acceptable risk, aging nuclear reactors, Basel earthquake, BEIR, Beznau, cancer, dam failure, earthquake, Germany, Great Basel earthquake, ICRP, Leibstadt Nuclear Power, leukemia, MOX, nuclear energy, nuclear reactor, nuclear reactors, nuclear risk, oldest nuclear reactor, parliament, Radiation protection, Rhine, Swiss parliament, Switzerland, Zurich
Yesterday, the lower House of the Swiss parliament decided that Swiss nuclear reactors, including the oldest operating reactor in the world, can keep running until age 60 (See more below). Beznau, opened in 1969, is located only 38 km (24 miles) from Zurich and its bankers.
These nuclear reactors most likely are not even needed. Switzerland has well-developed hydro and biofuels, and good potential for solar and wind, especially at higher elevations. If the Swiss stopped overheating and instead heated to a healthier 15 to 20 C (60-68 F), they could probably shut down the nuclear reactors without even adding renewables. The more populous parts have a very mild climate, compared to many places.
Although not in the EU, Switzerland lies in the geographical heart of Europe. Based on fallout from Windscale and Chernobyl accidents, it is clear that a serious accident in Switzerland could contaminate most or all of Europe, depending on wind direction, which fluctuates in all directions, and on rainfall. The Alps may or may not offer some protection for those countries to the south.
Recall that Chernobyl had very serious contamination impacts on animals, especially in the UK and Scandinavia, but also in Germany and elsewhere, which have continued to the present day.
Schematic showing distance of Chernobyl to UK and a rough idea of the approximate distance if a similar accident occurred in Switzerland, with arrows representing possible variations in wind direction. A similar distance was impacted by the Windscale radioactive plume.
Swiss nuclear authorities have offered assurances that, in the event of an earthquake or flood related to earthquake, they can keep the population exposure at the legal limit of 100 mSv or less, opening up the population to cancer risk of 1 in 100. What do all of the rich people who live in Switzerland think of that?
In the event of an emergency, the ICRP “recommends” a maximum of 100 mSv of radiation exposure either acutely or per year, though the value is supposed to be 20-100mSv. The total maximum exposure which they recommend under normal circumstances is an already high 1 mSv. (See: ICRP-118, 2007) They fail to state where everyone is supposed to go after their one acute exposure or one year is up!
The Swiss authorities have apparently taken this to heart. The Swiss Nuclear Authority (IFSN) stated in 2012 that they concluded that the cooling of the reactor core and of the fuel pools would be guaranteed in the event of an earthquake or flood due to earthquake but they follow these two statements with “The legal limit of radiation dose of 100 mSv is clearly respected in the case of these incidents“. Thus, (they say) no criteria for prescribing their removal from service is met and so they stay in operation! However, even they questioned the safety of the Gösgen nuclear reactor.  http://www.ensi.ch/fr/2012/07/09/les-centrales-nucleaires-suisses-resistent-aux-seismes/
Excluding exposure from High LET alpha emitters such as plutonium, and including only external low-LET gamma radiation (or X-rays) the 100 mSv of ionizing radiation leads to solid cancer or leukemia in 1 out of 100 people, according to the US National Academy of Sciences BEIR VII risk model. This is for a one time dose. A summary report on the BEIR, by the pro-nuclear US DoD, DOE, and NRC, tries to muddy the water by a very misleading claim that 42 out of 100 will get cancer anyway from something else, and it’s only one more out of 100! They state:
“On average, …the BEIR VII lifetime risk model predicts that approximately one individual in 100 persons would be expected to develop cancer (solid cancer or leukemia) from a dose of 100 mSv… Lower doses would produce proportionally lower risks. For example, it is predicted that approximately one individual in 1000 would develop cancer from an exposure to 10 mSv… The report also provides estimates for cancers of several specific sites.” http://dels.nas.edu/resources/static-assets/materials-based-on-reports/reports-in-brief/beir_vii_final.pdf However, the population of the US and Europe is so exposed to historic and ongoing emissions of radionuclides, both low-LET and the more dangerous high-LET (excluded from BEIR), that this 42 out of 100 is probably caused by decades of cumulative exposure. This is what they strangely fail to take into account. Populations are exposed to ionizing radiation constantly – from historic fallout, waste, and legal and illegal nuclear leakages, not just once! Additionally, the ICRP’s 1 mSv exposure per year, over 100 years, gives 100 mSv. Of course, they don’t want us to see our 100th year.
As reported by Greenpeace Switzerland, on 8 December 2014 and translated by us:
“Energy Strategy 2050: A Nuclear Exit in Name Only”
“In the framework of discussions surrounding the 2050 Energy Strategy, the National Council failed at defining a clear plan to put an end to the activity of the Swiss Nuclear Reactors. Worse still: by renouncing the requirement for an increasing security for the reactors, the lower House of Parliament is allowing the development of an irresponsible nuclear experimentation on the backs of the population. It’s up to the Council of States to correct this direction.…” 
“At the conclusion of the parliamentary marathon concerning the 2050 Energy Strategy, the National Councillors voted today about the long-term operation [of the old nuclear reactors].
A motion, demanding a limitation on the length of service for the oldest nuclear reactors of 50 years of activity did not carry a majority. The reactors will not stop until after they are 60 years old. Thus, the operators of the nuclear reactors will be required to submit a concept plan for long term operation, which is to be renewed every 10 years, and to guarantee the maintenance of an elevated margin of security. The first version, which required a reenforcement of security wasn’t kept. This latter would have at least permitted forcing the operators to maintain sufficient [financial] reserves for safety-security work. The current version is nothing but a paper tiger.
Greenpeace Switzerland is very critical of this decision. The operators are receiving a blank check to continue operating their nuclear reactors for decades. “The Nuclear exit, as defined by the National Council, is only that in name,” said Florian Kasser, in charge of the nuclear campaign for Greenpeace Switzerland. Each day which passes, the Mühleberg and Beznau Nuclear reactors are becoming more dangerous. “It is absolutely irresponsible to not require strengthening safety in these conditions. Limiting the lifetime service to 60 years for the oldest [nuclear] installations is totally insufficient, as well.” Today, the National Council has knelt before the [interests of the] nuclear reactor operators.
One can only hope that the Council of States will take more seriously the need for the safety and security of the population. It is necessary, at the minimum, to put back the requirement for reenforcement of safety and security, making it the center of considerations of long-term operations.
Only a clear nuclear exit and the choice of an exact deadline for ending operations at the reactors of Beznau and Mühleberg, in the near future, permits the guarantee of protection of the population. If the Council of States shows itself as irresponsible as the National Council, it will be necessary for the people to require an increased protection against the nuclear danger.” French original found here: http://www.greenpeace.org/switzerland/fr/publications/actualites/energie/sortie-nucleaire-nom/
Not only Beznau 1 and 2 (identical PWR, 1969 and 1970) and Mühleberg (BWR power reactor, 1970), but also Gösgen (PWR, 1979) and Leibstadt (BWR) 1984 must ALL be shut. (See reactor map and info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Template:Switzerland_nuke_plant_map) All are old; all are dangerous.
THIS IS NOT JUST A SWISS ISSUE!
Most of Europe is still highly contaminated from fallout from nuclear weapons testing and/or the Chernobyl disaster, Windscale (Sellafield, UK) disaster, smaller accidents and ongoing leakage. Cesium 137 has gone through not even one half-life since Chernobyl. It is not the only radionuclide and fallout maps should serve as additional warning of other longer-lived radionuclides which may be there, and which aren’t tested for. If another nuclear disaster impacts Europe, then much, and perhaps all, will be rendered uninhabitable and above all the food not safe to eat. There will be new fallout upon old fallout. This is true of most of the European reactors, not just the Swiss ones. Of course, the food may be allowed under sky-high IAEA limits for radionuclides.
Or, they may have to raise them higher. A nuclear accident in Switzerland will easily contaminate most of Europe. Although the ICRP recommends exposure of one time or one year of 100 mSv, where is everyone supposed to go after that? And what will they eat? Watch out world! Here come the Europeans, along with Japan and? And, what about a growing world population and less and less agricultural land?
So, Switzerland is home to the world’s oldest operating Nuclear Power Plant, Beznau, opened in 1969, and located only 38 km (24 miles) from Zurich and its bankers. It is in a seismically active zone and has been fitted out to run on super dangerous MOX fuel. Majority French government owned Areva provided the MOX for Fukushima Reactor 3 and appears to provide it to Beznau too. Dangerous MOX is just what needs to be running in an elderly nuclear reactor like Beznau, which already has to be materially weakened due to old age, if you hope to rid the world of those nasty Swiss bankers – and a whole lot of other folk in Switzerland and Europe, depending on the direction of the foehn and bise winds. See: https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2014/06/28/mox-or-how-to-rid-the-world-of-swiss-bankers-once-and-for-all/ The seismic danger in northern Switzerland seems actually much greater than normally believed, the hazard is deceptively classed as low in some of these rural areas because of low population and hence for insurance purposes there is less risk.
Beznau and Leibstadt are about 60 km (36 mi) from Basel and would have an estimated intensity of VII, if an earthquake equivalent to the Great Basel Quake of 1356 were to reoccur. (A lesser known dangerous seismic zone occurs to the NE in Germany, see p.11 or Germany seismic map below)
From the document “Seismic Hazard Assessment of Switzerland, 2004:
“A map of all events known to have caused damage to buildings (macroseismic Intensities ≥ VI) is shown in Figure 5. Twelve of them reach an intensity of VIII or higher, causing severe damage. Destructive earthquakes of intensity IX or larger have occurred in the past, but their return periods exceed 1’000 years (Fäh et al., 2003; Meghraoui et al., 2001). The highest seismic activity is observed in the region of Basel and in the Wallis. Other regions of enhanced activity are central Switzerland, Graubünden, and the Rhine Valley of St. Gallen.”
“The earthquake that occurred on October 18, 1356 in the region of Basel is the strongest historically documented earthquake in central Europe. Macroseismic intensities reached IX in the city of Basel and the inferred magnitude is between 6.5 and 7. In addition to the damage caused by the earthquake itself, large parts of the city were destroyed by subsequent fires. Damage to buildings (intensity VI) was reported out to epicentral distances of several 100 km“. (p. 18)
The earthquake intensity estimated from the Great Basel earthquake.
From “Seismic Hazard Assessment of Switzerland, 2004“, November 2004 Swiss Seismological Service. The “work was supported by ETHZ, the Swiss Nuclear Safety Board (HSK), the Swiss National Foundation (SNF), Swissnuclear and by re-insurance and insurance broker companies (SwissRe, MünichRe, Benfield Greig).” http://www.seismo.ethz.ch/prod/haz_map/hazard_report (Emphasis added)
“In 1356, the Basel earthquake occurred in the Rhine Plain. It was perhaps the most destructive earthquake ever to have occurred in northwest Europe, destroying the city of Basel and flattening buildings as far as 200 km away. The epicentre of the most significant historic seismological event to have occurred in Central Europe, was located between Waldkirch and St. Peter in Breisgau-Hochschwarzwald. However, it remains disputed whether the fault that ruptured to cause this earthquake was indeed part of the Rhine Valley extensional system, or simply one of the many thrust faults that make up the Alps to the south. Doubts have been raised over the adequacy of the seismic evaluation and design of the Fessenheim Nuclear Power Plant, built in the Rhine Plain close to the faults.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhine_Graben
Locations exported to Google from Wikipedia
“On 18 October 1356, an earthquake with its epicentre between Waldkirch and St. Peter in Breisgau-Hochschwarzwald destroyed the city of Basel in Switzerland and killed at least 300 people there alone; there was widespread damage from the quake and its precursor and aftershocks, and the main quake, estimated at 6.2 to 6.5 Mw, was felt as far away as Paris. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earthquakes_in_Germany
The below map of Germany seems to show a much higher ground acceleration risk for the area than does p. 11 the (nuclear funded) Swiss document: http://www.seismo.ethz.ch/prod/haz_map/hazard_report
“Map of German earthquake areas. Showing the areas with following design ground accelerations after DIN EN 1998-1 NA (Germany).
Zone 3: a = 0.8 m/s²
Zone 2: a = 0.6 m/s²
Zone 1: a = 0.4 m/s²
Zone 0: a = – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Erdbebenzonen.png
Unfortunately this map doesn’t tell return period, so it theoretically cannot be compared. However, in the context of such high risk as posed by nuclear, it probably can. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earthquakes_in_Germany
Regarding Basel Quake see also: http://www.angewandte-geologie.ch/Dokumente/Archiv/Vol12_1/121_2Laubscher.pdf
Greenpeace states re Beznau and the possibility of earthquake and flooding, that it is not guaranteed that the aged components of the reactor are capable of resisting an earthquake. The hypotheses retained are founded on provisional data and scenarios, according to them: http://www.greenpeace.org/switzerland/Global/switzerland/fr/publications/energie/2014_Energie_Brochure_BeznauMuhleberg.pdf
The Swiss greens state that in the event of an earthquake or of flooding, restarting the cooling of the reactors is not guaranteed: “En cas de tremblement de terre ou d’inondation, la remise en route du refroidissement de ces centrales ne serait pas garantie.” http://www.gruene.ch/gruene/fr/positions/environnement/energie/le_nucleaire/communiques/sicherheitsmaengel_festgestellt.html
A question about the topic in Swiss parliament: http://www.parlament.ch/d/suche/seiten/geschaefte.aspx?gesch_id=20113098
 French original: “L’IFSN arrive à la conclusion que le refroidissement du coeur et le refroidissement des piscines de stockage d’éléments combustibles restent garantis sous l’effet d’un tremblement de terre. Ils sont aussi parés en cas de crue due à un séisme. La limite légale de dose de radioactivité de 100 millisievert est nettement respectée lors de ces incidents. Par-là, aucun critère de l’ordonnance de la mise hors service n’est atteint. Les centrales nucléaires peuvent ainsi rester en exploitation.”
“L’IFSN accepte les démonstrations des quatre centrales nucléaires suisses. La centrale nucléaire de Gösgen a cependant remis à l’IFSN en mars 2012 une démonstration de maîtrise des séismes en partie déficiente.” http://www.ensi.ch/fr/2012/07/09/les-centrales-nucleaires-suisses-resistent-aux-seismes/
 The Greenpeace original says (our English translation) “Otherwise, it will be up to the population to guarantee its own protection.”
How’s that supposed to work? Is Greenpeace suggesting widespread civil disobedience to shut the reactors? Or, perhaps, chasing the asylum seekers out of the nuclear bunkers which are being used to house them? Or, repurchasing mountain bunkers which have been sold off to the private sector? Even hiding in bunkers people have to eventually come out and the radiation doesn’t go away for decades, hundreds of years, an eternity, depending on the radionuclide.