These videos are good, but slightly seasoned.

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Saturday, July 2, 2011

About Fallout' (1963): US DoD Documentary Short


This is an old piece, but with the amount of fallout we are getting, its an interesting fundamental.


'About Fallout' (1963): US DoD
Documentary Short

(Note from re-publishing.)
The explosions from the 2011 Japan reactors sent up over 50,000 tons of Mox plutonium into the atmosphere and into the trade-winds, just how bad can that be if Mox takes proximity 30,000 years to be safe.  The fallout from part of this old video talks about a radiation that levels of in about a week.. this is 30,000 years and 50,000 tons of plutonium.

So when watching this old educational video, keep in mind, we have had the equivalent of a nuclear war with its fallout, and its still coming because the Japan reactors are still melting and putting out radiation into the air.



"Patients Treated by X-Rays Routinely Get Over It"
==

Uploaded by nuclearvault 
July 30, 2009

Discusses the physics, effects and defense against nuclear fallout. Describes the phenomena of natural radiation and the dangers of fallout. Explains the value of time, distance and mass in weakening the effect of residual radiation. Examines the effects of radiation on the body, food and water. Underscores adequate shelter and prescribed decontamination measures.

==
July 3, 2011
Alexandra Bruce Comment:
This 1963 film is charmingly dated in style but still very informative. As the film says, "We owe it to ourselves, our families and our country to know how to protect ourselves from fallout."

==
July 3, 2011

Re-distributed by RadiationAlerts.org from forbiddenknowledgetv.com.


Note. The explosions from the 2011 Japan reactors sent up over 50,000 tons of Mox plutonium into the atmosphere and into the trade-winds, just how bad can that be if Mox takes proximity 30,000 years to be safe.  The fallout from part of this old video talks about a radiation that levels of in about a week.. this is 30,000 years and 50,000 tons of plutonium went into the atmosphere.
==

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'Beyond Treason' - Award-Winning Documentary Feature Film


'Beyond Treason' - Award-Winning
Documentary Feature Film
Produced & Written by Joyce Riley
Directed by William Lewis

Definitive Film About Gulf War Syndrome
What you don't know about your government could kill you... 
Department of Defense documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act expose the horrific underworld of the disposable Army mentality and the Government-funded experimentation upon US citizens, conducted without their knowledge or consent.

UNMASKING SECRET MILITARY PROJECTS:

- Chemical & Biological Exposures
- Radioactive Poisoning 
- Mind Control Projects
- Experimental Vaccines
- Gulf War Illness
- Depleted Uranium (DU)

Is the United States knowingly using a dangerous battlefield weapon banned by the United Nations because of its long-term effects on the local inhabitants and the environment? Explore the illegal worldwide sale and use of one of the deadliest weapons ever invented. 

Beyond the disclosure of black-ops projects spanning the past 6 decades, 'Beyond Treason' also addresses the complex subject of Gulf War Illness. It includes interviews with experts, both civilian and military, who say that the government is hiding the truth from the public and they can prove it.

Re-posted by Radiationalerts.org from forbiddenknowledgetv.com

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YouTube - ‪Fukushima update & Chernobyl comparison 7/1/11‬‏


Some Graphic Images. Tim Rifat is saying the accumulative Japanese Radiation falllout will equal a 3rd World War, and coupled with the low Western birth rate, the West will become overwhelmed.

YouTube - ‪Fukushima update & Chernobyl comparison 7/1/11

YouTube - ‪WARNING!!!! Horrific Video Footage from Fukushima‬‏

When people are forced to evacuate, who takes care of the livestock and pets. No one is saying these dying cows are from radiation sickness, but in some areas, they do. This seems to be starvation of cow when people are gone.

This might be disturbing, but its realities that happen and if we keep building devices that can cause such harm to people, to animals and to the environment, then this will become even Worse as mother nature keeps on its path

YouTube - ‪WARNING!!!! Horrific Video Footage from Fukushima‬‏:


A note at this video post.
"Poor cows. I guess it's not enough they have radiation poisoning.But they are left to starve to death.The human race sucks and we will pay for all the suffering we inflict on helpless animals, but also on each other."


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YouTube - ‪Problems At American Nuclear Reactors The NRC Knows But Does Nothing About‬‏

Another part of the C-10 Panel on Radiation and Nuclear Safety/Licensing Issues. David Lochbaum provides specific examples of nuclear safety issues the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has known about for more than 30 years, but does not enforce its own regulations. According to the NRCs own study, initially 53 of 69 plants did not meet regulations regarding emergency feedwater cooling in case of an accident. Currently that figure stands at 20 plants not in compliance. David points to a list of plants that still do not meet the fire code regulations, and says the infamous Brown's Ferry nuclear plant (which had a very serious candle-ignited fire in the 1970's) is among the culprits.


YouTube - ‪Problems At American Nuclear Reactors The NRC Knows But Does Nothing About

YouTube - ‪7/1/2011 Los Alamos Nuke Smoke Plume Alert !!‬‏

The fires are still not at a comfort zone..

Good video on the issue

YouTube - ‪7/1/2011 Los Alamos Nuke Smoke Plume Alert !!

YouTube - ‪CNN: Arnie Gundersen Discusses the Flooded Ft. Calhoun and Cooper Nuclear Power Plants‬‏


"Gundersen says "sandbags and nuclear power shouldn't be put in the same sentence, but it is a lot better than Fukushima." Gundersen explains that Ft. Calhoun was already shut down and has much less decay heat.


He stresses that the auxiliary building and containment building are not his major concern. A small building, the intake structure, which contains the emergency service water pumps is needed for cooling the nuclear fuel and should be protected.


Another Nuclear Plant, Cooper (about 90 miles south of Ft. Calhoun), is still running and poses a bigger threat because of it's decay heat. Gundersen believes that both Nuclear Plants will "ride out" this problem, as long as an upstream dam does not break. It an upstream dam were to break, he says, "All bets are off". "
http://vimeo.com/25833682


This video was uploaded by Fairewinds Associates on Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/user6415562


YouTube - ‪CNN: Arnie Gundersen Discusses the Flooded Ft. Calhoun and Cooper Nuclear Power Plants


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YouTube - ‪New Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant Raw Ariel Fly Over Video Taken Today June 27, 2011‬‏

High quality Ariel fly over of the New Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power plant.

If it gets in trouble now or later, can we really keep this kind of unsafe situation to continue?

YouTube - ‪New Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant Raw Ariel Fly Over Video Taken Today June 27, 2011

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Japan's '3 Stage Radiation Crisis' - Radiation in Fukushima Residents - Scientific Parrot Interview


Radiation discovered in Fukushima residents - June 27, 2011 9:11 a.m. EDT (time stamp 9:11.... the interview is about as believable as the official 9/11 story)


Japanese researchers have found radiation in all 15 people tested last month from the area near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.


Cesium was found in the participants, ranging from 4 to 77 years old, through two rounds of testing conducted by Nanao Kamada at the Research Institute for Radiation Biology and Medicine of Hiroshima University.


Kamada insisted that the cesium numbers are minute and do not represent a health threat.


The people tested lived in the towns of Iitate and Kawamata, located about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the nuclear plant...


Full story here: CNN World




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YouTube - ‪NUMEROUS Nuclear power plants in trouble USA and Japan 6/27/11‬‏



Video



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FUKUSHIMA Video/story - ‪Brave Fukushima Workers Speak Out ! Things Much Worse Than Reported by Japanese Officials‬‏


Brave Fukushima Workers Speak Out ! Things Much Worse Than Reported by Japanese Officials.


The crisis at Fukushima continues to get worse. Arnold Gundersen, a former nuclear industry senior vice president, recently made the following statement about the Fukushima disaster.... 

"Fukushima is the biggest industrial catastrophe in the history of mankind"



YouTube - ‪Brave Fukushima Workers Speak Out ! Things Much Worse Than Reported by Japanese Officials. 


TEPCO has finally admitted that this disaster has released more radioactive material into the environment than Chernobyl did. That makes Fukushima the worst nuclear disaster of all time, and it is far from over.


Massive amounts of water is being poured into the spent fuel pools in order to keep them cool. This is creating "hundreds of thousands of tons of highly radioactive sea water" that has got to go somewhere. Inevitably much of it will get into the ground and into the sea. 


Arnold Gundersen says that the scope of this problem is almost unimaginable.... 


"TEPCO announced they had a melt through. A melt down is when the fuel collapses to the bottom of the reactor, and a melt through means it has melted through some layers. That blob is incredibly radioactive, and now you have water on top of it. The water picks up enormous amounts of radiation, so you add more water and you are generating hundreds of thousands of tons of highly radioactive water."


The mainstream media is not paying as much attention to Fukushima these days, but that doesn't mean that it is not a major league nightmare.


Elevated levels of radiation are being reported by Japanese bloggers all over eastern Japan. There are reports of sick children all over the region. One adviser to the government of Japan says that an area approximately 17 times the size of Manhattan is probably going to be uninhabitable.


Of course the mainstream media has been telling us all along that Fukushima is nothing to be too concerned about and that authorities in Japan have everything under control.


If the mainstream media is not going to tell us the truth, how are they going to continue to have credibility?


More on mainstream media issues at Mockingbird Media 


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Friday, July 1, 2011

Nuclear industry, regulators maintain cozy relationship

Nuclear industry, regulators maintain cozy relationship.
(when will we learn)

By JEFF DONN
The Associated Press


LACEY TOWNSHIP, N.J. | Federal regulators have worked closely with the nuclear power industry to keep the nation’s aging reactors operating within safety standards by repeatedly weakening those standards or failing to enforce them, The Associated Press has found.

Time after time, officials at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have decided that original regulations were too strict, arguing that safety margins could be eased without peril, according to records and interviews.
The result? Rising fears that these accommodations by the NRC are undermining safety and inching the reactors closer to an accident.

Examples abound. When valves leaked, more leakage was allowed — up to 20 times the original limit. When rampant cracking caused radioactive leaks from steam generator tubing, an easier test of the tubes was devised.

Failed cables, busted seals, broken nozzles, clogged screens, cracked concrete, dented containers, corroded metals and rusty underground pipes — all of these and thousands of other problems linked to aging were uncovered.

Not one official body in government or industry has studied the overall frequency and safety impact of such breakdowns in recent years, even as the NRC has extended the licenses of dozens of reactors.
Industry and government officials defend their actions.

“I see an effort on the part of this agency to always make sure that we’re doing the right things for safety. I’m not sure that I see a pattern of staff simply doing things because there’s an interest to reduce requirements — that’s certainly not the case,” NRC chairman Gregory Jaczko said in an interview at agency headquarters in Rockville, Md.

But the yearlong AP investigation found that, with billions of dollars and 19 percent of America’s electricity supply at stake, a cozy relationship prevails between the industry and its regulator.

Records show a pattern. Reactor parts or systems fall out of compliance. Studies are conducted by the industry and government, and all agree that existing standards are “unnecessarily conservative.” Regulations are loosened, and the reactors are back in compliance.
“That’s what they say for everything, whether that’s the case or not,” said Demetrios Basdekas, an engineer retired from the NRC.

The ongoing crisis at the stricken, decades-old Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear facility in Japan has focused attention on the safety of plants, prompting an NRC report on U.S. reactors that is due in July.
Reactors in Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska have come under scrutiny for their ability to handle earthquakes, tornadoes and flooding.

The Wolf Creek reactor 100 miles west of Kansas City recently received poor marks for its tornado preparedness plan.
Flooding has kept the Fort Calhoun plant 20 miles north of Omaha shut down since a scheduled refueling in April. And the Cooper Nuclear Station 70 miles south of Omaha issued a flooding alert Sunday.
The Callaway plant near Fulton, Mo., was ranked by one review as least likely among all the nation’s reactors to suffer earthquake damage.

But the factor of aging goes far beyond the issues posed by potential disasters.
Commercial nuclear reactors in the United States were designed and licensed for 40 years. When the first ones were being built in the 1960s and 1970s, it was expected they would be replaced with improved models long before the licenses expired.

Instead, 66 of the 104 operating units have been relicensed for 20 more years, mostly with scant public attention. Renewal applications are under review for 16 other reactors.
Wolf Creek, originally licensed in 1985, has been renewed through 2045. The Nebraska reactors, first licensed in the 1970s, are relicensed into the 2030s.

Callaway operates under its original 1984 license that won’t expire until 2024.
The AP’s report did not mention any of the four plants in the region.

A statement from Callaway operator Ameren Corp. said it proactively inspected, assessed, updated and replaced equipment. It has, for example, replaced 70,000 condenser tubes in 2004, all four steam generators in 2005 and its underground piping in 2008 and 2009, for which it received a Top Industry Practices award from the Nuclear Energy Institute. Also, a project to replace the reactor vessel head, or lid, is under way.
The Nebraska Public Power District, which operates the Cooper facility, has invested more in the plant in the last five years that it cost to build originally, a statement from the district said. It also said the plant’s operations are reviewed by the Institute of Power Operations, other nuclear utilities and self-regulating bodies independent of the NRC. Its recent license renewal included a safety review by an independent group that advises the NRC.

Spokespeople for Wolf Creek and Fort Calhoun declined to comment specifically on the AP report.
The AP found that aging reactors have been allowed to run less safely to prolong operations.
Last year, for example, the NRC weakened the safety margin for acceptable radiation damage to reactor vessels — for a second time. The standard is based on a measurement known as a reactor vessel’s “reference temperature,” which predicts when it will become brittle and vulnerable to failure. Over the years, many plants have violated or come close to violating the standard.

As a result, the minimum standard was relaxed first by raising the reference temperature 50 percent, then 78 percent.
“We’ve seen the pattern,” said nuclear safety scientist Dana Powers, who works for Sandia National Laboratories and sits on an NRC advisory committee. “They’re … trying to get more and more out of these plants.”

Neil Wilmshurst, director of plant technology for the industry’s Electric Power Research Institute, acknowledged that the industry and NRC often collaborated on research that supported rule changes. But he maintained that there was “no kind of misplaced alliance ... to get the right answer.”

And former NRC commissioner Peter Lyons said: “There certainly is plenty of research … to support a relaxation of the ‘conservativisms’ that had been built in before. I don’t see that as decreasing safety. I see that as an appropriate standard.”

Though some parts are too big and too expensive to replace, industry defenders also point out that many others are routinely replaced.

Tony Pietrangelo, chief nuclear officer of the industry’s Nuclear Energy Institute, acknowledges that you’d expect to see a growing failure rate at some point — “if we didn’t replace and do consistent maintenance.”
Supporters of aging plants say an old reactor is essentially a collection of new parts.

“When a plant gets to be 40 years old, about the only thing that’s 40 years old is the ink on the license,” said NRC chief spokesman Eliot Brenner. “Most if not all of the major components will have been changed out.”
Yet agency staff, plant operators and consultants paint a different picture in reports, where evidence of industrywide problems is striking.

For example, the 39-year-old Palisades reactor in Michigan shut down Jan. 22 when an electrical cable failed, a fuse blew and a valve stuck shut, expelling steam with low levels of radioactive tritium.
One 2008 NRC report blamed 70 percent of potentially serious safety problems on “degraded conditions.” Some involve human factors, but many stem from equipment wear, including cracked nozzles, loose paint, electrical problems or offline cooling components.

Postponed inspections inside a steam generator at Indian Point, 25 miles north of New York, allowed tubing to burst, leading to a radioactive release in 2000.

Two years later, cracking was allowed to grow so bad in nozzles on the reactor vessel at the Davis-Besse plant near Toledo, Ohio, that it came within two months of a possible breach, the NRC acknowledged in a report. A hole in the vessel could release radiation into the environment, yet inspections failed to catch the same problem on the replacement vessel head until more nozzles were found to be cracked last year.
In an effort to meet safety standards, aging reactors have been forced to come up with backfit on top of backfit.

As Ivan Selin, a retired NRC chairman, put it: “It’s as if we were all driving Model T’s today and trying to bring them up to current mileage standards.”
The Star’s Mark Davis contributed to this report.

Read more: http://www.kansascity.com/2011/06/20/2963616/nuclear-industry-regulators-work.html#ixzz1QuyCLz00

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Georgia Power expects NRC to issue key construction license "without an .


Georgia Power expects NRC to issue key construction license "without an ...

By Kristi E. Swartz Georgia Power agrees with an independent construction monitor's findings that the first of two planned nuclear reactors for Plant Vogtle may go past its current schedule and exceed its budget. The reactors need a key license from ... 

More at:
http://www.ajc.com/business/georgia-power-expects-nrc-995486.html

German parliament approves nuclear shutdown


German parliament approves nuclear shutdown


BERLIN (AP) — German lawmakers overwhelmingly approved on Thursday plans to shut the country's nuclear plants by 2022, putting Europe's biggest economy on the road to an ambitious build-up of renewable energy. The lower house of parliament... more »
GEIR MOULSON, Associated Press Associated Press1 day ago


Savannah River seals up 2 nuclear weapons reactors


Savannah River seals up 2 nuclear weapons reactors

Energy officials say the P and R reactors at the Savannah River Site were sealed off Wednesday with about 260,000 cubic yards of concrete grout. The complex near Aiken, S.C., received $1.6 billion in federal stimulus money to create or save more... 



Los Alamos officials plan for return of residents  | ajc.com

Los Alamos officials plan for return of residents | ajc.com: "Los Alamos officials plan for return of residents"

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. — Officials at the nation's premier nuclear weapons laboratory and in the surrounding northern New Mexico town began planning Friday for the return of thousands of residents and employees as firefighters held their ground on the flank of the massive wildfire, the largest in state history.


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Former party chief executive in Scotland says Huhne must go over 'conspiracy' to protect nuclear industry

Call for Chris Huhne to resign over Fukushima emails

Former party chief executive in Scotland says Huhne must go over 'conspiracy' to protect nuclear industry

chris-huhne
Chris Huhne faces mounting criticism over his department's attempts to co-ordinate a PR strategy around the Fukushima disaster. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA
A prominent Liberal Democrat has called for Chris Huhne to resign immediately as energy and climate change secretary after emails were released detailing his officials' efforts to co-ordinate a PR response to the Fukushima disaster with the nuclear industry. Civil servants in the energy and business departments were apparently trying to minimise the impact of the disaster on public support for nuclear power.
Andy Myles, the party's former chief executive in Scotland, said: "This deliberate and (sadly) very effective attempt to 'calm' the reporting of the true story of Fukushima is a terrible betrayal of liberal values. In my view it is not acceptable that a Liberal Democrat cabinet minister presides over a department deeply involved in a blatant conspiracy designed to manipulate the truth in order to protect corporate interests".
The leader of the Lib Dems in the European parliament, Fiona Hall, said nuclear plans should be put on hold.
"These emails corroborate my own impression that there has been a strange silence in the UK following the Fukushima disaster ... in the UK, new nuclear sites have been announced before the results of the Europe-wide review of nuclear safety has been completed. Today's news strengthens the case for the government to halt new nuclear plans until an independent and transparent review has been conducted."


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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Help support Radiation Alerts

Help Support Nuclear Reactor research and reporting.
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» Is The Mainstream Media Covering Up The Truth At Los Alamos, Ft. Calhoun And Fukushima? Alex Jones' Infowars: There's a war on for your mind!

It has also been reported that the wildfire is now within 50 feet of the Los Alamos facility itself.

What in the world is really going on at Los Alamos, Ft. Calhoun and Fukushima? There are millions of Americans that would like the truth about what is happening at these nuclear facilities, but the mainstream media has been strangely quiet. Instead, the mainstream media is running headlines such as “10 Dirtiest U.S. Beaches Named” and “Pole Dance Stops Times Square Cold”. Yes, those are actually headlines that appeared on the front pages of major mainstream news websites in the United States today. Sadly, you really have to dig to find anything about the problems that are currently happening at nuclear facilities in the United States, and the mainstream media seems to have gotten really tired of talking about Fukushima. It is almost as if the mainstream media actually prefers to talk about mindless things rather than focus on the truly important events that are happening all around us.
Look, most of us are not nuclear experts, but when one of our nuclear plants is completely surrounded by flood waters and another one is being seriously threatened by a raging wildfire we have a right to be concerned.

see the full story and pictures here:
» Is The Mainstream Media Covering Up The Truth At Los Alamos, Ft. Calhoun And Fukushima? Alex Jones' Infowars: There's a war on for your mind!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

BBC News - Wildfire sparks small fire inside Los Alamos nuclear lab

Wildfire sparks small fire inside Los Alamos nuclear lab

Video report:
BBC News - Wildfire sparks small fire inside Los Alamos nuclear lab: "Wildfire sparks small fire inside Los Alamos nuclear lab"

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TEPCO's water decontamination plan


TEPCO's water decontamination plan
NHK WORLD - Japan Broadcasting Corporation
The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has released an estimate of the amount of highly-radioactive water it expects to decontaminate in the next 3 months.


Tokyo Electric Power Company said Wednesday it plans to reduce the amount of contaminated water at the facility by some 34,000 tons. At this point, 120,000 tons have accumulated at the plant.


TEPCO started an operation on Monday to use the decontaminated wastewater as coolant and re-circulate it back into the damaged reactors.


But the procedure has been stopped twice since then because of pipe leaks. TEPCO workers temporarily halted the system on Wednesday after they detected a leak at a storage tank for decontaminated water.


The utility maintains the system holds the key to stabilizing the reactors and reducing the amount of contaminated water at the plant.


TEPCO's estimate of how much water will be filtered over the next 3 months is based on the assumption that the new setup will function at 90 percent capacity. Right now, the system is only operating at 55 percent capacity.
Thursday, June 30, 2011 05:41 +0900 (JST)

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Cover-Up Anger Japanese outraged with govt keeping truth in the dark

Cover-Up Anger Japanese outraged with govt keeping truth in the dark.


The Japanese government is starting radiation checkups for more than two million people living near the crippled Fukushima plant. It's part of a long-term health monitoring programme - launched over 3 months after the nuclear crisis started. And as RT's Sean Thomas reports, confusion over where's safe - and where isn't - is seeing many lose trust in the authorities.








Residents of the Fukushima district, and those who lived near-by have not only faced radiation exposure but also social exclusion... That's according to Dr. Robert Jacobs, Professor of nuclear history, at the Hiroshima Peace Institute.


More info.
Videos


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Concerns grow as Feds dispatch airplane capable of detecting chemicals



ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- 


Federal environment officials have dispatched a special twin-engine plane capable of detecting chemical and radiological materials as a wildfire continues to burn near a government nuclear laboratory in northern New Mexico.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's "flying laboratory" is making its initial data-collection flight Wednesday afternoon.The plane has sensors that collect detailed air samples from a safe distance.Gov. Susana Martinez said the results from the sampling will be posted on the state Environment Department's website as soon as they become available.The nuclear lab and state environment officials are also monitoring the air. They say no fire is burning on lab property and there have been no releases of toxins.Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico had requested the EPA's help early on in the monitoring effort.

Video and Story
Read more: http://www.koat.com/news/28398220/detail.html#ixzz1Qi84bzpJ




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US Nuke Regulators Weaken Safety Rules

US Nuke Regulators Weaken Safety Rules

by Jeff Donn
NEW JERSEY - Federal regulators have been working closely with the nuclear power industry to keep the nation's aging reactors operating within safety standards by repeatedly weakening those standards, or simply failing to enforce them, an investigation by The Associated Press has found.
 
This April 2006 photo made available by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in response to a public records request by The Associated Press shows a badly rusted valve in a containment spraying system that was initially a focus of concern as workers tried to find the source of leaks at the closed Indian Point 1 reactor in New York state. The leakage was eventually traced to spent fuel pools. The reactor had been shut down since 1974. (AP) Time after time, officials at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission have decided that original regulations were too strict, arguing that safety margins could be eased without peril, according to records and interviews.
The result? Rising fears that these accommodations by the NRC are significantly undermining safety — and inching the reactors closer to an accident that could harm the public and jeopardize the future of nuclear power in the United States.
Examples abound. When valves leaked, more leakage was allowed — up to 20 times the original limit. When rampant cracking caused radioactive leaks from steam generator tubing, an easier test of the tubes was devised, so plants could meet standards.
Failed cables. Busted seals. Broken nozzles, clogged screens, cracked concrete, dented containers, corroded metals and rusty underground pipes — all of these and thousands of other problems linked to aging were uncovered in the AP's yearlong investigation. And all of them could escalate dangers in the event of an accident.
Yet despite the many problems linked to aging, not a single official body in government or industry has studied the overall frequency and potential impact on safety of such breakdowns in recent years, even as the NRC has extended the licenses of dozens of reactors.
Industry and government officials defend their actions, and insist that no chances are being taken. But the AP investigation found that with billions of dollars and 19 percent of America's electricity supply at stake, a cozy relationship prevails between the industry and its regulator, the NRC.
Records show a recurring pattern: Reactor parts or systems fall out of compliance with the rules. Studies are conducted by the industry and government, and all agree that existing standards are "unnecessarily conservative."
Regulations are loosened, and the reactors are back in compliance.
"That's what they say for everything, whether that's the case or not," said Demetrios Basdekas, an engineer retired from the NRC. "Every time you turn around, they say `We have all this built-in conservatism.'"
The ongoing crisis at the stricken, decades-old Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear facility in Japan has focused attention on the safety of plants elsewhere in the world; it prompted the NRC to look at U.S. reactors, and a report is due in July.
But the factor of aging goes far beyond the issues posed by the disaster at Fukushima.
Commercial nuclear reactors in the United States were designed and licensed for 40 years. When the first ones were being built in the 1960s and 1970s, it was expected that they would be replaced with improved models long before those licenses expired.
But that never happened. The 1979 accident at Three Mile Island, massive cost overruns, crushing debt and high interest rates ended new construction proposals for several decades.
Instead, 66 of the 104 operating units have been relicensed for 20 more years, mostly with scant public attention. Renewal applications are under review for 16 other reactors.
By the standards in place when they were built, these reactors are old and getting older. As of today, 82 reactors are more than 25 years old.
The AP found proof that aging reactors have been allowed to run less safely to prolong operations. As equipment has approached or violated safety limits, regulators and reactor operators have loosened or bent the rules.
Last year, the NRC weakened the safety margin for acceptable radiation damage to reactor vessels — for a second time. The standard is based on a measurement known as a reactor vessel's "reference temperature," which predicts when it will become dangerously brittle and vulnerable to failure. Over the years, many plants have violated or come close to violating the standard.
As a result, the minimum standard was relaxed first by raising the reference temperature 50 percent, and then 78 percent above the original — even though a broken vessel could spill its radioactive contents into the environment.
"We've seen the pattern," said nuclear safety scientist Dana Powers, who works for Sandia National Laboratories and also sits on an NRC advisory committee. "They're ... trying to get more and more out of these plants."
———
SHARPENING THE PENCIL
The AP collected and analyzed government and industry documents — including some never-before released. The examination looked at both types of reactor designs: pressurized water units that keep radioactivity confined to the reactor building and the less common boiling water types like those at Fukushima, which send radioactive water away from the reactor to drive electricity-generating turbines.
Tens of thousands of pages of government and industry studies were examined, along with test results, inspection reports and regulatory policy statements filed over four decades. Interviews were conducted with scores of managers, regulators, engineers, scientists, whistleblowers, activists, and residents living near the reactors, which are located at 65 sites, mostly in the East and Midwest.
AP reporting teams toured some of the oldest reactors — the unit here at Oyster Creek, near the Atlantic coast 50 miles east of Philadelphia, and two units at Indian Point, 25 miles north of New York City along the Hudson River.
Called "Oyster Creak" by some critics because of its aging problems, this boiling water reactor began running in 1969 and ranks as the country's oldest operating commercial nuclear power plant. Its license was extended in 2009 until 2029, though utility officials announced in December that they'll shut the reactor 10 years earlier rather than build state-ordered cooling towers. Applications to extend the lives of pressurized water units 2 and 3 at Indian Point, each more than 36 years old, are under review by the NRC.
Unprompted, several nuclear engineers and former regulators used nearly identical terminology to describe how industry and government research has frequently justified loosening safety standards to keep aging reactors within operating rules. They call the approach "sharpening the pencil" or "pencil engineering" — the fudging of calculations and assumptions to yield answers that enable plants with deteriorating conditions to remain in compliance.
"Many utilities are doing that sort of thing," said engineer Richard T. Lahey Jr., who used to design nuclear safety systems for General Electric Co., which makes boiling water reactors. "I think we need nuclear power, but we can't compromise on safety. I think the vulnerability is on these older plants."
Added Paul Blanch, an engineer who left the industry over safety issues but later returned to work on solving them: "It's a philosophical position that (federal regulators) take that's driven by the industry and by the economics: What do we need to do to let those plants continue to operate? They somehow sharpen their pencil to either modify their interpretation of the regulations, or they modify their assumptions in the risk assessment."
In public pronouncements, industry and government say aging is well under control. "I see an effort on the part of this agency to always make sure that we're doing the right things for safety. I'm not sure that I see a pattern of staff simply doing things because there's an interest to reduce requirements — that's certainly not the case," NRC chairman Gregory Jaczko said in an interview at agency headquarters in Rockville, Md.
Neil Wilmshurst, director of plant technology for the industry's Electric Power Research Institute, acknowledged that the industry and NRC often collaborate on research that supports rule changes. But he maintained that there's "no kind of misplaced alliance ... to get the right answer."
Yet agency staff, plant operators, and consultants paint a different picture in little-known reports, where evidence of industry-wide problems is striking:
—The AP reviewed 226 preliminary notifications — alerts on emerging safety problems — issued by the NRC since 2005. Wear and tear in the form of clogged lines, cracked parts, leaky seals, rust and other deterioration contributed to at least 26 alerts over the past six years. Other notifications lack detail, but aging also was a probable factor in 113 additional alerts. That would constitute up to 62 percent in all. For example, the 39-year-old Palisades reactor in Michigan shut Jan. 22 when an electrical cable failed, a fuse blew, and a valve stuck shut, expelling steam with low levels of radioactive tritium into the air outside. And a one-inch crack in a valve weld aborted a restart in February at the LaSalle site west of Chicago.
—One 2008 NRC report blamed 70 percent of potentially serious safety problems on "degraded conditions." Some involve human factors, but many stem from equipment wear, including cracked nozzles, loose paint, electrical problems, or offline cooling components.
—Confronted with worn parts that need maintenance, the industry has repeatedly requested — and regulators have often allowed — inspections and repairs to be delayed for months until scheduled refueling outages. Again and again, problems worsened before they were fixed. Postponed inspections inside a steam generator at Indian Point allowed tubing to burst, leading to a radioactive release in 2000. Two years later, cracking was allowed to grow so bad in nozzles on the reactor vessel at the Davis-Besse plant near Toledo, Ohio, that it came within two months of a possible breach, the NRC acknowledged in a report. A hole in the vessel could release radiation into the environment, yet inspections failed to catch the same problem on the replacement vessel head until more nozzles were found to be cracked last year.
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TIME CRUMBLES THINGS
Nuclear plants are fundamentally no more immune to the incremental abuses of time than our cars or homes: Metals grow weak and rusty, concrete crumbles, paint peels, crud accumulates. Big components like 17-story-tall concrete containment buildings or 800-ton reactor vessels are all but impossible to replace. Smaller parts and systems can be swapped, but still pose risks as a result of weak maintenance and lax regulation or hard-to-predict failures. Even when things are fixed or replaced, the same parts or others nearby often fail later.
Even mundane deterioration at a reactor can carry harsh consequences.
For example, peeling paint and debris can be swept toward pumps that circulate cooling water in a reactor accident. A properly functioning containment building is needed to create air pressure that helps clear those pumps. The fact is, a containment building could fail in a severe accident. Yet the NRC has allowed operators to make safety calculations that assume containment buildings will hold.
In a 2009 letter, Mario V. Bonaca, then-chairman of the NRC's Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards, warned that this approach represents "a decrease in the safety margin" and makes a fuel-melting accident more likely. At Fukushima, hydrogen explosions blew apart two of six containment buildings, allowing radiation to escape from overheated fuel in storage pools.
Many photos in NRC archives — some released in response to AP requests under the federal Freedom of Information Act — show rust accumulated in a thick crust or paint peeling in long sheets on untended equipment at nuclear plants. Other breakdowns can't be observed or predicted, even with sophisticated analytic methods — especially for buried, hidden or hard-to-reach parts.
Industry and government reports are packed with troubling evidence of unrelenting wear — and repeated regulatory compromises.
Four areas stand out:
BRITTLE VESSELS: For years, operators have rearranged fuel rods to limit gradual radiation damage to the steel vessels protecting the core and to keep them strong enough to meet safety standards.
It hasn't worked well enough.
Even with last year's weakening of the safety margins, engineers and metal scientists say some plants may be forced to close over these concerns before their licenses run out — unless, of course, new compromises with regulations are made. But the stakes are high: A vessel damaged by radiation becomes brittle and prone to cracking in certain accidents at pressurized water reactors, potentially releasing its radioactive contents into the environment.
LEAKY VALVES: Operators have repeatedly violated leakage standards for valves designed to bottle up radioactive steam in the event of earthquakes and other accidents at boiling water reactors.
Many plants have found they could not adhere to the general standard allowing each of these parts — known as main steam isolation valves — to leak at a rate of no more than 11.5 cubic feet per hour. In 1999, the NRC decided to permit individual plants to seek amendments of up to 200 cubic feet per hour for all four steam valves combined.
But plants keep violating even those higher limits. For example, in 2007, Hatch Unit 2, in Baxley, Ga., reported combined leakage of 574 cubic feet per hour.
CRACKED TUBING: The industry has long known of cracking in steel alloy tubing originally used in the steam generators of pressurized water reactors. Ruptures were rampant in these tubes containing radioactive coolant; in 1993 alone, there were seven. Even today, as many as 18 reactors are still running on old generators.
Problems can arise even in a newer metal alloy, according to a report of a 2008 industry-government workshop.
CORRODED PIPING: Nuclear operators have failed to stop an epidemic of leaks in pipes and other underground equipment in damp settings. The country's nuclear sites have suffered more than 400 accidental radioactive leaks during their history, the activist Union of Concerned Scientists reported in September.
Plant operators have been drilling monitoring wells and patching hidden or buried piping and other equipment for several years to control an escalating outbreak.
Here, too, they have failed. Between 2000 and 2009, the annual number of leaks from underground piping shot up fivefold, according to an internal industry document obtained and analyzed by the AP.
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CONCERNS OF LONG STANDING
Even as they reassured the public, regulators have been worrying about aging reactors since at least the 1980s, when the first ones were entering only their second decade of operation. A 1984 report for the NRC blamed wear, corrosion, crud and fatigue for more than a third of 3,098 failures of parts or systems within the first 12 years of industry operations; the authors believed the number was actually much higher.
A decade later, in 1994, the NRC reported to Congress that the critical shrouds lining reactor cores were cracked at a minimum of 11 units, including five with extensive damage. The NRC ordered more aggressive maintenance, but an agency report last year said cracking of internal core components — spurred by radiation — remains "a major concern" in boiling water reactors.
A 1995 study by Oak Ridge National Laboratory covering a seven-year period found that aging contributed to 19 percent of scenarios that could have ended in severe accidents.
In 2001, the Union of Concerned Scientists, which does not oppose nuclear power, told Congress that aging problems had shut reactors eight times within 13 months.
And an NRC presentation for an international workshop that same year warned of escalating wear at reactor buildings meant to bottle up radiation during accidents. A total of 66 cases of damage were cited in the presentation, with corrosion reported at a quarter of all containment buildings. In at least two cases — at the two-reactor North Anna site 40 miles northwest of Richmond, Va., and the two-unit Brunswick facility near Wilmington, N.C. — steel containment liners designed to shield the public had rusted through.
And in 2009, a one-third-inch hole was discovered in a liner at Beaver Valley Unit 1 in Shippingport, Pa.
Long-standing, unresolved problems persist with electrical cables, too.
In a 1993 report labeled "official use only," an NRC staffer warned that electrical parts throughout plants were subject to dangerous age-related breakdowns unforeseen by the agency. Almost a fifth of cables failed in testing that simulated the effects of 40 years of wear. The report warned that as a result, reactor core damage could occur much more often than expected.
Fifteen years later, the problem appeared to have worsened. An NRC report warned in 2008 that rising numbers of electrical cables are failing with age, prompting temporary shutdowns and degrading safety. Agency staff tallied 269 known failures over the life of the industry.
Two industry-funded reports obtained by the AP said that managers and regulators have worried increasingly about the reliability of sometimes wet, hard-to-reach underground cables over the past five-to-10 years. One of the reports last year acknowledged many electrical-related aging failures at plants around the country.
"Multiple cable circuits may fail when called on to perform functions affecting safety," the report warned.
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EATEN AWAY FROM WITHIN
Few aging problems have been more challenging than chemical corrosion from within.
In one of the industry's worst accidents, a corroded pipe burst at Virginia's Surry 2 reactor in 1986 and showered workers with scalding steam, killing four.
In summer 2001, the NRC was confronted with a new problem: Corrosive chemicals were cracking nozzles on reactors. But the NRC let operators delay inspections to coincide with scheduled outages. Inspection finally took place in February 2002 at the Davis-Besse unit in Ohio.
What workers found shocked the industry.
They discovered extensive cracking and a place where acidic boron had spurted from the reactor and eaten a gouge as big as a football. When the problem was found, just a fraction of an inch of inner lining remained. An NRC analysis determined that the vessel head could have burst within two months — what former NRC Commissioner Peter Bradford has called a "near rupture" which could have released large amounts of radiation into the environment.
In 2001-3 alone, at least 10 plants developed these cracks, according to an NRC analysis.
Industry defenders blame human failings at Davis-Besse. Owner FirstEnergy Corp. paid a $28 million fine, and courts convicted two plant employees of hiding the deterioration. NRC spokesman Scott Burnell declared that the agency "learned from the incident and improved resident inspector training and knowledge-sharing to ensure that such a situation is never repeated."
Yet on the same March day last year that Burnell's comments were released, Davis-Besse workers again found dried boron on the nozzles of a replacement vessel head, indicating more leaks. Inspecting further, they again found cracks in 24 of 69 nozzles.
"We were not expecting this issue," said plant spokesman Todd Schneider.
In August, the operator applied for a 20-year license extension. Under pressure from the NRC, the company has agreed to replace the replacement head in October.
As far back as the 1990s, the industry and NRC also were well aware that the steel-alloy tubing in many steam generators was subject to chemical corrosion. It could crack over time, releasing radioactive gases that can bypass the containment building. If too much spurts out, there may be too little water to cool down the reactor, prompting a core melt.
In 1993, NRC personnel reported seven outright ruptures inside the generators, several forced outages per year, and some complete replacements. Personnel at the Catawba plant near Charlotte, N.C., found more than 8,000 corroded tubes — more than half its total.
For plants with their original generators, "there is no end in sight to the steam generator tube degradation problems," a top agency manager declared. NRC staffers warned: "Crack depth is difficult to measure reliably and the crack growth rate is difficult to determine."
Yet no broad order was issued for shutdowns to inspect generators.
Instead, the staff began to talk to operators about how to deal with the standard that no cracks could go deeper than 40 percent through the tube wall.
In 1995, the NRC staff put out alternative criteria that let reactors keep running if they could reach positive results with remote checks known as "eddy-currents tests." The new test standard gave more breathing room to reactors.
According to a 2001 report by the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards, the staff "acknowledged that there would be some possibility that cracks of objectionable depth might be overlooked and left in the steam generator for an additional operating cycle." The alternative, the report said, would be to repair or remove potentially many tubes from service.
NRC engineer Joe Hopenfeld, who had worked previously in the industry, challenged this approach at the time from within the agency. He warned that multiple ruptures in corroded tubing could release radiation. The NRC said radiation would be confined.
Hopenfeld now says this conclusion wasn't based on solid analysis but "wishful thinking" and research meant to reach a certain conclusion — another instance of "sharpening the pencil."
"It was a hard problem to solve, and they did not want to say it was a problem, because if they really said it was a problem, they would have to shut down a lot of reactors."
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AGE IS NO ISSUE, SAYS INDUSTRY
With financial pressures mounting in the 1990s to extend the life of aging reactors, new NRC calculations using something called the "Master Curve" put questionable reactor vessels back into the safe zone.
A 1999 NRC review of the Master Curve, used to analyze metal toughness, noted that energy deregulation had put financial pressure on nuclear plants. It went on: "So utility executives are considering new operational scenarios, some of which were unheard of as little as five years ago: extending the licensed life of the plant beyond 40 years." As a result, it said, the industry and the NRC were considering "refinements" of embrittlement calculations "with an eye to reducing known over-conservatisms."
Asked about references to economic pressures, NRC spokesman Burnell said motivations are irrelevant if a technology works.
Former NRC commissioner Peter Lyons said, "There certainly is plenty of research ... to support a relaxation of the conservativisms that had been built in before. I don't see that as decreasing safety. I see that as an appropriate standard."
Though some parts are too big and too expensive to replace, industry defenders also point out that many others are routinely replaced over the years.
Tony Pietrangelo, chief nuclear officer of the industry's Nuclear Energy Institute, acknowledges that you'd expect to see a growing failure rate at some point — "if we didn't replace and do consistent maintenance."
In a sense, then, supporters of aging nukes say an old reactor is essentially a collection of new parts.
"When a plant gets to be 40 years old, about the only thing that's 40 years old is the ink on the license," said NRC chief spokesman Eliot Brenner. "Most, if not all of the major components, will have been changed out."
Oyster Creek spokesman David Benson said the reactor "is as safe today as when it was built."
Yet plant officials have been trying to arrest rust on its 100-foot-high, radiation-blocking steel drywell for decades. The problem was declared solved long ago, but a rust patch was found again in late 2008. Benson said the new rust was only the size of a dime, but acknowledged there was "some indication of water getting in."
In an effort to meet safety standards, aging reactors have been forced to come up with backfit on top of backfit.
As Ivan Selin, a retired NRC chairman, put it: "It's as if we were all driving Model T's today and trying to bring them up to current mileage standards."
For example, the state of New Jersey — not the NRC — had ordered Oyster Creek to build cooling towers to protect sea life in nearby Barnegat Bay. Owner Exelon Corp. said that would cost about $750 million and force it to close the reactor — 20-year license extension notwithstanding. Even with the announcement to close in 2019, Oyster Creek will have been in operation for 50 years.
Many of the safety changes have been justified by something called "risk-informed" analysis, which the industry has employed widely since the 1990s: Regulators set aside a strict check list applied to all systems and focus instead on features deemed to carry the highest risk.
But one flaw of risk-informed analysis is that it doesn't explicitly account for age. An older reactor is not viewed as inherently more unpredictable than a younger one. Ed Lyman, a physicist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, says risk-informed analysis has usually served "to weaken regulations, rather than strengthen them."
Even without the right research, the NRC has long reserved legal wiggle room to enforce procedures, rules and standards as it sees fit. A 2008 position paper by the industry group EPRI said the approach has brought "a more tractable enforcement process and a significant reduction in the number of cited violations."
But some safety experts call it "tombstone regulation," implying that problems fester until something goes very wrong. "Until there are tombstones, they don't regulate," said Blanch, the longtime industry engineer who became a whistleblower.
Barry Bendar, a database administrator who lives one mile from Oyster Creek, said representatives of Exelon were asked at a public meeting in 2009 if the plant had a specific life span.
"Their answer was, `No, we can fix it, we can replace, we can patch,'" said Bendar. "To me, everything reaches an end of its life span."