Climate Change

Nuclear power is counterproductive to efforts to address climate change effectively and in time. Funding diverted to new nuclear power plants deprives real climate change solutions like solar, wind and geothermal energy of essential resources.



Ten foot sea level rise by 2100 would threaten coastal nuclear power plants

In an article entitled "Climate Seer James Hansen Issues His Direst Forecast Yet," Mark Hertsgaard has reported at the Daily Beast that "James Hansen’s new study explodes conventional goals of climate diplomacy and warns of 10 feet of sea level rise before 2100. The good news is, we can fix it."

Although the article lists nuclear power as a "non-carbon fuel," alongside solar, wind, and efficiency, as potential energy sources for averting climate catastrophe, it does not mention the famed NASA scientist's pro-nuclear advocacy. Hundreds of environmental groups have challenged Hansen's nuclear power advocacy as illogical and misinformed, while continuing to thank him for his essential work on climatology.

Along similar lines, IEER showed nearly a decade ago now that nuclear power is incapable of averting climate catastrophe, in its trailblazing 2006 book Insurmountable Risks by Dr. Brice Smith. IEER's president, Dr. Arjun Makhijani, followed up with a description of climate solutions, in his 2007 Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy.

Hansen's nuclear power advocacy also ignores the fact that nuclear power cannot operate safely in destabilized climatic conditions. For that matter, nuclear power has shown five times in 35 years that it can't operate safely in stable climate conditions (the meltdown at Three Mile Island in 1979, the explosion and fire at Chernobyl in 1986, and the meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi 1, 2, and 3 in 2011).

Ten foot sea level rise would not only flood major cities, as Hansen's study has warned. It would also flood many coastal nuclear power plants, threatening not only reactor operations, but also on-site radioactive waste storage (see U.S. reactors located along both coastlines on the map in the Beyond Nuclear pamphlet about "routine" radiation releases into surface waters).

Even if not directly inundated, such sea level rise would threaten nuclear power plants located at higher elevations, or further inland, with storm surges and other extreme weather coming off the oceans.

For more information on why nuclear power cannot operate safely in a destabliized climate, see Beyond Nuclear's "Climate Chaos and Nuclear Power" fact sheet, published in 2008.


Pope Francis does not see nuclear power as a solution to the climate crisis

In his 192-page ENCYCLICAL LETTER LAUDATO SI’ OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME, on the climatic and environmental crises afflicting planet Earth, published on June 18, 2015, Pope Francis did not list nuclear power as a solution. In fact, he cited the threats and risks created by nuclear power, as well as nuclear weapons, as referenced below.

Thanks to Tim Judson, Executive Director of Nuclear Information and Resource Service, for providing a prompt analysis of Pope Francis' encyclical, identifying the following excerpts, in order of relevance:

In the 184th paragraph, in Chapter Five, LINES OF APPROACH AND ACTION, under Section III, DIALOGUE AND TRANSPARENCY IN DECISION-MAKING, Pope Francis wrote: In the face of possible risks to the environment which may affect the common good now and in the future, decisions must be made “based on a comparison of the risks and benefits foreseen for the various possible alternatives”.[131] This is especially the case when a project may lead to a greater use of natural resources, higher levels of emission or discharge, an increase of refuse, or significant changes to the landscape, the habitats of protected species or public spaces. Some projects, if insufficiently studied, can profoundly affect the quality of life of an area due to very different factors such as unforeseen noise pollution, the shrinking of visual horizons, the loss of cultural values, or the effects of nuclear energy use. The culture of consumerism, which prioritizes short-term gain and private interest, can make it easy to rubber-stamp authorizations or to conceal information. (emphasis added)

In Chapter One, WHAT IS HAPPENING TO OUR COMMON HOME, appearing in Section I, on POLLUTION AND CLIMATE CHANGE, in a sub-section entitled "Pollution, waste and the throwaway culture," at the 21st paragraph, Pope Francis wrote: Account must also be taken of the pollution produced by residue, including dangerous waste present in different areas. Each year hundreds of millions of tons of waste are generated, much of it non-biodegradable, highly toxic and radioactive, from homes and businesses, from construction and demolition sites, from clinical, electronic and industrial sources. The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth. In many parts of the planet, the elderly lament that once beautiful landscapes are now covered with rubbish. Industrial waste and chemical products utilized in cities and agricultural areas can lead to bioaccumulation in the organisms of the local population, even when levels of toxins in those places are low. Frequently no measures are taken until after people’s health has been irreversibly affected. (emphasis added)

In the 104th paragraph, in Chapter Three, THE HUMAN ROOTS OF THE ECOLOGICAL CRISIS, Section I, TECHNOLOGY: CREATIVITY AND POWER, Pope Francis wrote: Yet it must also be recognized that nuclear energy, biotechnology, information technology, knowledge of our DNA, and many other abilities which we have acquired, have given us tremendous power. More precisely, they have given those with the knowledge, and especially the economic resources to use them, an impressive dominance over the whole of humanity and the entire world. Never has humanity had such power over itself, yet nothing ensures that it will be used wisely, particularly when we consider how it is currently being used. We need but think of the nuclear bombs dropped in the middle of the twentieth century, or the array of technology which Nazism, Communism and other totalitarian regimes have employed to kill millions of people, to say nothing of the increasingly deadly arsenal of weapons available for modern warfare. In whose hands does all this power lie, or will it eventually end up? It is extremely risky for a small part of humanity to have it. (emphasis added)

In the 3rd paragraph, in the introduction, in a sub-section entitled "Nothing in this world is indifferent to us," Pope Francis wrote: More than fifty years ago, with the world teetering on the brink of nuclear crisis, Pope Saint John XXIII wrote an Encyclical which not only rejected war but offered a proposal for peace. He addressed his message Pacem in Terris to the entire “Catholic world” and indeed “to all men and women of good will”. Now, faced as we are with global environmental deterioration, I wish to address every person living on this planet. In my Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I wrote to all the members of the Church with the aim of encouraging ongoing missionary renewal. In this Encyclical, I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home.

In the 57th paragraph, Pope Francis wrote: It is foreseeable that, once certain resources have been depleted, the scene will be set for new wars, albeit under the guise of noble claims. War always does grave harm to the environment and to the cultural riches of peoples, risks which are magnified when one considers nuclear arms and biological weapons. “Despite the international agreements which prohibit chemical, bacteriological and biological warfare, the fact is that laboratory research continues to develop new offensive weapons capable of altering the balance of nature”.[34] Politics must pay greater attention to foreseeing new conflicts and addressing the causes which can lead to them. But powerful financial interests prove most resistant to this effort, and political planning tends to lack breadth of vision. What would induce anyone, at this stage, to hold on to power only to be remembered for their inability to take action when it was urgent and necessary to do so? (emphasis added)

The concluding sentence of the 20th paragraph, in Chapter One, WHAT IS HAPPENING TO OUR COMMON HOME, Section I, POLLUTION AND CLIMATE CHANGE, seems directly relevant to the issue of nuclear power as a false solution to the climate crisis: Technology, which, linked to business interests, is presented as the only way of solving these problems, in fact proves incapable of seeing the mysterious network of relations between things and so sometimes solves one problem only to create others.


Entergy's Pilgrim atomic reactor has had a bad week

NRC file photo of Entergy's Pilgrim atomic reactor, a Fukushima twin-designOn Jan. 26th, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) slapped Entergy Pilgrim (photo, left) with two "White Findings" in the aftermath of four unplanned shutdowns in 2013, and Entergy's failure to properly carry out ordered follow up corrective actions. This means Pilgrim will remain on NRC's "degraded" performance short list of the worst (a.k.a. most risky) reactors in the country.

Pilgrim is identical in design and vintage to Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4 -- a General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor.

On Jan. 27th, Pilgrim bore the brunt of the "Juno" blizzard, and was forced to shut down shortly into the storm. As reported at NRC's website, a full week later, it remains shut down. NRC issued its PNOs (Preliminary Notifications of Occurrence) regarding this most recent unplanned shutdown on Jan. 28th (see the bottom two entries). Another, related, NRC PNO is dated Jan. 29th.

On Jan. 30th, Entergy Pilgrim got slammed again -- this time, by a letter from Pilgrim Watch's Mary Lampert, "PILGRIM WATCH COMMENT/QUESTIONS [re:] FLEX MOORING PLAN-LESSONS LEARNED FROM JUNO BLIZZARD." (See Attachment A.)

And on Feb. 2nd, the same day that NRC initiated its Special Inspection Team re: this most recent unplanned shutdown, Pilgrim Watch, joined by the Town of Duxbury Nuclear Advisory Committee, slammed Entergy Nuclear, as well as NRC, with a series of hard-hitting questions. They demand Pilgrim remain shut down until their questions are answered.


"PILGRIM STATION: Power stays on in most of Plymouth, but not at nuclear plant"

NRC file photo of Entergy's Pilgrim atomic reactor, located south of Boston on Cape Cod Bay. Plymouth, MA bore the brunt of winter storm "Juno," but Pilgrim was one of the only electric grid casualites.As reported by Wicked Local Plymouth, despite bearing the brunt of severe winter storm "Juno," about the only part of the electric grid that did not handle it well was Entergy Nuclear's Plymouth atomic reactor. Despite nuclear power industry claims of being reliable during the Polar Vortex of 2014, Pilgrim has been at 0% power now for several days, after its ties to the electric grid became dysfunctional due to ice and high winds. Tellingly, despite Pilgrim's disconnection from the electric grid, the lights remain almost entirely on in the greater Boston area.

Thus, Pilgrim's safety and cooling systems, circulating water through the hot core, are currently being run by emergency diesel generators currently, until connections to the primary, offsite electric grid can be restored. If this continues for many more days, a resupply of diesel fuel will be required, to keep the emergency generators operational.

Pilgrim's severe winter weather shut down comes immediately on top of a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) decision to increase inspections and oversight at the Fukushima Daiichi twin design and vintage atomic reactor (a General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor, that fired up in 1972), due to numerous unexpected shutdowns in the past many months and years.


NRC to send Special Inspection Team to Entergy's Pilgrim atomic reactor after snow storm shutdown

Ironically enough, NEI left this Tweet up for days after Pilgrim was shut down by snow storm "Juno"!As reported by the Boston Globe, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission will send a 4-5 person Special Inspection Team to Entergy Nuclear's Pilgrim atomic reactor next week, to investigate why snow storm "Juno" shut the plant down very early last Tuesday morning.

As of Friday evening, NRC's website is still showing Pilgrim at 0% power. Emergency diesel generators are running the plant's safety and cooling systems.

As reported by the Washington Examiner, NRC had warned before the snow storm, packing hurricane-force winds, that as many as 26 atomic reactors along the eastern seaboard, and further inland, could be forced to shut down.

For its part, the industry's lobbying and PR HQ, Nuclear Energy Institute, was bragging up nuclear power's reliability during severe winter weather. Ironically, it left it's Twitter ad (see above left) up for days after Pilgrim was forced to shut down in the face of the snow, ice, and wind storm's ferocity.