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Safety

Nuclear safety is, of course, an oxymoron. Nuclear reactors are inherently dangerous, vulnerable to accident with the potential for catastrophic consequences to health and the environment if enough radioactivity escapes. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Congressionally-mandated to protect public safety, is a blatant lapdog bowing to the financial priorities of the nuclear industry.

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Friday
May022014

"Senators to NRC: Do Not Exempt Decommissioning Nuclear Reactors from Emergency Response and Security Measures"

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, Chairwoman, Environment and Public Works CommitteeFive Democratic U.S. Senators have written U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane, uring that NRC's rubberstamp of exemptions from emergency preparedness and security requirements at permanently shutdown nuclear power plants be stopped.

The five Senators are: Barbara Boxer (D-CA); Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY); Edward J. Markey (D-MA); Patrick Leahy (D-VT); Bernard Sanders (D-VT). Boxer (photo, above left) is Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, with oversight on NRC and nuclear power issues; Gillibrand, Markey, and Sanders also serve on the EPW Committee.

Their letter points out that nuclear utilities have always received requested exemptions, within just a year or two of reactor shutdowns, from NRC, at permanently shutdown nuclear power plants. This, despite the fact that the nuclear plants still have large amounts of irradiated nuclear fuel stored in pools, vulnerable to catastrophic releases of hazardous radioactivity, such as due to natural disasters, terrorist attacks, heavy load drops, etc.

The Senators list NRC's "perfect record" of such regulatory relaxation at: Humboldt Bay, CA; LaCrosse, WI; Fort St. Vrain, CO; Rancho Seco, CA; Yankee Rowe, MA; Trojan, OR; Haddam Neck, CT; Maine Yankee; Big Rock Point, MI; and Zion, IL.

Most ironically, NRC consistently stands by its indefensible claim that high-level radioactive waste storage is safe, sound, and secure, and will remain so for at least 60 years post-reactor shutdown, by citing the existence of emergency preparedness and security regulations. Yet, it is these very regulations that NRC consistently exempts shutdown nuclear plants from having to meet!

The Senators have urged NRC chief Macfarlane to not grant such requested exemptions at the five atomic reactors permanently shutdown in 2013 (Crystal River, FL; Kewaunee, WI; San Onofre 2 & 3, CA) or about to be shutdown by the end of 2014 (Vermont Yankee).

On April 10, Beyond Nuclear's Reactor Oversight Project Director, Paul Gunter, urged NRC to enforce emergency preparedness and security regulations at decommissioning nuclear power plant sites, due to the potentially catastrophic risks associated with the irradiated nuclear fuel still stored there.

Thursday
May012014

The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit: Walter Reuther

The Brothers Reuther. From left to right, Roy, Walter, Victor. Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI.It is fitting, on International Workers' Day, to pay tribute to Walter Reuther.

Reuther's biographer, Nelson Lichtenstein (The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit: Walter Reuther and the Fate of American Labor, Basic Books, 1995) could have been referring to Walter Reuther's civil rights, social justice, and anti-war work as much as to his efforts on behalf of working people. And given that Walter Reuther, and especially his brother Victor, were very active internationally, perhaps they were also the most dangerous men in the world?

Less well known are the Reuther brothers' work for the environment and against nuclear risks.

Walter Reuther's United Auto Workers (UAW) took one of the very first high profile stands against nuclear power in the early 1960s, when it -- alas unsuccessfully, unfortunately -- attempted to stop the construction and operation of the Fermi 1 experimental plutonium breeder reactor in Monroe County, MI, just 25 miles south of Detroit. Between the Detroit and Toledo areas, some 500,000 UAW members lived within 50 miles of the big nuclear experiment on the Great Lakes shoreline. Even though the UAW did not prevail in its lawsuit against the Atomic Energy Commission at the U.S. Supreme Court (by a 7 to 2 vote), Reuther and the UAW would be proven right just a few years later. On Oct. 5, 1966, "We Almost Lost Detroit" (the title of John G. Fuller's iconic book, as well as Gil Scott Heron's ballad) when the Fermi 1 reactor core partially melted down. But it came precariously close to turning out much worse than it did.

Sasha Reuther, the grandson of Walter's younger brother Victor, published a documentary film in 2012 entitled "Brothers on the Line." Towards the very end of the film, U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy is quoted as saying that Walter Reuther was green before it was even invented. More.

Wednesday
Apr302014

"NRC Fails to Document Claim...that 'Majority' of Nuclear Emergency Drills Include Natural Disaster Components"

The UN IAEA's official radioactivity hazard warning signNIRS has published a press release entitled "NRC Fails to Document Claim Made in Denial of NIRS' Emergency Planning Petition that 'Majority' of Nuclear Emergency Drills Include Natural Disaster Components."

NIRS submitted the petition to NRC on Feb. 15, 2012. NRC rejected the petition in its entirety on April 9, 2014.

Beyond Nuclear is one of 37 organizational co-petitioners.

Monday
Apr282014

"Three Mile Island and Nuclear Hopes and Fears"

The New York Times Retro Report has published a 13 minute video about the Three Mile Island disaster. Unfortunately, it repeats the myth that "no one died at TMI." Beyond Nuclear debunked that falsehood in its recent Thunderbird newsletter, Three Mile Island: The Truth, on the disaster's 35th anniversary. Beyond Nuclear also created a website devoted to TMI Truth.

The Retro Report also handed the microphone to Pandora's propagandist Michael Shollenberger of the Breakthrough Institute. Beyond Nuclear has also debunked the propaganda of Pandora's Promise.

It also presented the supposed potential of thorium power, another false promise Beyond Nuclear and its allies have challenged.

No discussion of "Retro" and nuclear power is complete without a link to NIRS's "Nuke Retro: Salesman from the '70s," created by cartoonist Mark Fiore during the George W. Bush/Dick Cheney push for a "nuclear renaissance" a decade ago.

Wednesday
Apr092014

NRC Denies Modest Post-Fukushima Emergency Response Recommendations

The UN IAEA's official radioactivity hazard warning signDave Kraft, Director of Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS) based in Chicago, wrote the following introduction as he forwarded the NIRS press release entitled "NRC Fails the American People: Denies Petition to Make Modest Improvements in Emergency Planning for Nuclear Reactor Accidents." Beyond Nuclear joined NEIS and three dozen other groups in supporting NIRS' petition.

"As a courtesy to our colleagues at NIRS in Washington, D.C., we forward a press release that reports the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s denial of a request to improve evacuation plans around U.S. nuclear reactors, based on the real-life information and evidence provided by the Fukushima and Chornobyl nuclear disasters.  With Illinois having 14 reactors – four of which are of Fukushima design and vintage -- and 9,000+ tons of high-level radioactive waste in the form of spent fuel in spent fuel pools and dry casks, this is no inconsequential matter.  (DISCLOSURE:  NEIS was a co-signatory of the petition to NRC)

Reality has never been a strong suit at the NRC, which consistently denies even the most common sense requests and recommendations emanating from members of the public they allegedly serve and protect.  The Commission’s interest in safety seems to be in direct proportion to the length of the leash held by Marvin S. Fertel, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Nuclear Energy Institute, the nuclear industry trade and lobbying group.  While NEI representatives are frequently invited by NRC to help write public policy on nuclear power issues, attend meetings and give briefings, public interest groups are routinely refused such opportunities.  This has been a consistent pattern of NRC behavior for decades.

It is for this reason that the public has come to understand that “NRC” actually stands for “not really concerned.”  NRC has yet to learn the lesson that betrayal is a rational justification for distrust."

Beyond Nuclear teamed up with NEIS on many occassions, including to co-sponsor the "Mountain of Radioactive Waste 70 Years High" conference in Chicago in Dec. 2012.