02 June 2011

Byeyond Nuclear's list of videos to watch

Videos to Watch
The following are a sampling of recommended videos. Please also go to the Beyond Nuclear YouTube Channel.

Italians say "no" to nuclear during soccer championship

Greenpeace unfurled a banner during the championship soccer game last Sunday, reading: "From Milan to Palermo, let's shut down nuclear." The tag line at the end reads, "the crazy ones are you if you don't vote to close nuclear in the referendum. The national referendum will be held June 12 and 13. In the last one in 1987, Italians voted to shut down their nuclear power program which has never since reopened.

DateMay 31, 2011

Oil spill into ocean from Fukushima Daiichi Units 5 and 6

Oil spill into ocean from Fukushima Daiichi Units 5 and 6

The Associated Press has reported an oil spill into the ocean from atomic reactor units 5 and 6 at the devastated Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in northeast Japan. The oil spill has occurred despite Units 5 and 6 being in a supposedly stable state of "cold shutdown," according to plant owner and operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco).

Units 5 and 6 reactor cores just happened to be shut down for inspection and maintenance when the earthquake and tsunami struck on March 11th, facilitating their cooling since. Although Unit 4 was likewise shut down, and its reactor core emptied of nuclear fuel, its secondary containment building was destroyed by a hydrogen explosion, perhaps due to a high-level radioactive waste storage pool fire, or ingress of explosive hydrogen gas from the Unit 3 reactor via a venting system shared by the two units.

In addition to the oil spill at Units 5 and 6, a "small" explosion has been reported at Unit 4. The biggest problems, however, remain the Units 1, 2, and 3 reactor cores, in states of meltdown at risk of burning through primary containment structures, as well as multiple high-level radioactive waste storage pools across the site, at risk of boiling dry, catching fire, and releasing catastrophic amounts of radioactivity directly into the environment, as they are not located within primary containment structures, and secondary containment buildings have been damaged or destroyed by massive hydrogen gas blasts.  

Japan Today reports that the oil leak was detected after bad weather hit the site. The Japan Times has reported that Tepco is speculating that two oil tanks, or connected pipes, which were being filled by a tanker at the time of the March 11 natural disasters, may have been damaged, and may even have been leaking oil ever since. The two tanks were moved 30 feet by the earthquake and/or tsunami; each tank could have contained as much as 1 million liters of heavy oil.

DateMay 31, 2011

NRC ACRS transcript on Fukushima review publicly available

On May 26th, Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear attended the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards Fukushima subcommittee meeting, held at NRC headquarters in Rockville, Maryland. The ACRS allowed representatives from the Nuclear Energy Institute and the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Nuclear Energy -- both nuclear power proponents -- to speak for an hour and a half each.

Nuclear engineer Arnold Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates, a skeptic of the industry, former whistleblower, and expert witness in environmental campaigns against dangerous old and proposed new reactors, was only granted five minutes (and was continually interrupted by extraneous noise on the ACRS phone system).

However, the transcript is now available.

The DOE presentation, from page 78 to 145, contains many revelations about the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe that have not yet been publicly reported. The DOE spokesman's 40 powerpoint slides are also included towards the end of the transcript, as is Arnold Gundersen's written testimony.

During a very brief, previously unannounced opportunity for public comments at the end of the ACRS meeting, Kevin announced Beyond Nuclear's emergency enforcement petition to NRC -- supported by a growing number of anti-nuclear watchdog groups who live in the shadows of the 24 U.S. General Electric Boiling Water Reactor Mark 1s and their high-level radioactive waste storage pools, which are identical or very similar in design to Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4.

An NRC Petition Review Board will hear Beyond Nuclear's testimony, as well as that of its growing coalition of grassroots environmental allies, calling for the immediate suspension of GE BWR Mark 1 operating licenses, as well as for emergency back up power to be required on high-level radioactive waste storage pools, on June 8th.

DateJune 1, 2011

ANS well to test methane hydrate technologies

May 18, 2011
Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor
WASHINGTON, DC, May 18 -- A fully instrumented well that will test innovative technologies to produce methane gas from hydrate deposits has been safely installed on Alaska’s North Slope and will be available for field experiments as early as next winter, the US Department of Energy’s Fossil Energy Office announced on May 17.

FEO said the well—the result of a partnership of ConocoPhillips and FEO’s National Energy Technology Laboratory—will test a technology that involves injecting carbon dioxide into sandstone reservoirs containing methane hydrate. Laboratory studies indicate that the CO2 molecules will replace the methane molecules in the solid hydrate lattice, resulting in the simultaneous sequestration of CO2 in a solid hydrate structure and production of methane gas, FEO said.

Recently completed operations include the acquisition of a research-level suite of measurements through the subpermafrost hydrate-bearing sediments, it indicated. The data confirm the occurrence of 160 ft of gas-hydrate-bearing sand reservoirs in four separate zones, as predicted, and provide insight into their physical and mechanical properties.

An array of downhole pressure-temperature gauges were installed in the well, as well as a continuous fiber-optic temperature sensor outside the well casing, which will monitor the well as it returns to natural conditions following the drilling program, FEO added.

It said in coming months, field trial participants will review the data to determine the optimal parameters for future field testing. Current plans are to reenter the well in a future winter drilling season, and conduct a 1-2 month program of CO2 injection and well production to assess the efficiency of the exchange process.
Following those tests, the remaining time available before the spring thaw (as much as 40 days) may be used to test reservoir response to pressure reduction in the wellbore. This alternative methane-production method, "depressurization," recently proved effective during short-term testing conducted by the governments of Japan and Canada at a site in northwestern Canada, according to FEO.

01 June 2011

The Nuclear Power Play – Part 3: What's the Solution?

Special Series: The Nuclear Power Play – Part 3: What's the Solution?

Published Saturday, May 21, 2011 2:30 am
Special Series: The Nuclear Power Play – Part 3: What's the Solution?

John O’Leary, a deputy secretary of the US department of Energy, testified before the House panel in 1977 that “A solar power breakthrough will solve the energy crises once and for all... a viable plan to use the inexhaustible solar power source is reachable within 5 years.”

“The economics of nuclear power are bad and getting worst” says energy consultant Charles Komanoff. “In my judgment, no utility executive with an accurate perception of the cost of nuclear power and a sincere desire to minimize cost would propose ordering a new nuclear plant.” Atomic Industrial Form Committee on fuel cycle policy (1977)

The volumes of studies comparing the future of solar and other renewable energies are clearly favorable when considering investment, jobs, pollution and safety. But they have been losing their rightful place to the deep pockets of Big-Oil and the atomic based sciences hatched from the “Manhattan Project.”

Affiliated corporations to that project, have been forever rewarded with funding, paraded with Two of of these corpoclout, and embarrassed with open doors. rations are General Electric and Westinghouse – both of whom stand as the leaders in building today’s nuclear global power industry. The subsidies they and oil have received amount to over a trillion dollars over the past five decades.

When Ronald Reagan took down the solar panels from the White House, it was more than symbolic. Behind that action came billions of dollars in “oil subsidies.” Nonrenewable sources of energy would be the “fuel de jour” and individuals would not find freedom from them. Many renewable projects involving wind and solar bio-fuels were emerging through the 70s, displaying great promise, but none would find refuge from big oil nor real assistance from the government.

Melvin Calvin was one such casualty of that era. In 1961, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on “photosynthesis,” while being recognized as an authority in theoretical organic chemistry, as well as being awarded the “Priestly Medal”. 

The “Calvin Cycle” was named after his method of developing the path of carbon in Photosynthesis. This was the birth of understanding “solar energy.” In 1974, Calvin began working on a project that could have brought more of an impact to the security of this country than did the atomic bomb itself, as his focus turned to global warming and the greenhouse effect. 

Calvin had worked on the Manhattan Project and was aware of the direction the trillion dollar Pentagon budget was taking us. Years before, he had traced carbon dioxide’s relationship with sunlight to carbohydrate in plants. He then understood every enzymatic requirement needed to convert carbon dioxide into hydrocarbons.

By 1978, on his ranch in California, he had successfully produced oil from a plant. “Euphorbia lathyris,”  a relative of the poinsettia. It’s grown in a hot and dry atmosphere and produces a latex milk that consists of hydrogen and water. This mixture is processed to exclude oxygen atoms, thus producing hydrocarbons-oil – 12 percent of the plant to be exact and at $20 a barrel. Now oil is almost $120 per barrel. 

Calvin felt cloning and genetic engineering would highly improve the yield and bring the cost down. One of the advantages of fuel derived from Euphoriba is that it does not add to the carbon dioxide blanket eating the ozone. But this did not fit what modeled the “Business Roundtable’s” lock on “fossil fuels”. 

Thus, this Quantum leap in energy resourcefulness and environmental preservation died a quiet and ominous death. The last time I talked to Mr. Calvin, it was 1992, to let him know that I'd included his studies in a piece I wrote for “Creative Loafing,” that I had gathered in an interview with him a year before. He was only coming into his lab half a day a week and soon to retire. 

Calvin told me that he did have misgivings about his years of work being swept under the carpet. How many more like him were, and are still, being dismissed. Imagine California to Texas cooling the desert with green bio-fuel. Euphorbia can still be grown, but we can’t get back the precious kids, who have been sent off to fight over Middle East oil, not to mention the trillions of dollars spent protecting the profits of the oil companies, or the untold damage done to the environment.

In such, President Obama may have completely missed his chance to really be a visonary leader. Right after the BP incident, the President could have partnered with some businesses, commandeered some of those abandoned warehouses along the gulf coast and setup assembly lines building solar collectors, windmills and reversible meters. 

President Obama might have suggested that the most powerful and significant change we can make would be our choices. To be aware of low hydro-carbon products, support them and innovative pioneers like Calvin. To reduce our waste and vote with our feet to tell corporate America how we need to reduce our dependency on fossil and nuclear fuels. That this would progressively usher alternative energy sources into our future.

Making choices has a domino effect. Smart buying reduces trash - reducing trash pic-ups - reducing over burden landfills, which reduces the amount of carbon consuming topography we lose creating them and fossil fuels burnt transporting their fill. To buy smart is like eating smart, it saves you money at the doctor, so when curtailing waste, we and the planet become the benefactors of these practices.

Surely, building more NP plants will not change our habits, nor move us away from this throw-away society they represent. They are the epitome of "trash left behind" with no responsibility to the future. We can, however, insist manufacturers produce products durable, recyclable and biodegradable goods, with little to no fossil fuel. These habits can turn us to a better future in less time than we could bring the first new NP plant online, if we started breaking ground today.

Such broad scale policies would have put tens of thousands of people to work and started a trend that could have reduced dependency on oil – perhaps our greatest threat to national security. President Obama could have put thousands of people to work planting Euphoriba across the Southwest, reducing our dependency even more and helping to heal the woes from CO2. 

All of these industries would employ many, many times the amount of labor then do NP plants. In fact, after an NP plant is built it only requires 100 to 150 people to run it unless a disaster hits. There are not many catastrophes involved in solar and no mining and poisoning waters either, with little chance of a $300 billion cleanups needed to boot. 

Plus, the $36 billion in the pipe for NP as loans, will all be repaid by those who consume the electricity (you and me) and added will be a fountain of profits for the corporations facilitating that process. The longer that takes, the longer those profits flow. It really just becomes a “phantom tax” that redistributes taxpayer wealth to already wealthy, publicly-subsidized corporations. Nuclear Power is by far the most costly and victimizing direction to go down the road to our future. If one wanted to believed it offered a future at all. 

Yes, if President Obama really wanted "clean energy that would strengthen our security, protect our planet and create endless new jobs," he wouldn’t be kissing the rings of those who have taken all of that from us. He'd be standing up to give the American people something more deserving of our nation's role in humanity and we would be taking the lead in guiding the world toward a sustainable future for generations to come.

Special Series: The Nuclear Power Play – Part 2: The True Economic Cost

Published Saturday, May 14, 2011 3:00 am
Special Series: The Nuclear Power Play – Part 2: The True Economic Cost

Though one might think that the recent nuclear disaster in Japan would have tamed our appetite for nuclear power, advocates for the industry are instead attempting to mount a powerful reassurance campaign in order to quell public concern. In part one of this series, we looked at the true environmental cost of a nuclear power plant. In this piece, we'll explore the real economical impact.

In part one of this series, where we looked at the true economic cost of NP, we asked, Where's the green? Though we failed to find it in real environmental value, there appears to be plenty in terms of the dollars that the industry ultimately requires.

To start with, the expenses prior to cranking-up an NP plant are startling. Building the infrastructure of new power-lines, buying the enormous amount of land, poles and right-of-way is pricey. There’s fuel enrichment, storage, oversight committees, regulators, inspectors and costly emergency back-up everything. There has to be a guarantee of a clean and endless water supply plus emergency sources.

Currently NP plants are providing less than 20 percent of all electricity produced in the US, and only 8 percent of all end uses. Expectations are, that over the next 14 years, production would increase 10 percent with the construction of 20 new plants. China has 25 plants currently under construction and experts predict 25 more new countries will commission their first NP plant by 2030. Most experts say uranium reserves are dwindling and within a decade we’ll be forced to import. I wonder what a peak uranium analysis would reveal? Perhaps lots of “yellow cake” and a world of “dirty bombs.”

On average, 30 tons of high level radioactive waste is created and disposed of from each plant annually. Efforts to open up new disposal facilities and reopen old ones to accommodate the increasing amount are becoming more difficult. Transporting this waste increases the possibility of accidents and contributes to an increasing probability these highly radioactive gases will find their way to the public. More often than not, plants are increasing the amount of waste they store on plant properties. Any method chosen still leaves the chance of disaster.

With a half-life (the time until it reaches half its original radioactivity level) of thousands of years, the problem of storing the “spent fuel rods” does not go away either. They will remain a threat for hundreds of generations to come. This expense, what ever it may be, is not factored into the proposed cost of the plant.

The health hazards associated with working around or living near a NP plant have forever been disputed. What are accepted levels of radiation, the radiation’s origin and whether the person was predisposed to a related disease, has also been disputed by the industry, forcing the burden of proof on to the effected person. Trouble is, the effects of radiation, like smoking cigarettes, can take years to manifest. Many don’t make it through the years of litigation once they have discovered their illness.

The proposed “assisted financing” amounting to $36 billion of interest free loans President Obama has repeatedly announced, is more of a money trap than an incentive. NP plants always require subsidies. The amount includes profits for the partners, while tying those profits to the amount lent. The more the assisted finance, the higher the level of profits are allowed. This public/private romance guarantees a second dance to the bank and a third, until everything is “too big to quit.” This is the anatomy of NP’s money-side.

What happens under various circumstances concerning safety, legal matters, finance and communications are in Washington’s hands, should anything warrant interference. This is clearly laid out in the Federal Response Plan for Peacetime Nuclear Emergencies for Interim Guidance (1977) and amended by Ronald Reagan in a 1981 “Presidential Signing Statement.” This October 8th White House document removes many of the burdening regulations once in NP’s path.

The truth is, NP’s future has been in the hands of those who have been turning our dials for over a half century: the Oil companies. They have had a large stake in NP since the 70’s own the mineral rights to many of the uranium mines. Their government/private partnerships were cast in cement, a power which the BP disaster demonstrated.

The division of Mining and Minerals was forced to divide into two separate entities (revenues and regulations) after the BP disaster, for fear of exposing their codependent relationship, ripe with conflicts of interest.  On Wall Street, they certainly enjoy the “capital gains” generated by these partnerships, but stay away from feeding off this “sacred cow.” Standard and Poor’s predicts the cost of building NP plants will continue to grow at a current pace of 15 to 20 percent annually, and most of Wall Street agrees. This creates an unquenchable thirst for public funds among approved plants, and both Wall Street and S&P agree there is less than a 50 percent chance that any government financing will ever return to the treasury.

In capitalism, a basic tenet is that the producer bears all costs of bringing the product to market before profiting, but we can see that in many industries, especially energy, such is seldom the case. Therefore, any conversation about nuclear power's role in our future energy plan must begin with an honest assessment of cost. The fact that any such assessment presents a big problem for the advocation of a major role for NP, seems like the very reason such facts aren't being discussed by those at the top. Can America, especially our future generations, really afford to move forward in such a financially reckless manner?

Special Series: The Nuclear Power Play – Part 1: Where's the Green?

Published Saturday, May 7, 2011 3:00 am

by John Rehill

Special Series: The Nuclear Power Play – Part 1: Where's the Green?

The Nuclear Power (NP) industry is working overtime to contain the imagery coming out of Japan. Currently, there is more at stake to secure the public perception of NP plants than the four reactors nearing meltdown.

A few months ago, the NP industry had just about convinced the public that NP plants were safe and clean green energy machines. It turns out neither is true.

In President Obama’s 2011 State Of The Union Address, he called for “clean energy” including NP.

He stated the need for "... investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet and create countless new jobs for our people.”

One thing is clear; considering the recent turn of events in Japan, to move forward, by constructing new NP plants, without the prudence of an environmental impact study revealing their cradle to grave cost and perils, would be reckless and irresponsible.

What is at stake are the lives, health and well-being of the countless number of people that live anywhere near these plants, as well as what could be hundred’s of billions of dollars from America’s treasury, considering no underwriter will insure these plants for fear they might be compromised.


NP opponents see the huge expense to the environment and the pocketbook that these projects demand before the first shovel breaks ground, just one of the reasons NP is the most costly route to take for our future energy.

To start, thousands of acres are mined to obtain the limestone and other minerals used in making cement to construct just one of these plants. They are huge and require more than 10 times the amount of cement than any other type of construction. So much that soon after approval, the price of cement goes up in the region.

The mining destroys CO2-consuming topography that was once capable of reducing hundreds of tons of CO2 annually. This vegetation is replaced with CO2 producing equipment (trucks, dozers, drag-lines) that transports the millions of tons, sometimes hundreds of miles, to the plant site.

The mining and milling of the “uranium” is even more problematic. The loss of CO2-consuming topography and the equipment is similar, but the denigration to the aquifer and streams is even more severe than that from mining limestone.

From New Mexico to Canada lays a trail made up of thousands of mines and holes, some 600 ft. deep, which continue to pollute the aquifer, rivers, lakes and streams with high levels of radiation and heavy metals. This happens often enough that periodical warnings are posted on waterways like The Cheyenne River, Morreau River, Grand River, and many others.

These rivers run through areas like Cave Hill, Red Shirt, Pine Ridge and Church Rock. Sound familiar? If not, that’s because these are locations where the US Government and the NP industry hide a big, dirty secret – the US Forestry Department, on Native American Reservation land, primarily does the mining and milling of uranium.

The thousands of open mines with their pits and holes lie naked near hundreds of millions of tons of tailings (radium contaminated rock and dirt not suited for uranium fuel) leaching arsenic, radium 226 & 228, barium and other radioactive alpha emitters into the wells, streams and other water supplies.

Residents of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, Pine Ridge Reservation, the Great Sioux Nation and Navajo Nation know this. They customarily suffer from many of the complications that come from the exposure to these elements, like cancer, leukemia, kidney damage and diabetes.

Historically, Native Indians didn’t suffer from these diseases, yet now they suffer from many times the numbers than the rest of the US population. These elements have no taste or odor, so it’s hard to know what or how much toxins one is consuming.

The really ugly part is that none of these mines, open pits or tailings, get any reclamation. “Indian Reservation” land is exempt from federal regulation enforcement, so there’s no cleanup. The NP industry escapes any cost of reclamation and the US government (tax payers) picks up the tab for the mined and milled uranium – yet another hidden expense not factored in when proposing these plants.

When it comes to creating a viable and sustainable energy plan for our future, there are clearly significant causes for skepticism regarding the role of NP. Before Americans are asked to accept its increased role, shouldn't the people asking at least present accurate information on the true environmental costs?

Personally, I'm not seeing these factors mentioned in such conversations, though I've seen what appears to be many attempts to "greenwash" nuclear power that fail to address these obvious problems in terms of its environmental impacts. The American people deserve a more honest conversation, if they are to be asked to consider starting down such a peril-ridden road.

Who Will Take the Radioactive Rods from Fukushima?

By Yoichi Shimatsu
The inability of Tepco or the government to pay for nuclear waste disposal puts the financial liability squarely on its partner companies and suppliers, including GE, Toshiba, Hitachi, Kajima Construction and especially the sources of the uranium, CAMECO and Rio Tinto and the governments of Canada and Australia. A fundamental rule of both capitalism and civil law is that somebody has to pay.

URL of this article: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=25064

The decommissioning of the Fukushima 1 nuclear plant is delayed by a single problem: Where to dispose of the uranium fuel rods? Many of those rods are extremely radioactive and partially melted, and some contain highly lethal plutonium.
Besides the fissile fuel inside the plant's six reactors, more than 7 tons of spent rods have to be removed to a permanent storage site before workers can bury the  Fukushima facility under concrete. The rods cannot be permanently stored in Japan because the country's new waste  storage centers on the northeast tip of Honshu are built on unsuitable land. The floors of the Rokkasho reprocessing facility and Mutsu storage unit are cracked from uneven sinking into the boggy soil.

Entombment of the rods inside the Fukushima 1 reactors carries enormous risks because the footing of landfill  cannot support the weight of the fuel rods in addition to the reactors and cooling water inside the planned concrete containment walls. The less reactive spent fuel would have to be kept inside air-cooled dry casks. The powerful earthquakes that frequently strike the Tohoku region will eventually undermine the foundations, causing radioactive wastewater to pour unstoppably into the Pacific Ocean. The rods must therefore go to another country.

American Bad Faith
Under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), signed by Japan in 1970, Washington's negotiators stipulated that used nuclear fuel from Japanese reactors must by law be shipped to the United States for storage or reprocessing to prevent the development of an atomic bomb. Washington has been unable to fulfill its treaty obligations to Tokyo due to the public outcry against the proposed Yucca Mountain storage facility near Las Vegas.

A panel convened by the Obama administration has just recommended the set up of a network of storage sites across the United States, a controversy certain to revive the anti-nuclear sentiments during the upcoming election campaign. The American nuclear industry has its own stockpile of more than 60,000 tons of spent fuel - not counting waste from reactors used for military and research purposes - leaving no space for Fukushima's rods inside the Nevada disposal site, if indeed it is ever opened.

To Continental Asia
The Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) has allocated 1 trillion yen ($12 billion) in funds for nuclear waste disposal. Areva, the French nuclear monopoly, has teamed up with Tepco to find an overseas storage site. So far, the Tepco-Areva team have quietly contacted three Asian countries - Kazakhstan, China and Mongolia -- to set up a center for "reprocessing", a euphemism for nuclear dump site.

Among the threesome, China was the top choice for the Japanese nuclear establishment, which has confidence in Beijing's ability to safeguard nuclear secrets from its citizenry and even from the top leaders. Japan's space agency, which keeps 24-hour satellite observation over every nuclear-related facility in China, possesses the entire record of radiation leaks there. Since Beijing withholds this sort of data from the public, the Japanese side felt it had the necessary leverage in talks with Chinese nuclear officials.

Though the nuclear-sector bureaucrats were initially eager to receive bundles of yen, the proposal was blown away by the salt craze that swept over China. Within a couple of weeks of the Fukushima meltdowns, millions of shoppers emptied supermarket shelves on rumors that iodized salt could prevent radiation-caused thyroid cancer. The Chinese public is rightfully fearful of health-related scandals after discoveries of melamine in milk, growth hormones in pork, pesticides in vegetables, antibiotics in fish and now radioactive fallout over farmland.

A nuclear disposal deal would require trucks loaded with radioactive cargo to roll through a densely populated port, perhaps Tianjin or Ningbo, in the dead of night. There is no way that secret shipments wouldn't be spotted by locals with smart phones, triggering a mass exodus from every city, town and village along the route to the dumping grounds in China's far west. Thus, the skittishness of the ordinary Chinese citizen knocked out the easiest of nefarious plans.

Principle of Industrial Recovery
A more logical choice for overseas storage is in the sparsely populated countries that supply uranium ore to Japan, particularly Australia and Canada. As exporters of uranium, Canberra and Ottawa are ultimately responsible for storage of the nuclear waste  under the legal principle of industrial recovery.

The practice of industrial recovery is already well-established in the consumer electronics and household appliances sectors where manufacturers are required by an increasing number of countries to take back and recycle used television sets, computers and refrigerators.

Under the principle, uranium mining giants like Rio Tinto and CAMECO would be required to take back depleted uranium. The cost of waste storage would then be factored into the export price for uranium ore. The added cost is passed along to utility companies and ultimately the consumer through a higher electricity rate. If the market refuses to bear the higher price for uranium as compared with other fuels, then nuclear power will go the way of the steam engine.

Australian and Canadian politicians are bound to opportunistically oppose the return of depleted uranium since any shipments from Fukushima would be met by a massive turnout of "not-in-my-backyard" protesters. The only way for Tokyo to convince  the local politicos to go along quietly is by threatening to publish an online list of the bribe-takers in parliament who had earlier backed uranium mining on behalf of the Japanese interests.

Nuclear's Cost-Efficiency
The question then arise whether nuclear power, when long-term storage fees are included, is competitive with investment in renewable energy such as wind, solar, hydro and tidal resources. Renewable energy probably has the edge since they don't create waste. Natural gas remains the undisputed price beater wherever it is available in abundance. In a free market without hidden subsidies, nuclear is probably doomed.

In a lapse of professionalism, the International Atomic Energy Commission (IAEA) has never seriously addressed nuclear-waste disposal as an industrywide issue. Based on the ration of spent rods to reactor fuel inside U.S. nuclear facilities, there are close to 200,000 metric tons of high-level nuclear waste at the 453 civilian nuclear-energy plants worldwide. Yet not a single permanent storage site has ever been opened anywhere.

The Fukushima 1 dilemma shows that the issues of cost-efficiency and technological viability can no longer be deferred or ignored. Ratings agencies report that Tepco's outstanding debt has soared beyond $90 billion, meaning that it cannot cover future costs of storing spent rods from its Kashiwazaki and Fukushima 2 nuclear plants. The Japanese government's debt has soared to 200 percent of GDP. Neither entity can afford the rising cost of nuclear power.

The inability of Tepco or the government to pay for nuclear waste disposal puts the financial liability squarely on its partner companies and suppliers, including GE, Toshiba, Hitachi, Kajima Construction and especially the sources of the uranium, CAMECO and Rio Tinto and the governments of Canada and Australia. A fundamental rule of both capitalism and civil law is that somebody has to pay.

Last Stop
Since Australia and Canada aren't in any hurry to take back the radioactive leftovers, that leaves Japan and treaty-partner United States with only one option for quick disposal- Mongolia.

Ulan Bator accepts open-pit mining for coal and copper, which are nothing but gigantic toxic sites, so why not take the melted-down nuclear rods? Its GDP, ranked 136 among the world's economies, is estimated to be $5.8 billion in 2010. Thus, $12 billion is an unimaginable sum for one more hole in the ground.

Not that Mongolia would get the entirety of the budget, since the nuclear cargo would have to transit through the Russian Far East. Unlike the health-conscious Chinese, the population of Nakhodka or Vladivostok are used to playing fast-and-loose with radioactive materials and vodka.

Even if the mafia that runs the Russian transport industry were to demand a disproportionate cut, Mongolia's 3 million inhabitants would be overjoyed at gaining about $2,000 each, more than the average annual income, that is if the money is divided evenly after the costs of building the dump.

Realistically, the Mongolian people are unlikely to receive a penny, since the money will go into a trust fund for maintenance costs. That's because $12 billion spread over the half-life of uranium - 700 million years - is equivalent to $17 in annual rent. That doesn't even cover kibble bits for the watchdog on duty, much less the cooling system. Not that anyone will be counting since by the time uranium decays to a safe level, fossils will be the sole remnant of human life on Earth.

Illusory, shortsighted greed will surely triumph in Mongolia, and that leaves a question of moral accountability for the rest of us. Will the world community feel remorse for dumping its nuclear mess onto an ancient culture that invented boiled mutton, fermented mare's milk and Genghis Khan? For guilt-ridden diplomats from Tokyo and Washington wheedling the dirty deal in Ulan Bator, here's the rebuttal: Did the national hero, the Great Khan, ever shed any tears or feel pangs of guilt? There's no need for soul-searching. A solution is at hand.

Yoichi Shimatsu, former editor of the Japan Times Weekly, is a Hong Kong-based environmental writer and also Editor-at-large at the 4th Media, China.

The World from Berlin: 'A Huge Victory for the Anti-Nuclear Movement'

'A Huge Victory for the Anti-Nuclear Movement'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is taking a potentially expensive gamble on the future by abandoning nuclear energy -- but it could pay off in a big way.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is taking a potentially expensive gamble on the future by abandoning nuclear energy -- but it could pay off in a big way.
The government of German Chancellor Angela Merkel now has concrete plans to abandon nuclear energy by 2022. The move could make Germany a clean energy model for the world, but newspaper editorialists are deeply divided on the issue.

Less than a day after an ethics commission appointed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel determined that Germany could phase-out nuclear power within a decade, the government in Berlin moved to implement plans to shut all the country's atomic reactors. Under the new plan, all German reactors would be forced to go offline by 2022.

It was yet another about-face in the recent history of government nuclear power policy. After the Fukushima disaster in Japan in March, Merkel swiftly reversed controversial legislation passed by her government in October that had extended the lifespan of the country's nuclear power plants by an average of 12 years. An earlier government led by then-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and the Greens had previously passed legislation that would phase out atomic energy entirely in Germany.
Following the nuclear catastrophe, Merkel ordered that seven nuclear plants be taken offline for a moratorium period of at least three months until the government had the chance to reconsider its position. Those plants will now remain shut down, as well as an eighth plant which had already been temporarily closed prior to the moratorium. 

Although Merkel often described nuclear energy as a "bridging technology" until cleaner sources could be found, her shift was seen as nothing less than a 180-degree turn for her government. Many saw it as a cynical election ploy, coming as it did just days before pivotal state elections that her party ultimately lost, anyway. Weeks on, however, the majority believes the chancellor had no other choice given the broad consensus in the German populace that nuclear power has no place in the country. That sentiment is expected to be codified by the German parliament on July 8. 

But despite the massive popular support, there are still clouds on the horizon for Merkel. Already, Germany's major energy utility companies, for whom operating nuclear power plants has been the equivalent of being able to print money, are threatening to sue over lost revenues potentially reaching into the billions as a result of the atomic shutdown. 

German editorialists are split over Merkel's nuclear withdrawal plans. Many left-leaning publications fête the development, whereas conservative newspapers are asking if society can really afford the price tag that will come with green energy. 

The left-leaning Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

"The reaction was predictable: The bosses of German industrial groups, particularly the energy utilities, are moaning about the decision to undergo an accelerated nuclear phase out like children who don't want to go on a day trip. They did this before the decision was made; they will probably do it for a while yet, until the heads of these firms comprehend what enormous opportunities are on offer in a world in which they have become the first mover on renewable energy and therefore are the market leader in the underlying technology."
"After the -- relatively -- clear decision, it is time to grasp the end of nuclear power in Germany as an opportunity, not just as a loss. The phase-out offers enormous opportunities if it is seen as a transition, or even as an entry into the potentially economically rewarding solar age. If it is dealt with properly, Germany will be at the vanguard of changes that, thanks to the planet's limitations, every nation on Earth will need to undergo at some point. It will be a turning point that marks an end not only to Germany's nuclear plants, but also to energy produced by consuming resources in general."
"Given the size of the task ahead, it seems almost ridiculous when politicians bicker whether three of the nuclear power plants should be running until 2022 instead of 2021, or whether one reactor should be retained as a "cold reserve" (and it is unclear how this could function)."
"The exact exit date is less important than the accompanying, much larger tasks. Germany must now make its own energy consumption more efficient, and increase the already impressive share of renewable energies. It is by no means about a forced surrender or 'green woollen sweater' ideology, but about modern, cutting-edge technology."
The Financial Times Deutschland writes:
"The main difference between the nuclear phase-out law passed by former Chancellor Schröder eight years ago and that agreed on by Merkel's government on Sunday night is that there is no longer a chance that it will be reversed. ... The electorate's memory may be short, but since the nuclear catastrophe in Fukushima, it is impossible in Germany to mobilize a majority in favor of a return to atomic energy."
"This cross party and societal consensus is an enormous opportunity, particularly for energy firms. The debates will be bitter and protracted when it comes to how the transition into a nuclear-power-free era might look in detail and who has to pay for what. But the crude framework which has now been erected already offers one thing: legal security. Particularly for companies in a sector like energy which must make long-term investments, that is of inestimable value."
The tabloid Bild writes:
"No one can accuse the German government of inaction. Within a matter of months, the government has taken consequential action following the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima. … But were they the right decisions? After all, German prosperity and millions of jobs in the country are dependent on affordable energy. In that regard, there are a frightening number of questions left unanswered. Will sun, water and wind be able to provide us with ample and reliable energy? Who will build the needed new power masts? And what share of the costs will have to be picked up by renters and homeowners? The government has acted on the behalf of voters, but who will be forced to pick up the tab in the end?"
The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:
"Following the Japanese disaster, Merkel had nothing left to win. Sticking with the extension of nuclear plant life spans would have been political suicide. Even the chancellor's (harshest critics) would have agreed that the Social Democrats and Greens would likely get elected as the next government. It doesn't require much imagination to figure out what their first decision might be."
"But even the 'shift' (away from nuclear energy) does little to help Merkel politically. Abroad -- especially, but not exclusively, in the Middle East -- the German government's swing on energy policy (after its abstention on the UN Security Council vote on creating a no-fly zone in Libya) is being seen as yet another sign that the chancellor isn't as iron-cast as many like to think. Critics within her own party once again see the affirmation of their assumption that in questions of stability, Merkel shows considerable mobility -- often in ways that are detrimental to her own party. So far, voters aren't rewarding the Christian Democrats or the Free Democrats in the coalition government for doing what the majority of voters would like them to do, either."
"The ingratitude will continue because the next thing Merkel's government will have to do is open the envelope with the bill in it. The upgrading of Germany's energy supply, related costs and the necessity of greater energy saving will hit or at least be felt by all -- car and home owners, renters, environmental activists and companies. This project will change the entire country, and it will only be possible to know what the actual costs and undesired consequences will be once it is finished."
The left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes:
"Why is no one in Germany celebrating the government's nuclear phase-out plans? It's all over the headlines around the world, but here in our own country no one really knows how to react. … The U-turn that Merkel and her government were forced into could not have been any more dramatic. Just half a year ago, Merkel had decreed that the reactors would stay online until long after 2030 -- now half of them are already off the grid."

"It is a huge victory for the anti-nuclear movement, which had promoted alternative sources of energy with great tenacity and kept the discussion alive. That was the reason why the electorate was so determined (to get rid of nuclear power) after the Fukushima disaster and forced Merkel to reverse her position. … The energy revolution can finally be taken to the next level."
The conservative Die Welt writes:
"The lifeblood of democracy is that you don't just have to follow one path. It's part of that lifeblood that there are always alternatives. But the German government is currently violating this basic rule in the most scandalous of ways. There's no question, in the future the country will need a smart mix of diverse energy sources, and that is why it is urgent to develop alternatives to nuclear energy. But the breakneck speed with which the government decided to hastily and permanently turn its back on the use of nuclear energy by 2022 makes a mockery of every democratic rule of procedure. It began with the repealing of the decision to extend nuclear life spans … which happened at the spur of the moment after Fukushima, without any discussion or reflection -- out of fear of the Greens (who have recently seen their influence increase dramatically in Germany)."
"Swiss Energy Minister Doris Leuthard, whose country determined not to build any more nuclear power plants and to abandon the use of atomic energy by 2034, said: 'We need time for this change, and we have that time.' This casual tone was painfully lacking in Germany. From the conservatives to the Greens, people competed to outdo each other in their proposals for how quickly the exit could happen. That damages reason."
"It is more astounding how radical the government here was in its refusal to consider alternatives. … And nobody seemed to be very upset by the fact that the committee Merkel convened to consider the issue of withdrawal was the cheeky 'ethics commission,' as if this were an ethical or moral issue rather than a question of practices and technological reason. Of the 14 members on the committee, the few who were proponents of nuclear energy were more or less silenced by the others. … And that is a victory for pugnacious democracy that lives on debate and doubt?"

Japanese seniors volunteer for Fukushima 'suicide corps'

By Kyung Lah (CNN)
June 1, 2011 3:50 a.m. EDT
Click to play
Elderly volunteers for nuclear crisis
  • Yasuteru Yamada hopes his Skilled Veterans Corps can help end the nuclear crisis
  • The 250-strong group has volunteered to work in the contaminated Fukushima plant
  • They say cells of an older person's body divide more slowly than a younger individual
  • TEPCO says the plant currently has enough workers to control the crisis
Tokyo (CNN) -- Up a narrow flight of stairs in a modest, non-descript office building, three retirees sit in a cramped room, hunched over their computers and mobile phones. They look like the planning committee for a neighborhood senior breakfast, not the leaders of a 250-member team attempting to defuse one of the worst nuclear meltdowns in history.
But that's exactly what 72-year-old Yasuteru Yamada hopes his seniors group, the Skilled Veterans Corps, will do: help end the crisis at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
The group, consisting only of retirees age 60 and up, says it is uniquely poised to work at the radiation-contaminated plant, as the cells of an older person's body divide more slowly than a younger individual.
"We have to work instead of them," says Yamada, referring to the estimated 1,000 workers currently at the nuclear plant. "Elders have less sensitivity to radiation. Therefore, we have to work."
We 'came close' to losing northern Japan
Raising funds to help Japan
TEPCO admits to more possible meltdowns
Yamada is a former engineer for Sumitomo Metal Industries Ltd. and offers decades of experience, he says. A cancer survivor, Yamada says he values his life but wants to make a difference in the years he has left.
Yamada pauses as his mobile phone rings. He pops out his hearing aids to answer. Another call from the news media, he says, as he excuses himself briefly.
Reporters from around the globe have called daily since Yamada announced the existence of his group.
They, including this reporter, are calling because of what the prime minister's special adviser to the nuclear crisis publicly dubbed them, the "suicide corps." Goshi Hosono, at a news conference last week, told reporters that while the government was grateful for the offer, there is no immediate need for the elderly volunteers.
Masaaki Takahashi, 65, bristles at the name Hosono gave his team. "I want them to stop calling us the 'suicide corps' or kamikazes," he says. "We're doing nothing special. I simply think I have to do something and I can't allow just young people to do this."
Takahashi is currently tasked with logging the names of donors and volunteers. He says there are more than 900 donors and 250 able-bodied seniors who want to don the white radiation suits and enter the grounds of the plant.
The reasons driving their desire to volunteer vary, according to the group, but none include a wish to die.
My generation, the old generation, promoted the nuclear plants. If we don't take responsibility, who will?
--Kazuko Sasaki
Kazuko Sasaki, 69, the co-founder of the group, says she has a number of personal reasons why she wants to work at the plant. "My generation, the old generation, promoted the nuclear plants. If we don't take responsibility, who will?"
But Sasaki is also pragmatic about the risks an older person is willing to take versus someone younger.
"When we were younger, we never thought of death. But death becomes familiar as we get older.
"We have a feeling that death is waiting for us. This doesn't mean I want to die. But we become less afraid of death, as we get older."
Sasaki also says a 30-year old exposed to radiation at the crippled plant might get cancer at 35 or 40. At her age, she'd be 75 or 80, and might have gotten cancer anyway, she says.
The owner of the nuclear plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), tells CNN it is thankful for the offer from the seniors group. But it says they currently have enough workers to control the crisis.
But if Hikaru Tagawa is any indication, the plant is having trouble luring employees to the facility. Tagawa is a former temporary worker at Fukushima who lived just a few miles away, an area that is now a mandatory evacuation zone.
When CNN met Tagawa, he was living at an evacuation center near Tokyo.
"Nothing can make me go back to work there," he says, as his young daughter played nearby. He points out he has two young children and calls the levels of radiation "too dangerous."
Whether the concerns of a worker shortage or the public arguments from the seniors, the same government point man, who called the group a "suicide corps" now appears to be less resistant to the idea.
"I met the leader of the group and we've started a discussion, looking for any possible, practical next step," Hosono said in a news conference Monday.
Yamada also says he has met with Hosono. But he believes his group will be working at the plant soon. The reason is simple, he says. "They need us."

31 May 2011

WHO: Cell phone use can increase possible cancer risk - CNN.com

WHO: Cell phone use can increase possible cancer risk - CNN.com

Japan/TEPCO updates: Hot links

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/05/30/us-japan-nuclear-workers-idUSTRE74T0WA20110530>Two Fukushima workers may have exceeded radiation limit 30 May 2011 Two workers at Japan's crippled nuclear power plant may have exceeded the government's radiation exposure limit, the plant operator said. Measurements of external exposure and radioactive iodine in their thyroid glands suggested that the two male workers, one in his 30s and the other in his 40s, had surpassed the maximum set by the government of 250 millisieverts over the life of the control and clean-up project. The government relaxed its upper limit for exposure for the Fukushima disaster, allowing 250 millisieverts for male emergency workers compared with the conventional maximum of 100 millisieverts for nuclear-related emergencies.

;http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-05-30/japan-risks-chernobyl-like-dead-zone-as-fukushima-soil-radiation-soars.html;Fukushima Debacle Risks Chernobyl 'Dead Zone' as Radiation in Soil Soars --Radiation from plant has spread over 600 square kilometers (230 square miles) 30 May 2011 Radioactive soil in pockets of areas near Japan's crippled nuclear plant have reached the same level as Chernobyl, where a "dead zone" remains 25 years after the reactor in the former Soviet Union exploded. Soil samples in areas outside the 20-kilometer (12 miles) exclusion zone around the Fukushima plant measured more than 1.48 million becquerels a square meter, the standard used for evacuating residents after the Chernobyl accident, Tomio Kawata, a fellow at the <http://www.numo.or.jp/en/>
Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan, said in a research report published May 24 and given to the government.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/05/30/3230175.htm;Deluge could spread Fukushima radiation 30 May 2011 There are fears a tropical storm off the coast of Japan could wash radioactive material from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into the air and sea. Now downgraded to a tropical storm, former Typhoon Songda is still expected to bring strong winds and torrential rain to Tokyo later this morning, with the Fukushima area also forecast to experience a deluge. The plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), has apologised for not being prepared for the bad weather.

<http://www.marketwatch.com/story/tepco-cant-stabilize-reactors-by-year-end-report-2011-05-29>Tepco can't stabilize reactors by year-end: report 29 May 2011 Tokyo Electric Power Co. is coming to the view that it will be impossible to stabilize the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant by the end of this year, possibly affecting the timing for the government to consider the return of evacuees to their homes near the plant, Kyodo News reported, citing senior company officials. The revelation that meltdowns had occurred at the Nos. 1 to 3 reactors at the plant, most likely with breaches to pressure vessels encasing nuclear fuel, has led the officials to believe that "there will be a major delay to work" to contain the situation, one of them said.

<http://www.midasletter.com/index.php/uranium-stocks-under-seige-as-fukushima-continues-spewing-radiation-11053001/>Uranium Stocks Under Siege as Fukushima Continues Spewing Radiation 30 May 2011 As shares in uranium exploration companies continued to shed value, Japan's nuclear nightmare is still getting worse. News this weekend that the hope of 'stabilizing' the leakage of radiation by steam into the atmosphere and by water into the ocean is unlikely underscores just how bad the situation is. Within a 20 kilometre radius around the stricken plant, a Chernobyl-style dead zone is developing, with levels of 1.48 million becquerels a square meter measured within that area. Dangerous levels of radiation have now been confirmed as far as 600 kilometres away from Fukushima.