Nuclear power

  • Ohio’s Perry nuclear power plant was vulnerable to sabotage

    A report issued last week said that operators at the Perry Nuclear Power Plant in Ohio found a vulnerability in the security of the plant last year, and that that vulnerability could have put the public in harm’s way. The utility operating the nuclear plant reported to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that the plant’s security program for monitoring underground pathways and other unattended openings were insufficient to detect and prevent unauthorized access to the protected area.

  • Michigan’s Palisades nuclear power plant has significant safety issues

    A recent report  by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) lists the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in Michigan as one of three plants in the United States with significant safety episodes or “near-misses” over the last three years.

  • U.S. nuclear industry resists stricter, post-Fukushima safety measures

    Since the March 2011 Fukushima disaster, members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) have been debating whether or not to impose even stricter safety measures on the thirty-one U.S. boiling water reactors (BWRs). Utility companies have been fighting any new safety regulations, arguing that the security measures they have are more than enough.

  • Does the U.S. face a nuclear power exit?

    In a 2012 report, the Obama administration announced that it was “jumpstarting” the U.S. nuclear industry. Because of the industry’s history of problems, cost overruns, and construction delays, financial markets have been wary of backing new nuclear construction for decades. The supposed “nuclear renaissance” proclaimed in the first decade of this century never materialized. Then came Fukushima, a disaster that prompted countries around the world to ask: Should nuclear power be part of the energy future?

  • Radioactive leaks at Washington’s Hanford nuclear reservation

    Earlier this month, Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced that a radioactive waste tank at one of the nation’s most contaminated nuclear sites is leaking, bringing more bad news to Washington’s Hanford nuclear reservation. The 177 tanks at the plant, which hold millions of gallons of highly radioactive waste from plutonium production, are way past their intended 20-year life span.

  • Sandia Labs refurbishes nuclear security infrastructure

    Sandia National Laboratories has completed $199 million in facilities construction and repair as part of an 11-year national effort to revitalize the physical infrastructure of nuclear security enterprise sites. The work is part of a program established in 2001 to reduce a long-standing backlog of deferred maintenance at the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) eight sites, including Sandia.

  • Idaho debating nuclear waste storage

    For two decades, the Yucca mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada was viewed as a long-term solution to the growing problem of radioactive waste generated by the 104 active nuclear power generation plants in the United States. One of the Obama administration’s first acts was to “defund” the project, in effect outing an end to it. States such as Texas, New Mexico, and North Carolina have fashioned their own interim solution to the problem of nuclear waste storage, and the governor of Idaho wants his state to follow these states’ example.

  • Part Three: Bechtel and the Y-12 security breach

    With an annual security budget of $150 million, the Y-12 Nuclear Complex at Oakridge, Tennessee, prided itself on its high-tech security system built to protect more than 179 tons of uranium. After Sister Megan Rice, age 82, and two confederates, both senior citizens, too — the three were armed with nothing but wire cutters and flashlights — broke into the Y-12 facility on 28 July 2012, one security guard was fired. Numerous investigations and reports, however, show that last July’s incident was but one in a series of security failures and breaches at nuclear sites under the supervision of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). In May, Sister Rice and her aging collaborators will stand trial. Bechtel, a major contractor sharing responsibility for the documented security lapses at Y-12, has just received a federal nuclear plant security contract worth more than $22 billion.

  • Uranium mining debate divides Virginia

    In Virginia a fight has begun over whether to drill for uranium. Some feel the drilling, which would create about 1,000 jobs and bounty of tax revenue in addition to nuclear fuel, is important for a state whose main industries, such as tobacco and textiles, are failing. Those who oppose the drilling fear the contamination of drinking water in case of an accident, and a stigma from uranium which would deter people and businesses from moving to the area.

  • Thorium holds promise of safer, cleaner nuclear power

    Thorium as nuclear fuels has drawbacks, but its main advantage includes generating far less toxic residue. The majority of the mineral is used during the fission process, and it can burn existing stockpiles of plutonium and hazardous waste, saving the need to transport it and bury the waste in concrete. If thorium becomes available as a source of energy in the future, the world will rely less on coal and gas, and wind turbines will become a thing of the past. The risk of a global energy crunch will decrease considerably.

  • Nuclear-powered deep space rockets

    In the 1960s the federal government tested nuclear rocket technology for the flights following the Apollo moonshots. The Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico set up Project NERVA (Nuclear Energy for Rocket Vehicle Application). The concept was to use a nuclear reactor to blast a rocket out of Earth’s orbit. Concerns about safety and cost put an end to the project in 1973, but now there are some it is time to revisit the concept of nuclear rockets for deep space exploration.

  • New design for clean nuclear fusion reactor unveiled

    Researchers have patented a nuclear fusion reactor by inertial confinement which, in addition to being used to generate electric power in plants, could be applied to propel ships. The fusion chamber shape and size can adapt to the type of fuel being used.

  • U.K. revises nuke emergency plans post-Fukushima

    The Sizewell nuclear power station in Suffolk, England, was decommissioned in 2006, but after the 2011 Fukushima disaster, the Suffolk authorities thought there was a need to upgrade the emergency plans for the people living around the plant. There are disagreements, however, over the radius of the emergency zone around the plant, and how many people should be included i evacuation plans and given potassium iodide tablets in the event of a radiation leak.

  • Tiny helpers: Atom-thick flakes help clean up radioactive waste, fracking sites

    Graphene oxide has a remarkable ability quickly to remove radioactive material from contaminated water. Researchers determined that microscopic, atom-thick flakes of graphene oxide bind quickly to natural and human-made radionuclides and condense them into solids. The discovery could be a boon in the cleanup of contaminated sites like the Fukushima nuclear plants, and it could also cut the cost of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for oil and gas recovery and help reboot American mining of rare earth metals.

  • France is the forerunner in nuclear power generation – but for how long?

    France has been held up, worldwide, as the forerunner in using nuclear fission to produce electricity; a third of the nation’s nuclear reactors, however, will need replacing in the next decade, and public opinion has shifted toward reducing reliance on nuclear power; does France have the means or desire to unplug from nuclear power?