Archive for March, 2016

Letter: Are San Onofre nuclear waste canisters cracking? (March 2016)

The HI-STORM UMAX cask model by Holtec International, used to store dry spent nuclear fuel, has been criticized in public meetings as being susceptible to cracking after years of storage. Holtec and Southern California Edison were awarded a permit to store spent nuclear fuel at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station site last year.

Image: Published by Holtec International, as posted by Soapbox

Letter from Donna Gilmore, San Clemente

San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station’s 51 nuclear waste canisters may be cracking. They cannot be inspected, repaired or maintained and have no early warning prior to a radiation release. Each canister contains about as much Cesium-137 as released from Chernobyl. Waste can explode if exposed to air. Radiation will go wherever the wind blows. Southern California Edison has no plans in place to stop this. They plan more thin-walled (five-eighths-inch) canisters. A 2015 Sandia National Laboratories report states once started, cracks can penetrate the canister wall in less than five years. San Onofre canister loading began in 2003.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Mark Lombard said canisters cannot be inspected. Holtec’s canister vendor said they cannot be repaired.

Southern California Edison’s Coastal Permit required Special Conditions: canisters must be inspected, repaired, maintained, monitored and transportable—but only after 20 years! Communities must demand the Coastal Commission revoke SCE Permit 9-15-0162 until Special Conditions are met. SCE can meet these with thick-walled (10 inches or more) metal casks used in most of the world.

To transport, canisters need up to 45 years cooling and cannot have cracks. Canisters may start exploding before moved. And what community wants cracking nuclear waste canisters?

Donna Gilmore, on March 31, 2016 in Letters to the Editor, SOAPBOX, as posted at http://www.sanclementetimes.com/letter-are-san-onofre-nuclear-waste-canisters-cracking/

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Belgium Fears Nuclear Plants Are Vulnerable (March 2016)

BRUSSELS — As a dragnet aimed at Islamic State operatives spiraled across Brussels and into at least five European countries on Friday, the authorities were also focusing on a narrower but increasingly alarming threat: the vulnerability of Belgium’s nuclear installations.

The investigation into this week’s deadly attacks in Brussels has prompted worries that the Islamic State is seeking to attack, infiltrate or sabotage nuclear installations or obtain nuclear or radioactive material. This is especially worrying in a country with a history of security lapses at its nuclear facilities, a weak intelligence apparatus and a deeply rooted terrorist network.

On Friday, the authorities stripped security badges from several workers at one of two plants where all nonessential employees had been sent home hours after the attacks at the Brussels airport and one of the city’s busiest subway stations three days earlier. Video footage of a top official at another Belgian nuclear facility was discovered last year in the apartment of a suspected militant linked to the extremists who unleashed the horror in Paris in November.

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By ALISSA J. RUBIN and MILAN SCHREUERMARCH 25, 2016, New York Times, as posted at http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/26/world/europe/belgium-fears-nuclear-plants-are-vulnerable.html?_r=0

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This time, it’s North Dakota that sinks an experiment related to burying nuclear waste (March 2016)

The history of failed attempts to deal with U.S. nuclear waste gained another chapter this month, when local opposition prompted scientists to abandon tests of a new disposal technique in eastern North Dakota.

In early March, Battelle Memorial Institute, a large research nonprofit based in Columbus, quietly withdrew plans to drill two holes up to 5 kilometers deep into the granite bedrock beneath the rolling prairie there. Those were supposed to be the centerpiece of an $80 million, federally funded project to see whether the government could get rid of some highly radioactive waste by sticking it deep underground.

The retreat followed objections from residents of rural Pierce County, who feared the drilling would open the door to nuclear waste. It underscores the treacherous path facing any major effort tied to nuclear waste, even when federal officials insist the project was a test that would never involve radioactive material.

“If we would have allowed this, the next step we really feel would have been (nuclear waste) in our backyard,” says David Migler, chair of the Pierce County Commission, which voted unanimously to oppose the tests.

It’s the latest in a string of setbacks. In 2010, the Obama administration abandoned a 2-decade effort to bury much of the high level waste—spent fuel rods from commercial reactors and radioactive material from nuclear bomb manufacturing—inside Yucca Mountain in the Nevada desert (although Congress has ordered parts of that process to keep moving). Last year, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz promised an open, collaborative effort to find new places willing to accept this nuclear waste. Nevada officials for years fought to keep the waste out, arguing Congress was trying to force it on them without their consent.

Meanwhile, the Department of Energy (DOE) in recent years has directed money to so-called “deep boreholes” as a less-objectionable and cheaper way to deal with some of the waste. (Click here to read “Deep Sleep,” a Science feature story on the initiative.) Advocates said the approach could entomb waste in stable rock deep in Earth, far from underwater aquifers (see graphic, below). Fuel rods—the vast majority of high-level waste—have been ruled out as too big to easily fit in these boreholes. But Moniz has said it could be ideal for some kinds of waste, particularly 1936 slender, half-meter-long tubes of highly radioactive cesium-137 and strontium-90. Those are currently stored in a pool of water at a federal nuclear facility in eastern Washington state.

But there are many unanswered questions about the borehole strategy. Scientists need to figure out how practical and how expensive it will be to drill a 43-centimeter-wide hole that deep. They also want to test ways to ensure the surrounding rock at the bottom of the hole is solid enough, and that any water there can’t travel up toward the surface. DOE hired Battelle, which manages a number of the department’s research labs, to lead the pilot project to answer such questions.

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By Warren Cornwall, Mar. 23, 2016 , 11:30 AM, SCIENCE Magazine, as posted at http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/03/time-it-s-north-dakota-sinks-experiment-related-burying-nuclear-waste

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New doc: What can we do with all of this nuclear waste? (March 2016)

With several northern communities interested in massive underground storage facility, new film explores the pros and cons

For his first feature documentary, director Colin Scheyen decided to tackle the divisive issue of nuclear power.

In what became a five-year passion project, Scheyen’s film, “Nuclear Hope”, explores how Ontario should handle its growing stockpile of highly radioactive nuclear waste.

“This is something everyone in Ontario has created,” Scheyen told NorthernLife.ca. “We’ve contributed to it. If you’ve turned on a light bulb somewhere in Ontario at some point in your life, you play a role in this issue.”

Scheyen said he started making the film without much perspective on the issue, and no strong opinions with one side or the other.

“Now I come in with a far greater understanding of the issue,” he said.

Scheyen said his goal early on was to present the audience with an accurate picture of Ontario’s nuclear waste management issues, and to let people make up their own minds on the issue.

“I’m a teacher, and as an educator I’m not a proponent for propaganda,” he said. “My goal is to assist people in coming to a common understanding through inquiry and discussion.”

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization is currently in the early stages of a nine-step process to build a 500-metre repository for two million, half-metre cylindrical bundles that contain radioactive uranium dioxide pellets.

The site could be operational by 2035. During a 10-year construction period, the project would create around 1,000 jobs.

A number of small communities throughout Northern Ontario – including Elliot Lake, Blind River, Manitouwadge and Hornepayne – and near Lake Huron, are in the running to host the repository.

While making the film, Scheyen said he and his crew spoke to around 100 people, both for and against plans for a nuclear waste repository.

“A lot of people have huge concerns about its proximity to the Great Lakes,” Scheyen said. “They are potentially the most toxic substance we have.”

Opponents to the Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s plans are also concerned about transportation, and the risk of a leak into the environment or communities on the way to the repository.

“How do you bury something and leave it safely there for a million years?” Scheyen asked.

Those in favour of a nuclear waste repository cite the economic benefits.

Most of the communities in the running have faced economic setbacks after losing major employers like paper mills or mines.

In addition to construction jobs, the repository would make its host community recession-proof for more than a century, Scheyen said.

Highly educated people would move to the chosen town and help revitalize its economy.

After touring the film on the festival circuit – where it has garnered a few awards – Scheyen decided to make his movie as accessible as possible to the masses.

The movie is available to rent online for $2.74, and can be purchased for $4.80.

Scheyen said he hopes the film can educate Ontarians about an important issue the province faces.

By: Jonathan Migneault – Sudbury Northern Life,, | Mar 24, 2016 – 11:03 AM | as posted at http://www.northernlife.ca/news/localNews/2016/03/24-nuclear-waste-documentary.aspx

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Swedish Radiation Safety Authority: Encapsulation has “potential” to be meet requirements; preliminary assessment does not include long term effectiveness (March 2016)

Svensk Kärnbränslehantering AB (SKB) submitted applications to build the country’s first repository for used nuclear fuel, together with a plant to encapsulate the fuel prior to disposal, to Sweden’s Radiation Safety Authority (Strålsäkerhetsmyndigheten, SSM) in March 2011. The integrated facility – the encapsulation plant and the Clab interim storage facility – is referred to in SKB’s application as Clink. SKB has since made both clarifications and additions to the applications. The company has also submitted an application to extend the storage capacity of the Clab facility from the current 8000 tonnes of fuel to 11,000 tonnes.

The applications are being reviewed by the SSM and the Land and Environment Court in Stockholm. The SSM is considering questions of nuclear safety and radiation at the facilities as laid down in the country’s Nuclear Activities Act. The review undertaken by the Land and Environment Court is based on the Environment Code.

The SSM has now outlined its preliminary findings from its ongoing review of SKB’s application to build and operate the encapsulation plant.

Ansi Gerhardsson, head of radiation safety at SSM, said: “Our assessment is that SKB has the potential to meet the agency’s radiation safety for both the construction and operation of the encapsulation plant and to store more used fuel in Clab. If the government gives the facility a licence, SKB will, however, need to take steps to create these conditions and develop a more detailed safety report for the facility.”

SSM noted that its review of the Clink facility only covers the plant itself and not the method of encapsulating the used fuel in copper canisters. It said its assessment of the method and the repository’s long-term security will be presented when it submits its opinion to the Land and Environment Court in the coming months.

Helene Åhsberg, project manager for licensing at SKB, welcomed the regulator’s initial findings, saying: “It is gratifying that the SSM is of the opinion that the Clink project has the potential to meet the agency’s requirements. Extensive additions have been made during the permitting process so far and it therefore feels good that the SSM now confirms that we have done it right.”

She added, “The licensing process is a gradual process, and now we have got important points to take with us in the future work. Continuous improvement and gradual increase in the level of details is important to us, and is a natural part of the incremental licensing process.”

In June 2015, the SSM preliminarily said it believed SKB can meet all the safety and radiation protection requirements for its planned used fuel repository. The Land and Environment Court concluded in December that SKB’s application for construction of the used nuclear fuel encapsulation plant and repository was complete and said it would begin its review.

The SSM is scheduled to issue its final opinion on the repository and encapsulation plant in 2017. The final decision to authorize the project will be made by the government, which will base its decision on the assessments of both the SSM and the Land and Environment Court. However, before the government makes a final decision, it will consult with the municipalities of Oskarshamn and Östhammars, which have the power to veto the application.

Once the government has made its decision, the application will again be referred to SSM and the court, which will stipulate the terms and conditions for the facilities.

SKB currently anticipates starting construction of the repository and encapsulation plant sometime in the early 2020s. The facilities are expected to take some ten years to complete.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News, 23 March 2016

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OPINION: Deep Borehole Project could end up being more than a test (March 2016)

RUGBY, N.D. — I am writing in response to Rob Port’s and Ed Shafer’s columns about a proposed deep borehole drilling project near Rugby in Pierce County, N.D. (Agweek, Page 4, March 14.)

My brother and I rent the land from the North Dakota land department and surrounding landowners. Our farm is a mile away from the project, and I think the residents of Pierce County and surrounding counties need a voice.

The University of North Dakota Energy and Environmental Research Center, Batelle Memorial Institute and Schlumberger are proposing to drill a hole deep enough — 16,000 feet — to learn the characteristics of rocks at those levels. Researchers are hoping to better understand the impacts of deep storage systems for nuclear waste.

The objection is not about the science project. It is about people realizing if they dig a hole with federal funds, the president’s signature could make it a place to put nuclear waste.

We want to go along with science and be educated, but it takes specific planning to come up with this site. Preferably, the project would have a remote site with highway access, at least 75 miles from active oil activity.

Second, Rugby is 60 miles from major towns of more than 10,000 people. Ideally, the project would require 8,000 to 10,000 feet of drilling to reach the prized rocks, enough to isolate the most dangerous nuclear waste they are trying to find a home for. They need only one, 1-killometer hole to store the most immediate waste that needs to be disposed.

Another plus for the disposal site is, according to the state geologist, the rock in this small area seems to more dense than other areas of North Dakota. Before we are mocked for putting our heads in the sand, it should be understood that this is our backyard, and if they really wanted to just test the rocks and leave, do you really think they wouldn’t do it in the eastern part of the state where the rocks could be reached at much shallower depths?

In the east, the rocks could be reached at a depth of 1,000 to 5,000 feet, instead of 16,000.

The U.S. government needs a spot to dispose of waste, and needs it quickly after the shutdown of the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Site in Nevada.

Do you really think they would conduct tests and not use the land later? There are plenty of residents who moved here from Las Vegas over the years, and everyone comments that this is how the Yucca Mountain site started — as a test site and science project.

Editor’s note: Klein is a resident of Rugby, N.D.

AgWeek, By Dale Klein on Mar 21, 2016 at 9:33 a.m, as posted at http://www.agweek.com/news/3991380-opinion-deep-borehole-project-could-end-being-more-test

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Nuclear waste storage plan based on optimistic assumptions, Australia Institute warns (March 2016)

A South Australian proposal to build a storage facility for nuclear waste is being based on very optimistic assumptions, an economic think-tank has warned.

The Australia Institute, backed by funding from Conservation SA, analysed the waste storage proposal raised in the early findings of SA’s Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission.

“If you get into the waste disposal business in the way proposed at the moment, what you’re going to get is a big loss to taxpayers in the short term and the potential, but not certain, benefits in the future,” the institute’s chief economist Richard Denniss told 891 ABC Adelaide.

“They’re based on very optimistic prices that the world will be willing to pay for nuclear waste.”

Dr Denniss urged South Australians to think carefully about where future taxpayer dollars were spent.

“What I’m anti is people who need to exaggerate the economic benefits of mines in order to convince taxpayers to fund them,” he said.

“I’m not anti-mining, I’m anti-propaganda being pushed as economic fact.

“If you spend billions of dollars on this project then that’s billions of dollars you won’t put into schools, roads, hospitals, transport — it’s up to you as residents of SA how you want to invest your money.”

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891 ABC Adelaide, Updated 22 Mar 2016, 12:52am, as posted at http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-22/australia-institute-questions-nuclear-waste-storage-plan/7265744

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