The ten worst acts of the Nuclear Age described below have set the tone for our time. They have caused immense death and suffering; been tremendously expensive; have encouraged nuclear proliferation; have opened the door to nuclear terrorism, nuclear accidents and nuclear war; and are leading the world back into a second Cold War. These “ten worst acts” are important information for anyone attempting to understand the time in which we live, and how the nuclear dangers that confront us have been intensified by the leadership and policy choices made by the United States and the other eight nuclear-armed countries.
1. Bombing Hiroshima (August 6, 1945). The first atomic bomb was dropped by the United States on the largely civilian population of Hiroshima, killing some 70,000 people instantly and 140,000 people by the end of 1945. The bombing demonstrated the willingness of the US to use its new weapon of mass destruction on cities.
2. Bombing Nagasaki (August 9, 1945). The second atomic bomb was dropped on the largely civilian population of Nagasaki before Japanese leaders had time to assess the death and injury caused by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima three days earlier. The atomic bombing of Nagasaki took another 70,000 lives by the end of 1945.
3. Pursuing a unilateral nuclear arms race (1945 – 1949). The first nuclear weapon test was conducted by the US on July 16, 1945, just three weeks before the first use of an atomic weapon on Hiroshima. As the only nuclear-armed country in the world in the immediate aftermath of World War II, the US continued to expand its nuclear arsenal and began testing nuclear weapons in 1946 in the Marshall Islands, a trust territory the US was asked to administer on behalf of the United Nations. Altogether the US tested 67 nuclear weapons in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958, with the equivalent explosive power of 1.6 Hiroshima bombs daily for that 12 year period.
4. Initiating Atoms for Peace (1953). President Dwight Eisenhower put forward an Atoms for Peace proposal in a speech delivered on December 8, 1953. This proposal opened the door to the spread of nuclear reactors and nuclear materials for purposes of research and power generation. This resulted in the later proliferation of nuclear weapons to additional countries, including Israel, South Africa, India, Pakistan and North Korea.
5. Engaging in a Cold War bilateral nuclear arms race (1949 – 1991). The nuclear arms race became bilateral when the Soviet Union tested its first atomic weapon on August 29, 1949. This bilateral nuclear arms race between the US and USSR reached its apogee in 1986 with some 70,000 nuclear weapons in the world, enough to destroy civilization many times over and possibly result in the extinction of the human species.
6. Atmospheric Nuclear Testing (1945 – 1980). Altogether there have been 528 atmospheric nuclear tests. The US, UK and USSR ceased atmospheric nuclear testing in 1963, when they signed the Partial Test Ban Treaty. France continued atmospheric nuclear testing until 1974 and China continued until 1980. Atmospheric nuclear testing has placed large amounts of radioactive material into the atmosphere, causing cancers and leukemia in human populations.
7. Breaching the disarmament provisions of the NPT (1968 – present). Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) states, “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament….” The five nuclear weapons-states parties to the NPT (US, Russia, UK, France and China) remain in breach of these obligations. The other four nuclear-armed states (Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea) are in breach of these same obligations under customary international law.
8. Treating nuclear power as an “inalienable right” in the NPT (1968 – present). This language of “inalienable right” contained in Article IV of the NPT encourages the development and spread of nuclear power plants and thereby makes the proliferation of nuclear weapons more likely. Nuclear power plants are also attractive targets for terrorists. As yet, there are no good plans for long-term storage of radioactive wastes created by these plants. Government subsidies for nuclear power plants also take needed funding away from the development of renewable energy sources.
9. Failing to cut a deal with North Korea (1992 to present). During the Clinton administration, the US was close to a deal with North Korea to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons. This deal was never fully implemented and negotiations for it were abandoned under the George W. Bush administration. Consequently, North Korea withdrew from the NPT in 2003 and conducted its first nuclear weapon test in 2006.
10. Abrogating the ABM Treaty (2002). Under the George W. Bush administration, the US unilaterally abrogated the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. This allowed the US, in combination with expanding NATO to the east, to place missile defense installations near the Russian border. It has also led to emplacement of US missile defenses in East Asia. Missile defenses in Europe and East Asia have spurred new nuclear arms races in these regions.
David Krieger is a founder and president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.
According to a new report, the Japanese government worked in concert with TEPCO to purposely cover up the meltdown at Fukushima in 2011.
“I would say it was a coverup,” Tokyo Electric Power Company President Naomi Hirose announced during a press conference. “It’s extremely regrettable.”
Masataka Shimizu, president of TEPCO at the time of the earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent nuclear disaster, told employees not to go public with the term “meltdown” — allegedly in capitulation to pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office.
For two months, TEPCO officials euphemized the meltdown in public statements as “core damage,” even as they had full knowledge of the true extent of the catastrophe. Though a few company officials initially used the term “meltdown,” it abruptly vanished from public discussions just three days after the disaster struck.
According to the report, Shimizu rushed a note to Vice President Sakae Muto as he held a press conference that warned him against using the word meltdown.
“Considering this fact, it is presumable that the Prime Minister’s Office requested Shimizu to be careful about admitting to a meltdown in public,” the report states, as Japan Times noted.
Though the three lawyers who authored the report did not find direct evidence, they surmised it was “highly likely” governmental pressure was behind the amelioration of information about the scope of the disaster.
As CBS News reported, former officials from the Prime Minister’s Office denied all allegations a cover-up had taken place. In fact, former government spokesman and current secretary general of the opposition Democratic Party denounced the report as “inadequate and unilateral” — particularly as the lawyer-authors are allied with the current ruling party.
Attorney Yasuhisa Tanaka, who headed the panel investigation, admitted TEPCO likely didn’t intentionally cover up that a meltdown had occurred, saying,
“Looking at the situation back then, we think it was too difficult for Tepco to use the term meltdown because even the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency couldn’t use it,” because of pressure from the government, Japan Times noted.
That agency had been Japan’s nuclear watchdog in March 2011, at the time of the disaster.
Notably, five years after the catastrophe, TEPCO revealed the existence of a company manual in which a meltdown is ‘official’ once 5 percent or more fuel rods have suffered damage. But, as Japan Times explained:
“As of March 14, 2011, Tepco estimated that 55 percent of the fuel rod assemblies in reactor No. 1 and 25 percent of those in reactor No. 3 were damaged but did not declare they were damaged until May that year.”
In euphemizing the meltdown, TEPCO and the Japanese government left countless civilians in peril; despite evacuations, many had been reluctant to leave their homes and might have done so sooner had the full scope of a meltdown been clear.
TEPCO remains embroiled in controversy over secrecy and alleged incompetent handling of the cleanup of Fukushima. In February this year, three former TEPCO executives were charged with negligence over the disaster.
The Swedish parliament has today agreed to abolish a tax on nuclear power as it recognizes nuclear’s role in helping it to eventually achieve a goal of 100% renewable generation.
The framework agreement announced by the Social Democrats, the Moderate Party, the Green Party, the Centre Party and the Christian Democrats, will see the tax phased out over two years. It also allows for the construction of up to ten new nuclear reactors at existing sites, to replace plants as they retire. Setting 2040 as the date at which Sweden should have a 100% renewable electricity system, the document stresses that 2040 is a ‘goal’ and not a cut-off date for nuclear generation.
A variable production tax on nuclear power introduced in 1984 was replaced by a tax on installed capacity in 2000. Since its introduction this tax has gradually increased and today corresponds to about 7 öre (0.8 US cents) per kilowatt-hour. In February this year, utility Vattenfall said that the capacity tax had brought its nuclear operating costs to around 32 öre (3.8 US cents) per kWh. However, its revenue from nuclear power generation is only about 22 öre (2.6 US cents) per kWh.
Swedish utilities had sought redress against the tax through the courts, but the European Court of Justice ruled last October that Sweden could continue to tax nuclear power, deciding the tax is a national, rather than European Commission, matter.
Vattenfall CEO Magnus Hall welcomed the agreement, which he said gave the utility the predictability it needed. “The abolishment of the nuclear capacity tax is an important precondition for us to be able to consider the investments needed to secure the long-term operation of our nuclear reactors from the 1980s,” he said. Vattenfall’s reactors at Forsmark and Ringhals have undergone a comprehensive modernisation programme to allow them to operate until the mid-2040s. However, to continue operating beyond 2020 they must meet stricter safety requirements through the installation of independent core cooling. Investing in those upgrades was economically impossible with the tax in place.
“Even with the abolishment of the capacity tax, profitability will be a challenge,” Hall concluded. “Low electricity prices put all energy producers under pressure and we will continue to focus on reducing production costs. Naturally, investment decisions must be taken on commercial grounds, taking all cost factors and expected long-term market developments that the agreement implies into account,” Hall said.
The director general of the World Nuclear Association, Agneta Rising, said: “Today’s announcement is a positive development. It is vital that there is now consistent policy to give operators the confidence to make the investments needed in their plant to allow for their long term continued operation. Other countries should follow Sweden’s example and ensure that their energy policies provide a level playing field that treats all forms of generation equally on their merits.”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has unveiled a plan allowing radioactive contamination in drinking water at concentrations vastly greater than the levels permitted by the Safe Drinking Water Act for long periods following release of nuclear materials.
EPA’s “Protective Action Guides” (or PAGs) dramatically relax allowable doses of radioactive material in public drinking water following a Fukushima-type meltdown or “dirty bomb” attack.
They cover the “intermediate phase” after “releases have been brought under control” – an unspecified period that may last for weeks, months or even years.
The agency has declared that the strict limits for chemical exposure in the Safe Drinking Water Act “may not be appropriate… during a radiation incident.”
EPA states that it “expects that the responsible party… will take action to return to compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act maximum contaminant levels as soon as practicable” but during the indefinite meantime –
The general population may be exposed to radioactive iodine-131 at 10,350 pico-curies per liter of water.
By contrast, the current limit is 3, resulting in a 3,450-times increase;
The current strontium-90 limit of 8 pico-curies per liter would be allowed a 925-fold increase; and
In an attempt to shield “sensitive populations,” the plan proposes 500 millirem per year for the general population but only 100 millirem for children under 15, pregnant or nursing mothers without explaining how these latter groups will get access to less contaminated water.
“Given this monstrous proposal, it unclear what lessons EPA learned from the contaminated water calamity of Flint, Michigan,” said. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) executive director Jeff Ruch. “It is unfathomable that a public health agency would prescribe subjecting people to radioactive concentrations a thousand times above Safe Drinking Water Act limits as a ‘protective’ measure.”
Internal EPA documents obtained under Freedom of Information Act litigation brought by PEER show that EPA itself concluded that proposed concentrations “would exceed MCLs [Maximum Contaminant Limits of the Safe Drinking Water Act] by a factor of 100, 1000, and in two instances, 7 million.”
The internal analysis estimated for one radionuclide that drinking only one small glass of water “would result in an exposure that corresponds to a lifetime of drinking liters of water per day at the MCL level.”
The Bush Administration in its last days unsuccessfully tried to put forward similar proposals, which the incoming Obama Administration pulled back.
Now, in the waning months of the Obama Administration, those plans are moving forward with new exposure limits higher than the Bush plan it had rejected.
“President Obama goes to Hiroshima to urge a nuclear-free world while his EPA facilitates a nuclear-ridden water supply,” added Ruch. “It speaks volumes that the current Obama drinking water plan is less protective than his predecessor’s.”
In US, Indian Premier Modi vows to improve ease of doing business
India and the US have signed an agreement to enhance cooperation on energy security, clean energy and climate change, and an MOU on cooperation in gas hydrates. In Washington on Tuesday, Indian Prime Minister held extensive talks with US President Barack Obama, including climate change and nuclear energy.
A Reuters report quoted a Westinghouse Electric spokesperson as saying “negotiations continue” on building 6 nuclear reactors in India. A joint statement, after Modi-Obama talks, said India and the US Export-Import Bank were working to complete a financing package for the project.
The Indian Prime Minister also pushed for enlisting US support to India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation bloc, APEC.
A New York Times editorial argued that India has yet merited a NSG berth.
India does not meet one of the major factors for membership of the NSG – being a party to Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Many countries including Ireland, Austria, New Zealand, among many others, are opposed to India’s NSG ascension.
Meanwhile, the US-India joint statement issued after Modi-Obama talks does not mention the much hyped South China Sea dispute. The document does refer to “settlement of territorial disputes by peaceful means”.
“The leaders reiterated the importance they attach to ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight and exploitation of resources as per international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and settlement of territorial disputes by peaceful means,” said the Indo-US joint statement on Tuesday.
The US has not signed the UN treaty, the UNCLOS.
A trilateral Russia-India-China (RIC) statement earlier this year echoed Beijing’s position that the disputes must be resolved between “parties directly involved”.
“Russia, India and China are committed to maintaining a legal order for the seas and oceans based on the principles of international law, as reflected notably in the UN Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS). All related disputes should be addressed through negotiations and agreements between the parties concerned,” the joint statement after the Russian, Chinese and Indian Foreign Ministers meet said in April in Moscow.
At the Oval Office meeting between Obama and Modi on Tuesday, the two leaders also reiterated their commitment to pursue low greenhouse gas emission development strategies in the pre-2020 period and to develop long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies.
New Delhi has vowed to join the Paris climate change deal this year, which would provide a “significant global momentum” towards implementation of the historic agreement, the White House said.
“We discussed how we can, as quickly as possible, bring the Paris Agreement into force,” Obama said.
Modi, who also addressed the US-India Business Council, stressed that the Indian government would “continue to make progress on improving the investment climate and ease of doing business”.
“We are encouraging foreign and domestic investors to set up high quality and efficient manufacturing facilities,” Modi told the audience.
On Tuesday, Amazon Inc AMZN.O Chief Executive Jeff Bezos said his company would invest an additional $3 billion in India.
Two major American business bodies earlier this year, however, voiced disappointment with what they called “the glacial pace” of market reforms in India.
In a submission to the US commerce secretary, the US National Association of Manufacturers urged Washington to press for change during Modi’s visit.
“Despite statements made by Prime Minister Modi and other senior Indian officials over the past two years, there has been limited progress in many key areas that make it challenging to do business in India,” the group wrote.
US exporters to India have frequently complained about protectionist restrictions and high tariffs. India and the US have also dragged several trade disputes to the WTO.
The United States won a ruling against India at the WTO in February after challenging the rules on the origin of solar cells and solar modules used in India’s national solar power program. In April, Indian Minister of State for power, coal, new and renewable energy Piyush Goyal said the government intends to file 16 cases against the US for allegedly violating WTO treaties.
Modi is set to address the US Congress on Wednesday.
US to build 6 nuclear power plants in India: WH
The United States and India have agreed to move ahead with a plan to build six nuclear reactors in India, according to the White House.
The plan was finalized during a meeting between President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House on Tuesday.
It will be the first such construction since the two countries signed a landmark nuclear accord in 2008.
The price for the project is still under discussion, but officials said more difficult issues like liability have been worked out.
India passed a law in 2010 that would make US companies constructing nuclear power plants in the country liable for accidents.
Under the new deal, India’s Nuclear Power Corporation and Westinghouse Electric Co. of the US will begin engineering work for the reactors, though the final contract is not expected to be completed until June 2017, White House officials said.
“Culminating a decade of partnership on civil nuclear issues, the leaders welcomed the start of preparatory work on-site in India for six AP 1000 reactors to be built by Westinghouse and noted the intention of India and the US Export-Import Bank to work together toward a competitive financing package for the project,” the White House said in a statement.
“Once completed, the project would be among the largest of its kind,” it added.
The deal is believed to be part of Washington’s drive to boost cooperation with India as a counterbalance to China.
Obama said at the meeting that the US and India intended to “cooperate more effectively in order to promote jobs, promote investment, promote trade and promote greater opportunities for our people.”
The meeting will be followed by a speech Wednesday by the Indian prime minister to a joint session of the US Congress, where he is expected to be greeted warmly by American lawmakers.
Modi also announced his intention to formally join the international climate-change agreement reached in Paris in December.
The inclusion of India is significant as it could guarantee that the Paris climate agreement will go into effect before the next US president takes office. India is the world’s third-largest emitter after China and the US.
Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for US president, has vowed to “cancel” the pact if elected.
It is Modi’s fourth visit to the US as New Delhi intends to forge closer ties with Washington before President Obama leaves office next year.
Conflicting with a prior industry study, a new analysis claims 96 nuclear facilities in the US are less safe than reported, citing risks such as terrorism and sabotage. The study says there remain lessons to be learned from the Fukushima disaster.
Neglect of the risks posed by used reactor fuel, or spent nuclear fuel, contained in 96 aboveground, aquamarine pools could cost the US economy $700 billion, cause cancer in tens of thousands of people as well as compel the relocation of some 3.5 million people from an area larger than New Jersey, a study released May 20 finds.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s study, ‘Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident for Improving Safety and Security of US Nuclear Plants,’ is the second installment of a two-part study ordered by Congress on the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan. It not only cites, but also outright challenges a 2014 study by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the US industry’s regulator and enforcer of safety standards.
The spent fuel, The Academies’ study recommends, is safer in dry casks rather than pools, because of the risk of leaks, drawing water away from the irradiated nuclear rods. An accident, terrorist attack or malicious employee all pose greater dangers to the pools, the study says.
Aside from calling on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to offer a better evaluation of the health risks posed, The Academies study conducted by 17 engineers, nuclear physicists and other scientists demands the commission fulfill a 10-year-old promise to put together an impartial review of the surveillance and security policies on spent nuclear fuel.
“Even with the recommendations that the Academies’ board has put together,” Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Scott Burnell responded, “we continue to conclude that spent fuel is being stored safely and securely in the US.”
“Nothing in the report causes immediate concern,” Burnell added, although the commission is planning a more formal follow-up later this year, according to The Center for Public Integrity.
Congress felt compelled to fund the study on Japan’s natural-turned-nuclear disaster to help prevent a similar accident from occurring in the US. On March 11, 2011, the Daiichi nuclear plant in Fukushima was thrashed by an earthquake and tsunami, leaving three reactors without power or coolants, which resulted in their radioactive cores melting down.
Pure luck kept the disaster from becoming even worse, The Acadamies found. Instead of Daiichi’s highly radioactive rods being exposed to oxygen, which would have sent over 13 million people packing from as far as 177 miles south in Tokyo, a leak happened to be situated between a fuel rod pool and a reactor core, which sent just enough coolant to keep the vulnerable rods from rising above the water. In the end, 470,000 people were evacuated and the still ongoing cleanup is estimated to cost about $93 billion.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s 2014 study put the highest odds of an earthquake happening near spent fuel storage at one in 10 million years, boasting that “spent fuel pools are likely to withstand severe earthquakes without leaking,” while the odds of a terrorist attack or internal subversion were deemed incalculable and left out of any risk assessment.
Calling that cost-benefit analysis “deeply flawed,” The Academies panel member Frank von Hippel, also an emeritus professor and senior research physicist at Princeton University, complained that the commission’s study also left out the impact on property contamination in a 50-mile radius of an accident, tourism rates and the economy, The Center for Public Integrity reported.
The new analysis also calls for new officially designated risk assessments of safety and financial impacts at the federal level as well as what improvements aboveground dry casks may bring compared to pools. The latter is estimated to cost upwards of $4 billion by the industry.
The Fukushima clean-up team remains in the dark about the exact locations of 600 tons of melted radioactive fuel from three devastated nuclear reactors, the chief of decommissioning told the ABC’s Foreign Correspondent program in an exclusive interview.
The company hopes to locate and start removing the missing fuel from 2021, the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (TEPCO) chief of decommissioning at Fukushima, Naohiro Masuda, revealed.
The fuel extraction technology is yet to be elaborated upon, he added.
Following the tsunami-caused 2011 meltdown at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant uranium fuel of three power generating reactors gained critical temperature and burnt through the respective reactor pressure vessels, concentrating somewhere on the lower levels of the station currently filled with water.
The melted nuclear fuel from Reactor 1 poured out completely, estimated 30 to 50 percent of fuel from Reactor 2 and 3 remained in the active zone, Masuda said.
The official estimates that approximately “200 tons of [nuclear fuel] debris lies within each unit,” which makes in total about 600 tons of melted fuel mixed up with metal construction elements, concrete and whatever else was down there.
Five years after the Fukushima tragedy, the exact location of the highly radioactive “runaway” fuel remains mystery for TEPCO. The absolutely uncontrollable fission of the melted nuclear fuel assemblies continue somewhere under the remains of the station.
“It’s important to find it as soon as possible,” acknowledged Masuda, admitting that Japan does not yet possess the technology to extract the melted uranium fuel.
“Once we can find out the condition of the melted fuel and identify its location, I believe we can develop the necessary tools to retrieve it,” Masuda said.
TEPCO’s inability to locate the melted fuel could be explained by huge levels of radiation near the melted reactor shells. It is so high that even custom-built robots sent there to get information about the current state of affairs there get disabled by the tremendous radioactivity flux. Human presence in the area is understandably out of the question.
The company’s decommission plan for Fukushima nuclear power plant implies a 30-40 year period before the consequences of the meltdown are fully eliminated. Yet experts doubt the present state of technology is sufficient to deal with the unprecedented technical task.
“Nobody really knows where the fuel is at this point and this fuel is still very radioactive and will be for a long time,” the former head of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Gregory Jaczko, told Foreign Correspondent.
“It may be possible that we’re never able to remove the fuel. You may just have to wind up leaving it there and somehow entomb it as it is,” said Jaczko, who headed the USNRC at the time of the Fukushima disaster.
Melted uranium fuel and tons and tons of highly radioactive water aren’t the only issues troubling TEPCO’s clean-up team at Fukushima. There are also some 10 million plastic bags full of contaminated soil concentrated in gigantic waste dumps scattered around the devastated nuclear facility.
The Japanese prime minister at the time of the Fukushima disaster, Naoto Kan, told the ABC that Japan’s government is already paying TEPCO US$70 billion to enable the company to do the decommission works at Fukushima.
“But that is not enough. It will probably cost more than $240 billion. I think 40 years [to decommission the plant] is an optimistic view,” Kan said.
Estimated 100,000 Japanese citizens evacuated from the Fukushima exclusion zone will be unable to return to their homes until TEPCO can show that the Fukushima plant is in a stable condition, Masuda said.
Washington is promoting commercial interests of the energy corporation Westinghouse in Europe, creating risks for European nuclear power plants, an article in Forbes read.
For example, in 2015, two of the Westinghouse-made fuel assemblies at the South Ukraine nuclear power plant (NPP) were found to be leaking. Since 2015, the NPP has been using US-made fuel.
In 2014, Ukraine and Westinghouse reached an agreement to supply nuclear fuel to some Ukrainian NPPs. The alleged reason behind the contract was the need to help Ukraine become energetically independent from Russia. Russia was a long-time supplier of nuclear fuel to Ukraine.
Experts have repeatedly warned that the deal would create serious risks for the safety of Ukrainian NPPs.
They cited the example of an incident which took place several years ago at the Temelin nuclear power plant, in the Czech Republic. The NPP operated on Russian-designed reactors and used fuel supplied by Westinghouse. The fuel was leaking and the rods were bending. All the Westinghouse fuel was removed from the core and replaced with Russian-made fuel.
As for Ukraine, the company announced that its fuel for Ukrainian NPPs had been improved.
Despite experts’ warnings, in March 2015, the first 42 fuel assemblies made by Westinghouse were loaded to the third reactor unit at the South Ukraine NPP.
According to Forbes, the two Westinghouse-made assemblies were found leaking during a scheduled outage at the third unit of the NPP.
The author of the article, Forbes contributor Kenneth Rapoza described how Washington has promoted Westinghouse’s interest in Eastern Europe, neglecting safety recommendations.
“Westinghouse is more than a brand name American power company. It’s a battering ram used by Washington to promote energy security,” the author wrote.
A source who wished to remain anonymous told Forbes that Westinghouse wants a market share in Eastern Europe in a bid to prevent the company from insolvency.
“Their new reactor division is loss-making, the fuel division is their only cash cow and it is not growing and existing margins are getting slimmer and slimmer. We think Westinghouse has spent millions of dollars to include nuclear fuel as part of the energy security narrative, and the current EU sentiment against Russia play into their hand,” the source said.
“But derailing nuclear projects while running into technical difficulties with Westinghouse fuel assemblies in Rosatom reactors is a dangerous way to promote energy security,” Rapoza noted.
According to former Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, the US has been promoting Westinghouse for years.
In the 1990s, US diplomats supported contribution between the Czech Republic and Westinghouse. The company pledged to improve Russian-designed nuclear plants to Western standards.
“However, the opposite proved to be true. Fuel assemblies delivered by Westinghouse were of inferior quality and higher price compared with than Russian fuel and caused frequent outages of Temelin reactors,” Paroubek told Forbes.
After, Westinghouse’s fuel assemblies were found leaking in the 2000s the Czech company CEZ decided to return to Russian-made nuclear fuel for the Temelin NPP.
“CEZ’s decision serves as a testament to the fact that the Russian fuel assembly was safer and that Washington was selling a product that did not quite work at the time, potentially putting nuclear power plants in danger,” the article read.
US presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton was also involved in promoting Westinghouse in Eastern Europe. In 2012 when she served as US State Secretary Clinton met with then Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas, using the energy security argument to promote the company.
According to the article, Westinghouse can produce fuel for Russia-designed reactors as well as Rosatom can build fuel assemblies for Western-designed power units. However, for third parties working with Westinghouse is less economically efficient.
“Russia is the cheaper producer of the two, so when countries turn to Westinghouse for the fuel assemblies, they have to pay a premium for diversification,” Rapoza wrote.
Nevertheless, the largest initiative by Westinghouse is squeezing Russia from the Ukrainian nuclear fuel market, using again the argument of diversifying supplies.
In 2012, the Ukrainian nuclear regulator banned the use of Westinghouse’s fuel assemblies in the country pending an investigation over the incident at the South Ukraine NPP.
“Two years later, then-Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk consulted Westinghouse on picking a new nuclear safety regulator for his new government,” the author wrote citing a source in Ukraine.
In April, the Ukrainian Energy Ministry announced it would buy more nuclear fuel from Westinghouse. The company is planning to deliver five reloads of fuel to South Ukraine and Zaporizhia NPPs.
According to the author, Westinghouse’s commercial interests are closely tied to politics and thus the company neglects safety.
“Regardless, anti-Russia politics trumps technological problems,” Rapoza concluded.
The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee held a hearing on a bill intended to streamline nuclear power regulatory rules, in order to allow safer and more efficient next-generation reactors to replace those being decommissioned.
The Advanced Nuclear Technology Development Act of 2016 (HR 4979), introduced by Representative Bob Latta (R-Ohio), was discussed during a Friday hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee to reduce regulatory hurdles for building advanced reactors. “Advanced” being defined as having significant improvements over contemporary nuclear reactor, such as better “inherent safety features, lower waste yields, greater fuel utilization, superior reliability, resistance to proliferation, and increased thermal efficiency.”
Currently, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) demands a complete and final design from potential nuclear developers. This, combined with expensive reviews that developers pay out of pocket, can deter potential startups with a multimillion dollar price tag with no assurance of ever being allowed to operate. The bipartisan panel’s tenor was that this needs to change.
“The future of the nuclear industry needs to start now, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission needs to be able to provide the certainty the provide sector needs to invest in innovative technologies.” Goodlatte said at the hearing. “As the United States looks to the future, more energy will be needed, and Nuclear power provides reliable, clean baseload power option.
“Investment in new technology is already happening, with approximately 50 companies in this country working to develop the next generation of nuclear power. It’s time to insure that the NRC provides a framework so that innovators and investors can prepare to apply to licensing technologies.”
In order to create a conducive environment for investment in next-generation plants, HR 4979 would require the NRC to implement a new framework to streamline nuclear plant licensing, making it more efficient and cost-effective to investors by 2019. The commission would have to submit to an implementation plan for such a framework within 180 days of the enactment of the law.
The US’s 99 operational nuclear energy plants provide nearly 20 percent of the country’s power, but approximately 126,000 megawatts of nuclear power generation is set to be retired over the next 15 years. At the same time, the US Energy Information Administration forecasts a need for 287,000 megawatts of new electric capacity by 2040 – on top of replacing the electric capacity that is needed to replace the retired power plants.
This reality, combined with the fact that nuclear power produces no greenhouse gasses, has led to environmentally-conscious lawmakers on the committee making common cause with their innovation-minded colleagues worried about falling behind international competitors.
“Our nation will, by necessity, diminish its dependence on fossil fuels in order to fight climate change. And as we do so, we will need to turn more and more to nuclear power,” said Representative Jerry McNerney (D-Illinois), who co-signed the bill.
The hearing comes at a time of renewed anxiety about aging nuclear power infrastructure. Earlier this month, a Manhattan Project-era nuclear storage facility in Washington state had up to 3,500 gallons of waste leaking out. However, the Washington Department of Ecology said that there was no risk to the environment or nearby residents.
An ice wall being built at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant won’t completely prevent groundwater from flowing inside the facility and leaking out into the earth as radioactive water, according to a chief architect of the project.
Chief architect Yuichi Okamura told AP that gaps in the wall and rainfall will still allow for water to creep into the facility and reach the damaged nuclear reactors, which will in turn create as much as 50 tons of contaminated water each day.
“It’s not zero,” Okamura, a general manager at Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) said. “It’s a vicious cycle, like a cat-and-mouse game… we have come up against many unexpected problems.”
The wall, which will be 1.5km (1 mile) long, will consist of an underground pipe network stretching 30 meters (100 feet) below the surface, around the reactor and turbine buildings. The pipes are designed to transport refrigerant cooled to -30° Celsius (-22°F) to chill the nearby soil until it freezes.
The barrier is being turned on in sections for tests, and the entire freezing process will take eight months since it was first switched on in late March. The process requires an amount of electricity that would power 13,000 Japanese households.
Despite its current efforts, TEPCO – the operator of the Fukushima plant – has been fiercely criticized by those who say the groundwater issue should have been forecast and dealt with sooner.
Shigeaki Tsunoyama, an honorary professor and former president of University of Aizu in Fukushima, said that building a concrete wall built into the hill near the plant after the disaster would have minimized the contaminated water issue.
Okamura acknowledged that the option of building a barrier at a higher elevation near the plant was considered in the days following the disaster, but defended the actions of TEPCO, stressing that the priority is on preventing contaminated water from escaping into the Pacific Ocean.
Others have criticized the US$312 million wall, which is being built by construction company Kajima Corp., as a waste of taxpayer money.
TEPCO has repeatedly faced criticism for its handling of the Fukushima crisis, which occurred after a massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami led to a meltdown of reactors at the facility in March 2011. The disaster was the worst nuclear accident to take place since Chernobyl in 1986.
The company has admitted that it did not act properly during the disaster, confessing in February that it announced the nuclear meltdowns far too late. It also stated in a 2012 report that it downplayed safety risks caused by the incident, out of fear that additional measures would lead to a shutdown of the plant and further fuel public anxiety and anti-nuclear campaigns.
Despite the ongoing problems encountered following the meltdowns, TEPCO has set 2020 as the goal for ending the plant’s water problem – an aim which critics say is far too optimistic.
However, the water problem is just part of the monumental challenges faced at the facility. Controlling and dismantling the plant is expected to take 40 years. Robots have been tasked with taking photos of the debris, as the radiation levels are too high for humans to complete the job.
The world has had 30 years to assess the consequences for life on Earth of the disaster at Chernobyl.
This is about the same period during which I have studied the effects of radioactive pollution on the planet. It was the radioactive rain in the mountains of North Wales, where I lived in 1986, that brought me into this strange Alice in Wonderland area of science, where people and children die, and the global authorities, advised by physicists, deny what would be obvious to a child at school.
Chernobyl was mentioned as the star that fell to earth in the Book of Revelations. You may laugh, and it may be a coincidence, but the impact of the event has certainly been of biblical proportions. It is a story about the imposition by reductionist science on humanity of a version of the truth constructed from mathematics, not the only one, but perhaps the most important, since it involves the systematic destruction of the genetic basis of life. It is a story of lies, secrecy, power, assassination and money: the vast amounts of money that would be lost if the truth came out.
Shortly after the murder in 1992 of the German Green Party leader and anti-nuclear activist Petra Kelly, the late Prof Ernest Sternglass (the first of the radiation scientist/ activists) told me that Kelly had just struck a deal with a German TV company to run a series demonstrating the true awfulness of the immediate effects of radiation. He said: if the truth came out, all the Uranium and the billions of dollars in Uranium shares would turn into sand. So something like a cover-up had to happen, and it did, continuing the process of chicanery and control of information that began with the nuclear weapons tests of the 50s and 60s. In 1959, as the genetic effects of the atmospheric tests became apparent, the control of the understanding of radiation and health was wrested from the World Health Organization (WHO) and passed to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The arguments about the health effects of Chernobyl have mostly centered on cancer. I won’t write much about cancer here. The study of radiation and cancer has many complications, including that the data is often suspect, the time lag between the cancer diagnosis and the original radiation exposure can be 20 years, in which time a lot can happen, introducing ammunition (and opportunity) for those denying causation. The predictions of the global cancer yield of the Chernobyl contamination has ranged from around a million (as predicted independently by the European Committee on Radiation Risk (ECRR), Rosalie Bertell, John Gofman and me, to about 600,000 (Alexey Yablokov), to less than a few thousand (the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), whose risk model is the current basis for all legal constraints on radioactive releases in Europe.
Cancer is caused by genetic damage but takes a while to show. More easily studied is the immediate and direct genetic damage, demonstrated in birth rates of congenital diseases, birth defects, fetal abnormalities, data which is easier to locate. The effects of a sudden increase in radioactive contamination are most easily seen in sudden increases in these indicators. You don’t have to wait 20 years. Out they come after nine months or in aborted fetuses with their heart and central nervous system defects, their lack of hands and feet, their huge hydrocephalic heads, their inside-out organs, their cleft palates, cyclops eyes and the whole range of dreadful and usually fatal conditions. There is no argument, and the affair is in the hands of doctors, not physicists. The physicists of the ICRP base their risk of genetic effects on experiments with mice.
I was in Kiev in 2000 at the WHO conference on Chernobyl. On the podium, conducting the theatricals, were the top men in the IAEA (Abel Gonzalez) and the United National Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), represented by Canadian Norman Gentner. No effects can be seen—Abel Gonzalez. Internal radiation is the same as external—Norman Gentner. Happily you can watch this farce as it was videotaped by a Swiss team.
So: cut to the chase, to the fatal assault on the edifice of the current ICRP radiation risk model. In January 2016 Prof Inge Schmitz Feuerhake, Dr Sebastian Pflugbeil and I published a major review paper on the genetic effects of radiation in the prestigious Korean peer-reviewed Journal of Environmental Health and Toxicology.
What the research shows is that in every corner of the ex-Soviet Union and Europe and even further afield where epidemiologists and pediatricians looked, there were large and statistically significant increases in congenital diseases at birth and in babies that were aborted.
The new article recalculates the genetic risk from radiation based upon reports from Germany, Turkey, Greece, Croatia, Egypt, Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Hungary, Italy, the UK, Scotland, Wales, indeed everywhere where anyone looked. There was a sudden jump in birth defects immediately following the contamination from Chernobyl and in proportion; but only up to the point where the exposure was so great the babies died in the womb or miscarried early in pregnancy. Thus, the relation between exposure level and effect was not a simple one where the birth defects increased with exposure: after a critical level of exposure they leveled off, or indeed fell. Also since contamination is still there, women are still giving birth to genetically damaged children some 30 years later. These results, published by many doctors, epidemiologists and researchers in many different journals, show that the effects occurred at levels of contamination that provided ‘doses’, that yardstick of radiation exposure invented by the ICRP, that were very low, often below the natural background dose.
It is worse: from research on the nuclear test site veterans’ grandchildren (also reviewed in the study) it is clear that these effects continue down the generations and will only disappear when an offspring dies without issue, and leaves the genome of the human race. And many will or already have done: since what causes genetic malformation in the infant, at a larger dose causes fetal death and infertility. No one can have failed to have noticed the increase in human infertility that has occurred since the radioactive contamination of the planet began in the 1950s. As ex- US Atomic Energy Commission scientists John Gofman wrote in 1981 “the nuclear industry is waging a war on humanity.”
How can it be possible that the legislative system has got it so wrong? The answer is also given in the paper. It is that the concept of ‘dose’ which may be convenient for the physicists as it is simple to compute, really does not address the situation where the substances that provide the dose are inside the body, often bound chemically to the DNA, which is the acknowledged target for all these genetic effects. It shows that the human genome (and of course that of all life) is exquisitely sensitive to radiation damage from such internal exposures, to Strontium-90, Plutonium-239, Uranium and particularly to the nano-particles containing these radioactive elements which were produced when the reactor No 4 blew apart.
The paper shows the studies of the Hiroshima bomb survivors, upon which the current unsafe radiation laws are based were faulty because the true comparison group, those not in the city at the time of the bombing, was abandoned when it began to look like there was a real effect. Was this stupidity? Was it a trick? Does someone have to go to jail?
Last month, Prof. Alexey Yablokov, Dr. Alex Rosen and I wrote to the editor of The Lancet, in a recorded delivery letter posted by the Independent WHO in Geneva, requesting space in that influential journal to draw attention to these truths and overturn the false and dangerous structures created by the physicists. Let us all hope that some good will finally come of the disaster—that the real legacy of Chernobyl will be the understanding of the true danger to health of radioactive pollution.
Note: The ECRR has focused on Chernobyl as a major data source for establishing the risk posed by radiation. It has concluded that the current ICRP model is in error by upwards of about 300-fold, for some types of internal exposures, by upwards of 1000-fold. This means that over the period of the radiation contamination, more than 60 million people have died from cancer as a result of the releases. This risk model is available on the website http://www.euradcom.org.
Christopher Busby is an expert on the health effects of ionizing radiation. He qualified in Chemical Physics at the Universities of London and Kent, and worked on the molecular physical chemistry of living cells for the Wellcome Foundation. Professor Busby is the Scientific Secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk based in Brussels and has edited many of its publications since its founding in 1998. He has held a number of honorary University positions, including Visiting Professor in the Faculty of Health of the University of Ulster. Busby currently lives in Riga, Latvia. See also: http://www.chrisbusbyexposed.org, http://www.greenaudit.org and http://www.llrc.org.
April 26 is the 30th anniversary of the reactor meltdown and radiation disaster at Chernobyl in Ukraine, which brings to mind cesium. Thirty years is how long it takes for half a given amount of cesium-137 — dispersed in huge quantities from Chernobyl (and Fukushima) — to decay into radioactive barium. This 30-year “half-life” means half of Chernobyl’s jettisoned cesium-137 is still around — over four million billion “Becquerels” in Europe alone, according to TORCH: The Other Report on Chernobyl. This cesium will persist in decreasing amounts in soil, water, and food for another 270 years.
Chernobyl’s two massive explosions and 40-day-long fire spewed thousands of tons of radioactive dust around the world. Maureen Hatch, writing in Oxford Journals March 30, 2005, reported that “contamination of the ground was found to some extent in every country in the Northern Hemisphere.” Yet it is not unusual for young people to know almost nothing about Chernobyl. Infants at the time may have ingested the dispersed poisons. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported May 17, 1986 that “since radiation from the Chernobyl nuclear accident began floating over Minnesota last week, low levels of radiation have been discovered in … the raw milk from a Minnesota dairy.”
The UN classifies Chernobyl and Fukushima as the worst environmental catastrophes in history; they are the only Level Seven radiation disasters ever to hit the top of its 0-to-7 scale. Like H-bomb tests of an earlier era, the four meltdowns are acts of unlimited, multi-generational ecological warfare: serial killers altogether hydrological, biological, psychological, economic, genetic, and agricultural. The number of illnesses, cancers and fatalities these radiation gushers have caused is unknown, but the plague of cancer ravaging the general population is obvious.
Ukraine’s abandonment standard better than Japan’s
Chernobyl saw the permanent evacuation of 350,000 from an 18-mile “exclusion zone” around the wreckage, and from hotspots in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. Japan is limiting its evacuation to 200,000 from within a 12-mile radius of Fukushima, even though cesium-137 was found 25 miles from the three meltdowns in amounts over twice the evacuation standard used at Chernobyl. Japanese surveyors found up to 3.7 million Becquerels-per-square-meter in the populated area. The abandonment standard used at Chernobyl was 1.48 million Bq/m2, according to the New York Times. The nuclear industry gets off lightly because hundreds of millions of hospital patients around the world cannot prove their illnesses came from a particular radiation exposure.
The most often-repeated fatality estimate is from the UN’s 2006 Chernobyl Forum, which reported “9,000 excess deaths for the most affected areas.” The study is regularly misreported as having identified “4,000 Chernobyl deaths,” and it’s been criticized for investigating only those fatalities expected in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine — although the majority of radioactive fallout was deposited outside those former Soviet republics.
Author Alexey Yablokov says, “There is no reasonable explanation for the fact that the [Chernobyl Forum] completely neglected the consequences of radioactive contamination in other countries, which received more than 50% of the Chernobyl radionuclides….” Yablokov’s book, Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment published by the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, estimates 985,000 Chernobyl deaths.
Alternately, Ukraine’s Minister of Health Andrei Serkyuk declared in 1995 that 125,000 Ukrainians had died from the effects of Chernobyl. Serkyuk said a large share of casualties were among children, pregnant women and rescue workers or “liquidators.” Liquidators were the soldiers, farmers, miners and factory workers conscripted to work removing and burying radioactive topsoil, debris and equipment from near the smashed reactor using inadequate protective gear or none at all. The Los Angeles Times reported in 1998 that “Russian officials estimated 10,000 Russian ‘liquidators’ died” and quoted health officers who said “close to 3,600 Ukrainians who took part in the cleanup effort have died of radiation exposure.” However, Ukrainian authorities said in 2009 that over 25,000 liquidators died getting the accident under control and constructing a concrete shield over the wreckage.
Everyone in the global north is subject to uninvited, unwelcome, dangerous radiation exposures caused by Chernobyl, Fukushima and routine reactor emissions. The industry treats everybody like liquidators, but has a snappier name for us. We’re called “sponges.”