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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Opposition to South Carolina becoming a nuclear waste dumping ground

Environmentalists say there is no need to move spent nuclear fuel off of atomic power plant sites. They contend it can be stored safely. Transporting it to a disposal area near Barnwell would increase risks to the public, they said

Plan surfaces for new nuclear disposal ground in SC  Casks of spent nuclear fuel are stored above ground at many atomic energy plants because there is no national disposal site for the material U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission  BY SAMMY FRETWELL AND JEFF WILKINSON\  sfretwell@thestate.com,jwilkinson@thestate.com, COLUMBIA, SC 

A plan has surfaced to establish another nuclear waste disposal ground in South Carolina, a state with a history of taking atomic refuse from across the country.

An organization called the Spent Fuel Reprocessing Group wants federal approval to open a disposal area near Barnwell and the Savannah River Site nuclear weapons complex. Spent fuel, a type of highly radioactive waste, would be moved from the state’s four nuclear power plant sites and stored indefinitely at the new facility, records show.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in July received notice of the plan. The proposal is a long way from becoming reality, but if eventually approved by the federal government, it would create a place for nuclear waste disposal that is likely to draw opposition.

Several environmental groups said this week they are preparing to fight any effort to create what they called an atomic waste dumping ground. Politicians, including Gov. Nikki Haley, also expressed reservations Monday. The subject of nuclear waste disposal is a touchy one in South Carolina because many people say the state has shouldered more than its share of the nuclear waste burden.

South Carolina already stores highly radioactive material from around the country and world at the Savannah River Site. It also has a low-level waste dump in Barnwell County that was used for decades to bury nuclear garbage from power plants across the country. That site has leaked radioactive tritium into groundwater.

Now, the government is being asked to allow an interim disposal site for high-level nuclear waste from power plants in South Carolina. The site would be near the Barnwell low-level waste dump, environmentalists said Monday. The site would be considered an interim disposal ground that would hold the nuclear waste while the government figures out what to do with it in the long run…….

Environmentalists say there is no need to move spent nuclear fuel off of atomic power plant sites. They contend it can be stored safely. Transporting it to a disposal area near Barnwell would increase risks to the public, they said. If a permanent disposal site were eventually developed nationally, the material would have to be transported again from the interim South Carolina site, according to Savannah River Site Watch, the S.C. League of Women Voters and the state Sierra Club.

“Packaging of the spent fuel for transport, unloading it at the consolidated storage site and eventually repackaging it to transport to a federal facility would unnecessarily pose a high economic cost and a logistical nightmare, both of which can be avoided if the spent fuel is left where it is now stored until such time as a geologic facility is available,’’ according to the groups…….

September 28, 2016 Posted by | politics, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Community protest has stopped development of deep borehole waste disposal method in USA

Protests spur rethink on deep borehole test for nuclear waste http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/09/protests-spur-rethink-deep-borehole-test-nuclear-waste  By Paul VoosenSep. 27, 2016 DENVER—Along the way to testing an old-but-new concept in nuclear waste storage—burying spent fuel in a hole drilled kilometers below the surface—the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and its contractors relearned a lesson that seems frequently forgotten: Get the locals on board first.

Failure to gain the trust and approval of residents in rural North and South Dakota doomed the start of a $35 million project that would have drilled a borehole 5 kilometers beneath the prairie into crystalline basement rock. Early this year, the agency tapped Battelle Memorial Institute, a large research nonprofit based in Columbus, to lead the effort. The hole would not have been used for radioactive material, but was rather intended to garner insight to the geology and technical challenges of such drilling.

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That message would not be heard by residents of Pierce County in North Dakota or Spink County in South Dakota said Mark Kelley, the Battelle project manager who had the “dubious honor” of leading the effort for only half a year, at a presentation yesterday at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America. “They were not to be convinced,” he said. “They were quite opposed to it.”

This summer, DOE and Battelle agreed to scrap the 5-year effort, which had moved to South Dakota after failing in North Dakota. In August, the agency solicited new bids for the project, due next month, that explicitly require public engagement from the outset, including staff that will remain on site day to day to hear local concerns. Bidders are also expected to find a way of showing how the project could benefit locals through science education or additional research. The agency will likely select multiple contractors for the project’s first phase, keeping its options open on new potential sites.

Battelle had thought its South Dakota site, to be drilled on private land into Precambrian basement rock, might succeed where North Dakota failed. They promised to engage locals earlier, and not repeat the same mistakes, such as when local officials first learned of the project from local newspaper articles. But similar fears that the project would open the county up to a future as a disposal site, or that drilling could go awry and pollute aquifers, led the Spink County’s board of commissioners in June to reject the zoning approval the project needed. It didn’t help, Kelley added, that some of the North Dakota protesters traveled south to keep their opposition going.

Though the concept of borehole disposal, which would see radioactive waste entombed far deeper than traditional repositories, has existed for decades, the idea has been revived in recent years, spurred by troubles in finding a long-term home for the country’s spent fuel. Such boreholes could not house most of the country’s waste, like fuel rods from nuclear power plants, but could have potential for smaller, long-lived radioactive materials. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has frequently touted borehole disposal as one alternative to Yucca Mountain, the stalled repository in Nevada.

Many of the scientists working on the borehole project continue to believe in it—if they can only find a community willing to take it on.

“We want to test the things that would be difficult to do,” said Kristopher Kuhlman, a hydrogeophysicist at Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque, New Mexico, during the meeting. “If we want to put waste where we’ll never see it again,” he added, it should go at the bottom of a deep borehole.

September 28, 2016 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Russia’s nuclear marketing: sell nukes, then sell the clean-up, too!

Russian-BearMaking nuclear power plants safe after they shut down RBTH, September 24, 2016 ANDREI RETINGER,  The problems of dealing with spent nuclear fuel, radioactive waste and the decommissioning of nuclear facilities (experts call it “back end”) did not immediately become apparent to the countries developing their nuclear industries. But now the world market for back end services is booming and its value is estimated to total about $347 billion until 2030.

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A number of nuclear facilities in the UK are scheduled for decommissioning, and all the 17 nuclear power plants that are still operating in Germany are due to close down by 2020. Japan must rehabilitate the areas after the accident at Fukushima, and the United States and Russia need to solve the problems of radioactive waste storage and reprocessing. Not all countries have the ability to solve these problems, but Russian technologies and facilities can come to their aid…..

in 2008, Russia was faced with a catastrophic situation because of the accumulation of radioactive waste and spent fuel remaining from the time of the creation of nuclear weapons and the Cold War. Storage sites were almost full and had not been provided with reliable insulation, creating a threat to people and the environment.

In this situation, Russia had no choice but to tackle the problem urgently. In 2007, it adopted a state program on nuclear and radiation safety, which was developed by the Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation. Then it approved a law on radioactive waste management, taking into account the latest standards and requirements………https://rbth.com/science_and_tech/2016/09/24/making-nuclear-power-plants-safe-after-they-shut-down_632711

September 26, 2016 Posted by | marketing, Russia, wastes | Leave a comment

The unsolved problem of high level nuclear wastes

How Nuclear Power Causes Global Warming, The Progressive,   September 21, 2016  Harvey Wasserman“……As for the high-level waste, this remains one of humankind’s most persistent and dangerous problems. Atomic apologists have claimed that the intensely radioactive spent fuel rods can somehow be usable for additional power generation. But after a half-century of efforts, with billions of dollars spent, all attempts to do that have utterly failed. There are zero successful reactors capable of producing more reactor fuel than they use, or able to derive more energy from the tens of thousands of tons of spent fuel rods they create.

Some reactors, like Fukushima, use “mixed-oxide” fuels that have proven to be extremely dirty and expensive. It’s possible some of this “MOX” fuel containing plutonium, actually fissioned at Fukushima Unit Three, raising terrifying questions about the dangers of its use. The mushroom cloud that appears on video as Fukushima Unit Three exploded stands as an epic warning against further use of these impossible-to-manage fuels.

The MOX facility under construction near Aiken, South Carolina, is now projected to require another ten years to build with another ten possible after that to phase into production. U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz said on September 13, 2016, at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace that the mismanaged project was “impossible” to carry out and that it could cost $30 billion to $50 billion. Even the current pro-nuclear Congress won’t fully fund the project and the Department of Energy DOE continues to recommend abandoning it…….

Atomic apologists argue that the disposal of high-level reactor wastes should be a relatively simple problem, lacking only the political will to proceed. The industry touts New Mexico’sWaste Isolation Pilot Project, or WIPP, which has long been the poster child for military attempts to deal with high-level trash from the nuclear weapons program. Accepting its first shipment of waste in 1999, WIPP was touted as the ultimate high-tech, spare-no-expense model that proved radioactive waste disposal “can be done.”

But a series of disastrous events in February,  2014, led WIPP to stop accepting wastes—the sole function for which it was designed. Most significant was the explosion of a single barrel of highly radioactive waste materials (it was mistakenly packed with organic rather than clay-based kitty litter). About a dozen WIPP workers were exposed to potentially harmful radiation. The entire facility remains closed. In a phone interview, facility management told me it may again accept some wastes before the end of this year. But at least part of the cavernous underground labyrinth may never be reopened. The Los Angeles Times estimatedthe cost of this single accident at $2 billion…….Harvey Wasserman wrote SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH. He editsnukefree.org. You can find his GREEN POWER & WELLNESS SHOW at www.prn.fm

September 23, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, wastes | Leave a comment

US taxpayers up for huge costs for accident at Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP)

WIPPWIPP nuclear waste accident will cost US taxpayers $2 billion. Ecologist, Dr Jim Green 20th September 2016    The clean-up after the February 2014 explosion at the world’s only deep underground repository for nuclear waste in New Mexico, USA, is massively over budget, writes Jim Green – and full operations won’t resume until at least 2021. The fundamental cause of the problems: high level radioactive waste, poor regulation, rigid deadlines and corporate profit make a dangerous mix.

An analysis by theLos Angeles Timesfinds that costs associated with the February 2014 explosion at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) could total US$2 billion.

The direct cost of the clean-up is now estimated at US$640 million, based on a contract modification made in July with contractor Nuclear Waste Partnership.

The cost-plus contract leaves open the possibility of even higher costs as the clean-up continues and, as the LA Times notes, it does not include the complete replacement of the contaminated ventilation system (which failed after the 2014 explosion) or any future costs of operating the repository longer than originally planned.

The lengthy closure following the explosion could result in waste disposal operations extending for an additional seven years, at an additional cost of US$200 million per year or US$1.4 billion (€1.25b) in total. Thus direct (clean-up) costs and indirect costs could exceed US$2 billion.

And further costs are being incurred storing waste at other nuclear sites pending the re-opening of WIPP. Federal officials hope to resume limited operations at WIPP by the end of this year, but full operations cannot resume until a new ventilation system is completed in about 2021……….

GAO identifies a host of problems

An August 2016 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the federal Department of Energy (DOE) did not meet its initial cost and schedule estimates for restarting nuclear waste disposal operations at WIPP, resulting in a cost increase of about US$64 million (€57m) and a delay of nine months.

Worse still, mismanagement of the clean-up has involved poor safety practices. Last year, the DOE’s Independent Office of Enterprise Assessments released a report that found that WIPP clean-up operations were being rushed to meet the scheduled reopening date and that this pressure was contributing to poor safety practices.

The report states: “The EA analysis considered operational events and reviews conducted during May 2014 through May 2015 and identified a significant negative trend in performance of work. During this period, strong and unrealistic schedule pressures on the workforce contributed to poor safety performance and incidents during that time are indicators of the potential for a future serious safety incident.”

The report points to “serious issues in conduct of operations, job hazard analysis, and safety basis.” Specific problems identified in the report include:……….

the National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA) – a semi-autonomous agency within the DOE – is itself a big part of the problem of systemic mismanagement of nuclear sites. A June 2015 Government Accountability Office report strongly criticised NNSA oversight of contractors who manage the nation’s nuclear weapons facilities.

The report points to a litany of ongoing failures to properly oversee private contractors at eight nuclear sites, including those managing LANL. The report found that the NNSA lacked enough qualified staff members to oversee contractors, and it lacked guidelines for evaluating its contractors.

Greg Mello from the Los Alamos Study Group was blunt in his criticism of the NNSA: “An agency that is more than 90 percent privatized, with barely enough federal employees to sign the checks and answer the phones, is never going to be able to properly oversee billion-dollar nuclear facilities of vast complexity and danger.”   http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2988145/wipp_nuclear_waste_accident_will_cost_us_taxpayers_us2_billion.html

September 22, 2016 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

European Court of Auditors see nuclear decommissioning funds shortfall

nuke-reactor-deadEU auditor sees nuclear decommissioning funds shortfall, Reuters,  By Alissa de Carbonnel, 20 Sept 16,  | BRUSSELS European Union plans for financing the decommissioning of nuclear plants in Bulgaria, Lithuania and Slovakia are inadequate and more resources need to be put aside, the European Court of Auditors said in a report.

The report criticizing costly delays and warning of technical hurdles ahead shines a spotlight on the challenges facing Germany and other nations within the bloc that are planning to retire their nuclear reactors.

The EU’s spending watchdog said the estimated cost of decommissioning the three Soviet-era plants closed more than a decade ago had risen 40 percent since 2010 to at least 5.7 billion euros ($6.4 billion) by 2015. That figure doubles if the cost of disposing spent fuel once and for all is included.

The EU auditors said while the bloc’s budget covered the vast majority of the costs of shutting down the reactors in the three member states, significant funding was still needed to take the plants offline completely.

They said the reactor buildings at Bulgaria’s Kozloduy, Lithuania’s Ignalina and Slovakia’s Bohunice had yet to be dismantled and no solution had been found for the disposal of spent nuclear fuel……..

The only repository for spent fuel being dug deep underground in Europe has been under construction in Finland for nearly 40 years and won’t be ready until after 2020…….

A working paper by the European Commission, seen by Reuters in February, showed the bloc was short of more than 118 billion euros needed to dismantle its nuclear plants. ($1 = 0.8945 euros)(Editing by David Clarke) http://www.reuters.com/article/us-eu-nuclearpower-idUSKCN11Q12A

September 22, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, decommission reactor, EUROPE | Leave a comment

Nuclear industry will grind to a halt, if no waste disposal solution

exclamation-SmFlag-USAProgress on waste issue key to support for nuclear: US senator Washington (Platts)–15 Sep 2016 US Senator Dianne Feinstein of California said at an appropriations subcommittee hearing Wednesday that she cannot continue to support nuclear power if there is “no strategy for the long-term storage of the waste.”

Dr Pangloss
Feinstein, the senior Democrat on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, criticized the nuclear power industry in her opening statement on what she called its failure to speak with “one voice” on the need for interim storage of utility spent fuel. The country, she said, “should be working to establish interim [spent fuel] storage far away from reactors and population centers.” The hearing was scheduled to look at the future of nuclear power.

The lesson of the Yucca Mountain repository project is “any solution to nuclear waste needs to be voluntary,” Feinstein said. She and subcommittee chairman Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, and Senators Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican and chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Maria Cantwell of Washington, the ranking Democrat on the energy committee, have introduced legislation that would, among other things, establish a consent-based siting process. The bill has not moved out of committee, however.

The Department of Energy dismantled the Yucca Mountain repository project in Nevada in 2010, two years after it submitted a repository license application to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, saying in part that the state of Nevada’s unyielding opposition to the proposed disposal facility made the site unworkable.

Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz told the subcommittee that a voluntary siting process is needed and that DOE will discuss during at a public meeting Thursday in Washington input the department received during eight public meetings held across the US on what a consent-based siting process should involve this year.

Support for a nuclear waste facility has to be aligned on the community, state and federal levels to avoid “bad surprises later on,” Moniz said.

In response to a question from Feinstein, Moniz said DOE’s general counsel has said the department has the authority, although not specifically stated, to use a private-sector facility to store utility spent fuel. He said DOE could move forward on setting up contracts with such facilities.

Currently, private-sector efforts are underway in Texas and New Mexico to site consolidated interim storage facilities that would have DOE as its only customer. http://www.platts.com/latest-news/electric-power/washington/progress-on-waste-issue-key-to-support-for-nuclear-21519625

September 16, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, politics, USA, wastes | 1 Comment

Nuclear lobby sees decommissioning of reactors as the new financial bonanza

Future nuclear supply chain worth billions, report finds, WNN 14 September 2016 “……..The market for decommissioning is also substantial, with decommissioning work on projects involving immediate dismantling by 2035 potentially worth up to $111 billion. This includes at least $12.4 billion as the estimated cost for cleaning up the Fukushima Daiichi site, and at least $24.2 billion for decommissioning as Germany moves to phase out its nuclear power plants.

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Eleven consolidated technology vendors from Canada, China, France, India, Japan, Russia and the USA today offer their services across much of the nuclear fuel cycle, and other significant technology vendors – such as BWX Technologies, Doosan and OMZ-Skoda – are internationally active. Each has built up a supply chain that is increasingly global in scope, and the leading vendors are, for the most part, internationally diversified in terms of their corporate make-up and supplier base…..http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN-Future-nuclear-supply-chain-worth-billions-report-finds-1509167.html

September 16, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, decommission reactor | Leave a comment

As nuclear costs rise, top economist urges nuclear operators on early decommissioning of reactors

nuke-reactor-deadUS operators urged to decommission immediately to prevent costFlag-USA hikes, Nuclear Energy Insider, Sep 7, 2016  Nuclear plant operators should start decommissioning activities of shutdown reactors as early as possible as the deferral of decontamination and dismantling (D&D) exposes operators to delay-related costs, investment risks and loss of crucial expertise as workers leave the industry, Geoffrey Rothwell, Principal Economist at the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency, told Nuclear Energy Insider.

There are currently 17 U.S. nuclear power plants being decommissioned and this will soon increase following a recent spate of plant closure announcements due to sustained low power prices.

Operators have announced the early closures of California’s Diabolo Canyon, Nebraska’s Fort Calhoun and Illinois’ Clinton and Quad Cities plants in recent months as low gas prices, rising renewable energy capacity and energy efficiency measures pressure electricity prices.

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The majority of current U.S. decommissioning projects are being carried out under the deferred “SAFSTOR” method of deferred decontamination, but this process incurs the risk of cost hikes, Rothwell said.

U.S. operators build up nuclear decommissioning trust funds (DTFs) based on estimated costs but data from completed projects shows the actual cost of decommissioning has varied substantially, as operators have faced fresh site-specific challenges and regulation which can differ between states.

The variance in costs of three completed ‘immediate’ D&D projects was highlighted earlier this year in a report by the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), co-authored by Rothwell, which cited figures from a Pacific Northwest National Laboratories [PNNL] study.

The chart below shows actual costs for the Haddam Neck, Main Yankee and Trojan plants, laid out alongside estimated costs for 14 other reactors, showed large differences in spending on Project Management, Decontamination and Dismantling (D&D) and Waste Management.

Internal expertise

Project management costs tend to be a function of the duration of D&D activities, rather than plant size and this is highlighted by the data from completed projects, Rothwell noted.

Portland General Electric (PGE), licensee of the 1.2 GW Trojan plant, decided to perform the decommissioning of the plant itself and conducted the project efficiently and without major changes or setbacks.

In comparison, the licensees for the 582 MW Haddam Neck plant in Connecticut and the 900 MW Maine Yankee plant chose to contract the D&D work to a decommissioning operations contractor (DOC) and then later in the process they chose to resume execution of decommissioning activities themselves.

In both cases, the management changes led to complications and delays and escalated costs, NEA said in its report.

A major advantage of carrying out D&D activities immediately is that current operations staff have in-depth knowledge of plant specifics, including previous incidents and undocumented facility detail, which avoids unnecessary work-arounds, Rothwell said.

“The maintenance crew have all sorts of implicit, tacit knowledge…If you wait for 60 years they are all gone,” he said.

Dismantling challenge

Actual D&D costs have varied substantially as a lack of identical reference projects has meant operators have had to perform “first of a kind” operations such as the time-consuming task of dismantling main reactor components, Rothwell said.

“It’s cutting up the reactor and the steam generator, these are big pieces of equipment and we are just learning how to do this,” Rothwell said.

PG&E was able to limit the D&D costs for its Trojan plant through its access to the U.S. Ecology low-level waste facility at Hanford, Washington. PG&E was permitted to ship reactor internals to the Hanford facility as one package and avoid some of the on-site cutting-up of components.

At Haddam Neck, the segmentation of the internals proved challenging and took approximately 29 months, according to NEA’s report. Regulations also required the operator to store the internals on-site at the ISFSI.

The duration of D&D activities at Haddam Neck exceeded original estimates, as did the total radiation exposure accrued during the operations, NEA said.

“Decontamination of exposed faces of buildings and foundations were also extensive tasks,” it said.

The results of an environmental survey at the Trojan plant site indicated no radioactivity had spread to the environment, including surface water and groundwater, which also limited costs.

By deferring D&D activities for a substantial time, operators raise the chance of chemical or radiation leaks spreading, which can require further D&D work and incur higher costs, Rothwell said.

Waste rules

According to the NEA’s report, waste management costs do not necessarily depend on the capacity of the plant.

“Waste costs appear to be more sensitive to the management strategies and solutions selected or assumed, for the specific plant, and the related unit costs individually applied. The accessibility of waste management routes can even determine the way the decommissioning of the reactor is undertaken,” NEA said.

PG&E’s ability to ship the reactor vessel for the Trojan plant as a single package reduced the volume of waste and the number of radioactive shipments, and also reduced personnel exposure. However, NEA noted that without regulatory changes, the single package approach will not be available to other commercial nuclear plant decommissioning projects in the US.

In contrast, waste management costs for Haddam Neck were driven up by high volumes of waste produced, “mostly attributable to the release criteria and clean-up levels adopted by the State of Connecticut,” the report said.

Regulatory risk is another reason to commence D&D immediately as regulation is more likely to increase if there is a long time period before SAFSTOR facilities are decommissioned, Rothwell said.

Operators choosing to defer D&D also face investment risks for DTFs, in addition to escalating cost estimates, Rothwell noted.

Rates of return for DTFs have been lower than expectations, and operators which have accelerated closure plans should leverage current staff expertise and optimize decommissioning schedules to allocate decommission fund portfolios so the “liquidity matches your plans,” he said…….http://analysis.nuclearenergyinsider.com/us-operators-urged-decommission-immediately-prevent-cost-hikes?utm_campaign=NEI+07SEP16+Newsletter+B&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Eloqua&elqTrackId=ce386029dbb04d9db19579ed2046a746&elq=f4dbaf77167c423b93658800346bc887&elqaid=22066&elqat=1&elqCampaignId=9714

 

September 9, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, decommission reactor, USA | Leave a comment

Britain’s national disgrace: nuclear reprocessing at Sellafield

The National Audit Office (NAO) stated these tanks pose “significant risks to people and the
environment”. One official review published in The Lancet concluded that, at worst, an explosive release from the tanks could kill two million Britons and require the evacuation of an area reaching from Glasgow to Liverpool. These dangerous tanks have also been the subject of repeated complaints from Ireland and Norway who fear their countries could be contaminated if explosions or fires were to occur.

In short, the practice of reprocessing at Sellafield has been and remains a monumental national disgrace.

Sellafield-reprocessing

Especially serious are the ~20 large holding tanks at Sellafield containing thousands of litres of extremely radiotoxic fission products. Discussing these tanks, the previous management consortium Nuclear Management Partners stated in 2012:

“there is a mass of very hazardous [nuclear] waste onsite in storage conditions that are extraordinarily vulnerable, and in facilities that are well past their designated life.”

most of all, we should recognize that nuclear policies, in both weapons and energy, have poorly served the nation.


sellafield-2011Sellafield exposed: the nonsense of nuclear fuel reprocessing
 
http://www.theecologist.org/reviews/2988095/sellafield_exposed_the_nonsense_of_nuclear_fuel_reprocessing.html  Ian Fairlie  6th September 2016   Last night’s BBC Panorama programme did a good job at lifting the lid on Britain’s ongoing nuclear disaster that is Sellafield, writes Ian Fairlie. But it failed to expose the full scandal of the UK’s ‘reprocessing’ of spent fuel into 50 tonnes of plutonium, enough to build 20,000 nuclear bombs – while leaving £100s of billions of maintenance and cleanup costs to future generations.

Many readers will have seen the interesting Panorama programme on the poor safety record at Sellafield broadcast on BBC1 last night.

The BBC press release stated this was a “special investigation into the shocking state of Britain’s most hazardous nuclear plant” – and it certainly was.

The most important of several whistleblower revelations was that the previous US managers had been shocked at the state of the plant when they took over its running in 2008.

Although the programme producers are to be congratulated for tackling the subject, it was only 30 minutes long and tells only a fragment of the whole sorry story.

This article tries to give more background information, and importantly, more analysis and explanation. The full story would require several books, and provide exceedingly painful reading.

What is reprocessing for? Continue reading

September 7, 2016 Posted by | Reference, reprocessing, UK, wastes | Leave a comment

The Dead Nuclear Plant Society – in nuclear trash burial business

Decommissioning‘Dead Plant Society’ lobby group booms as reactors close  Hannah Northey, E&E reporter Greenwire: September 6, 2016 “……..Reactors are closing as nuclear utilities struggle to compete with cheap natural gas, low demand for power and no national energy policy. And when the behemoth nuclear plants close, the Dead Plant Society grows.

As the teacher played by Robin Williams in the movie famously tells his young students, “We are food for worms, lads. Because, believe it or not, each and every one of us in this room is one day going to stop breathing, turn cold and die.”

The group of doomed-reactor owners has doubled from its original five members to 10 and now includes Exelon Corp., the nation’s largest nuclear utility.

Operators who climb aboard are eager to weigh in on a high-profile rulemaking at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for decommissioning reactors and to find solutions — on or off Capitol Hill — for growing amounts of radioactive waste piling up across the country, said Smith, the president of Governmental Strategies Inc.

Exelon came to the society five years ago. The nuclear giant is deactivating reactors — or is planning to do so — at three sites in Illinois and one in New Jersey, Smith said. Entergy Corp. signed after it bought the shuttered Big Rock Point nuclear power plant near Charlevoix, Mich. And Pacific Gas & Electric Co. was next when it decided to close the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactors in California.

Following years would see Southern California Edison join with the closure of the San Onofre reactors in California and Duke Energy Corp. as it shuttered the Crystal River nuclear plant in Florida.

All told, the tight-knit club represents more than a dozen reactors that have been closed or are about to be snuffed out in eight states. And nuclear executives have warned that an additional 15 to 20 reactors could close in coming years.

Many of the companies are either suing the federal government or involved in legal settlements after the Department of Energy failed to uphold its 1980s agreements and take possession of spent reactor fuel destined for the stalled repository at Yucca Mountain, Nev. So far, DOE has paid out more than $5 billion, and the lawsuits are still mounting.

And like the industry implementing cost-cutting measures to keep reactors afloat, Smith said the Dead Plant Society is on a tight budget, spending under $160,000 a year on lobbying since its inception, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Working with Smith is Michael Callahan, president of CCMSC Corp. and a former NRC congressional affairs officer….

‘Real security and safety issues’

Smith isn’t thrilled about the group’s growth.

The former Hill staffer and Nuclear Energy Institute executive said he’d rather be promoting a growing industry, not burying cooling waste.

“I hope not to grow it; I don’t like being in the nuclear trash burial business,” said Smith, who worked for former Louisiana Sen. John Breaux (D), a former Entergy lobbyist. “I had a lot more fun when I was lobbying to get new plants up and running.”

Then again, most members of the Dead Plant Society would rather not belong to the group, either.

Owners of the three Yankee reactors in New England, for example, recently sued the federal government after DOE failed to pick up spent reactor fuel stored in concrete casks at the site of former reactors in Connecticut, Maine and Massachusetts.

Connecticut Yankee Atomic Power Co., Maine Yankee Atomic Power Co. and Yankee Atomic Electric Co. said they existed as corporations only because DOE had failed to pick up the waste, forcing the companies to build, staff and oversee on-site storage. The court awarded the companies $76.8 million in damages.

Tim Smith, a lobbyist and president of Governmental Strategies Inc., has represented the Decommissioning Plant Coalition since 2001, better known in industry as the “Dead Plant Society.” Photo courtesy of Governmental Strategies Inc.

strandedThe dispute, like many others, stems from the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, which required DOE to remove spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste from reactors. The agency signed contracts with the companies to remove the waste by January 1998 and store it in a permanent repository, but the department failed to do so. The Obama administration later pulled support for building a waste repository under Yucca Mountain, forcing utilities across the nation to store spent nuclear fuel in wet pools or dry storage casks on-site……

DOE will see its legal problems grow should more reactors go dark.

The department could face between $29 billion and $50 billion in legal fees if it begins accepting waste by 2025, according to a recent study by the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. If the decadeslong debacle slips past that date, costs could continue to grow by $500 million a year, said Christina Simeone, the report’s author. There are currently 19 lawsuits pending in federal court, according to a DOE report.

But the real losers are the ratepayers and taxpayers who have paid for a repository and may not realize that radioactive waste may live in their communities for ages, long after a reactor is snuffed out, she said.

What’s more, federal funds to move the process forward are off-limits unless the law is changed, she added. The $34 billion Nuclear Waste Fund — a cache nuclear customers have fed over years — is untouchable under statute for repository-related activities, and DOE legal fees are taken out of a federal fund made up of taxpayers’ contributions, she said.

“I don’t think these communities realize that when these plants close, the waste is going to stay there,” Simeone said. “The plant may be remediated, but there’s a portion of the land that’s going to remain under license at the NRC and is going to store waste indefinitely. There are real security and safety issues.”……..

The commission’s work — slated to be complete by 2020 — has spurred passionate debate between the industry and host communities, public advocates and environmental groups over funding for multibillion-dollar cleanups. Central to those discussions is what happens to pools and casks full of radioactive waste, the sizes of security forces and evacuation zones, and what role the host communities play.

As it stands, there are no such federal rules for dead nuclear plants.

Instead, companies must seek “exemptions” from regulations for operating plants as they power down the units.

Smith said the Dead Plant Society is supporting the NRC’s work to streamline the process and make it transparent, adding that operators set aside money to ensure they can remove or reduce radiation from the former plant sites so the land can be released or repurposed — a process that can cost as much as $400 million……..

The Vermont Yankee decommissioning panel has said host communities — people living near the nuclear plant within the 10-mile evacuation zone — need a voice on par with industry. The group has called on the NRC to take a closer look at the effect on communities hit by the multimillion-dollar loss in tax revenues after reactors close.

In their comments to the NRC, neighbors of nuclear reactors are asking the agency to ensure that decommissioning funds aren’t used for lobbying or operating expenses, and not to reduce evacuation zones. ……http://www.eenews.net/stories/1060042350

September 7, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, decommission reactor, USA | Leave a comment

Dangerous transport of radioactive wastes – legal action against this

radiation-truckThe nuclear waste is a byproduct of the process used at the Chalk River laboratories to create medical radioisotopes from highly enriched uranium originally produced in the U.S. It’s being shipped back to the U.S. as part of a 2010 agreement to repatriate the radioactive material, costing the Canadian government about US$60 million.

According to the U.S. lawsuit filed Aug. 12 in Washington, D.C., the thick yellowy-green liquid being shipped contains highly enriched uranyl nitrate, highly enriched uranium, radioactive varieties of cesium, niobium, zirconium, rhodium, rubidium, iodine, xenon, tellurium, barium, lanthanum, cerium, strontium, praseodymium, neodymium, europium, neptunium and plutonium. 


legal action
Niagara on nuclear waste route, Welland Tribune, By ALLAN BENNER,
 August 31, 2016 Trucks loaded with liquid nuclear waste could be rolling down highways within days — likely travelling through Niagara on their way into the U.S.

But seven American environmental groups have teamed up to launch a lawsuit against the United States government and its Department of Energy (DoE) in the hope of stopping the shipments before they begin.

A November 2015 DoE report, which concluded that an environmental impact statement on the plan would not be necessary, says up to 150 shipments of liquid nuclear waste will be hauled by transport truck from Canadian Nuclear Laboratories in Chalk River, Ont., a community near Algonquin Park, to a disposal site in Savannah River, S.C., 1,700 kilometres south.

Each shipment will include four 58.1-litre stainless steel containers, for a total of 232 litres of nuclear waste per trip. Those containers will be placed inside cylindrical steel nuclear transport casks, which will then be loaded into typical shipping containers and loaded onto trucks. The project is expected to continue for several years.

The nuclear waste is a byproduct of the process used at the Chalk River laboratories to create medical radioisotopes from highly enriched uranium originally produced in the U.S. It’s being shipped back to the U.S. as part of a 2010 agreement to repatriate the radioactive material, costing the Canadian government about US$60 million.

Niagara-on-the-Lake resident Gracia Janes, environment convener for the National Council of Women of Canada who has lobbied against the plan, described the material being transported as “absolutely deadly stuff.”

According to the U.S. lawsuit filed Aug. 12 in Washington, D.C., the thick yellowy-green liquid being shipped contains highly enriched uranyl nitrate, highly enriched uranium, radioactive varieties of cesium, niobium, zirconium, rhodium, rubidium, iodine, xenon, tellurium, barium, lanthanum, cerium, strontium, praseodymium, neodymium, europium, neptunium and plutonium.

Although environmental groups believe shipments could begin in September, that information could not be confirmed.

It’s classified……….

Higgins is concerned about the use of the Peace Bridge in the proposed route, one of the busiest border crossings between the two countries. “It’s only three lanes,” he said. “Consequently, trucks are stuck on the bridge idling for inordinate periods of time.”

Niagara’s regional council has taken a stand on the issue, too. On June 11, 2015, councillors ratified a motion opposing any shipment of radioactive liquid waste, and urging the governments of Canada and the U.S. to halt the shipment of high-level radioactive liquid waste pending the outcome of public consultations on the advisability and the potential adverse impacts of the proposed shipments, as well as alternative procedures.

Lincoln regional Coun. Bill Hodgson said he was concerned at the time the motion was passed, but he’s “more alarmed now that it seems that it’s imminent, and really no one with authority has stepped forward and said, ‘Let’s rethink the movement of this stuff.’” “This is a really toxic soup. This is not kid’s play,” he said.

Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati shares the concerns about the plans……..

if one of those containers were to break, Janes said it would be a disaster. “If it did break open, if it did get down to what’s in there, it’s radioactive material that would take an awfully long time — thousands of years — to actually disappear, if it ever does disappear,” said Janes, who first brought the issue to regional council’s attention during a delegation in February 2015.

“It would go into the groundwater and it could be in a community. We’re not sure where it’s going,” she said. “Or there could be a fire, and it could be sending off plumes of we don’t know what.”

She said it’s “not quite Chernobyl, but I don’t know.”

The November 2015 DoE report also looked at worst-case scenarios, including the potential for radioactive liquid to spill on the ground after highway collisions……

Gervais, however, said he doesn’t believe facilities exist at Chalk River to convert the liquid material to solid.

Kamps said the shipments are unprecedented.  “Never before has highly radioactive liquid waste been transported in North America,” he said. http://www.wellandtribune.ca/2016/08/31/not-quite-chernobyl

September 2, 2016 Posted by | safety, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Radioactive waste from oil and gas fracking found in landfill

Radioactive Waste Found at Oil Field Landfill in North Dakota, Oil Price By Irina Slav – Sep 01, 2016, North Dakota has had a problem with the inappropriate disposal of this radioactive waste for years. This time, the State Health Department of North Dakota is probing an oilfield waste landfill operated by IHD Solids Management after the detection of a significant amount of illegal radioactive matter.

The radioactive material was detected twice in two separate inspections that took place in May and June. Now the HD has ordered a third-party inspection of the landfill and instructed the operator to remove 950 tons of waste and take it out of the state, after radioactivity checks of all 12 oilfield waste landfills in the state revealed levels of between 5 and 80 picocuries, the latter standing 30 picocuries above the new maximum allowed for oilfield waste…….

The company will not be fined for the transgression because it dealt with the problem by removing the suspicious waste, as did two other landfill operators in North Dakota, Secure Energy and Gibson Energy. They too had to remove over-radioactive material from their landfills and ship it to special nuclear waste facilities.

Prudently, if not a tad belatedly, North Dakota will soon start requiring oilfield waste landfill operators to verify the radioactivity level of every load that arrives, rather than taking the word of the company generating the waste for it.

The waste from oil and gas wells include uranium, thorium, radium, a radioactive isotope of potassium, as well as isotopes of lead and polonium. These are naturally occurring elements that are brought to the surface through fracking. http://oilprice.com/Latest-Energy-News/World-News/Radioactive-Waste-Found-at-Oil-Field-Landfill-in-North-Dakota.html

September 2, 2016 Posted by | environment, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

“Nuclear Decommissioning: Paying More for Greater, Uncompensated Risks.”

Flag-USADecommissioning costs: A blind spot in the nuclear power debate In nuclear policy, too little thought is given to the considerable costs of storing radioactive waste on site, Utility Dive  By Christina Simeone | August 30, 2016 With over 10 GW of nuclear capacity at risk for premature retirement – defined as retirement before license expiration – many states are considering subsidy policies to keep these economically struggling reactors operating.

Arguments for subsidies focus on protecting local jobs, keeping low-cost baseload power, maintaining reliability, and preserving the zero-carbon resources needed to address climate change. Opponents argue that out-of-market subsidies distort competitive markets and amount to ratepayer bailouts of uneconomic generation.

Absent from the debate, however, is a focus on what happens to nuclear power plants when they retire and decommission. Specifically, how Americans like you and I will continue to pay more and be subjected to greater risks as nuclear power plants are converted to interim waste storage facilities.

Decommissioning

This is the focus of a new report from the University of Pennsylvania’s Kleinman Center for Energy Policy, entitled “Nuclear Decommissioning: Paying More for Greater, Uncompensated Risks.”

Let me explain.

When most nuclear power plants were built, the expectation was spent fuel waste would either be reprocessed (for most plants built before 1977) or the government would take custody of the waste for permanent disposal, per the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act. Licensees that built the reactors were also required to establish financial mechanisms – such as trust funds – to ensure availability of funds to decontaminate equipment and decommission the plant site.

The Nuclear Waste Policy Act established a per-kilowatt-hour fee on nuclear power production that Licensees would pay in exchange for a contractual agreement committing the federal government to take custody of the waste – beginning in 1998 – for permanent geologic disposal. Licensees would recover these fees from electricity ratepayers that enjoyed low cost, baseload nuclear power.

In 1998, the federal government was not prepared to accept the waste. To date, the government has spent more than $7.5 billion to study the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada for geologic disposal, but political opposition from within that state killed the project. There are currently no plans underway to build a geologic disposal repository.

Meanwhile, there are over $34 billion in ratepayer funds sitting in a restricted government account that by law can only be spent on activities related to the geologic disposal site. (The ratepayer fee was suspended in 2014, a few years after the Yucca Mountain project was terminated.)

In the interim, nuclear reactor Licensees have been forced to make significant capital investments to expand their ability to store spent fuel on site at power plants. Licensees sued the federal government for financial damages caused by the government’s failure to accept nuclear waste for disposal, and the Licensees won.

The federal government is therefore using taxpayer money to pay back the Licensee’s costs of interim waste storage. As of 2015, more than $5 billion of taxpayer dollars were paid to reactor Licensees. The total cost of damages is estimated to range from $29 billion to $50 billion if the government begins to accept waste in 10 years. If this date slides, government liabilities increase by $500 million per year.

So today, all 100 operating nuclear power reactors are storing waste on site in wet and/or dry storage. When a full plant retires, the entire site cannot be decommissioned, because a portion of the site must continue to store waste.

With this background in mind, it is important that policymakers consider the following facts when contemplating the fate of struggling nuclear power facilities:

  • Distributed, interim (if not perpetual) storage of spent fuel and high level radioactive waste is less safe and less secure than permanent geologic disposal, according to the IAEA.
  • Costs of interim storage have been and will continue to be paid by taxpayers, and these costs will accumulate indefinitely. Meanwhile, there is no refund provided to the ratepayers who paid to have nuclear waste removed from their neighborhoods and into a permanent geologic disposal facility. Many Americans are paying twice for nuclear waste management.
  • Communities hosting nuclear power facilities – that include ratepayers and taxpayers – are not being compensated for the increased risks of perpetually storing high level radioactive waste. And, when a plant or reactor retires, these communities are also losing the benefits of nuclear power.

An additional concern is the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s formula for establishing upfront decontamination costs for reactor specific funds has widely been criticized to understate costs. When a reactor retires prematurely, these funds have less time to appreciate and may require additional financial guarantees from the Licensee. More research is needed to understand the ability of owners of at-risk generation to provide such guarantees, if needed……http://www.utilitydive.com/news/decommissioning-costs-a-blind-spot-in-the-nuclear-power-debate/425415/

August 31, 2016 Posted by | decommission reactor, USA | 1 Comment

Monolithic tomb for San Onofre’s spent nuclear fuel

At San Onofre, spent nuclear fuel is getting special tomb Orange County Register, Aug. 28, 2016 ,By TERI SFORZA  “……..Once, San Onofre was a marvel of modern engineering – splitting atoms to create heat, boiling water to spin turbines and creating electricity that fulfilled 18 percent of Southern California’s demand. Now, it’s a demolition project of mind-boggling proportions, overseen by a dozen government agencies.

It’s expected to cost $4.4 billion, take 20 years and leave millions of pounds of spent nuclear fuel on the scenic bluff beside the blue Pacific until 2049 or so, because the federal government has dithered for generations on finding a permanent repository.

In this vacuum, contractors from Holtec International – one of only a handful of companies licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to do dry-cask radiation storage in the U.S. – are at work. Construction of the controversial “concrete monolith” to protect San Onofre’s stranded waste has begun, over the protests of critics who decry a “beachfront nuclear waste dump.”

san-onofre-deadf

THE MONOLITH

The reinforced concrete pad that will support the monolith is finished.

Last week, Holtec workers used cranes and trucks to maneuver the first of 75 giant tubes into place atop it. When those tubes are bolted in, concrete will be poured up to their necks, and they’ll be topped off with a 24,000-pound steel-and-concrete lid. Earth will be piled around it so that it looks something like an underground bunker.

Southern California Edison, which operates the plant, would not share the Holtec contract or reveal its price tag, but San Onofre’s owners have recovered more than $300 million from the federal government for its failure to dispose of nuclear waste, which is why dry-cask storage must be built in the first place. San Onofre’s decommissioning plan sets aside $1.27 billion for future spent fuel management.

This is one of the first newly licensed Hi-Storm Umax dry-cask storage systems Holtec is building in the United States. Once it’s complete – expected to be late next year – workers will begin the deliberate and delicate dance of removing all spent fuel from cooling pools beside each reactor.

The iconic twin domes you see from the highway and the beach don’t reveal their enormity. They stand as tall as a 13-story building, and the adjacent pools holding their spent fuel are 25 feet wide, 60 feet long, about 40 to 50 feet deep and hold a half-million gallons of water.

When Southern California Edison begins removing the 2,668 fuel assemblies chilling there, bays to those enormous pools will open. Holtec storage canisters will be lowered in. Underwater, 37 spent fuel assemblies will be loaded into each canister and capped. The canister will be slipped into a “transfer cask,” lifted from the pool and drained.

Then it will be loaded onto a truck, driven a few hundred yards to the Umax and lowered into one of those 75 tubes. The waste-filled canister will remain inside. The transfer cask will be removed. The tube will be capped.

This will be repeated more than 70 times, until all the fuel in the more vulnerable pools is entombed in more stable dry-cask storage. That’s slated to be done by mid-2019.

TECHNOLOGY

The system will become something of a real-time experiment: Edison is partnering with the Electric Power Research Institute to develop inspection techniques to monitor the casks as they age. The casks’ integrity over time, while holding hotter “high burn-up” fuel, is a major concern of critics.

“Burn-up” – i.e., the amount of uranium that undergoes fission – has increased over time, allowing utilities to suck more power out of nuclear fuel before replacing it, federal regulators say. It first came into wide use in America in the latter part of the last century, and how it will behave in short-term storage containers (which, pending changes in U.S. policy on nuclear cleanup, must be used for longer-term storage) remains a topic of debate……..

ry-cask technology is not new, he said. Nuclear power plants in the U.S. have used it since 1986, and an analysis by the Electric Power Research Institute found that it would take at least 80 years before a severe crack could form in a dry storage canister.

The Umax uses the most corrosion-resistant grade of stainless steel; its design exceeds California earthquake requirements, and it protects against hazards such as water, fire or tsunamis.

Critics cast skeptical eyes on those claims.

They don’t disagree that dry storage is safer than the spent fuel pools, but activist Donna Gilmore says officials gloss over the potential for serious cracking – a bigger risk in a moist, salty, oceanfront environment such as San Onofre.

Once a crack starts, it would continue to grow through the wall of the canister, undetected, until it leaked radiation, Gilmore said.

Other countries use thicker-walled casks than those licensed in America, and she believes we should, too.

EYES FORWARD

What everyone wants is to remove the ensconced “stranded waste” from San Onofre as soon as possible, and the only way that can happen is if the federal government takes action.

Palmisano said energy is best expended pushing that forward, not arguing over canisters.

On that front, he is cautiously optimistic.

In January, the U.S. Department of Energy launched a new push to create temporary nuclear waste storage sites in regions eager for the business, currently in West Texas and New Mexico. Several of those could be up and running while the prickly question of coming up with a permanent site is hashed out.

There could be a plan, and a place, for this waste within the next 10 years, Palmisano said – but that would require congressional action, which in turn would likely require much prodding from the public.

“We are frustrated and, frankly, outraged by the federal government’s failure to perform,” he said. “I have fuel I can ship today, and throughout the next 15 years. Give me a ZIP code and I’ll get it there.”…..http://www.ocregister.com/articles/nuclear-727227-fuel-storage.html

August 29, 2016 Posted by | Reference, USA, wastes | Leave a comment