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The mad plan to store nuclear waste on the beach

 https://beyondnuclearinternational.org/2018/12/16/the-mad-plan-to-store-nuclear-waste-on-the-beach/, December 16, 2018

An accident at the California storage site would leave residents nowhere to run, By Diane RayOn August 9, 2018, standing tall and looking the part of the hero, David Fritch stepped up to the lectern at a Community Engagement Panel meeting between the owner of a now shuttered nuclear power plant and local residents concerned about the beachfront disposal of nuclear waste.  “I may not have a job tomorrow,” he began, “But that’s fine. I made a promise to my daughter.”

Fritch introduced himself as an experienced nuclear power plant safety worker, sent around the country to oversee safety at various sites. He then reported what the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) called a “near miss” incident at the radioactive waste storage facility of the local nuclear power plant.

On August 3, 2018,  a 100,000 pound thin-wall cask filled with deadly irradiated nuclear fuel got caught on a flange while being lowered into the steel-lined concrete vault of  the waste storage site, known as an ISFSI (independent spent fuel storage installation). The cask got stuck on a ¼” guide ring for about an hour over an 18-foot drop.

 “It was a bad day…. And you haven’t heard about it,” said Fritch. “And that’s not right.” 

It was “a bad day” at a place where close to 3.6 million pounds of high level irradiated commercial nuclear fuel are being rushed into the sands of a fragile bluff, one and a half feet above the mean high tide, 108 feet from the sea, near an active earthquake fault, in a tsunami inundation zone, behind an inadequate sea wall.

It was another “bad day” at the long troubled and now closed San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) and its radioactive waste burial site on San Onofre State Beach, the iconic birthplace of California surf culture.

Coastal scientist and engineer, Rick Wilson of the Surfrider Foundation called it the worst waste site possible. Charles Langley, Director of Public Watchdogs and co-author of Radiological  Regulatory Failure, called it insane:  “Due to the danger from corrosion,” said Langley,  “you never put nuclear waste next to salt and water.”

The ISFSI opened on January 31, 2018 to public opposition from Orange County citizens groups concerned about nuclear safety, including San Onofre SafetyPublic Watchdogs, and Residents Organized for a Safe Environment (ROSE).

Fritch explained to a stunned audience that the two-man loading team handling the incident did not know that this was the second serious cask loading incident. “Public safety should be first and it is not,” Fritch said. “Behind the gate, it is not.” 

Mandated by the NRC to report a nuclear incident in writing within an hour, Southern California Edison waited 42 days to issue their report, having informed the NRC three days after the incident via a “courtesy phone call.”  Forced to issue a response, the NRC subsequently concurred with Fritch’s account, admitting to the possibility of: “a load drop event,…[in which the cask] could have fallen 18 feet into the storage vault if it had slipped off the inner ring assembly.” 

How serious would the potential outcome have been had that nuclear waste cask fallen? Tom English, environmental engineer and former Presidential nuclear waste policy advisor, and local colleagues at UCSD and at the Samuel Lawrence Foundation, concluded that a cask could have “hit the concrete floor with the explosive energy larger than two sticks of dynamite.” They noted that based on the NRC’s own analysis of a similar dropped cask of slightly different dimensions, there was a 28 percent chance following a drop event that local residents would have needed to evacuate.

How can such a rate be acceptable in a highly populated area, they wondered? In a failure scenario caused by a steep drop of a cask, the air ducts could be damaged: “Water,” warned English, “would have to pour into the hole to cool the reaction and prevent or control a meltdown….As at Fukushima…the enveloping water would instantly become radioactive steam and require the evacuation of millions of people.” 

Who would coordinate evacuation? Not the Marines standing guard across the freeway from SONGS nor any part of the federal government, which has opted out of any emergency or evacuation planning now that the nuclear plant is closed. Not by the state of California which has not come through with any comprehensive plan.

But even if there were government plans in place, nuclear emergency plans on paper are unlikely to be workable in real life. A serious accident could compromise the abutting rail line and freeway, the adjacent Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, the Pacific Ocean, vast treasures of land and wildlife, and a state that is ranked as the world’s fifth largest economy. 

By the end of 2019, Edison plans to house 73 radioactive waste casks on the shoreline site. Along with an older ISFSI on site housing 51 thin-wall casks about 100 feet further up the beach, SONGS will become the largest commercial irradiated fuel burial site in the nation. Each thin-wall cask weighs about 100,000 pounds, bolted shut and loaded with pez like pellets of uranium. “The amount of radioactive isotope, cesium 137, contained within each cask is equivalent to one Chernobyl accident worth of escaped radiation in the event of a through leak into the atmosphere,”  English told me.

Fritch’s allegation of an earlier cover-up of a loading event at the ISFSI  was verified by Nina Babiarz of Public Watchdogs in a sworn affidavit, and confirmed by the NRC in a Webinar on November 8, 2018, according to Langley.

n the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not of the story, there was yet another near-miss at the ISFSI.  Edison disclosed at a Community Engagement Meeting on March 21, 2018 that a four-inch bolt, used to secure a shim needed to circulate cooling helium within the nuclear waste cask, had fallen off, discovered right before the cask was to be filled and buried. Loading had been halted for 10 days but was once more underway.

Local nuclear safety advocates were horrified. What about the first four casks of the same model, already in the vault? Did they share the flaw, which could lead to overheating of the irradiated waste? The NRC declared it had made its inspection and found everything in order. However, no technology presently exists to inspect the interior of this model of thin-wall cask entombed in concrete. 

Why would anyone rush to bury high-level radioactive waste on a state beach with high seismic and corrosion risks? In the opinion of Langley, there are two reasons: First, that Edison chose the old footprint of SONGS former Unit I to sidestep superfund cleanup costs and accelerate NRC approval (claiming the NRC suggested the beachfront site); Second, by dumping the waste onto public land, Edison sprints to the finish line, potentially also dumping liability for any future nuclear accident in a legal maneuver called “bona vacantia,” or legally ownerless. Public land equals public liability.

Fritch has since left the nuclear industry. SONGS’ Chief Nuclear Officer responsible for managing the ISFSI, Tom Palmisano, has stepped down. The NRC writes that it suspects that all thin-wall casks “in the storage vaults may have had metal to metal contact” between the cask being lowered and the storage vault. There is only ½” of clearance between the cask walls and the vault lining. The NRC acknowledged: The thin-wall casks “ tend to bump against the shelf while being loaded into the vault…”.    

This raises the probability that all 29 thin-wall casks in the vault sustained damage to their exteriors, potentially accelerating cracking and leaking. At the time of the near drop incident last August, a 30th filled cask turned up locked in limbo, unable to be returned to the spent fuel pool or to be buried in the damaged vault. It remains stranded in a building, stored within a transfer cask. However, transfer casks are not intended to provide an indefinite radiation barrier for thin-wall casks but are only approved by the NRC for brief usage, protecting workers during transfer operations.  

Neither Edison, the subcontractor, Holtec, nor the NRC will release information about how they can maintain a safe temperature for the stranded cask. The NRC states only that the cask is being kept sufficiently cool. Nuclear safety advocates are not reassured, particularly since the NRC is leaving it up to Edison as to whether they choose to resume loading operations into the clearly defective model of vault, the Holtec Hi-Storm UMAX.  

Safety advocates consider this example, as well as the NRC’s pervasive pattern of lax oversight in all the near miss incidents cited in this article, as the very definition of a “captured agency,” a proverbial fox minding a hen house. Donna Gilmore, Director of San Onofre Safety and frequent intercessor with the NRC, concludes: “Congress and the President should mandate the NRC enforce safety standards…and force the NRC to stop misleading them about the safety of systems they approve.” 

Public Watchdogs and San Onofre Safety advocate for immediate closure of the beachfront ISFSI.  They propose loading the irradiated fuel into thick-wall casks that are 10 to 19.75 inches thick and stored in hardened buildings. This variant of cask, most commonly used around the world and which withstood the earthquake and tsunami at Fukushima, can be inspected and repaired to prevent leaks and explosions. These two groups then propose moving the sturdier casks across the freeway onto higher and drier ground at Camp Pendleton.  Bonus: the marines stand guard.

Nuclear safety advocates recognize, however, that the plan suggested above is a “least worst” option, by no means 100% safe. At San Onofre, as elsewhere, the problem of safely, securely, and permanently storing high-level radioactive waste is yet to be solved. Without vigilant citizen oversight and advocacy, in the hands of the nuclear industry, the “least worst” option will never be achieved.

“For nuclear disaster at San Onofre,” concludes Langley, “you don’t even need an earthquake or a tsunami, you just need the nuclear industry.” And its lapdog regulator, too.

Diane Ray became an anti-nuclear activist in the late 1970s, working with Safe ‘n Sound against nuclear plant construction at Shoreham, Long Island, NY.  Shoreham never opened. Ray is a member of Public Watchdogs.       

Headline photo is a Google Earth shot of the SONGS ISFSI just steps from the shoreline.

Editor’s Note: Beyond Nuclear supports moving the SONGS radioactive waste off the shoreline and onto Camp Pendleton. We also support HOSS — Hardened On-Site Storage. HOSS mandates that: Irradiated fuel must be stored as safely as possible as close to the site of generation as possible; HOSS facilities must not be regarded as a permanent waste solution, and thus should not be constructed underground and the waste must be retrievable; The facility must have real-time radiation and heat monitoring for early detection of problems with containers; The overall objective of HOSS should be that the amount of releases projected in even severe attacks should be low enough that the storage system would be unattractive as a terrorist target; Placement of individual canisters that makes detection difficult from outside the site boundary. Read more about HOSS.

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December 17, 2018 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Countries breathe life into the Paris climate agreement — RenewEconomy

At the UN summit in Poland, nearly 200 governments agreed rules to put the historic pact into action, but failed to make strong push for faster emissions cuts The post Countries breathe life into the Paris climate agreement appeared first on RenewEconomy.

via Countries breathe life into the Paris climate agreement — RenewEconomy

December 17, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

December 16 Energy News — geoharvey

Opinion: ¶ “UK’s Dream Is Now its Nuclear Nightmare” • A project presented to the world in the 1990s by the UK government as a £2.85 billion triumph of British engineering, capable of recycling thousands of tons of spent nuclear fuel into reusable uranium and plutonium, is shutting down. Proposed to reprocess spent fuel, it […]

via December 16 Energy News — geoharvey

December 17, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Earthquake Near Watts Bar Nuclear Power Station — Mining Awareness +

https://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eventpage/se60247871/executive The orange skulls are nuclear power stations/nuclear facilities. Construction started at Watts Bar Nuclear Power Station on Unit 1: July 20, 1973 and on Unit 2: September 1, 1973. “Unit 2 was 80% complete when construction on both units was stopped in 1985” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watts_Bar_Nuclear_Plant These two nuclear reactor units were eventually finished. So, concrete […]

via Earthquake Near Watts Bar Nuclear Power Station — Mining Awareness +

December 16, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Russia claims US ignoring outreach on nuclear treaty dispute

 https://www.militarytimes.com/flashpoints/2018/12/16/russia-claims-us-ignoring-outreach-on-nuclear-treaty-dispute/

December 16, 2018 Posted by | politics international, Russia, USA | Leave a comment

Iranian hackers take aim at foreign nuclear experts and US official

s  Tehran-backed group called ‘Charming Kitten’ increased cyber attacks following Trump sanctions, The National ,Associated Press
December 16, 2018  
Government-backed Iranian hackers scrambled to break into the personal emails of US Treasury officials after harsh economic sanctions were reimposed on Tehran last month, a cybersecurity group said.

The hacking group, nicknamed Charming Kitten, also took aim at foreign nuclear experts in data tracked by Certfa analysts in the UK.

In another sign of how deeply cyber espionage is woven into the fabric of US-Iranian relations, nuclear deal defenders and detractors, Arab atomic scientists, Iranian civil society figures and Washington think-tank employees were on the hackers’ hit list.

US President Donald Trump placed sanctions on Iran’s energy, shipping, shipbuilding and financial sectors on November 4.

“Presumably, some of this is about figuring out what is going on with sanctions,” Frederick Kagan, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said………https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/iranian-hackers-take-aim-at-foreign-nuclear-experts-and-us-officials-1.803259

December 16, 2018 Posted by | Iran, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

Some good news in the climate battle – over 1000 institutions to divest from fossil fuels

Climate change: More than 1000 institutions pledge to withdraw investment from fossil fuels https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/fossil-fuels-divest-climate-change-global-warming-emissions-campaign-a8681931.html ‘This is a moral movement as well as a financial one,’ campaigners say Josh Gabbatiss Science Correspondent @josh_gabbatiss 14 Dec 18, Governments, universities and banks have quit fossil fuels in their hundreds after a global campaign to convince institutions to pull their investments.

A milestone achievement has been announced at key climate talks taking place in Poland as the initiative persuaded 1,000 institutions opting to divest from coal, oil, and gas companies.

The total sum of money being withdrawn since the campaign began in 2012 is now approaching $8 trillion (£6.3 trillion).

Pressure is mounting for nations and businesses to eradicate fossil fuels altogether after scientists warned it was the only way to avoid disastrous global warming within decades.

However, efforts to arrive at international agreements have stalled at the COP24 summit as negotiators failed to reach a compromise on issues like green finance.

“While diplomats at the UN climate talks are having a hard time making progress, our movement has changed how society perceives the role of fossil fuel corporations and is actively keeping fossil fuels in the ground,” said May Boeve, executive director of 350.org, the group running the campaign.

Pledges to divest from fossil fuels now span 37 countries, and include major capital cities such as New York, as well as mainstream banks and insurance companies.

In July Ireland became the world’s first country to make a pledge to sell off the fossil fuel components in its €8bn (£7.2bn) national investment fund.

Meanwhile hundreds of MPs from across the political spectrum in the UK have called for fossil fuel investments to be dropped from their pension funds

Faith organisations such as the Quakers and the Church of England have led the charge, accounting for nearly 30 per cent of the divesters.

“This is a moral movement as well as a financial one,” said 350.orgorganiser Nico Haeringer, who supports divesting groups around the world.

“Just five years ago we had 181 divestment commitments and $50bn shifted away from polluting industries and today we’re over 1000 and approaching $8tn.”\Miriam Frank, a community organiser of a local campaign, attended the announcement at COP24.

“Divesting the Hebrew University’s investments from fossil fuels contributes to weakening the legitimacy of the fossil fuel industry, by calling them out for the harm they cause to our planet and the exploitation of people,” she said.

The campaigners said their goals were to get millions of people directly involved in fighting against climate change, and reduce the power of the fossil fuel industry over politicians and climate policy.

They say that early reports suggest divestment is already having an impact on fossil fuel share prices, and may have helped accelerate a decline in coal.

Nations are expected to set firm targets to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 at the latest, and by this date 350.org wants to achieve $12tn in divested assets.

December 15, 2018 Posted by | climate change, UK | Leave a comment

Radioactive fallout killed up to 690,000 Americans from 1951 to 1973.

In the 1950s, the U.S. government downplayed the danger of radioactive fallout, asserting that all radioactivity was confined to the Nevada test site. Despite this, a national estimate attributed 49,000 cancer deaths to nuclear testing in the area.

But the results of new research suggest that this number is woefully inaccurate. Using a novel method, and today’s improved understanding of radioactive fallout, Keith Meyers from the University of Arizona discovered that U.S. nuclear testing was responsible for the deaths of at least as many — and likely more — as those killed by the nuclear bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Specifically, between 340,000 and 690,000 Americans died from radioactive fallout from 1951 to 1973.

At least 340,000 Americans died from radioactive fallout between 1951 and 1973 https://bigthink.com/politics-current-affairs/new-estimate-deaths-from-us-nuclear-tests?rebelltitem=2#rebelltitem2 Domestic nuclear testing wreaked havoc on thousands of families.   

  • Hiroshima and Nagasaki resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands. But new research shows that domestic U.S. nuclear tests likely killed more.
  • The new research tracked an unlikely vector for radioactive transmission: dairy cows.
  • The study serves as a reminder of the insidious and deadly nature of nuclear weapons.

When we think of nuclear disasters, a few names probably come to mind. There’s the Chernobyl disaster, which killed around 27,000 people, although estimates are fuzzy. After Fukushima, there were no deaths due to radiation poisoning, but this event occurred relatively recently, and radiation poisoning often kills slowly over decades. When the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, estimates put the death toll at around 200,000 people, but again, exact numbers are difficult to calculate.

One name that almost certainly didn’t come to mind is Nevada. When the Soviet Union detonated their first atomic bomb in 1949, the U.S. was shocked into action. America’s prior nuclear testing had been carried out in the Pacific, but it was logistically slow and costly to conduct tests there. In order to maintain dominance over the growing Soviet threat, the U.S. selected a 1,375 square-mile area in Nye County, Nevada.

This was an ideal spot for several reasons. It was closer than Bikini Atoll. The weather was predictable and very dry, reducing the risk that radioactive fallout would be dispersed by rainstorms. It was sparsely populated. There was an understanding that there would be some amount of risk posed to nearby civilians, but it was deemed acceptable at the time. The trouble is, our understanding of radioactive fallout was still in its infancy. It was a catch-22; the only way to learn more was to test nuclear weapons.

In the 1950s, the U.S. government downplayed the danger of radioactive fallout, asserting that all radioactivity was confined to the Nevada test site. Despite this, a national estimate attributed 49,000 cancer deaths to nuclear testing in the area.

But the results of new research suggest that this number is woefully inaccurate. Using a novel method, and today’s improved understanding of radioactive fallout, Keith Meyers from the University of Arizona discovered that U.S. nuclear testing was responsible for the deaths of at least as many — and likely more — as those killed by the nuclear bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Specifically, between 340,000 and 690,000 Americans died from radioactive fallout from 1951 to 1973.

Prior studies generally looked at the areas surrounded the Nevada test site and estimated the deaths caused by fallout from the area. This number was relatively low, owing to the dry, predictable weather mentioned earlier. However, the bulk of the deaths were actually dispersed throughout the country, primarily in the Midwest and Northeast regions. These deaths were caused by an unfortunate synergy between meteorology, radiation, and — perhaps oddly enough — cows.

Out of all the radioactive elements produced by a nuclear explosion, iodine-131 was the biggest killer. I-131 has an eight-day half-life, tends to accumulate in the thyroid gland, and emits beta and gamma radiation. While alpha radiation is generally weak and doesn’t penetrate material very well, beta and gamma radiation are highly energetic and shoot through clothing and flesh, ripping up DNA as it goes along.

Prior studies had examined the radioactive fallout dispersed by low-altitude winds, which would generally settle around the Nevada test site. However, a significant amount of I-131 was caught up in high-altitude winds. These winds carried the radioactive particles to other regions of the U.S., where it mixed with rain clouds.

The now-radioactive rain fell onto the grasslands in the Midwest and Northeast. Then, cows ate the now-radioactive grass. The cows then produced radioactive milk. Dairy practices during the study period were different than they are today — most people drank milk that had recently been extracted from local cows.

Thanks to a National Cancer Institute database that contains broad data on radiation exposure, Meyers was able to track the amount of I-131 found in local milk and compare this with the number and nature of deaths on a county level. In this way, Meyers was able to determine that a significant number of these deaths were due to drinking poisoned milk. These civilians would have had no idea that the milk they were drinking had been irradiated by nuclear explosions hundreds of miles away.

Ironically, the area around the Nevada test site didn’t have this problem. Although they too drank fresh milk from local cows, they imported hay from other parts of the country. Since their cows weren’t eating irradiated hay, the local Nevadans took in significantly less radioactive material than their less-fortunate, distant countrymen.

Although our understanding of radiation and nuclear fallout is much improved since the dawn of the nuclear age, the study serves as a warning of the insidious nature of nuclear weapons. Containing nuclear fallout is challenging, even when you know where all of the vectors of radioactive transmission are. The complexity and intertwining nature of our ecological and social systems means that words like “clean,” “precise,” or “surgical” will likely never apply to nuclear weapons.

 

 

December 15, 2018 Posted by | radiation, USA, weapons and war | 2 Comments

Makoma Lekalakala: ‘There should be no nuclear in climate financing’

https://www.dw.com/en/there-should-be-no-nuclear-in-climate-financing/a-46740978-14 Dec 18, Prize-winning South African activist Makoma Lekalakala’s successful legal battle to stop a secret nuclear power deal in her homeland won her international acclaim. She tells DW about defending the environment in court.

Makoma Lekalakala: My major campaigning issue, it’s mitigation against climate change and with a specific focus on electricity generation in the country [South Africa] — it’s almost 90 percent from coal. And we know that coal is a major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions, so our campaign has been for a just transition towards a low carbon development.

We’re demanding a greater investment in renewable energy technologies, particularly that we can have a decentralized electricity system where solar and wind would play a major role.

The technology, we need a lot of investment in that so that we can be able to eradicate energy poverty. Local people can have their own socially-owned and community-owned renewable energy projects and co-operatives so that they can have access to electricity.

For us to be able to do that, a just transition for us would mean phasing out coal electricity generation and having no nuclear at all as part of the energy mix, and having wind and solar being increased as part of our energy mix.

Our main mission is for me to ensure that, or to advocate that, there should be no nuclear in climate financing.

Why are you against nuclear power?

Earth Life is an anti-nuclear organization, because we believe that nuclear, it’s not safe. It’s an old technology that comes from the war era and it’s not even safe for us to be able to use for various reasons. It’s not economic, it’s quite expensive, it’s not safe, it’s quite dangerous.

We can remember all the accidents that have taken place, from Fukushima, from Three Mile Island, and nuclear also leaves a legacy of radioactiveness for hundreds and hundreds of years to come.

South Africa has got a principal policy on having an energy mix as part of the energy supply of the country. However, that legislation and regulations imply that if we have an energy mix we should also decide what kind of energy we would want to be part of the mix.

What we have in South Africa, which is written in the legislation, is that the energy choice should be least cost. That is having less externalized costs to the environment, to the atmosphere.

This is not the case around nuclear. And what we’ve seen is that the government also had flouted regulations and legislation by forcing some Africans to accept nuclear power.

Can you tell us more about your legal battle against the controversial secret nuclear power deal between South Africa and Russia? 

In 2015 October, Earth Life Africa filed papers against the state president, against the Department of Energy, against the National Energy Regulator of South Africa, because we felt that these three institutions were supposed to be able to forward the information that was public information. It was suspected that the political elites in the country were actually the drivers of the nuclear deal.

We went to the court based on the legislative and regulatory processes in the country that were flouted, not followed, because all the other agreements were done in secret. That’s how the nuclear industry operates.

So we were vindicated that all the processes in the constitution, our regulations, were not followed at all in favor of the Russians to get to build or to construct the nuclear reactors.

One of the main issues why we opposed, or why we are opposing nuclear energy, is that we don’t want to turn our country, our continent and the world as a radioactive zone where life cannot exist.

What are the main environmental issues in South Africa?

The main environmental issue in South Africa, it’s pollution. As we speak now, South Africans, particularly in hotspot pollution areas, are unable to breathe. In Mpumalanga, where there’s almost about 11 coal-fired power stations and coal mines, this is an area that is very highly polluted and it’s one of the most polluted areas in the world.

Makoma Lekalakala is director of Earthlife Africa’s Johannesburg branch, an environmental non-profit organization. Together with Liziwe McDaid, she won the Goldman Environmental Prize for 2018 for stopping a controversial nuclear power deal between South Africa and Russia.

This interview was conducted by Louise Osborne and edited by Melanie Hall.

December 15, 2018 Posted by | climate change, South Africa | Leave a comment

USA’s absolute dilemma over radioactive trash – used nuclear fuel

What to do with used nuclear fuel, from Illinois to California https://thebulletin.org/2018/12/what-to-do-with-used-nuclear-fuel-from-illinois-to-california/ By Jeff Terry, December 14, 2018 The largest operator of nuclear power plants in the United States, Exelon, closed two nuclear reactors in the city of Zion, Illinois in 1998 because of low demand, which in turn led to poor operating economics. Ever since, these two pressurized water reactors have sat unused on the Lake Michigan shoreline just north of Chicago. Exelon contracted the company EnergySolutions to decontaminate and decommission the site, and this fall it announced it was nearly done, with demolition of the two structures almost complete.

These two closed reactors have been a thorn in Zion’s side since they shut down 20 years ago. The city lost $18 million in annual property tax revenue when the plants closed, and the shortfall had to be made up by local businesses and residents. Beyond the financial loss, the city can’t use the site for parkland, redevelopment, or anything else. But now that decontamination and decommissioning are nearly complete, Zion should be able to reclaim the land and convert it to beneficial use—right?

Not just yet. There is still spent nuclear fuel at the Zion site—bundles of rods of uranium dioxide pellets contained within Zircaloy metal claddings. These used fuel assemblies have been placed in large cylindrical concrete containers, which will be stored at the site on a 3,000 square-meter pad, an area just larger than half a football field. There they will remain in limbo due to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982. That year, in its infinite wisdom, the US Congress enacted a law saying that “the generators and owners of high-level radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel have the primary responsibility to provide for, and the responsibility to pay the costs of, the interim storage of such waste and spent fuel until such waste and spent fuel is accepted by the Secretary of Energy in accordance with the provisions of this Act.” In other words, the power plant owner—in this case Exelon—has to hang on to the waste until the Energy Department agrees to accept it. The problem is that the Energy Department won’t accept it, because it has never arrived at an acceptable political solution for dealing with used nuclear fuel. Back in the late eighties, Congress designated Yucca Mountain in Nevada as the nation’s nuclear waste repository, but it has been the subject of political battles ever since, leaving the United States with no place for long-term disposal of nuclear waste.

Other countries have dealt with this problem. France reprocesses used nuclear fuel rods, extracting usable uranium and plutonium and immobilizing the leftover radioactive waste in hunks of glass. Finland has created the Onkalo repository for disposal in metal canisters deep underground. But since the US Energy Department doesn’t have a plan for nuclear waste, it is destined to sit at the Zion site for years, if not decades. A similar fate will likely befall the used fuel stored at other closed nuclear plants around the country, like the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in California. As in Zion, the San Onofre plant is located on prime waterfront real estate that local and state government would like to see available for public use as soon as possible.

n general, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and nuclear scientists would prefer to come up with a long-term solution to nuclear waste, meaning one that will last for thousands of years. The Yucca Mountain site was supposed to serve that purpose. But they also recognize that short-term or “interim” storage—good for up to 100 years—may be required. The Energy Department and private companies have floated proposals to use temporary sites around the country for short-term consolidated storage of waste from the current fleet of nuclear reactors. For example, Interim Storage Partners has proposed a consolidated storage site for Andrews County, Texas. Just over a decade ago, the American Physical Society released a comprehensive report, “Consolidated Interim Storage of Commercial Spent Nuclear Fuel,” saying that while it tends to prefer a long-term solution, it does recognize that “Consolidated storage could facilitate the decommissioning of sites with reactors that have been shut down.”

There are many closed nuclear plants in the United States that will undergo decontamination and decommissioning, but the Zion plant is an unusual situation, having nearly reached the point at which the land is entirely recoverable except for the lingering issue of used fuel. It is unreasonable to expect cities and towns to deal with land they can’t use, yet can’t collect tax on. Unfortunately, the problems Zion is about to face are just a harbinger of what is likely to happen around the country.

Proposed interim consolidated waste storage sites will probably face lawsuits from non-governmental organizations that don’t like the idea of nuclear waste being stored at temporary locations. Cities and citizens will also likely object to used nuclear fuel being moved along interstate shipping routes, and sue to stop that from happening. Governors will complain about radioactive materials being shipped into their states. This will all increase the amount of time Zion will have to act as a de facto interim waste storage site, without any of the benefits of being an official storage site, such as the potential to attract jobs in waste disposal and possibly enrichment or reprocessing.

There is, though, another potential option. The used fuel at Zion can be stored on only 3,000 square meters of land, an amount that could easily be found at either of the two Energy Department facilities in Illinois, the Argonne National Laboratory and the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, both located west of Chicago. It should be possible to move the waste from Zion to either of these sites. No interstate shipping would be required. Either site could store the waste in the same storage casks, on a similar pad. Neither Argonne nor Fermilab are expected to close, and even if they did unexpectedly, it would be decades before the land could be reclaimed for other purposes, which would give plenty of time for the waste to be moved again.

Both of these Energy Department facilities have experience handling radioactive materials. Both have strong research groups focused on radiation damage. They have the expertise to monitor and perform research on any potential degradation of the dry concrete storage containers. In terms of land use, security, and availability of expert staff, Illinoisans would be far better off with the waste stored at one of these sites than sitting in Zion on the shore of Lake Michigan.

Storing the waste in this way would even offer a research advantage. The Energy Department could fully study and document the process of taking ownership of the used fuel. It would end up with a model of safe transportation, storage, and monitoring that could be used to finally establish a process for the spent fuel sitting at other American commercial nuclear reactors. Even if the federal government fails to come up with a final disposition site, California could follow the Illinois model, transferring waste from closed nuclear plants like San Onofre to Energy Department sites within the state, or potentially even Defense Department facilities.

As EnergySolutions has now demonstrated in Zion, the private sector has the ability to decontaminate and decommission closed reactor sites. These places can be returned to public use, but only if the Energy Department finally takes title to the used nuclear fuel as it was obligated to do 20 years ago. We are about to have a restored site that cannot be fully used by the local community due to used fuel. It could easily take more than 10 years for interim storage to open elsewhere, and cities and towns should not have to serve as nuclear waste storage sites in the meantime. The Energy Department should consider moving used fuel to its own facilities within the same state.

December 15, 2018 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Space travel enthusiasts show their ignorance of ecology and the dangers of Plutonium 238

I do not have time at the moment to really think about this one, –  But –  a couple of  lovely sentences just leaped out at me:

Plutonium-238 is very special for the fact that it’s a material that poses virtually no danger to anyone unless you do something insane 

we have to put our illogical fears aside 

That’s from this absolute hymn to Plutonium 238  – Forbes 13 Dec 18 – NASA Doesn’t Have Enough Nuclear Fuel For Its Deep Space Missions

 

December 15, 2018 Posted by | space travel, USA | Leave a comment

Trump and Putin could save The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force Treaty, and it’s worth saving

The INF nuclear treaty is worth saving. Trump and Putin should give it a 6-month try. https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2018/12/13/trump-putin-nato-save-landmark-inf-nuclear-treaty-column/2277732002/

Richard Burt and Ellen Tauscher, Dec. 13, 2018

Landmark nuclear treaty can still benefit US, NATO and Russia security. They should delay action for six months and negotiate ways to show compliance. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force Treaty — a key part of the post cold war nuclear system of controls and restraint — is on life support. President Donald Trump announced his desire to withdraw from the 1987 INF pact in October, citing Russian cheating and a desire to deploy missiles against China as motives. German Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly convinced Trump this month to hold off on withdrawal for at least two months so the NATO alliance could act in a more united fashion to either bring Russia back into compliance or show it was trying.

As officials who helped negotiate the last two major strategic arms control agreements, we believe there is a deal to save the treaty and ensure its benefits can continue. This will require creative, serious and genuine negotiations by Washington and Moscow. We know firsthand, however, that negotiating with Russia can lead to surprising and positive results. Such engagement is desperately needed now, and could save a critical part of the post-Cold War arms control system that benefits American security

There’s no doubt that Russia violated INF Treaty  The INF Treaty signed by President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev bans the US and Russia from having land-based missiles with ranges from 500-5500 kilometers. The Treaty helped end the cold war and paved the way for reductions in strategic nuclear weapons. Banning these weapons gave leaders in Russia, Europe and America more time to make decisions in a crisis, and the treaty is worth saving if all sides can show there are fully complying with the deal.

There is no real question that Russia has violated the INF treaty. The United States has been sure of this since 2013 and has been increasingly clear about how Russia has violated the deal. Russia tested its 9M729 cruise missiles from a mobile fixed launcher to a distance of over 500 KM — something allowed by the treaty — and then later tested the same system from a ground-mobile launcher, making the missile a ground-launched system under the terms of INF.

Russia denies the 9M729 missile violates INF and instead accuses the United States of violating the INF by deploying the Mark-41 missile launcher as part of NATO missile defenses in Europe. The Mk-41 on shore is used to launch missile defense interceptors, but is used by the U.S. Navy on ships to launch offensive missiles. Russia claims this violates INF. Washington says the Mk-41 launcher for NATO’s defense is physically capable of holding canisters to launch offensive missiles like the Tomahawk cruise missile, but the land-based variant deployed in NATO is not equipped with firing software. Washington claims this makes the launcher legal, but this explanation gives Moscow little comfort.

For five years, the two countries have tried to get the other to admit their violation. That approach has failed and the treaty is now at risk of disappearing. The only way to save it — something both countries say they want — is for both to go beyond what the treaty requires to assure the other that it is in compliance.

Over the last year, former officials and experts from Russia and the United States have met privately to explore what an extra transparency regime might look like. Russian former military officials have said that the 9M729 should be made available for both inspection and even taken apart for American inspectors to determine if it can travel over 500km. While not an official Russia government offer, it seems unlikely that former officials would suggest such a thing without a sense that it might be possible.

The INF Treaty is beneficial and worth saving

Former American officials, for their part, have said NATO missile defense sites could be made available for visits by Russian officials to show no offensive missiles deployed on site. Other more extreme steps might be to modify the Mk-41 launcher so that it cannot physically hold or launch offensive missiles.

This deal is worth official exploration. Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin should pledge not to take any unilateral steps on the INF Treaty — including withdrawal — for at least six months. They should send senior officials from their militaries, the State and Defense departments, and the White House and Kremlin to negotiate on a continual basis to see if such a deal is technically feasible. The teams should be directed to produce a draft deal for both presidents and for NATO — whose security is most at risk and whose members will need to agree to steps providing transparency over NATO missile defense sites — in three months for official consideration.

Trying to save the INF treaty can have important benefits for the United States and its NATO allies. Now that the US has publicly released details of Russia violations, European NATO states may be able to bring more pressure on Russia to come back into compliance. If in the end, Russia’s violations cannot be reversed, making these efforts will show it is a lack of political will, and not technical problems, that led to the treaty’s demise. This will in itself help NATO allies as they wrestle with how to manage security and stability in a post-INF world.

Treaties should only remain in force if they benefit American and allied security, and sometimes treaties outlive their usefulness. But the INF still can protect these interests, and Russian security as well, if all sides are prepared to show that they remain in compliance.

Richard Burt is for the former ambassador to Germany and led the 1991 START Agreement talks. Ellen Tauscher is the former undersecretary of state for arms control and international security and oversaw negotiation of the New START Treaty. Both are members of the Nuclear Crisis Group based in Washington.

December 15, 2018 Posted by | politics international, Russia, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Nuclear power is no answer to global heating – even if only because nuclear power is unaffordable

Want to solve climate problem? Nuclear isn’t the answer https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/energy/want-to-solve-climate-problem-nuclear-isn-t-the-answer-62428

Alternatives to nuclear energy, in particular renewable sources of electricity like wind and solar energy, have become drastically cheaper. By M V RamanaL 10 December 2018 “It is nuclear power that will be the main tool to reduce emissions” said Poland’s Minister of Energy, Krzysztof Tchórzewski, in keynote remarks at a meeting during the 24th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 24) being held in Katowice, Poland. There is more than a little irony in that statement.

To start with, Poland, which is invested heavily in coal, has no nuclear power plants; its current plans call for starting nuclear power generation in 2030. That projection has to be taken with more than a pinch of salt. In 2002, even the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), whose official objective is “to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy”, concluded that nuclear power in Poland was not viable because of “insufficient economic competitiveness of nuclear plants, availability of cheaper alternatives and the absence of environmental motivation”.

The second irony was that Tchórzewski was speaking at an event organised by an initiative called Nuclear Innovation: Clean Energy Future, that was set up in May 2018 by the country that is withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, the United States of America. The United States, under the Trump administration, has been engaged in the perverse pursuit of various efforts that will result in increased emissions. Such an administration touting nuclear power suggests a basis for scepticism about nuclear energy being a tool to reduce emissions.

The final, and the most important, irony is that nuclear energy is fading in importance globally. The peak in nuclear power’s share of global electricity generation was 17.5 percent in 1996. Since then this fraction has steadily declined, reaching 10.3 percent in 2017. For a variety of reasons, the downward trend is expected to continue.

Although nuclear energy’s share of electricity generation has been continuously declining, expectations for how nuclear energy will fare in the future went up in the first decade of this millennium, thanks to propaganda from nuclear advocates about an impending nuclear renaissance. That supposed resurgence came to a crashing halt after multiple devastating accidents at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan that started in 2011, which reminded the world about the hazardous technology involved in the generation of nuclear power. Even the IAEA’s average projections for nuclear power for the year 2050 have decreased from 1,002 gigawatts (GW) as laid out in 2010 to 552 GW in its 2018 publication.

This decline reflects the corresponding declines in future projections of nuclear power in many individual countries as exemplified by India and China. In 2010, the secretary of India’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) announced a target of 35 GW by 2020. The DAE is nowhere near that target and, as of December 2018, the current capacity is only 6.8 GW. If all the currently under-construction plants are ready in time, the total installed capacity will reach 13.5 GW by 2024-25, a far cry from earlier projections.

In China, the country constructing the largest number of nuclear plants, the official target as of 2010 was 70 GW by 2020, and the expectation was that “reaching 70GW before 2020 will not be a big problem”. That proved not to be the case and China’s current target for 2020 is only 58 GW and it is unlikely to meet that target.

India and China are often considered the poster children for nuclear energy growth—and even there the picture is quite dismal. The outlook in other countries is worse. Operating nuclear capacity in the two countries with the largest deployments of nuclear power plants, the United States and France, is expected to decline.

What is behind this trend? Fukushima is only a minor part of the story. The primary reason is that nuclear power is no longer financially viable. Because they are hugely expensive, it has been known for a while that building new nuclear power plants makes little economic sense. What has changed in the last decade is that it is not just constructing new reactors, but just operating one, even one that is old and has its capital costs paid off, that has ceased to make economic sense.

This is because alternatives to nuclear energy, in particular renewable sources of electricity like wind and solar energy, have become drastically cheaper. In contrast, just about every nuclear plant that was constructed in the last decade has proven more expensive than initially projected.

This economic reality adds to the other well-known problems associated with nuclear energy—the absence of any demonstrated solutions to managing radioactive waste in the long run, the linkage with nuclear weapons, and the potential for catastrophic accidents. The bottom line is that nuclear power cannot be a tool to decrease emissions. If we want to solve the climate problem, we will have to look elsewhere.

December 15, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, business and costs, climate change | 1 Comment

The drying of soils due to climate change is shrinking the world’s water supply

The long dry: why the world’s water supply is shrinking, EurekAlert, : 13-DEC-2018

Global water supplies are shrinking, even as rainfall is rising; the culprit? The drying of soils due to climate change

UNIVERSITY OF NEW SOUTH WALES A global study has found a paradox: our water supplies are shrinking at the same time as climate change is generating more intense rain. And the culprit is the drying of soils, say researchers, pointing to a world where drought-like conditions will become the new normal, especially in regions that are already dry.

The study – the most exhaustive global analysis of rainfall and rivers – was conducted by a team led by Professor Ashish Sharma at Australia’s University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney. It relied on actual data from 43,000 rainfall stations and 5,300 river monitoring sites in 160 countries, instead of basing its findings on model simulations of a future climate, which can be uncertain and at times questionable

“This is something that has been missed,” said Sharma, an ARC Future Fellow at UNSW’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “We expected rainfall to increase, since warmer air stores more moisture – and that is what climate models predicted too. What we did not expect is that, despite all the extra rain everywhere in the world, is that the large rivers are drying out.

“We believe the cause is the drying of soils in our catchments. Where once these were moist before a storm event – allowing excess rainfall to run-off into rivers – they are now drier and soak up more of the rain, so less water makes it as flow.

“Less water into our rivers means less water for cities and farms. And drier soils means farmers need more water to grow the same crops. Worse, this pattern is repeated all over the world, assuming serious proportions in places that were already dry. It is extremely concerning,” he added.

For every 100 raindrops that fall on land, only 36 drops are ‘blue water’ – the rainfall that enters lakes, rivers and aquifers – and therefore, all the water extracted for human needs. The remaining two thirds of rainfall is mostly retained as soil moisture – known as ‘green water’ – and used by the landscape and the ecosystem.

As warming temperatures cause more water to evaporate from soils, those dry soils are absorbing more of the rainfall when it does occur – leaving less ‘blue water’ for human use.

“It’s a double whammy,” said Sharma. “Less water is ending up where we can store it for later use. At the same time, more rain is overwhelming drainage infrastructure in towns and cities, leading to more urban flooding.”

Professor Mark Hoffman, UNSW’s Dean of Engineering, welcomed Sharma’s research and called for a global conversation about how to deal with this unfolding scenario, especially in Australia, which is already the driest inhabited continent (apart from Antarctica).

“It’s clear there’s no simple fix, so we need to start preparing for this,” he said. “Climate change keeps delivering us unpleasant surprises. Nevertheless, as engineers, our role is to identify the problem and develop solutions. Knowing the problem is often half the battle, and this study has definitely identified some major ones.”

The findings were made over the past four years, in research that appeared in Nature GeoscienceGeophysical Research LettersScientific Reports and, most recently, in the American Geophysical Union’s Water Resources Research………..

Sharma said the answer was not just more dams. “Re-engineering solutions are not simple, they have to be analysed on a region-by-region basis, looking at the costs and the benefits, looking at the change expected into the future, while also studying past projects so mistakes are not repeated. There are no silver bullets. Any large-scale re-engineering project will require significant investment, but the cost of inaction could be monstrous.”

In urban areas, the reverse will be needed: flooding is becoming more common and more intense. Global economic losses from flooding have risen from an average of $500 million a year in the 1980s to around $20 billion annually by 2010; by 2013, this rose to more than US$50 billion. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change expects this to more than double in the next 20 years as extreme storms and rainfall intensify and growing numbers of people move into urban centres.

Adapting to this is possible, but will require large-scale re-engineering of many cities, says Sharma. “Tokyo used to get clobbered by floods every year, but they built a massive underground tank beneath the city that stores the floodwater, and releases it later. You never see floods there now.” https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-12/uons-tld121118.php

December 15, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, Reference | Leave a comment

Time to jolt people out of their apathy about danger of nuclear war

It’s Time to Face Up to Our Nuclear Reality

The made-for-TV movie The Day After had an enormous impact on America’s national conversation about nuclear weapons in 1983. Resuming that conversation today is essential, and the movie holds some lessons about what that would take. The Nation, By Dawn Stover–  14 Dec 18 This article originally appeared as part of a special section on The Day After at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists “…….The television movie The Day After depicted a full-scale nuclear war and its impacts on people living in and around Kansas City.

It became something of a community project in picturesque Lawrence, 40 miles west of Kansas City, where much of the movie was filmed. Thousands of local residents—including students and faculty from the University of Kansas—were recruited as extras for the movie; about 65 of the 80 speaking parts were cast locally. The use of locals was intentional, because the moviemakers wanted to show the grim consequences of a nuclear war for real Middle Americans, living in the real middle of the country. By the time the movie ends, almost all of the main characters are dead or dying.

ABC broadcast The Day After on November 20, 1983, with no commercial breaks during the final hour. More than 100 million people saw it—nearly two-thirds of the total viewing audience. It remains one of the most-watched television programs of all time. Brandon Stoddard, then-president of ABC’s motion picture division, called it “the most important movie we’ve ever done.” The Washington Post later described it as “a profound TV moment.” It was arguably the most effective public-service announcement in history.

It was also a turning point for foreign policy. Thirty-five years ago, the United States and the Soviet Union were in a nuclear arms race that had taken them to the brink of war. The Day After was a piercing wake-up shriek, not just for the general public but also for then-President Ronald Reagan. Shortly after he saw the film, Reagan gave a speech saying that he, too, had a dream: that nuclear weapons would be “banished from the face of the Earth.” A few years later, Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the first agreement that provided for the elimination of an entire category of nuclear weapons. By the late 1990s, American and Russian leaders had created a stable, treaty-based arms-control infrastructure and expected it to continue improving over time.

Now, however, a long era of nuclear restraint appears to be nearing an end. Tensions between the United States and Russia have risen to levels not seen in decades. . Alleging treaty violations by Russia, the White House has announced plans to withdraw from the INF Treaty. Both countries are moving forward with the enormously expensive refurbishment of old and development of new nuclear weapons—a process euphemized as “nuclear modernization.” Leaders on both sides have made inflammatory statements, and no serious negotiations have taken place in recent years.

There are striking parallels between the security situations today and 35 years ago, with one major discordance: Today, nuclear weapons are seldom a front-burner concern, largely being forgotten, underestimated, or ignored by the American public. The United States desperately needs a fresh national conversation about the born-again nuclear-arms race—a conversation loud enough to catch the attention of the White House and the Kremlin and lead to resumed dialogue. A look back at The Day After and the role played by ordinary citizens in a small Midwestern city shows how the risk of nuclear war took center stage in 1983, and what it would take for that to happen again in 2018.

[Article goes on to detail the story]……

It is no coincidence that nuclear war begins in The Day After with a gradually escalating conflict in Europe. In one scene, viewers hear a Soviet official mention the “coordinated movement of the Pershing II launchers.”

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty that Reagan and Gorbachev signed in 1987 resolved that conflict, banning all ground-launched and air-launched nuclear and conventional missiles (and their launchers) with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, or 310 to 3,420 miles. However, Trump said in October that he plans to withdraw from the treaty, and on December 4 Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States would withdraw in 60 days if Russia continues its alleged non-compliance. Gorbachev and Shultz, in a Washington Post op-ed published that day, warned that “[a]bandoning the INF Treaty would be a step toward a new arms race, undermining strategic stability and increasing the threat of miscalculation or technical failure leading to an immensely destructive war.”………

A BRIGHT TOMORROW?

In one scene in The Day After, a pregnant woman who has taken shelter in the Lawrence hospital along with fallout victims tells her doctor that her overdue baby doesn’t want to be born. You’re holding back hope, he says.

“Hope for what?” she asks. “We knew the score. We knew all about bombs. We knew all about fallout. We knew this could happen for 40 years. Nobody was interested.”

It won’t be long before another 40 years have passed. Americans have not yet perished in a nuclear war or its aftermath, but a new arms race is beginning and the potential for an intentional or accidental nuclear war seems to be rising…….. https://www.thenation.com/article/nuclear-weapons-bulletin-atomic-scientists/

December 15, 2018 Posted by | culture and arts, media, Resources -audiovicual | Leave a comment