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Fukushima nuclear mess 2021 – the tasks ahead

The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster: Then and Now, The Chemical Engineer 25th February 2021 by Geoff Gill 

“………..Decommissioning and contaminated water management

The work to decommission the plants, deal with contaminated water and solid waste, and remediate the affected areas is immense. A “Mid-and-Long Term Roadmap”2 was developed soon after the disaster to set out how this will be achieved. Also, to facilitate decommissioning units 1-6, and dealing with contaminated water, TEPCO announced, at the end of 2013 the establishment of an internal entity: the Fukushima Daiichi Decontamination & Decommissioning Engineering Company, which commenced operations in April 2014. The entire decommissioning process will take 30–40 years, and, as noted above, the volume of tasks is gigantic. Therefore, the Government of Japan and TEPCO have prioritised each task and set the goal to achieve them. Essentially, it is a continuous risk reduction activity to protect the people and the environment from the risks associated with radioactive substances by:

  • removing spent fuel and retrieval of fuel debris from the reactor buildings;
  • establishing measures to deal with contaminated water; and
  • establishing measures to deal with radioactive waste material.

Fuel removal from the reactor buildings

In the Fukushima Daiichi design of reactor, used and new fuel rod assemblies are stored in the upper part of the reactor. The used fuel rods are highly radioactive and continue to generate heat, and thus require continued cooling.

Depending on the degree of damage, the process of removing the fuel assemblies presents different challenges in each of the reactors. For example, one of the significant challenges is to firstly remove the large quantities of rubble caused by the hydrogen explosions. As noted above, reactors 5 and 6 were shut down at the time of the accident. The reactor cores were successfully cooled, and thus suffered no damage. Given that the conditions of the buildings and the equipment for storing the fuel are stable, and risks of causing any problem in the decommissioning process are estimated to be low compared to the other units, the fuel assemblies of units 5 and 6 continue to be safely stored in the spent fuel pool in each building for the time being. The next step will be to carefully remove the fuel from the fuel pools in units 5 and 6 without impact on fuel removal from units 1, 2 and 3.

All the remaining units are going through a number of stages to achieve fuel removal. They differ slightly for each unit, but essentially the stages are: survey of internal state, removal of rubble, installation of fuel handling facility, and removal of fuel. By way of example, the position regarding unit 3 is shown in Figure 3 [on original].

At unit 3, rubble removal and other work at the upper part of the reactor building, together with installation of a cover for fuel removal was completed in February 2018.

After all preparations were in place, work to remove the 566 fuel rod assemblies, including 52 non-irradiated fuel assemblies, began in April 2019. The process of fuel removal is shown diagrammatically in Figure 4.

The four stages are:

  • Fuel rod assemblies stored on fuel racks in the spent fuel pool are transferred in the water one at a time to transport casks, using fuel handling equipment;
  • after closing the cask cover and washing, a crane is used to lower the cask to ground level and load into a trailer;
  • the cask is transported to a common pool on the site; and
  • the fuel in the cask is stored in the common pool.

As of 8 January 2021, 468 assemblies including the 52 non-irradiated fuel assemblies had been removed from unit 3. Measurements of airborne contamination levels are being monitored in the surrounding environment throughout the fuel removal operations. The plan is that all fuel will have been removed from all of the reactor units by sometime during 2031.

Retrieval of fuel debris

At the time of the accident, units 1–3 were operating and had fuel rods loaded in the reactors. After the accident occurred, emergency power was lost, preventing further cooling of the cores. This resulted in overheating and melting of the fuel, together with other substances. Fuel debris refers to this melted fuel and other substances, which have subsequently cooled and solidified, and, of course, still remains dangerously radioactive. This clearly poses a very complex and difficult decommissioning challenge.

Currently the state inside the containment vessel is being confirmed, and various kinds of surveys are being conducted prior to retrieval of the debris. The current aim is to begin retrieval from the first unit (unit 2), and to gradually enlarge the scale of the retrieval. The retrieved fuel debris will be stored in the new storage facility that will be constructed within the site.

The distribution of debris between the pressure and containment vessels differs in each of the 3 units. By way of example, Figure 5 [on original] shows the current position in unit 2. Large amounts of debris are located in the bottom of the pressure vessel, with little in the containment vessel.

The investigation to capture the location of fuel debris inside unit 2 was conducted from 22 March–22 July 2016. This operation applied the muon transmission method, of which effectiveness was demonstrated in its appliance for locating the debris inside unit 1. (Muon transmission method is a technique that uses cosmic ray muons to generate three-dimensional images of volumes using information contained in the Coulomb scattering of the muons.) These operations used a small device developed through a project called “Development of Technology to Detect Fuel Debris inside the Reactor’’.

 Use of remote operations for decommissionings;
  • establishing measures to deal with contaminated water; and
  • establishing measures to deal with radioactive waste material.

…….. Understanding of the situation inside the stricken reactors was urgently needed following the accident in order to prevent the spread of damage and to mitigate

the disaster. Tasks had to be carried out in a very complicated, difficult and unpredictable environment. In particular, the environment inside the reactor buildings reached high radiation levels due to the spread of radioactive contamination. To reduce the risk of radiation exposure to operators, remote control technologies  have proved indispensable for examining the reactor buildings and subsequently for decommissioning work. Thus, remote control technology, including robot  technology has been heavily utilised in response to the accident. Figure 6 [on original]shows a typical configuration of remotely-controlled robotic systems for
decommissioning work.
Reducing the risks associated with contaminated water
Water has posed a very demanding challenge for the operators. The problem stems from groundwater flowing from the mountain side of the site toward the ocean.
This flows into the reactor buildings and becomes mixed with radioactive water accumulated in the buildings, increasing the amount of contaminated water already
 there. The solution to the contaminated water problem is being tackled through a three-pronged approach. These are redirecting groundwater from contamination
sources, removing contamination sources, and prevent leakage of contaminated water.
In order to achieve this, barriers have been installed on the land -side and sea-side of the plant. An impermeable barrier on the land-side has been achieved by
freezing the ground. The frozen soil “wall” (which has a circumference of about 1,500 m) has been achieved by piping chilled brine through pipes to a depth of 30 m,
which freezes the surrounding soil. On the sea-side, a wall has been constructed, consisting of 594 steel pipes (see Figure 7   -on original)………

Purification treatment of contaminated water and management of treated water…….

Treatment and disposal of solid radioactive waste
Waste materials resulting from the decommissioning work are sorted based on their radiation levels and are stored on the premises of the Fukushima Daiichi
 Nuclear Power Station. Along with strict safety measures and studies on treatment and disposal methods, a solid waste storage management plan is drawn up
 based on waste generation forecasts for around the next ten years, so that measures to deal with waste materials will be carried out effectively

The storage management plan is updated once a year, while reviewing the waste generation forecasts, taking account of progress of the decommissioning work.

 The illustration in Figure 9 [on original] shows the various facilities planned for treatment and storage of solid waste. TEPCO’s Mid and Long Term Roadmap shows all these
facilities being completed by 2028. The amounts of waste generated are huge.

For example, the latest edition of the roadmap estimates the amount of solid waste which will be generated over the next 10 years to be 780,000 m3

 

February 27, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima continuing, Reference | Leave a comment

NuScale’s small nuclear reactor dream – dead on arrival?

in order to make advanced reactors accessible within the next few decades—even relatively simple reactors, like NuScale’s—the government would need to provide hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies …… the nuclear dream looks dead on arrival….

Biden’s Other Nuclear Option, Smaller nuclear reactors might be the bridge to a carbon-free economy. But are they worth it? Mother Jones, 22 Feb 21, BOYCE UPHOLT    ”………..

Four years after it opened, the partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island facility in Pennsylvania spooked the nation, and Oregon, like many states, put a moratorium on new nuclear plants. ……
In 2007, an engineer at Oregon State University named José Reyes began to resurrect it by imagining a reactor that would be “very, very different.” By shrinking and simplifying the standard nuclear reactor, Reyes believes he has created a technology that can generate power more safely at a fraction of the price. Last August, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a final safety report for Reyes’ design, recommending its certification. Construction on the first reactor could begin as soon as 2025. That puts NuScale, the company Reyes co-founded, at the front of the race toward “advanced nuclear” power

Donald Trump’s Department of Energy was “all in” on advanced nuclear, as a press release put it, pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into research and development. President Joe Biden is a fan, too. As part of his plan to shift the United States to 100 percent clean energy by 2050, he has targeted further investment in small modular nuclear reactors like NuScale’s.

But are these investments worth the money—and the risks? New designs or not, nuclear plants face daunting issues of waste disposal, public opposition, and, most of all, staggering costs. We must ramp up our fight against climate change. But whether nuclear is a real part of the solution—or just a long-shot bid to keep a troubled industry alive—is a debate that will come to the fore in the short window we have to overhaul the nation’s energy portfolio.

Few issues divide us as cleanly as nuclear power. According to a 2019 Pew Research Center poll, 49 percent of Americans support opening new plants, while 49 percent are opposed.

The popular argument against nuclear power can be summed up in a few names: Chernobyl. Fukushima. Three Mile Island. Nuclear dread is palpable. Some formerly pro-nuclear countries, like Germany, began phasing out plants in the wake of the 2011 disaster in Japan. The dangers begin well before nuclear fuel arrives at a plant, and persist long afterward; the rods that fuel today’s plants remain radioactive for millennia after their use. How to ethically store this waste remains a Gordian knot nobody has figured out how to cut.

The argument in favor of nuclear power boils down to the urgent need to combat climate change.  [Ed,  but nuclear does not  really combat climate change.]

But if nuclear power is going to help us mitigate climate change, a lot more reactors need to come online, and soon. Eleven nuclear reactors in the United States have been retired since 2012, and eight more will be closed by 2025. (When nuclear plants are retired, utility companies tend to ramp up production at coal- or natural gas–fired plants, a step in the wrong direction for those concerned about lowering emissions.) Since 1970, the construction of the average US plant has wound up costing nearly three-and-a-half times more than the initial projections. Developers have broken ground on just four new reactor sites since Three Mile Island. Two were abandoned after $9 billion was.. sunk into construction; two others, in Georgia, are five years behind schedule. The public is focused on risks, but “nuclear power is not doing well around the world right now for one reason—economics,” says Allison Macfarlane, a former commissioner of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Until Three Mile Island, public support was strong. Dozens of plants came online. In the 1970s, Reyes, seeing an industry full of promise, decided to pursue a degree in nuclear engineering.

……… Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, a state-owned agency that sells electricity across six Western states aims to offer its members the choice of fully carbon-free power, sees NuScale as the best available option for undergirding its existing wind and solar plants. In 2015, UAMPS announced a plan to build 12 NuScale reactors at the federally run Idaho National Laboratory. NuScale projected total construction costs at $3 billion—nearly a third less than the most recently completed US reactor, which came online in 2016 at a cost of $4.7 billion (though it will supply more power). And the next plant should cost even less, since NuScale’s small reactors will be built on an assembly line, rather than on-site. But the price will drop only if more customers buy them. “Taxes are more popular than nuclear power,” jokes Doug Hunter, the CEO of UAMPS.

To change that perception, Hunter and his team have spent the last few years visiting towns and utility companies that buy power from UAMPS, explaining the potential role of nuclear power and the safety of NuScale’s design. His persistence paid off. By 2020, the majority had signed on to the NuScale project—though only as long as they had plenty of chances to back out if the project went south……….

Even with new technology, we will need to mine uranium—a process that has leached radioactive waste into waterways—and find somewhere to put the spent fuel. (The current practice, which persists at Trojan and will be employed at NuScale’s plants, is to hold waste on-site. This is intended to be a temporary measure, but every attempt to find a permanent disposal site has been stalled by geological constraints and local opposition.) Lloyd Marbet, Director of the non-profit Oregon Conservancy Foundation believes we need to transition away from coal and gas immediately. But he worries that nuclear is too expensive, and a new round of investment might pull money away from more effective, and cleaner, solutions. ……….

These days, he’s watching the industry creep back. A Republican state senator named Brian Boquist has proposed a bill three times that would permit city or county voters to exempt themselves from the 1980 law, allowing a nuclear facility to be built within their borders. (The bill has failed twice; the latest version is with the senate committee.) Boquist does not seem particularly committed to fighting climate change: He and other members of the Republican minority refused to show up to vote on a cap-and-trade bill in early 2020, causing the Senate to fall short of a quorum. (When Gov. Kate Brown threatened to retrieve legislators using state troopers, Boquist said to “send bachelors and come heavily armed.”)

In 2017, as the legislature debated Boquist’s first pro-nuclear bill, Marbet testified that NuScale was making “an end run around [voters] in their quest for corporate profit.” He also noted the company’s ties to the Fluor Corporation. The Texas-based multinational engineering firm that has been NuScale’s majority owner since 2011 has invested $9.9 million in campaign contributions over the past 30 years, with nearly two-thirds going toward Republican candidates. (Fluor is currently under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission due to allegedly sloppy accounting practices.)

Marbet admits his view of the industry is jaundiced, but his experiences make him skeptical of NuScale and its claims. He worries, too, that if small reactors take off, operators will revert to old habits, cutting corners to make a buck. He points to a draft rule approved last year by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, over the objections of FEMA, that would reduce the size of the emergency planning zone around nuclear plants: Rather than a 10-mile-wide circle, a plant would only need an evacuation plan for the space within its fence lines. NRC commissioner Jeff Baran opposed the change, noting it is based on assumptions about small reactors, like NuScale’s, that remain on the drawing board, and might open the door to weakening safety standards for existing plants.

Old-line environmental groups like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club remain staunchly opposed to nuclear power, but politicians have been more open to it.

President Barack Obama was an outspoken proponent of nuclear’s potential. For 2020, the Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously agreed to spend more than President Trump requested on nuclear research, and the Senate is currently considering a bipartisan bill that will streamline the permitting process and establish a national uranium reserve.

Now, as part of his $2 trillion climate plan, Biden is calling for a federal research agency that would pursue carbon-free energy sources, including small reactors. Biden’s was the first Democratic Party platform in 48 years that explicitly supported an expansion of nuclear energy. His pick to lead the Department of Energy—which devotes the majority of its budget to nuclear projects—is former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who has little experience in the field. Gina McCarthy, the former EPA administrator who is Biden’s chief domestic climate coordinator, has said that nuclear could play a key role in baseload power supply but indicated that waste disposal issues ought to be resolved before the technology is widely adopted.

A major hurdle for any advanced nuclear product is the regulatory process. NuScale spent more than $500 million developing its licensing application. The path to approval has consumed 12 years already, and it’s not over yet. In the months after my visit to NuScale, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission noted “several potentially risk-significant” questions that remain unanswered about the company’s reactor design, especially about its new version of a steam generator. Nonetheless, the NRC granted its initial approval of the design at the end of the summer; now NuScale awaits official, final certification by the commissioners, which is expected sometime this year. But further analysis of the generators will be required before a license is granted to actually build a plant.

A decade ago, NuScale suggested it might have a plant in operation by 2018. Now construction won’t begin until 2025 at the earliest. The plant at Idaho National Laboratory won’t be fully operational until 2030. Factoring in interest and other costs not included in NuScale’s $3 billion estimate, UAMPS expects a total 40-year lifetime cost of $6 billion for the plant. Some critics see this as the same old story: grand, early promises—a “dog and pony show,” as Marbet calls NuScale’s PR—followed by cost overruns and delays. Reyes intentionally used materials familiar to regulators, so as to speed along the process. But other advanced reactor designs, which use new kinds of fuel and coolant, may face an even slower and more expensive journey.

Recently, nine towns—more than a quarter of the subscribed members—pulled out of UAMPS’s project after changing their minds about their energy needs or worrying that it was becoming a financial sinkhole. (Meanwhile, one new town signed on.) The plant’s economics depend on running near full capacity, which will only happen if utilities outside of UAMPS also buy some of its power. The Department of Energy says it will chip in nearly $1.4 billion over the next nine years, which should help bring down the cost of the plant’s energy. But the projected price—$55 per megawatt-hour—is still above the current costs for solar and wind projects. And the federal money will require annual congressional approval. It’s possible that other new ideas might pop up, competing for limited dollars.

Biden’s climate plan hinges on a massive expenditure on research. What his administration will have to quickly decide, though, is how to divvy that pot. Allison Macfarlane, the former NRC commissioner, told me other industries deserve far more of our resources and attention than nuclear. Batteries, in particular, could steady out the uneven flow of renewables. They may even work better, since nuclear plants are difficult to power up or down in response to changing conditions. Once a pie-in-the-sky idea, battery storage now offers costs at least “in the ballpark” of nuclear, says Stan Kaplan, a former US Energy Information Administration analyst. Prices have dropped 70 percent in the past few years and are projected to drop another 45 percent before NuScale’s plant comes online. California—which also has a moratorium on nuclear builds—is rapidly expanding its storage capacity. Within 10 years, the niche that Nu­Scale is aiming for might already be filled.

……. For nuclear to persist as a hedge, it all but requires government assistance, given the enormous upfront costs of R&D. Another challenge is vetting which projects have real promise. “You have all these reactor vendors pitching their wares, and making all sorts of outrageous and false claims,” says Edwin Lyman, the director of nuclear power safety with the Union of Concerned Scientists. These claims have also been the basis of lowering safety standards, which offers a large indirect subsidy for operators. There needs to be a stronger peer-review process, he says, to make sure the government is only sponsoring truly worthwhile projects.

A recent study from Princeton found that even without nuclear power, the relative cost of a decarbonized energy system in 2050 could be about the same as in 2015, which at the time was a historic low. The study found nuclear could reduce costs even further—if it becomes as cheap as its advocates hope. But Abdulla, the UC San Diego researcher, has calculated that in order to make advanced reactors accessible within the next few decades—even relatively simple reactors, like NuScale’s—the government would need to provide hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies and substantially simplify the regulatory process. Abdulla believes nuclear energy should have been “an arrow in our quiver.” But given the economics, he says, “I fear the arrow has broken.”

if money were no object—if we could snap our fingers and scatter reactors across the landscape—…… But if Abdulla’s numbers are right, the nuclear dream looks dead on arrival….  https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2021/02/nuclear-energy-climate-change-nuscale-green-power-uranium/

 A great article. Just one problem.  The whole article runs with the assumption that nuclear power is effectively ”low carbon”. Yet this assumption is not challenged. There are several ways in which nuclear power is actually quite high carbon.   Just for one comparison with reneewable energy:  wind and solar power are delivered directlly to the turbines and panels – with no digging up of fuel required, no regular transport by road, rail etc.  The entire nuclear fuel chain with all its steps –   mining, milling, conversion, fuel fabrication, reactor, waste ponds, waste canisters , deep repositaory …       all this is carbon emitting.   

 

February 23, 2021 Posted by | Reference, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA | 1 Comment

The Children with Cancer UK conference: nuclear power and nuclear weapons are two sides of the same coin

Low level radiation – a game changer for the nuclear power and weapons industries?  Pete Wilkinson, 21 February 2021 https://yorkshirebylines.co.uk/low-level-radiation-a-game-changer-for-the-nuclear-power-and-weapons-industries/
  “If you placed a teacup sized piece of high level waste (what’s left of used or ‘spent’ nuclear fuel after it has been treated) in the middle of football pitch, you and everyone in the stadium would be dead before you left the centre circle.”

Phil Hallington, head of operations and development, Sellafield. BBC Radio 4, 7/1/15 ‘How to dismantle a nuclear power station’

In order to gain public acceptance of atmospheric bomb testing in Nevada, President Dwight E. Eisenhower declared the policy of the US government to be “keep the public confused”…

(Extracts from ‘The Dangers of Low Level Radiation’, Charles Sutcliffe, Avebury Press, 1987 ISBN 0 566 05482 5)
These two quotations sum up the murky world of deceit, lies and deliberate withholding of information that characterised the race to develop the A and H-bombs in the immediate aftermath of WW2 as former allies became cold war enemies. The greater ‘good’ of possessing weapons of mass destruction to deter an aggressor outweighed the need to inform people of the unknowns surrounding the long-term effects of exposure to radiation. “Keeping the public confused” made it possible to develop those weapons without the encumbrance of protests.

The raw materials for weapons of mass destruction – plutonium and enriched uranium – come from the nuclear reactors developed under the guise of generating electricity ‘too cheap to meter’. The policies of secrecy and obfuscation have likewise haunted the nascent civil nuclear power industry. Nuclear power stations have been essential for producing the materials that have incinerated and liquidised tens of thousands of innocents, and left thousands more with crippling genetic malformations all in the name of defence through the threat of mass murder.

The Windscale Calder Hall reactors, opened by HM the Queen in 1956 and heralded as the first power station to provide nuclear-generated electricity to the UK grid, concealed the true impetus for their construction: to produce plutonium for domestic and American nuclear weapons. Nuclear power and nuclear weapons are two sides of the same coin, despite minister after minister, decade after decade, telling parliament and the public the opposite.

It is thought that around 200,000 people – mostly civilians – died as a result of the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945. The US sent teams of officials into the fallout zones soon after the attacks to catalogue the effects on people as well as to evaluate their destructive capability. The US authorities developed a measure of radioactivity’s effect on human health which assumed that the greater the exposure to radiation, the greater the effect on the individual, leading to the ‘linear no threshold’ or LNT principle which has underpinned the relationship between dose and risk ever since.

With little concern for detail, the authorities assumed that the LNT model was good for calculating the effects of both whole body exposure as well as internal exposure through nuclear particulate inhalation or ingestion and that the relationship between dose and risk remained constant. But in fact, in case after case of exposure to ionising radiation, the observed effect on health outstrips the theoretical effect LNT would suggest.

Decades of grudging engagement from the authorities with its critics has still not delivered open and transparent examination of the uncertainties around the issue. The government, the nuclear industry itself, the regulators, nuclear industry trades unions, the supply chain companies, cheerleading university research and science departments all support and defend an industry which is well aware of these uncertainties. Yet still we commit to new nuclear build while wringing our hands about the rising cancer rate now affecting every second person in the country.

Particulates of plutonium and uranium, invisible to the naked eye, produce energetic and highly interactive emissions that, while presenting little danger when outside the body, can present a serious internal hazard when inhaled or ingested. They represent a small ‘dose’ but can have a disproportionate effect on health if the body doesn’t manage to rid itself of the particle. The reality is actually ‘small dose, large risk’, the opposite of the LNT principle. It is perhaps no surprise that neither government nor its agencies wish to engage in fact-based debate on the issues: any recognition that critics of LNT have a case would require a fundamental review of nuclear discharges, their safety and the number of people qualifying for compensation.

Nuclear weapons were routinely tested until the practice was banned, sometimes requiring the enforced removal of the inhabitants over whose remote atolls and islands the bombs were tested. Of the 2,000+ tests since the 1950s, more than 200 took place in the atmosphere, releasing unknown quantities of uranium and plutonium. Accidents at nuclear power stations – notably Chernobyl, Fukushima and the accident in 1957 at our own plutonium production plant in Cumbria, then known as Windscale – have also released unknown amounts of plutonium into the environment.

Nuclear power plants routinely discharge small amounts of radioactive material into sea, land and air. Plutonium has been deliberately and routinely discharged into the Irish Sea since the 1950s from the Sellafield nuclear fuel reprocessing plant. These materials circle the earth in the jet stream and wash around our oceans. And the authorities, particularly the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (CoMARE), refuse to debate key issues with their critics.

In 1983, a ten-fold excess of childhood leukaemia was identified in the small village of Seascale, a few miles south of Sellafield. At the end of a Yorkshire TV documentary film screened in the November of that year, nuclear bosses refused to concede that the plutonium discharges from the plant to the Irish Sea which were shown to be returning to shore and even turning up in household dust, could possibly have anything to do with the children’s illnesses. In December 1984, Hansard recorded the following speech from Lord Skelmersdale (extract):

“As from next year, discharges of caesium to the sea will be reduced to one-tenth of the maximum released in recent years. The revised authorisation sent to the company in draft will, when implemented, reduce discharges of plutonium and other alpha emitters to 200 curies a year, which is also a very sharp reduction from previous levels.”

In 2008, the German government financed a report known by the acronym KiKK. It showed that children under five years of age living within five kilometres of every German nuclear power station ran a risk of contracting leukaemia that was twice the national average in the country.

Following a Children with Cancer UK international conference in 2018, a modest grant was awarded to the Low Level Radiation Campaign to write a report, compiling the evidence that supported the view that the health effects of exposure to low doses of alpha emitting radioactive materials are woefully underestimated.

The report has been sent to every major government department, to MPs and to regulators. The response has been totally underwhelming. The government is unable even to consider that the industry on which it has relied since the 1940s to provide its plutonium, its nuclear engineers, its nuclear research facilities, much of its electricity and its medical isotopes, might be contributing to disease and death in the population. And it refuses to instruct its publicly funded expert body, CoMARE, to do so on its behalf.

The Children with Cancer UK conference was addressed by one contributor who spoke movingly about the conditions required for a healthy and contented population – a sustainable and peaceful planet. Instead, we have created a soup of chemical, radioactive and other toxic materials casually tossed into the air while we have little or no idea as to their health effects. This, along with the 500,000 cubic metres of nuclear waste, is our legacy to our descendants. How on earth are we going to acknowledge this and begin the process of reconciliation and redress?

February 22, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, radiation, Reference | Leave a comment

‘Medical Scientific’ committee, stacked with nuclear executives, promotes nuclear power in space

“The nuclear industry views space as a new—and wide-open—market for their toxic product that has run its dirty course on Mother Earth.”

“Now it appears that the nuclear industry has also infiltrated the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that has been studying missions to Mars. ”

It’s going to take enormous grassroots action—and efforts by those in public office who understand the error of the space direction being taken—to stop it.

Nuclear Rockets to Mars?, BY KARL GROSSMAN– CounterPunch, 16 Feb 21,

A report advocating rocket propulsion by nuclear power for U.S. missions to Mars, written by a committee packed with individuals deeply involved in nuclear power, was issued last week by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

The 104-page report also lays out “synergies” in space nuclear activities between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the U.S. military, something not advanced explicitly since the founding of NASA as a civilian agency supposedly in 1958.

The report states: “Space nuclear propulsion and power systems have the potential to provide the United States with military advantages…NASA could benefit programmatically by working with a DoD [Department of Defense] program having national security objectives.”’

The report was produced “by contract” with NASA, it states.

The National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NAS) describes itself as having been “created to advise the nation” with “independent, objective advice to inform policy.”

The 11 members of the committee that put together the report for the National Academy includes: Jonathan W. Cirtain, president of Advanced Technologies, “a subsidiary of BWX Technologies which is the sole manufacturer of nuclear reactors for the U.S. Navy,” the report states; Roger M. Myers, owner of R. Myers Consulting and who previously at Aerojet Rocketdyne “oversaw programs and strategic planning for next-generation in-space missions [that] included nuclear thermal propulsion and nuclear electric power systems; Shannon M. Bragg-Sitton, the “lead for integrated energy systems in the Nuclear Science and Technology Directorate at the Idaho National Laboratory:” Tabitha Dodson, who at the U.S. government’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency is chief engineer of a program “that is developing a nuclear thermal propulsion system;” Joseph A. Sholtis, Jr., “owner and principal of Sholtis Engineering & Safety Consulting, providing expert nuclear, aerospace, and systems engineering services to government, national laboratories, industry, and academia since 1993.” And so on.

The NAS report is titled: “Space Nuclear Propulsion for Human Mars Exploration.” It is not classified and is available here.

Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, from its offices in Maine in the U.S., declared: “The nuclear industry views space as a new—and wide-open—market for their toxic product that has run its dirty course on Mother Earth.”

“During our campaigns in 1989, 1990, and 1997 to stop NASA’s Galileo, Ulysses and Cassini plutonium-fueled space probe launches, we learned that the nuclear industry positioned its agents inside NASA committees that made the decisions on what kinds of power sources would be placed on those deep space missions,” said Gagnon. “Now it appears that the nuclear industry has also infiltrated the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that has been studying missions to Mars.  The recommendation, not any surprise, is that nuclear reactors are the best way to power a Mars mission.”

“It’s not the best for us Earthlings because the Department of Energy has a bad track record of human and environmental contamination as they fabricate nuclear devices. An accident at launch could have catastrophic consequences.”

Stated Gagnon: “We fought the DoE and NASA on those previous nuclear launches and are entering the battle again. The nuclear industry has its sights set on nuclear-powered mining colonies on an assortment of planetary bodies—all necessitating legions of nuclear devices being produced at DoE and then launched on rockets that blow up from time to time.”

“We urge the public to help us pressure NASA and DoE to say no to nukes in space. We’ve got to protect life here on this planet. We are in the middle of a pandemic and people have lost jobs, homes, health care and even food on their table.”

“Trips to Mars can wait,” said Gagnon.

There have been accidents in the history of the U.S.—and also the former Soviet Union and now Russia—using nuclear power in space……

(Article goes on to explain how solar power can be, and is being used for space travel and research)

The NAS committee, however, was mainly interested in a choice between a “nuclear thermal propulsion” (NTP) or “nuclear electric propulsion” (NEP) for rocket propulsion…….

“Advanced nuclear propulsion systems (along or in combination with chemical propulsion systems) have the potential to substantially reduce trip time” to Mars “compared to fully non-nuclear approaches,” says the report.

An issue: radioactivity from either of the systems affecting human beings on the rockets with nuclear reactors propelling them. Back after World War II with the Cold War beginning, the U.S. began working on bombers propelled by onboard nuclear reactors—even built one. The idea was that such bombers could stay aloft for days ready to drop nuclear weapons on the Soviet Union. No crews would need to be scrambled and bombers then sent aloft.

But, as The Atlantic magazine noted in a 2019 article titled, “Why There Are No Nuclear Airplanes”:

“The problem of shielding pilots from the reactor’s radiation proved even more difficult. What good would a plane be that killed its own pilots? To protect the crew from radioactivity, the reactor needed thick and heavy layers of shielding. But to take off, the plane needed to be as light as possible. Adequate shielding seemed incompatible with flight. Still, engineers theorized that the weight saved from needing no fuel might be enough to offset the reactor and its shielding. The United States spent 16 years tinkering with the idea, to no avail”

The Eisenhower administration concluded that the program was unnecessary, dangerous, and too expensive. On March 28, 1961, the newly inaugurated President John F. Kennedy canceled the program. Proposals for nuclear-powered airplanes have popped up since then, but the fear of radiation and the lack of funding have kept all such ideas down.”……

The “synergies” in space nuclear activities between NASA and the U.S. military advanced in the NAS report mark a change in public acknowledgement. The agency was supposed to have a distinctly civilian orientation, encouraging peaceful applications in space science.

However, throughout the decades there have been numerous reports on its close relationship with the U.S. military—notably during the period of NASA Space Shuttle flights. As a 2018 piece in Smithsonian Magazine noted, “During the heyday of the space shuttle, NASA would routinely ferry classified payloads into orbit for the Department of Deense among other projects the agencies have collaborated on.”

With the formation of a U.S. Space Force by the Trump administration in 2019, the NASA-Pentagon link would appear to be coming out of the shadows, as indicated by the NAS report. The Biden administration is not intending to eliminate the Space Force, despite the landmark Outer Space Treaty of 1967 put together by the U.S., the then Soviet Union and the U.K, setting aside space for peaceful purposes. It is giving the new sixth branch of U.S. armed forces “full support,” according to his spokesperson Jen Psaki.

The NAS report says, “Areas of common interest include (1) fundamental questions about the development and testing of materials (such as reactor fuels and moderators) that can survive NTP conditions and (2) advancing modeling and simulation capabilities that are relevant to NTP.” And, “Additionally, a NASA NTP system could potentially use a scaled-up version of a DoD reactor, depending on the design.”

It declares: “Threats to U.S. space assets are increasing. They include anti-satellite weapons and counter-space activities. Crossing vast distances of space rapidly with a reasonably sized vehicle in response to these threats requires a propulsion system with high Isp [Specific Impulse] and thrust. This could be especially important in a high-tempo military conflict.”

Moreover, on December 19, just before he was to leave office, Trump signed Space Policy Directive-6, titled “National Strategy for Space Nuclear Propulsion.” Its provisions include: “DoD [Department of Defense] and NASA, in cooperation with DOE [Department of Energy}, and with other agencies and private-sector partners, as appropriate, should evaluate technology options and associated key technical challenges for an NTP [Nuclear Thermal Propulsion] system, including reactor designs, power conversion, and thermal management. DoD and NASA should work with their partners to evaluate and use opportunities for commonality with other SNPP [Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion] needs, terrestrial power needs, and reactor demonstration projects planned by agencies and the private sector.”

It continues: “DoD, in coordination with DOE and other agencies, and with private sector partners, as appropriate, should develop reactor and propulsion system technologies that will resolve the key technical challenges in areas such as reactor design and production, propulsion system and spacecraft design, and SNPP system integration.”

It’s going to take enormous grassroots action—and efforts by those in public office who understand the error of the space direction being taken—to stop it.

Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at State University of New York/College at Old Westbury, and is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet, and the Beyond Nuclear handbook, The U.S. Space Force and the dangers of nuclear power and nuclear war in space. Grossman is an associate of the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion. more https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/02/16/nuclear-rockets-to-mars/

February 18, 2021 Posted by | investigative journalism, politics, Reference, secrets,lies and civil liberties, space travel, USA | Leave a comment

Solar sails for space voyages

Nuclear Rockets to Mars?, BY KARL GROSSMAN– CounterPunch, 16 Feb 21,”………. As for rocket propulsion in the vacuum of space, it doesn’t take much conventional chemical propulsion to move a spacecraft—and fast.

And there was a comprehensive story in New Scientist magazine this past October on “The new age of sail,” as it was headlined. The subhead: “We are on the cusp of a new type of space travel that can take us to places no rocket could ever visit.”

The article began by relating 17th Century astronomer Johanne Kepler observing comets and seeing “that their tails always pointed away from the sun, no matter which direction they were traveling. To Kepler, it meant only one thing: the comet tails were being blown from the sun.”

Indeed, “the sun produces a wind in space” and “it can be harnessed,” said the piece. “First, there are particles of light streaming from the sun constantly, each carrying a tiny bit of momentum. Second, there is a flow of charged particles, mostly protons and electrons, also moving outwards from the sun. We call the charged particles the solar wind, but both streams are blowing a gale”—that’s in the vacuum of space.

Japan launched its Ikaros spacecraft in 2010—sailing in space using the energy from the sun. The LightSail 2 mission of The Planetary Society was launched in 2019—and it’s still up in space, flying with the sun’s energy.

New systems using solar power are being developed – past the current use of thin-film such as Mylar for solar sails.

The New Scientist article spoke of scientists “who want to use these new techniques to set a course for worlds currently far beyond our reach—namely the planets orbiting our nearest star, Alpha Centauri.”……. more https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/02/16/nuclear-rockets-to-mars/

February 18, 2021 Posted by | Reference, renewable, space travel | Leave a comment

Accidents in both USA’s and Russia’s use of nuclear power in space

Nuclear Rockets to Mars?, BY KARL GROSSMAN– CounterPunch, 16 Feb 21”…………There have been accidents in the history of the U.S.—and also the former Soviet Union and now Russia—using nuclear power in space.

And the NAS report, deep into it, does acknowledge how accidents can happen with its new scheme of using nuclear power on rockets for missions to Mars.

It says: “Safety assurance for nuclear systems is essential to protect operating personnel as well as the general public and Earth’s environment.” Thus under the report’s plan, the rockets with the nuclear reactors onboard would be launched “with fresh [uranium] fuel before they have operated at power to ensure that the amount of radioactivity on board remains as low as practicable.” The plans include “restricting reactor startup and operations in space until spacecraft are in nuclear safe orbits or trajectories that ensure safety of Earth’s population and environment” But, “Additional policies and practices need to be established to prevent unintended system reentry during return to Earth after reactors have been operated for extended periods of time.”

The worst U.S. accident involving the use of nuclear power in space came in 1964 when the U.S. satellite Transit 5BN-3, powered by a SNAP-9A plutonium-fueled radioisotope thermoelectric generator, failed to achieve orbit and fell from the sky, disintegrating as it burned up in the atmosphere, globally spreading plutonium—considering the deadliest of all radioactive substances. That accident was long linked to a spike in global lung cancer rates where the plutonium was spread, by Dr. John Gofman, an M.D. and Ph. D., a professor of medical physics at the University of California at Berkeley. He also had been involved in developing some of the first methods for isolating plutonium for the Manhattan Project.

NASA, after the SNAP-9A (SNAP for Systems Nuclear Auxiliary Power) accident became a pioneer in developing solar photovoltaic power. All U.S. satellites now are energized by solar power, as is the International Space Station.

The worst accident involving nuclear power in space in the Soviet/Russian space program occurred in 1978 when the Cosmos 954 satellite with a nuclear reactor aboard fell from orbit and spread radioactive debris over a 373-mile swath from Great Slave Lake to Baker Lake in Canada. There were 110 pounds of highly-enriched (nearly 90 percent) of uranium fuel on Cosmos 954.

Highly-enriched uranium—90 percent is atomic bomb-grade—would be used in one reactor design proposed in the NAS report. And thus there is a passage about it under “Proliferation and security.” It states that “HEU [highly enriched uranium] fuel, by virtue of the ease with which it could be diverted to the production of nuclear weapons, is a higher value target than HALEU [high assay low enriched uranium], especially during launch and reentry accidents away from the launch site. As a result, HEU is viewed by nonproliferation experts as requiring more security considerations. In addition, if the United States uses HEU for space reactors, it could become more difficult to convince other countries to reduce their use of HEU in civilian applications.”

As for rocket propulsion in the vacuum of space, it doesn’t take much conventional chemical propulsion to move a spacecraft—and fast……..more https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/02/16/nuclear-rockets-to-mars/

February 18, 2021 Posted by | incidents, Reference, Russia, space travel, USA | Leave a comment

Continued use of nuclear energy brings pollution, cancers and birth defects

the continued use of nuclear energy that has forced us into this Faustian bargain in the name of mitigating climate change, is both unnecessary and downright harmful.
A Grim Reality.   https://beyondnuclearinternational.org/2021/02/15/a-grim-reality/, Living longterm in radioactively contaminated areas damages our health, By Cindy Folkers, 15 Feb 21,

A growing body of evidence supports a grim reality: that living in radioactively contaminated areas over multiple years results in harmful health impacts, particularly during pregnancy.

This is borne out in a recent study by Anton V. Korsakov, Emilia V. Geger, Dmitry G. Lagerev, Leonid I. Pugach and Timothy A. Mousseau, that shows a higher frequency of birth defects amongst people living in Chernobyl-contaminated areas (as opposed to those living in areas considered uncontaminated) in the Bryansk region of Russia.

Because the industry and governments are pushing to spend more money on new nuclear reactors — or to keep the old ones running longer — they have been forced to come up with a deadly workaround to surmount the strongest argument against nuclear power: its potential for catastrophic accidents.

Even the nuclear industry and the governments willing to do its bidding understand that you cannot really clean up after a nuclear catastrophe. For example, in Japan, where the March 2011 nuclear disaster has left lands radioactively contaminated potentially indefinitely, there is an attempt to mandate that people return to live in these areas by claiming there are no “discernible” health impacts from doing so.

Bodies that are supposed to protect health and regulate the nuclear industry, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the International Commission on Radiological Protection and Nuclear Regulatory Commission are raising recommended public exposure limits, considering halting evacuations from radiation releases, and encouraging people to live on, and eat from, contaminated land. 

The public justification for continued nuclear energy use is, ostensibly, to address the  climate crisis. The reality is more likely a desperate last-ditch effort by the nuclear industry to remain relevant, while in some countries the nuclear energy agenda remains inextricably linked to nuclear weapon programs.

Forcing people to live on and consume produce grown from radioactively contaminated land is contrary to scientific evidence indicating that these practices harm humans and all animals, especially over the long-term. By the time these health impacts are unearthed, decades later, the false narratives of “harmless low radiation doses” and “no discernible impact” have solidified, covering up the painful reality that should be a touchstone informing our debate over nuclear power.

The recent joint study, whose implementation, says Korsakov, would not have happened without the support and efforts of co-author Mousseau, found that birth defects like polydactyly (having more than five fingers or toes), and multiple congenital malformations (including those that are appearing for the first time — called de novo), were “significantly higher… in newborns in regions with elevated radioactive, chemical and combined contamination.”

Uniquely, Korsakov also examines areas contaminated by both Chernobyl radioactivity and industrial chemicals. Multiple congenital malformations (MCM) were much higher in areas of combined contamination, indicating an additive and potentially synergistic effect between pollutants for these birth defects.

Congenital malformations (CM) are thought to originate in the first trimester of pregnancy and represent a main cause of global disease burden. They are considered “indicators of adverse factors in the environment,” including radioactive pollution, and can afflict numerous organs (heart, brain, lungs, bones, intestines) with physical abnormalities and metabolic disorders. Counted among these are clubfoot, hernias, heart and neural tube defects, cleft palate and lip, and Down syndrome.

CMs are the leading cause of infant mortality in many developed nations, accounting for 20% of U.S. infant deaths. For those living past infancy, the effects can be lifelong. While a number of CMs are obvious early in life, some may not be identified until later, even into adulthood. Countries of low- and middle-income are affected disproportionately.

In the Bryansk region of Russia, birth defects were examined over the 18-year period from 2000-2017. For areas contaminated with radiation alone, dose estimations from Chernobyl radiation (released from the 1986 nuclear catastrophe) ranged from 0.6 mSv to 2.1 mSv per year, while in areas contaminated with radiation and chemicals, dose ranges were 1.2 to 2.0 mSv per year.

As the Bryansk study authors point out, “[n]early all types of hereditary defects can be found at doses as low a [sic] 1–10 mSv indicating that current radiation risk models are inadequate for low dose environments.”

In comparison, Japan and the U.S. maintain that there is little risk to resettling or inhabiting areas contaminated by nuclear catastrophe where estimated doses would range from 5-20 mSv/year. Yet harm was found among Bryansk populations exposed to doses far lower than the much higher ones proclaimed “livable” by nuclear proponents.

One explanation for the disconnect between the expected and actual health effects is an underestimate of the impact of ingesting or inhaling manmade radioactive isotopes, particularly beta emitters, a large source of exposure following radiation releases from nuclear power catastrophes.

A number of these isotopes mimic nutrients that our bodies need such as calcium (radiostrontium) and potassium (radiocesium), so our body doesn’t know to avoid them. Of course, nuclear proponents recognize that economic recovery of polluted places will be difficult without being able to grow, sell and consume food that might be contaminated with isotopes that give off this radiation,.

Korsakov et al. point to yet another explanation for the disconnect — the assumption that dose reconstruction models properly fit all realistic exposures. When experts estimate doses they often do so without adequate knowledge of local culture and habits. Therefore, they fail to capture variations in exposure pathways, creating enormous errors in dose reconstruction. As a starting point, radiation science would be better served by directly measuring contamination levels where people actually live, play, breathe and eat.

But it seems dose models also fail to adequately represent the damage done to fetuses and neonates, not least because damage can be random (stochastic) making it difficult to predict. Stochastic health impacts include cancer and other genetic damage, and may be severe even at low doses.  During pregnancy, one hit from radiation could damage or destroy cells meant to form entire organs, making accounting for stochastic impacts during fetal development extremely important — especially as fetal tissue collects some radionuclides in greater amounts than maternal tissue.

Health impacts in the Bryansk region could be a result both of direct radiation exposure during pregnancy and of cumulative impact over a “series of generations (genetic load)” raising the specter of heritability of genetic damage. Past studies have indicated that radiation damage can be heritable — passing from parents to offspring; that living in environments of elevated natural background radiation will increase mutations and disease; that the ability to withstand radiation doses appears to diminish as continually-exposed generations progress; and that doses from catastrophic releases should be accounted for across generations, not just in the generation initially exposed.

These currently sparse, yet growing data, support long-held conclusions that humans do not differ significantly from every other animal and plant — they, too, suffer heritable damage from radiation.

The Korsakov study projects that overall, multiple congenital malformations will increase in the next few years in the contaminated regions. Increases in birth defects are occurring despite access to free in-depth medical exams for pregnant women residing in areas of higher contamination and, if warranted, pregnancy termination. Such access has apparently greatly decreased the number of stilbirths in the region, as did a similar program at the end of the 1990s in Belarus, the country which bore the brunt of radioactive Chernobyl contamination. But even with such programs, overall birth defects have increased in the contaminated areas in Russia.

So not only is it unhealthy to live in radiologically-contaminated areas, attempts at mitigating the effects, particularly those on pregnancy, have limited impact. Encouraging, or worse yet, forcing people to live in contaminated areas and eat contaminated food, is foolishly cruel (particularly to people of reproductive age who may face wrenching decisions about wanted pregnancies) and not in the interest of public health.

Meanwhile, the continued use of nuclear energy that has forced us into this Faustian bargain in the name of mitigating climate change, is both unnecessary and downright harmful.

February 15, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, children, Reference, women | Leave a comment

Systemic corruption in the American nuclear industry

Big money, nuclear subsidies, and systemic corruption, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, By Cassandra JefferyM. V. Ramana | February 12, 2021

The “largest bribery, money-laundering scheme ever perpetrated against the people and the state of Ohio” came to light during an unexpected press conference in July 2020 in Columbus. Speaking haltingly and carefully, US Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio David DeVillers announced “the arrest of Larry Householder, Speaker of the House of the state of Ohio and four other defendants for racketeering. The conspiracy was to pass and maintain a $1.5 billion bailout in return for $61 million in dark money.”

Unravelling an intricate web of alleged illegal activities used to launder money, DeVillers broke down the complicated modus operandi of “Company A.” With a gentle smile on his face, he said, “everyone in this room knows who Company A is, but I will not be mentioning the name of Company A because of our regulations and rules. They have not, and no one from that company has as of yet, been charged”.

Company A is FirstEnergy Solutions, a fact most Ohians had been aware of long before the July 2020 press conference. FirstEnergy, now called Energy Harbour, is one of Ohio’s largest utility corporations. For years, the firm lobbied to get a subsidy to continue operating its unprofitable nuclear plants and maintain its revenue flow. When lobbying efforts failed to produce subsidies, it resorted to bribery to gain legislative support for House Bill 6, 2019 legislation that forces state consumers to pay into something called “the Ohio Clean Air Fund.” The green language is a smoke screen for the real purpose: to siphon nearly $150 million annually to FirstEnergy to keep its Perry and Davis-Besse nuclear power plants and two coal-fired power plants operating, while simultaneously gutting Ohio’s renewable energy standards. Also gone were the state’s energy efficiency programs, which had saved consumers and corporations millions of dollars. When citizens tried to organize a referendum to repeal the bill, FirstEnergy indulged in various dirty tactics to thwart this democratic opposition.

Ohio is not alone in its nuclear energy corruption. Also in July 2020, Commonwealth Edison (ComEd), a subsidiary of Exelon, was charged with bribery to “Public Official A” in Illinois. Though not named, the filing makes it clear that “Public Official A” is Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, who has denied wrongdoing. ComEd has agreed to pay a $200 million fine to resolve this case. Exelon also finds itself at the centre of another ongoing investigation by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission. The focus of the investigation is reportedly Anne Pramaggiore, a former Exelon CEO who stepped down from the company and from his post chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. As in Ohio, the corruption charges relate to lobbying for state subsidies and special treatment of nuclear power plants.

Three other states—New Jersey, Connecticut, and New York—have implemented similar subsidies (although, to date, no allegations of wrongdoing related to them have been made public). Changes in the economics of electricity markets are threatening the profitability of nuclear power plants, a shifting reality driving a demand for these financial bailouts. As the New Jersey-based energy company Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) explained in October 2020, across the nation “nuclear plants continue to struggle economically to survive. Since 2018, three nuclear plants have closed in the eastern US, all for economic reasons, and the impact has had a ripple effect.”

Changing economics of electricity generation. These “economic reasons” have to do with an ongoing massive transformation of the energy sector. Over the last decade, the cost of renewables like solar and wind have dropped substantially; these renewables can generate electricity at much lower costs than fossil fuels and, especially, nuclear power. In the United States, unsubsidized wind power costs fell by 71 percent between 2009 and 2020, whereas unsubsidized utility scale solar energy costs declined by 90 percent during the same period. Nuclear energy costs increased by 33 percent between 2009 and 2020. The International Energy Agency has dubbed solar energy “the new king of electricity” and foresees it dominating future deployment in the electricity sector for decades.

The major beneficiaries of the subsidies for nuclear plants are large corporations: PSEG in New Jersey and Dominion in Connecticut, besides Exelon and FirstEnergy. These, and other electrical utility companies in the United States, have historically invested primarily in nuclear reactors and fossil fuel plants. Thanks to the changing economics of electricity, these companies are finding it harder to maintain their profits while operating the older power plants that are now more expensive as sources of electricity.  

These companies and various associated organizations have engaged in extensive lobbying and large-scale propaganda campaigns to get governments pass legislation that makes consumers pay more for the electricity they use. In that sense, what has resulted would be better described as corporate welfare than as subsidies. The subsidies have improved these companies’ financial situation, which in turn contributes to their clout in state and national policy making and their ability to fund advocacy efforts—and even to pay politicians tidy sums of money. The larger significance of the political power these large utilities have amassed is their ability to block transition to a fully renewable and more environmentally sustainable energy system.

Financial subsidies. Subsidies take different forms in different states. In New York and Illinois, utility companies are required to purchase a specific amount of zero-emission credits from authorized nuclear generating stations, all of which are owned and operated by Exelon Corporation. Purchasing contracts in both states will be in effect for 10 to 12 years, and utility companies are mandated to tack on the cost to consumer bills. Over in New Jersey, “each electric public utility” is required to purchase “Nuclear Diversity Certificates” from nuclear power plants, with consumers paying for these programs through higher utility bills.

The deal that Dominion Energy struck in Connecticut was different, taking the form of a contract that requires the state’s two electric distribution utilities to purchase about 50 percent of the  electricity output of Dominion’s Millstone nuclear generating plant for 10 years. Millstone houses two operational nuclear reactors. In all of these cases, the annual financial benefits to these large corporations run in to the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The modus operandi was developed by multiple stakeholders and publicly released in 2016 in the form of a toolkit by the American Nuclear Society (ANS). Produced by a special committee consisting of senior nuclear officials, the toolkit outlined “a variety of policy pathways to support the current nuclear fleet and prevent early retirement.” The states mentioned above have implemented polices that incorporate one or more of the strategies outlined in the ANS toolkit, including amalgamations of low-carbon portfolio standards and mandated purchase of nuclear energy. The toolkit even went so far as to suggest that state government entities could acquire nuclear power plants or suspend collecting taxes, but these suggestions have not been implemented so far.

Building political support. While the American Nuclear Society led the policy-development charge, the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI)—the nuclear industry’s lobbying arm—reinforced the advocacy message on the ground. The NEI’s 2017 report outlined specific plans and efforts instituted around the same time as many of these nuclear bailouts were pushed through state legislatures. Substantial resources were funnelled toward lobbying efforts aimed at key political and public actors. NEI’s deliberate intention, as outlined in the 2017 report, was to build political support to “avoid placing additional financial burden on US nuclear plants.”

Large-scale media dissemination, educational campaigns, relationship-building with regulatory bodies, think tanks, and policy institutions, and direct political lobbying are some of the tactics outlined in the report. Not all of the tactics aimed at subsidies; some were aimed at lowering expenses for nuclear companies by finding ways to lessen their environmental obligations. For example, the NEI managed to terminate annual fees charged to nuclear generating plants for hazardous material cleanup, which made taxpayers liable for these costs. The NEI took full credit for this shift: “After targeting the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, NEI successfully prevented reimplementation of a $200 million annual fee placed on the industry.”

The NEI also tried to influence the appointment of officials to oversight bodies, including the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), declaring that it “shared names of potential candidates with the Trump administration and worked with member companies to urge Congress to communicate with the White House the need to nominate and confirm commissioners.” The NRC is the agency tasked with overseeing safety, and in 2017, the NEI proudly announced that it had “worked with the House Appropriations Committee to again reduce the NRC’s budget.”

The institute took credit for engaging “across the Ohio state government to support enactment of zero-emission nuclear credit legislation,” for convening “meetings with the governor’s staff on the value of nuclear energy,” and for testifying “at legislative hearings on the issue.” Not surprisingly, NEI’s efforts were supported by large cash payments allegedly provided by FirstEnergy.

The power game. Many energy companies are actively involved in local or state-level lobbying. In recent years, Illinois has been a site of intense lobbying by Exelon and its subsidiary, Commonwealth Edison (ComEd), primarily to get more and more subsidies from the state. “At least two dozen former Illinois state lawmakers have lobbied on behalf of ComEd or Exelon since 2000,” according to Illinois Policy, an independent public policy organization. Exelon’s hold on Illinois decision-making has been characterized by David Kraft of the Nuclear Energy Information Service as “nuclear blackmail,” a result of politics that “forced environmentalists wanting to see new legislation pass that would expand renewables, into a reluctant and grudging alliance with Exelon, but on Exelon’s terms.”

The process works as follows. Every so often, Exelon or ComEd would declare that one or more of their nuclear plants are no longer profitable and threaten to shut the plants down within a year. The threats have tended to be successful; lobbyists can argue, with some truth on their side, that a shutdown will lead to job losses and a cut in tax revenue, also leaving Illinois with an energy shortage that may increase reliance on carbon-based sources.

The same strategy was used successfully in New YorkConnecticut, and New Jersey, where state officials described the process in colorful terms like “highway robbery” and “ransom.”  The nuclear sector has extensively resorted to this kind of power politics, even using it in regard to nuclear plants that eventually shut down, such as the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station.

Money begets money. The effects of enacting laws that favor nuclear energy firms are clear from the financial status of these corporations. Exelon share prices increased from $34.63 on April 1, 2017 to a high of $50.95 exactly two years later, while Dominion’s stock price grew from $64.19 on May 1, 2018 to $83.70, as of November 6, 2020. Similar increases have been recorded by FirstEnergy and PSEG.

Apart from stock owners, the other major beneficiaries from the utility business are, of course, executives in these companies. CEOs like Dominion’s Thomas Farrell and Exelon’s Christopher Crane are among the highest paid executives in the electrical generation and utility industry………..

Dealing with corruption, legal and illegal. The crimes that people like Larry Householder and Michael Madigan are accused of committing are shameful; they are, however, just examples of the apparent systemic corruption that seems to permeate the nuclear industry.

While the actions taken against these individuals have captured headlines, the picture painted in the media still misses the mark on less egregious, everyday forms of political action. Lobbying by deep-pocketed industries and other efforts to capture regulators are pernicious but often go unremarked, in part because under the rules that govern politics in the United States, such actions are often legal. Addressing these problems with the urgency they require will necessarily involve confronting the economic and political system that privileges profits and capital over people and the environment.https://thebulletin.org/2021/02/big-money-nuclear-subsidies-and-systemic-corruption/

February 13, 2021 Posted by | Reference, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | 1 Comment

Busting the propaganda that the nuclear industry wants to reduce carbon emissions

Big money, nuclear subsidies, and systemic corruption, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, By Cassandra JefferyM. V. Ramana | February 12, 2021  ”………..Material interests and policy interests.

The most common argument used by these companies and those who support nuclear subsidies is the need to fight climate change. There are two problems with this argument.

First, it is based on the false idea that nuclear power, if shut down, will necessarily be replaced by fossil fuel plants. A June 2016 decision by Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) demonstrates the invalidity of this assumption. PG&E will close the last two nuclear power plants in California (the Diablo Canyon units) by 2024 and 2025, replacing the lost electrical capacity “with a cost-effective, greenhouse gas free portfolio of energy efficiency, renewables and energy storage.” This move to renewables is more cost-effective today than it was in 2016 because of declining costs of renewables and energy storage. As Matthew McKinzie of the Natural Resources Defense Council argued at that time, the decision “shows that given sufficient time to prepare, retiring nuclear capacity can transition smoothly to a mix of energy efficiency measures; clean, renewable resources; and energy storage without any role for fossil fuels – an outcome that can be optimal for the environment, the market, and the reliability of the electric grid.” At a larger scale, Germany has shown that it is possible to retire nuclear plants and reduce emissions at the same time.

The second problem is the assumption that corporations owning nuclear plants are primarily interested in rapidly reducing emissions. Many utilities have large fossil fuel investments— investments that suggest a shutdown won’t be happening anytime soon. This suggestion seems especially true with natural gas plants. Although utilities often describe natural gas as clean (for example, Exelon describes its fleet as powered by “clean burning natural gas”), the climate implications of continued natural gas use are substantial. Exelon, the company with the most nuclear plants in the country, also owns and operates, along with its subsidiaries, 11 oil-fired power plants, five dual-fuel (natural gas and oil-powered) power stations, and 10 natural gas-based power plants throughout North America. In addition to its four nuclear power plants, Dominion owns 17 power plants fueled by natural gas and 14 power plants fueled by coal or oil. The company’s estimate of carbon dioxide emissions from its power plants is around 40 million metric tons in 2018, roughly the same level as in 2012. Likewise, PSEG owns just two nuclear power plants, but the company owns or has a stake in 10 fossil fuel generating plants with one more natural gas powered plant under construction.

With such large stakes in fossil fuel-based power plants, it is clear that these utilities are not about to switch immediately to renewables—or even to nuclear power—and give up on years and years of future profits that they and their shareholders are hoping for. In all of the states that offered nuclear subsidies, and elsewhere, the utilities have tried to hold back the deployment of renewables in more or less obvious ways. US utilities are not alone. Studies show that electric utilities around the world have “hindered the transition of the global electricity sector towards renewables, which has to date mostly relied on non-utility actors (such as independent power producers) for expanding the use of renewables.”

Rather than adapting to the necessity of building up renewables, these utilities resort to tactics that have been used in the past to justify nuclear power plant construction. As former Nuclear Regulatory Commission member Peter Bradford listed at the beginning of the so-called nuclear renaissance, these include “subsidy, tax breaks, licensing shortcuts, guaranteed purchases with risks borne by customers, political muscle, ballyhoo, and pointing to other countries (once the Soviet Union, now China) to indicate that the US is ‘falling behind.’”…. https://thebulletin.org/2021/02/big-money-nuclear-subsidies-and-systemic-corruption/

February 13, 2021 Posted by | climate change, Reference, spinbuster, USA | Leave a comment

The merging of the economic and the political power of big nuclear corporations

Big money, nuclear subsidies, and systemic corruption, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, By Cassandra JefferyM. V. Ramana | February 12, 2021,  ”………… the long-term impact of legislation that favors nuclear energy firms involves the great economic and political power that these large utilities possess. To better understand the basis of the economic power of these corporations, we analyzed financial data from electric utilities listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) between 1970 and 2019 on the standard Compustat database.

The first trend that is evident is one of increasing market concentration. From the 1970s through to the mid-1990s, there were roughly 80 to 85 companies listed in this sector on the NYSE. By 2000, that number had dropped to 56. The reason was a series of mergers and acquisitions through which large companies absorbed smaller companies. For example, Commonweath Edison became part of Unicom in 1994. Unicom and the Philadelphia Electric Company merged in 2000 to form Exelon. Similar mergers and acquisitions have continued, and by 2019 there were only 36 utility companies operating in the United States.

Measured through their market capitalization values, these 36 corporations are not equal. By and large, the corporations with the largest market cap values are the ones that own nuclear plants. Exelon is a good example, owning 17 of the 94 nuclear units that are operating in the United States as of November 2020. In 2019, Exelon’s average market capitalization was $44.3 billion. But Exelon is by no means the largest utility. Nextera Energy ($118 billion), Dominion ($69 billion), Duke ($67 billion), and American Electric ($47 billion) dominate the industry in terms of market capitalization. All of these five companies had a higher market capitalization in 2019 than the largest utility that did not own nuclear plants: Sempra Energy ($44.1 bn).

Over the last six years, when there have been no mergers or acquisitions among these companies, 11 out of the 14 companies that own nuclear assets have consistently held market capitalization values well above the median (based on 36 companies in all). Two of the remaining three hover near the median value, sometimes higher, sometimes lower. (The one remaining utility, El Paso, was recently bought out by JP Morgan, and will no longer be a publicly traded company.) On the whole, companies with nuclear plants have recorded larger market capitalization values than the median of 22 utilities that don’t own nuclear assets.

The legislative means used to take money away from electricity consumers and bail out economically failing nuclear plants owned by these large corporations helps further their market power, as illustrated by Dominion’s value rising from $49.5 billion in 2018 to $69.4 billion in 2019. While it is well known that wealthy corporations have a lot of political power, it seems from these examples that the converse might also be true: The political power enjoyed by these large corporations is at the root of their economic power. Indeed, as political economists Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler have argued at length, the standard economic concept of capital symbolizes “organized power writ large,” challenging the conventional division between politics and economics. The various bills passed in state legislatures offer a political assurance to investors that revenues for these utilities are assured for the foreseeable future, which naturally translates into higher stock prices and market capitalizations.………https://thebulletin.org/2021/02/big-money-nuclear-subsidies-and-systemic-corruption/

February 13, 2021 Posted by | business and costs, politics, Reference, USA | Leave a comment

Even a pro nuclear enthusiast admits that Small Nuclear Reactors cause toxic radioactive wastes

13 Feb 21 I was quite fascinated to note a paragraph in a long nuclear  propaganda article, (by Stikeman Elliott, in Mondaq) yesterday, in which this, hitherto rather hidden problem, gets a mention.

Of course, this pro nuclear writer is not really worried all that much about the actual problem.

Oh no –  his concern is about the public’s perception of it –  that public perception might hamper the develoment of the nuclear lobby’s newest gimmick. Can’t have that!

”…….efforts need to be made to address the perceived risks so as to establish confidence in the ability of SMRs to operate safely while proving to be a viable source of low-carbon energy. 

While SMRs produce less nuclear waste than traditional reactors, the issue of radioactive waste still exists. Nuclear waste needs to be safely stored and transported to secure facilities. SMRs have often been proposed as a solution for electricity generation in remote areas, but this proves problematic from a waste perspective as any nuclear waste would need to be transported over long distances. There is currently no permanent nuclear waste storage site in Canada……”

February 13, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Reference, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

American media and politicians, including Biden, in the grip of the war profiteers

Who Are the Ultimate War Profiteers? A U.S. Air Force Veteran Removes the Veil, Covert Action Magazine By Christian Sorensen,  February 10, 2021  “………….The most well-known industry pressure comes in the form of lobbying both political parties and funding their congressional campaigns (with extra focus on members of pertinent committees, such as Armed Services, Intelligence, Appropriations, and Foreign Relations)

This produces tangible results. As Steven Semler of the non-corporate Security Policy Reform Institute calculated, Democratic votes on the National Defense Authorization Act

correlate strongly with the campaign cash members accepted from the war industry. On average, House Democrats who voted for the NDAA accepted four times the amount of war industry cash as those who voted against it. In the Senate, Democrats who cast supporting votes took in six times as much industry cash.

Warmonger-In-Chief

The Executive Branch is not exempt. Rapacious financiers—including hedge fund chiefs and venture capitalists—top the list of donors to the Biden Administration, though dark money groups prevent a full understanding of the overall campaign finance picture. Between July and September at least 67 billionaires and their spouses made contributions of more than $100,000 to committees supporting Joe Biden and the Democratic Party, according to records filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Biden’s campaign received over $9 million from Donald Sussman, CEO of Palmora Partners, a multi-billion dollar hedge fund, which has more than 260,000 shares in Raytheon, a preeminent weapons manufacturer and supplier of weapons to Saudi Arabia, which recently won a $100 million contract for Afghan Air Force training

Another of Biden’s top donors, Jim Simons, who gave over $7 million, founded Renaissance Capital, which owns 1.2 million shares in Raytheon worth over $75 million, and 130,000 shares in Lockheed Martin worth $50 million.

Big Tech is positioned prominently among donors to the Biden inauguration celebration. Biden has been clear on the campaign trail that he does not intend to cut the military budget, even going so far as stating, “I’ve met with a number of my advisors and some have suggested in certain areas the budget is going to have to be increased.” Biden’s advisors are part and parcel of the military-industrial-congressional complex. Cozying up to wealthy donors, Biden infamously assured them that “nothing would fundamentally change” in a Biden presidency. https://covertactionmagazine.com/2021/02/10/who-are-the-ultimate-war-profiteers-a-u-s-air-force-veteran-removes-the-veil/

Corporate Media Kool-aid

Corporate media prevent the public from understanding the nature of the problem. A handful of business interests owns media outlets in the United States. Profit drives corporate media. U.S. corporate media (e.g. CNN, MSNBC, FoxNews) share the same business model: air what attracts the highest ratings in order to get more advertising revenue.

Corporate media air info-tainment, designed not to inform or foster critical thinking. Informing the public is not a priority. Maintaining the existing economic order is.

To the extent that corporate media air any information at all, the information reflects the opinions of the ruling class and the dogma of Corporate America.

Politically conditioning the U.S. public, corporate media never blame the military-industrial-congressional complex or capitalism for any of the problems in the world. Aiming for high ratings and lucrative advertising revenue, corporate media self-censor and taper the spectrum of acceptable foreign policy debate. War corporations purchase advertisements on corporate “news” shows to further confine the debate. Corporate pundits and newscasters do not speak out against advertisers.

Corporate media hire career militants (e.g. former CIA Director John Brennan, MSNBC; former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morrell, CBS News; retired General Jack Keane, FoxNews) who further confine the debate. Retired generals and admirals regularly contribute to all forms of corporate media, often without disclosing existing ties to war corporations or financial investments in war.

The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 allowed government to increase its propaganda in corporate media. Drawing funding from the wealthy donor class and large corporate interests, National Public Radio is similarly confined. NPR’s new CEO as of September 2019 is John Lansing, who recently led U.S. propaganda at the U.S. Agency for Global Media.
Other industry pressure comes in the form of funding and running pressure groups [e.g. National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), Association of the United States Army (AUSA)] to dominate the Pentagon, administer arms fairs, and push favorable policies; funding think tanks to keep the narrative neoliberal and pro-war; recruiting retired generals and admirals (e.g. Dunford at Lockheed Martin, Mattis at General Dynamics, Winnefeld at Raytheon) to leverage their knowledge for financial gain; and flooding the Pentagon’s civilian offices with corporate executives (e.g., Esper and then Austin, Secretary of Defense; Lord, Undersecretary for Acquisition and Sustainment; McCarthy, Secretary of the Army).  …………

Christian Sorensen is an Air Force veteran and author of the new book entitled Understanding the War Industry. See CAM’s review of the book: Wars R Us: A Review of Christian Sorensen’s New Book.  https://covertactionmagazine.com/2021/02/10/who-are-the-ultimate-war-profiteers-a-u-s-air-force-veteran-removes-the-veil/

February 11, 2021 Posted by | politics, Reference, USA | 1 Comment

Wall Street: the Ultimate War Profiteers

Wall Street: the Ultimate War Profiteers

Wall Street plays the foundational role in the war industry by outright owning war corporations……

Big Finance sits at the top of the war industry by purchasing most shares of war corporations and by owning war corporations. Insatiable demand for profit places immense structural pressure on the Pentagon and Capitol Hill for sky-high U.S. military and intelligence budgets, broad deployment of troops overseas, and the opening up of governmental jobs to corporations. …………

Wars must be created and expanded, and military bases, through which to route goods and services, must be established and entrenched to satisfy investors. Notwithstanding, ending the wars first requires addressing the embedded profit motive, otherwise it is business as usual.

Who Are the Ultimate War Profiteers? A U.S. Air Force Veteran Removes the Veil, Covert Action Magazine By  Christian Sorensen February 10, 2021  

While war corporations, or so-called “defense contractors,” make billions in profits, Wall Street is the ultimate beneficiary of today’s nonstop wars. The prosaic nature of war profiteering—far from the work of a shadowy cabal—is precisely why the collusion is so destructive and should be outlawed.

The U.S. ruling class deploys the military for three main reasons: (1) to forcibly open up countries to foreign investment, (2) to ensure the free flow of natural resources from the global south into the hands of multinational corporations, and (3) because war is profitable. The third of these reasons, the profitability of war, is often lacking detail in analyses of U.S. imperialism: The financial industry, including investment banks and private equity firms, is an insatiable force seeking profit via military activity.

The war industry is composed of corporations that sell goods and services to the U.S. government and allied capitalist regimes around the world. Investment banks and asset management firms hold most shares of every major public war corporation.

The best-known financial firms holding the stock of war corporations include: Vanguard Group, BlackRock, State Street, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Wellington Management Continue reading

February 11, 2021 Posted by | business and costs, Reference, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

America’s ”fleet” of dangerously embrittled nuclear reactors

 

February 4, 2021 Posted by | Reference, safety, USA | 1 Comment

Unsafe plan for abandoning nuclear reactors onsite, and developing Small Nuclear Reactors

“IAEA guidance that entombment is not considered an acceptable strategy for planned decommissioning of existing [nuclear power plants] and future nuclear facilities.”

February 4, 2021 Posted by | decommission reactor, Reference, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment