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Wednesday
Jul262017

Beyond Nuclear on Thom Hartmann: Is Fukushima still melting down?

Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps appeared on Thom Hartmann's "The Big Picture" to discuss the discovery, 6.5 years later, of melted core at Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3, as well as Tokyo Electric Power Company's threat to simply release 770,000 metric tons (around 200 million gallons) of very highly tritium-contaminated wastewater directly into the Pacific Ocean.

Wednesday
Jul262017

Atomic Homefront propels story of nuclear contamination to headlines

"Why is this not a national story,?" asked New York film director, Rebecca Cammisa, whose new film, Atomic Homefront, will be screened on HBO. That was after she learned about the nuclear weapons waste -- the oldest nuclear waste of the Atomic Age -- that sits in the West Lake Landfill in North St. Louis County, threatening to contaminate the drinking water of area residents. The nuclear wastes are contaminating the groundwater in the floodplain of the Missouri Riverand and must be removed. The wastes were dumped there illegally during the Manhattan Project. The film is a case study of how citizens are confronting state and federal agencies for the truth about the extent of the contamination and are fighting to keep their families safe. The film also covers the concerns of famlies living by Coldwater Creek, historically contaminated by nuclear waste. Aside from the Army Corps of Engineers, all other government departments and regulators refused to be interviewed for the film.

Wednesday
Jul262017

As Hiroshima/Nagasaki anniversaries approach, a poignant reminder of suffering and hope

Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard presents the aftermath of the first atomic bomb through the remarkable drawings and stories of surviving Japanese school children who were part of an extraordinary, compassionate exchange with their American counterparts after the war.

In 1995, a parishioner of the All Souls Church in Washington, D.C., discovered a long-forgotten box containing dozens of colorful drawings made by Japanese children from the Honkawa Elementary School in Hiroshima just two years after their city was destroyed. The surprisingly hopeful drawings were created and sent to the church nearly 50 years earlier in appreciation for much-needed school supplies received as part of the church’s post-war humanitarian efforts.

The Honkawa school was just 1100 feet from ground zero on August 6, 1945. Nearly 400 children died in the schoolyard that fateful morning. Surviving students and teachers describe the horror of that day and reflect on their difficult lives amidst the rubble of their decimated city, as well as the hope they shared through their art.

Classes resumed soon after in the window-less concrete shell of the remaining Honkawa school building to provide some sense of normalcy. The film features recently found archival footage that shows what life was like in the weeks and months after the bomb fell and how Hiroshima gradually recovered.

The rediscovered drawings were restored by members of the All Souls Church, who several years later embarked on an emotional journey to Japan to exhibit the artwork at the Honkawa school and reunite the surviving artists for the first time with the drawings they created as children.

The artists and church members reflect on the lessons that resulted from a compassionate exchange nearly 70 years ago between American and Japanese children following a bitter and devastating World War.

The film is produced by Shizumi Shigeto Manale and written and directed by Bryan Reichhardt. More information here.

Wednesday
Jul262017

Get Trump's finger off the nuclear button

The nuclear "football" -- always close to the PresidentWriting in The Nation this week, investigative journalist, Mark Hertsgaard, draws chilling attention to a frightening reality. "We need to get Donald Trump's finger off the nuclear button," he writes in the lead to an article entitled: Donald Trump Has His Finger on the Nuclear Button. Maybe We Should Do Something About That.

He points out that current U.S. policy has few safeguards against a madman in the White House.

"At present, US law and long-standing policy give president Trump unilateral, unstoppable authority to launch a nuclear attack. He need not present a compelling reason for such an attack; perhaps he simply decides that it’s time to teach North Korea a lesson. He need not notify, much less obtain agreement from, leaders in Congress or the secretary of defense or other military officials. Trump’s status as commander in chief empowers him and him alone to unleash nuclear weapons at a moment’s notice."

While the news media laps up every Trump distraction -- Sessions, obsessive tweets about Hilary Clinton -- one of the two most critical issues of our time (along with climate change) is largely ignored. There are things we can do. Hertsgaard makes the following suggestions:

"For the sake of the nation and indeed humanity, it is imperative to reform US nuclear-weapons policy. Start with three concrete, common-sense measures: The United States should take its nuclear weapons off of “hair-trigger” status; it should declare a policy of “no first use” of nuclear weapons; and it should prohibit this or any president from unilaterally launching a nuclear attack. Instead, it should require the president to act in concert with military and congressional leaders—except under exceptional circumstances, such as an adversary’s imminent nuclear attack."

Read the full article  

Thursday
Jul202017

Fed judge dismisses law suit challenging IL nuke bailout

A Federal judge has thrown out a challenge to the State of Illinois’ legislated bailout of its uneconomical nuclear power plants. The court decision has implications for legal challenges still underway in New York and anticipated in other states where legislatures are looking to subsidize the financially failing nuclear power industry to keep more reactors from closing.

The state legislation establishing “Zero Emissions Credits” (ZEC) was passed in Illinois in 2016 to keep Exelon from closing the Quad Cities 1 & 2 and Clinton nuclear power stations. Beyond Nuclear is involved in a joint law suit in New York State to undo a similarly legislated bailout of the Fitzpatrick, Nine Mile Point 1 & 2 and Ginna nuclear power stations.

The industry lobby was able to convince enough IL and NY state legislators that costly and non-competitive nuclear power is a “zero” greenhouse gas emitter worthy of subsidization and guaranteed power contracts backed by indentured consumers. Now nuke lobbyists are hard at work in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Jersey and soon everywhere roughly half the nation’s exorbitantly expensive and aging nuclear power plants are economically failing.  

The fact is atomic power is not a “zero” carbon emissions generator. Long-lived nuclear waste and routine radioactive releases aside, yes it is true that nuclear power plants emit less carbon dioxide than a coal fired electricity generation. It is also true that greenhouse gas emissions is even more significantly be reduced by safer and less expensive renewable energy generators like wind and solar power. The studies show that 15% to 25% of nuclear power’s carbon emissions come from construction, maintenance and decommissioning of atomic power plants. The bulk of nuclear power's still significant emissions (an average of 65 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour) come from the uranium fuel chain (mining, milling, enrichment, nuclear fuel fabrication, and carbon-14 emissions from operations and long-term nuclear waste management). As finite resources of high-grade uranium ore are depleted, those carbon emissions increase. Wind turbines can now generate electricity at 3 to 8 gCO2/kwh due to the wind itself, as the Sun, truly being carbon free.

The real zero emissions come from the “negawatt” resources of efficiency and conservation.  As a society, we are not maximizing their availability and rapid deployment to more dramatically bring down emissions. The U.S. is awash in excess electricity and the waste of electricity is encouraged.  That said, even as society has only begun to scratch the surface of efficiency and conservation, it is why electricity demand has leveled off and begun to fall. Beyond Nuclear supports prioritizing subsidizes for making better use of electricity while using less. It is crazy that ratepayers and taxpayers are being bilked by the nuclear industry to pay for more dangerous excess and wasted energy.