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Switzerland’s nuclear meltdown in 1969

Historic nuclear accident dashed Swiss atomic dreams  https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/radioactive_historic-nuclear-accident-dashed-swiss-atomic-dreams/44696398  JAN 21, 2019 

Fifty years ago today, a nuclear meltdown occurred in Switzerland’s first experimental nuclear power station. Built in an underground chamber in Lucens in the western part of the country, it was the site of the worst nuclear accident in Swiss history.

The plant was opened in 1962, with the aim of not only producing energy, but also allowing Switzerland to develop a reactor bearing the “Made in Switzerland” label and enabling experiments with nuclear energy.

But these plans were pushed aside when disaster struck in the plant’s reactor cavity on January 21, 1969. A pressure tube burst which created a power surge leading to the reactor malfunctioning and an explosion. Luckily, a member of staff who was scheduled to be working on the reactor at the time was found safe and sound elsewhere. The plant’s underground design also prevented people and the environment from being harmed.

The accident’s severity registered at 5 out of a possible 7. The concentration of leaked cooling gas that was behind the door of the reactor cavity was lethal. It wasn’t even possible to measure the radioactivity because it was above the maximum level on the measuring instruments.

But the reactor cavern was not completely sealed: the radioactivity spread to the control room 100 metres away. In the machine cavern closest to the reactor, a team involved in shutting down the turbine had been exposed to radiation. A witness report said that since the decontamination showers had been out of order, the workers had to shower in a temporary facility without hot water.

The government ordered an inquiry into the incident and a report was eventually published ten years later. The Swiss Association for Atomic Energy found there had been no major negligence on the part of the plant’s managers. The cause of the incident was corrosion in a pressure tube, brought about by humidity.

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January 22, 2019 Posted by | history, incidents, Switzerland | Leave a comment

Swiss Government under pressure to sign nuclear ban treaty

Government under pressure to sign nuclear ban treaty, SWISS INFO.CH DEC 12, 2018 Parliament has urged the Swiss government to ratify a United Nations accord banning nuclear arms and to submit it to a political debate for approval.The Senate on Wednesday followed the House of Representatives approving a formal call thereby overruling a government decision earlier in the year not to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

Supporters said failure to sign the accord sent a negative message to the international community and undermined Switzerland’s credibility as a champion of humanitarian law………

The TPNW will enter into force when at least 50 countries ratify it. Signatories have obligations not to develop, test, produce, acquire, possess, stockpile, use or threaten to use nuclear weapons. The agreement also prohibits the deployment of nuclear weapons on national territory and assistance to any country involved in prohibited activities.

So far, 67 countries have approved the treaty and another 19 have ratified it. https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/parliament_government-under-pressure-to-sign-nuclear-ban-treaty/44613098

December 13, 2018 Posted by | politics, Switzerland, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Switzerland’s Mühleberg Nuclear Power Plant cuts production because of hot weather

Swiss nuclear power plant forced to reduce production as warmer waters in river struggle to cool reactors  https://www.thelocal.ch/20180727/swiss-nuclear-power-plant-forced-to-reduce-production-as-warmer-waters-in-river-struggle-to-cool-reactors  The Local, news@thelocal.ch @thelocalswitzer 27 July 2018

July 28, 2018 Posted by | climate change, Switzerland | Leave a comment

Malformed insects found around Swiss nuclear power plants

Abnormal bugs found around Swiss nuclear power plants http://www.beyondnuclear.org/home/2018/7/11/abnormal-bugs-found-around-swiss-nuclear-power-plants.html  A new study, believed to be the first to investigate health effects on insects near operating nuclear power plants, has found a highly significant twofold increase in morphological malformations on true bugs in the 5 km vicinity of three Swiss nuclear power stations.

The study — Morphological Abnormalities in True Bugs (Heteroptera) near Swiss Nuclear Power Stations — was conducted by Alfred Körblein, a physicist and authority on the health impacts of low-dose radiation, and Cornelia Hesse-Honegger, who has studied and painted insects affected by the Chernobyl nuclear accident. (You can read more about Hesse-Honegger’s work here.) Earlier studies on wildlife around Chernobyl and Fukushima found large and highly statistically significant incidences of radiation-induced mutation rates.  Due to its ecological design, however, the Swiss study cannot answer the question whether the effect is caused by radiation from nuclear power plants. However, given the results, the researchers are calling for future studies to confirm their findings. Read the study.

July 16, 2018 Posted by | environment, Reference, Switzerland | Leave a comment

MS Tûranor PlanetSolar – huge solar-powered ship

Business Insider 26th May 2018, This huge seacraft is developed by Swiss company PlanetSolar, who wanted to
create a vessel which was environmentally friendly and produced
zero-emissions. Developed in 2010, the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar is the
largest solar-powered boat ever built. Its 500 solar panels can provide 120
kilowatts of energy, allowing the ship to travel around 5 knots.
http://uk.businessinsider.com/this-huge-seacraft-is-entirely-powered-by-solar-energy-planet-solar-2018-5

May 28, 2018 Posted by | renewable, Switzerland | Leave a comment

Swizerland’s Health Office recalls jewellery contaminated with radioactive thorium and uranium

Radioactive jewellery recalled in Switzerland  swissinfo, 7 May 18 A Swiss company has sold esoteric “negative-ion” jewellery containing high levels of uranium and thorium. The Federal Office of Public Health has written to people who have bought the jewellery, telling them to send it to the health office.

Health office spokesman Daniel Dauwalder on Monday confirmed media reports that an unnamed company had imported rock powder from China with levels of the two radioactive substances that were harmful for skin cells and the outer skin layer.

The health office said if the bracelets, necklaces and earrings were worn for several hours a day over a year, the skin’s dose threshold of 50 millisieverts could be exceeded. In the long term, the risk of skin cancer would increase, it added.

….The radioactive rock powder was discovered by German customs guards, who informed the Federal Office of Public Health.

Dauwalder said the office had already received many items of jewellery, which would be disposed of accordingly. The jewellery must not end up in the normal rubbish, the office said.https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/uranium-earrings_radioactive-jewellery-recalled-in-switzerland/44101980

 

May 9, 2018 Posted by | health, Switzerland, thorium | Leave a comment

Westinghouse closing down nuclear stations in Sweden

Nucnet 16th March 2018, US-based Westinghouse Electric Company has completed a decommissioning
project at the Barseback nuclear power station in Sweden that included the
underwater segmentation and packaging of the reactor vessel internals.
Westinghouse said it had also carried out upfront engineering studies, and
equipment manufacturing and qualification for the project, which was part
of the first dismantling and decommissioning of a commercial nuclear power
plant in Sweden.

Barseback-2, a 600-MW boiling water reactor unit, began
commercial operation in July 1977 and was permanently shut down in May
2005, with decommissioning work beginning in August 2016. The closure
decision, announced in October 2004, followed what the government described
as failure to reach an agreement with the power industry on the details and
timetable for a voluntary phaseout of Sweden’s nuclear facilities Its
sister unit, Barseback-1, was permanently shut down in November 1999.
Westinghouse said it is now due to begin decommissioning work on
Barseback-1, with an estimated completion date of April 2019.

https://www.nucnet.org/all-the-news/2018/03/16/westinghouse-completes-decommissioning-project-at-sweden-s-barseback

March 22, 2018 Posted by | decommission reactor, Switzerland | Leave a comment

Sweden agonises over nuclear waste burial project that no community wants

GDF Watch 2nd Feb 2018, A week on from the Environmental Court’s ruling, and it would seem nobody in Sweden is any the wiser about what happens next. The general view seems to be that this is a hiccup, and everything will eventually continue as planned.

But don’t expect that to happen anytime soon, and at least not until after this autumn’s national elections in Sweden. Anders Lillienau, who chaired the Court’s Hearings, is reported as saying that while they had significant concerns about the safety of the copper canisters, the Court did not otherwise see any barriers to the safety of the repository.

The Court has asked SKB, the organisation responsible for the repository, to provide further information on copper canisters to address their concerns. It is understood that SKB are preparing such information, and reportedly told a community meeting in Östhammar earlier this week that they intend to provide that information later this year.

Anders Lillenau has also made clear the ball is now in the Government’s court: “In the
end, it is still the case that the Government may make the overall assessment whether or not this will be allowed.” A Swedish Government spokesman, Magnus Blücher, explained that this was a complex issue and it was too soon to say what the Government might do, or when.

Back in Östhammar, the local referendum planned for 4 March has been postponed. The referendum was advisory, and any final decision on agreeing to host the repository has to be taken by the local council. A spokesman for Östhammar Municipality says that it is too soon to know when the referendum and council vote will now take place.

Local resident Åsa Lindstrand chairs a resident’s group opposed to the repository. She told the local newspaper that she was pleased but surprised by the Court’s decision, but feels little will change:

“Actually, nobody else in Sweden wants this nuclear fuel repository, so the rest of Sweden would probably be lucky if someone takes it. The municipality is so marinated by SKB that it is not easy to
say ‘no’. For us who live here, it’s more about noise and traffic than about the copper capsules, it’s happening before they get there at all.” Her sense of pyrhhic victory is shared by environmentalist Johan
Swahn, who added, “but only if the government stays passive and the copper canister issues raised by the Court become a matter solely for SKB.” His organisation, MKG, has raised concerns about the long-term
safety of copper canisters over many years.

While delighted that the Court accepted the case presented by leading corrosion scientists, he now wants
the Swedish Government to guarantee an open scientific re-evaluation of the issues relating to copper canister corrosion.  http://www.gdfwatch.org.uk/2018/02/02/sweden-update/

February 5, 2018 Posted by | Switzerland, wastes | Leave a comment

Swiss nuclear station closed due to faulty AREVA fuel rods

Faulty Areva fuel rods sent to nuclear reactors, Swiss plant closed

* Areva sent faulty fuel roads to several nuclear plants

* Says no danger, declines to identify which reactors

* Swiss Leibstadt closed, no comment on EDF reactors

 By Geert De Clercq and John Revill PARIS/ZURICH, Nov 17 (Reuters) – French nuclear group Areva delivered defective fuel rods for nuclear reactors but said on Friday that there was no safety risk.   Swiss media, however, reported that a Swiss nuclear plant was closed due to problems with the rods.

Areva said in a statement that following the discovery of a leaking fuel rod at its Paimboeuf, France, zirconium-tube manufacturing plant, tests had showed that some fuel rods which should have been rejected were delivered to utilities companies.

Fuel rods which already have been loaded in reactors can continue operating without impairing plant safety and none of the affected rods have caused leaks, Areva said.

An Areva spokesman said that utilities operating the faulty tubes had been informed but declined say to which companies were involved, citing “industrial confidentiality”.

He declined to say whether French utility EDF, Areva’s main customer, had received faulty rods. EDF has had to close several reactors in the past two years due to manufacturing problems at Areva foundry Creusot Forge.

Swiss broadcaster SRF reported that the Leibstadt nuclear plant in northern Switzerland has been closed till the end of the year because of faulty Areva fuel rods.

A spokeswoman for the Leibstadt plant confirmed that a supplier had informed the utility that there was a problem with 16 new fuel rods, but declined to identify the supplier.

She added that the supplier later also said that six fuel rods which had already been installed were also faulty. The rods – which hold the uranium pellets that generate heat in the reactor core – had been installed in the last three-four years.

The rods that were already installed had not caused any problems but we removed them as a precaution. There was no safety issue,” she said.

The Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate has been informed and that the plant – which had been set to reopen Nov. 7 following maintenance – will remain closed till end December.

Leibstadt, built in 1984, is one of five nuclear power plants in Switzerland. The site, which is owned by a consortium of Axpo, Alpiq and BKW, is the biggest electricity supplier in Switzerland, providing power to 2 million homes in the country. (Reporting by Geert De Clercq in Paris and John Revill in Zurich Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-pesticides-basf-se/u-s-soybeans-escape-yield-losses-after-signs-of-chemical-damage-basf-idUSKBN1DH1QT

November 17, 2017 Posted by | safety, Switzerland | Leave a comment

Swiss government worried about obsolescent cooling circuits of nearby French nuclear reactors

TV5Monde 4th Nov 2017, [Machine Translation] The French nuclear power plant Bugey is located only
70 km from Geneva. The Swiss Federal Government of Geneva is concerned
about the obsolescence of the cooling circuits of the four reactors of this
nuclear power plant, one of the oldest in the French park. Interview with
Antonio Hidgers, Minister of Energy of Geneva.
http://information.tv5monde.com/info/surete-nucleaire-geneve-s-inquiete-de-la-centrale-de-bugey-201543

November 8, 2017 Posted by | safety, Switzerland | Leave a comment

Sweden’s 65,000 public nuclear fallout shelters, and more to come

Sweden has 65,000 nuclear shelters. Now, in the era of Trump, it wants more. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/11/03/sweden-has-65000-nuclear-bunkers-now-in-the-era-of-trump-it-wants-more/?utm_term=.ed3479f252a7   November 3 Scandinavia may not be right in the path of a future nuclear exchange between the United States and North Korea, but given the latest threats between the two countries and rising concerns over Russian military exercises, it’s not taking any chances.

Last month, the Norwegian Nobel Committee handed a group dedicated to abolishing nuclear weapons its Peace Prize. Now, the Swedish government is looking into expanding its existing network of nuclear fallout shelters, according to news website the Local. A first proposal was included in a report released several weeks ago and followed a review of existing shelters this year, Swedish officials confirmed Friday, saying that the proposed changes were still under consideration by the government.

Sweden has 65,000 shelters, which would provide space for up to 7 million people, but that leaves an estimated 3 million inhabitants without protection.

At least one European country takes the risk of a nuclear war even more seriously: Switzerland may have fewer people than Sweden, but it has built about four times as many nuclear shelters — easily enough for the country’s entire population and then some.

In Sweden and elsewhere, the nuclear shelters are also supposed to protect the population from other hazards, like a biological weapons attack or more-conventional warfare. Often located in publicly accessible buildings, such as schools or shopping centers, they can usually also be used as storage sites or garages and are funded with taxpayer money.

In contrast, in Switzerland all houses above a certain size must include shelters in the basement, putting the financial burden on citizens themselves. That rule was abolished in 2011 by the Swiss parliament, but reintroduced months later after the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan.

The accident brought back memories of Chernobyl in 1986, and led to a renewed public debate in Europe over the risk of radiation. In Germany — where public shelters are far less common than in Sweden or Switzerland — Chancellor Angela Merkel decided to abandon nuclear energy entirely, despite having championed it for decades. It was her biggest political U-turn in her now 12 years in office.

Such preparations and protective measures may appear strange to Americans. Public nuclear shelters are practically nonexistent in the United States, although there have been recent reports of an increase in demand.

Until recently, few Swedes knew the location of the closest nuclear shelter in their neighborhood. (The government now offers an online map.) Sweden stopped expanding its shelter network almost two decades ago, when nonproliferation supporters appeared to be on the winning side of history. Then came Iran’s nuclear program, the Fukushima accident, Russian military operations, North Korea’s missile tests — and President Trump.

Whereas confidence among Europeans that President Barack Obama would “do the right thing regarding world affairs” ranged between 70 and 90 percent in a number of surveyed nations during his term, those numbers plummeted after Trump’s inauguration and have only gone down since. Only 7 percent in Spain and 11 percent in Germany now say they have confidence in Trump. Top officials in Germany have also directly contradicted Trump’s North Korea policies, and have voiced concerns that the White House may overreact to nuclear provocations and escalate the war rhetoric being exchanged with North Korea.

Europeans are similarly worried that decades-long nonproliferation efforts could be dismantled virtually overnight, leading to a new arms race. In 2009, the Obama administration negotiated a treaty with Russia in which both countries agreed to cap the number of deployed warheads. Trump reportedly called the agreement a bad deal in his first phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this year, although administration officials have since backtracked.

Sweden’s new shelter locations indicate that at least some of the concerns are connected to Russia. One of the regions where most new shelters are expected to be constructed in the coming years is the island of Gotland, where military defenses were recently expanded with the declared aim of stopping a possible Russian invasion.

November 4, 2017 Posted by | safety, Sweden, Switzerland, weapons and war | Leave a comment

ICAN calls on Nobel Foundation to cease indirect nuclear arms investments

TRANSPARENCY CALL Nobel Foundation accused of indirect nuclear arms investments https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/transparency-call_nobel-foundation-accused-of-indirect-nuclear-arms-investments/43614160 The Swiss-based winner of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize has called on the Nobel Foundation

external link to be more transparent about how it invests its money. This follows allegations that the body has indirectly invested in companies linked to the United States’ nuclear arms programme.

Last month, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weaponsexternal link (ICAN) received the Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts in the process to bring about a global treaty to ban nuclear arms.

But the German NGO Facing Finance, together with Norwegian environmental organisation Framtiden and German television channel ZDF, have uncovered evidence that the Nobel Foundation has invested in an index fund that includes Lockheed Martin, Textron and Raytheon. All three companies have been active in US nuclear weapons manufacturing.

Geneva-based ICAN has its own investment tracker called Don’t Bank on the Bomb, which encourages investors to publicly divest from companies associated with the production of nuclear weapons. But this system looks specifically at financial sector investments, and does not reveal individual investors.

ICAN Executive Director Beatrice Fihn called on the foundation to open its books more fully to public scrutiny.

“There are public reports that the Nobel Foundation has an ethical investment policy not to invest in weapons prohibited by international treaty, and we encourage the Nobel Foundation to be more public and transparent about how they implement this policy,” she said in an email to swissinfo.ch.

New direction

ICAN will officially receive the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10. Fihn said that ICAN would use the prize “to strengthen the work of prohibiting and eliminating nuclear weapons”.

In an emailed response to swissinfo.ch, the Nobel Foundation said it invested in funds rather than picking specific companies. Since the beginning of the year, it has changed its investment policy to find “more sustainable alternatives to our equity index funds”.

“Today, the Nobel Foundation has clear guidelines regarding ethics and sustainability. No new investments are made in funds that invest in companies that violate international conventions regarding, for example, land mines or cluster bombs, or who have investments in nuclear weapons,” Nobel Foundation Executive Director Lars Heikensten told swissinfo.ch.

“Our current investments are being investigated based on these guidelines. In addition, we have joined the UN initiative Principles for Responsible Investments (PRI), and have thereby incorporated environmental, social and governance factors into our investment decisions.”

He added that the foundation was “considering using our position to make active investments in sustainable projects and in this way, make a real difference”.

October 20, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, business and costs, Switzerland, weapons and war | 1 Comment

Swiss group CNP to stop buying power from Fessenheim nuclear power station

Fessenheim loses one of its biggest customers. The Swiss group CNP will
stop buying electricity from the French nuclear power plant (EDF), which is
due to close permanently in 2019.
https://www.lesechos.fr/industrie-services/energie-environnement/030550663088-fessenheim-perd-lun-de-ses-plus-gros-clients-2113553.php

September 14, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, Switzerland | Leave a comment

More money in nuclear decommissioning than in running nuclear power?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Swiss Alps: global warming is revealing long-frozen bodies of lost travellers

Melting glaciers in Swiss Alps could reveal hundreds of mummified corpses, Frozen bodies of couple who vanished 75 years ago among those uncovered recently as global warming forces ice to retreat, Guardian, Philip Oltermann and Kate Connolly, 5 Aug 17, Swiss police say hundreds of bodies of mountaineers who have gone missing in the Alps in the past century could emerge in coming years as global warming forces the country’s glaciers to retreat.

Alpine authorities have registered a significant increase in the number of human remains discovered last month, with the body of a man missing for 30 years the most recent to be uncovered.

Rescue teams in Saas Valley in the Valais canton were called last Tuesday after two climbers retreating from an aborted ascent spotted a hand and two shoes protruding from the Hohlaub glacier…….

The discovery comes less than a week after the bodies of a Swiss couple, missing for 75 years, were found in the Tsanfleuron glacier in the same canton…….

Switzerland’s glaciers have been melting at an unprecedented rate, losing almost one cubic km in ice volume or about 900 bn litres of water over the past year. According to an investigation by Tagesanzeiger newspaper, eight of the 10 months in which the glaciers have lost the most in volume over the past century have been since 2008.

Since 1850, when glaciers covered 1,735 sq km (670 sq miles) of Swiss land, the total area has shrunk by a half, to about 890 sq km.

Police in Valais expect the bodies of many more missing persons to emerge because of global warming. “It’s quite clear,” a spokesman, Christian Zuber, told the Guardian.

“The glaciers are retreating, so it’s logical that we’re finding more and more bodies and body parts. In the coming years we expect that many more cases of missing persons will be resolved.”…… https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/04/melting-glaciers-swiss-alps-could-reveal-hundreds-mummified-corpses

August 5, 2017 Posted by | climate change, Switzerland | Leave a comment