New Report Reveals Scale of Steam Generator Failures at Nuclear Plant
Southern California Edison avoided federal regulatory guidelines when replacing defective steam generators at the San Onofre nuclear power plant—a costly mistake that can’t be fixed by plugging the tubes that carry radioactive steam or by operating the plant at reduced power, according to a new report released today by Friends of the Earth.
The content of the report by nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen details the significant design changes that should have triggered a license review which would have uncovered problems that subsequently led to serious damage and the release of radiation from the defective equipment at San Onofre in January.
Gundersen also criticizes Edison's plans to rapidly restart the damaged reactors at lower power after having done minimal plugging of damaged tubes carrying radioactive water. He warns that these are “non-solutions” that could lead to even more significant equipment failure and releases of radiation. Edison is expected to propose running the reactors at between 50 and 80 percent power. The report challenges the safety and effectiveness of such an approach, concluding:
- Reducing power does not provide a remedy for the underlying structural problems that are creating the vibration that has damaged and will continue to damage the tubes deep inside the San Onofre steam generators
- Reducing power will not change the pressure inside or outside the tubes—previously damaged tubes will continue to vibrate damaging surrounding tubes and tube supports and worsening the existing damage
- Lower power might create a resonate frequency at which vibration might increase without notice causing further damage
- Historical evidence at other reactors has shown that operating at lower power has not been an effective solution
Gundersen concludes that plugging the tubes and restarting the reactor could lead to catastrophe: “If a steam-line accident were to occur, vibrationally induced tube damage at San Onofre could cause an inordinate amount of radioactivity to be released outside of the containment system, compromising public health and safety in one of the most heavily populated areas in the United States.”
“Edison should never have been allowed to install these fundamentally defective steam generators,” said Damon Moglen, climate and energy campaign director at Friends of the Earth. “Now Edison is planning to avoid dealing with the underlying problems and instead restart at lower power. Their claims of nuclear safety first ring completely hollow and must be stopped
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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