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Anti-nuclear resistance in Russia: problems, protests, reprisals

Anti-nuclear resistance in Russia: problems protests, reprisals

Standing up to Rosatom      June 21, 2020 by beyondnuclearinternational  

Anti-nuclear resistance in Russia: problems protests, reprisals

The following is a report from the Russian Social Ecological Union (RSEU)/ Friends of the Earth Russia, slightly edited for length. You can read the report in full here. It is a vitally important document exposing the discrimination and fear tactics used against anti-nuclear organizers in Russia and details their courageous acts of defiance in order to bring the truth of Russia’s nuclear sector to light.

Rosatom is a Russian state-owned corporation which builds and operates nuclear power plants in Russia and globally. The state-run nuclear industry in Russia has a long history of nuclear crises, including the Kyshtym disaster in 1957 and Chernobyl in 1986. Yet Rosatom plans to build dozens of nuclear reactors in Russia, to export its deadly nuclear technologies to other countries, and then to import their hazardous nuclear waste.

This report is a collection of events and details about the resistance to Russian state nuclear corporation, Rosatom, and other activities that have led to the pollution of the environment and violation of human rights. Social and environmental conflicts created by Rosatom have been left unresolved for years, while at the same time, environmental defenders who have raised these issues, have consistently experienced reprisals.

Nuclear energy: failures and LiesIn the autumn of 2017, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) discovered a concentration of the technogenic radionuclide ruthenium–106 in the atmosphere of several European countries. A number of experts linked the ruthenium release to the Mayak plant in the Chelyabinsk Region2 3, but Rosatom continues to deny this.

On the 8th of August 2019, an explosion occurred during a test of a liquid rocket launcher at a marine training ground in Nenoksa Village of Arkhangelsk Region. The administration of the city of Severodvinsk, 30 km from the scene, reported an increase in radiation levels, but later denied the claim. The Ministry of Emergency registered an increase of 20 times (to2 μSv/h) around Severodvinsk, while the Ministry of Defense reported the radiation level as normal. Only two days later, Rosatom reported that five employees were killed and three were injured at the test site. According to media reports, two employees of the Ministry of Defense were also killed and three were injured, and medical personnel who helped the victims were not informed about the risk of radiation exposure.

Expired reactorsMore than 70% of Russian nuclear reactors are outdated. They were developed in the 1970s and were designed to operate for only 30 years. The lifetimes of such reactors have been extended by twice the design limit. Rosatom’s strategy also includes a dangerous increase of the reactor’s thermal power. Rostekhnadzor (Federal Environmental, Industrial and Nuclear Supervision Service) grants licenses for lifetime extensions without an environmental impact assessment and without public consultations.

Especially worrying are the lifetime extensions of reactor-types with design flaws. Chernobyl–type (RBMK) reactors in Leningrad, Smolensk and Kursk regions are still in operation after exceeding their lifetimes, as well as VVER–types, such as at the Kola nuclear power plant (NPP) in Murmansk region. Neither type has a sufficient protective shell to contain radioactivity in case of an accident or to protect the reactor from an external impact or influence.

For many years, Murmansk regional environmental groups have opposed the aging Kola NPP reactor’s lifetime extension. They have participated in public hearings, have organised many demonstrations, and appealed to and received support from the prosecutor’s office, but this was all ignored by Rosatom.

Activists also called on the governor to shut down the old NPP, but environmental organisations were shut down instead. One such organisation is Kola Environmental Center (KEC) – listed as a Foreign Agent in 2017 – and subject to two trials and fined 150,000 rubles. KEC was forced to close down as a legal entity in 2018, but has continued its environmental work as a public movement.

Decommissioning problemsMost of the Russian nuclear power plants, despite their lifetime extensions, are approaching inevitable closure. Over the next 15 years, the NPP decommissioning process will take place. Currently, 36 power units are in operation at 11 NPPs in Russia, and 7 units have been shut down. While the fuel was removed from 5 of these units, the NPPs have not yet been decommissioned. This process will lead to enormous amounts of nuclear waste. Moreover, sufficient funds for the decommissioning process have not yet been earmarked.

The public organisation, Green World, has worked for many years in Sosnovy Bor, Leningrad Region, a city dominated by the nuclear industry and closed to outsiders. Since 1988, activists of the organisation have opposed dangerous nuclear projects in the Baltic Sea region and have provided the public with independent information on the environmental situation.

Green World has consistently called for the decommissioning of Leningrad NPP and took an early lead in collecting and preparing information on how decommissioning should take place, studying the experience of other countries. They have paid particular attention to information transparency and to wide participation in decision–making, including, for example, former employees of the nuclear industry.

Rather than be met with cooperation, the organisation and its activists have, since the beginning, experienced pressure from the authorities and the dirty nuclear industry. Activists faced dismissal, lawsuits and even attempts on their lives.In 2015, Green World was listed as a Foreign Agent and forced to close. In its place, another organisation was opened – the Public Council of the South Coast of the Gulf of Finland. Activists have continued their work as before under this new name.

Uranium mining protest

In the Kurgan region, Rosatom’s subsidiary company, Dalur, has been mining uranium and the local communities fear an environmental disaster. In the summer of 2019, the state environmental appraisal revealed a discrepancy between Dalur’s documentation and the Russian legislation requirements, but the company started the deposit’s development anyway at the end of 2019.

  • The ‘Dobrovolnoe’ uranium deposit is located in a floodplain of the Tobol river basin. This means that all the water that flows into the river will pass through the aquifer, flushing out radioactive and toxic compounds into the surrounding environment.
  • Since 2017, Kurgan activists have been protesting against the development of the deposit. They have appealed to the authorities and begun protests. One of their videos, ‘Uranium is Death for Kurgan’, has already reached 50,000 views. Several times, activists have tried to start a referendum and demand an independent environmental review, but so far, have received only refusals from the local officials.
  • In February 2018, Natalia Shulyatieva, the spouse of activist Andrey Shulyatiev and mother of three children, died after falling into a coma. Activists believe this occurred in reaction to learning that Dalur had filed a lawsuit against her husband, accusing him of undermining the company’s reputation. The lawsuit was withdrawn following Shulyatieva’s death.

Rosatom Importing uranium waste

In the fall of 2019, environmentalists revealed that radioactive and toxic waste (uranium hexafluoride, UF6) were being imported from Germany through the port of Amsterdam into Russia. This is the waste from the uranium enrichment process which will be sent to the Urals or Siberia and stored in containers above the ground. Thus, under the auspices of a commercial transaction, the German uranium–enriching enterprise, Urenco, avoids its nuclear waste problem,

while Rosatom profits by taking the hazardous waste into Russia.In response to this transaction, the groups Russian Social–Ecological Union, Ecodefense and Greenpeace Russia called on Russian civil society to protest. More than 30 organisations and movements joined the common statement, and various demonstrations have taken place in Russia, as well as in Germany and the Netherlands.

As a result of protests, the question of importing radioactive waste was taken up by the Legislative Assembly of St. Petersburg and the transportation of the waste was delayed for three months.

However, in March 2020, when people in Russia were further restricted from protests during the COVID–19 virus quarantine, the import of radioactive waste was resumed through the port of the less populated town of Ust–Luga in Leningrad Region. Additional organisations and residents of the Leningrad region then decided to join the earlier anti–nuclear statement and protest.

Following these protests, a number of activists have faced persecution. Novouralsk is a nuclear industry–dominated and closed city of Sverdlovsk region, and is the end destination of the transported uranium hexafluoride. In response to a series of one–person protests, authorities initiated legal cases against three pensioners at the beginning of December 2019. Charges were later dismissed. 

Another example is Rashid Alimov, an expert from Greenpeace Russia, who protested in the center of Saint Petersburg. Later the same day, two police officers together with six other people without uniform detained Alimov in front of his house. He then faced charges and a substantial fine. Charges were later dropped.

Environmental organisations that had previously opposed the import of uranium waste were listed as Foreign Agents. Ecodefense was the first of such, listed in 2014. In 2019, the pressure continued and the organisation’s leader, Alexandra Korolyova, was targeted. Five criminal cases were initiated against her, which forced her to leave the country.

The Mayak plant: Rosatom’s dirty face

The Mayak plant in the Chelyabinsk region is a nuclear waste reprocessing facility, arguably one of the places most negatively affected by the Russian nuclear industry. Firstly, radioactive waste was dumped into the Techa river from 1949 to 2004, which has been admitted by the company. According to subsequent reports by the local organisation For Nature however, the dumping has since been ongoing. As a result, 35 villages around the river were evacuated and destroyed. Secondly, the explosion at the plant in 1957, known as the Kyshtym tragedy, is among the 20th century’s worst nuclear accidents.

One of the first organisations that raised the problem of radiation pollution in the Ural region was the Movement for Nuclear Safety, formed in 1989. During its work, the Movement was engaged in raising awareness, social protection of the affected population, and publishing dozens of reports. After unprecedented pressure and persecution, the organisation’s leader, Natalia Mironova, was forced to emigrate to the United States in 2013. Since 2000, another non–governmental organisation, Planet of Hope, has held thousands of consultations with affected citizens. Nadezhda Kutepova, a lawyer and head of the organisation, won more than 70 cases in defence of Mayak victims, including two cases in the European Court of Human Rights. However, some important cases have still not been resolved. These include 2nd generation victims, cases involving pregnant women who were affected during liquidation, as well as the many schoolchildren of Tatarskaya Karabolka village who were sent to harvest the contaminated crop after the accident.

The state and Rosatom have reacted against the actions of Nadezhda Kutepova, persecuting both her and Planet of Hope. The organisation survived arbitrary inspections in 2004 and 2009, but was labelled a Foreign Agent in 2015 and closed in 2018. After being accused of ‘industrial espionage’ under the threat of criminal prosecution, Nadezhda was forced to flee the country with her children. She nevertheless continues her struggle to bring justice for the victims of Mayak.

Since 2002, the public foundation For Nature has been disputing nuclear activity in the region. The organisation appealed to the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation on the import of spent nuclear fuel from the Paks nuclear power plant in Hungary. The court declared the Governmental Decree to be invalid, thus preventing the import of 370 tons of Hungarian radioactive waste.

In March 2015, For Nature was also listed as a Foreign Agent and fined. In 2016, the court shut down the organisation. In its place, a social movement of the same name was formed, and continues to help the South Ural communities.

Struggle against a nuclear repositoryIn the city of Krasnoyarsk, Rosatom plans to build a national repository for high–level radioactive waste. A site has been selected on the banks of Siberia’s largest river, the Yenisei, only 40 km from the city. Environmental activists consider this project, if implemented, to be a crime against future generations and violates numerous Russian laws. Activists are also concerned that waste from Ukraine, Hungary, Bulgaria (and in the future from Belarus, Turkey, Bangladesh, and other countries) could be transported there as well.

The community is understandably outraged, as no one wants to live in the world’s nuclear dump. Since 2013, for more than 7 years, the people of Krasnoyarsk have been protesting. To date, more than 146,000 people have signed the petition to the President of the Russian Federation protesting against the construction of this federal nuclear repository.

Most of the producing nuclear power plants are located in the European part of Russia, but the waste is going to be sent for ‘the rest of its lifetime’ to Siberia. Local activists refer to this, with good reason, as Rosatom’s “nuclear colonisation” of Siberia.

In 2016, Fedor Maryasov, an independent journalist and leader of the protest, was accused of inciting hatred against ‘nuclear industry workers’ as a social group. A criminal case was initiated under the article on extremism. The basis for this accusation was 125 publications on social networks and the press about nuclear topics. The activist’s apartment was searched and his computer seized, along with a printed report on Rosatom’s activities in the Krasnoyarsk region.

The federal security service also issued Maryasov an official warning for treason. Only wide publicity in the media and the active support of human rights lawyers has thus far prevented further criminal prosecution of the activist.


Nuclear power is a problem, not a solution.

Despite the nightmare described above, Rosatom is trying to convince us of the nuclear industry’s purity and purported carbon neutrality. In addition, Rosatom is building nuclear plants abroad using money from the Russian Federation’s budget. Nuclear not only won’t save our climate, but will continue to create even more insoluble problems of radioactive waste for thousands of years.

We demand that:

Russia must abandon all further development of nuclear energy. 

Current nuclear power plants should be closed and decommissioned as soon as possible.Current funds from the development of nuclear energy should be redirected to the development of local renewable energy sources, to the restoration of contaminated territories and as support for those affected by the activities of the nuclear industry.

The problem of nuclear waste should be discussed widely, openly and inclusively, with the participation of all interested parties, and decisions should be made democratically, taking into account the principles of environmental justice. 

Pressure on all activists, including environmental defenders and defenders of victims’ rights, should cease immediately.

And finally, Rosatom should be held responsible for environmental pollution and violation of human rights.

The Russian Social Ecological Union (RSEU)/ Friends of the Earth Russia is a non-governmental, non-profit and member based democratic organization, established in 1992. RSEU brings together environmental organizations and activists from across Russia. All RSEU activities are aimed at nature conservation, protection of health and the well-being of people in Russia and around the world. In 2014, RSEU became the Russian member of Friends of the Earth International. Read the full report.

May 6, 2021 Posted by | opposition to nuclear, Reference, Russia, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

Restless radioactive remains are still stirring in Chernobyl’s nuclear tomb.

‘It’s like the embers in a barbecue pit.’ Nuclear reactions are smoldering again at Chernobyl

By Richard Stone, May. 5, 2021 ,  Thirty-five years after the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine exploded in the world’s worst nuclear accident, fission reactions are smoldering again in uranium fuel masses buried deep inside a mangled reactor hall. “It’s like the embers in a barbecue pit,” says Neil Hyatt, a nuclear materials chemist at the University of Sheffield. Now, Ukrainian scientists are scrambling to determine whether the reactions will wink out on their own—or require extraordinary interventions to avert another accident.

Sensors are tracking a rising number of neutrons, a signal of fission, streaming from one inaccessible room, Anatolii Doroshenko of the Institute for Safety Problems of Nuclear Power Plants (ISPNPP) in Kyiv, Ukraine, reported last week during discussions about dismantling the reactor. “There are many uncertainties,” says ISPNPP’s Maxim Saveliev. “But we can’t rule out the possibility of [an] accident.”

The neutron counts are rising slowly, Saveliev says, suggesting managers still have a few years to figure out how to stifle the threat. Any remedy he and his colleagues come up with will be of keen interest to Japan, which is coping with the aftermath of its own nuclear disaster 10 years ago at Fukushima, Hyatt notes. “It’s a similar magnitude of hazard.”

The specter of self-sustaining fission, or criticality, in the nuclear ruins has long haunted Chernobyl. When part of the Unit Four reactor’s core melted down on 26 April 1986, uranium fuel rods, their zirconium cladding, graphite control rods, and sand dumped on the core to try to extinguish the fire melted together into a lava. It flowed into the reactor hall’s basement rooms and hardened into formations called fuel-containing materials (FCMs), which are laden with about 170 tons of irradiated uranium—95% of the original fuel.

The concrete-and-steel sarcophagus called the Shelter, erected 1 year after the accident to house Unit Four’s remains, allowed rainwater to seep in. Because water slows, or moderates, neutrons and thus enhances their odds of striking and splitting uranium nuclei, heavy rains would sometimes send neutron counts soaring. After a downpour in June 1990, a “stalker”—a scientist at Chernobyl who risks radiation exposure to venture into the damaged reactor hall—dashed in and sprayed gadolinium nitrate solution, which absorbs neutrons, on an FCM that he and his colleagues feared might go critical. Several years later, the plant installed gadolinium nitrate sprinklers in the Shelter’s roof. But the spray can’t effectively penetrate some basement rooms.

Chernobyl officials presumed any criticality risk would fade when the massive New Safe Confinement (NSC) was slid over the Shelter in November 2016. The €1.5 billion structure was meant to seal off the Shelter so it could be stabilized and eventually dismantled. The NSC also keeps out the rain, and ever since its emplacement, neutron counts in most areas in the Shelter have been stable or are declining.

But they began to edge up in a few spots, nearly doubling over 4 years in room 305/2, which contains tons of FCMs buried under debris. ISPNPP modeling suggests the drying of the fuel is somehow making neutrons ricocheting through it more, rather than less, effective at splitting uranium nuclei. “It’s believable and plausible data,” Hyatt says. “It’s just not clear what the mechanism might be.”

The threat can’t be ignored. As water continues to recede, the fear is that “the fission reaction accelerates exponentially,” Hyatt says, leading to “an uncontrolled release of nuclear energy.” There’s no chance of a repeat of 1986, when the explosion and fire sent a radioactive cloud over Europe. A runaway fission reaction in an FCM could sputter out after heat from fission boils off the remaining water. Still, Saveliev notes, although any explosive reaction would be contained, it could threaten to bring down unstable parts of the rickety Shelter, filling the NSC with radioactive dust.

Addressing the newly unmasked threat is a daunting challenge. Radiation levels in 305/2 preclude getting close enough to install sensors. And spraying gadolinium nitrate on the nuclear debris there is not an option, as it’s entombed under concrete. One idea is to develop a robot that can withstand the intense radiation for long enough to drill holes in the FCMs and insert boron cylinders, which would function like control rods and sop up neutrons. In the meantime, ISPNPP intends to step up monitoring of two other areas where FCMs have the potential to go critical.

The resurgent fission reactions are not the only challenge facing Chernobyl’s keepers. Besieged by intense radiation and high humidity, the FCMs are disintegrating—spawning even more radioactive dust that complicates plans to dismantle the Shelter. Early on, an FCM formation called the Elephant’s Foot was so hard scientists had to use a Kalashnikov rifle to shear off a chunk for analysis. “Now it more or less has the consistency of sand,” Saveliev says.

Ukraine has long intended to remove the FCMs and store them in a geological repository. By September, with help from European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, it aims to have a comprehensive plan for doing so. But with life still flickering within the Shelter, it may be harder than ever to bury the reactor’s restless remains.

May 6, 2021 Posted by | incidents, Reference, Ukraine | Leave a comment

The huge carbon footprint and massive energy use of online activities and of Bitcoin

Graphic courtesy of Alice Eaves on Rehabilitating Earth website

This is a most timely article.    Why is  the world not noticing this?   Elon Musk and other billionaire Bitcoin fans are also fans of space travel –   another energy-gobbling thing.   They are fans of nuclear energy.  The thing that nuclear energy fans have in common with space travel fans and Bitcoin fans is their religious fervour for endless growth and endless energy use.

Unfortunately our entire culture, the Western consumer culture, has swept the world  with a mindless belief in ever more stuff, ever more digital use, with no awareness of the  energy used.   So we tink that our billions of trivial tweets are up ”in the cloud”, – not even realising that they are in dirty great steel data buildings that use massive amounts of energy just to keep cool, This ever- expanding energy and resource gobbling is going to kill us, – and Bitcoin is just one glaring, sorry example of this.

Truth or fiction: Is mining bitcoin a ticking time bomb for the climate?  Rehabilitating Earth   By Jennifer Sizeland 2 May 21

While many of us may consider the carbon footprint of buying a physical item like a jumper or a toaster, it is truly mind boggling to think about the environmental impact of time spent online. This may be why the huge carbon footprints of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are going largely under the radar for many of us, including investors and climate activists.

Yet the real-world cost of bitcoin cannot be underestimated. A University of Cambridge study found that the network burns through 121 terawatt-hours per year, putting it into a category of a top-30 country in terms of electricity usage. In fact, the carbon cost was largely ignored altogether until 2017 when prices surged and the general population started to take more notice. Aside from the significant carbon footprint of bitcoin, it’s important to understand what bitcoin is and why it’s so popular.

Decoding Cryptocurrencies

Bitcoin is created by mining a 64-digit hexadecimal number (known as a ‘hash’) that is less than or equal to the target hash that the miner is looking for. The miner gets paid in crypto tokens for all the currency they make. The act of solving these computational equations on the bitcoin network makes the payment network trustworthy. It proves the worth of the bitcoin and verifies it at the same time so that it can’t be spent twice. Essentially, an online log makes records of the transactions made and once approved, they’re added to a block on the chain, hence the phrase ‘blockchain’.

What makes it all the more confusing is that not only is cryptocurrency fairly new to the general population, but the way it is created is shrouded in secrecy due to its niche status. This makes it much harder for miners to be held accountable for their intensive carbon usage, in a time when every company needs to consider their impact on the planet.

The secrecy is also what excites investors about bitcoin since it isn’t tied to a certain location or institution and it’s completely decentralised – unlike a bank. Investors trust bitcoin as inflation is controlled algorithmically by cutting the reward rate periodically, rendering the rate of new bitcoin supplies as unalterable by design. The issue remains that there is no government or organisation to hold them to account for their carbon footprint. A footprint which is intrinsically tied to its value as the demand for it increases, using more and more energy. With every market jump, the cost to the planet is greater.

The price of one bitcoin is $57,383 at the time of writing, which takes the market cap value above that of Facebook and Tesla. The wider cryptocurrency market that includes dogecoin, ethereum and litecoin has reached an estimated $1.4 trillion and counting.

From a financial perspective, miners want cheap servers to increase their profit margins which is why much of the bitcoin activity is done in China. As the industry is unregulated there is no reason why activity wouldn’t surge in the place where it costs the least to do it. Currently, China does not have a cost-effective renewable energy supply so two thirds of the grid is fuelled by dirty coal power stations.

Another problematic caveat to the bitcoin story is the amount of so-called green companies and investors that are buying into it. Some of them are not disclosing this element of their portfolio due to the immense carbon footprint but those that are publicly traded have no choice. Perhaps one of the most high-profile companies to reap the rewards from bitcoin is Elon Musk’s Tesla, who have made $1 billion in 10 weeks from their investment. It remains to be seen whether these businesses are doing their due diligence regarding the origins of their bitcoin and if it is mined from a sustainable source. While this may give Tesla more money to invest in green infrastructure, it’s hard to say whether this is the more ethical way to do so……….

One important lesson we can take from this is that it demonstrates how the digital world has a very real impact on planet Earth. Whether we’re buying cryptocurrency or simply scrolling the internet, we are impacting the planet in one way or another

May 3, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, business and costs, climate change, ENERGY, Reference | Leave a comment

When USA attacks a foreign state, the media calls it ”Defense”

It’s Aggression When ‘They’ Do It, but Defense When ‘We’ Do Worse MACLEOD Aggression, in international politics, is commonly defined as the use of armed force against another sovereign state, not justified by self-defense or international authority. Any state being described as aggressive in foreign or international reporting, therefore, is almost by definition in the wrong.

It’s a word that seems easy to apply to the United States, which launched 81 foreign interventions between 1946 and 2000 alone. In the 21st century, the United States has attacked, invaded or occupied the sovereign states of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

Despite the US record, Western corporate media overwhelmingly reserve the word “aggression” for official enemy nations—whether or not it’s warranted. In contrast, US behavior is almost never categorized as aggressive, thereby giving readers a misleading picture of the world.

Perhaps the most notable internationally aggressive act in recent memory was the Trump administration’s assassination of Iranian general and political leader Qassem Soleimani last year. Yet in its long and detailed report on the event, the Washington Post (1/4/20) managed to present Iran as the aggressor. The US was merely “choos[ing] this moment to explore an operation against the leader of Iran’s Quds Force, after tolerating Iranian aggression in the Persian Gulf for months,” in the Post’s words.

t also gave space to senior US officials to falsely claim Soleimani was aiming to carry out an “imminent” attack on hundreds of Americans. In fact, he was in Iraq for peace talks designed to bring an end to war between states in the region. The Iraqi prime minister revealed that he had invited Soleimani personally, and had asked for and received Washington’s blessing to host him. Trump instead used that information to kill him.

For months, media had been awash with stories, based on US officials’ proclamations, that Iranian aggression was just around the corner (e.g., Yahoo! News,  1/2/20Reuters4/12/19New York Times11/23/19Washington Post6/22/19). The Hill (10/3/19) gave a retired general space to demand that we must “defend ourselves” by carrying out a “serious response” against Iran, who is “test[ing] our resolve with aggressive actions.”

Russia is another country constantly portrayed as aggressive. The New York Times (11/12/20) described a US fishing boat’s mix up with the Russian navy off the coast of Kamchatka as typical Russian aggression, complete with the headline, “Are We Getting Invaded?” The Military Times (6/26/20) worried that any reduction in US troops in Germany could “embolden Russian aggression.” And a headline from the Hill (11/14/19) claimed that “Putin’s Aggression Exposes Russia’s Decline.” In the same sentence that publicized a report advocating that NATO expand to take on China directly, the Wall Street Journal (12/1/20) warned of “Russian aggression.” Suffice to say, tooling up for an intercontinental war against another nuclear power was not framed as Western warmongering.

Other enemy states, such as China (New York Times10/6/20CNBC8/3/20Forbes3/26/21), North Korea (Atlantic11/23/10CNN8/9/17Associated Press3/8/21) and Venezuela (Wall Street Journal11/18/05Fox News3/10/14Daily Express9/30/19) are also routinely accused of or denounced for “aggression.”

Corporate media even present the Taliban’s actions in their own country against Western occupation troops as “aggression” (Guardian 7/26/06CBS News11/27/13Reuters3/26/21). The New York Times (11/24/20) recently worried about the Taliban’s “aggression on the battlefield,” while presenting the US—a country that invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and still has not left—as supposedly committed to the “peace process.”

Even as the US has been flying squadrons of nuclear bombers from North Dakota to Iran and back, each time in effect simulating dropping atomic bombs on the country, media have framed this as a “defensive move” (Politico12/30/20) meant to stop “Iranian aggression” (Defense One1/27/20) by “deter[ring] Iran from attacking American troops in the region” (New York Times12/30/20).

In February, President Joe Biden ordered an airstrike on a Syrian village against what the White House claimed were Iran-backed forces. The Department of Defense absurdly insisted that the attack was meant to “deescalate” the situation, a claim that was lamentably uncritically repeated in corporate media, with Politico (2/25/21) writing that “the strike was defensive in nature” and a response to previous attacks on US troops in Iraq. Needless to say, it did not question the legitimacy of American troops being stationed across the Middle East.

That the US, by definition, is always acting defensively and never aggressively is close to an iron law of journalism. The US attack on Southeast Asia is arguably the worst international crime since the end of World War II, causing some 3.8 million Vietnamese deaths alone. Yet in their seminal study of the media, Manufacturing Consent, Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky (Extra!12/87) were unable to find a single mention of a US “attack” on Vietnam. Instead, the war was commonly framed as the “defense” of South Vietnam from the Communist North.

Even decades later, US actions in Vietnam are still often described as a “defense” (e.g., Wall Street Journal4/29/05Christian Science Monitor1/22/07Politico10/10/15Foreign Policy9/27/17). In a 2018 autopsy of the conflict headlined “What Went Wrong in Vietnam,” New Yorker staff writer Louis Menand (2/26/18) wrote that “our policy was to enable South Vietnam to defend itself” as the US “tried to prevent Vietnam from becoming a Communist state.” “Millions died in that struggle,” he adds, as if the perpetrators of the violence were unknown.

It was a similar story with the US invasion of Grenada in 1983, which was presented as a defense against “Soviet and Cuban aggression in the Western hemisphere” (San Diego Union-Tribune10/26/83).

There have only been three uses of the phrases “American aggression” or “US aggression” in the New York Times over the past year. All came in the mouths of Chinese officials, and in stories focusing on supposedly aggressive Chinese actions. For example, at the end of a long article warning about how China is “pressing its territorial claims aggressively” from the Himalayas to the South China Sea, in paragraph 28 the Times (6/26/20) noted that Beijing’s priority is “confronting what it considers American aggression in China’s neighborhood.” Meanwhile, two articles (10/5/2010/23/20) mention that Chinese disinformation calls the Korean War the “war to resist American aggression and aid Korea”. But these were written off as “visceral” and “pugnacious” “propaganda” by the Times.

Likewise, when the phrase “American aggression” appears at all in other leading publications, it is largely only in scare quotes or in the mouths of groups long demonized in corporate media, such as the Houthi rebels in Yemen (Washington Post2/5/21), the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad (Associated Press2/26/21) or Saddam Hussein’s generals (CNN3/3/03).

The concept of US belligerence is simply not being discussed seriously in the corporate press, leading to the conclusion that the word “aggression” in newspeak means little more than “actions we don’t like carried out by enemy states.”

May 1, 2021 Posted by | politics international, Reference, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Earth has shifted on its axis due to melting of ice, study says

Earth has shifted on its axis due to melting of ice, study says

By Damian Carrington | April 24, 2021Editor’s note: This story was originally published by The Guardian. It appears here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The massive melting of glaciers as a result of global heating has caused marked shifts in the Earth’s axis of rotation since the 1990s, research has shown. It demonstrates the profound impact humans are having on the planet, scientists said.

The planet’s geographic north and south poles are the point where its axis of rotation intersects the surface, but they are not fixed. Changes in how the Earth’s mass is distributed around the planet cause the axis, and therefore the poles, to move.

In the past, only natural factors such as ocean currents and the convection of hot rock in the deep Earth contributed to the drifting position of the poles. But the new research shows that since the 1990s, the loss of hundreds of billions of tons of ice a year into the oceans resulting from the climate crisis has caused the poles to move in new directions.

The scientists found the direction of polar drift shifted from southward to eastward in 1995 and that the average speed of drift from 1995 to 2020 was 17 times faster than from 1981 to 1995.

Since 1980, the position of the poles has moved about 4 meters in distance. “The accelerated decline [in water stored on land] resulting from glacial ice melting is the main driver of the rapid polar drift after the 1990s,” concluded the team, led by Shanshan Deng, from the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Gravity data from the Grace satellite, launched in 2002, had been used to link glacial melting to movements of the pole in 2005 and 2012, both following increases in ice losses. But Deng’s research breaks new ground by extending the link to before the satellite’s launch, showing human activities have been shifting the poles since the 1990s, almost three decades ago.

The research, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, showed glacial losses accounted for most of the shift, but it is likely that the pumping up of groundwater also contributed to the movements. Groundwater is stored under land but, once pumped up for drinking or agriculture, most eventually flows to sea, redistributing its weight around the world. In the past 50 years, humanity has removed 18 trillion tons of water from deep underground reservoirs without it being replaced.

Vincent Humphrey, at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, and not involved in the new research said it showed how human activities have redistributed huge amounts of water around the planet: “It tells you how strong this mass change is—it’s so big that it can change the axis of the Earth.” However, the movement of the Earth’s axis is not large enough to affect daily life, he said: It could change the length of a day, but only by milliseconds.

Jonathan Overpeck, a professor at the University of Arizona, told the Guardian previously that changes to the Earth’s axis highlighted “how real and profoundly large an impact humans are having on the planet”.

Some scientists argue that the scale of this impact means a new geological epoch – the Anthropocene—needs to be declared. Since the mid-20th century, there has been a marked acceleration of carbon dioxide emissions and sea level rise, the destruction of wildlife and the transformation of land by farming, deforestation, and development.

April 27, 2021 Posted by | climate change, Reference | Leave a comment

Getting the facts straight about Chernobyl, nuclear disasters, and ionising radiation

Fact check: 5 myths about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster

Monday marks the 35th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. What happened in the former Soviet Union on April 26, 1986, is no longer a secret.  DW, 

Is Chernobyl the biggest-ever nuclear disaster?

The 1986 nuclear disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant near the city of Pripyat in northern Ukraine is often described as the worst nuclear accident in history. However, rarely is this sensational depiction clarified in more detail. 

The International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES) does classify nuclear events on a scale of zero to seven, breaking them down into accidents, incidents and anomalies. It was introduced in 1990 after being developed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Nuclear Energy Agency of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (NEA/OECD). Level seven denotes a “major accident,” which means “major release of radioactive material with widespread health and environmental effects requiring implementation of planned and extended countermeasures.”

Both the Chernobyl and 2011 Fukushima disaster have been categorized as such. But INES does not allow for nuclear events to be classified within a level.

If the term nuclear disaster is not only used to describe events, or accidents, in nuclear reactors but also radioactive emissions caused by humans then there are many occasions when human-caused nuclear contamination has been greater than that of the Chernobyl disaster, explained Kate Brown, professor of science, technology and society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Let’s take the production of plutonium,” she told DW, referring to the American and Soviet plants that produced plutonium at the center of a nuclear bomb. “Those plants each issued as part of the normal working everyday order at least 350 million curies [a unit of radioactivity — Editor’s note] into the surrounding environment. And that was not an accident.

“Let’s look at, even more dire, the issuance of radioactive fallout in the detonation of nuclear bombs during the periods of nuclear testing ground, which were located throughout the world, ” she continued. “Those just take one isotope, one radioactive iodine, which is harmful to human health because it’s taken up by the human thyroid, causing thyroid cancer or thyroid disease.

“Chernobyl issued 45 million curies of radioactive iodine just in two years of testing, in 1961 and 1962. The Soviets and the Americans issued not 45 million curies, but 20 billion curies of radioactive iodine,” she said. And these tests, she added, were by design — not due to an accident or human error.

Are there mutants in the exclusion zone?

………….. “The influence of ionizing radiation may cause some restructuring in the body, but mostly it simply reduces an organism’s viability,” he explained, giving the example of high embryo fatalities in rodents due to genomic defects that prevented the organism from functioning. Those animals that survive the womb sometimes have disabilities that prevent them from staying alive in the wild. Vishnevsky and his colleagues have conducted research into thousands of animals in the exclusion zone, but have not found any unusual morphological alterations.

“Why? Because we were always dealing with animals that had survived and had won the fight for survival,” he said. He added that it was difficult to compare these animals with creatures that scientists had deliberately exposed to radiation in laboratories.

“That’s a very seductive idea, that human messed up nature and all they have to do is step away and nature rewrites itself,” she said. In reality, however, biologists say that there are fewer species of insects, birds and mammals than before the disaster. The fact that some endangered species can be found in the exclusion zone is not evidence of the area’s health and vitality.

Has nature reclaimed the site of the disaster?

Reports entitled “Life Flourishing Around Chernobyl” and photo series suggesting that the exclusion zone has become a “natural paradise” might give the impression that nature has recovered from the nuclear disaster. But Brown, who has been researching Chernobyl for 25 years, is adamant that this is “not true.”

“That’s a very seductive idea, that human messed up nature and all they have to do is step away and nature rewrites itself,” she said. In reality, however, biologists say that there are fewer species of insects, birds and mammals than before the disaster. The fact that some endangered species can be found in the exclusion zone is not evidence of the area’s health and vitality.

On the contrary: there has been a significant increase in the mortality rate and a lowered life expectancy in the animal population, with more tumors and immune defects, disorders of the blood and circulatory system and early ageing.

Scientists have attributed the apparent natural diversity to species migration and the vastness of the area. “The exclusion zone comprises 2,600 square kilometers [about 1,000 square miles]. And to the north are another 2,000 square kilometers to the north is Belarus’ exclusion zone,” said Vishnevsky. “There are also areas to the east and west where the human population density is extremely low. We have a huge potential for preserving local wild fauna.” That includes lynxes, bears and wolves which need a great deal of space.

But even 35 years after the disaster the land is still contaminated by radiation, a third of it by transuranium elements with a half-life of more than 24,000 years.

Is it safe for tourists to visit Chernobyl?

The exclusion zone was already a magnet for disaster tourists, but in 2019 annual numbers doubled to 124,000 after the success of the HBO miniseries Chernobyl. The State Agency of Ukraine on Exclusion Zone Management has set up a number of routes so tourists can visit the region by land, water or air. It has also drawn up a number of regulations to protect visitors, stipulating that people must be covered from head to toe. They shouldn’t eat any food or drink outside, and they should always follow official paths. It’s estimated that the radiation dose received over a one-day visit does not exceed 0.1 millisievert (mSv) — roughly the same dose that a passenger would be exposed to on a long-distance flight from Germany to Japan, according to Germany’s Federal Office for Radiation

Are there people living in the area?

Today, Pripyat, the closed city built to serve the nuclear plant and house its employees, is often described as a ghost town, as is the nearby city of Chernobyl.

However, neither has been entirely empty since 1986. Thousands of people, usually men, have stayed there, often working two-week shifts and ensuring that the crucial infrastructure in both cities continues to function. After the explosion in reactor No. 4, reactors 1, 2 and 3 continued to operate, closing down only in 1991, 1996 and 2000. Special units of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry police the zone. There are also stores and at least two hotels in Chernobyl, which are mainly for business visitors.

There are also a number of unofficial inhabitants, including people who used to live in the area and have chosen to return. They have settled in villages that were evacuated after the disaster. The exact number of people is unknown: when DW asked the State Agency of Ukraine on Exclusion Zone Management how many people lived in Chernobyl, the official answer was “nobody.” 

In 2016, about 180 people were thought to be living in the entire exclusion zone. Because they tended to be older, this number may well have fallen. Even though these locals are officially only tolerated, the state does support them in their everyday lives. Their pensions are delivered once a month, and every two to three months they are supplied with food by a mobile store.

Below – a video from past years tells the earlier story of the chernobyl disaster

April 26, 2021 Posted by | environment, radiation, Reference, Ukraine, wastes | Leave a comment

The US Energy Department’s renewed promotion of plutonium-fueled reactors. 

Plutonium programs in East Asia and Idaho will challenge the Biden administration, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, By Frank N. von Hippel | April 12, 2021  ”’…………. The US Energy Department’s renewed promotion of plutonium-fueled reactors. The US plutonium breeder reactor development program was ended by Congress in 1983. A decade later, the Clinton Administration shut down the Idaho National Laboratory’s Experimental Breeder Reactor II for lack of mission. At the time, I was working in the White House and supported that decision.

The nuclear-energy divisions at the Energy Department’s Argonne and Idaho National Laboratories refused to give up, however. They continued to produce articles promoting sodium-cooled reactors and laboratory studies on “pyroprocessing,” a small-scale technology used to separate plutonium from the fuel of the Experimental Breeder Reactor II .

During the Trump administration, this low-level effort broke out. With the Energy Department’s Office of Nuclear Energy headed by a former Idaho National Lab staffer and help from Idaho’s two Senators, the Energy Department and Congress were persuaded to approve the first steps toward construction at the Idaho National Laboratory of a larger version of the decommissioned Experimental Breeder Reactor II.

 The new reactor, misleadingly labeled the “Versatile Test Reactor,” would be built by Bechtel with design support by GE-Hitachi and Bill Gates’ Terrapower. The Energy Department awarded contracts to the Battelle Energy Alliance and to university nuclear-engineering departments in Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Oregon to develop proposals for how to use the Versatile Test Reactor.

The current estimated cost of the Versatile Test Reactor is $2.6-5.8 billion, and it is to be fueled with plutonium. The Idaho National Laboratory’s hope is to convince Congress to commit to funding its construction in 2021.

The Energy Department also committed $80 million to co-fund the construction of a 345-megawatt-electric (MWe) “Natrium” (Latin for sodium) demonstration liquid-sodium-cooled power reactor proposed by GE-Hitachi and Terrapower which it hopes Congress would increase to $1.6 billion. It also committed $25 million each to Advanced Reactor Concepts and General Atomics to design small sodium-cooled reactors. And it has subsidized Oklo, a $25-million startup company financed by the Koch family, to construct a 1.5 MWe “microreactor” on the Idaho National Laboratory’s site to demonstrate an extravagantly costly power source for remote regions.

In all these reactors, the chain reaction would be sustained by fast neutrons unlike the slow neutrons that sustain the chain reactions in water-cooled reactors. The Energy Department’s Office of Nuclear Energy has justified the need for the Versatile Test Reactor by the fast-neutron reactors whose construction it is supporting. In this way, it has “bootstraping” the Versatile Test Reactor by creating a need for it that would not otherwise exist.

This program also is undermining US nonproliferation policy..………..

April 13, 2021 Posted by | - plutonium, Reference, reprocessing, USA | 1 Comment

Japan’s hugely costly nuclear reprocessing program.

Plutonium programs in East Asia and Idaho will challenge the Biden administration, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, By Frank N. von Hippel | April 12, 2021,  ”………………Japan’s hugely costly reprocessing program. The United States has been trying to persuade Japan to abandon reprocessing ever since 1977. At the time, then prime minister Takeo Fukuda described plutonium breeder reactors as a matter of “life and death” for Japan’s energy future and steamrolled the Carter administration into accepting the startup of Japan’s pilot reprocessing plant. Today, Japan is the only non-nuclear-armed state that separates plutonium. Despite the absence of any economic or environmental justification, the policy grinds ahead due to a combination of bureaucratic commitments and the dependence of a rural region on the jobs and tax income associated with the hugely costly program. The dynamics are similar to those that have kept the three huge US nuclear-weapon laboratories flourishing despite the end of the Cold War.

For three decades, Japan has been building, fixing mistakes, and making safety upgrades on a large plutonium recycle complex in Rokkasho Village in the poor prefecture of Aomori on the northern tip of the main island, Honshu. The capital cost of the complex has climbed to $30 billion. Operation of the reprocessing plant is currently planned for 2023.

A facility for fabricating the recovered plutonium into mixed-oxide plutonium-uranium fuel for water-cooled power reactors is under construction on the same site (Figure 3 on original). The cost of operating the complex is projected to average about $3 billion per year. Over the 40-year design life of the plant, it is expected to process about 300 tons of plutonium—enough to make 40,000 Nagasaki bombs. What could possibly go wrong?

Japan’s Atomic Energy Commission reports that, because of the failures and delays of its plutonium useage programs, as of the end of 2019, Japan owned a stock of 45.5 tons of separated plutonium: 9.9 tons in Japan with the remainder in France and the United Kingdom where Japan sent thousands of tons of spent fuel during the 1990s to be reprocessed.

Both the Obama and Trump administrations pressed Tokyo to revise its reprocessing policy, especially after Japan’s decision to decommission its failed prototype breeder reactor in 2016.

Perhaps in response to this pressure, in 2018, Japan’s cabinet declared:

“The Japanese government remains committed to the policy of not possessing plutonium without specific purposes on the premise of peaceful use of plutonium and work[s] to reduce of the size of [its] plutonium stockpile.”

A step toward reductions that is being discussed would be for Japan to pay the United Kingdom to take title to and dispose of the 22 tons of Japanese plutonium stranded there after the UK mixed-oxide fuel fabrication plant was found to be inoperable. Japan’s separated plutonium in France is slowly being returned to Japan in mixed-oxide fuel for use in reactors licensed to use such fuel.

If, as currently planned, Japan operates the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant at its design capacity of more than seven tons of plutonium separated per year, however, its rate of plutonium separation will greatly exceed Japan’s rate of plutonium use.  Four of Japan’s currently operating reactors are licensed to use mixed-oxide fuel but loaded only 40 percent as much mixed-oxide fuel as planned in 2018-19 and none in 2020. Two more reactors that can use mixed-oxide are expected to receive permission to restart in the next few years. In 2010, Japan’s Federation of Electric Power Companies projected that the six reactors would use 2.6 tons of plutonium per year. If the much-delayed Ohma reactor, which is under construction and designed to be able to use a full core of mixed-oxide fuel, comes into operation in 2028 as currently planned, and all these reactors use as much mixed-oxide fuel as possible, Japan’s plutonium usage rate would still ramp up to only 4.3 tons per year in 2033. (At the end of 2020 the Federation of Electric Power Companies announced its hope to increase the number of mixed-oxide-using reactors to 12 by 2030 but did not list the five additional reactors, saying only, “we will release it as soon as it is ready.”)

As of June 2020, construction at Rokkasho on the mixed-oxide fuel fabrication facility that will process the plutonium separated by the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant was only 12 percent complete. It was still just a hole in the ground containing some concrete work with its likely completion years behind the currently planned 2023 operation date of the reprocessing plant.

Thus, as happened in Russia and the United Kingdom, the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant could operate indefinitely separating plutonium without the mixed-oxide plant operating. The reprocessing plant includes storage for “working stocks” containing up to 30 tons of unirradiated plutonium. If and when it begins operating, the mixed-oxide fuel fabrication plant will itself have additional working stocks of at least several tons of plutonium. Therefore, even if Japan transfers title to the plutonium it has stranded in the United Kingdom and manages to work down its stock in France, the growth of its stock in Japan could offset those reductions.

The Biden administration should urge Japan’s government to “bite the bullet” and begin the painful but necessary process of unwinding its costly and dangerous plutonium program. A first step would be to change Japan’s radioactive waste law to allow its nuclear utilities to use the planned national deep repository for direct disposal of their spent fuel.

In the meantime, most of Japan’s spent fuel will have to be stored on site in dry casks, as has become standard practice in the United States and most other countries with nuclear power reactors. Because of its safety advantages relative to storage in dense-packed pools, the communities that host Japan’s nuclear power plant are moving toward acceptance of dry-cask storage. During the 2011 Fukushima accident, the water in a dense-packed pool became dangerously low. Had the spent fuel been uncovered and caught on fire, the population requiring relocation could have been ten to hundreds of times larger ………….

April 13, 2021 Posted by | - plutonium, Japan, Reference, reprocessing | Leave a comment

USA’s nuclear rocket plan, and the Nazi history behind it.

The US plans to put a nuclear-powered rocket in orbit by 2025,  David Hambling.. (subscribers only)

April 13, 2021 Posted by | Reference, space travel, USA, weapons and war, YouTube | Leave a comment

The United States collaborates on nuclear pyroprocessing with South Korea. 

Plutonium programs in East Asia and Idaho will challenge the Biden administration, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, By Frank N. von Hippel | April 12, 2021,  ”…………………………………The United States collaborates on pyroprocessing with South Korea. The Idaho and Argonne National Laboratories also continue to promote the pyroprocessing of spent fuel. After the Clinton Administration shut down the Experimental Breeder Reactor II in 1994, the laboratory persuaded the Energy Department to continue to fund pyroprocessing as a way to process Experimental Breeder Reactor II spent fuel and blanket assemblies into stable waste forms for disposal in a deep underground repository. The proposal was to complete this effort in 2007. According to a review by Edwin Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists, however, as of the end of Fiscal Year 2016, only about 18 percent of the roughly 26 metric tons of assemblies had been processed at a cost of over $200 million into waste forms that are not stable. (Since then, an additional three percent has been processed.)

During the George W. Bush administration, Vice President Cheney accepted Argonne’s argument that pyroprocessing is “proliferation resistant” and the two US national laboratories were allowed to share the technology with the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute.

At the beginning of the Obama administration, however, a group of safeguards experts from six Energy Department national laboratories, including Argonne and Idaho, concluded that pyroprocessing is not significantly more resistant to proliferation than PUREX, the standard reprocessing technology originally developed by the United States to extract plutonium for its weapons.

In 2014, the US-Republic of Korea Agreement for Cooperation on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy was due to expire, but the negotiations on a successor agreement bogged down over Korea’s insistence that the new agreement include the same right to reprocess spent fuel as the 1988 US-Japan Agreement for Cooperation.

The compromise reached the following year was that the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute and the Idaho National Laboratory would complete their Joint Fuel Cycle Study on “the technical, economic, and nonproliferation (including safeguards) aspects of spent fuel management and disposition technologies.” If the United States could be convinced that the proliferation risks of pyroprocessing were manageable, the secretary of energy would give consent for South Korea to use the technology on its territory. The final report from the joint study is due this year.

Meanwhile, in 2017, Moon Jae-in was elected president of the Republic of Korea on a platform that included not building any more nuclear power plants in South Korea. Fast-neutron reactors and pyroprocessing obviously do not fit with that policy. This gives the Biden administration an opportunity to end a cooperative nuclear-energy research and development program that is contrary to both US nuclear nonproliferation policy and South Korea’s energy policy. The United States could propose instead a joint collaborative program on safe spent fuel storage and deep underground disposal……………

April 13, 2021 Posted by | - plutonium, Reference, South Korea, technology, USA | Leave a comment

Assessing types of Non-Light-Water Nuclear Reactors

March 19, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Reference, safety, technology | Leave a comment

Conclusions and recommendations of safety assessment of advanced nuclear reactors – non-light-water ones

Assessing the Safety, Security, and Environmental Impacts of Non-Light-Water Nuclear Reactors,Union of Concerned Scientists, Edwin Lyman Mar 18, 2021  “Advanced” Isn’t Always Better  

”……….Conclusions of the Assessment

The non-light-water nuclear reactor landscape is vast and complex, and it is beyond the scope of this report to survey the entire field in depth. Nevertheless, enough is clear even at this stage to draw some general conclusions regarding the safety and security of NLWRs and their prospects for rapid deployment.

Based on the available evidence, the NLWR designs currently under consideration (except possibly once-through, breed-and-burn reactors) do not offer obvious improvements over LWRs significant enough to justify their many risks. Regulators and other policymakers would be wise to look more closely at the nuclear power programs under way to make sure they prioritize safety and security. Future appropriations for NLWR technology research, development, and deployment should be guided by realistic assessments of the likely societal benefits that would result from the investment of billions of taxpayer dollars.

Little evidence supports claims that NLWRs will be significantly safer than today’s LWRs. While some NLWR designs offer some safety advantages, all have novel characteristics that could render them less safe.

All NLWR designs introduce new safety issues that will require substantial analysis and testing to fully understand and address—and it may not be possible to resolve them fully. To determine whether any NLWR concept will be significantly safer than LWRs, the reactor must achieve an advanced stage of technical maturity, undergo complete comprehensive safety testing and analysis, and acquire significant operating experience under realistic conditions.

The claim that any nuclear reactor system can “burn” or “consume” nuclear waste is a misleading oversimplification. Reactors can actually use only a fraction of spent nuclear fuel as new fuel, and separating that fraction increases the risks of nuclear proliferation and terrorism.

No nuclear reactor can use spent nuclear fuel directly as fresh fuel. Instead, spent fuel has to be “reprocessed”—chemically treated to extract plutonium and other TRU elements, which must then be refabricated into new fuel. This introduces a grave danger: plutonium and other TRU elements can be used in nuclear weapons. Reprocessing and recycling render these materials vulnerable to diversion or theft and increases the risks of nuclear proliferation and terrorism—risks that are costly to address and that technical and institutional measures cannot fully mitigate. Any fuel cycle that requires reprocessing poses inherently greater proliferation and terrorism risks than the “once-through” cycle with direct disposal of spent fuel in a geologic repository.

Some NLWRs have the potential for greater sustainability than LWRs, but the improvements appear to be too small to justify their proliferation and safety risks.

Although some NLWR systems could use uranium more efficiently and generate smaller quantities of long-lived TRU isotopes in nuclear waste, for most designs these benefits could be achieved only by repeatedly reprocessing spent fuel to separate out these isotopes and recycle them in new fuel—and that presents unacceptable proliferation and security risks. In addition, reprocessing plants and other associated fuel cycle facilities are costly to build and operate, and they increase the environmental and safety impacts compared with the LWR once-through cycle. Moreover, the sustainability increases in practice would not be significant in a reasonably foreseeable time frame.

Once-through, breed-and-burn reactors have the potential to use uranium more efficiently without reprocessing, but many technical challenges remain.

One type of NLWR system that could in principle be more sustainable than the LWR without increasing proliferation and terrorism risks is the once-through, breed-and-burn reactor. Concepts such as TerraPower’s traveling-wave reactor could enable the use of depleted uranium waste stockpiles as fuel, which would increase the efficiency of uranium use. Although there is no economic motivation to develop more uranium-efficient reactors at a time when uranium is cheap and abundant, reducing uranium mining may be beneficial for other reasons, and such reactors may be useful for the future. However, many technical challenges would have to be overcome to achieve breed-and-burn operation, including the development of very-high-burnup fuels. The fact that TerraPower suspended its project after more than a decade of development to pursue a more conventional and far less uranium-efficient SFR, the Natrium, suggests that these challenges have proven too great.

High-assay low enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel, which is needed for many NLWR designs, poses higher nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism risks than the lower-assay LEU used by the operating LWR fleet.

Many NLWR designs require uranium enriched to higher levels than the 5 percent U-235 typical of LWR fuel. Although uranium enriched to between 10 and 20 percent U-235 (defined here as HALEU) is considered impractical for direct use in nuclear weapons, it is more attractive for weapons use—and requires more stringent security—than the lower-assay enriched uranium in current LWRs.

The significant time and resources needed to safely commercialize any NLWR design should not be underestimated.

It will likely take decades and many billions of dollars to develop and commercially deploy any NLWR design, together with its associated fuel cycle facilities and other support activities. Such development programs would come with a significant risk of delay or failure and require long-term stewardship and funding commitments. And even if a commercially workable design were demonstrated, it would take many more years after that to deploy a large number of units and operate them safely and reliably.

Vendors that claim their NLWRs could be commercialized much more quickly typically assume that their designs will not require full-scale performance demonstrations and extensive safety testing, which could add well over a decade to the development timeline. However, current designs for sodium-cooled fast reactors and high-temperature gas-cooled reactors differ enough from past reactor demonstrations that they cannot afford to bypass additional full-scale prototype testing before licensing and commercial deployment. Molten salt–fueled reactors have only had small-scale demonstrations and thus are even less mature. NLWRs deployed commercially at premature stages of development run a high risk of poor performance and unexpected safety problems.


The DOE should suspend the advanced reactor demonstration program pending a finding by the NRC whether it will require full-scale prototype testing before licensing the two chosen designs as commercial power reactors.

The DOE has selected two NLWR designs, the Natrium SFR and the Xe-100 pebble-bed HTGR, for demonstration of full-scale commercial operation by 2027. However, the NRC has yet to evaluate whether these designs are mature enough that it can license them without first obtaining data from full-scale prototype plants to demonstrate novel safety features, validate computer codes, and qualify new types of fuel in representative environments. Without such an evaluation, the NRC will likely lack the information necessary to ensure safe, secure operation of these reactors. The DOE should suspend the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program until the NRC—in consultation with the agency’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards and external experts—has determined whether prototypes will be needed first.

Congress should require that an independent, transparent, peer-review panel direct all DOE R&D on new nuclear concepts, including the construction of additional test or demonstration reactors.

Given the long time and high cost required to commercialize NLWR designs, the DOE should provide funding for NLWR R&D judiciously and only for reactor concepts that offer a strong possibility of significantly increasing safety and security—and do not increase proliferation risks. Moreover, unlike the process for selecting the two reactor designs for the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program, decision-making should be transparent.6 Congress should require that the DOE convene an independent, public commission to thoroughly review the technical merits of all NLWR designs proposed for development and demonstration, including those already selected for the ARDP. The commission, whose members should represent a broad range of expertise and perspectives, would recommend funding only for designs that are highly likely to be commercialized successfully while achieving clearly greater safety and security than current-generation LWRs.

The DOE and other agencies should thoroughly assess the implications for proliferation and nuclear terrorism of the greatly expanded production, processing, and transport of the high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) required to support the widespread deployment of NLWRs.

Large-scale deployment of NLWRs that use HALEU fuel will require establishing a new industrial infrastructure for producing and transporting the material. The DOE is actively promoting the development of HALEU-fueled reactor designs for export. Given that HALEU is a material of higher security concern than lower-assay LEU, Congress should require that the DOE immediately assess the proliferation and nuclear terrorism implications of transitioning to the widespread use of HALEU worldwide. This assessment should also address the resource requirements for the security and safeguards measures needed to ensure that such a transition can occur without an unacceptable increase in risk.

The United States should make all new reactors and associated fuel facilities eligible for IAEA safeguards and provide that agency with the necessary resources for carrying out verification activities.

The IAEA, which is responsible for verifying that civilian nuclear facilities around the world are not being misused to produce materials for nuclear weapons, has limited or no experience in safeguarding many types of NLWRs and their associated fuel cycle facilities. NLWR projects being considered for deployment in the United States, such as the Natrium SFR and the Xe-100 pebble-bed HTGR, would provide ideal test beds for the IAEA to develop safeguards approaches. However, as a nuclear-weapon state, the United States is not obligated to give the IAEA access to its nuclear facilities. To set a good example and advance the cause of nonproliferation, the United States should immediately provide the IAEA with permission and funding to apply safeguards on all new US nuclear facilities, beginning at the design phase. This would help to identify safeguard challenges early and give the IAEA experience in verifying similar facilities if they are deployed in other countries.

The DOE and Congress should consider focusing nuclear energy R&D on improving the safety and security of LWRs, rather than on commercializing immature NLWR designs.

LWR technology benefits from a vast trove of information resulting from many decades of acquiring experimental data, analysis, and operating experience—far more than that available for any NLWR. This gives the LWR a significant advantage over other nuclear technologies. The DOE and Congress should do a more thorough evaluation of the benefits of focusing R&D funding on addressing the outstanding safety, security, and cost issues of LWRs rather than attempting to commercialize less mature reactor concepts. If the objective is to expand nuclear power to help deal with the climate crisis over the next few decades, improving LWRs could be a less risky bet.


This is a condensed, online version of the executive summary. For all figures, references, and the full text, please download the PDF.

March 19, 2021 Posted by | Reference, safety, technology | Leave a comment

Nuclear reactors – “Advanced” Isn’t Always Better” – Non-Light-Water Nuclear Reactors


March 19, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Reference, safety, technology | Leave a comment

Tokyo’s ”Recovery Olympics”? But Japan has not recovered from the Fukushima meltdown

Japan Hasn’t Recovered 10 Years After Fukushima Meltdown,,  Arnie Gundersen, -March 11, 2021  

On March 11, 2011, a devastating offshore earthquake and ensuing tsunami rocked Japan and resulted in nuclear meltdowns in three nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear site. Until the 2020 Tokyo Olympics were placed on a one-year hiatus because of concerns over COVID-19, the Japanese government had portrayed these events as the “Recovery Olympics.” It had hoped to use the Olympics to showcase a claimed restoration of Japan since it was devastated in 2011. But has Japan really “recovered?”

Recently, corresponding author Marco Kaltofen (Worcester Polytechnic Institute), co-author Maggie Gundersen (Fairewinds Energy Education) and I published our second peer-reviewed journal article analyzing hundreds of radioactive samples from northern Japan that we collected with assistance from Japanese citizens and scientists. Our sampling on five occasions over almost a decade totaled 70 days on the ground. Here are four things we discovered.

1. Existing radiation maps ignore significant sources of radiological exposure.

Most of the radiation maps of northern Japan are based on external radiation detected in handheld instrument measurements by citizens and scientists, who then link the measurements to GPS coordinates while downloading that data into a massive database. This information about direct, external radiation is certainly important, but it has become the de facto criteria for decision makers in Japan to decide which cities and towns should be repopulated.

We found that this approach only provides limited policy alternatives and serves to minimize potential population exposure for two reasons. First, the Geiger counter data is for external radiation that was deposited on the ground external to human bodies and ignores radiation imbibed or inhaled as “hot particles” into the human body.

Secondly, the external radiation data frequently displayed for northern Japan is based on radiation emitted from only a single radioactive isotope, Cesium-137 (Cs-137), as measured externally. On the other hand, our papers show a wide variety of isotopes that are not detected by handheld Geiger counters or absorbed externally. We show that there is an extensive brew of various isotopes present in radioactive dust that is inhaled or imbibed. Our papers indicate that the radioactive concentration in these dust particles varies widely, by a factor of 1 million, with 5 percent (3 sigma) of these “hot particles” 10,000 times more radioactive than the mean. Our most radioactive dust particle was collected 300 miles from the site of the meltdown.

Furthermore, the data show that alpha, beta and gamma-emitting contaminants in radioactive fallout from the Daiichi meltdowns have not traveled together in lockstep. This means that measuring only beta-emitters like Cesium-137 or only total gamma (as you would with a Geiger counter) is not enough to map the full impact of the fallout. Alpha-emitters must also be measured to protect the public health. This is especially important because of the serious health impacts that can come from exposure to alpha radiation.

2. Northern Japan remains radiologically contaminated.

When a nuclear chain reaction stops, the hazardous remnants of the previously split uranium atoms, euphemistically called “fission products,” are left behind and remain radioactive for centuries. The triple meltdowns and explosions at Fukushima Daiichi Units 1, 2 and 3 in March 2011 released an enormous amount of these fission products into the environment. Wind currents pushed as much as 80 percent of this radiation over the Pacific Ocean, while 20 percent fell on northern Japan, forcing the evacuation of approximately 160,000 Japanese citizens from ancestral lands.

Absent any human intervention, short-lived fission products that originally accounted for more than half of this contamination have already decayed away during the last nine years, while even more has washed into the Pacific from storms and typhoons. Limited cleanup efforts by the Japanese government have further reduced the contamination in a fraction of the populated portion of the devastated Fukushima prefecture. Greater than 10 million tons of radioactive material have been collected and stored in 10 million individual large black bags at hundreds of locations. However, due to mountainous terrain, more than 70 percent of Fukushima prefecture will never be decontaminated.

Absent any human intervention, short-lived fission products that originally accounted for more than half of this contamination have already decayed away during the last nine years, while even more has washed into the Pacific from storms and typhoons. Limited cleanup efforts by the Japanese government have further reduced the contamination in a fraction of the populated portion of the devastated Fukushima prefecture. Greater than 10 million tons of radioactive material have been collected and stored in 10 million individual large black bags at hundreds of locations. However, due to mountainous terrain, more than 70 percent of Fukushima prefecture will never be decontaminated.

As the cost and effort to completely decontaminate the entire land mass of Fukushima prefecture would be prohibitive, the Japanese government has focused on cleaning only populated areas. It also increased the “allowable” radiation limit 20-fold, after an initial partial decontamination, from 1 milli-Sievert to 20 milli-Sieverts per year (100 millirem to 2 rem) to facilitate repopulation of abandoned villages. A 20-fold increase in radiation will create a 20-fold increase in radiation-induced cancers. A significant fraction of residents chose not to return, recognizing the increased risk that these higher approved limits present.

3. Previously “cleaned” areas are becoming radiologically contaminated yet again.

The city of Minamisoma was contaminated and evacuated at the height of the Fukushima disaster. After a period of several years, radiation in the city was remediated and citizens were allowed to return. Minamisoma City Hall was decontaminated, with a new epoxy roof applied after the meltdowns in 2011. The authors collected samples from this previously “clean” fourth-story roof in 2016 and again in 2017, finding high levels of alpha radiation in the relative absence of the normally ubiquitous Cesium isotopes. This can only imply that wind-borne contamination from uncleaned areas is recontaminating those areas determined habitable.

4. Olympic venues in Fukushima prefecture are more contaminated than in Tokyo Olympic venues.

Suburbs of Tokyo are approximately 120 miles from the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi. We found particulate radiation at Olympic venues in Tokyo to be normal compared to other cities worldwide. We found that areas in Japan beyond the Olympic venues were seven times more contaminated than the venues themselves. Contamination at the Olympic venues in Fukushima prefecture, planned to showcase the region’s recovery, were also more contaminated than the Tokyo venues. We found that on average, these northern Olympic venues were two to three times more contaminated with “hot particles” than venues in Tokyo.

We also detected small but statistically significant levels of plutonium at the J-Village national soccer camp in Fukushima prefecture. Even though the Japanese government claims to have thoroughly decontaminated these Fukushima locations, it is not surprising that these Olympic venues remain contaminated. As discussed previously, since the entirety of the prefecture’s area will never be decontaminated, these areas will continue to have wind-borne contamination for centuries.

Science on a Shoestring

As Fukushima was melting down, nuclear advocates in the U.S. were testifying to the Washington State legislature, saying that Japan’s nuclear plants would not be a problem, and that working in a nuclear plant is “safer than working in Toys R Us.” Not surprisingly, those same zealots are now claiming that there will be no increase in cancer fatalities as a result of the three Fukushima meltdowns. However, not including the hot particle contamination my colleagues and I have identified, the UN estimates that thousands of fatalities will occur. Others, including myself, believe the actual cancer increase could result in upwards of 100,000 increased deaths as a result of the radioactive microparticles strewn into the environment.

There is no doubt that radiological conditions in Japan have improved in the decade since the triple meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi. However, our data show that Japan has not “recovered,” nor can it ever return to pre-meltdown norms. Public relations campaigns by interested parties cannot obscure the recontamination of populated areas in northern Japan that will continue to occur.

Hasegawa, the former head of Maeda Ward in Fukushima prefecture at the time of the Fukushima disaster, sums up the sentiment of most of Japanese citizens in northern Japan: “The nuclear plant took everything.… We are just in the way of the Olympics. In the end, the radiation-affected places like us are just in the way. They are going ahead just wanting to get rid of these places from Japan, to forget.”

There is an old laboratory adage that says, “The best way to clean up a spill is not to have a spill,” and this applies on a much larger scale to the entirety of northern Japan, where cleanup will remain economically unfeasible. Our future plans to further support our hypothesis that Japan remains contaminated will involve testing the shoestrings of Olympic athletes and visitors to northern Japan. Shoestrings are useful, as their woven fabric traps dust which may assist in determining the extent of contamination into populated areas in northern Japan compared to that in Tokyo.

March 15, 2021 Posted by | environment, Japan, politics, Reference, wastes | Leave a comment

Japan’s Nuclear Clean-Up Has No End in Sight

Climbing Without a Map: Japan’s Nuclear Clean-Up Has No End in Sight, U.S. News, By Reuters, Wire Service Content March 12, 2021,   BY SAKURA MURAKAMI AND Aaron Sheldrick TOKYO (Reuters) – For one minute this week, workers at the Fukushima nuclear station fell silent to mark the 10-year anniversary of a natural disaster that triggered the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

Then they went back to work tearing down the reactors melted down in the days after a tsunami on March 11, 2011.

The job ranks as the most expensive and dangerous nuclear clean-up ever attempted. A decade in, an army of engineers, scientists and 5,000 workers are still mapping out a project many expect will not be completed in their lifetime.

Naoaki Okuzumi, the head of research at Japan’s lead research institute on decommissioning, compares the work ahead to climbing a mountain range – without a map.

“The feeling we have is, you think the summit’s right there, but then you reach it and can see another summit, further beyond,” Okuzumi told Reuters.

Okuzumi and others need to find a way to remove and safely store 880 tonnes of highly radioactive uranium fuel along with a larger mass of concrete and metal into which fuel melted a decade ago during the accident.

The robotic tools to do the job don’t yet exist. There is no plan for where to put the radioactive material when it is removed.

Japan’s government says the job could run 40 years. Outside experts say it could take twice as long, pushing completion near the close of the century……..

It wasn’t until 2017 that engineers understood how complicated the clean-up would become. By that point, five specially designed robots had been dispatched through the dark, contaminated waters pumped in to cool the uranium. But radiation zapped their electronics.

One robot developed by Toshiba Corp, nicknamed the “little sunfish”, a device about the size of a loaf of bread, provided an early glimpse of the chaotic damage around the cores.

Kenji Matsuzaki, a robot technician at Toshiba who led development of the “sunfish”, had assumed that they would find melted fuel at the bottom of the reactors.

But the sunfish’s first video images showed a tumult of destruction, with overturned structures inside the reactor, clumps of unrecognizable brown debris and dangerously radioactive metal.

“I expected it to be broken, but I didn’t expect it would be this bad,” Matsuzaki said.

The delivery of a robotic arm to start removing fuel, developed in a $16 million programme with the UK’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, has been delayed until 2022. Tepco plans to use it to grab some debris from inside reactor 2 for testing and to help plan the main operation………….

But the cleanup has been delayed by the buildup of contaminated water in tanks that crowd the site. The melted cores are kept cool by pumping water into damaged reactor vessels.

But the cleanup has been delayed by the buildup of contaminated water in tanks that crowd the site. The melted cores are kept cool by pumping water into damaged reactor vessels.

March 15, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima continuing, Reference, technology, wastes | Leave a comment