Tag Archives | Nuclear Power

New York Times On ‘Capping’ the Chernobyl Catastrophe

Radiation warning symbolA great article here from the New York Times on efforts to clean up and control damage caused by the Chernobyl catastrophe. One such project involves the construction of a giant shelter to cover the entombed remains of the reactor.

The Chernobyl accident can be likened to a huge dirty bomb, an explosion that spewed radioactive material in all directions. The blast was followed by a fire that sent even more contaminants into the atmosphere that were then carried by winds across the region and into Western Europe.

In this way the disaster differs from nuclear power’s two other major accidents, at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania in 1979 and Fukushima in 2011. At both of those plants, reactor cores melted down, but the core material — the nuclear fuel — remained within protective containment structures.

The four reactors at the Chernobyl plant had no such containment. But that was only one aspect of their flawed design.

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Radiation Leaking From Fukushima Site 18 Times Greater Than Previously Believed

fukushima

Radiation levels were being measured using devices with far-too-limited scales, the BBC reports:

Radiation levels around Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant are 18 times higher than previously thought, Japanese authorities have warned.

Last week the plant’s operator reported radioactive water had leaked from a storage tank into the ground. It now says readings taken near the leaking tank on Saturday showed radiation was high enough to prove lethal within four hours of exposure.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) had originally said the radiation emitted by the leaking water was around 100 millisieverts an hour. However, the company said the equipment used to make that recording could only read measurements of up to 100 millisieverts.

The new reading will have direct implications for radiation doses received by workers who spent several days trying to stop the leak last week. Experts have said the scale of water leakage may be worse than officials have admitted.

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Nuclear Reactor At Fukushima May Turned Into A Tourist Attraction

dark tourismA summer vacation spot that will give you a healthy glow? Thanks to a tip from Rhoid – Japan Today reports:

Paying visits to historic places where death and suffering occurred is known as “dark tourism.” After taking note that in 2011, or 25 years after the accident, the Chernobyl reactor site has become open to general tourism, a group of individuals in Japan is attempting to lay the groundwork for plans to make the No. 1 reactor at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant a tourist spot.

The group includes author-critic Hiroki Azuma, tourism scholar Akira Ide, artist Kazuki Umezawa, media activist Daisuke Tsuda, sociologist Hiroshi Akenuma, editor Kenro Hayami and architect Ryuji Fujiwara.

Along with providing a venue to convey their own histories to future generations, the members aim for the activities to be useful in aiding in recovery of the affected areas.

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Japanese Authorities Admit Fukushima Has Been Leaking Radiation Into Water For Two Years, And Cannot Be Stopped

fukushimaVia the New York Times, a reminder to always take officials with a grain of salt when they issue statements denying that the oceans and air are being poisoned:

The stricken nuclear power plant at Fukushima has probably been leaking contaminated water into the ocean for two years, ever since an earthquake and tsunami badly damaged the plant, Japan’s chief nuclear regulator said on Wednesday.

In unusually candid comments, Shunichi Tanaka, the head of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, also said that neither his staff nor the plant’s operator knew exactly where the leaks were coming from, or how to stop them.

The operator, Tokyo Electric Power, has reported spikes in the amounts of radioactive cesium, tritium and strontium detected in groundwater at the plant, adding urgency to the task of sealing any leaks. Radioactive cesium and strontium, especially, are known to raise risks of cancer in humans.

Until recently, Tokyo Electric, known as Tepco, flatly denied that any of that water was leaking into the ocean, even though various independent studies of radiation levels in the nearby ocean have suggested otherwise.

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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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Unraveling The Stuxnet Virus

From Patrick Clair a year ago, a quick and excellent look at the troubling Stuxnet virus. It has since been confirmed that the United States and Israel were behind its use against Iran's nuclear facilities. The question is now, what have we unleashed?
An infographic dissecting the nature and ramifications of Stuxnet, the first weapon made entirely out of code. This was produced for Australian TV program HungryBeat.  
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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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Nuclear Power Still on the Books in Japan

Picture: By Hirorinmasa (CC)

Less than a week after announcing a plan to abandon Nuclear Power by the 2030’s, Hiroko Tabuchi at NYtimes.com reports that the Japanese government will not be implementing that plan:

Motohisa Furukawa, the national strategy minister, announced the original plan last week, releasing a document titled the “Revolutionary Energy and Environment Strategy” that said Japan would seek to eliminate nuclear power within 28 years through greater reliance on renewable energy, conservation and the use of fossil fuels. On Wednesday, he defended the cabinet’s omission of the 2040 deadline, saying the government had intended to use it as a reference point.

Furkukawa’s administration has been busy reassuring the public that the government is committed to creating a better system of regulation for the industry. Lapses in regulation have been pinpointed as one of the deficiencies that led to the Fukushima nuclear disaster. These lapses, critics say, were a consequence of a far too cozy relationship between government regulators and the industry they were supposed to be policing.… Read the rest

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Japan To Abandon Nuclear Power By 2030s

The future isn’t always what we think it is, via Reuters:

Japan’s government said it intends to stop using nuclear power by the 2030s, marking a major shift from policy goals set before last year’s Fukushima disaster that sought to increase the share of atomic energy to more than half of electricity supply.

Japan joins countries such as Germany and Switzerland in turning away from nuclear power after last year’s earthquake unleashed a tsunami that swamped the Fukushima Daiichi plant, causing the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986. Japan was the third-biggest user of atomic energy before the disaster.

“This is a strategy to create a new future,” a policy statement said, after key ministers finalized the decision on Friday. “It is not pie in the sky. It is a practical strategy.”

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