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Monday
Feb092015

Beyond Nuclear on Thom Hartmann's "The Big Picture" regarding Fermi 1, 2, and 3

Thom Hartmann, host of "The Big Picture"Thom Hartmann (photo, left) invited Beyond Nuclear onto his television program "The Big Picture" to discuss the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) impending decision to rubberstamp the proposed new Fermi 3 atomic reactor's license in southeast Michigan -- to be constructed on the very spot where the "We Almost Lost Detroit" Fermi 1 reactor had a partial core meltdown in 1966. The environmental coalition that has been intervening against Fermi 3's license for six and a half years, represented by Toledo attorney Terry Lodge, has vowed to appeal NRC's decision to federal court, if need be.

Thom also asked about the risks at Fermi 2 -- identical in design to Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4 -- and the liabilities associated with U.S., Japanese, and other nuclear firms building dangerous new reactors in places like India and China.

Saturday
Feb072015

Many have tried, all have failed // Washington Examiner: GOP must overcome Reid to get to Yucca nuclear storage

As shown in Jim Day's political cartoon (be sure to count the toes) in the Las Vegas Review Journal, the President Obama zeroed out funding, and ordered his DOE to withdraw the license application, in 2010.U.S. Senator Harry Reid's (D-NV) Communications Director, Adam Jentleson, put it concisely with that Tweet above, in response to a Washington Examiner article.

Even as Minority Leader in a Republican majority Senate, Reid can be counted on to block any attempt to resurrect the long-canceled high-level radioactive waste dump targeted at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, as he has done for decades, ever since the "Screw Nevada bill" was passed into law in 1987.

In 2010, President Obama zeroed out funding for the Yucca Mountain Project, and ordered the U.S. Department of Energy to withdraw the construction and operating license application.

Friday
Feb062015

Entergy's Pilgrim suffered "a major loss of emergency assessment capability" during severe winter storm "Juno"

As this weather map shows, Pilgrim bore the brunt of winter storm "Juno."Pilgrim's bad week is turning into a bad month. As revealed by a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) "Event Notification Report" on Feb. 6th, Entergy Nuclear's Pilgrim atomic reactor on Cape Cod Bay south of Boston, MA suffered "a major loss of emergency assessment capability," during the severe winter storm nicknamed "Juno" on Jan. 27th. The report did not explain why it took ten days to report the incident. More.

Friday
Feb062015

Exelon's Ginna atomic reactor in upstate NY also at risk of near-term shutdown

NRC file photo of Exelon's Ginna atomic reactor on the Lake Ontario shore of upstate NY near RochesterAs reported by the Democrat and Chronicle, Exelon Nuclear's Ginna atomic reactor -- one of the oldest in the U.S. -- is at risk of near-term shutdown. Dr. Mark Cooper of Vermont Law School, in his July 2013 report Renaissance in Reverse, identified Ginna as one of a dozen atomic reactors across the U.S. most at risk of near-term, permanent shutdown, for a variety of safety, financial, and societal reasons.

The 45-year-old Ginna reactor is located in Ontario, NY, near Rochester, on the shoreline of Lake Ontario (photo, left). More.

Wednesday
Feb042015

U.S. leads opposition to strengthening post-Fukushima international safety standards

A Swiss-led European Union (EU) initiative to amend and strengthen international reactor safety standards in a post-Fukushima world was blunted by the United States delegation to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Convention on Nuclear Safety.  The US is being recognized as the leading opponent to upgrading international nuclear safety standards to prevent the next nuclear meltdown.

In face of US opposition and to a lesser degree Russian objections to reactor safety upgrades, the EU coalition is retreating from filing a formal amendment for a vote at the February 2015 convention. The coalition will instead submit an unratified statement that does not press for any new safety obligations for global reactor operators.

The US delegation insisted that it did not oppose the initiative because of increasing costs and market losses to the nuclear industry, asserting that current upgrades are adequate.

Senators Edward J. Markey (Dem/MA) and Barbara Boxer (Dem/CA) however had expressed their grave concern in a December 1, 2014 letter to the former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chair Allison Macfarlane exposing the agency’s role in undermining the proposed international reactor safety upgrades. One of Macfarlane’s last communications before permanently resigning her post at the end of 2014 declared, “Media reports that the United States opposes changes to the Convention because of cost issues related to safety upgrades are not correct.”

Contrary to Macfarlane’s parting claim, the Commission had already shown its hand by rejecting one such significant safety upgrade that was strongly recommended by the agency’s own Japan Lessons Learned Task Force. The lesson, now unlearned by the Commission, would have ordered all U.S. operators of Fukushima-style reactors (GE Mark I and Mark II boiling water reactors) to install high capacity external radiation filters for hardened vents on the vulnerable containment systems. Senior staff had concluded that installing external filters was “a cost-benefited substantial safety enhancement” to more reliably manage the next severe nuclear accident by venting the extreme heat, high pressure, explosive gases while still significantly reducing the consequences by capturing large amounts of radioactivity. However, the UBS international energy investment bank had earlier predicted that the Commission would likely vote down its senior managers’ recommendation because of the “added stress this places on the incumbent’s portfolio” and “the fragile state of affairs” of their licensees' financial and economic condition.

This same safety upgrade is widely installed on Europe's reactors and a new reactor restart requirement of the Nuclear Regulation Authority for a still “zero nuclear” Japan. Nearly one-third of the remaining 99 reactor units in the US fleet are these dangerous Fukushima-style reactors.