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About an hour ago–  March 17, 2011

Screen grab from a video showing the extent of the damage done to the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi complex.

This shot shows the damage done to the unit 4 reactor, where emergency workers earlier attempted to fire water at in a bid to cool the fuel rods.

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In this undated but recent photo released by Tokyo Electric Power Co., the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant reactors stand in line intact in Okumamachi in Fukushima Prefecture (state), northeastern Japan. Reactors encased in square boxes, from left,

Doomsday Scenario at Fukushima

Marvin Resnikoff- HuffPost
Senior Associate, Radioactive Waste Management Associates
Posted: March 15, 2011 11:03 AM

The slow motion events occurring at Japan’s (or GE’s) Fukushima reactor cannot be sugar-coated. It is a doomsday scenario unfolding.

Nuclear reactors are not the same as coal/oil/gas electricity plants. Unlike conventional plants, they cannot be turned off. So while brave workers were tending to Units 1, 2 and 3 reactors, attempting against all odds to keep the reactor from overheating, the fuel pool at Unit 4 was left untended; without makeup water to cool them, the fuel rods overheated. Above 1800 oF, an exothermic reaction, a fire, took place with the zirconium cladding around the uranium pellets. Zirconium burned, forming zirconium oxide and hydrogen gas, which then exploded and released radioactive cesium, a semi-volatile metal, to the atmosphere.

Near the plant, the radiation levels dangerously escalated to 400 milliseiverts/hour (or 40 rems/hour in U.S. parlance). Considering background is on the order of 1 milliseivert per YEAR, this means a yearly background dose every 9 seconds. Put plainly, workers at the Fukushima reactors are putting their lives in immediate jeopardy.

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Fukushima Explosion: Japan Nuclear Plant Rocked By Hydrogen Explosion (VIDEO)

AP/The Huffington Post First Posted: 03/14/11 01:33 AM Updated: 03/14/11 08:01 AM

SOMA, Japan – The second hydrogen explosion in three days rocked Japan’s stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant Monday, sending a massive column of smoke into the air and wounding 6 workers. The plant’s operator said radiation levels at the reactor were still within legal limits.

(SCROLL DOWN FOR LIVE UPDATES)

The explosion at the plant’s Unit 3, which authorities have been frantically trying to cool following a system failure in the wake of a massive earthquake and tsunami, triggered an order for hundreds of people to stay indoors, said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said radiation levels at Unit 3 were 10.65 microsieverts, significantly under the 500 microsieverts at which a nuclear operator must file a report to the government.

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Smoke rises from Fukushima Daiichi No 1 plant after a blast at the power station following Japan's earthquake and tsunami. Photograph: Staff/Reuters

Japan earthquake: the nuclear crisis is not over yet

Japan says disaster has been averted at the Fukushima nuclear plant but serious questions remain

Posted by Julian Borger Saturday 12 March 2011 23.24 GMT guardian.co.uk

The Japanese authorities have told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that the levels of radioactivity outside the Unit 1 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant are falling and that there was no rupture in the unit’s containment vessel that would have led to a large-scale release of radiation. However, it now appears that the cooling systems in the No 3 reactor have also failed.

Sea water and boron are being pumped into the Unit 1 vessel with the aim of preventing a meltdown of the fuel inside. For the time being, the threat of a meltdown has receded. It is not immediately clear if the same is going to be done at the No 3 reactor.

It is the first time such desperate measures have been employed. Olli Heinonen, the former head of the IAEA’s safeguards department now at Harvard University, told me that the seawater has to be continually pumped out of the vessel as well as being pumped in, and he has so far seen no confirmation that the temperature of the water is stable or dropping.

Heinonen said that the equipment being used to do the pumping has necessarily been improvised, and will be therefore be highly vulnerable to aftershocks.

He also pointed out that there has been no word so far on the spent fuel at the site which would be kept in pools at the reactor. Any breakdown in the cooling system could cause the spent fuel to melt, with the risk of a significant release of radioactivity.

There is widespread uneasiness despite the reassuring noises coming from the authorities over the situation, in part because of the industry’s history of ignoring warnings and covering up safety problems.

SOURCE

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The Hidden Costs of Nuclear Power

Huff Post  By- Alec Baldwin

Posted: February 23, 2010 02:58 PM

Sitting in Bill Richardson’s office while he was Secretary of Energy under President Clinton was an opportunity that my colleagues and I from Standing for Truth About Radiation had worked hard to obtain. We wanted Richardson to not only close the research reactor at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, but also to shut down the Millstone plant in Waterford, Connecticut, which we asserted had been killing enormous amounts of fish with its water intake system for cooling. Local groups had been charging Millstone with destroying millions of pounds of local fish and with pumping superheated water back into the Long Island Sound, the temperatures of which had negatively impacted fish and shellfish habitat for decades.

Richardson, like any DOE Secretary before or after him, wasn’t all that interested in closing Millstone. Everywhere we went, government officials like Richardson invoked the figure “20 percent.” Twenty percent of domestic power in the US is derived from nuclear energy. The clean and safe source of power.

Often when discussing the advent of a new era in nuclear power generation, advocates for nukes, like Stewart Brand, who I referenced in my previous post, tread lightly over certain subjects, such as waste disposal and security issues. Other problems inherent in nuclear power generation, they simply ignore completely. One such issue is the impact of mining and processing radioactive materials into actual fuel. The mining and processing of material like uranium is one of the most carbon intensive processes used in creating energy. To mine, mill and refine uranium and to then submit the material to the enrichment, or gaseous diffusion, process takes vast amounts of energy. In sites around the US, massive coal burning plants pollute the air while providing the energy for uranium enrichment. Add to that the power needed to fabricate the enriched UF6 into fuel rods, and the resources needed to store the byproduct, reduced or depleted UF6. You begin to see that everything that leads up to a utility reactor going on line is anything but clean.

Another issue that nuke advocates sidestep is calculation of the true cost of bringing nuclear power plants on line. Just as oil, and thus gasoline, actually costs astronomically more than what we pay at the pump, due to the cost of US military interventions in the oil-rich areas of the world ( not to mention the costs in human lives, US and foreign), nuclear power has its own menu of hidden costs that are now, or one day will be, inherited by our children. Waste storage is the primary issue here. But the actual decommissioning and decontamination of reactors themselves will soon come to pass. Even with current licenses being foolishly extended and, thus, pushing the operational lives of these units years, even decades, beyond their original design, these units will eventually expire. The cost of closing them safely in current dollars is staggering. In the future, that will only get worse.

Scott Simon never asked Stewart Brand about Price Anderson. Even as utility operators put hundreds of millions into the Price Anderson fund respectively and billions collectively, one accident at, say, Indian Point, adjacent to New York City, would mean potentially many billions in costs. Who pays that? US taxpayers do, while Entergy, a private energy company, profits from the operation of the plant. Insuring these plants, over a hundred of them in the US, all aging, falls largely to US taxpayers. Another hidden cost. At least hidden in so far as most US citizens are concerned.

In the next piece that I post here, I will touch upon the issue of the health hazards posed by exposure to ambient radiation, which I believe is the least discussed and among the most insidious components of the nuclear powered utility legacy.

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The Truth About Nuclear Power in Utility Reactors

Huff Post  By- Alec Baldwin

Posted: February 22, 2010 12:41 PM

It was in 1996 that I was first contacted by an organization called the Standing for Truth About Radiation (STAR) Foundation. The Long Island-based group, a loose bundle of veterans of the anti-nuclear movement, local artists, businessmen with large investments in second homes on the East End and scientists with a career-long dedication to the issue were attempting to raise awareness about the Brookhaven National Laboratory and its nuclear-powered research facility, the High Flux Beam Reactor.

The reactor operations at Brookhaven were reported to have released billions of gallons of tritiated water into the headwaters of the Peconic River during the period of its operations from 1965 to 1996. BNL, the U.S. Army’s former Camp Upton and the site of decades-long research into all things nuclear, had been the base of operations for some of the earliest work on the atomic bomb. A coalition of different community groups had been opposing the HFBR at BNL for years. Pro-business lobbying groups warned that closing the reactor would have dire consequences to the Long Island economy, as national laboratories, with their high-skill, high-paying jobs, were viewed as “sexy” components of any area’s business landscape. Opponents of BNL pointed out that levels of soft tissue cancers and rare diseases such as rhabdomyosarcoma were extraordinarily higher adjacent to the water recharge area near the lab. More effectively, the anti-BNL groups pointed out that Long Islanders had already voiced their opinion of having nuclear reactors in the area when they agreed to absorb the unconscionable amount of money necessary to shutter the Shoreham nuclear power plant several years earlier.

The Long Island Lighting Company, one of the most horrifically mismanaged public utilities in U.S. history, had thrown the switch and already gone “online” with a utility reactor on the North Shore of Suffolk County, a decision that represented a game of chicken with the area’s rate payers. Once the reactor went “hot”, any move to shut it down would surely mean hundreds of millions of dollars extra in decommissioning and decontamination costs. Long Island residents said, “Bring it on.” Already the highest utility rate payers in the forty-eight contiguous states, LILCO customers absorbed billions in costs, amortized over several years, and Shoreham closed. Soon after that, then Governor George Pataki set up another darling of Albany politicos, a quasi-public authority (the Long Island Power Authority or LIPA) to, among other things, evacuate LILCO’s overpaid executives who were responsible for the Shoreham debacle. All the information you could possibly want on this issue was brilliantly covered by one of the greatest journalists in the area, Karl Grossman.

Shoreham was closed because even the Feds could not argue that Long Island had no effective evacuation plan, a vital issue for people who would have to either bottleneck through the biggest city in the U.S. or swim to Connecticut in the event of some disaster. That fear also applied to BNL. Soon, the HFBR was closed as well.

(more…)

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Obama Nuclear Plant: President To Announce Loan Guarantee For More Than $8 Billion

JULIE PACE | 02/16/10 11:57 AM | AP

LANHAM, Md. — Promising “this is only the beginning,” President Barack Obama announced more than $8 billion in federal loan guarantees Tuesday for the construction of the first nuclear power plant in the United States in nearly three decades.

Obama cast his move as both economically essential and politically attractive as he sought to put more charge into his broad energy agenda. Obama called for comprehensive energy legislation that assigns a cost to the carbon pollution of fossil fuels, giving utility companies more incentive to turn to cleaner nuclear fuel.

“On an issue that affects our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, we can’t continue to be mired in the same old stale debates between left and right, between environmentalists and entrepreneurs,” Obama said in a stop at a job training center outside Washington. “Our competitors are racing to create jobs and command growing energy industries. And nuclear energy is no exception.”

Rising costs, safety issues and opposition from environmentalists have kept utility companies from building new nuclear power plants since the early 1980s

Obama has been arguing that the country must develop cleaner energy technologies and modernize the means by which it powers itself. At the same time, he has said that policymakers must not conclude they have to choose between a cleaner environment and sufficient energy supplies to meet demand.

Obama’s budget proposal for 2011 would add $36 billion in new federal loan guarantees to $18.5 billion already budgeted but not spent – for a total of $54.5 billion. The new $8.3 billion in federal loan guarantees will go toward the construction and operation of a pair of reactors in Burke County, Ga., by Southern Co.

Even in promoting his case, the president conceded that nuclear energy has “serious drawbacks.” He said a bipartisan group of leaders and nuclear experts will be tasked with improving and accelerating the safe storage of nuclear waste, and that the plants themselves must be held to strictest safety standards.

“That’s going to be an imperative. But investing in nuclear energy remains a necessary step,” Obama said.

“And what I hope is that this announcement underscores both our seriousness in meeting the energy challenge – and our willingness to look at this challenge not as a partisan issue, but as a matter far more important than politics,” he added.

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