Nuclear Power News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on nuclear power
Four Air Force colonels have been relieved of their commands and more than 65 lower-ranking officers and airmen have been disciplined over a series of errors that led to a B-52 flight from North Dakota to Louisiana with six nuclear-armed cruise missiles that no one realized were under the wing. The Fifth Bomb Wing commander at Minot, Colonel Bruce Emig, was removed from command, along with his chief munitions officer and the operations officer of the B-52 unit at Barksdale. The munitions squadron commander at Minot was relieved of command shortly after the incident. The problems began with a breakdown in the formal scheduling process used to prepare the AGM-129 cruise missiles in question for decommissioning. In March, the Pentagon decided to retire it in favor of an older AGM-86. Part of the preparation involved removing the W-80 nuclear warhead and replacing it with a steel dummy on missiles to be flown aboard B-52s to Barksdale for destruction. On the morning of Aug. 29, the loading crew at Minot used a paper schedule that was out of date when members picked up 12 missiles from a guarded weapons-storage hangar, six with dummy warheads and six they did not realize had nuclear warheads. The trailer that would carry the pylons to the B-52 arrived early, and its crew did not inspect the missiles as it should have before loading them on the trailer. The driver called the munitions control center to verify the numbers, but the staff there failed to check them. At the aircraft, the crew that loaded the pylons, one under each wing, failed again to check the missiles, which have a small glass porthole to view whether a dummy or nuclear warhead is installed. The next morning, Aug. 30, the plane's navigator failed to do a complete check of the missiles, as required, looking under only one wing and not the one where the nuclear-armed missiles were.
Note: How is it possible that 65 military people were involved in this? Could it be that they were part of a rogue operation that was uncovered? There's more here than meets the eye.
Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon says Saddam Hussein "can be absolutely confident" the UK is willing to use nuclear weapons "in the right conditions". Mr Hoon said the UK reserved the right to use the weapons "in extreme self defence". It is widely reported that before the first Gulf War the US and its allies made it known to the Iraqi leader that nuclear weapons would be the response to any use of chemical or biological weapons. Mr Hoon's Cabinet colleague, International Development Secretary Clare Short, said she could foresee no scenario in which a retaliatory nuclear strike would serve any useful purpose. Mr Hoon contradicted her view, saying nuclear weapons could not be a deterrent if there was no willingness to use them. He said: "We have always made it clear that we would reserve the right to use nuclear weapons in conditions of extreme self defence. Saddam can be absolutely confident that in the right conditions we would be willing to use nuclear weapons."
Note: For key reports from major media sources on the dark realities of the new era of endless war, click here.
British officials have approved the export of key components needed to make nuclear weapons to Iran and other countries known to be developing such weapons. An investigation by BBC Radio 4 programme File on Four will disclose that the Department of Trade and Industry allowed a quantity of the metal, Beryllium, to be sold to Iran last year. That metal is needed to make nuclear bombs. Britain has had an arms embargo to Iran since 1993 and has signed up to an international protocol which bans the sale of Beryllium to named countries, including Iran. Beryllium is a metal with a limited number of high-tech uses in civilian industry, but is mostly used in defence applications and is a vital component in a nuclear bomb. The programme has also interviewed a leading nuclear weapons expert in the UK who says that the Beryllium and other items which the DTI has licensed to Iran add up to a shopping list for a nuclear weapons programme. The UK has an arms embargo against Iran, but not a trade embargo. The programme highlights the weaknesses in the UK's new export control system, which was set up to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Iranian procurement agents have been working in the UK to get sensitive material back to Iran, and that Pakistan has also been successful in procuring material for its nuclear programme from here.
Britain's nuclear industry was involved in a top secret international operation to steal dead babies for up to three decades, according to newly declassified documents. The papers, released by the American Department of Energy, show that scientists from the UK Atomic Energy Authority removed children's bones and bodies to ship to the United States for classified nuclear experiments. Letters exchanged between American and British government scientists ... discuss levels of radiation in the ribs of stillborn babies and lists of dead children's bodies ... spirited to American nuclear laboratories. The human 'guinea pigs' are not named, but assigned codenames. Baby B-1102, for example, is listed as a boy who died aged eight months. Baby B-595 was a girl who was 13 months old when she died. The report listing them [was] stamped 'top secret'. Although the US government has released hundreds of documents about the operation, it has retained even more sensitive papers thought to detail some of the most embarrassing aspects of collusion between the British and American authorities. An investigation into the 'body snatching' programme - codenamed Project Sunshine - ordered by former President Bill Clinton, was scathing: 'Researchers employed deception in the solicitation of bones of deceased babies from intermediaries with access to human remains.' Among the documents obtained ... is the transcript of a secret meeting in Washington of Project Sunshine's keenest minds. They show that Willard Libby, a renowned scientist who later won the Nobel prize ... instructed colleagues to skirt the law in their search for bodies.
Note: For a highly revealing list of military and government sponsored experiments on human guinea pigs with links for verification, click here.
Harvard professors and filmmakers Peter Galison and Robb Moss have been collaborating for a decade. They co-directed Secrecy, a 2008 feature documentary about the moral, political, and technological controversies surrounding national security secrecy. Their new film, Containment ... grew first out of work Peter was doing (in print) on “the strange new lands that are at once our wild, biodiverse landscapes, and at the same time some of our most radiologically contaminated,” they told us. “The two of us were utterly taken aback by the ambition of the Department of Energy to mark one of these sites against digging — for a period of 10,000 years.” When Congress [authorized] the nuclear repository near Carlsbad New Mexico - the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) - it was to be regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency which did what it always does: it ascertained how long the materials would remain toxic. Since the half-life of plutonium was 24,000 years, the Department of Energy had to envision how to protect people from accidentally intruding into the site ... for some 400 generations. So ... the Department of Energy [called on futurists] to explore why people might dig into the waste in the year 6,000 AD or 11,000 AD. And here, in this story, what a possibility! We had the American government itself ... commissioning a science-fiction-infused sketch of a future — in order to open a nuclear waste repository.
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Two years after a triple meltdown that grew into the world’s second worst nuclear disaster, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is faced with a new crisis: a flood of highly radioactive wastewater that workers are struggling to contain. Groundwater is pouring into the plant’s ravaged reactor buildings at a rate of almost 75 gallons a minute. It becomes highly contaminated there, before being pumped out to keep from swamping a critical cooling system. A small army of workers has struggled to contain the continuous flow of radioactive wastewater, relying on ... storage tanks sprawling over 42 acres of parking lots and lawns. The tanks hold the equivalent of 112 Olympic-size pools. But even they are not enough to handle the tons of strontium-laced water at the plant — a reflection of the scale of the 2011 disaster. In a sign of the sheer size of the problem, the operator of the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco, plans to chop down a small forest on its southern edge to make room for hundreds more tanks, a task that became more urgent when underground pits built to handle the overflow sprang leaks in recent weeks. While the company has managed to stay ahead, the constant threat of running out of storage space has turned into what Tepco itself called an emergency, with the sheer volume of water raising fears of future leaks at the seaside plant that could reach the Pacific Ocean. Two years after the meltdowns, the plant remains vulnerable to the same sort of large earthquake and tsunami that set the original calamity in motion.
Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on risks and corruption in the nuclear power industry, click here.
Could we be overlooking profound questions and truths about the again-rising likelihood of the decimation or the end of life on Earth in an H-bomb holocaust? The actual and prospective nuclear policy and practice of the United States, Israel and Britain has moved from the nuclear disarmament promised in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty into attacking nations that ... insist on getting the same weapons we have. More nations keep getting the H-bomb and the systems to deliver it wherever they want to. There is still no international control of these weapons that can end life on Earth. Jonathan Schell reports in The Seventh Decade that 50 more nations know how to make H-bombs. It’s a secret no more. Why are possibly apocalyptic facts about them blocked from us by nine systems of military secrecy? For just one example, does Israel, as indicated in Ron Rosenbaum’s recent well-sourced book How the End Begins, have five German-made nuclear-armed submarines in the Mediterranean poised to fire H-bombs in retaliation even if Israel’s leadership has been “decapitated”? The U.S. should be leading the world toward “near zero” or the abolition of these weapons. We should be challenging our officials and military for risking our deaths, the lives of our fellow human beings and our national honor by keeping, maintaining and implicitly threatening to use our own weapons of mass murder.
Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on corruption in the nuclear power and weapons industries, click here.
A federal judge on [January 19] blocked Vermont from forcing the Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor to shut down when its license expires in March, saying that the state is trying to regulate nuclear safety, which only the federal government can do. The judge [said] in his ruling that ... state lawmakers and witnesses made clear that their effort to close the plant was "grounded in radiological safety concerns" - the province of the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The commission has already granted Vermont Yankee a 20-year license extension. The ruling is almost certain to be appealed by the state and an array of private groups that want the plant shut down because of leaks of radioactive tritium and other issues. Since Entergy bought Vermont Yankee 10 years ago, public opinion has turned sharply against the plant. After several plants around the country suffered leaks of radioactive water into the soil, state officials asked Vermont Yankee executives in 2009 whether their plant might be susceptible to that problem. The executives said that Vermont Yankee had no underground pipes carrying radioactive material. But it did - and the pipes leaked. The State Senate voted 26 to 4 in 2010 not to authorize the needed certificate.
Note: How convenient for the nuclear power industry that federal judges can block state legislation to shut down dangerous nuclear power plants. For more on corporate and government corruption, click here and here.
Federal regulators on [December 22] signed off on a next-generation nuclear reactor slated for Florida Power & Light's Turkey Point plant and five other utilities in the Southeast, paving the way for construction of the first new reactors in the U.S. in three decades. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's approval of the Westinghouse AP 1000 design was a major milestone for the nuclear power industry, which hasn't built a new reactor since the Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania in 1979. Opponents of the AP 1000 ... bristled at the decision. [Some elected officials and] environmental groups ... contend the NRC "fast-tracked" the AP 1000 without thoroughly addressing potential safety concerns or incorporating lessons learned from the March meltdown of the nuclear plant in Fukushima, Japan, disabled by an earthquake and tsunami. Arnie Gunderson, an outside expert ... warned the design might be vulnerable to rust that could cause dangerous holes and cracks in the steel reactor containment vessel - a particular problem in the marine environment of Turkey Point. Another study, commissioned by NC Warn, a North Carolina anti-nuclear group, and Friends of the Earth, argued the safety margin for an accidental high pressure build-up inside the reactor was dangerously slim.
The operator of Japan's tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear power plant [Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco)] said the amount of radiation being emitted from the complex has halved from a month ago, in the latest sign that efforts to bring the plant under control are progressing. In light of the progress being made in cooling its damaged reactors, which suffered nuclear fuel meltdowns in the first days of the crisis, Tepco formally brought forward its plan to bring the plant to a state of "cold shutdown" within this year. Technically, a cold shutdown is a state in which water used to cool nuclear fuel rods remains below 100 degrees Celsius, preventing the fuel from reheating. Declaring a cold shutdown will have repercussions well beyond the plant as it is one of the criteria the government said must be met before it begins allowing about 80,000 residents evacuated from within a 20 km (12 mile) radius of the plant to go home. Japan faces a massive cleanup task if these residents are to be returned home -- the environmental ministry says about 2,400 square km (930 square miles) of land surrounding Daiichi may need decontamination. Even if a cold shutdown is declared Tepco has acknowledged that it may not be able to remove the fuel from the reactors for another 10 years and that the cleanup at the plant could take several decades.
Note: For more on the Fukushima situation from the standpoint of the tens of thousands of evacuees, click here.
Japan will scrap a plan to obtain half of its electricity from nuclear power and will instead promote renewable energy and conservation as a result of its ongoing nuclear crisis, the prime minister said [on May 10]. Naoto Kan said Japan needs to "start from scratch" on its long-term energy policy after the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant was heavily damaged by a March 11 earthquake and tsunami and began leaking radiation. Some 80,000 people living within a 12-mile (20-kilometer) radius of the plant were evacuated from their homes. Nuclear plants supplied about 30 percent of Japan's electricity, and the government had planned to raise that to 50 percent by 2030. Kan told a news conference that nuclear and fossil fuel used to be the pillars of Japanese energy policy but now the government will add two more pillars: renewable energy such as solar, wind and biomass, and an increased focus on conservation. "I believe the government bears a major responsibility for having promoted nuclear energy as national policy. I apologize to the people for failing to prevent the nuclear accident," Kan said.
Note: For lots more from reliable sources on promising renewable energy sources, click here.
Israel's Army Radio reported on [July 7] that the United States has sent Israel a secret document committing to nuclear cooperation between the two countries. The U.S. has reportedly pledged to sell Israel materials used to produce electricity, as well as nuclear technology and other supplies, despite the fact that Israel is not a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Other countries have refused to cooperate with Israel on nuclear matters because it has not signed the NPT, and there has been increasing international pressure for Israel to be more transparent about its nuclear arsenal. Army Radio's diplomatic correspondent said the reported offer could put Israel on a par with India, another NPT holdout which is openly nuclear-armed but in 2008 secured a U.S.-led deal granting it civilian nuclear imports. Israel neither confirms nor denies having nuclear weapons under an "ambiguity" strategy billed as warding off foes while avoiding public provocations that can spark regional arms races. The official reticence, and its toleration in Washington, has long aggrieved many Arabs and Iranians - especially given U.S.-led pressure on Tehran to rein in its nuclear program.
Note: For many key reports on the government secrecy from reliable sources, click here.
Seven years after one of the largest earthquakes on record unleashed a massive tsunami and triggered a meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, officials say they are at last getting a handle on the mammoth task of cleaning the site. In 2016 the government increased its cost estimate to about $75.7 billion, part of the overall Fukushima disaster price tag of $202.5 billion. The Japan Center for Economic Research, a private think tank, said the cleanup costs could mount to some $470 billion to $660 billion. Under a government roadmap, TEPCO hopes to finish the job in 30 to 40 years. But some experts say even that could be an underestimate. Shaun Burnie, senior nuclear specialist with Greenpeace Germany, doubts the ambitious cleanup effort can be completed in the time cited. Until TEPCO can verify the conditions of the molten fuel, he says, “there can be no confirmation of what impact and damage the material has had” on the various components of the reactors - and therefore how radiation might leak into the environment in the future.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on the Fukushima Nuclear Plant disaster.
The government is under pressure to reconsider its commitment to a new generation of nuclear power stations after the cost of offshore wind power reached a record low. Experts said green energy had reached a tipping point in the UK after two windfarms secured a state-backed price for their output that was nearly half the level awarded last year to Britain’s first new nuclear power site in a generation, Hinkley Point C. Vince Cable, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, said the breakthrough should prompt a rethink of the government’s energy plans, which have pencilled in atomic plants at Wylffa in Wales, Sizewell in Suffolk and Bradwell in Essex. “The spectacular drop in the cost of offshore wind is extremely encouraging and shows the need for a radical reappraisal by government of the UK’s energy provision,” he said. The government spending watchdog this year described Hinkley as a “risky and expensive” project that generations of British consumers will have to pay for through electricity bills. The auction results are unlikely to halt the Hinkley project. But they pose a serious dilemma for ... new nuclear power plants around the UK and are likely to feed into a flagship government review of energy costs out next month. Most industry watchers had expected future nuclear projects to cost Ł80-Ł90 per MWh, a long way from the Ł62.14 average awarded to offshore windfarms. The price of building offshore windfarms has fallen by nearly a third since 2012 as the technology matured.
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A research team at the University of Bristol has developed a way to use a type of nuclear waste to generate electricity in a nuclear-powered battery that is an actual diamond. Such a battery produces very low power, but has no moving parts, no emissions of any type including radiation, needs no maintenance, does not need to be recharged and will operate for thousands of years. The team grew a man-made diamond that, when placed in a radiation field, was able to generate a small electrical current. And the radioactive field can be produced by the diamond itself by making the diamond from radioactive carbon-14 extracted from nuclear waste. Even better, the amount of radioactivity in each diamond battery is a lot less than in a single banana. Diamonds are made from pure carbon subjected to high pressures, usually deep in the Earth’s crust. But we have been artificially making them for decades. The normal way to produce electricity is to use energy, like burning coal or capturing wind, to move a magnet through a coil of wire to generate a current. However, a diamond is able to produce a charge simply by being subjected to a radiation field. The cost to produce a diamond is a lot less than disposing of used nuclear fuel and nuclear waste. These radioactive diamond batteries would have a very specific purpose – low power and extremely long life. The ... battery would still be putting out 50% power after 5,730 years.
An 85-year-old nun and two fellow Catholic peace activists who splashed blood on the walls of a bunker holding weapons-grade uranium — exposing vulnerabilities in the nation's nuclear security — were wrongly convicted of sabotage, an appeals court ruled Friday. At issue was whether Sister Megan Rice, 66-year-old Michael Walli and 59-year-old Greg Boertje-Obed injured national security when they cut through several fences to break into the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge in July 2012. A panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a 2-1 decision that they did not. Once there, the trio had hung banners, prayed and hammered on the outside wall of the bunker to symbolize a Bible passage that refers to the end of war: "They will beat their swords into ploughshares." "If a defendant blew up a building used to manufacture components for nuclear weapons ... the government surely could demonstrate an adverse effect on the nation's ability to attack or defend," the opinion says. "But vague platitudes about a facility's 'crucial role in the national defense' are not enough to convict a defendant of sabotage." Rice wrote in a letter to The Associated Press in March that "the important message of the appeal is the illegality of nuclear weapons, which are sabotaging the planet."
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Japan's flagging anti-nuclear movement is getting a boost from two former prime ministers who are calling for atomic power to be phased out following the Fukushima disaster. Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said [on November 12] that the current prime minister, Shinzo Abe, ... "should use the power given to him to do what the majority of the people want," Koizumi said in a speech at the Japan Press Club. "It can be achieved. Why miss this chance?" Koizumi, who supported nuclear power during his 2001-2006 term in office, said that with Japan's nuclear plants all offline for safety checks it would be easiest to begin the phase-out soon. Polls have shown the majority of the public ... prefers to shift away from the nuclear plants that provided nearly a third of Japan's power generation capacity before the accident at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant. Three [former prime ministers], including Koizumi, have said they support ending use of nuclear power. Their support could help reinvigorate the anti-nuclear movement, which has lost some of its vitality nearly three years after the Fukushima accident. Another former prime minister, Morihiro Hosokawa, said in an interview ... that he also favors an end to reliance on nuclear power. "I can't understand why they want restarts of the nuclear plants when there is no place to discard the nuclear waste," said Hosokawa, who served as prime minister for eight months in 1993-94. "It would be a crime against future generations for our generation to restart nuclear plants without resolving this issue," he said. Experts have questioned whether earthquake-prone Japan can safely store nuclear waste under any scenario.
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Faulty computer modeling caused the equipment problems that are expected to keep the San Onofre nuclear plant dark through the summer, federal regulators said Monday. The plant has been out of service since Jan. 31, when operators discovered a small leak in one of the thousands of steam generator tubes that carry hot, radioactive water used to create steam to turn turbines that generate electricity. That led to the discovery that other tubes were rubbing against support structures and adjacent tubes, and wearing out more quickly than expected. Eight tubes failed pressure testing, which NRC officials said ... is the first time in the nuclear industry that more than one tube at a plant has failed. The wear is a safety concern because tube ruptures can release radiation. The plant's operator, Southern California Edison; the NRC; and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the manufacturer of the steam generators, have been studying the cause and extent of the wear. The NRC has ordered Edison to keep the plant shuttered until it has determined the cause and how to fix it. "This is a significant, serious safety issue," said NRC regional administrator Elmo Collins. "This is a very difficult technical issue, and to be honest, it's not one we've seen before." NRC officials said it appears that simulations by Mitsubishi underpredicted the velocity of steam and water flowing among the tubes by a factor of three or four. The high rate of flow caused the tubes to vibrate and knock against each other, leading to the wear. It was not clear why the computer modeling was so far off.
Note: For lots more on corruption in the nuclear power industry, click here.
Just after 6 a.m. on Dec. 5, under cover of darkness, nine Greenpeace activists cut through a fence at the Nogent-sur-Seine atomic plant 95 kilometers (59 miles) southeast of Paris and headed for a domed reactor building. They scaled the roof and unfurled a “Safe Nuclear Doesn’t Exist” banner before attracting the attention of security guards. Two remained at large for four hours. On the same day, two more campaigners breached the perimeter of the Cruas-Meysse plant on the Rhone, escaping detection for more than 14 hours while posting videos of their sit-in on the Internet. The security lapses ... come at a time when debate has intensified on France’s reliance on atomic power for three-quarters of its energy needs in the run-up to next year’s presidential elections. They also preempt next month’s release of the results of safety checks at France’s 58 reactors, commissioned in the aftermath of the Fukushima tragedy. Greenpeace said its activists exposed the biggest security lapse to date at the reactors that are operated by Electricite de France SA.
It turns out that nuclear waste has more in common with the financial world than being a metaphor for the worst of its toxic assets. Nuclear waste — some of which remains disastrously radioactive for 100,000 years — turns out to be the ultimate tail risk. Tail risk, of course, is the statistical term much in vogue in the financial press for describing unlikely events. (The 'tail' in tail risk refers to the tail-shaped edges in the bell curve of a normal distribution.) These allegedly unlikely events are sometimes referred to as black swans. Black swans are occurring with such regularity in these volatile times that they can no longer be considered true statistical outliers. [Take] a look at these outlier events within the context of building nuclear waste containment vessels. Repository builders have to take into account a tail risk of future humans disturbing the site and not realising the danger facing themselves and their ecology. People might regress towards a pre-industrial state or lose language over a timescale like that. So you have to design a marker that scares people away, but doesn't flip them over into morbid curiosity towards exploring further and, potentially, dooming an entire civilisation with radioactive poisoning.
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