Government Memo Slams Bechtel for Malfeasance, Safety Violations at Hanford Nuclear Site

Hanford tanks under constructionHanford Challenge has made public a scathing U.S. Department of Energy internal memo detailing Bechtel's long history of incompetence, misleading the government, overcharging, and unsafe designs related to the Waste Treatment Plant (WTP) at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The facility is a decade behind schedule and 250% over budget, with a current, yet still climbing, price tag of $13 billion. The WTP is supposed to vitrify (glassify) liquid high-level radioactive wastes, byproducts from reprocessing military irradiated nuclear fuel for weapons-grade plutonium extraction for use in the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

The memo, written by a high-ranking DOE director, urges that Bechtel be removed as the Design Authority for the WTP, warning that Bechtel “is not competent to complete their role.”

Hanford Challenge Executive Director, Tom Carpenter, posits: “the leaked memo puts the Waste Treatment Plant’s woes into sharp relief. This memo details exhaustive and disturbing evidence of why Bechtel should be terminated from this project and subject to an independent investigation. We already knew of Bechtel’s record of suppressing its own engineers’ concerns and retaliating against whistleblowers, and now we see evidence that exhibits a shocking and inexcusable lack of attention to safety for both workers and the public.”

Hanford Challenge is a member group of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA), as is Beyond Nuclear.

The news comes just two weeks after Hanford Challenge revealed that the first double-shelled liquid high-level radioactive waste tank has been documented as leaking at Hanford.


Save the dates: "A Mountain of Radioactive Waste 70 Years High: Ending the Nuclear Age," Chicago, December 1-3, 2012

Please save the dates, on the first weekend in December, for a gathering in Chicago, Illinois, to mark the 70th year since Enrico Fermi first split the atom -- in a squash court, under the football stadium at the University of Chicago -- as part of the top secret Manhattan Project, on December 2, 1942. Since then, no permanent, safe location or technology has ever been found to isolate even the first cupful of radioactive waste from the biosphere. And yet we continue to generate more and more -- a mountain of waste 70 years high.

The goal of the Friday evening to Sunday afternoon conference is to educate, inspire, and activate. Diverse expert speakers will be featured, on a range of subject matter, including: radioactive waste; the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe; the inextricable link between nuclear weapons and nuclear power; degraded old and proposed new atomic reactor risks; the Atomic Age's impacts on human beings, and resistance to it; and the way forward without nuclear power and nuclear weapons.

The event will also feature: film screenings/discussions; real-time linkage to, and interaction with, remote participants in Hiroshima, Japan and Takoma Park, Maryland; a commemoration ceremony at the Henry Moore Sculpture (the very spot where Fermi first split the atom); and a possible field trip to Red Gate Woods (a suburban forest preserve, where Fermi's radioactive wastes are buried, next to a bicycle path, under a mound of dirt).

In addition to an excellent networking opportunity, the event will help participants get up to speed on various nuclear power, nuclear weapons, and radioactive waste issues, so we can better fend off the nuclear establishment's expansion plans next year, after the presidential and congressional elections.

For more information, contact David Kraft at Nuclear Energy Information Service in Chicago (; 773-342-7650), or Kevin Kamps at Beyond Nuclear (; 301-270-2209x1).

For more background on the radioactive waste issue, see Beyond Nuclear's pamphlet, "A Mountain of Waste Seventy Years High" (see its cover, at left), and visit the Radioactive Waste section of the Beyond Nuclear website.


Nuclear plant shut down as Hurricane Isaac approaches

Although electricity supply can be essential in an emergency, nuclear power plants can't help. Entergy shut down its Waterford, LA nuclear power plant near New Orleans on Tuesday in advance of Hurricane Isaac making landfall. In fact most nuclear plants are required to shut in advance of the arrival of hurricane-force winds of 74 mph or greater, rendering them a liability, rather than an asset during a natural disaster.


Entergy Nuclear's Palisades "a disaster waiting to happen"

Don't Waste Michigan board members Michael Keegan of Monroe, Alice Hirt of Holland, and Kevin Kamps of Kalamazoo call for Palisades' shutdown at the Nuclear-Free Great Lakes Action Camp in August 2000. Palisades' cooling tower steam, as well as Lake Michigan, are visible in the background.The Detroit News has quoted Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps in an article about the problem-plagued Palisades atomic reactor in Covert, Michigan, on the Lake Michigan shoreline. The article reports:

"...At a May appearance in East Lansing, Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear — a group that espouses abandoning nuclear energy — described how Palisades earned its approval for the next 20 years.

'We resisted it,' he told a crowd at the Peace Education Center. 'In fact, the entire environmental movement in Michigan resisted the license extension for Palisades. But we were steamrolled by the nuclear industry, by the NRC.' …

In four decades, Palisades has been fined by the NRC numerous times, and unscheduled shutdowns are almost an annual occurrence. To those who would characterize that as run-of-the-mill problems, Beyond Nuclear's Kamps disagrees.

There are many factors lining up for major problems, he said.

The NRC's license renewal process has a 'premeditated outcome' and, as proof, he noted the agency's 73-for-73 track record on renewal requests. He also pointed to the length of time Palisades officials have taken over the years to address NRC-identified problems.

'Palisades is a disaster waiting to happen,' Kamps said."


FENOC weather seals severely cracked Davis-Besse shield building exterior -- 40 years too late

Painters work high off the ground to apply a protective weatherproof coating to Davis-Besse’s concrete Shield Building. Cracks were discovered in the fall that were blamed on the Blizzard of 1978. THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGTAs reported by the Toledo Blade in an article entitled "Work crews apply waterproof coating to Davis-Besse: Project not silencing critics of plant," the only "corrective action" FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company (FENOC) plans to take, in response to severe cracking of its radiological containment "shield building," is to weather seal the exterior of the steel-reinforced concrete structure -- four decades too late. FENOC blames the cracking on the "brutal Blizzard of 1978," which Beyond Nuclear has dubbed a snow job -- a charge repeated on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives by long-time Davis-Besse watchdog, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), whose constituents live immediately downwind and downstream from the problem-plagued plant. 

The article quoted both Terry Lodge, Toledo-based attorney representing the environmental coalition (Beyond Nuclear, Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and the Green Party of Ohio) battling against Davis-Besse's 20-year license extension, as well as Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps:

"I'm not at all comforted that they discovered an error that never should have happened to the most expensive and safety-significant building on the site," Mr. Lodge said Thursday.

Added Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear, "It's 40 years too late. Weather sealant will not fix the cracks that are there."

As reported by Fox 8 Cleveland, a FENOC spokesman outright lied: “The shield building meets all its design parameters, we have evaluated it for all its parameters, and it is fully operable,” said Jon Hook, the design engineer manager at the plant.

In fact, both the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and FENOC itself have acknowledged that Davis-Besse's severe shield building cracking violates the atomic reactor's design and licensing bases. At an August 9th public meeting in Oak Harbor, OH, an NRC spokesman, with an audible scoff, admitted that NRC has generously granted FENOC until December 2012 to merely come up with a "plan for a plan" to "restore conformance" -- that is, pencil whip the violations, making everything appear okay on paper.  

Hook also told the Toledo Blade the shield building "wasn't coated originally because 'there was no requirement that it be done...'." Why such a basic no brainer as weather sealant was not required -- on the shoreline of Lake Erie, which suffers severe winter weather -- has never been explained, neither by FENOC nor NRC. Further deepening the mystery is the fact that all other -- much less safety significant and expensive -- concrete structures on site were weather sealed. When asked to explain, FENOC spokeswoman Jennifer Young has simply said it was done for aesthetic reasons, as those other structures appeared "splotchy." 

WNWO also reported on this story.