Tag Archives: Nuclear Plants

11/11/2011 Mystery Radiation Detected 'Across Europe'

11/11/2011 Mystery Radiation Detected ‘Across Europe’ by Lee Ferran: The hunt is on for the source of low level radiation detected in the atmosphere “across Europe” over the past weeks, nuclear officials said today. Trace amounts of iodine-131, a type of radiation created during the operation of nuclear reactors or in the detonation of a nuclear weapon, were detected as early as three weeks ago by Austrian authorities and then two weeks ago by the Czech Republic’s State Office for Nuclear Safety. Today the International Atomic Energy Agency released a statement revealing similar detections had been made “in other locations across Europe.”

The IAEA said the current levels of iodine-131 are far too low to warrant a public health risk, but the agency still does not know the origin of the apparent leak and an official with the agency would not say where else it has been detected. Considering iodine-131 has a radioactive decay half-life of about eight days, continued detection means the leak occurred over a period of several days at least and is possibly ongoing.

The IAEA said it does not believe the radiation was left over from the nuclear disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant in March and the Czech Republic’s State Office for Nuclear Safety said it was unlikely to have been caused by an incident at any nuclear plant’s core. A meltdown there, the Czech agency said, would have released several other radioactive isotopes in addition to iodine-131.

The IAEA has been unable to determine from which country the radiation is emanating, and both Czech and Austrian officials said it was unlikely their countries were the source. Austrian officials said in a statement that a study of the dispersal cloud indicated the radiation is most likely coming from somewhere in southeastern Europe.

In addition to nuclear plants, iodine-131 is used in many hospitals and by radiopharmacutical manufacturers as it can be used to help treat thyroid problems in small doses.

“Anywhere spent nuclear fuel is handled, there is a chance that… iodine-131 will escape into the environment,” the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says on its website.

6/13/2011 The Guardian: Italian referendum likely to dash Berlusconi's nuclear energy plans

The Guardian, June 13 2011 Italian referendum likely to dash Berlusconi’s nuclear energy plans  Prime minister dealt second political blow in less than two weeks as opponents succeed in getting turnout above 50% By John Hooper in Rom.   Silvio Berlusconi’s plans for a big nuclear construction programme and water privatisation look set to be dashed in four nationwide ballots. Silvio Berlusconi was heading on Monday for a second defeat in less than two weeks as his government admitted its opponents had succeeded in getting more than 50% of the electorate to vote in popular referendums including one on nuclear power.   The outcome of the four ballots, which will be known later on Monday, looked certain to dash the plans of Italy‘s embattled rightwing government for a big nuclear construction programme and water privatisation.

Berlusconi said: “We shall have to say good-bye to nuclear [energy].” He told a press conference in Rome that his government would now throw all its energy into developing renewable sources.

The expected outcome would be a huge success for the anti-nuclear movement in the world’s first nationwide vote on the issue since Japan’s Fukushima disaster. But the ballot was also the latest – and most persuasive – evidence that a majority of Italians has turned against their flamboyant prime minister.

Under Italian law, referendums require more than half the electorate to vote to be binding. The government did all it could to keep turnout low and appealed to the courts for the vote to be declared illegal. Italian television, largely under Berlusconi’s sway, almost ignored the approaching ballots until the final days of a poorly funded, low-profile campaign.

Yet the interior minister, Roberto Maroni, said his department’s projections indicated the opposition would reach its 50% target, regardless of the turnout among more than three million Italians overseas who are entitled to vote.

Berlusconi’s government, which yokes his Freedom People movement to the regionalist and Islamophobic Northern League, first ran into serious trouble on 30 May when his candidate for mayor of Milan lost in a local election runoff. Milan is Berlusconi’s home city and has traditionally been a weather-vane, accurately pointing to Italy’s future political direction.

Since then, many rank-and-file league supporters have been urging their leader, Umberto Bossi, to cut himself free of Berlusconi. The party leadership has so far remained wedded to the coalition while pressing for a radical change in economic policy that would deliver tax cuts to its lower middle-class electoral base.

Italy abandoned its nuclear programme following a similar referendum in 1987. But the moratorium it introduced only remained in force for five years. Berlusconi had planned to generate a quarter of Italy’s electricity with French-built nuclear plants.