Archive for January, 2012

USA’s Blue Ribbon Commission ignored nuclear wastes from weapons

January 29, 2012

The Commission has entirely ignored the immense evidence that DOE’s plans for disposal of several types of defense waste pose much greater threats to water resources, most especially at Hanford

 “I am dismayed that the Commission saw fit to recommend that the Department of Energy (DOE) have a large upfront role in both the next steps for repository program, …  DOE was in large part responsible for the mess the program is in now,

Radioactive Wastes From Nuclear Bomb Program Given Short Shrift In Blue Ribbon Commission Report EnEws Park Forest, TAKOMA PARK, MD–(ENEWSPF)–January 27, 2012. Arjun Makhijani, Ph.D., President of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, today commented on some of the recommendations of the final report of the Presidential Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC) on America’s Nuclear Future.

The commission was created to address U.S. nuclear waste issues after the Obama administration cancelled the Yucca Mountain program….

….On wastes from the nuclear bomb program:

Makhijani: “It is tragic that the Commission did not substantively address the most pressing radioactive waste contamination threats to precious water resources – for instance hundreds of times the drinking water limit at Hanford, Washington on the banks of the Columbia River.
The Commission had a charter to conduct a ‘comprehensive’ review of the nuclear waste problem, including defense wastes from the nuclear bomb program. Yet, it simply said it did not have the resources to deal with all the problems and punted the nuclear weapons waste issue to Congress while focusing on commercial spent fuel at nuclear reactor sites.” (more…)

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Impact of sea water on nuclear fuel

January 29, 2012

How sea water could corrode nuclear fuel, UC Davis, January 26, 2012, Japan used seawater to cool nuclear fuel at the stricken Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant after the tsunami in March 2011 — and that was probably the best action to take at the time, says ProfessorAlexandra Navrotsky of the University of California, Davis.

But Navrotsky and others have since discovered a new way in which seawater can corrode nuclear fuel, forming uranium compounds that could potentially travel long distances, either in solution or as very small particles. The research team published its work Jan. 23 in the
journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“This is a phenomenon that has not been considered before,” said Alexandra Navrotsky, distinguished professor of ceramic, earth and environmental materials chemistry. “We don’t know how much this will increase the rate of corrosion, but it is something that will have to
be considered in future.”….
In the new paper, the researchers show that in the presence of alkali metal ions such as sodium — for example, in seawater — these clusters are stable enough to persist in solution or as small particles even when the oxidizing agent is removed.

In other words, these clusters could form on the surface of a fuel rod exposed to seawater and then be transported away, surviving in the environment for months or years before reverting to more common forms of uranium, without peroxide,  and settling to the bottom of the
ocean. There is no data yet on how fast these uranium peroxide clusters will break down in the environment, Navrotsky said… http://www.news.ucdavis.edu/search/news_detail.lasso?id=10131

Global warming’s rapid increase in 21st Century

January 29, 2012

Globally, 9 of the 10 warmest years on record occurred since 2000 Environmental news Network,  From: Reuters January 20, 2012 The global average temperature last year was the ninth-warmest in the modern meteorological record, continuing a trend linked to greenhouse gases that saw nine of the 10 hottest years occurring since the year 2000, NASA scientists said on Thursday.

 A separate report from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the average temperature for the United States in 2011 as the 23rd warmest year on record.

The global average surface temperature for 2011 was 0.92 degrees F (0.51 degrees C) warmer than the mid-20th century baseline temperature, researchers at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies said in a statement. The institute’s temperature record began in 1880.

The first 11 years of the new century were notably hotter than the middle and late 20th century, according to institute director James Hansen. The only year from the 20th century that was among the top 10 warmest years was 1998.

These high global temperatures come even with the cooling effects of a strong La Nina ocean temperature pattern and low solar activity for the past several years, said Hansen, who has long campaigned against human-spurred climate change.

The NASA statement said the current higher temperatures are largely sustained by increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, especially carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is emitted by various human activities, from coal-fired power plants to fossil-fueled vehicles to human breath.

Current levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere exceed 390 parts per million, compared with 285 ppm in 1880 and 315 by 1960, NASA said. http://www.enn.com/ecosystems/article/43880

Ionising radiation and the complications of exposure

January 29, 2012

Fukushima Update: Why We Should (Still) Be Worried Business Insider, Russ Baker, WhoWhatWhy | Jan. 20, 2012, ”……..What Radiation Is A great help to nuclear proponents is the fact that nuclear physics is complicated, and most people don’t understand even its most basic concepts. The blanket term “radiation” is used to describe all manner of radioactive contamination—as if it’s just one thing—when, in fact, there are different kinds, some much more damaging than others. It also matters exactly what is being exposed to radiation—i.e., exposure outside the body or inside it—and how long the exposure goes on.

In a nutshell, radioactive elements, also known as radioisotopes or radionuclides, are unstable atoms. They seek stability by giving off particles and energy—ionizing radiation—until the radioisotope becomes stable. This process occurs within the nucleus of the radioisotope, and the shedding of these particles and energy is commonly referred to as ‘‘nuclear disintegration.’’ Nuclear radiation expert Rosalie Bertell describes the release of energy in each disintegration as ‘‘an explosion on the microscopic level.”

This process is known as the “decay chain,” and during their decay, most radioactive elements morph into yet other radioactive elements on their journey to becoming lighter, stable atoms at the end of the chain. Some of the morphed-into elements are much more dangerous than the original radioisotope, and the decay chain can take a very long time. This is the reason that radioactive contamination can last so long.

To further complicate the issue, different radioisotopes give off different kinds of radiation—alpha, beta, gamma, X ray, or neutron emissions—all of which behave differently. Alpha emitters, such as plutonium and radon, are intensely ionizing but don’t penetrate very far and generally can’t get through the dead layers of cells covering skin. But when they are inhaled from the air or ingested from radiation-contaminated food or water, they emit high-energy particles that can do serious damage to the cells of sensitive internal soft tissues and organs. The lighter, faster-moving beta particles can penetrate far more deeply than alpha particles, though sheets of metal and heavy clothing can block them. Beta particles are also very dangerous when inhaled or ingested. Strontium-90 and tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen, are both beta emitters. Gamma radiation is a form of electromagnetic energy like X rays, and it passes through clothing and skin straight into the body. A one-inch shield of either lead or iron, or eight inches of concrete are needed to stop gamma rays, examples of which include cobalt-60 and cesium-137—one of the radionuclides of most concern in the Fukushima fallout. Aside from use in medical diagnostics, X rays are also produced in nuclear fission, and their effects are similar to gamma radiation. Neutron emissions are the most penetrating of all types of radiation and require a shield of several feet of water or concrete to contain them.

The behavior of radioisotopes out in the environment also varies depending on what they encounter. They can combine with one another or with stable chemicals to form molecules that may or may not dissolve in water. They can combine with solids, liquids, or gases at ordinary temperature and pressure. They may be able to enter into biochemical reactions, or they may be biologically inert.

In her book No Immediate Danger: Prognosis for a Radioactive Earth, Bertell notes that if they enter the body either through air, food, water, or an open wound, “They may remain near the place of entry into the body or travel in the bloodstream or lymph fluid. They can be incorporated into the tissue or bone. They may remain in the body for minutes or hours or a lifetime.” To illustrate how different radioisotopes behave, she points out that: “Plutonium is biologically and chemically attracted to bone as is the naturally occurring radioactive chemical radium. However, plutonium clumps on the surface of bone, delivering a concentrated dose of alpha radiation to surrounding cells, whereas radium diffuses homogeneously in bone and thus has a lesser localized cell damage effect. This makes plutonium, because of the concentration, much more biologically toxic than a comparable amount of radium.”

Specific health effects from internal radiation exposure correlate with where radioisotopes land in the body. Bertell explains: “For example, radionuclides lodged in the bones can damage bone marrow and cause bone cancers or leukemia, while radionuclides lodged in the lungs can cause respiratory diseases. Generalized whole body exposure to radiation can be expressed as a stress related to a person’s hereditary medical weakness. Individual breakdown usually occurs at our weakest point.” In other words, the impact of radiation exposure also depends very much on each individual’s level of health and genetic make-up…..

http://www.businessinsider.com/fukushima-update-why-we-should-still-be-worried-2012-1

Nuclear waste management at Hanford – dangers exposed

January 29, 2012

During her testimony to the board she gave different answers than top-level officials with the Department of Energy and contractors Bechtel National and URS. Afterward, she says her managers asked her to change her answers. Busche said “No.”

She says she was … “Raised by a very good mother, that said, ‘Just don’t lie. ‘Cause once you tell your first one it’s real hard to … they just continue to grow.’”…

Audio http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=145326474&ft=3&f=145326474  Hanford Nuclear Safety Manager Questions Waste Treatment Plant NPR by ANNA KING  January 17, 2012 from N3 RICHLAND, Wash. – Waste in underground tanks at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation may have much more plutonium than previously thought. That’s according to a report by a Hanford contractor that’s just been leaked to public radio. It’s also according to the latest high profile whistleblower to raise serious concerns about a waste treatment plant being built at the Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington.

Here is why you should care about what Donna Busche says. She told me she’s the manager for environmental and nuclear safety at Hanford’s waste treatment plant.

“I’m where the nuclear safety buck stops,” Busche says. (more…)

Treacherous nuclear dealings of A Q Khan with India

January 29, 2012

The Secret Treachery of A.Q. Khan, PLAYBOY, January  12, JOSHUA POLLACK “…… By now Khan has made nearly every possible claim about who bears responsibility for selling Pakistan’s centrifuge technology. He did it at the behest of the military. He acted purely on his own. The military was solely responsible. It was all done by foreigners. Khan lost many things during his ordeal, including his freedom and his credibility. But throughout, he retained one crucial secret: the identity of a fourth country, after Iran, Libya and North Korea, to which he had provided the shortcut to a nuclear weapon.

…… Khan could legitimately claim a victory over the Indians when it came to centrifuge technology. While the Indians had beaten Pakistan to the bomb, they had  done  so through mastery of plutonium production—a  different route to creating a nuclear weapon. India’s ability to enrich uranium remained limited. New Delhi started a centrifuge program in the 1970s, but  the  Indians weren’t ready to break ground on their main  enrichment facility until  1986. By that point, Pakistan’s KRL had  been  churning out  weapons-grade uranium for at least  three years.

India’s enrichment program progressed slowly, but at some point before 1992 the Indians began experimenting with supercritical centrifuges, devices that can withstand very high rotational speeds. The program apparently continued to expand, with the Indians purchasing large quantities of supercritical centrifuge components from 1997 to 1999 and again from 2003 to 2006.  Surprisingly, they were almost open about their shopping spree. In 2006 the Washington, D.C.–based Institute for Science and International Security revealed that the Indian government had used news- paper ads to solicit bids for centrifuge parts. The details of these advertisements, along with documents the Indians gave potential suppliers, provide strong clues about where New Delhi’s supercritical centrifuge technology came from. Despite some changes, the design is recognizable to the trained eye:  It almost mirrors the  G-2 centrifuge, a design that  Khan  stole from URENCO in the 1970s and later reproduced as Pakistan’s P-2 centrifuge.

Centrifuge specs are not the only apparent link between India’s enrichment program and Khan’s operation. The cast of characters also overlaps, starting with Gerhard Wisser, a German living in South Africa. In collaboration with Gotthard Lerch in Switzerland, Wisser’s engineering firm supplied new gas- handling equipment for KRL’s centrifuges, delivered through Farooq’s operation in Dubai. When Khan struck his 1997 deal with Libya, he called on Wisser for similar equipment. According to a South African court document, Wisser also supplied India’s centrifuge program with specialized equipment, starting in the late 1980s. What else he or Lerch might have sold to the Indians remains unknown, but the timing is consistent with India’s earliest known work with supercritical centrifuges. Wisser seems to have had access to centrifuge designs, too; he tried to sell them to the South Africans around the same time.

Could Khan have been ignorant about Wisser’s dealings with India? His own guilty conscience says otherwise. Though Khan has never acknowledged having a fourth customer, he gave his Pakistani interrogators at least two contradictory cover stories that explained how KRL’s enrichment technology could have ended up in enemy hands. The full transcript of Khan’s interrogation, said to run hundreds of pages, has never been made public, but Musharraf ’s 2006  memoir provides important details…..” http://www.playboy.com/magazine/the-secret-treachery-of-a-q-khan

Crooked nuclear power industry – its history exposed with archival videos

January 29, 2012

“We discovered that our theoretical calculations didn’t have a strong correlation with reality. But we just couldn’t admit to the public that all these safety systems we told you about might not do any good”

 http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/adamcurtis/2011/03/a_is_for_atom.html  VIDEO A IS FOR ATOM Adam Curtis , 16 March 2011As a background to the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant I am putting up a film I made a while ago called A is for Atom. It was part of a series about politics and science called Pandora’s Box.

The film shows that from very early on – as early as 1964 – US government officials knew that there were serious potential dangers with the design of the type of reactor that was used to build the Fukushima Daiichi plant. But that their warnings were repeatedly ignored.

The film tells the story of the rise of nuclear power in America, Britain and the Soviet Union. It shows how the way the technologies were developed was shaped by the political and business forces of the time. And how that led directly to inherent dangers in the design of the containment of many of the early plants.

Those early plants in America were the Boiling Water Reactors. And that is the very model that was used to build the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Three of them were supplied directly by General Electric.

In 1966 the US government Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards tried to force the industry to redesign their containment structures to make them safer. But the chairman of the committee claims in the film that General Electric in effect refused.

And in 1971 the Atomic Energy Commission did a series of tests of Emergency Core Cooling systems. Accidents were simulated. In each case the emergency systems worked – but the water failed to fill the core. Often being forced out under pressure.

As one of the AEC scientists says in the film:

“We discovered that our theoretical calculations didn’t have a strong correlation with reality. But we just couldn’t admit to the public that all these safety systems we told you about might not do any good”

And again the warnings were ignored by senior members of the Agency and the industry.

That was the same year that the first of the Fukushima Daiichi plant’s reactors came online. Supplied by General Electric.

The film also has some of the recordings of the voices of the Commissioners struggling to deal with the Three Mile Island disaster in 1979. It was recorded by a dictaphone left running on a table – and you get a very good sense of what it must feel like to deal with such a crisis. A group of men realising they have no idea what is going on inside the core – knowing only that the cooling systems seem to have failed. http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/adamcurtis/2011/03/a_is_for_atom.html

Claims of infant deaths due to Fukushima radiation

January 29, 2012

[In April 2011] the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported increased levels of radiation in the air, water and milk right across the U.S. that were 100s of  times above normal levels. 

while deaths were reported across all age categories, infants under the age of one-year old were the demographic hardest hit. The increase in 2010-2011 deaths among infants in the spring was 1.8 percent, compared to a decrease of 8.37 percent in the preceding 14 weeks.  Infant deaths were highest “because their tissues are rapidly multiplying, they have undeveloped immune systems, and the doses of radioisotopes are proportionally greater than for adults,”

 this study, which was released publicly on December 19, 2011, was not covered by mainstream media, but mostly watchdog groups and alternative, underground and fringe publications. There has been little reported about the after affects of Fukushima of late.

In an audio news conference, Mangano says the reaction of the nuclear industry and government will likely be a smear campaign to the report’s credibility

14,000 U.S. Deaths Linked to Fukushima Nuclear Meltdown: Infants Hardest Hit,The Province,   Tess Zevenbergen January 9, 2012. The first study linking radioactive fallout to 14,000 U.S. deaths as a result of Fukushima’s nuclear meltdown following the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami that struck the coast of Japan on Friday, March 11th last year has been published in the International Journal of Health Services (IJHS). According to a news release issued over the PR Newswire, the study is the first peer-reviewed study to appear in a medical scientific journal that documents the health hazards associated with the Fukushima nuclear explosion and meltdown catastrophe. (more…)

Photovolcaic solar energy becoming cheaper and more efficient

January 29, 2012

Solar guru receives Australia Day honour , 26 January 2012, Anna Salleh ABC Science,  http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2012/01/26/3415244.htm  Australia needs to look to Germany if it is to realise the potential of solar cell technology, says an expert who is being honoured today. Professor Martin Green of the University of New South Wales has been made a Member of the Order of Australia(AM) for his work on photovoltaics.

“Germany has been the only country that’s had a sensible long-term program in place to promote the use of renewables,” says Green.

Some argue solar cells are not a competitive option for reducing carbon emissions, and are limited by the fact that they don’t generate energy unless the Sun is shining.

But according to Green, the “stars are aligning for conventional roof mounted solar” and it is ripe for a new kick start from governments.

Cheaper technology (more…)

Comprehensive rundown on the reasons why the Nuclear Power industry is dying

January 5, 2012

2012 Is the Year to Finally Bury Nuke Power Huffington Post,  Harvey Wasserman Author, ‘SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth’Posted: 01/ 3/12 

“….The mythical “Nuclear Renaissance” has been gutted by Fukushima, low gas prices and the escalating Solartopian revolution in green energy. Solar panels, wind turbines, sustainable bio-fuels, geo-thermal, ocean thermal, increased efficiency and much more have simply priced atomic energy out of the market.

There is virtually no private money to build new reactors — except where there are huge government subsidies and guarantees. In 2012 we must make those all go away.

Likewise, there are increasingly powerful grassroots movements focused on shutting reactors that still operate. Germany has shut 7, and the rest will be gone by 2022, if not earlier. In Japan, just 11 of more than 50 reactors now operate. Because local governments can prevent nukes from re-opening once they go down for refueling, Japan could emerge from 2012 without a single nuke on line. (more…)