— Humboldt Bay problems continue; PG&E retaliates against decommissioning expert

The story of Humboldt Bay Nuclear Plant is an expose of PG&E and an expose of nuclear regulation. It’s happening now. Its dangers and warnings are critical for the public to heed.

OSHA & The Cover-up At The PG&E Humboldt Bay Nuclear Power Station

Darrell Whitman who was a Federal OSHA investigator and lawyer discusses his investigation at the PG&E nuclear power plant at Humboldt Bay in Northern California. Whitman reports on how OSHA officials refused to defend the whistleblowers and instead allowed them to be retaliated against. Whitman who also became a whistleblower was terminated by top OSHA officials on May 5, 2015 He and his union AFGE Local 2371 are fighting against this retaliation. He was also a shop steward for his AFGE local and many other AFGE workers are being bullied and terrorized by OSHA management for doing their jobs. This interview was done in February 2015.

Unofficial transcript:

My name is Darrell Whitman and I’m at the moment at least an investigator with the US Department of Labor OSHA’s whistleblower protection program here in San Francisco.

As an investigator we are again we handle 22 statutes that are supposed to provide whistleblower protection to everyone from the maid in the hotel to high-level corporate officials who are reporting fraud in corporate fraud and a lot of very technical complaints people as I had and we’ve talked about this before.

I had a high-level official very, very experienced, very highly regarded in the industry who was the safety manager at a major nuclear plant, and he blew the whistle and it was a pretty ugly story.after that,

This was the Humboldt Bay a power plant and this fellow, basically he had come from the Midwest and his expertise was he was in nuclear security, but he also helped Senator Lieberman draft the protocols for decommissioning plants. And so he was he was more than just an expert. He was a very high-value person. And he wanted to apply this new knowledge. So when the opportunity was given to him to come out to Humboldt Bay to the nuclear plant, it was going to be the first nuclear plant actually decommissioned where they were gonna apply the protocols that he had worked on with the Senate, yeah he was very excited about it.

He didn’t know a lot about California. He didn’t know a lot about PG&E. The irony was he came to California thinking, now he’s from Nebraska, he’s a surfer, he had gotten into being a surfer from his early on, and had gone to the Gulf Coast and of course, he heard the best surfing in the country was in California. So in his mind, he was going to be going to a plant that was right on the ocean. So it’s gonna be perfect opportunity to do surfing.

Well, when he got there, he discovered a lot of things. Among other things, he discovered very early on was, the security staff was completely unprepared to do the job. When he actually started vetting them as far as testing their skill levels and their preparation, half of them he had to fire. He had, and nothing against older people, he had a seventy eight year old security guard who could not do a push-up. This is not a good thing. His security guards have to be physically capable of putting, you know. of doing the job. Then shortly after that, he began to discover other things about the culture of the region. You know, we’re talking Humboldt, and he didn’t realize coming from Nebraska what it means to be living in the Green Triangle. So he discovered that there was an awful lot of drug dealing and drug use going on including people in the plant operating centers.

And that of course was – what’s his issue? He’s a security director

So what he also didn’t understand was when PG&E got the agreement with the local area to build the plant in the first place, they had sort of cut a backroom deal which was to employ locals. You know, this is a tricky this is a thing you see commonly with a lot of plants and particularly ones that are potentially dangerous that

They bribe people.

That’s and as a form of bribery will get, will create 500 jobs in your neighborhood. And for a small area in a fairly remote area — Eureka I think has maybe thirty five thousand people — this was a big deal. So people were willing, at least the officials were willing, to overlook the questions because they were going to get jobs.

On the other hand, PG&E was not discriminating in regard to who was getting the jobs. So you were drawing a large portion of the plant operators and not so much the technical operators but the people who were the security people, people who were performing lower-level kinds of jobs coming from the local community, and this is the green traffic, so it was problematic arrangement, let’s put it that way. But among other things he discovered very early on, was that the plant and misplaced fuel rods. They couldn’t account for all the fuel rods. You know, it was just kind of a litany of things like this

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— Former Humboldt Bay nuclear plant technician talks about PG&E’s safety problems and retaliation against employees

The story of Humboldt Bay Nuclear Plant is an expose of PG&E and an expose of nuclear regulation. It’s happening now. Its dangers and warnings are critical for the public to heed.

Shut It Down Now! Former Humboldt PG&E IBEW 1245 Nuclear Plant Technician Bob Rowen On Nuclear Power

Bob Rowen was a Humboldt PG&E IBEW 1245 nuclear control technician at the power plant. He talks about being a control technician at the plant and what happened when he began to stand up for health and safety as a whistleblower. His fight to protect the workers and the community cost him his job when he raised health and safety concerns and he along with another nuclear control technician Forrest Williams were retaliated against and illegally terminated. He also recounts an effort to set up a criminal conspiracy frame-up by PG&E to charge him with planning to blow up the plant and a false document was sent to the FBI to blacklist him throughout the country to prevent him from working in any other nuclear plant in the US. He also reports on the role of his union IBEW 1245 and the media when a reporter from NBC Donald Widener tried to cover the story and was retaliated against by PG&E in actions that destroyed his career. He also discusses the case of PG&E Diablo Canyon nuclear plant whistleblower Neil Aiken. Aiken went to PG&E’s Board of Directors with his concerns over safety and was also targeted and fired. This interview was done on January 26, 2015. Rowen has written a book about his struggle called My Humboldt Diary: A True Story of Betrayal of the Public Trust, Nuclear Power at Humboldt Bay. For more information http://www.myhumboldtdiary.com

Production of Labor Video Project http://www.laborvideo.org

Unofficial transcript:

My name is Bob Rowen. I became a nuclear control technician at the Humboldt Bay nuclear power plant in Eureka. The plant went online in 1963, in August of 63, and I showed up in March of 1964.

My first job at the plant was apprentice instrument repairman, but within six months I entered the nuclear control technician training program. journeymanprogram in the PG&E system, I became a nuclear control technician.

I thought that I had found a career of a lifetime. When I got out of the Marines and went to work there and thought I was on the ground floor of a program that in an industry that was going to be second to none, but as I got into it, I found that it was not what it was all cracked up to be.

How long was the training program?

42 months. It was a very rigorous training program that requires a lot of hours on the weekends and at night learning all the things that we had to learn as well as classroom work during the day.

And so what happened when you started working there?

Well I I became involved in and developed a special interest in radiation protection.

The nuclear control technician program in those days consisted of actually three elements: nuclear instrumentation, radiation protection, and radio chemistry. What I was particularly concerned about the radiation protection aspect of the job, and so when I started studying all of the training materials that PG&E had provided, I found that they were not in agreement with what I had learned in the military.

I was a Marine Pathfinder and I trained in ABC warfare – atomic, biological, and chemical warfare. And the atomic part of that talked about the kinds of hazards associated with radiation that did not agree one bit with what PG&E was providing us. So I started asking some embarrassing questions. At first they weren’t necessarily challenging plant management but their responses led me to a confrontation with the management because I felt that I was being lied to

[unintelligible]

At one point, yes, because I believed in corporate America and I believed in the government. I thought the AEC would do everything that they were charged with in terms of their responsibilities of protecting employees and the general public. But it turns out that that wasn’t the case at all.

So you began asking questions And what happened?

Well, eventually I was told that if I was looking for trouble, I was going to find it. The plant engineer made that very clear to me and I told him, my response was, I’m not going to be bullied. I still had a lot of Marine in me in my mid-20s, and I just said, I’m not going to kowtow to you. I won’t do that.

Eventually I found myself faced with having to, well, for example I was ordered to sign false shipping documents. The spent-fuel shipping cask — and it’s a long story; it’s in my book; it spells out exactly what took place — but the shipping cask ended up with several? contaminations exceeding DOT regs, and the release papers that had my name pre-typed on as a nuclear control technician, and I said I’m not signing those papers because they’re false. And I was ordered to do it. So I signed them under protest. And then I put it in the radiation control log exactly what had taken place, and I had another serious set-to with the plant engineer. And that’s just one example of many things that happen.

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— EWG: PG&E reports nuclear reactor welding leak at Diablo Canyon facility

From Environmental Working Group

January 5, 2023

PG&E reports nuclear reactor welding leak at Diablo Canyon facility

EWG: Critical questions about coolant system damage go unanswered

SAN FRANCISCO – Pacific Gas & Electric found damage to part of a reactor cooling system at the aging Diablo Canyon nuclear plant in California, but it hasn’t yet answered key questions about the extent of the problem.

PG&E is the owner of the state’s last remaining nuclear power plant, and found the fault with the reactor coolant system during a routine inspection in October. PG&E detailed the damage in a report[1] to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, or NRC, in December.

The power company says the system had a crack in the welding of the wall of Diablo Canyon’s Unit 2 reactor, which was shut down for refueling. PG&E says the presumed cause was fatigue, which was caused by vibrations at the facility indicating a weld defect. The utility says the damage meant the unit fell short of NRC operating requirements.

PG&E says it repaired the leak, and the public and plant workers were never at risk. But the utility’s filing with the commission raises several questions, including:

  • When was the affected weld last inspected?
  • When does PG&E believe the crack in the weld formed?
  • Why had the weld flaw not been identified?
  • What was the size of the leak when it occurred?  

“The communities near Diablo Canyon deserve to know the full details of the incident, how it happened, why it wasn’t discovered earlier and how long it took for PG&E to identify the damage to the reactor coolant system,” said Environmental Working Group President and California resident Ken Cook

“The main reason for shuttering this aging facility is the potential threat it poses to the public – and PG&E’s overall safety record across its vast service area in the state is among the worst of any power company in the country,” Cook said.

Diablo Canyon’s latest problem highlights ongoing concerns about the stability of the facility and shows why EWG and others are pushing to shut the plant down. 

Yet state and federal officials are trying to keep the aging facility operating beyond 2025, when it’s slated to shutter under the terms of a settlement carefully negotiated between PG&E, California and environmentalists.

Last September, at the urging of California Gov. Gavin Newsom, the state legislature approved Senate Bill 846, a law that will keep the plant operating for five more years, until 2030. It will also give PG&E a $1.4 billion loan to cover costs during that extra time.

In November, the Biden administration announced it will give PG&E more than $1 billion in federal funding to keep the plant operating past its scheduled 2025 closure date.

PG&E has also petitioned the NRC to fast-track its October 31 request to extend the license of the twin Diablo Canyon reactors. Four environmental organizations, led by San Luis Obispo-based Mothers for Peace, or SLOMFP, have sent letters to the NRC warning it would violate federal law if it accepts the proposal. The other groups that signed the letters are EWG, Friends of the Earth and Committee to Bridge the Gap.

“PG&E cannot have it both ways,” claimed SLOMFP Board President Jane Swanson. “PG&E stopped preparing the reactors for continued operation in 2016 and voided their license renewal. The company has spent the past six years preparing to mothball the reactors and has saved money by not investing in future operations. It is too late to get a license renewal before the plant must shut down.”

###

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy, and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.

https://www.ewg.org/news-insights/news-release/2023/01/pge-reports-nuclear-reactor-welding-leak-diablo-canyon-facility

[1] nrc[dot]gov/docs/ML2235/ML22355A081.pdf

— PG&E asks to fast-track NRC safety requirements — Organizations respond with a second letter to NRC

From Mothers for Peace SLO

On December 6, 2022, in their second letter to the Commissioners of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) within the space of three weeks, four environmental organizations once again put the NRC on notice that the agency would violate federal law if it accepted Pacific Gas & Electric’s (PG&E’s) October 31 proposal to resurrect and fast-track its review of PG&E’s long-abandoned 2009 license renewal application for the twin Diablo Canyon reactors. San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace (SLOFMP), Friends of the Earth (FOE), Environmental Working Group (EWG), and Committee to Bridge the Gap (CBG) warned that PG&E’s proposal runs afoul of the NRC’s safety requirements and procedures and would violate the federal National Environmental Policy Act.

The NRC terminated the Diablo Canyon license renewal proceeding in 2018 when PG&E decided to close the reactors in 2024 and 2025. “PG&E cannot have it both ways,” claimed SLOMFP Board President Jane Swanson. “PG&E stopped preparing the reactors for continued operation in 2016 and asked the NRC to terminate the license renewal proceeding. The company has spent the past six years preparing to mothball the reactors and has saved money by not investing in future operations. They can’t reverse course and revive a license renewal application that was declared dead years ago at their own request.”

Last September, the California Legislature passed SB 846 to provide PG&E with economic incentives to request a five-year extension of Diablo Canyon’s license from the NRC. “With years of extended operations on the table for this outdated and potentially deadly nuclear facility, it is crucial that we cut zero corners,” said FOE Legal Director Hallie Templeton. “The California legislature has not provided PG&E carte blanche to seek exemptions and streamline relicensing. If it intends to continue operating Diablo, PG&E should be required to file an entirely new and up-to-date license renewal application, which the NRC must thoroughly analyze by the full letter of the law before reaching a decision.” 

The organizations also noted that PG&E had no legal basis for its request to exempt it from important federal regulations requiring an environmental analysis before the NRC can allow the reactors to operate beyond their current license terms.

“The last time the NRC did an environmental review for operation of the Diablo Canyon reactors was 1993,” said Ken Cook, EWG’s President and Co-founder. “Given the potentially extreme impacts and risks of continuing to operate Diablo Canyon, it would be both illegal and sheer folly to proceed with extended operation in the absence of a thorough and up-to-date Environmental Impact Statement.”

Dan Hirsch, spokesperson for CBG, commented, “PG&E’s request to be exempted from regulatory requirements for Diablo Canyon is very dangerous. If the requested exemption were granted, Diablo could keep running, potentially for many years, while the critical issues of whether it is safe to do so are not yet resolved. This creates the potential for an accident and massive radiation release to occur after license expiration and before a renewal decision could be made on those vital safety issues. It is the proverbial nuclear version of shooting first and asking questions later.”

These groups, which submitted their first letter to the NRC on November 17, pledged to continue their efforts to ensure that any license renewal application filed with the NRC by PG&E is reviewed with all the rigor required by federal safety and environmental laws.

Organizations 12.6.2022 letter to the NRC

Organizations 11.17.2022 letter to the NRC

https://mothersforpeace.org/organizations-send-a-second-letter-to-the-nrc/

— California’s Governor Newsom and Diablo Canyon

UPDATE: See below

Gavin Newsom may be forced to step down as Governor of California if a recall is approved September 14 by California voters.

He and the Democratic Party leaders are busy branding the recall a Republican effort, including a lawsuit by Newsom and divisive ads with Elizabeth Warren as spokeswoman – “distract and confuse” tactics. Many Californians are not interested in party power games and actually care about officials’ actions, such as when they protect special interests including utility companies and Big Oil, and allow risks or harm to the public and the environment.

For example, in 2016, when Newsom was Lieutenant Governor and on the California Lands Commission. Pacific Gas and Electric applied for a new permit for Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. The plant had never had state environmental review which many now urged the Commission to require. In addition,

– in 2015, it was revealed that PG&E had used incorrect safety data – since 1982 – and altered its operating license with the help of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to appear in compliance.

– Mothers for Peace SLO reviewed data and found PG&E committed 29 safety violations in 2014 alone, including inoperable backup generators. Fukushima meltdowns were initiated when the electricity grid shut down and backup generators failed when turned on. PG&E called these violations “gaps in excellence”.

PG&E improperly packed high burn-up spent fuel rods into dry cask storage in 2015, creating a serious risk of a nuclear accident.

– the plant and its desal plant cause extensive damage to the ocean, including its devastating once-through water intake system that kills marine life.

– the plant sits amidst an active, connected network of earthquake faults

– a nuclear accident at Diablo Canyon would impact critical agricultural lands north in Monterey, San Benito, and Santa Cruz Counties, east to the Central Valley, and south to Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, harm millions of people including Los Angeles, cause environmental destruction on land and to the Pacific Ocean, and devastate California, ranked the 5th largest economy in the world.

These are some of the issues. Friends of the Earth said in March 2015, “Diablo Canyon should never have been constructed in the first place, and now it is clear it should not be allowed to operate another day.”

Further, the Commission hearing was occurring as PG&E was on trial for the San Bruno disaster.

Despite the facts and the dangers from continued plant operation, Gavin Newsom refused to require environmental review and refused to delay the hearing to allow the public and experts to evaluate new information and Commission reports.

Instead, Newsom led the Commission in voting to approve the new permit, and applauded a recent agreement allowing the plant to operate for nine more years.

June 2016 hearing transcript; Diablo Canyon consideration starts on p. 78

Preceding April 2016 hearing transcript; Diablo Canyon starts on p. 55

Newsom’s comments at the hearings were very disturbing, given the issues and risks and PG&E’s safety history.

After 2016, California was hit with the powerful Ridgecrest earthquake and its many strong aftershocks – a powerful reminder of the daily risks. And even a power outage can cause a catastrophic nuclear accident, because nuclear power plants rely on grid power to keep fuel rods and spent fuel pools cool.

Newsom’s critical decision affecting the lives and future of so many is one example of his priorities and judgment. This is the reason many Californians support a recall.

– – –

See also:

https://nonukesca.net/diablo-canyon-shut-down-proposal-a-critical-view/

https://nonukesca.net/nrc-diablo-canyon-among-most-embrittled-plants-in-the-u-s/

UPDATE:

From ABC10 Sacramento:

Fire-Power-Money www.firepowermoney.com

https://www.abc10.com/article/news/local/abc10-originals/fire-power-money-california-wildfires-investigation-pge/103-c273fb35-1c43-4d9a-9bdc-3d7971e5540b

“For nearly three years, ABC10’s Fire – Power – Money team has been at the forefront covering California’s wildfire crisis, the danger of PG&E’s power lines, and how the company avoids accountability. 

Now, ABC10’s award-winning investigative series reveals how California’s state government, under Governor Gavin Newsom, responded to PG&E’s deadly crimes by giving the company rewards and protection.”

— COVID-19 pandemic increases nuclear reactor disaster risk; NRC loosens rules, requires long shifts

Posted on BuzzFeed

Terrified Atomic Workers Warn That the COVID-19 Pandemic May Threaten Nuclear Reactor Disaster

April 9, 2020

By Harvey Wasserman

The COVID Pandemic has thrown America’s atomic reactor industry into lethal chaos, making a major disaster even more likely.  Reports from “terrified” workers at a Pennsylvania reactor indicate vital precautions needed to protect them may not even be possible.

Nationwide, with falling demand and soaring prices for nuke-generated electricity, the Pandemic casts a dark shadow over reactor operations and whether frightened neighbors will allow them to be refueled and repaired.

America’s 96 remaining atomic reactors are run by a coveted pool of skilled technicians who manage the control rooms, conduct repairs, load/unload nuclear fuel.

Because few young students have been entering the field, the corps of about 100,000 licensed technicians has been—-like the reactors themselves—-rapidly aging while declining in numbers.  Work has stopped at the last two US reactors under construction (at Vogtle, Georgia) due to the Pandemic’s impact, which includes a shrinking supply of healthy workers.

Every reactor control room requires five operators at all times.  But the physical space is limited there and in plant hot spots that need frequent, often demanding repairs.  Social distancing is virtually impossible.  Long shifts in confined spaces undermine operator safety and performance.

Of critical importance:  every 18-24 months each reactor must shut for refueling and repairs.  Itinerant crews of 1000 to 1500 technicians travel to 58 sites in 29 states, usually staying 30-60 days.  They often board with local families, or in RVs, hotels, or Air B&Bs. 

Some 54 reactors have been scheduled for refuel/repairs in 2020. But there is no official, organized program to test the workers for the Coronavirus as they move around the country.

As the Pandemic thins the workforce, older operators are being called out of retirement.  The Trump-run Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently certified  16-hour work days, 86-hour work weeks and up to 14 consecutive days with 12-hour shifts.

Long-time nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen warns of fatigued operators falling asleep on the job.  He recalls at least one exhausted worker falling into the highly radioactive pool surrounding the high-level fuel rods.  Operator fatigue also helped cause the 1979 melt-down that destroyed Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island Unit Two.

The industry is now using the Coronavirus Pandemic to rush through a wide range of deregulation demandsAmong them is a move to allow radioactive waste to be dumped into municipal landfills. 

The NRC may also certify skipping vital repairs, escalating the likelihood of major breakdowns and melt-downs.  Nearly all US reactors were designed and built in the pre-digital age, more than 30 years ago.  Most are in advanced decay.  Atomic expert David Lochbaum, formerly with the NRC, warns that failure risks from longer work hours and deferred repairs could be extremely significant, and could vary from reactor to reactor depending on their age and condition.

The industry has also been required to maintain credible public health response plans should those reactors blow.  But Pandemic-stricken US hospitals now have zero spare capacity, multiplying the possible human fallout from an increasingly likely disaster.

Industry-wide the Pandemic has brought working conditions to the brink of collapse.  At Pennsylvania’s Limerick Generating Station, workers say they are “terrified” that the plant has become a “breeding ground…a complete cesspool” for the Coronavirus.  “I’m in a constant state of paranoia,” one technician told Carl Hessler, Jr., of MontcoCourtNews.

Others say social distancing is non-existent, with “no less than 100 people in the training room” and “people literally sitting on top of each other…sitting at every computer elbow to elbow.”  Shift change rooms, Hessler was told, can be    “standing room only.”  At least two Limerick workers are confirmed to have carried the virus.  COVID rates in the county are soaring.

Nuclear engineer Gundersen warns that limited control room floorspace and cramped conditions for maintenance can make social distancing impossible.  “Some component repairs can involve five workers working right next to each other,” he says.

Because reactor-driven electricity is not vital amidst this pandemic downturn, the demand for atomic workers to “stay home” is certain to escalate.  “I am concerned with Exelon & Limerick Nuclear Generating Station’s handling of the scheduled refueling—which has required bringing in workers from across the country during this pandemic,” says US Rep. Madeleine Dean in a statement likely to be repeated at reactor sites around the US.

“The potential increase of COVID-19 cases from 1,400 new workers not observing social distancing is staggering,” says epidemiologist Joseph Mangano of the Radiation and Health Project.  “The Limerick plant should be shut until the COVID-19 pandemic is over.”

Indian Point Unit One, north of New York City, will shut permanently on April 28.  Iowa’s Duane Arnold will close in December.

But Ground Zero may be Pacific Gas & Electric’s two 35-year-old reactors at Diablo Canyon.  PG&E is bankrupt for the second time in two decades, and recently pleaded guilty to 85 felonies from the fires its faulty wires sent raging through northern California, killing 84 people.  In 2010 a faulty PG&E gas line exploded in San Bruno, killing eight people.

Surrounded by earthquake faults, Diablo’s construction prompted more than 10,000 civil disobedience arrests, the most at any US reactor.  PG&E now admits its two Diablo nukes will lose more than $1.2 billion this year, more than $3.44 million/day.

Amidst its bitterly contested bankruptcy, PG&E may be taken over by the state.  But more than a thousand workers are slated in early October to refuel and repair Unit One, which the NRC says is dangerously embrittled.

Whether local residents concerned about both a nuclear accident and the spread of the Coronavirus will let them into the county remains to be seen.  So is whether they’ll be still operating by then.

With the future of the nuclear industry at stake—-along with the possibility of more reactor mishaps—-the whole world will be watching.

Harvey Wasserman’s Solartopia!  Our Green-Powered Earth is at www.solartopia.org, along with The People’s Spiral of US History.  His California Solartopia Show is broadcast at KPFK/Pacifica 90.7fm Los Angeles; his Green Power & Wellness Show is podcast at prn.fm.  For a full one-hour expert podcast discussion of the impact of the Cornoavirus on nuke power, click here.

https://buzzflash.com/articles/terfied-atomic-workers-warn-that-the-covid-19-pandemic-may-threaten-nuclear-reactor-disaster

Posted under Fair Use Rules.

— Fukushima’s ongoing nuclear catastrophe with no end in sight – doctors’ prescription for the Tokyo Olympics

From Beyond Nuclear International

November 24, 2019

Statement of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War – Germany regarding participation in the Olympic Games in Japan

In July 2020, the Olympic Games will start in Japan. Young athletes from all over the world have been preparing for these games for years and millions of people are looking forward to this major event.

We at IPPNW Germany are often asked whether it is safe to travel to these Olympic Games in Japan either as a visitor or as an athlete or whether we would advise against such trips from a medical point of view. We would like to address these questions.

To begin with, there are many reasons to be critical of the Olympic Games in general: the increasing commercialization of sports, the lack of sustainability of sports venues, doping scandals, the waste of valuable resources for an event that only takes place for several weeks and corruption in the Olympic organizations to name just a few. However, every four years, the Olympic Games present a unique opportunity for many young people from all over the world to meet other athletes and to celebrate a fair sporting competition – which was the initial vision of the Olympic movement. Also, the idea of Olympic peace and mutual understanding between nations and people is an important aspect for us as a peace organization.

Fukushima…and no end in sight

Regarding the Olympic Games in Japan, another factor comes into play: the Japanese government is using the Olympic Games to deflect from the ongoing nuclear catastrophe in the Northeast of the country.

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— Norway’s Halden Reactor: A poor safety culture and a history of near misses

From Bellona.org

March 3, 2017

By Nils Behmer

haldenreactor

Are those who operate Norway’s only nuclear research reactor taking its safety seriously? A new report raises concerns.

October 25th brought reports that there was a release of radioactive iodine from the Halden Reactor. The Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority subsequently withdrew the reactor’s operating license from the Institute for Energy Technology. The NRPA has pointed out several issues the institute must resolve before the reactor goes back online.

It’s not the first time the NRPA has had to issue an order to the IFE. The NRPA had been supervising the IFE since 2014 over its lack of safety culture. The incident in October shows this frame of mind persists.

Reactor cooling blocked

So what happened in October? The iodine emission began when the IFE should have dealt with damaged fuel in the reactor hall. This led to a release of radioactive substances via the ventilation system. The release began on Monday, October 24 at 1:45 pm, but was first reported to the NRPA the next morning.

The next day, the NRPA conducted an unannounced inspection of the IFE. The situation was still unresolved and radioactive released were still ongoing from the reactor hall. The ventilation system was then shut off to limit further releases into the environment.

This, in turn, created more serious problems. When the ventilation system was closed down, the air coming from the process should also have been turned off. Pressurize[d] air kept the valves in the reactor’s cooling system open, which in turn stopped the circulation of cooling water.

‘A very special condition’

In the following days, the NRPA continued to monitor the reactor’s safety, and many repeated questions about the closure of the primary cooling circuit. The IFE initially reported that the situation at the reactor was not “abnormal.” By November 1, the NRPA requested written documentation from the responsible operating and safety managers. A few hours later, the NRPA received notice from the IFE that the reactor was in “a very special condition.”

What that meant was that the IFE had discovered temperature fluctuations in the reactor vessel indicating an increased neutron flux in the core, and with that the danger of hydrogen formation. Bellona would like to note that it was hydrogen formation in the reactor core that led to a series of explosions at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011.

The IFE therefore had to ask the NRPA for permission to open the valves again, even if that meant releasing radiation to the public. The release that followed was, according to the NRPA, within the emission limit values specified in the operating permit.

In Summary

The IFE has been under special supervision by the NRPA, but it doesn’t seem to Bellona that the IFE has taken the requirement for increased reporting nearly seriously enough. It seems they further didn’t understand the seriousness of the situation that arose in October. The IFE either neglected procedures it’s obligated to follow, made insufficient measurements, or failed to report the results satisfactorily.

Bellona is concerned that the reactor core may become unstable by just closing the vents. Hydrogen formation in the reactor core is very serious, as Fukushima showed. The IFE has previously stopped circulation in the primary cooling circuit for, among other things, maintenance while the reactor has been shut down.

Those who live around Halden had previously been satisfied with guarantees that the ravine in which the reactor [sits] could hermetically seal it off. As the incident in October shows, this guarantee no longer applies.

Nils Bøhmer is Bellona’s general director.

http://bellona.org/news/nuclear-issues/2017-03-norways-halden-reactor-a-poor-safety-culture-and-a-history-of-near-misses

Posted under Fair Use Rules

News articles from incident:

http://enenews.com/alarm-radioactive-leak-at-nuclear-plant-damaged-fuel-in-reactor-workers-immediately-evacuated-from-site-reactor-in-a-very-special-condition-dangerous-neutron-flux-in-core-reported

— 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.

https://www.rt.com/news/floating-nuclear-power-plant-040/

— France: Forced closures of nuclear plants cause soaring energy prices

From Zero Hedge

French ‘Shocked’ As Power Prices Spike To 8-Year Highs On Nuclear Reactor Probe Shutdown