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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
Aug192014

Environmental groups oppose Fermi 2 license extension

NRC file photo of Fermi 2Multiple environmental groups have met an arbitrarily short, 11:59pm Eastern deadline, and officially intervened against the application by DTE (Detroit Edison) to extend the operating license at its Fermi 2 atomic reactor (photo, left) for an additional 20 years. Fermi 2's operating license is currently set to expire in 2025.

DTE's Fermi nuclear power plant, most infamous for the October 5, 1966 "We Almost Lost Detroit" partial meltdown of its Unit 1 experimental plutonium breeder reactor, is located on the Lake Erie shore of southeast Michigan, in Monroe County.

Beyond Nuclear has entered into coalition with Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, as well as Don't Waste Michigan, to file four contentions against Fermi 2's license extension.

Two of the contentions concern radioactive waste. The first is about the risk of catastrophic irradiated nuclear fuel storage pool fires. Fermi 2's storage pool holds around 600 tons of irradiated nuclear fuel, more than all four destroyed units at Fukushima Daiichi put together (419 tons). The second radioactive waste contention is about the lack of safety and environmental assurances, since the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) "Nuclear Waste Confidence" policy was declared null and void two years ago by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and NRC has not yet replaced it.

Another contention concerns the General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor, and its containment's, long-known, fatal design flaws. Fermi 2 is largest GE Mark I BWR in the world, almost as big as the melted down Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 and 2 reactor cores put together. 

The final contention is about the interconnected risks between the age-degraded Fermi 2, and the untested, proposed new Fermi 3 atomic reactor, including the vulnerability of both sharing a common off-site electricity transmission corridor.

The three groups, joined by Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, as well as the Sierra Club, Michigan Chapter, have also been intervening against the Fermi 3 proposed new reactor since March, 2009.

Both coalitions challenging Fermi 2, and Fermi 3, are represented by Toledo-based attorney Terry Lodge.

Citizens Resistance at Fermi Two (CRAFT) separately filed 14 contentions of its own against the Fermi 2 license extension. CRAFT released a press release.

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.

Exelon is the primary funding source for “Nuclear Matters,” a pro-nuclear advocacy organization formed in March with a 2-week flurry of full-page ads in the New York Times.  It is also a partner with Entergy, another nuclear utility, in the formation and funding of the “Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.”  Exelon’s CEO Christopher Crane has just recently been named head of the Nuclear Energy Institute, the trade and lobbying arm of the nuclear industry.

Together, along with groups like ALEC, these entities are putting together a concerted national program to not only promote the failed nuclear industry, but front for the coal industry under the smokescreen of complying with upcoming federal greenhouse gas standards, to ensure that the centralized, baseload concept of electricity service prevails, and efficiency and renewable energy is marginalized.

(As reported at Salon.com, renewables have just suffered a major defeat in Ohio. An environmental coalition, including Beyond Nuclear, opposing the 20-year license extension sought by FirstEnergy at its problem plagued Davis-Besse atomic reactor near Toledo on the Lake Erie shore, contends that renewables, such as wind power and solar photovoltaics, combined with energy storage, can readily replace the 908 Megawatt-electric reactor.)

One of the facets of this effort is halting and reversing state RPS and efficiency standard laws, as ALEC has been attempting, and as Speaker Madigan and Exelon have now done in Illinois with the passage of HR1146 and the failure to fix the Illinois RPS law.

NEIS has prepared a backgrounder ("What's Wrong with HR1146"), as well as an action alert of creative ideas for countering this resolution. If you live in IL, please take direct action. If you know anyone living in IL, please forward this action alert to them.

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.