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Animals and Radiation

Animals are particularly susceptible to radiation exposure. New studies around the Chornobyl reactor accident site have found reduced numbers of certain species and impacts to genetics.

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Friday
Jul252014

Low blood cell counts in wild Fukushima monkeys 

Researchers compared monkeys from two regions of Japan, one group of monkeys from the Shimokita region, 400 Km north of Fukushima and monkeys from contaminated land in Fukushima.

"Fukushima monkeys had significantly low white and red blood cell counts, hemoglobin, and hematocrit, and the white blood cell count in immature monkeys showed a significant negative correlation with muscle cesium concentration. These results suggest that the exposure to some form of radioactive material contributed to hematological changes in Fukushima monkeys."

Changes in blood are also found in people inhabiting contaminated areas around Chernobyl. Nature

 

Monday
Jun092014

Two dozen groups urge State of MA to divest from Entergy due to safety and economic risks at Pilgrim

NRC file photo of Entergy's Pilgrim GE BWR Mark I on Cape Cod Bay in Plymouth, MABeyond Nuclear has signed onto an effort spearheaded by the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, and endorsed by two dozen local groups, to urge the State of Massachusetts to divest more than $8 million invested in Entergy. The signatory groups cited the economic and safety risks associated with the nuclear utility's problem-plagued Pilgrim atomic reactor. A June 4th letter was sent to Governor Patrick and Treasurer Grossman, as described in a June 9th press release.

The letter cites Pilgrim's harmful impacts on the fisheries of Cape Cod Bay.

NRC recently placed Pilgrim on its "degraded" performance short list. The only other reactor in the country with a worse performance designation is FitzPatrick in upstate New York. Both Pilgrim and FitzPatrick are General Electric Mark I boiling water reactors, identical in design to Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4.

Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor in Michigan was similarly designated one of the worst performers in the U.S. a couple years ago, after not one but two near-misses in 2011, and yet another one in 2012, as documented by David Lochbaum at Union of Concerned Scientists.

A year ago, energy economist Mark Cooper of Vermont Law School identified Entergy's six merchant reactors (half its national fleet), including Pilgrim, as at risk of near-term shutdown. This is due to a variety of factors, including economic uncompetitiveness and needed, costly safety repairs. In August 2013, Cooper was proven right, when Entergy announced the permanent shutdown of Vermont Yankee (another Entergy GE BWR Mark I) by the end of 2014.

Tuesday
Mar252014

Gundersen: Forever deadly radioactive waste, versus renewables

Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer, Fairewinds Associates, Inc.As Fairewinds Associates, Inc.'s Chief Engineer, Arnie Gundersen (photo, left), concluded his keynote presentation at the Beyond Nuclear/FOE/NEIS "Mountain of Radioactive Waste 70 Years High" conference in Chicago in Dec. 2012:

"What we're seeing is that the cost of solar is plummeting while nuclear is rising," Gundersen said, adding that he often hears the rebuttal that the sun doesn't shine day and night. "But if you believe that man can build a repository to store nuclear waste for a quarter of a million years, surely those same people can find a way to store electricity overnight." ---GAZETTENET.com, November 16, 2012

Gundersen serves as the expert witness for an environnental coalition (Beyond Nuclear, Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and Sierra Club, Ohio Chapter) that has challenged the risky, experimental steam generator replacements at Davis-Besse.

An overlapping coalition (including the Green Party of Ohio) has raised the radioactive waste dilemma and the renewables alternative as major arguments against the 20-year license extension at Davis-Besse.

Monday
Mar102014

Scientists: Test West Coast for Fukushima Radiation

As reported by USA Today, calls are growing for the U.S. federal government to test the Pacific Ocean for Fukushima fallout. Varying models predict Fukushima radioactive contamination plumes in the sea will arrive at the West Coast of North America this summer at the latest, or as early as next month.

A report presented last week at a conference of the American Geophysical Union's Ocean Sciences Section showed that some Cesium-134 has already has arrived in Canada, in the Gulf of Alaska area.

Ken Buesseler, a chemical oceanographer based at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, reports that Cesium-134 serves as a fingerprint for Fukushima.

"The models show it will reach north of Seattle first, then move down the coast," Buesseler said.

Although Buesseler is calling for more federal involvement, he's also taking matters into his own hands. He's launched "How Radioactive Is Our Ocean?" The project will use crowd-sourced money and volunteers to collect water samples along the Pacific Coast, to be shipped across the country to be analyzed.

Similarly, Cal State Long Beach marine biologist Steven Manley has launched "Kelp Watch 2014," which will partner with other organizations to monitor kelp all along the West Coast for Fukushima radiation.

Oregon state park rangers take quarterly ocean water samples to test for radioactivity, according to the article. Their program began in April 2012, tied to monitoring for Japanese tsunami debris washing up on shore.

California also monitors ocean radioactivity near the sole remaining operating nuclear power plant in the state, Diablo Canyon.

Friday
Dec202013

Environmental coalition meets NRC's "Nuclear Waste Confidence" DGEIS public comment deadline

Environmental coalition attorney Diane Curran

(The risks of generating, storing, and ultimately "disposing" of irradiated nuclear fuel includes risks to the environment and its plant, animals, and human inhabitants, of course. Environmental coalition expert witnesses have looked at the risks of high-level radioactive waste storage pools, dry casks, and repositories leaking, and/or releasing catastrophic amounts of hazardous radioactivity due to natural disaster, accident, or attack.

Even the costs of storing and "disposing of" irradiated nuclear fuel reflects the risk to ecosystem health and well being. After all, the high cost has entirely to do with the need to isolate the high-level radioactive waste from being released into the living environment.

Mark Cooper of Vermont Law School, expert witness on behalf of this environmental coalition, has estimated that storage and disposal of irradiated nuclear fuel could add $210 to $350 billion onto the costs of nuclear-generated electricity in the U.S. In addition, the once-per-century replacement of dry cask storage across the U.S., assumed by NRC in its "Nuclear Waste Confidence" DGEIS, would add another $100 billion per replacement, Cooper estimates. Cooper asserts that NRC cannot ignore such "staggering" costs in its EIS on the costs and risks of generating irradiated nuclear fuel in the first place -- that is, approving new reactor construction and operating licenses, and old reactor license extensions.)

An environmental coalition of nearly three dozen groups, including Beyond Nuclear, has submitted comments on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) "Nuclear Waste Confidence" Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS). The coalition is represented by a team of attorneys, including Diane Curran (photo, left) of Harmon, Curran, Spielberg, and Eisenberg, LLP, Washington, D.C.; Mindy Goldstein, Director, and Jillian Kysor, Fellow, Turner Environmental Law Clinic, Emory University, Atlanta, GA; and Phillip Musegaas, Hudson River Program Director, and Deborah Brancato, Staff Attorney, Riverkeeper, Ossining, NY.

The coalition is also represented by a team of expert witnesses, including Dr. Arjun Makhijani, President, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Takoma Park, MD; David Lochbaum, Director, Nuclear Safety Project, Union of Concerned Scientists, Chattanooga, TN; Dr. Gordon Thompson, Executive Director, Institute for Resource and Security Studies, Cambridge, MA; and Dr. Mark Cooper, Senior Research Fellow for Economic Analysis, Institute for Energy and the Environment, Vermont Law School, South Royalton, VT.

The environmental coalition's comments, as well as its expert witnesses' declarations, have been posted on the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) website, as well as at the bottom of a press release featuring the work of Dr. Cooper on the economic costs of irradiated nuclear fuel management. The coalition's comment and expert witness declarations are also posted at the NIRS website.

Curran, on behalf of three environmental groups (Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Riverkeeper, and SACE), in alliance with Natural Resource Defense Council, as well as four state attorneys general (CT, NJ, NY, and VT) won a landmark legal victory on June 8, 2012. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that NRC had to carry out an environmental impact statement on its "Nuclear Waste Confidence" policy and rule, including the on-site storage risks of irradiated nuclear fuel in pools and dry casks. The Dec. 20th public comment deadline on the DGEIS is a part of that court-ordered process.