Nuke bailout bill passes in OH after Trump operative interferes; battle moves to state senate

Davis-Besse, and the Great Lake Erie it directly threatens with radioactive contaminationThe Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that bankrupt FirstEnergy Nuclear's proposed bailout of its dangerously age-degraded Davis-Besse (photo, left) and Perry atomic reactors, just passed the OH state House of Representatives, by a vote of 53 to 43. The bailout also greases the skids for subsidizing some dirty old coal plants. The reactors are located on the Lake Erie shoreline in northern Ohio. Politico has reported that a Trump presidential campaign official intervened, urging OH Republican legislators to support the bailout, to boost Trump's 2020 re-election prospects in OH. Ten Democrats voted yes (wrong) on the highly controversial bill (House Bill 6, HB6), while 17 Republicans voted no (right). The bad Democratic votes need "spanks," while the good Republican votes deserve thanks.

The war now moves to the OH state Senate. If you live in OH, please contact your state representative and senator directly, and spread word to everyone you know across your state to do the same. You can also phone your OH state legislator at 1-512-562-9139 and use a sample script.

Join Protests: Toledo on Mon., June 3; Columbus on Wed., June 5; Akron on Fri., June 7. Please spread the word. Pointing to a new report, Environmental Defense Fund asks, "Why should Ohioans be forced to bail out a profitable company?... Independent research now confirms that the entire pretext for bailing out FirstEnergy's power plants is bogus." The bailouts must be stopped! Please take action! Learn more about such bailouts, at our Nuclear Costs website section.
If you don't live in Ohio, please spread word to folks you know who do, alerting them about all this, and the various ways they can take action. This action alert can also be used as a model to follow, to resist old reactor bailouts proposed in other states

Pilgrim nuclear power station permanently shuts down

As of May 31, 2019, the nation’s operating nuclear power fleet will drop to 97 units with the permanent closure of the Pilgrim nuclear power station in Plymouth, MA.  The Pilgrim closure further reduced the number of General Electric Mark I boiling water reactors operating in the US to 20 units. The four reactor units at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi power station destroyed by multiple hydrogen explosions and reactor core meltdowns following the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011 were all the same GE design and construction.

Congratulations to Pilgrim Watch, Cape Downwinders and the many others who have struggled over decades to end the threat of a Pilgrim nuclear accident and stop the generation of more nuclear waste that is still without environmental justice and  a scientifically accepted long-term management plan.

The vigilance of public interest and environmental groups watchdogging the nuclear industry and its captured federal regulators will need to remain on guard as Pilgrim's operative atomic threat now shifts from the danger of a reactor meltdown to a storage pond sitting atop the reactor building densely packed with super-hot irradiated nuclear fuel. There, the high-level radioactive waste will need to thermally cool in the storage pool before the assemblies are loaded---shielded underwater---into storage canisters, sealed, drained and filled with pressurized helium gas essential to passive cooling into the future. Each loaded cask weighing well over a hundred tons will then be moved from the pool and lowered by crane down a six-story equipment shaft in the reactor building and towed to an onsite area for indefinite storage. This is the first major step in a decommissioning process as proposed to begin with the transfer of ownership from Entergy to a newly formed decommissioning contractor, Holtec International, that also manufactures the casks. The license transfer is being scrutinized by the Massachusetts Attorney General and Pilgrim Watch in a legal intervention before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission over Holtec’s financial accountability and the safety of its plan to significantly accelerate the decommissioning of the reactor for completion in eight years. Holtec would take title to the uncertain future of its hazardous nuclear waste storage casks.  The NRC is still deliberating on its decision.

WBUR Boston prepared a timeline chronicling some of Pilgrim’s operating history. Of note, Pilgrim’s history is notorious for the cancer studies and findings its operation and radioactive releases prompted. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health's "Southeastern Massachusetts Public Health Study" (1990) looked at 22 towns around the nuke and correlated a four-fold increase in a rare adult leukemia in the population living most immediately within four miles of the atomic power plant, and who were exposed to increased radiation releases occurring between 1972-1974. Another study by Dr. Richard Clapp, then with the Massachusetts State Cancer Registry, found a two-fold increase in hemotopoietic (immune cells) cancer in communities immediately around Pilgrim from 1982-1984. These were just the cancers and sicknesses identified as attributable to atomic power by clinical study. Don't be fooled---radiation causes cancer. All atomic power stations release harmful radiation routinely and accidentally.


The Atomic Soldiers

A moving new film about U.S. Atomic Veterans and their own physical suffering and mental anguish. Screened by The Atlantic

The description from The Atlantic.

Nearly everyone who’s seen it and lived to tell the tale describes it the same way: a horrifying, otherworldly thing of ghastly beauty that has haunted their life ever since.

“The colors were beautiful,” remembers a man in Morgan Knibbe’s short documentary The Atomic Soldiers. “I hate to say that.” 

“It was completely daylight at midnight—brighter than the brightest day you ever saw,” says another.

Many tales of the atomic bomb, however, weren’t told at all. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, an estimated 400,000 American soldiers and sailors also observed nuclear explosions—many just a mile or two from ground zero. From 1946 to 1962, the U.S. government conducted more than 1,000 atmospheric tests, during which unwitting troops were exposed to vast amounts of ionizing radiation. For protection, they wore utility jackets, helmets, and gas masks. They were told to cover their face with their arms. 

After the tests, the soldiers, many of whom were traumatized, were sworn to an oath of secrecy. Breaking it even to talk among themselves was considered treason, punishable by a $10,000 fine and 10 or more years in prison.

In Knibbe’s film, some of these atomic veterans break the forced silence to tell their story for the very first time. They describe how the blast knocked them to the ground; how they could see the bones and blood vessels in their hands, like viewing an X-ray. They recount the terror in their officers’ faces and the tears and panic that followed the blasts. They talk about how they’ve been haunted—by nightmares, PTSD, and various health afflictions, including cancer. Knibbe’s spare filmmaking approach foregrounds details and emotion. There’s no need for archival footage; the story is writ large in the faces of the veterans, who struggle to find the right words to express the horror of what they saw during the tests and what they struggled with in the decades after.

Knibbe told me that he has long been fascinated with the self-destructive tendencies of mankind. When he found declassified U.S. civil-defense footage of soldiers maneuvering in the glare of the mushroom cloud of an atomic bomb, he was “absolutely amazed and wanted to learn more about their stories.” His efforts to dig deeper were curtailed by the fact that most of the information about the nuclear tests was classified—including reports on the illnesses the veterans suffered and the radioactive pollution that was released into the environment around the test sites. “I was baffled by the lack of recorded testimonies available,” he said.

Knibbe began trying to contact veterans through the National Association of Atomic Veterans, eventually traveling across the United States to meet them and hear their stories. He was stunned and saddened by what he learned. “They were confronted by such an incredible destructive power that they were immediately shocked into an existential crisis,” Knibbe said. “It was like they saw the creation of the universe. They were confronted with an enemy they could never defeat. It was something really difficult for them to describe.”

What appalled Knibbe the most was how the U.S. government failed the veterans. “Until this day, a lot of what has happened—and the radiation-related diseases the veterans have contracted and passed on to the generations after them—is still being covered up,” Knibbe said. “The veterans are consistently denied compensation.”

“For 10 years now, I’ve been trying to get compensation, but the government does not want to admit that anybody was harmed by any radiation,” says one man in the film. Knibbe said he has spoken with more than 100 U.S. atomic veterans, all of whom share similar stories of the government’s intransigence. One of the few studies conducted on atomic veterans found that the 3,000 participants in a 1957 nuclear test suffered from leukemia at more than twice the rate of their peers.

Bill Clinton relieved the veterans’ oath of secrecy in 1994, but the announcement was eclipsed by news from

“It haunts me to think of what I had witnessed,” says a man in the film, “and not realized at the time the import of what we were doing … serving as guinea pigs.”


Bailout war rages over dangerously age-degraded Ohio reactors

The Davis-Besse atomic reactor, and the Great Lake, Erie, beyond, which it puts at ever increasing risk of radioactive catastropheBeyond Nuclear is thankful to our many friends and colleagues in Ohio for fighting the good fight against bailouts for dangerously old reactors, like Davis-Besse and Perry. For example, the Ohio Sierra Club, its Nuclear-Free Committee, and its national Beyond Coal campaign, have organized large numbers of grassroots testimony before state legislative committees against the bailout bill, HB6, in its ever-evolving (devolving!), various incarnations in recent weeks. Environmental Defense Fund has compiled arguments against the bailouts by various strange bedfellow coalition allies, such as the Koch Brothers' Americans for Prosperity. Beyond Nuclear has also re-submitted its testimony, focused on the ever-worsening safety risks at Davis-Besse (photo, left), such as its dangerously cracked concrete containment Shield Building. The cracking is so bad, that spalling of large chunks of concrete from its exterior face could damage or destroy safety-related systems, structures, or components below. In that sense, the Shield Building could cause the reactor core meltdown, and then fail to contain the catastrophic releases of hazardous radioactivity that would result. If you live in Ohio, please contact your State House Representative, and State Senator, directly -- urge them to oppose the old atomic reactor bailouts. If you know folks in Ohio, please share this action alert with them, and urge them to contact their state legislators, as well! Let's make sure Davis-Besse and Perry shut down for good, by FirstEnergy Nuclear's announced closure dates (May 31, 2020, and May 31, 2021, respectively) at the very latest, if not sooner, for the sake of safety! We must protect the Great Lakes, drinking water for tens of millions downstream, in both the U.S. and Canada, as well as a very large number of Native American First Nations!


Holtec in (even more) hot water

A big expose about corruption at Holtec on ProPublica today. Here's the headline:

A False Answer, A Big Political Connection and $260 Million In Tax Breaks.

Holtec International gave false answer in a 2014 New Jersey tax break application connected to political boss George E. Norcross III, a Holtec board member. Five days after WNYC and ProPublica asked about it, lawyers called it "inadvertent" and asked the state to correct it.

And here is the lead:

"A company that won the second-largest tax break in New Jersey history gave a false answer about being prohibited from working with a federal agency in sworn statements made to win $260 million in taxpayer assistance for a new plant in Camden.

"A review by WNYC and ProPublica found that Holtec International CEO Kris Singh responded “no” on certified forms submitted to the state in 2014 that asked if the applicant had ever been barred from doing business with a state or federal agency. The forms were submitted to the New Jersey Economic Development Authority as part of the company’s successful application for tax breaks.

"In fact, the international nuclear parts manufacturer was caught up in a contracting investigation at the federally owned Tennessee Valley Authority. In 2010, Holtec was barred for 60 days from doing any federal business and paid a $2 million administrative fine to the TVA, according to an agency report. Holtec’s debarment marked the first time the agency had taken such action against a contractor.

Read the full story.