The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is mandated by Congress to ensure that the nuclear industry is safe. Instead, the NRC routinely puts the nuclear industry's financial needs ahead of public safety. Beyond Nuclear has called for Congressional investigation of this ineffective lapdog agency that needlessly gambles with American lives to protect nuclear industry profits.



Nuclear revolving door gobbles up billions of dollars of ratepayers' money, threatening to move onto taxpayers next!

Commissioner Geoffrey Merrifield's NRC file photoWhile still a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Commissioner, Geoffrey Merrifield did the nuclear power industry a big favor. He spearheaded a seemingly simple, but significant, change in NRC regulations, which paved the way for new reactor construction, unfettered by bothersome environmental safeguards. Merrifield shephered through a change in the definition of the word "construction." Now, nuclear utilities could build any aspect of a nuclear power plant, save for the reactor and its containment building, without having to first complete an environmental impact statement, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Thus, large aspects of a new reactor construction job -- such as foundation excavations for the reactor complex, or construction of the turbine building -- could proceed apace, building "facts on the ground," and momentum that would be hard to stop.


Merrifield capped such corruption by leaving NRC immediately after his dirty work, and going to work for the Shaw Group, which specializes in -- you guessed it -- new reactor construction! This example of the nuclear revolving door between supposed government regulator and industry even made a number of senior managers at NRC uneasy about Merrifield's blatant, self-serving conflict of interest.


Now, as reported by the Atlanta Progressive News, to such corruption must be added incompetence, raising not only financial risks, into the billions of dollars, but radiological risks that could impact millions of lives:


'...Chicago Bridge and Iron (CB&I), formerly known as Shaw Modular Solutions, makes modules being used to assemble four Westinghouse AP1000 reactors being built at Plant Vogtle in Georgia and V.C. Summer in South Carolina.

“CB&I is unable to provide properly constructed modules... and [have demonstrated a] continued inability to reliably meet the quality and schedule requirements of the project," Barbara Antonoplos, a ratepayer, testified, citing a report from the utility's regulatory staff in South Carolina.

"These problems have existed from the beginning and been raised in every other CB&I hearing and still there is no fix... they [Georgia Power] still do not have a competent outfit making parts and once the new parts get delivered to Vogtle, they are repairing them to make them acceptable.  This alarms me because incompetence of this magnitude breeds disaster especially when it comes to construction of a nuclear device. There is no way these reactors can be considered safe... when ‘patch it together’ is the best construction model they are able to come up with," Antonoplos said.

"Ongoing failures of this sort result in escalating cost and I don't believe you should force ratepayers to foot the bill for such gross incompetence," Antonoplos said.

Southern Company’s projections do not include the cost of the lawsuit they’re engaged in with their contractor, The Shaw Group/Chicago Bridge and Iron, nor the full cost of not getting Federal Loan Guarantees, for which the negotiation deadline has been extended three times according to Georgia WAND's website...'

Alex Flint, NEI's Senior Vice President for Governmental AffairsSpeaking of nuclear revolving doors and federal loan guarantees, the top lobbyist for the nuclear power industry, Alex Flint at the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI, photo left), has passed through multiple times. For one, he "served" as the staff director on the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee, under Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM), on whose personal staff Flint had previously "served." The ENR Committee hatched the passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. In addition to the $13 billion of direct taxpayer subsidies in that bill aimed at promoting new atomic reactor development, Flint wrote the federal nuclear loan guarantee language. After the bill was enacted into law, Flint left "public service" and went to work at NEI, where he remains to this day.

In a very real sense, Flint wrote his own (likely high six-figure, if not more) paycheck, while "serving the public" -- up for dinner to the nuclear industry, that is!

In late 2007, $18.5 billion for new reactor loan guarantees, and another $4 billion in new uranium enrichment loan guarantees, were approved by Congress and George W. Bush. However, even though President Obama, in Feb. 2010, awarded $8.3 billion in new reactor loan guarantees for the proposed new Vogtle 3 & 4 reactors -- giving it the highest profile possible, by making the announcement himself -- Southern Co. has never agreed to the terms. Too much of its own "skin in the game" is being asked of it, for such a financially risky scheme. Thus, no nuclear loan guarantees have yet been finalized.


Speaking out against foreign ownership of U.S. atomic reactors

Recently elected to the U.S. Senate, Ed Markey (D-MA) has watchdogged the nuclear industry for four decades while serving in the U.S. House of Representatives. Today, he has spokean out against NRC weakening its rules on foreign ownership of U.S. atomic reactors.For several long years, an environmental coalition comprised of NIRS, Beyond Nuclear, Public Citizen, and Southern Maryland CARES co-intervened against the proposed new atomic reactor at Calvert Cliffs, Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay, and won. The death blow in the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) licensing proceeding was dealt by a contention against foreign ownership of U.S. atomic reactors, argued pro se by NIRS executive director Michael Mariotte. Baltimore-based Constellation Energy abandoned the project, leaving French government-owned Electricite de France (EDF) holding the bag with 100% ownership stakes, a clear violation of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act of 1954. Reading the writing on the walls, no other U.S. nuclear utility stepped forward to fill the void. The project was doomed, and ultimately defeated.

As NIRS states in its press release below, "Earlier this week, EDF announced that it is permanently leaving the U.S. nuclear power market and will no longer attempt to build new reactors here."

Now NRC is trying to loosen its rules prohibiting foreign ownership of U.S. reactors. NIRS put out the following message:

"[T]oday NIRS submitted lengthy comments to the NRC--supported by 65 other groups [including Beyond Nuclear] -- urging the strengthening of the rules implementing the Atomic Energy Act's ban on foreign ownership, control or domination. The legislative history of the Act shows that Congress intended that no more than about 25% of a reactor can be foreign-owned, but the NRC has moved far away from that over the years. It's time that the agency do what Congress intended and actively prevent foreign control of U.S. nuclear reactors. Here is a press release about the comments; here are the comments themselves (pdf); and here are comments submitted today by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) [photo, above left] (also pdf).

The NRC is planning a webinar on the issue on August 21. Here is the information; contact the NRC if you'd like to speak during this meeting."


Environmental interveners respond to Duke's cancellation of proposed new reactors at Levy County, FL

Washington, D.C.-based attorney, Diane Curran, represented environmental interveners NIRS and Ecology Party of Florida against the now-cancelled proposed new reactors at Levy Co., FLThe Ecology Party of Florida and NIRS, environmental interveners against Duke/Progress Energy's proposed new reactors at Levy County, FL, have responded to the announced cancellation:

The Ecology Party of Florida could not be happier that the proposed nuclear plant scheduled for construction in Levy County, Florida (LNP), has been cancelled by Duke Energy, which acquired Progress Energy Florida (PEF), the LNP applicant.  The Ecology Party, along with Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) waged a five-year battle within the confines of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s  (NRC) rigged system, challenging the construction of the plant. The challenge was based primarily on the fact that the water modeling used was unsuited for the karst geology at the site and that in combination with other mining projects in the area, including the nearby proposed King Road Tarmac mine which would have supplied materials for the plant. Due to this failing, the proposed LNP  would have irreparably harmed the aquifer, source of drinking water for the area. Dewatering the area further than it already has been would have resulted in impacts far more serious and far-reaching than those alleged by Progress and the NRC Staff.  The two groups presented evidence that any predictions in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) were inadequate and that the destructive consequences of withdrawing millions of gallons of water from the aquifer each day, as well as drawing all fresh water from the abandoned Cross Florida Barge Canal and its estuary in the Gulf had been grossly underestimated.

The Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) had not yet issued the necessary permit for the destruction of wetlands at the site and the Ecology Party, its members, and Hydroecologist Dr. Sydney Bacchus, primary expert for the Ecology Party, have been extremely active in opposing the project in the Corps' process. We believe our opposition and the compelling evidence we've submitted has had a bearing on the decision.

In response to news of the abandoned LNP project, Dr. Bacchus's reaction was, "This is an excellent example of what can be accomplished when the public refuses to accept false and inaccurate information fed to agencies by consultants and instead fights to have the truth exposed. I hope this will serve as a role model for future grass-root battles."

Diane Curran [photo, above left], who represented the Ecology Party and NIRS said, “It is great news for the environment that PEF apparently thinks Levy would be an economic disaster.  It would have been an even bigger disaster for the fragile wetlands where PEF wanted to build the reactors.”

Cara Campbell, Chair of the Ecology Party, pointed out, “The cost of this debacle had risen from 4 Billion dollars to 25 Billion. How much were the ratepayers of Florida expected to take?”

"The people, animals, plants and waters of the Nature Coast are figuratively sighing with relief that an area of recreation and sanctuary, the Nature Coast, will be nuclear-free!" said Mary Olson of Nuclear Information and Resource Service who supported efforts by Florida activists to intervene in the proposed Levy County 1 & 2 nuclear license.

Michael Mariotte, Executive Director of Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), added:

"The nuclear renaissance is in shambles. Earlier this week, the world's largest nuclear company, Electricite De France, announced it is leaving the U.S. nuclear market having failed to build any of the reactors it was planning. Now Duke Energy is giving up on the most expensive nuclear project ever proposed--and the only "greenfields" site in the supposed nuclear revival. The basic truths about nuclear power outweigh the fantasies of nuclear boosters: it remains too dirty, dangerous and expensive to be a viable source of new electricity."


NRC announces 3 year delay in licensing Duke's proposed 2 new William Lee atomic reactors in South Carolina

In addition to its announced abandonment of its Levy County, Florida proposed new nuclear power plant, Duke Nuclear suffered another blow this week, E&E reported today in an article entitled "Budget cuts, workload delay decision on S.C. reactors." The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that federal budget cuts, its post-Fukushima workload, and Duke's decision to move the location of the two proposed new William Lee atomic reactors had led to the postponement of a licensing decision by three years, to April 2016.


Callaway atomic reactor remains closed following fire in central MO

NRC file photo of Callaway atomic reactorAs reported by KMOV TV-4 St. Louis, Ameren's Callaway atomic reactor, located in Fulton, Missouri, 90 miles west and upwind of St. Louis, remains shutdown, following a fire. Beyond Nuclear board member Kay Drey, a longtime watchdog on Callaway, was interviewed. She pointed out that design, construction, and operational errors have all occurred at Callaway, and that, while fires do happen, you sure don't want them to happen at atomic reactors.

KMOV then questioned Ameren's characterization of the fire as an "ununsual event," pointing out that a number of "unusual events" have occurred at Callaway in the past decade. For example, last April, three workers were burned by an electrical flash in the switchyard.

Kay has penned numerous pamphlets, including one written for nuclear workers' ("Know Your Risks, Know Your Rights"), as well as one ("Routine Radioactive Releases from Nuclear Power Plants") containing a close-up photo of the rooftop vent at Callaway for the unfiltered atmospheric discharge of radioactive gases such as tritium, as well as noble gases krypton and xenon (which radioactively decay into long-lasting, biologically active isotopes of strontium and cesium).

As covered by regional and even national media, Kay has also been actively concerned, as are many others, about a "nuclear fire" of a different kind: an underground landfill fire, inching ever closer to a decades-old radioactive waste dump at West Lake Landfill, just upstream from St. Louis drinking water intakes. The crisis continues to garner headlines on a regular basis, as government officials at all levels, under pressure from area residents, struggle with what to do on this, the 40 year mark of radioactive waste first being buried there. Kay has long led efforts to have the radioactive wastes removed from the Missouri River floodplain.