Beyond Nuclear International

Tritium isn’t harmless

Japan plan to dump tritiated water into the ocean comes with big risks

On May 18, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority gave its initial approval for Tokyo Electric Power to release radioactive water from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean, claiming that there are no safety concerns. But science disagrees with this conclusion. In a September 2019 blog entry, now updated by the author, Dr. Ian Fairlie looks at the implications of dumping largely tritiated water into the sea and whether there are any viable alternatives.

By Ian Fairlie

At the present time, over a million tonnes of tritium-contaminated water are being held in about a thousand tanks at the site of the Fukushima Daichi nuclear power station in Japan. This is being added to at the rate of ~300 tonnes a day from the water being pumped to keep cool the melted nuclear fuels from the three destroyed reactors at Fukushima. Therefore new tanks are having to be built each week to cope with the influx.

These problems constitute a sharp reminder to the world’s media that the nuclear disaster at Fukushima did not end in 2011 and is continuing with no end in sight.

Recently TEPCO / Japanese Government have been proposing to dilute, then dump, some or all of these tritium-contaminated waters from Fukushima into the sea off the coast of Japan. This has been opposed by Japanese fishermen and environment groups.

Former Japan prime minister,Yoshihide Suga, is handed a sample of contaminated water at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear site. (Photo: 内閣官房内閣広報室/Wikimedia Commons)

There has been quite a media debate, especially in Japan, about the merits and demerits of dumping tritium into the sea. 

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Peace action for Mother’s Day

Nine people cited in a demonstration at Trident nuclear submarine base at Bangor, WA

By Leonard Eiger and Glen Milner

Over 50 people were present on May 7 at the demonstration against Trident nuclear weapons at the Bangor submarine base.  Nine demonstrators blocked the main highway entrance into the base for about 10 minutes and were cited by the Washington State Patrol.

At around 2:15 pm, on the day before the May 8, 2022 celebration of Mother’s Day, the nine demonstrators entered the highway carrying a large banner stating, “THE EARTH IS OUR MOTHER—TREAT HER WITH RESPECT” and blocked all incoming traffic at the Main Gate at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.  They were removed from the highway by the Washington State Patrol.

All nine demonstrators were cited for violating RCW 46.61.250, Pedestrians on roadways, and released at the scene.

Those cited by the Washington State Patrol: Brenda McMillan and Caroline Wildflower of Port Townsend; Margarita Munoz of Seattle; Sue Ablao of Bremerton; Carolee Flaten of Hansville; Rev. Gilberto Perez of Bainbridge Island; Ramon Nacanaynay of Shoreline; Michael “Firefly” Siptroth of Belfair; and Tom Rogers of Poulsbo, WA.

Mother’s Day in the United States was first suggested in 1872 by Julia Ward Howe as a day dedicated to peace.  Howe saw the effects on both sides of the Civil War and realized destruction from warfare goes beyond the killing of soldiers in battle.

Nine demonstrators were cited for violating RCW 46.61.250, Pedestrians on roadways, and released at the scene of the Mother’s Day protest. (Photo: Glen Milner, Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action)

Earlier, on Saturday morning, a tribute was held for Robert C. Aldridge, peacemaker and guiding inspiration for Ground Zero and Trident resistance who passed away on April 29.  Statements for Robert Aldridge were read from Shelley Douglass and Jim Douglass.  

Shelley Douglass stated, “This campaign began with a Trident designer, and a conscientious family making a decision to resist, together.  That’s why, from the very beginning, this campaign has seen Trident workers as potential partners in the work.  It’s why we leafleted for so long, why we try to build relationships and community across fences and lines.  It’s why so many people who once disagreed have become part of the community.”

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US atomic bombs back in Britain?

Move puts UK on front line in a NATO/Russia war

By Kate Hudson

News that US nuclear weapons may already be back in Britain, at RAF/USAF Lakenheath in East Anglia, makes Britain once again a forward nuclear base for the US in Europe.

110 US/NATO free-fall B61 nuclear bombs were removed from Lakenheath in 2008, following sustained protest at the base by CND and the Lakenheath Action Group. US nuclear bombs had been located there since 1954. 

Their return – assigned to NATO – will increase global tensions and put Britain on the front line in a NATO/Russia war. B61s have continued to be sited in five other countries across Europe – Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Turkey – in spite of strong opposition within some of the ‘host’ countries.

Now the UK has been added to the US’s list of European sites in line for infrastructure investment for storing ‘special weapons within secure sites and facilities’. Special weapons mean nuclear weapons and this is happening in the context of increasing tension with Russia and the current escalating war.

110 US/NATO free-fall B61 nuclear bombs were removed from Lakenheath in 2008, following sustained protests at the base, including by future Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn (with bicycle). Photo: The Dissilent/Wikimedia Commons)

Since the weapons were removed in 2008, the empty storage vaults for the weapons have been on ‘caretaker’ status, but reports of nuclear exercises at Lakenheath increase the likelihood that nuclear weapons are back, or on their way; the base currently hosts F-15E fighter-bombers with nuclear capability but these are being replaced by the new nuclear- capable F-35A Lightning. The first of these new fighter- bombers arrived in December 2021.

Within the next year US/NATO nuclear bases in Europe will also receive the new B61-12 guided nuclear bomb which is entering full-scale production in the US.

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Doomed

New nuclear won’t make the cut in Washington State

By Roger Lippman

It was 108 degrees in the shade in Seattle last June; the climate emergency now has the attention of the usually temperate Puget Sound area. The following December’s cold snap may also have to do with climate-related disruptions that climatologists tell us are weakening the polar vortex. As the crisis grows, it attracts the nuclear industry’s purveyors of false solutions, with a barrage of calls for further investment in nuclear power.

As I write, nuclear promoters are trying to sell a group of small municipal utilities, the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS), on a “new, improved” nuclear technology, known as small modular nuclear reactors. 

Supposedly the reactors will be mass produced, but first they must be proven in the field, at high startup cost. Who will want to be the first to put up money that can never be recovered in electricity sales? Predictably, the project has already struggled with delays, design changes, and escalating cost projections.

Of the initial subscribers, about 10 have reduced their commitments or pulled out altogether in the past year and a half. That just leaves the rubes, who have signed up for only a quarter of the project’s electrical output.

An effective approach to climate change requires the quickest and cheapest choices to reduce carbon emissions. Nuclear power, the slowest and most expensive, takes time and resources away from the available solutions, namely energy efficiency, solar, and wind power. 

The extreme heat experienced in Seattle last summer won’t be mitigated by the false promises of new nuclear power plants. (Photo by Phil Snyder/Creative Commons)

Furthermore, with rising sea levels and the wildfires that have already been a threat to the Hanford nuclear reservation in Eastern Washington, the climate crisis poses a threat to nuclear power itself.

Climate conditions simply do not lend themselves to slow, dangerous and expensive new nuclear technology, and yet the drumbeat goes on, and at our expense.

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In the dock

Holtec slammed over 1 million gallon radioactive water dump scheme

By Linda Pentz Gunter

At the conclusion of a close to four-hour public  “field hearing” held in the community of Plymouth, MA on May 6, 2022, Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts pulled no punches. 

The Senate hearing invited a number of witnesses to testify on “Issues Facing Communities with Decommissioning Nuclear Plants”, with this session specifically focused on the nearby Pilgrim nuclear reactor, which closed in 2019.

As part of the decommissioning process, Holtec International, the company that purchased the Pilgrim nuclear reactor in Massachusetts from previous owner, Entergy, is preparing to dump a million gallons of radioactive water from the site into Cape Cod Bay as part of its decommissioning activities.

As the hearing drew to a close, Markey questioned Holtec’s competency and the leniency of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the federal regulator ostensibly tasked with protecting public health and safety.

“It’s possible these problems may be more a reflection of its inexperience, and not arrogance,” Markey said of Holtec. “That they don’t know what they are doing.”

A proposed NRC rulemaking is in the works that would “update” (read “weaken”) federal decommissioning regulations for the nuclear industry.

“The commission’s proposed decommissioning rule shows it to be a captive agency,” said Markey, one that “shows no interest in engaging the public, which would provide even a semblance of accountability.”

Referring to NRC’s failure to stop Holtec from looting its own taxpayer-funded decommissioning funds for company profit, Markey added that “without a stronger regulator, I fear that the only thing that will be emptier than the decommissioning trust fund will be the public’s trust in our government.”

Markey serves on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and is chair of its Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate and Nuclear Safety. 

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Pulling (radioactive) mussels from a shell?

Holtec’s “harmless” claims are baseless

For background on the planned radioactive water dump by Holtec at the Pilgrim nuclear power plant referred to in this article, please see the article “In the dock” on this website.

By Theodore Bosen

Holtec argued that their planned nuclear dump into the bay will have a negligible environmental impact because past aqueous releases did no harm over several decades of Pilgrim’s operation. Not so!

In the mid-80s, I consumed bushels of mussels from Warren Cove, around the corner from Pilgrim. Sometime later, on behalf of the Pilgrim Alliance, I helped bring renowned physicist Ernest Sternglass of the University of Pittsburgh, to Plymouth to speak on his research into cancers surrounding nuclear plants. When I told him of my shellfish consumption, tears welled up in his eyes as he said, “Son, I’m sorry, but you are going to get thyroid cancer in 20 years, if not worse.”

I stopped eating those mussels and went to the office of the Massachusetts Radiation Control Unit to check their records on local radiological testing. They had told our community at a public hearing in 1986 that they were testing fish and shellfish around the plant at least twice a year. That turned out to be false.

After eating bushels of mussels in the 1980s pulled from waters near the Pilgrim nuclear power plant, the author, Theodore Bosen (pictured from his Facebook page) eventually developed thyroid cancer.

Their records showed only one or two fish from somewhere in the bay, and no more recently than three years prior, plus no mollusks whatsoever. I then asked them to test the mussels around Pilgrim. They agreed, asking me to bring them two quarts of mussel meat from around the plant, fresh-frozen, which I did two days later. Their analysis identified six radionuclides which they said were consistent with fission products from the plant. An independent lab verified that.

I sent the report to Pilgrim’s operator, Boston Edison, but they disagreed. They stated it was background radiation from Chinese atmospheric tests. How I know that was a lie is that the last ever atmospheric test by the Chinese was on Oct. 16, 1980, and a couple of the isotopes in the sample had short half-lives that precluded them from being that old. I learned that day that the nuclear industry doesn’t take low-level radiation seriously and will lie.

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