Nuclear Power News ArticlesExcerpts of Key Nuclear Power News Articles in Media
The Japanese government [has] declared that the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant had reached a stable state known as “cold shutdown.” But the formal status change at the plant, experts cautioned, means only that its problems have become less dire; they have not disappeared. The plant still leaks radiation into the sea. Its makeshift cooling system is vulnerable to earthquakes. And the cleanup work remains dangerous, with many flooded and debris-strewn areas of the reactor buildings difficult even for robots to access. In normal circumstances, a reactor in cold shutdown mode is entirely stable, its fuel intact, with no chance of a chain reaction. To achieve its version of a cold shutdown at Fukushima Daiichi, ... Japan had to loosen the definition. Fukushima now meets the government’s requirements because temperatures at the bottom of the three damaged reactor pressure vessels have dropped below 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit). Airborne leaks into the environment have also been almost halted. The declaration poses new questions for many of the 80,000 people who fled towns around the plant ... since the government had made the cold shutdown a precondition for even considering reopening parts of the no-go zone to residents. Many areas within the no-entry zone — a 12-mile radius around the plant — will be uninhabitable for decades, maybe longer.
This spring’s nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant released almost double the amount of radiation the Japanese government has claimed, according to a new analysis. The authors say the boiling pools holding spent fuel rods played a role in the release of some of the contaminants, primarily cesium-137 — and that this could have been mitigated by an earlier response. Researchers at the Norwegian Institute of Air Research ... say the amount of cesium-137, a long-lived isotope that persists in the atmosphere, was about twice as high as the Japanese government’s official estimate. The researchers also say about 20 percent of the total fallout landed over Japan, but the vast majority fell over the Pacific Ocean. (The effects of this fallout on fisheries and aquatic wildlife are still being determined.) Cesium-137 emissions peaked three or four days after the quake and tsunami, remaining high until March 19, according to this new study. That’s the day authorities started spraying water on the spent-fuel pool at reactor unit 4, the researchers note. “This indicates that emissions were not only coming from the damaged reactor cores, but also from the spent-fuel pool of unit 4 and confirms that the spraying was an effective countermeasure,” they say. This contradicts Japanese government reports claiming the pools released no radiation.
Note: According to the French nuclear agency, the Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN, Institut de Radioprotection et de Surete Nucleaire), even the higher estimate of radiation release described in this article is too low. The agency estimates that 20 times more cesium-137 was released than has been admitted by Tepco.
FirstEnergy Corp. [stock price] fell after a report that engineers discovered cracks in the concrete shell of its Davis-Besse nuclear plant. Contractors on Oct. 10 discovered a hairline crack measuring about 30 feet (9.1 meters) long as they sliced a hole into the plant’s outer shell in order to install a new reactor vessel head, said Jennifer Young, a FirstEnergy spokeswoman. The cracked shell is the outermost of several layers of steel and concrete that protect the reactor, which has been shut down since Oct. 1 in preparation for the repair work. Davis-Besse was shuttered for more than three months in 2010 after workers discovered cooling water leaking through cracks in some reactor-head nozzles, steel casings that hold fuel and control rods. Leaks and reactor corrosion prompted FirstEnergy to close the plant for two years, from 2002 to 2004, while the company retrained or replaced workers who ignored signs of damage, and eventually replaced the reactor head. The leaks found last year at the 900-megawatt plant prompted the Union of Concerned Scientists in April 2010 to demand that the plant remain closed until its owners established better controls to maintain health and safety standards.
Note: If you want to see how safety around nuclear plants is ignored and threatened all the time by money interests at all levels, watch the amazingly revealing documentary on Chernobyl at this link. The most telling piece in this documentary involves the man tasked by Gorbechov to write the official report of all the problems they faced. When he gave the report to the IAEA in a secret meeting, he was ridiculed by the other international leaders there, who accused him of spreading baseless fears. On the second anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, he committed suicide.
Radioactive tritium has leaked from three-quarters of U.S. commercial nuclear power sites, often into groundwater from corroded, buried piping. The number and severity of the leaks has been escalating, even as federal regulators extend the licenses of more and more reactors across the nation. Tritium, which is a radioactive form of hydrogen, has leaked from at least 48 of 65 sites, according to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission records reviewed as part of the AP's yearlong examination of safety issues at aging nuclear power plants. Leaks from at least 37 of those facilities contained concentrations exceeding the federal drinking water standard — sometimes at hundreds of times the limit. At three sites — two in Illinois and one in Minnesota — leaks have contaminated drinking wells of nearby homes. At a fourth site, in New Jersey, tritium has leaked into an aquifer and a discharge canal feeding picturesque Barnegat Bay off the Atlantic Ocean. Any exposure to radioactivity, no matter how slight, boosts cancer risk, according to the National Academy of Sciences. Tritium moves through soil quickly, and when it is detected it often indicates the presence of more powerful radioactive isotopes that are often spilled at the same time.
Physician Janette Sherman, M.D. and epidemiologist Joseph Mangano published a report Monday highlighting a 35% spike in northwest infant mortality after Japan's nuclear meltdown. The report spotlighted data from the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on infant mortality rates in eight northwest cities, including Seattle, in the 10 weeks after Fukushima's nuclear meltdown. The average number of infant deaths for the region moved from an average of 9.25 in the four weeks before Fukushima' nuclear meltdown, to an average of 12.5 per week in the 10 weeks after. The change represents a 35% increase in the northwest's infant mortality rates. In comparison, the average rates for the entire U.S. rose only 2.3%.
A group of more than 200 Japanese pensioners are volunteering to tackle the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima power station. The Skilled Veterans Corps, as they call themselves, is made up of retired engineers and other professionals, all over the age of 60. They say they should be facing the dangers of radiation, not the young. It was while watching the television news that Yasuteru Yamada decided it was time for his generation to stand up. No longer could he be just an observer of the struggle to stabilise the Fukushima nuclear plant. The retired engineer is reporting back for duty at the age of 72, and he is organising a team of pensioners to go with him. For weeks now Mr Yamada has been getting back in touch with old friends, sending out e-mails and even messages on Twitter. Volunteering to take the place of younger workers at the power station is not brave, Mr Yamada says, but logical. "I am 72 and on average I probably have 13 to 15 years left to live," he says. "Even if I were exposed to radiation, cancer could take 20 or 30 years or longer to develop. Therefore us older ones have less chance of getting cancer." Mr Yamada is lobbying the government hard for his volunteers to be allowed into the power station. The government has expressed gratitude for the offer but is cautious.
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.
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