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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
Jun032013

Great Lakes Region Nuclear Hotspots Map

John Jackson of Great Lakes United (GLU) and Anna Tilman of International Institute of Concern for Public Health (IICPH) have released an updated map of Nuclear Hotspots in the Great Lakes Region (see image, left):

"Great Lakes United and the International Institute of Concern for Public Health (IICPH) released today the Great Lakes Nuclear Hot Spots Map, providing a detailed regional, binational view of nuclear facilities in the Great Lakes Region. As the map shows, with the exception of Lake Superior, each of the Great Lakes has numerous nuclear sites related to nuclear power generation, most of which are located within one kilometre of the Lakes. This raises concerns about the cumulative impacts of radioactive releases over the years from so many sites. It also shows the numerous places where a serious nuclear accident could occur in the region.

This map marks the first comprehensive update of this information in 15 years and highlights the lack of information about radioactive releases from these facilities. In 1998, the International Joint Commission’s (IJC) Task Force on Inventory of Radionuclides released an assessment of nuclear facilities around the basin. At the time, the Task Force concluded that releases from nuclear facilities were substantial, but that the extent of knowledge about the releases and their impacts was “limited”.   http://www.ijc.org/files/publications/C131.pdf

The map includes all aspects of nuclear power production in the Great Lakes region, including the 38 operating nuclear power plants, 12 closed plants, and four new plants proposed in Canada. It also includes the facilities that process uranium ore and manufacture the pellets, as well as tailings sites from uranium mining and milling, and facilities that store, and dispose of radioactive waste. Every site on the map is a radioactive waste site, whether operating or not.

The Great Lakes Nuclear Hot Spots Map provides a critical resource for communities concerned about the potential for radioactive waste releases into the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. Additionally, it shows the sites under consideration by the Canadian Government for storing Canada’s nuclear fuel waste. Most of the proposed sites lie within the Great Lakes basin. With the potential for new disposal sites within easy access of the Great Lakes, communities are concerned that nuclear waste could be brought in via ships, creating substantial risks of spills along Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River shipping lanes and during loading and unloading near shore.

The Citizens’ Clearinghouse on Waste Management contributed funding to this project."

The map updates work from 1990-1991 published by Irene Kock and Dave Martin of Nuclear Awareness Project.

Beyond Nuclear has also compiled a listing of major U.S. municipalities downstream of the proposed Bruce DUD on the Great Lakes shorelines of MI, OH, PA, and NY, as well as a listing of major municipalities in upstate New York directly across Lake Ontario from the nuclear power plants (Pickering, Darlington) and uranium processing facility (Port Hope) east of Toronto.

Friday
May312013

Environmental coalition rebuts challenges against Fermi 3 proposed new reactor contention

Environmental coalition attorney Terry Lodge of ToledoAttorney Terry Lodge of Toledo (photo, left), and expert witness Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer at Fairewinds Associates, Inc, have filed a rebuttal against challenges brought by Detroit Edison and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff (NRC) regarding Quality Assurance (QA) contentions in opposition to the proposed new Fermi 3 atomic reactor.

The rebuttal includes expert witness testimony by Gundersen, and an "Intervenor's Rebuttal Statement of Position" legal filing by Lodge.

Lodge and Gundersen filed their rebuttal on behalf of an environmental coalition comprised of Beyond Nuclear, Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and the Sierra Club's Michigan Chapter.

Fermi 3 is a proposed new General Electric-Hitachi so-called "ESBWR" ("Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor"), targeted at the Lake Erie shoreline in Monroe County, Michigan, 8 miles as the crow flies (or the radioactivity blows) from Ontario, Canada.

NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board hearings are set for Halloween on not only this QA contention, but also an Eastern Fox Snake threatened species contention. In addition, Fermi 3's combined Construction and Operation License Application (COLA) cannot be finalized until NRC completes its court-ordered Environmental Impact Statement on its so-called [High-Level] Nuclear Waste Confidence Rule, a proceeding that could take years.

Thursday
May302013

Sen. Boxer wants Justice Dept. to investigate at San Onofre

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer wants the Justice Department to investigate if California utility executives deceived federal regulators about an equipment swap at the San Onofre nuclear power plant that eventually led to a radiation leak, reports the Associated Press. 

The California Democrat obtained a 2004 internal letter written by a senior Southern California Edison executive that she said "leads me to believe that Edison intentionally misled the public and regulators" to avoid a potentially long and costly review of four replacement steam generators before they went into service.

The twin-domed plant between Los Angeles and San Diego hasn't produced electricity since January 2012, after a small radiation leak led to the discovery of unusually rapid wear inside hundreds of tubes that carry radioactive water in the nearly new generators.

The Los Angeles Times has also reported on this story

"Environmental group Friends of the Earth has asserted that many of the design changes should have prompted a license amendment, which would potentially involve a lengthy public hearing process, and that Edison deliberately sidestepped that process."

In a May 13 ruling by the NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, the three-judge panel unanimously ruled that Edison’s plans to restart the damaged reactors would be  an “experiment” for which they had inadequate experience and which would be outside both their technical specifications and licensing requirements.

FOE has issued a press release: “Friends of the Earth accused them, the ASLB judged them and now Edison has confessed,” said Dave Freeman, former head of the federal Tennessee Valley Authority and senior advisor to Friends of the Earth. “The San Onofre restart plan is now deader than a doornail. It’s over.” 

Thursday
May302013

Risk of "dirty shutdown" at Paducah gaseous diffusion uranium enrichment plant

Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. Photo credit: USEC/U.S. Department of EnergyIn a two-part series, Geoffrey Sea of Neighbors for an Ohio Valley Alternative (NOVA) has exposed deep financial troubles which could lead to major radiological risks at the Paducah gaseous diffusion uranium enrichment plant in Kentucky. Mind boggling mismanagement, or worse, by U.S. Enrichment Corporation (USEC) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) are to blame.

Part I, entitled "Countdown to Nuclear Ruin at Paducah," was published May 22nd, and warned that there were just 9 days left to avert a "dirty shutdown" in the many miles of enrichment cells. If the uranium laden gas solidifies within the system, it will make eventual decommissioning and clean up astronomically expensive for taxpayers, and radiologically risky for workers.

Part II, "Slow Cooker at Paducah Comes to a Boil,"  was published May 28th, with only three days left to avert dirty shutdown.

Paducah has operated since the 1950s. Sea reports that Paducah, which employs the highly energy intensive gaseous diffusion uranium enrichment process, has the single biggest electric meter in the country, electrified by two dirty coal plants. It is also one of the single biggest emitters of ozone layer destroying CFC-114, which also happens to be a very potent greenhouse gas.

In September 1999, Joby Warrick of the Washington Post broke the story that post-reprocessing uranium from Hanford Nuclear Reservation, containing fission products and transuranics, had been secretively run through Paducah. Local residents, such as Ron Lamb, had already been long protesting Technetium-99 in his drinking well water, however. Paducah whistleblower Al Puckett helped expose a secret dumping ground for radioactive and hazardous wastes on site. Such revelations help to explain the high cancer rate amongst Paducah workers and area residents.

As Sea reports, USEC is still seeking a $2 billion federal loan guarantee from the Obama administration for its proposed American Centrifuge Plant at Portsmouth, Ohio. Newly confirmed Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has deep ties to USEC, both during his time in the Clinton DOE, as well as afterwards, as a paid private consultant.

Monday
May272013

States tell NRC to review storage of radioactive waste at reactors

The dry cask storage units outside of the Vermont Yankee plant. Photo by Laura Frohn, News21.orgFrom AP: Attorneys general in Vermont, New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut announced Thursday they are petitioning the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a more thorough environmental review of storage of highly radioactive nuclear waste at plant sites.

"Federal law requires that the NRC analyze the environmental dangers of storing spent nuclear fuel at reactors that were not designed for long-term storage,’’ said Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell.

In a landmark ruling last year, a federal appeals court in Washington said the NRC needed to do a full environmental review of the risks of storing the waste — spent nuclear fuel — in storage pools and casks made of steel and concrete on the grounds of nuclear plants while the search continues for a disposal solution.

Activists in Vermont have come to mistrust the NRC "dog and pony" shows that show up in their state. Now four attorneys general are demanding some meaningful accountability from the agency on prolonged on-site storage of high-level radioactive waste. The position of Beyond Nuclear is that this waste must not be moved to so-called "interim" sites but properly stored in hardened, protected casks - a process known as Hardened On-Site Storage.

‘‘NRC staff is continuing to ignore serious public health, safety and environmental risks related to long-term, on-site storage,’’ New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a news release. ‘‘The communities that serve as de facto long-term radioactive waste repositories deserve a full and detailed accounting of the risks.’’ More.