The New York Times has blogged that a new Government Accountabilty Office (GAO) report finds the proposal to "revive" commercial reprocessing (plutonium extraction from irradiated nuclear fuel) in the U.S. still full of disconnects. The article reports on reprocessing's inherent nuclear weapons proliferation risks, due to the separation of weapons-usable plutonium. Such risks led the Ford and Carter administrations to ban U.S. commercial reprocessing beginning in 1976, in direct response to India's detonation of a nuclear device secretly created from "Atoms for Peace" reprocessing technology provided by the U.S. and a research reactor provided by Canada.
The article also states that irradiated nuclear fuel is comprised of "95.6 percent unused uranium," and that this is "not particularly hard to dispose of." But such a statement flies in the face of evidence presented by public interest experts like Dr. Arjun Makhijani of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, who has warned that "depleted uranium" (mostly U-238, left over after uranium enrichment activities) should be disposed of in deep geologic disposal (as is planned for high-level radioactive waste and trans-uranic waste) due to its radiological hazards. Dr. Doug Brugge of Tufts University has warned about uranium's toxic heavy metal hazards, including its estrogen-mimicing properties that risk reproductive harm in mammals.
Dr. Paul Epstein, a public health expert who was among the first to warn of a link between the spread of infectious disease and extreme weather events, adding a new dimension to research into the potential impact of global climate change, died on Sunday at his home in Boston. He was 67. (View Dr. Epstein here on Democracy Now in December 2010). Dr. Epstein, who was a physician and associate director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School, did not view nuclear power as an answer to global warming. Here is his post-Fukushima response to the question of nuclear energy use in an interview on Climate Central:
"We need to look at the life cycle: from the mining, transport, milling and then processing the fuel rods, and then transport again to the nuclear power plants, and finally what we do with the waste. All of these are plagued by three things — safety, security, and storage. All three have unanswered questions. Well, now we know safety is not assured. Security is not assured. We haven’t solved the issue surrounding permanent storage of these spent fuel rods that are an extreme hazard. And then there’s the timeline: nuclear plants take 10 years and cost $12 billion to build. It’s not an infinite renewable resource, it’s a finite resource. It’s frightening what is happening in Japan, it’s frightening the impact on the marine environment, and the local impact in Japan. This is a dreadful accident and it certainly highlights the need to look at all these impacts.
This country [U.S.] is looking at small modular units that are cheaper to build, but that doesn’t deal with all the upstream stages nor what to do with the spent fuel rods. So replacing carbon pollution with nuclear is not a good answer to climate change."
NASA intends in coming weeks to launch a rover to be deployed on Mars fueled with 10.6 pounds of plutonium. Opponents of the launch in Florida, concerned about an accident releasing deadly plutonium, such as the explosion of the rocket that’s to loft the rover, have created a Facebook page warning people not to visit Disney theme parks in Orlando during the November 25-to-December 15 launch window. “Don’t Do Disney brought to you by NASA,” the Facebook page is titled. Other actions are planned.
Contact NASA today at http://www.nasa.gov/centers/hq/about/contact_us.html or call (202) 358-0001 and let them know that until they can launch spacecraft without nuclear materials aboard, they should not launch at all. And call the White House at (202) 456-1111 and tell President Obama that Curiosity should stay safely on the ground until it can be launched without threatening us and future generations. Listen to the video by award-winning investigative reporter, Karl Grossman, for additional information.
EDF fined millions and its senior officials sentenced to years in prison for spying on Greenpeace France
Greenpeace International has blogged about the larger implications of a French court's conviction of Electricite de France (EDF) and two its senior staff for "complicity in computer piracy": hiring a private investigator to hack into Greenpeace computers and steal 1,400 documents. The court has fined EDF 1.5 million Euros ($2 million), ordered it to pay 500,000 Euros ($682,000) in damages to Greenpeace France, and an additional 50,000 Euros ($68,200) to the Greenpeace campaigner whose computer was hacked and confidential documents stolen. The court has sentenced two senior EDF officials, and two officials at the private investigation company, to 2-3 years of jail time each, as well as fining three of them thousands of Euros each. World Nuclear News has reported on this story.