Tag Archives | nuclear energy

When Nuclear Energy Almost Took to the Skies

"NB-36H with B-50, 1955 - DF-SC-83-09332" by USAF - U.S. Defenseimagery.mil photo no. DF-SC-83-09332. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

Back in the 1950s, under the threat of communist apocalypse, the US military had plans for a long-range bomber using the energy of nuclear decay heat to stay aloft for weeks at a time. The Convair X-6 was a design to use a radical, high-temperature, molten-salt-fueled-and-cooled reactor (MSR), and made nuclear-powered aviation come quite close to reality. This program, called NEPA (Nuclear Energy for the Propulsion of Aircraft), like its space-faring cousin-project NERVA, was ultimately a sink for around 7 billion US taxpayer dollars before it was cancelled by Eisenhower. But it actually resulted in the development of a radical type of reactor (MSR) that still could be used to safely generate massive amounts of electricity. More on that later.

The Convair X-6 bomber prototype, which carried a working nuclear reactor and heavy radiation shielding for the pilots (105,000 pounds of lead alone), was test flown nearly a dozen times in 1957.… Read the rest

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The Gender Divide on Nuclear Power

According to David Roberts at Vox, women are more likely to oppose nuclear power than men, but why is this?

“In short, the real gap on nuclear power is not between men and women, but between white men and everyone else. And this has far more to do with socialization than with any inherent or biological differences.”

via Vox:

Over at Morning Consult, they’ve done a survey on attitudes toward nuclear power, and according to reporter Davis Burroughs, nuclear reactors “face pronounced unpopularity among an unexpected bloc: women.”

Is it because women know less about nuclear?

Many nuclear advocates, confronted by the gender gap, posit a simple explanation: women know less about nuclear power. After all, the science and engineering fields generally, and the nuclear industry specifically, are dominated by men. Women are socialized at an early age to avoid those fields (though that may be changing).

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The Fourth Winter of Fukushima

Feans (CC BY 2.0)

Feans (CC BY 2.0)

Alexis Dudden writes at Foreign Policy in Focus:

“No, nothing. I have nothing planned for New Year’s. Nothing at all. No one is coming.” A shy, round-faced woman spat these words like darts into the protective mask she wore. Moments earlier she had been laughing happily together with several other former residents of the small town of Tomioka as they reminisced about a friend they all knew. She quickly became raw, however, when asked about the coming holidays.

Tomioka counted 15,839 residents before the March 11, 2011 nightmare of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear explosion began. All but one person has left — Matsumura Naoto, the now well-known rice farmer who refuses to abandon his family’s fifth-generation farm.

Confusion and despair among the others is common, a state of existence that government officials bewilderingly made even worse on March 25, 2013 when they divided the roughly 25-square-mile seaside spot into three zones: never to return, return for short periods, and in preparation to return.

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Fukushima: Bad and Getting Worse

Japan Nuclear power plants map.gif

Our contributor Kowality Jesus (we don’t know his or her real name, s/he’s truly independent of disinformation) stirred up not a little controversy with the post Fukushima’s Real Threat: Undue Fear. As a counterweight, consider this Counterpunch post by Nukewatch’s John LaForge to be a rebuttal:

There is broad disagreement over the amounts and effects of radiation exposure due to the triple reactor meltdowns after the 2011 Great East-Japan Earthquake and tsunami. The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) joined the controversy June 4, with a 27-page “Critical Analysis of the UNSCEAR Report ‘Levels and effects of radiation exposures due to the nuclear accident after the 2011 Great East-Japan Earthquake and tsunami.’”

IPPNW is the Nobel Peace Prize winning global federation of doctors working for “a healthier, safer and more peaceful world.” The group has adopted a highly critical view of nuclear power because as it says, “A world without nuclear weapons will only be possible if we also phase out nuclear energy.”

UNSCEAR, the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, published its deeply flawed report April 2.

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Fukushima’s Real Threat: Undue Fear

The Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. Reactor 1 to 4 from right to left.

The Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. Reactor 1 to 4 from right to left.

Our reaction to the crisis in Fukushima Daiichi has been and continues to be generally irrational.  Contrary to the assertions of some recent sensationalistic articles, there is no evident increase in thyroid health problems in Japanese children living in and around the Prefectures of Fukushima, and it is unlikely that there ever will be (UN Report; Nuclear News; J. of Am. Phys. and Surg.; CBCnews; Hiroshima Syndrome; National GeographicAsahi Shimbun).   This is because the only cause of thyroid risk during a nuclear disaster, iodine-131 which has a half-life of 8 days, was allowed to decay during evacuation and with restrictions on food and milk from the area.  After 80–90 days had passed, released radioactive iodine-131 decays to less than 0.1% of its initial quantity, and therefore the danger is essentially over. … Read the rest

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‘Lack of Genocidal Application’ Keeps Science From Exploring Thorium Energy

Thor Donner Arthur Rackham Wagner Rhinegold Rheingold Ring Nibelungern Norse mythology myth German GermanicHow ‘Thor’ May Save the World:

Unbeknownst to most climatologists that decry nuclear energy for its environmental liability (in the form of radioactive waste and potential Chernobyl/Fukushima meltdown), there is a friendly and feasible cousin to the Uranium reactor that uses Thorium (yes named after the Norse god of thunder).

Thorium is an element much more abundant than Uranium in the Earth’s crust (comparable in abundance to Lead), and is already produced industrially as a byproduct of rare-earth-metals mining.  Thorium reactor designs (using liquid Fluoride as coolant) consume atomic fuel far more efficiently than Uranium reactors using pressurized water as a coolant.  Furthermore, these reactors are ‘incapable of meltdown’ and produce hazardous radioactive materials lasting only 300 years as opposed to 10,000 years for Uranium, in relative quantities of 1 ton instead of 35 tons, respectively.  Unlike Uranium reactors, Thorium does not pose a proliferation risk because none of the products or reactants present viable materials for creating an atomic bomb.… Read the rest

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Radioactive Goldfish Discovered At Ohio Nuclear Power Plant

radioactive goldfish

No word on an eye count. Russia Today reports:

Two radioactive goldfish were found swimming in a juice pitcher of nuclear reactor water in an underground steam tunnel at an Ohio power plant. Investigators are baffled as to how the radioactive fish remained unnoticed in the ‘secure’ facility.

Investigators from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and officials of the plant, which is operated by FirstEnergy Corp., have been looking through surveillance tapes to try to identify who was responsible for leaving the radioactive goldfish in the tunnel on May 2.

The fishy tale has served as an embarrassment for the plant, which has already come under scrutiny for a case in which four contractors were exposed to life-threatening hard radiation in 2011. The plant has also been scutinized for a serious lack of security.

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Experts: The Technology Needed To Clean Up Fukushima Doesn’t Yet Exist

One and a half years later, the consensus seems to be that the site of the Fukushima nuclear accident cannot be cleaned up or contained until future generations invent the technology to do so, Washington’s Blog notes:

World-renowned physicist Michio Kaku said recently: “It will take years to invent a new generation of robots able to withstand the radiation.” The world leader in decommissioning nuclear reactors, and one of the main contractors hired to clean up Fukushima – EnergySolutions – made a similar point in May:

Concerning the extraction of fuel debris [at Fukushima], “There is no technology which may be directly applied,” said [top EnergySolutions executive] Morant.

A top American government nuclear expert – William D. Magwood – told the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works:

There will need to be new technologies and new methodologies created to be able to enable them to clean the site up and some of these technologies don’t exist yet, so there’s a long way to go with that…There’s a long, long way to go.

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Lake Karachay: The Most Toxic Place On Earth

Basement Geographer on a lake in the Russian mountains which may be the single most concentrated spot of environmental desecration:

Imagine a lake so polluted and contaminated that spending just an hour on its shores would result in certain death, and the only way seen fit to deal with it is to fill the entire water body with concrete blocks to keep the toxic soil underneath from moving onshore. That lake is Lake Karachay in Russia’s Chelyabinsk Oblast, and it is considered by many to be the most polluted place on the planet.

Lake Karachay lies within the Mayak Production Association, one of Russia’s largest and oldest nuclear facilities and a major source of plutonium during the Soviet era. Built immediately following World War II, Mayak has been the site of numerous nuclear-related accidents throughout its history, some approaching the size of the Chernobyl meltdown but far more concentrated.

Statistics reveal that by the 1990s, there had been a 21% increase in the incidences of cancer, a 25% increase in birth defects, a 41% increase in leukaemia, and a rendering of 50% of the population of child bearing age sterile in the Mayak region.

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