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South Korea halts nuclear reactor over safety concerns

Press TV – August 21, 2013

South Korea’s largest power plant has shut down one of its reactors as concerns over safety in the country’s nuclear industry linger on, reports say.

The reactor, one of six in Yeonggwang nuclear complex in the southwest, was closed on Wednesday, AFP quoted a spokesman of the Korea Hydro and Power Co. as saying.

“The cause of the stoppage is as yet unknown and investigations are underway. We don’t know when it will resume operations,” the spokesman said, assuring there was no threat of radiation leak.

The developments come as the nation’s nuclear plants have been grappling with ongoing problems due to the use of substandard parts in the a number of nuclear reactors over the past decade.

In 2012, the government announced that at least eight providers were found to have fake safety tests.

Officials at the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission immediately launched a probe into the scandal, an act which led to the closure of two nuclear reactors in in the same year.

In May 2013, two other reactors went offline. The commission also deferred starting operations at two more reactors, stating that the reactors would not resume their operations until the substandard parts were replaced.

South Korea has 23 nuclear reactors which provide a third of the country’s total electricity.

August 21, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Nuclear Power | , , , , | Leave a comment

Radioactive materials disappear in UK over last decade

RT | May 6, 2013

The UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has released papers under the freedom of information act, revealing that radioactive materials have gone missing from businesses, hospitals and universities more than 30 times in the past 10 years.

The papers revealed by the HSE, the UK government’s safety watchdog, list some big names in British industry as amongst the culprits including Rolls-Royce Marine Power Operations in Derby, which makes the reactors for Britain’s nuclear submarines, it was reported in The Guardian on Monday.

Small pellets of highly radioactive Ytterbium-169 were lost from the Rolls-Royce marine division, while a 13kg ball of depleted uranium went missing from the Forgemasters steel works in Sheffield, The Royal Free hospital in London lost caesium-137 used in cancer treatment. A report into the incident found that it “had the potential to cause significant radiation injuries to anyone handling [it] directly or being in the proximity for a short period of time.”

In another case, materials containing caesium-137 were lost on a North Sea oil rig by the oil services firm Schlumberger.

While at the site of the former atomic energy research center at Harwell near Oxford, cobalt 60 was found under a tube store under a machine during clearance.

Earlier this year a small canister of iridium-192 was stolen from a van in Lancashire, but was later found at a nearby retail park almost a month later.

“The unacceptable frequency and seriousness of these losses, some with the potential for severe radiological consequences, reflect poorly on the licenses and the HSE regulator. I cannot understand why it is not considered to be in the public interest to vigorously prosecute all such offences,” John Large, an internationally consultant to the nuclear industry, told The Guardian.

“Such slack security raises deep concerns about the accessibility of these substances to terrorists and others of malevolent intent,” he said.

While the HSE successfully prosecuted the Royal Free Hospital, Shlumberger and the massive Sellafield nuclear plant, other organizations have got away with written warnings.

In the case of Sellafield, the nuclear reprocessing facility pleaded guilty at Workington magistrates to sending mixed general waste, such as plastic, paper and metal from controlled radioactive areas to the Lillyhall landfill site in Workington when it should have been sent to the low-level waste repository [for low level nuclear waste] at Drigg, Cumbria.

The science departments of York and Warwick universities were luckier; they received written advice over losing radioactive materials during science demonstrations.

While the Loreto high school in Manchester is being investigated over the loss of americium-241.

“Some of these radioactive sources are very persistent, for example the Royal Free hospital’s lost caesium-137 has a half-life of around 30 years, so it remains radio-toxic for at least 10 half-lives or about 300 years,” said Large, who led the nuclear assessment risk for the raising of the destroyed Russian nuclear submarine Kursk in 2001.

May 6, 2013 Posted by | Environmentalism, Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Radioactive materials disappear in UK over last decade

Potential Cost Of A Nuclear Accident? So High It’s A Secret!

By Wolfe Richter | Testosterone Pit | March 13, 2013 

Catastrophic nuclear accidents, like Chernobyl in 1986 or Fukushima No. 1 in 2011, are very rare, we’re incessantly told, and their probability of occurring infinitesimal. But when they do occur, they get costly. So costly that the French government, when it came up with cost estimates, kept them secret.

But now the report was leaked to the French magazine, Le Journal de Dimanche. Turns out, the upper end of the cost spectrum of an accident at a single reactor at the plant chosen for the study, the plant at Dampierre in the Department of Loiret in north-central France, would amount to over three times the country’s GDP. Financially, France would cease to exist as we know it.

Hence, the need to keep it secret. The study was done in 2007 by the Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), a government agency under joint authority of the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Environment, Industry, Research, and Health. With over 1,700 employees, it’s France’s “public service expert in nuclear and radiation risks.” This isn’t some overambitious, publicity-hungry think tank.

It evaluated a range of disaster scenarios that might occur at the Dampierre plant. In the best-case scenario, costs came to €760 billion—more than a third of France’s GDP. At the other end of the spectrum: €5.8 trillion! Over three times France’s GDP. A devastating amount. So large that France could not possibly deal with it.

Yet, France gets 75% of its electricity from nuclear power. The entire nuclear sector is controlled by the state, which also owns 85% of EDF, the mega-utility that operates France’s 58 active nuclear reactors spread over 20 plants. So, three weeks ago, the Institute released a more politically correct report for public consumption. It pegged the cost of an accident at €430 billion.

“There was no political smoothening, no pressure,” claimed IRSN Director General Jacques Repussard, but he admitted, “it’s difficult to publish these kinds of numbers.” He said the original report with a price tag of €5.8 trillion was designed to counter the reports that EDF had fabricated, which “very seriously underestimated the costs of the incidents.”

Both reports were authored by IRSN economist Patrick Momal, who struggled to explain away the differences. The new number, €430 billion, was based on a “median case” of radioactive releases, as was the case in Fukushima, he told the JDD, while the calculations of 2007 were based more on what happened at Chernobyl. But then he added that even the low end of the original report, the €760 billion, when updated with the impact on tourism and exports, would jump to €1 trillion.

“One trillion, that’s what Fukushima will ultimately cost,” Repussard said.

Part of the €5.8 trillion would be the “astronomical social costs due to the high number of victims,” the report stated. The region contaminated by cesium 137 would cover much of France and Switzerland, all of Belgium and the Netherlands, and a big part of Germany—an area with 90 million people (map). The costs incurred by farmers, employees, and companies, the environmental damage and healthcare expenses would amount to €4.4 trillion.

“Those are social costs, but the victims may not necessarily be compensated,” the report stated ominously—because there would be no entity in France that could disburse those kinds of amounts.

Closer to the plant, 5 million people would have to be evacuated from an area of 87,000 square kilometers (about 12% of France) and resettled. The soil would have to be decontaminated, and radioactive waste would have to be treated and disposed of. Total cost: €475 billion.

The weather is the big unknown. Yet it’s crucial in any cost calculations. Winds blowing toward populated areas would create the worst-case scenario of €5.8 trillion. Amidst the horrible disaster of Fukushima, Japan was nevertheless lucky in one huge aspect: winds pushed 80% of the radioactive cloud out to sea. If it had swept over Tokyo, the disaster would have been unimaginable. In Chernobyl, winds made the situation worse; they spread the cloud over the Soviet Union.

Yet the study might underestimate the cost for other nuclear power plants. The region around Dampierre has a lower population density than regions around other nuclear power plants. And it rarely has winds that would blow the radioactive cloud in a northerly direction toward Paris. Other nuclear power plants aren’t so fortuitously located.

These incidents have almost no probability of occurring, we’re told. So there are currently 437 active nuclear power reactors and 144 “permanent shutdown reactors” in 31 countries, according to the IAEA, for a total of 581 active and inactive reactors. Of these, four melted down so far—one at Chernobyl and three at Fukushima. Hence, the probability for a meltdown is not infinitesimal. Based on six decades of history, it’s 4 out of 581, or 0.7%. One out of every 145 reactors. Another 67 are under construction, and more are to come….

Decommissioning and dismantling the powerplant at Fukushima and disposing of the radioactive debris has now been estimated to take 40 years. At this point, two years after the accident, very little has been solved. But it has already cost an enormous amount of money. People who weren’t even born at the time of the accident will be handed the tab for it. And the ultimate cost might never be known.

The mayor of Futaba, a ghost town of once upon a time 7,000 souls near Fukushima No. 1, told his staff that evacuees might not be able to return for 30 years. Or never, for the older generation. It was the first estimate of a timeframe. But it all depends on successful decontamination. And that has turned into a vicious corruption scandal. Read…. Corruption At “Decontaminating” Radioactive Towns In Japan.

April 13, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Economics, Environmentalism, Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Potential Cost Of A Nuclear Accident? So High It’s A Secret!

Nuclear accident could cost France $580bn, study shows

Press TV – February 7, 2013

A study shows that a possible nuclear accident in France would cost the country about 430 billion euros ($580 billion), which is equivalent to 20 percent of its economic output.

The study, conducted by the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), showed that a possible disaster in one of the nuclear reactors in France and a release of radioactivity into the environment would displace an estimated 100,000 people, destroy crops and cause massive power cuts, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

Jacques Repussard, the head of the IRSN, said, “A major accident would have terrible consequences, but we would have to deal with them because the country wouldn’t be annihilated, so we have to talk about it, however difficult it is.”

A nuclear crisis would also take its toll on exports of French delicacies and the tourism industry, costing the country about 160 billion euros ($126 billion), the study indicated.

Patrick Momal, the IRSN economist responsible for the study, said, “Tourism is an important activity for France and direct costs would not only hit the affected region, but the whole country.”

Momal, who is also a former World Bank economist, unveiled two disaster scenarios prompting a core meltdown at a typical 900-megawatt nuclear reactor in France, which include a “major” accident similar to that of Japan’s Fukushima reactor.

In March 2011, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake followed by a devastating tsunami hit the northeastern coast of Japan.

The quake triggered a nuclear disaster by knocking out power to cooling systems at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, resulting in meltdowns and radioactivity release.

France is the world’s most nuclear-dependent country and operates 58 reactors, which supply about 75 percent of its electricity demand.

February 7, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Nuclear Power | , , , , , | Comments Off on Nuclear accident could cost France $580bn, study shows

Don’t hold your breath for Fukushima’s radiation toll

By Tilman Ruff | The Conversation | March 13, 2012

A year can be a long time in politics. But for the radioactive particles released from Fukushima’s damaged nuclear reactor, a year is just a moment in their life of hundreds or thousands of years.

So, what is the radiological situation at Fukushima one year after the disaster?

Thankfully, despite more than 9,000 aftershocks since the disaster – including more than 10 rating above seven on the Richter scale – there have been no major fires or explosions since March 2011 that could cause further catastrophic releases of radioactivity.

But the extensively damaged plants are still unstable and highly radioactive. This has restricted access and clean-up efforts, which will need to go on for many decades.

Though Japanese authorities declared they’d achieved a “cold shutdown” in December, an arbitrary definition was used: coolant water temperature was less than boiling, pressure inside the reactors was not raised, and the release of radioactive materials from the first layer of containment was below a specified level. But it didn’t mean the nuclear reaction inside the reactors had been stably shut down.

Investigations

A number of investigations (some of which are still ongoing) have highlighted inadequacies in the design, prevention and response measures to deal with such a disaster. There is also a high level of dysfunction, cover-up, collusion and corruption in the nuclear industry – including its regulation and oversight.

How, for example, could sea walls designed to withstand a tsunami of only 5.5 metres be acceptable on a coast battered by a 38 metre tsunami in 1896 and a 29 metre tsunami in 1933?

How could cooling pumps, back-up generators and control systems not be required to be located on high ground?

How could spent fuel ponds, filled with vast amounts of long-lived radioactivity, safely be placed right of top of reactors? And without any special containment structures?

Independent, peer-reviewed research provides strong evidence that radioactive emissions from the Fukushima plants began after the earthquake and well before the tsunami struck. This is contrary to claims by TEPCO, the power company involved, and the Japanese government that it was the tsunami and not the earthquake that irrevocably damaged the Fukushima nuclear plant.

If leaks did begin as a result of the earthquake, as the evidence strongly indicates, this has profound implications for nuclear reactors everywhere – not only those located on coasts, within reach of tsunamis.

Poor protection

Serious gaps in measures to protect the population have also become evident.

One of the important protective health measures, which should be taken for those who have been or are likely to be exposed to significant reactor fallout, is the administration of stable iodine shortly before exposure, or within 24 hours. This blocks the uptake of radioactive iodine into the body, which causes thyroid cancer.

Yet the government admitted, in its June 2011 report to the IAEA, that because of dysfunctional decision-making, iodine was not administered to anyone in Fukushima, despite supplies reportedly being available.

Exposure to radiation

We now know the computer-based system designed to guide evacuations and sheltering (known as the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information or SPEEDI system) correctly predicted the initial path of the heaviest Fukushima fallout. The results were delivered to the government but not acted on, resulting in the people of some towns moving right into the path of the fallout.

Detailed mapping of the population’s radiation doses (from contaminants in the air, water and food) is still not publicly available. But hundreds of thousands of people still live in areas where they will receive doses higher – in some case several tens of times higher – than the world-wide recommended levels of no more than 1 milliSievert (mSv) of additional exposure per year.

The most contaminated areas were re-categorised by the Japanese government in December 2011. Residence is not precluded in areas where inhabitants would face radiation doses between 20 and 50 mSv per year.

Astonishingly, evacuation is not recommended from areas where residents are likely to be exposed to doses of up to 20 mSv per year. Even in the “bad old days” of the Soviet Union, those anticipated to receive more than 5 mSv annually after the Chernobyl disaster were resettled as a matter of priority. And those likely to receive more than 1 mSv annually had resettlement rights.

What happens next?

On January 26, 2012 the Japanese government released a roadmap of planned environmental remediation activities, to be completed over the following two years.

But the value of such measures has likely been oversold. Plans to remove the topsoil of farmland, for instance, will erode the viability of farming. And the problem of where to store, and how to isolate, vast amounts of contaminated material remains a major challenge.

One group particularly at risk of health harm is the large and growing number of workers required to help control, shut down and clean up the damaged nuclear plants.

By early December, more than 18,000 men had participated in clean-up work in Fukushima. These largely unskilled, inadequately trained, ill-equipped and poorly monitored day labourers performed the bulk of the dirty and dangerous work. Much of the contracting of these workers is dominated by criminal “yakuza” networks.

Even before the disaster, the Fukushima Daiichi complex was staffed by 1,108 regular employees and 9,195 day labourers. On average, the contracted day labourers receive two- to three-times the radiation dose of a regular worker but are not included in utility statistics. And there is no compulsory, centralised system for tracking cumulative radiation exposure or health outcomes of these workers.

Radiation levels are not always monitored. But when they are, and a labourer is known to be near the maximal permitted dose for workers, they may be sent away. The maximum dose is normally 20 mSv per year, but this was raised to 250 mSv after the Fukushima disaster. After the workers are despatched, there’s nothing stopping them from then going to work another nuclear plant.

On top of the many other health problems that the Fukushima disaster has caused, thousands of additional cancer cases will likely be diagnosed, but these will take some years to emerge.

This means, of course, that much of the radioactive fallout from Fukushima will continue to indiscriminately harm health for many generations to come.

Tilman Ruff is an Associate Professor, Disease Prevention & Health Promotion Unit, Nossal Institute for Global Health at University of Melbourne.

May 6, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Nuclear Power | , , , | 1 Comment