Nuclear Reactors

The nuclear industry is more than 50 years old. Its history is replete with a colossal financial disaster and a multitude of near-misses and catastrophic accidents like Three Mile Island and Chornobyl. Beyond Nuclear works to expose the risks and dangers posed by an aging and deteriorating reactor industry and the unproven designs being proposed for new construction.



Truth to Power (Arnie & Maggie Gundersen, Nuclear Whistleblowers)

Arnie GundersenMaggie GundersenThis just out from Fairewinds Energy Education:

"This video is a presentation Arnie and Maggie Gundersen gave at Clarkson University to a Business Ethics course on October 22, 2013. The Gundersens discuss their experience as whistleblowers in the nuclear industry and the importance of the internet in reporting malfeasance."


11 Democratic U.S. Senators protest NRC's restrictions on transparency and accountability to Congress

U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA)U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA)On Nov. 21st, a group of ten Democratic U.S. Senators wrote U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane regarding their concerns about new agency policies restricting transparency, even to Members of Congress. (Actually, to set the record straight, Bernie Sanders is an Independent -- a Socialist, to be exact -- from Vermont. He caucuses with the Democrats.)

One of signatories, U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA, photo left), a press release, stating, that the new NRC policy restricts congressional oversight and undermines transparency.

“This change in policy is clearly inconsistent with your stated commitment, is contrary to principles of government accountability, and in conflict with Congress’s constitutionally-authorized oversight authorities,” the Senators wrote in the letter to NRC Chief Macfarlane.

The other nine signatories on the letter are: Senators Menendez (NJ), Leahy (VT), Wyden (OR), Sanders (VT), Warren (MA), Gillibrand (NY), Blumenthal (CT), Baldwin (WI) and Whitehouse (RI).

Separately, a tenth U.S. Senate Democrat, Barbara Boxer of California (photo, above left), the Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, also wrote NRC Chairwoman Macfarlane. Boxer stated that "Any effort to obstruct or impede my oversight activities is unacceptable," and demanded NRC explain why certain documents concerning safety concerns at the San Onofre nuclear power plant were evidently removed prior to delivery of boxes to Chairwoman Boxer's committee staff. Boxer also issued a press release.

Reporting on an EPW oversight hearing on NRC that took place this week, a blog in The Hill entitled "Boxer slams nuke regulator's 'intimidation,'" reported:

Boxer said the policy was evidenced earlier this week when NRC personnel sought to restrict her staff’s review of records related to an ongoing probe of safety issues at the San Onofre plant in Southern California. Boxer’s staffers were told that they could be physically searched for stolen documents after they had finished reviewing them, she said.

“Let me be clear — no form of agency intimidation or obstruction will be tolerated in this committee’s investigation or its Constitutional oversight responsibilities,” Boxer said. “Action will be taken if you do not reverse your policy.”

The EPW website has information about the hearing of the Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee, including a link to the archived webcast. However, the hearing included only opening statements by the full Committee, as well as the Subcommittee, Chairs and Ranking Members. After about a half hour, the Subcommittee hearing was interrupted by the Senate floor vote -- dubbed "the Nuclear Option," ironically enough -- on ending filibusters on confirmations of presidential judicial and agency appointments. The hearing has yet to be re-scheduled.


Grassroots activism laid the groundwork for Vermont Yankee's announced demise

This infamous photo of Vermont Yankee's 2007 cooling tower collapse was sent to media reporters by whistleblowersBob Bady, a founding member of the Safe and Green Campaign, has penned an op-ed at the Vermont Digger entitled "What Killed the Beast?"

The beast to which he refers is Vermont Yankee, a GE Mark I boiling water reactor, identical in design to the wrecked, leaking Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4 in northeastern Japan.

He writes: "...The ultimate goal of a large corporation such as Entergy is to make money. Its growth or demise is about profit. The backstory is actually what prevented Vermont Yankee from making enough profit to continue to operate for decades to come.

Certainly cheaper natural gas was a signficant factor, as was an old plant that would require significant maintenance in the coming years. Pending costly federally mandated safety improvements, precipitated by the Fukushima disaster, also loomed.

The tipping point, however, the thing that might have really sealed Vermont Yankee's fate, was grassroots activism...".

He concludes that "because the anti nuke environmental community in Vermont, southwestern New Hampshire and western Massachusetts worked hard, long and intelligently to rally public opinion, and educate the Vermont Legislature," state laws signed by Vermont's former, pro-nuclear Republican governor became a "big expensive problem" for Entergy.

Bady adds "Entergy's income was first impacted when, by late 2010 and early 2011, its reputation had become so damaged by its own misdeeds, brought to the spotlight by activists, that Vermont electric utilities played hardball in contract negotiations. As a result, no deal emerged between Vermont Yankee and Vermont utilities, and Entergy was left to sell its product on the "spot" market, where prices had dropped because of cheaper natural gas."

Author Richard Watts asked the same question: how could Vermont Yankee go from being seen as a good neighbor and mainstay of the Green Mountain State's economy by some, to being almost universally disdained, even by former supporters, as a pariah, with top elected officials referring to Entergy publicly as a "rogue corporation"? Watts' book, Public Meltdown: The Story of Vermont Yankee, shows that Entergy's cover ups and lies under oath to state officials -- such as the 2007 cooling tower collapse brought to light by whistleblowers (photo, above left), and Entergy executives' perjury regarding radioactivity leaks into groundwater -- combined with widespread grassroots activism, turned the tide.


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.


"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.