Nuclear power

  • Employees exposed to radiation at nuclear waste disposal site

    Thirteen employees at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant(WIPP),a nuclear waste burial site in New Mexico, have been exposed to  radioactive radiation after a leak in one of WIPP’s underground tunnels. Energy Department officials say it is too soon to determine the scope of health risks the employees will deal with. The employees inhaled plutonium and americium, both of which can irradiate the body’s internal organs with subatomic particles for a lifetime.

  • Operator of Hanford nuclear disposal site fires scientists who voice safety concerns

    The Hanford project in Washington State is the Department of Energy’s (DoE) largest nuclear cleanup project. DoE plans to transform fifty-six million gallons of radioactive sludge, currently stored in underground tanks, into solid glass. Scientists and engineers who work at Hanford have questioned the effectiveness of the required technology, and have voiced serious concerns about safety issues. Two of those who were the most persistent in voicing their concerns about safety have been fired, and a third one has left his job voluntarily.

  • Security of dirty bomb materials in U.S. inadequate: experts

    There are more than 5,000 medical and research devices in the United States containing high-activity radiation sources, including 700 with category-1 sources. Category-1 radiation material could be used by terrorists in dirty bombs. The security measures developed by the industry were written with accident prevention in mind, not in order to thwart a deliberate, forcible effort by terrorists or criminals to gain control of the toxic material. In addition, radioactive materials were considered to be “self-protecting,” because it was assumed that the powerful radiation would deter anyone thinking of tampering with these devices. Terrorist bomb-makers, however, showed themselves to be more technologically-savvy than earlier thought, and, in any event, suicide bombers would not be deterred by the risk of radiation poisoning.

  • U.S. Navy probes exam cheating at school for nuclear power reactor operator

    Yet another military service is facing allegations of exam-cheating. Earlier this year, the U.S. Air Force launched a probe into a cheating scandal involving about 100 officersat Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, who are responsible for maintaining and operating land-based nuclear missiles. Now the U.S. Navy is investigating about one-fifth of its trainers at the school for naval nuclear power reactor operators in Charleston, South Carolina. The sailors are accused of cheating on written tests required to obtain certification as instructors at the nuclear propulsion school.

  • Service lives of European nuclear power stations to be extended

    Germany has decided to abandon nuclear energy – in what the Germans call Energiewende (energy turnaround) – but new nuclear power stations are being built on all sides of Germany and service lives for existing facilities on the territory of Germany’s neighbors are being extended. German nuclear scientists should thus continue to be involved in assessing the safety of the nuclear power stations in neighboring countries, especially so since the EU has launched its LONGLIFE project, which aims to extend the service life of existing reactors from forty to sixty or even eighty years.

  • NRC: storing spent nuclear fuel in cooling pools is safe

    The nuclear reactors now in service in the United States were built with the assumption that the spent fuel would be removed from nuclear the facilities after a few years, but because the government has failed to provide a centralized place to store the spent fuel, utility companies have had to store an ever-growing quantity of it in spent fuel pools on the grounds of the facilities. Scientists argue that it would be safer to move some of the spent fuel into giant steel and concrete casks, where it can be stored dry, with no reliance on water, pumps, or filters to keep them cool. The nuclear industry and the NRC do not agree.

  • Nations' nuclear ambitions not discouraged by few suppliers

    Twenty-nine countries are considering constructing their first nuclear power plant. There are doubts as to which of these nuclear “newcomer” countries can actually succeed and join the thirty-one countries that already operate nuclear reactors. If even half of the national plans for nuclear power plants materialize, the geography of nuclear energy would radically change and could revitalize a stagnant industry. But given the obstacles to starting a national nuclear power program even for rich and stable countries, it’s not likely to happen quickly elsewhere.

  • One step closer to nuclear fusion power station

    Researchers have made a technological breakthrough crucial to the success of nuclear fusion reactors, allowing for clean, inexhaustible energy generation based on the workings of the stars in our galaxy. At the heart of the new development is an ingenious and robust superconducting cable system. This makes for a remarkably strong magnetic field that controls the very hot, energy-generating plasma in the reactor core, laying the foundation for nuclear fusion. The new cables are far less susceptible to heating due to a clever way of interweaving, which allows for a significant increase in the possibilities to control the plasma.

  • U.S. loses clean electricity as nuclear power plants keep closing

    Four nuclear power plants, sources of low-emissions electricity, have announced closings this year. The main reason: the increasing availability of cheap natural gas as a result of fracking. If plants continue to shut down instead of extending operations, the United States risks losing 60 percent of its clean electricity starting in 2030, according to a new report by the American Physical Society (APS). The APS calls on socially responsible investors to encourage utilities to consider carbon emissions in business decisions.

  • Y-12 security breach update: Old nun awaits sentencing while costs of new Y-12 facility not to be released until 2015

    On 28 July 2012, three senior citizens, led by an 83-year old nun, easily breached the supposedly impregnable security systems protecting the Y-12 National Security Complex at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The three peace activists wondered the grounds of the maximum security facility for a while before being noticed by security personnel. While the three aging protesters are awaiting sentencing, the two companies — Bechtel Corporation and Babcock and Wilcox – which were responsible for designing and implementing security at Y-12, have been named as the primary construction contractors for planning and design of the new uranium processing facility (UPF) to be built at Y-12.

  • The interim agreement between the P5+1 and Iran: the details

    The P5+1 countries (the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, and China, facilitated by the European Union) have been engaged in negotiations with Iran in an effort to reach a verifiable diplomatic resolution which would prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. On Sunday, the P5+1 and Iran reached a set of initial understandings which halts, at least temporarily, the progress of Iran’s nuclear program and rolls it back in key respects. In return, for Iran’s concessions, and as part of this initial step, the P5+1 will provide what the agreement describes as “limited, temporary, targeted, and reversible” relief to Iran.

  • New drone to monitor radiation following nuclear disasters

    Researchers have unveiled a large semi-autonomous drone called the ARM system which could be used to provide visual and thermal monitoring of radiation after a release of nuclear material. The system was developed in response to requirements for radiation monitoring in event of the release of radioactive materials.

  • DOE to resume transient testing of nuclear fuels and materials

    Transient testing of nuclear fuel involves placing fuel or material into the core of a nuclear reactor and subjecting it to short bursts of intense, high-power radiation in order to analyze the effects of the radiation. The Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Transient Reactor Test Facility began operating on 23 February 1959 and was a principal reactor safety testing facility in the United States for thirty-five years. The U.S. Department of Energy invites the public to read and comment on a draft environmental assessment it has prepared for a proposal to resume transient testing of nuclear fuels and materials.

  • Japan hopes off-shore wind turbines can replace shut-down nukes

    Japan inaugurated a floating offshore wind turbine on Monday, symbolizing the country’s effort to reduce its dependency on nuclear energy and fossil fuels and shift to renewable energy sources. The floating platform is anchored thirteen miles offshore from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which has been out of commission since the reactor’s meltdown disasterof March 2011. The platform is anchored to the seabed 400 feet below surface. It is the first project of its kind in Japan, and it aims to show that the country can exploit the country’s powerful offshore winds to create a sustainable energy source.

  • Reducing volume of nuclear waste by 90 percent possible

    Engineers have developed a way significantly to reduce the volume of some higher activity wastes, which will reduce the cost of interim storage and final disposal. The researchers have shown that mixing plutonium-contaminated waste with blast furnace slag and turning it into glass reduces its volume by 85-95 percent. It also effectively locks in the radioactive plutonium, creating a stable end product.