Sunday, 19 April 2015

Rise in wildfires may resurrect 

Chernobyl's radiation

Fallout from the world's worst nuclear accident just won't go away. Radioactive clouds may once again spread
over Europe, as rising fires release radiation locked up in the upper layers of soil in the dense forests near
Chernobyl in Ukraine and Belarus
Forest fires there have already been re-distributing that radioactivity over Europe. But the situation is set to
worsen with climate change, political instability – and a bizarre effect of radiation on dead leaves.
After a reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear plant exploded in 1986, people were evacuated from 4800 square
kilometres of the most heavily contaminated areas in Ukraine and neighbouring Belarus.
This "exclusion zone" became ahaven for wildlife and a dense boreal forest.
Nikolaos Evangeliou at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research and colleagues have analysed the impact of
forest fires in the region, and calculated their future frequency and intensity. To do so they fed satellite
images of real fires in 2002, 2008 and 2010, and measurements of radioactive caesium-137 deposited
on the area, to models of air movements and fires.
They estimate that of the 85 petabecquerels of radioactive caesium released by the Chernobyl accident,
between 2 and 8 PBq still lurk in the upper layer of soil in the exclusion zone. In another ecosystem this
might gradually fall with erosion or the removal of vegetation. But in these abandoned forests,
says Evangeliou, "trees pick up the radioactive ions, then dead leaves return it to the soil".

Radioactive smoke

The team calculates that the three fires released from 2 to 8 per cent of the caesium, some 0.5 PBq,
in smoke. This was distributed over eastern Europe, and detected as far south as Turkey and as far west
as Italy and Scandinavia.
"The simulation probably underestimates the potential risks," says Ian Fairlie, former head of the
UK government's radiation risk committee, who has studied the health impacts of Chernobyl.
That's because the estimate depends on the half-life the team assumed for Cs-137, he says,
and some investigators believe it is longer.
The team's calculated release would have given people in the nearby Ukrainian capital, Kiev, an average
dose of 10 microsieverts of radiation – 1 per cent of the permitted yearly dose. "This is very small," says
Tim Mousseau of the University of South Carolina at Columbia, a co-author of the study. "But these fires
serve as a warning of where these contaminants can go. Should there be a larger fire, quite a bit more
could end up on populated areas."
And the average dose isn't the problem. Some people will get much more, as fires dump radioactive
strontium, plutonium and americium as well as caesium unevenly, and as some foods concentrate these
heavy metals, for example caesium in mushrooms. "The internal dose from ingestion can be significant,"
says Mousseau. The resulting cancers might be hard to spot among many other less-exposed people.
"But they will be very significant for those who experience them."
Increased forest fires seem likely. The area is due to get drier, according to the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change. The team found thatdroughts are already worsening forest fires in both area
and intensity, and those are predicted to worsen.
This may be down to a range of factors, including lack of management of the forests. Most forests are
managed by removing dead trees, clearing roads or cutting fire breaks but this isn't being done here.
Moreover, dead vegetation that fuels fires is accumulating at a rate that has doubled since 1986, the team says.

Insect killer?

This is partly because the radiation itself seems to inhibit the decay of leaf litter, perhaps because it kills
key insects or microorganisms. "We brought litter from an uncontaminated zone into a contaminated
area and found it decayed only half as fast," says Evangeliou.
The models predict peaks of forest fires between 2023 and 2036. By 2060, fires might continue, but much
of the radioactive fallout will have decayed away.
To cap it all, once a fire starts, local fire-fighters in Ukraine have seven times fewer crews and equipment per
1000 hectares than elsewhere in the country – a situation unlikely to improve given the ongoing conflict.
The UN Environment Programme is installing video surveillance for fires, but much of the forest is
inaccessible or slow to reach due to blocked roads. "It's like a jungle in there," says Evangeliou.
"This is clearly an important problem and one that applies also to Fukushima, where a significant amount
of forest land has been contaminated," says Keith Baverstock of the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio,
formerly head of radiation protection at the World Health Organization's European office. "They have a very
valid point. The lack of management of forests, the apparently slower decay of vegetation exposed to
radiation, climate change leading to drought and the expansion of forested areas all contribute to increasing
the risk of forest fire and therefore further dispersal of long-lived radioactive nuclides."
The actual amount of radioactivity redistributed by the recent fires is about a tenth of what was deposited
on Europe in 1986, and its health effects are still a matter of debate among epidemiologists.
But long-lived emitters of radioactivity persist and accumulate, so any dose is bad news, says Mousseau.
"A growing body of information supports the idea that there is no threshold below which they have no effect."
Journal reference: Ecological Monographs, DOI: 10.1890/14-1227.1
Stop Hinkley takes the message to Brussels: ‘No Subsidies For New Nuclear Power Plants
Report by Jo Smoldon
Stop Hinkley were invited to Brussels to take part in a demonstration on the 24th March.  It took place at the EU headquarters and our Euro MEP Molly Scott Cato joined the list of speakers who inspired us.  We were thrilled to be invited as it was important for us to be there and represent our Stop Hinkley campaign, which was central for the other participant's presentations.  Molly spoke of Stop Hinkley's long standing commitment to the anti-nuclear campaign in Somerset over 30 years and acknowledged our presence and perseverance.
The demo was outside the EU headquarters and our Euro MP Molly Scott Cato joined the list of speakers who inspired us. We were thrilled to be invited and to take part – it was important for us to be there and represent our Stop Hinkley campaign which was central for the other participant's presentations.
Many countries and anti-nuclear groups were represented including Austria , Holland , Belgium and Germany . It was affirming that all of these people were there for us too, different groups coming together in a united way, with common cause, across all our different languages. It gave great strength to us all.
An Austrian speaker's informative talk highlighted the 1957 Euratom treaty which the EU countries all signed in support of nuclear. Austria sees today that this needs to be updated and for nuclear power to be removed. One solution is for individual countries to pull out from the Euratom treaty, perhaps Luxembourg and Austria , and then encourage Germany to pull out. Hopefully others will follow to undermine the dictating Euratom treaty.
Peter Smith, a Stop Hinkley supporter who spent many years working in a very senior position at Hinkley, spoke from the heart about his journey from Hinkley Point worker to anti-nuclear campaigner. The audience fell silent listening to the details of his life experience revealing the delusion, denial, and danger leading to disaster and destruction from the nuclear industry. His shock when he realised that the industry has never confessed to its employees that the finances won't ever add up. The money needed for decommissioning and waste storage is never costed into the nuclear energy production. Nuclear workers are continuously being deceived!
There are many in Europe asking about the UK government and wondering what is going to happen in the forthcoming elections. One speaker, when looking at the attitudes to energy provision comparing nuclear to renewables, described Cameron as not only a donkey in the horse race, but a dead donkey!
Molly spoke of Stop Hinkley's long standing commitment to the anti-nuclear campaign in Somerset over 30 years and acknowledged our presence and perseverance.
The power network was talked about. In the South West the spare capacity is already allocated to Hinkley on the grid and renewables have been left with no possibility to feed in. Is there a strategy in DECC? Businesses are being told that no intermediate renewable sized projects can be approved, only small domestic ones.
We heard about various other reactors around Europe . In Austria , although they finished a nuclear power station, they decided never to switch it on.
Inspiration was given when it was revealed that last year in Germany energy saving technology has meant that in a year 5% of their energy has been saved. That just shows how, by simply looking at what we are doing, from individuals to big companies, everyone can make a difference to the energy total that is required.
The Belgium speaker told of the 18cm cracks in their reactor and again it was highlighted the importance of individuals investing in renewables.
As the different countries told their stories, no one could miss the fact that the two countries pushing for nuclear are UK and France . This is due to the nuclear weapons facility for Europe being subsidised ad infinitum. As always, the weapons issue was mentioned. It has underpinned the need for nuclear power from the beginning.

Everyone pledged to get more signatures on the petition against the illegal subsidy for nuclear. Subsidy and waste needing £billions to keep it safe, goes on and on and on and on… must our determination to stop it.