Archive for the ‘safety’ Category

The Cold War near disasters at RAF Lakenheath could have left Suffolk as a nuclear wasteland

September 14, 2021
Boeing B-47B rocket-assisted take off on April 15, 1954. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Cold War near disasters at RAF Lakenheath could have left Suffolk as a nuclear wasteland https://www.suffolknews.co.uk/mildenhall/go-anywhere-just-get-away-from-here-how-suffolk-almost-9215663/ By Dan Barker – dan.barker@iliffepublishing.co.uk , 13 September 2021  During the height of the Cold War nuclear bombs were dotted across the country, ready to wipe the USSR off the face of the map at a moment’s notice: but, on two separate occasions, Suffolk almost became victim to the very weapons which were meant to protect it.

July 27, 1956 was like any other summer’s day. Across the country attention was glued to the Ashes fourth test at Old Trafford, and four American airmen were in a B-47 bomber, on a routine training mission from RAF Lakenheath.  But, as they were practising touch-and-go landings, their bomber careered out of control and went off the runway.

it ploughed into an igloo containing three Mark-6 nuclear weapons, tearing the building apart.

The plane then

exploded, killing all four men on board, and showered the world-ending weapons with burning aviation fuel.

Most of A/C [Aircraft] wreckage pivoted on igloo and came to rest with A/C nose just beyond igloo bank which kept main fuel fire outside smashed igloo. “Preliminary exam by bomb disposal officers says a miracle that one Mark Six with exposed detonators sheared didn’t go. Firefighters extinguished fire around Mark Sixes fast.” – Telegram from RAF Lakenheath to Washington DC

Fortunately the atomic power of the bomb was missing that day, with the cores un-installed in all three for storage, but the explosives needed to trigger the deadly nuclear reaction were still in place.

With 8,000 pounds of high explosives combined with depleted uranium-238, they were a nuclear ticking time bomb as firefighters fought to put out the blaze.

Had they exploded the radioactive uranium would have been scattered over a wide area, and, depending on the wind, tens of thousands of people would have been at risk from the toxic dust across Suffolk.

Knowing the enormity of the situation base fire chief Master Sgt L. H. Dunn ordered his crew to ignore the burning wreckage of the bomber, and the airman inside, and douse the flames engulfing the nuclear storage building.

At the time it had been shrouded in secrecy, but decades later one senior US officer made it very clear how lucky Suffolk was to have narrowly missed out on a nuclear disaster.  “It is possible that part of Eastern England would have become a desert,” the then former officer told Omaha World Herald in Nebraska, who revealed the potentially catastrophic incident in November 1979.

Another said that “disaster was averted by tremendous heroism, good fortune and the will of God”.

A top secret telegram sent to Washington DC from the base, which has since been revealed, told of the near miss. “Most of A/C [Aircraft] wreckage pivoted on igloo and came to rest with A/C nose just beyond igloo bank which kept main fuel fire outside smashed igloo.

Another said that “disaster was averted by tremendous heroism, good fortune and the will of God”.

A top secret telegram sent to Washington DC from the base, which has since been revealed, told of the near miss. “Most of A/C [Aircraft] wreckage pivoted on igloo and came to rest with A/C nose just beyond igloo bank which kept main fuel fire outside smashed igloo.

Suffolk was lucky this time, but the incident caused great alarm in the British government, and it was decided it would try and block US authorities from ordering base evacuations because of the concern of causing mass panic in the country.

But what would happen if word got out that its most important ally had, almost, accidentally, made a huge part of the United Kingdom a nuclear wasteland?

Simple: Its policy for decades, if the press ever caught wind of the near miss, was to just deny it. After the news was broken in the American press in 1979, only then was it acknowledged something happened.

On November 5 that year the US Air Force and the Ministry of Defence would only admit the B-47 did crash.

In fact it took until 1996, some four decades after the near disaster, for the British state to accept the true scale of the accident in public.

But that near miss wasn’t the only one.

For on January 16, 1961, an F-100 Super Sabre, loaded with a Mark 28 hydrogen bomb caught on fire after the pilot jettisoned his fuel tanks when he switched his engines on.

As they hit the concrete runway the fuel ignited and engulfed the nuclear weapon – a 70 kilotons – and left it “scorched and blistered”.

Suffolk was saved again by the brave work of base firefighters who brought the blaze under control before the bomb’s high explosive detonated or its arming components activated.

T

errifyingly it was later discovered by American engineers that a flaw in the wiring of Mark 28 hydrogen bombs could allow prolonged heat to circumvent the safety mechanisms and trigger a nuclear explosion.

Had it gone, thousands of people would be dead within seconds, and thousands more would have been injured. As with the first incident, as well as the immediate blast, radioactive debris could have fallen in towns as far away as Ipswich and Lowestoft, given the right wind direction, spreading the toxic dust across Suffolk.

Since Clement Attlee ordered the scientists to investigate the creation of a nuclear bomb in August 1945, the British state has known that being a nuclear power comes with risk as well as reward.

It also knew it paid to be part of a nuclear alliance,

NATO, and with it came American nuclear bombs and the risk they brought.


Beyond the maths of working out how large the explosion would have been, it is impossible to know the true implications.

RAF Lakenheath was listed as a probable target for Soviet attack according to now released Cold War era documents, and intelligence agencies and war planners expected two 500 kiloton missiles to hit the site if the West was under attack.

Disaster creates uncertainty. Nobody would have known it was an accident within the minutes and hours after a blast, they would have just been dragged into a nuclear bunker and told of a large explosion at an airbase in Suffolk.

Where would that have left a British prime minister, an American president, and the rest of NATO, thinking they have come under attack?

In July 1956, and again in January 1961, those firefighters didn’t just save Suffolk … they might have saved the world.

Nuclear ballistic missile submarine meltdown, 1961

September 14, 2021
Ki19 Russianballistic missile submarine

August 24, https://www.quora.com/Has a nuclear submarine ever had a meltdown? Laurence Schmidt, Worked at Air Liquide America (1975–2010,

In the early Cold War Era, many Russian nuclear submarines had catastrophic engineering plant failures. These failures were caused by the soviet’s rush to equal the USN in its nuclear submarine ballistic missile program; they were poorly design and constructed, lack safety system redundancy and had haphazardly trained crews. But the crews of these boats were heroic in risking their lives to save their boats in stark life and death emergencies at sea.

One example is the case of the K-19, the first Russian nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine, nicknamed the “Hiroshima” boat, because of her numerous incidences.

On July 4, 1961, while at sea, one of its two nuclear reactors SCRAMMED. The primary cooling system had failed, flooding the reactor spare with radioactive water, and there was no backup system to cool the reactor core. As the reactor rods overheated, the engineering staff try a desperate plan to improvise a cooling system; to tie into the sub’s drinking water system. But it would require several men entering the highly radioactive reactor compartment to weld new piping to pumps and valves. The first jury-rigged attempt failed with 8 crewmen being horribly burnt by the high temperatures and exposed to lethal doses of radiation. They all soon died. After other attempts, the jury-rigged system finally worked, but other crew members too close to the reactor compartment would also soon die. The crew was evacuated to a nearby submarine, and the K-19 was towed back to base for repair. In total, 22 of the crew of 139 died of radiation sickness.

A section of the radiation contaminated hull was replaced, and a new power reactor unit was installed. The two original reactors, including their fuel rods, were dumped in the Kara Sea in 1965. A favorite dumping ground for Russian navy nuclear waste, including damaged nuclear reactors to whole ships.

Did the K-19 reactor meltdown? I would say yes.

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). 

(more…)

Risk of cracks in pressure tubes of Canada’s ageing nuclear reactors – how long can they keep operating safely?

September 14, 2021

The regulatory violations at the Bruce station are the latest indication that the industry’s approach to managing the aging of pressure tubes, and predicting deuterium ingress, may be breaking down.

At issue is the industry’s ability to accurately predict how long Canada’s aging nuclear reactors, many of which have already exceeded their 30-year design life, can continue to operate safely

Reactors at Bruce nuclear station violated terms of operating licence,   MATTHEW MCCLEARN  Globe and Mail, 19 Juy 21,Two reactors at the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station have violated the terms of its operating licence, its operator and the federal regulator have revealed.

Bruce Power, which operates the plant in Kincardine, Ont., announced in a July 13 statement that pressure tubes in Unit 3 and Unit 6 were found to have “higher-than-anticipated readings.” The following day, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) issued its own statement saying hydrogen equivalent concentration (Heq) levels in some of the station’s pressure tubes exceeded the allowable limit of 120 parts per million.

Pressure tubes are six-metre-long rods that contain bundles of uranium fuel. A CANDU reactor contains several hundred of them – and they are considered the principal life-limiting component of Canada’s reactor fleet. Pressure tubes with high Heq levels are at risk of developing blisters and cracks that could cause them to fracture.

Citing an ongoing “regulatory process” that “will continue to evolve,” Bruce Power did not answer questions from The Globe and Mail regarding how many tubes were affected or how much they exceeded the allowable limit……………..

At issue is the industry’s ability to accurately predict how long Canada’s aging nuclear reactors, many of which have already exceeded their 30-year design life, can continue to operate safely……….

Frank Greening, a retired OPG employee who worked for more than a decade with pressure tubes, said the Unit 6 tube reading is unprecedented and puts the regulator in a difficult position………….

Pressure tubes deteriorate as they age, picking up deuterium (an isotope of hydrogen) through a corrosion process known as deuterium ingress. In combination with other aging processes, deuterium ingress causes tubes to grow in length and diameter, known as creep, which allows more coolant to bypass the fuel bundles, lowering the margin of safety. Over time, tube walls become thinner and more brittle, which can cause them to crack and eventually fracture.

In January, 2019, the CNSC renewed Bruce Power’s licence to operate the Bruce station for 10 years, to 2028. However, the regulator insisted that before Heq levels exceeded 120 ppm, Bruce Power would have to prove that its pressure tubes could continue to operate safely above that level. If any pressure tube reached the limit, it declared, the operator would have to shut down the reactor.

At the time, Bruce Power promised to “extend the validity limits of the existing fracture toughness model to 140 ppm of [Heq] in pressure tubes by the end of 2018 and to 160 ppm of [Heq] by the end of 2019.”

But the CNSC said it received a new fracture toughness model for review this May. “No decisions regarding acceptance of the model have been made at this time,” it said.

The regulatory violations at the Bruce station are the latest indication that the industry’s approach to managing the aging of pressure tubes, and predicting deuterium ingress, may be breaking down.

It shows their predictions aren’t worth beans,” Dr. Greening said. “Their predictions are failing. And this is not the first time.”

In March, The Globe reported that, since 2017, CNSC staffers had expressed concerns about unreliable data from pressure tube inspections by OPG at its Pickering plant, east of Toronto. CNSC staffers warned that measuring and predicting deuterium ingress is “potentially one of the biggest issues currently faced by the Industry.”………. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-reactors-at-bruce-nuclear-station-violated-terms-of-operating-licence/

Conclusions and recommendations of safety assessment of advanced nuclear reactors – non-light-water ones

May 3, 2021

Assessing the Safety, Security, and Environmental Impacts of Non-Light-Water Nuclear Reactors,Union of Concerned Scientists, Edwin Lyman Mar 18, 2021  “Advanced” Isn’t Always Better  

”……….Conclusions of the Assessment

The non-light-water nuclear reactor landscape is vast and complex, and it is beyond the scope of this report to survey the entire field in depth. Nevertheless, enough is clear even at this stage to draw some general conclusions regarding the safety and security of NLWRs and their prospects for rapid deployment.

Based on the available evidence, the NLWR designs currently under consideration (except possibly once-through, breed-and-burn reactors) do not offer obvious improvements over LWRs significant enough to justify their many risks. Regulators and other policymakers would be wise to look more closely at the nuclear power programs under way to make sure they prioritize safety and security. Future appropriations for NLWR technology research, development, and deployment should be guided by realistic assessments of the likely societal benefits that would result from the investment of billions of taxpayer dollars.

Little evidence supports claims that NLWRs will be significantly safer than today’s LWRs. While some NLWR designs offer some safety advantages, all have novel characteristics that could render them less safe.

All NLWR designs introduce new safety issues that will require substantial analysis and testing to fully understand and address—and it may not be possible to resolve them fully. To determine whether any NLWR concept will be significantly safer than LWRs, the reactor must achieve an advanced stage of technical maturity, undergo complete comprehensive safety testing and analysis, and acquire significant operating experience under realistic conditions.

The claim that any nuclear reactor system can “burn” or “consume” nuclear waste is a misleading oversimplification. Reactors can actually use only a fraction of spent nuclear fuel as new fuel, and separating that fraction increases the risks of nuclear proliferation and terrorism.

No nuclear reactor can use spent nuclear fuel directly as fresh fuel. Instead, spent fuel has to be “reprocessed”—chemically treated to extract plutonium and other TRU elements, which must then be refabricated into new fuel. This introduces a grave danger: plutonium and other TRU elements can be used in nuclear weapons. Reprocessing and recycling render these materials vulnerable to diversion or theft and increases the risks of nuclear proliferation and terrorism—risks that are costly to address and that technical and institutional measures cannot fully mitigate. Any fuel cycle that requires reprocessing poses inherently greater proliferation and terrorism risks than the “once-through” cycle with direct disposal of spent fuel in a geologic repository.

Some NLWRs have the potential for greater sustainability than LWRs, but the improvements appear to be too small to justify their proliferation and safety risks.

Although some NLWR systems could use uranium more efficiently and generate smaller quantities of long-lived TRU isotopes in nuclear waste, for most designs these benefits could be achieved only by repeatedly reprocessing spent fuel to separate out these isotopes and recycle them in new fuel—and that presents unacceptable proliferation and security risks. In addition, reprocessing plants and other associated fuel cycle facilities are costly to build and operate, and they increase the environmental and safety impacts compared with the LWR once-through cycle. Moreover, the sustainability increases in practice would not be significant in a reasonably foreseeable time frame.

Once-through, breed-and-burn reactors have the potential to use uranium more efficiently without reprocessing, but many technical challenges remain.

One type of NLWR system that could in principle be more sustainable than the LWR without increasing proliferation and terrorism risks is the once-through, breed-and-burn reactor. Concepts such as TerraPower’s traveling-wave reactor could enable the use of depleted uranium waste stockpiles as fuel, which would increase the efficiency of uranium use. Although there is no economic motivation to develop more uranium-efficient reactors at a time when uranium is cheap and abundant, reducing uranium mining may be beneficial for other reasons, and such reactors may be useful for the future. However, many technical challenges would have to be overcome to achieve breed-and-burn operation, including the development of very-high-burnup fuels. The fact that TerraPower suspended its project after more than a decade of development to pursue a more conventional and far less uranium-efficient SFR, the Natrium, suggests that these challenges have proven too great.

High-assay low enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel, which is needed for many NLWR designs, poses higher nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism risks than the lower-assay LEU used by the operating LWR fleet.

Many NLWR designs require uranium enriched to higher levels than the 5 percent U-235 typical of LWR fuel. Although uranium enriched to between 10 and 20 percent U-235 (defined here as HALEU) is considered impractical for direct use in nuclear weapons, it is more attractive for weapons use—and requires more stringent security—than the lower-assay enriched uranium in current LWRs.

The significant time and resources needed to safely commercialize any NLWR design should not be underestimated.

It will likely take decades and many billions of dollars to develop and commercially deploy any NLWR design, together with its associated fuel cycle facilities and other support activities. Such development programs would come with a significant risk of delay or failure and require long-term stewardship and funding commitments. And even if a commercially workable design were demonstrated, it would take many more years after that to deploy a large number of units and operate them safely and reliably.

Vendors that claim their NLWRs could be commercialized much more quickly typically assume that their designs will not require full-scale performance demonstrations and extensive safety testing, which could add well over a decade to the development timeline. However, current designs for sodium-cooled fast reactors and high-temperature gas-cooled reactors differ enough from past reactor demonstrations that they cannot afford to bypass additional full-scale prototype testing before licensing and commercial deployment. Molten salt–fueled reactors have only had small-scale demonstrations and thus are even less mature. NLWRs deployed commercially at premature stages of development run a high risk of poor performance and unexpected safety problems.

Recommendations

The DOE should suspend the advanced reactor demonstration program pending a finding by the NRC whether it will require full-scale prototype testing before licensing the two chosen designs as commercial power reactors.

The DOE has selected two NLWR designs, the Natrium SFR and the Xe-100 pebble-bed HTGR, for demonstration of full-scale commercial operation by 2027. However, the NRC has yet to evaluate whether these designs are mature enough that it can license them without first obtaining data from full-scale prototype plants to demonstrate novel safety features, validate computer codes, and qualify new types of fuel in representative environments. Without such an evaluation, the NRC will likely lack the information necessary to ensure safe, secure operation of these reactors. The DOE should suspend the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program until the NRC—in consultation with the agency’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards and external experts—has determined whether prototypes will be needed first.

Congress should require that an independent, transparent, peer-review panel direct all DOE R&D on new nuclear concepts, including the construction of additional test or demonstration reactors.

Given the long time and high cost required to commercialize NLWR designs, the DOE should provide funding for NLWR R&D judiciously and only for reactor concepts that offer a strong possibility of significantly increasing safety and security—and do not increase proliferation risks. Moreover, unlike the process for selecting the two reactor designs for the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program, decision-making should be transparent.6 Congress should require that the DOE convene an independent, public commission to thoroughly review the technical merits of all NLWR designs proposed for development and demonstration, including those already selected for the ARDP. The commission, whose members should represent a broad range of expertise and perspectives, would recommend funding only for designs that are highly likely to be commercialized successfully while achieving clearly greater safety and security than current-generation LWRs.

The DOE and other agencies should thoroughly assess the implications for proliferation and nuclear terrorism of the greatly expanded production, processing, and transport of the high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) required to support the widespread deployment of NLWRs.

Large-scale deployment of NLWRs that use HALEU fuel will require establishing a new industrial infrastructure for producing and transporting the material. The DOE is actively promoting the development of HALEU-fueled reactor designs for export. Given that HALEU is a material of higher security concern than lower-assay LEU, Congress should require that the DOE immediately assess the proliferation and nuclear terrorism implications of transitioning to the widespread use of HALEU worldwide. This assessment should also address the resource requirements for the security and safeguards measures needed to ensure that such a transition can occur without an unacceptable increase in risk.

The United States should make all new reactors and associated fuel facilities eligible for IAEA safeguards and provide that agency with the necessary resources for carrying out verification activities.

The IAEA, which is responsible for verifying that civilian nuclear facilities around the world are not being misused to produce materials for nuclear weapons, has limited or no experience in safeguarding many types of NLWRs and their associated fuel cycle facilities. NLWR projects being considered for deployment in the United States, such as the Natrium SFR and the Xe-100 pebble-bed HTGR, would provide ideal test beds for the IAEA to develop safeguards approaches. However, as a nuclear-weapon state, the United States is not obligated to give the IAEA access to its nuclear facilities. To set a good example and advance the cause of nonproliferation, the United States should immediately provide the IAEA with permission and funding to apply safeguards on all new US nuclear facilities, beginning at the design phase. This would help to identify safeguard challenges early and give the IAEA experience in verifying similar facilities if they are deployed in other countries.

The DOE and Congress should consider focusing nuclear energy R&D on improving the safety and security of LWRs, rather than on commercializing immature NLWR designs.

LWR technology benefits from a vast trove of information resulting from many decades of acquiring experimental data, analysis, and operating experience—far more than that available for any NLWR. This gives the LWR a significant advantage over other nuclear technologies. The DOE and Congress should do a more thorough evaluation of the benefits of focusing R&D funding on addressing the outstanding safety, security, and cost issues of LWRs rather than attempting to commercialize less mature reactor concepts. If the objective is to expand nuclear power to help deal with the climate crisis over the next few decades, improving LWRs could be a less risky bet.

Endnotes………

This is a condensed, online version of the executive summary. For all figures, references, and the full text, please download the PDF.  https://ucsusa.org/resources/advanced-isnt-always-better#read-online-content

Tokyo’s ”Recovery Olympics”? But Japan has not recovered from the Fukushima nuclear meltdown

April 5, 2021

Japan Hasn’t Recovered 10 Years After Fukushima Meltdown, https://truthout.org/articles/japan-hasnt-recovered-10-years-after-fukushima-meltdown/,  Arnie Gundersen, -March 11, 2021  

On March 11, 2011, a devastating offshore earthquake and ensuing tsunami rocked Japan and resulted in nuclear meltdowns in three nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear site. Until the 2020 Tokyo Olympics were placed on a one-year hiatus because of concerns over COVID-19, the Japanese government had portrayed these events as the “Recovery Olympics.” It had hoped to use the Olympics to showcase a claimed restoration of Japan since it was devastated in 2011. But has Japan really “recovered?”Recently, corresponding author Marco Kaltofen (Worcester Polytechnic Institute), co-author Maggie Gundersen (Fairewinds Energy Education) and I published our second peer-reviewed journal article analyzing hundreds of radioactive samples from northern Japan that we collected with assistance from Japanese citizens and scientists. Our sampling on five occasions over almost a decade totaled 70 days on the ground. Here are four things we discovered.

1. Existing radiation maps ignore significant sources of radiological exposure.

Most of the radiation maps of northern Japan are based on external radiation detected in handheld instrument measurements by citizens and scientists, who then link the measurements to GPS coordinates while downloading that data into a massive database. This information about direct, external radiation is certainly important, but it has become the de facto criteria for decision makers in Japan to decide which cities and towns should be repopulated.

We found that this approach only provides limited policy alternatives and serves to minimize potential population exposure for two reasons. First, the Geiger counter data is for external radiation that was deposited on the ground external to human bodies and ignores radiation imbibed or inhaled as “hot particles” into the human body.

Secondly, the external radiation data frequently displayed for northern Japan is based on radiation emitted from only a single radioactive isotope, Cesium-137 (Cs-137), as measured externally. On the other hand, our papers show a wide variety of isotopes that are not detected by handheld Geiger counters or absorbed externally. We show that there is an extensive brew of various isotopes present in radioactive dust that is inhaled or imbibed. Our papers indicate that the radioactive concentration in these dust particles varies widely, by a factor of 1 million, with 5 percent (3 sigma) of these “hot particles” 10,000 times more radioactive than the mean. Our most radioactive dust particle was collected 300 miles from the site of the meltdown.

Furthermore, the data show that alpha, beta and gamma-emitting contaminants in radioactive fallout from the Daiichi meltdowns have not traveled together in lockstep. This means that measuring only beta-emitters like Cesium-137 or only total gamma (as you would with a Geiger counter) is not enough to map the full impact of the fallout. Alpha-emitters must also be measured to protect the public health. This is especially important because of the serious health impacts that can come from exposure to alpha radiation.

2. Northern Japan remains radiologically contaminated.

When a nuclear chain reaction stops, the hazardous remnants of the previously split uranium atoms, euphemistically called “fission products,” are left behind and remain radioactive for centuries. The triple meltdowns and explosions at Fukushima Daiichi Units 1, 2 and 3 in March 2011 released an enormous amount of these fission products into the environment. Wind currents pushed as much as 80 percent of this radiation over the Pacific Ocean, while 20 percent fell on northern Japan, forcing the evacuation of approximately 160,000 Japanese citizens from ancestral lands.

Absent any human intervention, short-lived fission products that originally accounted for more than half of this contamination have already decayed away during the last nine years, while even more has washed into the Pacific from storms and typhoons. Limited cleanup efforts by the Japanese government have further reduced the contamination in a fraction of the populated portion of the devastated Fukushima prefecture. Greater than 10 million tons of radioactive material have been collected and stored in 10 million individual large black bags at hundreds of locations. However, due to mountainous terrain, more than 70 percent of Fukushima prefecture will never be decontaminated.

Absent any human intervention, short-lived fission products that originally accounted for more than half of this contamination have already decayed away during the last nine years, while even more has washed into the Pacific from storms and typhoons. Limited cleanup efforts by the Japanese government have further reduced the contamination in a fraction of the populated portion of the devastated Fukushima prefecture. Greater than 10 million tons of radioactive material have been collected and stored in 10 million individual large black bags at hundreds of locations. However, due to mountainous terrain, more than 70 percent of Fukushima prefecture will never be decontaminated.

As the cost and effort to completely decontaminate the entire land mass of Fukushima prefecture would be prohibitive, the Japanese government has focused on cleaning only populated areas. It also increased the “allowable” radiation limit 20-fold, after an initial partial decontamination, from 1 milli-Sievert to 20 milli-Sieverts per year (100 millirem to 2 rem) to facilitate repopulation of abandoned villages. A 20-fold increase in radiation will create a 20-fold increase in radiation-induced cancers. A significant fraction of residents chose not to return, recognizing the increased risk that these higher approved limits present.

3. Previously “cleaned” areas are becoming radiologically contaminated yet again.

The city of Minamisoma was contaminated and evacuated at the height of the Fukushima disaster. After a period of several years, radiation in the city was remediated and citizens were allowed to return. Minamisoma City Hall was decontaminated, with a new epoxy roof applied after the meltdowns in 2011. The authors collected samples from this previously “clean” fourth-story roof in 2016 and again in 2017, finding high levels of alpha radiation in the relative absence of the normally ubiquitous Cesium isotopes. This can only imply that wind-borne contamination from uncleaned areas is recontaminating those areas determined habitable.

4. Olympic venues in Fukushima prefecture are more contaminated than in Tokyo Olympic venues.

Suburbs of Tokyo are approximately 120 miles from the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi. We found particulate radiation at Olympic venues in Tokyo to be normal compared to other cities worldwide. We found that areas in Japan beyond the Olympic venues were seven times more contaminated than the venues themselves. Contamination at the Olympic venues in Fukushima prefecture, planned to showcase the region’s recovery, were also more contaminated than the Tokyo venues. We found that on average, these northern Olympic venues were two to three times more contaminated with “hot particles” than venues in Tokyo.

We also detected small but statistically significant levels of plutonium at the J-Village national soccer camp in Fukushima prefecture. Even though the Japanese government claims to have thoroughly decontaminated these Fukushima locations, it is not surprising that these Olympic venues remain contaminated. As discussed previously, since the entirety of the prefecture’s area will never be decontaminated, these areas will continue to have wind-borne contamination for centuries.

Science on a Shoestring

As Fukushima was melting down, nuclear advocates in the U.S. were testifying to the Washington State legislature, saying that Japan’s nuclear plants would not be a problem, and that working in a nuclear plant is “safer than working in Toys R Us.” Not surprisingly, those same zealots are now claiming that there will be no increase in cancer fatalities as a result of the three Fukushima meltdowns. However, not including the hot particle contamination my colleagues and I have identified, the UN estimates that thousands of fatalities will occur. Others, including myself, believe the actual cancer increase could result in upwards of 100,000 increased deaths as a result of the radioactive microparticles strewn into the environment.

There is no doubt that radiological conditions in Japan have improved in the decade since the triple meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi. However, our data show that Japan has not “recovered,” nor can it ever return to pre-meltdown norms. Public relations campaigns by interested parties cannot obscure the recontamination of populated areas in northern Japan that will continue to occur.

Hasegawa, the former head of Maeda Ward in Fukushima prefecture at the time of the Fukushima disaster, sums up the sentiment of most of Japanese citizens in northern Japan: “The nuclear plant took everything.… We are just in the way of the Olympics. In the end, the radiation-affected places like us are just in the way. They are going ahead just wanting to get rid of these places from Japan, to forget.”

There is an old laboratory adage that says, “The best way to clean up a spill is not to have a spill,” and this applies on a much larger scale to the entirety of northern Japan, where cleanup will remain economically unfeasible. Our future plans to further support our hypothesis that Japan remains contaminated will involve testing the shoestrings of Olympic athletes and visitors to northern Japan. Shoestrings are useful, as their woven fabric traps dust which may assist in determining the extent of contamination into populated areas in northern Japan compared to that in Tokyo.

Fukushima nuclear accident costs so far $188billion, projected final costs of $740 bn.

April 5, 2021

David Lowry’s Blog 10th March 2021, Pediatrician Dr Alex Rosen, a leading figure in the German branch of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) said it was “luck and divine intervention” that wind from the west blew most of the radiological releases out over the Pacific Ocean, meaning the Fukushima accident released more radioactivity to the oceans than the Chernobyl accident and all the nuclear weapons tests together.

Another webinar I attended, on 9 March, was co-hosted by Northwestern University’s Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Affairs located in Evanston, Illinois, and the Bulletin for the Atomic Scientists, based in Chicago, to launch a new international interdisciplinary collaborative study on “Nuclear Disaster Compensation: Lessons from Fukushima: Interviews with Experts and Intellectuals, edited by anthropology professor Hirokazu Miyazaki. Former US Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairperson, Allison McFarlane, now a professor and director of the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, pointed out in the webinar that the Fukushima accident has so far cost US$188billion, with projected final costs of US$740 bn. http://drdavidlowry.blogspot.com/2021/03/nuclear-fuk-ed.html

Need to establish compensation schemes for future nuclear accidents

April 5, 2021

Fukushima lesson: Victim compensation schemes need updating, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists , By Hirokazu Miyazaki | March 10, 2021 At the 10th anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that set off a meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, it is time to revisit the laws that govern compensation for victims of such disasters.

Fortunately, major nuclear accidents are rare. To date, only Fukushima and the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Russia are rated level 7 “major” accidents by the International Atomic Energy Agency. But given the potential for nuclear power generation to expand, accidents of various levels of severity could also increase in frequency.

………..  expanding protection for victims, including the amount and scope of compensation they can receive, should become an international priority for the industry, policymakers, and global nuclear organizations.

As my colleagues and I who are part of the Meridian 180 Global Working Group on Nuclear Energy have found, domestic laws and international conventions around nuclear power and compensation for victims of accidents are insufficient and need to be revisited. These laws and protocols were designed, at least originally, to promote nuclear energy and protect the interests of the nuclear power industry. Given the infrequency of major accidents, the laws and protocols have not been tested very often.

The laws limit the liability faced by nuclear power plant operators and manufacturers and the amount of compensation paid to victims. As a result, investors can pursue nuclear energy projects without fear of a potentially significant burden to compensate victims if a major accident were to occur. But the potential for accidents remains. Rather than assume they can be prevented, we must prepare for them—not only with emergency plans and safety protocols, but also with laws that protect and compensate the victims.

Compensation claims remain unresolved. The Chernobyl disaster did lead to some reform of international and domestic laws to strengthen victim protections. But since Fukushima, few regulatory policy changes have been enacted, inside or outside Japan, and Fukushima damage compensation claims remain unresolved. Among the victims in Fukushima Prefecture are thousands of local residents who faced losses — of their homes, communities, ancestral homelands, and day-to-day life activities. Although not directly attributable, the deaths of more than 1,500 people have been linked to physical and mental stresses related to the evacuation after the nuclear reactor meltdowns.

Tokyo Electric Power Company has paid more than 9.7 trillion yen (or approximately $92 billion) to nuclear accident victims, the largest damage payout ever made to such victims and among the highest (if not the highest) paid in any industrial disaster. But dissatisfaction and unsettled claims remain. Some have not been compensated for losses because their residences were outside mandatory evacuation zones. Nearly 30 collective lawsuits brought against Tokyo Electric Power Company and the Japanese government are pending.

Three goals for deliberative conversation. Fair treatment and compensation for victims and those impacted by nuclear accidents can best be achieved through a deliberative conversation that is anticipatory, participatory, and transnational:

  • Anticipatory. Discussion of laws that govern nuclear power and provide for compensation of victims must occur before the next disaster. Many dedicated professionals continue working to prevent future nuclear accidents………….. the scope of responsibility is a question that requires careful and inclusive deliberation, before the next nuclear accident occurs.

    • Participatory
      . Any forum on nuclear disaster compensation must include a wide variety of people and interests, including ordinary citizens who have been impacted, or are likely to be impacted, by a disaster as well as nuclear engineers, medical doctors, environmental scientists, and other experts with specialized knowledge………

      • Transnational. 
        Nuclear disasters do not respect national borders, so forums on accident compensation must be transnational—a departure from past practice……….highlight the implications of compensating citizens who live beyond the borders of the state or region where a catastrophe occurs.Preparing for the next one. The nuclear disaster at Fukushima was deeply transnational in scope and participation: The US-designed reactors at the Fukushima plant used nuclear fuel that was mined outside Japan, likely in Canada, Kazakhstan, Niger, Australia, Russia, or Namibia, six countries that supply more than 85 percent of the nuclear fuel used worldwide. As nuclear power plants continue to operate, and with the prospect that more plants will be built in the future, the potential for accidents remains. Rather than assume they can be prevented, we must prepare for them — not only with emergency plans and safety protocols, but also with laws that protect and compensate the victims, which can only stem from discussions at all levels of government and industry that meaningfully include those most likely to be injured, should another nuclear disaster occur.  https://thebulletin.org/2021/03/a-fukushima-lesson-victim-compensation-schemes-need-updating/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=ThursdayNewsletter03112021&utm_content=NuclearRisk_Miyazaki_03102021

Accidents in both USA’s and Russia’s use of nuclear power in space

February 18, 2021

Nuclear Rockets to Mars?, BY KARL GROSSMAN– CounterPunch, 16 Feb 21”…………There have been accidents in the history of the U.S.—and also the former Soviet Union and now Russia—using nuclear power in space.

And the NAS report, deep into it, does acknowledge how accidents can happen with its new scheme of using nuclear power on rockets for missions to Mars.

It says: “Safety assurance for nuclear systems is essential to protect operating personnel as well as the general public and Earth’s environment.” Thus under the report’s plan, the rockets with the nuclear reactors onboard would be launched “with fresh [uranium] fuel before they have operated at power to ensure that the amount of radioactivity on board remains as low as practicable.” The plans include “restricting reactor startup and operations in space until spacecraft are in nuclear safe orbits or trajectories that ensure safety of Earth’s population and environment” But, “Additional policies and practices need to be established to prevent unintended system reentry during return to Earth after reactors have been operated for extended periods of time.”

The worst U.S. accident involving the use of nuclear power in space came in 1964 when the U.S. satellite Transit 5BN-3, powered by a SNAP-9A plutonium-fueled radioisotope thermoelectric generator, failed to achieve orbit and fell from the sky, disintegrating as it burned up in the atmosphere, globally spreading plutonium—considering the deadliest of all radioactive substances. That accident was long linked to a spike in global lung cancer rates where the plutonium was spread, by Dr. John Gofman, an M.D. and Ph. D., a professor of medical physics at the University of California at Berkeley. He also had been involved in developing some of the first methods for isolating plutonium for the Manhattan Project.

NASA, after the SNAP-9A (SNAP for Systems Nuclear Auxiliary Power) accident became a pioneer in developing solar photovoltaic power. All U.S. satellites now are energized by solar power, as is the International Space Station.

The worst accident involving nuclear power in space in the Soviet/Russian space program occurred in 1978 when the Cosmos 954 satellite with a nuclear reactor aboard fell from orbit and spread radioactive debris over a 373-mile swath from Great Slave Lake to Baker Lake in Canada. There were 110 pounds of highly-enriched (nearly 90 percent) of uranium fuel on Cosmos 954.

Highly-enriched uranium—90 percent is atomic bomb-grade—would be used in one reactor design proposed in the NAS report. And thus there is a passage about it under “Proliferation and security.” It states that “HEU [highly enriched uranium] fuel, by virtue of the ease with which it could be diverted to the production of nuclear weapons, is a higher value target than HALEU [high assay low enriched uranium], especially during launch and reentry accidents away from the launch site. As a result, HEU is viewed by nonproliferation experts as requiring more security considerations. In addition, if the United States uses HEU for space reactors, it could become more difficult to convince other countries to reduce their use of HEU in civilian applications.”

As for rocket propulsion in the vacuum of space, it doesn’t take much conventional chemical propulsion to move a spacecraft—and fast……..more https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/02/16/nuclear-rockets-to-mars/

America’s ”fleet” of dangerously embrittled nuclear reactors

February 18, 2021
– 1 Feb 2021

Of all the daunting tasks Joe Biden faces, especially vital is the inspection of dangerously embrittled atomic reactors still operating in the United States.

A meltdown at any one of them would threaten the health and safety of millions of people while causing major impact to an already struggling economy. The COVID-19 pandemic would complicate and add to the disaster. A nuclear power plant catastrophe would severely threaten accomplishments Biden is hoping to achieve in his presidency.

The problem of embrittlement is on the top of the list of nuclear power concerns. The “average age”—length of operation—of nuclear power plants in the U.S., the federal government’s Energy information Agency, reported in 2019 was 38 years.
Now, in 2021, the “average age” of nuclear power plants in the U.S. is 40 years—the length of time originally seen when nuclear power began in the U.S. for how long plants could operate before embrittlement set in.

That’s why the operating licenses originally issued for the plants were limited to 40 years.

Here’s how Arnold “Arnie” Gundersen, a nuclear engineer with more than 44 years of experience in the nuclear industry, who became a whistleblower and is now chief engineer at Fairewinds Associates, explains embrittlement: “When exposed to radiation, metal becomes embrittled and eventually can crack like glass. The longer the radiation exposure, the worse the embrittlement becomes.”

A nuclear reactor is just like a pressure cooker and is a pot designed to hold the radioactive contents of the atomic chain reaction in the nuclear core,” continues Gundersen, whose experience includes being a licensed Critical Facility Reactor Operator. “And metals in reactors are exposed to radiation every day a plant operates”

“If the reactor is embrittled and cracks,” says Gundersen, “it’s ‘game over’ as all the radiation can spew out into the atmosphere.Diablo Canyon [a twin-reactor facility in California] is the worst, the most embrittled nuclear power facility in the U.S., but there are plenty of others that also could crack. Starting with Diablo, every reactor in the U.S. should be checked to determine they are too embrittled to continue to safely operate.”

Metals inside a nuclear power plant are bombarded with radiation, notes Gundersen. The steel used in reactor pressure vessels—which contain the super-hot nuclear cores—is not immune.

Every U.S. reactor has an Emergency Core Cooling System and a Core Spray System to flood the super-hot core in the event of a loss-of-coolant accident.

Embrittled metal would shatter when hit with that cold water.

The ensuing explosion could then blow apart the containment structure—as happened at the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear power plants—morphing into a radioactive plume moving into the atmosphere and be carried by the winds, dropping deadly fall-out wherever it goes.

This apocalyptic outcome was barely missed in Pennsylvania where, starting at 4 a.m. on March 28, 1979, fuel inside the Three Mile Island Unit Two nuclear power plant began to melt.

Its Emergency Core Cooling System was activated. But only the year before—in 1978—did the plant receive a license to operate and begin operating.

Had TMI, like so many of U.S. nuclear power plants now, been decades old and its metal pressure vessel embrittled and had shattered—a far greater disaster would have occurred. The entire northeastern U.S. could have been blanketed with deadly radioactivity

The “fleet” of old, decrepit nuclear power plants in the U.S.—with embrittled metal components—must be inspected. And with embrittlement they must be shut down.

Biden must jump into the situation—for the sake of American lives, for the sake of the nation’s future.

Nuclear power in the U.S. is under the jurisdiction of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, or NRC. That acronym NRC should really stand for Nuclear Rubberstamp Commission. Whatever the nuclear industry wants, the NRC says yes to.

As the result of the series of globally infamous catastrophic nuclear power plant accidents—at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima—and the availability of safe, green, cost-effective, clean renewable energy, led by solar and wind, coupled with increasing energy efficiency, the nuclear industry is in its death throes.

Only two nuclear power plants are being built now in the U.S., Vogtle 3 and 4 in Georgia. At nearly $30 billion for the pair, they’re hugely over budget—and their construction costs are still rising. In fact, virtually all operating atomic reactors are producing electricity at much higher base costs than solar and wind.

The NRC is currently seeking to try to bail out the nuclear industry—to keep it going—by allowing nuclear power plants to operate for 100 years.

In recent years it agreed to let nuclear power plants to run for 60 years and then it upped that to 80 years.

On January 21 the Nuclear Rubberstamp Commission held a “public meeting” on its plan to now extend operating licenses for U.S. nuclear power plants and allow them to run for 100 years. Speaker after speaker protested this scheme.

“It’s time to stop this whole nuke con job,” testified Erica Gray nuclear issues chair of the Virginia Sierra Club, at the meeting. There is “no solution” to dealing with nuclear waste, she said. It is “unethical to continue to make the most toxic waste known to mankind.” And renewable energy” with solar and wind “can power the world.”

“Our position… is a resounding no,” declared Paul Gunter, director of the Reactor Oversight Project of the national organization Beyond Nuclear, for letting nuclear power plants run for 100 years.

Speakers cited the greatly increased likelihood of accidents if nuclear plants were allowed to run for a century.

Biden must step in and order the inspection for embrittlement of U.S. nuclear power plants.

The “fleet” of old, decrepit nuclear power plants in the U.S.—with embrittled metal components—must be inspected. And with embrittlement and other likely age-induced problems, they must be shut down.

Biden must act to prevent what would constitute nuclear suicide in the United States.

On January 27, Biden announced a climate change agenda transitioning the U.S. towards renewable energy. But taking action against fossil fuel is not enough. Nuclear power plants are also engines of global warming. The “nuclear fuel chain” which includes uranium mining, milling and fuel enrichment is carbon intensive. Nuclear plants themselves emit Carbon-14, a radioactive form of carbon.

Biden must take the lead. NOW!

Harvey Wasserman wrote the books Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth and The Peoples Spiral of US History. He helped coin the phrase “No Nukes.” He co-convenes the Grassroots Emergency Election Protection Coalition at www.electionprotection2024.org  Karl Grossman is the author of Cover Up: What You Are Not Supposed to Know About Nuclear Power and Power Crazy. He the host of the nationally-aired TV program Enviro Close-Up with Karl Grossman (www.envirovideo.com)