With hasty stroke of a pen, Bush DOE transferred billions of dollars in radioactive waste liability onto taxpayers

Beyond Nuclear, along with Institute for Energy and Environmental Research and the law firm of  Harmon, Curran, Spielberg, and Eisenberg, LLP, have broken the story that between November 4, 2008 (the day Barack Obama was elected President) and January 22, 2009 (two days after he took the Oath of Office), the George W. Bush administration’s Department of Energy (DOE) hurriedly signed new irradiated nuclear fuel contracts with utilities proposing 21 new atomic reactors. This obligates U.S. taxpayers to ultimate financial liability for breach of contract damages if DOE fails to take possession of these estimated 21,000 metric tons of high-level radioactive waste by ten years after the new reactors’ licenses terminate. This could cost taxpayers billions or even tens of billions of dollars over time. DOE signed these contracts despite the fact that it has already cost taxpayers $565 million in damages for past breached contacts involving old radioactive waste at commercial reactors, with $790 million more soon to be transferred from the U.S. Treasury to atomic utilities. In fact, DOE estimates that by 2020, taxpayers will have paid $12.3 billion in damages to nuclear utilities for waste contract breaches, while the nuclear industry itself estimates the ultimate taxpayer damage awards will top $50 billion. These new contracts will only add to that crushing burden. See the full materials from the press conference: media release, backgrounder on new waste disposal contracts (authored by Beyond Nuclear’s Kevin Kamps), Principles for Safeguarding Nuclear Waste at Reactors, and the new contracts themselves, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. You can even listen to an audio recording of the press conference. Also see Arjun Makhijani's opening statement, as well as Kevin's and attorney Diane Curran's. The news conference garnered 25 stories in the media, including a major article in Christian Science Monitor.


ANA awards Yucca watchdogs certificates of honor

On March 16 during its "DC Days" award ceremony, the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (of which Beyond Nuclear is a member group) presented certificates of honor to Steve Frishman and Judy Treichel for their more than quarter century of grassroots leadership against the now-cancelled Yucca Mountain dumpsite in Nevada. Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear's Radioactive Waste Watchdog, had the privilege of introducing Judy and Steve. Judy, founder and executive director of the Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force, was honored "For her steadfast leadership in Nevada and across the country working with community organizations to raise transportation and other concerns as part of an effective campaign to stop the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Project." Judy's acceptance speech was marked by her characteristic sense of humor. Steve Frishman, who long served at the State of Nevada's Agency for Nuclear Projects, was honored "For his expertise in exposing technical and legal problems that demonstrated the inadequacies of the proposed site as part of an effective campaign to stop the Yucca Mountain Project." In his acceptance speech, Steve celebrated "the value of persistence in a just cause, and the value of friends who shared theirs with us."


Karl Grossman to speak on nuclear-powered weapons in space in Asheville

Beyond Nuclear board of directors member Karl Grossman, an investigative journalist who has reported on nuclear power issues for decades, will speak in Asheville, North Carolina on March 25th about U.S. military-industrial complex plans for nuclear-powered weapons in outer space. Karl also serves on the board of directors for the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. The Western North Carolina Physicians for Social Responsibility is the main sponsor, and have put out an announcement; additional information can be found on their website. Karl's latest article is entitled "Nuclear plant for Israel?", which has run in Manhattan Jewish Sentinel, Long Island Jewish World and Jewish Tribune. It was also published as an op-ed in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.


Illinois votes to reverse ban on new reactors

With little debate, according to news reports, and even less press coverage, the Illinois State Senate voted to reverse a ban on building new nuclear power plants in the state. Illinois is already the state with the most reactors - 11 - in the country. There was a loan vote against the reversal fromSen. Jeff Schoenberg, D-Evanston. The condition of the original ban was that no new nuclear plants could be built " until such time as the federal government has an operational disposal facility for the dangerous and long-lived high-level radioactive wastes (HLRW) they would generate," according to Dave Kraft of Nuclear Energy Information Service. Kraft decried the vote, stating: "Beware the Ides of March – and the ignorance of the some Illinois legislators on nuclear matters."


Suspected al-Qaeda member worked at 6 U.S. nuclear power plants

Associated Press is reporting that suspected al-Qaeda member Sharif Mobley, who was wounded in a March 2010 shoot out and escape attempt  from a Yemeni hospital, had previously worked at six US nuclear power plant sites containing 10 separate reactor units from 2002 to 2008 before moving to Yemen.  Mr. Mobley is reported to have worked as a contract worker at New Jersey’s three unit Salem and Hope Creek nuclear power plant site, Pennsylvania’s two unit Peach Bottom nuclear reactors, the two unit site at Limerick, and the single operating unit at Three Mile Island as well as Maryland’s two unit Calvert Cliffs nuclear power station.  

Mr. Mobley had cleared all federal background checks to gain access as a contract worker to the nuclear power stations. The Baltimore office of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation has opened a case. Nuclear power plant authorities and the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission are reported to be collaborating in the investigation.

Regardless of any finding of the investigation into the allegations against Mr. Mobley, the news stories underscore the concern that nuclear power plants are vulnerable pre-deployed weapons of mass destruction. Nuclear power plants have been identified by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States in its 911 Commission report, as high profile targets because of the potential far reaching radiological consequences of successfully sabotaging a reactor and/or the tremendous amounts of highly radioactive waste stored onsite in vulnerable pools and dry casks.  The original al-Qaeda attack plan was to hijack ten commercial aircraft and fly two into US nuclear power stations. Mohammed Atta is reported to have surveilled the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester County, New York during his flight training.

Clearly, a sophisticated enemy of the state can introduce a would-be saboteur or an inside informant penetrating  even with the most thorough criminal background checks if there is no prior record on such an individual.  A determined, knowledgeable and well trained adversary can render large portions of the United States uninhabitable if successful.