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Well, we all agree on this being in the right category!!

Christine Legere, reporting for the Cape Cod Times, checks out the evac plans..

Voters in 12 Barnstable County towns, along with those in Nantucket and Dukes counties, were asked to support a non-binding referendum question that called for the extension of the emergency planning zone around the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth to include the Cape and Islands.

Currently, residents on the Cape and Islands would be expected to ‘shelter in place’ in the event of a radioactive release, until the residents within the 10 mile radius known as the emergency planning zone have gone. If the residents were included, federal management experts would be required to produce a plan to evacuate them.

Local voter, Kathy Mayo said: ‘We’re on the other side of the bridge. We’d be left, to, what?’

Sen. Daniel Wolf said he wouldn’t need any prodding to support the initiative. ‘It’s a safety issue and not an economic issue. Public safety is one of the main roles of government.’ (7/11/14) Home page image: Vintage Travel Postcards

"I name this...what is it One is naming here today??"

Oliver Kerr, reporting for The Energy Collective, brings us this…

"Nothing that comes after will be able to detract from the importance of this first great step forward."

These are the words of Sir Edwin Plowden, chairman of Britain’s Atomic Energy Authority, referring to the grand opening of Britain’s first atomic plant more than half a century previously, in October 1956. Within ten years, observers noted, every new plant would be nuclear.

That optimism has since faded. While nuclear today provides as much as one fifth of Britain’s power, dreams of a carbon free electricity system “too cheap to meter” have always been just beyond the horizon.

This may be about to change. Following approval from the European Commission last week, the UK government has the green light to proceed with a subsidy scheme for Hinkley Point C - Britain’s first new nuclear plant to be built in over two decades. Whether this constitutes a “great step forward” for the nuclear industry in the country remains to be seen.

A total of 16 reactors spread across just nine nuclear plants provide more than 20% of the UK’s electricity - and nearly all of them are set to be retired over the next 15 years as they reach the end of their operational lives. Together with the closure of coal plants to comply with EU directives, the result will be a loss of more than 20GW of generating capacity by 2025 -around one quarter of total generating capacity. A government analysis suggests that as much as 54 GW of new electricity capacity may be needed by 2025 to meet demand with reasonable safety margin. (27/10/14)

Well, it's either snow or uranium...

We’re off to Canada today, with the help of the nice people at World Nuclear News.

The first uranium ore from the Cigar Lake mine has been processed at the McClean Lake mill after its facilities were modified to enable processing of the high-grade uranium ore. Both facilities are in northern Saskatchewan, Canada.

Mining at Cigar Lake began in March, the culmination of a nine-year development project which saw operator Cameco face the challenges of mining the world's second largest high-grade uranium deposit.

The mill's majority owner, Areva Resources Canada, and its partners began a $150 million upgrade program in 2012 that increased its capacity to enable it to process Cigar Lake ore. The mill is now the only facility in the world designed to process high-grade uranium without dilution. So far, 1400 tonnes of Cigar Lake ore has been delivered to the mill.

"Cigar Lake is a major technological achievement in terms of the ground-freezing and the remote-controlled jet boring techniques representing state-of-the-art in terms of health and safety of the workforce, and is the first major new conventional mine to open since Langer Heinrich in 2006," Ian Emsley, senior project manager at the World Nuclear Association, said. The mine secures Cameco's future supply capacity as the Rabbit Lake mine is expected to run down. "Production will be ramped-up at a measured pace taking account of the current delicate state of the uranium market."

Areva Mining Business Group senior vice president Olivier Wantz said the start of production at the McClean Lake mill represented a "strategic investment" for the Areva's mining business. (13/10/14)

Baffled? Yep, us too...

Peter Bacqué, reporting for the Richmond Times-Dispatch / Work It Lynchburg brings us this…

Dominion Virginia Power has found two damaged nuclear fuel rods in its North Anna 2 power plant during the Louisa County reactor’s scheduled refuelling recently. The Richmond-based utility believes that about 15 uranium fuel pellets came out of two rods and entered the reactor cooling system.

However, because the radioactive uranium is contained in the reactor system, the damage has “no radiological consequence to it,” said David A. Heacock, president and chief nuclear officer of Dominion Nuclear, a subsidiary of Dominion Resources Inc., the parent company of Dominion Virginia Power.

“It’s a fairly low safety significance issue,” said Roger Hannah, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Atlanta. “Even though the fuel is damaged, it’s in a closed system, so you don’t have the concern for an environmental release” of radioactivity.

Cooling water flows though the reactor’s internal cooling baffles at the rate of 300,000 gallons a minute.

In the past 18 months, a jet of water through a millimetre-size hole in the fuel rods’ support structure was squirting over the rods. That flow started them spinning and vibrating, Heacock said, a problem called “baffle jetting” which has occurred at other nuclear reactors. The rods rubbed against the support structure, cutting grooves in them and eventually causing their tops to crack off. “The long-term fix is to modify the way the water flows in the baffle so there’s no possibility of baffle jetting,” he added. That modification will be done either in 18 months at the unit’s next refuelling or during the refuelling after that. (1/10/2014)

“The nuclear mission is our number one mission…”

Dan Lamothe, reporting for the Washington Post, updates the recent US Air Force cheating scandal...

The Air Force is putting its money where its mouth is: Beginning Oct. 1, officers and enlisted personnel in its beleaguered nuclear missile force will get new financial incentives of up to U$300 per month.

The move is part of the service’s effort to change the culture for personnel who operate some of the world’s most dangerous weapons, following a cheating scandal that embarrassed the Air Force earlier this year.

The move isn’t unexpected, but reaffirms that senior Air Force leaders were serious about altering the way an assignment in the nuclear missile force is perceived by rank-and-file personnel. Officials said in January that dozens of officers overseeing nuclear missiles at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana had been caught either cheating on a monthly launch proficiency test, or knew others who had and did not report them. At least 82 ultimately received some form of discipline.

In the weeks afterward, Air Force Secretary Deborah James and Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, chief of Global Strike Command, promised to do whatever they could to restore trust with the missileers. Many of them felt that their job, once high-profile during the Cold War, was now unappreciated. “People assigned to these demanding and exclusive nuclear positions take on an extraordinary amount of responsibility, workload and inspection rigor for the world’s most lethal weapons,” James said. “The nuclear mission is our number one mission and we’re going to compensate our airmen accordingly.”  (22/9/14)

Well, if that's all you've got, I think we can find some room...

John Spears, reporting for The Star, brings us this…

Ontario Power Generation believes it has a rock-solid case for burying nuclear waste at the Bruce nuclear plant near Kincardine. Literally.

“This rock is the coolest thing that we’ve got going,” OPG’s Jerry Keto told reporters Wednesday as the company offered a briefing on upcoming hearings into the waste plan. OPG plans to entomb low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste in a thick layer of limestone 680 metres underground, at the site of the Bruce nuclear plant on the shores of Lake Huron.

The rock is extremely stable. Nothing has happened to this rock in 450 million years. A federal panel held hearings a year ago into OPG’s proposal. The panel then called two weeks of new hearings on a series of narrowly focused issues, starting Sept. 9.

The panel has asked whether other locations for the site might be better, such as burying the waste in granite in the Canadian Shield. Critics at the hearings have questioned whether the waste should be buried beside the Great Lakes – a question that is also being raised by Michigan legislators.

But OPG’s Paul Gierszewski said the Bruce site has all the needed characteristics. Much of the waste is already on site; the town of Kincardine formally gave its support for the project; and the rock at the site is ideal, he said:

“The extent to which you spend time looking for alternative sites, given that all these stars are lined up with one particular site…we felt that we had an appropriate solution here.”

An expert panel went through an exercise comparing the Bruce site with a hypothetical granite site, but Gierszewski said it wasn’t easy: “How can you compare a real site with arbitrary sites? The WIPP site receives waste from the U.S. nuclear weapons program, which has varying chemical characteristics”(1/9/14)

Switching off in 3, 2, 1... NOW!

Our thanks to the nice people at World Nuclear News for this local tale…

Operations have ended at a post-irradiation examination (PIE) facility at the UK's Harwell nuclear research site. Decommissioning activities will begin in about three years.

Research Sites Restoration Limited (RSRL) announced that active operations at the B459 Post Irradiation Examination (PIE) facility at Harwell ended last month.

The facility was built in 1956 to carry out metallurgical post-irradiation examination on highly radioactive fuels and components from the research reactors at Harwell, one of the main research sites in the UK's national push for nuclear science and technology. The facility was also used for reducing the size of large radioactive items, as well as an important link in the production of sources for medical and other purposes.

These operations effectively ceased in 2009 and both cell lines were fully cleared the following year. However, limited operations continued until November 2013 with the processing of sealed sources used in medicine, research and industry around the UK. This culminated with the recent final shipment for disposal to Harwell's solid waste complex.

The PIE facility will now remain mothballed over the next three years, during which time it will be monitored and maintained. Once further decontamination of the high activity cells is complete, the decommissioning process will begin. This is expected to be completed by 2025, after which the land it stands on will be de-licensed.

RSRL senior project manager Gary Reid said, "The facility has played a significant role throughout the history of Harwell and watching the final flask leave its doors is really the end of an era."(15/8/14)

Did they say 'Head for the hills', or 'Pay the bills?'

Our thanks to Omaha.com for making us smile this morning…

An erroneous evacuation warning about a hazardous material spill sounded in a village that sits near a nuclear power plant in southeast Nebraska, but the warning apparently didn't raise much alarm.

The vocal warning went out once or twice over a siren speaker in Nemaha while a technician from Cooper Nuclear Station worked on the siren Thursday morning. Spokesman Mark Becker for Nebraska Public Power District, which owns the plant, said that the technician accidentally played a recorded message that had been loaded by the siren manufacturer.

The plant's warning protocol includes the sounding of sirens within 10 miles of the plant for three minutes, alerting people to seek more information from television or radio, Becker said. He added that Federal regulators would be notified of the incident.

The Nemaha County village of 150 residents is situated about 2 miles southwest of the plant. Village clerk Janice Boden said she was inside, washing windows, and couldn't really make out what was being said.

The errant warning was discussed by people who gathered Thursday afternoon at the post office. But, she said, no one seemed concerned.  "I just took it for granted they were testing. I really didn't pay any attention."

Mark Becker said the county sheriff's office got one call from a concerned resident. (29/7/14)

A case of 'could do better' at Wolf Creek

 As it’s been a bit quiet lately, we found this, thanks to the US NRC

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has determined that an inspection finding at the Wolf Creek nuclear plant issued in connection with a 2013 emergency preparedness exercise is of low to moderate safety significance. The plant, located near Burlington, Kan.,is operated by Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corporation.

The NRC evaluates regulatory performance at commercial nuclear plants with a colour coded process that classifies inspection findings as green, white, yellow or red in order of increasing safety significance. This white finding is associated with a violation of an NRC requirement. NRC inspectors observed and evaluated a regularly scheduled emergency preparedness exercise at the site on Nov. 5, 2013.

During the exercise, the NRC found that the licensee had not addressed a previously identified error involving software used to assess offsite radiation dose during a plant emergency. Dose assessment is a key component of a plant operator’s emergency response, and it is important that it be accurate.

The NRC report details the inspection findings. They held a regulatory conference with Wolf Creek officials on April 30, and after considering information provided by the licensee determined that a white finding was appropriate to characterize the risk significance of the event.

The NRC will determine the appropriate level of agency oversight. (5/7/14)

No, I'm not going to say 'Oh, nuts...'

Jeff Montgomery, reporting for the The News Journal reaches for the tool box…

Nuclear power regulators are closely watching PSEG Nuclear's recovery from a crippling Salem Unit 2 bolt-failure episode, with part of their attention focused on whether the big utility had warnings enough to avoid the problem.

Officials said that all of the dozens of bolts used to secure water-moving impellers had broken or sheared off in all four of the Salem plant's 30-foot reactor coolant pumps. Some bolt-heads have yet to be found, while other bolt-heads or pieces turned up in cooling water piping or at the bottom of the reactor core itself.

Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the NRC's regional office in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, said that seven bolts were recovered during two previous refuelling shutdowns at Unit 2. The refuelling events usually take place every 18 months, lasting a month or two.

Federal officials said loss of the pumps was not a direct reactor safety threat, but bolt-losses could cause damage by sending parts into other plant areas. A break-up of spinning impeller blades could break through the pump housing, officials said, releasing radioactive water into the containment building.

We're all overcome down at Hanford

We’ve not heard from our fiend Annette Carey at the Tri-City Herald lately, so let’s put that right with this..

Five Hanford workers experienced symptoms consistent with exposure to chemical vapours from waste tanks Thursday morning, and one was taken to Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland. A sixth worker who did not have symptoms also requested an evaluation at the hospital. In all, 34 Hanford workers have received medical evaluations for possible vapour exposure this spring.

Kevin Smith, Department of Energy manager of the Hanford Office of River Protection, has pledged to solve the vapor exposure issue. All options are on the table, he said.

Although the workers’ symptoms were not made public, typical symptoms of chemical vapor exposure include persistent coughing, headaches and shortness of breath. Workers have been concerned that exposure to the chemicals could lead to serious health issues longer term. The workers who were evaluated by an on-site medical provider were cleared Thursday to return to work.

About two hours later, a worker several miles away at the SY Tank Farm also experienced symptoms. The worker was taken to the Hanford’s occupational medicine provider for evaluation and then transferred to the Richland hospital. A second worker in the SY Tank Farm had no symptoms, but requested an evaluation at Kadlec after going to the on-site medical facility.

Respirators are not required at the SY Tank Farm and information was not immediately available about whether any waste-disturbing work was being done there.

A team of the Hanford contractor’s engineers has been assembled to look for potential improvements.

(2/6/14)

Shouts of 'Here, Kitty Kitty!' south of the border...

Ryan Luby, reporting for KOB Eyewitness News 4, goes shopping for Kitty Litter…

It seems years of safety testing and major precautionary steps at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, or WIPP, failed to account for the thing that may have caused a radiation leak – kitty litter.

Dr. Jim Conca, a longtime nuclear expert who monitored WIPP for years, said kitty litter is routinely mixed with nuclear waste to stabilize it for shipment. “Just regular cat litter,” he said.

He believes the nuclear container or containers that leaked were packed with an organic type of litter, which has a different chemical composition. He also thinks the company that shipped waste from the Los Alamos National Lab, or LANL, switched from regular litter to organic litter in the last year or two.

Conca said he reached his conclusion based on photographs released by the Department of Energy that reveal the leaky nuclear waste drums.  He said evidence of burn marks around the edge of a drum indicate it burst under pressure.  He admitted his theory could be wrong, but said there’s little evidence to disprove it. “Until we actually get that drum, the one that blew the top off, we really won't know exactly what happened and why.”

He also explained that the leak would not have been an issue if the drums were stored in a room that had already reached capacity and had been sealed off.  He said WIPP is the final resting place for nuclear waste and that scientists know the drums will leak eventually. (21/5/14)

Did someone say 'Wipe out?' Oh - White Alert: whoops!!

Found this on the pages of Knoxville News Sentinel recently, so our thanks to them.

Dave Flessner, reporting for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, bring us news of a recent White Alert (nope, we don’t know either..) at Browns Ferry nuclear plant.

Federal regulators cited the Tennessee Valley Authority last Thursday for an emergency plan that failed to adequately staff the control room at the Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Plant in Alabama.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a white inspection finding against TVA for a license violation in the plant's radiological emergency plan. NRC staff said the violations had "low to moderate safety significance" and issued an order confirming that TVA corrected the inappropriate changes in the Browns Ferry emergency plan.

A white finding is the lowest in the NRC's four-colour enforcement action plan. Since Browns Ferry is already under heightened regulatory review because of other safety violations in the past, the latest finding will not change the way the NRC supervises the three-reactor plant.

"While no actual events occurred, it is important that appropriate staffing is maintained and the NRC approves any changes to staffing levels in a plant's license," NRC Atlanta Regional Administrator Victor McCree said in a statement. "We believe the steps TVA has agreed to take appropriately address the issues and minimize the likelihood that similar issues will arise in the future."

TVA spokesman Jim Hopson said Browns Ferry employees discovered last October that changes in its emergency plans did not fully comply with federal safety regulations and revised the plans to comply with NRC requirements.

"It's certainly an unfortunate situation, but it is an error that TVA accepts responsibility for and we've already made the necessary changes to correct that error," Hopson said. (6/5/14)

If it's an 'Alert', then where is everyone else???

Shellie Nelson and Brittany Lewis, reporting for WQUAD 8, bring us a down-graded alert…

A pipe that leaked water onto electrical equipment was at the centre of an alert that shut down one of the reactors at the Exelon nuclear plant in Cordova, Illinois. Heavy smoke was visible from a reported electrical fire.

Fire was reported at the facility just after 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, at the Quad Cities Generating Station. That was two days after the Unit 2 reactor had been shut down for work on a valve. Initial, unconfirmed reports indicated an electrical fire happened inside the plant, and that heavy smoke was visible outside the facility.

Fire fighters and equipment from at least four departments were sent to the plant. Cordova Fire Protection District Chief Chuck Smalley later said a total of 68 personnel responded from various departments. “We train with these guys, we know this plant, so it all went very well today.”

Exelon classified the incident as an “alert,” saying that is the second-lowest of four emergency classifications established by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Stoermer confirmed smoke was visible, but said it may have come from an electrical “short” and that actual fire was not yet confirmed.

“The NRC’s primary concern right now is to make sure the public is protected and that the plant operator is taking swift and appropriate action to continue to maintain plant safety,” said NRC spokesperson Viktoria Mitlyng.  “Once the situation is resolved, the NRC will fully inspect the cause of and contributing factors to the event.

Exelon operators ended their “alert” status for Unit 2 at 9:32 p.m. April 2. Stoermer said the smoke at Unit 2 was caused by a pipe that released water onto an electrical system which caused an electrical fault. (4/4/14)

We have a delivery due - just pick a button!!

We have to thank the nice people at World Nuclear News for the following tale…

The first steam generator has been delivered to a new nuclear reactor at Novovoronezh.

A special articulated train carriage with its own lifting gear was used for the journey from the factory of manufacturer ZIO-Podolsk near Moscow to the power plant site about 500 kilometres to the south. The steam generator weighs 430 tonnes and will soon be installed at unit 2 of the forthcoming Novovoronezh II nuclear power plant.

Construction of Novovoronezh II units 1 and 2 began in June 2008 and July 2009, respectively, with start-up expected in 2014 and 2015. The original Novovoronezh site nearby already hosts three operating reactors and two that are being decommissioned.

Steam generators are used in pressurized water reactors to transfer heat from the reactor's primary coolant circuit to a secondary circuit - turning water into steam that goes on to drive turbines and generate electricity.  (3/3/14)

I think there is a theme developing here...

The US Air Force recently said that 34 officers responsible for launching the nation’s nuclear missiles had been suspended, and their security clearances revoked, for cheating on monthly proficiency tests that assess their knowledge of how to operate the warheads.

Eleven Air Force officers - including two accused in the Malmstrom cheating scandal, as well as one other nuclear missile officer - have also been the focus of suspicion in an illegal drugs investigation, defence officials said.

Although the Air Force has been plagued in recent years by scandals, the current revelations are particularly alarming because they involve America’s nuclear arsenal, where errors could be catastrophic. Defence officials insisted that the nation’s nuclear arsenal remained safe.

“This is not about the compromise of nuclear weapons,” said Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, the Air Force chief of staff. He called the revelations a “compromise of the integrity of some of our airmen” and said the Air Force “will not accept or allow that type of behaviour.”

Last November, it was reported that Air Force officers with nuclear launch authority had twice been caught napping with the blast door open. That is a violation of security regulations meant to prevent a terrorist or intruder from entering the underground command post and compromising secret launch codes. (17/1/14)

Okay - I'll say it: were people asleep on the job again?

Bob Audette writing for the Brattleboro Reformer, wonders if we should be worried, or not.

A recent security violation at Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon has been dealt with in an acceptable manner, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission stated recently. The nature of the Severity Level IV violation is not public knowledge however, because it involved "security matters that are considered sensitive information."

The NRC's investigation of the April incident found that Entergy Nuclear Operations had "identified the issue, took immediate corrective actions to address any security-related vulnerability, entered the issue into its Corrective Action Program, and notified the NRC Region I office."

After review of the violation and Entergy's reaction to it, the NRC characterized it as a non-cited violation. Though he wouldn't divulge any information related to the violation, Rob Williams, spokesman for Vermont Yankee, said at no time was the health, safety or security of the public or plant employees ever at risk.

Neil Sheehan, spokesman for the NRC, also refused to reveal the nature of the incident.

"As is always the case with security-related violations, we can't go into detail about the issue," he said. "However, the fact that this was classified as a Severity Level IV non-cited violation indicates that we considered this to be of very low significance."

Severity Level IV violations are defined in the NRC's Enforcement Policy as violations of more than minor concern which, if left uncorrected, could lead to a more serious concern. Well, that’s okay, then (24/12/13)

Okay - who forgot to bring the 'Halo?'

Our thanks to EGP News for this little gem we found recently…

A U$11.4 million federal grant will be used to set up a system to detect nuclear and radiological threats around the greater Los Angeles region, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced recently.

The Department of Homeland Security’s “Securing the Cities” grant will fund the purchase of nuclear and radiological detection equipment and set-up of an analysis lab and command centre based out of the Los Angeles Emergency Centre.

The goal is to set up a nuclear detection “ring” or “halo” around the Los Angeles region to monitor potential threats and develop a response protocol. “By creating a detection halo around our region, we’ll get an early warning of threats which will accelerate response times and could help stop an attack before it begins,” Garcetti said.

“The Securing the Cities program will allow us to better support and unite efforts already underway, increasing cooperation and coordination across federal, state, and local agencies,” said Dr. Huban Gowadia, director of the Homeland Security Department’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office.

The Los Angeles area has the opportunity to obtain as much as U$30 million in federal funding for detection efforts over the next half decade. (26/11/13)

I really think these should be tied down...

Our friend Annette Cary, reporting for the Tri-City Herald, asks the age-old question – ‘Now, how did that happen..?’

Five drums holding low-level radioactive waste fell off a flatbed truck in the centre of Hanford about 11 a.m. Monday. The drums were among 74 on the truck that were being shipped from the Effluent Treatment Facility at Hanford to Perma-Fix Northwest, a plant just off Hanford.

The truck was in the 200 East Area, where the public is not allowed, when it stopped at a railroad crossing and the drums fell off, according to CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co.

Radiological surveys showed that none of the drums broke and no contaminated material was released to the environment, according to CH2M Hill. The DOE contractor was working Monday afternoon to determine what caused the drums to fall.

The Effluent Treatment Facility receives contaminated waste water from Hanford activities and the material in the drums was solid waste left from the water treatment. (27/9/13)

No place to go? Well, that's not strictly true, is it ??

This comes from the pages of World Nuclear News, so our thanks to them…

Dongfang Electric has celebrated shipping the largest component it has ever made - the 1750 MWe generator destined for the Taishan 1 EPR under construction.

Claimed to be the world's largest single-piece electrical generator, the component will produce 1750 MWe gross when attached to the steam turbine driven by heat from the nuclear reactor of Taishan 1. Around 90 MWe of this power will be used by plant components such as the large pumps that circulate cooling water, leaving 1660 MWe net for supply to the grid. Taishan will have two such Areva EPR units, slated to begin operation in 2014 and 2015.

Wheeling the component from its Deyang factory in central Sichuan province, Dongfang said its manufacture was by far the most technically difficult job it had carried out in terms of structural complexity as well as its size and weight. (2/9/13)

Level 3 alert set at Fukushima - not good people!!

Hiroko Tabuchi reporting for the NY Times Asia Pacific section, reports on the latest from Fukushima.

Three hundred tons of highly contaminated water has leaked from a storage tank at the ravaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant on Japan’s Pacific coast, its operator said Tuesday, prompting regulators to declare a “radiological release incident” for the first time since disaster struck there in 2011 and adding new fears of environmental calamity.

Workers raced to place sandbags around the leaking tank to stem the spread of the water, contaminated by levels of radioactive cesium and strontium many hundreds of times as high as legal safety limits, according to the operator, Tokyo Electric Power. The task was made more urgent by a forecast of heavy rain for the region.

But a Tepco spokesman, Masayuki Ono, acknowledged that much of the contaminated water had seeped into the soil, which would have to be dug up and removed. He added that the tainted water could eventually reach the ocean, adding to the tons of radioactive fluids that have already leaked into the sea from the plant.

The new leak raises disturbing questions about the durability of the nearly 1,000 huge tanks Tepco has installed about 500 yards from the site’s shoreline. The tanks are meant to store the vast amounts of contaminated liquid created as workers cool the complex’s three damaged reactors by pumping water into their cores, along with groundwater recovered after it poured into the reactors’ breached basements.

Hints of the latest leak began to emerge on Monday, when workers discovered puddles of radioactive water near a tank. Further checks revealed that the 1,000-ton vessel, thought to be nearly full, contained only 700 tons, with the remainder having almost certainly leaked out. (21/8/13)

Whatever you do, don't  jog it!!!

Found this on the pages of World Nuclear News, so our thanks to them for giving us something to write about today…

All highly enriched uranium (HEU) has now been removed from Vietnam following the air transport of 11 kilograms of used research reactor fuel back to Russia

The used HEU research reactor fuel came from the Dalat Nuclear Research Institute. It was first transported some 250 kilometres by truck from Dalat to a military airport near Vietnam's capital Ho Chi Minh City. The fuel was then loaded onto an An-124 cargo plane and flown to Russia where it was delivered to the FSUE Mayak Production Association in the Chelyabinsk region. It will be down-blended into low enriched uranium (LEU) for use as fuel in power reactors.

The operation to return the Russian-supplied fuel was conducted under the auspices of the US National Nuclear Safety Administration's (NNSA's) Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI).

The latest shipment marked the first use of the Type C TUK-145/C package, certified for the air shipment of used research reactor fuel. The package comprises of a Skoda VPVR/M cask inserted in an energy-absorbing container designed to absorb dynamic loads in the event of an air crash. The VPVR/M cask used for the shipment was one of ten dual-purpose (storage and shipping) casks procured by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2006 with support from the US Department of Energy.

Under the RRRFR program, Russia has agreed to take back used and fresh nuclear fuel from research reactors so long as the reactor operators agree to convert the reactors to operate on LEU or shut down. Russia plans to receive almost 2500 kilograms of HEU fuel by 2016. (19/7/13)

Breaker 1-9 - looks like we're going to Vegas: WooHoo!!

Andrew Doughman, reporting for the Las Vegas Sun, casts his eye over some interesting traffic problems.

Federal officials are considering routing nuclear waste through downtown Las Vegas and along the 215 Beltway. A federal analysis recently found “no meaningful differences in potential environmental effects” between moving radioactive waste along current routes that avoid major population centers and “unconstrained” routes that allow nuclear waste to use the Hoover Dam bypass bridge, the beltway and the Spaghetti Bowl.

Nevada officials have largely opposed changes that would allow tens of thousands of trucks full of radioactive materials to go through downtown Las Vegas to the Nevada National Security Site some 50 miles north of the city. “If they use beltway routes, we're concerned about their impacts on the residential population, commercial properties, schools and hospitals,” said Bob Halstead, executive director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects. “It's now become a major controversy between the state and the DOE.”

Halstead said that the DOE is projecting between 25,000 and 80,000 trucks carrying radioactive waste to the Nevada National Security Site during the next 10 years. The change would allow the federal government to save time but could also have security, safety and tourism consequences for the most densely populated areas of the Las Vegas valley.

The Department of Energy will release its rules this summer in a “Record of Decision.” Although state officials say the Department of Energy has said it won’t route shipments through downtown, they also question why the federal government would even study the issue. Halstead said he won’t be satisfied until he sees the federal government’s decision.

U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., is also sounding the alarms. "My top priority is the safety of our residents and the millions of visitors who come to Las Vegas every year. I will continue to press the DOE for sufficient answers to my transportation concerns, and will remain in strict opposition to any proposal that threatens the safety of Southern Nevada and undermines our counter-terrorism efforts. Any plan to transport waste through the heart of Las Vegas would be extremely risky and incredibly irresponsible.” (12/7/13)

"Ma'am, Ma'am - you're going the WRONG WAY!!"

John Huotari, reporting for Oakridge Today, mans the barricades…

Four guards have been suspended at the Y-12 National Security Complex after a woman who did not have permission to be at the nuclear weapons plant drove through the main entrance on Thursday morning and was stopped a short time later, a federal spokesman said Monday.

The woman, who said she was looking for a new, low-cost apartment complex, followed morning commuters through the east gate at Bear Creek and Scarboro roads and drove unhindered through the plant before she was stopped by security officers at the west gate, according to an Oak Ridge Police Department report. Brenda L. Haptonstall, 62, told ORPD Officer Roy J. Heinz that she thought there must have been a crash at Y-12 because there were “nice officers waving her through with illuminated flashlight cones.”

Steven Wyatt, public affairs manager for the National Nuclear Security Administration Production Office, said: “The normal procedure is to physically inspect the badge and to confirm the identity of each individual.”

He continued: “The officers involved have been removed from duty pending the outcome of an investigation.” Gate procedures are being reviewed, and supervisors placed at each entrance to monitor the work of Y-12 security personnel until further notice.

“We have zero tolerance for security lapses and we are ensuring there is full accountability for this unacceptable incident,” he said. “Safety and security are NNSA’s top priorities, and the causes of this failure will be reviewed aggressively and corrected quickly.” (12/6/13)

If this is supposed to be a secret mission, then why are we riding on Segways??

Steve Tetreault reporting for the Las Vegas Review-Journal tries to keep a secret…

Shipments of highly radioactive uranium waste from Tennessee to Nevada would be carried out in stealth and under armed guard, according to a transportation plan confirmed Tuesday.

The government Office of Secure Transportation would be assigned the job of transporting 403 canisters containing bomb-usable nuclear material destined for burial in the Area 5 landfill at the Nevada National Security Site 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas, officials said.

The material originating at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory would be shipped aboard secured tractor trailers, escorted by armed guards in unmarked cars and vans, and tracked in real time by a  communications system based in Albuquerque, N.M. The schedule and routes for the shipments would not be publicized. Although classified as low-level nuclear waste, its ingredients include uranium isotopes that are highly radioactive and could be used to manufacture a “dirty bomb.”

Bob Halstead, director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, said Tuesday he expects to hear the DOE will employ high security for the shipments, but “I want to give them the benefit of the doubt to say what they’re going to say.” DOE officials also are expected to provide further information about the burial program for the waste, which would arrive in steel canisters and be placed in trenches deeper than 40 feet where the government buries other contaminated material. (30/5/13)

Time to sort out those evac plans...

Our thanks to TribLive based in Pennsylvania for these evacuation plans…

Eric Epstein would not wish for a Three Mile Island disaster to prove his argument that the Harrisburg region is unprepared for the subsequent traffic jam.

Epstein said that emergency officials must look at possible remedies to such gridlock and plan to meet the medical needs of people locked in traffic. “There is no magic bullet. But to continue to plan as if these events didn't occur is irresponsible,” he said.

Steve Libhart, director of the Dauphin County Emergency Management Agency, said that the slow grind in traffic could be a preview for what would happen if there ever were a need for a mass evacuation: “When you get into an evacuation scenario, you should not expect traffic to flow like it does on a normal day. It's also important to note when an evacuation might not be necessary.” If an extreme event required evacuation, Libhart added, the weather and wind likely would dictate who would be moved and in which directions.

Others contend it's unknown how people will react, and that's cause for concern. The GAO said there's reason to believe that 20% of people in nearby areas that are not ordered to evacuate will decide to leave anyway. Further, because they live outside the 10-mile nuclear planning zone, they are likely unaware of evacuation plans publicized within the zone, so it's unclear how they will react and whether they will follow instructions.  (21/5/13)

Get your clicks on Route - what? Someone give me a number...

Keith Rogers, reporting for The Las Vegas Review-Journal takes a highly toxic road trip for this one.

The US Department of Energy considers the cocktail of uranium isotopes contained in 403 welded, steel canisters destined for the Nevada National Security Site as low-level nuclear waste.

Its main ingredient, uranium-235 has a half-life of nearly 704 million years. A second key ingredient, uranium-233, is also nuclear bomb material and will be around at least 159,200 years before half of its radioactive punch decays to safer levels.

But that’s not the biggest problem, according to Nevada officials, who are coaxing their counterparts at the Department of Energy to take utmost pre­cautions when hauling and disposing the stuff here. They insist tight security is required because it contains an impurity that in the hands of terrorists could be turned into a so-called “dirty bomb.”

The impurity is a different isotope, uranium-232. Though it has a much shorter half-life, waste containing it requires heavy shielding and must be handled using remote-control cranes. As it decays, 232 creates a new menace: thallium-208. That offspring emits short-lived but intense, deadly gamma rays that are, in a nutshell, “radiotoxic” — or biologically harmful to the human environment.

Bob Halstead, executive director of the Nevada Nuclear Projects Agency, expects to meet soon with DOE officials to discuss the need for high-security truck transport of the waste from Tennessee to the Nevada site, 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas. He said: “I hope (the) DOE does what they say they are going to do. My concern is the security issue. This is a very strange waste form.” (14/5/13)

A case of itchy trigger fingers at Watts Bar Nuclear

Pam Sohn, writing for the Times Free Press brings us one of the consequences from the recent troubles in Boston..

A TVA security officer patrolling on utility property near the Tennessee River at Watts Bar Nuclear plant exchanged gunfire with an unknown person early Sunday morning, according to regulators with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

TVA said there was no threat to public safety, but the agency declared an “unusual event” to the NRC, spokesman Roger Hannah said. An unusual event is the lowest of the NRC’s four emergency classifications.

Hannah said NRC staffed its incident response centre in the commission’s Atlanta office and monitored the events along with the NRC resident inspector who responded to the site at about 2 a.m. when the event occurred.

TVA returned to normal operating mode shortly after noon Sunday, nearly 12 hours after the shooting incident. NRC soon followed suit, but both TVA and NRC are continuing to investigate the incident, Hannah said.

TVA spokesman Jim Hopson said TVA - like all federal facilities presently - remains under high security alert in the aftermath of the Boston bombings last week.  (22/4/13)

Drinking on the job? Us?? Nah...

Lucas W Hixson writing for Enformable Nuclear News has a little drinkie…

While re-modelling a bathroom in the protected area on the third floor of the Administrative Building at the Braidwood Generating Station, Illinois, workers found a bottle of gin while removing the ceiling tiles. The finding is eerily similar to another reported event which took place last September after a contractor working above a locker room in the protected area during renovations discovered contraband hidden above the ceiling tiles.

These events call into question the programs at Braidwood which are meant to protect the site by scanning all incoming workers, bags, and other equipment for contraband like weapons, drugs, and alcohol, as well as those which are meant to constantly monitor and analyse the behaviours of personnel to ensure that all workers are found capable and ready to operate a nuclear reactor.  It appears that on multiple occasions workers have been able to bring contraband into the protected area of the nuclear power plant without being detected by the scanner or reported by co-workers and supervisors. (5/4/13)

Passport? Ticket? Right - let's head for Sweden...

Our thanks to the nice people at World Nuclear News for this local clean-up tale…

The process to remove fuel from the reactor of unit 1 at the shut down Oldbury nuclear power plant in Gloucestershire has started. Meanwhile, Berkeley's last two massive boilers have been removed from the site for recycling in Sweden.

Just over a year since electricity generation ended at the Oldbury 1 Magnox reactor, the operation to remove all the used fuel from unit has started. The defuelling process is expected to take 4-5 years to complete.

Magnox Ltd, which manages the site on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), said: "Since Oldbury ended electricity generation, preparations have been underway to prepare the reactor for the defuelling phase of its lifecycle, including removal of hazardous operational gases and chemicals, modifications to the equipment, staff training and reorganization."

Fuel removed from the reactors are stored in the site's cooling ponds and then transferred by rail to Sellafield in heavily shielded flasks for reprocessing. Defuelling both reactors and sending it to Sellafield will remove over 99% of the radiation hazard from the Oldbury site.

The last two of 15 boilers, or heat exchangers, have been transported from the site of the Berkeley nuclear power plant and begun their journey to Sweden for recycling. The first five boilers were removed from Berkeley in March 2012 and have now been smelted, recycling up to 95% of the metal for reuse. A further eight boilers were transported in pairs throughout the past two months. The completion of the project to move the boilers has removed some 4665 tonnes of low-level waste from the Berkeley site.

Site director Steve McNally said, "The early removal of the boilers is a great achievement for the site. It's not only a huge visual change but also takes the site a step closer to care and maintenance; which is our goal. It also means we have dealt with the waste now, rather than leaving it for the next generation. (19/3/13)

No update? Stand by for 'escalated enforcement action...'

Eric Connor filed the following report on the on-going safety concerns at Oconee for Greenville online.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is considering "escalated enforcement action" against Duke Energy following the agency’s determination that Oconee Nuclear Station is in apparent violation of its operating license after years of delay in upgrading its fire-protection methods.

The chief provider of energy to the Upstate could face civil penalties if the company is unable to adequately explain why it has missed several deadlines over the past several years, the NRC wrote in a letter to Duke demanding explanation.

For the past several years, Oconee has been operating under temporary practices that were never meant to be permanent, on the promise, the NRC said, that Duke would lead the way in a pilot program to change how the country’s nuclear reactors protect against fire.

While the NRC considers Oconee currently safe to operate, the fact that Duke has taken so long is “of significant regulatory concern,” Michele Evans, director of the NRC’s Division of Operator Reactor Licensing, wrote to Oconne recently. The letter followed a public meeting this week at the nuclear station during which Duke explained to the NRC how underestimating the complexity of the project caused the company to miss deadlines and how it has committed significant resources to complete the so-called “protected service water system” within the next two years.

The NRC says Oconee’s degree of safety - based on a set of regulatory formulas assessing reactor failure risks - could be as much as 40 times less than if Duke had kept to deadlines it promised in order to avoid customary regulatory oversight. (4/2/13)

We're all at sea, thanks to some dumped uranium...

For more than a decade, Western governments have been helping Russia to remove nuclear fuel from decommissioned submarines docked in the Kola Peninsula - the region closest to Scandinavia. But further east lies an intact nuclear submarine at the bottom of the Kara Sea, and its highly enriched uranium fuel is a potential time bomb.

This year the Russian authorities want to see if the K-27 sub can be safely raised, so that the uranium - sealed inside the reactors - can be removed. They also plan to survey numerous other nuclear dumps in the Kara Sea, where Russia's energy giant Rosneft and its US partner Exxon Mobil are now exploring for oil and gas.

Russia is rapidly developing the energy-rich Yamal Peninsula, on the eastern shore of the Kara Sea. On the western flank is a closed military zone - the Novaya Zemlya archipelago. It was where the USSR tested hydrogen bombs - above ground in the early days.

Besides K-27, official figures show that the Soviet military dumped a huge quantity of nuclear waste in the Kara Sea: 17,000 containers and 19 vessels with radioactive waste, as well as 14 nuclear reactors, five of which contain hazardous spent fuel. Low-level liquid waste was simply poured into the sea.

Norwegian experts and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are satisfied that there is no evidence of a radiation leak - the Kara Sea's radioisotope levels are normal. (24/1/13)

Looking to store nuke waste? First, get a map...

Matthew Bandyk, reporting for the pages of SNL, picks up a map for this one…

The Obama administration will ask Congress to approve a plan that will address the problem of where to store spent fuel from the nation's nuclear plants by building a pilot interim storage facility for nuclear storage by 2021 and a larger facility by 2025, the U.S. Department of Energy revealed.

The proposal is the administration's response to the recommendations made a year ago by a blue ribbon commission tasked by President Barack Obama with suggesting a bipartisan approach to resolving the nuclear waste issue following the political difficulties that have blocked a repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

According to the report, the administration endorses the "key principles" behind the commission's recommendations, including the conclusion that any solutions be based on consent instead of forcing unwilling states to accept storage facilities. The commission also suggested that responsibility for the management of nuclear waste should be transferred from the DOE to a new, independent organization.

The DOE report said the administration has now decided to pursue the siting and licensing of two interim storage facilities by 2025. The first initially would focus on accepting used nuclear fuel from reactor sites that have been shut down. The second site, to be available by 2025, would accept enough fuel "to reduce expected government liabilities," the report said. Another goal is to "make demonstrable progress" on the siting of permanent repository sites that could start accepting waste by 2048.

In addition to authorizing the building of interim storage facilities, new legislation should detail the requirements for consent-based siting and a new funding approach that provides sufficient and timely resources, the report added. It said the bill also should establish a new organization to implement the program, the structure of which "should balance greater autonomy with the need for continued executive and legislative branch oversight."

While Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in the report that the administration will work with Congress to build "a new national program" on the foundation of the blue ribbon commission's work, some members of Congress have criticized the commission's recommendations and claimed comprehensive legislation will be difficult to pass. (15/1/13)

Vermin at Daiichi? Oh, rats...

Workers at Fukushima are reporting seeing rats at Daiichi, according to a report found on the pages of Energy News. Workers mentioned seeing them and were worried they would damage cables at the plant. They could cause obvious safety problems if they chewed on electrical or water lines. Small animals also pose the risk of getting into equipment and causing issues by tripping electrical systems. Then there is the problem of rats being in contact with high levels of radiation then making them highly contaminated. This can cause problems as they then spread the contamination up the food chain or take it with them if they leave the immediate area. (24/12/12)

It's been a bit quiet out there lately - let's ramp it up a tad...

If you hear sirens blaring signalling an emergency at the Seabrook Station nuclear power plant just after lunch time on Wednesday, Dec. 5, don’t panic, it’s only a test.

All 121 of the plant’s emergency sirens in New Hampshire and Massachusetts will sound on at 12:30 p.m. Dec. 5 for three to five minutes. Residents within a 10-mile radius of the plant and possibly beyond, depending on wind direction, will hear an oscillating wail as the sirens rotate 360 degrees.

“The whole intent is to educate the public what the sirens sound like and what to do in the unlikely event of an emergency if the sirens are activated,” said plant spokesman Al Griffith. The sirens are part of the plant’s emergency plan. There are 94 sirens in 17 towns in New Hampshire and 27 within six towns in Massachusetts.

No public action is required for the Dec. 5 test. “They are not evacuation sirens,” Griffith said. “The sirens are meant to alert people there is an emergency and that they need to turn on the TV and radio on.”

That is where residents will get information and emergency instructions. One of the reasons they do the test is after an incident in Amesbury, Mass., in the summer of 2007. A siren inadvertently went off, scaring the public and leading some to evacuate. “The situation in Amesbury showed why it’s important to do the test,” Griffith said. “We want everyone to know what it will sound like and what to do in the event of a real emergency. (30/11/12)

I think we are over-reacting here, somewhat, people...

Alyshah Hasham, reporting for The Star web pages, brings us a tale of a storm in a teacup nature.

A radioactive disc the size of a quarter has been found in a dust-covered science kit from the 1960s in a storeroom at Burlington Central High School.

It’s unclear just how much radiation the object was giving off. “When tested, the disc registered on a Geiger counter. The disc was secured and safely stored for further testing and removal,” said a memo to parents issued Tuesday afternoon by principal Jonathan Shoss.

The surrounding areas, from hallways to classrooms, were tested Monday evening and found to have normal, safe radiation levels, said Marnie Denton, spokesperson for the Halton District School Board.

The lead-lined box was discovered by a teacher at the back of a storeroom shelf. The school made arrangements for the contents to be tested for radiation immediately, since scrawled on the side of the box were the words “radioactivity kit.” Denton speculates the disc may have once been used to demonstrate a Geiger counter in science class.

A label on the side of the box indicates the kit was made in 1961 and delivered to the school in 1966.The disc was the only item in the box, sized slightly smaller than a shoebox.

The initial test of the disc and of adjacent areas of the school was done by the Ontario Environment and Safety Network.

The disc - swathed in protective material and securely stored in a fridge on Tuesday in a classroom marked out of use - will be taken for further testing by Photech Environmental Solutions on Wednesday.

The results (including the radioactivity level of the disc) will be shared with the school community when they become available, said Denton. (25/11/12)

Things are getting interesting at Dounreay

Pillboxes at Dounreay? Should that now be ‘Stalag’ Dounreay? The nice people at the John O’Groat Journal may have the answer…

Nuclear industry chiefs are keeping tight-lipped about the latest in a recent series of security upgrades at Dounreay.

The first of a planned cluster of guard posts, resembling Second World War machine gun nests, has become established just inside the main gate which leads on to the licensed site.

Commonly known as pillboxes, the structures consist of a raised platform and concrete shelter with sandbags piled around them. It is understood they are designed to be deployed during an incident when the security of the former fast reactor complex is compromised from outside.

But site licence company, Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd, is keeping the public in the dark about what exactly the lookalike defensive positions will be used for and how much they cost.

A DSRL spokeswoman said earlier this week: “I can confirm that the structures are part of the site’s security enhancements but unfortunately we can’t reveal any further details.”

A new electric security fence installed a year ago is thought to have cost up to £10 million although a figure has never been confirmed. Prior to that, the road layout on the approach to the site was changed to zig-zag, reportedly to improve anti-vehicle security. A checking area for transport going onto the site was also installed while personnel were subject to new access protocols.

The NDA claims to have no knowledge of the new guard posts at Dounreay or of any similar upgrades taking place at any of the other British nuclear sites and could not provide a figure for the site’s security spending this year. (12/11/12)

On the road to a big hold up...

Planning a road trip in the next 3 weeks? Best think again, thanks to this Orange County Register report.

Southern California Edison crews will haul a gigantic piece of slightly-radioactive spent nuclear equipment down Southern California freeways south of Orange County starting Sunday night, the utility said Saturday.  (Watch the video about the steam generator being moved.)

The piece of metal served as part of a lower assembly inside the boilers of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station for years, until the containment domes were cut open and the boilers replaced over the past few years.

"The steam generator contains extremely low levels of radiation," the Edison company said in a statement. "The exposure that a person could receive standing five-to-ten feet away from the transport for an hour would be equivalent to a dental x-ray."

A 400-foot-long vehicle will haul the 700,000-pound piece of steel onto Interstate 5 at San Onofre. Although the exact route has not been revealed, SCE said it would pass through San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino counties before passing through Las Vegas and Salt Lake City.

No details have been released about the exact route or schedule. The transport will be on freeways only at night, and will take three weeks to reach a disposal site at Clive, Utah, about 35 miles west of Salt Lake City.

Edison engineers cut holes in the containment domes at San Onofre, brought the old boilers and heat exchangers out, and placed the massive new generators inside. The old generators are in four pieces, and this would be the third shipment of huge components to Utah, SCE said. (6/11/12) 

It's glowing cats and dogs here...

Jim Hayden reporting for the Holland Sentinel goes ‘Walkies’

The evacuees arrive at Fennville High School, brought by bus and car from areas around the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant where a radiation leak occurred only hours before. With them, they have their families and their pets - dogs and cats that could be contaminated with radiation.

Area rescue agencies practiced on Wednesday night not only how to handle the almost 2,000 people who would use the school as a sanctuary from nuclear emergency but also their animals.

“This is new,” Mike Neault (pictured) of the Michigan Department of Agriculture said about the pet decontamination procedures. The Allegan County drill was the second time any agency in the state has addressed what to do with animals in case of a nuclear problem. The first exercise was this summer in Monroe at the Enrico Fermi Nuclear Generating Station.

High school students from the veterinary program at the Allegan County Area Technical and Education Centre handled about a half-dozen dogs from the Allegan County Animal Shelter for the drill, walking them through triage where a trained veterinarian scanned them for radiation, sending the “dirty dogs” for further examination and eventually to a decontamination tent.

The cleaned animals were led to a trailer provided by Camp Critter Country, a pet boarding facility in Grand Junction. The mobile unit, complete with its own generator for heating and air conditioning, holds 22 dogs for transport and more when stationary.

In an actual emergency, the owner would have gone through decontamination before returning to the trailer to reclaim his or her pet. (26/10/12)

Perhaps Yankee employee should have stuck to coffee!

Andrew Stein, reporting for VT Digger, has a drink or two down Vermont Yankee way…

A recent blood alcohol test of a Vermont Yankee engineering supervisor was above the federally mandated alcohol limit; plant authorities subsequently revoked the employee’s access to the plant.

According to Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) spokesman Neil Sheehan, the supervisor was tested due to a red flag raised by co - workers, not a random screening.

Sheehan said the NRC’s threshold for an alcohol infraction on the job is a blood alcohol content level of .04 percent or higher in the first hour, .03 percent after an hour and .02 percent after two hours.

The employee was not in the main reactor area, but rather in support buildings, where the supervisor oversaw engineering work on safety systems. Sheehan continued: “Our regulations are very clear that anyone who works at a nuclear power plant is expected to adhere to high standards of performance. So, if you’re above the established thresholds for alcohol use … then that would not be considered acceptable.”Vermont Yankee authorities would not comment any further about the employee’s status.(22/10/12)

Whoops!! US cruiser and nuke sub collide at sea...

Found on the BBC’s web pages this morning, so our thanks to them for this little gem…

A US cruiser has collided with a nuclear submarine during naval exercises off the Atlantic coast, reportedly damaging sonar equipment.

Nobody was hurt during the incident on Saturday afternoon and both vessels were still able to operate under their own power afterwards, the navy said. A spokesman said such collisions were "fairly rare" and an inquiry has begun. An anonymous naval source told Reuters the collision had caused the cruiser's sonar dome to collapse.

The dome is a bulbous, rubber device on the bow of the ship beneath the water line.

The navy named the cruiser as the Aegis-class cruiser USS San Jacinto and the submarine as the Los Angeles-class USS Montpelier.

According to the Reuters source, the watch team aboard the San Jacinto saw a periscope rise from the water about 100 to 200 yards (metres) ahead of the vessel. The cruiser ordered "all back" but too late to avoid a collision.  (15/10/12)  

Are you sure these are the ones we ordered?

Thanks to those nice folks at the Tri-City Herald for this one. The Hanford vitrification plant has received the first shipment of 87 leaded-glass shield windows that will be used in four buildings of the plant that will process radioactive waste.

The windows will allow operators to safely observe work with radioactive material inside hot cells.

The first shipment of 22 windows is for the Analytical Laboratory. Other windows will be used in the Pre-treatment, Low Activity Waste and the High Level Waste facilities. Each laboratory shield window weighs 7,200 pounds, is 16 inches thick and measures 75 inches wide by 65 inches tall. They have a yellow tint and are made of borosilicate glass and lead.

The $12.2 billion vitrification plant, or Waste Treatment Plant, is being built by the Department of Energy to turn up to 56 million gallons of radioactive waste into a stable glass form for disposal starting in 2019. The waste is left from the past production of plutonium for the nation's nuclear weapons program. (5/10/12)

The wheels on the bus glow in the dark, in the dark..

A rolling piece of Hanford history is up for sale.

For $15,000, you can own one of the maroon-and-cream-coloured buses that carried Hanford workers to and from the nuclear reservation during the Cold War. The Atomic Energy Commission had 28 of the GMC buses made in 1953 to its specifications for use at Hanford.

Nick Low spotted the old bus - stripped of paint and marred with holes - parked near Pasco's King City a few years ago.

Nick and his wife, Ellen Low, the executive director of the CREHST museum in Richland, now have the refurbished anniversary gift on loan to the museum. It's parked with its near-twin, which is part of the museum's permanent collection of Hanford artifacts.

The Lows are hoping to find a buyer who values its history, particularly as the Tri-Cities area works to include Hanford's historic B Reactor as part of the nation's national park system.

It could be parked at B Reactor as an exhibition or turned into a gift shop, Ellen Low said. There also may be some interest from other Manhattan Project sites that once used similar buses. (26/9/12)

We're coming over all public spirited, US style - again

Petco has determined that one of its foreign suppliers used stainless steel mistakenly containing small quantities of Cobalt-60 when fabricating certain orders of certain SKUs/models of stainless steel pet food bowls. Cobalt-60 is a radioactive material commonly used in industrial gauging equipment and other uses.

We don’t know for certain how it got into our product, but we believe it came from scrap metal that had some Cobalt-60 accidentally mixed in. The affected products were found to emit low levels of radiation.

The Cobalt-60 levels in the affected products are far below State and Federal regulatory limits. All of the expert testing conducted on these products to date indicates that there is no health risk to the public, to our associates or to pets.

To our knowledge, the affected products were limited to two cargo containers that entered the United States in late May and early June. We’ve also determined that the affected products pose no health risk, and were and are safe to be handled by our associates.

The issue was discovered by Customs and Border Protection agents during a routine import screening of one of the containers. That container was held at the port and never reached Petco. The second container had previously cleared Customs and reached Petco’s distribution network.

Upon learning of this issue following the delivery of the affected products to our distribution centres, we promptly retained experts to examine the potentially affected products, and those experts determined that the SKUs examined were safe for handling.

Out of concern that products from the second container reached our stores, we removed from our store shelves and from our website all products from the supplier that produced the bowls.

We have confirmed that the vast majority of all of the affected products remain at Petco distribution centres, are quarantined outside and never reached our stores.

We also confirmed that very few affected items were actually sold to consumers. We are working to contact those customers to inform them of the situation and to retrieve those particular bowls.

Petco has notified the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and a number of state governments, and is in the process of notifying other appropriate states as we continue to collect and verify information.

The Illinois state government did its own testing and issued a news release stating that “a person would have to hold one of the bowls against their chest for roughly six and a half days to receive a dose of radiation equivalent to a single chest X-ray,” and that “these bowls do not pose an immediate health risk.”

Customers who purchased these products between the dates of May 31 and June 20, 2012, should bring it to their local Petco store for a full refund. If you have any questions, please call Petco Customer Service at 877-738-6742.

SKU numbers can be found on labels inside and on the bottom of the bowls. (9/9/12)

Who's panicking at San Onofre? Not us...

News from the ‘Well, that’s okay, then’ department from the Media Relations people at San Onofre Nuclear.

Aug. 26: At 8:17 p.m. Pacific Time, the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) exited the two Notice of Unusual Events that had been declared following two earthquakes that were felt in the control room at the plant.

At 12:39 p.m., the station declared its first Notice of Unusual Event after an earthquake was felt. Shortly thereafter, a second earthquake was felt in the SONGS control room and another Notice of Unusual Event was declared at 2:03 p.m. At no time was there a threat to the public or employees at the plant.

The station received reports of earthquakes near the Mexico border. The earthquakes did not activate any seismic alarms around the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Peak ground acceleration, a more meaningful way to measure an earthquake's potential impact - that is, how hard the earth shakes at a specific location - was not significant enough to be measurable at the plant.

The plant has been off-line since earlier this year, and there is no safety risk for the public or SONGS employees. Both declarations followed the protocols set by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission which also included notification of state and community partners. All notifications have been made.  (28/8/12)

Intruder alert at Oak Ridge - don't send for G4S...

Mark Hosenball, reporting for Reuters, brings us a follow-up on the recent security breach at Oak Ridge -see previous story...

The Energy Department said on Monday it was replacing guards and supervisors on duty 10 days ago when three peace activists (see photo below) including an 82 year-old nun, breached perimeter security at the principal U.S. facility for storing weapons-grade enriched uranium..

The guards and supervisors work for WSI Oak Ridge, a subsidiary of the giant international private security contractor G4S, which was at the centre of a dispute over security preparations at the London Olympic Games.

A federal official at the U.S. Energy Department's Y-12 complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, had also been "temporarily re-assigned" pending the investigation, a government official said.

Joshua McConaha, a spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration, the Energy Department branch responsible for designing and building U.S. nuclear weapons, told Reuters that the incident, which occurred during the night of July 27-28, was "not consistent with the level of professionalism and expertise we expect from our guard force."

As a consequence, the agency "has taken steps to remove the leadership team and the guard forces on duty at the time, and to replace them with some of the best security experts from around our enterprise."

He added that NNSA and the Energy Department were "reviewing every aspect of our security posture and will apply the lessons learned from this incident across all of our sites and facilities."(7/8/12)

Yes, I know we were trying to be patriotic - but this is much more fun...

John Huotari, reporting for Oak Ridge Today mans the barriers…

The plan to cut up to 34 security police officer jobs at the Y-12 National Security Complex hasn’t changed, despite a breach of a high-security area early Saturday morning by three anti-nuclear weapons activists, a federal spokesman said Wednesday. Steven Wyatt, spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration, said the decision is not being re-evaluated.

“The size of the protective force is determined through a comprehensive process that considers a number of factors, which have not changed since the decision to reduce the size of the protective forces was made,” Wyatt said in a Wednesday evening e-mail.

The plan, which also calls for the reduction of three staff positions at Y-12 and more cuts at the East Tennessee Technology Park, was developed after reviews by the NNSA, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office, and security contractor WSI Oak Ridge.

On Wednesday, B&W Y-12, the management and operating contractor at Y-12, ordered a security stand down at the plant, meaning all nuclear operations have been halted through sometime next week.

That decision follows the Saturday morning security breach and the discovery of unidentified procedural violations at Y-12. The security breach involved three anti-nuclear weapons activists (shown L-R: Michael R. Walli, Megan Rice, & Greg Boertje-Obed) who allegedly sneaked through fences at the plant and spray-painted slogans and splashed human blood on a high-security uranium storage building before they were detained by security guards.

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