Tag Archives: nuclear waste

Explosion in French nuclear plant kills 1

Explosion in French nuclear plant kills 1, report says | The Digital Home – CNET News.

The Marcoule nuclear plant in southern France suffered an explosion earlier today, reports claim.

According to the BBC, the explosion at the plant was caused by a fire in a storage space for radioactive waste. The explosion reportedly killed one person. There are conflicting reports on the number of people injured, ranging from three to four, at this point.

The Marcoule plant is a major site for nuclear activities. According to the BBC, it doesn’t have any reactors, but does produce mixed oxide fuel (MOX) by recycling the plutonium found in nuclear weaponry. The plant also is used to create tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, the CBC says.

There is some fear that a radioactive leak could occur at the Marcoule site. According to the BBC, which spoke with the France atomic energy commission, no leak has occurred yet, but a “security perimeter” has been established in the event a leak does occur.

The Marcoule explosion is the latest nuclear crisis to impact the globe. Earlier this year, following a magnitude-9.0 earthquake, Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant became the focus of the global debate over the viability of nuclear power. Following the earthquake and tsunami, the reactors started to overheat, and workers, exposed to dangerous levels of radiation, worked tirelessly to prevent an outright catastrophe.

In April, the crisis at Fukushima hit a near-record level, when the severity of the disaster was pushed from a 5 to 7, the highest rating on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES). The 1986 Chernobyl disaster was also a 7 on the INES.

Following the Fukushima crisis, several countries around the world started analyzing their preparedness for a similar problem with their own nuclear plants. France was one of those countries. Over the last several months, France has engaged in testing of its plants to determine if they are safe from potential disasters.

However, exactly how the Marcoule explosion will affect France’s attitudes towards nuclear plants remains to be seen. According to information from the World Nuclear Association, an organization representing people who work in the nuclear profession, 75 percent of France’s electricity is powered by nuclear energy. The country is also the “world’s largest net exporter of electricity,” thanks to its affinity for nuclear energy.

The International Atomic Energy Agency did not immediately respond to CNET’s request for comment on the matter.

East Coast Quake Rattled Nuclear Plants' Waste Casks

East Coast Quake Rattled Nuclear Plant’s Waste Casks: Scientific American.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The earthquake that shook the East Coast last week rattled casks holding radioactive nuclear waste at a Virginia plant, moving them as much as 4.5 inches from their original position, the plant’s operator said.

The 5.8-magnitude quake shifted 25 casks, each 16 feet tall and weighing 115 tons, on a concrete pad at Dominion Resources Inc?‘s North Anna nuclear plant.

“There was no damage to the casks and no damage to the fuel,” Dominion spokesman Rick Zuercher said.

“They were designed to withstand earthquakes.”

The movement of the casks will be part of a special review under way by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission?, an NRC spokesman said.

The plant, located about 10 miles from the earthquake’s epicenter near Mineral, Virginia, has been shut down since the August 23 quake as inspectors check for damage.

The NRC is conducting a special review because of preliminary data showing that shaking from the quake exceeded the plant’s design rating.

The regulator already was scrutinizing how well the U.S. fleet of 104 reactors could withstand earthquakes, floods and other disasters after a quake and tsunami wrecked Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant in March, the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 25 years.

The United States, which has the world’s largest nuclear power industry, has deliberated for decades over how to store waste permanently, and the U.S. government is considering a proposal for a network of centralized “dry cask” storage sites where plants could take their used fuel.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Paul Simao and Dale Hudson)

Los Alamos Fire: Why Nuclear Waste Is Probably Safe

Los Alamos Fire: Why Nuclear Waste Is Probably Safe – ScienceInsider.

WAYYYY out of date at this point, but still interesting and relevant….

 

A key barrier between the New Mexico wildfire that started several days ago and the Los Alamos National Laboratory, a road which has been cleared of trees and debris, has held. That has so far prevented the spread of the fire toward the lab, which sits on the eastern side of the blaze. That was the word today from Los Alamos County Fire Chief Doug Tucker during a briefing of reporters. Only 3% of the fire has been officially contained, Tucker said, but winds are blowing the fire west, away from the lab.

While the edge of the fire is only a few dozen meters from the edge of the lab’s property, it is roughly 13 km from the most sensitive location, the so-called “Area G.” That site is a 63-acre storage facility where thousands of drums of nuclear waste sit, many of which are outdoors.

But between the fire and that site is the remnants of a forest that was largely burned during a horrific 2000 fire on lab property. That fire burned “90%” of the flammable material from the west side of the lab, says Los Alamos retiree Charles Mansfield, who worked as a physicist at the lab for 17 years and also as a forest firefighter, a so-called smokejumper, for 11 years. Mansfield says he’s “not very concerned” about the fire reaching spreading east to Area G.

“It would be very difficult for the fire to get that far,” he says. Sometimes embers in a hotly burning fire can be lofted as much as 4 miles to start so-called “spot fires.” But this requires a forest burning completely, from the ground to the high branches, he says. The area of forest close enough to have a chance to create the heat and updrafts required to bring the blaze to Area G has already burned, Mansfield contends. That would mean that the grass and brush required to get the trees on fire is gone.

A 1-acre fire that started when embers landed in a remote area of the lab that is used for explosives testing is the only instance of the 70,000 acre blaze reaching the sprawling laboratory grounds. The lab, which has been closed since Monday, will remain closed tomorrow and possibly Friday.