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Contaminated water found leaking at Japanese nuclear plant

Staff, CNN
Workers at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility have discovered a leak of 45 metric tons of radioactive water, operator Tokyo Electric Power Company said in a statement Monday.

It’s unclear whether the contaminated water reached the Pacific Ocean.

The water was found Sunday morning inside a barrier around an evaporative condensation apparatus, which is used to purify sea water used at the plant to cool reactors damaged in the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami in March.

TEPCO said it was able to stop the leak by stacking sandbags around a crack found in a concrete barrier around the condensation unit. The company said the sea water around the drain had a slightly higher level of a radioactive substance — cesium 137 — than usual. TEPCO said it is still working to see how much contaminated water may have reached the ocean…
(5 December 2011)

Japan nuclear meltdown maybe worse than thought?

Molten nuclear fuel at Japan’s Fukushima plant might have eaten two thirds of the way through a concrete containment base, its operator said, citing a new simulation of the extent of the March disaster.

Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) said their latest calculations showed the fuel inside the No. 1 reactor at the tsunami-hit plant could have melted entirely, dropping through its inner casing and eroding a concrete base.

In the worst-case scenario, the molten fuel could have reached as far as 65 centimetres (2 feet) through the concrete, leaving it only 37 centimetres short of the outer steel casing, the report, released Wednesday, said.

Until now, TEPCO had said some fuel melted through the inner pressure vessel and dropped to the containment vessel, without saying how much and what it did to the concrete, citing a lack of data…
(1 December 2011)

Cesium Detected in Baby-Milk Powder Made by Japan’s Meiji; Shares Tumble

Kanoko Matsuyama, Bloomberg
Radioactive cesium was found in milk powder made by a Meiji Holdings Co. unit, Kyodo News said, causing the shares to fall the most in eight months and raising concern that nuclear radiation is contaminating baby food.
Meiji, Japan’s largest supplier of infant formula, is voluntarily recalling 400,000 cans of its “Meiji Step” brand product, which may have been contaminated by radiation leaked from the Fukushima nuclear plant, Kyodo said today. Affected cans have 2012 expiration dates of Oct. 4, Oct. 21, Oct. 22. and Oct. 24, it said.
(6 December 2011)

A Waste of Waste

George Monbiot,
It’s a devastating admission to have to make, especially during the climate talks in Durban. But there would be no point in writing this column if I were not prepared to confront harsh truths. This year the environmental movement to which I belong has done more harm to the planet’s living systems than climate change deniers have ever achieved.

As a result of shutting down its nuclear programme in response to green demands, Germany will produce an extra 300 million tonnes of carbon dioxide between now and 2020(1). That’s almost as much as all the European savings resulting from the energy efficiency directive(2). Other countries are now heading the same way. These decisions are the result of an almost mediaevel misrepresentation of science and technology. For while the greens are right about most things, our views on nuclear power have been shaped by weapons-grade woo…

Let me begin with the context. Like other countries suffering from the idiotic short-termism of the early nuclear power industry, the UK faces a massive bill for the storage and disposal of radioactive waste. The same goes for the waste produced by nuclear weapons manufacturing. But is this really waste, or could we see it another way?

In his book Prescription for the Planet, the environmentalist Tom Blees explains the remarkable potential of integral fast reactors (IFRs)(11). These are nuclear power stations which can run on what old nuclear plants have left behind. Conventional nuclear power uses just 0.6% of the energy contained in the uranium that fuels it. Integral fast reactors can use almost all the rest. There is already enough nuclear waste on earth to meet the world’s energy needs for several hundred years, with scarcely any carbon emissions. IFRs need be loaded with fissile material just once. From then on they can keep recycling it, extracting ever more of its energy, until a small fraction of the waste remains. Its components have half-lives of tens rather than millions of years. This makes them more dangerous, but much easier to manage in the long term. When the hot waste has been used up, the IFRs can be loaded with depleted uranium (U-238), of which the world has a massive stockpile(12)…
(6 December 2011)

UK government shared intelligence with nuclear industry, documents show

Rob Edwards, The Guardian
The British government has been quietly exchanging intelligence on key policies with multinational companies in an effort to protect and promote their plans for new nuclear power stations, according to internal documents seen by the Guardian.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) has also passed the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA), which represents 260 companies, and the French nuclear company, EDF Energy, details of its court battle against Greenpeace, which is trying to block the nuclear plans.

The leakage of information has been condemned by Greenpeace as an “abuse of power” that prevents democratic scrutiny. The environmental group’s lawyers have written to the government and the high court in London complaining that the proper legal procedures have been breached.

With the government planning to build eight new nuclear power stations in England and Wales, there is a perception that ministers have been working closely with the industry to manage public opinion and prevent the kind of backlash against the technology that has happened in Germany and Italy.

Internal emails revealed by the Guardian in June showed that British government officials approached nuclear companies to draw up a co-ordinated public relations strategy to play down the Fukushima nuclear accident just two days after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March…
(5 December 2011)

France admits lapses after breach of nuke reactor security

Staff, CNN
France’s interior minister admitted Monday that lapses in security made it possible for Greenpeace activists to gain entry to a nuclear power plant southeast of Paris.

Interior Minister M. Claude Gueant said there have been lapses in the nuclear plant’s security system and has ordered a search of all nuclear plants, a spokesman for the ministry told CNN.

The environmental activist group said on its website that members gained entry to the plant at Nogent-sur-Seine at dawn and managed to climb the dome of one of its two reactors “in order to spread the message: ‘Safe nuclear does not exist.'”…
(6 December 2011)