Tag Archives: Nuclear

Local fisherman protest the Russian-built nuclear plant in Kudankalam, India.(dapd)

The 2011 disaster at Japan’s Fukushima plant led many countries to turn away from nuclear power. But a growing population and rising economy has prompted India to massively expand its nuclear program — even in the face of technological worries and fervent opposition.

They placed the photo of the dead man in the entrance of the hut. A lightbulb illuminating his face makes it look like that of a saint. The bereaved widow has her four children stand in front of the photo. They have lost their breadwinner, and now they can only hope that he will continue to somehow feed them even after death. Opponents of nuclear power in India view him as a martyr and are collecting donations for the family.

Sahayam Francis was only 42, and now his picture is displayed everywhere on the straw-roofed houses of Idinthakarai, a fishing village in the state of Tamil Nadu, on the southern tip of the Indian subcontinent. It looks like an idyllic place, where fisherman spread their catches out to dry on the beach and repair their nets while sitting under palm trees. But it’s a deceptive paradise.

A few kilometers to the southwest, the new Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant, built with Russian technology, towers over the haze. In September, the Supreme Court in New Delhi dismissed a lawsuit filed by opponents of nuclear power who were trying to block the loading of fuel at the plant. Now the countdown continues, and the first reactor could be ready for start-up by the end of the year, with the second one to follow shortly thereafter. The reactors are expected to generate a total of 2,000 megawatts of electricity to help satisfy some of the rising economic power’s thirst for energy.

On the day of the accident, Sahayam and his neighbors were protesting against the plant. They had formed a human chain in the shallow water, the women wearing colorful saris and the men carrying black flags. Sahayam was standing on a breakwater when a coast guard plane suddenly made a low pass over the crowd. Sahayam’s family says that he was so startled that he fell headfirst onto the rocks, dying a short time later.

“They surrounded us like prisoners,” complains S. P. Udayakumar, the 53-year-old leader of the nationwide People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy. Udayakumar, who studied political science at American universities, has gathered the villagers in front of the church in Idinthakarai, where he preaches about the evils of nuclear power on a daily basis.

Udayakumar says that millions of people living along the coast could be exposed to radiation if the government continues to pursue its ambitious nuclear program. He spreads out his hand to illustrate the shape of the subcontinent. “Here, here and here,” he says. “They want to build nuclear power plants everywhere, and they’ll contaminate our ocean and our fish populations.”

Dressed in a white robe, Udayakumar looks like a cross between a guru and a guerilla leader. He and several hundred of his fellow activists risk arrest on charges of agitation and other alleged offences.

Taking Risks to Satisfy Demand

Were any lessons learned from Fukushima? What about phasing out nuclear power? The Japanese reactor disaster in March 2011 did little more than briefly stun India’s government. Now it is pressing forward with its plans to expand nuclear energy, often against fierce resistance.

The new Kudankulam power plant is intended as only one stage in India’s program. Between now and 2032, the government plans to expand the country’s nuclear capacity from 4,400 to roughly 63,000 megawatts.

By 2050, India even expects to satisfy a quarter of its electricity demands with nuclear energy. Today, about 20 reactors generate roughly 4 percent of India’s electricity, but the country plans to double its nuclear energy capacity in the next five years alone. In doing so, the Indians will rely on particularly controversial reactor types. To make matters worse, many doubt that India — with its bizarre infrastructure and often chaotic organization — can keep the technology under control.

Still, the nation of 1.2 billion urgently needs energy, as became glaringly evident last summer when large sections of the country went without power for days and more than 600 million people suffered in the heat without electricity. Blackouts are a common occurrence, and the lights go out, air-conditioners stop running and elevators get stuck every day even in the capital city of New Delhi.

Often inefficiently operated coal-fired power plants and chronic corruption are to blame for India’s disastrous power supply. In many states, for example, local politicians illegally tap electricity from the grid and then secure votes by supplying

households with free power. In addition, the central and local governments are constantly jostling over how energy is allocated.

Given these circumstances, India’s business community, in particular, views nuclear power as a surefire way to stimulate growth. Impatient backers of nuclear energy even want to see controversial reactors placed directly under the control of the military.

A Symbol of Independence

Kudankulam is already practically under a state of martial law. Journalists who travel to the area are followed and sometimes arrested. Fishermen in Idinthakarai claim that police officers and thugs in civilian clothes recently combed the village for Udayakumar and other activists, albeit unsuccessfully. Before the frustrated intruders left, say villagers, they urinated in the church and desecrated a statue of the Virgin Mary. As evidence, one of the nuclear-power opponents holds up the statue’s severed head.

Jawaharlal Nehru, the country’s legendary first prime minister (1947-1964), promoted nuclear development. “We must develop this atomic energy quite apart from war,” he insisted, though he added that India could “use it for other purposes” if compelled. Ever since, it has been viewed as a symbol of independence, making a phase-out inconceivable for planners in New Delhi.

Indian reactors supplied the plutonium for the country’s first nuclear test in 1974, a decade after China detonated its first nuclear bomb. In 1998, the entire nation celebrated further denotations, which gave India a permanent place among nuclear powers. Military leaders named their project “Shakti,” the Sanskrit word for “strength.” Soon afterwards, Pakistan, India’s nemesis to the north, detonated its own nuclear bombs.

American, French, Russian and Japanese companies all want to develop the subcontinent as a market for nuclear power plants. Since the Fukushima disaster, they have been eagerly looking toward India — because they’ve been having more trouble selling their technologies at home.

India currently needs foreign uranium to power its reactors. In the long term, however, it hopes to free itself from foreign sources by developing what it needs to complete the full nuclear-reprocessing cycle.

Insufficient Expertise

To this end, India’s planners are clinging to questionable technologies, such as fast breeder reactors operated with plutonium as well as ones that use thorium. Germany, by comparison, abandoned a similar test plant in the late 1980s because it was too expensive and prone to failure.

But how is India, a developing country, supposed to master a technology that even proved too much for a perfectionist, industrialized nation like Japan to keep under control?

Indeed, there are already growing doubts about the safety of Indian nuclear plants. In August, the country’s general accounting office released a devastating critique of the domestic nuclear regulatory agency, noting that more than half of inspection reports were submitted late and that a number of inspections were never even performed.

The government intends to set up a new, independent monitoring agency. But nuclear opponents fear that even this agency could devolve into a vicarious agent of the nuclear lobby.

Arundhati Roy, the novelist and political activist, says that the government lacks the know-how needed to safely operate nuclear power plants. “The Indian government has shown itself incapable of even being able to dispose of day to day garbage, let alone industrial effluent or urban sewage,” she scoffed in a message of solidarity to opponents of the plant in Kudankulam. “How does it dare to say that it knows how to deal with nuclear waste?”

Though she might sound rhetorical, Roy is merely describing the sad reality of those living near the power plant. In fact, there are even piles of garbage in front of the local police station. Likewise, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India, the state-owned company that operates Kudankulam and other reactors, has yet to present a plan for how to permanently dispose of nuclear waste.
However, India’s parliament has passed a compensation law that obligates the operators of nuclear power plants and their suppliers to compensate victims should there be a reactor disaster. This is one reason why foreign companies are currently holding off on signing agreements to deliver new reactors to India.

The ongoing struggle over Kudankulam should also dampen the nuclear lobby’s enthusiasm. The original contract for the project was signed in 1988 by former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

Author: Wieland Wagner
Source: Spiegel Online International



Leading nuclear worker says space is running out for contaminated water cooling the Fukushima plant.

Yuichi Okamura warned contaminated water may already be getting into the underground water system [AP]

Japan’s crippled nuclear power plant is struggling to find space to store tens of thousands of tonnes of highly contaminated water used to cool the broken reactors, the manager of the water treatment team has said.

About 200,000 tonnes of radioactive water, enough to fill more than 50 Olympic-sized swimming pools, are being stored in hundreds of gigantic tanks built around the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.

Operator Tokyo Electric Power Company has already chopped down trees to make room for more tanks and predicts the volume of water will be more than triple within three years.

“It’s a time-pressing issue because the storage of contaminated water has its limits, there is only limited storage space” the water-treatment manager, Yuichi Okamura, told the AP news agency in an exclusive interview this week.

Dumping massive amounts of water into the melting reactors was the only way to avoid an even bigger catastrophe.

Okamura remembers frantically trying to find a way to get water to spent fuel pools located on the highest floor of the 50m high reactor buildings.

Without water, the spent fuel is likely to have overheated and melted, sending radioactive smoke for miles and affecting possibly millions of people.

The measures to keep the plant under control itself created another major problem for the utility: What to do with all that radioactive water that leaked out of the damaged reactors and collected in the basements of reactor buildings and nearby facilities.

“At that time, we never expected high-level [radiation] contaminated water to turn up in the turbine building” Okamura said.

Okamura was tasked with setting up a treatment system that would make the water clean enough for reuse as a coolant, and was also aimed at reducing health risks for workers and environmental damage.

At first, the utility shunted the tainted water into existing storage tanks near the reactors.

Contaminated water

Meanwhile, Okamura’s 55-member team scrambled to get a treatment unit up and running within three months of the accident, a project that would normally take about two years, he said.

Using that equipment, TEPCO was able to circulate reprocessed water back into the reactor cores.

But even though the reactors now are being cooled exclusively with recycled water, the volume of contaminated water is still increasing, mostly because ground water is seeping through cracks into the reactor and turbine basements.

Next month, Okamura’s group plans to flip the switch on new purifying equipment using Toshiba Corp technology.

“By purifying the water using the ALPS system, theoretically, all radioactive products can be purified to below detection levels” he said.

But in the meantime its tanks are filling up, mostly because leaks in reactor facilities are allowing ground water pour in.

Masashi Goto, nuclear engineer and college lecturer, said the contaminated water build-up posed a big, long-term health and environmental threat.

He worried that the radioactive water in the basements may already be getting into the underground water system, where it could reach far beyond the plant via underground water channels, possibly in the ocean or public water supplies.

“There are pools of some 10,000 or 20,000 tonnes of contaminated water in each plant, and there are many of these, and to bring all these to one place would mean you would have to treat hundreds of thousands of tons of contaminated water which is mind-blowing in itself,” Goto said.

“It’s an outrageous amount, truly outrageous” Goto added.

The plant also would have to deal with contaminated water until all the melted fuel and other debris is removed from the reactor, a process that will easily take more than a decade.

Author: Agencies
Source: Al Jazeera


O comissário Guenther Oettinger na conferência de imprensa de apresentação das conclusões da avaliação. (Foto: Georges Gobet/AFP)

Os testes à segurança de 145 reactores nucleares na União Europeia concluíram que quase todas as unidades precisam de melhorias, para evitar o pior em caso de sismos e inundações, segundo um relatório da Comissão Europeia divulgado nesta quinta-feira.

Bruxelas avisa que, apesar de “não se justificar o encerramento de quaisquer centrais nucleares”, nem todos os padrões de segurança promovidos pela Agência Internacional da Energia Atómica (AIEA) estão a ser aplicados em todos os Estados-membros.

As actuais normas de cálculo de riscos não são aplicadas em 54 reactores, no respeitante ao risco de sismos, e em 62, no que toca ao risco de inundações. “O cálculo do risco deve basear-se numa perspectiva a 10 mil anos, em vez dos períodos muito mais curtos que por vezes se utilizam”, segundo um comunicado da Comissão Europeia.

Além disso, 121 reactores devem instalar instrumentos in situ de alerta para a possibilidade de ocorrência de sismos. Trinta e dois reactores não estão equipados com sistemas confinados de ventilação com filtro para permitir a despressurização segura do reactor em caso de acidente.

Em 81 reactores da União Europeia, os equipamentos a utilizar em caso de acidentes graves não estão armazenados em locais protegidos, mesmo em caso de destruição generalizada, dos quais possam ser rapidamente extraídos. Outra situação a ser melhorada, desta vez em 24 reactores, é a disponibilização de uma sala de controlo de emergência, no caso de a sala de controlo principal se tornar inabitável devido a um acidente.

Em conferência de imprensa, o comissário europeu da Energia, Günther Oettinger, estimou nesta quinta-feira que as melhorias a realizar implicarão investimentos de, pelo menos, dez mil milhões de euros mas podem chegar aos 25 mil milhões de euros. “A situação é, em geral, satisfatória, mas não podemos ser complacentes”, disse o comissário. “Está em causa a segurança dos nossos cidadãos”, acrescentou.

Os testes de resistência tinham como objectivo avaliar a segurança e a robustez das centrais nucleares em caso de fenómenos naturais, nomeadamente inundações e sismos, e participaram 17 países (os 14 países da União Europeia com centrais nucleares em funcionamento, e a Lituânia, a Ucrânia e a Suíça).

Agora, as autoridades reguladoras nacionais deverão elaborar planos de acção nacionais com calendários de implementação, que serão divulgados no final de 2012. A Comissão prevê apresentar um relatório sobre a implementação dessas recomendações em Junho de 2014.

Além destas recomendações, Bruxelas anunciou que prevê apresentar uma revisão da actual Directiva Segurança Nuclear no início de 2013. “As alterações propostas centrar-se-ão nas exigências em matéria de segurança, no papel e nas competências das autoridades reguladoras no domínio nuclear, na transparência e na monitorização”.

Autor: Público
Fonte: Ecosfera


O Japão anunciou recentemente que vai abandonar até 2030 a fonte nuclear, que supria 30% de sua demanda antes do desastre de Fukushima. Veja outros países no mundo extremamente dependentes de usinas nucleares. Alguns já têm planos de abandoná-las


(Getty Images)

A França é o país mais dependente dessa fonte de energia radioativa, que representa 77,7% da matriz energética. Os dados são da ONG World Nuclear Power e foram atualizados em setembro. Anualmente, os franceses produzem 423 bilhões de kWh, perdendo só para os Estados Unidos.

Não à toa, a energia nuclear é um dos principais pontos de debate do programa dos candidatos à eleição presidencial. No país, existem 58 reatores em operação, além de um em construção, outro na fase de planejamento, e um terceiro cuja proposta ainda está sendo estudada.


(Getty Images)

Mais da metade de toda a energia consumida na Bélgica (54%) vem de usinas nucleares. Seus sete reatores operantes são antigos e às vezes apresentam problemas, como fissuras que em agosto obrigou o fechamento de uma das centrais.

Em 1999, o país anunciou a descontinuação de seu programa nuclear durante 40 anos, mas acabou retomando-o em 2000. A Bélgica produz 14.8 bilhões de kWh de fontes nucleares, o triplo da geração brasileira.


(Creative Commons/

Na Eslováquia, a energia nuclear supre 54% das necessidades do país. Quatro reatores são responsáveis pela produção anual de 14,3 bilhões de kWh. Outras quatro centrais estão sendo construídas, duas estão em fase de implementação e mais uma encontra-se em estudo pelos governantes do país.


Palco de um dos piores acidentes nucleares da história, na usina de Chernobil, a Ucrânia é o quarto país que mais consome energia nuclear no mundo. Por ano, seus 15 reatores em atividade produzem 84,9 bilhões de kWh de energia nuclear, montante que supre 47,2% das necessidades energéticas do país. Atualmente, existem duas novas usinas em fase de implementação e propostas sob análise para criação de mais 11 reatores.


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Quatro centrais nucleares são responsáveis pelo suprimento de 43,2% da energia consumida na Hungria. Há propostas de implementação de mais dois reatores no país, que produz anualmente 14,7 bilhões de kWh, equivalente à produção brasileira.


(Wikimedia Commons)

Localizada a 120 quilômetros da capital, fica a única usina nuclear da Eslovênia. A central atômica de Krsko produz anualmente 5,9 bilhões de KW, que abastecem 41,7% das casas, prédios, indústrias e outras unidades consumidoras do país. Há uma proposta para implementar mais uma central, mas a ideia ainda aguarda aprovação.


(Wikimedia Commons)

Atualmente, 40,8% da eletricidade consumida na Suíça vem da energia nuclear gerada por cinco reatores. O país, que produz anualmente 25,7 bilhões de kWh, estuda no entanto abandonar a energia atômica até 2034. Para compensar a saída de cena das atuais centrais nucleares e garantir a segurança energética do país, o governo helvético promete investir pesado na geração alternativa a partir de fontes renováveis, como hidráulica, solar e eólica.


(Wikimedia Commons)

Quase 40% da energia consumida na Suécia vem de usinas nucleares. Somadas, as dez centrais do país produzem anualmente 58,1 bilhão de kWh. Aos olhos do governo local, o uso da energia nuclear (que não gera emissões de gases efeito estufa) é uma de diminuir a participação sueca no processo de aquecimento global.


(Getty Images)

Nono país mais dependente de energia nuclear, a Coreia do Sul conta com 23 usinas para produzir 147 bilhões de kWh necessários para abastecer 34,6% da demanda. Segundo a Ong World Nuclear, quatro reatores estão em construção atualmente no país, e outros cinco estão em fase de planejamento.


(Wikimedia Commons)

Cerca de 33% de toda a energia consumida na Armênia vem de fontes atômicas. Ou melhor, de um único lugar, o complexo nuclear de Metsamor, considerado um dos mais perigosos do mundo. Em 1988, a usina chegou a ser fechada depois de um terremoto atingir o país. Mas, sete anos depois, ela foi reaberta sem nenhuma melhoria ter isso feita no sistema de segurança. Há estudos em andamento para a instalação de mais um reator.

Autor: Vanessa Barbosa
Fonte: Exame


As piores consequências da radiação liberada durante o acidente da usina nuclear de Fukushima em março de 2011, no Japão, devem ainda estar para aparecer, afirma um estudo da Universidade de Stanford.

De acordo com os pesquisadores, o número de casos de câncer não letais relacionados ao acidente pode chegar a 2,5 mil, e levar a até 1,3 mil mortes. “Não vai haver zero mortes. Não vai haver dezenas de milhares de mortes também, mas não é uma coisa trivial”, afirmou Mark Z. Jacobson, coautor do estudo.

Segundo ele, a maior parte dos atingidos deve ser de idosos e crianças. “Não vão ser apenas os idosos ficando doentes. Os menores são mais suscetíveis a alguns desses cânceres – há a preocupação de que muitos desses casos possam ser em crianças.”

Outras estimativas, no entanto, sugerem que possa haver muitos milhares de mortes, e Jacobson admite que ainda é necessário avaliar os efeitos sob outros aspectos. “Essa incerteza é principalmente em função de três coisas: a dose de radiação recebida, onde a população estava concentrada, e descobrir exatamente a que a população estava exposta. Temos que fazer muitas estimativas diferentes para isso”, declarou.

Porém, a maior probabilidade é de que a doença atinja 180 pessoas, uma vez que é estimado que 81% da radiação teria sido dispersada no oceano. O acidente já teria provocado cerca de 600 mortes.

“De certa forma, foi um incidente de sorte por causa de onde estava a locação – apenas 19% da [radiação] ficou na terra. Poderia ter sido muito pior se os ventos tivessem soprado diferentemente. Os casos de câncer seriam até dez vezes mais frequentes se a radiação não tivesse sido absorvida pelo mar. Vários fatores meteorológicos ajudaram a evitar uma tragédia ainda maior”, disse o cientista.

Jacobson e o outro coautor, Jon Tem Hoeve, usaram dados climáticos e atmosféricos, assim como estimativas de emissões nucleares do Tratado de Interdição Completa de Ensaios Nucleares (CTBTO), para criar o modelo.

Embora quase todas as vítimas devam ser do Japão, o coautor da pesquisa reconheceu que pode haver alguns casos isolados de câncer em outros países próximos. O evento é considerado o pior desastre atômico desde Chernobyl em 1986, e Jacobson lembrou que nenhum cálculo pode expressar a extensão do acidente nuclear.

“Há muito mais sobre esse assunto do que sobre o que examinamos, que foram os efeitos na saúde relacionados ao câncer. Fukushima foi um desastre muito grande em termos de contaminação do solo e da água, de deslocamento de vidas”, concluiu.

Autor: Fabiano Ávila e Jéssica Lipinski
Fonte: Instituto CarbonoBrasil


Photo: Kiyoshi Kurokawa, head of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, reacts during presentation of the panel’s report at the Japanese Diet on Thursday. The report blamed the government, regulators and the Tokyo Electric Power Co. for willful disregard of necessary safety improvements. Credit: Everett Kennedy Brown / European Pressphoto Agency.

An independent parliamentary commission accused the Japanese government and the nation’s leading utility of “collusion” in avoiding vital nuclear safety improvements that would have prevented the reactor meltdowns last year at the tsunami-damaged Fukushima complex.

In its report based on 900 hours of testimony, the Japanese Diet’s 10-member investigative panel accused government and industry leaders of having “betrayed the nation’s right to be safe from nuclear accidents.”

The report, seven months in the making and at odds with government and industry accounts of culpability, coincided with the first nuclear power plant going back on line since all 50 of Japan’s working reactors were shut down for inspection and safety upgrades. The first electrical energy from the No. 3 reactor at Ohi, in central Fukui prefecture, flowed into the national power grid Thursday, the Kansai Electric Power Co. reported Thursday.

Politicians called it “outrageous” that the government decided to restart two reactors at Ohi before the commission’s report was issued and without completing all recommended safety improvements, including building a seawall around the reactor complex to protect it from the kind of tsunami that devastated the Fukushima plant.

The earthquake-triggered inundation of March 11, 2011, that led to meltdowns at three of Fukushima’s four reactors “cannot be regarded as a natural disaster,” Tokyo University professor Kiyoshi Kurokawa wrote in the commission’s 600-page report. “It is an obviously man-made disaster … that could and should have been foreseen and prevented.”

Japanese nuclear regulators with the Nuclear Industrial and Safety Agency colluded with Fukushima operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. in willfully ignoring necessary safety upgrades, the report stated.

“Across the board, the commission found ignorance and arrogance unforgivable for anyone or any organization that deals with nuclear power,” the report said.

The commission recommended that the Diet establish a permanent oversight panel to ensure that the government and utilities carry out the necessary measures to prevent any recurrence of the Fukushima disaster, the world’s worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 Chernobyl accident in Ukraine.

The Diet commission report was likely to fuel already strong anti-nuclear sentiments in Japan, where 20,000 besieged the offices of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda last week to protest the planned resumption of nuclear power generation. All 50 operable nuclear reactors in the country had been shut down in a phased inspection program after the Fukushima disaster that saw the final plant go off-line in May, leaving Japan without nuclear energy-generating capacity for the first time in 42 years.

Recent opinion polls in Japan have shown at least 70% of the population want nuclear energy reduced or eliminated. Japan relied on nuclear power for about a third of its energy needs before last year’s disasters.

In announcing the first flow of nuclear energy on Thursday, Kansai Electric said it expected the power from the two Ohi plants to avert as much as a 15% power shortfall in the populous Osaka and Kyodo areas this summer.

Author: Carol J. Williams
Source: Los Angeles


O Japão planeia construir centrais de energia solar e eólica que nos próximos quatro anos vão acrescentar mais de dois milhões de kilowatts à capacidade de geração do país, o equivalente à eletricidade produzida por dois reatores nucleares.

De acordo com o diário económico “Nikkei”, o Japão tem em construção mais de 110 centrais solares com uma capacidade de pelo menos 1.000 kilowatts cada uma, que contribuirão para gerar no total mais de 1,3 milhões de kilowatts.

Está ainda prevista a construção de outras 20 centrais eólicas com uma capacidade total de cerca de 750 mil kilowatts.

Fonte: Expresso


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