U.S. Senate confirms pro-nuclear commissioners to NRC

On May 24, the U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed Annie Caputo (pictured) and David Wright as commissioners to serve five-year terms on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Beyond Nuclear had advocated against seating the two Republicans. As documented by Beyond Nuclear’s Paul Gunter, Caputo worked as the congressional affairs executive manager for Exelon Corporation, now the largest nuclear power corporation in the U.S., from 1998 to 2005. She has also served as Senior Policy Advisor for leading nuclear power proponent, Oklahoma Republican Senator Jim Inhofe from 2009 to 2012 (Inhofe is also the Senate's most notorious climate denier). 

David Wright, is a former commissioner and chairman of the South Carolina Public Service Commission (SC PSC, 2004-2013), and another leading advocate for nuclear power/radioactive waste generation, and for getting the proposed but still canceled Yucca Mountain high-level waste dump back on the table.

Commissioner Kristine Svinicki, the third Republican on the Commission, is also an advocate of the Yucca Mountain, Nevada radioactive waste dump and promoted it while working at the U.S. Department of Energy. The remaining Commissioners are Jeff Baran, a Democrat whose term was renewed, and Stephen Burns, an independent. The nuclear industry can now count on a majority vote in its favor every time, with three of its own occupying Commission seats.


Takoma Park receives its ICAN certificate

The City of Takoma Park was presented with a Certificate of Compliance with the UN Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, awarded by the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize winners, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). Paul Gunter of the Takoma Park Nuclear-Free Committee made the presentation to Takoma Park Mayor, Kate Stewart, and members of the City Council at the start of the Wednesday, May 23rd council session. (Pictured.)

Takoma Park was the first city in the U.S. to declare its compliance with the UN accord, known as the Ban Treaty. The Treaty prohibits the development, testing, production, deployment, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons, and requires environmental remediation and assistance to victims of the nuclear age. It was adopted by 122 countries at the UN on 7 July 2017. Once it is ratified by 50 nations, it becomes international law.

For more information, see our press release.


Alliance for Nuclear Accountability awards heroes


The Alliance for Nuclear Acccountability held its 30th Anniversary Congressional Awards gala on May 22, during it annual lobbying effort on Capitol Hill known as DC Days. In front of a packed room in the Rayburn House Office Building, awards were presented to five individuals for their steadfast service to the cause of ridding the world of nuclear weapons and nuclear power. Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Senator Ed Markey received awards for their years of legistlative efforts. Georgia WAND's Diane Valentin was the Bill Mitchell Grassroots Activist winner, named after ANA's founding director who passed away on May 25, 2016. Susan Gordon, who was ANA's executive director for 17 years, before becoming the coordinator of the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment, was recognized for her lifetime of work. And Beyond Nuclear presented its Dr. Judith Johnsrud Unsung Hero Award to Toledo, OH laywer, Terry Lodge, who has fought many cases on behalf of the anti-nuclear community. Rick Wayman of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (not pictured) wrapped up the proceedings with a look ahead at the challenges to come. More.


Will sacred Mt. Taylor be mined for uranium?

It would be tempting to say that the current battle over resumption of uranium mining at the sacred Mount Taylor, which sits atop one of the richest known uranium ore reserves in the country, is just the latest in this long and shameful saga. But it is not alone. There are stories like this everywhere in Indian Country — Bears Ears would be just one more example.

Mt. Taylor, located in the southwestern corner of New Mexico’s San Mateo Mountains, is a pilgrimage site sacred to at least 30 tribes including the Navajo Nation, the Hopi, the Zuni, and the nearby Laguna and Acoma Pueblos. Even the National Trust for Historic Preservation lists Mt. Taylor and points out on its website that new attempts to mine uranium there “may contaminate or impair the primary water source for Acoma Sky City (pictured), the oldest inhabited community in the United States,” in addition to the threats posed to the mountain itself from uranium ore extraction operations.

The existing uranium mine site on Mt. Taylor has not been operational since 1990 but got its first standby permit in 1999. The 1993 New Mexico Mining Act allows mines to remain inactive in standby status for a maximum of 20 years before reclamation must be required. Instead, on December 29, 2017, the New Mexico Mining and Minerals Division issued a Return to Active Permit for the Mt. Taylor uranium mine, owned by Rio Grande Resources (RGR).

The decision to allow resumption of uranium mining is based on spurious economic claims, say the groups fighting the decision, including the broad coalition, MultiCultural Alliance for a Safe Environment ( MASE) and Amigos Bravos. They face an uphill battle. Writes Earthworks: “Much of the land in question is still governed by the 1872 Mining Law, which permits mining regardless of its impact on cultural or natural resources. Many local tribes fear the development of uranium resources in the Mount Taylor region would destroy the culturally and spiritually significant land.”

Read the rest of the story at Beyond Nuclear International.


Supreme Court will hear Virginia uranium mining case

Virginia Uranium, the Canadian company that wants to extract uranium from a deposit in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, has tried for years to argue its case on merit. And failed. That’s because there are no environmental, health or, at present, even economic arguments to support lifting the Commonwealth’s moratorium on uranium mining.

But corporations eager to plunder and profit do not readily throw in the towel. Instead, the company has taken its case to the US Supreme Court where it will argue the issue from a legal perspective.

Virginia Uranium has the support in this venture of the lapdog federal regulator, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which never fails to be on side with its corporate masters. (Technically the NRC answers to Congress, not the nuclear industry, but the agency annually assesses and collects fees from the industry totaling about 90 percent of its annual budget authority.)

The specifics of the Supreme Court case will debate who actually has the jurisdiction to decide whether the Virginia Uranium project can go forward. The federal government will make the case that it falls under the terms of the Atomic Energy Act. This would give the NRC the power to oversee all matters related to radiation risks posed by the mine — the core of the state’s reasoning in opposing it.

The state will argue that the Coles Hill site is on privately owned land. This would mean the mine site falls outside the jurisdiction of the AEA which is aimed at regulating mines on federal land.

Read the rest of our story on Beyond Nuclear International.