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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.  Images: NORSAR (New Scientist) (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." Images: Star Tribune / MPR News (Steve Mullis) (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.

Images: Greenpeace / Air Water Earth (NE)  (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. Images: Extreme Tech (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”? Images: DECC / Shutterstock (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. Images: Destination 360 / Headline Science (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... Images: (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi) CTV News  (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. Images: King 5 News /  Richard Gessford (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. Images: US Dept. of Energy / Britannica (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.  Images: Green World / Wikimedia (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. Images: Joe Larese (The Journal News) / NOAA (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.”  Images: The New Yorker / Gizmodo (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.

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. (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.

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