Australian news, and some related international items

Fukushima’s radioactive water storage approaching full capacity – what next?


Ticking Clock

The effort to safely decommission Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant just got hit by a looming deadline.

In about three years, the plant will run out of space for the massive quantities of treated but still-radioactive water that officials have been storing there, according to The Associated Press. While a government panel came up with a few possible courses of action, the most feasible one at the moment is to simply dump the water into the Pacific — a bleak sign for nuclear disasters in the future.

Maximum Capacity

At the moment, Fukushima has over 1 million tons of water stored in almost 1,000 on-site tanks, the AP reports. Plans are in place to build enough to store nearly 1.4 million more tons, but that even those will reach capacity by mid-2022.

Local fishers and residents of the area say that dumping the water would devastate the area’s fishing and agriculture industry, per the AP. Other options considered by the panel include vaporizing the radioactive water or injecting it deep underground.

“When we talk about Fukushima’s reconstruction, the question is if we should prioritize the decommissioning at the expense of Fukushima people’s lives,” University of Tokyo professor of disaster social science Naoya Sekiya told the AP. “The issue is not just about science.”


August 12, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

India and Pakistan on the nuclear brink over Kashmir?

Hair-Trigger Nuclear Alert Over Kashmir, Common DreamsIndia and Pakistan, where people starve in the streets, waste billions on military spending because of the Kashmir dispute. Now some of India’s extreme Hindu nationalists warn they want to reabsorb Pakistan, Bangladesh, and even Sri Lanka into Mother India.  by Eric Margolis  11 Aug 19

Two of the world’s most important powers, India and Pakistan, are locked into an extremely dangerous confrontation over the bitterly disputed Himalayan mountain state of Kashmir. Both are nuclear armed.

Kashmir has been a flashpoint since Imperial Britain divided India in 1947. India and Pakistan have fought numerous wars and conflicts over majority Muslim Kashmir. China controls a big chunk of northern Kashmir known as Aksai Chin.

In 1949, the UN mandated a referendum to determine if Kashmiris wanted to join Pakistan or India. Not surprisingly, India refused to hold the vote. But there are some Kashmiris who want an independent state, though a majority seek to join Pakistan……

What makes this confrontation so dangerous is that both sides have important tactical and nuclear forces arrayed against one another. These are mostly short/medium-ranged nuclear tipped missiles, and air-delivered nuclear bombs. Strategic nuclear weapons back up these tactical forces. A nuclear exchange, even a limited one, could kill millions, pollute much of Asia’s ground water, and spread radioactive dust around the globe – including to North America. ….

August 12, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Pacific nuclear veterans’ descendants sought for study

August 12, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Letter to Minister Wyatt in support of Barngarla letter

Dear Minister Wyatt,
I write in support of the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation’s letter to you of 10 August, imploring you to support them in their desire to have their democratic rights respected. All the Barngarla people ask is to for their members be given a vote in whether or not a national radioactive waste management facility is established on their traditional lands around Kimba in country SA.
The Barngala people do not live in the KImba area because of racism, and it is not fair that Aboriginal people are excluded from having a say in what happens on their Country.
Please speak to Minister Matt Canavan and ask him to include the Barngala people in the Kimba vote.
Thank you.
Yours sincerely
Robyn Wood
Street address

August 12, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Two military accidents in Russia, one with release of radiation

Russia explosion: Five confirmed dead in rocket blast,  BBC 10 Aug 19 Five people were killed and three injured following a rocket explosion on a naval test range in Russia on Thursday, state nuclear company Rosatom confirmed.

Rostacom said the accident occurred during tests on a liquid propellant rocket engine.

The three injured staff members suffered serious burns in the accident.

Authorities had previously said that two people died and six were injured in the blast at the site in Nyonoksa.

The company told Russian media that its engineering and technical team had been working on the “isotope power source” for the propulsion system.

The Nyonoksa site carries out tests for virtually every missile system used by the Russian navy, including sea-launched intercontinental ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and anti-aircraft missiles.

Authorities in Severodvink, 47km (29 miles) east of Nyonska said that radiation levels shortly after the blast were higher than normal for about 40 minutes but returned to normal……..

Ammunition dump blaze

It is the second accident involving Russia’s military this week.

On Monday, one person was killed and eight others were injured in a blaze at an ammunition dump in Siberia.

Flying munitions damaged a school and a kindergarten in the area. More than 9,500 people were evacuated.

August 10, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Russia’s secrecy over nuclear incident in 2017

A group of scientists called the ‘Ring of 5’ found evidence of a major nuclear accident that went undeclared in Russia,  

  • In 2017, a group of scientists known as the “Ring of Five” detected “an unprecedented release” of radiation in Europe and Asia.
  • At the time, no country claimed responsibility for the release, but a new study from the Ring of Five attributes it to a nuclear accident at Russia’s Mayak nuclear facility.
  • The facility was previously the site of the 1957 Kyshtym explosion, the world’s third-worst nuclear accident, behind Fukushima and Chernobyl.

A group of scientists called the “Ring of Five” has been scouring Europe’s atmosphere for elevated levels of radiation since the mid ’80s.

In July, the group released a study detailing evidence of an undisclosed nuclear accident that may have taken place less than two years prior. The likely culprit, the scientists said, was the Mayak nuclear facility in Russia, which was once the center of the Soviet nuclear-weapons program.

At the time of the alleged accident in 2017, Russian officials said the facility wasn’t the source of the release, even though the nation showed elevated levels of a radioactive isotope called ruthenium-106. Instead, officials in Russia attributed the radiation to an artificial satellite that burned up in the atmosphere.

But the latest Ring of Five study contradicts that account. Continue reading

August 10, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Space Radiation Will Damage Mars Astronauts’ Brains

Space Radiation Will Damage Mars Astronauts’ Brains, By Mike Wall 9 Aug 19, Space radiation will take a toll on astronauts’ brains during the long journey to Mars, a new study suggests.

August 10, 2019 Posted by | General News | 1 Comment

The connection between indigenous and nuclear issues

“These trucks are carrying radioactive materials over the water supply for seven states, and they are driving by our communities and our families,”  “This is an unacceptable risk.”

Local activists highlight connection between indigenous and nuclear issues,, 9 Aug 19,  A celebration of Indigenous Peoples and Nuclear-Free Future Day returns Friday to the Buffalo History Museum. Ahead of the event, local Native Americans and environmental activists explained how the issues of indigenous peoples and nuclear power are intertwined.

Representatives from local indigenous communities, the Western New York Peace Center and Peace Action New York State gathered Tuesday at the history museum’s Japanese Garden. Agnes Williams, coordinator of the organization Indigenous Women’s Initiatives, helped hold up two colorful banners that read, “No More Waste” and “Water is Life.”

“The nuclear issue is very important to us as indigenous people because we’re on the beginning and the end of the nuclear chain, at uranium mining and waste disposal,” said Williams, who is a member of the Seneca Nation.

Williams and other speakers discussed the long history of indigenous land around the world and in the U.S. being taken and used for mining, testing of nuclear weapons and then disposal of radioactive waste.

“We thank indigenous wisdom for the guidance,” said Victoria Ross, executive director of WNY Peace Center. “All of our issues are connected. We are working to #UniteTheStruggles.” Continue reading

August 10, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

The current push to normalise the increase in, and use of, nuclear weapons

The more that Putin and Trump revalidate the role of nuclear weapons in strengthening national security, the more they normalise the discourse of nuclear weapons use and embolden calls for nuclear weapon acquisition in other countries. In Australia, this debate has been restarted most recently by Hugh White.

A nuclear world in disarray 7 Aug 2019, Ramesh Thakur  We are in a uniquely dangerous period in the atomic age. Geopolitical tensions have spiked in Europe, in the Middle East, on the subcontinent and in East Asia. The nuclear arms control architecture is fraying and crumbling, but no negotiations are underway to reduce global nuclear stockpiles.

A hostile international security environment, the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the emergence of new space, cyber and AI technologies have increased the risk of accidental or deliberate use of nuclear weapons. The growing strategic risks and uncertainty in turn fuel the vicious cycle of renewed interest among US allies in a nuclear deterrent as a hedge against receding US primacy and reliability. Continue reading

August 8, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

America’s nuclear-weapons policy isn’t what you think—it’s much worse

The US Strategic Command, which was created in the post-Cold War period to manage US nuclear strike capabilities, has even brought back the Orwellian motto of its predecessor, the Strategic Air Command: “Peace is our Profession.” 

many experts consider missile defense destabilizing: It doesn’t get you defense—it gets you a new arms race. 

Where does this path lead? If history is a guide: nowhere good.

The best-case scenario is that we get out of this era without any nukes going off, having spent our money and resources on weapons that forever sat in silos. That’s money we won’t be able to spend on improving the social safety net, on improving medical care, on basic scientific and medical research, on energy security, on infrastructure upgrades, or on mitigating climate change.

America’s nuclear-weapons policy isn’t what you think—it’s much worse, By Alex Wellerstein August 6, 2019

  In the chaos that currently makes up the day-to-day of American foreign policy—a trade war here, tearing up international agreements and treaties there—it can be easy to miss the larger developments.

One of these, which occasionally rears its head in a frightened headline, is that there is a new nuclear arms race well under way.

In the United States, we typically get this in the form of news about the capabilities of other countries: Russia is developing a “doomsday torpedo,” China is developed “hypersonic missiles,” and so on. Whether these specifics are real or hype (experts are divided about the reality of the “doomsday torpedo”), they are part of a broader reality:

We’re back in an arms race. But it’s not a new one. Continue reading

August 8, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

New studies find- nuclear power inseparable from nuke weapons – “small” reactors uneconomic

Climate News Network 6th Aug 2019 Two new studies together make an eloquent case against nuclear power: that its civilian uses are inseparable from nuclear warmaking, and that it is always uneconomic and has to be subsidised by taxpayers.

The first report, by the Berlin-based German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), says that
private economic interests have never played a role in nuclear power;
instead the military have always been the driving force behind their
construction. The report’s title sums up its contents: High-Priced and
Dangerous: Nuclear Power is not an option for the Climate-Friendly Energy Mix.

The researchers calculate, after analysis of the 674 nuclear power
plants built since the 1950s, that on average they make a loss of €5
billion (US$5.6 bn) each, and that is without taking into account the cost
of getting rid of their radioactive waste. The report does not simply
investigate the past.

It also looks ahead, reviewing the industry’s plans
for a new generation of nuclear power stations, and particularly the small
modular reactors (SMRs) in which the US, Canada, Russia, China and the UK
are currently investing huge amounts of development money. The researchers
conclude that they too are doomed to be an expensive failure.

The second study, specifically into SMRs, is by the Nuclear Consulting Group (NCG), an
international team of academics and other experts [the writer of this news
report is a member]. It reaches the same conclusion: that they will be
expensive for the taxpayer and never live up to expectations. The NCG,
which works with Nuclear Free Local Authorities in the UK, says its
opposition is based on close scrutiny of the industry. After examining all
the designs of SMRs currently being developed globally, the NCG says: “It
remains likely that no substantive deployment of the technology will be
realised, with just a very few reactors built, at most.

August 8, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

The ‘sarcophagus’ that entombed the Chernobyl nuclear disaster for 30 years is at a high risk to collapse 

August 8, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

The terrible fate of Hiroshima

August 6, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and no first use 

Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and no first use  By Elaine ScarryZia Mian, August 5, 2019  On August 6 and August 9, we again take time to contemplate the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The arrangements that permitted a US president to drop an atomic bomb on tens of thousands of civilians continue to be in place today.

The United States has a “presidential first use” policy which means that President Trump, acting alone, can issue the order for a nuclear strike, even if our own country is not under nuclear attack. This concern has been raised in the Democratic Party presidential primaries for the 2020 election, with some candidates arguing for a shift to a US policy of no first use of nuclear weapons. There is already legislation pending in Congress to this effect.

A conference held at Harvard in 2017, “Presidential First Use of Nuclear Weapons: Is it Legal? Is it Constitutional? Is it Just?” brought together a US congressman, a US Senator, a former missile launch officer, several constitutional law professors, a former secretary of defense, a physicist, and several philosophers to address this question as it applies to the United States, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea.

Youtube videos of all their lectures can be found here.    An edited transcript of some of the talks at the conference is available here.

August 6, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Long-Term Radiation Exposure From Space Travel Harms Memory, Mood

Long-Term Radiation Exposure From Space Travel Harms Memory, Mood, D-brief, 

By Korey Haynes | August 5, 2019  There’s a major outstanding question lingering over the future of human spaceflight: Just how much radiation can the body handle? While humans have spent more than a year at a time on orbiting space stations without ill effect from radiation, almost all astronaut experience has been in low-Earth orbit. There, humans are still semi-safely enclosed within our planet’s magnetic field, which offers protection from the bulk of space radiation.

Researchers also know that short, powerful doses of radiation are deadly. But less is known about long-term, low-dose radiation — the kind that settlers on Mars or the moon would face.

Now, a team of scientists led by Charles Limoli at the University of California, Irvine, has taken a step toward a better understanding of those long-term risks. The researchers exposed mice to chronic, low-dose radiation for six months. The results are troubling for the future of spaceflight. The radiation left the mice suffering from both memory and mood problems that the scientists say would likely show up in human subjects as well. The results were published Monday in the journal eNeuro.

Radiation on the Brain

In the study, the mice showed “severe impairments in learning and memory,” according to the research paper. The mice were also generally more stressed out by their environments. That isn’t a good sign for space settlers, who will need their wits to face unforeseen struggles. Other studies have also already shown the potential ill effects of the long-term isolation and stress.

In the past, scientists hit lab mice with radiation levels some 100,000 times higher than they’d actually experience on Mars’ surface. But the researchers say their test is the first that has used these lower, more realistic doses of radiation over long periods to study space travel. Their efforts were made possible by a new facility.

The radiation included both neutrons – heavy particles from atomic nuclei – and pure energy in the form of gamma rays and other scattered photons……

Researchers found both physical and chemical changes in the brains they examined, in addition to the behavioral changes they observed in the living mice……..

more tests need to be done, and the radiation, while more realistic than past experiments, still doesn’t exactly mimic the space environment. But if their results hold up, they’re not a good sign for the future of human space settlement, at least not without a lot of bulky and expensive radiation shielding.

August 6, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment