Lessons for Iranians to heed – NYTimes.com

Warning – I am going to get normative here – politics should be solving nuclear waste storage issues not impeding it despite budget constraints. The clean up of liquid highly radioactive waste is not just a burden on future generations. The whole earth suffers. Here is an excerpt from the NYT about the delays in cleanup of this highly liquid nuclear bomb waste at the Savannah nuke plant, in the lowlands of SC. Implication for storage of Hanford’s similar waste is also effected. The waste is left over from the cold war race to make nuclear bombs. Does Iran and other power seeking nations understand the problems and complexity that go along with producing weapons grade plutonium for bombs? Here is an excerpt from the NYT:

“At Savannah, the Energy Department did succeed in building the world’s largest factory for stabilizing the liquid bomb waste, done by mixing it with molten glass and pouring it into stainless steel canisters, 10 feet high by two feet across. The stabilized waste should then last for millenniums.

The department has also perfected a technique for separating nearly all of the troublesome radioactive materials from salts in the underground tanks to reduce the volume that must be mixed with the molten glass. The rest of the radioactive material is mixed with cement that will bind it up for centuries. Last year the factory began the business of making the canisters and produced 325 of them — a respectable fraction of the 7,824 department officials say will be needed.

Over the years, production at the factory has become smoother as machines run more hours of the year and parts that were expected to last for only four or five years have been used successfully for 10. Such longevity is an important factor at a place where the radiation fields are so intense that all the work has to be done by remote control.

But because of the budget constraints, the factory intends to produce only another 125 canisters for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

Employment at the waste site, which once ensured stronger political support for the Energy Department in this conservative state, has dropped to 1,800 workers who manage the tanks and processed the liquid wastes, from 2,200. Another vast construction project here — a factory to turn weapons plutonium into reactor fuel — is faltering because of technical issues and budget problems, which may be another reason that state officials feel free to challenge the Department of Energy.

The tanks, which hold 750,000 to 1.3 million gallons each, sit under artificial hills, and above them is a forest of industrial equipment, some a half-century old. The equipment is used to carry off the heat the waste generates from radioactive decay. The equipment also vents and scrubs the explosive gases the waste produces. Steam is used to heat air, which is then pumped around the tanks to keep the tanks dry and inhibit rust.”

South Carolona is seeking millions of $ for the failure of Federal government to meet cleanup goals. Short-sighted GOP congressmen have committed a very serious and expensive problem with sequestration and military spending cap here. Saving money in the short term has increased costs for the future by jeopardizing health of people and surrounding environment and wildlife  for generations and eons to come. If this is not a priority here in the USA then imagine this problem in the former Soviet republics and other states with nuclear capabilities. Warning – I am going all normative here again -Iranian people and their leaders should think about these issues before continuing to develop nuclear grade plutonium for bombs, God forbid, they will never use.


Controversies – Only Half of Chemical Contaminants in Great Lakes are Removed by Treatment Plants – AllGov – News

The International Joint Commission releases a new report on the health of the Great Lakes. Excerpts from the report:

Noting that the focus of environmental monitoring has recently “shifted to an array of recently discovered compounds known as ‘chemicals of emerging concern’,” the report states that CECs are “found in products used daily in households, businesses, agriculture and industry, such as flame retardants, pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and pesticides.”

To determine how well wastewater treatment plants on the Great Lakes are handling CECs, IJC conducted a study from 2009 to 2011 of their operations and of the effectiveness of various wastewater treatment technologies at removing 42 specific CECs.

The study found that six chemicals (an herbicide, an anti-seizure drug, two antibiotics, an antibacterial drug and an anti-inflammatory drug) were detected frequently and had a low rate of removal in treated effluent, while five more had a low rate of removal, but not frequent detection. The main finding was that “at least half of the 42 substances examined…are likely to be removed in municipal wastewater treatment plants.”


Russian tanker loaded with diesel fuel collides with Arctic ice floe | Alaska Dispatch

Diesel fuel spill in the Arctic. Arctic Council needs a stronger agreement address prevention of spills along with already agreed upon remedial measures. Alaska dispatch reporting on this spill – an excerpt:

“The 453-foot Russian-flagged tanker Nordvik is rated to travel in non-Arctic seas in thin ice, but collided with an ice floe in Matisen Straight, causing a hole that resulted in water ingress. The Northern Sea Route Administration had given the vessel permission to sail in the Kara Sea and the Laptev Sea, two of the most northern seas. There are as yet no reports of diesel fuel spills in the area, and the vessel was reportedly traveling toward Murmansk. 

A graphic of sea ice concentrations shows ice in that region, though the majority of the passage is shown to be ice-free. 

A Russian union spokesperson said the accident is an example of the need for more emergency response capacity in the region prior to allowing vessels to travel in the Arctic seas. 

“Yesterday’s accident was a direct threat to the lives of sailors and the ecology of the Arctic,” Aleksander Bodnya says to the union’s web site. “Vessels like that should not be sailing on NSR, simply because they are not capable of withstanding the ice conditions.” 

Alaska’s state officials responded with similar concern, saying the incident illustrates why Alaska and the United States need to continue to push an Arctic marine safety and life safety agenda. 

“We have an Arctic Council agreement signed this year to help each other in cleanup, but need more work in prevention,” said Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, one of the state officials who has been leading Arctic policy efforts, in an email.

Treadwell said one of the proposals from the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment includes a mandatory code defining what kind of ships can make these voyages. 

“Russia and other nation’s crude oil and product tankers now come through the Bering Strait, through waters that are a major food source for Alaskans and the world,” Treadwell said. “They should have contingency plans and the support of an oil spill response organization in case of a problem. That is not cheap, but we have to find a way to make it happen.” 

In 2012, 46 ships sailed the entire length from Europe to East Asia. In 2013, administrators of the Northern Sea Route had granted permission for more than 400 ships to sail.”

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