Nuclear issues

February 6, 2015

Informational items on various aspects of the nuclear industry

nuke-hazards

1961 the thermonuclear bomb that they dropped in North Carolina

October 23, 2021

A thermonuclear bomb slammed into a US farm in 1961 — and part of it is still missing https://www.businessinsider.com.au/nuclear-bomb-accident-goldsboro-nc-swamp-2017-5?r=US&IR=T,DAVE MOSHER MAY 8, 2017,

  • In 1961, a US nuclear bomber broke up over North Carolina farmland, killing three of eight crew members.
  • The accident dropped two powerful hydrogen bombs over the area, but they did not detonate.
  • The military fully recovered one of the bombs.
  • While the second bomb was mostly recovered, one of its nuclear cores is likely still buried in up to 200 feet of mud and dirt.

Disaster struck early in the morning of January 24, 1961, as eight servicemen in a nuclear bomber were patrolling the skies near Goldsboro, North Carolina. They were an insurance policy against a surprise nuclear attack by Russia on the United States — a sobering threat at the time. The on-alert crew might survive the initial attack, the thinking went, to respond with two large nuclear weapons tucked into the belly of their B-52G Stratofortress jet.

Each Mark 39 thermonuclear bomb was about 12 feet long, weighed more than 6,200 pounds, and could detonate with the energy of 3.8 million tons of TNT. Such a blast could kill everyone and everything within a diameter of about 17 miles — roughly the area inside the Washington, DC, beltway.

But the jet aeroplane and three of its crew members never returned to base, and neither nor did a nuclear core from one of the bombs.

The plane broke up about 2,000 above the ground, nearly detonating one of the bombs in the process. Had the weapon exploded, the blast would have packed about 250 times the explosive power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

A major accident involving a nuclear weapon is called a “broken arrow,” and the US military has officially recognised 32 of them since 1950. A mysterious fuel leak, which the crew found out as a refuelling plane approached, led to the broken arrow incident over North Carolina in 1961. The leak quickly worsened, and the jet bomber “lost its tail, spun out of control, and, perhaps most important, lost control of its bomb bay doors before it lost two megaton nuclear bombs,” according to a twopart series about the accident by The Orange County Register newspaper.

“The plane crashed nose-first into a tobacco field a few paces away from Big Daddy Road just outside Goldsboro, N.C., about 60 miles east of Raleigh.” One bomb safely parachuted toward the ground and snagged on a tree. Crews quickly found it, inspected it, and moved it onto a truck. However, the parachute of the other bomb failed, causing it to slam into a swampy, muddy field and break into pieces.

It took crews about a week of digging to find the crumpled bomb and most of its parts. The military studied the bombs and learned that six out of seven steps to blow up one of them had engaged, according to the Register. Only one trigger stopped a blast — and that switch was set to “ARM,” yet somehow failed to detonate the bomb.

It was only “by the slightest margin of chance, literally the failure of two wires to cross, a nuclear explosion was averted,” said Robert McNamara, the US secretary of defence at the time, according to a declassified 1963 memo. “Had the device detonated, lethal fallout could have been deposited over Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and as far north as New York City — putting millions of lives at risk,” according to a 2013 story by Ed Pilkington in the Guardian. Here’s a Nukemap simulation of what might have been the blast radius and fallout zone of the Goldsboro incident: [on original]

The thermonuclear core no one recovered

Both bombs were a thermonuclear design. So instead of just one nuclear core, these weapons — the most powerful type on Earth — had two nuclear cores. In the fleeting moments after the first core (called a primary) explodes, it releases a torrent of X-ray and other radiation. This radiation reflects off the inside of the bomb casing, which acts like a mirror to focus it on and set off the secondary core

The one-two punch compounds the efficiency and explosive power of a nuclear blast.

While the US military recovered the entire Goldsboro bomb that hung from a tree, the second bomb wasn’t fully recovered: Its secondary core was lost in the muck and the mire. Reports suggest the secondary core burrowed more than 100 feet into the ground at the crash site — possibly up to 200 feet down.

The missing secondary is thought to be made mostly of uranium-238, which is common and not weapons-grade material (but can still be deadly inside a thermonuclear weapon), plus some highly enriched uranium-235 (HEU), which is a weapons-grade material and a key ingredient in traditional atomic bombs.

Business Insider contacted the Department of Defence (DoD) to learn about the current status of the site and the missing secondary, and a representative said neither the DoD, Department of Energy, or USAF has “any ongoing projects or activities with this site.”

The DoD representative would not say whether or not the secondary was still there. However, the representative forwarded some responses by Joel Dobson, a local author who penned the book “The Goldsboro Broken Arrow“. “Nothing has changed [since 1961],” Dobson said, according to the DoD email. (Dobson did not return calls or emails from Business Insider.)

“The area is not marked or fenced. It is being farmed. The DOD has been granted a 400 foot in diameter easement which, doesn’t allow building of any kind but farming is OK.”

When asked about the still-missing secondary, Michael O’Hanlon, a US defence strategy specialist with the Brookings Institution, said there should be little to worry about. “Clearly, having a large part of a nuclear weapon on private land … is a bit unsettling. That said, I’m not suggesting anyone lose sleep over this,” O’Hanlon told Business Insider in an email. “It would take a serious operation to get at it, requiring tunnelling equipment and a fairly obvious and visible approach to the site by some kind of road convoy, presumably,” O’Hanlon added.

“Moreover, a secondary does NOT have a lot of HEU or plutonium … which makes it less dangerous because you can’t make a nuclear weapon out of it from scratch.”

But O’Hanlon at least hopes the DoD and others have thought through “the possibility of someone trying to steal it.” “After all, digging and tunnelling equipment has continued to improve over the years — and there is apparently no secret about where this weapon is located,” O’Hanlon said. “On balance, I’d rather it not be there — but don’t consider it a major national security risk, either.”

Independent scientists speak the truth about ionising radiation.

October 5, 2021

How monolithic institutions decide what is safe for the rest of us, Beyond Nuclear, By Christine Fassert and Tatiana Kasperski, 12 Sept 21,

”………………..The condemnation of this [ Fukushima area radiation] threshold came first of all from within: the special adviser on radiation protection of the Prime Minister’s Office, Professor Toshiso Kosako, resigned in tears on April 30, 2011:

“I cannot accept such a threshold, being applied to babies, children, and elementary school students, not only from an academic point of view, but also because of my humanistic values,” he said.

Many critiques

At the international level, the decision to raise the threshold was also criticized by the two successive UN Special Rapporteurs, Anand Grover and Baskut Tuncak. Moreover, the two experts question the very foundations of radiation protection, which rely on the ALARA principle: As Low as Reasonably Achievable.

This “reasonably” indicates that criteria other than health are taken into account, which Grover criticizes, referring to the “right to health”. Indeed, the rapporteur points out that “the ICRP recommendations are based on the principle of optimization and justification, according to which all government actions should maximize the benefits over the detriments. Such a risk-benefit analysis is not in line with the framework of the right to health, because it gives priority to collective interests over individual rights”.

Tuncak echoes Grover’s criticism in his October 2018 report, stating that “the Japanese government’s decision to increase what is considered the acceptable level of radiation exposure by a factor of 20 is deeply troubling.”

Better protecting individuals

Similar arguments were also used by Belarusian and Ukrainian scientists who, in the late 1980s, opposed the lifetime dose limit of 35 rem (350msv) over a maximum period of 70 years from the time of the accident — a limit that Soviet experts in Moscow, with the support of ICRP representatives, including the head of the French Central Service for Protection against Ionizing Radiation, Pierre Pellerin, were trying to impose as the basis for all post-accident response measures. 

The Belarusian and Ukrainian researchers considered the 35 rem criterion to be unacceptable not only from a scientific point of view but also, and above all, from an ethical point of view.

They pointed out that under the conditions of scientific uncertainty about the effects of ionizing radiation, it was dangerous to underestimate the risks that radioactivity represented for the inhabitants of the affected territories, and they considered that the country’s authorities had a moral obligation to devote all the necessary means to greater protection of the inhabitants of the affected regions, especially the most vulnerable individuals.

The danger of low doses

The protagonists of the optimization of radiation protection in the post-accident context insist on the absence of studies proving significant health effects below these thresholds.

For a long time, the arguments for and against these thresholds have been discussed in the public arena and by social scientists in terms of scientific and medical “controversies” — opposing scientists connected to the nuclear sphere who have long denied the harmfulness of low doses, to scientists outside this sphere who consider that the risks were underestimated.

The question of the level of danger of low doses of radioactivity is one of the best known examples of such controversies, which regularly resurface despite the development of scientific knowledge about these risks.

This debate did not arise at the time of the Fukushima accident, but has been going on for a long time and is part of the “motives” also found in the debates about Chernobyl as well as other nuclear accidents such as Kyshtym, in Russia, in 1957………………… https://beyondnuclearinternational.org/2021/09/12/vested-interests/

Eight vital questions about Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and its nuclear wastes.

September 14, 2021

With respect to the new building being applied for by ANSTO, the extended storage of ANSTO’s Intermediate Level Nuclear Waste on-site at Lucas Heights is warranted – until there is an availability of a proper final disposal option for ALL of the nuclear waste which ANSTO produces and generates. This is the only way that Australians will accept shifting this nuclear waste anywhere other than leaving it safely on site!

What the proposed Kimba site is, put simply, is the last site standing, from a greedy nominator and a dubious selection process and a very flawed and out dated proposal!

Lucas Heights is the very best place for this waste currently. Until a proper solution is found for ALL of the waste ANSTO produces – trotting out the exact same proposal from forty years ago is not a solution.

The new Intermediate Level Solid Waste Storage Facility at ANSTO Lucas Heights should be supported. And here are the reasons why. Kazzi Jai , Fight to Stop a Nuclesr Waste Dump in the Flinders Ranges, 15 Aug 21,

ANSTO’s Work Health Safety and Environment Policy includes the statement,

We are committed to effective stewardship, the sustainability of our operations and to responsibly interact with the local ecology and biosphere, and to protect it. We will minimize our environmental footprint through the sustainable use of resources and by the prevention, minimization and control of pollution.

Powerful words, but does ANSTO mean them?

Their current “stewardship” is to safely and securely deal with ALL the waste that they produce on site. The usage of the word “interim” (or “temporary” which was used in the past) simply refers to dry storage. In other words it does not make Lucas Heights a permanent disposal site for this waste. Other nuclear reactors around the world hold their nuclear site close to where it is generated – it makes good logical sense, because that means it can be monitored and is safe and secure.

The “sustainability” of their operations should include ANSTO’s (given their expertise in this field over the decades) continued stewardship of the waste they generate and produce on site.

It is a logical conclusion, since they were in fact, allowed the replacement reactor (now known as OPAL) to be constructed with the continued stewardship of the nuclear waste right there on site.

This means that the sustainability of ANSTO is, and remains, contingent on responsibility of generating this nuclear waste in the first place.

  1. Why is OPAL research nuclear reactor being touted as commercial one?

.ANSTO’s OPAL reactor is after all a research reactor – and that should be its main objective – research. But it is being used for more than that – it is being used for the industrial production of isotopes primarily diagnostic isotopes.

The OPAL reactor is currently used predominately for the production of what is termed in general terms nuclear medicine…. of which approximately 80% of its primary usage is for the production of Molybdenum-99 – which then decays to Technitium-99m (Tc-99m) – which is then used in diagnostic imaging in nuclear medicine. Not all diagnostic imaging in nuclear medicine uses Tc-99m.

This is as pointed out earlier, a commercial industrial production usage of the OPAL reactor.

We are told that our use of Technitium-99m in Australia is approximately 550 000 “available” doses a year according to ANSTO. We were told by Adi Paterson in 2017 Senate Estimates that Australia was using 28% of Technitium-99m generated by ANSTO, and the rest (72%) was exported overseas. At that stage, the export quantity involved equated to 1% of global demand of Technitium-99m. (5) But now ANSTO wants to increase their commercial production of export to 10 MILLION DOSES PER YEAR FOR EXPORT! That would make ANSTO one of the FOUR MAJOR PRODUCERS of Technitium-99m in the world!(6) But with increased EXPORT comes INCREASED WASTE PRODUCTION!

ANSTO cites COMMERCIAL SENSITIVITY regarding whether the production of Technitium-99m is viable or not – the public are not privy to the details of this information. But the Australian public are the ones SUBSIDIZING this COMMERCIAL VENTURE! Canada got out of isotope production simply because they could no longer justify the cost to their taxpayers!

But not all is doom and gloom! Canada have just released (December 2020) the approval of cyclotron-produced technetium-99m by Health Canada. (1)

ANSTO is also somewhat careful not to mention that they own PETTECH (which trades as PETTECH Solutions), which operates two medical cyclotrons for radiopharmaceutical production at the Lucas Heights campus. PETTECH has routinely supplied NSW hospitals as part of a state tender. In 2019 they sold it off to private company Cyclotek. (2)

Cyclotrons are also found in our major cities. In fact Australia has 18 cyclotrons according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) 2019 listing. (3)

Cyclotrons are usually found also in partnerships with imaging services. This is because cyclotrons are used generally with PET scans which allow very precise scans of many parts of the body to be achieved. The thing with cyclotrons is that they do not produce nuclear isotopes and therefore do not produce nuclear waste. Cyclotrons produce isotopes as required by demand.

The world is changing with regards to nuclear medicine. Cyclotrons are coming into their own right. The field of imaging and diagnosis doesn’t rely solely on one technology only. CT-scans, MRI -scans, Ultrasounds – all can be used in conjunction with PET or SPEC scans. And the cutting edge advancements in cancer treatment is now immunotherapy and nanotechnology. Even LINAC machines – the ones used in radiotherapy and do not use a nuclear source and therefore do not produce nuclear waste because they use a Linear Accelerator to produce a high density x-ray beam to treat cancers, may be superseded by proton therapy units which again use a specific accelerator to treat cancers on an atomic level with minimum disruption to normal cells. Minimizing the damage done to normal cells is becoming more and more important in treating cancers. This cannot be done with radioactive isotopes simply because there is no control with regards to their decay and release into normal tissue.

““We can get product from Sydney to Boston as efficiently as it can be shipped there from Europe,” Shaun Jenkinson, ANSTO Nuclear Business Group Executive boasted in 2014.

With radioactive elements, time is of the essence. Technetium-99m has a half-life of just six hours, which means half of it will have decayed into something else in that time. This is why it is shipped as its precursor, molybdenum-99, which has a half-life of 2.75 days.”, he went on to say

.ANSTO’s molybdenum-99 exports bring in over $10 million each year to Australia. This figure is set to triple after 2016, when its new $100 million nuclear medicine processing facility starts up, bringing with it 250 new jobs.” (4)

Mr Jenkinson, who now is CEO of ANSTO replacing Adi Paterson, was at great pains in 2014 to point out that ANSTO could get “product” from Sydney to Boston efficiently. How about the other way round? Our usage of “product” – namely Molybdenium-99 (decays to Tc-99m) is very small in Australia. It actually hasn’t changed all that much even before the advent of OPAL replacing HIFAR in 2007, and with cyclotrons, will probably decrease even more in usage, given advancement in technologies – which is naturally what happens in any field! Why shouldn’t we produce Technitium-99m on cyclotrons like Canada are now doing, or import what we need in Australia – something we do regularly anyway when OPAL is offline for maintenance or other reasons for shutdown. Is ANSTO possibly providing Molybdenium99 (Technitium-99m isotope) below cost price simply to remain a player in the global market, and being propped up by the Australian taxpayer?

Is there still a window of opportunity for such a massive commitment to produce up to quarter of the world’s global demand given that the demand just may not be there any longer?

2. And anyway, is Lucas Height’s medical isotope still a viable proposition?

But is Is it still a viable proposition given the expense already occurring with dealing with the Intermediate Level Nuclear Waste generated by the industrial production of Molybdenium-99. In fact again in Senate Estimates Adi Paterson stated (as part of answers to questions) that increasing output of Molybdenium-99 will in fact increase generation of liquid Intermediate Level Nuclear Waste! (7)This is the liquid part of the production of Molybdenium-99 ….which in itself is classified as Intermediate Level Nuclear Waste. This is separate to the reprocessed spent fuel rods in TN-81 casks plus the Intermediate Level technological waste sent back as equivalent nuclear waste from France.

3.Is the expense of ANSTO’s Synroc process justified ?

Then we have the expense of putting the liquid intermediate level nuclear waste generated from the industrial production of Molybdenium-99 into solid form via a process only Australia uses – Synroc. Why has no other place in the world grabbed the technology using Synroc? Is it because it is too expensive to warrant using? Or is it because Synroc is no different to vitrification into glass which is already being used? Regardless, both techniques still require intact shielding of the final waste product – whether it be Synroc or glass.

4. Is tax-payer funded ANSTO accountable for the decisions they make?

All of these points made should be investigated, rather than rubber stamped by committees who say that “ANSTO is doing a great job” – without actually asking the hard questions, and making ANSTO accountable for the decisions they make.

5.Is it sensible to transport nuclear waste 1700km to a small agricultural community, far from the essential nuclear expertise

With respect to the new building being applied for by ANSTO, the extended storage of ANSTO’s Intermediate Level Nuclear Waste on-site at Lucas Heights is warranted – until there is an availability of a proper final disposal option for ALL of the nuclear waste which ANSTO produces and generates. This is the only way that Australians will accept shifting this nuclear waste anywhere other than leaving it safely on site! The current proposal is flawed in so many ways – the largest gaping flaw is the deliberate intention of transporting Intermediate Level Waste and Nuclear Fuel Waste over state border, over 1700 kms across Australia, into a small agricultural community which exports grain and sheep ….and which has NEVER had any past or current dealings with the nuclear industry EVER…and leave it there SIMPLY AS DRY STORAGE IN THE SAME WAY THAT IT IS HELD AT LUCAS HEIGHTS…without the SAME security, safety and monitoring expertise as Lucas Heights has right there on site at a moment’s notice!

Should there develop a problem with say the TN-81 cask, do you think ANSTO will want it transported back to Lucas Heights – back across 1700kms? Remember too, that the TN-81 casks have only a 40 year guaranteed manufacturer’s warranty. What will happen after 40 years, when in all likelihood the cask will need replacing? Where is the Hot Cell for dealing with this waste in any possible timeframe when a problem with the seal, or a crack in the shielding – the only thing actually enabling safe handling and storage – may develop? Where in the middle of a wheat field in the middle of Australia will the expertise be? It won’t be in Kimba! In fact it won’t be in South Australia! And in fact it won’t actually be ANSTO’s problem!!

What the proposed Kimba site is, put simply, is the last site standing, from a greedy nominator and a dubious selection process and a very flawed and out dated proposal! Read the AECOM report – which they take great pains to point out was preliminary at best – to find out more! Lots of mitigation required with the Kimba site! So much for dealing with this waste in the MOST SAFE way possible WITH NO EXPENSE SPARED, given that this waste is classified as requiring intact shielding to be handled safely and to stop possible contamination to the environment.

Nuclear Waste must be dealt with in the utmost safe conditions with no expense spared. Nuclear waste – this is classified by ARPANSA, so there is no subjective input into this classification – must be highly regulated when it comes to handling and dealing with it. And this also take into account classification as well as quantity. Low level nuclear waste has a classified life of 300 years to decay back to background levels. Intermediate Level Nuclear Waste has a classified life of 1000 years….and High Level Nuclear Waste 1000’s of years – much longer than any of us here today! Even 300 years for the Low Level Nuclear Waste in comparison is BEFORE European colonization of Australia – for that comparison to be put it into perspective!

6. Why the pretend urgency, when Lucas Heights can safely store the nuclear waste until 2060 or beyond?

ANSTO owns and manages approximately 500 hectares at Lucas Heights. Of that, only 70 hectares has been developed by ANSTO.The OPAL reactor has a lifetime of 50 years. It was commissioned in 2007. That takes us into 2060…and then even if it was the end of the use of the reactor, the spent fuel rods from the reactor must be kept ON SITE in the holding cooling ponds for a further 8-10 years BEFORE there is any chance of dealing with them. So there is no urgency to shift ANY of this waste until a proper solution is found to deal with ALL of this waste – Intermediate Level Nuclear Waste FIRST and the Low Level Nuclear Waste can follow that! Handled once only – no double handling! Double handling is definitely against International Best Practise!

7. How much Federal money goes to ANSTO, compared with other scientific research?

What would be interesting is to know how much the Federal Government injects into ANSTO budget every year since its inception! There are over 1000 staff employed at ANSTO. How much of the Federal science budget is used up by ANSTO? Is it at the expense of other sciences like CSIRO and other research endeavours not involving nuclear science?To include into the argument by ANSTO that the proviso of construction of the new Intermediate Level Nuclear Waste storage building at Lucas Heights is contingent on the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility (NRWMF) is up and running, is disingenuous since the NRWMF hasn’t even been declared yet!…let alone licenced!

8. Is it alright for ANSTO to cease all responsibility for its nuclear wastes, once they are sent to Kimba?

And keep in mind, ANSTO will ONLY be a customer for this proposed dump. ANSTO will not play any part in its management or development, apart from perhaps on a consultative basis. There is no “stewardship” involvement of ANSTO with this NRWMF – they wash their hands and books of all responsibility of the waste THAT THEY PRODUCE once it lands at the gates of the NRWMF!

The proposal part for the Intermediate Level Nuclear Waste and Nuclear Fuel Waste is to leave it in the proposed TOTALLY ALL ABOVE GROUND NRWMF in INDEFINITE STORAGE which means it will be there essentially forever – in layman’s terms known as STRANDED or ZOMBIE WASTE – not to be dealt with any time soon in the future!

This is a forty year old proposal which has been dragged out yet again, WITHOUT ONE RED CENT SPENT on dealing with the Intermediate Level Nuclear Waste properly at all! “Tag-a-long” does not equate to dealing with this waste properly!

It is simply making this a case of putting this waste “out of sight and out of mind”!

Lucas Heights is the very best place for this waste currently. Until a proper solution is found for ALL of the waste ANSTO produces – trotting out the exact same proposal from forty years ago is not a solution.

The indefinite Store for ANSTO nuclear fuel waste & ILW in South Australia IS UNTENABLE, as the CURRENT PROPOSAL by the Federal Government have put forward.

And that is why the additional Intermediate Level Nuclear Storage building must be allowed to be built at Lucas heights.

1. https://www.triumf.ca/…/cyclotron-produced-technetium…2. https://www.cyclotek.com/cyclotek-acquires-the-business…/3. https://nucleus.iaea.org/…/public_cyclotron_db_view.aspx4. https://www.ansto.gov.au/news/going-global-nuclear-medicine5. https://www.aph.gov.au/…/Industry/answers/AI-5_Ludlam.pdf6. https://www.aph.gov.au/…/Industry/answers/AI-6_Ludlam.pdf7. https://www.aph.gov.au/…/Industry/answers/AI-7_Ludlam.pdfAPH.GOV.AUwww.aph.gov.au

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Maralinga nuclear bomb tests – British and Australian governments’ callous cruelty to First Nations people.

September 14, 2021

Australia’s Chernobyl: The British carried out nuclear tests on Indigenous land. It will never heal.   https://www.mamamia.com.au/maralinga-nuclear-testing/ CHELSEA MCLAUGHLIN, JULY 5, 2021  For tens of thousands of years, the Aṉangu people lived on the warm, red earth of their country.

The land provided them with food, water and shelter as they travelled around an area we now know as outback Far North South Australia.

But after colonisation, they were moved off their land: forcibly removed, sent into missions across the region and displaced by train lines linking Australia’s east and west that impacted their water supply. 

Much of the information around the tests was highly classified, and some information remains so.

For tens of thousands of years, the Aṉangu people lived on the warm, red earth of their country.

The land provided them with food, water and shelter as they travelled around an area we now know as outback Far North South Australia.

But after colonisation, they were moved off their land: forcibly removed, sent into missions across the region and displaced by train lines linking Australia’s east and west that impacted their water supply. 

Much of the information around the tests was highly classified, and some information remains so.

Thirty per cent of the British and Australian servicemen who were exposed during these tests died of cancer, though a Royal Commission in 1984 was not able to reach a conclusion linking their health issues directly to the blasts. 

Similarly, many locals died prematurely, went blind and suffered from illness that may have been linked to radiation.

British nuclear scientists, wanting to determine the long-term effects of the tests on Australia and its citizens, ordered the testing of dead Australian infants and children for radiation contamination.

Between 1957 and 1978 in hospitals around Australia, bones were secretly removed from 21,830 bodies. They were reduced to ash and sent away to be analysed for the presence of Strontium 90, a radioactive isotope produced by nuclear fission.

Unsurprisingly, none of the First Nations people of the region were told about the tests and many of the bones were taken without permission.

Associate professor Liz Tynan, the author of Atomic Thunder: The Maralinga Story, told Mamamia‘s The Quicky First Nations people were still in the area during the periods of testing, and this led to disastrous consequences.

Tynan said the Milpuddie family – Charlie, Edie, two kids and their dogs – were found by British service personnel in 1957, camped on the crater left by the bomb Marcoo soon after it had been detonated. 

They were rounded up and most of the family, not Edie, but most of them, were given showers. Edie didn’t wish to have a shower,” Tynan explained.

“They were tested for radioactivity and the geiger counters did detect radioactivity, particularly on the young boy Henry. Anyway, there were rather insensitively treated I suppose, given showers, had clothes put on them and then take off down south to a mission.”

Their dogs were shot in front of them. Edie was pregnant at the time, and she later lost her child.

“It was a tragic story and indicative of the callous approach to Indigenous people that was displayed by both the British government and their officials that were conducting the tests, and by the Australian government as well,” Tynan said.

Following the testing, many Aṉangu people returned to the area, but the lands that had previously sustained and protected them were now poison.

We still don’t know the truth impact of the bombs at Maralinga, as well as nearby Emu Fields and the Montebello Islands off the coast of Western Australia.

“The South Australian Department of Health commissioned a fairly extensive study, [but] that study was hampered by the fact there was no base-line data from which to understand the general health of the population before the tests,” Tynan said.

The study did show an increase in various cancers, but most of the findings were inconclusive due to a lack of information. Indigenous Australians were not counted in the census at the time and there was very little known about the health of the populations.

In 1964, a limited cleanup of the Maralinga site, named ‘Operation Hercules’, took place. 

A year after a 1966 survey into the level of contamination at the site, a second clean-up titled ‘Operation Brumby’ filled 21 pits with contaminated equipment and covered them with 650 tonnes of concrete.

Tynan said it was later found the survey data was drastically wrong, and the contamination was 10 times worse than thought.

It wasn’t until decades later, with the help whistleblowers and scientists, that the government began to realise the true, horrifying extent of the damage done to the land at Maralinga.

Under an agreement between the governments of the United Kingdom and Australia in 1995, another clean-up took place. And while this was more thorough than the previous, it still came with issues.

Whistleblower Alan Parkinson, who wrote the 2007 book Maralinga: Australia’s Nuclear Waste Cover-up, exposed the unsatisfactory methods.

The plan had been to treat several thousand tonnes of debris contaminated with plutonium by a process called situ vitrification. Against the advice of Parkinson, the government extended the contract of the project manager, even though that company had no knowledge of the complex process of vitrification.

Parkinson was let go from the project.

The government and the project manager then embarked on a hybrid scheme in which some pits would be exhumed and others treated by vitrification. After successfully treating 12 pits, the 13th exploded and severely damaged the equipment. The government then cancelled the vitrification and simply exhumed the remaining pits, placed the debris in a shallow pit and covered it with clean soil.

Parkinson told The Quicky another, complete clean-up of Maralinga could take place, but it was unlikely because of the cost and the courage it would take to admit the previous attempts were insufficient.

Around the same time as the 90s clean up was the Australian government push for a nuclear waste dump to be located nearby. 

Fearing even further poisoning of their country, First Nations woman Eileen Wani Wingfield co-founded the Coober Pedy Women’s Council to campaign against the proposal.

The plan was eventually abandoned, but has popped up again in many forms over the decades. Currently, the Coalition is amending a bill that could see a site set up near Kimba.

Glen Wingfield, Eileen’s son, has spent his life working and learning from his parents’ tireless campaign for protection of their country.

The theme of NAIDOC Week 2021 is Heal Country! but as Wingfield told The Quicky, much of the Aṉangu lands in and around Maralinga are beyond healing.

“A lot of the Aboriginal communities that live in and around that area, they just will not and do not go back near that country. I think that’s a word, healing, that we can’t use in the same sentence with that area.”

Tynan agreed, saying there are parts of the area that will be uninhabitable for a quarter of a million years.

“There are parts of the site that you can’t go to, that are still very dangerous,” she said.

“The real problem at Maralinga was the plutonium which was detonated in a series of trials… The particular type of plutonium they used, plutonium 239, has a half-life of 21,400 years which takes hundreds of thousands of years for that radioactivity to diminish.”

Wingfield said the broken connection between these people and their lands is “just downright disgraceful and horrible”.

“No amount of conversation will ever cover what’s been done for people in and around. The lasting effects of health issues on people have been passed through people who were there to generational abnormalities… I think when you talk compensation and stuff, I don’t think we’ll ever get close.”

The Cold War near disasters at RAF Lakenheath could have left Suffolk as a nuclear wasteland

September 14, 2021
Boeing B-47B rocket-assisted take off on April 15, 1954. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Cold War near disasters at RAF Lakenheath could have left Suffolk as a nuclear wasteland https://www.suffolknews.co.uk/mildenhall/go-anywhere-just-get-away-from-here-how-suffolk-almost-9215663/ By Dan Barker – dan.barker@iliffepublishing.co.uk , 13 September 2021  During the height of the Cold War nuclear bombs were dotted across the country, ready to wipe the USSR off the face of the map at a moment’s notice: but, on two separate occasions, Suffolk almost became victim to the very weapons which were meant to protect it.

July 27, 1956 was like any other summer’s day. Across the country attention was glued to the Ashes fourth test at Old Trafford, and four American airmen were in a B-47 bomber, on a routine training mission from RAF Lakenheath.  But, as they were practising touch-and-go landings, their bomber careered out of control and went off the runway.

it ploughed into an igloo containing three Mark-6 nuclear weapons, tearing the building apart.

The plane then

exploded, killing all four men on board, and showered the world-ending weapons with burning aviation fuel.

Most of A/C [Aircraft] wreckage pivoted on igloo and came to rest with A/C nose just beyond igloo bank which kept main fuel fire outside smashed igloo. “Preliminary exam by bomb disposal officers says a miracle that one Mark Six with exposed detonators sheared didn’t go. Firefighters extinguished fire around Mark Sixes fast.” – Telegram from RAF Lakenheath to Washington DC

Fortunately the atomic power of the bomb was missing that day, with the cores un-installed in all three for storage, but the explosives needed to trigger the deadly nuclear reaction were still in place.

With 8,000 pounds of high explosives combined with depleted uranium-238, they were a nuclear ticking time bomb as firefighters fought to put out the blaze.

Had they exploded the radioactive uranium would have been scattered over a wide area, and, depending on the wind, tens of thousands of people would have been at risk from the toxic dust across Suffolk.

Knowing the enormity of the situation base fire chief Master Sgt L. H. Dunn ordered his crew to ignore the burning wreckage of the bomber, and the airman inside, and douse the flames engulfing the nuclear storage building.

At the time it had been shrouded in secrecy, but decades later one senior US officer made it very clear how lucky Suffolk was to have narrowly missed out on a nuclear disaster.  “It is possible that part of Eastern England would have become a desert,” the then former officer told Omaha World Herald in Nebraska, who revealed the potentially catastrophic incident in November 1979.

Another said that “disaster was averted by tremendous heroism, good fortune and the will of God”.

A top secret telegram sent to Washington DC from the base, which has since been revealed, told of the near miss. “Most of A/C [Aircraft] wreckage pivoted on igloo and came to rest with A/C nose just beyond igloo bank which kept main fuel fire outside smashed igloo.

Another said that “disaster was averted by tremendous heroism, good fortune and the will of God”.

A top secret telegram sent to Washington DC from the base, which has since been revealed, told of the near miss. “Most of A/C [Aircraft] wreckage pivoted on igloo and came to rest with A/C nose just beyond igloo bank which kept main fuel fire outside smashed igloo.

Suffolk was lucky this time, but the incident caused great alarm in the British government, and it was decided it would try and block US authorities from ordering base evacuations because of the concern of causing mass panic in the country.

But what would happen if word got out that its most important ally had, almost, accidentally, made a huge part of the United Kingdom a nuclear wasteland?

Simple: Its policy for decades, if the press ever caught wind of the near miss, was to just deny it. After the news was broken in the American press in 1979, only then was it acknowledged something happened.

On November 5 that year the US Air Force and the Ministry of Defence would only admit the B-47 did crash.

In fact it took until 1996, some four decades after the near disaster, for the British state to accept the true scale of the accident in public.

But that near miss wasn’t the only one.

For on January 16, 1961, an F-100 Super Sabre, loaded with a Mark 28 hydrogen bomb caught on fire after the pilot jettisoned his fuel tanks when he switched his engines on.

As they hit the concrete runway the fuel ignited and engulfed the nuclear weapon – a 70 kilotons – and left it “scorched and blistered”.

Suffolk was saved again by the brave work of base firefighters who brought the blaze under control before the bomb’s high explosive detonated or its arming components activated.

T

errifyingly it was later discovered by American engineers that a flaw in the wiring of Mark 28 hydrogen bombs could allow prolonged heat to circumvent the safety mechanisms and trigger a nuclear explosion.

Had it gone, thousands of people would be dead within seconds, and thousands more would have been injured. As with the first incident, as well as the immediate blast, radioactive debris could have fallen in towns as far away as Ipswich and Lowestoft, given the right wind direction, spreading the toxic dust across Suffolk.

Since Clement Attlee ordered the scientists to investigate the creation of a nuclear bomb in August 1945, the British state has known that being a nuclear power comes with risk as well as reward.

It also knew it paid to be part of a nuclear alliance,

NATO, and with it came American nuclear bombs and the risk they brought.


Beyond the maths of working out how large the explosion would have been, it is impossible to know the true implications.

RAF Lakenheath was listed as a probable target for Soviet attack according to now released Cold War era documents, and intelligence agencies and war planners expected two 500 kiloton missiles to hit the site if the West was under attack.

Disaster creates uncertainty. Nobody would have known it was an accident within the minutes and hours after a blast, they would have just been dragged into a nuclear bunker and told of a large explosion at an airbase in Suffolk.

Where would that have left a British prime minister, an American president, and the rest of NATO, thinking they have come under attack?

In July 1956, and again in January 1961, those firefighters didn’t just save Suffolk … they might have saved the world.

Nuclear ballistic missile submarine meltdown, 1961

September 14, 2021
Ki19 Russianballistic missile submarine

August 24, https://www.quora.com/Has a nuclear submarine ever had a meltdown? Laurence Schmidt, Worked at Air Liquide America (1975–2010,

In the early Cold War Era, many Russian nuclear submarines had catastrophic engineering plant failures. These failures were caused by the soviet’s rush to equal the USN in its nuclear submarine ballistic missile program; they were poorly design and constructed, lack safety system redundancy and had haphazardly trained crews. But the crews of these boats were heroic in risking their lives to save their boats in stark life and death emergencies at sea.

One example is the case of the K-19, the first Russian nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine, nicknamed the “Hiroshima” boat, because of her numerous incidences.

On July 4, 1961, while at sea, one of its two nuclear reactors SCRAMMED. The primary cooling system had failed, flooding the reactor spare with radioactive water, and there was no backup system to cool the reactor core. As the reactor rods overheated, the engineering staff try a desperate plan to improvise a cooling system; to tie into the sub’s drinking water system. But it would require several men entering the highly radioactive reactor compartment to weld new piping to pumps and valves. The first jury-rigged attempt failed with 8 crewmen being horribly burnt by the high temperatures and exposed to lethal doses of radiation. They all soon died. After other attempts, the jury-rigged system finally worked, but other crew members too close to the reactor compartment would also soon die. The crew was evacuated to a nearby submarine, and the K-19 was towed back to base for repair. In total, 22 of the crew of 139 died of radiation sickness.

A section of the radiation contaminated hull was replaced, and a new power reactor unit was installed. The two original reactors, including their fuel rods, were dumped in the Kara Sea in 1965. A favorite dumping ground for Russian navy nuclear waste, including damaged nuclear reactors to whole ships.

Did the K-19 reactor meltdown? I would say yes.

Expert response to the pro nuclear report by the Joint Research Centre

September 14, 2021

Any major expansion of nuclear energy would delay the decommissioning of fossil-fired power plants, as the latter would have to remain in operation during this period and therefore make it hard to achieve the climate change mitigation objective. It is even possible to argue that nuclear energy hinders the use of other alternatives with low CO2 emissions because of its high capital intensity.  Otherwise this capital could be used to expand alternative energy sources like sun, wind and water

While nuclear power generation in the electricity generation phase has been associated with relatively low greenhouse gas emissions from a historical perspective, the lions’ share of greenhouse gas emissions in the nuclear fuel cycle is caused by the front-end and back-end processing stages. Based on estimates, the CO2 emissions can be broken down into the construction of nuclear power plants (18%), uranium mining and enrichment (38%), operations (17%), processing and storing nuclear fuel (15%) and decommissioning activities at the power plant (18%) (BMK, 2020, p.6)   

Generating huge quantities of dangerous waste is being continued for decades without any effective disposal solution being available. The JRC itself says that the primary and best waste management strategy is not to generate any radioactive waste in the first place. However, this assessment is not consistently applied within the report. 

The draft of the delegated legal act is based on the recommendations of the so-called Technical Expert Group (TEG). …..The TEG did not recommend that nuclear energy should be included in the EU taxonomy register at that time and recommended an in-depth study of the DNSH criteria (TEG, 2020b). 

It is clear that the JRC barely touched on some environment-related aspects of using nuclear energy or did not consider them in its assessment at all.

.…  Questions must also be raised about the ageing process and the brittleness of materials and therefore the long-term behaviour of nuclear power plants beyond the original design period. 

This very positive presentation of future prospects for nuclear energy, which is shown in the JRC Report, must be viewed critically………..this presentation by the JRC is suspect from a professional point of view and possibly indicates a lack of adequate independence .

  Expert response to the report by the Joint Research Centre entitled “Technical assessment of nuclear energy with respect to the ‛Do No Significant Harm’ criteria in Regulation (EU) 2020/852, the ‛Taxonomy Regulation’”    Particularly considering the suitability of criteria for including nuclear energy in EU taxonomy The Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management (BASE) with support from the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS)  June 2021


Summary

The Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management (BASE) with support from the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS), acting on behalf of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), has examined the report by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Union (EU) entitled “Technical assessment of nuclear energy with respect to the ‘Do No Significant Harm’ criteria of Regulation (EU) 2020/852 (‘Taxonomy Regulation’)” to see whether the JRC has used expertise that is complete and comprehensible when determining whether the use of nuclear fission to generate energy can be included in the taxonomy register. 

The Taxonomy Regulation defines criteria that determine whether an economic activity (and therefore investments in this activity) can be viewed as ecologically sustainable. The JRC, the EU’s research centre, concludes in its report dated March 2021 that the conditions for including nuclear energy in EU taxonomy are met in terms of the “Do No Significant Harm” criteria (DNSH). Prior to this, the Technical Expert Group (TEG) had not yet recommended the inclusion of nuclear energy in EU taxonomy and advised the EU Commission to review the DNSH criteria more closely. 


This expert response finds that the JRC has drawn conclusions that are hard to deduce at numerous points. Subject areas that are very relevant to the environment have also only been presented very briefly or have been ignored. For example, the effects of severe accidents on the environment are not included when assessing whether to include nuclear energy in the taxonomy register – yet they have occurred several times over the last few decades. This raises the question of whether the JRC has selected too narrow a framework of observation. The aspects mentioned and others listed in this expert response suggest that this is true. 

This expert response also points out that the JRC mentions topics, but then fails to consider them further or in more detail, although they must be included in any assessment of the sustainability of using nuclear energy. The need to consider them is partly based on the fact that certain effects on the other environmental objectives in the Taxonomy Regulation must be expected if the matter is viewed more closely or at least cannot be excluded. In other cases, this need results from the fact that the Taxonomy Regulation refers to the UN approach in its 2030 Agenda in its understanding of sustainability – and the latter, for example, contains the goals of “considering future generations” and “participative decision-making”. Any sustainability, particularly for future generations, can only be guaranteed if attempts are made at an early stage to achieve acceptance in the population, enable future generations to handle the use of nuclear energy and its legacy or waste appropriately and ensure that information and knowledge are maintained in the long term. Generally speaking, it should be noted that the problem of disposing of radioactive waste has already been postponed by previous generations to today’s and it will ‘remain’ a problem for many future generations. The principle of “no undue burdens for future generations” (pp. 250ff) has therefore already been (irrevocably) infringed, while the DNSH-hurdle “significant[ly] harm” has also been infringed. 

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Small nuclear reactors, uranium mining, nuclear fuel chain, reprocessing, dismantling reactors – extract from Expert Response to pro nuclear JRC Report

September 14, 2021


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………… If SMRs are used, this not least raises questions about proliferation, i.e. the possible spread of nuclear weapons as well as the necessary nuclear technologies or fissionable materials for their production.    ………..

By way of summary, it is important to state that many questions are still unresolved with regard to any widespread use of SMRs – and this would be necessary to make a significant contribution to climate protection – and they are not addressed in the JRC Report. These issues are not just technical matters that have not yet been clarified, but primarily questions of safety, proliferation and liability, which require international coordination and regulations. 

  • neither coal mining nor uranium mining can be viewed as sustainable …….. Uranium mining principally creates radioactive waste and requires significantly more expensive waste management than coal mining.
  • The volume of waste arising from decommissioning a power plant would therefore be significantly higher than specified in the JRC Report in Part B 2.1, depending on the time required to dismantle it

    Measures to reduce the environmental impact The JRC Report is contradictory when it comes to the environmental impact of uranium mining: it certainly mentions the environmental risks of uranium mining (particularly in JRC Report, Part A 3.3.1.2, p. 67ff), but finally states that they can be contained by suitable measures (particularly JRC Report, Part A 3.3.1.5, p. 77ff). However, suitable measures are not discussed in the depth required ……..

    Expert response to the report by the Joint Research Centre entitled “Technical assessment of nuclear energy with respect to the ‛Do No Significant Harm’ criteria in Regulation (EU) 2020/852, the ‛Taxonomy Regulation’”  2021

    ”…………………3.2 Analysing the contribution made by small modular reactors (SMRs) to climate change mitigation in the JRC Report   
      The statement about many countries’ growing interest in SMRs is mentioned in the JRC Report (Part A 3.2.1, p. 38) without any further classification. In particular, there is no information about the current state of development and the lack of marketability of SMRs.

    Reactors with an electric power output of up to 300 MWe are normally classified as SMRs. Most of the extremely varied SMR concepts found around the world have not yet got past the conceptual level. Many unresolved questions still need to be clarified before SMRs can be technically constructed in a country within the EU and put into operation. They range from issues about safety, transportation and dismantling to matters related to interim storage and final disposal and even new problems for the responsible licensing and supervisory authorities 


    The many theories frequently postulated for SMRs – their contribution to combating the risks of climate change and their lower costs and shorter construction periods must be attributed to particular economic interests, especially those of manufacturers, and therefore viewed in a very critical light

    Today`s new new nuclear power plants have electrical output in the range of 1000-1600 MWe. SMR concepts, in contrast, envisage planned electrical outputs of 1.5 – 300 MWe. In order to provide the same electrical power capacity, the number of units would need to be increased by a factor of 3-1000. Instead of having about 400 reactors with large capacity today, it would be necessary to construct many thousands or even tens of thousands of SMRs (BASE, 2021; BMK, 2020). A current production cost calculation, which consider scale, mass and learning effects from the nuclear industry, concludes that more than 1,000 SMRs would need to be produced before SMR production was cost-effective. It cannot therefore be expected that the structural cost disadvantages of reactors with low capacity can be compensated for by learning or mass effects in the foreseeable future (BASE, 2021). 


    There is no classification in the JRC Report (Part A 3.2.1, p. 38) regarding the frequently asserted statement that SMRs are safer than traditional nuclear power plants with a large capacity, as they have a lower radioactive inventory and make greater use of passive safety systems. In the light of this, various SMR concepts suggest the need for reduced safety requirements, e.g. regarding the degree of redundancy or diversity. Some SMR concepts even consider refraining from normal provisions for accident management both internal and external – for example, smaller planning zones for emergency protection and even the complete disappearance of any off-site emergency zones. 

     The theory that an SMR automatically has an increased safety level is not proven. The safety of a specific reactor unit depends on the safety related properties of the individual reactor and its functional effectiveness and must be carefully analysed – taking into account the possible range of events or incidents. This kind of analysis will raise additional questions, particularly about the external events if SMRs are located in remote regions if SMRs are used to supply industrial plants or if they are sea-based SMRs (BASE, 2021). 

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    Radiation, nuclear wastes, transportation, uncertainties – extract from Expert response to pro nuclear JRC Report

    September 14, 2021

    The DNSH-related TSCs state, among other things, that the repository facility must guarantee that the waste is contained and isolated from the biosphere. This also applies if extreme natural phenomena occur such as earthquakes, tornadoes, floods or the loss of technical barriers. 

    ……  nuclear energy has been used for several decades, but there is still no repositoryfor high-level radioactive waste operating anywhere in the world. Responsibilities are therefore passed on to following generations and they are restricted in their freedom of choice. Section 6 of this expert response will deal with this matter in greater detail. 

    General results of the reviewThe JRC Report contains unfounded generalisations at many points. Conclusions are drawn from individual, selected examples and their global validity is assumed. Readers without any detailed specialist expertise will find it hard or impossible to recognise this.


    .……….  The JRC presents the disposal of high-level radioactive waste as a completely resolved problem by citing the example of the disposal projects in Finland and France. This largely ignores the fact that the Finnish repository is still under construction and the licence application from the operational company has already been delayed on several occasions. Both countries are still years away from starting to operate the facilities. 

    The JRC Report does not mention the aspect of transportation in its presentation of the life cycle analysis. This would have been necessary for a conclusive overall presentation of all the aspects of nuclear power.

    the JRC Report states that a closed fuel cycle provides the advantage of significantly reducing the space required for a deep geological repository for HLW. It is necessary to add here that not only the volume, but also the decay heat at the time of disposing of the waste is relevant for the size of the disposal facility (KOM, 2016, p. 227). Additional low- and intermediate-level waste would also be produced and this would increase the disposal volume.

    Expert response to the report by the Joint Research Centre entitled “Technical assessment of nuclear energy with respect to the ‛Do No Significant Harm’ criteria in Regulation (EU) 2020/852, the ‛Taxonomy Regulation’” 2021

    “”………… 4.6 Ionising radiation and its impacts on people’s health and the environment during all the life cycle phases (apart from disposal and transportation)The JRC Report largely restricts itself in Part A 3.4 to the “impact of ionizing radiation on human health” (JRC Report, Part A 3.4.1, p. 167ff) and the environment (JRC Report, Part A 3.4.2, p. 173ff). The impact of emissions of non-radioactive substances is only considered at one point (publication [3.4-1]). ……..


    The figures quoted for the radiation exposure of human beings in Part A 3.4.1 of the JRC Report are plausible. It is correct that human exposure to radiation as a result of the civil use of radioactive materials and ionising radiation is low in comparison with radiation exposure from natural sources and its range of variation. However, the report does not match the latest findings in radiation protection when specifying average effective doses per head of the population for nuclear facilities and installations. According to the latest recommendations of the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), the so-called “representative person” in the sense of the ICRP has to be considered an individual in the population, who is exposed to higher levels of radiation because of his or her lifestyle habits. 

    5 Criterion 2 in the Taxonomy Regulation – the DNSH criteria: disposal of radioactive waste, transportation, research and development The subject of disposing of radioactive waste is considered in this section. It professionally examines the scientific statements in the JRC Report about the topics of storage (section 5.1 of this expert response), disposing of low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste (section 5.2), disposing of high-level radioactive waste (section 5.3), transportation (section 5.4) and research and development (section 5.5). Sub-headlines have been used to interconnect the subsections 


    ……….. The JRC Report does not adequately consider the fact that no successful, deep geological disposal of high-level radioactive waste, including the permanent seal, has yet been introduced anywhere in the world. 


    5.1 Interim storage of radioactive waste The JRC Report generally fails to provide any basis for the findings that are listed in the Executive Summary of the report related to storing radioactive waste. As a result, questions must be raised about the transparency of the conclusions that are drawn

    …………..  the assessment of interim storage consistently takes place according to the standard adopted by the JRC, which, however, is inadequate from an expert point of view. For beyond design basis events it is impossible to exclude that uncontrolled discharges of radioactive substances and therefore considerable effects on the environment may occur through incidents and accidents or by some other intrusion involving third parties (e.g. terrorist attacks) when operating storage facilities; a risk therefore remains. A holistic assessment of using nuclear energy must therefore include a risk assessment related to these events too (cf. section 2.1 and 2.2.1 of this expert response). 

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    Future generations, participative decision-making, proliferation, uranium mining – extract from Expert response to pro nuclear JRC Report

    September 14, 2021

    Consideration of participative decision-making in societies in the JRC Report The involvement of stakeholders is greatly oversimplified in the JRC Report and is described in very optimistic terms. For example, NGOs are not considered in the description of interest groups and their role in developing a programme for deep geological repository sites

    The effects on indigenous peoples, on whose land most of the uranium mines are located, is not mentioned in the report,

    Expert response to the report by the Joint Research Centre entitled “Technical assessment of nuclear energy with respect to the ‛Do No Significant Harm’ criteria in Regulation (EU) 2020/852, the ‛Taxonomy Regulation’”  2021

    ………………………………...6.  Future and further criteria in the Taxonomy Regulation – other sustainability goals and minimum standards  The JRC Report deals with other aspects that are important for sustainable development in conjunction with disposing of high-level radioactive waste, in addition to the ecological criteria. The JRC Report particularly highlights consideration for future generations (JRC Report, Part B 5.2.3.3, p. 258) and the importance of participative decision-making (JRC Report, Part B 5.2.3.1, p. 254) when searching for a repository site. The JRC Report formulates both aspects as important requirements when searching for a repository site. The two requirements of “considering future generations” and “participative decision-making“, however, are not considered in any further depth – e.g. mentioning the challenges associated with these requirements when searching for a repository site for radioactive waste. The report emphasises that there is still no repository for high-level radioactive waste in operation anywhere in the world (JRC Report, Part A 1.1.1, p. 17), but leaves open the question of whether there is any connection here with the challenges of “considering future generations” and “participative decision-making”.   ..

    Regardless of disposal, the problem of proliferation (cf. section 6.3), which is only mentioned in a very rudimentary manner in relation to reprocessing in the JRC Report, and uranium mining (cf. section 6.4) mean that it is necessary to treat the topics of intergenerational justice and participation separately in terms of the sustainability of using nuclear energy. Even in the case of severe nuclear power plant accidents, where large amounts of radioactive substances are discharged into the environment, generational justice is an important aspect of sustainability. The example of Chernobyl shows that coping with the consequences of an accident will also plague future generations – ranging from restrictions or non-usage possibilities in the affected areas and even the planned dismantling of the damaged reactor block and disposing of the retrieved nuclear fuel.


    6.1 “Considering future generations” and “participative decision-making” in conjunction with disposal ……..

    Considering future generations and participative decision-making in any society represent individual sustainability goals in the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (UN, 2015) ……..  These two sustainability goals are not adequately considered in the JRC Report with a view to nuclear disposal, but are important for assessing the fundamental issue of sustainability, which is also part of the Taxonomy Regulation 


    Consideration of sustainability aspects and future generations in the JRC Report Developing and introducing a geological disposal programme/disposal system takes decades and is associated with costs that are hard to calculate. Monitoring after the closure of the repository will also continue for at least another 100 years. For example, France expects the operational time for a repository alone to exceed 100 years. During this long period, following generations will have to deal with problems that have been caused by previous generations 


    The risk of long-term financial burdens that are hard to calculate (as the example of the Asse II mine illustrates) and the risks caused by geological disposal for several generations are not adequately treated in the JRC Report. ………  The report fails to provide any in-depth analysis of this aspect and provides a distorted picture, particularly with a view to the aspect of sustainability and intergenerational justice, by ignoring the negative consequences of using nuclear energy. 

    Consideration of participative decision-making in societies in the JRC Report The involvement of stakeholders is greatly oversimplified in the JRC Report and is described in very optimistic terms. For example, NGOs are not considered in the description of interest groups and their role in developing a programme for deep geological repository sites (JRC Report, Part B 5.2.3.1, p. 253-254). Part B 5.2.3.1, p. 254 of the JRC Report ignores the fact that it may not be possible to reach consensus among the stakeholders. This also oversimplifies the problem of searching for a site and presents it in a one-sided way 

    There is no discussion either that – where no social consensus on using nuclear energy exists – its use itself can represent a blockage factor for solving the repository issue – at least experience in Germany illustrates this. Abandoning nuclear power and therefore resolving a social field of conflict, which had continued for decades, was a central factor in ensuring that discussions were relaunched about a site election procedure and led to a broad consensus. …….

    Conclusion 

    Overall, it is necessary to state that the consideration of sustainability in the JRC Report is incomplete and needs to be complemented in terms of the minimum objectives and other sustainability goals. The broad sustainability approach adopted by the United Nations is not picked up. EU taxonomy is based on this broad approach. It therefore makes sense to already analyse the use of nuclear energy and the disposal of radioactive waste specifically now – and in the context of other sustainability goals like considering future generations and participative involvement in societies. 

    6.2 Preservation of records, .Preservation of records, knowledge and memory (RK&M) regarding radioactive waste repositories is only mentioned once as a quotation from Article 17 of the Joint Convention (JRC Report, Part B 1.2, p. 206) and once rudimentarily in Part B 5.2.3.3, p. 259f. This does not do justice to its importance for future generations (cf. sections 2.1 and 6.1 of this expert response). ………….  . Requirements like these are not taken into account in the JRC Report. 

    6.3 Proliferation The JRC Report only mentions the risk of proliferation – i.e. the spread or transfer of fissionable material, mass weapons of destruction, their design plans or launching systems – very briefly in conjunction with the civil use of nuclear power. This analysis is inadequate to do justice to proliferation in the light of the DNSH criteria related to the environmental objectives, as it represents a considerable risk for almost all sustainability goals. 

    The military and civil use of nuclear energy have been closely connected to each other historically. The technologies for their use are often dual-use items, i.e. they can in principle be used for both civil and military purposes. It is therefore necessary to create an extensive network of international controls as part of using nuclear energy and the supply and disposal of fuels associated with it in order to minimise the risk of military misuse by state or non-state players. This particularly applies to fissionable material like uranium-235 and plutonium-239, which are used when generating nuclear energy or produced in power reactors. In addition to this, significant risks are also created by other radioactive substances if they are stolen and used in an improper manner (“dirty bombs”). 


    Processes that are particularly important for proliferation are created when manufacturing nuclear fuel (uranium enrichment) and reprocessing spent nuclear fuel materials: the technologies for uranium enrichment can be used with modifications to produce highly enriched uranium to build a nuclear weapon. During reprocessing, plutonium is separated and it can be used for nuclear weapons. Even if the plutonium vector, which is produced in power reactors, does not have the ideal properties for military use from a physics point of view, it is still basically suitable for making weapons (Mark, 1993; US DoE, 1994). 

    Using nuclear energy to generate electricity is therefore associated with specific risks of proliferation. As nuclear weapons have unique destructive potential in many respects (Eisenbart, 2012), the issue of sustainability for this type of energy generation should not ignore this aspect. ……


    6.4 Uranium mining – specific requirements for sustainable mining ………………..  There is no real discussion of the term “sustainable mining” in the JRC Report (cf. particularly JRC Report Part A 3.3.1.4, p. 76 at the bottom). The report does not examine the discussion about sustainable mining has any repercussions for investigating the environmental effects of uranium mining. However, it is important in terms of other sustainability goals or the minimum safeguards laid down in Article 18 of the Taxonomy Regulation (cf. BMK, 2020, p. 22 too) 

    All those involved in mining and processing uranium ore should be mentioned in conjunction with sustainability. The effects on indigenous peoples, on whose land most of the uranium mines are located, is not mentioned in the report, for example. The rights of these people for a just share in all the resources (ranging from clean water to reasonable healthcare and even the ownership of the raw material, uranium) are not considered, but should be to an extensive degree from sustainability points of view as regards taxonomy …………….. https://www.base.bund.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/BASE/EN/reports/2021-06-30_base-expert-response-jrc-report.pdf.pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=6