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“Make A Change World” – brothers work to clean up polluted superfund sites

These Brothers Are Cleaning Up Waterways Where The EPA Has Failed http://uproxx.com/life/make-a-change-world-environmental-clean-up/, ZACH JOHNSTON, LIFE WRITER01., 17.18 
Environmental pollution from industry abuse and human negligence feels like it’s part of another era — especially if you live in America. For many of us, it all feels like something that happens elsewhere and not in our own backyards. While we have made great strides in fighting against industrial pollution since President Nixon founded the EPA, there have been numerous regressions and disasters along the way. Sometimes, it’s right under our noses.

Brothers Sam and Gary Bencheghib have taken matters into their own hands. When they moved to Brooklyn, they were shocked to find several of the country’s most polluted waterways weren’t a country away but, literally, in their own backyards. For the earth-loving duo, it was a call to action.

The brothers — along with millions of residents in Queens and Brooklyn — live within a stone’s throw of three Superfund sites. Those are the places the EPA deems so polluted, toxic, or destroyed by a natural disaster that a fund has to be set up to clean up the area as quickly as possible. Among these, Newtown Creek is considered one of the most polluted spots in all of the United States. This is thanks to over a century of industrial waste being spewed into the river, raw sewage still being pumped into the waterway every day, and a semi-continual oil spill that’s seen 30 million gallons spilled into the water.

Add in the usual plastic waste that’s clogging our waterways and you have an American river that’s bafflingly poisoned.

The Gowan Canal is similarly toxic. The freshwater stream has been used for shipping of waster and toxic materials for so long that if you were to fall into the water, you’d have to be rushed to a hospital for decontamination procedures. Drinking the water would risk dysentery, arsenic poisoning, and, eventually, cancer.

The Bencheghib brothers know they cannot clean this up all by themselves. Their task is to bring awareness to the sites through their work with Make A Change World. The group aims to directly involve the average person is cleaning up the messes we’re making around the world — through an overuse of plastics and the under-regulated waste from industry.
Currently, “the bros” are focusing on their own backyard in Brooklyn, by highlighting the Superfund sites of Newtown Creek and Gowan Canal. These two sites are both earmarked for clean up operations to begin, but the process is slow and faces hurdles. Meanwhile, the current White House leadership plans to cut $327 million out of the EPA’s Superfund budget and has forbidden the EPA from speaking with citizens.

Luckily, the administration’s disinterest in the environment won’t have drastic effects on the clean up of Newtown Creek and Gowan Canal, as those sites have responsible parties who have been tasked with funding the lion’s share of the cleanup costs. WNYC reported back in November that the six major polluters of Newtown Creek were identified along with the 30 polluters of Gowan Canal. This means, hopefully, the cleanups will go forward unhindered.

Just down the street from Newtown and Gowan is a site called Wolff-Alport. This was the site of an earth metals extraction facility that shuttered in the 1950s. One of their extractions was the radioactive element thorium. That process has made the Wolf-Alport site the most radioactive spot in New York City. Since the company responsible for the radioactive pollution went out of business over 70 years ago, there’s no one to fine and, thereby, collect the funds to clean up the site. The whole tab falls on the shoulders of the EPA’s Superfund budget. WNYC talked to the EPA and they have an estimated cost of $39.9 million to clean up this radioactive site. Currently, there’s $650,000 in the account designated for that job. The acting deputy regional administrator for EPA said bluntly of the site that “What we do know is that people are actually being exposed.”

It would seem to reason that radioactive exposure to the citizens of New York would be a little higher on the list of sites the EPA and local, state, and the federal government would be rushing to clean up. That’s where Make A Change World comes in. 75 years is too long to wait for a radioactive, oil-soaked, or just plain toxic site to be cleaned up. Like the Bencheghib brothers, it’s time to take action in our backyards, in the voting booths, and in how we live our lives.

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January 19, 2018 Posted by | environment, thorium, USA | Leave a comment

America’s toxic Superfund sites to be ignored, as Pruitt cuts EPA funding?

Batavick: EPA cuts will have real consequences http://www.carrollcountytimes.com/opinion/columnists/cc-op-batavick-20180108-story.html, Frank BatavickContact Reporter

 I received an email on Dec. 25 from a high school and college friend informing me that his kidney cancer had spread to his bones and that he was now in hospice.

Since we were mostly a close bunch in high school — just 128 grads in 1963 — I thought it appropriate to share my friend’s sad news with other classmates and ask for their good thoughts and prayers. Just 12 days later, my friend’s sister contacted me and said he had died peacefully at home. I relayed this sorrowful update to the class.

Among the responders was a classmate who told me that he and my now-departed friend, as well as other kids from the neighborhood, were all regular playmates. Their “playground” in this blue-collar city on the Delaware River was a swampy landfill that was once the location of a gas mantle factory from the 1890s through the 1940s. Gas mantles were small mesh socks coated with radium and thorium that covered a lamp’s gas jet. When ignited, they brightly illuminated America’s streets and houses before electrification.

Today the mantle factory’s former setting is a Superfund site, as classified by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1996. The feds have spent more than $350 million ridding the area and adjacent locales of hazardous wastes, including that deadly radium and thorium. As these elements decay, they give off gamma radiation and radon gas, both proven carcinogens.

The sensible reaction to this horror story would be to double our efforts to protect the environment so today’s and tomorrow’s kids won’t suffer the same horrible fate as these afflicted adults. But then we don’t live in sensible times.Under EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, the agency is slowly being dismantled. He and President Donald Trump have already canceled or overridden some key environmental regulations on coal waste and vehicle emissions, and the 2018 appropriations bill cuts the EPA’s budget for the Superfund program and climate change research.

Pruitt is on record denying the existence of global warming and, as a result of his staff’s disgust with his beliefs and a federal job freeze and buy-outs, more than 700 employees — 200 or more of them scientists — have left the agency in the last year. According to the union representing EPA staff, Pruitt’s ultimate goal is to cut “at least 3,100 full-time employees.”

Will this make our environment safer? Better yet, do you pack apples in your kids’ lunches? Last February, Pruitt withdrew a proposed ban on pesticides containing chlorpyrifos, used on apples, oranges and cherries across the country. This was despite the EPA’s own scientists, supported by the 66,000-member American Academy of Pediatrics, arguing that even low exposure levels to chlorpyrifos during early childhood increases the risk of learning disabilities, including reduced IQ and developmental delay, and behavioral problems, like ADHD. For expectant and new mothers, the agency’s scientists concluded that even the smallest amounts of the chemical can impact the brain development of fetuses and infants.

Chlorpyrifos are considered so toxic that their use has been banned in homes, schools, day care facilities, parks, hospitals, nursing homes and malls since 2000. But Pruitt says they are OK for your fruit bowl. The pesticide has also proven hazardous to farmworkers and approximately 1,800 critically threatened or endangered species.

A not-so-much fun fact is that Dow Chemical, the manufacturer of Lorsban which contains chlorpyrifos, underwrote President Trump’s inaugural parties to the tune of $1 million. Draw your own conclusions.

As things go, it’s not an especially big leap from a toxic playground in New Jersey in 1955 to an apple orchard in Maryland in 2018. The difference is that today we are supposed to be more discerning because some of us have reaped a sad harvest of family and friends who didn’t know a Superfund from Superman when they were growing up.

So what lessons have we learned? For me it is the undying power of greed — the greed that once caused a company to bury its toxic wastes instead of properly disposing of them, and the greed evinced by the current administration that’s at the beck and call of its corporate benefactors, whether they produce energy or chemicals. This hasn’t changed over the years, even when the guinea pigs are our own sons and daughters.

Frank Batavick writes from Westminster. His column appears Fridays. Email him at fjbatavick@gmail.com.

January 19, 2018 Posted by | environment, thorium, USA | Leave a comment

ISIS supporters in Malaysia, and plans to make a “dirty bomb”

The militants had hoped to transform low-grade radioactive Thorium 232 (Th-232) into deadly Uranium 233 (U-233). When combined with powerful home-made explosive triacetone triperoxide (TATP), the concoction can create a “nuclear bomb”, according to an instruction manual used by the militants and reviewed by Reuters.

IS supporters in Malaysia may build bombs with radioactive materials,  Today online 02 JANUARY, 2018, KUALA LUMPUR — Fears are growing that fighters from the Islamic State (IS) group, including their sympathisers in Malaysia, may attempt to build bombs using radioactive materials.

This concern is especially real as the Malaysian police have recorded no less than 20 cases involving radioactive and nuclear materials which have “gone missing” over recent years.While some may have been retrieved, the whereabouts of many others remain unknown.

Perturbed by the combination of “missing radioactive goods and IS”, sources in security agencies said it was crucial for the counter-terrorism division to aggressively trace the missing radioactive materials.Normally, these cases will be investigated by the police’s Criminal Investigation Department. However, it should not be treated as a usual case of theft,” the sources said.

“There is a need to trace who the perpetrators are, their background, contacts and find out their motives. These are all vital information that must be cross-checked to ensure that these dangerous materials do not fall into the wrong hands.”

The sources also warned that terrorists might make use of radioactive and nuclear materials which had not been categorised as “controlled items”.

“There are two groups of radioactive and nuclear materials: those which are controlled and monitored by the authorities, and the others that we cannot control as they are stolen or improperly disposed off.”

Concerns about security threats in South-east Asia intensified when Indonesian security forces recently foiled an attempt by militants to detonate a dirty bomb.A dirty bomb is a conventional bomb that contains radioactive material.

The plot was foiled when police raided homes and arrested five suspects in Bandung, West Java in August last year. After the raids, police spoke of a plan to explode a “chemical” bomb but provided no other details.

The militants had hoped to transform low-grade radioactive Thorium 232 (Th-232) into deadly Uranium 233 (U-233). When combined with powerful home-made explosive triacetone triperoxide (TATP), the concoction can create a “nuclear bomb”, according to an instruction manual used by the militants and reviewed by Reuters.

Malaysia has been on high alert since gunmen linked to the IS launched multiple attacks in Jakarta in January 2016 and has arrested hundreds of people over the past few years for suspected links to militant groups, and has arrested hundreds of people over the past few years for suspected links to militant groups.

Malaysia’s Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) director-general Hamrah Mohd Ali cautioned the authorities against underestimating terrorists’ knowledge and capabilities in utilising radioactive and nuclear materials to produce dirty bombs.

He said his agency had, several times, found abandoned radioactive materials with unclear origins and purpose……. http://www.todayonline.com/world/supporters-malaysia-may-build-bombs-radioactive-materials

January 3, 2018 Posted by | Malaysia, thorium, weapons and war | 1 Comment

Concern in Malaysia over radioactive thorium and uranium in building materials

No Inspections At Construction Sites Without Strong Proof Of Radioactive Readings: Mosti, Malaysian Digest, 02 January 2018 , KUALA LUMPUR: Inspections at construction sites will not be carried out until there is strong proof of elevated readings on radioactivity content in building materials……..

Nuclear and radiation experts yesterday had cautioned the public over potential hazards posed by naturally-occurring radioactive elements in construction materials.

Commonly found in materials naturally sourced from earth, uranium and thorium are Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM) often found in bricks, cement blocks, granite, marble or glazed tiles used in the construction of homes.

The two elements (uranium and thorium) undergo a natural decaying process to form other harmful elements and emit several types of radiation, particularly alpha, beta or gamma rays.

Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) director-general Hamrah Mohd Ali previously said a statement that excessive exposure to these rays could damage human tissue and cells, and cause health issues or death.

He said apart from the dangers of being exposed to lethal radiation, uranium and thorium also produced radon and thoron, which are also lethal gases……

If concern arises with regards to radioactivity in any areas across the nation, Mosti advised the public to contact AELB so that further measures can be taken immediately. http://malaysiandigest.com/news/715810-no-inspections-at-construction-sites-without-strong-proof-of-radioactive-readings-mosti.html

January 3, 2018 Posted by | Malaysia, thorium | Leave a comment

Minerals deal needed to fuel the clean energy transition

 http://reneweconomy.com.au/minerals-deal-needed-fuel-clean-energy-transition-24352/

A large part of this challenge involves rapidly scaling up the deployment of renewable energy, while curbing fossil fuel use – but little attention has been paid to the minerals that will be needed to build these technologies.

Wind and solar infrastructure, batteries and electric vehicles all require vast amounts of mined (and recycled) resources. These range from copper for wires and electric motors, to lithium and cobalt for batteries, to smaller amounts of rare metals like indium and gallium for solar cells.

Challenges for minerals supply

While the Paris agreement has created a global framework for managing carbon, nothing similar exists for minerals. This leaves the pursuit of sustainable resource development largely in the hands of mining companies and state-owned enterprises.

Mining these resources generates significant water and air pollution. This problem is increasing: for example, global copper ore quality is declining over time. That means that copper mining now requires excavating twice as much ore as ten years ago to yield the same amount of copper, creating much more mine waste.

Lower commodity prices have meant that investment in exploring new mine sites has fallen. But it takes a long time to develop new mines – it can often take 20 years to go from finding a metal deposit to beginning mining, and only around 20% of discoveries since 2000 have led to an operating mine.

Lack of investment in exploration is driven by short-term thinking, rather than a long-term plan to supply rising demand.

In parallel, resistance to mining, often at a local level, is increasing worldwide. Environmental catastrophes, of which there have been many examples, erode social trust, often delaying or stopping mine development.

A new global mechanism to more effectively plan resource supply could help rebuild trust in local communities, limit price spikes to ensure equitable access to metal resources, and balance the international tension which arises as industries and governments compete for minerals from a shrinking list of countries able to tolerate and profit from sustaining a mining industry.

A global agreement on mineral resources

Developing a global mechanism will of course be difficult, requiring substantive dialogue and strong leadership. But there are organisations that could step up, such as the United Nations Environment Assembly, or the newly established Intergovernmental Forum on Mining Metals and Sustainable Development.

The global community is well aware of the threat that rising sea levels pose to low-lying countries. We need similar awareness of the crucial role minerals are playing in the energy transition, and the risk that supply problems could derail sustainability goals.

To that end, we need to globally coordinate several crucial aspects of mineral development. To start with, while most detailed information on where minerals are mined and sold is privately held, there is publicly available data that could be used to predict possible imbalances in supply and demand internationally (for example copperironlithiumindium).

Publicly-funded institutions have an important role here. They can assess how known supply will meet future demand, and deliver insight into the changing environmental impact.

It should also be entirely possible to develop inventories of recyclable metals, which can be an important supplement to large mining operations.

Compiling inventories of recyclable metals is underway across Europe as part of a move towards a circular economy (where as much waste as possible is repurposed).

While recycling for for metals like lithium for less than 1%, around 40% of steel demand is met from scrap recycled during manufacturing and from end-of-life products and infrastructure. Thinking smarter about eventual dismantling of buildings at the time when they are built, can support better use of recycled resources.

Geoscience agencies already offer maps of underground minerals, demonstrating that this kind of co-ordinated perspective is feasible. Extending this approach to recyclables can mitigate environmental impact and ease the social objections to new mines.

A global mechanism for mineral exploration and supply could also be an opportunity to promote best-practice for responsible mining, with a focus on social license and fair and transparent royalty arrangements.

Overcoming resistance

It’s a challenging proposition, especially as many countries display less enthusiasm for international agreements. However, it will be increasingly difficult to meet the Paris targets without tackling this problem.

In the decades ahead, our mineral supply will still need to double or triple to meet the demand for electric vehicles and other technologies required by our growing global population.

In short, resource efficiency and jobs of the future depend on an assured mineral supply. This should be a nonpartisan issue, across the global political spectrum.

November 15, 2017 Posted by | RARE EARTHS, renewable | Leave a comment

Thorium radioactively contaminated soil will not be going to landfill

Soil from Luckey clean-up project not going to local landfill, The Press by Larry Limpf, November 10, 2017  At least one waste stream from the clean-up project at the former Brush Beryllium plant site near the Village of Luckey won’t be disposed at the Evergreen landfill in Northwood

        In a project update, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it would not dispose of soils from the plant site at the landfill, which is operated by Waste Management.

        Arleen K. Kreusch, a spokesperson for the Corps’ environmental project management team, said the decision was made after a “thorough evaluation.”

        The Evergreen facility was one of two disposal sites the Corps had been considering for disposal as soils and other contaminated materials are removed during the project; the other site, the U.S. Ecology Wayne Disposal Facility, Belleville, Mich., received approval from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to receive soils.

        Kreusch said some soil and materials have already been transported to the Michigan facility…….

 The site is a former beryllium production facility the Atomic Energy Commission operated in the 1950s as part of the national defense program.

        The Corps has identified soils contaminated with beryllium, lead, radium-226, thorium-230, uranium-234 and uranium-238 for removal.

        The 40-acre L-shaped parcel includes several trenches, lagoons and waste areas where solutions and sludge from the operation were stored, as well as manufacturing facilities, warehouses and utility buildings.

Forum cancelled

        A public forum scheduled for Nov. 14 to discuss the clean-up project has been cancelled. The forum was to be held in the auditorium at the Northwood schools complex but was cancelled by Mayor Ed Schimmel. http://www.presspublications.com/20498-soil-from-luckey-clean-up-project-not-going-to-local-landfill

November 10, 2017 Posted by | thorium, USA | Leave a comment

Costly task to clean up New York’s highly radioactive thorium contaminated site

Trump’s E.P.A. Pledges to Clean Up NYC’s ‘Most Radioactive Site’ – But Funding Is in Question WNYC News, Nov 6, 2017, By Sarah Stein Kerr and Annie Nova

The Trump administration is taking on its first Superfund cleanup in New York City – that is, assuming it has the money.

Last month, a $40 million plan to remediate a radioactive site in Queens where highly toxic materials were once poured into city sewers was unveiled by local officials of the Environmental Protection Agency. Known as Wolff-Alport for the chemical firm that was once located there, the site sits on an industrial stretch in the Ridgewood neighborhood of Queens. About three-quarters of an acre in size, the site currently houses a deli, an auto-shop and four other businesses. The E.P.A. counts a public school, a bar and some 300 residences within the site’s immediate vicinity.

Wolff-Alport, the newest of the city’s three designated Superfunds, was added to the E.P.A.’s Superfund priority list in 2014. The move came after surveys identified radioactivity throughout the property, including below public sidewalks and streets and in nearby sewers.

Going after such sites has been declared a priority for new E.P.A. administrator Scott Pruitt, a former attorney general of Oklahoma whose views on the environment make him one of the President’s most controversial appointees. Before assuming the post, Pruitt sued the agency repeatedly and still maintains that climate change is not the result of human activity.

But if he’s a climate change doubter, Pruitt has proclaimed himself a Superfund believer. In a memo this summer, Pruitt wrote: “My goal as Administrator is to restore the Superfund program to its rightful place at the center of the agency’s core mission.”

Judith Enck, former regional E.P.A. administrator for New York who pushed to get Wolff-Alport on the Superfund list, said she remains skeptical of Pruitt’s public declarations in support of cleaning up these hazardous waste sites.

“You can’t be the E.P.A. administrator and not stand for anything,” Enck said. “So he’s latched on to Superfunds. But at the same time, he’s cutting the budget, so it kind of rings hollow.”

President Donald J. Trump has proposed cutting $327 million – or around a third – of the nation’s annual Superfund budget. At the same time, Pruitt is also seeking to end the E.P.A.’s financial support to the Department of Justice, which holds the polluters of these hazardous waste sites accountable.

Regardless, spokeswoman for the E.P.A Tayler Covington, said that the agency is committed to cleaning up Wolff-Alport.

“There are no plans to change any of the cleanups for the three New York City Superfund sites,” said Covington. “We are in the budgetary process and final funding levels will not be settled until Congress acts.”

But experts on the Superfund program contend that even the current funding levels are still well below what is needed to clean up the nation’s many contaminated sites.

The E.P.A. announced the cleanup plan for Wolff-Alport in late September. The site’s remediation calls for all tenants to be permanently relocated, all buildings to be demolished and sewers to be replaced. The contaminated soil will be transported to a waste landfill.

All told, the cleanup will cost $39.9 million. But exactly where those funds will come from remains a question.

The E.P.A. maintains an account for each Superfund site in which money allocated for the cleanup is held. The Wolff-Alport-designated bank account currently holds just a little over $650,000, Thomas Mongelli, E.P.A. project manager of the site, told WNYC.

Usually, it’s the original polluters who are responsible for picking up the tab for cleanups. At Newtown Creek, a heavily polluted waterway that borders Brooklyn and Queens, six potentially responsible polluters have been identified. The Gowanus Canal in southern Brooklyn has more than 30 known polluters. Wolff-Alport, on the other hand, is considered in E.P.A. terminology an “orphan,” which means that the original polluter is defunct and can’t be relied upon for payment.

“There is a good chance that most of this money is going to need to come from the federal Superfund program and federal Superfund is running on fumes,” Enck said.

Beginning in the 1980s, a tax on Superfund polluters amassed funds for cleanup in a trust account. But that provision expired around 1995, and the account has since languished. Although there are no official estimates of the cost to clean up all of the country’s polluted sites, Kate Probst, author of a report to Congress, “Superfund’s Future: What Will It Cost?,” said the $280 million account balance is woefully insufficient.

Although annual congressional appropriations for Superfunds were meant to compensate for the trust account’s decline, these appropriations have also steadily dwindled. Federal contributions for Superfund cleanup have fallen from $2.1 billion in 1999, to an annual budget of $1.2 billion by 2013, according to the Office of Government Accountability.

This shortfall has stunted the cleanup work at the nation’s most contaminated sites,   Probst said. “If they had more money, they probably would have cleaned up more sites, or gotten construction completed on more sites. We know the number of cleanups are slowing,” she said, adding that she expects there will be more disruptions due to the funding shortages. “That is the tip of the iceberg,” Probst said.

City officials are also worried that the feds may be low-balling the costs of cleaning up Wolff-Alport. In an August letter to the E.P.A., Haley Stein, a lawyer with the  city’s law department, stated that the city “believes that E.P.A. significantly underestimates the cost and feasibility of implementing its preferred alternative.”

City officials declined to detail the reasons for their skepticism.

At an E.P.A. meeting about the site in Queens this summer, a handful of residents also expressed concerns about the Trump administration’s plan to cut the Superfund budget and how that would affect Wolff-Alport’s cleanup.

Walter Mugdan, acting deputy regional administrator for E.P.A. region 2, was frank in his response.

“Do I know how this site will rank against others? I don’t,” Mugdan told residents, according to a transcript of the meeting. “But I do know radioactive materials are [a] serious concern and what we do know is that people are actually being exposed.”

Indeed, The New Yorker, citing government findings, dubbed Wolff-Alport, “The most radioactive place in New York City,” in a 2014 video storywhich recounts the site’s fascinating history.

In the 1920s,  business partners Harry Wolff and Max Alport founded the Wolff-Alport Chemical Company. At the factory, workers processed monazite sand to extract rare earth metals – a highly toxic procedure. By the 1940s, the Atomic Energy Commission, the successor of the Manhattan Project, started buying radioactive thorium from the site. In the 1950s, the factory shuttered.

Norman Kleiman, director of the Eye Radiation and Environmental Research Laboratory at Columbia University, said the E.P.A. had an obligation to clean up the site. Radiation there is “well above the average terrestrial exposure even in New York City,” Kleinman told WNYC.

“People are especially concerned about exposure,” Kleinman added, “and from a public policy and public health point of view, it’s important to allay fear.”

He said risks to passersby and casual visitors to the site are likely minimal, however. “We get radiation from the sun, from the stars, so we live and are bathed in a radioactive world,”Kleinman said.

But for those who labor at the site everyday, the risks associated with Wolff-Alport’s radiation are higher…….http://www.wnyc.org/story/trumps-ep-pledges-clean-nycs-most-radioactive-site-funding-question/

November 8, 2017 Posted by | environment, thorium, USA | Leave a comment

Tamil Nadu: Union Ministry of Environment now allowing mining of thorium, uranium, in ecologically sensitive CRZ areas

Greed for atomic minerals to leave Tamil Nadu in peril, INDIAN EXPRESS, By Sv Krishna Chaitanya & Sushmitha Ramakrishnan  |  Express News Service   13th October 2017  CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu has been the biggest victim of illegal beach sand mining in the country. As per the report submitted recently by senior lawyer and rights activist V Suresh, appointed as amicus curiae by Madras High Court in the case relating to illegalities in mining of beach sand minerals in Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli and Kanniyakumari, out of 1.5 crore  tonnes of raw sand mined between 2000 and 2017, 57 per cent had been mined illegally.

Now, the latest “horrific” amendment, as activists call it, to Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification, 2011 by Union Ministry of Environment, allowing mining of atomic minerals like uranium, thorium or titanium in ecologically sensitive CRZ areas, irrespective of whether they are available in non-CRZ areas or not, is only going to deliver a telling blow on the already under-stress Tamil Nadu coast.

As per the study titled “Coastal Mineral Mapping” done by researchers in Institute of Ocean Management (IOM) in Anna University, it is revealed that Tamil Nadu arguably has highest concentration of Monazite deposits in the country along its coastline that spans over 1,076 km. Monazite, an atomic mineral, contains 8-10 percent thorium, which is a nuclear fuel. This was India’s first exhaustive attempt to map and record all the natural minerals available, done is tandem with Atomic Mineral Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMD) of Department of Atomic Energy and funded by Environment Ministry. The beach sands of India — especially in Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh — are rich in several heavy minerals such as ilmenite, rutile, leucoxene, garnet, sillimanite, zircon and monazite.

Supreme Court lawyer Ritwick Dutta, who is also the managing trustee of Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment, said the latest notification will compromise the integrity of the coast. “I can’t make sense of this notification. There is no consultation, there is no fixation on extraction of minerals. This will give a free run for miners to plunder India’s natural treasure. There is a pattern in what the Centre is doing. It is systematically weakening all the laws coming under Environment (Protection) Act, 1972. Firstly, construction projects were exempted from preparing EIA, later Central Wetlands Regulatory Authority was replaced with ‘toothless’ Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016, where state authorities call the shots. Now, this mindless amendment to CRZ Notification, 2011.”………

Environmental activist Nityanand Jayaraman says that Tamil Nadu has already been plundered violating CRZ norms. The intertidal, CRZ-1 areas were not spared even when there were laws. “Now, this is legitimising some of the wrongdoing done in the past and people have also lost their right to question the illegality.”

Environmental dangers

It’s not just the loss of precious minerals that should worry the States. Tampering of fragile coastline would also invite disasters like salt water intrusion,  qualitative and quantitative degradation of ground water……..

Health effects

While social and environmental consequences seem inevitable, Konstantine claimed that atomic mining has brought serious health complications to residents around the mines. “Since 1965, mining for radioactive minerals has been prominent in Kanniyakumari, particularly in Manavalakruchi. Studies in the neighbouring mines in Kollam have revealed that the effect of radiation has had a far reaching effect, up to 85 km,” he rued.

 He added that no comprehensive study has been brought to public forum about the health effects of these radiations. “The incidences of cancer has been rising over the decades and most victims from Manavalakuruchi and Midalam, approach the Regional Cancer Centre in Thiruvananthapuram or the International Cancer Centre , by CSI Medical Mission at Neyyoor. “These cases are however are not mapped back to radioactivity,” he said claiming that the incidence of the disease is relatively lower the farther one lives from atomic mining areas……..

Alarm bells ringing

  • Activists say the resources could end up in foreign soil owing to lack of state-run companies’ expertise in handling such rare-earth minerals
  • Mining for radioactive minerals can contribute to cancer among those in the vicinity of the project
  • Tampering of fragile coastline would also invite disasters like salt water intrusion, leading to degradation of ground water. They say there are many areas in the State already battling such issues due to unscientific construction
  • Activities like coral mining, beach sand mining and other dredging activities are highly harmful and contribute to sea erosion http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil-nadu/2017/oct/13/greed-for-atomic-minerals-to-leave-tamil-nadu-in-peril-1672778.html

October 14, 2017 Posted by | environment, India, thorium | Leave a comment

The environmental cost of an iPhone

This is a timely and important article. As an antinuclear campaigner, I also must deplore the lack of insight shown by most environmentalists on this issue. We rightly oppose the nuclear industry, with its focus on endless growth in energy use. However, the growth in renewable energy and in modern technology should not mean endless energy use and endless mining of rare earths.
What is needed is DESIGN for recycling. That’s difficult, but not impossible. With technologies designed for easy retrieval of rare earths, and with a transition to recycling, instead of throwaway living, the toxic radioactive problems of wasting rare earths would be avoided. Mining for them would become almost unnecessary.


The environmental cost of an iPhone http://www.wildcat.arizona.edu/article/2017/10/the-environmental-cost-of-an-iphone  
Thanks to advances in metallurgy and integrated circuit design, computers are working themselves into every aspect of our lives. From appliances to smart phones, it seems like everything these days has a microprocessor buried somewhere inside it. But remember, all of these pieces come from somewhere, and the metals they’re made from aren’t easy to come by. They are called “precious metals,” after all.

From the earth to your smart fridge, rare earth metal mining consists of three stages: mining, refining and disposal, all of which create waste byproducts. In the case of electronics, a lot of these waste products are r (http://www.electronicstakeback.com/toxics-in-electronics/wheres-the-harm-extraction/)adioactive because rare earth elements are usually mixed in with thorium or iridium, two radioactive substances.

To separate the minerals from their radioactive neighbors, large amounts of sulfates, ammonia and hydrochloric acid are used. With today’s refinement technology, producing one ton of refined rare earth metals produces 2,000 tons of toxic waste. And the waste doesn’t stop after the electronics are produced.

Another large threat to the environment is the disposal of electronics after they’ve completed their life cycle. Throwing a smart phone in the trash leads to a plethora of environmental toxins. From the chemicals in the battery to the plastics in the case, these materials eventually make their way into soil or waterways, damaging these natural resources in the process.

A study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology showed that out of the 120 million mobile phones purchased in the U.S. in 2011, only 12 million mobile phones were collected for recycling. That’s 10 percent.

According to the United Nations Environmental Program, 90 percent of electronic waste ends up being illegally dumped. This occurs via a black market for exporting e-waste to countries with more lax environmental regulations. Countries such as Ghana and Vietnam take on the environmental burden of other countries’ e-waste at a monetary and human cost.

Once the waste has been dumped, the metals are extracted to be re-sold and reused. However, this isn’t clean recycling. A simple way to extract metals from electronics is to burn the surrounding plastic, and it shouldn’t come as news to you that burning plastic is bad on many levels, from the air pollution it causes to the respiratory and neurological damage that occurs when humans breathe these fumes.

In the countries where such recycling practices take place, not much is done in the way of worker safety. Studies have found alarming levels of toxic compounds linked to cancer, developmental damage and other health problems present in both these workers and those that live near these plants.

To combat this growing trend, many companies and countries are pushing legislation and practices in order to minimize these impacts.

Apple has made the claim on its website that it wants to move toward using 100 percent recycled parts in the coming years, and the UN is continuing to create policy that will apply harsher punishments to those who illegally dump electronic waste.

In the meantime, the need for the latest gadgets continues to propel this problem forward. One of the biggest surges in electronic waste is around Christmas, when people are getting their newest tech-toys and getting rid of the old ones.

Maybe the next time you want the newest iPhone, take a moment  first to stop and think about what consequences for both people and the planet stem from this decision. While just being conscious of the impact won’t solve the problem, by realizing the weight of this decision, we can maybe slow it down some. What’s your new tech-toy really worth?

October 14, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, RARE EARTHS, thorium, wastes | Leave a comment

Thorium nuclear power is not going to be cheap

Windpower ,January 21, 2015 Paul Dvorak Most commentary on energy is really a commentary on the cost of energy……..In contrast, pick up an article about the promise of thorium nuclear reactors and you likely won’t see one dollar sign. What gives?  Thorium reactors may well be the power source of the future but the technology will cost something. But how much?

One way to answer the question is to Google it. A recent search pulled up this edited Best Answer from Yahoo:     Japan thinks it can make a thorium prototype reactor for $300 million. The UK estimates that the first thorium production plant would cost £1 billion. France has invested € 1 million investigating corrosion problems found when a test reactor in the U.S. was shut down in 1969 after four years of operation. Generally, it’s believed that $300 million would be enough for small thorium power plant.

We assume a small plant means about 200 MW.

Another way to get a handle on thorium-reactor costs would be to examine the cost of conventional reactors , such as the Vogtle units in Georgia….

The first two units are rated for a total of 2,400 MW. That is a large plant.

But during Vogtle’s construction, capital investment jumped from an estimated $660 million to $8.87 billion. Additional regulations and a redesign brought the jump in capital costs.

Unfortunately, the nuclear industry has a history and habit of building plants that cost much more than their original estimates. Even though lower construction costs are claimed as a thorium-reactor benefit, when the first cost figures for one make headlines multiply them by at least five for a better estimate. But you have awhile to wait.

For at least the next 10 years, natural gas and onshore wind-generated power will provide the least expensive, most reliable, and fastest-to-production source of power. http://www.windpowerengineering.com/policy/environmental/will-thorium-power-cheap-wind-power/

October 9, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, thorium | Leave a comment

Thorium molten salt reactor experiment begun in Netherlands

Power Mag 1st Oct 2017, Scientists at the Nuclear Research and Consultancy Group (NRG) in Petten,
Netherlands, have commenced the world’s first thorium molten salt reactor
(TMSR) experiment in more than 45 years (Figure 1). The SALt Irradiation
ExperimeNT, or SALIENT, was developed in cooperation with the European
Commission Joint Research Center’s Institute for Transuranium Elements,
which is located near Karlsruhe, Germany.
http://www.powermag.com/thorium-molten-salt-reactor-experiment-underway-in-the-netherlands/

October 2, 2017 Posted by | EUROPE, technology, thorium | Leave a comment

Social and environmental problems with lithium and cobalt in modern technologies

FT 14th September 2017, The news that China will follow the UK and France in phasing out
fossil-fuel powered cars by 2030 was met by a spike in lithium prices this
week, as markets digested another sign that the future of auto will be
lithium-ion powered.

Coverage of this shift has been largely positive, not least in the context of the race to make our cities cleaner. But there is a
potential imbalance between the environmental benefits to developed markets
and the social and environmental costs in the developing world where the
raw materials for batteries are mined.

We at RCS Global addressed the challenges associated with cobalt in a recent report and they have been
well publicised over the past 18 months including in this newspaper and by
Amnesty International. But lithium-ion producers and buyers must
acknowledge that cobalt is not the only challenge they face.

As we note in a new report this month, the spike in demand risks amplifying the social
and environmental risks associated with the industry’s five key raw
materials: cobalt, lithium, nickel, manganese and graphite. Approximately
two-thirds of the world’s cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of
Congo, where there are severe issues ranging from environmental damage to
human rights abuses including child labour. Cobalt remains the most
difficult battery raw material to source ethically.
https://www.ft.com/content/55f0c6ae-9895-11e7-b83c-9588e51488a0

September 16, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, RARE EARTHS | Leave a comment

Debunking some of the myths around thorium

An experiment on the thorium reactor with molten salts and some myths about thorium reactors, Actualité Houssenia Writing , by: Jacqueline Charpentier, August 26, 2017  An experiment in the Netherlands will test the design of a thorium reactor with molten salts. Beyond the announcement, we take advantage to debunk some myths around the thorium reactor.”………

Myths about the thorium reactor

Since uranium has a very bad reputation, there have been a lot of myths circulating on the thorium reactor:

1 Some have argued that thorium might be so interesting that it would surpass nuclear fusion Its promises by cons). We used information from the Whatisnuclear site whose authors are mainly engineers and nuclear physicists to clarify the myths around thorium.

2 This is deceptive. The thorium reactor can make bombs and this is not what motivated its cancellation at the beginning of the development of nuclear reactors. The conclusion at the time was that even if the thorium reactor could be cheaper, its performance over the long term is unknown.

In addition, the industry had already invested heavily on light water reactors, very high temperature reactors and the fast liquid metal reactor. The industry was also reluctant to create services for the fuel cycle and research in nuclear physics had focused heavily on solid fuel reactors. Basically, the world had invested too much in the uranium reactors, throwing it all into the trash and choosing thorium, because it was not worth it.

Thorium reactors do not require enrichment It is a misunderstanding of the concept of a reactor with a fast breeder, whether based on thorium or uranium. The principle of this type of reactor is that they will breed as they go. They will produce fissile material equal to or greater than their initial consumption, which will provide an abundance of energy over the long term. So we can say that this is not a true myth, but the lack of enrichment is valid for all types of breeder reactors. That’s why we invented them. However, the thorium reactor can use thermal breeding. This means that much fewer fissile materials are needed initially than a fast breeder reactor. But the fast reactor with liquid metal can do the same thing and therefore, it is not exclusive to thorium.

“The thorium reactor can not produce nuclear bombs”

This is probably the myth that comes up most often. And that’s not true. The thorium reactor operates by regenerating Thorium-232 through Protactinium-233 which produces uranium-233. And uranium-233 is fissile. The process is more difficult, but it is theoretically possible. However, another common myth is that you can have a bomb as soon as you have a civilian nuclear reactor.

Obtaining a fuel for a bomb is so complicated in any civilian nuclear reactor that it is almost impossible. But since the proliferation of bombs is a serious problem, we will still use the precautionary principle. But whether it is for a uranium or thorium reactor, a bomb is always possible … in theory.

 There is more thorium than uranium on Earth

That’s true, but you have to qualify. The mean concentration of thorium in the earth’s crust is 0.00060% compared to 0.00018%. But we also have thorium and uranium in the ocean. For a percentage by mass, there is 4 × 10-12% thorium compared to 3.3 × 10-7% uranium. In figures, this gives us 56,000 tons of thorium and 4.62 billion tons of uranium. However, the exploitation of uranium at sea costs 4 times more expensive and therefore it is not economically viable. Therefore, this myth is true if one relies solely on concentration in the earth’s crust.

But the distribution of deposits must be taken into account. India has no exploitable uranium deposits, but it is sitting on tons of thorium. China has 50% of thorium compared to uranium. So yes, the thorium reactor is very interesting for these countries because they do not need to go and get uranium on the other side of the world by corrupting local governments in passing.
 
“The waste from the Thorium reactor lasts only a few centuries”

We also hear this myth. Compared to the uranium degradation cycle over thousands of years, waste from the thorium reactor would last only a few centuries. It is true that the thorium reactor produces only a few transuranic elements. Transuranic elements such as Neptunium, Plutonium, Americium and Curium are the most dangerous nuclides in a period of 10,000 years. The problem is that uranium reactors such as fast neutron reactors also produce few transuranic elements. So yes, the thorium reactor produces less harmful waste in the long term, but it is not the only one.

Attention is not neglected to the interest of the thorium reactor, but it is not the ideal solution proposed to us by some players in the industry. For some countries such as China and India, thorium could be a real alternative, because they have a large amount in front of their doorstep, but globally it is more complicated.

And if one day the uranium mining at sea becomes economically viable, then thorium is likely to take a big hit because of the colossal amount of uranium in the ocean compared to thorium.

August 31, 2017 Posted by | France, thorium | Leave a comment

“Dirty radioactive bomb” planned for attack in Indonesia – using THORIUM

Indonesian militants planned ‘dirty bomb’ attack – sources, Yahoo 7   By Tom Allard and Agustinus Beo Da Costa, JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesian militants planned to detonate a radioactive dirty bomb, security sources said, highlighting the rising ambitions of extremists to wreak destruction in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation.

But experts cast doubt on their expertise, equipment and chances of success.
The plot was foiled when police raided homes and arrested five suspects in Bandung, West Java, last week, the sources with direct knowledge of the plot said. After the raids, police spoke of a plan to explode a “chemical” bomb but provided no other details……

The three counter-terrorism sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the militants had hoped to transform low-grade radioactive Thorium 232 (Th-232) into deadly Uranium 233 (U-233).
The highly radioactive uranium would be combined with the powerful home-made explosive triacetone triperoxide (TATP) to create a “nuclear bomb”, according to an instruction manual used by the militants and reviewed by Reuters.
In fact, the device would be, at best, a radiological dispersal device or dirty bomb that could spray radioactive material when the conventional bomb exploded.

A spokesman for Indonesia’s national police, Inspector General Setyo Wasisto, declined to confirm or deny the plot to construct the device, but said it would have been more potent than the two bombs made from TATP that killed three police in Indonesia’s capital Jakarta in May.
“If this bomb was finished, it would have had a more destructive impact than the bomb made from ‘Mother of Satan’,” he said, using the nickname for TATP.
“It could burn anything and make it hard for people to breathe.”
Thorium-232 can be transformed into Uranium-233 but requires the Thorium to absorb a neutron, a process that needs powerful irradiation, generally from a nuclear reactor, according to three analysts contacted by Reuters and the website of the World Nuclear Association, which represents reactor vendors and nuclear engineers, among other industry stakeholders….

One senior Indonesian counter-terrorism source said the Bandung-based cell had bought a large amount of a household item and had begun to extract the Thorium. Reuters has chosen not to name the item.
“They needed three weeks. It was still only one week (into the process when police raided),” the source said…..

According to police, the suspected Bandung plotters were members of JAD and were considering targets like the presidential palace in Jakarta and police headquarters in Bandung and the capital….. (Reporting by Tom Allard and Agustinus Beo Da Costa Additional reporting by Stefanno Reinard; Editing by Ed Davies and Nick Macfie) https://au.news.yahoo.com/a/36844136/exclusive-indonesian-militants-planned-dirty-bomb-attack-sources/

 

August 26, 2017 Posted by | Indonesia, secrets,lies and civil liberties, thorium, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Risky venture for Utah counties? will they gamble on speculative thorium nuclear venture?

Will Utah counties fund thorium reactor?  Salt Lake Tribune,  14 Aug 17,  “….Now a Utah startup is developing a thorium reactor, perhaps the first in the U.S. in half a century, and a consortium of eastern Utah counties is exploring whether to participate in the project. The Seven County Infrastructure Coalition (SCIC) last month issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) seeking a “project analyst” to evaluate “a thorium energy facility for producing electricity, etc. as proposed by Alpha Tech Research Corp.”……

 concerns about the use of limited county resources in such a speculative venture. Nor is it clear how the thorium proposal squares with the coalition’s legal mission, which is to “build essential regional infrastructure elements,” such as pipelines, roads, transmission and rail needed to deliver extracted minerals and power to markets…….
The coalition’s financing and procurement practices have recently come under intense scrutiny by Utah Treasurer David Damschen, who believes the group could be flouting accountability standards.
As a new member of the state Community Impact Board (CIB), which gives out federal mineral royalties to rural counties, Damschen has raised numerous concerns about the coalition’s management of CIB grants— its sole source of revenue. At recent meetings, the state treasurer has openly wondered whether the coalition steers contracts to insiders instead of the best qualified people and spends public money in ways that provide minimal public benefit…….

 thorium technology has years of costly research and development ahead before it’s ready to produce power and isotopes, according to Mike Simpson, a University of Utah metallurgical engineering professor.

“It‘s not accurate to say it’s proven to work. Aspects of it have been proven, but everything that has to be tied together hasn’t happened,” said Simpson….. many technical hurdles remain and these rural counties are not positioned to help address these challenges other than siting assistance for a reactor, Simpson added.

August 18, 2017 Posted by | technology, thorium, USA | Leave a comment