Archive for March, 2016

Highly radioactive pool of CESIUM-137 AND STRONTIUM-90 – Hanford USA

March 28, 2016

Deep sleep Warren Cornwall*, Science  10 Jul 2015: Vol. 349, Issue 6244, pp. 132-135  DOI: 10.1126/science.349.6244.132 “………..CESIUM-137 AND STRONTIUM-90 are the hot potatoes of the nuclear waste world, packing a powerful radioactive punch in a relatively short half-life of 30 years. At Hanford, there’s barely enough to fill the back of a pickup truck. Yet it contains more than 100 million curies of radiation, roughly one-tenth the radiation in the core of a large nuclear reactor. And it produces enough heat to power more than 200 homes.

To prevent the tubes from causing trouble, they sit under about 4 meters of water in what resembles a giant swimming pool, emanating a blue glow known as Cherenkov radiation as high-energy particles slam into the water. The 1974 building housing the pool is past its 30-year life span, according to DOE’s inspector general. Bombarded by radiation, the pool’s concrete walls are significantly weakened in places. Some of the tubes have failed and been stuck inside larger containers. In a review of DOE facilities conducted after the 2011 disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, the department’s Office of Environmental Management concluded that the Hanford pool had the highest risk of catastrophic failure of any DOE facility, for example in a massive earthquake, according to a report from the department’s inspector general. DOE says it plans to move the pool waste into dry casks for safer storage, but it hasn’t said when.

It’s an urgent situation and a huge safety risk,” says Tom Carpenter, executive director of the watchdog group Hanford Challenge in Seattle, Washington, which has been critical of DOE’s efforts to secure the waste.

Borehole advocates point out that the Hanford tubes are less than 7 centimeters in diameter, narrow enough to fit down a hole without extensive repackaging. All could fit into a single shaft. Other military waste could also go down a borehole, advocates add. One candidate is plutonium that DOE has extracted from dismantled nuclear weapons. Most of it is currently stored as softball-sized metal spheres at a DOE facility in Texas. In contrast to Hanford’s cesium and strontium, the plutonium is fairly cool, but extremely long-lived, with a half-life of 24,000 years. DOE is considering other options for the plutonium, including turning it into fuel for nuclear reactors or combining it with other nuclear waste and burying it. But boreholes could be an effective way to put it far out of the reach of anyone trying to lay their hands on bombmaking material……….

Radioactive wastes – the health toll in St Louis County

March 28, 2016

As they painstakingly mapped out the cases, Wright, Schanzenbach, and other members of the group were struck by the statistical improbability of what they were seeing. They found higher than average levels of leukemia, rare brain tumors, breast, and colon cancers — all known to be associated with nuclear radiation exposure according the Centers for Disease Control and the US Environmental Protection Agency. “We realized that we were seeing the effects of long-term exposure among people who grew up in North St. Louis County from the 1960s to the 1980s when the contamination was at its worst,” says Wright…….

Over the past four years, more than 100 current and former North St. Louis County residents have filed lawsuits against Mallinckrodt and the other companies involved in the manufacture and disposal of the nuclear waste, alleging these businesses’ reckless and negligent actions caused their cancers and other illnesses.

According to the latest data collected by the survey, as of 2015 there were 1,993 self-reported cancer cases, of which 45, including Patricia Barry’s, were cases of appendix cancer — a disease so rare that it’s usually seen in 1 of about 500,000 people a year in the United States.

In total, there were more than 2,725 reported cases of multi-generational illnesses, including rare cancers, thyroid problems, infertility, autoimmune diseases, and genetic mutations in children. (below, archival photo of waste barrels, st Louis) 

Nuclear Waste Creates Casualties of War in Missouri
TruthOut , 18 March 2016 By Lori FreshwaterEarth Island Journal | News Analysis “…….Google search revealed shocking information. It seemed there was an unusually high number of rare cancers and diseases afflicting current and former residents of several neighborhoods that Coldwater Creek ran through, including St. Ann. The most likely cause, the news reports and websites she scanned indicated, was the creek, which had been contaminated by radioactive waste from the World War II era. (more…)

Despite serious safety risks, nuclear weapons and nuclear power race on

March 28, 2016

Plutonium Pie in the Sky: the Dangerous Delusion of New Nukes CounterPunch by JAMES HEDDLE MARCH 22, 2016

“……Faith-Based Nuclear Policy   According to a recent Cornell University study, there have been nuclear reactor 174 accidents worldwide since 1946.  The researchers rate the accidents in 2013 dollars and define an accident as “an unintentional incident or event at a nuclear energy facility that led to either one death (or more) or at least $50,000 in property damage.”

Based on their extensive data, they predict

*a 50% chance that a Fukushima event (or larger) will occur in the next 50 years

*a Chernobyl event (or larger) will occur in the next 27 years

*a TMI event (or larger) will occur in the next 10 years.

According to a Guardian study, a major nuclear accident has happened on average every 5 years since 1952.

Recently, alarmed at the failure of their repeated attempts to go through ‘proper channels,’ seven engineers at America’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) – which then Senator Obama dubbed in 2007 ‘a moribund agency’ – filed a petition as private citizens.

They stated that they have identified a long-undiscovered electrical design flaw common to virtually all U.S. nuclear plants that could prevent cooling and allow meltdowns to occur.  Their petition asks that the NRC mandate that plant operators either fix the problem or shut down the reactors.

Not to mention that twenty-three U.S. reactors share the same design flaws as those that melted down at Fukushima.

The obvious take-home lesson: because of the dependence of their cooling systems on off-site power supplies, every nuclear facility, wherever its geographic location, is vulnerable to grid blackouts from cyber attacks and extreme weather events, and constitutes both a potential terrorist weapon-in-place and danger to the entire planet, and should be treated as such by the ‘international community.’  Yet, a New Nuclear Weapons race and a New Nuclear Power race are both currently in progress………….

Alarmingly bad record of nuclear safety in India

March 28, 2016

This is not the first time that India is facing safety issues regarding its nuclear program. In historical context one can generate a list of leaks, fires and structural damages that have been faced by India’s civilian nuclear power sector.  There are abundant examples of oil leaks, hydrogen leaks, fires and high bearing vibrations which often shut down numbers of nuclear reactors in India.

Lack Of Nuclear Sanity In India Anaya Shahid Mar 20 16, Ironically on March 14, 2011 after the Japan’s nuclear disaster, India was the first country to announce that Fukushima reactors were safe. Top officials of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) were of the view that Indian nuclear reactors will continue to work as they are safe and also claimed that what happened in Fukushima was not a “nuclear accident”.

S.K. Jain, the Chairman and Managing Director of Nuclear Power Corporation was propagating on Fukushima accident that, “There is no nuclear accident or incident in the Japan’s Fukushima plants. It is a well-planned emergency preparedness program which the nuclear operators of the Tokyo Electric Power company are carrying out to contain the residual heat after the plants had an automatic shutdown following a major earthquake.”

Now it is really scary that on the 5th anniversary of Fukushima, an emergency has been declared at the Kakrapar nuclear plant in Gujarat near Surat after a major heavy water leak in a nuclear reactor. The authorities are disseminating the situation by saying that all safety systems worked fine and the technicians has successfully been able to shut down the unit. The declaration of an on-site emergency and the fact that the heavy water leak affected the reactor’s cooling system, which also has high radioactivity, raises many questions on Indian nuclear expertise.

The Fukushima disaster forced Indian nuclear establishment to initiate a safety audit process and it was conducted within by NPCIL. After the extensive review, Indian auditor general informed that the nuclear program of the country is insecure and unregulated with many disorders. Furthermore the parliamentary report on nuclear safety regulation in India had pointed out serious organizational flaws and numerous failings relative to international norms.

When in opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party was the major contrasting party to civil nuclear expansion and had strong reservations on limiting nuclear liability. It was also supporting the just protests in Kudankulam and wanted environmental clearance for Jaitapur nuclear power plants. Now in government, it has taken a complete U-turn and seeks to bring same old vine in new bottles. This year, Dr. A Gopalakrishnan labeled the Indian government plans punier than the existing regulatory framework and despite this the government is introducing the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority bill in Parliament.

This is not the first time that India is facing safety issues regarding its nuclear program. In historical context one can generate a list of leaks, fires and structural damages that have been faced by India’s civilian nuclear power sector.  There are abundant examples of oil leaks, hydrogen leaks, fires and high bearing vibrations which often shut down numbers of nuclear reactors in India.

  • March 1991: Heavy water leak at Madras Atomic Power Station takes four days to clean up.
  • July 1991: A contracted laborer mistakenly paints the walls of Rajasthan Atomic Power Station (RAPS) with heavy water before applying a coat of whitewash.
  • December 1991: A leak from pipelines in the vicinity of CIRUS and Dhruva research reactors at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Trombay, Maharashtra, results in severe Cs-137 soil contamination of thousands of times the acceptable limit.
  • January 1992: Four tons of heavy water spilt at RAPS.
  • May 1992: Tube leak causes a radioactive release of 12 Curies of radioactivity from Tarapur Atomic Power Station.
  • March 1993: Two blades of the turbine in Narora Atomic Power Station’s (NAPS) Unit I break off, slicing through other blades and indirectly causing a raging fire, which catches onto leaked oil and spreads through the turbine building.  The smoke sensors fail to detect the fire, which is only noticed once workers see the flames.
  • February 1994: Helium gas and heavy water leak in Unit 1 of RAPS.  The plant is shut down until March 1997.
  • May 1994: The inner surface of the containment dome of Unit I of Kaiga Generating Stationcollapses (delaminates) while the plant is under construction.
  • March 1999: Somewhere between four and fourteen tons of heavy water leaks from the pipes at MAPS at Kalpakkam, Tamil Nadu, during a test process. The pipes have a history of cracks and vibration problems. Forty-two people are reportedly involved in mopping up the radioactive liquid.
  • April 2000: A leak of about seven tons of heavy water from the moderator system at NAPS Unit II.
  • November 2001: A leak of 1.4 tons of heavy water at the NAPS I reactor, resulting in one worker receiving an internal radiation dose of 18.49 mSv.
  • May 2002: Tritiated water leaks from a downgraded heavy water storage tank at the tank farm of RAPS 1&2 into a common dyke area.
  • January 2003: The failure of a valve in the Kalpakkam Atomic Reprocessing Plant in Tamil Nadu results in the release of high-level waste, exposing six workers to high doses of radiation.
  • April 2003: Six tons leak of heavy water at reactor II of the NAPS in Uttar Pradesh.
  • November 2009: Fifty-five employees consumed radioactive material after tritiated water finds its way into the drinking water cooler in Kaiga Generating Station.
  • April 2011: Fire alarms blare in the control room of the Kaiga Generating Station in Karnataka.

India’s nuclear establishment is hasting for nuclear energy though it has obstinately missed targets and delivered a portion of the promised electricity with uncertain safety. The Indian government is irrationally pursuing for nuclear power without explaining its destructive potential and answering critiques. Nowadays, the U.S. and major powers are trying to “normalize” India’s nuclear weapons through special waivers and numerous nuclear deals. Therefore, France is using such normalizing strategy to bargain for cash-strapped Areva. Meanwhile, its complement is the disaster-in-waiting called Jaitapur. The secrecy shrouded to Indian nuclear program has subjugated its energy policy and budgets to an unaccountable, self-propagating, pampered technocracy and degrading their democracy.

*Anaya Shahid graduated from Defense & Diplomatic Studies, Fatima Jinnah Women University Rawalpindi.

Exposing the spin of nuclear propagandist Prof Geraldine Thomas

March 20, 2016

Is this a problem for human health? You bet it is. The question no-one asked is what is causing the excess dose? The answer is easy: radioactive contamination, principally of Caesium-137. On the basis of well-known physics relationships we can say that 3Sv/h at 1m above ground represents a surface contamination of about 900,000Bq per square metre of Cs-137. That is, 900,000 disintegrations per second in one square metre of surface: and note that they were standing on a tarmac road which appeared to be clean. And this is 5 years after the explosions. The material is everywhere, and it is in the form of dust particles which can be inhaled; invisible sparkling fairy-dust that kills hang in the air above such measurements.

The particles are not just of Caesium-137. They contain other long lived radioactivity, Strontium-90, Plutonium 239, Uranium-235, Uranium 238, Radium-226, Polonium-210, Lead-210, Tritium, isotopes of Rhodium, Ruthenium, Iodine, Cerium, Cobalt 60. The list is long.

the Japanese government wants to send the people back there. It is bribing them with money and housing assistance. It is saying, like Gerry Thomas, there is no danger. And the BBC is giving this misdirection a credible platform.

They keep the lid on the truth using ill-informed individuals like Geraldine Thomas.

Fukushima is far from being over, and the deaths have only just begun.

Is Fukushima’s nuclear nightmare over? Don’t count on it Chris Busby 12 Mar 16 

On the 5th Anniversary of the catastrophe, Prof Geraldine Thomas, the nuclear industry’s new public relations star, walked through the abandoned town of Ohkuma inside the Fukushima exclusion zone with BBC reporter Rupert Wingfield-Hayes.

Thomas was described as “one of Britain’s leading experts on the health effects of radiation”. She is  of the opinion that there is no danger and the Japanese refugees can come back and live there in the “zone”. Her main concern seemed to be how untidy it all was: “Left to rack and ruin,” she complained, sadly.

At one point, Rupert pulled out his Geiger counter and read the dose: 3 microSieverts per hour. “How much radiation would it give in a year to people who came back here,” he asked. Thomas replied: “About an extra milliSievert a year, which is not much considering you get 2mSv a year from natural background”.

“The long term impact on your health would be absolutely nothing.”

Now anyone with a calculator can easily multiply 3 microSieverts (3 x 10-6 Sv) by 24 hours and 365 days. The answer comes out to be 26 mSv (0.026Sv), not “about 1mSv” as the “leading expert on the health effects of radiation” reported.

I must personally ask if Gerry Thomas is a reliable expert; her CV shows she has published almost nothing in the way of original research, so we must ask how it is the BBC has taken her seriously.

This recalled the day the first reactor exploded in 2011. I was in London, and the BBC asked me to come into the studio and comment. Also present was a nuclear industry apologist, Dr Ian Fells. Like Geraldine Thomas he seemed unconcerned about the radiation: the main problem for him was that the lifts would not work. People would have to climb stairs, he complained.

I said then on that first day that this was a serious accident like Chernobyl, but he and everybody who followed him told the viewers that it was no problem, nothing like Chernobyl.

Some months later, looking back, it became clear I was correct on every point, but I never was invited back to the BBC. I visited Japan, took sophisticated measuring equipment, obtained vehicle air filters, spoke to the Japanese people and advised them to take Calcium tablets to block the Strontium-90.

My vehicle air filter measurements showed clearly that large areas of north east Japan were seriously contaminated – including Tokyo. This was too much for the nuclear industry: I was attacked in the Guardian newspaper by pro-nuclear George Monbiot in an attempt to destroy my credibility. One other attacker was Geraldine Thomas. What she said then was as madly incorrect then as what she is saying now. But the Guardian would not let me respond.

The important evidence for me in the recent BBC clip is the measurement of dose given by Rupert’s Geiger counter: 3microSieverts per hour (3Sv/h). Normal background in Japan (I know, I measured it there) is about 0.1Sv/h. So in terms of external radiation, Ruperts’s measurement gave 30 times normal background.

Is this a problem for human health? You bet it is. The question no-one asked is what is causing the excess dose? The answer is easy: radioactive contamination, principally of Caesium-137. On the basis of well-known physics relationships we can say that 3Sv/h at 1m above ground represents a surface contamination of about 900,000Bq per square metre of Cs-137. That is, 900,000 disintegrations per second in one square metre of surface: and note that they were standing on a tarmac road which appeared to be clean. And this is 5 years after the explosions. The material is everywhere, and it is in the form of dust particles which can be inhaled; invisible sparkling fairy-dust that kills hang in the air above such measurements.

The particles are not just of Caesium-137. They contain other long lived radioactivity, Strontium-90, Plutonium 239, Uranium-235, Uranium 238, Radium-226, Polonium-210, Lead-210, Tritium, isotopes of Rhodium, Ruthenium, Iodine, Cerium, Cobalt 60. The list is long.

The UN definition of ‘radioactively contaminated land’ is 37,000Bq/square meter, and so, on the basis of the measurement made by the BBC reporter, the town of Ohkuma in the Fukushima zone (and we assume everywhere else in the zone) is still, five years after the incident, more than 20 times the level where the UN would, and the Soviets did, step in and control the population.

But the Japanese government wants to send the people back there. It is bribing them with money and housing assistance. It is saying, like Gerry Thomas, there is no danger. And the BBC is giving this misdirection a credible platform. The argument is based on the current radiation risk model of the International Commission on Radiological Protection the ICRP.

Last month, my German colleagues and I published a scientific paper [2] in the peer reviewed journal Environmental Health and Toxicology. It uses real-world data from those exposed to the same substances that were released by Fukushima to show that the ICRP model is wrong by 1,000 times or more. This is a game-changing piece of research. But were we asked to appear on the BBC, or anywhere else? No. What do our findings and calculations suggest will have happened in the five years since the explosions and into the future? Let’s take a look at what has happened since 2011.

The reactors are still uncontrolled five years after the explosions and continue to release their radioactive contents to the environment despite all attempts to prevent this. Concerning the melted fuel, there is no way to assess the condition or specific whereabouts of the fuel though it is clearly out of the box and in the ground.

Meanwhile, robots fail at the extremely high radiation levels found; ground water flowing through the plant is becoming contaminated and is being pumped into storage tanks for treatment; high radiation levels and debris have delayed the removal of spent fuel from numbers 1, 2 and 3 reactor buildings. TEPCO plans to remove debris from reactor 3 and this work has begun. Then they are hoping to remove the fuel rods out of reactors 1 and 2 by 2020 and the work on removing debris from these 2 reactors has not begun yet.

Much of the radioactivity goes into the sea, where it travels several hundreds of km. up and down the coast, destroying sea life and contaminating intertidal sediment. The radionuclides bind to fine sediment and concentrate in river estuaries and tidal areas like Tokyo Bay. Here the particles are re-suspended and brought ashore to be inhaled by those living within 1km of the coast.

From work done by my group for the Irish government on the contaminated Irish Sea we know that this exposure will increase the rate of cancer in the coastal inhabitants by about 30 percent.

The releases have not been stopped despite huge amounts of work, thought and action. The treated water is still highly radioactive and cannot yet be released.

That is a real problem on site with three heavy spent fuel pools still full and largely inaccessible. Collapse of the buildings would lead to coolant loss and a fire or even an explosion releasing huge amounts of radioactivity. So this is one nightmare scenario: Son of Fukushima. A solid wall at the port side may have slowed the water down but diverting the water may cause problems with the ground water pressure on site and thus also threaten subsidence. Space for storing the radioactive water is running out and it seems likely that this will have to be eventually spilled into the Pacific.

Only 10 percent of the plant has been cleaned up although there are 8,000 workers on site at any one time, mostly dealing with the contaminated water. Run-off from storms brings more contamination down the rivers from the mountains.

There are millions of 1-ton container bags full of radioactive debris and other waste which has been collected in decontamination efforts outside the plant and many of these bags are only likely to last a handful of years before degrading and spilling their contents. Typhoons will spread this highly contaminated contents far and wide.

Let’s look at the only real health data which has emerged to see if it gives any support to my original estimate of 400,000 extra cancers in the 200km radius. Prof Tsuda has recently published a paper in the peer review literature identifying 116 thyroid cancers detected over 3 years by ultrasound scanning of 380,000 0-18 year olds.

The background rate is about 0.3 per 100,000 per year, so in three years we can expect 3.42 thyroid cancers. But 116 were found, an excess of about 112 cases. Geraldine says that these were all found because they looked: but Tsuda’s paper reports that an ultrasound study in Nagasaki (no exposures) found zero cases, and also an early ultrasound study also found zero cases. So she is wrong. The thyroid doses were reported to be about 10mSv. On the basis of the ICRP model, that gives an error of about 2000 times.

From the results of our new genetic paper we can safely predict a 100 percent increase in congenital malformations in the population up to 200km radius.

In an advanced technological country like Japan these will be picked up early by ultrasound and aborted, so we will not actually see them, even if there were data we could trust. What we will see is a fall in the birth rate and an increase in the death rate because we know what has been happening and what will happen; we have seen it before in Chernobyl. And just like Chernobyl, the (Western) authorities are influenced by or take their lead from the nuclear industry: the ICRP and the International Atomic Energy Agency, (IAEA) which since 1959 has taken over from the World Health Organization as the responsible authority for radiation and health (Yes!).

They keep the lid on the truth using ill-informed individuals like Geraldine Thomas and, by analogy with New Labour: New BBC. Increasingly I could say “New Britain” as opposed the Great Britain of my childhood, a country I was proud of where you could trust the BBC. I wonder how the reporters like Rupert can live with themselves presenting such misguided information.

Fukushima is far from being over, and the deaths have only just begun.



2. Genetic Radiation Risks-A Neglected Topic in the Low Dose …

 Christopher Busby is an expert on the health effects of ionizing radiation. He qualified in Chemical Physics at the Universities of London and Kent, and worked on the molecular physical chemistry of living cells for the Wellcome Foundation. Professor Busby is the Scientific Secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk based in Brussels and has edited many of its publications since its founding in 1998. He has held a number of honorary University positions, including Visiting Professor in the Faculty of Health of the University of Ulster. Busby currently lives in Riga, Latvia. See, and time: 12 Mar, 2016

Analysis of mainstream media’s coverage of Fukushima nuclear catastrophe

March 20, 2016

Pascale’s analysis initially characterized the risk to the general population in one of three ways: low, uncertain, or high. However, when examining the bases on which these characterizations were made, it was clear that all media characterizations of uncertain risk were subsequently interpreted as evidence of low risk.

“The mainstream media–in print and online–did little to report on health risks to the general population or to challenge the narratives of public officials and their experts,”

News coverage of Fukushima disaster found lacking  American University sociologist’s new research finds few reports identified health risks to public
AMERICAN UNIVERSITY (WASHINGTON, D.C.) March 10, 2016 –– Five years after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan, the disaster no longer dominates U.S. news headlines, although experts say it is a continuing disaster with broad implications. A new analysis by American University sociology professor Celine-Marie Pascale finds that U.S. news media coverage following the disaster minimized health risks to the general population.

Pascale analyzed more than 2,000 news articles from four major U.S. outlets following the disaster’s occurrence from March 11, 2011 through March 11, 2013. Only 6 percent of the coverage–129 articles–focused on health risks to the public in Japan or elsewhere. Human risks were framed, instead, in terms of workers in the disabled nuclear plant. Pascale’s research has published in the flagship journal for the International Sociology Association,Current Sociology.

Disproportionate access

“It’s shocking to see how few articles discussed risk to the general population, and when they did, they typically characterized risk as low,” said Pascale, who studies the social construction of risk and meanings of risk in the 21st century. “We see articles in prestigious news outlets claiming that radioactivity from cosmic rays and rocks is more dangerous than the radiation emanating from the collapsing Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.”

Pascale studied news articles, editorials, and letters to the editor from two newspapers, The Washington Post and The New York Times, and two nationally prominent online news sites, Politico and The Huffington Post. These four media outlets are among the most prominent in the United States. They also are among the most cited by television news, talk shows, other newspapers, social media and blogs Pascale said.

Nuclear disasters have potentially large-scale and long-term consequences for people, environments, and economies around the globe. Given limited public knowledge about the details of nuclear energy and encumbered access to disaster sites, the media have disproportionate power around the globe to shape public knowledge, perception, and reaction to nuclear crises, Pascale said. Pascale’s article illustrates how systematic media practices minimized the presence of health risks, contributed to misinformation, and exacerbated uncertainties.

Pascale’s analysis initially characterized the risk to the general population in one of three ways: low, uncertain, or high. However, when examining the bases on which these characterizations were made, it was clear that all media characterizations of uncertain risk were subsequently interpreted as evidence of low risk. In two years of reporting, across all four media outlets, there were only a combined total of 17 articles reporting any noteworthy risk from the largest nuclear disaster in history.

Corporations and government agencies had disproportionate access to framing the event in the media, Pascale says. Even years after the disaster, government and corporate spokespersons constituted the majority of voices published. News accounts about local impact–for example, parents organizing to protect their children from radiation in school lunches–were also scarce.

Globalization of risk

Pascale says her findings show the need for the public to be critical consumers of news; expert knowledge can be used to create misinformation and uncertainty–especially in the information vacuums that arise during disasters.

“The mainstream media–in print and online–did little to report on health risks to the general population or to challenge the narratives of public officials and their experts,” Pascale said. “Discourses of the risks surrounding disasters are political struggles to control the presence and meaning of events and their consequences. How knowledge about disasters is reported can have more to do with relations of power than it does with the material consequences to people’s lives.”

While it is clear that the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown was a consequence of an earthquake and tsunami, like all disasters, it was also the result of political, economic and social choices that created or exacerbated broad-scale risks. In the 21st century, there’s an increasing “globalization of risk,” Pascale argues.

“People’s understanding of disasters will continue to be constructed primarily by media. How media members frame the presence of risk and the nature of disaster has enormous consequence for our well-being,” she said.

New report on Chernobyl nuclear disaster and its health effects

March 20, 2016

 TORCH, Ian Fairlea, March 10, 2016 First of all, apologies to the many readers who have written complaining about the lack of new blogs/information on this website.

The explanation is that I’ve been busy for the past 5 months writing a new report on the health effects of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster -TORCH-2016. This is an update of the 2006 TORCH report. (TORCH means The Other Report on Chernobyl.)

The report (120 pages) was commissioned by Global 2000/Friends of the Earth Austria and funded by the Vienna City Council Environmental Ombuds Office.

The report updates the new health evidence which has been published in peer-reviewed journals during the 10 year period 2006-2016.

In a nutshell, the report finds

  • 5 million people in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia still live in highly contaminated areas
  • 400 million people in less contaminated areas
  • 37% of Chernobyl’s fallout deposited on western Europe; 42% of western Europe contaminated
  • 40,000 fatal cancers predicted
  • 6,000 thyroid cancer cases to date, 16,000 more expected
  • increased radiogenic thyroid cancers now seen in Austria
  • increased radiogenic leukemia, cardiovascular disease, breast cancers confirmed
  • new evidence of radiogenic birth defects, mental health effects and diabetes
  • new evidence that children in contaminated areas suffer radiogenic illnesses

Scandalous dishonesty – Exxon and climate change

March 20, 2016

Scandal! Exxon knew about climate change, boosted denialism, misled shareholders, went carbon heavy, Ecologist Bill McKibben 9th March 2016  One of the world’s biggest energy companies has been caught out in what may be the biggest ever climate scandal, writes Bill McKibben. Way back in the 1980s ExxonMobil knew of the ‘potentially catastrophic’ and ‘irreversible’ effects of increasing fossil fuel consumption, but chose to cover up the findings, spread misinformation on climate change, and go for high carbon energy sources……….

Exxon twisted the facts to further its own agenda

So here’s what happened. Exxon used its knowledge of climate change to plan its own future. The company, for instance, leased large tracts of the Arctic for oil exploration, territory where, as a company scientist pointed out in 1990, “potential global warming can only help lower exploration and development costs.”

Not only that but, “from the North Sea to the Canadian Arctic,” Exxon and its affiliates set about “raising the decks of offshore platforms, protecting pipelines from increasing coastal erosion, and designing helipads, pipelines, and roads in a warming and buckling Arctic.”In other words, the company started climate-proofing its facilities to head off a future its own scientists knew was inevitable.

But in public? There, Exxon didn’t own up to any of this. In fact, it did precisely the opposite. In the 1990s, it started to put money and muscle into obscuring the science around climate change. It funded think tanks that spread climate denial and even recruited lobbying talent from the tobacco industry.

It also followed the tobacco playbook when it came to the defence of cigarettes by highlighting ‘uncertainty’ about the science of global warming. And it spent lavishly to back political candidates who were ready to downplay global warming.

Its CEO, Lee Raymond, even travelled to China in 1997 and urged government leaders there to go full steam ahead in developing a fossil fuel economy. The globe was cooling, not warming, he insisted, while his engineers were raising drilling platforms to compensate for rising seas.

“It is highly unlikely”, he said“that the temperature in the middle of the next century will be significantly affected whether policies are enacted now or 20 years from now.” This wasn’t just wrong, but completely and overwhelmingly wrong – as wrong as a man could be.

Sins of omission

In fact, Exxon’s deceit – its ability to discourage regulations for 20 years – may turn out to be absolutely crucial in the planet’s geological history. It’s in those two decades that greenhouse gas emissions soared; as did global temperatures until, in the twenty-first century, ‘hottest year ever recorded’ has become a tired cliché.

And here’s the bottom line: had Exxon told the truth about what it knew back in 1990, we might not have wasted a quarter of a century in a phony debate about the science of climate change, nor would anyone have accused Exxon of being ‘alarmist.’ We would simply have gotten to work.

But Exxon didn’t tell the truth. A Yale study published last fall in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that money from Exxon and the Koch Brothers played a key role in polarizing the climate debate in this country.

The company’s sins – of omission and commission – may even turn out to be criminal. Whether the company ‘lied to the public’ is the question that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman decided to investigate last fall in a case that could make him the great lawman of our era if his investigation doesn’t languish.

There are various consumer fraud statutes that Exxon might have violated and it might have failed to disclose relevant information to investors, which is the main kind of lying that’s illegal in this country of ours. Now, Schneiderman’s got back up from California Attorney General Kamala Harris, and maybe – if activists continue to apply pressure – from the Department of Justice as well, though it’s highly publicized unwillingness to go after the big banks does not inspire confidence.

Here’s the thing: all that was bad back then, but Exxon and many of its Big Energy peers are behaving at least as badly now when the pace of warming is accelerating. And it’s all legal – dangerous, stupid, and immoral, but legal.

Exxon finally admits global warming is occurring – but there’s no big problem………

The carbon tax and the political stonewall

In other words, we’re no longer talking about outright denial, just a denial that much really needs to be done. And even when the company has proposed doing something, its proposals have been strikingly ethereal. Exxon’s PR team, for instance, has discussedsupporting a price on carbon, which is only what economists left, right, and centre have been recommending since the 1980s.

But the minimal price they recommend – somewhere in the range of $40 to $60 a ton – wouldn’t do much to slow down their business. After all, they insist that all their reserves are still recoverable in the context of such a price increase, which would serve mainly to make life harder for the already terminal coal industry.

But say you think it’s a great idea to put a price on carbon – which, in fact, it is, since every signal helps sway investment decisions. In that case, Exxon’s done its best to make sure that what they pretend to support in theory will never happen in practice…….

Now the cover ups are being investigated – could Exxon be liable?

As with the tobacco companies in the decades when they were covering up the dangers of cigarettes, there’s a good chance that the Big Energy companies were in this together through their trade associations and other front groups.

In fact, just before Christmas, Inside Climate News published some revealing new documents about the role that Texaco, Shell, and other majors played in an American Petroleum Institute study of climate change back in the early 1980s. A trial would be a transformative event – a reckoning for the crime of the millennium.

But while we’re waiting for the various investigations to play out, there’s lots of organizing going at the state and local level when it comes to Exxon, climate change, and fossil fuels – everything from politely asking more states to join the legal process to politely shutting down gas stations for a few hours to pointing out to New York and California that they might not want to hold millions of dollars of stock in a company they’re investigating. It may even be starting to work.

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, for instance, singled Exxon out in his state of the state address last month. He called on the legislature to divest the state of its holdings in the company because of its deceptions:

“This is a page right out of Big Tobacco, which for decades denied the health risks of their product as they were killing people. Owning ExxonMobil stock is not a business Vermont should be in.”

The question is: Why on God’s not so green Earth any more would anyone want to be Exxon’s partner?

Action: BreakFree2016, May 4-15 – a global wave of mass actions will target the world’s most dangerous fossil fuel projects, in order tokeep coal, oil and gas in the ground and accelerate the just transition to 100% renewable energy. Across the world, people are showing the courage toconfront polluters where they are most powerful – from the halls of power to the wells and mines themselves.

Correct flaw in cooling system of nuclear reactors – orders Nuclear Regulatory Commission

March 20, 2016

Dangerous Flaw Threatens to Close Nation’s Nuclear Fleet Energy Matters, By Roger Witherspoon, 4 Mar 16 
After four years of increasingly tense internal discussion, seven Nuclear Regulatory Commission engineers have formally petitioned the governing Commissioners to either order the nation’s nuclear power plants to immediately correct a design flaw governing their reactor cooling systems or order them all to shut down.

The flaw is in the original design of the electrical system, and has escaped notice for decades. According to the engineers’ petition, as well as a series of staff analyses on file at the NRC, the design flaw occurs in what is called a “single phase” condition in which little or no electricity is entering the plant to operate its backup cooling systems in the event of a blackout or other event cutting off power from the grid. The result is that the motors of backup generators are underpowered and this can cause their motors to burn out. When that happens, there is no way to keep the reactor core cool.

The seven members of the Electrical Engineering Branch in the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, led by Acting Chief Roy K. Mathew, stated in the petition that “the staff determined that all nuclear facilities are susceptible to this design vulnerability except one plant, and recommended that the NRC take prompt regulatory action.”

As a result, the petition states, if the plants are not ordered to immediately redesign their electrical systems then the Commissioners should “issue Orders to immediately shutdown the operating nuclear power plants since the licensees are operating their facilities without addressing the significant design deficiency…and with inoperable electric power systems….”

The situation evolved from an unplanned shutdown in January 30, 2012 in Unit 2 of the Byron Station Nuclear Power Plant in Illinois. At the time, it was thought that the shutdowns resulted from a string of unfortunate coincidences. But further examination by the NRC’s electrical engineering branch found something more alarming…………

Officials from Exelon, which owns and operates Byron and 10 other nuclear power plants, as well as inspectors from the NRC initially thought that the shutdown was the result of a series of unfortunate coincidences. But On Feb. 28, 2012, there was a similar interrupted and undetected phase which caused a shutdown at Byron’s Unit 1. And, as in the earlier event, it disabled the plant’s cooling systems. That caused Mathews and the  electric unit he led to investigate further and see if there had been any other shutdowns in which an undetected phase disruption disabled the cooling pumps.  Their initial look found identical shutdowns at the Beaver Valley Power Station Unit 1 in Pennsylvania in November, 2007; and in New York, the James Fitzpatrick and the neighboring Nine Mile plants, which share a power substation, shut down in December, 2005.

The staff analysis concluded that the design of the electrical systems was “inadequate because it did not consider the possibility of the loss of a single phase… This situation resulted in neither the onsite nor the offsite electric power system being able to perform its intended safety functions” to provide electric power to the plant’s safety systems. Plants are required to have two separate sets of electrical power lines and monitors for  their core cooling systems so that operators can still control the reactor even if one line, or train, is damaged by fire or another event.

The loss of a single phase of alternating current, the NRC staff found, “can potentially damage both trains of the emergency core cooling system.” In that case, there is nothing to prevent a meltdown………..

Not only does this situation affect the 99 operating reactors, it also applies to the four AP1000 plants under construction at the Vogtle Plant in Georgia and the Sumner plant in South Carolina. That is because these plants are a new design, and while their safety systems appeared sound on paper and in simulations, they do not work as planned when actually built and require design modifications to meet actual operational needs. As a result, a Feb. 26, 2013 staff analysis found that the electrical systems are incomplete and are still being designed.

“In addition,” the staff assessment concluded, “the generic AP1000 plant operating procedures are under development and the licensees’ review of the generic procedures did not identify specific operator actions related to phase voltage verifications of the three phases.”

As a result, the electrical group concluded, all of the nation’s nuclear plants are violating the terms of their operating licenses and must either be brought into compliance or shut down.

According to NRC statutes, this is a major issue.

NRC regulations governing the operating licenses dictate that “the safety systems shall be designed so that, once initiated automatically or manually, the intended sequence of protective actions of the execute features shall continue until completion.”

The group’s petition states “any failures in an offsite power system or onsite power system must not disable the safety functions of emergency core cooling and vital safety systems to protect the health and safety of the public.”

With the current system, they assert, the plants are violating a mandatory condition of their operating licenses ( ).   As the issue was debated within the agency, the Mathews group cast a wider net and began looking at the root causes of shutdowns in the US and abroad, while pushing the agency to more forcefully addresses the design problem. To their surprise, they found 13 “open phase events” over a 14-year period, with the latest taking place at the Oconee Nuclear Power Station in South Carolina in December, 2015…………

French nuclear corporation EDF is in one mighty mess

March 20, 2016
EDF’s leaked Board Agenda: Zombie nuclear projects and ‘beyond the grave’ reactors Jonathon Porritt 29th February 2016 

French nuclear parastatal EDF is facing problem after problem – zombie nuclear projects in the UK, Finland, China and France, a fleet of ‘beyond the grave’ reactors, a dropping share price and its drooping credit rating. But is it really as bad as all that? Jonathon Porritt has exclusive access to the leaked Agenda of its latest board meeting. And the answer is – no. It’s even worse.

You seriously wouldn’t want to be a Director of EDF at the moment. The agenda for an average Board Meeting must be seriously gloomy on each and every occasion.

And thanks to an EDF mole (and to judge by the number of leaks to the French press and the UK’sFT there’s a lot of them) I can now state this as fact, not mere opinion.

An annotated copy of the Agenda items for their last meeting on 16th February mysterious showed up in my email today, helpfully summarised byAlexandre Perra, EDF’s Executive Committee Secretary.

Item 1: Existing EPR construction projects

1.1 Olkiluoto (Finland)
Continuing, horrendous cost overruns, leading to ongoing legal stand-off with Finnish partners. Already delayed by seven years, but (hopefully!) could be finished by 2018.

1.2 Flamanville (France)
Continuing, horrendous cost overruns. Already delayed by nine years, but (hopefully!) could be finished by 2018.

1.3 Taishan (China)
Serious problems with both reactors under construction, but, this being China, everything’s shrouded in secrecy. WARNING: This could be much worse than we currently understand.

1.4 Pressure vessels
Still waiting for final safety assessment from French regulators. WARNING: There could be really serious problems here, despite our best efforts to ‘work with’ the regulator.

1.5 Deadlines/UK Treasury
These deadlines are now CRITICAL – as in EXISTENTIAL.
UK Treasury’s loan guarantees are linked to Flamanville operating successfully. And if it is not working properly by 2020, loan guarantee will be completely withdrawn.

Item 2: New reactors at Hinkley Point, Somerset

2.1 Final investment decision

Postponed again – for the eighth time. Still unable to raise the €23.3bn (£18bn), despite our Chinese backers agreeing last year to provide one-third of the total sum, and despite the UK Government offering all but limitless subsidies.

CAUTIONARY NOTE: The true cost is of course much closer to €31 (£24.5bn) taking into account both the cost of construction and the costs of finance. This has been recognised by the EU Commission.

Have just released new announcement: construction will now not start until 2019. We should know by then whether the EPR will ever produce any electricity, with Olkiluoto and Flamanville both due to come on stream in 2018.

2.2 Media strategy

Must keep up a good front: have blamed the latest delay on the Chinese New Year. Crucial that CEO maintains the line: “We estimate the investment decision is very close.”

‘Stop Hinkley Point’ protesters occupied our offices in Bridgewater yesterday. Need to handle with care. Negative coverage increasing all the time, and people have started to talk about our ‘zombie reactors‘ at Hinkley Point.

Regrettably, our cohort of ‘green ambassadors’ (led by renowned UK environmentalist George Monbiot) has fallen silent. Very few advocates now for EPR. Even the FT has now joined the ranks of the critics stating “Politically painful it may be, but the case for halting Hinkley Point C is becoming hard to refute.”

Item 3: Extending the life of our UK reactors

3.1 Some good-ish news: we’ve negotiated extensions for four of our eight reactors in the UK: Heysham 1 and Hartlepool, through to 2024, and Heysham 2 and Torness through to 2030. There will be a significant financial outlay here, which has not yet been properly accounted for, but still relatively ‘small beer’ (as the English say) when looking at our overall finances.

3.2 The longer we keep these reactors ticking over, more or less safely, the better it will be. As soon as they come offstream, all the liabilities associated with decommissioning kick in. Reminder to the Board: managing our rising liabilities is now our most critical priority!

Item 4: Extending the life of our French reactors

Current operating fleet: 58 reactors. The Board has already signed off on a major life extension programme, with an estimate of €55bn of costs. Recent external assessments have put total costs at €100bn. Crucial to hold the line in the media at €55bn. In reality, we have no idea what the total outlay will be.

Item 5: Energy Transition Law (France)

5.1 This now represents A MAJOR RISK, with a direct mandate from our principal shareholder (the French Government) that the country must reduce its dependence on nuclear generation from 75% to 50% of total electricity demand by 2025.

5.2 The Cour des Comptes (state Audit Office) has just issued a new report challenging our long-held expectation that demand for electricity in France will continue to grow significantly through to 2025. If they are right, the energy transition law will mean:

  • Worst-case scenario: 20 reactors (35% of the fleet) will need to close.
  • Best-case scenario: 17 reactors (29% of the fleet) will need to close.

5.3 Lobbying relevant Ministers and Prime Minister to amend the Energy Transition Law now a TOP PRIORITY.

tem 6: Financial position

  • Current share price: down 50% on January 2015 position.
  • Current market cap: €22.5 (symbolically and very uncomfortably, less than the total projected costs of the Hinkley Point project).
  • Our €37bn net debt load also dwarfs our €18.5bn market capitalisation.
  • Current credit rating still at risk. Standard & Poors and Moody’s both looking wobbly.
  • Growing concern about perceived splits on the Board, especially as regards increasingly forceful hostility from our Trade Union representatives to Hinkley Point.

Merde alors! And now the FT reports that they have two EDF sources telling them that the final investment decision will be delayed until 2017! Nous sommes trahis! It will be soon! Very very soon! Call security!

The Champagne has lost its fizz

See what I mean? Not exactly a cheery occasion, even with the best of French lunches, and it must be a bit like that Board meeting after Board meeting.

So now shift the focus to London, to the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Imagine for a moment the Permanent Secretary, metaphorically shitting himself as the single biggest element in the UK’s future electricity supply slides, slowly but ever more inexorably, down the pan. Wouldn’t he just love to get access to the (real) Minutes of EDF’s Board meetings!

The implications of all this for the UK couldn’t possibly be more severe. Initially, Hinkley Point was meant to be on stream by 2025, generating a whacking great 7% of total electricity supply. Earlier delays meant that this had already slipped to 2030. Now that the start date has slipped again, to 2019, at the earliest, that 2030 date looks insanely optimistic.

And that’s just the start. EDF’s meltdown at Hinkley Point is already having a significant knock-on impact on other would-be nuclear prospects in the UK – with Horizon, NuGen and even China General Nuclear Corporation beginning to get cold feet.

If Hinkley Point does go down the pan, a project that has been given every conceivable financial inducement by both the UK and the French Government, who the hell is going to invest in different but equally dodgy reactor designs?

If the Permanent Secretary isn’t shitting himself about such a state of affairs, one has to ask where he’s getting his metaphorical Imodium from.