Archive for the ‘Nuclear disaster’ Category

TV: Hundreds of tons of water in contact with melted nuclear fuel have now flooded basements at Fukushima plant — Nearly 10 Trillion Bq of Cesium — Concentration of strontium-90 and other radioactive materials not reported (VIDEO)

April 15, 2014

Latest Headlines from ENENews


TV: Hundreds of tons of water in contact with melted nuclear fuel have now flooded basements at Fukushima plant — Nearly 10 Trillion Bq of Cesium — Concentration of strontium-90 and other radioactive materials not reported (VIDEO)

Posted: 14 Apr 2014 01:35 AM PDT

Fairewinds Video: ‘Anomalies’ in plants and animals documented by Fukushima residents, some severely deformed — Scientists: Genetic mutations observed in Fukushima include trees with peculiar distortions, insect abnormalities, tumors in birds, more (PHOTO)

Posted: 13 Apr 2014 01:39 PM PDT

Quake hits just off Fukushima plant, felt along 500 kilometer stretch of Japan coast — Seismic intensity of 4 on scale up to 7 — Camera shakes for about 1 minute (VIDEO)

Posted: 13 Apr 2014 09:47 AM PDT

New radioactive leak reported at Fukushima on Sunday — Previous leak admitted to be “far more toxic” than public told — Over 80 trillion becquerels flowed into Pacific, unspecified amount of “nuclear fuel material” — Already rated an INES ‘Level 3′ incident using the much lower incorrect figures

Posted: 13 Apr 2014 07:06 AM PDT

TV: Gov’t not measuring worst of Fukushima radiation — Over 100 Million gallons of radioactive water bleeding into ocean from plant — We’re beginning to see radiation in west coast water — Very concerned about eating fish from Pacific (VIDEO)

April 4, 2014

Published: April 1st, 2014 at 1:36 pm ET
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Interview with Fairewinds’ Chief Engineer Arnie Gundersen on Al Jazeera, Mar. 27, 2014:

At 1:00 in

  • They’re not really measuring the worst of the radiation. What we’re finding are very, very small microscopic particles that are lodging in people’s lungs. The Japanese government is not taking that exposure into effect. The health consequences within 20km and 30km are really significant and will be for decades. [...] They are really forcing them to move in, because they’re taking away the money that they have been receiving to live remotely. The only way they can continue to be on a stipend is to come back in to that radiation. So it’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation.

At 3:00 in

  • You run the risk of destroying the fabric of a country — it happened at Chernobyl and it’s happening right now in Japan. [...] The nuclear plant on the Japanese side of the Pacific is bleeding radiation into the Pacific every day. About 400 tons of radioactive water every day for over 1,000 days now [105,668,000 gallons], has been pouring in to the Pacific. […] We are beginning to see low levels of radiation in the water […] Until our government, whether it’s states or national government, tell me what’s in the fish, I remain very concerned about eating the fish that are coming from the Pacific.

Watch the broadcast here

Published: April 1st, 2014 at 1:36 pm ET
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Related Posts

  1. Gundersen: Ocean already contaminated from deluge of Fukushima toxic water — Will stop eating fish from west coast — Cesium at 1,000% normal levels in middle of Pacific August 23, 2013
  2. Gundersen: I’m now not eating Pacific Ocean fish — Bio-accumulation of Fukushima nuclear waste concerning — Effects of lower-level radiation worse than predicted (VIDEO) January 9, 2014
  3. Expert: People on West Coast right to be concerned about Fukushima plume — Things “could get much worse” — Lots of radioactivity flowing into ocean — Gov’t not testing water or fish (AUDIO) December 1, 2013
  4. Fox News: So many people are concerned about eating Fukushima radioactive waste — Bloomberg: Radiation will be washing up on West Coast; Includes cesium, one of the “most dangerous radionuclides” released (VIDEO) February 3, 2014
  5. Senior Scientist: Fukushima radiation already on West Coast of N. America — We don’t know how much is coming or how fast it’s moving, situation ‘evolving’ — Levels will continue to rise for years — Unprecedented event for Pacific, largest ever radioactive release into ocean (VIDEO) January 15, 2014

Foreign reporters find radiation levels over 100 times legal limit off Fukushima — Captain: Radioactive releases “may last until end of the Earth” — “Deep sense of dread set in… Stop, don’t go any closer!” — “World deserves honest assessment of the disaster” — “A worst-case scenario come to life” (VIDEO)

April 3, 2014

Latest Headlines from ENENews


Award-winning project finds seafood sold in Canada with high radiation levels — Many samples well over contamination limit — “Incredible discovery; Something unexpected may be lurking in Canadian waters” — Believes dangerous Fukushima pollution carried across ocean — “I hope people will open their eyes”

Posted: 02 Apr 2014 03:32 PM PDT

Foreign reporters find radiation levels over 100 times legal limit off Fukushima — Captain: Radioactive releases “may last until end of the Earth” — “Deep sense of dread set in… Stop, don’t go any closer!” — “World deserves honest assessment of the disaster” — “A worst-case scenario come to life” (VIDEO)

Posted: 02 Apr 2014 11:10 AM PDT

TV: Massive M8.2 quake in Eastern Pacific triggers tsunami — NHK: Fukushima plant cancels work, cooling pumps and emergency generators moved to higher ground — Agency warns high waves could reach Japan early tomorrow (VIDEO)

Posted: 02 Apr 2014 09:51 AM PDT

The Nuclear Omnicide 

April 1, 2014

By Harvey Wasserman —
We’ve always been worried about the safety of humans, but evidence shows that nuclear disasters, from Three Mile Island to Fukushima, have put the whole global ecosystem at risk.

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_nuclear_omnicide_20140401

US Nuclear Waste Dirty-Bombs New Mexico With Plutonium

March 31, 2014

WIPP is the third deepest geological storage site in the world, behind two facilities in German. (photo: AP)
WIPP is the third deepest geological storage site in the world, behind two facilities in German. (photo: AP)

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

30 March 14

 

Radiation from a half-mile underground reaches atmosphere.

t was Valentine’s Day when the nation’s only radioactive nuclear waste facility first released radioactive particles including Plutonium and Americium into the atmosphere of New Mexicoand beyond, including into Texas, Oklahoma, and Mexico. Earlier that same day, the New Mexico Environment Department opened the public comment period on an application to modify and expand that nuclear waste facility, which the department said it planned to allow.

The first thing the U.S. government and the government contractor charged with running the supposedly secure radioactive waste project immediately did, when faced with the first-time-ever release of radioactivity from the underground site, was not tell anyone anything. They told no one the truth for four days, even though the truth didn’t seem all that bad, as such things go. Unless contradictory data emerged, this would seem to be a brief release of a relatively small amount of very dangerous isotopes from nuclear weapons waste stored half a mile underground in a salt deposit. While the full scope of the release remains unknown weeks later, it seems clear that this was no Fukushima, except for the operators’ default to instant deceit.

The next day, February 15, 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy, which is responsible for the project, issued “Event News Release No. 1,” a reassuring press release about “a radiological event” (not further defined), misleadingly stating that “a continuous air monitor detected airborne radiation in the underground” (NOT a release into the air). [emphasis added]

The press release expanded on its false reassurance by saying: “Multiple perimeter monitors at the [facility’s] boundary have confirmed there is no danger to human health or the environment. No contamination has been found on any equipment, personnel, or facilities.” No one was exposed, the press release implied, and added further details to reinforce the “no danger to human health or the environment” claim that is so often the first thing the nuclear industry says about any “event,” regardless of what people may or may not know to be true. Other press releases maintained this official story for several days.

Nuclear industry lies are rational in terms of protecting interests

According to that story, “there were no employees working underground at the time,” and the 139 employees at the surface had to be “cleared by radiological control technicians” and test negative for contamination before they were allowed to leave the site, an odd precaution for radiation that was reported only underground. The official story did not mention that the underground part of the facility had been closed down for the previous nine days, since February 5, when a 29-year-old salt truck had caught fire, forcing the evacuation of all 86 employees then working underground.

To be fair to the folks running the underground nuclear repository, which bears the anodyne name Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), when the continuous air monitoring system first detected radioactivity being released on February 14, 2014, the system automatically shut down air exchange with the outside, at least according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), which describes the facility this way:

“WIPP, a cornerstone of DOE’s [nuclear waste] cleanup effort, is the nation’s first repository for the permanent disposal of defense-generated transuranic radioactive waste left from research and production of nuclear weapons. Located in southeastern New Mexico, 26 miles east of Carlsbad, WIPP’s facilities include disposal rooms excavated in an ancient, stable salt formation, 2,150 feet (almost one-half mile) underground. Waste disposal began at WIPP on March 26, 1999.”

The waste isolation mine was designed to last 10,000 years without leaking. As of 2014, WIPP had more than 1,000 employees and a $202 million annual budget.

Among the details that remain unclear about this WIPP accident are how long it took the system to detect the release and how much Plutonium and Americium were released. The government’s initial position was none. That wouldn’t last long.

On February 17, the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center (CERMC) posted on its Facebook page that it “is currently processing and analyzing ambient air filters from our air samplers located near the WIPP facility. We should have results by the end of the week which will give some indication as to whether any radiation was released into the environment. Hopefully CEMRC will get its filters from the exhaust air shaft at the WIPP site soon so we can analyze those for radionuclides as well. Lastly, remember that adults living within a 100-mile radius of the WIPP site can receive a free whole body count to see what types and levels of radiation are in their lungs and/or whole body….”


http://www.cemrc.org 

Government admits radioactive release, says: don’t worry, be happy

It wasn’t until February 19 that the Energy Department issued a press releaseacknowledging the reality of the airborne release of radioactivity. And this was only after that day’s edition of the local newspaper, the Carlsbad Current-Argus, had already reported on the Carlsbad Environmental Center’s news release about higher than normal levels of radioactivity including Plutonium and Americium. The government belatedly confirmed the report, without apology, instead putting a positive spin on it, even though officials had been denying it (or perhaps had not known about it) for days. Under the headline “Radiological Monitoring Continues at WIPP” – even though the radiation was detected a half mile away – the new DOE release said:

“Recent laboratory analyses by Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center (CEMRC) found some trace amounts of americium and plutonium from a sampling station located on the WIPP access road. This is consistent with the fact that HEPA [high-efficiency particulate absorption] filters remove at least 99.97% of contaminants from the air, meaning a minute amount still can pass through the filters. As noted by the CEMRC, an independent environmental monitoring organization, the levels found from the sample are below the levels established by the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure public health is protected.”

The Carlsbad Environmental Center, a division of the College of Engineering at New Mexico State University, is a quasi-governmental agency. Besides monitoring the waste project, the center has been a contractor for government labs –  the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Sandia National Laboratory – as well as the Nuclear Waste Partnership, a private contractor. The center also works with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on issues relating to conventional explosives used to spread radioactive materials (or, in the words of the website: “issues involving Homeland Security, particularly those involving radiation dispersal devices (RDDs or dirty bombs).”

Radiation reached Carlsbad by February 24, but officials did not say this publicly until March 10. A week later they denied the report, saying the Carlsbad radiation came from somewhere other than the waste plant. They didn’t say where.

Dirty bomb or accident – different intent, same effects

Anyone making a dirty bomb would be delighted to use Plutonium as a terror weapon, because Plutonium is very deadly, and remains deadly for a long time (Plutonium 239 has a half-life of 24,000 years). A lot of Plutonium will kill you very quickly at close range, especially if it’s been made into a bomb, which the U.S. proved pretty definitively at Nagasaki in 1945. But even a tiny amount of Plutonium, inhaled and lodged in your lungs, can kill you slowly. In that sense, what happened at the nuclear waste isolation facility was that its operators managed to set off a small dirty bomb. No wonder they claimed no one was exposed.

Talking about dirty bombs or even RDDs is not a preferred public relations approach for most of the nuclear industry, even when their facilities actually become radiation dispersal devices (RDDs). The spin is always about how safe everyone is and how trivial the level of radiation exposure is. The public relations pattern with the New Mexico waste project release is standard – and fundamentally dishonest, as it has been always. On February 24, the Energy Department produced another press release with the benign headline, “WIPP Reports New Environmental Monitoring Data” with text that included:

“Dose assessment modeling, which calculates potential radioactivity exposure to people, from the release data showed a potential dose of less than one millirem at each of the environmental sampling locations. A person receives about 10 millirems from a single chest x-ray procedure. The average person living in the United States receives an annual dose of about 620 millirem from exposure to naturally occurring and other sources of radiation.”

Even though the basic assertions here may be factually true in a narrow sense, the implied argument – that there’s nothing to be concerned about – is a lie. First note the use of “potential” – twice – which makes clear that the “dose of less than one millirem,” which could potentially be much more, has little meaning for understanding reality. The statement is careful NOT to use “maximum” or any other limiting word. The first sentence implies a full body dose, the next sentence executes a bait and switch, referring to a chest X-ray which delivers a targeted dose. The last sentence pretends to put it all in perspective by trivializing the earlier doses in the context of an average annual dose of 620 millirem.

Plutonium: one millionth of a gram, officially “safe,” can be lethal

In this press release and thousands like it, the government lies with an apparently reasonable tone, good enough to persuade The New York Times and others. But it’s a big lie, because governments know that no radiation exposure is good for anyone, that any exposure is a risk. The honest discussion would be over how much radiation a person can tolerate and remain healthy for a reasonable time. There are many correct answers to that depending on the particular conditions of exposure. It is dishonest to conflate “naturally occurring and other sources of radiation” because “other sources” are mostly from nuclear medicine, power plants, and warheads – all sources created by deliberate human choice.

The deeper lie is in the suggestion that, since a person gets 620 millirem a year, what harm can come from a little bit (or a lot) more? The answer is that great harm can come from very limited exposure, although that’s not necessarily likely. The official “acceptable” body dose of Plutonium is less than one millionth of a gram, and even this amount can eventually be lethal, because Plutonium that gets into the human body doesn’t all come out. It tends to concentrate in the blood, muscle and bone. Americium behaves similarly in the human body. Another official lie embedded in government language is the suggestion that 620 millirem is somehow “safe.” It’s not. It’s already too great an exposure, and the effects of radiation are cumulative.

A particularly articulate internet post, Bobby1’s Blog of February 22 (and later revisions), challenged the official story as to both the amount of radioactive material released, how far it had spread, and the danger it posed.

But the official spin works. Matthew Wald of the Times has been writing about nuclear issues for years, yet on February 25 he still managed to start his piece with error-filled credulity: “Almost two weeks after an unexplained puff of radioactive materials forced the closing of a salt mine in New Mexico that is used to bury nuclear bomb wastes, managers of the mine are planning to send workers back in and are telling nearby residents that their health is safe.” The mine was already closed when the so-called “puff” of Plutonium and Americium created conditions that no one can honestly call “safe.” The rest of his piece reads like Wald is also on the DOE payroll.

Energy Department said no one was contaminated. That was false.

On February 26, in a letter to residents of the Carlsbad area, DOE field manager Jose Franco made what appears to be the first official admission that workers at the waste pilot plant had suffered internal radioactive contamination. Franco wrote that “13 Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) employees that were on site the evening of February 14 were notified that they have tested positive for radiological contamination.” Previously the agency had said there were 139 employees on site at the time of the release, and no external radiation was detected on any of them.

“It is premature to speculate on the health effects of these preliminary results, or any treatment that may be needed,” Franco wrote, adding that the contamination was “likely at very low levels” and “predominantly americium-241, material which is consistent with the waste disposed of at the WIPP. This is a radionuclide used in consumer smoke detectors and a contaminant in nuclear weapons manufacturing.”

Franco said it would probably take weeks to establish a credible estimate of the contamination dose these 13 employees received. The Times of February 27 carried the story on page A16 and online with Matthew Wald downplaying its importance. Local media gave the development more scrutiny, since the implications were clear: among other things, officials had no idea why there was a Plutonium release, they had no idea how much Plutonium was released, they had no idea how far the Plutonium had traveled, and they had no idea how many people had been contaminated (the number of contaminated employees later rose to 17, and then to 21).

Actually the detected level of Plutonium was millions of times higher than officials first acknowledged.

On March 2, another articulate online post, Pissin’ on the Roses, presented a cogent argument that the Plutonium release had been much greater than the official story allowed. Basing the conclusion on public and leaked documents, the blog argues that the numbers are inconsistent and make sense only by assuming that the radioactive release lasted about 33 minutes: “When we ‘followed the math,’ the story didn’t square with what the public was told, i.e. ‘the release was less than EPA reportable requirements’ (supposedly 37bq/m^3 for Plutonium). In fact, the math showed levels thousands of times greater than EPA reportable requirements for Plutonium.” But there was no report to the EPA.

Almost a month later, Southwest Research and Information Center, an independent organization that focuses on health, environmental, and nuclear issues, used Energy Department data to reach a similar but more extreme conclusion: that the release actually lasted more than 15 hours.

Asking questions is a problem: we might find the wrong answers

Actually, the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) was stalling, apparently reluctant to get involved with protecting the environment around the government’s only underground nuclear weapons waste storage site, now that it had begun releasing radiation for the first time. On February 27, New Mexico’s two U.S. senators wrote directly to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy, asking for the EPA’s independent assessment of the “event,” as well as deployment of EPA assets to New Mexico to assess the situation independently. Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, both Democrats, noted that since “the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the primary regulatory authority in regard to any releases of radioactive materials to the environment from the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant,” the EPA should do more than merely monitor the Energy Department and other agencies involved.

The EPA stonewalled. In effect, the Democratic administration in Washington had this answer for the two Democratic senators: Drop dead. The EPA said it at greater length, but not until March 5, and then in a letter from the regional administrator, not the administrator in Washington. “We are still evaluating the situation,” wrote Ron Curry, without ever saying why the primary regulatory authority was refusing to “conduct independent studies.”

“As you know, the EPA’s primary regulatory responsibility is to ensure that any releases of radioactive material from the WIPP facility are below the EPA exposure limits for members of the public,” the regional bureaucrat began, launching a paragraph of denial and irresponsibility. Curry said that the EPA would “inspect” the work of others and, so far, “it is very unlikely that any exposures would approach these regulatory limits or represent a public health concern.” EPA doesn’t know this, EPA has no independent way of knowing this, and as of March 5, EPA had no interest in knowing this independently, even as the primarily responsible regulator.

Besides, Curry added, “we note that the available information supports the conclusion that nearly all of the radioactive material was retained within the filtration system … [and] that radiation levels have declined significantly….” Translation: that’s what we’ve been told officially and that’s good enough for us.

Also on March 5, the Energy Department issued a press release asserting more apparently good news: “Follow-up testing of employees who were exposed … shows exposure levels were extremely low and the employees are unlikely to experience any health effects as a result…. [tests] came back negative for plutonium and americium, the two radioactive isotopes that were detected in preliminary bioassays.” The release does not offer an explanation for this reported atypical behavior of ingested Plutonium and Americium.

Area residents received a letter from DOE dated March 5 containing an identical reassurance. It also expressed hope that workers might be able to re-enter the mine the following week, for the first time since the February 5 salt truck fire.

Fear of more Plutonium? Expert says: Don’t lick your iPhone charger!

During February, in response to continued rising public concern, the Energy Department started holding regular public meetings. On March 6, five nuclear waste officials appeared at a sparsely attended public forum billed by the Energy Department as a “WIPP Recovery Town Hall Meeting” at the Civic Center in Carlsbad. The almost 90-minute session (recorded by DOE with low quality audio) featured David Klaus from the DOE, David Huizenga from DOE’s Office of Environmental Management, Joe Franco from the DOE Carlsbad Field Office, Farok Sharif from Nuclear Waste Partnerships [he was later removed from the job and replaced] and Fran Williams from Energy Department contractor UCOR, who told the audience flatly: “There are no health impacts to you, to your family, the members of your community from the event.”

Williams, Director of Environmental, Safety, Health and Quality for Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s contractor UCOR has 35 years of experience in her field, health physics and occupational medicine. Although the “Town Hall” received little coverage, Williams made the most news with her comments 57 minutes into the meeting about radiation levels in the region: “They’re down at the levels of licking your iPhone charger. I’m not trying to be funny; I’m trying to equate radiation exposure to something that you can understand…. I hope that helps.”

“Many left Thursday night’s meeting [March 6] with the Department of Energy uneasy,” reported Albuquerque TV station KRQE. “They pleaded for more information about the underground radiation leak last month that seeped radiation outside, but many remain frustrated and concerned for their safety. The DOE tried to reassure people they are safe even though the underground storage areas remained sealed off.”

The next night (March 7) the local Republican congressman, Rep. Steve Pearce, held his own town hall meeting. The long time backer of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (whose private contractors contributed to his campaigns) promised to ask tough questions. Pearce said, “I will hold their feet to the fire.”

Other than his meeting with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and New Mexico’s two senators the day before, Pearce’s involvement in events at WIPP appears largely limited to cheerleading, as in his February 5 press release saying everything was fine after the fire and hisFebruary 15 press release saying everything was fine after the release of radioactivity.

Pearce has touted his vote for a bill dealing with the “IRS scandal” that didn’t happen as an effort to “restore accountability in Washington.” He has made no apparent effort to address the EPA’s continuing unwillingness to act accountably as the primary regulatory authority for WIPP radioactivity releases into the environment.

Radioactive waste isolated for 10,000 years – until it’s not 

More than three weeks after the detection of airborne Plutonium, no one had been able to re-enter the salt mine to assess conditions underground or to determine the cause of the accident. WIPP was built without underground surveillance cameras. Officials at the Energy Department and other agencies have refused to speak publicly about the issues or to answer reporters’ questions on the record. Even their public bromides began to diverge, with DOE suggesting that WIPP would be operational in the near future, while the NM Environmental Department issued a legal notice saying WIPP would “be unable to resume normal activities for a protracted period of time.”

On March 8, the Albuquerque Journal News published a story that said, “No one knows yet how or why a waste drum leaked at southeast New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant on Valentine’s Day, triggering alarms, exposing workers and setting off a cascade of events that could cripple the nation’s radioactive waste disposal system.”

Reviewing Department of Energy records, the Journal concluded that there were only two likely scenarios for the February 14 accident:

(1) If a waste drum’s contents overheated, that might cause a spontaneous explosion that spread radioactive debris. Planners in 1997 contemplated this possibility before WIPP opened, and gave odds of it happening as 10,000 to 1.

(2) If the roof in one of the salt cavern rooms fell, that might rupture one or more waste drums and lead to the spread of radioactive debris. Planners gave the odds of that happening as one in a million.

The most likely cause of an accident, planners thought, would be mishandling of waste drums by workers, but there were no workers underground on February 14.

The next day, March 9, DOE announced that remote testing of areas not in the path of the radiation release showed “no detectable radioactive contamination in the air or on the equipment lowered and returned to the surface. Air quality results were also normal. These results were expected….” DOE suggested that workers might be sent down the mine before the end of the week.

The Energy Department also announced that four more workers had been contaminated by ingesting Plutonium or Americium at “extremely low levels,” bringing the total to 17 workers contaminated. [On March 27, DOE would announce four more being tested for contamination, raising the total to 21.] The DOE also announced that there would be no workforce layoffs during “recovery efforts,” for which there is no estimated end point.

A fire suppression system is useful when there’s a fire

One of the problems for the workers underground on February 5, when the 29-year-old salt truck caught fire, was that the truck’s onboard automatic fire suppression system had been deactivated. Emergency teams put out the fire and evacuated the tunnels without any injuries other than six workers needing treatment for smoke inhalation. Rep. Pearce promptly issued a press release calling it a “minor fire” that posed no threat to public health or safety, which appeared true at the time.

But the deactivated fire protection on the truck turned out to be just the first of a host of shortcomings and failures relating to the waste plant, problems that are still being uncovered.

“This accident was preventable” was the understated conclusion of the Accident Investigation Board in the Department of Energy in its 187-page report released March 13. The Board’s four-week investigation included at least two pre-accident visits to the mine, which has been inactive since February 5. The Board praised the workers and their supervisors for responding quickly, knowledgeably, and cooperatively to minimize the emergency. The Board found extensive fault with management’s performance over a longer period of time, finding that maintenance programs were ineffective, fire protection was inadequate, preparedness was inadequate, emergency management was ineffective – and that these criticisms had been made before, some more than once. According to one news report:

At a community meeting in Carlsbad on Thursday to preview the report, the lead investigator, Ted Wyka, praised the 86 workers who were half-mile underground in the mine when the fire started, saying they “did everything they could” to tell others to evacuate.

But a number of safety systems and processes failed, Mr Wyka said. Emergency strobe lights were not activated for five minutes and not all workers heard the evacuation announcement.

One worker also switched the air system from normal to filtration mode, which sent smoke billowing through the tunnels.

New Mexico’s senators, in a joint statement, found the Board’s report “deeply concerning” and urged DOE management to take the critique seriously and fix the shortcomings. For his part, Rep. Pearce “applauded” the DOE for “a candid, transparent report” that demonstrated how poorly they had been doing their job for many years.

Senators Heinrich and Udall have written to Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, asking why his agency has failed to carry out its responsibility under federal mine safety law, which requires the Mine Safety and Health Administration “to inspect WIPP no less than four times a year.” Records show that WIPP was inspected twice – instead of 12 times – ­in the past three years.

With WIPP closed, Los Alamos waste has to be trucked to Texas

The Los Alamos National Laboratory has been a disaster waiting to happen for years, a disaster that almost happened in 2011 as wildfires approached the facility where radioactive waste was stored in roughly 20,000 steel drums above ground. The fires were held back, but the waste is still there, scheduled for “permanent” storage at the underground waste plant before the next fire season in the summer. Now that can’t happen because WIPP is leaking, and closed.

On March 20, the Department of Energy and its contractor, Nuclear Waste Partnership, announced plans to truck the Los Alamos waste to West Texas for temporary storage at Waste Control Specialists, another government contractor. DOE “has committed to the state of New Mexico to removing several thousand cubic meters of TRU waste from LANL by June 30, 2014. The waste will be moved to WIPP for final disposal once the site reopens.”

According to DOE, it has already moved most of the Los Alamos waste, which “consists of clothing, tools, rags, debris, soil, and other items contaminated with small amounts of radioactive elements, mostly plutonium.”

On March 21, the New Mexico Environment Department withdrew its temporary permitthat would have allowed the waste plant to expand. That’s the same permit that the department said on February 14 that it would approve at the end of the 60-day public comment period. The permit would have allowed WIPP to build two new disposal vaults in the salt mine. According to the news release:

“NMED [NM Environment Dept.] cannot move forward on the WIPP’s request to open additional underground storage panels and for the other requested permit modifications until more information is known about the recent events at the WIPP,” said Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn. “Just as NMED needs more information to make informed decisions on permit modifications, the public also needs more information about the radiation release in order to provide informed input during the public comment period. Once NMED has all of our questions answered, we will proceed with consideration of a revised draft Permit.”

With so many other questions to be answered, the question of whether WIPP will everre-open gets harder to answer with any certainty. There have been numerous reports, by DOEand others, of further radioactive leaks from the site – none of them known to be large and all considered officially “safe.” As Arnie Gundersen at Fairewinds notes, DOE says that when the WIPP ventilation system is set on filtration mode, its air filters collect 99.97% of all the radioactive particles headed for the atmosphere. Accepting that capture rate as correct, Gunderson points out that, mathematically, if the filters are 99.9% effective (which he doubts), that means that out of every 1,000 minutes there is one unfiltered minute. In other words, the radioactive leak continues, albeit slowly, even when the filters work at peak capacity (which is not a constant). Just since February 14, Gundersen calculates, perfectly functioning filters would still have allowed another half hour of contamination into the environment.

Nuclear supporters continue to minimize any danger. Plutonium and Americium are heavy elements, the argument goes, so they fall to the ground quickly. And they stay there unless there’s a lot of wind. No one knows now just how much Plutonium or Americium the waste plant has already emitted, or how much it will emit. But anyone who cares to know knows that this is spring in the Southwest, when the winds pick up and dust storms have already happened this year.


William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

 

Gerd Ludwig’s Long Look at the Chernobyl Disaster

March 31, 2014
  • PROOF:
  • 4 days ago

Q&A: Gerd Ludwig’s Long Look at the Chernobyl Disaster

Author

Alexa Keefe

27 

“Deep inside, at a dark hallway, we stopped in front of a heavy metal door. The engineer indicated I had only a brief moment to shoot. It took him a long minute to open the jammed door. The adrenaline surge was extraordinary. The room was absolutely dark, lit only by our headlamps. Wires were obstructing my view. At the far end of the room I could make out a clock. I was only able to fire off a few frames and wanted to wait for my flash to recharge. But he already pulled me out. I checked my pictures. Out of focus! I begged him to allow me in one more time. He gave me a few more seconds to frame the clock showing 1:23:58 AM—the time when on 26 April, 1986 in the building that housed Energy Block # 4, time stood forever still.” —Gerd Ludwig on photographing inside reactor #4, where an explosion caused a catastrophic nuclear meltdown. Ludwig describes this as one of the most challenging situations he has ever photographed.

The evacuated city of Pripyat, once brimming with life, is now a chilling ghost town. For an exiled resident, the stillness of a city boulevard stirs memories of her former life. In her hand is an old photo of the same street years earlier.
2005. The evacuated city of Pripyat, once brimming with life, is now a chilling ghost town. For an exiled resident, the stillness of a city boulevard stirs memories of her former life. In her hand is an old photo of the same street years earlier.

Picture of an abandoned school in Pripyat, Ukraine
2005. A peeling mural of an abandoned school creates a poignant reminder of the residents that once called Pripyat home.

When the tsunami caused disastrous damage to Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in March 2011, German photographer Gerd Ludwig’s agency, Institute, was contacted by photo editors atTime wanting to assign him for the story. Ludwig was unreachable, at a hotel without internet access at the site of another disaster that happened 25 years before—Chernobyl.

Ludwig has been photographing Chernobyl since 1993 and has returned to the area three times since—in 2005, 2011 and 2013—ultimately venturing deeper inside the reactor than any Western photographer.

“Of all man-made environmental catastrophes in human history, Chernobyl is considered to have caused the most lasting impact. Seeing the full extent of the destruction inside the reactor, and the full force of health consequences—not only in Ukraine but also in neighboring Belarus—is why I felt that I would need to revisit Chernobyl on a regular basis,” he says.

Ludwig is currently working on a photography book, the Long Shadow of Chernobyl, documenting his 20-year relationship with what noted scientist Alexei Okeanov calls “a fire that can’t be put out in our lifetimes.” Ludwig recently shared his thoughts with Proof:

Alexa Keefe : What is the most important part of telling this story?

Gerd Ludwig: These images remind us that accidents like Chernobyl are a possible outcome of nuclear power—anytime, anywhere. I want my project to stand as a document of this man-made disaster—to remember the countless victims of Chernobyl, and to warn future generations of the deadly consequences of human hubris.

On April 26, 1986, operators in this control room of reactor #4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant committed a fatal series of errors during a safety-test, triggering a reactor meltdown that resulted in the world's largest nuclear accident to date.
2011. On April 26, 1986, operators in this control room of reactor #4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant committed a fatal series of errors during a safety-test, triggering a reactor meltdown that resulted in the world’s largest nuclear accident to date.

Workers wearing plastic suits and respirators for protection pause briefly on their way to drill holes for support rods inside the shaky concrete sarcophagus, a structure hastily built after the explosion to isolate the radioactive rubble of Reactor #4. Their job is to keep the deteriorating enclosure standing until a planned replacement can be built.  It is hazardous work: radiation inside is so high that they constantly need to monitor their Geiger counters – and are allowed to work only one shift of 15 minutes per day.
2005. Workers wearing plastic suits and respirators for protection pause briefly on their way to drill holes for support rods inside the shaky concrete sarcophagus, a structure hastily built after the explosion to isolate the radioactive rubble of Reactor #4. It is hazardous work: radiation inside is so high that they constantly need to monitor their Geiger counters—and are allowed to work only one shift of 15 minutes per day.

Although radiation levels only allowed for a few minutes of access, workers initially had to pass over hazardous ladders to a section underneath the melted core with life-threatening contamination. In order to facilitate faster access, a daunting hallway, called “the leaning staircase” was erected. Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, Ukraine 2011
2011. Although radiation levels only allowed for a few minutes of access, workers initially had to pass over hazardous ladders to a section underneath the melted core with life-threatening contamination. In order to facilitate faster access, a daunting hallway, called “the leaning staircase” was erected.

Alexa: Were there times when you felt in danger?

Gerd: Exposing your body to radiation inside the reactor is only one side of the danger. The other risk comes with radioactive dust specs that can settle easily into soft materials. If ingested they can stay in your body and cause cancer.

After each entry into the reactor I undergo a careful cleaning process: leave the protective gear behind, take a long, hot shower, and change into clean clothes. When I asked a safety specialist to check my equipment after my last visit deep into the reactor, I could read in her face that she thought I was being paranoid. Reluctantly she checked my gear, but then her facial expression completely changed, and she kept repeating again and again “Oh my God! Oh my God! You need to clean your cameras. You need to wash them.”

It turned out that the camera straps were contaminated. I gave my cameras a good cleaning that night, until my Geiger counter indicated that they were fine. And I got new camera straps.

Severely physically and mentally handicapped, 5-year-old Igor was given up by his parents and now lives at a children’s mental asylum, which cares for abandoned and orphaned children with disabilities. It is one of several such facilities in rural southern Belarus receiving support from Chernobyl Children International, an aid organization established in 1991 in the aftermath of the world’s worst nuclear disaster.Vesnova, Belarus, 2005
2005. Severely physically and mentally handicapped, 5-year-old Igor was given up by his parents and now lives at a children’s mental asylum, which cares for abandoned and orphaned children with disabilities. It is one of several such facilities in rural southern Belarus receiving support from Chernobyl Children International, an aid organization established in 1991 in the aftermath of the world’s worst nuclear disaster.

Suffering from thyroid cancer, Oleg Shapiro, 54, and Dima Bogdanovich, 13, receive care at a thyroid hospital in Minsk, where surgery is performed on a daily basis. As a liquidator, Oleg was exposed to extreme levels of radiation. It was his third thyroid operation. Dima's mother claims that Chernobyl's nuclear fallout is responsible for her son’s cancer, but his doctors are more cautious: Belarusian officials are often instructed to downplay the severity of the radiation. Minsk, Belarus 2005
2005. Suffering from thyroid cancer, Oleg Shapiro, 54, and Dima Bogdanovich, 13, receive care at a thyroid hospital in Minsk, where surgery is performed on a daily basis. As a liquidator, Oleg was exposed to extreme levels of radiation. It was his third thyroid operation. Dima’s mother claims that Chernobyl’s nuclear fallout is responsible for her son’s cancer, but his doctors are more cautious: Belarusian officials are often instructed to downplay the severity of the radiation.

Alexa: You devote one section of your book to the human victims, particularly children born in the years following the disaster. Tell me about your experience photographing them.

Gerd: Much of the nuclear fallout drifted into the Gomel region of Belarus. In 2005, on assignment for National Geographic, I wanted to photograph the children in an orphanage. In one of the orphanages, I photographed 5-year-old Igor. Severely physically and mentally handicapped, he was given up by his parents, and lived at a home which cares for abandoned and orphaned children with disabilities. He caught my attention because most of the time he was sitting motionless, leaning against a wall. With poor eyesight and hearing he was unable to participate even in the slightest interaction with the other children around him. Once in a while his empty eyes wandered in the direction of the other kids in the room, but when they tried to hug him he started crying. Done photographing him I gave his hand a squeeze. The smile with which he reacted nearly brought tears to my eyes.

Alexa: Another group of people you have photographed are those who have returned to the Exclusion Zone to live—whom you have described as preferring to die on contaminated soil than of a broken heart in an anonymous suburb. What was their attitude towards you as someone coming to tell their story?

Gerd: No journalist can move freely in the zone. We have to be accompanied by a guide who works for the administration but we have to pay for their time. Since there are only a few hundred returnees living in the zone today, the guides know most of them. The only vehicles driving in the zone are those controlled by the administration. There is no public transportation and the returnees do not own cars. That is why many returnees enjoy visits by journalists. They are a welcome change into their rather uneventful daily routine. The guides recommend that journalists bring along goods such as fresh bread, cheeses, sweets that the returnees lack, as they rarely get the chance to leave their villages.

Many returnees are very hospitable, offering everything they grow and produce from their own land, from tomatoes to berries, from illegally caught fish to moonshine. Eating food grown on contaminated land makes me sometimes feel uncomfortable. But as a photographer you walk a thin line: you want to be safe but you also need people’s trust and cooperation to get the pictures.

Picture of an elderly woman who has returned to her village inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone
2011. Kharytina Desha, 92, is one of the few elderly people who have returned to their village homes inside the Exclusion Zone. Although surrounded by devastation and isolation, she prefers to die on her own soil.

Picture of vines covering an abandoned house
2011. Vines encroach on an abandoned farmhouse in a remote area of the zone. In villages all over the Evacuation Zone, nature is reclaiming the deserted settlements.

Alexa: The landscape of Chernobyl is changing. Do you see this as a story that will you will continue to tell, or one that you are capturing before it is gone from memory?

Gerd: The reactor may be disappearing from sight under a high-tech dome, the buildings in Pripyat will collapse, the elderly returnees will have passed away, but I am afraid the story of Chernobyl will continue way beyond our lifetime. A scientist in Chernobyl told me, “We could erect fences in certain areas here stating: Not meant for human habitation for 24,000 years to come. And this is only the half-life of plutonium 239.”

The upcoming book though, is a caesura—a pause—but it will not be the end of my coverage. I am curious myself what will be next.

Alexa: What is it about this area of the world that draws you in?

Gerd: My personal relationship with Russia began as I grew up as a child in postwar Germany. My father had been drafted into the Sixth German Army that invaded the Soviet Union in 1942 and fought through southern Russia towards Stalingrad, where the Soviets decimated the German forces. He was lucky enough to be amongst the last soldiers evacuated.

In the darkness of our small refugee room—after WWII my parents had been expelled from their home in Bohemia—I would listen to the sad soothing voice of my father as he conjured images of endless winter landscapes of soldiers battling their way through snowstorms; and people hiding from them in stables and barns. It was not until I grew older that I began to grasp the darkness behind the stories: that the landscapes were stained with blood, the soldiers dying, and the people hiding were Russians filled with fear. My father told these bedtime stories to shed himself of terrible memories of war.

As a young teenager in the mid-1960’s, I was a member of the first postwar generation of Germans. Filled with guilt for my elders’ actions, I compensated by glorifying everything Germany tried to destroy. In particular, I idealized Russia and the communist Soviet system. Finally, Gorbachev’s glasnost—his call for openness in every part of life—confronted me with the social and political realities of a country that had been under totalitarian rule for seven decades.

A rooftop view from the former Polissya Hotel in the center of Pripyat shows the proximity of the ill-fated Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant to this former home of 50.000.  Today, Pripyat stands a ghost town over-run by nature. Pripyat, Ukraine 2005
2005. A rooftop view from the former Polissya Hotel in the center of Pripyat shows the proximity of the ill-fated Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant to this former home of 50,000.

Alexa: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Gerd: As engaged photographers we often report about human tragedies in the face of disaster, and take our cameras to uncharted areas with the understanding that our explorations are not without personal risk. We do this out of a deep commitment to important stories told on behalf of otherwise voiceless victims. While covering this story, I met many caring and courageous people who allowed me to expose their suffering solely in the hope that tragedies like Chernobyl may be prevented in the future.

Ludwig first brought his coverage of this story together in 2011 with an iPad App, The Long Shadow of ChernobylToday he is working on a photo book of the same name. The retrospective is made possible through a Kickstarter campaign.

THERE ARE 27 COMM

NYTimes: Gov’t scientist not allowed to publish findings that Fukushima could be 10,000 times higher than after Chernobyl

March 29, 2014

Posted by Charleston Voice

NYTimes: Gov’t scientist not allowed to publish findings that Fukushima cesium-137 levels could be 10,000 times higher than after Chernobyl in Pacific surface waters — Japan researchers pressured to downplay disaster’s impact — Professors obstructed when data might cause public concern
Published: March 16th, 2014 at 3:29 pm ETBy ENENews
Michio Aoyama

New York Times, Mar. 16, 2014: [...] As a senior scientist at the Japanese government’s Meteorological Research Institute, [Michio Aoyama] said levels of radioactive cesium 137 in the surface water of the Pacific Ocean could be 10,000 times as high as contamination after Chernobyl [...] as Mr. Aoyama prepared to publish his findings [...] the director general of the institute called with an unusual demand — that Mr. Aoyama remove his own name from the paper. [...] Aoyama asked for his name to be removed, he said, and the article was not published. [...] Off the record, university researchers in Japan say that even now, three years after the triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, they feel under pressure to play down the impact of the disaster [...] In several cases, the professors say, they have been obstructed or told to steer clear of data that might cause public “concern.” [...] stories of problems with Fukushima-related research are common, [Aoyama] said, including accounts of several professors’ being told not to measure radiation in the surrounding prefectures.

  • Joji Otaki, Ryukyu University biologist who published studies linking butterfly deformities to radioactive releases from Fukushima Daiichi: “Getting involved in this sort of research is dangerous politically [...] It’s an exceptional situation.”
  • Ken Buesseler, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution: “Researchers are told not to talk to the press, or they don’t feel comfortable about talking to the press without permission.”
  • Timothy Mousseau, University of South Carolina: “[2 postdoctoral students who dropped out of a joint research paper] felt it was too provocative and controversial [...] worried it could hamper their future job prospects [...] It’s pretty clear that there is self-censorship or professors have been warned by their superiors that they must be very, very careful.”
  • Michio Aoyama, Fukushima University scientist: “I was later told that [the MRI's director general] did not want to say that Fukushima radioactivity was worse than Chernobyl [...] The key phrase is ‘don’t cause panic.”’

For more, see these reports published on ENENews:

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Utilities eye more non-nuclear power output

March 28, 2014

 / 

KYODO

Tokyo Electric Power Co. and three other utilities are contemplating boosting non-nuclear thermal power generation by either building new facilities or expanding existing plants.

Tepco is planning a major increase in capacity by building facilities to generate around 6 million kilowatts, equivalent to nearly 10 percent of its current output of 65 million kw, a source familiar with the plan said Tuesday.

The expansion is equal to the capacity of six typical nuclear reactors. Tepco is expected to announce details Thursday for a tender to select builders for the new facilities in fiscal 2014, the source said.

Shackled by the Fukushima nuclear crisis that has prevented it from rebooting its reactors, Tepco has been struggling with growing fossil fuel costs to run its non-nuclear power plants.

It wants to cut fuel costs and aims to introduce energy-efficient technologies for its new facilities.

The country’s largest utility attempted to increase coal-fired capacity by 2.6 million kw through a tender last year but could only secure 680,000 kw.

The planned tender is expected to fill the gap for the remaining 1.92 million kw as well as adding 4 million kw of capacity to replace obsolete liquefied natural gas-powered plants in the Tokyo Bay area, according to the source.

The tender could draw bids from Chubu Electric Power Co., Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. and Electric Power Development Co. The three companies were awarded contracts in last year’s tender.

Tokyo Gas Co., Osaka Gas Co. and Kansai Electric Power Co. are other potential bidders.

Aside from Tepco, Chubu Electric, Kyushu Electric Power Co. and Tohoku Electric Power Co. are exploring plans for boosting non-nuclear generation capacity.

Chubu Electric President Akihisa Mizuno said Tuesday his company will hold a tender during the 2014 fiscal year for building a plant with capacity for about 1 million kw.

The company appears focused on a coal-fired facility because of the relatively low fuel procurement costs.

Kyushu Electric is considering increasing capacity by 1 million kw. The move would involve reviving a once-frozen plan to build another generator at its coal-fired Matsuura power station in Nagasaki Prefecture scheduled to start running around 2020.

Tohoku Electric is examining a plan to move up the construction of a third generator at the 600,000 kw coal-fired Noshiro plant in Akita Prefecture from the current schedule of “fiscal 2028 or later.”

Video: Company that runs WIPP reveals plume of radiation spread to population center — Compares it to “licking your iPhone charger” — Mother: “They don’t want the people to perhaps know the extent of what went wrong”

March 17, 2014

Latest Headlines from ENENews


Video: Company that runs WIPP reveals plume of radiation spread to population center — Compares it to “licking your iPhone charger” — Mother: “They don’t want the people to perhaps know the extent of what went wrong”

Posted: 16 Mar 2014 08:32 PM PDT

Gov’t publishes model of WIPP radioactive plume — Plutonium and americium transported to northwest after wind shift — At times in direction of nearby Carlsbad (MAP)

Posted: 16 Mar 2014 05:20 PM PDT

NYTimes: Gov’t scientist not allowed to publish findings that Fukushima cesium-137 levels could be 10,000 times higher than after Chernobyl in Pacific surface waters — Japan researchers pressured to downplay disaster’s impact — Professors obstructed when data might cause public concern

Posted: 16 Mar 2014 12:29 PM PDT

March 16, 2014

Thousands rally in Tokyo against nuclear power

NATIONAL MAR. 16, 2014 – 06:25AM JST ( 6 )

Thousands rally in Tokyo against nuclear powerBuddhist monks holding a banner saying “No more nuclear plants” walk past the TEPCO headquarters during a protest march in Tokyo on Saturday.AFP

TOKYO —

Thousands of campaigners rallied against nuclear power in Tokyo Saturday, as the government and utilities move toward resumption of reactors in southern Japan.

More than 5,000 protesters gathered at Hibiya Park in downtown Tokyo to urge the government not to restart nuclear plants, as regulators review whether to let Kyushu Electric Power to restart two reactors at its Sendai power plant.

“Japan is prone to earthquakes. We have to seriously think about whether nuclear power is a good idea for Japan,” said Masatoshi Harada, 60, as he joined fellow protesters at the park and later to march toward the Ginza shopping district.

“This is an opportunity for Japan to drop nuclear power,” he said.

Last week tens of thousands held a rally at the same site to voice fears about any reliance on nuclear power.

Saturday’s event came days after Japan marked the third anniversary of a 9.0-magnitude earthquake that struck northern Japan in March 11, 2011.

The quake prompted killer tsunami along the northern Pacific coastline.

The twin disasters killed 15,884 people and left 2,633 people still unaccounted for.

Huge waves swamped cooling systems of the Fukushima plant, which went through reactor meltdowns and explosions that spewed radioactive materials to the vast farm region.

No one died as a direct result of the nuclear accident, but at least 1,656 people died as a result of complications related to stress and other conditions while their lives in evacuation become extended.

Supporters of nuclear power, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, say Japan needs atomic energy to ensure the economic health of the world third largest economy.

But protesters argued that Japan can live without nuclear power as it has done so for many months.

All of the nation’s roughly 50 commercial nuclear reactors have remained offline due to tense public opposition to restarting them.

“Nuclear plants have been closed, so you cannot say we cannot live without nuclear energy,” anti-nuclear campaigner Junichi Okano said

© 2014 AFP

Buddhist monks holding a banner saying  A protester wears a

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