So you like nuclear power…?! July 17, 2007Posted by Andreas in Environment, News, Nuclear Power, Sustainable Living.
Here are a few recent news stories to make you think again:
On June 28, a fire broke out at a 1316 MW nuclear reactor called Krummel in Germany as a result of a short-circuit in one of the reactor’s two transformer stations. According to Germany’s federal environment ministry,
“It is apparent that the [reactor’s] staff did not act according to the guidelines during the time of the emergency shut-down […] The emergency shut-down caused a loss of pressure and change in the fill-level of Krummel’s cooling water “which can be the forerunner of severe disturbances or accidents,” the ministry said.
The pilot of a firefighting helicopter tackling a wildfire near Long Lake, Washington state, USA, inadvertently scooped water from a defunct uranium mine tailings pond on 2 July. The helicopter took two bucketloads of water, totalling some 440 gallons (1665 litres), from the pond and dropped it over a large area of land. […] The tailings pond is believed to have only relatively low levels of radiation. It holds waste from nearly 30 years of uranium ore processing. Most of the ore came from the nearby Midnite Mine, which is now a federal Superfund site undergoing a $152 million cleanup.
An earthquake of 6.8 magnitude struck Japan [on July 16], causing leak of radioactive water […]. Tokyo Electric Power Co. said radioactive water leaked from its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power plant in Niigata. About 1.5 liters (0.4 gallons) of water leaked from a container of used fuels, entering into a pipe that flushed it with other water into the ocean, the company said on its Web site.
The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) has been fined GBP15,000 ($30,400) by Wick Sherrif Court after an employee at the Dounreay nuclear plant breathed in 1.7 mSv of plutonium. Two workers were exposed to the plutonium in the incident while they were loading contaminated lead bricks contained in plastic bags into drums in January 2006. The court heard that the bags had not been marked to identify what they contained and that no risk assessment had been conducted prior to the workers being instructed to pack the bags in drums. The UKAEA also failed to ensure one of the employees was wearing a protective radiation suit during the operation. […] Dounreay, a former fast reactor research and development centre, was shut in 1994. It is earmarked for a GBP2.9 billion ($5.9 billion) decommissioning by 2033.
[US] government investigators found US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) procedures seriously lacking when they obtained a radioactive materials licence in the name of a bogus company.
The investigation, by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), was carried out on the instructions of the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. It raised the specter of terrorist ambitions to spread radioactive contaminants, possibly by way of explosion.
GAO staffers made two applications for a radioactive materials licence in the name of a company that existed only on paper. […]
Basic checks on the legitimacy of the company – such as internet searches and checks with state company registries – were not carried out by the NRC, which supplied a licence by mail in four weeks after some liaison. Upon receipt, GAO found that the licence could be altered to allow the company to hold an “unrestricted quantity” of material, rather than the “small amounts” on the original licence.
Then, using the amended licence, GAO staffers agreed with commercial suppliers to buy sealed-source equipment of the kind used in the construction industry. […]
[…] the equipment under discussion contained over 1.6 Curies (59.2 TBq) of americium-241 in total – an amount the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) consider “could cause permanent injury to a person who handled it, or was in contact with it for some hours.” It could also prove fatal for a person to be in close contact with this amount of unshielded radioactive material for a period of days to weeks, although the IAEA stresses this is unlikely.
In 2003 americium 241 was listed by an NRC/Department of Energy working group among the “materials of greatest concern” with respect to potential terrorist misuse.