Nuclear news: 2017 European cloud of radioactive pollution, bushfire threatening reactor, Dr Paul Dorfman

Lefteris Karagiannopoulos writing from Oslo for Reuters, reports that international experts have not been able to find what caused a cloud of radioactive pollution that spread over Europe last year and prompted fears of a nuclear leak, Swedish authorities said on Monday.

Monitoring stations recorded high levels of a radioactive isotope in the air over most European cities at the beginning of October. Scientists from France said soon afterwards they thought the source was an accident at a nuclear facility in Russia or Kazakhstan – a suggestion dismissed by both countries.

A group of experts formed to investigate the incident had now decided there was not enough information to pinpoint the origin, Sweden’s radiation safety authority, one of the group’s members, said on Monday.

The Express reports that Australia is struggling to contain a growing bushfire that is racing towards a nuclear reactor, amid fears that the blaze could expand beyond their control.

Firefighters failed to stop the out-of-control blaze from burning through a major military base – Lucas Heights nuclear reactor (above) is the next at-risk location.

Recommended: the information-packed tweets of Dr Paul Dorfman, Honorary Senior Research Associate at the Energy Institute, University College London (UCL); Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust (JRCT) Nuclear Policy Research Fellow; Founder of the Nuclear Consulting Group (NCG); Member, European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER); Advisory Group Member, UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) nuclear Submarine Dismantling Project (SDP); Member, served as Secretary to the UK government scientific advisory Committee Examining Radiation Risks from Internal Emitters (CERRIE). Continues:





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March visitors

People from six countries visited the site in March.

There were twice as many American visitors than from UK, the next on the list


Invitation from the Iona Community: February 17th: TRIDENT – WISE?

Posted on January 25, 2018

The Iona Community invites you to this Midlands Regional Event to hear Commander Rob Forsyth RN Rtd Saturday 17th March. 10am – 4pm at the Priory Rooms, 40 Bull Street, B4 6AF.  

Rob Forsyth commanded a Polaris Nuclear Submarine (below, on the bridge of HMS Alliance using a compass). He will explain the reasons why he is opposed to Trident (see his website ).


Read on:










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Use of nuclear weapons: seeking clarity on United States’ position

Recently, Elizabeth Way, a member of WMCND referred to Donald Trump’s statement that he would stand by ‘no first use’ of nuclear weapons.

Other listeners were not so sure. But In November, the Los Angeles Times editorial board, after expressing alarm at President  Trump’s bellicose statements and impulsive governing style, reminded readers that in a pre-election televised debate with Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump said:

“I would certainly not do first strike. I think that once the nuclear alternative happens, it’s over. At the same time, we have to be prepared. I can’t take anything off the table.”

On the other hand, while disregarding the president’s off the cuff remarks about the button – a search finds (Non-Proliferation Review, 2/2018) that the United States has long embraced calculated ambiguity over the conditions under which it might use nuclear weapons against adversaries.

The LA Times also drew attention to legislation introduced by two congressional Democrats that would prohibit the president — any president — from launching a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress explicitly endorsing such an attack.

The most recent, in November 2017, was the No First Use bill,  sponsored by Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, expressed in one sentence “To make it the policy of the United States to not use nuclear weapons first”. explains that the bill is in the first stage of the legislative process. It was introduced into Congress on November 15, 2017. It will typically be considered by committee next before it is possibly sent on to the House or Senate as a whole and m its progress tracked on their site.

Most readers, whatever their position on No First Use, will agree with the Los Angeles Times editorial board, which – though preferring a position of ambiguity – writes:

“We shudder to think about the human consequences of any use of nuclear weapons, even in self-defense, which is why we support arms-control agreements and efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation. We also believe that, as a general matter, Congress needs to be more assertive in exercising oversight over the use of military force”.





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Protests as highly enriched uranium is flown to America and Australia


The Scottish Express reports that four US Air Force flights carrying highly enriched uranium bound for South Carolina have taken off from Wick John O’Groats Airport, in Caithness, at weekends as the base is closed to civilian aircrafts on Saturdays.

The John O’Groats journal reported in 2016 that about £8 million had been spent to strengthen the runway at the airport to accommodate the transatlantic flights and there would be monthly flights over the next 18 months to move the  700 kilogram stockpile of fuel.

The deal was made by former prime minister David Cameron and ex-US president Barack Obama, arranging for highly enriched uranium – the basic building block for a nuclear bomb – to be flown from Wick to the US in return for “medical grade” uranium to make radioisotopes for detecting cancer. The runway at the Scots airport was too short for the giant US Air Force C-17 Globemaster to take off with full fuel tanks do the plane has to stop at RAF Lossiemouth in Moray to top up with fuel before flying on to the US.

Highlands and Islands MSP John Finnie said: “Transporting nuclear waste is a risky business. “By using two airports you are doubling the take-offs and landings in this country, which doubles the risk. “It is disturbing to discover we are now using an extra airbase in heavily populated areas for a stop-off to transport nuclear waste.”

The airport was sealed off and dozens of armed police stood guard as the fuel was loaded

The Highland Council has by law to inform the public about road closures around the airport and the order posted last week is code for “nuclear waste on the move”. The public notice reads: “The order has been made by reason that the Council, as highway authority, is satisfied that traffic on the road should be restricted due to the likelihood of danger to the public.” The order stepped into force yesterday and will run until the end of September 2019. However, road closures are not expected to last more than five hours at a time.

Protests have been made by MPs, MSPs and Friends of the Earth and aboriginal Australians are also challenging proposals to transport nuclear waste from northern Scotland to a sacred site at Wallerberdina, 280 miles north of Adelaide, identified as a potential location for Australia’s first nuclear waste dump as part of a deal that returns spent fuel processed at a nuclear reactor in Dounreay, Caithness, to its country of origin. Read more here.


More here in the Sunday Post.













Russi tests new nuclear missile NATO calls ‘Satan 2’

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Bruce Kent emphasises: “The 1968 NPT obliges us to work for the elimination of nuclear weapons “in good faith”


In the Guardian, Bruce Kent, Vice-president CND, asks if Owen Jones (Corbyn has to lead on nuclear weapons, 29 March) really means that Labour Party policy can’t be changed. He continues:

The only argument for Trident, and any successor, is a false sense of national prestige.

Can’t some major trade unions think of anything else to make than weapons of mass destruction?

Far from our nuclear weapons being independent, without the regular loan of US missiles we would have nothing on which to put our warheads.

They are no answer anyway to suicidal groups or to nuclear accidents.

It was Robert McNamara, at the end of a life devoted to nuclear planning, who said that we were only saved by “good luck”.

If we have over £205bn to spend, it makes much more sense to spend those billions on the NHS, housing and poverty at home and abroad.

The 1968 NPT obliges us to work for the elimination of nuclear weapons “in good faith”. A replacement of Trident does not sound like good faith to me.





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Saudi Arabia’s crown prince causes concern and a scientist reflects on radiation


On the BASIC website news from Riyadh was highlighted: RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia will develop nuclear weapons if its arch-rival Iran does so, the kingdom’s crown prince said in remarks released on Thursday, raising the prospect of a nuclear arms race in a region already riven with conflict.

On this site concerns about nuclear weapons and nuclear power are reported. The Financial Times recently reported news of children being tested for possible radiation exposure in Kuriayama, Fukushima prefecture, about 44 miles from the crippled nuclear plant, in late March 2011.

It concluded that evacuation, not the nuclear accident itself, was the most devastating part of the disaster

Research scientist, Dr Paul Dorfman (The Energy Institute, University College London) replied :

nuc dr paul dorfman“The reality is more complex. This is because all international radiation protection agencies conclude that late-onset effects of exposure to ionising radiation on the human body — such as increases in cancer, leukaemia, heart disease, and a range of other health impacts — have been identified by long-term, large-scale epidemiological studies.

“So yes, the evacuation did cause problems — but so too does sustained exposure to elevated levels of radiation pollution. If it was my own family, I’d want them out of there”.

See his informative tweets here:





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Decommissioning: teams developing robots to work in radioactive areas


As hopes rise, cautiously, pending negotiations with Kim Jong-un, many hope to see all nuclear installations safely decommissioned and never replaced.

Tom Robinson, Deputy of the Robotics and Autonomous Systems Centre of Expertise at Sellafield, points out in The Energy Hub (header above), that the radiation levels in many facilities are too high to allow manual cleaning and dismantling, so remote or robotic solutions are required. 

In The Engineer last year Jon Excell reported that a team of engineers from Universities of Manchester, Birmingham, and the West of England (UWE) with Sellafield, EdF Energy, UKAEA and NuGen had received £4.6m of Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council funding to develop robots for cleaning up the UK’s legacy of dangerous nuclear waste. This Autonomous Intelligent Systems Partnership, plans to develop robots with advanced computing, sensing and mechanical abilities.

Greig Cameron also reports in The Times that the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has given the Aberdeen-based John Wood Group a grant of £1.5 million to develop robots to help to clean up nuclear sites. It intends to adapt technology already used in space exploration, car production and medicine to help in nuclear decommissioning, using new data analysis, control systems and robotics technologies to design a demonstration system for cleaning and dismantling radioactive rooms at Sellafield in Cumbria.

Japan Atomic Power Co. has a facility in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, close to several nuclear power plants, where remote-controlled robots for use in the nation’s nuclear power plants are stationed. It also trains engineers to control robots.

Packbot can measure radiation levels and shoot video; Warrior, is capable of removing debris and both can be used if leaks are detected in containment vessels and radiation levels surge dangerously. They were manufactured by U.S.-based iRobot Corp and used at the Fukushima No. 1 plant. Read more here.

As the Engineer article points out, though robotic systems have previously been used to deal with hazardous nuclear materials, notably at Japan’s damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant, there are still challenges in remote and robotic decommissioning to be overcome.  The technology still has limitations, for instance in turning valves, navigating staircases and moving over rough terrain.

Among the areas John Wood will ‘look at’ are a multi-fingered grip to allow robots to grasp different objects and ways for machines to operate at different heights. A navigation system designed for missions to Mars is also to be deployed to allow the robots to generate maps independently where human access is not possible.

Robotic arm developed by the Nuclear and Applied Robotics Group (University of Austin, Texas)

Tom Robinson adds that Sellafield Ltd. has recently deployed the RISER system developed by Createc and Blue Bear Systems, small unmanned aerial systems which successfully mapped the radiation levels of the Pile Chimney, a 110 m tall ventilation shaft in the UK’s first nuclear reactor.

The Caesium Extraction Plant was decommissioned using a remote decommissioning machine with two robotic arms, which was mounted on a telescopic boom and deployed five tools at the workface.

Bob MacDonald, chief executive of John Wood’s specialist technical solutions business, says that the project intends to produce afully remote solution’, removing the human operator from hazardous environments.





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