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Call for examination, “autopsy” on pressure vessel of dead Crystal River nuclear reactor

   Permanently closed U.S. nuclear reactor should be “autopsied” Paul Gunter, Beyond Nuclear, 25 June 17

Permanently closed U.S. nuclear reactor should be “autopsied” Examination could identify potential safety flaws in operating reactors with parts from same controversial French forge

TAKOMA PARK, MD, June 21, 2017 –

  • A permanently closed nuclear reactor in Florida that, documents show, likely has a manufactured weakness in a vital safety component produced by a controversial French forge that also supplied components to 17 still operating U.S. reactors, should be “autopsied,” says Beyond Nuclear, a leading national anti-nuclear watchdog group.
  • The Crystal River Unit 3 reactor in Red Level, Florida, was permanently closed in 2013 and is in the decommissioning process. Research by Beyond Nuclear staff found that the Florida reactor likely shares an at-risk safety-related component manufactured at the French Le Creusot forge that is currently shut down and under international investigation for the loss of quality control of its manufacturing process and falsification of quality assurance documentation. The Crystal River reactor pressure vessel head was supplied by a factory at Chalon-Saint Marcel that assembles pieces forged at Le Creusot, both Areva-owned factories.

“The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission should seize upon this opportunity and ‘autopsy’ Crystal River 3,” said Paul Gunter, Director of the Reactor Oversight Project at Beyond Nuclear. “A close examination of Crystal River could provide critical safety data to inform the decision-making on whether the seventeen U.S. reactors still operating with at-risk Le Creusot parts should also be materially tested,” Gunter said.

The Le Creusot factory forges large ingots into safety-related components such as reactor pressure vessels, pressure vessel lids and steam generators.

The French industrial facility was discovered to be operating with lax quality control procedures that allowed the introduction of an excessive amount of carbon contamination into its manufacturing process, a problem technically known as “carbon segregation.”

The excess carbon weakens the component’s “fracture toughness” in the face of the reactor’s extreme pressure and temperature. Failure of a weakened component during operation would initiate the loss of cooling to the reactor and a serious nuclear accident.

At-risk safety components potentially containing these flaws, and manufactured at the Creusot Forge, have been delivered to reactors in France, other countries and the United States over a period of decades.

The NRC published Areva’s list in January 2017 identifying the 17 operational U.S. reactors with the at-risk components from the French forge. However, the federal agency did not disclose that Crystal River also installed a Le Creusot-manufactured replacement pressure vessel head during the October 2003 refueling outage and then operated the unit for nearly a decade before permanently closing.

“This information provides the incentive to do material testing on a component here in the U.S. from the suspect forge,” Gunter added. “It is only common sense, when presented in effect with the corpse, that the NRC should autopsy Crystal River before the body is buried,” he continued. ”This is a chance to better understand scientifically what the potential risks are at operating reactors with Le Creusot parts rather than relying on computer modeling, simulation or speculation,” Gunter said. “

For the sake of science and public safety, it is fortuitous that Crystal River, which operated for nearly a decade with a possible Le Creusot replacement component, is now permanently shut down and can be materially examined,” Gunter concluded.

The carbon segregation problem was first discovered at the Areva-designed EPR reactor still under construction, and now well over budget and behind schedule, at the Flamanville Unit 3 in Normandy, France. French safety authorities are investigating and are expected to make a decision in September on whether to continue with the troubled Flamanville reactor which experts say does not meet the fracture resistance standards.

Beyond Nuclear petitioned the NRC on January 24, 2017 to suspend operations at the 17 affected U.S. reactors pending thorough inspections and material testing for the carbon contamination of the at-risk components and to open an investigation into the potential falsification of Le Creusot quality assurance documentation. To date, the NRC has accepted the petition in part for further review and in part referred the potential falsification of documents to the federal agency’s allegations unit.

Only one affected nuclear plant, Dominion Energy’s Millstone 2 in Connecticut, has conducted a visual inspection on a Creusot Forge component at the behest of the state energy authority, but did not observe any defects or cracking.

However, a French newspaper revealed last week that metal specimens harvested from the Flamanville Unit 3 reactor pressure vessel, and subjected to shock resilience testing, fell dramatically below regulatory performance standards. A newly surfaced memo (jn French) from a leading safety physicist at the prestigious Institute of Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety said that, if subjected to violent pressure-thermal shock, the EPR reactor pressure vessel could shatter. Such a rupture could lead to a major loss of coolant accident and subsequently a nuclear meltdown.

June 26, 2017 Posted by | Reference, safety, USA | Leave a comment

Ever increasing piles of toxic Russian radioactive trash – a challenge for Norway and Russia to clean up

some of the biggest dangers still lie ahead, and many of them come back to that small green train of so many years ago. An updated and safer versions of it will be hauling Andreyeva Bay’s waste south from Murmansk, but that shouldn’t belie the fact that transporting spent nuclear fuel over such distances is always dangerous.

More dangerous still is the location where the spent fuel will end up, which is one of the most radioactively contaminated spots in the world.

Decades of piled up nuclear fuel bids farewell to Andreyeva Bay http://bellona.org/news/nuclear-issues/2017-06-decades-of-piled-up-nuclear-fuel-bids-farewell-to-andreyeva-bay  Two decades ago, a green four-car train would make the rounds every few months to Russia’s snowy Kola Peninsula to cart nuclear fuel and radioactive waste more than 3000 kilometers south from the Arctic to the Ural Mountains. June 23, 2017 by Charles Digges  charles@bellona.no

Two decades ago, a green four-car train would make the rounds every few months to Russia’s snowy Kola Peninsula to cart nuclear fuel and radioactive waste more than 3000 kilometers south from the Arctic to the Ural Mountains.

At the time, the lonely rail artery was the center of a logistical and financial bottleneck that made Northwest Russia, home of the once feared Soviet nuclear fleet, a toxic dumping ground shrouded in military secrecy.

More than a hundred rusted out submarines bobbed in the icy waters at dockside, their reactors still loaded with nuclear fuel, threating to sink or worse. Further from shore and under the waves laid other submarines and nuclear waste intentionally scuttled by the navy. Still more radioactive spent fuel was piling up in storage tanks and open-air bins, on military bases and in shipyards.

One of those places was Andreyeva Bay, a run down nuclear submarine maintenance yard just 55 kilometers from the Norwegian border. Since the birth of the nuclear navy in the 1960s, the yard came to be a dumping ground for 22,000 spent nuclear fuel assemblies offloaded from hundreds of submarines. Cracks in storage pools made worse by the hard Arctic freeze threatened to contaminate the Barents Sea. At one point, experts even feared the radioactive morgue might spark an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction.

Infrastructure, technology and the Kremlin were failing to keep up with the mushrooming catastrophe. The nuclear fuel train could only bear away 588 fuel assemblies at a time three or four times a year – little more than the contents of one nuclear submarine per trip. Even if the train ran on schedule, removing broken or deformed nuclear fuel elements at Andreyeva Bay was still seen as impossible.

Yet even mentioning the environmental and security storm clouds was taboo: While the Navy begged the public to donate potatoes to feed sailors it was too broke to pay, the Kremlin prosecuted environmentalists who drew attention to the mounting desperation as spies.

In the bleak and politically chaotic late 1990s, many experts, like Bellona’s Andrei Zolotkov, thought that the carcinogenic remains of the Cold War would lie neglected at Andreyeva Bay for decades – or at least until Russia somehow woke up wealthy enough to deal with them.

Now, Russia is only slightly better off, yet the first containers of spent nuclear at Andreyeva Bay will begin to be bourn away by sea on June 27, marking the culmination of a multi-million dollar international effort sparked by Bellona in 1995.

The first container was packed last month. It and the 2999 that will follow will leave Andreyeva Bay on specially outfitted ships like the Rossita – itself a bit of expertise donated by Italy under the Northern Dimensions Environmental Partnership, an enormous Russian nuclear cleanup fund managed by the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development.

The transport ships will join a railhead at Atomflot, Murmansk’s nuclear icebreaker port, and from there, the fuel containers will go by train to the Mayak Chemical Combine, near the Urals city of Chelyabinsk, for reprocessing.

It’s a mammoth effort. A total of about 40 ship-to-train transports will have to be made before the bulk of the fuel is cleared out over the coming five years. But when it’s done, one of the most deviling radiation threats in the Arctic will be history.

Bring the waste out of the shadows

“The Andreyeva Bay project has shown that international projects aimed at liquidating nuclear and radioactive threats can be successful,” said Alexander Nikitin, the Bellona expert who was charged with espionage and later acquitted for bringing to light the embarrassing truth of Russia’s northern nuclear fleet more than 20 years ago. “This is proof that such projects must continue.”

The success hasn’t necessarily loosened the grip of the Soviet-era mindset. Russian nuclear officials have so far denied Norwegian television cameras access to film the first nuclear waste departure from Andreyeva Bay, an event that will be attended by the country’s foreign minster, Børge Brende, Russian officials and Bellona staff.

It also hasn’t eased Kremlin paranoia toward Bellona and its efforts to spur international attention and bring foreign funding to bear on Cold War nuclear relics. Zolotkov’s Bellona Murmansk, which helped dislodge Andreyeva Bay’s troubles from the shadows, was targeted by Russia’s foreign agent law in 2015 and closed down. The Environmental Rights Center Bellona, headed by Nikitin, followed this year.

But Zolotkov said the progress transcends politics.

“Even in complex political circumstances, international cooperation in nuclear and radiation safety in Russia’s North continues,” he said.

Cracks and contamination

Andreyeva Bay had been piling up spent nuclear submarine fuel for more than two decades when its troubles began in earnest in 1982. That year, a crack developed in its now-notorious Building 5, a storage pool for thousands of spent fuel assemblies. The ensuing leak threatened to dump a stew of plutonium, uranium and other fission products into Litsa Fjord, fouling the Barents Sea.

The water was drained and the fuel painstakingly moved, but that revealed other problems. The fuel elements from Building 5 needed somewhere to go, so they were rushed into hastily arranged storage facilities that were supposed to be only temporary. Technicians stuffed the fuel elements into three dry storage buildings and cemented them in. The temporary storage solution has now spanned the last 30 years. Meanwhile the leaking radioactive water contaminated much of the soil around Building 5.

It took the government years to catch up to the problem. In 1995, the Murmansk regional government paid it first visit to the secretive military site and, based on what it saw, shut down its operations. Five years later Moscow finally got involved, taking Andreyeva Bay out of the military’s hands and giving it to the mainly civilian Ministry of Atomic Energy, now Rosatom.

Rosatom helped coalesce a nuclear waste-handling agency in Murmansk, called SevRAO, to deal with the problem. Yet even in 2000, SevRAO was essentially working from scratch. Anatoly Grigoriev, a Rosatom nuclear safety official said last year that there weren’t even documents detailing what waste and fuel was stored where, much less an infrastructure to help safely get rid of it.

Bellona leads the charge

Norway, at Bellona’s urging, led the charge to pitch in.

Finally, in 2001, an enclosure was built over the three storage buildings to prevent further contamination while technicians worked to remove the spent fuel and load it into cases. Roads were built and cranes were brought in. Personnel decontamination posts went up, along with a laboratory complex and power lines.

A host of nations pumped funding into the burgeoning city whose central industry was safely packing up decades of nuclear fuel from Russia’s past nuclear soldiers. Starting in 2003, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, Canada and Great Britain, joined by Finland, Denmark, Sweden, and the European Commission pooled resources for a total contribution of $70 million over several years.

But Norway has led the pack by far, contributing some $230 million over the past 20 years toward safely removing Andreyeva Bay’s spend nuclear fuel – a national movement spawned when Bellona published its first report on Northwest Russia’s nuclear hazards in 1996.

“For Bellona, this event is a very important development,” said Zolotkov. “Bellona was the first group to speak openly about the problems of Andreyeva Bay, and Bellona stepped forward with a report on the developing situation.”

Nikitin agreed. “This is very important for the outlook of our work in Russia because all now see that we are capable of achieving a result, and not simply criticizing and protesting.”

In many ways, however, some of the biggest dangers still lie ahead, and many of them come back to that small green train of so many years ago. An updated and safer versions of it will be hauling Andreyeva Bay’s waste south from Murmansk, but that shouldn’t belie the fact that transporting spent nuclear fuel over such distances is always dangerous.

New dangers to bring to light

More dangerous still is the location where the spent fuel will end up, which is one of the most radioactively contaminated spots in the world.

The Mayak Chemical Combine, the birthplace of the first Soviet atomic Bomb, is the one facility in Russia capable of reprocessing spent fuel from submarines. It also gave the country its first nuclear disaster. In 1957, a tank holding nuclear waste exploded, sending a cloud of radioactivity from Chelyabinsk to Yekaterinburg and forced the evacuation of 17,000 people. Called the Kyshtym Disaster, the accident came to be regarded as Chernobyl’s more secretive older brother.

Since Mayak ramped up fuel reprocessing at its RT-1 facility in 1977, contamination has only intensified. Radioactive byproducts arising from the chemical separation of plutonium and uranium have been dumped into local rivers and lakes. Cancer rates among the local population continue to rise. The government has partially acknowledged the issue and has made stutter-step attempts to move a number of small villages away from the radioactively polluted Techa River. In the end though, those efforts only displaced villagers from one contaminated spot to another, solving nothing.

Some activists have noted that moving Andreyeva Bay’s legacy of Cold War reactor fuel 3,000 kilometers south to Mayak is a similar exercise in displacement.

Nadezhda Kutepova, a long time advocate for those afflicted by Mayak’s pollution, who was run out of the country on manufactured espionage suspicions, said Norway’s contribution to moving Andreyeva Bay’s fuel was a waste of money.

She and others recently told the Independent Barents Observer they thought the Norwegian government would be lessening the woes of one radioactively contaminated area in the country at the expense of another.

While Niktin acknowledged that Mayak was far from ideal, he noted that it was the only place in Russia that had the technology to handle the Andreyeva fuel.

But he said that shipping the fuel to Mayak also ratchets up Bellona’s responsibility for bringing to light yet newer stages of dealing with Russia’s radioactive legacy.

“The task of the public, and Bellona with it, is to ensure that Mayak doesn’t use any dirty technologies that end up throwing radioactive waste into the environment,” he said. “We must also step up to liquidate the injuries that have already happened to the environment as a result of Mayak’s work and the accident.”

In other words, if Andreyeva Bay is a measure of Bellona’s success, Mayak could repeat that history.

June 24, 2017 Posted by | EUROPE, Reference, Russia, wastes | Leave a comment

The very great difference in effects on the environment between nuclear bombs and nuclear meltdowns

Nuclear Bombs and Nuclear Reactor Meltdowns Affect the Environment in Very Different Wayshttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/nuclear-bombs-and-nuclear-reactor-meltdowns-affect_us_59499845e4b0c24d29f4784306/22/2017, Why do nuclear bombs leave little longtime radiation, while nuclear reactor meltdowns could last for centuries? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Viktor T. Toth, IT pro, part-time physicist, on Quora:

Why do nuclear bombs leave little longtime radiation, while nuclear reactor meltdowns could last for centuries? Well, for starters, there is the amount of fuel involved.

Little Boy (the bomb dropped on Hiroshima) contained 64 kilograms of highly enriched (weapons grade) uranium. Of this, less than a kilogram actually underwent nuclear fission, producing fission products including short-lived but dangerous isotopes, and also producing the neutron radiation “flash” that induced secondary radioactivity in some materials that absorbed those neutrons.

In contrast, an RBMK reactor like the one that blew up in Chernobyl contains 100–150 fuel assemblies, each with over 100 kg of partially enriched uranium. So right there, the amount of fuel in the reactor is several hundred times more than the amount of fission fuel in a nuclear bomb. And whereas a nuclear bomb uses its fuel rather inefficiently (the explosive fission process takes place in milliseconds), a reactor does a more thorough job consuming its fuel over the course of several months before a fuel assembly is replaced.

Furthermore, the fission byproducts remain in the fuel assembly. Depending on the reactor design, these may, in fact, include materials a lot worse than the uranium fuel, such as weapons grade plutonium. Then there are also all the irradiated parts of the reactor that have been continuously exposed to radiation, resulting in secondary radioactivity and more nasty byproducts.

When a nuclear bomb explodes, it is dispersed over a large area. In case of a reactor accident, some of the fuel is dispersed, but a lot of it remains in place, at the reactor site. So this represents a concentration of radioactive materials that just does not occur in case of a bomb. And because all of it sits on the ground, there is the chance of leakage, e.g., into the water table, contaminating the water supply of a large region.

A nuclear reactor site may also contain other sources of radiation. For instance, one of the biggest concerns after the Fukushima accident was due to spent fuel pools located near the meltdown sites.

Having said all that, let us not forget that the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone became possibly the biggest accidental wildlife sanctuary in Europe, if not the world. That is because while radioactive contamination takes its toll, it’s nothing compared to what humans do. Remove most of the humans and even if you add a substantial amount of radiation, Nature thrives.

June 23, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, environment, radiation, Reference | Leave a comment

Rise of deadly heatwaves will continue

Deadly heatwaves expected to continue to rise https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170619120507.htm

Date:
June 19, 2017
Source:
University of Hawaii at Manoa
Summary:
Seventy-four percent of the world’s population will be exposed to deadly heatwaves by 2100 if carbon gas emissions continue to rise at current rates, according to a new study. Even if emissions are aggressively reduced, the percent of the world’s human population affected is expected to reach 48 percent.

Seventy-four percent of the world’s population will be exposed to deadly heatwaves by 2100 if carbon gas emissions continue to rise at current rates, according to a study published in Nature Climate Change. Even if emissions are aggressively reduced, the percent of the world’s human population affected is expected to reach 48 percent.

“We are running out of choices for the future,” said Camilo Mora, associate professor of Geography in the College of Social Sciences at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and lead author of the study. “For heatwaves, our options are now between bad or terrible. Many people around the world are already paying the ultimate price of heatwaves, and while models suggest that this is likely to continue, it could be much worse if emissions are not considerably reduced. The human body can only function within a narrow range of core body temperatures around 37oC. Heatwaves pose a considerable risk to human life because hot weather, aggravated with high humidity, can raise body temperature, leading to life threatening conditions.”

A team of researchers lead by Mora conducted an extensive review and found over 1,900 cases of locations worldwide where high ambient temperatures have killed people since 1980. By analyzing the climatic conditions of 783 lethal heat episodes for which dates were obtained, researchers identified a threshold beyond which temperatures and humidities become deadly. The area of the planet where such a threshold is crossed for 20 or more days per year has been increasing and is projected to grow even with dramatic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Currently, about 30% of the world’s human population is exposed to such deadly conditions each year.

Numerous examples, such as the 2003 European heatwave that killed approximately 70,000 people, the 2010 Moscow heatwave that killed 10,000 people and the 1995 Chicago heatwave that killed 700 people are staggering examples of the risk to life posed by heatwaves. But beyond these highly cited examples, little was known about how common such killer heatwaves are.

The international group of researchers and students coordinated by the University of Hawaii at Manoa set out to answer that question. From over 30,000 relevant publications, the researchers identified 911 papers with data on 1,949 case studies of cities or regions, where human deaths were associated with high temperatures. From those cases, dates were obtained for 783 lethal heatwaves in 164 cities across 36 countries, with most cases recorded in developed countries at mid-latitudes. Some of the cities that have experienced lethal heatwaves included New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, London, Beijing, Tokyo, Sydney and Sao Paulo.

When analyzing the climatic conditions for those cities, the researchers discovered a common threshold beyond which temperatures and humidities became lethal. In agreement with human thermal physiology, the threshold was such that as relative humidity increases, lower temperatures become lethal.

“Finding a threshold beyond which climatic conditions turn deadly is scientifically important yet frightening,” said Farrah Powell, a UH Manoa graduate student and one of the co-authors in the study. “This threshold now allows us to identify conditions that are harmful to people. And because it is based on documented cases of real people across the globe, it makes it that more credible and relevant. The scary thing is how common those deadly conditions are already.”

A web-application accompanying the paper allows counting, for any place on Earth, the number of days in a year when temperature and humidity exceed such a deadly threshold. For example, by 2100 New York is projected to have around 50 days with temperatures and humidities exceeding the threshold in which people have previously died. That same year, the number of deadly days for Sydney will be 20, 30 for Los Angeles, and the entire summer for Orlando and Houston.

The study also found that the greatest risk to human life from deadly heat was projected for tropical areas. This is because the tropics are hot and humid year round, whereas for higher latitudes the risk of deadly heat is restricted to summer.

“Warming at the poles has been one of the iconic climatic changes associated with the ongoing emissions of greenhouse gases,” said co-author Iain Caldwell, a UH Manoa post-doctoral researcher. “Our study shows, however, that it is warming in the tropics that will pose the greatest risk to people from deadly heat events. With high temperatures and humidities, it takes very little warming for conditions to turn deadly in the tropics.”

“Climate change has put humanity on a path that will become increasingly dangerous and difficult to reverse if greenhouse gas emissions are not taken much more seriously,” says Mora. “Actions like the withdrawal from the Paris agreement is a step in the wrong direction that will inevitably delay fixing a problem for which there is simply no time to waste.”

June 21, 2017 Posted by | climate change, health, Reference | Leave a comment

Los Alamos National Laboratory’s poor handling of plutonium rods – near disaster

A near-disaster at a federal nuclear weapons laboratory takes a hidden toll on America’s arsenalRepeated safety lapses hobble Los Alamos National Laboratory’s work on the cores of U.S. nuclear warheads, Center For Public Integrity , by Patrick Malone, June 19, 2017

Key findings
  • Technicians at Los Alamos National Laboratory placed rods of plutonium so closely together on a table in 2011 that they nearly caused a runaway nuclear chain reaction, which would likely have killed all those nearby and spread cancer-causing plutonium particles.
  • The accident led to an exodus of key engineers from Los Alamos who had warned the lab to take better precautions, and this led in turn to a nearly four-year shutdown of key plutonium operations at Los Alamos.
  • A similar incident in Japan in 1999 provoked a burst of radiation that caused two agonizing deaths, a mass evacuation and an order that 310,000 seek shelter. Three workers have died from such radiation bursts at Los Alamos in the past.
  • Los Alamos’s handling of plutonium — a key component of all U.S. nuclear weapons — has been criticized in more than 40 official government reports stretching over a decade, but the lab has repeatedly struggled to meet federal safety requirements.
  • Officials in Washington proposed to fine the lab more than a half-million dollars for its record of poor nuclear safety dating back a decade, but in the end chose not to do so, exemplifying what critics say is a climate of impunity for nuclear weapons contractors.

Eight rods of plutonium within inches — had a few more rods been placed nearby it would have triggered a disaster. Los Alamos National Laboratory/U.S. Department of Energy

At many jobs, this would be innocent bragging. But plutonium is the unstable, radioactive, man-made fuel of a nuclear explosion, and it isn’t amenable to showboating. When too much is put in one place, it becomes “critical” and begins to fission uncontrollably, spontaneously sparking a nuclear chain reaction, which releases energy and generates a deadly burst of radiation.

The resulting blue glow — known as Cherenkov radiation — has accidentally and abruptly flashed at least 60 times since the dawn of the nuclear age, signaling an instantaneous nuclear charge and causing a total of 21 agonizing deaths. So keeping bits of plutonium far apart is one of the bedrock rules that those working on the nuclear arsenal are supposed to follow to prevent workplace accidents. It’s Physics 101 for nuclear scientists, but has sometimes been ignored at Los Alamos……

Workplace safety, many of the reports say, has frequently taken a back seat to profit-seeking at the Los Alamos, New Mexico, lab — which is run by a group of three private firms and the University of California — as managers there chase lucrative government bonuses tied to accomplishing specific goals for producing and recycling the plutonium parts of nuclear weapons.

And these safety challenges aren’t confined to Los Alamos. The Center’s probe revealed a frightening series of glaring worker safety risks, previously unpublicized accidents, and dangerously lax management practices. The investigation further revealed that the penalties imposed by the government on the private firms that make America’s nuclear weapons were typically just pinpricks, and that instead the firms annually were awarded large profits in the same years that major safety lapses occurred. Some were awarded new contracts despite repeated, avoidable accidents, including some that exposed workers to radiation….

George Anastas, a past president of the Health Physics Society who analyzed dozens of internal government reports about criticality problems at Los Alamos for the Center, said he wonders if “the work at Los Alamos [can] be done somewhere else? Because it appears the safety culture, the safety leadership, has gone to hell in a handbasket.”

Anastas said the reports, spanning more than a decade, describe “a series of accidents waiting to happen.” The lab, he said, is “dodging so many bullets that it’s scary as hell.”https://apps.publicintegrity.org/nuclear-negligence/near-disaster/

June 21, 2017 Posted by | Reference, safety, USA | Leave a comment

South Australians resolutely rejected a plan to be the world’s radioactive trash dump

Australia’s handful of self-styled ‘ecomodernists’ or ‘pro-nuclear environmentalists’ united behind a push to import spent fuel and to use some of it to fuel Generation IV fast neutron reactors. They would have expected to persuade the stridently pro-nuclear Royal Commission to endorse their ideas. But the Royal Commission completely rejected the proposal

Another dump proposal is very much alive: the federal government’s plan to establish a national nuclear waste dump in SA, either in the Flinders Ranges or on farming land near Kimba, west of Port Augusta.

How the South Australians who dumped a nuclear dump may soon have another fight on their hands http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2989048/how_the_south_australians_who_dumped_a_nuclear_dump_may_soon_have_another_fight_on_their_hands.html   15th June, 2017  The rejection of a plan to import vast amounts of high-level nuclear waste from around the world for profit was a significant result for campaigners but that threat is still far from over, writes JIM GREEN

Last November, two-thirds of the 350 members of a South Australian-government initiated Citizens’ Jury rejected “under any circumstances” the plan to import vast amounts of high-level nuclear waste from around the world as a money-making venture.

The following week, SA Liberal Party Opposition leader Steven Marshall said that “[Premier] Jay Weatherill’s dream of turning South Australia into a nuclear waste dump is now dead.” Business SA chief Nigel McBride said: “Between the Liberals and the citizens’ jury, the thing is dead.”

And after months of uncertainty, Premier Weatherill has said in the past fortnight that the plan is “dead”, there is “no foreseeable opportunity for this”, and it is “not something that will be progressed by the Labor Party in Government”.

So is the plan dead? The Premier left himself some wriggle room, but the plan is as dead as it ever can be. If there was some life in the plan, it would be loudly proclaimed by SA’s Murdoch tabloid, The Advertiser. But The Advertiser responded to the Premier’s recent comments, to the death of the dump, with a deafening, deathly silence.

Royal Commission

It has been quite a ride to get to this point. Continue reading

June 16, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, Reference, wastes | Leave a comment

The risky jobs of closing down 200 nuclear reactors around the world

Here’s what dismantling a nuclear reactor involves: Robots, radiation, risk  IEA says about 200 nuclear reactors around the world will be shut down over the next quarter century http://www.business-standard.com/article/international/here-s-what-dismantling-a-nuclear-reactor-involves-robots-radiation-risk-117061200298_1.html   Reuters  |  Muelheim-Kaerlich, Germany June 12, 2017 As head of the nuclear reactor, Thomas Volmar spends his days plotting how to tear down his workplace. The best way to do that, he says, is to cut out humans.

About 200 nuclear reactors around the world will be shut down over the next quarter century, mostly in Europe, according to the Energy Agency. That means a lot of work for the half a dozen companies that specialise in the massively complex and dangerous job of dismantling plants.

Those firms — including Areva, Rosatom’s Engineering Services, and Toshiba’s — are increasingly turning away from humans to do this work and instead deploying robots and other new technologies.

That is transforming an industry that until now has mainly relied on electric saws, with the most rapid advances being made in the highly technical area of dismantling a reactor’s core — the super-radioactive heart of the plant where the nuclear reactions take place.

The transformation of the sector is an engineering one, but companies are also looking to the new technology to cut time and costs in a competitive sector with slim margins.

Dismantling a plant can take decades and cost up to 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion), depending on its size and age. The cost of taking apart the plant in will be about 800 million euros, according to sources familiar with the station’s economics.

Some inroads have already been made: a programmable robot arm developed by has reduced the time it takes to dismantle some of the most contaminated components of a plant by 20-30 per cent compared with conventional cutting techniques.

For and rival Westinghouse, reactor dismantling is unlikely to make an impact on the dire financial straits they are mired in at present as it represents just a small part of their businesses, which are dominated by plant-building.

But it nonetheless represents a rare area of revenue growth; the global market for decommissioning services is expected to nearly double to $8.6 billion by 2021, from $4.8 billion last year, according to research firm MarketsandMarkets. Such growth could prove important for the two companies should they weather their current difficulties.

“We’re not talking about the kind of margins is making on its iPhone,” said Thomas Eichhorn, head of Areva’s German dismantling activities. “But it’s a business with a long-term perspective.”

When reactors were built in the 1970s, they were designed to keep radiation contained inside at all costs, with little thought given to those who might be tearing them down more than 40 years later.

First, engineers need to remove the spent nuclear fuel rods stored in reactor buildings — but only after they’ve cooled off. At this took about two years in total. Then peripheral equipment such as turbines need to be removed, a stage has begun and which can take several years.

Finally, the reactor itself needs to be taken apart and the buildings demolished, which takes about a decade. Some of the most highly contaminated components are cocooned in concrete and placed in iron containers that will be buried deep underground at some point.

Robots under water

While the more mundane tasks, including bringing down the plants’ outer walls, are left to construction groups such as Hochtief, it’s the dismantling of the reactor’s core where more advanced skills matter — and where the use of technology has advanced most in recent years.

Enter companies such as Areva, Westinghouse, Nukem Technologies, as well as GNS, owned by Germany’s four operators. They have all begun using robots and software to navigate their way into the reactor core, or pressure vessel.

“The most difficult task is the dismantling of the reactor pressure vessel, where the remaining radioactivity is highest,” said Volmar, who took charge of the RWE-owned plant two years ago. “We leave this to a specialised expert firm.”

The vessel — which can be as high as 13 metres and weigh up to 700 tonnes — is hidden deep inside the containment building that is shaped like a sphere to ensure its 30-centimetre thick steel wall is evenly strained in case of an explosion.

The 2011 Fukushima disaster and the Chernobyl accident of 1986 are imprinted in the world’s consciousness as examples of the catastrophic consequences of the leakage of radioactive material.

France’s recently won the contract to dismantle the pressure vessel internals at Vattenfall’s 806 megawatts (Mw) Brunsbuettel in Germany, which includes an option for the Swedish utility’s 1,402 MW Kruemmel site.

There, the group will for the first time use its new programmable robot arm. It hopes this will help it outstrip rivals in what is the world’s largest dismantling market following Germany’s decision to close all its last nuclear plants by 2022, in response to the Fukushima disaster.

operates under water because the liquid absorbs radiation from the vessel components — reducing the risk of leakage and contamination of the surrounding area. The chamber is flooded before its work begins.

Areva’s German unit invests about 5 per cent of its annual sales, or about 40 million euros, in research and development, including in-house innovation such as  By comparison, the world’s 1,000 largest corporate R&D spenders, on average, spent 4.2 per cent last year, according to PwC.

The robot arm technology helped beat by winning tenders to dismantle pressure vessel internals at EnBW’s Philippsburg 2 and Gundremmingen 2 blocks, industry sources familiar with the matter said.

and both declined to comment. — whose US business filed for bankruptcy in March — did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Time and money

Britain’s OC Robotics has built the LaserSnake2, a flexible 4.5-metre snake arm, which can operate in difficult spaces and uses a laser to increase cutting speeds — thus reducing the risk of atmospheric contamination. It was tested at the Sellafield nuclear site in west Cumbria last year.

This followed France’s Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), whose laser-based dismantling technology generates fewer radioactive aerosols — a key problem during cutting — than other technologies.

The complexity of the dismantling process is also giving rise to modelling software that maps out the different levels of radiation on plant parts, making it easier to calculate the most efficient sequence of dismantling – the more contaminated parts are typically dealt with first – and gives clarity over what safety containers will be needed to store various components.

GNS, which is jointly owned by E.ON, RWE, and Vattenfall, is currently helping to dismantle the German Neckarwestheim 1 and Philippsburg 1 reactors, using its software to plan the demolition.

The company also hopes to supply its software services for the dismantling of PreussenElektra’s Isar 1 reactor, which is being tendered, and aims to expand to other European countries.

“Two things matter: time and money,” said Joerg Viermann, head of sales of waste management activities at 

“The less I have to cut, the sooner I will be done and the less I will spend.”

June 14, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, decommission reactor, Reference | Leave a comment

Accidential exposure to Plutonium: what this means for Japanese nuclear workers

Increase in Cancer Risk for Japanese Workers Accidentally Exposed to Plutonium http://allthingsnuclear.org/elyman/cancer-risk-for-japanese-exposed-to-plutonium#.WTxxNdgMNK8.twitter, ED LYMAN, SENIOR SCIENTIST | JUNE 9, 2017, 

 According to news reports, five workers were accidentally exposed to high levels of radiation at the Oarai nuclear research and development center in Tokai-mura, Japan on June 6th. The Japan Atomic Energy Agency, the operator of the facility, reported that five workers inhaled plutonium and americium that was released from a storage container that the workers had opened. The radioactive materials were contained in two plastic bags, but they had apparently ripped.

We wish to express our sympathy for the victims of this accident.

This incident is a reminder of the extremely hazardous nature of these materials, especially when they are inhaled, and illustrates why they require such stringent procedures when they are stored and processed.

According to the earliest reports, it was estimated that one worker had inhaled 22,000 becquerels (Bq) of plutonium-239, and 220 Bq of americium-241. (One becquerel of a radioactive substance undergoes one radioactive decay per second.) The others inhaled between 2,200 and 14,000 Bq of plutonium-239 and quantities of americium-241 similar to that of the first worker.

More recent reports have stated that the amount of plutonium inhaled by the most highly exposed worker is now estimated to be 360,000 Bq, and that the 22,000 Bq measurement in the lungs was made 10 hours after the event occurred. Apparently, the plutonium that remains in the body decreases rapidly during the first hours after exposure, as a fraction of the quantity initially inhaled is expelled through respiration. But there are large uncertainties.

The mass equivalent of 360,000 Bq of Pu-239 is about 150 micrograms. It is commonly heard that plutonium is so radiotoxic that inhaling only one microgram will cause cancer with essentially one hundred percent certainty. This is not far off the mark for certain isotopes of plutonium, like Pu-238, but Pu-239 decays more slowly, so it is less toxic per gram.  The actual level of harm also depends on a number of other factors. Estimating the health impacts of these exposures in the absence of more information is tricky, because those impacts depend on the exact composition of the radioactive materials, their chemical forms, and the sizes of the particles that were inhaled. Smaller particles become more deeply lodged in the lungs and are harder to clear by coughing. And more soluble compounds will dissolve more readily in the bloodstream and be transported from the lungs to other organs, resulting in exposure of more of the body to radiation. However, it is possible to make a rough estimate.

Using Department of Energy data, the inhalation of 360,000 Bq of Pu-239 would result in a whole-body radiation dose to an average adult over a 50-year period between 580 rem and nearly 4300 rem, depending on the solubility of the compounds inhaled. The material was most likely an oxide, which is relatively insoluble, corresponding to the lower bound of the estimate. But without further information on the material form, the best estimate would be around 1800 rem.

What is the health impact of such a dose? For isotopes such as plutonium-239 or americium-241, which emit relatively large, heavy charged particles known as alpha particles, there is a high likelihood that a dose of around 1000 rem will cause a fatal cancer. This is well below the radiation dose that the most highly exposed worker will receive over a 50-year period. This shows how costly a mistake can be when working with plutonium.

The workers are receiving chelation therapy to try to remove some plutonium from their bloodstream. However, the effectiveness of this therapy is limited at best, especially for insoluble forms, like oxides, that tend to be retained in the lungs.

The workers were exposed when they opened up an old storage can that held materials related to production of fuel from fast reactors. The plutonium facilities at Tokai-mura have been used to produce plutonium-uranium mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel for experimental test reactors, including the Joyo fast reactor, as well as the now-shutdown Monju fast reactor. Americium-241 was present as the result of the decay of the isotope plutonium-241.

I had the opportunity to tour some of these facilities about twenty years ago. MOX fuel fabrication at these facilities was primarily done in gloveboxes through manual means, and we were able to stand next to gloveboxes containing MOX pellets. The gloveboxes represented the only barrier between us and the plutonium they contained. In light of the incident this week, that is a sobering memory.

June 12, 2017 Posted by | - plutonium, health, Japan, radiation, Reference | Leave a comment

Cameco’s uranium business is NOT a promising investment

it is highly unlikely that its financial performance will improve drastically, making it an unappealing investment.

Don’t Try to Catch This Falling Knife   https://www.fool.ca/2017/06/01/dont-try-to-catch-this-falling-knife/  Matt Smith | June 1, 2017 The world?s second-largest uranium producer Cameco Corp. (TSX:CCO)(NYSE:CCJ) continues to suffer, posting a first-quarter 2017 net loss which dragged its stock lower; it’s almost 13% down for the year to date. This has attracted the usual bargain hunters who believe that Cameco is now an appealing, undervalued investment but this couldn?t be further from the truth.  

Now what?

Cameco?s woes can be directly attributed to the prolonged slump in uranium which has lasted for longer than a decade; prices fell to a 13-year low late last year. The embattled uranium miner posted a first-quarter adjusted net loss of $29 million. According to some analysts, wind power is now cheaper than nuclear power, while solar and geothermal electricity generation can have lower costs. These forms of power generation don’t produce highly toxic waste or the potential to create catastrophic environmental damage in the event of failure.

For these reasons, it is difficult to see a huge upswing in demand for uranium over coming years, especially with renewables technology advancing at a rapid rate. This means that Cameco may find itself in the position where it is producing a product that is suffering from a terminal decline in demand. Worse yet, uranium prices remain under pressure because of high global inventories and a growing supply which is expected to expand by over 40% to reach 80,383 tonnes by 2020.

Cameco’s woes can be directly attributed to the prolonged slump in uranium which has lasted for longer than a decade; prices fell to a 13-year low late last year. The embattled uranium miner posted a first-quarter adjusted net loss of $29 million, which was 3.5 times greater than the net loss reported for the same quarter in 2016 and that predicted by analysts.

A key reason for the massive net loss was the decision by Tokyo Electric Power Company, the operator of Japan’s disabled Fukushima nuclear plant, to terminate its contract with Cameco for the supply of 9.3 million pounds of uranium through to 2028. The contract was worth $1.3 billion in revenue.

Nonetheless, Cameco has pitched its hopes on a surge in demand for uranium as the 57 reactors currently under construction across the globe come online. While there won’t be an immediate ramp-up in demandaccording to industry consultants, it will lead to cumulative uncovered requirements for uranium to total around 800 million pounds of the fissile material over the next nine years.

This may be a positive for company that has been battling significant headwinds for some time, but it does not necessarily guarantee a return to profitability.

You see, nuclear power has been falling into disfavour for some time, and this only gained momentum in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in 2011. While nuclear plants do not emit pollutants, there are the serious issues associated with the leakage of radiation and the disposal of fissile waste.

Radiation can have a catastrophic impact on the environment, animals, and humans. High-level nuclear waste such as a spent fuel assembly, according to the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, produces 20 times the fatal dose of radiation for humans for 10 years after being removed from a reactor.

This makes the correct handling and storage of this waste essential, costly, and highly onerous.

The Fukushima disaster highlighted just how vulnerable nuclear plants can be to environmental catastrophes, although, fortunately, there was no leakage of fissile material or polluted water in that case.

However, these aren’t the only reasons for the growing unpopularity of nuclear power.

The cost of safer forms of renewable energy continues to fall.

According to some analysts, wind power is now cheaper than nuclear power, while solar and geothermal electricity generation can have lower costs. These forms of power generation don’t produce highly toxic waste or the potential to create catastrophic environmental damage in the event of failure.

For these reasons, it is difficult to see a huge upswing in demand for uranium over coming years, especially with renewables technology advancing at a rapid rate. This means that Cameco may find itself in the position where it is producing a product that is suffering from a terminal decline in demand. Worse yet, uranium prices remain under pressure because of high global inventories and a growing supply which is expected to expand by over 40% to reach 80,383 tonnes by 2020.

So what?

The loss of the Tokyo Electric Power Company contract is a major blow for Cameco, costing it around $1.3 billion in revenue in what is already a difficult operating environment. When considered with the growing unpopularity of nuclear power, the inexorable advance of renewable energy, and growing uranium supplies, it is difficult to see any significant bounce in the price of uranium occurring.

This makes difficult to see Cameco ever returning the halcyon days when uranium traded at US$67 per pound, meaning that it is highly unlikely that its financial performance will improve drastically, making it an unappealing investment.

June 5, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, Canada, Reference | Leave a comment

The most likely target areas in USA, in the event of a nuclear war

Here are the cities most likely to get struck in a nuclear attack by Russia, Business Insider ALEX LOCKIE, JUN 1, 2017 Ever since the Cold War, the US and Russia have drawn up plans on how to best wage nuclear war against each other — but while large population centres with huge cultural impact may seem like obvious choices, a smart nuclear attack would focus on countering the enemy’s nuclear forces.

June 2, 2017 Posted by | Reference, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Climate deniers hijacking a climate science conference in Rome

UN, EU Agencies Reject Ties to Conference Hijacked by Climate Science Deniers https://www.desmogblog.com/2017/05/31/wmo-eu-reject-omics-conference-hijacked-climate-science-deniers?utm_source=dsb%20newsletter

The organizers, India-based ConferenceSeries, promise their “4th World Conference on Climate Change” will attract “world class experts” from across the planet.

Anticipating “more than 500 participants,” the event claimed to have an organizing committee with representatives from the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the European Space Agency, and the European Environment Agency (EEA).

But a DeSmog investigation reveals the event is being hijacked by a group of climate science deniers who have previously claimed they want to investigate climate scientists for fraud and have dismissed human-caused climate change as a hoax.

Since being contacted by DeSmog, both the WMO and the EEA have issued statements distancing themselves from the three-day conference, scheduled to start on October 19.

ConferenceSeries, also known as OMICS, promotes hundreds of meetings around the world and is behind the logistics and promotion for the Italy conference. In August 2016 the U.S. government’s Federal Trade Commission launched court action against the company, alleging deceptive marketing practices. The case is ongoing.

Two members of the Italy conference “organizing committee” — Nils-Axel Mörner and Franco Maranzana — were also organizers of a meeting for climate science deniers in London in September 2016.

Both are also founding members of a self-styled Independent Committee on Geoethics (ICG) — a group that, according to another founder Lord Christopher Monckton, was established to investigate climate scientists for fraud.

Seven presenters, including Monckton and Mörner, and one organizer of that London meeting, Maranzana, are also scheduled to speak at the Rome event.  Continue reading

June 2, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, Reference, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

It’s practically impossible to get rid of plutonium (but they still keep making it)

How To Dismantle A Nuclear Weapon, Gizmodo, Terrell Jermaine Starr and Jalopnik, May 24, 2017  “…..Getting Rid Of Plutonium Is Harder

For one, there is no civilian use for plutonium in the United States because you can’t break it down or blend it. In other words, it is always ready to be used for weapons. In fact, according to Live Science, of its five common isotopes, only plutonium-238 and plutonium-239 are used for anything.

Pu-238 is used for powering space probes and Pu-239, the isotope we’re talking about, goes through a fission chain reaction when concentrated enough. And when that process takes place, it is nuke-ready.

By the way, Plutonium is pretty damn radioactive and contains the “worst kind of fission byproducts that could enter the environment as a result of the Fukushima nuclear disaster,” as Live Science notes (emphasis ours):

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, plutonium enters the bloodstream via the lungs, then moves throughout the body and into the bones, liver, and other organs. It generally stays in those places for decades, subjecting surrounding organs and tissues to a continual bombardment of alpha radiation and greatly increasing the risk of cancer, especially lung cancer, liver cancer and bone sarcoma.

There are documented cases of workers at nuclear weapons facilities dying within days of experiencing brief accidental exposure to plutonium, according to the Hazardous Substances Data Bank.

Furthermore, among all the bad things coming out of Fukushima, plutonium will stay in the environment the longest. One isotope of plutonium, Pu-239, has a half-life of 24,100 years; that’s the time it will take for half of the stuff to radioactively decay. Radioactive contaminants are dangerous for 10 to 20 times the length of their half-lives, meaning that dangerous plutonium released to the environment today will stick around for the next half a million years.

That is why Japan’s reported goal to use plutonium for civilian reactors have the U.S. and China worried. At one point, Japan had around 10 tons of unseparated plutonium in-country; 37.1 tons are in France and the United Kingdom. China fears Toyko could possibly use the plutonium to develop nuclear weapons, although the Japanese did give up 331kg of it in 2016.

Collina said it’s a good thing the U.S. has no plans to use plutonium for civilian purposes.

“You can’t blend down plutonium,” he says. “It’s always weapons-usable. So if you use this stuff at nuclear power plants, you’re basically spreading weapons-usable nuclear material all around. It’s a proliferation problem because we don’t want to set the example for other nations to say, ‘I’m going to use plutonium in my civilian power program’ and therefore create a cover for a secret weapons program. We want to have a pretty clear line that says, ‘Plutonium is only used for weapons and you should not use plutonium if you’re not using it for weapons.'”

As for actually getting rid of plutonium, the process is not environmentally friendly and it never will be. Most of the plutonium that is separated from nukes is stored at the Savannah River Site (SRS), near the Georgia border. Plutonium is also stored at the Pantex Plant. It’s authorised to store 20,000 plutonium pits; current estimates find that 14,000 are stored in the facility.

But here’s the catch: you can never make it truly safe, and no one wants it near them. For example, the Department of Energy, through the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, is currently overseeing construction of a facility at SRS to make MOX fuel from weapons-ready plutonium. It would then be used for commercial use.

The problem is that no one wants plutonium storage facilities in their backyards. The American ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, expressed concerns over the MOX fuel initiative when she was governor of South Carolina. Her issue was that the feds were supposed to remove a ton of plutonium from the state by January 2016 and ship it to another facility in New Mexico or process it for commercial use through the facility; neither happened, so she sued the Department of Energy. A federal circuit court dismissed the case.

Officially, MOX fuel is not being used in the United States, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Europe uses MOX fuel, but its plutonium is from spent nuclear fuel rather than nuclear weapons.

Former Nevada Senator Harry Reid resisted the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository project, which was supposed to be a deep geological repository storage facility for spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste like Pu-239. Under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act amendments of 1987, the Yucca Mountains were supposed to be the key destination for storing this waste, but Reid worked with Obama to end funding for the project.

Where To Send It?

So, if no one wants plutonium in their backyard here on planet earth, where can it be disposed? Well, there have been a bunch of wild ideas, like blasting it into the sun. Which, as the video below explains, is a pretty bad idea.

Hitting the Sun is HARD

You also have to factor in the possibility the space ship won’t make it to orbit. “Space shuttles crash,” Collina said. “So if you had just one crash with a space shuttle full of plutonium, that would ruin your whole day.”

The best plan of action the feds have to deal with weapons-ready plutonium is to simply store it someplace — a place where folks won’t complain to much about it. Good luck finding such a place.https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2017/05/how-to-dismantle-a-nuclear-weapon/

May 24, 2017 Posted by | - plutonium, 2 WORLD, Reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

How do you dismantle a nuclear weapon?

How To Dismantle A Nuclear Weapon, Gizmodo, Terrell Jermaine Starr and Jalopnik, May 24, 2017 Dismantling the world’s 15,000 nuclear weapons is one the most important geopolitical challenges humanity faces. That number seems bleak, given the current state of affairs. But if you wanted to dismantle just one warhead, here is what it would take.

Those warheads make the world a dangerous place, but we have to keep in mind there were more than 70,000 nuclear warheads in existence at one point. Though Cold War-era non-proliferation treaties were central to the massive cuts, most nuclear warheads were retired or dismantled during the 1990s after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. President George H.W. Bush cut 9,500 during his term as president; in 1992 alone, he cut 5,300 warheads, which was the most by any president ever in history. During the 2000s, his son cut the stockpile by more than half to 5,270 warheads. Together, the son and dad president team cut 14,801 warheads from the stockpile.

Comparatively, President Barack Obama cut a mere 507 warheads, but relations between Russia and the U.S. were quite chilly during his term and both nations increasingly saw each other as military threats.

But the U.S. and Russia have their own arms issues. The New START treaty between the United States and Russia is the most important non-proliferation treaty in the world right now, yet its extension appears to be in limbo. India and Pakistan, though they only have 250 warheads between them, could ruin the earth’s atmosphere if they ever engaged in a regional nuclear conflict.

Politics aside, however, once a nation agrees to cut its nuclear stockpile, how does it happen, where and when? We spoke with a few nuclear weapons experts who walked us through the process of how this actually happens, with the focus on how the Americans do it.

The Question Of Dismantlement Versus Retirement

Once a president decides to cut down the nuclear arsenal, he or she must decide if they want to retire or dismantle the warheads. It is important to know the difference. Tom Collina, Director of Policy at Ploughshares Fund — an anti-nuclear weapon philanthropic group — says that current treaties do not focus on the actual dismantlement of weapons.

“They only require that weapons be retired or removed from service,” he said. “They do not require that weapons be dismantled. So, you can have the New START treaty lowering the number of deployed systems you can have, but that doesn’t mean those weapons get dismantled. It just means they get put into storage.”

There is no verification process for determining if a nuclear warhead is destroyed or not once they get to storage, because they are simply are too small to see from space, Collina explains.

Missiles are different.

Those, along with bombers and submarines, are under treaty, and their dismantlement can be verified via satellite, simply because they’re so big. You can see a missile being chopped in half or a bomber’s wings clipped from space.

But a nuclear warhead itself, which is much smaller? That is simply not possible.

Right now, there are around 2,800 warheads in retirement in the U.S., meaning they are no longer stockpiled. As the State Department explains, once a retired warhead is removed from its delivery platform, it is no longer useable and is not considered part of the nuclear stockpile. The tritium bottles are also removed. Tritium is a radioactive form of hydrogen that is critical to powering a bomb. Other “limited life components,” like the neutron generators, are also removed.

The warhead is stored in a depot where they hopefully will move on to the next process of being destroyed.

Separating A Warhead

The key components of a nuclear weapon, besides the metals used to construct its exterior, are uranium, plutonium, tritium boost gas, the neutron generator and other elements, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. And separating a warhead is the hardest and most dangerous part of dismantlement.

The National Nuclear Security Administration is the governmental body that oversees the dismantlement process, which takes place at the Pantex Plant, in the Panhandle of Texas. Pantex is the primary plant where nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly occurs. The warhead is taken to an underground bunker, where its parts are separated.

just one warhead, here is what it would take.

Those warheads make the world a dangerous place, but we have to keep in mind there were more than 70,000 nuclear warheads in existence at one point. Though Cold War-era non-proliferation treaties were central to the massive cuts, most nuclear warheads were retired or dismantled during the 1990s after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. President George H.W. Bush cut 9,500 during his term as president; in 1992 alone, he cut 5,300 warheads, which was the most by any president ever in history. During the 2000s, his son cut the stockpile by more than half to 5,270 warheads. Together, the son and dad president team cut 14,801 warheads from the stockpile.

Comparatively, President Barack Obama cut a mere 507 warheads, but relations between Russia and the U.S. were quite chilly during his term and both nations increasingly saw each other as military threats.

But the U.S. and Russia have their own arms issues. The New START treaty between the United States and Russia is the most important non-proliferation treaty in the world right now, yet its extension appears to be in limbo. India and Pakistan, though they only have 250 warheads between them, could ruin the earth’s atmosphere if they ever engaged in a regional nuclear conflict.

Politics aside, however, once a nation agrees to cut its nuclear stockpile, how does it happen, where and when? We spoke with a few nuclear weapons experts who walked us through the process of how this actually happens, with the focus on how the Americans do it. Continue reading

May 24, 2017 Posted by | Reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Cold War nuclear weapons warped Earth’s magnetosphere – what will a nuclear war do?

BOMBSHELL FINDING  Cold War nuclear weapons warped Earth’s magnetosphere – revealing what the true fallout could be if World War 3 broke out

Chaos sparked by Cold War nuke tests is only just becoming apparent – and it’s a chilling prediction of what might be in store for our fragile planet, The Sun By Margi Murphy, 19th May 2017 

May 20, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

30 years of warnings on Hanford nuclear site un-safety have been ignored

Thousands of workers were forced to shelter after a roof collapsed at a waste site created in the 1950s and mostly ignored since then, Center for Public Integrity, By Peter CaryPatrick Malone, May 13, 2017 
A series of warnings by state and federal experts, stretching back more than thirty years, preceded this week’s cave-in of a tunnel in Hanford, Washington, that holds lethally radioactive debris from the U.S. nuclear weapons program, according to government documents.

A report in 1980 for the Energy Department, which oversees safety and cleanup work at the site, said that wooden beams holding up the tunnel had lost a third of their strength by then. A contractor for the department pointed to the issue again in 1991, warning that by the year 2001, the beams would be further degraded.

A group of academic experts, working under contract to the department, said more alarmingly in a 1,969-page report in August 2015 that the roof of the tunnel in question had been seriously weakened and that a “partial or complete failure” could expose individuals even 380 feet away to dangerous levels of radiation.

No action was taken by the department in response, and earlier this month — the precise date remains uncertain because conditions at the site were not closely monitored — a portion of the roof collapsed at the tunnel, creating a 20-foot square hole. Afterward, the managers of the Hanford site were forced on May 9 to order 3,000 workers to shelter indoors. But instead of shoring up the beams inside the tunnel in question, they poured in 54 new truckloads of dirt.

The tunnel was one of two at the Energy Department’s Hanford reservation used as dumping grounds from 1960 to 2000 for radioactive machine parts, vessels, and other equipment. It was, in short, a tangible expression of the department’s policy of covering over some of its nuclear bomb-making detritus and effectively pretending it isn’t there.

The neglect followed a blunt warning 26 years ago from the State of Washington — cited in a 1991 Energy Department contractor’s report — that the tunnels were not a safe repository and that the wastes should be moved elsewhere.

Under an agreement overseen by a federal court in eastern Washington, the department was supposed to start crafting a way to deal with the tunnel’s lethal dangers by September 2015, but it missed the deadline and promised to do it later this year as part of an overall agreement with the state and the Environmental Protection Agency to push back completion of the site’s overall cleanup from 2024 to 2042. (Hanford remains the most toxic site in America and the government’s most costly environmental cleanup task.)…….

In the 1991 report, by Los Alamos Technical Associates, Inc., the authors made clear after conducting an internal inspection of the tunnel that the DOE knew the timbers holding up the roof had been substantially weakened as early as 1980. It predicted that by 2001, they would be at 60 percent of their original strength and recommended another evaluation in 2001. But records indicate that it never happened.

A Department of Ecology inspection in 2015 noted that because the tunnels were closed up, “no permanent emergency equipment, communications equipment, warning systems, personal protective equipment, or spill control and containment supplies” were located inside — deficiencies that could complicate emergency efforts in the case of a tunnel fire or other safety incident.

A Government Accountability Office estimate in 2016 placed the total cost of cleaning up the toxic legacy of the U.S. nuclear weapon program at more than $250 billion. https://www.publicintegrity.org/2017/05/12/20862/repeated-warnings-preceded-collapse-hanford-tunnel-storing-deadly-wastes

May 17, 2017 Posted by | Reference, safety, USA | Leave a comment