Archive for the ‘safety’ Category

Nuclear meltdown at Santa Susana Lab and the government cover-up

December 4, 2018

L.A.’s Secret Meltdown; Simi Valley, CA(1959)Largest Nuclear Incident in U.S. history.

LA’s Nuclear Secret: Part 1  link–  Sep 22, 2015  Tucked away in the hills above the San Fernando and Simi valleys was a 2,800-acre laboratory with a mission that was a mystery to the thousands of people who lived in its shadow, By Joel Grover and Matthew Glasser  The U.S. government secretly allowed radiation from a damaged reactor to be released into air over the San Fernando and Simi valleys in the wake of a major nuclear meltdown in Southern California more than 50 years ago — fallout that nearby residents contend continues to cause serious health consequences and, in some cases, death. LA’s Nuclear Secret: Timelines, Documents, FAQ

Those are the findings of a yearlong NBC4 I-Team investigation into “Area Four,” which is part of the once-secret Santa Susana Field Lab. Founded in 1947 to test experimental nuclear reactors and rocket systems, the research facility was built in the hills above the two valleys. In 1959, Area Four was the site of one of the worst nuclear accidents in U.S. history. But the federal government still hasn’t told the public that radiation was released into the atmosphere as a result of the partial nuclear meltdown.

Now, whistleblowers interviewed on camera by NBC4 have recounted how during and after that accident they were ordered to release dangerous radioactive gases into the air above Los Angeles and Ventura counties, often under cover of night, and how their bosses swore them to secrecy.

In addition, the I-Team reviewed over 15,000 pages of studies and government documents, and interviewed other insiders, uncovering that for years starting in 1959, workers at Area Four were routinely instructed to release radioactive materials into the air above neighboring communities, through the exhaust stacks of nuclear reactors, open doors, and by burning radioactive waste.

How It Began

On July 13, 1959, the day of the meltdown, John Pace was working as a reactor operator for Atomics International at Area Four’s largest reactor, under the watch of the U.S. government’s Atomic Energy Commission.

“Nobody knows the truth of what actually happened,” Pace told the I-Team.

In fact, Pace said, the meltdown was verging on a major radioactive explosion.

“The radiation in that building got so high, it went clear off the scale,” he said.

To prevent a potentially devastating explosion, one that in hindsight the 76-year-old Pace believes would have been “just like Chernobyl,” he and other workers were instructed to open the exhaust stacks and release massive amounts of radiation into the sky.

“This was very dangerous radioactive material,” he said. “It went straight out into the atmosphere and went straight to Simi Valley, to Chatsworth, to Canoga Park.”

Pace and his co-workers frantically tried to repair the damaged reactor. Instead, he said they realized, their efforts were only generating more radioactive gas. So for weeks, often in the dark of night, Pace and other workers were ordered to open the large door in the reactor building and vent the radiation into the air.

“It was getting out towards the public,” he said. “The public would be bombarded by it.”

Pace said he and his co-workers knew they were venting dangerous radiation over populated areas, but they were following orders.

“They felt terrible that it had to be done,” he said. “They had to let it out over their own families.”

Area Four workers “were sworn to secrecy that they would not tell anyone what they had done,” Pace explained.

He remembered his boss getting right in his face and saying, “You will not say a word. Not one word.”

That was more than five decades ago, but radioactive contamination didn’t just vanish. It remains in the soil and water of Area Four and in some areas off-site, according to state and federal records obtained by the I-Team. And, evidence suggests that the fallout could be linked to illnesses, including cancer, among residents living nearby.

Arline Mathews lived with her family in Chatsworth, downwind of Area Four during some of the radiation releases. Her middle son, Bobby, was a champion runner on the Chatsworth High School track team for three years, running to the Santa Susana Field Lab and back to school every day. Bobby died of glioblastoma, a rare brain cancer often linked to radiation exposure. Mathews said there is no known family history of cancer and she blames the radiation from Area Four for her son’s illness.

“He was exposed to the chemical hazardous waste and radioactivity up there,” Mathews said. “There’s no getting over the loss of son.”

The Government Cover-up

Six weeks after the meltdown, the Atomic Energy Commission issued a press release saying that there had been a minor “fuel element failure” at Area Four’s largest reactor in July. But they said there had been “no release of radioactive materials” to the environment.

“What they had written in that report is not even close to what actually happened,” Pace said. “To see our government talk that way and lie about those things that happened, it was very disappointing.”

In 1979, NBC4 first broke the story that there was a partial meltdown at Area Four’s largest reactor, called the Sodium Reactor Experiment. But at the time, the U.S. government was still saying no radiation was released into the air over LA.

But during its current yearlong investigation, the I-Team found a NASA report that confirmed “the 1959 meltdown… led to a release of radioactive contaminants.”

For years, NASA used part of the site for rocket testing and research.

More Radioactive Releases

After filing a Freedom of Information request, the I-Team obtained more than 200 pages of government interviews with former Santa Susana workers. One of those workers, Dan Parks, was a health physicist at Area Four in the 1960s.

In the early 60s, Parks said, he often witnessed workers releasing radiation into the sky through the exhaust stacks of at least three of Area Four’s ten nuclear reactors.

“They would vent it to the atmosphere,” he said. “The release was done with the flick of a switch.”

Radioactive Waste Up in Smoke

Parks said he often witnessed workers releasing radioactive smoke into the air when they disposed of barrels of radioactive waste from Area Four’s 10 nuclear reactors.

“We were all workers,” he said. “Just taking orders.”

Workers would often take those barrels of waste to a pond called “the burn pits” and proceed to shoot the barrels with a high-powered rifle causing an explosion. The radioactive smoke would drift into the air over nearby suburbs and toward a summer camp for children.

“It was a volatile explosion, beyond belief,” Parks said.

Whatever direction the wind was blowing, the radioactive smoke would travel that way.

“If the wind was blowing to the Valley, it would blow it in the Valley,” he said.

Ralph Powell, who worked as a security officer at Area Four in the mid-60s, recalled being blanketed by that radioactive smoke.

“I saw clouds of smoke that was engulfing my friends, that are dying now,” Powell said.

Powell believes it wasn’t just his friends who suffered the consequences. He fears he may have exposed his own family to radiation, tracking it home on his clothes and car.

While Powell was working at Area Four, his son Michael was diagnosed with leukemia — a cancer linked to radiation exposure — and died at age 11.

“I suspect it caused the death of my son,” he said. “I’ve never gotten that out of my mind.”

Toxic Chemical Contamination

In addition to the radiation, dozens of toxic chemicals, including TCE and Perchlorate, were also released into the air and dumped on the soil and into ground and surface water from thousands of rocket tests conducted at the Santa Susana Field lab from the 1950s to 80s. The tests were conducted by NASA, and by Rocketdyne, a government aerospace contractor.

According to a federally funded study obtained by the I-Team, “emissions associated with rocket engine testing” could have been inhaled by residents of “West Hills, Bell Canyon, Dayton Canyon, Simi Valley, Canoga Park, Chatsworth, Woodland Hills, and Hidden Hills.”

Contamination Moves into Neighborhoods

Radiation released at Area Four continues to contaminate the soil and water of the Santa Susana Field Lab.

In 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency completed a $40 million soil test of the site and found 423 hot spots — places contaminated with high levels of man-made radiation.

Other studies and government documents obtained by the I-Team show that radiation has moved off-site, and has been found in the ground and water in suburbs to the south, northeast and northwest of the Field Lab.

“Radiation doesn’t know any boundaries,” said Dr. Robert Dodge, a national board member of the Nobel Prize-winning nonprofit Physicians For Social Responsibility, which studies the health effects of radiation.

Dodge, who has reviewed numerous government and academic studies about the contamination at Santa Susana, said he believes the contamination has spread far beyond the facility’s borders.

“If the wind is blowing and carrying radiation from Santa Susana, it doesn’t stop because there’s a fence,” he said.

One of the places radiation has been found, in a 1995 study overseen by the U.S. EPA, was the Brandeis-Bardin Institute in Simi Valley. The Institute is a nationally-known center of Jewish learning, and the home to Camp Alonim, a beloved summer sleepaway camp that has hosted some 30,000 children.

In December 1995, The Brandeis-Bardin Institute filed a federal lawsuit against the present and past owners of the Santa Susana Field Lab, alleging that toxic chemicals and radiation from the field lab “have subsequently seeped into and come to be located in the soil and groundwater” of Brandeis “is injurious to the environment” and “will cause great and irreparable injury.”

Brandeis settled the lawsuit in a confidential agreement in 1997.

A spokesman for the Brandeis-Bardin Institute, Rabbi Jay Strear, told NBC4 that the groundwater and soil is “tested routinely,” and the results have shown the “the site is safe.”

The I-Team asked Brandeis-Bardin to provide NBC4 with those test results showing the site is safe and free of hazardous substances. The Institute refused, and in an email said “we are not in a position to devote the required staff time to respond to your more detailed inquiries, nor do we see the necessity for doing so.”

A government scientist who has studied the contamination at Santa Susana told the I-Team he thinks there’s a continued threat of radiation and toxic chemicals flowing from the field lab to places like Brandeis-Bardin, via groundwater and airborne dust.

Clusters of Cancer

Researchers inside and out of government have contended that the radiation and toxic chemicals from Santa Susana might have caused many cancer cases.

“The radiation that was released in 1959 and thereafter from Santa Susana is still a danger today,” Dr.Dodge said. “There is absolutely a link between radiation and cancer.”

The I-Team tracked down dozens of people diagnosed with cancer and other illnesses who grew up in the shadow of Santa Susana — in Canoga Park, West Hills, Chatsworth, Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley. Many of them believe their cancers were caused by radiation and chemicals from the field lab.

Kathryn Seltzer Carlson, 56, and her sisters, Judy and Jennifer, all grew up in Canoga Park around the time of the nuclear meltdown and for years after, and all have battled cancer.

“I played in the water, I swam in the water, I drank the water” that ran off the Santa Susana Field Lab, said Carlson, who finished treatment for ovarian cancer earlier this year and is now undergoing chemotherapy for lymphoma. “I’ve had, I don’t know how many cancers.”

Bonnie Klea, a former Santa Susana employee who has lived in West Hills since the 60s, also battled bladder cancer, which is frequently linked to radiation exposure.

“Every single house on my street had cancer,” Klea said.

A 2007 Centers for Disease Control study found that people living within two miles of the Santa Susana site had a 60 percent higher rate of some cancers.

“There’s some provocative evidence,” said Dr. Hal Morgenstern, an epidemiologist who oversaw the study. “It’s like circumstantial evidence, suggesting there’s a link” between the contamination from Santa Susana and the higher cancer rates.

Silence From the Government

For more than two months, the I-Team asked to speak with someone from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the federal agency that’s responsible for all nuclear testing, to ask why workers were ordered to release dangerous radiation over Los Angeles, why the DOE has never publicly admitted this happened, and what it plans to do to help get the site cleaned up.

The DOE emailed the I-Team, “We will not have anyone available for this segment.”

So the I-Team showed up at a public meeting this month about Santa Susana and asked the DOE’s project manager for the site, Jon Jones, to speak with us. He walked away and wouldn’t speak.

Will the Contamination Ever Be Cleaned Up?

Community residents, many stricken with cancer and other radiation-related illnesses, have been fighting for years to get the government and the private owners of the Santa Susana Field Lab to clean up the contamination that remains on the site.

But efforts in the state legislature and state agencies that oversee toxic sites have, so far, stalled.

But residents, with the support of some lawmakers, continue to fight for a full cleanup.

“People are continuing to breathe that (radiation) in and to die,” Chatsworth resident Arline Mathews said.

“See that this is done immediately, before more lives are lost.”


Geologists warn that the Barndioota region is a dangerous site for nuclear waste dumping

November 3, 2018

Barb Walker to Quorn – Out & About Fight To Stop Nuclear Waste Dump In Flinders Ranges SA June 25 

From: Professor Chris von der Borch
For distribution: The Advertiser, The Transcontinental, The Town Crier, Quorn Out and About, The Mercury and Get About – Hawker.
Received: Sunday, June 24th 2018

Subject: Proposed nuclear waste dump near Hawker.

“A site on the western slopes of the Flinders Range west of Hawker is one of the key areas currently under consideration for storage of low level, and the much more dangerous intermediate level, nuclear waste. A number of distinguished geological colleagues and myself, who collectively share many decades of geological research in the proposed area, are very concerned that the one of the suggested storage sites, in the Barndioota region, ticks “all the wrong boxes” as a fail-safe option.

Such nuclear waste, which would have a radioactive half-life of tens of thousands of years, needs a careful consideration of the geological parameters of a proposed responsible storage site, rather than what appears to be “political expediency”! And the site under consideration would certainly not satisfy these geological considerations.

It lies in one of the most seismically active regions of Australia. It lies in a zone which is subject to catastrophic flash-flooding and mudflow activity. The area is adjacent to a major saline lake, Lake Torrens, which is a “terminal drainage area”, meaning that all surface and underground run-off from the ranges ends up in the periodically drying surface lake sediments. So the bottom line is that, were such a storage site were to break down within the next several thousand years, radioactive material would end up in the surface sediments of Lake Torrens. Dry desert winds would then have the potential to disperse radioactive dust over large areas which may well be occupied by humans in the future.”

The nuclear industry’s deceptive narrative about Fukushima earthquake in March 2011

November 3, 2018

The status of “Station Blackout” is a serious one.

“it will be many years before the Japanese people know exactly what happened at Fukushima Daiichi on 11 March 2011. One of the key mysteries was role, if any, the magnitude 9 earthquake played in damaging the plant’s reactor cooling systems. Until lethal levels of radiation inside the reactors fall and workers can carry out comprehensive investigations, the truth about the tremor’s impact will remain a subject of conjecture and contention”

Mr. Takamatsu states with expert authority that the pipes of cooling system ware not designed for the 50 second vibration of the magnitude quake. Barry Brook, kangaroo expert, disagrees and tells the world the quake caused no damage at Fukushima. Yet Mr. Brook must surely know the earthquake caused grid blackout. For reactors are all shut down by earthquakes. A solar plant would have kept generating until the last panel shattered. No one would have been evacuated from such a solar plant.

I submit that Prof. Barry Brook’s description of the effects of earthquake upon the Fukushima Diiachi on 11 March 2011 is totally ignorant of the facts as presented by many qualified experts and fly in the face of the independent commission set up by the Japanese Parliament (Diet). It is confirmed that expert investigators concern aspects of TEPCO’s explanations regarding the quake are “irrational”.

Thus any narrative based upon the nuclear industry view, in line with TEPCO’s may fairly be said to be “irrational”. For the industry view is that there is no possibility of quake damage to any structure or sub structure, such as coolant pipes and valves.

Earthquake Damage At Fukushima – is Industry’s Narrative Truthful or Certain? Nuclear History, 16 Oct 18 I am again going to contrast the statements made by Barry Brook in regard to the events and outcomes at Fukushima Daiichi in 2011 with the facts as presented by Mark Willacy. These facts are published in Willacy’s book, “Fukushima – Japan’s tsunami and the inside story of the nuclear meltdowns”, Willacy, M., Pan Macmillan, copyright 2013, Mark Willacy.

However, I will also include information related to the events which were first published and discussed in 2011. ………..

The earthquake generated the tsunami. What else did the earthquake cause?

In this blog I have included posts which give the IAEA considerations for the electrical grids which are connected to nuclear power plants. The IAEA states that the level of engineering and resilience built into such grids may be a significant additional cost for any nation considering generation to nuclear power.

It comes as no surprise then the electrical grid connected to the Fukushima Daiichi NPP failed for two reasons. 1. The earthquake caused all the nuclear reactors connected to the same grid to rapidly shut down. Thus the earthquake caused a blackout due to cessation of electrical generation. 2. The physical grid infrastructure – poles and wires – were damaged by the earthquake. At Fukushima this meant that more than one of the reactors was physically separated from the grid by the earthquake.

It can therefore be seen that the earthquake meant A. Fukushima Diiachi could not generate nuclear electricity as the quake had shut the reactors down. B. The Fukushima Diiachi Nuclear Power Plant was in Station Blackout for one reason: earth quake damage to nuclear infrastructure – the electrical grid.

The only hope for the quake affected nuclear plants (those in quake caused shut down, including Fukushima Daiichi) was the layered (defence in depth) multi systems which were supposed to the keep the reactors safe. These included A: Emergency Diesel generators. B. Rechargible batteries C. In the case of GE reactors, an emergency steam turbine attached physically to each reactor pressure. This turbine powered an emergency pump which pumped emergency coolant through the core via a part of the Emergency Core Cooling System (ECCS). D. Other ECCS systems. These systems included heat exchangers (radiators) located on the roof of each reactor.

It is at this level of hardware that we must look for physical quake damage to structures. Among the most vulnerable are coolant pipes. The status of “Station Blackout” is a serious one.

I will now turn again to Mark Willacy and the people he interviewed, as recorded in his book:

“But it will be many years before the Japanese people know exactly what happened at Fukushima Daiichi on 11 March 2011. One of the key mysteries was role, if any, the magnitude 9 earthquake played in damaging the plant’s reactor cooling systems. Until lethal levels of radiation inside the reactors fall and workers can carry out comprehensive investigations, the truth about the tremor’s impact will remain a subject of conjecture and contention…..” Wallacy, M., “Fukushima”, page 112.

In its public statements the nuclear industry is adamant that no nuclear disaster would have occurred had the plant not been hit by a tsunami so huge and so powerful that nothing could have been done from the late 1960s until February 2011 to defend against it. Because no one could imagine such a tsunami to have been a rational and predictable threat to the Nuclear Power Plant. Not even Barry Brook could imagine it. Apparently. And therefore, no one who, due to their relevant academic qualifications and experience, could imagine such a thing, would not be listened to by an industry which, since 1945, has claimed that it KNOWS EVERYTHING about nuclear reactors. The industry can’t imagine a tsunami which did occur, it can’t imagine piping and valve damage which might or might not have occurred, it can’t, despite the findings of the Ergen report of 1968 in ECCS and meltdown, imagine the mass production of reactor core meltdowns from a single event, and it claims everything done since has been roaringly successful. At the time of the disaster the British Chief Scientist claimed that the meltdown would be insignificant and would be of concern for just a few hours and for a few metres around the plant. Yet, five years after the disaster this was written in an academic paper by a qualified expert: “More than 5 years since the disaster, internal exposure levels on the order of several thousand or several tens of thousands of becquerels are still being detected in those who regularly consume wild boar, wild birds, wild vegetables, or mushrooms that are highly contaminated, with a frequency of about several persons per 10,000 people (Tsubokura et al., 2014).” Source: Exposure and current health issues in Minamisoma M. Tsubokura Minamisoma Municipal General Hospital, 2-54-6 Takamicho, Haramachi-ku, Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan; e-mail: …………..

………. I turn again to Willacy’s book:

“Reactor 1 at Fukushima Daiichi was the first version [of its type] , and it is possible that its earthquake resistance was a little more vulnerable than the other reactors,” Naotaka Takamatsu. Takamatsu was the deputy general of the Seismic Safety Division of JNES, one of the main government agencies charged with carrying out reactor inspections.” (Willacy, Fukushima, pages 112 and 113).

Takamatsu spent the 25 years prior to that designing quake proof piping and other things for nuclear reactors. This included the piping systems for reactors 2 and 3 for the Onagawa Nuclear Plant. This person was Japan’s leading expert on the impact of earthquake upon nuclear power plants.

Willacy says this of Mr. Takamatsu “He was deeply concerned that not enough that not enough investigation into the possible damage caused to the Fukushima Daiichi reactors by the earthquake.” (Willacy, Fukushima, page 113).

Willacy quotes Takamatsu thus : “TEPCO has not assessed how equipment … at Fukushima Daiichi shook during the earthquake and whether they were functioning after the earthquake or not…I regret this has not progressed….I just think they should make more effort.” (Willacy, Fukushima, page 113.)

On the same page Willacy points out that the Japanese Diet (Parliament) had considered the question of earthquake damage. Willacy reports Takamatsu considers the piping to be the most vulnerable structures to quake damage in the reactors. “When an earthquake damages the piping, the system collapses. Then radioactive water flows out. So piping damage is a possibility, yes”. (Willacy, Fukushima, page 113, quoting Takamatsu.)

Water continues to be pumped into the Rukushima Daiichi reactors for cooling purposes. It continues to leak out as contaminated water. Only about a million tons of this radioactive water has been stored in the water containers at the TEPCO site at Fukushima.  The rest has flowed into the Pacific Ocean. Which is perfectly safe according to nuclear authorities. Such people appear to be the only ones happy about this. Then again, such people promised such an event would never happen. (See the NRC short history, the chapter entitled “The ECCS controversy”. Download form here: Search for “ECCS” in Chapter 2. Read from : “The report offered assurances about the improbability of a core meltdown and the reliability of ECCS
designs, but it also acknowledged that a loss-of-coolant
accident could cause a breach of containment if the ECCS
failed to perform. Therefore, containment could no longer
be regarded as an inviolable barrier to the escape of radioactivity.
This finding represented a milestone in the evolution
of reactor regulation. In effect, it imposed a modified  approach to reactor safety.” (Source: US NRC, “A short history of Nuclear Regulation 1946 -2009”, USA.)

If a pipe breaks, reactor containment could be breached. No wonder TEPCO and the rest of the industry is bothering very much to study the matters of critical interest. Is that why some of those water tanks had to be hurriedly erected at the Fukushima site? Why is the water leaking out???? Sill no worries, Barry reckons there is no quake damage at Fukushima Diiachi. There is no account of the tsunami damaging any aspect of the reactor pressure vessels or the attached fitments, including ECCS pipes.

It will take more than 3 decades from now before humans can tolerate the radiation exposure involved in entering the reactors. By 2050 the world may know what quake damage actually did occur on 11 March 2011 at Fukushima Diachi. The expert Mr. Takamatsu is one who is worried that the quake caused critical damage which made emergency core cooling systems inevitable. He cannot prove such damage occurred. He cannot prove it did not occur. He doesn’t know. He states TEPCO has not put the study in required to discern what damage was likely. Mr. Takamatsu states with expert authority that the pipes of cooling system was not designed for the 50 second vibration of the magnitude quake. Barry Brook, kangaroo expert, disagrees and tells the world the quake caused no damage at Fukushima. Yet Mr. Brook must surely know the earthquake caused grid blackout. For reactors are all shut down by earthquakes. A solar plant would have kept generating until the last panel shattered. No one would have been evacuated from such a solar plant.

Turning again to Willacy: “The (Japanese) Parliamentary report into the nuclear disaster found that one very violent tremor had shaken the plant violently for more than 50 seconds – far longer than than its design standard.” (Willacy, Fukushima, page 114.)

The parliamentary report states that the safety agency NISA was “careless” and illogical in its conclusion that the quake had no negative effects on the reactor cooling systems. (bidi).

The parliamentary investigators needed to get inside the reactor building for reactor 1 to visually inspect the emergency core cooling system isolation condensers for quake damage. For “It was known that they (the isolation condensers) had stopped working soon after the quake hit, and that it was believed to have led to the early meltdown of Reactor 1. But TEPCO would have none of it. It would do everything in its power to thwart their inspection.” (Willacy, Fukushima, page 114).

When parliamentary investigator Mr Tanaka questioned Mr. Toshimitsu Tamai about conditions inside the reactor building for reactor 1, Tamai stated that the building was in complete darkness. The was a risk of injury. They might stumble into a high radiation area, etc. TEPCO refused to guide the investigators in their inspection tour. Due to the evidence given to investigator Tanaka by TEPCO’s Tamai, the tour of reactor 1’s building and isolation condensers (part of the ECCS) was called off.

Willacy obtained a copy of the discussion between Tanaka and Tamai. Willacy’s observations of the exchange are compelling. Anyone who had to accept the statements of Tamai as truth could not allow anyone to enter the building.


“But, much later, Mitsuhiko Tanaka learned the truth. The building was not in darkness. The cover was not blocking the sunlight. Not only that, but a series of powerful mercury lamps had been installed and could throw as much light as the headlights of 40 cars. The investigators could have easily accessed the Reactor 1 building. TEPCO had misled the official panel appointed by the nation’s parliament.” (Willacy, Fukushima, page 114).

Willacy goes on to describe Tanaka’s rage at being lied to by TEPCO. There are many people around the world and in Japan who share the rage, for repeatedly TEPCO and the world nuclear industry lied and gave false and inadequate narrative of the events. By now, most people will have forgotten about the mass production of a rank of reactors which all demonstrated ECCS failure and meltdown. Events predicted as far back as 1969 by non-industry experts and denied by industry experts, including government lackeys of the nuclear industry. I recall that when reactor 1 exploded, the Australian SBS tv news report of the event included the voice over of an “expert” from the Australian National University which stated “This is normal.” It doesn’t get much blacker than that. As for the danger of nuclear plumbing and loss of containment, Ralph Lapp explained that in the early 1970s in his essay in the New York Times.

Nuclear authorities must think the people of the world have the memory of goldfish. They are confident in their lies but there is very little variety in the way they go about things. They would have it that:

“in any sort of major accident in any industry there’s a period of introspection afterwards. Looking at what went wrong. Just like in anything in our lives. And trying to take the salient lessons and use that in future is a …I see the announcements of governments around the world to re-look at the safety of their current nuclear power plants. That’s an eminently sensible thing to do because you can look at all of the contingencies that they have allowed for and say well, what if the situation in Japan had happened to us, are we prepared? That’s learning from the lessons of history.” Source: ABC TV One Plus One: Barry Brook on nuclear power’s future after Fukushima, posted Published on 18 Mar 2011.

TEPCO is caught lying to the lead investigator of the Japanese committee charged with investigating the Fukushima nuclear disaster. How is this enabling ANYONE to “learn lessons of history” Prof Brooks? What is your bias and preference doing in this “learning” process? Are you simply so inculcated yourself that you can’t think independently? What are you trying to teach us? Is a nuclear compliant population so important to you that you feel contrary evidence can just be ignored by you as you “teach” the Australian population? You are not my lecturer sir. I am not subject to your assessment. As an Australian sir, you are subject to mine, to the extent that I can communicate with government and government bodies.

“TEPCO denied that it had intentionally lied but admitted ‘a mistake had made..’ But, by this time, the investigation commission had released its final report, without confirming whether the emergency isolation condensers had been damage or not. The report did rule that there was a possibility that pipes had burst during the quake, causing what is called a ‘small break loss of coolant accident’…” (Willacy, Fukushima, page 116.)

In the book Fukushima Willacy records TEPCO’s point of view. Based on its inspection of reactor (un fuelled) at the time of the disaster, TEPCO concluded that none of the reactors suffered earthquake damage. “The Parliamentary Committee dismissed ‘such results and conclusions [as] very uneliable’. (Willacy, Fukushima, page 117, reference 44. Which is: The National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, page 26.

The Executive Summary of the report is here: On page 31 of the Executive summary the following is stated: “However, according to several
workers involved in the manual suspension of IC who responded to our investigation, they stopped IC (isolation condensor) to check whether coolant was leaking from IC and other pipes because the reactor pressure was falling rapidly. While the operator’s explanations are reasonable and appropriate, TEPCO’s explanation is irrational.
6. There is no evidence that the safety relief (SR) valve was opened at Unit 1, though this should have taken place in the case of an accident. (Such records are available for Units 2 and 3.) We found that the sound of the SR valve opening for Unit 2 was heard at the Central Control Room and at Unit 2, but no one working at Unit 1 heard the sound of the Unit 1 SR valve opening. It is therefore a possibility that the SR valve might not have worked in Unit 1. In this case, a minor LOCA caused by the seismic
motion could have taken place in Unit 1.” end quote.

I submit that Prof. Barry Brook’s description of the effects of earthquake upon the Fukushima Diiachi on 11 March 2011 is totally ignorant of the facts as presented by many qualified experts and fly in the face of the independent commission set up by the Japanese Parliament (Diet). It is confirmed that expert investigators concern aspects of TEPCO’s explanations regarding the quake are “irrational”.

Thus any narrative based upon the nuclear industry view, in line with TEPCO’s may fairly be said to be “irrational”. For the industry view is that there is no possibility of quake damage to any structure or sub structure, such as coolant pipes and valves. This is based upon TEPCO’s inspection of reactor 5, which was neither fuelled or hot at the time of the quake. TEPCO could have and still lcan examine the Isolation Condensers of reactor 1. As far as I know, it still has not done so. It has lied to the independent investigators in order to keep the investigators away from those condensers. At least that is my opinion of TEPCO’s motive for its claimed “mistake”.

Yet Prof Brook still considers the industry provided narrative the best one available for his purposes.

Interesting that. I would have thought the actual evidence would have been more important than the mere opinions TEPCO which him and everyone else wants and needs us to have. After all, it takes a lot of effort to suck local populations into the position where they trust nuclear industry. There is now a real problem in that regard in Japan.

And Port Willunga.

The relative hazards of nuclear fuel in reactor cores, spent fuel pools, and dry storage

November 3, 2018

Nuclear Reactor Fuel Safety: The Waiting Gain, Union of Concerned Scientists, 

DAVE LOCHBAUM, DIRECTOR, NUCLEAR SAFETY PROJECT | SEPTEMBER 27, 2018Nuclear power reactors spilt atoms to release energy used to generate electricity. Many of the byproducts formed when atoms split are unstable (radioactive) and release particles or gamma rays in search of stability. These radioactive emissions produce energy. Whether in the core of an operating reactor, in the core of a shutdown reactor, in the spent fuel pool after discharge from a reactor core, or in dry storage after offloading from a spent fuel pool, the energy released from nuclear reactor fuel must be removed before it damages the fuel from overheating. This commentary describes the energy levels associated with nuclear fuel in various locations at various times to illustrate the factors that affect the associated hazard levels.

Nuclear Fuel Locations

The San Onofre nuclear plant near San Clemente, California is used to describe the nuclear reactor fuel locations and energy levels for this commentary. San Onofre has been permanently shut down, but data from when its reactors operated and for the spent fuel remaining onsite represent conditions at nuclear plants across the country……..  [excellent photos and tables]

……UCS Perspective

…… the relative hazards of nuclear fuel in reactor cores, spent fuel pools, and dry storage. Nuclear fuel in the reactor core, even in the core of a shutdown reactor, has a significantly higher energy level than when in the spent fuel pool or dry storage. The higher energy level has two associated hazard implications. First, it translates into less time to successfully intervene to prevent fuel damage when cooling is lost or impaired. Second, it provides a larger catalyst or engine to expel radioactive materials from damaged fuel. Risk is defined as the product of the probability of an accident times its consequences. The first factor affects the probability of an accident while the second factor affects its consequences. Combined, these factors can cause risk to increase.

Nuclear fuel in spent fuel pools has lower energy levels than when in reactor cores. The average fuel assembly energy levels are lower than the maximum energy level permitted in a MPC-37 canister. But the associated inventories indicate why spent fuel pools have higher risks than dry storage. The collective higher energy levels in spent fuel pools once again translate into less time to respond should cooling be lost or impaired. And the larger inventory of fuel assemblies emits a larger radioactive cloud should intervention fail.

Nuclear fuel in dry storage represents the least amount of fuel at the lowest energy level. If cooling is lost or impaired, more time is available to successfully intervene and less nasty spread gets out when efforts fail. But fuel in dry storage is far from absolutely safe. If it were even close to being so safe, the US would not be spending billions of dollars looking for, but not yet finding, a geological repository that can isolate this hazardous material from people and the environment for at least 10,000 years into the future.

Dry storage is the safest and securest way to manage nuclear fuel risks today. However, the more of the 10,000-year period we waste looking for a geological repository, the less competent and responsible we reveal ourselves to be.

We can do better. And not just because it would be hard for us to mess this mess up any worse than we’ve mismanaged so far.

USA’s history of accidental dropping of nuclear bombs

October 9, 2018

Remembering A Near Disaster: U.S. Accidently Drops Nuclear Bombs On Itself And Its Allies  WUNC91.5,  24 May 18

During the Cold War, U.S. planes accidentally dropped nuclear bombs on the east coast, in Europe, and elsewhere. “Dumb luck” prevented a historic catastrophe. 
This year marks the 50th anniversary of a decision that ended a perilous chapter of the Cold War.

In 1968, the Pentagon halted a program that kept military bombers in the air, loaded with nuclear weapons to deter a Soviet attack.

The problem was the jets kept having near-catastrophic accidents.

“If you go through some of the archival evidence publicly available, it seems like once a week or so, there was some kind of significant noteworthy accident that was being reported to the Department of Defense or the Atomic Energy Commission or members of Congress,” said Stephen Schwartz, a long-time nuclear weapons analyst.

Schwartz singled out 1958 as a particularly notorious year.
“We’re actually celebrating − celebrating is probably the wrong word − but we’re marking the 60th anniversary of no fewer than eight nuclear weapons accidents this year,” Schwartz said.

Every couple of weeks, Maurice Sanders gets a reminder of one of those 1958 accidents when a car with out-of-state tags parks in front of his house just outside Florence, South Carolina. Strangers pile out and tromp around to the scrub oak forest just behind his back yard to gaze down at an odd tourist attraction.

“It’s the hole from where the bomb had dropped, years ago,” Sanders said. “I think it’s on some kind of map or something.”

The circular pit is as big around as a small house, with a pond of tea-colored water at the bottom. A fading plywood cutout that someone put up − apparently to lure more tourists − is the size and shape of the Mark 6 nuclear bomb that was dropped there by accident.

The core containing the nuclear material was stored separately on the B-47 bomber it fell from, but the high explosives that were used to trigger the nuclear reaction exploded on impact, digging the crater estimated at 35 feet deep. The blast injured six members of a nearby family and damaged their home beyond repair.

Earlier that same year, just one state farther south, a jet fighter collided with a bomber during a training exercise, and the crew jettisoned a bomb into coastal waters near Savannah, Georgia.

Two years later, in 1961, a B-52 bomber flying out of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base near Goldsboro came apart in the sky, and the two armed nuclear bombs it was carrying fell into a farming community northeast of the base. One buried itself so deeply into a tobacco field that some of its parts were never found. The other floated down on a parachute, planting its nose in the ground beside a tree.

The parachute bomb came startlingly close to detonating. A secret government document said three of its four safety mechanisms failed, and only a simple electrical switch prevented catastrophe. It was 260 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima and could have instantly killed thousands of people. The radioactive fallout could have endangered millions more as far north as New York City.

Safety takes back seat to readiness

The military’s name for serious nuclear weapons mishaps is “broken arrow.” The Pentagon has only officially acknowledged 32 broken arrows, but evidence compiled by the government shows there were thousands more accidents involving nuclear weapons, Schwartz said.

“Most of which were not that as serious as the 32 we know about, but some of them were quite bad,” he said.

Schwartz said a wave of serious accidents in the late 1950s through 1968 was partly due to programs that kept the U.S. on a war footing. A few planes were kept aloft 24 hours a day, ready to drop bombs on Russia.

And then there was the sheer number of weapons being made, which created more opportunities for things to go wrong.

Schwartz said by the year after the bomb fell on South Carolina, the U.S. was making almost 20 nuclear weapons a day……..

“Everything associated with nuclear weapons  the nuclear weapons delivery system, the command-and-control systems that make sure they go off when they’re supposed to and most importantly that they don’t go off when they’re not supposed to − all of these things are designed, built, operated, and maintained by human beings,” Schwartz said. “And human beings are fallible.”

Overseas accidents bring program’s end

It wasn’t the bombs the U.S. dropped on itself that finally ended the program. Rather, it was two accidents over friendly nations.

In 1966, a B-52 bomber – also flying out of Seymour Johnson – broke apart in the sky near the coast of Spain. One of its bombs dropped into the sea, and three fell on land where conventional explosives scattered radioactive material.

Then, in 1968, the burning-seat-cushion crash spread plutonium and uranium onto sea ice and into the sea off the coast of Greenland……..

The nuclear weapons that USA lost in the 1950s and 60s

October 9, 2018

The US Has Lost Six Nuclear Weapons. So Where The Hell Are They? Tom Hale, 4 May 18  Keys, phones, headphones, socks, thermonuclear weapons – some things just always seem to go missing. Believe it or not,

the US has lost at least six atomic bombs or weapons-grade nuclear material since the Cold War.

Not only that, but the US is responsible for at least 32 documented instances of a nuclear weapons accident, known as a “Broken Arrow” in military lingo. These atomic-grade mishaps can involve an accidental launching or detonation, theft, or loss – yep loss – of a nuclear weapon.

February 13, 1950

The first of these unlikely instances occurred in 1950, less than five years after the first atomic bomb was detonated. In a mock nuclear strike against the Soviet Union, a US B-36 bomber en route from Alaska to Texas began to experience engine trouble. An icy landing and stuttering engine  meant the landing was going to be near-impossible, so the crew jettisoned the plane’s Mark 4 nuclear bomb over the Pacific. The crew witnessed a flash, a bang, and a sound wave.

The military claim the mock-up bomb was filled with “just” uranium and TNT but no plutonium, so it wasn’t capable of a nuclear explosion. Nevertheless, the uranium has never been recovered.

March 10, 1956

On March 10, a Boeing B-47 Stratojet set off from MacDill Air Force Base Florida for a non-stop flight to Morocco with “two nuclear capsules” onboard. The jet was scheduled for its second mid-flight refueling over the Mediterranean Sea, but it never made contact. No trace of the jet or the nuclear material was ever found again.

February 5, 1958

In the early hours of February 5, 1958, a B-47 bomber with a 3,400-kilogram (7,500-pound) Mark 15 nuclear bomb on board accidentally collided with an F-86 aircraft during a simulated combat mission. The battered and bruised bomber attempted to land numerous times, but to no avail. Eventually, they made the decision to jettison the bomb into the mouth of the Savannah River near Savannah, Georgia, to make the landing possible. Luckily for them, the plane successfully landed and the bomb did not detonate. However, it has remained “irretrievably lost” to this day.

January 24, 1961

On January 24, 1961, the wing of a B-52 bomber split apart while on an alert mission above Goldsboro, North Carolina. Onboard were two 24-megaton nuclear bombs. One of these successfully deployed its emergency parachute, while the other fell and crashed to the ground. It’s believed the unexploded bomb smashed into farmland around the town, but it has never been recovered. In 2012, North Carolina put up a sign near the supposed crash site to commemorate the incident.

December 5, 1965

An A-4E Skyhawk aircraft loaded with a nuclear weapon rolled off the back off an aircraft carrier, USS Ticonderoga, stationed in the Philippine Sea near Japan. The plane, pilot, and nuclear bomb have never been found.

In 1989, the US eventually admitted their bomb was still laying in the seabed around 128 kilometers (80 miles) from a small Japanese island. Needless to say, the Japanese government and environmental groups were pretty pissed about it.

?, 1968

At some point during the Spring of 1968, the US military lost some kind of nuclear weapon. The Pentagon still keeps information about the incident tightly under wraps. However, some have speculated that the incident refers to the nuclear-powered Scorpion submarine. In May 1968, the attack submarine went missing along with its 99-strong crew in the Atlantic Ocean after being sent on a secret mission to spy on the Soviet navy. This, however, remains conjecture.

“Significant radiation dose” received by Lucas Heights worker in nuclear accident, Australia

April 2, 2018

Radioactive liquid spills on worker at Lucas Heights nuclear reactor in Sydney, Peter Jean, Political Reporter, The Advertiser, December 14, 2017 A WORKER received a “significant radiation dose” when a vial of radioactive liquid spilt onto their hands in the most serious recorded safety incident to ever occur at Sydney’s Lucas Heights nuclear reactor.

The Advertiser can reveal the accident occurred on August 22 when a vial of the nuclear medicine product Molybdenum-99 was dropped when its cap was being removed during a quality-control test. The incident was rated “severe” by regulators and has led to changes in safety procedures.

Molybdenum-99 is produced by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation at Lucas Heights, below, for use in cancer and heart disease scans.

ANSTO Health general manager Mark Moore said the analyst has a slightly elevated risk of developing skin cancer after the liquid spilt on their hands.

“The analyst was working in a shielded fume cupboard that, in normal operation, limits a dose received, but the dropping of the vial resulted in the radiation dose,’’ Mr Moore said.

“Our employee remains at work and is currently performing alternative quality assessment work in the nuclear medicine field.”

Mr Moore said the staff member had burn-like symptoms, including blistering and reddening of the skin.

“While ANSTO is still waiting to be advised on the final estimate dose by an independent clinical specialist, we know it was above the annual statutory dose limit of 500 millisieverts, and expect to be issued with a formal breach from the regulator,” Mr Moore said.

“At this stage, the dose is estimated to be more than 20 Sieverts, which is 40 times above the extremity dose limit.”

The incident was reported to the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

An ARPANSA investigation criticised some safety practices in Lucas Heights’ radiopharmaceutical production facilities.

March 28 – anniversary of Three Mile Island nuclear disaster and the lies about “no-one died”

April 2, 2018

Too little information clouds real impact of TMI, By Beyond Nuclear staff

The disaster at Unit 2 of the Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear power plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, began on March 28, 1979. Today, 39 years later, the reality, of what really happened, and how many people it harmed, remains cloaked in mystery and misinformation. Unlike the popular catchphrase, TMI is a story of too little information.

What happened?

The two unit Three Mile Island nuclear power plant sits on an island in the middle of the Susquehanna River, just ten miles southeast of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. TMI Unit 2 was running at full power, but had been commercially operational for just 88 days when, at 4 A.M. on Wednesday, March 28, 1979, it experienced either a mechanical or electrical failure that caused the turbine-generator and the nuclear reactor to automatically shut down.

The pressure and temperature in the reactor began to increase, but when a relief valve on top of the reactor’s primary coolant pressurizer stuck open, malfunctioning instrumentation indicated that the valve had shut. While cooling water emptied out of the reactor, operators mistakenly reduced the amount of cooling water flowing into the core, leading to the partial meltdown.

Workers deliberately and repeatedly vented radioactive gas over several days to relieve pressure and save the containment structure. Then came fears of a hydrogen explosion. But by April 1, when President Jimmy Carter arrived at the site, that crisis had been averted, and by April 27 the now destroyed reactor was put into “cold shutdown.” TMI-2 was finished. But its deadly legacy was to last decades.

How much radiation got out?

Within hours of the beginning of the nuclear disaster, onsite radiation monitors went off the scale because radiation levels exceeded their measurement capacity. There were only a few offsite radiation monitors operating that day. Subsequent examination of human blood, and of anomalies in animals and plants, suggest that significant levels of radiation were released.

In the days following the TMI meltdown, hundreds of local residents reported the same acute radiation exposure symptoms as victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings — nausea and vomiting, severe fatigue, diarrhea, hair loss and graying, and a radiation-induced reddening of the skin. For example, Marie Holowka, a dairy farmer near TMI, recalled as she left the milkhouse that morning that, outside, “it was so blue, I couldn’t see ten feet ahead of myself.” There was a “copper taste” in the air. She was later treated for thyroid problems. Given the absence of monitors and the paucity of evidence, the only real radiation meters were the people of Three Mile Island.

“No one died:” The biggest lie

Given that exposure to ionizing radiation is medically understood to cause diseases like cancer which can be fatal, there is no way to definitively state that “no one died at TMI” or later developed cancers. The opposite is far more likely to be true.

Estimates can be complicated by the long latency period for illnesses caused by exposure to radiation. Sometimes exposed populations move away and cannot be tracked. Nevertheless, long after a catastrophic radiation release, disease can still manifest, both from the initial radiation exposure and from slow environmental poisoning, as the radionuclides released by the disaster are ingested or inhaled for many generations.

The only independent study that looked at the aftermath of TMI was conducted by the late Dr. Stephen Wing and his team at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. They looked at radiation-specific markers in residents’ blood, called biomarkers, to assess dose rather than relying solely on industry measured (or mis-measured as the case was) radiation emissions. The team concluded that lung cancer and leukemia rates were two to 10 times higher downwind of the Three Mile Island reactor than upwind.

Harm to animals and plants

After the radiation release from Three Mile Island, a number of plants exhibited strange mutations including extra large leaves (gigantism), double-headed blossoms and other anomalies. These plant anomalies were documented over decades by Mary Osborn, a local resident who conducted meticulous plant research and is a founder of Three Mile Island Alert. (Her deformed rose is pictured at the top of this story.)

Robert Weber, a Mechanicsburg veterinarian, reported a 10% increase in stillbirths, and a marked increase in the need for Cesarean Sections among sheep, goats and pigs in 1979, 1980, and 1981 in a 15-mile area around the TMI site. Dr. Weber also reported significant increases in the cancer rate among animals with shorter life spans such as dogs and cats. These findings are consistent with research around Chernobyl.

Evacuation failure

During the licensing phase of the construction and operation of TMI, a nuclear disaster was considered unthinkable. Consequently, emergency plans were practically non-existent when TMI began its meltdown. Emergency planning officials were repeatedly misinformed by TMI owner, Metropolitan Edison, on the disaster’s progression, and kept in the dark about the need for public protective actions in the early days at TMI.

On March 30, Pennsylvania Governor Richard Thornburgh finally “advised” that pregnant women and pre-school age children voluntarily evacuate a five-mile perimeter around TMI, an anticipated target population of 3,500 people. Instead, approximately 200,000 people spontaneously evacuated from a 25-mile perimeter.

TMI demonstrated that managing human responses during a nuclear catastrophe is not realistic and provokes unique human behavior not comparable to any other hazard.

Competing loyalties between work duty and personal family caused a significant number of staffing problems for various emergency response roles. As the crisis intensified, more emergency workers reported late or not at all.

Doctors, nurses and technicians in hospitals beyond the five-mile perimeter and out to 25 miles, spontaneously evacuated emergency rooms and their patients. Pennsylvania National Guard, nuclear power plant workers, school teachers and bus drivers assigned to accompany their students, abandoned their roles for family obligations. A similar response could be expected in the same situation today.

You can find our full investigation — The Truth About Three Mile Island — on our website. It is free to download and reprint.


Nuclear waste containers: the problem of corrosion in copper canisters

April 2, 2018

The court said no to the application because it considered that there were problems with the copper canister that had to be resolved now and not later. 

the UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) is to carry out an expert peer review of a Canadian research programme on microbiologically influenced corrosion of canisters that will be used to dispose of used nuclear fuel.

The Copper Corrosion Conundrum  No2Nuclear Power

The Swedish Environmental Court has rejected the Nuclear Waste Company SKB’s license application for a final repository for spent nuclear fuel in Forsmark, Sweden. This is a huge triumph for safety and environment – and for the Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear Waste Review (MKG), the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC), and critical scientists. Now it is up to the Swedish government to make a final decision.

The Environmental Court took into consideration viewpoints from all parties in the case, including scientists who have raised concerns about disposing spent nuclear fuel in copper canisters. During the legal proceedings, the Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear Waste Review (MKG) and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) presented the shortcomings of this method of disposal. For many years, the environmental organisations have been arguing that the Nuclear Waste Company SKB need to listen to critical scientists, and investigate alternative disposal methods, especially the possibility of developing a very deep boreholes disposal system. (1) Johan Swahn, Director at MKG said:

“Several independent researchers have criticized both the applied method and the selected site. There is a solid documentation base for the Environmental Court’s decision. It is hard to believe the Swedish Government’s conclusions will be any different from the Court’s.”

MKG has made an unofficial translation into English of the Environmental Court opinion. (2)

The court said no to the application because it considered that there were problems with the copper canister that had to be resolved now and not later. The translation shows the courts judicial argumentation and why it decided not to accept the regulator – the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority’s (SSM’s) opinion that the problems with the integrity of the copper canister were not serious and could likely be solved at a later stage in the decision-making process. The court is quite clear in its statement and argumentation:

“The Land and Environmental Court finds that the environmental impact assessment meets the requirements of the Environmental Code and can therefore be approved. All in all, the investigation meets the high standards set out in the Environmental Code, except in one respect, the safety of the canister.” (Emphasis added)

“The investigation shows that there are uncertainties, or risks, regarding how much certain forms of corrosion and other processes can impair the ability of the canister to contain the nuclear waste in the long term. Overall, these uncertainties about the canister are significant and have not been fully taken into account in the conclusions of SKB’s safety analysis. The Land and Environmental Court considers that there is some leeway for accepting further uncertainties. The uncertainties surrounding certain forms of corrosion and other processes are, however, of such gravity that the Court cannot, based on SKB’s safety analysis, conclude that the risk criterion in the Radiation Safety Authority’s regulations has been met. In the context of the comprehensive risk assessment required by the Environmental Code, the documentation presented to date does not provide sufficient support for concluding that the final repository will be safe in the long term.” (Emphasis added)

The court says that the application is only permissible if the nuclear waste company SKB:

“…produces evidence that the repository in the long term will meet the requirements of the Environmental Code, despite remaining uncertainties regarding how the protective capability of the canister may be affected by: a. corrosion due to reactions in oxygen-free water; b. pit corrosion due to reaction with sulphide, including the contribution of the sauna effect to pit corrosion; c. stress corrosion due to reaction with sulphide, including the contribution of the sauna effect to stress corrosion; d. hydrogen embrittlement; e. radioactive radiation impact on pit corrosion, stress corrosion and hydrogen embrittlement.”

The main difference between the court’s and the regulator’s decision-making was that the court decided to rely on a multitude of scientific sources and information and not only on the material provided by SKB. It had also been uncovered that the main corrosion expert at SSM did not want to say yes to the application at this time that may have influenced the court’s decision-making. In fact there appear to have been many dissenting voices in the regulator despite the regulator’s claim in the court that a united SSM stood behind its opinion.

The court underlines in its opinion that the Environmental Code requires that the repository should be shown to be safe at this stage in the decision-making process, i.e. before the government has its say. The court says that some uncertainties will always remain but it sees the possible copper canister problems as so serious that it is not clear that the regulator’s limits for release of radioactivity can be met. This is a reason to say no to the project unless it can be shown that the copper canister will work as intended. The copper canister has to provide isolation from the radioactivity in the spent nuclear fuel to humans and the environment for very long time-scales.

It is still unclear how the process will proceed. The community of Östhammar has cancelled the referendum on the repository, as there will be no question from the government in the near future. The government has set up a working group of civil servants to manage the government’s handling of the opinions delivered by the court and SSM. SKB has said that it is preparing documentation for the government to show that there are no problems with the canister. Whether the government thinks this will be enough remains to be seen. This is likely not what the court had in mind. The government would be wise to make a much broader review of the issue. There is a need for a thorough judicial review on the governmental level in order to override the court’s opinion. Otherwise the government’ decision may not survive an appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court.

There are eminent corrosion experts who believe that copper is a bad choice as a canister material. There is also increasing experimental evidence that this is the case. The court’s decision shows the importance of democratic and open governance in environmental decisionmaking. It is important that the continued decision-making regarding the Swedish repository for spent nuclear is transparent and multi-faceted. (3)

Copper Canisters The canister has to enclose the nuclear waste for a very long; it is the final repository’s primary safety function. The canister has a 50 mm thick copper shell with an insert of cast iron. The canister must withstand corrosion and mechanical stress.

The investigation on the capability of the canister is extensive and involves complex technical and scientific issues. These include groundwater chemistry, corrosion processes, as well as creep and hydrogen embrittlement (this latter affects the mechanical strength of the canister). However, the parties taking part in the court proceedings disagreed on several issues crucial to the final repository’s long-term security.

The Land and Environmental Court considered the following uncertainties regarding the canister to be most important in the continued risk assessment:

  • 1. General corrosion due to reaction in oxygen-free water. The parties have different views on scientific issues surrounding this kind of corrosion. The Court found that there is considerable uncertainty on this topic that has not been taken account of in SKB’s safety analysis
  • .· 2. Local corrosion in the form of pit corrosion due to reaction with sulphide. The Court found that there is significant uncertainty regarding pit-corrosion due to reaction with sulphide. This uncertainty has not been included in the safety analysis. In addition, there is uncertainty about the sauna effect, which may have an amplifying effect on pit corrosion.
  • · 3. Local corrosion in the form of stress corrosion due to reaction with sulphide. The Court found that there is significant uncertainty regarding stress corrosion due to reaction with sulphide. This uncertainty has not been included in the safety analysis. In addition, there is uncertainty about the sauna effect, which may have an amplifying effect on stress corrosion.
  • · 4. Hydrogen embrittlement is a process that affects the mechanical strength of the canister. The Court found that significant uncertainty regarding hydrogen embrittlement remains. This uncertainty has not been taken account of in the safety analysis.
  •  · 5. The effect of ionizing radiation on pit corrosion, stress corrosion and hydrogen embrittlement. There is significant uncertainty regarding ionizing radiation impact on pit corrosion, stress corrosion and hydrogen sprays. This uncertainty has been included to a limited extent in the safety assessment.

Meanwhile, the UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) is to carry out an expert peer review of a Canadian research programme on microbiologically influenced corrosion of canisters that will be used to dispose of used nuclear fuel. The NNL has been contracted by Canada’s National Waste Management Organisation (NWMO) to review its work on the potential for corrosion of the copper-clad canisters. The NWMO is responsible for designing and implementing the safe, long-term management of Canada’s used nuclear fuel under a plan known as Adaptive Phased Management. This requires used fuel to be contained and isolated in a deep geological repository, with a comprehensive process to select an informed and willing host for the project.

The used fuel will be isolated from the environment using a series of engineered barriers. Fuel elements comprise ceramic fuel pellets, which are themselves highly durable, contained inside corrosion-resistant zircaloy tubes to make fuel elements. Bundles of fuel elements are placed into large, durable copper-coated steel containers which are designed to contain and isolate used nuclear fuel in a deep geological repository, essentially indefinitely. The canisters will be placed in so-called “buffer boxes” containing by bentonite clay, providing a fourth barrier.

World Nuclear News reports that although copper is highly resistant to corrosion, under anoxic conditions – that is, where no oxygen is present – sulphate-reducing bacteria have the potential to produce sulphide, which can lead to microbiologically induced corrosion (MIC) of copper. Waste management organisations and regulators therefore need to understand the levels of sulphide that will be present in a geological disposal facility, to understand its potential to migrate to the canister surface and the potential for it to cause copper corrosion, the NNL said.

The NWMO has been actively developing computer models that will be used to evaluate the potential for MIC once a disposal site has been selected, and has selected the NNL to carry out a peer review of its work because of the UK laboratory’s expertise in the biogeochemical processes that could affect repository performance and in developing computer modelling techniques that simulate the effects of sulphate-reducing bacteria. The work is linked closely with NNL’s participation in the European Commission Horizon-2020 MIND (Microbiology in Nuclear waste Disposal) project. (4

Thorium nuclear reactors: no safer than conventional uranium reactors

April 2, 2018

Dispelling Claim 4: Thorium reactors are safer than  conventional uranium reactors  Thorium ‒ a better fuel for nuclear technology? Nuclear Monitor,   by Dr. Rainer Moormann  1 March 2018

The fission of U-233 results in roughly the same amounts

of the safety-relevant nuclides iodine-131, caesium-137

and strontium-90 as that of U-235. Also, the decay heat is

virtually the same. The differences in produced actinides (see

next claim) are of secondary importance for the risk during

operation or in an accident. In this perspective, thorium use

does not deliver any recognisable safety advantages.

Of greater safety relevance is the fact that uranium-233

fission produces 60% less so-called delayed neutrons than

U-235 fission. Delayed neutrons are not directly created

during the fission of uranium, but from some short-lived

decay products. Only due to the existence of delayed

neutrons, a nuclear reactor can be controlled, and the

bigger their share (for instance 0.6% with U-235), the

larger is the criticality range in which controllability is given

(this is called delayed criticality). Above this controllable

area (prompt criticality) a nuclear power excursion can

happen, like during the Chernobyl accident. The fact that

the delayed super-critical range is with U-233 considerably

smaller than with U-235, is from a safety point of view an

important technical disadvantage of thorium use.

During the design of thermal molten salt reactors (breeders),

the conclusion was that the use of thorium brings problems

with criticality safety that do not appear with classical

uranium use in this type of reactors. For that reason, it was

necessary to turn the attention to fast reactors for the use

of thorium in molten salt reactors. Although this conclusion

cannot be generalised, it shows that the use of thorium can

lead to increased safety problems.

As mentioned, a serious safety problem is the necessity to

restart breeder and reprocessing technology with thorium.

Thorium is often advertised in relation to the development

of so-called advanced reactors (Generation IV). The

safety advantages attributed to thorium in this context are

mostly, however, not germane to thorium (the fuel) but

rather due to the reactor concept. Whether or not these

advanced reactor concepts bring overall increased safety

falls outside the scope of this article, but that is certainly

not a question with a clear “yes” as the answer.