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Construction projects surge at Fukushima nuclear plant despite decommissioning progress

Construction projects surge at Fukushima nuclear plant despite decommissioning progress

April 4, 2022 Mainichi Japan   OKUMA, Fukushima — The site of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station continues to host new construction projects some 11 years after the disaster triggered by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunamis.

This Mainichi Shimbun reporter had the opportunity to visit the plant for the first time in seven and a half years, and reflect on why new facilities continue to appear even as the plant moves toward decommissioning…………..

While decommissioning seems to be advancing, various facilities have been newly constructed, and the issue of water remains. A rising number of tanks store treated water contaminated after it was pumped to cool fuel debris that melted down in the accident, as well as groundwater and rainwater that flowed into the buildings. Inside the tanks, the contaminated water is made to reach a radioactive concentration below regulation levels.

On the seventh floor of a building located near the site’s entrance, a Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. (TEPCO) representative gave me an outline of the entire facility. I could see two large cranes on the ocean side around Units 1 to 4, and another large crane and framework structure on the mountain side. When I asked about it, the representative told me the frame was being assembled in a remote location to reduce worker radiation exposure. But it wasn’t a facility being dismantled; it’s a cover measuring 66 meters long, 56 meters wide, and 68 meters high that will wrap around Unit 1.

The hydrogen explosion in Unit 1 blew the building’s roof off, and 392 pieces of nuclear fuel remain in its spent fuel pool near the ceiling. Their removal is scheduled to start in fiscal 2027 to 2028. For this to happen, the surrounding debris must be removed, and the cover’s installation will help prevent the work dispersing radioactive dust.

Ground improvements works were progressing on the neighboring Unit 2’s south side. There, a working platform to remove 615 pieces of nuclear fuel from Unit 2 will be built, with its start slated for fiscal 2024 to 2026.

The buildings for Units 1 through 4 were damaged and contaminated, so different structures, such as platforms and covers, had to be built to remove nuclear fuel from the pools. Particularly conspicuous was the thick steel frame of the Unit 4 facility, from which fuel was completely removed in 2014. Although 53 meters high, it surprisingly uses about the same amount of steel as the 333-meter-high Tokyo Tower. Since the nuclear fuel is being removed in order, new construction work continues in reactor buildings’ vicinities………………

The company listed at least 10 facilities earmarked for future construction. Put another way, the tanks need to be removed to provide land for these facilities.

Related construction work had already started at the seashore, where workers dug vertical holes to contain treated water before its release. After the implementation plan’s approval, undersea tunnel construction and other necessary work to release the water 1 km offshore will also begin.

Meanwhile, some broken cranes and damaged buildings have been left on site without being dismantled. The representative told the Mainichi Shimbun this was partly due to them trying to keep the solid waste processing volume low.

Also underway is construction of facilities to handle ever-increasing solid waste amounts. The representative said a white building I spotted in the site’s northwest side was the volume reduction facility, and that building work is going ahead for a solid waste storage facility in front of it.

The volume reduction facility scheduled for completion in March 2023 will use crushing and other methods to reduce concrete and metal debris volumes. Although nine storage buildings already exist, a 10th will soon be constructed. Nearby was also a new incineration facility for burning logged trees. TEPCO estimates solid waste generated will reach a volume of 794,000 cubic meters by March 2033, and that there will continue to be more related facilities.

Fuel debris removal will begin at the end of 2022. In the future, facilities to hold fuel debris and to store and reduce volumes of solid waste with high doses of radiation generated by the work will also be needed.

Each year creates new tasks that generate more waste, and the facilities to accommodate it. These buildings are also destined to eventually become solid waste. While this cycle continues, a final disposal method for the waste is undetermined. The government’s and TEPCO’s timetable says 20 to 30 years of plant decommissioning remain. But on site, where new construction projects continue to appear, a clear picture of when decommissioning will finish has yet to emerge.

(Japanese original by Takuya Yoshida, Science & Environment News Department)


April 4, 2022 Posted by | decommission reactor, Fukushima continuing, safety | Leave a comment

Decommissioning is just the beginning of the huge nuclear legacy problem

Nuclear power concerns outlast decommissioning, Great Lakes Echo,   By Cameryn Cass 4 Feb 22,

Editor’s note: This is part of a package of two articles and a podcast about nuclear power in Michigan.

As Michigan and other states gradually move away from coal and other brown energy sources, there’s growing interest in carbon-free alternatives, including nuclear energy,

As Michigan and other states gradually move away from coal and other brown energy sources, there’s growing interest in carbon-free alternatives, including nuclear energy, which some advocates call a “clean alternative” that now fuels 30% of Michigan’s total electricity.

One nuclear plant in the state, Big Rock Point in Charlevoix closed in 1997 and has been fully decommissioned. In the spring of 2022, the Palisades Nuclear Plant in Southwest Michigan’s Van Buren County will close because of a “business decision.”

Michigan also has the Fermi Nuclear Power Plant in Newport, near Monroe, and the Donald C. Cook Nuclear Power Plant in Berrien County’s Bridgman, according to the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.

With Palisades and other plants in the Great Lakes region scheduled to shut down in the coming decades, more people are considering the long-term impacts of this energy source.

After decommissioning, radioactive waste remains on-site, said Susan Chiblow, an Indigenous environmental scholar in Ontario.

The waste stays in the environment for trillions of years, so calling nuclear power clean is propaganda, she said.

In short, risks don’t disappear when a plant is decommissioned, a process that can take up to 60 years, said Edwin Lyman, the nuclear safety project director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit science advocacy organization based in Massachusetts.

Although closed plants no longer have to worry about accidents post shut-down, their operators remain responsible for managing the radiated materials and spent nuclear waste, Lyman said.

He said waste now stored on-site is vulnerable to security threats and climate disasters.

For five years, the waste is kept in large swimming pool-like structures where it’s mixed with water to keep it cool. Then, it’s transferred to dry casks, he said.

The U.S. Department of Energy is technically responsible for removing the waste, but it has nowhere to bring it, Lyman said.

“It’s going to be a long-term storage problem for any nuclear plant that’s shut down,” Lyman said……………………………

Thirteen states have banned construction of new nuclear plants.

In the Great Lakes region, Minnesota adopted its ban in 1994. ……

Because the Great Lakes account for one-fifth of the world’s freshwater, Chiblow and other environmentalists are especially interested in protecting it……….c

February 5, 2022 Posted by | decommission reactor, USA | 4 Comments

Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) of the UK and Ireland call for clear commitment to employ LOCAL nuclear decommissioning workers.

 The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) of the UK and Ireland has called
for a clear commitment to offer work to local people on decommissioning
work when nuclear plants close.

In its response to the consultation just
carried out by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), the agency
charged with making safe and clearing closed civil nuclear plants, on its
future Business Plan, the NFLA has called for support to be made available
to staff losing employment from a decommissioned plant to enable them to be
either reengaged in a role supporting the decommissioning process or find
alternate employment’. The NFLA also wants to see local contractors
continue to be hired to supply goods and services to the work.

 NFLA 1st Feb 2022

February 5, 2022 Posted by | decommission reactor, employment, UK | Leave a comment

Factoring in the full cost of the radioactive wastes, the price to pay for nuclear power is astronomic.

The price to pay for nuclear power is too high, Tim Flinn, Garvald, East Lothian, 10 Jan 22,

It doesn’t seem 30-odd years since I went with a group of sixth form A Level physics students on a tour of Dunbar’s Torness nuclear power station, now scheduled for decommissioning.

Most of them now have their PhDs and families of their own, but hopefully they all share my view that nuclear electricity remains the most toxic and expensive domestic fuel in regular use – and will remain so unless and until the problems associated with its deadly wastes are finally solved.

As things stand now the next 500 human generations will be stuck with the human and financial costs consequent upon coping with the radioactive detritus of the very first nuclear electricity generated some 80 years ago. Factoring in inflation the final price of just a single nuclear kWh will total more £s than there are particles in the universe. If anyone doubts that, let them do their own sums, or get a copy of mine (I hope they can cope with logarithms and discounting cash flows).

If the investment into nuclear energy (originally so we could keep up with the Jonses and have our own A and H bombs) had instead been ploughed into research and development of clean, safe, renewables we would long ago have had endless energy to spare and green devices to export. But we didn’t and so we haven’t. To replace one nuclear power station with yet another is to refuse to learn. Are we that stupid still?

January 11, 2022 Posted by | decommission reactor, UK | Leave a comment

BBC Report on Closure of Hunterston B Fails to Mention that All the Nuclear Crapola will Come to Cumbria

BBC Report on Closure of Hunterston B Fails to Mention that All the Nuclear Crapola will Come to Cumbria. Radiation Free Lakeland.  JANUARY 8, 2022 BY MARIANNEWILDART  Radiation Free Lakeland have long argued for the closure of the cracked nuclear plants that EDF are running long past their planned lifetimes. Yesterday one of these cancer factories, Hunterston B was closed down because of the dangerously cracked graphite cores. The BBC report below toots a trumpet about the electricity produced by Hunterston but makes no mention at all of the 46 years of radioactive emissions and the fact that the resulting nuclear wastes (low, intermediate and high level wastes) and “cleaned up” infrastructure ( heading to landfill, incineration, recycled radioactive scrap metal, Drigg and proposed Deep Nuclear Dump ) will be dangerous to all life on the biosphere for so many generations to come. Yes lets toot a trumpet for the closure of a dangerous nuclear plant but the massive radioactive footprint of Hunterston will live on long after the limited use of electricity!

Hunterston B nuclear power plant closes down after 46 years

By Kevin Keane
BBC Scotland’s energy correspondent 7th Jan 2022  The Hunterston B nuclear power plant in North Ayrshire has been shut down for the final time after generating electricity for 46 years.

The plant’s original 25-year lifespan was extended by more than two decades.

But the final closure was brought forward after cracks were found in the graphite bricks which make up the reactor cores.

A small group of former workers gathered at the power station at midday to see the final shut down.

The site, owned by EDF Energy, will now begin a three-year process of defueling with the spent nuclear fuel sent to Sellafield for reprocessing. After that, the site will be handed over to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority…………

The cracks were first spotted in two graphite bricks in the reactor in 2014.

By 2018, a total of 350 bricks had been affected although the Office for Nuclear Regulation subsequently gave permission to operate at much greater numbers.

Each of the two reactor cores is made up of 3,000 bricks which form vertical channels for nuclear fuel and control rods to slide in and out.

The concern was that too many cracks, combined with a rare seismic event, could affect the structural integrity of the core and prevent it being shut down in an emergency.

The Hunterston A plant, which is already closed, comprised two 180MWe Magnox reactors.

It began operation in 1964. Reactor 2 shut down in December 1989 and Reactor 1 in March 1990.

Construction of Hunterston B began in 1968 and reactors 3 and 4 began operating in February 1976 and March 1977……

Reactor 3, a 490MWe advanced gas-cooled reactor (AGR), was permanently closed down on 26 November.

Hunterston Reactor 4 – also a 490MWe AGR – has now shut down……….

Similar cracks are expected to develop there and at several other similar sites in England. In December, EDF Energy announced that Torness would close two years earlier than planned in 2028 because of the issue.

January 10, 2022 Posted by | decommission reactor, UK | Leave a comment

Hunterston nuclear station shut down – then comes the long cleanup

A at the stroke of midday on Friday,
January 7, the North Ayrshire Hunterston B nuclear plant will be shut down with the simple push
of a button. In the high-security control room, director Paul Forrest will
step forward and trigger the end for one of Scotland’s last nuclear power

Environmental campaigners said the final shutdown of Hunterston B
– which started producing electricity 45 years and 11 months ago – was
“inevitable”. Lang Banks, the director of WWF Scotland, said the plant
had become “increasing unreliable”, arguing that growth in renewable
energy means nuclear power is no longer required.

Mr Banks said the “repeated failure to solve the problem of hundreds of cracks in the
graphite bricks surrounding the reactor core means the closure of
Hunterston B was inevitable”. He added: “Thankfully Scotland has
massively grown its renewable power-generating capacity, which means
we’ll no longer need the electricity from this increasingly unreliable
nuclear power plant. “As the expensive and hazardous job of cleaning up
the radioactive legacy Hunterston leaves in its wake now begins, Scotland
must press on with plans to harness more clean, renewable energy.”

 STV 7th Jan 2022

January 10, 2022 Posted by | decommission reactor | Leave a comment

UK’s Heysham nuclear plant to shut down two years earlier than planned

  The Heysham 2 nuclear power station in Lancashire is set to shut down for
good two years earlier than planned following a new assessment. The power
station, the fuel for which is made at the Springfields factory at Salwick,
will now stop generating power in 2028. In 2016, the site’s operational
life was extended by seven years to 2030 as no new power station projects
were in the pipeline and nuclear is needed to maintain a steady base load
for the electricity grid.

 Blackpool Gazette 9th Jan 2022

January 10, 2022 Posted by | decommission reactor, UK | Leave a comment

Long and difficult dismantling of EDF’s graphite technology nuclear reactors to continue

  The dismantling of EDF’s graphite technology nuclear reactors, which are
particularly long and difficult to deconstruct, can continue, the Nuclear
Safety Authority (ASN) said on Monday in a press release.

 Le Figaro 27th dec 2021

January 1, 2022 Posted by | decommission reactor, France | Leave a comment

Germany shuts down half of its remaining nuclear plants

Germany shuts down half of its remaining nuclear plants Aljazeera, 31 Dec 21,

Decision to close three facilities comes a year before decades-long use of atomic power winds down for good………

One of the plants – Brokdorf, located about 40 kilometres (25 miles) northwest of Hamburg on the Elbe River – became a particular focus of anti-nuclear protests that were driven by the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe in the Soviet Union.

The other two plants are Grohnde, about 40km (25 miles) south of Hannover, and Grundremmingen, 80km (50 miles) west of Munich.

……………… the German government said this week that decommissioning all nuclear plants next year and then phasing out the use of coal by 2030 will not affect the country’s energy security or its goal of making Europe’s biggest economy “climate neutral” by 2045.

“By massively increasing renewable energy and accelerating the expansion of the electricity grid we can show that this is possible in Germany,” Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck said.

Several of Germany’s neighbours have already ended nuclear power or announced plans to do so, but others are sticking with the technology. This has prompted concerns of a nuclear rift in Europe, with France planning to build new reactors and Germany opting for natural gas as a compromise until enough renewable power is available, and both sides arguing their preferred source of energy be classed as sustainable.

Germany’s remaining three nuclear plants — Emsland, Isar and Neckarwestheim — will be closed by the end of 2022.

While some jobs will be lost, utility company RWE said more than two-thirds of the 600 workers at its Gundremmingen nuclear power station will continue to be involved in post-shutdown operations through to the 2030s. Germany’s nuclear power companies will receive almost $3bn for the early shutdown of their plants.

Environment Minister Steffi Lemke has dismissed suggestions that a new generation of nuclear power plants might prompt Germany to change course yet again.

“Nuclear power plants remain high-risk facilities that produce highly radioactive atomic waste,” she told the Funke media group this week.

A final decision has yet to be taken about where to store tens of thousands of tonnes of nuclear waste produced in German power plants. Experts say some material will remain dangerously radioactive for 35,000 generations.

January 1, 2022 Posted by | decommission reactor, Germany | Leave a comment

Dismantling of German nuclear reactor will be expensive, but provide jobs for several decades.

Asked about possible job losses, Gundremmingen mayor Tobias Buehler said
the plant’s employees would be busy with dismantling the reactor after the
shutdown. “And this period of dismantling will certainly take another one
or two decades,” Buehler said. Total costs for the dismantling are
estimated by E.ON at 1.1 billion euros ($1.25 billion) per plant. In 2020,
E.ON made provisions of 9.4 billion euros for the nuclear post-operational
phase, including dismantling the facility, packaging and cleaning up the
radioactive waste. The dismantling is expected to be completed by 2040.

 NBC 30th Dec 2021

January 1, 2022 Posted by | decommission reactor, employment, Germany | Leave a comment

Germany will pull the plug on 3 of its last 6 nuclear power stations

Germany will pull the plug on three of its last six nuclear power stations
on Friday, another step towards completing its withdrawal from nuclear
power as it turns its focus to renewables.

The government decided to speed
up its phasing out of nuclear power following Japan’s Fukushima reactor
meltdown in 2011 when an earthquake and tsunami destroyed the coastal plant
in the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl 25 years earlier.

The reactors of Brokdorf, Grohnde and Gundremmingen C, run by utilities E.ON
(EONGn.DE) and RWE (RWEG.DE), will be shut down on Friday after three and
half decades in operation. The last three nuclear power plants – Isar 2,
Emsland and Neckarwestheim II – will be turned off by the end of 2022.

 Reuters 30th Dec 2021

January 1, 2022 Posted by | decommission reactor, Germany | Leave a comment

Germany’s Brokdorf nuclear station closes, so activists end their 35 year vigil against it.

Germany’s long anti-nuclear protest ends, DW, 29 Dec 21,

Activists have been protesting in front of the nuclear power plant in Brokdorf, northern Germany for 35 years. But now that the plant is set to be removed from the grid, their vigil is finally over………

Singing peace songs and chatting while standing in a circle, the groups appear well-adjusted to the freezing cold, having met at the power plant’s gate on the sixth day of each month for the last 35 years.

Today, the activists are once again holding a vigil to commemorate the victims of nuclear catastrophes while also demanding the shutdown of the nuclear reactor in their neighborhood.

Today is different, however. This 425th vigil will be the last. Later this month, the Brokdorf nuclear power plant will be shut down as part of Germany’s 2022 nuclear phaseout.

First nuclear reactor after Chernobyl

Amid the growing anti-nuclear movement in the 1980s, hundreds of thousands protested against the construction of the nuclear plant in Brokdorf.

Time and again, the protesters clashed with the police — especially after the nuclear accident in Chernobyl in 1986 saw increased radiation levels in soil and foods across Germany…..

Opening in late 1986, Brokdorf was the first nuclear reactor in the world to go into operation after the Chernobyl disaster.

At that time, Werner and a few allies protested peacefully and decided to continue their protests in the future. They vowed to meet once a month until Brokdorf was shut down…….

Increased cancer risk, and an ice rink

His fears weren’t unjustified. In 2008, a study found that children growing up in close proximity to a German nuclear power plant face a higher risk of developing leukemia.

Yet plants stayed open amid such health threats. One reason might be the decades of high revenues earned by the Brokdorf municipality through a commercial tax on the plant. Local politicians were loath to give up this income…….

Meanwhile, the nuclear power lobby is promoting nuclear energy as an allegedly clean and, most importantly, climate-friendly alternative………..   compared to power from wind and solar energy, the technology costs are much higher, and the construction of nuclear plants takes significantly longer.

Military motives

The fact that states still stick with nuclear power clearly also has another reason, said Andrew Stirling, professor of science and technology policy at the University of Sussex.

“Globally speaking, those countries that are the most truly dedicated to a civil use of nuclear energy either also have nuclear weapons or they are very keen on getting them,” he said.

According to Stirling, the civil use of nuclear energy is often needed for the realization of nuclear weapons programs, a point admitted by nuclear armed France and the US.

Without the engineers and specialists working in the commercial nuclear power sector, it would be impossible to build nuclear-powered submarines, for example, Stirling explained.

“The reports from the USA are absolutely clear. Even if the costs of nuclear energy were twice as high, it would still make sense for them to build reactors because this allows them to keep up their military activities,” he said……….

although Brokdorf will be removed from the grid on December 31, the plant will continue to serve as a temporary storage facility for nuclear waste for decades. There is still no final repository for radioactive waste.

“Therefore, our commitment is not yet over,” said one of the activists.

December 30, 2021 Posted by | decommission reactor, Germany | Leave a comment

France’s oldest nuclear power plant, shut in 1985, still highly radioactive

 “You can’t see radioactivity, you can’t feel it, so people don’t care”: in Brennilis, nuclear power is no longer operating. Shutdown in 1985, the monts d’Arrée power plant was the first in France to begin dismantling.
The reactor block of the Finistère nuclear power plant in Brennilis remains one of the last vestiges of the gigantic installation, in operation from 1967 to 1985. Despite the decades, its dismantling has not yet been completed. It is in this building, however, that the most radioactive elements of the infrastructure are stored, a prototype of a heavy water reactor cooled with carbon dioxide, never reproduced in France afterwards.

 Le Monde 28th Dec 2021

December 30, 2021 Posted by | decommission reactor, France | Leave a comment

Belgium to shut down all 7 nuclear reactors in 2025

 Nuclear: the Belgian government confirms the shutdown in 2025 of the
country’s seven reactors. As planned, Belgium will shut down its two power
plants, but is not closing the door to new generation nuclear power. An
agreement was torn off on Thursday after a night of negotiations between
the partners of the government coalition.

 Liberation 23rd Dec 2021
 Les Echos 23rd Dec 2021

December 27, 2021 Posted by | decommission reactor, EUROPE | Leave a comment

Belgian government to close its nuclear plants by 2025

The Belgian government agreed in principle on Thursday to close its
nuclear power plants by 2025, but left open the possibility of extending
the life of two reactors if it could not otherwise ensure energy supply.
The seven-party coalition has wrestled for months with the topic, with the
Greens adamant that a 2003 law setting out a nuclear exit be respected,
while the French-speaking liberals favoured extending the life of the two
newest reactors. The government had given itself an end-2021 deadline to
settle the matter.

 Reuters 23rd Dec 2021
 The Belgian government agreed in principle on Thursday to close its
nuclear power plants by 2025, but left open the possibility of extending
the life of two reactors if it could not otherwise ensure energy supply.

 Globe and Mail 23rd Dec 2021

 Euro News 23rd Dec 2021

 BBC 23rd Dec 2021

December 27, 2021 Posted by | decommission reactor, EUROPE, politics international | Leave a comment