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Radiation Exposure and Risk

Ionizing radiation damages living things and contaminates the environment, sometimes permanently. Studies have shown increases in cancer around nuclear facilities and uranium mines. Radiation mutates genes which can cause genetic damage across generations.

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Friday
Aug022013

Dr. Gordon Thompson's "devastating critique" of NRC's HLRW storage pool fire risk whitewash

Dr. Gordon Thompson, executive director of the Institute for Resource and Security Studies in Cambridge, MAYesterday, to meet the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) arbitrarily short 30-day deadline for public comments on its "Draft Consequence Study of a Beyond-Design-Basis Earthquake Affecting the Spent Fuel Pool for a US Mark I Boiling Water Reactor" (NRC-2013-013), attorney Diane Curran and expert witness Dr. Gordon Thompson filed a blistering response on behalf of an environmental coalition of 26 groups, including Beyond Nuclear.

In her cover letter to NRC, Curran wrote: "...the Draft Consequence Study is not a credible scientific document. While the study purports to be a broad scientific inquiry into pool fire phenomena, in fact it is a very narrow study that ignores basic pool fire phenomena and important pool fire accident contributors. It misleadingly implies that a severe earthquake causing complete draining of a fuel pool is the primary source of risk to a spent fuel pool, and assumes that open-rack low-density pool storage is not advantageous without even examining it. In short, the Consequence Study appears designed to advance the authors’ pre-determined and unsupported conclusion that high-density pool storage is safe."

Thompson makes clear that a partial drain down of a high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) storage pool is an even worse-case scenario than a complete drain down, for air cooling provided by convection currents -- which might otherwise prevent ignition of the irradiated nuclear fuel's combustible zirconium cladding -- is blocked by the layer of water in the bottom of the pool. Thompson points out that any technically-competent analyst who has been paying attention to pool-fire risks since 1979 would have known that, and charges NRC with being deliberately misleading. He also points out the potentially catastrophic consequences of pool fires -- over 4 million people could be displaced, long-term, from their homes, as even NRC acknowledges.

Curran concluded: "We are appalled that after decades of avoiding and obfuscating this urgent safety issue, the NRC now proposes to rely on this biased and unscientific document to justify continued high-density
pool storage of spent fuel, both in its post-Fukushima safety review and in the Draft Waste Confidence Environmental Impact Statement. We join Dr. Thompson in urging you to withdraw the Draft Consequence Study and begin anew with a study of spent fuel pool fire risks that finally complies with basic principles of sound scientific inquiry."

Curran represented a coalition of environmental groups which, along with a coalition of state attorneys general, prevailed against NRC's Nuclear Waste Confidence at the second highest court in the land. The U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that NRC must complete an environmental impact statement on the risks of on-site storage of HLRW at reactors, including in pools. NRC did not appeal the ruling, and quickly acknowledged that the completion of the EIS would prevent finalization of proposed new reactor license approvals, as well as old reactor license extension approvals, for at least two years (NRC had previously admitted that a Nuclear Waste Confidence EIS would take seven years to complete!).

Robert Alvarez, senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, has heralded Dr. Thompson's work as a "devastating critique." Alvarez adds, "Gordon's comments systematically reveal the kinds of scientific malpractice the NRC is resorting to at a time when one of the nation's largest and oldest high-hazard enterprises faces a deepening economic crisis."

Alvarez, formerly a senior advisor to the Energy Secretary during the Clintion administration, knows what he's talking about. Along with Dr. Thompson, now-NRC Chairwoman, Ph.D. geologist Allison Macfarlane, and five more experts, Alvarez published "Reducing the Hazards from Stored Spent Power-Reactor Fuel in the United States," in Jan., 2003. This groundbreaking warning about the potentially catastrophic risks of HLRW pool fires was largely affirmed by a congressionally-ordered National Academy of Science study in 2005; NRC unsuccessfully attempted to block the security-redacted public release of NAS's findings. Alvarez also published a May 2011 report on the hazards of high-density pool storage across the U.S., in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe. And in June, in a report commissioned by Friends of the Earth, Alvarez focused on the risks of HLRW pool storage at the now permanently shutdown San Onofre nuclear power plant.

Wednesday
Jul312013

State of Vermont objects to NRC over faulty radiation monitoring equipment at Entergy's Vermont Yankee atomic reactor

VY's infamous 2007 cooling tower collapse. The photo was distributed by a whistleblower.As reported by the Vermont Digger, State of Vermont Department of Public Service officials have written the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), objecting to and demanding answers about the repeated malfunction of vital radiation monitors at the age-degraded, problem-plagued Entergy Vermont Yankee (VY) atomic reactor. VY is identical in design to Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4, a General Electric Mark I boiling water reactor.

Despite this, NRC rubberstamped a 20-year license extension at VY, the same month Fukushima's reactors melted down and exploded. It is unclear to the State of Vermont whether or not NRC even inspected the defective radiation monitoring equipment before rubberstamping the license extension. Entergy has announced it will replace the faulty equipment.

The article also mentioned previous age-related degradation accidents at VY, such as the infamous 2007 cooling tower collapse (photo above left); it also reported that VY's fair market value has declined 69% in the past year alone, calling into question its viability.

Thursday
Jul182013

Beyond Nuclear stands in solidarity with the anti-fracking movement against radiological risks to human health and the environment

Atomic reactors and radioactive waste aren't the only sources of artificial radioactivity risk we face from dirty, dangerous, and expensive energy industries. There is significant radioactivity risk, such as from radium, associated with "fracking," environmentally destructive hydraulic fracturing of shale formations to extract natural gas.

Josh Fox's newly released Gasland: Part II documentary film touches on the risks from uranium and its dangerous radioactive decay products embedded in fracking emissions. The film clearly shows, through the use of infrared imagery, that polluting airborne emissions -- such as of methane itself -- from fracking wells are large-scale, harmful, and on-going, despite being invisible to the naked eye. Among those emissions are radioactive isotopes. Radioactive contamination of the liquid wastes from fracking are also of great concern (see below).

Beyond Nuclear stands in solidarity with the anti-fracking movement. In April 2012, Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps attended a Clean Energy Agenda summit, organized by Environmental Working Group and the Civil Society Institute. The summit brought together representatives from dozens of groups from the anti-nuclear, anti-fracking, anti-mountain top removal, anti-polluting forms of biomass, and climate protection movements. A Clean Energy Agenda statement was published, as the groups joined forces into a united environmental and human rights coalition to fight back against the juggernaut of dirty energy industry lobbyists.

More recently, Beyond Nuclear joined with this network to urge the Environmental Defense Fund to stop compromising on and greenwashing fracking.

Beyond Nuclear's attorney on interventions against the proposed new Fermi 3 reactor in MI and age-degraded, problem-plagued Davis-Besse reactor in OH, Toledo-based attorney Terry Lodge, is also deeply involved in the fight against fracking in the Buckeye State. Ohio is being targeted for the large-scale dumping of radioactive fracking waste water, as from Pennsylvania, in landfills, as well as abandoned mines which empty into the Ohio River. Terry has worked with Dr. Marvin Resnikoff of Radioactive Waste Management Associates to warn about the radioactive hazards of fracking waste water.

A stealth rider on Ohio's 4,500-page budget bill would do away with state protections against Technically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material, regarding it as simply "naturally occurring," and thus allowed to be dumped in landfills and mines. The radiological consequences to human health downstream would be dire.

The Committee for an American Clean Energy Agenda has just published a forceful statement in defense of protecting surface and groundwater against the ravages of dirty energy industries, including fracking and nuclear power, calling on the Obama White House to adopt an executive order.

Friday
Jul122013

Help hold NRC's feet to the fire -- please attend Palisades Webinar, Tues., July 16, 5:30 PM Eastern

MI Radio photo showing the location of the SIRWT, located on the roof directly above the control room; the reactor containment building towers to the leftAs announced by a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) meeting notice, the agency will hold yet another Webinar about Entergy's problem-plagued Palisades atomic reactor on the Lake Michigan shore in Covert, Michigan. This one will focus on the May 5th spill of 82.1 gallons of radioactive water from the leaking Safety Injection Refueling Water Tank (SIRWT) into Lake Michigan. The Great Lakes represent 20% of the surface fresh water on the entire planet, and serve as the drinking water supply for 40 million people in 8 U.S. states, 2 Canadian provinces, and a large number of Native American First Nations.

The Webinar will be held on Tuesday, July 16th (the 68th annual commemoration of the world's first atomic weapon blast, "Trinity," at Alamagordo, NM on July 16, 1945).

To register to attend the Webinar, do so by filling out the required information (your name and email address) by July 15th at the following websitehttps://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/431957345

A broad coalition opposed Palisades' 20-year license extension from 2005-2007, but NRC rubber-stamped it anyways. Palisades now has NRC's permission to operate till 2031, despite its worsening breakdown phase risks.

More.

Thursday
Jul112013

Beyond Nuclear on Thom Hartmann radio show regarding worsening radioactivity releases at Fukushima Daiichi

On July 11th, Thom Hartmann (photo, left) interviewed Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps on his radio show about the cancer death of Masao Yoshida, Tokyo Electric Power Company's (Tepco) general manager of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, and leader of the "Fukushima 50" who tried, at great personal risk, but unsuccessfully, to prevent the three reactor meltdowns of March 2011. Thom also asked Kevin about reports that radioactivity releases from Fukushima Daiichi have increased nearly 100-fold in recent weeks and months, and what this means in terms of radioactivity hazard for Japanese seafood, rice, and other exports to the United States.

A day earlier, Sam Sachs on RT interviewed Kevin about the same issues.