Three Mile Island weather

Wind speeds in Harrisburg, PA on Wednesday, March 28, 1979, the day of the Three Mile Island disaster:

Wind Speed 8 mph (SSE)
Max Wind Speed 17 mph
Max Gust Speed
Visibility 15 miles

Averages throughout the day:

Charts and Weather History Graph from WeatherUnderground.

In depth research can be found here, in the article entitled “The meteorological setting of the ‘TMI-2’ nuclear accident on 28 March 1979,” by Reinhold Steinacker and Ignaz Vergeiner, of the Departments of Meteorology and Geophysics at the University of Vienna and the University of Innsbruck, respectively:

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Public Benefits Fund

PROGRAM TYPE:   Public Benefits Fund
PROVIDER :  Xcel Energy

Xcel Energy’s Renewable Development Fund (RDF) was created in 1999 pursuant to the 1994 Radioactive Waste Management Facility Authorization Law (Minn. Stat. § 116C.779). Originally, Xcel Energy was required to donate to the fund $500,000 annually for each dry cask containing spent nuclear fuel being stored at the Prairie Island nuclear power plant, amounting to about $9 million annually. Subsequent legislation, enacted in May 2003, extended nuclear-waste storage at Xcel Energy’s Prairie Island plant and increased the amount Xcel must pay toward the development of renewable-energy resources to $16 million annually for as long as the utility’s Prairie Island nuclear plant is in operation and $7.5 million for each year the plant is not in operation. This payment rate is in effect until there are 32 casks stored at the plant (scheduled to happen in 2012). Legislation passed in 2010 (S.F. 3275) will go into effect at this time, which requires Xcel to contribute $500,000 per cask annually. The current schedule for casks storage is:

2011: 27-29 casks
2012: 30-32 casks
2013: 33-35 casks
2014: 36-38 casks
2016: 39-41 casks
2017: 42-44 casks
2019: 45-47 casks
In May 2007, S.F. 2096 amended Minn. Stat. § 116C.779 after Xcel petitioned the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to begin dry cask storage at Monticello, a second nuclear power plant. Under this legislation, Xcel is required to contribute $350,000 towards the fund for each dry cask storage device containing spent fuel at the Monticello plant for as long as the plant remains in operation and $5.25 million annually for each year the plant is not in operation. Xcel’s petition for dry cask storage at Monticello (which continues to operate) has been approved according to the following schedule:

2008: 10 casks
2013: 20 casks
2016: 30 casks

Therefore, Xcel’s annual contribution to the RDF was increased from $16 million to $19.5 million during 2008 and will increase again to appoximately $24.5 million in 2013 and $26 million in 2014.

Up to $10.9 million annually must be allocated to support renewable energy production incentives through January 1, 2021. Of this amount, $9.4 million supports production incentives for electricity generated by wind-energy systems. The balance of the $10.9 million sum (up to $1.5 million annually) may be used for production incentives for on-farm biogas recovery facilities, hydroelectric facilities, or for production incentives for other renewables. Unspent portions of this allocation from any calendar year may be used for other purposes allowed under this fund (see Funding Allocation section).

In addition to the $10.9 million annual allocation for renewable energy production incentives, 2009 Minnesota legislation required Xcel to send an additional $5 million annually to fund a grant for the University of Minnesota’s [ University of Minnesota’s Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE)]. However, this section of law was suspended in 2011, then in April 2012 by S.F. 2181.

Funding Allocation

Funds in the RDF account may only be used for the following purposes:

  • To increase the market penetration of renewable electric energy resources in Minnesota at reasonable costs
  • To promote the start-up, expansion, and attraction of renewable electric energy projects and companies within Minnesota
  • To stimulate in-state research and development into renewable electric energy technologies
  • To develop near-commercial and demonstration scale renewable electric projects or near-commercial and demonstration scale electric infrastructure delivery projects if those delivery projects enhance the delivery of renewable electric energy

Preference must be given to development of renewable-energy projects located in Minnesota, but a small number of projects located in other states have been funded. Renewable energy technologies eligible for funding typically include wind, biomass, solar, hydro and fuel cells. Funding is generally split between new development projects that result in the production of renewable energy, and research and development. Expenditures from the RDF may only be made after approval by order of the PUC upon a petition by the public utility.

Project Selection and Examples
The RDF is administered by the Renewable Development Board, which originally consisted of two representatives from Minnesota’s environmental community, one representative from the Prairie Island Indian Community, and two representatives of Xcel Energy’s ratepayers, one representing commercial/industrial customers and one representing residential customers. However, S.F. 2181 specifies that Xcel is only required to include ratepayer representatives on the board, but may include other parties. Awards have historically been given to projects supporting the research and development of new renewable energy sources and energy production for wind, biomass, solar, hydropower, biofuels and coal gasification. Examples of the number of projects and total awards for each of the four RDF funding cycles are listed below.

  • First Funding Cycle (2001): 19 renewable energy projects awarded nearly $16 million in funding
  • Second Funding Cycle (2005): 29 renewable energy projects awarded nearly $37 million
  • Third Funding Cycle (2007): 22 renewable energy projects awarded nearly $23 million
  • Fourth Funding Cycle (2013): Applications were due April 1, 2013.

Xcel must submit an annual report to the legislature by February 15 describing the projects funded by the RDF. In addition, the projects receiving funds from the RDF must supply a written report detailing the project’s financial, environmental, and other benefits.




Posted in Energy, Issues, Monitoring, Nuclear, Other Power Plants, Performance Evaluation, Prairie Island Nuclear Power Plant, US Nuclear Power Plants, Xcel Energy | Leave a comment

As the Fukashima plant leaks radioactive fluid, Japan’s nuclear agency upgrades the alert level

From the BBC, August 21, 2013.

Japan’s nuclear agency has upgraded the severity level of a radioactive water leak at the Fukushima plant from one to three on an international scale.

Highly radioactive water was found to be leaking from a storage tank into the ground at the plant on Monday. It was first classified as a level one incident on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (Ines). But Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority proposes elevating it to level three on the seven-point scale.

Japanese reports say it is a provisional move that had to be confirmed with the IAEA, the UN’s nuclear agency. This week is the first time that Japan has declared an event on the Ines scale since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The move was announced in a document on the agency’s website and was subsequently approved at a weekly meeting of the regulatory body. Shares of plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) fell as much as 13% to 537 yen as investors worried about the impact of the development.

The March 2011 tsunami knocked out cooling systems to the reactors at the plant, three of which melted down. Water is now being pumped in to cool the reactors but this means that a large amount of contaminated water has to be stored on site.

There have been leaks of water in the past but this one is being seen as the most serious to date, because of the volume – 300 tonnes of radioactive water, according to Tepco – and high levels of radioactivity in the water. A puddle of the contaminated water was emitting 100 millisieverts an hour of radiation, Kyodo news agency said earlier this week.

Masayuki Ono, general manager of Tepco, told Reuters news agency: “One hundred millisieverts per hour is equivalent to the limit for accumulated exposure over five years for nuclear workers; so it can be said that we found a radiation level strong enough to give someone a five-year dose of radiation within one hour.”

Teams of workers at the plant have surrounded the leaking tank with sandbags and have been attempting to suck up large puddles of radioactive water. But, reports the BBC’s Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Tokyo, it is a difficult and dangerous job. The water is so radioactive that teams must be constantly rotated and it is clear that most of the toxic water has already disappeared into the ground.

Under the Ines, events have seven categories starting with Level 0 (“without safety significance”) and Levels 1-3 denoting “incidents” while Levels 4-7 denote “accidents”. The triple meltdown at Fukushima two years ago was classed as a level 7 incident.

Leak discovered at the Fukushima nuclear plant

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68th Anniversary of the Bombing of Nagasaki

 Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012.  A woman and a boy pray next to lanterns along a river, paying tribute to the victims of the atomic bombing in Nagasaki, Japan.

Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012. A woman and a boy pray next to lanterns along a river, paying tribute to the victims of the atomic bombing in Nagasaki, Japan on August 9, 1945. Photo by the Associated Press.

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August 6th, 1945 – mushroom cloud over Hiroshima

August 6th, 1945 - mushroom cloud over Hiroshima

August 6th, 1945 – mushroom cloud over Hiroshima. Follow this link for an August 6, 2013 AP video of the city of Hiroshima, commemorating 68 years since the world’s first atomic bomb on a civilian target.

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Anniversary of the Hiroshima Bombing

On this day in 1945 the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. It was the first time that a nuclear weapon was ever used in warfare, and the second time that a nuclear weapon had ever been exploded. “Little Boy” was dropped over Hiroshima at 8:15 in the morning. It exploded 1,900 feet above the ground. Captain Robert Lewis watched the explosion from his cockpit and wrote in his journal, “My God, what have we done?” Three days later, on August 9, American airmen dropped the atomic bomb nicknamed “Fat Man” on the city of Nagasaki.

Hundreds of thousands of people died, with roughly half the deaths in each city occurring on the day of explosion.

President Harry S. Truman, on the day the second bomb was dropped (August 9): “I realize the tragic significance of the atomic bomb…It is an awful responsibility which has come to us…We thank God that it has come to us, instead of to our enemies; and we pray that He may guide us to use it in His ways and for His purposes.”

There were plans for successive atomic attacks on Japan; two more Fat Man assemblies were readied; Robert Bacher was packaging the third core of plutonium when he received word that the shipment was suspended.

On August 14, Emperor Hirohito recorded his capitulation announcement which was broadcast to the Japanese nation the following day:

“…Moreover, the enemy now possesses a new and terrible weapon with the power to destroy many innocent lives and do incalculable damage. Should we continue to fight, not only would it result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization. Such being the case, how are We to save the millions of Our subjects, or to atone Ourselves before the hallowed spirits of Our Imperial Ancestors? This is the reason why We have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the Joint Declaration of the Powers.”

Hiroshima before the bombing.

Hiroshima before the bombing.

Hiroshima after the bombing.

Hiroshima after the bombing.

Nagasaki, before and after the bombing.

Nagasaki, before and after the bombing.

Posted in Aerial, Hiroshima, Image, Nagasaki, Nuclear, Nuclear Bombs, Nuclear Weapons Factory, Photos, Plutonium, Radiation History, Radioactive | Leave a comment

Today in 1945, Albuquerque, New Mexico

It was on this day in 1945 that the first atomic bomb was exploded at 5:30 a.m., 120 miles south of Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was the end result of the Manhattan Project, which had started in 1939. The bomb contained a ball of plutonium about the size of a baseball, surrounded by a ring of uranium and a series of detonators.

One of the physicists who was there that day said: “We were lying there, very tense, in the early dawn, and there were just a few streaks of gold in the east; you could see your neighbor very dimly. … Suddenly, there was an enormous flash of light, the brightest light I have ever seen … it bored its way right through you. It was a vision which was seen with more than the eye. It was seen to last forever. … There was an enormous ball of fire which grew and grew and it rolled as it grew; it went up into the air, in yellow flashes and into scarlet and green. It looked menacing. It seemed to come toward one.”

(From the Writer’s Almanac)

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Revisiting Chernobyl — BBC Photoessay

pripyat concert hall, chernobyl

Pripyat’s abandoned concert hall.  Twenty seven years ago on this day, April 26, the disaster at Chernobyl was just beginning.  Photos by Ric Wright, posted on the BBC on April 25, 2013.

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Inside Fukushima Two Years Later — Still One of the Most Contaminated Places on Earth

BBC News report by Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, March 11, 2013:

It would be reassuring to think that the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl is contained, and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is in stable shut-down.

Unfortunately a look inside the Fukushima plant suggests otherwise.

I was part of a group taken in to the Fukushima plant last week, only the second time foreign TV journalists have been allowed in since the disaster two year ago. Very little that we saw in our brief two-hour tour was reassuring.

Our first stop was reactor building number four. This place was potentially the most worrying.

Inside the shattered building, more than 1,500 spent fuel rods were still sitting inside a cooling pool. They were still highly radioactive and the pool was outside the reactor’s steel and concrete containment vessel, perched high on the third floor.

A race is now on to get the fuel rods out. A huge steel structure is being erected around building four that will be used to raise the spent fuel out.

But that operation will not start until the end of this year, and will then take two more years to complete. If another large earthquake strikes during that time there is real concern the building could collapse.

Tepco, the company that runs the plant, told us the building was now strong enough to withstand another quake. But contractors who have worked inside building four have reported that the structure is still extremely fragile.

Reactor number four was only the tip of a radioactive iceberg. Two hundred meters away I could clearly see the twisted and rusting steel of reactor building number three.

Two years after the disaster it was still virtually untouched. The reason was simple. The radiation at reactor three was so high workers could not safely go near it.

Our bus rushed past without stopping. The Geiger counter reading was over 1,000 micro sieverts an hour. That is roughly the same as ten chest X-rays every hour, or a full CT scan every ten hours.

Like reactor four, reactor three had spent fuel rods sitting inside a cooling pool beneath the twisted steel and rubble. Remotely-operated cranes are being used to try and pull away the debris, but it is a painfully slow process.

Tepco’s other huge problem is contaminated water, tens of thousands of tonnes of it.

The 9.0 earthquake that struck two years ago appears to have severely damaged the foundations of the plant – creating large cracks in the underground walls that are supposed to keep the plant water tight.

Ground and seawater is now leaking through the cracks in to the basements around the reactors.

The water rapidly becomes highly contaminated and cannot be pumped out into the sea. Instead Tepco is building huge 1,000 tonne water tanks to store the contaminated water.

The Fukushima sight is now dotted with hundreds of them. But the water leakage is so severe that they are having to add a new tank every two to three days. Within two years they will have run out of room.

At the end of our tour we were given 10 minutes with the plant manager, Takeshi Takahashi. Mr Takahashi looked exhausted, dark rings around his eyes.

After a long apology for the “inconvenience” caused by the nuclear disaster, Mr Takahashi explained just how long and difficult the clean up would be.

“We need to remove the broken and damaged fuel and safely isolate it. This work will take 30 to 40 years. Even during the process we should never release any radioactive material into the surrounding environment.”

It would be easy for an outsider like me to criticise him: why were they not working faster? Why did they still not know what was going on inside the melted-down reactors?

But the truth is no-one would wish a job like Mr Takahashi’s on their worst enemy. No one has ever dealt with a situation like this before. He and his 3,000 staff are venturing in to completely uncharted territory.

And, according to most observers, they are, after a poor start, doing most things right.

But the scale of their task is daunting, and it will decades before anyone can truly say the Fukushima disaster is over, and the threat from the plant contained.

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Japan to Restart Nuclear Plants with Tougher Safety Guidelines

NY Times, February 28, 2013. Martin Frackler, Hiroko Tabuchi, and Matthew L. Wald.


All of Japan’s 50 operable nuclear reactors were shut down following the March 2011 triple meltdown, which spewed radiation across northern Japan after a huge earthquake and tsunami knocked out vital cooling systems. Two were later restarted as an emergency measure to avert power shortages in the heavily populated region that includes the cities of Osaka and Kyoto.

Leaders from the previous Democratic Party government had vowed to slowly phase out nuclear power by the 2030s in favor of cleaner alternatives like solar and wind power. But Mr. Abe, who took power after his Liberal Democratic Party won national elections in December on a platform of economic revitalization, said the phaseout would keep Japan from the cheap electricity it needs to compete economically.


TOKYO — Japan will begin restarting its idled nuclear plants after new safety guidelines are in place later this year, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday, moving to ensure a stable energy supply despite public safety concerns after the Fukushima disaster.

In a speech to Parliament, Mr. Abe pledged to restart nuclear plants that pass the tougher guidelines, which are expected to be adopted by a new independent watchdog agency, the Nuclear Regulation Authority, as early as July. He did not specify when any of the reactors might resume operation, and news reports have suggested that it might take months or even years to make the expensive upgrades needed to meet the new safety standards.

Still, by making the promise in front of the Diet, Mr. Abe indicated in the strongest way yet that he planned to move ahead with a campaign pledge to reverse his predecessor’s hopes that Japan would begin weaning itself off nuclear energy.

The speech came as the World Health Organization published a comprehensive, two-year analysis on the health risks associated with the 2011 disaster suggesting that the chance of getting certain types of cancers had increased slightly among children exposed to the highest doses of radioactivity. But the report said that there would most likely be no observable increase in cancer rates in the wider Japanese population.

The study’s authors warned, however, that their assessment was based on limited scientific knowledge; much of the data on health effects from radiation is based on acute exposures like those that followed the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and not chronic, low-level exposure. Near the Fukushima plant, some densely populated areas are expected to remain contaminated with relatively low levels of radioactive materials for decades.

The government’s initial reaction to the report — saying it overestimated the risks by failing to fully take into account government evacuations of citizens — suggested that officials did not see it as a help for Mr. Abe’s plans. Antinuclear sentiments in Japan are now strong, and the results could feed fears of any increased risks.

The question of when, and whether, to restart the plants has dogged the country for two years, as politicians and ordinary Japanese try to balance their fears of a moribund economy when oil and gas costs have already hurt the balance of trade and worries over another environmental crisis, especially if the industry is not well regulated.

Lax regulation and a cozy relationship between the nuclear industry and the government helped make Japan vulnerable to the Fukushima accident, the world’s second-worst nuclear plant disaster.

All of Japan’s 50 operable nuclear reactors were shut down following the March 2011 triple meltdown, which spewed radiation across northern Japan after a huge earthquake and tsunami knocked out vital cooling systems. Two were later restarted as an emergency measure to avert power shortages in the heavily populated region that includes the cities of Osaka and Kyoto.

Leaders from the previous Democratic Party government had vowed to slowly phase out nuclear power by the 2030s in favor of cleaner alternatives like solar and wind power. But Mr. Abe, who took power after his Liberal Democratic Party won national elections in December on a platform of economic revitalization, said the phaseout would keep Japan from the cheap electricity it needs to compete economically.

On Thursday, Mr. Abe said that Japan had learned the need for tougher safety standards, and he said the new standards would be enforced “without compromise.”

Mr. Abe also said Japan would continue seeking energy alternatives to reduce its dependence on nuclear power.

In January, the new nuclear agency released a list of its proposed safety regulations, which include higher walls to protect against tsunamis, additional backup power sources for the cooling systems and construction of specially hardened earthquake-proof command centers. The rules surprised many for their toughness, though skeptics worry that industry supporters in the government will manage to get around the regulations.

According to a report by the newspaper Asahi Shimbun, none of Japan’s 16 undamaged commercial nuclear plants would pass the new standards. The agency has said the new guidelines will be finalized and put in place by July 18.

The W.H.O. study focused on cancer incidence, not deaths, and some of the cancers listed are serious but have good rates of survival.

According to the study, girls exposed as infants to radioactivity in the most contaminated regions of Fukushima Prefecture faced a 70 percent higher risk of developing thyroid cancer than would be expected normally. The report pointed out, however, that the normal risk of thyroid cancer was just 0.75 percent, and that the additional lifetime risk would raise that to 1.25 percent.

Girls exposed to radioactivity as infants in the most heavily contaminated areas also had a 6 percent higher risk of developing breast cancer, and a 4 percent higher risk of developing cancers that cause tumors. Meanwhile, boys exposed as infants had a 7 percent higher chance of developing leukemia.

The study also said that about a third of the emergency workers who remained to try to stabilize the Fukushima Daiichi plant were estimated to have a slightly increased risk of developing leukemia, thyroid cancer and other types of cancer.

The analysis was based on data available as of September 2011, and takes into account airborne contamination as well as contaminated food, water and other sources of contamination, the WH.O. said.

Some local government officials in Fukushima criticized the report for identifying specific areas and their associated exposure estimates. Radiation exposure is a sensitive topic in Japan, where victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings often experienced discrimination in marriage, for example, because of feared health effects.

“I feel extreme anger over this excessive analysis, which will plunge more residents into fear,” Mayor Norio Kanno of Iitate Village, told N.H.K. Iitate was one of the areas identified in the W.H.O. report as heavily contaminated. Villagers there are among tens of thousands of evacuees who have not been able to return home.

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