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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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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.

Friday
May232014

Coalition defends its challenge against Davis-Besse Shield Building cracks, gaps, and rebar damage

Environmental coalition attorney Terry LodgeAn environmental coalition, represented by attorney Terry Lodge of Toledo (photo, left), has filed a defense of its contention alleging that FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company's (FENOC) Davis-Besse atomic reactor on the Lake Erie shore should be denied a 20-year license extension by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Most recently, Davis-Besse's concrete containment Shield Building has exhibited ever more severe cracking, steel reinforcement damage, as well as wall gap 80% of the way through its 2.5 foot thickness (an air space, or void, through 24 of 30 inches of the wall). The filing rebuts challenges against the contention by FENOC and NRC Staff.

As official intervenors in the NRC Atomic Safety (sic) and Licensing Board (ASLB) proceeding, the coalition, comprised of Beyond Nuclear, Citizens Environment Coalition of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and the Ohio Green Party, has resisted Davis-Besse's 20-year license extension since the end of 2010. Davis-Besse's 40-year operating license expires on Earth Day (April 22), 2017. This is the coalition's sixth contention filed.

Tuesday
May132014

"Senators Markey, Boxer and Sanders Introduce Legislation to Increase Safety at Nuclear Plants"

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works CommitteeU.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA, photo at left), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) introduced three bills today aimed at improving the safety and security of decommissioning reactors and the storage of spent nuclear fuel at nuclear plants across the nation. 

The three bills address safety of spent fuel storage and decommissioning plans. They are entitled: Safe and Secure Decommissioning Act of 2014; Nuclear Plant Decommissioning Act of 2014 (see the bill, Sen. Sanders' press release, and a one-page summary); Dry Cask Storage Act of 2014. To learn more, see the press release at Sen. Markey's website.

The EPW Committee will hold and webcast a hearing entitled “Nuclear Reactor Decommissioning: Stakeholder Views” on Wed., May 14th, at 10 AM Eastern. Witnesses include CA and VT officials, and spokespeople from NRDC and NEI.

Please urge your two U.S. Senators to support these three bills. You can contact your Senators via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.