The decommissioning of America’s Rocky Flats facility and the disposal of resulting waste was the main factor in a four-tonne reduction in US plutonium stocks over the last 15 years.
From its pioneering nuclear energy research as well as an extensive weapons program, the USA counts over 95 tonnes of plutonium stored in various forms at nine sites across the country. The bulk of this came from Hanford, where nine reactors produced 67.4 tonnes, and from Savannah River, where five reactors made another 36.1 tonnes of plutonium.
The inventory information comes from an update to a landmark report, The United States Plutonium Balance, 1944-1996. Ordered by President Bill Clinton, that publication was aimed at demonstrating transparency. A new version released at the end of last month updated the figures to 2009, and revealed that the total amount of plutonium (more…)
LOS ANGELES — US nuclear regulators published an update on California’s troubled San Onofre power plant Thursday, sparking an expert warning that the problem is more serious than first thought.
A reactor at the nuclear power plant near San Diego was shut down in January after a radiation leak, although the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said there was no danger to the public.
Investigations found unexpected erosion on tubes that carry radioactive water, and the entire plant was shut down, forcing Californian authorities to fire up alternative power generation facilities.
On Thursday, an update on the (more…)
BY TIM BONFIELD
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Published Feb. 11, 1996.
Four decades have passed since the Fernald uranium processing plant transformed 1,050 acres of sleepy farmland 18 miles northwest of Cincinnati into a vital part of America’s nuclear weapons complex.
From construction that began in 1951 to the end of operations in 1989, more than 7,000 workers at Fernald produced the raw material for the atomic bombs that helped win the Cold War. Yet the Fernald legacy also has been tarred by four decades of secrecy, denial, false assurance.
As an Enquirer investigation shows, this web of deceit continues today – even after a history laced with countless government reports, audits and hearings; two historic class-action lawsuit settlements on behalf of neighbors and workers; and a litany of allegations and protests from whistleblowers and community activists.
By claiming the disaster was ‘made in Japan’, an official report reinforces, yet does not explain, unhelpful stereotypes.
More than a year after a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami struck Japan on 11 March 2011, the Fukushima nuclear accident independent investigation commission released an 88-page report this week delivering the indictment that Fukushima could not be considered a natural disaster but a “profoundly man-made disaster”.
It went on to state that “this was a disaster ‘made in Japan’. Its fundamental causes are to be found in the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture: our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to ‘sticking with the programme’; and our ‘insularity’.”
At first glance, the opening message from the commission’s chairman, Kiyoshi Kurokawa, reads like an apology to the global community for Japan’s mishandling of the Fukushima nuclear disaster: a mea culpa (more…)
There have been scores of photographs and video footage showing the Fukushima Daiichi in its battered state after the nuclear power plant was pummeled by the tsunami last year. But images of the tsunami rolling into the plant have been scarce.
On Monday, more than a year after the disaster, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. released 33 new photos that capture the wave minutes after it hit. They are the first publicized photos since a smaller batch of 17 photos were made available in May 2011.
A Tepco spokesman said the company released the images upon requests from news organizations and the public. The company said it decided to disclose the photos that most vividly show the tsunami striking the plant. The photos were taken by a worker at an affiliated company. The images released start showing the scene from 3:35 p.m., just minutes after the first wave rushed towards the plant. The photos were taken across a span of about 25 minutes, giving a minute-by-minute sequence of the waves coming in, then receding. The March 11 tsunami came in two blows, the first one at 3:27 p.m. then a second and bigger one eight minutes later.
View a selection of the released photos in this slideshow. The photo library can be viewed in its entirety here.
One of the nation’s main nuclear weapons labs has sharply underestimated the amount of radiation that could leak from the facility as a result of an earthquake, according to a federal advisory panel.
The radiation could be more than four times as intense as the Los Alamos National Laboratory predicted in a safety analysis last year, according to a recent report by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.
The New Mexico laboratory’s analysis included “multiple, substantial deficiencies,” wrote Peter S. Winokur, chairman of the advisory board. The higher estimate calls for “additional safety controls” and “prompt action,” he added.
The report’s findings raise questions about the safety and reliability of Los Alamos, which says its work includes ensuring the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. (more…)
How a world-ending weapon disappeared from our lives, but not our world.
There was a time when nuclear weapons were a significant part of our national conversation. Addressing the issue of potential atomic annihilation was once described by nuclear theorist Herman Kahn as “thinking about the unthinkable,” but that didn’t keep us from thinking, talking, fantasizing, worrying about it, or putting images of possible nuclear nightmares (often transmuted to invading aliens or outer space) endlessly on screen.
Now, on a planet still overstocked with city-busting, world-ending weaponry, in which almost 67 years have passed since a nuclear weapon was last used, the only nuke that Americans regularly hear about is one that doesn’t exist: Iran’s. The nearly 20,000 nuclear weapons on missiles, planes, and submarines possessed by Russia, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, China, Israel, Pakistan, India, and North Korea are barely mentioned in what passes for press coverage of the nuclear issue. (more…)
ATLANTA (AP) — America’s first new nuclear plants in more than a decade are costing billions more to build and sometimes taking longer to deliver than planned, problems that could chill the industry’s hopes for a jumpstart to the nation’s new nuclear age.
Licensing delay charges, soaring construction expenses and installation glitches as mundane as misshapen metal bars have driven up the costs of three plants in Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina, from hundreds of millions to as much as $2 billion, according to an Associated Press analysis of public records and regulatory filings.
Those problems, along with jangled nerves from last year’s meltdown in Japan and the lure of cheap natural gas, could discourage utilities from sinking cash into new reactors, experts said. The building slowdown would be another blow to the so-called nuclear renaissance, a drive over the past decade to build 30 new reactors to meet the country’s growing power needs. Industry watchers now say that only a handful will be built this decade.
“People are looking at these things very carefully,” (more…)
By Zareena Hussain
Issue 65 : Wednesday, January 7, 1998
Associate News Editor
MITand Quaker Oats Co. agreed last week to pay $1.85 million to children at the Walter E. Fernald State School who were subjects of nutrition studies during the 1940s and 1950s as part of an out of court settlement. The students were fed breakfast cereals laced with minute amounts of radioactive iron and calcium tracers. Children were encouraged to take part in the testing with promises of gifts or trips to Red Sox games.
Fernald had been officially designated as a school for retarded children, although some of the residents at the time of the experiment were not retarded.
Following the declassification of federal records on post-war radiation experiments in 1993, a state task force investigating postwar radiation experiments throughout Massachusetts found children at Fernald were used in experiments without the informed consent of parents. A class action suit against MIT and Quaker Oats was filed by former students in December 1995. (more…)
By LeRoy Moore, PhD, Rocky Mountain Peace & Justice Center, June 2010
A dozen reasons why the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge should remain closed to the public
After completion of the “cleanup” of the 6,500-acre site of the defunct Rocky Flats nuclear bomb plant, about three-fourths of the site (roughly 7 square miles) was transferred from the Department of Energy to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to operate as a wildlife refuge. DOE retained 1,300 more contaminated acres (about 2 square miles) surrounded by the FWS land.
1. Long-term danger of plutonium, the contaminant of concern
Plutonium 239, the contaminant of principal concern at Rocky Flats, has a half-life of 24,110 years. It remains dangerously radioactive for more than a quarter-million years. Any quantity left in the environment poses an essentially permanent danger.
2. Plutonium’s lethal quality
The alpha radiation emitted by plutonium cannot penetrate skin. But tiny particles inhaled, ingested, or taken into the body through an open wound may lodge in the lungs or migrate to bone. For as long as it (more…)