Church Rock: the forgotten nuclear disaster 35 years ago

35 years ago on July 16, likely the worst and certainly most forgotten U.S. nuclear accident happened.

On July 16, 1979, just 14 weeks after the Three Mile Island reactor accident, and just 34 years to the day after the Trinity atomic test, the small community of Church Rock, New Mexico, became the scene of another nuclear tragedy.

Ninety million gallons of liquid radioactive waste, and eleven hundred tons of solid mill wastes, burst through a broken dam wall at the Church Rock uranium mill facility, creating a flood of deadly effluents that permanently contaminated the Rio Puerco river. For more on the disaster at Church Rock and the implications today, read Linda Gunter's 2009 Blog on the Daily Kos, "The best-kept nuclear secret." For more details, see also Killing our Own and Southwest Research and Information Center.


NRC Commissioner Magwood refuses to resign, recuse himself

NRC Commissioner William Magwood IVIn response to a demand made last month by attorneys Diane Curran and Mindy Goldstein on behalf of 34 groups, including Beyond Nuclear, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner (NRC) William Magwood IV (photo, left) has refused to resign from the Commission, and refused to retroactively recuse himself from all votes related to nuclear power safety.

The environmental coalition has argued that, over the past many months, Magwood's application, and acceptance of the offer, to become the Director-General of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) in Paris -- a nuclear power promotional institution -- has biased him in his role as a nuclear safety regulator. Magwood has indicated he will leave the NRC in September to begin his new job. But the coalition has demanded his immediate resignation, as well as his recusal on all safety-related votes dating back to his initial bid for the NEA directorship.

On June 25th, attorney Terry Lodge, on behalf of several groups (including Beyond Nuclear) intervening against the proposed Fermi 3 reactor in Michigan, likewise moved for Magwood to recuse himself from the adjudicatory proceeding (see motion, and affidavit). Attorney Wally Taylor of the Sierra Club Nuclear-Free Committee has done the same in a Fort Calhoun, Nebraska NRC proceeding. However, Magwood has also refused to recuse himself in these particular proceedings.

The environmental coalition is preparing its response to Magwood's intransigence.


Standing in solidarity against dirty, dangerous, and expensive energy

Photo by Beth KemlerBeyond Nuclear staff attended the rally in Washington D.C. on Sunday, July 13th against the Cove Point LNG (liquefied natural gas) expansion proposal, alongside organizing groups such as CCAN (Chesapeake Climate Action Network) and Public Citizen.

We've worked with them, and many other environmental group allies and concerned local residents, for the past many years, in order to successfully stop the Calvert Cliffs 3 proposed new reactor. Constellation Energy's Calvert Cliffs Units 1 & 2 (now owned by Exelon Nuclear), in Lusby, Maryland on the shoreline, are just a few miles from Dominion's Cove Point LNG terminal located out in the Chesapeake Bay. In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski warned about the security risks, due to the proximity of Calvert Cliffs to Cove Point.

Dominion also owns the North Anna nuclear power plant in Mineral, Virginia. Beyond Nuclear has worked with CCAN and other anti-fracking allies to oppose proposed new reactor units there, as well. We've also joined forces to successfully promote renewable alternatives, such as offshore wind power, in the Mid-Atlantic region.

As we've reported previously, the natural gas fracking wastes that would be generated in order to supply Cove Point's overseas export expansion are not only chemically toxic, but radioactive.

See CCAN's press release about the rally, including many colorful, powerful photos.

EcoWatch has reported on this issue. Mike Tidwell, CCAN's director, appeared NPR's Diane Rehm Show on July 15th.


6.8 earthquake in Japan and tsunami warning for Fukushima prefecture

A 6.8 M earthquake was registered at 4:22 Japan Standard Time, 84 miles off the coast of the shutdown Fukushima Dai-Ni nuclear power station (not to be confused with the wrecked and melted Fukushima Dai-ichi reactor site.) Fortunately the Dai-Ni reactors remain in cold shutdown. A Tsunami Alert was also posted. More.


ASLB, EPA, FWS agree: proposed new Fermi 3 reactor's transmission line subject to NEPA review

An Eastern Fox Snake, a threatened indigenous constrictor, but one of numerous endangered or threatened species that could well inhabit Fermi 3's proposed transmission line corridor.In a ruling issued on July 7th, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) panel, overseeing the combined Construction and Operating License Application (COLA) proceeding regarding the proposed new Fermi 3 atomic reactor, agreed with intervening environmental groups: NRC staff's Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) is incomplete. The ASLB panel has requested permission from the NRC Commissioners to undertake further sua sponte (Latin for "of their own accord") review of this National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) matter.

The environmental coalition has issued a press release. It quotes Beyond Nuclear's radioactive waste watchdog, Kevin Kamps:

“The hubris of the NRC staff in flouting environmental law is beyond belief, and unacceptable. It’s time for DTE to cancel Fermi 3, and move beyond nuclear, to efficiency and renewables, like wind and solar.”

The ASLB panel cites the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as also calling for NRC to undertake an EIS on the transmission line corridor. It also cites the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) as not concurring on the NRC FEIS, as it now stands, for lack of specificity on the transmission line's route, and lack of analysis on endangered and threatened species impacts. The ASLB panel also points out that protected archaeological sites, such as Native American burials, could be impacted by the transmission line.

The environmental coalition member groups, intervening against Fermi 3 since 2009, include: Beyond Nuclear, Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don’t Waste Michigan, and the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. The coalition is represented by Toledo-based attorney Terry Lodge.

DTE (formerly Detroit Edison) submitted a COLA to NRC in Sept. 2008 to build and operate Fermi 3 on the Lake Erie shore in southeastern Michigan. The coalition has opposed this at every twist and turn ever since.