— Fukushima’s imprint in California wines found by French research

From MIT Technology Review:

Fukushima’s nuclear signature found in California wine

The Japanese nuclear disaster bathed north America in a radioactive cloud. Now pharmacologists have found the telltale signature in California wine made at the time.

July 19, 2018

Throughout the 1950s, the US, the Soviet Union, and others tested thermonuclear weapons in the Earth’s atmosphere. Those tests released vast quantities of radioactive material into the air and triggered fears that the nuclear reactions could ignite deuterium in the oceans, thereby destroying the planet in a catastrophic accidental fireball.

Atmospheric tests ended in 1980, when China finished its program, but the process has left a long-lasting nuclear signature on the planet. One of the most obvious signatures is cesium-137, a radioactive by-product of the fission of uranium-235.

After release into the atmosphere, cesium-137 was swept around the world and found its way into the food supply in trace quantities. Such an addition is rarely welcomed. But in 2001, the French pharmacologist Philippe Hubert discovered that he could use this signature to date wines without opening the bottles.

The technique immediately became a useful weapon in the fight against wine fraud—labeling young wines as older vintages to inflate their price. Such fraud can be spotted by various types of chemical and isotope analysis—but only after the wine has been opened, which destroys its value.

Cesium-137, on the other hand, allows noninvasive testing because it is radioactive. It produces distinctive gamma rays in proportion to the amount of isotope present. Dating the wine is a simple process of matching the amount of cesium-137 to atmospheric records from the time the wine was made. That quickly reveals any fraud. Indeed, if there is no cesium-137, the wine must date from after 1980.

There is one blip in this record, though. The Chernobyl disaster in 1986 bathed much of Europe, and other parts of the world, in a radioactive cloud that increased atmospheric levels of cesium-137 again. Hubert and colleagues can see this blip in their data from wines.

And that raises an interesting question about the Fukushima disaster of 2011, an accident of Chernobyl proportions caused by a meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan following a huge earthquake and tsunami. It released a radioactive cloud that bathed North America in fissile by-products.

Is it possible to see the effects of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in California wines produced at the time?

Today we get an answer, thanks to a study carried out by Hubert and a couple of colleagues. “In January 2017, we came across a series of Californian wines (Cabernet Sauvignon) from vintage 2009 to 2012,” say Hubert and company.

This set of wines provides the perfect test. The Fukushima disaster occurred on March 11, 2011. Any wine made before that date should be free of the effects, while any dating from afterward could show them.

The team began their study with the conventional measurement of cesium-137 levels in the unopened bottles. That showed levels to be indistinguishable from background noise.

But the team was able to carry out more-sensitive tests by opening the wine and reducing it to ash by evaporation. This involves heating the wine to 100 degrees Celsius for one hour and then increasing the temperature to 500 degrees Celsius for eight hours. In this way, a standard 750-milliliter bottle of wine produces around four grams of ashes. The ashes were then placed in a gamma ray detector to look for signs of cesium-137.

Using this method, Hubert and his colleagues found measurable amounts of cesium-137 above background levels in the wine produced after 2011. “It seems there is an increase in activity in 2011 by a factor of two,” conclude the team.

That probably won’t be very useful for fraud detection in California wine—the levels of cesium-137 are barely detectable, and even then, only if the wine is destroyed.

But the result does show how nuclear disasters can have unexpected consequences long after the fact.


Dating of Wines with cesium-137: Fukushima’s imprint




Posted under Fair Use Rules.


— MIT’s floating reactors — “outstanding safety performance” or dangerous fraud? (VIDEO)

Here is the transcript and MIT description for the Jacopo Buongiorno video. Again, this is a must-see video; archive it for future use.

In this video are many errors and assumptions. Obviously neither Buongiorno nor his team are sailors who have experienced weather and ocean conditions. The evacuation and contamination zone for Fukushima is not a few miles. The only thing infinite about the ocean is its goodness. Certainly the ocean is not an infinite heat sink. Heating the ocean is never, ever, a good idea, and discharging radioactivity into the water is insane. Radioactive gases will also burp out of the ocean as fast as they are pumped in, as anyone who has blown bubbles into water knows. So much for mitigation. So much for ‘higher’ education.

These universities seem to be publicly-funded industry profit enrichment systems. There is little critical thinking going on here, and degrees are being given to fools and yes-men who develop systems that endanger the Earth and everyone on it. 

Video and description from Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Published April 15, 2014

“When an earthquake and tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant complex in 2011, neither the quake nor the inundation caused most of the damage and contamination. Rather, it was the aftereffects — specifically, the lack of cooling for the reactor cores and spent fuel, due to a shutdown of outside power — that caused most of the harm.

A new design for nuclear plants built on floating platforms, modeled after those used for offshore oil drilling, could help avoid such consequences in the future. Such floating plants would be designed to be automatically flooded by the surrounding seawater in a worst-case scenario, providing sufficient cooling to indefinitely prevent any melting of fuel rods, or escape of radioactive material.

The concept is being presented this week at the Small Modular Reactors Symposium, hosted by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, by MIT associate professor of nuclear science and engineering (NSE) Jacopo Buongiorno along with others from MIT, the University of Wisconsin, and Chicago Bridge and Iron, a major nuclear plant and offshore platform construction company.

Video filmed by Christopher Sherrill, courtesy of MIT Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering.”


Speaker: Jacopo Buongiorno,
Associate Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering, MIT

Today I want to tell you about a new nuclear reactor concept that we’re developing here at MIT, and that is the possibility of revolutionizing the nuclear industry both in terms of economics and safety.

This is a floating offshore nuclear power plant.

It’s a power plant that can be entirely constructed in a centralized shipyard and then towed to the site where it would be moored or anchored a few miles off the coast and link to the electric grid with a transmission line.

Now the idea of the floating plant is not entirely new. In fact, the Russian are building a floating plant themselves, but the key difference between our concept and theirs is that ours is not only floating but is sited a few miles off the coast, and this affords some absolutely crucial advantages.

First of all, tsunamis and earthquakes are no longer a source of risk for the nuclear plant because essentially the ocean shields the seismic waves. And the tsunami waves in relatively deep waters – say, 100 meter deep – are not big and so they don’t really pose a hazard for the plant.

Number two, of course, the ocean itself can be used as an infinite heat sink. And so, the decay heat which is generated by the nuclear fuel, even after the reactor is shut down, can be removed indefinitely, and this is a major advantage with respect to current terrestrial plants in which the ultimate heat sink is not assured necessarily for the very long term as demonstrated by the accident in Japan at Fukushima.

The other key safety advantage is that because of distance from shore, even if an accident should occur at the plant, it will not force people to evacuate, to move away from their homes and their jobs on shore. Because of distance, and also because of the possibility of essentially venting radioactive gases under water, therefore minimizing the impact onshore.

Now, a nice characteristic of this idea is that it combines essentially two established technologies. One is nuclear reactors – for example, light water reactors, PWI and PWR — and the other technology is offshore platforms which are currently used obviously for oil and gas exploration, exploitation, and extraction.

So we think that the combination of these two technologies give some solid ground on which we can build a plant that has good economic performance and, as I explained, an outstanding safety performance.

And we have a great team here at MIT of students, both graduates and undergraduates, as well as professors, and we’re also collaborating with other universities and with industry to develop these new concepts.

— Floating reactors: avoiding another Fukushima or creating more damage and risk? (VIDEO)

This short must-see video by MIT Associate Professor Jacopo Buongiorno. Download this video and save it.

Quotes from the article below and the video:

“The ocean is inexpensive real estate.”

“The ocean itself can be used as an infinite heat sink.

“The decay heat which is generated by the nuclear fuel, even after the reactor is shut down, can be removed indefinitely,”

Jacopo Buongiorno, MIT

The collaborators listed in the article don’t include biologists, marine biologists, meteorologists, oceanographers, or medical experts. This is an economic development project with some safety-appearing measures.


From RT

18 Apr, 2014

A group of American engineers proposed bringing nuclear power generating facilities out to sea, to secure them from earthquakes and tsunamis, and prevent a possible meltdown threat by submerging a reactor’s active zone.

A report by American scientists to be presented at the Small Modular Reactors Symposium, hosted by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, suggests that a nuclear power plant could be built in a form of standardized floating offshore platforms similar to modern drilling oil rigs and anchored about 10km out into the ocean. Electric power would be transferred to land by underwater cables.

Jacopo Buongiorno, associate professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who led the research, believes the project has a number of crucial advantages.

The main peculiarity of the new project is that a reactor is put into the underwater part of the facility, where it would be securely cooled by seawater in case of an emergency.

“The ocean itself can be used as an infinite heat sink. The decay heat, which is generated by the nuclear fuel even after the reactor is shutdown, can be removed indefinitely,” Buongiorno said, adding that “The reactor containment itself is essentially underwater.”

Such NPP would be safe from earthquakes and also from tsunamis inflicted by aftershocks. Back in 2011, a combination of these two devastated the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, which led to breakdown of the reactors’ cooling systems and eventually ended with meltdown of two reactors’ active cores. Radioactive fallout from that catastrophe is set to contaminate the Pacific Ocean for many years to come.

Positioning the plant should also be a simple process: just tow the station to wherever it is needed and moor it to the seafloor. No need to look for a seismically safe place with plenty of water, a sea or lake, nearby as with traditional nuclear power plants.

“The ocean is inexpensive real estate,” Buongiorno said.

The all-steel sea-based construction of the facility also eliminates the need for expensive concrete works, which make up a considerable part of the cost of any nuclear power plant.

Buongiorno stressed the versatility of the project which could be adjusted to match any energy consumption need, be it 50 or 1,000 megawatts.

“It’s a flexible concept,” he said.

The personnel of the plant could work on rotating scheme, with living quarters placed atop of the facility.

When the working lifespan of such plant is expired, it could be decommissioned the same way it is currently done nuclear submarines’ reactors, a well-proven technology considerably less expensive than decommission of a ground-based nuclear power plant.

The project is being developed by MIT Professors Jacopo Buongiorno, Michael W. Golay, Neil E. Todreas and other MIT staff, with support from the University of Wisconsin, and the major US nuclear plant and offshore platform construction company Chicago Bridge and Iron.

Developers of the project believe the concept could be required by many countries, in the first place earthquake- and tsunami-prone Japan, Indonesia, Chile etc.

Russia’s floating nuclear power plant nearly complete

The idea of constructing sea-based nuclear power facilities is definitely not new yet only one country has so far managed to bring such a project to reality.

Russia is in the process of finalizing construction of a 70 megawatt floating nuclear co-generation plant named ‘Akademik Lomonosov’, after a famous Russian scientist of the 18th century. The project implies construction of a series, probably seven, of vessel-mounted, non-self-propelled autonomous power facilities.

Launched in 2010 by state-owned Rosatom nuclear energy corporation, the project is now in the final stage of construction at the Baltic shipyard in St. Petersburg.

The vessel hosting the plant is measured 140 by 30 meters and with 5.5-meter draught has a displacement of 21,500 tons. The crew of the plant consists of 70 engineers.

The power unit of the plant consists of two 35MW KLT-40C nuclear reactors and two steam-driven turbines.

The plant will be generating enough power to serve 200,000 people.

Unlike the floating plant proposed by the American engineers, ‘Akademik Lomonosov’ is not just a power generator. It also produces 300 megawatt of heat that could be transferred onshore. This will be equal to saving 200,000 tons of coal every year.

This is the major difference between the Russia’s nuclear power plant and American project, which sacrificed heat generation to security matters. An American plant moored 10 km off the coast cannot transfer hot water ashore so it will waste the heat and only warm up the waters nearby.

The facility could also be converted into desalination plant producing 240,000 cubic meters of fresh water per day, an immensely interesting solution for seaside countries with scarce water resources situated in Northern Africa and the Middle East.

The plant, with a lifespan of 40 years, will be re-fueled every three years and will have a 12-year service cycle, when the plant will undergo servicing and maintenance at the Baltic shipyard.

The equipment for the floating power plant has been developed and supplied by 136 companies and subcontractors.

Deployment of a nuclear facility out to sea have raised concerns of such environmental organizations as Greenpeace, which maintained that sea-based nuclear facility is prone to torpedo and missile attacks and could also be seized by terrorists striving to obtain nuclear materials for a ‘dirty’ nuclear bomb.

For all that Russia has well over 50 years of experience of operating nuclear powered icebreakers, nuclear submarines and other vessels, most of them specifically built for operation in the extreme conditions of the Arctic Ocean.

That’s why Rosatom is considering deployment of floating nuclear power plants to any region with either difficult weather conditions, such as the port of Pevek in the Russian Arctic or Vilyuchinsk on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia’s Pacific region, notorious for frequent seismic activities.