Nuclear Power news

US Sent Thousands of Sailors To Help With Fukushima Relief. Did Radiation Make Them Sick?

Climate Desk: A $1 billion lawsuit accuses the Japanese nuclear energy company Tepco of lying about radiation levels. This story was originally published by the Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration. The article was reported by the Guardian`s Suzanne Goldenberg, and the video was produced by Climate Desk`s James West. The first time it occurred to James Jackson that there could be lasting damage from his US Navy service during Japan`s tsunami and nuclear disaster came...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Two Belgian nuclear reactors may be closed permanently: state media

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Two Belgian nuclear reactors owned by GDF-Suez unit Electrabel may remain offline until spring and may need to be halted permanently, Belgian state broadcaster VRT reported on Tuesday.

Read more [Reuters]

Norway in sneak attack on the Arctic

The Esperanza has been in Svalbard, in the Arctic, for a few weeks now and we recently became aware of something urgent and disturbing. A seismic company called Dolphin Geophysical, commissioned by the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, has begun seismic mapping in the far north of the Barents Sea.

Seismic mapping is the very first step of oil exploration. Before the oil rigs even arrive, before the drills go in the seabed, companies must first determine where to find the precious pockets of oil. So, right now, we're en route to intercept a vessel conducting these tests to expose this sneak attack on the Arctic by the Norwegian state.

Seismic tests are done from a ship at the surface. An air gun shoots low-frequency sound pulses that penetrate the seafloor and the reflected sound waves are then recorded by sensors dragged on long cables after the ship. The data collected is used to map the seafloor so that oil companies can look for positions where they can drill for oil.

These air blasts can be as loud as 260 dB. As a comparison, the nuclear bomb dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki reached 248 dB. A sound wave of 202 dB would kill a human and the noise a jet taking off is around 165dB.

Sound travels extremely well under water and the noises from seismic vessels have been recorded thousands of kilometres away. Marine mammals depend on sounds to navigate and feed and they are incredibly vulnerable to these loud noises. The air gun shots are issued with an interval of less than a minute – sometimes over weeks or months – and they mean that animals like whales and dolphins are unable to hear one another or find food. In extreme cases, it could cause physical damage or severe disorientation that can lead to strandings and death.

Now, you would think that a country like Norway would have regulations in place to protect marine mammals from seismic mapping. After all, Norway likes to point out that when it comes to oil exploration and production they are the best of the best. The elite. But that is simply not true. There are no regulations in place, no guidelines to protect marine mammals in this vulnerable area.

Other Arctic countries like Greenland, the US and Canada, however, do have some regulations in place that require the air blasts to stop if marine mammals are spotted within a certain distance of the ship. Of course, this is still a long way off from actually preventing harm to marine animals, but at least it's a better environmental standard than what Norway can present. Norway is once again falling short of its promise of applying only the best environmental standards.

The area designated for the mapping this summer stretches from south of the Norwegian archipelago Svalbard to the east of the islands close to Russian Barents Sea. It goes as far as 80° North, an area that is covered by sea ice during the winter months and even now, in the middle of August, has parts covered by ice. Teeming with wildlife like polar bears, whales, walruses and seals, an oil spill here would be an absolute catastrophe.

The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate says that it will neither publish nor sell the results of this seismic testing work. On top of that, Norway has regulations in place that don’t allow oil drilling this far north and ice covered waters. Yet, the fact that the tests are being conducted at all indicates a desire to begin oil drilling up here, too. It's step in the wrong direction, in so many ways. Fortunately, the news around the seismic testing has caused more than just raised eyebrows from both the Liberals and the Christian Democrats. Both political parties back the existing agreement that prohibits petroleum activities in ice covered waters.

The Esperanza will follow the vessel for a few days, documenting and exposing the seismic tests being carried out. Norway is party to the OSPAR Convention, which obliges parties to adopt the best available technology and best environmental practice. Not having any regulation for the protection of marine mammals in relation to seismic testing puts Norway at direct odds with the OSPAR convention and in potential breach of international law.

Follow this story on Twitter @gp_espy.

Sune Scheller is an Arctic campaigner on board the Esperanza.


Read more [Greenpeace international]

The cost of caring for Europe's elderly nuclear plants

LONDON (Reuters) - Europe's ageing nuclear fleet will undergo more prolonged outages over the next few years, reducing the reliability of power supply and costing plant operators many millions of dollars.

Read more [Reuters]

South Korea running out of spent nuclear fuel storage space - advisory body

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea needs to quickly find additional space where it can store its spent nuclear fuel because some of its temporary storage capacity will be full by 2016, an independent body that advises the government on nuclear issues said on Monday.

Read more [Reuters]

The cost of caring for Europe's elderly nuclear plants

Reuters: Europe's ageing nuclear fleet will undergo more prolonged outages over the next few years, reducing the reliability of power supply and costing plant operators many millions of dollars. Nuclear power provides about a third of the European Union's electricity generation, but the 28-nation bloc's 131 reactors are well past their prime, with an average age of 30 years. And the energy companies, already feeling the pinch from falling energy prices and weak demand, want to extend the life of their plants...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

The cost of caring for Europe's elderly nuclear plants

LONDON (Reuters) - Europe's ageing nuclear fleet will undergo more prolonged outages over the next few years, reducing the reliability of power supply and costing plant operators many millions of dollars.







Read more [Reuters]

Fukushima nuclear disaster inflicted ‘serious biological effects’ on wildlife

Blue and Green: An investigation into the impacts of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster has found that radiation may be harming wildlife in the area. In a series of new studies, published this week in the Journal of Heredity, scientists found evidence of population declines and genetic damage in species around Fukushima, Japan. "A growing body of empirical results from studies of birds, monkeys, butterflies, and other insects suggests that some species have been significantly impacted by the radioactive...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

United Kingdom: Government survey finds support fracking has fallen to 24%

Blue and Green: A survey released on Tuesday by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has contradicted findings from a trade body earlier this week. The new poll found less than a quarter of Brits said they support shale gas extraction, a decline since the previous survey in March. The DECC public opinion tracker ‘wave 10’ also found continued high levels of support for renewable energy and a drop in support for nuclear power. When asked about fracking, almost half of respondents were neutral...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

U.S. says reopening New Mexico nuclear waste dump is top priority

(Reuters) - An underground nuclear waste dump in New Mexico where operations were suspended after a radiation leak is of crucial importance to the United States and its reopening is a top priority for the Energy Department, the head of the agency said.







Read more [Reuters]

EPA rule not such a boon for nuclear after all – utilities

Greenwire: U.S. EPA's greenhouse gas proposal for existing power plants doesn't do enough to boost nuclear energy, advocates for the industry say. Two months after EPA unveiled the proposal -- and just over two months before the end of the public comment period -- companies that have invested billions of dollars in the United States' primary source of zero-carbon baseload energy say they are still reviewing the draft. But while the industry has yet to reach a consensus position, some utilities say they...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

France delivers long-awaited green energy bill

BusinessGreen: The French government approved its long-awaited Energy Bill last week, amidst predictions the wide-ranging legislation could mobilise up to €10bn of investment in clean technologies. The cabinet approved the proposed bill last Wednesday, clearing the way for it to go before parliament this autumn. The bill includes a host of new targets designed to slash emissions from France's energy sector, reduce its reliance on nuclear power, and accelerate investment in renewables. Specifically, the bill...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Australia: Hawke: Nuclear waste storage could end indigenous disadvantage

Guardian: Australia could end the disadvantage endured by its Indigenous population by opening up traditional lands as dumping sites for nuclear waste from around the world, a former prime minister, Bob Hawke, has said. Hawke said he was confident that the answer to long-standing indigenous socioeconomic problems was to allow radioactive waste to be stored on Aboriginal land, and use the revenue to improve living standards. Speaking at the Indigenous Garma festival in the Northern Territory, Hawke said...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

100 percent renewable energy scenario for California

Deutsche-Welle: California could meet its energy needs with renewables alone, according to Stanford University researchers. The authors of a recent study say a transition scenario is economically as well as technically feasible. If a group of Stanford University researchers had their way, California would leave the age of fossil and nuclear fuels behind in just a few decades. Led by engineering professor Mark Jacobson, the group outlined a $1.1 trillion (818 billion euro) plan this week to revamp the state's...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

France to boost renewable energy, reduce nuclear

RFI: France is to invest up to 10 billion euros to boost investment in renewable energy and cut the country's oil and gas costs. On Wednesday French Environment and Energy Minister Ségolène Royal presented a long-delayed energy bill to the weekly cabinet meeting. One of the bill's goals is to reduce the country's reliance on nuclear energy from 75 per cent.of its electricity production to 50 per cent. Royal also plans to boost renewable energy sources. The plan does not live up to President...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

The rise and fall of nuclear power, in 6 charts

Vox: Nuclear power is slowly going out of style. Back in 1996, atomic energy supplied 17.6 percent of the world's electricity. Today that's down to just 10.8 percent -- and it could drop even further in the years ahead. Many reactors are closing -- and new reactors have been bogged down by delays That's according to the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2014, which charts the rise and fall of nuclear power over time. The upshot is that significantly...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Arrest of forest rights activists symbolic of what's wrong in India

It was just past midnight when Indian police hauled two Greenpeace India activists out of their sleep and arrested them this week as a crackdown on protests against a planned coal mine in the Mahan forest intensified.

The arrests are the latest example of intimidation tactics used in India to quell unrest over the plans by Indian conglomerate Essar to turn the Mahan forest into a climate-wrecking coal mine.

The timing of the arrests is far from coincidental. The local community was due to hold a Gram Sabha, or village council, sometime between 16-22 August to vote on the proposed coal mine development by partners Essar and Hindalco.

The police also seized a mobile signal booster and solar panels that Greenpeace India had set up in Amelia village to help spread the news from the community meeting to more than a million people who have signed a petition opposing the coal mine.

Under India’s Forest Rights Act, the authorities are required to obtain community consent from forest-dwellers for industrial developments in forests, such as Essar's coal mine.

A village council was held last year that gave a go-ahead to the mine, but the majority of signatures on its resolution were forged. A new vote was scheduled following widespread pressure and a highly visible Greenpeace India campaign.

The vote seems to have Indian authorities worried.

Less than two months ago, four other forest rights activists were arrested at a Greenpeace India guesthouse for peacefully protesting against Essar and Hindalco's proposed coal mine.

Local authorities are trying to intimidate people to cater to the interests of corporate giants, but it does not end there.

In June, two leaked reports from the state’s Intelligence Bureau accused Greenpeace India of “negatively impacting economic development”, claiming its campaigns against coal and nuclear energy or GE crops were anti-development.

It prompted the new Indian government, with its mantra of economic development at all costs, to tighten controls on foreign funding for Greenpeace India.

On the contrary, Greenpeace India is promoting renewable energy, and has just launched a solar-powered microgrid in Dharnai, a village in the state of Bihar that had been without electricity for 30 years.

Greenpeace India attracts global funding to tackle the global problem of climate change, but its opposition to coal mining and nuclear power projects has led to an attempt by Indian authorities to silence its voice.

Greenpeace India will continue to stand together with the people of Mahan forest, home to more than 50,000 forest dwellers who earn sustainable income by collecting and selling seasonal forest produce. These people are at risk of losing their livelihoods to Essar’s coal mine.

The villagers have organised themselves in MSS, Mahan Sangharsh Samiti (Mahan Struggle Organisation) to protest against the mine and Greenpeace India has been supporting them for three years.

Essar, clearly disgruntled, filed a Rs. 500 crore (about 60 million euros) lawsuit to gag both MSS and Greenpeace India, calling for a ban on criticisms of the mine project or the company.

Lawsuits in defence of coal mining will not halt climate change and this is why it is imperative that coal companies such as Essar be stopped in their tracks.

India and the international community have a short window of opportunity to keep global warming under the UN-agreed target of 2 degrees Celsius and Greenpeace India refuses to be silenced.

As the world's third largest emitter of carbon dioxide after China and the US, India can still take the lead in a renewable energy revolution.

There is still time and Greenpeace India is calling on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to hear our voice and re-shape India into a 21st century climate leader. We hope he will listen.

Aaron Gray-Block is a crisis response campaigner with Greenpeace International.


Read more [Greenpeace international]

Report Paints Bleak Future for Nuclear Power

Climate Central: The globe's nuclear power industry is aging, plagued with high costs and construction delays, and generally on the decline. That's the conclusion of the World Nuclear Industry Status Report released Tuesday, an annual assessment of the trends in nuclear power production and the state of nuclear reactors worldwide. While nuclear power is seen by some of the most prominent climate scientists in the U.S. as a necessary means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation to combat...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

The latest World Nuclear Industry Status Report: more bad news for nuclear power, good news for public safety

"The nuclear share in the world’s power generation declined steadily from a historic peak of 17.6 percent in 1996 to 10.8 percent in 2013."

 The sun is setting on nuclear power

This year’s numbers for the nuclear industry are in and they’re not good for the industry but good if you worry about the safety of people.

 The annual World Nuclear Industry Status Report (“The Independent Assessment of Nuclear Developments in the World”) has just been released and has this to say…

The nuclear industry is in decline: The 388 operating reactors are 50 fewer than the peak in 2002, while the total installed capacity peaked in 2010 at 367 GW before declining to the current level, which is comparable to levels last seen two decades ago. […] The nuclear share of the world’s power generation declined steadily from a historic peak of  17.6 percent in 1996 to 10.8 percent in 20137. Nuclear power’s share of global commercial primary energy production declined from the 2012 low of 4.5 percent, a level last seen in 1984, to a new low of 4.4 percent.

Fifty fewer reactors are operating right now, so at least all the people living in their vicinity are better off.

When this blog was started in 2008, all the talk from the nuclear industry and its supporters was of the forthcoming nuclear “renaissance” – a boom in the construction of new nuclear reactors after years of stagnation.

The World Nuclear Association’s upper ‘outlook projection’ envisaged 11,000 new nuclear reactors being built by the end of the century. That meant starting to build a new reactor every three days.

Six years later and the World Nuclear Industry Status Report proves what a wildly over-optimistic fantasy that was…

As of July 2014, 67 reactors were under construction (one more than in July 2013) with a total capacity of 64 GW. The average building time of the units under construction stands at 7 years. However:

• Eight reactors have been listed as “under construction” for more than 20 years, another for 12 years.

• At least 49 have encountered construction delays, most of them significant (several months to several years). For the first time, major delays—several months to over two years—have been admitted on three quarters (21/28) of the construction projects in China.

• For the remaining 18 reactor units, either construction began within the past five years or the reactors have not yet reached projected start-up dates, making it difficult or impossible to assess whether they are on schedule or not.

• Two-thirds (43) of the units under construction are located in three countries: China, India and Russia.

The average construction time of the last 37 units that started up in nine countries since 2004 was 10 years with a large range from 3.8 to 36.3 years.

These days, you’re more likely to read a news article asking “whatever happened to the nuclear renaissance?” than one singing its praises.

And what of nuclear power vs renewable energy? For years the nuclear industry and its boosters said renewable energy would never work on a large scale.

When solar and wind power started getting cheaper, more efficient and coming online faster and faster, that opinion changed to renewables and nuclear should work together as part of the global energy mix.

The report debunks that argument as well.

The report discusses baseload, which is the amount of electricity that “must be served at all times of the day”. The old argument for nuclear and against renewables goes that nuclear reactors are on all the time and so can serve electricity all the time. Renewables on the other hand, it is said, are reliant on the sun shining and the wind blowing.

Over to the World Nuclear Industry Status Report…

[B]ig thermal plants running whenever they’re available are replaced by cheaper-to-run portfolios of renewables, mostly variable renewables, that add up to “virtual baseload” supply—collectively providing reliable electricity from a shifting mix of resources. This way of operating the grid is analogous to a symphony orchestra (as Rocky Mountain Institute’s Clay Stranger puts it): no instrument plays all the time, but with a good score and conductor, beautiful music is continuously produced. This approach is unfamiliar to traditional utilities, but it works.

And so the reasons for nuclear power’s continued existence evaporate. It’s in decline and isn’t building reactors fast enough to meet extravagant targets. It’s being beaten all over the world by renewable energy, which is safer, cheaper, and easier and faster to build.

What trust there was in nuclear was smashed by the Fukushima disaster, with the industry doing little or nothing to try and claw it back.

The World Nuclear Industry Status Report shows that trying to rebuild that trust, as well as building new nuclear reactors, is utterly pointless.

[Image: The Mochovce Nuclear Power Plant. Construction started on the Mochovce Nuclear Power Plant in the 1980s but was subsequently stopped due to financial concerns. The project restarted in the 1990s and the first two towers (2 x 470MW) were finished and brought on-line in 1998 and 1999. The Slovak government insists in pursuing this project despite old technology and several security concerns. 09/05/2012 © Tomas Halasz / Greenpeace]

Justin McKeating is a nuclear blogger for Greenpeace International, based in the UK.


Read more [Greenpeace international]

No Fukushima radiation in tests off U.S. West Coast: scientists

Reuters: Tests of water off the U.S. West Coast have found no signs of radiation from Japan's 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, although low levels of radiation are ultimately expected to reach the U.S. shore, scientists said on Tuesday. Results obtained this week in tests of water gathered by an Oregon conservation group and tested by East Coast scientists came in as expected with no Fukushima-linked radiation, and five more tests are planned at six-month intervals to see if radiation levels will climb....
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

No Fukushima radiation in tests off U.S. West Coast: scientists

PORTLAND Ore. (Reuters) - Tests of water off the U.S. West Coast have found no signs of radiation from Japan's 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, although low levels of radiation are ultimately expected to reach the U.S. shore, scientists said on Tuesday.

Read more [Reuters]

Future grows darker for solar energy growth in Japan

Reuters: On the second anniversary of a scheme aimed at boosting Japan's renewable energy after the Fukushima crisis, its powerful industry ministry is taking steps critics say will choke off solar investment and pave the way for a return to nuclear power. Japan's ambitious plans for solar in the past two years -- if they were to come on stream -- could allow the country to surpass Germany as the world's biggest consumer of solar power. But the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has cut...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Future grows darker for solar energy growth in Japan

TOKYO (Reuters) - On the second anniversary of a scheme aimed at boosting Japan's renewable energy after the Fukushima crisis, its powerful industry ministry is taking steps critics say will choke off solar investment and pave the way for a return to nuclear power.







Read more [Reuters]

New Mexico nuclear waste dump was cited for workplace violations

(Reuters) - An underground nuclear waste dump in New Mexico that leaked radiation in February was cited by federal mine safety inspectors for dozens of workplace violations, almost all of which have been remedied, officials said Monday.







Read more [Reuters]

US Energy Secretary defends possible German nuke waste imports

Reuters: U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz on Monday defended his agency's controversial move to consider processing spent nuclear fuel from Germany at South Carolina's Savannah River Site nuclear facility, saying the proposal is consistent with U.S. efforts to secure highly enriched uranium across the globe. The United States has for years accepted spent fuel from research reactors in various countries that was produced with uranium of U.S. origin as a part of U.S. nuclear non-proliferation policy and...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

U.S. Energy Secretary defends possible German nuke waste imports

AIKEN South Carolina (Reuters) - U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz on Monday defended his agency's controversial move to consider processing spent nuclear fuel from Germany at South Carolina's Savannah River Site nuclear facility, saying the proposal is consistent with U.S. efforts to secure highly enriched uranium across the globe.

Read more [Reuters]

Gil Scott-Heron's anti-nuclear song speaks to us across 40 years

There aren't many songs about nuclear power, but a very fine one by Gil Scott-Heron shows us things never change.

As we've discussed many times on the Nuclear Reaction blog, one of the defining characteristics of the nuclear industry is its inability to learn lessons.

By way of illustration, here's the mighty poet, musician and activist Gil Scott-Heron singing his 1977 song "We Almost Lost Detroit"

Scott-Heron was recalling, on his 1977 album Bridges, the partial fuel meltdown in 1966 at the Fermi 1 nuclear reactor about 50 kilometres from Detroit, in the US. The fuel melted because of a blockage that stopped coolant from reaching the reactor. Fermi 1 is now in what the US regulator calls a "deferred dismantling" mode and will at some point be "dismantled and the property decontaminated."

More than ten years after this chilling near miss, Scott-Heron wrote...

And what would Karen Silkwood say if she was still alive? That when it comes to people's safety money wins out every time.

Nearly 50 years later, that has been a defining feature of the nuclear industry's reaction to the Fukushima nuclear disaster. It's all about the bottom line. Don't frighten investors and shareholders. Fight measures that might reduce the risk to people but threaten profits. Profits before people.

The nuclear industry will tell you it is adapting and evolving, but in reality it never changes. Gil Scott-Heron knew that and we know that.

Sadly, Gil Scott-Heron died in May 2011, a mere three months after the ongoing Fukushima nuclear disaster began.

We don't need to imagine what he would have thought about the catastrophe and the betrayal of the people who lost their homes and everything they held dear in the aftermath. His words ring down the years.

Justin McKeating is a nuclear blogger for Greenpeace International, based in the UK.


Read more [Greenpeace international]

Climate needs new support for nuclear power

Des Moines Register: Almost 30 years after James Hansen, NASA's chief atmospheric scientist, warned Congress that the burning of fossil fuels leads to global warming, the evidence still points to one conclusion: Increasing the use of zero-carbon nuclear power must be part of the solution. Hansen, along with other prominent climatologists, sees great value in using nuclear power to reduce carbon emissions. Nuclear power, in one or more advanced designs, holds promise for the generation of abundant, clean and affordable...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Boom-Or-Doom Riddle For Nuclear Industry

Climate News Network.: The headline figures for 2014 from the nuclear industry describe a worldwide boom in progress, with 73 reactors presently being built and another 481 new ones either planned or approved. The World Nuclear Association (WNA) official website paints a rosy picture of an industry expected to expand dramatically by 2030. It says that over the period 1996 to 2013 the world retired 66 reactors, and 71 started operation. Between now and 2030, the industry expects another 74 reactors to close, but 272...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Blood defects Japanese monkey linked Fukushima nuclear disaster

Blue and Green: Abnormally low levels of white and red blood cells and haemoglobin have been found in Japanese macaques in the Fukushima region, with scientists suggesting that the phenomenon might be linked to the 2011 nuclear disaster. A study that compared blood tests from 61 monkeys living 44 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant with those of 31 monkeys from the Shimokita Penisula, -- 249 miles from Fukushima – found the first group had low blood counts and radioactive caesium in their bodies,...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Lead-lined glove tied to New Mexico radiation leak: lawmaker

(Reuters) - A radiation leak that indefinitely shut down a nuclear waste dump in New Mexico was likely caused by a container of radioactive materials improperly packaged with a lead-lined glove at Los Alamos National Laboratory, a state lawmaker said on Friday.

Read more [Reuters]

The nuclear industry isn't planning for the next unthinkable catastrophe

A new report from the US National Academy of Sciences says not enough is being done to prevent worst case scenario nuclear accidents. We agree.

A year after the Fukushima nuclear disaster began in March 2011…

… the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz […] calculated that such events may occur once every 10 to 20 years (based on the current number of reactors) — some 200 times more often than estimated in the past.

Unfortunately, the nuclear industry and its supporters both inside and outside governments didn't pay much attention.

Skip forward and another group of scientists warns of the dangers of devastating nuclear accidents and how not enough it being done to even consider them let alone prevent them. They argue that too little thinking is done about the "freakishly unusual" that can cause a nuclear disaster.

The new warnings come in a report by US National Academy of Sciences.

"You have to totally change your mode of thinking because complacency and hubris is the worst enemy to nuclear safety," said University of Southern California engineering professor Najmedin Meshkati, a technical adviser to the Academy's panel.

Complacency and hubris? Two words that sum up the nuclear industry perfectly.

We've been told repeatedly over the years that the odds of a nuclear meltdown are astronomical. Yet we've seen five – one at Three Mile Island, one at Chernobyl, and three at Fukushima – in the last 35 years.

And that doesn't count the number of near misses we've had over the years.

In 2006, there was a serious incident at Sweden's Forsmark nuclear power station, in which "it was pure luck there wasn't a meltdown" according to a former director of the plant.

In 2010, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) identified 14 near misses at US nuclear reactors in that one year alone. In 2012, it found 12. The UCS says the US's nuclear watchdog, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, "has repeatedly failed to enforce essential safety regulations."

How about security at nuclear power plants that is so lax, people can enter at will? We've seen that in Sweden, France and elsewhere. Greenpeace activists always go to these places with peaceful intent. Others may not have such pure motives.

The clock is ticking on the next catastrophic nuclear accident and not enough is being done to prevent it.

The nuclear industry claims to have learned the lessons of Fukushima but in reality it's been business as usual ever since. For example, the "stress tests" of EU nuclear reactors in the wake of the Fukushima disaster were found to be full of flaws, blind spots and – that word again – complacency.

As we're seeing at Fukushima, containing and cleaning up a major nuclear accident tests human ingenuity to its limits. Indeed, with ongoing problems and failures at Fukushima, it sometimes looks beyond our technical abilities as a species.

The only safe nuclear power station is a shut-down power station, but until the day the last reactor is closed, the nuclear industry has an obligation to the people it's supposed to serve (you know, me and you) to have the tightest and most forward thinking of safety procedures.

And if the industry won't do it for us, maybe they should to it for their shareholders, the people it regards as more important that than us poor saps who merely buy their electricity and have to live in the shadows of their reactors.

If consideration for ordinary people is beyond them, surely the threat of a major nuclear accident to their profits should be enough to motivate them?

Justin McKeating is a nuclear blogger for Greenpeace International, based in the UK.


Read more [Greenpeace international]

Japan: Fukushima Monkeys' Blood Shows Signs of Radiation Exposure

LiveScience: Wild monkeys living in forests of Fukushima — the Japanese city that was the site of a nuclear power plant meltdown in 2011 — have lower blood cell counts than monkeys from northern Japan, and carry detectable levels of cesium in their bodies, researchers have found. The researchers studied blood changes and signs of radiation exposure in 61 monkeys living 43 miles (70 kilometers) from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, about one year after an earthquake and tsunami struck the region in...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Study Suggests Link Between Fukushima Radiation and Japanese Monkeys’ Low Blood Count

EcoWatch: In addition to the area residents, cleanup crew members and consumers of regional seafood, monkeys have also suffered health issues likely attributable to the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011. In the case of the Japanese macaques, the radioactive material spewed by the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant has led to abnormally low white and red blood cell levels and low haemoglobin. The findings, published Thursday in the Scientific Reports journal, show that the low counts make the monkeys...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

UK outlines latest nuclear waste storage plans

BusinessGreen: The government will spend two years looking for a new site to store nuclear waste from power stations, industry and submarines, it was announced today. A new long term plan to find a site to host a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) has been launched following a consultation on improving the controversial process of site identification, which previously failed to deliver a permanent storage site. Currently, nuclear waste is stored temporarily at secure nuclear sites across the country, but...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Nuclear Plant May Be In Hot Water Over Its Cooling System

National Public Radio: Operators of the Turkey Point nuclear plant near Miami have received federal permission to run their cooling system above the old 100 degree limit. The decision is meant to combat algae growth and rising temperature in cooling canals, but environmental groups in nearby Biscayne National Park are concerned.
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Sweden's nuclear plants forced to cut output due to warm weather

OSLO (Reuters) - Sweden's top nuclear power generators have been forced to cut output because of exceptionally warm weather in Scandinavia, and their output could be reduced for over a week, their operators said on Wednesday.

Read more [Reuters]

One of life's hard-to-believe moments: Drilling holes in a nuclear reactor

Switzerland's cheese is famous for its holes and now one of the country's nuclear reactors is infamous for the same reason.

I don't know about you but I'm terrible at home improvements and DIY. Ask me to hang a picture on the wall and the picture will be crooked. Ask me to put up shelves and books will fall off them.

If in doubt, ask an expert. That's my motto.

Which makes me wonder what contractors at Switzerland's Leibstadt Nuclear Power Plant were thinking when they drilled holes in the reactor's primary containment in order to mount fire extinguishers.

Who was the expert who gave the go-ahead for this piece of potentially catastrophic stupidity? Who had this bright idea?

Here's how it went. On June 24 this year six 6mm holes were discovered by chance in the primary containment of the nuclear plant that, by the way, is on the border with Germany. They had been drilled right through the 3.8cm-thick steel of the concrete and steel shell surrounding the reactor's core and is meant to keep all the horrible radioactivity inside from escaping.

If that wasn't bad enough, the plant's operator admitted that they were drilled in 2008.

That's right. Six holes in the Leibstadt nuclear reactor containment went unnoticed for six years!

The holes have thankfully now been filled, which is a temporary solution approved by the Swiss nuclear regulator ENSI.

So we're left with a number of questions.

Firstly, how did ENSI not notice six holes in the reactor's containment for six years?

We're not talking about microscopic cracks in the steel, which can go undetected.

No, at Leibstadt we're talking about holes big enough for red fire extinguishers to hang from one of the most vital parts of the reactor's safety system. And yet 500 inspections have been made by ENSI at Leibstadt since 2008.

Secondly, ENSI says the Leibstadt reactor can stay in operation until a permanent fix is found. This permanent fix must be in place by this week or the reactor will be shut down. This makes no sense.

If the problem is serious enough that the reactor must be shut down if a permanent fix isn't found, why wasn't it shut down when the holes where first discovered? It's an unacceptable concession to the energy companies that own Leibstadt.

As we've seen all over the world, this is about putting the profits of the nuclear industry before the safety of people and the environment.

The irony of this is that ENSI likes to present itself as a champion of nuclear safety and regulatory policies. That image is ruined by the incompetence at Leibstadt. As our nuclear campaigner in Switzerland Florian Kasser says, "ENSI has a kind of an arrogant habit of pretending 'we in Switzerland do it better'". Clearly not.

No nuclear reactor can ever be 100% safe. But even the most pro-nuclear person alive should tell you that allowing people to drill holes in them is not a good idea.

I won't be letting a nuclear contractor hang my pictures or put up my shelves (or mount my fire extinguishers) any time soon. The only thing they could do is send me some Swiss cheese. 

Justin McKeating is a nuclear blogger for Greenpeace International, based in the UK.


Read more [Greenpeace international]

New York environment regulators seek summer shutdown at Indian Point

(Reuters) - New York state environmental regulators are proposing shutting the giant Indian Point nuclear power plant to protect fish in the Hudson River during summer months, when demand for electricity for air-conditioning is greatest.







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Power from the Sun: A new life for Dharnai, India

In this world where we seem surrounded by news of gloom and doom, we don't often hear stories of positive change.

But here is one: a story of a village that has unshackled itself from darkness, after 30 years of having its energy needs neglected by governments.

Today, Dharnai is blooming with hope and ambition.

Dharnai village in Bihar, one of India's poorest states, is now lit-up by a Greenpeace India solar-powered micro-grid. 

Enter the village and you'll see electric poles all around. The solar micro-grid supplies the electricity for homes, street lighting for roads and lanes, and water pumps.

Dharnai is the first village in India where all aspects of life are powered by solar. The 100 kilowatt (kW) system powers the 450 homes of the 2,400 residents, 50 commercial operations, two schools, a training centre and a health care facility. A battery backup ensures power around the clock.

The secure power supply of the new solar micro-grid has brought immense benefits to the community. Household lighting, agriculture, business activity and social infrastructures like schools, and health centers all have guaranteed electricity.

Reliable electricity in the evening has improved educational opportunities for village children, and brought the safety of street lighting. A dependable power supply has boosted the local economy, and brought a welcome improvement to the social life of the villagers.

The better quality of life of Dharnai residents has become the talk of neighbouring villages, all eager to understand and replicate the Dharnai model.

The story of the Greenpeace micro-grid project inspiring. It is unbelievable to see an entire village lit-up by solar energy. It illustrates how, in a country like India, universal energy access can be achieved without compromising the environment with coal pollution. 

It's motivating because the affordable micro-grid became a reason for an entire community to join hands and work together to solve its energy problem, and to make this project a success. What a privilege it is to see sign boards on the highway saying: Dharnai Solar Village – 1 km ahead.

We have done it with the support of the villagers of Dharnai, and with partners BASIX and CEED. After two months of successful testing, we launched the micro-grid on Sunday 20 July with the eldest person of Dharnai (80 years old) formally switching it on in front of a supportive crowd of thousands.

With an electricity system in place after 30 years of waiting, Dharnai now has all the elements to build a strong local economy. Their progress is no longer thwarted by a lack of electricity.

Dharnai shows a way forward for thousands of other villages everywhere which have been left behind. These villages can develop their own clean power and contribute to saving their environment by showing we don't need to use nuclear, coal or other fossil fuels for energy.

Dharnai is just the beginning. India has 80,000 more villages that need solar micro-grids. Greenpeace India will work to build greater collaboration to ensure all get access to clean, reliable electricity.

There is a story here that goes well beyond India. Hundreds of millions live without electricity. For them, the Dharnai solar-powered micro-grid could be a game-changer, a model for bringing clean, reliable energy to those energy-starved millions.

Communities without electricity, and their governments, can take a leap forward and develop the innovative solar systems. And comunities can avoid the energy systems of the past that plague the world and build a clean energy system they can own and control. 

To learn more, please visit: dharnailive.org

Neha Khator is a media consultant and Ruhie Kumar is a digital media consultant for Renewable Energy with Greenpeace India.


Read more [Greenpeace international]

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