Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Fishermen join the antinuclear protest at Jaitapur

The narrow roads in this fishing village wind down to a crisp blue creek full of frenetic activity. Across the creek is the location of the proposed Jaitapur project being built by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL).

There is a primary fishing school run by the government and trainees can be seen in the campus repairing bright red nets. Near the creek, Kamal and Abdul Rashid repair their old nets. “Yes, we have heard about the nuclear project. I think it will finish fishing in our area,” Kamal says. The first reactor of the nearly 10,000 MWe nuclear project will be set up by 2017.

It is evening and Liyakat Solkar is all set to go on a fishing trip. He has a steel tiffin box and a small plastic bag with some belongings. “Sometimes I feel, what is the use of opposing this project? It is a big project; the government has sanctioned it. But on the other side, it will wipe us out. Today we are self-sufficient. At the worst, we can walk down to the creek and grab a handful of fish and eat it with rice,” Mr. Solkar says as he sets off into the dusk.

Already, there are examples of the fish catch reducing in the sea as a result of projects in the Dabhol and Pawas creeks nearby. There are about 4500 fisherfolk in this village. Mr. Solkar supplies fish to a major exporter. “People make about Rs.1 lakh to Rs.5 lakh per trip,” he adds.

The 10 to 12 villages in the vicinity of the project will be affected, according to Amjad Abdul Latif Borkar, former chairperson of the Sakhri Nate Machchimar Society. The annual turnover for fishing in these villages is about Rs.15 crore. In Nate alone there are 200 big trawlers and 250 small boats. Nearly 6,000 people depend on fishing in the area and more than 10,000 are indirectly benefited.

“The used water from the nuclear plant will be dumped into the sea through a pipe, and while its temperature should be about five degrees Celsius, who will ensure that it is maintained?” Mr. Borkar says. “Government officials come here and tempt people with contracts and jobs, but how many people can the plant really employ?”

At a recent protest meeting in Sakhri Nate, activists managed to gather the entire village, including the women who rarely speak up. Hamid Abdur Rehman says: “We don’t want this project. Our future generations will be affected.”

Compensation issues

The residential complex for the project will be spread over Karel, Niveli and Mithgavane. Dattaram Narayan Dalvi and his wife Darshana stand to lose two acres to the project in Karel. “We refuse to accept the compensation cheques. We are dependent on the land and we don’t have anyone working in Mumbai to help us,” Ms. Dalvi says.

In Niveli village, Anil Tirlotkar’s father Jagannath has received a letter saying he will get Rs.1.78 lakh for his land. “We have to divide this money among so many claimants in the family. I will get about Rs.16,000,” Mr. Anil Tirlotkar says. “We got a notice in 2007 for a survey of the land. Later we were asked to be present for a joint survey, but they did not let us anywhere near the survey,” he adds.

According to the official note, about 185 landowners from the village will get Rs.55.91 lakh. The NPCIL has deposited Rs.16 crore with the government for compensation to all those affected, but there are no takers yet.

“Is this how projects are done? Are we living in a democracy? This is worse than the British,” Keru Katkar says.


In Mithgavane, Dr. Milind Desai, who is spearheading the protest, says: “Background radiation from this massive project is a concern. We feel water, air, everything will be polluted. Why is this lovely coastline chosen for a dangerous project? They can’t give us simple processing units for our fruit crop. We would have given land free for any other project but not this one.”

The villagers have filed two writ petitions against the project, but the Bombay High Court did not give them any relief. The first case was withdrawn and in the second, Justices Ranjana Desai and A.A. Sayed dismissed the petition on August 13, 2009.

The project will use 100 cubic metres of sea water per second per unit, says C.B. Jain, project director of the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project. According to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the limit of the temperature of water should not exceed seven degrees Celsius.

The NPCIL will build a pipeline extending 1.5 km long and 40 metres below the sea bed to dispose of used water for the first two reactors. The NPCIL has said fishing will not be affected as it has commissioned a study which indicates that the released water temperatures will be a maximum of three to four degrees Celsius and that too for two months in a year.

The College of Fisheries in Ratnagiri has also submitted a report as part of the Environment Impact Assessment saying that fishing will not be affected.

Studies have ruled out any adverse impact on the biodiversity of the area as well, Mr. Jain said.

The villagers, however, will continue to fear the worst.

News » National  SAKHRI NATE, Ratnagiri district, January 18, 2010

Opponents to huge nuclear power project in India arrested

Opponents of the N-plant court arrest during the first jail bharo andolan in Madban village on 29 October.

PHOTO: Greenpeace

Activists and residents in Jaitapur are up in arms after Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh gave the environmental clearance to the proposed 9,900 MW nuclear power plant in the port town located in Maharashtra. The general consensus on the ground is that the project has been cleared in haste without analysing the environmental fallout.

According to activists, the 35 safeguards/conditions, of which 23 are specific to the Jaitapur project, neither highlight the main issues pertaining to radiation concerns, nor offer a solution to the loss of biodiversity and marine biota. They say the conditions just scratch the surface of these issues without dealing with the relevant problems. One of them (No. 10) states, “The existing Alphonso mango trees shall be protected to the extent possible. In case they need to be removed, efforts will be made to replant the same within the project site.” Points like these, the activists say, are hardly grave concerns compared to radiation worries.

Ramesh’s statement that his ministry has no jurisdiction over radiology emission has baffled environmentalists. “It is surprising that the environment minister has no clarity on hazardous stuff because environmentally, radiation eventually affects the ecology and thus becomes the responsibility of the environment ministry,” says Adwait Pednekar of Lok Vidnyan Sangathana, a Mumbai-based organization promoting public debate on scientific issues. Pednekar added that the Environmental Impact Assessment is unscientific and amateurish and does not resemble the work of experts.

The environmental clearance paves way for the Atomic Energy Regulatory Body (AERB) to go ahead with its technological assessments of the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR). When AERB Chairman SS Bajaj was asked about French energy company Areva’s patchy track record with respect to environmental pollution, he remarked, “I don’t recall anything about Areva polluting the environment and I am not concerned about what they do in their country.”

This ambiguity on safety issues is the main bone of contention among activists and people living near the nuclear plant site.

“Officially, the AERB has no clue about the kind of accidents that can occur in an EPR reactor. It will be difficult for the AERB to ask Areva to furnish all details regarding this technology. Besides, how will the AERB determine the radiation doses (the level above which radiation is harmful) emitted?” asks former AERB chairman A Gopalkrishan.

Meanwhile, local residents are planning to stage a dharna. They believe that the environmental clearance was hastily given to speed up formalities before the visit of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who will ink the final deal for the Jaitapur power plant on behalf of the French government and energy giant Areva.

A day-long protest will be held on 2 December at Azad Maidan while residents of Madban village, the plant site, are planning to organise a second jail bharo andolan. The first was held on 29 October 29, when nearly 1,000 people courted arrest for a day.


Sunday, 28 November 2010

EDF evicts Badgers before getting planning permission

French government subsidised Nuclear Corporation EDF evicts the badgers from their ancestral setts because they want to bulldoze the land where the badgers live. Do they have planning permission to do this? No they do not.

So how did they get permission to evict the unfortunate badgers?

Easy. They applied to a wildlife watchdog called Natural England for a licence. And natural England granted them the licence under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, saying that one-way gates should be installed and artificial setts created.

Clearly Natural England could not care less about the destruction of a large piece of natural England, with ancient trees, hedges, birds and animals, including badgers.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Body parts scandal goes way beyond Sellafield

Home Media Press Releases Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Commenting on the publication of the Redfern Inquiry into human tissue analysis in UK nuclear facilities, CND expressed profound concern that in addition to the previously uncovered abuse of nuclear industry workers, other researchers had taken samples from thousands of individuals "mostly children under the age of six", in many cases, without familial consent.

In addition to the cases that sparked the inquiry - where tissue had been taken from deceased Sellafield workers - Michael Redfern QC uncovered comparable practices at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) and the Medical Research Council (MRC). The last case is the greatest in scope with the Inquiry reporting "In all, in addition to the 91 fetus, bone (femur or, later in the study, vertebrae) was collected for the UK strontium research from 6,072 individuals, mostly children under the age of six." [Chapter 14: Findings, Point 71, page 580]

Kate Hudson, General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said "These abhorrent practices continued undetected for decades - most frequently at Sellafield - but also at other nuclear sites including the Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment. The removal of body parts points to the major fear that the nuclear industry obviously had about the impact of radiation on their workers. Disgracefully they chose to conduct investigations without the informed consent of the families of their workers and then kept this fact secret for many years.

"The further revelation that investigations into the effects of nuclear weapons testing - large scale studies for Strontium-90 in the general population - had resulted in samples taken not from dozens of people but over 6,000 without consent. Despite legislation outlawing this after 1961 the studies continued for another decade. It is particularly chilling that it was young children - who were, as the report concludes 'mostly' under the age of six - that were the source of this material."

1.For further information and interviews please contact CND's Press Officer, on 0207 7002350 or 07968 420859

2.See here for the Redfern Inquiry report.

3.The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) is one of Europe's biggest single-issue peace campaigns, with over 35,000 members in the UK. CND campaigns for the abolition of all nuclear weapons everywhere. http://www.cnduk.org/

How Sellafield 'mutilated' its workers' bodies

By Jonathan Brown

wednesday, 17 November 2010


The inquiry looked at the deaths of 64 Sellafield workers

Organs and bones were illegally harvested from the bodies of dead nuclear industry workers at Sellafield without their consent over a period of 30 years, an inquiry found yesterday.

The relatives of 64 staff, many of whom only discovered their loved ones had been stripped of livers, tongues and even legs decades after they were buried, said the inquiry's findings proved the existence of an "old boys' club" among pathologists, coroners and scientists around Sellafield prior to 1992 which prioritised the needs of the nuclear industry above those of grieving family members.

In evidence to inquiry chairman Michael Redfern QC, who oversaw the Alder Hey inquiry, representatives of the workers said they felt as if bodies had been "mutilated" and treated as "commodities" to assist in research on behalf of the industry to disprove the link between cancers and radiation.

Some missing bones had been replaced with broomsticks for deceased workers' funerals. Mr Redfern said the families had been "wronged". "In most cases considered by the inquiry, relatives were let down at the time when they were most vulnerable by those in whom they were entitled to place an absolute trust," he said.

In the Commons, Energy Secretary Chris Huhne apologised to the families and said the practice had been stopped.

The 650-page report, following a three-year inquiry which also examined three other studies involving the nuclear industry in which 6,500 bodies, including children, were used, said the removal of organs and tissue was "unnecessary and inappropriate" in the majority of the Sellafield cases.

Pathologists who gave evidence to the inquiry were singled out for criticism. They were described as being "profoundly ignorant of the law" and of erroneously believing they could act with "carte blanche to remove tissue and organs for whatever purpose they saw fit". Coroners were also accused of leaving families in the dark and of assisting the nuclear authorities heedless of whether consent had been obtained or if the removal of organs had relevance to the cause of death.

The inquiry was ordered by then Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling in 2007 when it first emerged that body parts had been removed between 1961 and 1992. The deaths of 76 workers – 64 from Sellafield and 12 from other UK nuclear plants – were examined, although the scope of the inquiry was later significantly widened.

The "driving force" behind the post-mortem extraction of organs at Sellafield was BNFL's chief medical officer Dr Geoffrey Schofield, an acclaimed occupational health expert. The inquiry found he was subject to "little if any managerial supervision or control of his activities" prior to his death in 1985.

An "informal arrangement" existed between Dr Schofield and pathologists at the West Cumberland Hospital and he was "easily able" to obtain organs for analysis. Dr Schofield and his successor would return to their laboratory at Sellafield with the organs in a cool box.

There they were weighed, labelled and stored in a freezer before being analysed and then taken to the low-level waste repository at Drigg. The report said Dr Schofield took "somewhat dubious steps to obtain organs" in cases that were of particular interest to him, and accused him of a "manipulation of the coronial process".

case study: Stan Higgins
Dr Stan Higgins's father, also called Stan, was only 49 when he died.

The former member of the Parachute Regiment and keen rugby player had also been commended as a senior shift supervisor during the 1973 head-end plant incident, in which he had been severely exposed to ruthenium.
"He was the most irradiated man that ever lived," his son said yesterday. "He survived for about five years but he lost his thyroid and started having black outs and died of a heart attack."

Dr Higgins later learned that some of his father's tissue had been taken three years after he died, but he only discovered the true extent of the theft – vertebrae, mediastinum, kidney, liver, heart, spleen, sternum, both lungs and lymph nodes – three years ago.

"I believe there should be some retribution for the families who have had to go through this time and time again," he said.


Accident at Russia’s Kursk Nuclear Power Plant reveals blatant disregard of safety standards:

Is the Russian nuclear industry headed for a meltdown?

Part of: Kursk NPP , Nuclear accidents and incidents

Kursk Nuclear Power Planthttp://kunpp.rosenergoatom.ru/  Related articles

Number one reactor at Kalinin NPP shuts down for second time in two weeks, raising concerns Ecological groups call for investors to boycott finishing Kursk reactor Related news

Reactor no.2 at Kursk nuclear power plant shut down Unplanned turbo generator shutdowns at Kursk NPP Four incidents at Russian nuclear power plants in August Prolonged life for RBMK reactors ST. PETERSBURG – Incidents of various degrees of severity are not uncommon at Russian nuclear power plants (NPPs), but when repairs take longer than a month – as was the case with Reactor 1 of Kursk NPP, which was scrammed on July 22 and only went online on August 31 – concerns arise that serious damage must have occurred. A scrutiny of what happened at Kursk NPP seems to indicate the frightening possibility that a malfunction involving any RBMK reactor may turn out to be as devastating as the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

Andrei Ozharovsky, 05/09-2010 - Translated by Maria Kaminskaya

Kursk NPP: How extensive was the damage?

Kursk NPP is located in Kurchatov – a town bearing the name of the prominent Soviet nuclear physicist, and the man behind the Soviets’ A-bomb, Igor Kurchatov. It stands 40 kilometers southwest of Kursk, a large city in Central European Russia, and operates four power units with pressurized-tube reactors with a total capacity of 4 million kilowatts. Last July 22, an incident took place at the plant that put Reactor 1, an RBMK-1000 installation, out of commission and led to what later turned out to be five weeks of ongoing repairs. Even more disturbing, what information was finally made available about the incident did not come through the official channels from the state nuclear corporation Rosatom or Kursk NPP’s head company, the nuclear power plant operator Rosenergoatom, but from Kursk employees.

First, a press release was posted on Rosenergoatom’s website that said little about the incident or its causes. On July 22, 2010, at 12:23 p.m., Reactor 1 of Kursk NPP was scrammed, the message said. The reactor was put under repairs to fix a malfunction in the cooling circuit. The repairs are to take seven days, Rosenergoatom said.

A few routine sentences followed this announcement, which accompany Rosenergoatom’s every incident report, with safety assertions regarding background radiation levels at the plant and in the vicinity and the mention that the incident was classified as a a zero-level, or below-the-scale, event on the International Nuclear Events Scale (INES), i.e. that it had no impact on the safety of the plant or the personnel.

Rosatom’s Crisis and Response Centre – the nuclear industry’s agency responsible for the prevention and handling of emergencies in the field of nuclear and radiation safety – issued a slightly more detailed statement. On July 22, 2010, at 12:23 p.m., the centre said, the reactor’s emergency protection system shut it down following a pressure spike in the reactor core. This was a Type 5 Automatic Emergency Protection event – where the safety system actuates a reduction in the reactor’s power output, taking it down to the lowest level, that is, until the reactor is fully shut down. At the time, the reactor was operating at a capacity of 960 megawatts, the centre reported. The reactor would be under repairs until July 24, 2010, the statement said.

The resulting five weeks – instead of one week – of repairing works testify to the gravity of what happened at Kursk. According to a story that was described in a letter published on the website of the St. Petersburg-based nuclear news agency PRoAtom.Ru, the reactor scram at Kursk occurred as a result of a pressure increase in the reactor core caused by damage sustained by one of the channels of the control and protection system.

Such an accident may put a reactor out of commission for a long time, indeed: Repairing the damaged channel and the graphite moderator blocks effectively means carrying out works that have to be done inside the reactor core. It doesn’t take a nuclear scientist to see the seriousness of the problem – radioactivity levels are through the roof in the core even in a shut-down reactor. If damage occurs to the graphite in the core, the repairs or partial replacement may well be beyond the bounds of the possible and the problem could become an unsolvable one.

Worse, direr consequences are conceivable. Graphite is the dominant feature of the core of an RBMK series reactor. This Russian abbreviation stands for High-Power Channel-Type (or Pressurised-Tube) Reactor and describes a design where graphite is used for the moderation (slowing down) of fast fission neutrons. In essence, an RBMK core is a cylinder-shaped 21-by-21-metre graphite stack 25 metres high, with apertures allowing for both fuel channels (or pressure tubes) and the control channels of the control and protection system. The system is designed to automatically regulate reactor power, keep it at a needed level, and shut down the reactor when necessary. Cooling water is supplied to cool each of the system’s channels.

But this is what has always been Achilles’ heel of RBMK reactors – the very system by which coolant is supplied to the core. If the cooling stops in any one of the control and protection channels, or the flow rate drops significantly, overheating and damage occurs – up to the channel’s destruction and water leaking out onto the reactor’s heated graphite.

Next – a steam explosion and a graphite fire, just like it happened in Chernobyl.
Indeed, it thankfully never got as far as Chernobyl in Kursk on July 22, but if a control channel was destroyed, a discharge of radiation may well have been possible. Nothing to that effect was ever said in any official statements.

Instead, five weeks later, a short statement on Rosenergoatom’s site informed the visitors simply that on August 31, 2010, at 08:50 a.m., “power unit No.1 of Kursk NPP was connected to the grid after completion of repair works. The unit was put in operation in accordance with process procedure requirements for safe operation.”

Was there a radiation discharge?

On August 4, Greenpeace Russia sent a letter to Russian Prosecutor General Yury Chaika, which said: “According to information made available to us, an increase in background radiation levels was picked up by background radiation sensors at the moment the scram was initiated. Our information says one of the control channels of Reactor 1 was destroyed, accompanied with damage occurring to the graphite stack. The likelihood is very high that this could have led to an accidental discharge of some of the radioactive water and a release of radiation beyond the plant’s premises.”

Greenpeace urged the Prosecutor’s office to look into the matter and verify – or disprove – the authorities’ assurances that no consequences implying a release of radiation had taken place during the incident. As of late August, Greenpeace was yet to receive a response from Prosecutor Chaika, or any information at all that would indicate his office had undertaken any investigative steps.

“The prosecutors might have been more effective in their response,” said Vladimir Chuprov, who heads Greenpeace Russia’s energy unit. “What we’re talking about is a possible release of radiation into the surrounding environment, a direct threat to the well-being of the NPP’s personnel and the population of the neighbouring areas. The possibility that radiation [was] still being discharged [as the repairs were under way], cannot be ruled out, either.”

Was a “technological improvement” the underlying cause of the incident?

RBMK-type reactors are highly sophisticated and capricious machines. While no nuclear reactor design can offer an absolute failsafe guarantee of a life-long incident-free operation, RBMKs are specifically reputed to be creatures of fickle character. After the 1986 catastrophe at Ukraine’s Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, which employed reactors of exactly this type, enormous funds and studious efforts were invested into modernising the RBMK design and improving its safety record. It may have well been one of these “improvements” that could constitute the underlying cause of the July 22 accident at Kursk.

This is how the nuclear news agency PRoAtom described this improvement:

"During one of the stages of modernisation of pressurised-tube reactors, a new feature was added to the design, whose novelty was that there was no more direct contact between the cooling water used by the control and protection system and the neutron-absorbing rods. The design of this innovation is such that the absorbers move within dry wells contained inside the original control channels and are cooled by the control and protection system’s own cooling circuit. The wells are topped with seals at the channel head.

"This is what allowed for the removal of the main defect of how control rods had originally operated and which had triggered the Chernobyl disaster: Earlier, positive reactivity, or simply, an escalating nuclear reaction, was generated at the initial insertion of control rods into the core from the top end switch, as the displacement of water by the dropping rods precluded normal cooling of the core.

Alas, as it often happens with advantages introduced by a technological innovation, the upsides did not come without the downsides. Less cooling water is allowed into the channels with the new wells installed than it was in the original design, while the level of local resistance to heat removal is higher.”

Why was the reactor not shut down at once?

Further, according to PRoAtom:

The event [at Kursk] was preceded by damage that had several days prior occurred to the well seal in one of the control and protection channels and which resulted in a drastic drop in the water flow rate in the channel. Because of that, less water was available to cool the well. As the cause of the incident was being investigated and the seal changed, the flow of cooling water stopped altogether. This situation remained unchanged for over 24 hours.

The poor circulation of cooling water led to an overheating and rupture of the zirconium tube of the control and protection channel.

It is now anyone’s guess why, given an incident that involved damage of this significance, the reactor was not scrammed at once. Locals in Kurchatov say the plant’s chief engineer wanted to keep generating electricity and shut the reactor down later, so that as little power output was lost during the downtime as possible, and the personnel on site could not disobey the orders, though they foresaw the situation would get worse as things were developing further.

PRoAtom’s story caused a wave of responses by outraged visitors to the website’s forum. If the information is correct about the chief engineer demanding to cut corners in order to continue with power generation, said one guest, then this person must be fired immediately. This incident – or accident, because there was or must have been, in any case, a release of radiation beyond the plant’s perimeters – is nothing but a precursor to a severe accident, that visitor wrote.

“Accidents are not made by politicians or economists or managers – they are made by professionals at their work stations, those who are immediately in charge of the site in question. They are the ones to bear full responsibility in the court of law. Don’t forget [Chernobyl], dear sirs!” the angry post concluded.

A discussion also arose on the forum around whether or not the incident with the poor coolant flow rate was wrongfully ascribed to a faulty flow meter and supposedly unreliable flow readings, and if that was the reason why the reactor was not stopped at once.

Operating a reactor… by sheer guess-work

If PRoAtom’s information is accurate, the incident at Kursk was steadily in the making for at least 24 hours – meaning that certain measures were likely available to qualified staff to stop it developing further. Why weren’t they used? PRoAtom’s forum visitors, most of whom sounded as if they had intimate knowledge of the nuclear industry, with some possibly directly affiliated with Kursk NPP, were able to shed light on that mystery.

The upper biological shield – or “pyatak” – over the Kursk reactor. On top is the fuel-changing machine (the RBMK design allows for fuel changes even as normal reactor operation is in progress). The operator may have missed the steam rising over one of the channels, which would have been visible right over the biological shield.


“The RBMKs have been in operation going on 40 years now, and still the Technological Regulations for Reactor Operation allow for equivocal interpretations,” said one visitor. “The limits of safe reactor operation are breached when the rate of water flow in a control and protection channel drops below 2 cubic metres an hour if the rod is inserted. But inserted where – in the channel? In the core? The latest events tell us that even if removed from the core, but inside the channel, a control and protection rod can come under damage in conditions of a poor water flow rate. To top that, no steam at the channel head (if steam is found there, the Technological Regulations provide for an immediate manual scram) can be detected by any technological means, so whatever there was or wasn’t that caused all the fuss, the Central Hall operator who’s looking at this steam, he may not even remember. So the question is, what was the point of investing billions into the reactor’s modernisation if the way we’re still dealing with this quite frequent occurrence is as before – by guesswork?”

“Weren’t there still good reasons to shut the reactor down, if not by the scram button, then it least by power reduction according to regulations? We all know that what’s been happening at the plant, all this time since then, is the melted channel and the rod inside being 'jimmied out' [of the reactor]. So, how was it possibly melting without any steam?.. The fact that no steam was mentioned later in accident reports doesn’t mean it hadn’t been there,” another guest said, apparently in response to a suggestion that there hadn’t been grounds enough to shut the reactor down at an earlier point.

“That’s exactly the way things are done,” the same post continued, “by not hearing or seeing anything that doesn’t fit the system. The system’s in a state of a complete meltdown, and you’re still trying to jam facts into it that don’t fit! So you think it was OK to lay all the blame on the flow meter and forget about the control channel until kingdom come? Shame on you! The merits of this approach are self-evident – a total failure. Try to draw some lessons.”

“This is what’s interesting: The alterations were introduced into the design ten years ago. Why would [the Russian industry oversight agency] Rostekhnadzor permit the operation of reactors with such holes in the regulations??” yet another forum visitor wrote.

Kursk’s employees in for a meltdown of their own

According to PRoAtom forum visitors, the all-hands-on-deck emergency repairs and the general disarray have been greatly aggravating the situation in Kursk.

“The [plant’s] management have been forcing operational personnel to carry out radiation-hazardous works, which they made compulsory for them. These people are unprepared to perform such work to begin with, they are not qualified enough, plus all of this is done for no extra pay, during off-hours, and without any papers or documents drawn up… Also, they’ve been bullied by threats to fail them later on some exams like, whatever, industrial hygiene or something, and redundancies for failure to pass. It’s a total mess. Everyone knows Kursk Region is poor and there aren’t many jobs, and the plant pays well enough by comparison, so people are in fear for their jobs, in fear of the bosses… And the bosses are using it as they wish, plugging the holes left by their screw-ups with their employees’ health.”

“They’re making them work overtime and not at their assigned work places, either.”

“What money could compensate for the loss of one’s health? Yeah, keep thinking those thoughts about how radiation is harmless, you fool, when you’re in the repair zone and it’s shining straight at ya with 14 to 16 roentgen per hour. These are the conditions they do their repair work in at the plant,” posted a forum guest in response to another visitor, who had suggested hazard pay was included into the nuclear power plant workers’ compensation, and that the yearly permissible levels or radiation exposure were now anyway lower than they had been in Soviet time.

“Unprofessionalism is when…instead of scramming the reactor, they’ll just log non-existent defects in a perfectly well-functioning coolant flow meter in that channel and go home like it’s no big deal. Those who’ve allowed this accident to happen, they’ve long had a screw or two loose, from all the pressure of achieving high performance rates and being afraid of losing their cushy jobs. And the chances are nil that they’ll get their heads right again any time soon.”

“The event puts this issue on the agenda: Are Kursk NPP’s personnel capable of following the requirements of the Technological Regulations to immediately scram the reactor when emergency situations arise? Or have they been too intimidated and demoralised by all the various reorganisations in the nuclear industry? Intimidated, demoralised, and broken psychologically – this is the main tactic of manipulating personnel at Russian NPPs,” the PRoAtom story concluded.

The unshakable legacy and the sad epilogue

The picture emerging behind these comments – and behind the very story, indeed – is a lamentable one.

Firstly, the so-called “improvements” on the RBMK-1000 design, necessitated as they were by the tragedy at Chernobyl, have led to a common enough solve-one-problem-by-creating-another dilemma: One of the possible causes of the world’s greatest nuclear catastrophe to date may have been safely removed, but the upgrades have given room for the likelihood of other accident scenarios to develop that involve the infamous design. If on July 22 the supply of coolant to the damaged channel were to have been restored, the situation may have well resulted in the destruction of other channels and a steam explosion of a Chernobyl magnitude. The sheer crudeness of the solution chosen to rectify the deficiencies in the old design – turning “wet” control and protection channels into “dry” ones – is nothing short of amazing.

Secondly, the accident put into stark relief the disturbing problem where many reactor parameters that are key to its safe operation – such as steam emerging over a control channel head – are still only detected or assessed with the help of nothing but the naked eye of the operator on duty, and the regulations in place are vague and offer little recourse. This broadens the margin for the possibility of a severer accident already created by the earlier upgrades, by augmenting the risk of errors on the part of the personnel – the notorious “human factor.”

And thirdly, Rosatom, when it became a state corporation, took the worst of what this supposedly free-market form of business management could offer – an unabashed pursuit of profit – and added it to the worst traits it chose to inherit from its predecessor, the Ministry of Nuclear Energy. Its history suggests that little has changed since the ministry, now a corporation operating within a loosely defined legal format, arose in the Soviet Union in the 1950s under the name of Minsredmash. The indecipherable moniker itself – Minsredmash stands in Russian for the Ministry of Medium-Size Machine Building – would be a plain enough hint at how completely shrouded in secrecy the industry was and continues to be, while it never shook off the Soviet-style disregard for the health and well-being of both the nuclear workers and the general population.

And that legacy never shows more clearly than in the public information policies the nuclear industry apparently pursues even today.

Just a few days prior to the incident at Kursk NPP, Rosenergoatom, which regularly reports on “human-interest” events taking place at its branch outfits, wrote of this high achievement at the plant in an August 19 press release (quoted here verbatim):

“In 2010 Kursk NPP was declared the award winner of the contest called “100 Best Russian Companies. Ecology and Industrial Safety.” … The enterprise was awarded with a diploma and golden medal. Director of Kursk NPP Nikolay Sorokin was awarded with a badge of honor as “The Best Director in the Field of Environmental and Industrial Safety”. Head of Radiation Safety Department – Head of Environmental Safety Service Aleksey Trubnikov was awarded with a badge of honor as “Environmental Specialist of the Year”.

Kursk NPP became the award winner due to its constant environmental care and continuous investments in the maintaining of the environmental prosperity. The environmental safety system developed by the enterprise helps to detect possible problems and prevent them. The environmental impact of the nuclear power plant does not exceed the set standards. For the last five years state regulatory authorities have detected no violations of the environmental legislation…”

The story continues further with the same copious list of laudatory mentions and stands in sharp – if not outright mocking – contrast both to the unofficial information circulating in the nuclear field’s cyberspace and to the sparse official statements appearing, when and if they do, on incidents that Russian nuclear power plants experience on a regular basis. These are the incidents that force one to take a closer look at safety practices within the industry, and these are also the events that tell one the nuclear industry is in a state of deep crisis. Too bad the politicians and the managers in charge in Moscow keep looking the other way.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Royal Visit to Death Park!

War lords Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh will visit Rotherham's cutting edge DEATH PARK 'factory of the future' this week!

They will tour the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre at Catcliffe on Thursday. This sick global research facility is the experiment centre of heavy construction, nuclear, aerospace and defense corporations. Boeing, Rolls Royce, BAE, and UK and US Military all have their talons in this centre supported by the Sheffield and Manchester Uni's. Casting Technology International. One of the businesses already operating at the park makes parts for 'drones' (unmanned aerial and ground vehicles) on site as well as other defence hardware for such instruments of death as the Taranis Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle, the Joint Strike Fighter, the M777 Lightweight Howitzer and the Future Naval Gun.

How lovely for the queen to be able to view first hand innovative and advanced technological solutions to the problem of how to profit from killing people.

The Advanced Manufacturing Park has already been operating for over a year and now her Majesty will be leading a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the start of construction for the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (NAMRC) with Rolls Royce.
So if queeny and her band of murderous men want to celebrate nuclear and death for profit then we will celebrate peace, love and respect so make your way to Catcliffe, Rotherham this Thursday 18th Nov for a PARTY FOR PEACE! Loads of support is needed so dont go to work, turn off your tv's, bring out your banners and drums and any other musical instruments you have, show solidarity and a big not in our name! What kind of future do you want for the human race??

Protests continue at Gorleben nuclear waste storage facility

Hundreds of anti-nuclear activists sat or lay on the railway tracks in Harlingen near Dannenberg on November 8, 2010. German police detained about 800 protesters who refused to leave the tracks after more than 3,000 protestors blocked the tracks on Sunday disrupting a shipment of eleven Castor rail containers of reprocessed German nuclear waste to the storage dump in Gorleben.

Photo: REUTERS/Christian Charisius

16 Nov 2010.
Protests near Gorleben have died down but not stopped. Demonstrations against the German government's nuclear power policy continued as protesters marched near the Gorleben waste storage site. But one provocative author came up with a racier way to block a nuclear power law.

Several hundred protestors have gathered near the Gorleben nuclear waste storage facility in northern Germany on Sunday to demonstrate against plans to extend the period the site can be used as a storage site.

Hours after the shipment of nuclear waste arrived at Gorleben on Tuesday, the state government of Lower Saxony began exploring the possibility of using the former salt mine for longer-term nuclear waste storage.

The renewed protests come after demonstrators successfully delayed the shipment of nuclear waste to Gorleben from France last week by blocking road and rail routes on the way.

French police under fire

French police engaging protestors is under scrutiny

Special forces of the French police have come under fire in Germany for taking aggressive action against some protestors in Germany. Photos published by German media show uniformed officers of the French CRS under direction of German federal police engaging protestors.

The German Interior Ministry has admitted that the French police were involved in confrontations with protesters, but said they were merely helping German police contain an emergency situation.
According to an agreement signed in 2008 by several European countries, including France and Germany, police may not actively engage in law enforcement across an international border unless an emergency situation exists.

Racy offer

Meanwhile, provocative German author Charlotte Roche has made German President Christian Wulff a sexual offer should he refuse to sign a law that would extend the life of Germany's nuclear reactors.

Roche is an adamant critic of nuclear power

Roche told the German news magazine Der Spiegel, "I would offer to go to bed with him if he didn't sign it."

Wulff has until the end of the year to decide whether to sign into law a proposal by Chancellor Angela Merkel's government to push back the closure of Germany's 17 nuclear power plants by an average of 12 years. The proposed law has been sent to his office without being voted on by the Bundesrat, Germany's upper house of parliament that represents the German states.

Roche added that she had her husband's approval for the offer and that it was up for the First Lady Bettina Wulff to give her consent.

The author took part in last week's antinuclear protests. She is best known for her 2008 sexually explicit bestseller "Wetlands."

Author: Matt Zuvela (dpa, dapd, AFP)
Editor: Sean Sinico