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Wednesday
Jun232010

A little fun at FirstEnergy's expense

Thursday
Jun172010

Anti-nuke workshops at U.S. Social Forum, Detroit, June 24th

Beyond Nuclear and anti-nuclear allies are holding four workshops at the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit, MI on Thursday, June 24th. The four workshops include: Nukespeak (a Nukes 101 overview); Uranium Mining; Reactors; and Radioactive Waste. Read workshop descriptions here. 10-20,000 people are expected to attend the U.S. Social Forum from June 22 to 26.

Wednesday
Jun162010

Quality assurance contention against Fermi 3 new reactor accepted by ASLB

An environmental coalition, co-led by Beyond Nuclear, has won yet another contention hearing from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (NRC ASLB) regarding Detroit Edison's proposal to build a Hitachi-General Electric "Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor" in Monroe, Michigan. Despite NRC staff and company objections to the contrary, the ASLB's June 15, 2010 ruling recognized the serious safety significance of quality assurance (QA) violations, and agreed that the environmental coalition's allegations of Detroit Edison QA shortcomings deserves a full adjudicatory hearing on the merits of the issues. The contention relied heavily on an expert affidavit filed on Dec. 8, 2009 by nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates in Vermont, submitted on behalf of the environmental coalition. Gundersen expanded his relevant testimony with a June 8, 2010 filing. The ASLB admitted the contention even before taking into consideration Gundersen's latest allegations and evidence, which serve to only strengthen the contention. This marks the environmental coalition's fifth contention against Fermi 3 thus far to be granted a hearing in the licensing proceeding. Beyond Nuclear issued a press release regarding this success on its QA contention.

Tuesday
Jun152010

House hearing's grilling of oil executives should serve as warning about nuclear power's radioactive risks

The grilling of BP and other oil company executives at a June 15, 2010 U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Environment Subcommittee hearing on the BP Gulf of Mexico oil catastrophe should serve as a warning that very similar risks exist in the nuclear power industry, albeit radiological rather than petrol. An earlier version of the New York Times article linked above reported "Representative Henry A. Waxman, chairman of the House committee, focused on the spill response plans of the five companies. They were prepared by an outside contractor and are virtually identical, Mr. Waxman said." The article continued "Mr. Markey [chairman of the subcommittee] added: 'In preparation for this hearing, the committee reviewed the oil spill safety response plans for all of the companies here today. What we found was that these five companies have response plans that are virtually identical. The plans cite identical response capabilities and tout identical ineffective equipment. In some cases, they use the exact same words. We found that all of these companies, not just BP, made the exact same assurances.' " Similarly, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Office of Inspector General reported in 2006 that NRC staff "safety reviews" of atomic reactor 20 year license extension applications were regularly "cut and pasted" directly from nuclear utility analyses, sometimes verbatim. NRC has thus far rubberstamped approval for every single one of the over 50 license extension requests it has recieved, with many more awaiting approval. Waxman was also quoted as saying that the oil companies'  disaster response "plans are 'just paper exercises,' " and that "BP failed miserably when confronted with a real leak...and Exxon Mobil and the other companies would do no better." This is a frightful parallel of nuclear utilities' self-congratulatory assurance that their radiological emergency planning is adequate, despite widespread evidence to the contrary. As but one example, the Chesapeake Safe Energy Coalition, of which Beyond Nuclear is a member, challenged the adequacy of the emergency preparedness and evacuation plans at the two reactor Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant in Maryland; this pressure successfully forced the Federal Emergency Management Agency to hold a public meeting on the matter, at which was revealed that even FEMA did not know where potassium iodine tablets for protecting human thyroids in the event of radiological iodine-131 releases during a disaster. Act now to prevent an atomic catastrophe -- contact the House Energy and Commerce Committee at (202) 225-2927 and urge that hearings be held on widespread, risky NRC regulatory shortfalls. Call your own U.S. Representative via the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and urge them to contact their colleagues on the Energy and Commerce Committee about the importance of such hearings.

Tuesday
Jun152010

Obama's Gulf oil catastrophe Oval Office call for "clean energy" tacit push for taxpayer-backed atomic power expansion?

Although President Barack Obama did not say the words "nuclear power" in his first ever Oval Office address to the nation on June 15th, his call for an accelerated "transition to clean energy" in response to the worst environmental catastrophe in U.S. history -- the worsening oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico -- represents a tacit push for the expansion of atomic energy. Such a nuclear relapse would only take place by transferring the financial risks and even direct costs (not to mention the radiological risks) squarely on the backs of taxpayers. Obama's speech only adds to concerns this his choice of pro-nuclear co-chairs to head his oil catastrophe investigative panel could serve as a cynical pretext for advancing the dirty, dangerous, and expensive atomic reactors and associated facilities.

Obama said "Last year, the House of Representatives acted on these principles by passing a strong and comprehensive energy and climate bill –- a bill that finally makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy for America’s businesses." But he failed to mention that the Waxman-Markey "American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009" (ACES, H.R. 2454) legislation would carve out as much as 30% of federal "Clean Energy Deployment Administration" (CEDA) funding and support -- loan guarantees, outright loans, and other subsidies -- for new atomic reactors and other nuclear facilities such as uranium enrichment plants.

Obama also failed to mention that the Kerry-Lieberman "American Power Act" in the Senate -- more of a dirty energy subsidy bill, including, ironically, support for expanded offshore oil drilling -- contains a long list of taxpayer giveaways to the nuclear power industry, as revealed in analyses by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Physicians for Social Responsibility. The Kerry-Lieberman bill would include the $36 billion expansion of the nuclear loan guarantee program funding requested from Congress by Energy Secretary Chu for the Fiscal Year 2011 budget. The Obama administration is attempting to rush $9 billion of this expansion onto this year's Fiscal 2010 budget by attaching a rider onto the emergency supplemental war funding and disaster relief bill currently before the U.S. House Appropriations Committee. 

Also not mentioned in Obama's speech was the Bingaman energy bill, passed by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last summer. Its version of CEDA is significantly worse than the House version, allowing for unlimited loan guarantees for nuclear power, without congressional oversight -- granting the Department of Energy veritable blank check writing authority for the nuclear relapse.

Act now! Contact the White House comment line at (202) 456-1111, or fill out its web form at http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact; urge President Obama to stop seeking to expand atomic energy at taxpayer risk and expense. Also contact your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative via the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121; urge them to block taxpayer giveaways to the atomic energy industry in pending appropriations, climate, and energy bills.