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Nuclear Power

Nuclear power cannot address climate change effectively or in time. Reactors have long, unpredictable construction times are expensive - at least $12 billion or higher per reactor. Furthermore, reactors are sitting-duck targets vulnerable to attack and routinely release - as well as leak - radioactivity. There is so solution to the problem of radioactive waste.

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Tuesday
Jan272015

Entergy's Pilgrim atomic reactor to remain on NRC's "degraded cornerstone" list for second year, as winter storm bears down

NRC file photo of Entergy Nuclear's Pilgrim atomic reactor on Cape Cod Bay near BostonAs reported by The Enterprise, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has kept Entergy Nuclear's Pilgrim atomic reactor (photo, left), near Boston, on its "degraded cornerstone" list of worst performing atomic reactors in the country. Ironically, Entergy failed an NRC inspection, even though it told the agency when it was ready to be inspected. First of all, when do students get to tell the teacher when they're ready for the exam? And then fail the test?! Who's the regulator, and who's the regulated?!

This comes as a severe winter storm bears down on Boston. As the industry lobby and PR front, Nuclear Energy Institute, brags up nuclear power's supposed reliability during severe winter weather, anti-nuclear and environmental watchdogs near Pilgrim put out a press release warning that severe weather increases the safety risks of reactor operations and high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) management. Despite this, the reactor remains at 100% power, and inherently risky HLRW pool to dry cask transfer operations continue as if business is usual.

During Superstorm Sandy in 2012, the storm surge came precariously close to flooding safety-significant pumps needed to keep cooling water circulating in the HLRW storage pool at Pilgrim.

Pilgrim is an age-degraded, General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor, identical in design to Fukushima Daiichi Units 1-4.

Wednesday
Jan142015

Resisting bailouts, reactors, and rad. waste across the Great Lakes!

The Great Lakes, as seen from spaceBeyond Nuclear has been busy in the Great Lakes region (photo, left) of late. The Great Lakes are the drinking water supply for 40 million North Americans in 8 U.S. states, 2 Canadian provinces, and a large number of Native American First Nations.

Here are some summaries, alphabetically by state:

 

 

 

Nuclear Illinois map, prepared by NEISIllinois: Beyond Nuclear just met with David Kraft, executive director, and Linda Lewison, board member, of Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS) in Chicago. From them, he learned that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has introduced a resolution to the Chicago City Council opposing the Ontario Power Generation Deep Geologic Repository for burial of so-called "low" and "intermediate" level radioactive wastes from 20 reactors across the province, on the Lake Huron shore at Bruce Nuclear Generating Station in Kincardine, Ontario. See Beyond Nuclear's Canada website section, for posts on this issue going back in time.

Chicago is the biggest city on the entire Great Lakes. If passed, its resolution would add tremendous momentum to a groundswell of other resolutions from municipalities across the Great Lakes Basin, as chronicled and mapped at the website of Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump. For example, on Oct. 9th, Cook County -- Chicago's host county -- passed just such a resolution.

In 2012, Beyond Nuclear co-organized a major conference with NEIS in Chicago -- "A Mountain of Radioactive Waste 70 Years High" -- to mark the 70th year since Enrico Fermi fired up the first atomic reactor in history, on Dec. 2, 1942, at the University of Chicago, as part of the Manhattan Project, that led to the atomic bombings of Japan in August, 1945.

NEIS has been busy recently speaking out against a massive money grab being attempted by Exelon, the largest U.S. nuclear utility, headquartered in Chicago. (Ironically enough, Exelon was formed by a merger coordinated by Rahm Emanuel, while he worked as an investment banker, after having served in Congress and before becoming Mayor). Exelon is seeking a whopping $580 million/year to prop up five uncompetitive reactors in Illinois. However, state agency reports, that Exelon's lobbyists pressured the state legislature to order, have now shown that Illinois's economy can withstand those job losses.

The conservative Chicago Sun-Times editorial board opposes Exelon's requested bailout, as does former NRC Commissioner Peter Bradford, in an op-ed published by Crain's Chicago Business.

Kraft of NEIS sent a letter to the editor of the Chicago Sun-Times supporting its editorial.

Chris Williams speaks to anti-nuclear bloc at Peoples Climate March in New York City, Sept. 2014Indiana: Beyond Nuclear recently met with the former executive director of Citizens Action Coalition (CAC) of Indiana (and current NIRS board chairman), Chris Williams (photo, left). In decades past, CAC blocked proposed new nuclear power plants at Marble Hill on the Ohio River, as well as at Bailly on Lake Michigan. CAC did so by successfully challenging, in court, illegal Construction Work in Progress ("CWIP") charges on ratepayer electricity bills (see Beyond Nuclear's CWIP web site section for recent devleopments). Michael Mullett served as CAC's legal counsel.

A full length 2012 documentary film ("Marlbe Hill: Unsafe at Any Price") chronicled the epic battle. Marble Hill is now a billion dollar ghost town; Bailly was never more than a $200 million hole in the sand dunes.

CAC also worked with allies in the Great Lakes basin, in years past, to call for the shutdown of the Cook nuclear power plant in Michigan. Williams and CAC canvassers took part in multiple direct actions of non-violent civil disobedience at the twin reactors' front gate, resulting in scores of arrests, and even week-long jail sentences.

Cook, unfortunately still operating, recently leaked an estimatd 2,000 gallons of oil into Lake Michigan over the course of two months.

Michigan: Beyond Nuclear is fighting old and new reactors on both sides of the state.

Workers pictured at Palisades last spring doing repair work on top of the reactor vessel head. Entergy provided this and other photos of the work to the NRC.At Palisades in southwest MI, on the Lake Michigan shore, Entergy Nuclear, through inexcusable mismanagement, and perhaps even intentionally, exposed 192 of its own workers to significant, hazardous radioactivity doses last year on a single job, the Feb. to March, 2014 replacement of its problem-plagued Control Rod Drive Mechanisms. Beyond Nuclear, NEIS board member Linda Lewison, and Beyond Nuclear and NEIS's expert witness, Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer of Fairewinds Associates, Inc., testified against Entergy's radiological abuse of its own workers, at an NRC/Entergy regulatory conference held at NRC Region 3 HQ in Lisle, IL on Jan. 13th.

Gundersen, who attempted to read his prepared statement for the record, was arbitrarily cut off by NRC staff, who suddenly announced the public comment session was for questions only. Gundersen had waited through 3.5 hours of Entergy and NRC back and forth to read his three-minute prepared statement. Alas, he waited in vain -- he was not allowed to!

Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps, who attended the regulatory conference in person, refused to yield the microphone until he asked many of his prepared questions on the record, despite pressure by NRC staff to just sit down and shut up.

Also at Palisades, Entergy Nuclear and NRC staff responded, on Jan. 12th, to an intervention by Beyond Nuclear, Don't Waste MI, Michigan Safe Energy Future--Shoreline Chapter, and NEIS, filed Dec. 1st.

Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer, Fairewinds Associates, Inc.The environmental coalition opposes any further rollbacks of reactor pressure vessel (RPV) embrittlement/pressurized thermal shock (PTS) safety standards. Palisades has the worst embrittled RPV in the U.S., vulnerable to PTS, which can lead to a Loss-of-Coolant-Accident (LOCA), core meltdown, containment failure, and catastrophic radioactivity release. The environmental coalition, with Gundersen (photo, left) as expert witness, and Toledo-based attorney Terry Lodge as legal counsel, will now respond, in the very near future, to the Entergy and NRC staff challenges to the coalition's intervention.

On Dec. 23rd, Fairewinds Energy Education published a humorous short video about a serious subject -- RPV embrittlement and PTS risk at Palisades.

At Fermi nuclear power plant in southeast Michigan, on the Lake Erie shore, Beyond Nuclear is resisting both an old reactor, as well as a proposed new reactor.

Fermi Unit 2 has applied for a 20-year license extension. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLBP) overseeing interventions by environmental groups (Beyond Nuclear, Citizen Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, and Don't Waste MI, as well as a parallel intervention by Citizens Resistance at Fermi Two) recently granted itself additional time to consider the numerous submitted contentions. Fermi 2 is the last of 22 remaining Fukushima-twin design reactors (GE Mark I BWR) in the U.S. to not yet have been granted a 20-year license extension rubberstamp by NRC.

Fermi Unit 3 is a proposed new General Electric-Hitachi, so-called "Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor" (ESBWR). Beyond Nuclear, Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, CEA, Don't Waste MI, and Sierra Club, Michigan Chapter, have been intervening against the Fermi 3 combined Construction and Operating License Application (COLA) since March 9, 2009.

On Jan. 13th, the NRC Commission, by a unanimous 4-0 vote, rejected a request from the ASLBP overseeing the Fermi 3 COLA proceeding. The ASLBP had requested permission to review NRC staff's apparent violation of NEPA (the National Environmental Policy Act), for not having included Fermi 3's proposed new transmission lines in its Environmental Impact Statement. The environmental coalition called this NEPA violation to the attention of the ASLBP in Jan., 2012. The coalition plans to appeal this NEPA violation, and perhaps other violations of law and regulation (such as the gutting of QA, Quality Assurance, requirements), to the federal courts at the earliest opportunity. The coalition also has submitted a Nuclear Waste Confidence contention, which is growing ever more ripe for judicial review.

A 2012 environmental/state coalition Nuclear Waste Confidence legal victory at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit led to a more than two-year delay in the granting of any NRC reactor licenses, or license extensions. Attorneys Diane Curran of Washington, D.C. and Mindy Goldstein of Atlanta, GA serve as legal counsel for the environmental coalition, including Beyond Nuclear, on Nuclear Waste Confidence.

"Burning Money" image, featured on the cover of The Nation Magazine, by Gene Case, Avenging Angels.Ohio: Beyond Nuclear testified at PUCO (Public Utilities Commission of Ohio) public comment hearings in Akron -- FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company's (FENOC) hometown -- on Jan. 12, in opposition to FENOC's requested ratepayer bailout of $172 million per year to prop up its dirty, dangerous, and uncompetitive Davis-Besse atomic reactor on Lake Erie, and Sammis coal plant on the Ohio River. Opponents testifying against the bailout outnumbered proponents at the microphone 75% to 25%! The Akron Beacon Journal has reported on this hearing.

Beyond Nuclear will also testify at the Toledo PUCO hearings on Jan. 15th, just 20 miles from Davis-Besse.

As reported by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, FENOC's attempted money grab could top $3 billion over coming decades!

Since Dec. 27, 2010, Beyond Nuclear has co-led an environmental coalition (Citizen Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, Green Party of Ohio) opposing Davis-Besse's 20-year license extension. Since late 2011, the primary focus has been on Davis-Besse's severely cracked (and worsening, a half-inch every time it freezes!) concrete containment Shield Building (see photo, left). Davis-Besse's cracking is not unlike the containment cracking that permanently closed Crystal River, FL in 2013).

Most recently, on Dec. 30th, the coalition's attorney, Terry Lodge, filed a contention concerning the risk of severe degradation of structural rebar in the Shield Building wall.

NRC's ASLBP overseeing the Davis-Besse license extension proceeding was supposed to have ruled on the environmental coalition's most recent cracking contention by Dec. 26th, but as of Jan. 14th, still had not done so. [See update below: on Jan. 15th, the ASLBP finally released its ruling -- rejecting the environmental intervenors' cracking and rebar contentions.]

Despite being challenged in 2014 by the Sierra Club, Ohio Chapter, Beyond Nuclear, CEA, and Don't Waste MI, as well as Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates, Inc. as expert witness, Davis-Besse has also launched an experimental steam generator replacement (which went badly wrong at San Onofre, CA, leading to the permanent closure of two reactors in 2013).

Is Davis-Besse an economic powerhouse, as FENOC and the Nuclear Energy Institute claim, or a house of cards? Tim Judson of NIRS says the latter.

As made plain by FENOC's attempted ratepayer robbery, Davis-Besse can't compete with such sources of electricity as wind power on the wholesale market. In that regard, it is also like Kewaunee, WI (permanently closed in 2013), and Vermont Yankee (VY, permanently closed on Dec. 29, 2014). This, despite both Kewaunee and VY having recently received 20-year license extension rubberstamps from NRC.

Beyond Nuclear and its coalition allies are hoping to block Davis-Besse's license extension in the first place, so it can "retire as planned" (a slogan from the recently victorious Shut VY! Campaign) on April 22, 2017, if not much sooner, given the health, safety, environmental, and economic risks. What better way to celebrate Earth Day two years from now, than with Davis-Besse's permanent shutdown?!

Thursday
Jan082015

Vermont Yankee's shutdown: Activism had everything to do with it!

Solar photovoltaic "farm" in White River Junction, Vermont

The permanent closure of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon, VT in late December 2014 is being celebrated throughout New England by the thousands of activists who have taken part in the resistance to nuclear power over the past four decades. The most recent party was a January 3, 2015 gathering at a local church in Greenfield, Massachusetts where about 150 anti-nuke veterans turned out despite a steady wintery mix of sleet, snow and ice. Congratulations were sincerely exchanged all around with live music, a stream of projected photos and the conspiring on how to intensify campaigns to close the remaining reactors in New England and beyond.

The Vermont Yankee closure notches up one more shutdown New England nuke along with Yankee Rowe in western Massachusetts, Haddam Neck and Millstone 1 in Connecticut and Maine Yankee. There are now four operating nuclear power plants in the region (Pilgrim, Millstone 2 & 3, Seabrook) where activism is ramping up.

Entergy Nuclear has spun its decision to permanently shut down its Vermont Yankee atomic reactor as having everything to do with "economics," and absolutely nothing to do with grassroots activism. Nothing could be further from the truth.

One of the first lessons taught at the legendary Midwest Academy for social justice organizing in Chicago is that oppressive institutions will never give credit to their activist adversaries for achieving grassroots victories. The "powers that be" would never want to encourage social justice, peace, and environmental movements in the realization that real power rests with the people.

Bob Bady of the Safe and Green Campaign -- who was in attendance at the Vermont Yankee shutdown celebration -- made this point elegantly in the Vermont Digger, just a week after Entergy announced its intention to permanently close Vermont Yankee. (As Bady concluded his op-ed, "The power of the people is beautiful.")

So too did Dr. Richard A. Watts' book Public Meltdown: The Story of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant.

In fact, decades of non-violent direct action -- including the mass day of action on 3/22/12 (see photos and Beyond Nuclear's web post) -- forced State of Vermont elected officials to take responsible positions, such as demanding that Entergy perform safety maintenance at the age-degraded reactor. Vermont's electric utilities were pressured to refrain from purhasing one watt of electricity from Entergy, forcing the nuclear utility to have to compete against such sources as wind power, solar photovoltaics (see photo, above), and efficiency on the wholesale market, which it could not do.

The anti-nuclear and environmental movement, amidst its celebrations at Vermont Yankee's closure, are now steeling themselves for the task to come during decommissioning: remaining ever vigilant regarding the risks that still lurk in Vermont Yankee's high-level radioactive waste storage pool and dry casks, as well as organizing to demand a comprehensive cleanup of the badly contaminated Vermont Yankee site.

But the trend in energy policy is now evermore clear. Even the international bank and global energy investment firm, UBS, is saying "It's time to join the revolution" for decentralized and distributed generation of renewable energy (particularly solar and advanced battery storage) as large scale centralized electricity generation are destined to be “dinosaurs” by 2020.

The western MA celebration closed in a collective round of song to the tune of “Auld Lang Syne,”

"Should all the nuke plants be shut down

        and no more brought on line,

 At least we stopped production of

        the waste that outlasts time,

We halt the hazard imminent

        in all those poison plants,

We do this out of consciousness,

       It’s our future's only chance."

Wednesday
Jan072015

Cook nuclear plant leaks 2,000 gallons of oil into Lake Michigan over two month period

The twin-reactor Donald C. Cook nuclear power plant in Bridgman, MI on the Lake Michigan shoreline Nuclear power is "clean, carbon-free" energy? Hardly!

As reported by the Detroit Free Press on Jan. 3rd, and The Huffington Post on Jan. 7th, the twin-reactor Donald C. Cook nuclear power plant, owned by American Electric Power/Indiana-Michigan Power Company, leaked an estimated 2,000 gallons of oil into Lake Michigan, over the course of two months, before the leak was discovered and stopped.

Lake Michigan is a headwaters of the Great Lakes, which provide drinking water to 40 million North Americans in 8 U.S. states, 2 Canadian provinces, and a large number of Native American First Nations.

And, as reported by Climate Progress on Jan. 6, Entergy's Palisades -- just 30 miles north of Cook, also on the Lake Michigan shore -- recently leaked 80 gallons of oil on the beach, but claimed it didn't reach the lake.

Climate Progress also reported a scare at Cook just months ago, that 8,700 gallons of oil had leaked into Lake Michigan -- but American Electric Power later claimed a worker misread a guage, disavowing the oil leak had actually occurred.

And Climate Progress mentioned the fears swirling around Enbridge Canadian tar sands crude oil pipelines under Lakes Michigan and Huron at the Straits of Mackinac.

1.4 million gallons of Canadian tar sands crude leaked into the Kalamazoo River, upstream of Lake Michigan, in July 2010. Inside Climate News won the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in 2013 for its coverage of the devastating impact of this largest ever inland oil spill in U.S. history.

A recent oil leak into Lake Michigan also occurred at a BP oil refinery in Whiting, IN.

The Detroit Free Press article quoted Michael Keegan of Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes:

Michael Keegan, director of the nonprofit Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes, is troubled by news of the leak.

"What's concerning is they don't really know the extent of the leak," he said. "Nearly two months later is the first determination they make that they have an oil leak? It speaks to the quality assurance of all of their other systems."

The fact that the oil is not recoverable is also problematic, Keegan said.

"There's a belief some have that the solution to pollution is dilution. It's not," he said.

From 1997 to 2000, both Cook units were shut down for major safety violations revealed by nuclear industry whistleblower Curtis Overall and David Lochbaum, Director, Nuclear Safety Program, Union of Concerned Scientists. A slogan developed in the nuclear power industry, of not wanting to get "Cooked" -- that is, busted by whistleblowers and nuclear safety advocates, forcing NRC to do its job. 

An environmental coalition borrowed the phrase, and flew airplane banners over Cook, with holiday themes. For example, the Valentine's Day banner, complete with radiation symbols and hearts, read "Stop in the Name of Love! Don't Cook the Great Lakes!"

Monday
Dec292014

Vermont Yankee closes!

Today, thanks to decades of citizen organizing and protest; the wise backing of the elected officials of the State of Vermont; the attempted deception of Vermont Yankee owners, Entergy, whose representatives even lied under oath; and the hopeless economics of nuclear power, the Vermont Yankee reactor has shut down permanently. 

The lights will not go out. In fact, the New England electric grid operator knew two years ago that permanently closing Vermont Yankee would not affect regional grid stability.

In a statement today, Vermont governor, Peter Shumlin, said:Today, thanks to investments in renewable energy such as solar, Vermont's energy future is on a different, more sustainable path that is creating jobs, reducing energy costs for Vermonters and slowing climate change.” Shumlin was a strong advocate for the closure of the reactor once its license expired. 

In what was viewed at the time as a blatant example of regulatory capture, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission gave Vermont Yankee a 20-year license extension just ten days after the March 11, 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster began. Vermont Yankee was one of 23 GE Mark I boiling water reactors, along with eight Mark II units, in the U.S., the same flawed design as the Fukushima reactors. Watch Shut Vermont Yankee! and The Activists, two videos made by Beyond Nuclear during the campaign to close the plant. For more, read Harvey Wasserman's analysis.