Archive for April, 2012

A start on constructing a cover for Chernobyl’s damaged nuclear reactor

April 28, 2012

The 26 April, 1986, explosion spewed a cloud of radiation over the northern hemisphere, forcing hundreds of thousands from their homes in Ukraine, Belarus and western Russia.

Work begins on ‘mausoleum’ for worst nuclear disaster, 26 years on,   27 April 2012   TWENTY-SIX years to the day after the world’s worst nuclear disaster, Ukraine yesterday began construction of a vast new metal shelter to contain the stricken Chernobyl reactor.

The 20,000-tonne structure, big enough to enclose the Statue of Liberty, is due to be completed by 2015, allowing the delicate and dangerous job of dismantling the reactor and cleaning vast amounts of radioactive waste still around it to begin. (more…)

Safety communication between USA and Russia to include cybersecurity

April 28, 2012

In U.S.-Russia deal, nuclear communication system may be used for cybersecurity Washington Post, By Ellen Nakashima,  April 26 A secure communications channel set up to prevent misunderstandings that might lead to nuclear war is likely to expand to handling new kinds of conflict — in cyberspace.

The Nuclear Risk Reduction Center, established in 1988 under President Ronald Reagan so that Washington and Moscow could alert each other to missile tests and space launches that could be mistaken as acts of aggression, would take a central role in an agreement nearing completion between U.S. and Russian negotiators..

…The secure channel would be a milestone in the effort to ensure that misperceptions in cyberspace — where it is difficult to know who is behind a digital attack or even whether a computer disruption is the result of deliberate action — do not escalate to full hostilities, say U.S.officials and experts from both countries……..

Cesium contamination from Chernobyl and Fukushima

April 28, 2012

The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Is Far From Over   HUFFINGTON POST, Robert Alvarez, Senior Scholar, Institute for Policy Studies, 22 April 12, ”….It’s been 26 years, since the Chernobyl reactor exploded and caught fire releasing enormous amounts of radioactive debris — seriously contaminating areas over a thousand miles away. Chernobyl revealed the folly of not having an extra barrier of thick concrete and steel surrounding the reactor core that is required for modern plants, in the U.S., Japan and elsewhere. The Fukushima Dai-Ichi accident revealed the folly of operating several nuclear power plants in a high consequence earthquake zone while storing huge amounts of highly radioactive spent fuel in vulnerable pools, high above the ground.

What both accidents have in common is widespread environmental contamination from cesium-137. With a half-life of 30, years, Cs-137 gives off penetrating radiation, as it decays and can remain dangerous for hundreds of years. Once in the environment, it mimics potassium as it accumulates in the food chain. When it enters the human body, about 75 percent lodges in muscle tissue, with, perhaps, the most important muscle being the heart.

UK government deceptively subsidises nuclear power by classifying it as ‘low carbon’

April 28, 2012

The “feed-in tariffs” referred to in the leaked submission are not the same as the feed-in tariffs by which households can gain extra income by installing solar panels. 

Ministers planning ‘hidden subsidies’ for nuclear power Lib Dem worries over leaked document revealing plans to subsidise nuclear through electricity bills Fiona Harvey and Terry Macalister,  20 April 2012 ”……The leaked document, a submission to the European commission, which the government has confirmed as genuine, says: “Our reforms will put in place a regulatory framework based on feed-in tariffs for all low-carbon technologies, which will allow younger technologies to mature so that in the near- to mid-term future they will be able to compete in the open market … in time, we expect that this regulatory framework will enable different low-carbon technologies to compete against each other on a level playing field for their appropriate role in the energy mix.”

This is the clearest evidence yet of government plans to subsidise nuclear power through the back door, by classifying it with renewables as “low-carbon power”, despite repeated assurances that there would be no public subsidy. In the coalition agreement subsidies to nuclear are explicitly ruled out. It said: “Liberal Democrats have long opposed any new nuclear construction. Conservatives, by contrast, are committed to allowing the replacement of existing nuclear power stations provided that they are subject to the normal planning process for major projects (under a new National Planning Statement), and also provided that they receive no public subsidy.”….. (more…)

Medical radiation: brachytherapy and increased risk of new breast cancers

April 28, 2012

The most plausible explanation for our data is that women treated with brachytherapy were at increased risk of having a recurrence of cancer in their breast”

 A large federally funded study is trying to clarify the risks and benefits of brachytherapy for breast cancer. But the results won’t be out for years. 

includes audio.  Wider Use Of Breast Cancer Radiation Technique Raises Concern health/2012/04/09/150088892/wider-use-of-breast-cancer-radiation-technique-raises-concern?ps=sh_stcathdl “…..there’s an intense debate under way about whether the approach is being used too widely before there’s clear evidence it’s as effective as the traditional approach.

“I see the rush to brachytherapy is somewhat inappropriate because it has not yet been proven in a randomized trial to be as effective as a standard treatment,” says Bhadrasain Vikram of the National Cancer Institute…… (more…)

An unaffordable pipedream – nuclear fusion

April 28, 2012

“Fusion will never be a practical source because it requires vast resources and technical capital”

The Tantalizing Promise And Peril Of Nuclear Fusion, Forbes, 15 April 12 “…..To be clear, fusion is different from fission, which is how today’s nuclear reactor’s produce energy. Fission splits atoms apart whereas fusion combines them — a process that thus far consumes more energy than it generates. The aim, though, is to heat the hydrogen gas to more than 100 million degrees Celsius so that the atoms will bond instead of bouncing off each another. ….
“All ITER members consider this spending a good investment. What is at stake is a new source of energy on earth, which will be safe, with almost limitless fuel and environmentally responsible.”
But others are more tempered, if not outright cynical about fusion technology. The central question is whether the process can ever yield enough heat to fuse permanently those atoms that are needed to commercialize such power…..

Here, the argument breaks down two ways: the knowledge and the expense. The National Academy of Sciences is saying that the field is still in its “early stages” and that critical challenges remain. Then there’s the European Parliament’s green movement, which calls ITER funding not just wrongheaded in the aftermath of the Japan’s Fukushima but also a “ticking budgetary time bomb.”

“Fusion will never be a practical source because it requires vast resources and technical capital,” adds John Kutsch, executive director of the ThoriumEnergy Alliance, in a talk with this reporter. “On paper, it looks awesome but when you get down to practicalities, it is beyond our capabilities.”….

USA government’s welfare to the nuclear industry

April 28, 2012

Stop the nuclear industry welfare programme After 60 years, the taxpayer should not continue to subsidise multibillion-dollar corporations in the nuclear energy sector Bernie Sanders and Ryan Alexander,   13 April 2012    ’It is shocking that the nuclear industry continues to receive so much federal support at a time of record debt.’
The US is facing a $15 trillion national debt, and there is no shortage of opinions about how to move toward deficit reduction in the federal budget. One topic you will not hear discussed very often on Capitol Hill is the idea of ending one of the oldest American welfare programmes – the extraordinary amount of corporate welfare going to the nuclear energy industry. (more…)

Countries that have the oldest nuclear reactors

April 28, 2012

Nuclear Halt in South Korea Seen Boosting Coal: Energy Markets, Bloomberg NewsBy Sangim Han and Yuriy Humber on April 13, 2012“….World’s Oldest The U.K, India, Japan, Russia, Switzerland and the U.S. have the world’s oldest nuclear plants, with 31 operating reactors aged 40 years or more, according to the London-based World Nuclear Association. No reactor has yet operated 50 years.

The U.S., which has the most nuclear reactors, originally licensed its units to run 40 years. Today, 71 of the 104 U.S. reactors have 60-year permits and 15 more applications are under review, according to the country’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission website.

Radiation affects female birds more severely than it does males

April 28, 2012

the tertiary sex ratio (here defined as the proportion of males among adults) was skewed towards an excess of males across 48 different bird species. This finding is in accordance with lower adult survival rates in females compared to males previously reported for barn swallows in contaminated areas around Chernobyl …..

Female barn swallows suffer differentially from the mortality costs of radiation, with male adult survival being reduced by 24%, while female survival is reduced by 57% in contaminated areas compared to controls 

Elevated Mortality among Birds in Chernobyl as Judged from Skewed Age and Sex Ratios PLoS One 13 April 12, “….Radiation has negative effects on survival of animals including humans, although the generality of this claim is poorly documented under low-dose field conditions.

Because females may suffer disproportionately from the effects of radiation on survival due to differences in sex roles during reproduction, radiation-induced mortality may result in male-skewed adult sex ratios. (more…)

Radioactive legacy of Bukit Merah rare earths processing plant

April 28, 2012

Some of the surviving residents of Bukit Merah are still plagued with severe health problems. Until this very day, the Malaysian authorities refuse to acknowledge that the radioactive waste was responsible for the sudden escalation of health problems among the residents

Today, the government is the official custodian of this repository in Bukit Merah. This site in Bukit Merah is declared as a restricted and dangerous dump site for radioactive materials but a curtain of official silence has descended on it. Has the government not learnt from Bukit Merah?

The Lynas project is likely to be a replay of the ARE fiasco but on a much larger scale.

The benefits gained by Malaysia from the Lynas investment are very little relative to the risks involved. Whilst the profits of the project go to Lynas (untaxed) and the few Malaysian companies that are involved in the construction of and the provision of supplies to the Gebeng rare earth plant, the radioactive waste will remain in
Malaysian soil for hundreds of years.

Lynas issue: Not learning from bitter experience —The Malaysian Insider,  Richard Pendragon, April 12, 2012 “……..Bukit Merah The history of the rare earth industry in Malaysia is little known to most Malaysians. Most Malaysians in fact think that the Lynas project in Pahang is the first time Malaysia has been associated with this industry.
Few Malaysians actually know that there was a rare earth plant in Bukit Merah, Perak, which has been closed some 10 or more years ago, following a ruling by the High Court of Malaysia that the company involved was in negligence, and that the radioactive waste generated by the plant was dangerous and had to be removed and secured in a safe
place away from people for hundreds of years.

The evidence of the hazardous legacy of this rare earth plant is still present in our midst as a reminder to every one of the risks involved. (more…)