Fukushima 4 years on: Will it happen here?


For immediate release

Contact: Paul Gunter, 301.523.0201; Cindy Folkers, 240.354.4314; Kevin Kamps, 240.462.3216. 

Higher radiation doses could be ruled “acceptable” after nuclear power disaster

“Fukushima” in the U.S. an ever-present danger

TAKOMA PARK, MD, March 5, 2015 -- Four years after the March 11, 2011 nuclear catastrophe in Japan began, a Fukushima-style disaster could still happen in the U.S., say experts at Beyond Nuclear. And if it does, U.S. authorities could rule that affected populations be forced to accept higher “allowable” doses of radiation to make severe nuclear accidents appear tolerable.

All of Japan’s now 43 reactors remain closed since the disaster at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear site, while 22 reactors with the same controversial General Electric Mark I boiling water reactor design continue to operate in the U.S. out of a total of 99 units. An additional eight similarly controversial GE Mark II reactors also operate in the U.S.

Japanese authorities dramatically raised the allowable radiation dose limit for surrounding populations by twentyfold after the nuclear disaster struck, from 1 milliSievert/year to 20, the same dose considered permissible for nuclear plant workers in Germany. Beyond Nuclear is concerned that U.S. authorities could move similarly in the event of a nuclear disaster here.

“There is every reason to believe the Environmental Protection Agency could simply increase the ‘permissible’ dose of radiation as authorities did in Japan,” said Cindy Folkers, radiation and health specialist at Beyond Nuclear. "You just have to look at the EPA guidelines for state and local governments during a nuclear disaster to see that they are planning on allowing 5-20 times the radiation dose recommended internationally.

"The industry and government shouldn't be allowed to make a nuclear catastrophe appear more survivable than it is by inflating allowable radiation exposure levels, " Folkers continued.

“Exposing babies and pregnant women to the same radiation doses as those considered tolerable for nuclear workers would mean deliberately putting a huge percentage of the population in harm’s way simply to allow the nuclear industry to save face and money,” concluded Folkers. 

The potential for a U.S. nuclear power plant disaster on the scale of Fukushima remains ever-present.

“Fukushima was the convergence of a dangerous technology, a flawed design and a captured regulator whose luck ran out,” said Paul Gunter, Director of Reactor Oversight at Beyond Nuclear. Beyond Nuclear initiated an emergency petition in April 2011 signed by 10,000 co-petitioners, calling on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to suspend the operating licenses of the identical GE reactors here in the United States. 

“Unlike in Japan, where critical safety retrofits are now required before restart of any boiling water reactors, the NRC has dismissed increasing the identical safety margins and costs to keep financially fragile nuclear reactor operators in business,” he said.

Even permanently closed reactors still present a potentially catastrophic risk. “Highly radioactive irradiated fuel has to be stored in reactor pools for five years, even after a reactor ceases operations,” said Kevin Kamps, Radioactive Waste Specialist at Beyond Nuclear. “A pool fire could potentially release significantly more radioactivity than a reactor meltdown. A U.S. Fukushima is an ever-present danger until we shut all of our atomic reactors and transfer the irradiated nuclear fuel from vulnerable pools to Hardened On-Site Storage,” Kamps concluded.



Margene Bullcreek, leader of Skull Valley Goshute resistance to radioactive waste dump targeted at her community, has passed on

Margene Bullcreek. Photo by Gabriela Bulisova.It is with heavy hearts that we share the sad news that Margene Bullcreek passed on, on Sunday, March 1st, 2015. An In Memoriam has been issued by her colleague Ian Zabarte of the Native Community Action Council (NCAC), where Margene Bullcreek has long served as President.

As emphasized in a NIRS victory tribute, published in Sept., 2006, when the U.S. Department of the Interior effectively blocked the Private Fuel Storage, LLC high-level radioactive waste parking lot dump targeted at her community in Utah:

"The greatest commendations, of course, go to Margene Bullcreek and her organization Ohngo Gaudadeh Devia Awareness (OGDA)...". More.


NRC Commissioners to reveal votes on Nuke Waste Con Game Thursday, Feb. 25

Portrait of the current NRC Commission. Pictured from left to right: Commissioner Jeff Baran, Commissioner Kristine L. Svinicki, Chairman Stephan (sic) Burns and Commissioner William C. Ostendorff. (Please note, Chairman Burns' first named is correctly spelled Stephen. His first name is misspelled in the text, below this portrait, posted on NRC's homepage.)The four U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Commissioners (there is currently a vacant fifth seat on the Commission) have announced that they will hold an "Affirmation Session" on Thurs., Feb. 25th at 12:55pm Eastern, revealing their votes on a Petition to Suspend Licensing and Re-Licensing of Reactors. The session will be webcast via the NRC's website.

Last September, some three dozen groups, including Beyond Nuclear, filed the petition -- and parallel contentions, in 27 old reactor license extension, and proposed new reactor construction and operating license, proceedings. The environmental coalition legal action, taken by attorneys Diane Curran and Mindy Goldstein, was in response to NRC's finalization of the Continued Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage rule and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). (Terry Lodge of Toledo serves as legal counsel for Beyond Nuclear in several NRC licensing proceedings.)

The reason the coalition filed the Petition and contentions was that NRC, in its new Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel Rule (previously called "Nuclear Waste Confidence"), had failed to make the Atomic Energy Act-required safety findings that the agency had been making since the late 1970s. NRC suddenly dropped such legally required safety findings in the court-ordered, 2014 Rule.

The Rule and EIS were ordered by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in June, 2012, after a coalition of states, an Indian tribe, and the environmental groups challenged NRC's "Nuclear Waste Confidence" policy. If a majority of the NRC Commissioners vote to reject the Petition, and the contentions in these 27 licensing proceedings, the New York v. NRC coalition will very likely take this issue back to court. More.


Urge President Obama to oppose burial of TransCanada's radioactive wastes on Great Lakes shore!

Successul resistance to TransCanada's Keystone XL tar sands crude oil pipeline must now shift to fend off the dumping of TransCanada's radioactive wastes on the Great Lakes shore!

As reported by the Associated Press, on Feb. 24th, President Obama vetoed Senate Bill 1, which would have rushed the immediate construction of TransCanada Pipelines' Keystone XL tar sands crude oil pipeline. Our friends and colleagues at called for a rapid response action at the White House, at 5pm, just hours after the veto. As we have many times in the past -- on tar sands, fracking, and other environmental issues -- Beyond Nuclear answered the call, and stood in solidarity with our allies. We have also joined a unity statement with a large number of other groups, calling on President Obama to reject TransCanada's Keystone XL Pipeline once and for all.

Take action against another of TransCanada's dirty, dangerous and expensive scheme: the plan to bury radioactive waste on the Great Lakes shoreline! Urge President Obama to block this insane proposal!


Security guards sue Entergy for overtime pay at Palisades

NRC file photo of Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor on the Lake Michigan shoreline in southwest Michigan.As reported by Jim Hayden at the Holland Sentinel, nearly two dozen security guards and security department supervisors at the Palisades atomic reactor in Covert, MI (photo, left) have launched a legal action against Entergy Nuclear. They are demanding back overtime pay due them, but Entergy refuses to pay. Vermont Yankee atomic reactor security guards previously prevailed in a similar lawsuit against Entergy.

Although the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) claims the "chilled work environment" in Palisades' security guard department has been resolved, security guards themselves seem to think otherwise -- including their feeling that as soon as NRC enhanced oversight ends, Entergy will return to harassing guards who "make waves" (that is, do their jobs, and call attention to problems).