Nuclear expert and Fairewinds' Chief Engineer, Arnie Gundersen travelled across the pond to jolly ol' England. Invited to speak at the House of Commons on March 11, Arnie addressed the current status of the ongoing disaster at Fukushima Daiichi four years after nuclear meltdown began in 2011, and presented his expert assessment of nuclear risk in regards to the proposed construction of three AP1000 reactors in Cumbria, England.
Arnie enjoyed the hospitality of fellow scientist Dr. Ian Fairlie, and members of Radiation Free Lakeland as he made his way north from London to Cumbria. From his first ride on 'the Tube' to getting kicked out of school and his run in with the law...twice, Arnie shared his U.K. adventure with the Fairewinds Crew back home by snapping quick pictures. By the end of his trip, Arnie had compiled a beautiful photo journal that needed to be shared. Here are the pictures from his trip and a video of Arnie's House of Commons presentation!
When Will They Ever Learn-
The Lesson from Sir John Cockcroft
By Arnie Gundersen
My week in the UK was exciting and full of surprises. I spoke to hundreds of people in London and Cumbria who are committed to a new energy future for Europe. They know that the dated model of big business centralized electricity production is ending, and they see a clean, disaster free viable alternative in locally distributed generation. Still, it seems that the established British utilities are so fixated on nuclear power that they just offered to charge their customers twice the current market price for electricity for the next 35-years, so that a French nuclear company could build a fancy and untried new nuclear design at Hinkley Point. The United Kingdom is anything but united when it comes to how it will produce electricity in the 21st century!
Britain has experienced the dangers of nuclear power first hand as the site of the world’s first major nuclear disaster at Windscale, receiving huge amounts of contamination from Chernobyl fallout in Wales, and contaminating the Irish Sea with Plutonium at its waste reprocessing plant at Sellafield. With that background, I understand why the citizens of the UK embrace a nuclear free future. When I spoke at the House of Commons, it was clear that only a minority of the MP’s (like US Representatives) could envision an energy future different than the past. Similar to the US, the financially influential electric power monopolies have convinced a majority of the MPs that there is no alternative to nuclear power. Thankfully, many people in the UK disagree and see a nuclear free future!
Surprisingly, it was in Cumbria that I saw the most poignant reminder of how dangerous nuclear power is. There in the fog and rain stood “Cockcroft’s Folly”, a ventilation stack on the old Windscale reactor. Filters on that stack, thankfully, captured most of the radiation released during the 1957 Windscale catastrophe.
When Windscale was under construction, Sir John Cockcroft, a great engineer and Nobel Prize winner, insisted that filters be added to the ventilation stack. The British nuclear establishment laughed at him, but he was unyielding and persisted in his cause until the filters were added to Windscale. Naysayers nicknamed the filters “Cockcroft’s Folly”, and no one believed they were necessary. Then came the Windscale nuclear core fire and those “unnecessary” filters saved thousands of lives. Too contaminated even now to be removed, “Cockcroft’s Folly” stands in the middle of the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant, part of a more than $60 Billion cleanup planned for the neighboring stretch of coastline along the contaminated the Irish Sea.
Three new AP1000 reactors are proposed to be built in Cumbria within sight of “Cockcroft’s Folly”. Since 2010, I have repeatedly said that the AP1000 design suffers the same design flaw as the old Windscale reactor. Like Sir John, I believe that filters must be added to the top of the AP1000 shield building to prevent huge amounts of radiation from being released during a meltdown. I call this problem “the chimney effect” and wrote a paper about it entitled “ Nuclear Containment Failures- Ramifications for the AP1000 Containment Design”. The Independent, a major newspaper in the UK, courageously wrote about my concerns with the headline: Nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen warns of 'Chernobyl on steroids' risk in UK from proposed Cumbria plant
Fairewinds received hundreds of tweets praising that story, and as can be expected, some of the 20th century paradigm pro-nukes pushed back, attacking my credibility. Sir John Cockcroft must be spinning in his grave, wondering “When will they ever learn?”
Bon Voyage SRS Watch! Love, the Fairewinds Crew
March 20, 2015
Savannah River Site Watch (SRS Watch) Obtains Tax-Exempt Status, Group No Longer a Project of Fairewinds Energy Education but Will Work in Parallel on Nuclear Challenges
SRS Watch to Keep Focus on Plutonium and High-Level Waste at U.S. Department Of Energy’s Savannah River Site
Columbia, S.C.— Today, the public-interest watchdog group Savannah River Site Watch (SRS Watch) announced that it has obtained non-profit tax-exempt status [501(c)(3)] from the Internal Revenue Service in order to magnify its monitoring of nuclear projects carried out by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) at the Savannah River Site (SRS).
For most of 2014 and into 2015, SRS Watch has been a project of Fairewinds Energy Education. By obtaining the formal tax-exempt status, SRS Watch will be independent and better able to focus its work in South Carolina and Georgia where the DOE’s Savannah River Site is located.
“Given the host of environmental problems and proliferation threats associated with programs at the Savannah River Site, we felt it was time to refocus public interest monitoring efforts by seeking non-profit tax-exempt status,” said Frances Close, President of SRS Watch. “We appreciate and respect the innovative work of Fairewinds Energy Education, and we will continue to work together investigating nuclear risks and alerting the public. We encourage the public to continue its support and involvement with Fairewinds, for whom we have the highest respect.”
Savannah River Site Watch (SRS Watch) - http://www.srswatch.org/ - was formed in early 2014 to work on a challenging array of nuclear projects now underway at SRS, the sprawling 310-square mile complex located near Aiken, South Carolina. While actively engaging in the decision-making process and adopting formal positions concerning site activities, SRS Watch will closely monitor such programs as cleanup of high-level nuclear waste, receipt of nuclear materials from overseas without proper environmental review, operation of the aging H-Canyon reprocessing plant and the mismanaged plutonium fuel (MOX) program. SRS Watch will also follow congressional deliberations concerning funding of DOE proposals.
“We will continue to follow and participate in all decision-making processes related to SRS cleanup programs as well as DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration’s projects at SRS, including the troubled MOX program. We will also continue to advocate for essential cleanup programs and challenge DOE and NNSA on projects that are unnecessary, ill conceived, and a waste of tax dollars,” SRS Watch President Frances Close added.
Noted Columbia, SC-based activist Tom Clements, who has almost 40 years of experience monitoring SRS and other nuclear activities, will continue as the director of SRS Watch.
“As it is the Department of Energy’s nature to operate outside public scrutiny, our job will be to continue to highlight SRS programs that warrant public attention and involvement,” said Clements. “Our highest concern will be to seek termination by Congress of the problem-plagued MOX program at SRS, while advocating for plutonium disposition methods that reduce environmental risks to South Carolina and reduce costs to taxpayers. Likewise, we are gearing up to oppose the import and dumping of highly radioactive spent fuel from Germany and will increase activities on that issue once DOE releases a draft environmental assessment in April.”
SRS Watch has become an active member of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (http://www.ananuclear.org/), a network of over 30 local, regional and national groups representing the concerns of communities in the shadow of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex facilities and radioactive waste dumps.
The general contact information for SRS Watch is firstname.lastname@example.org, via telephone 803-834-3084, and via mail at 1112 Florence Street, Columbia SC 29201. Unsolicited comments and documents related to SRS programs are welcome. Likewise, tax-deductible donations to support the work of SRS Watch are appreciated.
Construction on the Savannah River Site (SRS) Mixed-Oxide (MOX) fuel fabrication facility began in 2007 with an estimated budget of $4.86 billion and a completion date of 2038. With continuous construction and safety set backs, the United States has looked into the abandonment of the site as expenses soar to $7 billion and an indefinite end date. Republican Congressman Joe Wilson invited French Ambassador to the United States, Gerard Araud to South Carolina to discuss job preservation at the SRS MOX Facility site.
“French companies contribute to our construction, automotive and chemical industries, and are essential to the national security missions at the Savannah River Site. I hope that by showing the Ambassador how South Carolina is a great place to live and work, we can form more economic partnerships and bring more jobs to our state in the future,” Wilson said.
The French government, which owns 87% of AREVA, designed the MOX facility and is also the active parent company to MOX contractor, CB&I-AREVA MOX Services. France’s energy minister called for an overhaul of France’s entire nuclear industry in February due to AREVA’s expected 2014 net loss of about 4.9 billion euros ($5.6B). These staggering losses occurred after Areva suffered a loss of 500 million euros in 2013.
“We want to save the jobs in South Carolina because it’s good for the state, he (Wilson) believes it’s good for the U.S. and to me, it’s good for France,” Ambassador Araud said last week.
Originally built in the 1950s to refine nuclear materials for deployment in nuclear weapons, the Department of Energy owned SRS is currently using two former on-site reactor buildings to consolidate and store nuclear materials. When and if operational, the MOX facility will convert legacy weapons-grade plutonium into fuel suitable for commercial power reactors. Weapons grade MOX has never been used and has only been attempted once in the United States. That test was aborted. The concept is to strip warhead plutonium and turn it into nuclear power reactor fuel. Last year’s site costs exceeded $543M and this year’s cost is an expected $673M making this form of fuel 2 to 3 times more expensive than uranium.
– Book of the Month
Too Hot To Touch: The Problem of High-Level Nuclear Waste by William M. Alley and Rosemarie Alley
Written by Dr. William and Rosemarie Alley, a husband and wife team, Too Hot To Touch: The Problem of High-Level Nuclear Waste confronts the controversies and critical issues surrounding nuclear waste management in the United States with references to the problem on an international scale. Dr. Alley is a leading expert in the field of hydrogeology, who served as Chief of the Office of Groundwater for the United States Geological Survey for almost two decades. Dr. Alley’s duties with USGS included the oversight of the Yucca Mountain federal nuclear waste project from 2002- 2010. Nuclear waste management in the United States remains a hot topic with no long-term solution in sight since the Yucca Mountain project was shut down for not being a geologically sound nuclear waste containment site.
This easy to read book guides one through the history of nuclear waste disposal from the early days of atomic bombs, through the testing of low radioactive releases on the ocean floor, to the present not-in-my-backyard communities fighting to protect themselves from becoming nuclear garbage dumps. Too Hot To Touch will appeal to the geologist, nuclear scientist, and technologist wanting to learn from history as they face the difficult task of implementing a safe solution to this highly politically and socially charged technical problem of toxic leftovers.
Fallout: An American Nuclear Tragedy by Phillip L. Franklin
The lingering effects of radiation are severe and devastating for the victims exposed to the radioactive substances released during a nuclear meltdown like the one at Fukushima Daiichi. The consequences of exposure are well known by the nuclear industry and include various life threatening cancers and DNA mutations. Fallout: An American Nuclear Tragedy is a harrowing story of nuclear testing in Nevada in the 1950s and 1960s, and the subsequent health effects of the unknowing innocents affected downwind in Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author Phillip Franklin attended the 1982 trial from which these stories of cancer victims and their survivors were uncovered. This book is particularly relevant with the triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi where radioactive particles spread far and wide, creating an expansive fallout umbrella.
Vermont Yankee owner, Entergy Corp. violated federal law by not paying security guards at the nuclear site their rightfully earned overtime hours, according to the ruling made last week by a federal judge. The compensation due to workers amounts to $305,329 in owed unpaid back wages since 2009. The dispute began in 2009 when Entergy brought in-house guards to their Vermont Yankee site and other sites around the country after multiple security lapses made by the Florida-based security services company, Wackenhut Corp., now G4S Secure Solutions. The guards filed the lawsuit against Entergy in 2012 and currently Entergy is fighting similar lawsuits from at least two other plants.
Japanese nuclear power utility owners Kyushu Electric Power Co. and Chugoku Electric Power Co. decided last week to shut down and decommission aging reactors in the southwestern region of Japan due to safety concerns raised after the 2011 nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. The reactors set for shutdown have been in operation for 40 years plus.
Radioactive fallout from the disaster at Fukushima Daiichi affects approximately 32 million people in Japan according to Green Cross International, a global independent non-profit, non-governmental environmental organization founded by former Soviet Union President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mikhail Gorbachev. The 2015 Fukushima Report was prepared under the direction of Prof. Jonathan M. Samet, Director of the Institute for Global Health at the University of Southern California (USC). Green Cross exercised a strong presence during the aftermath of Chernobyl, and as with the Chernobyl nuclear accident that impacted 10 million people, Japan is expected to see increased cancer risk and neuropsychological long-term health consequences. Both nuclear disasters, Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi, have been categorized as level 7 events - defined as a major release of radioactive material, with widespread effects, requiring planned and extended countermeasures based on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES). Estimates following the triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi indicate 80% of the released radiation was deposited in the ocean, expanding the reach of people affected by the radioactive release all the way to the west coast of the United States. Water leakage from Fukushima Daiichi remains a major international problem with reports of pipes breaking and containment tanks continuing to leak four years after the initial meltdown.
The radioactive noble gas release from the Fukushima Daiichi catastrophe was 10 billion times greater than normal based on a video from a November 2014 presentation by Roland Draxler of National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration Air Resources Laboratory (powerpoint document). This scientific data verifies the expert analysis done by Fairewinds’ Chief Engineer, Arnie Gundersen and discussed in his speech at the New York School of Medicine symposium with Dr. Helen Caldicott in March 2013.
Fairewinds in the News:
Pointing out that the Westinghouse-made reactors need a $100M filter to safeguard against a radioactive leak, Fairewinds Chief Engineer Arnie Gundersen told the British news source, The Independent that such a leak would amount to “Chernobyl on steroids”. The Independent interviewed Arnie on his recent trip to the UK where he was invited to speak in Keswick regarding the proposed construction of three AP1000 nuclear reactors in Cumbria.
“Evacuation of Moorside would have to be up to 50 miles. You could put a filter on the top of the AP1000 to trap the gases – that would cost about $100m, which is small potatoes…If this leaks it would be a leak worse than the one at Fukushima. Historically, there have been 66 containment leaks around the world,” Arnie warned. These concerns were brought to the attention of Members of Parliament (MPs) when Arnie was invited to speak at the House of Commons to commemorate the ongoing tragedy at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant four years later.
Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Energy Education took a trip this week across the pond to jolly ol’ England to speak at the House of Commons and various other events, one of which caused quite a stir when it was forced to relocate from its original venue at a local school to a local hotel. The Keswick School, a public institution by United States standards, agreed to host the meeting in question until Head Teacher Simon Jackson revoked hospitality on the day of the event. Keswick School’s location is very near to Sellafield a nuclear reprocessing site and nuclear power and waste were part of the discussion. On the grounds of disturbing the local community, Head Teacher Jackson refused to host Radiation Free Lakeland’s scheduled public discussion about a new nuclear power plant proposed for the area. Jackson admitted that there are many families employed by the nuclear processing site with children attending Keswick School. Radiation and Health expert and fellow speaker Dr. Ian Fairlie of London submitted a letter to Jackson with his concerns as to Jackson’s decision as an educator to “ban” a “friendly, informative meeting.”
Last week, Vermont Yankee (VY) owner Entergy filed to withdraw an additional $6.5 million from the controversial decommissioning trust fund. Last month Entergy also withdrew $12 million from the decommissioning trust fund to pay for planning VY’s decommissioning. While Entergy has not publicly released details of how these subtracted funds are being used, it claims it will not start the physical decommissioning of VY until the fund reaches the total decommissioning amount Entergy says it needs. However, Entergy also asserts that it has decided it will no longer be responsible for the costs of decommissioning the site once the federally enforced 60-year timeframe of SAFSTOR has elapsed. Stakeholders are raising concerns as repeated extraction of money from the fund stunts its growth. Although there has been an increase of $400,000 to the decommissioning fund since January thanks to the stock market, Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds wisely points out “There have been $15 million swings in the past. This one happened to go up, but just as often they go down.”