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Environmental Impacts

The entire nuclear fuel chain involves the release of radioactivity that contaminates the environment. Radiation can affect the air, water, soil, plants, animals, places of residence and recreation and elsewhere.

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Monday
Jun092014

Two dozen groups urge State of MA to divest from Entergy due to safety and economic risks at Pilgrim

NRC file photo of Entergy's Pilgrim GE BWR Mark I on Cape Cod Bay in Plymouth, MABeyond Nuclear has signed onto an effort spearheaded by the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, and endorsed by two dozen local groups, to urge the State of Massachusetts to divest more than $8 million invested in Entergy. The signatory groups cited the economic and safety risks associated with the nuclear utility's problem-plagued Pilgrim atomic reactor. A June 4th letter was sent to Governor Patrick and Treasurer Grossman, as described in a June 9th press release.

The letter cites Pilgrim's harmful impacts on the fisheries of Cape Cod Bay.

NRC recently placed Pilgrim on its "degraded" performance short list. The only other reactor in the country with a worse performance designation is FitzPatrick in upstate New York. Both Pilgrim and FitzPatrick are General Electric Mark I boiling water reactors, identical in design to Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4.

Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor in Michigan was similarly designated one of the worst performers in the U.S. a couple years ago, after not one but two near-misses in 2011, and yet another one in 2012, as documented by David Lochbaum at Union of Concerned Scientists.

A year ago, energy economist Mark Cooper of Vermont Law School identified Entergy's six merchant reactors (half its national fleet), including Pilgrim, as at risk of near-term shutdown. This is due to a variety of factors, including economic uncompetitiveness and needed, costly safety repairs. In August 2013, Cooper was proven right, when Entergy announced the permanent shutdown of Vermont Yankee (another Entergy GE BWR Mark I) by the end of 2014.

Friday
May092014

Entergy's Palisades spills 70 gallons of oil on the edge of Lake Michigan

NRC file photo of Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor, as well as the Great Lake and surrounding countryside it puts at riskDespite the industry's claim that nuclear power is "clean energy," Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor has just spilled "approximately 70 gallons" of oil onto the ground, adjacent to the waters of Lake Michigan. As a headwaters for the Great Lakes, Lake Michigan supplies drinking water to 40 million people in eight U.S. states, two Canadian provinces, and a large number of Native American First Nations.

The Kalamazoo Gazette has reported on this oil leak. This latest incident at Palisades was made public by an Event Notification posted at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's website.

The oil spill comes a year and two days after Palisades leaked 82.1 gallons of radioactive water directly into Lake Michigan. The radioactive spill prompted a protest vigil at Palisades' front entrace, organized by Beyond Nuclear and local concerned citizens' groups, after U.S. Congressman Fred Upton (R-MI), Chair of the powerful House Committee on Energy and Commerce (whose district "hosts" Palisades), as well as NRC Commissioner Svinicki, failed to even acknowledge requests for meetings after their hastily arranged emergency tour of the problem-plagued plant.

Palisades' oil spill also comes less than two months after British Petroleum spilled 1,638 gallons of Canadian tar sands crude oil into Lake Michigan at its refinery in Whiting, IN, and less than four years after the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history, upstream of Lake Michigan: 1.4 million gallons of Canadian tar sands crude, from Enbridge's Line 6B oil pipeline, into the Kalamazoo River at Marshall, MI. To protect irreplacable surface waters like Lake Michigan, Beyond Nuclear stands in solidarity with anti-dirty energy allies against oil pipelines.

The very title of a May 7, 2014 U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General report shows there is much to be concerned about: PHMSA's State Pipeline Safety Program Lacks Effective Management and Oversight. Before becoming PHMSA's Administrator, Cynthia L. Quaterman, she had represented oil companies, including Enbridge, as a legal counsel.

There were widespread calls for PHMSA Administrator Quaterman to block a permit for Bruce Nuclear to ship, by boat, radioactive steam generators on the Great Lakes, but she did not do so. However, it took Mohawk First Nation pledges to block the boats on the Saint Lawrence River before Bruce Nuclear stopped pushing the proposal.

Sunday
May042014

"A Rhetorical Outburst: Canadian ‘Experts’ Comfy with Radioactive Pollution of Great Lakes"

John LaForge of Nukewatch in Luck, WIJohn LaForge of Nukewatch Wisconsin has published an article at CounterPunch entitled "A Rhetorical Outburst: Canadian ‘Experts’ Comfy with Radioactive Pollution of Great Lakes."

It is John's response to an "expert report" done in support of Ontario Power Generation's (OPG) proposal to bury all of the province's so-called "low" and "intermediate" level radioactive wastes, from 20 reactors, less than a mile from the waters of Lake Huron. The dump would be immediately adjacent to OPG's Bruce Nuclear Generating Station, with eight operable atomic reactors, one of the single biggest nuclear power plants in the world.

40 million American, Canadian, and Native American First Nations residents drink from Great Lakes waters, which comprise more than 20% of the entire world's surface fresh water, and more than 90% of North America's.

John writes: "The ‘expert’ group’s report says it’s possible that as much as 1,000 cubic meters a year of water contaminated with radiation might leach from the dump, but calls such pollution 'highly improbable.' (Emphasis on 'predicted' and 'improbably' here: The US government’s 650-meter-deep Waste Isolation Pilot Project in New Mexico was predicted to contain radiation for 10,000 years. It failed badly on Feb. 14, after only 15.)"

In September 2013, John testified before the Canadian federal Joint Review Panel tasked with overseeing OPG's environmental assessment on OPG's proposed "Deep Geologic Repository," or DGR. (Critics have dubbed it the Deep Underground Dump, or DUD). He cited a 2008 OPG promotional brochure, which rhetorically asked “Will the [dump] contaminate the water?” then answered: “…even if the entire waste volume were to be dissolved into Lake Huron, the corresponding drinking water dose would be a factor of 100 below the regulatory criteria initially, and decreasing with time.”

This fatuous assertion prompted John to ask in his testimony: “Why would the government spend $1 billion on a dump when it is safe to throw all the radioactive waste in the water?”

As John writes, "Now, what I thought of then as a rhetorical outburst has become 'expert' opinion."

John and Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps will co-present "Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer," their annual workshop at the Midwest Renewable Energy Association fair held on summer solstice weekend in central WI.

Sunday
Apr202014

"Fukushima No. 1 boss admits plant doesn’t have complete control over water problems"

A photo showing a part of the ALPS system at Fukushima Daiichi, posted at Enformable.comAs reported by Reuters, although Japanese Prime Minister Abe said to International Olympic Committee dignitaries in Buenos Aires last September “Let me assure you the situation is under control” at Fukushima Daiichi, in his successful bid to secure the 2020 Summer Games for Tokyo, it appears he was mistaken.

“It’s embarrassing to admit, but there are certain parts of the site where we don’t have full control,” Akira Ono told reporters touring the plant last week.

Ono is TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi top manager.

He was referring to recent incidents, including TEPCO directly "203 tons [203,000 liters, or about 53,600 U.S. gallons] of highly radioactive water to the wrong building, flooding its basement. Tepco is also investigating a leak into the ground a few days earlier from a plastic container used to store rainwater. In February, a tank sprouted a 100-ton [100,000 liters, about 26,400 gallons] leak of radioactive water, the most serious incident since leaks sparked international alarm last year."

The ALPS (Advanced Liquid Processing System) was fabricated at Fukushima Daiichi by Toshiba with participation by Areva. It is designed to filter out some 60 radioactive substances from the constant flood of radioactive water at the site, including Cs-137 and Sr-90 contamination. However, apart from some test runs, ALPS has largely sat idle for the past two years. Just two days ago, "a ton [about 264 gallons] of radioactive water overflowed from a tank" in the ALPS system.

Thus, 440,000 tons [440,000,000 liters, or more than 116 million gallons] of highly radioactive water has accumulated in some 1,000 hastily built storage tanks, some of which have themselves failed, overflowed, or leaked, releasing large quantities of contamination into the soil, groundwater, and ocean.

Each week, TEPCO adds another two to three 1,000-ton [1,000,000 liters, or more than 264,000 gallons] storage tanks to deal with the non-stop deluge of radioactively contaminated cooling water needed to keep the melted cores in "cold shutdown," as well as the radioactive groundwater it mixes with in the basement levels of the shattered reactor buildings and damaged turbine halls.

Tuesday
Mar252014

Gundersen: Forever deadly radioactive waste, versus renewables

Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer, Fairewinds Associates, Inc.As Fairewinds Associates, Inc.'s Chief Engineer, Arnie Gundersen (photo, left), concluded his keynote presentation at the Beyond Nuclear/FOE/NEIS "Mountain of Radioactive Waste 70 Years High" conference in Chicago in Dec. 2012:

"What we're seeing is that the cost of solar is plummeting while nuclear is rising," Gundersen said, adding that he often hears the rebuttal that the sun doesn't shine day and night. "But if you believe that man can build a repository to store nuclear waste for a quarter of a million years, surely those same people can find a way to store electricity overnight." ---GAZETTENET.com, November 16, 2012

Gundersen serves as the expert witness for an environnental coalition (Beyond Nuclear, Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and Sierra Club, Ohio Chapter) that has challenged the risky, experimental steam generator replacements at Davis-Besse.

An overlapping coalition (including the Green Party of Ohio) has raised the radioactive waste dilemma and the renewables alternative as major arguments against the 20-year license extension at Davis-Besse.