tagged w/ Meltdowns
Japan shuts down last nuclear reactor
By Kyung Lah, CNN
updated 1:57 AM EDT, Mon May 7, 2012
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Japan is nuclear energy free
Japan closed down its last operating nuclear reactor on Saturday
Final shutdown follows a swing against nuclear energy after the Fukushima meltdowns last year
Thousands marched through Tokyo Saturday to celebrate the final closure
Government has warned that summer energy demand may prompt rolling blackouts
Tokyo (CNN) -- As Japan began its workweek Monday morning, the trains ran exactly on time, the elevators in thousands of Tokyo high rises efficiently moved between floors, and the lights turned on across cities with nary a glitch.
What makes this Monday so remarkable is that for the first time in four decades, none of the energy on this working day is derived from a nuclear reactor.
Over the weekend, Japan's last remaining nuclear reactor shut down for regular maintenance. In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, reactors have not been allowed back on. Japan is now the first major economy to see the modern era without nuclear power.
Tomari Nuclear Power Plant's reactor 3 in Hokkaido shut down Saturday evening in a much-watched move by government, industry and environmentalists, who are waged in a public battle over the future of Japan's energy policy.
"I think it is not easy, but this challenge is worth fighting for," said Greenpeace Japan's Junichi Shimizu. "There is an increased chance of earthquakes in Japan, so that has a significant risk to the Japanese people and the Japanese economy. The only way forward is to rapidly shift the energy source from nuclear to other sources of energy."
That's not the call just from environmental activists, but from a public suspicious of nuclear energy and its regulatory bodies since a tsunami and earthquake triggered nuclear meltdowns at three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in March 2011.
Thousands marched through the streets of Tokyo on Saturday, celebrating the shutdown of the final reactor.
The protesters waved colorful, traditional "koinobori" carp-shaped banners for Children's Day that became a symbol of the anti-nuclear movement.
That movement grew from the grassroots level in the wake of the disaster, as the country watched tens of thousands of residents living within a 20-kilometer (12-mile) radius of the nuclear plant evacuated and the area remaining turn into a contaminated wasteland.
Prior to the Fukushima disaster, Japan relied on nuclear for approximately 30% of its energy. As reactors have come off-line, the country has increased its imports of fossil fuels.
Japan's government predicts it won't be able to keep up that pace, and the void will result in an energy crunch this summer, possibly leading to rolling blackouts.
The national government's ruling party, the Democratic Party of Japan, has been urging local communities to allow reactors to return to operation.
The DPJ's deputy policy chief, Yoshito Sengoku, bluntly said without nuclear energy the world's third largest economy would suffer. "We must think ahead to the impact on Japan's economy and people's lives, if all nuclear reactors are stopped. Japan could, in some sense, be committing mass suicide," said Sengoku.
Hiromasa Yonekura, chairman of Japan's biggest business lobby, Keidanren, joined the plea in an April press conference. "We cannot possibly agree to do the kind of energy saving yet again this year, or every year from now on," he said, referring to the country's efforts to turn off air conditioners and shift operation of production lines to weekends. "The government must bring the nuclear power stations back into operation."
Economist Jesper Koll, managing director at JP Morgan, says Japan could avoid the economic fallout by defining a clear energy policy, something it has failed to do so far.
"The issue to the private sector of Japan is the government is taking its time in a very emotional, highly politicized debate. And the end result is very, very slow or no decision making at all. After all, if you don't have an energy policy, you don' really have an economic policy because everything revolves around the energy," he said.
Japan's prime minister has promised a clear energy policy sometime this year, perhaps this summer.
But Yukie Osaki, who used to live in Fukushima, says she won't accept any policy that includes nuclear energy. "Nobody believes the government anymore when it says nuclear plants are safe," she said.
"Japan is an earthquake country. It is already dangerous to have nuclear plants here. If we have another accident, we won't have anywhere to live in Japan anymore."
Japan shuts down last nuclear reactor
By Kyung Lah, CNN... more
HuffPo: Large amounts of radioactive materials could be deposited across 1,000s of miles if water lost at Fukushima fuel pool — Media just beginning to grasp that danger to world is far from over -Nuclear Expert
Published: April 22nd, 2012 at 4:54 pm ET
Title: Robert Alvarez: The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Is Far From Over
Source: Huffington Post
Author: Robert Alvarez*
Date: Apr 22, 2012
More than a year after the Fukushima nuclear power disaster began, the news media is just beginning to grasp that the dangers to Japan and the rest of the world are far from over. After repeated warnings by former senior Japanese officials, nuclear experts, and now a U.S. Senator, it’s sinking in that the irradiated nuclear fuel stored in spent fuel pools amidst the reactor ruins pose far greater dangers than the molten cores. This is why:
• Nearly all of the 10,893 spent fuel assemblies sit in pools vulnerable to future earthquakes, with roughly 85 times more long-lived radioactivity than released at Chernobyl
• Several pools are 100 feet above the ground and are completely open to the atmosphere because the reactor buildings were demolished by explosions. The pools could possibly topple or collapse from structural damage coupled with another powerful earthquake.
• The loss of water exposing the spent fuel will result in overheating and can cause melting and ignite its zirconium metal cladding resulting in a fire that could deposit large amounts of radioactive materials over hundreds, if not thousands of miles. [...]
*Robert Alvarez, an Institute for Policy Studies senior scholar, served as senior policy adviser to the Energy Department’s secretary and deputy assistant secretary for national security and the environment from 1993 to 1999. He is an award winning author whose work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Nation, Technology Review, and the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. He has also been featured on”60 Minutes”, Nova and All Things Considered.
Published: April 22nd, 2012 at 4:54 pm ET
THE REPORT FOLLOWS...
HuffPo: Large amounts of radioactive materials could be deposited... more
Published: December 26th, 2011 at 10:02 PM EDT
By Enenews Admin
Mainichi: Radiation detected in drinking water from underground source — Over 15 miles from Fukushima meltdowns
Water underground is contaminated, Fukushima Diary, Dec. 26, 2011:
Ministry of the Environment measured cesium from well water at 4 locations in Minamisoma [25 km north of Fukushima plant]. It was about 1.3~14.7 Bq/kg, it was for drinking. The samples were taken in October and November. [...]
Babelfish Translation result for http://mainichi.jp/select/weathernews/news/20111227k0000m040028000c.html
Headline: Fukushima 1st nuclear plant: From well water 4 places of cesium detection south Soma
Date: Dec. 26, 2011
It announced that the environmental ministry on the 26th, inspected the density of the well underwater radioactive cesium of drinking which in emergency evacuation preparation area (in 9 ends of the month cancellation) inside Fukushima prefecture which is set after the Tokyo Electric Power Fukushima 1st nuclear accident is, detected the small quantity at 4 places of south Soma city. Being maximum, water 1 liter (kilometer) to hit and but with 14.7 Becquerel, below provisional regulation value (1 kilo- hit, 200 Becquerel) of the public welfare Ministry of Labor, the new reference level (same 10 Becquerel) which aims April toward of next year enforcement was exceeded at 3 places.
To investigate at 1317 places of the same city and Hirono Cho and Naraha Cho 10, in November, as for the other self-governing community and the like of the same area in the midst of continuation. At 1 places of the same Ku Kitahara as 2 places of south Soma Ichihara Cho Ku Kita Nagano, per 1 liters 11.4~14.7 Becquerel, 1.3 Becquerel were detected with the same Ku 萱 beach. As for detection lower limit value with 5 Becquerel, as for the other well it was non- detection. According to the environmental ministry you say that there is a possibility the earth near the cesium is attached blending. The well with private possession, has informed about the result, almost there is no possibility many people drinking.
Published: December 26th, 2011 at 10:02 PM EDT
By Enenews Admin... more
Agency approves construction of nuclear plant in Alabama
By Tricia Escobedo, CNN
August 19, 2011 6:07 p.m. EDT
(CNN) -- The Tennessee Valley Authority has approved construction on a nuclear plant in northeastern Alabama -- the first U.S. agency to do so since the Japan nuclear disaster this year.
The TVA board of directors -- which approved the $4.9 billion project Thursday night -- said the Bellefonte project could create 2,800 construction jobs in north Alabama as well as 650 permanent jobs once the plant is complete.
It estimates the plant will be online in 2020 and will provide enough megawatts to power about 750,000 homes in the region.
The TVA still needs approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission before it can start construction at Bellefonte, a commission spokesman said.
"TVA still has work to prove they're in a position to start construction," commission spokesman Scott Burnell said. "But TVA's decision yesterday marks their formal re-entry into the process of completing the plant and bringing it online."
It could take months before the agency grants a full construction permit to the TVA.
The triple meltdown at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi power plant after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami was the worst nuclear accident in a quarter-century. It displaced more than 100,000 nearby residents, and engineers are still working to restore normal cooling in the three reactors that melted down.
The NRC has made "recommendations" for nuclear plant operators in light of Fukushima, but it has not yet made any "new or enhanced requirements," Burnell said.
Nevertheless, TVA said it is taking into account the "lessons learned" from the Japan nuclear disaster.
"As we build Bellefonte we will integrate safety modifications from the extensive review of the lessons learned from the Fukushima nuclear plants in Japan," Tom Kilgore, TVA president and CEO, said in a statement.
Construction on the Bellefonte nuclear site began more than 37 years ago, and the facility is already 55 percent complete. It's near Scottsboro, Alabama, about 40 miles east of Huntsville.
Construction at Bellefonte was halted in 1988 because, according to the TVA, there wasn't a need for the increase in power at the time.
"Now because demand continues to grow, they (the TVA board members) are looking at other options and Bellefonte is one of them," TVA spokeswoman Barbara Martocci said.
CNN affiliate WAAY-TV in Huntsville reports that local business owners are excited that the new nuclear plant could help boost their sales.
"Well, I hope it will increase it about 25 percent," restaurant owner Miles Smith told WAAY. "That will be a big, big impact; it really will."
The project also has its opponents. The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy warns that not only is there "compromised radiation containment in the unfinished reactor" at Bellefonte, but it would be a "financial gamble" to get any of the Bellefonte reactors back online.
"The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy has serious concerns about TVA's push to complete the mothballed, abandoned Bellefonte reactors," Steven Smith, the group's executive director, said in a statement.
The NRC said the TVA has a lot of work to do before it can start new construction at Bellefonte.
"TVA is still in the information-gathering and information-providing phase prior to the NRC granting full authorization to grant construction," Burnell said.
The TVA board also approved a 2 percent rate increase starting on October 1 to pay for "nuclear safety modifications as a result of Fukushima" as well as cybersecurity measures and clean-air initiatives, it said.
The nearly 9 million customers indirectly serviced by the TVA will pay an average of $1.60 more a month on each 1,000 kilowatt-hour bill, the TVA said.
The price hike will not directly fund the Bellefonte project, according to Martocci.
She said the board is looking at paying for the project through "alternative financing" as well as borrowing through bonds.
"We'll look at that, and certainly anything we do comes from the revenue we get from the sale of electricity. We don't get any money from the federal government," Martocci said. "What we're trying to do is reduce the cost to our consumer as much as possible."
Agency approves construction of nuclear plant in Alabama
By Tricia... more
Exclusive Arnie Gundersen Interview: The Dangers of Fukushima Are Worse and Longer-lived Than We Think
Friday, June 3, 2011, 3:54 pm, by Adam
"I have said it's worse than Chernobyl and I’ll stand by that. There was an enormous amount of radiation given out in the first two to three weeks of the event. And add the wind blowing in-land. It could very well have brought the nation of Japan to its knees. I mean, there is so much contamination that luckily wound up in the Pacific Ocean as compared to across the nation of Japan - it could have cut Japan in half. But now the winds have turned, so they are heading to the south toward Tokyo and now my concern and my advice to friends that if there is a severe aftershock and the Unit 4 building collapses, leave. We are well beyond where any science has ever gone at that point and nuclear fuel lying on the ground and getting hot is not a condition that anyone has ever analyzed."
So cautions Arnie Gundersen, widely-regarded to be the best nuclear analyst covering Japan's Fukushima disaster. The situation on the ground at the crippled reactors remains precarious and at a minimum it will be years before it can be hoped to be truly contained. In the near term, the reactors remain particularly vulnerable to sizable aftershocks, which still have decent probability of occuring. On top of this is a growing threat of 'hot particle' contamination risk to more populated areas as weather patterns shift with the typhoon season and groundwater seepage.
In Part 1 of this interview, Chris and Arnie recap the damage wrought to Fukushima's reactors by the tsunami, the steps TEPCO is taking to address it, and the biggest operational risks that remain at this time. In Part 2, they dive into the health risks still posed by the situation there and what individuals should do (including those on the US west coast) if it worsens.
Chris Martenson: Let’s just briefly review – if we could just synopsize – I know you can do this better than anybody. What happened at Fukushima – what happened and I really would like to take the opportunity to talk about this kind of specifically, like where we are with each one of the reactors. So first of all, this disaster – how did it happen? Was it just bad engineering, was it really bad luck with the tsunami? How did this even initiate – something we were told again and again – something that couldn’t happen seems to have happened?
Arnie Gundersen: Well the little bit of physics here is that even when a reactor shuts down; it continues to churn out heat. Now, only five percent of the original amount of heat, but when you are cranking out millions of horsepower of heat, five percent is still a lot. So you have to keep a nuclear reactor cool after it shuts down. Now, what happened at Fukushima was it went into what is called a “station blackout,” and people plan for that. That means there is no power to anything except for batteries. And batteries can’t turn the massive motors that are required to cool the nuclear reactor. So the plan is in a station blackout is that somehow or another you get power back in four or five hours. That didn’t happen at Fukushima because the tidal wave, the tsunami, was so great that it overwhelmed their diesels and it overwhelmed something called “service water 2” But in any event, they couldn’t get any power to the big pumps.
Now, was it foreseeable? They were prepared for a seven-meter tsunami, about twenty-two feet. The tsunami that hit was something in excess of ten and quite likely fifteen meters, so somewhere between thirty-five and forty-five feet. They were warned that the tsunami that they were designed against was too low. They were warned for at least ten years and I am sure that there were people back before that. So would they have been prepared for one this big? I don’t know, but certainly, they were unprepared for even a tsunami of lesser magnitude.
Chris Martenson: So the tsunami came along and just swamped the systems and I heard that there were some other design elements there too, such as potentially the generators were in an unsafe spot or that some of their electrical substations all happened to be in the basement, so they kind of got taken out all at once. Now, here’s what I heard – the initial reports when they came out said, “Oh, nothing to fear, we all went into SCRAM,” which is some kind of emergency shutdown and they said everything is SCRAMed and I knew that we were in trouble in less than twenty-four hours, they talked about how they were pumping seawater in. Which I assume, by the time you are pumping seawater you have a pretty clear indication from the outside that there is something really quite wrong with this story, is that true?
Arnie Gundersen: Yes. Seawater and as anybody who has ever had a boat on the ocean would know, saltwater and stainless steel do not get along very well. Saltwater and stainless steel at five hundred degrees don’t get along very well at all. You are right, they had some single points of vulnerability – the hole in the armor and the diesels were one of them. But even if the diesels were up high, they would have been in trouble because of those service water pumps I talked about. And they got wiped out and those pumps are the pumps that cool the diesels. So even if the diesels were runnable, cooling water that runs through the diesels would have been taken out by the tsunami anyway. So it's kind of a false argument to blame the diesels.
Exclusive Arnie Gundersen... more
The New York Times...
May 30, 2011
In Japan, a Culture That Promotes Nuclear Dependency
By MARTIN FACKLER and NORIMITSU ONISHI
KASHIMA, Japan — When the Shimane nuclear plant was first proposed here more than 40 years ago, this rural port town put up such fierce resistance that the plant’s would-be operator, Chugoku Electric, almost scrapped the project. Angry fishermen vowed to defend areas where they had fished and harvested seaweed for generations.
Two decades later, when Chugoku Electric was considering whether to expand the plant with a third reactor, Kashima once again swung into action: this time, to rally in favor. Prodded by the local fishing cooperative, the town assembly voted 15 to 2 to make a public appeal for construction of the $4 billion reactor.
Kashima’s reversal is a common story in Japan, and one that helps explain what is, so far, this nation’s unwavering pursuit of nuclear power: a lack of widespread grass-roots opposition in the communities around its 54 nuclear reactors. This has held true even after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami generated a nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi station that has raised serious questions about whether this quake-prone nation has adequately ensured the safety of its plants. So far, it has spurred only muted public questioning in towns like this.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan has, at least temporarily, shelved plans to expand Japan’s use of nuclear power — plans promoted by the country’s powerful nuclear establishment. Communities appear willing to fight fiercely for nuclear power, despite concerns about safety that many residents refrain from voicing publicly.
To understand Kashima’s about-face, one need look no further than the Fukada Sports Park, which serves the 7,500 mostly older residents here with a baseball diamond, lighted tennis courts, a soccer field and a $35 million gymnasium with indoor pool and Olympic-size volleyball arena. The gym is just one of several big public works projects paid for with the hundreds of millions of dollars this community is receiving for accepting the No. 3 reactor, which is still under construction.
As Kashima’s story suggests, Tokyo has been able to essentially buy the support, or at least the silent acquiescence, of communities by showering them with generous subsidies, payouts and jobs. In 2009 alone, Tokyo gave $1.15 billion for public works projects to communities that have electric plants, according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Experts say the majority of that money goes to communities near nuclear plants.
And that is just the tip of the iceberg, experts say, as the communities also receive a host of subsidies, property and income tax revenues, compensation to individuals and even “anonymous” donations to local treasuries that are widely believed to come from plant operators.
Unquestionably, the aid has enriched rural communities that were rapidly losing jobs and people to the cities. With no substantial reserves of oil or coal, Japan relies on nuclear power for the energy needed to drive its economic machine. But critics contend that the largess has also made communities dependent on central government spending — and thus unwilling to rock the boat by pushing for robust safety measures.
In a process that critics have likened to drug addiction, the flow of easy money and higher-paying jobs quickly replaces the communities’ original economic basis, usually farming or fishing.
Nor did planners offer alternatives to public works projects like nuclear plants. Keeping the spending spigots open became the only way to maintain newly elevated living standards.
Experts and some residents say this dependency helps explain why, despite the legacy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the accidents at the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl nuclear plants, Japan never faced the levels of popular opposition to nuclear power seen in the United States and Europe — and is less likely than the United States to stop building new plants. Towns become enmeshed in the same circle — which includes politicians, bureaucrats, judges and nuclear industry executives — that has relentlessly promoted the expansion of nuclear power over safety concerns.
“This structure of dependency makes it impossible for communities to speak out against the plants or nuclear power,” said Shuji Shimizu, a professor of public finance at Fukushima University.
Ko Sasaki for The New York Times
The Chugoku Electric nuclear power plant in Kashima. A third reactor is currently under construction.The New York Times...
May 30, 2011
In Japan, a Culture That Promotes Nuclear... more
Nuclear energy in Japan in post-Fukushima era
by Worldview May. 25, 2011
Click on Link to Listen to This Story
(Getty Images/Athit Perawongmetha)
Photo: A dog wanders the abandoned streets of Futaba, a town within the exclusion zone near the Fukushima power plant.
This week, the Tokyo Electric Power Company admitted that three reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power plant suffered meltdowns shortly after the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan in March.
From the somber legacy of World War II to this latest crisis, nuclear energy in Japan has a complicated history. Now, as bad news continues to emerge out of the Fukushima catastrophe, Japan is forced to do some soul searching about nuclear power, which supplies thirty percent of the nation’s energy.
Norma Field is a professor of Japanese studies at the University of Chicago. Field recently had a conference on nuclear energy in Japan. She dropped by with a longtime critic of Japan’s nuclear energy policies, filmmaker Hitomi Kamanaka. Kamanaka was screening her latest documentary, Ashes to Honey: Toward a Sustainable Future, when the earthquake and tsunami struck in Tokyo.WBEZ...
Nuclear energy in Japan in post-Fukushima era
by Worldview May. 25,... more
Japan's nuclear crisis turns spotlight on U.S. plants
Stricter safety measures sought as Japanese officials try to avert a total meltdown. By Steve Hargreaves, senior writer
March 13, 2011: 6:11 PM ET
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The safety of America's nuclear reactors is being questioned as Japanese engineers scramble to avert a total meltdown at two of that country's quake-stricken power plants.
Like in Japan, some of the 104 nuclear reactors in the United States are situated along the ocean -- some in earthquake-prone areas.
The reactors are designed to withstand earthquakes, sabotage and other disasters. But the difficulty the Japanese are facing in controlling their plants is raising red flags about the safety of U.S. facilities.
"The tragic events now unfolding in Japan could very easily occur in the United States," Rep. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who sits on the House committee overseeing nuclear power, said in a statement.
Disaster hits nation's economy
Markey has recommended several measures that he believes should be taken by the Obama administration and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
These steps include stronger safety systems in plants located near fault lines, emergency response drills that model instances when more than one disaster unfolds simultaneously, and the distribution of radiation-blocking potassium iodine pills to everyone living within 20 miles of a reactor. (Such pills are now disbursed to people within 10 miles of a reactor.)
The United States has 104 non-military nuclear reactors operating at 65 plants across the country. In addition, there are dozens of reactors, weapons labs and other nuclear facilities associated with national defense.
Most of the civilian plants are located near major population centers. They currently supply about 20% of the nation's power.
There hasn't been a new nuclear plant commissioned since the Three Mile Island meltdown in Pennsylvania in 1979, although dozens that were under construction at the time have come on line.
More recently, increased electricity use, a desire to generate homegrown energy and concern over global warming have made carbon-free nuclear power more attractive.
The government has set aside $18 billion for new nuclear plants, and President Obama wants to spend an additional $36 billion.
Federal regulators are reviewing 20 applications to build new nuclear plants, and several existing facilities have applied to extend their operating licenses.
Yet concerns over safety -- as well as cost -- continue to dog the nuclear industry.
In the United States, perhaps the most vulnerable plants are the two in California built on the Pacific coast near the San Andreas fault.
Those plants were built to withstand a magnitude 7.5 earthquake, said Robert Alvarez, a nuclear expert at the Institute for Policy studies and a former senior official at the U.S. Department of Energy.
The San Francisco quake of 1906 measured 8.3, said Alvarez, while Friday's Japanese quake was a massive 8.9.
"I don't think we should renew those operating licenses," he said.
Alvarez also said the problems at the Japanese facilities highlight the catastrophic outcome of the failure of power, pumps and other infrastructure. Such system malfunctions could happen because of an earthquake or a massive terrorist attack, such as one involving airliners.
Spokesmen for the utilities that own the California plants, Pacific Gas & Electric (PCG, Fortune 500) and Southern California Edison, said Sunday the plants are designed to meet the maximum quake projected for their immediate vicinity, which is not thought to exceed a magnitude of 6.5.
In addition, tests have shown that the country's nuclear plants could withstand an impact from an airliner, said Steve Kerekes, a spokesman for industry group the Nuclear Energy Institute.
Responding to Congressman Markey's recommendations, Kerekes said that safety systems at U.S. plants are already robust. He said that disaster planning could always be improved upon, but that studies show there's no need to distribute iodine pills beyond the current 10 mile radius.Japan's nuclear crisis turns spotlight on U.S. plants
Stricter safety measures... more