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Plutonium clean-up workers at Hanford had inadequate protection from contamination

Hanford workers were given leaky respirators at contaminated job site, contractor’s documents reveal

March 25, 2020 By Patrick Malone and Hal Bernton Seattle Times staff reporters

RICHLAND, Benton County — Bill Evans Jr. worked on the front lines of the Hanford cleanup. He supervised crews tasked with dismantling tanks, uncoupling pipes and painting over surfaces to stanch the spread of radioactive particles inside some of the most hazardous buildings at the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site.

To keep themselves safe, they donned full-body protective suits, sometimes two. Battery-charged respirators hung by their sides, circulating filtered air through breathing tubes and into hoods.

In May 2016, seven years into his Hanford career, Evans had a seizure on his lunch break that left him dazed. It was the first of many that forced him to stop working. Since then, repeated seizures have overtaken his life, resulting in falls that dislocated his jaw, fractured his spine and sent him crashing through a glass pane that gashed his head and required 30 stitches.

Evans, 45, is convinced that the sudden onset of his illness was linked to his job. Last year, he got a surprising clue about what might have gone wrong. A document from his old employer, slipped to him by a colleague, stated that a respirator cartridge Evans frequently used had a bad seal caused by changes made to the gear at Hanford, and possibly exposed him to radioactive and chemical contamination.

“I was floored, surprised and angry,” Evans said. “Because I trusted that equipment. That equipment was my lifeline.”

Evans was one of an estimated 560 workers at the Plutonium Finishing Plant between 2012 and October 2016 who wore respirator gear that may have leaked, according to documents obtained by The Seattle Times. The project contractor, CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Company, told workers on the job site about the safety lapse, which was also detailed in a November 2016 letter to be placed in affected workers’ medical files.

But the contractor did not directly reach out to workers, like Evans, who had already left the job, according to a spokesman for CH2M Hill. The letter ended up in the files of only 150.


In response to a Seattle Times investigation, advocates seek benefits for workers who wore leaky respirators at Hanford

March 26, 2020 Posted by | - plutonium, health, USA | Leave a comment

Plutonium contamination at Rocky Flats

How Colorado’s nuclear past is affecting its future, Colorado Springs INDY, GONE FISSION, by Heidi Beedle  25 Mar 20, IT WAS FEB. 25 AND BROOMFIELD City Council was done. It unanimously voted last month to withdraw from the Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority (JPPHA), a proposed north-south toll road that would ostensibly help mitigate traffic congestion in the Northwest Metro Denver area. The route would have taken the road through the eastern edge of the Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge, just south of the Boulder County line, bordering Arvada and Broomfield. The council vote was influenced by preliminary soil samples taken by the JPPHA in July 2019, specifically one sample that showed plutonium levels more than five times higher than the acceptable standard (the rest of the samples taken at that time were within acceptable standards). Before its current existence as a wildlife refuge, Rocky Flats was the site of a nuclear weapons plant, which has caused concern about plutonium contamination in the area. Forty-eight subsequent samples taken by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the refuge, showed levels well below cleanup standards of 50 picocuries per gram.

The city council vote is the latest installment in the ongoing conflict between concerned residents and public officials, and Rocky Flats and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). For decades, residents and at least two directors of Jefferson County Public Health, have claimed that plutonium released from the plant is responsible for the high rate of cancers in the area. These claims have been consistently disputed by CDPHE and the Department of Energy (DOE). ……..

Johnson was concerned about the instances of cancers in Jefferson County and questioned the official measurements of plutonium in the soils around Rocky Flats, finding in his own testing that plutonium levels in the soil were 44 times higher than reported by the Department of Public Health. Johnson grew increasingly concerned about an increase in cancer deaths in Jefferson County, and in a paper published in 1981, noted that a rise in certain kinds of cancers Johnson was seeing in Jefferson County, such as leukemia, “supports the hypothesis that exposure of general populations to small concentrations of plutonium and other radionuclides may have an effect on cancer incidence.” Johnson noted that “plutonium concentrations in the air at the Rocky Flats plant are consistently the highest (1970-1977) in the US DOE monitoring network,” based on his studies of the DOE’s own data. He also asserted that the DOE’s measurements were likely an underestimation.

Almost 40 years later, and the current head of the Jefferson County Public Health Department, Dr. Mark Johnson (no relation) has come to the same conclusion. In 2018 he spoke outagainst opening the wildlife refuge to the public, and he thinks the recent discovery of plutonium near the proposed parkway site should give people reason to reconsider. “

“There are clear studies that have shown there is an increased risk or rate of plutonium in the dirt there,” agrees Mark Johnson. “I have concerns already about the digging around with the subdivisions and the commercial enterprises that have gone into that area that were basically kicking up a lot of stuff — and we don’t know what is there.”

Carl Johnson was fired in 1981 for his persistent, outspoken criticism of the plant, but won a subsequent whistleblower lawsuit. Partly due to Johnson’s criticism, the FBI and the EPA began looking into operations at the Rocky Flats Plant starting in 1987. The investigation was aided by Jim Stone, an employee at the plant who also became a whistleblower over what he saw as grave safety violations……..

 of waste sites and deposits exists, questions remain as to the effectiveness of the now-completed cleanup. Jon Lipsky, a former FBI agent who led the raid on Rocky Flats in 1989, criticized the decision to open the refuge to the public in 2016, and has claimed there is still work to be done. Originally, the DOE estimated it would take 65 years and $37 billion to clean up the site. It was completed in 2005 for $7 billion.

During the process, there were still surprises to be found. ……..

The questions of the lasting effects from the operations at Rocky Flats may never be answered to the satisfaction of residents like Hansen, who are dealing with serious health issues. Jeff Gipe, the artist behind the Cold War Horse memorial that was erected in 2015, is currently working on a documentary about the plant, Half-Life of Memory, which may draw more attention to the issue.

President Donald Trump, who has a good shot at re-election, has reduced the effectiveness of agencies like the EPA while also advocating for an increase in nuclear arms development.

In 2019, the federal government proposed a new plutonium pit production facility near Aiken, South Carolina. But that is presumably not our problem.

March 26, 2020 Posted by | - plutonium, environment, Reference, USA | Leave a comment

Members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation want longer comment period on Holtec’s spent nuclear fuel plan

More Time Sought for Public Input on Nuclear Fuel Proposal, Members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation are calling out federal nuclear regulators.   By Associated Press, Wire Service Content March 21, 2020,   BY SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN, Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Members of New Mexico‘s congressional delegation are requesting that federal regulators extend the public comment period for an environmental review related to a multibillion-dollar complex that would store spent nuclear fuel from commercial power plants around the United States.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently issued a preliminary recommendation, favoring approval of a license for Holtec International to build the facility in southeastern New Mexico.

The comment period is set at 60 days, but the New Mexico congressional leaders say that should be extended and any public meetings delayed

given the health emergency that has resulted from the new coronavirus.

“The proposal to store high-level nuclear waste has prompted a great deal of public interest across New Mexico,” they wrote in a letter sent Friday to the commission chairman. “The concerns are driven in part by the prospect that any temporary storage facility will remain in the state indefinitely while a pathway for permanent disposal for high-level radioactive waste is identified.”

It wasn’t immediately clear if the commission would entertain the request, as the federal government is moving ahead with numerous rule-makings and comment periods involving other government projects.

New Jersey-based Holtec International is seeking a 40-year license to build what it has described as a state-of-the-art complex near Carlsbad. The first phase calls for storing up to 8,680 metric tons of uranium, which would be packed into 500 canisters. Future expansion could make room for as many as 10,000 canisters of spent nuclear fuel.

Holtec said the U.S. currently has more than 80,000 metric tons of used nuclear fuel in storage at dozens of sites around the country and the inventory is growing at a rate of about 2,000 metric tons per year.

The NRC staff’s preliminary recommendation states there are no environmental impacts that would preclude the commission from issuing a license for environmental reasons. That recommendation was based on a review of Holtec’s application and consultation with local, state, tribal and federal officials.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and other top elected officials are among those who have long had concerns about the potential environmental effects and the prospects of the state becoming a permanent dumping ground for spent nuclear fuel because the federal government lacks a permanent plan for what to do with the waste piling up at power plants around the country.

The governor and others also have questions about whether the facility would compromise oil and gas development in the Permian Basin, one of the world’s most prolific energy production regions.

There were a handful of public meetings in 2018, and another round was set to begin in the coming weeks.

“NRC has been running on auto-pilot to approve the Holtec license application, but hopefully this letter from the delegation will help them to wake up to the pandemic,” said Don Hancock with the watchdog group Southwest Research and Information Center.

The governor has issued several orders in recent days limiting public gatherings as restaurants and other businesses have been forced to cutback their operations as part of the state’s efforts to curb the spread of the virus.

U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Reps. Ben Ray Lujan, Deb Haaland and Xochitl Torres Small all signed Friday’s letter to the commission. They’re asking that regulators wait for the threat of COVID-19 to pass and to schedule public meetings at locations around New Mexico to allow ample opportunity for full participation. AT   TOP

March 23, 2020 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Big European bank offers to help Russia retrieve 1000s of radioactive junk from the Arctic sea

CTY Pisces – Photos of a Japanese midget submarine that was sunk off Pearl Harbor on the day of the attack. There’s a hole at the base of the conning tower where an artillery shell penetrated the hull, sinking the sub and killing the crew. Photos courtesy of Terry Kerby, Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory. August 2003.

March 19, 2020 Posted by | ARCTIC, Russia, wastes | Leave a comment

Nuclear waste dumping for the beautiful landscape of the Northwoods?

March 19, 2020 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

The clean-up of the Fukushima nuclear mess is not going to schedule – continual decommissioning delays

March 17, 2020 Posted by | decommission reactor, Fukushima continuing, Reference | 1 Comment

Angst in Nevada over law designating Yucca Mt for a national repository.

CORTEZ MASTO PRESSES DOE SECRETARY ON PLAN TO SEEK YUCCA ALTERNATIVES Lincoln County Central | Mar 13, 2020  By Humberto Sanchez, The Nevada Independent

Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette sought to reassure Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto on Tuesday that the Department of Energy plans to seek alternatives to storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, but he stopped short of backing an effort to change the law designating the site for a national repository.

At a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing Tuesday on the DOE budget, Cortez Masto, who opposes the project, asked Brouillette what DOE would do if Congress provided funds for the Yucca project in the current fiscal year.

‘We will follow the law, obviously, but it’s our intent to look for alternatives to Yucca Mountain,” Brouillette said. “It’s our intent to begin a process, and that’s why we’ve requested $27.5 million in the budget, to do a few things.” ……

Cortez Masto also pressed Brouillette about whether he would support a repeal of the 1987 law that designated the Yucca the spot for the nation to bury its nuclear waste. …..

At a House hearing last week, Brouillette said the administration currently has no plans to change the law even though it would be needed to implement storing waste at temporary sites, which is something DOE has said it could explore……

After seeking funds for the project in his first three budgets, President Donald Trump reversed course in the fiscal 2021 budget blueprint and in a tweet last month said he heard Nevadans on the issue of Yucca. Most Nevada lawmakers and business interest groups oppose the project’s proposed site, which is located about 90 miles from Las Vegas.

Following the release of the budget, Gov. Steve Sisolak, who was in Washington for the annual National Governors Association winter meeting, hand-delivered a letter to the White House calling on Trump to pledge to veto legislation that would advance the Yucca project and “undermine the State’s legal standing or consent requirements.”

The White House has not yet responded according to Sisolak’s office……..

Trump’s decision on Yucca also comes as he looks to win Nevada in his 2020 re-election bid. He lost the state to Hillary Clinton in 2016 by two points.

After the hearing, Murkowski said she welcomed the president’s budget request dropping funds for Yucca because it would allow Congress to focus on advancing legislation to authorize temporary nuclear waste storage rather than expending energy on the Gordian knot that is Yucca.

“We think we have an opportunity to move on our interim waste bill,” Murkowski said. “I always thought that was a path that we needed to pursue as well. And so I think this gives us an opportunity and an opening.”

The energy secretary also said that DOE remains on track for removing the half metric-ton of weapons-grade plutonium the agency secretly shipped to the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) from the Savannah River site in South Carolina.

In April, Cortez Masto struck a deal with then-Energy Secretary Rick Perry to remove the plutonium beginning in 2021 and getting all of it out by 2026. The DOE disclosed in January 2019 as part of a lawsuit filed by the state to prevent any plutonium shipment—after talks with DOE yielded no resolution—that it had already shipped the plutonium. …….

March 16, 2020 Posted by | politics, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Fukushima, and the ocean’s history of nuclear waste dumping

March 12, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, wastes | 1 Comment

The lies about nuclear waste dumping in Scotland – from U.S. nuclear submarines

We were lied to in the past about dumping of nuclear waste

By Iain Ramsay, Greenock & Inverclyde   11 Mar 20, QUITE a few years back, when I was a local SNP candidate here in Inverclyde, the local small boat owners and fishermen’s association approached me with their worries and problems, which resulted in me taking up the cudgels on their behalf.One of their spokesmen, who had a prawn fishing boat, was the late Brian Penny, who explained the problem and gave me the astounding fact that all the sea life had died in the Holy Loch.

The obvious cause of this was the USA nuclear submarine base of Polaris submarines, which must be discharging or dumping nuclear waste into the loch. With the help of the Greenock Telegraph we made a complaint to the far-off powers in Westminster who (according to them) sent a naval investigation team and took samples of sand, and water from the Loch, and assuring all concerned, that there was no need for any worry, as their tests had shown that the Loch was clean and no contamination was found.

So who was to be believed, our local men who worked the river, or the boffins from the Anglo/Brit Navy? It was their expert word against our on-the-spot working fishermen. The result was that, as usual, nothing happened, until long after the USA navy left, the commander of the Holy Loch base retired and confessed to dumping tons of radio active waste into the loch.

Along with this admission was his statement that the base would have been illegal in America, as such nuclear bases have got to be more than 20 miles from the nearest town.This Holy Loch base was bang in the middle of the river Clyde, and only two miles from Greenock, the second-largest town in Scotland.

This confession by this former USA commander made the Royal Navy tests a total lie. No such tests were made. Proof of the pudding resulted in a permanently based dredger, working for well over a year on the very spot where the American commander’s mother ship was moored. I hope since that panic clean-up, sea life may have made a comeback, although some types of nuclear waste are a danger for a hundred years or more. I hope the USA were back charged for this long and hazardous clean-up, or did we taxpayers foot that bill also?

This doesn’t end the story of contamination, and if anything is only the beginning of a long line of attacks on our fragile environment. The English-flag-flying Royal Navy have taken over where the Yankees left off. Just across the river we have a nuclear submarine base, which not only admits to discharging radioactive waste from Faslane into the Gairloch but announces that this will increase by 50% when the new nuclear subs arrive.

The fact is, the only enemy attack we have to thole right now is from this highly dangerous Cobalt-60 and Tritium cocktail, a GIFT from the Royal Navy. However if you look up GIFT in a German dictionary, it means poison or venom. There are no contingency plans for our children’s health, when only less than two miles away we have a unique seawater swimming pool in Gourock which will eventually filter this contamination through, to be shared by all.

No, to Mr Donald Doull, the base commander, don’t install that new pipeline which will spew out this dangerous filth into our beloved Clyde. Rather fill your navy tankers with the effluent, and sail it down to the River Thames, when opposite the Westminster Parliament discharge this contaminated water into the river. Let’s see how long the Londoners would tolerate such muck spreading on their patch. You will find the English are not as gullible as to accept your stupid comment that this waste is of an acceptable radioactive level. Acceptable by whom, may I ask?

March 12, 2020 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, UK, wastes, weapons and war | Leave a comment

U.S. Department of Energy’s plans could mean delay in Hanford nuclear waste clean-up

March 12, 2020 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Nuclear reactors on the sea floor – Russia’s costly problem

Lifting Russia’s accident reactors from the Arctic seafloor will cost nearly €300 million, are discussing the framework for safe lifting of dumped reactors from four submarines and uranium fuel from one icebreaker reactor in the Kara Sea, in addition to one sunken nuclear submarine in the Barents Sea. By Thomas Nilsen 8 Mar, 20, 

Russian and European experts agree that the dumped Soviet-era nuclear reactors in the Kara Sea can’t stay on the seafloor forever.

The Soviet Union used the waters east of Novaya Zemlya to dump accidental reactors, spent nuclear fuel and solid radioactive waste from both the navy and the fleet of nuclear-powered civilian icebreakers.

About 17,000 objects were dumped in the period from the late 1960s to the late 1980s.

Most of the objects are metal containers with low- and medium level radioactive waste. The challenge today, though, are the reactors with high-level waste and spent uranium fuel, objects that will pose a serious threat to the marine environment for tens of thousands of years if nothing is done to secure them.

According to the Institute for Safe Development of Nuclear Energy, part of Russia’s Academy of Science, the most urgent measures should be taken to secure six objects that contain more than 90% of all the radioactivity.

It is the information site for Russia’s submarine decommissioning program that informs about the plans.

The reactors from the submarines K-11, K-19 and K-140, plus the entire submarine K-27 and spent uranium fuel from one of the old reactors of the Lenin-icebreakers have to be lifted and secured.

Also, the submarine K-159 that sank north of Murmansk while being towed for decommissioning in 2003 have to be lifted from the seafloor, the experts conclude.

Special priority should be given to the two submarines K-27 in the Kara Sea and K-159 in the Barents Sea.

The study report made for Rosatom and the European Commission has evaluated the costs of lifting all six objects, bringing them safely to a yard for decommissioning and securing the reactors for long-term storage.

The estimated price-tag for all six will €278 millions, of which the K-159 is the most expensive with a cost of €57,5 millions. Unlike the submarines and reactors that are dumped in relatively shallow waters in the Kara Sea, the K-159 is at about 200 meters depth, and thus will be more difficult to lift.

Lifting the K-27, transporting to a shipyard for decommissioning and long-term storage in Saida Bay will come at a price of €47,7 millions the report reads.

The work can be done over an eight years period, according to the expert.

But, as the expert-group underlines, the €278 millions funding does not exist in any Russian Federal budgets today.

March 9, 2020 Posted by | Russia, wastes | Leave a comment

Nuclear and other toxic wastes dumped in Beaufort’s Dyke, which lies between Scotland and Northern Ireland

The National 4th March 2020, FOR decades, Scotland has been used by the Ministry of Defence to dump
everything from nuclear waste to unwanted munitions. For example,
Beaufort’s Dyke, which lies between Scotland and Northern Ireland, is
packed with laboratory waste, chemical munitions and artillery rockets. The
decision by the MoD to use it as a dumping ground has effectively ruled out
any possibilty of using that crossing for a Scotland to Northern Ireland
bridge (if ever such a thing was viable in the first place).

March 6, 2020 Posted by | UK, wastes | Leave a comment

Kazakhstan local residents may be stuck with costs of decommissioning nuclear reactor

March 2, 2020 Posted by | decommission reactor, Kazakhstan | Leave a comment

Sweden now faces years of nuclear reactor shutdowns and waste disposal problems

Sweden prepares for a decade of nuclear decommissioning, NS Energy, By Kristina Gillin  27 Feb 2020 ,

Sweden is preparing to dismantle and demolish six large power reactors on three sites over the coming years.

By the end of 2020, half of Sweden’s nuclear reactors will have been permanently shut down for decommissioning. The six large reactors are expected to undergo nuclear decommissioning in Sweden over the next decade.

Besides these, the Ågesta prototype reactor, a combined heat and power plant is about to commence dismantling.

Nuclear decommissioning at Sweden’s Barsebäck nuclear power plant

The twin units at Barsebäck,  a few miles across the straight from Denmark, ceased to generate power in 1999 and 2005, respectively.

After shutdown, all spent fuel was removed and shipped to Sweden’s central interim storage facility (Clab) in Oskarshamn. Major decontamination of systems was also done early. However, dismantling had to wait, due to a lack of facilities for storage or disposal of decommissioning waste………

Funding and nuclear waste disposal in Sweden

Owners of nuclear power plants in Sweden have a statutory duty to dispose of their wastes. They are also required to set aside funding for waste management and nuclear decommissioning in Sweden. The funding is held in the Nuclear Waste Fund, a segregated Swedish government fund.

To fulfil the obligations, they jointly own the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Co (SKB). SKB’s scope covers disposal of most radioactive waste streams, interim storage of spent fuel and transportation between the various sites.

SKB is also responsible for compiling cost estimates for decommissioning and waste management every three years.

This to ensure that payments into the Nuclear Waste Fund are sufficient to cover future costs.

According to the 2019 estimates, the total cost of waste disposal, spent fuel storage and decommissioning is approximately SEK 147 billion (around €14 billion). Of this, about SEK 53 billion (around €5 billion) has been spent to date.

These figures include most of SKB’s scope but exclude the costs of near-surface disposal facilities for very low-level waste at Oskarshamn, Ringhals and Forsmark.

The majority of low- and intermediate-level waste from all Swedish reactors will be disposed of in SFR, a shallow geological repository for short-lived waste on the Forsmark nuclear site.

SFR has been in operation since 1988 but is currently licensed for operational waste only. To accommodate decommissioning waste, SKB plans to expand SFR’s capacity from 63,000 to 180,000 m3. An application for the expansion was submitted in 2014.

Pending regulatory approvals, construction of the new rock vaults will take place from 2023 to 2029.

March 2, 2020 Posted by | decommission reactor, Sweden | Leave a comment

Radioactive wastes into River Clyde could have devastating effects on community and wildlife

March 2, 2020 Posted by | UK, wastes | Leave a comment