Nuclear Reactors 287 - South Korea Plagued By Fraudulent Documentation For Nuclear Components

        In a past blog post about fraud in the global nuclear industry, I mentioned a problem that had been revealed in South Korea in 2012. I am going to expand on South Korean nuclear industry misbehavior in this blog post.

        In 2012, two reactors at the Yonggwang  Nuclear Power Plant in S. K. were shut down because it was discovered that quality certificates had been forged for some parts. The parts in question were things like fuses and power switches that didn't pose a threat of radiation release. Eight suppliers had sold Korean Hydro & Nuclear Power Company almost eight thousand questionable parts for around seven hundred thousand dollars. These two power plants supplied about five percent of the electricity for S. K. and their loss put a strain on the national power supply system.

       Investigation of fraudulent documentation continued and six reactors were shut down in 2013. Over 100 people were indicted in the corruption scandal. The South Korean nuclear industry is very closed and secrective which prosecutors said bred a culture of corrupt practices. Two high ranking executives at nuclear power companies were charged with bribery. The six closed reactors had the uncertified parts replaced and were brought back into service. In spite of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and the parts scandal, S.K. remained committed to nuclear power.

       In 2014, the investigations were continued and expanded. Previously domestic nuclear plant parts were the focus of the investigations but then parts supplied by foreign manufacturers came under scrutiny. The Nuclear Safety and Security Commission decided to check all parts manufactured overseas and supplied to S.K. nuclear power plants from 2008 to the present. A total of two hundred thousand parts from the United States, Canada, France, Britain, Germany and other countries, along with their safety documentation were targeted for investigated.

       Nuclear power provides about a third of the electricity for S.K. Even with the expanding investigations into fraudulent documentation from domestic and foreign suppliers, S.K. continued to support nuclear power and stood by plans to build at least sixteen new reactors in the next twenty years. In addition to the domestic  projects, S.K. intends to export nuclear technology to other countries.

       I have spent a lot of time in this blog on concerns that the companies which build and operate nuclear reactors for power generation cannot be trusted to follow regulations and safe practices in the construction and operation of their power plants. I have also pointed out that regulatory agencies are often underfunded and incompetent. Some have been "captured" by their nuclear industries and actually aid nuclear power companies who seek to evade regulation and oversight. The S.K. situation is not unique. How many nuclear parts manufacturers have evaded proper certification for their parts that are being sold to nuclear power companies? In Japan, less than half of the parts being exported to the global nuclear industry have been properly inspected. Even if the nuclear regulatory agencies and the nuclear power companies act ethically and competently, the world is still be endangered by unethical behavior of companies manufacturing nuclear components.


Geiger Readings for Oct 01, 2015

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745
Ambient office = 143 nanosieverts per hour
Ambient outside = 164 nanosieverts per hour
Soil exposed to rain water = 169 nanosieverts per hour
Avocado from Central Market = 56 nanosieverts per hour
Tap water = 131 nanosieverts per hour
Filtered water = 116 nanosieverts per hour 

Radioactive Waste 147 - Former Governor Cecile Andrus Is Suing The Department Of Energy Over Plans For The Idaho National Labatory

        I have posted three essays about the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). (See Nuclear Reactors 43 - Plutonium Accident at Idaho National Laboratory, Radioactive Waste 141 - Idaho National Laboratory May Lose Out On Lucrative Department Of Energy Spent Nuclear Fuel Contract, and Radioactive Waste 142 - Integrated Waste Treatment Unit at Idaho National Laboratory.) Now an ex-Governor of the State of Idaho is suing the federal government over the INL.

         Former Idaho Governor Cecil D. Andrus just filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Energy. Andrus is trying to use the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to force the DoE to make public information pertaining to the proposed shipment of commercial spent nuclear fuel to the INL. Andrus has spent months working to get the DoE to release information to the citizens of Idaho about a request by the DoE for a 'waiver" from the 1995 Batt Agreement. The Batt Agreement prevents the INL from bringing commercial waste to the labatory.

         Andrus put out a press release that said, "“It is clear that the federal government is withholding information from the people of Idaho that will allow all of us to more completely assess what they have in mind in both the short and long term with regard to commercial spent fuel coming to Idaho." He also said, "I don’t take legal action lightly, but I do believe the information that DOE has refused to provide is essential to protecting Idaho’s environment as well as protecting the integrity of Governor Batt’s historic agreement." Andrus is seeking "injunctive and other appropriate relief and seeking the disclosure and release of agency records improperly withheld."

        In January of 2015, Andrus demanded that information about the proposed shipment and the waiver request be released under the FOIA. Andrus has stated that the DoE "stalled" for months before handing over heavily redacted pages. The explanation that the DoE gave for the redactions was that in their judgment, releasing the information "would not be in the public interest." The only information that the DoE did supply to Andrus was information that had already been made public. Andrus's appeal of the decision to redact the requested information was denied.

        The legal action was prepared by the Advocates for the West. Their executive director said that, "The DOE has left us little choice but to ask the federal courts to enforce the law. A fundamental tenet of the American system of government is openness and transparency. The people have both a right and an obligation to know what their government is doing. That is why we feel it is so important to bring this information to light."

        The complaint states that, "Numerous newspaper articles and opinions in Idaho have attempted to shed light on this issue. DOE has responded to the media’s attention by spinning the issue as a matter of supporting jobs at INL, rather than dealing with nuclear waste in Idaho ... Although DOE has attempted to minimize the significance of the proposed commercial spent nuclear fuel shipments by describing them as 'research quantities,' DOE has briefed Idaho’s Leadership in Nuclear Energy Commission on the possibility of future ‘research’ at INL involving more than 20 metric tons of spent fuel."

       Andrus fears that the DoE has long-term plans to bring much larger quantities of spent nuclear fuel to the INL than it has admitted publicly. In view of the fact that there is no permanent repository in the U.S. for spent nuclear fuel, Andrus is concerned that any spent fuel shipped to the INL will remain there for the foreseeable future. He said, “Without DOE leveling with Idaho about both near-term and longer range plans we simply have no ability to assess the wisdom of what they are planning for the state. I suspect they know what they are planning will be very controversial and for that reason they want to keep it secret. That is simply unacceptable."

 Former Governor of Idaho Cecile Andrus:

Geiger Readings for Sep 30, 2015

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745
Ambient office = 98 nanosieverts per hour
Ambient outside = 91 nanosieverts per hour
Soil exposed to rain water = 94 nanosieverts per hour
Romaine lettuce from Central Market = 65 nanosieverts per hour
Tap water = 85 nanosieverts per hour
Filtered water = 78 nanosieverts per hour

Nuclear Reactors 285 - Singapore Rejects Nuclear Power

        I have not blogged about nuclear issues with respect to Singapore before. There is not much news about it. However, recently, there have been calls for Singapore to support discussions, debates and education about the possibilities and problems of nuclear power.

        The Republic of Singapore is an independent city-state and island country in Southeast Asia. It is located at the southern tip of continental Asia and is just across the Straits of Johor from Malaysia. Singapore consists of a diamond shaped main island and a number of smaller islets. They have been engaging in land reclamation and have increased their area by over twenty percent since the 1960s. Currently, the size of Singapore is about two hundred and eighty square miles and it has about five and a half million residents.

          The U.K. controlled Singapore from 1826 until 1963 when it was granted its independence in union with Malaysia. It was soon expelled from the union and experience political and social turbulence for years. It has no natural resources to speak of but it has become highly successful as a hub for Asian trade and financial transactions. It ranks high on lists of social indicators and is a popular city for business, conventions and meetings.

          Ninety five percent of Singapore's electricity is generated by natural gas power plants. Natural is cleaner that oil or coal but it is still a fossil fuel that generates greenhouse gases. The cost of electricity in Singapore is about four times higher than average cost in the U.S. The reason for this higher cost is the fact that Singapore has to import all of its natural gas.

          Supporters of nuclear power claim that if Singapore build nuclear reactors, they could substantially lower the cost of electricity for ratepayers. There is also international pressure for countries in the region to lower carbon emissions which nuclear power could play a part in reducing. There have been recent efforts to ramp up the production and use of solar power systems but critics point out that Singapore has limited land upon which to deploy such systems.

          In 2010, Singapore started studying the benefits of adding nuclear power to its power generation. In 2012, the study was completed and the final conclusion was that the risks and cost of nuclear power outweighed the benefits for Singapore. The study pointed out that Singapore does not have the need for the amount of power generated by a single massive conventional nuclear reactors. They did look at new modular reactors designs that produced less power but none of these designs have actually be built and put into operation. Singapore did not want to be the first country to build and test the practicality of the new modular designs.

         Another problem that Singapore considered was the need for an "exclusion" zone around a nuclear power plant in case of an accident. This was made abundantly clear by the aftermath of the Fukushima in Japan in March of 2011. Singapore is so small that a safe exclusion zone would be as big as the whole nation. In essence, in a major accident, the citizens would have to abandon their whole country. This is obviously a major reason for Singapore to reject the use of nuclear energy.

         In spite of ruling out the use of nuclear power in Singapore, the government decided that it would be wise to acquire knowledge of nuclear science and sixty million dollars was set aside in 2014 for a five year Nuclear Safety Research and Education Program. Radiation measurement and nuclear medicine are two of the subjects that will be part of the program. Singapore may also collaborate with other South Asia countries that are planning on building nuclear reactors as part of their Education Program. This Education Program is a prudent action on the part of Singapore even though it will not use nuclear power.


Geiger Readings for Sep 29, 2015

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745
Ambient office = 83 nanosieverts per hour
Ambient outside = 123 nanosieverts per hour
Soil exposed to rain water = 150 nanosieverts per hour
Avacado from Central Market = 122 nanosieverts per hour
Tap water = 78 nanosieverts per hour
Filtered water = 72 nanosieverts per hour

Nuclear Reactors 286 - Nuclear Power Is Being Promoted In Australia

         In my last post, I blogged about nuclear power in Singapore in Southeast Asia. Today I am going to talk about nuclear power in Australia. I have blogged on this subject before. Uranium is mined in Australia but Australia does not use nuclear power. The nuclear industry is currently working to change that.

         About one third of the known uranium reserves on Earth are located in Australia. However, there is a long bipartisan agreement against the creation of an indigenous nuclear industry. There are environmental laws against building nuclear reactors. A separate law against the construction of reactors and uranium enrichment plants recently survived an attempt by an Australian senator to rescind it. There is also strong public concern over the problem of the disposal of nuclear waste.

        The Australian Nuclear Association and the CEO of Westinghouse, the leading nuclear company in the U.S., will be meeting with government ministers and business leaders in Canberra and Sydney next week. They will push to overturn an Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act ban on nuclear development.

        The ANA is hoping that the recent change of prime ministers will lead to nuclear power being considered on "its merits." The ANA claims that nuclear power will help Australia reduce carbon emission because they have concerns that "renewables won’t get us across the line in terms of emissions reduction.” “Nuclear is more reliable and it has a smaller resources footprint than renewables." The ANA rejects the idea that nuclear power would be prohibitively expensive and estimates that Australia could construct twenty nine reactors for about one hundred and sixty billion dollars.



      The Westinghouse CEO claims that nuclear power could help produce “clean, reliable, affordable electricity for more people.” He said that Westinghouse would like to "help Australia explore ways to create jobs and economic opportunity that are also good for the environment."  He also said that Westinghouse is eager to invest in an Australian nuclear industry.

         Friends of the Earth say that it is unlikely that nuclear power will ever be a viable choice in Australia. They say that not only is nuclear power too expensive but that it will just keep getting more expensive in the future. They point out that the start-up costs alone would be huge. They suggest that the hiring the necessary scientists and technicians, acquiring the land and crafting a whole new regulatory system would probably require government subsidies.

        The University of New South Wales has conducted research on energy issues and concluded that it would be feasible to convert Australia to all renewable energy without any need for nuclear power. Separate research on the part of the federal government estimates that it would cost about between two hundred and three hundred billion dollars to convert Australia to all renewable energy by 2050.

         Australia has some of the best wind resources in the world with regard to wind power. The Australian continent has the highest solar radiation per square meter of any continent on Earth. Australia is located on top of some of the world's most potent geothermal energy sources. With its long deep water coastline, Australia is a prime location for the development of wave power. If any country on Earth is well-suited to convert to one hundred percent renewable energy, it is Australia. It would be best for them to reject the arguments of the ANA and Westinghouse. 

Geiger Readings for Sep 28, 2015

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745
Ambient office = 74 nanosieverts per hour
Ambient outside = 110 nanosieverts per hour
Soil exposed to rain water = 135 nanosieverts per hour
Crimini mushroom from Central Market = 89 nanosieverts per hour
Tap water = 117 nanosieverts per hour
Filtered water = 96 nanosieverts per hour 

Geiger Readings for Sep 27, 2015

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745
Ambient office = 84 nanosieverts per hour
Ambient outside = 136 nanosieverts per hour
Soil exposed to rain water = 134 nanosieverts per hour
Vine ripened tomato from Central Market = 135 nanosieverts per hour
Tap water = 73 nanosieverts per hour
Filtered water = 67 nanosieverts per hour