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Friday, 12 August 2011

The Unsustainable World.
Nuclear Waste.

"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." (A. Einstein)

Radiation hazard sign
Radiation hazard sign
Just as I suspected, nuclear fusion took place in at least two Fukushima reactors in the first few days after the earthquake. Tons of highly contaminated heavy water have been dumped into the ocean ever since, but surprisingly nobody seems to care. The entire zone has been rendered uninhabitable for thousands of years, and as heavy water spreads over an increasingly larger area marine life will probably gradually die out or mutate, consequently causing health problems in humans.

The latest news is that now they are reopening the previously sealed 1st reactor in order to try to cool it and thus prevent the explosion, meaning that nuclear fusion is actually under way.
‘Continuous exposure of cells to radiation can lead to all sorts of serious diseases, including, but not limited to, gene mutations, birth defects, cancer etc.
There are standards for the maximum amount of caesium-137 that nuclear facilities may release to the air, and maximum levels for caesium-137 in drinking water. EPA also sets
risk-based criteria for clean up of soil and groundwater at sites contaminated with caesium-137 that must be met before the site can be approved for public use.’
These "standards" are calculated and established at the levels that make it impossible to link people’s deaths caused by the toxins thirty years later to the contamination in question.

So you see, there’re standards for the release of nuclear poison into the air we breathe and water we drink, but no one seems to care about cumulative effects of radiation. No one asks why there should be any caesium in our air and water at all! Oh, I forgot, we have to sacrifice our health and lives for so-called modern comforts and the well being of the rich.

Besides, how do we clean-up the soil? By flooding it with boric acid, by passing it through gigantic sieves, by removing and dumping it somewhere else, etc? Whatever the method, it just means moving the contamination around, while nuclear cemeteries mushroom across the world. Watch out, your local sports ground may be right over a nuclear dumpsite or landfill.

I wonder who sets these criminal standards, Chernobyl-black-fungus-like aliens or simply mentally deranged scientists and politicians? The fact of the matter is we are forced to ingest and inhale caesium-137 together with other toxins on a daily basis.
‘In the United States alone, the Department of Energy states there are "millions of gallons of radioactive waste" as well as "thousands of tons of spent nuclear fuel and material" and also "huge quantities of contaminated soil and water" which they promise to clean by 2025. The Fernald, Ohio site for example had "31 million pounds of uranium product", "2.5 billion pounds of waste", "2.75 million cubic yards of contaminated soil and debris", and a "223 acre portion of the underlying Great Miami Aquifer had uranium levels above drinking standards." The United States has at least 108 sites designated as areas that are CONTAMINATED and UNUSABLE, sometimes many thousands of acres, several smaller sites have been cleaned up or closed, however the DOE acknowledges that some may never be completely remediated. In just one of these 108 larger designations, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, there were for example at least "167 known contaminant release sites" in one of the three subdivisions of the 37,000-acre (150 km2) site.
Nuclear waste container (2010 Nevada)
Nuclear waste container.
Any mentally healthy society would have come to the conclusion that nuclear energy is expensive, inherently dangerous, highly contaminating and by no means cost-effective, just like almost every modern secondary energy production method. However our society has long since dropped common sense as an annoying hindrance in the path of “progress”, which plays into the hands of the owners of nuclear plants, many of which get government subsidies to boot. Not only are NPP electricity guzzlers, but they also suck public funds — in fact, nuclear plants were devised solely for making money.

The ignorant and nonchalant masses have been tricked into believing that nuclear energy is clean and cheap, but nothing could be further from the truth — electricity bill is inexorably climbing and nuclear waste piling up.
Nuclear power plants run on electricity (we’ve already seen what happens when power supply is cut even for a short while) that doesn’t obviously come from the plants themselves, otherwise we would have a Perpetuum mobile. So where does it come from?

The electricity for power plants is produced by burning fossil combustibles, one of the primary sources of CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions, thus creating a secondary energy form — electricity, which in turn is then used to produce a tertiary energy form precisely devised to avoid the usage of the very type of energy it feeds on.

Still, the blatant incongruity of the whole process with reason somehow fails to sink in. So what’s the point of the nuclear energy? The answer is very simple: invent a new industry and rake it in. It’s all about having something to sell.

Since we have never learned from history, I’ve always thought this subject should be removed from curriculums and merely used as a source of plots for fiction stories, fantasy movies and video games – just imagine how much money would be saved.

Shining examples of how pointless it is to consider history little more than fun reading are
– Ukraine’s intention to build 22 new nuclear plants to sell electricity to Europe, while storing 2 mil tons of accumulated nuclear waste in the open air with contamination oozing into the Dnepr river (a primary source of drinking water in Ukraine);

– France financing Chernobyl safety projects probably as image campaign of their nuclear industry, but never getting (and curiously not even claiming) any receipts or confirmation as to what the money was spent on;

– ignorant dim-witted rubbernecks paying 80$ for guided tours around Chernobyl zone – one of Ukraine’s major tourist attractions (they must get high on radiation) and then scattering the radioactive particles all over the world.

The status quo is best described as Theatre of the Absurd.

Not surprisingly, no conclusive studies were made in the last 25 years of the mortality in the zone (deaths related to exposure), and the sheeple never demanded them anyway. Understandably, no one wants to face the truth.

However few people take the trouble to ponder on how nuclear waste (including radioactive medical and industrial waste) behaves during long-term storage, apart from immediate harmful effects.

It’s believed that the best place to bury nuclear waste safely is under solid rock (the construction of such site is underway in northern Europe), while it is indeed the safest short term storage, but how it will behave during the millennia until it completely decays, not to mention it’s chemical toxicity which actually never goes away, is anybody’s guess.

A lot of things could go wrong:

– an accumulation of gases it the storage chamber could blow the whole rock up, releasing toxic materials into the environment;

– an earthquake, a war etc could expose the containers, leading to corrosion and consequently leakage;

– our descendants could open the sealed storage either by accident or simply because they would no longer understand the language in which the warning on the entrance is written, etc.

In other words, we have set ticking time bombs and sent them into the future, if there is any.
‘High-level waste is full of highly radioactive fission products, most of which are relatively short-lived. If the waste is stored, perhaps in deep geological storage, over many years the fission products decay, decreasing the radioactivity of the waste and making the plutonium easier to access. The undesirable contaminant Pu-240 decays faster than the Pu-239, and thus the quality of the bomb material increases with time (although its quantity decreases during that time as well). Thus, some have argued, as time passes, these deep storage areas have the potential to become "plutonium mines", from which material for nuclear weapons can be acquired with relatively little difficulty. However "weapons grade plutonium mines" would be a problem for the very far future (about 9,000 years from now), so that there remains a great deal of time for technology to advance to solve it.’
As Scarlett O’Hara said, ‘I’ll think about it tomorrow’.

I'm at a loss to understand how anyone can be sure technology will advance enough to solve it.
What if it regresses all the way back to stone age due to epidemics, war or cataclysm?
How can technology solve problems that it has created in the first place?
What problems has technology solved so far?
Anyway, no need to worry, much sooner than 9000 years from now  the entire Earth will be one huge nuclear cemetery without any life at all except for mutant fungi and cockroaches (radiation doesn’t affect them), unless something or someone high above takes action and thwarts our evil plans.

Meanwhile, the well-wishing advocates of nuclear industry don’t intend to lose any sleep over any of these questions.
‘The main by-product of enrichment is depleted uranium (DU), principally the U-238 isotope, with a U-235 content of ~0.3%. It is stored, either as UF6 or as U3O8. Some is used in applications where its extremely high density makes it valuable, such as the keels of yachts, and anti-tank shells among other things.’ 
Make sure you have a Geiger counter on you next time you go shopping for a yacht.
‘Certain radioactive elements (such as plutonium-239) in “spent” fuel will remain hazardous to humans and other creatures for hundreds of thousands of years. Other radioisotopes remain hazardous for millions of years. Thus, these wastes must be shielded for centuries and isolated from the living environment for millennia. Some elements, such as iodine-131 have a short half-life (around 8 days in this case) and thus they will cease to be a problem much more quickly than other, longer-lived, decay products, but their activity is therefore much greater initially.’ 
Long-lived or short-lived, they screw you anyway. Well, who cares, that’s our legacy to the next generations (let them worry about it) — dead barren land for Chernobyl fungus and cockroaches to live instead of our descendants.
‘As a general rule, short-lived waste (mainly non-fuel materials from reactors) is buried in shallow repositories, while long-lived waste (from fuel and fuel reprocessing) is deposited in geological repository.'
Look out! You might have one literally in your backyard!
'High-level waste (HLW) is produced by nuclear reactors. It contains fission products and transuranic elements generated in the reactor core. It is highly radioactive and often thermally hot. HLW accounts for over 95 percent of the total radioactivity produced in the process of nuclear electricity generation. The amount of HLW worldwide is currently increasing by about 12,000 metric tons every year, which is the equivalent to about 100 double-decker buses or a two-story structure with a footprint the size of a basketball court. A 1000-MWe nuclear power plant produces about 27 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel (unreprocessed) every year.

Two long-lived fission products, Tc-99 (half-life 220,000 years) and I-129 (half-life 17 million years), which dominate spent fuel radioactivity after a few thousand years. The most troublesome transuranic elements in spent fuel are Np-237 (half-life two million years) and Pu-239 (half-life 24,000 years). To successfully prevent it from interacting with the biosphere a long-term management strategy involving storage, disposal or transformation of the waste into a non-toxic form is needed, though there has been limited progress towards long-term waste management solutions.'
Like I said, there’re no solutions — I don’t believe disposal or transformation of the waste into a completely non-toxic form is really possible, they (scientists and governments) are just stringing the sheeple along.
‘Long-term storage of radioactive waste requires the stabilization of the waste into a form which will neither react nor degrade for extended periods of time. One way to do this is through vitrification. Currently at Sellafield the high-level waste (PUREX first cycle raffinate) is mixed with sugar and then calcined. The 'calcine' generated is fed continuously into an induction heated furnace with fragmented glass. The resulting glass is a new substance in which the waste products are bonded into the glass matrix when it solidifies. This product, as a melt, is poured into stainless steel cylindrical containers ("cylinders") in a batch process. When cooled, the fluid solidifies ("vitrifies") into the highly water-resistant glass.
After filling a cylinder, a seal is welded onto the cylinder. The cylinder is then washed. After being inspected for external contamination, the steel cylinder is stored, usually in an underground repository. In this form, the waste products are expected to be immobilized for a long period of time (many thousands of years).’
I wouldn’t like to be an archaeologist of the future. The curse of Tutankhamun's tomb will seem a blessing compared to what they'll have to deal with.

It’s well known that, mankind has very short memory, nuclear accidents frighten the daylights out of people for a couple of months and then they get lulled into a false state of security again, regardless of factual problems nuclear (and any industrial waste for that matter) poses.
‘The process of selecting appropriate deep final repositories for high level waste and spent fuel is now under way in several countries (Schacht Asse II and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant). The basic concept is to locate a large, stable geologic formation and use mining technology to excavate a tunnel, or large-bore tunnel boring machines (similar to those used to drill the Channel Tunnel from England to France) to drill a shaft 500 –1,000 meters below the surface where rooms or vaults can be excavated for disposal of high-level radioactive waste. The goal is to permanently isolate nuclear waste from the human environment. Many people remain uncomfortable with the immediate stewardship cessation of this disposal system, suggesting perpetual management and monitoring would be more prudent’
and ethical, after all we are sending a deadly gift into the future.

It’s good to know there’re still people with brains left. The snag is that we are running out of places far enough from the human environment to be safe and I’m pretty sure they’re already taken up by the rich. Mind that the product will still be radioactive in the foreseeable future, I just hope some smarties don’t decide to use this “glass” as a material for pipelines, plumbing, veneer, etc in our houses (take a Geiger counter with you when buying a house, to be on the safe side).
I bet the costs of this process exceed the benefits of nuclear energy. Seriously, does anyone in his right mind believe that electricity produced by nuclear power plants is cost-effective? It certainly creates pointless jobs, though… and eats away at our health and ecosystems.

If you're unfamiliar with the term, Stewardship Cessation means abandoning toxic materials to their fate.
‘Certain systems that remain hazardous for a considerable period after their useful life should be managed to ensure that the public and the environment are not exposed to the hazard. It is incumbent on the systems designer to consider the outcome should this stewardship be discontinued for any reason, and to design a system which is as robust,
that is, fail-safe,
as possible in the event of stewardship cessation.’
In practice, no designer gives a hoot or is obliged by someone who does about what happens to his/her malignant creation once he’s got his paycheck since the guiding principle for modern society is “BUILD FOR TEN YEARS, CONTAMINATE FOR TENS OF THOUSANDS”.

Reasons for stewardship cessation include:

— Illegal or inappropriate disposal by the last user (common practice);
— Unreasonable budgetary constraints from government or other body (common occurrence);
— Cultural change by stewards leading to negligence (a logical outcome)
— Climate change putting the system beyond reach (under sea or ice) (highly probable)
— Global war (I’m afraid, inevitable)
— Other catastrophe leading to very few humans (e.g. epidemic) (highly probable)
— Societal breakdown (foreshadowed by current crisis)
— For remotely operated systems, loss of communication with the remote segment of the system (quite likely to happen since no human technology is infallible).

 In all honesty, can anyone rule out any of these possibilities?
‘Because some radioactive species have half-lives longer than one million years, even very low container leakage and radionuclide migration rates must be taken into account. Moreover, it may require more than one half-life until some nuclear materials lose enough radioactivity to cease being lethal to living things. Aside from dilution, chemically toxic stable elements in some waste such as arsenic remain toxic for up to billions of years or indefinitely. Sea-based options for disposal of radioactive waste include burial beneath a stable abyssal plain, burial in a subduction zone that would slowly carry the waste downward into the Earth's mantle’. Yeah, lets stab the poor planet in the heart.

“An increasing backlog of plutonium from reprocessing is developing in many countries... It is doubtful that reprocessing makes economic sense in the present environment of cheap uranium.”
How many people have to die to really scare us away from this energy source once and for all? Scores more as long as we go by the rule ‘better safe rich and sorry than sorry safe’.

Skull and crossbones
Skull and crossbones
However, the most worrying thing about nuclear waste is not the waste itself, but, as usual, the HUMAN FACTOR.
‘Authorities in Italy are investigating a 'Ndrangheta mafia clan accused of trafficking and illegally dumping nuclear waste. According to a turncoat, a manager of the Italy’s state energy research agency Enea paid the clan to get rid of 600 drums of toxic and radioactive waste from Italy, Switzerland, France, Germany, and the US, with Somalia as the destination, where the waste was buried after buying off local politicians.  
Former employees of Enea are suspected of paying the criminals to take waste off their hands in the 1980s and 1990s. Shipments to Somalia continued into the 1990s, while the 'Ndrangheta clan also blew up shiploads of waste, including radioactive hospital waste, and sending them to the sea bed off the Calabrian coast. According to the environmental group Legambiente, former members of the 'Ndrangheta have said that they were paid to sink ships with radioactive material for the last 20 YEARS.’
Worst of all is that these mental retards aren’t aware they eat fish from this sea or swim in the same sea, and the European authority’s connivance is a clear sign of the same level of arrested intellectual development.
‘A lot of incidents have occurred when radioactive material was disposed of improperly, shielding during transport was defective, or when it was simply abandoned or even stolen from a waste store',
in other words, sterling examples of how far human stupidity can go.
— In the Soviet Union, waste stored in Lake Karachay was blown over the area during dust storm after the lake had partly dried out.
— At Maxey Flat a low-level radioactive waste facility located in Kentucky, containment trenches covered with dirt, instead of steel or cement, collapsed under heavy rainfall into the trenches and filled with water. The water that invaded the trenches became radioactive and had to be disposed of at the Maxey Flat facility itself.
In other cases of radioactive waste accidents, lakes or ponds with radioactive waste accidentally overflowed into the rivers during exceptional storms.
— In Italy, several radioactive waste deposits let material flow into river water, thus contaminating water for domestic use.
— In France, in the summer of 2008 numerous incidents happened; in one, at the Areva plant in Tricastin, it was reported that during a draining operation, liquid containing untreated uranium overflowed out of a faulty tank and about 75 kg of the radioactive material seeped into the ground and, from there, into two rivers nearby; in another case, over 100 staff were contaminated with low doses of radiation.
'Scavenging of abandoned radioactive material has been the cause of several other cases of radiation exposure, mostly in developing nations, which have less regulation of dangerous substances (and sometimes less general education about radioactivity and its hazards) and a market for scavenged goods and scrap metal. The scavengers and those who buy the material are almost always unaware that the material is radioactive and it is selected for its aesthetics or scrap value. Irresponsibility on the part of the radioactive material's owners, usually a hospital, university or military, and the absence of regulation concerning radioactive waste, or a lack of enforcement of such regulations, have been significant factors in radiation exposures.'
— The Goiânia accident was a radioactive contamination accident that occurred on September 13, 1987, at Goiânia, in the Brazilian State of Goiás after an old radiotherapy source was taken from an abandoned hospital site in the city. It was subsequently handled by many people, resulting in four deaths and radioactive contamination of 245 other people, 20 of whom showed signs of radiation sickness and required treatment.’
That’s the kind of morons — because it’s not only due to crass irresponsibility boosted by total impunity, but to aggressive ignorance in the first place — supposedly with university degrees and diplomas, run hospitals, universities or military (in case of military it’s taken for granted).
— Transportation accidents involving spent nuclear fuel from power plants are unlikely to have serious consequences due to the strength of the spent nuclear fuel shipping casks, however a small container with caesium was accidentally disposed of at a scrap yard in Spain several years ago, causing increased levels of caesium in the air that were detected by ENEA (European Nuclear Energy Agency). 
For some unaccountable reason all secondary energy sources are by their very nature highly contaminating — there must be something about them that is hostile to the Nature. Or maybe it’s our intentions and attitude that turn everything we touch into poison? Neither are there totally harmless ways of cleaning the mess after accidents — chemical dispersants dumped into the Mexico gulf to dilute oil spill, trillions of tons of radioactive water bright minds at Fukushima plant dumped into the sea, etc, etc, etc, with unknown long-term health effects. Does anyone ever stop to wonder just how much this ocean can take? Anyone?

Obviously everyone believes that the day of reckoning isn’t going to come during their lifetime (which is generally true for the rich and powerful), but I’ve always had a nagging suspicion:

what if there is a universal law of recompense after all, and the idea that everything ends with death proves to be too good to be true, so that in the next life we’ll be bounced back here to reap what we had sown in the previous one(s)?

Hell is most likely here on earth and we are diligently stoking it up.

To be continued...

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