• Nuclear wasteBacteria can help make underground nuclear waste repositories safer

    It takes about two hundred thousand years for the radioactivity of spent nuclear fuel to revert to the levels of naturally occurring uranium. As a result, most research into the long-term safety of nuclear waste disposal focuses on processes that tick to a slow geological clock: the mechanics of the rock layers that make up the storage site or the robustness of the protective barriers in place that are engineered to contain the radiation. However, all these studies neglect one key factor: biology. Naturally occurring bacteria could consume pent-up hydrogen gas in nuclear waste repositories to prevent radioactive leaks.

  • Nuclear wasteSurprise finding could improve future handling of nuclear waste

    A researcher at the University of Manchester has made a surprise finding after observing variations of a chemical bond with a radioactive metal called thorium — and this newly revealed relationship could one day contribute to improving nuclear fuel management.

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  • Nuclear accidentsRisk of another Chernobyl- or Fukushima-type accident worryingly plausible

    The biggest-ever statistical analysis of historical nuclear accidents suggests that nuclear power is an underappreciated extreme risk and that major changes will be needed to prevent future disasters. The researchers’worrying conclusion is that, while nuclear accidents have substantially decreased in frequency, this has been accomplished by the suppression of moderate-to-large events. They estimate that Fukushima- and Chernobyl-scale disasters are still more likely than not once or twice per century, and that accidents on the scale of the 1979 meltdown at Three Mile Island (a damage cost of about $10 billion) are more likely than not to occur every 10-20 years.

  • Nuclear forensicsNuclear forensics summer program trains students for a future in nuclear security

    A sure sign of summer is the return of interns to the Lawrence Livermore campus. Students interact with premier researchers and access equipment and facilities not available anywhere else, while scientists lay groundwork for advancing their fields. LLNL runs an eight-week summer internship for students interested in nuclear science and its range of specialties — nuclear forensics, environmental radiochemistry, nuclear physics, and beyond. Together, these disciplines support the laboratory’s nuclear security mission through analysis of nuclear processes and properties.

  • Nuclear powerPro-nuclear countries slowest to make progress on climate targets

    A strong national commitment to nuclear energy goes hand in hand with weak performance on climate change targets, researchers found. A new study of European countries shows that the most progress toward reducing carbon emissions and increasing renewable energy sources has been made by nations without nuclear energy or with plans to reduce it. Conversely, pro-nuclear countries have been slower to implement wind, solar, and hydropower technologies and to tackle emissions.

  • Nuclear accidentsReactor safety experts from Sandia help industry learn from Fukushima accident

    Reactor safety experts from Sandia National Laboratories and elsewhere are sharing lessons learned in Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident and other severe accidents that pushed nuclear power plants past their limits. The safety experts seek to demystify what happens during an accident, to help engineers/operators learn what decisions they might need to make in the event of an accident at their plants, and to provide insights into the non-intuitive nature of accidents.

  • Nuclear accidentsBelarus’s lax approach to nuclear safety raises fear of another Chernobyl

    Thirty years after Chernobyl, the world’s worst nuclear accident, a series of mishaps at a nuclear facility in Astravets, in Belarus, has raised concerns over nuclear safety, especially in neighboring Lithuania. Vilnius, the country’s capital, is located less than thirty-one miles from Astravets. Lithuania, accusing Belrus of Soviet era-like lack of transparency, says it would work with the international community to block the Astravets plant coming online.

  • Nuclear wasteStudying the basic science of nuclear waste

    Approximately 300 million liters of highly radioactive wastes are stored in hundreds of underground tanks at the Hanford Site in Washington and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. These wastes are extremely complicated mixtures of salts and sludges that have been exposed to ionizing radiation for decades. Their chemistry is dominated by interactions at solid-liquid interfaces that are poorly understood. A more thorough understanding of the chemistry of radioactive waste is key to treating this unwanted byproduct of winning the Second World War and the cold war.

  • Nuclear powerAs nuclear power plants close, states need to bet big on energy storage

    By Eric Daniel Fournier and Alex Ricklefs

    Nuclear power plants saw their heyday in the early 1970s and were praised for their ability to produce large amounts of electricity at a constant rate without the use of fossil fuels. We are now observing a trend whereby long-running nuclear power plants are shutting down, and of utilities moving toward renewable electricity generation, such as solar and wind. Can utilities supply electricity around the clock using these alternative generation sources? And crucially, can energy storage technologies provide the power on demand that traditional generators have done? It is clear that energy storage is the major limitation to achieving a carbon-free electricity grid. Careful planning is needed to ensure that energy storage systems are installed to take over the baseline load duties currently held by natural gas and nuclear power, as renewables and energy efficiency may not be able to carry the burden.

  • Nuclear powerFukushima and the oceans: What do we know, five years on?

    A major international review of the state of the oceans five years after the Fukushima disaster shows that radiation levels are decreasing rapidly except in the harbor area close to the nuclear plant itself where ongoing releases remain a concern. At the same time, the review’s lead author expresses concern at the lack of ongoing support to continue the radiation assessment, which he says is vital to understand how the risks are changing.

  • Nuclear powerDiablo Canyon nuclear plant to be shut down, replaced by renewables, efficiency, storage

    An historic agreement has been reached between Pacific Gas and Electric, Friends of the Earth (FOE), and other environmental and labor organizations to replace the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactors with greenhouse-gas-free renewable energy, efficiency, and energy storage resources. FOE says the agreement provides a blueprint for fighting climate change by replacing nuclear and fossil fuel energy with safe, clean, cost-competitive renewable energy.

  • Nuclear powerU.S. court asked to block restart of aging, damaged Indian Point nuclear reactor

    Friends of the Earth and other environmental organizations have filed an emergency petition with the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit asking that the court compel the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to prevent Entergy from restarting an aging Indian Point nuclear reactor which was found to have unprecedented parts failure in its critical core cooling system. Entergy, the owner and operator of Indian Point, has repeatedly stated that it intends to start the reactor within days. The Indian Point reactors’ licenses expired in 2013 and 2015, respectively, and the plant is operating beyond its 40-year life span while the NRC considers whether to extend the license for an additional twenty years.

  • Nuclear powerNew material promise to make nuclear fuel recycling cheaper, cleaner

    Researchers are investigating a new material that might help in nuclear fuel recycling and waste reduction by capturing certain gases released during reprocessing. Conventional technologies to remove these radioactive gases operate at extremely low, energy-intensive temperatures. By working at ambient temperature, the new material has the potential to save energy, make reprocessing cleaner and less expensive. The reclaimed materials can also be reused commercially.

  • Nuclear accidentsNumber of thyroid cancers in Belgian children rises post-Chernobyl

    Thyroid cancer is usually rare among children, with less than one new case per million diagnosed each year. Exposure in Belgium to radioactive fallout from the April 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident may have increased the incidence of thyroid cancer in those exposed as children.

  • Nuclear powerNRC asked to shut down Indian Point nuclear plant

    Located twenty-six miles from New York City, in the right weather conditions a radiation release at Indian Point nuclear power plant could reach Times Square in as little as ninety minutes, making evacuation of New York City impossible and rendering the area uninhabitable for a long time. Critics of the agiing plant say that the disappearance and disintegration of more than 1 in 4 critical bolts holding the Indian Point nuclear reactor cooling system together is far more serious than owner, Entergy, admits.