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Earth

There's A 50% Chance of Another Chernobyl Before 2050, Say Safety Specialists (technologyreview.com) 140

An anonymous reader writes from a report via MIT Technology Review: Spencer Wheatley and Didier Sornette at ETH Zurich in Switzerland and Benjamin Sovacool at Aarhus University in Denmark have compiled the most comprehensive list of nuclear accidents ever created and used it to calculate the chances of future accidents. They say there is a 50:50 chance that a major nuclear disaster will occur somewhere in the world before 2050. "There is a 50 percent chance that a Chernobyl event (or larger) occurs in the next 27 years," they conclude. Since the International Atomic Energy Agency doesn't publish a historical database of the nuclear accidents it rates using the International Nuclear Event Scale, others, like Wheatley and co, have to compile their own list of accidents. They define an accident as "an unintentional incident or event at a nuclear energy facility that led to either one death (or more) or at least $50,000 in property damage." Each accident must have occurred during the generation, transmission, or distribution of nuclear energy, which includes accidents at mines, during transportation, or at enrichment facility, and so on. Fukushima was by far the most expensive accident in history at a cost of $166 billion, which is 60 percent of the total cost of all other nuclear accidents added together. Wheatley and co say their data suggests that the nuclear industry remains vulnerable to dragon king events, which are large unexpected events that are difficult to analyze because they follow a different statistical distribution, have unforeseen causes, and are few in number. "There is a 50% chance that a Fukushima event (or larger) occurs in the next 50 years," they say.
Japan

16 US Ships That Aided In Operation Tomodachi Still Contaminated With Radiation (stripes.com) 170

mdsolar writes: Sixteen U.S. ships that participated in relief efforts after Japan's nuclear disaster five years ago remain contaminated with low levels of radiation from the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, top Navy officials told Stars and Stripes. In all, 25 ships took part in Operation Tomadachi, the name given for the U.S. humanitarian aid operations after the magnitude-9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami on March 11, 2011. The tsunami, whose waves reached runup heights of 130 feet, crippled the Fukushima plant, causing a nuclear meltdown. In the years since the crisis, the ships have undergone cleanup efforts, the Navy said, and 13 Navy and three Military Sealift Command vessels still have some signs of contamination, mostly to ventilation systems, main engines and generators. "The low levels of radioactivity that remain are in normally inaccessible areas that are controlled in accordance with stringent procedures," the Navy said in an email to Stars and Stripes. "Work in these areas occurs mainly during major maintenance availabilities and requires workers to follow strict safety procedures."
Japan

Fukushima Cleanup, 5 Years On (bbc.co.uk) 167

AmiMoJo writes: Today is five years since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was damaged by an earthquake and tsunami, leading to a series of meltdowns. Nearly half a million people were evacuated at the time, with 100,000 still unable to return to their homes. The government has set a goal of 20mSv/year before people are allowed to live in affected areas again, and while progress is being made hotspots are still a problem in many areas. Reconstruction has been largely waiting for decontamination to be completed, allowing homes and businesses to fall into ruin. Those who do wish to return find their communities gutted, with essential services and jobs gone. Meanwhile, engineers are still unable to determine exactly what happened at Daiichi, particularly what saved reactor 2's pressure vessel from exploding. The initial reports were scary even before the nuclear plant problems were evident. Engadget notes that even now, the worst part of the cleanup remains a grueling work in progress, tough even for robots. Reader the_newsbeagle writes, too, with a link to the New York Times' take on the 5-year mark, and notes that The state and location of the melted fuel inside the reactors is still a mystery. The meltdown zone is too dangerous for human workers to enter, and robots have had limited success navigating in the wreckage. So Japan is recruiting subatomic particles called muons to map the reactors' insides. These particles, born of cosmic rays, constantly stream down from the atmosphere, passing through most matter unimpeded. But their occasional interactions with the subatomic components of uranium allow physicists to locate the blobs of the deadly stuff.
Japan

32,000 Workers At Fukushima No. 1 Got High Radiation Dose, Tepco Data Show (japantimes.co.jp) 215

mdsolar writes: A total of 32,760 workers at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant had an annual radiation dose exceeding 5 millisieverts as of the end of January, according to an analysis of Tokyo Electric Power Co. data. A reading of 5 millisieverts is one of the thresholds of whether nuclear plant workers suffering from leukemia can be eligible for compensation benefits for work-related injuries and illnesses. Of those workers, 174 had a cumulative radiation dose of more than 100 millisieverts, a level considered to raise the risk of dying after developing cancer by 0.5 percent. Most of the exposure appears to have stemmed from work just after the start of the crisis on March 11, 2011. The highest reading was 678.8 millisieverts.
Power

NYC's Nuclear Power Plant Leaking 'Uncontrollable Radioactive Flow' Into River (inhabitat.com) 138

MikeChino writes: New samples taken from groundwater near New York's Indian Point nuclear plant show that contamination levels are 80% higher than previous samples, and experts say the leak is "a disaster waiting to happen." The Indian Point nuclear power plant is located just 25 miles north of New York City, and it is a crucial source of power for the greater metropolitan region.
Earth

Brookings Study Calls Solar, Wind Power the Most Expensive Fossil Alternatives 409

turkeydance (1266624) writes A new study [PDF] from the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, argues that using solar and wind energy may be the most expensive alternatives to carbon-based electricity generation, even though they require no expenditures for fuel.....Specifically, this means nuclear power offers a savings of more than $400,000 worth of carbon emissions per megawatt of capacity. Solar saves only $69,000 and wind saves $107,000. An anonymous reader points out that the Rocky Mountain Institute finds the Brookings study flawed in several ways, and offers a rebuttal.
Earth

Organic Cat Litter May Have Caused Nuclear Waste Accident 174

mdsolar (1045926) writes in with a story about how important buying the right kind of kitty litter can be. "In February, a 55-gallon drum of radioactive waste burst open inside America's only nuclear dump, in New Mexico. Now investigators believe the cause may have been a pet store purchase gone bad. 'It was the wrong kitty litter,' says James Conca, a geochemist in Richland, Wash., who has spent decades in the nuclear waste business. It turns out there's more to cat litter than you think. It can soak up urine, but it's just as good at absorbing radioactive material. 'It actually works well both in the home litter box as well as the radiochemistry laboratory,' says Conca, who is not directly involved in the current investigation. Cat litter has been used for years to dispose of nuclear waste. Dump it into a drum of sludge and it will stabilize volatile radioactive chemicals. The litter prevents it from reacting with the environment. And this is what contractors at Los Alamos National Laboratory were doing as they packed Cold War-era waste for shipment to the dump. But at some point, they decided to make a switch, from clay to organic. 'Now that might sound nice, you're trying to be green and all that, but the organic kitty litters are organic,' says Conca. Organic litter is made of plant material, which is full of chemical compounds that can react with the nuclear waste. 'They actually are just fuel, and so they're the wrong thing to add,' he says. Investigators now believe the litter and waste caused the drum to slowly heat up 'sort of like a slow burn charcoal briquette instead of an actual bomb.' After it arrived at the dump, it burst."
Japan

Fukushima Decontamination Cost Estimated $50bn, With Questionable Effectiveness 221

AmiMoJo writes "Experts from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology studied the cost of decontamination for the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, estimating it at $50 billion. They estimate that decontamination in no-entry zones will cost up to 20 billion dollars, and in other areas, 31 billion dollars. It includes the cost of removing, transporting and storing radioactive waste such as contaminated soil. The central government has so far allocated about 11 billion dollars and the project is already substantially behind schedule. Meanwhile the effectiveness of the decontamination is being questioned. NHK compared data from before and after decontamination at 43 districts in 21 municipalities across Fukushima Prefecture. In 33 of the districts, or 77 percent of the total, radiation levels were still higher than the government-set standard of one millisievert per year. In areas near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, where decontamination has been carried out on an experimental basis, radiation levels remain 10 to 60 times higher than the official limit."
Power

Submission + - Russia to build nuclear plant in Bangladesh (nhk.or.jp)

AmiMoJo writes: "The Russian government will lend 500 million dollars to Bangladesh to help build the country's first nuclear power plant. A Russian state-owned construction firm will build the plant. Construction is to begin early next year, with completion slated for 2020. Russia is targeting Asian countries like India, China and Vietnam to build new nuclear power stations, despite safety concerns."

Submission + - Germany hits 25% renewable power, transition going smoothly says government (nhk.or.jp)

AmiMoJo writes: "The German government says the country's shift to renewable energy is going smoothly, with such energy now accounting for a quarter of all power consumption. German economics minister Philipp Roesler said the government has already taken 8 nuclear reactors offline, but this has had no impact on keeping the energy supply stable.

As well as increased capacity there has been a drive to save energy. Some Germans are opposed to price increases, although other countries are experiencing similar hikes."

Japan

Submission + - Fukushima fish still contaminated from nuclear accident (bbc.co.uk)

AmiMoJo writes: "Levels of radioactive contamination in fish caught off the east coast of Japan remain raised, official data shows. The Dai-ichi power plant continues to be a source of pollution more than a year after the nuclear accident About 40% of fish caught close to Fukushima itself are regarded as unfit for humans under Japanese regulations.

"There is the on-going leakage into the ocean of polluted ground water from under Fukushima, and there is the contamination that's already in the sediments just offshore," said respected US marine chemist Ken Buesseler."

Japan

Submission + - No blackouts due to lack of nuclear in Japan this summer (japantimes.co.jp)

AmiMoJo writes: "Despite dire warnings of blackouts this summer Japan has survived without them. Many on Slashdot predicted widespread power problems due to the shutdown of nuclear power plants, with only one or two operating for most of the summer months when demand is highest.

Japan was completely nuclear-free for almost two months during the peak power demand period after the country’s reactors were closed in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster. Plans for rolling blackouts in the Kansai, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku regions were never needed as the country met its power-saving targets, with growing consumer demand for energy efficient products."

United States

Submission + - Heat wave shuts down US nuclear reactor (nhk.or.jp)

AmiMoJo writes: "A record heat wave in the United States has led to a reactor shutdown at a nuclear power plant after its cooling water became too warm. The operator of the Millstone Nuclear Power Station in the state of Connecticut says it shut down one of two reactors on Monday evening."
Japan

Submission + - Fukushima nuclear disaster 'man-made' (bbc.co.uk)

AmiMoJo writes: "A Japanese parliamentary report into the Fukushima disaster states that it "could and should have been foreseen and prevented" and its effects "mitigated by a more effective human response". The panel concluded that the disaster "was the result of collusion between the government, the regulators and Tepco" founded in the failure of regulatory systems. Blame was also placed on a lack of investment in safety upgrades and a culture of not questioning authority.

Meanwhile the Ohi nuclear plant started generating electricity again. Opposition to the re-start had pointed out that the systemic failures that afflicted Fukushima had not been addressed, and are hoping that after the summer peak demand period is over the plant will be shut down or idled again."

Japan

Little Health Risk Seen From Fukushima's Radioactivity 201

gbrumfiel writes "Two independent reports show that the public and most workers received only low doses of radiation following last year's meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. Nature reports that the risks presented by the doses are small, even though some are above guidelines and limits set by the Japanese government. Few people will develop cancer as a result of the accident, and those that do may never be able to conclusively link their illness to the meltdowns. The greatest risk lies with the workers who struggled in the early days to bring the reactors under control. So far no ill-effects have been detected. At Chernobyl, by contrast, the highest exposed workers died quickly from radiation sickness."

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