Category Archives: Nuclear Power

Sellafield safety concerns uncovered by BBC Panorama

BBC News reports:

SellafieldA BBC investigation has uncovered a catalogue of safety concerns at the UK’s most hazardous nuclear site.

Panorama found parts of Sellafield regularly have too few staff to operate safely and that radioactive materials have been stored in degrading plastic bottles.

The programme was told that parts of the facility are dangerously rundown.

Sellafield says the site in Cumbria is safe and has been improved with significant investment in recent years.

The Panorama investigation was prompted by a whistle-blower – a former senior manager who was worried by conditions.

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Hinkley Point: A Nuclear Disaster?

Afshin Rattansi speaks to Oliver Tickell, the contributing editor of the Ecologist magazine, regarding plans for Hinkley Point nuclear power station ahead of EDF’s boss appearing before the UK Parliament this week. (Going Underground)

Chernobyl Nuclear Plant Will Remain a Threat for 3,000 Years

Matthew Schofield reports for McClachty:

Twenty years after the disaster, Yuri Andreyev, a former senior engineer at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, pointed to the destroyed Reactor No. 4 in a photo made a few hours after the April 26, 1986, explosion. // Efrem Lukatsky / AP Before the fire, the vomiting, the deaths and the vanishing home, it was the promise of bumper cars that captured the imagination of the boys.

It was 30 years ago that Pripyat and the nearby Chernobyl nuclear plant became synonymous with nuclear disaster, that the word Chernobyl came to mean more than just a little village in rural Ukraine, and this place became more than just another spot in the shadowy Soviet Union.

Even 30 years later – 25 years after the country that built it ceased to exist – the full damage of that day is still argued.

Death toll estimates run from hundreds to millions. The area near the reactor is both a teeming wildlife refuge and an irradiated ghost-scape. Much of eastern and central Europe continues to deal with fallout aftermath. The infamous Reactor Number 4 remains a problem that is neither solved nor solvable.

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Tokyo Electric executives to be charged over Fukushima nuclear disaster

Kentaro Hamada and Osamu Tsukimori report for Reuters:

A Japanese civilian judiciary panel on Friday forced prosecutors to indict three former Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) executives for failing to take measures to prevent the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The decision is unlikely to lead to a conviction of the former executives, after prosecutors twice said they would not bring charges, but means they will be summoned to appear in court to give evidence.

Tokyo prosecutors in January rejected the panel’s judgment that the three should be charged, citing insufficient evidence. But the 11 unidentified citizens on the panel forced the indictment after a second vote, which makes an indictment mandatory.

The three are former chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 75, and former executives Sakae Muto, 65, and Ichiro Takekuro, 69.

Citizens’ panels, made up of residents selected by lottery, are a rarely used but high-profile feature of Japan’s legal system introduced after World War Two to curb bureaucratic overreach.

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The Long Shadow of Chernobyl

John Vidal wrote for the Guardian in July 2014:

Victor Gaydack is now in his 70s and lives in a Kiev suburb. In April 1986 he was a major in the Russian army, on duty when reactor four at Chernobyl exploded. He was one of tens of thousands of fit, young “liquidators” sent in from all over the Soviet Union to try to make safe the stricken reactor. Since the accident, Gaydack has suffered two heart attacks, and developed severe stomach cancer.

Who is to say that Gaydack’s conditions were not caused by the accident or would have happened without the explosion? Or that the many mentally disabled Belarussian children and the thousands of people born in the fallout region who today suffer from thyroid cancers and congenital diseases were not also Chernobyl victims? Estimates of the eventual deaths, cancers, heart diseases, ailments and malformations that will eventually result from the accident vary enormously and are still bitterly contested by scientists.

What is certain is that about 350,000 people like Gaydack were evacuated and resettled from the high-level 2,600 square kilometre contamination zone that stretches from Ukraine into Belarus and Russia. It is certain, too, that the accident cost tens of billions of dollars in today’s money and that the area around the plant will be psychologically cursed for hundreds, if not tens of thousands of years.

What has been less understood however is that Chernobyl changed the course of the world’s history and that its long shadow will hang over nuclear power for centuries. In an essay in National Geographic photographer Gerd Ludwig’s new book of the aftermath of the accident, Mikhail Gorbachev, the last president of the Soviet Union and on whose watch Chernobyl occurred, makes it clear – not for the first time – that the accident greatly accelerated the end of Soviet Union.’

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How Solar Power Could Slay the Fossil Fuel Empire by 2030

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Vice Motherboard:

‘In just 15 years, the world as we know it will have transformed forever. The ​age of oil, gas, coal and nuclear will be over. A new age of clean power and smarter cars will fundamentally, totally, and permanently disrupt the existing fossil fuel-dependent industrial infrastructure in a way that even the most starry-eyed proponents of ‘green energy’ could never have imagined.

These are not the airy-fairy hopes of a tree-hugging hippy living off the land in an eco-commune. It’s the startling verdict of ​Tony Seba, a lecturer in business entrepreneurship, disruption and clean energy at Stanford University and a serial Silicon Valley entrepreneur.

Seba began his career at Cisco Systems in 1993, where he predicted the internet-fueled mobile revolution at a time when most telecoms experts were warning of the impossibility of building an Internet the size of the US, let alone the world. Now he is predicting the “inevitable” disruption of the fossil fuel infrastructure.

Seba’s thesis, set out in more detail in his new book Clean Disruption of Energy and Transportation, is that by 2030 “the industrial age of energy and transportation will be over,” swept away by “exponentially improving technologies such as solar, electric vehicles, and self-driving cars.”’

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Mining the Moon

More related videos from Explaining the Future:

The Top Censored Stories of 2014: Interview with Mickey Huff

Abby Martin interviews, Mickey Huff, Director of Project Censored, about some of the top 25 censored stories of 2014, covering everything from the lack of police brutality statistics to the impact of ocean acidification.’ (Breaking the Set)

Japanese Governor Says It’s Too Soon To Restart Nuclear Reactors After Fukushima

Mari Yamaguchi reports for the Associated Press:

‘A Japanese governor said Wednesday the country should not restart any nuclear plants until the cause of the Fukushima meltdown is fully understood and nearby communities have emergency plans that can effectively respond to another major accident.

Hirohiko Izumida, governor of central Niigata prefecture — home to the seven-reactor Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant — said regulators look at equipment but don’t evaluate local evacuation plans.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing to restart two reactors in southern Japan that last month were the first to be approved under stricter safety requirements introduced after the Fukushima disaster. Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka has called the new standard one of the world’s highest.

Abe has said he will restart all reactors deemed safe, reversing the previous government’s policy of phasing out nuclear power.’

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Taxpayer-Guaranteed: Nuclear Power’s Insanities

Ralph Nader writes for CounterPunch:

‘The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) – the corporate lobbyist in Washington, D.C. for the disintegrating atomic power industry – doesn’t have to worry about repercussions from the negative impacts of nuclear power. For nuclear power is a government/taxpayer-guaranteed boondoggle whose staggering costs, incurred and deferred, are absorbed by American taxpayers via a supine government regulatory and subsidy apparatus.’

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Effects Of Radiation From The Fukushima Disaster On The Ecosystem Are Being Slowly Revealed

Chris Pash reports for Business Insider:

‘A range of scientific studies at Fukushima have begun to reveal the impact on the natural world from the radiation leaks at the power station in Japan caused by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011. Biological samples were obtained only after extensive delays following the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant meltdown, limiting the information which could be gained about the impact of that disaster. Scientists, determined not to repeat the shortcomings of the Chernobyl studies, began gathering biological information only a few months after the meltdown of the Daiichi power plant in 2011.

Results of these studies are now beginning to reveal serious biological effects of the Fukushima radiation on non-human organisms ranging from plants to butterflies to birds. A series of articles summarising these studies has now been published in the Journal of Heredity. These describe widespread impacts, ranging from population declines to genetic damage to responses by the repair mechanisms that help organisms cope with radiation exposure. “A growing body of empirical results from studies of birds, monkeys, butterflies, and other insects suggests that some species have been significantly impacted by the radioactive releases related to the Fukushima disaster,” says Dr Timothy Mousseau of the University of South Carolina, lead author of one of the studies.’

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VICE Mini-Documentary on Fukushima

£40m ‘bribe’ for communities to consider radioactive waste dump beneath them

Emily Godsen reports for The Telegraph:

‘Communities are to be paid £1m a year simply to discuss the possibility of having a radioactive dump built beneath them, under the latest Government attempts to find a burial site for Britain’s nuclear waste.

Areas which subsequently allow test drilling to take place could reap a total of £40m in payments with “no strings attached” before deciding whether to proceed with the project.

Ministers were accused of opting for a “bribing and bullying” strategy after unveiling the plans and admitting that councils in areas considering hosting the dump would no longer have a guaranteed veto to block its construction.’

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Photos: 30 Years After Chernobyl’s Meltdown

Doug Bierend writes for Wired:

Part of the mystery and terror of the Chernobyl disaster is the invisibility of the threat. The explosion at the Vladimir Ilyich Lenin nuclear power plant released more radiation than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, and one might never know they were being poisoned until months, even years later. Veteran photographer Gerd Ludwig’s spent 20 years photographing the area, chronicling the ongoing consequences of the radioactive release.

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Chomsky: From Hiroshima to Fukushima, Vietnam to Fallujah, State Power Ignores Its Massive Harm

‘World-renowned political dissident, linguist, author and MITProfessor Noam Chomsky traveled to Japan last week ahead of the three-year anniversary of the Fukushima crisis. Chomsky, now 85 years old, met with Fukushima survivors, including families who evacuated the area after the meltdown. “[It’s] particularly horrifying that this is happening in Japan with its unique, horrendous experiences with the impact of nuclear explosions, which we don’t have to discuss,” Chomsky says. “And it’s particularly horrifying when happening to children — but unfortunately, this is what happens all the time.”‘ (Democracy Now!)

If Successful, Fukushima Class Actions Could Wipe Out General Electric

Elizabeth Warmerdam reports for Courthouse News:

General Electric faces two multibillion-dollar class actions from people hurt by the Fukushima nuclear disaster and its aftermath, who say GE and GE-Hitachi failed to properly design and maintain the power plant. One 2-page summons and notice in New York County Supreme Court demands compensatory damages of at least $3 million per plaintiff, but does not estimate the size of the class.

No one died in the radiation leak set off by a tsunami, but more than 100,000 people were evacuated.  At $3 million apiece, damages would come to $300 billion. If granted, such an award could wipe out General Electric, which Forbes calls the second-largest company in the world. GE has 10 billion shares outstanding, and is trading at about $26, giving it a market capitalization of about $260 billion.

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“A Slow Genocide of the People”: Uranium Mining Leaves Toxic Nuclear Legacy on Indigenous Land

‘The iconic Grand Canyon is the site of a battle over toxic uranium mining. Last year, a company called Energy Fuels Resources was given federal approval to reopen a mine six miles from the Grand Canyon’s popular South Rim entrance. A coalition of Native and environmental groups have protested the decision, saying uranium mining could strain scarce water sources and pose serious health effects. Diné (Navajo) tribal lands are littered with abandoned uranium mines. From 1944 to 1986, 3.9 million tons of uranium ore were chiseled and blasted from the mountains and plains of the region. More than 1,000 mines have closed, but the mining companies never properly disposed of their radioactive waste piles, leading to a spike in cancer rates and other health ailments. Broadcasting from Flagstaff, Arizona, we speak with Taylor McKinnon, director of energy with Grand Canyon Trust, and Klee Benally, a Diné (Navajo) activist and musician. “It’s really a slow genocide of the people, not just indigenous people of this region, but it’s estimated that there are over 10 million people who are residing within 50 miles of abandoned uranium mines,” Benally says. Benally also describes the struggle to preserve the San Francisco Peaks, an area considered sacred by 13 Native tribes, where the Snowbowl ski resort is using treated sewage water to make snow.’ (Democracy Now!)

Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Three Years Later, Who is Responsible?: Interview with Chiho Kaneko and Arnie Gundersen

‘Nuclear power engineer Arnie Gunderson and journalist Chiho Kaneko discuss a lawsuit to hold General Electric and other reactor manufacturing companies responsible and the Japanese public’s attitude toward nuclear energy.’ (The Real News)

Hanford’s Dirty Secret: Federal Gov’t Refused To Take Action On Radiation Leak At Nuclear Waste Storage Facility

Why the EU Sent Troops to Central African Republic: Interview with Emira Woods

Editor’s Note: Emira Woods is co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies, and an expert on U.S. foreign policy with a special emphasis on Africa and the developing world.

Snipers Shot Up A Silicon Valley Power Station For 19 Minutes Last Year Before Slipping Into The Night

Snipers, military, defenseFrom Business Insider:

The Wall Street Journal’s Rebecca Smith reports that a former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chairman is acknowledging for the first time that a group of snipers shot up a Silicon Valley substation for 19 minutes last year, knocking out 17 transformers before slipping away into the night.

The attack was “the most significant incident of domestic terrorism involving the grid that has ever occurred” in the U.S., Jon Wellinghoff, who was chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission at the time, told Smith.

A blackout was avoided thanks to quick-thinking utility workers, who rerouted power around the site and asked power plants in Silicon Valley to produce more electricity. But the substation was knocked out for a month. The FBI says it doesn’t believe a terrorist organization caused the attack but that it continues to investigate the incident.

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Where’s All the Nuclear Waste We Dumped in the Ocean?

Many questions remain about nuclear waste dumped into the ocean over decades.

Many questions remain about nuclear waste dumped into the ocean over decades. (Shutterstock)

From Newser:

The US dumped vast quantities of nuclear material off its coasts between 1946 and 1970—more than 110,000 containers, says one official count. Today, the whereabouts of many of those 55-gallon drums and other containers is a big question mark, the Wall Street Journal reports. “Many were not dropped on target,” according to a 2010 federal report. Their location is just one of several major questions raised by the Journal. It’s also unclear, for instance, how many dump sites there were: Government reports have given numbers ranging from 29 to 60. Then there’s the question of how much radioactivity persists, since some isotopes can stay radioactive for thousands of years.

Potential fish contamination poses another concern. A 1991 report on a site off San Francisco suggested some contamination, but there was no follow-up study—despite a California law calling for annual assessments. The state now says the site should be handled by the federal government, which in a 2001 study found only “very low levels” of radioactivity in local sediment. The barrels are spread across some 540 square miles of ocean floor, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in 2010, and only 15% of it has been assessed. The agency says it wants to investigate the site further, but it doesn’t have the money.

Fukushima Responders Starting To Get Sick

Cenk Uygur’s quote from around two and a half minutes:

I was on MSNBC at the time when this happened, I said, “Don’t trust what the Japanese government is saying, they’ll say trust what the electric power company is saying. Go, go, go, get outta there. Get as far away from that plant as you can. It’s literally a core meltdown.” And they always don’t want people to panic, so they were always like, “Oh it’s going to be okay.” […] I’m like, “You’re crazy man, don’t be anywhere near that reactor.” And I remember at the time, of course not at The Young Turks, but on cable news, people were like, “Hey Cenk, you know, I don’t know that you want to say that, because the official government position is that it’s safe.” Oh, is that the official government position? Now go explain that to the people who served on the USS Ronald Reagan.

USS Ronald Reagan sailors report cancers after Fukushima rescue mission

Seaman Nicholas A. Groesch/U.S. Navy From Al Jazeera:

Fifty-one crew members of the USS Ronald Reagan say they are suffering from a variety of cancers as a direct result of their involvement in Operation Tomodachi, a U.S. rescue mission in Fukushima after the nuclear disaster in March 2011. The affected sailors are suing Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), alleging that the utility mishandled the crisis and did not adequately warn the crew of the risk of participating in the earthquake relief efforts.

Crew members, many of whom are in their 20s, have been diagnosed with conditions including thyroid cancer, testicular cancer and leukemia. The Department of Defense says the Navy took “proactive measures” in order to “mitigate the levels of Fukushima-related contamination on U.S. Navy ships and aircraft” and that crew members were not exposed to dangerous radiation levels.

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Measuring Fukushima’s Impact: How Geeks and Hackers Got Geiger Counters to the Masses

Photo by Safecast.Erika Lundahl writes for Yes! Magazine:

In March 2011, an unknown amount of radiation was released into the atmosphere after a powerful tsunami slammed into the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors on the Pacific coast in Japan. Because people had little access to detailed information about radiation levels, they bought up every Geiger counter they could find in stores and online. Soon the counters were all but sold out worldwide, and in Japan a grey market of shoddy Geiger counters sprouted up, some with faulty or fake parts.

Now, as workers at the plant attempt to move 1,500 highly radioactive spent fuel rods from Unit 4, the most heavily damaged reactor, the risk of radioactive contamination is escalated. The rods, housed in a damaged and leaking concrete pool 100 feet above the plant’s floor, are being moved to a second enclosed pool where it’s hoped they’ll be secure if another earthquake hits Japan’s coast.

The situation at Fukushima has received limited coverage in the Western media, but many scientists have grave concerns about the health and safety ramifications of the procedure—which has never been tried before—should something go wrong.

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Japanese Senator: ‘The path that Japan is taking is the recreation of a fascist state’

 

Credit: AFP

From The Daily Beast:

The Japanese government, which already has a long history of cover-ups and opaqueness, is on its way to becoming even less open and transparent after the lower house the Diet, Japan’s parliament, passed the Designated Secrets Bill on Tuesday. With new powers to classify nearly anything as a state secret and harsh punishments for leakers that can easily be used to intimidate whistleblowers and stifle press freedom, many in Japan worry that the if the bill becomes law it will be only the first step towards even more severe erosions of freedom in the country.

[…] Even politicians inside the ruling bloc are saying, “It can’t be denied that another purpose is to muzzle the press, shut up whistleblowers, and ensure that the nuclear disaster at Fukushima ceases to be an embarrassment before the Olympics.”

[…] Outspoken Upper House Councilor Taro Yamamoto, who is known to be a strong supporter of investigative journalism, minces no words: “The path that Japan is taking is the recreation of a fascist state. I strongly believe that this secrecy bill represents a planned coup d’état by a group of politicians and bureaucrats,” he warned.

While his statement may seem alarmist, even a senior official of the National Police Agency agrees. “I would say this is Abe’s attempt to make sure that his own shady issues aren’t brought to light, and a misuse of legislative power.

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Japan’s ruling coalition pushes heavy-handed state secrets bill through lower house

Fukushiro Nukaga (top R), chairman of the lower house special committee, is surrounded by opposition lawmakers during a vote on a state secrets act at the parliament in Tokyo November 26, 2013. (Reuters/Toru Hanai)From RT:

Japan’s lower house has passed a heavy-handed state secrets act despite fears that it will have severe repercussions for state freedoms. Officials will now face a maximum punishment of ten years in prison if they are found to have leaked to the press.

Japan’s Diet (parliament) passed the bill, which is aimed at expanding the definition of a state secret and place increasing penalties upon anyone deemed a leaker. The move will apparently prevent media accessing information on four sensitive areas: defense, diplomacy, counter-terrorism and counter-espionage.

The information will be further divided into 23 types. Top officials from all departments would have the power to declare issues ‘secret’. The ‘secrets’ could then be kept classified for up to 60 years.

Journalists and other private sector parties could also receive up to five years imprisonment if they are found to be using ‘grossly inappropriate’ means to acquire information.

Such restrictions could spill over into the nuclear industry. The topic is particularly sensitive in the face of March 2011’s Fukushima nuclear disaster, which drove over 160,000 residents from their homes.

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Japan Shelves Plan to Slash Emissions, Citing Fukushima

From The New York Times:

Japan took a major step back Friday from earlier pledges to slash its greenhouse gas emissions, saying a shutdown of its nuclear power plants in the wake of the Fukushima disaster had made its previous target unattainable. The unexpected announcement cast a shadow over international talks underway in Warsaw aimed at fashioning a global pact to address the threats of a changing climate.

Under its new goal, Japan, one of the world’s top polluters, would still seek to reduce its current emissions. But it would release 3 percent more greenhouse gases by 2020 compared to levels in 1990. Japan’s previous government had promised before the Fukushima crisis to cut greenhouse emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels, expecting that it could rely on nuclear power to achieve that goal.

Since the 2011 disaster, Japan’s nuclear power program, which provided about 30 percent of the country’s electricity, has ground to a halt amid public jitters over safety. The current government is pushing to restart reactors, but it remains unclear when that might happen.

“We’re down to zero nuclear; anyone doing the math will find that target impossible now,” Nobuteru Ishihara, the environment minister, said in Tokyo after announcing the new target. He said the original goal was “unrealistic in the first place.”

“The current government seeks economic growth while doing our best to meet emissions targets,” he added.

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Japan postpones removal of Fukushima atomic fuel rods

From Euro News:

The operators of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant have postponed the extremely complicated and difficult task of removing damaged atomic rods.

New video footage from a robot has revealed new leaks within the damaged reactors meaning the rods now can’t be taken out as planned.

One of the fuel assemblies was damaged as far back as 1982 when it was mishandled during a transfer and is bent out of shape.

Kazuaki Matsui, the executive director of Japan’s Institute of Applied Energy said: “It’s very difficult to remove a spent rod because parts of the wall and the bottom of the reactor are all melted. We’ve never had to deal with this before so that adds to the complication.”

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Climate change warriors: It’s time to go nuclear

James Hansen says environmentalists and world leaders must accept nuclear power now to avoid catastrophic climate change.From CNN:

Climate and energy scientists James HansenKen CaldeiraKerry Emanuel and Tom Wigley have released an open letter calling on world leaders to support development of safer nuclear power systems.

Wait — pro-nuclear environmentalists? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Apparently, not so much anymore.

Embracing nuclear is the only way, the scientists believe, to reverse the looming threat of climate change which they blame on fossil fuels. Depending who you ask, they’re either abandoning — or leading — traditional environmentalists who for a half-century have rejected clean-burning nuclear power as too expensive or too dangerous. Opponents cite disasters at Fukushima, Chernobyl and Three Mile island.

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