Friday, 5 December 2014

Nuclear news

Climate change brings threat of sea level rise to nuclear power facilities

25 November, 2014

New nuclear plants in most countries are located in coastal regions so that these water-guzzling facilities can largely draw on seawater for their operations and not bring freshwater resources under strain.

But coastal areas are often not only heavily populated but also constitute prime real estate. Moreover, the projected greater frequency of natural disasters like storms, hurricanes, and tsunamis due to climate change, along with the rise of ocean levels, makes seaside reactors particularly vulnerable.

The risks that seaside reactors face from global-warming-induced natural disasters became evident more than six years before Fukushima, when the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami inundated the Madras Atomic Power Station. But the reactor core could be kept in a safe shutdown mode because the electrical systems had been installed on higher ground than the plant level.

In 1992, Hurricane Andrew caused significant damage at the Turkey Point nuclear power plant in Florida, but fortunately not to any critical system. And in a 2012 incident, an alert was declared at the New Jersey Oyster Creek nuclear power plant — the oldest operating commercial reactor in the U.S. — after water rose in its water intake structure during Hurricane Sandy, potentially affecting the pumps that circulate cooling water through the plant.

All of Britain’s nuclear power plants are located along the coast, and a government assessment has identified as many as 12 of the country’s 19 civil nuclear sites as being at risk due to rising sea levels. Several nuclear plants in Britain, as in a number of other countries, are just a few meters above sea level……

Belgian nuclear crisis continues with fire at Tihange

3 December, 2014

Belgium's nuclear crisis continued this week with a fire and explosion at the Tihange nuclear power plant. The fire began in the electrical substation transformer building at approximately 10.30am on Sunday, December 1 and led to an emergency shutdown of reactor unit 3. The 29 year old Tihange nuclear reactor is located near Liege and is 70 kilometers west of the city of Aachen. The fire was put out by the local fire service. The reactor restarted at 5.00am on December 2.

Fires at nuclear power plants pose significant risks to reactor safety due to the potential disruption of the electrical supply to vital reactor safety functions. (In 2008, Jack Grobe, Associate Director for Engineering and Safety Systems, Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulatory, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said: "Approximately one-half of the core damage risk at operating reactors results from accident sequences that initiate with fire events.")

The transformer at a power plant converts the electricity current generated before it enters the main electrical grid. There have been numerous fires at nuclear power plants in recent years, including at the Krummel plant in Germany and at the Arkansas reactor in the United States. A fire of an oil-cooled transformer that contains several thousand litres of combustible insulating oil can result insevere damage to nearby power plant structural components such as concrete walls, and damage or destroy electrical components.

Tihange's operator Electrabel stressed that the cause of the fire was a technical failure rather than sabotage. The Belgium nuclear industry was shaken in August 2014 when it was revealed that sabotage had caused major damage at the Doel nuclear power plant. Doel's reactor 4 remains shutdown and is undergoing repairs.
The nuclear industry is in crisis in Belgium. The Tihange reactor 2 and Doel reactor 3 have been shutdown since March 2014 due to the discovery of thousands of serious cracks in their reactor core pressure vessels. Investigations are on-going into the extent and cause of the cracks, while Greenpeace has been demanding the release of research tests results on the reactors.

The remaining operating reactors are the oldest in Belgium. In July 2013, Belgium's Council of Ministers made an agreement to close the twin Doel 1 and 2 reactors in 2015, but the nuclear industry is pushing to have their lives extended due in part to the crisis with their newer reactors.
Action at Tihange Nuclear Power Plant in Belgium. Climbers from Greenpeace Belgium hang a banner with the slogan "The End" from a cooling tower during a protest at the Tihange power plant in Belgium. Greenpeace activists are protesting against ageing nuclear power plants in Europe. 03/05/2014 © Nick Hannes / Greenpeace

Action at Tihange Nuclear Power Plant in Belgium (03/05/2014 © Nick Hannes / Greenpeace)

Greenpeace has been demanding a complete phase out of nuclear power in Belgium due to the accident risks from their ageing reactors, including protests at Tihange earlier this year.

75% US Nuclear Plants Leaking Toxic Tritium Radiation Into Drinking Water Supply

Seismic Faults Pose Risk to 
California Nuclear Power 
A former California senator has stated that the multiple faults around the seaside Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant are more serious than it had been previously estimated and scale up a risk of nuclear disaster.

3 December, 2014

WASHINGTON, December 3 (Sputnik) – Multiple fault lines pose a risk to the safety of the seaside Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in California, as they could be more powerful than previously estimated, a former state senator told a Senate hearing on Wednesday.

The US nuclear power plant fleet will be compliant with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) new safety requirements by 2016, based on the lessons, learned from the Japanese Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in 2011.

"The faults surrounding Diablo [Canyon] are now understood to be larger and more connected than previously believed," Sam Blakeslee, who is also the former California Seismic Safety Commissioner, said before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

In his testimony, the geophysicist and former California state senator said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has relaxed seismic standards and regulation, while utility company Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) has downplayed the threat, posed by earthquakes.

Since the completion of Diablo Canyon in 1973, six fault lines have been discovered in the vicinity of the nuclear power plant. Most recently the Shoreline Fault located within 600 meters of the plant was discovered in 2008.

The safety of nuclear power plants came under renewed focus following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. That combined earthquake and tsunami disaster compelled the US to review nuclear safety.

The NRC and PG&E claim the safety standards of the plant can withstand any possible earthquake scenarios.

Experts Concern About California’s Only Nuclear Plant Safety After Powerful Earthquake

However, Blakeslee explained in a detailed presentation how PG&E has used suspect geological methodologies and issued "major revisions literally with each newly issued report" that states the plant is up to earthquake safety standards.

"These facts raise significant regulatory issues that need to be addressed at the highest levels of the NRC," Blakeslee said. "In this instance we see a nuclear power plant that is found to be exposed marked greater seismic threats than ever envisioned during the licensing process."

Blakeslee stressed that "the regulatory determination of safety should not hang tenuously upon the results of an ongoing science experiment."

In a statement to the Senate committee members, Daniel Hirsch, a lecturer on nuclear policy at the University of California, Santa Cruz, argued the Fukushima disaster was caused by two problems. One was Japan, allowing a nuclear plant to be designed and licensed to withstand an earthquake and tsunami smaller than occurred, and the second a cozy relationship between the nuclear utility and regulator.

The lessons of Fukushima have not been learned in the United States, Hirsh suggested, adding that "these problems plague the American nuclear regulatory system as well".

"Unless the underlying dysfunctional nature of nuclear regulation in this country rapidly undergoes sweeping reform, a Fukushima-type disaster, or worse, may occur here, perhaps on the Central California coast," Hirsch warned.

The Diablo Canyon plant is California's only nuclear power reactor, located between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The United States gets nearly 20 percent of its energy from nuclear power.

Safety systems shut down Callaway nuclear plant

3 December, 2014

Safety systems at Ameren Missouri’s nuclear power plant in Callaway County unexpectedly kicked in and shut down the plant early Wednesday morning, federal regulators said.

Ameren reported to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that a “reactor trip” occurred at the plant just after midnight. Power in the plant’s core went from 100 percent to a complete shutdown, the NRC said.

The NRC classified the incident as a nonemergency, and said a turbine trip caused the reactor trip. The turbines produce electricity from steam generated using heat from the nuclear reaction in the core.

Something happened on the electrical side of the plant,” said Mark McLachlan, Ameren’s senior director of engineering. “What we don’t know is what caused that electrical problem yet, and we’re investigating. ... This is completely separated from the nuclear side of the plant.”

The plant recently finished refueling, which happens every 18 months, and replacing its reactor head, a major maintenance project. McLachlan said neither of those activities was related to the electrical issue that caused the reactor trip.

The 1,200-megawatt nuclear reactor in mid-Missouri supplies about 20 percent of the utility’s electricity when at full power.

The plant is stable, the NRC notice said, and no safety relief valves were opened that would expose the core to the outside.

A reactor trip is a safety mechanism that shuts down the nuclear reaction in a power plant if coolant temperature, pressure, reactor power or other conditions fall out of safe operating parameters, according to the NRC.

Control rods are inserted into the core that absorb neutrons to stop the nuclear reaction and prevent damage to the core.

The NRC notice said all safety systems operated normally after the reactor shut down except for a throttle valve. McLachlan said the company has a team looking at why that valve did not work properly, but other than that, the safety systems worked “per design.”

He said the utility must first complete its investigation and does not know how long the plant will be shut down.

We’re just beginning the investigation,” McLachlan said. “Ameren has other plants that can make up the power, so there is no net effect to our customers.”

Ed Smith of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment said he was concerned about the shutdown.

Unexpected shutdowns like today show how nuclear electricity production can go from 100 percent to 0 percent without warning,” Smith said in a statement. “Nuclear energy comes with its own set of risks that vulnerabilities that are often minimized by the industry and its supporters.”

The core reaction was last shut down by a reactor trip in the summer of 2013 after a small fire broke out in the turbine building.

Fukushima Daiichi's: Hidden Crises Radioactive Water NHK Documentary

Japan Nuclear Experts: Footage shows 'major problem' at Fukushima Unit 1; Cesium release to continue for next 5 decades — Tepco: Even if we knew where it's broken, how can we stop it? — "Still in the dark" about other 2 units

Ukraine reports accident at Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant
3 December, 2014

Ukraine has reported an accident at a nuclear power plant but the government says it poses no danger.

It happened on November 28, forcing one reactor to be shut down.

The Zaporizhzhya plant in the country’s southeast produces a fifth of Ukraine’s electricity.

It lies some 300 kilometres west of Donetsk, well away from the conflict zone where the Ukrainian army is fighting pro-Russian separatists

Since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, under an international convention countries are supposed to report any nuclear accident to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna. It said it had no immediate comment.

Ukrainian Energy Minister Volodymyr Demchyshyn insisted there was no threat.

Today and tomorrow, tests are being carried out and from Friday, the plant will be back working normally. There is no problem with the reactor, there’s no link at all to the reactor. None whatsoever… forget it,” he told a news conference.

His statement said the problem was caused by an electrical short circuit, which caused “technical damage” but did not threaten the reactor.

Some disruption to electricity supplies has been reported.

News of the accident was revealed by the Prime Minister Andriy Yatsenyuk as his new cabinet met.

The nuclear industry provides about half of Ukraine’s electricity.

It is expected to be in greater demand this winter due to fuel shortages resulting from the suspension of Russian gas supplies.

Is this normal?

Latest Headlines:

02:39 PM EST on December 4th, 2014 | 116 comments
01:26 PM EST on December 3rd, 2014 | 156 comments

CNN: Urgent – Emergency repairs reported at largest nuclear power plant in Europe — Prime Minister: I know that a nuclear accident has occurred (VIDEO)

01:32 PM EST on December 2nd, 2014 | 207 comments

Official back from Fukushima: Invisible blanket of death covers everything… it’s a nightmare — LA Times: Parents suspect heart defects related to Fukushima — Former WHO expert blasts U.N. Fukushima report, warns of cancer spike (VIDEO)

03:35 PM EST on December 1st, 2014 | 157 comments

Worst Case Scenario’ has happened at US nuclear site — Robert Redford film predicted 2014 WIPP disaster: Plutonium release due to chemical reaction in burst nuclear drum is ultimate catastrophe… Most significant issue is combustible waste exposed to high heat, everyone understands that (VIDEO)

04:58 PM EST on November 30th, 2014 | 171 comments

New data shows babies missing brains at 2,500% national rate in county by nuclear site — Mother: Officials “shut me down the minute I mentioned Hanford!… WE NEED ANSWERS!” — Experts: No birth defect is more extreme; It’s the most significant impact of radiation on developing embryos (AUDIO)

06:50 PM EST on November 27th, 2014 | 393 comments

Fukushima Worker: They’re covering up how much contamination is flowing into ocean — Scientist: We are measuring higher radiation levels off Japan — Plume near California already exceeds expectations, and will keep rising for years to come — TV: “Cleanup can’t be done… They lied from the start, Tepco is a den of inequity” (VIDEOS)

08:39 AM EST on November 27th, 2014 | 161 comments

Fukushima fallout on vegetation in South Florida exceeded gov’t notification limit by over 1,000% — Nearly triple the highest level reported anywhere on West Coast

10:14 PM EST on November 26th, 2014 | 195 comments

CDC Official: “Public health emergency in the US” from Fukushima radioactive material — Gov’t wanted to quarantine people contaminated with radiation, but had no authority — Emergency Operations Center activated for first time ever due to nuclear incident

12:11 PM EST on November 25th, 2014 | 263 comments

CBS: Now 2 US sailors dead after Fukushima radiation exposure — Doctor: Officials have to re-look at this entire situation — Reporter who served on USS Reagan: “We were done so wrong… Critical health risk to all of us onboard… People are not realizing how serious the issue is” (VIDEO)

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