Tag Archive: Nuclear Energy

Apr 02 2015

A Deal to Make a Deal

It took a couple of day longer than expected but cool heads prevailed. An agreement on a framework for a permanent accord on Iran’s nuclear energy program was reached this afternoon in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Iran and the world powers said here Thursday that they had reached a surprisingly specific and comprehensive general understanding about the next steps in limiting Tehran’s nuclear program, though Western officials said many details needed to be resolved before a final agreement in June.

Both Germany’s foreign office and President Hassan Rouhani of Iran said that the major parameters of a framework for a final accord had been reached, after eight days of intense debate between Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif.

There was no mistaking the upbeat mood surrounding the announcement. “We have stopped a cycle that is not in the interest of anybody,” an exuberant Mr. Zarif said at a news conference after the announcement. [..]

According to European officials, roughly 5,000 centrifuges will remain spinning enriched uranium at the main nuclear site at Natanz, about half the number currently running. The giant underground enrichment site at Fordo – which Israeli and some American officials fear is impervious to bombing – will be partly converted to advanced nuclear research and the production of medical isotopes. Foreign scientists will be present. There will be no fissile material present that could be used to make a bomb.

A major reactor at Arak, which officials feared could produce plutonium, would operate on a limited basis that would not provide enough fuel for a bomb.

In return, the European Union and the United States would begin to lift sanctions, as Iran complied. At a news conference after the announcement, Mr. Zarif said that essentially all sanctions would be lifted after the final agreement is signed.

In spite of all the efforts of the war crazed right wing and Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahou to derail the talks, the P5+1 have moved toward a full agreement that will make the Middle East just a little safer and life better for the Iranians.

Sep 03 2013

Fukushima Disaster: Worse Than Reported

The Fukushima nuclear disaster is getting worse and everyday there seems to be another report that the public has been not told the full truth of its impact or what is actually being done to contain it.

Fukushima’s Radioactive Plume Could Reach U.S. Waters By 2014

by Jeremy Hsu, Huffington Post

A radioactive plume of water in the Pacific Ocean from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant, which was crippled in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, will likely reach U.S. coastal waters starting in 2014, according to a new study. The long journey of the radioactive particles could help researchers better understand how the ocean’s currents circulate around the world.

Ocean simulations showed that the plume of radioactive cesium-137 released by the Fukushima disaster in 2011 could begin flowing into U.S. coastal waters starting in early 2014 and peak in 2016. Luckily, two ocean currents off the eastern coast of Japan – the Kuroshio Current and the Kuroshio Extension – would have diluted the radioactive material so that its concentration fell well below the World Health Organization’s safety levels within four months of the Fukushima incident. But it could have been a different story if nuclear disaster struck on the other side of Japan.

Leaky Fukushima nuclear plant raises seafood poisoning concerns

by John Rch, NBC News

The 300 tons of radioactive water leaked to date from a storage tank at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan is raising new concerns about the safety of seafood from the region, according to scientists.

Highly contaminated water from the newly reported leak is seeping into the ground, officials with Tokyo Electric Power Company told reporters Tuesday. They do not believe the water has reached the ocean, given the distance of the tank from the harbor. Still, it is likely only a matter of time before it does, said William Burnett, an oceanographer at Florida State University, who studies environmental radioactivity. [..]

The new tank rupture is the latest in a string of incidents to raise concerns about radioactive material from the damaged nuclear plant reaching the ocean. Earlier this month, a government official estimated that 330 tons of contaminated water was leaking into the ocean every day from the plant near the reactors (though not all of that water is as radioactive as the contents of the latest storage tank leak).

Fukushima radiation levels 18 times higher than previously thought

by Justin McCurry, The Guardian

Operator of Japanese nuclear power plant claims there has been no leak but has yet to discover cause of radiation spike

Radiation levels 18 times higher than previously reported have been found near a water storage tank at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, causing fresh concern about the safety of the wrecked facility. [..]

Japan’s nuclear watchdog confirmed last week it had raised the severity of that leak from level 1, an “anomaly”, to level 3, a “serious incident”, on an eight-point scale used by the International Atomic Energy Agency for radiological releases.

Earlier, the utility belatedly confirmed reports that a toxic mixture of groundwater and water being used to cool melted fuel lying deep inside the damaged reactors was seeping into the sea at a rate of about 300 tonnes a day.

Experts said those leaks, which are separate from the most recent incidents, may have started soon after the plant was struck by a powerful tsunami on 11 March 2011.

And in a “you’ve got to be kidding me” moment.

High radiation spreads at ruined Fukushima plant, Japan vows aid

by Sumio Ito and Mari Saito, The Sydney Morning Herald

High radiation levels are spreading at the ruined Fukushima nuclear plant, its operator said on Monday, and the Japanese government prepared to offer more funding and oversight to try to contain the crisis.

Japanese authorities were seeking to address criticism that Tokyo Electric Power Co has bungled the response to the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl. [..]

Japan’s nuclear industry, which once provided a third of its energy, has ground nearly to a halt since the earthquake, causing reactor meltdowns. Restarting Japan’s idled reactors, and reducing its reliance on foreign energy supplies, is a central element of Abe’s economic growth plans.

Japanese officials also fear that international attention to the Fukushima crisis could threaten Tokyo’s bid to host the 2020 Olympics, a decision set to be made by the International Olympic Committee on Saturday in Buenos Aires.

The Japanese government’s response to this disaster has been wholly inadequate, often refusing to accept help or advice and hiding the critical facts from the public. While the US and world governments are so concerned over the use of a chemical weapon in Syria, willing to ignite the region in a full blown war, this crisis which will have deep impact on the environment and a major source of the world’s food supply is virtually ignored.  

Aug 28 2013

Aging Vermont Nuclear Plant to Shut Down

The owners of the aging Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant announced the plant’s shut down by 2014, citing that the plant was no longer financially viable due to the lower costs of natural gas. The president of Entergy, Bill Mohl, dismissed the fact that the plant, built in 1972, has been the target of anti-nuclear demonstrations and court battles.

The Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant has been the subject of one of the longest and most intensive anti-nuke campaigns in the region. Even before the plant was constructed on the banks of the Connecticut River in 1972, anti-nuclear activists demonstrated against Vermont Yankee with a fervor that bordered on religious conviction.

Anti-nuke groups formed – the New England Coalition, Citizens Awareness Network, Shut It Down Affinity Group and the Safe and Green Campaign – and environmental organizations like VPIRG, the Vermont Natural Resources Council and the Conservation Law Foundation took up the cause, too. From the 1970s and 1980s and again in the early 2000s, Vermont Yankee attracted a wide range of activists who pressed for one ultimate goal: closing the plant.

When a new out-of-state owner – Entergy Corp. – purchased the Vernon plant for $180 million in 2002, and the facility began to age and show signs of deterioration (including the collapse of a cooling tower, a transmission fire and tritium leaks from underground pipes), activists ramped up the outrage, and eventually politicians – the state’s Democrats and Progressives – took up the cause, too. In 2010, Sen. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat from Windham County where the plant is located, engineered a vote in the Senate to deny Entergy an opportunity to extend its license to operate beyond a predetermined shutdown date of March 21, 2012.

The long fight to close the plant has had its political impact, as well, ousting the long reign of Republican in the governor’s mansion. In 2012, the popular Republican lieutenant governor, Brian Dubie, who supported the nuclear plant was defeated by Democrat Peter Shumlin. In the wake of the ongoing nuclear crisis from the Fukushima reactor, whose design is identical to Yankee Vermont, this is seen as a first step in the shut down of the other reactors of similar design.

 

Mar 12 2012

Iran, Israel and “The Bomb”

President Obama assured influential leaders attending American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) last week that the Unites States has Israel’s back fighting efforts made  to delegitimize the state. But how will America be positioned against Iran’s potential nuclear threat to Israel? The Up with Chris Hayes panel Rula Jebreal (@rulajebreal), contributing writer at Newsweek; Jeremy Ben-Ami (@jeremybenami), founder & president of J Street; Leila Hilal, Middle East analyst at the New America Foundation; and Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, founder & president of The Israel Project discuss the contentious relationship between Israel and Iran.

The discussion that took place on Up with Chris went a long way to dispelling some myths about Iran’s nuclear energy program and the rhetoric of its alleged quest for a nuclear weapon. Chris Hayes pointed out early that “the big contest” was over whether President Obama would say “nuclear Iran” or “the capability for a nuclear weapon” in his speech to AIPAC, he went with the later. That did not stop the panelists continued false equation with a “nuclear Iran” and an Iran with a nuclear weapon. There is gaping difference between the two. “Capability” has become the code word for “the bomb”. The reality is that capability can also mean peaceful uses for nuclear energy that includes electricity and medical research.

No one, not even Hayes, mentioned that the ruling Ayatollahs have condemned nuclear weapons, as well as, chemical/biological weapons, based on religious and moral grounds. Nor did anyone mention that Iran has signed the Nuclear Weapons Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel has not nor has Israel ever allowed inspection of its nuclear facilities by the IAEA and no one has dared demand it.

It was, however, good that Rula Jebreal the misstatements by Jennifer Mizrahi, founder of The Israel Project about Iran’s cooperation with inspections. Middle East analyst Leila Hilal and Mr. Hayes joined Ms. Jebeal had to correct her hyperbolic statements that the Iranians are “different” and not “rational actors” and stop her racist generalization of the Iranians. Ms. Hilal rightfully noted that there is conflation of Islamists saying that Hamas and the Iranians, because they’re Muslims, are going to act to attack Israel. In fact, it’s not Hamas or Iran but the Islamic Jihad and the Palestinian Resistance that has been calling for Israel’s destruction and, however lightly, it was mentioned that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has become isolated from the ruling Ayatollahs and increasingly unpopular with Iranians.

It was Jeremy Ben-Ami, founder & president of J Street who made the best observation that the premise of Iran dropping an atomic bomb on Israel, then be wiped out itself, is ridiculous on its face. Yet, here we are with the President of the United States saying that while he wants diplomacy to work but still saying that he has “Israel’s back” and talking about “nuclear capabilty” while Benjamin Netanyahu continues to threaten bombing Iran and right wing US politicians demand it.

The discussion held by Chis Hayes was a step in the right direction to dispel myths and blatant lies and put the facts and reality on the table. The conversation still has a long way to go.

Mar 05 2012

Hurtling Towards a War with Iran

In his annual speech to AIPAC, President Obama said:



“Already, there is too much loose talk of war. Over the last few weeks, such talk has only benefited the Iranian government, by driving up the price of oil, which they depend on to fund their nuclear program. For the sake of Israel’s security, America’s security, and the peace and security of the world, now is not the time for bluster; now is the time to let our increased pressure sink in, and to sustain the broad international coalition we have built. Now is the time to heed that timeless advice from Teddy Roosevelt: speak softly, carry a big stick. And as we do, rest assured that the Iranian government will know our resolve – that our coordination with Israel will continue.”

If there is “too much loose talk of war”, perhaps President Obama needs to stop threatening to start one with Iran. The only ones who are driving up the price of oil with loose talk are Obama and the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. The president needs to stop perpetuating lies that his own national security advisors have said are not true and of which there is no evidence:

“A nuclear-armed Iran is completely counter to Israel’s security interests. But it is also counter to the national security interests of the United States. Indeed, the entire world has an interest in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. A nuclear-armed Iran would thoroughly undermine the non-proliferation regime that we have done so much to build. There are risks that an Iranian nuclear weapon could fall into the hands of a terrorist organization. It is almost certain that others in the region would feel compelled to get their own nuclear weapon, triggering an arms race in one of the most volatile regions in the world. It would embolden a regime that has brutalized its own people, and it would embolden Iran’s proxies, who have carried out terrorist attacks from the Levant to southwest Asia.”

Iran, like the United States signed and ratified the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

And this statement certainly doesn’t sound like Obama was backing away from banging the drum for a war:

“Iran’s leaders should know that I do not have a policy of containment,” he said. “I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And as I’ve made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.”

Just how legal an attack, or even the threat of one, on Iran would be is discussed on this article by Glenn Greenwald at Salon:

Regardless of how one wants to rationalize these threats of an offensive military attack – they’re necessary to persuade the Israelis not to attack, they’re necessary to gain leverage with Iran, etc. – the U.N. Charter, to which the U.S. is a signatory, explicitly prohibits not just a military attack on another nation, but also the issuance of threats of such an attack. From Chapter II, paragraph 4:

   All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

Does this matter at all? Should we even pretend to care in any way what the U.N. Charter prohibits and whether the U.S. Government’s threats to attack Iran directly violate its core provisions? I’m not asking this simple question rhetorically but rather to hear the answer.

The UN was of little concern to George W. Bush; it’s no wonder it’s of little concern for Barack H. Obama

So what are Iran’s leaders saying? From Juan Cole:

“A week and a half ago, Khamenei gave a major foreign policy speech in which he said,

The Iranian nation has never pursued and will never pursue nuclear weapons. There is no doubt that the decision makers in the countries opposing us know well that Iran is not after nuclear weapons because the Islamic Republic, logically, religiously and theoretically, considers the possession of nuclear weapons a grave sin and believes the proliferation of such weapons is senseless, destructive and dangerous.

There is no evidence that Iran is trying to even develop a nuclear weapon. Getting into another war in the Middle East is not in the best interests of the US, Israel or the rest of the world.

Barack are you listening?

Mar 28 2011

Pique the Geek 20110327: How Nuclear Reactors Work. Part the Second

There was a good bit of feedback from last week’s installment, and I want to point out that I am always glad when people point out flaws in my treatment.  I emphasized a particular sort of reactor, and neglected a couple of other ones.  I intend to set this right tonight.

The concern that seems to be in the forefront at present is the radiation leakage from the stricken plants.  As I write this (20110326), it is still not clear whence it comes, but I suspect that fuel rods are compromised and that nuclear fuel rod material is becoming commingled with the water that is supposed to cool the systems.

I say that because it is unlikely that if the spent fuel rod ponds were the source that the high levels of radioactive materials would have found their way into the turbine rooms, where the subcontractors were exposed to extremely high levels of radiation.

The primary thrust of this piece is to go through some of the fission products in the spent (and in use) fuel rods.  This will give us a basic understanding as to why used nuclear fuel is so much more dangerous than new fuel.