Category Archives: Nuclear power

Tracing waste drum’s journey from LANL to leak

By Staci Matlock, June 9, 2014. Source: Sante Fe New Mexican

Photo by the Santa Fe New Mexican

Photo by the Santa Fe New Mexican

On the night of Feb. 14, a mix of chemicals inside a container of radioactive waste in an underground salt cavern in Southern New Mexico created so much heat the drum’s lid cracked. Radiation leaked out. Heavy bags of magnesium oxide stacked on top of the containers to prevent leaks shifted and disintegrated from the force of the reaction.

A small amount of radiation made its way through filters and an air vent to the ground above the excavated salt bed. An alarm sounded at 11:14 p.m. that night, and the handful of employees at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad were quickly evacuated and tested for radiation exposure. Officials said 21 tested positive, but none at dangerous levels.

Within hours, the nation’s only permanent repository for nuclear waste — the one officials said would never have a radiation leak when the site opened 15 years ago — was shut down for what could be several years.

The container in question, a 55-gallon drum labeled LA00000068660, began its life in the birthplace of the atomic bomb. From a facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Area G, where the waste was repacked, to a room in the salt cavern near Carlsbad, where the drum was stacked and waiting to burst, a whole slew of people were responsible for how it was handled.

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Feds raided Rocky Flats 25 years ago, signaling the end of an era

By Electra Draper, June 1, 2014. Source: The Denver Post.
Rocky Flats was once the site of the a nuclear weapons production facility, May 29, 2014. This June will be 25 years since the FBI raided Rocky Flats. (RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

Rocky Flats was once the site of the a nuclear weapons production facility, May 29, 2014. This June will be 25 years since the FBI raided Rocky Flats. (RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

ROCKY FLATS — In 1989, Germans tore down the Berlin Wall. The anti-Soviet Solidarity movement pushed for power in Poland. One million Chinese in Tiananmen Square demanded reform. And Colorado was seeing the end of its own extraordinary Cold War chapter at Rocky Flats, 16 miles northwest of Denver.

Twenty-five years ago, on June 6, 1989, a convoy of about 30 vehicles carrying more than 70 armed agents of the FBI and the Environmental Protection Agency raided the U.S. Department of Energy’s plutonium-processing plant at Rocky Flats for suspected environmental crimes.

The Cold War site, which operated continuously from 1952 to 1989, was the Denver area’s largest industrial plant, with 4,000 men and women manufacturing plutonium fission cores used to detonate U.S nuclear bombs. Continue reading

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Earth Watch: Linda Gunter on nuclear power and Chernobyl’s toxic legacy

kpfk_logoGlobal Justice Ecology Project teams up with the Sojourner Truth show on KPFK Pacifica radio for a weekly Earth Minute segment and Earth Watch interview.

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Victory! Construction halted at Taiwan nuclear plant after protests

April 28, 2014. Source: Agence France-Presse

Protesters do morning exercise after camping overnight outside the Taiwan presidential palace on March 10, 2013 in Taipei, Taiwan. Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in Taiwan calling on the government to shut down the island's nuclear power plants, citing the painful lesson of Japan's nuclear crisis after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake two years ago. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)

Protesters do morning exercise after camping overnight outside the Taiwan presidential palace on March 10, 2013 in Taipei, Taiwan. Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in Taiwan calling on the government to shut down the island’s nuclear power plants, citing the painful lesson of Japan’s nuclear crisis after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake two years ago. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)

TAIPEI, Taiwan – Taiwan said Sunday, April 27, it would stop construction at a controversial nuclear power plant, after tens of thousands of protesters blockaded a main street in the capital calling for the project to be scrapped.

Protesters broke through a police cordon to take control of a busy eight-lane intersection demanding an end to construction of the “Nuke Four” power station outside Taipei.

Later Sunday, the ruling Kuomintang party yielded to pressure from the anti-nuclear demonstrators and promised to stop work at the plant.

“There will be no further construction of reactor one,” Kuomintang spokesman Fan Chiang Tai-chi told reporters.

“Only safety checks will be done and after that it (reactor one) will be sealed for storage. Construction of reactor two will be terminated,” he said. Continue reading

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US energy consumption, CO2 emissions up in 2013, new analysis shows

Note: More renewable energy.  More fossil fuels.  More CO2 emissions.  In America (sic), we just want more of everything, planet be damned!

-The GJEP Team

April 2, 2014. Source: ScienceDaily

Natural Gas, frackingAmericans used more renewable, fossil and even nuclear energy in 2013, according to the most recent energy flow charts released by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Each year, the Laboratory releases energy flow charts that illustrate the nation’s consumption and use of energy.Overall, Americans used 2.3 quadrillion thermal units more in 2013 than the previous year.

The Laboratory also has released a companion chart illustrating the nation’s energy-related carbon dioxide emissions. Americans’ carbon dioxide emissions increased to 5,390 million metric tons, the first annual increase since 2010.
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Study: Nuclear reactors are toxic to surrounding areas, especially with age

By Candice Bernd, March 11, 2014. Source: TruthOut

Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, Units 1 and 2. (Photo: Nuclear Regulatory Commission / Flickr)

Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, Units 1 and 2. (Photo: Nuclear Regulatory Commission / Flickr)

Is the baby tooth under your child’s pillow radioactive? It could be if you live relatively close to a nuclear power plant that has been operating normally and in accordance with federal regulations, according to a new study.

The study, released last week by the Santa Barbara-based think tank World Business Academy for its Safe Energy Project, found that public health indicators such as infant mortality rates and cancer incidence in surrounding areas rose dramatically after Pacific Gas and Electric’s (PG&E) two nuclear reactors at the Diablo Canyon power plant began operations in 1984 and 1985.

“This should be a concern for any nuclear reactor and its health risks, whether it’s been operating for a day or 30 or 40 years because these reactors create over 100 cancer-causing chemicals; much of it is stored as waste at the plant, but a portion of it is released into the environment and gets into human bodies through the food chain,” said Joseph Mangano, who authored the study. He is the executive director of the nonprofit Radiation and Public Health Project (RPHP). Continue reading

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Fukushima anniversary: Ex-Japanese PM on why he now opposes nuclear power

March 11, 2014. Source: Democracy Now!

Photograph: Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

Photograph: Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

Three years ago today a massive earthquake triggered a devastating tsunami that struck Japan’s northeast coast, resulting in an unprecedented nuclear crisis: a triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station.

As Japan marks the anniversary with continued uncertainty around Fukushima’s long-term impact, we are joined by Naoto Kan, Japan’s prime minister at the time. It’s rare that a sitting world leader changes his position completely, but that’s what Kan has done.  He explains how he came to oppose nuclear power while still in office, as he weighed Tokyo’s evacuation.

“It’s impossible to totally prevent any kind of accident or disaster happening at the nuclear power plants,” Kan says. “And so, the one way to prevent this from happening, to prevent the risk of having to evacuate such huge amounts of people, 50 million people, and for the purpose, for the benefit of the lives of our people, and even the economy of Japan, I came to change the position, that the only way to do this was to totally get rid of the nuclear power plants.”

Click here for the video interview.

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U.S. sailors sick from Fukushima radiation file new suit against Tokyo Electric Power

Note: Perhaps there’s a sort of tragic irony in the USS Ronald Reagan facing the scrapyard…

-The GJEP Team

By Harvey Wasserman, February 9, 2014. Source: Eco-Watch

Now docked in San Diego, the USS Reagan’s on-going safety has become a political hot potato. The $4.3 billion carrier is at the core of the U.S. Naval presence in the Pacific. Critics say it’s too radioactive to operate or to scrap, and that it should be sunk, as were a number of U.S. ships contaminated by atmospheric Bomb tests in the South Pacific. Photo: Eco-Watch

Now docked in San Diego, the USS Reagan’s on-going safety has become a political hot potato. The $4.3 billion carrier is at the core of the U.S. Naval presence in the Pacific. Critics say it’s too radioactive to operate or to scrap, and that it should be sunk, as were a number of U.S. ships contaminated by atmospheric Bomb tests in the South Pacific. Photo: Eco-Watch

Citing a wide range of ailments from leukemia to blindness to birth defects, 79 American veterans of 2011’s earthquake/tsunami relief Operation Tomadachi (“Friendship”) have filed a new $1 billion class action lawsuit against Tokyo Electric Power.

The suit includes an infant born with a genetic condition to a sailor who served on the USS Ronald Reagan as radiation poured over it during the Fukushima melt-downs, and an American teenager living near the stricken site. It has also been left open for “up to 70,000 U.S. citizens [who were] potentially affected by the radiation and will be able to join the class action suit.”

The re-filing comes as Tepco admits that it has underestimated certain radiation readings by a factor of five. And as eight more thyroid cancers have surfaced among children in the downwind region.Two new earthquakes have also struck near the Fukushima site.

The amended action was filed in federal court in San Diego on Feb. 6, which would have been Reagan’s 103rd birthday. It says Tepco failed to disclose that the $4.3 billion nuclear-powered aircraft carrier was being heavily dosed from three melt-downs and four explosions at the Fukushima site. The Reagan was as close as a mile offshore as the stricken reactors poured deadly clouds of radiation into the air and ocean beginning the day after the earthquake and tsunami. It also sailed through nuclear plumes for more than five hours while about 100 miles offshore. The USS Reagan (CVN-76) is 1,092 feet long and was commissioned on July 12, 2003. The flight deck covers 4.5 acres, carries 5,500 sailors and more than 80 aircraft. Continue reading

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Saugeen Ojibwe and U.S. Politicians Oppose Nuclear Waste Burial Near Lake Huron

Currently intermediate-level radioactive waste rests in shallow pits at the Bruce Power nuclear complex near Kincardine, Ontario. Ontario Power Generation, a quasi-public company owned by the provincial government, wants to bury it. 
by Martha Troian, 12/12/13  Source: Indian Country Today 

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 to Indian Country Today Media Network.

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—akin to a mine shaft—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.

A three-member joint review panel appointed by the Canadian Nuclear Regulator, which oversees nuclear projects in Canada, wrapped up weeks of hearings at the end of October. The panel received submissions from disparate parties ranging from the public, to non-profit organizations, to indigenous groups and U.S. politicians. The panel will report to Canada’s environment ministry after reviewing the testimony and documents, and the federal government will issue the final decision sometime in the spring.

Kincardine agreed to host the waste in return for $35.7 million that Ontario Power will pay the town and some neighboring communities over 30 years. The facility would be about 2,300 feet (680 meters) below ground, built to store low and intermediate-level nuclear waste from the power generator’s nuclear plants all over the province. Materials include the ashes of items used at nuclear facilities such as mops, clothes, floor sweepings and gloves, according to theCanadian Press. Intermediate-level waste comprises things like filters, resins and reactor components. The site has been studied and analyzed by engineers, geologists, geoscientists and hydrologists and is safe for this purpose, Ontario Power officials told ICTMN.

“This is 450-million-year-old rock where we propose to store the low and intermediate waste,” said company spokesperson Neal Kelly. “It can be safely stored, and there are multiple, natural barriers around it.”

Company experts predict the rock will remain stable, which means the risk of radioactive leaks from the site is minute. The area is not known for earthquakes. Nor does it hold any resource potential, which eliminates the likelihood of people digging in the area in the future, Kelly 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 maneuvered 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.”

The Saugeen Ojibway Nation said they were never even consulted about construction of the Bruce Generating Station in the 1960s, despite its being located on their traditional territory. Bruce Power, the generating station’s parent company, is the outfit that two years ago proposed to ship defunct radioactive steam generators by boat through the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway to Sweden for recycling.

RELATED: Bruce Power Radioactive Shipment: What Could Possibly Go Wrong? Right?

Kahgee, who made three submissions to the joint review panel, said new issues kept arising out of the hearings, such as Ontario Power’s desire to eventually store decommissioned waste there. But Kelly said the company would have to undergo another round of regulatory hearings to do so.

But that is just what alarms Kahgee, and it only validates his community’s longstanding fears about Ontario Power’s intentions. Ontario Power’s president vowed not to put a shovel in the ground without Saugeen Ojibwe approval. The company has also agreed to deal with past grievances.

Stop The Great Lakes Nuclear Dump, a non-profit organization, has also spoken out against the project, collecting nearly 42,000 signatures in an online petition by late November. Notable signatories included reknowned Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki, Democratic Michigan State Senator Hoon-Yung Hopwood and Farley Mowat, a Canadian author. The organization has several concerns, said spokesperson Beverly Fernandaz, foremost among them being the site’s proximity to North America’s greatest fresh water supply, depended upon by 40 million people in two countries.

“A bulk of [Ontario Power’s] outreach was in the local communities,” she said, most of whose residents work for Ontario Power or Bruce Power, or are retirees receiving a salary or pension from the nuclear industry.

Moreover, Ontario Power did not inform New York, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Quebec or other Ontario communities outside of Bruce County, Fernandez said. However, Ontario Power has held hundreds of briefings over the past seven years, Kelly countered. Hearings or no, the opposition is strong in Michigan, which lies on the other side of Lake Huron from Ontario.

“Neither the U.S. nor Canada can afford the risk of polluting the Great Lakes with toxic nuclear waste,” U.S. Representatives Dan Kildee, Sander Levin, John Dingell and Gary Peters of Michigan said in a letter submitted to the panel, according to the Canadian Press.

These echo the concerns of the Saugeen Ojibwe.

“We do not think there’s a sufficient record in front of the panel to make the recommendation for this project to proceed,” said Kahgee.

But while his First Nation doesn’t appear willing to store nuclear waste, other areas seem a little more open to the idea. Recently four communities in northwestern Ontario received $400,000 from Nuclear Waste Management Organization for finishing the first round of study into becoming possible storage sites.


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Victory over nuclear waste in Saskatchewan

By  • Nov 26, 2013  Source: Intercontinental Cry

Rally against Nuclear Waste Dumps, at the Saskatchewan Legislature, 2011.  Photo by Daniel Johnson / Media Co-op (CC BY-NC 2.5 CA)

Two Indigenous communities from northern Saskatchewan have finally been dropped from the selection process for a nuclear waste disposal site. One of them, Pinehouse, is a mostly Métis community on the shore of Pinehouse Lake. The other one, English River First Nation, is a Dene community to the northwest of Pinehouse. After several years of grassroots resistance spearheaded by the Committee for Future Generations and supported by other organizations, it was announced on Nov. 21 that both communities were unsuitable for further study.

The nuclear site selection process is being conducted by theNuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), an organization created by the Canadian government in 2002 specifically to address the problem of nuclear waste disposal in Canada. A typical example of the backwards kind of thinking at the heart of the corporate, finance-oriented modern world, NWMO came into existence many years after nuclear power plants were established in Ontario, Québec and New Brunswick with the realization that something had to be done with the waste. Scrambling for a solution at the expense of other people, Pinehouse and English River First Nation were just two of the communities on NWMO’s list of potential sites, which originally included a total of twenty-one. The list is now down to seventeen, four of which have moved on to the next stage in the selection process.

The struggle to save these two Saskatchewan communities from becoming a toxic waste dump has been well documented on the Committee for Future Generations website, in a short documentary film and even (if you read between the lines) in the final pages of two assessment reports published last October by the NWMO. This isn’t an easy victory. Community resistance and activists’ efforts had to overcome the nuclear industry’s lobbying and the NWMO’s move to push their own agenda.

Another hurdle was a lack of transparency on the part of the NWMO, evident not just in their relationship with the Committee for Future Generations, but also in their own assessment reports. These reports consistently pointed to potential negative consequences for the environment, the economic well-being of the communities, their traditional activities and their spiritual health as a people, yet the NWMO dismissed all of this as not being significant. Opposition to the project was described on page 44 of the Pinehouse assessment report as

a high level of misinformation about the APM Project in surrounding First Nations/communities. A vocal minority opposition may be masking quiet neutrality or support in the surrounding area.

This statement was echoed in the English River First Nation assessment report.

Difficult as the fight has been, this is an important victory. By keeping Pinehouse and English River First Nation safe from nuclear waste, the people in these communities have protected their own health and that of their environment. They have made sure the next generations can go on hunting and fishing like their elders have done before them. Just as importantly, they have helped preserve the beauty and the spirit of their homeland, and in turn those of the planet.

No one could say it better than the Committee for Future Generations themselves:

We are one of the few places left in the world where we can still go out onto the land and water for moose, berries, medicinal plants and fish. A nuclear accident or leak would contaminate our lands and waters forever. Traditional Indigenous wisdom teaches us to think ahead to the next seven generations, but in the case of nuclear waste, we must think ahead 7000 generations.

For the rest of us human people who do not live in Saskatchewan, there is hope to be found in what Pinehouse and English River First Nation have achieved. Nuclear waste is a global problem, and there are many other places at risk or already suffering. Perhaps the people in those places can look at what these two Canadian communities have done, and learn from it. More importantly, these two communities remind us that it can be done. It may take time and a lot of work, but people can make a stand against powerful interests and actually prevail. It’s with local victories such as this one, apparently small but in truth very big, that we can make the world a better place for all of us.

Like stringing many beads together.

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