Geiger Readings for Nov 04, 2018

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745

Ambient office  = 116 nanosieverts per hour

Ambient outside = 115 nanosieverts per hour

Soil exposed to rain water = 108 nanosieverts per hour

Organic avocado from Central Market = 108 nanosieverts per hour

Tap water = 59 nanosieverts per hour

Filter water = 46 nanosieverts per hour

Geiger Readings for Nov 03, 2018

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745

Ambient office  = 111 nanosieverts per hour

Ambient outside = 154 nanosieverts per hour

Soil exposed to rain water = 155 nanosieverts per hour

Pineapple from Central Market = 117 nanosieverts per hour

Tap water = 99 nanosieverts per hour

Filter water = 91 nanosieverts per hour

Dover sole - Caught in USA = 85 nanosieverts per hour

Radioactive Waste 356 - Department of Energy Is Trying To Reclassify Some Nuclear Waste In Order To Send It To The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant

        The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is the third deep geological repository for nuclear waste in the world. The first two were located in Germany and are closed. The WIPP is licensed to permanently dispose of transuranic radioactive waste left over from the development and manufacture of nuclear weapons. It is supposed to safely isolate nuclear waste for ten thousand years. It is located twenty-six miles from Carlsbad, New Mexico.
        I have blogged about the WIPP before when barrels of radioactive waste from the Los Alamos National Laboratory exploded in the repository and radioactive materials were released into the atmosphere. It turned out that the barrels were improperly prepared and improperly stored in the repository. The repository had to be shut down for three years while it was repaired at a cost of millions of dollars.
        Now the U.S. Department of Energy has put fourth a proposal for the reclassification of some high-level radioactive wastes that would expand the types of waste that can be stored at the WIPP. Waste resulting from the processing of nuclear fuel could be classified as transuranic and sent to WIPP. There is currently no geological repository for such nuclear waste in the U.S. and the volume of such waste is steadily increasing.
      Currently, whether or not drums of radioactive waste can be stored at WIPP depends more on the origin of the drums than on their contents. There are one hundred and seventy-seven tanks holding fifty-six million gallons of liquid nuclear waste being stored at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation left over from the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel. The cost of storing this waste at Hanford is billions of dollars a year. The way that it is currently classified prevents it from being eligible for storage at WIPP.
       John Heaton, chair of the Carlsbad Mayor’s Nuclear Task Force, says that, “A lot of (the waste at Hanford) would pass the waste acceptance criteria at WIPP. It would extend the life of WIPP for sure. They’re spending billions of dollars on this stuff a year. The only risk reduction that’s happening is in what’s coming to WIPP.” However, if the waste at Hanford is reclassified, it could also be stored at ground-level repositories. Heaton admits that, “If more of it could be disposed of near the surface, it could negatively impact WIPP. It is whatever method is cheapest. A lot of it will be low-level, but there will definitely be some TRU waste that’s destined for WIPP.”
      The Energy Communities Alliance (ECA) is a nonprofit organization of communities and local governments impacted by the activities of the DoE. A 2017 report from the ECA said, “For too long, costly treatment and disposal decisions have been made base on artificial standards, ones that base waste classification on the origin rather than the actual characteristics and risk to human health arising from the waste. The change could result in about $40 billion in savings to tax payers. We also understand that some have an interest in not evolving and leaving the waste in place. The local communities find this unacceptable.”
      Don Hancock is the director of the Nuclear Waste Program at the Southwest Research and Information Center. He says that the DoE proposal is not only illegal but also hypocritical. He points out that high level waste is defined repeatedly in different laws passed by Congress and that the DoE proposal would seek to circumvent congressional powers. He also said that if the waste in question is really less dangerous that was previously thought, then there is no reason that it cannot be safely kept where it is. Hancock says, “What it seems like they’re proposing is illegal. They say they get to rewrite the law, not Congress. They’re a lot of opposition to this nationally.”
       Hancock explains that the DoE proposal was also intended to circumvent the federal law that requires high-level nuclear waste to be stored underground by changing the classification. He says, “There was a consensus that there should be multiple geologic repositories. There should be multiple places in the U.S. where you can have safe repositories. That didn’t happen.”

Geiger Readings for Nov 02, 2018

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745

Ambient office  = 111 nanosieverts per hour

Ambient outside = 104 nanosieverts per hour

Soil exposed to rain water = 100 nanosieverts per hour

Blueberry from Central Market = 119 nanosieverts per hour

Tap water = 77 nanosieverts per hour

Filter water = 71 nanosieverts per hour

Nuclear Reactors 632 - Japan Needs A Better System Of Compensation For Nuclear Disasters

        As of the end of 2010, Japan was generating about thirty percent of its electricity from nuclear power from its fleet of forty-two commercial power reactors. They intended to raise nuclear power generation to forty percent. Then, in March of 2011, a tsunami flooded the Fukushima power plant and four of the six reactors at the site were destroyed. Nuclear materials were released into the atmosphere and ground water. All of the reactors in Japan were immediately shut down.
        Now, seven years later, only eight of the forty-two reactors are in operation. Serious problems and shortcomings remain in the current system of compensating people and organizations for damages resulting from nuclear accidents such as Fukushima.
      In the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, a group from the Japanese Atomic Energy Commission has been working on ways to improve the way in which nuclear accident damage is compensated but they have not yet brought fourth a formal proposal. The electric power and insurance industries failed to support the AEC group’s proposals. It appears as if the Government has no intention of solving these problems in the near future. Instead, they have been focusing on restarting more of the idle operational reactors which is considered by some to be irresponsible.
      The current compensation system requires that operators of nuclear power plants sign contracts with the government and private insurance companies in order to finance compensation payouts that may result from accidents at their nuclear power plants. Unfortunately, these mandated contracts are limited to about a billion dollars per nuclear power plant. This is obviously far too little for realistic coverage considering that the payout so far for the Fukushima disaster has been about seventy billion dollars.
      Following the Fukushima disaster, TEPCO, the owner and operator of the Fukushima power plant, was unable to raise the money required to cover the compensation claims. The Government came up with a “makeshift” program to pay the claims. The program consisted of having the Government pay the claims and then recover the cost over decades of payments from TEPCO and other major electric utilities.
      The explanation that the Government provided for this approach was that utilities should work together to provide the massive amounts of money required to cover the cost of major nuclear accidents. The system devised for the Fukushima disaster was intended to be used again if another nuclear disaster occurred. Critics of this approach claimed that a system of mutual aid among competitors could be not be realistically sustained because due to the liberalization of the retail power market, power generation was becoming more competitive.
       A better way has to be found to raise the massive sums of money required to pay for major nuclear disasters from the utility companies, their stakeholders and the government. A good first step would be to increase the insurance coverage for accident-caused losses. In addition, the government needs to continue to collaborate with nuclear related industries to develop a comprehensive plan.
       One big issue is the possibility that a utility company could be bankrupted by a major nuclear accident. In this case, it is logical to assume that the government would have to step in to pay for compensation. But then it would need to find a way to recover costs from other players in the nuclear power market.
       Raising insurance premiums for big electricity utilities could result in a substantial increase in the cost of electricity to consumers. This would be a burden for the citizens of Japan, but it would also be a more realistic approach to pricing electricity. The Government has claimed that nuclear power is cheaper than alternative energy sources but, factoring in the insurance for future accidents, it becomes obvious that this is just not true.
       Contributing to the confusion over compensation for nuclear accidents is the fact that the government has been actively promoting nuclear power for decades. If there is another major nuclear accident in Japan, it will be very difficult for the government to maintain its support for nuclear power.

Geiger Readings for Nov 01, 2018

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745

Ambient office  = 84 nanosieverts per hour

Ambient outside = 90 nanosieverts per hour

Soil exposed to rain water = 91 nanosieverts per hour

Avocado from Central Market = 44 nanosieverts per hour

Tap water = 81 nanosieverts per hour

Filter water = 68 nanosieverts per hour

Nuclear Reactors 631 - China Has Bold Nuclear Ambitions

       China has made a major commitment to nuclear power. They are pursuing the construction of new reactors for domestic use and aggressively selling their services to construct reactors for other nations. They are pushing nuclear power in order to boost their economy and also to fight climate change.
       The Paris Climate Agreement of 2016 is an international agreement among most nations to try to limit the future rise in global temperature to less than one and a half degrees Centigrade. Researchers at China’s Energy Research Institute (ERI) have analyzed the nuclear power capacity China will require by 2050 to play China’s part in global climate change mitigation. They published their results in Advances in Climate Change Research this year.
      The ERI was created in 1980 to study China’s energy issues. The research at the Institute includes energy production, distribution and consumption. Their main focus is on energy economy, energy efficiency, energy and the environment, and renewable energy.
      The ERI says that China’s nuclear power capacity will have to increase from current levels to five hundred and fifty-four gigawatts by 2050. This would increase the share of energy production from nuclear power from the current three percent to twenty eight percent.
       As of August 2017, there were thirty-seven commercial power reactors in operation in China generating about thirty-four gigawatts of electricity. Another nineteen reactors are under construction. They will have about twenty-two gigawatts of generating capacity. Two hundred and ninety new power reactors will have to be constructed to add up to four hundred and thirty-three additional gigawatts of generating capacity. The ERI report said, “Only if the additional nuclear reactors all feature large capacities similar to CAP1400 in the future, and the annual uptime of nuclear power plants reaches 7500 hours, can the demand of the 1.5°C target for nuclear power in China be met narrowly.”
       In order to reach this goal, China will have to build new reactors at the rate of at least ten a year. Currently, China has three major equipment manufacturers who can supply components for up to ten nuclear reactors per year. The capacity for the actual construction of reactors will have to double to produce ten reactors per year. The workforce needed for the roughly five hundred reactors envisioned by 2050 will have to be about ten times the size of the current nuclear workforce.
      Considering the cost of the construction of four hundred and thirty-three reactors, it is estimated that each kilowatt of capacity will cost approximately two thousand and nine hundred dollars. This means that about one and a third trillion dollars will have to be spent on reactor construction by 2050.
       The ERI report says, “If by 2050, around 21% of China's electricity is generated with nuclear energy, nuclear and renewable power will basically account for over 80% in the power mix. In such context, total installed nuclear power capacity only needs to reach around 415 GWe, which is easy considering available site resources, nuclear power construction capacity, available funds, and the operation and management talents pool. Such massive development also needs public acceptance, which in fact already affects the development of China's nuclear power and will have more impact in the future. Therefore, significant improvement of public acceptance has become an important work and must be carried forward across the country."
       As I have said before with respect to China’s nuclear ambitions, it will be interesting to watch to see if they can actually reach their goal of around five hundred nuclear reactors by 2050. If so, will they be able to safely operate their fleet of reactors? And, what are they going to do with all the spent nuclear fuel that will be generated?

Geiger Readings for Oct 31, 2018

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745

Ambient office  = 126 nanosieverts per hour

Ambient outside =121 nanosieverts per hour

Soil exposed to rain water = 122 nanosieverts per hour

Purple carrot from Central Market = 122 nanosieverts per hour

Tap water =99 nanosieverts per hour

Filter water = 83 nanosieverts per hour

Nuclear Reactors 630 - Norway Is Having Problems With Nuclear Waste And Reactor Operation

      The Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority (NRPA) has announced that is has found “serious breaches” in the handling of radioactive materials at the national facility for final disposal in Himdalen.

       There are four mountain halls in Himdalen, that are used to store Norway’s nuclear waste. The landfill facility is located in the Aurskog-Høland municipality and was opened for business in 1998. It is scheduled to receive waste until 2030. At the end of 2017, it was sixty three percent full. After it is closed, the facility will remain under administrative supervision for up to five hundred years.
       Since February of this year, eight containers of liquid oxygenated nuclear waste were found to have been illegally stored at the facility. Three of the containers held Americium-241. They were up to fifty-seven times as radioactive as permitted by regulations. The other five containers were also more radioactive than permitted by their licenses. Americium-241 is has industrial uses in Norway. There are small amounts of Americium-241 in fire and smoke detectors in Norwegian homes. According to the NRPA, the containers were stored in 2013 and 2014. There was a risk that chemical reactions could have occurred in those containers that could have resulted in leaks of radioactive materials.
       The Mayor of the municipality of Aurskog-Høland notified the police that leaking containers had been found in the Himdalen facility. When contacted, the Norwegian police say that the case has been on hold since February. They say that they do not have enough investigators to pursue the case. The Mayor has also requested that there be a meeting with the Industry Minister to discuss the management of the Himdalen facility.
        The NRPA has asked the Norwegian Institute of Energy Technology (IFE) to carry out a full review of the operation of Himdalen from 1998 to the present. They are responsible for the safe operation of the facility. The IFE admit that routines have been violated at Himdalen. They say that there is no danger to the health of Norwegian citizens or to the environment because the waste is “safely encapsulated” in containers.
        Norway has other problems with their nuclear industry. The JEEP II nuclear reactor at Kjeller began operation in 1951. It is one of two Norwegian nuclear reactors currently in operation. Neither of these reactors are used to generate electricity. Kjeller is a village located about fifteen miles for Oslo, the Norwegian capital. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently took a week to inspect the JEEP II reactor at the request of the IFE which operates the reactor.
        The IAEA report said that the conditions at the reactor site were “inadequate.” The report detailed thirty serious problems that should be dealt with immediately. The reactor was criticized for breaches of international security regulations including fire safety, alarm and monitoring systems. The NRPA has said that is is closely monitoring developments at the JEEP II site. The Kjeller nuclear facility has be under intense observation since 2015.
      Bellona is a Norwegian environmental watchdog. They have been watching the operation of the JEEP II reactor and nuclear material leaks for decades. They are very concerned about the reported problems at the JEEP II reactor. They point out that this is not the first time that the IAEA has found major problems with how the JEEP II reactor operation is being managed. A representative of Bellona said, “It does not look like the IFE is about to make the necessary steps to make the reactor safe.”