Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ohio Nuclear Engineer Convicted of Lying About Cracks in Reactor

At Oak Harbor, Ohio, 21 miles southeast of the city of Toledo, lies the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station, where a hole the size of a football was discovered in the head of the nuclear reactor vessel in March 2002. Today, a federal jury in Toledo convicted a former reactor coolant system engineer at the facility of lying to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission about the safety condition of that reactor vessel head. "Today, after hearing all the facts, a federal jury convicted Andrew Siemaszko for concealing the truth from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission," said Ronald Tenpas, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "The effectiveness of the NRC's regulation and the safe operation of the nation's nuclear power plants depends on honest and forthright information."

Nuke Fight Nears Decisive Moment

The Vermont Legislature will make history in a vote expected as early as January on whether to allow the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant to continue operating after 2012. Never before has a state taken such a vote. "This is a tremendous opportunity for us," said Deb Katz of the Citizens Awareness Network, an antinuclear group based in Shelburne Falls. "But it's not going to be easy."

Vermont Yankee is three miles from Massachusetts and a stone's throw from New Hampshire. A serious accident or act of sabotage at the reactor would kill thousands, and leave hundreds of square miles uninhabitable. Like all nuclear power plants, Vermont Yankee contributes to global warming. The cost of storing nuclear waste makes nuclear power more expensive than solar, wind, or any other source of electricity. So people from Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont are working with Katz's group and other organizations, telephoning and going door to door in legislative districts throughout Vermont, encouraging voters to contact their state legislators.

The Valley Advocate

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Epstein to speak at September AIA event in Philly

The Delaware Valley Green Building Council & AIA Philadelphia's Committee on the Environment invite you to a lunchtime presentation on Nuclear Power: Is it the Resurgence of an Economic and Environmental Boondoggle or the Savior for Global Climate Change? Thursday September 25, 2008 from 12:00-1:00 The core meltdown at Three Mile Island Unit-2 (“TMI”) beginning on March 28, 1979 ignited a fierce debate about the role of commercial nuclear power. In the three decades following the Accident, Americans have held been exposed to a mercurial flow of information on the future of nuclear power as a safe, “clean,” and economic energy source. There are unresolved questions associated with nuclear power production that continue to bedevil the industry: “Where is the waste going to go?” “Where is the water going to come from and who should have access to this commodity?” And, “What’s Wall Street’s take on this?” In the last decade, the emergence of global warming, security, and an experienced workforce have altered the debate on the future of nuclear power. Speaker: Eric Epstein is the Chairman of Three Mile Island Alert, Inc. a safe-energy organization based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and founded in 1977. TMIA monitors Peach Bottom, Susquehanna, and Three Mile Island nuclear generating stations. Location: The Center for Architecture, 1218 Arch Street, Philadelphia PA 19107 Time: 12:00 – 1:00 (Bring Your Own Lunch) Cost: $5 for AIA/DVGBC members, and $10 for Non-Members Registration is Required. Please visit to register online Continuing Ed. Credits: This program is worth 1.0 AIA LUs (HSW). Contact Michelle Wolfe at with questions.

Shutdown of reactor threatened

The owners of the Oyster Creek nuclear power station, now in the middle of a contentious relicensing battle, may close the plant if the government requires the installation of cooling towers, a company document shows.

Exelon Corp., Oyster Creek's owner, said the cost of cooling towers could "negatively impact" a decision to keep the oldest commercial nuclear plant running. The statement came last month in an Exelon filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Asbury Parks Press

Entergy deal good for shareholders; others wary

Power provider Entergy Corp. is advancing its plans to spin off nuclear plants that generate free-market electricity, a deal that may be a boon for shareholders but a potential burden for taxpayers, according to critics. If approved by regulators, Enexus Energy Corp., to be based in Jackson, Mississippi, will become a separate, publicly traded company in the next several months. Stockholders of New Orleans-based Entergy would receive Enexus shares on a pro-rata basis. The exact number has not been determined. But there is concern over debts of as much as $4.5 billion that the new company would take on, including up to $3.5 billion paid to Entergy for the plants and other assets. There is also the dismantling or mothballing of nuclear reactors at the end of their life spans, hich critics say Enexus may be unable to pay. That could leave taxpayers with billions in cleanup costs should the company become insolvent. The plants range in age from 32 years to 37 years.
International Herald Tribune

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

TMI info center moves to Chester County

The office that AmerGen Energy will use to give out information about a nuclear emergency at Three Mile Island moves to Chester County next week. The move means local news organizations will have to send reporters to Coatesville, about 65 miles away, if they want face-to-face access to plant experts. AmerGen will close the center in Susquehanna Township off Interstate 81. The location is the same used by AmerGen's parent company, Exelon Corp., to handle emergencies at its Peach Bottom and Limerick plants. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which requires plant owners to maintain information centers outside a 10-mile radius of the plant, did not object to the change. The move also drew support from state and local emergency management agencies. But the watchdog group Three Mile Island Alert opposed the change, saying it will put unnecessary distance between the company and the community and have a chilling effect on news coverage. The Coatesville facility will offer wireless Internet service and access to phone lines and copy/fax machines once the center is activated on Tuesday, AmerGen officials said.
The Patriot News

Diablo Canyon Fire

Press release, San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace For Immediate Release August 19,2008 Contact: Jane Swanson, spokesperson San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace (805) 595-2605 cell (805) 440-1359 The transformer fire shortly after midnight on Sunday, August 17 at Diablo Canyon nuclear plant was an explosive event that would have endangered workers if it had happened during the daytime. The transformer in question was the size of a small room, and was cooled by highly flammable oil. Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), which operates the plant, confirms that the fire caused damage to a nearby building and another transformer. San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace (MFP) will be monitoring the investigation of this explosive fire. County Emergency planners and the public need to know the cause of this fire and how a repeat might be prevented, as well as what consequences to expect should another transformer blow up when workers are present. Diablo workers need reassurance that future transformer fires will be prevented. MFP will be looking for the following information from investigation results: 1. While it is appropriate for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and PG&E to work together to determine the cause of this fire, the NRC should also do some investigating, such as interviewing workers responsible for maintaining and monitoring the transformers, independently of PG&E. 2. The possible role of human error needs to be assessed. Was there a lack of training or failure to inspect the transformer? Transformers sometimes give warning signals of impending failure, such as overheating. The NRC needs to determine if such warning had occurred and/or if they were looked for. 3. The role of mechanical failure must also be assessed. Were there components of the transformer that were aging? 4. What steps will be taken to prevent reoccurrence? A previous transformer fire at Diablo Canyon occurred in May of 2000, and 2 transformers burned in 1995, all at unit 1. Were the causes of those fires assessed? If so, were there factors in common with those that triggered the recent fire? What steps were taken to prevent a repetition of the 2000 and 1995 fires? 4. The investigation should determine what the consequences would have been if this kind of fire had happened during the daytime when workers were present. Videos of burning transformers of smaller sizes show violent fire punctuated by explosions and are available at

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Comments on Susquehanna Water Resources

Three Mile Island Alert, Inc.’s Comments on the Susquehanna River Basin Commission’s Draft Comprehensive Plan for the Water Resources of the Susquehanna River Basin. Download PDF

Graded Exercises – prepping the students

I watched the August 12 webcast of the NRC’s Commission briefing on emergency planning rulemaking. During the third panel, there was considerable discussion about an exercise conducted in May at San Onofre NPS in California. What caught my attention was Mike Rose mentioning that the players got together for nearly a full day of tabletops in late April and the graded exercise was conducted the first week of May. What he did not say but what seemed apparent to me was that the April session was a bit of a dress rehearsal for the May graded exercise. It seems to be quite unrealistic since in event of an actual emergency, it's unlikely that the responders would have gathered a couple days earlier to refresh on who does what to whom. Graded exercises are tests to see how well the responders are prepared. Getting the players together prior to the graded exercise makes about as much sense as a high school teacher showing the students the algebra test to let them practice answering the questions until they get it right - and then giving them the same questions on the final exam. They may all get A’s on the exam but have no real mastery of the subject matter. Check the next emergency planning NRC/FEMA graded exercise at your reactor.

Meeting: Nuclear Reactor Proposal

DATE: Tuesday, August 19, 2008 TIME: 6:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. LOCATION: Bloomsburg University's Kehr Union Ballroom ADDRESS: 400 East Second Street, Bloomsburg PA 17815 This is the first public meeting about the new nuclear reactor proposal in PA - part of the new wave of reactor proposals that're sweeping the country. Nuclear power is dangerous and destructive throughout its life-cycle and is not a solution for climate change. This proposal needs to be squashed early in the process. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is holding the public meeting in Bloomsburg PA (exit 236 off of I-80, about 15 miles west of the existing Berwick reactor) about the upcoming application from Pennsylvania Power & Light (PPL) for a Construction/Operating License for a new atomic reactor. Their purpose is to discuss the role that the NRC will play in the anticipated review of the application, including details of the safety and environmental reviews. A key topic is how and when the public may participate in NRC processes. Please let PPL and the NRC know that Pennsylvanians oppose new reactors! SCHEDULE: 6:00 pm - Open House (poster session in lobby) 7:00 pm Public Outreach Meeting Begins. Introductions/Opening Remarks by NRC 7:15 pm NC Staff Presentations • NRC: Who We Are And What We Do • Overview of COLA Review Process o Safety Review o Environmental Review o How the public may participate • Construction Inspection 7:45 pm Open forum for public questions and comments on NRC processes 9:30 pm Adjourn Resources: Nuclear Information and Resource Service; 301-270-6477 Michael Mariotte, Executive Director Energy Justice Network Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Op-Ed: Taxpayers shouldn't have to underwrite nuclear power

August 11, 2008 Dear Editor: Senator John McCain joined a growing legion of “tax and spend” politicians who have declared that part of their strategy to cure global warming is to build more nuclear generating stations. While nuclear plants have less of a carbon "footprint" than their coal-generating siblings, Mr. McCain failed to factor the financial, radioactive, and aquatic "footprints" associated with and additional 65 nuclear plants. One of the first out of the gate for the free nuclear cash is Pennsylvania Power Light (“PPL”). According to PPL, a new nuclear reactor requires a federal subsidy of $4.5 billion or 80 percent of the projected cost of the project. This "nuclear loan" is guaranteed by the U.S. Treasury -- taxpayers. The real cost, based on overruns in Florida and Texas, is actually $10 billion. Which begs the obvious question for Mr. McCain: Why aren't the shareholders of one of the "best managed" and "most profitable utilities" (Forbes magazine, December 2007) assuming the risk for a multibillion-dollar slam dunk? It's back to the future. PPL's operating nuclear plants were projected to cost ratepayers $2.1 billion, but overruns resulted in a $4.1 billion price tag. These are the same folks who are currently collecting $2 billion in nuclear taxes referred o as “Competitive Transition Costs.” It gets worse for senior citizens and those living on fixed incomes. PPL will be treating its loyal customer base to at least a 35% increase on January 1, 2010. Why is Mr. McCain supporting yet another nuclear subsidy at the same time senior citizens are trying to keep their lights on? Each nuclear reactor produces 30 metric tons of high-level radioactive waster per year. This is toxic garbage without a forwarding address which will create a "radioactive footprint" that lasts thousands of years. How is Mr. McCain going to underwrite the cost of securing Pennsylvania’s roads and rails when waste shipments from the northeast come barreling through your town? As of June, 2008, all of Pennsylvania's nuclear reactors began storing low-level radioactive waste on site when Barnwell (South Carolina) closed its doors to states outside of the Atlantic Compact. (Pennsylvania belongs to the Appalachian Compact.) Neither the industry or the Department of Environmental Protection has been able to "incent" (bribe) a single Pennsylvania community to bed down with a 500-year "low-level" radioactive "footprint." Where is Mr. McCain going to store the waste? Communities and ecosystems that depend on limited water resources are also adversely affected by exiting nuclear stations. PPL’s nuclear station draws 58 to 63.5 million gallons of water per day from the Susquehanna River. The plant returns much smaller portions of the back wash into the river at elevated temperatures. Last fall, 53 Pennsylvania counties were placed on "drought watch," including Luzerne County where the station is moored. Yet nuclear power plants are exempted from water conservation efforts. Why does Mr. McCain continue to support water subsides for nuclear plants while the rest of us are compelled to ration? The fundamental question remains the same: Why should taxpayers subsidize big nuclear’s "radioactive footprint?" Mr. McCain's solution to global warming is little more than corporate socialism wrapped in a green bow. Sincerely, Eric Epstein, Chairman, TMI-Alert 4100 Hillsdale Road Harrisburg, PA 17112 717-541-1101 Three Mile Island Alert, Inc. is a safe-energy organization based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and founded in 1977. TMIA monitors Peach Bottom, Susquehanna, and Three Mile Island nuclear generating stations.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

More trouble for nukes

Duke Energy has been forced to abort a test of an experimental fuel assembly at its Catawba nuclear power plant in York County, S.C. after noticing unusual physical changes that can damage the fuel and create a safety hazard. The Charlotte, N.C.-based company was testing mixed-oxide or MOX fuel, which combines conventional uranium with plutonium from the nation's atomic weapons stockpiles. Duke is participating in a federal Department of Energy program to dispose of 34 metric tons of plutonium from bombs.
Facing South

Monday, August 11, 2008

AG suffers setback on Pilgrim nuclear plant

The state attorney general's office suffered a major defeat yesterday in its fight to influence relicensing proceedings for the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth.

The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission denied a petition submitted nearly two years ago that sought greater consideration of the environmental impact of spent fuel storage facilities in the event of an accident or terrorist attack. Attorney General Martha Coakley had argued the pools where used fuel rods are stored could be drained, leading to a zirconium fire and a significant amount of radioactive material being released into the environment.

But the NRC, in a decision published yesterday in the Federal Register, said the spent-fuel pools "are massive, extremely robust structures designed to safely contain the spent fuel discharged from a nuclear reactor under a variety of normal, off-normal, and hypothetical accident conditions."

Cape Cod Times

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Denial of Petition for Rulemaking

SUMMARY: The NRC is denying two petitions for rulemaking (PRM), one filed by the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (Massachusetts AG) and the other filed by the Attorney General for the State of California (California AG), presenting nearly identical issues and requests for rulemaking concerning the environmental impacts of the high-density storage of spent nuclear fuel in large water pools, known as spent fuel pools (SFPs). The Petitioners asserted that “new and significant information” shows that the NRC incorrectly characterized the environmental impacts of high-density spent fuel storage as “insignificant” in its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) generic environmental impact statement (EIS) for the renewal of nuclear power plant licenses. Specifically, the Petitioners asserted that spent fuel stored in high-density SFPs is more vulnerable to a zirconium fire than the NRC concluded in its NEPA analysis.
Denial of Petition for Rulemaking (pdf)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

NRC Meeting Aug. 20 In Monroe, Mich., To Discuss Review Process For Expected New Reactor Application

Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff will conduct a public meeting in Monroe, Mich., on Wednesday, Aug. 20, to discuss how the agency will review an expected Combined License (COL) application for a new reactor at the Fermi site, about 5 miles northeast of Monroe. The prospective applicant, Detroit Edison, has told the NRC it intends to apply later this year for a license to build and operate an Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) at the site.
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Politics of Tragedy

When it comes to Vermont Yankee, it can make one’s brain hurt keeping the stories straight from week to week. Last week, we learned that radiation levels around the plant are higher now that VY is pumping out 20 percent more power. But, according to the Vermont Department of Health, “higher direct gamma radiation” measured at the site is still below the state’s limit. Of course, those limits were adjusted downward this year by 60 percent due to changes in how the state calculates radiation dosages. As it turns out, under the old standards, VY would have exceeded state standards by about 50 percent (more in some areas).
Seven Days