Archive for September, 2013

Doubtful if, despite expensive clean-up, Fukushima area will ever be habitable again

September 14, 2013

Return to the radiation zone: Fukushima clean-up operation mired in fear and misinformation Two years after Japan’s nuclear power plant disaster nobody knows for certain how dangerous the contamination is THE INDEPENDENT DAVID MCNEILL Author Biography , MIGUEL QUINTANA FUKUSHIMA WEDNESDAY 11 SEPTEMBER 2013″……..Nobody knows for certain how dangerous the radiation is. Japan’s central government refined its policy in December 2011, defining evacuation zones as “areas where cumulative dose levels might reach 20 millisieverts per year [20 mSv/yr],” the typical worldwide limit for nuclear power plant engineers and other radiation workers.

The worst radiation is supposed to be confined to the 20km exclusion zone, but it spread unevenly: less than 5km north of the Daiichi plant, our Geiger counter shows less than 5 millisieverts a year; 40km north west, in parts of Iitate village, it is well over 120 millisieverts. Those 160,000 refugees have not returned and are scattered throughout Japan. The nuclear diaspora is swelled by thousands of voluntary refugees who, unlike the Saitos, have not returned. Local governments are spending millions of dollars to persuade them back.

The price tag for cleaning a heavily mountainous and wooded area roughly the same size as County Wicklow (2,000 sq km) has government heads spinning. In August, experts from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology put the total cost of decontamination at $50bn (£31.6bn). The Japan Centre ?for Economic Research, a Tokyo-based think-tank says the final tally will be $600bn.

Mr Saito’s home falls within the boundaries of Minamisoma, a city that has never recovered from the disaster.   Most of its 71,000 population fled voluntarily 20km south. A third have yet to return, spooked by lingering radiation and the fear of another calamity at the still unstable facility.

“We’ve worked hard to make our city livable again,” says Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai. “But everything we’ve done could be for nothing unless the problems at the plant are fixed.”

Fighting radiation is now one of Minamisoma’s few growth industries. The city has set up a permanent office to co-ordinate decontamination with a budget this year alone of $230m.

Since last September, a crew of 650 men has laboured around the local streets and countryside, cleaning schools, homes and farms. By the end of the year, the operation will employ nearly 1,000 people – a large chunk of the town’s remaining able-bodied workforce……..

Critics say toxins wash down from the mountains and forests after the decontamination crews leave, bringing radiation levels back up – though seldom to previous levels.

The disagreement over real radiation levels is far from academic. Local governments are desperate for evacuees to return and must decide on what basis, in terms of exposure to radiation, evacuation orders will be lifted. If they unilaterally declare their areas safe, evacuees could be forced to choose between returning home and losing vital monthly compensation from Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco), operator of the ruined Daiichi complex.

For the refugees, one worrying precedent has been set in the municipality of Date, which lies outside the most contaminated areas. In December 2012, the local government lifted a “special evacuation” order imposed on 129 households because of a hotspot, arguing that radiation doses had fallen below 20 millisieverts per year. Three months later the residents lost the $1,000 a month they were receiving from Tepco for “psychological stress.”……..

The Fukushima clean-up, however, faces another, perhaps insurmountable, problem: securing sites to store contaminated soil, leaves and sludge. Many landowners baulk at hosting “interim” dumps – in principle for three years – until the central government builds a mid-term storage facility.

Local governments throughout Japan have refused to accept the toxic waste, meaning it will probably stay in Fukushima for good. The waste is stored under blue tarpaulins across much of the prefecture, sometimes close to schools and homes. ….“Whatever happens, we will never have what we had before. It’s clear that my grandchildren will never come here again”.

An especially aggressive form of breast cancer caused by ionising radiation

September 14, 2013

Exposing young girls to ionizing radiation can raise risk of breast cancer later in life  12 Sept 13, Exposing young women and girls under the age of 20 to ionizing radiation can substantially raise the risk of their developing breast cancer later in life. Scientists may now know why. A collaborative study, in which Berkeley Lab researchers played a pivotal role, points to increased stem cell self-renewal and subsequent mammary stem cell enrichment as the culprits. Breasts enriched with mammary stem cells as a result of ionizing irradiation during puberty show a later-in-life propensity for developing ER negative tumors – cells that do not have the estrogen receptor. Estrogen receptors – proteins activated by the estrogen hormone – are critical to the normal development of the breast and other female sexual characteristics during puberty.

“Our results are in agreement with epidemiology studies showing that radiation-induced human breast cancers are more likely to be ER negative than are spontaneous breast cancers,” says Sylvain Costes, a biophysicist with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). “This is important because ER negative breast cancers are less differentiated, more aggressive, and often have a poor prognosis compared to the other breast cancer subtypes.”

Costes and Jonathan Tang, also with Berkeley Lab, were part of a collaboration led by Mary Helen Barcellos-Hoff, formerly with Berkeley Lab and now at the New York University School of Medicine, that investigated the so-called “window of susceptibility” known to exist between radiation treatments at puberty and breast cancer risk in later adulthood. The key to their success were two mammary lineage agent-based models (ABMs) they developed in which a system is modeled as a collection of autonomous decision-making entities called agents. One ABM simulated the effects of radiation on the mammary gland during either the developmental stages or during adulthood. The other simulated the growth dynamics of human mammary epithelial cells in culture after irradiation.

“Our mammary gland ABM consisted of millions of agents, with each agent representing either a mammary stem cell, a progenitor cell or a differentiated cell in the breast,” says Tang. “We ran thousands of simulations on Berkeley Lab’s Lawrencium supercomputer during which each agent continually assessed its situation and made decisions on the basis of a set of rules that correspond to known or hypothesized biological properties of mammary cells. The advantage of this approach is that it allows us to view the global consequences to the system that emerge over time from our assumptions about the individual agents. To our knowledge, our mammary gland model is the first multi-scale model of the development of full glands starting from the onset of puberty all the way to adulthood.”

Epidemiological studies have shown that girls under 20 given radiotherapy treatment for disorders such as Hodgkin’s lymphoma run about the same risk of developing breast cancer in their 40s as women who were born with a BRCA gene mutation. From their study, Costes, Tang and their collaboration partners concluded that self-renewal ofstem cells was the most likely responsible mechanism.

Stem cell self-renewal was the only mechanism in the mammary gland model that led to predictions that were consistent with data from both our in vivo mouse work and our in vitro experiments with MCF10A, a human mammary epithelial cell line,” Tang says. “Additionally, our model predicts that this mechanism would only generate more stem cells during puberty while the gland is developing and considerable cell proliferation is taking place.”

Costes and Tang are now looking for genetic or phenotypic biomarkers that would identify young girls who are at the greatest breast cancer risk from radiation therapy. The results of their study with Barcellos-Hoff and her research group show that the links between ionizing radiation and breast cancer extend beyond DNA damage and mutations.

“Essentially, exposure of the breast to ionizing radiation generates an overall biochemical signal that tells the system something bad happened,” Costes says. “If exposure takes place during puberty, this signal triggers a regenerative response leading to a larger pool of stem cells, thereby increasing the chance of developing aggressive ER negative breast cancers later in life.”

Source: DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Fukushima’s ice wall has to be kept frozen indefinitely, must not defrost

September 14, 2013

Nuke Fatigue & the 2020 Tokyo Olympics EE Times, Junko Yoshida, Chief International Correspondent, 6 Sept 13,  “…………So far, I’ve heard no skeptics in Japan questioning the science and long-term viability of the technology behind the proposed ice wall — especially on NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster.

To hear the argument against it, I had to turn to Tuesday’s edition of the PBS Newshour, whose link my former colleague and science writer George Leopold sent via e-mail.

‘Risky experiment’
In the program, Arjun Makhijani, an engineer specializing in nuclear fusion and president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, called the proposed ice wall scheme “a risky experiment.”

Looking at Risks if the Fukushima Ice Wall Defrosts

 Makhijani explained that the Japanese “hope to freeze the soil, basically, with a giant freezing machine, just like your freezer at home, [to] put cooling coils in the soil, lots and lots of them.” He pointed out that this scheme “takes an enormous amount of electricity.” That is just what the Fujushima nuclear plant can’t do.

The biggest worry is potential power failures. Makhijani said:

if the power fails, you know, just like if your — when the power goes out with your refrigerator, everything will de-freeze in — defrost in the freezer.  Even though ice wall technology had been used frequently to stabilize the ground in big construction projects, like the Big Dig highway project in Boston, The New York Times pointed out that some critics are dubious.

They argue that it’s a costly technology “that would be vulnerable at the blackout-prone plant because it relies on electricity the way a freezer does, and even more so because it has never been tried on the vast scale that Japan is envisioning and was always considered a temporary measure, while at Fukushima it would have to endure possibly for decades.”


Radiation causing cataracts in birds of Chernobyl and Fukushima

September 14, 2013

the key factor determining the presence of the disease was the intensity of local radiation, with cataract scores of over one proving to be far more common in areas that were above ten microseiverts per hour

Birds live with cataracts in Chernobyl The Economist, Sep 7th 2013 CATARACTS are relatively common in people who live to a ripe old age. They are sometimes seen in animals that live in zoos as well, but in the wild they are almost unheard of. The reason is simple. Losing eyesight is in effect a death sentence for a wild animal that must find its own food and, should that animal live long enough to develop the disease, starvation or predation would quickly follow|cataracts unrelated to age are surprisingly common in birds living near the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.

This is revealed in a new study by a pair of ornithologists, Timothy Mousseau of the University of South Carolina and Anders Moller of the University of Paris-Sud, which is published in the Public Library of Science. That cataracts and ionising radiation are related is well known. As high energy ions, usually produced by the sun’s rays, slam into the water found next to the lenses of the eyes, free radicals are created that damage DNA and cause errors to develop in the formation of proteins that make up the lenses, resulting in cataracts.

This led the researchers to suspect that cataracts in birds might be common in areas where there are high levels of ionising radiation, and they turned to Chernobyl as a study area. Working with nets in the mornings and evenings, the researchers collected a total of 1,111 birds in the greater Chernobyl area and examined their eyes. Cataract scores were given to each bird, ranging from zero (for total eye clarity and no cataract presence) to four (for an eye that was entirely opaque and probably blind with cataracts). The researchers also noted the sex of the birds and whether they were juveniles or adults.

In total, eight locations in the greater Chernobyl area were used in the study and the radiation levels in each were measured with a Geiger counter. The different sites showed readings from a very low radiation level of 0.02 microseiverts per hour to an average of almost 60 microseiverts per hour in one of the forests that was heavily contaminated by the meltdown.

In all, 391 of the birds the researchers caught had cataract scores of one or more, and were thus suffering some level of visual impairment. However, contrary to the way cataracts work in the rest of the world, those in the eyes of birds living near Chernobyl appeared regardless of whether they were young or old. When Dr Mousseau and Dr Moller examined their radiation measurements, they found that the key factor determining the presence of the disease was the intensity of local radiation, with cataract scores of over one proving to be far more common in areas that were above ten microseiverts per hour…..

The nuclear lobby’s controlling voice in the University of Saskatchewan

September 14, 2013

Follow the yellowcake road  Nuclear power, tarsands extraction, and the co-option of the University ofSaskatchewan Briar Patch magazine, BY D’ARCY HANDE • FEB 28, 2012 In 2011 the University of Saskatchewan went truly nuclear, realizing, in many respects, the loftiest ambitions of the uranium industry and its supporters within the provincial government and the university. On October 14, 2011, the University of Saskatchewan board of governors formally approved the incorporation of the Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation (CCNI) “to stimulate new research, development and training in advanced aspects of nuclear science and technology.”

Although the pieces seemed to come together in just a few short months, the game plan had been coalescing since Brad Wall’s Saskatchewan Party government was first elected in 2007 (read the full timeline here). Tracing corporate connections and developments behind the scenes shows how a coordinated strategy can be implemented largely outside public purview and beyond generally accepted public accountability……

Early in its mandate, Brad Wall’s government entered into discussions with Bruce Power of Ontario regarding the establishment of a nuclear reactor in the province. In June 2008, a joint feasibility study was announced between Bruce Power and the Crown corporation SaskPower, touting the benefits of “clean electricity” to replace the coal and gas power stations in the province. The proposed Saskatchewan 2020 program would investigate “how best to integrate nuclear energy, which produces no greenhouse gases when it produces electricity, with hydrogen, wind, solar and clean coal technologies to give Saskatchewan a diverse and secure supply of clean energy for 2020 and beyond.”

But clean energy was not the primary consideration. In fact, the proposal builds upon the dubious concept of using nuclear energy to power the extraction of oil from the Athabasca tarsands, oxymoronically termed “green bitumen” by the industry.

Bruce Power is two-thirds owned by Cameco Corporation and TransCanada Corporation, the latter of which operates the Keystone pipeline. It is therefore no surprise that the feasibility report, unveiled in November 2008, deemed there was sufficient demand for a nuclear power station in the province. The report states that “the growth in electricity demand in northeastern Alberta could provide a possible export market for Saskatchewan,” an allusion that could only refer to the tarsands. Thus the Saskatchewan 2020 nuclear power plan was launched.

In late 2008, as part of their strategy to implement the Saskatchewan 2020 plan, the government established the Uranium Development Partnership (UDP), comprising representatives from the nuclear industry, the University of Saskatchewan (U of S), and other supporters. It is striking that the only academic on the committee was designated its chair: Dr. Richard Florizone, a physicist and the vice-president of finance and resources at the U of S, who has long been a proponent of a nuclear research reactor on campus and presumably saw great potential for collaboration between industry and the university.

The UDP report, released in March 2009, contained 20 recommendations for nuclear development in the province, including one for the creation of a nuclear centre of excellence in Saskatchewan. Shortly afterward, the government announced a public consultation process on the UDPrecommendations to be conducted that summer, which was an unexpected public relations disaster: fully 88 per cent of the 2,263 responses rejected the overall strategy of the report. Bill Boyd, then minister of energy and resources, was shaken but undeterred. Boyd interpreted the results to mean, “… it’s neither a green light nor a red light for future uranium development. It’s more like a yellow light – take any next steps with caution.”

Industry, government, and the university unite

What followed was a truly remarkable exercise in pushing the whole nuclear agenda under the political radar. Rather than slowing down and taking a cautionary approach, the government instead began assiduously advancing its program through the University of Saskatchewan, which was apparently a willing partner.

Through its rather clandestine agencies – the newly established Enterprise Saskatchewan and its twin, Innovation Saskatchewan – the government focused on promoting the concept of a U of S nuclear centre of excellence. The government also proposed a nuclear reactor at the university as the means for producing medical isotopes, even though the UDP report acknowledged that a reactor dedicated solely to that purpose would not be financially sustainable. Nevertheless, an application for federal funding was prepared in the summer of 2009 by the university and government. When the application was rejected a few months later, the strategy took off in yet another direction……….

The confluence of industry, government, and university interests was quickly materializing. The concept of a nuclear centre at U of S came one step closer to reality in March 2011, when the provincial government announced a start-up grant of $30 million over seven years. By the end of March 2011, when the establishment of the Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation was announced, Enterprise Saskatchewan (ES) could boast in its annual report, “Eighteen of the 20 recommendations made by the Uranium Development Partnership – which resulted from an ES board recommendation – have now been implemented.”

A nuclear research centre is hatched

The formation of the Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation in October 2011 followed a highly restricted debate of the proposal at a meeting of the university council, comprising representatives from faculty and administration, a few weeks before. The university senate, the branch of university governance representing the community at large, was largely ignored in the process. USSWORD senators (University Senators in Saskatchewan Working to Revive Democracy) attempted to raise their concerns at the fall meeting on October 15, but the governors had already approved CCNI’s establishment – on October 14.

The CCNI business framework clearly states the expectations of the provincial government in funding the centre:

“… the province expects nuclear power to be considered in the range of energy options available for base-load generation capacity in the medium and long term after 2020, and that the CCNI will be able to serve as a source of expertise to inform decisions in this area.”

Although the CCNI will be a university subsidiary, concerns were raised about its governance structure at a university council meeting in September 2011. The university will directly appoint only two of the CCNI’s eight directors, raising questions about how much control the university will have over research priorities and how much control the government and its partners in the nuclear industry will exercise. With the announcement of the board in January 2012, the concerns appear to be warranted. The CEO of Innovation Saskatchewan and vice-presidents from Cameco Corporation and Atomic Energy of Canada Limited are among the appointees……….

Worldwide danger of depleted uranium

September 14, 2013

Dangers and Health Effects of Depleted Uranium, Disabled World 4 Sept 13  Thomas C. Weiss

Summary: Information relating to Depleted Uranium (DU) a chemically toxic and radioactive heavy metal potentially hazardous to human health.
“Children in particular are susceptible to DU poisoning. They have a much higher absorption rate as their blood is being used to build and nourish their bones and they have a lot of soft tissues.”

Document Detail: Depleted Uranium (DU) is a waste product, one that is left over when uranium is enriched to create fissionable material for nuclear weapons and reactors. DU consists of uranium from which most of the fissionable isotopes, uranium 235 and 234, have been removed. DU contains 99.5% Uranium 238.

The term, ‘depleted,’ carries with it the implication that it is not particularly dangerous; however, DU is a chemically toxic and radioactive heavy metal and because of this it is potentially hazardous to a person’s health. It is believed by many that exposure to depleted uranium (DU), especially when a person inhales or ingests it as a particulate, causes severe and long-term health effects. The size and effect, as well as the political significance of it, remain in dispute at this time. DU is an extremely dense material, 1.7 times as dense as lead, and is also, ‘pyrophoric,’ and is combustible when it comes in contact with air.

DU is being used by the defense industry in the creation of armor piercing munitions and anti-tank projectiles, as well as in the manufacture of tank armor.

Around 17 nations are thought to have weapon systems containing DU in their arsenals to include:

  • The United States of America
  • The United Kingdom
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Thailand
  • Pakistan
  • Bahrain
  • Taiwan
  • Greece
  • France
  • Kuwait
  • Turkey
  • Oman
  • Egypt
  • China
  • Russia
  • Israel
  • India
A number of these nations were sold DU ammunition by the United States of America, while others – to include Russia, France, India and Pakistan, are believe to have developed it on their own. DU is increasingly showing up in a number of civilian products as well. It is used as ballast in airplanes and ships, in flywheels and boat keels, and in helicopter rotors and gyroscopes. DU is also used as radiation shielding in radioactive material transport containers.

USA hides effects of depleted uranium on its soldiers

September 14, 2013

The U.S. Army’s own contractor, Doug Rokke, who headed a clean up of depleted uranium (DU) after the first Gulf War stated, “Depleted uranium is a crime against God and humanity.” Mr. Rokke went on to state that when his crew went to the Gulf they were all very healthy people, yet after performing clean up operations, 30 members of his staff died and the majority of the others, to include Mr. Rokke himself, “developed serious health problems.

The military is aware of depleted uranium’s harmful effects on the human genetic code.

The U.S. Military does not want the rest of the world to find out what we have done

Dangers and Health Effects of Depleted Uranium, Disabled World Thomas C. Weiss, 4 Sept 13 “…….According to an article by Robert C. Koehler in 2007, the Veterans Administration presented figures of 205,000 soldiers who returned from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Of these soldiers, one-third have sought medical care for issues such as:

Perhaps the most compelling evidence of all is the sheer number of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts suffering physical ailments. In an April 12, 2007 article, Robert C. Koehler examined the issue:

  • Malignant tumors (1,584)
  • Mental disorders (73,157)
  • Mystery conditions (67,743)
  • Nervous system diseases (61,524)
  • Musculoskeletal diseases (87,590)
  • Digestive system diseases (63,002)
  • Endocrinal and metabolic diseases (36,409)

Many times these conditions are lumped together under the convenient catch all heading of, ‘Gulf War Syndrome.’ It is very likely that at least some of these illnesses are caused by exposure to depleted uranium (DU). The effects of DU contamination may take up to 10 years to manifest and it is likely the number of veterans who will need medical care will be higher than from prior conflicts.

Dr. Jawad Al-Ali, Director of the Oncology Center at the largest hospital in Basra, Iraq stated in a conference in Japan, “Two strange phenomena have come about in Basra which I have never seen before. The first is double and triple cancers in one patient. For example, leukemia and cancer of the stomach. We had one patient with 2 cancers – one in his stomach and kidney. Months later, primary cancer was developing in his other kidney–he had three different cancer types. The second is the clustering of cancer in families. We have 58 families here with more than one person affected by cancer. Dr Yasin, a general Surgeon here has two uncles, a sister and cousin affected with cancer. Dr Mazen, another specialist, has six family members suffering from cancer. My wife has nine members of her family with cancer. Children in particular are susceptible to DU poisoning. They have a much higher absorption rate as their blood is being used to build and nourish their bones and they have a lot of soft tissues. Bone cancer and leukemia used to be diseases affecting them the most, however, cancer of the lymph system which can develop anywhere on the body, and has rarely been seen before the age of 12 is now also common.”

The U.S. Army’s own contractor, Doug Rokke, who headed a clean up of depleted uranium (DU) after the first Gulf War stated, “Depleted uranium is a crime against God and humanity.” Mr. Rokke went on to state that when his crew went to the Gulf they were all very healthy people, yet after performing clean up operations, 30 members of his staff died and the majority of the others, to include Mr. Rokke himself, “developed serious health problems.”Mr. Rokke has reactive airway disease now, as well as neurological damage, kidney issues, and cataracts………

A special advisor to the World Health Organization, the United Nations, and the Iraqi Ministry of Health, Dr. Ahmad Hardan, documented the effects of depleted uranium (DU) use in Iraq. Dr. Hardan stated, “American forces admit to using over 300 tons of DU weapons in 1991. The actual figure is closer to 800. This has caused a health crisis that has affected almost a third of a million people. As if that was not enough, America went on and used 200 tons more in Bagdad alone during the recent invasion. ”

The military is aware of depleted uranium’s harmful effects on the human genetic code. A study performed in 2001 related to DU’s effect on DNA was done by Dr. Alexandra C. Miller of the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute in Bethesda, Md. And indicates that DU’s chemical instability causes 1 Million times more genetic damage than would be expected from its radiation effect alone. We are poisoning the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, yet we are making a concerted effort to keep out specialists from other nations who can help. The U.S. Military does not want the rest of the world to find out what we have done………….

Lucrative business in cleaning up nuclear trash

September 14, 2013

Nuclear Trashmen Gain From Record U.S. Reactor Shutdowns Bloomberg By Brian Wingfield – Sep 4, 2013 1:”……..Tricky Business The physical work involved in tearing down a nuclear plant takes about 10 years, according to John Hickman, a project manager in the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s decommissioning branch. The agency gives reactor owners 60 years to complete decommissioning, which it defines as permanently removing a plant from service and reducing radioactivity enough for the property to be used for another purpose.

The NRC is now overseeing 14 commercial reactors that are in some phase of decommissioning, excluding those marked for closure in the last year. The first plant to deliver commercial power in the U.S. was a General Electric Co (GE).-designed unit near Fremont, California, which began service in 1957, according to the agency. It was also the first unit to be decommissioned, in 1963.

Razing a plant is tricky business. Radiation can seep into the concrete, pipes and metal of plant structures, and workers need to be able to break down the units without exposing themselves, or the public, to contamination. Plants often sit idle for decades before being torn down in order to let radioactive material decay.

Low Dose

“The whole objective of decontamination is to get the dose levels as low as possible so you can do the dismantlement work,” Christine King, director of nuclear fuels and chemistry at the Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto, California, said in a phone interview.

During a reactor decommissioning, the plant operator transfers radioactive fuel rods to cooling pools and, ultimately, to so-called dry casks for storage. Workers clean contaminated surfaces by sandblasting, chemical sprays and hydrolasing, a process that involves high-pressure water blasts, according to King.

“You do get to a point that you need someone to come in that has the equipment and the technology to actually dismantle the components,” she said. “That typically is hired out.”

New Orleans-based Entergy hasn’t determined the schedule or the cost for taking apart the Vermont Yankee reactor, though the company plans to let it sit long enough to let radiation decay, according to plant spokesman Rob Williams.

“The complete decommissioning process is likely to take decades,” he said in an e-mail.

Radioactive Waste

When such work begins at a plant, it can create business for companies including EnergySolutions Inc. of Salt Lake City and Waste Control Specialists LLC of Dallas, both closely held, and US Ecology Inc. (ECOL) of Boise, Idaho. The companies dispose of low-level radioactive waste, including components and buildings at nuclear power plants.

The work doesn’t include removing the 65,000 tons of radioactive fuel that are now stored at about 75 operating and closed reactor sites across the country. The fuel will probably remain on site until lawmakers establish a plan for temporary or permanent disposal. House Republicanshave said the U.S. should resume its work on the Yucca Mountain repository, a move that President Barack Obama’s administration and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, oppose.

Waste Storage

“There’s a great opportunity for WCS in the decommissioning of nuclear-power plants,” Waste Control Specialists spokesman Chuck McDonald said in a phone interview. The company last year opened a West Texas facility where parts of nuclear-plant buildings and reactor components are sent for burial in steel and concrete containers 120 feet underground.

McDonald said he expects WCS will begin taking some of the material from Entergy’s Vermont Yankee plant, at Vernon, Vermont, once the utility begins dismantling it, due to an agreement between Texas and Vermont for waste disposal.

Chicago-based Exelon in 2010 transferred the license for its Zion plant to EnergySolutions, a nuclear-services company that operates low-level disposal sites in Clive, Utah, and Barnwell,South Carolina.

The two-reactor plant, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Chicago, had been closed since 1997. When EnergySolutions completes the $1 billion, 10-year dismantling and disposal process, it will transfer the license back to Exelon, according to the utility.

Fuel Transfer

EnergySolutions later this year will begin the process of transferring spent fuel to a storage area at the Zion facility, Mark Walker, a spokesman for the disposal company, said in a phone interview. Knocking down structures will begin later.

EnergySolutions doesn’t have contracts in place to work on reactors that have been slated for decommissioning, Walker said. “We do hope there’s opportunity there,” he said.

Waste Control Specialists is doing some of the decommissioning work at Zion, according to McDonald, who said it’s hard for new companies to get into the business.

“The regulatory framework in this arena is so lengthy, it’s going to take a long time for somebody to be up and running to dispose of this type of waste,” he said.

Larger contractors that have experience in the area also are watching the plant closures closely.

“Bechtel has considerable experience in nuclear decontamination and decommissioning,” Jason Bohne, a spokesman for Bechtel National Inc., said in an e-mail. “We are closely monitoring opportunities” in the commercial sector and “plan to be a major player as the market evolves,” he said.

Five Years

US Ecology’s low-level waste disposal site southeast of Boise, Idaho, is disposing of the lowest level of waste from plants including PG&E Corp. (PCG)’s Humboldt Bay reactor, Chad Hyslop, a spokesman for US Ecology, said.

The Humboldt Bay plant, near Eureka, California, has been out of service since 1976. Workers have been dismantling the unit since 2008, according to Loren Sharp, the plant’s director. Trucks may haul away 50 loads of material, including concrete and steel, each week for four to five years, he said in a phone interview……

The danger of depleted uranium

September 14, 2013

Dangers and Health Effects of Depleted Uranium, Disabled World Thomas C. Weiss, 4 Sept 13  ”…………Health concerns and DU center around the effect on the human body of nano-sized ceramic particles of uranium oxide (U238) that are released into the air when DU munitions are used in battle. Dr. Rosalie Bertell presented a concise explanation of the potential dangers of exposure to depleted uranium (DU). Dr. Bertell stated, “Uranium oxide and its aerosol form are insoluble in water. The aerosol resists gravity, and is able to travel tens of kilometres in air. Once on the ground, it can be resuspended when the sand is disturbed by motion or wind. Once breathed in, the very small particles of uranium oxide, those which are 2.5 microns (one micron = one millionth of a meter) or less in diameter, could reside in the lungs for years, slowly passing through the lung tissue into the blood.”

Another doctor, Dr. Asaf Durakovic, who founded the Uranium Medical Research Center, stated that over the course of a year 1 milligram of DU emits 390 million alpha particles, 780 million beta particles, as well as associated gamma rays for a total of more than one billion high energy, ionizing, radioactive particles and rays that may produce extensive biological damage to a person’s ovaries, kidneys, lungs, lymph nodes, blood, bones, breasts, stomach, and to fetuses. The health concerns, especially for people who live in Iraq, are particularly acute because of the young ages of the people being exposed.

The Department of Defense continues to deny health risks associated with the use of DU’s, yet it’s own actions belie their claims. May 15th of 2003 found Scott Peterson of the Christian Science Monitor reporting that in Iraq, “Six American vehicles struck with DU “friendly fire” in 1991 were deemed to be too contaminated to take home, and were buried in Saudi Arabia. Of 16 more brought back to a purpose-built facility in South Carolina, six had to be buried in a low-level radioactive waste dump.”

Studies performed by The Uranium Medical Research Center in Afghanistan show very high levels of, ‘non-depleted,’ uranium in not only bomb craters, but people. Of the 700,000 United States Veterans from the first Gulf War, greater than 240,000 are on permanent medical disability and 11,000 have died. An investigation by Juan Gonzalez of the New York Daily News found 4 of 9 soldiers of the 442nd Military Police Company of the New York Army National Guard returning from Iraq tested positive for depleted uranium (DU) contamination; they are the first confirmed cases of inhaled depleted uranium exposure from the Iraq war.

A study performed in April of 2007 by researchers at the University of Southern Maine concluded that, “exposure to particulate DU may pose a significant genotoxic risk (risk of genetic mutation) and could possibly result in lung cancer.” A paper published in the same year in the scientific journal, ‘Science of the Total Environment,’ found high concentrations of DU particles in soil, stream sediments, as well as household dust in the vicinity of a DU weapons factory in Colonie, New York 23 years after the plant had closed and despite massive efforts at clean up by the U.S. Army Corp of engineers. It also presented the fact that traces of DU contamination still remain in the urine of former workers and neighbors of the plant…………

Wall of ice planned for under Fukushima wrecked nuclear plant

September 14, 2013
Japan to build $470M ice wall to prevent nuclear leaks$470m-ice-wall-to-prevent-nuclear-leaks/   4 Sept 13 The Japanese government announced Tuesday that it will spend $470 million on a subterranean ice wall and other steps in a desperate bid to stop leaks of radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant after repeated failures by the plant’s operator.

 The decision is widely seen as an attempt to show that the nuclear accident won’t be a safety concern just days before the International Olympic Committee chooses among Tokyo, Istanbul and Madrid as the host of the 2020 Olympics.

The Fukushima Dai-ichi plant has been leaking hundreds of tons of contaminated underground water into the sea since shortly after a massive 2011 earthquake and tsunami damaged the complex. Several leaks from tanks storing radioactive water in recent weeks have heightened the sense of crisis that the plant’s owner, Tokyo Electric Power Co., isn’t able to contain the problem.

“Instead of leaving this up to TEPCO, the government will step forward and take charge,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said after adopting the outline. “The world is watching if we can properly handle the contaminated water but also the entire decommissioning of the plant.”

The government plans to spend an estimated 47 billion yen ($470 million) through the end of March 2015 on two projects — 32 billion yen ($320 million) on the ice wall and 15 billion yen ($150 million) on an upgraded water treatment unit that is supposed to remove all radioactive elements except water-soluble tritium — according to energy agency official Tatsuya Shinkawa.

The government, however, is not paying for urgently needed water tanks and other equipment that TEPCO is using to contain leaks. Shinkawa said the funding is limited to “technologically challenging projects” but the government is open to additional help when needed.

The ice wall would freeze the ground to a depth of up to 30 meters (100 feet) through a system of pipes carrying a coolant as cold as minus 40 degrees Celsius (minus 40 Fahrenheit). That would block contaminated water from escaping from the facility’s immediate surroundings, as well as keep underground water from entering the reactor and turbine buildings, where much of the radioactive water has collected.

The project, which TEPCO and the government proposed in May, is being tested for feasibility by Japanese construction giant Kajima Corp. and is set for completion by March 2015.

Similar methods have been used to block water from parts of tunnels and subways, but building a 0.9-mile wall that surrounds four reactor buildings and their related facilities is unprecedented.

An underground ice wall has been used to isolate radioactive waste at the U.S. Department of Energy’s former site of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee that produced plutonium, but only for six years, according to the MIT Technology Review magazine.

Some experts are still skeptical about the technology and say the running costs would be a huge burden.

Atsunao Marui, an underground water expert at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, said a frozen wall could be water-tight but is normally intended for use for a few years and is not proven for long-term use as planned in the outline. The decommissioning process is expected to take about 40 years.

“We still need a few layers of safety backups in case it fails,” Marui told The Associated Press. “Plus the frozen wall won’t be ready for another two years, which means contaminated water would continue to leak out.”

Marui said additional measures should be taken to stop contaminated water from traveling under the seabed during that time and leaking further out at sea. TEPCO has been pumping water into the wrecked reactors to cool nuclear fuel that melted when the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami knocked out the plant’s power and cooling systems. The utility has built more than 1,000 tanks holding 335,000 tons of contaminated water at the plant, and the amount grows by 400 tons daily. Some tanks have sprung leaks, spilling contaminated water onto the ground.

After spending on the ice wall, the remainder of the public funding — 15 billion yen until March 2015 — will go to the development and production of a water treatment unit that can treat larger amounts of contaminated water more thoroughly than an existing machine, which is under repair after corrosion was found during a test run.

Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka has repeatedly said that the contaminated water cannot be stored in tanks forever and eventually must be released into the sea after being fully processed and diluted, but only with local consent.

Other measures include replacing rubber-seamed storage tanks with more durable welded tanks as quickly as possible, and pumping out untainted underground water further inland for release into the sea to reduce the total amount of water flowing into the plant site. About 1,000 tons of underground water runs into the complex every day.

TEPCO is also constructing an offshore wall of steel panels to keep contaminants from spreading further into the sea. The utility says radioactive elements have mostly remained near the embankment inside the bay, but experts have reported offshore “hot spots” of sediments contaminated with high levels of cesium.

The leaks came as Tokyo headed into the final days of the contest to host the 2020 Summer Olympics. With anti-government demonstrations plaguing Istanbul’s bid and a recession and high Spanish unemployment hanging over Madrid’s candidacy, Tokyo is pushing its bid as the safe choice in uncertain times.

The IOC is to select the 2020 host on Sept. 7 in Buenos Aires, Argentina