Archive for the ‘safety’ Category

Playing with fire at Chornobyl — Beyond Nuclear International

April 30, 2022

Will we avoid a deadly sequel?

Playing with fire at Chornobyl — Beyond Nuclear International

After 36 years the nuclear site is again in danger  https://beyondnuclearinternational.org/2022/04/24/playing-with-fire-at-chornobyl/

By Linda Pentz Gunter

For 36 years things had been quiet at Chornobyl. Not uneventful. Not safe. But no one was warning of “another Chornobyl” until Russian forces took over the site on February 24 of this year.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine first took their troops through the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone, where they rolled armored vehicles across radioactive terrain, also trampled by foot soldiers who kicked up radioactive dust, raising the radiation levels in the area.

As the Russians arrived at the Chornobyl nuclear site, it quickly became apparent that their troops were unprotected against radiation exposure and indeed many were even unaware of where they were or what Chornobyl represented. We later learned that they had dug trenches in the highly radioactive Red Forest, and even camped there.

After just over a month, the Russians pulled out. Was this to re-direct troops to now more strategically desirable — or possibly more reasonably achievable — targets? Or was it because, as press reports suggested, their troops were falling ill in significant numbers, showing signs of radiation sickness? Those troops were whisked away to Belarus and the Russians aren’t talking. But rumors persist that at least one soldier has already succumbed to his exposure.

Plant workers at the nuclear site, despite working as virtual hostages during the Russian occupation and in a state of perpetual anxiety, where shocked that even the Russian radiation experts subsequently sent in, were, like the young soldiers, using no protective equipment. It was, said one, a kind of suicide mission.

What could have happened at Chornobyl — and still could, given the war is by no means over and the outcome still uncertain — could have seen history repeat itself, almost 36 years to the day of that first April 26, 1986 disaster.

Yet, Chornobyl has no operating reactors. So why is it still a risk? Doesn’t the so-called New Safe Confinement (NSC) structure protect the site?

The $2.3 billion NSC was built to cover over the original and crumbling old sarcophagus that had encased the lethal cargo left behind after the April 26, 1986 explosion of Unit 4.

Supposed to last just 100 years, that still inadequate timeframe was thrown into jeopardy as a reported firefight broke out prior to the Russian takeover. Fears arose that the shocks and vibrations of repeated shelling and artillery fire could cause the NSC to crack or crumble.

Housed inside the NSC is the destroyed Unit 4 as well as 200 metric tonnes of uranium, plutonium, irradiated dust, solid and liquid fuel, and a molten slurry of uranium fuel rods, zirconium cladding, graphite control rods, and melted sand. 

The fuel lump from Unit 4, sitting inaccessible on a basement floor, remains unstable. In May 2021, there was a sudden and baffling escalation of activity there and a rise in neutrons, evoking fears of a chain reaction or even another explosion.

All of these volatile fuels and waste inventories still depend on cooling pumps to keep them cool. And those cooling pumps depend on power.

However, not everything at the site is within the NSC.

Units 1, 2 and 3 are not yet fully decommissioned and likely won’t be until at least 2064. Even though their fuel has been cooling for 20 years, it cannot go indefinitely without power. And managing it necessitates skilled, and unharried, personnel. 

Loss of power threatens the ISF-1 spent nuclear fuel pool where much of the waste fuel is still stored. As nuclear engineer, Dave Lochbaum, described it in an email, “If forced cooling is lost, the decay heat will warm the water until it boils or until the heat dissipated by convective and conduction allows equilibrium to be established at a higher, but not boiling, point.

“If the pool boils, the spent fuel remains sufficiently cooled until the water level drops below the top of the fuel assemblies.”

At that point, however, adds Union of Concerned Scientists physicist, Ed Lyman, “a serious condition in the ISF-1 spent nuclear fuel pool” could occur. “However, because the spent fuel has cooled for a couple of decades there would be many days to intervene before the spent fuel was exposed.”

At the time of the invasion, workers at the site had been engaged in moving the full radioactive waste inventory from all 4 of the Chornobyl reactors, from the common fuel pool to the ISF-2 facility where it will be dismantled and put into long-term storage casks. It is unclear whether this operation was halted, but likely so.

Fire also remains a significant risk at the site. The massive 2020 wildfire that reached the perimeter of the Chornobyl plant site, occurred in April, well before the dry season. Military combat clearly invites the risk of igniting a lethal fire. 

Indeed, the entire region, known as the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone, is a tinderbox. As Dr. Tim Mousseau and his research team discovered, dead wood and leaf litter on the forest floors is not decaying properly, likely because the microbes and other organisms that drive the process of decay are reduced or gone due to their own prolonged exposure to radiation.

As leaf litter and organic matter build up, the risk of ignition increases. There have been several hundred fires in the Zone already, sometimes, incomprehensibly, deliberately started. The explosions of war fighting could spark another. Indeed, stories did emerge about fires during the Russian occupation, their origin unclear.

But even without military attacks or destruction of the site, it was still at risk, especially when offsite power was lost, twice, raising fears of a potential catastrophe if emergency on-site power — consisting of diesel generators — did not work or ran out of fuel. Later reports revealed that plant workers had taken to stealing Russian fuel to keep those generators running.

Meanwhile, the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine (SNRIU) had lost complete contact with its Chornobyl workforce. As days dragged into weeks, the SNRIU legitimately worried that an exhausted workforce, going without shift changes and operating under duress and potentially fear, could lead to mistakes that could prove deadly.

It was, after all, human error that had contributed to the first Chornobyl catastrophe.

On March 17, the SNRIU reported, “There is no information on the real situation at the Chornobyl NPP site, as there is no contact with the NPP personnel present directly at the site for the 22nd day in a row without rotation.”

Radiation monitors had remained off since the Russian occupation, leaving authorities and the public in the dark should there be any significant release of radioactivity as a result of damage at the site inflicted by military conflict or other causes.

Repeating a warning that had become a daily one on the SNRIU website, the agency concluded: “Given the psychological, moral, and physical fatigue of the personnel, as well as the absence of day-time and repair staff, maintenance and repair activities of equipment important to the safety of the facilities at the Chornobyl NPP site are not carried out, which may lead to the reduction of its reliability, which in turn can lead to equipment failures, emergencies, and accidents.”

Finally, a month into the occupation, a partial shift change was allowed. Workers could go home and rest. But almost immediately, the Russians attacked the nearby worker town of Slavutych, terrorizing the workforce and leaving at least three dead according to press reports.

Some personnel, including security guards, chose to stay on at the site. With good reason, they perhaps feared that the Russian occupying force would behave irresponsibly at a site that houses lethal cargos.

Sure enough, on March 24 stories emerged that Russian forces at Chornobyl may have “looted and destroyed a laboratory near the abandoned Chernobyl nuclear power plant that was used to monitor radioactive waste,” according to CNN and other news sources. 

The laboratory, which conducts research into radioactive waste management, houses radioactive materials that may then have fallen into Russian hands.

The State Agency of Ukraine for Exclusion Zone Management, which announced the attack, went further in wishing “the enemy today…will harm himself, not the civilized world.”

And now here we are, just days away from the 36th commemoration of that terrible day in 1986. Still watching. Still waiting. Still holding our breath. The war is neither over, nor won by either side. The Chornobyl site, possibly now more radioactive than in the immediate past, sits like a ticking time bomb. Along with too many unanswered — and unanswerable — questions. 

Who will protect it? Will it be spared further assault? And will the word Chornobyl come to mark a new nuclear catastrophe 36 years after the first?

Nuclear waste management: Is Finland’s Onkalo facility safe?

April 30, 2022

Nuclear waste management: Is Finland’s Onkalo facility safe?  https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/science-technology/nuclear-waste-management-is-finland-s-onkalo-facility-safe–82252 6 Apr 22,

The facility, set to begin operation in 2024, isn’t based on a foolproof concept

Finland, a nuclear energy champion, claimed it has figured out how to tackle one of the bigger issues with nuclear energy: Safely managing radioactive  waste. 

The country plans to store its nuclear waste in an underground facility called Onkalo. The structure, named after the Finnish word for “pit”, is a 500-meter-deep underground disposal facility designed to store used nuclear fuel permanently. 

The deep geological repository is usually built in places containing a stable rock.Finland can become the first to commission a plant to permanently store spent nuclear fuel. The idea is to encase the waste in corrosion-resistant copper canisters. These will be further encapsulated in a layer of water-absorbing clay. The setup will be buried in an underground tunnel. 

The facility is now equipped with 500 sensors to monitor the functioning of the entire system, according to VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd, a state-owned company and one of the contributors to the project.

“Monitoring brings evidence that the repository will be keeping the outside world safe from the nuclear fuel waste,” Arto Laikari, senior scientist from VTT, said. The state-owned company’s collaborator Posiva, a Finnish nuclear waste management organisation, has submitted the operating license for the facility and is awaiting approval.

In 2023, Posiva will do a final trial run of the disposal mechanism but without radioactive material, Erika Holt, project manager from VTT, told Down To Earth. It is expected to begin operations in 2024.

Problem of disposing nuclear waste

For years, the nuclear industry has been trying to find solutions to the waste problem. They are generated at various steps during the nuclear life cycle: Mining uranium ore, producing uranium fuel and generating power in the reactor.

The waste can remain radioactive for a few hours, several months or even hundreds of thousands of years. Depending on the extent of radioactivity, nuclear wastes are categorised as low-, intermediate- and high-level waste. 

About 97 per cent of the waste is either low- or intermediate-level. The remaining is high-level waste, such as used or spent uranium fuel. 

A 1,000-megawatt plant creates about 30 tonnes of high-level nuclear waste every year, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“Even at low levels, exposure to this waste will be harmful to people and other living organisms as long as it remains radioactive,” Ramana explained.

Global endeavours

Some nations are storing waste on-site. But it carries the risk of radioactive leakage. In the United States, for instance, spent fuel is stored in a concrete-and-steel container called a dry cask, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

India and a handful of other nations reprocess about 97-98 per cent of the spent nuclear fuel to recover plutonium and uranium, according to data from the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre. 


India also recovers other materials like caesium, strontium and ruthenium, which finds application as blood irradiators to screen transfusions, cancer treatment and eye cancer therapeutics, respectively, according to the research institute. 

The remaining 1-3 per cent end up in a storage facility. India also immobilises the wastes by mixing them with glass, which is kept under surveillance in storage facilities.

But there are problems with this approach as well. Except for the plutonium and uranium, all the radioactive material present in the spent fuel is redistributed among different waste streams, Ramana said. “These enter the environment sooner or later.”

The plutonium and uranium intended for reuse in other nuclear reactors will also turn into radioactive waste, he added. 

Nations like Finland, Canada, France and Sweden are also looking at deep geological repositories to tackle spent nuclear fuel wastes. 

In January 2022, the Swedish government greenlit an underground repository for nuclear waste. Construction in Sweden will take at least 10 more years, Johan Swahn, director of MKG Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear Waste Review, a non-governmental environmental organisation, said.

Finland can share its experience with colleagues and partners worldwide, Holt said. “But each country and programme must have their own solutions. Worldwide, we work together to show nuclear energy (and the holistic views for responsible waste management) are viable for meeting CO2 targets,” she added.

Is the approach safe?

Experts associated with the project said that 40-years of theoretical and lab-based studies suggest that the geological repository is safe.

The bedrock provides a natural barrier to protect from radioactive release to the environment, such as water bodies and air, Holt explained.

The use of clay and copper provides a protective layer to ensure no release due to extreme conditions like earthquakes.

But Ramana argues that theoretical safety studies are not foolproof. There are significant uncertainties stemming from various long-term natural processes. These include climate change and the unpredictability of human behaviour over these long periods of time, he added. 

Besides, design failure could undermine claims about safety, the expert noted. For instance, a few scientists fear that copper canisters can become corrosive and crack.

Finland’s team chose copper because it corrodes slowly. But Peter Szakálos, a chemist at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, is not quite sure.

In a 2007 study, Szakálos and his team observed that copper could corrode in pure, oxygen-free water. “It’s just a matter of time — anything from decades to centuries — before unalloyed copper canisters start to crack at Onkalo,” he told Science journal.

On February 14, 2014, radioactive materials such as americium and plutonium leaked out of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, a deep geological long-lived radioactive waste repository, following an accident. The facility dealt solely with a special class of wastes from nuclear weapons production.

“If a failure like this happened within two decades of opening the repository, what are the odds that such failures won’t happen over the millennia that these repositories [Finland’s Onkalo] are supposed to operate safely?”

Both the Finnish project and the Swedish decision are very important for the international nuclear industry because the latter can point to these facilities to prove the nuclear waste problem is solved, Swahn said. “But it is very uncertain whether copper as a container material is a good idea.”

The projects may still fail as the understanding of how copper behaves in a repository environment is still developing, the expert added.

The importance of continuous cooling of nuclear spent fuel

April 30, 2022

Despite reassurances by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that
there is no imminent safety threat posed by the power isolation, it is
important to understand the potential impact going forward.

When nuclear
fuel is removed from the core of a reactor, it is redesignated as
“spent” nuclear fuel and often treated as a waste product for disposal.
But fuel will continue to dissipate heat due to radioactive decay, even
after being removed from the reactor core.

It is therefore of foremost
importance that the spent fuel material contained at the Chernobyl site is
adequately and continuously cooled to prevent a release of radioactivity.
At Chernobyl, as well as other sites, standard procedures to safely handle
such material involves placing the fuel into water-filled ponds, which
shield the near-field environment from radiation.

They also provide a
medium for heat transfer from the fuel to the water via continuous
circulation of fresh, cool water. If circulation is compromised, such as
the recent power shutdowns, the fuel will continue to emit heat. This can
make the surrounding coolant water evaporate – leaving nothing to soak up
the radiation from the fuel. It would therefore leak out to the
surroundings.

 The Conversation 10th March 2022

https://theconversation.com/chernobyl-and-zaporizhzhia-power-cuts-nervous-wait-as-ukraine-nuclear-power-plants-could-start-leaking-radiation-178975

The very perilous situation of Ukraine’s nuclear power stations.

April 30, 2022

Could the Ukraine conflict cause one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters?

ReNew Economy, Dr. Jim Green 3 March 2022

Over the past week the Russian military has taken control of the Chernobyl nuclear site in Ukraine and there have been two near-misses with military attacks threatening radioactive waste sites.

But the greatest nuclear hazards lie ahead and concern Ukraine’s operating nuclear power reactors. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said on March 2:

“The situation in Ukraine is unprecedented and I continue to be gravely concerned. It is the first time a military conflict is happening amidst the facilities of a large, established nuclear power program.

“I have called for restraint from all measures or actions that could jeopardise the security of nuclear and other radioactive material, and the safe operation of any nuclear facilities in Ukraine, because any such incident could have severe consequences, aggravating human suffering and causing environmental harm.”

Grossi cited a 2009 decision by the IAEA General Conference that affirmed that “any armed attack on and threat against nuclear facilities devoted to peaceful purposes constitutes a violation of the principles of the United Nations Charter, international law and the Statute of the Agency.”

Over the past week the Russian military has taken control of the Chernobyl nuclear site in Ukraine and there have been two near-misses with military attacks threatening radioactive waste sites.

But the greatest nuclear hazards lie ahead and concern Ukraine’s operating nuclear power reactors. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said on March 2:

“The situation in Ukraine is unprecedented and I continue to be gravely concerned. It is the first time a military conflict is happening amidst the facilities of a large, established nuclear power program.

“I have called for restraint from all measures or actions that could jeopardise the security of nuclear and other radioactive material, and the safe operation of any nuclear facilities in Ukraine, because any such incident could have severe consequences, aggravating human suffering and causing environmental harm.”

Grossi cited a 2009 decision by the IAEA General Conference that affirmed that “any armed attack on and threat against nuclear facilities devoted to peaceful purposes constitutes a violation of the principles of the United Nations Charter, international law and the Statute of the Agency.”

Worst-case scenario

It’s worthwhile comparing a worst-case scenario with the current situation in Ukraine. A worst-case scenario would involve war between two (or more) even-matched nations with a heavy reliance on nuclear power. War would drag on for years between evenly-matched nations. The heavy reliance on nuclear power would make it difficult or impossible to shut down power reactors.

Sooner or later, a deliberate or accidental military strike would likely hit a reactor – or the reactor’s essential power and cooling water supply would be disrupted. Any ‘gentleman’s agreement’ not to strike nuclear power plants would be voided and multiple Chernobyl- or Fukushima-scale disasters could unfold concurrently – in addition to all the non-nuclear horrors of war.

In the current conflict, the nations are not evenly matched and the fighting is limited to one country. There won’t be large-scale warfare dragging on for years – although low-level conflict might persist for years, as has been the case since Russia’s 2014 invasion of eastern Ukraine and Crimea.

Ukraine does share one component of a worst-case scenario: its heavy reliance on nuclear power. Fifteen reactors at four sites generate 51.2 percent of the country’s electricity. It is one of only three countries reliant on nuclear power for more than half of its electricity supply.

A March 1 IAEA update, citing the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine (SNRIU), said that all 15 reactors remained under the Ukrainian control and they continued to operate.

But in its daily post dated March 1, SNRIU lists six reactors as ‘disconnected from the power grid’, comprising three reactors at Zaporizhzhia and one each at the Rivno, Khmelnitsky and South Ukrainian nuclear power plants. Those disconnections amount to about 20 per cent of Ukraine’s total national electricity generation.

In the weeks prior to the February 24 invasion, 0-3 reactors were disconnected. The number rose to five on February 26 and has remained at six since then. It seems likely that the invasion has resulted in decisions to disconnect a number of reactors. Ukraine’s nuclear utility Energoatom cites “operational safety” for the disconnection of two reactors at Zaporizhzhia.

Even before the Russian invasion, Ukraine’s reactor fleet was ageing, its nuclear industry was corrupt, regulation was inadequate, and nuclear security measures left much room for improvement. For the time being, it is highly unlikely there will be any meaningful national or international oversight or regulation of the country’s ageing reactors and other nuclear facilities.

Deliberate or accidental military strikes on nuclear plants

A deliberate military strike on a power reactor is highly unlikely – but not inconceivable. Bennett Ramberg, a former foreign affairs officer in the US State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, and author of the 1985 book Nuclear Power Plants as Weapons for the Enemy, draws this comparison:

Over the past week the Russian military has taken control of the Chernobyl nuclear site in Ukraine and there have been two near-misses with military attacks threatening radioactive waste sites.

But the greatest nuclear hazards lie ahead and concern Ukraine’s operating nuclear power reactors. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said on March 2:

“The situation in Ukraine is unprecedented and I continue to be gravely concerned. It is the first time a military conflict is happening amidst the facilities of a large, established nuclear power program.

“I have called for restraint from all measures or actions that could jeopardise the security of nuclear and other radioactive material, and the safe operation of any nuclear facilities in Ukraine, because any such incident could have severe consequences, aggravating human suffering and causing environmental harm.”

Grossi cited a 2009 decision by the IAEA General Conference that affirmed that “any armed attack on and threat against nuclear facilities devoted to peaceful purposes constitutes a violation of the principles of the United Nations Charter, international law and the Statute of the Agency.”

It’s worthwhile comparing a worst-case scenario with the current situation in Ukraine. A worst-case scenario would involve war between two (or more) even-matched nations with a heavy reliance on nuclear power. War would drag on for years between evenly-matched nations. The heavy reliance on nuclear power would make it difficult or impossible to shut down power reactors.

Sooner or later, a deliberate or accidental military strike would likely hit a reactor – or the reactor’s essential power and cooling water supply would be disrupted. Any ‘gentleman’s agreement’ not to strike nuclear power plants would be voided and multiple Chernobyl- or Fukushima-scale disasters could unfold concurrently – in addition to all the non-nuclear horrors of war.

In the current conflict, the nations are not evenly matched and the fighting is limited to one country. There won’t be large-scale warfare dragging on for years – although low-level conflict might persist for years, as has been the case since Russia’s 2014 invasion of eastern Ukraine and Crimea.

Ukraine does share one component of a worst-case scenario: its heavy reliance on nuclear power. Fifteen reactors at four sites generate 51.2 percent of the country’s electricity. It is one of only three countries reliant on nuclear power for more than half of its electricity supply.

https://859c531ab04a809b66ef34ff9aac339f.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

A March 1 IAEA update, citing the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine (SNRIU), said that all 15 reactors remained under the Ukrainian control and they continued to operate.

But in its daily post dated March 1, SNRIU lists six reactors as ‘disconnected from the power grid’, comprising three reactors at Zaporizhzhia and one each at the Rivno, Khmelnitsky and South Ukrainian nuclear power plants. Those disconnections amount to about 20 per cent of Ukraine’s total national electricity generation.

In the weeks prior to the February 24 invasion, 0-3 reactors were disconnected. The number rose to five on February 26 and has remained at six since then. It seems likely that the invasion has resulted in decisions to disconnect a number of reactors. Ukraine’s nuclear utility Energoatom cites “operational safety” for the disconnection of two reactors at Zaporizhzhia.

Even before the Russian invasion, Ukraine’s reactor fleet was ageing, its nuclear industry was corrupt, regulation was inadequate, and nuclear security measures left much room for improvement. For the time being, it is highly unlikely there will be any meaningful national or international oversight or regulation of the country’s ageing reactors and other nuclear facilities.

Deliberate or accidental military strikes on nuclear plants

A deliberate military strike on a power reactor is highly unlikely – but not inconceivable. Bennett Ramberg, a former foreign affairs officer in the US State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, and author of the 1985 book Nuclear Power Plants as Weapons for the Enemy, draws this comparison:

“A case in point was the March 26, 2017, bombing of the Islamic State-held Tabqa Dam in Syria. Standing 18 stories high and holding back a 25-mile-long reservoir on the Euphrates River, the dam’s destruction would have drowned tens of thousands of innocent people downstream. Yet, violating strict “no-strike” orders and bypassing safeguards, US airmen struck it anyway. Dumb luck saved the day again: the bunker-busting bomb failed to detonate.”

An accidental strike is a troubling possibility. Or a strike disabling the vital power and cooling water supply systems which are necessary to maintain safety even after reactors are shut down.

Spent fuel cooling ponds and dry stores are vulnerable – they often contain more radioactivity than the reactors themselves, but without the multiple engineered layers of containment that reactors typically have.

And if there is an attack on a reactor or spent fuel store resulting in disaster, response measures would likely be chaotic and woefully inadequate. Forbes senior contributor Craig Hooper writes:

“It seems unlikely that Russia has mobilised trained reactor operators and prepared reactor crisis-management teams to take over any ‘liberated’ power plants. The heroic measures that kept the Chernobyl nuclear accident and Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster from becoming far more damaging events just will not happen in a war zone.”

Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant is home to six reactors and lies near one of Russia’s main invasion routes, north of Crimea. As noted above, three of the six reactors have been disconnected in recent days.

The plant was contentious long before the recent invasion due to mismanagement and the ageing of the Soviet-era reactors. A 2017 Austrian government assessment of Zaporizhzhia concluded that: “The documents provided and available lead to the conclusion that a high probability exists for accident scenarios to develop into a severe accident that threatens the integrity of the containment and results in a large release.”………………………………

Staffing

A single-reactor nuclear power plant typically employs 600-800 people. Presumably the workforce at the six-reactor Zaporizhzhia plant is considerably higher.

If not already, nuclear staff are likely to be killed when not at work, and others will flee and get as far away from the fighting – and the nuclear power plant – as they can.

If Russia’s military takes control of the site – and does so without causing a nuclear disaster – they could repeat what they have done at Chernobyl in recent days: keep Ukrainian staff hostage and force them to work under Russian control……………

The adequacy of backup generators at Zaporizhzhia has long been a concern as detailed in a March 2 Greenpeace International report. In 2020, the Ukrainian NGO EcoAction received information from nuclear industry whistleblowers about problems with the generators at Zaporizhzhia, including a lack of spare parts.

In the same year, the regulator SNRIU reported on a generator malfunction. An upgrade of the generators was due to be complete by 2017 but the completion date has been pushed back to 2023, i.e. it remains incomplete.

Security at Zaporizhzhia was jeopardised in 2014 when an armed confrontation took place between security guards and paramilitaries from Ukraine’s ultra-nationalist ‘right sector’, allied with neo-Nazi groups. The gunmen wanted to ‘protect’ the plant from pro-Russian forces, the Guardian reported, but were stopped by guards at a checkpoint.

The head of SNRIU said in 2015: “I cannot say what could be done to completely protect [nuclear] installations from attack, except to build them on Mars.”

International monitors

Energoatom CEO Petro Kotin called on international monitors to intervene to ensure the safety of the country’s nuclear reactors and to create 30km exclusion zones around the four nuclear power plants.

Energoatom noted in a statement that columns of military equipment have been moving near nuclear power plants with “shells exploding near the nuclear power plant – this can lead to highly undesirable threats across the planet”.

The Acting Chief State Inspector of SNRIU has asked the IAEA to provide immediate assistance in coordinating activities in relation to the safety of nuclear facilities. The IAEA noted that Director General Grossi “will be holding consultations and maintain contacts in order to address this request”.

But the request for assistance in establishing an exclusion zone has been rejected by the IAEA. “The IAEA has no power to enforce an exclusion zone,” Grossi said following an emergency IAEA session on March 2………………………


Nuclear waste

The report by Greenpeace International nuclear specialists notes that as of 2017, Zaporizhzhia had 2,204 tons of spent fuel in storage at the site – 855 tonnes in the spent fuel pools within the reactor buildings, and 1,349 tonnes in a dry storage facility.

The spent fuel pools contain far more radioactivity than the dry store. Without active cooling, the pools risk overheating and evaporating to a point where the fuel metal cladding could ignite and release much of the radioactive inventory. Damage to the reservoirs which supply cooling water to Zaporizhzhia could disrupt cooling of reactors and spent fuel.


The Guardian reported in 2015 that the dry store at Zaporizhzhia is sub-standard, with more than 3,000 spent nuclear fuel rods in metal casks within concrete containers in an open-air yard close to a perimeter fence.

Neil Hyatt, a professor of radioactive waste management at Sheffield University, told the Guardian that a dry storage container with a resilient roof and in-house ventilation would offer greater protection from missile bombardment.

Cyber-warfare

Cyber-warfare is another risk which could jeopardise the safe operation of nuclear plants. Russia is one of the growing number of states actively engaged in cyber-warfare. James Acton from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace notes that a Russian cyber-attack disrupted power supply in Ukraine in 2015.


Nuclear facilities have repeatedly been targets of cyber-attack, including the Stuxnet computer virus targeted by Israel and the US to disrupt Iran’s uranium enrichment centrifuges in 2009.

Reports from the UK-based Chatham House and the US-based Nuclear Threat Initiative have identified multiple computer security concerns specific to nuclear power plants.

Waste storage and disposal sites

Missiles hit a radioactive waste storage site near Kyiv on February 27. The IAEA stated in a March 1 update:……………………..


The Kyiv and Kharkiv facilities typically hold disused radioactive sources and other low-level waste from hospitals and industry, the IAEA said, but do not contain high-level nuclear waste. However the Kharkiv site may also store spent nuclear fuel from the research reactor.

Dr. Jim Green is the national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth Australia.

RenewEconomy

Nuclear incidents and meltdowns – far more than we realised

April 30, 2022
THe diagram above is quite inadequate. Read on.

Incidents AND MELTDOWNS AND THERE ARE FAR MORE THAN WE REALISED
FUKUSHIMA
CHERNOBYL SELLAFIELD THE INLAND SANTA SUSANA FIRES SANTA SUSANNA MELTDOWNS. INCIDENTS ANS WILDFIRES AT LOS ALAMOS
WILD FIRES AT HANFORD
THE GREEN RUN
THE NUCLEAR MELTDOWN IN 1969 IN SWITZERLAND
The recent chinese reactor nuclear incident.

INCIDENTS 1957 to 2011

with multiple fatalitIies

September 29, 1957 Mayak, Kyshtym, Soviet Union The Kyshtym disaster was a radiation contamination accident (after a chemical explosion that occurred within a storage tank) at Mayak, a Nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in the Soviet Union.

October 10, 1957 Sellafield, Cumberland, United Kingdom Windscale fire was a fire at the British atomic bomb project (in a plutonium-production-reactor) damaged the core and released an estimated 740 terabecquerels of iodine-131 into the environment. A rudimentary smoke filter constructed over the main outlet chimney successfully prevented a far worse radiation leak.

MarchJuly 1959 ,  Santa Susana Field Lab ,  Western San Fernando Valley, USA. At least four of the ten nuclear reactors suffered accidents incl Partial meltdown, 1964, 1969 further accidents

January 3, 1961 Idaho Falls, Idaho, United States Explosion at SL-1 prototype at the National Reactor Testing Station. All 3 operators were killed when a control rod was removed too far.

October 5, 1966 Frenchtown Charter Township, Michigan, United States Meltdown of some fuel elements in the Fermi 1 Reactor at the Enrico Fermi Nuclear Generating Station. Little radiation leakage into the environment

January 21, 1969 Lucens reactor, Vaud, Switzerland On January 21, 1969, it suffered a loss-of-coolant accident, leading to meltdown of one fuel element and radioactive contamination of the cavern, which before was sealed.
December 7, 1975 Greifswald, East Germany Electrical error in Greifswald Nuclear Power Plant causes fire in the main trough that destroys control lines and five main coolant pumps

January 5, 1976 Jaslovské Bohunice, Czechoslovakia Malfunction during fuel replacement. Fuel rod ejected from reactor into the reactor hall by coolant

March 28, 1979 Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania, United States Loss of coolant and partial core meltdown due to operator errors and technical flaws. There is a small release of radioactive gases.

September 15, 1984 Athens, Alabama, United States Safety violations, operator error and design problems force a six-year outage at Browns Ferry Unit 2

March 9, 1985 Athens, Alabama, United States Instrumentation systems malfunction during startup, which led to suspension of operations at all three Browns Ferry

April 11, 1986 Plymouth, Massachusetts, United States Recurring equipment problems force emergency shutdown of Boston Edison’s Pilgrim Nuclear Power

April 26, 1986 Chernobyl, Chernobyl Raion (Now Ivankiv Raion), Kiev Oblast, Ukraininan SSR, Soviet Union A flawed reactor design and inadequate safety procedures led to a power surge that damaged the fuel rods of reactor no. 4 of the Chernobyl power plant. This caused an explosion and meltdown, necessitating the evacuation of 300,000 people and dispersing radioactive material across Europe (see Effects of the Chernobyl disaster).
Around 5% (5200 PBq) of the core was released into the atmosphere and downwind.

May 4, 1986 Hamm-Uentrop, West Germany Experimental THTR-300 reactor releases small amounts of fission products (0.1 GBq Co-60, Cs-137, Pa-233) to surrounding area 0 267
December 9, 1986 Surry, Virginia, United States Feedwater pipe break at Surry Nuclear Power Plant kills 4 workers 4
March 31, 1987 Delta, Pennsylvania, United States Peach Bottom units 2 and 3 shutdown due to cooling malfunctions and unexplained equipment problems 0 400

December 19, 1987 Lycoming, New York, United States Malfunctions force Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation to shut down Nine Mile Point Unit 1 0 150
March 17, 1989 Lusby, Maryland, United States Inspections at Calvert Cliff Units 1 and 2 reveal cracks at pressurized heater sleeves

October 19, 1989 Vandellòs, Spain A fire damaged the cooling system in unit 1 of the Vandellòs nuclear power plant, getting the core close to meltdown. The cooling system was restored before the meltdown but the unit had to be shut down due to the elevated cost of the repair

March 1992 Sosnovyi Bor, Leningrad Oblast, Russia An accident at the Sosnovy Bor nuclear plant leaked radioactive iodine into the air through a ruptured fuel channel.

February 20, 1996 Waterford, Connecticut, United States Leaking valve forces shutdown Millstone Nuclear Power Plant Units 1 and 2, multiple equipment failures found 0 254
September 2, 1996 Crystal River, Florida, United States Balance-of-plant equipment malfunction forces shutdown and extensive repairs at Crystal River

September 30, 1999 Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan Tokaimura nuclear accident killed two workers, and exposed one more to radiation levels above permissible limits.

February 16, 2002 Oak Harbor, Ohio, United States Severe corrosion of reactor vessel head forces 24-month outage of Davis-Besse reactor

April 10, 2003 Paks, Hungary Collapse of fuel rods at Paks Nuclear Power Plant unit 2 during its corrosion cleaning led to leakage of radioactive gases. It remained inactive for 18 months.

August 9, 2004 Fukui Prefecture, Japan Steam explosion at Mihama Nuclear Power Plant kills 4 workers and injures 7

July 25, 2006 Forsmark, Sweden An electrical fault at Forsmark Nuclear Power Plant caused multiple failures in safety systems that had the reactor to cool down

March 11, 2011 3 meltdowns Fukushima, Japan A tsunami flooded and damaged the plant’s 3 active reactors, drowning two workers. Loss of backup electrical power led to overheating, meltdowns, and evacuations.] One man died suddenly while carrying equipment during the clean-up. The plant’s reactors Nr. 4, 5 and 6 were inactive at the time.

September 12, 2011 Marcoule, France One person was killed and four injured, one seriously, in a blast at the Marcoule Nuclear Site. The explosion took place in a furnace used to melt metallic waste.

And this is the tip of the iceberg

Anniversary Of The Night Nuclear Bombs Fell Near Goldsboro  

April 30, 2022

Anniversary Of The Night Nuclear Bombs Fell Near Goldsboro   https://www.goldsborodailynews.com/2022/01/24/anniversary-of-the-night-nuclear-bombs-fell-near-goldsboro/January 24, 2022 Ken Conners

It’s the 61st anniversary of the big bang that, fortunately, never happened.

Around midnight on January 24th, 1961, a B-52G aircraft based at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base experienced a fuel leak and broke up in midair over Wayne County.

Five crewmen were able to successfully eject or bail out of the aircraft, but three did not survive the crash.

Two Mark 39 nuclear bombs being carried on the bomber plummeted to the earth, landing with the wreckage in the farmlands of Faro, about 12 miles north of Goldsboro.

Declassified information eventually showed one of the bombs came very close to detonating with 3 of 4 arming mechanisms being tripped in the crash.    One of the bombs was recovered while portions of the second sank into a muddy field never to be seen again.

Design flaws in Flamanville EPR nuclear reactor vessel, and attempts to solve this

April 30, 2022

The EPR reactor vessel is not designed like the previous vessels, and the
water does not follow the flow movements observed on conventional reactors.
EDF engineers therefore had a piece of metal (deflector) installed in each
tank bottom to redirect the water correctly. But that would be
insufficient.

What solutions? The most logical solution would therefore be
to change this deflector “with the key to a work of development as
complex as ruinous, notes the weekly. And no one is sure, given the limited
space available in an EPR tank, that this repair is technically
possible”.

The other solution envisaged would therefore be to “reinforce
the fuel assemblies, reinforce the protective grids so that the blades
resist the flows”, mentioned Julien Collet.

EDF will present its plan to us
in February, so we can see if their proposals can solve the problem.
Another possibility mentioned at the end of the article: “To limit the
pressures of the water, it would be a question of running the EPR at only
60% of its power, Flamanville would then go from a capacity of 1,650
megawatts less than 1,000 and would end up, for a record bill of 13 billion
euros, less efficient than the reactors built 50 years ago.”

 La Presse de la Manche 20th Jan 2022

https://actu.fr/normandie/flamanville_50184/nucleaire-la-cuve-de-l-epr-de-flamanville-est-elle-mal-concue_48067014.html

Dangerous Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, and incompetent Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

April 19, 2022

Nuclear energy backers say it’s vital for the fight against global warming. Don’t be so sure, Los Angeles Times,  BY MICHAEL HILTZIKBUSINESS COLUMNIST , JAN. 6, 2022  

”……………………………………. Diablo Canyon, which is on the Pacific shoreline about 250 miles south of San Francisco and 190 miles north of Los Angeles, was the third location chosen by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. for a nuclear generating plant starting in the early 1960s.

The previous choices were abandoned because they were judged too close to active earthquake faults — even though PG&E initially asserted in both cases that no faults were nearby. The company then turned to Diablo Canyon, again asserting that there were no active faults within about 20 miles of the site.

As it eventually emerged, there are at least four major active faults within that range, prompting David Brower, the first executive director of the Sierra Club and the founder of Friends of the Earth, to jokingly describe nuclear reactors as “complex technological devices for locating earthquake faults.” (It was the Sierra Club’s endorsement of Diablo Canyon that prompted Brower to resign and form Friends of the Earth.)

With every discovery of a new fault in Diablo Canyon’s vicinity, PG&E minimized the threat and persuaded the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the federal regulator responsible for licensing nuclear plants, to go along.

The NRC’s decision in 1981 to allow construction to proceed after a fault discovery without reexamining the plant’s seismic engineering provoked two commissioners, Peter A. Bradford and Victor Gilinsky, to issue a blistering dissent.

They described the confidence of two NRC advisory boards in the utility’s reassurances as “almost mystical,” and charged that the boards’ rationales for accepting PG&E’s arguments as evidence that neither board “had any idea what it was talking about.”

Then there’s PG&E’s atrocious safety record, which should curdle the blood at the thought of leaving the plant under its control. The company’s consistent failures include the 2010 pipeline explosion that killed eight and leveled an entire residential neighborhood in San Bruno.

PG&E’s equipment sparked more than 1,500 fires from 2014 through 2017, according to state records. In 2020, it pleaded guilty to 84 counts of criminal manslaughter related to the 2018 wildfire that all but destroyed the town of Paradise and ranks as the deadliest blaze in California history.

In September, the company was charged with 11 felonies and 20 misdemeanor counts related to what Shasta County Dist. Atty. Stephanie Bridgett called its “reckless and criminally negligent” operations, resulting in the deaths of four people. (“My co-workers are not criminals,” PG&E Chief Executive Patti Poppe said after the charges were unveiled. “We welcome our day in court so people can learn just that.”)

As recently as Tuesday, California state investigators concluded that a PG&E power line sparked last year’s massive Dixie fire, which burned more than 960,000 acres in five Northern California counties. The investigators referred the case to local criminal prosecutors.

“PG&E seems to be incapable of operating safely,” says Daniel O. Hirsch, a former environmental faculty member at UC Santa Cruz and president of the Committee to Bridge the Gap, an anti-nuclear group. “You’re mixing an incompetent utility with an unforgiving technology.”……………………..  https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2022-01-06/column-nuclear-energy-backers-say-its-vital-for-the-fight-against-global-warming-dont-believe-them?fbclid=IwAR015ej03ZDoUA2kcNoc_mAqJS3D2N8T

Small nuclear reactors for military use would be too dangerous – excellent targets for the enemy

December 26, 2021

In normal operation, they release potentially hazardous quantities of fission products that would be widely distributed by any penetration of the reactor vessel. More worryingly, the resiliency of tri-structural isotropic particles to kinetic impact is questionable: The silicon carbide coating around the fuel material is brittle and may fracture if impacted by munitions.

Further, graphite moderator material, which is used extensively in most mobile power plant cores, is vulnerable to oxidation when exposed to air or water at high temperatures, creating the possibility of a catastrophic graphite fire distributing radioactive ash. Even in the case of intact (non-leaking) fuel fragments being distributed by a strike, the radiological consequences for readiness and effectiveness are dire.

Given these vulnerabilities, sophisticated adversaries seeking to hinder U.S. forces are likely to realize the utility of the reactor as an area-denial target…….. , a reactor strike offers months of exclusion at the cost of only a few well-placed high-explosive warheads, a capability well within reach of even regional adversaries

Even an unsuccessful or minimally damaging attack on a reactor could offer an adversary significant benefits…………..placing these reactors in combat zones introduces nuclear reactors as valid military targets,

MOBILE NUCLEAR POWER REACTORS WON’T SOLVE THE ARMY’S ENERGY PROBLEMS, War on the Rocks, 14 Dec 21, JAKE HECLA  ”………… As China and Russia develop microreactors for propulsion, the U.S. Army is pursuing the ultimate in self-sufficient energy solutions: the capability to field mobile nuclear power plants. In this vision of a nuclearized future, the Army will replace diesel generator banks with microreactors the size of shipping containers for electricity production by the mid-2020s.

…….  the question is whether or not reactors can truly be made suitable for military use. Are they an energy panacea, or will they prove to be high-value targets capable of crippling entire bases with a single strike?

nuclear power program is confidently sprinting into uncharted territory in pursuit of a solution to its growing energy needs and has promised to put power on the grid within three years. However, the Army has not fielded a reactor since the 1960s and has made claims of safety and accident tolerance that contradict a half-century of nuclear industry experience.


The Army appears set to credulously accept industry claims of complete safety that are founded in wishful thinking and characterized by willful circumvention of basic design safety principles……….. 

(more…)

Scenarios of the release of radioactive ions if high precision missiles were to strike Middle East nuclear reactors.

December 25, 2021

Report: Missile strike risks to Middle East nuclear reactors,  A new study explores potential radiological fallout and evacuations from a missile strike on commercial nuclear power plants.  Aljazeera,   By Patricia Sabga, 8 Dec 21   ” ………………Scenarios and reactors

To illustrate the potential vulnerability of a nuclear power facility to a high precision missile strike, NPEC analysed four current and planned nuclear power plants in the region for three scenarios involving the radiological release of caesium-137 (Cs-137) into the atmosphere.

“Caesium-137 is one isotope that is particularly concerning for several reasons and it’s one of the most common isotopes looked at when evaluating the danger of a nuclear accident or some kind of radioactive release,” the report’s lead researcher Eva Lisowski told Al Jazeera. “It’s dangerous enough and lasts long enough that it can cause a significant increase in the chances of developing cancer.”

Significant contamination with Cs-137 can result in hundreds of thousands of people being evacuated from their homes, the report warns, and they may not be able to return for decades, given it has a 30-year half-life.

The first scenario Lisowski modelled examined what would happen if a nuclear reactor containment building is breached by an air strike, resulting in the core being released. The second scenario mapped what would happen if a spent fuel pond were hit and a fire broke out. The third scenario assessed what would happen if a spent fuel pond that is densely packed with radioactive rods were targeted and caught fire.

The four facilities chosen for the scenarios include the UAE’s Barakah power plant, Iran’s Bushehr, the plant under construction at Akkuyu in Turkey, and the site of Egypt’s planned commercial nuclear power station at El Dabaa.

The study focused only on select commercial nuclear power reactors. Research reactors, such as the one Israel maintains at the Shimon Peres Negev Nuclear Research Center near the city of Dimona, Iran’s Tehran Research Reactor, Egypt’s research reactor at Inshas, or Algeria’s research reactor at Es-Salam were not included in the study.

Sokolski also notes that containment buildings and spent fuel ponds are not the only targets for potential sabotage.

“You can go after the electricity lines that go into the plant that are necessary to keep the cooling system operating. You can go after the emergency generators, you can calibrate any number of effects with precision against that kind of sympathetic target,” he said.

The findings

The amounts of Cs-137 released in each scenario, as well as the estimated number of evacuees in each contamination zone, were simulated for four different months of the year based on 2020 weather patterns: March, June, September and December.

The simulations all include neighbouring countries that could be affected by mandatory evacuations.

The report examined scenarios for both a large release of Cs-137 (75 percent) and a smaller release (10 percent or 5 percent) to illustrate the potential differences between a densely-packed spent fuel pool catching fire, versus one that is not full.

The three scenarios involving a missile or drone attack on the Barakah nuclear power plant predicted average population displacements ranging from 800 mandatory and 40,000 voluntary evacuations in a low-radiological release simulation involving a core breach, to 4 million mandatory and 8 million voluntary evacuations if a densely packed spent fuel pond is hit resulting in a high release of Cs-137.

The three scenarios involving a missile or drone attack on the Bushehr nuclear power plant predicted average population displacements ranging from 53,000 mandatory and 120,000 voluntary evacuations in low-radiological release simulation involving a core breach, to 6.7 million mandatory and 4.8 million voluntary evacuations if a densely packed spent fuel pond is hit resulting in a high release of Cs-137.

The three scenarios involving a missile or drone attack on the Akkuyu nuclear power plant predicted average population displacements ranging from 1,000 mandatory and 28,000 voluntary evacuations in low-radiological release simulation involving a reactor core breach, to 4.6 million mandatory and 10 million voluntary evacuations if a densely packed spent fuel pond is hit resulting in a high release of Cs-137. https://www.aljazeera.com/economy/2021/12/8/report-missile-strike-risks-to-middle-east-nuclear-reactors