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Wednesday
May252011

Switzerland follows Germany in 100% nuclear phaseout

From Reuters: "The Swiss government decided on Wednesday to phase out nuclear power by 2034 after the Japan disaster shook public confidence in the industry, but said it will not shut any existing power plants prematurely.

The Swiss government suspended the approvals process for three new nuclear power stations in March pending a review into safety after the disaster at Japan's Fukushima plant.

Last weekend 20,000 people rallied against nuclear power -- the largest demonstration of its kind since the 1980s."

Tuesday
May242011

Environmental coalition defends intervention against Davis-Besse license extension

The infamous Davis-Besse "red photo," showing boric acid/rust "lava" flowing from the severely corroded reactor lidOn May 16th, Toledo attorney Terry Lodge and Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear filed a rebuttal against an appeal by FirstEnergy. In early May, FirstEnergy had requested the five Commissioners at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission overturn an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board ruling of April 26th. The ASLB had granted a hearing to the environmental intervenors opposed to Davis-Besse atomic reactor's proposed 20 year license extension. The ASLB admitted for hearing renewable energy alternatives to Davis-Besse's extended operation, namely wind power and solar photovoltaic power, combined with compressed air energy storage to mitigate intermittancy. The ASLB also admitted for hearing portions of the environmental coalition's challenges against FirstEnergy's Severe Accident Mitigation Alternatives (SAMA) analyses, charging that calculations of casualties and costs resulting from a catastrophic radioactivity release had been underestimated by the company. Events at Fukushima bear this out. In fact, Davis-Besse has had more brushes with major accidents than about any other atomic reactor in the U.S. (including the 2002 hole-in-the-head fiasco, see photo at left), a horrendous history that can only get worse now that the nuclear power plant is 35 years old.

Monday
May232011

Fukushima parents confront Japanese Ministry of Education: “Protect the Children, Retract the 20 Millisievert Standard!"

Children have been attending school in radioactively contaminated areas for several weeks already in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan.As reported in a press advisory by Green Action Japan, as well as in a media release, busloads of concerned parents from downwind of the leaking Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant descended on the Japanese Ministry of Education, demanding the 20 millisievert per year "permissible" radiation dose standard for children be rescinded, and schools decontaminated. 20 mSv/yr, or 2 Rem/yr, is the "allowable" dose for German nuclear power plant workers. Besides children being significantly more vulnerable to radioactivity's hazards than are adults, the Japanese federal standard accounts for only external exposures, but not for even more hazardous internal contamination.  Asahi T.V. and NHK public broadcasting covered the protest. The Yomiuri Shimbun has editorialized in favor of protecting children from radiation. Green Action has posted photos from the protest.

Monday
May232011

Meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1 began within 50 minutes

In an article entitled "Fukushima reactor had meltdown 3.5 hours after cooling system collapsed," the Mainichi Daily News of Japan has reported that a U.S. researcher at Idaho National Lab had concluded by late March that a meltdown had begun in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant's reactor unit 1 less than an hour after emergency core cooling ceased in the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. The researcher, Chris Allison, concluded that by three hours and twenty minutes, most of the melted nuclear fuel had already fallen to the bottom of the reactor pressure vessel, and that an hour after that, the molten mass had risen in temperature to 1,642 degrees Celsius -- close to the melting point of the stainless steel lining, likely resulting in damage to the reactor pressure vessel. NHK public broadcasting in Japan has reported that Tokyo Electric Power Company now admits the Unit 3 reactor may have melted down within two and a half days, and Unit 2 within four days, of the initial loss of power to run cooling systems.

Monday
May232011

Environmental challenges against proposed new Fermi 3 atomic reactor survive

The Teaparty can't have all the fun with symbols from the American Revolution -- anti-nuclear coalition warns DTE not to tread on the endangered Eastern Fox SnakeThe U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) presiding over the Fermi 3 combined construction and operating license application (COLA) proceeding ruled on May 20 against nuclear utility DTE’s motion for summary disposition on two contentions against the proposed new reactor brought by an environmental coalition. The first contention concerns risks of Fermi 3’s construction and operation exacerbating the proliferation of toxic algae in Lake Erie. The second involves risks to an endangered indigenous species -- the Eastern Fox Snake -- from the proposed new atomic reactor. The environmental coalition includes Beyond Nuclear, Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don’t Waste Michigan, and the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. It argued that the proposed Fermi 3 atomic reactor’s thermal and chemical discharges to Lake Erie’s shallow Western Basin would provide ideal conditions for the spread of a harmful cyanobacteria, Lyngbya wollei. The ASLB agreed with the environmental intervenors, that planned calcium discharges into Lake Erie from Fermi 3, as well as scientific documentation of the algae’s presence mid-way between Detroit Edison’s Fermi nuclear power plant and its coal-burning Monroe Power Plant, merit further study in a full evidentiary hearing.  Similarly, the ASLB ruled in favor of a full hearing on the risks of Fermi 3’s construction upon the Eastern Fox Snake. Although Detroit Edison has now admitted sitings of the endangered species on its Fermi nuclear power plant site, has slightly modified its construction location, and has drafted a mitigation plan, the ASLB agreed with the environmental intervenors that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment’s (MDNRE) approval is required, as well as more careful study of the impact of construction traffic upon the endangered species. The environmental coalition issued a media release on the ASLB's ruling.