Beyond Nuclear International

Let’s call SMRs what they are

Leaving out “nuclear” doesn’t minimize the danger, or the cost

By Gordon Edwards, Michel Duguay and Pierre Jasmin

On Friday the 13th, September 2019, the St John Telegraph-Journal’s front page was dominated by what many gullible readers hoped will be a good luck story for New Brunswick  – making the province a booming and prosperous Nuclear Energy powerhouse for the entire world.

After many months of behind-the-scenes meetings throughout New Brunswick with utility company executives, provincial politicians, federal government representatives, township mayors and First Nations, two nuclear entrepreneurial companies laid out a dazzling dream promising thousands of jobs – nay, tens of thousands! – in New Brunswick, achieved by mass-producing and selling components for hitherto untested nuclear reactors called SMNRs (Small Modular Nuclear Reactors) which, it is hoped, will be installed around the world by the hundreds or thousands!

On December 1, the Saskatchewan and Ontario premiers hitched their hopes to the same nuclear dream machine through a dramatic tripartite Sunday press conference in Ottawa featuring the premiers of the provinces. The three amigos announced their desire to promote and deploy some version of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors in their respective provinces. All three claimed it as a strategy to fight climate change, and they want the federal government to pledge federal tax money to pay for the R&D. Perhaps it is a way of paying lip service to the climate crisis without actually achieving anything substantial; prior to the recent election, all three men were opposed to even putting a price on carbon emissions.

Motives other than climate protection may apply. Saskatchewan’s uranium is in desperate need of new markets, as some of the province’s most productive mines have been mothballed and over a thousand uranium workers have been laid off, due to the global decline in nuclear power. Meanwhile, Ontario has cancelled all investments in over 800 renewable energy projects – at a financial penalty of over 200 million dollars – while investing tens of billions of dollars to rebuild many of its geriatric nuclear reactors. This, instead of purchasing surplus water-based hydropower from Quebec at less than half the cost.

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Sea level rise is speeding up

Storm surges could see nuclear plants swamped

By Paul Brown

With sea level rise accelerating faster than thought, the risk is growing for coastal cities − and for nuclear power stations.

The latest science shows how the pace of sea level rise is speeding up, fuelling fears that not only millions of homes will be under threat, but that vulnerable installations like docks and power plants will be overwhelmed by the waves.

New research using satellite data over a 30-year period shows that around the year 2000 sea level rise was 2mm a year, by 2010 it was 3mm and now it is at 4mm, with the pace of change still increasing.

The calculations were made by a research student, Tadea Veng, at the Technical University of Denmark, which has a special interest in Greenland, where the icecap is melting fast. That, combined with accelerating melting in Antarctica and further warming of the oceans, is raising sea levels across the globe.

Storm Surge Clydebank 2014 Mark Harkin CC

Storm surge, Clydebank, UK, January 2014. (Photo: Mark Harkin/Creative Commons)

The report coincides with a European Environment Agency (EEA) study whose maps show large areas of the shorelines of countries with coastlines on the North Sea will go under water unless heavily defended against sea level rise.

Based on the maps, newspapers like The Guardian in London have predicted that more than half of one key UK east coast provincial port − Hull − will be swamped. Ironically, Hull is the base for making giant wind turbine blades for use in the North Sea.

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Stirring up trouble

Battle against dumping of radioactive mud set to resume

In 2018, French nuclear company, Électricé de France (EDF), dredged up radioactive mud around its coastal Hinkley Point C two reactor construction site in England, and dumped it in Welsh waters just off the coast of Cardiff. The operation caused considerable opposition, and the scientific integrity of the testing used to analyze the mud was strongly contested as we showed in our 2018 story on the first round of mud dumping.

Now, EDF is set to apply for a new license from Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to dredge up an additional 780,000 tonnes of sediment to make way for the installation of the Hinkley Point C cooling water intake system. This mud would again be dumped in Cardiff Bay. NRW sanctioned the earlier dump, claiming the levels of radioactivity in the mud were “well within legal limits and therefore suitable for disposal at sea.”

However, as one of our authors here, marine biologist, Tim Deere-Jones, argued at the time, the methodology and extent of the testing was set up to deliver a “no harm” conclusion and did not, literally, dig deep enough to uncover the true extent of contamination.

As EDF prepares its case to resume dumping, Deere-Jones and CND Cymru’s Brian Jones, once again challenge an operation that has serious health implications for nearby populations and wildlife.

By Tim Deere-Jones and Brian Jones

Data from the government funded “Radioactivity in Food and the Environment” (RIFE) reports for 2016, 2017 and 2018 show that EDF’s dredging of underwater sediment and shoreline construction work at Hinkley Point have resulted in significantly increased radioactivity levels in the environment.

EDF’s operations have disturbed radioactive particles from the Hinkley Point A and B nuclear power stations, which had been relatively contained within the sediments, resulting in them now being detected at far higher levels than before the dredging began.


The dredge and dump ship in action by night in 2018.

RIFE measured radioactivity at seven locations along the Somerset coast. The results indicate a significant increase in the distribution of radioactive sediments from the Bridgwater Bay and River Parrett Estuary construction activity into the wider regional marine environment.

This environment includes:

  • the entire tidal corridor of the River Parrett, reaching 21 km inland and passing through the centre of the region’s busiest town, Bridgwater (where concentrations of cobalt-60 increased by 98% and concentrations of highly radioactive americium-241 rose by 139%);
  • the shoreline at Stolford, where concentrations of americium-241 increased by 158%, and cobalt-60 by 209%. (Note: this site is approximately the same distance (2 km) from the area dredged, as the Cardiff shoreline is from the Cardiff bay Dumpsite);
  • the shoreline east of Hinkley Point, including Burnham (where concentrations of americium-241 increased by 46%) and Weston super-Mare, 12 miles from Hinkley Point (where concentrations of cobalt-60 increased by 17%).

Note: Weston is the most easterly site sampled, and so it is possible that increases in concentrations occurred further along the coast.

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Hysteria isn’t killing nuclear power

But the harm it causes should stir emotions

By Linda Pentz Gunter

Time was, that a woman suffering from menopause, pre-menstrual syndrome, a heightened libido or lack thereof,  was labeled “hysterical.” Her very real medical or psychological troubles were put down to an “emotional reaction.” For a while these symptoms were even attributed to a “wandering womb.” What? Yes, really.

For years, if you were a woman who opposed nuclear power, you were likely subjected to exactly the same treatment (although luckily not the one for the “wandering womb,” which I won’t go into here). How many of us were told, usually by men, that we were simply far too “emotional”? (Implication? We just didn’t understand the actual “science”.)

But as the long-term survival of nuclear power became ever more unlikely, the pro-nuclear forces ramped up their rhetoric to sweep everyone into the “hysteria” basket. That’s where you belonged if you dared to claim that nuclear power is too dangerous a technology to continue. A hysteric. A fear-mongerer. And, these days, a purveyor of “fake news.” You’ll find it everywhere. 

“Let’s see if there are any countries out there that did not get entirely persuaded by the anti-nuclear hysteria, and how that affected their carbon emissions,” wrote somebody called Anthony Watts on his blog after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

Under the headline “There’s No Good Reason For Anti-Nuclear Hysteria”, Veit Ringel wrote in the spooky sounding Executive Intelligence Review, “If we do not guard against ideologically driven hysteria against modern, advanced nuclear technology . . . we will see that one day our granddaughters will be sewing T-shirts for the Chinese market.”  That conclusion sounds pretty hysterical to me. 

“A partial meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi plant as a result of the largest recorded earthquake to hit Japan has set off a renewed bout of nuclear hysteria,” wrote John Downs in Business Insider.

Those illustrious scientists Penn & Teller called their takedown show on Helen Caldicott — who has certainly borne the brunt of the “too emotional” slur in our movement — “Penn & Teller vs Dr. Helen Caldicott, Candles & Anti-Nuclear Fearmongering.”

And here’s what well known columnist, Fareed Zacharia, just wrote in a February 14 column in the Washington Post that appeared to have been cribbed from the cliff notes of any number of pro-nuclear front groups:

“Fears about nuclear power, which Sanders clearly shares, are largely based on emotional reactions to the few high-profile accidents that have taken place over the past few decades.”

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Nuclear power and harm to animals

New Beyond Nuclear booklet shows suffering of animals all long the nuclear fuel chain

From Beyond Nuclear staff

Animals have become our responsibility. Whether wild or domestic, they depend on us for their survival. Wild animals are no longer self-sufficient. Their habitats have been plundered, their food sources eliminated, their migrations disrupted, and now, with the ravages of the climate crisis upon us, they cannot defend themselves against the forces of raging forest and brush fires, or overwhelming floods.

Consequently, we can no longer point to one single pressure point as relatively harmless. Any loss of songbirds, of bees, of frogs, of microbes, could now push those species over a tipping point, precipitating a cascade of collapses among other species, eventually including our own. Every act of extraction, pollution and destruction by humans serves as a cumulative effect in eliminating our co-habitants on planet Earth.

bn_Animals booklet_web_cover

Our new booklet on animals is available to download. Hard copies may also be ordered.

Nuclear power has served as a predator on animals, both wild and domestic, from its inception. While the impacts of a serious nuclear power plant accident have clear and demonstrable effects, the nuclear industry has harmed and destroyed animals at every phase, from uranium mining to electricity production to waste mismanagement. It continues to do so. But the price paid by the animals it harms today is far higher.

All of this is now captured in a new Beyond Nuclear handbook — Nuclear power and harm to animals, wild and domestic. The booklet lays out a broad range of examples across the world, showing how each phase of the nuclear fuel chain serves as a harmful predator. The booklet examines the impact on animals from both existing and proposed uranium mines, operating reactors, potential new reactors, reprocessing, reactor accidents, waste dumps and the harm the inevitable next nuclear accident will deliver.

(All of our handbooks can be found on the Handbooks page on this website.)

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Tigers may soon burn not so bright

Tiger reserve in India could be plundered for uranium

By Mayank Aggarwal

  • An expert panel on forests of the environment ministry has accorded in-principle approval for survey and exploration of uranium in Telangana’s Amrabad Tiger Reserve.
  • The approval came even as most of the local forest officials in their site inspection reports recommended against it stating that it will adversely affect the flora and fauna.
  • The forest officials also argued that if exploration takes place it will disturb wildlife. In addition to the tiger, the report noted the presence of a range of endangered animals like panther, sloth bear, wild dog, jungle cats, wolf, pangolin, Bonnet macaque, pythons, cobra, wild pig, Neelgai, spotted deer, and sambar at the reserve.
  • India is home to about 60 percent of the world’s tiger population and a leader in tiger conservation. Tiger reserves, which cover about 2 percent of the country, are increasingly under threat from development projects.

The quest for uranium deposits to meet India’s nuclear power goals has now reached a tiger reserve in Telangana. An expert panel on forests of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has recommended in-principle approval for a proposal by the central government’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) for survey and exploration of uranium over 83 square kilometres in Telangana’s Amrabad Tiger Reserve.

The proposal was considered by the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) in its meeting on May 22, 2019. As per the minutes of the meeting, even though the FAC noted that there are “deficiencies in the proposal”, it recommended the project for “in-principle approval” considering that the project is “critical importance from national perspective.”

However, FAC stipulated that the approval is subject to the submission of all required documents and said that after “receipt of the same, the complete proposal may be placed before the competent authority for approval.” Following this, MoEFCC’s Deputy Inspector General of Forests Naresh Kumar wrote to Telangana government on June 19 requesting it to “submit the proposal along-with verified relevant documents” for identified boreholes for further consideration by the environment ministry.

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