Fix 'em or shut 'em French safety agency tells EDF

The French nuclear safety authority (ASN) has told the country's national electricity supplier, Électricité de France, that it must invest billions of euros in safety fixes at the country's 58 reactors or choose to close them. A report issued January 3 by ASN said that the investment was needed to ensure French reactors could withstand natural shocks similar to those that precipitated meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant site in Japan. ASN president, André Claude Lacoste, said the agency would have to suspend operations at French reactors if EDF did not meet their timeline for safety fixes. "If EDF estimates that what we are asking for is so expensive that it does no longer make it worthwhile to operate one facility, it can decide to shut that facility," he said. EDF has estimated the cost at 10 billion euros. However, the French presidential election in April 2012 could change the picture again as Socialist opposition candidate, François Holland, has pledged to shut 24 of the reactors by 2025 should he be elected.


Fukushima further bursts "nuclear renaissance" bubble

Fukushima Daiichi's explosions -- like this one at Unit 3 -- were captured on live television and were broadcast internationally.In a new report entitled "Nuclear Safety and Nuclear Economics: Historically, Accidents Dim the Prospects for Nuclear Reactor Construction; Fukushima Will Have a Major Impact," Dr. Mark Cooper of the Vermont Law School's Institute for Energy and the Environment compares the cost increases for new reactor construction -- due to increased nuclear safety regulation in the aftermath of the 1979 Three Mile Island meltdown -- to escalating costs that can be expected after the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe. Cooper points out, however, the new reactor construction costs were already skyrocketing before the TMI and Fukushima meltdowns -- but the accidents accelerated the cost increases dramatically.

He concludes: "From a big picture perspective, Fukushima has had and is likely to continue to have an electrifying impact because it combines the most powerful message from TMI on cost escalation with the most powerful message from Chernobyl on the risk of nuclear reactors in a nation where it was not supposed to happen. And, it has taken place in an environment where information and images flow instantaneously around the world, so the public sees the drama and trauma of losing control of a nuclear reaction in real time."


Allegations of deep ties between TEPCO and the Japanese mafia

The Atlantic Wire reports that the connections between Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and the yakuza, or Japanese mafia, go much deeper than just the recruiting of laborers desparate enough to take jobs in Fukushima Daiichi's hazardous radiation fields. Commenting on the desparation of taking a job at Fukushima Daiichi, a yakuza explained it as "folk wisdom": “When a man has to survive doing something, it’s the nuclear industry; for a woman, it’s the sex industry.”

The article quotes a Japanese federal senator: "TEPCO's involvement with anti-social forces and their inability to filter them out of the work-place is a national security issue. It is one reason that increasingly in the Diet we are talking de facto nationalization of the company. Nuclear energy shouldn't be in the hands of the yakuza. They're gamblers and an intelligent person doesn't want them to have atomic dice to play with." The senator added: “The primary difference between TEPCO and the yakuza is they have different corporate logos...They both are essentially criminal organizations that place profits above the safety and welfare of the residents where they operate; they both exploit their workers. On the other hand, the yakuza may care more about what happens where they operate because many of them live there. For Tokyo Electric Power Company, Fukushima is just the equivalent of a parking lot.”


What's really behind the "witch hunt" targeting NRC Chairman Jaczko?

U.S. NRC Chairman Gregory JaczkoRyan Grim of Huffington Post, in an in-depth investigative report, documents that U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner (NRC) William Magwood IV and top Nuclear Energy Institute lobbyist Alex Flint have worked together before to "take down" Democratic political appointees in the nuclear energy field. Andrew Cockburn had also previously reported on this story at Counterpunch, quoting Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps:

“[NRC Chairman Jaczko's] not ‘our guy’ by any means, he has voted to re-license plants that should probably be shut down” says Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear.  “But he does care about safety, in ways that the [other NRC Commissioners] do not.”

One of Jaczko's (pictured, left) greatest "transgressions" against the nuclear power industry and its right wing political supporters -- earning their eternal wrath -- seems to be his carrying out of President Obama's policy decision to phase out the Yucca Mountain high-level radioactive waste dump. Before becoming an NRC Commissioner, Magwood had advocated for opening the Yucca dump.

Media coverage of this "mutiny" at the highest levels of the NRC began on Friday, December 9th with U.S. Representative Darrell Issa's (Republican-California) public release of a letter from NRC Commissioners Magwood, Svinicki, Ostendorff, and Apostolakis to President Obama that was clearly marked "Not for Public Disclosure," and has continued up to the present, as documented, with links to the articles, at the State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Project's What's News page.

The webcast of the 3 hour, 30 minute long hearing on these matters, conducted on Dec. 15, 2011 by the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, chaired by U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), featuring the five NRC Commissioners as the sole witnesses, is archived online.


Congressman Kucinich successfully demands NRC public meeting on Davis-Besse's cracked shield building

U.S. Rep. Kucinich (D-OH) is closely watchdogging the cracked Davis-Besse shield buildingU.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich (Democrat-Ohio) has successfully demanded from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission a public meeting regarding the recently revealed, widespread cracking in FirstEnergy Nuclear's Davis-Besse atomic reactor shield building.

Kucinich stated in a press release on December 23rd: “The NRC is right to give the public the chance to ask questions of FirstEnergy about the questionable structural integrity of Davis-Besse.  I have already uncovered significant new information which has raised new questions about the cracks in the shield building through my own investigation.  I look forward to a frank discussion with FirstEnergy on January 5.”

As described in an NRC announcement, the meeting will take place on Thursday, January 5, from 6:30 to 9:30 pm Eastern, at Camp Perry, a military base near Davis-Besse in Port Clinton, Ohio. Beyond Nuclear, which is helping lead an environmental coalition intervention against the problem-plagued Davis-Besse's 20 year license extension, encourages all who can attend the meeting in person to do so. For others around the country, NRC is providing a toll-free phone line for calling in: "Members of the public interested in participating in the meeting can attend in person or by calling the toll-free teleconference number 800-369-1122 and entering passcode 7687149."

Congressman Kucinich has taken a lead role in questioning the safety significance of Davis-Besse's shield building cracks, and NRC's rash decision to allow the reactor to re-start before the cause and extent of the problem is even understood.

As revealed by an NRC-commissioned, Sandia National Lab-conducted study from 1982, a major radioactivity release at Davis-Besse could cause 1,400 "peak early fatalities," 73,000 "peak early injuries," 10,000 "peak cancer deaths," $84 billion in property damages. Those property damages would top $185 billion when adjusted for inflation; population increases in the past 40 years have not been accounted for in NRC's 1982 casualty figures, as they were based on 1970 U.S. Census data.