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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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Saturday
Dec242016

Environmental coalition defends its legal appeal, seeks to block Fermi 3 proposed new reactor in Michigan

Terry Lodge, legal counsel for the environmental coalition resisting Fermi 3

An environmental coalition, including Beyond Nuclear, is entering its 10th year of resistance (2008-2017) against Detroit Edison's proposed new Fermi Unit 3 reactor in southeast Michigan on the Great Lakes shoreline.

On Dec. 23rd, Toledo-based attorney Terry Lodge filed a Reply Brief, in defense of a legal appeal originally filed in October, at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the second highest court in the land, just below the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Reply rebuts challenges to the appeal brought by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and Detroit Edison (DTE).

The appeal challenges NRC's exclusion of the transmission line corridor from the Environmental Impact Statement, a violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The appeal also challenges DTE's violations of NRC's quality assurance (QA) regulations (Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates, Inc. serves as the coalition's QA expert).

More.

Wednesday
Dec142016

U.S. looks for potential issues linked to falsified French nuclear documents

As reported by Reuters, and Tweeted by Scott Stapf of the Hastings Group: Nine U.S. reactors linked to French scandal over falsified documents over nuclear parts.

The Reuters article mentions one U.S. nuclear power plant by name:

One U.S. plant with parts from Le Creusot is Dominion Resource Inc's Millstone station in Connecticut, which has had a pressurizer from the French forge in service in Unit 2 since 2006.

Dominion spokesman Ken Holt said that when Areva manufactured the pressurizer for Millstone they performed some additional heat treatment, but did not tell Dominion.

Another U.S. nuclear power plant that may be implicated, according to the article, is FirstEnergy's Beaver Valley in Pennsylvania:

Another plant that may be affected is FirstEnergy Corp's Beaver Valley station in Pennsylvania. Beaver Valley has steam generators and reactor vessel heads manufactured by Spain's Equipos Nucleares SA, or ENSA, which FirstEnergy said may contain some subcomponents from Le Creusot.

The article also reports:

There are nine U.S. plants with parts from Le Creusot, but the NRC did not immediately name them.

No explanation is given for why NRC will not name th implicated nuclear power plants, other than the obvious -- to save the plants bad publicity, and increased public and media scrutiny. 

Such a lack of transparency and accountability by the NRC -- an agency largely to entirely captured by the industry it is supposed to regulate -- is a key part of the collusion that the Japanese Parliament concluded in 2012 was the root cause of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe in that country. But such collusion exists in spades in the United States, as well. 

The Wall Street Journal has also reported on this story, in an article entitled "Coverup at French Nuclear Supplier Sparks Global Review."

Mycle Schneider, lead author of the annual World Nuclear Industry Status Report, was quoted by the Wall Street Journal, warning “Likely we have seen only the tip of the iceberg.”

Monday
Dec122016

Trump Transition Team's questionnaire to DOE foreshadows catastrophic energy agenda: pro-nuclear power & -fossil fuels; anti-climate & -renewables/efficiency

Truth in advertizing under a Trump administration?!CleanTechnica has published the "Full Text of 74-Item Questionnaire Trump Transition Team Sent to DOE."

Please read on below for Beyond Nuclear comments and analysis of this most revealing Trump Transition Team document.

PRO-NUCLEAR POWER

The long list of Transition Team questions leaves no room for doubt that Trump plans a sweeping pro-nuclear power policy. The Trump Transition Team questions are in bold and italics, with their original numbering system designation. Beyond Nuclear comments and analysis is given in plain text. Any grammatical errors are in the original questionnaire:

32. Are there statutory restrictions related to reinvigorating the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management?

The Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, disbanded by the Obama administration, was in charge of George W. Bush's attempt to open the Yucca Mountain, Nevada high-level radioactive waste dump. Yucca Mountain is located on Western Shoshone Indian land, as acknowledged by the U.S. government when it signed the "peace and friendship" Treat of Ruby Valley in 1863. The Western Shoshone, as well as the State of Nevada and its U.S. congressional delegation, continue to strongly oppose the Yucca dump proposal. They have been joined over the course of many years and decades by no less than a thousand environmental, environmental justice, public interest, etc. groups across the country.

33. Are there any statutory restrictions to restarting the Yucca Mountain project?

The State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, which has more than 200 legal and technical contentions ready to pursue against the Yucca dump (with dozens more new ones up its sleeve), estimates that renewing the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Yucca dump licensing proceeding will cost around $2 billion (around $1.6 billion for DOE, and more than $300 million for NRC). This does not count legal appeals in the federal courts. Nor does it include the cost of actually building and operating the Yucca dump, which DOE estimated several years ago would cost around $100 billion. Dr. Mark Cooper of Vermont Law School has estimated that the first 200 years of commercial irradiated nuclear fuel management in the U.S. will cost $210 to $350 billion, instanting doubling the generation costs for nuclear electricity.

34. Does the Department have any thoughts on how to reduce the bureaucratic burden for exporting U.S. energy technology, including but not limited to commercial nuclear technology?

DOE's Office of Nuclear Energy (ONE is mandated with promoting the technology, and does so with gusto. Ironically enough, given the division's promotional role, ONE under the Obama administration was tapped to host the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future (BRC), which from 2010-2012 sought a "Plan B" when Obama wisely cancelled the Yucca dump. ONE has also conducted the Obama administration's public comment period regarding so-called "Consent-Based Siting" for "centralized interim storage" (de facto permanent parking lot dumps), and permanent burial sites, for high-level radioactive waste. Most recently, ONE has initiated a public comment period re: Private Consolidated Interim Storage. Trump's nominee for Energy Secretary, former Texas governor Rick Perry, was a key supporter of opening the Waste Control Specialists (WCS), LLC low-level radioactive waste dump in Andrews County, Texas, above the Ogallala Aquifer. WCS now seeks to become a de facto permanent parking lot dump for highly radioactive commercial irradiated nuclear fuel. 

The George W. Bush administration's successful advocacy of nuclear power commerce with India is a cautionary tale. Bipartisan U.S. policy for decades had been to not do nuclear power commerce with nuclear weapons powers that are non-signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. But the U.S. has made an exception for India.

More recently, President Obama further advanced the nuclear commerce deal with India, requiring an Indian pledge that legal action would not be taken, and liability would not be sought, against a U.S. reactor vendor, in the aftermath of a nuclear catastrophe in India at a U.S. designed reactor. This was a shocking agreement, in light of the Union Carbide (a U.S. company, now owned by Dow Chemical) Bhopal pesticide catastrophe in India, not to mention the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe in Japan (three reactors designed by a U.S. company, General Electric, exploded and melted down, causing a catastrophic release of hazardous radioactivity). The CEO of Westinghouse Nuclear in Pittsburgh breathed a sigh of relief, saying to the press he didn't want to be sued by a billion Indians.

36. Does DOE have a plan to resume the Yucca Mountain license proceedings?

See question #33 above.

52. How can the DOE support existing reactors to continue operating as part of the nation’s infrastructure?

53. What can DOE do to help prevent premature closure of plants?

Four failing old reactors in upstate NY, and three age-degraded, uncompetitive reactors in IL, have been bailed out at ratepayer expense, to the tune of $7.6 billion and $2.35 billion, respectively. The reactors otherwise would have closed in the near future, but now their ever more dangerous operations (the reactors are deep into their "breakdown phase" of increasing safety risks) have been extended by years or even decades. Tim Judson of NIRS has estimated that, should NY- and IL-style bailouts for old reactors take place across the U.S., the cost to ratepayers could exceed $280 billion.

54. How do you recommend continuing to supporting the licensing of Small Modular Reactors?

SMRs are often not that small. Some proposed designs are hundreds of megawatts-electric in size, approaching the size of some currently operating U.S. reactors. SMRs have most to all of the same problems as large, one-off (custom-built) reactors, and may be even less economic, given their untested designs and relatively small size. In addition, design and manufacturing errors could prove generic across the SMR fleet, if the reactors are in fact modular (mass-produced on a defective "assembly line.")

55. How best can DOE optimize its Advanced Reactor R&D activities to maximize their value proposition and work with investors to development and commercialize advanced reactors?

See responses to questions above.

Even questions regarding DOE's energy loan guarantee program, taken in the context of the discussion above (as well as anti-renewables/efficiency questions, described below), raises the specter that renewables, efficiency, etc. will be defunded, while massive funding may be redirected toward promoting nuclear power (questions #41 and 42, immediately below, are identical in the original):

41. Can you provide a list of the Loan Program Office’s outstanding loans, including the parties responsible for paying the loan back, term of the loan, and objective of the loan?

42. Can you provide a list of the Loan Program Office’s outstanding loans, including the parties responsible for paying the loan back, term of the loan, and objective of the loan?

43. Can you provide a full accounting of DOE liabilities associated with any loan or loan guarantee programs?

44. The Department recently announced the issuance of $4.5 billion in loan guarantees for electric vehicles (and perhaps associated infrastructure). Can you provide a status on this effort?

Congressional Republicans, including long-serving U.S. House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), made a lot of hay regarding the default by Solyndra on its $535 million solar loan guarantee from DOE, in the early years of the Obama presidency. Upton et al. neglected to mention that the Solyndra loan guarantee was entered into, initally, by the George W. Bush administration.

And a blind eye has been turned to the risks to federal taxapayers of the $8.3 billion nuclear loan guarantee awared by the Obama adminintration's DOE for the construction of the Vogtle 3 & 4 reactors in Georgia. That is 15 times more money than lost at Solyndra, and was initially estimated as being at significantly higher risk of default than was Solyndra. In fact, Vogtle 3 & 4 are billions of dollars over-budget, and nearly four years behind-schedule. The Vogtle 3 & 4 cost overruns continue to skyrocket, and the schedule delays continue to mount, raising the specter that federal taxpayers could still be left holding the bag for a Vogtle 3 & 4 debacle 15 times larger than Solyndra.

In addition, more than $12 billion of nuclear loan guarantee authority still remains at DOE, which the Trump administration could award. Beyond Nuclear has long been vigilant against such an award to the proposed new reactor at Fermi 3 in Michigan, as but one example.

Also, the Trump administration could seek additional nuclear loan guarantee authority from Congress, another threat that must be guarded against. Over the course of the first years of the Obama administration, nuclear power lobbyists sought additional authority for $10 billion, to $50 billion, to unlimited (hundreds of billions of dollars) nuclear loan guarantee authority. This was stopped by determined grassroots environmental and public interest resistance. It may need to be stopped yet again, under a very pro-nuclear power industry Trump administration.

All of the above raises the specter that under Trump, budget cuts at DOE would be at the expense of renewables and efficiency, but not at the expense of nuclear power:

62. If DOE’s topline budget in accounts other than the 050 account were required to be reduced 10% over the next four fiscal years (from the FY17 request and starting in FY18), does the Department have any recommendations as to where those reductions should be made?

ADDITIONAL CONCERNS RE: NUCLEAR POWER AND NUCLEAR WEAPONS

The following question is troubling, given DOE's scheme to truck highly radioactive liquid wastes from Canada to South Carolina:

24. Describe your alternatives to the ever increasing WTP cost and schedule, whether technical or programmatic?

WTP is DOE's acronym for the Hanford Nuclear Reservation Tank Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant in Washington State.

This begs the question, is DOE setting a precedent with the proposed Chalk River Nuclear Lab to Savannah River Site highly radioactive liquid waste truck shipments, that it would then use elsewhere, as at Hanford -- that is, exporting Hanford's high-level radioactive waste liquids to some other location, rather than solidifying (glassifying or vitrifying) them on-site? Given the high-risk, shipping highly radioactive liquid wastes has never been contemplated before now.

And given Trump's very disconcerting campaign rhetoric re: nuclear weapons, the following question is also troubling:

45. Is there an assessment of the funds it would take to replace aging infrastructure in the [nuclear weapons] complex? Is there a priority list of which facilities to be decommissioned?

Is Trump planning to postpone or cancel certain nuclear weapons complex decommissioning projects? Or replace certain nuclear weapons production facilities? Even the Obama administration planned a trillion dollar nuclear weapons program over the next 30 years. It is not yet clear if Trump is content to stick with that planet-endangering giveaway of the keys to the U.S. Treasury to the nuclear weapons military-industrial complex, or if he'll attempt to expand it.

And given the national nuclear labs' long established, and ongoing, predominant work on nuclear weapons and nuclear power technologies, the following questions are also troubling:

64. What mechanisms exist to help the national laboratories commercialize their scientific and technological prowess?

65. Which activities does the Department describe as commercialization programs or programs with the specific purpose of developing a technology for market deployment?

66. What independent evaluation panels does the lab have to assess the scientific value of its work? Who sits on these panels? How often do they hold sessions? Do they publish reports?

67. Can you provide a list of cooperative research and development grants (CRADAs) for the past five years? Please provide funding amounts, sources, and outcomes?

68. Can you provide a list of licensing agreements and royalty proceeds for the last five years?

Does this include such technologies as reprocessing of high-level radioactive waste, which had to be fended off during the George W. Bush administration's proposed scheme, the so-called "Global Nuclear Energy Partnership."

ANTI-IRAN NUCLEAR AGREEMENT

The questionnaire even raises the specter of Trump's very strong antagonism against the Iran Nuclear Agreement:

56. What is the Department’s role with respect to JCPOA? Which office has the lead for the Department?

The Obama administration's Energy Secretary, Ernest Moniz, was a key negotiator, alongside Secretary of State John Kerry, in the hammering out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreed to by Iran, the U.S., and several other countries.

While Beyond Nuclear cheered Iran's agreement to not develop nuclear weapons, we remain deeply concerned about Iran's steadfast commitment to nonetheless pursue nuclear power, and the JCPOA partner countries' agreement to help Iran do so. In fact, the nuclear power promotional aspect of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and UN International Atomic Energy Agency has been a fatal flaw, for four decades now. Nuclear power technology, such as uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing, can be used for nuclear weapons development, if and when the country -- or sub-national group -- possessing it, chooses to do so.

Trump's nominees for Secretary of Defense -- General "Mad Dog" Mattis -- and National Security Council Director -- General Mike Flynn -- have been described as virulently anti-Iran Nuclear Deal.

As a P.S. on the above, Trump's alarming rhetoric didn't end on Election Day. The BBC has just reported on December 22nd, in an article headlined "Donald Trump: U.S. Must Greatly Expand Nuclear Weapons," that the President-elect Tweeted on the morning of Dec. 22:

"The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes".

The BBC reported that Trump's Tweet came "hours after President Vladimir Putin said Russia needs to bolster its military nuclear potential."

Politico has also reported on these developments. Its article includes mention of Trump's call, during the campaign, for Japan, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea to be allowed to develop their own nuclear weapons arsenals.

ANTI-CLIMATE PROTECTION

Anti-climate protection questions asked in the memo have been more widely reported, including what has been broadly described as a "political witch hunt" against Department of Energy employees carrying out their assigned job duties under the Obama administration.

Here are perhaps the most infamous and widely reported questions (with their original numbering in the questionnaire) posed to DOE by the Trump Transition Team:

27. Can you provide a list of all Department of Energy employees or contractors who have attended any Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Carbon meetings? Can you provide a list of when those meetings were and any materials distributed at those meetings, EPSA emails associated with those meetings, or materials created by Department employees or contractors in anticipation of or as a result of those meetings?

and

40. Can you provide a list of Department employees or contractors who attended any of the Conference of the Parties (under the UNFCCC) in the last five years?

U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) has warned the President-elect directly that any action taken against DoE employees carrying out policies Trump doesn’t agree with “would be tantamount to an illegal modern-day political witch hunt, and would have a profoundly chilling impact on our dedicated federal workforce.” See Sen. Markey's Dec. 9 press release, with a link to his letter to Trump; also see Markey's Dec. 13 press release re: Trump's nominations for Secretaries of State and Energy, as well as Markey's Dec. 14 press statement "No Excuse for Political Witch Hunts at Dept. of Energy or Any Federal Agency."

But the Trump Team's questions above were quickly followed by this one:

29. Which programs within DOE are essential to meeting the goals of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan?

This begs the question: does Trump plan to eliminate those programs?! 

ANTI-RENEWABLES/EFFICIENCY

But Trump's Transition Team questionnaire also raises the specter of sweeping anti-renewable energy/anti-energy efficiency policies, such as this question:

4. What is the Department’s role with respect to the development of offshore wind?

As previously reported, as by the New York Times, President-elect Trump violated a major conflict of interest/ethical threshold, soon after Election Day, when he urged U.K. political allies to campaign against offshore wind development near a golf course he owns there.

Other questions loudly hint, or worse, at Trump's wide-ranging skepticism toward renewables, efficiency, and other clean energy programs, and beg the question of funding cuts to those programs:

5. Can you offer more information about the EV [Electric Vehicle] Everywhere Grand Challenge?

9. In the Annual Energy Outlook 2016, EIA [DOE's Energy Information Administration] assumed that the Clean Power Plan should be in the reference case despite the fact that the reference case is based on existing laws and EIA regulations. Why did EIA make that assumption, which seems to be atypical of past forecasts?

10. EIA’s assessments of levelized costs for renewable technologies do not contain back-up costs for the fossil fuel technologies that are brought on-line to replace the generation when those technologies are down. Is this is a correct representation of the true levelized costs?

11. Has EIA done analysis that shows that additional back-up generation is not needed? How does EIA analysis compare with other analyses on this issue?

12. Renewable and solar technologies are expected to need additional transmission costs above what fossil technologies need. How has EIA represented this in the AEO forecasts? What is the EIA magnitude of those transmission costs?

17. We note that EIA added distributed solar estimations to your electricity data reports. Those numbers are not part of your supply/demand balance on a Btu basis. Why has that not been EIA updated accordingly?

30. What is the statutory charge to the Department with respect to efficiency standards? Which products are subject to statutory requirements and which are discretionary to the Department?

PRO-FOSSIL FUELS

On the contrary, the Trump Transition Team's embrace of fossil fuels is clear:

13. There are studies that show that your high resource and technology case for oil and gas represents the shale gas and oil renaissance far better than your reference case. Why has EIA not put those assumptions in your reference case?

But then again, Trump's nomination of Exxon's CEO as Secretary of State, and his nomination of a "puppet of the fossil fuel industry" -- the AG of OK to head the EPA -- has made abundantly clear his pro-fossil fuel policies!

In conclusion, when it comes to U.S. energy policy, Donald J. Trump and his Team are clearly skeptical, even strongly antagonistic, towards climate protection and clean/safe energy, such as renewables and efficiency. Conversely, for Team Trump, it appears that the nuclear power and fossil fuel industries can do no wrong. 

In addition to the Trump Transition Team questionnaire to DOE, a leaked Transition Team memo has been desribed by CleanTechnica as outlining a "catastrophic energy agenda."

Thursday
Dec082016

Beyond Nuclear statement on Entergy's announcement Palisades atomic reactor will close in 2018

Tuesday
Nov292016

New Wikileaks docs cover Three Mile Island and worried governments' response to partial meltdown