torsdag 25. november 2010

NDA has responsibility for the following

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) also has responsibility for the following:

* AGR spent fuel reprocessed so far                  2,300 tonnes
* AGR contracted to be reprocessed                  2,500 tonnes
* AGR spent fuel un-contracted                          4,100 tonnes
* Overseas oxide fuel still to be reprocessed         600 tonnes
* Exotic Fuels                                                           150 tonnes (1)

lørdag 20. november 2010

Nuclear dump under fire

RESIDENTS have slammed plans for a nuclear waste dump on their doorstep.
The proposals, which would see an underground storage facility built between Millom and Whitehaven, were discussed at a drop-in session yesterday.

The session, organised by the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely Partnership, took place in Millom Network Centre and was attended by more than 100 people. The partnership was formed in 2008 after the government launched a search for an underground storage facility for nuclear waste.

Allerdale Borough Council, Copeland Borough Council and Cumbria County Council are so far the only authorities to register their interest. However, the decision on whether to have the facility rests with the public. The site would be situated between 200m and 1,000m below the surface and despite an initial geological survey being completed, no potential sites would be named for another five to 10 years. Millom hosted the first of 10 drop-in sessions to gauge public opinion to the scheme, as part of an ongoing consultation.

Frances Rand, of Silecroft, voiced concerns for tourism in the county. She said: “I find it horrifying to think anything could spoil the National Park – it is one of our national treasures. It brings an enormous amount of money into the area through tourism but as soon as you start to mention nuclear waste, tourism could be gone.” Martin Forewood, chairman of Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment, said a surface storage facility provided a better option.  He said: “We don’t believe a geological storage facility is the right management option. “We would like to see long term above ground storage of waste. An underground facility would create few jobs and there would be no access to it. We were asked at the outset to join the partnership but we declined. It is simply following a process that will end up with an underground storage facility in west Cumbria.”
Councillor Jack Park dismissed Mr Forewood’s claims.

He said: “Nuclear waste exists and it is no good turning a blind eye to the fact.
“The safest way to store it is in a geological facility – they have done them in Sweden and Finland and they worked. “If it was local, it would create jobs. No-one wants the waste transported all over the country. “Above-ground storage is a short-term solution.”

Copeland Borough Council representative on the MRWS partnership, Councillor Elaine Woodburn, said: “This community is always vocal and in processes like this it is what we need. We are not just going through the motions. The public consultations are probably one of the most important things the partnership does.

“Knowing whether this is right, or wrong, for the community is important.”

Vi skaper en internasjonal plattform for dialog

Vi trenger all hjelp til å lykkes med dette - blir du med ?

torsdag 18. november 2010

Full investigation is under way

The four Thorp workers said they felt unwell while working on a chemical pumping system and were kept in hospital for observation. The men have since returned home.

Thorp was still shut down at the time for routine maintenance, as part of which work was taking place to replace a stand-by pump in the chemical plants.

A Sellafield spokesman said: “This is a routine operation which has been undertaken on many occasions using the same methodology without complication.

“There has been no release of radioactivity and extensive checks undertaken have confirmed that all plant parameters are normal. Any incident that compromises the health and safety of the workforce very seriously.”

The company said a full investigation is under way.

søndag 14. november 2010

Worst-case scenario sheer quantity of radioactivity that might be released

B215 is just one of the many unprepossessing structures that make up the vast nuclear reprocessing complex at Sellafield in Cumbria. Inside, however, are 21 concrete and steel tanks containing more than 1500 cubic metres of high-level radioactive liquid waste.

Reprocessing involves dissolving old fuel rods in acid and extracting the plutonium. The leftover liquid, which contains a mixture of wastes including caesium-137, is stored in the tanks in B215. It is so radioactive that the tanks have to be constantly cooled to prevent their contents from boiling and leaking out.

No one can be sure what would happen if a hijacked airliner plunged into B215. But the impact would almost certainly break open some of the tanks. The accompanying explosion would fling a plume of radioactivity into the atmosphere, according to Gordon Thompson, executive director of the Institute for Resource and Security Studies in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Afterwards, the burning fuel would continue to pump radioactivity into the air. Putting this fire out wouldn't be easy. Fire crews struggled to dampen down the fire after the Pentagon crash on 11 September—and they didn't have deadly radiation to contend with.

One problem was that they didn't have the foam needed to quash jet fuel fires. Does Sellafield? British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL), the state-owned company that operates the reprocessing plant, won't say.  The explosion and the fire would just be the beginning. A crash of such magnitude would probably destroy the cooling systems too. Tanks that survived the initial impact would heat up and start to spew out more radioactivity within hours.

After the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986, an exclusion zone of 4800 square kilometres had to be set up around the plant, more than a quarter of a million people were resettled and radiation spread so far that sheep in Wales still have to be tested to check they're safe to eat. So far 11,000 cases of thyroid cancer have been reported in the Ukraine and Belarus.

According to Thompson, who has been investigating the high-level waste tanks for local authorities in Britain for the past five years, as much as half of the 2400 kilograms of caesium-137 in the tanks at B215 could escape into the air. That would be 44 times more caesium-137 than was released by the Chernobyl disaster. Four million terabecquerels of radioactivity would contaminate large parts of Britain and, depending on which way the wind was blowing, Ireland, continental Europe and beyond. Some places could become uninhabitable.

Britain, of course, is much more densely populated than the Ukraine. Immediately after the attack there would be widespread chaos as authorities tried to organise mass evacuations. In years to come, the death toll might be terrible. Thompson calculates that the radiation released by such a disaster could cause more than 2 million cancers in the following 50 years—assuming that the pattern of public exposure was similar to that after Chernobyl.

Neither BNFL, nor the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) that regulates it, nor the Office for Civil Nuclear Security, the little-known government agency meant to protect nuclear facilities, would directly answer any of New Scientist's questions about what was being done to address this threat. Instead, BNFL released a statement intended to reassure:

"Major nuclear facilities, including for example reactors and highly active waste stores, are constructed to extremely robust engineering standards and incorporate large quantities of reinforced concrete as an integral part of the construction," says the company. "These facilities are resistant to many terrorist threats including aircraft impact. Safety cases and contingency plans take these events into account."

But the 21 high-level waste tanks in B215 have certainly not been constructed to withstand crashing planes. "There has been no specific design provision to protect against crashing aircraft," states a safety report on Sellafield published in February 2000 by the NII. Both Sellafield Ltd. and NII thought that the risk of a plane hitting the tanks was too remote to be worth considering.

It is also highly unlikely that other ageing buildings containing large amounts of radioactivity at Sellafield are strong enough to resist a falling airliner. John Large, an independent nuclear engineer, has identified seven potential terrorist targets at Sellafield, including the high-level waste tanks and a store containing over 70 tonnes of plutonium. All their radioactive inventories are published, and detailed aerial photographs showing their precise locations are easy to get hold of.

"It would be very easy for a terrorist group," he claims. Aviation sources point out that every year thousands of large passenger jets fly along the English coast near Sellafield, on their way from European airports to the West Coast of the US. Lockerbie, where Pan Am Flight 103 crashed in 1988, is only about 75 kilometres away.

One of the disturbing things about Sellafield is that it's not even supposed to be storing so much high-level waste in such a dangerous form.  Sellafield Ltd. is meant to solidify the liquid waste into blocks of glass to make it safer, but technical problems are holding up the process.

Anxious about the build-up of "highly active liquors" in B215, the NII demanded that Sellafield Ltd. reduce the volume in the tanks or shut down reprocessing at the plant.  An attack on Sellafield is perhaps the worst-case scenario because of the sheer quantity of radioactivity that might be released. But it's not the only target. There are similar storage facilities in several countries, including the US and Russia. A recent study by the World Information Service on Energy (WISE) in Paris highlighted the vulnerability of the French reprocessing plant at La Hague on the Normandy coast.

The site includes a 55-tonne plutonium store, 7484 tonnes of nuclear fuels in five cooling ponds and more than 11,650 cubic metres of radioactive sludge. The WISE study suggests that a large airliner crashing on one of the La Hague cooling ponds could release 60 times as much caesium-137 as Chernobyl—although this isn't directly comparable to the Sellafield estimate because it's based on the assumption that all, rather than half, the caesium would be released.

Nor are storage facilities the only vulnerable sites. Since the attacks on 11 September, British officials will say only that security at nuclear installations is now under review. But other countries have admitted that few nuclear reactors could cope with large aircraft crashes.

It's true that the containment vessels of some plants built since the 1970s were designed to withstand impacts from small planes like Cessnas, which weigh up to 6 tonnes. But none was meant to resist hits from modern airliners. The WISE study points out that the kinetic energy of a crashing 560-tonne Airbus 380 is 2557 times greater than that of a Cessna 210.

The US, France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and Australia have all admitted that hundreds of nuclear facilities are vulnerable. And their statements have been backed up by officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations body in Vienna responsible for nuclear power. Large offers one crumb of comfort by suggesting that advanced gas-cooled reactors (AGRs) might survive an aircraft crash because of the strength of their 1-metre-thick reinforced concrete containment vessels. British Energy, a company based in East Kilbride that operates Britain's seven AGR stations, agrees. It points out that in a joint US and Japanese crash test in 1989, the engines of an F4 Phantom jet flying at 800 kilometres an hour only penetrated six centimetres into a concrete wall 3.7 metres thick.

An F4 Phantom, however, weighs only 28 tonnes. Researchers at the Nuclear Control Institute, a lobby group based in Washington DC, estimate that the engines of a 179-tonne Boeing 767 travelling at 850 kilometres an hour could penetrate at least a metre of reinforced concrete.

Perhaps the clearest statement came on 21 September from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is responsible for 103 reactors. "The NRC did not specifically contemplate attacks by aircraft such as Boeing 757s or 767s, and nuclear power plants were not designed to withstand such crashes," it said. What should be done in the face of such a threat? Measures are already being taken to prevent planes being hijacked (New Scientist, 22 September, p 10), and to ensure that any planes that do get hijacked are shot down before they reach their targets.

Officials at the International Atomic Energy Agency have even suggested that anti-aircraft batteries should be installed around sensitive sites, ready to shoot down planes before they crash. But this has obvious drawbacks. Siting guns near nuclear plants would create new safety hazards. What if they shot down an innocent aircraft? And experts doubt that they would have much chance of hitting a jet dropping from the sky. "It would be like trying to shoot down a bomb," says Frank Barnaby of the Oxford Research Group, an independent group of scientists studying nuclear issues.

The terrible consequences of failing to prevent an attack put a new question mark over the future of the nuclear industry. Before 11 September, President Bush was talking of building more nuclear reactors. And it's thought that Britain's energy review will also recommend building more plants.
If these countries go ahead, they should perhaps follow the example of the former Soviet Union. Some of its earliest plutonium production reactors at Zheleznogorsk (formerly Krasnoyarsk 26) in Siberia were built more than 250 metres underground. "They may now be the safest reactors in the world as far as aircraft attacks are concerned," says Shaun Burnie from Greenpeace International.
Anti-nuclear groups, of course, argue that the best way to protect people against the risk of nuclear terrorism is to dismantle nuclear facilities and convert radioactive wastes into more stable, safer forms. Yet even if the political will were there, decommissioning the 438 nuclear power reactors generating electricity worldwide would take decades.

lørdag 13. november 2010

Removing Sellafield nuclear waste is priority, says Cumbria council

Removing radioactive material from legacy ponds at Sellafield should be the top priority for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), Cumbria County Council says.

The council has responded to the authority’s second five-year strategy, which takes effect from April 2011. Councillors are concerned about the potential risk from toxic decaying fuel rods and contaminated metal and cladding stored underwater at Sellafield in buildings such as B30 and B38.

These will have to be removed by robots then vitrified for long-term storage. The council’s response, approved by its ruling cabinet yesterday, says: “Driving down risk to ‘tolerable’ levels must be the main priority. “The greatest risks are associated with the legacy ponds and silos on the Sellafield site.
“Cumbria County Council considers that retrieval of unconditioned mobile wastes from ageing legacy facilities is a critical, time-urgent issue that must continue to be supported by adequate Government funding.”
It adds: “Local communities will need to be confident risks and impacts [from managing contamination] on future generations are both understood and minimised.

“Continuing investment to offset the negative impact of waste facilities upon local areas will also be required.”
The council wants “early decisions” on how high-level waste will be stored and it wants the Government to come up with a policy for dealing with uranium and plutonium stockpiles. It suggests that usable uranium and plutonium could be stored in a “strategic reserve” and some of it could be sold overseas, providing there was no danger of nuclear proliferation. The council believes renewed interest in nuclear power could “revive the fortunes” of reprocessing at Sellafield. And it is calling on the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to provide “greater socio-economic support” to create new jobs to replace those being lost at Sellafield.
Councillor Tim Knowles, the cabinet member responsible for environment and nuclear issues, said: “There will be a great deal of change at Sellafield over the next decade. “As things stand now, the anticipated wind down of reprocessing operations will have a significant impact both economically and socially in west Cumbria.
“It is therefore essential that the nuclear industry engages early and openly with local authorities in a true spirit of partnership.”

First published By Julian Whittle  at 11:39, Friday, 12 November 2011 in News and Star

fredag 12. november 2010

The nuclear industry plays a major role in Sellafield


Cumbria County Council's Cabinet is encouraging the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to work in closer partnership with the county council and local people to ensure continued public confidence in the Sellafield site over the next decade, particularly as reprocessing operations wind down.

In its response to the NDA's consultation on its business strategy for the next five years, Cumbria County Council stresses that investment in the local community, as required by the Energy Act 2004, will continue to be essential.

The council's response underlines that the NDA has made significant progress in defining the decommissioning and site restoration tasks across its estate, but the Sellafield site continues to face significant challenges in the future. The reduction and stabilisation of the most hazardous wastes at Sellafield must continue to be the first site restoration priority. Sufficient funding will need to follow to ensure that risks can be reduced in an acceptable and safe timescale.

The council's response says opportunities for new missions on the Sellafield site should be explored, and the NDA should be proactive in this, particularly to identify new revenue raising opportunities that can contribute to funding priority site restoration work. The centralised storage of spent nuclear fuel from any new nuclear build programme is an obvious opportunity – given the assets and skills available to Sellafield.
Cllr Tim Knowles, Cumbria County Council's Cabinet member responsible for environment and nuclear issues, said:    "The nuclear industry plays a major role in the economy, infrastructure and life of West Cumbria. It is therefore quite right that it consults local people and key stakeholders such as the county council on what its priorities should be, how it manages its risks, and how it intends to continue with the nuclear decommissioning programme so that Sellafield can be restored for future use.

"We are keen to work more closely with the NDA, regulators and site licence companies to develop a road map for the future of the site so we're all clear what the major milestones are, what the infrastructure needs are, and when the site should be restored by.

"There will be a great deal of change at Sellafield over the next decade. As things stand now, the anticipated wind down of reprocessing operations will have a significant impact both economically and socially in West Cumbria. It is therefore essential that the nuclear industry engages early and openly with local authorities in a true spirit of partnership."

Kilde: eBusiness Cumbria

onsdag 3. november 2010

Plutonium

On February 17, 2005, the UK Atomic Energy Authority reported that 29.6 kg (65.3 lb) of plutonium was unaccounted for in auditing records at the Sellafield nuclear fuel reprocessing plant. The operating company, the British Nuclear Group, described this as a discrepancy in paper records and not as indicating any physical loss of material.