Archive for December, 2013

Tax-payers in USA and China to cough up for Thorium nuclear reactors, (that have military uses)

December 29, 2013

SPECIAL REPORT-The U.S. government lab behind China’s nuclear power push Dec 20, 2013  Dec 20 (Reuters) – Scientists in Shanghai are attempting a breakthrough in nuclear energy: reactors powered by thorium, an alternative to uranium.

The project is run by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a government body with close military ties that coordinates the country’s science-and-technology strategy. The academy has designated thorium as a priority for China’s top laboratories. The program has a budget of $350 million. And it’s being spearheaded by the influential son of a former Chinese president.

But even as China bulks up its military muscle through means ranging from espionage to heavy spending, it is pursuing this aspect of its technology game plan with the blessing – and the help – of the United States.

China has enlisted a storied partner for its thorium push: Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The U.S. government institute produced the plutonium used for the Manhattan Project and laid important groundwork for the commercial and military use of nuclear power.

The Tennessee lab, as it happens, helped pioneer thorium reactors. ……..

Thorium’s chief allure is that it is a potentially far safer fuel for civilian power plants than is uranium. But the element also has possible military applications as an energy source in naval vessels. A U.S. congressman unsuccessfully sought to push the Pentagon to embrace the technology in 2009, and British naval officers are recommending a design for a thorium-fueled ship.

In a further twist, despite the mounting strategic rivalry with China, there has been little or no protest in the United States over Oak Ridge’s nuclear-energy cooperation with China……..

Although it does not yield byproducts that can be readily used to make weapons, thorium does have military applications.

The fuel could be used to power Chinese navy surface warships, including a planned fleet of aircraft carriers. China’s nuclear submarine fleet has struggled with reactor reliability and safety, according to naval commentators, and thorium could eventually become an alternative.

Top British naval engineers last year proposed a design for a thorium reactor to power warships. Compact thorium power plants could also be used to supply reliable power to military bases and expeditionary forces.

Thorium also has military potential for the United States, experts say………

An electrical engineer trained at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Jiang told a conference on thorium in Shanghai last year China’s thorium project “is 100 percent financed by the central government.”…..

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UK veterans new legal action will hinge on internal absorption of ionising radiation

December 29, 2013

A hearing would take two weeks in June 2014      This case will be critical!

 We can win this case. The judge is interested in what happened. (So are we, so should you be). The radiation risk model and internal exposures, especially to Uranium is the key;

Cancer, Nuclear Weapons and Dirty Tricks http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/12/20/cancer-nuclear-weapons-and-dirty-tricks/ by CHRIS BUSBY

The United Kingdom Veterans of the Atomic Atmospheric Testing in the Pacific and Australia have always maintained that they suffered harm, including cancer and leukemia. The government has consistently denied this.

Its argument is that except for very few of them, no-one received a radiation ‘dose’ significantly different from natural background. This was recently affirmed by the new Minister when she refused to concede that the test veterans were any different from any other ex-servicemen.

There have been two challenges. The first was an action against the Ministry of Defence taken by a group of some 900 veterans in the Royal Courts of Justice. This case (AB and others vs Ministry of Defence) was handled by Rosenblatt Solicitors of London on a pro-bono basis.

I was commissioned from the start in 2009 as an expert witness on this case. My position was essentially that the radiation risk model (the model of the International Commission on Radiological Protection, ICRP) on which the whole case pivoted, had been proven to be unsafe by new scientific developments and by epidemiology.

The initial focus of this case was on Limitation (it happened too long ago) was won at the beginning of 2012 but then overturned on appeal to the Supreme Court. The second approach is the theme of this article.

The Veterans Pensions Appeals

Test veterans (or their wives, if they have died) may apply for a pension if they can show that their illness may have been caused by their service. The MoD has always refused such pensions. The level of proof in these cases is very low: there only need be “doubt” about causality based on reliable evidence. Any refusal decision can be referred to an Appeals Tribunal.

Beginning with Eva Adshead in 2006, I began to be brought in as an expert in these appeals. The story of the first appeal, for Gerald Adshead is given in Wolves of Water (Busby 2007).

The appeal was successful: the Secretary of State’s decision was overturned. From then on, I was brought in on 5 appeals, and also on a coroner jury case on Depleted Uranium and Cancer.

In those appeals that made it to the Tribunal, and the jury case, all w ere successful. But in 2010 there was a change in the process. There were three outstanding cases which I had agreed to represent, where expert reports had been submitted, and which had been endlessly delayed – so much so that two of the veterans I had helped, Dawn Pritchard and Derek Hatton actually died before they came to the Tribunal.

These three cases were put together with 12 other cases and the whole bunch was ordered heard together. Apparently the Secretary of State was concerned that some cases had been won (mine) and some lost (not mine) and this was unfair to the veterans.

So there was to be this major combined case, which would set a precedent for all the cases that might follow – including some that had already followed and were being ‘stayed’ pending the outcome of the combined appeal.

What had been small local affairs had now hotted up to become a mega case in London lasting three weeks.

I was approached by Rosenblatt who asked me to act as expert witness for all the appellants. The outcome of this combined Pensions Appeals case would influence their decision on the High Court action. There was no money, they said, but would I do it anyway? I agreed, and produced several reports over three years.

Secret and missing evidence

In the course of the earlier litigation I had looked through all the paperwork Rosenblatt had assembled, all the historic reports and letters and documents relating to the test sites and exposures, maybe 30 large ring binders.

My arguments were all about internal exposures to the fallout, exposures which the MoD denied occurred as (they said) bombs were exploded far from where the veterans were. I had been struck by the fact that although the MoD kept arguing that there had been no exposures, there were hardly any radioactivity measurements. So I made a Freedom of Information request for all documents containing any “radiation measurements”.

After a long time, and much stalling, the MoD sent a list of some 40 documents. I was told that I could have copies of two of these and I had to choose which ones. This was because “to photocopy more than two would exceed the £600 limit on copying defined in the Freedom of Information Act.” (Yes!)

The list omitted some reports which I had already obtained from contacts in Australia and so they were clearly holding back. I complained and haggled. By then I had figured it out. I had obtained reports on the clean-up of the Christmas Island runway carried out in 1963, after the tests were over.

Uranium mysteriously missing

These established that a missing radionuclide in all the measurements was Uranium. Yet the bombs were all made of tons of Uranium. The entire test series was based on Uranium, the main component of the bombs.

Among the documents I had found were the minutes of a meeting at the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment Aldermaston in 1952, where the US expert Dr Karl Z Morgan had warned the British to beware of the effects of Uranium-234.

This rare isotope of Uranium is produced in nature at very low levels by the decay of Uranium-238, but is concentrated in the ‘enriched uranium’ used in nuclear bombs, with its higher fraction of Uranium-235. It is also produced in nuclear explosions from the intense neutron irradiation of 235U (via a so-called ‘n, 2n reaction’).

Studies at the Hiroshima nuclear explosion site show that 234U is present in the ‘black rain’ fallout from uranium bombs at enhanced levels. This is important because 234U has a half-life of 246,000 years – 18,000 times shorter than the main Uranium isotope, 238U, with its 4.47 billion year half life. So even a small increase in 234U causes a big increase in radioactivity.

The 234U was present in huge quantities on the Test sites – but it was not measured by the Geiger counters that were employed, because it produces the ‘wrong kind of radiation’ – alpha particles rather than the beta and gamma rays that Geiger counters pick up.

Yet no-one had provided any measurements of the vast quantities of Uranium that were vaporized when the bombs exploded. These minutes later vanished from Rosenblatt’s files.

After much correspondence with the MoD, the key report on the composition of the fallout was denied on the basis that it was“information likely to affect the UK’s relationship with a foreign power”. I was asked to sign the Official Secrets Act. I refused.

I contacted the judge, Mr Stubbs and said I wanted to see the report, and that it was necessary for the vets to obtain justice. He ordered that a dumbed-down (redacted) version be made by Prof Paddy Regan (who by then had become another expert for Rosenblatt and who had Official Secrets Act clearance) and the MoD expert, Mr Johnston.

I received this redacted version, which turned out to be useless as it had no data. I complained to Mr Stubbs, who ordered that they produce a new version with some numbers. This they eventually did. It showed that most of the fallout was Uranium, as I had thought. The redacted data showed that the big Grapple Y bomb at Christmas Island had about 4 tons of Uranium in it.

Pure Gold. Or rather, pure Uranium. What I had was something that linked the Atomic Test veterans with the Gulf war veterans and the population of Fallujah, where we knew increases in cancer and congenital illness was caused by Uranium.

I wrote a report pointing this out which I submitted to the Tribunal and Rosenblatt. I think this was a critical document and nailed the lid on the MoD’s case.

But immediately after this there was a surprising development: Rosenblatt promptly and suddenly pulled out of the case on the basis that they had run out of money.

This seemed rather odd to the vets, since Rosenblatt had been workingpro bono – i.e. for no money – all along. Shortly after this a new outfit took over, Hogan Lovell International. What was going on?

The key issue? ‘Dose’ …

The key issue, which won all the previous cases, is the failure of the concept of ‘dose’ for internal radiation exposure, especially to Uranium. In the last ten years there have been many research studies by eminent scientists showing that inhaled and ingested Uranium cannot be dealt with on the basis of absorbed dose.

Yet it was the ‘dose’ of the veterans that was the lynchpin of the MoD argument.

Uranium weapons have been used in Iraq and the Balkans with strong published evidence that this has caused marked increases in cancer and genetic damage and congenital malformations in children of Gulf veterans.

In Fallujah we measured the Uranium in hair of the mothers of the birth defect babies. The Gulf veterans are increasingly dying of cancer and lymphoma in their 40s (I have been involved in three cases so far).

In 2007 I carried out a study of the children and grandchildren of theBritish Nuclear Test Veterans Association which found a 9-fold excess congenital malformation risk on the children and a 8-fold risk in the grandchildren. An earlier study by Sue Rabbitt Roff had also shown congenital effects in the offspring of the veterans.

By the end of 2011 I had all the information I needed and had submitted all the reports to the Appeals Tribunal on the issue. I had shown that the MoD had no case. The argument was won. But was it?

Hogan Lovells

After the abrupt disappearance of Rosenblatt Solicitors at the end of 2011, in February 2012 a new firm, Hogan Lovells International took over. This is an outfit that was usually on the ‘other side’, having a history of defending pharmaceutical companies against sick people and governments against their citizens.

The hearing was adjourned again in order to allow them to ‘get up to speed’ on the details. Throughout 2012 I hardly heard from them: they passed on some of the judges Directions asking me to respond to various criticisms produced by the MoD. The hearing was scheduled for the end of January 2013.

On the 10th January, two weeks before the hearing I received a letter written by Hogan Lovell informing me that they would not be calling me to give evidence. I replied that the veterans (the appellants) had asked for me to be their expert and asked if Hogan Lovells had discussed the issue with them. They had not. I wrote that without my evidence, the cases would inevitably fail.

Hogan Lovell replied that they would not change their mind but that all the evidence I had put before the Tribunal would be advanced by other experts they were using: principally Prof Paddy Regan, a man you can find on the web reassuring everyone about Fukushima.

I wrote to the veterans and I wrote to the judge. One veteran who contacted Hogan Lovell three days before the hearings asked for me to act as his expert was told that if he did so, Hogan Lovell would not represent him.

The appeals inevitably failed. Prof. Paddy Regan, the ‘expert’brought in by Hogan Lovell, agreed with the MoD that the authoritative radiation model was that of the International Commission on Radiological Protection, the ICRP.

Of course, following this, the cases were lost. For the ICRP risk model requires a ‘dose’ of 1,000mSv to give a 50% excess chance of cancer. And no-one got anywhere near that, although they will have inhaled a lot of Uranium particles.

The same ICRP argument is applied to Depleted Uranium and cancer, the nuclear site child leukemias, Chernobyl and now Fukushima, and is used to airbrush away the evidence on the basis that the dose is too low.

According to the Royal Society, Uranium particles cannot cause cancer – according to the ICRP model – unless you inhale so much you choke!

Appeal to the Upper Tier Tribunal

Never give up. I recruited two of the veterans, Don Battersby and Anna Smith and we put together an appeal to the Upper Tier. There had been“procedural irregularities” in that the solicitors had not consulted with or informed their clients. The judge should have incorporated my evidence, which was before him.

In particular he should have done so since I had won two earlier appeal cases and so he knew exactly what my evidence was. Yet he ignored it. In one of these cases, that of Colin Duncan who cleaned down radioactive aircraft with kitchen tissues and later developed cancer, the same Judge wrote:

“Professor Busby submitted a detailed report dated 30th March 2008. He is a distinguished scientist who was asked by Michael Meacher MP, Minister for the Environment, to be a member of the Committee Examining Radiation Risks from Internal Emitters, CERRIE. This is an area of Science where there are divergent views …

“We find that his evidence is both cogent and reliable and raises a reasonable doubt that the Secretary of State’s views which rely exclusively on contemporary dose meter readings is wrong. It is accepted in the relevant Medical Appendix that non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas have an increased incidence following exposure to excess ionising radiation.

“We find that the combination of Mr Duncan’s written and oral evidence and Professor Busby’s evidence both of which we have found is reliable raises a reasonable doubt that Mr Duncan’s Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is attributable to service.”

We got our appeal. On November 20th Hugo Charlton, the barrister and ex-Chair of the Green Party and Chris Busby turned up at the Royal Courts of Justice, the imposing ancient building in The Strand, to lay out the case before the Chamber President, Mr Justice William Charles.

Also present were Hogan Lovells, their QCs, Rosenblatt’s representative Neil Sampson and the Secretary of State for Defence, represented by the Treasury Solicitor, Leigh Ann Mulcahy QC. She argued that Busby was not a real expert and should never have been given the time of day in the first place.

To her consternation, the Judge disagreed. The MoD then had to make the somewhat challenging case that the exclusion of Busby’s evidence would not have in itself caused sufficient doubt for the appeals to be allowed, by proving that Busby was not an expert.

Busby then was to respond in writing and if he wished, orally in court. At the same time, Hogan Lovell argued that the lower Tier judge had set the standard of proof too high. A hearing would take two weeks in June 2014.

This case will be critical!

We can win this case. The judge is interested in what happened. (So are we, so should you be). The radiation risk model and internal exposures, especially to Uranium is the key; it was excluded when my evidence was excluded.

The short term rainout of black rain from the Uranium particles and cumulative fallout are major environmental concerns yet to be fully understood or accepted. The absence of wider fallout data suggests that it has been hidden or destroyed.

The outcome of this appeal will seal the future chances of any nuclear test veteran proving that he or his children were affected by the exposures at the Test sites. It will affect decisions in Australia and New Zealand.

It will also have implications for the many Depleted Uranium veteran victims of the Gulf War increasingly appearing with cancer, and will ultimately also affect political decisions affecting nuclear new build, disposal of radioactive waste, nuclear weapons and the use of Uranium weapons.

Chris Busby is the Scientific Secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk. For details and current CV see www.chrisbusbyexposed.org. For accounts of his work see www.greeenaudit.orgwww.llrc.org and www.nuclearjustice.org.

This article originally appeared in The Ecologist.

 

No plan for disposal of San Onofre’s radioactive trash

December 29, 2013
Is San Onofre a good location for a nuclear waste dump, permanent or not?  Hardly!  Earthquakes, tsunamis, sabotage, large surrounding population, poor egress, no radiation emergency supplies to speak of anywhere in the nearby counties to handle a spent fuel fire resulting from an airplane impact… and it’s upwind from the entire United States, so everyone in the country will be contaminated if there is an accident at SanO.
Get Rid of It! But Where? How? When? And Who’s Gonna Pay for It? The Nuclear Waste Dilemma  CounterPunch by ACE HOFFMAN DECEMBER 19, 2013“…….Edison has NO plans for removing the nuclear waste, and neither does the NRC.  Outrageous!

I have attended nearly every Nuclear Regulatory Commission hearing on San Onofre for nearly 20 years.  For more than a decade we were told by Southern California Edison (with no objection from the NRC) that the waste problem was essentially solved because the waste would go to Yucca Mountain.  But Yucca Mountain is an imperfect solution:  Before the federal government stopped the project (or at least slowed it to a crawl), one of the last problems they could not be sure they had any good science about was “drip shields” which were to protect the fuel rods — that were to be permanently entombed at the site — from water dripping from above.  The shape, material, thickness, and expected durability of the shields were all undecided, but my recollection is that the last design was an upside-down flattened out V shape made out of 4-inch thick titanium.  And no one knew how long it would last, but 300 years was an outside estimate, or at least the hope.  After that, good luck.

What the transport vehicles would look like, and whether they would use rail or roads or both, was all undecided when the project was stopped, despite 10s of billions of dollars having been spent.

Geologic storage, if we choose that route, will not be easy and will not be risk free.  And we’re nowhere near it at this point.

Instead, we’ve apparently chosen to practically randomly assign approximately 75 sites around the country to be nearly-permanent or virtually-permanent (100s of years, which only George Orwell and the NRC can call temporary) nuclear waste dumps.  SanO is one of them.

I say “randomly” because the sites were never picked because they would be waste dumps at all, let alone appropriate ones:  When the reactors were built, the public was told the waste would be removed within a few MONTHS after it is discharged from the reactor!  Instead, virtually all of SanO’s used reactor cores remain on site.  (It should be noted that the used fuel is actually much easier to transport if its temperature is above about 800 degrees Fahrenheit, because the zirconium cladding is much more ductile above that temperature.  However, when the fuel is naturally that hot thermally, the damage if an accident were to occur would be much greater, because the fuel is also radioactively much “hotter” a few months after discharge than it is, say, 20 years or 50 years afterwards.)

Is San Onofre a good location for a nuclear waste dump, permanent or not?  Hardly!  Earthquakes, tsunamis, sabotage, large surrounding population, poor egress, no radiation emergency supplies to speak of anywhere in the nearby counties to handle a spent fuel fire resulting from an airplane impact… and it’s upwind from the entire United States, so everyone in the country will be contaminated if there is an accident at SanO.

Frankly, I can’t think of many WORSE places to store nuclear waste than most of the places we are currently storing it nationally:  Invariably near population centers, because that’s where the energy was/is produced.

Diablo Canyon, 250 miles to the north of SanO, is even more dangerous than SanO:  Its freshest spent fuel is dozens of times more radioactive than anything at San Onofre — now that SanO has been shut for nearly 2 years.  And the fuel that’s still inside DC’s reactors is thousands of times more radioactive than that!

At the very least, all the used reactor cores (aka “spent” or “used” fuel) in California should be consolidated into ONE protected location, the best one possible, wherever we decide that is — with DC shut down, of course, so no more waste is being produced here.  There is reason for California to wait for a national repository — it could be centuries away.  The fuel should be retrievable in case a permanent national repository does become available.  Spent fuel should NOT be reprocessed.  Reprocessing takes an enormous amount of energy and creates additional radioactive and chemical waste streams (no matter how many nuclear proponents claim otherwise).

Ace Hoffman, an independent investigator, has been studying the problems of nuclear power for many decades.  His 2008 handbook of nuclear facts, called The Code Killers, is available for free download here: www.acehoffman.org     http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/12/19/the-nuclear-waste-dilemma

NRC not considering sea level rise, storm surges, in nuclear waste plans

December 29, 2013
CCCL also argued that the discussion of sea level rise was insufficient.  The DGEIS relied on dated sources that did not account for uncertainty in sea level rise projections and may underestimate risk.  Also, the DGEIS merely looks at static sea level rise, which ignores risks due to more frequent and severe flooding.  CCCL pointed to data showing that a number of coastal nuclear power plants potentially subject to sea level rise and storm surge, are located in highly populated areas of the country

Center For Climate Change Law December 19th, 2013 by Ethan Strell   The Columbia Center for Climate Change Law (CCCL) submitted comments today on the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s “Waste Confidence Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement” (DGEIS), which concerns the storage of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel at individual power plants beyond the duration of each plant’s operating license.  CCCL’s comments focus on the DGEIS’s lack of analysis of how future climate conditions could affect the safety of these high level nuclear waste storage facilities.

“Waste Confidence” refers to the Commission’s confidence that permanent disposal of nuclear waste can be accomplished when it is needed.

Currently, spent nuclear fuel is stored on-site at nuclear reactors beyond the duration of plants’ operating licenses.  The Waste Confidence Rule stems from a 1976 petition by NRDC to halt the licensing of nuclear plants until the Commission could guarantee the permanent, safe disposal of spent nuclear fuel.

In denying NRDC’s petition, the Commission stated that “it is neither necessary nor reasonable for the Commission to insist on proof that a means of permanent waste disposal is on hand at the time reactor operation begins, so long as the Commission can be reasonably confident that permanent disposal (as distinguished from continued storage under surveillance) can be accomplished safely when it is likely to become necessary.”  42 Fed. Reg. 128, 34391, July 5, 1977……..

As part of the authorization process for on-site waste storage, the Commission periodically updates its Waste Confidence Rule.  In June of 2012, the DC Circuit appellate court invalidated the Commission’s 2010 Waste Confidence Decision Update, and directed that the Commission comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by completing an environmental impact statement or a finding of no significant impact. New York v. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 681 F.3d 471 (D.C. Cir. 2012).

CCCL commented on two aspects of the DGEIS’s analysis of the effects of future climate change on the storage of spent nuclear fuel: (1) the NRC’s limitation of its analysis to only the “short-term timeframe” of 60 years, and (2) the sea level rise projections used in the DGEIS.

CCCL argued that limiting the analysis to just the short-term timeframe does not satisfy NEPA because spent nuclear fuel remains dangerously radioactive well beyond 60 years and the prospects of a completed and operational permanent waste repository for spent nuclear fuel within 60 years are speculative.

CCCL also argued that the discussion of sea level rise was insufficient.  The DGEIS relied on dated sources that did not account for uncertainty in sea level rise projections and may underestimate risk.  Also, the DGEIS merely looks at static sea level rise, which ignores risks due to more frequent and severe flooding.  CCCL pointed to data showing that a number of coastal nuclear power plants potentially subject to sea level rise and storm surge, are located in highly populated areas of the country. http://blogs.law.columbia.edu/climatechange/2013/12/19/nuclear-regulatory-commission-downplays-risk-of-sea-level-rise-in-waste-storage-eis/

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors- not safe, not secure

December 29, 2013

Potential fire and explosion hazards……

Potential flooding hazards:……

Limited access for conducting inspections of pressure vessels…

Safety and Security Concerns about Small Modular Reactors: NuScale’s Design http://allthingsnuclear.org/safety-and-security-concerns-about-small-modular-reactors-nuscales-design/ senior scientist December 17, 2013  Late last week the Department of Energy finally announced its decision to provide the small modular reactor (SMR) design NuScale with a matching grant of up to $226 million under its Licensing Technical Support program intended to speed the development of SMRs.

But the real news is not that DOE awarded a second grant under the program, but that it took so long to do so. NuScale, along with three other reactor vendors, originally applied for the funds in early 2012 with the expectation that two designs would receive grants. However, later that year DOE surprised many observers by only awarding a grant to one design, the Generation mPower.

Safety and Security Concerns

As discussed in detail in my September 2013 report “Small Isn’t Always Beautiful,” UCS has safety and security concerns about small modular reactors in general and about the NuScale design in particular

SMR vendors are pushing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to weaken its regulations regarding operator staffing, security staffing, and emergency planning, based on highly optimistic assertions that their reactors will be significantly safer than larger reactors.

NuScale raises issues because of its fundamental design: up to 12 reactor modules packed together in a swimming-pool type structure. The Fukushima disaster has shown the world the complexity of trying to manage multiple nuclear reactor accidents when crisis strikes, and it is far from obvious that the NuScale concept addresses this issue adequately. UCS also does not have confidence that the NRC’s licensing processes will give appropriate weight to multi-unit safety issues.

Unfortunately, earlier this month the NRC staff concluded that safety concerns associated with “multiunit core damage events” did not warrant further evaluation in its “Generic Issues” program, which could have resulted in additional regulatory requirements.

Others Agree

Many of the safety concerns described in the UCS report have now been validated by a Powerpoint presentation that was recently included, perhaps inadvertently, in the many thousands of pages of documents that the NRC has released under a Freedom of Information Act request for documents related to the Fukushima accident. The Powerpoint presentation, entitled “Center for Nuclear Waste Regulatory Analyses: Support to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Office of New Reactors” (p. 479-529) and dated March 24, 2011, describes safety issues for SMRs such as

    • Potential fire and explosion hazards: below-grade facilities present unique challenges, such as smoke/fire behavior; life safety; design and operation of the HVAC system and removal of waste water.
    • Potential flooding hazards: below-grade reactors and subsystems raise concerns with regard to hurricane storm surges, tsunami run-up and water infiltration into structures.
    • Limited access for conducting inspections of pressure vessels and components that are crucial for containing radiation, such as welds, steam generators, bolted connections and valves

The document also spells out safety concerns particular to the NuScale design, observing that the reactors and spent fuel are stored in the same structure and depend on the same pool for cooling; that the bioshield covering the reactors or even the reactors themselves could be displaced in a flood; that the cooling pool could become contaminated with debris or other substances during a flood; and that operation under both normal and accident conditions depends highly on proper operation of valves around the pressure vessel.

This document underscores the fact that SMRs are novel designs that raise new safety issues, and much analysis and testing will be required in order to verify the vendors’ safety claims.

There is therefore no basis at the present time for the NRC to grant SMRs any special exemptions to its regulatory requirements, and the Department of Energy should take steps to insure that its Technical Licensing Support program does not use taxpayer funds to endanger public health by undermining nuclear safety and security standards.

Freedom of press goes, with Japan’s new State Secrets Law

December 29, 2013

Japan enacts state secrets law late Friday night amid revolt — “It criminalizes investigative journalism” — Terrorism defined as “imposing one’s opinions on others”http://enenews.com/secrets-law-passes-late-friday-night-amid-revolt-mushrooming-opposition-it-criminalizes-investigative-journalism-terrorism-defined-as-imposing-ones-opinions-on-others-protesto

Japan Times, , Dec. 6, 2013: Following political turmoil that rocked the Diet over the past week, ruling block Upper House members finally enacted the contentious state secrets bill late Friday night. Earlier in the day, opposition parties intensified their protests in vain over a law that’s being criticizing for not creating an independent oversight body capable of preventing the government from hiding inconvenient information at its discretion.
Businessweek, Dec. 6, 2013: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe secured final passage of a bill granting Japan’s government sweeping powers to declare state secrets, a measure aimed at shoring up defense ties with the U.S. that prompted a public backlash and revolt by the opposition.
Asahi Shimbun, , Dec. 6, 2013: Kazuo Shii, chief of the Japanese Communist Party, described the ruling coalition’s behavior as “tyrannical, arrogant and disorderly.” The ruling coalition believed prolonging the Diet debate any longer could backfire, only fueling the mushrooming opposition to the bill, and lead to a further decline in approval ratings for Abe’s Cabinet and hold on power. An Asahi Shimbun survey taken between Nov. 30-Dec. 1 showed the Cabinet’s approval rating at 49 percent, dipping below 50 percent for the first time since he took power in December 2012. Officials in the Abe administration foresee the public eventually forgetting about the controversy, once the legislation is approved.

GlobalPost,, Dec. 6, 2013: Here are four disturbing ways the bill could be a democracy muzzler. It defines terrorism as imposing one’s opinions on others […] According to Article 12, terrorism is partially defined as an activity that forces “political and other principles or opinions on the state or other people.” In other words, throw up a rowdy anti-government protest, and the judiciary can find a reason to lock you away. It criminalizes investigative journalism […] Journalists can be prosecuted for “improperly accessing” classified documents or “conspiring” to leak them. Even asking an official to take a look at classified documents could constitute “conspiracy,” leading to up to five years in prison. “Instigating” the release of government secrets, meanwhile, carries up to 10 years in the dock. […] Basically, anything can be a secret […] administrators can make the opaque decisions to classify a document even if their work hardly relates to national security. That effectively allows them to hide any embarrassing piece of evidence, and then pursue the journalists and bloggers who make it public. […]

See also: Japan Official: “This is the way the reign of terror begins!” — Lawmaker is “physically restrained”; Outrage as secrets bill rammed through — Final passage expected within hours (PHOTOS)

The cost and danger of entombing Chernobyl nuclear reactor

December 29, 2013

Workers can only spend a few hours at the reactor site before they reach the maximum radioactive exposure limit, and work is thus progressing at a snail’s pace

Despite the incredible lengths required to build the structure, it’s still only a band-aid

 

This Massive Steel Structure Will Entomb Chernobyl’s Reactor 4  (GREAT PHOTOS) http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2013/11/this-massive-steel-arch-will-entomb-chernobyls-reactor-4/ KELSEY CAMPBELL-DOLLAGHAN 30 NOVEMBER 2013 When an unexpected power surge sparked the world’s worst nuclear accident in Chernobyl, nearly a quarter of a million construction workers risked their lives to build an ad hoc “sarcophagus” of concrete around the stricken reactor. It was a stop-gap measure — and now, almost 30 years later, one of the biggest engineering projects in history is underway to protect it.

The BBC reports on the $US2 billion project to protect the decaying metal sarcophagus, using an even larger metal shield called the New Safe Confinement, or NSC. In simple terms, the NSC is a massive steel archway that is designed to protect the surrounding region if the 27-year-old sarcophagus eventually collapses. The design was proposed back in 1992 by a team of British engineers, but planning has taken more than a decade — the project is now halfway complete, with a target date of 2015 for final completion.

There are myriad reasons it’s taken so long to get the NSC up and running, the first being the sheer scale of this 100m tall protective shield. Since it will cover the existing sarcophagus, the arch is big enough to house the Statue of Liberty and wide enough to accommodate a soccer field. It’s being built by thousands of workers and engineers from all over the world, each of whom has a monthly and yearly exposure limit based on where, and for how long, they work on the site.

It’s not quite as simple as putting a cap on a pen, though. The biggest complication is a tall metal chimney above Reactor 4, which must be removed before the archway can slide into place. Workers can only spend a few hours at the reactor site before they reach the maximum radioactive exposure limit, and work is thus progressing at a snail’s pace:

Work has started removing sections weighing up to 55 tons each. They must be cut off with a plasma cutter by teams of two men and removed by crane — a nerve-wracking process. If a crane fails, or an operator miscalculates, and a section falls into the reactor, this too could release a new cloud of radioactive dust into the atmosphere.

Despite the incredible lengths required to build the structure, it’s still only a band-aid: Designed to last for roughly 100 years, it is a more sophisticated solution to a problem scientists still don’t know how to solve. The hope is that, within the next century, we’ll have the technology to extract the reactor and the spilled fuel and deposit them — maybe in glass — somewhere safe. [Studio-X NYCBBC]

UNSCEAR’s warning on radiation and child cancers

December 29, 2013

It is not recommended to use the same generalizations used for adults when considering the risks and effects of radiation exposure during childhood,”

infants and children have smaller body diameters, and their organs are less shielded by overlying tissues, with the same exposure the doses to their internal organs is higher than that to an adult. 

text ionisingEffects of radiation exposure of children, relief web 25 Nov 13 Report from UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation Published on 25 Oct 2013 — View Original Publication of Volume II of the UNSCEAR 2013 Report Risk following exposure to radiation differs for adults and children, says UNSCEAR report Vienna 24 October 2013 (UN Information Service) – “Doses received by children and adults from the same source of ionizing radiation can have differing impacts, and therefore, should be considered separately in order to predict risk following exposure more accurately for children,” was the main thrust of the report “Effects of radiation exposure of children” presented today at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

The report, which has been prepared by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), has been in preparation over the last two years (since 2011) and was presented today to the UN General Assembly as part of the Report of the 60th session of UNSCEAR to the General Assembly. “Because of their anatomical and physiological differences, radiation exposure has a different impact on children compared with adults,” said Dr. Fred Mettler, Chair of the Expert Group on the UNSCEAR Report on Effects of Radiation Exposure of Children.

He presented the report as a valuable resource for the international medical and scientific community, because as such, children are generally assessed along with adults in epidemiological studies and comprehensive overviews of the effect of radiation on children are generally unavailable. The report highlights some important issues. For instance, for a given radiation dose, infants and children are more at risk than adults of developing a variety of tumours. This risk is, generally, not always immediate but extends later into life.

In all, the Committee reviewed 23 cancer types in their report, some of which are highly relevant for evaluating the radiological consequences of nuclear accidents and of some medical procedures. Children were found to be more sensitive than adults for the development of about 25 per cent of tumour types including leukaemia, and thyroid, brain and breast cancer. The risk can be significantly higher, depending on circumstances. On the other hand, for about 15 per cent of cancer types such as colon, children were found to have the same radiation sensitivity as adults, and for 10 per cent of cancer types, such as those affecting the lungs, children were less sensitive than adults. Data were too weak to reach any conclusions for 20 per cent of cancers such as those affecting the oesophagus and there was a weak or non-existent link between exposure and risk at any age for 30 per cent of cancers such as those of the prostate, rectum and uterus or Hodgkin’s disease –

 For tissue effects that may occur soon after very high doses, the Committee concluded that as seen with carcinogenesis, there are some instances in which childhood exposure poses a higher risk than adult exposure (e.g. for effects on the brain, and for cataracts and thyroid nodules). There are other instances where the risk appears to be about the same (e.g. neuroendocrine system and on the kidneys) and there are a few instances where children’s tissues are more resistant (lung, marrow and ovaries). “It is not recommended to use the same generalizations used for adults when considering the risks and effects of radiation exposure during childhood,” said Dr. Mettler. “The specifics of the exposure and situation play a significant role,” he added……
as infants and children have smaller body diameters, and their organs are less shielded by overlying tissues, with the same exposure the doses to their internal organs is higher than that to an adult. In addition, both metabolism and physiology vary with age, which also affects the concentrations of radionuclides in different organs and thus the dose to those organs for a given intake. Infants and children can also receive significantly higher doses than adults in situations such as medical exposure if the technical settings are not adapted appropriately. – :http://reliefweb.int/report/japan/effects-radiation-exposure-children#sthash.21ibM4kr.dpuf

The latest confidence trick- PRISM – Power Reactor Innovative Small Module

December 29, 2013

The plutonium stockpile poses enormous problems for the government. Not only is it highly radioactive and an immense potential danger to health, it is also a target for terrorist attacks and for anyone interested in stealing nuclear weapons-grade material.

The NDA’s report to DECC is understood to conclude that the Prism fast reactor is as credible as the two other options based on Mox fuel, even though GE-Hitachi has not yet built a commercial-scale plant for burning plutonium waste. DECC, however, has refused to release the report under a Freedom of Information request 

It is understood that the NDA has been impressed by proposals from GE-Hitachi to build a pair of its Prism fast reactors on the Sellafield site,

Revealed: UK Government’s radical plan to ‘burn up’ UK’s mountain of plutonium http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/revealed-uk-governments-radical-plan-to-burn-up-uks-mountain-of-plutonium-8967535.html 28 Nove 13 A radical plan to dispose of Britain’s huge store of civil plutonium – the biggest in the world – by “burning” it in a new type of fast reactor is now officially one of three “credible options” being considered by the Government, The Independent understands. However, further delays have hit attempts to make a final decision on what to do with the growing plutonium stockpile which has been a recurring headache for successive governments over the past three decades.

The stock of plutonium, one of the most dangerous radioactive substances and the element of nuclear bombs, has already exceeded 100 tonnes and is likely to grow to as much as 140 tonnes by 2020, bolstered by a recent decision to include foreign plutonium from imported nuclear waste.

Ministers had pledged to resolve the plutonium problem in a public consultation but are sitting on a secret report by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) which is believed to confirm that there are now three “credible options” for dealing with the plutonium stored at the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant in Cumbria.

The original “preferred option” was to convert the plutonium into a form of nuclear fuel called mixed oxide (Mox) and then to burn this in conventional nuclear reactors. However, serious questions have been raised about this proposal in the light of the expensive failure of a previous £1.4bn Mox plant at Sellafield, which had to be closed in 2011.

Two other options are now on the table, according to the NDA report. One involves a Canadian nuclear power plant called a Candu reactor which will burn a simpler form of Mox fuel. The other more radical proposal is to burn the plutonium directly in a fast reactor built by GE-Hitachi.

The NDA report, which is classified as commercially confidentially, was itself delayed by several months before being submitted in August to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). The Government’s response to it was supposed to have been published within weeks but has now been delayed until next year – to the consternation of the companies involved in the consultation process.

The plutonium stockpile poses enormous problems for the government. Not only is it highly radioactive and an immense potential danger to health, it is also a target for terrorist attacks and for anyone interested in stealing nuclear weapons-grade material.

The NDA’s report to DECC is understood to conclude that the Prism fast reactor is as credible as the two other options based on Mox fuel, even though GE-Hitachi has not yet built a commercial-scale plant for burning plutonium waste. DECC, however, has refused to release the report under a Freedom of Information request, saying that publishing its contents could jeopardise future commercial negotiations.

The Independent also understands that DECC is seeking the views of the National Security Council, chaired by the Prime Minster David Cameron, before it releases its public position statement on what should be done with the plutonium stockpile – such is the sensitivity of the issue.

One industry insider said that the delay by DECC may in part be due to the intense negotiations over the strike price for electricity generated by the new nuclear power station at Hinckley Point in Somerset. But another reason is the undoubted sensitivity of any future decision over which option to go for when dealing with the growing plutonium problem.

Although the final contract is unlikely to be signed before 2015, both Candu and GE-Hitachi are keen to know whether they are still in the race for tendering against the French company Areva, which was originally hoping win the contract to build a £3bn Mox plant for plutonium disposal without running up against any competitors.

A previous public consultation process led the NDA to recommend the conversion of the plutonium into Mox fuel, which would in itself make it less attractive to terrorists. However, Sellafield has a poor record of producing viable Mox fuel and there are no power stations in the UK willing to burn it given that uranium fuel is much cheaper.

However, over the past two years the NDA has performed a U-turn over another option, which is to burn the plutonium directly in a purpose-built fast reactor. Ironically this was the original intention 40 years ago and the reason for building up a plutonium stockpile in the first place, but Britain’s own fast-reactor programme was abandoned in the 1990s.

It is understood that the NDA has been impressed by proposals from GE-Hitachi to build a pair of its Prism fast reactors on the Sellafield site, which could in theory burn the plutonium stockpile for up to 60 years, making it safe as well as generating carbon-free electricity.

What are the perils surrounding removal of nuclear fuel rods at Fukushima no.4?

December 29, 2013

Why TEPCO is Risking the Removal of Fukushima Fuel Rods. The Dangers of Uncontrolled Global Nuclear Radiation, Global Research, 24 Nov 13  By Yoichi Shimatsu After repeated delays since the summer of 2011, the Tokyo Electric Power Company has launched a high-risk operation to empty the spent-fuel pool atop Reactor 4 at the Dai-ichi (No.1) Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant.

The urgency attached to this particular site, as compared with reactors damaged in meltdowns, arises from several factors:

–         over 400 tons of nuclear material in the pool could reignite

–         the fire-damaged tank is tilting badly and may topple over sooner than later

–         collapse of the structure could trigger a chain reaction and nuclear blast, and

–         consequent radioactive releases would heavily contaminate much of the world.

The potential for disaster at the Unit 4 SFP is probably of a higher magnitude than suspected due to the presence of fresh fuel rods, which were delivered during the technical upgrade of Reactor 4 under completion at the time of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The details of that reactor overhaul by GE and Hitachi have yet to be disclosed by TEPCO and the Economy Ministry and continue to be treated as a national-security matter. Here, the few clues from whistleblowers will be pieced together to decipher the nature of the clandestine activity at Fukushima No.1.

Accidents happen

The delicate rod-removal procedure requires the lowering of a steel cylinder, called a transfer cask, into a corner of the pool and then using the crane to lift the 300-kilogram fuel assemblies (4..5-meter-tall bundle of fuel rods held inside a metal cage) one at a time from the vertical array of rods up and then down into the cask. The container can hold 22 assemblies for transfer to a temporary cooling unit built next to Reactor 4 before these are moved to a storage building.(1)

Lifting the 1,533 fuel bundles out of the pool is fraught with danger. If an assembly breaks away and falls, the impact could shatter other rods below, triggering an uncontrolled nuclear reaction. Compounding the threat, many rods are not intact but were fragmented into loose shards by a collapsing crane. In addition, many of the rods likely lost their protective cladding during the two fires that engulfed the spent-fuel pool on March 14 and 15, 2011.

The urgency of this transfer operation is prompted by the warping of the supporting steel frame by the twin fires that followed the March 11 quake. The pool is also tilting. If the unbalanced structure topples, the collapse would trigger nuclear reactions. A cascade of neutrons could then ignite the nearby common fuel pool for Reactors 1 through 6. The common pool contains 6,735 used assemblies.(2)

The Reactor 4 spent fuel pool contains an estimated 400 tons of uranium and plutonium oxide, compared with just 6.2 kilograms of plutonium inside Fat Man, the hydrogen bomb that obliterated Nagasaki in 1945.  (While predictions are bandied about by experts and bloggers, there exists no reliable method for calculating the potential sum or flow rate of radiation releases, measured in becquerel or sievert units, after an accident. The tonnage involved, however, indicates only that a large-scale event is likely and a cataclysm cannot be ruled out.)

More than 1,700 tons of nuclear materials are reported to be on site inside Fukushima No.1 plant. (My investigative visits into the exclusion zone indicate the existence of undocumented and illegal large-scale storage sites in the Fukushima nuclear complex of undetermined tonnage.)  By comparison Chernobyl ’s reactors contained 180 tons of fuel not all of which melted down.

Despite the looming threat to residents in Fukushima , surrounding provinces and the capital Tokyo , the office of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe along with TEPCO hews to the tradition of risk denial and blackout of vital information. No contingency plan has been issued to Fukushima residents or to the municipalities of the Tohoku and Kanto region in event of a nuclear disaster during the SFP clearance effort. A concurrent drive to impose a draconian law against whistleblowers on grounds of national security is reinforcing the cover-up of data and testimony related to nuclear power plants, including the Fukushima complex..

Fires last time

The rod-transfer operation from Unit 4 is scheduled for completion by the end of 2014. That estimate is optimistic since it does not take into account the obstruction posed by fragments of shattered fuel rods that were overheated in the two fires that swept through Unit 4 spent-fuel pool on March 13 and 15, 2011, according to NHK television news.(8) Another factor for uncertainty is the impact of the explosion that rocked the roofline of the reactor building.

….. http://www.globalresearch.ca/why-tepco-is-risking-the-removal-of-fukushima-fuel-rods-the-dangers-of-uncontrolled-global-nuclear-radiation/5359188