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Nuclear reactors are sitting-duck targets, poorly protected and vulnerable to sabotage or attack. If their radioactive inventories were released in the event of a serious attack, hundreds of thousands of people could die immediately, or later, due to radiation sickness or latent cancers. Vast areas of the U.S. could become national sacrifice zones - an outcome too serious to risk. Beyond Nuclear advocates for the shutdown of nuclear power.

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Monday
Jul182016

Untrained Palisades security guards scapegoated by Entergy management for fire risk violations

As reported by Cody Comb's of WWMT-TV 3's I-Team, who originally broke the story of fire risk violations at Entergy Nuclear's Palisades atomic reactor earlier this month, based on whistle-blower revelations, additional whistle-blowers have revealed they are being scapegoated by management that didn't even see fit to train them properly in the first place.

A key question -- will the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) yet again be complicit with Entergy, by effectively taking part in that scapegoating?

WWMT quoted a Palisades security guard who has been placed on administrative paid leave:

"I'm on paid leave right now, and I have been for almost a month," said one of the plant workers, agreeing to speak with Newschannel 3's I-Team on the condition of anonymity.

"Now the company [Entergy] lawyer is asking us questions, saying the NRC will be speaking with us…and that we could be criminally liable," the worker added...

"The training department never once trained us on fire tours," the officer said. "Security used to have a fire brigade that had a certain number of security members on shift, but when Entergy bought the plant they got rid of that…there's a whole fire brigade staff at that plant right now that have never trained anybody on how to do the fire tours."

Also as reported by Combs:

According to a source with knowledge of previous Palisades labor issues and investigations...the supervisors at the plant who signed off on the [falsified] paperwork were not placed on leave during the investigation, adding concern about the seriousness of the investigation.

"There's a significant lack of leadership in the security area there, that's for sure," said the source.

WWMT also quoted Beyond Nuclear:

Beyond Nuclear, a group known for its opposition to nuclear energy, is not mincing words about the current Palisades investigation.

"Fire itself is 50% of the risk in terms of a meltdown," said Kevin Kamps, a radioactive waste watchdog for Beyond Nuclear. "It's as much of a risk as all the other risks put together, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and accidents."

Kamps said he is also concerned about the Palisades track record, referencing several incidents in the [45] year old plant's recent history.

"We have such collusion at Palisades, in large measure we've got the NRC covering up for Entergy (owner of the plant), and the NRC has allowed for fire risks to go unaddressed for decades now."

The collusion to which Kamps referred was that at Fukushima Daiichi, which the Japanese Parliament, after a year-long investigation, concluded was the root cause of the nuclear catastrophe. Collusion between nuclear safety regulatory agency, Tokyo Electric Power Company, and government officials is what led to the vulnerability of the three reactors to the natural disasters that wrecked them on 3/11/11, resulting in the triple meltdown, and catastrophic releases of hazardous releases of radioactivity. 

Such collusion exists in spades at Palisades, between NRC, Entergy, and the likes of U.S. Representative Fred Upton (R-MI). Upton chairs the powerful U.S. House Energy & Commerce Committee, with jurisdiction over nuclear safety. Palisades is in his congressional district. But Entergy, a major campaign contributor, can do no wrong in Upton's view.

Saturday
Jul092016

Beyond Nuclear Backgrounder re: fire & security risks at Palisades in light of WWMT's “Security workers placed on leave at [Entergy's Palisades] nuclear plant”

Entergy Nuclear's Palisades atomic reactor in Covert, MI, located on the Lake Michigan shoreline four miles south of South HavenKalamazoo, MI’s (35 miles downwind of Palisades; see a photo of the reactor, left) WWMT TV-3 on July 8, 2016’s evening news broadcast aired a story entitled “Security workers placed on leave at [Entergy’s Palisades] nuclear plant.” The video, and transcript, is posted online at: http://wwmt.com/news/i-team/security-workers-placed-on-leave-at-nuclear-plant.

Regarding the revelation that Entergy Nuclear had placed security guards on paid administrative leave for “fire inspection anomalies,” and Entergy’s claim that not only security -- but also fire protection -- duties are being adequately covered by “strong interim actions,” WWMT’s ITEAM investigative reporter, Cody Combs, reported:

But over at Beyond Nuclear, a group critical of the Palisades plant, Kevin Kamps is skeptical, especially with so few details from Palisades.

“So the questions that are raised are, did security guards pretend to make their rounds and not really do it, and just fill out the paperwork like they had?” he asked.

The 45-year-old plant is no stranger to security investigations and violations. Kamps says both Palisades and the NRC need to be more forthcoming.

“There have been some major incidents at Palisades, that the NRC, to be frank, was complicit in helping to cover up,” Kamps said.

In response to the news story, on July 9th Beyond Nuclear prepared a backgrounder, to provide significant additional context, information, and documentation. See the PDF version, as well as the Word version (with live URL links to additional documentation).

Then, on July 14th, Beyond Nuclear prepared a supplementary backgrounder, entitled BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE ON NUCLEAR REGULATIONS! Palisades: Lessons NOT Learned from Entergy’s Prior Fire Safety and Security Violations. It includes a section entitled REVELATIONS FROM SIMILAR PRIOR VIOLATIONS AT ENTERGY’S WATERFORD NUCLEAR POWER PLANT IN LOUISIANA COULD SHED LIGHT ON CURRENT VIOLATIONS AT PALISADES. See the PDF version, as well as the Word version (with live URL links to additional documentation).

Beyond Nuclear issued a press release about the supplemental backgrounder, and significant updates learned in recent days, such as: 22 Palisades security guards have been relieved of their duties; the remainder of the security guard force are being pressured to sign waivers, and then to work 75 hour work-weeks, in violation of NRC's standard fatigue rule limits; and the FBI has joined NRC's Office of Investigations on site to look into the violations.

Thursday
Jun162016

Beyond Nuclear challenges safety & security risks at Point Beach atomic reactors on Lake Michigan shore in WI

The Point Beach atomic reactors, north of Two Rivers, WI on the Lake Michigan shore.As reported by Chuck Quirmbach at Wisconsin Public Radio, regarding the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) annual performance review of the two-reactor Point Beach nuclear power plant, owned by NextEra/Florida Power & Light, on the Lake Michigan shore:

In Wisconsin, critics and proponents of nuclear power disagree on whether the state’s sole operating nuclear plant, Point Beach, located north of Two Rivers, meets safety standards to prevent the release of potentially harmful radiation in an emergency.

The precautions that have been put in place at Point Beach may still not ward off threats like bad weather, said Kevin Kamps from the non-profit group Beyond Nuclear.

"It doesn't necessarily take an earthquake and a tsunami to catastrophically wreck a nuclear power plant. In the Great Lakes region, you have ice storms and tornados," Kamps said. "All that you need to have is loss of the electric grid – the primary source of electricity for safety systems at a nuclear power plant – and simultaneous loss of the emergency diesel generators."

If a terrorist got into a nuclear power plant, Kamps said, there's not enough protection of the radioactive waste stored in in-plant pools,

"(In-plant pools) have no robust radiological containment around them. They are simply industrial warehouse-type buildings and are mega-catastrophes waiting to happen," he said.

Kamps advocates taking more spent fuel out of the pools and placing it into concrete and steel casks in fenced-off areas outside the plant.

Beyond Nuclear, along with hundreds of environmental groups across the U.S., representing all 50 states, actually calls for Hardened On-Site Storage of existing irradiated nuclear fuel, and reactor permanent shutdown of atomic reactors ASAP, to stop the generation of any more high-level radioactive waste.

Point Beach Unit 2, and Palisades in Michigan (owned by Entergy) -- on opposite sides of Lake Michigan -- are the two worst embrittled reactor pressure vessels (RPVs) in the U.S. The Great Lakes are the drinking water supply for 40 million people in the U.S. and Canada, as well as a large number of Native American First Nations. RPV embrittlement increases pressurized thermal shock risks, a pathway to core meltdown.

WI NPR's on air report also mentioned that Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps will attend the annual Midwest Renewable Energy Association festival, info. tabling and presenting "Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer" workshops alongside John LaForge of Nukewatch Wisconsin.

Monday
Jun132016

Perpetrator of Orlando massacre worked for G4S, a security firm contracted to guard numerous U.S. nuclear facilities

As reported by USA Today, the perpetrator of the massacre in Orlando, Florida -- Omar Mateen -- had been employed by G4S since 2007.

G4S is connected to nuclear weapons and nuclear power security in the U.S., including at the Department of Energy's (DOE) Savannah River Site, Naval Base Kitsap, Nevada National Security Site (formerly the Nevada [Nuclear Weapons] Test Site, which includes the proposed Yucca Mountain high-level radioactive waste dumpsite), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (including its headquaters buildings in Rockville, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C.), and URENCO USA (Uranium Enrichment Corporation, which operates a uranium enrichment facility in New Mexico). See below.

G4S is headquatered in the U.K. It is the largest private security firm in the world, with more than 600,000 employees working in 110 countries, the USA Today article reports.

The article reports G4S carried out two security checks on Mateen -- when it hired him in 2007, and again in 2013, the same year FBI agents questioned him regarding connections to terrorist groups. Mateen cleared both G4S security screenings, however, and continued working as an armed security guard for the company right up to his massacre of 50 people, and wounding of nearly as many more, at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

The article reports that G4S is conducting its own investigation, to determine whether company weapons were used by Mateen in carrying out the massacre. G4S also made the odd statement that Mateen was not on the company clock when he carried out the massacre.

Although Mateen's G4S employment was at a gated retirement community, the company is associated with security at numerous nuclear-related facilities in the U.S.

G4S's -- and U.S. government agencies', including the FBI's -- inability to detect Mateen's violent plans before he carried them out, begs the question: what security breaches may exist at U.S. nuclear facilities guarded by G4S-related companies and personnel?

Tom Clements at Savannah River Site Watch in Columbia, South Carolina, sent out the following email message in the aftermath of the Orlando massacre:

The Orlando shooter has been reported to have worked as a security guard with G4S security company.

G4S provided security at the DOE's Savannah River Site until late 2014 and then the company was taken over by a company named Centerra.

Centerra-SRS <http://sro.srs.gov/centerrasrs.html> appears to have
inherited G4S employees, according to an Augusta (Georgia) Chronicle article -
(http://chronicle.augusta.com/news/business/2014-11-25/srs-security-firm-bought-private-group%23):

"G4S Government Solutions said that there should be no changes to personnel or staffing due to the ownership change."

I have emailed SRS about this and if there will be any security review of Centerra-SRS or personnel.

List of sites where Centerra works:
http://www.centerragroup.com/federal-and-commercial-security.html

Selected Federal and Commercial Security Customers

  • Center for Domestic Preparedness
  • DOD Holston Army Ammunition Plant
  • DOD Lake City Army Ammunition Site
  • DOD Lake City Army Ammunition Site
  • DOD Radford Army Ammunition Plant
  • DOE Savannah River Site
  • DOE Strategic Petroleum Reserve
  • FPS Michigan
  • FPS Minnesota/Wisconsin
  • NASA Ames Research Center
  • NASA Dryden Flight Research Center
  • NASA Jet Propulsion Lab
  • NASA Johnson Space Center
  • NASA Kennedy Space Center
  • Naval Base Kitsap (WSB) (security)
  • Nevada National Security Site
  • Nuclear Regulatory Commission
  • URENCO USA
  • U.S. Department of Justice
  • U.S. Government Accountability Office
  • U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
  • William J. Hughes FAA Technical Center

Monday
May092016

Bigger guns, bigger problems? How high-powered ammunition could affect nuclear power plants

As reported by Teri Sforza at the Orange County Register, concerns have lingered for well over a decade regarding the potential disastrous impact "friendly fire" could have at nuclear power plants. More powerful weaponry and ammunition allowed after the 9/11 attacks -- including recent significant escalations in the arsenals of nuclear power plant security guard forces -- means the risks to plant safety and cooling systems have increased. A key part of the risk is the lack of adequate training for the security guards so armed.

The article quotes such industry watchdogs as Dave Lochbaum at Union of Concerned Scientists, and Dan Hirsch at UC Santa Cruz.

Regarding the risk of "friendly fire" taking out a vital safety system, Lochbaum explains the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's attitude is that security guard just not miss their intended targets, such as terrorist attackers.

The article quotes Hirsch:

“Over the decades of dealing with the NRC, the pattern has never changed,” he said. “I’ve never seen them ahead of the risk rather than behind it. The NRC sees its job as keeping the burden low on the nuclear industry. This is an exceedingly dangerous mismatch between a captured regulatory agency and an adversary that is nimble, lethal and has absolutely no compunction.”