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Down in the dumps in North Dakota

Rebecca Leber, writing for Think Progress, checks out some suspicious rubbish sacks for us..

North Dakota recently discovered piles of garbage bags containing radioactive waste dumped by oil drillers in abandoned buildings. Now the state is trying to catch up to an oil industry that produces an estimated 27 tons of radioactive debris from wells daily.

Existing fines have apparently not been enough to deter contractors from dumping oil socks — coiled filters that strain wastewater and accumulate low levels The state is in the process of drafting rules, out in June, that require oil companies to properly store the waste in leak-proof containers. Eventually, they must move these oil socks to certified dumps. However, North Dakota has no facilities to process this level of radioactive waste. According to the Wall Street Journal, the closest facilities are hundreds of miles away in states like Idaho, Colorado, Utah, and Montana.

Even though it is illegal, contractors have taken the occasional shortcut to dump the oil socks in buildings, on the side of the road, or at landfills. The rate of dumping incidents has been on the rise as drilling activity has increased in the Bakken shale region, according to one North Dakota Department of Health study. Dump operators now even routinely screen garbage for radiation.

If things don’t improve, oil drillers may risk turning parts of the state into EPA Superfund sites, which would mean a long and expensive clean-up.

Images: (AP Photo) North Dakota Health Department / Wikipedia (22/4/14)

Sludge - not so glorious - sludge...

Our thanks to the members of the Yakima Herald-Republic editorial board - Sharon J. Prill, Bob Crider, Frank Purdy and Karen Troianello – for this.

The U.S. Department of Energy didn’t exhibit undue alarm a year ago when word came that an underground storage tank at the Hanford nuclear reservation was leaking radioactive waste. The agency blamed construction problems for the leak and said it “seems unlikely” that other tanks would spring a leak.

Many of these tanks are decades-old single-walled shells that have leaked and are a stopgap solution for storing 53 million gallons of nuclear waste. The material is a legacy of plutonium production for the Manhattan Project. A vitrification plant is being built to convert the waste into glasslike logs for permanent storage, but the plan is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget. So now the waste sits in the tanks as a mud like sludge, and officials hope most of it stays put and doesn’t leak into the ground.

Once in the ground, the waste would pose a danger to groundwater and the neighbouring Columbia River, which forms the northern and eastern borders of the reservation. Nobody wants this to happen, and since the discovery of the leak a year ago, the Energy Department has started inspecting the tanks more frequently.

The 1989 Tri-Party agreement signed by the Energy Department, federal Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Ecology stipulates that the federal government is responsible for the cleanup. But the short-term financial outlay is minimal compared to the long-term cost of contamination of the Columbia River, which holds immense economic and environmental importance to the Northwest. Images: Crosscut / Newstalk KIT (11/3/14)

Carlsbad, Part 2...

Our thanks to the people at RT US for this leaky tale down Mexico way…

The highest ever levels of radiation have been detected at a New Mexico nuclear waste repository. The latest readings come hot on the heels of a radiation leak that triggered a lockdown of the entire facility recently.

Scientists monitoring the area around the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, New Mexico, picked up trace elements of radioactive materials in the air. Russell Hardy, director of the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Centre said the readings of americium and plutonium were the highest ever detected at the disposal site.

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant is one of the world’s three deep repositories for nuclear waste left over from the production and testing of atomic weapons. It buries the waste over 600 meters underground in tunnels hewn out of salt beds.

Air filters were activated at the plant as a precaution and workers were barred from entering the facility. Officials stated that no radiation had escaped to the surface.

S
pokeswoman Deb Gill told the LA Times:  “We are emphasizing there is no threat to human health and the environment.” However, she did say that officials know very little about the extent of the problem or how to solve it. Allaying fears over the situation, Russell Hardy said that the New Mexico State University is monitoring air, ground and water samples from in and around WIPP. He added that there had only been four incidents in the past where radiation had been detected and levels were so low "you could eat it and it wouldn't hurt you." 
Images: Inquirer / Current Argus (24/2/14)

Load up that waste - we are on our way to New Mexico!

Matthew L Wald, writing for the New York Times, looks down a very deep hole for us…

Half a mile beneath the desert surface, in Carlsbad, NM, in thick salt beds left behind by seas that dried up hundreds of millions of years ago, the Department of Energy is carving out rooms as long as football fields and cramming them floor to ceiling with barrels and boxes of nuclear waste.

The salt beds, which have the consistency of crumbly rock so far down in the earth, are what the federal government sees as a natural sealant for the radioactive material left over from making nuclear weapons. The process is deceptively simple: Plutonium waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory and a variety of defense projects is packed into holes bored into the walls of rooms carved from salt. At a rate of six inches a year, the salt closes in on the waste and encapsulates it for what engineers say will be millions of years.

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, WIPP for short, is drawing new attention in the New Mexico desert. At a time when the effort to find a place for highly radioactive civilian and military wastes is at a near-standstill, officials say the site might be a solution.

The material buried at the plant is limited by law to plutonium waste from making weapons. The waste from spent nuclear fuel, which is far more radioactive in its first few centuries, is not permitted. But experts say that proper testing and analysis might show that the salt beds at WIPP are a good home for the radioactive waste that was once meant for Yucca.

Some people despair of finding a place for what officials call a high-level nuclear “repository”, but Allison M. Macfarlane, a geologist who is chairwoman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said WIPP proves it can be done.

“The main lesson from WIPP is that we have already developed a geologic repository for nuclear waste in this country, so we can in the future,” she said. The key, she said, is a site that is acceptable to both scientists and the local community.

Images: Jeff T Green (Getty images) / Michael Stravato (NY Times) (11/2/14)

Are you sure fracking's such a good idea???

Spencer Hunt, writing recently for the Columbus Dispatch, does a bit of fracking for us.

When Pennsylvania environmental officials tested creek mud near a fracking wastewater-treatment plant last year, they found radiation at levels 45 times higher than federal drinking-water standards.

As the plant owner prepares to dredge radium from Blacklick Creek, Pennsylvania officials are examining other radiation problems related to Marcellus shale fracking. They’re testing tons of cast-off rock and drilling sludge sent to Pennsylvania landfills and liquid waste routinely trucked to Ohio disposal wells.

Ohio is experiencing a similar drilling boom in which drillers are pulling up radioactive waste from wells. Although it’s unknown how much radiation there is, there are some standards already in place. That’s why state officials say they have no plans for similar surveys or precautions.

Environmental advocates say the law ignores radiation hazards in liquid waste and makes it easier to dump some waste into landfills without testing. “We have a health risk to be considered. In Ohio, we’re just ignoring it,” said Julie Weatherington-Rice, a senior scientist with Bennett & Williams Environmental Consultants in Columbus.

When shale drilling and fracking began in Ohio in late 2010, concerns about water and air pollution, landowner rights, even earthquakes took centre stage. A public debate about the effectiveness of Ohio’s property, pollution and health safeguards continues unresolved.

Radiation is now increasingly listed among environmental advocates’ top concerns. Images: CBS Local / Marcellus (30/1/14)

New home wanted for missile waste - pronto!!

Lou Whitmire, reporting for the Mansfield News Journal, tells a cautionary tale..

On Wednesday, J.R. Rice, director of the City of Mansfield’s Codes and Permits Department, said he will issue a demolition order on Allen Hogan’s house at 663 Fifth Avenue in Mansfield, Ohio.  Hogan said he will appeal the demolition order with the Mansfield City Planning Commission.

Hogan’s woes at the spacious property began in 1994 when he bought 2,180 pounds of scrap magnesium at an auction in Columbus and trucked it back to Mansfield. He contends the metal was misidentified and given to a Defense Department office in Columbus, which then sold it to Hogan’s company, Autojumble. Hogan said he unknowingly took possession of radioactive waste from a former Minuteman nuclear missile.

He discovered the materials were radioactive in 1996 when he sent some cars and metal to be crushed at a Canton site where a Geiger counter was used. In 1997, U.S. Air Force officials organized a three-week cleanup at his property.

In 1999, Hogan filed a $10 million lawsuit against the government, claiming the continued presence of radioactive materials on his 663 Fifth Ave. property constitute a nuisance. He lost the case on appeal. Since then he has found 50 pounds of radioactive material on parts of his property, he said. Images: Take My Trip / Mother Nature Network (24/1/14)

What's all the fuss? It looks fine to me...

Esther Tanquintic-Misa, reporting for the International Business Times, packs her bucket and spade for this…

State health officials from California have debunked claims raised by an Internet video posted on YouTube, which pointed out dangerously high radiation levels in the sands of Pacifica State Beach. The author of the video linked the radiation from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan.

"Recent tests show that elevated levels of radiation at Half Moon Bay are due to naturally occurring materials and not radioactivity associated with the Fukushima incident," Wendy Hopkins, spokeswoman of the California Department of Public Health, said.

The video showed an unidentified man carrying a commercial Geiger counter. The device displayed levels of radiation as the man walked along the beach shores. It showed the levels rose to "alert" levels. The video's author said he has been taking radiation measurements in the area for over two years. "Someone going around with a Geiger counter is likely to discover these great variations in levels from time to time," Edward Morse, a Berkeley nuclear engineering professor, was quoted by online portal Politix. "That's absolutely no correlation with anything that happened in Fukushima."

Dan Sythe, CEO for International Medcom, which designs and manufactures Geiger Counters, supported the findings. "The radionuclides are in the NORM class of radioactive substances, not from Fukushima," he said. When he saw the video, he immediately asked a sample of sand from the beach and had it tested. He said they are convinced whatever radiation levels found were not linked to Fukushima.

“If the sand were contaminated by radiation from Fukushima it would show cesium-137 which is reported to be the major health concern in Fukushima." Images: Trekaroo / Mightymac (13/1/14)

More disposal tales... today - Washington State

Our thanks goes to King 5 news, Seattle and Nicholas K Geranios, reporting for the Associated Press for this one…

The U.S. Department of Energy intends to retrieve nearly all the highly radioactive waste stored in underground tanks on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and convert it into a glass-like substance for permanent disposal, according to a decision that was published Friday.

The decision covers the nation’s biggest collection of radioactive waste, held in 177 underground tanks at the sprawling reservation near Richland that has been engaged in environmental cleanup for the past two decades. The material is left over from the production of plutonium for nuclear weapons.

The document said the Energy Department intends to retrieve 99% of the stored waste and close up the tanks. It’s necessary to remove the radioactive material to avoid future leaks into groundwater and other safety concerns, the decision says.

The dangerous waste will eventually be converted into a glass-like substance at a $12 billion plant whose construction on the Hanford site is stalled by safety concerns. The glassy logs are intended to be buried in a national repository, the location of which is still undetermined.

The tanks will be “landfill closed,” which means they will be filled with grout, stabilized and left in place. It was deemed too expensive and dangerous to have workers actually dismantle the highly radioactive tanks, said Suzanne Dahl, tank waste manager for the state Department of Ecology.

“We cannot have people up there with blowtorches,” she said. Images: US Dept of Energy / Groundwater UK (16/12/12)

Lake Huron Indian Nation unhappy about new nuke dump plans

Martha Troian, reporting for Indian Country Today, brings us this…

A controversial proposal to bury nuclear waste a half mile from Lake Huron’s shoreline in Ontario is proceeding over indigenous objections in a plan that has repercussions on both sides of the U.S.– Canada border.

Opposition to the plan, which would inter low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste about 2,230 feet underground in solid rock, is sparking opposition from Indigenous Peoples and U.S. politicians alike.  “We have a long list of fears, legitimate fears in our community about these facilities, interaction with our rights, our interests and our way of life,” said Saugeen Ojibwe Nation Chief Randall Kahgee.

The Saugeen Ojibwe is one of several indigenous communities opposing the application of Ontario Power Generation for a license to store nuclear waste in an underground facility. Ontario Power, a public company owned by the provincial government, is one of the largest power generators in North America. It wants to construct a deep geologic repository for storing low and intermediate-level nuclear waste within the municipality of Kincardine. The repository would be located at an existing nuclear site known as the Bruce Generating Station, where there is already a nuclear waste-management facility. The waste in question is stored there above ground, or in shallow pits. 

Kincardine agreed to host the waste in return for $35.7 million that Ontario Power will pay the town and some neighbouring communities over 30 years. The facility would store low and intermediate-level nuclear waste from the power generator’s nuclear plants. Materials include the ashes of items used at nuclear facilities such as mops, clothes, floor sweepings and gloves. The site has been studied and analysed by engineers, geologists, geoscientists and hydrologists and is safe for this purpose, Ontario Power officials said.

But this is not enough for Kahgee, whose Saugeen Ojibwe Nation lies on the shores of Lake Huron. “We've been very careful how we've manoeuvred ourselves with respect to this project,” said Kahgee. “Our people should not have to shoulder the burden for the industry forever. That is something that is not contemplated in our treaties… Images: John Flesher (AP/ Indian Country Today) / Dounreay Site Restoration (13/12/13)

This could almost qualify to be 'No place to go...'

John Wildermuth writing for the pages of SF Gate starts packing…

About two dozen families are being forced from their Treasure Island homes so the Navy can clean up toxic material buried in the old waste disposal site  beneath the townhouse units.

"A letter we got last week was the first we heard of it," said Paris Hayes (shown here with his wife, Lucinda) who has lived in his Bayside Drive unit for more than 10 years.

The residents will be moved out in stages, with the first group leaving in April and the last gone by July. The affected residents of the six targeted buildings will meet with Treasure Island officials Tuesday night to learn details of the relocation plan and to express concerns about the effort. While the island is owned by the Navy, there is an agreement once the cleanup is completed to turn it over to the city for a $1.5 billion residential-commercial development.

The Nov. 25 letter sent to the affected households said little more than that they would likely be provided with new housing on the island and that the cleanup doesn't mean their homes were unsafe. The letter added that ‘This work is part of the Navy's ongoing cleanup of buried and currently inaccessible low-level chemicals that were identified in prior assessments.’

But while the letter said the cleanup was not related to recent efforts to seek out radioactive material left from the man-made island's decades as a Navy base, crews will be removing low-level sources of radiation. In the past couple of years, however, there have been suggestions that larger, "hotter" debris might be found elsewhere on the island.

The Navy is (currently) conducting surveys to see if any radioactive material has migrated from the dump site. Images: SF Gate (Michael Macor) / Beta News (6/12/13)

If it's not Nevada, let's move on to Utah...

Amy Joi O'Donoghue, writing for Desert News, is looking for somewhere to store some used uranium.

When figuring out if it is going to be safe to allow large quantities of depleted uranium to be buried in the desert 65 miles west of Salt Lake City, the state of Utah has to contemplate a long list of "what ifs" that could happen - and over a long, long period of time. There are events like war, meteor strikes, volcanic activity, the return of large lakes like Lake Bonneville every 16,000 years and even, to some degree, the threat to stable disposal caused by burrowing ants.

Energy Solutions is proposing to dispose of 3,507 metric tons of depleted uranium at Clive, Tooele County, and it could be the nation's repository of its inventory of 700,000 more tons of the radioactive waste, which is a by-product of nuclear production material.

The state has to sign off on the disposal, requiring the company to complete a "performance assessment" that looks at how well its disposal site will weather all sorts of events and conditions. The prospect of Utah receiving the unique waste stream has been a contentious and complicated issue for regulators, who have had to grapple with the idiosyncrasies of possibly receiving such a unique waste stream.

Even the federal regulators, such as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, have yet to craft a rule on the storage of this brand of radioactive waste, leaving Utah to forge out on its own with building a framework that is protective of public health and the environment.

The problem posed by the storage of depleted uranium stems from its increasing radioactivity - it continues to get "hotter" over time, peaking at 2.1 million years and staying at the level for billions of more years.  Utah regulators required Energy Solutions to come up with contingencies in its storage plans that document how its site would fare for a period of 10,000 years - and beyond that looking at "deep time" scenarios until it reaches peak radioactive levels.

The scenarios contemplate vulnerabilities to the public, from off-highway vehicle users, military at the Utah Test and Training Range and the lone resident caretaker at the rest stop off I-80 at the Aragonite exit (shown above). Images: Douglas C. Pizac, (AP) / Flickr (14/11/13)

You can visit, but don't eat the dirt - what??

Mat Hufman reporting for the Las Vegas Sun goes off-road for this anniversary.

Along Highway 50 east of Fallon, Nevada, at the former Old Middlegate Station travellers and desert rats swap stories.

The current one is about the nuclear bomb that was detonated nearby, 50 years ago almost to the day. This occurred between Fallon and Middlegate in a lifeless-looking place called GZ Canyon. There are a few man-made structures that show the continued presence of the Navy, but other than a military jet screaming overhead from Fallon Naval Air Station, there’s not much else but grey scrub brush and quiet.

Look hard enough and you’ll notice a concrete pad, badly cracked, and twisted hunks of rusted metal. These are the detritus of a nuclear blast, 1,200 feet below in the granite hillside, set off Oct. 26, 1963. This was the government’s Project Shoal, a 12.5-kiloton blast (equivalent to 12,500 tons of TNT) to study how to detect deep underground nuclear testing in other countries.

The Shoal site is one of two places in the state outside of the Nevada Test Site where the government exploded nuclear weapons. The other site, Project Faultless in Nye County, northeast of Warm Springs, has an 8-foot-high drill casing with a small plaque describing the test. The remoteness of the area, roughly 50 miles from Fallon in the Sand Springs Mountains, is a key reason why this place was chosen.

Both the state and federal government say there’s no immediate concern about radiation here. There is significant damage and radiation down several hundred feet, but on the surface, the general advice is that you’ll be fine as long as you don’t dig deep or eat the dirt. The 50th anniversary of the blast passed as the others have, with few people noticing.

The only real reminder of the test is the name: The initials in GZ Canyon stand for ground zero. Not that you’d ever find it…Images: Mat Hufman (Las Vegas Sun) / The Centre For Land Use Interpretation (4/11/13)

I hope these containers aren't bound for the Kara Sea...

Found on the pages of The Moscow Times, so 'spasibo’ to them…

 

Large-scale Soviet nuclear tests, dumping of spent fuel and two scuttled nuclear-powered submarines are a major source of pollution in the Arctic Ocean, a Russian research institute has said.

 

There are 17,000 containers and 19 vessels holding radioactive waste submerged in the Kara Sea, as well as 14 nuclear reactors, said a report passed by Russia to the Norwegian authorities in 2012, according to Bellona, an environmental group that acquired a copy of document.

 

The sinking of nuclear material and scuttling of ships used to be widespread practice. Of particular worry now is the Soviet nuclear submarine, K-27, scuttled in 1981 in the Kara Sea. The boat, equipped with two nuclear reactors, was filled with bitumen and concrete before being sunk, according to the Russian Nuclear Safety Institute, to ensure that it would lie safely on the ocean floor for 50 years. That period is nearly up. Last year, speakers at a joint seminar with Bellona and state nuclear company Rosatom warned that a nuclear reaction could occur on the K-27.

 

"Before that, no-one knew about the danger," Igor Kudrik, a nuclear safety expert at Bellona said. Images: Commons Wikimedia / Barents Observer (24/10/13)

Stand back! Things may get a bit wet around here...

Thanks to AFP for this ‘watery’ tale…

Six workers at Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant were doused with radioactive water from a desalination system Wednesday, the plant's operator said. The fluid splashed onto the men when they accidentally removed a pipe connected to the system.

"The water did not come into contact with their faces so there is a little possibility that the workers ingested" any of the water, a TEPCO spokeswoman said, adding there were five other workers present at the time.

The pipe was reconnected and the leak stopped within an hour of the initial incident, the utility said in a statement. The system is designed to desalinate contaminated water once it has been treated to reduce its caesium content. It is then stored in tanks on the site.

Wednesday's incident will do little to improve the commonly held view that TEPCO is making a mess of cleaning up the world's worst nuclear accident for a quarter of a century. Earlier this week it was revealed a worker had accidentally switched off power to pumps keeping broken reactors at a steady temperature.

This radioactive water is being stored in around 1,000 tanks, which have been the source of leaks recently. Some contaminated water has made its way into the sea, the company has admitted.

TEPCO has so far revealed no clear plan for the water stored on site, but experts have said that ultimately it will have to be dumped in the Pacific, once it has been scoured of the worst of its radioactive load. This suggestion faces opposition from fishermen, environmental groups and neighbouring countries. Images: Gawand / Yahoo News (10/10/13)

There's plenty more (Jelly) fish in the sea...

A huge cluster of moon jellyfish forced the Oskarshamn plant, the site of one of the world's largest nuclear reactors, to shut down by clogging the pipes conducting cool water to the turbines.

Operators of the plant on the Baltic coast in south-east Sweden had to scramble reactor No 3 on Sunday after tons of jellyfish were caught in the pipes. By Tuesday, the pipes were cleared of the jellyfish and engineers were preparing to restart the 1,400MWe boiling water reactor, said a spokesman.

Marine biologists said they would not be surprised if more jellyfish shutdowns occurred in the future. It's true that there seems to be more and more of these extreme cases of blooming jellyfish," said Lene Moller, a researcher at the Swedish Institute for the Marine Environment. "But it's very difficult to say if there are more jellyfish, because there is no historical data."

He added that the biggest problem was that there was no monitoring of jellyfish in the Baltic Sea to produce the data scientists needed for decisions on tackling the issue. Images: Lionel Cironneau (AP) /News 168 (2/10/13)

I know there is a bit of radiation here, but, really??

We’ve not heard from our friend Annette Cary at the Tri-City Herald for a while, so we’ll put that right with this little gem…

Unusual radiation readings that caused an emergency to be declared last month at Hanford came from old contamination, according to Hanford officials. No evidence of a new leak from the system being used to retrieve waste from a Hanford tank or from the system's transfer hoses was found.

An investigation concluded that insulating blankets that had shielded radiation on an area about 4 square inches shifted, causing the elevated beta radiation readings during routine monitoring, Kevin Smith, manager of the Department of Energy Hanford Office of River Protection, said.

Washington River Protection Solutions, the DOE contractor for the tanks farms, has completed an assessment of the Tank C-101 sluicer, where the elevated reading was recorded and the surrounding area and found no additional contamination or exposure to the environment, according to Smith. The contamination was on the concrete cover block near the base of the C-101 sluicer transfer hose cover assembly.

The sluicer is part of the system being used to empty radioactive and hazardous chemical waste from the single-shell tank and transfer it to a newer double-shell tank for storage until it can be treated for disposal. Because the abnormal reading could have been caused by a leak, workers at the C Tank Farm evacuated and workers in central Hanford and near the K Reactors were ordered to take cover indoors.

Work is expected to resume this week to pump waste from Tank C-101 and a second C Farm tank, C-110, where waste was being removed before the abnormal radiation readings were detected. Before work restarts, the hot spot will be covered.Images: Cre a Vapeur / Beta News (5/9/13)

Santa Maria - Susana's getting messy!!

Things are getting messy at Santa Susana research facility, reports the Santa Maria Times

Several Californian environmental groups sued state regulators last week over the cleanup of a former nuclear research lab, saying low-level radioactive waste was improperly shipped to landfills.

Consumer Watchdog, along with other groups, filed a lawsuit in Sacramento County Superior Court against the Department of Public Health and Department of Toxic Substances Control, which oversees the cleanup at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory.

Located about 30 miles northwest of Los Angeles, Santa Susana was once home to nuclear research and rocket engine tests. Responsible parties including Boeing Co., NASA and the U.S Energy Department have been working with state officials to meet a 2017 deadline to rid the nearly 2,900-acre site of contaminated soil.

In their complaint, the groups contend that materials from several buildings that were demolished were sent to landfills and metal recycling shops that are not licensed to accept radioactive waste. They also sought a temporary restraining order to stop Boeing from tearing down a plutonium fuel fabrication building on the hilltop complex.

"It is paramount that the public be protected from toxic, and in this instance radioactive, harm," Liza Tucker of Consumer Watchdog said in a statement.

Officials at the toxic control agency rejected the allegations, saying that debris sent offsite posed no threat to human health or the environment. Stewart Black, a deputy director at DTSC, said the state followed the rules in the demolishing and disposal of old buildings. Images: Puroserve / Enviro Reporter (12/8/13)

Finally!! A Nice Nugget...

Two bald eagles have hatched in a nest on the Hanford nuclear reservation, for possibly the first time in more than 50 years.

Hanford officials are not aware of bald eagles producing eggs on the site since it was established during World War II, according to Department of Energy spokesman Cameron Salony. It's the first known bald eagle nesting attempt at Hanford in three years.

The young birds are estimated to be about 10 weeks old and already stand about 31 inches tall.

In February, Mission Support Alliance officials surveyed for bald eagles on the site and spotted 13 adults and three juveniles. Bald eagles are considered juveniles until they are about five years old, when their mottled brown-and-white plumage turns to dark brown and they develop the distinctive white head and tail of an adult. Bald eagles were listed as an endangered species in 1967, but have since been removed from the list as their population has recovered. They still are covered by the Eagle Protection Act, and disturbing them can be considered a violation of the act.

The two young eagles at Hanford almost are ready to fly. Fish and Wildlife says eaglets make their first unsteady flights about 10 to 12 weeks after hatching and leave the nest within a few days after that first flight. However, they'll likely remain in the vicinity of the nest for several weeks after fledging. Image: Justin Wild (MSA) / The Independent (5/7/13)

Prussian blue, anyone...?

Lyndsey Smith and Michael Sandelson, reporting for the pages of The Foreigner based in Norway, take a look at some sheep for us.

Norway’s Agricultural Authority reports the number of sheep requiring ‘foddering down’ following 1986’s Chernobyl disaster appear to be decreasing. 1,914 sheep had to undergo this procedure last year, with 196 claims for compensation. This is “a marked reduction from 2011”, according to them.

‘Foddering down’ involves the animals being fed a controlled caesium-free diet, sometimes laced with a caesium binder (known as Prussian blue) six weeks prior to slaughtering. Over two million sheep on a national basis have had to undergo this process since the disaster, and Norway is still counting the cost of the accident.

Sheep are particularly fond of mushrooms, which are known to accumulate caesium. 1986 saw a bumper crop of these, and major amounts of radioactive meat had to be destroyed. Images: Miranda Metheny / The Guardian (25/6/13)

Another case of 'You've put What? Where?' Down Under

Miles Kemp, writing for Adelaide Now in Australia, takes a look at some interesting documents for us…

Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show the Environment Protection Authority has approved 36 facilities to store radioactive waste, eight years after the State Government refused to allow a secure waste dump to be built in the far north of the state.

But the EPA has refused to tell the public where the material, some held by private companies, is kept - even by postcode. Mr Brokenshire, a representative of Family First, said it was unacceptable that the EPA would not reveal where the waste was being stored. He commented: “The fact that it took a year to come up with a simple list shows how ineffective the whole system is.”

In 2005 the State Government refused to allow a national storage facility to be located in the far north of South Australia, despite it being selected as the best location geologically. One known example of the known storage are 21 barrels of medium to high-level radioactive material stored in a tin shed in the heart of Arkaroola, an Outback sanctuary the State Government wants on the World Heritage list.

A spokeswoman for the EPA said it had a register of 789 radiation sources but most were still in use. “Some of these sources are in storage as waste. The majority of the sources are used in the industrial and scientific/medical setting.” Images: News Ltd / Aussie Heritage Tours (17/6/13)

TIMBER!!! down Chernobyl way...

Fancy cutting down a few thousand trees in the Chernobyl area? Time to dig out that radiation suit – again! Our thanks to the pages of RIA Novosti for this crazy tale…

Belarusian scientists want the former-Soviet republic to restart tree-felling in areas affected by the world’s worst nuclear power disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, a Belarusian academic said on Thursday. The timber growing in these forests has an increased radioactive nuclides content only in its surface layers, mostly in the bark. This bark can be stripped using domestically-made mobile bark-stripping systems,” Alexander Kovalevich, director of the Forest Institute at the Belarusian Academy of Sciences was quoted as saying by the Belta state news agency.

Kovalevich said timber could be safely procured in forests with a radiation contamination level of up to 40 curies per square km.

Modern machinery will shield workers from radiation, he argued. “At present, about 27 percent of timber is procured with the use of harvesters and this share will rise to 70 percent by 2015. A driver working in the cabin of this vehicle is fully protected from the viewpoint of radiation safety,” he said. Images: RIA Novosti (Andrey Alexandrov) /  Sammy D Vintage (7/6/13)

US asks Canada: "You want to store what?? Where??"

Our grateful thanks to Fox28 for this little gem we found today…

Michigan lawmakers have questions about a proposed Canadian underground nuclear waste repository near Lake Huron.

A state Senate resolution that was introduced by Democratic Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood of Taylor passed Wednesday. Lawmakers worry that the facility might affect the Great Lakes, and they want Congress to help ensure Michigan's concerns are fully resolved.

Ontario Power Generation has proposed the facility. The Detroit News reports that a public comment period for the company's environmental impact statement comes to an end on Friday. Hearings and other steps are expected before approval is considered.

The storage facility for low - to medium - level nuclear waste would be built in Kincardine, across Lake Huron from the Michigan shoreline. Images: Summit Post / Groundwater UK (27/5/13)

 

Today's Special: Caesium, Plutonium & Americium...

Emily Parsons, reporting for The Whitehaven News was up for a pizza…

The so-called Pizza Cumbriana was created eight years ago by Core (Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment), to highlight their concerns about plans by Italy to ship more irradiated (spent) fuel to Sellafield for reprocessing.

To illustrate the environmental damage caused by such trade, Core presented the embassy with a unique West Cumbrian “pizza”, complete with a topping of mud and seaweed collected from a public footpath crossing the River Esk estuary.

An analysis of the material by the University of Manchester had shown the topping to contain levels of radioactivity that would be illegal in Italy and which, in the UK, would classify it as Low Level Waste (LLW).

The condemned pizza was swiftly removed by the Environment Agency and has languished ever since with other LLW at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Didcot, Oxford. Now it has been finally transported by road to its rightful resting place to the Low Level Waste disposal facility at Drigg.

Martin Forwood, Core spokesman, said: “Burying our pizza at Drigg is proof positive that some of west Cumbria’s coastal areas are nothing more than nuclear wastelands.”

A report produced by Harwell Scientifics Ltd for the Environment Agency entitled ‘Analysis of a Pizza Comprising of Sediment’ (RD 0693) confirmed the presence of high levels of Caesium 137, Americium 241, and Plutonium 238, 239 and 240. Images: Whitehaven News / Photaki (30/4/13)

Mamma Mia - we're off the menu!!

This comes from the English news section of Xinhau

Traces of cesium-137 above the ruled thresholds have been detected in Italy's boars, local reports said recently.

The radioactive isotope of the element cesium was found following routine surveillance on tongue and diaphragm from boars in Italy’s northern Piedmont region, according to a statement published on the health ministry's website.

The samples were from wild boars captured during the 2012-2013 hunt season. On 27 of them, cesium-137 levels were above the ruled threshold, established as the upper limit after nuclear incident.

Experts quoted by the ANSA news agency estimated that the radioactive isotope may derive from the Russian Chernobyl nuclear power plant, after the 1986 accident.

Some said that two nuclear sites in Piedmont region, the Trino Vercellese station dismantled in 1987 and an experimental site in the Saluggia area, as well as toxic waste, may also be at the origin of the findings.

"The cesium-137 is an artificial radionuclide produced by nuclear fission, and is released from nuclear sites," said the head of the Enea Radiation Protection Institute, Elena Fantuzzi. However, she added that the presence of cesium-137 is continuously monitored at the national level and the amounts detected "have never been worrying."

In her view, it is also important to consider whether the metabolism of boars may facilitate the accumulation of the radioactive isotope above the limits considered as safe. Images: Shutterstock / Wine Tours (15/3/13)

Fishing in Japan? I don't think so...

Those nice people at UPI have a cautionary fishing tale for us…

A fish caught near the Fukushima nuclear plant contained levels of radioactivity 5,100 times above the state-set safety limit, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.

The Greenling fish, caught in the small harbour by the plant damaged in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, contained 231,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per pound, Kyodo News reported Friday.

If someone were to eat around 2 pounds of fish with this level they would be exposed to about 7.7 millisieverts of internal radiation, about the dose received in a full-body CT scan.

Tepco has set up a 6-foot-tall net at the seafloor of the harbour, which has been significantly contaminated with radioactive substances, to prevent bottom fish from swimming out.

During efforts by Tepco to rid the harbour of all fish, a Spotbelly rockfish containing 125,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per pound was also caught, officials said. Images: Alaska in pictures / Photo Travels (3/3/13)

We heard about the nuke plant closure - do you need some help?

We thought we’d have a positive Nuclear Nugget today, thanks to those nice folks at Reuters and Saundra Amrhein…

The decision earlier this month to retire a nuclear plant near Crystal River, Florida - potentially costing hundreds of jobs and lost revenue - has residents banking on the lure of the endangered manatee. "We'll always have tourism, we'll always have manatees. That's a huge draw," said Michele Bunts, manager of Cracker's Bar, Grill & Tiki. As the nation's only place where people can legally swim with manatees, Crystal River draws tourists from around the world for a chance to snorkel with the sea cows, which can be 10 feet long and weigh between 800 and 1,200 lbs (364 to 545 kg).

About 600 people could lose their jobs once the plant is eventually retired, but there will be plenty of work for at least the next five to seven years. The plant would then transition into a "mothballed-type status" for another 20 to 25 years.

Store and restaurant owners were hoping to recoup lost business if Duke chose to decontaminate the plant, adding more workers. Instead, the company announced on Feb. 5 it planned to pursue another option, safely storing the plant for several decades to let nature help with the decay before cleaning out the rest of the radiation.

Crystal River Mayor Jim Farley acknowledged that the county as a whole might take a hit should many employees be reassigned out-of-state and if property tax income drops if Duke does not replace the nuclear facility with a natural gas plant. But he predicted that ongoing plans for the springs will make the area a bigger eco-tourism attraction than it already is.

"It's not going to be a disaster," Farley said. "I think we're going to be able to cope. Images: Beach Chair Scientist /Gottus Realty (15/2/13)

Okay - what's making the Geigers tick at Aston Down?

Reports are being reviewed about the presence of radioactive substances at the former MoD airfield at Aston Down, Gloucestershire, following new claims of contamination. 

In 2005, the findings of a Land Quality Assessment identified the presence of radiological materials and artefacts in two hangars but campaigners are concerned because only one type of survey - focussing on gamma radiation - was undertaken.

Sally Morgan, of the Aston Down Action Group, said: "Alpha and beta radiation is highly toxic if ingested and not as easily detectable as gamma radiation." Stroud District Council has confirmed that its environmental health team has been reviewing previously submitted reports concerning the possible presence of radioactive materials.

A spokesman said: "The reports do not directly refer to the monitoring of alpha and beta radiation. To ensure that we have the best advice and appropriate action is taken, we are referring the matter to the Health Protection Agency as the experts on radiological matters." Images: Stroud News & Journal / Watch Talk (8/2/13)

Note to UK - should we really start fracking?

Rachel Morgan’s recent report on the pages of Times Online raises some worrying thoughts on the by-products of fracking. Here is a small extract …

With new evidence pointing to potentially dangerous levels of radiation in fracking wastewater, questions arise over just who regulates this stuff. The short answer: No one, really.

Does the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or U.S. Department of Transportation step in, because this water is often transported across state lines? Does the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation regulate the tanker trucks being driven around on the state’s roads? What about the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which monitors every radioactive molecule emanating from nuclear power plants?

The answer, it seems, is a resounding no from every regulatory body except perhaps from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. State DEP officials say that yes, they are in charge of regulating the handling, transport and disposal of wastewater from natural gas drilling. But those same officials said they do not measure radium concentrations in fracking wastewater, a position they held until their announcement Thursday that they plan to launch a yearlong study of radioactive waste from the drilling procedure formally known as hydraulic fracturing.

The EPA is studying fracking’s impact on drinking water sources, with intentions to release the full report in 2014. The plan will take into account the potentially radioactive material that can be released from the shale by fracking. The study was done in the early 1990s and tested wastewater from conventional wells, when the salty brine was used to de-ice roads. That permit, DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday said, expired in 2010 and was not renewed. He also said the DEP has never allowed brine from fracked wells to be used on the state’s roads.

“The study found no problems with the water,” Poister said. “Radiation was barely detectable but not deemed a hazard in any way.” Images: Evan Witek (The Times) / BGS.AC (28/1/13)

Want to see some Atlantic Salmon? Best check out Connecticut Yankee...

We thought it was time for a nice, positive tale today, thanks to the folks at World Nuclear News.

A US government conservation agency has purchased land next to the decommissioned Connecticut Yankee nuclear power plant to expand its nature reserve there.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) have bought a 15-hectare portion of land from the plant. The land will become part of the Salmon River Division of the Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, which will then cover some 168 hectares. The Salmon River is recognized by the FWS as a high-priority area for fisheries, and is one of three federal Atlantic salmon restoration areas in the state of Connecticut. Extensive beds of aquatic plants in the Salmon River Division provide significant over-wintering, spawning and feeding habitat for a large number of fish species, including commercial finfish and shellfish.

Connecticut Yankee president and CEO Wayne Norton commented, "The success of this land transaction is due to the cooperative efforts of the FWS and grassroots organizations in the Haddam community and to the fact that this separately acquired parcel of land adjacent to the original plant property was never associated with site-related operations, nor needed for used fuel storage operations."

Only a small part of the former plant site - hosting the dry cask storage facility where some 1000 used nuclear fuel assemblies from the reactor's operating life plus some contaminated metals are kept - remains under Nuclear Regulatory Commission licence. Connecticut Yankee retains responsibility for the security and protection of the storage facility's two-hectare site until a national used nuclear fuel disposal facility is available, when it would be removed. Images: Connecticut Yankee / Paul Nicklen (National Geographic) (11/1/13)

I'm sorry -  I swear someone said Emmerdale...

A west Cumbrian community fears it may be chosen to host an underground store for Britain's nuclear waste. Samantha Parker, reporting for ITV, has the full report.

Ennerdale householders say the area is one of only a few places where the geology is thought to be suitable. A protest group has been set up and all 276 households will be asked for their views in a referendum. A public meeting was held at the local pub where villagers were able to speak to those for and against the plans before casting their votes. The majority say they haven't been properly consulted.

This is disputed by members of the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely partnership who spent three years gathering the opinions of those living in west Cumbria.

On 30th January the executives of the three local councils of Allerdale, Copeland and the county council will meet to decide whether to go through to the next stage of the process and look for a possible site. If they agree extensive work will be undertaken to find an area with a suitable geology.

The councils say no area has been identified as being suitable at this stage. If the councils do vote for some or all of west Cumbria to go through to the siting stage the west of the county can still withdraw at any stage until building work begins.

The views of the people of Ennerdale will be sent to all three councils ahead of their meetings on 30th January. Images: NOEND / Mediastudies (7/1/13)

Invasion of the black boxes in Wyoming

Abrahm Lustgarten, reporting for ProPublica, wanders the Great Plains for this one.

On a lonely stretch at the edge of the Great Plains is a crowning escarpment called the Pumpkin Buttes. The land appears bountiful, but it is straining to produce enough sustenance for the herds of cattle and sheep on its arid prairies. "It's a tough way to make a living," said John Christensen, whose family has worked this private expanse, called Christensen Ranch, for more than a century.

Christensen has made ends meet by allowing prospectors to tap into minerals and oil and gas beneath his bucolic hills. But from the start, it has been a Faustian bargain.

As dry as this land may be, underground, vast reservoirs hold billions of gallons of water suitable for drinking, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Yet every day injection wells pump more than 200,000 gallons of toxic and radioactive waste from uranium mining into Christensen's aquifers.

But a conflict between state and federal regulators over whether to allow more mining at Christensen Ranch (and the damage that comes with it) has pitted the feverish drive for domestic energy against the need to protect water resources for the future. Twenty-five years ago, the EPA and Wyoming officials agreed that polluting the water beneath Christensen Ranch was an acceptable price for producing energy there.

For the last five years, as regulators have vacillated over what to do, John Christensen’s property has been speckled with thousands of small, mysterious black boxes. From each dark cube, a mixture of chemicals is pumped into the ground to dissolve the ore and separate out the uranium so that it can be sucked back out and refined for nuclear fuel.

Horses graze behind a gate on a dirt road that winds across this 35,000-acre tract, 50 miles south of Gillette, Wyoming. Nearby, a small metal sign is strung to a cattle guard with chicken wire: "Caution. Radioactive Material." Images: Abrahm Lustgarten, / FRROLE (28/12/12)

Friends of the Earth turn tourist guides...

We thought we’d go all public spirited again, this time thanks to the pages of Green Left, Down Under

Friends of the Earth have released a press statement, announcing their Radioactive Exposure Tour  which will take place from Friday March 29 to Sunday April 7, 2013.

"These tours have exposed thousands of people first-hand to the realities of “radioactive racism” and to the environmental impacts of the nuclear industry.

After travelling from Melbourne to Adelaide we will head through Port Augusta and visit the Aboriginal Tent Embassy. Then we'll travel north to the SA desert, we'll visit BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam uranium mine at Roxby Downs, the largest uranium deposit in the world.

We'll watch sunset over Lake Eyre and see the Mound Springs - oases that are fed by the underlying Great Artesian Basin and host unique flora and fauna. Sadly, some of the Mound Springs have been adversely affected or destroyed altogether by the massive water taken for the Olympic Dam mine. The water is taken from Arabunna land and we'll hopefully get to spend time with Arabunna elder Kevin Buzzacott, co-president of the Australian Nuclear Free Alliance.

We'll hear first-hand accounts of the British nuclear bomb tests from Maralinga veteran and whistle-blower Avon Hudson. After stopping for a swim at Coward Springs, we'll head east and camp in the beautiful Gammon Ranges and visit the not-so-beautiful Beverley uranium mine.

The costs are: concession A$500 - waged A$750 - solidarity A$950. If cost is a barrier, contact the organisers to discuss funding ideas.

If you're interested in joining in the 2013 Radioactive Exposure Tour, contact radexposuretour@gmail.com " Images: foe.org.au / Eco News (12/12/12)

New program launched to clean up Navajo land

Jenny Kane, writing for the Carlsbad Current Argus, brings us some good news.

More than 70 years after Navajo land first was poisoned by the mining and milling of uranium ore, its people have a chance to right some of those wrongs.

About 20 students will graduate from a new program that trains Navajo to help in the cleanup of uranium. The program teaches students how to measure and detect radon, one of the toxic products of uranium. They also are trained in a 40-hour hazardous waste and emergency response course, first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and basic job skills.

More than 100 applicants tried to get into the class offered on the Navajo Nation. Only about 20 were selected for the three-week training, which is preceded by a physical and mental test. Though the recruitment of Navajo into the cleanup force is new, the effort has been in the works for decades and is expected to continue for years.

Radioactive material began contaminating the Navajo Nation's land and water during the 1940s, when uranium was in high demand by the federal government.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Navajo Environmental Protection Agency have teamed since 2007 to clean up sites scattered across the 27,000 square miles of the reservation. Their priorities are uranium-contaminated water sources and structures.

Approximately 30 percent of the Navajo population does not have access to a public drinking water system and may be using unregulated water sources with uranium contamination, according to the EPA. Images: Stormy cs / TrekEarth (6/12/12)

It's Radon testing time here in Port Hope

It’s time to go public-spirited again, this time thanks to the Northumberland View, based in Ontario, Canada.

Port Hope Area Initiative contractors will be in the field and back visiting 450 local residents later this month as testing continues to prepare for the future cleanup of historic low-level radioactive waste.

The field work will take place at the 450 properties that were monitored for radon gas this past summer. Phone calls to property owners to schedule the appointments will start during the week of November 19, and home visits will begin during the last week of November.

Contractors will use the personal identification number that has been assigned to each property owner as a security measure. The testing is part of the Port Hope Project Radiological Survey program that will survey 4,800 properties – every property in Ward 1 Port Hope and select properties in Ward 2 – over the next four years. Also this month, field investigations will be carried out at the Peter Street Interim Mound and at the St. Mary’s School property to determine the extent of future clean-up activities required.

Before these investigations begin, staff from the PHAI Management Office will visit nearby neighbours and businesses to provide them with background information about the work and to answer any questions they may have. Communication with the property owners where the work is being done has already taken place.

“We expect very little impact that anyone will notice from these on-site investigations,” said Walter Van Veen, Port Hope Project Director. “Our aim is to complete the work with minimal disturbance and inconvenience to the property owners and businesses.”

The radiological investigations are being carried out by three contractors engaged by the PHAI MO as follows: Residential property investigations - SENES Consultants Limited of Richmond Hill; Peter Street Interim Mound, St. Mary’s School property and Caroline Street Park - Franz Environmental of Mississauga; Welcome Waste Management Facility abandoned pipeline - Genivar Inc. of Markham. Images: Photo Travel Pages / Coastline Housing (16/11/12)

Hurricane warnings for USA East Coast - an update...

Bloomberg reported the following on Saturday, October 27th,courtesy of Global Research.

‘Because of the size of Hurricane Sandy, we could see an impact to coastal and inland plants’ Neil Sheehan, a Philadelphia-based spokesman for the US NRC, said by phone Saturday.  He added: ‘We will station inspectors at the sites if we know they could be directly impacted.’

The NRC met Saturday to discuss the necessary precautions to take for the storm. As of 2pm New York time, Sandy had winds of 75 (121km) per hour according to the National Hurricane Centre in Miami.  It was about 430 miles south/south east of Charleston, SC.  The current Hurricane Centre track calls for the system to come ashore just south of Delaware Bay October 30th.

Reuters provides a list of the nuclear reactors and utilities in Sandy’s potential path. Many of the plants listed have had problems in the past – for example: Surry has recently been plagued by problems with the coolant system, valves and damage from a tornado; Calvert Cliffs was knocked offline by the last hurricane and Indian Point is widely recognized as one of the nation’s worst nuclear plants. Image: The Guardian (29/10/12)

Another 40 years storage? Not on my watch...

David Shaffer, reporting recently for the Star Tribune, goes native for this worrying environmental report.

Federal regulators are partially opening the door for a Minnesota Indian tribe to challenge Xcel Energy's request for a 40-year extension on its license to store highly radioactive waste in casks on the site of the Prairie Island nuclear power plant near Red Wing, Minn.

But the staff of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the Prairie Island Indian Community (many of whose members live next to the plant) shouldn't be allowed to raise one of its main issues and that the environmental questions about longer-term storage have been inadequately studied.

The NRC pointed out that the tribe should be able to raise other safety issues regarding radioactive waste in the pending licensing case. But Xcel Energy Inc., the plant's owner, in a separate filing, argued that none of the tribe's safety-related contentions should be considered.

In June, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia struck down NRC's waste-storage policy, saying the lack of a national nuclear waste repository means that spent nuclear fuel "will seemingly be stored on site at nuclear plants on a permanent basis."

That ruling has emboldened the Prairie Island tribe to petition for an expanded study of the risks of storing spent fuel rods in casks for decades longer than intended. Yet the NRC said the commission wants to avoid such plant-by-plant reviews until regulators can consider the waste-storage issue more broadly. Images: Jim Seida (MSNBC) / NRC (1/10/12) (Pictured: Doreen Hagen, president of the Prairie Island Indian Community Tribal Council)

Wild? That's all I need - an anti-radiation scrub down...

This comes from the Mainichi News. A professor is planning to attach radiation measuring devices to wild monkeys to create radiation maps of forests contaminated by the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster.

"Investigating the contamination of forests is difficult ... For the sake of a detailed investigation, we'll have wild monkeys help us out," said Fukushima University professor Takayuki Takahashi, who is planning the project. The radioactive contamination levels of the forests that cover around 70 percent of Fukushima Prefecture are still not clear.

The investigation will be carried out together with a wildlife protection centre. Wild monkeys in highly contaminated areas like Iitate or Namie will be captured, have devices to measure radiation with GPS functionality attached to their necks, and then be released back into the wild. After about a month of recording air radiation levels, the devices will be remotely detached and their data collected.

According to Takahashi, wild monkeys move in groups and live in territories covering around four hectares. Starting with one monkey, Takahashi hopes to then expand to use more of the animals and increase the size of the area covered.

In October last year, a test was done using a measuring device on a wild monkey in the city of Fukushima, but after the apparatus was recovered a problem with it prevented data from being accessed. Currently, Takahashi is working on improving the measuring devices with an aim to resuming tests in the fall.

"The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology is conducting radiation monitoring with aircraft, but it is not getting detailed radiation amounts, so an early investigation is necessary. If all goes well with the monkeys, I would also like to use wild boars or dogs," said Takahashi. Images: Bird Quest Tours / National Geographic (19/8/12)

Keep 2075 free, we may need some digging done...

Matt Chorley, writing for The Independent, checks out potential burial sites…

The burial of radioactive nuclear waste is to be fast tracked by the government despite warnings about the risks.

Ministers have revealed an "enduring ambition" for Britain's first burial of waste from nuclear power stations to happen as early as 2029, instead of 2040 as originally planned.  Opponents warn acceleration of the idea will mean cutting corners, and over-riding the views of people living near burial sites.

The idea of entombing waste from reactors deep underground was first raised by the Labour government six years ago, with the emphasis on "voluntarism". Councils were encouraged to come forward and offer to host the radioactive matter. But the coalition wants the process to move faster, and has asked the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) to carry out research into "the potential options for acceleration".

The waste would be buried in containers at depths of up to 1,000m with both metal and the natural rock preventing radiation being released.

Last year NDA said it had "confidence" the 2075 and 2130 dates could be brought forward, but shifting the 2040 date to 2029 was "more challenging" and required consideration of other approaches which bring "a higher degree of programme risk".

However, a new report on Implementing Geological Disposal, seen by The Independent on Sunday, reveals the government is determined to press ahead with acceleration, despite "the inherent risks". "Acceleration remains an enduring ambition for ministers but no decisions will be taken until NDA's further work is complete," it said.

Dr Douglas Parr, Chief Scientist at Greenpeace UK, said: "Acceleration of plans for burying nuclear waste could only be achieved by by-passing proper consideration of hazards or railroading local communities." Images: The Independent / Macstories (30/7/12)

Does anyone know the opposite of 'NIMBY' ??

Heidi Ulrichsen, reporting for Northern Life in Canada, wonders where she can get hold of some warning barrier tape (we can help you there, Heidi…)

When the Municipality of Wawa first decided to explore the possibility of hosting the country's nuclear waste, a group of citizens had what Mayor Linda Nowicki calls an “immediate knee-jerk response.”

Wawa, located about seven hours away from Greater Sudbury, on the shores of Lake Superior, is one of several communities being courted by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) as a potential site for its project deep beneath the earth.

The organization only works with communities interested in potentially hosting the facility – it doesn't approach any communities itself. The process to find a suitable project site is expected to take about eight years. Given the consultations, regulatory approvals and construction time lines, the NWMO estimates the earliest this facility will be in place is 2035.

For Nowicki, it's worth it for Wawa to consider the idea hosting the deep geological repository, given the potential economic benefits down the road.

By the mayor's own admission, the town's economy isn't doing well, with the mining, forestry and tourism industries taking a hit in recent years. “The project has the potential to bring great economic return in the long term,” Nowicki said. “I view it as a business opportunity and an economic development opportunity.”

”At the same time, citizens have a responsibility to come up with a long-term solution for the country's nuclear waste. Every one of us in this country is benefiting from the production of electricity from the nuclear reactors. We all have a moral responsibility to deal with that waste for future generations.”
Images: anythingradioactive / SLACC (19/7/12)

Grim tales from the woods Chernobyl style..

Patrick Evans, reporting for the BBC, takes a walk in the woods.

Much of the 30km exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear plant is pine forest, and some of it so badly contaminated that a forest fire could create a devastating radioactive smoke cloud.

Nevertheless, the region is slowly getting back to normal. People are returning to farm this once booming agricultural area. It is happening inside the exclusion zone too. Chernobyl Forestry Enterprise is now planting small new pine stands which it plans to harvest in 80 years' time. But there are serious problems with the rest of Chernobyl's extensive pine plantations.

Pine damages easily and these dying radioactive plantations are considered too dangerous and expensive to clear. If ignited, one expert likens the potential effect to setting off a nuclear bomb in Eastern Europe. Wind could carry radioactive smoke particles large distances, not just in Ukraine, but right across the continent.

Fire fighters in Chernobyl have one of the least enviable jobs in the world. They spend all day up rusty Soviet watchtowers, which sway in the wind like tin-box metronomes, and act as conductors to the huge lightning storms, often sparking fires

Their equipment is very basic. They believe they know when they are fighting a radioactive fire - they experience a tingling, metallic sensation in their skin - but they do not fully understand the serious dangers of being exposed to superheated radioactive particles.

Their job description still belongs to heroic Soviet ideals - they must put the blaze out, no matter the personal consequences…Images: BBC (9/7/12)

What's that noise? Just 300 railroad cars on their way to S.Carolina

Sammy Fretwell, writing for The State in South Carolina, suits up for this one.

A company wants to send 300 railroad cars of radioactive dirt from New Jersey to South Carolina for burial in a mega garbage dump near Bishopville, rather than dispose of the waste in the Northeast.

The shipments from Sayreville, N.J., to South Carolina would be unprecedented for the mountainous waste dump, a nationally known landfill designed to bury household garbage instead of toxic waste.

Many questions remain unanswered about the disposal plan, but this much is known: dumping the soil would require extra precautions at the Lee County landfill. The radioactive soil poses threats to public safety not normally found in household garbage, records show. While the radioactivity in the dirt is classified as naturally occurring, the natural levels were “technically enhanced’’ at an industrial site in northern New Jersey, regulators said. As a result, that concentrated and increased the radiation levels, said regulators in South Carolina.

Palmetto State law could, under certain circumstances, allow the disposal of such material in Lee County, but state regulators acknowledge risks. Sayreville’s plan to send radioactive soil to the Lee County landfill is the latest issue raising concerns about the megadump that towers over Interstate 20 in eastern South Carolina.

The dump has for years accepted more out-of-state garbage than any other landfill in South Carolina and has been a source of citizen complaints. Kent Coleman, director of DHEC’s waste management division, said the amount of the radioactive-laden soil is substantial and worth careful scrutiny. He said some slightly radioactive material occasionally has gone to landfills in small amounts, but never 300 train cars.

DHEC records do not detail the health hazards. The volume is a very key issue, in addition to the fact that it is radioactive material and needs special consideration,’’ Coleman said. “The volume is a big issue in terms of how it is handled.’’

The landfill likely would need to bury the radioactive New Jersey dirt under a deeper cover of soil than is now required for garbage. Household trash can be buried under several feet of soil at a landfill, but the radioactive dirt from New Jersey might need to be buried under 30 feet, Coleman said. The material also would have to be covered up immediately after it was dumped in the landfill. Images: wltx.com / How Stuff Works (1/7/12)

Radioactive? Me? I find that hard to swallow...

Victoria Brenan, writing for The Whitehaven News, looks out her mosquito repellent.

Radioactive mosquitoes are being blamed after contaminated swallow droppings were discovered at Sellafield. An Environment Agency report revealed that bird droppings from around the swallows’ nesting site were found to be radioactively contaminated.

It is believed the swallows, which are nesting in the transport section at the atomic complex, were contaminated by eating mosquitoes that fly above Sellafield’s radioactive storage ponds. A spokesman for the plant said checks at the nesting area showed the radiation dose was the “indistinguishable from natural background radiation found in any work place, on or off a nuclear site”. An anti-nuclear spokesman, however, said the birds were carrying “a highly toxic message” back to South Africa when they migrate at the end of the summer.

Sellafield said the radiation level was so low it did not require any protective clothing to be worn and said they were putting in place measures to reduce the birds’ access to certain facilities.

“Sellafield Ltd is aware of the potential issue for birds to become contaminated with low levels of radioactivity as a result of historic operations at Sellafield,” a spokesman added. “Monitoring and  analysis has shown that the contamination poses no threat to health as there is no direct pathway for exposure to members of the public.”

Martin Forwood, of Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment (CORE), said the “much-loved ay from the National Academies of Science showed that radioactive tuna was showing up off the coast of California. The levels of radioactive cesium and potassium were elevated, and the source was unmistak

Best not drink the water in Texas for a while

Our thanks to Forrest Wilder, reporting for the Texas Observer, for this somewhat worrying environmental tale deep in the heart of – well – you know where…

State Rep. Lon Burnam, a Fort Worth Democrat, called on the Texas Attorney General to allow the public release of confidential information related to a West Texas radioactive waste dump owned by Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons.

Burnam said the documents, obtained after a two-and-a-half-year battle with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, show "serious public health and safety risks" from the dump. Waste Control is awaiting final sign-off from TCEQ to open the Andrews County facility. The company has made no secrets about its plans to become a national site for the burial of radioactive waste but has been beset by critics who say the dump is dangerously close to water tables and possibly the Ogallala Aquifer.

As a general sketch of the confidential TCEQ documents, Burnam said they discussed the "location of nearby groundwater tables, the margin of safety in the event of groundwater contamination, what solutions were and were not considered and the possible risk to the public of radiation.”

In a letter to Attorney General Greg Abbott, Burnam asked for a decision on whether the "top secret" information is confidential under law. "I think the public has a right to know," said Burnam. "I think public health and safety is involved in this right now. It's very immediate that TCEQ shouldn't allow Waste Control to open its dump until the company answers questions about the water”. Images: Diane Poteet / CS / Texas Observer (17/4/12)

New nuclear dump plans spark Spanish protests

Looking for a cheap Spanish property? Well, the pages from The Olive Press could help…

Rajoy’s new government has announced a €700 million nuclear waste dump for a village near Madrid, provoking mixed reaction from residents and green groups. The dump, to be built in the small town of Villar de Canas, is expected to create 300 new jobs – an obvious blessing for its residents given Spain’s current 21 per cent unemployment rate.

Many in this small village 135 km south-east of the capital have welcomed the news, with its mayor saying it was like ‘winning the lottery’.Those in nearby villages, however, are considering taking legal action against the plan.

Greenpeace are also critical, saying the project is likely to cost nearly three times what the government has proposed, and that transporting waste to the site will be dangerous.

The plan was originally voted in 2004, but the location decision was delayed by Zapatero’s government amid protests.

Nuclear power currently provides around 20 per cent of Spain’s electricity.“Radioactive waste has been generated for decades and will continue to be for years because Spain is not in a position to do without nuclear power,” said an Industry Ministry statement. Images: Actualidad / Tumbit Spain (2/1/12)

Could Fukushima fall-out be affecting Alaska's wildlife?

We found this rather sad post-Fukushima environmental article on the pages of Global Research recently.

Scientists in Alaska are investigating whether local seals are being affected by radiation from Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.

Scores of ring seals (pictured) have washed up on Alaska's Arctic coastline since July, suffering or killed by a mysterious disease marked by bleeding lesions on the hind flippers, irritated skin around the nose and eyes and patchy hair loss on the animals' fur coats.

Biologists at first thought the seals were suffering from a virus, but they have so far been unable to identify one, and tests are now underway to find out if radiation is a factor.

"We recently received samples of seal tissue from diseased animals captured near St Lawrence Island with a request to examine the material for radioactivity," said John Kelley, Professor Emeritus at the Institute of Marine Science at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

"There is concern expressed by some members of the local communities that there may be some relationship to the Fukushima nuclear reactor's damage," he said. The results of the tests would not be available for "several weeks."

Water tests have not picked up any evidence of elevated radiation in US Pacific waters since the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which caused multiple fuel meltdowns at the Fukushima plant and forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate the surrounding area.

Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the US Fish and Wildlife Service have been seeking the cause of the diseased seals for weeks, but have so far found no answers. Images: National Geographic / Tidbits Trinkets (30/12/11)

Lovely but lethal invasion at St Lucie

Christine Stapleton, writing for the Palm Beach Post, takes a cautious look at a recent event. A massive influx of jellyfish shut down the St. Lucie nuclear power plant in late August, but it is only now that nuclear regulators, wildlife officials and marine researchers are learning that the event also killed several tons of protected goliath grouper. Jellyfish invasions of this magnitude are rare. Biologists at the plant could recall only three other similar events in the past 30 years.

A spokesman with Florida Power & Light said the public was never in danger during the Aug. 22 event. The plant, which is designed to withstand the impact of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet, was shut down for two days because of the jellyfish invasion and to repair a leak that was discovered in another pump after the shutdown, Doug Andrews said.

The four-day event began Aug. 22. The plant's three intake pipes, located almost a quarter-mile offshore, began sucking in an unusually large number of moon jellyfish. Travelling through the pipes at about 4.6 mph, the jellyfishes' poisonous tentacles broke off. For fish trapped in the plant's intake canal, the situation became lethal. Unable to escape the canal, the poisonous tentacles attached to their gills, which became grossly swollen. Biologists from Inwater Research Group poured white vinegar on the gills of the giant grouper in an attempt to save them. Ten were rescued before divers were forced out of the water after they, too, were stung.

FPL spokesman Andrews said the utility removed the fish as quickly as possible because of "concerns about the spread of bacteria and disease." He cited the company's sea turtle protection program as evidence of the company's concern for wildlife and research, adding that the company has accumulated the longest documented record of sea turtle biology in the country.

"FPL takes its responsibility to protect the environment very seriously," Andrews said. "We're just as bothered when they die as anybody." Images: Thomas Cordy (Palm Beach Post) / Edit International (12/12/11)

Oh well, it looks like I'm back on the menu...

James Meikle, writing for the Guardian, collects his sheepdog for this one.

By 2012, hundreds of British sheep farms – all but eight of them in Wales – could finally see the end of safety measures imposed as a result of radioactive fallout from the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl 25 years ago.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is proposing lifting restrictions originally placed on 9,800 upland farms and more than 4m sheep in north Wales, including in the Snowdonia national park, Cumbria, southern Scotland and Northern Ireland after rain clouds dumped contaminated material from the blast in Ukraine, then part of the USSR, 1,600 miles away.

The agency says the risk from radioactivity to consumers eating lamb or mutton is now "very low" and that controls on 334 farms in Wales, some no longer with sheep on them, and eight in Cumbria should be lifted. The FSA launched a formal consultation on its proposal on Thursday. This closes in February so restrictions still involving about 250,000 sheep will not be lifted until well into next year.

Since June 1986 when the present restrictions were imposed, farmers have had to call in officials to check their sheep for caesium, the main radioactive element, every time they want to move the animals off the hills for market.

The Welsh government welcomed the move, saying: "While food safety is of paramount importance both in terms of public health and for continued confidence in the Welsh farming and food sector, we support the evidence-based approach the FSA have taken to assessing risk of exposure to the public from the effect of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster."

Its statement added: "Levels of radiocaesium recorded in sheep have fallen well below the level of any serious risk to the consumer, and the controls currently in place go beyond the already stringent European food safety law requirements - which could be viewed as overly restrictive." Images: Almay (Guardian) / Idependent  (18/11/11)

What's the matter with you? It's the Grand Canyon, stupid...

We found this worrying environmental report on the pages of the Idaho Mountain Express & Guide recently, so our thanks to them.

The Obama administration has proposed a 20-year ban on uranium mining on lands bordering the Grand Canyon. Opponents to the ban argue that mining would create jobs, and would not represent a threat to the canyon. Proponents of the ban agree with Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Tucson, who said simply, "It's the Grand Canyon, stupid."

President Theodore Roosevelt, whose devotion to the American landscape earned him a place on Mount Rushmore, wrote, "In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder, which so far as I know, is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. I want to ask you to do one thing in connection with it in your own interest and in the interest of the country—to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is." In other words, do no harm.

There are certainly those who do not see it that way. If we need power, as demonstrated by the rising price of uranium, so what if the land that holds that uranium happens to be held in the public trust and lies next to the Grand Canyon?

If Sen. John McCain of Arizona really were a maverick of the Teddy Roosevelt variety, as he frequently says he is, he should be fighting to preserve the park and the land around it from any threat. He would not allow any risk to this natural treasure.

Instead, McCain and the rest of the Arizona congressional delegation have chosen to support the interests of the extractive industries, including a company controlled by the Russian nuclear agency Rosatom, which is not even required to pay royalties to the United States.

Anyone who has ever stood on the rim of the canyon knows why Interior Secretary Ken Salazar should never give in to powerful mining interests, no matter what the rationale - It's the Grand Canyon! Images: Grand Canyon National Park /  Wikimedia (10/11/11)

Just in case you thought we only ever mention the USA...

Dawn Fellowes, writing for Peterborough Today, mans the barricades. Residents angry at the decision to allow nuclear waste to be dumped near their village have raised £10,000 to help fund a legal battle, which campaigners (right) hope will overturn the decision to allow the waste to be dumped at Augean’s East Northants Resource Management Facility, in King’s Cliffe.

The case is due to be heard at the High Court in London on November 2.

As well as fundraising, campaign group Waste Watchers are appealing for local people who oppose the decision to travel down to London for the court case to show their support for the legal challenge.

Chris Leuchars, a member of Waste Watchers, said: “King’s Cliffe, which is more than 90 miles from the nearest decommissioned nuclear facility, and several hundred miles from others, has now become effectively the national disposal site. There has been no government strategy behind this; it is a purely random choice, and it bodes ill for the future of the nuclear programme to which this government has recently committed itself.”

The appeal came after Northamptonshire County Council rejected the firm’s plans in March. More than 3,000 people signed a petition against Augean’s scheme. At the time of Mr Pickles’ decision a spokesman from DCLG said that as the King’s Cliffe site was an existing landfill site which handles hazardous waste, granting temporary permission for more waste to be disposed of there “would not be harmful to the community”.

The decision means that the site can be used to treat rubble and soil from dismantled nuclear sites and there are restrictions on the amount of waste that the site can accept. Images: Alison Bagley /Peterborough Today  (20/10/11)

Let's hope this cave is going to be big enough...

The following report was found on the pages of YLE.fi, so our thanks to them.The project director of the Olkiluoto 3 nuclear power plant, TVO Senior Vice President Jouni Silvennoinen, insists there is no space for waste from utilities other than TVO or Fortum in the Onkalo underground disposal site on Finland's west coast.

Onkalo (or ‘cave’) is being dug into the bedrock near the Olkiluoto power station by Posiva, which is 60 percent owned by TVO and 40 percent by Fortum. The latter utility owns two commercial reactors in Loviisa on the south-east coast, and has applied to build a third. TVO has two operating reactors on Olkiluoto, an island in the municipality of Eurajoki, on the west coast between Rauma and Pori.

Finland is the first country in the world to attempt to build a safe permanent storage place for nuclear waste, at an estimated cost of some three billion euros. Similar repositories are planned in Sweden – where this so-called multi-barrier deep geological disposal system was devised – and France, but construction has not begun.

In the meantime, most of the world’s spent fuel rods are being temporarily stored in tanks of water – a practice being increasingly called into question since last spring’s Fukushima disaster. There are now some 1900 tonnes of high-level nuclear waste being held in interim storage in Finland. Images: YLE (4/10/11)

Remind me again - just how many marine animals need to be killed this year???

Those good people at the BBC in Scotland wade through the murky waters of The North Sea for this one. Returning contaminated seabed near a nuclear site to a "pristine condition" could do more harm than good, according an environmental watchdog.

Tiny radioactive particles were flushed into the sea through a liquid discharge pipe from Dounreay in the 1970s.The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) had recommended in 1998 that the seabed off the Caithness plant be cleared of all the pollution.

But its board has now conceded that this may not be achievable. Board members have agreed with Sepa officers that not all the particles posed a risk to health and to recover all these could cause greater harm to the environment.

The environmental watchdog has asked that the clean-up continue where practically possible and be balanced against the risk of damaging habitats. In a statement, Sepa said: "It is now widely accepted that a literal return to a pristine condition is a far from simple or even achievable concept. By the summer of this year 2,300 particles had been recovered from the seabed and beaches.”

In July, Dounreay Site Restoration Limited (DSRL) reported that provisional tests suggested 38 out of 351 particles found in the latest sweep posed a significant health risk. Trying to achieve it might also cause more harm than good.

On another issue related to pollution, DSRL has been discussing with Sepa the possibility of significantly reducing the numbers of animals its tests. Fish, crabs, lobsters and periwinkles are tested for potential radioactive contamination. More than 22,000 marine animals a year are caught and killed to check species are not being harmed by discharges from the nuclear site in Caithness. Images: BBC / The Guardian (22/9/11)

There's a serious lack of Nimbyism in Ontario

Found on the pages of the Northumberland News in Ontario, Canada

To the editor: Re: Derrick Kelly's letter of Aug. 17, 2011 'Leave LLRW where it is'.

Unfortunately it is too late to stop the PHAI (Port Hope Area Initiative) process.

The residents of Port Hope should have insisted on a referendum on whether or not to have the LLRW (low level radioactive waste) buried here permanently at the time the decision was made by the council of the day. We will continue to have the stigma in spite of the billions of taxpayers' money being wasted on this project.

The LLRW's location in town was well known and constantly monitored. The PHAI signs that greet one at the Hwy. 401 exit at Toronto Road are not the most welcoming sight for visitors.

In spite of the $10 million given to Port Hope for keeping it here, we have not seen any obvious benefits. The stigma will continue to affect property values. New business is unlikely to locate here resulting in even higher property taxes.

Not only fear mongering, but complacency by us, the citizens, in not demanding a referendum, has contributed to the negative perception of Port Hope by outsiders. This perception will get worse once the LLRW starts being transported to its new location.

The old saying 'Let sleeping dogs lie', i.e., leave the LLRW where it is, was never more true.

Florence Neill, Port Hope. Images: Style North / Ceasefire (Canada) (19/8/11)

Getting wetter - a continuation of the previous troubles in Omaha

Lucia Mutikani, John Crawley and Michael Avok have filed the following story on the pages of Reuters.

A tear on Sunday in a temporary berm allowed Missouri River flood waters to surround containment buildings and other vital areas of a Nebraska nuclear plant, but reactor systems were not affected.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said the breach in the 2,000-foot inflatable berm around the Fort Calhoun station occurred around 1:25 a.m. local time. More than 2 feet of water rushed in around containment buildings and electrical transformers at the 478-megawatt facility located 20 miles north of Omaha.

Reactor shutdown cooling and spent-fuel pool cooling were unaffected. The plant, operated by the Omaha Public Power District, has been off line since April for refuelling.

Crews activated emergency diesel generators after the breach, but restored normal electrical power by Sunday afternoon. Buildings at the Fort Calhoun plant are watertight, the agency said. It noted that the cause of the berm breach is under investigation.

NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko and other officials planned to visit the site on Monday. Jaczko will also visit the Cooper Nuclear Station near Brownville, Nebraska, another facility that has been watched closely with Missouri River waters rising from heavy rains and snow melt.

But water levels in that area 80 miles south of Omaha are receding, relieving worries that water will rise around the Brownville plant. Images: Reuters / Connecticut Mop Company  (27/6/11)

A 'Notification of Unusual Event' down in Omaha - Omaha???

Algis J. Laukaitis, writing for the Lincoln Journal Star, mans the sandbags...

The Omaha Public Power District declared a low-level emergency on Monday at its Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station due to rising Missouri River waters.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project the river level elevation at the plant site is expected to reach 1,004 feet above mean sea level later this week, and is expected to remain above that level for more than one month.

OPPD notified the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and emergency management agencies in Nebraska and Iowa of the declaration. Such a "Notification of Unusual Event" is the least serious of four emergency classifications that are standard in the U.S. nuclear industry, OPPD said in a news release.

Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station will not move out of this emergency classification until it is confident the water will remain below the 1,004-foot level.

In addition to the existing flood-protection at the plant, OPPD employees and contractors have built earth berms (man-made mounds of earth, in case you were wondering) and sandbagged around the switchyards and additional buildings on site. Images: Will Kincaid / Bismark Tribune / Nebraska Watchdog (7/6/11)

 

How do you solve an old problem like spent nuclear fuel?

Per Nyberg, reporting for the pages of CNN, raises an old problem…

Like the energy source itself, it's the question that won't go away: what can be done with spent nuclear fuel? Sweden believes it has the answer.

The plan is to bury the country's expected 12,000 tons of nuclear waste in corrosion-resistant copper canisters under 500 meters of crystalline bedrock. There it will remain isolated from human contact for at least 100,000 years.

The idea, which still needs final approval, was developed by Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management company (SKB) - a collective of Sweden's nuclear power companies.

After three decades of research, SKB believes that Osthammar in central Sweden is the perfect final resting place for the country's nuclear waste. Not only is the 1.9 billion year old bedrock ideal says SKB, but the locals are largely in favour of the plan and it is close to the nuclear power plant at Forsmark. The latest poll showed that 88% of Osthammar residents are in favour of having the storage site in their community.

Swedes have a complicated relationship to nuclear power. Following the Three Mile Island incident in the U.S. in 1979, Sweden voted to shut down all its nuclear reactors by 2010.

However the decision was overturned by a new government and only two reactors were decommissioned. Today Sweden's 10 nuclear reactors produce almost half of the country's electricity. (25/4/11) Images: Flickr / DW World

Dodgy monitors in US raise safety questions

Mike Lee, reporting for the San Diego Union-Tribune, takes a look at the state of America’s radiation stations.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said again Monday that Americans aren't exposed to unsafe levels of radiation, but malfunctioning federal monitors in San Diego and elsewhere have lead to calls for investigations into the status of the safety net.

Thirty-one of the EPA's radiation sampling stations nationwide weren't operating on March 11 when Japan was hit by an earthquake and tsunami that crippled nuclear reactors and created the release of radiation. The air samplers are part of a system called RadNet and public interest has swelled in recent weeks as people looked for information about radioactive fallout from Japan.

EPA officials said the San Diego radiation station in Kearny Mesa is working properly even though online charts suggested something still wasn't right on Monday because they aren't similar to others for Southern California. "This appears to be a display issue on the website, which we are working to address," agency spokesman Brendan Gilfillan said in an email. “That monitoring system has been problematic since November, which it went offline because of a damaged "flow controller" and a broken on-board computer; it was back in action March 19.”

"The RadNet monitors are specialty instruments and the parts are not easily replaced, We placed an order for the parts in November and considered options to temporarily fix the monitor, however the options available to us would not have maintained the integrity or quality control of the monitor. (29/3/11)  Images: KVAL / Naples News

Yet more tales of depleted uranium left hanging about- this time from Springfield, Mass

This came to us in a roundabout way today, courtesy of the Associated Press -- A Massachusetts official says environmental experts are investigating the possible presence of radioactive depleted uranium at the site of the historic Springfield Armory after the U.S. Army and Nuclear Regulatory Commission said they don't have documents proving they've removed it.

Bureau of Environmental Health Director Suzanne Condon said Wednesday solid depleted uranium coated a round added to a larger munition used for military testing and training in the 1960s at the site, now home to the Springfield Technical Community College and other facilities.

Depleted uranium typically causes kidney ailments. Condon says the public health risk is low because any uranium likely would be in chunks, not a form that could be inhaled.

The Springfield Armory began as a major arsenal under George Washington in the Revolutionary War.

Ten inspectors will conduct radiology tests Thursday and Friday.
(23/3/11) Images: How Stuff Works / Popart UK

As we abuse our carbon footprints this week, here's something else to worry about

Thanks to Press TV for this sorry environmental tale that may have passed you by recently.

A campaign group monitoring the UK's nuclear plants at Sellafield has accused the government of breaking an international nuclear pollution promise.

The group said the increased activity in the nuclear fuel reprocessing plants at Sellafield violates the UK's commitment to an international agreement to decrease the seas' radioactive pollution. The government's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has planned a “crash program” of reprocessing which will double discharges of radioactive waste from Sellafield, Cumbria into the Irish Sea.

The government would be violating its commitments to “progressive and substantial reductions of discharges” under the Oslo-Paris (Ospar) convention, which seeks to limit pollution of the north-east Atlantic, critics said. The report, by anti-nuclear group Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment (Core) , estimates that discharge of plutonium into the sea from Sellafield will rise from 120 gigabecquerels a year to more than 250. There will be similar increases in the levels of radioactive isotopes caesium-137 and cobalt-60 compared with the past five years, it says.

Core's spokesman, Martin Forwood, accused the NDA of "breathtaking complacency" and demanded an end to reprocessing
. (23/2/11) Images: University of Liverpool/ South West Sea Kayacking

Does Indiana want nuclear power plant? Not very likely!

Our thanks goes to John Russell and the Indystar for this one.

Despite strong opposition from environmentalists, senior citizens and consumer groups, an Indiana Senate committee on Thursday endorsed legislation that encourages the construction of coal-fired and nuclear power plants in Indiana and would allow utilities to quickly recover certain costs from customers.

The wide-ranging measure, supported by major utilities across Indiana, passed the Senate Utilities and Technology Committee along party lines after three hours of heated discussion. Six Republicans, including Chairman Jim Merritt of Indianapolis, voted in favour, and two Democrats voted against. The bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

More than a dozen organizations showed up to oppose the measure, including environmentalists, large industrial customers, wind power advocates, the AARP and consumer groups.

The Indiana Cast Metals Association, which represents foundries across the state, said the bill allows too many "trackers," or mechanisms that allow utilities to automatically pass along the cost of federal mandates without sufficient oversight from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. "Energy costs are a top concern of our members," said Blake Jeffery, the association's executive director. (18/2/11) Images: Hello Indianapolis / WCSI

Who are you calling bird-brained - new research at Chernobyl

Matt Walker, reporting for BBC Earth News, suits up to join the scientists at Chernobyl.

Birds like the Marsh Warbler (pictured) living around the site of the Chernobyl nuclear accident have 5% smaller brains, an effect directly linked to lingering background radiation. The finding comes from a study of 550 birds belonging to 48 different species living in the region.

Brain size was significantly smaller in yearlings compared to older birds. The discovery was made by a team of researchers from Norway, France and the US.

An exclusion zone has been set up around the site of the accident, but scientists have been allowed inside to gauge the impact the radiation has had on the ecology of the region.

In their latest study, the scientists used mist nets to collect birds from eight woodland sites around Chernobyl, which have seen a decline in the numbers of larger animals and small invertebrates living within.

After controlling for the differences between species, they found that the birds had brains 5% smaller on average compared to birds not exposed to background radiation. (9/2/11) Images: Marek Szczepanek (BBC) / Vermont Guardian

Sellafield emergency could threaten Norwegian wildlife & livestock - oh deer...(geddit?)

Our thanks to the North West Evening Mail for this one. An emergency at Sellafield could threaten the Norwegian food industry, a report has claimed.

The report, published by Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority, claims a fire or explosion at the West Cumbrian site could disperse around one per cent of the radioactive waste stored at the site. Goats and sheep are thought to be some of the most at-risk animals, though caesium expelled during an explosion would also affect vegetation, it is suggested.

The report also claims reindeer husbandry (management) would be severely affected.

The report says: “The environmental consequences for Norway following a hypothetical accident at Sellafield – with a release of one per cent of the total assumed inventory contained in the B215 HASTs – will according to our model predictions be severe, particularly in connection to sheep and goat production.

“Up to 80 per cent of all lambs could be exceeding the food intervention level for radiocaesium the first few years after the fallout, with 30-40 per cent likely to be above for years or even decades. There will, consequently, be a need for extensive countermeasures in large areas for many years.”

A spokesman for Sellafield Ltd played down the findings of the report. (2/2/11) Images: Science Blogs / Life

This should really be filed under Leaks & Spills, but we fancied a change...

Yet another tale of leaking, this time courtesy of our friends at the Brattleboro Reformer in Vermont. Both the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Vermont Department of Health have indicated a new leak of tritiated water may have been found at Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon.

"It doesn't appear to have any connection to the original leakage from last year," said Neil Sheehan, spokesman for the NRC.

"It's evident that either groundwater can follow the human-made channels or it's another system or components that are leaking," said Bill Irwin, chief of radiological health for the Vermont DOH.

Both have said the level of tritium in the ground water, 9,200 picocuries per litre, poses no danger to public health. A spokesman for Yankee said engineers have no information to indicate whether this discovery is evidence of a new leak.

"We have a reading we don't understand," said Larry Smith, Yankee's director of communications. "And we are investigating to see what it means." (28/1/11) Images: New York Daily News / sneigwh.blogspot

Look busy - this is costing someone £1billion...

Tim Webb reporting for The Observer gets his chequebook out.

Nuclear operators will have to pay the first £1bn towards the cost of any accident in the UK – seven times more than the current cap on their liabilities – the government will propose today (Monday). Energy secretary Chris Huhne told the Observer that he wanted to introduce the new rule to ensure that there would be no public subsidy for nuclear power.

Currently, any operator of a nuclear site only has to pay the first £140m towards clean-up costs, with the taxpayer contributing the rest. Huhne said: "The government is determined to provide certainty to low carbon investors, but there will be no public subsidy for nuclear power which is a mature technology. We are taking steps to reduce any risk of the taxpayer having to pick up the tab for new nuclear [power] further down the track. We've already set out how operators will be required to put aside money from day one for their eventual clean-up and waste storage, and now we're increasing substantially the liability to be taken on by operators." (24/1/11) Images: The Telegraph / Washington Post

Told you we shouldn't have discarded Yucca Mountain plan...

Rob Pavey reporting for the Augusta Chronicle brings us this report.

Savannah River Site could help solve the nation's nuclear waste challenges, but it should not become a permanent dumping ground, members of a national study panel were told Friday.

"I'm not going to let my state, or our sister state, be left holding the bag without one hell of a fight," U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham told members of the Blue Ribbon Commission.The panel, created by the Obama administration, was asked to develop new policies for disposing of high-level defense waste and spent nuclear fuel.

During a day-long meeting in Augusta, the group heard from an array of speakers, many of whom criticized the government's controversial decision to abandon its Yucca Mountain project in Nevada, which was designed as a permanent repository for 70,000 tons of spent fuel from the nation's 104 commercial reactors.

"It was a short-sighted decision with devastating consequences," Graham told the commission, which is co-chaired by former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft. (14/1/11) Images: GA Moonbat / Jackie Ricciardi (Augusta Chronicle)

The skies at night may be glowing bright (green), deep in the heart of Texas - again!

Anna M. Tinsley and the Star Telegram bring us another environmental scare story.

 

An Austin judge on Thursday blocked an eight-member commission from deciding whether to allow as many as three dozen states to ship low-level radioactive waste to a remote West Texas site, sending countless loads of contaminated materials through North Texas.

Travis County Judge Jon Wisser signed a temporary restraining order against the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission, apparently preventing a vote Tuesday on rules to guide the shipment of the radioactive material to a Waste Control Specialists facility in Andrews County, about 350 miles west of Fort Worth.

 

"We are opposed to the expansion of the site," said Timothy Gannaway, founder and director of the Promote Andrews advocacy group that sought the restraining order. "We're a little worried about what the next step might be. If we give a little here, are they going to ask next to transport waste here from other countries? At what point do they stop asking for more?"

"It's too much, too fast, too soon, if at all," said Bob Gregory, a commission member and chairman and CEO of the Austin-based Texas Disposal Systems. "I don't think we are ready to do this at all at this time because it was never the intent of the Texas or Vermont legislatures ... to open this facility up to all the states in the nation." 
(7/1/11)

 Images: Associated Press (Star Telegram)

Will UniStar Nuclear keep its New Year's resolutions -opponents don't think so!

Meghan Russell, writing for the pages of Southern Maryland Newspapers Online, starts the new  year with this.

As Maryland crawls another year closer to the proposed 2015 run date for Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant's third reactor, the parties involved with seeing its fruition may have another item to add to their list of New Year's resolutions.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board released a report responding to a new contention submitted in June by five environmental groups challenging UniStar Nuclear Energy's CC3 project. The board's three-judge panel reviewed the contention and admitted one aspect must be further addressed in the NRC staff's draft environmental impact statement for the project - that is, the ASLB agreed more discussion is needed on possible alternative solutions to nuclear power, as required by the National Energy Policy Act.

The environmental groups who raised the contention include the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Beyond Nuclear, Public Citizen's Energy Program and Southern Maryland Citizens Alliance for Renewable Energy Solutions.

Paul Gunter, director of the Reactor Oversight Project for Beyond Nuclear, said he was thrilled the ASLB agreed with the argument that alternatives to nuclear energy on the East Coast were not sufficiently addressed. "If [the NRC and UniStar] want to go ahead with a new nuclear reactor and the risks that are associated with nuclear power, they simply needed to look at less harmful alternatives and they didn't do that," Gunter said. "They didn't even look at and evaluate the offshore potential for wind on the Maryland-Virginia coast. They looked down south and picked a spot in North Carolina; they deliberately looked at a less productive centre for wind resources." (3/1/11) Images: The Resilient Earth / Somdnews.com

Thorium traces found in NY 'not dangerous' - okay...

Joe Anuta runs a Geiger Counter over this environmental tale found on the pages of Your Nabe NY.

A city agency announced that it found radioactive material in and around a Ridgewood building, and will continue to test the site. Area officials said that the material was left over from the World War II-era nuclear experiment known as the Manhattan Project.

Gary Giordano, district manager for Community Board 5, relayed the announcement at a meeting Dec. 15, but said the material is not dangerous. “It was a site for the Manhattan Project in the ’40s, and there is radioactive pollution at the site,” he said. “From what we can tell, what is on the site is not a significant risk to workers that are there or in the surrounding community.”

The Ridgewood building, which houses auto repair and iron working shops between the addresses of 11-27 and 11-29 Irving Ave., was entirely occupied by the Wolff-Alport Chemical Corp. during the war.
When America joined the allies, the company - along with many others in the industrial sector - was asked to help with the war effort, according to Vincent Arcuri Jr., chairman of the community board.

“It didn’t matter what kind of business it was. Every business was turned over to the war effort,” he said
.(29/12/10) Images: Joe Anuta / Thorium Energy Alliance

If you thought things were bad here...

Found on the pages of Bloomberg Business Week and reported by Francois de Beaupuy.  At least 200,000 cubic litres of radioactive waste has leaked at the Areva SA-operated Somair uranium mine in Niger, Greenpeace said in an e-mailed statement recently.

“Almoustapha Alhacen who carried out an inspection of the spill for NGO Aghir in’Man confirmed to Greenpeace that two hectares have been contaminated by the spill since Dec. 11.” Paris-based Areva SA, a maker of nuclear reactor, was the world’s largest miner of uranium ore in 2009. Last year, the company extracted 8,626 tons of the radioactive material, which is processed to make nuclear fuel.

Somair is a subsidiary of Areva which produced 1,808 metric tons of uranium in 2009, according to Areva’s website. The company plans to increase its production to 3,000 tons in 2012, the website says.

Patricia Marie, Areva’s head of press office, couldn’t immediately comment when contacted by telephone.(24/12/10) Images: 2 Space / Areva

Not so much deep in the heart of Texas as deep in nuclear waste...

Karen Hadden, reporting for the pages of My San Antonio, casts her eye over the news that parts of Texas could be used for dumping nuclear waste.

Texas is at risk of becoming the nation's radioactive waste dumping ground. The Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission is pushing forward a rule that essentially invites 36 or more states to dump radioactive waste in Texas. It would go to the Waste Control Specialists' site in Andrews County in West Texas.

The commission should instead limit the site to waste from the Compact states — Texas and Vermont. Financial and safety risks are being ignored in the rush to approve the rule, which has no limits on volume or curies of radiation. Texas has liability for imported radioactive waste and 15 state legislators have asked for time to review the increased financial and environmental risks, but the Compact Commission is trying to vote on the import rule right away.

Radioactive waste could travel by rail and on major highways throughout our state and no one has analysed whether emergency responders throughout Texas are equipped to deal with accidents involving radioactive waste. Everything but the fuel rods from nuclear reactors can go to a “low-level” radioactive waste dump, including nuclear reactor vessels, poison curtains that absorb core radioactivity, and radioactive sludge and resins. No radioactive element is excluded.

Staff at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality recommended denying the Compact site license. They said: “groundwater is likely to intrude into the proposed disposal units and contact the waste from either or both of two water tables near the proposed facility.”(13/12/10) Images: News West 9

New nuke plant for Anglesey? Not very healthy...

Martin Shipton reporting for the Western Mail/Wales online, pays a visit to Anglesey.

Anti-nuclear campaigners are stepping up their opposition to the building of a new nuclear power station in Wales after a new report warned of serious health risks.

Dutch nuclear expert Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen warned in his report that economic imperatives would be likely to drive safety standards down, increasing the risk of radioactive leaks. But the biggest continuing problem would be the difficulty of storing nuclear waste securely and safely on a permanent basis.

The issue is politically highly sensitive in Anglesey, where there are hopes that a new nuclear power station will create hundreds of badly needed jobs. Labour Environment Minister Jane Davidson has called for a full public inquiry into the Wylfa proposal.

Part of the report says: “The only way to prevent disastrous exposure of the public to human-made radioactivity on an unprecedented scale is to immobilise the radioactive waste physically and to isolate it from the biosphere in deep geologic repositories, lasting at least a million years.

“To deal with the global radioactive waste at the current rate of generation, about every year a new large deep geological repository has to be opened, at an estimated cost of at least 10bn euros each. To dispose of the existing radioactive wastes from the past, dozens of deep geologic repositories would be required.”(6/12/10)

Okay - where did all the water go?? Just ask Exelon

Cindy Wojdyla Cain reporting for The Herald News does a bit of pond spotting for us.

Five years after radioactive tritium leaks from the Braidwood Nuclear power station, in Illinois, became public, suspicion and frustration continue to fester among some of the people who live in the shadow of the Exelon plant.

The latest concern is for area ponds that are drying up. When Exelon Nuclear pumps water from a pond contaminated with tritium, water levels go down in nearby privately owned ponds, plant neighbours say. Coincidence?

Tom Zimmer doesn’t think so. When the Exelon pumping first started a couple of years ago, the water level in Zimmer’s nearby pond dropped about five feet. In recent months it has gone down even more, so much so that his fishing dock sits high above the water. Zimmer, who lives off Cemetery Road, worries that the shrinking water level will soon affect the area’s shallow drinking water wells, too.

Exelon’s pond pumping is part of the company’s tritium remediation plan. The radioactive isotope tritium, a by-product of the nuclear power process, leaked from pipes that were supposed to carry water from the plant to the Kankakee River.(1/12/10)

On the move - Part 1: Australia

Thanks to the News.com au web pages for this sorry environmental tale we found on their web pages recently.

It has been revealed that nearly 6000 tonnes of radioactive waste will be dug up from one of Sydney's wealthiest harbourside suburbs, trucked across the city and dumped near Penrith.

Secret documents show soil from a former uranium smelter in Hunters Hill, previously proven to be hazardous in tests by nuclear experts, has been reclassified as safe by the state government to be disposed of in landfill.

Special sealed trucks will begin rolling across the city from early next year to dump the waste at Kemps Creek near Penrith.

SITA, the private owner of the Kemps Creek waste site, will be paid A$3.5 million to take an estimated 5830 tonnes of radioactive waste, the documents show. Documents also show that key government departments have already been briefed to expect worried locals to protest outside Kemps Creek waste facility and possibly try to stop trucks entering.

Penrith councillor Tanya Davies, the Liberal candidate for Mulgoa, says the area will not cope being "Labor's dumping ground for Sydney's waste", and plans to protest vigorously.(18/10/10)

We're still not going to say 'water, water', etc...

Josh Stilts, reporting for the Brattleboro Reformer, brings us another tale of woe from the troubled Vermont Yankee plant.

A sample taken from a former drinking water well at Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant was contaminated with tritium, according to the Vermont Department of Health.

While no tritium was detected at the deepest range of the well, 360 feet, a single sample, collected on Oct. 2 from the 200 and 220 foot range indicated a tritium concentration of 1,380 picocuries-per-litre, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said.

The Construction Office Building well goes down about 360 feet and penetrates a bedrock aquifer and is much deeper than the groundwater monitoring wells on site.

"While this single data point indicates a detectable amount of tritium in the Construction Office Building well, it's insufficient information on which to draw any conclusion as to the impact of the tritiated groundwater plume on the bedrock aquifer," Neil Sheehan, spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said. "Clearly more work is necessary to determine the significance of the sample.

Entergy, which owns and operates the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant, received test results Friday afternoon that the water contained 1,040 picocuries-per-liter of tritium and sent notifications to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the State of Vermont Department of Health. Split samples were provided to both agencies for independent analysis. (11/10/10)

Well, 2m tons gone, now there's just this lot left to shift...

Judy Fahys reporting for the Salt Lake Tribune dons her party hat for this celebration.

Hundreds of people celebrated their collective efforts last week at hauling away from the edge of the Colorado River more than 2 million tons of uranium-mill waste, roughly as much debris as the rubble of the World Trade Center collapse.

Day after day, the unsightly pile of uranium tailings from the old Atlas Corp. mill is being whittled away,  just as locals, environmentalists and downstream water users had been begging for years.

“It’s absolutely fantastic,” said Moab Mayor Dave Sakrison, enthusing that the first 18 months of actual tailings removal had gone so smoothly. “Who would have thought that they could move 2 million tons in that amount of time?” The celebration signaled a big shift in this postcard-pretty redrock town where, for decades, the 130-acre tailings pile has dominated the valley’s northern gateway.

Earlier this month, U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson wrote to U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu to ask for sustained funding so the $1 billion project can be completed by the congressionally mandated deadline of 2019. The Utah Democrat, whose letter is co-signed by eight other members of Congress, thanked Chu for the $108 million in stimulus funds that made it possible to hire 200 people to speed up the work over the past year. He also said $70 million to $90 million is needed in the next budget year to stay on track. (4/10/10)

First, check the beach for any stray critters, then move along...

Paul Sisson, reporting for the North County Times in California, gets back to nature for us.

An enormous vehicle that began hauling heavy freight to the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station early Thursday morning looked unstoppable as it trundled slowly up the beach, but the operation was actually at the mercy of Mother Nature and whatever creatures she might place in the vehicle's path.

Southern California Edison, the majority owner of the San Onofre power plant, is under scrutiny from several government agencies as it brings its cargo through some of California's most pristine beaches, home to a half-dozen endangered species. Not only does it have to get out of the way of any creatures, but should any damage occur, SoCal Edison must repair it.

Should any of those endangered critters - from the western snowy plover to the 2-inch tidewater goby - appear in the path of the massive transport crawler's tanklike treads, everything grinds to a halt: and no prodding with sticks to get a poky sea turtle or floating goby out of the way - everyone waits until the wildlife decides to go. Long before this trip started, biologists combed the seven-mile path up the beach looking for all environmentally sensitive areas. They marked the nesting areas of various native birds, including the California least tern, western snowy plover and California gnatcatcher. Additional surveys occur just before each move.

So far, said Brian Metz, Edison's supervisor of environmental services, the transport effort has damaged 0.34 acres of coastal sage scrub on the bluffs near the Las Pulgas exit at Interstate 5. After the last generator reaches the plant, Edison will have to replant double the amount that the crawlers damaged. The additional brush will be installed at the San Dieguito Lagoon near Del Mar, he said, where Edison is almost finished with a large restoration effort connected with a different project. (27/9/10)

Exelon Nuclear turns its hand to replenishing fish stocks

David Heitz, reporting for the Quad City Times dons his waders for a bit of fishing.

In cartoons, fish that grow up in waters around nuclear power plants end up with three eyes or some other deformity. In reality, Exelon Nuclear's Quad-Cities Generating Station in Cordova, Ill., operates the only privately owned fish hatchery on the Mississippi River and has reared and released about 6 million healthy fish since 1984.

"We work hard to be responsible environmental stewards," said Jeremiah Haas, a biologist at the nuclear plant. "We continue to work with local and state officials to stock the Mississippi River and various lakes in Illinois and Iowa to help the ecosystem and provide long-term stability to the bass population in the area.

When the plant decided to discharge the water directly back into the Mississippi, a grate was built to keep out debris. However, fish sometimes get stuck in the grate and die. To make up for the losses to the ecosystem, the plant struck a deal with state and national environmental officials to operate a fish hatchery on the premises.

Dave Bergerhouse, a research assistant professor from Southern Illinois University, said he's proud of what Exelon is doing. "The idea of putting something back into a resource is something all industries should be doing."(1/9/10)

Finland on alert as Russian situation worsens

We found this slightly worrying environmental report on the pages of YLE, based in Finland.

Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK) says that possible radioactive fall-out from Russian peat and forest fires do not pose a health threat in Finland. Hannele Aaltonen from STUK says that the amount of radioactive substances released from burning plants is so small that it will not cause harm.

Russian Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu warned last Thursday that peat and forest fires devastating southeast Russia may release radioactive substances. However, Aaltonen from STUK believes that there’s no danger for people in Finland, or people even close to the fires. “It’s such a small amount radioactive substances that is being released into the air through combustion gas that it won’t be harmful to health. Other smoke related gasses are far more dangerous. The amount of radiation that plants absorb from the ground is fairly small and it won’t be in any form hazardous to health.”

According to Aaltonen, the radioactive substances from the 1986 Chernobyl accident are deeper in the soil. Current plants might get some of that through their roots but this is negligible compared to the original amounts just after the accident in 1986.

Finland's radiation situation is normal and substantial radioactive emissions would be detected straight away by testing air quality with appropriate equipment.(11/8/10)

Mutterings in Utah over waste storage

The Salt Lake Tribune reports on an important storage issue. A federal judge has wrapped the knuckles of Department of Interior officials who denied a lease to build a huge parking lot for casks of highly radioactive nuclear waste on the reservation of the Skull Valley Band of the Goshutes in Tooele County. A reading of the decision persuades us that the judge had ample grounds to send deliberations on the lease and an associated right of way back to DOI for further review.

But procedural errors do not change the most important facts about this project, namely, that it would unjustly saddle Utah with storing the nation’s highly toxic spent fuel from commercial nuclear reactors. Utah does not create this waste, and its people should not bear the risk of storing it, even temporarily.

If the dry-cask storage method that would be employed by Private Fuel Storage, a consortium of electric utilities, is as safe as the project’s advocates claim, it would be safer to store the spent nuclear fuel rods near the reactors that use them rather than transporting them hundreds or thousands of miles across the country to a glorified parking lot in Utah’s Skull Valley near a military bombing range.

Utah officials and members of the state’s congressional delegation must continue to employ every method and tactic available to assure that this project is never built. They thought they had successfully driven a stake through its heart four years ago when Interior denied approval to a 25-year lease, with an option to renew for another 25 years, between the Skull Valley Band and PFS. The department also denied a right of way for a facility on federal land where shipping casks would be transferred from railroad cars to trucks for their final 24-mile journey to the storage site.(6/8/10)

Entergy and Indian Point  indulge in some fish preservation

Abby Luby writing for the NY Daily News goes for a spot of fishing.

The owner of the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant is angling for another chance to save Hudson River fish.

The utility company Entergy has been under the gun since the state charged it violated water quality standards by flushing heated water into the river, killing a billion fish a year. The Department of Environmental Conservation has mandated that Entergy install a new cooling system or shut down in 2015.

In the first of many DEC hearings this week to overturn its ruling, Entergy argued that a less costly "wedgewire" screen system would keep fish alive.

"We want the DEC to allow us to argue the merits of wedgewire over cooling towers," said Entergy spokesman Jim Steets. "Cooling towers would have very significant negative impacts."Others argued that Hudson River fish are thriving and Indian Point doesn't need to replace their cooling system.

Indian Point sucks in 2.5 billion gallons of river water daily to cool its two reactors. Entergy has paid for studies that show minimal impact on Hudson River aquatic life. Critics like Robert Kennedy Jr.'s Riverkeeper have said wedgewire screens would still trap small fish and wouldn't lessen thermal impact on the river.(26/7/10)

Uranium mine in New Mexico causes bother with Native neighbours

Thousands of feet under a hot patch of sand and brush is buried a deposit of uranium so rich it could revive a hardscrabble New Mexico town pocked with vacant lots and shuttered buildings.

The mining industry and those residents of the area who are eager for an influx of jobs see the plateau around Mount Taylor near the town of Grants in the northwest corner of New Mexico as an irresistible opportunity for economic gain.

But to local Native Americans whose ancestors lived in the area centuries before European settlement, Mount Taylor is a central part of their culture and religion. They are fighting to ensure that archaeological sites, their cultural heritage and water supply be protected.

Some are opposed outright to new excavation and have watched helplessly as mining projects move ahead. While state and national agencies recognise their cultural claim to the land, the law gives them virtually no power to halt mining.

"As an Indian nation, we're taught to respect mother earth, and [when] you see somebody doing that, it's like somebody putting a knife in you," said Albert Riley, a Laguna Pueblo tribal official and religious leader.(21/7/10)

Thinking of holidaying in Cumbria? Don't forget to pack the Geiger Counter!

The News and Star web site reports on trouble brewing in Cumbria. Anti-nuclear protesters have reacted angrily to a report suggesting that the burial of nuclear waste is the only safe method of disposal. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority wants communities to volunteer to host underground repositories in return for investment in community projects.

 

Copeland council, Allerdale council, Cumbria County Council and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority are discussing the possibility of having a geological waste facility, which would provide long-term storage for highly-active nuclear waste from across the UK, in Copeland or Allerdale.

 

The authorities have argued that, due to the existing economic and environmental impacts on the region, it is vital west Cumbria is involved in the process that decides what happens. But members of Radiation Free Lakeland, an activist group run by Marianne Birkby, have branded a potential site “the worst possible option” for the region.

 

Ms Birkby said: “The government really needs to listen to advice of independent experts not from the Department of Energy and Climate Change. A storage facility in Copeland or Allerdale is the worst possible option, the risks are huge.”

 

She went on to say: “There is no telling on the impact of a site in 10 years, let alone 10,000 – which is how long it would be there. The government is desperate to get the waste out of sight and out of mind so they can push ahead and create a nuclear new-build. We are being coerced into accepting a geological waste facility.”(14/7/10)

 

Radon at Balmoral? One doesn't think so...

One was going to run a different story today, but one thought this was better, thanks to The Daily Telegraph. The Queen's Deeside home is in an area exposed to potentially harmful levels of radon gas. She is among 3,000 residents in parts of Aberdeenshire to be offered the free tests.

The highest numbers of homes affected are in Aberdeenshire - followed by the Highlands, Orkney and the Borders. A risk map shows that the Balmoral estate is in an area where the percentage of homes at or above the action level is between 10 and 30, the second highest category.

A spokesman for the Health Protection Agency (HPA) said Balmoral was in the area of properties to be offered the free tests - but declined to say on confidentiality grounds if it had accepted the offer. But so far one in three homes that received the offer in letters sent last month have accepted.

The naturally-occurring radioactive gas is known to increase the lifetime risk of lung cancer and is particularly prevalent in Deeside, from Banchory all the way out to Ballater. (7/7/10)

 

We're slightly shaken up in Vermont, but everyone says that everything is fine - so that's okay..

A case of shake, rattle and roll in Vermont last week – courtesy of the Battleboro Reformer.

Computer monitors on desks at Central Vermont Public Service Corp. in Rutland shuddered Wednesday afternoon moving from side to side, thanks to a magnitude-5.0 earthquake in Canada at about 2:30 p.m. that shook a region stretching as far west as Michigan and into New England.

Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in Vernon reported an "unusual event," the lowest of four levels of emergency classification. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Neil Sheehan said the earthquake wasn't felt in the control room but was in other parts of the site; Yankee officials said there was no evidence of damage to the plant. Vermont Emergency Management spokesman Mark Bosma said no reports of damage had been reported.(30/6/10)

Time to leave oil dependency behind? Debate rages on in Sweden

Bruno Waterfield reporting for The Daily Telegraph brings us this.

 

After a debate in which Sweden's need for climate friendly, low carbon energy clashed with environmental concerns over atomic energy, Swedish MPs narrowly voted to build new nuclear reactors on Thursday night.

 

"A few months ago, the climate threat dominated the environmental debate. Now it is the oil disaster in the Mexican Gulf that is sparking the world's interest and horror," said Andreas Carlgren, the Swedish environment minister during a heated debate. “Both are really two sides of the same coin, namely, we must leave the dependency on oil and fossil energy behind."

 

Construction will begin next year to replace the 10 ageing reactors that still produce 40 per cent of Sweden's electricity.

 

But Sweden's centre-Left opposition, currently running neck and neck with the government in opinion polls ahead of elections is September, have vowed to reinstate the ban. "We will tear it up," said Tomas Eneroth, a Swedish Social Democrat spokesman.

 

In 1980, Swedes voted in a referendum to phase out existing reactors by 2010 and fears of nuclear power were heightened by the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.(21/6/10)

 

Not so much fly fishing - more fly ash down at Oak Ridge

As we aren’t around for a couple of days this week, we thought we’d leave you this fishy tale from our good friend Frank Munger who writes for the Knoxville News Sentinel – hi, Frank!!

The fish in the Clinch and Emory rivers exposed to fly ash from the massive spill in December 2008 appear to be generally healthy - so far. That's the early assessment from researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory who've been studying the fish since soon after the spill, which dumped more than 5 million cubic yards into the Emory and the embayment adjacent to the Kingston Fossil Plant.

Immediately after the spill, some areas of the waterways were essentially lost because of the enormous amount of fly ash. Those results were largely due to the physical impact of the fly ash, not because of the exposure to contaminants.

Some effects of toxic pollutants associated with the fly ash - such as selenium - may not be easily evaluated in the near term, according to the ORNL information. Selenium is known to cause reproductive problems in fish, especially young fish. In order to look more closely at that, ORNL researchers have started a project at their Aquatic Ecology Lab, where fish embryos and larvae will be exposed to TVA's fly ash and evaluated.(14/6/10)

Tennant Creek argument triggers Federal Court legal challenge

Things are turning nasty at Tennant Creek, as Lindsay Murdoch Darwin reports for the Brisbane Times. Aboriginal traditional owners have initiated a Federal Court legal challenge to plans by the federal government to build Australia's first national radioactive waste dump near Tennant Creek, in the Northern Territory. Mark Lane Jangala, a senior elder of the Ngapa clan, says he and many other senior elders were not consulted about the nomination of their land.

 

The traditional owners have instructed a legal team that includes the lawyers George Newhouse and Julian Burnside, QC, and lawyers from Maurice Blackburn to begin proceedings challenging the government and the Northern Land Council, which nominated the site on behalf of one Ngapa clan group.

 

The offer of the land in return for one clan receiving A$12 million in cash and other benefits has bitterly divided Aboriginal family groups in the Tennant Creek region. The government and the land council have refused to make public an anthropological report the land council says shows that one clan owns the nominated 1.2 square kilometre site 120 kilometres north of Tennant Creek.

 

However, the court action will centre on a finding by the Aboriginal Land Commissioner in 2001 that five owner groups have joint and overlapping traditional ownership of the land. The Maurice Blackburn senior associate Martin Hyde said most traditional owners were not given the opportunity to make an informed decision. 'If you are going to take away people's land in perpetuity and fill it with radioactive waste, you have a legal and moral obligation to ask the owners first and seek their informed consent.' (9/6/10)

Is there anywhere in the USA where you can drink the water??

David O Williams writing for the Colorado Independent, brings us another American clean-up report.

Environmentalists and local politicians cheered a Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety order late Thursday directing Denver-based Cotter Corp. to begin curtailing drinking water contamination from an inactive Jefferson County uranium mine this summer.

Uranium pollution revealed to be more than 13 times state standards was contaminating Ralston Creek, and the state rejected a cleanup plan proposed by Cotter, which owns the Cotter Mill uranium processing facility near Canon City and several uranium mines around the state.

The mining division required Cotter to begin water treatment at its Schwartzwalder uranium mine west of Arvada by July 31. “The mining division took bold and decisive action to protect our drinking water,” Jefferson County Commissioner Kathy Hartman said in a release. “I am pleased to see immediate action to protect Ralston Reservoir.”

“Thousands of people depend on clean water from Ralston Reservoir, and we can’t afford for Cotter to drag its feet cleaning up their mess,” said Matt Garrington, program advocate with Environment Colorado and a Jefferson County resident. “The mining division deserves praise for taking strong action.”

Uranium levels at the mine itself exceeded 1,400 times Colorado water quality standards.(26/5/10)

Dodgy radioactive water hits south New Jersey's water aquifiers

Thanks to the Associated Press for this one. Radioactive water that leaked from the nation's oldest nuclear power plant has now reached a major underground aquifer that supplies drinking water to much of southern New Jersey, the state's environmental chief said Friday. The state Department of Environmental Protection has ordered the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station to halt the spread of contaminated water underground, even as it said there was no imminent threat to drinking water supplies.

The department launched a new investigation Friday into the April 2009 spill and said the actions of plant owner Exelon Corp. have not been sufficient to contain water contaminated with tritium.

Tritium is found naturally in tiny amounts and is a product of nuclear fission. It has been linked to cancer if ingested, inhaled or absorbed through the skin in large amounts. "There is a problem here," said environmental Commissioner Bob Martin. "I am worried about the continuing spread of the tritium into the groundwater and its gradual moving toward wells in the area. This is not something that can wait. That would be unacceptable."

The tritium leaked from underground pipes at the plant on April 9, 2009, and has been slowly spreading underground at 1 to 3 feet a day. At the current rate, it would be 14 or 15 years before the tainted water reaches the nearest private or commercial drinking water wells. But the mere fact that the radioactive water — at concentrations 50 times higher than those allowed by law — has reached southern New Jersey's main source of drinking water calls for urgent action, Martin said. (10/5/10)

Bats in the belfry? Nope, try an old uranium mine, maybe...

Mike Gorrell and the Salt Lake Tribune go slightly batty in Utah.

Bats are unlikely to find abandoned uranium mines as desirable places to roost, but if they do, two state agencies have established a procedure for dealing with them.

The state Division of Wildlife Resources, which is charged with managing bats in Utah, and the Division of Oil, Gas and Mining (DOGM), which is responsible for reclaiming abandoned mines, have signed an agreement that lays out ways in which DOGM can seal old mines dangerous to people without hurting any bat populations found inside.

In cases where surveys find bats living in an abandoned uranium mine, the agreement specifies that the divisions will confer on an acceptable approach, with Wildlife Resources' officials having the final say. In many cases, the agreement will allow Oil, Gas and Mining officials to use grates to keep people out but let bats enter and exit.

If a bat survey confirms a mine is not being used by bats, said Luci Malin, administrator of DOGM's abandoned mine program, "we may close it using the method we think best protects the public. Wildlife Resources' willingness to provide us this flexibility will enable us to work more efficiently in protecting unwary adventurers from the dangers of an abandoned mine." (28/4/10)

Spent Swedish waste destined for bedrock caves under the Baltic Sea

John Tagliabue, reporting for The Scotsman turns his sights on Sweden.

The seaside town of Osthammar is competing for the right to become Sweden's permanent storage site for radioactive waste. Eighty per cent of the town's 21,000 inhabitants are in favour of the facility and Osthammar is one of two finalists among Swedish communities vying for the right to host the nuclear waste dump.

Sweden would seem an unlikely setting for such a competition as the country turned its back on nuclear power in the 1980s after less than 20 per cent approved of it in a referendum. But it has reversed course recently and is now planning to begin building new nuclear reactors, adding to the ten it already operates.

Legislation requires that before any new plants are built, the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company, SKB, must create permanent storage space for the radioactive waste the reactors produce. SKB found 18 of 20 possible towns near proposed sites intrigued by their proposition. Then it had to whittle the list down to two, Osthammar and Oskarshamn, both already the sites of nuclear plants.

SKB plans an elaborate, expensive system for storing the spent fuel, encasing it in steel blocks that will then be covered by solid copper and deposited in caves carved into bedrock about 1,500ft under the Baltic Sea.(16/4/10)

Muckaty's nuclear plans divides traditional owners

Found on the web pages of the Sydney Morning Herald.

Traditional owners of land that could house a nuclear waste dump have protested against the plan, saying they were excluded from the process.

 

The federal government is considering Muckaty Station, near Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory, for a facility that would store low and intermediate level radioactive waste. The land was nominated by the Ngapa traditional owners, one of five family groups who are custodians of the land: however, others oppose the dump.

 

About 250 people including traditional owners and anti-nuclear campaigners marched in Tennant Creek on Saturday, directing their anger at both Resources Minister Martin Ferguson and the Northern Land Council (NLC) - who they say overlooked them. Australian Conservation Foundation nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney told AAP the deal was far from done, with the traditional owners who oppose the plan examining legal avenues.

 

"There's no way the NLC or Minister Ferguson can say with any conviction or confidence that there is consent for this plan," Mr Sweeney said. "These people have profound connections with this land and the government's position is becoming increasingly untenable."

 

The government's National Radioactive Waste Management Bill 2010, which underpins the planning process for the dump, is being examined by a Senate committee. The committee will sit in Darwin on April 12.(7/4/10)

Haverigg wind farm under threat from new nuke build

Michelle May, reporting for Sky News reports on the fate of a wind farm in the Lake District.

Situated just 100 metres from the Lake District border, the small community-owned Haverigg wind farm in Kirksanton is one of the most efficient in the country.

 

The land has made the Government shortlist of 10 sites judged potentially suitable for new nuclear build.

 

Wind farm co-owner, Colin Palmer, told Sky News the turbines would have to be demolished if the plans go ahead because of underground cables. Mr Palmer said: "There are very few wind farms like Haverigg. It's a very windy and productive site that's much favoured locally. "It contributes to Government targets for renewabl

e energy so it makes no sense to lose it."

The Government wants new nuclear power in place in Britain by the end of 2025 as part of the transition to getting more of our energy from low carbon sources. Energy companies were invited to nominate sites by March 2009 and a shortlist of 10 sites was announced last November.The company proposing the power station denies the fate of Haverigg wind farm is set.

 

A spokesman for RWE said: "Our plans for nuclear development in Cumbria are at an early stage. "Should we go ahead with a planning application for a new station, we'd first carry out an exhaustive process of detailed studies and full consultation with everyone affected."(24/3/10)

Lithuania's protest over Belarus new nuke build near Vilnius

The following is from a (very long) report by Andrei Ozharovsky, reporting for the pages of Bellona and translated by Maria Kaminskaya

 

At a public hearing that took place in Vilnius on March 2 to discuss the potential environmental impact of the Ostrovets Nuclear Power Plant under planning in Belarus, participants voiced a strong opposition to the idea of having a new nuclear site just 50 kilometres from the Lithuanian capital. They followed with a request that the Lithuanian Ministry of Environment make an official notation of their disapproval of the experimental Russian project in the meeting’s record.

 

The new nuclear power plant in the town of Ostrovets in Belarus’ Grodno Region has, for some time, been touted aggressively by Belarusian authorities. The idea has sparked grave concerns both among the Belarusian population and across the border in Lithuania. The new site’s mere proximity to the Lithuanian capital, however, is not the only reason why Lithuanians felt compelled to gather a public hearing. Both countries are parties to the 1991 Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context. Since the new plant is projected to be built just 23 kilometres off the Belarusian-Lithuanian border, it stands to reason that any harmful potential impact it may have will also extend on the environment and well-being of the population of Lithuania.

 

Some twenty representatives from Belarusian ministries and other governmental entities came to attend the hearing in Vilnius. The authors of the official environmental impact statement were also among the participants. The delegation was brandishing the same old Preliminary Report to try and convince the Lithuanians of the project’s safety.(15/3/10)

Radon found in school

We were going to run a different nugget today, but this came to our attention in a round about way.  So thanks to Gerry Duffy reporting for The Scottish Sun. Here it is in its entirity...

 

A school was closed after experts found high levels of a killer nuclear gas in classrooms. All four pupils were moved from Cabrach Primary in Moray after the discovery of colourless radon.

 

Last night one source said of the find: "It's scary to think that so much of this gas was in a school - the parents must be terrified."

 

The school will be closed until the Easter holidays next month while an underground pump is built to safely release the gas into the atmosphere. Staff and kids will stay at another primary until then

Radon, which is used in nuclear power, occurs naturally in all rocks and soils. Exposure can lead to lung cancer in severe cases. A Moray Council spokesman said: "We are working closely with the Health Protection Agency and Health and Safety Executive to carry out remediation work."(10/3/10)

Watch out for those gulls - they may be radioactive!

The North-West Evening Mail brings us this unusual environmental tale. Seagull eggs are being destroyed at Sellafield to control the bird population amid radiation fears. A specialist company is pricking the eggs in a bid to keep the numbers down.

A Sellafield spokesman said the strategy is working so other methods, such as culling with poisoned bait, are not being looked at for the immediate future. The last time birds were poisoned on site was in 2008 when 39 birds were killed.

 

It was reported in national newspapers this week that an intensive culling programme was being considered at the site as bosses were struggling to tackle the ever-increasing numbers of seagulls. But that was strongly denied by the Sellafield spokesman. He said there has been a 30 to 40 per cent year-on-year reduction in the number of gulls on the site and that proves egg-pricking is working. He added that if the company needs to look at further culling methods in the future, it will do.

 

“There are concerns that they have been swimming in open ponds containing plutonium and radioactive waste, some of which dates back to Britain’s atomic weapons programme of the 1950s and 1960s.” Gulls flying around the site can become contaminated with radioactivity – such as when they fly into open fuel storage ponds.

 

But the spokesman stressed any contamination is so low it would not threaten public health. He said: “We are aware of the potential for gulls to become contaminated with low levels of radioactivity as a result of the operations at Sellafield.” (3/3/10)

 

US 'engaged in economic racism towards Native Americans'

Earth Talk’, reporting for Health News Digest, brings us this.

Native tribes across the American West have been, and continue to be, subjected to significant amounts of radioactive and otherwise hazardous waste as a result of living near nuclear test sites, uranium mines, power plants and toxic waste dumps.

In some cases tribes are actually hosting hazardous waste on their sovereign reservations - which are not subject to the same environmental and health standards as U.S. land - in order to generate revenues. Native American advocates argue that siting such waste on or near reservations is an “environmental justice” problem, given that twice as many Native families live below the poverty line than other sectors of U.S. society and often have few if any options for generating income.

“In the quest to dispose of nuclear waste, the government and private companies have disregarded and broken treaties, blurred the definition of Native American sovereignty, and directly engaged in a form of economic racism akin to bribery,” says Bayley Lopez of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. He cites example after example of the government and private companies taking advantage of the “overwhelming poverty on native reservations by offering them millions of dollars to host nuclear waste storage sites.”
(22/2/10)

New cooling towers needed at Oyster Crerek - Exelon not happy

Kirk Moore writing for the pages of the Ashbury Park Press goes fishing.

Screening and diverting devices that save fish from the Oyster Creek nuclear plant's cooling water intake are "about as good as it can get" in modern techniques, and the reactor's major impact on Barnegat Bay is with the tiny organisms that get sucked in and destroyed, a top state environmental official told a state Senate committee Monday.

Local fishermen and environmental groups have insisted for years the power plant is reducing numbers of clams and fish in the bay.

"Technically, the issue is more entrainment than impingement," said Nancy Wittenberg, an assistant commissioner in the state Department of Environmental Protection, referring to the intake of fish eggs and larvae. A system of fish ladders and chutes — what "I like to call an amusement ride for fish" — screen out and bypass the larger animals, releasing them back into the plant's canal that flows to Oyster Creek, Wittenberg said.

But the only way to reduce the entrainment losses of tiny life stages is to reduce the daily needs for water by constructing cooling towers, she told the state Senate Environment and Energy Committee.The DEP has proposed a new permit for the plant discharge that would require cooling towers; Oyster Creek operator Exelon Corp. has warned it will close the plant if it is forced to build the towers, saying that expense would make the reactor uneconomical. (10/2/10)

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Local authorities say no to nuclear dumps in Spain

Emma Pinedo, writing for those nice people at Reuters, sets her sights on Spain. At least seven small Spanish towns had submitted bids to build a nuclear waste dump, but opposition from regional authorities cast doubt over the long-delayed project.

About a dozen towns in all have bid for the dump, most with populations of 500 or less, all hoping the 700 million euro (£615 million) plan will bring much-needed jobs in a country with some of the longest dole queues in Europe. Spanish voters generally shun nuclear power and regional authorities, wary of the project, have substantial autonomy from the central government and some have announced their opposition.

"I am willing to take every political, social and legal measure, whatever it takes, to stop the nuclear dump being built in Castilla-La Mancha," said Jose Maria Barreda, who is government head in the central-southern region. He has ordered his legal team to study the legality of lodging an appeal against two small councils in his region who tendered bids this week.

Barreda's counterpart in northeastern Catalonia, Jose Montilla, opposes a bid by the town of Asco (pictured) home to two of Spain's eight nuclear power stations."Catalan power stations produce 40 percent of all of Spain's power. We've done our bit," he said. (5/2/10)

Minnesota mad at non-collection of waste

Don Davis, reporting for the Pierce County Herald web pages has a slight clean up problem.

Minnesota cities hosting nuclear power plants and some legislators are tired of federal officials' refusal to pick up the waste as they promised decades ago.

"If you had a garbage man who didn't show up for 28 years, would you continue to pay the bill?" Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, asked, as he told members of his Minnesota House Commerce and Labor Committee about his proposal to divert money now going to the federal government for nuclear waste storage and use it in Minnesota instead.

Atkins' plan would take the nearly $14 million Xcel Energy now sends the federal government annually for nuclear storage and divide it two ways. Half would be saved for cleanup when nuclear waste no longer is stored in Minnesota; the other half would fund a new commission to manage nuclear waste and help local communities pay for power plants' public safety needs.

Minnesota's nuclear power plants are near Red Wing and Monticello, with radioactive waste being stored near the reactors. Red Wing and the adjoining Prairie Island Indian Community are the most affected by nuclear waste, with 625 tons stored next to two reactors now.  2,450 tons of radioactive waste may be stored there by 2045.

City Council member Lisa Bayley said that Red Wing is not prepared to become a long-term nuclear waste storage site. "We need a plan to deal with the storage and protection of that waste.”(1/2/10)

Maralinga test site returned to former owners

Our thanks to The Economist for this environmental report. Maralinga looks much like the rest of Australia’s outback: Up close, there are differences. Its long, quiet airstrip recalls a time when this was an unlikely epicentre of the cold war. The desert is still littered with radioactive plutonium and other fragments of atomic weapons that Britain exploded more than 50 years ago.

Once teeming with nuclear scientists and British and Australian servicemen, Maralinga fell into eerie silence when the tests ended, in the early 1960s. Then just before Christmas 2009, it returned to life. Dignitaries flew in as guests of the Maralinga Tjarutja aborigines, a group that had been pushed aside when their homeland was chosen as a test site. Keith Peters, one of its leaders, presided over a ceremony to mark the end of his people’s long battle to reclaim their traditional lands.

After Australia agreed to its request for a test site, Britain exploded its first atomic device off north-west Australia in 1952. Maralinga (an aboriginal word meaning “place of thunder”), near the transcontinental railway in the state of South Australia, was chosen later as a better site. Altogether, Britain conducted 12 atmospheric atomic tests in Australia, including seven at Maralinga, up to 1957. The worst contamination came from the so-called “minor trials” of weapons components that took place for another six years. Tests at a site called Taranaki left plutonium, uranium and beryllium dispersed across the range. (20/1/10)

Some like it hot in Utah - but not the HEAL group..

Judy Fahys, reporting for The Salt Lake Tribune, brings us this. A Utah environmental group has scheduled a meeting with Gov. Gary Herbert to press its case that more testing is needed to make sure depleted uranium coming to Utah is not too hot.

HEAL says it reviewed shipping papers for some Savannah River, S.C., cleanup waste already in Utah and discovered that the DU, as depleted uranium is often called, contains reactor waste in concentrations that might top the radiological hazard limit set in state law. But, according to the group, it's hard to say for sure because the U.S. Energy Department has sampled too few of the DU drums from its Savannah River cleanup in South Carolina - just 33 of 33,000.

At least 5,408 drums of Savannah River DU are already buried at EnergySolutions Inc.'s low-level radioactive waste disposal site in Tooele County. Another 5,000 drums are at the site awaiting additional disposal requirements before burial, and two more Utah-bound train shipments are on standby in South Carolina.

EnergySolutions President Val Christensen, said his company "is providing a letter to the Governor correcting HEAL's technical mischaracterizations."(13/1/10)

There's an awful lot of landslides in Brazil - best close down Angra I & II

Today we visit Brazil, courtesy of the BBC’s web pages. Two nuclear power stations near a city in southern Brazil hit by deadly landslides may be temporarily shut down, the mayor has said.

Mayor Tuca Jordao, of Angra dos Reis, said main roads had been blocked by landslides and could obstruct any evacuation in the case of an emergency. He said the plants - Angra I and Angra II - were not damaged or threatened but should be shut down as a precaution.

Mr Jordao said that with roads blocked there was no way to quickly evacuate the city's inhabitants in case of a catastrophe at the nuclear plants.

"There are no operational problems at Angra I and Angra II... but if landslides persist in the hills, we'll need to shut them down," said Mr Jordao. (8/1/10)

Time to decide, Canada..

The provincial government of Saskatchewan in Canada is expected to indicate soon whether the province is open for business to nuclear power, according to a report by Angela Hall on the pages of the Leader Post.

"We want to clearly send a signal to the people of the province what the government's thoughts are on the whole uranium development going forward (and) on the power generation," said Energy and Resources Minister Bill Boyd.

Boyd said the government will formally respond to a report from the Uranium Development Partnership that said the province should consider nuclear power generation.

The government's response is expected to offer a more definitive answer as to whether nuclear power is currently seen as a viable option to pursue. The Ontario-based company Bruce Power has been considering building nuclear reactors in Saskatchewan and Alberta.

The Alberta Conservative government this week stated it was open to receiving private sector nuclear power proposals. But the Saskatchewan Party government has seemed to cool to nuclear power in recent months, citing concerns over costs.

New Cumbrian waste site 'First of its kind', apparently..

We were going to run this next week:  oh, well... Found on the pages of Materials Handling World web site. Detailed plans for the creation of a low-level radioactive waste disposal site in west Cumbria have been submitted to planners.

Endecom UK Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of recycling and resource management company SITA UK, handed the application to Cumbria County Council following extensive public engagement, including public exhibitions, presentations, leaflets and posters. The company proposes to establish a purpose-built and expertly engineered disposal facility on the derelict former coal quarry for the safe and secure storage of low and very low level radioactive waste. The material will be made up of primarily construction and demolition waste, which will mostly result from the decommissioning of Sellafield.

Development Manager Phil Holland said: "Our proposals for the Keekle Head site have now been submitted following almost two years of extensive research, planning, discussion and consultation. "It will be the first of its kind in the UK and we are therefore delighted to have enlisted the support of leading French radioactive waste management experts ANDRA, which has offered to provide design and peer review to our plans. Having operated its facility very successfully in recent years, it is well-placed to provide international experience and expertise to the Keekle Head team."

If given the go-ahead, the site would be operated to the highest European standards and best practise, ensuring no detrimental impact to health, the environment or the community. It would also be regularly monitored by the Environment Agency.

Red Wing & Monticello emergency services want a fistfull of dollars

Mike Kaszuba, reporting for the StarTribune web site in Minnesota, brings us this controversial environmental tale.

Thirty times in the past four years, Red Wing police and fire fighters responded to emergency calls at the Prairie Island nuclear plant and in Monticello, a fire department designed for a town of 11,000 people stood at the ready when a 13-ton valve box controlling steam pressure collapsed at the nuclear power plant three years ago, shutting it down for days.

Now, with Xcel Energy winning approval to store more radioactive waste at the plants, officials in Red Wing and Monticello say the added safety risks they manage as homes to the state's two nuclear power plants are increasing. In a move already drawing criticism, the two cities are asking that $13 million currently sent each year by Xcel Energy to the federal government for radioactive waste disposal instead be kept in Minnesota so that state and local officials can start planning for how to manage the risk of a nuclear crisis.

The proposal is stirring familiar passions over nuclear energy, pitting those who worry that there is still no long-term solution on nuclear waste storage against those who see nuclear power as an underused energy source with a long, mostly safe, track record.

Volunteers needed to house Canadian waste in New Brunswick - interested?

Colin Woodard, writing for The Christian Science Monitor scans the ‘Wanted’ ads..

If they were to take out a classified ad, it would read something like this: "Wanted: safe, willing home for 40,000 metric tons of nuclear waste. Must be Canadian. Phone for details."

That's what's on offer from Canada's Nuclear Waste Management Organization, the entity charged with finding a site for the spent fuel produced by Canada’s 22 nuclear reactors. While they don't advertise in newspapers, NWMO officials were in New Brunswick province last month holding a public presentation to make communities aware that they're looking for appropriate candidates to be considered as hosts for the radioactive materials.

Canada, like the United States, is seeking a long-term solution for storing spent nuclear fuel, which will remain toxic for more than 10,000 years. But the Canadian approach to finding a central depository site has fundamental differences, most strikingly that potential host communities must volunteer.

Canada's plan aims to avoid local resistance by requiring communities to ask to be considered as hosts for an underground repository. Volunteers will be given extensive information on the ecological risks and economic benefits of the repository, which is expected to cost between $16 billion and $24 billion. After public endorsement via referendum or other means, the community would become a candidate for extensive technical review.

Looking for somewhere to dump some nuclear waste (again)? Head north, guv, to Lancashire

This was found on the pages of Lep News this week. Concerns have been raised that radioactive rubbish from across the UK will be dumped on the outskirts of a Lancashire city. SITA UK wants permission for waste from more companies to be disposed of at Clifton Marsh. Local councillors are worried this will mean nuclear rubbish from all over the country being buried in Lancashire. If approved, the application will allow more companies to use the landfill site for "very low level radioactive waste" (VLLW) and "low level radioactive waste" (LLW).

Colin Hardman, nuclear regulator for the Environment Agency, said permission would need to be given before waste was transported to Clifton and said: "The volumes are too small to justify anything other than road transport. To some degree, waste can be shipped abroad for treatment, but that is a very expensive operation."

He said radioactive waste arrived at the site in special containers and was buried under a metre and a half of refuse. He said there were no concerns about anything arriving at Clifton Marsh "covertly" because everything was labelled and said: "The radiation levels are generally not a problem."

The Environment Agency is expected to make a decision on the application next year.

What's for dinner, then? Bears optional at Shattuck wildlife restoration site

Mark Jaffe and the Denver Post get set for some ecological restoration. Buried in the $33 million cleanup of the radioactive Shattuck Chemical site in Denver, along South Bannock Street, was a $250,000 settlement for ecological restoration.

That settlement, with some regional cooperation, has quadrupled to $1 million that will help refurbish Overland Pond Park and restore wetlands along the lower South Platte River. "By partnering with local governments and community groups, we've been able to use that settlement for some ambitious plans," said Laura Archuleta, an environmental contaminants specialist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Shattuck Chemical Co., which salvaged uranium from defective fuel rods, closed in 1982, leaving its 6-acre site contaminated with radioactivity. The site was officially cleaned up under the federal Superfund program in 2006.

Because the site is in the South Platte River watershed, the restoration efforts are broad. About 280 acres of wetlands on the Eastern Plains will be restored at a cost of $818,000, based on an initial $75,000 from the Shattuck settlement. Adding funds and services to the project are government agencies, private businesses and landowners, said Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Matt Filsinger.

Among those participating are Ducks Unlimited, the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District, the Harmony Ditch Co. and Drakeland Farms.

Things get rather dusty in France - 39kg plutonium dusts-worth actually...

Peggy Hollinger, reporting for the Financial Times, reports from France for this one.

Andre-Claude Lacoste, the head of France’s Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN), was taken aback when French politicians demanded a public inquiry into the country’s nuclear industry a few weeks ago. He could not understand why his joint letter with two other European regulators demanding design changes to a new-generation EPR reactor being built in France, Finland and soon in the UK, should have prompted a storm in a country traditionally supportive of nuclear power.

The letter came in the wake of a series of recent incidents in France, not least the discovery of 39kg of plutonium dust that had built up over 40 years in fuel-making facilities run by the Atomic Energy Commission, the state nuclear research body. The incidents prompted a call from Greenpeace for the “immediate halt of work on the EPRs in Finland and France”.

France’s independent watchdog insists there is no reason to worry about safety in the country’s nuclear installations. The ASN records roughly 1,000 incidents a year and Mr Lacoste says he does not have the impression that there has been an “unusual accumulation of incidents” this year.

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921 nuke warhead detonations cause underground water contamination

A sea of ancient water tainted by the Cold War is creeping deep under the volcanic peaks, dry lake-beds and pine forests covering a vast tract of Nevada.

Over 41 years, the federal government detonated 921 nuclear warheads underground at the Nevada Test Site, 75 miles northeast of Las Vegas. Each explosion deposited a toxic load of radioactivity into the ground and, in some cases, directly into aquifers. When testing ended in 1992, the Energy Department estimated that more than 300 million curies of radiation had been left behind, making the site one of the most radioactively contaminated places in the USA.

They have successfully pressured federal officials for a fresh environmental assessment of the 1,375-square-mile test site, a step toward a potential demand for monetary compensation, replacement of the lost water or a massive cleanup.

In a study for Nye County, where the nuclear test site lies, it’s estimated that the underground tests polluted 1.6 trillion gallons of water. That is as much water as Nevada is allowed to withdraw from the Colorado River in 16 years - enough to fill a lake 300 miles long, a mile wide and 25 feet deep.

Researcher puts his/her foot in it at Montana State - No? How about: What have you stepped in?

Robert Meeder, reporting for the Komu web pages brings us this cautionary tale: always look where you are walking! A researcher at Montana State University accidentally tracked phosphorus from a lab to a few areas across campus recently.

An unidentified lab researcher accidentally spilled phosphorus-32, a radioactive isotope, at a Schlundt Annex laboratory. The researcher then walked outside, unaware that the chemical spilled onto his or her shoes.

Department workers used Geiger counters to locate radiation patches. Most of the radiation was in a dirt filled area, at a corner outside Schlundt Annex, the biochemistry building. The radioactive dirt will be stored for up to six months before it can be disposed. Most of the researcher's footprints have been sealed with black paint to stop any possible contamination from spreading.

The risk of airborne exposure to phosphorus-32 is minimal, but it is very dangerous if ingested. The MU Environmental Health and Safety Department and biochemistry students and teachers declined interviews. After the cleanup, an investigation will determine if disciplinary action is necessary.

It's yet another 'best bring your geiger counter tale': this time we're heading west to Devon

Considering a holiday in Devon? Best take a Geiger counter with you after reading this little gem brought to us by those nice people at Ekklesia.  Campaigners were expected to rally in Plymouth at the weekend to demonstrate against plans for a nuclear waste plant in the city centre. It is thought that if the plans go ahead, the plant would store dismantled reactor components from the UK's nuclear submarines, possibly for several decades until a long-term disposal site can be constructed.

People are particularly concerned that the site is only 400 metres from a primary school. There is also concern that both businesses and tourists could be driven away if Plymouth is identified with the dumping of nuclear waste, thus affecting the city's economy.

“This will be risky work never undertaken before in the UK,” explained Dave Webb, Vice-Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). “The submarines certainly need to be dismantled - however this should not be in the middle of a city.” He suggested that, “Instead of blighting Plymouth with the reputation of being Britain's only city-centre nuclear dump, the government should invest in a green regeneration strategy for the city, providing long-term sustainable jobs."

I was going to say 'water, water everywhere - best bring your geiger counter'; but I won't...

Mary Manning, reporting for the Las Vegas Sun, brings us this environmental report from the Nevada Test Site.

Scientists have found radioactive tritium from nuclear tests in Nevada contaminating groundwater off the Nevada Test Site for the first time. However, state and federal studies indicated it would leave the nuclear site within 50 years.

A groundwater sample taken in a new well drilled on Air Force land contained tritium at about 12,500 picocuries per litre below the federal Environmental Protection Agency Safe Drinking Water Act limit of 20,000 picocuries per litre. A picocurie is a measure of radiation in liquid.

The Energy Department predicted in February that groundwater contamination would leave the Test Site boundary near Pahute Mesa, in the northwest corner of the sprawling site about 85 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Tritium occurred naturally in lakes, rivers and public water supplies at between 5 and 25 picocuries per liter before nuclear weapons testing began in 1945 in New Mexico. Tritium is formed in nature from cosmic rays striking hydrogen. It is produced in nuclear explosions as well.

Current plans are to drill six more test wells, at a cost of U$ 5m each, on and near Pahute Mesa over the next two to three years, said Darwin Morgan, a spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration, which operates the Test Site for the Energy Department.

EPA to search for uranium 'hot spots' in Arizona

Cyndy Cole, reporting on the pages of the Arizona Daily Sun brings us this disturbing environmental tale.

A dump near Tuba City that has been leaching low levels of radioactive waste into the shallow aquifer finally is getting some federal attention, if not an actual cleanup yet.

The Environmental Protection Agency plans to fence off a remaining section of an old dump, near two Hopi villages, and test for hot spots of radioactivity close by. This includes one area where the agency says uranium levels in the water exceed what's federally considered safe for drinking water by eight times. Local villagers who believe their downstream springs are threatened have long sought a total excavation of the dump.

Uranium-related waste found in the testing will be removed with heavy equipment beginning in October, and 263 new testing holes will be dug to search for more. "We're looking for a uranium source in the dump," said Leah Butler, project manager for the EPA.

The dump, which operated uncontrolled and unlined from the 1950s to 1997, is located a few miles from a former uranium mill. Altogether, eight test wells at the former Tuba City dump show uranium levels exceeding what the EPA considers safe for drinking water.

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Green Party uncover leaks at Aldermaston

Robert Warlow, reporting for the pages of Newbury Today, goes to Aldermaston for this tale. Campaigners  have called for more transparency after details emerged of a radiation leak at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), Aldermaston.

Research by Reading Green Party revealed that radioactive contamination was found in a building at the site on June 29. Although radioactive material is not believed to have spread beyond the site boundary, the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) and the Environment Agency were informed of the incident, but the details were not disclosed to the press and the public.

The party’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Reading East, Rob White, said: “AWE does not appear to have learnt any lessons following the July 2007 flood that crippled the Burghfield nuclear warhead assembly plant. The company’s instinctive reaction was to cover up the incident and this incident appears to be more of the same with it not keeping people informed.” He added: “This creates concerns and we are asking them to be more upfront and honest about what risks are posed to the public.”

AWE spokeswoman Rachel Whybrow said: “This minor event took place during routine decommissioning work in a building on the AWE Aldermaston site. When an internal contamination alarm sounded, monitoring of staff and a survey of the area was carried out, which confirmed the event posed no threat to staff or the wider public.

Possibility of uranium mine close to Grand Canyon upsets locals

Here’s something that I bet you didn’t know – nope, me neither! So thanks to the Associated Press and the web pages of KSWT 13 in, I believe, Yuma.

Environmental groups on Tuesday filed a 60-day notice that they intend to sue the federal Bureau of Land Management over its decision to allow a uranium mine to reopen north of the Grand Canyon.

Canadian mining firm Denison Mines Corp. says it could reopen its Arizona 1 Mine about 20 miles from the canyon's northern border by the end of the year. Dennison received the final state permit needed to move forward last week.

The BLM says Denison has an approved mine plan and should be allowed to resume operations. The mine closed about 20 years ago.

But the Centre for Biological Diversity, Grand Canyon Trust and the Sierra Club argue that the BLM failed to consider potential impacts to endangered species. They also say the agency is relying on an outdated and inadequate environmental analysis.

Government plans upset residents of West Cumbria

The following is taken from an article on the BBC’s web pages, written by Rachael Howorth for Radio 4’s Open Country. Eleven potential sites for a new generation of nuclear power stations have been short-listed by the government for development. Nine are next to existing reactors; just two are green-field sites in West Cumbria.

The prospect of skilled jobs coming to this isolated region appeals to some in the area, but many of those running small businesses fear for their future.

Carl Carter is the researcher for local Labour MP Jamie Reid. He is convinced that the power station is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for this area to become economically sustainable. If the power station were to go ahead there would be the opportunity for well-paid, highly-skilled jobs.

However, he suggests that the Kirksanton site is really a fallback option to be used only if the site of the existing nuclear facilities at Sellafield, 20 miles up the coast, proves impossible to build on.

For the sake of U$1bn, would you build a nuclear plant here? Progress Energy would..

The following is an editorial for the Tampa Bay Tribune we found on the pages of Tampa Bay Online. Gov. Charlie Crist and the Florida Cabinet's approval of a proposal to build a nuclear plant in Levy County will cause some environmentalists to howl. But the plant will produce clean energy and reduce the nation's dependence on oil.

Indeed, those conservationists rightly calling for Florida to develop alternative energy sources should applaud the addition of the nuclear facility, which will replace two coal-fired plants. Progress Energy's Levy County facility will include two 1,100 mega-watt nuclear-powered units. Florida needs to develop wind, solar, wave and other renewable energy sources. It also needs to put far more emphasis on conservation, which offers enormous opportunities for energy savings at little cost.

But nuclear must be part of the energy inventory if Florida is to seriously reduce carbon emissions yet still meet the needs of some 18 million residents. And Florida Progress officials say nuclear power is far cheaper to generate than power from other sources. They say the Levy plant will save ratepayers $1 billion a year.

This is the first nuclear power plant to be approved in Florida in 33 years. Consider how much more energy self-sufficient and how much cleaner the state would be had not irrational fears of nuclear power halted its utilization.

All packed up and ready to go to Utah - 14,800 drums of waste waiting to be moved

Thanks to the Augusta Chronicle for the following. Nearly 15,000 drums of depleted uranium oxide will be shipped from South Carolina for disposal in Utah under a contract awarded by the Department of Energy.

The 14,800 drums of Savannah River Site (pictured) waste will be disposed of at EnergySolutions’ facility about 70 miles west of Salt Lake City. The shipments will take place over 14 months, although it was unclear last week when they would start. The announcement, made by the Energy Department in mid-July, comes as EnergySolutions fights an effort to place a moratorium on the disposal of depleted uranium in Utah.

Depleted uranium is classified as the least dangerous type of low-level radioactive waste and has been disposed of for 18 years at the EnergySolutions' facility. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has acknowledged, however, that the material is different than other low-level waste because it becomes more radioactive over time for hundreds of thousands of years. The NRC is now studying whether new rules are needed for its disposal.

Spokesman Mark Walker said EnergySolutions could also receive depleted uranium from facilities in Oak Ridge, Paducah and Portsmouth over the next five years.

Hawaii 5-0 it’s not: more like Hawaii Oh no thanks to ‘migrating’ uranium

Found this via Honolulu’s Star Bulletin web pages

A preliminary study has concluded the public is not at risk from depleted uranium at the Pohakuloa Training Area on Hawaii’s Big Island, the military said.

 

The Army conducted the study as part of its licensing application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a site-specific environmental radiation - monitoring plan.

 

According to the report, only three pieces of the radioactive material have been found at Pohakuloa (right) and the remainder, if any, likely fell into cracks in the lava. The July 8 report says, "If any significant quantity of DU was fired at PTA, it is expected to have quickly migrated through the pahoehoe (smooth ropy lava) and a'a basalt (a type of rocky cinder) flows and is no longer detectable at the surface."

 

The migration theory "made me giggle," said Mike Reimer, a Big Island resident who served 10 years as head of research at the Colorado School of Mines after a 25-year stint on a uranium project with the U.S. Geological Survey. "On the basis of that study, they can't come to that conclusion," Reimer said. "That document they sent to the NRC, I think, was extremely superficial and often contradictory."

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How much salt would you like with your Tritium sir?

Michael Scott Moore, writing for the pages of Miller McCune, goes down the mines for this report. Rock salt, at least while it's underground, has two main properties: It can be soft and easy to mine, and it can form a watertight seal. This helps explain why the West German government started fork-lifting thousands of metal drums of "low-to-medium" radioactive waste into an abandoned salt mine called Asse II during the 1960s.

The mine plunges deep into the hills near Braunschweig (aka Brunswick), in the centre of Germany, and politicians in Bonn regarded it during the Cold War as a test site for storage of nuclear waste. An overhead layer of rock salt would shield the mine from groundwater, and the shifting salt itself, over centuries, would seal up any fractures and finally pack the nuclear waste in a safe geological bed.

But that's not what's happening. Around 12,000 liters of groundwater leak into the mine every day. Some of it mixes with the radioactive waste. A few weeks ago, the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) finally admitted that some brine collected in Asse II had traces of tritium and caesium 137.

But last year the German public learned that the group in charge of maintaining Asse II at the time had known about the accumulation of suspect water since 2005 — and even tried to mitigate the threat to its employees by pumping it to a deeper level of the mine. Heinz-Jörg Haury, spokesman for the Hemholtz Institute for Scientific Research, tried to explain in mid-2008 why Helmholtz had made no public announcement. "We believed no one was in danger, inside or outside the mine," he said.

Thinking of going to the 2010 Olympics? Better take a Geiger Counter with you, then.

Ted Jeory and David Jarvis, reporting for yesterday’s Sunday Express, bring us this (if true) rather scary Olympic tale.

Thousands of tonnes of radioactive waste is to be buried in a “nuclear bunker” next to the Olympic stadium under construction in London. Contaminated soil found around old industrial works on the site will be sealed in a radiation -proof concrete container just 400 yards from the athletics track and 250 yards from Stratford International rail station. The massive bunker, the size of half a football pitch, will be built under an approach ramp to a bridge across the River Lee inside the Olympic Park and next to a site where new homes will be built after the 2012 games

A total of 7,300 tonnes of toxic soil will be buried in the “disposal cell” between the stadium, the station and the River Lee which drains into the Thames. It will be lined with a plastic membrane and capped with 4ft of clay.

Liberal Democrat Olympic spokesman Don Foster MP called on the Olympic Delivery Authority to reveal scientific proof that the site would be safe for future generations.

A report from radiological consultants Nuvia told the ODA the overall risk to site workers and future visitors was “negligible” and within safety standards. But it warned any future housing “would need to be designed to minimise radon intrusion”. And it added: “Water should not be abstracted from below the disposal site to water vegetables, etc.”

Perhaps we should put this one under 'Environmental Stuff You Didn't Know'

Linda Gunter, writing for the Ventura County Star web pages brings us something we definitely didn’t know and I bet you didn’t, either.

July 16, 1979, just 14 weeks after the Three Mile Island reactor accident, and 34 years to the day after the Trinity atomic test, the small community of Church Rock, N.M., became the scene of another nuclear tragedy.

90 million gallons of liquid radioactive waste and 1,100 tons of solid mill wastes burst through a broken dam wall at the Church Rock uranium mill facility, creating a flood of deadly effluents that permanently contaminated the Rio Puerco River.

Five weeks after the spill occurred, the mine and mill operator, United Nuclear Corp., were back in business at Church Rock as if nothing had happened.  Why is the Church Rock spill - that washed into gullies, contaminated fields and the animals that grazed there, and made drinking water deadly - so anonymous in the annals of our nuclear history? Perhaps the answer lies in where it took place and whom it affected.

Church Rock was a small farming community of Native Americans, mainly Navajo, eking out a subsistence living off the arid South-Western land. Nearby, several-hundred-million gallons of liquid uranium mill tailings were sitting in a pond waiting for evaporation to leave behind solid tailings for storage. The long-term effects of this enormous level of radioactive contamination are not yet known, given that health effects resulting from radiation exposure can take decades to appear and can affect future generations.

Obama cancels recycling plans - but don't say anything...

Geoff Brumfiel, writing for Nature.com’s web pages brings us this. Earlier this week, the administration of President Barack Obama quietly cancelled plans for a large-scale facility to recycle nuclear fuel. The move may prove a fatal blow to the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) set up by previous president George W. Bush.

The US Department of Energy (DoE) set up GNEP in early 2006 to tackle the problems of nuclear proliferation and nuclear waste. As nuclear power spreads, some nations will want the ability to produce their own uranium fuel through enrichment  - a process that can also be used to create material for nuclear weapons. The Bush administration hoped to limit proliferation of enrichment technologies by creating a guaranteed fuel supply for non-nuclear weapons states. Through GNEP, countries with enrichment plants, including France, Russia, and the United States, will guarantee a supply of fuel to countries that agree not to develop their own enrichment capabilities.

Once the fuel is used, the supplying nations will take it back and 'reprocess' it for use in their own commercial reactors. Plutonium and unused uranium isotopes can be chemically extracted and put into new fuel pellets that in turn can be used in specially designed reactors. France, Japan, the United Kingdom and Russia already reprocess fuel for commercial use, although the United States hasn't done so since the 1970s.

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Looks lovely, doesn't it? Wrong - there's plutonium in them thar hills!

LeRoy Moore, reporting for the Daily Camera’s web pages, tells a chilling environmental tale. The most contentious issue regarding the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge in Colorado is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) plan to open the refuge for hiking, biking, picnicking, school field trips and other activities. Before public access is allowed at the refuge, the surface soil needs to be sampled for plutonium content. This type of sampling, which has never been done at the Rocky Flats site, will demonstrate whether or not plutonium is present in breathable particles - its most dangerous form.

Newcomers to the Denver-Boulder area may not be aware that for almost four decades the Rocky Flats nuclear bomb factory located about eight miles south of Boulder produced the explosive plutonium "pit" at the core of every nuclear warhead in the U.S. arsenal. Routine operations as well as major fires and accidents released very fine particles of plutonium to the environment both on and off the plant site.

Inhaling or ingesting plutonium or taking tiny particles into the body through an open wound can result in cancer, disruption of the immune system, or harm to the gene pool. Because plutonium has a half-life of 24,110 years, its presence in the environment in particles so small they can attach to dust poses a permanent danger.

Production was halted in 1989 after the FBI raided the plant to collect evidence of environmental lawbreaking. Plutonium pit production ended permanently in 1992 when the Rocky Flats mission was changed from production to cleanup of a badly contaminated site.

Duck & cover - those 'muddy' wasps have left radioactive nests laying around Hanford

Shanon Dininny, reporting for the Associated Press brings you, my fellow wasp haters, a tale to chill the blood! If workers cleaning up the nation's most contaminated nuclear site at Hanford didn't have enough to worry about, now they've got to deal with radioactive wasp nests.

Mud dauber wasps built the nests, which have been largely abandoned by their flighty owners, in holes at south-central Washington's Hanford nuclear reservation in 2003. That's when workers finished covering cleaned-up waste sites with fresh topsoil, native plants and straw to help the plants grow — inadvertently creating perfect ground cover for the insects to build their nests. Nearby cleanup work also provided a steady supply of mud, which the wasps used as building material.

Today, the nests, which could number in the thousands, are "fairly highly contaminated" with radioactive isotopes, such as cesium and cobalt, but don't pose a significant threat to workers digging them up. "You don't know what you're going to run into, and this is probably one of the more unusual situations," said Todd Nelson, spokesman for Washington Closure Hanford, the contractor hired to clean up the area under the oversight of the U.S. Department of Energy.

The wasps largely built their nests in a 75-acre area around H reactor, pulling the mud from the bottom of a storage basin that once held irradiated nuclear fuel. (15/06/09)

Erm, we've just spilt some Tritium - but, not to worry, it didn't go anywhere

Kim Janssen, writing for Chicago Breaking News, brings us a rather non-story – but worrying nevertheless.  A radioactive leak at Exelon's Dresden nuclear power plant has been contained and isn't a risk to public health, authorities said recently. Leaked tritium  (a radioactive by-product of nuclear reaction that can cause cancer and birth defects) was found Saturday during routine tests at the Grundy County plant, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The leak is not believed to have left the 1,700-acre plant site. Exelon officials said leaked tritium has not entered the public water supply. But the company hasn't found the cause or source of the leak, which was discovered in a monitoring well and storm sewers at the 37-year-old plant, the oldest privately-financed nuclear reactor in the United States and not far from the Kankakee and Des Plaines Rivers.

Workers were digging in the "general area" where a waste pipe is believed to have failed and are testing other wells at the plant, Exelon spokeswoman Krista Lopykinski said. "There's no danger to public or staff safety.”

But Paul Gunther, of anti-nuclear campaign group Beyond Nuclear, said Exelon has a history of "trivializing uncontrolled and unmonitored" tritium leaks. "Where is that contaminated water going to be 10 years from now?" Gunther said. "Groundwater can move and its movement is hard to predict."(12/6/09)

 

Where do we store spent fuel? NIMBY row rumbles on in the US

Lynn Edward Weaver, reporting for the Ledger’s web pages in Lakeland, Florida, brings us this. The U.S. has already committed $24 billion to build an underground repository for nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, according to the US Department of Energy.

Florida alone has forked over $743 million. Unfortunately, the Obama administration has submitted a budget to Congress that would sharply curtail funding for the repository project, and indications are that its future is very much in doubt.

The administration's decision to cancel a DOE program aimed at reviving the recycling of spent-nuclear fuel has confused matters further. The real question is not "is there a better site for a repository?" but rather "why not leave the spent fuel where it is and compensate utilities for keeping it?"

About 60,000 metric tons of spent fuel - often mistakenly called nuclear waste - is stored at nuclear power plant sites in 35 states, mainly in concrete-and-steel dry casks. The spent fuel is safe-and-secure, and it could remain where it is for another few decades at least. Or until the spent fuel can be reprocessed to produce more electricity, as is being done successfully and safely in other countries, such as France, Great Britain and Japan.

License delays in Levy County put building works on hold

Our thanks to Reuters for this update. Progress Energy's  Florida utility will delay the construction timeline for its U$14 billion nuclear plant in Levy County and scale back early charges to pay for the plant, the company said recently.

Florida's second-largest utility said a 20-month delay in the construction schedule for two 1,105-megawatt, AP1000 reactors will push commercial operation of the first unit to 2018, rather than 2016 as currently envisioned. A second reactor at the site could begin operation about 2020.

The schedule change follows a ruling by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission that prevents certain excavation and foundation work until Progress receives a license to construct and operate the plant, the utility said in a statement.

Progress had hoped to proceed with the foundation work ahead of the issuance of a license, expected by early 2012.

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New storage plans at Sequoyah upset residents in Oklahoma

Sally Maxwell, Managing Editor at the Sequoyah County Times, brings us this clean-up tale. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has approved Sequoyah Fuels’ plan to dispose of contaminated materials in an on-site cell, a plan opposed by some residents near the Gore-area plant in Oklahoma. John Ellis, Sequoyah Fuels president, said the NRC approved the plant’s on-site disposal site Monday, “after 16 years and two months.”

The plant, which at one time processed uranium to use in fuel rods for nuclear power plants, was closed in 1993 after it was found that portions of the plant and groundwater were contaminated.

Sequoyah Fuels and its parent company, General Atomics, have been working to meet the requirements to close the plant ever since. Last week, Ellis said that the proposed on-site disposal cell will cover about 11 acres in the centre of the property, which is about 60 acres now. The completed cell will cover about 17 acres, including its slopped sides, and will be about 50 feet tall.

The disposal is expected to cost General Atomics about $28 million and the NRC has approved the five-year disposal plan for financial reasons, so that the disposal may be paid for over that time period.

Get the map out, we're changing direction at Eagle Rock

This comes from  World Nuclear News’ web pages. Areva Enrichment Services (AES) has submitted a "roadmap" to US regulators defining changes it plans to make to its licence application in order to double the capacity of the Eagle Rock Enrichment Facility (EREF).

AES submitted its licence application for the centrifuge uranium enrichment plant to be built at Bonneville County, Idaho, at the end of 2008. On 31 March 2009 the company informed the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that it intended to revise the application to double the capacity of the plant from the originally planned 3.3 million SWU (separative work units, the unit of measurement for uranium enrichment) to 6.6 million SWU per year.

AES said that it had decided to revise the application to give it the flexibility to build a bigger plant if market conditions warrant but confirmed that it does not have any firm plans to do so. "In recent months, AES' confidence has increased regarding the construction of new reactors both in the United States and other countries," the company told NRC in its letter forewarning them of the revision.

Not a very good start to Earth Day, Oyster Creek

Todd B Bates brings us this environmental tale. Exelon is investigating whether a storage tank or piping may be the "leak source" responsible for an elevated level of radioactive tritium found in water at the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant , according to a federal official.

Exelon owns the plant, which received a 20-year license renewal from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission last week. Workers detected 102,000 picocuries of tritium per litre - five times the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standard for drinking water - in water in a concrete vault. A picocurie (in case you didn’t know) is a measure of radioactivity.

"Based on sampling and analysis of ground water monitoring wells in the vicinity, Exelon is investigating the potential that the leak source may be the condensate storage tank or associated piping," according to Neil A. Sheehan, an NRC spokesman.

Sellafield's B30 is contender for Europe's most contaminated buildings list

Robin McKie, reporting for The Observer, brings us this worrying tale from Sellafield. Last week the government announced plans for a new generation of nuclear plants. But Britain is still dealing with the legacy of its first atomic installation at Sellafield - a toxic waste dump in one of the most contaminated buildings in Europe.

Building B30 is a large, stained, concrete edifice that stands at the centre of Sellafield.  Surrounded by a three-metre-high fence that is topped with razor wire, encased in scaffolding and riddled with a maze of sagging pipes and cabling, it would never be a contender to win an architectural prize. Yet B30 has a powerful claim to fame, albeit a disturbing one: It is the most hazardous industrial building in Western Europe.

Piles of old nuclear reactor parts and decaying fuel rods, much of them of unknown provenance and age, line the murky, radioactive waters of the cooling pond in the centre of B30. Down there, pieces of contaminated metal have dissolved into sludge that emits heavy and potentially lethal doses of radiation.  It is an unsettling place, though B30 is certainly not unique. There is Building B38 next door, for example - the second most hazardous industrial building in Europe.

Shake, rattle and roll - Hanford hit by earthquake 'swarm'

Eric Mortenson, reporting for The Oregonian, gets all shook up with reports of multiple quakes at Hanford

It's been a jittery week at eastern Washington's Hanford Nuclear Reservation, where more than 100 small earthquakes have been detected in the past seven days.

The quakes are part of an earthquake "swarm" that has puzzled scientists since it began at the first of the year. As of Friday, monitors at Hanford had detected more than 700 earthquakes since Jan. 4, said Alan Rohay, senior scientist and seismologist with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, which operates at Hanford.

The quakes haven't disturbed the extensive stores of radioactive waste at Hanford or interfered with cleanup operations there. The plant processed plutonium for nuclear weapons during World War II and the Cold War. Highly contaminated liquid material is stored in underground tanks that have a history of leaks, and critics are wary of leaks or spills that could migrate to the nearby Columbia River.

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There's plenty of fish in the sea - but not at Dounreay

Just in case you were thinking about a spot of fishing in Scotland, John Ross, reporting for the Scotsman has this cautionary (fishy) tale.

A ban on seafood coming from an area near the Dounreay nuclear site is to stay in place, following a Food Standards Agency review. The restriction, preventing the removal of fish and shellfish from a 2km exclusion zone, was imposed in 1997 after the discovery of radioactive particles on the seabed.

The order, under the Food and Environment Protection Act, was to ensure any seafood contaminated by irradiated nuclear fuel did not enter the food chain.

Last year, Dounreay began work using remotely operated vehicles to remove the worst of the particles that have caused concern for more than quarter of a century. Up to £25 million will be spent on covering an area the size of 60 football pitches and on monitoring up to the 2020s.

The FSA examined the existing ban in light of the work, but concluded that the restricted area should remain in place while the work on the seabed is going on and be reviewed once it is complete. The agency said that, with the restrictions in place, the risk to food safety remains extremely small.

Vermont Yankee clean? Vermonters don't think so...

The following environmental report comes courtesy of Julie Elmore, reporting for the Burlington Free Press web pages recently. Vermonters have been witnessing their own magic show on the energy stage in Vermont recently, with the Legislature and ratepayers as its audience. Throughout the past year, Gov. Douglas, utilities, Entergy and corporate special interest groups have presented a steady supply of smoke and mirrors to create an illusion -- the illusion that Vermont Yankee is cheap, clean, green and reliable, and still critical to Vermont's energy portfolio for the next two decades.

Cue the smoke: Vermont utilities continually publicize their efforts to increase renewable energy and conservation as part of their future energy plans. Yet, their plans show a small increased investment in renewable energy over a 25-year time span and continued reliance on Vermont Yankee during this same 25-year period.

Cue the mirrors: Vermonters are told we receive cheap and clean energy due in large part to the cost of purchasing power from Vermont Yankee. In fact, this claim is based on an old contract and doesn't account for the fact that Vermont Yankee will cost a lot more after 2012. Nor does it account for the dangers and cost of cleaning up nuclear waste along the Connecticut River. Nor does it reflect the intensively high CO2 emissions from uranium mining. Where compared to renewable alternatives, energy generated from the entire nuclear fuel cycle releases four to five times more CO2 and is the most polluting energy source, bar none.

 

Now, where did we dispose of that Cesium, Cobolt...? It's here somewhere

David Gutierrez, staff writer for Natural News brings us this. Hospitals have become a major source of nuclear waste in the United States, producing and storing millions of radioactive materials each year with no long-term disposal plan. Experts increasingly fear that such waste could pose health hazards or be stolen by terrorists and used to build dirty bombs.

"Instead of safely secured in one place, it's stored in thousands of places in urban locations all over the United States," said nuclear waste consultant Rick Jacobi.

Hospitals and other health facilities use radioactive material for a variety of functions. For example, radiation from cobalt and powdered cesium is used to sterilize blood and medical equipment, while cobalt is also used to kill diseased brain tissue.

The federal government has long had a policy that individual states should build sites where radioactive waste produced in that state can be stored and disposed of, but failed to create penalties for states that did not comply. As a consequence, only three such radioactive waste facilities exist in the United States.

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