Beyond Nuclear International

Utterly destroyed

That’s the outlook for a spectacular stretch of coastline should new reactors be built there

From Blackwater Against New Nuclear Group

“The Essex coastline is remarkable for its length, at 350 miles the longest of any county in England, its more than thirty islands, and its estuaries, like the Blackwater, extending the sea miles inland,” writes Andy Blowers. “And yet, its very character is threatened by the proposed new reactor project at Bradwell B.” 

The Bradwell B nuclear power station would be a joint two-reactor project of the French government energy company, EDF, and China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN). The proposed design is the Chinese HPR1000. The project has not yet received its Development Consent Order and is vigorously opposed by the local community and by environmentalists and scientists.

“What is to be lost, should Bradwell B come to pass?” Blowers asks. “First and foremost will be the sense of openness and space, for this coast is a place where land, sea and sky meet; the vast East Anglian sky with endlessly changing weather, the daily theatre of blue and grey sky, scudding clouds, tranquil and stormy, sometimes a golden sunrise or a glorious glowing sunset.

“Beneath is the restless sea, the ebb and flow of the tide revealing for a while the mud and gravel of the foreshore, draining and refilling the creeks, eroding and replenishing the mudflats and saltmarshes. This vast panorama, the essence of the Essex coastal scene, would be utterly destroyed by a massive nuclear complex, with cooling towers pluming to the sky, discharges polluting the waters and the air and earthworks disrupting the land.”

The threat at Bradwell is similar to that for the proposed Sizewell C new nuclear plant site in neighboring Suffolk, also a joint project of EDF and CGN. (The Sizewell reactors will be French EPRs.) Both projects are on fragile, low-lying coastal sites vulnerable to inundation and will be increasingly exposed to the impacts of climate change in the form of sea level rise, storm surges and coastal processes. And both are situated in areas of considerable environmental importance and sensitivity that would be severely compromised by nuclear development.

That is why Blowers, an international expert on radioactive waste management and sustainable development, has written to the Sizewell C Examining Authority declaring that both Bradwell B and Sizewell C should be abandoned as a whole now to avoid falling victim to the catastrophic impacts of climate change later.

An expansion of Bradwell nuclear power plant could permanently blight the landscape. (Photo: “Bradwell nuclear power station” by Paul Wilkinson/Creative Commons)
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Fuite radioactive sur l’EPR chinois

Billard à trois bandes entre Américains, Chinois et Français

Nouvelles: Update from Paul Gunter, Beyond Nuclear (6/24/2021): Taishan Unit 1 nuclear power station was the first French-designed European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) in the world to provide electricity, beginning in December 2019. After 19 months of operation, the reactor is experiencing structural failure in the first “defense-in-depth” barrier, the thin-walled steel tubes that clad 60,000 stacks of enriched uranium pellets. The cracking is releasing radioactivity from the uranium fission process into the reactor’s pressurized cooling water system. Apparently, the radioactivity is twice the technical specifications for operations per the reactor supplier, Framatome.  Technical specifications have a purpose for safety and operability. That Taishan is still operating raises questions about Électricité de France’s global marketing of nuclear power plants and China’s safety policy.

Par Stéphane Lhomme, Observatoire de Nucléaire

Si l’opacité entretenue par le régime chinois empêche pour le moment de connaître les conséquences précises de la fuite radioactive impliquant l’EPR n°1 de Taïshan, révélée hier 14 juin par CNN, en revanche il est d’ores et déjà possible d’analyser le déroulement de cette affaire et d’en prévoir certaines suites. 

La défectuosité de l’étanchéité de gaines de combustibles au sein de l’EPR de Taïshan remonte à octobre 2020, c’est-à-dire qu’elle dure depuis plus de 8 mois : les co-exploitants du réacteur, c’est-à-dire les Chinois et les Français de Framatome, étaient de toute évidence parfaitement conscients de la gravité du problème et avaient conjointement décidé d’en cacher l’existence à la population mais aussi à l’AIEA (Agence internationale de l’énergie atomique).

Par chance, l’information a fini par “transpirer” vers la filiale américaine de Framatome (Areva NP Inc). Cette dernière, après de très probables discussions avec la CIA et la Maison blanche, s’est fait un plaisir d’en informer CNN.

En effet, maintenant que la situation de l’EPR de Taïshan est connue dans le monde entier, il va être compliqué pour les Chinois de continuer à exploiter ce réacteur dans des conditions qui sont très probablement hors de “son domaine de fonctionnement et de sûreté autorisé”, contrairement à ce prétend Framatome (canal Français !) pour ne pas froisser les Chinois. 

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The Taishan death blow

Radioactive leak at Chinese reactor could finish French nuclear exports

Update from Paul Gunter, Beyond Nuclear (6/24/2021): Taishan Unit 1 nuclear power station was the first French-designed European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) in the world to provide electricity, beginning in December 2019. After 19 months of operation, the reactor is experiencing structural failure in the first “defense-in-depth” barrier, the thin-walled steel tubes that clad 60,000 stacks of enriched uranium pellets. The cracking is releasing radioactivity from the uranium fission process into the reactor’s pressurized cooling water system. Apparently, the radioactivity is twice the technical specifications for operations per the reactor supplier, Framatome.  Technical specifications have a purpose for safety and operability. That Taishan is still operating raises questions about Électricité de France’s global marketing of nuclear power plants and China’s safety policy.

By Stéphane Lhomme, Nuclear Observatory

If the opacity maintained by the Chinese regime prevents us, for the time being, from knowing the exact consequences of the radioactive leak involving the EPR no.1 reactor at Taishan, revealed on June 14 by CNN, it is, on the other hand, already possible to see how this unfolded and to recommend some next steps.

The fault in the fuel duct seals inside the Taishan EPR dates back to October 2020, that is to say, it had already been going on for more than eight months: the operators of the reactor — the Chinese and the French company Framatome — were perfectly well aware of the gravity of the situation and had jointly decided to hide the existence of the problem from not only the surrounding population but also from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Luckily, the information ended up seeping out via the American subsidiary of Framatome (Areva NP Inc.). This latter, likely after discussions with the CIA and the White House, happily informed CNN.

Indeed, now that the situation at the EPR at Taishan is known around the world, it will be difficult for the Chinese to continue to operate the reactor under conditions that are most likely beyond its “scope of authorized operational safety” — contrary to what Framatome claims in order not to offend the Chinese.

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Shattered remains

The fight to right the injustices of Trinity

By Tina Cordova

In a world searching for sustainable energy infrastructures, the US has still not rectified the injustices that came about with the earliest moments of the nuclear era. On July 16, 1945, when the US government detonated the first atomic bomb at the Trinity Site in South Central New Mexico, officials had little to no concern for the people who lived in the adjacent area.

Most of them were people of color, Native Americans and also Hispanos who had emigrated north from Mexico (or their ancestors had likely done so). These people were warned neither before nor after the so-called “test” as to the dangers they were facing as a result of the bomb

Author, Tina Cordova, knows firsthand the widespread and devastating health impacts of the Trinity Test. (Photo: Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium)

As we know, this “test” would be the first of many from both Western and Eastern superpowers. Within the US context, other communities considered marginal to the US would be devastated; the atomic explosions on the Marshall Islands and their impacts on Indigenous communities are one of the best-known of these horrific accounts. Debates around nuclear power continue to have great international resonance today. 
 
As documented in written and oral histories recorded by the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium (TBDC), ash fell from the sky for days after the bomb was detonated and settled on everything—the people, the land, and the animals.  The TBDC was originally organized to bring attention to the negative health effects suffered by the people of New Mexico as a result of their overexposure to radiation as a result of the “test.”  Ultimately, the TBDC’S goals include raising awareness and attaining justice for impacted local communities and families.
 
Fallout
The bomb detonated at Trinity produced massive fallout that blanketed the earth and became part of the water and food supply that the people of the area rely on for sustenance. The bomb was incredibly inefficient, inasmuch as it was overpacked with plutonium: it incorporated 13 pounds of plutonium when only three pounds were necessary for the fission process.  The remaining 10 lbs. of plutonium—with a half-life of 24,000 years—was dispersed in the radioactive cloud that rose over eight miles above the atmosphere, penetrating the stratosphere.

The bomb was detonated on a platform at a height of 100 feet off the ground, the only time a device was ever detonated so close to the ground.  At this height the blast did not produce massive destruction—but it did produce massive fallout. In fact, Trinity produced more fallout than any of the atomic bombs detonated at the Nevada Site.  In Japan, the bombs were detonated at heights of 1600 (Nagasaki) and 1800 (Hiroshima) feet respectively, which produced massive destruction and the horrific images which we know too well. In contrast, the accounts of communities in southern New Mexico are best characterized by what Rob Nixon calls “slow violence.” Through this concept, Nixon wants us to focus on how environmental degradation that occurs at the hands of human actors can slowly accumulate and impact communities for years after an initial event. 

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Two’s a crowd

Only renewables — and not nuclear power — can deliver truly low-carbon energy

Note: The third in the new Beyond Nuclear series of Talking Points, features the work of Benjamin Sovacool, Andy Stirling and colleagues, comparing the efficacy of carbon reductions using nuclear power or renewable energy. As this article reflects, they concluded that renewable energy is not only the better choice but that a ‘do everything’ strategy that includes nuclear power tends to cancel out renewable energy.

Please download, print and distribute all of our Talking Points widely. Or email us to request printed copies.

By Neil Vowles

If countries want to lower emissions as substantially, rapidly and cost-effectively as possible, they should prioritize support for renewables, rather than nuclear power.

That’s the finding of a new analysis of 123 countries over 25 years by the University of Sussex Business School and the ISM International School of Management which reveals that nuclear energy programs around the world tend not to deliver sufficient carbon emission reductions and so should not be considered an effective low carbon energy source.

Researchers found that unlike renewables, countries around the world with larger scale national nuclear attachments do not tend to show significantly lower carbon emissions — and in poorer countries nuclear programs actually tend to associate with relatively higher emissions.

Published in Nature Energy, the study reveals that nuclear and renewable energy programs do not tend to co-exist well together in national low-carbon energy systems but instead crowd each other out and limit effectiveness.

The latest (#3) in the Beyond Nuclear series on Talking Points reveals that a “do everything” strategy is misguided and nuclear power tends to cancel out renewables.

Benjmin K Sovacool, Professor of Energy Policy in the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex Business School, said: “The evidence clearly points to nuclear being the least effective of the two broad carbon emissions abatement strategies, and coupled with its tendency not to co-exist well with its renewable alternative, this raises serious doubts about the wisdom of prioritising investment in nuclear over renewable energy. Countries planning large-scale investments in new nuclear power are risking suppression of greater climate benefits from alternative renewable energy investments.”

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“Unqualified”

Nuclear trolls turn on the aggression as industry collapses around them

By Linda Pentz Gunter

“My advice is to look out for engineers. They begin with sewing machines and end up with nuclear bombs.” Marcel Pagnol

My normal rule of thumb is to ignore the unrelenting pro-nuclear trolls who pepper our sites with incessant nay-saying and, occasionally ad hominem name-calling. After all, they have only one goal in mind — other than to get up one’s nose — which is to dominate and thereby control the narrative.

But recently, a recurring theme has emerged which needs addressing, because it speaks to who is allowed to talk about nuclear power.

In the view of the trolls, if you have no scientific credentials, you are unqualified to comment on nuclear power. In my case, because I have a degree in English literature, albeit garnered many decades ago, I have, according to the trolls, no authority to expound on the negatives of nuclear anything.

There are some rather obvious flaws in this argument, the first being that it pre-supposes the human brain is incapable of learning anything new after the age of 21. 

The pro-nuclear trolls insist that only those who are scientifically qualified are credentialed to discuss the pros and cons of nuclear power. We disagree. (Photo: “Virtual Nuclear Reactor” by Idaho National Laboratory is licensed under CC BY 2.0)

But it also exemplifies the theme of a recent conference held virtually in Linz by three Austrian anti-nuclear groups which examined the “Atomic Lie.” How has this lie been perpetuated? Answer: by those who promote the nuclear power industry anointing themselves as the only authority deemed knowledgeable enough to either comment about it or make decisions on its use and safety.

What kind of a world will we end up with if, heaven forfend, we allow only engineers to decide what is in our best interest (with all due respect to my friends who are engineers and who, I suspect, would be the first to agree)? Hence the Pagnol quote at the top of this page.

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