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Civil Liberties

The construction and operation of dangerous nuclear reactors - and the infrastructure needed to support them - inevitably flout civil liberties. Most recently, the opportunities for public intervention against proposed new reactors have been severely curtailed, often leaving a window open largely after the project is a fait accompli.

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Monday
Mar102014

U.S. Nuclear Agency Hid Concerns, Hailed Safety Record as Fukushima Melted

The NRC didn't lie, but it also didn't tell the whole truth. This begs the question -- should a federal agency, financed with U.S. taxpayer dollars, be in the business of concealing the truth from and deceiving the American people and news media?

As reported by NBC News's Bill Dedman, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) Office of Public Affairs defended its own image, as well as that of the nuclear power industry, as its top priority during the first days of the fast-breaking Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe three years ago. As revealed by internal NRC emails obtained via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), NRC went so far as to attack Dedman's own reporting at the time, when he used a little known NRC report published in 2010 to rank the seismic risk at atomic reactors across the U.S. The confusion created by NRC's attack on Dedman's reporting dissuaded other news outlets, including the New York Times, from mentioning NRC's ranking of seismic risks -- of which Entergy Nuclear's twin reactor Indian Point nuclear power plant on the Hudson River near New York City had the worst ranking in the U.S. 21 million people live or work within 50 miles of Indian Point. In 2008, seismologists at Columbia University warned about previously unknown earthquake fault lines near Indian Point.

 

Thursday
Feb202014

Coalition files Petition to NRC to strengthen reactor license extension rules due to significant new revelations on radioactive waste risks

Environmental coalition attorney Diane CurranA Petition for Rulemaking was filed on Feb. 18th by Washington, D.C.-based attorney, Diane Curran (photo, left), as well as Mindy Goldstein of the Emory U. Turner Environmental Law Clinic, to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The Petition seeks to re-open the License Renewal GEIS (Generic Environmental Impact Statement), in order to consider new and significant information about irradiated nuclear fuel storage impacts that was generated by the NRC Staff during the Expedited Spent Fuel Transfer proceeding, carried out under NRC's Fukushima "Lessons Learned" activities. Curran and Goldstein filed the Petition on behalf of three dozen environmental groups, including Beyond Nuclear.

One of these risks newly recognized by NRC Staff is the contribution of high-level radioactive waste storage pool risks to reactor catastrophes, and vice versa.

NRC staff has also admitted that release into the environment of even a small fraction of the contents of a high-level radioactive waste storage pool could cause the long-term dislocation of more than 4 million people, and could render more than 9,000 square miles of land uninhabitable for long time periods. What would the socio-economic costs of such a catastrophe be? Don't people have the inalienable right to safety, health, and environmental protection?

The filing urges that no reactor license extensions be approved by NRC until the Petition for Rulemaking has been integrated into NRC's safety regulations.

The coalition has issued a press release.

Friday
Jan172014

Volunteers Crowdsource Radiation Monitoring to Map Potential Risk on Every Street in Japan

As reported by Democracy Now! on the Pacifica Radio Network:

Safecast is a network of volunteers who came together to map radiation levels throughout Japan after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster in 2011. They soon realized radiation readings varied widely, with some areas close to the disaster facing light contamination, depending on wind and geography, while others much further away showed higher readings. Safecast volunteers use Geiger counters and open-source software to measure the radiation, and then post the data online for anyone to access. Broadcasting from Tokyo, we are joined by Pieter Franken, co-founder of Safecast. "The first trip we made into Fukushima, it was an eye-opener. First of all, the radiation levels we encountered were way higher than what we had seen on television," Franken says. "We decided to focus on measuring every single street as our goal in Safecast, so for the last three years we have been doing that, and this month we are passing the 15 millionth location we have measured, and basically every street in Japan has been at least measured once, if not many, many more times."

The atomic reactors that melted down and exploded at Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4 were General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactors. The U.S. has 23 still-operating Mark Is, as well as 8 more very similarly designed Mark IIs.

Amy Goodman asks Pieter Franken how Japan's new State Secrets Act will impact the work of Safecast in Japan. Franken said it should not impact Safecast's work at all, as collecting such radioactivity contamination data is civil society's right. In fact, the government should be doing it, but is not. Even if the government were doing it, citizens should watchdog and verify the government's data.

Tuesday
Dec312013

Ken Gordon: Made his mark for those resisting Rocky Flats

LeRoy Moore, PhD., of the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center in Boulder, CO, has written the following memorial:

"Remembering Ken Gordon: Wins acquittal in court for those resisting Rocky Flats

On Sunday, December 28, former Colorado Senate Majority Leader Ken Gordon, a lawyer who was a Democrat, died at age 63 of an apparent heart attack. The last time I saw him was at a conference last year where I gave a presentation on Iran's nuclear program.

I met Ken shortly after the civil disobedience arrests made at the East Gate of Rocky Flats on Sunday, August 9, 1987. It was the anniversary of the bombing on Nagasaki. Rocky Flats was at the height of production, working, as I recall, around the clock seven days a week to produce new bombs. There was a big crowd, with about 300 arrests, delayed because many of those opposing Rocky Flats had chained themselves to the fence. Rocky Flats officials had closed the West Gate main entrance to the facility, forcing resistors to go to the more contaminated East Gate area. Soon that day radio announcers were telling Rocky Flats workers not to come to work, to take the day off. It was the only time that activists actually succeeded in closing the plant for a day.

Another memory from this occasion has to do with Ken Gordon. He volunteered to be the lawyer in court for one of the affinity groups of people being arrested. In court he presented the novel idea that the people he was defending (who, like all the others, had been arrested for trespass) had not violated the law but were there charging the operators of the Rocky Flats plant with violating the law. Specifically, they violated Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, wherein the U.S., and other nuclear weapons powers, agreed to work in good faith for the elimination of nuclear weapons. Ken was so compelling in his presentation that the judge actually allowed this defense to be made before the jury. The jury, on hearing the case, found the defendants not guilty as charged. To my knowledge, this was the only time a group charged with civil disobedience at Rocky Flats had the charge against them dismissed."

Saturday
Dec152012

Federal government whistleblower protections strengthened

Richard H. Perkins, top, and Lawrence Criscione, are risk analysts within the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. They are also whistleblowers who say the agency is not leveling with the public.As London Guardian readers elect U.S. whistleblower Bradley Manning as Person of the Year, there is more good news on the whistleblower front in the U.S. as well. As reported by Project on Government Oversight (POGO), the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act has been signed into law, after more than a decade of campaigning.

This comes just in the nick of time for two U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) whistleblowers, Richard H. Perkins and Lawrence Criscione (photos, left). The two NRC Staffers have warned, independently, that NRC has not only neglected, but even covered up, the risk of meltdowns at U.S. atomic reactors due to flooding caused by dam failures, as at the Oconee nuclear power plant in South Carolina. The Huffington Post has published a series of articles about this story (see the most recent one here).

NRC whistleblowers are very far and few between. One that Beyond Nuclear has had the honor and privilege of working with is Dr. Ross Landsman, who served at NRC Region 3 in Chicago before retiring in 2005. Landsman testified before Congress about the Midland, Michigan nuclear power plant in the 1980s, which helped stop those two reactors from ever operating (safety-critical buildings at the plant were sinking into the ground, like the Leaning Tower of Pisa). Beginning 20 years ago, Landsman also warned NRC about earthquake safety regulation violations with high-level radioactive waste storage at Palisades in Michigan, located as close as 100 yards from the waters of Lake Michigan, drinking water supply for 40 million people downstream in North America. The violations have never been addressed.

Landsman also warned about a soft-spot (due to concrete and rebar degradation) on the already too small, too weak containment building at Cook nuclear power plant in s.w. MI, a problem that has never been corrected.

Nuclear power industry whistleblowers, however, are still very vulnerable to harassment, intimidation, blacklisting, and worse. Oscar Shirani, a nationally renowned quality assurance auditor who worked for Commonwealth Edison/Exelon, was run out of the company and blacklisted by the U.S. nuclear power industry, after revealing major QA violations on the Holtec dry storage/transport cask systems for high-level radioactive waste, used at 33 U.S. reactors. Dr. Landsman supported Shirani's allegations, but the NRC and U.S. Department of Labor did not, hanging Shirani out to dry.