Archive for the ‘radiation’ Category

Radiation, nuclear wastes, transportation, uncertainties – extract from Expert response to pro nuclear JRC Report

September 14, 2021

The DNSH-related TSCs state, among other things, that the repository facility must guarantee that the waste is contained and isolated from the biosphere. This also applies if extreme natural phenomena occur such as earthquakes, tornadoes, floods or the loss of technical barriers. 

……  nuclear energy has been used for several decades, but there is still no repositoryfor high-level radioactive waste operating anywhere in the world. Responsibilities are therefore passed on to following generations and they are restricted in their freedom of choice. Section 6 of this expert response will deal with this matter in greater detail. 

General results of the reviewThe JRC Report contains unfounded generalisations at many points. Conclusions are drawn from individual, selected examples and their global validity is assumed. Readers without any detailed specialist expertise will find it hard or impossible to recognise this.

.……….  The JRC presents the disposal of high-level radioactive waste as a completely resolved problem by citing the example of the disposal projects in Finland and France. This largely ignores the fact that the Finnish repository is still under construction and the licence application from the operational company has already been delayed on several occasions. Both countries are still years away from starting to operate the facilities. 

The JRC Report does not mention the aspect of transportation in its presentation of the life cycle analysis. This would have been necessary for a conclusive overall presentation of all the aspects of nuclear power.

the JRC Report states that a closed fuel cycle provides the advantage of significantly reducing the space required for a deep geological repository for HLW. It is necessary to add here that not only the volume, but also the decay heat at the time of disposing of the waste is relevant for the size of the disposal facility (KOM, 2016, p. 227). Additional low- and intermediate-level waste would also be produced and this would increase the disposal volume.

Expert response to the report by the Joint Research Centre entitled “Technical assessment of nuclear energy with respect to the ‛Do No Significant Harm’ criteria in Regulation (EU) 2020/852, the ‛Taxonomy Regulation’” 2021

“”………… 4.6 Ionising radiation and its impacts on people’s health and the environment during all the life cycle phases (apart from disposal and transportation)The JRC Report largely restricts itself in Part A 3.4 to the “impact of ionizing radiation on human health” (JRC Report, Part A 3.4.1, p. 167ff) and the environment (JRC Report, Part A 3.4.2, p. 173ff). The impact of emissions of non-radioactive substances is only considered at one point (publication [3.4-1]). ……..

The figures quoted for the radiation exposure of human beings in Part A 3.4.1 of the JRC Report are plausible. It is correct that human exposure to radiation as a result of the civil use of radioactive materials and ionising radiation is low in comparison with radiation exposure from natural sources and its range of variation. However, the report does not match the latest findings in radiation protection when specifying average effective doses per head of the population for nuclear facilities and installations. According to the latest recommendations of the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), the so-called “representative person” in the sense of the ICRP has to be considered an individual in the population, who is exposed to higher levels of radiation because of his or her lifestyle habits. 

5 Criterion 2 in the Taxonomy Regulation – the DNSH criteria: disposal of radioactive waste, transportation, research and development The subject of disposing of radioactive waste is considered in this section. It professionally examines the scientific statements in the JRC Report about the topics of storage (section 5.1 of this expert response), disposing of low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste (section 5.2), disposing of high-level radioactive waste (section 5.3), transportation (section 5.4) and research and development (section 5.5). Sub-headlines have been used to interconnect the subsections 

……….. The JRC Report does not adequately consider the fact that no successful, deep geological disposal of high-level radioactive waste, including the permanent seal, has yet been introduced anywhere in the world. 

5.1 Interim storage of radioactive waste The JRC Report generally fails to provide any basis for the findings that are listed in the Executive Summary of the report related to storing radioactive waste. As a result, questions must be raised about the transparency of the conclusions that are drawn

…………..  the assessment of interim storage consistently takes place according to the standard adopted by the JRC, which, however, is inadequate from an expert point of view. For beyond design basis events it is impossible to exclude that uncontrolled discharges of radioactive substances and therefore considerable effects on the environment may occur through incidents and accidents or by some other intrusion involving third parties (e.g. terrorist attacks) when operating storage facilities; a risk therefore remains. A holistic assessment of using nuclear energy must therefore include a risk assessment related to these events too (cf. section 2.1 and 2.2.1 of this expert response). 


Independent scientists speak the truth about ionising radiation.

September 14, 2021

How monolithic institutions decide what is safe for the rest of us, Beyond Nuclear, By Christine Fassert and Tatiana Kasperski, 12 Sept 21,

”………………..The condemnation of this [ Fukushima area radiation] threshold came first of all from within: the special adviser on radiation protection of the Prime Minister’s Office, Professor Toshiso Kosako, resigned in tears on April 30, 2011:

“I cannot accept such a threshold, being applied to babies, children, and elementary school students, not only from an academic point of view, but also because of my humanistic values,” he said.

Many critiques

At the international level, the decision to raise the threshold was also criticized by the two successive UN Special Rapporteurs, Anand Grover and Baskut Tuncak. Moreover, the two experts question the very foundations of radiation protection, which rely on the ALARA principle: As Low as Reasonably Achievable.

This “reasonably” indicates that criteria other than health are taken into account, which Grover criticizes, referring to the “right to health”. Indeed, the rapporteur points out that “the ICRP recommendations are based on the principle of optimization and justification, according to which all government actions should maximize the benefits over the detriments. Such a risk-benefit analysis is not in line with the framework of the right to health, because it gives priority to collective interests over individual rights”.

Tuncak echoes Grover’s criticism in his October 2018 report, stating that “the Japanese government’s decision to increase what is considered the acceptable level of radiation exposure by a factor of 20 is deeply troubling.”

Better protecting individuals

Similar arguments were also used by Belarusian and Ukrainian scientists who, in the late 1980s, opposed the lifetime dose limit of 35 rem (350msv) over a maximum period of 70 years from the time of the accident — a limit that Soviet experts in Moscow, with the support of ICRP representatives, including the head of the French Central Service for Protection against Ionizing Radiation, Pierre Pellerin, were trying to impose as the basis for all post-accident response measures. 

The Belarusian and Ukrainian researchers considered the 35 rem criterion to be unacceptable not only from a scientific point of view but also, and above all, from an ethical point of view.

They pointed out that under the conditions of scientific uncertainty about the effects of ionizing radiation, it was dangerous to underestimate the risks that radioactivity represented for the inhabitants of the affected territories, and they considered that the country’s authorities had a moral obligation to devote all the necessary means to greater protection of the inhabitants of the affected regions, especially the most vulnerable individuals.

The danger of low doses

The protagonists of the optimization of radiation protection in the post-accident context insist on the absence of studies proving significant health effects below these thresholds.

For a long time, the arguments for and against these thresholds have been discussed in the public arena and by social scientists in terms of scientific and medical “controversies” — opposing scientists connected to the nuclear sphere who have long denied the harmfulness of low doses, to scientists outside this sphere who consider that the risks were underestimated.

The question of the level of danger of low doses of radioactivity is one of the best known examples of such controversies, which regularly resurface despite the development of scientific knowledge about these risks.

This debate did not arise at the time of the Fukushima accident, but has been going on for a long time and is part of the “motives” also found in the debates about Chernobyl as well as other nuclear accidents such as Kyshtym, in Russia, in 1957…………………

Irradiated man kept alive for nuclear research

September 14, 2021

Paul Richards
, Nuclear Fuel Cycle Watch Australia, 10 Sept 21

Although most of Hisashi Ouchi’s body had been completely destroyed, including his DNA and immune system, the doctors kept him alive as a human experiment.They kept him alive for a total of 83 days until he died of multiple organ failures.

During those 83 days, Hisashi Ouchi underwent the first transfusion of peripheral stem cells, as well as several blood transfusions and skin transplants.However, neither the transfusions or transplants could keep his bodily fluids from leaking out of his pores.

During the first week of experiments, Hisashi Ouchi had enough consciousness to tell the doctors“I can’t take it anymore… I am not a guinea pig…”but they continued to treat him for 11 more weeks. The nurses caring for him also recorded the narcotic load to abate pain was not enough to give him relief. At the time of recording his death, his heart had stopped for 70 minutes and the doctors chose this time not to resurrect him.

UNBREAKABLE RECORD To this day, Hisashi Ouchi holds the record for the most radiation experienced by a surviving person, however, this is not an accomplishment that his family likely celebrates.

The case of malpractice by these doctors is extremely horrific and one of the greatest examples of human torture of the 20th century.Thankfully, medical professionals values, would not be superseded by the nuclear state, so this record in all probability will never be broken._____________More on why the accident happened:…/abs/10.1080/00963402.2000.11456942 from

Nuclear ”ethics” – fatally ill man kept alive against his will, in the cause of nuclear research

September 14, 2021

In 1999 an accident at a Japanese Nuclear Power Plant caused one of its technicians, Hisashi Ouchi, to be exposed to high levels of radiation. He was kept alive for 83 days, against his will, by doctors so they could use his body to study the effects of radiation on humans.Hisashi Ouchi was one of three employees of the Tokaimura nuclear plant to be heavily impacted by the accident on 30 September 1999.

The Man Kept Alive Against His Will

How modern medicine kept a ‘husk’ of a man alive for 83 days against his will Colin  Aneculaese  27 July 2020, Radiation has always been a subject of great interest for many scientists. Since its discovery and weaponisation, many have looked into its impact on living organisms, especially humans. As a result, many living being suffered at the hands of those who sought to find the real impact of radiation on living beings. Throughout the years this experimentation was mainly focused on animals as it would be unethical to test such a thing on humans.

Outside of major nuclear events such as the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the meltdowns of nuclear facilities such as nuclear power plants, the effect of radiation on humans could not be tested. As such after the 1999 Tokaimura nuclear accident, many scientists jumped at the opportunity to study the victims of such a high amount of explosion to radiation. Out of all the victims of the disaster, the case of Hisashi Ouchi stands out.

Tokaimura nuclear plant

Hisashi Ouchi was one of three employees of the Tokaimura nuclear plant to be heavily impacted by the accident on 30 September 1999. Leading up to the 30th of the month the staff at the Tokaimura nuclear plant were in charge of looking after the process of dissolving and mixing enriched uranium oxide with nitric acid to produce uranyl nitrate, a product which the bosses of the nuclear plant wanted to have ready by the 28th.

Due to the tight time constraints, the uranyl nitrate wasn’t prepared properly by the staff with many shortcuts being used to achieve the tight deadline. One of these shortcuts was to handle the highly radioactive produce by hand. During their handling of the radioactive produce while trying to convert it into nuclear fuel (uranyl nitrate is used as nuclear fuel) for transportation the inexperienced three-man crew handling the operation made a mistake.

During the mixing process, a specific compound had to be added to the mixture, the inexperienced technicians added seven times the recommended amount of the compound to the mixture leading to an uncontrollable chain reaction being started in the solution. As soon as the Gamma radiation alarms sounded the three technicians knew they made a mistake. All three were exposed to deadly levels of radiation, more specifically Ouchi receiving 17 Sv of radiation due to his proximity to the reaction, Shinohara 10 Sv and Yokokawa 3 Sv due to his placement at a desk several meters away from the accidents. When being exposed to radiation it is said that anything over 10 Sv is deadly, this would prove to be true in this instance.

The fallout of radiation

Shinohara, the least affected out of the two who received a deadly dose of radiation, lasted 7 months in hospital until 27 April 2000. The technician died of lung and liver failure after a long battle against the effects of the radiation he endured. During his, 7-month stay at the University of Tokyo Hospital several skin grafts, blood transfusions and cancer treatments were performed on him with minimal success. Shinohara’s time at the University of Tokyo Hospital would be much less painful than Ouchi’s.

New research on baby teeth will show the impact of nuclear bomb testing, and the connection with later cancers

September 14, 2021

Three decades later, [after the 1950s] Washington University staff discovered thousands of abandoned baby teeth that had gone untested. The school donated the teeth to the Radiation and Public Health Project, which was conducting a study of strontium-90 in teeth of U.S. children near nuclear reactors.

Now, using strontium-90 still present in teeth, the Radiation and Public Health Project will conduct an analysis of health risk, which was not addressed in the original tooth study, and minimally addressed by government agencies.  Based on actual radiation exposure in bodies, the issue of how many Americans suffered from cancer and other diseases from nuclear testing fallout will be clarified.

Baby teeth collected six decades ago will reveal the damage to Americans’ health caused by US nuclear weapons tests AUGUST 16, 2021 by Lawrence Wittner by Lawrence Wittner and Joseph Mangano

In 2020, Harvard University’s T. C. Chan School of Public Health began a five-year study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, that will examine the connection between early life exposure to toxic metals and later-life risk of neurological disease. A collaborator with Harvard, the Radiation and Public Health Project, will analyze the relationship of strontium-90 (a radioactive element in nuclear weapons explosions) and disease risk in later life.  

The centerpiece of the study is a collection of nearly 100,000 baby teeth, gathered in the late 1950s and early 1960s by the St. Louis Committee for Nuclear Information.

The collection of these teeth occurred during a time of intense public agitation over the escalating nuclear arms race between the U.S. and Soviet governments that featured the new hydrogen bomb (H-bomb), a weapon more than a thousand times as powerful as the bomb that had annihilated Hiroshima.  To prepare themselves for nuclear war, the two Cold War rivals conducted well-publicized, sometimes televised nuclear weapons tests in the atmosphere—434 of them between 1945 and 1963.  These tests sent vast clouds of radioactive debris aloft where, carried along by the winds, it often traveled substantial distances before it fell to earth and was absorbed by the soil, plants, animals, and human beings.  


Reclassifying nuclear wastes, and other ethical and technical problems at Hanford

September 14, 2021

“DOE sort of granted itself the authority to do that reclassifying,”

“We’re not convinced of any need to reclassify any of the high-level wastes,” said Ecology Department spokesman Randy Bradbury.

“We believe this rule lays the groundwork for the department to abandon significant amounts of radioactive waste in Washington State precipitously close to the Columbia River,”

Reclassifying a significant amount of high-level waste into low-activity waste is key to reaching that 80%, the report said.

Ultimately, this project, originally scheduled to be finished this decade, will likely be completed in the latter half of this century. In other words, it could take 70 to 75 years (mid-1990s to 2069) to deal with the 56 million gallons of radioactive tank waste created by 42 years of manufacturing plutonium.

A plan to turn radioactive waste into glass logs has raised a lot of questions, many of which don’t appear to have public answers. CrossCut, by John Stang, August 16, 2021”……………………..Whistleblower alarm

Red flags have also been raised over the quality of construction of the new treatment facilities.

In 2010, Walt Tamosaitis, a senior manager at a subcontractor designing the pretreatment plant, URS Corp., alerted his superiors and managers at lead contractor Bechtel to a risk of hydrogen gas explosions that could bend and burst pipes in the plant, spraying radioactive fluids. He also pointed out that radioactive sludge could clog the pipes and tanks in the plant, increasing the chance of uncontrolled releases of radiation. And he raised the issue of corrosion causing leaks in the pretreatment plant.

Tamosaitis’ superiors told the Energy Department that the design problems were fixed as of July 1, 2010 — over Tamosaitis’ protests, but in time for Bechtel to collect a $5 million bonus from the department.

For raising the alarm, he was demoted and exiled to an insignificant offsite job, Tamosaitis alleged in a lawsuit against Bechtel. He alleged illegal retaliation, eventually reaching a $4.1 million settlement with the company. Meanwhile, in 2011 and 2012, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, a technical advisory body monitoring DOE, plus the Government Accounting Office, confirmed Tamosaitis’ concerns.

In 2015, the Energy Department announced that it would not have the entire complex operational by 2022, the deadline at the time. Department officials pointed to the same issues Tamosaitis had identified in 2010.

Also on hold is construction of the pretreatment plant — a prerequisite to the high-level waste glassification project, which is scheduled to begin production in 2023, according to the current state and federal agreement.

What the future holds

The U.S. Department of Energy has been giving contradictory signals about new plans for dealing with some of the high-level waste. 


A hard rain did fall — Hiroshima victims beyond “official” zone will now be compensated

September 14, 2021

Hiroshima victims beyond “official” zone will now be compensated

A hard rain did fall — Beyond Nuclear International A hard rain did fall,   Black rain” victims finally win in court By Linda Pentz Gunter
Just weeks before the 2021 commemoration of the August 6, 1945 US atomic bombing of the city of Hiroshima, a Japanese court ruled that victims of the radioactive “black rain” who were living beyond the officially recognized contamination zone at the time, should be included in the group considered bomb “survivors” or “Hibakusha” and receive the same benefits.
A Hiroshima high court acknowledged in its July 14, 2021 ruling that many more people suffered as a result of exposure to “black rain” than have hitherto been recognized as victims.

“Black rain” was described in a CNN story as a “mixture of fallout particles from the explosion, carbon residue from citywide fires, and other dangerous elements. The black rain fell on peoples’ skin and clothing, was breathed in, contaminated food and water, and caused widespread radiation poisoning.”

When the verdict was first released last month, it appeared that the Japanese government, under Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, might appeal the decision. Instead, Suga declared his government, the defendants in the case, would not appeal it and even suggested that relief might be extended to other affected people beyond the plaintiffs. According to the Asahi Shimbun, this may even include those exposed to radiation as a result of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster on the Japan coast.

The court ruling was important because it recognized and acknowledged not only the heaths effects of the radioactive “black rain” atomic bomb fallout, but also the internal exposure to radiation through the ingestion of contaminated water and food experienced by the 84 plaintiffs in the case.

The ruling of course comes very late in the day as many Hibakusha are already deceased. Indeed, one of the plaintiffs, 79-year-old Seiji Takato, told CNN he was worried that if there was no verdict soon, “we would all die if this (case were) prolonged”.

The plaintiffs will now receive the same benefits as residents of the state-designated black rain zone. According to the Kyodo News, these will include “free health checkups and atomic bomb survivors’ certificates entitling them to medical benefits in the event that they develop 11 specific illnesses caused by radiation.”

The United States, the country which dropped the two atomic bombs — on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and then on Nagasaki three days later — has taken neither responsibility for the devastating health consequences, nor offered an apology or compensation. 

Indeed, President Truman, in office when the bombings were authorized, told the Japanese, chillingly, that their sacrifice and suffering were “urgent and necessary.” President Clinton declared that the US “owes no apology to Japan”. He, like other US presidents before and since, clung to the disputable notion that the atomic bombings saved at least one million American lives, an argument ably dispatched by Ward Wilson on these pages in 2018.

To date, Barack Obama is the only sitting US president to have visited Hiroshima, when he traveled there in 2016, but he too failed to apologize for the atrocity. There have been plenty of lively debates on this question: Would an apology open up old wounds, focus too much on the past and be an admission of wrongdoing? Would it also open the door to a floodgate of demands for monetary compensation? Or is an official apology an essential atonement, albeit merely symbolic at this late stage? Could an apology lead in turn to meaningful international engagement on global peace?

Slowly, the Hibakusha have been gaining recognition. One of its most famous and outspoken members, Setsuko Thurlow, accepted the Nobel Peace Prize awarded the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) alongside its executive director, Beatrice Fihn, in 2017. 

The award came on the heels of the instrumental role the Hibakusha played in persuading the UN to create the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weaponsnow ratified by 55 countries and counting, five more than the number that ensured it became law this past January. None of the nuclear weapons states, nor Japan, has signed or ratified the treaty.

At the end of the day, the lesson here is the mantra adopted by the nuclear researchers, whistleblowers and watchdogs at Fairewinds Energy Education: “Radiation knows no borders.”

As Fairewinds wrote in the context of the “black rain” verdict: “Radioactive microscopic particles generated from mining uranium ore, reprocessing atomic fuel, bomb tests, and disastrous meltdowns travel well beyond the arbitrary boundaries and demarcation lines that governments establish to limit their liability and to maintain control over others.”

These warnings serve as a compelling reason to neither test nor use atomic weapons and also as a powerful admonition against the continued use of “civil” nuclear power.

Astronauts to Mars – a game of cancer-russian-roulette, especially dangerous to women

September 14, 2021

women were more likely to develop lung cancer than men, suggesting a greater sex-based vulnerability to harmful radiation.

the risk to an astronaut exposed to space radiation is long-term rather than immediate. Without proper shielding (which tends to be rather heavy and thus prohibitively expensive to launch) their chances of developing cancer, as well as cardiovascular disease, cataracts and central nervous system damage, slightly increase each day they are in space. In a person’s cells, space radiation can sever both strands of a DNA molecule’s double helix. And while a few such instances might come with very limited risks, each additional severance raises the odds of developing a harmful mutation that could cause cancer………

New Space Radiation Limits Needed for NASA Astronauts, Report Says, Scientific American, By Ramin Skibba on July 14, 2021   Although meant to minimize risks to human health, the proposed new limits would still be exceeded by any conceivable near-future crewed voyage to MarsAstronaut Scott Kelly famously spent an entire year residing onboard the International Space Station (ISS), about 400 kilometers above Earth, and his NASA colleague Christina Koch spent nearly that long “on station.” Each returned to Earth with slightly atrophied muscles and other deleterious physiological effects from their extended stay in near-zero gravity.

But another, more insidious danger lurks for spacefarers, especially those who venture beyond low-Earth orbit.

Space is filled with invisible yet harmful radiation, most of it sourced from energetic particles ejected by the sun or from cosmic rays created in extreme astrophysical events across the universe. Such radiation can damage an organism’s DNA and other delicate cellular machinery. And the damage increases in proportion to exposure, which is drastically higher beyond the protective cocoon of Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field (such as on notional voyages to the moon or Mars). Over time, the accrued cellular damage significantly raises the risk of developing cancer.

To address the situation, at NASA’s request, a team of top scientists organized by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine published a report in June recommending that the space agency adopt a maximum career-long limit of 600 millisieverts for the space radiation astronauts can receive. The sievert is a unit that measures the amount of radiation absorbed by a person—while accounting for the type of radiation and its impact on particular organs and tissues in the body—and is equivalent to one joule of energy per kilogram of mass. Scientists typically use the smaller (but still quite significant) quantity of the millisievert, or 0.001 sievert. Bananas, for instance, host minute quantities of naturally occurring radioactive isotopes, but to ingest a millisievert’s worth, one would have to eat 10,000 bananas within a couple of hours.

Every current member of NASA’s astronaut corps has received less than 600 millisieverts during their orbital sojourns, and most, including Koch, have received much less and can thus safely return to space. But a year on the ISS still exposes them to more radiation than experienced by residents of Japan who lived near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accidents of 2011.

Everybody is planning trips to the moon and Mars,” and these missions could have high radiation exposures, says Hedvig Hricak, lead author of the report and a radiologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Using current spaceflight-proved technologies, long-distance voyages—especially to the Red Planet—would exceed the proposed threshold, she says.

That could be a big problem for NASA’s Artemis program, which seeks to send astronauts to the moon in preparation for future trips to Mars. Another problem for the space agency is that the epidemiological data it uses mostly come from a longevity study of Japanese survivors of atomic bomb blasts, as well as from the handful of astronauts and cosmonauts who have endured many months or even years in low-Earth orbit. NASA’s current space radiation limit, which was developed in 2014, involves a complicated risk assessment for cancer mortality that depends on age and sex, yet more relevant data are necessary, Hricak argues. In the atomic bomb survivor study, for instance, women were more likely to develop lung cancer than men, suggesting a greater sex-based vulnerability to harmful radiation. “But with the knowledge we presently have, we know we cannot make a comparison between high exposure versus chronic exposure,” Hricak says. “The environment is different. There are so many factors that are different.”

NASA wants to update its standards now because the agency is on the cusp of sending so many astronauts well beyond low-Earth orbit, where greater amounts of space radiation seem destined to exceed previously mandated exposure limits. Furthermore, Hricak says, having a single, universal radiation limit for all space travelers is operationally advantageous because of its simplicity. A universal limit could also be seen as a boon for female astronauts, [ Ed. a boon?when they still are more susceptible to cancer than men are?] who had a lower limit than men in the old system and therefore were barred from spending as many days in space as their male counterparts.

The new radiation limit proposed by Hricak and her team is linked to the risks to all organs of a 35-year-old woman—a demographic deemed most vulnerable in light of gender differences in the atomic bomb survivor data and the fact that younger people have higher radiation risks, partly because they have more time for cancers to develop. The goal of the radiation maximum is to keep an individual below a 3 percent risk of cancer mortality: in other words, with this radiation limit, at most three out of 100 astronauts would be expected to die of radiation-induced cancer in their lifetime.

“NASA uses standards to set spaceflight exposure limits to protect NASA astronauts’ health and performance, both in mission and after mission,” says Dave Francisco of NASA’s Office of the Chief Health and Medical Officer. He acknowledges that, while astronauts on Mars missions would benefit from the thin Martian atmosphere that provides some limited protection, “transit in deep space has the highest exposure levels.”

That means long-haul space trips come with the biggest risks. A stay on the lunar surface for six months or more—presuming, of course, that astronauts eventually have a presence there and do not spend most of their time in subsurface habitats—would involve nearly 200 millisieverts of exposure, a higher amount than an extended visit to the ISS. And an astronaut traveling to Mars would be exposed to even more radiation. Whether they reached the Red Planet through a lunar stopover or on a direct spaceflight, they could have experienced significant radiation exposure en route. Even before they embarked on the trip back home, they could have already exceeded the 600 millisievert limit. The entire voyage, which would likely last a couple of years, could involve well more than 1,000 millisieverts. So if astronauts—and not just robots—will be sent to Mars, NASA likely will need to request waivers for them,

Hricak says, although the exact process for obtaining a waiver has not yet been laid out.

The report’s proposal for a new radiation maximum is not without its critics. “For a mission to Mars, a 35-year-old woman right at that limit could have an over 10 percent chance of dying in 15 to 20 years. To me, this is like playing Russian roulette with the crew,” says Francis Cucinotta, a physicist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and former radiation health officer at NASA. Despite the supposed benefits the new limits would have for female astronauts, he is concerned that the risks are particularly pronounced for younger women in space.

On the contrary, Hricak says, in its request for new limits, NASA has sought to be conservative. The European, Canadian, and Russian space agencies all currently have a higher maximum allowed dose of 1,000 millisieverts, while Japan’s limit is age- and sex-dependent like NASA’s current one, mainly because of a shared dependence on the atomic bomb survivor data.

But unlike someone in the vicinity of a nuclear explosion, the risk to an astronaut exposed to space radiation is long-term rather than immediate. Without proper shielding (which tends to be rather heavy and thus prohibitively expensive to launch) their chances of developing cancer, as well as cardiovascular disease, cataracts and central nervous system damage, slightly increase each day they are in space. In a person’s cells, space radiation can sever both strands of a DNA molecule’s double helix. And while a few such instances might come with very limited risks, each additional severance raises the odds of developing a harmful mutation that could cause cancer………

considering how little is known about various health risks from different kinds of space radiation, compared with radiation we are familiar with on Earth, researchers will surely continue with more studies like these to protect astronauts as much as possible. “I can tell you exactly how much exposure you’re going to get from a CT scan,” Hricak says, “but there are many uncertainties with space radiation.”…..  

The effects of radioactive waste water released into the ocean

June 17, 2021

when radionuclides are present in seawater alongside commonly-occurring metals like copper, the DNA damage caused by radionuclides to the mussels was increased.

the need for transparency when it comes to nuclear technology has never been greater

After all, we are what we eat: our health as a global community depends on the health of the environment, and a contaminated ocean knows no geographical or political borders.

Nuclear power: how might radioactive waste water affect the environment?   Awadhesh Jha
Professor of Genetic Toxicology and Ecotoxicology, University of Plymouth     April 30, 2021
 It’s been just over a decade since the fourth most powerful earthquake of the modern era triggered a tsunami that struck Fukushima on the eastern coastline of Japan, causing thousands of deaths and leaving hundreds of thousands unable to return home. That tsunami was also responsible for the world’s worst nuclear accident since the Chernobyl disaster.

When the 14-metre wave flooded the Fukushima Daiichi plant, it shut down emergency generators, triggering a series of heat-induced meltdowns.Now, the Japanese government’s decision to allow the release of more than one million tonnes of radioactive water from the plant into the ocean has dividedopinion.

Water is a vital tool for all nuclear power stations: it’s used to cool their heat-generating radioactive cores. During the cooling process, the water becomes contaminated with radionuclides – unstable atoms with excess energy – and must be filtered to remove as many radionuclides as possible.

The filtered water is then stored in huge steel tanks or released into nearby bodies of water. As huge amounts of water are required by every plant, most nuclear facilities are built on coastlines – or, in the case of Chernobyl, surrounded by huge lakes. That way, filtered waste water can be discharged into the ocean or lake once it’s been assessed and confirmed safe by authorities.

This is how workers at Fukushima dealt with waste water while the plant was operating. But since the tsunami hit in 2011, authorities have used more than a million tonnes of water to try and cool the plant’s disabled reactors, which are still hot thanks to the long-term release of energy from the nuclear power source. All that radioactive water – which is more contaminated than standard waste water – has to go somewhere. The decision to release it into the oceans is – some would argue – the most pragmatic long-term solution.

What could the impacts be?

The process of filtering and diluting the huge amounts of water to meet safety standards will take a few years to complete. Then, we’d usually expect the water to be released gradually in small volumes through coastal pipelines. That way, any potential effects of releasing the radioactive waste will be minimised. However, the fact is that we don’t know exactly what those effects will be on marine – or human – life, given the sheer volume of water set to be released from the Fukushima plant.

Our own research has shown that a number of marine species could have their DNA damaged through extended exposure to radionuclides in seawater. It’s important to note that our conclusions are mostly drawn from studies in the lab, rather than in the real world; when a nuclear accident takes place, human safety takes priority and biological assessment often takes place decades after the original event.

That being said, our experiments with both marine and freshwater mussels found that when radionuclides are present in seawater alongside commonly-occurring metals like copper, the DNA damage caused by radionuclides to the mussels was increased. Much, much more research is needed to understand the effects of exposure to different types of radionuclides on different species.

In the meantime, anger towards Japan’s decision from fishing communities is understandable. In a world where global dependence on fisheries for food is increasing – and at least 10% of the world’s population depend on fisheries for their livelihood – a potentially contaminated environment could result in a contaminated food chain, raising consumer concerns.

We also know that around 95% of cancers in humans are triggered by exposure to toxic substances present in the environment, food included. If these substances damage genetic material within our cells, that damage must be repaired. Otherwise, the damaged cell either dies or divides. And when the latter happens, the damage – which can cause genetic mutations – is passed on to dividing cells in a process that may lead to diseases like cancer.

If that genetic damage happens to egg or sperm cells, it may be passed down from parent to child, triggering new diseases in future generations. To neutralise these complex threats, it’s key to ensure that only safe levels of nuclear waste are being released into the ocean.

Where do we go from here?

As new nuclear plants emerge in the effort to tackle climate change, the need for transparency when it comes to nuclear technology has never been greater: especially if we are to build public confidence in the benefits of nuclear energy.

When nuclear reactors are mentioned, it’s disasters which tend to spring to mind. Yet considering the long history of nuclear power generation, serious accidents – involving loss of life and severe damage to the environment – are extraordinarily rare. The huge amounts of data gathered from each disaster site have enabled powerful advances in nuclear security, making future accidents even less likely. Meanwhile, waste from the world’s nuclear reactors is being managed safely every day, although long-term solutions to waste disposal still pose a challenge.

Rapidly developing technology like nuclear fusion – mimicking the Sun’s way of generating energy by fusing hydrogen atoms to form helium, and converting that helium into energy – may eventually slash generation of nuclear waste. There’s also room for improvement of our existing nuclear facilities to help minimise waste generation: for example, by forcing radioactive byproducts to decay faster.

But while we still rely on nuclear power, the most urgent priority is to set internationally accepted regulations for radiation exposure levels across different species. After all, we are what we eat: our health as a global community depends on the health of the environment, and a contaminated ocean knows no geographical or political borders.

Restless radioactive remains are still stirring in Chernobyl’s nuclear tomb.

June 17, 2021

‘It’s like the embers in a barbecue pit.’ Nuclear reactions are smoldering again at Chernobyl

By Richard Stone, May. 5, 2021 ,  Thirty-five years after the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine exploded in the world’s worst nuclear accident, fission reactions are smoldering again in uranium fuel masses buried deep inside a mangled reactor hall. “It’s like the embers in a barbecue pit,” says Neil Hyatt, a nuclear materials chemist at the University of Sheffield. Now, Ukrainian scientists are scrambling to determine whether the reactions will wink out on their own—or require extraordinary interventions to avert another accident.

Sensors are tracking a rising number of neutrons, a signal of fission, streaming from one inaccessible room, Anatolii Doroshenko of the Institute for Safety Problems of Nuclear Power Plants (ISPNPP) in Kyiv, Ukraine, reported last week during discussions about dismantling the reactor. “There are many uncertainties,” says ISPNPP’s Maxim Saveliev. “But we can’t rule out the possibility of [an] accident.”

The neutron counts are rising slowly, Saveliev says, suggesting managers still have a few years to figure out how to stifle the threat. Any remedy he and his colleagues come up with will be of keen interest to Japan, which is coping with the aftermath of its own nuclear disaster 10 years ago at Fukushima, Hyatt notes. “It’s a similar magnitude of hazard.”

The specter of self-sustaining fission, or criticality, in the nuclear ruins has long haunted Chernobyl. When part of the Unit Four reactor’s core melted down on 26 April 1986, uranium fuel rods, their zirconium cladding, graphite control rods, and sand dumped on the core to try to extinguish the fire melted together into a lava. It flowed into the reactor hall’s basement rooms and hardened into formations called fuel-containing materials (FCMs), which are laden with about 170 tons of irradiated uranium—95% of the original fuel.

The concrete-and-steel sarcophagus called the Shelter, erected 1 year after the accident to house Unit Four’s remains, allowed rainwater to seep in. Because water slows, or moderates, neutrons and thus enhances their odds of striking and splitting uranium nuclei, heavy rains would sometimes send neutron counts soaring. After a downpour in June 1990, a “stalker”—a scientist at Chernobyl who risks radiation exposure to venture into the damaged reactor hall—dashed in and sprayed gadolinium nitrate solution, which absorbs neutrons, on an FCM that he and his colleagues feared might go critical. Several years later, the plant installed gadolinium nitrate sprinklers in the Shelter’s roof. But the spray can’t effectively penetrate some basement rooms.

Chernobyl officials presumed any criticality risk would fade when the massive New Safe Confinement (NSC) was slid over the Shelter in November 2016. The €1.5 billion structure was meant to seal off the Shelter so it could be stabilized and eventually dismantled. The NSC also keeps out the rain, and ever since its emplacement, neutron counts in most areas in the Shelter have been stable or are declining.

But they began to edge up in a few spots, nearly doubling over 4 years in room 305/2, which contains tons of FCMs buried under debris. ISPNPP modeling suggests the drying of the fuel is somehow making neutrons ricocheting through it more, rather than less, effective at splitting uranium nuclei. “It’s believable and plausible data,” Hyatt says. “It’s just not clear what the mechanism might be.”

The threat can’t be ignored. As water continues to recede, the fear is that “the fission reaction accelerates exponentially,” Hyatt says, leading to “an uncontrolled release of nuclear energy.” There’s no chance of a repeat of 1986, when the explosion and fire sent a radioactive cloud over Europe. A runaway fission reaction in an FCM could sputter out after heat from fission boils off the remaining water. Still, Saveliev notes, although any explosive reaction would be contained, it could threaten to bring down unstable parts of the rickety Shelter, filling the NSC with radioactive dust.

Addressing the newly unmasked threat is a daunting challenge. Radiation levels in 305/2 preclude getting close enough to install sensors. And spraying gadolinium nitrate on the nuclear debris there is not an option, as it’s entombed under concrete. One idea is to develop a robot that can withstand the intense radiation for long enough to drill holes in the FCMs and insert boron cylinders, which would function like control rods and sop up neutrons. In the meantime, ISPNPP intends to step up monitoring of two other areas where FCMs have the potential to go critical.

The resurgent fission reactions are not the only challenge facing Chernobyl’s keepers. Besieged by intense radiation and high humidity, the FCMs are disintegrating—spawning even more radioactive dust that complicates plans to dismantle the Shelter. Early on, an FCM formation called the Elephant’s Foot was so hard scientists had to use a Kalashnikov rifle to shear off a chunk for analysis. “Now it more or less has the consistency of sand,” Saveliev says.

Ukraine has long intended to remove the FCMs and store them in a geological repository. By September, with help from European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, it aims to have a comprehensive plan for doing so. But with life still flickering within the Shelter, it may be harder than ever to bury the reactor’s restless remains.