I just got home and checked Energy News for the latest on the radioactive nightmare in Japan. Instead, I saw article after article about a smoking transformer and the release of radiation at an aging nuclear plant in Illinois.
Nuke Plant Spokeswoman: “Smoke was seen coming from an auxiliary transformer but the fire department found no fire” -Reuters
NRC: “Not a huge concern” at nuke plant outside Chicago — Employees reported seeing smoke coming from transformer after outage, no fire found
Reporters at Byron Press Conference: A lot of people are calling us about a loud noise — Was a special emergency response team on scene?
Fireman Eyewitness: “It looked like a lot of smoke coming from containment building” at Byron nuclear plant — Had to be told it was steam — Original call said a building at Byron nuclear plant was filling up with smoke
Reporter Appears Suspicious: Isn’t it unusual for fire dept. to be called to Byron nuclear plant for a release of steam?
I checked on Google News and this is what I found on the front page:
The top stories were listed as:
I have no idea who Rafael Nadal, Saul Alinsky, Sidney Crosby, Gilbert Arenas and Peyton Manning are (though I think the last one might be a football player) and because I couldn't care less about the political swine, I can proudly say that I would never be able to recognize a photo of Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum despite their past failed presidential bids. I could be wrong about Santorum - maybe this is his first time around. Who knows? Who cares? Isn't a nuclear meltdown a little more important than Newt Gingrich and Obesity? I guess not, because three reactors in full meltdown and a fourth on the verge don't seem to mean anything to the majority of Americans who are too busy looking at their neighbor's best friend's aunt's beautician's photos of her three year old nephew's birthday party to give a rat's ass about an Extinction Level Event, so why should they or the American media care about a nuclear accident in Illinois?
I searched on Chicago and this is what appeared on my screen:
...and more irrelevant stories.
I searched under nuclear and found:
Illinois nuclear reactor loses power, venting steam - 279 news articles
Iran makes offer to extend U.N. nuclear inspection - 2488 news articles
Iran vows to stop "some" oil sales as inspectors visit - 699 news articles
Women's group hosts meeting about nuclear disaster preparedness - 199 news articles
and continuing onto Page 2 of the search under nuclear:
Nuclear plan, traffic cameras on panel agendas - 247 news articles
Example One is a bill that would pave the way for MidAmerican Energy to pursue approval to develop a small-scale nuclear reactor, with ratepayers picking up the cost. House File 561, which was approved 58-39 in the House last year, is scheduled for action Tuesday in the Senate Commerce Committee.
While Chairman Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines, spoke glowingly of the bill and the utility’s plan, Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, called nuclear energy environmentally risky and said the bill places an “enormous financial risk on customers.”
Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, acknowledged that there is “some support” in the Senate for the bill, along with concerns with protecting utility customers.
However, he said, doing nothing has its risks, too: “Every option will result in some increase.”
These people are fucking oblivious. I had to stop reading. Googling "nuclear"in Google News brought nothing about Fukushima by Page 2. I had to stop reading. If you want to know what happened in Japan today:
AP: Grim gov’t estimate says Japan population to shrink by 40 million in next 50 years (VIDEO) (ironic since it doesn't mention radiation depleting the population.)
It gets worse. It's so sad.
Maybe Americans don't care what is happening in Fukushima, but they might care about the radiation leaking from a nuclear reactor outside of Chicago. The NRC is not concerned about the tritium, nor did they seem to care that the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station was under water for most of the past summer, something so insignificant that the media voluntarily blacked it out so it didn't interfere with the latest on the Kardashians. (I know of them because I have perpetually unfortunate timing to have a pedicure at a salon where the employees love that fake reality show and I am forced to endure the inanity of the Kardashians or listening to an Abba cd that I have heard on every single visit, but that's anoher blog post.)
Just In: Emergency shutdown at Illinois reactor — Smoke was actually steam containing radioactive material — Workers evacuated — Releases will continue throughout day
SEE UPDATES AT BELOW
Title: Byron Station Declares Unusual Event
Source: Exelon Press Release
Date: Jan 30, 2012
[...] Operators at Byron Generating Station declared an Unusual Event at 10:18 a.m.CT, due to the loss of offsite power and Unit 2 coming offline.
The nuclear facility’s diesel generators activated as designed to provide power to the facility when there is a loss of offsite power to the facility. The facility remains in a safe condition. Stationengineering experts are looking into the cause of the loss of offsite power.
Byron Station is designed to depressurize to reduce steam pressure as part of the many redundant safety systems built into the facility. Steam from the unit is released through safety relief valves that are specifically designed for this purpose. The steam, which will evaporate quickly, contained expected levels of tritium. Local residents may see or hear the steam release in progress, which will continue throughout the day until the unit cools down. These types of station releases are regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
There is no health or safety impact to workers or to the public from the release, and Exelon Nuclear has notified all appropriate local, state and federal officials of the Unusual Event. [...]
Read the report here
Title: Power loss shuts down one nuclear plant unit; public in no danger in Dixon IL, Sterling, IL and Rock Falls IL
Source: Shaw News Service
Author: Chris Johnson
Date: January 30, 2012 12:17 p.m. CST
A loss of power coming into the plant this morning led to an emergency shutdown of a unit at the Byron Nuclear Generating Station, but posed no danger to the public, an Exelon spokesman said. [...]
Smoke coming from the auxiliary building actually was steam coming from a relief valve, he said. [...]
Workers were evacuated and Byron and several other area fire departments were on stand by at the scene as precautionary measures, he said. [...]
PHOTO CAPTION: A loss of offsite power led to the shutdown of unit 2 at Byron’s Exelon Generating Station Monday morning. Steam from a relief valve can be seen escaping the auxiliary building. (The yellow building with brown roof. The concrete building is the containment building)
Read the report here
h/t Anonymous tips
Question by Robert in Byron, IL: What level of tritium is being released? How much? How will it affect us living within 2 miles of the facility? Is the steam being vented from the secondary loop or the primary loop?
- UPDATE: Nuke Plant Spokeswoman: "Smoke was seen coming from an auxiliary transformer but the fire department found no fire" -Reuters
- UPDATE II: NRC: "Not a huge concern" at nuke plant outside Chicago -- Employees reported seeing smoke coming from transformer after outage, no fire found
- UPDATE III: Reporters at Byron Press Conference: A lot of people are calling us about a loud noise -- Was a special emergency response team on scene? (VIDEO)
- Byron and several other area fire departments were called to stand by at the scene as a precautionary measure, [Exelon spokesman Paul Dempsey] said. -Ogle County News
- The Nuclear Regulatory Commission Region III office in Lisle, Illinois, has activated its incident response center and entered monitoring mode due to an Unusual Event declared at the Byron nuclear power plant -Penn Energy
So why would the steam indicate ‘no problem’? I do not understand…
What happened to the cooling pumps?
What happened to the power?
What happened to the back up pumps and batteries?
It seems to me that if any of these things were working, then there should be no need for ‘steam’ releases, correct?
What a steam release means to me is a MELTDOWN, due to loss of all cooling water, and thus the reactor core gets hot enough to steam water and boil it off because none is coming in anymore to keep the pressure down and steam inside building.
It is like a pressure cooker venting off, because the steam pressure builds up too high, so it has to release it..
Eventually it runs out of water… then interesting things happen to the rods that are exposed to the air and not surrounded by water.
Is this what is happening at this plant?
It was certainly what happened at Fukushima… they all let off massive amounts of steam, AFTER THEY MELTED DOWN.
I don’t know if this is relevant to the steam build up today, but another article on this story concluded with this paragraph:
“In an unrelated issue last April, the commission said it was conducting special inspections of backup water pumps at the Byron and Braidwood generating stations after the agency’s inspectors raised concerns about whether the pumps would be able to cool the reactors if the normal system wasn’t working. The plants’ operator, Exelon Corp., initially said the pumps would work but later concluded they wouldn’t.”
I’m not sure if the “backup water pumps” were involved today, or just the back-up generator powering the regular pumps. Anyway, the question remains: if the back-up generators kicked in immediately, why did so much steam build up so quickly? They have apparently been venting it for hours.
I don't think that this reactor is in meltdown, but it is disturbing to think of all the aging reactors Who will pay to maintain these storage sites for the next 25,000 years? Nuclear power is so short-sighted.
The NRC does not consider tritium to be dangerous, claiming humans ingest it via water and excrete it through urine. In the meantime, that radioactive particle has touched millions of cells along the digestive track, which leads to an increase in cancer. The EPA says of tritium:
As with all ionizing radiation, exposure to tritium increases the risk of developing cancer. However, because it emits very low energy radiation and leaves the body relatively quickly, for a given amount of activity ingested, tritium is one of the least dangerous radionuclides. Since tritium is almost always found as water, it goes directly into soft tissues and organs. The associated dose to these tissues are generally uniform and dependent on the tissues' water content.
The article mentions that the tritium is released as steam, meaning it is airborne. Data on the effects of airborne ingestion and epidermal exposure of tritium are not easily obtained in the US. I found this information from the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility:
- Is tritium a biological hazard?
The radiological significance of tritium is not related to its inherent toxicity, as it is a very low energy form of radiation, but to its easy incorporation into all parts of the body that contain water (Select Committee Report p.15).
Tritiated water can be ingested in the liquid form. It can also be inhaled or absorbed through the skin in the form of water vapour or steam, which makes tritium an occupational hazard in CANDU nuclear power plants. In pregnant females, tritium ingested by the mother can cross the placenta and be incorporated directly into the foetus.
Like all radioactive substances, tritium can cause cancer, genetic mutations, or developmental defects in unborn children (the latter following pre-natal exposure of the foetus). No threshold or "safe dose" of tritium has been scientifically established for any of these effects.
What scientific evidence is available?
"There is now experimental evidence, both in terms of changes in the developmental effects on foetuses in utero in animals and also in studies of cancer induction, that tritium [is] four or five times more effective than would be predicted just on the basis of its energy alone" (Dr. Edward Radford, testimony to the Select Committee on Ontario Hydro Affairs, July 10 1979).
"Concerning the passage of tritium administered under the form of tritiated water from the mother through the placenta and into the foetus ... several statistically significant effects were found at various HTO levels, in no apparent relationship with dose. These included microcephaly [shrunken heads, also observed at Hiroshima], sterility, stunting, reduction of the litter size, ..." (UNSCEAR p.695-- these are, of course, animal studies).
"During the past few years, there has been a growing interest in the study of the biological effects of radio-isotopes, particularly of plutonium-239 and tritium. A number of genetic and cytogenic [i.e. cellular] studies that have so far been carried out in mice demonstrate that these isotopes are capable of inducing dominant lethal mutations, chromosome aberrations and point mutations (for the last category, only the effects of tritium have been studied)" (UNSCEAR p.477).
How much tritium exposure is "safe"?
“However, when you compare the allowable level for tritium in drinking water in Canada to other countries, you do not feel safe. The allowable level of tritium in the European union is 100Bq/L while the United States sets a limit of 740Bq/L. The Canadian standard is 7000Bq/L. This is not a misprint. Canada’s limit must be set this high because the CANDU reactors release 30 times as much tritium to the environment as any other reactor in the world. This is because CANDU reactors use heavy water as both moderator and coolant. Refer to the ‘Tritium Hazard Report By Dr. Ian Fairlie June 2007′ for further information.
In 1994, the Ontario government appointed Advisory Committee on Environmental Standards recommended that the maximum permissible concentration of tritium in drinking water be immediately reduced 70 fold to 100 Bq/L, and gradually dropped to 20 Bq/L over 5 years. Their recommendations were contained in a report called ‘A Standard for Tritium: A Recommendation to the Minister of the Environment and Energy.’ The recommendations were rejected.”
I wonder if the media silence has anything to do with this?
Whistleblowers Say Nuclear Regulatory Commission Watchdog Is Losing Its Bite
“When he retired after 26 years as an investigator with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Office of the Inspector General, George Mulley thought his final report was one of his best.
Mulley had spent months looking into why a pipe carrying cooling water at the Byron nuclear plant in Illinois had rusted so badly that it burst. His report cited lapses by a parade of NRC inspectors over six years and systemic weaknesses in the way the NRC monitors corrosion.
But rather than accept Mulley’s findings, the inspector general’s office rewrote them. The revised report shifted much of the blame to the plant’s owner, Exelon, instead of NRC procedures. And instead of designating it a public report and delivering it to Congress, as is the norm, the office put it off-limits. A reporter obtained it only after filing a Freedom of Information Act request.
The Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan has thrust the NRC’s role as industry overseer squarely in the spotlight, but another critical player in U.S. nuclear safety is the NRC’s Office of the Inspector General, an independent agency that serves as watchdog to the watchdog.”