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Watts Bar 2: Winning a battle while losing the war

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#832
4593
19/10/2016
Ken Bossong ‒ SUN DAY Campaign (www.sun-day-campaign.org)
Article

Ken Bossong puts the start-up of the first U.S. nuclear reactor in 20 years in perspective. To say that renewables are growing faster than nuclear is an understatement. Yet the nuclear industry is likely to trumpet Watts Bar 2 coming online as a big triumph. That is, once the reactor gets past the series of equipment failures that has repeatedly delayed the start-up since June. The Tennessee Valley Authority has spent nine years and more than US$4 billion to bring a 43-year old nuclear construction project to completion, when it could have used that time and money more productively on developing renewables and energy efficiency.

As it nears commercial operation, Watts Bar 2, the first "new" nuclear power plant in the United States in more than a generation, is proof that nuclear power has lost the race with safer, cleaner, and more economical renewable energy sources ‒ particularly solar and wind.

New electrical generation expected to be provided to the nation's grid by Watts Bar 2 during its first year of operating at full capacity has already been eclipsed several times over by new electrical generation provided by renewables.

For example, in just one year's time (i.e., July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016) as Watts Bar 2 prepared for commercial operation, solar and wind alone increased their contribution to the nation's total electrical generation by an amount three to five times greater than that expected from a year's worth of Watts Bar 2 generation (detailed supporting calculations are posted on the GreenWorld website1).

If one adds in the net increase in generation from other renewable energy sources (i.e., hydropower, geothermal, and biomass) during the past year, the ratio of new renewables generation to that of Watts Bar 2 is even greater.

Looking ahead, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) is projecting 9.5% growth in electrical consumption from renewable sources during 2016 with further increases in the years to follow.2 Thus, the ratio of new renewable electricity capacity and generation vs. that from Watts Bar is likely to be even greater in the coming year and beyond.

Additionally, the very limited contribution to be made by Watts Bar-2 to the nation's electrical generating capacity hardly seems to have been worth the wait. Construction of Watts Bar-2 originally began in 1973, but was halted in 1985. The project was restarted in October 2007 and finally completed in summer 2016. Thus, not including the period while the plant construction was suspended, it took roughly 22 years to bring Watts Bar 2 online.3

During the eight-year period (2007-2015) required to build Watts Bar 2 following the resumption of construction, the reactor obviously produced no electricity. At the same time, however, new wind and solar plants ‒ which typically require only one or two years to construct and often less4 ‒ were coming online at an increasing pace and contributing to the nation's electricity supply. In fact, during the 2007‒2015 period, wind and solar produced about 15 times more electricity than is projected to come from Watts Bar 2 in the coming year.1

Moreover, since the resumption of construction of Watts Bar 2 in 2007, actual annual electrical generation by wind and solar has mushroomed. Today, those renewable sources are providing over 21 times more electricity each year than that expected annually from Watts Bar-2 ... and growing rapidly.1

Finally, when construction resumed on Watts Bar Unit 2 in 2007, TVA assumed the cost would be US$2.5 billion to complete. Upon completion, though, the actual costs totaled US$4.7 billion. This translates into a cost of approximately US$4.1 million per MW of capacity.5

While nuclear construction costs ‒ as represented by those for Watts Bar 2 ‒ have risen dramatically, those for solar and wind have plunged by 60‒70% over the same time period.

For example, in a November 2015 study, the New York investment bank Lazard reported current electricity production costs of nuclear power to be US$97‒136 per MWh. In comparison, the best large-scale photovoltaic power plants can now produce electricity at US$50 per MWh while onshore wind turbines can do so for US$32‒77 per MWh.6

Thus, as illustrated by Watts Bar 2, the pace at which new renewable capacity and actual electrical generation ‒ particularly wind and solar ‒ are exceeding that of nuclear, the long construction times to bring new nuclear reactors on line, and nuclear power's rapidly rising costs (compared to the dramatically declining costs for renewable sources) all underscore that the nuclear era is over. Watts Bar 2 is proof that nuclear power has lost the race against renewable energy.

References:

1. http://safeenergy.org/2016/10/05/watts-bar-2-winning-a-battle-while-losi...

2. www.eia.gov/forecasts/steo/report/renew_co2.cfm

3. https://morningconsult.com/alert/first-new-nuclear-reactor-almost-two-de...

4. See, for example, www.ewea.org/wind-energy-basics/faq

5. https://morningconsult.com/alert/first-new-nuclear-reactor-almost-two-de...

6. www.lazard.com/perspective/levelized-cost-of-energy-analysis-90

See also:

www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/electricity_generation.cfm

www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=19&t=3

www.renewable-energysources.com/

www.nrel.gov/analysis/tech_lcoe.html

About: 
Watts Bar 2

The astronomical cost of new subsidies for old reactors in the U.S.

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#832
4591
19/10/2016
Tim Judson ‒ Executive Director, Nuclear Information & Resource Service
Article

The Nuclear Information & Resource Service (NIRS) has covered the unfolding story of the US nuclear power industry's clamor for new subsidies and bailouts since it started in 2014. Purely as a spectator sport, it might have been entertaining to watch the country's largest utilities go from proclaiming a "Nuclear Renaissance" a decade ago to peddling the message that "Nuclear Matters".1

But there is just too much at stake to treat it like a game. The utility industry's ramped-up efforts to block renewable energy and horde billions of our clean energy dollars to prop up old nukes risks both climate and nuclear disaster.2 Most of these proposals have been failing, thanks to the dogged persistence of grassroots activists and clean energy groups – and the outrageous sticker price of subsidies the industry needs. In fact, earlier this month, the two-year saga of FirstEnergy's US$8 billion nuclear-plus-coal bailout plan seems to have ended, with what amounts to a consolation gift to a couple FirstEnergy utility companies.3 Still an outrageous corporate giveaway, but no subsidies for nuclear or coal, even after it seemed like a done deal a few months ago.

But New York Governor Cuomo's decision in August to award a 12-year, US$7.6 billion subsidy package to four aging reactors ‒ including reversing Entergy's decision to close the FitzPatrick reactor in January 2017 ‒ has put wind into the industry's sails.4 Even that chapter isn't over, with lawsuits already being filed and several more expected.5 And environmental groups last week launched a new campaign to get Governor Cuomo to smell the coffee and cancel what will not only be the largest corporate give-away in the state's history, but relegate clean energy to second-class status behind old nukes.6

The lingering uncertainty hasn't stopped the industry PR and lobbying machines, though ‒ after all, billions of dollars in free money is at stake! Exelon, FirstEnergy, and other companies touted New York as a national model, and began urging states from Connecticut to Illinois to follow suit. Having to get each state to line up is going to be a tall order. In addition to FirstEnergy's failed Ohio bailout, Exelon hasn't been able to sell a much smaller five-year, US$1.5 billion subsidy in Illinois. And nukes in Connecticut and New Jersey are still making millions in profits each year, without heaping billions more in subsidies onto ratepayers' utility bills.7

So the industry has started pushing for a national bailout.8 NIRS thought we should take a look at what that might cost. Later this month, we will publish a report showing that a federal nuclear subsidy based on the EPA's estimate of the social cost of carbon would be massively expensive: up to US$280 billion (€255bn) by 2030. Even if it were only applied to reactors that are already becoming unprofitable ‒ more than half of the nukes in the country, according to a recent report9 ‒ it would total at least US$160 billion.

Please sign the NIRS petition

NIRS is launching a petition to the next President urging the new administration to say no to a national nuclear bailout, and to end subsidies for nuclear and fossil fuels. We hope you'll sign the petition and help us get to our goal of 100,000 signatures. Whoever wins the election in November needs to know that another nuclear bailout isn't going to fly with the American people. To sign the petition please visit www.tinyurl.com/nirs-petition

References:

1. https://safeenergy.org/2014/10/14/why-nuclear-matters-doesnt-matter/

2. https://safeenergy.org/2016/03/17/the-nuclear-industrys-game-plan-2/

3. www.utilitydive.com/news/updated-ohio-regulators-scale-back-firstenergy-...

4. https://safeenergy.org/2016/08/02/new-york-just-proved-why-bailing-out-n...

5. www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2016/10/national-advoca...

6. www.stopthecuomotax.org/

7. www.njspotlight.com/stories/16/08/04/new-jersey-unlikely-to-follow-new-y...

8. https://gain.inl.gov/SitePages/DOE%20Congressional%20Event.aspx

9. www.nytimes.com/2016/07/20/business/energy-environment/how-renewable-ene...

Parking Lot dumps in the USA

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#830
4585
20/09/2016
Mary Olson from the Nuclear Information and Resource Service writes:
Article

US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz was recently called to testify before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Energy and Natural Resources, now chaired by Lamar Alexander (Republican ‒ Tennessee) and ranking minority member Diane Feinstein (Democrat ‒ California).1 These two have participated in rare bi-partisanship on Capitol Hill in their effort to support their mutual friends: corporations that generate nuclear waste.

Alexander is even getting good at promoting nuclear energy as the prime solution to the climate crisis and labeling anyone opposed to moving the irradiated fuel rods from the reactor sites as "climate deniers." He has learned to speak of "signals" and that Congress and the Department of Energy (DOE) must signal that it will take the waste in order for corporations to decide to build more reactors, which he says are the only climate solution.

In answer to a series of questions from Feinstein, Moniz basically affirmed his DOE's charade: that it can, unilaterally, move ahead on creating "consent-based" consolidated storage sites (what we call a Parking Lot Dump) identical to the technology in use for dry storage at reactor sites ... but out in the middle of the "nowhere" of Texas, New Mexico and South Carolina.

These areas have inhabitants, who have not been asked at all if they "consent" to taking the nation's worst waste at sites that are designed for decades, at best, with no plan for how the waste will ever move again. It is the nuclear contractors who have "consented"! The people of the communities of Hobbs / New Mexico, Aiken / South Carolina, August / Georgia and Andrews County / Texas all have what Moniz does not: a future. Moniz and the entire Obama Administration gang will be exiting 1000 Independence Avenue by January 20, 2017.

So, not too much store should be given to the pronouncements in the hearing, nonetheless Moniz tipped his hand on a startling new theory: that the DOE can use its procurement authority to move ahead on contracting with private contractors to provide storage for commercial waste. While it may be true that the DOE has the ability to set up a contract, it remains unclear that it has the authority to take ownership of the waste and move it. One can congratulate Moniz on his slippery answers to the good Senator from California since he said DOE would need more work on "transportation of the waste" without sending the signal (per Alexander) in public that a change in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act is needed.

Given the coming Lame Duck Congress it is entirely possible that the DOE intends, as has happened repeatedly in the past, to sneak some small wording to make this change into another bill. US readers living in major urban transport are encouraged to call your congress members and warn them of this possibility ‒ and remind them that moving the waste would be a local Main Street issue.

"We all live in Nevada" was a cry of the 1990s; now we all live in the nuclear zones of Texas, New Mexico, South Carolina, or any other area at risk for consolidated storage, and also at all the closed reactor sites. We are one community. This is a value that we have built over the last four decades.

2017 is bringing other changes too: Harry Reid (Democrat ‒ Nevada) is retiring. Harry has been a one-man "Yucca Mountain-Protector" who, I think, has made Corbin Harney, the spiritual leader of the Western Shoshone Nation (who passed in 2007), proud. Reid has done more than any other person to stop Yucca Mountain. Yucca is a site that would fail the mission of waste isolation and thanks to Harry and many of us, and so many others, including Presidents Obama and Clinton, thankfully no waste there. Reid retires when Congress adjourns and we encourage you to send a thank-you card! Senator Harry Reid, 600 East William Street #304, Carson City, NV 89701 USA.

We as a community must keep these commitments! There is a lot of work ahead. In June the Nuclear Information and Resource Service convened a group of "planners" for a radwaste summit. This event is not outreach ‒ it is "in-reach" for activists who are committed (recently and long-term both) to finding ways to work together to prevent really bad waste plans. The event will be Dec. 2‒4 in Chicago. For more information, contact the author (maryo@nirs.org, ph. 828-252-8409).

1. Sept. 14 hearing of Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Natural Resources, video and posted written testimony: www.appropriations.senate.gov/hearings/hearing-titled-the-future-of-nucl...

WIPP waste fiasco could cost US$2 billion

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#830
4583
20/09/2016
Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor
Article

An analysis by the Los Angeles Times finds that costs associated with the February 2014 explosion in the world's only deep underground repository for nuclear waste ‒ the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in the U.S. state of New Mexico ‒ could total US$2 billion (€1.8b).1

The direct cost of the clean-up is now estimated at US$640 million (€573m), based on a contract modification made in July with contractor Nuclear Waste Partnership. The cost-plus contract leaves open the possibility of even higher costs as the clean-up continues and, as the LA Times notes, it does not include the complete replacement of the contaminated ventilation system (which failed after the February 2014 explosion) or any future costs of operating the repository longer than originally planned.

The lengthy closure following the explosion could result in operations extending for an additional seven years, at an additional cost of US$200 million (€180m) per year or US$1.4 billion (€1.25b) in total. Thus direct (clean-up) costs and indirect costs could exceed US$2 billion. And further costs are being incurred storing waste at other nuclear sites pending the re-opening of WIPP. Federal officials hope to resume limited operations at the WIPP repository by the end of this year, but full operations cannot resume until a new ventilation system is completed in about 2021.1

The US$2 billion figure is similar to the costs associated with the 1979 Three Mile Island disaster. The clean-up of Three Mile Island was estimated to cost US$1 billion by 1993, or US$1.7 billion adjusted for inflation today.1

Yet another cost for the federal government was a US$74 million (€66m) settlement paid to the state of New Mexico in January 2016.2,3 The negotiated agreement relates to the 14 February 2014 explosion and a truck fire that took place nine days earlier. It sets out corrective actions that Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL ‒ the source of the waste drum that exploded) and WIPP must take to resolve permit violations.

The US$74 million settlement will be in lieu of fines imposed on the federal government by the state of New Mexico for the two incidents. The money will be used to improve roads in south-eastern New Mexico and around Los Alamos; to repair and improve water infrastructure in Los Alamos and improve regional water quality; to enhance training and capabilities of local emergency responders; to construct an offsite emergency operations center near WIPP; and to pay for independent, external triennial reviews of environmental regulatory compliance and operations at LANL and WIPP.2,3

Government Accountability Office report

Given that the February 2014 fire and explosion exposed multiple levels of mismanagement and slack regulation, it was no surprise that the immediate response to the incidents was problematic. Everything that was supposed to happen, didn't ‒ and everything that wasn't supposed to happen, did.4

And in light of the systemic problems with management and regulation, it is no surprise that clean-up operations over the past 2.5 years have been problematic. An August 2016 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the federal Department of Energy (DOE) did not meet its initial cost and schedule estimates for restarting nuclear waste disposal operations at WIPP, resulting in a cost increase of about US$64 million (€57m) and a delay of nine months.5

Worse still, mismanagement of the clean-up has involved poor safety practices. The GAO report states:5

"In May 2015, a DOE assessment found that pressure to achieve the March 2016 deadline contributed to poor safety practices in WIPP recovery efforts.6 In July 2015, DOE announced that it experienced delays in implementing the project baseline, including delays related to procuring equipment and delays related to correcting deficiencies in safety practices. As a result of these delays, the department announced that it would revise the WIPP project management baseline with the goal of developing a more realistic schedule. ...

"Nonetheless, the department still faces challenges in completing the recovery. For example, in March 2016, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, which oversees DOE's nuclear facilities such as WIPP, reported7 that DOE had made progress in revising its nuclear safety plans at WIPP but additional work remained to address safety concerns to prevent a recurrence of the February 2014 radiological accident."

Independent Office of Enterprise Assessments report

Last year, the DOE's Independent Office of Enterprise Assessments released a report that found that WIPP clean-up operations were being rushed to meet the scheduled reopening date and this pressure was contributing to poor safety practices.6

The report states: "The EA analysis considered operational events and reviews conducted during May 2014 through May 2015 and identified a significant negative trend in performance of work. During this period, strong and unrealistic schedule pressures on the workforce contributed to poor safety performance and incidents during that time are indicators of the potential for a future serious safety incident."

The report points to "serious issues in conduct of operations, job hazard analysis, and safety basis."

Specific problems identified in the report include:

  • workers incorrectly changing filters resulting in five safety violations;
  • waste oil left underground for an extended period despite a renewed emphasis on combustible load reduction;
  • fire water lines inadequately protected against freezing;
  • inadequate processes leading a small fire underground, followed by the failure of workers and their supervisor to report the fire;
  • an operator improperly leaving a trainee to operate a waste hoist, the hoist being improperly used, tripping a safety relay and shutting down the hoist for hours;
  • an engineer violating two safety postings to remove a waste hoist safety guard;
  • workers removing a grating to an underground tank and not posting a barricade, causing a fall hazard;
  • a backlog of hundreds of preventive maintenance items; and
  • failing to properly track overtime such that "personnel may be working past the point of safety".

The Office of Enterprise Assessments' report concludes: "The issues discussed above could be leading indicators of a potentially serious incident in the future. Many more issues involving conduct of operations, maintenance, and inadequate controls also raise concerns about the possibility of a serious incident."

Earlier this year, clean-up work in two underground areas was suspended for one month due to poor air quality. Work was stopped on February 22 after equipment detected elevated levels of carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds.8

Radioactive contamination of the underground remains a problem, albeit the case that the size of the restricted area has been significantly reduced. "The facility was never designed to operate in a contaminated state," said Don Hancock from the Southwest Research and Information Center. "It was supposed to open clean and stay clean, but now it will have to operate dirty. Nobody at the Energy Department wants to consider the potential that it isn't fixable."1

Los Alamos National Laboratory at fault as well

While a number of reports have exposed problems at WIPP, others have exposed serious problems at LANL. An April 2015 report by DOE's Accident Investigation Board (AIB) concluded that a culture of lax oversight and inadequate safety protocols and training at LANL led to the February 2014 explosion at WIPP.9

"If LANL had adequately developed and implemented repackaging and treatment procedures that incorporated suitable hazard controls and included a rigorous review and approval process, the [February 2014] release would have been preventable," the AIB report states.

"The ineffectiveness and weaknesses in the oversight activities were at all levels," said Ted Wyka, the DOE safety expert who led the investigation.10

The AIB report points to the failure of LANL to effectively review and control waste packaging, train contractors and identify weaknesses in waste handling. The board also found that LANL, contractor EnergySolutions and the National Nuclear Security Administration office at LANL failed to ensure that a strong safety culture existed at the lab.

The AIB found that workers did not feel comfortable raising safety issues and felt pressured to "get it done at all costs." LANL employees also raised concerns that workers were brought in with little or no experience and rushed through an inadequate training program. "As a result," the AIB report states, "there was a failure to adequately resolve employee concerns which could have identified the generation of non compliant waste prior to shipment" to WIPP.

The immediate cause of the 14 February 2014 explosion ‒ mixing nitrate wastes with an organic absorbent (kitty litter) ‒ was recognized as a potential problem in 2012, if not before. One worker told the AIB that when concerns were raised over the use of organic kitty litter as an absorbent, the employee was told to "focus on their area of expertise and not to worry about the other areas of the procedure."

Workers noticed foaming chemicals and orange smoke rising from containers of nuclear waste at LANL, but supervisors told them to "simply wait out the reaction and return to work once the foaming ceased and the smoke subsided," the AIB report states.

"Lessons were not learned," the report states.

No doubt some lessons have been learned as a result of the underground explosion at WIPP. But Greg Mello from the Los Alamos Study Group points to a problem that is likely to recur. LANL receives bonuses from the DOE for meeting goals such as removing nuclear waste by a certain deadline. That deadline pressure was very much in evidence at LANL in the lead-up to the WIPP accident and it will likely weaken safety practices in future. "You can't just say everyone has to try harder," Mello said. "Mixing profit, deadlines and dangerous radioactive waste is incompatible."11

A February 2016 report from the DOE's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) was equally scathing of LANL.12 "Overall, we found LANL's corrective action program did not always adequately address issues, did not effectively prevent their recurrence, and did not consistently identify systemic problems," the report said. OIG auditors reviewed 460 issues cited between January 2009 and February 2014, and found "significant weaknesses" in the lab's ability to analyze and document the root causes of problems ‒ some of them significant health and safety issues ‒ and find solutions.

LANL managers said they agreed with the OIG findings and were working to resolve problems. "The Laboratory is working closely with National Nuclear Safety Administration to address the findings of the audit report," LANL said in a statement.13

But the National Nuclear Safety Administration ‒ a semi-autonomous agency within the DOE ‒ is itself a big part of the problem of systemic mismanagement of nuclear sites.

National Nuclear Security Administration

A June 2015 Government Accountability Office report strongly criticized the National Nuclear Security Administration's (NNSA) oversight of contractors who manage the nation's nuclear weapons facilities.14 The report points to a litany of ongoing failures to properly oversee private contractors at eight nuclear sites, including those managing LANL. The report found that the NNSA lacked enough qualified staff members to oversee contractors, and it lacked guidelines for evaluating its contractors.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported:15

"The GAO, which investigates federal agencies as requested by Congress, said the NNSA shortcomings stem from a 4-year-old experiment in reducing "overly prescriptive and burdensome" federal oversight of contractors by letting the private companies self-report their problems. NNSA staff told the GAO, however, that contractors aren't always as self-critical as they need to be in assessing their own performance.

"The so-called "contractor assurance system" isn't convincing the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee that the management of the nation's nuclear facilities is improving. Committee leaders from both major political parties pointed to a leaking container of radioactive waste from Los Alamos that shut down a nuclear waste repository near Carlsbad last year as one of the incidents that prove the NNSA and the Department of Energy have a long way to go in improving oversight of private contractors.

""For nearly two decades, this committee has uncovered management challenges facing the DOE complex involving contractor oversight. For the past five years, DOE has experimented with a new approach to contractor oversight that is not ready for prime time," committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and ranking member Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., said in a statement. "We saw the results of this experiment at the Y-12 security breach in Tennessee three years ago and more recently in oversight failures that led to a costly incident at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant site.""

Greg Mello from the Los Alamos Study Group was blunt in his criticism of the NNSA: "An agency that is more than 90 percent privatized, with barely enough federal employees to sign the checks and answer the phones, is never going to be able to properly oversee billion-dollar nuclear facilities of vast complexity and danger."15

References:

1. Ralph Vartabedian, 24 Aug 2016, 'Nuclear accident in New Mexico ranks among the costliest in U.S. history', www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-new-mexico-nuclear-dump-20160819-snap-story...

2. Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board, 29 Jan 2016, 'Editorial: WIPP deal puts feds on notice, cash in NM', www.abqjournal.com/714227/opinion/wipp-deal-puts-feds-on-notice-cash-in-...

3. WNN, 1 May 2015, 'Settlement agreed for WIPP incidents', www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS-Settlement-agreed-for-WIPP-incidents-01051...

4. 20 Nov 2014, 'WIPP waste accident a 'horrific comedy of errors'', Nuclear Monitor #794, www.wiseinternational.org/nuclear-monitor/794/wipp-waste-accident-horrif...

5. Government Accountability Office, Aug 2016, 'Nuclear Waste: Waste Isolation Pilot Plant Recovery Demonstrates Cost and Schedule Requirements Needed for DOE Cleanup Operations', www.gao.gov/products/GAO-16-608

6. Department of Energy, Independent Office of Enterprise Assessments, 2015, 'Office of Enterprise Assessments Operational Analysis of Safety Trends at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, May 2014 ‒ May 2015', www.wipp.energy.gov/Special/EA_memo_10152015.pdf

7. Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, March 2016, 'Staff Issue Report: Waste Isolation Pilot Plant Documented Safety Analysis'.

8. 28 March 2016, 'Officials resume work at nuclear dump after safety pause', www.therepublic.com/2016/03/28/nm-nuke-repository-air-quality/

9. U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Environmental Management, April 2015, 'Accident Investigation Report Phase 2: Radiological Release Event at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, February 14, 2014', http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2015/04/f21/WIPP%20Rad%20Event%20Repo...

10. Patrick Malone, 23 April 2015, 'WIPP investigator can't rule out more leaks', www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/wipp-investigator-can-t-rule-o...

11. Staci Matlock, 16 April 2015, 'Federal probe blames WIPP leak on LANL practices, bad chemical mix', www.santafenewmexican.com/special_reports/from_lanl_to_leak/federal-prob...

12. Department of Energy, Office of the Inspector General, Feb. 2016, 'Audit Report: Issues Management at the Los Alamos National Laboratory',

http://energy.gov/ig/downloads/audit-report-doe-oig-16-07

http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2016/03/f30/DOE-OIG-16-07.pdf

13. Staci Matlock, 1 March 2016, 'Federal audit finds more management problems at LANL', www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/federal-audit-finds-more-manag...

14. Government Accountability Office, June 2015, 'National Nuclear Security Administration: Actions Needed to Clarify Use of Contractor Assurance Systems for Oversight and Performance Evaluation', www.gao.gov/assets/680/670721.pdf

15. Staci Matlock, 10 June 2015, 'Report blasts oversight of nuke lab contractors', www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/report-blasts-oversight-of-nuk...

Fukushima lessons learned? The US National Academies of Science panel replicates the same collusion that led to the disaster

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#755
4291
18/12/2012
NIRS
Article

In March 2012, a panel was put together for a study by the National Academies of Sciences (NAS) to examine the lessons learned from the Fukushima accident. The study, entitled “Project on Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident for Improving Safety and Security of U.S. Nuclear Plants,” was recommended by the Blue Ribbon Commission, mandated by the United States Congress, and sponsored by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission. As of December 2012, three meetings have been held to discuss and examine the causes of the Fukushima disaster, with a particular emphasis on safety systems and regulations.

The first meeting, held on July 18th and 19th 2012, introduced the provisional panel, which was challenged almost immediately given that many members of the panel had a pronounced pronuclear bias and would be unable to provide accurate assessments of the current safety culture. On July 17th, 2012, 15 national organizations including NIRS, 25 state organizations, and 47 individuals submitted a letter (1) to the NAS expressing these concerns. One reason these concerns were so pressing was due to a report filed issued by the Japanese Diet in Mid-July 2012 on the Fukushima accident. (2) 
Within this report from the Japanese Diet much of the blame for the accident was placed on a “collusive relationship” between the industry and regulators. This relationship ultimately led to a betrayal of the public’s right to be safe. The NAS panel selection appeared to be replicating the same disastrous Japanese pattern of collusion. 

The letter added that a major problem with the panel’s conflict and bias would be revealed when they would be unable to provide an accurate self-assessment of agency conduct and actions. Involved in this assessment would be the key players in the nuclear industry. Those players are the federal agencies, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy; the industry and other advocacy groups such as Institute on Nuclear Power Operations, Nuclear Energy Institute, the American Nuclear Society, and the Health Physics Society. In the U.S., as in Japan, there is a very symbiotic relationship between federal agencies and nuclear industry advocacy groups. Several members of the panel were directly involved with or associated with the entities mentioned above, causing the concerns about self-assessment, bias and conflict. The groups writing the letter were also concerned that the panel was completely devoid of nuclear critics, which would lead to an unbalanced view on safety issues and concerns. 
This meeting, as with the others that followed, provided very little in the way of ensuring that bias and conflict would not be an issue. This panel is yet another example that the nuclear industry has a powerful and dangerous stranglehold on the National Academy of Sciences, and can impede crucial safety improvements by packing a panel with pro-nuclear enthusiasts, rather than with individuals and scientists who can make changes for public good and protection. 

Sources: 
(1) http://www.nirs.org/fukushima/nasfu-kushimaltr%207-18-12.pdf
(2) http://www.nirs.org/fukushima/naiic_report.pdf

About: 
Fukushima-Daiichi-1Fukushima-Daiichi-2Fukushima-Daiichi-3Fukushima-Daiichi-4Fukushima-Daiichi-5Fukushima-Daiichi-6

First new “low-level” nuke dump in US in over 40 years controversial right-wing billionaire-owned company buries waste despite technical and legal challenges

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#755
4287
18/12/2012
Article

A new sacrifice area in West Texas on the New Mexico border opened up to commercial nuclear waste on 27 April 2012. It is the first “full service” dump in US since the 1980 Low Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act passed seeking new sites, and the first since the Barnwell, South Carolina dump opened in 1971. After decades of searching, cajoling, maneuvering, and a billion dollars or more spent in 18 or more states, the nuclear industry has managed to find a new hole in the ground to bury its waste.  Waste Control Specialists (WCS) joins the original 6 “low-level” waste dumps in the US that opened in the 1960s and 70s and the Utah EnergySolutions site.

Four of these sites are closed. The EnergySolutions (formerly Envirocare) dump in Utah, started taking abandoned radioactive waste in 1988 and kept expanding to take more kinds of nuclear and hazardous waste. But the Utah legislature has never let it accept the more concentrated Classes B and C “low-level” radioactive waste (some of which can give a lethal dose if exposed without shielding). WCS can take Classes A, B and C, commercial and weapons waste, mixed radioactive and hazardous, and hopes to expand to take even more.

Waste Control Specialists (WCS) is a subsidiary of Valhi, owned by multibil-lionaire Harold Simmons, one of the 50 wealthiest people in the U.S. and a major political donor in Texas and nationally. Simmons, who was a key funder of the “swiftboat” ads against former Presidential candidate John Kerry, and gave millions to Mitt Romney Super PACs, has used his influence from the start--first getting the state to change the law to allow a private company to own and run a nuclear waste site, then in getting a state license even though the full technical review team unanimously rejected it for not protecting the water. Three members of that team quit in disgust when the license was granted by the political appointees that head the agency. It was granted with over 90 “conditions” that it had not met.

Interestingly, while the application was under review by one state agency, the Texas Water Development Board chan-ged the location of the Ogallala Aquifer, moving the mapped boundary from the WCS site to miles away, at least partly based on information provided by WCS geologists. WCS sued a critic who charged the site threatens the aquifer and he has since become silent on the issue. The Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world’s largest fresh water aquifers, extends from Texas and New Mexico through the farm belt of the U.S. up to the Dakotas. Local residents who ques-tioned or challenged WCS have been harassed.

The Lone Star Sierra Club is still fighting for a hearing on the licensing. The court ruled that a contested case hearing should be held but the state and WCS have appealed. Waste is being buried even though the appeal is pending. Ironically the first waste to be buried was from a company outside the Texas-Vermont Compact. The dump had been touted to be exclusively for waste from the two Compact states only and its licensed capacity is less than the amount needed by generators in those two states. Regardless, the Texas and Vermont governors’-appointed Compact Commission approved taking 
“out-of-compact” waste, at the behest of WCS. 

Prior to this, intensely radioactive nuclear weapons waste from the Depart-ment of Energy (DOE)’s Fernald site (K-65 ore from the Belgian Congo) was buried there under a different license. Under the Texas law passed specifically to enable this private dump, commercial compact waste had to begin being disposed before more DOE weapons waste can be buried. 

This translates into billions of dollars in contracts from weapons sites across the country in addition to the commercial waste from TX, VT and generators from all the other states which the compact commission is approving with a rubber stamp. Simmons and WCS will make big bucks. Andrews Country gets 5%. The nuclear industry has the illusion of a solution to its waste problem. The water, air, environment and the species that depend on them pay the price.

NRC/NAS Cancer study--phase 2

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#755
4286
18/12/2012
Article

In October 2012, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission directed the National Academy of Sciences to implement the first large-scale study of health impacts in U.S. communities near nuclear facilities since 1980.

Communities near selected nuclear facilities licensed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (six reactors and one nuclear fuel factory) have been designated as part of a pilot study of cancer: San Onofre, in CA; Mill-stone and Haddam Neck in CT; Dresden in IL; Oyster Creek in NJ; Big Rock Point in MI and Nuclear Fuel Services in Erwin, TN. Big Rock Point and Haddam Neck are both permanently closed.

This study is billed as an "update" of a 1990 National Cancer Institute effort to look at cancer deaths reported in the U.S. counties where nuclear reactors are located. This work was deeply flawed in its design and construction, was conducted twenty years earlier in the period of release of radioactivity from the reactors and did not include any local data, only published information that was very incomplete. In a refreshing break from business-as-usual, several years ago Representative Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and numerous concerned citizens (many of whom have suffered health consequences while living near reactors) managed to jettison NRC's original plan in which it would have conducted this study itself--the basic equivalent of a primary school child filling in their own reportcard. It is NRC's regulations (enforced or not) and NRC's licensing of these facilities that create the question of whether atomic fission and routine and non-routine releases of radioactivity have increased cancer in these communities. 

While many U.S. activists groaned when Rep. Markey suggested the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to conduct the study, the NRC accepted  the idea, since it would still allow a supervisory role for the Commission. Those who rejected the idea of the Academy cite its typical bias toward industry; they advocated for NRC to make a grant to an institution like the National Institute for Environmental Health where it would be administered with complete independence to fund proposals from qualified researchers competing in an open forum with peer review.

Nonetheless, many observers and citizen advocates who have been personally impacted are heartened by aspects of the recommendations that the NAS made in what is known as "Phase 1" of the cancer study. Of particular note is that two different studies will be performed in each pilot community and one of these will be "case-controlled" and focus specifically on pediatric cancer. 

"This is a break-through moment for the NAS and NRC" said Mary Olson, Director of the Southeast Office of Nuclear Information and Resource Service, "Case-control is what distinguishes a detailed study from broad correlations or associations based on published data, like health department tallies, which provide no real basis to assert causality; case-control means that details about each individual are gathered, providing  a finer grain or higher resolution in the data. If there are health impacts in these communities, and the study is done well, this type of study can deliver a statistically significant causation. The choice to focus the case-control work on children is also stunning since children are far more susceptible to radiation exposure than adults. The pitfall always comes when the numbers studied are too small."

Strange Bedfellows Sometimes Agree
The potential for this work to deliver non-information remains great, and this view is shared by both the nuclear industry's advocacy arm, Nuclear Energy Institute, and one of the very few active epidemiologists to look at nuclear communities in the U.S., Dr. Steve Wing. In 2010 the NEI Blog stated: "Studies of...occupationally and environmentally exposed populations...are useful in ad-dressing allegations of adverse health effects in the population and in demonstrating a concern for the health of the exposed people. However, unless they are sufficiently powerful, they do not add to the scientific knowledge of low dose effects."

From his very different perspective, Steve Wing has contributed to this issue a side bar "Perils and Promises of Studying Health Impacts of Low-Level Radiation" (see page 12) which expresses much the same view.

People are prone to drawing comparisons between radiation and tobacco. If there had been a twenty year lapse in studies of the impact of tobacco AFTER it was already publicly known that tobacco is damaging to health, how would people have reported on that? We cannot with any sense of conscience oppose any study of this issue- but we certainly expect vigilance on the part of this community to ensure that if it is shown to be poorly conducted, or worse-yet, designed to fail, it becomes an inexcusable tarnish on all associated with it.

A step that NAS could and should take to ensure that a real peer review of its work is possible would be to publish both the details of the study protocols, and also the raw data used in their work. Today web publication makes this an easily viable option. Only this level of disclosure will allow a real assessment of the integrity and value of the study. 

The view from the nuclear study sites:
The Nuclear Monitor reached out to people in the impacted communities, and the overwhelming response was essentially "it is too soon to know what to think of this." There is a guarded optimism and hope summed up by Gene Stone of ROSE (Residents Organized for a Safe Environment) near San Onofre on the Pacific coast between Los Angeles and San Diego California: "We worked really hard to bring our health concerns forward and to get the attention that has led to this study -and are also very concerned that it be done right. We want to see independent over-sight of the NAS team- so that every single procedure and decision down to the finest points is subject to peer review. We are really excited about this study, if it is done credibly." 

This view was echoed by people near Dresden (IL), Nuclear Fuel Services (TN) and Big Rock Point (MI) and Oyster Creek (NJ). 

Let us hope that the NAS has the honor and the decency to work for these communities, rather than the source of the money for the study: the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission which licenses each and every one of these sites...and dozens more in the U.S.

"CAN believes that the study 
of communities leaving in the contamination pathway of nuclear reactors is vital. However we are concerned that any finding will be used to justify the continued operation of this generation of nukes. Studies have already occur-red in Germany as well as in this country that have demonstrated an increase in cancer and other diseases. It could be more pro-ductive to study the similarities in the diseases found in communities living in proximity to nukes such as cancer, birth defects, miscarri-age, Down syndrome and learning disabilities." 

--Deb Katz, executive director Citizens Awareness Network.

Thumbnail Portraits of the Facilities
San Onofre,
Southern California Edison. Originally three PWR reactor units, Unit 1 opened in 1967 about 15 years ahead of the other two, and in 1992 was closed permanently. Units 2 and 3 are currently down due to dramatically quick failure of replacement steam generators due to a design flaw that led to vibrations that cause systematic thinning of the tube walls which leads to increased chance of rupture and catastrophic radiation release. San Onofre is located in a densely populated area -- 8.4 million people live inside a 50 mile radius of the site, and a 100 mile radius includes 18 million people. More info on the steam generator problems of San Onofre can be found at http://fairewinds.com

Dresden, Exelon Corp. Like San Onofre, Dresden was three reactor units, and Unit 1, one of the first in the U.S.A (1959) is now closed. All three units are BWRs (the two remaining are GE Mark I’s) that came on-line in the early 1970's. Located in Morris IL, the Dresden site has a population of 67,000 within a 10 mile radius and is 60 miles from "The Loop" of downtown Chicago. Dresden, like many of the selected sites has a history of contaminated ground water, likely from failure of underground pipes on the reactor site.

Big Rock Point, a GE BWR reactor owned by Consumers Energy (formerly Consumers Power) is another old, small reactor (75 MWe) that came on-line in 1964 and closed in 1997. Big Rock was experimental, and it was also used to test experimental nuclear fuels, many of which ruptured during use resulting in astronomically high radiation releases to air, water and solid waste. There is circumstantial evidence that open incine-ration took place on the site, including of "low-level" radioactive waste, which in addition to spills, leaks, and floods have made this section of Lake Michi-gan shore line (the "fourth finger" is the peninsula on which the site is located, west of Traverse City in Charlevoix) a very contaminated place. 

Haddam Neck (Connecticut Yankee) operated from 1976 to 1994 and was a single unit 582 MW PWR. It was operated by Yankee Atomic and closed for economic reasons stemming in part from safety concerns. The site has groundwater contamination and Haddam/Meriden CT is an area with diffuse but significant population. 

Millstone.  Another site that has three reactor units, the oldest shut and two remaining in operation. Millstone, owned by Dominion Generation, is on the Long Island Sound in Connecticut. Unit 1 is a BWR (GE) that operated from 1970--1998, Units 2 and 3 are PWRs. Both are plagued by leaks, many repairs, a lax safety culture and near-misses. Inside the 10 mile radius there are 140,000 people.

Oyster Creek, owned by Illinois-based Exelon Corporation, is a Fukushima –clone (GE Mark 1 BWR) sitting for the past 43 years on a New Jersey bay where the 6.5 foot surge of SuperStorm Sandy exceeded the level of the cooling water intake pumps. As luck would have it the reactor was down for refueling, however another 6 inches would have forced a Fukushima-style use of a firehose to keep the fuel pool coolant full and moving. This dinosaur is plagued with many safety issues inspiring a constant shut-down battle from local folks for the past 20 years. Instead, NRC approved a license extension which has been renegotiated to 2019; 140,000 people live within 10 miles.

Nuclear Fuel Services, Erwin, TN. Unlike the others, NFS is a fuel factory- -compounded in the last decade by the addition of a "low-level" radioactive waste heat treatment facility that cooks the hottest of this type of waste: filters and resins from the primary coolant loop of reactors. This site is tucked into a "holler" off a valley in the Appalachian Mountains where "company town" is an understatement. NFS has only recently returned to making commercial reactor fuel, having primarily supplied plutonium fuel for the propulsion reactors of the U.S. Nuclear Navy. The intimacy of the position of this industrial site with the small town it is planted in is, one hopes, rare. Backyards and jungle gyms abut the site, the local elementary school is a block away, and the river into which some wastes have been "straight piped" for decades has tested positive for highly enriched uranium and plutonium as far as 90 miles downstream.

About: 
San Onofre 1San Onofre 2San Onofre 3Dresden 2Dresden 1Dresden 3Big Rock PointConnecticut YankeeMillstone 2Millstone 3Millstone 1Oyster Creek

Compete or suckle: Should troubled U.S. nuclear reactors be subsidized?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#829
4582
24/08/2016
Peter Bradford ‒ Adjunct Professor, Vermont Law School
Article

Since the 1950s, U.S. nuclear power has commanded immense taxpayer and customer subsidy based on promises of economic and environmental benefits. Many of these promises are unfulfilled, but new ones take their place. More subsidies follow. Today the nuclear industry claims that keeping all operating reactors running for many years, no matter how uneconomic they become, is essential in order to reach U.S. climate change targets.

Economics have always challenged U.S. reactors. After more than 100 construction cancellations and cost overruns costing up to US$5 billion apiece, Forbes Magazine in 1985 called nuclear power "the greatest managerial disaster in business history ... only the blind, or the biased, can now think that most of the money [$265 billion by 1990] has been well spent."1 U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Chair Lewis Strauss' 1954 promise that electric power would be "too cheap to meter"2 is today used to mock nuclear economics, not commend them.

As late as 1972 the AEC forecast that the United States would have 1,000 power reactors by the year 2000. Today we have 100 operating power reactors, down from a peak of 112 in 1990.3 Since 2012 U.S. power plant owners have retired five units and announced plans to close nine more. Four new reactors are likely to come on line. Without strenuous government intervention, almost all of the rest will close by mid-century.4 Because these recent closures have been abrupt and unplanned, the replacement power has come in substantial part from natural gas, causing a dismaying uptick in greenhouse gas emissions.

The nuclear industry, led by the forlornly named lobbying group Nuclear Matters5, still obtains large subsidies for new reactor designs that cannot possibly compete at today's prices. But its main function now is to save operating reactors from closure brought on by their own rising costs, by the absence of a U.S. policy on greenhouse gas emissions and by competition from less expensive natural gas, carbon-free renewables and more efficient energy use.

Only billions more dollars in subsidies and the retarding of rapid deployment of cheaper technologies can save these reactors. Only fresh claims of unique social benefit can justify such steps.

When I served on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) from 1977 through 1982, the NRC issued more licenses than in any comparable period since. Arguments that the U.S. couldn't avoid dependence on Middle Eastern oil and keep the lights on without a vast increase in nuclear power were standard fare then and throughout my 20 years chairing the New York and Maine utility regulatory commissions. In fact, we attained these goals without the additional reactors, a lesson to remember in the face of claims that all of today's nuclear plants are needed to ward off climate change.

Nuclear power in competitive electricity markets

During nuclear power's growth years in the 1960s and 1970s, almost all electric utility rate regulation was based on recovering the money necessary to build and run power plants and the accompanying infrastructure. But in the 1990s many states broke up the electric utility monopoly model.6

Now a majority of U.S. power generation is sold in competitive markets. Companies profit by producing the cheapest electricity or providing services that avoid the need for electricity.

To justify their current subsidy demands, nuclear advocates assert three propositions. First, they contend that power markets undervalue nuclear plants because they do not compensate reactors for avoiding carbon emissions, or for other attributes such as diversifying the fuel supply or running more than 90 percent of the time.7

Second, they assert that other low-carbon sources cannot fill the gap because the wind doesn't always blow and the sun doesn't always shine.8 So power grids will use fossil-fired generators for more hours if nuclear plants close.

Finally, nuclear power supporters argue that these intermittent sources receive substantial subsidies while nuclear energy does not, thereby enabling renewables to underbid nuclear even if their costs are higher.9

Nuclear power producers want government-mandated long-term contracts or other mechanisms that require customers to buy power from their troubled units at prices far higher than they would pay otherwise.

Providing such open-ended support will negate several major energy trends that currently benefit customers and the environment. First, power markets have been working reliably and effectively. A large variety of cheaper, more efficient technologies for producing and saving energy, as well as managing the grid more cheaply and cleanly, have been developed. Energy storage, which can enhance the round-the-clock capability of some renewables is progressing faster10 than had been expected11, and is now being bid into several power markets – notably the market serving Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland.

Long-term subsidies for uneconomic nuclear plants also will crowd out penetration of these markets by energy efficiency and renewables. This is the path New York state has taken by committing at least US$7.6 billion in above-market payments to three of its six plants to assure that they operate through 2029.12

Nuclear power vs. other carbon-free fuels

While power markets do indeed undervalue low-carbon fuels, all of the other premises underlying the nuclear industry approach are flawed. In California13 and in Nebraska, utilities plan to replace nuclear plants that are closing early for economic reasons almost entirely with electricity from carbon-free sources.14 Such transitions are achievable in most systems as long as the shutdowns are planned in advance to be carbon-free.

In California these replacement resources, which include renewables, storage, transmission enhancements and energy efficiency measures, will for the most part be procured through competitive processes. Indeed, any state where a utility threatens to close a plant can run an auction to ascertain whether there are sufficient low-carbon resources available to replace the unit within a particular time frame. Only then will regulators know whether, how much and for how long they should support the nuclear units.

If New York had taken this approach, each of the struggling nuclear units could have bid to provide power in such an auction. They might well have succeeded for the immediate future, but some or all would probably not have won after that.

Closing the noncompetitive plants would be a clear benefit to the New York economy. This is why a large coalition of big customers, alternative energy providers and environmental groups opposed the long-term subsidy plan.15

The industry's final argument – that renewables are subsidized and nuclear is not – ignores overwhelming history. All carbon-free energy sources together have not received remotely as much government support as has flowed to nuclear power.16

Nuclear energy's essential components – reactors and enriched uranium fuel – were developed at taxpayer expense. Private utilities were paid to build nuclear reactors in the 1950s and early ‘60's, and received subsidized fuel. According to a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, total subsidies paid and offered to nuclear plants between 1960 and 2024 generally exceed the value of the power that they produced.17

The U.S. government has also pledged to dispose of nuclear power's most hazardous wastes – a promise that has never been made to any other industry.18 By 2020 taxpayers will have paid some US$21 billion to store those wastes at power plant sites.19

Furthermore, under the 1957 Price-Anderson Act20, each plant owner's accident liability is limited to some US$300 million per year, even though the Fukushima disaster showed that nuclear accident costs can exceed US$100 billion. If private companies that own U.S. nuclear power plants had been responsible for accident liability, they would not have built reactors.21 The same is almost certainly true of responsibility for spent fuel disposal.

Finally, as part of the transition to competition in the 1990s, state governments were persuaded to make customers pay off some US$70 billion in excessive nuclear costs.22 Today the same nuclear power providers are asking to be rescued from the same market forces for a second time.

Christopher Crane23, the president and CEO of Exelon, which owns the nation's largest nuclear fleet, preaches temperance from a bar stool when he disparages renewable energy subsidies by asserting, "I've talked for years about the unintended consequences of policies that incentivize technologies versus outcomes."24 However, he's right about unintended and unfortunate consequences. We should not rely further on the unfulfilled prophesies that nuclear lobbyists have deployed so expensively for so long. It's time to take Crane at his word by using our power markets, adjusted to price greenhouse gas emissions, to prioritize our low carbon outcome over his technology.

Reprinted from The Conversation, https://theconversation.com/compete-or-suckle-should-troubled-nuclear-re...

References:

1. http://cookslogblog.blogspot.com/2011/04/nuclear-follies.html

2. https://public-blog.nrc-gateway.gov/2016/06/03/too-cheap-to-meter-a-hist...

3. www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/annual/pdf/sec9_3.pdf

4. http://thebulletin.org/2013/march/how-close-us-nuclear-industry-do-nothing

5. www.nuclearmatters.com/

6. www.eia.gov/electricity/policies/restructuring/restructure_elect.html

7. www.nei.org/CorporateSite/media/filefolder/Backgrounders/Policy-Briefs/E...

8. www.nei.org/Master-Document-Folder/Backgrounders/Fact-Sheets/The-Value-o...

9. www.fortnightly.com/fortnightly/2016/05/how-environmental-movement-chang...

10. www.worldenergy.org/publications/2016/e-storage-shifting-from-cost-to-va...

11. www.utilitydive.com/news/blackouts-looming-california-speeds-battery-dep...

12. www.nytimes.com/2016/08/02/nyregion/new-york-state-aiding-nuclear-plants...

13. https://theconversation.com/as-nuclear-power-plants-close-states-need-to...

14. www.oppdlistens.com/files/9014/6307/5823/May_Board_Presentation-final_SE...

15. www.oppdlistens.com/files/9014/6307/5823/May_Board_Presentation-final_SE...

16. http://i.bnet.com/blogs/dbl_energy_subsidies_paper.pdf

17. www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/legacy/assets/documents/nuclear_power...

18. www.epa.gov/laws-regulations/summary-nuclear-waste-policy-act

19. www.gao.gov/assets/600/593745.pdf

20. www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/nuclear-insurance.pdf

21. http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-supreme-court/438/59.html

22. www.aier.org/sites/default/files/Files/Documents/Research/3784/EEB199706...

23. www.exeloncorp.com/leadership-and-governance/executives/christopher-m-crane

24. www.powermag.com/exelon-americas-leading-nuclear-generator-keeps-the-fai...


Too cheap to meter, or too expensive to matter?

Bloomberg reported on August 9:

"U.S. electricity consumers could end up paying more than US$2.5 billion for nuclear plants that never get built. Money collected from ratepayers so far has gone for items including federal licensing, permitting, land purchases, financing and equipment. Utilities including Duke Energy Corp., Dominion Resources Inc. and NextEra Energy Inc. are being allowed by regulators to charge US$1.7 billion for reactors that exist only on paper, according to company disclosures and regulatory filings. Duke and Dominion could seek approval to have ratepayers pony up at least another US$839 million, the filings show. ...

"Critics of policies that allow utilities to bill for planned reactors say they're likely unneeded, and the practice shifts upfront financial risks from shareholders to customers. "The rich get richer and the ratepayers get poorer," said Mark Cooper, a research fellow at Vermont Law School ...

"At least seven states including Florida allow utilities to collect nuclear licensing and planning costs from customers before any construction begins. In Virginia and Florida, utilities are seeing increased scrutiny of their plans. The Virginia attorney general has raised concerns about the rising expense of Dominion's proposed new reactor at its North Anna facility, estimating the total cost at US$19 billion. ...

"In February, a federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of consumers that seeks to overturn the Florida statute and recover fees charged by Duke and NextEra for nuclear power plants that might not be completed. The suit alleges the companies overcharged customers for projects including Duke's proposal for two reactors in Levy County and NextEra's plan for two units at Turkey Point. ...

"Customers can get stuck with the bill long before a single kilowatt of power is produced and may never recoup anything if the nuclear project is later abandoned," said Jeremiah Lambert, an energy attorney and author of The Power Brokers, a history of the electric power industry."

Mark Chediak, 9 Aug 2016, 'Customers Could Pay $2.5 Billion for Nuclear Plants That Never Get Built', www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-08-08/customers-could-pay-2-5-billi...

Perils and promises of studying health impacts of low-level radiation

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#755
4285
18/12/2012
Steve Wing, University of North Carolina
Article

Members of the public and scientists have been concerned about environmental contamination from nuclear weapons and nuclear power generation for a long time.  The National Academy of Sciences is currently working on a request from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to design an epidemiologic study of cancer around nuclear facilities in the USA.

People living near nuclear facilities may see an epidemiologic study as a way to shed light on their health concerns. An epidemiologic study could do that. However, if epidemiologic studies are not well-designed, they can be used to dismiss the public’s concerns and avoid implementation of public health protections.

There are many perils of epidemiologic studies, especially ones focused on low-level exposures. It’s easier to detect the effect of larger exposures, for example of nuclear workers, than the effects of smaller exposures, for example of people living near nuclear facilities. Furthermore, radiation exposures of most nuclear workers are monitored, whereas exposures of residents are not. This presents a big challenge, because an epidemiologic study that cannot sort people correctly into exposed and unexposed groups cannot detect an effect of exposure.

Several epidemiologic studies in Europe have found excess childhood leukemia among children living near nuclear power plants. These studies compared children living close to nuclear plants – within 5 km (3 miles) – to children living further away. No similar studies have been conducted in the USA, in part because we don’t have a national medical program that counts cancer cases, and in part because most of our health data are only reported for large geographic areas like counties.

The National Academy of Sciences study could be designed to improve on the European studies. However, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has asked for a study that includes adults, who are less sensitive to radiation exposure than children. Furthermore, adult cancers may appear decades after exposure, increasing the opportunity for people to move between exposed and unexposed areas. Studies of adults, of large areas like counties, and of cancer death instead of cancer diagnosis, would not advance scientific knowledge about health effects of living near nuclear facilities, but such a study could become grounds for dismissing concerns about radiation releases. Another problem is that epidemiologic studies may be conducted under the assumption that radiation exposure is too low to affect cancer. Then, if an excess is found among people living near nuclear facilities, scientists must attribute it to some other unknown cause. This circular logic – evidence of the effect is dismissed because it is already believed there can be no effect – is unscientific but is dressed in the trappings of science to make it appear reasonable.

Members of the public concerned about radiation exposures from nuclear facilities should critically consider any proposed study to decide whether to give it their trust and support.
– Steve Wing, University of North Carolina

For further reading: Wing S, Richardson DB, Hoffmann W. Cancer risks near nuclear facilities: The importance of research design and explicit study hypotheses.Environmental Health Perspectives, 119:417-21, 2011.

U.S., DOE, Studsvik, new green push processing/release of radioactive metal

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#755
4284
18/12/2012
Article

The nuclear establishment clearly has no real appreciation of the dangers of ionizing radiation, yet it is once again planning to disperse radioactive metal into commercial metal recycling to make items with which we and our children come into close, daily contact--be it Christmas toys, zippers on our pants, belt buckles, silverware, pots and pans, jewelry, cars---or maybe doggie bowls, tissue holders and bicycle baskets.

The last three items were recently found to be so radioactive they had to be tracked down and recalled. This has happened in past years as well—a cheese grater (after years of use in a home kitchen), fences, La-Z-Boy recliner chairs and table legs were found to be radioactive. One Christmas in the UK a kids’ Santa-land was found to be radioactive. Whether from deliberate release of nuclear metal into recycling or accidental melting of radioactive material into the mix, the goal needs to be prevention. But government agencies around the world are moving in the other direction.

The US Department of Energy (DOE)’s mission is to promote nuclear technology. With over a dozen weapons complex sites to manage, DOE and its sister agency National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) handle enormous amounts radioactive materials and wastes constantly. Their clean-up plans appear much cheaper if they can sell radioactive metal into recycling instead of pay for trying to isolate it from the environment for the decades to millennia it will remain radioactive. 

In 2000, public attention was focused on several nuclear industry and regulatory to make it legal to let nuclear waste out of control and into everyday commercial recycling. Public opposition was loud and clear in the U.S. and resulted in a victory for the public, but to DOE and NNSA it was apparently just a long set-back on the unrelenting desire to not take proper care of nuclear waste. Then-Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson blocked the release of thousands of tons of volumetrically radioactive contaminated metal into everyday ecycling. It was a further success for the public and metal industry when he suspended the release of all scrap metal from radioactive areas of the US nuclear weapons complex from going into commercial recycling.

The DOE moratorium and suspension on release of radioactive metal into recycling for the past 13 years has prevented exposure to transport workers, metal workers, the public and the environment that cannot be quantified. But NNSA and DOE, tired of managing the waste and not wanting to pay the costs of disposal, are now moving to do away with the bans and resume dispersing radioactive metal into our lives.

The agencies expect to release an Environmental Assessment (EA 1919) for public comment before the end of 2012. It is expected to try to provide the authority to the DOE to approve the release of radioactive scrap metal into commercial recycling using either site specific or preapproved “authorized” limits, as if DOE and NNSA have the moral authority to contaminate the metal supply for the sake of costs. When the Secretary Richardson suspended recycling of scrap metal, he cited poor record keeping, unverifiable detection procedures, incomplete historical knowledge and inadequate or nonexistent documentation. Research carried out by NIRS in 2003 to 2007 confirmed these problems. Some are inherent and cannot be solved.

The fact that radiation is more harmful to women cannot be remedied by any amount of record keeping. The fact that kids are even more at risk makes this the radiation fight of our lives.

The Metal Industries Recycling Coalition, comprised of most metal industries’ trade associations (except aluminum), has opposed the release of radioactive metal into the recycling stream due to public concerns, worker concerns and enormous costs to decontaminate their facilities. They have worked hard to recycle as much as possible and persuade the public of the positive value of recycling, so don’t want to mix in any radioactive waste. Will DOE be able to convince them and the public that the metal from contamination areas is actually clean? Are we back to the conflict of interest inherent in the owners/managers of the waste being trusted to detect and isolate or release some detectable level of radioactivity? Will they choose some allowable contamination level or set the detectors so nothing detectable can get out. Neither is full prevention when there is no safe level of exposure.

The nuclear interests in the European Union demanded that all member states adopt, by 2004, “clearance” levels from the 1996 European Commission Directive 96/29/Euratom. The industry selected 10 microSieverts (or 1 millirem)/year as a clearance level but allowed an unlimited number of waste streams or truckloads--each of which could be released, making these unenforceable and unverifiable exposures.

In the U.S., efforts by the DOE, NRC and EPA were repeatedly stopped so, at the advice of the National Academy of Sciences, these efforts were moved to decentralized deregulation of wastes. Thus Tennessee became a major center taking nuclear waste for processing.” Without public knowledge, increasing amounts of nuclear waste have been going to regular trash landfills, some already leaking. Numerous radioactive incinerators operate in the state. Another has started in Washington near Hanford and there is one for medical research waste in Florida. In 2012, another processor opened shop on Lake Erie in Ohio, NewGreen. The owner is inviting the Bruce Steam generators to Ohio for processing. It is not clear whether New Green can send metal to commercial recycling, but it is also unclear how to prove they and the Tennessee processors are not doing so.

Following a series of setbacks due to public opposition, and under the guise of “harmonization,” U.S. agencies joined forces with the International Atomic Energy Agency and other international industry groups to use their industry recommendations as justification for weakening U.S. standards. The NRC sought the authority of the National Academy of Sciences, hiring them to study how to let the waste out of regulatory control. 

In 1988 without public knowledge, DOE adopted Internal Order 5400.5 and referred to Order 5820.2A which directed that some radioactivity could be considered “Below Regulatory Concern” (BRC), consistent with the BRC policy of the NRC. But Congress revoked NRC’s BRC policies in 1992 because of public, state and other industry opposition. DOE continued to use Chapters 2 and 4 of 5400.5 to release radioactively contaminated materials and property other than metal from DOE controls at higher levels than NRC had attempted (some at up to 100 millirems/year, or 1 milliSievert/year) if there were no other sources of exposure and in some cases for limited number of years, 500 millirems/year or 5 mSv/year. In 2011 DOE replaced 5400.5 with DOE Order 458.1 clarifying allowable releases. The new DOE Order is allegedly the justification for overturning the DOE bans. 

A Sample Resolution is available against radioactive transport and melting into commercial metal. It started as an effort to stop steam generators from the Bruce Nuclear Power reactors in Canada being shipped through the Great Lakes, St Lawrence Seaway, Atlantic Ocean, and treacherous passages to the Baltic Sea for alleged cleaning and melting into metal for the everyday metal supply. Hundreds of organizations, individuals and many local governments came out against releasing nuclear waste into regular trash and recycling. It is time to reactivate and expand the knowledge about this unacceptable threat.

Source: Out of Control — On Purpose http://www.nirs.org/radwaste/outofcontrol/outofcontrolreport.pdf pp, 23-27.)

In Japan, a mothers' movement against nuclear power

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#755
4282
18/12/2012
Yes Magazine
Article

The Fukushima disaster has brought a powerful new demographic to Japan's anti-nuclear movement: mothers. On the one-year anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japanese women in New York city gathered for a rally they called Pregnant With Fear of radiation.

Protestors wore fake pregnant bellies, or carried posters with images of pregnant women wearing face masks.

Well aware that fetuses, children under five, and woman are at the greatest risk from radiation exposure, mothers have emerged as a powerful voice in Japan’s growing anti-nuclear movement.

To call attention to their message, the mothers have organized marches, petitioned government officials, fasted, and held months-long sit-ins in public locations. They regularly wear symbols of maternity and motherhood in deliberately confrontational ways.

The mothers call for action on multiple fronts. Most immediately, they demand the evacuation of all the families of Fukushima, where radiation emissions continue. They ask for tougher safety standards for food and drink in Japan, and an end to the practice of spreading and burning radioactive rubble from the contaminated zone throughout the country’s various prefectures. And, to prevent future disasters, they call for the permanent closure of all nuclear power plants in Japan and throughout the world.

“I couldn’t wait anymore for someone else to take action.”
The rise of maternal anti-nuclear activism in Japan began shortly after the March 11, 2011 disaster, when the hundreds of thousands of residents of Fukushima living outside the 20-kilometer evacuation zone were told it was safe to stay. Soon after the plant failed, the Japanese government raised the maximum limit of radiation considered safe, from 1mSv (millisievert) prior to March 11 to 20mSv. This new measure exposed (and exposes) the people of Fukushima to doses 20 times higher than is normally considered safe.

The families of Fukushima whom the government did not evacuate face a hard choice: leave of their own accord and abandon their homes and jobs (while continuing to be responsible to pay taxes, rents, and/or mortgages), or remain in Fukushima and expose their families to dangerous levels of radiation?

According to mother and activist Kaori Izumi, gender plays into responses to this precarious situation. Often, mothers and women want to leave Fukushima and protect their kids, while men tend to accept the line, from the government and the utility, Tepco, that “all is safe.” This can lead to conflict in a culture where women are taught not to challenge their husbands or government, figures of authority. 

Many worried mothers leave Fukushima with their children while fathers remain behind. “Often husbands don’t want to support two households and they tell the wives to come back to Fukushima, or they’ll stop sending them money,” says Izumi. “As a result, we’re seeing an increase in divorce rates.”

Izumi recounts her own story as a mother-activist. “I was not an activist before Fukushima. I’m a social scientist by training. I kept waiting for someone else to do something, to act, to challenge the government and Tepco for these crimes. Then I couldn’t wait anymore for someone else to take action. I had to do something.”

So, Izumi hit the streets, and during protest rallies, met other mothers working for justice. She brought several lawsuits against the nuclear industry at her own expense. She also organized a vacation program to house Fukushima families during school breaks, so children can gain some relief from radiation exposure—even if only for short periods. Now, she heads up a group working to permanently shut down the Tomari nuclear plant.

Radiation, rubble, and relocation
Tomoi Zeimer, a Japanese mother living in New York City, and her two sisters in Osaka (both of them also mothers), began anti-nuclear activism after Prime Minister Noda’s requirement that prefectures throughout Japan accept and incinerate radioactive rubble so that all of Japan would “share the pain” of Fukushima. In response to Noda’s decision, Zeimer began a petition campaign to stop the spreading of radioactive rubble. Mothers delivered this petition on November 2, 2011 to Japanese consulates across the globe.

As the spreading of rubble continues, more and more women throughout the world have joined the fight. There is a map showing the current status of the rubble spreading and burning (1)

Many activist mothers worry about their children’s health and feel they must leave the country. Ikuko Nitta left Fukushima the day after the disaster at her 12-year-old son’s insistence; they moved to Wakayama, believing it to be safe. When Wakayama agreed to accept rubble and incinerate it, Nitta began to make plans to move to Canada. When she recently tested her children’s radiation levels, her son tested positive for Cesium 137. Where the contamination came from, Nitta does not know, as they left Fukushima so quickly and she monitors the children’s food very carefully.

Cathy Iwane, a Wakayama mother who led the recent fight to stop the spreading of rubble to Wakayama, plans to immigrate to the United States. While she despairs about the Wakayama decision and worries about the children of Japan, she says the bonds she’s formed with women across the world, who support Japanese anti-nuclear activism, fill her with hope.

“I won’t give up,” Iwane says. “Not ever.”

An opportunity
The movement isn’t confined to Japan’s borders. In September, 2011, a group of Japanese mothers, including Sachiko Sato, an organic farmer who traveled with her youngest two children) Kaori Izumi, and Aileen Mioko Smith came to New York City to protest Prime Minister Noda’s participation in the UN summit on nuclear safety. “How can you talk about safety?” Sachiko shouted to Noda outside the UN. “You don’t even take care of the children of Fukushima.”

Sachiko, Izumi, and Smith spoke at various anti-nuclear events throughout the New York City area during their visit, urging American citizens to learn a lesson from the disaster in Japan. At one event, Smith stated, “Many Americans live far too close to nuclear power plants that sit on earthquake fault lines (2), Indian Point in Buchanan, New York, only thirty or so miles from New York City, as well as those on the coast in California. Americans must learn from the Fukushima disaster. You must shut down your own plants, 23 of which are the same design as the Fukushima reactors, GE Mark I. Yes, it can happen here.” 

In October 2011, hundreds of mothers in Japan began a protest in Tokyo at the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry. The protest lasted 10 months and 10 days (the length of time a pregnancy lasts under Japan’s traditional lunar calendar).

Smith, who is executive director of Green Action, an anti-nuclear NGO based in Kyoto, says the Fukushima accident offers a chance to put an end to nuclear power. Most of Japan’s nuclear reactors were taken offline after the disaster; as of this writing, only one nuclear power plant remains online.

Smith says, “For the first time in 30 years, we have a real opportunity” to shut down nuclear reactors in Japan for good.

Heidi Hutner wrote this article for YES! Magazine (3), a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Heidi is a professor of sustainability, English, and women's studies at Stony Brook University, where she writes, speaks, and teaches about the environment and gender. Her forthcoming book is entitled, Polluting Mama: An Ecofeminist Cultural Memoir (Demeter, 2012). 

Reprinted, by author's permission from: 
http://www.yesmagazine.org/peacejustice/in-japan-a-mothers-movementagain...

Sources: 
(1) http://one-world.happy-net.jp/ukeire/
(2) http://www.treehugger.com/corporate-responsibility/nuclear-reactors-inea...
(3) http://www.yesmagazine.org/

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Fukushima Radioactive Fallout Confirmed in U.S. Food Chain

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#755
4279
18/12/2012
Kimberly Roberson
Article

The U.S. rainy season of 2011 extended to June, making it unusually long and troubling for many experts and citizens due to Fukushima Daiichi’s triple nuclear meltdowns which began in March. These catastrophic events widely dispersed airborne dust contaminated with radioactive particles over much of the country. When inhaled or ingested these particles can have negative effects on human health that are different from those caused by external or uniform radiation fields, such as from cosmic radiation from air flights (although the Food and Drug administration continues to pretend otherwise). Hawaii and the West coast were the first states to receive radioactive fallout from Japan.

While media and elected officials have remained mostly silent on the issue, concerned experts and citizens have continued to probe. Radiation from Fukushima has been found in U.S. topsoil, rainwater, groundwater, milk, fish, and several varieties of produce as reported by the University of California Berkeley School of Nuclear Engineers (UCBSNE) radiation testing team. Cesium-137, Iodine-131, Strontium-90, Xenon have been detected at several sampling stations throughout the Bay Area beginning late March of 2011. In addition, California Bluefin tuna, almonds, pistachios and oranges have been found to contain measurable amounts of radiation from Fukushima. Cal State Long Beach researchers studied kelp beds spanning the state’s coastline and sampled elevated levels of Iodine- 131 at several sites tested (they are currently looking to expand funding to test for longer-lived Cesium-137). Though the levels of radioactive particles detected by the UCBSNE team in California food and water may appear to be low, chronic exposure to low levels of radiation can be as damaging, or more so, per unit dose, than a single exposure to a high level of radiation.

It has been reported that from March 21 to mid-July of 2011 that 27.1 peta becquerels of cesium 137 was dumped by Tokyo Electric and Power Company (TEPCO) from Fukushima Daiichi into the Pacific ocean. One peta becquerel is a million billion bequerels, or 10 to the power of 15. This is twenty times the amount originally estimated by TEPCO. Yet the FDA has not placed a ban on any north Pacific seafood, and continues to allow an open trade policy on Japanese food imports.

Exposure to these radionuclides is known to cause cancers, heart disease, and other serious illness. Transgenerational DNA damage is a long-term consequence of exposure to radiation from nuclear power production and accidents, with women and children being particularly at risk. When radioactive substances are absorbed in the body they tend to accumulate in specific organs by a process known as selective reuptake. Female children are up to seven times more likely to develop cancer from radioactive cesium than men due to radioactive Cesium-134 and 137 reuptake by the ovaries. Strontium-90 is mistaken for calcium and absorbed by bones and iodine 131 and 129 are attracted to the thyroid, to name but a few. 

A second wave of humanitarian and environmental crisis is currently underway in Japan. The government there has undertaken a massive incineration plan involving tens of millions of tons of earthquake and tsunami wreckage. Their plan involves mulching debris, some of which is contaminated with radiation and much with industrial toxins, and burning it in municipal incinerators already established around the country. It is not known if special equipment and scrubbers are being used in the process. The burn is being carried by the jet stream across the northern hemisphere to the U.S. for the rainy season of 2012, posing a continued threat to the food supply. The California Central Valley grows more than 450 varieties of produce, dairy, wine and an estimated 80% of U.S. lettuce, spinach, and produce. Radionuclides are absorbed by topsoil as are potassium and magnesium and the food chain does not differentiate the healthy from the hazardous. The cycle continues for hundreds of years in some cases, which is what has happened in Europe due to Chernobyl (sheep grazing land in parts of the United Kingdom are still off limits 26 years after that catastrophe began). 

Concerned citizens are working in Southern California to ensure that another Fukushima does not happen. The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) is currently closed as safe energy activists continue to monitor safety concerns. SONGS has one of the worst operating records in the U.S. and sits on a beach atop an active earthquake fault, within miles of the California Central Valley. California’s other nuclear reactor nearby is Diablo Canyon. It returned to full operation on June 26, 2012 after a three-month emergency shutdown caused by a large jellyfish blocking an outfall pipe.

A petition asking for food monitoring of U.S. food and imports from Japan has been circulating since April 1, 2011. A second, more detailed petition is about to be launched which will address the amount of radioactive Cesium currently allowed in the U.S. food, milk and water supply: 1,200 becquerels per kilogram in the U.S., vs. Japan’s limit set at 100. Under the existing regulation food and beverage unfit for human consumption in Japan can now be legally exported and consumed in the U.S.

The food monitoring and anti-incineration petitions, interviews and articles can be found at www.silencedeafening.com.

Sources:
UC Berkeley School of Nuclear Engineering website, The French Nuclear Safety Institute, Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), NIRS Mary Olson, Diet for the Atomic Age.
~ By Kimberly Roberson, www.silencedeafening.com; ffan@sonic.net

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U.S. EPA and NRC Reducing Radiation Protection Standards Parallels seen to Japanese Industry collusion with “Regulators” to Weaken Standards

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#755
4278
18/12/2012
Article

As Nuclear Monitor readers know, the International commission on radiological Protection (IcrP) is a self-appointed, self-perpetuating, nuclear power-promoting organization that set itself up to give the world the impression they are independent experts.

In 2007, the ICRP published 103 Recommendations of the International Commission on Radiological Protectionwith input from the nuclear establishment around the world. Since then, nuclear governments around the world have been adopting the parts that their own nuclear industry likes best. U.S. agencies are in the midst of this activity. Although it is much of the basis for the world’s radiation standards, the report is not free to read. Only an except is available for free on the web. (1)

It was recently revealed by Associated Press that Japanese nuclear utilities fund the Japanese representative to the ICRP. (2) This is routine procedure but not publicly known. Members of the ICRP are without exception strong nuclear advocates.

In 2004, NIRS recommended two public interest members (Dr Judith Johnsrud and Dennis Nelson, both from the U.S.) be added to the ICRP, specifically the committee making recommendations on allowable environmental releases and exposure to non-human species. We were told we have to raise our own money to send them to the meetings but even after we committed to that the ICRP refused to acknowledge or consider nuclear critics.

In the U.S., the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are undertaking major radiation regulation changes, both weakening radiation protection for the public and environment. The Department of Energy (DOE) already adopted changes to its internal orders, adopting some of the provisions that the public and metal industry strongly opposed in the late 1990s.

The same EPA offices that are pushing to weaken U.S. radiation standards, the Office of Radiation and Indoor Air and the Office of Emergency Management, are advising the Japanese on cleanup and allowable contamination levels. They seem to be using a new Protective Action Guide even though that Guide has not been adopted in the U.S. and ignoring the EPA's traditional risk range and advising higher exposures. These offices were part of the team with DOE, NRC and others that advised the Department of Homeland Security to adopt Dirty Bomb cleanup guidance (3) in 2008 that that would allow people to move back into areas that dosed them with up to 10 rads/year. National Academy of Sciences BEIR VII risk numbers show that allowing habitation in a radiation field of that level would cause cancer in 1 in 3 people living there for years.

The EPA may also be pushing to increase the allowable maximum contamination levels in drinking water above those currently allowed, radionuclide by radionuclide. In a previously proposed version of the Protective Action Guidance, which was pulled back in 2009, the allowable concentrations of radionuclides were increased hundreds to hundreds of thousands of times.

NRC
The NRC staff is recommending to the five Commissioners that they selectively adopt the parts of the ICRP recommendations that the nuclear industry wants, rather than the whole thing.(4) There is no acknowledgement of the public interest and public health comments evident in their ongoing document preparation. The U.S. still allows workers to get 2 ½ times more exposure than ICRP recommends (5 rems/year vs 2 rems/year). ICRP recommends “clearance,” exemption and exclusion of some radioactive waste and materials so their doses are not even considered and they can be released from controls. NRC wants to adopt this but the public opposition is still strong so they are finding other, more secretive ways of letting the waste out of controls. Watch for more on NRC rulemaking, ignoring the most vulnerable in future Nuclear Monitors.

EPA
In 1970, when the EPA was created by Congress, one its responsibilities was protecting the public and the environment from ionizing radiation. Congress had not expressly ruled that it is legal to kill people from exposure to chemicals, radiation or other pollutants, but the EPA adopted an “acceptable risk range,” committing to keep contamination low enough to cause only 1 cancer in a million people exposed over their lifetime. If that is not possible, EPA can permit higher risks—1 in 100,000 or, at the worst, 1 in 10,000 people exposed to get cancer. This has been supported by the courts and has been the basis for Superfund cleanup levels, site decommissioning and the drinking water standards. Like all the other agencies, EPA uses risk numbers based on the “standard man” rather than protecting the most vulnerable—women, children, the fetus, those with reduced immunity or high accumulations of radiation in their bodies already and the elderly. So everyone other than the standard man or the averaged adult (average of men and women’s risk) is actually at even higher risk than 1 in 10,000. Regardless, EPA’s radiation standards for water are generally much more protective than other radiation standards in the U.S. Thus they are a target for the nuclear industry which needs ever higher allowable release levels to continue operating and to manage its waste.

During the years that George W. Bush was president, the EPA devised a plan to “update” –read gut—EPA’s Protective Action Guidance (PAG) for protection of the U.S. population from radiation. On his very last day in office the proposal was sent to the Federal Register to be published. To their credit, at that time, the-new EPA Director Lisa Jackson, under newly elected President Obama, pulled the PAGs back. Because the proposed contamination levels and subsequent risks were so high, a coalition of national organizations met with all of the EPA Deputy Administrators to ask that the Bush-era PAGs be completely withdrawn. But they appear to have lived on. Now, at the tail end of 2012, a version of these PAGs is at the Office of Management and Budget, which is the last step before apublic comment period and adoption by EPA. This is expected to be one of several radioactive 2012 holiday gifts to the U.S. public from the agencies charged with protecting us from radiation.

The following analysis comes from the presentation made to the EPA Administrators (5)

Although the specifics of the proposed Protective Action Guidance is not public as of this writing, indications are that it is very similar, possibly worse in some ways, than the one pulled back in 2009.

Keep in mind that 1 cancer in 10,000 (1x 10e-4) is the EPA’s traditional highest allowable risk. A cumulative (not annual) dose of 100 millirems or 1 milliSievert gives a risk higherthan 1 in 10,000. According to EPA’s own Blue Book, EPA 402-R-11-001, Radiogenic Cancer Risk Models & Projections for the U.S. Population, (6) 87 millirems or .87 milliSievert will cause ~1 in 10,000 over their lifetime to get cancer. [Calculation is 0.087 rem x (1.16 x 10e-3 {the NAS BEIRVII risk}) cancers per rem = 1 x 10e-4]. Again this is for standard men or averaged adults, not women, who get 50% more cancer than men from the same amount of radiation, nor for kids-- especially baby girls--who are at greatest risk. According to EPA’s own Blue Book data, exposures before age 30 produce ~1.8 times more cancers than to older people. To be within the risk range, no one should get more than a few millirems (or a few tens of microSieverts) per year exposure.

100 millirem/year for 30 years would, according to EPA’s own risk figures, result in cancer incidence about two orders of magnitude higher than the highest end of EPA’s risk range. NRC’s general limits are, in fact, 100 mrem/year. DOE’s are 100 to 500 mrem/year.

Radiation exposure to a female infant, according to EPA, will result in 4-5 times the cancer risk than the age- and gender-averaged risk used in the regulations. This doesn’t take into account that the same amount of radioactivity ingested or inhaled can result in a much higher dose in an infant because of the small body size.

So, exposure to 2000 mrem or 20mSv per year--the controversial Japanese emergency standard for kids during school hours, and the existing US level for the intermediate period after a dirty bomb or other radiation incident--would result, according to EPA’s official risk figures, in a radiation-induced cancer risk of 2.3 in 1000 which is about one in five hundred, an order of magnitude higher than EPA’s 1 in 10,000.

The 2007 EPA draft Protective Action Guide would have allowed inadequate cleanup of a radiation event by permitting options from a range of benchmark cleanup levels: 

  • 0.1  rem (100 mr or 1 mSv), 
  • 1 rem (1000mr or 10 mSv) 1 or 
  • 10 rems/year (10,000 mr or 100 mSv).

It is believed that these benchmark levels are not expressly listed in the current EPA PAG proposal but that they are implied as options to be considered if and when needed.

Over 30 years of exposure at these rates, the risks are respectively, 7 in 1000, 7 in 100 and 7 in 10 people getting cancer over their lifetimes. Obviously these are much greater risks than EPA’s 1 in a million to 1 in 10,000 range.

The ICRP-recommended process of “Optimization” would still be used, but might not be stated as such. “Optimization” is a calculation done by the licensee or waste generator to keep exposures as low as reasonably achievable, taking economic and social factors into account. Differing, greater health impacts to various members of the population do not have to be considered when “optimizing” allowable exposures. NIRS has commented to ICRP against this manipulation from its inception. DOE has embraced it in its recent internal radiation orders.

Details of the Multi-group presentation to EPA re upcoming Protective Action Guides and inadequate response to Fukushima is at http://www.nirs.org/radiation/radstds/10312011epapres.pdf.

Sources: 
(1)  http://www.icrp.org/docs/ICRP_Publication_103-Annals_of_the_ICRP_37(2-4)-Free_extract.pdf
(2)  http://news.yahoo.com/apexclusive-japan-scientists-took-utilitymoney-061...
(3)  Federal Register Volume 73, Number 149 (August 1, 2008) Pages 45029-45048
(4)  http://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc/regulatory/rulemaking/potential-rulemaking/...
(5)  (http://www.nirs.org/radiation/radstds/10312011epapres.pdf
(6)  http://www.epa.gov/radiation/docs/bluebook/bbfinalversion.pdf

U.S.: radioactive waste issue: suspension of new reactor licenses

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#754
4273
31/08/2012
NIRS
Article

A Perfect Storm is brewing on radioactive waste issues in the U.S., one that will inevitably lead to major changes in radioactive waste policy. Already, elements of this storm have led to a full suspension of all new reactor licenses and license renewals in the U.S..

This confluence of events began with President Obama’s decision, early in his term to end the proposed Yucca Mountain, Nevada radioactive waste dump and, in tandem with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, to end Department of Energy funding to pursue this project. Energy Secretary Chu then appointed a Blue Ribbon Commission to recommend a new approach to radioactive waste issues.

Given that decision, former NRC Chair Greg Jazcko refused to spend any more NRC money or resources on reviewing the Yucca Mountain license application despite harsh criticism from the industry and some in Congress. Jazcko has now been replaced by Yucca-skeptic Allison Macfarlane, who was a member of the Blue Ribbon Commission.

The Commission reported its recommendations earlier this year. They include establishment of a new, but largely undefined entity to handle radioactive waste policy -essentially removing the responsibility from the Department of Energy. The Commission also urged adoption of a new, but also undefined, community “consent” process for siting of a radioactive waste dump. Of most immediate concern to environmentalists, the Commission also recommended speedy establishment of a “centralized interim storage” site for radioactive waste. There is no real scientific, technical or safety basis for such a site -it would use the same dry cask technology as can be used, and is being used, at reactor sites. But it would encourage the generation of more radioactive waste and set off the widespread transport of radioactive waste across the U.S. In the 1990s, this concept was dubbed Mobile Chernobyl, and was defeated by a veto from President Clinton, which was upheld by the U.S. Senate.

The Commission’s recommendations are now reflected in new legislation (S. 3469)(*1) offered by retiring Senate Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and will be included, although probably in somewhat different form, in a new proposal slated to come from the Obama administration in September 2012. Sen. Bingaman said his committee will hold a hearing on the bill in September, but a date has not yet been set. And Bingaman has publicly acknowledged that his bill so far has little support and will not pass this year. What he wants to do is to begin to lay the groundwork for Congressional consideration next year. A key stumbling block is that his bill does not establish centralized interim storage fast enough or large enough for some members of Congress -meaning that the environmental community has substantial work to do to explain to Congress- many of whose members were not there in the 1990s -the reasons for our unaltera-ble opposition to centralized interim storage.

Meanwhile, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had re-issued its “waste confidence rule, which states that the NRC need not consider radioactive waste generation in licensing new reac-tors or extending licenses of existing reactors, because the NRC was confident that a permanent radioactive waste site would be licensed eventually and that, if not, existing onsite storage is good enough in any case. The agency was sued by several states and environmental groups like NRDC, and this sum-mer a federal court ruled in their favor, saying that the NRC has no valid reason to believe a permanent site ever will be established and has no technical basis for stating that existing on-site storage methods are good enough.

Responding to the court decision, grassroots intervenors (including NIRS) filed new contentions in every current new reactor and license renewal case arguing that the NRC no longer has any basis to issue new reactor licenses or renewals. The NRC, in Chairwoman Macfarlane’s first major decision, ruled in favor of the intervenors and said the agency indeed cannot grant any new reactor licenses, or approve any new license renewals, until it has addressed the waste confidence problem and provided a technical basis for its rule. Early indications are that this could take a year or more. 

In the meantime, pro-nuclear forces are marshaling to try to force Yucca Mountain on Nevada and the American people, and to try other mechanisms to speed nuclear power development, create new radioactive waste sites regardless of environmental impact, and to ignore the hard lessons learned from the past 25 years of failed radioactive waste policy.

The Fukushima disaster and the frightening reality of severe damage to a reactor's irradiated fuel pool have crept into public awareness. At the same time, fuel stored in dry casks at Fukushima was apparently not adversely affected by either the earthquake or tsunami. Add to that a growing recognition that fuel pools at U.S. reactors are typically much fuller than those at Fukushima, and thus are both more vulnerable and carry a larger radioactive inventory, and concern over radioactive waste issues has grown in the U.S. The specter of widespread transport of radioactive waste likely will lead to greater public concern.

Over the past few years, the nation's anti-nuclear, environmental community has managed to coalesce behind a statement of principles for radioactive waste. These principles are known as HOSS -for Hardened On-Site Storage- and reflect a belief that high-level radioactive waste should remain where it has been generated, but that the fuel pools should be emptied to the extent possible as soon as possible into dry cask storage that is additionally protected by berming and other features from natural disasters, terrorism and the like.(*2) No one believes that dry casks are a permanent solution to the problem, but after years of discussion, the nation's anti-nuclear movement believes they are the best answer for the present for the waste that already has been generated. Of course, ending the generation of any more radioactive waste is also vital, and demonstrating the shortcomings of every possible waste storage method -including the preferred method of HOSS- is a key step toward ending waste generation generally.

It is clear that major changes are coming to radioactive waste policy, probably over the next 18 months. What isn’t clear yet is what those changes will be. There is both opportunity and threat. This could be the chance to finally obtain a policy that can withstand public and scientific scrutiny, or it could be a return to the failed approach of seeking short-term industry gain at the expense of long-term scientific and public credibility.

*1- available at: www.energy.senate. gov/public/index.cfm/featureditems?ID=b6de054d-b342-...
*2- available at: www.nirs.org/radwaste/policy/hossprinciples3232010.pdf

Source and contact: NIRS Washington

About: 
NIRS

Canada: James Bay Cree Nation enacts uranium ban

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#754
4270
31/08/2012
Grant Council of the Crees
Article

In a unanimously adopted resolution, the Cree Nation state they are “determined to protect our way of life against the unique and grave threat posed by uranium mining and waste, today and for thousands of years to come”.

The James Bay Cree Nation has declared a Permanent Moratorium on uranium exploration, uranium mining and uranium waste emplacement in Eeyou Istchee, the James Bay Cree territory. The permanent moratorium was enacted unanimously by the Annual Cree Nation General Assembly in Was-kaganish on August 8.
“The risks inherent in uranium explo-ration, mining, milling, refining and transport, and in radioactive and toxic uranium mining waste, are incompatible with our stewardship responsibilities in Eeyou Istchee,” the Resolution declares.

“The Cree Nation is determined to protect our economies and way of life against the unique and grave threat posed by uranium mining and uranium waste, today and for thousands of years to come,” said Grand Chief Dr. Matthew Coon Come. “We are not opposed to sustainable and equitable mining and other industrial and resource development activities in Eeyou Istchee – but the toxic and radiation risks created by uranium mining and uranium waste are unique in scale and duration.”

“Uranium moratoriums have been enacted by the governments of British Columbia and Nova Scotia, as well as other foreign jurisdictions, without affecting other mining and resource development activities,” Grand Chief Coon Come told the Cree Assembly. “We anticipate that all Québécoises and Québécois, once they know the facts, will join us in this minimal stand of prudent stewardship.”

Recent global increases in uranium prices have spurred significant uranium exploration activities in Eeyou Istchee. The most advanced uranium project to date in Eeyou Istchee is at the Matoush uranium ore body site near the Cree community of Mistissini. Strateco Resources Inc. has requested regulatory approval to conduct an advanced exploration project at Matoush, with the stated intention of determining the feasibility of a uranium mine and mill at this site.

“The Crees of Mistissini have declared our strong opposition to uranium mining in Eeyou Istchee,” said Chief Richard Shecapio, Chief of the Cree Nation of Mistissini. “We never doubted that the Cree Nation as a whole would stand with us in unity and strength.”

The Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) is the political body that represents the Eeyouch, the James Bay Cree people.

Source: news release; 9 August  2012 available at: www.gcc.ca/newsarticle. php?id=281
Contact: Grand Chief, Mathew Coon Come, Office of the Grand Chief / Chairman, 2 Lakeshore Road, Nemaska, QC J0Y 3B0, Canada
Tel: +1 819 673-2600
Email: eagrandchief[at]gcc.ca

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