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In case of an emergency let's keep the public out of the way...

Judy Benson, reporting for The Day, goes way up stream for this one.

Public objections to an orange boom that blocks access to a popular canal off the Connecticut River have prompted state environmental regulators to ask the owners of the Connecticut Yankee power plant site, shown right, who installed the barrier to modify it.

"We've asked them to look at alternatives, such as removing it or moving it back," said Dennis Schain, spokesman for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. "We're anxious for them to complete an evaluation of other options."

At issue is the May 2013 installation of the boom by Connecticut Yankee at the mouth of the mile long discharge canal of the decommissioned nuclear power plant, which closed in 1998.

Modifying the barrier by moving the location or changing the colour to make it less of an eyesore will not satisfy those raising the loudest objections.

Norb Heil of East Hampton, head of the local chapter of Connecticut Valley Bassmasters fishing group, said he and others want the boom to be removed. "They did something illegal, and we're going to get it down," he said. "It's a state issue with national importance."

Heil, who fishes on the river three times a week, said the boom cuts off access to a popular area for anglers, kayakers and others that should be open to the public. Robert Capstick, spokesman for Connecticut Yankee, said the boom was placed in the same spot as it was when the plant was operating. It was reinstalled to enhance safety and security at the site, he said. ‘In case of a radiological accident or security threat at the site, having members of the public in the canal would complicate efforts to secure the area.’ (17/10/14)

We've invented a new category - Environmental Science!

Paul Marks goes back to nature for New Scientist

In the Norwegian Arctic, what looks like a series of huge metallic spiderwebs is strewn through a 1.5 kilometre swathe of the Bardufoss forest. But the network of steel acoustic pipes are actually infrasound detectors, gently probing the ground for any rumbles below 20 hertz – beyond human hearing – that might signify a nuclear detonation. The array is one of 60 such stations in 35 countries that make up the International Monitoring System for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

The 960 shower-head-shaped cans (pictured above) at the Bardufoss listening station direct sound into 10 "ears". These were upgraded this week with ultra-sensitive infrasound detectors that will make the array more useful than ever, says Anne Lycke, chief executive of NORSAR, the Oslo-based engineering firm that carried out the work. In addition to nuclear blasts, the station will be able to pinpoint the location of volcanic activity and help map the path of meteors. (12/9/14)

Locals not happy with recent NRC ruling

Joe Kimball, reporting for Minnpost, gets controversial…

Red Wing city officials and leaders of the Prairie Island Indian Community say they are unhappy with a recent Nuclear Regulatory Commission ruling that does little to resolve the ongoing dispute over storage of spent nuclear fuel.

The Prairie Island nuclear power plant is on the Mississippi River in Red Wing, and is adjacent to the Indian reservation.

Red Wing City Council member Peggy Rehder, who has lobbied in Washington, D.C. on the issue, wasn't surprised with the ruling. "There's been a movement toward saying that spent fuel in dry cask storage is safer for a longer period of time," she said. "It's disappointing, but on the other hand, we're seeing movement in Congress toward getting spent fuel that's in storage in at a least an interim storage site."

Ron Johnson, president of the Prairie Island Indian Community's Tribal Council, said in a statement: "...the NRC affirmed a new rule and generic environmental impact statement that concluded that spent nuclear fuel (some of the most dangerous and toxic substances known to mankind) can be safely stored 600 yards from our homes indefinitely if no geologic repository is ever built. No other community sits as close to a nuclear site and its waste storage." (8/9/14)

Things go from bad to worse at Vermont Yankee

Deb Katz (Citizens Awareness Network) sent this to The Rutland Herald recently – here’s a small extract.

We must keep our focus on the public good for the citizens of Vermont, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire as Vermont Yankee is powering down and working toward closure in December. The Emergency Planning Zone is a critical way to keep that focus sharp.

The nuclear industry makes many claims about the safety and security of its plants, including Vermont Yankee. However, we must acknowledge the potential vulnerability of the fuel pools to terrorism and accidents.

Vermont Yankee is a GE Mark 1 reactor. GE Mark 1 and 2 reactors are the most vulnerable reactors structurally in the country. Vermont Yankee’s fuel pool is filled to capacity and elevated (7 stories above ground outside of containment). These factors pose an unacceptable risk to those who live around the plant. Millions of curies of high-level waste are stored in this above-ground pool with a metal roof. An attack on the pool that causes the fuel cladding to catch fire could result in a 25,000-square-mile area being uninhabitable for decades. An accident involving the loss of water from the pool could have the same consequences. As long as the fuel is in the pool, we must keep the Emergency Planning Zone. (25/8/14)

Another use for salt - No: 327...

Ryan Whitwam, writing for Extreme Tech, gets all scientific..

Nuclear power was the resurgent darling of the energy industry just a few years ago as concerns over global warming mounted. Then there was the disastrous meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi plant in central Japan, which will continue to affect residents for years to come.

A few companies have continued pushing safer forms of nuclear power in a smaller form, and now one of them is getting the finding to make its plans a reality. Transatomic Power has just picked up $2 million from Founders Fund to develop a custom molten salt reactor that can eat nuclear waste.

Transatomic has designed a system that can use different types of fuel, including materials that are discarded as waste from traditional nuclear plants. Molten salt reactor designs are appealing because they are essentially immune to meltdowns like the one we saw at Fukushima.

Reactors like the one proposed by Transatomic use salt mixed with the nuclear fuel to slow the reaction. When the temperature goes up, the salt expands and reduces the rate of fission. Since salt’s melting point is higher than the core temperature, even if power is lost and no one is around to fix things, the reaction will eventually stop on its own.

Transatomic’s designs are also interesting because they cannot be used to produce weapons-grade radioactive materials. At the same time, it pumps out 500 megawatts of juice - that’s still only half of a standard plant, but this one would be much smaller and produces only a fraction of the high-level waste products. (18/8/14)

UK waste burial sites - Part 2..

Writing for The Conversation, Stuart Haszeldine Professor of Geology at the University of Edinburgh brings us this.

A proposal for radioactive waste to appear at a nearby burial site would be likely to fill the great majority of the UK population with thoughts of danger, cancer – and falling house prices. This illustrates the huge problem of public misperception to overcome when disposing of radioactive waste.

The price for decommissioning past and existing nuclear power plant and disposing of that waste is around £70 billion – the single largest item of expenditure for the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change.

What to do with radioactive waste is a problem that has so far proved to be intractable to successive generations of civil servants and ministers. Radioactive waste would be packaged and contained for one million years, sealed by multiple chemical and physical barriers within a repository dug out around 500 metres below ground level. In the mid-1970s, it was decided that deep burial would provide the optimum secure solution.

Several issues of contention emerged. The right for the host community to withdraw was promised by the government, but never transcribed into any contract. A package of benefits to the hosting community was promised, but exactly what and when it would be paid was not stated. The definition of the host community, its boundary, and its relationship with the wider region remained vague. Exactly what waste would be buried was contested.

Potentially the most significant statement of all comes from the secretary of state for energy and climate change, Ed Davey, stating that arrangements for waste disposal have to be in place before planning consent will be given for new nuclear power stations. Perhaps ministers of the future should be satisfied merely to know that the UK “has a plan”? (4/8/14)

We're looking for somewhere to bury waste - any volunteers?

Will Mann, writing for the New Civil Engineer, reports on the search for suitable burial grounds in the UK.

The Government has begun a new search for a site to store the UK’s radioactive waste.

This follows a consultation on improving the process of finding a site to host a geological disposal facility (GDF) that will store nuclear waste deep underground. The facility would hold the decades of waste the UK’s nuclear power industry has accrued, which is estimated to be 600,000m³.

Communities will be offered cash incentives of up to £2.5m a year to allow exploratory drilling to take place, which would establish if a location was suitable. The drilling process would take up to 15 years.

Construction of the waste dump, between 250m and 1,000m underground, will take 10-15 years, meaning it could be almost 2050 before any waste is buried. The project has an estimated price tag of £12bn.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said: “Geological disposal provides the secure, long-term solution we need to deal with the radioactive waste we have been creating for more than 60 years, and we can learn from the experiences of other countries who are also doing this.”

Mr. Davey added: “The GDF will enable us to dispose of our waste permanently. It is internationally recognised as the safest and most secure way of dealing with radioactive waste on a long-term basis, with countries including Finland, Sweden and Canada already ahead of us in implementing it.”

Currently, the UK’s radioactive waste is stored temporarily at nuclear sites across the country. (25/7/14)

Are you sure you saw a reindeer down 'ere??

Mari Yamaguchi, writing for ABC News goes underground…

Reindeer farms and grazing Holstein cows dot a vast stretch of rolling green pasture on Japan's northern tip. Underground it's a different story.

Workers and scientists have carved a sprawling laboratory deep below this sleep dairy town that, despite government reassurances, some of Horonobe's 2,500 residents fear could turn their neighbourhood into a nuclear waste storage site.

"I'm worried," said 54-year-old reindeer handler Atsushi Arase. "If the government already has its eye on us as a potential site, it may eventually come here even if we refuse."

Japanese utilities have more than 17,000 tons of "spent" fuel rods that have finished their useful life but will remain dangerously radioactive for thousands of years. What to do with them is a vexing problem that nuclear-powered nations around the world face, and that has come to the fore as Japan debates whether to keep using nuclear energy after the 2011 disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima plant.

The answer to that problem may lie in the Horonobe Underground Research Centre, which has been collecting geological data to determine if and how radioactive waste can be stored safely for as long as 100,000 years in a country that is susceptible to volcanic activity, earthquakes and shifting underground water flows.

In return for hosting the research, which under an agreement with the Japan Atomic Energy Agency doesn't involve any radioactivity, Horonobe has received about 1 billion yen ($10 million) in government subsidies and tunnel-related public works projects since 2000, according to town statistics. Officially, though, this is only a test... (15/7/14)

A case of Gone Fission in Oregon, maybe??

Keely Chalmers, writing for King 5 News, scans the waters off the Oregon coast.

Concern over possible radiation in the waters off the Oregon coast has spurred one coastal group in Tillamook to start sampling and testing for it.

People from all over visit the Oregon Coast, but now some worry the area  could be contaminated. Since Fukushima, all sorts of tsunami debris has washed up onto Oregon's coast. But some worry the next thing to come our way could be radiation.

“The predicted modelling shows that we should start to see it coming along our coastline at very low levels,” said Lisa Phipps, executive director of the  Tillamook Estuaries Partnership.

The group started taking samples of ocean water at Pacific City recently to test if it for any level of radiation. The Oregon Public Health Division does test ocean water quarterly.

So far, it has not found any radiation levels higher than normal off the Oregon Coast. It compares the amount of contaminated water released by Fukushima into the ocean to a drop of ink in a large public swimming pool.

Dory fisherman Bart Baldwin said the more information he has, the better. “If there’s something out there that’s coming up, I would like to know,” he said.

Phipps said she expects the results of the testing to show radiation levels well within normal range if it finds any at all. The results from the testing should be back within the next two months.(29/6/14)

The sky at night is glowing green over Texas - again

Found this, courtesy of Dallas News recently…

The nuclear waste disposal site operated by Waste Control Specialists in West Texas is steadily morphing away from its original mission as a depository for very limited quantities of low-level radioactive items from Texas and Vermont. Today, the site is taking on much greater quantities and higher levels of radioactive waste from multiple states, and its owner wants permission to dramatically expand operations.

If this mission creep continues, Texans could find themselves the unwitting hosts of the nation’s first permanent for-profit high-level nuclear waste facility. If Waste Control’s intention is to build such a site, it owes Texans a straightforward, transparent declaration of these plans so a full public debate can occur. No state wants such a sensitive and dangerous site. With the inventory of waste continuing to rise, the only option has been to store it in temporary facilities around the country. That’s not a solution.

The site sits atop the Ogallala Aquifer, and any radiation leak could risk contaminating a major water source for eight states. Waste Control maintains that the facility is state of the art, with multiple backup measures to avert accidents.

Texans deserve to be part of this important discussion. But they can’t participate if they don’t even know it’s happening. (23/6/14)

Us? Get political? Perish the thought..

Today we get slightly political thanks to the people over at Green World…

Russia’s Ecodefense, the leading anti-nuclear power organization in the country, was recently branded a "foreign agent” by the Russian government. Under Russian law adopted recently, non-profit organizations that fail to register as a “foreign agent” but are found to be one can be subject to large fines and dissolution of the organization. The decision by the Ministry of Justice was based on the fact that Ecodefense actively campaigned for many years against the construction of a nuclear power plant near the city of Kaliningrad (shown right).

While part of the international NIRS/WISE network, Ecodefense was founded in Russia, is based in Russia, and has focused on issues affecting Russia. It has, for those reasons, refused to register as a “foreign agent,” which in Russia is tantamount to an admission that the organization is controlled from abroad and effectively is undertaking espionage activities on behalf of other nations–neither of which is true in the case of Ecodefense.

In April, GreenWorld posted a piece from Ecodefense’s Vladimir Sliviak on the growing repression in Russia and how it seemed Ecodefense was being targeted by the government. Today that piece is all too prescient. To read the latest press release from Ecodefense on this latest crackdown on civil society in Russia just click here.  (18/6/14)

Stand-in sturgeons needed for tests...

Michael Risinit, writing for lohud / The Journal News, goes fishing…

Federal regulators are suggesting Indian Point's owner use dead local fish or fish dummies to figure out how the nuclear power plant affects endangered sturgeon in the Hudson River.

The dead or fake fish would serve as body doubles for Atlantic and short nose sturgeon, allowing plant owner Entergy to test underwater cameras and sonar imaging. The cameras and sonar would be aimed at the intakes where cooling water gets sucked from the river into the plant, possibly trapping fish on racks meant to screen out debris.

"For purposes of the pilot study, you could tie dead fish or dummies to the rack, as the focus will be on detection ability of the equipment," John Bullard of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.

Indian Point sucks in billions of gallons of river water daily, along with fish eggs, fish larvae and older fish. Some get discharged back into the Hudson; others die trapped on intake screens or within the cooling system. (29/5/14)

Nuke nasties in New York

Nate Lavey, writing for the New Yorker, considers suiting up for this one…

The New Yorker published a video this week about the most radioactive place in New York City, in Ridgewood, Queens. After months of study and small-scale remediation, the Environmental Protection Agency added that area, which was once home to the Wolff-Alport chemical company, to its list of Superfund sites.

For decades, Wolff-Alport processed rare-earth metals and dumped the waste product, radioactive thorium, down the sewer. Later, they sold their thorium to the Atomic Energy Commission, which stockpiled the material for use in nuclear weapons and reactors.

Now that the Superfund site has been designated, the E.P.A. will have to decide which method of cleanup will most effectively reduce the area’s elevated radiation levels - one option is to dig up the contaminated soil and ship it to a treatment facility. But that process has its own problems, including health risks.

The remediation could also cause significant disruptions to the lives of the people who live and work in the area. Alberto Rodriguez, the owner of Los Primos auto-body shop, which is located directly above the contaminated site, said he was not happy about the designation. “We might have to move our business,” he said. “We’re probably not going to be able to get much work done.” (9/5/14)

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. (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. T (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." 
(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. (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. (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. (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." (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. (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…(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 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. (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. (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…(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. (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. (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.(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. (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. (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.t (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. (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.”  (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. (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. (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. (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.(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. (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. (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." (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.” (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. (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.  (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." (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.(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. (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. (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.

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