Nuclear Power News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on nuclear power
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.
The horrible and heartbreaking events in Japan present a strange concatenation of disasters. Succumbing to the one-two punch of the earthquake and the tsunami, eleven of Japan’s 54 nuclear power reactors were shut down. Three of them have lost coolant to their cores and have experienced partial meltdowns. The same three have also suffered large explosions. The spent fuel in a fourth caught fire. Now a second filthy wave is beginning to roll — this one composed of radioactive elements in the atmosphere. They include unknown amounts of cesium-137 and iodine-131, which can only have originated in the melting cores or in nearby spent fuel rod pools. The Japanese government has evacuated some 200,000 people in the vicinity of the plants. The second shock was, of course, different from the first in at least one fundamental respect. The first was dealt by Mother Nature, who has thus reminded us of her sovereign power to nourish or punish our delicate planet, its axis now tipping ever so slightly in a new direction. No finger of blame can be pointed at any perpetrator. The second shock, on the other hand, is the product of humankind, and involves human responsibility. Until the human species stepped in, there was no appreciable release of atomic energy from nuclear fission or fusion on earth.
Note: For an excellent list of experiments in which humans, either individually or collectively as a species, are being used as guinea pigs in most unethical and dangerous ways, click here.
A hydrogen bomb that went missing for three months in the Mediterranean Sea is back in the hands of the U.S. military after being found the previous day. The bomb had been lost in January when two U.S. military planes, a KC-135 tanker and a B-52 carrying four thermonuclear weapons, collided during midair refueling. Three of the four bombs fell to the ground near Palomares, Spain. While none of them detonated with a nuclear explosion, the high-explosive triggers in two of the bombs went off upon impact and contaminated the area with radioactive material. A fourth bomb plunged into the water off Spain's southeastern coastline. Following the incident, the Spanish government announced it would no longer allow U.S. planes carrying nuclear weapons to fly over its territory. On March 17, the U.S. Navy, using a midget submarine called the Alvin [found] the bomb 2,500 feet underwater, intact and with its parachute still attached.
Note: You can access a Jan. 27, 1966 NY Times article on this incident for a small fee at this link.
Toxic waste produced by one of the world's worst nuclear disasters will be dumped into the sea, according to the head of the Japanese company tasked with cleaning up the radioactive mess. Takashi Kawamura, chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), told foreign media that nearly 777,000 tons of water tainted with tritium, a byproduct of the nuclear process that is notoriously difficult to filter out of water, will be dumped into the Pacific Ocean as part of a multibillion-dollar recovery effort following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011. The company has yet to deal with the water that was used to cool the plant's damaged reactors, causing it to become tainted with tritium. Tepco wants to release the contaminated water that is being stored in hundreds of tanks at the plant into the ocean. According to Reuters, this is a common practice at functioning nuclear plants. The plan to dump tritium-contaminated water into the sea was met with opposition by local fishermen, who say their industry has suffered enough in the aftermath of the environmental crisis. Dozens of countries and the European Union now ban certain fish imports from Japan following the disaster. As for the rest of the Fukushima prefecture, life has started to resume, albeit slowly. Of the estimated 150,000 who fled, only around 13 percent have come back.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on the Fukushima Nuclear Plant disaster.
Swiss voters are supporting a referendum to withdraw the country from nuclear power in favor of renewable energy. A projection from Sunday's referendum shows a majority of cantons (states) voted for the plan. Under Switzerland's direct democracy system, initiatives need a majority of both cantons and votes to pass. The projection for SRF public television showed 58 percent of voters in favor and 42 percent against the proposal. The Swiss government wants to ban the construction of new nuclear power plants and decommission the country's five existing ones at the end of their technically safe operating lives. The plan would also boost renewable energies such as water and wind and make cars and electronic devices more energy efficient.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing nuclear power news articles from reliable major media sources.
I’ve spent the past five years piecing together the impacts that radioactive releases from Fukushima have had on the ocean, marine life, and the people who live on both sides of the Pacific. In the process ... I’ve become frustrated with both sides of the nuclear power debate, [and] grown concerned over the lack of oversight for radioactive contamination in U.S. waters. Five years later, the story from the Japanese side of the Pacific is this: Overall, things are under control. Fishing has resumed in all regions except those within 10 kilometers of the reactors. However ... the Japanese will be wrestling with the cleanup for decades and will spend trillions of yen in the process. More than 80 percent of the radioactivity from the damaged reactors ended up in the Pacific - far more than reached the ocean from Chernobyl or Three Mile Island. In 2015 we detected signs of radioactive contamination from Fukushima along the coast near British Columbia and California. It is incorrect to say that Fukushima is under control when levels of radioactivity in the ocean indicate ongoing leaks. Recently, I’ve begun to see a much more serious threat to U.S. waters. With our nearly 100 reactors ... you might expect a federal agency to be responsible for supporting research to improve our understanding of how radioactive contamination ... would affect our marine resources. Instead, the response we receive from an alphabet-soup of federal agencies is that such work “is ... ultimately “not our job.”
Note: The article above was written by Dr. Ken Buesseler, director of the WHOI Center for Marine and Environmental Radioactivity. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on the Fukushima Nuclear Plant disaster.
The operator of the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has started pumping groundwater into the Pacific ocean in an attempt to manage the large volume of contaminated water at the site. Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) said it had released 560 tonnes of groundwater pumped from 12 wells located upstream from the damaged reactors. The water had been temporarily stored in a tank so it could undergo safety checks before being released, the firm added. The buildup of toxic water is the most urgent problem facing workers at the plant, almost two years after the environment ministry said 300 tonnes of contaminated groundwater from Fukushima Daiichi was seeping into the ocean every day. The groundwater, which flows in from hills behind the plant, mixes with contaminated water used to cool melted fuel before ending up in the sea. Officials concede that decommissioning the reactors will be impossible until the water issue has been resolved. The bypass system intercepts clean groundwater as it flows downhill toward the sea and reroutes it around the plant. It is expected to reduce the amount of water flowing into the reactor basements by up to 100 tonnes a day ... and relieve pressure on the storage tanks, which will soon reach their capacity. But the system does not include the coolant water that becomes dangerously contaminated after it is pumped into the basements of three reactors that suffered meltdown after the plant was struck by an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. That water will continue to be stored in more than 1,000 tanks at the site, while officials debate how to safely dispose of it.
Note: For more on the devastating impacts of nuclear power, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
It was the part of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant that spooked American officials the most, as the complex spiraled out of control two and a half years ago: the spent fuel pool at Reactor No. 4, with more than 1,500 radioactive fuel assemblies left exposed when a hydrogen explosion blew the roof off the building. In the next 10 days, the plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, is set to start the delicate and risky task of using a crane to remove the fuel assemblies from the pool, a critical step in a long decommissioning process that has already had serious setbacks. The operation addresses a threat that has hung over the plant since the crisis started. It is still dangerous to have the fuel high up in a damaged structure that could collapse in another quake, experts warn. But removing it poses dangers, too. The fuel rods must remain immersed in water to block the gamma radiation they emit and allow workers to be in the area, and to prevent the rods from overheating. An accident could expose the rods and — in a worst-case scenario, some experts say — allow them to release radioactive materials beyond the plant. “There are potentially very big risks involved,” Shunichi Tanaka, the head of Japan’s nuclear regulator, said last week. “Each assembly must be handled very carefully.” “All I can do is pray that nothing goes wrong,” said Yasuro Kawai, a former plant engineer who now heads a group that is independently monitoring the decommissioning process.
Note: For further assessment of the risks associated with any attempt to remove the rods from the damaged Fukushima Reactor #4 fuel pool, click here. For more on the risks of nuclear power, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Last year’s tsunami disaster in Japan clouded the nation’s nuclear future, idled its reactors and rendered its huge stockpile of plutonium useless for now. So, the industry’s plan to produce even more has raised a red flag. Nuclear industry officials say they hope to start producing a half-ton of plutonium within months, in addition to the more than 35 tons Japan already has stored around the world. That’s even though all the reactors that might use it are either inoperable or offline while the country rethinks its nuclear policy after the tsunami-generated Fukushima crisis. “It’s crazy,” said Princeton University professor Frank von Hippel, a leading authority on nonproliferation issues and a former assistant director for national security in the White House Office of Science and Technology. “There is absolutely no reason to do that.” Japan’s nuclear industry produces plutonium — which is strictly regulated globally because it also is used for nuclear weapons — by reprocessing spent, uranium-based fuel in a procedure aimed at decreasing radioactive waste that otherwise would require long-term storage. Fuel reprocessing remains unreliable and it is questionable whether it is a viable way of reducing Japan’s massive amounts of spent fuel rods, said Takeo Kikkawa, a Hitotsubashi University professor specializing in energy issues. “Japan should abandon the program altogether,” said Hideyuki Ban, co-director of a respected anti-nuclear Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center. “Then we can also contribute to the global effort for nuclear non-proliferation.”
Note: For a state-of-the-art analysis revealing that radioactive fallout from the Fukushima meltdown is at least as big as Chernobyl and more global in reach, click here.
Unusual wear has been found on hundreds of tubes that carry radioactive water at Southern California’s San Onofre Unit 2 nuclear plant, raising questions about the integrity of equipment the company installed in a multimillion-dollar makeover in 2009. The disclosure came two days after a tube leak at the plant’s other unit prompted operators to shut down the reactor as a precaution. A tiny amount of radiation could have escaped, but officials say workers and the public were not endangered. The problems at Unit 2 were discovered during inspections of a steam generator, after the plant 45 miles north of San Diego was taken off-line for maintenance and refueling. The two huge steam generators at Unit 2, each containing 9,700 tubes, were replaced in fall 2009, and a year later in its twin plant, Unit 3, as part of a $670 million overhaul. According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, more than a third of the wall had been worn away in two tubes at Unit 2, which will require them to be plugged and taken out of service. At least 20 percent of the tube wall was worn away in 69 other tubes, and in more than 800, the thinning was at least 10 percent. Retired NRC engineer and researcher Joram Hopenfeld said the company will have to determine why the tubing is degrading so quickly “before they do anything else.” “I’ve never heard of anything like that over so short a period of time,” Hopenfeld said. “The safety implications could be very, very severe,” Hopenfeld added.
Note: For key reports from reliable sources on dangers posed by the nuclear power industry, click here.
Japan's nuclear power industry, which once ignored opposition, now finds its existence threatened by women angered by official [secrecy] on radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. More than 100 anti-nuclear demonstrators, most of them women, met with officials of the Nuclear Safety Commission this week and handed over a statement calling for a transparent investigation into the accident and a permanent shutdown of all nuclear power plants. Groups of women, braving a cold winter, have been setting up tents since last week preparing for a new sit-in campaign in front of the ministry of economic affairs. The women have pledged to continue their demonstration for 10 months and 10 days, traditionally reckoned in Japan as a full term that covers a pregnancy. "Our protests are aimed at achieving a rebirth in Japanese society," said Chieko Shina, a participant, and a grandmother from Fukushima. "The ongoing demonstrations symbolise the determination of ordinary people who do not want nuclear power because it is dangerous. There is also the bigger message that we do not trust the government any more," said Takanobu Kobayashi, who manages the Matsudo network of citizens' movements. Distrust stems primarily from the fact that the meltdown of the Fukushima reactors was not reported to the public immediately, causing huge health risks to the local population from radiation leaks.
If any institution needs to get back to basics and refocus on what it takes to survive a disaster - or report on it with integrity - it's the cable news business. The triple threat in Japan - earthquake, tsunami, nuclear reactors in peril - is clearly demonstrating how reporters and anchors are bungling the basics and how the producers and executives in charge of them have fallen woefully short of leadership. Yes, the visuals were riveting and horrific, but context was lacking. Covering this trilogy of terror in Japan really underscores how much better prepared reporters and anchors need to be. The incessantly simplistic and embarrassing questions need to stop. It's a shame that going online to watch videos from NHK, BBC and Al Jazeera English was far and away the best option for Americans.
While the continuing environmental disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant has grabbed world headlines — with hundreds of tons of contaminated water flowing into the Pacific Ocean daily — a human crisis has been quietly unfolding. Two and a half years after the plant belched plumes of radioactive materials over northeast Japan, the almost 83,000 nuclear refugees evacuated from the worst-hit areas are still unable to go home. Some have moved on, reluctantly, but tens of thousands remain in a legal and emotional limbo while the government holds out hope that they can one day return. As they wait, many are growing bitter. Now they suspect the government knows that the unprecedented cleanup will take years, if not decades longer than promised, as a growing chorus of independent experts have warned, but will not admit it for fear of dooming plans to restart Japan’s other nuclear plants. That has left the people of Namie and many of the 10 other evacuated towns with few good choices. They can continue to live in cramped temporary housing and collect relatively meager monthly compensation from the government. Or they can try to build a new life elsewhere, a near impossibility for many unless the government admits defeat and fully compensates them for their lost homes and livelihoods. For Namie’s residents, government obfuscation is nothing new. On the day they fled, bureaucrats in Tokyo knew the direction they were taking could be dangerous, based on computer modeling, but did not say so for fear of causing panic. The townspeople headed north, straight into an invisible, radioactive plume.
Note: For more on the devastation caused by nuclear power, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
An investigation into the illicit sale of American nuclear secrets was compromised by a senior official in the State Department, a former FBI employee has claimed. The official is said to have tipped off a foreign contact about a bogus CIA company used to investigate the sale of nuclear secrets. The firm, Brewster Jennings & Associates, was a front for Valerie Plame, the former CIA agent. Her public outing two years later in 2003 by White House officials became a cause célčbre. The claims that a State Department official blew the investigation into a nuclear smuggling ring have been made by Sibel Edmonds, 38, a former Turkish language translator in the FBI’s Washington field office. Plame, then 38, was the ... wife of a former US ambassador, Joe Wilson. She travelled widely for her work, often claiming to be an oil consultant. In fact she was a career CIA agent who was part of a small team investigating the same procurement network that the State Department official is alleged to have aided. Brewster Jennings was one of a number of covert enterprises set up to infiltrate the nuclear ring. [Edmonds said the State Department official] "found out about the arrangement . . . and he contacted one of the foreign targets and said . . . you need to stay away from Brewster Jennings because they are a cover for the government.“ Phillip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, said: “It’s pretty clear Plame was targeting the Turks. If indeed that [State Department] official was working with the Turks to violate US law on nuclear exports, it would have been in his interest to alert them to the fact that this woman’s company was affiliated to the CIA. I don’t know if that’s treason legally but many people would consider it to be.”
Note: To read former CIA agent Philip Giraldi's analysis of Edmonds' claims, in which he identifies the unnamed State Department official as Marc Grossman, click here. And to read an interview with Edmonds on the series of articles about her revelations appearing in the Sunday Times and media censorship elsewhere, click here.
Buried below the ice sheet that covers most of Greenland, there's an abandoned U.S. Army base. Camp Century had trucks, tunnels, even a nuclear reactor. It was also a test site for deploying nuclear missiles. The camp was abandoned almost 50 years ago. But serious pollutants were left behind. Now a team of scientists says that as climate warming melts the ice sheet, those pollutants could spread. [Researcher William Colgan] found unclassified records that described what was left behind there - for example, the nuclear reactor was removed, but low-level radioactive cooling water used in it was not. There were very likely PCBs, which are toxic compounds in electrical equipment. There's no record of how much remained. Colgan says the Army figured all of it would be entombed forever. "They thought it would snow in perpetuity," he says, "and the phrase they used was that the waste would be preserved for eternity by perpetually accumulating snow." Except now, the climate has changed. Greenland's ice sheet is melting. Computer models say the camp could be uncovered by the end of this century. Meltwater could easily end up in the buried camp and then carry contamination through under-ice channels to the ocean. Colgan says it's unclear who owns this waste. The Army built the camp under a treaty between the U.S. and Denmark, which had jurisdiction over Greenland. It's a legal dilemma that's likely to start cropping up more often.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing global warming news articles from reliable major media sources.
Fourteen months after the accident [at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant], a pool brimming with used fuel rods and filled with vast quantities of radioactive cesium still sits on the top floor of a heavily damaged reactor building, covered only with plastic. The public’s fears about the pool have grown in recent months as some scientists have warned that it has the most potential for setting off a new catastrophe ... as frequent quakes continue to rattle the region. The jury-rigged cooling system for the pool has already malfunctioned several times, including a 24-hour failure in April. Had the outages continued, they would have left the rods at risk of dangerous overheating. “The No. 4 reactor is visibly damaged and in a fragile state, down to the floor that holds the spent fuel pool,” said Hiroaki Koide, an assistant professor at Kyoto University’s Research Reactor Institute and one of the experts raising concerns. “Any radioactive release could be huge and go directly into the environment.” The worst-case situations for Reactor No. 4 would be for the pool to run dry if there is another problem with the cooling system and the rods catch fire, releasing enormous amounts of radioactive material, or for fission to restart if the metal panels that separate the rods are knocked over in a quake. That would be especially bad because the pool, unlike reactors, lacks containment vessels to hold in radioactive materials.
Note: For extensive coverage from reliable sources on corruption in the nuclear power industry, click here.
The operator of Japan’s tsunami-hit nuclear plant says tons of highly radioactive water appears to have leaked into the ocean from a purification unit. The leak comes as Tokyo Electric Power Co. struggles to keep the melted reactors cool and contain radiation and raises concerns about its ability to keep the plant stable. Similar leaks have occurred several times since last year, and officials say they do not pose an immediate health threat.
Note: For an abundance of major media articles showing major problems with nuclear power, click here.
The radioactive gas xenon, which is often the byproduct of unexpected nuclear fission, was detected at the Fukushima Daiichi plant during tests. Officials were today injecting boric acid as an emergency precautionary measure to stem any accidental chain reactions which could result in further radiation leakages. The discovery of such a gas is likely to be regarded as an unwelcome setback among operators who are keen to achieve cold shutdown by the end of the year. Officials both from Tokyo Electric Power Co, which operates the plant, and from Japan Atomic Energy Agency, were today (WED) reexamining the gases to double check their identity. The discovery of the gases coincided with the controversial reopening of a nuclear reactor in southern Japan – the first to be put back online since the March 11 Fukushima disaster. The Genkai plant in Kyushu was restarted despite strong public opposition, after officials confirmed it had passed safety tests following its closure over technical problems last month. Anti-nuclear public sentiment has been growing across Japan since the nation was caught up in the on-going atomic crisis, the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986. Around 40 of Japan's 54 reactors currently remain offline for testing, with the Genkai plant widely regarded as a symbolic first step in restarting dozens more across the country.
Severe storms and tornadoes moving through the U.S. Southeast dealt a severe blow to the Tennessee Valley Authority [on April 27], causing three nuclear reactors in Alabama to shut and knocking out 11 high-voltage power lines, the utility and regulators said. All three units at TVA's 3,274-megawatt Browns Ferry nuclear plant in Alabama tripped about 5:30 EDT after losing outside power to the plant, a spokesman for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said. A TVA spokeswoman said the station's backup power systems, including diesel generators, started and operated as designed. External power was restored quickly to the plant but diesel generators remained running Wednesday evening, she said. The Browns Ferry units are among 23 U.S. reactors that are similar in design to the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan where backup generators were swept away in the tsunami that followed the massive earthquake on March 11.
Note: And what might have happened if one of those tornadoes happened to hit a nuclear power plant?
Over the past six years, the Bush administration has spent almost $100 million on a highly classified program to help Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s president, secure his country’s nuclear weapons. The aid, buried in secret portions of the federal budget, paid for the training of Pakistani personnel in the United States and the construction of a nuclear security training center in Pakistan, a facility that American officials say is nowhere near completion, even though it was supposed to be in operation this year. A raft of equipment — from helicopters to night-vision goggles to nuclear detection equipment — was given to Pakistan to help secure its nuclear material, its warheads, and the laboratories that were the site of the worst known case of nuclear proliferation in the atomic age. While American officials say that they believe the arsenal is safe at the moment, and that they take at face value Pakistani assurances that security is vastly improved, in many cases the Pakistani government has been reluctant to show American officials how or where the gear is actually used. That is because the Pakistanis do not want to reveal the locations of their weapons or the amount or type of new bomb-grade fuel the country is now producing. In addition, the Pakistanis were suspicious that any American-made technology in their warheads could include a secret “kill switch,” enabling the Americans to turn off their weapons. While Pakistan is formally considered a “major non-NATO ally,” the program has been hindered by a deep suspicion among Pakistan’s military that the secret goal of the United States was to gather intelligence about how to locate and, if necessary, disable Pakistan’s arsenal, which is the pride of the country.
Note: Isn't it interesting that the U.S. administration has so fervently attacked Iraq and Iran for developing nuclear weapons, yet they seem unconcerned about Pakistan, which is known to have supported terrorist groups.
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