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Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Tag Archives | Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Radiation and the USS Ronald Reagan

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DoD Photo
DoD Photo

DoD Photo

The USS Ronald Reagan is in the news because several dozen crewmembers of the Reagan are trying to sue TEPCO, the Tokyo Electric Power Corporation, for concealing the radiation release and thereby damaging their health (unsurprisingly, members of the armed services are precluded from suing the US military for damage to their health, so redress must be sought elsewhere). I try to tiptoe between the two extremes of radiation alarmism and, I guess, radio-blasé-ism, but in the end I come down on the side that the contamination was pretty serious. The Ronald Reagan was caught in a washout. As the Fukushima plume was passing overhead, a snowstorm brought radioactive nasties down to the ship, and the water surrounding the ship.

The “nothing to see here” position is that the Reagan was exposed to the equivalent of an extra few weeks of background radiation. Trouble is, washed-out fallout isn’t distributed in a neat, uniform radioactive haze. It’s lumpy, sticky, filled with hot particles, and prone to “hot spots.” It is not terribly reassuring to Sailor A that measured radioactive contamination is averaging out to a gentle buzz if he or she is worried about standing on or next to a hot spot. The USS Ronald Reagan spent a couple months at sea after contamination trying to clean itself up; then, according to a lawyer for the sailors claiming injury, it was decontaminated at a port in Washington state for another year and a half before returning to service.

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Securing Japan’s Clean Energy Future

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Warren Antiola
Warren Antiola

Warren Antiola

As Japan recovers from the spring tsunami and Fukushima nuclear station disaster, it plans for a clean energy future. It is tempting for its energy industry officials to categorize all the lessons of the nuclear crisis as specific to the atomic energy industry. Accidents happen, however, in all complex energy production systems. Accidents in the most abstruse technology systems, from commercial airplanes to tankers to space shuttles to nuclear plants, can overwhelm even the most conscientious designers and operators.

As Japanese clean energy hardware makers Toshiba, Panasonic, and Sharp expand production and design prototypes to meet a new national demand for renewable energy, they should heed one of the lessons of the nuclear industry: keeping it simple keeps it safe.

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Nuclear Energy after the Fukushima Disaster

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Greg Webb/IAEA
Greg Webb/IAEA

Greg Webb/IAEA

The potential nuclear meltdown of two Japanese nuclear reactors resulting from the March 11th earthquake and subsequent tsunami has the nuclear industry anticipating questions regarding overall plant safety. Nuclear power plant safety in developed nations like Japan and the U.S. does not elicit the same levels of alarm as potential disasters in developing nations. Several Eastern European states still use the same High Power Channel Reactor design as the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine that has since been taken offline.

Around 200,000 people have been evacuated from a 12-mile radius of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. All four Units at the Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Plant were shut down because of radiological contamination. If the situation worsens at Fukushima additional evacuations will become necessary. Officials are under the assumption that a meltdown at Daiichi’s Unit 3 reactor is under way. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters that a meltdown is “highly possible” at Daiichi’s Unit 1 reactor and briefed reporters on Daiichi’s Unit 3 reactor, “Because it’s inside the reactor, we cannot directly check it, but we are taking measures on the assumption of the possible partial meltdown.”

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