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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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Monday
Aug192013

Joseph Mangano/RPHP report on radioactivity releases from Palisades and increased death rates in the surrounding area

Entergy's problem-plagued Palisades atomic reactor in Covert, MI, on the Lake Michigan shorelineJoseph Mangano, Executive Director of Radiation and Public Health Project, has published a report, commissioned and endorsed by Beyond Nuclear, Don't Waste Michigan, Michigan Safe Energy Future, and Nuclear Energy Information Service. Based on government data and documentation on radioactivity releases from Palisades, as well as area health statistics, the report's major findings raise serious questions about the connections between radioactivity releases and increased overall death and cancer mortality rates.

Palisades received a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) rubber-stamp for 20 extended years of operations -- out to 2031 -- back in 2007, despite hard-fought resistance that sought to block it.

Press release

Full report: NUCLEAR CONTAMINATION AND HEALTH RISKS FROM THE ENTERGY PALISADES NUCLEAR REACTOR.

Beyond Nuclear pamphlet "Routine Radiation Releases from U.S. Atomic Reators: What Are The Dangers?" Note that the water discharge pathway photo was taken (by Gabriela Bulisova) at the Palisades atomic reactor, discharging into Lake Michigan. Although the atmospheric discharge pathway was photographed at the Callaway atomic reactor in Missouri, Palisades has a very similar vent attached to its containment building for aerial discharges of radioactive gases and vapors).

Beyond Nuclear report (published April 2010) by Reactor Oversight Project Director Paul Gunter, "Leak First, Fix Later," with a chapter on Palisades' tritium leaks into groundwater, first reported by Entergy Nuclear in 2007.

Friday
Aug092013

Chernobyl's legacy recorded in trees

Exposure to radiation from the 1986 Chernobyl accident had a lasting negative legacy on the area's trees, a study has suggested.

Researchers said the worst effects were recorded in the "first few years" but surviving trees were left vulnerable to environmental stress, such as drought.

They added that young trees appeared to be particularly affected.

Writing in the journal Trees, the team said it was the first study to look at the impact at a landscape scale.

"Our field results were consistent with previous findings that were based on much smaller sample sizes," explained co-author Tim Mousseau from the University of South Carolina, US.

"They are also consistent with the many reports of genetic impacts to these trees," he told BBC News.

"Many of the trees show highly abnormal growth forms reflecting the effects of mutations and cell death resulting from radiation exposure." BBC

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.