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Wednesday
Jun112014

State of Michigan Senate unanimously passes bill and resolutions urging federal action against Great Lakes shore radioactive waste dump

Today, the State of Michigan's Senate unanimously passed a bill and resolutions package sponsored by sponsored by State Senator Phil Pavlov and co-sponsored by State Senators John Proos, Jack Brandenburg, Michael Green, Tonya Schuitmaker, Hoon-Yung Hopgood , Rick Jones, Goeffrey Hansen, James Marleau, Michael Kowall, and David Hildenbrand.

The bill and resolutions express grave concerns about Ontario Power Generation's (OPG) proposed Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) targeted at the Lake Huron shoreline at Bruce Nuclear Generating Station in Kincardine, Ontario, Canada, where so-called "low" and "intermediate" level radioactive wastes from 20 reactors across Ontario would be permanently buried.

The bill and resolutions call upon President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry, and the U.S. Congress to activate the International Joint Commission (IJC), under the U.S.-Canadian Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909, to review the risks of OPG's DGR. The bill and resolutions also called upon the Great Lakes Commission, comprised of eight Great Lakes States and two Canadian provinces, to similarly review the risks of OPG's DGR, and take a position on the controversial issue. The bill and resolutions also call upon the other seven Great Lakes States (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York) to take similar action.

The Great Lakes provide drinking water to 40 million people in the U.S. and Canada.

Monday
Jun092014

Two dozen groups urge State of MA to divest from Entergy due to safety and economic risks at Pilgrim

NRC file photo of Entergy's Pilgrim GE BWR Mark I on Cape Cod Bay in Plymouth, MABeyond Nuclear has signed onto an effort spearheaded by the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, and endorsed by two dozen local groups, to urge the State of Massachusetts to divest more than $8 million invested in Entergy. The signatory groups cited the economic and safety risks associated with the nuclear utility's problem-plagued Pilgrim atomic reactor. A June 4th letter was sent to Governor Patrick and Treasurer Grossman, as described in a June 9th press release.

NRC recently placed Pilgrim on its "degraded" performance short list. The only other reactor in the country with a worse performance designation is FitzPatrick in upstate New York. Both Pilgrim and FitzPatrick are General Electric Mark I boiling water reactors, identical in design to Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4.

Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor in Michigan was similarly designated one of the worst performers in the U.S. a couple years ago, after not one but two near-misses in 2011, and yet another one in 2012, as documented by David Lochbaum at Union of Concerned Scientists.

A year ago, energy economist Mark Cooper of Vermont Law School identified Entergy's six merchant reactors (half its national fleet), including Pilgrim, as at risk of near-term shutdown. This is due to a variety of factors, including economic uncompetitiveness and needed, costly safety repairs. In August 2013, Cooper was proven right, when Entergy announced the permanent shutdown of Vermont Yankee (another Entergy GE BWR Mark I) by the end of 2014.

Monday
Jun092014

Markey, Burgess Release Report Showing Legal Concerns over Energy Dept.’s Deals with Uranium Enriching Company

U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA)A new GAO report, requested by U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass., photo left) and U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), finds that the shuttered U.S. Enrichment Corporation (USEC) facility received hundreds of millions of dollars worth of uranium, while ignoring laws and losing taxpayer money.

The report details a pattern of actions by DOE that kept USEC’s facility in Paducah, Kentucky open and subsidized the development of questionable centrifuge technology at its Ohio facility, even as the company was rated as junk bond status, threatened with de-listing from the New York Stock Exchange, and ultimately spiraled into bankruptcy.

“Our government has kept this uranium company on life support, wasting money and flouting the law, even though it was clear that it would end up in bankruptcy. This is the kind of government waste that Americans just don’t understand,” said Senator Markey, who is a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. “It’s time to commit this junk technology to the junk bin.”

Some of the uranium involved is associated with supplying replacement tritium for U.S. nuclear weapons.

Sen. Markey has issued a press release, including a summary, and a link to the full 112-page GAO report.

Friday
May302014

NEIS: "IL House Speaker Madigan, Exelon Declare 'Nuclear War' on Renewables, Pass HR1146"

NEIS Board Member Linda Lewison in discussion with Environmental Law Policy Center’s Barry Matchett in Springfield, IL. Photo courtesy of NEIS.As related in a Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS) press release, an Illinois State House of Representatives resolution, HR1146, is the prelude to a "bailout" for Exelon's unprofitable atomic reactors, as well as a nationwide anti-renewables campaign being waged by the largest nuclear power utilities in the country.

"The Nuclear Power Plant Closure" resolution was introduced by IL House Speaker Mike Madigan only last Friday, May 23rd, at the beginning of the Memorial Day holiday weekend, largely at the behest of Exelon Corporation. It sets in motion policy and governmental mechanisms that would essentially “nuke” renewable energy in Illinois, and guarantee that nuclear and coal would be the mainstay of Illinois electricity production for the foreseeable future.

“This Resolution takes energy in Illinois backwards at least 15 years,” says David Kraft, Director of the Chicago-based Nuclear Energy Information Service, a nuclear watchdog and renewable energy advocacy organization. “If its clauses ever become legislated, they would literally mandate the use of nuclear energy in Illinois, all the while Speaker Madigan conspires with Exelon to not fix the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard law.  He might as well have titled it, ‘Forward – Into the Past!” says Kraft.

Beyond the local significance to Illinois, the Resolution is actually a piece of a national program Exelon is orchestrating (with the help of ALEC and others) to keep in operation old nuclear plants which have been losing money for years. More.

Wednesday
May282014

Fukushima lessons learned? None! NRC ends consideration of expedited unloading of radioactive waste pools

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission snuck out a major decision on the Friday before Memorial Day Weekend. Its generic study of whether or not to require the expedited transfer of "spent nuclear fuel" (irradiated nuclear fuel rods, highly radioactive waste) out of vulnerable storage pools will be unceremoniusly ended, with no requirement to unload pools into dry cask storage. The study was undertaken as part of NRC's Fukushima "lessons learned" process, created by former NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko in the immediate aftermath of the Japanese nuclear catastrophe.

The decision came in the form of a memo, sent from the NRC Secretary to the NRC EDO (Executive Director for Operations). The memo simply states: "The Commission has approved the staff's recommendation that this Tier 3 Japan lessons-learned activity be closed and that no further generic assessments be pursued related to possible regulatory actions to require the expedited transfer of spent fuel to dry cask storage."

Four of the five NRC Commissioners (Svinicki, Apostalakis, Magwood, and Ostendorff) voted to support NRC Staff's recommendation, made late last year, that irradiated nuclear fuel currently stored in densely-packed pools, need not be transferred to dry casks on an expedited basis.

The sole dissenting vote on the NRC Commission came from its Chairwoman, Allison Macfarlane. Chairwoman Macfarlane criticized the NRC staff's analysis, including that the only risk initiator considered was an earthquake. She called for a “more thorough analysis,” including consideration “of all natural and human-induced events (e.g., accidental, malevolent).”

Chairwoman Macfarlane provided a more than 10-page analysis explaining her dissent. Three of the other Commissioners who blessed the staff's recommendation for inaction provided a page, or less, of explanation for their own votes. More.

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