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Safety

Nuclear safety is, of course, an oxymoron. Nuclear reactors are inherently dangerous, vulnerable to accident with the potential for catastrophic consequences to health and the environment if enough radioactivity escapes. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Congressionally-mandated to protect public safety, is a blatant lapdog bowing to the financial priorities of the nuclear industry.

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Monday
Nov212016

4 Arrested Protesting AIM Pipeline in New York State

As reported by Democracy Now!:

In New York state, four people were arrested Saturday protesting the construction of Spectra Energy’s AIM pipeline. The pipeline is slated to carry fracked gas only hundreds of feet from the aging Indian Point nuclear power plant and then under the Hudson River. The arrests came as more than 100 activists rallied at a construction site in Verplanck, New York. The pipeline has faced years of resistance from residents in New York state and Rhode Island. [Also see updates and alerts re: the resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline, at Beyond Nuclear's Human Rights website section.]

Tuesday
Oct112016

Resist Spectra solidarity action with Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, at AIM fracked gas pipeline near Indian Point

As reported by the Journal News, four Resist Spectra protectors occupied an AIM fracked gas pipeline for 16 hours, blocking construction just hundreds of feet from the Indian Point nuclear power plant, on the bank of the Hudson River near New York City.

The non-violent civil disobedience action, which ended with arrests and trespassing charges against the four, as well as their support team, was held on Indigenous Peoples Day, as a solidarity action in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's resistance to the Dakota Access crude oil pipeline in North Dakota.

Spectra's AIM fracked natural gas pipeline is located immediately adjacent to the two Indian Point reactors, near New York City. This raises the specter of a large-scale natural gas explosion and/or fire, plunging the Indian Point reactors and their high-level radioactive waste storage pools, into meltdown mode.

More than 20 million people live or work within a 50-mile radius of Indian Point, with little to no prospect of being able to evacuate in an emergency.

As documented by Dr. Ed Lyman of Union of Concerned Scientists in a 2004 report entitled "Chernobyl on the Hudson?", a catastrophic release of hazardous radioactivity would result -- depending on weather conditions -- is more than 40,000 acute radiation poisoning deaths; more than 500,000 latent cancer fatalities; and property damage measure in the trillions (yes, with a T!) of dollars.

Monday
Sep192016

Risk of another Chernobyl or Fukushima type accident plausible, experts say

Biggest-ever statistical analysis of historical accidents suggests that nuclear power is an underappreciated extreme risk and that major changes will be needed to prevent future disasters

A team of risk experts who have carried out the biggest-ever analysis of nuclear accidents warn that the next disaster on the scale of Chernobyl or Fukushima may happen much sooner than the public realizes.

Researchers at the University of Sussex, in England, and ETH Zurich, in Switzerland, have analysed more than 200 nuclear accidents, and – estimating and controlling for effects of industry responses to previous disasters – provide a grim assessment of the risk of nuclear power.

Their worrying conclusion is that, while nuclear accidents have substantially decreased in frequency, this has been accomplished by the suppression of moderate-to-large events.  They estimate that Fukushima- and Chernobyl-scale disasters are still more likely than not once or twice per century, and that accidents on the scale of the 1979 meltdown at Three Mile Island in the USA (a damage cost of about 10 Billion USD) are more likely than not to occur every 10-20 years.

As Dr Spencer Wheatley, the lead author, explains: “We have found that the risk level for nuclear power is extremely high.

“Although we were able to detect the positive impact of the industry responses to accidents such as Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, these did not sufficiently remove the possibility of extreme disasters such as Fukushima. To remove such a possibility would likely require enormous changes to the current fleet of reactors, which is predominantly second-generation technology.”

The studies, published in two papers in the journals Energy Research & Social Science and Risk Analysis, put fresh pressure on the nuclear industry to be more transparent with data on incidents.

“Flawed and woefully incomplete” public data from the nuclear industry is leading to an over-confident attitude to risk, the study warns.  The research team points to the fact that their own independent analysis contains three times as much data as that provided publicly by the industry itself. This is probably because the International Atomic Energy Agency, which compiles the reports, has a dual role of regulating the sector and promoting it.

The research team for this new study gathered their data from reports, academic papers, press releases, public documents and newspaper articles. The result is a dataset that is unprecedented – being twice the size of the next largest independent analysis. Further, the authors emphasize that the dataset is an important resource that needs to be continually developed and shared with the public.

Professor Benjamin Sovacool of the Sussex Energy Group at the University of Sussex, who co-authored the studies, says: “Our results are sobering. They suggest that the standard methodology used by the International Atomic Energy Agency to predict accidents and incidents – particularly when focusing on consequences of extreme events – is problematic. 

“The next nuclear accident may be much sooner or more severe than the public realizes.”

The team also call for a fundamental rethink of how accidents are rated, arguing that the current method (the discrete seven-point INES scale) is highly imprecise, poorly defined, and often inconsistent.

In their new analysis, the research team provides a cost in US dollars for each incident, taking into account factors such as destruction of property, the cost of emergency response, environmental remediation, evacuation, fines, and insurance claims. And for each death, they added a cost of $6 million, which is the figure used by the US government to calculate the value of a human life.

That new analysis showed that the Fukushima accident in 2011 and the Chernobyl accident in 1986 cost a combined $425 billion - five times the sum of all the other events put together.

However, these two extremes are rated 7 - the maximum severity level - on the INES scale. Fukushima alone would need a score of between 10 and 11 to represent the true magnitude of consequences.

Further, the authors emphasize that such frequency-severity statistical analysis of holistic consequences should be used as a complementary tool to the industry standard Probabilistic Safety Assessment, especially when aggregate consequences are of interest.

Professor Sovacool adds: “The results suggest that catastrophic accidents such as Chernobyl and Fukushima are not relics of the past. 

“Even if we introduce new nuclear technology, as long as older facilities remain operational—likely, given recent trends to extend permits and relicense existing reactors—their risks, and the aggregate risk of operating the global nuclear fleet, remain.” 

Finally, the authors emphasize that this work is not comparative in nature, i.e. it does not quantify the risks of other energy sources. It provides a risk assessment for nuclear power alone, thus informing a single criterion, for a single power source, in the selection of a portfolio of multiple power sources, where many criteria must be considered.

Fellow co-author Professor Didier Sornette stresses: “While our studies seem damning of the nuclear industry, other considerations and potential for improvement may actually make nuclear energy attractive in the future.”

The 15 most costly nuclear events analysed by the team are:

  1. Chernobyl, Ukraine (1986) - $259 billion
  2. Fukushima, Japan (2011) - $166 billion
  3. Tsuruga, Japan (1995) - $15.5 billion
  4. TMI, Pennsylvania, USA (1979) - $11 billion
  5. Beloyarsk, USSR (1977) - $3.5 billion
  6. Sellafield, UK (1969) - $2.5 billion
  7. Athens, Alabama, USA (1985) - $2.1 billion
  8. Jaslovske Bohunice, Czechoslovakia (1977) - $2 billion
  9. Sellafield, UK (1968) - $1.9 billion
  10. Sellafield, UK (1971) – $1.3 billion
  11. Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA (1986) - $1.2 billion
  12. Chapelcross, UK (1967) - $1.1 billion
  13. Chernobyl, Ukraine (1982) - $1.1 billion
  14. Pickering, Canada (1983) - $1 billion
  15. Sellafield, UK (1973) - $1 billion

An open-source database of all 216 analysed nuclear events is available online, containing dates, locations, cost in US dollars, and official magnitude ratings. This is the largest public database of nuclear accidents ever compiled.

Tuesday
Aug162016

AGREE & NIRS on FitzPatrick revelations: "Four+ year leak of highly radioactive waste – Worker radiation exposures -- Failure to shut down after safety system failure"

NRC file photo of FitzPatrick, a GE BWR Mark I located on the Lake Ontario shore in upstate NY.In a press release, Nuclear Information and Resource Serive (NIRS) and Alliance for a Green Economy (AGREE) have responded to revelations in the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) most recent Integrated Inspection Report at Entergy's (soon to be Exelon's) age-degraded, Fukushima twin design (General Electric Mark I boiling water reactor), the FitzPatrick atomic reactor on the shore of Lake Ontario in upstate New York.

Tuesday
Jul262016

PUCO staff proposes shoring up FirstEnergy's credit rating on the backs of ratepayers -- but who's shoring up Davis-Besse's crumbling Shield Building?!

The "Whitewash of 2012" (weather sealing the Shield Building, 40 years too late), August to October 2012, which merely made matters worse, locking water in the walls, leading to Ice-Wedging Crack Propagation with every freeze-thaw cycle.From today's Midwest Energy News:

UTILITIES:
• Ohio regulators continue taking testimony on a third rate plan filed by FirstEnergy that would have customers pay $393 million to shore up the utility’s credit rating. (Toledo Blade)

While the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) staff proposes to save FirstEnergy's credit rating, and enrich FirstEnergy shareholders in the process, on the backs of electric consumers in Ohio with a hefty surcharge on their bills, who is proposing to shore up the crumbling Shield Building (rebar reinforced concrete containment) at the Davis-Besse atomic reactor?! Certainly not FirstEnergy, nor the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Not one penny of the currently proposed ratepayer bailout of FirstEnergy would go towards repairing or replacing the severely cracked, and worsening, Shield Building. FirstEnergy's plan is merely to monitor the growth of the cracking (which they used to deny was even happening), and woefully inadequately at that. NRC has approved this plan.

Replacing the Shield Building would cost billions. It is unclear that repair is even possible. The only "repair" FirstEnergy attempted -- the "whitewash of 2012" (applying weather-sealant to preclude water intrusion, 40 years too late, from August to October 2012) -- merely made the cracking worse, by locking water in the walls! (See photo, above left.)


The Ice-Wedging Crack Propagation, with every freeze-thaw cycle, due to water locked in the walls, will repeat numerous times this autumn-winter-spring coming up, depending on weather conditions. With each freeze, the cracking grows by a half-inch, or more, in circumferential orientation around the Shield Building exterior wall.

Subsidizing Davis-Besse's continued operation, at ratepayer expense, is a game of radioactive Russian roulette, putting those downwind, downstream, up the food chain, and down the generations at ever increasing risk of a catastrophic release of hazardous radioactivity. Thanks to everyone who continues to oppose FirstEnergy's attempted money grabs, aided and abetted by the PUCO staff. Davis-Besse must be shut down, before it melts down.