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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Robot investigation shows the situation within the Fukushima reactor is much worse than expected

radiation-emanatingRadiation levels at Fukushima reactor puzzle nuclear experts, THE ASAHI SHIMBUN, February 19, 2017   A robot was expected to solidify ways to clean up the No. 2 reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, but its short-lived mission raised puzzling questions that could derail existing decommissioning plans.

The robot, Sasori, was abandoned in the melted-down reactor after it became stuck in deposits and other debris that are believed to have interfered with its drive system.

But it did take radiation measurements that indicate Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the plant, was too optimistic about the state and location of the melted fuel within the reactor. The melted fuel, in fact, may be spread out all over the reactor’s containment vessel.

Scientists had believed the melted nuclear fuel fell through the reactor’s pressure vessel and landed on metal grating and the floor of the containment vessel.

The results of Sasori’s investigation, coupled with previous data taken from possible images of the melted fuel, show the situation within the reactor is much worse than expected. And a fresh investigation into the reactor is now nowhere in sight.

A remote-controlled video camera inserted into the reactor on Jan. 30 took what are believed to be the first images of melted fuel at the plant, which suffered a triple meltdown after the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

Based on the images, TEPCO estimated 530 sieverts per hour at a point almost halfway between the metal grating directly beneath the pressure vessel and the wall of the containment vessel. Black lumps on the grating are believed to be melted fuel.

A different robot sent in on Feb. 9 to take pictures and prepare for Sasori’s mission estimated 650 sieverts per hour near the same spot.

Both 530 and 650 sieverts per hour can kill a person within a minute.

Sasori, equipped with a dosimeter and two cameras, on Feb. 16 recorded a reading of 210 sieverts per hour near the same location, the highest figure measured with instruments in the aftermath of the disaster.

Sasori was supposed to travel along a rail connecting the outer wall of the containment vessel with the metal grating to measure radiation doses and shoot pictures inside, essential parts of work toward decommissioning the reactor.

After traveling only 2 meters, the robot became stuck before it could reach the metal grating.

TEPCO at a news conference repeatedly said that Sasori’s investigation was not a “failure” but had produced “meaningful” results.

However, an official close to TEPCO said, “I had great expectations for Sasori, so I was shocked by how it turned out.”……(This article was compiled from reports by Kohei Tomida, Masanobu Higashiyama and Takashi Sugimoto) http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201702190042.html

February 20, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Growing concern over Trump’s mental condition

Their letter prompted another, from Dr Allen Frances, professor emeritus of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Duke University Medical College, who happens to be the expert psychiatrist who defined narcissistic personality disorder.

He rebuked the authors, arguing that to claim that Trump is mentally ill is an insult to those who truly are. But he also had this to say – Trump may be a “world-class narcissist”.

But the debate has taken off.  Another psychologist weighed in last month, telling US News and World Report that Trump displays a malignant narcissism, characterised by grandiosity, sadism and anti-social behaviour.

trump-how-badAmericans take an anxious journey to the centre of Donald Trump’s mind, The Age,Paul McGeough, 20 Feb 17  Washington: Flip references by reporters – mine included – to Donald Trump not taking his meds have been criticised as offensive to the mentally ill. But Trump’s unhinged behaviour, as in his erratic press conference on Thursday, ensures that the President’s mental state is the stuff of debate.

Rick Wilson, a Republican Party strategist and Trump critic, saw the Thursday press conference as a turning point – instead of a divide between left and right, the split he sees in America is between those who saw the spectacle as a “success” and those who are “terrified” for the future of the country.

“[His press conference] could have been evidence in a mental competency hearing,” he told The Washington Post. “It was really pretty disturbing and terrifying to watch this guy and think: ‘What happens when the stakes are higher?’”

On Saturday, The New York Times‘ conservative columnist David Brooks wrote in similar language about the press conference: “President Trump’s mental state is like a train that long ago left freewheeling and iconoclastic, has raced through indulgent, chaotic and unnerving, and is now careening past unhinged, unmoored and unglued.”

It’s not just the commentariat in the “fake press”, on which Trump has upped the ante, denouncing them as “the enemy of the American people”. Mental health professionals are weighing in.

In a letter to the editor of The New York Times last week, 35 psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers acknowledged they were in breach of professional rules against evaluating public figures, but to remain silent, they wrote, denied journalists and members of Congress the value of their expertise at this critical time.

Here’s their diagnosis: “Mr. Trump’s speech and actions demonstrate an inability to tolerate views different from his own, leading to rage reactions. His words and behaviour suggest a profound inability to empathise. Individuals with these traits distort reality to suit their psychological state, attacking facts and those who convey them (journalists, scientists).

“In a powerful leader, these attacks are likely to increase, as his personal myth of greatness appears to be confirmed. We believe that the grave emotional instability indicated by Mr Trump’s speech and actions makes him incapable of serving safely as president.”

Their letter prompted another, from Dr Allen Frances, professor emeritus of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Duke University Medical College, who happens to be the expert psychiatrist who defined narcissistic personality disorder.

He rebuked the authors, arguing that to claim that Trump is mentally ill is an insult to those who truly are. But he also had this to say – Trump may be a “world-class narcissist”.

But the debate has taken off.  Another psychologist weighed in last month, telling US News and World Report that Trump displays a malignant narcissism, characterised by grandiosity, sadism and anti-social behaviour.

Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio observes: “He lives inside his head, where he runs the same continuous loop of conflict with people he turns into enemies for the purposes of his psychodrama.”

The press conference was Trump unleashed. As though he couldn’t help himself, he seized the lectern at the end of a first chaotic month that had prompted this assessment from General Tony Thomas, head of the military’s Special Operations Command: “Our government continues to be in unbelievable turmoil. I hope they sort it out soon, because we’re a nation at war.”

In casting aside the usual filters and talking heads such as Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway, Trump signalled an attempted reset. After weeks of leaks, he is determined to rewrite the agenda – he was doing it again at a Boeing factory in South Carolina on Friday and at a campaign-style rally in Florida on Saturday.

Instead of being confronted by pesky, fake journalists, Trump was hungry for the adoring fans who turned out to both events, described by presidential historian Timothy Naftali as “an attempt to inject some adrenaline into his administration and shake a perception of loserdom“.

At the Florida bash, Trump basked in the glow of a 9000-strong crowd, forgetting his plummeting polls as he re-ran a string of well-worn campaign promises and whacked the media again before reaching his crescendo.

After serial exaggerations and misrepresentations of all that his administration has achieved, or not, he declared: “It’s a new day in America – this will be change for the ages, change like never before.”

But back in the real world, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was probably earning a presidential rebuke by acknowledging Trump’s frustration with media reporting, as she explained the Florida gig was likely to be the first to put Trump out front more often.

“There’s definitely frustration that the media makes up stories and reports things that aren’t true,” she told the Post. The Florida rally, she said, was an attempt “for the President to speak directly to the American people and not have his message filtered through a biased media.”………

As he basked in the limelight at Boeing on Friday, Associated Press dropped an exclusive – an internal administration document outlining a plan for the National Guard to be drafted to round up undocumented migrants. Despite its conformity with all that Trump said in the election campaign, the White House claimed it had been discarded.

Also on Friday, Trump hit a new low in opinion polls – confirming his standing as the least popular new president in American history, Gallup found that just 38 per cent of Americans approve his performance, against 56 per cent who disapprove.

Amidst a constant sense of crisis, two emerging patterns work against Trump – the Republican establishment figures who might save his administration are increasingly reluctant to work for him and he is being hemmed in by the checks and balances of the American democratic process.

Also working against him is the toxic brew he has concocted in the White House – factions divided by ideology and new hires defeated by their youth and inexperience.

After the debacle of appointing a national security adviser who proved incapable of surviving in the job for a month, Trump is desperately seeking for a replacement…….

Trump and those around him are paranoid about loyalty. In the last week, the State Department sacked six senior career staffers who were deemed suspect. And faction wars continue with gusto…….. http://www.theage.com.au/world/americans-take-an-anxious-journey-to-the-centre-of-donald-trumps-mind-20170219-gugc6j.html

February 20, 2017 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

Toshiba pulls out: it’s the end for Texas nuclear project

nuclear-dominoesFlag-USAToshiba pulling plug on US nuclear reactor plan. Write-downs, delays spell end to Texas project. Nikkei Asina Review,  February 20, 2017 TOKYO –– Toshiba appears set to withdraw from a plan to build two nuclear reactors at a U.S. power plant amid sizable write-downs on American nuclear operations and lengthy construction delays.

The Japanese manufacturer had been contracted to build the third and fourth reactors for U.S. utility NRG Energy’s South Texas Project, taking Toshiba’s advanced boiling water reactors abroad for the first time. Toshiba looks to pull out of the project, and will decide later what to do with its stake in the joint venture that serves as the developer.

  The reactors were to debut as early as 2016. But delays on the project have brought heavy costs for Toshiba, including write-downs totaling 72 billion yen ($638 million at current rates) logged in fiscal 2013 and fiscal 2014. Ground has not been broken on the units, while work such as civil engineering lies outside Toshiba’s purview. Further losses are unlikely, according to a source involved with the project……http://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Companies/Toshiba-pulling-plug-on-US-nuclear-reactor-plan

February 20, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, USA | 1 Comment

Court battle over pro nuclear law – ‘Future Energy Jobs’

legal actionFlag-USANuclear power struggle winds up in court, Herald and Review, TONY REID H&R Staff Writer, 19 Feb 17    CLINTON – Smoldering resentment over the new law that saved Clinton Power Station – and its 700 jobs – has now flared into a federal lawsuit.

Filed on Valentine’s Day, the suit expresses no love for the Future Energy Jobs law and asked a federal judge to block the legislation, which is due to take effect in June.

The law guarantees the survival of the Clinton nuclear power station and another nuclear plant in Quad-Cities for 10 years by offering taxpayer subsidies worth up to $235 million a year to top up the price paid for the stations’ electricity.

 Exelon Corp., the owner of both stations, said they were both losing money and faced closure without cash help. It also claimed the subsidies would help even the playing field with other nongreenhouse gas producing energy sources like wind power, which have enjoyed substantial tax breaks.

The lawsuit was filed by several rival power producers, including Dynegy Inc., which once owned the former Illinois Power Co. in Decatur and which runs natural gas and coal-fueled power stations, and a trade group, the Electric Power Supply Association.

They allege the new law is fundamentally unfair and skews the wholesale power marketplace at the expense of power customers because rivals without the advantage of subsidies won’t be able to compete, causing prices to, eventually, rise.

The lawsuit also claims Illinois lawmakers acted unlawfully and unconstitutionally by interfering in a regional wholesale power market that is under the ultimate control of a federal agency, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC.

Running to some 40 pages, the lawsuit spells out the price advantage the two Exelon nuclear stations will enjoy for their power, priced in blocks called megawatt hours, or MWhs. Current prices now, set at regional power auctions, run at $18 and $25 per Mwh for Quad-Cities and Clinton respectively, but will be topped up by taxpayer payments worth another $16.50 per Mwh under the new law…….

And it isn’t just manufacturers that are objecting. The Illinois Public Interest Research Group, or PIRG, a consumer organization that often finds itself opposing big companies, is standing with them in opposition to the Future Energy Jobs legislation.

While the organization likes some of the provisions encouraging renewable energy, it has a big problem with effectively bailing out two nuclear power plants.

“We fundamentally don’t agree with it, because Illinois ratepayers have already paid for these nuclear plants multiple times over,” Illinois PIRG director Abe Scarr said.

“Every dollar that we spend on propping up these old nuclear plants is an opportunity lost, and it’s a dollar we’re not spending on the transition to truly clean renewable energy.

“Putting our thumb on the scale for nuclear power depresses the price for the wholesale power market and makes it harder for renewables and other power providers to compete in that market.” http://herald-review.com/business/energy/nuclear-power-struggle-winds-up-in-court/article_389fc122-970a-5910-b39a-b4bf15f8a207.html

February 20, 2017 Posted by | Legal, USA | Leave a comment

America’s nuclear weapons made workers very ill

body-radThe perils of Pantex: Hundreds of workers sickened at Texas nuclear weapons plant http://www.star-telegram.com/news/state/texas/article49500030.html

Panhandle nuclear weapons assembly plant a hazardous workplace

Workers used to joke that they made soap at the facility

More than 1,300 workers and families have been awarded compensation since 2000

Bob Ruzich, a 31-year worker at the nuclear assembly plant here, rarely got sick. He had to cash out his sick hours every year because he was so healthy.

But in a matter of months, the Pantex Plant worker became so fragile that he had to be rushed by helicopter to the hospital. Ruzich’s 18-year-old son watched from the front yard of their Panhandle home as his father’s motionless body was lifted into the air, said his wife, Barbara Ruzich.

“You do what you have to do,” Barbara Ruzich said. “You don’t sit back and cry.”

Years ago, it was popular for plant workers to tell spouses and other loved ones that they made soap at the nuclear weapons assembly facility on a 16,000-acre parcel. But Pantex now conjures up a different image, as hundreds have suddenly fallen ill or died at the plant, a vital component in the nation’s nuclear weapons program since the 1950s.

The federal government has made concessions to a growing number of workers, like Ruzich, whose Pantex jobs made them sick. Many hundreds have been provided with medical coverage and lump sum payments, under the energy employees’ compensation program, according to records provided to the Star-Telegram by the Labor Department.

Bob Ruzich, now 64, said he never thought the chemicals in the maintenance warehouse and the toxins on the production line would give him throat and tongue cancer.

“I didn’t think much about it, but I do now believe that’s what caused my cancer,’’ said Ruzich, who worked dismantling warheads and in the maintenance department since 1982.

Several years ago, less than 1 in 5 claims were decided in favor of workers and their families, according to records provided to the Star-Telegram. Now, more than half are typically handed compensation and medical care because of a prevalence of scientific evidence that their illness was caused by an exposure to plant hazards, records say.

All told, $171 million in compensation and medical bills has been disbursed to more than 1,300 workers and families since the energy employees’ compensation program began in 2000, the program’s numbers say.

“The number of claimaints or sick workers was beyond the expectations of those who originally created the program,” said Sarah Ray, a former Pantex critical safety systems training specialist, who has filed thousands of claims on behalf of Pantex workers and their families since the program started.

“Overall, there just has not been a real grasp of the true situations faced by nuclear weapons workers,” said Ray, who believes that thousands more aren’t aware that they are sick because they have not developed symptoms. “They are different than workers who insert a bolt in a car door.”

Until they hear about the deteriorating health of co-workers and friends, most people seldom realize the harm that has been done, said Clarence Rashada, an instrument technician at the plant for 21 years.

And then it’s too late, Rashada said.

“People are just coming to grips with this — that the plant made them sick — and they are angry,” he said. “The problem that you have was, for example, the secrecy that we had for so many years.”

 ‘Heartbreaking’

If anyone understands the devastation of Pantex workers and their families, it’s David Pompa, now a Pantex safety and industrial hygiene officer who worked as a production line technician years ago.

Since 2000, Pompa has documented each sick case in a running log that includes more than several hundred employees. Over the years, Pompa has gone with the sick to see doctors, to meet with supervisors and staff members and to special hearings with government claims examiners, employees said.

“These are my friends,’’ Pompa said. “I’ve always been concerned with the health of the workers.”

In the last 1  1/2 years, five current or former employees have died suddenly, Pompa said. When one worker, in his early 60s, was diagnosed with lung cancer early this year, his organs were covered in granulomas, a tissue inflammation that occurs when the body is trying to fight off infection.

“Another worker called me in November that she had some health issues and, in March, she’s gone,” Pompa said. “… Another worker went from the doctor’s office to the hospital to hospice. It was that quick.”

The sick include physical education trainers, auditors, instrument technicians and firefighters, Pompa said. They are production technicians, laboratory workers and janitors. They are security guards and warehouse clerks, Pompa said.

“What I hear is heartbreaking,” Pompa said. “It’s plantwide.”

Ray, the former Pantex training specialist, said she now hears of more families burying their dead.

“Workers at Pantex are walking time bombs,’’ Ray said. “They have this false bravado — especially the guys. Then all of a sudden, they are really, really sick and they learn they are deathly ill from some lung problem. Then they’ve got something else and they die, just because they’re not paying attention to the minor signs.”

Ray’s own husband, a former Pantex engineer, died within three months of a lung cancer diagnosis. He was 54, Ray said.

“He went from being a very active, very healthy man and then he was gone,” Ray said.

Lisa Trevino, a 22-year Pantex employee, now works with Pompa in the safety and industrial hygiene department, which issues to workers safety-protective gear, such as safety glasses, shoes, respirators, radiation dosimeters and other air sampling devices.

“I hear all the people calling David telling him that they are sick, that they have cancer, the respiratory problems, the beryllium,” Trevino said. “It makes me sick just hearing about it.”

Family frustrations

The government had agreed to compensate Eddie Gray, a security guard at the Pantex Plant, for indirectly causing the condition that ultimately led to his death.

But on the July 2014 morning that her 60-year-old husband died, Linda Gray was told that his promised federal benefits would stop.

“I cannot fault Eddie for working there,” Linda Gray said. “It provided for us a very good living, but I hate that the industry was ever established.”

Rachel P. Leiton, director of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program under the Labor Department, says the agency over the years has implemented shortcuts to ease access to the program for families.

‘We try to the best we can to compensate them based on our statutory authority that we’re given. … It’s a nonadversarial system; the money is there to provide benefits to these employees. … We do whatever we can to try to assist them,” Leiton said.

But families like the Grays often become frustrated when trying to tap claims. Many are elderly and have a work-related impairment, such as heart disease or diabetes. Many feel that the government makes the process more difficult for them so as to deter claims.

“Have you ever used any kind of health insurance? You get a whole sense from the insurance companies that they don’t want to pay out the money in the hopes you go away. Here, it is in spades,” said Dr. Arthur Frank, professor of environmental and occupational health in the public health department at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

“The workers are given an extraordinarily hard time,” said Frank, who was at Pantex in the early 2000s to help identify workers who had been exposed to toxins.

Bob Ruzich waited more than three years for a claim to be decided in his favor and was initially denied while in the heat of battle with cancer. Linda Gray submitted her husband’s death certificate last October to try to get a final payment of benefits. It was included in a 15-page fax.

“It will be January before I can get to you,” she was told by the new case examiner assigned to her claim.

The last compensation check arrived more than a year after Eddie Gray’s death.

‘We’re going to help’

When the program began 15 years ago, Ray said, the Labor Department made promises: “We’re going to help you. It’s going to be easy.”

Ray, who has filed thousands of claims on behalf of Pantex workers and their families, said it can take years for claimants to receive money or get healthcare assistance. Ray has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s in instructional technology.

She’s seen widespread examples of payouts that occur only after a worker dies. She handled the claim of one widow who just this year received a payout on a claim that her husband filed in 2005. The husband died of cancer in 2011.

“Many claimants have commented that they think the claims are drug out so that the claimants die,” Ray said. “It truly is less costly to pay a survivor than it is to pay compensation and provide long-term healthcare for a living worker.”

Half of all claims are settled on behalf of survivors, including workers’ spouses, children, parents, grandchildren and grandparents, Leiton indicated.

Leiton’s office has made some changes in response to similar complaints of delays.

For example, once it secures a statement from a doctor, the Labor Department can grant waivers so that fiscal officers can retrieve bank information and secure lump sum checks into the checking accounts of terminal workers “within a matter of days,” Leiton said.

“I personally believe that the program is very important,” Leiton said.

Dr. Laurence J. Fuortes, professor of occupational and environmental health at the College of Public Health at the University of Iowa, said the program has done a lot of good.

“This is not the work of the devil,” said Fuortes, who wrote a health petition that led to more than doubling the number of application claims at Pantex. “These are saints in government who tried to enact a program to address historic wrongs.”

‘They killed him’

It was a typical afternoon drive home for Charlie Somerville, a production line technician at the Pantex Plant.

But as he drove, he began to feel an itching sensation that rose through his body. By the time he got home, he couldn’t bear the discomfort. He tore off his shirt to expose large welts on his back.

“I got it checked out and the doctor told me it was probably hives,” Somerville said.

In 2002, Somerville, now 66, was found to have developed an allergic response to beryllium, a cancer-causing metal used in the production of nuclear warheads. He has since developed chronic beryllium disease, a potentially fatal respiratory disease that can also affect the liver, kidneys, heart and nervous system.

In the early years of the energy employees’ compensation program, more than a dozen workers, like Somerville, tested positive for beryllium sensitization and later developed the full-blown disease and radiogenic cancers, Pompa said.

Eddie Gray, Linda Gray’s husband who was a security guard at Pantex, had chronic beryllium disease before he developed three other cancers, she said.

And Ray suspects that her husband, the former Pantex engineer who died of lung cancer, had a beryllium sensitivity. He died March 6, 1998.

“They killed him, in my estimation,” Ray said.

Workers at Pantex are required to undergo annual physicals in which they submit blood samples sent for analysis to National Jewish Health, a Denver-based medical research facility that specializes in respiratory and allergic disorders.

A local doctor won’t be able to diagnose the condition, said Pete Lopez, a 43-year plant employee who has chronic beryllium disease.

“It’s something doctors don’t deal with daily,” Lopez said. “You say beryllium and they’re like what’s beryllium and how did you get involved with beryllium.”

To treat his condition, Lopez must take heavy steroids and codeine for a cough that would be incessant if left untreated, he said. He has had kidney failure.

“You can’t live dying,” Lopez said. “You got to die living.”

Somerville said he has not been to a doctor since he retired more than five years ago. He has trouble breathing, and he wheezes and has an intermittent cough. He knows he needs immediate medical attention, but he’s not eager to do battle with a government claims examiner to get the proper medical care.

“I don’t understand why you have to do that so often when all you should have to do is make one phone call, but anyway that’s just the way it is,” Somerville said.

“I just got tired of messing with it. But I’m going to have to go because it’s been so long.”

Yamil Berard: 817-390-7705@yberard

February 20, 2017 Posted by | health, PERSONAL STORIES, USA | Leave a comment

USA confirms use of depleted uranium i n Syria, despite its previous promises

depleted-uraniumSamuel Oakford:  US promised it wouldn’t use Depleted Uranium in Syria. But then it did. February 14, 2017. Officials have confirmed that the US military – despite vowing not to use controversial Depleted Uranium (DU) weapons on the battlefield in Iraq and Syria – fired thousands of rounds of such munitions during two high-profile raids on oil trucks in Islamic State-controlled Syria in late 2015. The air assaults mark the first confirmed use of this armament since the 2003 Iraq invasion, when hundreds of thousands of rounds were fired, leading to outrage among local communities which alleged that toxic remnants caused both cancer and birth defects.https://airwars.org/news/depleteduranium1/

ICBUW: United States confirms that it has fired depleted uranium in Syria 21 October 2016. US admits that it fired DU on two occasions in November 2015, contrary to earlier claims; military justification for use unclear after target analysis; ICBUW and PAX call for full disclosure to facilitate harm reduction measures; Russia takes advantage of news to distract from its own conduct in the conflict.   http://www.bandepleteduranium.org/en/united-states-confirms-fired-du-syria

February 20, 2017 Posted by | depleted uranium, Syria, USA | Leave a comment

Former boss of BP’s Russian arm is the frontrunner to take charge of Europe’s biggest nuclear waste dump

Rowland Dye HANG ON…DID I READ THE CLEANUP COSTS ARE ……..£117BILLION FFS………The former boss of BP’s Russian arm is the frontrunner to take charge of  Europe’s biggest nuclear waste dump. David Peattie, 62, is being lined up
to run the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), the state-owned body that manages the vast Sellafield site in Cumbria.

Peattie spent more than three decades with BP, leaving in 2013 to become boss of North Sea oil explorer Fairfield Energy. Unfortunately, the move coincided with the oil price collapse, and Peattie left the private equity-backed company two
years later.

The high-flyer’s imminent appointment reflects Whitehall’s determination to get a grip on the NDA. The authority faces a huge damages bill after a court ruling that it botched the award of the £7bn contract to clean up Magnox sites. It is considering an appeal. The NDA’s £3bn annual budget consumes 25% of the business department’s spend¬ing. The clean-up bill for the country’s nuclear plants is estimated at £117bn.

Ex-BP boss lined up for nuclear job Sun Times 19th Feb 2017

The former boss of BP’s Russian arm is the frontrunner to take charge of Europe’s biggest nuclear waste dump. David Peattie, 62, is being lined up to run the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA)…

February 20, 2017 Posted by | UK, wastes | Leave a comment

“Forest cities” – a plan to save China from air pollution

‘Forest cities’: the radical plan to save China from air pollution, Guardian 18 Feb 17
Stefano Boeri, the architect famous for his plant-covered skyscrapers, has designs to create entire new green settlements in a nation plagued by dirty air 
When Stefano Boeri imagines the future of urban China he sees green, and lots of it. Office blocks, homes and hotels decked from top to toe in a verdant blaze of shrubbery and plant life; a breath of fresh air for metropolises that are choking on a toxic diet of fumes and dust.

forest-city-for-china

Last week, the Italian architect, famed for his tree-clad Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest) skyscraper complex in Milan, unveiled plans for a similar project in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing.

The Chinese equivalent – Boeri’s first in Asia – will be composed of two neighbouring towers coated with 23 species of tree and more than 2,500 cascading shrubs. The structures will reportedly house offices, a 247-room luxury hotel, a museum and even a green architecture school, and are currently under construction, set for completion next year.

But Boeri now has even bolder plans for China: to create entire “forest cities” in a country that has become synonymous with environmental degradation and smog.

“We have been asked to design an entire city where you don’t only have one tall building but you have 100 or 200 buildings of different sizes, all with trees and plants on the facades,” Boeri told the Guardian. “We are working very seriously on designing all the different buildings. I think they will start to build at the end of this year. By 2020 we could imagine having the first forest city in China.”

 Boeri described his “vertical forest” concept as the architectural equivalent of a skin graft, a targeted intervention designed to bring new life to a small corner of China’s polluted urban sprawl. His Milan-based practice claimed the buildings would suck 25 tons of carbon dioxide from Nanjing’s air each year and produce about 60 kg of oxygen every day.

“It is positive because the presence of such a large number of plants, trees and shrubs is contributing to the cleaning of the air, contributing to absorbing CO2 and producing oxygen,’ the architect said. “And what is so important is that this large presence of plants is an amazing contribution in terms of absorbing the dust produced by urban traffic.”

Boeri said, though, that it would take more than a pair of tree-covered skyscrapers to solve China’s notorious pollution crisis. “Two towers in a huge urban environment [such as Nanjing] is so, so small a contribution – but it is an example. We hope that this model of green architecture can be repeated and copied and replicated.”

If the Nanjing project is a skin graft, Boeri’s blueprints for “forest cities” are more like an organ transplant. The Milan-born architect said his idea was to create a series of sustainable mini-cities that could provide a green roadmap for the future of urban China.

The first such settlement will be located in Luizhou, a mid-sized Chinese city of about 1.5 million residents in the mountainous southern province of Guangxi. More improbably, a second project is being conceived around Shijiazhuang, an industrial hub in northern China that is consistently among the country’s 10 most polluted cities…….. https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/feb/17/forest-cities-radical-plan-china-air-pollution-stefano-boeri?CMP=fb_gu

February 20, 2017 Posted by | China, environment | Leave a comment

Top science adviser warns on the change in culture in the Trump era

science-denialObama’s top science adviser’s guide to navigating the Trump era John Holdren: “We can be in for a major shift in the culture around science.” Vox News,  Feb 18, 2017 BOSTON — If there’s a subtext to this year’s meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the largest gathering of scientists of the year, it’s anxiety for the future.

John Holdren, the top science adviser to President Barack Obama who spoke Friday at the conference, summed it up like this:

“I’m worried — based on early indications — that we can be in for a major shift in the culture around science and technology and its eminence in government. We appear to have a president now that resists facts that do not comport to his preferences. And that bodes ill on the Obama Administration’s emphases on scientific integrity, transparency, and public access.”

Trump has yet to select people for several top science jobs in the administration — such as NASA administrator, director of the CDC, and director of the NIH.

 But with the appointment of Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency, he’s signaled that his administration will be making big changes to environmental regulation. One of the first bills he signed as president killed an Obama era rule that made it harder for coal companies to dump waste in streams.

One of the names floated for Trump’s science adviser is Will Happer, a former Princeton physics professor who recently told ProPublica the science on global warming was “very, very shaky.”……

Scientists are becoming more politically engaged in the Trump era, and it shows here at AAAS. Later in the day, Harvard science historian Naomi Oreskes got a standing ovation after speaking on how scientists can — and should — be “sentinels” for the public, and shouldn’t fear a loss of credibility for getting more politically engaged……http://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/2/18/14653234/holdren-aaas-science-trump

February 20, 2017 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

Britain has faced 110 nuclear weapon alerts – four times more than the MoD admits

BRINK OF APOCALYPSE  Britain has faced 110 nuclear weapon alerts – four times more than the MoD admits, One incident reportedly saw nuclear weapons accidentally taken to Falklands War on ship carrying Prince Andrew, The Sun BY DANNY COLLINS 19th February 2017, 

February 20, 2017 Posted by | incidents, UK | Leave a comment

Toshiba Nuclear Losses and Woes

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The logo of Toshiba Corp. is seen at the company’s facility in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, on Monday

Toshiba’s woes weigh heavily on government’s ambition to sell Japan’s nuclear technology

OSAKA – Toshiba’s announcement that it will write down nearly ¥712.5 billion in losses involving its U.S. nuclear unit, Westinghouse, is seen as a major setback for the government’s strategy of selling Japanese nuclear power technology abroad.

Over the past four years, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, and nuclear power players, such as Toshiba/Westinghouse, General Electric-Hitachi and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, have promoted Japanese nuclear reactor technology worldwide.

Attempts to increase exports came even as concern within Japan grew over nuclear safety following a triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 plant in the wake of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The efforts also came as questions were being raised about the total cost of nuclear power compared with other energy sources.

Japanese firms have attempted, with little success, to sell their technologies in countries as diverse as France, Vietnam, India, Turkey, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and the United Arab Emirates. In June 2016, Toshiba said its goal was to win orders for 45 or more nuclear reactors overseas by 2030.

But Tuesday’s announcement by Toshiba came a few weeks after the company announced it would not take any new construction orders for nuclear reactors, and that it would focus instead on maintenance and decommissioning operations.

That decision effectively ended a decade-long effort by Toshiba, which began when it acquired a majority stake in Westinghouse in 2006, to make nuclear reactors a viable export business.

It follows greater than projected construction costs for four Westinghouse AP1000 next-generation nuclear reactors in the U.S. that have run billions of dollars over budget and are three years behind schedule. Original plans called for their startup around 2019 but that could be delayed.

Yoshimitsu Kobayashi, chairman of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives, told reporters at a regular news conference on Tuesday that promoting nuclear reactor exports was a necessary strategy, but one that needed to be reviewed.

The nuclear power industry requires huge amounts of money for safety,” Kobayashi said.

Given such high costs, we have to think about whether just one company can succeed. We have to keep strong technology in Japan, but we need to rethink how to create a union of private firms” in the nuclear business, he said.

But with Toshiba’s problems and the growing use worldwide of other, cheaper energy sources, including some renewables, anti-nuclear groups see an opportunity for Japan to change its basic policy.

The Japanese government’s nuclear export policy was built on a combination of a poor understanding of the global energy market and self-delusion, said Shaun Burnie, a senior nuclear specialist at Greenpeace Germany who is currently based in Japan.

The sooner the government and industry realize there is no future for nuclear power either domestically or in exports, the sooner they can concentrate on the energy technology of the future — renewables.”

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/02/15/national/toshibas-woes-weigh-heavily-governments-ambition-sell-japans-nuclear-technology/#.WKTKvBh7Sis

 

VOX POPULI: Toshiba’s plight shows nuclear business is now a treacherous bet

What appears to be a lump of melted nuclear fuel is discernible in a photo, released late last month, of the interior of the crippled No. 2 reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The high radiation level inside the reactor would be lethal to humans so a small robot was expected to start inspecting the interior on Feb. 16. (The robot started inspection around 7:50 a.m.)

The robot is marked with the name TOSHIBA.

While leading the nation in the dismantling of nuclear reactors, Toshiba Corp. has aggressively pursued nuclear power plant construction overseas through its U.S. affiliate.

But on Feb. 14, the company announced a projected loss of 712.5 billion yen ($6.3 billion) in its nuclear business. To survive, Toshiba will have to sell off its profitable businesses piecemeal. To be sure, the company is in for massive restructuring.

The 2011 nuclear accident at the Fukushima plant was one of the indirect causes of Toshiba’s losses. Around the world, tighter regulations have been applied to nuclear power plants because of safety concerns, and Toshiba’s four nuclear plant construction projects in the United States became far more costly than anticipated.

The company has only itself to blame for underestimating the consequences of the Fukushima disaster.

I dropped in at the Toshiba Science Museum in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, the other day. Its impressive array of exhibits included Japan’s first electric refrigerator, washing machine and vacuum cleaner. There was even a portable personal computer, said to be the first of its kind in the world.

Once a prestigious corporation that boasted cutting-edge technology, I wonder how long Toshiba’s decline will continue.

Overseas, Siemens AG of Germany withdrew from the nuclear business after the Fukushima accident, and France’s Areva SA is said to be struggling.

Toshiba’s massive losses remind us anew that the end is drawing near on the era of lucrative nuclear businesses.

A long, tough road lies ahead for the decommissioning of Fukushima’s nuclear reactors. I feel for Toshiba workers who are engaged in this task while their company languishes.

It will soon be six years since the Fukushima disaster. The days of having to confront the gravity of that accident are far from over.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201702160039.html

 

 

February 17, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Tepco’s makes error in Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant’s quake proof tests

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TEPCO admits error in screening report

Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority is demanding an explanation from Tokyo Electric Power Company.
TEPCO has admitted to submitting inaccurate information from calculations 3 years ago on plans for restarting two of its nuclear reactors in Niigata Prefecture.
The regulator is in the final stages of screening the No.6 and 7 reactors at TEPCO’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.
The reactors must meet new government requirements introduced after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
Regulators gathered on Tuesday for discussions with TEPCO about buildings at the plant to be used as headquarters in an emergency.
TEPCO officials admitted one of the buildings lacked the necessary quake-resistance in all 7 of the company’s tests.
They had earlier said that the building had failed 5 of the 7 tests. They said they would not use the building.
They blamed the discrepancy on a failure by the civil engineering department to convey test results to the equipment design department.
The regulators noted the lack of coordination between TEPCO departments on the impact of soil liquefaction on breakwaters.
They called the mistakes unacceptable, and they’re demanding that TEPCO provide details and countermeasures.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170215_18/

 

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Kashiwazaki Mayor Masahiro Sakurai, center, visiting the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture during an emergency drill in December. He is briefed by plant chief Chikashi Shitara, right

 

Key Niigata nuclear plant building may not be quake-proof

Tokyo Electric Power Co. has revealed that a key building at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant may not be able to withstand even half of the assumed strongest seismic shaking, contrary to its earlier assurances.

TEPCO’s disclosure came Feb. 14 during a screening by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) for the restart of the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture, which is the world’s largest.

The utility became aware of the possibility in 2014, but the information was not shared within the company. TEPCO reported to the NRA that the building can withstand temblors of 7, the highest category on the Japanese seismic intensity scale.

The building is designed to serve as an on-site emergency headquarters in the event of a severe accident, such as one caused by an earthquake.

An earthquake that occurred off the Chuetsu region of Niigata Prefecture in 2007 badly damaged the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.

In response, TEPCO constructed the building in question in 2009. At that time, it said the structure could withstand the assumed biggest earthquake motions that are 1.5 times stronger than those described in the Building Standards Law.

In 2014, the utility checked the building’s anti-quake capabilities again. It found that it may not be able to withstand horizontal movements triggered by even half the anticipated strongest earthquake, and that it could collapse into the side of an adjacent building.

That information was not conveyed to the company’s division in charge of the NRA’s screening, and thus escaped notice from NRA inspections.

Takafumi Anegawa, managing executive officer of TEPCO, apologized, saying, “We did not conceal the possibility. The in-house liaison was insufficient.”

An NRA official said, “Information is not shared in the company. Lessons from the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant are not utilized.”

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201702150042.html


 

February 16, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Tepco to issue $612 million bond in first bond sale since Fukushima

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Visitors look at the logo of Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) at the Energy Market Liberalisation Expo in Tokyo, Japan March 2, 2016

Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) submitted plans on Wednesday to sell a total of 70 billion yen ($612 million) of bonds, its first sale since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Tepco unit, Tepco Power Grid Inc, which is in charge of power transmission and distribution, said in a filing with the Kanto Local Finance Bureau it will sell a 30 billion yen three-year bond and a 40 billion yen five-year bond. The coupon will be set between March 3 and 17.

The sale will mark the return of the company to Japan’s corporate bond market, which it dominated before the 2011 earthquake and tsunami triggered the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986, bringing Tepco to its knees.

The utility, once Asia’s largest, was essentially nationalized after Fukushima. It currently faces billions of dollars in costs to dismantle the crippled Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant, decontaminate the area and compensate victims after the meltdown of three reactors.

Tepco, which has 650 billion yen worth of bonds maturing in the year ending March 2018, wants to restart regular bond issuance to ensure stable refinancing. It said the planned issue was to pay for “equipment, pay back debt and bond redemption.”

Investors, who were initially skeptical about the bond issuance plan, have become more comfortable with the utility’s outlook after the government last year provided more details on decommissioning and compensation costs.

The government owns 50.1 percent of the company following its bailout, seen by some investors as an implicit state guarantee for the company.

Six firms have been hired to manage the sale: SMBC Nikko Securities, a unit of Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group; Nomura Securities; Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities, a unit of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc; Mizuho Securities, a unit of Mizuho Financial Group Inc; Daiwa Securities; and Shinkin Securities, a unit of Shinkin Central Bank.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-tepco-bonds-sale-idUSKBN15U06Z

February 16, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

NRA pushing dry cask storage, not pools, for spent nuclear fuel

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Japan’s nuclear watchdog will ease quake-related and other regulations on storing spent fuel to push the use of dry casks and reduce the dangers stemming from power failures at nuclear power plants.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority decided on Jan. 25 that utilities should place spent nuclear fuel in the special air cooling containers instead of the common practice of submerging the fuel rods in pools of water.

Fuel stored in pools is cooled by circulating water with pumps, but the system can shut down if earthquakes and other disasters cut off the power supply. The water could then evaporate, leaving the spent fuel and radioactive substances exposed to air.

Electric power companies have shown a positive attitude toward the dry storage system because it would enable them to keep more spent fuel when the pools are filled close to capacity.

However, municipalities that host nuclear power plants have expressed strong concerns that the system will let utilities keep spent nuclear fuel at plant sites for prolonged periods.

NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka stressed the need for safety.

It (dry cask storage) is much safer than storing fuel in pools,” he said.

The Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami cut off power to Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in March 2011. Three reactors melted down, and the cooling system would not work for more than 1,000 spent fuel assemblies in the pool in the No. 4 reactor building.

Fears arose that all water in the pool could evaporate. But emergency measures, including the pumping in of water, were taken to keep the fuel submerged.

Under the dry storage system, the fuel is sufficiently cooled in pools and placed in dedicated airtight cases. The special casks are then stored inside air-permeable facilities.

The NRA plans to promote use of casks that are currently used to transport spent nuclear fuel.

The containers have passed durability tests and can withstand falls from a height of 9 meters and high-temperature fires.

Dry storage containers are widely used in the United States and Europe.

But the use of dry casks has not spread in Japan because of the high hurdles that must be cleared. One requirement is that those containers must be stored in building that can withstand the strongest earthquake predicted in the area.

As a result, dry storage containers are used at only a few nuclear facilities in the country, such as Japan Atomic Power Co.’s Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant in Ibaraki Prefecture.

According to the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, a total of 15,000 tons of spent fuel is stored at 17 nuclear plants across Japan.

Seventy percent of their fuel pools and other storage facilities have been filled with spent fuel.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201702140004.html

February 14, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Riken to experiment converting nuclear waste into precious metals

The government-backed Riken research institute is set to launch experiments on converting radioactive substances contained in high-level nuclear waste generated at atomic power stations into precious metals starting fiscal 2018, it has been learned.

The method, which is dubbed “modern alchemy,” is said to be theoretically viable but hasn’t been put into practical use. If realized, the formula is expected to contribute to trimming nuclear waste and even making effective use of it.

The experiment will be part of the Cabinet Office’s program to promote innovative research and development, called “Impulsing Paradigm Change through Disruptive Technologies (ImPACT)” program. In the initial stage of the demonstration experiment, palladium-107, a radioactive material contained in nuclear waste and whose half-life is 6.5 million years, will be turned into nontoxic palladium-106, which is commonly used in dental therapy, jewelry goods and exhaust gas purification catalysts.

Using an accelerator at the Riken Nishina Center for Accelerator-Based Science in Wako, Saitama Prefecture, the scientists will attempt to convert palladium-107 into palladium-106 by irradiating the former with deuteron beams, in what is called the “nuclear transformation” process. The experiment is set to be the world’s first of its kind on nuclear transformation of palladium, according to Riken officials.

The researchers will compile the outcome of the experiment as early as the fall of 2018 after confirming the ratio of palladium successfully transformed and other results.

As nuclear waste is highly radioactive, the government is currently looking into methods to isolate such waste deep into the ground after sealing it in specially designed containers. If the nuclear transformation process proves viable, it could contribute to reducing nuclear waste and making efficient use of it.

It remains to be seen whether nuclear transformation will prove successful just as in theory and if the process can be turned into practical use at a low cost. In the past, a nuclear transformation experiment was carried out on minor actinides, or “heavy” nuclear waste, at the Joyo experimental fast reactor in Oarai, Ibaraki Prefecture, but the upcoming experiment will be the country’s first using fission products, or “light” nuclear waste.

ImPACT program manager Reiko Fujita said, “We are still at the basic research stage and are far from putting it into practical use. We will, however, move a step forward if we manage to obtain data through our experiment.”

 http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170211/p2a/00m/0na/010000c#csidxbf06aa198998809824911f3303dfcb0

February 13, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment