Vietnam cancels nuclear power plans, South Africa delays theirs

In another retreat on the nuclear power front, Vietnam has decided to abandon plans to pursue nuclear power in that country. Meanwhile, just days later, South Africa announced it would delay plans to develop nuclear power. Both countries had deals with Russia's Rosatom, while Vietnam was also looking to Japan for contracts. A South African-German-Japanese delegation that traveled to Vietnam was instrumental in providing information to the government there which resulted in the cancelation of nuclear plans. Tellingly, it was the first time officials there had ever heard contrary positions (read: "facts") to nuclear promotion. One member, South African economist, David Fig, has written about that development and the lessons there for South Africa and other countries with large rural populations lacking electricity infrastructure and means. Read more.


Environmental coalition rebuts DOE attempt to have case dismissed re: highly radioactive liquid waste truck shipments

On Nov. 22nd, Diane Curran of Washington, D.C. and Terry Lodge of Toledo, OH -- legal counsel for an environmental coalition that includes Beyond Nuclear -- filed a motion in the Washington, D.C. federal district court, entitled MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES IN SUPPORT OF PLAINTIFFS' OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND PLAINTIFFS' CROSS-MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (see corrected version, dated Nov. 29, 2016).

Dr. Gordon Edwards (Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility) and Dr. Marvin Resnikoff (Radioactive Waste Management Associates) provided expert declarations in support of the coalition's case (click on links at their respective names, above, to see the declarations).

In short, Dr. Edwards testified that a mere couple of ounces, out of just one of the 150 shipments, could radioactively contaminate the massive Georgetown Reservoir, the drinking water supply for the District of Columbia, at very unsafe levels, rendering it unsafe to drink. Dr. Resnikoff testified that the woefully inadequate standards for seals, valves, and O-rings on the jury-rigged shipping containers risks failure and leakage, even in the event of a below-design basis fire temperature and duration.

This is the latest filing in the environmental coalition's challenge against the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) unprecedented scheme to truck highly radioactive liquid wastes. 100 to 150 high-risk truck shipments -- from Chalk River Nuclear Lab, Ontario, Canada to Savannah River Site, South Carolina, U.S.A., more than a thousand miles -- could begin as soon as mid-February, 2017 if the DOE gets its way, and the legal appeal dismissed. The most likely border crossing points include Buffalo and Thousand Island, NY, although DOE is keeping routes and timing secret under a cloak of security.


Pilgrim’s Progress: Inside the American Nuclear-Waste Crisis

As reported by Gregg Levine and Caroline Preston in The New Yorker.

The article quotes Beyond Nuclear: One option is consolidated interim storage. Under this plan, the spent fuel would be moved from plants in thirty states to a handful of regional, aboveground storage facilities—what Kevin Kamps, a waste specialist at the watchdog Beyond Nuclear, has called “parking-lot dumps.”


Marchers in Johannesburg demand no nukes in South Africa

A march through downtown Johannesburg drew several thousand on November 18, 2016. Organized by Earthlife Africa and the Nuclear-Free Future Awards, Beyond Nuclear also participated (along with Awards events and in leading the Think Nuclear-Free Symposium at the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.) Below are several consecutive snippets characteristic of the rally. Several days later the South African government opted to delay plans to build nuclear power plants in that country.


Earthquakes rattle Japan’s plan to restart more nuclear reactors 

The Shinzo Abe government’s plan to restart nuclear power in Japan was shaken to its core with a 7.4 magnitude earthquake that struck on November 21, 2016 (the date here in the U.S.) just off the coast of the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi atomic reactors. Fukushima Daiichi is also the site of a huge radioactive waste tank farm that continues to expand from an on-again off-again radioactive cooling water  treatment system for the three still unrecovered melted reactor cores. Little is presently known about how the hastily built tank farm has fared during the earthquake.

The four-unit Fukushima Daini nuclear power complex just seven miles south of Fukushima Daiichi temporarily lost cooling to Daini’s Unit 3 spent fuel pool raising concerns for the overheating of high-level nuclear waste configured as 2400 used fuel rods being stored underwater. Fukushima Daini remains shutdown and barred from power operations along with 38 operable units in Japan following the March 11, 2011 8.9M earthquake and catastrophic tsunami. Only two of the nation’s nuclear reactors have successfully returned to power operations amid intense public and political opposition that continues to grow.

Tuesday morning’s 7.4M earthquake struck around 6 am (JST) 31 miles off the east coast. The large earthquake set off coastal tsunami warnings for several hours, eventually measuring up to a sea level rise of 55 inches. A second 5.5M earthquake struck shortly after with its epicenter on land just 7 miles from Fukushima Daini with another tsunami warning. Aftershocks continue to jolt the area with officials concerned that another major quake can be expected within the week.

During times of natural disaster and national security threats, nuclear power is more a dangerous societal liability than an asset. All of the reactors’ safety systems and their nuclear waste cooling systems are 100% reliant upon offsite electrical grid power during normal operations. If the electric grid is disturbed by disaster or sabotage, nuclear power plants automatically shut down and emergency electrical power systems kick in to service a subset of priority reactor safety and cooling systems. If those systems fail or are disabled, nuclear power stations typically have 4 to 8 hours of back-up battery power to prevent a meltdown. Cooling capability to thousands of tons of high-level nuclear waste (irradiated fuel rods) initially rely upon the same off-site electrical power. Since the 9/11 World Trade Center aircraft attacks and the 3/11 Fukushima nuclear disaster, reactor spent fuel pools with high-density storage of nuclear waste are being equipped with make-up water systems should a loss of power threaten to boil off the water filled pools. Each pool containing up to 700 to 1000 tons of thermally hot and highly radioactive nuclear waste can overheat, boil off  and catch fire without cooling.

The Beyond Nuclear Facebook page posted live stream coverage broadcasted from Japan during the tsunami warning.