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USA preparing Hanford vitrification plant to deal with 56 million gallons of radioactive waste


May 14, 2019 Posted by | - plutonium, USA | Leave a comment

Chernobyl nuclear accident: how it happened, and the aftermath

In the immediate aftermath of Chernobyl, a total of 31 firemen and plant workers died. Some of their bodies were so radioactive, they had to be buried in lead coffins. A report by the World Health Organization estimated that 600,000 people within the Soviet Union were exposed to high levels of radiation, and of those, 4,000 would die. Those who lived near the Chernobyl site have reported increased instances of thyroid cancer, and they have an increased risk of developing leukemia.

700 Million Years

The Chernobyl accident is one of only two nuclear energy accidents that is classified as a “Level 7 Event,” the highest classification. The other is 2011’s Fukushima disaster in Japan. At the lowest level of Reactor 4 lies the famous “elephant’s foot”, a several-meter wide mass of corium that is still giving off lethal amounts of radiation. The half-life of radioactive elements is defined as the amount of time it takes for the radioactivity to fall to half its original value. The half life of U-235 is 700 million years. 

May 13, 2019 Posted by | incidents, Ukraine, wastes | Leave a comment

US Dept of Energy plans changes to definition of “High Level” nuclear wastes: Rick Perry keen, environmentalists not

Perry Supports DOE Reconsideration of High-Level Waste Definition, Exchange Monitor,   BY CHRIS SCHNEIDMILLER, MAY 10, 2019

Energy Secretary Rick Perry on Thursday voiced support for his agency’s potential reinterpretation of the definition of high-level radioactive waste.

The Department of Energy proposed the reinterpretation in October and is now reviewing public comments submitted through Jan. 9 on the matter.

Ultimately, DOE could determine the definition should emphasize the radiological threat waste poses to human health, rather than where or how it was generated. That could open the door to disposal methods now prohibited for high-level waste.

The department has not given a timeline for a decision……

Subcommittee Vice Chairman Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.)  suggested the reinterpretation could lead to high-level waste being dispoosed of “in less secure sites.” He asked Perry to specify the amount of material DOE is considering reclassifying. The DOE chief did not provide a specific figure.

The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 and the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 define HLW as highly radioactive material that comes from spent nuclear fuel. That generally involves separating contents in irradiated nuclear fuel and target materials, such as plutonium.

There is roughly 90 million gallons of solids, liquids, and sludge left over from decades of nuclear weapons production, the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future said in 2012. By law, that material must go into a geologic repository – which the United States does not yet have, after decades of efforts to bring the Yucca Mountain disposal site into existence.

Some high-level waste that is redesignated as another waste type could be shipped to the Nevada National Security Site, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico, and the privately held Waste Control Specialists facility in West Texas, the nongovernmental Energy Communities Alliance has said. The Washington, D.C.-based group, which represents communities near DOE sites, has said it does not expect any decision from the department until late 2019.

May 11, 2019 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Environmentalists astounded that panel rules in favour of Holtec’s nuclear waste storage plan for New Mexico

May 11, 2019 Posted by | USA, wastes | 1 Comment

Long delay before Savannah River Plutonium Disposal can start

May 9, 2019 Posted by | - plutonium, USA | Leave a comment

America’s accumulating nuclear trash: new Bill threatens Nevada

May 9, 2019 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

A national political conflict over USA’s nuclear waste dump plan for Yucca Mt, Nevada

War over nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain spreads to nation’s capital, by John Treanor, May 6th 2019 LAS VEGAS (KSNV) — It’s becoming a familiar scene in Carson City.

Many believe Yucca Mountain is settled science. That Yucca was selected, or that it’s ready to receive nuclear waste. Well, they are wrong,” said Senator Cortez Masto.

The war over Yucca Mountain continues, and the latest battleground was a committee meeting in Washington D.C. where senators debated the plan to open funding to study the site.

Right now, sites across the country have nuclear waste sitting in danger of contaminating waterways or nearby communities.

The federal government has long wanted to bury it deep in Yucca, but Nevada politicians are united against that plan.

Saying that storing it could be dangerous, transporting it here a matter of national security.

Senator Jacky Rosen said, “Severe risks in transportation threaten the health and costs billions in cleanup costs. I ask the members here today, is this a risk you’re willing to take?”

Nevada Senators Jacky Rosen and Catherine Cortez Masto want states to sign off on any nuclear plan before the waste is shipped to them, giving Nevada the opportunity to turn those shipments away.

May 7, 2019 Posted by | politics, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Cheaper and permanent, not temporary, disposal of nuclear waste.

We will provide an option for people not satisfied with existing options,” said Deep Isolation’s co-founder and CEO Elizabeth Muller. She pointed out the interim sites were not “deep geologic storage.”

They’re looking at being safe for decades,” Muller said. “They’re looking at temporary storage. We’re looking at disposal.”

David Lochbaum, former director of the Nuclear Safety Program for the Union of Concerned Scientists, has taken a seat on Deep Isolation’s advisory board.

“There are technical, legal and political challenges facing Deep Isolation, to be sure,” Lochbaum said via email. “I think their proposal could very well meet all these challenges.

“The spent fuel storage status quo is only worsening with time,” he said. “We need to find a solution before we run out of time to do so without harm.” 

Startup promotes permanent nuclear waste storage via miles-long drilling, South Coast Today, By Christine Legere / Cape Cod Times, 4 May 19, A small startup company in Berkeley, California, with connections to scientists, university professors, industry experts and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs is marketing a method to permanently store nuclear waste, tapping advanced drilling technology used for years by the gas and oil industries.

Storage of the highly radioactive waste would be permanent — unlike the options currently available around the world — and the method is being pitched as far less expensive than development of a deep geologic repository such as Yucca Mountain in Nevada. In New England, spent nuclear fuel is being stored on-site at the Maine Yankee, Seabrook, Vermont Yankee, Yankee Rowe, Pilgrim and Millstone nuclear plants.

Although the Department of Energy was required under the Waste Policy Act to remove spent fuel from sites nationwide for storage in a permanent repository by 1998, its plan for a Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada has languished for several years.

The proposal from Deep Isolation calls for drilling a 14-inch-wide vertical access channel up to a mile or more down, depending on geologic conditions, then gradually making the drill hole run horizontally along the line of the rock formation.

The horizontal bed, which could be as long as 2 miles, would serve as the nuclear waste storage area, deep in the subsurface where the rock has been stable and out of contact with the surface for millions of years and would remain out of contact for millions more, unaffected by surface impacts such as sea level rise.

Hundreds of corrosion-resistant canisters, each holding a spent fuel assembly, could be stored in a line inside a single drill hole, and since the technology already exists, the company could be placing fuel in the ground within two to three years, according to Sophie McCallum, Deep Isolation’s chief of staff.

And more than one drill hole can be made on a site.

We are in active discussions with potential customers in the U.S. and internationally to move forward disposal programs of stalled nuclear waste inventories,” McCallum said in an email .

Deep Isolation tested its system, installing a drill hole in Cameron, Texas, where it successfully placed a 5-foot-long canister — the kind used to store military waste such as cesium and strontium — in the horizontal storage area, deep underground. It then retrieved the canister, which Deep Isolation experts say could be done for up to about 50 years.

The company plans to begin with storage of defense waste in the U.S. and commercial waste in other countries, since the federal Waste Policy Act must be amended to allow for permanent storage of the nation’s commercial waste in places other than Yucca Mountain.

Currently about 80,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel produced by commercial reactors and another 14,000 metric tons from the nation’s weapons program is being temporarily stored at 80 sites in 35 states, in spent fuel pools or hulking dry casks.

Commercial reactor owners have sued the department for failing to provide promised permanent storage, and damages to date have cost the agency more than $6 billion.

In 2016, the department was investigating a method of storage that called for deep, vertical boreholes into crystalline basement rock, but the program was broken off in 2017 with Yucca Mountain once again taking over as the sole focus for permanent, high-level nuclear waste storage.

Holtec International and Waste Control Services have submitted applications to operate interim storage facilities in New Mexico and West Texas that are under review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Spent fuel would be stored at those locations until a national repository is ready.

“We will provide an option for people not satisfied with existing options,” said Deep Isolation’s co-founder and CEO Elizabeth Muller. She pointed out the interim sites were not “deep geologic storage.”

They’re looking at being safe for decades,” Muller said. “They’re looking at temporary storage. We’re looking at disposal.”

……..Several nuclear watchdog groups have advocated for keeping waste at sites where it has been generated rather than transporting it across the country to other locations. Deep Isolation’s storage method can be done at or near the generation sites, depending on the geology.

…….Deep Isolation was established about three years ago and has operated to date without government or institutional funding but hopes that will change.

……The government estimates it will cost $100 billion to dispose of existing nuclear waste at Yucca. “We project that the cost of Deep Isolation disposal is about one-third of a mined repository,” McCallum said.

David Lochbaum, former director of the Nuclear Safety Program for the Union of Concerned Scientists, has taken a seat on Deep Isolation’s advisory board.

“There are technical, legal and political challenges facing Deep Isolation, to be sure,” Lochbaum said via email. “I think their proposal could very well meet all these challenges.

“The spent fuel storage status quo is only worsening with time,” he said. “We need to find a solution before we run out of time to do so without harm.”

May 6, 2019 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Renewed political turmoil over plan for Yucca Mountain as nuclear waste dump

May 6, 2019 Posted by | politics, wastes | Leave a comment

The Blue Pacific and the legacies of nuclear testing 

The Strategist 1 May 2019| Patrick Kaiku States in the Pacific islands are small in landmass and population. Their limited terrestrial resources and lack of comparative advantage are compounded by their remoteness from global centres of commerce. This obviously has impacts on the costs of doing business and integration into global trade relations. Their invisibility in international relations means that small states must creatively frame their presence in the global community.It’s against this backdrop that the ‘Blue Pacific’, which is touted as an empowering worldview, should be understood. The core principles of the Blue Pacific must be read together with recent developments in the region. In 2017, Pacific Islands Forum leaders endorsed the concept as a ‘driving force’ connecting Pacific peoples ‘with their natural resources, environment, culture and livelihoods’. The Boe Declaration of 2018 formally recognised Pacific islanders’ stewardship over the Pacific Ocean.

While big states such as the US and China are competing for influence in the region, the Boe Declaration makes a case for prioritising the concerns of Pacific island communities. The strategic confrontations of big powers do not feature in the daily lives of Pacific peoples. What’s important to the survival of island states is their environment and the capacity of their resources to meet present needs and the needs of future generations. This logic is seen with the proposed Pacific Resilience Facility, which is a regional pool of resources to manage or mitigate the adverse effects of environmental challenges in the region.

….. a  sticky issue in the region is the potential effects of nuclear contamination of the Pacific Ocean. The legacies of nuclear tests in the Pacific islands include highly radioactive waste materials stored on vulnerable atolls.

In the 1950s, the Pacific Ocean was considered an empty space by the Euro-American powers. With the onset of the arms race during the Cold War, some of the colonial powers used the Pacific as a testing ground for their nuclear weapons. More than 300 nuclear tests were conducted in the Pacific Ocean. Atolls in the Marshall Islands, Johnston Island, Christmas Island and French Polynesia were used as nuclear test sites, casting long shadows into the present.

On one low-lying Pacific island atoll, the toxic legacy of the nuclear tests remains. In 2017, Mark Willacy from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation investigated the nuclear-waste storage facility on the remote atoll of Enewetak in the Marshall Islands. It was there that the US conducted its series of tests of nuclear weapons, including the first full-scale hydrogen bomb. Before it abandoned its nuclear testing program in the 1970s, the US buried contaminated material on Runit Island.

An estimated 85,000 cubic metres of radioactive waste is buried on Runit Island, including some of the world’s most toxic materials. It will take more than 24,000 years for the waste to disintegrate. It’s buried in porous coral and sand and capped by a concrete dome. Marshallese and international non-government organisations are concerned that sea-level rise and major typhoons will destroy the dome, resulting in the contamination of not only the Marshall Islands but the wider Pacific Ocean. Since the sea is a free-flowing matrix of currents and borderless movements of water, a Pacific-wide disaster is a plausible scenario…….

The Pacific island states have an illustrious record in employing collective diplomacy to tackle difficult issues. Since the 1980s, the high-water marks of collective diplomacy have been the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1982, the 1985 Rarotonga Treaty and the global moratorium on drift-net fishing. Currently, small states in the Pacific islands are actively engaged in framing the narrative on global cooperation to deal with climate change challenges.

The Blue Pacific is a timely framework, emphasising a Pacific islands worldview, and is an alternative to the zero-sum confrontations of big powers in the region. More importantly, it stresses the importance of cooperation on Pacific terms in dealing with transnational challenges. The various major powers embroiled in their great-power confrontations in the Pacific ought to be educated about the significance of the Blue Pacific and their participation in advancing the goals of that paradigm. After all, the Pacific Ocean connects all the large landmasses on the Pacific Rim. The state of affairs in the islands is a microcosm of the planet’s chances of surviving global environmental challenges.

Patrick Kaiku is a teaching fellow in the political science department at the University of Papua New Guinea.

May 4, 2019 Posted by | OCEANIA, wastes, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Particles From Cold War Nuclear Bomb Tests Found in Deepest Parts of the Ocean

Particles From Cold War Nuclear Bomb Tests Found in Deepest Parts of the Ocean

Crustaceans in the Mariana Trench and other underwater canyons feed on food from the surface laced with carbon-14 from Cold War bomb tests, By Christopher Crockett, , May 1, 2019 

Crustaceans in the Mariana Trench and other underwater canyons feed on food from the surface laced with carbon-14 from Cold War bomb tests
The first test of a thermonuclear weapon, or a hydrogen bomb, codenamed Ivy Mike and conducted by the United States in 1952 over the island of Elugelab in Enewetak Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. (Public Domain)……… Crustaceans in the Mariana Trench and other underwater canyons feed on food from the surface laced with carbon-14 from Cold War bomb tests

No place on Earth is free from human influence—not even the bottom of the deepest trenches in the ocean.

Shrimp-like critters from three West Pacific ocean trenches were found to munch on food that sinks down from the surface, leaving a unique chemical signature from decades-old nuclear bomb tests in the bodies of the deep-sea crustaceans. The findings, published recently in Geophysical Research Letters, not only help marine scientists figure out how these bottom dwellers survive, but also underscore the depths to which humanity’s influence can penetrate………

In those dark depths, one of the most common critters is the shrimp-like amphipod, a family of crustaceans that scavenge the ocean floor for food. Where that food comes from is a matter of debate. Potential sources include morsels that percolate up from Earth’s interior, nutrient-rich sediment that slides down steep trench walls, or tasty detritus that wafts down from the surface.

A recent haul of deep-sea amphipods offered Sun and colleagues a chance to solve this marine mystery. Using baited traps, two Chinese research vessels in 2017 harvested amphipods from three trenches in the West Pacific, including the famous Mariana Trench. Sun’s team chemically analyzed the amphipods’ muscle tissue and gut contents and found elevated levels of carbon-14, a heavy variant of carbon. The levels closely matched abundances found near the surface of the ocean, where the amount of carbon-14 is higher than usual thanks to nuclear bomb tests conducted more than half a century ago.

Carbon comes in a few different varieties based on how many neutrons are stuffed into its atomic nucleus. About one out of every trillion carbon atoms on Earth has two extra neutrons. This form, known as carbon-14, occurs naturally thanks to high-speed atomic particles from deep space whacking into nitrogen atoms. But in the middle of the 20th century, humans doubled the amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, from 1945 to 1963 the United States and the Soviet Union (with a little help from the United Kingdom and France) detonated nearly 500 nuclear bombs, 379 of which exploded in the atmosphere. These tests dramatically increased the amount of carbon-14 on our planet. The Test Ban Treaty of 1963 put a stop to most atmospheric and underwater tests, and carbon-14 levels in the atmosphere started a slow return to normal—though they are still higher than pre-nuclear levels—as ocean waters and land-based life absorbed carbon from the air.

………While the nuclear bomb signature has been recorded a couple miles down in the West Atlantic, no one has seen it as these depths before. “This is just interesting as all get out,” says Robert Key, a Princeton oceanographer who was not involved with this study. He points out that starting about a mile below the surface of the North Pacific, carbon-14 levels closely match what the atmosphere looked like before the bomb tests. “The high carbon-14 [in the amphipods] could only come from food that’s come down from the top,” he says.

The abundance of material created in nuclear bomb tests high in the sky found in the bodies of deep-dwelling amphipods underscores a very intimate connection between human activity and the most isolated reaches of the sea………….

May 2, 2019 Posted by | oceans, wastes, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Private Companies Pitch New Ways To Store USA’s piling up nuclear wastes

As Nuclear Waste Piles Up, Private Companies Pitch New Ways To Store It,  NPR, JEFF BRADY  1 May 19, Congress is once again debating how to dispose of the country’s growing inventory of nuclear waste. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., is proposing legislation that would jump-start licensing hearings for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage site in Nevada. The Trump administration also is asking Congress for money to resume work on that decades old project.But that may not end local opposition or a longstanding political stalemate. And in the meantime, nuclear plants are running out of room to store spent fuel.

Running out of room

The Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station in south-central Pennsylvania illustrates the problem. It’s one of 80 sites, across dozens of states, where nearly 80,000 metric tons of waste from power plants is stored where it was generated, at taxpayer expense.

Spent fuel removed from the Peach Bottom reactor is first stored in racks in a big pool. It’s surrounded by a bright yellow plastic barrier and signs that read “Caution: Radiation Area.”

“They are under about 22 feet of water,” says reactor engineering manager Mark Parrish. “They are continuously being cooled, as they still have some amount of decay heat even after they’ve operated in the reactor.”

The spent fuel stays here for seven to 10 years while it cools.

Once it’s safe to remove the spent fuel from the pool, it’s stored outside in white metal casks that look like big hot water heaters. They are lined up on a concrete base behind razor wire and against a hillside near the power plant.

Currently there are 89 casks at Peach Bottom with room for three more, says Pat Navin, site vice president for Exelon, the company that partially owns and operates the power plant.

“That is 40 years worth of spent fuel stored over there currently and it’s less than the size of a football field,” says Navin. “Probably half a football field.”…….

without a permanent disposal site, Navin says they’re going to run out of room. So they’re expanding the temporary storage to hold all the waste generated through the 60 years the plant is licensed to operate…..

Private companies propose their own storage plans

As the waste piles up, private companies are stepping in with their own solutions for the nation’s radioactive spent fuel. One is proposing a temporary storage site in New Mexico, and another is seeking a license for a site in Texas.

But most experts agree that what’s needed is a permanent site, like Yucca Mountain, that doesn’t require humans to manage it.

“Institutions go away,” says Edwin Lyman, acting director of the Nuclear Safety Project at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “There’s no guarantee the owner will still be around for the duration of time when that waste remains dangerous, which is tens or hundreds of thousands of years.”

A California company says it has a viable plan for permanent storage. Deep Isolation wants to store spent fuel in holes drilled at least 1,000 feet underground in stable rock formations. The company says the waste would be separate from groundwater and in a place where it can’t hurt people.,,,,,,

Regulators require retrieval, because new technology could develop to better deal with the spent fuel. And the public is less likely to accept disposal programs that can’t be reversed, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Proving the waste can be retrieved may be the easy part. The bigger challenge is federal law, which doesn’t allow private companies to permanently store nuclear waste from power plants.

Current law also says all the waste should end up at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. By contrast, Deep Isolation’s technology would store waste at sites around the country, likely near existing nuclear power plants.

“I just don’t see how there would be political support from every other state, other than Nevada, for changing the law, so that spent nuclear fuel could stay in your state forever,” says Lyman.

Despite the law, all that waste in dozens of states is staying put for now.

May 2, 2019 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Even USA’s conservative groups are objecting to subsidising Ohio’s nuclear power stations

May 2, 2019 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

U.S. Dept of Energy pledges to remove plutonium from Nevada

Energy Department says it will remove plutonium from Nevada, abc,By SCOTT SONNER, ASSOCIATED PRESS,  Apr 30, 2019,U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry is pledging to expedite the removal of weapons-grade plutonium secretly hauled to Nevada last year as the state and Trump administration remain locked in a court battle about whether the shipment was legal.

The Energy Department intends to start removing the highly radioactive material in 2021 and finish by the end of 2026, Perry said in an April 24 letter to U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, a Nevada Democrat.

He also assured her in the letter released Tuesday that his department won’t ship any more plutonium from South Carolina to the Nevada Nuclear Security Site north of Las Vegas.

Nevada still is seeking a formal court order preventing any shipments because it says the agency’s track record shows it cannot be trusted. It also has a related case before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

A federal judge in South Carolina has ordered the U.S. government to remove a metric ton (2,204 pounds) of plutonium from the Savannah River site by Jan. 1, 2020, and haul out an additional 5 metric tons (11,020 pounds) in future years.

Nevada sued in November, accusing the Energy Department of failing to do the necessary environmental reviews before adopting a plan last August to ship the plutonium to the state.

The department disclosed in January that it already had shipped half a metric ton (1,102 pounds) of the material before Nevada sued but kept it secret for national security reasons…….

The Energy Department has said it plans to forward the plutonium to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico by the “2026-2027 timeframe.”

May 2, 2019 Posted by | - plutonium, USA | Leave a comment

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak reiterates Nevada opposition to Yucca nuclear storage

May 2, 2019 Posted by | opposition to nuclear, politics, wastes | Leave a comment