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Medical personnel ride an inflatable boat over floodwaters to reach a hospital following heavy rains in Omachi, Saga prefecture on Aug. 29. JIJI PRESS / AFP / Getty Images

Floods and landslides triggered by record-setting rainfall in southern Japan have forced authorities to order more than 900,000 people to leave their homes and another one million were advised to move to safety on Wednesday, according to Reuters.

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Diablo Canyon Power Plant. Wikimedia

By Harvey Wasserman

Had last Friday's 7.1 earthquake and other ongoing seismic shocks hit less than 200 miles northwest of Ridgecrest/China Lake, ten million people in Los Angeles would now be under an apocalyptic cloud, their lives and those of the state and nation in radioactive ruin.

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An Argo float is deployed into the ocean.

CSIRO

By Julia Conley

Carbon emissions are affecting life in all of Earth's ecosystems—contributing to drought, flooding and the melting of ice in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. But a new study by researchers at Oxford University details how the planet's oceans are by far the climate crisis's biggest victim, with implications for the global population.

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A cloud rises over Nagasaki, Japan, in the moments after the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Aug. 9, 1945. Wikimedia Commons

By Susan Southard

Wednesday is the 72nd anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. At 11:02 a.m. Aug. 9, 1945, a five-ton plutonium bomb exploded a third of a mile above the city. Its blast winds tore through the city at two and a half times the speed of a Category 5 hurricane.

Two-year-old Masao Tomonaga was asleep in his home while his mother worked in another room. Within seconds of the blast, their house imploded on top of them. Remarkably, both survived. At 1.7 miles from the bomb's hypocenter, they were out of reach of its most intense infrared heat rays, which instantly carbonized human and animal flesh and vaporized the internal organs of those directly beneath the bomb.

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The "original" Greenpeace crew on-board the Phyllis Cormack on their voyage to Amchitka Island. Robert Keziere / Greenpeace

By Yuko Yoneda

It started with just 12 of them. With a bold mission, this group of activists set sail to Amchitka island off Alaska to protest the detonation of an underground U.S. nuclear test. It was September 1971, and though the mission was initially unsuccessful, it was the beginning of what became Greenpeace, and just one of the many issues—the elimination of nuclear weapons—that the environmental organization would campaign endlessly against.

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Indian Point Energy Center is a three-unit nuclear power plant station located in Buchanan, New York, just south of Peekskill. Tony Fischer / Wikipedia

By Joseph Mangano

In the late 1970s, the rate of new thyroid cancer cases in four counties just north of New York City—Westchester, Rockland, Orange and Putnam counties—was 22 percent below the U.S. rate. Today, it has soared to 53 percent above the national rate. New cases jumped from 51 to 412 per year. Large increases in thyroid cancer occurred for both males and females in each county.

That's according to a new study I co-authored which was published in the Journal of Environmental Protection and presented at Columbia University.

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Recovery Act-funded work at the Hanford Site. U.S. Department of Energy

By William J. Kinsella

Seventy-five years ago, in March 1943, a mysterious construction project began at a remote location in eastern Washington state. Over the next two years some 50,000 workers built an industrial site occupying half the area of Rhode Island, costing more than $230 million—equivalent to $3.1 billion today. Few of those workers, and virtually no one in the surrounding community, knew the facility's purpose.

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We are broadcasting from Washington state, where the Department of Energy declared a state of emergency at the Hanford nuclear site after a tunnel storing contaminated radioactive materials collapsed.

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Three decades after the worst nuclear power plant catastrophe in history, a site in Chernobyl is being reimagined as a solar energy farm—one that would be the world's largest once built.

Thirty years after the nuclear disaster Greenpeace revisits the site and the Unit 4 with the New Safe Confinement (NSC or New Shelter). Denis Sinyakov / Greenpeace

The 1986 meltdown, which released radiation at least 100 times more powerful than the radiation released by the atom bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, rendered roughly 2,600 square kilometers of the area unsuitable for habitation. Greenpeace found that animals living within the exclusion zone have higher mortality rates, increased genetic mutations and decreased birth rate.

But in a twist of poetic justice, the Ukrainian government has expressed ambitions to turn 6,000 hectares within Chernobyl's "exclusion zone" into a renewable energy hub. The proposed plant would generate 1-gigawatt of solar power and 400-megawatts of biogas per year, the Guardian reported. The country is pushing for a six-month construction cycle.

According to PV-Tech, ecology minister Ostap Semerak has visited the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) with the plan. The proposal has since been issued to investment firms in the U.S., Canada and the UK. If it gets the green light, the renewable energy farm will generate about a third of the electricity that the former nuclear plant generated when it was running.

“The Chernobyl site has really good potential for renewable energy," Semerak said during an interview in London. “We already have high-voltage transmission lines that were previously used for the nuclear stations, the land is very cheap and we have many people trained to work at power plants. We have normal European priorities, which means having the best standards with the environment and clean energy ambitions."

Three decades after the worst nuclear power plant catastrophe in history, a site in Chernobyl is being reimagined as a solar energy farm—one that would be the

Semerak said that two U.S. investment firms and four Canadian energy companies have already expressed interest in the Chernobyl's solar potential, the Guardian reported. The project is estimated to cost between $1 and $1.5 billion.

"The EBRD may consider participating in the project so long as there are viable investment proposals and all other environmental matters and risks can be addressed to the bank's satisfaction," an EBRD representative said.

However "nothing is imminent," the spokesperson added. "We are keeping an open mind. But it's important not to read too much into it at this stage."

"The Ukraine has indicated it will open the exclusion zone, and we welcome that. Renewables are one of our priorities, and as soon and as long as they secure investment then we will discuss the project and provide co-financing," the bank rep said.

The renewable energy project isn't just good news for the environment, it will provide Ukraine some energy independence, as the country currently gets the bulk of its natural gas from Russia, Business Insider pointed out.

If construction is approved, Chernobyl's solar farm will hold the title of "World's Largest Solar Plant" before Dubai's massive concentrated solar plant catches up to it.

The under-construction Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai will produce 1 gigawatt of electricity by 2020 with ambitious expansion plans of 5 gigawatts by 2030.

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Neighbors for an Ohio Valley Alternative

By Geoffrey Sea

[Read Part I, Part II and Part IV of this series]

USEC Inc. has confirmed that today, May 31, is the last day of uranium enrichment at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Kentucky, marking the end of sixty-one years of operation. The monstrous facility was opened in 1952 as a last hurrah of the Truman Administration, representing one of the most egregious acts of political favoritism in American history. The plant was located in Paducah because that city was the hometown of Alben Barkley, who represented Kentucky’s First District in Congress and then became Truman’s vice president.

(Concurrently, the Piketon, Ohio, plant was located as a concession to Ohio Senator and presidential candidate Robert Taft. Barkley and Taft each boasted about how they had won these megaliths for their states—plants that produced modest employment for half a century along with site contamination that will last for thousands of years.)

Cessation of enrichment today comes as something of a predictable surprise, following the breakdown of extension talks between the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), which owns the plant, and the privatized USEC Inc., which has leased the operation under the strange accord that has required no leasing fee, nor any continuing legal liability for the mess that USEC has made.

One of four massive switchyards at the Paducah plant that will soon go cold. Photo credit: U.S. Department of Energy

The news is cause for celebration by environmentalists, because the Paducah plant has been powered by three gigawatts of dirty coal in the Ohio Valley. According to the Times Free Press of Tennessee, the Paducah plant was by far the largest buyer of TVA electricity, accounting for $600 million in sales or 5 percent of TVA power last year. And sadly, USEC’s gigantic Freon coolers won’t qualify for TVA’s old-appliance scrap rebate program, because they are radioactive.

The Paducah plant has reputedly emitted more chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), the worst ozone-depleting and global warming gasses, than all other global sources of CFCs combined in recent years. The plant had been granted a “national security” exemption from the ban on Freon, even though the enriched uranium USEC produced is not used to make nuclear weapons.

Today’s end of operations also has some profound consequences for USEC as it struggles to maintain minimum listing requirements on the New York Stock Exchange. USEC can no longer claim to be the only “American-owned uranium enrichment company,” a claim of dubious veracity anyway since Toshiba became a principal holder of USEC equity, and since federal regulations define a “domestic” producer as one located in the U.S., not according to ownership. URENCO, the European enrichment company, has been enriching uranium at its centrifuge plant in New Mexico since 2010, effectively edging USEC out of the market for centrifuge enrichment in the U.S.

Tomorrow, USEC will be just a broker for uranium obtained from other suppliers, which technically places the company in statutory violation of the USEC Privatization Act of 1996, which made many federal subsidies and concessions available to the company, only on condition that it meets its obligation to enrich uranium. Whether the federal government will demand repayment of the funds transferred to USEC under false pretenses remains to be seen. But don’t hold your breath.

In today’s announcement USEC also says it is issuing WARN Act termination notices to all 1,034 of its Paducah employees, expecting the first round of layoffs to affect about 160 workers between Aug. 5 and Aug. 19. That’s just in time to commemorate the anniversaries of the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which fall on Aug. 6 and Aug. 9.

Layoffs are staggered because USEC had attempted to cajole the government into making an additional $13 million payment in material to extend operations and make it look like the plant was doing something. Preparations for property transfer to DOE were therefore delayed. USEC has also utilized Paducah facilities for managing an inventory of Russian uranium, under a separate U.S. government concession called the Megatons to Megawatts Program. That program, however, terminates in December of this year.

The complicated process of transferring leased facilities back to DOE control, and out of regulation by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, is known as “de-leasing.” In all ways it is comparable to delousing, only the hosts and parasites are smellier.

Harvey Wasserman

We all knew it was coming.

Radioactive tuna has been caught off the coast of California. The fingerprint of cesium 137 is unmistakably from the exploded reactors at Fukushima.

But Fukushima's hot hands are also on a very welcome debate still stalemating China's plans to build more than 30 new reactors. Fierce No Nukes opposition continues to escalate in India. Reactor cancellations have spread throughout Europe.

And now we have a chance to stop new reactor construction in the U.S. Reliable reports now confirm that the $8.33 billion loan guarantee for Georgia's Vogtle double-reactor project has still not been finalized. After just five months construction is $1 billion over budget and falling ever further behind schedule. There is no firm price tag. Substandard concrete and rebar steel that doesn't meet official specifications are just the beginning of the nightmare.

You can help Georgia ratepayers and American taxpayers out of this misery by signing our petition.

You can also prepare for life without sushi. National Public Radio has assured us all that the radioactive tuna are perfectly safe to eat. This is the same network whose Scott Simon glibly told us that there were no injuries at Three Mile Island, "not even a sprained ankle."

But as long-time radiation expert Robert Alavarez warns, "it's not harmless." Fukushima released far more cesium-137 than the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Many decades ago lesser fallout from nuclear testing forced the confiscation of more than 4 million pounds of fish.

But as the really bad news from Fukushima continues to escalate, we must begin to adjust to far worse than giving up raw fish.

Massive quantities of Japanese trash have begun to wash up on the west coast of North America, from Alaska to California and beyond. The tragic residue of the earthquake and tsunami that killed thousands and cost trillions has crossed the Pacific. The waves of debris include at least one "ghost ship," many motor vehicles, thousands of barrels full of unknown substances and much more.

Much of it is radioactive. Government officials, the nuclear industry and corporate media will lowball the readings and scoff at the health implications. But American beaches are now contaminated, the fish you once ate is unsafe and the situation could get much worse.

Still hovering 100 feet in the air is the spent fuel pool at Fukushima #4. Stacked with thousands of tons of the most lethal substances ever created, the fuel rods could come crashing to the ground with the next big earthquake. Strewn at random, with no cooling water, exposed to the air, the radiation releases would far exceed Chernobyl, the nuclear bomb tests and any other polluting fallout humankind has yet created. That it would go global is a given.

Repeated calls for help from international teams of experts underline the core reality that nobody really knows what to do, except to pray for seismic stability... an impossible dream in Japan, but at this point the only port of last resort.

Thankfully, the doubts instilled by Fukushima and the growing power of the global No Nukes movement have had their impact. Reports from China indicate deep divisions about further reactor construction.

Massive demonstrations and hunger strikes continue in opposition to India's Koodankulam project. Cancellations have spread throughout Europe.

In the meantime we Americans can finally kill the prospect of federal loan guarantees for building new reactors here.

As Mary Olson of the Nuclear Information & Resource Service has pointed out, money for new nukes—which can't get private financing—was set aside early in the George W. Bush administration. But in large part as a result of the power of the grassroots No Nukes movement, not a single guarantee has yet been finalized.

Vogtle is the first project officially designated. But problems with design, planning and execution continue to escalate. So have the rate hikes imposed on Georgia consumers. With no firm price tag or completion date, and with the entire industry in chaos, the Office of Management and Budget has been unable to set reasonable terms that the reactor builders can meet.

It all adds up to an industry in accelerating collapse. Reactor construction at South Carolina's V.C. Summer is also over budget, behind schedule and at the core of massive rate hike fights in both Carolinas.

Reactors proposed for Florida's Levy County have soared over a minimum of $9.5 billion to as high as $12 billion each, and still climbing—far in excess of original estimates. Shutdowns continue at nearby Crystal River, California's San Onofre, the flooded Calhoun in Nebraska and many others. Public pressure to forever close Vermont Yankee, New York's Indian Point, Ohio's Davis-Besse, South Texas and more continues to escalate.

Whether these shut-down movements succeed before a Fukushima happens here, or that spent fuel pool collapses, or Vogtle again escalates in price, remains to be seen.

What's certain is that you can help stop the Vogtle loan guarantee and kill the chance of any new reactors being built here—paving the path at last for a totally green-powered Solartopian Earth.

So next time you start to reach for some sushi, grab a pen or keyboard instead. Sign the petitions, call your representative, run a bake sale—do whatever is needed to kill this loan guarantee and lessen the odds on being harmed by a Fukushima here at home.

Visit EcoWatch's NUCLEAR page for more related news on this topic.

 

Counterpunch

By Michael Leonardi

In 1942, Enrico Fermi led a team of scientists at the University of Chicago in creating the world’s first man made nuclear reactor, Chicago Pile 1, and first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction—nuclear fission. This experiment took place on a squash court underneath the bleachers of the original Alonzo Stagg Field Stadium at the University of Chicago. Heralded as one of the world’s foremost scientific achievements, this scientific breakthrough lead to the Manhattan project and the unleashing of a nuclear age of weaponry married to the production of nuclear energy that has defined man’s most threatening and destructive scientific discovery to date. From Hiroshima to Nagasaki and the numerous nuclear detonations around the world, and on to Three Mile Island,  Chernobyl and Fukushima, Fermi’s breakthrough has lead to a wanton assault on humanity and the planet through the use of nuclear weapons and the profit driven production of nuclear energy with its fatal releases of poisonous radioactivity into the land, air and water.

The promise of “Atom’s for Peace” has proven to be a false one as the reemerging anti-nuclear movement in the U.S. struggles to avert more death and killing in Enrico Fermi’s name outside of Monroe, Michigan—on the shores of Lake Erie. Here sits a legacy of narrowly averted nuclear catastrophes and others waiting to happen. The Enrico Fermi Nuclear Generating Station is home to Fermi 1, that suffered a partial fuel meltdown in 1966  inspiring a book by John Fuller and song by Gil Scot Heron called “We Almost lost Detroit” and was officially decommissioned in 1975. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) reported at the time that there were no significant radioactive releases, but we have come to learn that this is what the NRC always says when it comes to protecting the nuclear industry’s profit margins. As has been  the consensus of the scientific community for decades and thoroughly documented by Harvey Wasserman in this March, 2011 Counterpunch article, there is no safe dose of radiation.

The Enrico Fermi Nuclear Generating Station is also home to Fermi 2, our Fukushima on the Great Lakes. As Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear recently stated, “Fermi 2 in Monroe, Michigan is the largest Fukushima Daiichi identical twin reactor in the world, and without electricity the storage pool will begin boiling away within four hours and twelve minutes, according to Detroit Edison documents. The potentially catastrophic reactor and radioactive waste risks at Fermi 2 could harm the entire Great Lakes and beyond,” he added. This GE Mark 1 reactor was built with design flaws documented by whistleblowers back in the early 1970s and the construction of the Fermi 2 reactor itself leaves grave questions as to how its spent radioactive fuel rods are being and will be monitored and contained safely. In 1976 Gregory C. Minor, Richard B. Hubbard and Dale G. Bridenbaugh blew the whistle on safety problems with  nuclear reactors designed by General Electric. The three resigned from their jobs after becoming increasingly convinced that the nuclear reactor design they were reviewing—the Mark 1—was so flawed it could lead to a devastating accident.

The concerns that these whistle blowers brought up have been brought to catastrophic light over the past year with the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima reactors in Japan. "The problems we identified in 1975 were that, in doing the design of the containment, they did not take into account the dynamic loads that could be experienced with a loss of coolant," Bridenbaugh told ABC News in an interview. "The impact loads the containment would receive by this very rapid release of energy could tear the containment apart and create an uncontrolled release."

Long time antinuclear watchdog and observer of the Fermi 2 reactor Michael  Keegan points out several current areas of concern with this Fukushima clone. Foremost of his concerns is the situation with the spent fuel pool. “Because Fermi 2 has done several re-racks and by 2015 the spent fuel pool will contain twice the rods it was designed for (4,600 vs 2,300 design), at that time a loss of spent fuel pool circulation would lead to a boil off beginning in 4.2 hours. Detroit Edison contends that they have water that could be pumped at a faster rate than the boil off. How long that could last if the station was in a black out, with loss of emergency diesel generators? Spent fuel pool boil off can lead to the spontaneous combustion of the zirconium casing of fuel rods and a catastrophic release of radioactivity.”

Keegan’s thorough evaluation of NRC documents pertaining to the Fermi 2 reactor details numerous mishaps and safety issues that have occurred with the plants operation since it went on line in 1988. In the summer of 2010, a tornado damaged the facility and forced the plant to shut down. The building housing the plant’s safety equipment was damaged and there was a loss of power at the plant. The plant had to depend on its emergency diesel generators at this time.

With 500 tons of spent fuel in a spent fuel pool located five floors above the ground at Fermi 2, there is another inconceivable and highly concerning problem facing the safe operation of the facility. Welds in the original blueprints from 1970 that were supposed to be built in to bolster vertical beams connecting the walls to the floors were never built in. According to Keegan, “So in 2010 discovery of missing welds that appeared on 1970 blue prints prevented the procedure of lifting the 125 tons of spent fuel bundles from the 5th floor down to ground with the crane. The floors and ceilings could not bare the load of the crane because welds were missing on the vertical beams. The crane is rated at 125 tons.”

Fermi 2’s most notable mishap occurred on Christmas Day of 1993. The results of this accident was the dumping of hundreds of thousands of gallons of radioactive water directly into Lake Erie.

The catastrophic failure of the main turbine at Fermi 2, Christmas Day 1993

 The main turbine automatically tripped due to an erroneous mechanical overspeed signal caused by high vibrations. The reactor, which was operating at 93 percent power, received an automatic scram signal triggered by the turbine trip. The high vibration was caused by catastrophic failure of the turbine blades. Ejected blade parts ripped through the turbine casing and severed condenser tubes and other piping. The rupture of piping supplying hydrogen gas to the generator for cooling caused a large fire. The plant’s fire brigade took 37 minutes to muster, dress and enter the turbine building to fight the fire. Their efforts were hindered by numerous communication problems, including malfunctions of personnel motion detectors (e.g., “man down” alarms).

About 500,000 gallons of water from broken general service water piping and turbine building closed cooling water piping flooded the radwaste building basement to a depth of approximately six feet. Workers were slow to isolate the systems with broken piping to terminate the flooding, due to the total lack of procedures for a turbine building internal flood. The severed condenser tubes permitted water from Lake Erie to flow into the condenser hotwell, from where it was pumped to the condensate storage tank. The standby feedwater system pumped water from the condensate storage tank to the reactor vessel. The lake water caused conductivity and chloride levels of the reactor vessel water to significantly exceed specifications. (Fermi 2 Outage report Dec. 25, 1993 to Jan. 18, 1995 (1.1 years)).

Now Detroit Edison, the full owner of the Enrico Fermi Nuclear Generating Station, is proposing the construction of Fermi 3. With utterly false projections of energy usage in the state of Michigan that do not reflect the reality that electricity usage is actually shrinking due to conservation and deindustrialization. Detroit Energy claims that nuclear power is the cheapest means to meet its customers demands. The projected cost to construct the Fermi 3 Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor is $10 billion. Citizens groups are challenging the construction of Fermi 3 on a myriad of grounds ranging from the impact it will have on endangered species in the area to its contributing to the growing problem of toxic algae blooms on Lake Erie. The criminals at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission perceive that the construction and operation of a new nuclear reactor on the Enrico Fermi site in Newport, Michigan will have no significant environmental impact.

Detroit Edison and its Enrico Fermi Nuclear complex are now in the cross hairs of a growing grassroots mobilization against this continued nuclear psychosis emanating from the energy corporations and their corporate sponsored political mouthpieces from Obama on down through the bureaucracies of the criminal Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Environmental Protection Agency. Teaming up with national nuclear watchdog Beyond Nuclear, a grassroots coalition of citizens groups and Occupiers are joining forces in the Freeze Our Fukushima’s Campaign calling for the immediate closure of the 23 GE Mark 1 reactors, the largest of which is the Fermi 2 reactor. Coming actions include a protest of the GE shareholder’s meeting on the April 25 and the Detroit Edison shareholder’s meeting on the May 3, both taking place in Detroit. Pat Birnie of the GE Shareholders alliance an activist group of shareholders within GE have worked with Kevin Kamps at Beyond Nuclear to prepare the following documents and resolution that will be presented at the shareholder’s meeting in Detroit. As documented in this December, 2011 article called Occupy the NRC, both Detroit Edison and the rest of the nuclear power industry will not build another nuclear reactor in the U.S. with out a major fight.

For more information, click here.

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Michael Leonardi is a writer and activist with Occupy Toledo. He currently lives with his family, 25 miles from Fermi 2 and 25 miles from Davis Besse.