Nuclear Issues

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War in Ukraine generates interest in nuclear energy, despite danger. WP By Steven Mufson and Claire Parker 4/15/22

European nations are weighing climate benefits against the perils of putting nuclear power plants in harm's way

The war in Ukraine has intensified interest across Europe in building new nuclear energy plants or extending the lives of old ones to liberate the continent from its heavy reliance on Russian oil and natural gas.

Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis 3/21/22

Europe--As Biden rolls back Trump policies, G-20 allies join in bid to revive Iran nuclear deal. WP By Seung Min Kim, Chico Harlan and Annie Linskey 10/30/21

ROME — President Biden opened new fronts in global engagement Saturday, endorsing international accords on taxation and vaccinations while joining key European allies to ramp up pressure on Iran to revive the 2015 deal to curb its nuclear program.

The Biden administration also announced during the annual Group of 20 summit that it had reached a deal with the European Union on resolving a bitter standoff over steel and aluminum imports imposed three years ago under President Donald Trump.

From left, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Biden at the G-20 summit on Oct. 30. (Stefan Rousseau/AP)

In 1982, the nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union had reached a fever pitch. That June, as many as 1 million people braved the New York City summer, flooding Central Park and the streets outside the United Nations as it hosted a special session on disarmament. I was there. The energy was palpable and urgent as protesters called for a nuclear freeze. And the event, the largest political demonstration in U.S. history to that point, commanded the world’s attention.

Today, the threat posed by nuclear weapons is just as great as it was nearly 40 years ago. But the sense of urgency has since waned. We need a wake-up call, and former defense secretary William J. Perry, together with leading nuclear policymaker Tom Collina, has given us just that. Their new book, “The Button: The New Nuclear Arms Race and Presidential Power from Truman to Trump," is the alarm our nation needs — especially now.

Over the past four years, President Trump systematically undermined international arms treaties. He has pulled out from the Iran nuclear agreement and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, signed in 1987 by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. Over the strident objection of our allies, his administration announced the United States’ withdrawal from the Open Skies treaty, which helps ensure that signatories comply with arms-control measures.

In this case, as Perry and Collina detail, Trump’s moves are hardly unprecedented. In 2001, President George W. Bush pulled the United States from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia. At the time, he labeled the agreement a relic of the Cold War as he sought to build a massive missile defense system that tightened the nuclear hair trigger.

Of course, the threat of nuclear destruction did not disappear with the Soviet Union. Despite every precaution in place, the dangers of setting off a conflagration are still very real. That’s especially true of accidents or miscalculations. The book includes a list of harrowing incidents that have brought our world closer to nuclear annihilation — from faulty switches and failed computer chips to unanticipated weather patterns and human error. In 1995, for instance, Russia’s nuclear forces reached full alert after a Norwegian scientific rocket launched to study the Northern Lights was mistaken for an American missile.

Former California governor Jerry Brown has described our present situation in sobering terms: “We’re almost like passengers on the Titanic. Not seeing the iceberg up ahead but enjoying the elegant dining and the music. … And the danger and the probability [are] mounting that there will be some nuclear incident that will kill millions."

So, how do we make sure we don’t hit the iceberg?

Perry and Collina offer 10 solutions that would place our nation on a more secure path. First, they would eliminate the president’s sole discretion to initiate nuclear attack. Instead, that decision would be shared with a select group from Congress. This move would deny any individual — particularly a reckless reactionary such as Trump — with the immediate and unchecked ability to start nuclear war.

Perry and Collina’s other ideas include diplomatically engaging with North Korea and Iran, saving the New START accord, retiring our stockpile of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and scaling back a $2 trillion plan to rebuild our nuclear arsenal. ICBMs are expensive to maintain — and as land-based nuclear weapons, they’re more likely to invite a strategic attack than to deter one. As Collina said to me: “Efforts to rebuild the economy, fight off the coronavirus, stop global warming and address racial injustice will all cost money. And we have a $2 trillion nuclear piggy bank we can use as a down payment."

The authors’ final recommendation is simple: Elect a committed president. Trump’s record is one of armament. Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, on the other hand, has a long track record of leading on nuclear disarmament. As senator, he spoke out against Bush’s attempts to establish a national missile defense system. During the Obama administration, he played an important part in realizing the Iran nuclear deal and the New START. Now he has pledged to pursue a renewed commitment to arms control and to reduce the role of nuclear weapons.

To be clear, the ultimate goal should be the abolition of all nuclear weapons — an objective that has been endorsed, at least rhetorically, by presidents ranging from Reagan to Barack Obama. Electing a committed leader this November is just one step toward that long-term goal. As Perry told me, “As we learned with President Obama, there is still a need for outside pressure to remind the president of promises made and that there will be political costs if progress is not achieved. Even if Biden wins, voters must remain engaged and active."

Americans know how to engage. In the past four years alone, we’ve seen a groundswell of grass-roots activism on threats from climate change and gun violence to racial injustice and gender inequity. Today, we must add one more to the list: the threat of nuclear weapons. As Collina said, “Nuclear disarmament must be part of the new mass movement."

Trump’s nuclear brinkmanship keeps backfiring, but he keeps doubling down

Putin wants to extend arms control. What’s Trump waiting for?

Trump is right to bide his time in renewing a nuclear treaty with Russia

Are we seeing a tactical tilt toward Russia?

Here’s how Trump can get a win with Russia — and actually help all Americans

Trump's Energy Dept. secretly ships truckload of plutonium to Nevada, ignoring federal judge, 1-31

Without notifying the citizens or any state officials, and in the face of longstanding public resistance that prompted a federal court filing, Donald Trump’s Department of Energy secretly shipped half a metric ton of radioactive plutonium from South Carolina to a site in Nevada.

The transport of plutonium is, by definition, an extremely high-risk endeavor. Nevada argued that the Dept. of Energy failed to consider potential dangers of moving the poisonous, radioactive material through densely populated areas such as Las Vegas, to a potentially unstable site susceptible to flash floods and earthquakes.

It's official: Trump drops out of nuclear treaty, giving Putin the destabilized Europe he wants, 2-1

Atomic Tourist "tourist locations around the world that have either been the site of atomic explosions, display exhibits on the development of atomic devices, or contain vehicles that were designed to deliver atomic weapons"
The Enemy Within article from The Nation - "There's scarcely a state in the union that hasn't got tanks or barrels of nuclear waste, or decommissioned reactors saturated with radioactive materials. Most Interstates carry trucks hauling mobile Chernobyls around the country"
NRC Asleep at the Switch
Nuclear Power & Corporate/Regulatory Collusion by Mary Zepernick. “The number of children and grandchildren with cancer in their bones, leukemia in their blood, or with poison in their lungs might seem statistically small in comparison with natural health hazards. But this is not a natural health hazard and it is not a statistical issue. The loss of even one human life, or the malformation of even one baby who may be born long after we are gone should be of concern to us all. Our children and grandchildren are not merely statistics toward which we can be indifferent."
Nuclear Power Plants "Meltdown at Three Mile Island" from PBS
Nuclear Power Plants "Russian Roulette: A Report on the Safety and Security of Russia's Nuclear Arsenal" from PBS
Nuclear Waste Route Maps Punch in your home address, and see how close the nuclear-waste-laden trucks will pass by your house
Yucca Mountain Project government explanation


A New Nuclear Arms Race: Why Peace Activists Must Wage an Open Battle Against the Democratic Party By Scott Tucker. The New York Times published a front-page story on Sept. 22 titled “U.S. Ramping Up Major Renewal In Nuclear Arms”... KANSAS CITY, Mo.—A sprawling new plant here in a former soybean field makes the mechanical guts of America’s atomic warheads. Bigger than the Pentagon, full of futuristic gear and thousands of workers, the plant, dedicated last month, modernizes the weapons that the United States can fire from missiles, bombers and submarines... It is part of a nationwide wave of atomic revitalization that includes plans for a new generation of weapon carriers... This expansion comes under a president who campaigned for ‘a nuclear-free world’ and made disarmament a main goal of American defense policy.... Obama does not just adapt to circumstances, but he is a commander in chief who is an agent of war and empire... This huckster of hope and change keeps his cool and serves the corporate state with conviction. "

Nuclear Power – Dirty, Dangerous and Dishonest Nuclear power, like nuclear weapon production, has been and always will be a socialistic enterprise almost totally supported, insured and funded by taxpayer dollars. --Helen Cadicott. M.D.

American nuclear power plants generate an estimated 85,000 metric tons of toxic spent fuel rods that must be isolated for tens of thousands of years. A Nevada state agency reported that after 10 years out of service an unshielded spent fuel assembly would emit enough radiation to kill someone standing three feet away in fewer than three minutes.

Little known to the public and not prominently advertized by the nuclear power lobby is the Price Anderson Nuclear Indemnity Act, which subsidized nuclear power from the beginning. When the power plants were about ready to come on line in the middle 1950s, the industry told the Congress that their liability insurance on the open market would be equal to all their operating cost.

The nuclear plants are notorious for cost overruns. The first projected costs for the Comanche Peak plant in Somerville County, Texas were $750 million. The final cost was $12 billion.

The nuclear industry has not solved the waste disposal problem. A 1,000 megawatt nuclear power plant generates 30 tons of radioactive water per year, plutonium and spent fuel rods. This waste remains radioactive for tens of thousands of year. Most nuclear waste is stored in cooling pools and dry casks on the reactor site.

According to Helen Caldicott, in Nuclear Power Is Not The Answer, there are places in the US and different countries “where huge quantities of reprocessed toxic material waste are left unconfined, leaking and seeping through soils into aquifers, lakes and seas, where it enters and concentrates in the food chains of plants, fish, animals and humans."

Eliminate Nuclear Weapons Before they Eliminate Us


"The biggest obstacle today, as it was before the accident, is economics. The high capital costs of nuclear plants, which are caused mainley by their long and uncertain construction schedules (which in turn are driven by public concern over safety), leave them unable to compete for investment dollars. Coal, natural gas and improved energy efficiency are much less expensive.

"But if Wall Street has turned its back on nuclear power, the industry's longtime backers in Washington have not. The initial Bush-Cheney energy plan proposed building 1,000 new nuclear power plants by 2020... Even the industry recognizes that goal as ludicrously unrealistic...

"..government tests had found that security forces at nuclear plants had failed to repel mock terrorist attacks more than 50 percent of the time--even though the forces knew well in advance exactly what day the "terrorists" were coming.." ("Comment." The Nation, April 5, 2004, 8).










Seafloor

Could Oil Gas Exploration Release Radioactive Material from Seafloor? 8/31/20

The U.S. military buried thousands of tons of toxic waste at sea. Now there are fears seismic testing for oil and gas could disturb it.

Experts: Seismic testing may release radioactive material from ocean floor, 4/12/18

New fears of releasing toxic and radioactive materials buried in the ocean floor are fueling concerns about the affects of seismic testing for oil and natural gas in the Atlantic Ocean.

This is in response to the Trump administration’s new draft five-year program (2019-2024) for oil and gas development on the outer continental shelf, which proposes to expand future oil and gas leasing to nearly all U.S. waters including the Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic and eastern Gulf of Mexico. This is the largest number of potential offshore lease sales ever proposed.

The South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the U.S. Department of Defense to obtain the facts about ammunition dumps in the Atlantic that contain conventional, chemical and radioactive weapons and materials, according to a press release. FOIA requests were also sent to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the U.S. Department of Commerce for information on radioactive waste disposed of in the Atlantic, the release states.

“For over 60 years our country has used the Atlantic Ocean as a trash can for all kinds of toxic materials," said Frank Knapp Jr., president and CEO of the chamber. “According to a 2009 Defense Department report, ‘Prior to the 1970s ... sea disposal was considered one of the safest alternatives available to dispose of munitions.’ That report indicates that over 17,000 tons of munitions with highly toxic materials have been dumped along the Atlantic Coast. In the 1950s the old Atomic Energy Commission approved the dumping of radioactive waste in 55-gallon drums in the ocean. Industries creating other kinds of toxic wastes did the same."

The FOIA requests seek to identify the exact locations, types of toxic materials, containers used, weight of deposits and dates of the dumps, Knapp said. This information would be the basis for asking for mitigation strategies to prevent the disturbance of these toxic material dump sites should federal agencies approve seismic surveys, he said.

Knapp said James Barton, a retired member of the U.S. Navy Bomb Squad and expert on sea-dumped munitions, has warned the National Marine Fisheries Service about seismic airgun blasts disturbing munition deposits. Barton told the agency that the intensity of the seismic surveys “have ample power to disrupt severely corroded yet otherwise stable concentrations of sea dumped munitions."

Knapp said a 2016 Department of Defense Report to Congress concludes that disturbing these sea-disposed munitions would have serious consequences and it is best to leave the munitions in place.

Opposition to seismic testing and drilling in the Atlantic continues as opposition groups share new fears and concerns about the effects.

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is expected to issue its Proposed 2019-24 Program prior to the November 2018 midterm elections, according to information provided by the grassroots group Stop Oil Drilling in the Atlantic. The Atlantic Ocean and other Outer Continental Shelf waters may or may not be included in this version.

Oil exploration risks unleashing explosives hidden along Atlantic Ocean floor, 8/26/20

Radionuclides in the Ocean

Sea water is slightly radioactive: it contains a small but significant amount of radioactive elements that undergo spontaneous radioactive decay and produce energy, subatomic particles, and a remainder, or daughter nucleus, smaller than the original. The particles include alpha particles (two neutrons plus two protons), beta particles (electrons), and gamma energy. The radioactive elements are called radioactive isotopes, or radionuclides, or nuclides. Nearly all of the radioactive material in the ocean is natural, and represents material that has been on Earth since its formation. Read more: http://www.waterencyclopedia.com/Po-Re/Radionuclides-in-the-Ocean.html#ixzz6WvDRFoXN

Chemical Weapons Dumped in the Ocean After World War II Could Threaten Waters Worldwide, 11/11/16

This article is from Hakai Magazine, an online publication about science and society in coastal ecosystems. Read more stories like this at hakaimagazine.com.

Human impacts on the deep seafloor, 11/14/10

Scientists have for the first time estimated the physical footprint of human activities on the deep seafloor of the North East Atlantic. The findings published in the journal PLoS ONE reveal that the area disturbed by bottom trawling commercial fishing fleets exceeds the combined physical footprint of other major human activities considered.

The deep seafloor covers approximately 60% of Earth's surface, but only a tiny fraction of it has been studied to date. Yet as technology advances and resources from relatively shallow marine environments are depleted, human impacts on the deep seafloor are likely to increase.

"Information on the location and spatial extent of human activities affecting the deep-sea environment is crucial for conservation of seafloor ecosystems and for governance and sustainable management of the world's oceans," said Angela Benn of the National Oceanography Centre, who led the new study.

New Study Analyzes Risks of Releasing Radioactive Wastewater into Ocean, 8/7/20

Almost a decade after Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant was destroyed by the Tohoku-Oki earthquake and tsunami, which caused the release of radioactivity into the ocean like never before, radiation levels have dropped to safe levels in all but the waters nearest to the closed power plant.

Currently, fish and other seafood captured in waters further than all but a restricted region have been identified to be well within the country’s stringent limits for radioactive contamination.

However, a new threat is present and has been burgeoning daily in the number of storage tanks on the land around the power plant, which contains contaminated wastewater.

An article published in the Science journal on August 7th, 2020, analyzes a few of the several radioactive elements included in the tanks and recommends that there is more work to be done to comprehend the possible threats of discharging wastewater from the tanks into the ocean.










Nuclear Waste

Mailuu-Suu: Cleaning up Central Asia’s toxic uranium legacy, 9/2/20

Countries must set aside territorial disputes and work together to clean up radioactive waste seeping into rivers and farmland in the Ferghana Valley – causing an environmental and health catastrophe for people living in the region

Political tensions between countries in Central Asia have intensified since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Along with border conflicts and water disputes, problems have arisen from residual radioactive waste located in the Kyrgyz town of Mailuu-Suu in the Ferghana Valley, which has caused widespread pollution of river and farmland and led to major impacts on the health and economy for people in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

Industrial-scale uranium mining began in Mailuu-Suu during the Soviet era in 1946 and lasted until 1968. Uranium ore from Europe and China was also processed in Mailuu-Suu during this time.

As a result, the small town of 24,000 people is now surrounded by about 3 million cubic metres of uranium waste left in 23 tailings pits and 13 dumps. These sites have contaminated the Mailuu-Suu river, a major tributary of the Syr Darya which flows through Kyrgyzstan and into Uzbekistan, carrying radioactive waste into the densely populated Ferghana Valley.

The deep-sea floor ecosystem: current status and prospects of anthropogenic change by the year 2025, 9/2003

7 Reasons Why Nuclear Waste Is Dangerous, 12/27/17

Ever since we have discovered how to harness the powerful energy contained within the nucleus of an atom, we have been using it – for both positive and negative purposes. Nuclear energy is an affordable, efficient and reliable option of generating power for many countries. But the dangerous side of the nuclear waste still casts a shadow over its widespread use. It is the troublesome disposal of the waste that remains an unsolved (perhaps even unsolvable) riddle.

Nuclear waste has been described by Michael Stothard as “the most destructive and indestructible waste in history." It carries this harsh label because the waste remains radioactive for hundreds of thousands to millions of years.

For example, a newly designed nuclear waste repository in France must remain sealed for at least 100,000 years once its filled [1]. During this period, the material stored inside poses a direct threat to all living creatures, and can contaminate the environment with radioactivity if the seal is broken by unexpected events such as earthquakes or human errors.

Although nuclear energy has proven to be very useful for us, the number of inherent risks and dangers associated with negative effects of nuclear waste are serious beyond any doubt. Think Fukushima.


Email comments to Professor Colby Glass, PhDc, MLIS, MAc at co@dadbyrn.com