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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. Images: WQUAD (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. Images: World Nuclear News (ZIO-Podolsk) / Wikimedia (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. Images: University of Reading / For Security Guards Only (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…Images: (AP) Vermont Yankee Corp / The Pirata (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. Images: CNN / The Register (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. Images: NPR /Forbes (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. Images: World Nuclear News / Dongfang (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. Images: Noboru Hashimto (NY Times) / Tom O’ Halloran (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. Images: World Nuclear News (Sosny R&D) / Unexpected Traveller (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.” Images: WOSU / Vegas Buzz (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.” Images: Oakridge Today / Pogoblog (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. Images: Valastro / Global GPS (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. Images: My Safety Sign /Auto Evolution (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.” Images: Las Vegas Review-Journal (NRC) / Bloodyhell.com (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. Images: Kimberly McMillian (Times Free Press / Engaged Enterprises (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. Images: Exelon / Making This Home (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. Images: Magnox / Acclaimed Movers (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. Images: Tanya Ackerman / Ken Osburn / Greenville News (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. Images: Vyacheslav Mazurenko / NRPA Rosneft (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. Images: 123RF / Atlas Obscura (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. Images: Japan News Today / cfiskvi.blogspot (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. Images: Seacoast Online / Times Free Press (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. Images: Alyshah Hasham (The Star) / United Nuclear (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. Images: BBC / Wikipedia (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. Images: Jebb Harris (Orange County Register) / Access Maps (6/11/12)

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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. Images: Jim Hayden (Holland Sentinel) / Cheezburger (26/10/12)

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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.

Images: Jokeroo / J E Matrix Signs & Designs (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. Images: BBC / NHS (15/10/12)

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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. Images: Bechtel National / ENR Construction (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. Images: Bob Brawdy (Tri City Herald) / KEPR TV (26/9/12)

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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. Image: F8 Daily (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. Images: Nuclear Tourist / E China Cities (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. Images: Oak Ridge Today / Infowars (Japan Daily Press) (2/8/12)

We fancy a bit of Chinese today...what number is a new power station???

The next stop in our quest for ‘patriotic’ news stories takes us to Gloucestershire thanks to This is Somerset and The Western Daily Press.

A new consortium is poised to revive plans to build a new nuclear power station in Gloucestershire. French energy giant Areva wants to join forces with state-owned China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corporation to develop the controversial project.

The decision by the German firms RWE and E.on to pull out was a major blow for the Government's energy policy, which is heavily reliant on new nuclear to stop the lights going out. Now Areva boss Luc Oursel has said they will bid for Horizon Nuclear Power, the Gloucester-based company set up by the German partnership to develop Oldbury and Wylfa B on Anglesey.

He said: "We will participate in the British Government's plan to make this project a reality, and we will probably do it with Chinese power companies and other players.

Ministers hope Hinkley Point C in Somerset will be Britain's first new nuclear power station in a generation, with Wylfa and then Oldbury in the next wave. They also hope to allay those fears with new policies guaranteeing a minimum price for nuclear energy – which they say is not a subsidy. The Daily Press revealed earlier this month how a new poll showed that support for nuclear energy had bounced back in the South West since Fukushima last year. Images: The Drum / National Grid (25/7/12)

Our Survey Meter says "Eeepp!!!"

The following was found on the web pages of tvnz recently, so our thanks to them.

Soldiers returning from Afghanistan are having urine tests to check if they have absorbed radioactivity from American depleted uranium munitions. The Defence Force has confirmed the tests "as a precautionary measure", but there has yet to be a positive result.

The issue will come before Parliament on Wednesday during the first reading of the Depleted Uranium (Prohibition) Bill, backed by Labour MP Phil Twyford.

A lobby group calling for a ban on the weapons says it understands the Defence Force is unwilling to pay for a more comprehensive test for absorbed uranium. "There is a real resistance to paying for the proper tests," Rob Green of the Peace Foundation says.

A parliamentary briefing paper with the bill says depleted uranium munitions are made from the waste from the process of enriching natural uranium for use in nuclear reactors. New Zealand does not have the weapons, but the parliamentary paper says Defence personnel returning from Afghanistan have had to provide urine samples for testing. Image shows CDV715 Survey Meter.

Images: One News / Snippits-and-slappits (Dees illustration) (25/6/12)

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Shouts of 'Shut that door!' down Hanford way...

Tyler Slauson, reporting for KIMA TV, is having a slow news day…

U.S. DEPT. OF ENERGY NEWS RELEASE - The last massive shield door has been delivered to the Hanford Waste Treatment Plant, also known as the “Vit Plant.” It weighs 102 tons and will be installed in the High-Level Waste Facility.

“Receipt of the last of the shield doors represents a significant milestone in progress on the project, and they are an integral part of the plant’s safety infrastructure,” said Joe St. Julian, area project manager for the facility for Bechtel National Inc., which is designing and building the Vit Plant.

The Vit Plant has more than 100 nuclear-quality shield doors, ranging from 3 to 119 tons. They will provide radiation protection and maintain contamination boundaries during plant operations. “The delivery of this shield door represents an extensive degree of teamwork between the vendor and within the Vit Plant Project team. They have done an excellent job,” said Gary Olsen, the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of River Projection, High- Level Waste Facility federal project manager.

He added: “The door is an instrumental component in our safety protection measures for operations, and the team has worked closely to ensure it meets all necessary requirements to support its function.” The door will provide access for an overhead crane that will be used to perform maintenance in the melter area. The door was manufactured and shipped by Bechtel subcontractor Oregon Ironworks of Portland, Ore. Images: Oregon Iron Works / Daily Mail Online (11/5/12)

Today we get political down San Onofre way...

Staff at the OB Rag in Ocean Beach, CA, urge us all to dust off our protest banners and head out to San Onofre next Sunday.

Nuclear Industry Expert Daniel Hirsch and Irvine City Councilmember Larry Agran will join a dozen other speakers at the “Shut Down San Onofre” rally at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station on Sunday, April 29, to support the view that the reactor should never be restarted. The event occurs just after the 26th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, the 33-year anniversary of the Three-Mile Island accident, and the first Fukushima Daiichi meltdown anniversary.

Irvine Council member Larry Agran, who joined other community members in a private meeting with NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko on April 6, spoke eloquently at the meeting citing critical safety concerns. A major disaster at the plant would put 8.4 million residents at risk and create a no-mans-land out of Southern California.

Despite the earthquake, tsunami, and terrorist risks, the undoing of the San Onofre plant may be due to engineering or manufacturing errors. After spending $670 million to replace the steam generators, operators thought the plant would operate without failure for decades. Instead, an unexpected radioactive steam release in January forced management to reveal that both steam generators were exhibiting unexpected thinning in hundreds of heat transfer tubes. NRC Chairman Jaczko is keeping the plant shut down until the root cause of the problem is determined, and corrective measures to be take so the plant can be operated safely.

Gene Stone, of Residents Organized for a Safe Environment in San Clemente, said: “At some point, the San Onofre plant must be decommissioned. We believe that time is now. While the plant is shut down for maintenance, we believe this is the right time to start the decommissioning process for the safety of the workers at the plant and the community at large. We must do the right thing now and not put the California economy at risk. Let’s not spend one dime more on any more retrofits.” Images: OB Rag / Fukushima News Research (23/4/12)

Here's one we made earlier!

The BBC in Scotland comes over all Blue Peter for this one…

Cardboard tubes inside rolls of paper towels have emerged as a solution to a problem operating a piece of equipment used to treat radioactive waste.

The sludge mixer stirs radioactive material dredged from the Dounreay Fast Reactor in Caithness, with cement, inside 200 litre steel drums. Workers were having difficulty fitting the machine's motor drive to the spindle of its mixing paddle.

They have been using the tubes to make it easier to access the spindle. By cutting the cardboard rolls into equal sized pieces they have been able to raise the paddle off the bottom of the drums.The spindle can then be easily reached because it pokes above the top of the drums.

Dounreay worker Ross Murray came up with the idea to use the cardboard rolls, the latest in a series of household items used in the £2.6bn clean-up of the plant. A design engineer at site also used the castors off his own living room couch to stop a machine dubbed the "hedgehog" from toppling over.

The device was built to probe radioactivity levels and shoot video inside Dounreay's Prototype Fast Reactor. In tests, the device kept toppling over when turning corners. However, senior design engineer Calder Bain used the castors to stabilise the machine. Images: Shutterstock / BBC (6/3/12)

Confusion at Turkey Point over ventilation system

Susan Salisbury, writing for the Palm Beach Post, reports that despite a disabled ventilation system in an emergency operations building at Florida Power & Light's Turkey Point nuclear plant, employees would have been safe if an emergency had occurred.

That was one of the main points FPL's management stressed to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission today during a two-hour meeting over apparent violations at the plant. Mike Kiley, site vice president at Turkey Point, told NRC officials that he takes full responsibility for any confusion that may have occurred because of the way the issue was communicated to the NRC.

The problems centred on a ventilation system damper that employees reported was open when it should have been closed. However, tests confirmed it was closed, keeping outside air from entering.

If a radiological emergency had occurred with the damper open, the radiation that employees would have been exposed to would have been 17 percent below the NRC's allowable levels, Kiley said.

The failure to properly maintain the system has been preliminarily determined by the NRC to be of low to moderate safety significance. FPL spokesman Michael Waldron said, "The analysis we presented to the NRC today shows that this issue never presented a risk to the health and safety of our workers or the public, and, there is no doubt that the ventilation system is fully operational currently.To be clear, the issues being discussed concern the ventilation system for an onsite facility, not the health or safety of the public." Images: Palm Beach Post (AP) / Life (23/2/12)

What security colour shall we have today for Prairie Island?

Leslie Brooks Suzukamo, reporting for the Twin Cities web site brings us one of those mystery reports that leaves us wanting more…

Federal regulators have cited Xcel Energy for an October security violation at its Prairie Island nuclear power plant near Red Wing. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission provided few details of the violation, only saying today that it was discovered during an inspection on Oct. 28 and corrected immediately.

Xcel released a statement saying "security and safety at our nuclear plants are our highest priority, and we take this matter seriously." The Minneapolis-based utility will review the NRC's determination and decide whether to appeal it within 30 days, Xcel spokeswoman Mary Sandok said.

In a letter to Prairie Island, the NRC said the Prairie Island security violation "is of at least low to moderate security significance."

On the NRC's security colour code, the violation was classified as "greater than green," with green as its lowest violation level. The higher levels include "white," "yellow" and "red." The NRC does not reveal the colour code for plant security violations or details of the nature of the violation for security purposes, said Viktoria Mitlyng, spokeswoman for the NRC regional office near Chicago.

"The inspector identified the violation and did not leave the site until the issue was resolved. The violation was discovered during a basic security inspection conducted by NRC security specialists”.

She added that there are no fines for security violations unless the NRC believes the violation was deliberate or interfered with the agency's oversight abilities. The NRC wants Prairie Island to draw up plans to show how it corrected the problem and will prevent it from occurring again. Images: Jim Gehrz (Twin Cities) / Jalapeno Drums (17/2/12)

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3,000 'suspect' cows go missing in Japan

1233 ABC Newcastle’s North Asia correspondent Mark Willacy brings us this.

Japanese authorities have lost track of nearly 3,000 dead cows suspected of containing high levels of radioactive caesium. The cows ate rice straw contaminated in the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Last year Japan's health ministry ordered the testing of more than 4,500 beef cattle suspected of being contaminated with radiation.

But according to Japan's Yomiuri newspaper, so far only a third has been tested, with the distribution routes of about 3,000 head of slaughtered cattle remaining a mystery. Of the tested meat, about 6 per cent was found to contain radioactive caesium above the acceptable safe limit.

Food safety experts say that consumers would have to eat a lot of the meat to suffer any damage to their health. Images: 1233 ABC / Files (27/1/12)

Yep, socks too, pal - even if it is only an exercise!

Our thanks to those nice people at the Santa Maria Times for this one. Workers screened possible radiation victims during a training exercise for an emergency at Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant Wednesday, at the Santa Maria Fairpark.

The exercise was put on by the city of Santa Maria and other local agencies to test their response to monitoring and treating evacuees following an emergency, as required by FEMA to support the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant Emergency Response Plan. Specifically, the drill used volunteers acting as mock evacuees to go through the process that an actual evacuee would experience. They were monitored for contamination, went through decontamination and, if necessary, were taken to an American Red Cross shelter.

Temporary screening and treatment facilities were erected, including stations for radiation monitoring and showers. About 150 people participated in the drill including volunteers and employees from Santa Maria, Santa Barbara County, and other agencies.  Images: Len Wood (Santa Maria Times) / Slocounty.ca.gov (8/12/11)

Did you say this was a drill? Not sure if I heard you right..

Chad Mills writing for WRDW TV in Augusta checks out the local airwaves for us...

The sirens blasted, and this was part of the message that people heard on TV or over their tonal radios: "This is a drill. This is only a drill. Emergency response agencies in Georgia and South Carolina are conducting a simulated emergency at Plant Vogtle." Overall, the message indicated it was a drill nine times, but many people were still caught off guard.

"Some people may not get that message and may not have the information, and those people may hear the siren and not realize what's happening," said Roger Hannah, the senior public affairs officer for the NRC’s Region II office out of Atlanta. He says "nuclear" is still a word that scares some people, so communication is key. "I think there are people that have questions about the operation of nuclear plants."

If you were caught off guard, he says that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's better than not hearing the sirens or getting the alert.

"The best result of that is the sirens do work, so there were some sort of event at the plant, the sirens would be there, would be functional and would be available to alert people that something was going on," he said.

The test is especially critical for neighbours living within the Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ). That's a 10-mile radius around Plant Vogtle. It includes parts of Burke, Aiken, Barnwell and Allendale counties. "It's something that happens annually, every year, and, you know, I think this proves that it's good, that it works, that it keeps people alert," said Katherine Melvin, a communications coordinator in public affairs at South Nuclear, Plant Vogtle's operator. Images: Our Energy / Terence Ruffle  (1/12/11)

Can you guess how many people are there? German protests continue

Kate Galbraith, writing for the New York Times reports. The nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, earlier this year caused many countries to rethink their appetite for nuclear power. It is also, in subtler ways, altering the fraught discussion of what to do with nuclear plants’ wastes.

A prime example is Germany, which decided to shut down all its nuclear power plants by 2022 after the partial reactor meltdowns at Fukushima. That decision is making it easier for Germans to have a calm and focused discussion about a permanent disposal site for the plants’ wastes, analysts say.

Previously, opponents of nuclear power worried that backing a permanent solution for the wastes would make it easier for nuclear power plants to continue to exist, according to Michael Sailer, the chief executive at the Öko-Institut in Berlin. Anti-nuclear politicians, he said, felt that if they came out in favour of a permanent disposal site, “they support pro-nuclear people because they solve the waste problem.”.

Protests over waste storage are a long tradition for Germany, and they continue. In recent days, anti-nuclear activists in both France and Germany clashed with the police as a train carrying waste made its way toward a facility in Germany. The waste had originated in Germany and been reprocessed in France and was returning to Germany for storage.

Even so, Germany is now moving forward on the waste issue. Earlier this month, leaders from around Germany met to discuss a permanent disposal solution. They agreed to study a number of potential sites around the country, according to Mr. Sailer, and eventually to make a scientifically based decision about which sites to proceed with. This development, Mr. Sailer said, represents a “huge” advance over earlier efforts. Images: Daily Mail / China.org (28/11/11)

Nuke motors finding their way into Japan's used car market

Our thanks to Fox News for this one. Dangerously radioactive cars are being sold to unsuspecting motorists in Japan. Vehicles that once belonged to people living in Fukushima have flooded the used-car market since the prefecture's nuclear power plant was destroyed by an earthquake and tsunami in March. So far, 660 cars have been barred from export because they exceeded the radiation limit, harbour authorities in Osaka said recently.

Instead of destroying the vehicles, many dealers disguise their origins with new license plates to fool prospective buyers, The Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported Tuesday. One van that was re-registered and passed around the domestic market was found to emit 110 microsieverts of radiation an hour - the national limit for cars being exported to other countries is 0.3 microsieverts an hour.

An unnamed dealer from the western city of Osaka purchased the now-notorious van at auction. "I decontaminated repeatedly after the test and retested the filter of the air conditioner, the wipers and tires, replacing them thoroughly, but the radiation level dropped only to 30 microsieverts per hour," he said. "I decided to sell the vehicle in Japan because I couldn't afford to lose the money. Images: Reuters (Fox News) / Esquire  (26/10/11)

It's a serious case of 'butter fingers' down in Tennessee

Our friend Frank Munger, from the Knoxville News Sentinel, filed the following report for the Global Security Newswire recently – hi, Frank…

A "large" nuclear-weapon part dropped more than 1 yard to the ground when it slipped from moving equipment during an August disassembly effort at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee.

Neither the weapon part nor any individuals were harmed in the incident, and a facility representative said the event could not have resulted in an explosion. "The components processed at Y-12 are not at risk of exploding," Y-12 spokeswoman Ellen Boatner said.

The event was termed a "near miss," though, and it was one of several potentially dangerous developments at the Y-12 plant over the past several months that have been documented by the U.S. Defence Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. In another incident, plant personnel breached criticality regulations in the method they used to hold 18 barrels of nuclear-weapon components over a period of months this year, the panel said in a separate paper.

"We feel very strongly that our workers, the environment and the public are safe. Very strongly," Y-12 nuclear safety operations head John Stewart said on Wednesday, adding the plant normally spots and begins to address issues of concern before they are noted by the panel. The facility's policies incorporate numerous measures aimed at deterring major mishaps, plant representatives said, suggesting the scrupulous declaration of problem events might prompt overestimation of their significance.

Safety board Chairman Peter Winokur, though, in an Aug. 25 communication said the plant was failing to meet expectations for a key atomic site. "A strong conduct of operations program requires a sound set of technical procedures and strict adherence by the users to ensure that safe operation of the facility is maintained."

"During the review, the staff identified additional examples of weaknesses in procedures and their use by [site operator B&W Y-12] that have the potential to jeopardize the safety of workers and possibly that of the public and the environment," Winokur added, requesting a declaration within half a year of actions taken on the problems

Images: wikipedia / wikimedia commons (7/10/11)

Going to Japan? Don't forget to pack the water...

Here’s something that probably passed you by, courtesy of The Japan Times.

Some 80 members of the Bavarian State Opera have refused to join its tour of Japan next Friday because of radiation concerns posed by the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, sources close to the Munich-based opera company said Saturday.

The 400-member group, one of the world's most prestigious opera companies, will replace the non-participating members with auxiliary members and other artists. Those who refuse to travel to Japan will be taking non-paid holidays during the tour period.

The company, known in Germany as the Bayerische Staatsoper, will airlift drinking water from Germany to Japan, while radiation experts in Germany will accompany it on the Japanese tour to gauge radiation levels in the members' meals.

The planned opera tour is one of the events being organized to mark the 150th anniversary of the start of exchanges between Japan and Germany. The shows on the 18-day tour through Oct. 10 will include "Lohengrin" by Richard Wagner and "Ariadne auf Naxos" by Richard Strauss. Images: Meterdown / Arts Journal (19/9/11)

Security measures stepped up at Millstone

P. Daddona, reporting for The Day, takes aim and fires…

Eighteen security officers from Millstone Power Station  in Connecticut are participating in drills using Multi-Integrated Laser-guided System equipment. MILES gear includes blanks fired from the altered semi-automatic rifles and lasers. Dozens of reactor sites in the US have indoor firing ranges. But Millstone's, built in 2005 in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, is more sophisticated than many, said Philipp Baumann, Dominion's manager of protection services.

Millstone's nuclear security officers, who work for the company Securitas, receive more than 100 hours a year of training and develop skills first as cadets and then armed responders, Holt said. The officers work in a variety of environments, including areas where radiation is present but monitored and contained.

While Millstone has never suffered the threat of a malicious intruder, Holt said, Dominion believes the capacity the firing range provides for on-site training for guards is invaluable in a post-9/11 world. While nuclear complexes are hardened structures, they are a potential target for terrorists, Holt said.

"Threats to nuclear power plants have tremendous consequences to the community, and our officers understand that," he said. "They take their training to protect the health and safety of the public seriously." Images: Tim Martin (The Day) / US NRC (4/9/11)

Send for Arnie – things are smokin’ at Hanford…

Our thanks to The Seattle Times for this. Six workers at the USA's most contaminated nuclear site decided to quit rather than submit to drug testing after a baggie of marijuana was found in a building at a landfill, a spokesman for a cleanup contractor said Tuesday.

A manager for a company that runs the landfill at south-central Washington's Hanford nuclear reservation found the baggie in the workers' day room on Aug. 8 following a staff meeting, said Todd Nelson, spokesman for Washington Closure Hanford.

The Benton County Sheriff's Office confirmed the bag contained marijuana, but drug sniffing dogs did not turn up anything else, Nelson said. S.M. Stoller then ordered drug tests for about 100 workers. Six workers resigned rather than be tested. Test results for 18 other employees are pending. All the rest of the tests were negative.

All new employees are subject to drug tests. Some employees, such as drivers and those with high-level clearance that allows access to classified data are subject to random drug testing. Workers would also be tested in the event of an accident or for cause.

‘Anyone who tests positive is terminated’, said Nelson. Images: BBC / TopTenz  (24/8/11)

192 wheels on their wagon and they're not still moving along - think about it...

Gustavo Solis writing for Sign On San Diego, hopes he
doesn’t have to change any of these tyres…

A truck longer than a football field and carrying a low-level radioactive steam generator from the San Onofre nuclear power plant to Utah made a scheduled stop on Oceanside Boulevard Monday morning, but it was blocking two eastbound lanes, Oceanside police said.

A spokesman for Southern California Edison, the utility company moving the generator, would not say the exact time the truck would begin moving again because of security reasons, but he said it would be by Monday night.

The truck is 399 feet long and has 192 tyres. The 30-year-old steam generator weighs 380 tons and was on an 832-mile journey to another power plant in Clive, Utah, where it was to be stored.

The California Highway Patrol was escorting the truck, which was being monitored by three armed guards while stopped on Oceanside Boulevard near Rancho Del Oro Drive, police Lt. Leonard Mata said.

The truck is scheduled to travel at night and stop during the day in order to have minimal impact on traffic conditions. Because of security concerns, the exact route and schedule of the transport, which is under 24-hour surveillance, is not being released, Southern California Edison spokesman Scott Andresen said. He added that the move was safe, despite the low-level radioactivity.

‘If you were to stand near the truck for an hour, the amount of radiation exposure you would receive would be about the same amount as you would get from a dental X-ray’. Images: Sign On San Diego (John Gastaldo)  (2/8/11)

Suit up, we're clearing out dad's attic

Thanks to Diana Penner and the IndyStar for this cautionary tale - and for the excuse to print a picture of hunky firefighters on the home page -yummy..!!

Two sisters cleaning out their elderly father's house could have used a hand from Superman when they came across a box of apparently radioactive rocks.

However, the Indianapolis Fire Department’s hazardous materials team saved the day, and no one was injured.

The sisters, Anita Cohee, 56, and Diane Serban, 58, were going through some of their father's things in the attic of his home in the 5500 block of Skyridge Drive when they found a small box labelled "radioactive ore”, according to a news release from IFD spokeswoman Rita Burris.

The box also included the notation ‘Uranium Thorium/Detection Corporation North Hollywood, California’ Inside the box, the sisters found nine plastic-wrapped rocks in layers of cotton. They closed the box, got everyone out of the house and called 911.

Firefighters and Haz Mat Team 13 arrived and got a positive reading for radiation. A second reading with a different kind of meter, gave them a reading of 13 microrems. Burris said the haz-mat team said that was a small amount of radioactive material - about 1/100,000th of one rem. Still, they packed the rocks into an official yellow drum and removed it from the house. It will be turned it over to the Marion County Health Department for proper disposal.

Firefighters spent about 50 minutes at the scene and the family was allowed to go back into the house.

The sisters' father, Van Cones, 93, lived in the house since 1974 but has moved into an assisted living facility.There was no information available on why he had a box of radioactive rocks in his attic. Images: Indy Star / The Dilettantista (25/7/11)

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Ear plugs in - we're testing sirens next week!

It’s siren testing time again, and in the spirit of doing our bit, we run this piece filed by Bob Vossler for the Aylesbury Park Press. LACEY - A three-minute full volume siren test at the Oyster Creek Generating Station will be conducted next week.

The test is run each year in cooperation with Exelon Corp., which owns and operates the 41-year-old nuclear power plant, Ocean County and the state Office of Emergency Management.

The test for the power plant’s emergency planning zone involves a 42-siren system and will take place at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesday. The system is located within the 10-mile radius of the plant, company officials said in a prepared statement.

The county can activate the sirens to warn the surrounding community of threatening events such as fires, floods, tornadoes, hazardous material releases or an event at the nuclear power plant.

The siren testing is part of an emergency preparedness program by Exelon.

The sirens are not a signal to evacuate. In an actual emergency, residents are directed to tune to one of the county Emergency Alert System radio or television stations for further information. Images: NJ.com / RCS Systems (3/6/11)

Post - Fukishima re-think on reactor housing

Jeremy Boren, reporting for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, brings us this. Before Fukushima showed the world what a powerful earthquake and tsunami could do to a nuclear reactor, Westinghouse Electric Co.'s AP1000 reactor housing spent months being rocked by powerful tremors.

Hydraulic rams in a 14-acre Purdue University laboratory pummelled huge chunks of the reactor's shield building walls. The 3 feet of concrete sandwiched between steel plates form a wall that Westinghouse executives believe would enable the "advanced passive" plant to withstand a tornado, earthquake or airliner crash under federal requirements established after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

All the testing will take a step toward passing federal muster this week.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is set to stop accepting public comments on the 1,117-megawatt reactor design that weathered a decade of scrutiny and persuaded six U.S. utilities to include it in the first plants built since 1979, when the Three Mile Island accident effectively halted nuclear power plant construction.

The NRC could vote on final approval by late summer. If approved, the AP1000 could bring much-needed capacity to electricity utilities in Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. One megawatt can power about 800 homes, depending on electricity use, meaning each AP1000 could power more than 893,000 homes.(9/5/11)

Images: Politics Forum / Power Technology (Westinghouse)

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Was that a tornado whizzing by??

Our thanks to Mike Harrison, reporting for Bloomberg for this little non-event gem.

Dominion Resources Inc. said an apparent tornado resulted in a power cut at the Surry Power Station, which caused both reactors at the station to shut down automatically.

“No release of radioactive material has occurred beyond those minor releases associated with normal station operations,” the company said in a statement today. “The apparent tornado did not strike the two nuclear units, which are designed to withstand natural events such as tornados, hurricanes and earthquakes.”

There were no injuries at the site and the company is working to complete restoration of electrical service to the station, it said.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been notified “of this unusual situation,” according to the statement. (18/4/11) Images: Nuclear Tourist / Daily Mail

"Timber!!" Hanford chimneys hit the deck

Whitney Ward finds time to file this story for KEPR TV’s web site prior to donning a hard hat in preparation for some demolition work.

Last Friday two 250-foot exhaust chimneys from the 200 East Area at Hanford came crumbling to the ground. "It was well-planned, well-conducted," says Kurt Kehler, of CH2M Hill, which is coordinating Hanford demolition. "Everybody knew their jobs. Everybody knew their positions, and performed as expected. It's what we try to do every day."

Officials say it was the best use of U$1.6 million in federal stimulus money and that getting rid of these buildings now means reducing mortgage, surveillance, and maintenance costs later down the road.

"Funding has been key to helping us accomplish the 2015 vision," says Kehler. "There's no way we could have supported that vision without it, from shrinking the areas, taking the buildings down, and going after the nuclear facilities."

As work continues to eventually clear the site completely, they say this project kept thousands of people at work, and is keeping the final clean up plans ahead of schedule. But the work is far from finished. The explosive demolition makes way for traditional clearing of the two powerhouses themselves, which should be complete by the end of the year.(11/3/11) Images: KEPR tv / Davidson College

So what're we going to do with this giant plug??

Found courtesy of Scandinavian Oil Gas. Water jet contractor AK Services made history recently by cutting the largest-ever access hole in an active U.S. Department of Energy radioactive waste storage tank at the DOE’s Hanford Site in south eastern Washington. The Boston-area water jet contractor cut a 55-inch diameter hole in the top of the underground tank to allow for the installation of a robotic system that will remove 247,000 gallons of radioactive and chemical waste stored in the tank during the Manhattan Project and Cold War so it can be vitrified for safer storage.

The finished cut is the culmination of more than a year of careful planning and preparation by AK Services and Hanford Site Tank Farms prime contractor Washington River Protection Solutions to ensure worker safety and protection of the environment, said Kent Smith, WRPS deputy manager of retrieval and closure operations.

AK Services spent a year developing the water jet cutting system for the project and testing different abrasives to get consistent data for rate of advance and garnet usage, said Carl Franson, AK Services vice president of operations.

“The motion device had to be specially developed to secure itself inside a 75-inch steel riser and cut a 55-inch hole,” Franson explained. “We also needed to be able to level the motion device to make sure it did not drag the abrasive jet focusing tubes on the concrete surface.”

After the concrete plug was lifted from the tank, it was immediately wrapped in a plastic sleeve to prevent spread of contamination and then was placed in an isolated area where it is being staged.  (14/2/11) Images: Scandinavian Oil Gas / Gifts & Experiences

D'ya think this siren will be big enough for the latest test ??

We start the week with one of our ever-helpful public service announcements, thanks to our friend Frank Munger reporting for the Knoxville News Sentinel – thanks, Frank, if you’re reading this!

On Feb. 2, the Dept. of Energy will stage its monthly test of the emergency warning system in Oak Ridge, with sirens sounding at Oak Ridge National Lab, the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant, and the East Tennessee Technology Park.

The sirens will be tested between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. The sirens are supposed to provide immediate notification of an emergency to people within a two-mile radius of the government's Oak Ridge reservation.

"In the event of an actual emergency, the sirens will be sounded. When citizens hear the sirens, they should go inside, close all windows and ventilation systems, and listen to radio or television for public health and safety-related information," DOE said. (31/1/11) Images: R C Systems / anythingradioactive

 

Somebody please sort out Yucca storage - we're running out of room here!

Greg Phillips, reporting for the Dothan Eagle, casts his eye over some storage problems.

Southern Nuclear, the company that operates Farley Nuclear Plant in Houston County, wants the federal government to make good on a decades-old promise to create a centralized nuclear waste storage facility.

Southern Nuclear Chairman Jim Miller told members of the Blue Ribbon Commission on American's Nuclear Future at a hearing last week that the government needs to go ahead with plans to construct a repository for spent nuclear fuel in Nevada. Currently, nuclear plants such as Farley store all used fuel on-site in dry cask storage facilities, which are above-ground containers made of reinforced steel.

While Southern Nuclear Communications Supervisor Amoi Geter said Farley and the company's other plants are capable of storing fuel well past the plants' life spans, she said the government agreed to take responsibility for energy disposal in the 1982 bill.

Farley currently uses 12 containers at Plant Farley. As of 2006, they had about 1,000 metric tons of nuclear waste, which is about 2,200,000 pounds. (21/1/11) Images: US NRC / US Nuclear Energy Foundation

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USEC decides on extension - maybe include uranium enrichment?

Found on the pages of the Chillcothe Gazette recently. A recent announcement that USEC Inc. is trying to extend the operations of its Paducah, Kentucky, Gaseous Diffusion Plant should have relatively little impact on company operations in Piketon.

USEC said it should have a decision sometime the first half of this year whether it will extend the operations of the Kentucky facility beyond May 2012. The company is in active negotiations with the Tennessee Valley Authority and others concerning the plant's electric costs, which will be a key factor in whether it is economically feasible to keep the plant operating.

The company also is exploring the possibility of re-enriching a portion of the Department of Energy's stockpile of depleted uranium. With the current market price of uranium, USEC thinks the federal government could see a large revenue boost through re-enrichment. That revenue could then, in turn, help reduce the Department of Energy's costs of disposing depleted uranium and would create natural uranium that, the company indicates, could help generate money to help fund environmental cleanup activities in Piketon and Paducah.

"Re-enrichment would reduce DOE's decontamination and decommissioning costs while generating revenue for the federal government and maintaining 1,200 good, local jobs," said Steve Penrod, Paducah plant general manager and USEC vice president.

Low-enriched uranium is sold for fuel in commercial nuclear power plants across the country and world.(17/1/11) Images: US Dept of Energy / Boing Boing

So many secrets, so little time...

Found recently on the pages of the Los Angeles Times.

Lawyers for a New Mexico physicist, who is accused of trying to help Venezuela develop a nuclear weapon, have received security clearances and can begin to review documents after agreeing with prosecutors on a deal to share unclassified material.

Attorney Amy Sirignano, representing former Los Alamos National Laboratory physicist Pedro Leonardo Mascheroni, says the clearances were issued Thursday.

Pedro Leonardo Mascheroni and his wife, Marjorie Roxby Mascheroni, are accused of offering to help develop a nuclear weapon for Venezuela through dealings with an undercover FBI agent, who was posing as a representative of the Venezuelan government.

Both defendants have pleaded not guilty. (
10/1/11)
Images: Statesman / Santa Fe. New Mexican

Egypt gets set for first nuclear power station.

The following was found on the pages of Al-Masry Al-Youm, courtesy of Mansour Kamel, and translated from the original Arabic edition.

Cabinet speaker Magdy Radi this week quoted Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif as saying that Egypt would receive bids for the construction of the country’s first nuclear power station--to be built in the coastal Al-Dabaa region--before the end of December.

He added that the Ministry of Electricity was currently in the process of finalizing technical specifications for the bids in collaboration with the consulting firm that is managing the project.

Radi also said that the prime minister had discussed the projected cost of the station, as well as possible sources of alternative funding. Electricity Minister Hassan Younis, for his part, said that construction of the station would take up to seven years.(15/12/10) Images: AFP / All Voices

I'll 'bank', please, Warren - uranium fuel bank plan gets closer

Mary Beth Sheridan writing for the Washington Post brings us this.

 After years of debate and a fundraising campaign launched by investor Warren Buffett, the U.N. atomic agency decided last Friday to set up a $150 million
uranium fuel "bank" aimed at slowing the spread of dangerous nuclear material around the globe. The idea of such a bank has been floated for decades, but the concept took on new urgency with the development of Iran's nuclear program and the recent explosion of interest in nuclear energy.

The bank would guarantee the sale of fuel for countries' nuclear power plants, theoretically eliminating their need to develop it themselves. The same centrifuges used to prepare uranium for power plants can also be used to enrich it to higher, weapons-grade levels.

"This is a breakthrough in global cooperation to enable peaceful uses of nuclear energy while reducing the risks of proliferation and catastrophic terrorism," said former U.S. senator Sam Nunn, co-chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a private group that played a key role in getting the bank off the ground.

Although more guarded, academic experts said the bank was a positive step at a time of rising fears of nuclear proliferation.(10/12/10)

Litvinenko poisoning plot resurfaces

The Voice of Russia digs up a bit of history for you, plus: even we got caught up in this one – honest:  serious crime squad came a-knocking at our door!

The representative of Russia’s state nuclear energy corporation Rosatom has denied the assumptions of the British media that ex-officer of the Russian Security Service Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned with the polonium originated from Russia, the Interfax news agency reports.

The Sunday Times wrote recently that the Russian security services had received 3.4 kg of radioactive material (polonium-210) - example shown right - from the Balakovo Nuclear power plant in the Volga region. The representative of Rosatom stressed that polonium has not been produced in such quantities in Russia for a long time and it is impossible to produce it on the Balakovo plant.(24/11/10)

We're going to run this story, dagnabitt!!

Rob Edwards, reporting for a recent addition of the Herald Scotland trains his binoculars on our nuclear fleet.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been accused of a “catalogue of blunders” after admitting there have been 16 crashes involving British nuclear-powered submarines since 1988. More than half of the accidents were in seas around Scotland. According to critics, the repeated errors that caused the accidents suggest that the MoD has failed to learn from past mistakes. A serious incident in the future could cause radioactivity to leak and put public health at risk, they warn.

The Royal Navy’s newest nuclear submarine, HMS Astute, is being repaired at the Faslane naval base on the Clyde after it ran aground for 10 hours near the Skye Bridge on October 22. It emerged last week that one of the boat’s fins was damaged in a collision with a tug trying to rescue it.

The list of accidents came in a parliamentary answer to the Scottish Nationalist defence spokesman, Angus Robertson MP. In addition to HMS Astute last month, it included eight other accidents in Scottish waters. Two were around Skye, one near Lewis, and one in the Firth of Clyde. Another occurred in the North Channel off the south-west coast and two in unspecified places “west of Scotland”.

“The incident involving HMS Astute was clearly not a one-off, and the MoD must explain why previous groundings have not been made public,” said Mr Robertson. “One collision is one too many – especially when it involves a submarine with a nuclear reactor. This catalogue of blunders makes the MoD look even more shambolic, and leaves the credibility of the nuclear deterrent in tatters.”

An independent expert on nuclear submarine safety, John Large, argued that the number of accidents is increasing, and the possible hazards growing. He called on the Royal Navy to review its navigational training.(19/11/10)

Images: Herald Scotland / Naval Technology

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Hands up, or else! Scanner bother with US pilots union

We were going to run a different story today, but this is miles better, thanks to Steve Watson’s recent report for the pages of Infowars. Here is just a small part of his report.

The largest independent union of airline pilots in the world is urging its members to boycott body imaging machines currently being rolled out in airports all over the globe, citing dangers of excessive exposure to harmful levels of radiation during the screening process.

The president of the Allied Pilots Association, which represents 11,500 pilots, many of whom work for American Airlines, has urged members of the union to revolt against the devices. Captain Dave Bates asks that members be aware “that there are ‘backscatter’ AIT devices now being deployed that produce ionising radiation, which could be harmful to your health.” The move follows the detention and suspension of an American pilot who refused to be scanned.

Captain Bates suggests that pilots refrain from being put through the scanners and if necessary opt for a pat down by TSA officials instead. “We already experience significantly higher radiation exposure than most other occupations, and there is mounting evidence of higher-than-average cancer rates as a consequence.” Bates’ letter states.

In the U.S., travellers can refuse the body scanner and opt for the pat down, however, this option is not offered by the TSA; rather the traveller must declare that they wish to “opt out”.

A recent report describes the humiliating turn of events should airline passengers exercise this right, with individuals being singled out and prodded, probed and poked by TSA agents in front of everyone else queuing in the security lines. New pat down procedures have recently been instituted by the TSA, allowing agents to use their fingers and the palms of their hands to feel around breasts and genitalia. Previously agents were instructed to brush the backs of their hands against these areas.

“Travellers are being asked to choose between being scanned ‘naked’ and exposed to radiation, or getting what people are describing as just a highly invasive search by hands of their entire bodies.” Chris Ott, a spokesman for the ACLU of Massachusetts, said.

People travelling out of the UK and other areas of Europe don’t even get the choice – they are forced to go through the scanner if asked and cannot refuse or they are banned from travelling.(12/11/10)

No place to go? Well, that's not quite true...

Yet another tale of nuclear waste on the move this week, thanks to the Las Vegas Journal.  A shipment of 9,400 drums of depleted uranium oxide could be headed to Nevada.

The U.S. Department of Energy is considering a plan to send the radioactive waste from the Savannah River cleanup site in South Carolina to the Nevada National Security Site, formerly known as the Nevada Test Site, state officials said.

"We didn't request for the waste to come here. That's DOE's decision about where to send it," said Vinson Guthreau, spokesman for the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection.

DOE spokeswoman Jen Stutsman said her agency is considering its options for disposal of the waste but hasn't reached a decision. She declined to identify specific sites under consideration. The Nevada site has long accepted low-level waste from around the country.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported that the first of three planned shipments of depleted uranium from South Carolina was sent to EnergySolutions landfill in Clive, Utah, in December. That shipment involved more than 5,400 drums of the waste.(22/10/10)

So what you're saying is we've got to share our nuke facilities with the French...Hmm

Rosa Prince and The Daily Telegraph try out the old entente cordiale with one you may have missed last week.  

At a summit due to take place in three weeks’ time, British ministers will discuss with their French counterparts a plan under which the two European Union nations would share nuclear testing facilities.

The proposal would almost certainly involve technology from Britain’s 160 nuclear warheads being tested in a laboratory based in France. Under a convention in place since the Cold War, the UK is forbidden from sharing its nuclear secrets with another country – this is because the British Trident missile is based on American technology.

Ministry of Defence sources stressed however that the use of the French testing facility the Commissariat a l’Energie Atomique, would not involve the sharing of warheads or technology.

The plan would save the Government significant sums, because although the French would be paid for the use of the testing site, the MoD would be spared the much greater expense of building its own facility. British officials are understood to have consulted with the US about the move. A source told the Financial Times: “If we don’t share some of these capabilities we will lose them. But making progress is easier now than it was. France is in Nato and many of the issues that divided us in the past – such as the Iraq war – have now disappeared.” (13/10/10)

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Russia intends shutting down uranium graphite reactors - okay...

Found on the pages of Industrial Fuel and Power recently.

Russian nuclear scientists intend to shut down its uranium-graphite reactors on a large scale. To facilitate the operation, an experimental demonstration centre has been opened at the reactor plant of the Siberian Chemical Complex with an eye of providing the service on a commercial basis.

“We have opened an experimental demonstration centre and have created a technology lending itself to mass production. We would like to use it at power plants where the reactors are being shut down or are planned to be shut down. We stopped the first reactors in 1991, two latest were closed in 2008,” Oleg Boyarinov, the director of the new centre said.

Although the problem is not confined to Russia alone – there are a considerable number of this type of reactor across the world – there is no foreign experience to speak off, according to Boyarinov. “It is important to understand the economy of the process of disposing of reactors. The methods we used in the past and use now have a local character. No one in the market offers a comprehensive solution for retiring a reactor completely, solving the problem of the spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste. Now companies offer to do only part of the job,” he added.

Production of uranium-graphite reactors started in the 1950s to produce military plutonium and to generate heat and electric power. Uranium-graphite reactors formed the basis of the RBMK reactor, used at Chernobyl. However, this type of reactor has changed since the Chernobyl incident and is used at a number of Russian power plants. These include those of Leningradsky, Kursky and Smolensky, which will need to be shut down in a few years’ time. In addition, uranium-graphite reactors are operational in Bulgaria (Kozloduy) and Finland (Loviisa).(8/10/10)

D'you think that we've got enough space to store stuff till 2030?

We’ve not heard from our friend Annette Cary lately, so here’s an entry from the Tri-City Hearld we found this week. The first legal deadline for shipping plutonium-contaminated wastes from Hanford has been set under newly approved changes to the previous Tri-Party Agreement.

On Friday DOE, the Washington State Department of Ecology and the Environmental Protection Agency, announced an agreement had been signed following a public comment period. In a key change that resulted from comments, DOE will have to treat or ship transuranic waste - at Hanford typically debris contaminated with plutonium - by sometime in 2030.

But the date was moved up because current projections anticipate that the nation's repository for transuranic waste, the Waste Isolation Pilot Project in New Mexico, will stop accepting waste in late 2030. Work would then begin to close the repository.

The Tri-Party Agreement, which governs Hanford cleanup, had not previously had a deadline for shipping transuranic waste to the repository. In 1970 Congress said transuranic wastes must be sent to a national repository. But until the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, or WIPP, in New Mexico opened, the waste was buried for later retrieval.

The previous deadlines were set in 2003, but regulators last year agreed to consider extending them, depending on how much federal economic stimulus money Hanford would receive. Of the $1.96 billion coming to the Hanford nuclear reservation, about $1.3 billion is being spent by CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co., which does central Hanford and ground water cleanup.

What is being dug up varies widely, and officials have different sets of milestones for five types of waste groupings.(1/10/10)

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Mini nuclear reactors take one step closer, thanks to Hyperion

Yanmei Xie, reporting for Platts, brings us this.

Hyperion Power Generation has agreed to build a prototype mini-nuclear reactor at a US Department of Energy small modular reactor demonstration complex, officials said Thursday. (We brought you a similar story about Hyperion a while ago – see our Science Stuff pages – it’s there, just scroll down the page a bit!)

The company signed a memorandum of understanding with the Savannah River National Laboratory Thursday to build the first demonstration reactor at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

Hyperion is developing a 25-MW fast reactor that uses uranium nitride fuel and lead bismuth eutectic coolant. The parties aim to build an operational prototype by 2017 or 2018, said Mike Nevetta of Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, which operates the Savannah River Site.

Savannah River Nuclear Solutions is talking with five or six other companies about building prototypes at the complex "in which manufacturers of small reactors can come and prove their technologies," said Nevetta. He added that all the demo designs will use "plutonium, high-enriched uranium and spent fuel," which means light water models will be excluded.(17/9/10)

Entergy's got $510m plans for an extension - sounds reasonable...

Found on Nuclear Street and edited by Chris Reed.

According to ClarionLedger.com, Entergy Mississippi this month will present its plans for a $510 million expansion of the Grand Gulf nuclear plant to federal regulators. If approved, Grand Gulf would make it the largest single-reactor nuclear plant in the US.

With approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the utility would increase the plant's output from 1,265 megawatts to 1,443 - a 13 percent increase, Entergy officials said.

After the upgrade, Grand Gulf will be able to produce enough electricity to power an additional 53,000 homes for the life of the plant. The average home uses about 1,000 Kw-h per month, company spokeswoman Mara Hartmann said.

The upgrade is scheduled for February 2012 during regular maintenance outages, pending federal approval. Entergy expects it will take at least a few weeks, but has no definitive timetable for the expansion.

The Mississippi Public Service Commission already has backed the effort, but federal approval is needed before work can start. (8/9/10)

I swear that those packages were delivered - I just can't find them!

We have to say a big ‘Thank You’ to Christian Davenport reporting for the Washington Post for this report of carelessness.

Two packages of radioactive material sat under a counter in the main lobby of Walter Reed Army Medical Centre for 44 hours, possibly exposing patients and staff to elevated radiation, according to an investigation by federal regulators.

The packages were delivered May 1 to the hospital's concierge, who stored them under the counter, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The intended recipient, the hospital's administrative officer, didn't locate the package until the next Monday, two days later. An NRC spokesman said that the agency is not aware of anyone being harmed.

The administrative officer noticed that the medical center had not received the expected delivery and unsuccessfully tried to find it, according to an NRC spokesman. On May 3, the next workday, hospital officials continued their search and found the package at the concierge desk.

Chuck Dasey, a spokesman for Walter Reed, said there are no reports of illnesses or adverse effects from the exposure. He said hospital officials will attend the hearing and "provide information on Walter Reed's radiation safety and nuclear medicine programs and the mitigation measures taken since the incident occurred in May." He declined to comment further.(27/8/10)

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Progress Energy gets a step closer to new nuke build in Levy County

Fred Hiers, writing for Ocala.com brings us up to speed down in Levy County, Florida. Progress Energy was granted another step toward making its proposed nuclear power plant in Levy County a reality after government regulatory staff last week tentatively recommended allowing the utility giant to move forward with the project.

As part of a 1,500-page Draft Environmental Impact Statement, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's staff predicted the 3,100-acre facility's impact would not be significant and recommended granting Progress Energy a combined construction permit and operating license or combined license (COL).

The NRC will hold a public meeting from 1:30-4:30 p.m. and 7-10 p.m. Sept. 23 at the Plantation Inn, 9301 West Fort Island Trail, Crystal River, to discuss the impact statement and hear from the public.

There are 65,000 Progress Energy customers in Marion County. The proposed plant would be about 30 miles west of Ocala. The study is designed to determine whether the proposed plant meets environmental standards set by the NRC, said NRC spokesman Scott Burnell. He continued; "None of the environmental impacts were large enough or severe enough to suggest there is a reason not to issue a (COL). The basic approach is that if the requirements are met, they get the license."

If the NRC follows the Draft EIS recommendation and grants Progress Energy its COL, Burnell said it would  mean the utility could start building the nuclear plant.(20/8/10)

How boar-ing - we're off the menu in Bavaria!

They say you should save the best til last – well we have.

Thanks to those nice people at Google/AFP for this little gem we found for you. Radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster is still poisoning Germany's boars nearly 25 years on, with authorities fighting to keep toxic meat off the market as the wild boar population rockets. The boars feed off mushrooms, truffles and wild berries which still contain high levels of caesium-137, carried in the radioactive cloud that spread across Europe following the 1986 accident at the Ukrainian nuclear plant.

"In some regions, especially in the south, the radioactivity found in boars is 10 times higher than normal," Florian Emrich, spokesman for the Federal Agency for the Protection Against Radioactivity, said on Saturday. He continued:  "No one has fallen seriously ill after eating boar meat," but all boar hunters in high-risk areas must have their game tested for radioactive contamination before it can go on sale on market stalls.

According to the Bavarian health and food safety, nine of the 56 boars analysed last year showed contamination well above the allowed level of 600 becquerels per kilogram of meat, with some as much as twice the limit. In southern Bavaria, some porcini and girolles mushrooms contained caesium levels of several hundred becquerels per kilo last year, while blueberries and cranberries contained up to 100 becquerels, official figures show.(13/8/10)

After we'd stopped laughing, we thought we'd bring you this...

Our thanks go to Joseph M. Dougherty and the Desert News for this gem. Honestly, you couldn’t make it up...

Utah's congressional delegation has asked Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to appeal a recent judicial decision that could bring a new solicitation for a right of way and a lease from a consortium that wants to build above-ground storage for spent nuclear fuel near the Utah Test and Training Range.

The letter, signed by all five members of Utah's delegation, states that the Interior Department acted appropriately in its fiduciary duties by completing a thorough review of the proposed project.

"We strongly believe that the court's decision was unwarranted," the delegation states. The proposed site, they say, is just too dangerous. "It should also be noted the (Utah Test and Training Range) is the Air Force's only cruise missile test range and is one of only two Air Combat Command-approved Joint Direct Attack Munition ranges," the letter says. "In fact, the site is directly over a preferred access route for aircraft traveling from Hill Air Force Base."

The letter cites instances of several military aircraft crashes within sight of the proposed site. "The delegation believes this is particularly relevant since approximately 80 percent of Utah's population lives within 50 miles of the (proposed) site," the letter says.(2/8/10)

Dover scare as recovering cancer patient checks out

This made us smile today, thanks to The Daily Mail’s web pages. A cancer patient recovering from radiation therapy sparked a bomb alert as he drove off a Norfolkline ferry (right) at Dover last week .Officials checking for radioactive material stopped Peter Davies, 60, after he set off radiation detectors.They allowed him through only after he was able to produce a letter detailing the treatment he'd received for thyroid cancer. A fortnight earlier he'd been given a radioactive isotope called Iodine 131 by doctors at St Bartholomew's Hospital, London.

UK Border Agency officials told him it was the first time they'd stopped anyone under such circumstances. He was given 2.8 gigabecquerels of radioisotope at St Bartholomew's Hospital in London. The safe limit to be allowed back into the community is 800 megabecquerels, and he was down to 400 when he left hospital.

Vehicles, freight and passengers entering the UK are all screened. The equipment is designed to detect radiological emissions, and can be triggered by legitimate sources of radiation. This could include items like ceramics, cement or fertiliser which contain naturally occurring radiological materials or, as in this case, certain medical treatments.(19/7/10)

511 inspection failures? Not good, Chugoku...

Found on the pages of the Japan Times. The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency has assigned the lowest grade to the No. 1 and 2 reactors at Chugoku Electric Power Co.'s nuclear power plant in Shimane Prefecture due to the discovery of numerous inspection failures, sources said Thursday. The agency will issue a stern warning to Chugoku Electric and order the Hiroshima-based utility to include measures to prevent a recurrence of the problem in its safety regulations for nuclear power plants.

The agency has already released its evaluations on all but the two Chugoku Electric reactors that were found in March to have 511 inspection failures or devices that needed to be replaced. Agency inspectors also found more than 1,000 cases where results did not meet the levels set out in inspection plans.

The agency assigned the lowest grade of 1 only to the two reactors at Chugoku Electric's Shimane plant as they have "greatly ruined trust in nuclear power generation." Finding "unacceptable" problems at the reactors, the agency also concluded that their maintenance and management system has "grave defects," the sources said.

How can you misidentify a town with a 'fish advisory' during safety test...?

Michael Miller brings us this sorry tale via the pages of Press of Atlantic City, that should really be under Just Plain Silly...

The state misidentified a town in a public announcement during a drill at the Salem nuclear power plant, the Office of Emergency Management said Thursday.

The mistake and a delay in getting instructions out to the public mean the state will have to conduct a second drill in July. The drill tested the state's response to a nuclear disaster May 18. In a mock public notice, the state misidentified a town that was subject to a fish advisory, officials said.

The state also took 62 minutes to make all the necessary preparations to direct the public to evacuate, take shelter or consume potassium iodide pills in response to the nuclear accident. The Federal Emergency Management Agency said the directions should have been issued within 45 to 50 minutes.

Everything else in the biannual drill went smoothly, state officials said.(28/6/10)

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Nuclear navy argy-bargy down Argentinia way

Our good friends at World Nuclear News are all at sea in Argentina for this one.

The Ministry of Defence in Argentina has said it is reviewing the idea of using nuclear reactors to power some of its naval vessels. Minister Nilda Garre announced the possibility, saying that the country wants to maintain its level of scientific, industrial and technological skills. She said that Argentina did not want to be left out of nuclear propulsion technology.

As well as four diesel-electric submarines, the larger ships of the Argentine navy include a command vessel with power needs of about 40 MW, a large destroyer with about 37 MW and four smaller destroyers with needs of about 27 MW each. 

One potential supplier of reactors to meet these kinds of requirements would be the nuclear technology firm Invap, which has exported several research reactors and developed the Carem power plant design. The company confirmed to World Nuclear News that the Ministry of Defense is evaluating whether the technical resources are available for Argentina to develop its own nuclear propulsion units, adding that references to any Invap involvement were speculative.(25/6/10)

U$28m on way to Brookhaven for dismantling graphite reactor

Jennifer Gustavson, reporting for the North Shore Sun, reports on the work going on at Brookhaven Reactor. Congressman Tim Bishop met with representatives of the Department Energy last Tuesday at Brookhaven National Laboratory to announce that the lab will receive an additional U$28 million in Recovery Act funding to complete the dismantling of the Brookhaven Graphite Research Reactor by this fall.

The remaining steps include the removal of a 300-foot stack at the site and a concrete shield that once surrounded the reactor's core, already removed. Also to be dismantled are concrete air ducts, equipment from an associated ventilation building and exhaust filters, and other contaminated pipes and structures.

The reactor, which was in use from 1950 to 1968, was "the world's first reactor designed and built solely for peaceful uses of atoms," according to BNL, After 18 years of service, the reactor was shut down because it "no longer provided the high neutron flux levels preferred by researchers."

"Today, we're accelerating a significant milestone in the environmental restoration of Brookhaven National Laboratory," said Daniel Poneman, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy on Tuesday. "Thanks to Recovery Act funding designated for the Brookhaven Graphite Research Reactor decommissioning, the Department of Energy and BNL were able to accelerate and complete the most difficult part of the decommissioning process." (11/6/10)

Now this screen here is for all your on-line shopping...

Thanks to the pages of Vietnam Net for this story that may have passed you by. Ten universities and institutes will be allowed to train human resources for Vietnam’s first nuclear power plants, stated Institute for Atomic Energy of Vietnam Director Vuong Huu Tan.

According to the Ministry of Education and Training plan, seven universities and institutes will do this job, including Hanoi University of Technology, Da Lat University, Electricity University, Institute for Atomic Energy of Vietnam (under the Ministry of Science and Technology), Physics Institute (under the National Institute for Science and Technology), Hanoi and HCM City University for Natural Sciences.

 

Other universities like Hanoi Industry University, HCM City Industry University and HCM City University of Technology also asked to offer nuclear technology training, added Tan. The Russian partner will assist Vietnam to train employees for the nuclear power plants. Forty people have been sent to Russia for training and others will be trained in France, the US and Japan.

 

Vietnam will need an estimated 2400 staff who are university graduates to operate the Ninh Thuan 1 and 2 plants. Meanwhile, MoET’s survey in 2008 showed that Vietnam had only 505 experts of nuclear technology, who worked at the Vietnam Institute for Atomic Energy, the Agency for Radiation and Nuclear Safety under the Ministry of Science and Technology, Hanoi University of Technology, Da Lat University, Electricity University and Hanoi and HCM City Universities for Natural Sciences.(4/6/10)

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It's looking a little damp at Prairie Island - best put your wellies on!

Eric Ludy, writing for the pages of the Republican Eagle, dons his wellies for a visit to Prairie Island Nuclear plant.

Prairie Island Nuclear plant operators knew of the potential for flooding in the plant's Unit 1 and Unit 2 turbine buildings, but failed to understand the implications on important safety-related equipment, according to a preliminary finding submitted to the plant Thursday by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The failure to identify and correct the potential safety issues in a timely manner is a significant human performance issue and cause for further review by the agency, according to NRC inspectors. Plant officials have 10 days to respond to the findings before the NRC decides whether to take enforcement action

The agency's preliminary findings are tied to a 2009 violation of low to moderate safety significance - called a "White finding" - involving the facility's failure to provide adequate protection of piping against natural events such as tornadoes and earthquakes. Later, when plant operators were evaluating piping in the turbine building for similar issues, they found that a rupture of piping caused by a natural event could result in the flooding of the building.

Once it receives a response, the NRC will conduct a final evaluation of the issue; at that point the agency will determine whether to flag the plant with a violation of "greater than very low safety significance," and what enforcement actions, if any, to take.(31/5/10)

Be there,or be square...

Just to prove that we at anythingradioactive are on the ball, the following notice was found on the pages of Toledo Blade, Ohio. (It’s a slow news day, too..)

Port Clinton, Ohio: A June 3 meeting has been set for the public to hear what federal regulators have learned about the premature aging of Davis-Besse’s nuclear reactor head, a massive device which had flaws detected in 24 of the 69 metal nozzles after only six years of operation. Reactor heads are expected to last decades.

The meeting will be at 6 p.m. in Building 600 of the Camp Perry Lodging & Conference Center, 1000 Lawrence Rd. The camp is west of Port Clinton and east of the plant. Those attending are subject to vehicle checks by Ohio National Guard personnel.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said a toll-free audio teleconference is being established for those who cannot attend. For details, go to www.nrc.gov or call 1-800-368-5642.(21/5/10)

You missed how many items in this inspection? 506 items missed in Chugoku check

The Manichi Daily Times reports that the Chugoku Electric Power Co. in Japan has neglected to perform regular inspections on a total of 506 items of equipment at two of the three reactors at its nuclear power plant in the western Japan city of Matsue, Shimane Prefecture.

Chugoku Electric, one of Japan's 10 regional power utility firms, filed an interim report that revealed the updated extent of the negligence with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and the Matsue municipal and Shimane prefectural governments the same day. The company initially announced in March that the number of such items was 123.

Chugoku Electric President Takashi Yamashita handed the report to Senior Vice Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Teruhiko Mashiko and offered an apology for seriously damaging public trust in nuclear power generation.

Following an instruction from the economy ministry and the ministry's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency in late March, Chugoku Electric conducted full checks on about 35,000 pieces of equipment at each of the two reactors, the report said.

The checks found that the company has neglected to regularly inspect 347 items at the No. 1 reactor and 159 at the No. 2 reactor at the plant located along the Sea of Japan coast. On Friday, Chugoku Electric revised the initially reported figure of 123 to 122, which is included in the latest total of 506. In addition, the company has found 1,159 other items that would not have been properly checked had the situation about its inspection program not been improved by the time the checking deadlines elapse for these items.(5/5/10)

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Georgia accuses Russia in bid to crack down on uranium smuggling

Desmond Butler files this report on behalf of The Associated Press.

Georgia's president Mikhail Saakashvili said his country had seized a shipment of highly enriched uranium, blaming Russia for creating the instability that allows nuclear smugglers to operate in the region. Russia dismissed the claims Thursday and said Georgian President’s comments were "unsubstantiated" and amounted to propaganda.

Saakashvili gave few details of the seizure during an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press, saying only that the uranium was intercepted last month coming into his country in the Caucasus region of southeast Europe.

The Georgian Interior Ministry said a group of foreign nationals had been detained, and the uranium was in a secure location. The head of Georgia's nuclear safety agency, Zaal Lomatadze, said that the "organized group of people tried to smuggle in a small amount of enriched uranium with the purpose of selling it to a would-be buyer."

He said Georgia had registered such smuggling "attempts" involving Russian citizens as well as people from the breakaway Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russia's Foreign Ministry rejected the Georgian claims outright.

"It's not serious to make such unsubstantiated statements," ministry spokesman Igor Lyakin-Frolov told The Associated Press in Moscow. "(Saakashvili) must be fully honest in saying where and when it happened, instead of using it for political purposes and propaganda."(26/4/10)

Victims of radioactive exposure still critical

The Hindu brings us up to date with the recent incident in New Delhi. The condition of all six persons exposed to radioactive material at a scrap market in the Capital's Mayapuri area continued to be highly critical on Saturday with doctors suspecting extensive damage to their bone marrow, making them severely susceptible to infections.

Deepak Jain, who is admitted to Indraprashtha Apollo Hospital, is reported to be “very critical” and his treatment is being managed in consultation with senior Bhabha Atomic Research Centre officials.  “Deepak is being treated for severe burns and his bone marrow is significantly suppressed. His condition is being closely monitored by a multi-disciplinary team of doctors,'' said a statement issued by the hospital.

“Deepak's body had turned black after he worked with the radioactive scrap. He lost time in having failed to identify the symptoms and take precautionary measures,'' said Dr. Kiran Walia. The police here are yet to ascertain the origin of the metal scrap containing radioactive cobalt-60 isotope that exposed at least six persons to radiation injuries.

The police are waiting to record the statement of the scrap shop owner, Deepak Jain, to find out the origin of the scrap consignment. They are also questioning other scrap dealers in Mayapuri.(12/4/10)

Bill's plan for small scale reactors revealed

Kirsten Korosec filed the following blog for BNET recently. Microsoft founder Bill Gates and TerraPower, the start-up company he’s backing, have a simple solution to our energy woes: Safe, small-scale nuclear reactors  that cut the cost of power, burn existing nuclear waste as fuel and avoid carbon dioxide and other nasty emissions.

Gates and TerraPower have been working on this idea for a while. But the start-up needs a commercial nuclear energy company to push its concept forward. The joint venture, if it materializes, will accelerate TerraPower’s plans to build the small-scale reactor.

The reactor uses a small amount of enriched uranium to kick off a chain reaction that moves slowly through a core of depleted uranium - i.e., waste from today’s nuclear plants - converting that spent fuel into plutonium that then sustains the reaction. In other words, once the reaction begins, it makes and consumes its own fuel;  theoretically for as long as 100 years, although no one’s likely to keep one on for that long. (29/3/10)

 

If you're going to Portland, Bill, just remember your pills

Laura Kitching and the Dorset Echo start taking the tablets...

A major nuclear disaster emergency plan is to be undertaken on Portland. Emergency planners will distribute specialist tablets to people that need to be taken in the event of a leak from a visiting nuclear submarine.

On Wednesday teams from the Royal Navy and Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) will exercise the distribution of potassium iodate tablets (PITs) to premises in the area around Portland Port. It is part of the Nuclear Accident Emergency Plan which is in place to react in the highly unlikely event of a nuclear accident occurring during the visit of a nuclear powered warship to the port.

Rubert Best, a former nuclear submarine captain who is a director of Portland Port, said: “It’s routine practice. There’s a system that needs to be exercised periodically and it’s perfectly normal, standard practice. The rules for these are all laid down by the nuclear safety committee – all ports have to be cleared for nuclear submarines. This process will have been cleared with Dorset County Council’s emergency planning officer.”

One important aspect of the plan is the delivery of PITs to members of the public who are within 1.5 kilometres of the port. Mr Best added: “These tablets basically give protection against one of the most common elements that sould be released in the event of a serious nuclear accident – which has never happened on any Royal Navy submarine.”(8/3/10)

What am I bid for this des res in Derbyshire?

Fancy a bit of bidding on eBay? Best be quick, though!  Thanks goes to the BBC web pages for this. A nuclear bunker and surrounding land in Derbyshire is expected to fetch up to £25,000 in an eBay auction.  The decommissioned cold war bunker, built in 1959 into a field in the Peak District, has attracted hundreds of hits.  The bunker has lighting and a phone line and can be used as living accommodation for short periods.   It is described by the seller as ‘a rare opportunity to acquire a valuable piece of Cold War History.’

The bunker was built as a master monitoring post by the Royal Observer Corps (ROC), amid the threat of nuclear attack, but decommissioned after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

It is accessed via a metal hatch and shaft, and a 15ft (4.57m) ladder leads to two rooms - one for a chemical toilet and the other, of 15ft x 7ft 6in (4.57m x 2.28m), for the monitoring equipment. Two ventilation shafts are built in and much of the original equipment is still in place. The seller added: "The bunker can continue to be used as limited living accommodation for short periods or adventure holidays. "ROC posts rarely come on to the market, especially in such well preserved condition." The auction ends on 7 March.(1/3/10)

UAE encourages students to join new nuclear programmes

Rania Moussly reporting for Gulf News brings us this.

An increasing demand for electricity in the UAE has sparked government plans to expand into the nuclear energy field. With the first of four nuclear power plants in the country set to come online in 2017, the drive to educate a new generation of Emiratis in the nuclear field is well under way.

The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC), which is developing the country's nuclear energy programme, has set up full scholarship programmes. It has also partnered with the Khalifa University of Science Technology and Research (KUSTAR), the Institute of Applied Technology (IAT) and the UAE's Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) to educate, train and recruit students of the finest calibre who will go on to drive this emerging industry forward.

Given the rapid growth of the UAE, and electricity demands set to increase by 9%, the UAE Government is looking into sources of clean energy to sustain the growth. The nuclear power plants are set to create jobs for engineers, technicians, operators and administrators, among others. The target is to have a workforce constituted of 60 per cent Emiratis by 2020.

"Renewable energy (wind and solar energy) will make up to 7% of UAE's energy production by 2020, while nuclear energy production will make up to 25 per cent by 2020," said a spokesman. “When the four nuclear power plants are completed they will provide up to 2,300 jobs," he added. (17/2/10)

Tritium found in groundwater in Vermont - you might want to fix that..

Anika Clark writing for the Sentinel Source in New Hampshire tries to find an elusive leak in Vermont. Much ado has been made about tritium lately, since Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant officials announced that the radioactive form of hydrogen has contaminated groundwater at its Vernon campus.

But several nuclear engineering professors contacted by The Sentinel said the levels reported at Vermont Yankee aren’t dangerous. The problem, some said, is that it’s leaking at all.

“Personally I wouldn’t panic over this,” said Howard L. Hall, a professor of nuclear engineering at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. But, “clearly there’s something leaking that’s not supposed to leak. ... You still want to go fix that.”

According to a fact sheet from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, "Exposure to very small amounts of ionizing radiation is thought to minimally increase the risk of developing cancer, and the risk increases as exposure increases.”

Vermont Yankee officials don’t yet know the source of the tritium leak or how much water was contaminated.  What they do know is this: In early January, groundwater contaminated with tritium was discovered at a monitoring well about 30 feet from the Connecticut River.

The tritium level was measured at 17,000 picocuries (units of radioactivity) per liter, or 3,000 picocuries below the drinking water limit set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
(3/2/10)

Possible 8 new reactors for West Bengal

This comes from the pages of ZeeNews in India. Russia hopes to build up to 8 nuclear reactors in West Bengal awarded to it to meet India's growing energy demands, a top atomic energy official said.

"The Government of India has taken a decision and has awarded us the new site at Haripur in West Bengal”, Chief of the State Nuclear Corporation - RosAtom Sergei Kiriyenko said.

RosAtom is currently building two nuclear power units at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu with the total capacity of 2000 MWe and is to build four more VVER-1000 reactor units under an agreement signed during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Moscow visit in December last.

According to earlier reports Moscow and New Delhi are keen to sign the deal for the additional nuclear power units during Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's visit in mid-March.
(27/1/10)

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How can you lose a nuclear gauge? Just ask the folks in Pennsylvania

The Post-Gazette in Pittsburgh has this for us. State police in Pennsylvania are searching for a missing nuclear gauge that officials caution could pose a threat if anyone tampers with the device and the radioactive material inside is released.

Jeff Zell Consultants Inc. has informed the state Department of Environmental Protection's Bureau of Radiation Protection that a nuclear density gauge is unaccounted for at its site in Coraopolis.

The nuclear gauge has a radioactive symbol on it. According to the DEP, any attempt to tamper with the device could subject the handler to potentially harmful levels of radiation exposure. The company that owns the gauge is offering a $1,000 reward to anyone with information that leads to its immediate return.

State police and authorities with DEP are searching for the gauge, which is about the size of a shoe box, with electronic controls and a metal rod extending from the top surface. It is a Humboldt Model 5001 EZ122 with the serial number 5375. Normally, the gauge is stored in a locked yellow transportation container when not in use at construction sites.

DEP investigators are inspecting the facility where it is usually stored and interviewing management and employees.(22/1/10)

Armed hunters shut-down Pantex Plant - don't worry, they are just after some ducks

Chris Baltimore, writing for Reuters, reports from Houston for this somewhat non-story – but it made us smile..

Officials at the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, which maintains the safety, security and reliability of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, ordered a lock-down at about 8 a.m. CST, plant officials said in a statement.

The plant is operated by Babcock and Wilcox for the U.S. Department of Energy, which oversees the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. Its nuclear stockpile was in no danger and the lock-down was purely precautionary, a state safety official said.

"There was not a threat to the Pantex plant assets, workers, or the public, and the plant is now returning to normal operations," the company said in a statement.

According to Carson County Sheriff Tam Terry, the plant was locked down because armed hunters were spotted on property adjacent to it." Somebody saw some armed individuals dressed in camouflage clothing exiting the vicinity of the plant.”

Sheriffs found a pair of hunters setting out duck decoys and building a blind on property near the plant, Terry said."They were very cooperative and compliant: We identified them. We checked their criminal history."(18/1/10)

Turn on and tune in for some official waffle from Vermont

This was picked up by John Dillon and heard on Vermont Public Radio last week.

(Host) A problem cropping up at nuclear plants around the country has occurred at Vermont Yankee. Plant technicians have discovered a radioactive isotope called tritium in a monitoring well on the Vernon reactor site.

Yankee spokesman Robert Williams says the plant is taking part in an industry-wide program to check for the isotope of hydrogen. Williams says the level is about half the amount that would be required to be reported to federal authorities. He says officials do not yet know where the radioactive isotope came from.

(Williams) This is an extremely low-level amount of tritium but since it's on our plant site we have established a technical team to identify the source of it. I don't have a timetable on that. But certainly the levels we're looking at are in no way a cause for concern for the health and safety of the public. (15/1/10)

Official notification concerning 'hot' money

This is from the official website of the US NRC and came to us via a roundabout route, so we pass this on to you in its entirity. 

OFFSITE NOTIFICATION DUE TO THE DISCOVERY OF CONTAMINATED DOLLAR BILLS

An individual entered the plant access and alarmed [the] portal radiation monitor. Upon investigation the individual's wallet contained three contaminated one dollar bills. The individual had processed out of similar monitors the previous day without indication of contamination. The three one dollar bills were surveyed and it was determined that they contained only I-131. The individual was interviewed and it was determined that the contaminated money was likely obtained at a local merchant. The individual is not aware of anyone undergoing iodine therapy. I-131 is used for therapy and diagnostic medical practices. The Corporate Health Physicist called the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, Radiological Health Division about the incident and location. The bills are contaminated above levels acceptable for the plant. The conclusion is that someone not associated with the power plant had iodine treatment, contaminated the bills, used them at the store and the individual received those bills as change.

"There is no reason to believe that contamination has any connection to the operation of power plant."

The licensee has notified the NRC Resident Inspector.
(11/1/10)

You're going to have to save up your cash for this to happen!

Indian Point and federal regulators have reached an agreement that will allow a reactor to sit dormant  - under monitoring - for as long as 50 years while its parent company accrues enough money to safely tear it down.

The agreement comes eight months after the Nuclear Regulatory Commission discovered a $38.6 million shortfall in the decommissioning trust fund for Indian Point's Unit 2.

Federal laws require Entergy, Indian Point's parent company, to show it would have enough money to shut down and dismantle the unit by the end of its life. Unit 2 is licensed until 2013, but Entergy is seeking a 20-year renewal.

Entergy's investment fund for decommissioning had fallen behind because of the slumping economy, company spokesman Jerry Nappi said. "Like any long-term investment, over the last year or 18 months the fund took a significant hit," Nappi said. He noted that the fund has rebounded over the past few months as the economy improves.

On Monday, the NRC announced it will allow Entergy to put Unit 2 in "safe storage" mode until 2063 while the company accumulates more money to safely tear it down, remove any contaminants and reclaim the land.(6/1/10)

Blame for leaked documents ranges far and wide

Back in the summer we ran a nugget concerning the leaking of sensitive documents regarding civilian nuclear sites. The Washington Post and Ed O’Keefe bring us the conclusion to this.

Five government agencies, the National Security Council and two congressional offices all share blame for the inadvertent publication of sensitive information regarding hundreds of civilian nuclear sites, government watchdogs concluded Wednesday.

Though the release of the information does not appear to have jeopardized national security, government officials agree that it should not have been published in June on the Web site of the Government Printing Office, the Government Accountability Office reported.

The draft declaration of U.S. nuclear facilities (which included locations for those that store enriched uranium and other materials for use in nuclear weapons) was meant to be seen by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) only, but it appeared for about a day on the GPO Web site. Reporters' inquiries prompted its removal, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ordered the Government Accountability Office to investigate.

The GAO report lays out in detail the mistakes made by the departments of Commerce, Energy and State, the GPO, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the National Security Council, and the House of Representatives' parliamentarian and clerk's office.

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Mandy sites South Yorkshire as new nuke site for Rolls Royce

Thanks to the Yorkshire Post for this one. South Yorkshire will be the site of a new Rolls-Royce civil nuclear factory, the government announced recently in a move expected to generate significant numbers of new jobs.  Business Secretary Lord Mandelson outlined the package of measures he said would provide "real help", including a new research centre in Sheffield and a multi-million pound upgrade of nuclear laboratories.

He also announced an additional £8 million to upgrade nuclear laboratories at Manchester University's Dalton Nuclear Institute as well as the creation of a nuclear low carbon economic area in the North West and Yorkshire.

He went on: "We know that we have to make the transition to a low carbon future, and the Government is determined to ensure that British businesses get the support they need to seize the business opportunities that transition creates. The civil nuclear sector is one of the key low carbon industries where the UK has the potential for job creation, economic growth and engineering and manufacturing excellence.”

The minister said the creation of a low carbon economic area would give a focus to investment, developments and skills support he believed would benefit companies across the UK. Tom Riordan, chief executive of Yorkshire Forward said: "The UK's nuclear programme is expected to create over 4,500 engineering jobs over the next 25 years and more than a £1bn a year to the industry.

Geiger Counter for your pillow, sir?

Our thanks to Terry Macalister and The Guardian for this little gem that made us smile here at anythingradioactive.

“Welcome to the Dounreay hotel, madam. You are booked into the Fast Breeder suite and breakfast will be served in the Radioactive Room."

An unlikely vision for an "atomic chic" hotel on the northern shores of Scotland? Probably. But it is one of a number of suggestions from the public about how the former atomic research station at Dounreay could be used. Others include a recreation centre and a tourist attraction although the company that runs it believes it might just end up as a heritage site.

"This has been such a major part of life for people in this part of the community that we have gone out to consultation to hear what locals might like to see happen here," said a spokeswoman for Dounreay Site Restoration, which is charged with dismantling it on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. "I cannot see Hilton hotels knocking on our door because much of the ground is contaminated and low level waste will be stored here in vaults."

The current management reports that further amounts of uranium have recently been found in "nooks and crannies" of inaccessible pipe-work. Any hotelier might need to leave a geiger counter on the pillow next to the chocolate.

Oz misses opportunity to sell uranium to India

This may have passed you by last week, so thanks to the Press Trust of India News site for this.

Back from India, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd faced flak from the opposition which said not selling uranium to New Delhi was a "colossal missed opportunity."

"We are the country with the largest reserve of uranium in the world and when we were in government we agreed in principal to sell uranium to India, subjecting very stringent safeguard," said the deputy opposition leader Julie Bishop.

"We were confident that Australian uranium would be used for peaceful purposes in India, particularly to expand their nuclear power generation programme," she added.

In an interview to a TV channel she said that Australia's loss would be Canada's gain as Ottawa appeared ready to fulfil the Indian demand for nuclear fuel.

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Vegas visitors authority not happy with planned nuke simulation

Alan Maimon, reporting for the Las Vegas Review Journal heads out into the desert for this one.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is urging federal homeland security officials to scrap plans to simulate a nuclear explosion in Las Vegas next May. Authority President and Chief Executive Officer Rossi Ralenkotter said the premise of an upcoming emergency preparedness drill would generate undue anxiety about visiting or conducting business in Las Vegas.

FEMA has been planning its 2010 “national level exercise” since last year. The simulation, which is designed to test the capabilities of first responders to catastrophic events, involves the response to a mock nuclear blast in Clark County. Nearly 10,000 local, state, and federal agents are expected to participate in the exercise.

“Our destination already receives a disproportionate amount of attention when the Department of Homeland Security releases even the most routine bulletin,” Ralenkotter said. “This exercise has the potential to escalate that attention and potentially harm our economy.”

Caithness workers could help out with new nuclear builds in UK

Thanks to the John O’Groat Journal for this. Caithness workers could benefit from the UK Government's plan to build 10 new nuclear power stations. Although none of these will be built in Scotland because Holyrood is against new nuclear builds, Far North Labour candidate John MacKay maintains that the skills in Caithness could be utilised in the manufacture, assembling, testing and refurbishment of components for this new civil nuclear market.

Ed Miliband, the energy and climate secretary, announced the plan last week and described nuclear energy as a "proven, reliable source of low-carbon energy". Up to 40 per cent of new energy provision could come from nuclear by 2025. He also reaffirmed the Government's target of 30 per cent of electricity generation from renewables by 2020.

How long did you say that fence will be? Don't tell me you can't see 12,000 feet of fence...

Do you fancy putting up a bit of fence? Before you answer that, perhaps you should read the following brought to us by Bob Audette and the Reformer. To further protect the reactor at Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant from those with hostile intent, a pair of 6,000-foot-long fences will be installed before the end of March 2010.

The new fences are a requirement of the NRC and will replace concrete blocks located about midway between the site boundary fence and a fence that surrounds the reactor building itself.

The new fence line will consist of an outer fence, an inner fence and a "dead man’s zone" in between the two. "The fences won’t be visible to our neighbours," said Larry Smith, Yankee’s director of communications.

Last week Vermont’s Public Service Board issued a CPG approving the new fences. The PSB concluded that the fence installation should not adversely affect river corridors, scenic highways and roads, scenic views or other scenic resources; although a number of trees will need to be cut down to make room for the new fences.

In 2000, Yankee received a yellow finding for a security problem: an anonymous source told the Reformer that Yankee received the finding because the concrete security barrier wasn’t adequate.

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US military uranium pollution makes Saudi nuke waste disposal difficult

Wael Mahdi, reporting recently for The National in The UAE, brings us this from Saudi Arabia.

As Saudi Arabia moves ahead with its civilian nuclear plan, concerns are rising in the Saudi parliament, the Shoura Council, over the ability of the country to dispose of nuclear waste: a recent report showed that up to 600 locations might already be polluted by depleted uranium used by the US military.

Members of the kingdom’s consultative council argued that the kingdom needs to allocate more funds to survey potential waste sites before embarking on its ambitious nuclear plan, which is designed to meet an increasing demand for electricity.

30 per cent of the 600 possibly US-polluted locations have been deemed polluted and the remainder still need to be surveyed. The US military disposed of nuclear waste in these locations during the Gulf War in 1990, the governmental report says. It also called for allocation of more funds to build a large fence to quarantine the polluted areas and to block off those parts of the kingdom where US forces were present and which still need to be surveyed – this survey would cost around 2.5 billion riyals (Dh2.45bn).

19 months with two mis-aligned switches? Okay, own up, who can't see straight??

Robert McDonald, reporting for the pages of the New Times in San Luis Obispo, CA, brings us this worrying report from Diablo Canyon.

Two switches had been misaligned for 19 months at the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, tests revealed last week. The error could have made it difficult for operators to cool the reactor had there had been a reactor emergency, a Nuclear Regulatory Commission official said.

Workers would have been forced to switch on the pump manually, a step that would have delayed the operation of the cooling pump during an emergency. The misaligned switches could have diminished the ability of the critical backup cooling system to replace coolant during a breach of the reactor vessel.

Emily Christensen Archer, plant spokesperson, said: “We take this issue very seriously and are currently working to determine the exact cause, as well as evaluate whether there are other issues associated with this incident.”

Officials say there are five other pumps available to cool the reactor during an emergency. Nuclear reactors must have a fully working coolant system to operate. If coolant lost during a reactor breach isn’t replaced, the radioactive core would overheat and melt down.

Rogue decorator at Seabrook causes level 4 violation alert - yes, really

Angeljean Chiaramida, writing for the The Daily News/Newburyport web pages, brings us this security alert story.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a Severity Level IV violation to the owners of the Seabrook nuclear power plant (NH) because a contract employee deliberately failed to report an arrest to his employer, violating the plant's physical security plan requirements.

According to NRC Public Affairs Officer Neil Sheehan, the individual in question was a painter with unescorted access privileges at the plant while working for Williams Plant Services, which is under contract with NextEra Energy Seabrook nuclear power plant. Williams is a general labour contractor, providing the plant with craftsmen.

The NRC Enforcement Policy describes a Severity Level IV violation as one that involves non-compliance with NRC requirements that are not considered significant based on risk. The NRC's violation scale goes from Level I through IV, with IV being the lowest level. The NRC considers the event one of low significance since the employee was not a supervisor, and the violation appears to be an isolated incident.

"This didn't compromise plant security," Sheehan said. "But NextEra bears ultimate responsibility for the operation of its plant and all employees there, whether they're contracted or directly employed by NextEra. That's why we issued the violation."

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New sirens? Great - just remember to buy the batteries!!

Evan Brandt, reporting for Springford’s Reporter, dons his ear defenders for this one. Sirens warning of danger at Chester County’s (PA) only nuclear power plant will soon have a battery backup.

Exelon Nuclear announced recently that it will begin a project within the next 60 days to replace all 165 emergency sirens in the 10 miles surrounding the Limerick Generating Station. Installation of the sirens will begin in 2010 and will cost $3.8 million.

“The battery backup will add an additional layer of confidence in our emergency preparedness system,” Chris Mudrick, Limerick’s site vice president, said recently. “While we are confident in our current siren system, the model we currently use is nearing the end of its service life and it is time to proactively replace all of the sirens with the best available technology.”

Limerick is not the only state to be receiving this upgrade. According to the release, the project is part of an upgrade to emergency sirens at all sites in the mid-Atlantic, including Three-Mile Island and Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station in Pennsylvania and Oyster Creek Generating Station in New Jersey.

If you're going to scan for radiation, at least use a bigger geiger counter!

Our thanks to Steve Shay and the West Seattle Herald for this. More than 300 maritime law enforcement and first responder personnel from 23 federal, state, local and tribal agencies participated in an operational maritime exercise in Puget Sound last week.

They were simulating attempts by small boats to smuggle nuclear weapons into the area, particularly Elliott Bay and the Canadian Border because of it being a possible target during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

A serious game of cat and mouse played out. The small vessels, those under 300 gross tons, were loaded with safe, low-level radioactive materials. Law enforcement craft were armed with radiation detectors at lines drawn in the water, or “choke points” set up at Admiralty Inlet, Bellingham Bay and North Skagit Bay.

The boats carrying radiation attempted to breach the choke points. Four on-shore back-up, three temporary shore-based hazmet centres, in La Conner, Bellingham and Port Townsend were operated by members of the Washington State Patrol bomb squad, the Federal Bureau of Investigation bomb technicians, and the 10th Civil Support Team, a National Guard Unit.

Law enforcement representatives announced the exercise was a success at a press conference and harbour tour at the Seattle Coast Guard facility across Elliot Bay from Alki Thursday, Sept. 24. The exercise was part of a pilot demonstration funded by the Department of Homeland Security Domestic Nuclear Detection Office to evaluate radiation detector sensors and operational protocols for the small vessels.

UN security group to keep an eye on nuclear testing

Edith Lederer, writing for the Associated Press reports from the UN. Iran, Israel and the five permanent Security Council members that have nuclear weapons are part of a network to detect signs of testing of a new atomic bomb, a positive sign of cooperation in the bid to halt the spread of such weapons, the head of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty organization said Friday.

The monitoring network has not been widely reported nor have its participants, including Iran, which the West believes is pursuing nuclear weapons, and Israel, which is widely believed to possess a nuclear arsenal but won't say as much.

Tibor Toth told a news conference that a system to verify atomic blasts that was started in 2000 now has 270 monitoring facilities and expects to increase the number to 340. He called the verification system an important step to address concerns of nuclear and non-nuclear states, and noted that it monitored North Korea's nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009 "very well."

Toth spoke to reporters ahead of a high-level meeting on Sept. 24-25 on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly's annual ministerial meeting to press North Korea, India and Pakistan to first sign and then ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and to press the other six countries that have signed it to ratify it.

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Mafia scuttles nuke waste ships - barrels at the bottom of Italian sea

Thanks goes to Duncan Kennedy and the BBC for this little gem. A shipwreck apparently containing toxic waste is being investigated by authorities in Italy amid claims that it was deliberately sunk by the mafia. An informant from the Calabrian mafia said the ship was one of a number he blew up as part of an illegal operation to bypass laws on toxic waste disposal.

The sunken vessel has been found 30km (18 miles) off the south-west coast of Italy. The informant said it contained "nuclear" material. Officials said it would be tested for radioactivity. Murky pictures taken by a robot camera show the vessel intact and alongside it are a number of yellow barrels. Labels on them say the contents are toxic.

The informant said the mafia had muscled in on the lucrative business of radioactive waste disposal. But he said that instead of getting rid of the material safely, he blew up the vessel out at sea, off the Calabrian coast. He also says he was responsible for sinking two other ships containing toxic waste.

Experts are now examining samples taken from the wreck.

Church leader speaks out against Nigeria's nuclear plans

We found this little article on the pages of 234Next, based in Timbuktu, Malia.  

A Christian cleric, Olugbenga Olu, has advised the Federal Government against embracing nuclear energy to solve the nation's energy crisis.

 

Mr. Olu, the Bishop of the newly created Remo Central Diocese of the Methodist Church of Nigeria in Ogun State, said that the cost implication of such a venture would be too much on the nation, aside from the dearth of nuclear expertise in the country.

 

He said he feared for nuclear accidents that could lead to serious radiation effects, which the nation was not yet disposed to handle effectively.

According to him, "the harmful effect of radioactive elements on the human, among several other negative tendencies, are better imagined than experienced"

.

The cleric said the church favoured the option of exploiting wind, coal, gas and hydro resources, as sources of power, adding that they were ``better alternatives to nuclear energy and its attendant risks."

Palisades staff seek out suspect Tritium leaks in K-a-l-a-m-a-z-o-o (gedditt?)

Rod Smith reporting for M.Live’s web pages goes to Kalamazoo for this ‘leak’.

A second radioactive leak at the Palisades nuclear plant in Michigan has been fixed. "I'm happy to say we have found the source of the leak," said Mark Savage, the public-affairs and communications director for Palisades, "and have repaired that."

The new leak was at a turn in a pipe and was because of the failure of a weld, Savage said. The pipes and welds are stainless steel. "We think it was during original construction," Savage said.

In June, Savage told the Van Buren County Board of Commissioners that tritium levels were rising in monitoring wells. Last year the company found a leak in one of the pipes feeding the storage tanks. It was drained and fixed. Tritium levels diminished after those repairs.

In 2007, Palisades found a level of 22,000 picoCuries per litre of water, 2,000 above the reportable level for drinking water, although none of the monitoring wells are used for drinking water. At 22,000 picoCuries, Palisades had not been required to report the tritium to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission but did so anyway.

Is nuclear power Vietnam's solution for achieving energy security goal? (Answers on a postcard, to..)

John Ruwitch and Nguyen Nhat Lam, reporting recently for Reuters take us to Vietnam for this.

Vietnam plans to start building its first nuclear power plant in five years and plug it into the grid by 2020 as demand for power continues to grow at a rate of about 15 percent per year, the country's top atomic official said.

After that initial step, planned for Ninh Thuan province, some 250 kilometres (155 miles) northeast of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam wants to expand to 15,000 megawatts of nuclear power by 2030, or 10 percent of total electricity capacity, said Vuong Huu Tan, chairman of the Vietnam Atomic Energy Commission, recently. "Nuclear power is a solution for the country to achieve its energy security goal."

At present, about 60 percent of Vietnam's energy comes from coal and gas-fired plants and 40 percent from hydropower turbines, but demand outstrips supply and blackouts are common. Demand for power will remain robust with growth seen at 14-15 percent per year.

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To nuclear, or not to nuclear - Canada re-thinks expansion

We travel to Canada today thanks to this report from Kathryn Blaze Carlson, reporting for the National Post web pages.

The world's relationship with nuclear has long been unstable, but the quest to quash climate change coupled with a hunger for energy security, have helped resuscitate nuclear power. The industry built better, more reliable reactors, and governments gave nuclear a starring role in their long-term energy plans.

Recent events, however, have put nuclear back on the defensive, bringing into question the future of the industry in Canada and beyond.

Onlookers from both camps are keeping a close eye on Ontario after it recently suspended plans for two nuclear reactors at its Darlington station, citing the reported C$26-billion cost and the murky outlook of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.

The Point Lepreau station in New Brunswick - Atlantic Canada's only nuclear facility and the first CANDU-6 reactor to undergo a complete rebuild - has been under refurbishment since March 2008 and is now seven months behind schedule. The province is on the hook for roughly C$150-million in additional replacement fuel costs, and will rack up another C$20 million for every month the project is delayed.

$10,000 for a radiation meter? We could have sold them one for much less than that..

Kevin Walters, writing for The Tennessean’s web pages, brings us this.

The discovery of radioactive material in a Franklin trash truck is prompting city staff to buy the city’s first-ever radiation meter. Aldermen will vote on spending $10,680 to buy a radiation detector to check Franklin’s trucks for any possible future radiation.

Recently, “a high radiation reading” was detected on a Franklin trash truck at the Middle Point Landfill in Murfreesboro, according to a memo to city aldermen about the purchase.

"The elevated reading indicated a type of radiation used post-chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer," said Milissa Reierson, city spokeswoman in a prepared statement. "However we’ve learned this type of radiation can also be found in decaying wood or old electronics." Low-level radioactive materials had been disposed at the landfill until the site’s owner, Allied Waste Services, formerly BFI, agreed to stop dumping radiation in the landfill.

Apparently this is the first time an incident like this has occurred.

Denver's most toxic site could soon be redeveloped into a hospital, houses and businesses

Heidi Hemmat, reporting on the pages of Fox 31 KDVR’s web pages brings us this worrying redevelopment report.

It is home to Colorado's only Nuclear reactor, radioactive waste was buried there, the groundwater is toxic, and the soil is contaminated with Arsenic, Uranium, Beryllium, Asbestos and explosives. But the Denver Federal Centre site won't be fenced off for long. It will soon be heavily used by the public.

The site, near 6th and Kipling, bordered by Alameda and Union, is being redeveloped into a new hospital, a Light Rail centre and eventually homes and businesses are planned for the area. Environmental Hazards Researcher, Adrienne Anderson says that is "grounds for concern. This area was a former toxic waste site."

Anderson (who has been digging though public health records as part of an investigation into whether the construction workers or the general public is being put at risk by the contaminated land) said: "As all this material is being dug up, moved around, in some cases going into the air, there's rightful concern as to whether there is a risk of exposure to the surrounding community."

According to Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment records, there is a nuclear reactor on site at the Denver Federal Centre, built in the 1960s, which is still used today for research purposes. The radioactive waste it produced was buried on site for years. The explosives and other toxins date back to an ammunition plant that was built there in 1940's. The asbestos was left behind when old buildings were demolished and buried on site.

Leaks, breakdowns and 'other events' - what next for UK's nuke palnts?

Terry Macalister and Rob Edwards, writing for The Observer recently, bring us this. The scale of safety problems inside Britain's nuclear power stations has been revealed for the first time in a secret report obtained by the Observer that shows more than 1,750 leaks, breakdowns or other "events" over the past seven years. The document, written by the government's chief nuclear inspector, Mike Weightman, and released under the Freedom of Information Act, raises serious questions about the dangers of expanding the industry with a new generation of atomic plants. And it came as the managers of the UK's biggest plant, Sellafield, admitted they had finally halted a radioactive leak many believe has been going on for 50 years.

 

The report discloses that between 2001-08 there were 1,767 safety incidents across Britain's nuclear plants. About half were subsequently judged by inspectors as serious enough "to have had the potential to challenge a nuclear safety system". They were "across all areas of existing nuclear plant", including Sellafield in Cumbria and Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire, says Weightman, chief inspector of the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII).

 

In May 2007 a manhole at Dounreay in northern Scotland was found to be contaminated with plutonium. A series of other incidents occurred at Sellafield, including a fault with a trap door meant to provide protection from highly radioactive waste in September 2008, and the contamination of five workers at a plutonium fuel plant in January 2007.

A spokesman for Sellafield confirmed it had successfully halted the seeping of liquid from a crack in one of four waste tanks that used to process effluent before it was discharged into the Irish Sea. Some local residents say it started half a century ago.

 

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Palm Springs residents get twitchy over reactor lid

Denise Goolsby, reporting for The Desert Sun in Palm Springs brings us this. This was reported last Sunday but, having just found it, we thought we’d run it anyway in its entirety.

A 150-ton piece of equipment that will cap off a nuclear reactor is on its way to Palm Springs this evening, California Highway Patrol officials said.

The large load left Banning just before 8 p.m., the agency reported. The estimate is that it will pass through the area in the early Wednesday morning hours. The load is only transported at night, Perez said.

"The driver can only drive 4-5 mph for a maximum of 10 hours," CHP public information officer Ramon Perez said Tuesday. "I'd say by the end of his shift, he'll be parking it somewhere north of Palm Springs," said Perez.

The load will leave the Palm Springs area and continue on its journey to Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, 50 miles west of Phoenix.

The equipment (similar to that shown) which was made in South Korea, is 19 feet tall, said Andrew Wierda, spokesman for Bigge Crane and Rigging, the company in charge of transporting it. It will be used as a lid for one of three nuclear reactors at the Palo Verde power plant about 50 miles west of Phoenix, said Betty Dayyo, spokeswoman for Arizona Public Service, one of seven co-owners of the plant.

Dayyo said the piece of metal equipment is neither radioactive nor harmful.

 Belgium bans all things Uranium

Here is part of a press release courtesy of the Depleted Uranium Education Team in New Zealand, found on the Scoop NZ web pages, that may be of interest to you.  On Sunday 21 June, Belgium’s 2007 decision to ban the use, sale, manufacture, testing and transit of Uranium in all conventional munitions and armour came into force.

The historic and courageous decision by Belgium’s Parliament to lead on this issue came after its members unanimously accepted that a growing body of evidence linking Uranium with potential health problems supported a precautionary approach to the use of such weapons.

Depleted Uranium (DU) is waste from production of “enriched” natural Uranium used in nuclear weapons or fuelling of nuclear reactors. It is an extremely heavy and makes very effective armour-piercing munitions. On impact DU ignites, burning at a very high temperature, forming Uranium Oxide, and creating a fume of fine dust like smoke which can pass through gas masks and into the body. This dust causes both heavy-metal and radiation poisoning.

In February last year, when the NZ Government hosted an international conference in Wellington to finalise a treaty banning cluster bombs, DUET launched a petition asking the NZ Parliament to “emulate the Belgian Parliament’s decision of 22 March 2007 by prohibiting in New Zealand the manufacture, use, storage, sale, acquisition, supply and transit of inert munitions and armour that contain depleted uranium [DU] or any other industrially manufactured uranium.”

 Manhattan, you have a problem - FBI & NYPD test city's attack readiness

Our thanks to Tom Hays and the Associated Press for this little gem.  Agents had intercepted information about a possible terrorist attack in Manhattan, including a diagram showing a mysterious device. The raw intelligence was relayed to experts in Washington, who offered a daunting diagnosis: "You have a problem."

As chilling as that sounded, the situation wasn't real. But authorities say it could be, and what followed over the next two days was an ambitious stress test of the city's line of defence against a radiological or nuclear terrorist attack.

The exercise involved hundreds of New York Police Department officers and FBI agents trained at detecting threats, along with an elite unit of federal weapons experts expected (with the approval of the U.S. attorney general) to swoop in by plane and defuse them.

There have been no specific threats against New York City. But since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, law enforcement officials have repeatedly warned that the city remains atop terrorists' hit lists — and that a radiological or nuclear device could be in their arsenal. "It's something we're very concerned about," said Joseph Demarest, head of the FBI's New York office.

Authorities say a small nuclear bomb could cause widespread devastation. Failing to intercept it before it's detonated is not an option. "Hopefully, we'll never have to do this," Don Alway, an FBI counter-terrorism supervisor, said of the deployment. "But if we do, we have to do it right the first time."

Much of the drill played out behind the scenes and only select specifics were made public.

Whadya mean we're down to 6?? US Military are running out of refurbished warheads

Ralph Vartabedian reporting for the Hartford Courant brings us up to date with the problems facing the US Military.

A decade-long effort to refurbish thousands of aging nuclear warheads has run into serious technical problems that have forced delays and exacerbated concerns about the Energy Department's ability to maintain the United States' strategic deterrent.

The program involves a type of warhead known as the W76, which is used on the Navy's Trident missile system and makes up more than half of the deployed warheads in the U.S. stockpile. The refurbishment program is aimed at replacing thousands of parts that have aged since the bombs left the factory 20 to 30 years ago.

The $200 million-a-year program is a cornerstone of America's nuclear deterrent strategy, and the Energy Department has been under growing pressure from the military and Congress to meet tough deadlines to get the weapons ready.

In February, the department's National Nuclear Security Administration announced that the "first refurbished W76 nuclear warhead had been accepted into the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile by the Navy."

But no delivery was ever made. The warhead is now in pieces inside a production cell at the Energy Department's Pantex plant in Amarillo, Texas, according to an engineer at the facility.

 

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 North a bit, west a bit, east a bit - oops!: SWAT officers hit Calvert Cliffs plant

Just when you think that it’s all a bit too quiet out there, something comes along that makes it all worthwhile. So grateful thanks to Aaron C. Davis and Matt Zapotosky, reporting for the Washington Post  yesterday (Sun).

A state-wide SWAT team exercise at a firing range on the secured grounds of a nuclear power plant in Southern Maryland was halted this month after stray bullets shattered glass and struck a command centre near the plant's reactors, officials said.

Reactor safety at the Calvert Cliffs plant in Lusby was never compromised, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Constellation Energy Group, which operates the facility. But Constellation closed the range, a popular training site for local law enforcement agencies, pending investigations by plant security and the Calvert County Sheriff's Office, which hosted the exercise.

At least five bullets escaped the firing range and travelled more than a half-mile before striking buildings and a vehicle near the reactors. One struck the plant's "outage control centre," which is used as a command area to orchestrate refuelling efforts. Another hit an employee's sport-utility vehicle in the parking lot. Three others struck an office facility: Two of them hit the roof, and one shattered the outer pane of a first-floor window.

Typically, officers shoot southward, away from the plant, while on the firing range, but during the exercise, officers somehow fired eastward. The rounds cleared an almost 30-foot-high berm and flew about 3,400 feet before striking the two office buildings and the door of the parked SUV.

Concerns that new Oak Ridge Command Centre won't be built

Thanks to Frank Munger, writing for the Knox News web site for this.  When developers Lawler-Wood were selected last year to develop a new high-tech Command and Control Centre at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant at Oak Ridge it was hardly time to declare victory.

The challenges were just beginning. The Knoxville developer still has to arrange private financing for the U$50 million project, which would never be an easy task but is doubly difficult in the current economic climate. He also has to hope the project survives the scrutiny of federal officials in Washington and doesn't get stretched out or scrapped entirely by the debate about the future size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

The company needs to construct the facility on time and within budget in order to collect its development fee and set the stage for a long-term leasing arrangement with Y-12's federal contractor. "We're optimistic, but we're not naive," Wayne Roquemore, president of Lawler-Wood, said in a telephone interview last week.

Areva's gone 'fission' in France

Katherine Ling, reporting for the New York Times, travels to France for this story.

Visitors to the spent nuclear fuel reprocessing facility at La Hague in France are likely to see a ballet of industrial-strength robots. Old nuclear fuel assemblies - highly radioactive, elongated packages of metal rods that once energized some of France's 58 nuclear power plants - are hoisted by cranes and placed on belts while the machinery works to prepare the assemblies to be lowered into four giant pools.

There they will sit, with about 13 feet of demineralised water above them for about three years. Then more machines will lift them out, chop them up and put the pieces to be dissolved in vats of nitric acid. The fissioning of the fuel in the power plant (or the splitting of uranium atoms to release energy) has created a large family of elements, called fission products. The goal of this process is to find and recycle the ones that still contain more energy - the plutonium and uranium

This facility is part of France's answer to the question pressing nuclear power plant owners in nearly every part of the world: What do you do with spent nuclear fuel? Areva regard this plant as the "crown jewel" of its technology.

Obama proposes deep cuts in nuke stockpiles: Pantex on stand-by

Jeffrey Lewis and Meri Lugo, writing for The Foreign Policy (in conjunction with those nice people at the CIA) bring us this useful information should you need to dispose of some nuclear warheads one day. (I know, but you might..)

Speaking in Prague recently, U.S. President Barack Obama called the thousands of nuclear weapons sitting in world arsenals "the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War." He proposed deep cuts in U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles. But when policymakers talk about nuclear reductions, what do they mean in practice?

The first answer is, nothing much. Retiring a weapon is accomplished through paperwork. If the weapon is in storage, it continues to sit there. Eventually, small steps begin to indicate its fate on the nuclear weapons equivalent of death row. Workers come along to remove the batteries and other so-called "limited-life components" that have to be regularly changed in active nuclear weapons.

At some point - perhaps years later - the Energy Department ships the weapon to Pantex, the central U.S. nuclear weapons factory near Amarillo, Texas. The warheads now undergoing dismantlement were not designed to come apart (other than very rapidly, over the Soviet Union). Because nuclear weapons contain explosives and other hazardous materials, workers must take care to minimize health risks.

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Mysteries of Area 51: former employees speak out

We go all X-Files now, with a report by Annie Jacobsen, writing for the LA Times recently. Area 51. It's the most famous military institution in the world that doesn't officially exist. If it did, it would be found about 100 miles outside Las Vegas in Nevada's high desert, tucked between an Air Force base and an abandoned nuclear testing ground. Then again, maybe not - the U.S. government refuses to say. You can't drive anywhere close to it, and until recently, the airspace overhead was restricted - all the way to outer space.

It has become the holy grail for conspiracy theorists, with UFOlogists positing that the Pentagon reverse engineers flying saucers and keeps extraterrestrial beings stored in freezers. Millions of X-Files fans believe the truth may be "out there," but more likely it's concealed inside Area 51's Strangelove-esque hangars - buildings that, though confirmed by Google Earth, the government refuses to acknowledge.

The problem is the myths of Area 51 are hard to dispute if no one can speak on the record about what actually happened there. Well, now, for the first time, someone is ready to talk - in fact, five men are, and their stories rival the most outrageous of rumours. Colonel Hugh "Slip" Slater, 87, was commander of the Area 51 base in the 1960s. Edward Lovick, 90, spent three decades radar testing some of the world's most famous aircraft (including the U-2, the A-12 OXCART and the F-117). Kenneth Collins, 80, a CIA experimental test pilot, was given the Silver Star. Thornton "T.D." Barnes, 72, was an Area 51 special-projects engineer. And Harry Martin, 77, was one of the men in charge of the base's half-million-gallon monthly supply of spy-plane fuels.

US Government finally pays atomic veterans

David Clouston, reporting for the Salina Journal in Kansas, brings us this. The cheque stub and a notification letter rest in a file stuffed with Salina resident James Trepoy's military paperwork. The sum (a whopping U$75,000) initially made Trepoy afraid to cash the cheque.

The letter accompanying the cheque looked official enough, on letterhead from the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division, in Washington, D.C. "This is to inform you that your claim for compensation under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Program has been approved," the letter read.

 

Trepoy, 88, is among an estimated group of more than 200,000 former soldiers who witnessed above-ground and undersea atomic tests conducted between 1945 and 1963. Nicknamed "atomic veterans," the soldiers were part of the testing because various governments wanted to see whether troops could operate on battlefields contaminated by radiation from nuclear bombs.

 

Retired veterans Larry Halloran of Mulvane and Gary Thornton of Leon have made it a mission to track down atomic veterans in Kansas (particularly older vets such as Trepoy ) to make them aware of their eligibility for financial compensation from the government. In 1990, Congress passed the Act, offering veterans who took part in the tests a payment of U$75,000 each.

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There's a shed-load of uranium in Ireland

Tim O’Brien, correspondent for the Irish Times, has been rooting around the garden shed.

A lead box containing a compound of radioactive uranium, and nuclear material stored in a garden shed in Co Meath, are among a number of radioactive finds in Ireland in recent years, the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland has said.

Responding to EU concerns at more than 1,300 finds of radioactive material worldwide since 1993 – 16 of which constituted weapons grade nuclear material – the institute said finds in the Republic have tended to be “orphan sources”, mislaid or inadvertently dumped by industry and hospitals.

It said such finds amount to less than one per year, but it has repeatedly expressed concern that Ireland has no centralised storage facilities for waste or unwanted equipment from the 1,600 licensed users of radioactive substances. Unwanted or “orphan source” radioactive materials are held at 80 locations.

In its 2007 annual report the institute said the legal responsibility for industrial radioactive materials rested with the owners but such storage represented “an accident waiting to happen”. The institute was critical of successive governments’ failure to provide a central, secure storage facility for nuclear waste.

We're not going to mention 'Duck & Cover': safety exercise due Wednesday

It’s a slow news day, so we thought we’d be public-spirited and bring you the following.

The Daily Journal, based in Kankakee, Illinois, brings us this public announcement. An exercise to test emergency response plans for the region surrounding Dresden Nuclear Power Station will be conducted 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday by personnel from the state, the counties of Will, Grundy and Kendall and the plant's owner, Exelon.

State and local organizations will conduct a reception centre demonstration at 9 a.m. Thursday at Kankakee Community College to demonstrate their ability to register, monitor, decontaminate and provide mass care for "mock evacuees."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will evaluate the exercise and reception center demonstration at 2 p.m. Friday at the Grundy County Emergency Operations Centre, 1320 Union St., Morris. The evaluation is open to the public. The exercise for Braidwood station was held about six months ago. Another will be held in about 18 months.

Russian K3's sad anniversary

Barents News reminds us that it’s an important anniversary for Russia’s first nuclear powered submarine.

The first Soviet nuclear powered submarine, the “K-3”, later named “Leninsky Komsomol”, was delivered to the Soviet navy December 17 1958.

Building of the first soviet nuclear submarine started at the Sevmash shipyard in Severodvinsk, Arkhangelsk, in 1955. It was put on water in August 1957 and the nuclear reactor was launched in 1957. The submarine was taken into service in the Northern Fleet in March 1959, and in 1962 she got the name “Leninski Komsomol”, Sevmash Shipyard said in a recent press release.

Leninski Komsomol played a crucial role in the peace keeping process, General Director at Sevmash, Nikolay Kalistratov, said to Pravda Severa. “The USA already had nuclear powered submarines, and K-3 made the two superpowers’ chances more even.”

39 of the crew were killed in a fire aboard Leninsky Komsomol in the Norwegian Sea in September 1967. The submarine was taken out of duty in 1991, and is waiting to be made into a museum. In order to build K-3, a new department had to be opened at Sevmash and was, until recently, one of the most secret departments in the Soviet Union.

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Recent plutonium find at Hanford has half-life of 24,110 years (who counts this?)

Paul Rincon, reporting for the BBC’s web pages, brings us this interesting find.  A bottle discarded at the Hanford nuclear waste site in the US contains the oldest sample of bomb-grade plutonium made in a nuclear reactor, scientists say. The sample dates to 1944 and is a relic from the infancy of the US nuclear weapons programme.

A team from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory used nuclear forensic techniques to date the sample and track down its origins. The researchers have described their study as "nuclear archaeology".

The type of plutonium in the bottle - known as Pu-239 - is a so-called alpha emitter. These alpha particles are too bulky to penetrate skin or paper, but they can cause poisoning if swallowed or inhaled. It has a half-life (the time it takes for half the radioactive nuclei in a sample to decay) of 24,110 years.

Hope for new jobs in Tennessee.

In the worst economic slump in decades, manufacturers of nuclear power equipment gathered in Chattanooga last week to talk about how to expand their production and hire more workers to supply an expected revival in nuclear power.

The Nuclear Energy Institute estimates at least 20,000 construction jobs will be added to eight plants the industry expects will begin construction by 2011. If all 26 of the reactors proposed to be built in the United States move forward, NEI projects at least 62,000 construction jobs will be created in the next decade, including several thousand by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield told industry leaders that Chattanooga is ready to answer the call and could be at the centre of the industry revival.

“This is a nuclear-friendly city,” Mr. Littlefield said. “We are a city that has an industrial past and a manufacturing future which, to a great extent, will be built on energy.”

Diablo Canyon waits for controversial delivery

April Charlton, reporting for the Santa Maria Times’ web site, keeps us up to speed with events at Diablo Canyon.

The first transfer of spent radioactive fuel rods into dry-cask containers at Diablo Canyon Power Plant is set to begin in June. During this summer’s planned transfer, eight dry-cask canisters will be loaded with spent fuel rods from one of two nuclear reactors at Diablo Canyon. Each cask is expected to take 10 days to load, according to a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. spokeswoman.

An additional eight canisters — one canister can hold up to 32 spent fuel assemblies — will be loaded at the nuclear power plant in spring 2010.

During the loading campaign, a transfer cask will be taken into the power plant and submerged into one of Diablo’s two 40-foot-deep storage pools, where spent fuel assemblies will be transferred to the dry-cask canisters. A transfer cask will then be lowered into a steel cask, which does all the work of keeping the spent rods’ radiation inside, that will be welded shut and then stored at the site indefinitely.

Canadian bio-solids are "not radioactive"

Here’s an environmental tale, courtesy of Michael Peeling, reporting for the Standard Freeholder, based in Cornwall, Ontario.

The general manager of a Canadian farm fertilizer distributor in South Dundas said residents living nearby need not worry about the so-called "radioactive waste" being stored there.

 

Dean Swerdfeger of Third High Farms Ltd. in Iroquois, Ont. said two loads of waste shipped from the R. O. Pickard Environmental Centre (ROPEC) in Ottawa currently being stored at the facility he manages is "absolutely not radioactive waste.

U. S. officials denied two out of three loads from ROPEC passage across the Canada-U. S. border on Jan. 29 when they tested positive for radioactive material.  "They are just loads of bio-solids that registered a very low reading of radioactivity at the border," Swerdfeger said.

 

Swerdfeger also said the cause of the low reading is still unknown, but added that it no longer registered on follow-up tests. "The bio-solids in question are not an environmental issue or a health and safety issue."

 

Two more loads from ROPEC tested positive, but City of Ottawa deputy manager Nancy Schepers said the material was sent back to the centre for further testing. A hazardous materials team was "not able to detect radiation above background levels in the two loads of biosolids quarantined at the Pickard Centre."

We don't want foreign nuke waste - we have enough of our own, thank you..

The following is taken from an online blog featured on the pages of the Tennessean newspaper.

Two US politicians, Bart Gordon (Democrat) and Lamar Alexander (Republican) have teamed on legislation that would ban foreign nuclear waste. The legislation follows efforts by a Utah company, Energy Solutions, to import up to 20,000 tons of nuclear waste from Italy that would go through ports at Charleston, S.C., or New Orleans, and through Tennessee on its way to the Energy Solutions site in Utah.

Gordon and Alexander emphasize the need for the U.S. to handle its own waste before taking on the responsibility of handling that of other countries. In the current anti-coal political climate, authorities are pushing harder and harder for more nuclear power generation. One of the greatest challenges of nuclear power is how to handle nuclear waste.

The fact is no one is in position to guarantee the safety of domestic nuclear energy, and no amount of trouble from coal-fired power plants completely erases nuclear concerns.

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Christmas Island tests compensation row continues

Our thanks go to the Chorley Guardian for this story. A war veteran is taking his case to the High Court this month after being exposed to atomic bomb tests during the 1950s.

George Harrison, 73, (like many veterans)  isn't well enough to travel to London to fight his legal battle against the Ministry of Defence in person but he hopes the case – part of one of largest compensation claims against the MoD from hundreds of servicemen – will reach a positive conclusion after more than half a century.

The father-of-one, of Hoghton, worked as an engine fitter for the Royal Engineers and was stationed on Christmas Island, off the coast of Australia, when he witnessed three test explosions – one atomic and two hydrogen bombs.

Just over a decade ago, Mr Harrison developed a mysterious skin complaint and is currently being treated by three specialists for a number of health problems.

London-based solicitors Rosenblatt will argue that the government was aware of health risks at the time of the tests. However, the MoD refuses to accept any liability or that there is a link between the veterans' health and their atomic experiments.

Plymouth's new warning system: 'alert' texts via mobile phones

This came to us in a round about way from a chap called Fred Dawson and is very similar to a recent American report we featured as one of our Nuclear Nuggets.

People in one of Britain's most "hazard-rich" cities better keep their mobiles on because nuclear alerts are to be sent by text. The "emergency notification system" will replace a warning siren that sounds in Plymouth in the event of a crisis.

The text messages will alert 20,000 families living within 2km of the city's nuclear facilities to an imminent disaster or toxic leak. Plymouth is deemed "hazard rich" due to the dockyard's nuclear facilities, its Royal Navy weapons depot, a large petrol terminal, a fuel depot and a gas pipeline.

The Informer system will send messages to mobile phones and landlines, giving information and advice on what to do.

The city council's Giles Perritt said: "Informer will be a warning not just of radiological threats but anything in that part of the city. The dockyard siren does not do the trick in terms of letting people know quickly."

 

UAE looks to Japan for nuclear development ideas

The following comes courtesy of Bloomberg and Megumi Yamanaka. The United Arab Emirates will hold talks with the Japanese government and reactor makers such as Hitachi Inc. and Toshiba Corp. as it seeks Japan’s help to develop nuclear power plants.

Japan, the world’s third-biggest atomic generator, may help the U.A.E. by offering services to develop legal frameworks and educate workers on atomic power, said government officials who declined to be named as negotiations haven’t been completed.

A delegation headed by Mohammed al-Hammadi, president of Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp., arrived for a week- long visit to hold talks with government officials on areas of cooperation. The U.A.E., holder of almost 8 percent of the world’s crude reserves, wants to develop nuclear energy as an alternative source of electricity.

Japan is poised to become the fourth country to sign atomic- power pacts with the emirates after France, the U.S. and the U.K. inked agreements this year.

You want another 20 years on your nuke licence? Just ask in Iowa

Today we travel to Iowa with this report from Dave Dewitte, reporting for the pages of The Cedar Rapids Gazette.  In its first 33 years of operation, Iowa's only nuclear power plant has generated more electricity than excitement.

After some operational issues that brought heightened scrutiny in the early 1980s, the Duane Arnold Energy Centre north of Palo has received passing marks from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in recent years and has been upgraded from its original output of 535 megawatts to 613 megawatts.
 
Now, federal regulators are trying to figure out if the plant will be good for another 20 years. FPL Energy, which took over as the plant's majority owner in January 2006, filed an application on Sept. 30 to renew its operating license, slated to expire in 2014, until 2034. The application began a license renewal process that is expected to take 22 months, require public input and cost its owners U$20 million.

The intense scrutiny by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, involving about 24,000 inspection hours by the agency, is intended to answer many questions - the largest of them being: "Can this plant go another 20 years safely?" The answer is an emphatic "yes" from Rich Anderson, site vice president of Duane Arnold Energy Centre for FPL Energy.

 

Tennessee builds second reactor at Watts Bar

Dave Flessner, writing for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, brings us this tale from the Tennessee Valley. 

Bechtel Corp. and its subcontractors have hired 1,425 workers in East Tennessee this year to resume construction of what is expected to be the first new nuclear reactor completed in America in more than 15 years.

Nuclear proponents in Chattanooga said those hired to work on a second reactor at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant could represent the first of thousands of new jobs created in the Tennessee Valley from a renaissance of nuclear power.

“I believe that East Tennessee has a historic opportunity to play a major role in the resurgence of nuclear power,” said Sherrell R. Greene, director of nuclear technology programs at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Mr. Greene also said rising energy demand and concerns over global warming could create a need for the United States to triple the number of nuclear plants by 2050 at a cost of more than $900 billion.

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Things that go bang in the night (or not) back in May...

Just to prove that we are definitely on the ball here, we found this little gem. Our thanks go to Dan Elliott, reporting for the Associated Press. A fire caused U$1 million worth of damage at an unmanned underground nuclear launch site near Cheyenne, Wyoming, last spring, but the Air Force didn't find out about it until five days later, an Air Force official said.

The May 23 fire burned itself out after an hour or two, and multiple safety systems prevented any threat of an accidental launch of the Minuteman III missile. Maj. Laurie Arellano said she was not allowed to say whether the missile was armed with a nuclear warhead at the time of the fire.

Arellano also said the Air Force didn't know a fire had occurred until May 28, when a repair crew went to the launch site because a trouble signal indicated a wiring problem. She said the flames never entered the launch tube where the missile stood and there was no danger of a radiation release.

Cheyenne Mayor Jack Spiker, who said he learned of the incident when contacted by a reporter said the fire doesn't undermine his confidence in the safety of the missile operations. "It's rare that they have an accident, and the accidents have never really, that I know of, amounted to much because of the safety devices that are built into the system.”

Chances of planes crashing into Dungeness - 1 : 689,229

Our thanks goes to Chris Price, reporting for Kent Online for this environmental tale. The risk of a nuclear disaster is still as high as initially predicted should an aircraft from Lydd Airport crash into the Dungeness power station.

After reviewing Lydd Airport’s second round of environmental information Lydd Airport Action Group’s (LAAG’s) nuclear safety advisor still thinks the risk is substantial. John Large of consulting engineers Large and Associates found no reason to change his conclusion the proposed expansion of Lydd Airport means a risk of an aircraft crashing into Dungeness stands at one in 689,229 each year.

His findings were initially set out in his report in March last year and based on the proposed expansion to 500,000 per year. Should Lydd Airport expand to two million passengers a year then the risk increases to odds of one in 409,691 in each year.

Mr Large said: "There is nothing in the new supplementary information which could change my mind. I consider the risk to have increased if anything because the airport seems to be committed to increasing the aircraft levels at a time when there are firm proposals to develop the nuclear power plant.”

Aging administration's last - ditch chance at  US nuclear weapons policy update

Thanks to Walter Pincus for this little gem, found on the Washington Post web pages. Continued study and development of a new generation of nuclear weapons and modernization of the aging manufacturing infrastructure needed to build them are necessary to maintain "the ultimate deterrent capability that supports U.S. national security."

That is the conclusion of a nuclear policy paper released quietly last month by Defence Secretary Robert M. Gates and Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman.

The secretaries warn that without the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program, which Congress has delayed, the United States will have to keep an inventory of older, non-deployed nuclear warheads. That would be in addition to the 1,700 to 2,200 Cold War-era warheads -- many whose useful life has been extended 20 years under the stockpile stewardship program.

The Gates-Bodman paper (a last attempt by the Bush administration to have an impact on future US nuclear weapons policy) warns, in the strongest terms yet, that the stockpile stewardship program will soon have to modernize so many components and materials that the weapons may no longer be reliable.

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Sirens? What sirens? Seabrook nuke plant to run siren test Oct 25th

We thought we’d do a public service today for the people on America’s eastern seaboard, especially those living in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Thanks goes to Susan Morse for her article on the Seacoastline web pages.

On Saturday, Oct. 25, at 12:30 p.m., all 121 Seabrook nuclear power plant emergency sirens will sound in an audible demonstration of the system. The local authorities ask that people don’t call the local police when this happens. A spokesman said: You’re not supposed to call 911, you’re supposed to turn your radio on."

FPL Energy Seabrook Station, in conjunction with the state Division of Homeland Security and Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, are setting off the sirens so people will know what they sound like and what to do when they hear them.

What people should do when they hear the siren is to tune to their local emergency radio station. In New Hampshire, this is WOKQ at 97.5 FM. In Massachusetts, it’s WBZ at 1030 AM, 1450 AM, 93.7 FM and 92.5 FM.

The 121 sirens are located within a ten-mile radius of the nuclear power plant. There are 94 sirens in 17 towns in New Hampshire, including Portsmouth and 27 are within 6 towns in Massachusetts.

China needs to come clean over nuke capability

With the media spotlight leaving China after the Olympics, here’s something that may make you pause and think, courtesy of Bill Gertz reporting for The Washington Times web pages.

China continues to resist disclosing details of its strategic nuclear weapons programs despite exchanges and discussions with the US during the past two years, defence officials say.

One indicator of the problems has been that Gen. Jing Zhiyan, commander of China's nuclear forces, has not visited the U.S. Strategic Command or the United States despite a promise in 2006 from Chinese President Hu Jintao to President Bush that the general would lead a delegation for talks.

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said, however, that though the nuclear discussions are going slowly, they are making progress. So, no worries there, then…

Rumours of ZZ Top sighting at Sellafield denied

As we disappear off on our annual hols (and not a moment too soon, apparently !) we thought we’d leave you with this little gem sent to us recently.

A group of contractors were sent home from Sellafield nuclear power plant recently, after being told their stubble breached health and safety laws. The 15 men, who were removing asbestos, were sent home because their chin fluff stopped their mouth masks from sealing against their faces.

The contractors were working at the plant in Cumbria, but two days into the job, they were ordered to go home and shave. A spokesman said: 'It is essential that workers are clean-shaven to ensure safety masks seal on the face. Failure to be is a clear breach of health and safety. Why they attended the site without being clean shaven is a question for themselves.' Any references to ZZ Top will be studiously ignored…


"Hot tub" reactors? Pull the other one!

The following could bring a whole new meaning to the “Not in My Back Yard” argument, according to Nick Loris writing on the Heritage Foundation’s blog pages recently.

 Hyperion Power Generation, Inc. is looking to commercialise small, nuclear reactors for remote locations as soon as 2013. The reactors, developed at the reputable Los Alamos National Laboratory, are the size of a hot tub and buried under ground; it is impossible for them to melt down or be broken down into weapons. Furthermore, the amount of nuclear waste one of these reactors produces after about 5 years is so small it could be reprocessed for more energy.

These ‘hot tubs’ pump out enough electricity to power around 20,000 average – sized homes.

Toshiba has some stake in this game, as well. They’ve been working on a 20 feet by 6 feet reactor that would produce electricity at about half the price of regular grid electricity.

Ohio waste recycling centre 'on hold' but not off list

The following was found on the pages of the Chillicothe Gazette’s web pages and filed by Malia Rulon.

The federal government's plans to bring a so-called nuclear waste recycling facility to the former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon, Ohio, appear to be put on hold, possibly for good.

Last month the US department of energy announced it would not select a site for the planned reprocessing facility, as expected. In a notice published July 10, the department said it had received 14,000 comments on the controversial Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, called GNEP, a Bush administration plan to deal with the nation's spent nuclear power plant fuel.

Angela Hill, a spokeswoman for DOE, said the change of course doesn't mean Piketon is off the list of 11 possible locations for the GNEP project, it just means that the list has been set aside. "What we're looking at is the larger, broader picture," she said.

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'Houston', we have a leak: Japanese concerns over US submarine 'La Jolla' visit

Here’s something that passed us all by (probably) thanks to the English pages of China View.

A U.S. nuclear-powered submarine arrived at the U.S. naval base in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture on Monday. The submarine "La Jolla", with a displacement of 6,080 tons, came amid widespread concerns in Japan over radioactive leakage by another Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine "Houston" when it called at the port in March.

Dozens of local people rallied near the base, demanding that the nuclear submarine should not be allowed into the port until its safety was confirmed. "La Jolla, go away," they chorused.

On Saturday, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said in a press interview that they were informed that Houston began leaking radioactive substances when it travelled to Sasebo in March during its tour around the Pacific. The interview came after a CNN report, which had been confirmed by the U.S. Navy, revealed Friday that Houston was found leaking traces with radioactivity during a regular check up in Hawaii in July.

 

Who threw away those uranium hexaflouride cannisters?

Here’s a cautionary tale about the importance of looking what you’re doing (especially when working with uranium) from South Carolina brought to you by Andrew Shain writing for The State web pages. Westinghouse’s nuclear fuel plant in Columbia could face nearly U$100,000 in fines from federal regulators because a worker accidentally threw away vials of low-grade uranium.

 

Plant workers discovered in February that 16 sample vials containing a total of 4½ ounces of uranium hexafluoride were missing. The vials with the gel-like material are shipped inside cushioned, six-gallon steel containers. Lab technicians then remove the vials from the canisters to test the uranium.

 

An employee threw away the canisters, believing they were empty, said Jackie McCoy, spokeswoman for the plant, which annually produces enough nuclear fuel to provide 10% of the USA’s electricity.

 

Company officials using radiation detectors searched the plant, a scrap metal recycling facility, a metal shredding facility in Spartanburg and a landfill in Elgin. The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission also searched, but nothing was found.

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Barnwell (SC) closes doors to out of state nuke waste

With thanks to Rory Sweeney, reporting for North Eastern Pennsylvania’s Times Leader web pages for this information. The only facility available for disposing certain levels of radioactive waste in Barnwell, South Carolina, closed its doors to Pennsylvania and 36 other states on July 1, meaning  waste producers will have to hold onto their waste until a new site is found.

Currently there are three disposal facilities in America for low-level radioactive waste, but one site is open only to a coalition of 11 western states. A second in Utah accepts only the lowest level of waste. The third (Barnwell) accepted the other two levels of low-level waste, but now does so only from the states in its coalition – Connecticut, New Jersey and South Carolina.

That leaves the 36 states with no place to send their B- and C-level wastes, which include medical wastes, certain material from nuclear reactors, both research and commercial, and some sensing equipment that includes radioactive components.

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