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.



OPG radioactive waste dump a "declaration of war against the Great Lakes"

As reported in last week's Beyond Nuclear email bulletin, resistance is mounting on both sides of the Great Lakes international border to Ontario Power Generation's (OPG) plan to bury radioactive wastes on the Lake Huron shoreline.

On Aug. 19, Beyond Nuclear's Radioactive Waste Watchdog, Kevin Kamps, was honored to be invited to speak at the ‘Save the Great Lakes from Nuclear Waste’ town hall meeting at Wayne State University Law School in Detroit. Michigan State Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood, D-Taylor, and State Rep. Sarah Roberts, D-St. Clair Shores, organized the event. In May, Hopgood introduced a resolution, which passed the Michigan State Senate unanimously, urging the U.S. House and Senate to oppose the plan. Roberts is poised to introduce a similar resolution once the Michigan State House legislative session resumes.

Hopgood and Roberts, along with a panel of experts, which included Ed McArdle of the Sierra Club's South East Michigan Group, as well as Beverly Fernandez of the Ontario-based group Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump, provided information about OPG's proposed deep geological repository at the Bruce Nuclear Power Plant on the Lake Huron shoreline, and the impact it could have on Michigan’s water, economy, fishing, tourism, health and future.

Those opposed to the DUD plan are urged to sign Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump's online petition.

As reported by the Detroit Free Press:

'Opponents of a proposal to build an underground nuclear waste dump less than a mile from the shores of Lake Huron railed tonight in Detroit against a project they called a declaration of war against the Great Lakes...

Kevin Kamps, radioactive waste specialist for Takoma Park, Md.-based Beyond Nuclear, said the project would be unprecedented because nuclear waste has not been stored underground in the Great Lakes region and could be dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years.

“This proposal is insane. It’s a declaration of war against the Great Lakes,” Kamps said...'.

The Macomb Daily Tribune also reported on this story.

On August 12th, the Macomb Daily Tribune ran another comprehensive article about the proposed Canadian radioactive waste dump, and opposition to it downstream in eastern Michigan.

Ontario's Lucknow Sentinel also reported on the town hall meeting.


Joseph Mangano/RPHP report on radioactivity releases from Palisades and increased death rates in the surrounding area

Entergy's problem-plagued Palisades atomic reactor in Covert, MI, on the Lake Michigan shorelineJoseph Mangano, Executive Director of Radiation and Public Health Project, has published a report, commissioned and endorsed by Beyond Nuclear, Don't Waste Michigan, Michigan Safe Energy Future, and Nuclear Energy Information Service. Based on government data and documentation on radioactivity releases from Palisades, as well as area health statistics, the report's major findings raise serious questions about the connections between radioactivity releases and increased overall death and cancer mortality rates.

Press release


Beyond Nuclear pamphlet "Routine Radiation Releases from U.S. Atomic Reators: What Are The Dangers?" Note that the water discharge pathway photo was taken (by Gabriela Bulisova) at the Palisades atomic reactor, discharging into Lake Michigan. Although the atmospheric discharge pathway was photographed at the Callaway atomic reactor in Missouri, Palisades has a very similar vent attached to its containment building for aerial discharges of radioactive gases and vapors).

Beyond Nuclear report (published April 2010) by Reactor Oversight Project Director Paul Gunter, "Leak First, Fix Later," with a chapter on Palisades' tritium leaks into groundwater, first reported by Entergy Nuclear in 2007.


Nuclear injustice served: three objectionable rulings in three days on Davis-Besse, Yucca Mountain, and Vermont Yankee

So much for separation of powers, checks and balances. As it is with the executive and legislative branches, wooed by the corporate cash of nuclear lobbyists and campaign contributors, it seems the U.S. judicial branch is not immune when it comes to the politically and economically powerful nuclear industry and its armies of high-priced lawyers.

A kangaroo court at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) ruled on August 12th against a petition filed by Toledo-based attorney Terry Lodge on behalf of an environmental coalition, including Beyond Nuclear. The coalition is seeking open, transparent license amendment proceedings on the FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company (FENOC) plan to replace the steam generators at its problem-plagued Davis-Besse atomic reactor near Toledo next year.

FENOC is taking the same short cuts on safety that led to the dangerously botched steam generator replacements at San Onofre, CA, which put 8 million southern Californians at risk, and caused the permanent shutdown of two atomic reactors, a $2.5 billion boondoggle. Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer at Fairewinds Associates, Inc., serves as the environmental coalition's expert witness at Davis-Besse, just as he has for Friends of the Earth at San Onofre. The environmental coalition will not give up, and is currently considering its next steps at Davis-Besse, in its ongoing resistance to the risky steam generator replacements, the atomic reactor's severely cracked concrete containment, as well as FENOC's proposed 20-year license extension. The Toledo Blade has reported on this story.

By a split decision, on August 13th, a panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in favor of the States of Washington and South Carolina et al., ordering the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to resume the Yucca Mountain, Nevada high-level radioactive waste dump license application proceeding. But the ruling amounts to "the doing of a useless act," for NRC has only $11.1 million remaining in its coffers with which to conduct the proceeding.

The dissent was filed by the Circuit's Chief Judge Garland, who argued that what little money NRC has remaining should be used to preserve the existing records from this largest ever licensing proceeding in the agency's history. Garland reasoned:

"In short, given the limited funds that remain available, issuing a writ of mandamus amounts to little more than ordering the Commission to spend part of those funds unpacking its boxes, and the remainder packing them up again."

Garland also pointed out that Yucca's ultimate price tag would require Congress to approve not just over $100 million per year in licensing support, but, if the application is ultimately approved, many tens of billions of dollars to carry out construction and operation (DOE's last estimate for the total cost of Yucca, should it proceed, made several years ago, was nearly $100 billion). Congress has not seen fit to increase NRC's licensing proceeding funding in a number of years.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), the Silver State's bipartisan U.S. congressional delegation, Nevada's state government, and grassroots environmental groups have all vowed to continue their successful resistance against the Yucca dump, despite the absurd, largely meaningless court ruling.

Then, on August 14th, a three-judge panel at the Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City ruled in favor of Entergy Nuclear, and against the State of Vermont, in the marathon battle over the fate of the Vermont Yankee atomic reactor. The appeals court judges agreed with a lower court's Orwellian determination that Vermont state legislators had really meant "safety" when they passed laws regulating energy economics, the need for (or lack thereof) Vermont Yankee going forward, and the atomic reactor's impacts on the Connecticut River from thermal water discharges, impacts on tourism and recreation, etc. 

While radiological safety has been deemed the "sole province" of the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission under the Atomic Energy Energy of 1954 (never mind the agency is asleep at the Geiger counter, derelict in its duty to protect public health, safety, and the environment!), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 1983 PG&E case that states retain jurisdiction regarding nuclear power in all those other areas.

As documented in the classic 1975 book We Almost Lost Detroit by John G. Fuller (about the Oct. 5, 1966 partial meltdown at the Fermi 1 experimental plutonium breeder reactor in Monroe County, MI), a half-century ago, a strongly worded dissent in the U.S. Supreme Court case United Auto Workers v. U.S. Atomic Energy Commission described the Atomic Energy Act as a dark day for our democracy. Ironically, in spite of yesterday's New York City appeals court ruling, one of the judges pointed out that Congress probably didn't intend to so undermine state's rights when it passed the Atomic Energy Act six decades ago!

The silver lining, however, is that the court did not order Vermont taxpayers to pay for Entergy's multi-million dollar legal bills. Also, the authority of the State of Vermont's Public Service Board to rescind the "rogue corporation" Entergy's Certificate of Public Good, its license to do business in the Green Mountain State, seems to be retained intact. The PSB, which can consider the company's character in its deliberations, is set to rule in late autumn or early winter. Not only Vermont's Governor and Attorney General seem determined to fight on, but so does the grassroots environmental resistance.

To paraphrase U.S. Representative Ed Markey (D-MA), recently elected to the U.S. Senate, Franz Kafka is spinning so fast in his grave, he should be hooked up to a turbo-generator and connected to the electric grid!


Court "orders the doing of a useless act": federal appeals panel orders NRC to resume Yucca dump licensing despite next to no funds

Jim Day, Las Vegas Review Journal, 2010 (be sure to court the toes!)

The Yucca Mountain radioactive waste dump zombie's sixth toe twitched today.

By a 2-1 split decision, a three judge panel of the federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit approved a writ of mandamus sought by the States of Washington and South Carolina, et al., ordering the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to resume the licensing proceeding for the proposed Yucca Mountain national dumpsite for high-level radioactive waste (HLRW). NRC had suspended the proceeding for lack of congressionally appropriated funding in 2011.

Two of the appeals judges felt the $11.1 million remaining in NRC's Yucca licensing coffers is a substantial amount of funding with which to resume the proceedings.

But Chief Judge Garland disagreed, pointing out that in its last fully funded year of the proceedings, NRC budgeted nearly $100 million. Since, NRC has largely dismantled its digital and physical infrastructures for evening conducting the proceedings, as has the former license applicant, the U.S. Department of Energy, which has moved to withdraw the license application, and has let go its Yucca program staff.

He also pointed out that Yucca's ultimate price tag would require Congress to approve not just over $100 million per year in licensing support, but, if the application is ultimately approved, many tens of billions of dollars to carry out construction and operation (DOE's last estimate for the total cost of Yucca, should it proceed, made several years ago, was nearly $100 billion).

Chief Judge Garland then dissented to the ruling, arguing that what little money NRC has remaining should be used to preserve the existing records from this largest licensing proceeding in the agency's history, writing:

"In short, given the limited funds that remain available, issuing a writ of mandamus amounts to little more than ordering the Commission to spend part of those funds unpacking its boxes, and the remainder packing them up again."

Extensive media coverage of the court decision, and reactions to it, are posted at the State of Nevada's Agency for Nuclear Projects "What's News" website.


"Attorney Generals Fight for Public Access in Nuclear Issues"

Environmental coalition attorney Terry Lodge of Toledo speaks out against Davis-Besse's 20-year license extension at a press conference in Oak Harbor, OH in August 2012An article written by Roger Witherspoon, "Attorney Generals Fight for Public Access in Nuclear Issues," begins:

"The Attorney Generals of New York and Vermont have joined the fight against California’s San Onofre Nuclear power plant in an effort to stop federal regulators from erasing all record of a judicial ruling that the public has a right to intervene before major amendments are granted to an operating license.

If the five-member Nuclear Regulatory Commission grants the request of their staff to vacate the ruling of the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board and expunge the record, it will eliminate a precedent that affects power plant operations and regulatory practices around the country. In particular, it will affect the six-year fight in New York to shut the Indian Point power plants 25 miles north of New York City; and Vermont’s ongoing effort to shut the Vermont Yankee power plant.

The cross country battle now being waged by NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell is an uphill fight against one of the most powerful professional staffs in the US government and an agency that has a unique view of its own independence.

“The Commission has stated that it is not bound by judicial practice, including that of the United States Supreme Court,” stated Schneiderman and Sorrell in a brief filed June 24 with the NRC challenging the staff request...". Continue reading Roger Witherspoon's article here.

The next proceeding most likely to be immediately and directly impacted by the survival or demise of Friends of the Earths' (FOE) San Onofre precedent involves the replacement of steam generators at FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company's (FENOC) problem-plagued Davis-Besse atomic reactor, located on the Lake Erie shoreline in Oak Harbor, Ohio just east of Toledo. A coalition of environmental groups -- Beyond Nuclear, Citizen Environment Coalition of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and the Sierra Club -- have challenged FENOC's attempt to avoid transparent, open, and publicly accessible license amendment proceedings, by arguing the new steam generators are "like-for-like" replacements of the old ones.

But the coalition's expert witness, Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer at Fairewinds Associates, Inc., has documented numerous major changes from the degraded old to the new replacement steam generators. Gundersen also serves as FOE's expert witness at San Onofre. Toledo-based attorney Terry Lodge (photo, above left) serves as the coalition's legal counsel.

An Atomic Safety (sic) and Licensing Board (ASLB) panel heard pre-hearing oral arguments regarding the environmental interveners' standing, as well as the merits of its arguments, on July 24th. The ASLB indicated it would rule on the admissibility of the coalition's intervention petition this month.