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.



Crisis Without End: The Medical and Ecological Consequences of the Fukushima Nuclear Catastrophe

Dr. Helen Caldicott, Beyond Nuclear's Founding PresidentTeaching for Change Bookstore at Busboys and Poets welcomes Helen Caldicott, editor of the new book,

Crisis Without End: The Medical and Ecological Consequences of the Fukushima Nuclear Catastrophe

 introduced by Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014 

6:30 to 8:00 PM

Busboys and Poets - 14th & V, N.W., Washington, D.C.



Physicians for Social Responsibility 

Beyond Nuclear 

Teaching for Change 

Busboys and Poets


Beyond Nuclear's Cindy Folkers and Kevin Kamps presented at the 2013 symposium which led to this new book. Summaries of their presentations are included.


Coalition asserts Fermi 3 transmission corridor violates NEPA

Atomic reactors and their electrical transmission lines are inextricably interlinked, yet NRC staff has failed to undertake a NEPA review of the proposed new Fermi 3 transmission line corridor's environmental impacts.The environmental coalition intervening against the proposed new Fermi 3 reactor has re-asserted its nearly three-year old challenge, directly to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's five Commissioners themselves, that the inextricably interlinked transmission line corridor needed to export the electricity to the grid is still in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The coalition's Toledo-based attorney, Terry Lodge, filed a Petition for Review with the NRC Commissioners by their ordered deadline. The petition defends not only the contention's merit, but also its separation from the NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) panel's request to the Commissioners for permission to undertake a sua sponte review.

That is, the ASLB panel has requested permission to review, on its own initiative, the NRC staff's apparent violation of NEPA, by failing to undertake an Environmental Impact Statement review of the proposed new transmission corridor, which will past through forested wetlands, likely habitat to endangered and threatened species.

Detroit Edison (DTE) proposes to construct and operate a General Electric-Hitachi (GEH) so-called Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) -- "Unit 3" -- at the Fermi nuclear power plant in Frenchtown Township, on the Lake Erie shore in southeast Michigan. It would be located immediately adjacent to Fermi Unit 2, the world's single largest Fukushima Daiichi twin design (a GE Mark I BWR). Ironically enough, Fermi 3 would be build on the exact same spot where Fermi Unit 1, an experimental plutonium breeder reactor, suffered a partial core meltdown on Oct. 5, 1966, a near-catastrophe documented in John G. Fuller's book We Almost Lost Detroit (Reader's Digest Press, 1975).

The binational coalition intervening against Fermi 3's license includes Beyond Nuclear, Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination (CACC), Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario (CEA), Don't Waste Michigan, and the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. The coalition initially filed its intervention in March 2009, and has submitted dozens of contentions since.


Environmental groups oppose Fermi 2 license extension

NRC file photo of Fermi 2Multiple environmental groups have met an arbitrarily short, 11:59pm Eastern deadline, and officially intervened against the application by DTE (Detroit Edison) to extend the operating license at its Fermi 2 atomic reactor (photo, left) for an additional 20 years. Fermi 2's operating license is currently set to expire in 2025.

DTE's Fermi nuclear power plant, most infamous for the October 5, 1966 "We Almost Lost Detroit" partial meltdown of its Unit 1 experimental plutonium breeder reactor, is located on the Lake Erie shore of southeast Michigan, in Monroe County.

Beyond Nuclear has entered into coalition with Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, as well as Don't Waste Michigan, to file four contentions against Fermi 2's license extension.

Two of the contentions concern radioactive waste. The first is about the risk of catastrophic irradiated nuclear fuel storage pool fires. Fermi 2's storage pool holds around 600 tons of irradiated nuclear fuel, more than all four destroyed units at Fukushima Daiichi put together (419 tons). The second radioactive waste contention is about the lack of safety and environmental assurances, since the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) "Nuclear Waste Confidence" policy was declared null and void two years ago by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and NRC has not yet replaced it.

Another contention concerns the General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor, and its containment's, long-known, fatal design flaws. Fermi 2 is largest GE Mark I BWR in the world, almost as big as the melted down Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 and 2 reactor cores put together. 

The final contention is about the interconnected risks between the age-degraded Fermi 2, and the untested, proposed new Fermi 3 atomic reactor, including the vulnerability of both sharing a common off-site electricity transmission corridor.

The three groups, joined by Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, as well as the Sierra Club, Michigan Chapter, have also been intervening against the Fermi 3 proposed new reactor since March, 2009.

Both coalitions challenging Fermi 2, and Fermi 3, are represented by Toledo-based attorney Terry Lodge.

Citizens Resistance at Fermi Two (CRAFT) separately filed 14 contentions of its own against the Fermi 2 license extension. CRAFT released a press release.


What contribution do atomic reactors make to Lake Erie's toxic algae blooms?

Lake Erie's serious water quality decline -- including being clogged with toxic algae -- threatens drinking and irrigation water, fisheries, tourism, recreation, etc. Photo credit: Reuters.Half a million residents in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan have been warned not to drink their tap water -- nor even to boil it, which would make matters worse. The problem is a toxic, caused by a massive algae bloom just offshore in Lake Erie.

What's the cause? Certainly agricultural and yard run-off, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), human sewage and industrial pollution are major factors.

But what role do thermal-electric power plants play? Remarkably, two-thirds of the heat generated by burning coal or splitting atoms is waste heat.

Detroit Edison's Monroe Power Plant, at 3,000 Megawatts-electric one of North America's single-largest coal burners, is located on the Lake Erie shore in southeast Michigan. It lacks cooling towers. Thus, 6,000 MW-e of thermal pollution is discharged into the shallow (average depth, only 23 feet) Western Basin of Lake Erie.

There are a number of additional coal burners on the shoreline of Lake Erie's Western Basin, including ones lacking cooling towers.

What about atomic reactors? Detroit Edison's Fermi 2 atomic reactor, and FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company's Davis-Besse atomic reactor -- visible with the naked eye, one from the other, 30-miles across Lake Erie -- both have cooling towers.

Even though their usage of Lake Erie water is decreased by orders of magnitude, and their discharge of thermal pollution into the lake is also diminished, as compared to not having cooling towers, it is still large. And some of the water used in the cooling towers is lost as steam, which blows out of the Great Lakes watershed on the wind. Thus, some part of Lake Erie's volume is evaporated, compliments of atom splitting. The already shallow Lake Erie is made that much more shallow, concentrating heat and nutrients that help toxic algae flourish.

Five years ago, a coalition of environmental groups, including Beyond Nuclear, made just such a contention in their multi-faceted challenge to Detroit Edison's proposed new Fermi 3 atomic reactor. However, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) quickly dismissed the challenge.

Thus, the answer to the question "What contribution do atomic reactors make to Lake Erie's toxic algae blooms?" remains unaddressed, compliments of the deep disinterest of Detroit Edison, NRC staff, and the ASLB.

One good thing that did come of the environmental coalition's contention, however, was it forced Detroit Edison to address the phosphorus pollution into Lake Erie that would have resulted from its Fermi 3 cooling systems. Detroit Edison has supposedly made plans to curtail phoshorus discharges from the proposed new Fermi 3 reactor.

The environmental coalition, more than five years into the fight against Fermi 3, now faces the threat of a 20-year license extension at Fermi 2. Fermi 2 is the largest Fukushima Daiichi twin design in the world. Fermi 2's 1,122 MW-e General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor is nearly as big in size as Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1 and 2's GE Mark I BWRs put together. The coalition, including Beyond Nuclear, represented by Toledo-based attorney Terry Lodge, will file a petition to intervene, and contentions, opposing Fermi 2's bid for 20 additional years of operations by NRC's arbitrarily short August 18th deadline.


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.