FOE blasts San Onofre for deceptive shortcuts on safety, NRC for turning blind eye; demands full public hearings on license amendment re: defective steam generators

NRC file photo of San Onofre Units 2 & 3 on the Pacific Coast in San Clemente, CAFriends of the Earth (FOE) today unveiled a legal challenge against any premature restart of the currently shut down San Onofre nuclear power plant. FOE has provided a summary of its legal intervention. Its full petition is also posted online. Nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen has provided an expert declaration supporting FOE's petition. FOE's motion seeking a stay on San Onofre's restart is also posted.

As reported by the L.A. Times, FOE "...filed a legal petition with the NRC on Monday asking the agency to launch a full license amendment process, including a trial-like public hearing, to review the design changes in the new steam generators...Arnie Gundersen, a consultant for Friends of the Earth, has argued that Edison did not report all of the significant design changes to the NRC and that the NRC allowed the steam generator replacement to go through a streamlined review when it should have gotten more extensive scrutiny."

In a media release, Damon Moglen, FOE's climate and energy director stated: “The crisis at San Onofre is the result of a perfect storm of error. On the one hand, Edison made significant design changes without seeking an amendment to its license as required by NRC regulations; on the other hand, the NRC appears to have been asleep at the regulatory wheel. The result was the failure of critical equipment that could endanger the lives and livelihoods of millions of Southern Californians, and leaves California ratepayers stuck with the bill for hundreds of millions of dollars worth of defective technology.”

FOE has accused San Onofre's owners of misleadingly claiming the replacement of steam generators at its two reactors was "like for like," thereby sidestepping a detailed NRC oversight review, as well as public hearings on a license amendment. In truth, San Onofre's defective replacement steam generators are very unlike the old, degraded ones they replaced, even NRC's regional administrator Elmo Collins has now publicly admitted. 

AP has reported that NRC has now confirmed what FOE and Gundersen revealed months ago: design changes have led to the nearly brand new steam generator tube failures. North County Times has also reported on the anticipation amongst San Onofre watchdogs in the lead up to a meeting Monday night, at which an NRC "Augmented Inspection Team" will publicly report the status of its findings thus far.


Remembering Dr. Rosalie Bertell

We mourn the passing of Dr. Rosalie Bertell, age 83, who died peacefully on June 14. Rosalie Bertell, scientist and Grey Nun of the Sacred Heart, was a tireless and compassionate advocate for those poisoned by chemical and radiological weapons and contamination.

Her book, "No Immediate Danger? Prognosis for a Radioactive Earth" published in 1985, was the first book to reveal the dangers of low-level radiation.

Rosalie received her Ph. D. degree in Biometrics with minors in Biology and Biochemistry from the Catholic University of America, in 1966. Since that time she has worked as a biometrician and environmental epidemiologist. By choice, Dr. Bertell worked for the victims or potential victims of industrial, technological and military pollution with a particular emphasis on assisting the struggles of third world and indigenous people to preserve their Human Right to life and health. Her major concerns were with the dangers associated with economic globalization, war and the proliferation of chemical and radioactive pollutants as the result of preparation for war and the toxic products and processes developed from weapons research and production.

The International Institute of Concern for Public Health (IICPH), of which she was Founder and Immediate Past President, opened its doors in 1984 in Toronto Canada and continues to serve as an institutional support for her work. She was also a founding member of the International Commission of Health Professionals, and the International Association of Humanitarian Medicine.

Among many projects she has headed, the most notable are: Director of the International Medical Commission Bhopal which investigated the aftermath of the Bhopal disaster in India; and organizer of the International Medical Commission on Chernobyl to present testimony to the Permanent People's Tribunal. She assisted the people of the Philippines with problems stemming from toxic waste left by the U.S. Military on their abandoned Subic and Clark military bases. She has worked with the government of Ireland to hold Britain responsible for the radioactive pollution of the Irish Sea, and assisted the Gulf War Veterans and the Iraqi citizens dealing with the illness called Gulf War Syndrome. She acted as Consultant to local, Provincial and Federal Governments, unions and citizen organizations.

She was the recipient of five honorary degrees. Among her many awards can be numbered the Alternative Nobel Prize, Right Livelihood Award; World Federalist Peace Award; Ontario Premier's Council on Health, Health Innovator Award; the United Nations Environment Programme Global 500 award and the Sean MacBride International Peace Prize. She was selected to be one of the 1,000 Peace Women nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, 2005. Rosalie published numerous articles, reviewed articles for professional journals and was editor of the journal, "International Perspectives in Public Health".

Read a longer tribute to Rosalie, by Dr. Ilya Sandra Perlingieri, here.


Under the 'nuclear shadow' of Colorado's Rocky Flats

Kristen Iversen, author of the new book,  Full Body Burden: Growing up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats, spoke eloquently on NPR's Fresh Air about what led her to write the book. Part memoir and also an investigation, the book examines the decades-long environmental scandal involving nuclear contamination in and around Rocky Flats, a nuclear weapons production facility. Listen to the show here.

Iversen spent her childhood in Colorado, close to the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons factory, playing in fields and swimming in lakes and streams that it now appears were contaminated with plutonium. Weapons production ended at Rocky Flats in 1989 after FBI agents raided the plant. Its operators later pleaded guilty to criminal violations of environmental law.


"N.R.C. Nomination Shines Spotlight on Waste-Disposal Issue

Dr. Allison Macfarlane (pictured left), nominated by President Obama to chair the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), faces her U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee confirmation hearing tomorrow morning. The New York Times reports that her questioning will likely focus on "waste, waste, and earthquakes." More.


"What is the United States government waiting for?"

Although Japanese environment and nuclear power policy minister Goshi Hosono did a brief photo op at the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 pool on May 26th, questions remain on its structural integrity, as Tokyo Electric Power Co. is the sole source of information. Hosono claims the pool could survive a Magnitude 6.0 earthquake, but frighteningly, a 7.0 is predicted as 90% likely in the next three years.Japanese diplomat Akio Matsumura, more than anyone, has raised the alarm about the structural integrity of the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 high-level radioactive waste storage pool. Matsumura has published a new essay explaining the Japanese government's inaction, and calling for international action. Matsumura argues that the U.S., in order to protect its own interests, must urge the Japanese government to allow in an independent assessment team to determine the status of the Unit 4 pool, and the best path forward on removing its irradiated nuclear fuel, before another big earthquake strikes.

Geologists predict a 90% chance of a Magnitude 7.0 quake hitting the Fukushima area in the next three years. Unit 4's collapse could result in its high-level radioactive waste catching fire, unleashing a global catastrophe. Unit 4's high-level radioactive waste pool contains 8 to 10 times the Cs-137 released by Chernobyl, but its release would put in jeopardy all seven high-level radioactive waste storage pools at Fukushima Daiichi, containing 85 times, or more, Chernobyl's Cs-137. Such a worst-case scenario would certainly result in significant radioactive fallout on the North American mainland, not to mention further contamination of the Pacific Ocean, and radioactivity bio-concentration in the food chain. 

Please contact the White House, and urge President Obama to offer cooperative assistance to the Japanese government, in order to independently assess the Unit 4 pool, and determine how best to quickly remove the irradiated nuclear fuel before the reactor building collapses.