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.



UCS: NRC's contradictory safety decisions

As posted by Dave Lochbaum of UCS (reposted here with permission):

Good Day:

Federal regulations require that nuclear power plants be designed to experience a loss of coolant accident (LOCA, where a pipe connected to the reactor vessel ruptures and drains cooling water) and a loss of offsite power (LOOP, where electricity from the offsite power grid is unavailable) should they occur separately or concurrently. All but one US nuclear power plant has two or more emergency diesel generators (EDGs) to comply with these regulations.

In 2008, the NRC received a petition for rulemaking seeking to decouple LOCA from LOOP. Plants would still have to be capable of mitigating a LOCA and of mitigating a LOOP, but would no longer be required to mitigate the LOCA/LOOP combo, if the petition was granted.

On January 26, 2017, the NRC staff recommended to its Commission that the petition for rulemaking be terminated. The staff cited numerous unanswered safety questions that would have to be resolved before they could justify decoupling LOCA from LOOP. The Commission voted unanimously to terminate the rulemaking.

But 22 days earlier, on January 4, 2017, the NRC staff decoupled LOCA from LOOP in reaching its decision to let Palo Verde Unit 3 operate for up to 62 days with one of two EDGs broken.

UCS's research also uncovered that the NRC sanctioned Palo Verde Unit 3 a decade earlier (February 2007)  for operating for 18 days with one of two EDGs broken. In imposing that sanction, the NRC staff coupled LOCA with LOOP, as federal regulations require.

The NRC's contradictory answers to the same nuclear safety questions are troubling, at least some of the time. UCS wrote a letter to the NRC's Inspector General outlining this checkered past and requesting that his office formally investigate the goings on to see whether different answers to the same questions comply with the agency's regulations, policies, and practices.

A link to the UCS letter and additional background about this matter was posted to our All Things Nuclear blog at


Dave Lochbaum



Nuclear power on the 'front burner,' says Energy Secretary Rick Perry

As reported by CNBC, Energy Secretary Perry says the Trump administration is ready to expand support for so-called Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), which the Obama administration had already supported to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars of federal taxpayer funding.


Trump reported likely to nominate nuclear industry picks to Commission

The U.S. Atomic Energy Commission was abolished by Congress in 1974 and replaced with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) when the blatant promotion of the atomic power industry undermined its safety oversight.  E&E Daily is reporting that President Donald Trump’s nominations for the two open Commissioner seats on the NRC are likely to be well-known nuclear industry political insiders Annie Caputo and David Wright. Paul Gunter at Beyond Nuclear was quoted in the publication, “‘I don't think the nuclear industry could flaunt its special relationship with the NRC any more brazenly,’ said Gunter. ‘I think the big concern here is that we have seen how the collusion of government regulator and industry can lead to these man-made accidents like we saw at Fukushima. ... It wasn't just a natural disaster, it was the fact that this collusion had walked away from many opportunities to fortify the nuclear industry in Japan.’"

In fact, the Japan National Diet’s own investigative report of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi catastrophe documents that the nuclear industry’s “regulatory capture” was the root cause of that country's ongoing and still uncontained nuclear disaster.  Similarly, if the United States goal might ever be to really take industry promotion and protectionist politics out of nuclear safety, Caputo and Wright’s nominations must be disqualified for blatant conflict of interest.

It should be worrisome that Annie Caputo worked as the Congressional Affairs executive manager for Exelon Corporation, now the largest nuclear power corporation in the United States, from 1998 to 2005.  She is currently a Republican Majority Senior Policy Advisor for the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee where she has previously served as Majority Senior Policy Advisor for nuclear power proponent Oklahoma Republican Senator Jim Inohofe from 2009 to 2012. She also worked for the 113th Congress as a Senior Policy Advisor for Environment and Commerce Committee where  Majority leader Michigan Republican Congressman Fred Upton successfully led the January 2013 opposition to the NRC technical staff’s strongly worded and unanimously supported recommendation that the agency order the installation of engineered severe accident capable radiation filters on hardened containment vents for thirty-one U.S. Fukushima-style reactors.  In our view, this is one of Congress’ most egregious acts following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster to promote industry financial interests that are contrary to U.S. public health and safety.  On both Congressional Committees, Ms. Caputo has prominently advocated for what amounts to the protracted political mugging and divisive licensing of a scientifically-unqualified Yucca Mountain high-level nuclear waste repository in Nevada.  

Trump’s other reported nominee to the Commission is David Wright, a retired Commissioner with the South Carolina Public Service Board (2004-2013) and another regulatory champion for nuclear power/waste generation and ramrodding the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.  In 2011, Mr. Wright was elected President of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) which sued to keep the Yucca Mountain project moving forward.  As well as NARUC President, Wright served many roles including as Chairman of NARUC's Subcommittee on Nuclear Issues and Waste Disposal. He has been Co-Chair Yucca Mountain Task Force (2005–2010) and National Chair of Nuclear Waste Strategy Committee (2006-2013).

He is the owner of Wright Directions LLC, a consultant group to the nuclear industry.

But more blatantly, Wright presently serves on the Leadership Council of the atomic industry’s promotion and advocacy group Nuclear Matters established to preserve the operation of economically failing and increasingly safety challenged nuclear power stations in the United States. 

The current three seated NRC commissioners are Republican Chairwoman Kristine Svinicki; independent Commissioner Stephen Burns; and Democratic Commissioner Jeff Baran.

ACTION ITEM: Call your U.S. Senators [ U.S. Capitol Switchboard (202) 224-3121 and/or "Find Your Senators" in the upper left at ] and urge them to voice their opposition to the confirmation of Caputo and Wright’s as Commissioners to the NRC.


The final mission for Cassini

As reported by investigative journalist and Beyond Nuclear board member, Karl Grossman, and published at Enformable (founded and run by Beyond Nuclear board member Lucas Hixson):

Despite protests around the world, the Cassini space probe—containing more deadly plutonium than had ever been used on a space device—was launched 20 years ago. And this past weekend—on Earth Day—the probe and its plutonium were sent crashing into Saturn.

The $3.27 billion mission constituted a huge risk. Cassini with its 72.3 pounds of Plutonium-238 fuel was launched on a Titan IV rocket on October 17, 1997 despite several Titan IV rockets having earlier blown up on launch.

At a demonstration two weeks before in front of the fence surrounding the pad at Cape Canaveral from which Cassini was to be launched, Dr. Michio Kaku, professor of theoretical physics at the City University of New York, warned of widespread regional damage if this Titan IV lofting Cassini exploded on launch. Winds could carry the plutonium “into Disney World, University City, into the citrus industry and destroy the economy of central Florida,” he declared.

Grossman literally wrote the book about Cassini and related nuclear power in space subject matter, The Wrong Stuff: The Space Program's Nuclear Threat to Our Planet. See his website.


Urge your two U.S. Senators to oppose former TX governor Rick Perry's confirmation as Energy Secretary!

As Texas governor, Rick Perry did all he could to advance the interests of the private "low-level" radioactive waste dump called Waste Control Specialists (WCS), LLC in Andrews County, Texas. WCS was owned by Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons, infamous as the "King of Superfund Sites" and a "most evil genius." Simmons was also a top campaign contributor to Rick Perry, reportedly donating $1.25 million to the governor's (and two-time presidential candidate's) political campaign coffers. Although Simmons died at the end of 2013, his family still owns WCS.

At Counterpunch, Beyond Nuclear has published an exposé entitled "Radioactive Waste is Good for You, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Rick Perry as Energy Secretary." Mother Jones has also reported on Perry's blatant conflict of interest, in an article entitled "Will Rick Perry Privatize America's Nuclear Waste Storage?"

President Donald J. Trump has nominated Perry to be Energy Secretary. Perry's confirmation was approved by the U.S. Senate's Energy and Natural Resources Committee, by a vote of 16 to 7, in late January. His ultimate confirmation vote will likely take place on the full Senate floor next week.


ASAP, please
urge your two U.S. Senators to do everything in their power to block Rick Perry's confirmation as Energy Secretary.


Call both of your U.S. Senators' offices in Washington, D.C. during normal business hours, via the U.S. Capitol switchboard, at (202) 224-3121.

In addition, since your U.S. Senators are very likely home for the President's Day recess, phone their in-district office phone numbers (thanks to the Center for Biological Diversity for this link to the in-district phone numbers chart for U.S. Senators nationwide!)

Here is a sample script you can use, or adapt:

Hi, my name is ____ , and I'm from [City, State]. I am calling to ask you to oppose Rick Perry as Energy Secretary.  He has a blatant conflict of interest regarding the Waste Control Specialists radioactive waste dump in Texas. WCS's owner, Harold Simmons, a Dallas billionaire, was also a top campaign contributor to Rick Perry. Now WCS is seeking billions of taxpayer dollars from the Department of Energy to open a centralized interim storage site for high-level radioactive waste, all at taxpayer cost, liability, and risk.”


You can also email or fax your U.S. Senators the same message immediately above at any time. Look up their direct contact info. at their websites for that contact information, listed here. Or when you call them, per the instructions above, ask the staffperson you speak with for the fax number, and/or instructions on how to email your Senator(s).


Sign Food & Water Watch's petition!

And sign the FOE petition!

And sign's petition!

And sign DailyKos's petition! 


On a closely related matter, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is accepting public comments on the environmental scoping for WCS's proposed centralized interim storage site, until March 13th. Please see Beyond Nuclear's action alert regarding this, including sample comments you can use to submit your own by the deadline.


The U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee held its nomination hearing to consider confirmation of former Texas governor Rick Perry for Energy Secretary on Thursday, January 19th. (See Beyond Nuclear's press release re: Perry's ENR confirmation hearing.)

On Jan. 31, The ENR Committee voted on Rick Perry's confirmation. The confirmation was approved, by a vote of 16 to 7. As reported by Ranking ENR Committee Democrat Maria Cantell (D-WA), who also voted against Perry's confirmation:

Gov. Perry received 16 votes of support, with Sens. Wyden, Sanders, Franken, Hirono, Duckworth and Heinrich opposing his nomination.

This means that all of the Republicans on the ENR Committee voted in favor of Perry's confirmation, as did Democrats Cortez Masto (NV), Manchin (WV), and Stabenow (MI), as well as King (Independent from Maine, who caucuses with Democrats). All of these U.S. Senators who voted in favor of Perry's confirmation need to hear from their constituents, expressing alarm and deep concern, and urging them to change their votes on the Senate floor, and to oppose Perry's confirmation. (See an example of such a statement of concern, sent by Beyond Nuclear and Don't Waste Michigan to Senator Stabenow of Michigan, which you can use to prepare your own communication to your Senator who voted the wrong way in the ENR Committee.)

Conversely, those six Democrats (Cantwell from WA, Wyden from OR, Franken from MN, Hirono from HI, Duckworth from IL, and Heinrich from NM), and one Independent who caucuses with Democrats (Sanders from VT), deserve letters/emails/phone calls of thanks and support from their constituents, and encouragement to keep leading efforts to block Perry's confirmation on the Senate floor! (See an example of such a thank you letter, sent by Beyond Nuclear to Senator Sanders of Vermont, which you can use to prepare your own thank you letter to your own Senator who voted the right way in the ENR Committee.) 

In addition to Rick Perry previously having wanted, as a presidential candidate, to eliminate the Department of Energy (if only he could have recalled its name during a live candidates debate!), being out of his depth on nuclear weapons issues, and (until just days before his Senate committee confirmation hearing) his blatant conflict re: the highly controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), there is also his conflict re: the environmental injustice of the WCS radioactive waste dump. WCS is located in Andrews County, Texas, which -- along with its immediately adjacent neighbors across the border in New Mexico -- raises serious environmental justice concerns, given the large Latin American population, as well as its high percentage of low income residents, already exposed to a disproportionate burden of impacts from polluting nuclear/radioactive waste and fossil fuel industries.

WCS can be viewed as a pet project of Perry's. Perry went so far as to travel to West Texas, promoting high-level radioactive waste storage in the area, as reported by the Texas Observer. This is in fact WCS's next major expansion plan, to contract with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to store 40,000 metric tons (more than half of what currently exists in the country!) of commercial irradiated nuclear fuel from across the U.S. as a consolidated or centralized interim storage (CIS) site. In April 2016, WCS applied to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for its license, a proceeding that is now intensifying, despite an environmental coalition's assertion that the application violates the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, as Amended (see coalition letter to NRC, and press release).

WCS stands to make billions of dollars, paid for entirely by U.S. taxpayers, just during the construction and operations phases alone. If something goes wrong (and WCS is located upstream from the Ogallala Aquifer, the largest in North America, providing vital drinking and irrigation water for millions of people in numerous Great Plains states from Texas to South Dakota), U.S. taxpayers would hold full, unlimited liability.

If opened, the WCS CIS facility would launch unprecedented numbers of high-level radioactive waste shipments, through most states. These high-risk "Mobile Chernobyls" would be mostly rail shipments, although even then this could involve a large number of barge shipments on waterways, including seacoasts, rivers, and the Great Lakes. Heavy haul truck shipments on roads could also be involved (as could Legal Weight Truck shipments on nationwide interstate highways, if WCS simply gets a rubber-stamped license amendment from NRC at some future date).

Centralized interim surface storage makes no sense -- the wastes would have to be moved to a deep geologic repository elsewhere someday anyway, thus multiplying transport risks. But it also faces the real risk of becoming a de facto permanent parking lot dump.

A lesson (that should have been!) learned from the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, is that collusion between so-called nuclear safety regulators, the nuclear industry, and government officials is very dangerous. The Japanese Parliament, in its first ever independent investigation, published in 2012, concluded that the root cause of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe was just such collusion.

Here, Rick Perry is the embodiment of just such collusion, in the form of radioactive crony capitalism, plutocratic pay-to-play campaign contributions, and revolving door power politics and get-rich-quick-at-taxpayer-expense schemes. Figuratively speaking, as governor of Texas, when the WCS owner, and a major campaign contributor to Rick Perry, said Jump!, Gov. Perry effectively said How High?! Now, as Energy Secretary, Rick Perry could well sign a contract with WCS -- still owned by Harold Simmons' family -- costing U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars in terms of construction and operation costs, or an unlimited amount, if something goes wrong (taxpayers would bear full liability).

Urge both your U.S. Senators to block Rick Perry's confirmation as Energy Secretary, due to such a blatant conflict of interest! Please forward this action alert far and wide!