Nuclear Power News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on nuclear power
The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant said it is studying whether the facility's reactors were damaged in the March 11 earthquake even before the massive tsunami that followed cut off power and sent the reactors into crisis. Kyodo news agency quoted an unnamed source at the utility on Sunday as saying that the No. 1 reactor might have suffered structural damage in the earthquake that caused a release of radiation separate from the tsunami. Tepco has provided a new analysis of the early hours of the Fukushima crisis. The utility said on Sunday that a review of data from March 11 suggested that the fuel rods in the No. 1 reactor were completely exposed to the air and rapidly heating five hours after the quake. By the next morning - just 16 hours later - the uranium fuel rods in the first reactor had melted down and dropped to the bottom of the pressure vessel. The No. 2 and No. 3 reactors are expected to have gone through a similar process and like No. 1 are leaking most of the water being pumped in a bid to keep their cores cool. A massive pond of radioactive water has collected in the basement of the No. 1 reactor. Experts fear that the contaminated water leaking from the plant could threaten groundwater and the Pacific.
Japanese officials have been forced to explain why it took them a month to disclose large-scale releases of radioactive material in mid-March at a crippled nuclear-power plant. The government announced [on April 12] that it had raised its rating of the severity of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex to 7, the worst on an international scale, from 5. Japan's new assessment was based largely on computer models showing heavy emissions of radioactive iodine and cesium March 14-16, soon after a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami rendered the plant's emergency cooling system inoperative. The nearly monthlong delay in acknowledging the extent of these emissions is a fresh example of confused data and analysis from the Japanese and put authorities on the defensive about whether they have delayed or blocked the release of information to avoid alarming the public. Seiji Shiroya, a commissioner of Japan's Nuclear Safety Commission, an independent panel that oversees the country's nuclear industry, ... suggested a public-policy reason for having kept quiet. "Some foreigners fled the country even when there appeared to be little risk," he said. "If we immediately decided to label the situation as Level 7, we could have triggered a panicked reaction." The peak release in emissions of radioactive particles took place after hydrogen explosions at three Fukujima reactors.
Igor Gramotkin is ... the manager of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, and has spent more than two decades at the site of the most devastating nuclear accident in history, trying to stop further radiation emissions and cleaning the area. Mr Gramotkin admitted that the destroyed reactor, still full of radioactive waste and nuclear fuel, remains "a threat not only to Ukraine but to the whole world" until it is encased in a vast steel structure that is being built. In the months after the accident, a makeshift "sarcophagus" had been constructed to encase the reactor, but it is now unstable and, despite work to shore it up, experts say a new shelter is desperately needed in case the old one collapses. At more than 100m tall, the shelter will be the largest moveable structure ever built. Those building it still have to be extremely careful. Standing in the area immediately around the plant subjects a person to radiation equivalent to about one old-style chest X-ray per day. The human costs of the Chernobyl accident are ... horrific by any estimate. [Some] studies put the figure in the hundreds of thousands. There are incidences of genetic mutations, children born lacking organs, and dramatically elevated thyroid cancer levels in local children, who drank milk contaminated with radioactive iodine in the years after the accident.
The chaos at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant — explosions, fires, ruptures — has not shaken the bipartisan support in partisan Washington for the U.S.'s so-called nuclear renaissance. Republicans have dismissed Japan's crisis as a once-in-a-lifetime fluke. President Obama has defended atomic energy as a carbon-free source of power, resisting calls to halt the renaissance and freeze construction of the U.S.'s first new reactors in over three decades. But there is no renaissance. Even before the earthquake-tsunami one-two punch, the endlessly hyped U.S. nuclear revival was stumbling, pummeled by skyrocketing costs, stagnant demand and skittish investors, not to mention the defeat of restrictions on carbon that could have mitigated nuclear energy's economic insanity. Obama has offered unprecedented aid to an industry that already enjoyed cradle-to-grave subsidies, and the antispending GOP has clamored for even more largesse. But Wall Street hates nukes as much as K Street loves them, which is why there's no new reactor construction to freeze. Once hailed as "too cheap to meter," nuclear fission turns out to be an outlandishly expensive method of generating juice for our Xboxes.
Nuclear plants in the United States last year experienced at least 14 "near misses," serious failures in which safety was jeopardized, at least in part, due to lapses in oversight and enforcement by US nuclear safety regulators, says a new report. They occurred with alarming frequency – more than once a month – which is high for a mature industry, said the study of nuclear plant safety performance in 2010 by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Washington-based nuclear watchdog group. The report, the first in what the UCS expects will become an annual study, details both successes and failures by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which it calls "the cop on the beat." Charged with overseeing America's fleet of 104 nuclear reactors, the NRC made some "outstanding catches," but was also inconsistent in its oversight, seeming at times to nod off when most needed. "The chances of a disaster at a nuclear plant are low," the report states. "But when the NRC tolerates unresolved safety problems – as it did last year at Peach Bottom, Indian Point, and Vermont Yankee – this lax oversight allows that risk to rise. The more owners sweep safety problems under the rug and the longer safety problems remain uncorrected, the higher the risk climbs."
Note: For many reports from reliable sources on government corruption, click here.
For 18 months, operators at the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant near San Luis Obispo didn't realize that a system to pump water into one of their reactors during an emergency wasn't working. It had been accidentally disabled by the plant's own engineers, according to a report ... from the Union of Concerned Scientists watchdog group, [which] lists 14 recent "near misses" - instances in which serious problems at a plant required federal regulators to respond. The report criticizes both plant operators and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for allowing some known safety issues to fester. The problem at Diablo Canyon ... involved a series of valves that allow water to pour into one of the plant's two reactors during emergencies, keeping the reactor from overheating. A pair of remotely operated valves in the emergency cooling system was taking too long to move from completely closed to completely open. So engineers shortened the distance between those two positions, according to the report. Unfortunately, two other pairs of valves were interlocked with the first. They couldn't open at all until the first pair opened all the way. No one noticed until the valves refused to open during a test in October 2009, 18 months after the engineers made the changes.
President Obama's fiscal 2011 budget blueprint calls for an increase in funding of more than 13 percent for the agency that oversees the U.S. nuclear weapons complex, a greater percentage increase than for any other government agency. The $11.2 billion request for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) represents a 13.4 percent increase for the agency from the previous fiscal year. Most agencies across the rest of the government saw either no increase in the spending plan announced this week or a single-digit percentage increase. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who has actively followed negotiations over a new nuclear treaty with Russia, said the increase in the budget was "a definite improvement over previous years." Other observers already see the new budget as a boon for arms-control advocates.
Note: So the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, President Obama, is increasing the budget for nuclear weapons more than any other agency. Kind of ironic, isn't it? For the real reasons behind this, read what one of the most highly decorated US generals ever had to say about the real forces behind war at this link.
The federal government mistakenly made public a 266-page report, its pages marked “highly confidential,” that gives detailed information about hundreds of the nation’s civilian nuclear sites and programs, including maps showing the precise locations of stockpiles of fuel for nuclear weapons. The publication of the document was revealed Monday in an online newsletter devoted to issues of federal secrecy. It ... prompted a flurry of investigations in Washington into why the document had been made public. On Tuesday evening, after inquiries from The New York Times, the document was withdrawn from a Government Printing Office Web site. The information, considered confidential but not classified, was assembled for transmission later this year to the International Atomic Energy Agency as part of a process by which the United States is opening itself up to stricter inspections in hopes that foreign countries, especially Iran and others believed to be clandestinely developing nuclear arms, will do likewise. President Obama sent the document to Congress on May 5 for Congressional review and possible revision, and the Government Printing Office subsequently posted the draft declaration on its Web site. Steven Aftergood, a security expert at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, revealed the existence of the document on Monday in Secrecy News, an electronic newsletter he publishes on the Web. Mr. Aftergood expressed bafflement at its disclosure, calling it “a one-stop shop for information on U.S. nuclear programs.” The report lists many particulars about nuclear programs and facilities at the nation’s three nuclear weapons laboratories — Los Alamos, Livermore and Sandia — as well as dozens of other federal and private nuclear sites.
Note: For lots more on government secrecy from reliable sources, click here.
The FBI has been accused of covering up a key case file detailing evidence against corrupt government officials and their dealings with a network stealing nuclear secrets. The assertion follows allegations made in The Sunday Times two weeks ago by Sibel Edmonds, an FBI whistleblower, who worked on the agency’s investigation of the network. She says the FBI was investigating a Turkish- and Israeli-run network that paid high-ranking American officials to steal nuclear weapons secrets. These were then sold on the international black market to countries such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. One of the documents relating to the case was marked 203A-WF-210023. Last week, however, the FBI responded to a freedom of information request for a file of exactly the same number by claiming that it did not exist. But The Sunday Times has obtained a document signed by an FBI official showing the existence of the file. The freedom of information request ... was made ... by an American human rights group called the Liberty Coalition, acting on a tip-off it received from an anonymous correspondent. Edmonds [said] that members of the Turkish political and diplomatic community in the US had been actively acquiring nuclear secrets. They often acted as a conduit, she said, for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s spy agency, because they attracted less suspicion. She claimed corrupt government officials helped the network, and venues such as the American-Turkish Council in Washington were used as drop-off points. Edmonds is the subject of a number of state-secret gags preventing her from talking further about the investigation she witnessed. “[These gags were] invoked not to protect sensitive diplomatic relations but criminal activities involving US officials who were endangering US national security,” she said.
Note: For an important commentary by Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg on this Sunday Times story, click here. For other excellent media articles on the courageous Ms. Edmonds, click here.
A whistleblower has made a series of extraordinary claims about how corrupt government officials allowed Pakistan and other states to steal nuclear weapons secrets. Sibel Edmonds, a 37-year-old former Turkish-language translator for the FBI, listened into hundreds of sensitive intercepted conversations while based at the agency’s Washington field office. Edmonds described how foreign intelligence agents had enlisted the support of US officials to acquire a network of moles in sensitive military and nuclear institutions. Among the hours of covert tape recordings, she says she heard evidence that one well-known senior official in the US State Department was being paid by Turkish agents in Washington who were selling the information on to black market buyers, including Pakistan. The name of the official – who has held a series of top government posts – is known to The Sunday Times. He strongly denies the claims. However, Edmonds said: “He was aiding foreign operatives against US interests by passing them highly classified information, not only from the State Department but also from the Pentagon, in exchange for money, position and political objectives.” She claims that the FBI was also gathering evidence against senior Pentagon officials – including household names – who were aiding foreign agents. “If you made public all the information that the FBI have on this case, you will see very high-level people going through criminal trials,” she said. Her story shows just how much the West was infiltrated by foreign states seeking nuclear secrets. It illustrates how western government officials turned a blind eye to, or were even helping, countries such as Pakistan acquire bomb technology.
Note: Although not naming the high-level individuals it acknowledges were identified by Edmonds, this important exposé in the London Sunday Times should be read in its entirety for the many other details of her allegations that it reveals. For an excellent commentary on these new revelations, click here. For many revealing articles on the ongoing efforts by longtime whistleblower Sibel Edmonds to tell her story, click here.
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.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing nuclear power news articles from reliable major media sources.
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.
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