David Lochbaum, Director of the Nuclear Safety Project at the Union of Concerned Scientists, has written the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission questioning whether or not NRC has adequately inspected cracking in the Davis-Besse atomic reactor's exterior shield building, and whether this aspect of the design can still fulfill its radiologically protective function against external threats, such as tornado missiles. The Cleveland Plain Dealer has reported upon this story, as has Canada's Windsor Star. On October 20th, NRC issued a Preliminary Notification of Occurrence (PNO). Beyond Nuclear, along with Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario (quoted extensively in the Windsor Star article), Don't Waste Michigan, and the Ohio Green Party, have won standing and the admission for hearing of several contentions against the 20 year license extension sought by FirstEnergy nuclear utility at its problem plagued Davis-Besse atomic reactor.
USA Today on November 9th advertized on its front page "Aircraft carrier to host hoops: See how the USS Carl Vinson is turned into a basketball venue," and ran a large graphic in its sports section entitled "College basketball lands on the USS Carl Vinson." The President and First Lady are even reported to be attending the Veterans Day game between Michigan State and North Carolina. Interestingly, USA Today's coverage fails to mention that the carrier is nuclear powered.
This is not the only time basketball and nuclear power have mixed. Bob Pollard at Union of Concerned Scientists in his classic book The Nugget File reported one of the strangest nuclear accidents ever. Staff at a nuclear power plant decided to block shut a large diameter pipe with a basketball wrapped in duct tape to match the pipe's inner diameter, so they could perform repairs on the high-level radioactive waste storage pool. The pressure of the water shot the basketball out, risking a pool drain down and catastrophic radioactive waste fire. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's response? Advising that basketballs not be used for such purposes in the future!
In addition, the Utah Jazz NBA basketball team's arena is named after EnergySolutions, the largest radioactive waste company in the U.S. And the spherical Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA bears a strange resemblance to early General Electric atomic reactors such as Big Rock Point in Michigan!
Congratulations to environmental allies who have successfully pressured the Obama administration to postpone -- and hopefully ultimately cancel -- TransCanada Pipelines' proposed Keystone XL Pipeline for Canadian tar sands crude oil. But tar sands crude oil isn't the only "dirty, dangerous, and expensive" energy source TransCanada dabbles with. According to its website, it also owns 48.8% of the 3,000 Megawatt-electric (MW-e) Bruce A nuclear power plant, and 31.6% of the 3,200 MW-e Bruce B nuclear power plant. Bruce -- a 9 reactor and radioactive waste complex located in Ontario on the shore of Lake Huron just 50 miles from Michigan -- is the largest nuclear power plant in the Western Hemisphere, and the second biggest in the world. TransCanada entered the nuclear power business despite warnings by NIRS in late 2002 about serious financial and environmental risks. (A primary bone of contention over the Keystone XL pipeline is its proposed route over the irreplacable Ogallala Aquifer; the Waste Control Specialists radioactive waste dump in Texas also threatens the Ogallala.)
John Rowe, CEO of Exelon, told reporters on November 9 that the idea that his company would construct a third nuclear reactor at Calvert Cliffs, MD, was "almost inconceivable." The two Calvert Cliffs reactors are owned by Constellation Energy which already withdrew from the project, leaving French partner, EDF, stranded. Exelon is about to merge with Constellation. EDF, as a foreign corporation, is prohibited by law from sole ownership of the new Calvert Cliffs reactor. EDF has been working to circumvent the law but the financial challenges were too burdensome for Constellation which opted not to move forward despite the promise of a loan guarantee from the federal government. Constellation withdrew due to financial concerns after the U.S. Energy Department asked for a fee of $880 million to compensate taxpayers for the risk they would take on a loan guarantee of about $7.6 billion, a fee Constellation said would doom the project. Read background here.
A new report by the International Atomic Energy Agency suggests that there is "credible" evidence that Iran's nuclear activities are designed to build a nuclear bomb but stops short of stating that Iran is on the verge of becoming a nuclear weapons state. The IAEA sourced intelligence from 10 countries. Although the report contains virtually nothing new and reinforces existing fears that Iran's nuclear activities do not have so-called "peaceful" intentions, the report also marks the first time all the data have been composited into one document. The report concludes: “The information indicates that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear device." Read more.
The New York Times has also reported on this story. As it reported on Thursday, the Iranian and Russian regimes have strongly criticized the IAEA report.