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Thursday
Aug212014

Groups urge NRC to postpone key votes in order to avoid “taint” of Magwood conflict of interest

NRC Commissioner William Magwood IV34 groups, including Beyond Nuclear, have written a letter to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Chairman, Allison Macfarlane, as well as NRC Commissioners Christine Svinicki and William Ostendorff, urging them to postpone key Commission votes until after the departure of Commissioner William Magwood IV (photo, left) for his new job as Director-General of the Nuclear Energy Agency in Paris on September 1st.

The NEA's mission statement is to promote nuclear power, while NRC's is supposed to be public health, safety, and environmental protection. The 34 groups allege a glaring conflict of interest on Magwood's part, and have previously called for his resignation, as well as retroactive recusal on all nuclear safety votes dating back to his solicitation of the NEA directorship.

The key votes, now set for August 26th, are on NRC Commission approval of NRC staff's "Continued Storage" (formerly called Nuclear Waste Confidence) Generic Environmental Impact Statement (and very likely its closely associated Rule). The Continued Storage GEIS and Rule hold that irradiated nuclear fuel can be safely, securely, and soundly stored on-site at nuclear power plants, as well as at away-from-reactor consolidated "interim" storage sites, for many decades to come, and effectively, indefinitely.

The Commissioners could also vote to lift a stay on old reactor license extensions, and new reactor construction and operating licenses, in place since the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals nullified NRC's indefensible Nuclear Waste Confidence policy in June, 2012. Via their standing as official intervenors, Beyond Nuclear and its environmental allies have helped secure stays against final approval of the Fermi 3, MI proposed new reactor construction and operating license, as well as the Davis-Besse, OH 20-year license extension, until the court-ordered revison of the Nuclear Waste Confidence policy has been finalized.

The 34-group environmental coalition, represented by attorneys Diane Curran of Harmon, Curran, Spielberg + Eisenberg LLP of Washington, D.C., and Mindy Goldstein of the Turner Environmental Law Clinic at Emory University in Atlanta, has also issued a press release.

The Hill, the Washington Post, and E&E/Greenwire, have reported on this story. The latter article, which requires a subscription to view, mentions Beyond Nuclear et al.'s request to Commissioner Magwood, filed two months ago, that he recuse himself from the Fermi 3 licensing proceeding. Magwood refused to do so.

Katherine Fuchs at FOE has posted a blog about Magwood, "Revolving doors at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission."

Tuesday
Aug192014

Environmental groups oppose Fermi 2 license extension

NRC file photo of Fermi 2Multiple environmental groups have met an arbitrarily short, 11:59pm Eastern deadline, and officially intervened against the application by DTE (Detroit Edison) to extend the operating license at its Fermi 2 atomic reactor (photo, left) for an additional 20 years. Fermi 2's operating license is currently set to expire in 2025.

DTE's Fermi nuclear power plant, most infamous for the October 5, 1966 "We Almost Lost Detroit" partial meltdown of its Unit 1 experimental plutonium breeder reactor, is located on the Lake Erie shore of southeast Michigan, in Monroe County.

Beyond Nuclear has entered into coalition with Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, as well as Don't Waste Michigan, to file four contentions against Fermi 2's license extension.

Two of the contentions concern radioactive waste. The first is about the risk of catastrophic irradiated nuclear fuel storage pool fires. Fermi 2's storage pool holds around 600 tons of irradiated nuclear fuel, more than all four destroyed units at Fukushima Daiichi put together (419 tons). The second radioactive waste contention is about the lack of safety and environmental assurances, since the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) "Nuclear Waste Confidence" policy was declared null and void two years ago by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and NRC has not yet replaced it.

Another contention concerns the General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor, and its containment's, long-known, fatal design flaws. Fermi 2 is largest GE Mark I BWR in the world, almost as big as the melted down Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 and 2 reactor cores put together. 

The final contention is about the interconnected risks between the age-degraded Fermi 2, and the untested, proposed new Fermi 3 atomic reactor, including the vulnerability of both sharing a common off-site electricity transmission corridor.

The coalition has issued a press release about its intervention and contentions opposing Fermi 2's license extension.

The three groups, joined by Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, as well as the Sierra Club, Michigan Chapter, have also been intervening against the Fermi 3 proposed new reactor since March, 2009.

Both coalitions challenging Fermi 2, and Fermi 3, are represented by Toledo-based attorney Terry Lodge.

Citizens Resistance at Fermi Two (CRAFT) separately filed 14 contentions of its own against the Fermi 2 license extension. CRAFT released a press release.

Sunday
Aug172014

NEIS urges IL state legislature to oppose Exelon's attempt to scam EPA carbon rule for massive bailout

"Nuclear Illinois" map produced by NEISAs reported by the Chicago Tribune:

"Exelon has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to change its proposed emissions rules to ensure that all of its nuclear power plants and other nuclear facilities across the U.S. remain financially viable. 'We're the largest clean-energy producer in the country. We've ridden that horse for a long time,' said William Von Hoene, Exelon's senior executive vice president and chief strategy officer, noting that 'if nuclear is not preserved in this country, there is no way we can meet those carbon rules.'"

Exelon's is the biggest nuclear utility in the U.S., with 11 still operating, and 3 permanently closed, atomic reactors in the State of Illinois alone (map, left).

Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS) begged to differ, issuing a press release. NEIS urged the IL state legislature to oppose the bailout sought by Exelon, warning that the company seeks to scam EPA carbon rules to subsidize nuclear power in Illinois and the nation."

NEIS stated:

"Exelon’s scheming to garner subsidies for unprofitable nuclear plants in Illinois uses the recent EPA carbon standards rule as a fig leaf for the enormous rip off it represents.  It should be opposed by the Legislature.

Exelon’s nuclear plants have been paid for numerous times over by ratepayers: through the rate hikes that built them; through the estimated $6-$11 billion in “stranded costs” awarded them when Illinois went from a regulated to a market-based system; and in the $21 billion [Citizens Utility Board] reports these plants have earned Exelon in the last decade alone."

NEIS has prepared a petition. Its goal is to collect 1,000 signatures to turn in to President Obama, the EPA, and IL state legislators.

What can you do? Take action! See Beyond Nuclear's recent action alerts and backgrounders!

Thursday
Aug142014

Cost overruns and schedule delays at proposed new reactors in GA, SC, and TN

Aerial image of Vogtle nuclear power plant in GA, showing the operational Units 1 and 2, as well as the construction site for the proposed Units 3 and 4. Photo credit: High Flyer.We told them so. As the environmental movement warned 14 years ago, when the nuclear relapse was hatched by the Bush/Cheney administration, proposed new reactors at Vogtle 3 & 4 in Georgia, Summer 2 & 3 in South Carolina, and Watts Bar 2 in Tennessee are suffering major cost overruns and construction schedule delays.

Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) has published an update on Vogtle 3 & 4, which currently are suffering a 21-month schedule delay, and $1.4 billion cost overrun. The delays could well get worse, at a staggering cost increase of $2 million per day of delay!

Similarly, as reported by SRS Watch, delays of up to three years, and cost overruns topping $500 million, are afflicting the Summer 2 & 3 proposed new reactors in SC.

Note that those April 1st projected opening dates for the new reactors at Voglte and Summer, listed in the updates above, are no April Fool's joke. GA and SC ratepayers are already being gouged for the new reactors' troubled contstruction, on their electricity bills.

Vogtle 3 & 4's financial risks also now implicate federal taxpayers, in the form of a $6.5 billion loan guarantee, likely to soon grow to an $8.3 billion loan guarantee. This is compliments of the Obama administration. So, if Vogtle 3 & 4 default on their loan repayment, federal taxpayers will be left holding the bag. This is 15 times more taxpayer money at risk than was lost in the Solyndra solar loan guarantee scandal. And that risk, of Vogtle 3 & 4 defaulting on its loan repayment, was judged, years ago, by the likes of the Congressional Budget Office and Government Accountability Office, as a much greater risk than Solyndra defaulting on its loan repayment.

Vogtle 3 & 4, as well as Summer 2 & 3, are Toshiba-Westinghouse AP-1000 reactors. They are experimental, never having been built before anywhere in the world, although AP-1000s are also under construction in China.

The proposed new reactor in Tennessee, that is also suffering cost overruns and schedule delays, is the Tennessee Valley Authority's long-mothballed Watts Bar Unit 2.

To add to the irony, the existing reactors at Vogtle, Units 1 & 2, were the poster child for cost overruns in the last generation of reactor construction, coming in at 1,300% their originally estimated cost!

And the operational Watts Bar Unit 1 took 23 years to build, from 1973 to 1996!

Friday
Aug082014

Environmental coalition presses case for NEPA review of Fermi 3 transmission corridor

Although atomic reactors and their transmission lines are inextricably interconnected, NRC staff failed to include them in its FEIS for the proposed new Fermi 3 reactor, a violation of NEPAOn Aug. 7th, Terry Lodge, Toledo-based attorney for the environmental coalition intervening against DTE's proposed new Fermi 3 reactor in southeast MI, has filed a final reply brief requested by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

The coalition includes Beyond Nuclear, Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, Citizen Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and the Sierra Club, Michigan Chapter.

Lodge's reply rebuts July 28th filings made by DTE, NRC staff, and the Nuclear Energy Institute. All three sought to block the NRC's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) from undertaking its own review of NRC staff's alleged failure to perform an environmental assessment on the impacts from building nearly 30 miles of new transmission lines to serve Fermi 3. This includes an 11 mile stretch through undeveloped areas, including forested wetlands. These could serve as critical habitat for endangered or threatened species.

In addition, ancient Native American burials, deserving of protection under law, very likely are located along the targeted transmission corridor pathway, as well.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires such a review, interverers have argued since Jan. 2012. And it appears the ASLB, as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, agree with them.

DTE and NRC staff also filed replies by the August 7th deadline, attempting to rebut the environmental interveners' July 28th filing.

Now the NRC Commissioners will take the matter behind closed doors, to decide whether or not they will grant the ASLB permission to review NRC staff's alleged NEPA failures, as the licensing board overseeing the Fermi 3 combined Construction and Operating License Application has requested.

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