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SECTION 3: Major Nuclear Accidents-in-Progress
4. Major accidents within the US
A. Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board overview
5. Major accidents outside the US
B. Rocky Flats, Colorado: 239Pu
C. Savannah River, South Carolina: liquid high-level waste
D. Hanford Reservation, Washington: liquid high-level waste
E. Oak Ridge Reservation
F. Idaho National Engineering Laboratory
G. Other Accidents-in-progress, Continental USA: to be posted
1. Fernald, Ohio (Feed Materials Production Center)
2. Los Alamos National Laboratory
A. Russian plume source points
6. Future nuclear accidents?
B. Sellafield (United Kingdom)
C. Dounreay (Scotland)
7. Nuclear accident updates
A. Tokai Uranium Processing Plant (Japan)
B. Maine Yankee Nuclear Power Company
This section of RADNET is a brief summary of the principal
source points of anthropogenic radioactivity and a supplemental guide to
the labyrinth of nuclear information within RADNET. The biosphere is the
site of several thousand nuclear accidents-in-progress ranging from small
releases of a few curies to the uncontained release of tens of millions
of curies or more of anthropogenic radioactivity at American, British,
French and Russian weapons production and fuel reprocessing facilities.
The following list of nuclear accidents-in-progress in this section of
RADNET is only a sampling of some of the most important source points of
radioactive contamination of the environment; this list is incomplete,
in progress and subject to revision. It is not the intention of RADNET
to slight the significance of Russian and European source points, many
of which are not listed below, but our focus is on the most important domestic
source points of anthropogenic radioactivity.
For a direct link to the documentation of the 19 largest
nuclear accidents-in-progress in the continental United States, click on
the following link to FPIMS (Facility
Profile Information Management System). This comprehensive DOE site
documents or references the radioactive plumes originating from important
weapons production facilities, many of which are listed in RADNET's compilation
of accidents-in-progress as well as in RAD 11: Major
Plume Source Points.
For an update on the most urgent DOE facility safety issues,
click on Defense Nuclear Facility Safety
Board. An overview of the DNFSB publications on these issues is printed
below in Part 4-A.
The most detailed descriptions of DOE environmental remediation
site locations (109) is contained in the DOE's
1996 Baseline Environmental Management Report (BEMR). RADNET refers
to these facilities as "nuclear accidents-in-progress" to emphasize the
past, present, and future radiological effluents which derive from these
locations or which may originate from these facilities in the future if
DOE remediation efforts are not successful. Even if DOE remediation efforts
are successful in preventing any further significant release of radioactive
contamination, the total economic and social impact of these source points
(nuclear accidents-in-progress) is beyond calculation. RADNET will update
and revise our list of nuclear accidents-in-progress to include any links
which assist in the documentation of these anthropogenic plume source points.
|2. The Context: Characteristics
of nuclear accidents-in-progress
A nuclear accident-in-progress has two fundamental time
components: the release duration and the dose effect duration of the longer-lived
radionuclides in the plume pulse. Isotopes with long radioactive half-lives
are a component of most release plumes, ensuring the endurance of the plume
movement long after the decay of the short-lived isotopes. Nuclear weapons
tests are an example of a nuclear plume pulse with a very short source
term release duration but with a very long-term health physics impact.
Other types of nuclear accident plumes listed below are much less obvious
as accidents-in-progress due, in part, to the lack of a spectacular, concise
source term release, as exhibited by weapons testing or the Chernobyl accident.
The slow chronic release of radioactivity at Rocky Flats, Hanford, Savannah
River and other nuclear weapons production facilities will occur over periods
of several hundreds of years; source term releases occur not only behind
a curtain of secrecy but also as difficult to detect windblown dispersion
of plutonium or relatively slow moving sub-surface pulses of liquid wastes.
The health physics impact of these chronic releases, spread over millennia,
is nearly invisible.
Chronic accidents-in-progress with long release durations
are unlikely to be characterized by plumes which exceed derived concentration
radiation protection guidelines. Plume pulse movement in most chronic release
situations is difficult as well as costly to monitor. Accurate data characterizing
the size and constituents of uncontained releases of radioactivity to the
natural environment is usually not available, especially for weapons-production-derived
pulses. In the early days of the operation of U.S. weapons production facilities,
the federal government was particularly careful to destroy all records
pertaining to the hundreds of millions of curies of spent-fuel-derived
wastes which were released to the natural environment. The result of the
deliberate destruction of these records is that not only is plume characterization
difficult but also the information needed to assess dose effect in specific
population groups is unavailable. When it is available, dose assessment
is often made for large population groups, effectively masking the risk
for individuals most exposed to a plume pulse.
Many nuclear accidents-in-progress are bioregional in
their impact; plume movement is characterized by a lack of public awareness.
A shortage of public resources as well as ideological, political and commercial
considerations lead to public unawareness of the presence of nuclear accident
Some chronic source points have sufficient fissile material
to achieve criticality and the rapid release of radioactivity. In situations
where this is the case, usually weapons production waste accumulations,
the resulting plumes could exceed the derived concentration guides for
radiation protection, and would have much greater public visibility than
the chronic release plumes which have no criticality potential.
TWO CERTAINTIES CHARACTERIZE ALL NUCLEAR ACCIDENTS-IN-PROGRESS
(THE OFFICIAL VIEW):
It is not now possible, nor may it ever be possible, to
accurately assess which of the following nuclear accidents contained or
contains the largest inventory of radioactivity or poses the greatest threat
to human health. Based on limited data and preliminary estimates of missing
military high-level waste, the plume pulses described in this section constitute
the largest nuclear accidents-in-progress.
Accident plume pulses are grouped into three categories:
releases having a world-wide impact; major releases within the US; and
major regional releases outside of the US (excluding the huge Russian source
points discussed in RAD 11: 6). Limited information
about the source terms is available for weapons testing, Chernobyl, and
Sellafield plumes. Other plume rankings are based on an interpretation
of the significance of activities at U.S. weapons production facilities
and the information contained in the DOE's Integrated Database. See RAD
The IAEA has published the following scale for rating
accidents-in-progress. This is reprinted from the Swiss
Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (HSK) website at URL: http://www.hsk.psi.ch/pub_eng/jabe95-t13e.html
"The dose and subsequent health risk are minimal" (EML,
The health physics impact of a source term release will
not have a significant impact on the overall cancer rate (Goldman, 1987).
International Nuclear Event Scale
(INES) for nuclear installations
A new international scale for the expression of incident
severity in nuclear installations is internationally in tentative use since
early 1990. Based on their relevance to plant safety, it distinguishes
the following seven levels of incidents:
||External release of a large fraction of the reactor
core inventory typically involving a mixture of short- and long-lived fission
products (in quantities radiologically equivalent to more than tens of
thousands of terabecquerels of iodine-131).
Possibility of acute health effects. Delayed health
effects over a wide area, possibly involving more than one country. Long
term environmental consequences.
|External release of fission products (in quantities
radiologically equivalent to the order of thousands to tens of thousands
of terabecquerels of iodine-131) Full implementation of local emergency
plans probably needed to limit serious health effects.
with off-site risks
|External release of fission products (in quantities
radiologically equivalent to the order of hundreds to thousands of terabecquerels
of iodine-131). Partial implementation of emergency plans (e.g. local sheltering
and/or evacuation) required in some cases to lessen the likelihood of health
Severe damage to a large fraction of the core and
major plant contamination.
Three Mile Island,
||Accident without significant off-site
||External release of radioactivity resulting in a
dose to the most exposed individual off-site of the order of a few millisieverts.
Need for off-site protective actions generally unlikely except possibly
for local food control.
Some damage to reactor core as a result of mechanical
effects and/or melting.
Worker doses likely to have acute fatal consequences.
||External release of radioactivity above
authorised limits, resulting in a dose to the most exposed individual off-site
of the order of tenths of a millisievert.
High radiation levels and/or contamination on-site
as a result of workers likely to lead to acute health effects.
Incidents in which a further failure of safety systems
could lead to accident conditions, or a situation in which safety systems
would be unable to prevent an accident if certain initiators were to occur.
||Incidents with major failure of safety
provisions, but still leaving sufficient safety margins to cope with additional
Radiological incident with members of the personnel
receiving doses in excess of the annual limit
Significant contamination of the installation which
was not to be expected on the design basis.
||Functional or operational anomalies
which do not pose a risk but which indicate a lack of safety provisions.
This may be due to equipment failure, human error or procedural inadequacies.
||No safety significance
||Situations where operational limits
and conditions are note exceeded and which are properly managed in accordance
with adequate procedeures belong here.
Individual failure in a redundant system. Single
operational mistake without consequences. Faults (no multiple simultaneous
failure) detected in periodic inspections or tests. Automatic reactor scram
with normal plant behaviour. Reaching of limiting operation conditions,
while adhering to the proper regulations.
|3. Accidents having a world
|A. Nuclear weapons test explosions
Is the sum total of all nuclear weapons test explosions
one large accident or a whole series of small accidents? The nearly instantaneous
source term release durations of these explosions are now in the distant
past; yet, the invisible recycling of the long-lived isotopes in the stratospheric
fallout plumes continue today. As a current component of "background radiation,"
we do not usually differentiate weapons testing-derived contamination from
natural background radiation levels. Nonetheless, weapons testing-derived
radiocesium contamination still exists in significant quantities. The cumulative
deposition from weapons-testing-derived plutonium exists in bands of ground
deposition with the greatest accumulation in mid-latitude locations. What
are the cumulative ground deposition and isotopic profiles of the long-lived
radionuclides which are the legacy of these tests? What are their pathways,
and what population groups are most susceptible to exposure from these
pathways? See RAD 5, RAD 7,
RAD 11: Sections 1-2.
Which Chernobyl-derived long-lived radionuclides remain
in pathways to human exposure after the decay of the short-lived isotopes
released from this accident? What are their elemental forms, their biogeochemical
pathways, and what population groups are most susceptible to exposure from
these pathways? The Chernobyl source term release occurred during just
a few weeks. Will the remaining inventory of radionuclides in the Chernobyl
sarcophagus constitute the basis for a second nuclear accident or just
a footnote to the first? See RAD 10: all sections;
also see RAD 9: Sections 3-4.
|C. Satellite accidents: SNAP 9A (1964)
This satellite failure occurred over the Indian Ocean;
16,000 curies of 238Pu were efficiently spread throughout the
southern and then the northern hemispheres. The entire human race bears
traces of this accident in their biological tissues. What other satellite
accidents have occurred that we don't know about? Is this the precursor
of a much larger disaster in the future (the Cassini mission to Saturn)?
See RAD 11: 10.
|4. Major accidents within
The uncontained and undocumented release of liquid
spent fuel-derived wastes at locations now under remediation management
by the Dept. of Energy exceed 4 billion curies. The following DNFSB overview
summarizes the most important safety concerns pertaining to DOE facilities
which continue to release anthropogenic radioactivity into the environment.
There are 109 plume source points undergoing environmental remediation
by the Dept. of Energy and several hundred other small nuclear accidents-in-progress
(including commercial nuclear reactors as well as formerly utilized sites)
all having the potential for continued or future release of anthropogenic
radioactivity. The DOE's FPIMS (Facility
Profile Information Management System) database provides a window of
opportunity for evaluating the 19 most important DOE environmental remediation
management locations. FPIMS does not provide any data about the source
term releases which originate from these facilities, but the existence
of plumes of anthropogenic radioactivity are continually referenced and
are, in fact, a principal (but not the only) reason why this Facility Information
Profile Management System exists. The FPIMS database includes the "Tiger
Team Assessments (Analysis
of Findings From the First Sixteen Tiger Team Assessments, Tiger
Team Assessments Seventeen through Thirty-Five: A Summary and Analysis)"
about these source points. The FPIMS includes both non-site and site-specific
documents, ranging from summaries and appraisals to corrective action plans,
site environmental reports, trend analyses, and evaluations of the applicability
of the National Environmental Policy Act and other statutes. FPIMS represents
the work of thousands of DOE employees spending millions of tax dollars
documenting the nuclear accidents-in-progress which RADNET can only reference
in brief and inadequate listings. Needless to say, nowhere in FPIMS are
any DOE facilities described as a nuclear accident-in-progress, nor is
any data provided that document uncontained releases of radioactivity at
|A. Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board overview
The Defense Nuclear
Facility Safety Board which is in charge of oversight of all DOE weapon
production facilities is an excellent source of site-specific information
about the most important nuclear accidents-in-progress which have occurred
or are occurring in the continental United States.
The first of the following DNFSB reports comments on
high-level waste issues; the second report addresses low-level waste issues.
Other DNFSB reports are referenced in RAD 11. All
DNFSB reports cited in RADNET are electronically accessible.
Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board. (May 26, 1994).
Schedule for Remediation in Defense Nuclear Facilities Complex. Recommendation
94-1 to the Secretary of Energy pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 2286a(5) Atomic Energy
Act of 1954, as amended.
Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board. (September 8, 1994).
Waste-Disposal. Recommendation 94-2 to the Secretary of Energy pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. 2286a(5) Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended.
"We are especially concerned about specific liquids and solids containing
fissile materials and other radioactive substances in spent fuel storage
pools, reactor basins, reprocessing canyons, processing lines, and various
buildings once used for processing and weapons manufacture."
"Several large tanks in the F-Canyon at the Savannah River Site contain
tens of thousands of gallons of solutions of plutonium and trans-plutonium
isotopes. The trans-plutonium solutions remain from californium-252 production;
they include highly radioactive isotopes of americium and curium. These
tanks, their appendages, and vital support systems are old, subject to
deterioration, prone to leakage, and are not seismically qualified. If
an earthquake or other accident were to breach the tanks, F-Canyon would
become so contaminated that cleanup would be practically impossible. Containment
of the radioactive material under such circumstances would be highly uncertain."
"The K-East Basin at the Hanford Site contains hundreds of tons of deteriorating
irradiated nuclear fuel from the N-Reactor. This fuel has been heavily
corroded during its long period of storage under water, and the bottom
of the basin is now covered by a thick deposit of sludge containing actinide
compounds and fission products. The basin is near the Columbia River. It
has leaked on several occasions, is likely to leak again, and has design
and construction defects that make it seismically unsafe"
"The 603 Basin at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory (INEL) contains
deteriorating irradiated reactor fuel from a number of sources. This basin
also contains sludge from corrosion of the reactor fuel. The seismic competence
of the 603 Basin is not established."
"Processing canyons and reactor basins at the Savannah River Site contain
large amounts of deteriorating irradiated reactor fuel stored under conditions
similar to those at the 603 Basin at INEL."
"There are thousands of containers of plutonium-bearing liquids and
solids at the Rocky Flats Plant, the Hanford Site, the Savannah River Site,
and the Los Alamos National Laboratory. These materials were in the nuclear-weapons-manufacturing
pipeline when manufacturing ended. Large quantities of plutonium solutions
are stored in deteriorating tanks, piping, and plastic bottles. Thousands
of containers at the Rocky Flats Plant hold miscellaneous plutonium-bearing
materials classed as 'residuals', some of which are chemically unstable.
Many of the containers of plutonium metal also contain plastic and , in
some at the Rocky Flats Plant, the plastic is believed to be in intimate
contact with the plutonium. It is well known that plutonium in contact
with plastic can cause formation of hydrogen gas and pyrophoric plutonium
compounds leading to a high probability of plutonium fires."
"The results of our review are summarized as follows: As of 1993, the
DOE and its predecessor agencies have buried approximately 2.8 million
cubic meters of low-level radioactive waste. This waste has largely been
disposed of at six sites through the use of shallow land burial -- Savannah
River Site, Hanford, Idaho National Engineering Laboratory, Oak Ridge National
Laboratory, Nevada Test Site, and Los Alamos National Laboratory. Low-level
waste disposal as practiced by DOE contractors has not kept pace with the
evolution of commercial practices. For example, DOE disposal programs are
generally characterized by minimal barriers to infiltration and biologic
intrusion, no requirements to protect inadvertent human intruders, and
operational practices not geared toward maintaining integrity of the waste
form and the cover. In 1988, DOE issued Order 5820.2A, Radioactive Waste
Management, which adopted the basic performance objectives of the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission's 10 CFR 61. A key feature of the Order is the requirement
to prepare a Performance Assessment (PA). This Performance Assessment is
intended to demonstrate that the buried waste will remain sufficiently
confined to pose no undue risk to public health and safety. Although the
Order was issued six years ago, no defense nuclear facilities site has
to date completed the performance assessment process."
"The high-level radioactive wastes that are a result of weapons material
production have been the strong focus of waste management activities of
the Department of Energy (DOE). Considerably less attention has been placed
upon the large volumes of low-level radioactive waste that have been generated
to date and that are projected for the future. Operation of waste management
facilities and the maintenance of the defense nuclear complex will continue
to generate considerable low-level waste and the need for adequate waste
storage and disposal facilities. This volume is likely to increase dramatically
with the decommissioning and decontamination of excess facilities."
|B. Rocky Flats, Colorado: 239Pu
The Rocky Flats release of 239Pu during weapons
production activities has the potential to produce the largest death toll
among all the plumes originating from the U.S. weapons production facilities,
even though Rocky Flats does not come close to being the largest continental
plume of anthropogenic radioactivity in the U.S.A. Until all onsite inventories
of plutonium are actually removed from this location, the potential exists
for significant plutonium releases in addition to those that have already
occurred. The possibility of a criticality event or a serious fire continues
to make this site the most dangerous nuclear accident-in-progress in the
States. Who will inhale the wind-driven particles of plutonium released
from this site, now bound to the desiccated sediments which characterize
the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains? How far afield from Rocky Flats,
located so close to highly populated areas, will the high winds of the
eastern slope spread this contamination? How many children will breathe
in this plutonium and suffer a premature death? For how many millennia
will this, the largest nuclear accident-in-progress in the United States,
affect the populations of this region and the regions which will be the
later recipients of this wind-blown plutonium (1/2 T = 24,400 years)? See
11: Sections 5 and 12; also RAD 15.
|C. Savannah River, South Carolina: liquid high-level
The DOE Integrated Database (1994) lists the Savannah
River facility as having the largest inventory of contained high-level
wastes of any DOE weapons production facility, 534,500,000 curies of liquid
high-level wastes. These wastes derive from the production of spent fuel
at this location and its reprocessing for the purpose of extracting the
plutonium for weapons fabrication. During the period of weapons production,
huge additional uncontained quantities of liquid high-level and low-level
wastes were released to the natural environment. The curic inventory of
these uncontained releases probably exceeded 1 billion curies. The Savannah
River plume constitutes what is one of the two largest releases of anthropogenic
radioactivity occurring in the United States during the Cold War. Only
the uncontained releases at the Hanford, Washington Reservation, an isolated
and desiccated environment, have the potential to exceed the size of the
Savannah River plume. The Savannah River release is also that plume likely
to have the second largest health physics impact during the next few millennium.
Of particular concern are the plutonium storage tanks in the F-canyon of
Savannah River, as well as the extensive uncontained releases of spent-fuel-derived
wastes which have historically occurred at the other fuel processing canyons
and reactor basins at this facility. How will the humid climate, high rainfall,
and numerous wetlands assist the transport of the long-lived radionuclides
in this plume? How far afield from the lagoons and holding ponds of the
Savannah River reservation will this contamination travel? What natural
processes will make the plutonium in this plume, now predominantly in a
biologically inert form, more available for uptake in pathways to humans?
How will continuing activities at SRP as well as the possibility of additional
spent fuel reprocessing affect the size and duration of this plume? See
11: Section 5.
|D. Hanford Reservation, Washington: liquid high-level
The Hanford Reservation in Washington State, and the
Savannah River Plant in South Carolina were the principal plutonium production
facilities operated by the DOE for the purpose of fabricating nuclear weapons
during the Cold War. The plutonium produced at Hanford Reservation was
shipped to other weapons production facilities for refining and final fabrication
into usable weapons. During this process, large quantities of spent fuel
were created and then reprocessed to extract the plutonium, creating huge
quantities of liquid high-level and low-level wastes. The DOE Integrated
Database report (1994) lists a current inventory of 348 million curies
of contained high-level waste as well as additional quantities of stored
or buried transuranic wastes at this site. As at the Savannah River facilities,
huge additional quantities of uncontained liquid high-level and low-level
wastes were produced and released to the natural environment. Not enough
information is available to determine whether the uncontained releases
at this location exceeded those at the Savannah River site which is closer
to populated suburban and urban population centers.
The plutonium production facilities at Hanford lie
alongside the Columbia River which was the recipient of significant, but
unknown, quantities of reactor-derived liquid wastes. Aside from the large
quantities of liquid high-level wastes now residing in leaking steel tanks,
significant uncontained quantities of liquid wastes were released in shallow
holding ponds which later dried out, in pits, and via shallow well and
deepwell injection. The total uncontained release of weapons-production-derived
wastes may exceed the total release at the Savannah River facility. In
view of the total amount of missing military high-level wastes, the uncontained
release of radioactivity to the natural environment at this location may
exceed 1 billion curies of reprocessed spent-fuel-derived wastes and hundreds
of millions of curies of low-level wastes. The location of these huge releases
in a desiccated environment with low rainfall, little surface water other
than the Columbia River, the low water table, and the lack of nearby population
centers may serve to mitigate the health physics impact of what is likely
the largest uncontained release of weapons-production-derived contamination
in the United States. Unfortunately, unlike the Rocky Flats plutonium plume,
there are very few environmental remediation solutions available to mitigate
previous uncontained releases of radioactivity at this location. If the
DOE fails to secure the contained tank wastes at this location or if criticality
is reached in these vulnerable tanks, this release plume, which will continue
to spread for hundreds of years, will be greatly enhanced. See RAD
11: Sections 5 and 12, for more information on this plume source point.
The Oak Ridge Reservation includes a multiplicity of
important plume source points, including the Oak Ridge National Laboratory,
The K-25 Plant and the Y-12 Plant. The primary function of the latter two
sites was the production of enriched uranium for the purpose of nuclear
weapons production. The Oak Ridge Reservation may be the most complex plume
source point among all the DOE weapons production laboratories. Plume source
points include the X-10 Graphite Reactor which operated in the early years
of the Cold War, as well as uranium contamination deriving from the K-25
Plant and the Y-12 Plant. Two buildings at the Y-12 Plant are currently
considered among the top ten most dangerous DOE sites for processing or
storing uranium due to inadequately designed vaults containing bomb grade
uranium. The Oak Ridge Reservation is the location of the infamous hydrofracture
facility which was designed specifically for the injection of highly radioactive
reprocessed spent fuel wastes into underlying shale deposits in the form
of a grout containing the unwanted wastes. At least 1 1/2 million curies
of waste, and possibly much more, are contained in this component of the
Oak Ridge plume. Other undocumented injections of liquid wastes occurred
in the early years of operation of this facility. Maps contained in the
DOE BEMR provide a graphic illustration of a series of interconnected "waste
area groups" (WAG) which resulted in so much radioactive contamination
being released to surface water supplies (White Oak Creek, White Oak Lake,
etc.) that not only have special dams been constructed to slow the movement
of surface contamination, but the Clinch River Basin has been declared
a superfund site and is listed in the BEMR publication as a subject of
DOE remediation efforts. The total curic content of uncontained releases
of radioactive effluents to the environment at this location may never
be known but could easily be in excess of 200 million curies of uranium
processing-derived wastes as well as of "low-level" and mixed low-level
wastes originating from reprocessed spent fuel and other weapons production
facilities. Contamination of underground aquifers in the relatively highly
populated areas of this section of Tennessee could result in a plume which
equals or exceeds the size and the significance of the other major underground
plumes at Hanford, SRP and INEL. See RAD 11: Sections
5 and 12, for more information on this plume source point.
|F. Idaho National Engineering Laboratory
The Idaho National Engineering Laboratory (INEL) covers
890 sq. miles in southern Idaho along the edge of the Snake River Plain.
The INEL is an important nuclear accident-in-progress with a variety of
constituents including ten major operating areas in addition to the Argonne
National Laboratory West and the Naval Reactor Facility, which are, in
themselves, important plume source points. Of particular concern is the
presence of large quantities of deteriorating irradiated reactor fuel and
related corrosion products (sludge) in the 603 basin which is a component
of the Idaho Chemical Processing Plant (ICPP). While removal of some of
this deteriorating fuel has begun, this facility still remains the most
dangerous of above ground plume source points among all the 98 operable
units which are subject to environmental remediation at this facility.
Numerous other storage tanks, pits, trenches, evaporation ponds, "French
drains," waste sumps, storage tanks, chemical wash out areas, and other
surface facilities and waste sites contribute to INEL as a plume source
point with many constituents. The single largest component of INEL as a
plume source point results, however, from shallow well and deep well injection
of high-level as well as low-level mixed wastes which began with the establishment
of this facility in the late 1940's.
Evaluation of the INEL site is complicated by continuing
operations; a high level of secrecy and lack of documentation of disposal
techniques in its early years of operation; and the multiplicity of source
points of radiological contamination. These include an experimental breeder
reactor, the power burst facility reactor, three or more test reactor areas,
the ICPP and related tank farm, the waste calcine facility, the test area
north including a manufacturing assembly and hot shop, and a radioactive
waste management complex. Not enough information is available to determine
which of these facilities contributed the largest quantities of radioactive
wastes to the injection wells and "French drains" which were formerly utilized
at this location. The Baseline Environmental Management Report (BEMR) divides
the ICPP into 14 units consisting of 93 potential release sites and then
makes the following comment: "...most of the known contamination at the
Idaho Chemical Processing Plant is below the surface of the soil..." (pg.
Idaho-29). The assessment of contamination in the Snake River Plain Aquifer,
which has just begun, has detected volatile organic compounds in the aquifer
600 feet below the surface of the ground. The INEL site environmental report
for 1995 limits discussion of the extensive shallow and deep well injections
that occurred at INEL in the past to a few disposal wells. The complex
ground water monitoring program activities, illustrated in Figure 5.1,
page 5.4 of this report, which were implemented by the United States Geological
Survey, reference the extensive undocumented disposal of liquid radioactive
wastes of the past. While some components of the INEL facility may be the
subject of successful remediation efforts with respect to the transfer
of transuranic wastes to the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) in New
Mexico, the huge INEL-derived Snake River aquifer plume will likely rate
among the top ten most significant source points of radioactive contamination
in the US in the next millennium. A variety of reports and studies that
discuss this inscrutable DOE plume source point are cited in RAD
11: Section 5: INEL.
|G. Other Accidents-in-progress, Continental USA: to
Fernald, Ohio (Feed Materials Production Center)
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Other sites: The Baseline Environmental
Monitoring Report (BEMR) and other DOE radiological surveillance reports
will be reviewed for the purpose of locating other sites which may contain
missing military high-level waste. All of the BEMR sites constitute nuclear
accidents-in-progress of one size or another; BEMR sites not discussed
above will be listed at the end of this sub-section of RAD 3. For RADNET
comments on the topic of missing military high-level waste, see RAD
11: Sections 5 and 12. Your comments and criticisms of our observations
would be welcomed.
|A note on very small nuclear accidents-in-progress:
The Maine Yankee Atomic Power Station at Wiscasset,
Maine, is an example of a very small nuclear accident-in-progress. Mandatory
radiological effluent reports filed with the NRC indicate a total discharge
of less than four curies of 137Cs into the environment in the
vicinity of MYAPC since the beginning of plant operation in 1972. This
contrasts with an onsite inventory of +/-20 million curies of 137Cs
in the spent fuel pool and in the fuel rods in the reactor vessel. Total
onsite inventories of spent fuel exceed 200 million curies; GTCC reactor
vessel components exceed 4 million curies at 2 years cooling, and low-level
wastes exceed one hundred thousand curies. If the licensee and the NRC
are successful in ensuring that no significant additional discharges of
radioactivity occur at this location, the primary impact of the MYAPC will
be on the pocketbooks of the ratepayers and taxpayers who will have to
fund this effort. This impact will include the high costs of safe decommissioning,
monitored retrievable storage of GTCC and spent fuel wastes, and administrative
and transportation costs prior to waste disposal in a final geological
depository. In short, it will be a very high price to pay for assurance
that a very small nuclear accident-in-progress doesn't grow larger.
For an analysis of MYAPC as a small nuclear accident -in-progress see RAD
6: Radiation Protection Guidelines: Section 1B-5: Nuclear
power plants as small nuclear accidents-in-progress.
|5. Major accidents outside
There are thousands of other regional source points
of anthropogenic radioactivity; this is an attempt to list a few of the
major source points which are ongoing accidents-in-progress.
|A. Russian plume source points
The largest uncontained releases of weapons-production-derived
high-level wastes have occurred within the boundaries of the former USSR.
RADNET does not include information on the size and significance of these
releases other than that contained in RAD 11: Sections
5, 7, 8. The size and the health physics impact of Russian releases are
likely to exceed those in the United States; a fundamental lack of public
resources will maximize the impact of Russian plume source points.
|B. Sellafield (United Kingdom)
Sellafield is the largest nuclear accident-in-progress
outside of Russia and the continental United States. Total source term
releases to date may be extrapolated from the records of British Nuclear
Fuels, the site operator and other information sources such as MAFF (Ministry
of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries). Source term releases are now increasing
with the recent inauguration of a new thermal oxide fuel reprocessing plant
(THORP). The proposal to dispose of high-level wastes generated at this
facility in underlying rock formations as uncontained releases may further
exacerbate the size of the Sellafield plume. This disposal plan is reminiscent
of the antiquated policies of uncontained release of high-level wastes
at various US weapons productions facilities which now have been discontinued.
Development of the underground high-level waste facility
at Sellafield appears to have been canceled entirely. Numerous developments
have occurred in the last three years pertaining to Sellafield as an ongoing
nuclear accident. The viability of fuel reprocessing as an industry
is collapsing at the same time as the intermediate and high-level waste
crisis is growing. Many of the political and economic issues pertaining
to the Sellafield debacle are beyond the scope of RADNET, but important
new information has emerged in the form of additional documentation of
the Sellafield pulse. Of particular interest is the 99Tc
plume in lobsters, the development of more comprehensive radiological surveillance
programs as exemplified by the publications of MAFF (Ministry of Agriculture,
Food and Fisheries): Radiation in Food and the Environment
(RIFE) and the documentation of extensive Sellafield-derived contamination
in pigeons (see Greenpeace). The appalling size of the Sellafield
plume is illustrated by F. Oldfield, et. al. with a peak of Sellafield-derived
in salt marsh sediment observed of 434,000 bq/m2(1990).
This observation was made several years prior to the opening of the THORP
processing facility which has resulted in additional contamination of the
North and Irish Seas. The following links will bring RADNET visitors
into other sections of RADNET which document or discuss Sellafield as a
For a general overview of Sellafield as an ongoing nuclear
accident, review the many research and monitoring reports in RAD
11: Sections 1 and 7.
For the appalling peak values noted above, see Oldfield,
et. al. Also see Ashton, Thompson and others in the same section
of RAD 7.
For information on the 99Tc plume, see RAD
To review the MAFF documentation of the Sellafield plume
(RIFE-3), see RAD 6: 4-B.
For updates on localized Sellafield contamination, link
Recent news stories reveal the presence of a waste
shaft at Dounreay, which has been cut through bedrock and projects under
the ocean. Substantial amounts of uncontained plutonium-bearing wastes
have been discarded in this waste tunnel. In May of 1977, the combination
of radionuclides, toxic chemicals, and odd components of plant equipment
dumped in this shaft resulted in an explosion which spread contamination
not only at the shaft entrance but also on local beaches. Plutonium contamination
resulting from this explosion has now been documented on area beaches.
The fuel reprocessing facilities at Dounreay are thus the source of a much
larger plume of plutonium-bearing contamination than had previously been
anticipated. Future fuel reprocessing activities at this location have
the potential to greatly enlarge the Dounreay plume. MAFF reports documenting
the Dounreay pulse have been requested and will be posted in RAD
11: 7 when they become available.
The Dounreay facility has now been closed and no further
fuel reprocessing will occur there after 2000; the facility is now in the
stage of environmental remediation. Additional information is available
by reviewing the citations in RAD 11: 7.
Also, see the new radiological surveillance
reports issued by MAFF and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency
(SEPA) which document Dounreay as a plume source point. Additional
areas of hot particle contamination are being documented on the beaches
surrounding Dounreay and will be posted in RAD 11: 7 as they become available.
|6. Future nuclear accidents?
In the following list, RADNET estimates the types of
uncontained releases of anthropogenic radioactivity that are most likely
to occur in the future and the locations where they might occur. Unfortunately,
there is the possibility that many ongoing releases of anthropogenic radioactivity
are nuclear accidents-in-progress which are only in their initial stages.
Additional suggestions, comments or criticisms of this preliminary listing
The most likely locations of the nuclear accidents
of the future are:
A quick release accident(QRA) or a LORCA at an RBMK-type
nuclear reactor in Russia or Eastern Europe due to degradation of aging
equipment or terrorism/sabotage.
A quick release accident(QRA) or a LORCA at other nuclear
reactors located in areas of political unrest and/or economic chaos due
to degradation of aging equipment or terrorism/sabotage.
Russia: any number of accident scenarios are possible
at existing weapons production facilities and unsecured waste storage sites
(Kola peninsula, Vladivostok, etc.).
Sellafield, United Kingdom: fuel reprocessing facility
Major release of 238Pu resulting from an accident
involving the upcoming Cassini mission to Saturn.
Rocky Flats, Colorado, Technology Site: a serious fire
event at one or more weapons production plutonium contaminated buildings
or criticality event due to the accumulation of fissile plutonium.
Hanford Reservation: an accident at a storage tank containing
high-level waste or at the N-reactor fuel storage site in the K-East Basin.
United States: a major LORCA at any of the 109 NRC licensed
commercial nuclear power plants due to micro-degradation of aging equipment.
United States: an accident at a DOE weapons production
facility (Pantex, Savannah River Plant, Los Alamos National Laboratory,
or Oak Ridge National Laboratory) due to the mishandling of fissile material.
|7. Nuclear accident updates
(Small nuclear accidents which get wide publicity - why only in Japan?)
|A. Tokai Uranium Processing
September 30, 1999, 10:35 AM Japanese standard time:
Criticality accident at a Japanese Uranium Processing Plant.
For other information on this small accident, see RAD
French, Howard W. (October 1, 1999). Japanese fuel
plant spews radiation after accident. New York Times.
"In an indication that the accident was being brought
under control, Japanese television said that at 6:30 AM today, the
Science and Technology Agency reported that no radiation could be detected
at 14 monitoring sites around the plant."
One of many articles in the Washington Post and New York
Times, this relatively small accident has received a huge amount of publicity.
The Washington Post indicates that approximately two dozen similar criticality
accidents have taken place in the United States between 1945 and 1964.
Estimates of fuel reprocessing accidents range up to at least 60 on a world-wide
basis since the beginning of the nuclear age. Most of these accidents
are too small to be included in RADNET's postings. A shortage of
funding also impacts our ability to maintain detailed record keeping about
these incidents, many of which have been kept secret by various government
The wide publicity surrounding this accident has allowed
the following information to emerge:
Tokai is "a re-conversion plant, where they process enriched
uranium hexafluoride (UF6) to uranium dioxide (UO2) through various steps
of chemical refinement. The criticality accident occurred in the
process of converting uranyl nitrate solution (with 18.8% concentration
of fissile 235U) to ammonium diranate (ADU) sediment." (personal
communication, Dr. Hosokawa Komei, Dept of Resource Management & Society,
Faculty of Agriculture, The University of Saga, 840-8502 Saga City, Japan).
The fissile mass was 16 kg of highly enriched uranium
destined for a fast breeder research reactor somewhere in Japan.
The accident occurred when too much 235U was
poured into a settling basin designed for 2.4 kg -- a typical human error
The accident lasted 17 hours before a water shield was
drained which had served to keep the accident going by directing neutrons
back into the fissile material. Workers were unable to drain the
water by remote control, so they broke the pipes open and stopped the accident.
An intense radiation field resulting from shine from the
fissile material in the settling basin surrounded the facility. The
fact that significant civilian population lives close to the facility complicated
the accident response and insured wide publicity.
The accident occurred during a rainfall event which would
serve to localize fallout from the plume which was produced by the accident.
No information is yet available differentiating plume-derived shine from
source point shine from the fissile material itself.
The accident raises a number of questions despite the
small quantity of fissile material involved:
Is the Science and Technology Agency quoted in the New
York Times being truthful asserting that no radiation could be detected
at 14 monitoring sites?
Granted that most of the high ambient radiation levels
near the plant was shine from the uranium in the settling basin, a radioactive
plume of significant size moved offsite and included quantities of 131I
as well as volatile isotopes such as 137Cs. How does the
isotropic profile of this plume compare to the isotopic profile of the
Chernobyl plume as it passed through Nurmijarvi,
Finland, and what was the quantitative air concentrations of these
plume constituents as measured in standard reporting units of microbecquerels
/ cubic meter (mBq/m3)?
Do the 14 monitoring sites surrounding the complex of
nuclear facilities at Tokai include high volume air filter monitors, or
are these monitoring stations limited to TLD stations (thermoluminescent
dosimeters) which only monitor ambient radiation levels averaged over weeks
or more of time?
Why were there not more high volume air concentration
monitors around this huge facility? Are the Japanese authorities
being truthful about the number of monitoring facilities they have, and
why is there no data available providing this nearly routine data?
How far away from the source point of the plume have elevated
air concentrations of accident-derived isotopes been observed?
What is the ground deposition, particularly in areas where
rainfall occurred, which resulted from the plume passage of indicator nuclides
such as 137Cs, as measured in standard reporting units of Bq/m2?
Why was this information not available within 24 - 48 hours of the accident?
Doesn't the Science and Technology Agency maintain onsite
laboratories capable of quick spectroanalyses (e.g. 20 minutes to one hour
for sample scanning versus 24 hours for long counting time for microcontamination)?
Will the Science and Technology Agency provide a summary
of this accident by collecting enough ground deposition data to provide
a radiometric (isocuric) description of ground contamination,
as was done after the Chernobyl accident in many locations? This
is standard procedure; will it be used at this accident site and will it
be reported by a media eager to report a nuclear accident that's not located
in its own backyard, unlike some nuclear accidents in the United States
and elsewhere, which the media are much more reluctant to report on?
In the area of plume passage, especially that impacted
by rainfall events, what are the concentrations of indicator isotopes (131I,
etc.) in gutter dust, flock, rain puddle sediment and other abiotic media
as measured in Bq/kg?
In the area of plume passage what is the concentrations
of indicator isotopes on leafy vegetable surfaces and within grass - grazing
pathways as measured in Bq/kg?
How do the above air concentrations, ground depositions
and biotic media concentrations compare with nearby areas not impacted
by the plume passage from the accident? Why is this information not
yet available considering the high population densities of the area and
the size and complexity of the nuclear facilities at this location?
Does the Japanese government have access to United States
National Image Management Agency (NIMA) satellite imagery of plume passage
and dissipation, the collection of which is a routine daily event over
all populated areas of the world? Does the Japanese government maintain
similar image technology, or does it (or will it) share equipment and data
with the United States?
Why are environmental organizations, news media or other
interested parties not requesting the public disclosure of the sophisticated
satellite imagery now so widely discussed in the press (e.g. National Public
At the time of the accident did the Japanese government
implement low flying aircraft utilizing the same sophisticated imaging
technology to track the plume passage and, if so, where is the data collected
by this now ubiquitous technology?
If low flying aircraft were not immediately utilized to
track the plume passage, why not?
If the media, which were so anxious to report this accident,
are not going to follow through and ask questions about the availability
of routine air sample, ground deposition and contaminated media concentrations
standard reporting units then who will ask these questions?
The wide publicity surrounding the accident included many
shots of officials using hand held detectors to measure surface contamination
(ground, buildings, clothing, skin, etc.) Such surface contamination
measurements are the first step in the complete pathway analysis of the
source term of this or any accident. Will the authorities broaden
their reporting of the source term (release inventories, pathways and destinations)
to go beyond the one-dimensional analysis of ambient radiation, and execute
a holistic (all pathways) analysis of the plume passage and impact from
To what extent did rainfall events concentrate plume washout,
especially in populated areas, and will the authorities be truthful about
the extent of this impact in the relatively small but highly populated
Scientific reports providing information about the radiological
impact of this accident will be posted on this page as they are received
during the next few weeks, months and years. This small accident
provides an excellent opportunity to look at all pathways contaminated
during accident plume passage. Will this opportunity be used by government
officials, environmental organizations as well as the general public to
come to a greater understanding of the complexity of the biogeochemical
cycles which transport radioactive contamination from the source point
of a nuclear accident through pathways to human exposure? If not,
why not? Or will the sponsors of the lucrative traffic in nuclear
waste continue to hoodwink the public by providing misleading information
about the impact of the accident by describing only the dose received (e.g.
microsieverts or mrem) by an average member of the public rather than media-specific,
nuclide-specific data essential to accurate accident documentation?
RADNET readers are urged to email
us comments, corrections and especially additional information and scientific
citations which document the impact of this small accident in the standard
reporting units of Bq/m3, Bq/m2, and Bq/kg.
March 11, 1997, fire and explosion at the Tokai Nuclear
Fuel Reprocessing Plant
Confusion and mis-information at a small nuclear accident:
The following information documenting the March 11,
1997, fire and explosion at the Tokai Nuclear Reprocessing Plant is entirely
derived from quotes taken from Lexis-Nexis news service reports in the
days following the Tokai accident. The quotations are ordered by date and
include quotations from Japan Economic News Wire, Associated Press, New
York Times, Agence France Presse, Kyodo News Service, Mainichi Daily
News, etc. Each bullet contains quotations from one or more news sources.
"Located at Tokaimura, 100 km (65 miles) northeast of Tokyo, the reprocessing
plant produces plutonium by recycling spent nuclear fuel." "Reprocessing
of spent nuclear fuel is solidified by mixing with asphalt by remote control"
"It handles 12 percent of Japan's total spent fuel, with the rest reprocessed
at plants in France. An explosion at the plant's bituminisation facility,
where low-level waste is mixed with asphalt for permanent storage, on March
11 exposed 37 workers to small doses of radiation." "The explosion occurred
10 hours after a fire broke out in the asphalt mixing cell Tuesday morning.
... Smoke went up for hours, and a small amount of radioactive leak was
detected on the premises."
March 11: "An explosion was heard Tuesday night at a nuclear reprocessing
plant in the village of Tokai ... but details were not immediately known
... A total of nine window panes were seen broken in the four-story building
and white smoke was seen coming out from the roof of the plant's vitrification
facility for liquid nuclear waste ... One of the radioactivity monitoring
posts near the building showed an abnormal reading at 8:50 p.m. but normal
readings after 9:00 p.m. ... The explosion occurred at about 8 p.m., hours
after a small fire broke out in the plant and at least 10 workers were
exposed to radioactivity, the officials said. ... amount of radioactivity
released really poses no problem at all ... constituted just 0.2% of the
legally admissible maximum." "At one of 12 radioactivity monitoring stations
in the giant Tokaimura nuclear compound, a small abnormality was observed
26 minutes after the fire broke out at 8:14 p.m. ... only radioactivity
observed was well within safe limits"
March 12: "Dozens of alarms shrieked and banks of lights flashed red
as Japanese investigators tentatively poked through scraps of twisted metal
at a nuclear waste handling facility. ... officials said radiation levels
remained well within safe limits around the plant." "Two workers were stuck
on the roof of a Japanese nuclear plant for five hours after a fire and
the state nuclear company waited two and a half hours to tell the fire
brigade..." "Around 8:50p.m., radiation levels on the grounds were about
20% higher than usual..." "...that radioactivity levels had returned to
normal following the explosion." "The radioactivity that escaped outside
was estimated to total 38% of the permissible daily maximum dose, Donen
officials said. Donen set a 60-meter off-limits cordon around the building
after they detected a small amount of radioactivity around the facility."
March 13: "Officials ... said there was no danger of a plutonium radiation
leak. ... On Thursday, workers clad in protective suits with breathing
filters used duct tape to seal 30 windows and three doors that were damaged
by the blast Tuesday night." "Three days after the accident Power Reactor
and Nuclear Fuel Development Corp. (Donen), the plant operator, has admitted
it has been unable to completely seal off the radiation zone where the
fire broke out, an asphalt solidification room of the plant. ... According
to plant sources, government inspectors had 'overlooked' the possibility
of an explosion of the kind that occurred there Tuesday night." "Agency
finds no contamination from N-Plant blast. ... No abnormality has been
found in the area surrounding the plant... It is unthinkable that local
residents are being exposed to radiation..." "35 people who had been exposed
to the radiation ... the level of radiation they were exposed to was minimal
and posed no danger to their health, ... The workers were exposed to a
maximum of 2,700 becquerels of radiation, less than 0.2 percent of the
permissible annual maximum, Donen officials said." "...prefectural officials
failed to tell them of a radiation leak overnight at a local nuclear plant.
... 'caused no effect to the environment.' ... monitoring posts around
the plant registered up to a 20 percent jump in radiation levels, but says
the readings have since returned to normal. ... there is 'no need' to inform
residents of the leak because radiation levels are 'not high enough to
worry about.'" "Smoke and heat sensors in the plant shut off after the
first fire and were unable to give a warning that the blaze was still smoldering
out of sight, leading to the later explosion."
March 14: "Air radiation levels soared a hundredfold directly after
Tuesday night's explosion at a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Tokaimura,
Ibaraki Prefecture, 115 kilometers northeast of Tokyo, ... Officials of
the state-run Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corp. (Donen)
said the radiation that leaked outside the plant was nonetheless far below
the amount triggering alarms and 'for the most part did not affect the
environment.'" "Japan's Science and Technology Agency admitted yesterday
that it was not sure how much radiation had actually leaked from a building
at a nuclear-fuel reprocessing facility where a fire and explosion had
taken place earlier this week." "The state agency for science and technology
has said there are no radioactive threat to the environment outside the
March 15: "Radioactive particles collected after an explosion at Japan's
nuclear reprocessing plant indicate that plutonium may have been released
into the air, officials at the plant said on Saturday. However, the level
of radioactive particles found was below the limit set for areas outside
the plant and did not pose any risk to the environment or to living beings..."
"...no risk to the environment or people, because the recorded level of
radiation was slightly below the limit set for areas surrounding nuclear
facilities." "Highly toxic plutonium is also suspected to have leaked and
spread following the accident. ...there appeared to be no risks of further
radioactive leakage. 'The nuclear substance in the facility has been cooled
down and is in a stable condition'" "Radiation emitted after an explosion
at a nuclear facility has turned out to be about 70 times greater than
first reported. ...Donen said radioactive substances at the ventilator
on the east side of the bituminization facility during the seven-day period
leading up to Wednesday were far below the levels of such materials usually
present in the air. But the corporation recalculated and found that, for
example the density of the type of cesium that emits beta nuclide was 0.45-millionths
of a becquerel per cubic meter, or about 70 times higher than the average
for the past three months."
March 17: "Nuclear plant explosion catches experts totally off guard.
... Experts suspect vaporized asphalt was the cause of the fire. ... The
March 11 explosion was something Donen had never imagined possible." "...the
'luck' was that a fire and, 10 hours later, an explosion, occurred in the
least dangerous - he said 'cleanest' - part of the plant." "...significant
radiation levels were found in soil samples at two sites in the nuclear
complex in Ibaraki Prefecture." "...the radiation that leaked outside the
plant was nonetheless far below the amount triggering alarms and 'for the
most part did not affect the environment.'" "A tiny amount of cesium was
found in the vicinity of Tuesday's explosion site at a nuclear fuel reprocessing
plant ... the amount of cesium was within a normal range which is seen
in the environment and so limited it does not affect human health." "Officials
disclosed on March 14 that about 10 times the regular levels of tiny particles
of plutonium and uranium probably escaped from the waste-handling facility
... one-twentieth of the environmental safety level, ... A monitor attached
to an exhaust pipe detected an average density of plutonium and uranium
of 3.8 trillionths of a becquerel per 1 cubic centimeter for three months
prior to the accident, ... But the figure jumped to 49 trillionths of a
becquerel per cubic centimeter on average for the week including March
11, ...Donen officials on March 14 reversed their earlier statements, admitting
two more facilities connected to the bituminization plant by passageways
are contaminated." "The amount of radioactivity released into the surrounding
area by the March 11 explosion ... was 20 times the amount that Donen officials
on March 14 said had been released and nearly equal to the environmental
public health safety limit set by the government for residents in the vicinity
of the plant. The officials explained that the conflicting figures resulted
from a mistake in calculations. ...radioactive substances that escaped
outside the plant could be the chemical elements of americium, plutonium,
uranium and or other naturally occurring atoms. The officials said they
have cleaned up about 90 percent of radioactive substances on the ground
in the Tokai compound, but they have yet to clear the outer building surfaces
at the plant." "...as the worst nuclear accident that has ever occurred
in Japan, ...the International Atomic Energy Agency. ...gave the explosion
a rating of 3 on the international scale of 0 to 7..."
March 18: "An elevated level of radioactive cesium, ...has been detected
in Tsukuba, 60 kilometers southwest of the plant, ... The reading in Tsukuba
is several tens of times the level of cesium-137 that would typically be
measured in the aftermath of a nuclear test conducted abroad, ... The amount
of cesium-137 ...was measured at 84-millionths of a becquerel per cubic
meter. But that is far smaller than the amount registered in the wake of
the disastrous 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident in the former
Soviet Union, which posted a reading of 61,000-millionths of a becquerel
per cubic meter [in Japan]." "A jump in radiation has been observed [35
miles] southwest of a damaged nuclear plant, officials said today, suggesting
two fires at the plant spread radiation over a larger area than previously
thought. ... Cesium levels in the air jumped 10-fold on March 11, compared
to the day before the fires and the day after, said Hisato Nishii, a Meteorological
Research Institute spokesman. The level, however, is very low and is not
harmful to humans, he said. ... 'It is unbelievable that your employees
were playing golf at such a critical period of time.' Donen spokesman ...
said the company had approved the golf tour and that the fires did not
necessarily require all plant workers to be prohibited from playing golf."
March 19: "The discovery of relatively high levels of radiation is expected
to make it difficult to carry out studies on the actual cause of the accident."
"A week after the fires yesterday, a jump in radiation was reported southwest
of the plant. ...the two fires at the plant March 11 had spread radiation
over a larger area than previously thought." "A small amount of cesium-137
was detected in the air at a pollution research centre in the city of Mito..."
March 24-25: "Donen informed the Science and Technology Agency that
the accident has been classified as a third degree accident on the International
Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) seven-degree table of nuclear power plant
failures. ... Radioactivity leaked outside the bituminization facility
... but there was no risk to the environment or people as the recorded
level of radiation was slightly below the limit set for areas surrounding
nuclear facilities..." "Some 37 workers were exposed to radiation, although
it was far below levels that would be harmful ... Some radioactive materials,
including plutonium, escaped into the atmosphere and were detected as far
as 23 miles away, though at levels that the Government insisted posed no
April 3: "Danger of leaked radiation unclear. ...more than eight times
the normal levels of plutonium and other alpha ray-emitting substances
had escaped from an exhaust pipe at the accident ... 2,000 times the normal
levels of gamma ray-emitting substances including cesium. ...total dose
of radioactive emissions at about 60 million becquerel, but Donen described
as 'negligible,' ... As for plutonium, the annual emission level is several
thousand times the leakage caused by the March explosion."
April 7: "...Radioactive emissions from Japan's worst nuclear accident
... were below minimum safety ceilings..."
April 15: "...at least six people were involved in writing a distorted
report about a fire and explosion and in covering up the accident..." "The
Japanese government will soon ask prosecutors to file charges against a
state-run firm which has admitted a cover-up in its handling of the nation's
worst nuclear accident..."
If this much confusion, mis-information and waffling
can result from one small nuclear mishap, what will be the case in the
event of a major Chernobyl-type nuclear accident?
No source term release information, no media specific
accident-derived contamination data, very little nuclide specific accident-derived
data, no ground deposition data, no mention of any plume pulse, no plume
pulse pathway or exposure pathway analysis, no reference to any Japanese,
U.S. government or International Atomic Energy Agency satellite-derived
remote sensing data, etc.
|B. Maine Yankee Atomic Power
RADNET has used the Maine Yankee Atomic Power Company (MYAPC) in
Wiscasset, Maine as a case study for analysis of safety, legal, economic
and decommissioning issues pertaining to nuclear power plant operation.
This facility may also be used as an example of a nuclear power plant as
a small nuclear accident-in-progress. MYAPC began operation in 1972
and was closed in 1997.
See RAD 6: Radiation Protection Guidelines: Section 1B-5:
power plants as small nuclear accidents-in-progress for further discussion.
This section of RADNET will be under construction indefinitely.
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