|Radiation Fun! |
|Leak At Pennsylvania Nuclear Plant Contained|
|Shippingport Pennsylvania December 11, 2000 (AP) - A coolant system leak at a nuclear power plant prompted a low-level emergency Monday. |
Authorities said the leak at the Beaver Valley Power Station was contained within the building and there was no indication of a threat to public health or safety.
Reports from the plant, which is about 25 miles west of Pittsburgh, indicated there had not been a radioactive release from the plant, said David Smith, director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.
|Nuclear Cleanup Workers Exposed to Radiation|
|Golden, Colorado December 7, 2000 (NY Times) — On windswept highlands 15 miles northwest of Denver, workers here are cleaning up some of the highest concentrations of nuclear waste in the country. |
Their efforts are part of an 11- year, $7 billion project intended to turn what was once one of the nation's most important weapons development sites, a sprawling complex on 6,300 acres known as Rocky Flats, into a wildlife preserve. The cleanup is projected to be finished in 2006.
It is a tedious, painstaking process that depends on workers' using critical safety techniques. Yet every so often, the work produces a reminder of how life-threatening the toxic materials they are removing, like plutonium and beryllium, can be. And the latest emerged this week.
Plant officials disclosed that 10 workers cleaning one of the most contaminated of hundreds of buildings remaining, Building 771, tested positive for exposure to radiation. More medical screenings for the workers — nine men and one woman, half of whom had worked at the site for more than 20 years — were conducted last month, and results are expected within a month.
But the problem could be worse. With the cleanup in the building halted on Dec. 1, officials said today that they were still searching for the source of the radiation, a problem they rarely confront, they said, because alarm systems were in place throughout the complex to warn of elevated radiation readings. The medical tests on the workers were conducted after a routine inspection of the building in October, when a radiation detector was found to be operating improperly.
"This is very puzzling and troubling," Robert G. Card, president and chief executive of Kaiser-Hill, the company that won the cleanup contract in 1995, said. "We don't know yet where the exposure came from."
Nor, Mr. Card said, do plant officials know when the exposure occurred, which means as many as 200 other workers who were helping inside Building 771 could have been exposed. Nineteen have volunteered for medical tests, he said, and, if necessary, the company would urge others to submit.
Mr. Card and Paul Golan, deputy field manager for the Department of Energy, insisted the test results showed that even the elevated results fell within federal standards of 5,000 millirems a year for plant workers. But this was the first instance since the cleanup began in 1995, they said, that officials had been unable to gauge the magnitude of the problem.
"It is not lost on anyone here that this is one of the most dangerous things you can do," Mr. Card said. "But this is the first time we have had this much difficulty finding the source."
Rocky Flats was one of a series of weapons plants built after World War II for the cold war nuclear arms buildup. Now, it is one of 113 sites in 30 states that the Energy Department is cleaning and rehabilitating, an undertaking that includes treating huge amounts of contaminated ground water, weapons-grade plutonium and spent nuclear fuels. By some estimates, it will cost the federal government as much as $212 billion over the next seven decades.
|Chernobyl's Last Reactor in Emergency Shutdown - by Michael Steen, Reuters|
|Mkiev, Ukraine December 6, 2000 - A steam leak at Chernobyl nuclear power station forced an emergency shutdown of its last functioning reactor Wednesday, just nine days before the world's most infamous power plant was due to be decommissioned. |
The Chernobyl complex, 75 miles north of the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, has suffered a series of accidents since reactor Number Four caught fire and exploded 14 years ago, sending a radioactive cloud across much of Europe.
|Radiation Leak At Russian Plant Puzzles Experts|
|Moscow December 5, 2000 (Reuters) - Experts failed on Tuesday to find the source of abnormally high radiation levels near a nuclear power station in southern Russia, the Atomic Energy Ministry said. Officials were sent to the Novovoronezhskaya nuclear power station near the city of Voronezh, 450 km (280 miles) from Moscow, to check radiation levels close to the water outlet of two reactors which have been shut down for some time. |
"It was established that at a few points the level of contamination exceeds that allowed in a protected zone,'' the ministry said in a statement.
"Measures have been taken to limit access to the area of the water outlet and to contaminated points. Work is going on to remove contaminated soil.''
But the source of the pollution was still unclear.
|Clinton Signs Order to Compensate Nuclear Workers|
|Washington, DC December 7, 2000 (Reuters) - President Clinton on Thursday signed an order authorizing payments to thousands of U.S. nuclear workers who got sick after being exposed to radiation as the United States built up its atomic arsenal during the Cold War era. |
The order helps implement a law passed by Congress in October to compensate workers exposed to radiation in the building and testing of nuclear weapons.
"These individuals, many of whom were neither protected from nor informed of the hazards to which they were exposed, developed occupational illnesses as a result of their exposure to radiation and other hazards unique to nuclear weapons production and testing,'' the president said in a statement.
|Tiny Indian Tribe Turns To Nuclear Waste|
|Skull Valley Indian Reservation, Utah, December 4, 2000 (AP) - Leon Bear knows the boundaries of his tribe’s land by heart. From the reservoir that provides water to his tiny village, Bear sweeps his arm across the parched valley, pointing out fences and smokestacks that ring the last remnant of his tribe’s traditional lands. |
To the north, a magnesium plant sits on the shore of the Great Salt Lake; to the south, the Army tests equipment for exposure to nerve gas on a stretch of desert as large as Rhode Island. A bombing range and hazardous waste incinerator lie over the Cedar Mountains to the west; a stockpile of chemical weapons and the incinerator that destroys them sit to the east.
Now the tiny Skull Valley Band of Goshutes has agreed to turn its reservation into one of the country’s largest nuclear waste dumps. Opponents, including other tribe members, say the plan could endanger people, the wildlife of the West Desert and the region’s economy. But that hasn’t stopped Bear from pressing forward with the project, which he says could be the only salvation for his dying tribe.
"They made that an industrial waste zone out there," said Bear, the Goshutes’ tribal chairman and the project’s main supporter. "Nobody asked the Goshutes, ’Do you mind if we do this out here on your traditional territory?’ Nobody said, ’Hey, it could be dangerous for you guys to be out here.’"
"When a neighbor does that to you, you don’t want to be like them," he added. "So we gave our neighbor, the state of Utah, an opportunity to be a part of this, and the first reaction was ’Over my dead body."’
If Bear gets his way, about a square mile of the reservation will be fenced off for nuclear waste, and 450 acres will be covered with concrete pads. On top will sit 16-foot tall, concrete-and-steel casks filled with radioactive rods — as many as 4,000 of them holding 40,000 metric tons of used-up nuclear reactor fuel. The fuel will come from Private Fuel Storage, a consortium of eight power companies from California, New York, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Florida and Alabama. Neither the consortium or the Goshutes will say what the deal costs.
The consortium has promised to build a cultural center on the reservation to revive the tribe’s fading language and crafts, Bear says, and has pledged to give Goshutes and other tribes the first shot at about 40 jobs at the site. The money is sorely needed. Most of the estimated 150 Goshutes have fled the 17,000-acre reservation. Fewer than 30 remain, most living in a tiny cluster of run-down trailers. Jobs are virtually nonexistent.
It’s not that the tribe hasn’t tried. At the village entrance, the last examples of one failed project — portable toilets and showers built for the military — sit unused. Only two real options remained: nuclear waste and gambling, an industry Mormon-dominated Utah considers nearly as toxic.
"How can you blame Leon?" said Chip Ward, author of an environmental history of the West Desert and a project opponent. "What’s he going to do? Grow food? No one’s going to buy a tomato off this land."
But other Goshutes say the plan is tearing apart the tribe: "We believe in our reservation as Mother Earth, and we’re allowing our Mother Earth to be contaminated if we bring this waste onto our reservation."
Environmentalists say that the spent fuel should be left at nuclear plants and they should be shut when they run out of storage space. Despite the protests, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has already approved safety measures for the project, and Bear says it’s time for outsiders to admit they can’t stop it.
"They want us to be self-determined and they want us to be self-governed, and yet when we make these judgments, they don’t like it," Bear said.
From the Skull Valley Band of Goshutes, ( http://www.skullvalleygoshutes.org ):
"The Goshutes have inhabited the Southwestern part of the United States for thousands of years. They were here before the Mormons, the Mexicans, and even the Spaniards. At their peak the Goshutes numbered about 20,000. Today there are less than 500 Goshutes, of which 124 belong to the Skull Valley Band...
"In view of the current hazardous waste facilities and nerve gas incinerators surrounding the Skull Valley Reservation, the Band has carefully considered a variety of economic ventures, including the storage of spent nuclear fuel. After careful consideration, the Skull Valley Band of Goshutes have leased land to a private group of electrical utilities for the temporary storage of 40,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel. This web site examines these deliberations, tours of nuclear facilities, consultation with renowned scientists, and corporate and government officials worldwide.".
|Utah Escalates Nuclear Waste Fight|
|Salt Lake City, December 8, 2000 (AP) - Gov. Mike Leavitt created a special state office Thursday to try to block a proposal to bring 44,000 tons of high-level nuclear waste to Utah's desert. |
“I WILL DEPLOY every tool I can,” Leavitt said. “We don't produce this waste. We shouldn't store it.”
Private Fuel Storage, a consortium of eight electric utilities, is seeking federal approval to store spent nuclear fuel rods in containers at the Skull Valley Goshute Reservation, 45 miles southwest of Salt Lake City.
Leavitt used an executive order and $50,000 in emergency funds to create the Office of High Level Nuclear Waste Opposition. Leavitt will ask the Legislature for $1 million per year to pay at least five attorneys to combat the storage plan in court.
Sue Martin, a spokeswoman for Private Fuel Storage, said the consortium is following an established process for licensing the facility and that the state is a participant. She said the facility will be operated safely.