The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: Is Solar Power in Nuclear Disaster Exclusion Zones Advisable?"> Thumbnail for 897252

Written by Fairewinds Chief Engineer Arnie Gundersen

Featured in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:

A July 2016 article in The Guardian said that the country of Ukraine has been soliciting funds for a proposed project to turn extensive swathes of ground adjacent to Chernobyl into a gigantic solar collector full of photovoltaic panels. The story’s author, John Vidal, wrote: “In a presentation sent to major banks and seen by the Guardian 6,000 hectares of ‘idle’ land in Chernobyl’s 1,000 square km exclusion zone, which is considered too dangerous for people to live in or farm, could be turned to solar, biogas and heat and power generation.”

This Ukrainian proposed solar array would cover approximately 23 square miles of the 386 square-mile exclusion zone. Put in perspective, the electric output from this solar facility would yield approximately the same amount of electricity that the now-shuttered Chernobyl reactor #4 produced before it exploded. And it seems that Ukraine is not the only country with such plans; only 20 miles away from Chernobyl, another solar plant is currently under construction in the country of Belarus, in an area that was also extensively contaminated by Chernobyl’s fallout.

Similarly, land near Fukushima, Japan, is seeing solar panels sprout up near that country’s stricken nuclear power plant. It seems that there is a trend underway, in widely scattered parts of the world, that have atomic power disasters in common. But is it really advisable to have solar generating facilities in the exclusion zones created by a nuclear catastrophe? On the face of it, this would seem to be a benign, innovative use of contaminated land. But are there hazards slipping in under the radar, from seemingly innocuous sources—such as radioactive dust? And looking at the situation more broadly, is the endeavor indicative of society being far too casual about the effects of serious radioactive releases from nuclear power plants?

First, some background. There is no doubt that the electric power is needed. Because Ukraine has 15 atomic reactors, generating almost 56 percent of its total electricity—of which seven will reach the end of their licensed operating life by 2020—this proposal is not merely an academic argument. It has real economic, environmental, and health implications for the entire country. Ukraine needs a massive financial investment in new sources of electric generation to keep its lights on. While reconditioning its aging atomic reactors is possible to briefly extend their service time, the cost to recondition such aged nuclear plants is exceptionally high, exceeding several billion US dollars.

Consequently, any proposal to generate electricity and make up for the loss of generating power caused by the disaster at the nuclear power plant should be taken seriously. And the same is true of the situation in Japan.

While traveling in Fukushima Prefecture in February and March of 2016, I noticed numerous, small-scale solar installations throughout areas where habitation is either still forbidden or relocation has only recently been allowed. While not producing anywhere near the power of the proposed Ukrainian solar farm, these collectors …read moreRead More

Channel NewsAsia: Abe's Fukushima 'under control' pledge to secure Olympics was a lie - former PM"> Thumbnail for 883908

Japan’s former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi speaks at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo November 12, 2013. Koizumi publicly called for an end to Japan’s use of nuclear power on Tuesday. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

September 7, 2016, Channel NewsAsia

TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s promise that the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant was “under control” in his successful pitch three years ago for Tokyo to host the 2020 Olympic Games “was a lie”, former premier Junichiro Koizumi said on Wednesday.

Koizumi, one of Japan’s most popular premiers during his 2001-2006 term, became an outspoken critic of nuclear energy after a March 2011 earthquake and tsunami triggered meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co’s (Tepco) Fukushima Daiichi plant, the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

Abe gave the assurances about safety at the Fukushima plant in his September 2013 speech to the International Olympic Committee to allay concerns about awarding the Games to Tokyo. The comment met with considerable criticism at the time.

“Mr. Abe’s ‘under control’ remark, that was a lie,” Koizumi, now 74 and his unruly mane of hair turned white, told a news conference where he repeated his opposition to nuclear power.

“It is not under control,” Koizumi added, citing as an example Tepco’s widely questioned efforts to build the world’s biggest “ice wall” to keep groundwater from flowing into the basements of the damaged reactors and getting contaminated.

“They keep saying they can do it, but they can’t,” Koizumi said. Experts say handling the nearly million tonnes of radioactive water stored in tanks on the Fukushima site is one of the biggest challenges.

Koizumi also said he was “ashamed” that he had believed experts who assured him that nuclear power was cheap, clean and safe and that resource-poor Japan had to rely on nuclear energy.

After the Fukushima crisis, Koizumi said, “I studied the process, reality and history of the introduction of nuclear power and became ashamed of myself for believing such lies.”

All Japan’s nuclear plants – which had supplied about 30 percent of its electricity – were closed after the Fukushima disaster and utilities have struggled to get running again in the face of a sceptical public. Only three are operating now.

Abe’s government has set a target for nuclear power to supply a fifth of energy generation by 2030.

The meltdowns in three Fukushima reactors spewed radiation over a wide area of the countryside, contaminating water, food and air. More than 160,000 people were evacuated from nearby towns.

(Reporting by Linda Sieg and Megumi Lim; Editing by Nick Macfie)

– Reuters

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BBC documentary on Sellafield nuclear power plant receiving positive reviews"> Thumbnail for 882110

Panorama, the BBC investigative journalism program, released a new documentary this week on the Sellafield nuclear power plant (formerly called Windscale) in England warning that areas of the complex are dangerously rundown. The film titled “Sellafield’s Nuclear Safety Failings” was first broadcast on BBC One on September 5th.

The Sellafield facility is one of the world’s most dangerous radioactive wastes sites and is widely known as being home to some of the first nuclear reactors of the atomic age, enormous pools of mysterious radioactive sludge, leaking silos storing nuclear waste, and the potential risk of fire and explosions from gases generated by corrosion, but it also has a long secret history of safety failures, accidents, leaks, spills, scandals and cover-ups dating back to the 1950s.

Sellafield is home to four decommissioned nuclear reactors, nuclear fuel reprocessing facilities, and vast amounts of nuclear waste. The Sellafield site is also the location of “the most hazardous industrial building in western Europe” (Building B30) and the second-most hazardous building (Building B38), which hold a variety of leftovers from the first Magnox plants in ageing ponds. Many of the facilities were constructed with sole consideration given to the technical challenges faced by designers, with no thought given to how they would ultimately be decommissioned.

The BBC investigation highlights safety problem after safety problem, but largely centers around claims of dangerous handling of radioactive materials, the aging and degradation of critical safety equipment, and inadequate staffing levels.

Sellafield Nuclear Power Plant

While Sellafield no longer generates electricity or reprocesses nuclear waste, it still stores nearly all of Great Britain’s nuclear waste. The facility has been described as the “most hazardous” site in all of Britain by the United Kingdom’s National Audit Office, and poses significant risks to people or the environment.

The BBC documentary investigation was initiated after testimony of a whistleblower who used to be a senior manager of the Sellafield facility. One of the greatest concerns listed by the whistleblower is that if a critical fire were to break out and reach the silos of nuclear waste stored on-site that it could generate a plume of radioactive materials that would be spread across Western Europe. Some of these silos contain pyrophoric (will ignite if exposed to air) and highly radioactive nuclear wastes including cladding and fuel elements.

The whistleblower featured in the BBC documentary says that many of the problems it identified over the course of its investigation were indeed simple and not very complex, like staffing issues. In the one year span between July 2012 and July 2013, there were 97 recorded incidents where some facilities at the side did not have adequate minimum staffing levels on shift. Staffing levels are one of the key performance indicators for Sellafield and any deviation from safe minimum staffing levels is not acceptable according to Sellafield documents.

<img src="×424.jpeg" alt="Sellafield – Overgrown Facilities" width="425" height="424" …read moreRead More

Hegemonic Politics in the Age of Atomic Capitalism by Yuki Natsui September 5, 2016 Originally posted on the author’s blog. Contact for permission to re-publish. Pax Americana may indeed have proved illusory by its own nature, eclipsed by the aggressive interventionism of a foreign policy based on military doctrines of […]

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Nuclear Weapons in South Asia: Competitive Modernisation, Aggressive Posturing and Growing Jingoism"> Thumbnail for 878302

What is the status of the nuclear arsenals of India and Pakistan? What dangers come from the postures and plans they have adopted? What influences do China and the United States wield in the region?

These and other topics were the subject of Dr. M. V. Ramana’s talk on ‘Nuclear Weapons in South Asia: Programmes, Plans and Dangers’ that was organised by Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer Memorial Advisory Committee and Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP) on 27th August 2016 at Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh.

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