Saturday, 21 September 2019

Forty years after the first big catastrophic accident in a commercial nuclear reactor, TMI nuclear plant in the US closes


Yesterday, just over forty years since the first big nuclear accident in a commercial reactor took place on 28 March 1979 at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, the other reactors on the island sit were finally closed down. The on-line media coverage from the local Penn Live TV station is re-produced below
On the same day, another US news outlet, USNEWS.com, exclusively revealed the US Nuclear Regulatory commission is significantly reducing gits nuclear security oversight, which is a very  worrisome development. Their revelations are reproduced below too.
Three Mile Island nuclear power station is closing today: Will you miss it when it’s gone? PennLive, Sept 20, 2019



From the Department of Mixed Feelings: The nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island will be shut down for the last time Friday, bringing an end to its active life as a power generating station on a spit of land in the middle of the Susquehanna River.

This may be cause for celebration if you are one of the survivors of the March 1979 partial meltdown at Three Mile Island Unit Two, the sister reactor on the island that made “TMI” one of the midstate’s calling cards. It was the nation’s worst commercial nuclear accident.

Still, the plant’s closure is cause for mourning for families and friends of the hundreds of Exelon Generation employees who, over the next few years, will see their jobs eliminated.

And for still others, it’s just a new chapter in a story that never seems to end.

 

The Three Mile Island accident, 40 years later: Stories worth reading

Updated Mar 27, 2019; Posted Mar 24, 2019


 


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Gallery: Three Mile Island accident and aftermath, in living color

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This week marks the 40th anniversary of the accident at Three Mile Island.

The partial meltdown at TMI took place on March 28, 1979 and it remains the nation’s worst nuclear accident. And it left an indelible mark on Pennsylvania.

Today, the plant is slated to be shut down, although lawmakers are working on solutions to keep the plant open.

This month, PennLive and WITF have collaborated on stories examining the accident’s impact, the efforts to save TMI and what happens if the plant shuts down. Both news organizations have produced stories, photo galleries, videos, radio programs and podcasts exploring this signature event in Pennsylvania’s history.

Look for more stories on PennLive this week. And Thursday, WITF will air two documentaries looking back at the accident and the plant’s uncertain future.

If you’ve missed some of the coverage, here’s a roundup of our stories on TMI, with links to our coverage.

TMI and public health

PennLive and WITF have produced a pair of stories examining at the lingering questions surrounding TMI and its impact on public health. Government officials and scientists have long maintained no one died or was harmed due to the accident. Many who live in central Pennsylvania reject that conclusion, citing cancers and early deaths of loved ones.

PennLive’s Ivey DeJesus details the long history of medical studies around TMI and the suspicions of illnesses and deaths that endure four decades later.

WITF’s Brett Sholtis looked at the 2017 Penn State study pointing to a correlation between TMI and a certain type of thyroid cancer, a study that only stoked fuel to the ongoing debate.

Saving Three Mile Island?

Lawmakers and lobbyists are working feverishly to keep Three Mile Island open. Some say the plant is a key component of the region’s economy and Pennsylvania’s energy portfolio. Critics say they don’t want what they see as a bailout at the expense of consumers. PennLive’s Charles Thompson details the effort to preserve TMI.

In a separate story, Charles examines if the Keystone State energy market and environment can do without Three Mile Island.

The question of nuclear waste

If Three Mile Island shuts down, what happens to the plant’s nuclear waste? PennLive’s Wallace McKelvey examines the plant’s plans to deal with the nuclear waste.

If TMI closes, then what?

WITF’s Ed Mahon examined the impact of TMI’s closure on the businesses and lives of communities surrounding the plant.

A PennLive story explores another consequence if TMI closes: the plant’s surrounding counties could lose financial aid for emergency planning. Some also say those emergency planning efforts should continue even if the plant shuts down.

What would a TMI evacuation look like today?

When the accident occurred in 1979, more than 144,000 people in central Pennsylvania hit the road. If there was a need for a mass evacuation today, it would be very challenging, since the region’s population has surged over the past four decades. This PennLive piece looks at the daunting challenges of an evacuation.

The environmental debate

Some view nuclear energy as an undeniable threat to the environment. Others view nuclear energy as a key component in strategies to combat climate change. Ivey DeJesus looks at the thorny issue of the environmental debate concerning nuclear energy.

TMI and pop culture

The TMI accident inspired a song that became a hit on radio stations throughout the Harrisburg area in 1979. PennLive spoke with members of the band Maxwell who created “Radiation Funk,” a song fondly remembered to this day.

WITF’s Lisa Wardle looked at how Three Mile Island influenced popular culture, from a board game to a memorable sketch on “Saturday Night Live.”

How Hollywood foreshadowed TMI

Less than two weeks before the accident, “The China Syndrome” opened in movie theaters and delivered the chilling scenario of a nuclear emergency. A PennLive piece recalls the eerie timing of the Hollywood blockbuster.

They covered the TMI accident

A few of The Patriot-News reporters who covered the accident recalled their experiences.

John Troutman shared his stories of covering one of the most staggering events in the commonwealth’s history as a very young reporter. Roger Quigley explains what it felt like when all hell broke loose. Bill Blando relayed the confusion and chaos at the time.

PennLive/Patriot-News columnist Nancy Eshelman shared how the TMI accident unfolded amidst unimaginable terror in her personal life.
WITF, PennLive.com and PA Post joined forces for a News & Brews event ahead of the 40th anniversary of the accident at TMI.

TMI and public health

PennLive and WITF have produced a pair of stories examining at the lingering questions surrounding TMI and its impact on public health. Government officials and scientists have long maintained no one died or was harmed due to the accident. Many who live in central Pennsylvania reject that conclusion, citing cancers and early deaths of loved ones.

PennLive’s Ivey DeJesus details the long history of medical studies around TMI and the suspicions of illnesses and deaths that endure four decades later.

WITF’s Brett Sholtis looked at the 2017 Penn State study pointing to a correlation between TMI and a certain type of thyroid cancer, a study that only stoked fuel to the ongoing debate.

Saving Three Mile Island?

Lawmakers and lobbyists are working feverishly to keep Three Mile Island open. Some say the plant is a key component of the region’s economy and Pennsylvania’s energy portfolio. Critics say they don’t want what they see as a bailout at the expense of consumers. PennLive’s Charles Thompson details the effort to preserve TMI.

In a separate story, Charles examines if the Keystone State energy market and environment can do without Three Mile Island.

The question of nuclear waste

If Three Mile Island shuts down, what happens to the plant’s nuclear waste? PennLive’s Wallace McKelvey examines the plant’s plans to deal with the nuclear waste.

If TMI closes, then what?

WITF’s Ed Mahon examined the impact of TMI’s closure on the businesses and lives of communities surrounding the plant.

A PennLive story explores another consequence if TMI closes: the plant’s surrounding counties could lose financial aid for emergency planning. Some also say those emergency planning efforts should continue even if the plant shuts down.

What would a TMI evacuation look like today?

When the accident occurred in 1979, more than 144,000 people in central Pennsylvania hit the road. If there was a need for a mass evacuation today, it would be very challenging, since the region’s population has surged over the past four decades. This PennLive piece looks at the daunting challenges of an evacuation.

The environmental debate

Some view nuclear energy as an undeniable threat to the environment. Others view nuclear energy as a key component in strategies to combat climate change. Ivey DeJesus looks at the thorny issue of the environmental debate concerning nuclear energy

A Meltdown in Nuclear Security

A commando raid on a nuclear power plant seems the stuff of Hollywood. So why are nuclear security experts so worried?

By Alan Neuhauser Staff Writer

Sept. 20, 2019


 

It ranks among the worst-case scenarios for a nuclear power plant: an all-out assault or stealth infiltration by well-trained, heavily armed attackers bent on triggering a nuclear blast, sparking a nuclear meltdown or stealing radioactive material.

For nearly two decades, the nation's nuclear power plants have been required by federal law to prepare for such a nightmare: At every commercial nuclear plant, every three years, security guards take on a simulated attack by hired commandos in so-called "force-on-force" drills. And every year, at least one U.S. nuclear plant flunks the simulation, the "attackers" damaging a reactor core and potentially triggering a fake Chernobyl – a failure rate of 5 percent.

In spite of that track record, public documents and testimony show that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the federal agency responsible for ensuring the safety and security of the nation's fleet of commercial nuclear reactors, is now steadily rolling back the standards meant to prevent the doomsday scenario the drills are designed to simulate.

Under pressure from a cash-strapped nuclear energy industry increasingly eager to slash costs, the commission in a little-noticed vote in October 2018 halved the number of force-on-force exercises conducted at each plant every cycle. Four months later, it announced it would overhaul how the exercises are evaluated to ensure that no plant would ever receive more than the mildest rebuke from regulators – even when the commandos set off a simulated nuclear disaster that, if real, would render vast swaths of the U.S. uninhabitable.

Later this year, the NRC is expected to greenlight a proposal that will allow nuclear plants – which currently must be able to fend off an attack alone – to instead begin depending on local and state law enforcement, whose training, equipment and response times may leave them ill-prepared to respond to a military-grade assault.

The moves have inflamed open dissent within the commission, which has been riven in recent years by internecine conflict between Republican and Democratic commissioners.

"I know how easy it is to cause a Fukushima-scale meltdown ... You can't afford to be wrong once."

"The NRC staff argues that this approach 'would increase the efficiency of the FOF inspection program,'"' Commissioner Jeff Baran, an Obama administration appointee, wrote in an agency document in October. "NRC would really just be doing less."

The commissioners in the NRC's majority, as well as senior staff members and the nuclear power industry's main trade group, maintain that the changes reflect the improved state of security at the nation's fleet of commercial nuclear plants – and, to some degree, amount to a long-overdue correction to security excesses prompted by the Sept. 11 terror attacks. The force-on-force exercises, they contend, are merely one facet of a rigorous security regime.

"It's just one out of 10 security inspections that we do, and it's the totality of those inspections that we do that have us verifying that licensees are operating their plants in a secure way," says Marissa Bailey, director of the Division of Security Operations at the NRC.

Nuclear security experts, consultants, law enforcement veterans and former NRC commissioners – several of whom spoke with U.S. News on condition of anonymity in order to address the issue candidly – are nothing short of alarmed. They openly question whether top regulators at the NRC, ceaselessly lobbied by an industry strapped for cash, have fallen prey to valuing quarterly earnings, lucrative contracts and potential plum job opportunities over day-to-day security.

A longtime nuclear security expert minced no words about the potential consequences:

"I know how easy it is to cause a Fukushima-scale meltdown, radiation release or worse. And the timelines are very short. You don't have much room to maneuver if you misjudge what the threat is," says Ed Lyman, senior scientist in the global security program and acting director of the nuclear safety project at the Union of Concerned Scientists. "You can't afford to be wrong once."

'No One Likes Security'

Force-on-force exercises, a mix of live-action role playing and military-grade laser tag, are not unique to the nuclear sector – they're used to test military bases, and police departments engage in a version of them in active-shooter drills. For obvious reasons, they remain cloaked in secrecy.

Some details about the nuclear drills, though, are publicly available: The attacking force is expected to deploy a range of tactics, from disabling alarm systems to using automatic weapons and silencers, attacking one or multiple entry points, employing land and water vehicles, and using "incapacitating agents" and explosives. The types of attacks are explicitly outlined in NRC regulations.

"It's a big, big thing that these folks have to go through under the microscope every three years," says Justin Corey, a longtime nuclear security consultant whose work has included advising plants on training and defense measures and who has participated in force-on-force exercises as an adversary.

 

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Nuclear errors of commission and omission by UK on international stage


 

On Monday this week, inexperienced new energy minister Nadhim  Zahawi made a speech on behalf of the UK to the annual General   meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)  in Vienna. (full speech is  reproduced below)

These are the key career elements of Mr Zadawi’s CV according to Wikipedia,

Following a career as European Marketing Director for Smith & Brooks Ltd, Nadhim Zahawi co-founded pollster YouGov, and  was YouGov's CEO from 2005 to 2010. In 2010 he was selected by the local Conservative association for Stratford-on-Avon as a prospective parliamentary candidate in the 2010 general election, and won the seat. He was subsequently re-elected in 2015 and 2017.

As a backbench MP, he served on the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee. In October 2013, he became a member of the Number 10 Policy Unit. From 9 January 2018 to 25 July 2019 he served as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Education, with responsibility for Children and Families.
Since 26 July 2019 he has been Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Industry at the business and energy department, BEIS. ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nadhim_Zahawi )
His expertise on energy has been less than two months. So perhaps he can be excused for not being very conversant with details of nuclear, or wider energy policy. But his BEIS departmental speech writers have no such excuse.

Why, then, have they chosen to put significant  disingenuous words into the new energy minister’s mouth?

For example, Zadawi  told the IAEA General Assembly: “The UK Government is committed to tackling the global challenge of climate change. We recently became the first major economy to set a target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. We believe nuclear energy will play a key role in achieving this..”

This assertion misrepresents nuclear’s relationship to carbon emissions: it represents a significant error of omission:


A recent and comprehensive Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) of greenhouse gas emissions from differing power generation technologies by Mark Jacobson, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, California - and director of its Atmosphere/Energy Program - have indicated that nuclear CO2 emissions are between 10 to 18 times greater than those from renewables. He is very qualified for such analysis, being also Senior Fellow at the Precourt Institute for Energy, and at the Woods Institute for the Environment, where he has developed computer models to study the effects of fossil fuel and biomass burning on air pollution, weather, and climate.

Review of solutions to global warming, air pollution, and energy security† Energy & Environmental Science, 1 December 2008; 

In a newly completed chapter by Professor Jacobson in a forthcoming energy book, Evaluation of Nuclear Power as a Proposed Solution to Global Warming, Air Pollution, and Energy Security, in 100% Clean, Renewable Energy and Storage for Everything [Textbook in Preparation] https://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/WWSBook/WWSBook.html) he argues cogently:


 “There is no such thing as a zero- or close-to-zero emission nuclear power plant. Even existing plants emit due to the continuous mining and refining of uranium needed for the plant. However, all plants also emit 4.4 g-CO2e/kWh from the water vapor and heat they release. This contrasts with solar panels and wind turbines, which reduce heat or water vapor fluxes to the air by about 2.2 g-CO2e/kWh for a net difference from this factor alone of 6.6 g-CO2e/kWh. 

“Overall,” he concludes, “emissions from new nuclear are 78 to178 g-CO2/kWH, not close to 0”
[See also, a meta-study by Dr Benjamin K Sovacool, Professor of Energy Policy at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the School of Business, Management, and Economics, part of the University of Sussex, who serves as Director of the Sussex Energy Group and Director of the Center on Innovation and Energy Demand [which involves the University of Oxford and University of Manchester]  “Valuing the greenhouse gas emissions from nuclear power: A critical survey, Energy Policy, 36, 2940-2953, 2008. https://www.nirs.org/wp-content/uploads/climate/background/sovacool_nuclear_ghg.pdf)

He concludes the following:“This article screens 103 lifecycle studies of greenhouse gas-equivalent emissions for nuclear power plants to identify a subset of the most current, original, and transparent studies.

It begins by briefly detailing the separate components of the nuclear fuel cycle before explaining the methodology of the survey and exploring the variance of lifecycle estimates. It calculates that while the range of emissions for nuclear energy over the lifetime of a plant, reported from qualified studies examined, is from 1.4 g of carbon dioxide equivalent per kWh (g CO2e/kWh) to 288 g CO2e/kWh, the mean value is 66 g CO2e/kWh. The article then explains some of the factors responsible for the disparity in lifecycle estimates, in particular identifying errors in both the lowest estimates (not comprehensive) and the highest estimates (failure to consider co-products). It should be noted that nuclear power is not directly emitting greenhouse gas emissions, but rather that lifecycle emissions occur through plant construction, operation, uranium mining and milling, and plant decommissioning.”]

Why do BEIS officials not know this?

Later in his speech, Zadawi asserts “some States continue to challenge the global non-proliferation system”, and immediately fingered Iran. Yet Iran has no nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, the UK is a self-appointed nuclear weapons [of mass destruction] state, which pledged in 1968, under article 6 of the nuclear non -proliferation treaty (NPT)  - which British diplomats helped to draft in the mid1960s  – “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament…”(www.un.org/disarmament/wmd/nuclear/npt/text/)

Not one UK nuclear weapon has been withdrawn from operational deployment in the e51 years since as a result of “negotiations”. The only nuclear weapons withdrawn from service are those deemed redundant by the Government. The UK’s nuclear destruction capacity has massively increased in this period, with the deployment of the mass killer  Trident WMD.

The hypocrisy of the speech writer (s) text is spectacular.

UK Statement to the 63rd International Atomic Energy Agency General Conference


 

Delivered by Minister for Industry and Business Nadhim Zahawi in Vienna, 16 September 2019.

Published 17 September 2019

From:


Delivered on:

16 September 2019 (Original script, may differ from delivered version)

Nadhim Zahawi MP

Madam President,

Congratulations on your appointment as President of this Conference. It is my great pleasure to lead the UK’s delegation this year, and to continue the close partnership between the UK Government and the IAEA.

It is with sadness that I reflect on the passing of former Director General Amano. A committed public servant and friend of the United Kingdom, he led the Agency through significant challenges and leaves a positive legacy for global peace, security and development.

Madam President,

The UK Government is committed to tackling the global challenge of climate change. We recently became the first major economy to set a target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

We believe nuclear energy will play a key role in achieving this, so our landmark Nuclear Sector Deal is bringing industry and Government together to ensure the nuclear sector thrives in the UK.

As work progresses on our new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point C, we are exploring innovative financing models for new build projects and ways to reduce the costs of decommissioning. We are also exploring the potential of small and advanced modular reactors.

At the same time, our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy will develop new talent and a diverse workforce for the UK.

Mindful of our responsibilities to future generations, we have also launched consent-based processes to identify a location for a Geological Disposal Facility for our higher activity radioactive waste.

Madam President,

Next year’s 50th anniversary of the Non-Proliferation Treaty is an important moment to emphasise the importance of its three Pillars, and celebrate the Agency’s support for its peaceful uses and non-proliferation aspects.

The UK is among the biggest supporters of the Agency’s Technical Cooperation Programme for sustainable development. I am proud to pledge our 2020 contribution of €3.8m to the TC Fund today. I urge all Member States to join us in pledging and paying their full share.

It is right that more countries benefit from peaceful nuclear technologies. But this brings responsibilities to protect people and maintain public acceptance of nuclear energy.

If something goes wrong, whether accidental or deliberate, all States must meet their obligations to openness and transparency with their neighbours.

We strongly support the IAEA’s work to help Member States implement robust nuclear safety and security measures. To ensure our own regulations meet the highest standards, the UK will host an Integrated Regulatory Review Service mission next month. We encourage others to use IAEA advisory services.

Madam President,

The application of IAEA safeguards is indispensable for global peace and security. All States should ratify an Additional Protocol, the gold standard for safeguards agreements. The UK’s own new safeguards arrangements are ready and will ensure we continue to meet our obligations once EURATOM arrangements no longer apply to the UK.

However, some States continue to challenge the global non-proliferation system.

The UK calls on Iran to reverse its suspension of stockpile and enrichment limits and comply with its obligations under the JCPOA. We welcome the Agency’s monitoring of Iranian compliance with the deal, and we remain committed to its full implementation.

North Korea’s recent missile launches and violations of UN resolutions are of great concern. We are clear that sanctions must remain in place until North Korea takes concrete steps towards denuclearisation. Finally, Syria has not met its safeguards obligations since 2011. This issue must remain on the Board’s agenda until Syria returns to full compliance with its obligations.

Madam President,

The UK will continue to give the Secretariat, and the future Director General, our full support in fulfilling the Agency’s unique and important role.

Thank you.