Radioactive Waste 349 - New Agreement Between State Of Washington and U.S. Department Of Energy Over Dangers To Workers

       I have blogged before about problems at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in south central Washington State. The federal government manufactured nuclear weapons at the site for decades with little regard to the safety of workers and the environment. Toxic mixes of radioactive materials and dangerous chemicals were poured directly into trenches dug in the dirt. Later, these toxic liquids were poured into single-walled buried tanks which soon began leaking into the soil. Double-walled tanks were constructed and some of the liquids were moved to those but the new tanks began leaking too.
        Workers were repeatedly exposed to vapors leaking from the tanks. The DoE regularly issued statements to the effect that there was little risk to the workers and no permanent health problems. On the other hand, many workers complained of permanent damage to their health and some were unable to continue working.
        Critics of safety at Hanford say that hundreds of workers have been endangered by vapors leaking from the underground storage tanks at Hanford. These vapors 
can include ammonia, nitrous oxide and dimethyl mercury.
       The State of Washington has repeatedly taken the U.S. Department of Energy to court over delays in cleanup of the Hanford site. Recently, a tunnel collapsed that was used to transport materials from a nuclear reactor to a plutonium processing plant. The DoE said that there was no release of radioactive materials, but workers reported health issues following the collapse releasing vapors from the tunnel. There have been reports of finding radioactive materials in the areas and on workers vehicles near the collapsed tunnel.
       Bob Ferguson, the Attorney General of Washington, has been working hard to improve protections for workers’ health and safety at Hanford. On Wednesday, he announced a new settlement agreement with the DoE that should protect workers from vapor releases in the future. The agreement suspends a three-year lawsuit against the DoE and their civilian contractor at Hanford, Washington River Protection Solutions. The law suit was scheduled to go to trial next June.
      Ferguson has described a “culture of indifference to worker safety” at Hanford. He said that the new agreement could be a turning point for workers at the Hanford tank farm. DoE will be testing what they say are “groundbreaking” technology to capture and destroy tank vapors.
       Ferguson says that the DoE has failed the Hanford workers for years. He hopes that “We’re finally moving towards a lasting solution. We should not have had to file a lawsuit. It shouldn’t have come to this.”
       A spokesperson for the DoE said that the agency was pleased with the new agreement. She went on to say, “We’ve acknowledged there is still room for us to continue to improve.” She also said that the DoE priority was to work together with the contractor to “make sure the workers are safe and comfortable with the safety measures in place.”
       Under pressure from the State of Washington, the DoE has repeatedly promised to change the ways things were being done at Hanford. Deadline after deadline has passed without the promised work being done. I certainly hope that this new agreement results in the needed changes but judging from past performance, the odds are not good.

Geiger Readings for Sep 20, 2018

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745

Ambient office  = 81 nanosieverts per hour

Ambient outside = 121 nanosieverts per hour

Soil exposed to rain water = 123 nanosieverts per hour

Avocado from Central Market = 79 nanosieverts per hour

Tap water = 102 nanosieverts per hour

Filter water = 86 nanosieverts per hour

Nuclear Reactors 615 - World Nuclear Association Presents Seven Steps To Promote Nuclear Power - Part 3 of 3 Parts

Part 3 of 3 Parts (Please read Parts 1 and 2 first)
       With respect to innovation, Chudakov said that the global nuclear industry was making progress in the development and implementation of high-level nuclear waste repositories which will ultimately have a “profound impact” on the political and public acceptance of nuclear power. A major challenge for the nuclear industry is creating and retaining skilled personnel to ensure a competent nuclear workforce for all phases of the life cycle of a nuclear facility.
       Chudakov said, “When the Members States see nuclear as a key contributor to their achievement of sustainable development and climate mitigation targets, the enabling conditions and policies will also change,” he said. There are two key things the industry must do, he added. The first of these is maintaining the current fleet - the “workhorse of low-carbon energy production” - for as long as safely possible.”
       “This will take us to the 2050s,” he said. “And then, the innovative systems that are now under development kick in. Fast reactors, high temperature gas-cooled reactors, small and medium sized or modular reactors, and especially coupling them with other industrial purposes (cogeneration) will ensure that we are indeed talking about a sustainable energy system.”
Radioactive Waste Management:
       The management of radioactive waste practices must convince the public that the industry has successful programs for managing the entire lifecycle of nuclear facilities. He mentioned Artemis which is an integrated review service for handling nuclear waste and used fuel. Artemis provides great opportunity for cooperation in management, decommissioning and remediation programs. International Artemis teams are created by the IAEA to provide independent expert opinion and advice. The reviews are based on the safety standards and technical guidance of the IAEA, as well as international good practices.
Capacity Building:
       In order to expand nuclear capacity, there must be development of human resources in the nuclear industry for existing operators and the next generation of nuclear operators for the new nuclear power stations. He said, “We need to consider new ways of learning and development for our workforce, alongside effective education, training and knowledge management to ensure we equip our people for the future.”
Public Acceptance:
        Public acceptance of nuclear power is a critical factor for the future of the nuclear industry. Acceptance depends on public perceptions of the benefits and risks associated with nuclear power generation. He also said that the benefits and risks of non-nuclear alternatives should also be considered.
       Chudakov said, “We need to explain and to start education at all levels, from kindergarten, school and university, to parliament and ministers. We should not be ashamed to talk about nuclear energy; we are always defending ourselves, but it’s time to start attacking - to actively explain and promote nuclear power.”
       “Public opinion about the future of nuclear power is perhaps the most important variable that will determine whether nuclear power will help us meet our development and climate goals, or whether we will fail. We will greatly improve our chances for success if our efforts can shift the paradigm from gaining public acceptance of nuclear power to generating well-informed public demand for nuclear power. We must reinforce the benefits of nuclear power. This is a big, but a vitally important task and it will require enhanced international cooperation.”
       This presentation contains good advice for the nuclear industry, but it also highlights that believing that progress in nuclear power generation will ultimately make much difference in climate change mitigation may be grasping at straws. While enthusiastic promoters of nuclear power make pie in the sky projections of getting twenty five percent of our electricity from nuclear power by 2050, the sober best case scenario in Chudakov’s speech does not even reach six percent. I have to ask if all the problems with nuclear power that I have detailed in the years I have been writing this blog are worth dealing with for a few percent of our low-carbon needs to slow rising global temperature

Geiger Readings for Sep 19, 2018

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745

Ambient office  = 119 nanosieverts per hour

Ambient outside = 82 nanosieverts per hour

Soil exposed to rain water = 85 nanosieverts per hour

Carrot from Central Market = 107 nanosieverts per hour

Tap water = 105 nanosieverts per hour

Filter water = 97 nanosieverts per hour

Nuclear Reactors 614 - World Nuclear Association Presents Seven Steps To Promote Nuclear Power - Part 2 of 3 Part

Part 2 of 3 Parts (Please read Part 1 first)
       Chudakov specified seven influences that he thinks are important to support nuclear power which include safety, funding, electricity markets and nuclear policies, innovation in reactors and fuel cycles, managing waste, capacity building and public acceptance. In his presentation, he said that he wanted to show how these different factors will impact whether future growth of nuclear power will follow the IAEA’s low or best case projections.
      With respect to safety, he said “Of course, we can stop talking about safety, but we can’t prevent people asking us about safety and they have the right to. The safety performance of nuclear installations is crucial to the future of nuclear power, as a strong safety record is essential for its public acceptance.”
       Chudakov said that ways to improve safety include the following. The IAEA has a mission to help synchronize safety protocols across all one hundred and seventy of its member states. Sharing of operational experience will provide more open access to information. Emergency preparedness policies must be developed to provide better exchange of technical information. There should be drills that simulate severe accidents to make more use of IAEA and other bodies of international experience. A management and safety culture must evolve which makes use of multilateral cooperation.
       Chudakov said, “The more we share our operating experience, the better our resilience to events will become. Fukushima has demonstrated to us that we need to be joined-up when responding to significant events in our industry, we can do this by improving our exchange of technical information around the plants, but we need to continue identifying areas where we all have to work harder.”
        With respect to funding nuclear power, financing is required at multiple points in developing or expanding a national nuclear energy program. One major requirement is the establishment of a nuclear regulatory body. There are also requirements that financing be secured to cover decommissioning and waste management. Growth of nuclear power is being heavily impacted by the decline in the prices of natural gas and the deployment of big renewable energy project. There are big variations in demand for electricity between members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and non-members. The lack of a meaningful way to price carbon dioxide release is also a problem.
       Chudakov said, “Yes, financing new nuclear build is challenging, but new ways of thinking have produced new ways of finding money. We see this in Turkey, in Finland, in the UAE, in the UK. But the underlying question is: How can governments create more enabling conditions so that nuclear can be more affordable?”
Electrical Markets and Nuclear Policy:
        The answer to Chudakov’s question about financing is closely connected to electricity markets and nuclear policies. Newcomers need to be supported and brought into synchronization with experienced nuclear operators. A nuclear power plant must be carefully managed for the over sixty years of projected operation.
Please read Part 3

Geiger Readings for Sep 18, 2018

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745

Ambient office  = 115 nanosieverts per hour

Ambient outside = 119 nanosieverts per hour

Soil exposed to rain water = 121 nanosieverts per hour

Blueberry from Central Market = 100 nanosieverts per hour

Tap water = 100 nanosieverts per hour

Filter water = 91 nanosieverts per hour

Nuclear Reactors 613 - World Nuclear Association Presents Seven Steps To Promote Nuclear Power - Part 1 of 3 Parts

Part 1 of 3 Parts
      Mikhail Chudakov is the head of the World Nuclear Association nuclear energy department. At the World Nuclear Association Symposium 2018 held in London last week, Chudakov said that the nuclear industry needs to change public acceptance for nuclear power to public demand for nuclear power which he claims is a safe, reliable, sustainable and low-carbon source of electricity. Readers of this blog will know that I take exception to all of these claims.
       Chudakov said, “We know the challenges: World energy consumption is expected to grow at an annual growth rate of about 1%, but electricity consumption will grow at a higher rate of about 2.5% per year up to 2030 and around 2% thereafter. With virtually no greenhouse gas emissions during operation, nuclear power can have an important role to play in achieving [the United Nation's] Sustainable Development Goals, meeting the targets set out in the Paris Agreement.”
       He went on to point out that the challenge of limiting global temperature increase to two degrees will not be easy. Seventy percent of the world’s electricity currently comes from the burning of fossil fuels. To hold down the rise in temperature, it will be necessary for eighty percent of global electricity to be derived from low-carbon sources by 2030. In order to accomplish this, all low-carbon sources will have to be scaled up.
       He said, “If nuclear power deployment doesn’t grow in line with this scenario, the other technologies will not make up the gap. And we will not meet our climate targets that are critical to life on this planet.”
        The existing projections of the International Atomic Energy Agency suggest that a best case for use of nuclear energy would require that it be increased by thirty percent over 2017 levels by 2030 and then increased by ninety percent by 2050. In a low case projection, nuclear energy would decline until 2040 and then rebound back to the 2030 level by 2050. The best case would see nuclear energy rising to about six percent of global electricity generation by 2050 and the low case would reach three percent of global electricity generation by 2050. The new projections from the IAEA have not yet been published but they suggest that the numbers would be two point eight percent for the low case and five point six percent for the best case by 2050.
       The nuclear industry has announced the Harmony goal of adding one thousand gigawatts of new nuclear power to the global grid by 2050. This would have nuclear energy accounting for twenty five percent of global electricity generation. Chudakov said: “Last year’s high case was 700 Giga Watts. Where is the 1000 Giga Watts plus of new capacity? We can’t see it. Where is our 25% of electricity production by 2050? We are already losing the battle and we will be responsible for this. This should be a big wake up call for all of us.”
       Chudakov also provided notes along with his verbal presentation. In the notes, he said, “the early retirement or lack of interest in extending the operating life of nuclear power plants in some countries, due to the reduced competitiveness of nuclear power in the short run and nuclear policies in several countries following the accident at Fukushima Daiichi in 2011”. His notes added: “We are still looking into a heavy new build schedule to replace the large figure of capacity that will go away due to retiring reactors.”
Please read Part 2

Geiger Readings for Sep 17, 2018

Geiger Readings for Sep 17, 2018

Ambient office  = 136 nanosieverts per hour

Ambient outside = 100 nanosieverts per hour

Soil exposed to rain water = 97 nanosieverts per hour

Crimini mushroom from Central Market = 116 nanosieverts per hour

Tap water = 128 nanosieverts per hour

Filter water = 109 nanosieverts per hour

Geiger Readings for Sep 16, 2018

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745

Ambient office  = 116 nanosieverts per hour

Ambient outside = 109 nanosieverts per hour

Soil exposed to rain water = 117 nanosieverts per hour

Mango from Central Market = 150 nanosieverts per hour

Tap water = 63 nanosieverts per hour

Filter water = 57 nanosieverts per hour