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90% of Sellafield’s Discharged Plutonium Wastes are on the “Cumbrian Mud Patch” Below which Lies the Coal Mine Plan —

Graphic from New Report Published in Science of the Total Environment “Controls on anthropogenic radionuclide distribution in the Sellafield-impacted Eastern Irish Sea”? Daisy Ray et al.?? This information has been sent out to press on numerous occasions. So far it has not been picked up.

“our concerns are that no-one is taking
adequate notice of, or responsibility for the impact this mine would have
both on the wastes at Sellafield and also on the reprocessing wastes that
have been discharged over many decades and are now sitting on the Irish Sea
bed directly under the area that West Cumbria Mining propose mine out.

A massive void the size of Wastwater lake is proposed under the Cumbrian Mud
Patch, this would lead to likely collapse of the Irish Sea bed. Our own
commissioned report by Tim Deere-Jones has been vindicated with another
report published more recently in Science of the Total Environment which
includes findings from the Centre for Radiochemistry Research -The
University of Manchester and Radiochemistry Unit -The University of
Helsinki, Finland.

Findings are that up to 90% of the plutonium discharged
from Sellafield are likely to be sitting in the silts on the Cumbrian Mud
patch along with a cocktail of other radionuclides. To mine underneath this
area for any reason, let alone for unneeded coal, knowing that this is the
case, is an act of premeditated murder no less than letting off a series of
nuclear bombs.” New Report Published under Creative Commons in Science of
the Total Environment “Controls on anthropogenic radionuclide
distribution in the Sellafield-impacted Eastern Irish Sea” Daisy Ray et

90% of Sellafield’s Discharged Plutonium Wastes are on the “Cumbrian Mud Patch” Below which Lies the Coal Mine Plan —

October 30, 2020 Posted by | UK, wastes | Leave a comment

Santa Susana Field Laboratory site- historically radioactively polluted, but risks never being cleaned up

Yes, Santa Susana is a ‘landmark’ — as a historic environmental disaster,  By MICHAEL HILTZIK,  BUSINESS COLUMNIST OCT. 27, 2020

One thing is certainly true about NASA’s curious effort to place 2,850 acres above the Simi Valley on the National Register of Historic Places: The parcel is certainly a landmark.

Among the points in dispute is what makes it so.   To several local Native American tribes, including the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, the Ventura County site’s cave drawings and rock shelters bespeak a cultural heritage dating back centuries.

The time has come for us to make sure that we hold the polluters accountable for their legacy….We will make sure the site gets cleaned up and we will exercise our legal authority in pursuit of that.

To environmentalists and the site’s neighbors, it’s historic for the extent of its contamination by chemical and nuclear research performed there during the Cold War.

The Santa Susana Field Laboratory site is “one of the most toxic sites in the United States by any kind of definition,” Jared Blumenfeld, head of the California Environmental Protection Agency, told me. “It demands a full cleanup.”

Just such a cleanup should have been started years ago. The three entities controlling portions of the site — Boeing Co., the U.S. Department of Energy and NASA — reached agreements with the state in 2007 and 2010 binding them to restoring the site to “background” standards.

The term means removing contaminated soil and buildings so thoroughly that the area would be as pristine as if the polluting activities had never occurred.

That work was supposed to be completed by 2017. Yet much of it has not even started — and it may be thrown into further doubt by NASA’s nomination of the site to the historic register.

Why the cleanup has been stalled isn’t entirely clear, although one obstacle has been the state’s failure to complete an environmental impact report for the cleanup.

The report is a highly technical document on which public comments are still being collected, according to Meredith Williams, director of the state Department of Toxic Substances Control, which is overseeing the process. Williams says the document is now expected to reach completion next spring or summer.

Instead of establishing the government’s responsibilities conclusively, the 2007 and 2010 agreements became part of the battlefield trod over by state and federal agencies. As recently as Sept. 28, the DTSC crisply informed NASA that its published plans for a reduced cleanup violate the agreement.

The state agency “strongly urge[d]” NASA not to issue a formal announcement of the plans. Four days later, NASA did so anyway.

Santa Susana deserves to be recognized as another example of how powerful interests manage to dodge their responsibilities to clean up after themselves by exploiting legal delays and loopholes, to the detriment of local communities.

It’s on a par with the successful effort of Exide Technologies to avoid paying for the cleanup of pollution it caused around its battery recycling plant in Vernon, which we recently chronicled. That case involved a private firm. This one is even worse, because the entities dodging their responsibilities include agencies of the federal government.

The historical nomination by NASA, says Daniel O. Hirsch, a former environmental faculty member at UC Santa Cruz who has been following the Santa Susana saga for some 40 years and serves as president of the Committee to Bridge the Gap, an anti-nuclear group, could save Boeing, NASA and the Department of Energy hundreds of millions of dollars in cleanup expenses.

“The only people who would lose would be the public,” Hirsch says. “They would continue to face elevated cancer risk from contamination” migrating from the site.

The tribes have said in video statements that a historical designation need not interfere with the cleanup, but such a classification will give them a say in how it proceeds.

To understand the gravity of the situation — and why local residents remain agitated about the delay’s implications for their health — let’s consider the site’s noxious condition.

Over a period of 75 years, the Santa Susana Field Lab hosted what the Natural Resources Defense Council says were “hundreds of nuclear and rocket testing buildings and structures,” emitting radioactive isotopes including plutonium-239.

The soil and water table were contaminated by PCBs, heavy metals, tricholoroethylene “and a witches’ brew of other poisons,” as the NRDC put it.

Nuclear reactors at the lab suffered at least four major accidents between 1959 and 1969, including one partial meltdown, two episodes of fuel damage and a separate release of radioactive gases. The government typically kept these incidents secret for weeks, sometimes longer. 

In a 2007 paper, researchers at the University of Michigan found the incidence rate of certain cancers, including thyroid, bladder and blood system cancers, to be more than 60% higher for residents living within two miles of the site in 1988-95 than for those more than five miles away.

The document that NASA filed this summer nominating the site for the National Register of Historic Places glosses over this history as though it never happened.

Absurdly, the nomination states that despite the activities of the government and Boeing, the area is “in a state similar to when the [tribes’] ancestors used and occupied the area.”

This summer, NASA nominated the lab site for inclusion on the national landmark registry, under the name Burro Flats Cultural District, citing its rich tribal history. A 12-acre portion of the site, encompassing the Burro Flats painted cave and a parcel traditionally used by Native Americans to observe the winter and summer solstices, has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1974. NASA asserts that its archeological research justifies expanding the landmark to encompass the entire laboratory site.

Then, on Oct. 2, the agency formally announced that it was considering a scheme to clean up the site to only a fraction of what is required by the 2007 and 2010 agreements. That flouted the state’s Sept. 28 warning not to do so, lest it result in “necessary actions to enforce” the agreements.

The historical nomination is opposed by the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Committee to Bridge the Gap generally because they see the move as subterfuge through which NASA can slink away from its cleanup responsibilities.

Given this chronicle, it’s hardly surprising that any action by the government inspires skepticism.

“NASA and the DOE have a mixed history, to be polite, and the neighborhood distrusts them immensely,” says Sam Cohen, a legal advisor to the Chumash tribe.

“It’s going to take years to clean up the land,” Cohen says. “We need to be at the table at the beginning or we’re going to be disappointed at the end.”

There are, as it happens, plenty of grounds for distrust. One is that the boundaries of the nominated land correspond exactly to the Santa Susana Field Lab property lines, even though it’s rare that any historical site be chosen with regard to ownership boundaries.

Another is that the proposed designation tracks suspiciously closely to a provision in the 2010 agreement reached by the federal government and the state, exempting from cleanup “Native American artifacts that are formally recognized as Cultural Resources” — which is what NASA is requesting.

These factors and others prompted the NRDC and Committee to Bridge the Gap to warn the state Historical Resources Commission, which must rule on any federal nomination to the historical register, that NASA’s move is “an attempt by the Trump administration to breach the SSFL cleanup agreements.”

Yet the commission bulled ahead, debating the issue at a meeting Aug. 14. At that meeting tribal representatives supported the nomination while a representative of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, Hirsch and members of Hirsch’s group all spoke against it.

A NASA representative told the commission, however, that the proposed designation wouldn’t affect the cleanup at all. “NASA continues to be committed to a cleanup at Santa Susana Field Lab,” she said. The commission, apparently mollified, endorsed the designation unanimously.

But NASA’s critics noticed that the NASA representative, Rebecca Klein, chose her words carefully. “She said they were committed to ‘a cleanup,’” Hirsch observes. “She didn’t say they were committed to the 2010 agreement.”

NASA told me by email that the cleanup standards embodied in the agreement are not “scientifically and technologically achievable.” The standards cannot be met “even if we backfill all removed soil with the store-bought topsoil many of us use in our own yards and gardens,” agency spokeswoman Shannon Segovia told me. The agency says its proposed cleanup would remove up to 90% of the contamination as the agreement requires but involve removal of 70% less soil.

CalEPA’s Blumenfeld says the decision of how to perform the cleanup isn’t up to NASA. “The 2007 and 2010 agreements are legally binding and don’t leave a lot to the imagination,” he says. “They’re very descriptive and prescriptive to infinitesimal levels of detail.”

He adds that the government’s approach to Santa Susana is oddly bifurcated. The Department of Energy, which is largely responsible for the nuclear cleanup, has been relatively cooperative, having started to dismantle the radioactively contaminated buildings on the site.

NASA, however, “is in the camp of trying to spend as little money as possible to do as little work as possible.” It may see its historical nomination as a tool to undermine the 2010 agreement, “but it’s not going to achieve that,” Blumenfeld says.

As for Boeing, which inherited its share of the cleanup in 1996 when it acquired Rockwell International’s aerospace and defense businesses, also has dragged its feet, but its responsibility is currently subject to court proceedings.

All this leaves unexplained how ironclad legal agreements could be flouted with impunity for a decade or more. In the past, blame has settled upon the Brown administration for failing to pursue the cleanup aggressively.

Blumenfeld says that era is over. He says all the parties should understand that “we’re very serious about implementing the legally binding agreements and about our regulatory authority. … There’s this bizarre time in history that we’re trying to explain no longer exists where NASA feels like they get to set the cleanup standards and Boeing feels they get to set the cleanup standards.”

For years, he says, “there was the sense by the polluters that trying to push back would save money on the cleanup.” Polluters shirking their cleanup responsibilities is nothing new, he adds.

“The time has come for us to make sure that we hold the polluters accountable for their legacy. … We will make sure the site gets cleaned up and we will exercise our legal authority in pursuit of that. That hasn’t been the message that they’ve heard for the previous 10 years, but we’re changing it.”

Will that happen? Let’s hope that we don’t have to wait another 10 years to find out.

October 29, 2020 Posted by | environment, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Trump government’s dangerous plan to deregulate disposal of radioactive trash

Trump team pushes nuke dumping, by Staff Report • October 25, 2020   Many Americans alarmed over the deadly coronavirus pandemic, a worsening climate crisis, an economic disaster on par with the Great Depression, or the White House’s surrender of Afghanistan to the Taliban would sleep better if they had assurances the radioactive waste disposal is as secure as it could possibly be… but President Donald Trump is still in charge so there’s no such luck.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is finalizing a year-long drive to functionally deregulate disposal of massive amounts of radioactive waste.

NRC’s  plan would allow commercial nuclear reactors to dump virtually all their radioactive waste, except spent fuel, in local garbage landfills, which are designed for household trash not rad-waste, according to comments filed by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

Friday marked the end of public comments for an NRC “interpretative rulemaking” that would, in effect, abrogate longstanding requirements that virtually all such waste must be disposed of in licensed radioactive waste sites meeting detailed safety standards and subject to NRC inspection and enforcement.

Instead, the Trump administration wants to allow the NRC to grant generic exemptions for unlicensed waste handlers.

NRC declares its “intent” that these newly exempt disposal sites would be limited to “very low-level radioactive wastes” – a term undefined by statute – which NRC considers to be “below 25 millirem per year.”

“NRC’s definition would allow public exposure to the equivalent to more than 900 chest X-rays over a lifetime,” explained Lisa McCormick. “This new approach creates a cancer risk twenty times higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s acceptable risk range, thousands of times the risk goal for Superfund sites, or enough radiation to cause every 500th person exposed to get cancer.”

McCormick, a progressive Democratic activist in New Jersey, says the rule change is “the worst thing to do as dozens of America’s 104 nuclear power plants come to the end of their operation.”

“Once an exempt entity accepts radioactive waste, it enters a regulatory black hole, with no one  accountable for it,” stated PEER Pacific Director Jeff Ruch, pointing out that NRC’s plan eliminates the need for radiation monitoring, health physics personnel, design standards, and NRC inspections – all now required of licensed operators.  “Unlicensed radioactive waste dumps could operate in ways that endanger communities free from any NRC oversight.”

NRC’s cryptic justification merely indicates that the plan “would provide an efficient means by which the NRC may issue specific exemptions for disposal” but ignores impacts that would –

  • Transform many municipal dumps into radioactive repositories, with no safeguards for workers, nearby residents, or adjoining water tables;
    • Allow unlicensed radioactive waste dumps to expose the public to 2.5 times higher levels of radiation than the NRC now allows for licensed low-level radioactive waste sites, thus creating a strong incentive to send all the radioactive waste to unlicensed dumps; and
    • Eliminate the public’s ability to find out radioactive waste is being dumped near them.

    At present, the U.S. has 104 commercial nuclear power plants, many of which are beginning, or will soon start, the decommissioning process.

    Removing the need for licensed sites to handle the staggering amounts of debris from old reactors would be a major cost savings for that industry.

    “One of New Jersey’s oldest nuclear power plants just came off line and it poses a drastic problem for the people and environment” said McCormick.

    “NRC’s deregulation will make it nearly impossible to trace recycled radioactive waste flowing through the stream of American commerce,” added Ruch, noting that it may also create a market for the U.S. to import radioactive waste for cheaper disposal. “This plan would plunge the U.S. into the wild, wild West of radioactive waste disposal, on a par with a Third World natio

October 26, 2020 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Hokkaido municipalities gamble on a nuclear future, but at what cost?  

Hokkaido municipalities gamble on a nuclear future, but at what cost?  BY PHILIP BRASOR   Since August, two local governments on the western shore of Hokkaido have said they will apply to the central government for a survey that could eventually lead to their municipalities hosting a permanent underground repository for high-level radioactive waste. The fact that these two localities made their announcements about a month apart and are situated not far from each other was enough to attract more than the usual media attention, which revealed not only the straitened financial situations of the two areas, but also the muddled official policy regarding waste produced by the country’s nuclear power plants.

The respective populations of the two municipalities reacted differently. The town of Suttsu made its announcement in August, or, at least, its 71-year-old mayor did, apparently without first gaining the understanding of his constituents, who, according to various media, are opposed to the plan. An Oct. 8 Tokyo Broadcasting System Television news report said that someone threw a molotov cocktail in the vicinity of the mayor’s house the previous evening, and an Oct. 13 Tokyo Shimbun article said the mayor’s announcement came after he received a petition demanding the town not apply for the survey.
Meanwhile, the mayor of the village of Kamoenai says he also wants to apply for the study after the local chamber of commerce urged the village assembly to do so in early September. TBS asked residents about the matter and they seemed genuinely in favor of the study because of the village’s fiscal situation. Traditionally, the area gets by on fishing — namely, herring and salmon — which has been in decline for years. A local government whose application for the survey is approved will receive up to ¥2 billion in subsidies from the central government.
 This money was probably the reason for the Suttsu mayor’s interest, too, but, according to Tokyo Shimbun, the population of Suttsu is generally younger and they may be afraid of what a survey for the purpose of building a nuclear waste repository would mean for their future. Kamoenai, on the other hand, is already receiving subsidies for nuclear-related matters. The village is 10 kilometers from the Tomari nuclear power plant, where some residents of Kamoenai work. In exchange for allowing the construction of the plant, the village now receives about ¥80 million a year, a sum that accounts for 15 percent of its budget. According to TBS, Kamoenai increasingly relies on that money as time goes by, since its population has declined by more than half over the past 40 years.
It’s possible for both municipalities to be approved for the survey, though that hardly seems guaranteed. Since Japan’s Nuclear Waste Management Organization started soliciting local governments for possible waste storage sites in 2002, a few localities have expressed interest, but only one — the town of Toyo in Kochi Prefecture — has actually applied, and then the residents elected a new mayor who canceled the application. The residents’ concern was understandable: The waste in question can remain radioactive for up to 100,000 years.
However, the selection process also takes a long time. The first phase survey, which uses existing data to study geological attributes of the given area, requires about two years. If all parties agree to continue, the second phase survey, in which geological samples are taken, takes up to four years. The final survey phase, in which a makeshift underground facility is built, takes around 14 years. And that’s all before construction of the actual repository begins
Some people in Suttsu suspect that the mayor will simply grab the subsidy money and then quit after the first phase, but, according to a lawyer interviewed by Tokyo Shimbun, it’s not that easy. Following the first phase, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization decides if the municipality is eligible for the second phase, which comes with a ¥7 billion payout, and, in principle, the head of the municipality as well as the governor of the surrounding prefecture are given “consideration” as to whether they want to proceed. Hokkaido’s governor, Naomichi Suzuki, has already said he is opposed to the applications, but there seems to be nothing in the law that prevents the Nuclear Waste Management Organization from going ahead regardless of what he or other locals think.

Then again, neither Suttsu nor Kamoenai may make it past the first stage. Yugo Ono, an honorary geology professor at Hokkaido University, told the magazine Aera that Suttsu is located relatively close to a convergence of faults that caused a major earthquake in 2018. And Kamoenai is already considered inappropriate for a repository on a map drawn up by the trade ministry in 2017.

If the Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s process for selecting a site sounds arbitrary, it could reflect the government’s general attitude toward future plans for nuclear power, which is still considered national policy, despite the fact that only three reactors nationwide are online. Presently, spent fuel is being stored in cooling pools at 17 nuclear plants comprising a storage capacity of 21,400 tons. As of March, 75 percent of that capacity was being used, so there is still some time to find a final resting place for the waste. Some of this spent fuel was supposed to be recycled at the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant in Aomori Prefecture, but, due to numerous setbacks, it doesn’t look as if it’s ever going to open, so the fuel will just become hazardous garbage.

Ono tells Aera that the individual private nuclear plants should, in line with product liability laws, be required to manage their own waste themselves. If they don’t have the capacity, then they should create more. It’s wrong to bury the waste 300 meters underground, which is the plan, because many things can happen over the course of future millennia. The waste should be in a safe place on the surface, where it can be readily monitored.

However, that would require lots of money virtually forever, something the government would prefer not to think about, much less explain. Instead, they’ve made plans that allow them to kick the can down the road for as long as possible.

October 26, 2020 Posted by | Japan, politics, wastes | Leave a comment

Australia has nuclear waste problems

Japan plans to dump a million tonnes of radioactive water into the Pacific. But Australia has nuclear waste problems, too   The Conversation,October 23, 2020  Tilman Ruff. Associate Professor, Education and Learning Unit, Nossal Institute for Global Health, School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne, Margaret Beavis,  Tutor Principles of Clinical Practice Melbourne Medical School .  

Nuclear waste storage in Australia

This is what happens at our national nuclear facility at Lucas Heights in Sydney. The vast majority of Australia’s nuclear waste is stored on-site in a dedicated facility, managed by those with the best expertise, and monitored 24/7 by the Australian Federal Police.

But the Australian government plans to change this. It wants to transport and temporarily store nuclear waste at a facility at Kimba, in regional South Australia, for an indeterminate period. We believe the Kimba plan involves unnecessary multiple handling, and shifts the nuclear waste problem onto future generations.

The proposed storage facilities in Kimba are less safe than disposal, and this plan is well below world’s best practice.

The infrastructure, staff and expertise to manage and monitor radioactive materials in Lucas Heights were developed over decades, with all the resources and emergency services of Australia’s largest city. These capacities cannot be quickly or easily replicated in the remote rural location of Kimba. What’s more, transporting the waste raises the risk of theft and accident.

And in recent months, the CEO of regulator ARPANSA told a senate inquiry there is capacity to store nuclear waste at Lucas Heights for several more decades. This means there’s ample time to properly plan final disposal of the waste.

The legislation before the Senate will deny interested parties the right to judicial review. The plan also disregards unanimous opposition by Barngarla Traditional Owners.

The Conversation contacted Resources Minister Keith Pitt who insisted the Kimba site will consolidate waste from more than 100 places into a “safe, purpose-built, state-of-the-art facility”. He said a separate, permanent disposal facility will be established for intermediate level waste in a few decades’ time.

Pitt said the government continues to seek involvement of Traditional Owners. He also said the Kimba community voted in favour of the plan. However, the voting process was criticised on a number of grounds, including that it excluded landowners living relatively close to the site, and entirely excluded Barngarla people.

Kicking the can down the road

Both Australia and Japan should look to nations such as Finland, which deals with nuclear waste more responsibly and has studied potential sites for decades. It plans to spend 3.5 billion euros (A$5.8 billion) on a deep geological disposal site.


October 24, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, wastes | Leave a comment

USA Nuclear Regulatory Commission to effectively deregulate massive amounts of radioactive wastes



PEER 21st Oct 2020, The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is finalizing a year-long drive to functionally deregulate disposal of massive amounts of radioactive waste.
NRC’s plan would allow commercial nuclear reactors to dump virtually all their radioactive waste, except spent fuel, in local garbage landfills,  which are designed for household trash not rad-waste, according to commentsfiled today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

October 24, 2020 Posted by | politics, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

How the iconic domes of San Onofre nuclear station will be dismantled

October 24, 2020 Posted by | decommission reactor, USA | Leave a comment

Australia’s nuclear hierachy desperate to lead on nuclear waste solution, but it was not to be

HOW SYNROC’S SCIENCE-PUSH FAILED AS THE PANACEA FOR NUCLEAR WASTE,  by Peter Roberts, 21 Oct 20, CSIRO’s Synroc synthetic rock method for safely storing radioactive waste is making headlines again (more on that later), but as someone who has been around for a while it all just demonstrates yet again the topsy turvy way we see innovation in Australia.

Synroc was unveiled in 1978 by a team led by Dr Ted Ringwood at the Australian National University, and further developed by CSIRO as the answer to nuclear waste.

After a process of hot isostatic pressing, in which cannisters of waste are compressed at high temperature, Synroc ceramic was created and said to be a massive step forward from today’s techniques of storing high level waste in glass.

But despite decades of trying to commercialise the technology both CSIRO and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation have failed to get it adopted commercially – it is simply not seen by customers as that much better than what they were already doing.

The process Synroc went through is typical of the science-push model of innovation in which researchers are seen as being the font of brilliant ideas that only need to be picked up by a grateful private sector.

ANSTO’s Michael Deura said in a statement: “I am pretty excited to see the HIP system in action at ANSTO. This type of innovation will change the industry and how it operates in the longer term.”

And Synroc technical director Gerry Triani said: “This HIP system is a global first for nuclear waste management.”

Not a word in ANSTO’s media release about the three decades plus work and expenditure that has gone into Synroc, and not a word about the meagre uptake of the technology internationally.

Really, you would hope we might learn the lessons of the past.

October 22, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, wastes | Leave a comment

Japan now has enough plutonium to make about 6,000 atomic bombs

Japan Sticks to Nuclear Fuel Recycling Plan Despite Plutonium Stockpile

Japan now has 45.5 tons of separated plutonium, enough to make about 6,000 atomic bombs.

By Mari Yamaguchi, October 21, 2020   Japan’s government said Wednesday it will pursue a nuclear fuel recycling program that would involve extracting plutonium from spent fuel, despite international concerns about the country’s already huge plutonium stockpile and lack of prospects for effectively consuming it as nuclear fuel.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato Katsunobu, at a meeting with the governor of Aomori prefecture, home to Japan’s pending nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, reaffirmed that new Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide’s government will pursue the country’s nuclear energy policy.

“The government will firmly promote our nuclear energy policy and fuel cycle programs,” Kato said. He said Japan will make effort to reduce volume and toxicity of high-level nuclear waste, and extract plutonium from spent fuel from a resource conservation point of view.

critics say continuation of spent fuel reprocessing only adds to Japan’s already large plutonium stockpile. Japan also lacks a final repository for high-level nuclear waste.

Wednesday’s meeting came after the Nuclear Regulation Authority granted a safety approval this past summer for the Rokkasho fuel reprocessing plant, operated by Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd., located in northern Japan, for a planned launch in 2022. The authority also gave a preliminary permit for the Rokkasho MOX fuel production plant, also planned for completion in 2022.

Japan now has 45.5 tons of separated plutonium — 8.9 tons at home, and 36.6 tons in Britain and France, where spent fuel from Japanese nuclear plants has been reprocessed and stored because Japan lacks a plant to produce MOX fuel containing plutonium at home. The amount is enough to make about 6,000 atomic bombs.

Despite security concerns raised by Washington and others, the stockpile is hardly decreasing due to difficulties in achieving a full nuclear fuel recycling program and slow restarts of reactors amid setbacks from the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

Japan reprocesses spent fuel, instead of disposing it as waste, to extract plutonium and uranium to make MOX fuel for reuse, while the U.S. discontinued the costly and challenging program. Allowed under international safeguard rules, Japan is the only non-nuclear weapons state that separates plutonium for peaceful purposes, though the same technology can make atomic bombs.

October 22, 2020 Posted by | - plutonium, Japan, reprocessing | Leave a comment

Japan – nuclear power fine – but no nuclear waste for Aomori Prefecture, please

Aomori wants reassurance that it won’t be final nuclear waste site, Japan Times, 21 Oct 20, Aomori Prefecture on Wednesday urged the government to reconfirm its policy of not building in the prefecture a facility for the final disposal of high-level radioactive waste from nuclear power plants across the nation.The request was made during a meeting of a council for discussions on issues related to the country’s nuclear fuel cycle policy between relevant Cabinet ministers and officials of the prefecture, where a spent nuclear fuel reprocessing facility is under construction. It was the first meeting of the council since November 2010.

At the day’s meeting, the Aomori side called on Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s Cabinet, launched last month, to maintain the promise not to make the prefecture a final disposal site, upheld by past administrations.

Participants in the meeting, held at the Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo, included Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato and industry minister Hiroshi Kajiyama from the central government, and Aomori Gov. Shingo Mimura.

“It’s necessary for the state and the operator (of the reprocessing plant) to make the utmost efforts to promote, with support from Aomori, the nuclear fuel cycle policy, including the launch of the plant,” Kato said at the start of the meeting.

Mimura told reporters after the meeting that he asked the central government to abide by the promise and promote the nuclear fuel cycle policy, in which uranium and plutonium are extracted from spent fuel and reprocessed into fuel for use at nuclear power plants.

Mimura indicated that Kato showed the state’s understanding of his requests……..

Aomori has agreed to accept spent nuclear fuel from nuclear plants across the country on the condition that a final disposal facility is not constructed in the prefecture.

The central government regards the nuclear fuel cycle as a pillar of its nuclear energy strategy.

Besides the reprocessing plant, a facility to make mixed oxide, or MOX, fuel from extracted uranium and plutonium is also under construction at the same site in Rokkasho.

October 22, 2020 Posted by | Japan, opposition to nuclear, wastes | Leave a comment

The nuclear industry’s cunning strategy to pass its clean-up costs to the tax-payer

“This is a way that bankruptcy is increasingly being used by companies — to shed their environmental liability.”
“To the extent that decommissioning and environmental repair costs exceed Energy Harbor’s ability to pay, those costs will be borne by Ohio through its ratepayers or taxpayers.
The cleanup envisioned for Perry and Davis-Besse plants in Ohio and the two Beaver Valley units in Pennsylvania would extend for the better part of a century — from 2021 through 2083,
By the time FirstEnergy Solutions emerged from bankruptcy in February, it had a new name, Energy Harbor, and it had largely released its former parent company, FirstEnergy Corp., from any responsibility to clean up the nuclear plants it used to own.
The nuclear bailout nobody’s talking about, By Marty Schladen, Ohio Capital Journal, 19 Oct 20,

Ohio state government continues to be gripped by an alleged $61 million bribery scandal involving a billion-dollar nuclear bailout.

But while the effort for that bailout was brewing as part Akron-based FirstEnergy’s strategy to prop up and spin off unprofitable nuclear power plants, another part of the strategy might have resulted in an additional — and potentially larger — bailout in a separate venue.

And, some observers warn, many more such bailouts throughout the country might be on the way.

In February, seven months after Gov. Mike Dewine signed the $1.3 billion ratepayer bailout that mostly would subsidize two Northern Ohio nuclear plants, FirstEnergy might have gotten an even bigger break in U.S. bankruptcy court. That’s when Judge Alan M. Koschik signed off on a settlement that largely excused FirstEnergy from footing part of the bill to clean up the aging nuclear plants in Ohio and another in Pennsylvania that it had bequeathed to to its successor, now known as Energy Harbor, in the event that company goes belly up.

If the new company can’t make a go of it with the nuclear and coal plants that had been owned by FirstEnergy, taxpayers could well be on the hook for whatever part of the estimated $10 billion nuclear cleanup that Energy Harbor and a trust fund it’s required to maintain can’t.

Those are cleanups that, for financial reasons, will take 60 years — decades during which the crumbling cooling tower of the company’s Davis-Besse plant, for example, will loom over the Lake Erie shoreline in view of South Bass Island, one of Ohio’s premier tourist attractions.

Energy Harbor’s “financial future doesn’t look bright and when we say (FirstEnergy) needs to set aside money for (shutting down and cleaning up the plants), their response is going to be, ‘The bankruptcy court approved the reorganization, FirstEnergy isn’t on the hook anymore,’” said Margrethe Kearney, senior staff attorney at the Environmental Law & Policy Center, which is appealing the bankruptcy ruling to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. “This is a way that bankruptcy is increasingly being used by companies — to shed their environmental liability.”

And, Kearney said, companies across the country that own nuclear generators likely will try to use the bankruptcy to ease looming cleanup costs off of their books and onto the backs of taxpayers.

“Especially here in the Midwest we have a lot of nuclear power plants, a lot of them are coming to the end of their useful life, most of them are out of the money, so it doesn’t really make sense to invest in them because natural gas and renewable energy is less expensive and we’re going to have a real crisis when it comes to the decommissioning of power plants and the financial ability to pay for them,” she said.

A doozy of a scandal

The Ohio Capitol was rocked in July when the FBI arrested then-House Speaker Larry Householder and four associates in what U.S. Attorney David DeVillers said was “likely the largest bribery and money-laundering scheme ever in the state of Ohio.”

DeVillers alleged that $61 million flowed from FirstEnergy and related companies through 501(c)(4) dark money groups and into campaigns of House candidates who later elected Householder speaker, a perch from which he shepherded House Bill 6, the $1.3 billion bailout, to passage. (House Bill 6 was cosponsored by Hillsboro Republican State Rep. Shane Wilkin and Rep. Jamie Callender, a Lake County Republican.)

The money also funded a nasty, xenophic campaign to block a voter initiative to repeal HB 6, while Householder and his associates simultaneously lined their own pockets with some of the loot, DeVillers said.

It wasn’t the only such scandal to break in July. In Illinois, Commonwealth Edison and parent company Exelon admitted to an eight-year bribery scheme targeting people around Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, who hasn’t been charged. One of the things the company received from the legislature during that period was a $2.35 billion bailout of two struggling nuclear power plants in that state.

In Ohio, nobody from FirstEnergy has been charged. But DeVillers in July said his investigation was far from over.
In September, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost named FirstEnergy and associated companies as defendants in a civil suit. Among other things, it demanded that bailout funds be blocked and that the companies that funded the HB 6 scheme either fire the officials involved or see the companies themselves dissolved.

Who was in charge?

The funds promised by HB 6 were far from the first ratepayer largesse enjoyed by companies related to FirstEnergy, whose name graces the stadium in which the Cleveland Browns play. Last year, Ohio Rep. Mark Romanchuk, R-Ontario, said the company’s Ohio nuclear plants had received $10.2 billion in state subsidies since 1999.

The attorney general’s lawsuit says that four years ago, what to do about the failing nuclear plants was at the heart of what he said was a corrupt scheme to obtain a bailout.

“In late 2016, FirstEnergy Corp. had a problem,” the suit says. “The nuclear power generation plants it owned through its subsidiary FirstEnergy Solutions Corp. had turned from assets to liabilities.”

It also said that by spinning off the plants, passing the bailout and sending its former subsidiary through bankruptcy, FirstEnergy did lasting harm to the state. That’s because, the suit said, FirstEnergy had potentially shifted some of the burden to clean up the Perry and Davis-Besse reactors in Ohio from itself and onto the taxpayers.

“Ohio’s environmental future has been damaged, because the costs for the ultimate decommissioning of the nuclear plants are now secured by Energy Harbor, a company with far smaller capitalization than FirstEnergy Corp.,” the suit said. “To the extent that decommissioning and environmental repair costs exceed Energy Harbor’s ability to pay, those costs will be borne by Ohio through its ratepayers or taxpayers — a scenario that already played out once in the FirstEnergy Solutions’ bankruptcy plan that created Energy Harbor.”
Yet, FirstEnergy maintains that after 2016 its leaders had no control over the former subsidiary that owns nuclear as well as coal plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

“FirstEnergy leadership has not had any decision-making power regarding the strategic direction of FES since November 2016, and FirstEnergy and Energy Harbor are now separate, unaffiliated companies,” FirstEnergy spokeswoman Jennifer Young said in September after the Ohio attorney general’s lawsuit was filed.

However, that claim seems hard to credit because FirstEnergy CEO Chuck Jones is also CEO of FirstEnergy Services.

Until June, First Energy Services provided the power plant-owning company that became Energy Harbor with many — if not all — of the services one would associate with running it. They include “administrative, management, financial, compliance, ethical, external affairs, and political and regulatory advocacy services. ”

For her part, Young said that the companies are independent because they have separate boards.

Long-term strategy

In late 2016, as FirstEnergy was spinning off the company that after bankruptcy became Energy Harbor, Jones announced a strategy of seeking a bailout for the spun-off company’s failing nuclear assets.

“We are advocating for Ohio’s support for its two nuclear plants, even though the likely outcome is that FirstEnergy won’t be the long-term owner of these assets,” Jones said.

In an affidavit supporting criminal charges against the former Ohio speaker and others, FBI Special Agent Blane Wetzel introduces the case for a criminal conspiracy by referring back to that time.

“In 2016, (FirstEnergy) Corp.’s nuclear generation future looked grim,” it said. “In its November 2016 annual report to shareholders, Ohio-based (FirstEnergy) Corp. and its affiliates reported a weak energy market, poor forecast demands, and hundreds of millions of dollars in losses, particularly from its nuclear energy affiliate…

“Given this backdrop, (FirstEnergy) announced future options for its generation portfolio as follows: ‘legislative and regulatory solutions for generation assets’; asset sales and plant deactivations; restructuring debt; and/or seeking protection under U.S. bankruptcy laws for its affiliates involved in nuclear generation.”

On March 31, 2018, Energy Harbor predecessor FirstEnergy Solutions exercised one of those options when it filed for Chapter 11 protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Northern District of Ohio.

Broad immunity

By the time FirstEnergy Solutions emerged from bankruptcy in February, it had a new name, Energy Harbor, and it had largely released its former parent company, FirstEnergy Corp., from any responsibility to clean up the nuclear plants it used to own.

“It makes it really difficult to get into the pockets of the parent if the subsidiary runs out of money,” Kearney, of the Environmental Law and Policy Center said of the settlement.

In fact, the release worked out between FirstEnergy, a primary creditor, and its former subsidiary was so broad that Judge Koschik disallowed part of it, saying it would make the overall settlement legally unconfirmable.

“The only (nuclear cleanup) ‘mechanism’ offered by (Energy Harbor) is its own assumption of these long-term environmental obligations and a promise that as a reorganized debtor with new capital structure facilitated by (FirstEnergy Corp.), it will stalwartly stand by and satisfy these claims if and when they arise,” Koschik wrote.

FirstEnergy and its former subsidiary modified the “third-party releases” and Koschik signed off on the overall settlement.

But he did so without allowing Kearney’s group to put on testimony from an expert witness, Peter Bradford, a former commissioner with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Bradford planned to testify that there were expenses far in excess of what the commission — which is responsible only for the cleanup of radioactive material — requires nuclear operators to pay into a trust fund, Kearney said.

Koschik’s refusal to hear from Bradford is a big part of why the Environmental Law and Policy Center and associated groups are appealing the bankruptcy settlement, although they also have briefed the appellate court on the federal criminal and state civil actions surrounding the HB 6 bailout scandal.
“We are asking to have our expert heard on the nuclear decommissioning issues,” Kearney said. “That doesn’t mean that the entirety of the bankruptcy proceeding will be reopened.”

Cleanup of the century

Asked last week about what it would cost to clean up its former nuclear plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania, FirstEnergy’s Young said, “FirstEnergy’s liabilities related to nuclear decommissioning are hypothetical and comparable to any former owner of nuclear generating facilities. The bankruptcy did not change that. The other questions you asked about decommissioning would need to be directed to Energy Harbor since they are the current owners and operators of the plants and are primarily liable for decommissioning. As you’ll recall, Energy Harbor is a separate company now unaffiliated with FirstEnergy.”

Calls and emails to two Energy Harbor spokesmen were unanswered.

Young said that as of June, Energy Harbor’s nuclear decommissioning trust funds were worth about $2 billion.

The cleanup envisioned for Perry and Davis-Besse plants in Ohio and the two Beaver Valley units in Pennsylvania would extend for the better part of a century — from 2021 through 2083, according to 2018 studies performed for FirstEnergy as part of the bankruptcy. Kearney said the longevity of the process isn’t because the cleanup is so complex. It’s because the money in the trust fund isn’t enough to pay for it now, so it needs time to grow.

However, based on the estimates commissioned by FirstEnergy, it’s hard so see how $2 billion would be enough. They list four categories of costs associated with the cleanup:

• Decommissioning, including a 17% contingency;

• Hefty NRC license-termination fees (fees are a major source of the agency’s funding);

• Spent-fuel management; and

• Non-nuclear demolition.

Taken together, the combined estimated cost to shut down and clean up all the facilities is $9.6 billion in 2014 dollars. And not nearly all of the $2 billion in the trust fund will be allowed to grow until 2074 to meet it.

The total cost to clean up Beaver Valley Unit 2, for example, is estimated at just under $2 billion, or about 20% of the total.

The timeline in the estimate calls for about an eighth of that — $233 million — to be spent through 2026 preparing for a 48-year “dormancy” period. The estimate says that it will cost between $6 million and $7 million a year for the first 33 years and $3 million to $4 million a year for the next 15.

In other words, if Energy Harbor were to stop paying into the trust fund tomorrow, far less than $2 billion will be allowed to grow until the final cleanup starts in 2075.

The estimates were financed by an interested party, FirstEnergy. But even if they weren’t, Kearney stressed that they could be significantly off — especially since they’re drawn out over such a long period. She said, however, “That $2 billion represents about half of the (overall) estimated cleanup costs.”

The uncertainty over how much the nuclear cleanups will cost and whether Energy Harbor can pay for them makes it unjust that its bankruptcy let FirstEnergy off the hook — especially in light of the criminality alleged in Ohio’s other nuclear bailout, the state’s official consumer representative said.

“An inadequate funding of the future decommissioning costs for the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear power plants would also be of concern to Ohioans who, one way or another, may ultimately be asked to pay the tab for any shortfall in funding of these costs,” the Office of the Ohio Consumer Counsel said in a brief filed with the 6th Circuit. “Such a result would be objectionable for consumers.”

The OCC needn’t have limited his claims to the potential burden to Ohioans. As things stand now, if Energy Harbor can’t cover the cost of the cleanup, it will fall on all U.S. taxpayers.

Read the federal complaint

Marty Schladen has been a reporter for decades, working in Indiana, Texas and other places before returning to his native Ohio to work at The Columbus Dispatch in 2017. He’s won state and national journalism awards for investigations into utility regulation, public corruption, the environment, prescription drug spending and other matters.

October 20, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

In Germany , a new dispute over the old abandoned Gorleben nuclear waste site

16 October 2020  Pledge Times (India/Germany)

New dispute over Gorleben

In an interview, the President of Germany’s Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management says it was problematic that Gorleben (current interim but beleaguered radwaste site) has been ruled out in the first review stage of the process to identify a geological repository site. The Green Party responded that the President “did not understand the procedure for which he is in charge. The search for a repository follows scientific criteria.”

October 20, 2020 Posted by | Germany, wastes | Leave a comment

Swedish council votes in favour of nuclear waste disposal facility

Swedish council votes in favour of nuclear waste disposal facility, Energy Live, 19 Oct 20, The final decision now lies with the Swedish Government and is the last remaining decision point for developer SKB to obtain the construction licence for the repository in Forsmark.
The Municipality Council of Östhammar in Sweden has voted in favour of plans to build a geological disposal facility (GDF) for spent nuclear fuel. ……
The final decision now lies with the Swedish Government and is the last remaining decision point for SKB to obtain the construction licence for the repository in Forsmark……..

October 20, 2020 Posted by | Sweden, wastes | Leave a comment

Geological disposal of nuclear waste – a focus of interest in the coming months

GDF Watch 18th Oct 2020, Just  when you thought 2020 couldn’t get any weirder, geological disposal
programmes around the globe are making significant steps forward, all at
the same time.

More seems to have happened, in sociopolitical terms, in the
past month than perhaps in the rest of this Century combined: Swedish
community voting to host their nation’s geological repository; Two
Japanese communities choose to enter into initial discussions; expectation
in UK that at least one community will come forward; Germany publishes
geological analysis identifying potential host areas; Canada completes
acquisitions of land that could host a repository; Hungary Opposition
leader wants public debate on radwaste disposal;

Country situations are analysed in more detail below, but taken together, it seems clear that
geological disposal will become a feature of media and political focus in
countries around the world over the coming 18-24 months.

October 20, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, wastes | Leave a comment

Neighbouring countries oppose Japan’s plan to release nuclear waste water into the Pacific

World worries about release of Fukushima nuclear water, By Xu Keyue Source: Global Times  2020/10/18 

1Neighboring countries oppose ‘irresponsible’ plan,    The world public, especially those in Japan’s neighbors such as China and South Korea, have expressed deep concerns over environmental pollution and human health, and opposition to the Japanese government’s plan to dump radioactive water from the disabled Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean.

Analysts said that Japan should think twice before making the decision as the move would have disastrous consequences for the marine environment and human health, which could lead to criticism by related international organizations, countermeasures by affected countries including cessation of imports of Japanese seafood, and harm to the country’s image.

Japanese media said that the country’s government will hold a related cabinet meeting as early as this month to make the final decision on the plan to release more than 1 million tons of radioactive water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean after reducing the level of radioactivity.

The plan has not gotten much rolling coverage in Japan, but there are still many Japanese netizens expressing their disagreement. According to a poll on Yahoo Japan, 41.5 percent of the 31,035 respondents disagreed with the plan
Local fishermen in Fukushima publicly announced their opposition, saying the plan will undo years of work rebuilding their industry’s reputation since the plant was wrecked by a huge tsunami in March 2011.

The public of South Korea has repeatedly voiced concern, claiming that discharging the water represents a “grave threat” to the marine environment.

A South Korean Foreign Ministry official told reporters that a meeting of related ministries regarding this issue was elevated to vice-ministerial status last month to step up the response to Japan’s move, reported South Korea’s KBS News on Friday. The official said the government will continue to closely monitor Tokyo’s activities and take measures based on cooperation with the international community.

Japan’s plan also sparked outrage among Chinese netizens, many of whom criticized Japan’s practice, saying it is throwing its responsibility onto the world to share.

Sun Yuliang, a nuclear expert at Tsinghua University in Beijing, told the Global Times on Sunday that whether to dump the waste water should depend on an authoritative scientific assessment to determine whether the processed radioactive water meets international standards for release.

Sun called on the Japanese government to invite professional teams from related international organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency to conduct a complete field investigation.

Liu Junhong, a research fellow at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, urged Japan to further communicate with the international community and share information transparently.

Liu said that the Japanese government should give priority to safeguarding public health and safety and the environment, rather than the cost of the rehabilitation work after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

Liu noted that the seas in Asia are mostly connected and many of them are semi-closed, so that the contaminants from the Fukushima water could subside and then rise, which would severely affect the local marine and coastal environment and the health of people nearby.
Therefore, Japan’s neighboring countries including China and South Korea would be the first to react to the plan, Liu said.

He noted that if the Japanese government releases the water, these  countries are likely to stop imports of seafood from Japan, and foreigners could be reluctant to visit the country and enjoy its food, which would harm Japan’s economy.

Other analysts noted that the plan goes against Japan’s long-established image of being friendly to the marine environment.

Another expert on nuclear safety, who requested anonymity, said that the issues is not only one of Japan’s own business but also relates to the interests of the global community, so countries and related organizations in the international community should cooperate and assist Japan to deal with the contamination.

The Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukushima went into meltdown and released radioactive material in the aftermath of a tsunami in March 2011.
The disaster cast doubts over the safety of nuclear power worldwide, leading China to launch a campaign to review and upgrade the safety systems of all its nuclear power stations.

October 19, 2020 Posted by | ASIA, wastes | Leave a comment