Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

The ‘climate election’ we need to have

 https://www.foe.org.au/the_climate_election_we_need_to_have 9 May 22, As pre polling opens for the 2022 federal election, climate change and the environment have been largely missing from the mainstream debate.

Yet what happens at this election will impact climate and environment, in a time where science makes it abundantly clear that we don’t have time to waste if we want to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Context

Why does climate and environment matter when there are so many pressing immediate issues, like the cost of living, health and employment?

  • Global monthly average carbon dioxide (CO2) levels have reached above 420 parts per million (ppm) for the first time on record.
  • Global temperatures have risen about 1C since 1900, overwhelmingly due to greenhouse gas emissions. In Australia, the average increase has been 1.4C. It has been linked to unprecedented bushfires, rainfall events that have caused catastrophic flooding and four mass coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef since 2016.
  • There is scientific consensus about the risk of irreversible climate impacts if 1.5C of warming is passed for even a short period of time.
  • Since colonisation, more than 100 native species have been made extinct and more than 1,900 Australian animals, plants and ecological communities are at risk of extinction.
  • According to the Vote Compass surveys, climate change is the top issue for voters.

How do the parties rate on climate?

A key issue to look for in judging how seriously political parties take climate change is to look for their promised emission reduction targets.

The emission cuts the four major parties promise for 2030 are:

  • Greens:  75%
  • Labor:  43%
  • Coalition (Liberal/ National):  26-28%

Recent research by Climate Analytics found neither major party had emissions reduction goals that lived up to the commitment that was made in the landmark 2015 Paris agreement, and strengthened in last year’s Glasgow climate pact, to aim to limit heating to as close as possible to 1.5C.

For reference, the Climate Analytics analysis found that Australia should cut its emissions by 57% by 2030 to be compatible with a 1.5C heating goal.

LIBERAL NATIONAL COALITION

According to analysis by Climate Analytics, the Morrison government’s climate change commitments are consistent with more than 3C of global heating, bordering on 4C, a level that would lead to catastrophic damage across the planet.

The Liberal’s environment and energy policies can be found here.

The Nationals don’t have a specific policy covering climate change. Climate change is not one of the Nationals top five priorities. You can find their policies here.

THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY

The ALP has reaffirmed its plans to cut Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 45% on 2005 levels by 2030, and ensure 50% of the nation’s electricity comes from renewable sources by 2030. Additionally, it has announced a long term target of net zero greenhouse gas pollution by 2050.

Labor’s climate target was found to be consistent with about 2C of heating above pre-industrial levels. Both would be expected to lead to the loss of tropical coral reefs, including the Great Barrier Reef, and a significant rise in the number of extreme heat events in Australia, assuming other countries took equivalent action.

The ALP’s climate platform can be found here.

The ALP’s environment policies can be found here.

THE AUSTRALIAN GREENS

The Greens say Australia should be cutting by 75% by 2030.

The Greens climate platform is available here.

THE CLIMATE INDEPENDENTS

The ‘teal’ independents largely support a climate bill proposed by Zali Steggall that includes a 60% target.

There are more than 22 candidates covered under the Climate 200 umbrella. They are self described as being ‘pro-climate, pro-integrity and pro-gender-equity Independent candidates’.  

You can details on them, and their individual policies, here.

THE MICRO PARTIES

Be aware that many of the micro parties are deeply anti environment and opposed to government taking meaningful action on climate change. These include


  • Pauline Hanson’s One Nation
     (PHON is a climate change denialist party)
  • Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party
  • The Liberal Democrats (who advocate for the deployment of nuclear power)
  • Far right independents like those associated with ‘Australia One’ who have been focusing on harvesting anti-vaccine-mandate and anti-lockdown sentiment. The Australian Federation Party is conservative, anti-public health, and has no formal climate, energy, environment policies. There are many candidates running on a ‘Freedom platform’ against public health orders and vaccination mandates. Most of them have no climate or environment policies. This is a good (Melbourne focused) assessment of the policies of many micro parties.

Most of these groups hold climate denier/ anti environment positions. If you are considering voting for them, we urge you to check their policies on climate, energy and environment.

Scorecards

Friends of the Earth has not produced a scorecard for this election. Here are some links to other groups assessments.

Vote Climate. Available here.

Climate and Health Alliance. Available here.

Australian Religious Response to Climate Change. Available here.

May 9, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

US nuclear power: Status, prospects, and climate implications

that final abdication can’t rescue nuclear power, which stumbles33 even in countries with impotent regulators and suppressed public participation. In the end, physics and human fallibility win. History teaches that lax regulation ultimately causes confidence-shattering mishaps, so gutting safety rules is simply a deferred-assisted-suicide pact.

 Science Direct,  Amory B.Lovins,  Stanford University, USA    The Electricity JournalVolume 35, Issue 4, May 2022, 

Abstract

Nuclear power is being intensively promoted and increasingly subsidized in both old and potential new forms. Yet it is simultaneously suffering a global slow-motion commercial collapse due to intrinsically poor economics. This summary in a US context documents both trends, emphasizing the absence of an operational need and of a business or climate case.

In 2020, the world added1 5.521 GW (billion watts) of nuclear generating capacity—just above the 5.491 GW2 of lithium-ion batteries added to power grids. The average reactor was then 29 years old—39 in the United States, whose fleet is the world’s largest—so it’s not surprising that in 2020, maintenance or upgrade costs, safety concerns, and often simple operational uncompetitiveness caused owners worldwide to close 5.165 GW. The net nuclear capacity addition was thus the difference, 0.356 GW. Yet in the same year, the world added3 278.3 GW of renewables (or 257 GW without hydropower)—782× as much. Adjusted for relative US 2020 average capacity factors4, renewables’ net additions in 2020 thus raised the world’s annual carbon-free electricity supply by ~232× as much as nuclear power’s net additions did. That is, nuclear net growth increased the world’s carbon-free power supply in all of 2020 only as much as renewable power growth did every ~38 hours. Renewables also receive5 ~10–20 times more financial capital—mostly voluntary private investments—while nuclear investments used mainly tax revenues or capital conscripted from customers. These ratios look set to continue or strengthen6. Indeed, in 2021, world nuclear capacity fell by 1.57 or 2.48 GW—the seventh annual drop in 13 years9—while renewables were expected to add ~290 GW10.

In a normal industry, such market performance, let alone dismal economics (below), might dampen enthusiasm. Yet the nuclear industry’s immense lobbying and marketing power continues to yield at least tens of billions of dollars in annual public subsidies, still rapidly rising.

This reflects broad bipartisan support among US and many overseas political leaders (strong nuclear advocates lead seven of the ten nations with the biggest economies)—often contrary to their citizens’ preferences and, as we’ll see, to the goal of stabilizing the Earth’s climate. To explore this seeming paradox, here is my frank personal impression of nuclear power’s status, competitive landscape, operational status, prospects, and climate implications in the United States.

1. Status

When nuclear power emerged, from the mid-1950s through the 1960s, US utilities—vertically integrated, three-fourths private, technically and culturally conservative—didn’t want it. Yet powerful Federal actors offered heavily subsidized fuel and let them own it, largely relieved them of accident liability, and ultimately tempted and coerced them into a vast nuclear building spree, under implicit threat of displacing them with Federal nuclear utilities11………………….

As construction costs and durations relentlessly rose12, regulators and customers were assured their initial pain would usher in decades of low-cost generation. This too proved false. Some plants failed early, others’ operating costs rose, and decades later, owners are demanding huge new subsidies to keep running. After these scarifying experiences, capital markets are disinclined to invest in nuclear newbuild in the US or elsewhere. Contrary to a widely cultivated myth, the successive accidents (Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima Daiichi) widely blamed for this rejection all occurred after the business case and investor confidence had collapsed13……

………………….The US supply chain to sustain the 93 existing reactors persists, more or less, but of the four original US reactor vendors, all have merged (GE with Hitachi), exited, or failed, most recently Westinghouse19—bought by Toshiba, bankrupted20 by its new US projects, then restructured by a Canadian private-equity partnership (which recently considered selling it21) to maintain the plants it once built. Export markets have proven elusive: as Siemens’ power engineering CEO foresaw in 199122, “The countries that can still afford our nuclear plants won’t need the electricity, and the countries that will need the electricity won’t be able to afford the reactors.” Yet strong government promotion persists…………… Market appetite for big new reactors is anemic overseas and zero at home—and only for as many smaller units as taxpayers will largely or wholly pay for……………….

US public acceptance of nuclear power fluctuates, and depends strongly on how, by whom, and to whom the question is put. Nuclear advocates reported an even split in the 2019 Gallup Poll25 after long and intensive publicity campaigns, though renewables attract far larger and more consistent support…………………..

After decades of intense political pressure, industry capture26 of US nuclear safety and security regulation appears complete, with rules and processes arranged to the operators’ liking. The skill and integrity of some US Nuclear Regulatory Commission technical experts are commendable, but on major matters, their role is only to advise, not decide. ………………  new “reforms” are taking a singularly dangerous turn: as I summarized elsewhere29,

SMRs’ [Small Modular Reactors’] novel safety30 and proliferation31 issues threaten threadbare schedules and budgets, so promoters are attacking bedrock safety regulations. . NRC’s proposed Part 5332 would perfect long-evolving regulatory capture—shifting its expert staff’s end-to-end process from specific prescriptive standards, rigorous quality control, and verified technical performance to unsupported claims, proprietary data, and political appointees’ subjective risk estimates.

Continue reading

May 9, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Great Barrier Reef not coping with ‘escalating’ climate change after first La Niña bleaching event, unpublished report warns

Great Barrier Reef not coping with ‘escalating’ climate change after first La Niña bleaching event, unpublished report warns

An as yet unpublished report warns the Great Barrier Reef is not coping with “escalating” climate change after its first La Niña mass bleaching event.

May 9, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Zali Steggall: The independent MP hoping to lead a ‘teal wave’ to Canberra — RenewEconomy

Meet Zali Steggall: the original ‘teal’ independent hoping to lead a wave of climate-friendly independents to Canberra. The post Zali Steggall: The independent MP hoping to lead a ‘teal wave’ to Canberra appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Zali Steggall: The independent MP hoping to lead a ‘teal wave’ to Canberra — RenewEconomy

May 9, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Japan Says It Needs Nuclear Power. Can Host Towns Ever Trust It Again? — Fukushima 311 Watchdogs

The Ukraine war has shown the fragility of Japan’s energy supplies. But the decision to restart plants after the Fukushima disaster is fraught with emotions and political calculation. May 4, 2022 KASHIWAZAKI, Japan — Growing up, Mika Kasahara saw the nuclear power plant that hugs the coast of her hometown simply as the place where […]

Japan Says It Needs Nuclear Power. Can Host Towns Ever Trust It Again? — Fukushima 311 Watchdogs

May 9, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

No ”military justification” for the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki. A negotiated ending is better than ”fight to the death”

Paul Richards. NAGASAKI BOMBING, Nuclear Fuel Cycle WAtch Australihttps://www.facebook.com/groups/1021186047913052   8 May 22

MacArthur’s views about the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were starkly different from what the general public supposed ….

When I asked General MacArthur about the decision to drop the bomb, I was surprised to learn he had not even been consulted.

What, I asked, would his advice have been?

General Douglas MacArthur replied that he saw no military justification for the dropping of the bomb.

The war might have ended weeks earlier, he said, if the United States had agreed, as it later did anyway, to the retention of the institution of the emperor.

____________ https://www.newsweek.com/november-11-1963-2608

May 9, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

War and some unusual developments regarding nuclear-related topics – Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands

The huge problem with the idea of having a nuclear reactor power plant on a military base is that it may cause catastrophic damage to all human life in and around the immediate area despite official comments from the U.S. Army that there are several safety prevention measures being taken to address this concern. 

War and some unusual developments regarding nuclear-related topicsm By Rick Arriola Perez |  May 09 2022  https://www.saipantribune.com/index.php/war-and-some-unusual-developments-regarding-nuclear-related-topics/

Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands are one island chain that is embedded in the minds of Chinese military personnel who are charged with selecting and figuring out what adversary targets are most important to knock out, should China and the United States ever go to hot war. 

Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base is a huge military threat to the Chinese and to the North Koreans and Russians. Andersen is one of the most important American military bases in the world. Andersen has one of the world’s largest petroleum, oil, and lubricant storage facilities, training facilities, and areas that store, manage, maintain and load ordnance and other weapons of war. 

Andersen is located atop stolen Chamorro family lands located in our Deep Blue Pacific Ocean Marianas Trench continent. The U.S. Air Force is not formally required to ask permission to fly over foreign national airspace because from the American military perspective, we are close yet far enough away from any nation that requires the United States to first seek diplomatic approvals and notifications.  This is one of the many benefits afforded the Pentagon and the Air Force by residing in Guam and the Marianas. 

Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base is also the perfect location to store, manage, hold, and/or stage live nuclear missiles and weapons into and out of fighters, unmanned systems, and strategic aircraft that are assigned America’s nuclear bombing missions. These activities go relatively unnoticed because of our unique location. Missions can simply be initiated any day or night throughout the year. 

But bombs are not the only thing that is on the nuclear discussion table these days
These days the Department of Defense is also moving forward with design plan options to construct and operationalize nuclear-powered micro-reactors, transportable on Air Force cargo planes, to be used as power generation sources for military bases in remote locations.

These nuclear reactors are intended to generate the power equivalent of up to 1% of a large commercial nuclear power plant once assembled and turned on. The huge problem with the idea of having a nuclear reactor power plant on a military base is that it may cause catastrophic damage to all human life in and around the immediate area despite official comments from the U.S. Army that there are several safety prevention measures being taken to address this concern. 

One rationale that is being proposed to support the construction and design of nuclear reactors is that it will save over time millions of gallons of fossil fuel from being consumed, which is in line with environmental sustainability up to a point. Opposing viewpoints argue that there is simply no need to place a nuclear reactor in a remote military base because the amount of power generation it provides is not really needed because existing diesel-powered generators are adequate for use on remote military bases. 

Nuclear reactor controversies are nothing new to the Pentagon and the Army
The Army previously had a nuclear reactor program that started during the time of the Korean war era, lasting up through the Vietnam war era. The program had mixed results, one catastrophic outcome, and was quite expensive to maintain. The current program under consideration is supported by the idea that having a small and mobile nuclear power plant for use by base personnel will also mitigate military casualty rates associated with the transportation and security protection of fuel in land-based warfighting areas. Supporters also point to the need for a constant source of power generation required for radars and for high-energy weapons.

So why should our Chamorro Pacific Islander Deep Blue Continent civilization be concerned about these developments?
The Pentagon and the Army have identified Guam as one of approximately 10 sites that are slated to have a micro nuclear reactor. The Marshall Islands is also another site identified to receive a nuclear reactor. 

But what our Chamorro people should be aware, as well as the people of Micronesia, especially the Marshallese, is that it is the U.S. Congress, not the Pentagon, that has been the genesis behind the push to get the Pentagon funding to move forward on this micro-nuclear reactor effort. Why is this the case? 

What the Guam and NMI congressmen need to do
Michael San Nicolas and Kilili Sablan have not articulated why Congress has been pushing the Pentagon to look into the design, construction, and use of small nuclear reactors for the Army. 

Both congressmen have not publicly addressed the need for a multi-Mariana Islands nuclear bomb shelter infrastructure study nor has there been any effort by these congressional leaders to introduce authorization language addressing this huge human health, readiness, and life or death safety issue tied to the increased militarization of our Mariana Island chain. 

President Biden will be the final authority as to whether a small mobile nuclear reactor program will proceed or be cancelled. These congressmen have not talked to President Biden about this very important matter.

May 9, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Diseconomics and other factors mean that small nuclear reactors are duds

Such awkward realities won’t stop determined lobbyists and legislators from showering tax funds on SMR developers, seen as the industry’s last hope of revival (at least for now). With little private capital at stake, taxpayers bearing most of the cost, and customers bearing the cost-overrun and performance risks190 (as they did in the similarly structured WPPSS nuclear fiasco four decades ago), some SMRs may get built. I expect they’ll fail for the same fundamental reasons as their predecessors, then be quickly forgotten as marketers substitute the next shiny object

A lifetime of such disappointments has not yet induced sobriety. As long as the industry can fund potent lobbying that leverages orders of magnitude more federal funding, the party will carry on.

US nuclear power: Status, prospects, and climate implications, Science Direct,  Amory B.Lovins,  Stanford University, USA    The Electricity JournalVolume 35, Issue 4, May 2022, 

”…………………………………………………….. Advanced” or “Small Modular Reactors,” SMRs174, seek to revive and improve concepts generally tried and rejected decades ago due to economic175, technical176, safety177, or proliferation178 flaws179. BNEF estimates that early SMRs might generate at ~10× current solar prices, falling by severalfold after tens of GW were built, but not by enough to come anywhere near competing. Despite strong Federal support, proposed projects are challenged to find enough customers180 and markets181. Developers and nations are also pursuing >50 diverse designs—a repeatedly reproven failure condition.

SMRs’ basic economics are worse than meets the eye, because their goalposts keep receding. Reactors are built big because, for physics reasons, they don’t scale down well. Small reactors, say their more thoughtful advocates, will produce electricity initially about twice as costly as today’s big ones, which in turn, as noted earlier, are ~3–13× costlier per MWh than modern renewables (let alone efficiency). But those renewables will get another ~2× cheaper (say BNEF and NREL) by the time SMRs could be tested and start to scale toward the mass production that’s supposed to cut their costs. High volume cannot possibly cut SMRs’ costs by 2 × (3 to 13) × 2-fold, or ~12× to ~52×.

 Indeed, SMRs couldn’t compete even if the steam they produce to turn the turbine were free. Why not? In big light-water reactors, ~78–87% of the prohibitive capital cost buys non-nuclear components like the turbine, generator, heat sink, switchyard, and controls. Thus even if the nuclear island were free and a shared non-nuclear remainder were still at GW scale so it didn’t cost more per unit182, the whole SMR complex would still be manyfold out of the money.

SMRs are also too late. Despite streamlined (if not premature) licensing and many billions in Federal funding commitments, the first SMR module delivery isn’t expected until 2029. That’s in the same smaller-LWR project that just lost over half its subscribed sales as customers considered cost, timing, and risk183, and may lose the rest if they read a soberly scathing 2022 critique184. That analysis found that the vendor claims very low financial and performance risks but opaquely imposes them all on the customers. The first “advanced” reactors (a sodium-cooled fast reactor and a high-temperature gas reactor), ambitiously skipping over prototypes, are hoped by some advocates to start up in 2027–28. DOE in 2017 rosily assessed that if such initial projects succeeded, a first commercial demonstrator would then take another 6–8 years’ construction and 5 years’ operation before commercial orders, implying commercial generation at earliest in the late 2030s, more plausibly in the 2040s. But the US Administration plans to decarbonize the grid with renewables by 2035, preëmpting SMRs’ climate mission185.

An additional challenge would be siting new SMRs or clusters of them (which cuts cost but means that a problem with one SMR can affect, or block access to, others at the same site, as was predicted and experienced at Fukushima Daiichi). It looks harder to secure numerous sites and offtake agreements than a few. It would take roughly 50 SMR orders to justify building a factory to start capturing economies of production scale, and hundreds or thousands of SMRs to start seeing meaningful, though inadequate, cost reductions. A study assuming high electricity demand and cheap SMRs estimated a US need for just 350 SMRs by 2050186; some advocates expect far more. It’s hard to imagine how dozens of States and hundreds of localities could quickly approve those sites, especially given internal NRC dissension on basic SMR safety187 and the obvious financial risks188.

No credible path could deploy enough SMR capacity to replace inevitably retiring reactors timely and produce significant additional output by then—but efficiency and renewables could readily do that and more, based on their deployment rates and price behaviors observed in the US and global marketplace. For example189, through 2020, CAISO (wholesale power manager for a seventh of the US economy) reported 120 GW of renewables and storage in its interconnection queue, plus 158 GW in the non-ISO West; just solar-paired-with-storage projects in CAISO rose to over 71 GW by 5 Jan 2022, with the paired solar totaling nearly 64 GW—all three orders of magnitude more than the first 77-MW NuScale module hoped to enter service many years later.

Such awkward realities won’t stop determined lobbyists and legislators from showering tax funds on SMR developers, seen as the industry’s last hope of revival (at least for now). With little private capital at stake, taxpayers bearing most of the cost, and customers bearing the cost-overrun and performance risks190 (as they did in the similarly structured WPPSS nuclear fiasco four decades ago), some SMRs may get built. I expect they’ll fail for the same fundamental reasons as their predecessors, then be quickly forgotten as marketers substitute the next shiny object. 

A lifetime of such disappointments has not yet induced sobriety. As long as the industry can fund potent lobbying that leverages orders of magnitude more federal funding, the party will carry on. But where does its seemingly perpetual disappointment leave the Earth’s imperiled climate?…………………………. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1040619022000483

May 9, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The poisoned environmental legacy of France’s ”Nuclear Park”

The poisoned environmental legacy of the ‘Nuclear Park’ https://culturico.com/2022/05/07/the-poisoned-environmental-legacy-of-the-nuclear-park/ Culturico 7th May 2022, Linda Pentz Gunter, Linda Pentz Gunter is the international specialist at Beyond Nuclear and editor and contributor at Beyond Nuclear International.

France prides itself on its “Nuclear Park”, its fleet of once 58 and now 56 operational nuclear reactors that deliver 70% of the country’s electricity. However, the environmental effects of this considerable use of nuclear power – specifically from the need to mine uranium and the choice to reprocess irradiated nuclear fuel – have negatively impacted the health of the French people.

France is heavily reliant on nuclear energy. Its 56 commercial reactors dot almost every corner of the country, providing 70% of all electricity consumed. France also possesses a nuclear weapons arsenal, fueled by the nuclear power program that predated it.

The possession of nuclear weapons affords France permanent membership status in the UN Security Council — a sense of prestige France is intent on maintaining.

French president, Emmanuel Macron, has now announced that the country will build new nuclear power plants, despite the fact that its current flagship Evolutionary Power Reactor (EPR), is beset by technical mistakes, years behind schedule and billions of Euros over budget at construction sites in France, Finland and the UK. The first of two operational EPRs in China had to be shut down late last year due to vibrations that caused radioactive leakage.

Consequently, it is unpopular to question the use of nuclear power in France and oppositional voices are rarely heard. The French anti-nuclear movement — largely networked under the Réseau Sortir du nucléaire — is snubbed by the press, and its members have been arrested and even convicted of alleged crimes.
However, thanks to the pioneering work of activists, investigative journalists and independent scientists, some of the secrets buried beneath the ’Nuclear Park’, have started to be unearthed.

The damage from uranium mining

Nuclear power plants are fueled with uranium, a radioactive ore that is mined from the earth, typically in dry, desert areas far way, often by an Indigenous workforce offered little to no protection and none of the alleged benefits.
However, between 1948 and 2001, France operated its own uranium mines  — more than 250 of them in 27 departments across the country. Those French mine workers, like their Native American, Australian Aboriginal and African Touareg counterparts, labored unprotected and in ignorance of the true health risks.

The mines and the factories that milled and processed the uranium, now lie abandoned, leaving a legacy of radioactive waste that is hidden beneath flowering meadows, forest paths and ornamental lakes. But these radioactive residues and rocks — known as tailings — have also dispersed beyond the old mine boundaries, transported into rivers and streams, absorbed into wild plants, scattered on roadsides, and even paved into children’s playgrounds, homes and parking lots.

There are radioactive hotspots everywhere. France may not yet have opened a high-level radioactive waste repository — still under dispute at Bure — but thanks to the contamination left behind by uranium mining, large swaths of the country are de facto nuclear waste dumps. The widespread dispersal of radioactive contamination across France has been studied extensively by the independent French radiological laboratory, Commission de Recherche et d’Information Indépendantes sur la RADioactivité, known simply as CRIIRAD. Its scientists have traveled all over the world, measuring radiation levels at such notorious nuclear accident sites as Mayak and Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union, and at Fukushima in Japan. But often, they are just as shocked and outraged at the radiation levels they measure at home, and the failure of those responsible to take effective remediation steps to protect the public.

In the 2009 investigative French television program by Pieces de Conviction — entitled Uranium, the scandal of contaminated France — CRIIRAD’s scientific director, physicist Bruno Chareyron, is seen scraping the gravely surface off a parking lot at a cross-country ski club. Under the dusty gray stones we suddenly see a gleam of yellow. It is the telltale sign of uranium and Chareyron’s Geiger counter is recording radiation levels at more than 23mSv an hour. The internationally accepted “safe” dose for the public is 1mSv a year. The public should not have access to this, he says, especially not children who are prone to pick up and pocket pebbles.

In all, there are an estimated 200-300 million tonnes of radioactive tailings dumped across France, exposing those who live, work or play nearby. The contamination comes not only from the uranium, but from its often far more radioactive decay products.  And while the state-owned nuclear company Orano (formerly Areva and, before that, Cogema) insists that these sites have been “returned to nature”, it is a purely cosmetic exercise that has granted impunity to the polluter but endangered countless lives.

CRIIRAD subsequently released an urgent appeal to elected officials to take action. The laboratory recorded similar findings at numerous other abandoned uranium mine sites.

Now, with all the French uranium mines closed, the fuel for the Parc Nucléaire must be imported. It comes mainly from Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world, and predominantly from the giant French-owned uranium mine near the town of Arlit. There, CRIIRAD found that mine workers and inhabitants are routinely exposed to radioactivity in the environment as a result of uranium mining activities. A Greenpeace investigation concluded that French uranium mining activities in Niger had left behind a legacy of environmental contamination in that country, as it has in France, that would harm people for “centuries.”
The lethal legacy of uranium mining and processing that has contaminated so much of France is only the beginning of the story, however, just as uranium mining is only the beginning of the nuclear fuel chain.

Operating reactors and childhood leukemia

The electricity generation phase, on which the nuclear lobby bases its low-carbon argument to justify its continued use — while ignoring the front and back ends of the fuel chain, which have significant carbon footprints, (1) — is not without its damage to the environment either. Nuclear reactors release radiation into the environment as part of routine operation. At least 60 epidemiological studies have examined the possible health impacts of these releases, most of which found an increase in rates of leukemia among children living near operating nuclear power plants, compared to those living further away.

The most famous of these studies, conducted in Germany — Case-control study on childhood cancer in the vicinity of nuclear power plants in Germany 1980-2003 (2) — found a 60% increase in all cancers and a 120% increase in leukemias among children living within 5 km of all German nuclear power stations. This study was followed by others, largely supporting the data. But critics speculated that the amount of radioactivity in the releases was too low to have caused these epidemics.

For example, a 2008 study (3) by Laurier et al., of childhood leukemia around French reactors, concluded there was no “excess risk of leukaemia in young children living near French nuclear power plants”. However, the Laurier study was among those rebutted (4) and incorporated into a meta-analysis by Dr. Ian Fairlie and Dr. Alfred Körblein, which concluded that there were statistically significant increases in childhood leukemias near all the nuclear power plants studied and that “the matter is now beyond question, i.e., there’s a very clear association between increased child leukemias and proximity to nuclear power plants.”

The practice of averaging a month’s worth of releases into daily dose amounts ignores a sudden spike in radioactive releases, as happens when a reactor is refueling. Fairlie hypothesizes (5) that these spikes, delivering substantial radiation doses, could result in babies being born pre-leukemic due to exposure in utero, with the potential to progress to full leukemia additionally aggravated by subsequent post-natal exposure. (Nuclear power plants typically refuel every 18 months.)

Radioactive waste — the unsolved problem

At the end of nuclear power operations lies the huge and unsolved radioactive waste problem. Inevitably, the French reliance on nuclear power has generated an enormous amount of radioactive waste that must be managed and, ideally, isolated from the environment.

France is one of the few countries in the world to have chosen reprocessing as a way to try to manage irradiated reactor fuel. Reprocessing involves a chemical separation of plutonium from the uranium products in reactor fuel rods once they have ceased being used in the reactor. This operation is conducted at the giant La Hague reprocessing facility, on the Cherbourg peninsula, which began operation in 1976.

Reprocessing releases larger volumes of radioactivity — typically by a factor of several thousand— than nuclear power plants. Liquid radioactive discharges from La Hague are released through pipes into the English Channel (La Manche), while radioactive gases are emitted from chimney stacks. The liquid discharges from La Hague have been measured at 17 million times more radioactive than normal sea water. La Hague “legally discharges 33 million liters of radioactive liquid into the sea each year,” Yannick Rousselet of Greenpeace France told Deutsche Welle in a 2020 article. This has contributed, among other issues, to elevated concentrations of carcinogenic carbon-14 in sea life (6).

Concentrations of krypton-85 released at La Hague have been recorded at 90,000 times higher than natural background. La Hague is the largest single emitter of krypton-85 anywhere in the world. (7)

A November 1995 study — Incidence of leukemia in young people around La Hague nuclear waste reprocessing plant: a sensitivity analysis (8) —  found elevated rates of leukemia. Yet its lead author, Jean-François Viel, was subsequently viciously attacked in attempts to discredit his findings and reputation, attacks that worsened after the publication of a second paper (9) in January 1997.

The cumulative negative health and environmental impacts of the French nuclear sector render the so-called benefits of the resulting low electricity rates a bitter delusion. For while France tries, wrongly, to attribute Germany’s higher electricity rates to that country’s rejection of nuclear power, typical German households use less electricity and actually pay lower monthly electric bills than French ones. Meanwhile, the French rely exclusively on electricity for heat in winter. Unable to meet this demand, France imports coal-fired electricity from Germany, perpetuating an industry that is fatal for the climate. At the same time, renewable energy development in France has been stifled by the decades-long prioritization of nuclear power.

However, a culture of denial in the French nuclear sector is nothing new. In 1986, when the Chernobyl nuclear reactor exploded and melted down in the Ukraine, the French government assured its people that the radioactive plume would not reach France. Unlike in other European countries, the French continued to eat local produce and allowed their children to play outside. This lie of immunity, quickly exposed, was attributed to “fear of jeopardizing the country’s nuclear program and of hurting sales of its agricultural products.”

It was that deception in 1986 that led to the creation of the CRIIRAD laboratory in the first place, as its scientists began to map the hotspots in France where fallout from Chernobyl had deposited high levels of radioactivity.
The insistence on expanding rather than phasing out nuclear power has also cost France progress in its carbon reduction goals. As Euractiv reported in August 2021, “France lagging behind in renewables can be explained in part by the fact that close to 70% of its electricity production is based on nuclear power.”

Many French reactors have been operating since the 1970s and are now well past their expected lifespans. With aging comes degradation of key safety parts and heightened risk of accident. In late December 2021 and in early January 2022, France saw a series of unanticipated reactor shutdowns due to safety issues, causing power shortages during a winter freeze and plunging French nuclear output to its lowest in 30 years. By early May, half of its entire reactor fleet was shut down due to technical problems or scheduled maintenance outages. The health and wellbeing of the French population would be better served both by cleanup of — and reparation for — the existing radioactive contamination so widespread in the country, and by a serious shift away from the continued use of nuclear power and toward true climate solutions such as renewable energy and energy efficiency measures.

May 9, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

May 8 Energy News — geoharvey

Science and Technology: ¶ “The Metals Company Success: Deep-Water Collector Vehicle Tested At Depth Of Almost 2,500 Meters” • A polymetallic nodule collector vehicle has been successfully tested in the Atlantic Ocean at a depth of almost 2,500 meters. The vehicle shows that polymetallic nodules can be mined while disturbing the environment minimally. [CleanTechnica] Deep-water […]

May 8 Energy News — geoharvey

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Hiroshima man’s anime sheds light on Fukushima nuclear project — Fukushima 311 Watchdogs

The protagonist of the anime “Fukushima Genpatsu Hajimari Monogatari: Toge” (The prologue to the Fukushima nuclear power plant: Mountain pass) lives in temporary housing following the 2011 nuclear accident. (Provided by Machimonogatari Seisaku Iinkai) May 3, 2022 Hiroshima resident Hidenobu Fukumoto was astonished when he learned there was once a plan to build a nuclear […]

Hiroshima man’s anime sheds light on Fukushima nuclear project — Fukushima 311 Watchdogs

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3 doctors to be dispatched nationwide to respond to nuclear accident; government requests early expansion — Fukushima 311 Watchdogs

Doctors from around the country examine workers on the grounds of TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. They rushed to Fukushima to provide medical support in June 2011. May 2, 2022The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan (DENJIREN) learned in an interview on May 2 that only three doctors have been dispatched to power […]

3 doctors to be dispatched nationwide to respond to nuclear accident; government requests early expansion — Fukushima 311 Watchdogs

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TEPCO net profit slides 96.9%; cost for Fukushima well out of reach — Fukushima 311 Watchdogs

Yoshimitsu Kobayashi, chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc., attends an April 28 news conference where the company’s financial results were announced April 29, 2022 Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s dismal financial results have compounded the difficulties facing the company in compensating victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster and covering the cleanup and decommissioning costs. […]

TEPCO net profit slides 96.9%; cost for Fukushima well out of reach — Fukushima 311 Watchdogs

May 9, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment