Nuclear Hubris Reaches for the Stars – Updated August 2020

A rendering of Project Orion, a spacecraft proposed in the 1950s that would be propelled by a series of atomic explosions detonated behind the craft | Image credit: NASA/Rocket Rundown

From Trinity to Tokamak to Space, the Moon & Mars…
No Limits on Delusional Nuclear Ambition


The Atomic Age began with the Manhattan Project’s infamous Trinity nuclear bomb test 75 years ago, July 16, at Alamogordo, New Mexico.  The blast spewed plutonium over thousands of uninformed local native people, their water, fields and livestock.  Before the explosion U.S. scientists reportedly laid bets on whether or not their experiment the next day would destroy the planet. That ‘let’s just do it and see what happens’ attitude continues to characterize the pro-nuclear mindset as a new generation of nuclear true believers set their sights on the stars.  This article gives a sobering overview of that potentially catastrophic trajectory over the past 75 years and the continuing citizen push-back that opposes it.  It presents a scan of recent developments and concludes with videos of this year’s virtual, nation-wide grassroots Hiroshima and Nagasaki 75th. commemoration events.

By James Heddle and Mary Beth Brangan – EON

“Don’t worry about a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right.”  – Bob Marley


“Consensus Trance” – Term coined by psychologist Charles Tart – “a collective agreement not to let objective reality impinge on a shared belief system, generally more or less in agreement with the official narrative. “


Duopolistic Entrancement

Whatever their respective campaign talking points on nuclear energy and nuclear weapons issues, both the U.S. duopoly parties appear to be essentially pro-nuclear by default.

Having won the apparently ‘aspirationally awarded’ Nobel Peace Prize, Democrat Obama nevertheless went on to initiate the New Nuclear Arms Race for global full spectrum dominance, which the Trump Administration and the GOP are continuing in spades.

The Biden-Harris platform has ambiguously embraced a flaccid ‘all of the above’ energy policy and – aside from seeming to favor a rebooting of the Trump-scuttled Iran Nuclear Deal –are unlikely to ‘endanger America’ by eschewing a ‘no first use’ nuclear weapons position, or an end to the bi-partisan Obama/Trump trillion dollar new nukes development program.

Both parties, it appears are seriously victims of the ‘Consensus Nuclear Trance.’

According to no less an elite, oracular authority than Forbes Magazine, that puts both of them in sync – as shown by the following graphic – with the mass of the entranced U.S. population.

Young people overwhelmingly favor Democrats because of environment issues. Attitudes towards nuclear indicates a general favorability of all age groups, but males aged 18-34 have the highest approval at 73%. NEI

Young people overwhelmingly favor Democrats because of environment issues. Attitudes towards nuclear indicates a general favorability of all age groups, but males aged 18-34 have the highest approval at 73%. NEI

That makes a hard look at the consensus trance on nuclear issues all the more urgent and relevant.


 

Aerial view of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in San Luis Obispo County, California. Like … [+] AFP via Getty Images

Update:
After 48 Years, Democrats Endorse Nuclear Energy In Platform

It took five decades, but the Democratic Party has finally changed its stance on nuclear energy. In its recently released party platform, the Democrats say they favor a “technology-neutral” approach that includes “all zero-carbon technologies, including hydroelectric power, geothermal, existing and advanced nuclear, and carbon capture and storage.” 

That statement marks the first time since 1972 that the Democratic Party has said anything positive in its platform about nuclear energy. Read more…


Entranced – True Believers in the Church of Nukes Forever

Little did Bob Marley know (see epigraph above) that with his 1975 hit composition he was creating the perfect theme song for nuclear technocrats everywhere, who continue to share Tart’s consensus trance.

Few recognized that more clearly than the late S. David Freeman. In his decades-long career as a civil engineer in the nuclear industry – in the course of which he helped to close down more nuclear reactors than any other utility administrator – Freeman reached an outspoken opinion of  the prevailing pro-nuclear ideology he spent his life bucking.  

Back in 2012, not long after the still-ongoing Fukushima disaster started, in a lively interview with EON, laced with pithy statements, Freeman said, “You have to understand the nuclear industry and the people that run it. – and I say this advisedly – they have a religious belief in nuclear power. So facts don’t interfere. You know, religion is belief. They believe in nuclear power.  And so you’re up against folks that are not subject to just rational thought process because they have a belief in their technology that’s religious in nature.”

In Freeman’s view, “we got the final wake-up call at Fukushima … we need to phase out and shut down the 104 reactors in America. I will put it very bluntly,” he said.  “We need to kill them before they kill us.”

The late S. David Freeman – “I will be very blunt. We have to kill nuclear power before it kills us.” – EON photo.

A Coming Cascade of Shutdowns
In the years since 2011 a cascade of actual and scheduled reactor shutdowns has in fact begun across the country.
Beyond Nuclear reports that 9 reactors have been shuttered just since 2013, with at least 12 other shutdowns now scheduled.

In addition, several new reactor construction projects, are all uniformly beyond schedule and over budget.  Some have been abandoned, both here and abroad.  South Carolina’s $9 billion effort to build two nuclear reactors at the V.C. Summer site has been abandoned by the utilities SCE&G and Santee Cooper, leaving the public to pick up the tab for power they were forced to pay ahead for, but will never get.


The Intercept reports that “Documents released as the project unraveled show that both SCE&G and Santee Cooper were well aware of shortcomings, mismanagement, and lack of oversight that eventually made the reactors impossible to complete, years before Westinghouse declared bankruptcy and. both companies pulled out. Former NRC Chair Gregory Jaczko pointed out that “They were allowed to charge the customers for all the money that they spent, plus a return, even though they failed to deliver the project.”

Georgia Power’s Vogtle reactor construction project continues despite the fact that it is $1 billion over budget and behind schedule.  Government staff and monitors reported being “shocked”  at the  80% failure rate for new components installed at the site. ‘The components, when tested, “did not initially function properly and required some corrective action(s) to function as designed.”’

The most recent casualties abroad reports the Guardian, are “Toshiba abandoning its plans for Moorside in Cumbria and Hitachi scrapping its Wylfa plant on Anglesey. Wylfa’s death means a second Hitachi plant planned for Oldbury, Gloucestershire, is doomed, too.”

Nevertheless, the Chinese company CGN is forging ahead with its UK reactor construction project at Bradwell in Essex and China has announced its intention to build 6-8 new reactors per year between 2020 and 2025.

Artist’s impression of the planned nuclear power station at Bradwell, Essex. China’s CGN is accelerating work on the plant, hoping it will be online by 2030. Photograph: CGN/PA/Guardian

The  United Arab Emirates News Agency (WAM)  announced just days ago that the UAE has started operating the first nuclear power plant in the Arab World, built by a consortium led by the Korea Electric Power Corporation.  More nuclear plants are reportedly on order in Saudi Arabia.

The Barakah nuclear energy plant in Abu Dhabi. Photo: Twitter

Many years ago visionary energy analyst Amory Lovins quipped that the nuclear power industry was already beginning to die from, as he put it, “an overdose of market forces.” The ‘Black Swan’ Chinese and Arab examples to the contrary not withstanding, in most of the world his prediction seems now to be coming true in spades. The World Nuclear Industry Status Report, produced yearly by Paris-based energy consultant Mycle Schneider, indicates that globally, the nuclear industry’s situation continues to deteriorate.


Nefarious Nuclear Politics v. Terminal Market Forces
In this country, in response to mounting economic pressures, desperate nuclear utilities are resorting to nefarious methods to keep their aging, dysfunctional and money losing reactors running at the public’s expense.  The latest breaking scandal is in Ohio, where investigative reporters Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman were the first to report that “Ohio’s biggest-ever bribery case is rocking America’s reactor industry … and the fall election.”

Karl Grossman, Beyond Nuclear’s Linda Penze Gunter and others are reporting on the story.

The FBI has charged Republican speaker of the Ohio house of representatives Larry Householder with taking million in bribes. (photo: Columbus Dispatch)

At a press conference U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, David DeVillers described the case as the “largest bribery, money laundering scheme ever perpetrated against the people of Ohio.”  It’s a complex tale of GOP gerrymandering, electoral thuggery, dark money and political corruption that starkly validates Nader’s list of nuclear energy’s ‘uns.’ (Uneconomic; Unsafe; Un-insurable; Un-financeable without tax-payer subsidies; Un-democratic; and Un-protectable from disasters, natural or man-made.)

As Fitrakis and Wasserman outlined it in an article last November, “The Perry reactor east of Cleveland, and Davis-Besse near Toledo, are among the world’s most dangerous, decrepit reactors. Both were set to shut because they cannot compete with wind and solar, as well as fracked gas. But Akron-based FirstEnergy spent millions to ‘persuade’ the legislature to hand them a billion dollars to keep their un-competitive, uninsured and essentially unregulated reactors on line.”

Channeling ‘dark money from undisclosed donors through a non-profit front group called Generation Now, First Energy got several compliant legislators elected and helped Larry Householder become speaker of the Ohio House.  Then it bribed them to engineer the passage of billion dollar bail-out bill that forced Ohio tax-payers to shoulder the costs of keeping the two decrepit reactors and a pair of dirty coal-fired plants in operation.

The racketeering case being pursued against Householder and his co-conspirators may well get Ohio tax-payers off that billion dollar hook.  Says District Attorney DeVillers, “This is by no means over. We are going to continue with this investigation.”

But, whatever its outcome, the case illustrates to what lengths desperate nuclear true believers will go to keep their moribund industry alive.


Carl Grossman’s Enviro Close-Up



 #646 – Nuclear Corruption

Nuclear corruption is a major element in why and how deadly nuclear power plants exist in the United States. The U.S. Attorney’s Office and FBI have just charged the speaker of the Ohio House of Representative and four others in a $61 million scheme to use $1 billion in ratepayers’ money to keep two decrepit nuclear power plants operating. And this kind of situation is not limited to Ohio. Harvey Wasserman, co-author of “Killing Our Own: The disaster of America’s experience with atomic radiation,” and Bob Fitrakis, an attorney and editor of the Columbus Free Press early on were blowing the whistle in the Free Press about the nuclear corruption going on in Ohio. They detail the nuclear corruption—in Ohio and elsewhere—in this Enviro Close-Up. And they also in the program speak out about another form of corruption—Trump’s effort to steal the 2020 election, a move which both are deeply involved in fighting. Fitrakis warns of the possibility of a “coup in the fall” involving Trump and the presidential election.



“The Federal Trash Man Never Came”
Even if all aged U.S. reactors were to be shut down tomorrow, their lethal legacy would still loom over this and  all future generations in. the form of the tons of lethally radioactive waste accumulated at each reactor site from decades of operation.  It is waste that will remain deadly to all lifeforms for millions of years, and for which there is no known method of isolating from the environment for longer than human civilization has yet existed.

Despite decades of trying and billions in expenditures, the federal government has never succeeded in keeping its promise of taking possession of all the waste from all the country’s commercial reactors and moving it to a central government repository.

David Freeman put the issue this way in his trademark pithy style, “It’s not just the nuclear reactor itself but all of the spent fuel, all of the nuclear trash that has piled up for 30 years. People don’t realize the trash man, the federal trash man, never came, and if you can imagine in your backyard your trash piling up for 30 years, that’s the situation at just about every one of these nuclear power plants. But it’s especially dangerous at (California’s)] San Onofre and Diablo Canyon because these are plants that are near earthquake faults.”



Both nuclear plants Freeman presciently mentioned remain in the news nearly a decade later. Our updates on San Onofre and related news are here and here.

Freeman himself helped broker a deal between some citizen groups and Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) in which the utility is allowed to continue operating Diablo’s two reactors until 2024 and 2025 respectively. Safety advocates are alarmed that the aged, embrittled
reactors are being allowed to run without inspection.  Their legitimate fears seem to have been born out on July 17 when the plant’s Unit 2 reactor had to be ‘scrammed’ or manually shut down because of what was termed ‘increased hydrogen usage.’ The implications of that event are unclear at this writing, though reported local rumor has it that ‘corroded pipes’ are involved. The reactor is reportedly scheduled for restart shortly to complete its remaining years of operation, despite local opposition.  Once the reactors hopefully make it to shutdown without serious incident, the waste will remain stranded on-site indefinitely.


Painting: “Meltdown At Diablo” – ArtOfMarkBryan.com

Devil in the Details – Non-Enforcement of Regulations is a Subsidy
Edwin Lyman @NukSafetyUCS reports :
“The Diablo Canyon 2 #nuclear reactor was shutdown on July 23 because of an auxiliary feedwater system leak, and pipe corrosion was found. Now PG&E is requesting an emergency license amendment to inspect the same system at Unit 1 without shutting it down.

Pacific Gas and Electric is seeking an exemption to requirements in its NRC operating license by retroactively changing the license. If allowed by NRC officials, that will permit the notorious, bankrupt utility to continue operating its two aged, embrittled reactors to produce unneeded, over-priced power until their respective shutdown dates of 2024 and 2025.  It would effectively constitute a subsidy to PG&E for  $7 billion in cost overruns set to be charged to CA ratepayers, including CCAs.


Radioactive Rubble – A Corollary
Conundrum
Another fundamental fly in the nuclear energy ointment is the fact that
nuclear power reactors generate nuclear waste throughout their entire operating lives…and then the reactors themselves become nuclear waste.

Once a reactor is finally shut down or ‘decommissioned,’ another problem beside the stranded on-site waste issue arises – what to do with the radiation-emitting wreckage created by the plant’s demolition? 

As more nuclear plants close in coming months and years, that will generate a staggering amount of radioactively hot rubble to deal with.  Current trash disposal rules don’t allow dumping radioactive materials into existing landfill sites and, as noted, there’s no central federal nuclear waste repository.

So the corporate geniuses who run the industry and its captive, ever-compliant Nuclear Regulatory Commission have come up with a bold plan, mind-boggling in its simplicity: just ‘reinterpret’ the regulations governing radioactive waste.

Nuclear waste stored in underground containers at the Idaho National Laboratory near Idaho Falls. Low-level radioactive waste is primarily disposed of in highly regulated sites. Photograph: Keith Ridler/AP

The NRC’s proposal –  permitting “very low-level” radioactive waste to be disposed in regular landfills rather than licensed nuclear waste facilities where there are trained personnel and requirements for handling the waste –  has sparked outraged opposition from groups like the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) and the Committee to Bridge the Gap (CBG).

Dan Hirsch, president of CBG, and the former director of the University of California, Santa Cruz’s Program on Environmental and Nuclear Policy states,  “This would be the most massive deregulation of radioactive waste in American history.” Hirsch explains,  “What they’re trying to do is prop up a failing industry so that the cost of decommissioning these (nuclear) reactors is reduced so you don’t have to send it to a place that is expensive because it’s designed to safely handle it.”

The NIRS website reminds us, “U.S. nuclear promoters and ‘regulators’ have tried to get the public to agree to deregulation of radioactive waste dozens of times since the beginning of the Atomic Age. Their goal has been to shield the nuclear industry, the NRC, and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) against the enormous expense, responsibility, and liability that comes with protecting public health and safety, the environment, and the genetic health of all future generations of all species from these dangerous radioactive wastes. Each time, the U.S. public soundly defeated every known attempt to deregulate radioactive wastes.”

NIRS goes on to explain, “The term ‘low-level’ radioactive waste is deceptive and can mean very high risk to humans and other life. Very small amounts of radioactive substances can do great, irreversible damage to the health of humans and Earth’s ecosystems. For example, plutonium remains hazardous for a quarter to a half million years. John Gofman MD, PhD, a Manhattan Project scientist and former Director of Biomedical Research at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, stated that even one-millionth of a gram of plutonium inhaled into the lung, will cause lung cancer within 20 years. Women and children are more susceptible to health impacts than men, who are also at risk.”

NIRS’ analysis of the NRC’s proposal shows that, “This back-door deregulation could lead to contaminated scrap metal, concrete, asphalt, wood, plastics, soil and other contaminated items and materials getting into our recycled materials supply, our communities, and our homes. Once at a municipal landfill, there will be nothing to designate these materials as radioactive. There is nothing to protect people who collect or recycle “found” materials at dumps from taking VLLW -so-called “very low level waste” contaminated materials – especially if a landfill fails to detect materials contaminated with dangerous and long-lived alpha-emitters. Gamma detecting scanners used at landfills cannot detect alpha or beta radiation. Landfills with methane burners may release tritium and other radioactive substances into the air.”  Radioactivity is likely to leach into surrounding waterways.

To take action on this issue:


Weapons Waste – Giving New Mexico the Shaft…Again

Waste isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico – Image: DOE

Of course, nuclear energy production is not the only source of deadly, long-lived radioactive waste; the other is nuclear weapons production.

As the site of Trinity, the first atomic bomb test, the subsequent massive contamination of people and environment from uranium mining, and now (with Texas) one of the two target state for proposed Consolidated Interim Storage (CIS) for stranded commercial waste, New Mexico, with its Native American and Hispanic populations, has more than its share of nuclear afflictions. Adding to its radioactive woes from hosting Los Alamos and Sandia National Labs and their  immense radioactive pollution, the state is also the location of the Waste isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), DOE’s dump site for long-lived intermediate-level waste from the US nuclear weapons program. WIPP houses more than 171,000 waste containers stored in salt caverns 2,100 feet underground.

Constructed during the 1980s, and touted as the first and most secure permanent deep geological radioactive storage facility, WIPP was predicted to remain safe for thousands of years. In February of 2014, that myth was vaporized in little more than 2 decades of the dump’s operation. First an underground fire forced a worker evacuation. Then, a few days later, a chemical reaction in one of the waste barrels DOE calls a ‘deflagration’ which destroyed the container and, as one report tells it, “spread contaminants through more than 3,000 feet of tunnels, up the exhaust shaft, into the environment, and to an air monitoring approximately 3,000 feet north-west of the exhaust shaft.1 The accident resulted in 22 workers receiving low-level internal radiation exposure.”  Americium was reportedly detected all the way in nearby Carlsbad, NM.

Long shut down for repairs, the WIPP facility is now again in the news with citizen watchdog groups – including the Southwest Research and Information Center, Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, and Citizens for Alternatives to Radioactive Dumping –having discovered that DOE is quietly constructing a whole new deep storage shaft without following required procedures of public disclosure discussion. The clandestine project will be carried out with U.S. taxpayer funding, which makes it an issue of national concern.

Stealth Project -New Mexico underground – Image DOE

As Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear and Don’t Waste Michigan explains in a recent e-mail, “Also national in scope is the inherently high-risk transport element, with plutonium and other transuranic (TRU) contaminated waste shipments from DOE nuclear weapons complex sites, bound for WIPP, NM, coming from as far away as Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State, and Savannah River Site in South Carolina, passing through a large number of states in between.”

Kamps goes on to explain, “Of course, the two high-level radioactive waste CIS facilities targeted at the very same local area as WIPP (Holtec International/Eddy Lea Energy Alliance’s, and Interim Storage Partners’, at Waste Control Specialists, just over the border in Texas) compound the environmental injustice, as well as the transport risks.”

Folks are urged to give DOE their comments; Ricardo.Maestas@state.nm.us

For a sample comment, click this link:  Sample Comment 

For more infor: http://nuclearactive.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/WIPP-Timeline_Final.pdf



Nuclear Pie-in-the-Sky Debunked

One of the most ubiquitous of new nukes true believers is self-styled ‘eco-modernist’ Michael ShallenbergerIn a recent New York Post article he warns that a reported deal between China and Saudi Arabia that will help the Kingdom set up a facility to produce uranium “yellowcake” from uranium ore means that the US nuclear industry is in danger of loosing its nuclear ‘leadership to China and Russia.  A skilled self-promoter with apparent deep pocket funding, Shallenberger has recently published an ardently pro-nuclear book with the confidently upbeat title Apocalypse NeverHis consistently Pollyanna message for years has been that ‘advanced’ forms of nuclear energy production are the both necessary and sufficient solution to carbon-induced climate change.

A recent review of his book by Amy Westervelt on DrilledNews.com elicited a storm of immediate debunking feedback from a number of sources, not the least of which was Rocky Mountain Institute’s chairman and chief scientist, arch renewable energy magus Amory Lovins. 

Lovins writes, “You and Michael Shellenberger both omitted nuclear power’s economics and its climate implications. Citing his own 2019 essay in Forbes, Lovins goes on, “In fact, building new reactors, or operating most existing ones, makes climate change worse compared with spending the same money on more-climate-effective ways to deliver the same energy services. Those who state as fact that rejecting (more precisely, declining to bail out) nuclear energy would make carbon reduction much harder are in good company, but are mistaken.”

Lovins’ excerpt from his own Forbes essay continues, “To check that claim, we must compare nuclear power with other potential climate solutions. What criteria should we use? Here I’ll use only two — cost and speed — because if nuclear power has no business case or takes too long, we need not address its other merits or drawbacks.

“Most analysts ignore common-sense comparisons of both cost and speed. The result is akin to arguing that since people are hungry, hunger is urgent, and caviar and rice are both food, therefore both are vital to reducing hunger. Since in reality money and time are both limited, our priorities in feeding people or in providing energy services must be informed by relative cost and speed. Lower cost saves more carbon per dollar. Faster deployment saves more carbon per year. We need both.”

Lovins concludes, “The bedrock economic principle of “opportunity cost” means you can’t spend the same money on two different things at the same time. Each purchase foregoes others. Buying nuclear power displaces buying some mixture of fossil-fueled generation, renewable generation, and efficient use.”

Noting Shallenberg’s ‘poor scholarship’ tendency to “cherry pick his sources to reinforce his arguments,” another critic, Dr. David Lowry, senior international research fellow at the Institute for Resource and Security Studies, cites a newly-completed chapter of the forthcoming book “100% Clean, Renewable Energy and Storage for Everything,” by Stanford’s Mark Jacobson.

Dr. Lowry writes,  “In the chapter, ‘Evaluation of Nuclear Power as a Proposed Solution to Global Warming, Air Pollution, and Energy Security,’ Dr. Jacobson argues cogently, “There is no such thing as a zero- or close-to-zero emission nuclear power plant. Even existing plants emit due to the continuous mining and refining of uranium needed for the plant. However, all plants also emit 4.4 g-CO2e/kWh from the water vapor and heat they release. This contrasts with solar panels and wind turbines, which reduce heat or water vapor fluxes to the air by about 2.2 g-CO2e/kWh for a net difference from this factor alone of 6.6 g-CO2e/kWh…[O]verall emissions from new nuclear are 78 to178g of CO2/kWH, not close to 0.”

Nevertheless, the mistaken meme of ‘clean’ nuclear power persists at the highest levels of decision-making.


Small is Unlikely to be Beautiful – INL Aims to Get the ‘JUMP’ on New Nukes

Oklo Inc. is hoping to build a commercial microreactor using Idaho National Laborator (INL) reprocessed nuclear waste material as fuel.  Conceptual graphic shows sloping roof for snow load, side panels for solar power(?).

As the cases of San Onofre and Diablo epitomize, the national radioactive waste conundrum is currently far from being solved – or even rationally and honestly confronted – by industry and government policy-makers.  It is only likely to be made worse by the creation of the new generations of nuclear reactors now being called for as a ‘clean’ energy solution to climate change.

Nevertheless, the corporate and government quest for the so-far mythical beasts known as micro-reactors – which would generate less than 10 megawatts (MW) – and small modular reactors (SMRs) – planned to output 60-300 MW – continues apace both here and around the world.

The Idaho National Laboratory has recently moved to become home to both types of new experimental mini-nukes. 

One is the proposed Oklo Aurora microreactor  (pictured above) which will be the first to use so-called HALEU (high-assay, low-enriched uranium), i.e., reprocessed nuclear fuel.

The other is the NuScale small nuclear reactor (pictured below), a joint project of the U.S. Department of Energy, a local group called the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) and NuScale Power to develop the Joint Use Modular Plant (JUMP). It is part of the  Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP).  According to the report, “The CFPP plant will consist of 12 independent NuScale small modular reactors (SMRs) in a shared pool. These SMRs – 60 megawatts electric each – will be constructed offsite and shipped to the plant located in the desert west of Idaho Falls.”

Rendering of NuScale small nuclear reactor power plant planed to be build at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). Graphic: NuScale Power

 


“lingering technical issues” for NuScale & INL’s SMRs

Passive safety?

“Normally, convection circulates water—laced with boron to tune the nuclear reaction—through the core of NuScale’s reactor (left). If the reactor overheats, it shuts down and valves release steam into the containment vessel, where it conducts heat to a surrounding pool and condenses (center). The water flows back into the core, keeping it safely submerged (right). But the condensed water can be low in boron, and reviewers worried it could cause the reactor to spring back to life.”

 

Construction of NuScale’s proposed small reactor design at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) depends on DOE contributing $1.4 billion to the cost of the plant. Graphic: Science

An article in Science by Adrian Cho reports that “NuScale’s likely first customer, Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS), has delayed plans to build a NuScale plant, which would include a dozen of the reactors, at the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Idaho National Laboratory. The $6.1 billion plant would now be completed by 2030, 3 years later than previously planned”

The delay is typical of the stumbling blocks, both technical and regulatory faced by allegedly “walk-away safe” SMRs now on the drawing boards.

NuScale claims its reactors will be so safe that it is asking the NRC to let its plants operate without the standard 32-kilometer-wide emergency planning zone. Bad idea, say expert critics.

 “I don’t think these things are show-stoppers,” says Michael Corradini, a nuclear engineer at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.  That assessment is shared by M. V. Ramana, a physicist at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. Ramana says the company has oversold the claim that its SMRs are “walk-away safe.” “They have given you the standard by which to evaluate them and they’re failing,”

Edwin Lyman, a physicist with the Union of Concerned Scientists says, “This is a case of the public relations driving the science instead of the other way around.”   The program director for the environmental group Uranium Watch,  questions NuScale’s request to operate without an emergency planning zone.  “That’s a crazy thing to do for a reactor design that’s totally new and with which you have no operating experience.”

Just one more example of the ‘consensus nuclear trance’ in operation?

Read More

[ Editors’ note: As of 8-20-2020, looks like at least one of the towns participating in the project has awakened from the trance.  Activist emails report: “According to Holly Daines, Logan Mayor, Logan voted last night to withdraw from

the UAMPS SMR project.” ]

 


‘Power Balls” – Hope Springs Eternal in the Nuclear True Believer’s Breast

Nuclear power balls – Courtesy of X Energy/Wired

“Nuclear ‘Power Balls’ May Make Meltdowns a Thing of the Past” gushed the headline of a Wired story touting yet another nuclear industry wet dream.  According to the story, the new approach features “Millions of submillimeter-size grains of uranium individually wrapped in protective shells.”  Called “triso fuel,” –  a contraction of  “tristructural isotropic,”  the fuel “is made from a mixture of low enriched uranium and oxygen, and it is surrounded by three alternating layers of graphite and a ceramic called silicon carbide. Each particle is smaller than a poppy seed, but its layered shell can protect the uranium inside from melting under even the most extreme conditions that could occur in a reactor.” Its designers claim it will be ‘meltdown proof,” but, as the NIRS website observed some time ago, “Every new type of reactor introduced throughout history has been costlier, slower, and more difficult to produce than projected. Further proving our money and resources would be better spent on developing greater energy efficiency and affordable, safe renewable energy sources that are available now.”


 

The first piece of the Iter tokamak being lowered into place. The entire reactor will weight 23,000 tonnes. Photograph: EJF Riche/Iter/Guardian



Tokamak – Putting the Sun in a Bottle
Another seemingly perpetual nuclear unicorn quest is the pursuit of fusion, not blowing atoms apart, but forcing them together, like what happens in the sun.  France has announced its push to demonstrate that ‘clean’ fusion power can be produced at a profitable commercial scale.  It is spending 20 billion euros to build a 23,000 tonne tokamak fusion reactor billed as “the most complex engineering endeavor in history.”

According to Wikipedia, “A tokamak is a device which uses a powerful magnetic field to confine a hot plasma in the shape of a torus. The tokamak is one of several types of magnetic confinement devices being developed to produce controlled thermonuclear fusion power. As of 2016, it is the leading candidate for a practical fusion reactor.”

France has announced its start of a five-year assembly phase of its own tokamak which will be the world’s largest nuclear fusion project. It plans to generate the first ultra-hot plasma by late 2025. Called the Iter, the fusion reactor has been in the works since 1985, but has experienced many delays. As one official describes the project, it is,  “Constructing the machine piece-by-piece will be like assembling a three-dimensional puzzle on an intricate timeline [and] with the precision of a Swiss watch.” Designed to “replicate the reactions that power the sun,” the Iter will employ “almost 3,000 tonnes of superconducting magnets, some heavier than a jumbo jet, will be connected by 200km of superconducting cables, all kept at -269C by the world’s largest cryogenic plant.”


A Guardian report explains that the device will generate “a temperature of 150m C, 10 times hotter than the core of the sun. The hydrogen fuel is obtained from seawater and just a few grammes is needed but huge magnets are needed to contain the plasma in doughnut-shaped vacuum chamber.”  When up and running, says the report, the device will “use a significant amount of electrical energy … to power the magnets and scientific instruments.”

Not answered in the Guardian’s gushing coverage, is the question of where is all that electrical energy going to come from to keep that sun in its bottle, and what happens that power source fails?  Seems like the French are risking getting one hellova sunburn.


Deep Fried Shrimp – Pollute and Push On

Radioactive carbon-14 from Atom bomb tests in the 1940s and 50s has been found in crustaceans living in the Mariana Trench, one of the most inaccessible environments on Earth. Credit: Daiju Azuma Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.5).

The Scientific American reports that scientists have found radioactive ‘bomb carbon’ contamination in shrimp-like creatures living 70 miles down in the Mariana Trench, in the western Pacific Ocean between Japan and Papua New Guinea.  American and French atmospheric nuclear bomb tests in the Pacific are the likely source.

“A very small amount of the “bomb carbon” from these gigantic explosions has decayed,” says the article,  “but the rest has spread around the world and been taken up via carbon dioxide by plants, which are then eaten by animals—including humans.”

The piece goes on to report that “Other studies conducted around the world have also recently identified the residue of the weapons tests of the mid-20th century—as well as the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters—in mountain glaciers, another landscape often considered pristine and remote.”

“Worse still,” it notes, “the fallout locked in glaciers includes more worrisome radioactive elements (such as americium-241, a product of the decay of plutonium)—and could be released as the world warms and the ice thaws.”

Polish scientist Edyta Lokas ominously observes, ““The legacy of radioactive contamination will be felt by many generations ahead.”



Off-World Ambitions – Onward to the Stars!

Where will they get the cooling water? Jus’ ask’n.

But, permanently pissing in the terrestrial gene pool and putting the sun in a man-made bottle, are only two examples of the Church of Nukes Forever’s boundless hubris.

According to recent reports [for example here and here] the U.S. Department of Energy has announced that it wants the private sector to build nuclear power plants designed to create a supportive environment for humans in space.

Not to be satisfied with irreversibly contaminating our home planet, nuclear zealots have set their sights on outer space and beyond.

Trump’s U.S. Space Force will be needing orbiting nuclear reactors to ensure its full spectrum dominance of earth, and no less reputable a news source than Fox News
reports “US eyes building nuclear power plants for moon and Mars.”
Watch this excellent 5 min. video Trump Signs Executive Order to Mine the Moon.  The Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space reports regularly on all aspects of this unfolding disaster that requires
massive taxpayer spending while our health system languishes in a pandemic.  Bruce Gagnon, Coordinator of the Global
Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space says “The weapons industry views space as a new market; the nuclear industry views space as a new market and they’re trying to create this new arms race that they say will be the largest industrial project in the history of the planet.”

A rendering of Project Orion, a spacecraft proposed in the 1950s that would be propelled by a series of atomic explosions detonated behind the craft | Image credit: NASA/Rocket Rundown

Last August, just after Trump changed U.S. policy on the “use of nuclear systems for both commercial and government spacecraft,” an article on the Rocket Rundown website reported “The United States has revised policy to allow the launch of spacecraft that utilize nuclear-powered systems.”

“Our primary objective here is to ensure that rigorous and effective nuclear safety analysis and reviews are conducted prior to the launch of any space nuclear system,” said Kelvin Droegemeier, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.


Meanwhile, Back Down Here on Earth – the Runit Dome in the Marshall Islands is an Oozing  Monument to Irresponsible U.S. Nuclear Hubris

Graffiti in May 2018 is written on Runit Dome, in Enewetak Atoll of the Marshall Islands, urging the United States to take responsibility for the radioactive waste encapsulated inside the leaking concrete structure. The U.S. government paid a contractor to remove the graffiti from the dome’s surface. (Mika Makelainen / Yle)

Outspoken Hawaii Democratic Congress woman Tulsi Gabbard is disputing a recent Department of Energy (DoE) report making the on-its-face absurdly false claim that a leaking U.S. nuclear waste repository in the Marshall Islands is safe for island residents already genetically damaged by American nuclear bomb tests in the 50’s and 60’s.

The L.A. Times reports that Rep. Gabbard is calling for the DoE to convene a more independent assessment of the waste site. “I think it’s time the Department of Energy relied on someone with fresh eyes to examine the situation,” Gabbard said.

The Congresswoman’s laudable stand is helping stimulate long over-due renewed public attention to America’s  many nuclear ‘crimes against humanity ‘ and against our common biosphere.


The Real ‘Nuclear Triad’ – Energy, Weapons and Waste – Joined at the Hip From Birth

Former Obama Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz now touts maintaining U.S. commercial nuclear industry and infrastructure as a vital support for nuclear weapons development.  Getty Images

Ever since the days of Eisenhower’s successful “Atoms for Peace” propaganda campaign, nuclear energy fundamentalists have been at pains to play down or flat-out deny any important connection between “peaceful” commercial nuclear power generation and the production of nuclear weapons of mass destruction. Now that the ‘peaceful atom’ is afflicted with the existential threat of terminal market forces, that public relations messaging strategy has changed.

The point man for this 180-degree messaging shift is former Obama Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who now serves as CEO of an organization ambiguously named the Nuclear Threat Initiative. The new psy-op meme now being promoted is that the U.S. needs to maintain a robust commercial energy sector, a trained, young labor force, and an up-to-date national infrastructure in order to support ‘national security’ – i.e. prop up the sprawling U.S. nuclear weapons production complex and ensure continued America’s primacy in its self-created New Global Nuclear Arms Race.


Awakening from the Consensus Trance
Ralph Nader – who helped spark the anti-nuclear movement way back in 1974 with the founding of the Critical Mass Energy Project  – summarized the many drawbacks of nuclear power in a 2014 interview: “In the early ’70s, the Atomic Energy Commission, which was promotional of the atomic power industry as well as supposedly a regulator, estimated that there would be 1,000 nuclear plants in the United States by the year 2000, 100 of them up and down the coast of California. Well, of course that never happened, and there are less than 100 operating today in the entire United States, and there hasn’t been an order for a nuclear plant fulfilled into operational mode since the early ’70s. Why?”

Life-long nuclear safety advocate Ralph Nader is fond of listing the many ‘uns’ of nuclear power: Uneconomic; Unsafe; Un-insurable; Un-financeable without tax-payer subsidies; Un-democratic; and Un-protectable from disasters, natural or man-made. – EON photo.

Nader went on to answer his own rhetorical question, “It can all be summarized in the following sentence, which has ample documentation. Nuclear energy is unnecessary. It is uneconomic; it is unsafe; it is un-insureable without government guarantees; it is unable to be financed by Wall Street without the taxpayer guarantee in it through Uncle Sam; it is un-democratic because it’s so secretive and it restricts engagement by citizens whose environment is exposed to a proposed operating nuclear plant; and it is unable to be protected from a catastrophic, deliberate sabotage. Otherwise,” Nader conceded, “the heating towers are very artistically shaped.”


No Separation Between Nuclear Church and State
Few Californians are aware that Livermore Laboratory – long run by the University of California – is a major plexus point in the vast U.S. nuclear weapons design and production complex. 

Located just east of San Francisco in upscale Livermore, the Lab’s website has humbly billed it as “The Smartest Place in the World.” Its a key epicenter in the country’s billion dollar push to ‘win’ the New Nuclear Arms Race, which it has itself started.  This, despite 122 other nations that in July 2017 signed on to the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), or the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty aimed at becoming the  outlawing the building, possession or even threatened use of nuclear weapons.  Now in the process of being ratified by nations around the world, the TPNW aims to be the first legally binding international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons, with the goal of leading towards their total elimination.

Each year in August, for over a decade now, nuclear disarmament advocates have rallied outside the Gates of the Livermore Lab to commemorate America’ atomic massacres at Hiroshima and Nagasaki by staging a die-in on the tarmac and risk arrest to protest the Lab’s continued pursuit of ever new generations of nuclear weapons.  The yearly event is organized by the local organization Tri-Valley CARES, and regularly features a keynote address by legendary Pentagon Papers whistleblower Danial Ellsberg.

This year the Covid lockdown has made a virtual demonstration necessary. 

We feel there’s no more appropriate way to conclude and tie together this article on resistance to rampant nuclear madness than to offer these archived videos of this year’s inspiring, empowering,  coordinated grassroots events around the country – beginning with the Livermore action.

#StillHere: 75 Years of Shared Nuclear Legacy, August 6

#StillHere: 75 Years of Shared Nuclear Legacy, August 9.


James Heddle and Mary Beth Brangan Co-Direct EON, the Ecological Options Network. The EON feature documentary SHUTDOWN which they are producing with co-director and editor Morgan Peterson is now nearing completion for release later this year.  EON is a 501 (c) 3 organization. You can support their work by making a tax-exempt donation here.

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