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Tuesday
Jan152013

Two dozen groups rebut NEI, supplement comments to NRC on Nuke Waste Con Game

Environmental coalition attorney Diane CurranAn environmental coalition comprised of two dozen organizations, including Beyond Nuclear, today submitted supplemental public comments to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regarding the agency's court-vacated Nuclear Waste Confidence Decision and Rule. The supplemental comments constituted a rebuttal to comments submitted by the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the nuclear power industry's lobbying arm in Washington, D.C.

The coalition held a press conference today, featuring four speakers: Arjun Makhijani, President of Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, one of the coalition's expert witnesses; Diane Curran of the Washington, D.C. law firm Harmon, Curran, Spielberg + Eisenberg, LLP, a lead attorney for the coalition (see photo, left); John Runkle, an attorney with NC WARN (North Carolina Waste Awareness and Reduction Network), another coalition member; and Phillip Museegas, an attorney with Riverkeeper, and another expert witness for the coalition, of which Riverkeeper is also a member.

The coalition issued a press release; the full audio recording of the press conference is posted on-line.

The coalition's January 2nd public comments, including expert witness testimonies, are posted on-line. So are the coalition's supplemental comments submitted today, put together in rebuttal to NEI's Jan. 2nd comments.

Tuesday
Jan152013

State of Vermont makes its case against Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee at 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals

Bill Sorrell and David Frederick answer questions from the press in front of the Thurgood Marshall Federal Court House, Foley Square, Manhattan. Photo by Ricard Watts. (Chris Williams of CAN and VYDA is visible, back right)The fate of the State of Vermont's long struggle to shutdown Entergy Nuclear's Vermont Yankee atomic reactor now rests in the hands of a three-judge panel at the 2nd Circuit Federal Court of Appeals in Manhattan. Yesterday, oral arguments were heard regarding Entergy v. Shumlin et al. Vermont is seeking to overturn a Brattleboro lower court judge's ruling a year ago that state laws had improperly strayed into radiological safety matters, the sole jurisdiction of the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as settled by the 1983 PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electric) U.S. Supreme Court ruling. In addition to a large turn out of journalists from Vermont and beyond, a number of long-time Vermont Yankee opponents sent representatives to witness the proceeding, including Beyond Nuclear, Conservation Law Foundation, Citizen Awareness Network (CAN), Physicians for Social Responsibility, Shut It Down! affinity group, Solar Rollers, and Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance (VYDA). By most accounts, the State of Vermont --represented by Attorney General William Sorrell, and David Frederick of the Washington, D.C. law firm Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel, P.L.L.C. (see photo) -- more than held its own.

Richard Watts (who took the photo above), author of Public Meltdown: The Story of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant, covered the oral arguments on his blogThe Vermont Digger reported on this story, including a link to the audio of the full 37 minute long oral arguments. Vermont Public Radio filed two stories: "At Stake in Yankee Appeal: State's Rights and a Big Legal Bill," and "Appeals Judges Focus on 'Legislative Intent' in Yankee Case." The Associated Press, Burlington Free Press, Brattleboro Reformer, and Bloomberg have also reported on this story.

Friday
Jan112013

Markey challenges NRC on nuclear safety culture violations within the agency itself

U.S. Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA)U.S. Representative Ed Markey (D-MA), Ranking Democrat on U.S. House committees of jurisdiction over the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), has been leading an investigation into alleged problems with the safety culture at some NRC regional offices -- including Region IV based in Texas, and Region III based in Illinois -- that have resulted in retaliation against NRC staff who disclose safety concerns. Markey also highlighted allegations that the nuclear power industry has inappropriately pressured NRC's Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS).

Rep. Markey was tipped off on April 24, 2012 by anonymous NRC Region IV whistleblowers about harassment, intimidation, and retaliation which, they alleged, had been perpetrated by NRC Region IV senior manager Troy Pruett, against NRC staff who raised safety concerns regarding the Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant in Nebraska. Fort Calhoun suffered a serious fire during historic floods on the Missouri River in summer 2011, which inundated the entire nuclear power plant, and came within just a few feet of overtopping critical flood protection barriers at the facility. Pruett allegedly pressured NRC safety inspectors under his supervison to lower their proposed "Red finding" (NRC's worst safety violation designation) to a "Green finding" (indicating "low safety significance"), in order to make his own job easier as head of the the Ft. Calhoun restart regulatory oversight team. Evidence also has surfaced that Pruett resisted needed safety upgrades that proved critical in barely averting disaster during the flooding.

NRC Region IV also oversees the problem-plagued San Onofre nuclear power plant in southern California, as well as the South Texas Project nuclear power plant, which just suffered a serious transformer fire.

Rep. Markey's office has charged the NRC with dragging its feet on -- or outright undermining -- an adequateinvestigation into the allegations of safety culture violations. He cites an internal NRC survey, responded to by 3,000 of NRC's 4,000 employees, which found a majority of the staff felt the agency's differing professional opinion program, for dissent within the system, was ineffective. Markey also chided the NRC Commission itself for slow walking, or even actively blocking, post-Fukushima safety upgrades recommend by the agency's safety staff. He warned that such behavior by the NRC Commission could well embolden recalcitrant NRC senior managers to double down on retaliating against NRC safety staff for aggressively striving to protect pubic health, safety, and the environment against radiological risks. Rep. Markey's office has created a timeline, providing links to his correspondence with NRC's Chairman on these matters.

Wednesday
Jan092013

A BIG THANK YOU TO ALL OUR SUPPORTERS!

A big and heartfelt thank you to all our supporters who have given to Beyond Nuclear in 2012! Donations are still coming in but we have been overwhelmed by your generosity and are truly grateful to all of you! We appreciate those of you who have given in honor of a loved one, a colleague or a friend or to help us purchase a new media database service. We’ve also appreciated the many kind notes to us included with both the postal mailing returns and the on-line gifts. If you are reading this and do not receive our weekly email bulletin and would like to, please Join Us here. If you would like to be added to our postal mailings, please let Linda Gunter, our development director, know, and include your full mailing address. And thank you again!

Saturday
Jan052013

Vermont Yankee: 2012 year in review, preview of what's to come in 2013

Members of the Shut It Down! affinity group, which has conducted a large number of nonviolent civil disobedience actions against Vermont YankeeIn an article by entitled "The Battle over the Fate of Vermont Yankee," the Brattleboro Reformer recapped a momentous 2012, and previewed a fateful 2013. The past year saw a federal judge rule in favor of Entergy Nuclear, that the state had overstepped into U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) jurisdiction on safety matters. However, in the same ruling, the judge upheld the State of Vermont Public Service Board's (PSB) authority to grant -- or deny -- a Certificate of Public Good (CPG). The PSB is currently taking public comment on whether, or not, it should allow Entergy to continue to do business in the Green Mountain State.

2012 also saw a large-scale non-violent civil disobedience (NVCD) action at Entergy's Vermont headquarters in Vernon, with over 1,000 marchers, and 130 arrests, in protest of the Vermont Yankee (VY) atomic reactor's first day of its NRC rubberstamped 20-year license extension on March 22nd. Also, the Shut It Down! affinity group (pictured, left) continued their waves of NVCD arrests at Vermont Yankee, and received their first convictions for trespassing; they refuse to pay the fines, however, and vow to continue their actions.

As 2013 dawns, lawsuits are being launched, back and forth. The Vermont Attorney General will present oral arguments at the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City on Jan. 14th, seeking to overturn the Entergy v. State of Vermont ruling from a year ago. Later this month, the New England Coalition is arguing before the Vermont Supreme Court that, without a renewed CPG, Entergy should not be allowed to operate VY one more day.