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New Documentary Film on St. Louis Nuclear Waste Site and Landfill Fire

Fall Film Festival includes Documentary on St. Louis Nuclear Waste Site and Landfill Fire, Huntington NewsBY TONY RUTHERFORD , HNN ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR “……….The Fall International Film Festival includes a not yet shown HBO documentary, “Atomic Homefront,” which details the anguish of confronting state and federal agencies over nuclear waste dumping in St. Louis. The film is by Sarah Spurlock,  wife of Morgan Spurlock.

HBO documentary, “Atomic Homefront” at St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase

Left unsaid, both the NY Times , Wall Street  Journal, and HNN have revealed that Huntington , too, had a uranium and nickel carbonyl plant that processed and recycled fuels for three gaseous diffusion plants. When the process was found to not be cost effective, the structure — owned by the Atomic Energy Commission — was dismantled and the most contaminated portions buried in Piketon,Ohio. Workers from the Huntington Pilot Plant have received compensation from the Dept. of Labor for working in a facility covered under the Atomic Energy Commission definition that includes the St. Louis site, Oak Ridge, Paducah, and Piketon, Ohio.

According to IMDB, “Atomic Homefront” reveals :

“… St. Louis, Missouri’s atomic past as a uranium processing center for the Atomic bomb and the governmental and corporate negligence that lead to the illegal dumping of Manhattan Project radioactive waste throughout North County neighborhoods. Our film is a case study of how citizens are confronting state and federal agencies for the truth about the extent of the contamination and are fighting to keep their families safe. ”

Film International published the following review of Oscar winning director’s Rebecca Cammisa reviewed at the AFI film festival:

f you’re not screaming mad by the end of Atomic Homefront, you obviously believe the systemworks. As a study in government failure and corporate greed, this HBO-supported documentary from director Rebecca Cammisa shows that your trust is grievously and tragically misplaced if you expect the Environmental Protection Agency to serve a desperate public. Likewise, if you believe a large waste service company would provide honest guidance and responsibility in serving its customers, think again.

This passionate film, having its world premiere as one of the 11 Spotlight Screenings at AFI DOCS in Washington DC, is a heart breaker. Cammisa, an Oscar nominee for her 2009 documentary feature Which Way Home (dealing with child migrants) and her 2012 short God Is the Bigger Elvis (a lovely look at Dolores Hart, a Hollywood actress turned nun), spent several years following the problems of two St. Louis neighborhoods that have seen their residents ravaged by cancer and death. http://www.huntingtonnews.net/150485

http://filmint.nu/?p=21313

or more about the waste in St. Louis see:

http://www.waste360.com/nuisances/bridgeton-landfill-fire-explained-updated

July 26, 2017 Posted by | Resources -audiovicual, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

European Commission wants Czech Republic to deal with its nuclear waste backlog

BRUSSELS CALLS FOR CZECH STRATEGY FOR RADIOACTIVE WASTE, Radio Prague, Chris Johnstone 24-07-2017  Czech measures to deal with its nuclear waste backlog are again under scrutiny as the country faces possible European Commission sanctions for failing to pass on its domestic plans for dealing with nuclear waste from power plants and other civil activities and an update of the existing strategy taking place.

Czech plans for dealing with nuclear waste have been put under the spotlight once again thanks to a European Commission warning calling for the country to outline its plans for deal with nuclear waste. The Czech Republic was last week one of five states which the Commission said had failed to pass on their long-term nuclear waste plans by the original deadline of August 2015. The other countries include, somewhat ironically, largely non-nuclear Austria, Italy, Portugal, and Croatia.

The Czech Republic has around 10,000 tonnes of high radioactive nuclear waste, mostly stemming from the spent fuel of its nuclear power plants which begin operating in the mid-1980s, but also from other civil activities. The spent fuel is stored on site at nuclear power plants but the barrels containing it will wear out long before the contents become safe…….http://www.radio.cz/en/section/business/brussels-calls-for-czech-strategy-for-radioactive-waste

July 26, 2017 Posted by | EUROPE, wastes | Leave a comment

The continuing horror story of nuclear weapons’ waste in North St Louis, USA

The reports don’t acknowledge these stories, these illnesses, those who are dying or dead. Most residents of St. Louis—including and especially the residents of predominantly African-American neighborhoods—don’t even know the contamination is there. …….

the half-life of Thorium 232: fourteen billion years, a half-life so long that by the time this element is safe for human exposure

a contradiction I can’t resolve: that the massive crime here began with a belief in a kind of care, a belief that protection comes only in the form of wars and bombs, and that its ultimate expression is a technology that can destroy in a single instant any threat to our safety with perfect precision and efficiency. But hundreds of thousands lost their lives to those bombs in Japan, and the fallout from building them has claimed at least as many lives right here at home.

The Fallout, In St. Louis, America’s nuclear history creeps into the present, leaching into streams and bodies. Guernica, By Lacy M. Johnson, 10 July 2017 “………Months ago, when a high-school friend reached out to me asking that I give my attention to this story, she told me that a company tasked decades ago with disposing of nuclear waste for the federal government had instead dumped thousands of barrels of the waste somewhere in North St. Louis County. The barrels were left exposed to the elements for decades, and the waste had leaked into the ground and into the water of a nearby creek……

When the federal government filed suit to acquire the property under eminent domain, officials refused to disclose the exact nature of the waste “for security reasons.” They assured the local government that the waste they’d be storing there wasn’t dangerous. They shook hands and signed papers. They looked people squarely in the eye.

During the next twenty years, truckload by truckload, the green patchwork of farm fields by the airfield turned into a foreign world. Mountains of raffinate rose up across from row after row of rusty black drums, stacked two or three high.

……..The reports tell only so much, only certain parts of certain versions of the story. The rest I have to piece together using articles in the local newspaper, phone calls with these residents, oral histories collected by others, newsletters from various companies celebrating one anniversary or another…..

In my pile of reports there is a series of letters from Cotter to the Atomic Energy Commission, in which Cotter tries to convince the government to take these wastes back. Commercial disposal would cost upwards of two million dollars (about twelve million dollars today). They couldn’t afford it. They knew that the AEC was using a quarry at the recently decommissioned second Mallinckrodt facility at Weldon Spring, roughly twenty miles southwest of the airport, as a dump for nuclear waste. They asked the AEC if they could use it, asked for guidance, and for help.

That help never came……

A lengthy investigation discovered that from August to October 1973, a private construction firm drove truckloads of the leached barium sulfate—along with roughly forty thousand tons of soil removed from the top eighteen inches of the Latty Avenue site—to West Lake Landfill, all around the clock, sometimes in the middle of the night. To the landfill operator it looked like dirt, so he waved the trucks in and charged them nothing, using it as landfill cover over the municipal refuse…..

the reports express the detection of this contamination in charts, as numbers and statistics. They’ve found contamination at the airport, in the drainage ditches leading away from the airport, and all along the creek—along the trucking routes, in ballfields and in parks and gardens and backyards, in driveways, in people’s basements and under their kitchen cabinets. Even now, as I write this, they are still trying to figure out just how far it has spread.

The reports measure the health risk of exposure to this contamination as an equation, with a threshold of acceptable risk. But what the reports don’t say is that the contamination has already done so much damage that cannot be measured or undone. The Mallinckrodt uranium workers are some of the most contaminated in the history of the atomic age. So contaminated, in fact, that in 2009 all former Mallinckrodt uranium workers were added as a “special exposure cohort” to the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act. The act provides compensation and lifetime medical benefits to employees who became ill with any of twenty-two named cancers as a result of working in the nuclear-weapons industry. Because of this special cohort status, if a former Mallinckrodt worker develops any of these named illnesses, exposure to the uranium is assumed. But the people who live near the creek didn’t work for Mallinckrodt. They aren’t entitled to compensation or to medical benefits.

A woman named Mary Oscko, for instance, has lived her whole life in North St. Louis County, most of it near that small creek. Now she is dying of stage-four lung cancer, though she has never smoked a day in her life. Shari Riley, a nurse who lived near the creek, died recently of appendix cancer—rare in the general population, but several dozen cases have been reported among those who live or lived near the airport or along the creek. My friend—the one who contacted me about this story—never lived in St. Louis, but her mother grew up two houses away from that creek. My friend suspects that her mother’s exposure to the contamination as a child changed her DNA in ways she passed on to her children, which would explain why my friend was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer a few years ago, at the age of thirty-five. Could it also explain why my friend’s mother once gave birth to a set of conjoined twins? Conjoined twins are an anomaly in the general population, but these make the fourth set born to women who grew up near that creek. And those are just the ones we know about.

The reports don’t acknowledge these stories, these illnesses, those who are dying or dead. Most residents of St. Louis—including and especially the residents of predominantly African-American neighborhoods—don’t even know the contamination is there. …….

“My librarian,” Kay Drey tells me—has filed the EPA’s Record of Decision for the West Lake Landfill, and then on the drawer where I might find studies that contradict the EPA’s assessment that the radioactive waste in the landfill doesn’t pose a threat to residents—the radiological surveys of the site conducted in the 1970s and 1980s by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy, as well as more current studies by independent researchers. She explains that the radioactive waste buried in West Lake Landfill covers about twenty acres in two locations in one or many layers, estimated at two to fifteen feet thick, some of it mixed in with municipal refuse and some of it sitting right at the surface. It is in the trees surrounding the landfill and the vacuum bags in nearby homes. This waste contains not only uranium, but also thorium and radium, all long-lived, highly radio-toxic elements. And because Mallinckrodt removed most of the naturally occurring uranium from this ore, the Cotter Corporation, in effect, created an enriched thorium deposit when they dumped the residues at West Lake Landfill. “In fact,” Kay muses, “West Lake Landfill might now be the richest deposit of thorium in the world.”

Thorium and uranium in particular are among the radioactive primordial nuclides, radioactive elements that have existed in their current form since before Earth was formed, since before the formation of the solar system even, and will remain radioactive and toxic to life long after humans are gone. We’re sitting back in Kay’s dining room when she pulls out a tiny booklet labeled “Nuclear Wallet Cards.” What its intended purpose is, I don’t know, but Kay flips to the back to show me the half-life of Thorium 232: fourteen billion years, a half-life so long that by the time this element is safe for human exposure, the Appalachian Mountains will have eroded away, every ocean on Earth’s surface will have evaporated, Antarctica will be free of ice, and all the rings of Saturn will have decayed. Earth’s rotation will have slowed so much that days will have become twenty-five hours long, photosynthesis will have ceased, and multicellular life will have become a physical impossibility.

“You know, tritium is my favorite,” Kay tells me before I leave. It’s produced as a side effect of operating nuclear reactors and released into the air, or leaks into the waterways; it contaminates the water supply and condenses in our food. One official who worked at the nuclear reactor Kay had tried to prevent once told her that tritium was no big deal. “It only destroys DNA molecules.” A few years ago they found tritium in the groundwater in Callaway County. “There is no way to remove it,” she says…..

….the Weldon Spring site. After it was decommissioned, the plant—a second one run by Mallinckrodt—was found to be so contaminated that the Department of Energy eventually entombed the whole site in layers upon layers of clay and soil, gravel, engineered filters and limestone rocks, creating a mountain covering forty-five acres, containing approximately 1.5 million cubic yards of hazardous waste. With its own educational center located near the base, the containment dome has become a kind of memorial for a tragedy that hasn’t finished happening. The top of the dome is the highest point in the county.

“Oh, you don’t want to go there anyway,” Kay says, waving the idea away with her slender hand. “It’s leaking.”……..

a contradiction I can’t resolve: that the massive crime here began with a belief in a kind of care, a belief that protection comes only in the form of wars and bombs, and that its ultimate expression is a technology that can destroy in a single instant any threat to our safety with perfect precision and efficiency. But hundreds of thousands lost their lives to those bombs in Japan, and the fallout from building them has claimed at least as many lives right here at home.

There is no one to arrest for this, to send to jail, to fine or execute or drag to his humiliation in the city square. Even if Karen and Dawn win their fight and convince the government to remove every gram of radioactive waste in the landfill and the creek and the airport and the backyards and gardens here, people will still be sick. Thousands of them. Chronic exposure to radiation has changed their DNA, and they’ll likely pass those changes on to their children, and to their children’s children, and on and on through every generation. In this regard, no one is immune……..

The EPA Region 7 offices are located in a sprawling modern government building in a suburb of Kansas City. The small conference room just to the side of the main entrance is filled with a surprising number of people……

During our too-short conversation I learn that the EPA has over 1,300 sites in the Superfund program, and Region 7 alone has ninety-eight sites on the National Priorities List. Each of these communities is demanding that their toxic sites be scrubbed clean. ………https://www.guernicamag.com/the-fallout/

July 24, 2017 Posted by | Reference, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

USA’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) OK’s Storage of Nuclear Waste Below Miami’s Drinking Water

Feds Say FPL Can Store Nuclear Waste Below Miami’s Drinking Water Because It’s “Not Likely” to Leak, Miami New Times, FRIDAY, JULY 21, 2017  

July 22, 2017 Posted by | USA, wastes, water | Leave a comment

No prospect of Britain sending nuclear wastes back to Europe

Curious confusion over British threat to dump nuclear materials on EU http://drdavidlowry.blogspot.com.au/2017/07/curious-confusion-over-british-threat.html     Letter to the Financial Times 21 July 17 

Your report “UK issues coded warning to Brussels over nuclear waste” (Financial Times, 20 July; https://www.ft.com/content/0c56a4f2-6bc5-11e7-bfeb-33fe0c5b7eaa) is based on a curious confusion and a worrying level of ignorance by anonymous so-called nuclear experts your reporters say have advised the UK Government.
It a is both an empty and, frankly, a totally counter-productive threat to return fissile materials ( and radioactive wastes)  to countries of origin in the EU, as part of a sui-disant  negotiating  posture on Brexit by the UK, in order to  “
On 19 January this year, the UK Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)  announced it  had agreed to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) taking ownership of 600 kg of material previously owned by a Spanish utility, and  of 5 kg of material previously owned by a German organisation.
 
BEIS asserted that “These transactions, which have been agreed by the Euratom Supply Agency, will not result in any new plutonium being brought into the UK, and will not therefore increase the overall amount of plutonium in the UK.” adding  it had “agreed to these transactions on the grounds that they offer a cost-effective and beneficial arrangement, which allows the UK to gain national control over more of the civil plutonium located in the UK, and facilitates conclusion of outstanding contracts with the Spanish and German” (http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2017-01-19/HCWS422/).
receding this, three years ago, on 3 July 2014 the UK announced that it had struck an agreement with German and Swedish governments to take title to 140 kgs of plutonium in the former case, and 800 kgs in the latter, arising from the reprocessing at Sellafield and management at Dounreay respectively of spent nuclear fuel from the two nations.https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmhansrd/cm140702/text/140702w0003.htm#140702100000002)

And, earlier, in April 2013, BEIS’s predecessor department, DECC, announced in a statement on management of oversees owned plutonium   it was taking over 750 kg of plutonium belonging to German utilities, 1,850 kg previously loaned from France, and 350 kg from Dutch firm GKN. At the same time, 650 kg of plutonium stored at Sellafield was transferred from German to Japanese ownership.(https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/written-ministerial-statement-by-michael-fallon-management-of-overseas-owned-plutonium-in-the-uk)

 A similar deal with Germany in in 2012 saw the UK take ownership of  4,000 kgs of plutonium. (http://fissilematerials.org/blog/2012/07/united_kingdom_takes_owne.html)
Thus the overseas ownership of plutonium in the UK has gradually been transferred to the UK. Thus there is no prospect of any ship sailing towards  Antwerp (or any other EU port) as the nuclear expert cited fancifully imagined.
It is possible that some of reprocessing waste arising from the chemical separation of imported foreign spent  nuclear fuel at Sellafield could be returned-to-sender in a fit of pique  by DexEU. However, BEIS has already- through its predecessor department- indicated it wanted to adopt a policy of substitution” based on “radiotoxic equivalence” to  the reprocessing nuclear waste stockpile to minimize the volumes of waste shipped back to continental Europe.
A BEIS official told me at a nuclear policy forum meeting of interested non-governmental parties on 18 July that the department has a team of dedicated staff looking in detail at all the ramifications of withdrawal from Euratom for UK nuclear policy. Perhaps DexEU officials should consult these in-house experts over Euratom before issuing  empty threats.

July 22, 2017 Posted by | EUROPE, politics international, UK, wastes | Leave a comment

Vast areas of America’s land poisoned by mismanagement of military wastes

More than three decades ago, Congress banned American industries and localities from disposing of hazardous waste in these sorts of “open burns,’’ concluding that such uncontrolled processes created potentially unacceptable health and environmental hazards.

That exemption has remained in place ever since, even as other Western countries have figured out how to destroy aging armaments without toxic emissions.

Federal environmental regulators have warned for decades that the burns pose a threat to soldiers, contractors and the public stationed at, or living near, American bases.

“They are not subject to the kind of scrutiny and transparency and disclosure to the public as private sites are,”

How The Pentagon’s Handling Of Munitions And Their Waste Has Poisoned America
Many nations have destroyed aging armaments without toxic emissions. The U.S., however, has poisoned millions of acres.
Huffington Post,  20/07/2017 Co-published with ProPublica  20 July 17 RADFORD, Va. — Shortly after dawn most weekdays, a warning siren rips across the flat, swift water of the New River running alongside the Radford Army Ammunition Plant. Red lights warning away boaters and fishermen flash from the plant, the nation’s largest supplier of propellant for artillery and the source of explosives for almost every American bullet fired overseas.

 Along the southern Virginia riverbank, piles of discarded contents from bullets, chemical makings from bombs, and raw explosives — all used or left over from the manufacture and testing of weapons ingredients at Radford — are doused with fuel and lit on fire, igniting infernos that can be seen more than a half a mile away. The burning waste is rich in lead, mercury, chromium and compounds like nitroglycerin and perchlorate, all known health hazards. The residue from the burning piles rises in a spindle of hazardous smoke, twists into the wind and, depending on the weather, sweeps toward the tens of thousands of residents in the surrounding towns.

Nearby, Belview Elementary School has been ranked by researchers as facing some the most dangerous air-quality hazards in the country. The rate of thyroid diseases in three of the surrounding counties is among the highest in the state, provoking town residents to worry that emissions from the Radford plant could be to blame. Government authorities have never studied whether Radford’s air pollution could be making people sick, but some of their hypothetical models estimate that the local population faces health risks exponentially greater than people in the rest of the region.

 More than three decades ago, Congress banned American industries and localities from disposing of hazardous waste in these sorts of “open burns,’’ concluding that such uncontrolled processes created potentially unacceptable health and environmental hazards. Companies that had openly burned waste for generations were required to install incinerators with smokestacks and filters and to adhere to strict limits on what was released into the air. Lawmakers granted the Pentagon and its contractors a temporary reprieve from those rules to give engineers time to address the unique aspects of destroying explosive military waste.
That exemption has remained in place ever since, even as other Western countries have figured out how to destroy aging armaments without toxic emissions. While American officials are mired in a bitter debate about how much pollution from open burns is safe, those countries have pioneered new approaches. Germany, for example, destroyed hundreds of millions of pounds of aging weapons from the Cold War without relying on open burns to do it.

In the United States, outdoor burning and detonation is still the military’s leading method for dealing with munitions and the associated hazardous waste. It has remained so despite a U.S. Senate resolution a quarter of a century ago that ordered the Department of Defense to halt the practice “as soon as possible.” It has continued in the face of a growing consensus among Pentagon officials and scientists that similar burn pits at U.S. bases in Iraq and Afghanistan sickened soldiers.

Federal records identify nearly 200 sites that have been or are still being used to open-burn hazardous explosives across the country. Some blow up aging stockpile bombs in open fields. Others burn bullets, weapons parts and — in the case of Radford — raw explosives in bonfire-like piles. The facilities operate under special government permits that are supposed to keep the process safe, limiting the release of toxins to levels well below what the government thinks can make people sick. Yet officials at the Environmental Protection Agency, which governs the process under federal law, acknowledge that the permits provide scant protection.

Consider Radford’s permit, which expired nearly two years ago. Even before then, government records show, the plant repeatedly violated the terms of its open burn allowance and its other environmental permits. In a typical year, the plant can spew many thousands of pounds of heavy metals and carcinogens — legally — into the atmosphere. But Radford has, at times, sent even more pollution into the air than it is allowed. It has failed to report some of its pollution to federal agencies, as required. And it has misled the public about the chemicals it burns. Yet every day the plant is allowed to ignite as much as 8,000 pounds of hazardous debris.

“It smells like plastic burning, but it’s so much more intense,” said Darlene Nester, describing the acrid odor from the burns when it reaches her at home, about a mile and a half away. Her granddaughter is in second grade at Belview. “You think about all the kids.”

Internal EPA records obtained by ProPublica show that the Radford plant is one of at least 51 active sites across the country where the Department of Defense or its contractors are today burning or detonating munitions or raw explosives in the open air, often in close proximity to schools, homes and water supplies. The documents — EPA PowerPoint presentations made to senior agency staff — describe something of a runaway national program, based on “a dirty technology” with “virtually no emissions controls.” According to officials at the agency, the military’s open burn program not only results in extensive contamination, but “staggering” cleanup costs that can reach more than half a billion dollars at a single site.

The sites of open burns — including those operated by private contractors and the Department of Energy — have led to 54 separate federal Superfund declarations and have exposed the people who live near them to dangers that will persist for generations.

In Grand Island, Nebraska, groundwater plumes of explosive residues spread more than 20 miles away from the Cornhusker Army Ammunition Plant into underground drinking water supplies, forcing the city to extend replacement water to rural residents. And at the Redstone Arsenal, an Army experimental weapons test and burn site in Huntsville, Alabama, perchlorate in the soil is 7,000 times safe limits, and local officials have had to begin monitoring drinking water for fear of contamination.

Federal environmental regulators have warned for decades that the burns pose a threat to soldiers, contractors and the public stationed at, or living near, American bases. Local communities – from Merrimac, Wisconsin, to Romulus, New York – have protested them. Researchers are studying possible cancer clusters on Cape Cod that could be linked to munitions testing and open burns there, and where the groundwater aquifer that serves as the only natural source of drinking water for the half-million people who summer there has been contaminated with the military’s bomb-making ingredients……..

ProPublica reviewed the open burns and detonations program as part of an unprecedented examination of America’s handling of munitions at sites in the United States, from their manufacture and testing to their disposal. We collected tens of thousands of pages of documents, and interviewed more than 100 state and local officials, lawmakers, military historians, scientists, toxicologists and Pentagon staff. Much of the information gathered has never before been released to the public, leaving the full extent of military-related pollution a secret.

“They are not subject to the kind of scrutiny and transparency and disclosure to the public as private sites are,” said Mathy Stanislaus, who until January worked on Department of Defense site cleanup issues as the assistant administrator for land and emergency management at the EPA.

Our examination found that open burn sites are just one facet of a vast problem. From World War I until today, military technologies and armaments have been developed, tested, stored, decommissioned and disposed of on vast tracts of American soil. The array of scars and menaces produced across those decades is breathtaking: By the military’s own count, there are 39,400 known or suspected toxic sites on 5,500 current or former Pentagon properties. EPA staff estimate the sites cover 40 million acres — an area larger than the state of Florida — and the costs for cleaning them up will run to hundreds of billions of dollars.

The Department of Defense’s cleanups of the properties have sometimes been delegated to inept or corrupt private contractors, or delayed as the agency sought to blame the pollution at its bases on someone else. Even where the contamination and the responsibility for it are undisputed, the Pentagon has stubbornly fought the EPA over how much danger it presents to the public and what to do about it, letters and agency records show.

Chapter 1. Rules With Exceptions……..

Chapter 2. Debating the Dangers…….

Chapter 3. Awakening to Threats…….

Chapter 4. Risks and Choices…….   alternatives only seem to be deployed after communities have mobilized to fight the burning with a vigor that has proven elusive in many military towns. “Sometimes it’s easier for everybody to just lie low and keep doing what they are doing,” Hayes added. “Short term thinking is the problem. In the immediate, it costs them nothing to keep burning.”

The success in Louisiana could be the start of a shift in momentum. In the 2017 Defense Department funding bill, Sen. Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, supported an amendment ordering the National Academy of Sciences to evaluate alternatives to open burning. ………

For Devawn Bledsoe, the foot dragging and decades of delay have led to profound disillusionment. For a long time, she thought her responsibility was to bring light to the issue. Now she thinks it takes more than that. “There’s something so immoral about this,” she said. “I really thought that when enough people in power — the Army, my Army — understood what was going on, they would step in and stop it.”

“It’s hard to see people who ought to know better look away.”

Nina Hedevang, Razi Syed and Alex Gonzalez, students in the NYU Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute graduate studies program, contributed reporting for this story. Other students in the program who also contributed were Clare Victoria Church, Lauren Gurley, Clare Victoria Church, Alessandra Freitas and Eli Kurland. http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/open-burns-ill-winds_us_5970112de4b0aa14ea770b08

July 21, 2017 Posted by | investigative journalism, Reference, USA, wastes, weapons and war | Leave a comment

UK’s nuclear clean-up to cost £119 billion and take 120 years

NDA 19th July 2017, The Nuclear Provision is the best estimate of how much it will cost to clean up 17 of the UK’s earliest nuclear sites over a programme lasting around 120 years. The 2017 forecast is that future clean-up across the UK will cost around £119 billion spread across the next 120 years or so. This is broadly unchanged (increased by £2bn) from the previous year’s estimate.
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/nuclear-provision-explaining-the-cost-of-cleaning-up-britains-nuclear-legacy/nuclear-provision-explaining-the-cost-of-cleaning-up-britains-nuclear-legacy

July 21, 2017 Posted by | UK, wastes | Leave a comment

Europe’s struggle to find a solution to nuclear waste disposal

Burying the atom: Europe struggles to dispose of nuclear waste Political opposition, not technical hurdles, poses biggest challenge to finding permanent storage sites for deadly radioactive material.
Politico, By KALINA OROSCHAKOFF AND MARION SOLLETTY, 7/19/17,  URE, France — Half a kilometer underground in floodlit tunnels, a French government lab is testing the safety of a site intended to hold 80,000 cubic meters of deadly radioactive waste.

Crews drill barrel-sized openings into the sides of the shafts, dug deep into the earth not far from the small town of Bure, in northeastern France. The containers will have to be retrievable for a century, in case better technologies for dealing with radioactive materials are developed. Barring such a discovery, the idea is for the waste to spend the next 100,000 years underground.

The technical hurdles will be the easy bit. Far more difficult for France’s radioactive waste management agency, Andra, will be overcoming political opposition to the construction of the site — of any site — intended to serve as the final resting place for tons of radioactive waste.

Six decades after the construction of the first wave of nuclear power plants, no country has opened a permanent storage site. Spent nuclear fuel and other contaminated material — deadly byproducts of electricity generation — remain stockpiled in temporary locations around Europe and the world, sometimes alongside the reactors where they were used.

The problem is only getting more urgent as power plants across the world near the end of their lives and Western Europe cuts back on nuclear electricity generation.

In the EU alone, more than 50 of the 129 reactors currently in operation could shut down by 2025, Energy and Climate Action Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete said recently. “These reactors will need to be decommissioned, and the radioactive waste generated in this process will need to be safely managed.”

The stakes are less technical than political. The dispute goes to the heart of a running debate over the sustainability of nuclear power. Failing to resolve it would leave the industry vulnerable to its critics, who argue that the technology is so inherently risky — and dirty — that it cannot be relied on to generate electricity, even to combat climate change.

The European Commission is keen to hurry countries along. On July 13, it escalated an infringement procedure against Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Italy and Portugal, pushing them to fully comply with the bloc’s radioactive waste rules and inform Brussels of their national nuclear waste management programs, which were originally due by August 23, 2015. Only Finland, set to open the world’s first final repository early in the next decade, has a plan it can implement.

Experts agree that today’s stop-gap solutions are unsustainable — and more dangerous than building long-term depositories deep underground where radioactive material can spend tens of thousands of years decaying, protected from natural disasters and out of reach of criminals and terrorists………

The issue is a headache for Nicolas Hulot, France’s new environment minister and a former green campaigner, who is part of the government that will have to give the final approval for the site. France is scaling back nuclear from 75 percent of power production to 50 percent by 2025, but it will still need to find a permanent storage site for the waste its plants produce.

Hulot expressed concerns about the site in Bure in 2016. “We can’t impose [such a project] on a local population just because they live in a remote area, without consulting them, without transparency,” he said on French TV.

On June 2, anti-nuclear campaigners wrote an open letter to Hulot asking him to stop the project. Since taking office, he has mostly kept quiet about the subject, but in a recent interview with Ouest-France, a regional newspaper, he vowed to ensure the waste will be stored with “absolute safety.”

The project still faces serious safety challenges, including fire risks, the French nuclear safety authority concluded in a recent assessment. On July 17, Andra pushed back a self-imposed deadline to submit a formal authorization request for the project by a year, to mid-2019.

Outreach

The government has responded to the protest with careful — and very public — safety tests, and an emphasis on its economic benefits for the region. “The project relies on 20 years of research,” said David Mazoyer, the site’s director. “Every scenario is studied with maximum security margins.” Some tests even involve releasing radioactive particles to track their movement in the surrounding clay.

The government has also splashed cash around — €30 million a year as “accompanying measures” for each of the two districts neighboring the site. “People don’t support the project for free,” said Gérard Longuet, a senator from the region and a key project supporter. “They support it because it boosts the area.”

So far, the effect of the outreach is, at best, mixed.

A 2016 poll commissioned by Andra found that 59 percent of local residents said they trust the agency to manage the site. But 63 percent expressed concerns over safety issues, and 76 percent said they think the project is dangerous for the environment.

“When you are listening to Andra, everything is all fine and rosy,” said Jean-Francois Bodenreider, an anti-nuclear campaigner and local resident. But, “they have no control over this,” said his wife Marie-Eve Bodenreider. An anti-nuclear sign hangs outside their physiotherapy practice in Gondrecourt-le-Château.

The site currently employs 370 people, with construction work foreseen to employ more than 2,000. But opponents say the jobs have yet to materialize. “The only jobs here are for security guards,” said Labat, the local resident and demonstrator. “They are everywhere!”

Birth of a movement

If German history is any guide, the French government will not have an easy time at the Bois Lejuc………..

‘Back on the streets’

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision, after Japan’s 2011 Fukushima disaster, to shutter the country’s last reactor by 2022 has taken some of the wind out of the opposition’s sails.

The challenge facing the anti-nuclear movement now will be “whether you can switch gears from blockade mode to having a constructive argument about how to best deal with the final storage issue,” Harms said…….. http://www.politico.eu/article/europes-radioactive-problem-struggles-dispose-nuclear-waste-french-nuclear-facility/

July 21, 2017 Posted by | EUROPE, wastes | Leave a comment

Mayak: Russia’s radioactive horror that just keeps on giving

Mayak disaster

Russia’s nuclear nightmare flows down radioactive river,  http://www.concordmonitor.com/Russia-s-nuclear-nightmare-flows-down-radioactive-river-1834751  Monitor, By KATHERINE JACOBSEN Associated Press. Friday, April 29, 2016  At first glance, Gilani Dambaev looks like a healthy 60-year-old man and the river flowing past his rural family home appears pristine. But Dambaev is riddled with diseases that his doctors link to a lifetime’s exposure to excessive radiation, and the Geiger counter beeps loudly as a reporter strolls down to the muddy riverbank.

Some 30 miles upstream from Dambaev’s crumbling village lies Mayak, a nuclear complex that has been responsible for at least two of the country’s biggest radioactive accidents. Worse, environmentalists say, is the facility’s decades-old record of using the Arctic-bound waters of the Techa River to dump waste from reprocessing spent nuclear fuel, hundreds of tons of which is imported annually from neighboring nations

At first glance, Gilani Dambaev looks like a healthy 60-year-old man and the river flowing past his rural family home appears pristine. But Dambaev is riddled with diseases that his doctors link to a lifetime’s exposure to excessive radiation, and the Geiger counter beeps loudly as a reporter strolls down to the muddy riverbank.

Some 30 miles upstream from Dambaev’s crumbling village lies Mayak, a nuclear complex that has been responsible for at least two of the country’s biggest radioactive accidents. Worse, environmentalists say, is the facility’s decades-old record of using the Arctic-bound waters of the Techa River to dump waste from reprocessing spent nuclear fuel, hundreds of tons of which is imported annually from neighboring nations.

The results can be felt in every aching household along the Techa, where doctors record rates of chromosomal abnormalities, birth defects and cancers vastly higher than the Russian average – and citizens such as Dambaev are left to rue the government’s failure over four decades to admit the danger.

“Sometimes they would put up signs warning us not to swim in the river, but they never said why,” said Dambaev, a retired construction worker who like his wife, brother, children and grandchildren have government-issued cards identifying them as residents of radiation-tainted territory. “After work, we would go swimming in the river. The kids would too.”

Thousands already have been resettled by Russia’s Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corp. to new homes a mile inland from the river, leaving Dambaev’s village of Muslyumovo in a state of steady decay as shops close and abandoned homes are bulldozed. The evacuations began in 2008, two decades after Russia started to admit disasters past and present stretching from Mayak’s earliest days in the late 1940s as the maker of plutonium for the first Soviet atomic bombs.

 The question, 30 years after the former Soviet Union’s greatest nuclear disaster in Chernobyl, is whether Mayak is truly cleaning up its act or remains primed to inflict more invisible damage on Russians. Nuclear regulators say waste no longer reaches the river following the last confirmed dumping scandal in 2004, but anti-nuclear activists say it’s impossible to tell given the level of state secrecy.

Vladimir Slivyak, an activist for the Russian environmentalist group EcoDefense, has visited villages downstream from Mayak many times to help document the poor health of locals in the area, 870 miles east of Moscow near Russia’s border with Kazakhstan.

“My opinion is they’re still dumping radioactive waste,” he said, “but proving that is impossible unless Mayak says: ‘Yes, we’re dumping radioactive waste.’“

The Nuclear Safety Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences, which oversees safety standards for the country’s nuclear industry, told the AP that Mayak’s nuclear waste processing system presents no danger to the surrounding population. The plant also manufactures a range of radioactive isotopes of use for specialist equipment, medical research and cancer treatments that generate lucrative contracts worldwide.

Rosatom spokesman Vladislav Bochkov, in response to several Associated Press requests seeking an interview to discuss Mayak’s safety standards and operations, sent an email Thursday denying Mayak dumps nuclear waste in the river. Bochkov said the complex “follows all the environmental protection guidelines and has all the approvals it needs for operation.”

“The level of pollution in the Techa River today completely complies with the sanitary standards of the Russian Federation,” he wrote. He said the river water is clean: “You can drink it endlessly.”

But when the AP took a Geiger counter to the riverbank outside Dambaev’s home, the meter reading surged at the water line and the machine began beeping loudly and continuously. Measurements ranged from 8.5 to 9.8 microsieverts — 80 to 100 times the level of naturally occurring background radiation. A typical chest X-ray involves a burst of about 100 microsieverts.

Nuclear Safety Institute member Leonid Bolshov bills these levels as safe, saying: “The level of pollution in the water today is incomparably less to what it used to be.”

What it used to be is pretty bad. Environmentalists estimate that Mayak tossed 76 million cubic meters (2.68 billion cubic feet) of untreated waste — enough to fill more than 30,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools — into the river from 1948 to the mid-1950s as nuclear scientists scrambled to catch up to the U.S. nuclear program.

In September 1957, underground storage tanks of overheating nuclear waste exploded, sending a cloud of nuclear fallout 300 kilometers (200 miles) northeast across 217 towns and villages containing 272,000 people, a minority of which were quietly evacuated over the following two years.

A decade later, a nearby lake used to dispose of nuclear waste dried up amid a summer drought, and high winds whipped the exposed powdery residue to many of the same population centers. Greenpeace estimates the fallout reached 68 towns and villages containing 42,000 people.

Russia suppressed all news of both disasters until the late 1980s, when it acknowledged the two accidents and the Mayak site’s very existence.

In 1993, Russia said the two accidents combined with longer-term dumping of waste into the river meant that an estimated 450,000 people had been exposed to excess radiation from Mayak. It offered no breakdown of immediate deaths, accelerated deaths or increased rates of illness and disease in the populace.

A 2005 criminal case against Mayak’s then-director, Vitaly Sadovnikov, revealed that the plant continued to dump at least 30 million cubic meters (1 billion cubic feet) of untreated nuclear waste into the river from 2001 to 2004. Prosecution documents said the dumping quadrupled the volume of the radioactive isotope strontium-90 in the river.

A study by Greenpeace in 2007, citing hospital records and door-to-door surveys of Muslyumovo residents, reported cancer rates 3.6 times higher than the Russian national average. Russian scientists have reported residents suffer 25 times more genetic defects than the general population.

A decades-long Radiation Research Society study of people living near the Techa River conducted jointly by Russian and American scientists has linked radiation particularly to higher rates of cancer of the uterus and esophagus. In their latest 2015 report, the scientists analyzed 17,435 residents born before 1956, among them 1,933 with cancer. They found that the vast majority of residents had accumulated heightened deposits of strontium-90 in their bones and such “radiation exposure has increased the risks for most solid cancers.”

Such figures come as no surprise to one of Muslyumovo’s longest-serving doctors, Gulfarida Galimova, a gynecologist and family general practitioner who started work in the village’s hospital in 1981. Galimova says she was immediately struck by the exceptional volume of pediatric emergencies involving miscarriages, early and still births, and newborns with malformed limbs and other defects.

Still, like others she did not know Mayak —unmarked on any map at the time and still off-limits to the public today — even existed. She recalls 1980s mornings of blissful ignorance washing her hair in the deceptively soft waters of the Techa.

“The water was nice and not calcified. Soft water. Your hair would be so fluffy,” Galimova recalled.

She was among some 280 households that accepted Rosatom’s offer to abandon their homes in Muslyumovo for new two-story homes away from the river in what today is called New Muslyumovo. But her 2012 move came too late for her own family. A son born in the village in 1985, and a grandson born last year, both have birth defects that she blames on Mayak radiation. Her son has a club foot; her grandson has heart deformities.

One of her neighbors in New Muslyumovo, with its rows of pastel yellow homes with red roofs, blames the new location for her family’s health problems. Alfia Batirshina, 28, says a radon deposit beneath the topsoil of the new settlement gives her chronic headaches and her 8-year-old daughter recurring nosebleeds.

She is loath to discuss her daughter’s own birth defect, a deformed leg, and keeps her out of view of journalists. Her 62-year-old father, Vakil Batirshin, struggles to say anything at all. His neck is painfully swollen from lymph nodes that have grown triple their normal size, leaving his words nearly unintelligible.

The homemaker says she and neighbors are resigned to their medical fate living in Mayak’s nuclear shadow.

“I don’t hope for anything anymore,” she said. “If we get sick, we get sick.”    Associated Press reporters Iuliia Subbotovska in Muslyumovo, Jim Heintz in Moscow and Shawn Pogatchnik in Dublin contributed to this story.

July 19, 2017 Posted by | environment, Reference, Russia, wastes | Leave a comment

Doubts about the Vermont Yankee nuclear cleanup plan

ANTI-NUCLEAR GROUP DOUBTS VERMONT YANKEE CLEANUP PLAN, VTDIGGER,JUL. 9, 2017, 4:17 PM BY MIKE FAHER BRATTLEBORO – The company that wants to buy Vermont Yankee hasn’t properly assessed the plant for radiological contamination and “cannot know” the true cleanup cost, a Brattleboro anti-nuclear group contends.

The New England Coalition, in new filings with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, seeks to intervene in the federal review of Vermont Yankee’s proposed sale to NorthStar Group Services.

One of the coalition’s biggest concerns mirrors worries that have been previously expressed by Vermont officials: that NorthStar could run into unforeseen problems and run out of money before finishing decommissioning.

NorthStar “cannot reasonably assure that it has adequate financial resources to own and operate Vermont Yankee for the purpose of decommissioning and fuel storage,” wrote Ray Shadis, a New England Coalition technical adviser…….

NorthStar has promised to clean up the majority of the site no later than 2030. That would make the property available for redevelopment much sooner, but some have expressed skepticism about the company’s ability to follow through.

That sentiment has spilled over to the NRC’s review of NorthStar’s plans.

In documents filed last month with the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board – an independent judicial body of the NRC – Vermont officials declared there is “significant risk” in NorthStar’s proposal due to “numerous, thus-far-unanalyzed health, safety and environmental concerns.”

State officials focused on financial issues, arguing that unexpected contamination, complications related to long-term spent fuel storage, and other issues could drastically drive up decommissioning costs.

Like Vermont officials, the New England Coalition is asking the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board for intervention status and a hearing in connection with the Vermont Yankee license transfer. The coalition offers two main contentions.

First, Shadis says the license transfer application is incomplete because it does not offer any environmental impact statement or “any substantive and reliable information about the varieties, quantities, depth and extent of radiological contamination.”

Shadis is critical of what he calls the NRC’s “tunnel vision” approach to NorthStar’s application.

He says the scope of NorthStar’s decommissioning proposal is far greater than a standard license transfer application. Instead, NorthStar is pitching “an untested method of managing decommissioning under new and unanalyzed circumstances.”……..https://vtdigger.org/2017/07/09/anti-nuclear-group-doubts-vermont-yankee-cleanup-plan/

July 17, 2017 Posted by | decommission reactor, USA | Leave a comment

Bitter ‘taste’ of potentially radioactive sludge in the Blackwater estuary.

A press release received from Magnox confirms “the former Bradwell
nuclear power station has now successfully dealt with all of its Fuel
Element Debris (FED) waste – a major source of intermediate level
radioactive waste at the Essex site.

This is an important step towards itsplanned closure, as part of the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency’s (NDA)
mission to clean up and decommission the UK’s earliest nuclear sites.”

Three years of potential damage to our estuary ecosystem has finally
finished with as much controversy now at the end as when the process
started. During those three years BANNG, Mersea Island Environmental
Alliance, Marinet, The Blackwater Guardians, FAB and others have spent a
great deal of time and gone to a great deal of trouble to try to stop FED
dissolution to protect both people and the environment.

Meetings were held with the Environment Agency (EA), who seemed uneasy as to what was
happening at Bradwell. FED dissolution was highlighted in the media and
complaints lodged both in the UK and European Parliaments. BANNG organised
a Public Meeting in West Mersea in June, 2014, at which an expert in Marine
Biology explained his concerns about the release of FED effluent into the
Blackwater and at which the large audience made clear its opposition.

BANNG believes that the real reason the treatment project has ended now is that
the original analysis of the FED was wrong. Only a third of the 200 tonnes
total waste ie 65 tonnes could actually be processed. The other two-thirds
were comprised of Low-Level Waste (LLW) and have been taken to Drigg for
disposal.

This raises the question of whether the FED was properly characterised before it was decided to use an expensive and experimentaldissolution process. Peter Bank’s (Town Councillor. Colchester Green
Party) says the process of Fed Dissolution has left a bitter ‘taste’ of
potentially radioactive sludge in the Blackwater estuary.

Mersea Island Courier 30th June 2017

https://www.facebook.com/TheMerseaIslandCourier/

July 17, 2017 Posted by | UK, wastes | Leave a comment

Radioactive pollution “flowing freely” into the Columbia River, from the decommissioned Hanford nuclear facility

Groundwater contaminated with radioactive waste from the decommissioned Hanford nuclear facility in Washington state is still “flowing freely” into the Columbia River, a program manager with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said at a meeting of the Hanford Advisory Board.

Radioactive Waste Still Flooding Columbia River, EPA Says, By Karina Brown, Global Research, July 04, 2017 Courthouse News Service 8 June 2017  KENNEWICK, Wash. (CN) –

The announcement came as part of a five-year review of cleanup measures taken at the Superfund site. Officials with the EPA and the Department of Energy said at a meeting Wednesday that the review showed most of the cleanup actions at Hanford were properly “protective,” meaning the public was shielded from the worst of the site’s estimated 500 million gallons of potentially radioactive waste.

Radioactive sludge in shuttered reactors, contaminated soil in landfill sites and equipment that was once used to refine the uranium that fueled the nuclear bomb dropped on Nagasaki were all properly contained, according to the report.

But there was a glaring exception: groundwater contaminated with hexavalent chromium and strontium-90 was still flowing into the nearby Columbia River, according to a presentation from Mike Cline, director of the Department of Energy’s Soil & Groundwater Division.

“Contaminated in-area groundwater is still flowing freely into the Columbia,” EPA Project Manager Dennis Faulk told members of the board.  ……..http://www.globalresearch.ca/radioactive-waste-still-flooding-columbia-river-epa-says/5597591

July 7, 2017 Posted by | USA, wastes, water | Leave a comment

Former AECL scientists condemn plan for nuclear waste dump at the Chalk River site

Globe & Mail 27th June 2017, Former AECL scientists are condemning a plan to build a nuclear waste
facility at the Chalk River site on the Ottawa River, saying it would be
ill-equipped to handle the level of radioactive material planned for it.

The government-owned, private sector-operated Canadian Nuclear Laboratories
(CNL) is proposing to build a $325-million facility to dispose of a large
quantity of low- and intermediate-level waste generated from the demolition
of aging buildings and other contaminated material generated over the past
65 years.

But several former senior scientists who worked there say the CNL
proposal is seriously flawed and represents a threat to human health and
the environment.
https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/scientists-decry-plan-for-ontario-nuclear-waste-site/article35482638/

July 7, 2017 Posted by | Canada, wastes | Leave a comment

With international help, Russia starts to clean up Andreyeva Bay radioactive trash

Russia begins cleaning up the Soviets’ top-secret nuclear waste dump https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/02/russia-begins-cleaning-up-the-soviets-top-secret-nuclear-waste-dump

When the Soviet Union collapsed a vast store of spent nuclear fuel was abandoned in the Russian Arctic – an environmental disaster waiting to happen. Decades later an international clean-up has finally begun, Guardian, Shaun Walker in Andreyeva Bay, 2 July 17,

As the Rossita pulled away from the pier at Andreyeva Bay, sounding a long boom of its horn, a military band struck up a jaunty march. On board the ship were nine sealed metal casks, each four metres high and weighing 45 tonnes, containing canisters of spent nuclear fuel. Dozens of Russian and foreign nuclear specialists looked on applauding, as the chilly rain of a northern summer fell on the bay deep inside the Russian Arctic.

The ceremony, held on Tuesday afternoon, marks the culmination of a long international project to begin removing nuclear fuel from the site, formerly a top-secret Soviet installation. Nuclear specialists say Andreyeva Bay contains the largest reserves of spent nuclear fuel in the world, in fragile conditions that have disturbed the international community for years.

During the Cold War period, nuclear submarines were refuelled at sea, and the spent nuclear fuel was then shipped to Andreyeva Bay, where it was placed in a special storage facility to cool off before being transported to a reprocessing plant at Mayak, in the Urals. But in the early 1980s, leaks sprung up in the storage system, causing high levels of radioactive contamination.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, transfers of the spent fuel ceased, and about 22,000 spent nuclear fuel caskets were left at Andreyeva Bay in leaky dry storage units, creating the potential for an environmental catastrophe.

“I’ve been all over the world to pretty much every country that uses nuclear power and I’ve never seen anything so awful before,” said Alexander Nikitin, a former naval officer and environmentalist who has been monitoring the site for years.

“With nuclear material, everything should be done very carefully, and here they just took the material and threw it into an even more dangerous situation.”

In the decade after the Soviet collapse, the main concern was that poorly maintained facilities could lead to an onsite disaster. Nearly 250 nuclear submarines were decommissioned in the aftermath of the Soviet collapse, and facilities such as Andreyeva Bay were left in a perilous state.

“There wouldn’t have been a big explosion, but it could still have been something serious,” said Nikitin. “With nuclear fuel, once processes start, you have no way of knowing how they will develop.”

Over the next decade, security fears also increased. “Before 9/11, nobody would really think anyone would be crazy enough to try to handle spent nuclear fuel, but with the new type of terrorist threat we face, this became a bigger worry,” said Balthasar Lindauer of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), which has managed the donor funds from western countries to help with the clean-up.

The facility at Andreyeva Bay was one of many top-secret installations in the Soviet Arctic. A two-hour drive from the regional centre of Murmansk along a road cut out of mossy rocks, still dusted with snow in late June, the entire area around Andreyeva Bay is closed to all foreigners and even Russians who are not registered there. A heavily armed military checkpoint on the outskirts of town keeps out all those who do not have security clearance . This is partly because Russia has a working nuclear submarine base on the other side of the bay at Zaozyorsk.

It might seem odd that, as Russia ploughs more money into its current military budget, western nations who see Moscow as a military threat are helping to fund the clean-up of the mess the Soviet military left behind. 13 countries have provided €165m in funding since 2003 for nuclear decommissioning in Russia’s north-west. There have also been a number of bilateral projects, with Britain, Norway and other countries funding a long project to help clean up Andreyeva Bay.

The Norwegian foreign minister, who was present at Tuesday’s ceremony, said the funding for the project was committed nearly two decades ago, when Russia was in no economic state to deal with the problems alone. He also pointed out that the Andreyeva Bay facility is only about 40 miles from the Norwegian border, making the decommissioning issue one in which Norway has long taken a strong interest.

“Nuclear challenges recognise no borders, and it is in our common interest to deal with nuclear waste now rather leaving the problems to future generations,” said the Norwegian foreign minister, Børge Brende.

A suite of new buildings has been constructed around the area where the spent nuclear fuel caskets are kept, replacing the decaying structures that stood there previously. Work to load canisters into the giant protective casks can now be done using specially commissioned machinery.

The Rossita, a ship constructed for the task, will take the huge fuel casks to Murmansk, where they will be put on fortified trains which will proceed under armed guard on the long journey from the Arctic to the Mayak reprocessing site. At the Mayak facility, the spent fuel will be recycled and the Russians say they will turn it into fuel to be used in civilian nuclear reactors.

Specialists at the plant estimate it could take 10 years to remove all the fuel. About half of the caskets have some kind of surface damage to their containers and will be dealt with after the non-problematic batches have been removed.

“This is the end of a long process, but also the beginning of another long stage in the clean-up,” said Marina Kovtun, the governor of Murmansk region. “Despite international tensions, work went on every day. Everyone who was working on this project understood that they were doing this for all of humanity and for protecting our environment.”

Indeed, in the current climate of hostility between Russia and the west, it was an unusual tale of bonhomie and cooperation, as the ceremony included the flags of 10 western nations as well as the Russian tricolour.

“The Barents Sea is maybe the cleanest sea in the world, and if something had happened here, it would have affected the whole Arctic,” said Brende. “This process is not completely without risk, but compared to doing nothing, the risks are now much lower.”

July 3, 2017 Posted by | Russia, wastes | 5 Comments

Sa n Onofre and America’s failed nuclear waste issue

1,800 tons of radioactive waste has an ocean view and nowhere to go, LA Times, By RALPH VARTABEDIAN | PHOTOGRAPHY BY ALLEN J. SCHABEN 2 July 17 [good photographs and graphs] The massive, 150-ton turbines have stopped spinning. The mile-long cooling pipes that extend into the Pacific will likely become undersea relics. High voltage that once energized the homes of more than a million Californians is down to zero.

But the San Onofre nuclear power plant will loom for a long time as a landmark, its 1,800 tons of lethal radioactive waste stored on the edge of the Pacific and within sight of the busy 5 Freeway.

Across the site, deep pools of water and massive concrete casks confine high-power gamma radiation and other forms of radioactivity emitted by 890,000 spent fuel rods that nobody wants there.

And like the other 79,000 tons of spent fuel spread across the nation, San Onofre’s nuclear waste has nowhere to go.

The nation’s inability to find a permanent home for the dangerous byproduct of its 50-year-adventure in nuclear energy represents one of the biggest and longest running policy failures in federal government history.

Now, the Trump administration and Congress are proposing a fast track fix. The new plan aims, after decades of delays, to move the waste to one or more temporary central storage sites that would hold it until a geologic repository can be built in Nevada or somewhere else.

But the new strategy faces many of the same challenges that have dogged past efforts, leaving some experts doubtful that it can succeed.

America’s nuclear waste failure The shuttered San Onofre facility — not withstanding its overlook of prime surf breaks — is similar to about a dozen other former nuclear power plants nationwide that now have to babysit waste to prevent natural disasters, human errors or terrorist plots from causing an environmental or health catastrophe.

Though utilities and government regulators say such risks are remote, they have inflamed public fear at least since 1979’s Three Mile Island reactor accident in Pennsylvania.

The sites are located on the scenic shores of northern Lake Michigan, along a bucolic river in Maine, on the high plateau of Colorado and along the densely populated Eastern Seaboard — each environmentally sensitive for different reasons.

No one wants that waste near them — including officials in the sleepy beach town of San Clemente, just north of San Onofre. Even Southern California Edison Co. officials, while insisting the waste is safe, agree it should be moved as soon as possible.

“It doesn’t make any sense to store the fuel at all these sites,” said Thomas Palmisano, chief nuclear officer at the Southern California Edison plant. “The public doesn’t want the spent fuel here. Well, the fuel is here.”

But every attempt to solve the problem almost instantly gets tangled in complex federal litigation and imposes enormous expense on taxpayers.

The Energy Department was legally bound to haul away the waste by 1998 under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, making the agency about 20 years late in fulfilling its promise. That has saddled utilities with multibillion-dollar costs to store the waste onsite.

As a result, every nuclear utility, including Southern California Edison, has sued to recover its waste storage costs. So far, they have won judgments and settlements of $6.1 billion, and the Energy Department has projected that it may be liable for up to $25 billion more.

But the new plan is fraught with complex legal, political and financial questions, and has yet to be fully defined or vetted among powerful interest groups or receive approval by Congress or survive inevitable court challenges.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee last week overwhelmingly approved legislation that could clear up many legal questions. Similar bills have been introduced in recent years and failed to move ahead, but this legislation has strong bipartisan support and is backed by the White House.

Still, a lot could go wrong with the plan, as it has for every plan for decades.

Two little-known privately held companies, New Jersey-based Holtec International and Texas-based WCS, have unveiled plans and begun licensing applications with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for interim storage sites on each side of the New Mexico-Texas border. Officials in the area, a booming center of oil production, are enthusiastic about the potential economic benefits. And nuclear utilities have offered encouragement.

Company officials and other proponents say such temporary dumps could be opened in as little as three or four years, assuming the licensing goes smoothly. But other nuclear waste experts expect a timetable of 10 to 15 years for a temporary dump and much longer for a permanent repository.

Two dozen antinuclear activist groups and leading environmental nonprofits already have signaled in letters to the NRC that they will dispute the idea of creating temporary consolidated storage sites.

The groups, along with many longtime nuclear waste technical experts, worry that temporary storage will weaken the government’s resolve to build a permanent repository. And they assert the plan would require transporting the fuel twice, first to the temporary site and then to a permanent dump, magnifying transportation costs and the fuel’s exposure to accidents or attacks by terrorists.

“These trains hauling nuclear waste would go right by Trump’s hotel in Las Vegas,” said Marta Adams, a now-retired deputy attorney general in Nevada who is consulting with the state on its renewed legal battle.

Serious business problems cloud the plan. Among the most important is who would own and be legally responsible for the waste once it leaves the utility plant sites.

The federal government promised in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 to take ownership at a government-owned dump, but it never authorized such ownership at a temporary private facility — one of the legal questions that the Energy and Commerce Committee’s legislation would clear up.

A temporary facility by Holtec or another organization is intended as a segue to a permanent dump at Yucca Mountain, about 100 miles north of Las Vegas. Along with an interim storage site, the Trump administration wants to restart licensing of Yucca Mountain, which President Obama suspended.

But reviving Yucca Mountain is a long shot………. http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-stranded-nuclear-waste-20170702-htmlstory.html

July 3, 2017 Posted by | USA, wastes | 1 Comment