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Japan Proposes Dumping Radioactive Waste Into Pacific As Storage Space Dwindles

Japan Proposes Dumping Radioactive Waste Into Pacific As Storage Space Dwindles

As the decade comes to an end, the future of nuclear power in the west remains in doubt. Almost nine years ago, a powerful underwater earthquake triggered a 15-meter tsunami that disabled the power supply and cooling at three of the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The accident caused the nuclear cores of all three damaged reactors to melt down, prompting the government to issue evacuation orders for all people living within a 30 kilometer radius of the damaged reactors, a group that included roughly 100,000 people.

And the evacuation zone:

Now, the Epoch Times reports that Japan’s Economy and Industry Ministry has proposed that TEPCO gradually release, or allow to evaporate, massive amounts of treated but still radioactive water being stored at the power plant. TEPCO, or the Tokyo Electric Power Co, is the owner of the Fukushima plant, and is also responsible for leading the clean-up of the damaged reactors.

But as regulators have stepped in to try and guide TEPCO as it struggles to dispose of all the contaminated water, one ministry has offered a proposal that is almost guaranteed to anger the fishermen who have resisted all of TEPCO’s other plans for dumping the contaminated water.

In its Dec. 23 proposal, the ministry suggested a “controlled release” of the contaminated water into the Pacific. Offering another option, the ministry also suggested allowing the water to evaporate, or a combination of the two methods.

The government is stepping up the pressure on TEPCO to do something as Fukushima’s ‘radioactive water crisis’ worsens. The problem is that TEPCO is running out of room to store the contaminated water. 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Pick Your Poison: The Fracking Industry’s Wastewater Injection Well Problem

Pick Your Poison: The Fracking Industry’s Wastewater Injection Well Problem

Oklahoma fracking industry site

The first known oil well in Oklahoma happened by accident. It was 1859 and Lewis Ross was actually drilling for saltwater(brine), not oil. Brine was highly valued at the time for the salt that could be used to preserve meat. As Ross drilled deeper for brine, he hit oil. And people have been drilling for oil in Oklahoma ever since.

Lewis Ross might find today’s drilling landscape in the Sooner State somewhat ironic. The oil and gas industry, which has surging production due to horizontal drilling and fracking, is pumping out huge volumes of oil but even more brine. So much brine, in fact, that the fracking industry needs a way to dispose of the brine, or “produced water,” that comes out of oil and gas wells because it isn’t suitable for curing meats. In addition to salts, these wastewaters can contain naturally occurring radioactive elements and heavy metals.

But the industry’s preferred approaches for disposing of fracking wastewater — pumping it underground in either deep or shallow injection wells for long-term storage — both come with serious risks for nearby communities.

In Oklahoma, drillers primarily use deep injection wells for storing their wastewater from fracked shale wells, and while the state was producing the same amount of oil in 1985 as in 2015, something else has changed. The rise of the fracking industry in the central U.S. has coincided with a rise in earthquake activity.

From 1975 to 2008, Oklahoma averaged from one to three earthquakes of magnitude 3 or greater a year. But by 2014, the state averaged 1.6 of these earthquakes a dayIt now has a website that tracks them in real time.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Help Stop Radioactive Waste Dump and Thousands of Dangerous Shipments Across the US

Help Stop Radioactive Waste Dump and Thousands of Dangerous Shipments Across the US

The private company Waste Control Specialists (WCS) or “Interim Storage Partners” wants to place a high-level radioactive waste dump site (called a “centralized interim storage facility”) in West Texas.

If approved, opening this high-level waste dump would launch nation-wide transports of a total of 40,000 tons of irradiated reactor fuel (misleadingly known as “spent” fuel), to Texas from all over the country. The shipments are to be by rail, highway, and floating barge (even on Lake Michigan!). The planned-for thousands of such transports create risks for nearly everyone in the United States, because the ferociously radioactive material would pass near schools, hospitals, businesses, and farms, would travel on and over lakes, rivers, and waterways, and go through areas where our food is grown and where families live, play and work. Amazingly, no public meetings on the subject are planned in Texas or elsewhere.

Act now to stop this dangerous nuclear waste dump

Environmental and community right-to-know groups are demanding: 1) public meetings in Texas and along transportation routes across the country; 2) a halt to these transport and dumping plans; and 3) uniform publication of application and related materials in Spanish.  You can add your voice to these urgent demands by writing to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on the license application by WCS until Oct. 19th .

Tell NRC: Listen to the people! No mass radioactive waste shipments to Texas.

Under WCS’s license application, the 40,000 tons of high-level waste from commercial power reactors could move on railroads, highways and even on waterways using barges for decades. Then, because the Texas site is supposedly “temporary,” after being shipped there the waste would have to be packed-up and transported again, to a “permanent” waste dump site — if one is ever approved. This means that new transportation and repackaging dangers will continue for additional decades.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Don’t Call It an Explosion: Gaseous Ignition Events with Radioactive Waste

Don’t Call It an Explosion: Gaseous Ignition Events with Radioactive Waste

Photo by Iwan Gabovitch | CC BY 2.0

Last month’s explosive news from the safe, reliable nuclear deterrence folks is that at least four barrels of military radioactive waste either burst or exploded somewhere inside the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), near Idaho Falls, April 11. INL officials said the “ruptured” barrels reportedly contained a sludge of fluids and solvents sent from the long-shuttered Rocky Flats plutonium weapons machining site near Denver. The officials did not describe which radioactive materials were in the sludge.

The accident was reported by ABC News, the Associated Press, the Seattle Times, the Japan Times, Industrial Equipment News, and Fox Radio among others. Laboratory spokespersons said a 55-gallon drum, or two, holding radioactive sludge “ruptured.” Energy Department (DOE) spokesperson Danielle Miller wrote April 12 that, “Later, there were indications that a third drum may have been involved.” On April 25 Erik Simpson, a spokesman for DOE contractor Fluor Idaho, told the AP that four barrels had burst. Simpson said the “ruptures” (i.e. explosions) were heard outside the building where they took place.

The DOE’s Miller called the prompt deconstruction of the rad waste barrel(s) an “exothermal event” — a pseudonym for “bomb” that means “a chemical reaction accompanied by a burst of heat.” The phrase harks back to the officially described “gaseous ignition event” involving hydrogen gas in a loaded high-level rad waste cask at Wisconsin’s Point Beach reactor site in May 1996. The cask contained 14 tons of highly radioactive used reactor fuel, and the explosion (a word avoided only by agency public relations linguistic gymnastics) blew the high-level waste cask’s 4,000-pound lid right off.

One theory about the cause of the accident is that “radioactive decay made the barrel[s] heat up and ignite particles of uranium,” the AP reported. Unfortunately for the first responders, “When the firefighters left the building emergency workers detected a small amount of radioactive material on their skin,” the AP reported April 12.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Hanford’s Toxic Avengers: Department of Energy Suppresses Deadly Nuclear-Cleanup Flaws

Hanford’s Toxic Avengers: Department of Energy Suppresses Deadly Nuclear-Cleanup Flaws

Your tax dollars are on the line. The DOE is set to extend a contract to Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS) for another year at the Hanford Nuclear Site, despite numerous allegations of misconduct since the company won the initial contract for $7.1 billion in 2008. Below is an investigative report that appeared in Seattle Weekly in 2012 on the suppression of whistleblowers by the DOE, Bechtel, URS and WRPS at North America’s most toxic site. – JF

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Once home to the nation’s largest plutonium-making facility, Hanford, Washington, is now one of the most toxic nuclear-waste sites in the world. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is currently spending $2 billion a year to clean up the 586-square-mile reservation. However, not all is well on Washington’s dusty southeastern edge: Whistle-blowers are stepping forward, claiming that taxpayer money is being spent recklessly on a project riddled with potentially deadly design defects.

Donna Busche, who has been employed by contractor URS (originally known as United Research Services) as acting Manager of Environmental and Nuclear Safety at Hanford’s Waste Treatment Plant (WTP) since 2009, is among the latest of these senior managers to speak out about what she sees as the silencing of those who raise concerns about possibly lethal safety issues. Last November, Busche filed a complaint of discrimination under the federal whistle-blower protection statutes with the U.S. Department of Labor, alleging retaliation against her for reporting problems at the WTP, which one day will turn Hanford’s 56 million gallons of highly hazardous radioactive waste into storable glass rods through a process known as vitrification.

Climbing the corporate ladder in the male-dominated engineering world was no easy feat. But Busche, as numerous co-workers say, is tough, politically savvy, and scientifically skilled.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

“This Is Catastrophic” – Thousands Of Gallons Of Radioactive Waste Leak At Nuclear Site

“This Is Catastrophic” – Thousands Of Gallons Of Radioactive Waste Leak At Nuclear Site

The ongoing radioactive leak problems at the Hanford Site, a nuclear storage tank in Washington State, are nothing new.

We first wrote about the ongoing radioative leakage at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, created as part of the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb, in 2013.

As a reminder, during the Cold War, the project was expanded to include nine nuclear reactors and five large plutonium processing complexes, which produced plutonium for most of the 60,000 weapons in the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Alas, the site has been leaking ever since, as many of the early safety procedures and waste disposal practices were inadequate and Hanford’s operations released significant amounts of radioactive materials into the air and the neighboring Columbia River.

Hanford’s weapons production reactors were decommissioned at the end of the Cold War, but the decades of manufacturing left behind 53 million US gallons of high-level radioactive waste, an additional 25 million cubic feet of solid radioactive waste, 200 square miles of contaminated groundwater beneath the site and occasional discoveries of undocumented contaminations.

The Hanford site represents two-thirds of the nation’s high-level radioactive waste by volume. Today, Hanford is the most contaminated nuclear site in the United States and is the focus of the nation’s largest environmental cleanup. The government spends $2 billion each year on Hanford cleanup — one-third of its entire budget for nuclear cleanup nationally. The cleanup is expected to last decades.

However, as Krugman would say, the government was not spending nearly enough, and after a major documented leak in 2013, over the weekend, thousands of gallons of radioactive waste are estimated to have leaked from the Site once again, triggering an alarm and causing one former worker to label it as “catastrophic.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Peak Meaninglessness

Peak Meaninglessness

Last week’s discussion of externalities—costs of doing business that get dumped onto the economy, the community, or the environment, so that those doing the dumping can make a bigger profit—is, I’m glad to say, not the first time this issue has been raised recently.  The long silence that closed around such things three decades ago is finally cracking; they’re being mentioned again, and not just by archdruids. One of my readers—tip of the archdruidical hat to Jay McInerney—noted an article in Grist a while back that pointed out the awkward fact that none of the twenty biggest industries in today’s world could break even, much less make a profit, if they had to pay for the damage they do to the environment.

Now of course the conventional wisdom these days interprets that statement to mean that it’s unfair to make those industries pay for the costs they impose on the rest of us—after all, they have a God-given right to profit at everyone else’s expense, right?  That’s certainly the attitude of fracking firms in North Dakota, who recently proposed that  they ought to be exempted from the state’s rules on dumping radioactive waste, because following the rules would cost them too much money. That the costs externalized by the fracking industry will sooner or later be paid by others, as radionuclides in fracking waste work their way up the food chain and start producing cancer clusters, is of course not something anyone in the industry or the media is interested in discussing.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

As Oil Prices Collapse, North Dakota Considers Weakening Standards on Radioactive Drilling Waste

As Oil Prices Collapse, North Dakota Considers Weakening Standards on Radioactive Drilling Waste

As the collapse of oil prices threatens North Dakota’s shale drilling rush, state regulators are considering a move they say could save the oil industry millions of dollars: weakening the state’s laws on disposing of radioactive waste.

The move has been the subject of an intensive lobbying effort by drillers, who produce up to 75 tons per day of waste currently considered too hazardous to dispose of in the state.

For every truckload of that waste, drillers could save at least $10,000 in hauling costs, they argue. State regulators calculate that by raising the radioactive waste threshold ten-fold, the industry would shave off roughly $120 million in costs per year.

But many who live in the area say they fear the long-term consequences of loosened disposal rules combined with the state’s poor track record on preventing illegal dumping.

“We don’t want to have when this oil and coal is gone, to be nothing left here, a wasteland, and I’m afraid that’s what might happen,” farmer Gene Wirtz of Underwood, ND told KNX News, a local TV station. “Any amount of radiation beyond what you’re already getting is not a good thing.”

Environmental groups have also objected that the rule change would put private companies’ profits before public health.

 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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