Nuclear waste dump could earn South Australia “billions of dollars” (February 2015)

Building a nuclear waste dump in the Australian outback could earn the South Australian government “billions of dollars” in potential revenue, a leading nuclear physicist said on Monday.

Dr. Ziggy Switkowski, one of Australia’s most eminent scientists, said if the nuclear waste dump was approved and the South Australian government accepted and stored nuclear waste from Australia and abroad, then the economic benefits for the state would be huge.

Speaking on Adelaide radio on Monday, Switkowski also applauded South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill’s decision to form a royal commission to examine the future of nuclear power in South Australia.

The premier said in a news conference last week that South Australia’s continuing role in nuclear power over the last 25 years calls for discussion about the future, and how it can serve the state going forward.

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NRC will complete environmental review of Yucca project — chairman (February 2015)

Hannah Northey, E&E reporter, Greenwire: Tuesday, February 17, 2015
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission intends to complete an environmental review of the contentious waste repository under Yucca Mountain in Nevada because the Energy Department has refused to do so, the NRC’s chairman said today.

“The decision is we will do that since [the Department of Energy] told us they won’t be doing it,” NRC Chairman Stephen Burns told reporters at the Platts 11th Annual Nuclear Energy Conference in Washington, D.C., today. “We have the funds that are left over from the carryover for high-level waste, will cover the preparation of the supplemental [environmental impact statement].”

Burns made the comments following his first public speech as chairman, in which he called for a leaner, more efficient agency to match a workload made lighter by a potential nuclear expansion in the United States that never materialized. Although the NRC ramped up for a raft of anticipated new reactors in 2006, the industry has since seen a sharp decline. Applications were pulled and work dissipated amid a recession and the United States’ discovery of cheap shale gas.

“Now, perhaps more than ever, the NRC is being scrutinized by its stakeholders for its responsible use of resources, as well as for the regulatory requirements it imposes on its licensees,” Burns said.

The NRC’s environmental review of the Yucca site is a critical step toward moving the project forward. The NRC last month found the project could be built and operated safely but recommended that the agency not authorize construction until the environmental review was complete and outstanding land and water rights issues were addressed (E&ENews PM, Jan. 29).

Fallout from Japan disaster continues (February 2015)

Paul Gorman, The Press, NZ – February 20, 2015

[Excerpt – Read Story]

The one-in-1000 year tsunami generated by that gargantuan quake smashed into coastal parts of the northeastern coast of Honshu, and 14-metre-high surges ultimately caused a meltdown or partial meltdown (depending on who you believe) at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station.

Before the accident, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) nuclear plant had the capacity to generate 4680 megawatts of electricity, making it more than four times as big as Huntly power station, New Zealand’s largest plant, or nine times the size of Benmore power station. Its six reactors were among 54 operating in Japan and generating about 30 per cent of the country’s electricity. It was one of the 15 largest nuclear power stations in the world.

In a nutshell, sea-water swamped the generators, the cooling systems failed, temperatures in the reactors rose above 2500 degrees Celsius, fuel rods melted and then the roofs of the reactor structures exploded, allowing gases to vent into the atmosphere. Radioactive material also leaked from damaged pipes into soil and the sea.

Japan’s first nuclear emergency was declared and more than 100,000 people living within 20 kilometres of the power station were evacuated from an exclusion zone which is still in place, although some have recently chosen to move back inside it. Food supplies and water downwind of the plant were heavily irradiated and there was panic as far away as Tokyo about contamination.

GROWING CONCERNS

On the International Nuclear Event Scale, the Fukushima-Daichi disaster rates just below Chernobyl as the world’s worst nuclear accident. It has been classified as a seven on a scale of seven for the “major release of radioactive material with widespread health and environmental effects requiring implementation of planned and extended countermeasures”.

As well as failures and partial meltdowns at other nuclear plants caused by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, there has been a string of other accidents over the past 30 years, many of which the populace was unaware of due to information being suppressed or concealed, or even falsified by Tepco officials in the case of cracks found in 13 of its 17 reactor covers in 2002.

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Lake County condemns nuclear-waste storage in Great Lakes basin (February 2015)

February 16, 2015 – Chicago Tribune

The Lake County Board joined the city of Waukegan last week in opposing the proposed construction of a nuclear-waste repository near the Ontario shore of Lake Huron, a public stance taken by a reported 136 communities in the U.S. and Canada to protest the storage of nuclear waste anywhere in the Great Lakes basin.

Toronto-based Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is looking to store low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste which the company describes in a statement as products and components used in reactor buildings that might have collected some radiation during use in rock formations 2,200 feet beneath a facility about three-quarters of a mile from the Huron shore in Kincardine.

See full story at http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/lake-county-news-sun/news/ct-lns-nuclear-waste-protest-st-0217-20150216-story.html

Japanese government explores options on how to store nuclear waste in the long term (February 2015)

KYODO – FEB 17, 2015

The government said Tuesday it will consider pursuing a final storage site for nuclear waste that can be opened in the event that policies change or better techniques become available to deal with it.

Officials aim to include the plan in a revised basic policy on the final disposal of highly radioactive waste. The government is currently considering the vexed question of what to do with waste in the long-term, as some of it may need management for tens of thousands of years.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abes administration wants to fire up nuclear reactors again following the hiatus caused by the 2011 Fukushima meltdowns, but public opinion remains opposed.

Critics accuse the government of pushing a return to nuclear without answering the question of where the waste will go.

In principle, we grant reversibility regarding policies on final disposal . . . so future generations can choose the best way given the likely emergence of new technology in times ahead, according to a draft document proposed by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).

Finland is currently constructing the worlds first disposal facility for high-level radioactive waste. It decided in 2000 that the repository, in Olkiluoto, should be designed in a way that grants future generations access, while ensuring long-term safety.

As for how Japan would store its waste, a policy adopted in 2008 envisions reprocessing the waste, then vitrifying it and placing it deep underground.

But the revised policy is expected to leave open the possibility of other methods, too, including the direct disposal that has been opted for by Finland, Sweden and the United States.

This implies a possible review of Japans long-standing but stalled policy of a nuclear fuel cycle that aims to reprocess all spent fuel and reuse the extracted plutonium and uranium as reactor fuel.

The revised policy will also declare that the current generation is not only responsible for generating the waste it will also take action on the storage question. However, it falls short of mentioning a time frame for deciding on the final storage.

It would take a long time to build such a facility. Therefore the government is also seeking to expand storage capacity by constructing new interim facilities as a temporary fix.

The revised policy will be adopted by the Cabinet by the end of March.

METI has proposed introducing a system in which the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, a promoter of nuclear power, acts as a third party in the choice of a final disposal site. But some experts who attended the ministrys panel meeting Tuesday questioned that organizations independence.

The process of finding local governments willing to host a final repository started in 2002, but there was overwhelming opposition and little progress was made.

The government now plans to choose candidate sites based on their scientific value, rather than waiting for municipalities to step forward.

As posted at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/02/17/national/science-health/final-nuclear-waste-dump-may-be-reversible/#.VOKhPubF-GA

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Researchers in a Swiss mountain lab have been working on …disposal of nuclear waste (February 2015)

FEB 15, 2015 – 11:00

The Federal Office of Energy has the overall responsibility for the three-stage selection process for one to two sites for geological repositories of nuclear waste. The cabinet at the end of 2011 approved six areas, which meet the requirements according to the National Cooperative for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste, NAGRA, most of them north of Zurich, close to the German border.

The Federal Office of Energy has the overall responsibility for the three-stage selection process for one to two sites for geological repositories of nuclear waste.

By about 2020, one site will be chosen, which will then have to be approved by the cabinet, parliament and most likely by the people in a referendum. Then construction would start at the site. After becoming operational, the repository would be gradually backfilled and eventually sealed forever.

NAGRA has been trying out different storage methods its mountain laboratory in St Ursanne in canton Jura. Like the NAGRA mountain laboratory, the future nuclear disposal site would be built inside a natural layer of opalinus clay, which can be found in several places in the Jura mountains.

See story "Researchers in a mountain lab have been working on technology that would safely dispose of nuclear waste. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)" as posted online at http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/multimedia/testing-the-best-way-to-store-radioactive-materials/41242112

WIPP: One year later, government yet to reopen waste site (February 2015)

Plant shut down after 22 workers exposed to radiation

UPDATED 10:20 PM MST Feb 14, 2015
CARLSBAD, N.M. ­It has been one year since 22 people were contaminated with low levels of radiation and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant was shut down.

The accident happened on Valentine’s Day in 2014. An alarm in the salt mines of the country’s only nuclear waste dump sounded just before midnight. That’s when 22 workers trying to get to the surface were exposed.

Since the shutdown, the government has nowhere to store its nuclear waste.

"What we need to do is get the resources for them so that they can get that back up and running," said Democratic Sen. Tom Udall.

The government has increased WIPP’s budget by $10 million this fiscal year to help with the cleanup. But officials said it could take years for WIPP to safely reopen, at a cost of about a half-billion dollars.

Recently, the leak was traced back to one waste drum from the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The U.S. Department of Energy said the drum was mistakenly packed with an organic type of kitty litter. It was supposed to be an inorganic substance, but a worker mistyped the information.

"There has to be consequences to this kind of action," Udall said.

LANL could be fined $100 million for the leak.

A new program plans to offer free medical screenings to former WIPP workers. The Worker Health Protection Program is operated by Queens College in New York. Details for the project are to be announced this month.

Read story at http://www.koat.com/news/wipp-one-year-later-government-yet-to-reopen-waste-site/31279744

Finland “approves” nuclear depository plan (February 2015)

Sunday 15 February 2015 – The Chemical Engineer

Plan to bury waste in bedrock can be safe

Richard Jansen-Parkes

FINNISH regulators have given final approval to a plan to build a nuclear waste depository and processing plant beneath Olkiluoto Island.

The plan calls for spent nuclear fuel from the nuclear power plants of Teollisuuden Voima and Fortum to be packed in copper canisters and then embedded in the bedrock beneath the island at a depth of up to 450 m.

After several years considering the proposal, the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority of Finland (STUK) has told the government that the facility can be built to be safe.

We have already assessed that the operational and long-term safety of the nuclear waste facility are on a sufficiently high level for granting the construction licence, explains STUK section head Jussi Heinonen.

This is a new type of facility, which is why the appropriate approach is to progress in phases and, at the same time, assess and elaborate the designing of the facility on the basis of the accumulating knowledge.

For example, we will gain more detailed knowledge about the local characteristics of rock at the final disposal depth once the construction of the facility begins.

The plants designer Posiva, a waste management specialist jointly owned by Finnish nuclear companies Fortum and TVO, says that it is now able to carry out detailed engineering work on the designs. It estimates that building the facility will cost approximately 3bn (US$3.4bn), and that it will be processing waste for around a century.

According to Posiva, the first preparations for the disposal project began in the 1980s, and the Finnish parliament first gave its in-principle approval to the project 14 years ago. STUK has been considering the companys construction licence since late 2012.

The government still needs to approve an operating licence before the proposed repository can start processing waste. Posiva says it expects to apply for that licence in 2020.

http://www.tcetoday.com/latest%20news/2015/february/finland-approves-nuclear-depository-plan.aspx#.VOAhYubF-GA

Only one drum involved in WIPP release (February 2015)

13 February 2015 – World Nuclear News

Photographs taken inside the underground Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) have confirmed that a single waste drum was the source of the contamination incident that has stopped operations at New Mexico facility since February 2014.

Project_REACH_(WIPP)_460x320
Project Reach’s 90-foot boom is positioned over waste containers in the underground facility as its remotely operated video camera collects evidence (Image: WIPP)

The information was gathered through a project known as Reach, which has been using a specially designed and manufactured 90-foot (27 meter) composite boom equipped with a high resolution camera. All this was installed on a movable cradle and mounted on a support structure, allowing operators to examine waste stacks from floor to ceiling and from wall to wall. Waste at WIPP is stacked in six columns, with each column consisting of up to three layers of transuranic waste containers.

Initial analysis of the pictures obtained by Reach indicates that no additional breached waste containers contributed to the February 2014 incident. Ted Wyka, chairman of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Accident Investigation Board (AIB), said that the evidence obtained supported the idea that a single drum, referred to as LANL68660, was the source of the radiological release.

Read story at http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/WR-No-further-drums-involved-in-WIPP-release-1302157.html 

Handwritten note could be source of WIPP incidents (February 2015)

Current Argus – By Sarah Matott POSTED:   02/12/2015 01:00:00 AM MST

Bad note taking and miscommunication at Los Alamos National Laboratory is what led to the mishandling of the transuranic waste drum that resulted in the Feb. 14, 2014 radiological release at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

It had been suspected as early as last May the chemical reaction of one of the drums was caused due to using the wrong type of kitty litter to treat the waste.

The information was in a report by Department of Energy’s Inspector General released in September 2014, and was originally reported by the Albuquerque Journal last week.

The report confirmed that the kitty litter is part of what led to the chemical reaction of the waste drums at WIPP, but more so the wrong kitty litter was used because of handwritten note that called for “an organic” absorbent, instead of “inorganic.”

The use of organic kitty litter was implemented in August 2012 for the treatment of TRU waste at LANL, however, the Inspector General’s report shows that LANL officials do not seem to know when or how the use of organic kitty litter was permitted.

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