Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Epstein's comments on behalf of TMIA

Eric Joseph Epstein’s Comments on Behalf of Three Mile Island Alert, Inc. Re: Draft Environmental Report for Susquehanna Nuclear Plant License Renewal Applications from PPL Susquehanna, LLC Download here.

CBO Testimony

Statement of Peter R. Orszag, Director Costs of Reprocessing Versus Directly Disposing of Spent Nuclear Fuel before the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources United States Senate November 14, 2007

Thursday, June 19, 2008

McCain Sets Goal of 45 New Nuclear Reactors by 2030

Senator John McCain said Wednesday that he wanted 45 new nuclear reactors built in the United States by 2030, a course he called “as difficult as it is necessary.” In his third straight day of campaign speechmaking about energy and $4-a-gallon gasoline, Mr. McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, told the crowd at a town-hall-style meeting at Missouri State University that he saw nuclear power as a clean, safe alternative to traditional sources of energy that emit greenhouse gases. He said his ultimate goal was 100 new nuclear plants.
New York Times

Monday, June 16, 2008

Nuclear Plant Shut Over Explosives

A nuclear power station in Sweden has been sealed off after a worker was stopped at the entrance with a plastic bag containing traces of explosives. Investigators took the man, a welder who was scheduled to do work at the Oskarshamn plant, in for questioning. They later arrested a second man because "there is some uncertainty about who owns the bag", a spokesman said. Plant operator OKG downplayed the incident, saying there was no threat to the safety of the plant, about 150 miles south of Stockholm.
Sky News

TVA in hot water dispute

TVA releases billions of gallons of heated water into the Tennessee River each year, and the electricity-producer is on a path to release more, but the state-issued permit that allows the agency's Watts Bar nuclear plant to dump warmed water back into the river expired two years ago. TVA has asked the state to renew the plant's permit, but state environmental officials said last week they want more information about the water temperature there before they sign off on it. Water that is too hot could hurt the fish and other aquatic life in the river. Watts Bar, which is between Knoxville and Chattanooga, is where TVA plans to build another nuclear reactor. The one unit already in operation there sucks in 150,000 gallons of river water a minute, on average.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

NRC Sends Inspector To Kansas State University After Tornado Damages Research Reactor Building

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission sent a reactor inspector to Kansas State University Thursday after a tornado damaged the building housing the university’s research reactor. The reactor was not operating at the time, and initial surveys by the licensee showed no radiation leak and no apparent damage to the reactor.
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Challenge to nuke nixed

A federal court judge dismissed on Monday a petition to review water usage increases at the Susquehanna nuclear power station because it had been filed a day too late.

Eric Epstein, who heads the Harrisburg-based nuclear-watchdog group Three Mile Island Alert, had petitioned the court to decide whether the Susquehanna River Basin Commission erred when it ruled in September 2007 that the Susquehanna Steam Electric Station could withdraw more water for a power increase at the station. The station is in Salem Township.

The Times Leader

The reality of France's aggressive nuclear power push

"It's time to look to the French," New York Times columnist Roger Cohen wrote in January. "They've got their heads in the right place, with nuclear power enjoying a 70 percent approval rating." Similarly, presumptive Republican presidential candidate John McCain has wondered, "If France can produce 80 percent of its electricity with nuclear power, why can't we?" Even Southern Republicans are becoming Francophiles, with Georgia State Rep. Amos Amerson, chairman of the Georgia House Science and Technology Committee, asking how the French system might help the United States in its "efforts to obtain cleaner, cheaper, more stable energy." France is known as the country where nuclear power works. It operates 59 nuclear reactors, which provided 78 percent of its electricity in 2007. Now, the French government has decided to bring the "revival" of nuclear power to the world. The Sarkozy administration has made multiple nuclear cooperation agreements with other nations and the president himself has traveled the world as a nuclear salesman. "The requests by countries that wish to profit from that clean and cheap source of energy are legitimate," says French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. New bilateral nuclear trade agreements have been negotiated with Algeria, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates. In addition, France has pledged to assist China, India, and Brazil in expanding their nuclear power programs.
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Yucca Mountain safety plan is 'doomed,' nuclear company says

The Energy Department's safety plan for handling containers of radioactive waste before they are buried at the proposed Yucca Mountain dump has become a "fool's errand," according to a major nuclear equipment supplier. Under current plans, the casks of nuclear waste material awaiting burial at Yucca Mountain could be sent into a "chaotic melee of bouncing and rolling juggernauts" in an earthquake, according to Holtec International, one of the nation's largest manufacturers of nuclear waste storage systems. The blistering critique of safety standards is in a newsletter that Holtec sent last week to its customers and suppliers, warning that the project has become a "doomed undertaking." Holtec supplies storage casks to power plants around the country.
Los Angeles Times

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Cyber Incident Blamed for Nuclear Power Plant Shutdown

A nuclear power plant in Georgia was recently forced into an emergency shutdown for 48 hours after a software update was installed on a single computer. The incident occurred on March 7 at Unit 2 of the Hatch nuclear power plant near Baxley, Georgia. The trouble started after an engineer from Southern Company, which manages the technology operations for the plant, installed a software update on a computer operating on the plant's business network. The computer in question was used to monitor chemical and diagnostic data from one of the facility's primary control systems, and the software update was designed to synchronize data on both systems. According to a report filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, when the updated computer rebooted, it reset the data on the control system, causing safety systems to errantly interpret the lack of data as a drop in water reservoirs that cool the plant's radioactive nuclear fuel rods. As a result, automated safety systems at the plant triggered a shutdown.
Washington Post

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Study: Kids' cancer rates highest in Northeast

Surprising research suggests that childhood cancer is most common in the Northeast, results that even caught experts off guard. But some specialists say it could just reflect differences in reporting.


Environmental factors might play a role, including exposure to radiation, said lead author Dr. Jun Li of the CDC. Radiation has been linked with the most common types of childhood cancer _ leukemia, lymphoma and brain cancers.

Radiation sources include X-rays, nuclear plant emissions and natural sources such as radon gas. But Li said research is needed to determine if these sources vary enough by region to affect childhood cancer rates.


Entergy changes stance on end costs

At least three times when its purchase of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant was under review in 2001 and 2002, Entergy Corp. said publicly that it would assume the costs of decommissioning the plant when it eventually shut down. Now there are fears the decommissioning fund will come up short, possibly by hundreds of millions of dollars, and Entergy is saying something different.
Brattleboro Reformer

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

NRC Receives DOE’s License Application To Construct High-Level Nuclear Waste Repository At Yucca Mountain

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission received an application today from the U.S. Department of Energy for a license to construct the nation’s first geologic repository for high-level nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, Nev.

“We are ready to get to work on this challenging review,” said NRC Chairman Dale E. Klein. “Congress has given the NRC a strict timetable for reviewing this application, and I want to assure the American people that we will perform an independent, rigorous and thorough examination to determine whether the repository can safely house the nation’s high-level waste. The NRC’s licensing decision will be based entirely on the technical merits.”

The NRC will now begin a docketing review to determine whether the application is sufficiently complete to initiate a formal licensing review. If the application is deemed sufficiently complete, the agency will formally docket the application and publish a notice of opportunity to request a hearing before the NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board. A decision to docket the application for review would not preclude the NRC from requesting additional information or documentation from DOE during the review. If the NRC dockets the application, it will announce at that time the extent to which it will adopt DOE’s Final Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed repository.

Formal docketing of the application will trigger a three-year schedule set by Congress for the NRC to determine whether to authorize construction. Congress has given the NRC an option to request a one-year extension, and the agency expects to need a fourth year. The NRC expects to meet this schedule, subject to Congress providing sufficient resources in a timely manner.

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Monday, June 2, 2008

Build the big dump, now!'

March 11, 2007
By Marlene Lang

The Secretary of Energy last week asked Congress, in a most urgent tone, to hurry and pass the “Nuclear Fuel Management and Disposal Act.”

This was a rerun of a proposal made almost one year ago to set aside 147,000 acres at Yucca Mountain, Nev. and start building an underground dump for unsavory radioactive waste. The proposal expands the request the secretary made one year ago, though. Energy secretary Samuel Bodman explained last week that there is so much radioactive waste sitting around the country -- safely contained in “Monitored Retrievable Storage” -- that if the dump were built next week, it would be at capacity.

“Please let us build our radioactive waste dump now! The lawsuits are killing us.”


That’s a paraphrase.

Actually, the lawsuits were mentioned only after the energy secretary made an attempt at giving more popular reasons for passing his law. His entreaty was based on a few “key facts.”

“Expansion of nuclear power in the U.S. is a critical priority for ‘energy security’ and ‘national security,’” his letter states.

“Energy security?” Is it a priority? And, further, does a thing being a priority make that thing a fact? Maybe, since goals are facts, too, in the Department of Energy.

“In order to insure (the expansion of nuclear power), the Nation must have a repository for disposal of spent nuclear fuel (that’s the industry’s term) and high-level radioactive waste.”

It is a fact that nuclear power produces radioactive waste that takes centuries to degenerate to a state that will not cause abnormal structural changes to the atoms of, well, YOU. The DOE Web site assures us that, “These (radioactive) atoms will eventually quit being radioactive as they release their energy over time.” Yes, over time. How comforting. Bring me some hot chocolate while I ponder how much time. I guess 10,000 years or so qualifies as “over time.”

It is a fact, though, as noted by the esteemed secretary, that IF we keep churning out that heavy-metal-driven power, we will have “spent fuel,” or radioactive waste that needs a final resting place. It is not a “fact” that we must ensure that nuclear power expands. This is purely a corporate growth vision.

Yucca Mountain is less than 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The industry anticipated starting the project in 1998, but, darn, many in Nevada didn’t want the nation’s radioactive dump in their back yard, and many didn’t want any nuke waste dumps any place, so it’s been a rocky road for Exelon and other giants in the “clean and reliable” nuclear power biz, with generating plants scattered across 39 states. The waste is presently stored at about 100 varied sites, often at the site of the power plant in stainless steel pools, then in “containers” made of lead and concrete and other stuff that keeps us all safe. If the bill is approved, all that precious spent fuel will be moved to Nevada; some 55,000 metric tons awaits the journey to Yucca Mountain. If given the go-ahead, work will start soon and the dump will be ready to “receive spent fuel” 10 years from now. It’ll take a while to dig that 35- or 40-mile tunnel and line it with material that is supposed to keep the bad stuff in for millennia to come. In a cross-section drawing at the DOE Web site, it looks like a giant suppository. Poor mountain.

Meanwhile, as the decade marches on and the underground repository is -- or is not -- constructed, at least 20,000 metric tons more of radioactive waste will have piled up in those on- and off-site containers.

Plans originally set a 70,000-ton capacity for permanent waste storage at Yucca Mountain. If the Act passes, by the time the dump is taking trash, they’ll be at least 75,000 tons awaiting.

The radioactive waste will be transported by train and truck from places like New Jersey and Pennsylvania and Illinois to Nevada, in containers that look like bar bells, atop truck beds and flat cars. The Department of Energy tells us plainly, “The number of these shipments by road and rail is expected to increase.” This understatement is brought to you by the source that calls 10,000 years: “over time.” When does the circus begin?

Soon, the Department of Energy and the nuclear power industry hope.

Meanwhile, there’s the lawsuit “oh, sh--” factor. Bodman asks Congress to expedite the matter, not because of the mounting pile of radioactive waste sitting around in temporary containers, but because of the “mounting Federal Government liability associated with delays in opening the repository.”

Seems legislation passed in 1982 placed responsibility for disposal of spent fuel from nuclear power plants squarely on the shoulders of the federal government. Contracts were to be made with the facilities outlining removal procedures. The 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act presumed there would be a nice big dump ready by 1998 for the nasty load. Didn’t happen. The energy secretary reports -- and I imagine beads of sweat dropping and forming a puddle on the Senate floor -- that 60 lawsuits have been filed against the fed for breach of contract.

So far, Bodman reports, the government has paid out $214 million in three settlements. Three.

The federal government is already liable to the tune of about $7 billion, Bodman notes. And even if the Act becomes law, 2017 looks a long way off.

Watch for more on: The Issue Won’t Go Away. Well, maybe it will, over time.

Author Marlene Lang at Yucca Mountain.

Mother Earth not for sale

March 18, 2007 By Marlene Lang Mother Earth is not for sale. That’s what the Western Shoshone National Council has told the U.S. government. The Nation was offered pennies per acre for their land in parts of Nevada, Utah, Idaho and into California, but the Nation’s council said: No deal. The U.S. government said, "Yes deal," and moved in. We needed a radioactive waste dump there, and a place to test nukes. In 2005, the Western Shoshone council filed a lawsuit claiming the land is theirs under an 1863 treaty. They further claim that the Bush administration’s 2002 approval of one tract of the land -- Yucca Mountain -- for a nuclear waste repository, violates both the treaty and, in turn, the U.S. Constitution, which their lawsuit points out makes treaties "supreme." I keep my little copy of the Constitution handy when I write. Let me check that. Yup. It does say that, in Article 6. “All treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby.” The treaty made with the Western Shoshone allows only five uses of the land by the U.S. government; settlements, mines, ranches, railroads and roads. Any use beyond the five listed must be approved by both the U.S. government and the Western Shoshone National Council, the treaty states. And to add intrigue, there’s gold in them thar hills. Ten percent of the world’s supply and 64 percent of U.S. gold comes from this desert site, where mountainsides are blasted up tract by tract and the rubble treated with cyanide-laced water, to get the gold out. No one anticipated, back in the days of cowboys and Indians and dirty gold miners, that we would need a place to hide radioactive waste for 10,000 years, lest it poison and deform us all. But that day has come, thanks to science and the ethical deficiencies of mankind. After years of scouting out the best reservation property to use for the really big nuke-dump-to-end-all-nuke-dumps, the Bush administration picked Yucca Mountain in 2002. This was after the U.S. military had already established a nuclear test site nearby, on land included in the 1863 treaty -- a spread the size of Maine, with its own volcano and fault lines. Last’s week’s column was not long enough to explain this travesty. Nevada’s governor in 2002 immediately vetoed the generous approval of a nuke dump in Nevada, only to have the U.S. Congress override that veto. Nevada last week protested the legislation that a sweat-soaked Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman was again pressing urgently along. Nevada is resisting, as is the Western Shoshone Nation. How, then, does the U.S. government explain or justify its violation of an apparently legitimate treaty, authorized by Ulysses S. Grant in 1863? That’s what the United Nations wanted to know, after the Western Shoshone Nation’s council in 2005 filed an urgent action request with the U.N. Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Several excuses have been floated. The first and most predictable is that the treaty was merely a friendly agreement. The old, “just kidding,” defense. That's the least obscene reason. The Earth Island Institute reports that when the Western Shoshone National Council refused to give up the land for a radioactive waste dump in exchange for money, politicians said the takeover was legitimate because -- pause here and perhaps be seated -- POLLS showed many of the tribe’s members want the deal. Never mind letting the Nation settle its own disagreement. Never mind dealing with its rightful representatives. Need I point out the irony of this whopper to my readers? For slow folks, this is a case of convenient governing: We can toss out the representative form when it suits us in mowing over native peoples, but we can use the representative system to mow over the people of Nevada. And why should Chicago's Southland readers care? The official state Web site reports that Illinois stores more radioactive waste at its eight temporary sites than any other state, with a heap in Grundy County. Lemont and Morris were on the radar for industry expansion projects when the Department of Energy visited less than one month ago. ComEd’s Zion plant has shut down, but its LaSalle reactors are still pumping out the power and the “spent fuel.” It’s piling up, and once a home for the big dump is finagled, all that radioactive garbage will be moving around. If that doesn’t scare you, maybe this will: To the Western Shoshone, Yucca Mountain is Snake Mountain, a place of prayer and of reputed powerful spiritual energy. One of the Nation’s traditional stories is that Snake Mountain will one day be awakened and will split open and spit out poison. Before you sneer, think about that radioactive waste, sleeping safely in its giant tube beneath Snake Mountain, and think of that volcano across the valley, and the nuclear test site not so far away, and the unusual subterranean river system below this part of the desert. What we put in the mountain may not stay in the mountain.

Not in this mountain

By Marlene Lang Late 2007 The quintessential drama is unfolding before us, pitting state’s rights against federal powers, with water as the weapon of choice. The state of Nevada and a federal judge stood up to Energy Department bullies whose mission is to make Nevada’s Yucca Mountain the nation’s radioactive waste dump. Well, not just the nation’s dump; government documents discuss the mucho-bucks to be made by bringing in the radioactive spent fuel of nations willing to pay any price to get the poison out of their own back yards. As ‘Nuclear Illinois,’ runs its air conditioners on that “clean, reliable and safe” nuclear power, the fray waxes hot in Nevada over where Southlanders – and everyone else – will dump their dirty leftovers. U.S. District Judge David Hunt recently denied a federal request to tie the hands of the state; Nevada stridently refused to provide the millions of gallons of water needed to lubricate and cool drill bits as workers collected rock samples. Testing of the site’s geology continues, five years after deadline, in efforts to show the site is safe for long-term nuclear waste disposal. Pause and think: Is any place on planet Earth safe for radioactive waste that will take 10,000 years to de-tox to safe levels? We are witnessing an epic American battle between state’s and federal government’s rights. Work crews tarried, awaiting permission to drill, after a judicially backed cease and desist order came down from the state engineer. They were given the nod, while the U.S. Justice Department accused Nevada of using water as a weapon. Damn straight. State officials, in turn, accused the DOE of having gained initial approval for the dumpsite by presenting fudged facts, which they say it is now trying to fudge afresh. Here’s the skinny, for readers who have not followed my previous reports: The desperate DOE faces a growing heap of breach of contract lawsuits – some 60 to date – from nuclear power providers. The fed failed to provide a permanent nuke dump by 1998, as required in 1982 legislation. Billions are at stake, even as radioactive spent fuel piles up in about 100 temporary tanks around the country. And as Nevada fights for Yucca Mountain, half a billion was allotted in the most recent federal budget to continue the project. Could it be pure desperation driving the bullish DOE claim that certain drilling was exempt from the orders of the engineer and judge? The Energy Department filed a motion to block Hunt’s order and one official stated flatly in court that the state had no power to shut down a federal government project. It’s a familiar form of audacity. Nevada is calling it contempt of court and bad faith. And to be fair, the state's refusal to accept a dump at Yucca Mountain is based on science that says it's not a good bet, with an underground fault line and all. Whatever we call it, the matter demands our attention, and now. Judge Hunt will revisit the case on Sept. 20. Sen. Harry Reid, (D-Nev.) said Nevada is waiting until Bush is out of office to completely defeat the project. If Nevada succeeds in getting the dump out of their backyard, the waste will have to find another home. Maybe a cornfield outside of Springfield.

Doubt grows around aging Vermont Yankee reactor

After part of a cooling tower collapsed last August at Vermont's only nuclear power plant, the company that runs it blamed rotting wooden timbers that it had failed to inspect properly. The uproar that followed rekindled environmental groups' hopes of shutting down the aging plant. The proposed closing, albeit a long shot, has gained some support this year among Vermont politicians. The discussion here is bringing into sharp relief a conflict between two objectives long held by environmental advocates: combating nuclear power and stopping global warming.
Rutland Herald

Judge allows Entergy's warm river discharge

Entergy Nuclear can resume discharging heated water into the Connecticut River this summer, according to a decision by Environmental Court Judge Merideth Wright released Friday. However, Wright imposed conditions on the discharge and didn't grant the nuclear company its full request. She said Entergy couldn't discharge the 105-degree water until July, and ordered that the company install temperature sensors at the Vernon hydroelectric dam, which is downstream from the Vernon reactor. Under Entergy Nuclear's state discharge permit, it can discharge up to 543 million gallons of up to 105-degree water, as long as the temperature of the Connecticut River didn't rise more than 1 degree, higher than 76.7 degrees Fahrenheit.
Rutland Herald