Tag Archives: nuclear energy

As Historic Flooding Grips Texas, Groups Demand Nuclear Plant Be Shut Down

“This storm and flood is absolutely without precedent even before adding the possibility of a nuclear accident that could further imperil millions of people who are already battling for their lives.”

By Jon Queally, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-29-2017

The South Texas Project nuclear power facility in Bay City, Texas could be under extreme threat from historic flood waters, groups warned on Tuesday. (Photo: STP)

As record-breaking rainfall and unprecedented flooding continue to batter the greater Houston area and along the Gulf coast on Tuesday, energy watchdogs groups are warning of “a credible threat of a severe accident” at two nuclear reactors still operating at full capacity in nearby Bay City, Texas.

Three groups—Beyond Nuclear, South Texas Association for Responsible Energy, and the SEED Coalition—are calling for the immediate shutdown of the South Texas Project (STP) which sits behind an embankment they say could be overwhelmed by the raging flood waters and torrential rains caused by Hurricane Harvey. Continue reading

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New Leak at Hanford Nuclear Waste Site is ‘Catastrophic,’ Worker Warns

‘This is probably the biggest event ever to happen in tank farm history.’

By Nadia Prupis, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 4-19-2016

DOE said Monday said the rupture was an "anticipated" result of ongoing efforts to fully decommission the most contaminated nuclear site in the nation. (Photo: Tobin/flickr/cc)

DOE said Monday said the rupture was an “anticipated” result of ongoing efforts to fully decommission the most contaminated nuclear site in the nation. (Photo: Tobin/flickr/cc)

A leak at the Hanford nuclear site in Washington state has prompted warnings of “catastrophic” consequences, as workers attempt to clean up more than eight inches of toxic waste from one of 28 underground tanks holding radioactive materials leftover from plutonium production.

Alarms on the site began sounding on Sunday, leading workers to discover 8.4 inches of toxic waste in between the inner and outer walls of tank AY-102, which has been slowly leaking since 2011 but has never accumulated that amount of waste before. Continue reading

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Seventy Years After Little Boy – Have We Learned Anything?

Seventy years ago today, the world as we knew it changed forever. On that day, the United States became the only country to ever use nuclear weapons against another country.

At the time this photo was made, smoke billowed 20,000 feet above Hiroshima while smoke from the burst of the first atomic bomb had spread over 10,000 feet on the target at the base of the rising column. Photo public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

At the time this photo was made, smoke billowed 20,000 feet above Hiroshima while smoke from the burst of the first atomic bomb had spread over 10,000 feet on the target at the base of the rising column. Photo public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Somewhere between 45,000 and 80,000 people died that day, and between 19,500 and 40,000 people died in Nagasaki three days later. The same number would die as a direct result of the two bombs over the next four months.

The genie had been let out of the bottle. What had been accomplished could be duplicated. The Soviets, who already had a nuclear program underway, made the acquisition of a nuclear weapon a top priority. The arms race had come to “peacetime,” and the military-industrial complex grew in power by leaps and bounds.

Of course, you need delivery systems for these weapons. Besides strategic bombers, the United States and the Soviet Union both had missile development programs. Where did that knowledge come from? Scientists who worked for the Nazis at places such as the Peenemünde Army Research Center. Here in the US, the recruitment was known as Operation Paperclip.

Since Truman’s order authorizing Operation Paperclip expressly excluded anyone found “to have been a member of the Nazi Party, and more than a nominal participant in its activities, or an active supporter of Nazi militarism,” the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (JIOA) created false employment and political biographies for the scientists, while also erasing from public record the scientists’ Nazi Party memberships and régime affiliations. Once that was done, the scientists were granted security clearances by the U.S. government to work in the United States.

So, not only did we (the United States), kill thousands of people in a horrific manner never used before or since, we also brought in war criminals to make the weapons even more deadly. But wait! There’s more…

We hear from various media outlets about the dangers of relaxing sanctions against Iran, and how this will lead to Iran getting nuclear weapons. Where did Iran get its nuclear technology to begin with? If you guessed the United States, you guessed right. Under the “Atoms for Peace” program proposed by President Eisenhower in the early 1950s, American Machine and Foundry (AMF) built nuclear reactors in Iran, Pakistan and Israel. Notice that the only country of those three that hasn’t built a nuclear weapon is Iran…

The memorial at Ground Zero, Nagasaki. Photo by Dean S. Pemberton (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The memorial at Ground Zero, Nagasaki. Photo by Dean S. Pemberton (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

It’s been seventy years, and the horror is still present. There’s still close to 200,000 people alive today that are classified by the Japanese government as hibakusha; a Japanese word that literally translates as “explosion-affected people,” and refers to people who were exposed to radiation from the bombings.

We in the United States claim to be the only judge of who can or can’t have nuclear weapons, while at the same time we’re responsible for the spreading of nuclear technology to the very countries who we worry about, and we’re the only country to ever use one. Our hypocrisy can be staggering at times.

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Your Move, US Congress: EU and UN Back Iran Nuclear Accord

International bodies back diplomatic agreement, agree to lift punishing economic sanctions

Written by Lauren McCauley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-20-15.

United Nations Security Council. Photo via Twitter

United Nations Security Council. Photo via Twitter

Sending a strong signal to the U.S. Congress to follow suit, both the European Union and United Nations Security Council on Monday endorsed the nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers.

As part of the accord, both bodies agreed to end crippling economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for new limits to its domestic nuclear program.

Representatives from each of the 15 countries within the Security Council unanimously voted to back the landmark deal reached last week between Iran and the so-called P5+1 Nations, which include the United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France, Germany, and the European Union.

Following the Security Council vote, U.S. President Barack Obama said he hoped the move would “send a clear message that the overwhelming number of countries” recognize that diplomacy is “by far our strongest approach to ensuring that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon.”

According to the text, in exchange for Iran’s compliance, seven UN resolutions passed since 2006 to sanction Iran will be gradually terminated. However, BBC reports, “The resolution also allows for the continuation of the UN arms embargo on Iran for up to five years and the ban on sales of ballistic missile technology for up to eight.”

The UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is charged with the “verification and monitoring of Iran’s nuclear commitments.”

Meeting in Brussels, EU Foreign Ministers also formally committed to lift economic sanctions against Iran. The lawmakers, though, also elected to maintain the EU’s ban on the supply of ballistic missile technology and sanctions related to human rights, in accordance with the agreement.

The votes mark another step forward within a major worldwide agreement, reached after years of arduous negotiations.

The onus now falls on the U.S. Congress to also approve the accord, which was formally given to both Houses on Sunday, beginning a 60-day deliberation period. Conservative U.S. lawmakers and other warhawks, echoing the words of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have tried to thwart the international agreement.

“There is broad international consensus around this issue,” Obama continued in his address. Then speaking beyond the agreement’s critics, he added: “My working assumption is that Congress will pay attention to that broad basic consensus.”

More than 150,000 people have so far signed a petition calling on Congress to back the deal and take us off “the path to confrontation and war with Iran.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

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New Film on Indian Point Explores ‘Nuclear Power in the Age of Fukushima’

Film alleges former nuke commission chair was ousted by pro-industry forces who thought he was being ‘too aggressive’ in his efforts to protect the public.

Indian Point sits on the east bank of the Hudson River in Buchanan, New York, just south of Peekskill. (Photo: Indian Point Film)

Written by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams, published April 16, 2015

A new documentary, premiering Friday at the Tribeca Film Festival, provides a glimpse inside the aging nuclear plant known as Indian Point—as well as a slew of new arguments against nuclear power.

The 94-minute film, titled Indian Point and directed by Ivy Meeropol, features unprecedented footage of the three-unit nuclear power plant station, which was designed in the 1950s and sits in Buchanan, New York, just 35 miles up the Hudson River from Times Square.
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Obama, India and Avoiding Another Bhopal

Bhopal Memorial. Photo Luca Frediani uploaded by Simone.lippi [CC BY-SA 2.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Bhopal Memorial. Photo Luca Frediani uploaded by Simone.lippi [CC BY-SA 2.0] from Wikimedia Commons

President Obama and India’s Prime Minister Modi announced a deal has been reached over a years-long delay in the civilian nuclear industry within India during a three day visit from the United States leader.

The U.S. signed a deal with India in 2008 to provide civilian nuclear technology. But implementation has been stalled over an Indian law that makes companies that build and supply the equipment liable in case of an accident.

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Twenty Eight Years Later

Entrance to Chernobyl. By amosek (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Entrance to Chernobyl. By amosek (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

On April 26, 1986 at 1:23 AM local time, Reactor #4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant near the town of Pripyat, Ukraine, exploded during a reactor systems test. Two workers died within hours of non-radiological causes, and 40 hours later, the 50,000 people residents of the town were told to evacuate the area. Shortly, the 14,000 residents of Chernobyl itself were told to evacuate. In total, 115,000 people were evacuated from the area in 1986, with another 220,000 being evacuated in subsequent years.

The explosion and the fire that raged for ten days afterwards discharged many radioactive substances. The amount of isotopes released was 300 times greater than the Hiroshima explosion, and in some places, the level of radiation was almost 77,000 times higher than the average background norm and 40 times the maximum permissible.

While Ukraine, Belarus and Russia saw the most contamination, Austria, Finland, Germany, Norway, Romania and Sweden saw contamination as well. The fallout even made it across the ocean to the North American continent. The total death toll is uncertain. The official death toll is 4,000 including the firemen and plant workers at the site as well as radiation burn victims. However, Greenpeace estimates the death toll to be over 200,000 for the population of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia, and up to 6 million people globally.

Sign near the control point of Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. By Tiia Monto (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Sign near the control point of Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. By Tiia Monto (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

These days, Chernobyl, Pripyat and the surrounding area make up the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Zone of Alienation, commonly known as the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Created shortly after the disaster, it’s grown to cover 1000 square miles around the plant. It’s estimated that less than 200 people live within the zone, with another 3000 working on containment and studies. The workers work either 4 days on and 3 days off, or 15 days on and 15 days off, and they’re monitored for exposure to radiation.

Not surprisingly, Chernobyl’s also become a tourist destination. The background radiation’s fallen to a much lower level (most of the radiation emitted right after the disaster was from short lived isotopes), and tourists as well as researchers are becoming more and more common.

Have we as a global society learned anything from the Chernobyl disaster? In the case of Europe, Chernobyl brought environmental and clean energy issues front and center as political issues in Germany and other European countries, as it did in the former Soviet bloc. I feel this was a primary motivation behind the solar energy explosion we’ve seen over the last few years in Germany, for example.

power-reactors-map-smBut, then there’s the other side. The current unrest in Ukraine is endangering the cleanup efforts at Chernobyl. We saw first hand what devastation a nuclear accident could cause, yet we still have nuclear power plants built on flood plains operating here in the U.S. We still have nuclear reactors on fault lines. We have many reactors operating near or past their original service life span estimates. And, we can’t forget the ongoing disaster at Fukushima.

When will we ever learn?

 

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