Nuke-sector study sees rising cancer risk, 1 in 100 deaths, from prolonged low-dose radiation exposure (October 2015)

PARIS – Prolonged exposure to even low doses of radiation increases the risk of cancer, according to a new study of workers in the nuclear sector in Britain, France and the United States.

The results, published Wednesday in the British Medical Journal, provides “direct evidence about cancer risks after protracted exposures to low-dose ionizing radiation,” said the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer agency of the World Health Organization, which coordinated the study.

The findings demonstrate “a significant association between increasing radiation dose and risk of all solid cancers,” said the study’s co-author, IARC researcher Dr. Ausrele Kesminiene.

“No matter whether people are exposed to protracted low doses or to high and acute doses, the observed association between dose and solid cancer risk is similar per unit of radiation dose,” he added.

The International Nuclear Workers Study (INWORKS), a collaboration between international partners, evaluated the exposures of more than 300,000 nuclear workers in Britain, France and the United States between 1943 and 2005.

The results showed that the risk of death from solid cancers was “modest” but that 1 in every 100 cancer deaths could be attributed to workplace radiation exposure.

October 22, 2015 – The Japan Times News

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Nuclear waste fire that shut down US 95 called hot, powerful (October 2015)

Whatever caught fire Sunday in the state-owned radioactive waste dump at the US Ecology site near Beatty packed a powerful punch, Nevada’s chief fire marshal said Tuesday.

“We don’t know exactly what caught fire. We’re not exactly sure what was burning in that pit,” Fire Marshal Chief Peter Mulvihill said in a conference call with reporters.

He said in the early stages of the fire “there was some energetic burning” that blew a hole in the cover soil that caps trench No. 14, where low-level radioactive materials were buried in unlined, clay terrain in the 1970s.

Mulvihill added that investigators who were converging to begin their probe at the site Tuesday, about 10 miles south of Beatty and about 108 miles northwest of Las Vegas, don’t know yet if an explosion occurred before the fire was reported to the Nevada Department of Public Safety and Emergency Management about 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

“There was something that definitely burned very hot,” he said.

The state’s public safety team decided to allow the fire to burn itself out instead of trying to douse it because they didn’t want put water on any material that might be reactive to water else they could potentially exacerbate the problem.

“That was a prudent and reasonable approach for local officials to take,” Mulvihill said, adding that the fire was no longer visible in the early morning hours Monday.

The fire prompted authorities to shut down a 140-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 95 for nearly 24 hours. It happened as Nye County’s first responders were grappling with flash flooding from heavy rains Sunday.

The state’s probe will consider if the fire was related to the wet weather, and if disposal records kept by the state in Carson City and at the site list any materials that could have reacted with water to cause the fire.

Dump history

For 30 years — from 1962 through 1992 — the dump operated by US Ecology and its predecessor, Nuclear Engineering Co., on state land leased to the companies was one of a few graveyards in the United States for disposing low-level nuclear waste.

Items buried at the 40-acre site include contaminated laboratory gear, medical isotopes and nuclear reactor crud but not highly radioactive used-nuclear-fuel assemblies, the type of high-level waste the government has planned to entomb in Yucca Mountain, 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

The Beatty site was licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission until 1997 when authority was transferred to Nevada after the low-level radioactive waste portion of the site was closed. US Ecology continues to operate a 40-acre landfill for hazardous waste including chemical waste on land the company leases from the state.

Caleb Cage, chief of Nevada’s emergency management division, said preliminary results of aerial surveys and ground samples that were collected during the response to the fire by Department of Energy aircraft and four Nevada National Guard soldiers who walked within 6 feet of the burn center turned up negative for radioactivity.

He said there are no cost estimates yet for the multi-agency response that involved a twin-engine fixed-wing aircraft and a helicopter equipped with radiation-detection sensors. Both aircraft are part of the Department of Energy’s remote sensing laboratory at Nellis Air Force Base.

Jon Bakkendahl, of the state’s Radiation Control Program, said preliminary results from the aerial survey gives the state’s public safety team confidence that there is nothing in the fire’s plume that was radioactive based on negative results for gamma rays “that can travel a long way.”

Mulvihill said any heavier radioactive beta or alpha particles would be expected to show up closer to the surface of the burn hole in soil samples but none, so far, have been detected.

Asked if an independent investigation should be conducted to validate the integrity of the probe given that the state is conducting an investigation of an incident that happened on its own land, Department of Public Safety Director James Wright said the state has the expertise and “at this point we feel we have to get the initial findings.”

“We will determine those findings and determine the appropriate course of action. If something has to be fixed, we will fix it,” Wright said.

By Keith Rogers, Las Vegas Review-Journal, as posted October 20, 2015 at

Beatty residents call for transparency after nuclear fire ignited in a low-level nuclear storage site (October 2015)

BEATTY — The town sits in the shadow of nuclear history — 20 miles west of the Yucca Mountain repository and the former Nevada Test Site, home to hundreds of nuclear explosions in the last 65 years.

But when a perfect-storm disaster scenario blew through Beatty on Sunday, the 100 residents who gathered at the Beatty Community Center on Tuesday say Nye County officials failed to give them real-time updates and verification about the events, leaving many to wonder about the health and safety of their town.

“I heard stuff but couldn’t verify anything,” said Wendy Caskey, owner of the Happy Burro Chili and Beer restaurant in Beatty. “We need to get a plan.”

Early Sunday morning a fire ignited in a low-level nuclear storage site in the desert 10 miles from Beatty and 115 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The blaze followed flash flooding that shut down the town’s escape routes: U.S. 95 and Highway 373.

A plume of smoke billowed over the storage site and the rain continued to pound the hardscrabble landscape of the Mojave Desert. County officials and law enforcement were taking hundreds of phone calls, working to clear the roads and planning evacuations. They declared an emergency and received intel from the state and federal government. But officials didn’t rush to update the community.

“We are sorry,” said Nye County Sheriff Sharon Wehrly.

Helicopters and other aircraft were flying 50 feet from the ground to test air quality for radiation. Support teams from the Nevada National Guard, state agencies and the federal government were also performing tests in the region throughout Sunday and Monday. While the federal and state governments say that there are no signs of high-level radiation polluting the air, residents want transparency going forward. Vance Payne, director of the Nye County Department of Emergency Management, apologized for the county’s public information response to what he called a “rapid-fire” event he never wants to repeat.

“You guys seeing all those choppers and not know what they were doing: That will never happen again,” he said.

The 80-acre storage site, run by waste Company US Ecology, is home to 22 low-level nuclear storage trenches that range in size from shallow holes to chasms hundreds of feet deep and wide as football fields. The federal government dumped the nuclear waste — equipment and clothing once subjected to government nuclear testing — from 1970 to 1992. The holes are covered with the dirt and rocks of the desert, and officials from the county and state have not concluded what started the fire.

Marty Campbell, a five-year Beatty resident, said he didn’t know that the company was a steward of nuclear waste.

“If it’s done properly — somewhere else — it’s fine,” he said. “But nobody wants it in their backyard.”

But Beatty, a sleepy town dotted with trailer homes, a casino and abandoned mines, has a long relationship with nuclear weapons, storage and testing. Many residents support a high-level nuclear repository at Yucca Mountain and others can recall the flashes and bangs at the Nevada Test Site in the 1950s.

Chirlett Reed, a life-long Beatty resident, said she saw the mushroom clouds plume from the desert when she was 9 years old. The storm and fire, she said, wasn’t a big deal.

“I wasn’t very worried,” she said.

By Kyle Roerink, Las Vegas Sun, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015 | as posted at

Japan Says Fukushima Nuclear Plant Worker Diagnosed With Cancer (October 2015)

Construction worker’s leukemia could have been caused by radiation exposure

TOKYO—A construction worker at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has cancer that could have been caused by radiation exposure, the government said Tuesday in announcing the first compensation award to be granted in such a case.

By Mitsuru Obe, The Wall Street Journal,Updated Oct. 20, 2015 11:44 a.m. ET, as posted at

U.S. DOE team crafting strategy for moving, storing reactor waste (October 2015)

The Obama administration is preparing plans for transporting used reactor fuel to temporary storage sites and creating a federal corporation to oversee the process, according to sources and documents obtained by Greenwire.

The Department of Energy has assembled a team of a dozen or so staffers to “lay the groundwork” for transporting spent reactor fuel from closed nuclear power plants to not-yet-identified interim storage sites, team leaders said in a Sept. 2 presentation to the Office of Nuclear Energy.

The goal is to build a “foundation” for the organization that would oversee waste disposal, documents say.

The administration launched the “Nuclear Fuel Storage and Transportation Planning Project” three years ago under a strategy to build a pilot interim storage site by 2021, a larger interim site by 2025 and a new geologic repository by 2048.

The Sept. 2 presentation provides a new window into those plans.

Andrew Griffith, DOE’s associate deputy assistant secretary for fuel cycle technologies in the Office of Nuclear Energy, will lead the effort. He’ll report to John Kotek, the acting assistant secretary of nuclear energy, who’s being vetted today by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for the full-time appointment (E&E Daily, Oct. 19).

Other key team members: Mark Nutt, a nuclear engineer at Argonne National Laboratory; Rob Howard, a senior project engineer at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory; and Melissa Bates, a DOE engineer who works on nuclear fuels and transportation.

In the near term, the group has been tasked with developing options for interim storage, establishing a database to characterize material that would go into the new waste management system, finding ways for the public to comment on storage and transportation options, and preparing for a pilot interim waste-storage facility.

DOE lists 13 closed nuclear plants where almost 18,000 used nuclear fuel assemblies are being held in dry storage casks — large concrete vessels — waiting for final disposal.

The department has expressed interest in moving forward with interim storage as a way to stave off costly lawsuits DOE faces for failing to uphold 1980s agreements to take possession of waste piling up at reactors across the country. Damages could be more than $20 billion by 2020 and up to $500 million annually after 2020, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.

There have been rumors about the DOE team and the administration’s focus on finding temporary solutions for the country’s 70,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel circulating among industry officials for several weeks.

One industry source praised DOE for its effort to find storage options for reactor fuel after disassembling the Yucca Mountain, Nev., repository program five years ago.

“Since 2010, the department hasn’t done a great deal on the back end of the fuel cycle, when Yucca was halted,” the source said. “This is finally seeing some action on their part to move forward. While not with Yucca Mountain, which the industry, of course, would like … they’re beginning to plan and think about consolidated storage.”

The presentation raises the question of whether DOE is considering proposals for interim storage in Texas and New Mexico, the source said.

Waste Control Specialists, a Dallas-based company whose former owner, billionaire Harold Simmons, once dubbed President Obama the most “dangerous man in America,” unveiled plans earlier this year to build the nation’s first private, temporary storage site for spent reactor fuel in arid West Texas.

And in New Mexico, Holtec International Inc. has proposed an underground storage facility to store casks of used fuel.

But the industry source also made clear Yucca Mountain must be part of the DOE package.

“The two — consolidated storage and Yucca — they can go forward together. And if they go forward, they need to do so together,” the source said. “Consolidated storage is not a solution in itself. You need the repository, but the repository isn’t going to be open for a couple decades at least.”

Legal authority

As DOE inches toward resolving the country’s waste issues, it faces constraints.

DOE has been warned by government watchdogs that it lacks clear legislative authority for consolidated interim storage or permanent disposal at a site other than Yucca Mountain. Nor can the department transport spent reactor fuel to temporary sites, the Government Accountability Office has said.

GAO also found the department would need to buy new equipment and fund costly upgrades if it were to pursue moving nuclear waste by rail.

“The federal government’s ability to site, license, construct and operate a consolidated interim storage facility not tied to Yucca Mountain depends on new legislative authority,” according to a GAO report to a House subcommittee.

A Republican congressional aide agreed DOE faces constraints under the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act, and the department’s activities on interim storage could trigger concern on the Hill as GOP lawmakers and the Nuclear Energy Institute have called for a federal thumbs-up or -down on Yucca Mountain before any other option is pursued.

“I think there would be concern about how far and what exactly they’re trying to do that goes beyond the limits of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act,” the aide said. “It’s important DOE maintain a semblance of activity on the used fuel management program, but there are limits to how much generic work can be done in this space until you actually start. Whether it’s interim or whether they want to move toward a repository, they need to have legal authority to do that.”

But DOE is aiming to align its activities with the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, a presidential panel that called on Congress three years ago to develop nuclear storage sites and dumps.

The commission also warned that narrowly focusing on the development of Yucca Mountain would exacerbate a policy impasse that has stranded nuclear waste across the country (Greenwire, Feb. 1, 2012).

A DOE spokesman said the team is part of a strategy the department unveiled in March for tackling defense and commercial nuclear waste separately (E&ENews PM, March 24).

“Based on this announcement a team has been developing plans and performing technical analysis of various components of an integrated waste management system, as well as evaluating the Department’s next steps in the consent-based siting process,” Bartlett Jackson said in an email.

“The Department believes that siting of any facility for storage or disposal of nuclear waste should be done in a consent-based fashion consistent with the phased, adaptive, and consent-based approach that has been endorsed by the National Academies and the [Blue Ribbon
Commission] and is an essential element of the administration’s Strategy for the Management and Disposal of Used Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste.”

Hannah Northey, E&E reporter, Greenwire: Tuesday, October 20, 2015, as posted at

NWMO Holding “Phase Two” Meeting in Blind River October 19th (October 2015)

As posted:
Residents in the Blind River area can learn more about the next phase to dispose of nuclear waste. Blind River and Elliot Lake are two area communities interested in accepting the waste which would be encased and buried deep underground. Later this month the Nuclear Waste Management Organization is holding a phase two meeting in Blind River. The meeting will explain things like the kind of activity people can expect to see over the next few years. The meeting is October 19th at the waste management office on Woodward from 6:30pm to 7:30pm.

As posted at

Incidents at Fermi require action | “unexpected change in the water in the spent fuel pool” (October 201 5)

Fermi 2 nuclear power plant (Monroe News file photo)

Operators at the nuclear reactor at DTE Energy’s Fermi 2 nuclear power plant noticed unexpected changes recently as the plant remains shut down.

Guy D. Cerullo, manager of nuclear communications for DTE Energy, said during one of the maintenance activities, operators noticed an “unexpected change in the water in the spent fuel pool,” where used fuel is stored.

“Operators took immediate actions to isolate the drain path and stop the flow,” he said. “The water level in the fuel pool stayed constant throughout this time.”

That incident occurred at 9:56 a.m. Sunday

On Friday, maintenance technicians were performing checks on the discharge flange and found several bolts were not torqued properly.

“The plant has 15 safety relief valves,” Mr. Cerullo explained. “While working on one of them, personnel noted that 12 of 16 bolts on a discharge flange for the valve were not adequately torqued or tightened.”

Mr. Cerullo said the safety relief value worked “as designed” during the recent plant operations and shutdown.

“We are investigating the issue now and do not have any conclusions yet,” he said.

The two recent incidents are unsettling to local anti-nuclear activists.

Michael Keegan of Don’t Waste Michigan issued a statement Monday saying “yesterday morning the Fermi 2 experienced a very serious unusual event with the potential to drain the reactor vessel.”

By Danielle Portteus, As of Tuesday, October 6, 2015, 01:51 p.m.. Read story as posted at