an idea that was first floated in the 1950s.

To store all of the waste sitting at 77 U.S. facilities, the Energy Department needs to drill 950 boreholes at an estimated $20 million per hole, or $71 billion for the entire project, including transportation, environmental reclamation, monitoring and site characterization, according to the 2010 Sandia study. In contrast, Yucca Mountain was estimated to cost $96 billion.

Each hole is expected to contain 400 vertically stacked fuel pods that, unlike the costly steel drums used to pack waste headed to WIPP, would not require specialized containers but instead would be stored in their spent fuel form or glass. Multiple boreholes could be drilled just over 200 meters apart to avoid thermal reactions.

Though the Sandia study said boreholes could be used for nuclear reactor waste, Mast from Enercon said he believes the Energy Department is only looking at boreholes for waste from nuclear weapons development.

To actually begin placing nuclear waste in the boreholes will require an amendment to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act.

Before the proposal reaches that stage, Greg Mello, director of the watchdog Los Alamos Study Group, says the government should be more transparent about exactly what type of high-level nuclear waste would go in the holes: spent fuel rods, nuclear weapons waste or down-blended plutonium. …..

January 16, 2017 Posted by | Reference, USA, wastes | 1 Comment

Ontario public has a month to comment on plan for nuclear waste dump near Kincardine.

it’s “absolute madness” to “dig this hole beside the drinking water source for 40 million Canadians and Americans.”


Bruce NGS Great Lakes Lake HuronOPG identifies most of Ontario as alternate ‘location’ to bury nuclear waste: Ontario Power Generation was asked by the federal government to identify “actual locations” as alternates for its plan to bury nuclear waste. It’s now up to the minister as to whether they’ve done that. The Star, By , Jan. 10, 2017..……The hunt for an appropriate site for a Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) to house waste from Ontario’s nuclear facilities is not a subject to be taken lightly. Everything from mops to materials close to the reactor core, such as ion exchange resins that bear a “significant amount” of Carbon-14, a radionuclide that has a half life of more than 5,700 years, is slated for permanent burial.

………. A report recently released by OPG cites Ryden’s GPS co-ordinates as one of the plot points in one of two contemplated alternate locations for the DGR. Equally curious, the co-ordinates for the second alternate include a stately two story brick home in Chaplin Estates, near Yonge St. and Davisville Ave.

This is worth digging into.

On Dec. 28, Ontario Power Generation submitted the results of its federally mandated assignment to present technically and economically feasible alternate locations for the DGR — alternate, that is, to OPG’s preferred strategy to inter the waste from the Bruce, Darlington and Pickering nuclear power plants at Bruce Nuclear near Kincardine.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency will take until Jan. 16 to determine “whether OPG’s information is complete and that it conforms to the Minister’s information request.” A 30-day public comment period will follow.

When the federal Environment Ministry requested the study, 11 months ago, it sought details as to “specific reference to actual locations.” While OPG responded in April that it intended to assess two feasible “geological regions” in the province, “without providing specific reference to actual locations,” it says now that in this document and the main submission it is using specific references to actual locations.

The common reader may see the word “location” to mean, as it is conventionally defined, a particular or exact place.

OPG has provided something quite different and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna now must decide whether the power giant has come up with an evaluation that is good enough.

Let’s remember that the proposed Bruce site will be dug nearly 700 metres deep in limestone host rock a distance of 1.2 km from Lake Huron. The town of Kincardine is on side. Opposition voices on both sides of the border have been loud, particularly as it concerns protecting the Great Lakes.

The dominant question: is Bruce the best spot? And a corollary: wasn’t granite — the Canadian Shield in northern Ontario — discussed long ago as potentially the appropriate geology for toxic waste? The issue may pertain not just to low and intermediate waste, but ultimately the disposal of spent fuel rods, a headache for the generations that has yet to be effectively addressed………..

Rod McLeod’s view is that it’s “absolute madness” to “dig this hole beside the drinking water source for 40 million Canadians and Americans.”

OPG insists that, at least according to its own social media analysis, Ontarians aren’t bothered. “The topic is not a popular one, nor is it generating large volumes of curiosity,” the report states, adding that interest in the DGR has “flatlined.”

The public now has little more than a month to change that perception, should it care to.

January 16, 2017 Posted by | Canada, wastes | Leave a comment

Congressmen introduce Bill to allow high level nuclear trash to be sent to Andrews, New Mexico

radioactive trashFlag-USAConaway Introduces Bill to Add More Types of Nuke Waste at Dump in Andrews By Joe Hyde | Jan. 12, 2017

Washington, D.C. — Thursday, Congressman Mike Conaway (R-TX) and Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA)  introduced a bill that will, as Conway described it, pave a path forward for storage of the nation’s nuclear waste in Andrews.

The Texas Tribune reported in April 2016 that Waste Control Specialist, the company that owns the nuclear waste dump near Andrews and the Texas-New Mexico border, applied for the license to build and maintain a temporary storage site for the spent fuel.

“The Interim Consolidated Storage Act would allow the Department of Energy to use interest from the National Nuclear Fund to contract temporary storage facilities for spent nuclear fuel and could have the federal government begin collecting waste from nuclear facilities across the country in as little as five years,” Conaway stated in a release……..

The Andrews nuclear waste facility received approval to store radioactive waste in 2009. It is the only facility to obtain regulatory approval within the last 30 years to store Class A, B and C low-level radioactive waste.

Conaway’s bill is among many steps in approving the storage of “temporary” radioactive waste at the Andrews site. This type of waste is highly radioactive and originates as spent nuclear reactor fuel, according to reports. The WCS proposal requires the Department of Energy to assume the title and liability for the spent nuclear fuel stored at the site, Texas Tribune reported. Congressional approval is required for the DoE to do so.

January 14, 2017 Posted by | politics, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

12 Members of USA Congress urge President-Elect Trump to Prioritize Hanford Cleanup,

Hanford-waste-tanksWashington Congressional Delegation Urges President-Elect Trump to Prioritize Hanford Cleanup, Worker Health, Tri-Cities’ Safety U>S> Senate Committee on Energy and National Resources, 9 Jan 2017

“This work is essential to protecting the health and safety of the Tri-Cities community, the Columbia River, Washington state and our nation.”

Washington, D.C.  – Today, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Representatives Dan Newhouse (Wash.-04), Adam Smith (Wash.-09), Rick Larsen (Wash.-02), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.-05), Dave Reichert (Wash.-08), Jaime Herrera Beutler (Wash.-03), Suzan DelBene (Wash.-01), Denny Heck (Wash.-10), Derek Kilmer (Wash.-06), and Pramila Jayapal (Wash.-07) wrote President-Elect Donald Trump to urge him to make the ongoing cleanup at the Hanford nuclear waste site a high priority.

The letter provided essential background information on the cleanup and remediation operations at the site and emphasized the importance of worker safety and protecting communities in the Tri-Cities region and beyond. The senators and representatives called for the incoming administration’s full support for and attention to the Hanford cleanup mission.

The delegation noted that fully supporting Hanford means maintaining strong and predictable funding for vital cleanup work already underway at Hanford. This “enables progress and ensures our top priority—worker safety—is achieved while these dangerous cleanup operations take place,” said the members. “It is essential that the safety of the more than 9,000 workers come first as they are doing a remarkable job and their efforts keep surrounding communities safe.”

After contributing to the country’s security through nuclear deterrence in World War II and the Cold War, the Tri-Cities region now faces the high costs of a decades-long nuclear waste cleanup program. There are still 54.6 million gallons of nuclear and radioactive waste stored in the Hanford facility, threatening the surrounding area and communities downstream along the Columbia River. Any lapses in funding for the site puts workers and communities at risk.
President-elect Donald J. Trump
Trump-Pence Transition Office
1717 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20006

Dear President-elect Trump:

We write to share with you the importance of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) ongoing cleanup mission at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in the State of Washington, a region that underwent dramatic transformation nearly 75 years ago to help the United States win World War II, and later the Cold War. We believe, with your strong support, we can continue the vital nuclear waste cleanup and environmental remediation work currently underway at Hanford. This work is essential to protecting the health and safety of the Tri-Cities community, the Columbia River, Washington state, and our nation from waste that was created from over 40 years of nuclear weapons production. Continued cleanup progress, along with strong and predictable funding, is crucial to the federal government fulfilling its legal and moral obligation to remediate the 54.6 million gallons of nuclear and radioactive waste currently stored at Hanford. Additionally, this vital cleanup mission is a top priority for the local communities and our constituents in Washington state, as well as to the strength of the local and regional economies. ……..

Previous administrations and Congress have repeatedly supported the legal and moral obligation of the federal government to clean up Hanford, and we urge your Administration to do the same. A critical component to this support is proper funding levels, which enables progress and ensures our top priority—worker safety—is achieved while these dangerous cleanup operations take place. It is essential that the safety of the more than 9,000 workers come first as they are doing a remarkable job and their efforts keep surrounding communities safe.

We look forward to discussing Hanford, ongoing cleanup work, and its importance to the Tri-Cities community and the Pacific Northwest with you and your Administration in more detail in the coming days and months. Together, we can ensure that the federal government fulfills its obligation through continued progress and safe remediation of the Hanford site.


January 14, 2017 Posted by | politics, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

North Korea’s greatly increased plutonium stockpile

plutonium_04flag-N-KoreaNorth Korea’s Nuclear Weapons: Under Kim Jong Un, Plutonium Stockpile Has Reached Unprecedented Levels, International Business Times,  BY  @TIMMARCIN ON 01/12/17 In the past two years, North Korea has steadily increased its supply of plutonium and now has enough for 10 nuclear warheads, according to a report this week from the South Korean Ministry of National Defense. In all, South Korea’s 2016 Defense White Paper found that the North had increased its supply of weapons -grade plutonium to 50 kilograms, up from 40 kilograms two years ago, the Korea Times reported. The plutonium was obtained by reprocessing spent fuel rods.

Under the dictatorial rule of leader Kim Jong Un, North Korea has focused on developing its nuclear arsenal. More recently, North Korea has worked toward developing a reliable intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that would be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

The increased stockpile comes amid continued threats from Kim. In a New Year’s speech, Kim provoked the West — the United States and South Korea especially — and claimed an ICBM was nearing completion…….

Should the North develop a reliable ICBM, it would likely have the capability of reaching the United States. A working ICBM could still be a ways off, however……. 

January 13, 2017 Posted by | - plutonium, North Korea, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The danger of plutonium being released at United States at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.

plutonium_04Puget Sound’s ticking nuclear time bomb, Crosscut by , 10 Jan 17  “……“Command and Control” shows what can happen when the weapons built to protect us threaten to destroy us, and it speaks directly to Puget Sound citizens: Locally, we face a similar threat in Hood Canal with the largest concentration of deployed nuclear weapons in the United States at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.

An accident at Bangor involving nuclear weapons occurred in November 2003 when a ladder penetrated a nuclear nose cone during a routine missile offloading at the Explosives Handling Wharf. All missile-handling operations at the Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific (SWFPAC) were stopped for nine weeks until Bangor could be recertified for handling nuclear weapons. Three top commanders were fired but the public was never informed until information was leaked to the media in March 2004.

The Navy never publicly admitted that the 2003 accident occurred. The Navy failed to report the accident at the time to county or state authorities. Public responses from governmental officials were generally in the form of surprise and disappointment.

The result of such an explosion likely would not cause a nuclear detonation. Instead, plutonium from the approximately 108 nuclear warheads on one submarine could be spread by the wind……

January 11, 2017 Posted by | - plutonium, Reference, safety, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Former nuclear town degenerates into a stranded nuclear waste dump

strandedWATCHDOGS: Zion’s nuclear fallout; still reeling from ’98 closing, Chicago Sun Times,  John Carpenter, 1/07/2017, Workers are methodically dismantling the once-mighty Zion nuclear power plant. Just up the road in the far north suburb, a different kind of dismantling is taking place.

The small Lake County city of Zion — founded at the start of the last century as the new “City of God” and once a bustling little blue-collar bedroom community — is staggering. Crushed by the loss of half its property-tax base when the power plant was closed in 1998, it faces the foreseeable future as a nuclear waste dump.

It wasn’t supposed be this way.

 “The understanding was that Zion would have a nuclear power plant on the lakefront and that it would be an eyesore but that there could be some economic development down the line,” Zion Mayor Al Hill says. “The understanding also was that, when they closed it, it would be gone. That’s not what happened.”

What happened is that no one can agree on where to put about 1,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel rods. So they will stay, sealed inside stainless steel canisters, encased in concrete and stacked in neat rows of 20-feet-tall cylinders on a concrete pad, all huddled together along some of Illinois’ most beautiful lakefront shoreline.

“We are,” Hill says, “a nuclear waste dump.”

It’s easy to ignore the plight of one small town. But nuclear plants in downstate Clinton and the Quad Cities, threatened with closing earlier this year, narrowly escaped the same fate. There are 11 nuclear reactors in six locations across Illinois and 99 operating across the nation. According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, there are 16 nuclear reactor sites nationwide that have been shut down and are being decommissioned — being taken apart, a lengthy process because nearly everything being dismantled is somewhat radioactive and requires special care in handling.

According to the most optimistic estimates, the radioactive waste now being stored in Zion will be there until at least the next decade, perhaps much longer. That’s left the city to try to lure new economic development with a nuclear-waste storage facility occupying its most valuable waterfront land.

If you think this is no big deal, talk to Sharon and Don Bourdeau, who, after running the Zion Antique Mall and Toy Mart for more than 20 years, just closed the store at the end of last month. Until then, it was an easy place to visit, as parking is never a problem these days in the heart of downtown Zion, which has nearly as many empty storefronts as it does working businesses……….

Redmond points out that all U.S. taxpayers, not just electricity rate-payers, are paying for nuclear-waste disposal thanks to the industry’s successful lawsuit against the Energy Department. As of last year, more than $5 billion has been paid out of that judgment fund, he says, with some estimates suggesting that number could climb to almost $30 billion before a storage solution is found.

A spokesman for Commonwealth Edison parent Exelon won’t comment, saying the matter of future waste storage in Zion is in the hands of the federal government. Exelon technically doesn’t own or control the waste, which is now in the hands of Zion Solutions, the company hired to dismantle the plant. Once the dismantling is complete, though, the facility — and the nuclear waste — will return to the control of Exelon until the federal government comes up with a solution……..

January 9, 2017 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority approves closure of Monju nuclear reprocessing reactor by next April

monju-plant-in-tsuruga-fukui-prefectureNuclear watchdog approves scrapping Monju reactor Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority has approved the government’s decision to scrap the Monju prototype fast-breeder nuclear reactor. The education, science and technology ministry briefed the NRA on Wednesday about the government’s decision last week about the troubled reactor in Fukui Prefecture on the Sea of Japan coast.

NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said the decision is in line with the recommendation it made in November last year.
In it, the NRA urged an overhaul of a research and development project involving the reactor. It said scrapping the reactor would be an option unless a new operator were found for it.

The ministry also told the NRA on Wednesday that it will draw up a basic plan for decommissioning the reactor by next April.

It added that to eliminate possible safety risks soon, it will instruct reactor operator Japan Atomic Energy Agency to remove nuclear fuel from the reactor in about 5 and half years.

Tanaka asked the ministry to oversee the decommissioning process to ensure safety. He said the NRA will study whether relevant laws should be amended to step up regulation. He added that it may also set up an expert team to monitor the process.

December 30, 2016 Posted by | decommission reactor, Japan, reprocessing | Leave a comment

America’s ineffective white elephant Blue Ribbon Commission on nuclear wastes

text-from-the-archivesThe Commission has entirely ignored the immense evidence that DOE’s plans for disposal of water-radiationseveral types of defense waste pose much greater threats to water resources, most especially at Hanford

 “I am dismayed that the Commission saw fit to recommend that the Department of Energy (DOE) have a large upfront role in both the next steps for repository program, …  DOE was in large part responsible for the mess the program is in now,

Radioactive Wastes From Nuclear Bomb Program Given Short Shrift In Blue Ribbon Commission Report EnEws Park Forest, TAKOMA PARK, MD–(ENEWSPF)–January 27, 2012. Arjun Makhijani, Ph.D., President of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, today commented on some of the recommendations of the final report of the Presidential Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC) on America’s Nuclear Future.

The commission was created to address U.S. nuclear waste issues after the Obama administration cancelled the Yucca Mountain program….

….On wastes from the nuclear bomb program:
Makhijani: “It is tragic that the Commission did not substantively address the most pressing radioactive waste contamination threats to precious water resources – for instance hundreds of times the drinking water limit at Hanford, Washington on the banks of the Columbia River.
The Commission had a charter to conduct a ‘comprehensive’ review of the nuclear waste problem, including defense wastes from the nuclear bomb program. Yet, it simply said it did not have the resources to deal with all the problems and punted the nuclear weapons waste issue to Congress while focusing on commercial spent fuel at nuclear reactor sites.” Continue reading

December 28, 2016 Posted by | Reference, USA, wastes | 1 Comment

Just another little increase in costs for Hanford nuclear clean-up – increase of $4.5 billion

Hanford-waste-tanksThe price tag for cleaning up nuclear waste at Hanford site just went up another $4.5 billion LA Times, 16 Dec 16 Ralph Vartabedian  Contact Reporter The U.S. Energy Department said Friday that its long-troubled attempt to build a plant to process highly radioactive sludge at a former nuclear weapons site in central Washington state will cost an additional $4.5 billion, raising the project’s price tag to $16.8 billion.

The Hanford treatment plant, a small industrial city with some two dozen facilities on a desert plateau along the Columbia River, is more than a decade behind schedule and will cost nearly four times the original estimate made in 2000.

The government aims to transform 56 million gallons of deadly sludge stored in leaky underground tanks into solid glass, which theoretically could then be stored safely for thousands of years.

But the effort has involved an extended history of errors, miscalculations and wrongdoing. The result has been a massive, partially built concrete facility that has been under a stop-work order for three years because of serious technical doubts.

The biggest technical problems involve two giant facilities, a melter building for high-level radioactive waste and a pretreatment building to prepare the sludge for chemical processing.

After an exhaustive technical review, the Energy Department at the beginning of this year ordered fixes for more than 500 problems, some of them fundamental design deficiencies at the melter. Construction of the building and equipment was 78% complete at the time of the review.

And in November, the Justice Department settled a False Claims Act suit against two major contractors at the plant, San Francisco-based Bechtel Corp. and AECOM, an engineering, design and construction management company based in Los Angeles. The allegations originally were brought by three engineers at the plant, who had long raised concerns that the fundamental design of the plant was flawed. The two companies agreed to pay $125 million in damages, a portion of which will be awarded to the three whistle-blowers……..

outside watchdogs say the giant cost increase could jeopardize the cleanup at a time when the incoming president, Donald Trump, has already sharply criticized high-cost government projects and contracts.

Tom Carpenter, executive director of the Hanford Challenge, which has helped whistle-blowers disclose problems at the site, said the new cost estimate puts a target on the plant that could lead the Energy Department to begin searching for lower-cost and less safe solutions to the waste problem.

One potential lower-cost remedy at Hanford, which has been used at other former nuclear waste sites, would be to pour concrete into the tanks to solidify the waste and then simply leave it in place. The risk is that the concrete might eventually break down, leak radioactivity into the groundwater and contaminate the Columbia River about seven miles away, Carpenter said.

“There are a lot of question marks about the fate of this facility,” Carpenter said.

The revised plan disclosed Friday is part of an effort to get the waste treatment plant started up sooner, though the estimated delay for full operational status seems to be growing.

In 2013, then-Energy Secretary Steven Chu stopped most construction on the project after a whistle-blower warned about a potential for explosion from accumulated hydrogen gas in the melter tanks. In an effort to get the cleanup moving again, Chu’s successor, Ernest J. Moniz, ordered that some of the lower-level waste be solidified without any pretreatment — a so-called direct feed system — and on a faster schedule at the low-level melter.

The early processing could begin in 10 years or less, but the full capability for the most highly radioactive sludge that requires the high-level melter is now scheduled for a 2036 start-up, some 20 years past the original schedule, Carpenter said.

“It is an astounding date,” he said.

December 19, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, Reference, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Mismanagement and incompetence as the nuclear industry plunders Britain’s public purse

Sellafield on seaNuclear plundering of the public purse – the Sellafield and Moorside billions, Ecologist, Martin Forwood 13th December 2016 

While the government is cutting vital public expenditure across the board there’s one industry for which no costs are too great, writes Martin Forwood. The price of an ‘evaporator’ at the Sellafield nuclear complex is escalating towards £1 billion, while billions more of taxpayer finance are being lined up to finance cooling systems, power lines and transport links for the adjacent Moorside new-build nuclear power plant.

The Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s elevation to the US Presidency have turned the international status quo upside down.

But some things – like the nuclear industry’s insatiable appetite for taxpayers’ money – never change.

Sellafield’s Evaporator D project, with NuGen’s Moorside in hot pursuit, is a prime example as it limps along, sustained only by ever increasing helpings from the public purse.

With nuclear power rightly acknowledged as being a hideously expensive way of boiling a kettle, then Evaporator D – known to the Sellafield workforce as the ‘Big Kettle’ – must be breaking all records.

Initially costed at £90 million (2007) and originally due to come into operation in 2010/11, the cost has increased eight-fold to £740m – as at September 2015. With a ‘challenging’ operational date currently pencilled in as 2017/18, and with updated figures yet to be published, the sky is clearly the limit for Evaporator D.

The tortured progress of the new Evaporator, designed to reduce (by evaporation) the volume of the dangerous liquid High Level Wastes (HLW) produced by spent fuel reprocessing, reveals a catalogue of project mismanagement and eye-watering cost hikes that show little sign of abating.

Promoted specifically by BNFL and subsequently by the NDA as being urgently needed to support continued reprocessing operations in the B205 (magnox fuel) and THORP (oxide fuel) plant, Evaporator D is currently being shoe-horned into the HLW complex.

There it will join its three fellow but semi-crippled evaporators (A,B & C) whose increasing unreliability through age and internal corrosion had underpinned the urgency for Evaporator D.

A tale of mismanagement and incompetence

Despite claiming not to recognise the £90m estimate of 2007, the NDA was nevertheless happy to confirm a price tag of £100m in 2008, since when the cost of Evaporator D has risen in almost annual increments – with the biggest hike to over £600m.

That number comes in a damning report by the National Audit Office that was highly critical of the NDA’s project management and that of its subsequently sacked contractor Nuclear Management Partners (NMP) who had acted for the NDA as Sellafield’s Parent Body Organisation since 2008. As the NAO reported,

“Gaps in the capability of subcontractors in the supply chain to undertake work to the standards required for nuclear installations have had direct consequences for the speed and efficiency of project delivery. For example, the Authority estimates that £50 million of the £244 million increase in the cost of evaporator D and part of the 18-month delay since 2009 is because the subcontractor lacked experience in welding to the necessary nuclear quality standards.

“The Authority was aware of these risks when it approved the start of construction. It relied on Sellafield Limited’s assurances that its subcontractor could manage the risks. The Authority did not obtain assurance from Sellafield Limited that it had put in place appropriate quality assurance and training.”

The cramped conditions in and around the HLW complex was a major factor in employing the novel option of having the main elements of the Evaporator built off-site (by Interserve at Ellesmere Port) and delivered by barge to Sellafield beach in the form of 11 modules, the largest weighing 500 tonnes and measuring 12.5 x 7.5 x 27 metres tall. The Evaporator, whose top and bottom sections are shown above being fabricated at Ellesmere Port, will operate in an upright position once installed at Sellafield.

Novel as the option was, it soon fell foul of a range of problems that included a disorganised supply chain, design changes, the quality of module fabrication, and seismic qualification.

With the modules delivered to Sellafield beach and hauled onto site between 2011 and 2013, Evaporator D’s cost increases from 2013 onwards are largely attributed by the NDA to the ‘transfer of incomplete modules to site’. This resulted in extensive additional cutting and welding work being needed – in a confined work space – to connect together the component parts of the Evaporator system.

And now Evaporator D looks set to miss the ‘reprocessing boat’

The greatest irony of all is, of course, that despite the early hullabaloo about its urgent and crucial support role for reprocessing at Sellafield, Evaporator D can be of service to THORP reprocessing (due to finish in 2018) for no more than one year at best.

At worst it will be of service only for THORP’s post-2018 clean out, the remnant days of B205 reprocessing which is due to end around 2020 and other site decommissioning work.

Faced with this prospect and the embarrassing reality that its much vaunted Evaporator D could indeed miss the THORP reprocessing boat for which it was primarily designed, the NDA and Sellafield Ltd damage limitation teams have recently swung into top gear – by stressing the Evaporator’s future decommissioning role through its ability to deal with the larger waste particles expected to be encountered during the coming years of clean-up work.

For a project whose £740m cost will undoubtedly escalate further, aggrieved taxpayers may take some comfort from Sellafield’s 2012 announcement that plans for a fifth (£600m) Evaporator E had been scrapped. But they should now cast a wary eye to NuGen’s new-build project just across the road from Sellafield where the prospect of further pilfering from the public purse is simmering on the back-burner.

Moorside nuclear power plant – another massive drain on taxpayers’ money …….

December 19, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, UK, wastes | Leave a comment

Cheap and dangerous nuclear cleanup in Winnipeg?

Cheap nuclear ‘cleanup’ dangerous By: Dave Taylor 12/15/2016  Just as Manitobans were beginning to think the toxic mess at Whiteshell Laboratories in Pinawa would soon be moved off-site and the lands returned to their natural state, we now learn the federal government has given the Canadian Nuclear Labs (CNL) free rein to cheap out on the cleanup.

The most striking part of the plan to entomb the defunct WR1 reactor is that the cement or grout they are developing to seal it will break down well before the rotting hulk is safe. According to CNL officials who have relied on international research findings, “initial chemical degradation of grout is modelled to begin around 350 years,” well short of the thousands of years for which this sarcophagus will be toxic to all living things.

Since CNL are just the contractors responsible for the immediate decommissioning, long-term monitoring is beyond the scope of their work and it will ultimately be left to future Manitobans. Sure, it would cost the federal government four times as much to dismantle it now, but imagine the costs for our distant descendants who will have to deal with radioactive groundwater leaking into the Winnipeg River from a crumbling block of poisonous concrete several generations in the future.

Due to a very serious accident at the reactor in 1978, it is likely far more radioactive than it would normally be. The radiological report on that accident has not been made public, but when a pump failed, the geiger counters were going off at 3 million counts-per-minute, and a worker in protective clothing using a safety rope had to descend through a hatch to close valves with a hand-wheel as the fuel rods in the core of the reactor became damaged. It is an accident that remains shrouded in secrecy. This has become part of the unsustainable 50-year legacy that the nuclear industry has left us.

Two decades ago, Canada’s nuclear crown corporation, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., conducted similar “grout” research for the purpose of disposing of high-level radioactive waste in the Canadian Shield and started building a “test facility” at Lac du Bonnet called the Underground Research Lab. The objective of this plan was to seal off huge mine shafts with “bentonite grout” and entomb high-level radioactive waste from reactors across Canada and potentially from around the world. The lab leaked like a sieve as groundwater poured into the shaft, confirming that groundwater is almost unstoppable. Manitobans realized the folly in this idea and lobbied for the enactment of the High Level Radioactive Waste Act, which is still the law in our province.

And just where does our provincial government sit on this ill-conceived plan? Local politicians have remained incredibly silent on this issue, yet the act clearly states that any radioactive waste with levels comparable to spent fuel cannot be disposed of in this province, period. It also states clearly that in the case of a corporation, “a fine of not more than $1,000,000 for each day that the offence continues” will be levied.

Cathy Cox, our minister of sustainable development, has a responsibility to get the straight goods on how tainted this reactor is and to enforce the laws of our land, because, as the saying goes, “we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”

Dave Taylor is an instructor at the University of Winnipeg, and has been a watchdog of the nuclear industry for over 40 years.

December 19, 2016 Posted by | Canada, safety, wastes | Leave a comment