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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Abandoned radioactive generators and other nuclear junk sunk in oceans by Russia

Feisty mayor in Russia’s Far East wants his nuclear trash collected http://bellona.org/news/nuclear-issues/2017-09-feisty-mayor-in-russia-far-east-wants-his-nuclear-trash-collected

While lighthouses run on atomic batteries in Russia have become rare, especially along the coasts of the Baltic and Barents Seas, they still have their adherents in the country’s Far East.  by Charles Digges   charles@bellona.no  While lighthouses run on atomic batteries in Russia have become rare, especially along the coasts of the Baltic and Barents Seas, they still have their adherents in the country’s Far East.

A group of radioactivity tracking sleuths on Sakhalin Island in the Pacific say they have hunted down an abandoned generator that ran on strontium-90 sunk off the shores of one of its premier beach resorts.

But that, they say, is just the tip of the iceberg: The discovery lies in the middle of a radioactive graveyard that includes no fewer than 38 sunken vessels containing nuclear waste, and two nuclear warheads that went down when a Soviet bomber crashed near the island’s southern tip in 1976.

Though the Russian Ministry of Defense recently began acknowledging the lost bomber, tracing the origins of the other nuclear cast offs is not so easy.

But at least, says Nikolai Sidirov, mayor of the coastal town of Makarov on Sakhalin’s Bay of Patience, his town knows what this new discovery is – and they want it raised from the depths with the rest of the glowing junk.

Speaking to Novaya Izvestiya, a popular tabloid that morphed out of the official Soviet-era mouthpiece Izvestiya, Sidirov said satellite photos tracking the location of the crashed bomber have turned up something else lurking under the waves: An RTG.

That’s short for Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator, a small radioactive energy source that for decades powered thousands of Soviet lighthouses and other navigational beacons along Russia’s Baltic, Arctic and Pacific coasts.

After the fall of the Soviet Union and the crash of the Russian economy, officials lost track of many of the RTGs as bureaucracies collapsed and records went missing. Thieves pillaged them for their valuable metal, exposing their strontium innards. Hikers and shepherds, drawn to their atomic heat, would stagger out of the woods sick with radiation poisoning.

Around Murmansk and on the Pacific coast, frightful reports about strontium elements turning up on beaches proliferated in local media. Some newly independent Soviet republics telegraphed anxieties about their inherited RTGs back to Moscow – along with requests to come take them away.

And then there was the biggest fear of all: What if strontium 90 from these virtually unguarded, remotely radiological sources ended up in the hands of terrorists who wanted to make a dirty bomb?

So far, that hasn’t happened – anybody trying to make off with a strontium battery would likely end up very ill or dead. But when three woodsmen in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia turned up in a hospital with radiation burns and caught the attention of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the dangers of orphaned Soviet RTGs were finally on everyone’s mind.

A colossal effort spearheaded by the Norwegian government entirely rid the coasts of the Barents, Kara and White Seas of more than 180 RTGs. By infusing €20 million into the push, Norway helped Russia replace the strontium 90 batteries on these lighthouses and beacons with solar power over a six year period ending in 2015.

In all, Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear corporation, says it has decommission more than 1000 RTGs throughout the country, adding that it has mostly eliminated the hazard of these stray radioactive sources from its coastlines.

But some areas have not been so lucky, at least according to the mayor of Makarov out on Sakhalin Island, six times zones east of Moscow. Sidirov, a feisty campaigner who had been publicly heckling the capital about the nuclear trash in the seas near his town for years, says divers have located the RTG, and that he now has the coordinates of where it lies. He told Novaya Izvestiya he will pass on the RTGs location to what he calls “competent authorities” lest it end up in scheming hands.

How the RTG, which lies in 14 meters of water, came to be there is still anyone’s guess. The Russian Navy sent a statement to the newspaper insisting that all RTGs under the purview of the Pacific Fleet have been hunted down and destroyed.

But Russia’s environmental oversight agency confirmed that there were numerous radioactive foundlings in the oceans off Sakhalin Island, though they didn’t identify Sidirov’s RTG specifically.

It certainly wouldn’t be the first time someone screwed up with an RTG in the area, however. Twenty years ago, in 1997, a helicopter from Russia’s Emergency Services Ministry accidentally dropped a strontium-powered RTG into Sakhalin’s waters. It was later retrieved by the navy.

So far, Rosatom has remained mum on the veracity of Sidirov’s claim about the RTG. But since the history of the downed bomber and the other hazards in his area has been confirmed, there’s every reason to believe him about the RTG. And he wants it gone.

“The ecological authorities and the military, they’re being very stubborn about coming to collect it,” Sidorov told Novaya Izvestiya. “It’s there job to collect it – if they’re ever interested, I’ll be here to show them exactly where it is.”

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September 16, 2017 Posted by | Finland, oceans, Reference, Russia, wastes | Leave a comment

City of Zion stuck with costly, dirty, dangerous nuclear wastes

Zion skyline in for a change with planned razing of nuclear towers, Mary McIntyre, News-Sun, 15 Sept 17,  The green-capped concrete towers of Zion’s barren lakefront will be gone soon, but the nuclear waste that has crippled the city economically will remain. Zion Solutions, which is part of Utah-based EnergySolutions, will finish deconstructing and demolishing the former Zion nuclear power plant and its 20-story containment silos in 2018, according to EnergySolutions Vice-President Mark Walker, but 61 casks full of spent nuclear rods will remain on-site indefinitely.

The silos — which were the tallest structures in Lake County when they opened in the early 1970s and are second in overall structural height to the 330-foot Sky Trek Tower at Six Flags Great America — are scheduled to come down during the first quarter of next year.

“The project will be physically completed with (deactivation and decommissioning) in 2018,” Walker said. However, although the federal government designated decades ago that the waste would go to Yucca Mountain in Nevada for permanent storage, the facility has not yet opened, and Zion is stuck with the waste until a solution can be found.

“We’re very concerned with the fact that these casks are visible, and they’re vulnerable,” Kraft said.

Kraft said storing the casks near Lake Michigan is not appropriate in a post-9/11 world.

“They’re lined up like bowling pins,” he said. City officials are also unhappy with the storage of the casks, attributing Zion’s economic troubles to the closed facility.

When ComEd was running the plant, Zion received about $19.5 million annually in taxes from it, according to Zion Finance Director David Knabel. However, with the plant shut down, the 267 lakefront acres owned by the Exelon, which now owns ComEd, generate only $500,000 annually in taxes……

Under a law passed in 1982, energy companies have sued the Department of Energy for billions of dollars because of its failure to provide long-term nuclear storage. However, Knabel said, since Zion’s agreement was not with the federal government, it cannot sue under that law.

Last year, then-U.S. Rep. Bob Dold introduced legislation that would have granted Zion $15 million per year for seven years to compensate for the economic damage caused by storing the nuclear waste. Dold lost re-election last year to Brad Schneider, who is exploring similar legislation with U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth that would include a grant to the city and tax incentives for businesses to come there, according to a Schneider spokesman.

Schneider plans to hold a general meeting for constituents Saturday at the Zion City Hall on Sheridan Road at 11 a.m.

City officials are also unhappy with the storage of the casks, attributing Zion’s economic troubles to the closed facility……..

When ComEd was running the plant, Zion received about $19.5 million annually in taxes from it, according to Zion Finance Director David Knabel. However, with the plant shut down, the 267 lakefront acres owned by the Exelon, which now owns ComEd, generate only $500,000 annually in taxes……. http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/lake-county-news-sun/news/ct-lns-zion-nuclear-plant-demolition-st-0916-20170915-story.html

September 16, 2017 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

U.S. Department of Energy extends contract for management of Nuclear Waste Isolation Pilot Plant

Contract Extended for Management of US Nuclear Dump https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/new-mexico/articles/2017-09-15/contract-extended-for-management-of-us-nuclear-dump

The U.S. Department of Energy has extended a contract for the management of the government’s only underground nuclear waste repository.Sept. 15, 2017CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) — The U.S. Department of Energy has extended a contract for the management of the government’s only underground nuclear waste repository that will allow the Nuclear Waste Partnership to continue operating the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad through September 2020.

WIPP resumed operations earlier this year following a shutdown that followed a 2014 radiation release caused by inappropriate packaging of waste by workers at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The extension of the contract with Nuclear Waste Partnership will include a new safety focus and cost incentives. It’s good through Sept. 30, 2020, and can be extended beyond that.

September 16, 2017 Posted by | safety, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

The problem of plutonium: justification for its reprocessing is now dead

Forty years later, Japan’s breeder program, the original justification for its reprocessing program, is virtually dead.  

Forty years of impasse: The United States, Japan, and the plutonium problem http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00963402.2017.1364007   Masafumi Takubo &Frank von Hippel23 Aug 2017, Recently, records have been published from the internal discussions in the Carter administration (1977–80) on the feasibility of convincing Japan to halt its plutonium-separation program as the United States was in the process of doing domestically. Japan was deeply committed to its program, however, and President Carter was not willing to escalate to a point where the alliance relationship could be threatened. Forty years later, the economic, environmental, and nonproliferation arguments against Japan’s program have only been strengthened while Japan’s concern about being dependent on imports of uranium appears vastly overblown. Nevertheless, Japan’s example, as the only non-weapon state that still separates plutonium, continues to legitimize the launch of similar programs in other countries, some of which may be interested in obtaining a nuclear weapon option.

In June 2017, the National Security Archive, a nonprofit center in Washington, DC, posted four-decade-old documents from the Carter administration’s internal debate over how to best persuade Japan to defer its ambitious program to obtain separated plutonium by chemical reprocessing of spent power reactor fuel.11. See: http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/nukevault/ebb597-Japanese-Plutonium-Overhang/.View all notes

Foreign civilian plutonium programs had become a high-level political issue in the United States after India used plutonium, nominally separated to provide startup fuel for a breeder reactor program in its first nuclear weapon test in 1974 (Perkovich 1999Perkovich, G. 1999India’s Nuclear BombOakland, CAUniversity of California Press. [Google Scholar]). The United States reversed its policy of encouraging the development of plutonium breeder reactors worldwide to avoid an anticipated shortage of uranium. The breeder reactors would convert abundant non-chain-reacting uranium 238 into chain-reacting plutonium and then use the plutonium as fuel, while conventional reactors are fueled primarily by chain-reacting uranium 235, which makes up only 0.7 percent of natural uranium.

The Ford administration (1974–77) blocked France’s plan to sell spent fuel reprocessing plants to South Korea and Pakistan but did not succeed in persuading Japan to abandon its nearly complete Tokai pilot reprocessing plant. Therefore, when the Carter administration took office in January 1977, it inherited the difficult plutonium discussion with Japan.

The earliest document in the newly released trove is a 19-page memo dated 24 January 1977, in which career State Department official Louis Nosenzo briefs the incoming Carter political appointees on the issue.22. See: http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=3859705-Document-01-Louis-Nozenzo-Bureau-of-Political.View all notes His arguments are strikingly similar to those being made some 40 years later by United States and international nongovernmental organizations such as the International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM 2015IPFM. 2015Plutonium Separation in Nuclear Power Programs. See:http://fissilematerials.org/library/rr14.pdf. [Google Scholar]) and by US government officials – most recently, members of the Obama administration.33. Japan Times, “U.S. would back a rethink of Japan’s plutonium recycling program: White House,” 21 May 2016.View all notes

These arguments are, in brief, that the separation and use of plutonium as a fuel is not economically competitive with simply storing the spent fuel until its radioactive heat generation has declined and a deep underground repository has been constructed for its final disposal. In this “once-through” fuel cycle, the plutonium remains mixed with the radioactive fission products in the intact spent fuel and therefore is relatively inaccessible for use in weapons.

The earliest document in the newly released trove is a 19-page memo dated 24 January 1977, in which career State Department official Louis Nosenzo briefs the incoming Carter political appointees on the issue.22. See: http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=3859705-Document-01-Louis-Nozenzo-Bureau-of-Political.View all notes His arguments are strikingly similar to those being made some 40 years later by United States and international nongovernmental organizations such as the International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM 2015IPFM. 2015Plutonium Separation in Nuclear Power Programs. See:http://fissilematerials.org/library/rr14.pdf. [Google Scholar]) and by US government officials – most recently, members of the Obama administration.33. Japan Times, “U.S. would back a rethink of Japan’s plutonium recycling program: White House,” 21 May 2016.View all notes

These arguments are, in brief, that the separation and use of plutonium as a fuel is not economically competitive with simply storing the spent fuel until its radioactive heat generation has declined and a deep underground repository has been constructed for its final disposal. In this “once-through” fuel cycle, the plutonium remains mixed with the radioactive fission products in the intact spent fuel and therefore is relatively inaccessible for use in weapons.

Presumably with tongue in cheek, he opined that “[s]pace limitations are a real problem only for countries like Luxemburg.” (Luxemburg, about equal in area to St. Louis, Missouri, did not and still does not have a nuclear program.) Subsequently, it was pointed out that the volume of an underground repository for highly radioactive waste is determined not by the volume of the waste but by its heat output; the waste has to be spread out to limit the temperature increase of the surrounding buffer clay and rock (IPFM 2015IPFM. 2015Plutonium Separation in Nuclear Power Programs. See:http://fissilematerials.org/library/rr14.pdf. [Google Scholar]). Reprocessing waste would contain all the heat-generating fission products in the original spent fuel, and the heat generated by the plutonium in one ton of spent MOX fuel would be about the same as the heat generated by the plutonium in the approximately seven tons of spent low-enriched uranium fuel from which the plutonium used to manufacture the fresh MOX fuel had been recovered.

With regard to the issue of the need for plutonium to provide startup fuel for breeder reactors, Nosenzo noted that “experimental breeders currently utilize uranium [highly enriched in the chain-reacting isotope uranium 235] rather than plutonium for start-up and this will probably also be true of commercial breeder start-up operations.”44. This was not entirely correct. Although the United States, Russian, and Chinese experimental and prototype breeder reactors started up with enriched uranium fuel and all breeder reactors could have been, plutonium fuel was used to start up the prototypes in France, Japan, and the United Kingdom. See International Fuel Cycle Evaluation, Fast Breeders(IAEA 1980IAEA. 1980International Fuel Cycle Evaluation, Fast Breeders. Vienna: International Atomic Energy Agency. [Google Scholar]) Table III. M. Ragheb, “Fermi I Fuel Meltdown Incident” (2014). Available at http://mragheb.com/NPRE%20457%20CSE%20462%20Safety%20Analysis%20of%20Nuclear%20Reactor%20Systems/Fermi%20I%20Fuel%20Meltdown%20Incident.pdf.View all notes

“[T]here is a strong need for a US position paper presenting the above rationale with supporting analysis,” Nosenzo wrote. “This would be of value, for example, with other governments in the nuclear suppliers context and more generally … for use by sympathetic foreign ministries attempting to cope effectively with their ministries of energy, of technology and of economics.”

The last point reflected the reality that the promotion of breeder reactors was central to the plans of powerful trade ministries around the world, including Japan’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry (now the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry), and that foreign ministries sometimes use independent analyses to push back against positions of other ministries that seem extreme to them. A few years ago, an official of South Korea’s Foreign Ministry, for example, privately described the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute, the driving force behind South Korea’s demand for the same “right” to reprocess as Japan, as “our Taliban.”

Japan planned to start operation of its Tokai reprocessing plant later that spring, and it appeared clear to Nosenzo that it would be impossible to prevent the operation of the almost completed plant. Another memo cited Prime Minister Fukuda as publicly calling reprocessing a matter of “life and death” for Japan.55. See: http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=3859730-Document-05-Memorandum-from-Ambassador-at-Large.View all notes Japan’s government had committed itself to achieving what Glenn Seaborg, chairman of the US Atomic Energy Commission from 1961–71, had relentlessly promoted as a “plutonium economy,” in which the world would be powered by the element he had codiscovered.

Why would the Fukuda administration have seen the separation and use of plutonium as so critical? We believe that the Prime Minister had been convinced by Japan’s plutonium advocates that the country’s dependence on imported uranium would create an economic vulnerability such as the country had experienced during the 1973 Arab oil embargo, still a recent and painful memory. Indeed, according to a popular view in Japan, further back, in 1941, it was a US embargo on oil exports to Japan that had triggered Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. The plutonium advocates argued that breeder reactors would eliminate resource-poor Japan’s vulnerability to a uranium cutoff by turning already imported uranium into a virtually inexhaustible supply of plutonium fuel for its reactors.

During the past 40 years, however, uranium has been abundant, cheap, and available from a variety of countries. Furthermore, as some foreign observers have suggested, if Japan was really concerned about possible disruptions of supply, it could have acquired a 50-year strategic reserve of uranium at a much lower cost than its plutonium program (Leventhal and Dolley 1994Leventhal, P., and S. Dolley1994. “A Japanese Strategic Uranium Reserve: A Safe and Economic Alternative to Plutonium.” Science & Global Security 5: 131. doi:10.1080/08929889408426412.[Taylor & Francis Online][Google Scholar]). Indeed, because of the low cost of uranium, globally, utilities have accumulated an inventory sufficient for about seven years. Although it took several years for Congress to accept the Carter administration’s proposal to end the US reprocessing and breeder reactor development programs, Congress did support the administration’s effort to discourage plutonium programs abroad. The Nuclear Nonproliferation Act of 1978 required that nuclear cooperation agreements with other countries be renegotiated so that any spent fuel that had either originally been produced in the United States or had been irradiated in a reactor containing components or design information subject to US export controls could not be reprocessed without prior consent from the US government. Internally, however, the administration was divided over whether the United States could force its allies to accept such US control over their nuclear programs.

One of the final memos in the National Security Archives file, written in May 1980, toward the end of the Carter administration by Jerry Oplinger, a staffer on the National Security Council, criticized a proposal by Gerard Smith, President Carter’s ambassador at large for nuclear nonproliferation. Smith proposed that the administration provide blanket advance consent for spent fuel reprocessing in Western Europe and Japan.77. See: http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=3859749-Document-22-Jerry-Oplinger-to-Leon-Billings-and.View all notes Oplinger characterized Smith’s proposal as “surrender” and argued that, even though the danger of further proliferation in Europe or by Japan was low, their examples could be used by other countries as a justification for launching their own plutonium programs.

The Carter administration did not surrender to the Japanese and the West European reprocessing lobbies but, in 1988, in exchange for added requirements for safeguards and physical protection of plutonium, the Reagan administration signed a renegotiated US–Japan agreement on nuclear cooperation with full, advance, programmatic consent to reprocessing by Japan for 30 years. In the original 1968 agreement, the United States had been given the right to review each Japanese shipment of spent fuel to the British and French reprocessing plants on a case-by-case basis and to make a joint determination on reprocessing in Japan. This right had allowed the United States to question whether Japan needed more separated plutonium. As a result of the 1988 agreement, by the time of the 2011 Fukushima accident, Japan had built up a stock of some 44 tons of separated plutonium, an amount sufficient for more than 5000 Nagasaki-type bombs (Japan Atomic Energy Commission 2012Japan Atomic Energy Commission. 2012. “The Current Situation of Plutonium Management in Japan,” September 11. [Google Scholar]), and the largest amount of MOX fuel it had loaded in a single year (2010) contained about one ton of plutonium (IPFM 2015IPFM. 2015Plutonium Separation in Nuclear Power Programs. See:http://fissilematerials.org/library/rr14.pdf. [Google Scholar]).

The initial period of the 1988 agreement will expire in 2018, after which either party may terminate it by giving six months written notice. This provides an opportunity for the US government to reraise the issue of reprocessing with Japan.

Unlike the 1968 agreement with Japan, the 1958 US–EURATOM agreement did not have a requirement of prior US consent for reprocessing of European spent fuel in West Europe. The Europeans refused to renegotiate this agreement, and, starting with President Carter, successive US presidents extended the US–EURATOM agreement by executive order year by year (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 1994Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Frans Berkhout and William Walker, “Atlantic Impasse,” September-October 1994. [Google Scholar]). Finally, in 1995, the Clinton administration negotiated language in a new agreement that the European reprocessors accepted as a commitment to noninterference (Behrens and Donnelly 1996Behrens, C. E., and W. H.Donnelly1996. “EURATOM and the United States: Renewing the Agreement for Nuclear Cooperation,” Congressional Research Service, April 26. Available at:https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metacrs312/m1/1/high_res_d/IB96001_1996Apr26.html; andhttp://ec.europa.eu/world/agreements/prepareCreateTreatiesWorkspace/treatiesGeneralData.do?step=0&redirect=true&treatyId=304 [Google Scholar]). By that time, the nonnuclear weapon states in Europe – notably Germany and Italy – had lost interest in breeder reactors and the only reprocessing plants listed in the agreement were those of United Kingdom and France. Reprocessing proponents in Japan often say that Japan is the only non-weapon state trusted by the international community to reprocess. In reality, Japan is the only non-weapon state that has not abandoned reprocessing because of its poor economics.

As Oplinger pointed out, Japan played a central role in sustaining large-scale reprocessing in Europe as well as at home. In addition to planning to build their own large reprocessing plant, Japan’s nuclear utilities provided capital, in the form of prepaid reprocessing contracts, for building large new merchant reprocessing plants in France and the United Kingdom. France also played a leading role in promoting reprocessing and in designing Japan’s reprocessing plant.

Oplinger insisted that the planned reprocessing programs in Europe and Japan would produce huge excesses of separated plutonium beyond the requirements of planned breeder programs: “Any one of these three projected plants would more than swamp the projected plutonium needs of all the breeder R&D programs in the world. Three of them would produce a vast surplus … amounting to several hundred tons by the year 2000.”

He attached a graph projecting that by the year 2000, the three plants would produce a surplus of 370 tons of separated plutonium beyond the requirements of breeder research and development. The actual stock of separated civilian plutonium in Europe and Japan in 2000 was huge – using the IAEA’s metric of 8 kilograms per bomb, enough for 20,000 Nagasaki bombs – but about half the amount projected in Oplinger’s memo (IPFM 2015IPFM. 2015Plutonium Separation in Nuclear Power Programs. See:http://fissilematerials.org/library/rr14.pdf. [Google Scholar]). This was due in part to operating problems with the UK reprocessing plant and delays in the operation of Japan’s large reprocessing plant. On the demand side, breeder use was much less than had been projected, but, in an attempt to deal with the surplus stocks, quite a bit of plutonium was fabricated into MOX and irradiated in Europe’s conventional reactors.

Forty years later, Japan’s breeder program, the original justification for its reprocessing program, is virtually dead.  Japan officially abandoned its Monju prototype breeder reactor in 2016 after two decades of failed efforts to restore it to operation after a 1995 leak of its sodium secondary coolant and a resulting fire. Japan’s government now talks of joining France in building a new Advanced Sodium Technological Reactor for Industrial Demonstration (ASTRID) in France, and France’s nuclear establishment has welcomed the idea of Japan sharing the cost.8

8. See: https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20161022/p2a/00m/0na/005000c.View all notes The mission for ASTRID-type fast-neutron reactors would be to fission the plutonium and other long-lived transuranic elements in spent low-enriched uranium fuel and MOX fuel, for which Japan will have to build a new reprocessing plant. According to France’s 2006 radioactive waste law, ASTRID was supposed to be commissioned by the end of 2020.99. See: http://www.andra.fr/download/andra-international-en/document/editions/305va.pdf, Article 3.1.View all notes Its budget has been secured only for the design period extending to 2019, however. In an October 2016 briefing in Tokyo, the manager of the ASTRID program showed the project’s schedule with a “consolidation phase” beginning in 2020 (Devictor 2016Devictor, N.2016. “ASTRID: Expectations to Japanese Entities’ Participation.” Nuclear Energy Division, French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, TokyoOctober 27. Available at:http://www.meti.go.jp/committee/kenkyukai/energy/fr/pdf/002_02_02.pdf [Google Scholar]). The next day, the official in charge of nuclear issues at France’s embassy in Tokyo stated that ASTRID would not start up before 2033 (Félix 2016Félix, S. 2016. Interview with Mainichi Shimbun, October27in Japanese. Available at:http://mainichi.jp/articles/20161027/ddm/008/040/036000c [Google Scholar]). Thus, in 10 years, the schedule had slipped by 13 years. It has been obvious for four decades that breeder reactors and plutonium use as a reactor fuel will be uneconomic. The latest estimate of the total project cost for Japan’s Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant, including construction, operation for 40 years, and decommissioning, is now 13.9 trillion yen ($125 billion), with the construction cost alone reaching 2.95 trillion yen ($27 billion), including 0.75 trillion yen for upgrades due to new safety regulations introduced after the Fukushima accident. The total project cost of the MOX fuel fabrication facility, including some 42 years of operation and decommissioning, is now estimated at 2.3 trillion yen ($21 billion) (Nuclear Reprocessing Organization of Japan 2017

Nuclear Reprocessing Organization of Japan, “Concerning the Project Cost of Reprocessing, Etc.” July 2017 (in Japanese). [Google Scholar]). In the United States, after it became clear in 1977 that reprocessing and breeder reactors made no economic sense and could create a proliferation nightmare, it took only about five years for the government and utilities to agree to abandon both programs, despite the fact that industry had spent about $1.3 billion in 2017 dollars on construction of a reprocessing plant in South Carolina (GAO 1984GAO. 1984Status and Commercial Potential of the Barnwell Nuclear Fuel Plant, US General Accounting Office. Available at:http://www.gao.gov/assets/150/141343.pdf, p. 11. [Google Scholar]), and the government had spent $4.2 billion on the Clinch River Demonstration Breeder Reactor project (Peach How could Japan’s government have allowed reprocessing advocates to drive its electric-power utilities to pursue its hugely costly plutonium program over 40 years?

For context, it must be remembered that the United States, a nuclear superpower, has been much more concerned about nuclear proliferation and terrorism than Japan. Tetsuya Endo, a former diplomat involved in the negotiations of the 1988 agreement, depicted the difference in the attitude of the two governments as follows:

Whereas the criterion of the United States, in particular that of the US government … is security (nuclear proliferation is one aspect of it), that of the Japan side is nuclear energy. … [I]t can be summarized as security vs. energy supply and the direction of interests are rather out of alignment. (Endo 2014Endo, T. 2014Formation Process and Issues from Now on of the 1988 Japan-US Nuclear Agreement (Revised Edition). Tokyo: Japan Institute of International Affairs. In Japanese:http://www2.jiia.or.jp/pdf/resarch/H25_US-JPN_nuclear_agreement/140212_US-JPN_nuclear_energy_agreement.pdf [Google Scholar])As we have seen, in the United States, after India’s 1974 nuclear test, both the Ford and Carter administrations considered the spread of reprocessing a very serious security issue. Indeed, a ship that entered a Japanese port on 16 October 1976 to transport spent fuel to the United Kingdom could not leave for nine days due to the Ford administration’s objections (Ibara 1984

Ibara, T. 1984Twilight of the Nuclear Power KingdomTokyoNihon Hyoron Sha. in Japanese. [Google Scholar]). In Japan, the US concerns about nuclear proliferation and terrorism have been generally considered interference in Japan’s energy policy by a country that possesses one of the worlds’ largest nuclear arsenals. Even the eyes of parliament members opposed to reprocessing, antinuclear weapon activists and the media sometimes got blurred by this nationalistic sentiment.

Nevertheless, reprocessing is enormously costly and the willingness of Japan’s government to force its nuclear utilities to accept the cost requires explanation.

One explanation, offered by the Japan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) (Japan Atomic Energy Commission 2005Japan Atomic Energy Commission. 2005Framework for Nuclear Energy PolicyOctober 11. Available at:http://www.aec.go.jp/jicst/NC/tyoki/tyoki_e.htm. [Google Scholar]), involves the political challenge of negotiating arrangements for storing spent fuel indefinitely at reactor sites. The government and utilities had promised the host communities and prefectures that spent fuel would be removed from the sites. The reprocessing policy provided destinations – first Europe and the Tokai pilot plant, and then the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant. The JAEC argued that, since it would take years to negotiate indefinite onsite storage of spent fuel, nuclear power plants with no place to put spent fuel in the meantime would be shut down one after another, which would result in an economic loss even greater than the cost of reprocessing.

Japan’s nuclear utilities have had to increase on-site storage of spent fuel in any case due to delays in the startup of the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant, which was originally to start commercial operations in 1997. Indeed, the utilities have adopted the dangerous US practice of dense-packing their spent-fuel cooling pools with used fuel assemblies. Storing spent fuel in dry casks, onsite or offsite, cooled by natural convection of air would be much safer (von Hippel and Schoeppner 2016von Hippel, F., and M.Schoeppner2016. “Reducing the Danger from Fires in Spent Fuel Pools.” Science & Global Security 24: 141173. Available at:http://scienceandglobalsecurity.org/archive/sgs24vonhippel.pdf. doi:10.1080/08929882.2016.1235382.[Taylor & Francis Online][Web of Science ®][Google Scholar]). In the United States, spent fuel is transferred to onsite dry cask storage after the dense-packed pools become completely full. It’s better to make this transfer as soon as the spent fuel gets cool enough. Such a shift to a policy of accelerated dry cask storage would require stronger nuclear safety regulation in both countries (Lyman, Schoeppner, and von Hippel 2017Lyman, E.M. Schoeppner, and F. von Hippel2017. “Nuclear Safety Regulation in the post-Fukushima Era.” Science 356: 808809. doi:10.1126/science.aal4890.[Crossref][PubMed][Web of Science ®][Google Scholar]

Second, there is the bureaucratic explanation. The bureaucracy has more power over policy in Japan than in the United States. In Japan, when a new prime minister is elected in the Diet, only the ministers change whereas, in the United States with a two-party system, policy making is shared by Congress and the executive branch to a greater extent, and a new president routinely replaces more than 4000 officials at the top of the bureaucracy.1010. See: “Help Wanted: 4,000 Presidential Appointees” (Center for Presidential Transition, 16 March 2016) at: http://presidentialtransition.org/blog/posts/160316_help-wanted-4000-appointees.php.View all notes (This works both for the better and worse as can be observed in the current US administration.) Also, in Japan, unlike the United States, the bureaucracy is closed. There are virtually no mixed careers, with people working both inside and outside the bureaucracy (Tanaka 2009Tanaka, H. 2009. “The Civil Service System and Governance in Japan.” Available at:http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/apcity/unpan039129.pdf. [Google Scholar]).

Third, the provision of electric power has been a heavily regulated regional monopoly in Japan. Utilities therefore have been able to pass the extra costs of reprocessing on to consumers without eroding their own profits. This monopoly structure also has given utilities enormous power both locally and nationally, making it possible for them to influence both election results and the policy-making process. Thus, even if the original reprocessing policy was made by bureaucrats, it is now very difficult to change because of this complicated web of influence.

Japan has been gradually shifting toward deregulation, especially since the Fukushima accident, but a law has been passed to protect reprocessing by requiring the utilities to pay in advance, at the time of irradiation, for reprocessing the spent fuel and fabricating the recovered plutonium into MOX fuel (Suzuki and Takubo 2016Suzuki, T., and M. Takubo2016. “Japan’s New Law on Funding Plutonium Reprocessing,” May 26. Available at:http://fissilematerials.org/blog/2016/05/japans_new_law_on_funding.html. [Google Scholar]). The fact that nuclear utilities didn’t fight openly against this law, which will make them pay extra costs in the deregulated market, suggests that they expect the government to come up with a system of spreading the cost to consumers purchasing electricity generated by nonnuclear power producers, for example with a charge for electricity transmission and distribution, which will continue to be regulated.

Plutonium separation programs also persist in France, India, and Russia. China, too, has had a reprocessing policy for decades, although a small industrial reprocessing plant is only at the site-preparation stage and a site has not yet been found for a proposed large reprocessing plant that is to be bought from France. Central bureaucracies have great power in these countries, as they do in Japan. France’s government-owned utility has made clear that, where it has the choice – as it has had in the United Kingdom, whose nuclear power plants it also operates – it will opt out of reprocessing. This is one of the reasons why reprocessing will end in the United Kingdom over the next few years as the preexisting contracts are fulfilled (IPFM 2015

IPFM. 2015Plutonium Separation in Nuclear Power Programs. See:http://fissilematerials.org/library/rr14.pdf. [Google Scholar]).

A final explanation put forward from time to time for the persistence of reprocessing in Japan is that Japan’s security establishment wants to keep open a nuclear weapon option. There already are about 10 tons of separated plutonium in Japan, however (with an additional 37 tons of Japanese plutonium in France and the United Kingdom), and the design capacity of the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant to separate eight tons of plutonium, enough to make 1000 nuclear warheads per year, is far greater than Japan could possibly need for a nuclear weapon option. Also, Japan already has a centrifuge enrichment plant much larger than that planned by Iran. Iran’s program precipitated an international crisis because of proliferation concerns. Japan’s plant, like Iran’s, is designed to produce low-enriched uranium for nuclear power plants, but the cascades could be quickly reorganized to produce enough weapon-grade uranium for 10 bombs per year from natural uranium. Japan plans to expand this enrichment capacity more than 10-fold.1111. For Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited’s current and planned enrichment capacities, see: http://www.jnfl.co.jp/en/business/uran/. It takes about 5000 separative work units (SWUs) to produce enough HEU for a first-generation nuclear weapon – defined by the IAEA to be highly enriched uranium (usually assumed to be 90 percent enriched in U-235) containing 25 kilograms of U-235.View all notes It is therefore hard to imagine that the hugely costly Rokkasho reprocessing project is continuing because security officials are secretly pushing for it.

The idea that Japan is maintaining a nuclear weapon option has negative effects for Japan’s security, however, raising suspicions among its neighbors and legitimizing arguments in South Korea that it should acquire its own nuclear weapon option. It also undermines nuclear disarmament. According to the New York Times, when President Obama considered adopting a no-first-use policy before leaving office, Secretary of State John Kerry “argued that Japan would be unnerved by any diminution of the American nuclear umbrella, and perhaps be tempted to obtain their own weapon” (Sanger and Broad 2016Sanger, D., and W. Broad2016. “Obama Unlikely to Vow No First Use of Nuclear Weapons.” New York TimesSeptember 5. Available at:https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/06/science/obama-unlikely-to-vow-no-first-use-of-nuclear-weapons.html [Google Scholar]). It’s about time for both the security officials and antinuclear weapon movements to examine this concern more seriously.

Given the terrible economics of reprocessing, its end in Japan and France should only be a matter of time. As the 40-year-long impasse over Japan’s program demonstrates, however, the inevitable can take a very long time, while the costs and dangers continue to accumulate. The world has been fortunate that the stubborn refusals of Japan and France to abandon their failing reprocessing programs have not resulted in a proliferation of plutonium programs, or the theft and use of their plutonium by terrorists. The South Korean election of President Moon Jae-in – who holds antinuclear-power views – may result in a decrease in pressure from Seoul for the “right” to reprocess.

The combined effects of the “invisible hand” of economics and US policy therefore have thus far been remarkably successful in blocking the spread of reprocessing to non-weapon states other than Japan. China’s growing influence in the international nuclear-energy industry and its planned reprocessing program, including the construction of a large French-designed reprocessing plant, could soon, however, pose a new challenge to this nonproliferation success story. Decisions by France and Japan to take their completely failed reprocessing programs off costly government-provided life support might convince China to rethink its policy.

September 16, 2017 Posted by | - plutonium, history, Reference, reprocessing | Leave a comment

Danger of nuclear wastes parked on the edge of the Pacific

There’s no great answer for nuclear waste, but almost anything is better than perching it on the Pacific, LA Times. 12 Sept 17 One of the great failures in U.S. energy policy was that we’ve never figured out what to do with the lethally radioactive waste produced by nuclear power plants. That’s why the owners of the decommissioned San Onofre nuclear plant have had little choice but to keep their spent fuel rods on site, bundled up in concrete bunkers at the edge of the Pacific Ocean, dangerously close to an earthquake fault and millions of people — and hope for the best until the federal government finds a good place to put the deadly waste.The feds don’t have one yet, but developments in court and in the marketplace could help move San Onofre’s waste somewhere considerably less risky. As part of a legal settlement earlier this month, Southern California Edison, which is the majority owner of the shuttered nuclear power plant, promised to make a good-faith effort to find a safer home for the 3.55 million pounds of nuclear waste at the plant. That’s a welcome shift for the company, which has been focused on moving its spent fuel rods into safer containers on-site.

And unlike in the past, it may have several choices for where to send the waste. Although there still are no federally licensed nuclear waste dumps, despite the billions of dollars ratepayers have paid to fund them, as of this year there are two proposals for temporary storage sites that could conceivably be ready for business by the early 2020s……..

Granted, when it comes to waste that’s going to remain radioactive for tens of thousands of years, there are no great solutions. But there are certainly better ones than continuing to hold more than 70,000 tons of nuclear fuel at about 120 operating and decommissioned nuclear plants across the country in facilities never intended for long-term storage, then hoping for the best.http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-nuclear-waste-storage-20170911-story.html

September 16, 2017 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

No solution insight for the eternal storage of nuclear radioactive trash

Nuclear waste: Where to store it for eternity?http://www.dw.com/en/nuclear-waste-where-to-store-it-for-eternity/a-40449893Ruby Russell, 12 Sept 17 

Nuclear power stations have been churning out radioactive waste for decades. At least 10 new reactors came online last year – making the question of long-term storage all the more pressing. There’s no solution in sight.

In 2016, 10 new nuclear reactors went online – and two more are set to go online in the first half of 2017, according to the 2017 World Nuclear Industry Status Report published Tuesday. Six of these new nuclear power plants are based in China, which now ranks third on the list of the “big five” nuclear generating countries after the United States and France.

The big five make up 70 percent of the world’s nuclear energy, while the US and France account for almost half of global nuclear energy generation.

In this time period, only four reactors were shut down.

As nuclear reactors continue to go online, the question of what to do with nuclear waste becomes all the more pressing – and still hasn’t been answered properly.

In September this year, Germany begins the search to find a final storage solution for nuclear waste. A special commission is to scour the country for a suitable geological site to build a deep repository, where it can bury the toxic legacy of decades of nuclear power production – once and for all.

The government aims to find a site by 2031. But critics are skeptical that it will meet the deadline.

There are complex technical questions over whether clay, granite or salt might provide the best protection against leakage or contamination. The site has to be secure for a million years – so scientists have to be sure it will survive eventualities such as future ice ages.

But just the biggest challenge will be to persuade communities to accept a nuclear waste dump on their doorstep.

Four decades of resistance at Gorleben

In the late 1970s, West Germany chose a salt site at Gorleben in Lower Saxony for exploration as a possible final nuclear waste repository. A decades-long battle ensued, with locals vehemently protesting against the project.

Protestors long argued that Gorleben, a sparsely populated area close to the East German border, was selected for political rather than scientific grounds.

Technical questions were also raised.

Science vs. politics

US nuclear expert Robert Alvarez say at least Germany has a well-defined set of scientific criteria to select a site that will be geologically stable and protect the waste in barrels from oxidation, and therefore corrosion.

“I think the German government has been paying more attention to the geologists and to the nuclear safety people,” Alavarez, an associate fellow at the US Institute for Policy Studies, told DW.

In the United States, President Donald Trump has been making moves to restart work on a repository at Yucca Mountain, a former nuclear weapons test site in the remote Nevada desert.

Alvarez describes the selection of the site ahead of the 1988 election as the result of a political move by Congress, which scrapped a survey of various locations around the US.

“People went crazy – and it scared all the politicians who were running for election,” Alvarez explains. “So by 1987 when the process was unfolding, Congress just changed the law, and said: ‘We’re going to put it in Yucca Mountain, all you guys are off the hook.'”

He points out that the site was already contaminated from nuclear testing, and that Nevada has just one electoral college vote. But he says geological conditions at Yucca Mountain are far from ideal, and would require large-scale ventilation for at least 100 years to keep the waste cool.

“There is a lot of baloney about it being scientifically the best site,” Alvarez says. A granite site, like those being explored in Finland and Norway, would be far more suitable, he says.

“We have quite a lot of granite geology in our country but it happens to be in populated areas,” Alvarez added.

Scandinavia leading the way

Finland has made headlines with what has been lauded as the world’s first final long-term nuclear waste repository, 400 meters deep in the granite bedrock off the country’s west coast. A similar project is underway in Sweden.

Alvarez says these Scandinavian countries are very much leading the way. But can we really be sure that these deep granite repositories will be safe in hundred of year, as Finland intends?

“To put it mildly, that claim contains strong elements of speculation,” Alvarez says. “How can we predict what the world will be like even 100 years from now?”

And other countries face bigger challenges.

Repository plans collapse around the world

“The problem in Finland and Sweden is dead simple,” says Andy Blowers of independent expert group Nuclear Waste Advisory Associates. “You have one type geology, and lots of it – you’ve got very few power stations, and so a defined amount of waste.”

France, which gets three-quarters of its electricity from nuclear, planned to open a repository at Bure in eastern France by 2030. But, like Yucca Mountain, it has been beset by technical problems and safety concerns, and protestors are campaigning against the project.

In the United Kingdom, plans for a repository located close to its Sellafield decommissioning and reprocessing site were scrapped following public and scientific consultation.

And in Australia this past summer, the government abandoned plans for an international repository that would take nuclear waste from around the world – due to public opposition.

Waiting for a solution

So, with even Finland yet to begin loading its repository, what’s happening to all the waste generated over the more than six decades we’ve been powering out economies with atomic energy?

For the most part, it’s sitting around – above ground, in temporary and interim storage facilities with widely varying levels of security, which were never intended to store so much waste, for so long.

Alvarez says Germany is, again, managing better than most. For one thing, Germany was using casks that are Mercedes models compared the United States’ old Chevys, he said. They are far thicker and can safely contain waste for longer.

Wet storage threatens disaster

There is a big difference between wet and dry storage. Nuclear waste has to be cooled in liquid. But if the liquid evaporates, spent fuel quickly heats up – and could result in fires with consequences experts say would dwarf Chernobyl.

When the Fukushima accident occurred in 2011, a pool containing a spent reactor was badly damaged and such an accident briefly arose as a possibility.

In fact, a leak refilled the pool. Without this happy accident, tens of millions of people – perhaps as much at 27 percent of Japan‘s population, according to some experts – would have had to be evacuated.

And yet, despite the dangers, countries including France, the UK, Korea and the US are storing nuclear waste in pools well after experts say it should have been put into dry cask storage.

Experts say the most pressing problem is not finding sites for final repositories, but ensuring that intermediate storage is safe – and will continue to be safe for as long as it takes to solve the riddle of how to get rid of humankind’s most toxic garbage.

Buying time

“I suspect that what we are going to be looking at over time is that there’s going to have to be a great deal longer period of surface storage,” Alvaraz says.

Mycle Schneider, an independent nuclear policy analyst and lead author of the annual status report, is not convinced geological storage should even be the ultimate goal, and that waste should be retrievable in case we find a better way to deal with it.

For time being, he says, it’s a matter of finding the least-bad solution.

“It’s very clear,” Schneider told DW. “Take spent fuel out of the pools as quickly as possible and into dry storage, even if that storage might not be ideal to begin with. Then you get to next stage, which is an appropriate building, and then into hardened storage, like a bunker.

“And from there, you can begin to think about eternity.”

September 15, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, wastes | Leave a comment

Closed since 1977, Dounreay Fast Reactor at last being emptied of radioactive fuel elements

BBC 12th Sept 2017, Work has begun on the “challenging” task of removing radioactive fuel
elements stuck inside the most famous of Dounreay’s reactors. Closed since
1977, the Dounreay Fast Reactor is known for its dome-shaped exterior.
Almost 1,000 fuel elements have been in the reactor for years after the  work to remove them was halted because they were swollen and jammed in.

New technology has now been developed to make it possible to remove them. It
could take three years to complete the job at the nuclear power site near
Thurso in Caithness. Once all the elements have been removed work can begin
on dismantling the reactor.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-41245375

September 14, 2017 Posted by | decommission reactor, UK | Leave a comment

Cold War-era nuclear waste in the path of Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma may plow into a site full of Cold War-era nuclear waste, Business Insider, DAVE MOSHER, 

September 11, 2017 Posted by | climate change, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Sweden’s Environmental Court hearing proposal for a final repository for spent nuclear fuel in Forsmark

Christina Macpherson’s websites & blogs

This is of particular interest to Australia. The Australian  government touts Finland as the great model for acceptance of nuclear waste dump. But in fact, the model adopted by Finland, (by a poorly informed public) was taken from the one refused by Sweden – where a much more informed community used a much more democratic process to study the waste dump issue. See “When haste makes risky waste: Public involvement in radioactive and nuclear waste management in Sweden and Finland” http://bellona.org/…/radioactive-waste…/2016-08-21710

The Environmental Court’s main licensing hearing about a final repository for spent nuclear fuel in Forsmark – September 5 to October 27     http://www.mkg.se/en/the-environmental-court-s-main-licensing-hearing-about-a-final-repository-for-spent-nuclear-fuel-in#.WbJtaWAl7II.facebook The Environmental Court’s main hearing concerning the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company SKB’s license application for a final repository for spent nuclear fuel in Forsmark, Sweden, began September 5, at Quality Hotel Nacka in Stockholm. The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, SSNC, and the Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear Waste Review, MKG, are working together during the main hearing. Follow and get updates during and after the main hearing from the Twitter account of the director of MKG, Johan Swahn, and MKG’s Facebook.

On September 5, the Environmental Court’s main hearing concerning the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company SKB’s license application for a final repository for spent nuclear fuel in Forsmark, Sweden, began at Quality Hotel Nacka in Stockholm. The main hearing will be in progress for five weeks, between September 5 and October 27. The first two weeks take place in Stockholm. Then, there will be a break for two weeks. The third week will take place in Oskarhamn (were the interim storage Clab is located and were the Waste Company wants to build an encapsulation facility, Clink) and the fourth week will take place in Östhammar (nearby the selected site for the final repository). After another break for one week, the main hearing will be concluded in Stockholm.

The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, SSNC, and the Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear Waste Review, MKG, are working together during the main hearing. The organisations will bring their statements, which fundamentally are:

    • The chosen solution for a final repository will not be safe since there is a large risk of the malfunction of the barrier system of copper and clay – the licence application should be denied or rejected!

    • There is a large risk that the copper canisters will break down within 1 000 years – a possible scenario is that it might be a contaminated, uninhabitable, forbidden zone in Forsmark!
    • The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority, SSM, is aware of the large problems with the license application, but still wants to give an OK to continue towards a Government decision and afterwards ensure that the copper canister will function as intended – this is unaccepted and legal questionable!
    • There is an alternative method, the use of very deep boreholes – that might be environmentally safer, entails less risks for human intrusion, and is most likely a less expensive solution for final disposal!

    • The nature existing on the suggested site in Forsmark is of high value (there is a number of red-listed species and species protected by the Habitats Directive’s appendix 4) ­– this, in itself, constitutes a reason to reject the license application!

Follow and get updates during and after the main hearing at the director of MKG’s Twitter (@jswahn) and at MKG:s Facebook (mostly written in Swedish but can be translated directly on the website).

Links:

The negotiation procedure of the main hearing, 170704 >>

The director of MKG’s Twitter >>

MKG on Facebook >>

Previous news on MKG’s website:

Regulator recommends approval of final repository plan — despite unresolved safety issues, 160629 >>

Reject the application! Legal brief from the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation and MKG to the Environmental Court and SSM, 160531 >>

September 9, 2017 Posted by | Legal, Sweden, wastes | Leave a comment

USA’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant cannot fit in excess plutonium radioactive trash

Plutonium waste too much for WIPP, Albuquerque Journal, By Maddy Hayden / Journal Staff Writer,, September   8th, 2017 This story has been updated to reflect that a change in the amount of waste stored at WIPP would need a congressional amendment.

Southeastern New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant won’t have room for the 34 metric tons of excess plutonium the Department of Energy hopes to permanently dispose of there.In fact, a report by the Government Accountability Office released this week says that even the current amounts of waste planned for storage at the nation’s only underground nuclear waste repository won’t fit.

The report, “Proposed Dilute and Dispose Approach Highlights Need for More Work at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant,” recommends the DOE develop a plan to expand storage capacity at the facility.

“DOE does not have sufficient disposal space at WIPP to dispose of all defense TRU waste already planned for disposal, and future sources of waste could exceed WIPP’s statutory capacity,” the report reads. “While DOE officials stated that they recognize expansion of WIPP’s disposal space may be necessary in the future, they have not analyzed or planned for expanding the facility because their focus has been on resuming waste emplacement operations at WIPP.”……..

A 2000 agreement between the United States and Russia stipulated that each nation would dispose of 34 metric tons of excess plutonium — enough to create 17,000 nuclear weapons.

While Russia suspended its participation in the agreement in October due to perceived threats from the U.S., the United States is continuing steps toward disposing of the waste.

One of the options being considered for the plutonium is a downblending process which renders the material inert. It would then be disposed of at WIPP.

That would be in addition to waste generated by DOE sites around country; those have around 71,000 cubic meters of waste waiting to be emplaced underground

The regulatory limit of waste that can be stored at WIPP is 175,565 cubic meters, as designated in the 1992 Land Withdrawal Act.

That could be changed through congressional amendment, according to the GAO……https://www.abqjournal.com/1060048/feds-wipp-needs-more-room-for-waste.html

September 9, 2017 Posted by | - plutonium, USA | Leave a comment

Dismantling of Sellafield’s Pile Fuel Cladding Silo (PFCS) locked vault

Energy Live News 5th Sept 2017, The world’s oldest nuclear waste store has been cut open for the first
time. Experts at the Sellafield site in Cumbria have cut the first hole in
the Pile Fuel Cladding Silo (PFCS), a locked vault which was never designed
to be opened – which holds radioactive material dating from the 1950s. It
is the first of six holes that will allow radioactive waste to be removed
from one of the site’s most hazardous buildings.

Giant steel doors will cover the holes and seal the radioactive waste inside for safer storage.
Preparations have been underway for a number of years, which involved
practicing the cutting operation at a full-scale replica test rig in
Rosyth, Scotland. The waste retrieval process is expected to start in 2019.
http://www.energylivenews.com/2017/09/05/worlds-oldest-nuclear-waste-store-cut-open/

September 9, 2017 Posted by | UK, wastes | Leave a comment

More money in nuclear decommissioning than in running nuclear power?

Swiss utility BKW jumps into nuclear plant dismantling business, Reuters, 7 Sept 17  Reuters Staff

  •  DfN already works with BKW at Muehleberg station
  • GE, Hitachi and Veolia also looking at decommissioning business

By John Miller ZURICH, Sept 7 (Reuters) – Swiss utility BKW AG bought a small German nuclear services company on Thursday, joining firms including GE that are banking on rising revenue from the decommissioning of European nuclear plants.

BKW, which plans to dismantle its own Muehleberg nuclear station after shuttering it in 2019, bought Dienstleistungen fuer Nukleartechnik GmbH (DfN). Its services include verifying that components removed from nuclear facilities are no longer radioactive.

Other companies, including Finland’s Fortum, privately held U.S.-based Bechtel and the GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy alliance, are also seeking to benefit from plant decommissioning in Sweden as well as Germany.

Germany decided to exit nuclear power by 2022 following the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011.

Similarly, energy groups E.ON and EnBW, which are now tearing down their German nuclear plants, are seeking to parlay newfound dismantling expertise by offering similar services elsewhere in the world…….https://www.reuters.com/article/bkw-nuclearpower-dismantling/swiss-utility-bkw-jumps-into-nuclear-plant-dismantling-business-idUSL8N1LO4R1

September 9, 2017 Posted by | decommission reactor, Switzerland | Leave a comment

The dilemma on warning future generations about nuclear waste

Should we warn future generations about nuclear waste?http://dailycollegian.com/2017/09/05/should-we-warn-future-generations-about-nuclear-waste/ by Jessica Primavera on September 5 If you could communicate with someone living 24,000 years in the future, what would you say? Would you ask about advances in technology, or maybe about their culture?

September 6, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, wastes | Leave a comment

San Onofre nuclear waste agreement – not likely to be a real solution

San Onofre nuclear waste agreement offers hope for some, an ‘illusion’ for others, San Diego Union-Tribune Rob NikolewskiContact Reporter, 3 Sep 17

Or is an out-of-court settlement announced last week just more of the same?

The attorneys for the plaintiffs who initiated the case describe the agreement as an important step toward finally soothing the nerves of many of the 8.4 million people in Southern California who live within a 50-mile radius of SONGS.

But the settlement has not assuaged a number of other activists, united in their antagonism for the utility that manages the now-shuttered plant, who consider the agreement practically toothless and say it offers false hope.

Stranded spent fuel is hardly unique to SONGS. Nuclear waste has piled up at plants across the country, nearing 80,000 metric tons, with the industry adding about 2,200 tons each year.

The federal government was supposed to come up with a long-term storage solution but has never opened a working site.

Michael Aguirre, the former City Attorney of San Diego who is one of the lead attorneys in the plaintiffs’ case, said he understands the scope of the problem.

What the settlement lays out

The settlement came after months of private negotiations between the plant’s operators, Southern California Edison, and a pair of the utility’s harshest critics. It was approved Monday afternoon by San Diego Superior Court Judge Judith Hayes.

Under the agreement, Edison will adhere to a quicker schedule to inspect and maintain the canisters containing SONGS waste and will produce a contingency plan should any of them crack or leak. The utility also pledged to give progress reports on a monthly, and then quarterly basis.

In addition, the deal stipulates that Edison make a good faith effort to look at sites to send SONGS waste. That includes spending $4 million to hire a team of experts to develop a strategy. In what Aguirre says is a critical element, the agreement is enforceable by the court, meaning the judge will retain authority to make sure its terms are carried out…….

Potential sites to send SONGS waste

Getting the waste off the beach at San Onofre has long been a priority for many who live in the area. California has a notable history of seismic activity, fueling fears of a Fukushima-like tsunami and SONGS is sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean to the west and Interstate 5, one of the busiest freeways in the U.S., to the east.

The agreement specifically mentions three sites that could potentially accept SONGS spent fuel.

One is the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, located about 50 miles from Phoenix. Even before Monday’s announcement, Aguirre mentioned Palo Verde as a logical place for San Onofre’s waste because Edison is a part-owner at Palo Verde, with a 15.8 percent stake.

Last year an official with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said in an email to the Union-Tribune that Palo Verde used a different storage design than San Onofre.

The same day the settlement was announced, the utility that operates Palo Verde, Arizona Public Service, said it is not interested in accepting any spent fuel from SONGS……

The agreement also mentions two other sites, one in West Texas and one in southeastern New Mexico.

Each of the sites are categorized as “consolidated interim storage” facilities — based in relatively isolated locations that would require consent from their local communities to accept nuclear waste……..

The West Texas site is more problematic.

Located near the town of Andrews, Texas, the facility is owned by a company called Waste Control Specialists. The site already stores low-level radioactive waste but its plans to expand have been put on hold because of financial problems……..

The Los Angeles chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility criticized the plansaying it would “require transporting the waste twice, once to the temporary location and then again to a permanent facility, essentially doubling the transport risk.”

The group supports moving the waste within the premises of Camp Pendleton.

“It would address the issue of sea level rise,” said Denise Duffield, the group’s associate director. “One of the greatest risks associated with irradiated fuel is terrorism; it is hard to think of a better location to protect it (than) within a Marine base.”………http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/business/sd-fi-songs-settlement-20170903-story.html

September 4, 2017 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Hanford will miss deadline to tear down plutonium-contaminated plant

,Tri City Herald, BY ANNETTE CARY, 3 Sept 17, acary@tricityherald.com  Hanford’s Plutonium Finishing Plant will not be torn down by the legal deadline at the end of September.

September 4, 2017 Posted by | - plutonium, USA | Leave a comment