Archive for February, 2016

TEPCO Exeuctives Indicted for Fukushima Failures

Three former Tokyo Electric Power Company executives were indicted today for allegedly failing to take safety measures to prevent the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in March 2011, Reuters reported. The indictments – forced through by a civilian judicial panel – are the first against Tepco officials. In accordance with Japanese laws, the three – former chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and former executive vice presidents Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro – were indicted by prosecutors on charges of professional negligence resulting in injury or death.

World Nuclear News, February 29, 2016 
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Federal environment minister puts halt on nuclear waste dump (February 2016)

NORTH BAY—A representative of Northwatch is pleased the federal environment minister has put a halt to a proposal to bury radioactive wastes right beside Lake Huron. Instead, the minister has called on Ontario Power Generation to conduct additional studies on the plans.

“This is good news,” stated Brennain Lloyd of Northwatch. “Every day a deep nuclear waste dump is not created is a good day.”

“I’ve also read the news that Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says Ontario will be looking closer at the science of burying nuclear waste near Lake Huron,” said Ms. Lloyd. “She has said it is better to be safe than sorry on the proposed southwestern Ontario nuclear waste dump.”

“The federal minister would have to do a lot of work to reject this,” said Ms. Lloyd, “but now they have taken the first step towards that. And the province can pass a directive to the OPG (Ontario Power Generation) to stop it, and they should.”

Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna issued direction to OPG last week to carry out additional studies to support their request for an approval of a controversial plan to bury radioactive wastes right beside Lake Huron. The minister has determined that more information is required before she can make an environmental assessment decision.

“This is a good decision,” said Ms. Lloyd, project coordinator with Northwatch. “It points out some of the key failings of the OPG’s environmental assessment study, and signals that the minister is not satisfied with the conclusions of the Joint Review Panel who reported to the Harper government last year. The minister needs to take charge of this file, and it certainly looks like she is prepared to do that.”

Ms. McKenna had previously extended the timeline for issuing a decision statement on OPG’s proposal to bury up to half a million cubic metres of radioactive waste beside Lake Huron March 1, after the previous government delayed their own pre-election deadline to just weeks after their successors, the new Liberal government, came to office.

OPG’s proposal was to bury 200,000 cubic metres of low and intermediate level waste produced during reactor operations deep underground in a series of underground caverns carved out of limestone.

The proposal faces large and growing public opposition. One hundred and eighty-four municipalities representing more than 22 million people have passed resolutions opposing OPG’s proposed waste repository. On November 5, 2015, a bipartisan group of six US senators and 26 US representatives from a number of Great Lakes states wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urging him to block the deep geological repository.

Speaking in London on Friday, Ms. Wynne said she wants to make sure the burial of nuclear waste is safe for the environment and for residents near the proposed underground vault in the Kincardine area of the Bruce Peninsula, in the shadow of the world’s largest operating nuclear plant.

OPG has said no better location can be found for the burial vault, which would be about the size of a big-box store and would be located in dense limestone unchanged for 400 million years.

By Tom Sasvari , Manitoulin Expositor, Feb 26, 2016, as posted at http://www.manitoulin.ca/2016/02/26/federal-environment-minister-puts-halt-on-nuclear-waste-dump/

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NWMO estimates potential jobs to CLC if repository located in this area (February 2016)

At its Feb. 16 meeting, the Elliot Lake community liaison committee (ELCLC) was provided with a scenario by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) on the potential job prospects if the proposed deep geological repository for spent nuclear fuel was to be in this community.

Mike Krizanc – NWMO communications manager, and Melvin Stemeroff – an economist with AECOM an international firm, explained to the ELCLC what the potential economic impact of having the repository in this community could mean.

However, Krizanc made it clear that this presentation was just a scenario, and does not mean a community has been selected. He added that the earliest a host community would be selected could be 2023.

Economic modelling

Krizanc and Stemeroff explained the economic modelling of the scenario.

When the project, worth between $16 and $24 billion (in 2010 dollars) began, the NWMO estimated how the project might benefit a generic host community.

When the search to find a home for a proposed underground used nuclear fuel repository began, they expected only a few communities would be interested. However, 22 communities, as far away as Saskatchewan, expressed an interest.

Only nine communities are left, all in this province – southern Ontario: Central Huron, Huron Kinross and South Bruce; Northern Ontario: Ingace, Hornepayne, White River, Manitouwadge, Blind River and Elliot Lake.

“Every community has different advantages and things going for it…, and different challenges,” says Krizanc. “They all started at a different place, so, the economic potential of this project is different for every community.”

The NWMO provided its data to Stemeroff and his team to come up with more specific projections for the nine communities regarding the economic potential for each of them.

They developed potential scenarios on three geographic levels of different sizes: province wide, economic region and host area.

Krizanc says while the figures will change as new information becomes available, they would not likely change dramatically.

READ FULL STORY

By KEVIN McSHEFFREY, Elliot Lake Standard, Wednesday, February 24, 2016, as posted at http://www.elliotlakestandard.ca/2016/02/24/nwmo-estimates-potential-jobs-to-clc-if-repository-located-in-this-area

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Fukushima: Five Years Later (February 2016)

Japan is still cleaning up one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters. Here’s how far it has come—and how far it has yet to go.

A 50-foot wall of water spawned by the quake exploded over Daiichi’s seawall, swamping backup diesel generators. Four of six nuclear reactors on-site experienced a total blackout. In the days that followed, three of them melted down, spewing enormous amounts of radiation into the air and sea in what became the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

The Japanese government never considered abandoning Fukushima as the Soviet Union did with Chernobyl. It made the unprecedented decision to clean up the contaminated areas—in the process, generating a projected 22 million cubic meters of low-level radioactive waste—and return some 80,000 nuclear refugees to their homes. This past September, the first of 11 towns in Fukushima’s mandatory evacuation zone reopened after extensive decontamination, but fewer than 2 percent of evacuees returned that month. More will follow, but surveys indicate that the majority don’t want to go back. Some evacuees are afraid of radiation; many have simply moved on with their lives.

Another town scheduled to reopen, sometime in the next two years, is Tomioka, 6 miles south of the nuclear plant. One night this past fall I drove around Tomioka’s waterfront, which the tsunami had completely wiped out. It was eerily quiet, save for a loud, metallic clap echoing through the empty streets from the direction of an incineration facility. Wild boar scampered through fields where the old train station once stood. And a breeze carried the scent of mold and rot from shops and homes that had been cracked open by the earthquake and gutted by the tsunami. In one shop, a truck had been carried through a display window and deposited on the floor as if it had been deliberately parked there.

During the day, Tomioka, which once had 16,000 residents, is a vast construction site sprawling for miles across residential neighborhoods, commercial districts, and fallow rice fields. Thousands of decontamination workers equipped with little more than shovels strip 2 inches of contaminated topsoil in a 65-foot perimeter around every structure in town. They dump the soil into black decontamination bags, which they pile onto every street corner and empty lot. Some bags have been there so long, they’ve sprouted weeds. The workers also use dry hand towels to wipe down every single building, from the roof to the foundation, and pressure-wash any asphalt and concrete. It’s tedious, exhausting work.

READ FULL STORY

By Steve Featherstone Posted 23 February 26 by Popular Science at http://www.popsci.com/fukushima-five-years-later

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German nuclear exit plan fails to solve waste storage puzzle (February 2016)


When Germany committed itself five years ago to phasing out nuclear power by 2022, there was one big gap in its plans — what to do with the waste that can remain toxic for hundreds of thousands of years.

That issue remains unresolved even after a government-appointed nuclear commission came up with ideas on how to ensure funding for shutting down all of the country’s atomic reactors.

According to a draft proposal, utilities E.ON, RWE, EnBW and Vattenfall [VATN.UL] could be saddled with up to 56 billion euros ($61.6 billion) in costs to cover their share of the cost of the nuclear exit.

But the final bill could climb even higher and the extra cost may have to be met by German taxpayers.

The main uncertainty centres on the difficulty of finding a permanent storage site to house highly radioactive material.

Local opposition has ruled out turning an interim waste storage site in salt formations in the small village of Gorleben in northwest Germany into a final site, with the location having ultimately been excluded by law.

The nuclear commission has proposed capping the utilities’ liability for storage costs at 36 billion euros — twice the size of current provisions made by the four utilities for that part of the process.

This proposal would put a ceiling on costs for the power firms and remove a major source of investor concern.

But there is caution that this is only a draft settlement which does not settle the practical problem of finding a storage site.

Analysts at Jefferies are among those who “remain concerned about the potential for future cost escalations and the negative balance sheet implications that it may have for German utilities”.

GOING UNDERGROUND?

Underlining the tensions around the storage issue, German utilities have sued the government over the Gorleben decision, claiming a ban is politically motivated and will force them to incur additional costs.

The OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency says it is impossible to gauge the future costs of storage sites because each country’s geography is different and there are no previous projects to serve as examples.

In contrast, the dismantling of nuclear plants, for which utilities have set aside about 20 billion euros in provisions, is more predictable in terms of costs.

Several plants have already been torn down and several more are being dismantled after the German government decided to end nuclear in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in 2011.

More fanciful ideas to dispose of the nuclear waste include shooting it into outer space, but underground storage remains the most feasible option.

Finland and Sweden are most advanced in their preparations for such a solution to their own waste issues, hoping to be the first countries to put high-level waste into underground caverns in the next decade. ($1 = 0.9088 euros)

(Editing by Keith Weir)

World | Tue Feb 23, 2016 4:32pm GMT Reuters | FRANKFURT | By Christoph Steitz | as posted at http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-germany-nuclear-storage-idUKKCN0VW1Y9

Picture shows the concrete dam of the artificial bassin of Lake Mirgenbach that works as an additional cooling supplies for the four pressurized water reactors of the nuclear power plant of French supplier Electricite de France (EDF) in Cattenom, eastern France, January 27, 2016. Picture taken January 27, 2016. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

Picture shows the concrete dam of the artificial bassin of Lake Mirgenbach that works as an additional cooling supplies for the four pressurized water reactors of the nuclear power plant of French supplier Electricite de France (EDF) in Cattenom, eastern France, January 27,…

Reuters/Wolfgang Rattay

When Germany committed itself five years ago to phasing out nuclear power by 2022, there was one big gap in its plans — what to do with the waste that can remain toxic for hundreds of thousands of years.

That issue remains unresolved even after a government-appointed nuclear commission came up with ideas on how to ensure funding for shutting down all of the country’s atomic reactors.

According to a draft proposal, utilities E.ON, RWE, EnBW and Vattenfall [VATN.UL] could be saddled with up to 56 billion euros ($61.6 billion) in costs to cover their share of the cost of the nuclear exit.

But the final bill could climb even higher and the extra cost may have to be met by German taxpayers.

The main uncertainty centres on the difficulty of finding a permanent storage site to house highly radioactive material.

Local opposition has ruled out turning an interim waste storage site in salt formations in the small village of Gorleben in northwest Germany into a final site, with the location having ultimately been excluded by law.

The nuclear commission has proposed capping the utilities’ liability for storage costs at 36 billion euros — twice the size of current provisions made by the four utilities for that part of the process.

This proposal would put a ceiling on costs for the power firms and remove a major source of investor concern.

But there is caution that this is only a draft settlement which does not settle the practical problem of finding a storage site.

Analysts at Jefferies are among those who “remain concerned about the potential for future cost escalations and the negative balance sheet implications that it may have for German utilities”.

GOING UNDERGROUND?

Underlining the tensions around the storage issue, German utilities have sued the government over the Gorleben decision, claiming a ban is politically motivated and will force them to incur additional costs.

The OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency says it is impossible to gauge the future costs of storage sites because each country’s geography is different and there are no previous projects to serve as examples.

In contrast, the dismantling of nuclear plants, for which utilities have set aside about 20 billion euros in provisions, is more predictable in terms of costs.

Several plants have already been torn down and several more are being dismantled after the German government decided to end nuclear in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in 2011.

More fanciful ideas to dispose of the nuclear waste include shooting it into outer space, but underground storage remains the most feasible option.

Finland and Sweden are most advanced in their preparations for such a solution to their own waste issues, hoping to be the first countries to put high-level waste into underground caverns in the next decade. ($1 = 0.9088 euros)

(Editing by Keith Weir)

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World awaiting Canada decision on nuclear waste (February 2016)

Burial plan near Lake Huron has implications for industry

Though delayed for at least another two months, Canada’s eventual decision over the fate of a 15-year-old proposal to build a deep underground repository for low and intermediate-level nuclear waste a mile from Lake Huron is being watched on both sides of the border.

Many people believe the decision has broader implications for the U.S. and the global nuclear industry at large, as well as future management of the Great Lakes, which hold a fifth of the world’s fresh surface water.

Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna said days after taking office in November that she planned to issue a decision March 1.

She announced Thursday that a decision is being put off indefinitely.

The announcement stated she is giving Ontario Power Generation, the utility behind the project, until April 18 to submit more information. OPG said it has already produced 12,500 pages.

Even if it’s a few months from now, the decision will likely come during heightened sensitivity over the Great Lakes because of the Flint water crisis.

Flint someday hopes to draw its own water from Lake Huron. Detroit draws raw water from that lake to supply tap water to itself, Flint, and other communities.

Groups representing more than 22 million people in the United States and Canada are imploring Ms. McKenna to stop the underground nuclear-waste repository in its tracks.

Ms. McKenna has been in her position since Nov. 4, the same day Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his other cabinet members were sworn into office.

OPG maintains the project can be done safely, with waste sent down a shaft that will be nearly a half-mile deep into hard rock that geologists believe hasn’t shifted for 450 million years.

The Great Lakes region has 40 million residents, 30 million in the United States and 10 million in Canada.

Of 184 resolutions against it, many have come from municipalities and governmental organizations in the United States, including Ohio but especially the closest state to the site, Michigan.

That opposition includes heavy-hitters such as Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, Rochester, N.Y., as well as the Washington-based National Association of Counties and the Great Lakes Legislative Caucus.

A Nov. 5 letter of opposition was signed by 32 members of Congress and sent to Mr. Trudeau.

“Given the critical importance of these shared waters to our countries, and the potentially catastrophic damages to the lakes from a nuclear accident, we urge your administration not to approve this repository and consider alternative locations outside the Great Lakes Basin,” according to the letter, which included signatures from U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.), Gary Peters (D., Mich.), and Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), as well as U.S. Reps. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) and Debbie Dingell (D., Dearborn).

Risk cited

Mr. Brown told The Blade he’s opposed because storing radioactive waste “so close to drinking water creates an unnecessary risk.”

Likewise, Mr. Peters said the project “puts this treasured resource in jeopardy.”

“This is an issue of binational concern,” Miss Kaptur said.

Longtime anti-nuclear activist Kevin Kamps, of Maryland-based Beyond Nuclear, said he’s been fighting the project since its inception 15 years ago.

In a recent essay he got published on counterpunch.org, Mr. Kamps drew parallels between the Flint water crisis and the Ontario nuclear project in terms of government accountability and oversight.

“What it boils down to is maximum convenience for Ontario Power Generation,” Mr. Kamps said.

The project is planned on the massive eight-reactor Bruce nuclear complex in tiny Kincardine, Ont., about a four-hour drive north of Toledo.

OPG spokesman Neal Kelly said the cost estimate for construction remains $1 billion. He said he was not aware of a $2.65 billion figure the project’s opponents came up with by adding in other costs the utility submitted for an environmental impact statement.

Project engineering is half completed, Mr. Kelly said.

Twenty of Canada’s 22 nuclear reactors are in Ontario. New Brunswick and Quebec also have one apiece.

OPG manages the 20 Ontario-based reactors.

Its proposal is to put all radioactive waste other than spent fuel down the mine shaft.

Low and intermediate-level waste is typically protective clothing, gloves, and miscellaneous plant parts.

Spent fuel, the most radioactive form of waste in civilian hands, would be sent elsewhere for disposal.

OPG said it has been storing the low-level and intermediate-level radioactive waste above ground on its Bruce complex near Lake Huron now for more than 40 years.

OPG has long had Kincardine’s support. But it has said it will not proceed without also getting support from the local Saugeen Ojibway Nations, known as SON.

“As of today, we don’t have that support,” Mr. Kelly said. “We continue to stand by that commitment.”

The project would be North America’s first known as a Deep Geologic Repository in civilian hands.

The only other one is a U.S. military repository in New Mexico for military waste. Two others are in civilian hands in Europe.

Rod McCullum, senior director of used fuel and decommissioning at the Washington-based Nuclear Energy Institute, said the project could be a turning point for deep repositories, which the nuclear industry hopes is the future for managing radioactive waste.

“What it means is Canada would have a solution,” Mr. McCullum said. “The more common this becomes, the more people become comfortable with it.”

Adding another dimension to the controversy is the uncertainty over what to do with the high-level waste.

In 2010, Canada began doing what the United States did in the 1980s: Start looking for a permanent site to entomb its growing piles of spent reactor fuel.

While Nevada’s Yucca Mountain remains on hold in the United States, Canada has nine sites under consideration by its Nuclear Waste Management Organization.

Three are near the Bruce nuclear complex and also short distances from Lake Huron.

Opponents fear if the deep repository plan is approved in Kincardine, it will become more politically expedient to put high-level waste nearby.

Michael Krizanc, communications director for the Nuclear Waste Management Organization, said the two are “very separate projects and very separate processes.”

But he said communities are enticed by the prospect of $20 billion of investments if they host the high-level site, a financial “game-changer” for them.

Communities under consideration have come forward voluntarily and can duck out anytime, Mr. Krizanc said.

“It has the ability to affect many people,” Mr. Krizanc said.

His agency is on pace to select a high-level site about 2023. Another 10 years would be required for construction, meaning the fastest-case scenario for that type of repository is the mid 2030s, he said.

The deep repository, by contrast, would take about seven years to build.

The Bruce nuclear complex is one of the world’s largest. The site generates 25 percent of Ontario’s electricity.

It sits along the Lake Huron shoreline across from the upper tip of Michigan’s thumb region and employs about 4,000 people. Their wages and other revenue from the nuclear industry support half of Kincardine’s 12,000 jobs.

The utility wants to bury waste there to save on transportation costs, as well as the difficulties in getting another site approved.

Michigan had once proposed a multistate, low-level radioactive waste dump in Lenawee County’s Riga Township, across the Ohio state line from Sylvania and West Toledo. That plan was scrapped in the early 1990s because of protests.

Ohio was required to build a dump after Michigan withdrew from the regional compact, but never did.

Published: Monday, 2/22/2016 BY TOM HENRY, BLADE STAFF WRITER
Contact Tom Henry at: thenry, 419-724-6079, or via Twitter @ecowriterohio.
Read more at http://www.toledoblade.com/Nation/2016/02/22/World-awaiting-Canada-decision-on-nuclear-waste.html#oWWp0GOFc4T1JyKg.99

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Fukushima – Deep Trouble (February 2016)

The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster may go down as one of history’s boundless tragedies and not just because of a nuclear meltdown, but rather the tragic loss of a nation’s soul.

Imagine the following scenario: 207 million cardboard book boxes, end-to-end, circumnavigating Earth, like railroad tracks, going all the way around the planet. That’s a lot of book boxes. Now, fill the boxes with radioactive waste. Forthwith, that’s the amount of radioactive waste stored unsheltered in one-tonne black bags throughout Fukushima Prefecture, amounting to 9,000,000 cubic metres

But wait, there’s more to come, another 13,000,000 cubic metres of radioactive soil is yet to be collected. (Source: Voice of America News, Problems Keep Piling Up in Fukushima, Feb. 17, 2016).

And, there’s still more, the cleanup operations only go 50-100 feet beyond roadways. Plus, a 100-mile mountain range along the coast and hillsides around Fukushima are contaminated but not cleansed at all. As a consequence, the decontaminated land will likely be re-contaminated by radioactive runoff from the hills and mountains.

Indubitably, how and where to store millions of cubic metres of one-tonne black bags filled with radioactive waste is no small problem. It is a super-colossal problem. What if bags deteriorate? What if a tsunami hits? The “what-ifs” are endless, endless, and beyond.

“The black bags of radioactive soil, now scattered at 115,000 locations in Fukushima, are eventually to be moved to yet-to-be built interim facilities, encompassing 16 square kilometers, in two towns close to the crippled nuclear power plant,” Ibid.

By itself, 115,000 locations each containing many, many, mucho one-tonne bags of radioactive waste is a logistical nightmare, just the trucking alone is forever a humongous task, decades to come.

According to Japanese government and industry sources, cleaning up everything and decommissioning the broken down reactors will take at least 40 years at a cost of $250 billion, assuming nothing goes wrong. But dismally, everything that can possibly go wrong for Tokyo Electric Power Company (“TEPCO”) over the past 5 years has gone wrong, not a good record.

And, Japan is hosting the 2020 Olympics?

Yet, Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant remains totally out of control with no end in sight. As far as that goes, Olympic events alongside an out of control nuclear meltdown seem unfathomable.

READ FULL STORY

February 22, 2016 by Robert Hunziker as published on Counterpunch, posted online at http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/02/22/fukushima-deep-trouble/

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