Nuclear issues

April 20, 2022

Informational items on various aspects of the nuclear industry

nuke-hazards

The cruel and lonely death of an American nuclear weapons scientist

August 17, 2022

The lost tale of a nuclear scientist’s death in a secret San Francisco hospital room, Katie Dowd, SFGATE, Oct. 23, 2020 Before San Francisco became a metropolis, there was the Presidio. Since its creation as a military base in 1776, it has stood alone in a windswept corner, gathering legends.It has seen executions, tragic accidents and countless hospital patients. And if you’re a believer that violent ends produce restless spirits, the Presidio is full up with phantoms as a result. The most haunted place is said to be Letterman Army Hospital, once the base’s largest medical facility In looking for Presidio ghost stories, though, we stumbled across a far stranger tale than any haunting: the real-life demise of a nuclear scientist — a chapter of the Cold War, as far as we can tell, untold since 1953.

Twitchell was a genius. Born in Minnesota in 1917, he got his undergraduate degree from Rollins College in Florida and a masters in chemistry at UC Berkeley. At 23, he was promoted to project engineer in charge of the equipment department of the University of California radiation lab.

This was no ordinary lab. Among Twitchell’s colleagues were Glenn Seaborg, Ernest O. Lawrence and J. Robert Oppenheimer — all of whom would later contribute to the Manhattan Project — and together the team was working on the discovery of atomic particles. Once World War II broke out, their mission shifted. The lab’s work was now crucial to the creation of nuclear weapons for the U.S. military……….

 In 1952 then just 35 years old. That year, doctors diagnosed him with a malignant brain tumor and told him he likely did not have long to live.

As Twitchell and his wife Marie processed the terrible news, the U.S. government sprung into action. Although he likely would have wanted his palliative care to take place at his home at 2319 Glen Ave., in Berkeley, he was told that wouldn’t be possible. He needed to be moved as soon as possible to a secure location.

The brain tumor presented a particular problem for the Atomic Energy Commission: It had the potential to cause erratic behavior and uncontrolled verbal outbursts. They were fearful that as he lost control of his mental faculties, Twitchell would begin spilling nuclear secrets. He knew “as much about atomic energy as any one man,” an anonymous source in the commission would later tell the Oakland Tribune. So they built a secret ward just for Twitchell. At the cost of $100,000 — nearly $1 million today — construction began at the Letterman Army Hospital in San Francisco’s Presidio for the unusual patient. Once finished, all doctors and nurses who might interact with Twitchell were given rigorous screenings for any national security issues. In the end, only one male nurse was trusted to primarily care for Twitchell. A guard stood watch outside the room at all times. Unbeknownst to the other military patients at the hospital, a civilian lay dying in his own wing. “He was the hospital’s hush-hush case,” the San Francisco Examiner reported.

On March 23, 1953, five months after his diagnosis, Twitchell died. Two days later, news broke nationally. “A macabre tale of the atomic age was revealed yesterday,” the Examiner proclaimed. The Atomic Energy Commission was forced to admit Twitchell’s room wasn’t the only one they’d covertly constructed. Around the nation, there were similar isolation wards for individuals dealing in nuclear secrets.

An anonymous source told the Tribune this was standard protocol to keep scientists from blabbing while “unbalanced, anesthetized or under the influence of dentists’ ‘laughing gas.'” Although expensive, it was the only way to maintain national security.

But all this drama meant little to the Twitchells, who were left to bury their loved one…… https://www.sfgate.com/sfhistory/article/letterman-army-hospital-presidio-ghost-uc-berkeley-15668131.php

Small nuclear reactors will bleed us dry and won’t solve climate change – unfounded promises

August 4, 2022

there is every reason to believe that if and when a NuScale SMR is built, its final cost too will vastly exceed current official estimates. 

Unfounded promises — Beyond Nuclear International Small Modular Reactors epitomize culture that embraces exaggeration
By M.V. Ramana
In 2006, Elizabeth Holmes, founder of a Silicon Valley startup company called Theranos, was featured in Inc magazine’s annual list of 30 under 30 entrepreneurs. Her entrepreneurship involved blood, or more precisely, testing blood. Instead of the usual vials of blood, Holmes claimed to be able to obtain precise results about the health of patients using a very small sample of blood drawn from just a pinprick. 

The promise was enticing and Holmes had a great run for a decade. She was supported by a bevy of celebrities and powerful individuals, including former U.S. secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, James Mattis, who later served as U.S. secretary of defense, and media mogul Rupert Murdoch. Not that any of them would be expected to know much about medical science or blood testing. But all that public endorsement helped. As did savvy marketing by Holmes. Theranos raised over $700 million from investors, and receive a market valuation of nearly $9 billion by 2014

The downfall started the following year, when the Wall Street Journal exposed that Theranos was actually using standard blood tests behind the scenes because its technology did not really work. In January 2022, Holmes was found guilty of defrauding investors.

The second part of the Theranos story is an exception. In a culture which praises a strategy of routine exaggeration, encapsulated by the slogan “fake it till you make it”, it is rare for a tech CEO being found guilty of making false promises. But the first part of Theranos story—hype, advertisement, and belief in impossible promises—is very much the norm, and not just in the case of companies involved in the health care industry. 

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors

Nuclear power offers a great example. In 2003, an important study produced by nuclear advocates at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology identified costs, safety, proliferation and waste as the four “unresolved problems” with nuclear power. Not surprisingly, then, companies trying to sell new reactor designs claim that their product will be cheaper, will produce less—or  no—radioactive waste, be immune to accidents, and not contribute to nuclear proliferation. These tantalizing promises are the equivalent of testing blood with a pin prick. 

And, as was the case with Theranos, many such companies have been backed up by wealthy investors and influential spokespeople, who have typically had as much to do with nuclear power as Kissinger had to with testing blood. Examples include Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley investor; Stephen Harper, the former Prime Minister of Canada; and  Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin group. But just as the Theranos product did not do what Elizabeth Holmes and her backers were claiming, new nuclear reactor designs will not solve the multiple challenges faced by nuclear power.

One class of nuclear reactors that have been extensively promoted in this vein during the last decade are Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). The promotion has been productive for these companies, especially in Canada. Some of these companies have received large amounts of funding from the national and provincial governments. This includes Terrestrial Energy that received CAD 20 million and Moltex that received CAD 50.5 million, both from the Federal Government. The province of New Brunswick added to these by awarding CAD 5 million to Moltex and CAD 25 million in all to ARC-100

All these companies have made various claims about the above mentioned problems. Moltex, for example, claims that its reactor design “reduces waste”, a claim also made by ARC-100. ARC-100 also claims to be inherently safe, while Terrestrial claims to be cost-competive. Both Terrestrial and ARC-100 claim to do well on proliferation resistance. In general, no design will admit to failing on any of these challenges. 

Dealing with any of these challenges—safety enhancement, proliferation resistance, decreased generation of waste, and cost reduction—will have to be reflected in the technical design of the nuclear reactor. The problem is that each of these goals will drive the requirements on the reactor design in different, sometimes opposing, directions.

Economics

The hardest challenge is economics. Nuclear energy is an expensive way to generate electricity. In the 2021 edition of its annual cost report, Lazard, the Wall Street firm, estimated that the levelized cost of electricity from new nuclear plants will be between $131 and $204 per megawatt hour; in contrast, newly constructed utility-scale solar and wind plants produce electricity at somewhere between $26 and $50 per megawatt hour according to Lazard. The gap between nuclear power and renewables is large, and is growing larger. While nuclear costs have increased with time, the levelized cost of electricity for solar and wind have declined rapidly, and this is expected to continue over the coming decades

Even operating costs for nuclear power plants are high and many reactors have been shut down because they are unprofitable. In 2018, NextEra, a large electric utility company in the United States, decided to shut down the Duane Arnold nuclear reactor, because it estimated that replacing nuclear with wind power will “save customers nearly $300 million in energy costs, on a net present value basis.” 

The high cost of constructing and operating nuclear plants is a key driver of the decline of nuclear power around the world. In 1996, nuclear energy’s share of global commercial gross electricity generation peaked at 17.5 percent. By 2020, that had fallen to 10.1 percent, a 40 percent decline. 

The high costs described above are for large nuclear power plants. SMRs, as the name suggests, produce relatively small amounts of electricity in comparison. Economically, this is a disadvantage. When the power output of the reactor decreases, it generates less revenue for the owning utility, but the cost of constructing the reactor is not proportionately smaller. SMRs will, therefore, cost more than large reactors for each unit (megawatt) of generation capacity. This makes electricity from small reactors more expensive. This is why most of the early small reactors built in the United States shut down early: they just couldn’t compete economically.

SMR proponents argue that the lost economies of scale will be compensated by savings through mass manufacture in factories and as these plants are built in large numbers costs will go down. But this claim is not very tenable. Historically, in the United States and France, the countries with the highest number of nuclear plants, costs went up, not down, with experience. Further, to achieve such savings, these reactors have to be manufactured by the hundreds, if not the thousands, even under very optimistic assumptions about rates of learning. Finally, even if SMRs were to become comparable in cost per unit capacity of large nuclear reactors, that would not be sufficient to make them economically competitive, because their electricity production cost would still be far higher than solar and wind energy.

…………………………………………. Cost escalations are already apparent in the case of the NuScale SMR, arguably the design that is most developed in the West. The estimated cost of the Utah Association of Municipal Power Systems project went from approximately $3 billion in 2014 to $6.1 billion in 2020—this is to build twelve units of the NuScale SMR that were to generate 600 megawatts of power. The cost was so high that NuScale had to change its offering to a smaller number of units that produce only 462 megawatts, but at a cost of $5.32 billion. In other words, the cost per kilowatt of generation capacity is around $11,500 (US dollars). That figure is around 80 percent more than the per kilowatt cost of the infamous Vogtle project at the time its construction started. Since that initial estimate of $14 billion for the two AP1000 reactors, the estimated cost of the much delayed project has escalated beyond $30 billion. As with the AP1000 reactors, there is every reason to believe that if and when a NuScale SMR is built, its final cost too will vastly exceed current official estimates. ……………

Timelines

The other promise made by SMR developers is how fast they can be deployed. GE-Hitachi, for example, claims that an SMR could be “complete as early as 2028” at the Darlington site.  ARC-100 described an operational date of 2029 as an “aggressive but achievable target”. 

Again, the historical record suggests otherwise. Consider NuScale. In 2008, the company projected that “a NuScale plant could be producing electricity by 2015-16”. As of 2022, the company projects 2029-30 as the date for start of generation. Russia’s KLT-40S, a reactor deployed on a barge, offers another example. When construction started in 2007, the reactor was projected to start operations in October 2010. It was actually commissioned a whole decade later, in May 2020. 

The SMR designs being considered in Canada are even further off. In December 2021, Ontario Power Generation chose the BWRX-300 for the Darlington site. That design is based on GE-Hitachi’s Economical Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) design, which was submitted for licensing to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2005. That ESBWR design was changed nine times; the NRC finally approved revision 10 from 2014. If the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission does its due diligence, it might be 2030 or later before the BWRX-300 is even licensed for construction. That assumes that the BWRX-300 design remains unchanged. And, then, of course, there will be the inevitable delays (and cost escalations) during construction. ………….

Waste, Proliferation and Safety

Small reactors also cause all of the usual problems: the risk of severe accidents, the production of radioactive waste, and the potential for nuclear weapons proliferation. …………

……………  small modular reactor proposals often envision building multiple reactors at a site. The aim is to lower costs by taking advantage of common infrastructure elements. The configuration offered by NuScale, for example, has twelve reactor modules at each site, although it also offers four- and six-unit versions. With multiple reactors, the combined radioactive inventories might be comparable to that of a large reactor. Multiple reactors at a site increase the risk that an accident at one unit might either induce accidents at other reactors or make it harder to take preventive actions at others. This is especially the case if the underlying reason for the accident is a common one that affects all of the reactors, such as an earthquake. In the case of the accidents at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, explosions at one reactor damaged the spent fuel pool in a co-located reactor. Radiation leaks from one unit made it difficult for emergency workers to approach the other units. ……………………………

Claims by SMR proponents about not producing waste are not credible, especially if waste is understood not as one kind of material but a number of different streams. A recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examined three specific SMR designs and calculates that “relative to a gigawatt-scale PWR” these three will produce up to 5.5 times more spent fuel, 30 times more long-lived low and intermediate level waste, and 35 times more short-lived low and intermediate level waste. In other words, in comparison with large light water reactors, SMRs produce more, not less, waste per unit of electricity generated. As Paul Dorfman from the University of Sussex commented, “compared with existing conventional reactors, SMRs would increase the volume and complexity of the nuclear waste problem”.

Further, some of the SMR designs involve the use of materials that are corrosive and/or pyrophoric. Dealing with these forms is more complicated. For example, the ARC-100 design will use sodium that cannot be disposed of in geological repositories without extensive processing. Such processing has never been carried out at scale. The difference in chemical properties mean that the methods developed for dealing with waste from CANDU reactors will not work as such for these wastes.

Many SMR designs also make the problem of proliferation worse. Unlike the CANDU reactor design that uses natural uranium, many SMR designs use fuel forms that require either enriched uranium or plutonium. Either plutonium or uranium that is highly enriched in the uranium-235 isotope can be used to make nuclear weapons. Because uranium enrichment facilities can be reconfigured to alter enrichment levels, it is possible for a uranium enrichment facility designed to produce fuel for a reactor to be reconfigured to produce fuel for a bomb. All else being equal, nuclear reactor designs that require fuel with higher levels of uranium enrichment pose a greater proliferation risk—this is the reason for the international effort to convert highly enriched uranium fueled research reactors to low enriched uranium fuel or shutting them down.

Plutonium is created in all nuclear power plants that use uranium fuel, but it is produced alongside intensely radioactive fission products. Practically any mixture of plutonium isotopes could be used for making weapons. Using the plutonium either to fabricate nuclear fuel or to make nuclear weapons, require the “reprocessing” of the spent fuel. Canada has not reprocessed its power reactor spent fuel, but some SMR designs, such as the Moltex design, propose to “recycle” CANDU spent fuel. Last year, nine US nonproliferation experts wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressing serious concerns “about the technology Moltex proposes to use.” 

The proliferation problem is made worse by SMRs in many ways. ……………………..

Conclusion

The saga of Theranos should remind us to be skeptical of unfounded promises. Such promises are the fuel that drive the current interest in small modular nuclear reactors………

Rather than seeing the writing on the wall, unfortunately, government agencies are wasting money on funding small modular reactor proposals. Worse, they seek to justify such funding by repeating the tall claims made by promoters of these technologies……  https://beyondnuclearinternational.org/2022/07/31/unfounded-promises00

Westinghouse Nuclear Fuel Fabrication plant – a detailed history of troubles.

August 4, 2022

Dead fish near SC nuclear fuel site were an early warning. Then came the spills and accidents, The State, BY SAMMY FRETWELL, JULY 30, 2022 

“……………………………………………………. 1980: State regulators learn of a fish kill near the Westinghouse wastewater plant. They found elevated levels of fluoride and ammonia-nitrogen in groundwater and surface water. It was later determined that the pollution came from the plant wastewater area. 1980: Twenty plant workers evacuated from Westinghouse after a small leak of uranium hexafluoride gas.

1982: Westinghouse unable to find 9.5 pounds of slightly enriched uranium, according to an NRC report. 1983: State regulators fine Westinghouse $6,000 for illegally shipping flammable material that caused a fire at Barnwell County’s low-level nuclear waste dump. 1988: Radioactivity found in monitoring wells is thought to have come from prior leaks of industrial wastewater. Low concentrations of Uranium 235, 234 and 238 found.

1989: EPA investigators find an array of pollutants in groundwater at the Westinghouse site, some higher than safe drinking water levels. Vinyl Chloride and TCE, both of which can cause cancer, were found to exceed the drinking water standard. 1989: Twenty five dead deer discovered at the Westinghouse property, some of them in an area where wastewater was being discharged near the Congaree River. The deer reportedly died from nitrate poisoning, but public records reviewed by The State do not show an exact cause. 1992: Trichloroethene (TCE), cis-1,2-dichloroethene (CIS 1,2 DCE) and tetrachloroethene (PCE), are detected at amounts above the federal maximum contaminant level for safe drinking water. The high levels were found near the plant’s oil house.

1993: NRC fines Westinghouse $18,750 after alleging that the company failed to perform a criticality safety analysis and failed to conduct safety tests. 1994: Radioactive leak exposes 55 workers to uranium hexafluoride and shuts down the Westinghouse plant. 1997: The plant loses two low-enriched fuel rods. The NRC says five violations of NRC requirements occurred. Safety was not compromised, but problems “are indicative of inadequate management attention.’’

1998: Company fined $13,750 after NRC notes the “loss of criticality control,’’ a problem that could have led to an accident. The agency says a problem had gone uncorrected. 2000: NRC hits Westinghouse with a violation notice because an operator “willfully violated criticality safety procedures when preparing to mix a batch of powder.’’ 2000: Uranyl nitrate spills at the Westinghouse plant, causing a cleanup. When the cleanup began, workers found the spill was worse than originally thought.

2001: NRC hits Westinghouse with a violation for transporting 3 cylinders of licensed material with elevated radiation levels. 2001: Westinghouse fails to follow criticality safety rules at a uranium recovery area dissolver elevator, violation notice says. Containers were not stacked far enough apart, reducing safety. Westinghouse didn’t do enough to fix the problem. 2001: NRC issues a violation notice to Westinghouse after raising concerns about criticality safety, including failing to keep uranium powder mixing hoods properly separated.

2001: NRC hits Westinghouse with violation after criticality safety controls failed to work on the ammonium diurnate process lines. 2002: NRC letter tells Westinghouse that its criticality safety control efforts need improvement. NRC Regional Administrator Luis Reyes says the last two safety reviews have urged improvement for criticality safety. Letter notes concern about nuclear transportation program. 2002: NRC notice of investigation says a contractor for Westinghouse falsified records about the receipt and processing of materials. That resulted in a small amount of nuclear material being improperly shipped to nuclear site in Tennessee. 2004: NRC again raises concerns about criticality safety, the practice of making sure a nuclear chain reaction does not occur. Efforts to improve compliance with procedures and “implement criticality safety controls were not fully effective,’’ letter from regional administrator Luis Reyes says.

2004: NRC letter hits Westinghouse with a $24,000 fine. The company failed to maintain criticality controls as required. Ash in the company’s incinerator exceeded concentration limits for uranium. The Level 2 violation is, at the time, the most serious ever noted at the plant. 2008: Broken pipe spills radioactive material into the soil in the same area as a later 2011 leak, but Westinghouse doesn’t tell state or federal regulators for years. 2008: The NRC sanctions Westinghouse for losing sixteen sample vials of uranium hexafluoride. The company didn’t properly document and control the transfer of the vials and failed to secure them from “unauthorized removal.’’ 2008: Westinghouse hit with a violation notice after a worker disabled an alarm and bypassed a safety significant interlock.

2009: Westinghouse fires a contract foreman after federal regulators found that he had falsified records. Westinghouse also was cited by the NRC. The foreman certified that employees were trained in safety procedures, when they had not completed training.

2009: Westinghouse loses 25 pounds of pellets that were to be used in making nuclear fuel rods. NRC downplays danger but says Westinghouse should have kept better track of the nuclear material.

2010: NRC levies $17,500 fine against Westinghouse after uranium-bearing wastewater spilled inside the plant.

2011: Uranium leaks into ground beneath the Westinghouse plant, but federal inspectors weren’t told about it for years. NRC officials said they only learned about the spill in 2017.

2012: Worker exposed to uranium-containing acid and whisked to a hospital by emergency medical crews. The worker was treated for pain and released.

2012: Westinghouse fails to follow through on a report to improve the facility so it could better withstand an earthquake, NRC says. Recommendations had been made nine years previously.

2015: Three workers are injured when steam erupted from a wash tank. The workers are taken to a Columbia area hospital for treatment and later sent to the burn center in Augusta, which specializes in treating severe burns.

2016: A buildup of uranium that could have led to a small burst of radiation forces Westinghouse to shut down part of the fuel plant and temporarily lay off 170 workers, about one-tenth of its work force at the plant. The uranium found in the scrubber area is nearly three times the legal limit.

2017: Westinghouse worker exposed to a solution toxic enough to cause chemical burns when the solution sprayed him. 2018: Uranium leaks into the ground through a hole in the Westinghouse plant floor. An acid solution had eaten into the floor. Soil was contaminated.

2018. The NRC says Westinghouse allowed workers to walk across a protecting liner for years, which likely weakened the liner and contributed to a hole in the floor that allowed uranium solution to leak out.

2019: Fire breaks out in a drum laden with mop heads, rags and other cleaning equipment.

2019: State and federal authorities report that water had leaked through a rusty shipping container and onto barrels of uranium-tainted trash. Contaminants then leaked into the soil below the shipping container floor.

2019: Westinghouse sends three workers to the hospital after they complained of an unusual taste in their mouths while doing maintenance on equipment that contains hydrofluoric acid.

2019: Two contaminated barrels are shipped from the Westinghouse plant to Washington State after workers in South Carolina failed to properly examine the containers for signs of radioactive contamination.

2020. The NRC issues violation against Westinghouse, this time after questions arose about nuclear safety. The issue centered on improper security of tamper seals, used to keep nuclear material from being stolen.

2020. NRC reports finding 13 pinhole leaks in a protective liner.

2020: South Carolina officials raise concerns about earthquakes at Westinghouse.

Sources: NRC records and news reports from The State. https://www.thestate.com/news/local/environment/article263945551.html

The Age of Women

August 4, 2022

Pearls and Irritations, By Julian Cribb, Jul 22, 2022

 Leadership by wise women is indispensable if we are to escape the catastrophe that male leadership is presently building for humanity.

If humanity is to survive the vast and growing threats it faces, women must assume the leadership of government, business, religion and social institutions around the world. Female leadership is a required solution to the ten catastrophic risks which now confront the whole of our civilisation.

As a rule, women don’t start wars, mine coal or oil, destroy landscapes and forests, pollute air and oceans or poison their children – though they may benefit from those male actions. They tend to think more about the longer term than do men, and to consider the future needs of their children and grandchildren more fully. They tend to seek peaceful and constructive solutions to problems rather than warring over differences in values and beliefs, or over resources.

Since the time our species first differentiated its gender roles, over a million years ago, pragmatic male thought has largely driven our remarkable ascent, our great technological achievements up to the start of the present century. But men are also risk takers – and often ignore or make light of the risks created by the use, misuse or overuse of these technologies. Furthermore, in the hot, overcrowded, resource-depleted, poisoned world of the present and immediate future, competitive male attitudes are also our potential downfall, especially if they lead to wars and mass destruction.

In a world beset by catastrophic risks such as global ecological collapse, nuclear weapons, climate change, universal chemical poisoning, resource scarcity, food insecurity, overpopulation, pandemic disease, deadly new technologies and self-delusion, a fresh human perspective is needed – one which accentuates peaceful co-operation, caring, repair, healing and restoration. One which values food above weapons, health above chemicals, re-use and thrift above wastage, nature above profit, thought for the next generations above immediate self-gratification – and wisdom over mere intelligence or technical skill.

The most striking example of global female leadership is the decision by women everywhere to have far fewer babies. This has brought the birth rate down from 5 babies per woman in the mid-1960s to 2.4 babies in the early 2020s – and it is still falling, in every continent and in almost every country, albeit more slowly. Moreover many women have taken the decision to control their fertility without seeking male approval. They just did it. It is a responsibility the female of our species has undertaken because she instinctually understands the dangers and costs inherent in uncontrolled family and population growth. Women have, on their own initiative, tackled one of the thorniest and most controversial issues affecting the human future – and with demonstrable success. Unswayed by the selfish arguments of economics, nationalism, religion, paternalism or social pressure, they have willingly had fewer children in order that those whom they do bear may live better – or even live at all.

Women are also  peacemakers. History offers few, if any, examples of wars of aggression waged by female leaders. Although perfectly capable of responding to military attack, female rulers from Elizabeth I, Maria Theresa and Catherine the Great to Golda Meir, Indira Ghandi and Margaret Thatcher defended their countries against attack by others or else ended wars which they had inherited from their male antecedents. Typically, they pursued their aims through diplomacy. All of the great wars of recent centuries, on the other hand, were started either by male monarchs, dictators or by male-dominated governments. 

……….. Women are also  peacemakers. History offers few, if any, examples of wars of aggression waged by female leaders. Although perfectly capable of responding to military attack, female rulers from Elizabeth I, Maria Theresa and Catherine the Great to Golda Meir, Indira Ghandi and Margaret Thatcher defended their countries against attack by others or else ended wars which they had inherited from their male antecedents. Typically, they pursued their aims through diplomacy. All of the great wars of recent centuries, on the other hand, were started either by male monarchs, dictators or by male-dominated governments. 

In a world where conflict over declining resources of land, water, food, minerals, timber, fish and other vital necessities of life is increasingly probable, male leadership is far more likely to result in mass destruction and death than female leadership. Males in most societies are taught from youth to compete for what they want, and if competition doesn’t work, then to fight for it, often to the death. Sporting role models, gang behaviour, worship of military virtues and imposed patriarchal values cement the process. This masculine ideal is so firmly imprinted on society and on young males as to make questioning it tantamount to heresy – and most men fear to do so. Indeed, the dawning realisation that traditional male values are redundant in a world where humans can eliminate themselves has given rise to  anxiety and confusion in many males over the likely loss of their ‘traditional’ roles of warrior and protector.

However, there is nothing compulsory about these traditional roles, ………………….. These stereotypes have endured centuries after the biological necessity for them has passed away. The preservation of these stone age roles in a 21st Century civilisation on the brink of catastrophe is an absurdity. Indeed, they will only hasten it.

Females learn or are taught to achieve their goals by other means, generally peaceful, diplomatic, negotiatory and co-operative. It follows that female leadership is better suited to the conditions of the C21st than it perhaps was to previous centuries – and male leadership less so. Thus, majority female rule can reduce the chances of civilisational collapse, or even human extinction, by war……………

It is noteworthy that women already tend to lead international organisations concerned with human health and wellbeing, with peace, with children and their future – whereas men tend to dominate organisations that pollute, manufacture poisons or weapons, plough up landscapes, pillage the oceans and destroy the climate. There are very few female leaders of the $7 trillion fossil fuels / petrochemicals sector, for example, and the male groupthink in that industry plainly values short-term profit above the safety and survival of humanity (including their own). This is classic male risk-taking behaviour ……….

Petrochemicals kill 12 million people every year and the toll is rising with climate change and the universal spread of poisons. In this case, a male-led industry prizes profit above human life on the largest scale ever to occur in history. But it is by no means unique. Other male-dominated sectors including agriculture, mining, forestry, corporate food and pharmaceuticals, electronics, advertising, armaments and the military, cause similar havoc among humanity, the natural world or both. For the sake of human survival, it is time their leadership underwent a radical repositioning in values, ethics and common sense.

The issue of whether  women should lead humanity in the 21st century is thus not a question of gender equality or politics. It is not about ‘feminism’.

It is, quite simply, a foundational rule for human survival at the very time we face a major threat to our existence, arising from our own behaviours.

It is now a matter of choosing the kind of  leadership which can best get us through the most dangerous era in all of human history.

Female thinking and leadership can protect a habitable planet and save humanity – or at least, some of it. And this means female thinking by enlightened men as well as by women. To influence global society towards more sustainable, healthy and peaceable solutions to our risks, we need many  wise women in positions of power. This is indispensable, if we are escape the fate which male-led competition, aggression, overconsumption and pollution are building for us. https://johnmenadue.com/the-age-of-women-2/

British soldiers used as radiation guinea pigs in nuclear bomb tests in Australia

August 4, 2022

British veterans ‘ordered to march through smoking craters’ in nuclear bomb tests, Brian Tomlinson claims the state dumped him and his comrades, many of whom died from cancer after being used in a shocking human experiment,

 https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/british-veterans-ordered-march-through-27563987 Susie Boniface, Reporter, 24 Jul 2022,

A veteran of nuclear bomb tests has told how British ­servicemen were ordered to march through a smoking crater to find how radioactive it was.

Brian Tomlinson said he also had to dig out scientific instruments buried in the contaminated soil and revealed he was left with bleeding ulcers on his palms for two decades.

But he claims the state dumped him and his comrades, many of whom died from cancer in the years after they were used in a shocking human experiment in the Australian outback.

And Brian supports the Mirror’s campaign for a medal for heroes of the nuclear tests in the 50s.

“That place is still radioactive, it’s in the soil for a hell of a long time, so what chance does a human being have?” he said.

“A medal would get us a little bit of recognition for those who took part. It says you’re someone who’s been noticed and not discarded, which is how we’ve felt for so long.”

Last month, Boris Johnson became the first PM to meet veterans, and promised action before October’s 70th anniversary of the first test. His resignation threw it into doubt and campaigners are seeking ­reassurances from Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss that they will do the same.

Brian, now 85, was a sapper sent to Maralinga, South Australia, in 1957 to take part in Operation Antler, a series of three atomic bomb tests designed to help build the more powerful H-bomb.

His troop of Royal Engineers were blended with Australian soldiers, and 40 of them lived for a year inside the blast zone in canvas tents.

The main base, where scientists, top brass, and most troops stayed, was called Maralinga Village. Brian’s unit was 14 miles deeper into the testing grounds, at Roadside Camp. From there, it was just 9 miles to Ground Zero.

Brian, a 20-year-old corporal at the time, said: “Nobody told us what it was all about, or checked us for ­radiation, but every morning we went into the forward area.

We had pneumatic drills, and had to blast down through the soil. There was about 12 inches of earth, red dust, and below that was rock.”

For each of 3 blasts, the crew had to bury dozens of large steel containers 8ft square. Each had instruments inside to measure the explosion, with pipes protruding above ground level. Those closest to the bombs were sandbagged and concreted to protect them from the shockwave.

A few hours after each bomb, Brian and his crew – wearing only shorts, socks, boots and a hat – had to drive back in, remove the sandbags and concrete, and extract the instruments.

Scientists who went with them wore radiation suits and badges, but Brian said for the first two blasts he had neither.

He added: “After the third bomb, we were given little rubber boots, and a white overall, and a dose badge. We were told to walk through the crater. The mushroom cloud was still overhead. The wind had started to push it away. It was only a few hours after, not very long.”

The first two bombs, ­codenamed Tadje and Biak, were one kiloton and 6kts respectively.

But the third, Taranaki, was 25kts, as powerful as the weapon which destroyed ­Nagasaki in 1945.

Brian, of Yate, near Bristol, said: “As you approached the bomb site it was quite amazing, because it was like a bowling green. Everything was green and smooth. It was only when you were on it you realised the heat from the bomb had crystallised the earth underneath it. It was a crust of molten sand, like glass.

“The crater left there was huge. They told us to walk into that, down into the crater, and up the other side, and then check our meters to see how high the dose was.”

Brian said: “When it reached a certain point they told us to come out. It didn’t take long for it to reach that point. We weren’t told at the time what the dose was supposed to be. But it was just as bad as going through the centre of the bomb as soon as it had gone off.”

The first two bombs were detonated on top of 100ft-high towers built by the sappers, but desert sand was sucked into the fireball and fell to the ground as toxic fallout. The third bomb was tethered to barrage balloons 980ft up, supposedly minimising the risk.

But the size of the bomb, and perhaps the fact the same site was used for previous weapons tests, meant there was still fallout.

After they left the crater, Brian was taken to a decontamination area. The men’s clothes were stripped off and taken away, and the men were put through showers.

“We spent 5 or 6 minutes scrubbing away, then put ourselves in this meter, it was like standing on a weighing machine, and you push your hands through these bars to be tested. If a bell rang, you were still radioactive and had to go back in and scrub under your nails, everywhere, in your hair. I had to do it 3 times. They didn’t give us any more information.”

Documented safety measures at Maralinga included wire fences through which sand could easily be blown, and one wooden post barrier that Brian’s unit passed through each morning.

Brian was not checked for radiation while excavating amid the fallout, nor given long-term medical follow-ups. Six years later, he was medically discharged with a duodenal ulcer.

Radiation is known to cause problems with the lining of the gut, and earlier this year a government study reported nuclear test veterans were 20 per cent more likely than other servicemen to die from stomach cancer.

Brian said: “It wasn’t until later I started having skin problems. It would cover me from head to toes, rashes on my back, chest, legs, thighs. They used to come out on the palms of my hands.

“I’d get a little itchy blister in the centre of my palm, it would break and then spread over the fingers. I used to wear white cotton gloves to ease the pain and itching.

“The skin would go hard, then crack and bleed, and it would start all over again. I had that for 20 years, and no doctor could work out what it was.”

https://get-latest.convrse.media/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.mirror.co.uk%2Fnews%2Fuk-news%2Fbritish-veterans-ordered-march-through-27563987&cre=bottom&cip=45&view=web

Today, cancer patients are warned radiotherapy using beta radiation can lead to radiodermatitis, which causes rashes, skin peeling, and ulceration. It is caused by the decay of isotopes, including plutonium and cobalt-60, both of which were in the Antler bombs.

Brian said: “I would have a constant itch, all over, and had to take cold showers just to stop the itching and have something of a normal life. I got depressed, to the point where I didn’t want to go and see the doctors because they just have me the same old medication and it never did me any good. Then one day, after 20 years, it just stopped, as suddenly as it came.”

Two decades after his discharge, Brian also had an operation to finally cure his ulcer. It involved cutting the vagus nerve, which controls digestion as well as carrying sensory information from the skin’s surface.

“I told all my consultants what was done to me out there in Maralinga, and asked if it was due to fallout. They all denied it,” said Brian. “Nobody’s ever done anything for us nuclear test veterans except withhold information from us.”

Campaigners have asked the Prime Minister for a medal and a service of national recognition at Westminster Abbey to mark the Plutonium Jubilee in 3 months’ time.

A spokesman for the MoD said it was grateful to veterans, and claimed they were well-­monitored and protected. He added: “The Prime Minister met with veterans recently, and asked ministers to explore how their dedication can be recognised. We remain committed to considering any new evidence”

************************************************************************

For 40 years, the Mirror has campaigned for justice for the brave men who took part in Britain’s nuclear weapons tests.

The Ministry of Defence has fought back every step of the way.

We have told countless heartbreaking stories of grieving mums, children with deformities, men aged before their time and widows struggling to hold their families together, all while campaigning for recognition.

Two years ago we launched an appeal for a medal for the 1,500 survivors.

For the first time we were able to prove some were unwittingly used in experiments.

Our appeal was backed by then-Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson but his review foundered after he lost his job.

It had only six meetings in two years. They never asked to meet veterans. They never questioned the evidence.

Instead they asked for information from the MoD, which has a track record of denying what its own paperwork later proves.

And as our medal campaign gathered steam, civil servants simultaneously withdrew public documents from the National Archives.

Would anyone working in Whitehall today stay there, if 3 megatons of plutonium exploded south of the river?

The test veterans and their families will never stop fighting. The Mirror will never cease to demand they are heard.

Prime Minister, listen to them. Overturn this disgraceful decision.

The lingering horror of thorium radioactive poisoning in West Chicago

August 4, 2022

On the one hand, the story of West Chicago and thorium is one of triumph: a small town overcomes the odds and makes a big corporation clean up its radioactive waste. On the other hand, thorium still haunts some residents, especially those living with illness or deaths in the family that they suspect are related.

Are West Chicago’s Radiation Worries Over?, BELT Magazine, By Liuan Huska, 13 July 22,

Sandra Arzola was relaxing in her West Chicago home one weekend in 1995, when she heard a knock at the door. Recently married, she shared the gray duplex with her husband, mom and sister, and family members were constantly coming and going. But when Sandra answered the door that day, what she learned would change how she looked at her home and suburban community forever.

At the door was a woman representing Envirocon, an environmental cleanup company. There was thorium on the family’s property, the woman said, and if it was OK with them, workers were coming to remove it. It was the first time Sandra had heard of thorium “It took me by left field,” she said. “But [the representative] made it sound like everything was going to be fine.”

Unknowingly, the Arzolas had bought their way into what the Chicago Tribune in 1979 called “the radioactive capital of the Midwest.” Not long after they purchased the property, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designated it a Superfund site because of the hazardous waste in their yard.

The source of the danger was the old factory one block to the north of the Arzola home, which Jesse Arzola frequently went past while walking their dogs. From 1932 to 1973, the factory was the largest producer of rare earth and radioactive thorium compounds in the world. It started out producing lamps and later supplied thorium for the federal government’s atomic bomb development. But perhaps the factory’s most lasting legacy, at least in West Chicago, is the harmful radioactive waste that was dumped in ponds, piled at the factory and buried around homes and sidewalks across town.

Residents raised health concerns as early as the 1940s about the toxic material, but these were regularly dismissed by the factory, last owned by the Kerr-McGee Chemical Corporation. Comprehensive environmental protection rules weren’t put in place until the early 1970s, leaving the factory largely free to dispose of its nuclear waste for decades.

It has taken just as long for the company and government to clean up the radioactive waste. As of 2015, the radioactive sites under federal jurisdiction near the factory have been cleaned to EPA standards. There are no remaining health risks from the land, according to government officials.

But below the factory, the groundwater is still polluted with a range of toxins – particularly uranium – that exceed protection standards. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency, which has jurisdiction over the site, expects remediation to begin this fall. ……………………..

Prolonged or high levels of radiation exposure can damage genetic material in cells and cause cancer and other diseases later on, especially for children, who are more sensitive to radiation. Only two public health studies, published in the early 1990s, have been conducted in West Chicago. Both found elevated cancer rates in the 60185 zip code, which includes the neighborhood around the factory……………………………

The challenges facing West Chicago residents today began ninety years ago, when Charles R. Lindsay moved his lamp factory from Chicago to what was then an undeveloped little town with multiple rail connections. The factory, now officially known as the Rare Earths Facility, took monazite ore and used powerful acids to extract minerals to make gas lanterns, which burned thorium nitrate to emit an incandescent glow. During World War II, it also supplied thorium to the federal government to develop the atomic bombs that were later dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Japan.

During its four decades of operation, the Rare Earths Facility processed up to one hundred and forty-one thousand tons of monazite. The liquid waste from the extraction process was dumped into unlined ponds around the factory, seeping into the surrounding water table. Solid waste, a black, sand-like material known as thorium tailings, piled up on site. Old-timers share stories of sneaking into the factory grounds and playing on “Mount Thorium.” When the pile got too big, the waste was trucked down the road to a new pile in Reed Keppler Park.

Facing mounting piles of toxic waste, Lindsay came up with another solution: offer the waste to residents for landscaping. From the 1930s through the 1950s, radioactive thorium tailings were distributed across town, mixed with concrete to pour foundations, mixed with topsoil for gardens and spilled along roadways. The company continued to do this as the risks of radiation exposure became widely known starting in the late 1940s through its effects on Japanese atomic bomb survivors.

Soon after the factory moved to West Chicago, people started complaining. In 1941, nearby residents sued Lindsay Light for releasing airborne hydrofluoric acid that killed trees and shrubs nearby.

The federal government did not begin regulating nuclear materials until 1954. Starting in 1957 the company received repeated citations for safety violations, including failing to fence off radioactive storage areas, exposing workers to radiation levels above standards and improper waste disposal.

As the environmental movement gained steam through the 1960s, growing public pressure pushed Congress to create the Environmental Protection Agency and pass the Clean Air Act of 1970 and Clean Water Act of 1972. That resulted in sweeping new regulations – and obligations to the American public – for companies like Kerr-McGee, which had gotten used to operating with limited oversight…………………………….

The EPA denied the company’s request for an operating permit and the factory shuttered in 1973. It was cheaper to cease operations than follow the new rules. By 1980, Kerr-McGee had started the process of closing down the West Chicago facility for good. Pressure from residents and the city pushed the company to begin cleanup on 119 contaminated residential properties.

Still, Kerr-McGee had another plan that worried residents: to permanently store thirteen million cubic feet of radioactive waste at the factory site in a four-story, twenty-seven-acre, clay-covered cell. Concerned residents formed an organization, the Thorium Action Group, to fight the company’s proposal. This spawned more than a decade of legal battles between residents, the city of West Chicago, and state of Illinois — who wanted the thorium out of town — and the company and the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, who insisted the waste could safely be stored in this densely populated neighborhood of West Chicago…………………

Moving the thorium waste out of town would take over two decades to complete. In the meantime, there was still the problem of radioactive tailings embedded around the neighborhood…………………….

The Arzolas’ experience is far from rare. Realtors in West Chicago have operated with a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, said longtime realtor and former West Chicago resident Dan Czuba. Unlike for radon or lead, realtors never received directives from the state or any licensing board to disclose other harmful thorium byproducts. People have had to do their own homework and decide whether or not a home was a risk. “To this day,” Czuba said, “I still don’t know that there was an official statement of, ‘Thorium will hurt you.’”…………………………………..

Throughout the decades, various groups have tried to get the word out about thorium. The Thorium Action Group was active through the early 2000s. Once the EPA got involved and Kerr-McGee agreed to move the waste out, the group dissipated………

The lack of easily accessible information surrounding the contamination and cleanups has left some residents with the nagging worry that there may be other hidden pockets of radiation around town……….

One house to the west and across the railroad from the Arzolas, Erika Bartlett grew up playing along the tracks and under her yard’s sprawling old oak trees. When she was diagnosed with leukemia in 2012, at age thirty-four, a friend asked if there was anything she could have been exposed to.

“Wait a minute, I actually was,” Bartlett told her friend. She thought back to her high school years, when the oak trees, swingset and above-ground pool at her house were removed during the radiation remediation. Bartlett realized she had spent her childhood, starting from age four, in a neighborhood embedded with nuclear waste. She wondered how many others living near the factory had similar health problems. That started her on a yearslong personal investigation into the town’s thorium legacy.

Between 2012 and 2016, as Bartlett was undergoing cancer treatment, she knocked on doors in the neighborhoods around the factory, an area covering about one square mile. She found over 200 cases of cancers and other illnesses that could stem from radiation exposure, including birth defects, Hashimoto’s and aplastic anemia, the illness that killed the pioneering radioactivity researcher Marie Curie in 1934.

“When I first started, I didn’t think I’d find anything,” Bartlett said. “But block after block, it seemed like a bigger deal than I thought.”

The EPA estimated that, before the waste was removed, radiation levels in some residential neighborhoods in West Chicago increased lifetime cancer risks up to seventy times what is acceptable……

The only official health studies into the impacts on people living near the factory were conducted over three decades ago, by the Illinois Department of Public Health. Among residents in the 60185 zip code, studies in 1990 and 1991 found elevated rates of cancer, including melanomas and lung, colorectal and breast cancers. By grouping exposed and unexposed people together, however, researchers said more differences may have been masked……………………………………….

On the one hand, the story of West Chicago and thorium is one of triumph: a small town overcomes the odds and makes a big corporation clean up its radioactive waste. On the other hand, thorium still haunts some residents, especially those living with illness or deaths in the family that they suspect are related…………………  https://beltmag.com/are-west-chicagos-radiation-worries-over/

Fukushima bosses ordered to pay billions for failing to prevent nuclear disaster

August 4, 2022

The Chemical Engineer, by Adam Duckett, 18 July 22,

FOUR former bosses of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant have been ordered by a Tokyo court to pay ¥13trn yen (US$94bn) in damages for failing to prevent disaster at the site in 2011.

The lawsuit was filed by shareholders in 2012 and is the first to find former executives of utility company Tepco liable for compensation. Kyodo News reports that the presiding judge said the utility’s countermeasures for the tsunami “fundamentally lacked safety awareness and a sense of responsibility,” ruling that the executives failed to perform their duties.

A huge earthquake knocked out power supply to the plant and triggered a tsunami thought to measure as high as 15 m. This easily washed over the 5.5 m seawalls designed to protect the plant, flooding key infrastructure, including the backup diesel generators that had kicked in to power the cooling of the reactors.  Without this power, the three units operating at the plant melted down, the reactor pressure vessels were breached, and radioactive material was released into the environment.

The trial focused on whether the management had taken appropriate decisions on how to manage the risk of tsunami after a Tepco unit estimated in 2008 that a tsunami measuring up to 15.7 m could strike the plant based on a Government analysis published in 2002, Kyodo News reports. The former executives’ lawyers argued that the assessment lacked reliability. The court disagreed and said the Government’s assessment obliged the company to take measures. It ruled that the decision not to act was “extremely irrational and unforgivable”.

The four executives found guilty include former Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, former President Masataka Shimizu, and former vice presidents Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro. The sum they have been ordered to pay is well beyond their personal wealth, but they are expected to pay as much as their assets allow. A fifth defendant, former Managing Director Akio Komori, was found not liable for damages……………. more https://www.thechemicalengineer.com/news/fukushima-bosses-ordered-to-pay-billions-for-failing-to-prevent-nuclear-disaster/

Decadal trends in 137Cs concentrations in the bark and wood of trees contaminated by the Fukushima nuclear accident.

August 4, 2022

Published: 04 July 2022

Abstract

Understanding the actual situation of radiocesium (137Cs) contamination of trees caused by the Fukushima nuclear accident is essential for predicting the future contamination of wood. Particularly important is determining whether the 137Cs dynamics within forests and trees have reached apparent steady state. We conducted a monitoring survey of four major tree species (Japanese cedar, Japanese cypress, konara oak, and Japanese red pine) at multiple sites. Using a dynamic linear model, we analyzed the temporal trends in 137Cs activity concentrations in the bark (whole), outer bark, inner bark, wood (whole), sapwood, and heartwood during the 2011–2020 period. The activity concentrations were decay-corrected to September 1, 2020, to exclude the decrease due to the radioactive decay. The 137Cs concentrations in the whole and outer bark samples showed an exponential decrease in most plots but a flat trend in one plot, where 137Cs root uptake is considered to be high. The 137Cs concentration ratio (CR) of inner bark/sapwood showed a flat trend but the CR of heartwood/sapwood increased in many plots, indicating that the 137Cs dynamics reached apparent steady state within one year in the biologically active parts (inner bark and sapwood) and after several to more than 10 years in the inactive part (heartwood). The 137Cs concentration in the whole wood showed an increasing trend in six plots. In four of these plots, the increasing trend shifted to a flat or decreasing trend. Overall, the results show that the 137Cs dynamics within forests and trees have reached apparent steady state in many plots, although the amount of 137Cs root uptake in some plots is possibly still increasing 10 years after the accident. Clarifying the mechanisms and key factors determining the amount of 137Cs root uptake will be crucial for predicting wood contamination.

Introduction

After the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant (FDNPP) accident in March of 2011, a wide area of forests in eastern Japan was contaminated with radionuclides. In particular, radiocesium (137Cs) has the potential to threaten the forestry and wood production in the contaminated area for many decades because it was released in large amounts (10 PBq)1 and has a relatively long half-life (30 years). Radiocesium levels for some wood uses are strictly regulated in Japan (e.g., 40 Bq kg−1 for firewood2 and 50 Bq kg−1 for mushroom bed logs3), meaning that multipurpose uses of wood from even moderately contaminated areas are restricted. Although a guidance level of radiocesium in construction wood has not been declared in Japan, the permissible levels in some European countries (370–740 Bq kg−1)4,5,6 suggest that logging should be precautionary within several tens of kilometers from the FDNPP, where the 137Cs activity concentration in wood potentially exceeds 1,000 Bq kg−1 [refs. 7,8]. To determine whether logging should proceed, the long-term variation in wood 137Cs concentration must be predicted as accurately as possible. Many simulation models successfully reproduce the temporal variations in the early phase after the FDNPP accident, but produce large uncertainties in long-term predictions9. To understand the 137Cs dynamics in forests and trees and hence refine the prediction models, it is essential to provide and analyze the observational data of 137Cs activity concentrations in tree stem parts.

Accident-derived 137Cs causes two types of tree contamination: direct contamination by 137Cs fallout shortly after the accident, and indirect contamination caused by surface uptake from directly contaminated foliage/bark10,11 and root uptake from contaminated soil12. The 137Cs concentration in bark that pre-exists the accident was affected by both 137Cs drop/wash off from bark surfaces and 137Cs uptake because the bark consists of a directly contaminated outer bark (rhytidome) and an indirectly contaminated inner bark (phloem). Given that the 137Cs content was 10 times higher in the outer bark than in the inner bark in 201213 and the 137Cs concentration in the whole bark decreased during the 2011–2016 period at many study sites8, the temporal variation in the whole bark 137Cs concentration during the early post-accident phase must be mainly contributed by drop/wash off of 137Cs on the outer bark surface.

In contrast, stem wood (xylem) covered by bark was contaminated only indirectly. Although 137Cs distribution in sapwood (outer part of stem wood; containing living cells) and heartwood (inner part of stem wood; containing no living cells) is non-uniform and species-specific8,13,14,15, the 137Cs concentration in whole wood depends on the amount of 137Cs uptake. Because the dissolvable 137Cs on the foliar/bark surface decreased significantly within 201116, the main route of 137Cs uptake since 2012 is likely root uptake rather than surface uptake. A monitoring survey during 2011–2016 showed that the temporal trend in the whole wood 137Cs concentration can be increasing, decreasing, or flat8, suggesting that 137Cs root uptake widely differs among sites and species.

Meanwhile, many simulation models have predicted an initial increase in the whole wood 137Cs concentration after the accident, followed by a gradual decline9. The initial increase is attributable to the increase in soil 137Cs inventory, and the following decline is mainly attributed to radioactive decay, dilution by wood biomass increment, and immobilization in the soil. Therefore, the trend shift from increasing to decreasing is a good indicator that shows the 137Cs dynamics within the forest have reached apparent steady state, which is characterized by slower changes in 137Cs concentration, bioavailability, and partitioning in the forest12,17,18. However, the timing of the trend shift predicted by the models have large uncertainty, varying from several years to a few decades from the accident9. Moreover, the trend shift has not been confirmed by observational data after the FDNPP accident. Although our monitoring survey cannot easily identify the key driving factors of the temporal trends, it can directly discern the trend shift from increasing to decreasing, and the timeframe of the increasing trend. The confirmation of the trend shift will accelerate the understanding of key factors of 137Cs root uptake, because important parameters such as transfer factor and CR are originally defined for a steady state condition18.

The present study aims to clarify the temporal trends of 137Cs concentrations in bark and wood of four major tree species (Japanese cedar, Japanese cypress, konara oak, and Japanese red pine) at multiple sites during the 10 years following the FDNPP accident. Detecting a trend shift from increasing to decreasing in the wood 137Cs concentration was especially important to infer whether the 137Cs dynamics within the forest have reached apparent steady state. We update Ohashi et al.8, who analyzed the monotonous increasing or decreasing trends during 2011–2016, with observational data of 2017–2020 and a more flexible time-series analysis using a dynamic linear model (DLM). The DLM is suitable for analyzing data including observational errors and autocorrelation, and has the advantage of being applicable to time-series data with missing years. For a more detailed understanding of bark contamination and the 137Cs dynamics in tree stems, we also newly provide data on the 137Cs concentrations in the outer and inner barks. The temporal trends in the 137Cs CRs of outer bark/inner bark, heartwood/sapwood, and inner bark/sapwood were analyzed to confirm whether the 137Cs dynamics within the trees have reached apparent steady state.

Materials and methods

Monitoring sites and species

The monitoring survey was conducted at five sites in Fukushima Prefecture (sites 1–4 and A1) and at one site in Ibaraki Prefecture (site 5), Japan (Fig. 1). Sites 1, 2, and A1 are located in Kawauchi Village, site 3 in Otama Village, site 4 in Tadami Town, and site 5 in Ishioka City. Monitoring at sites 1–5 was started in 2011 or 2012, and site A1 was additionally monitored since 2017. The tree species, age, mean diameter at breast height, initial deposition density of 137Cs, and sampling year of each sample at each site are listed in Table 1. The dominant tree species in the contaminated area, namely, Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica [L.f.] D.Don), Japanese cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa [Siebold et Zucc.] Endl.), konara oak (Quercus serrata Murray), and Japanese red pine (Pinus densiflora Siebold et Zucc.) were selected for monitoring. Japanese chestnut (Castanea crenata Siebold et Zucc.) was supplementally added in 2017. The cedar, cypress, and pine are evergreen coniferous species, and the oak and chestnut are deciduous broad-leaved species. Sites 1 and 3 each have three plots, and each plot contains a different monitoring species. Site A1 has one plot containing two different monitoring species, and the remaining sites each have one plot with one monitoring species, giving ten plots in total.

Locations of the monitoring sites and initial deposition densities of 137Cs (decay-corrected to July 2, 2011) following the Fukushima nuclear accident in Fukushima and Ibaraki Prefectures. Open circles indicate the monitoring sites and the cross mark indicates the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant. Data on the deposition density were provided by MEXT19,20 and refined by Kato et al.21. The map was created using R (version 4.1.0)22 with ggplot2 (version 3.3.5)23 and sf (version 1.0–0)24 packages.

Sample collection and preparation

Bulk sampling of bark and wood disks was conducted by felling three trees per year at all sites during 2011–20168,25 and at sites 3–5 and A1 during 2017–2020. Partial sampling from six trees per year was conducted at sites 1 and 2 during 2017–2020 (from seven trees at site 2 in 2017) to sustain the monitoring trees. All the samples were obtained from the stems around breast height. During the partial sampling, bark pieces sized approximately 3 cm × 3 cm (axial length × tangential length) were collected from four directions of the tree stem using a chisel, and 12-mm-diameter wood cores were collected from two directions of the tree stem using an automatic increment borer (Smartborer, Seiwa Works, Tsukuba, Japan) equipped with a borer bit (10–101-1046, Haglöf Sweden, Långsele, Sweden). Such partial sampling increases the observational errors in the bark and wood 137Cs concentrations in individual trees26. To mitigate this error and maintain an accurate mean value of the 137Cs concentration, we increased the number of sampled trees from three to six. The sampling was conducted mainly in July–September of each year; the exceptions were site-5 samples in 2011 and 2012, which were collected irregularly during January–February of the following year. The collected bark pieces were separated into outer and inner barks, and the wood disks and cores were split into sapwood and heartwood. The outer and inner bark samples during 2012–2016 were obtained by partial sampling of barks sized approximately 10 cm × 10 cm from 2–3 directions on 2–3 trees per year.

The bulk samples of bark, sapwood, and heartwood were air-dried and then chipped into flakes using a cutting mill with a 6-mm mesh sieve (UPC-140, HORAI, Higashiosaka, Japan). The pieces of the outer and inner bark were chipped into approximately 5 mm × 5 mm pieces using pruning shears, and the cores of the sapwood and heartwood were chipped into semicircles of thickness 1–2 mm. Each sample was packed into a container for radioactivity measurements and its mass was measured after oven-drying at 75 °C for at least 48 h. Multiplying this mass by the conversion factor (0.98 for bark and 0.99 for wood)8 yielded the dry mass at 105 °C.

Radioactivity measurements

The radioactivity of 137Cs in the samples was determined by γ-ray spectrometry with a high-purity Ge semiconductor detector (GEM20, GEM40, or GWL-120, ORTEC, Oak Ridge, TN). For measurements, the bulk and partial samples were placed into Marinelli containers (2.0 L or 0.7 L) and cylindrical containers (100 mL or 5 mL), respectively. The peak efficiencies of the Marinelli containers, the 100-mL container, and the 5-mL container were calibrated using standard sources of MX033MR, MX033U8PP (Japan Radioisotope Association, Tokyo, Japan), and EG-ML (Eckert & Ziegler Isotope Products, Valencia, CA), respectively. For the measurement of the 5-mL container, a well-type Ge detector (GWL-120) was used under the empirical assumption that the difference in γ-ray self-absorption between the standard source and the samples is negligible27. The measurement was continued until the counting error became less than 5% (higher counting errors were allowed for small or weakly radioactive samples). The activity concentration of 137Cs in the bark (whole) collected by partial sampling was calculated as the mass-weighted mean of the concentrations in the outer and inner barks; meanwhile, the concentration in the wood (whole) was calculated as the cross-sectional-area-weighted mean of sapwood and heartwood concentrations. The activity concentrations were decay-corrected to September 1, 2020, to exclude the decrease due to the radioactive decay.

Discussion

Causes of temporal trends in bark 137Cs concentration

The 137Cs concentration in the whole bark decreased in many plots, clearly because the outer bark 137Cs concentration decreased. However, the whole bark 137Cs concentration showed a relatively small decrease or even a flat trend in some plots (site-2 cedar and site-1 cypress and oak). In the site-1 cypress plot, where the whole bark 137Cs concentration decreased relatively slowly, the inner bark 137Cs concentration notably increased. Similarly, although we lack early phase monitoring data in the site-2 cedar and site-1 oak plots, the inner bark 137Cs concentration in both plots is considered to have increased prior to monitoring because the sapwood 137Cs concentration increased in both plots and the CR of inner bark/sapwood was constant in all other plots. Therefore, the low-rate decrease or flat trend in the whole bark 137Cs concentration in some plots was probably caused by an increase in the inner bark 137Cs concentration, itself likely caused by high 137Cs root uptake (as discussed later).

The 137Cs concentration in the outer bark decreased in all four plots monitored since 2012 (site-1 and site-3 cedar, site-1 cypress, and site-3 pine), confirming the 137Cs drop/wash off from the bark surface. The constant (exponential) decrease in three of these plots indicates that the 137Cs drop/wash off was still continuing in 2020 but with smaller effect on the outer bark 137Cs concentration. In contrast, the decrease in the site-1 cypress plot seemed to slow down since around 2017. Furthermore, Kato et al.32 reported no decrease in 137Cs concentration in the outer bark of Japanese cedar during the 2012–2016 period. Such cases cannot be fitted by a simple decrease of the outer bark 137Cs concentration. As a longer-term perspective, in the outer bark of Norway spruces (Picea abies) affected by the Chernobyl nuclear accident, the biological half-life of 137Cs concentration was extended in areas with higher precipitation, suggesting that high root uptake of 137Cs hinders the decreasing trend33. The present study showed that 70–80% or more of the 137Cs deposited on the bark surface (outer bark) was removed by drop/wash off after 10 years from the accident and that the 137Cs CR of outer bark/inner bark became constant in some plots. These facts suggest that the longer-term variations in outer bark 137Cs concentration will be more influenced by 137Cs root uptake, although it is uncertain whether root uptake caused the slowing down of the decrease rate seen in the site-1 cypress plot. Further studies are needed to understand the 137Cs concentration in newly formed outer bark and to determine the 137Cs CR of outer bark/inner bark at steady state.

Causes of temporal trends in wood 137Cs concentration

The temporal trends of the 137Cs concentration in the whole wood basically corresponded to those in the sapwood. The exceptions were the site-3 and site-4 cedar plots, where the sapwood 137Cs concentration did not increase but the whole wood 137Cs concentration was raised by the notable increase in the heartwood 137Cs concentration. This behavior can be attributed to a species-specific characteristic of Japanese cedar, which facilitates Cs transfer from sapwood to heartwood8,15,34. The present study newly found that the increase in the 137Cs CR of heartwood/sapwood in the cedar plots became smaller or shifted to a flat trend around 2015–2016, indicating that 137Cs transfer between the sapwood and heartwood has reached apparent steady state at many sites 10 years after the accident. Therefore, after 2020, the whole wood 137Cs concentration in cedar is unlikely to increase without a concomitant increase in the sapwood 137Cs concentration.

The increasing trends in the 137Cs concentrations in whole wood and sapwood (site-2 cedar, site-1 cypress, and site-1 and site-3 oak plots) are seemingly caused by the yearly increase in 137Cs root uptake; however, the wood 137Cs concentration can also increase when the 137Cs root uptake is constant or even slightly decreases each year. This behavior can be shown in a simple simulation of the temporal variation in the wood 137Cs content (the amount of 137Cs in stem wood of a tree). If the 137Cs dynamics within a tree have reached steady state and the proportion of 137Cs allocated to stem wood become apparently constant, the wood 137Cs content in a given year can be considered to be determined by the amount of 137Cs root uptake and the amount of 137Cs emission via litterfall. The flat 137Cs CR trend of inner bark/sapwood during 2012–2020 (see Fig. 5) indicates that the 137Cs dynamics, at least those between the inner bark and sapwood, reached apparent steady state within 2011. Here we assume that (1) the annual amount of 137Cs root uptake is constant, (2) the proportion of 137Cs allocated to stem wood is apparently constant, and as assumed in many forest Cs dynamics models17,35,36,37, (3) a certain proportion of 137Cs in the stem wood is lost via litterfall each year. Under these conditions, the simulated amount of 137Cs emission balanced the amount of 137Cs root uptake after sufficient time, and the wood 137Cs content approached an asymptotic value calculated as [root uptake amount × allocation proportion × (1/emission proportion − 1)]. Note that the asymptotic value increases with increasing root uptake amount and decreasing emission proportion and does not depend on the amount of 137Cs foliar/bark surface uptake in the early post-accident phase. Nevertheless, the amount of 137Cs surface uptake in the early phase critically determines the trend of the wood 137Cs content. More specifically, the trend in the early phase will be increasing (decreasing) if the surface uptake is smaller (larger) than the asymptotic value. Finally, the temporal variation of the 137Cs concentration in wood is thought to be the sum of the dilution effect of the increasing wood biomass and the above-simulated variation in the wood 137Cs content. Therefore, in the early post-accident phase, the wood 137Cs concentration will increase when the wood 137Cs content increases at a higher rate than the wood biomass. As the wood 137Cs content approaches its asymptotic value (i.e., steady state), its increase rate slows and the dilution effect proportionally increases. Then, the wood 137Cs concentration shifts from an increasing trend to a decreasing trend. The trends of the 137Cs concentrations in whole wood and sapwood in the site-3 oak plot follow this basic temporal trend, which is similarly predicted by many simulation models9.

In other plots with the increasing trend (site-2 cedar and site-1 cypress and oak), the increase in the 137Cs concentrations in whole wood and sapwood became smaller or shifted to a flat trend around six years after the accident; however, it did not shift to a decreasing trend. This lack of any clear shift to a decreasing trend, which was similarly seen at sites with hydromorphic soils after the Chernobyl nuclear accident38,39, cannot be well explained by the above simulation. A core assumption of the simulation that the yearly amount of 137Cs root uptake is constant is probably violated in these plots, leading to underestimations of the root uptake amount. Although the inventory of exchangeable 137Cs in the organic soil layer has decreased yearly since the accident, that in the mineral soil layer at 0–5 cm depth has remained constant40. In addition, the downward migration of 137Cs has increased the 137Cs inventory in the mineral soil layer below 5-cm depth41,42. If the steady state 137Cs inventory of the root uptake source can be regarded as sufficient for trees, any increase in the 137Cs root uptake is likely explained by expansion of the root distribution and the increase in transpiration (water uptake) with tree growth. When the wood 137Cs content increases at a similar rate to the wood biomass, the increasing trend will not obviously shift to a decreasing trend. Therefore, assuming the 137Cs allocation and emission proportions in the mature trees do not change considerably with time, the amount of 137Cs root uptake is considered to be increasing yearly in these four plots.

In the remaining plots with the decreasing or flat trend (site-1 cedar, site-4 cedar without outliers, site-5 cypress, and site-3 pine), according to the above simulation, the amount of initial 137Cs surface uptake was larger than or similar to the asymptotic value, i.e. the amount of 137Cs root uptake is relatively small and/or the proportion of 137Cs emission via litterfall is relatively high. However, the amount of 137Cs root uptake in the plots with the flat trend is possibly increasing because the flat trend has not shifted to a decreasing trend. In these plots, although it is difficult to confirm apparent steady state of the soil–tree 137Cs cycling because of the lack of an initial increasing trend, the recent flat trends in the 137Cs CRs of heartwood/sapwood and inner bark/sapwood indicate that the 137Cs dynamics, at least within the trees, have reached apparent steady state.

Various factors were found to increase the 137Cs root uptake after the Chernobyl nuclear accident; for example, high soil water content, high soil organic and low clay content (i.e., low radiocesium interception potential [RIP]), low soil exchangeable K concentration, and high soil exchangeable NH4 concentration12,43. After the FDNPP accident, the 137Cs transfer from soil to Japanese cypress and konara oak was found to be negatively correlated with the soil exchangeable K concentration44,45 and the 137Cs mobility is reportedly high in soils with low RIP46. However, neither the soil exchangeable K and Cs concentrations nor the RIP have explained the different 137Cs aggregated transfer factors (defined as [137Cs activity concentration in a specified component/137Cs activity inventory in the soil]) of Japanese cedars at sites 1–446,47. Because the 137Cs dynamics within the forest and trees in many plots reached apparent steady state at 10 years after the FDNPP accident, the 137Cs aggregated transfer factor is now considered to be an informative indicator of the 137Cs root uptake. Therefore, a comprehensive analysis of the 137Cs aggregated transfer factor and the soil properties at more sites than in the present study will be important to understand key factors determining the amount of 137Cs root uptake by each tree species at each site.

Validity and limitation of the trend analyses

Although the application of the smooth local linear trend model failed in plots monitored for less than five years, it was deemed suitable for analyzing the decadal trend because it removes annual noises, which are probably caused by relatively large observational errors (including individual variability)26. Moreover, the algorithm that determines the trend and its shift between 2 and 4 delimiting years was apparently reasonable, because the detected trends well matched our intuition. However, when judging a trend, the algorithm simply assesses whether the true state values significantly differ between the delimiting years. Therefore, it cannot detect changes in the increase/decrease rate (i.e., whether an increasing/decreasing trend is approaching a flat trend). For example, the whole bark 137Cs concentration in the site-1 cypress plot was determined to decrease throughout the monitoring period. In fact, the decrease rate slowed around 2014 and the decreases were slight between 2014 and 2020 (see Fig. 2). Similarly, the sapwood 137Cs concentration in the site-1 cypress and oak plots was determined to increase throughout the monitoring period, but the increase rate has clearly slowed since around 2017. To more sensitively detect the shift from an increasing/decreasing trend to a flat trend, other algorithms are required. Nevertheless, this algorithm is acceptable for the chief aim of the present study; that is, to detect a trend shift from increasing to decreasing.

Conclusions

In many plots monitored at Fukushima and Ibaraki Prefectures, the 137Cs concentrations in the whole and outer bark decreased at almost the same yearly rate for 10 years after the FDNPP accident, indicating that the direct contamination of the outer bark was mostly but not completely removed during this period. Moreover, the 137Cs concentration in the whole bark decreased at relatively low rates or was stable in plots where the 137Cs root uptake was considered to be high. This fact suggests that indirect contamination through continuous root uptake can reach the same magnitude as direct contamination by the accident.

In all of our analyzed plots, the 137Cs CR of inner bark/sapwood has not changed since 2012, indicating that 137Cs transfer among the biologically active parts of the tree stem had already reached apparent steady state in 2011. In contrast, the 137Cs CR of heartwood/sapwood in six out of nine plots increased after the accident. In four of these plots, the 137Cs CR of heartwood/sapwood plateaued after 3–6 years; in the other two plots, the plateau was not reached even after 10 years. Therefore, saturation of 137Cs in heartwood (an inactive part of the tree stem) requires several years to more than one decade.

The 137Cs concentration in the whole wood showed an increasing trend in six out of nine plots. In four of these plots, the increasing trend shifted to a flat or decreasing trend, indicating that the 137Cs dynamics in many forests reached apparent steady state at 10 years after the accident. However, the lack of the clear shift to a decreasing trend indicates that the 137Cs root uptake is probably still increasing in some plots. Continuous monitoring surveys and further studies clarifying the complex mechanisms of 137Cs root uptake in forests are needed in order to refine the simulation models and improve their prediction accuracy.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-14576-1

Nuclear war would turn oceans upside down, crash food web

August 4, 2022

https://news.wisc.edu/nuclear-war-would-turn-oceans-upside-down-crash-food-web/ July 8, 2022 By Chris Barncard , Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has given the specter of nuclear war renewed weight as a global threat, and a new study of the environmental impact of a nuclear conflict describes dire consequences for the world’s oceans.

“If there were a nuclear war, these huge explosions and the firestorms they cause could throw so much soot — teragrams, or millions of tons — into the atmosphere, it would block out enough sunlight to cool the atmosphere significantly,” says Elizabeth Maroon, a professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

In just one month after a nuclear exchange between Russia and the United States or India and Pakistan, average global temperatures would drop by 13 degrees Fahrenheit — a larger temperature change than in the last ice age — according to climate modeling by Maroon and collaborators from around the world. The research team, led by Louisiana State University professor of oceanography and coast sciences Cheryl Harrison, published their findings July 7 in the journal AGU Advances.

Even setting aside radioactive fallout, the consequences on land would be dire, including widespread crop failures. But in just a year, the planet’s interconnected oceans would enter a state unfamiliar to scientists like Maroon who study the way oceans have changed on much longer time scales. And, unlike effects on the atmosphere and on land, oceans would not fully recover within the 30-year time period covered by the researchers’ simulations of nuclear conflicts.

“Changes in the ocean take longer than in the atmosphere or on land, but our modeling shows that even in the first year after a nuclear war the ocean circulation would have started changing drastically,” says Maroon, an expert on the interplay between the Atlantic Ocean’s complex circulation patterns and Earth’s climate.

The Atlantic’s major circulation turn-around in the northern latitudes — in which warm surface water streaming north to Greenland, Iceland and Norway cools and sinks into middle depths to be drawn south again — comes unhinged.

“Within the first year or two, water in the North Atlantic sinks all the way to the bottom of the ocean, which we think has not happened even in the ice ages,” says Maroon. “In today’s ocean, only near Antarctica does water sink all the way to the seafloor.”

That unprecedented mixing and ocean circulation speed-up — which would last for about two decades — would move nutrients in the ocean vital for supporting the smallest and most numerous marine organisms, like plankton, into entirely unfamiliar conditions around the world.

It would also result in cooling so strong it would extend sea ice and render impassable major seaports that are now open year-round, and would likely cause significant damage to much of the ocean food web.

“It’s no secret that nuclear winter would be terrible,” Maroon says. “What this study shows are the lasting extent of effects we hadn’t really addressed before on ocean circulation and ecosystems and the very base of the food web.”

To read more about the study and its findings, visit: https://www.lsu.edu/mediacenter/news/2022/07/07docs_harrison_aguadvances.php

Lost in space: Astronauts struggle to regain bone density

August 4, 2022

France 24 30/06/2022 Paris (AFP) – Astronauts lose decades’ worth of bone mass in space that many do not recover even after a year back on Earth, researchers said Thursday, warning that it could be a “big concern” for future missions to Mars.

Previous research has shown astronauts lose between one to two percent of bone density for every month spent in space, as the lack of gravity takes the pressure off their legs when it comes to standing and walking.

To find out how astronauts recover once their feet are back on the ground, a new study scanned the wrists and ankles of 17 astronauts before, during and after a stay on the International Space Station.

The bone density lost by astronauts was equivalent to how much they would shed in several decades if they were back on Earth, said study co-author Steven Boyd of Canada’s University of Calgary and director of the McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health.

The researchers found that the shinbone density of nine of the astronauts had not fully recovered after a year on Earth — and were still lacking around a decade’s worth of bone mass.

The astronauts who went on the longest missions, which ranged from four to seven months on the ISS, were the slowest to recover.

“The longer you spend in space, the more bone you lose,” Boyd told AFP.

Boyd said it is a “big concern” for planned for future missions to Mars, which could see astronauts spend years in space……………………..

Guillemette Gauquelin-Koch, the head of medicine research at France’s CNES space agency, said that the weightlessness experienced in space is “most drastic physical inactivity there is”.

“Even with two hours of sport a day, it is like you are bedridden for the other 22 hours,” said the doctor, who was not part of the study.

“It will not be easy for the crew to set foot on Martian soil when they arrive — it’s very disabling.”………………………………….  https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20220630-lost-in-space-astronauts-struggle-to-regain-bone-density