Sunday, July 31, 2011

Care for an after dinner DeMint?

Senator Tea Party

"DeMint is specific and focused on what change, exactly, he wants: passage — not just a vote — of a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution. Without it, he says, no consideration should be given to raising the nation's borrowing limit. Even, he says, if the country runs out of money for paying all its bills after Aug. 2."
"Earlier in the week, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, the Republicans' presidential nominee in 2008 and one of the party's biggest maverick, disparaged the tea party by name and DeMint implicitly for acting is if a balanced-budget amendment could be passed as part of a debt-ceiling increase under such a tight deadline.

"Maybe some people (who) have only been in this body for six or seven months or so really believe that," said McCain, a balanced-budget amendment supporter himself. "Others know better."
The part about this picture that maddens me is how happy Sarah must be about now - 'the little engine that could' bring down the Republican Party. So we will see what today brings.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Obama Extends Final Invitation to Come Together

In a last ditch effort to come to an agreement, President Obama extends a final invitation to Congress:

Tiptoe through the window
By the window, that is where I'll be
Come tiptoe through the tulips with me

Oh, tiptoe from the garden
By the garden of the willow tree
And tiptoe through the tulips with me

Knee deep in flowers we'll stray
We'll keep the showers away
And if I kiss you in the garden, in the moonlight
Will you pardon me?
And tiptoe through the tulips with me 

Cardinal Nation - Population Increase +1

Saturday, July 30, 2011
Cardinals 13, Cubs 5

Friday, July 29, 2011
Cardinals 9, Cubs 2

I can't believe I am writing these words - "Today I became a CARDINAL FAN for the rest of the 2011 baseball season.

Long story short, my grandson offered up a bet to me prior to the start of this Cardinal-Cub series: If the Cubs win the series HE would become a Cub fan for the rest of the season, if the Cardinals win, I would become a Cardinal fan. He was quick to add that 'he had more to risk than I did." We shook hands and I couldn't wait for the series to begin.

I mean if I can say one thing about my (former) beloved Cubs - they never fail to disappoint. So here I am eating crow - not cardinal. But I am never one to welch on a bet no matter how painful the pay-off might be.

Did I mention that I can't wait for the season to be over. Sigh............

Thinking More About Getting Back To My Book

Bristol Palin's 'Before and After' Look

I was reading about Bristol Palin's book tour - her new book entitled "Not Afraid of My Life; My Journey So Far".  Forgive me, but I had to chuckle just a little bit, this coming from a young girl of 20 years old.

And then I thought - wait a minute!!!! Twenty years old and she has had a whirlwind gig on "Dancing With The Stars", a mom that was governor of a northern state AND vice presidential candidate, and the kid gets to hunt moose on her spring breaks. She's is right, she has had a journey so far.

Heck I would give up the DWTS gig and just be happy to settle for some cheek implants. Maybe if I spent more time working on writing my book, get it finished and published and sip vodka and tonics while I bank the book profits, I could take some time off and get my own jaw fixed as well. I mean really, I can barely open wide enough for a Super-sized Big Mac...

~ ~ ~

Friday, July 29, 2011

Meet My Neighbor Illinois - It has Spent Fuel Issues As Well

DISCLAIMER - Please understand that Argonne National Laboratory and the Nuclear Engineering Division are not responsible for the contents of any of the websites listed, other than any which originate within Argonne. No endorsement of any organization or site is intended by this linking, and none should be inferred.

Peters and Fanning appear on NBC-5 report on Illinois nuclear power industry and spent fuel recycle research at Argonne

Mar. 30, 2011

On March 25, 2011, Chicago NBC TV affiliate Channel 5 reported on a public forum conducted by Illinois U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk to discuss the state of the nuclear energy industry in Illinois. The report also looked at ongoing research at Argonne National Laboratory to recycle spent nuclear fuel.

Mark Peters, Argonne Deputy Director for Programs, participated in the forum; NE nuclear engineer Thomas Fanning was also interviewed for the report.

~ ~ ~

Illinois is home to more spent fuel rods than any other state in the nation. Until the Yucca Mountain storage facility was nixed, Illinois thought it had a handle on storage of its spent fuel. Illinois has six power plants and eleven reactors and is running out of storage.

Exelon, who operates the plants in Illinois and elsewhere says it's goal is to begin dry-cask storage by 2015. But this will still leave open as to what the plans will be for long-term permanent storage of spent fuel.

Illinois has had a moratorium on nuclear plant construction since 1987 and any plans by the legislature to lift this ban has been postponed in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

Approximately half of the nuclear reactors in the United States use the spent fuel storage pool system, which at best was designed for temporary storage of spent fuel rods as they "cooled" down enough to be moved into a dry cask storage system.

As the debate continues with the Department of Energy on plans to take over the long-term permanent storage of spent fuel, reactor operators more and more will have to look to safe on-site dry storage. Since the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, the storage of spent nuclear fuel has been under even more scrutiny.

The funny thing is that garbage that we humans generate on a daily basis can get a whole lot more attention when it isn't handled properly and in a timely manner. Witness New York during a garbage pick-up strike years ago:

Let hope we don't have to wait until the nuclear plant operators start putting their spent fuel out at the curb before we begin to address this problem.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Learning More About WIPP

From PBS: 'Need To Know'

A solution for nuclear waste?

This week, the Japanese government and the owner of the Fukushima nuclear power plant announced they’ve now stabilized the plant. They also acknowledged the final clean up may take a decade or more.
Japan’s nuclear disaster reminds us of the potential danger of the common practice of storing spent atomic fuel next to nuclear reactors. At Fukushima, spent fuel rods were damaged and released radiation, making the crisis even worse.

It raises an obvious question here in the United States: What should be done with the spent fuel that’s stored next to our own reactors? A presidential blue ribbon commission is due to offer its solution next week in a draft report. Its preliminary report is already out — it recommends burying the waste deep underground. But where? We got a rare tour inside a unique underground facility in the New Mexico desert that just might provide the answer to that question.

Follow this link to view this excellent video - things you need to know:   Nuclear waste Solution?, Need To Know, PBS Video

Watch the rest of the segments from this episode.

Nuclear Waste: A Three Part Series from The California Report

Nuclear Waste in California, Part 1

Download audio (MP3)  Craig Miller

Wikimedia Commons

It's been nearly 50 years since the first commercial nuclear power plant went online in California. And all the radioactive waste generated since then is still there, piling up at four reactor sites. Many see it as a serious threat to public safety, with no end in sight. Today in the first of first of three reports on the nuclear waste dilemma, we look at where the problem begins. Reporter: Craig Miller

Nuclear Waste in California, Part 2: What Can We Learn From Sweden?

Download audio (MP3)  Ingrid Becker

This week we're looking at a problem that's burdened California and the rest of the country for years. What to do with used fuel from commercial reactors. Nuclear waste is really a global problem and today, we look at a country where a permanent solution may be close at hand. Reporter: Ingrid Becker

 ~ ~ ~

Part 3: Inside a Nuclear Waste Repository: 2,000 Feet Below the Earth

Download audio (MP3) Craig Miller / KQED

A transport container for nuclear waste, outside the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.
Reporter: Craig Miller

In California, spent nuclear fuel is piling up outside reactors. Across the globe, Sweden's nuclear industry has learned to work with communities to devise a permanent disposal solution, something with which the United States is still grappling.

However in New Mexico, a private company operates the world's only functioning geologic repository for one kind of nuclear waste.

On a parched plain in the southeastern corner of New Mexico, Bobby St. John demonstrates the many layers of protection inside the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). St. John and more than 700 other employees work here at WIPP, for a subsidiary of the San Francisco-based URS Corporation.

"We're gettin' ready to enter a radiological control area," St. John says, stepping into an airlock. "In the event something were to happen to this -- exterior of this building -- the air would rush into the building instead of out, which allows us to ensure that nothing gets out to the environment."

Inside "waste bays" like this one, workers remove the waste from transport containers.
"They look like giant thermoses. And that's exactly what it is," St. John explains. "It's a nuclear regulatory commission-certified type B package."

Every week, about 30 truckloads arrive at WIPP for entombment. After removing the waste packages from their transport casks, workers place it in stainless steel canisters, and lower it 2,000 feet to its final home.

At the bottom is an enormous salt bed, left behind after the Permian Sea dried up 230 million years ago. Since then, the salt has remained virtually undisturbed by groundwater or seismic activity.

"Within the next few hundred years, the salt will literally encapsulate the waste, and it's gone," Bobby St. John says. "And that was the whole idea behind the salt, is that it's permanent disposal."

While this is a permanent solution for some nuclear material, it does not accept any kind of high-level waste, such as spent fuel from nuclear power plants. The site was intended only for intermediate material called ?transuranic? waste, that comes from government labs and places doing nuclear R&D for the Pentagon.

It may seem like the criteria for the ideal nuclear waste disposal site is the most boring place on earth, but St. John says with a laugh, "Boring is good in this business."

And the last decade has indeed been pretty boring: WIPP has been taking in low-level radioactive waste since 1999 without a major incident. Once they took in some of the wrong kind of waste and had to return it, but that was it.

Today, the facility is about 40 percent full. At public meetings between the federal Department of Energy and local residents, there's talk of expanding the site, as well as the mission.

Community Largely Supportive

Ray Richardson and his wife run the aptly-named No-Whiner Diner, located on Highway 62, the main road through Carlsbad. From the window booths here, one can see the truckloads of waste headed for the disposal facility.

"They're talking about bringing high-level waste in," Richardson says. "There's always the environmental aspect of that, and the fear of that. I don't know that it's justified."
Justified or not, fears do linger.

For example, Henrietta Chavez, who works in a downtown Carlsbad fabric store, harbors a kind of free-floating anxiety over the radiation somehow escaping its underground tomb.

"My main concern is the water," she explains. "I just don't think it's safe enough. I know they keep an eye on 'em and stuff -- but how do we know? And another thing is they tell us it's low-grade. We don't know if it's low-grade or not."

Some statewide environmental groups have long been wary of WIPP and oppose any kind of expansion. But from the first atomic bomb test in 1945 to the high-profile government labs that still operate here, many New Mexicans seem to embrace their nuclear legacy.

Ray Richardson is one of the many who does. "I mean WIPP's beneficial in a lot of ways; financially, educationally, it provides a service that needs to be provided," he says.

Farok Sharif, who runs the WIPP operation for federal contractor URS Corporation, says, "It's not just a matter of us bringing in good jobs. You know, we are part of this community."

Involving the local community in decisions about the project's future has been crucial.

"Credibility that we, that the promises that we made, we kept," Sharif continues. "Transparency, making sure that everything is wide open. We have nothing to hide."

So far, that formula's worked for Ray Richardson.

"And now the question is, if they expand it into weapons-grade uranium or spent fuel rods, they will have to come back to this town again and explain how they're gonna transport it, how they're gonna store it..." he says. "It has to go somewhere. Somebody has to bite the bullet."

And somebody has to decide what to do with it. A White House Commission is scheduled to issue recommendations this Friday for the high-level commercial waste stacking up at nuclear power plants, including four sites in California. But a permanent solution for how and where to dispose of it is still likely to be decades off.

~ ~ ~
  • More: Climate Watch : Track the history of California nuclear waste with our atomic timeline. 
  • More: Photo slideshow : See photos of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico 

Nuclear Waste Reprocessing - For Hard Core Enthusiasts Only

A Calm and Thoughtful Discussion

Community Forum Nuclear Waste 
by FAScients 4 25 2011 
Dr. Ivan Oelrich: Nuclear Waste Reprocessing

A Class Project Shared - Good Job!

And here is a comment from the creator of this little video:

Uploaded by on May 2, 2009
"a project i did for a class.... it was supposed to be on how nuclear energy is bad, but i don't believe that, i believe nuclear WASTE is bad, so heres the end product, hope yah like it... the song is Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden, i did get the permission to use the song from A&M Records, but the movie is of my own work."

To calmeister007: Just so you know we are shouting from the rooftops.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Secretary Chu on Nuclear Waste

Oh boy - I sure feel a lot better after seeing this...

Uploaded by on Jun 10, 2009

Senator James E. Risch questions Secretary of Energy Steven Chu about waste disposal and Yucca Mountain during a hearing by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

Follow-Up Posted 7/28/11:

When I watched the video above I did not understand what WIPP was that the Senator was referring to. I have since researched this.

WIPP - Is the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. It is located in Carlsbad, New Mexico. Here is a link to their website DOE - WIPP Website They have some interesting videos that explain some of their operations.

General Electric - Something's Wrong with This Pickture

General Electric announced today it is shutting down it's X-Ray Division and moving it to China. This is a company that earned $14 billion - $5 billion in the United States, last year and paid ZERO in income taxes.

No let's not tax the "job-creators" - if we did maybe they couldn't afford to take their job over-seas.

Something is Wrong with This Picture

"Golly, Mrs. Cunningham, I sure would love to stay and have a piece of apple pie. That would be, well...just swell. Thanks."

Oh, and did I happen to mention that General Electric Company paid ZERO income taxes in the United States last year?

Yucca Mountain - NIMBY

The tunnel-boring machine at Yucca Mountain

DOE Says No Chance For Yucca Atomic Waste Site

A top U.S. Energy Department official on Monday said there is no chance of reviving a plan to build a long-term underground atomic waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, Reuters reported (see GSN, June 13).

"We do not see Yucca Mountain as a solution here," Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman said during an international conference in Vienna, Austria, on nuclear safety. "It is time to turn the page and try to find a better set of solutions."

Republican lawmakers and a number of Democrats have strongly protested the Obama administration's 2010 decision to request withdrawal of a license application for Yucca Mountain with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The waste site had faced considerable opposition from Nevada politicians and residents.

"I think any policy -- the success of which can only be measured over many decades -- can only succeed with strong bipartisan support and strong support from the communities affected," Poneman said.

"It was equally clear that Yucca Mountain was not going to have that kind of support," the Obama official continued.

The commission determined that Yucca Mountain was a reasonable nuclear waste storage site, even while the administration questioned its safety, GOP legislators said in June.

The White House has directed a blue-ribbon task force to explore alternatives for the storage of U.S. civilian nuclear waste. There are 104 atomic reactors in the United States and their generated waste is held in temporary storage conditions that have been criticized by some as vulnerable to attack (see GSN, March 24).

Meanwhile, International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano in Vienna urged nations to analyze safety threats to their atomic energy reactors within the next year and a half. The assessment would be intended to ensure they would not be undone by natural disasters similar to the earthquake and tsunami that severely damaged Japan's Fukushima Daiichi power plant in March (see GSN, June 20).

Amano additionally suggested enhanced global safety inspections, or peer assessments, on reactors across the planet that would be overseen by the Vienna-based body. That suggestion could face opposition from countries that wish for safety issues to remain under their governments' purview.
Poneman said Washington was a "strong supporter" of the peer assessment suggestion. "We have called in the IAEA many times to provide additional oversight," he said.

"I think the question that is going to be presented is whether the mandate of the IAEA is going to run to that additional level," the Energy Department official said (Fredrik Dahl, Reuters, June 21).

Source: Global Security Newswire

So my questions remains..."What are we going to do with all this SHIT?"

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Remember Reddy Kilowatt?

Hi My Name is Reddy Kilowatt...

Reddy came on the scene back in 1937, just a year before I was born, he was the cute little spokesperson for the electric utilities industry.

You would see him everywhere, on the inserts in our monthly utility bills reminding us to always be careful of downed electrical wires and not to climb up those enticing high voltage power line towers.

He would show up at our schools and even special events, always there to remind us of the wonders of electricity and to promote its use.Then in the 1960's the dimmer switch was discovered and a shift began toward conservation rather than consumption.

But before Reddy Kilowatt was totally phased out he underwent some hip new changes. He was on hand to help explain a new energy source that was beginning to emerge on the scene.

Still our same old friendly Reddy Kilowatt but with the addition of a superhero's cape and... are those gloves... some kind of special safety gloves that Reddy has on? Hmmm...

Wow - FUSION - sounds simple enough for even a kid to understand.

But that was then, simpler times, simpler solutions and probably a whole lot of not knowing all the facts.

Which brings me to question Reddy Kilowatt and some of his career choices to bring news of the "wonder-world of electricity" to us. Nuclear energy isn't really child's play and the safety issue of spent fuel storage on a long-term permanent basis really can't be solved with crayons and a coloring book.

I think the time has come for a new super hero to enter the scene and start explaining the real facts of nuclear energy to us.


St. Louis Post-Dispatch Letter to the Editor

St. Louis Post- Dispatch  - Letters to the Editor July 26, 2011

Waste still in question

While Ameren Missouri and the Fair Energy Rate Action Fund negotiate to gain consumer protection, the most critical issue goes unnoticed.

The fight in the state Legislature has been over Construction Work In Progress, a means by which Ameren can raise rates to help pay for the construction of a new nuclear plant at Callaway.

The question that must be asked: What is Ameren's plan for permanent, long-term storage of the used fuel being produced at the existing nuclear plant?

Since 1984, when the Callaway plant began, all of its used fuel has been stored on site in used fuel pools.

Spent fuel pools provide a temporary site where used fuel can be cooled sufficiently before being moved to long-term dry cask storage. Callaway does not have dry cask storage and relies on the spent fuel pools for temporary and long-term storage.

The Yucca Mountain waste repository has been scrapped because of its proximity to active earthquake faults. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has allowed reactor operators to store four times more waste in the spent fuel pools than they're designed to handle.

These are serious safety issues that are not being addressed. Ameren has no business thinking about a second plant until it can work out safe and long-term, if not permanent, storage for waste already being generated.

The residents of Missouri should demand that these safety measures be addressed before anyone talks about financing a new nuclear plant.

Anna A. Pick • Chesterfield

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Time Machine

  click link to view

Caution: hold on to your hats, it's dizzying

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Lucian Freud Dies Wednesday in London

Lucian Freud born December 8, 1922 in Berlin, Germany was the grandson on Sigmund Freud. He died Wednesday in London at age 88. It was said of him "that he lived to paint and painted  until the day he died."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

And Now A Word From...

Pluto still in recovery from being stripped of
its full-blown planet status gets a new moon
and is heard plaintively humming,

"Shine A Little Light On Me..."

The People Did It!! - How Germany Reversed Its Nuclear Power Policy

When I am in my car I always have NPR (National Public Radio) on, it at least gives my grand-kids a good laugh, dispelling the myth that only music emits from a  r-a-d-i-o  s-t-a-t-i-o-n. Anyway today's offering really perked up my ears, to the point I actually stayed sitting in my car and listened to the end of the program - despite 100+ degree heat. 

Today's program answered for me the question I had on Germany's sudden reversal on the nuclear power plant issue. Since Chancellor Angel Merkel announced that Germany would close all of their nuclear power plants by 2022 she rose to yes, almost angel heights in my eyes. But today on NPR I learned the reason for this reversal of position - it was the people!!!!

Do you hear that? The people made the difference -- "People Over Politics". Learning this has given me renewed hope, that if we can get the word out to the people, let them learn the facts, the true facts about nuclear power and the whole story, they too will join together and make their voices heard.

~ ~ ~

Germany’s Anti-Nuclear Shift

Anti-nuclear protest signs dot Germany's rural landscape. (Photo: Gerry Hadden)
Anti-nuclear protest signs dot Germany's rural landscape. (Photo: Gerry Hadden)

Germany, Europe’s economic powerhouse, is undertaking a radical overhaul of its energy policy. The German government has pledged to ditch nuclear power by the year 2022. This significantly moves up an earlier end-date of 2040. The decision comes in the wake of the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan. But that accident isn’t the only reason Germany’s government has approved the fast-track nuclear phase-out. Politics and popular protests have been the real catalysts for change. 

Germany has been a hotbed of anti-nuclear activism for decades. You might remember those bumper stickers from the 70s—“Atomkraft—Nien Danke.” But the country has also long been committed to fighting climate change. And even some greens have embraced nuclear power as a lower-carbon alternative to fossil fuels.

So when push came to shove, Chancellor Angel Merkel decided last fall to keep Germany’s 17 nuclear plants running for 30 more years, to help meet the country’s CO2 emissions targets.

But then came the multiple meltdowns in Fukushima.

In late March, some 250,000 Germans took to the streets demanding the government close the country’s nuclear facilities immediately. Just days later, Germany’s anti-nuclear Green Party made historic gains in local elections. It was a huge blow to Merkel’s nuclear plans, and in April she finally relented.

“Step by step we will abandon nuclear energy by 2022,” she said. “This path is a big challenge for Germany, but it also means huge opportunities for future generations.”

It was a day Germany’s environmental movement had been fighting for, for decades: nuclear power will be phased out within ten years. And the country’s greens are relishing their victory. Katharina Fegebank, president of the Green Party in Hamburg, said the movement deserves most of the credit for the phase-out.

“Now our policy has become reality,” she said, “a political agenda shared by all other parties and that is fantastic. We should all be very proud of what we achieved over the last 30 years. It is our victory.”

Germany’s anti-nuclear movement has its roots in the 1960s. It began as a mix of anti-Cold War activists, environmentalists and locals opposed to nuclear waste storage sites in their communities. 

And it has gained momentum from other nuclear accidents.

On a recent day, long time activist Kerstin Rudek stood outside a quiet train depot hidden among farms and forest in Lower Saxony, in northern Germany. Once a year, waste from Germany’s nuclear plants is brought here for transport to a nearby storage site. 

“In 1979 there was a trek starting from here to Hannover,” she recounted. “When this trek started it was only a few farmers with a few tractors trying to get to Hannover. In this week Harrisburg happened.” 

Harrisburg, being the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

“So instead there were about 100,000 people reaching Hannover. It was a very big manifestation.”

The waste storage facility, in the village of Gorleben, was eventually built despite popular opposition. But the anti-nuke demonstrations have continued with remarkable strength over the decades since, until Fukushima pushed popular sentiment to a point that the government couldn’t ignore.

But Rudek said that despite the decision to phase out nuclear power, protesters need to keep the pressure on to make sure future German governments don’t back peddle on the 2022 deadline.

“We see the problem that people might not fight for their rights themselves,” she said, “and just leave it to the parliament, and this will not work out. We have to be stronger than before.”

But phasing out nuclear power and dealing with the waste is just one half of Germany’s post-nuclear energy challenge. The other half is finding ways to replace the huge amount of lost power with renewable energy sources. 

Chancellor Merkel says she is committed to that. But Kristoph von Lieven, of Greenpeace in Hamburg, said the government must put its full backing behind the plan for it to work.

“They’ve supported the nuclear power plants on in Germany in last 20 years with over 200 billion euros,” he said. “This money, invested in renewables, would be more than sufficient.”

Money is just one of many obstacles as Germany gears up to switch from nuclear to renewable energy. And even environmentalists can’t all agree on the way forward.

Photo Information:
Kudek said 32 years ago a tiny, local protest here against the proposed site suddenly went viral. Activist Kersten Kudek stands beneath a giant yellow X erected in woodlands near a nuclear waste storage facility. The X has become the dominant symbol of popular rejection of the storage sites. (Photo: Gerry Hadden)

Fukushima - Black Rain

A July 19, 2011 Update by Arnie Gundersen

And who is this Arnold Gundersen? - Here you go:

Arnie is an energy advisor with 39-years of nuclear power engineering experience. A former nuclear industry senior vice president, he earned his Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in nuclear engineering, holds a nuclear safety patent, and was a licensed reactor operator. During his nuclear industry career, Arnie managed and coordinated projects at 70-nuclear power plants around the country. He currently speaks on television, radio, and at public meetings on the need for a new paradigm in energy production. An independent nuclear engineering and safety expert, Arnie provides testimony on nuclear operations, reliability, safety, and radiation issues to the NRC, Congressional and State Legislatures, and Government Agencies and Officials throughout the US, Canada, and internationally. In 2008, he was appointed by the Vermont Senate President to be the first Chair of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant Oversight Panel. He has testified in numerous cases and before many different legislative bodies including the Czech Republic Senate. Using knowledge from his Masters Thesis on Cooling Towers, Arnie analyzed and predicted problems with Vermont Yankee’s cooling towers three years prior to their 2007 collapse. His Environmental Court testimony concerned available and economically viable alternatives to cooling towers in order to reduce consumptive water use and the ecological damage caused by cooling tower drift and heated effluents. As the former vice president in an engineering organization, Arnie led the team of engineers who developed the plans for decommissioning Shippingport, the first major nuclear power plant in the US to be fully dismantled. He was also an invited author on the first DOE Decommissioning Handbook. Source term reconstruction is a method of forensic engineering used to calculate radiation releases from various nuclear facilities after nuclear incidents or accidents. Arnie is frequently called upon by public officials, attorneys, and intervenors, to perform source term reconstructions. His source term reconstruction efforts vary. Arnie has calculated exposures to oil workers, who received radiation exposure while working on wells. He has also calculated radiation releases to children with health concerns, who live near a nuclear facility, like the one that carted radioactive sewage off-site and spread it on farmers' fields. Finally, he has performed an accurate source term construction of the radiation releases from the Three Mile Island nuclear accident. Also involved in his local community, Arnie has been a part-time math professor at Community College of Vermont (CCV) since 2007. He also taught high school physics and mathematics for 13 years and was an instructor at RPI's college reactor lab.
 ~ ~ ~

Thank you  Mr. Gundersen for speaking with us today. Anyone liking more information from Arnie Anderson's organization can find out more at Fairewinds Associates

Spent Fuel - Where Does It Go... and When?

Robert Alvarez is a Senior Scholar at IPS, where he is currently focused on nuclear disarmament, environmental, and energy policies.

Between 1993 and 1999, Mr. Alvarez served as a Senior Policy Advisor to the Secretary and Deputy Assistant Secretary for National Security and the Environment. While at DOE, he coordinated the effort to enact nuclear worker compensation legislation. In 1994 and 1995, Bob led teams in North Korea to establish control of nuclear weapons materials. He coordinated nuclear material strategic planning for the department and established the department’s first asset management program. Bob was awarded two Secretarial Gold Medals, the highest awards given by the department.

Prior to joining the DOE, Mr. Alvarez served for five years as a Senior Investigator for the U. S. Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, chaired by Senator John Glenn, and as one of the Senate’s primary staff experts on the U.S. nuclear weapons program. While serving for Senator Glenn, Bob worked to help establish the environmental cleanup program in the Department of Energy, strengthened the Clean Air Act, uncovered several serious nuclear safety and health problems, improved medical radiation regulations, and created a transition program for communities and workers affected by the closure of nuclear weapons facilities. In 1975 Bob helped found and direct the Environmental Policy Institute (EPI), a respected national public interest organization. He helped enact several federal environmental laws, wrote several influential studies and organized successful political coalitions. He helped organize a successful lawsuit on behalf of the family of Karen Silkwood, a nuclear worker and active union member who was killed under mysterious circumstances in 1974.

Bob Alvarez is an award winning author and has published articles in prominent publications such as Science Magazine, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Technology Review and The Washington Post. He has been featured in television programs such as NOVA and 60 Minutes.

~   ~   ~

Fixing America's Nuclear Waste Storage Problem

June 20, 2011 · · Originally published in The Nation

The corporations that own the nation's nuclear reactors are stuffing about four times more spent fuel into storage pools than the pools were designed to accommodate. Here's what we can do to fix this dangerous problem.

In March 1992 George Galatis, a nuclear engineer at the Millstone nuclear power station in Waterford, Connecticut, became alarmed during a refueling. The reactor had to be shut down and the full radioactive core of the Unit 1 reactor, which held thousands of rods, was removed and then dumped into the spent fuel pool—a blatant violation of Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) safety requirements.

The pool was already quite full. It wasn’t designed to suddenly hold those very radioactive and thermally hot fuel rods, which give off so much radiation that an unshielded person nearby would receive a lethal dose in seconds. In a previous incident around that time, a worker’s boots melted during this procedure. Because the pool could overheat, and possibly cause the pumps and cooling equipment to fail, the NRC had required reactor operators to wait for sixty-five days before performing this task—with good reason. NRC studies over the past thirty years have consistently shown that even partial drainage of a spent fuel pool that exposed highly radioactive rods could release an enormous amount of radioactivity into the environment. Arnie Gunderson, a nuclear engineer with many years of experience at US nuclear reactors, describes this kind of accident as “Chernobyl on steroids.”
Northeast Utility (which sold the Millstone reactors to Dominion Power in 2000) was standing to lose about $500,000 a day for replacement power if it followed the rules calling for a shutdown that would last more than two months. It had taken this shortcut for many years, while the NRC deliberately looked the other way.
By this time, the corporations that owned the nation’s nuclear reactors were stuffing about four times more spent fuel into storage pools than the pools were designed to accommodate, with the NRC’s blessing. It took several years for Galatis to force the NRC to take action at Millstone, at the expense of his career. His whistleblowing landed him on the cover of Time and embarrassed the NRC into performing a more thorough inspection of the reactor. The agency found a host of problems and ordered Unit 1 closed in 1996. The reactor was permanently shut down in 1998, but the spent fuel remains in a pool while the reactor is still being decommissioned, thirteen years later.
In the tradition of no good deed going unpunished, the Republican-controlled Congress, led by then–Senator Pete Domenici, was outraged over Millstone 1’s closure and made sure that the NRC would never do this again. In his autobiography, Domenici proudly notes that he sought to cut 700 jobs at the NRC in 1999, effectively gutting its regulatory efforts. “While many NRC requirements had questionable impact on safety,” Domenici said, “their impact on the price of nuclear energy was far more obvious. This ‘tough love’ approach was necessary.”
Domenici had his way. By 2000, the NRC sharply curtailed its oversight activities and became more of an enabler of nuclear power than a regulator. To this day, it remains overly dependent on nuclear industry self-reporting of problems.
Nearly twenty years after George Galatis began his lonely struggle to improve safety of spent fuel pools, the Fukushima catastrophe in Japan has once again turned a spotlight on this serious hazard in the United States. The explosions at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi station left the spent fuel pools at three reactors exposed to the open sky, as Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), the company that owns the crippled power station, desperately try to keep them cool with thousands of tons of water. Spent fuel in one pool is believed to have caught fire and exploded. American reactors have generated about 65,000 metric tons of spent fuel, of which 75 percent is stored in pools, according to Nuclear Energy Institute data. No other nation has generated this much radioactivity from either nuclear power or nuclear weapons production.
Nearly 40 percent of the radioactivity in US spent fuel is cesium-137. The 4.5 billion curies of radioactive cesium-137 in US spent reactor fuel is roughly twenty times more than what was released by all worldwide atmospheric nuclear weapons tests. American spent fuel pools hold about fifteen to thirty times more cesium-137 than the 1986 Chernobyl accident released. For instance, the pool at the Vermont Yankee reactor, a BWR Mark I (a boiling-water reactor, the same design as the four crippled reactors in Fukushima), currently holds nearly three times the amount of spent fuel stored at Dai-Ichi’s Unit 4 reactor. The Millstone reactors, which have the largest spent-fuel inventory in the United States, hold over five times more radioactivity than the combined total in the pools at the four wrecked Dai-Ichi reactors.
Even though they contain some of the largest concentrations of radioactivity on the planet, US spent nuclear fuel pools are mostly contained in ordinary industrial structures designed to merely protect them against the elements. Some are made from materials commonly used to house big-box stores and car dealerships.
The United States has thirty-one boiling water reactors with pools elevated several stories above ground, similar to those at Dai-Ichi. As in Japan, all spent fuel pools at nuclear power plants do not have steel-lined, concrete barriers that cover reactor vessels to prevent the escape of radioactivity. They are not required to have back-up generators to keep used fuel rods cool if offsite power is lost.
For nearly thirty years, NRC waste-storage requirements have remained contingent on the opening of a permanent waste repository that has yet to materialize. Now that the Obama administration has canceled plans to build a permanent deep-disposal site at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, spent fuel at the nation’s 104 reactors will continue to accumulate and is likely remain onsite for decades to come.
Domenici and the nuclear industry have often said that spent nuclear fuel could be stacked on a football field ten feet deep. There’s a problem with this assertion. First, it’s not remotely feasible and, most certainly, ill advised to squeeze the largest concentration of radioactivity on the planet onto a field. This would unleash chain reactions involving enough plutonium to fuel about 150,000 nuclear weapons, and could ignite a radiological fire that would cause long-term land contamination that would make Chernobyl and Fukushima look like pimples on a pumpkin. It would deliver lethal radiation doses to thousands if not millions of people hundreds of miles away. In other words, storing the entire nation’s spent fuel in one place would be a mistake.
The nuclear catastrophe at Chernobyl illustrated the damage cesium-137 can wreak. Nearly 200,000 residents from 187 settlements were permanently evacuated because of contamination by cesium-137. The total area of this radiation-control zone is huge. At more than 6,000 square miles, it is equal to about two-thirds the area of the State of New Jersey. During the following decade, the population of the region declined by almost half because of migration to areas of lower contamination.
On June 7 the Japanese government reported to the International Atomic Energy Agency that the amount of radioactivity released into the atmosphere during the first week of the accident was twice its previous estimate. The government failed to mention that an equally large amount was discharged into the sea, indicating that the Fukushima accident may have released more radioactivity into the environment than was released at Chernobyl. Around the same time, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan reported that cesium-137 contamination from the accident had rendered an area about seventeen times bigger than Manhattan uninhabitable.
I co-authored a report in 2003 that explained how a spent fuel pool fire in the United States could render an area uninhabitable that would be as much as sixty times larger than that created by the Chernobyl accident. If this were to happen at one of the Indian Point nuclear reactors—located about twenty-five miles from New York City—it could result in as many as 5,600 cancer deaths and $461 billion in damages.
The US government should promptly take steps to reduce these risks by placing all spent nuclear fuel older than five years in dry, hardened storage casks—something Germany did twenty-five years ago. It would take about ten years and cost $3.5–7 billion to accomplish. If the cost were transferred to energy consumers, the expenditure would result in a marginal increase of less than 0.4 cents per kilowatt-hour for consumers of nuclear-generated electricity. Despite the destruction wreaked by the earthquake and tsunamis in Japan, the dry casks at the Fukushima site were unscathed.
Another payment option is available for securing spent nuclear fuel. Money could be allocated from $18.1 billion in unexpended funds already collected from consumers of nuclear-generated electricity under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act to establish a disposal site for high-level radioactive wastes.
After more than fifty years, the quest for permanent nuclear waste disposal remains illusory. One thing, however, is clear, whether we like it or not: the largest concentrations of radioactivity on the planet will remain in storage at US reactor sites for the indefinite future. In protecting America from nuclear catastrophe, safely securing the spent fuel by eliminating highly radioactive, crowded pools should be a public safety priority of the highest degree.
With a price tag of as much as $7 billion, the cost of fixing America’s nuclear vulnerabilities may sound high, especially given the heated budget debate occurring in Washington. But the price of doing too little is incalculable.
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