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The Nuclear Retreat

We coined the term, "Nuclear Retreat" here at Beyond Nuclear to counter the nuclear industry's preposterous "nuclear renaissance" propaganda campaign. You've probably seen "Nuclear Retreat" picked up elsewhere and no wonder - the alleged nuclear revival so far looks more like a lot of running away. On this page we will keep tabs on every latest nuclear retreat as more and more proposed new nuclear programs are canceled.

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Monday
Apr292013

LA City Council tells NRC to put the brakes on San Onofre restart

A unanimous Los Angeles City Council has demanded the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) conduct extended investigations before any restart at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Writes Harvey Wasserman: "On April 23, Los Angeles’ 11 city council members approved a resolution directing the NRC to “make no decision about restarting either San Onofre unit” until it conducts a “prudent, transparent and precautionary” investigation. The city wants “ample opportunity” for public comment and confirmation that “mandated repairs, replacements or other actions” have been completed to guarantee the public safety." There is intense opposition to the re-start of the San Onofre reactors after faulty steam generators were installed at the plant and tubes began to spring leaks. San Onofre 2 and 3 have been shuttered since January 2012. San Onofre 1 is permanently closed.

Monday
Apr292013

No nuclear "renaissance;" just resuscitation

The US Energy Information Administration's Annual Energy Outlook, 2013 takes a look at the future of nuclear energy in the US, with graphs showing that a continued role in the US electricity market is dependent on extending current 40-year operation licenses out to 60 years. The practice of propping up old reactors well into their geriatric years - where safety becomes ever more compromised - has been routinely adopted by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. But new construction, even if projects at Vogtle,  Summer and Watts Bar reach completion, will make only a small contribution, just 5.5 GW of new capacity. Renewable energy is expected to add 104 GW of new capacity by 2040.

The report also notes that "Key drivers include changes in the price of natural gas as well as the possible future operation of existing nuclear power plants beyond the 60-year period for which most units are currently licensed." With nuclear construction costs high and natural gas prices low, new nuclear construction is unattractive. More.

Monday
Apr292013

Japan should pull the plug on reprocessing: editorial

Now that the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) - Japan's equivalent to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission - has put a hold on starting up the Rokkasho reprocessing plant (pictured), the Asahi Shimbun, a leading Japan daily newspaper, has called in an editorial for a cancellation of the project. The NRA will not allow pre-operational tests at the plant until new safety standards are in place. The Asahi Shimbun wisely opines: "We need to face the fact that the government’s program to establish a nuclear fuel recycling system is as good as dead. If the plant starts operating, the plutonium it churns out will pile up with no definite plan to use it. The situation could spark concerns within the international community that Japan’s nuclear power generation might contribute to nuclear proliferation."

An additional reason to abandon the reprocessing plan is that "the project to develop fast breeder reactors, which are supposed to play a central role in the recycling system, has been stalled for years due to a series of problems at the Monju fast breeder prototype reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture. There is little prospect for commercialization of the technology."

Groups like Green Action have been fighting for years to prevent the start-up of Rokkasho. Victory now looks a step closer.

Thursday
Apr112013

Ex-NRC Chair calls for phase out of aging US reactor fleet; suggests new “more distributed” mini-nuke replacements 

Gregory Jaczko, a former chairman of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, recently grabbed news headlines when he called for the “phase out” of all 103 reactors with operating licenses in the United States. His candid remarks came prior and during a session on the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe at the April 8-9, 2013 Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference in Washington, DC.  When asked why he had not considered such action while Commission Chairman, Jaczko offered “I didn’t come to it until recently.” He realized that all of the nuclear power plants in the US have a “fundamental design problem” even when the reactor cores are shut down a tremendous amount of residual heat must be cooled to prevent them from melting down and releasing catastrophic amounts of radioactivity.  Jaczko cited a short list of nuclear accidents including Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima where industry and regulators are “always chasing the previous problem” and an approach of “Band-Aid on Band-Aid” cannot eliminate this “fundamental design challenge.” Jaczko had earlier told one news source,   The next accident is going to be something no one predicted.

However, Jaczko says that perhaps “the solution” would be to design and build a replacement fleet of “more distributed” smaller modular reactors with “low energy density.” Such designs might be safer he argues if that residual heat generated following the shut down the nuclear reaction could not push the reactor core temperature to the melting point and an uncontrolled nuclear accident. 

Typically, as here, “solutions” are offered piecemeal without addressing the myriad of other routine and unresolved hazards that would still be emanating from your local mini-nuclear waste factory. 

More broadly and still unaddressed is the overarching issue of the industry’s “Nuclear Regulatory Capture" of the agency. All things considered, the nuclear industry forced Chairman Jaczko’s resignation in May 2012 for not sufficiently facilitating their financial and expansion agenda. To Jaczko’s credit, a number of his pursuits, decisions and actions as Chair were decidedly in the interest of the public health and safety at industry expense and image. His executive decision to advise the US State Department on the immediate evacuation of all US nationals in Japan within 50 miles of the Fukushima accident became an industry tipping point and fueled a witch hunt for his ouster.

You can support Mr. Jazcko's call to start closing dangerous nukes by signing the Beyond Nuclear petition to revoke the NRC operating licenses for Fukushima-style reactors here in the United States.


 

Monday
Apr082013

Former NRC Chairman Jaczko calls for all U.S. atomic reactors to be shut down

Gregory Jaczko, who served as U.S. NRC Chairman from 2009-2012As reported by the New York Times, former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman Gregory B. Jaczko recently came to the realization that all U.S. atomic reactors have unfixable safety flaws, and should be shut down. He added, however, that "new and improved" so-called small modular reactors could take their place.

Jaczko thinks that perhaps none of the reactors that have received NRC rubber-stamps for 20-year license extensions will ever last that long, in reality, let alone an additional 20-year extension NRC is currently flirting with the idea of allowing (40 years of initial operation, plus two 20-year license extensions, adding up to 80 years of operations!).

Oyster Creek, NJ (a Mark I) is the oldest still-running reactor in the U.S., although it is already planned to close by 2019, ten years short of its 20-year extension. Dominion Nuclear has also announced the permanent shutdown of Kewaunee in WI next month, although it still have decades of permitted operations on its license.

Ironically, Jaczko himself approved many 20-year license extensions, including at Palisades in MI (opposed by NIRS and a state-wide environmental coalition) and Vermont Yankee (opposed by the vast majority of Green Mountain State residents and elected officials). Jaczko even voted to not hearing Beyond Nuclear's contentions at the Seabrook, NH and Davis-Besse, OH license extension proceedings regarding renewable alternatives, such as wind power, to the 20-year extensions at the dangerously degraded old reactors.

Jaczko reached out to Beyond Nuclear in May 2012 to set up a meeting between his entourage from NRC and concerned local residents and environmental group representatives near Palisades after he toured the problem-plagued reactor. During the closed-door meeting, concerned locals pressed Jaczko on why the 42-year-old, dangerously age-degraded reactor was allowed to operate. He responded, ironically enough, given his yes vote on Palisades' license extension in 2007, that once NRC grants an atomic reactor a license to operate, there is little that can then be done about it.

Jaczko did, however, earn the enmity of the nuclear power industry and his fellow NRC Commissioners, as by his past work against the proposed Yucca Mountain dumpsite, his invocation of emergency powers during the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, and his votes against proposed new reactors in GA and SC because Fukushima "lessons learned" had not yet been applied or required. Although Jaczko often voted the industry's way, as above, he didn't always (often the sole dissenting vote), making him "insufficiently pro-nuclear" for the nuclear establishment, as Beyond Nuclear board member and investigative journalist Karl Grossman put it.

Jaczko was first appointed to the NRC Commission in 2005. In 2009, President Obama appointed him the chair the agency, which he did till 2012. He had previously worked on Capitol Hill, as a staffer for U.S. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), and as a science fellow for U.S. Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), working on the Yucca Mountain and other nuclear power and radioactive waste issues.