Nuclear Power News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on nuclear power
In his new book, Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety, award-winning investigative journalist [Eric Schlosser] challenges and expands on the U.S. government's secretive record regarding nuclear accidents. Let's get the big question out of the way: How many times have we just barely avoided nuclear armageddon in the U.S.? It's a very secretive subject, and I did my best, through interviews and through the Freedom of Information Act, to get as much information as I could on these accidents. The Pentagon lists 32 broken arrows, which are their official nuclear weapon accidents that they consider really serious. A lot of other accidents [posed the] threat of accidental detonation on American soil. For many years, there were safety flaws with our nuclear weapons which weren't being addressed and which were being covered up. We're just very, very ... fortunate that a major city has not been destroyed by a nuclear weapon since Nagasaki. But there's no guarantee that that luck will last. Very little has been written about the ordinary servicemen and women who often took great risks. I tell the story of a guy whose job it was to walk over to a nuclear weapon damaged in an accident and dismantle it – basically a bomb squad guy trained to handle nuclear weapons. That takes a lot of nerve to do. People like that put themselves at risk in order to prevent catastrophes. I think their stories are really worth telling. It was important to me to show, not just the bureaucratic incompetence in many cases, but also the incredible heroism of these ordinary servicemen. So it's not a simplistic, black-and-white anti-military thing at all.
Note: For more on the dangers of nuclear technologies, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Japan is stumbling helplessly from one crisis to the next as it battles the ongoing disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The situation at Fukushima two and a half years after the nuclear meltdown can at best be described as tenuous. Rather than implementing a clearly thought-out disaster management plan, TEPCO's approach has been a haphazard patchwork. Every day, TEPCO pumps 400 tons of contaminated cooling water and groundwater out of the radioactive wreckage of Fukushima. TEPCO stores the liquid in numerous tanks, the largest of which are 12 meters (40 feet) across and 11 meters high, hastily riveted together rather than welded. Currently, there are over 1,000 such tanks, with plans for over 2,000 of them by 2015. TEPCO is veritably drowning in contaminated water. When one of these makeshift containers recently sprang a leak, it apparently took weeks before the company's two-person foot-patrol passed by and noticed it, by which time 300 tons of highly contaminated water had seeped out of the tank. There's little question that more of these tanks will develop leaks, with a number of them approaching their expiration dates and only some of the tanks outfitted with sensors to provide early warning of leakage. "These are the wrong containers in the wrong place, made of the wrong material and built in the wrong way," declares nuclear expert Mycle Schneider, one of the lead authors of the World Nuclear Industry Status Report.
Note: For more on the grave risks of nuclear technologies, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
A nuclear expert has told the BBC that he believes the current water leaks at Fukushima are much worse than the authorities have stated. Mycle Schneider is an independent consultant who has previously advised the French and German governments. He says water is leaking out all over the site and there are no accurate figures for radiation levels. Meanwhile the chairman of Japan's nuclear authority said that he feared there would be further leaks. The ongoing problems at the Fukushima plant increased in recent days when the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) admitted that around 300 tonnes of highly radioactive water had leaked from a storage tank on the site. The Japanese nuclear energy watchdog raised the incident level from one to three on the international scale that measures the severity of atomic accidents. This was an acknowledgement that the power station was in its greatest crisis since the reactors melted down after the tsunami in 2011. But some nuclear experts are concerned that the problem is a good deal worse than either Tepco or the Japanese government are willing to admit. "The quantities of water they are dealing with are absolutely gigantic," [said] Schneider, who has consulted widely for a variety of organisations and countries on nuclear issues. "What is worse is the water leakage everywhere else - not just from the tanks. It is leaking out from the basements, it is leaking out from the cracks all over the place. Nobody can measure that. It is much worse than we have been led to believe, much worse," said Mr Schneider, who is lead author for the World Nuclear Industry status reports.
Note: For more on the environmental devastation caused by nuclear power, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Honestly, if the consequences weren’t potentially so dire, the ongoing struggles to clean up the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in northern Japan would be the stuff of comedy. In March, an extended blackout disabled power to a vital cooling system for days. The cause: a rat that had apparently been chewing on cables in a switchboard. Another dead rat was found in the plant’s electrical works just a few weeks ago, which led to another blackout. The dead rats were just the latest screwups in a series of screwups by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO). But it’s not funny, not really, because the consequences of the meltdown and TEPCO’s mismanagement are very real. The latest threat comes from nearby groundwater that is pouring into the damaged reactor buildings. Once the water reaches the reactor it becomes highly contaminated by radioactivity. TEPCO workers have to pump the water out of the reactor to avoid submerging the important cooling system. TEPCO can’t simply dump the irradiated groundwater into the nearby sea ... so the company has been forced to jury-rig yet another temporary solution, building hundreds of tanks, each able to hold 112 Olympic-size pools worth of liquid, to hold the groundwater. So TEPCO finds itself in a race: Can its workers build enough tanks and clear enough nearby space to store the irradiated water — water that keeps pouring into the reactor at the rate of some 75 gal. a minute? More than two years after the tsunami, TEPCO is still racing against time — and just barely staying ahead.
Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on the grave risks from the nuclear power industry, click here.
Workers have raised the first section of a colossal arch-shaped structure that eventually will cover the exploded nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl power station. Upon completion, the shelter will be moved on tracks over the building containing the destroyed reactor, allowing work to begin on dismantling the reactor and disposing of radioactive waste. The shelter, shaped like a gargantuan Quonset hut, will be 257 meters by 150 meters (843 feet by 492 feet) when completed and at its apex will be higher than the Statue of Liberty. The shelter is to be moved over the reactor building by the end of 2015 — a deadline that no one wants to miss given that the so-called sarcophagus hastily built over the reactor building after the 1986 explosion has an estimated service life of about 30 years. The arch now under construction is only one of two segments that will eventually form the shelter, and so far it's only been raised to a height of 22 meters (72 feet). More structural elements have to be added before it reaches its full height of 108 meters (354 feet), and the work so far has taken seven months. The overall shelter project is budgeted at €1.54 billion ($2 billion) — €1 billion ($1.3 billion) of that for the structure itself — and much uncertainty lies ahead. Even when the shelter is in place, the area around the reactor building will remain hazardous.
Note: It is now over 25 years since the massive Chernobyl disaster and the site is still not safe. Why are we gambling our own health and the health of the planet with such risky technology when there are other alternatives that are much safer and more friendly to the environment? For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on the environmental and health impacts of nuclear power, click here.
Japan's prime minister acknowledged Saturday the government failed in its response to last year's earthquake and tsunami, being too slow in relaying key information and believing too much in "a myth of safety" about nuclear power. "We can no longer make the excuse that what was unpredictable and outside our imagination has happened," Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said. "Crisis management requires us to imagine what may be outside our imagination." Noda was speaking to reporters at his official residence ahead of the anniversary of the March 11 disaster that killed nearly 20,000 people in northeastern Japan and set off the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl. The phrase "soteigai," or "outside our imagination," was used repeatedly by Tokyo Electric Power Co., the utility that ran the plant, as the reason why it was not prepared for the giant tsunami that hit after the magnitude-9.0 quake. Although some scholars had warned about such tsunami risks, both the utility and regulators did little and kept backup generators in basements where they could be flooded. Japan has also drawn criticism as having been slow with information about the meltdowns and about radiation leaks into the air and the ocean. "We can say in hindsight that the government, business and scholars had all been seeped in a myth of safety," Noda said of the oversights in the accident. "The responsibility must be shared."
Note: For lots more from reliable sources on the corruption in the nuclear power industry, click here.
Japan’s tsunami-hit Fukushima power plant remains fragile nearly a year after it suffered multiple meltdowns, its chief said [on February 28], with makeshift equipment — some mended with tape — keeping crucial systems running. An independent report, meanwhile, revealed that the government downplayed the full danger in the days after the March 11 disaster and secretly considered evacuating Tokyo. Journalists given a tour of the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant on Tuesday ... saw crumpled trucks and equipment still lying on the ground. A power pylon that collapsed in the tsunami, cutting electricity to the plant’s vital cooling system and setting off the crisis, remained a mangled mess. The equipment that serves as the lifeline of the cooling system is shockingly feeble-looking. Plastic hoses cracked by freezing temperatures have been mended with tape. A set of three pumps sits on the back of a pickup truck. Along with the pumps, the plant now has 1,000 tanks to store more than 160,000 tons of contaminated water. The Unit 3 reactor, whose roof was blown off by a hydrogen explosion, resembles an ashtray filled with a heap of cigarette butts. Officials say radiation hot spots remain inside the plant and minimizing exposure to them is a challenge.
Note: For lots more from reliable sources on the corruption in the nuclear power industry, click here.
Japan’s government [has said] that it could take 40 years to clean up and fully decommission [the Fukushima reactors]. Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. will start removing spent fuel rods within two to three years from their pools. After that is completed, TEPCO will start removing the melted fuel, most of which is believed to have fallen to the bottom of the core or even down to the bottom of the larger, beaker-shaped containment vessel, a process that is expected to begin in 10 years and [be] completed 25 years from now. Completely decommissioning the plant would require five to 10 more years after the fuel debris removal, making the entire process up to 40 years. The process still requires the development of robots and technology that can do much of the work remotely because of extremely high radiation levels inside the reactor buildings. The operator and the government would also have to ensure a stable supply of workers and save them from exceeding exposure limits while keeping the long process going. They also have to figure out ways to access each containment vessel and assess the extent of damage, as well as locate holes and cracks through which cooling water is leaking and flooding the area. Another problem is huge volume of radioactive waste and debris that will come out of the plant during its dismantling process. Officials said they have not decided what to do with them and that part is not covered by the 40-year roadmap.
An estimated 14,000 excess deaths in the United States are linked to the radioactive fallout from the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear reactors in Japan, according to a major new article in the December 2011 edition of the International Journal of Health Services. This is the first peer-reviewed study published in a medical journal documenting the health hazards of Fukushima. Authors Joseph Mangano and Janette Sherman note that their estimate of 14,000 excess U.S. deaths in the 14 weeks after the Fukushima meltdowns is comparable to the 16,500 excess deaths in the 17 weeks after the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986. The rise in reported deaths after Fukushima was largest among U.S. infants under age one. The 2010-2011 increase for infant deaths in the spring was 1.8 percent, compared to a decrease of 8.37 percent in the preceding 14 weeks. The IJHS article [is] available online ... at http://www.radiation.org. Internist and toxicologist Janette Sherman, MD, said: "Based on our continuing research, the actual death count [in the US] may be as high as 18,000, with influenza and pneumonia, which were up five-fold in the period in question as a cause of death. Deaths are seen across all ages, but we continue to find that infants are hardest hit because their tissues are rapidly multiplying, they have undeveloped immune systems, and the doses of radioisotopes are proportionally greater than for adults."
Note: To read the report (in pdf format) on excess mortality in the US already caused by the Fukushima meltdowns, click here.
Japan's tsunami-stricken nuclear-power complex came closer to a catastrophic meltdown than previously indicated by its operator [which on November 30] described how one reactor's molten nuclear core likely burned through its primary containment chamber and then ate as far as three-quarters of the way through the concrete in a secondary vessel. The [new] assessment—offered by Japan's government and Tokyo Electric Power Co., ... marked Japan's most sobering reckoning to date of the nuclear disaster sparked by the country's March 11 earthquake and tsunami. But it came nearly six months after U.S. and international nuclear experts and regulators had reached similar conclusions. For the first time, Tokyo Electric ... said that nuclear-fuel rods in the complex's No. 1 reactor had likely melted completely, burning through their so-called pressure vessel and then boring through concrete at the bottom of a second containment vessel. That brought the fuel closer than previously believed to breaching the containment vessel and foundation and continuing to burn through the ground below — a scenario sometimes described as the "China Syndrome." The findings are the latest reminder of how much remains unknown about the extent of the mid-March Fukushima Daiichi accident.
Note: For further information on the developing understanding of the severity of the meltdowns at Fukushima, see these reports at The Guardian and The New York Times. For key reports from major media sources on corporate and government corruption, click here and here.
The triple meltdown and its aftermath at the Fukushima nuclear power plant [have] elevated Japan into unknown, and unknowable, terrain. Across the northeast, millions of people are living with its consequences and searching for a consensus on a safe radiation level that does not exist. Experts give bewilderingly different assessments of its dangers. Some scientists say Fukushima is worse than the 1986 Chernobyl accident, with which it shares a maximum level-7 rating on the sliding scale of nuclear disasters. Chris Busby, a professor at the University of Ulster ... said the disaster would result in more than 1 million deaths. "Fukushima is still boiling its radionuclides all over Japan," he said. "Chernobyl went up in one go. So Fukushima is worse." Slowly, steadily, and often well behind the curve, the government has worsened its prognosis of the disaster. Last Friday, scientists affiliated with the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said the plant had released 15,000 terabecquerels of cancer-causing Cesium, equivalent to about 168 times the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima, the event that ushered in the nuclear age. [But] Professor Busby says the release is at least 72,000 times worse than Hiroshima.
It is one of the mysteries of Japan's ongoing nuclear crisis: How much damage did the 11 March earthquake inflict on the Fukushima Daiichi reactors before the tsunami hit? The stakes are high: if the earthquake structurally compromised the plant and the safety of its nuclear fuel, then every similar reactor in Japan may have to be shut down. Throughout the months of lies and misinformation, one story has stuck: it was the earthquake that knocked out the plant's electric power, halting cooling to its six reactors. The tsunami then washed out the plant's back-up generators 40 minutes later, shutting down all cooling and starting the chain of events that would cause the world's first triple meltdown. But what if recirculation pipes and cooling pipes burst after the earthquake – before the tidal wave reached the facilities; before the electricity went out? This would surprise few people familiar with the 40-year-old reactor one, the grandfather of the nuclear reactors still operating in Japan. Problems with the fractured, deteriorating, poorly repaired pipes and the cooling system had been pointed out for years. In September 2002, Tepco admitted covering up data about cracks in critical circulation pipes.
The bloated Missouri River rose to within 18 inches of forcing the shutdown of a nuclear power plant in southeast Nebraska but stopped and ebbed slightly [on June 20], after several levees in northern Missouri failed to hold back the surging waterway. The river has to hit 902 feet above sea level at Brownville before officials will shut down the Cooper Nuclear Plant, which sits at 903 feet, Nebraska Public Power District spokesman Mark Becker said. Becker said the river rose to 900.56 feet at Brownville on Sunday, then dropped to 900.4 feet later in the day and remained at that level Monday morning. The Cooper Nuclear Plant is operating at full capacity Monday, Becker said. The Columbus-based utility sent a "notification of unusual event" to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission when the river rose to 899 feet early Sunday morning. The declaration is the least serious of four emergency notifications established by the federal commission. The Cooper Nuclear Station is one of two plants along the Missouri River in eastern Nebraska. The Fort Calhoun Station, operated by the Omaha Public Power District, is about 20 miles north of Omaha. It issued a similar alert to the regulatory commission June 6.
Note: This same plant narrowly avoided a shutdown just a couple weeks prior due to an electrical fire. For the AP article on this, click here. On Monday, June 27, floodwaters collapsed a berm protecting the plant and flooded a building onsite. Authorities, however, still claim there are no dangers.
The nuclear fuel in three of the reactors at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant has melted through the base of the pressure vessels and is pooling in the outer containment vessels, according to a report by the Japanese government. The findings of the report, which has been given to the International Atomic Energy Agency, were revealed by the Yomiuri newspaper, which described a "melt-through" as being "far worse than a core meltdown" and "the worst possibility in a nuclear accident." Water that was pumped into the pressure vessels to cool the fuel rods, becoming highly radioactive in the process, has been confirmed to have leaked out of the containment vessels and outside the buildings that house the reactors. Elevated levels of radiation have been confirmed in the ocean off the plant. The radiation will also have contaminated the soil and plant and animal life around the facility, making the task of cleaning up more difficult and expensive, as well as taking longer. The pressure vessel of the No. 1 reactor is now believed to have suffered damage just five hours after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Melt-downs of the fuel in the No. 2 and No. 3 reactors followed over the following days with the molten fuel collecting at the bottom of the pressure vessels before burning through and into the external steel containment vessels.
Note: The UK Telegraph has been consistently reporting the bad news about the Fukushima catastrophe, but many other major media outlets have not kept the spotlight on this vital issue. Could that be because they are protecting the nuclear industry and its plans for expansion from the fallout of public opinion?
The operator of the nuclear power plant at the center of a radiation scare after being disabled by Japan's earthquake and tsunami confirmed ... that there had been meltdowns of fuel rods at three of its reactors. Tokyo Electric Power Co said meltdowns of fuel rods at three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant occurred early in the crisis triggered by the March 11 disaster. The government and outside experts had said previously that fuel rods at three of the plant's six reactors had likely melted early in the crisis, but the utility, also known as Tepco, had only confirmed a meltdown at the No.1 reactor. Tepco officials said a review since early May of data from the plant concluded the same happened to reactors No.2 and 3. Some analysts said the delay in confirming the meltdowns at Fukushima suggested the utility feared touching off a panic by disclosing the severity of the accident earlier. "Now people are used to the situation. Nothing is resolved, but normal business has resumed in places like Tokyo," said Koichi Nakano, a political science professor at Tokyo's Sophia University. Nakano said that by confirming the meltdowns now, Tepco may be hoping the news will have less impact.
Note: Very few major media have given TEPCO's confirmation of the world's worst fears about the severity of the Fukushima nuclear disaster the attention it deserves. Are the major media burying this story because of the potential harm it will do to plans for the expansion of the nuclear power industry?
U.S. government officials, in private sessions on Capitol Hill [on Friday, March 18], repeatedly declined to give details of radiation measurements at the stricken Japanese nuclear complex, saying the situation is shrouded in a "fog of war." Separately, the Obama administration said ... "miniscule quantities" of radiation from the Japanese nuclear accident were detected Friday at a monitoring station in Sacramento, Calif., a day after similar traces of radiation were detected in Washington state. The administration said the levels of the radioactive isotope xenon 133 were approximately equivalent to one-millionth the dose received from the sun, rocks or other natural sources. The Obama administration's reluctance to detail in public what it is learning from radiation-detection operations around the damaged Fukushima Daiichi complex in Japan ... comes after statements Wednesday by the head of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission that painted a grimmer picture of the nuclear crisis than Japanese officials had offered, and suggested that the U.S. didn't trust the information coming from the Japanese government.
Note: Shouldn't the title be something more like "U.S. Refuses to Give Radiation Details for Fear of Industry Repercussions"? How sad that money often continues to trump public health in matters like this.
Behind Japan's escalating nuclear crisis sits a scandal-ridden energy industry in a comfy relationship with government regulators often willing to overlook safety lapses. Leaks of radioactive steam and workers contaminated with radiation are just part of the disturbing catalog of accidents that have occurred over the years and been belatedly reported to the public, if at all. In one case, workers hand-mixed uranium in stainless steel buckets, instead of processing by machine, so the fuel could be reused, exposing hundreds of workers to radiation. Two later died. "Everything is a secret," said Kei Sugaoka, a former nuclear power plant engineer in Japan who now lives in California. "There's not enough transparency in the industry." In 1989 Sugaoka received an order that horrified him: edit out footage showing cracks in plant steam pipes in video being submitted to regulators. Sugaoka alerted his superiors in the Tokyo Electric Power Co., but nothing happened — for years. He decided to go public in 2000. Three Tepco executives lost their jobs. The legacy of scandals and cover-ups over Japan's half-century reliance on nuclear power has strained its credibility with the public. That mistrust has been renewed this past week with the crisis at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant. The vagueness and scarcity of details offered by the government and Tepco — and news that seems to grow worse each day — are fueling public anger and frustration.
Thirty-five years ago, Dale G. Bridenbaugh and two of his colleagues at General Electric resigned from their jobs after becoming increasingly convinced that the nuclear reactor design they were reviewing -- the Mark 1 -- was so flawed it could lead to a devastating accident. Five of the six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which has been wracked since Friday's earthquake with explosions and radiation leaks, are Mark 1s. "The problems we identified in 1975 were that, in doing the design of the containment, they did not take into account the dynamic loads that could be experienced with a loss of coolant," Bridenbaugh [said]. "The impact loads the containment would receive by this very rapid release of energy could tear the containment apart and create an uncontrolled release." Questions persisted for decades about the ability of the Mark 1 to handle the immense pressures that would result if the reactor lost cooling power. In 1986, for instance, Harold Denton, then the director of NRC's Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, spoke critically about the design during an industry conference. Today that design is being put to the ultimate test in Japan.
Secret South African documents reveal that Israel offered to sell nuclear warheads to the apartheid regime, providing the first official documentary evidence of [Israel's] possession of nuclear weapons. The "top secret" minutes of meetings between senior officials from the two countries in 1975 show that South Africa's defence minister, PW Botha, asked for the warheads and Shimon Peres, then Israel's defence minister and now its president, responded by offering them "in three sizes". The two men also signed a broad-ranging agreement governing military ties between the two countries that included a clause declaring that "the very existence of this agreement" was to remain secret. The documents, uncovered by an American academic, Sasha Polakow-Suransky ... provide evidence that Israel has nuclear weapons despite its policy of "ambiguity" in neither confirming nor denying their existence. The Israeli authorities tried to stop South Africa's post-apartheid government declassifying the documents at Polakow-Suransky's request.
Note: A New York Times article states that Isreal has strongly denied this story. Yet even this articles states, "Israel has a longstanding policy of nuclear ambiguity, neither confirming nor denying that it has nuclear weapons, though it is widely believed to have developed a large arsenal."
The US Government has announced that it will release $95m to North Korea as part of an agreement to replace the Stalinist country's own nuclear programme, which the US suspected was being misused. In releasing the funding, President George W Bush waived the Framework's requirement that North Korea allow inspectors to ensure it has not hidden away any weapons-grade plutonium from the original reactors. President Bush argued that the decision was "vital to the national security interests of the United States". The head of the Non-proliferation Policy Education Centre in Washington, a critic of the Agreed Framework, has warned that even when the new reactors are completed they may not be tamper-proof. "These reactors are like all reactors, They have the potential to make weapons. So you might end up supplying the worst nuclear violator with the means to acquire the very weapons we're trying to prevent it acquiring," Henry Sokolski told the Far Eastern Economic Review.
Note: Though this article is from 2002, one must ask why on earth President Bush would waive the requirement for inspectors who would ensure no nuclear weapons development? Wasn't this one of three countries he had already labeled as the axis of evil? For answers to these questions, click here.
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