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Steam Detected at Damaged Fukushima Reactor –

18 Jul

Lesson: A damaged nuclear reactor is a danger forever. Is there any such thing as a nuclear reactor that’s NOT damages?

TOKYO — The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant stood ready Thursday to inject boric acid into one of its most heavily damaged reactors after it found steam emanating from the reactor building. The preventive measure would stave off criticality, or an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction, in the reactor’s damaged core.

The incident has brought the Fukushima plant’s vulnerable state into sharp relief, more than two years after its reactors suffered multiple meltdowns when its cooling systems were overwhelmed by a powerful earthquake and tsunami.

via Steam Detected at Damaged Fukushima Reactor –


Behind Nuclear Breach, a Nun’s Bold Fervor –

11 Aug

She has been arrested 40 or 50 times for acts of civil disobedience and once served six months in prison. In the Nevada desert, she and other peace activists knelt down to block a truck rumbling across the government’s nuclear test site, prompting the authorities to take her into custody.

She gained so much attention that the Energy Department, which maintains the nation’s nuclear arsenal, helped pay for an oral history in which she described her upbringing and the development of her antinuclear views.

Now, Sister Megan Rice, 82, a Roman Catholic nun of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, and two male accomplices have carried out what nuclear experts call the biggest security breach in the history of the nation’s atomic complex, making their way to the inner sanctum of the site where the United States keeps crucial nuclear bomb parts and fuel.

via Behind Nuclear Breach, a Nun’s Bold Fervor –

Last Reactor of 50 in Japan Is Shut Down –

5 May

Japan’s last operating reactor was taken offline Saturday, as public distrust created by last year’s nuclear disaster forced the nation to at least temporarily do without atomic power for the first time in 42 years.

The reactor, at the Tomari plant on the northern island of Hokkaido, was shut down for legally mandated maintenance, said its operator, Hokkaido Electric. As Japan’s 50 functional commercial reactors have been shut down one by one for maintenance, none have been restarted because of safety concerns since last year’s Fukushima disaster.

via Last Reactor of 50 in Japan Is Shut Down –

Japan in Uproar Over Censorship of Emperor’s Anti-Nuclear Speech – Michael McAteer – International – The Atlantic

26 Mar

Emperor Akihito expressed mild skepticism about nuclear power in a speech on the anniversary of the Fukushima disaster. Evening TV news and newspaper accounts failed to mention these remarks. Many Japanese fear the fix is on.

While [the Emperor’s] statement may seem more obvious than radical to outsiders, underneath the Imperial-grade Japanese understatement were two ideas that have become quietly explosive. First, he seemed to suggest that the nuclear crisis is not over, a “formidable task” yet to be overcome. This noticeably contradicts the government’s official stance that Fukushima has achieved a cold shutdown and, for all practical purposes, the crisis is over. Second, it implies that it is not yet safe for people to return to areas stricken with high levels of radiation, at least not before the “formidable task” is “overcome.” This, again, contradicts the government’s position that it is now safe for people to return to almost all areas and that neither Tokyo Electric Power Company nor the national government are obliged to assist in long term evacuations.

via Japan in Uproar Over Censorship of Emperor’s Anti-Nuclear Speech – Michael McAteer – International – The Atlantic.

As Nuclear Reactors Age, Funds to Close Them Lag –

22 Mar

Shutting down nuclear plants is very expensive, even more expensive than building them in the first place. It’s not a simple matter of turning off the switch. You do that, and then you have to dismantle the plant and haul the nuclear waste away. Once you’ve done that, the land can be returned to productive use. If you don’t properly dismantle, then the land is useless and the radioactive waste is still dangerous.

In effect, these plants are Too Big To Be Turned Off. And they’re Too Dangerous to Operate. Seems to me we’re living Too Big to Be Responsible.

Entergy is at least $90 million short of the projected $560 million cost of dismantling Vermont Yankee; the company is at least $500 million short of the $1.5 billion estimated cost of dismantling Indian Point 2 and 3.

The shortfall raises the possibility that Vermont could tend one sleeping reactor for decades while New York oversees three; Unit 1 , another reactor at Indian Point, shut down in 1974 and has yet to be dismantled.

Even the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s chairman is uneasy about the prospect of a 60-year wait.

“These facilities should be cleaned up, and their footprints reduced as much as possible so that these areas can be returned to other productive uses within the community,” the chairman, Gregory B. Jaczko, said recently.

Gil C. Quiniones, the president and chief executive of the New York Power Authority, a state utility that sold Indian Point 3 to Entergy in 2000, called Entergy’s failure to plan for or finance the decommissioning of Indian Point in real time “stunningly irresponsible.”

via As Nuclear Reactors Age, Funds to Close Them Lag –

Reform the N.R.C. –

12 Mar

Like many regulatory agencies, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is held captive by the industry it’s supposed to regulate.

…the Fukushima meltdowns, which were set off by an earthquake-triggered tsunami, raised questions about the vulnerability of America’s reactors to earthquakes. Indian Point, for example, is built above and near a series of faults. But the commission refused to do a full risk assessment and refused to consider earthquake damage as part of relicensing, announcing that “this is really not a serious concern.”

While such health and safety dangers from reactors are real, perhaps an even greater danger is the on-site storage of spent fuel, which is thousands of times more toxic than the uranium put into the reactor. While the reactor is surrounded by a concrete containment vessel, the commission allows spent fuel to be kept in a large, aboveground and unprotected pool of water.

The pools have been known to leak, and they are vulnerable to fire and terrorist attack. Fukushima presented an opportunity to address this lingering threat, and yet the commission once again failed to act.

How do we regulate the regulators?

There is a real need to reform the commission, whether one supports or opposes nuclear power. We need a fast-track, independent review of exemptions and the resulting weakened safety standards; we also need a similarly independent, rigorous inquiry into the commission and its ties to the nuclear industry.

Beyond reviews, Congress should create new, stricter requirements for action by the commission, including stronger rules against exemptions from safety and health regulations.

via Reform the N.R.C. –

Fallout at a Former Nuclear Weapon Plant –

11 Mar

The Japanese government’s failure to warn citizens about radioactive danger put the entire city of Tokyo at health risk — and the rest of us as well. The report, which was written by an independent investigative panel established by the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation (published March 1 in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists), bluntly states that the much vaunted “absolute safety” of nuclear power is no more than a “twisted myth.”

The threat from nuclear power plants is twofold: grand scale catastrophe and continuing health problems connected with radioactive contamination in our air, water, soil and food supply — both short-term, high-level contamination and the long-term, low-level kind.

In Japan, radiation was detected in beef, milk, spinach, tea leaves and rice. And more than a dozen cities in the United States tested positive for fallout from Fukushima in their water supplies. Scientists found radiation from Japan in milk from Phoenix to Little Rock, Ark., to Montpelier, Vt. A year later, many questions about Fukushima’s operations remain unanswered.

Tepco may be the latest in a line of the nuclear businesses with a self-imposed mandate to suppress truth. Here in the United States, we have our own tightly held radioactive secrets.

via Fallout at a Former Nuclear Weapon Plant –

Activists challenge Japan’s “nuclear village” – Nuclear Power –

27 Feb

The Japanese government has been incompetent in response to Fukushima and the Japanese people have begun organizing and protesting,

…several community-based initiatives, protests and rallies have sprung up in the past year. Volunteers have set up a popular website where users crowd-source local radiation levels. Mothers are testing school lunches for radiation. And perhaps in a nod to the Occupy movement, antinuclear activists have camped out in front of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in Tokyo for more than four months and refused orders to leave. Citizens are also becoming increasingly vocal toward public officials.

“You see people yelling and interrupting these bureaucrats, which I’ve never seen at public meetings,” said Aldrich. “What I’ve been seeing from Fukushima and elsewhere is ‘rituals of dissent’ — local people not willing to be talked down to, not willing to be ignored.”

via Activists challenge Japan’s “nuclear village” – Nuclear Power –

Indian Point Fire Safety Plan Rejected by Regulators –

2 Feb

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Wednesday that it had rejected some of the Indian Point nuclear power plant’s procedures for assuring fire safety, noting that its two reactors lacked some equipment that was typically used to meet the commission’s regulations.

via Indian Point Fire Safety Plan Rejected by Regulators –

Report Condemns Japan’s Response to Nuclear Accident –

26 Dec

From inspectors who abandoned the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant as it succumbed to disaster to a delay in disclosing radiation leaks, Japan’s response to the nuclear accident caused by the March tsunami fell tragically short, a government-appointed investigative panel said on Monday….

The panel attacked the use of the term “soteigai,” which translates to “unforeseen,” by plant and government officials to describe the unprecedented scale of the disaster and to explain why they were unable to stop it. Running a nuclear power plant required officials to foresee the unforeseen, said the panel’s chairman, Yotaro Hatamura, a professor emeritus in engineering at the University of Tokyo.

“There was a lot of talk of soteigai, but that only bred perceptions among the public that officials were shirking their responsibilities,” Mr. Hatamura said.

via Report Condemns Japan’s Response to Nuclear Accident –