Friday, June 30, 2023

"Ex-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder gets maximum 20 years in prison for largest bribery scandal in state history; nuclear power bail out" -

Ex-Ohio House speaker receives maximum sentence in biggest corruption case in state history: The Wake Up for Friday, June 30, 2023

Larry Householder sentenced.
Former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder was sentenced on Thursday to 20 years in prison. (Albert Cesare, Cincinnati Enquirer via AP)

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In closing arguments at trial in March, Larry Householder’s attorney called the racketeering case against his client “a nothing-burger.”
The former Ohio House speaker believed in House Bill 6 – the FirstEnergy nuclear bailout – on its own merits, the lawyer said. That predated the creation of Generation Now, the nonprofit used to accept bribes from FirstEnergy.

Jurors didn’t buy the argument. A jury found Householder guilty of racketeering alongside FirstEnergy Solutions lobbyist Matt Borges, a former chairman of the Ohio Republican Party.
On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Timothy Black called the former speaker a “bully with a lust for power.” He said Householder of all people would know how much $1.3 billion could do for Ohio’s citizens.

“How many peoples’ lives could have been improved?” Black said. “And you handed it over to a bunch of suits with private jets.”

Then Black sentenced Householder to the maximum 20 years.

Reporter Adam Ferrise was in the courtroom when Householder, who offered no apology in his statement, was taken into custody. Federal marshals slapped handcuffs on his wrists and led him from the courtroom.

Borges is set to be sentenced today.

-- Laura

NRC Begins Special Inspection at Honeywell Uranium Conversion Facility

Nuclear Regulatory Commission - News Release
No: II-23-022 June 28, 2023
Contact: Dave Gasperson, 404-997-4417
NRC Begins Special Inspection at Honeywell Uranium Conversion Facility
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has begun a special inspection at the Honeywell uranium conversion facility in Metropolis, Illinois, to assess a June 21 event where safety equipment failed to function during cylinder-filling operations.
Plant workers were filling a cylinder with uranium hexafluoride – known as UF6 – when they noticed a small amount of material escaping from a connection point. The workers followed plant procedures to remotely activate the valve closing device to stop the operation. When one of the remote valves failed to close, a worker closed it manually.
Honeywell reported the event as required by the NRC and suspended all UF6 cylinder filling while it investigates the incident. Honeywell also reported that plant personnel were wearing appropriate protective equipment during the event.
The NRC special inspection, which began June 28, will focus on how Honeywell inspects and maintains the safety controls associated with its cylinder-filling operations. Inspectors also will review the facts surrounding the event, the company’s response, and the corrective actions taken to prevent a similar safety equipment failure.
The inspection team will document its findings and conclusions in a public report that will be issued within 45 days of completing the inspection.

‘Exploring Tritium’s Danger’: a book review

 ‘Exploring Tritium’s Danger’: a book review

By Robert Alvarez | June 26, 2023

The Braidwood nuclear power plant rises above nearby homes. The state of Illinois and Will County officials sued the owners and operators of the facility in 2006, claiming they failed to report leaks of radioactive tritium from the facility. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
The Braidwood nuclear power plant rises above nearby homes. The state of Illinois and Will County officials sued the owners and operators of the facility in 2006, claiming they failed to report leaks of radioactive tritium from the facility. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Over the past 40 years, Arjun Makhijani has provided clear, concise, and important scientific insights that have enriched our understanding of the nuclear age. In doing so, Makhijani—now president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research—has built a solid reputation as a scientist working in the public interest. His most recent contribution to public discourse, Exploring Tritium’s Dangers, adds to this fine tradition.

A radioactive isotope of hydrogen, tritium is one the most expensive, rare, and potentially harmful elements in the world. Its rarity is underscored by its price—$30,000 per gram—which is projected to rise from $100,000 to $200,000 per gram by mid-century.

Although its rarity and usefulness in some applications gives it a high monetary value, tritium is also a radioactive contaminant that has been released widely to the air and water from nuclear power and spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plants. Makhijani points out that “one teaspoon of tritiated water (as HTO) would contaminate about 100 billion gallons of water to the US drinking water limit; that is enough to supply about 1 million homes with water for a year.”

Where tritium comes from. Since Earth began to form, the radioactive isotope of hydrogen known as tritium (H-3) has been created by interactions between cosmic rays and Earth’s atmosphere; through this natural process, the isotope continues to blanket the planet in tiny amounts. With a radioactive half-life of 12.3 years, tritium falls from the sky and decays, creating a steady-state global equilibrium that comes to about three to seven kilograms of tritium.

Tritium initially became a widespread man-made contaminant when it was spread across the globe by open-air nuclear weapons explosions conducted between 1945 and 1963. Rainfall in 1963 was found in the Northern Hemisphere to contain 1,000 times more tritium than background levels. Open-air nuclear weapons explosions released about 600 kilograms (6 billion curies) into the atmosphere. In the decades since above-ground nuclear testing ended, nuclear power plants have added even more to the planet’s inventory of tritium. For several years, US power reactors have been contaminating ground water via large, unexpected tritium leaks from degraded subsurface piping and spent nuclear fuel storage pool infrastructures.

Since the 1990s, about 70 percent of the nuclear power sites in the United States (43 out of 61 sites) have had significant tritium leaks that contaminated groundwater in excess of federal drinking water limits.

The most recent leak occurred in November 2022, involving 400,000 gallons of tritium-contaminated water from the Monticello nuclear station in Minnesota. The leak was kept from the public for several months. In late March of this year, after the operator could not stop the leak, it was forced to shut down the reactor to fix and replace piping. By this time, tritium reached the groundwater that enters the Mississippi River. A good place to start limiting the negative effects of tritium contamination, Makhijani recommends, is to significantly tighten drinking water standards.

Routine releases of airborne tritium are also not trivial. As part of his well-researched monograph, Makhijani underscores this point by including a detailed atmospheric dispersion study that he commissioned, indicating that tritium (HTO) from the Braidwood Nuclear Power Plant in Illinois has been literally raining down from gaseous releases – as it incorporates with precipitation to form tritium oxide (HTO)—something that occurs at water cooled reactors. Spent fuel storage pools are considered the largest source of gaseous tritium releases.

The largely unacknowledged health effects. Makhijani makes it clear that the impacts of tritium on human health, especially when it is taken inside the body, warrant much more attention and control than they have received until now. This is not an easy problem to contend with, given the scattered and fragmented efforts that are in place to address this hazard. Thirty-nine states, and nine federal agencies  (the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Energy (DOE), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Department of Agriculture are all responsible for regulating tritium.

This highly scattered regulatory regime has been ineffective at limiting tritium contamination, much less reducing it. For example, state and  federal regulators haven’t a clue as to how many of some two million exit signs purchased in the United States—and made luminous without electric power by tritium—have been illegally dumped.  For decades, tritium signs, each initially containing about 25 curies (or 25,000,000,000,000 pCi) of radioactivity, have found their way into landfills that often contaminate drinking water. One broken sign is enough to contaminate an entire community landfill. There are no standards for tritium in the liquid that leaches from landfills, despite measurements taken in 2009 indicating levels at Pennsylvania landfills thousands of times above background.

Adding to this regulatory mess, is the fact that federal standards limiting tritium in drinking water only apply to public supplies, and not to private wells.

In past decades, regulators have papered over the tritium-contamination problem by asserting, when tritium leakage becomes a matter of public concern, that the tritium doses humans might receive are too small to be of concern. Despite growing evidence that tritium is harmful in ways that fall outside the basic framework for radiation protection, agencies such as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission remain frozen in time when it comes to tritium regulation.

The NRC and other regulating agencies are sticking to an outdated premise that tritium is a “mild” radioactive contaminant that emits “weak” beta particles that cannot penetrate the outer layers of skin. When tritium is taken inside the body (by, for example, drinking tritiated water), half is quickly excreted within 10 days, the agencies point out, and the radiation doses are tiny. Overall, the NRC implies its risk of tritium ingestion causing cancer is small.

But evidence of harm to workers handling tritium is also growing. Epidemiologists from the University of North Carolina reported in 2013, that the risk of dying from leukemia among workers at the Savannah River Plant following exposure to tritium is more than eight times greater (RBE-8.6) than from exposure to gamma radiation (RBE-1).  Over the past several years, studies of workers exposed to tritium consistently show significant excess levels of chromosome damage.[1]

The contention that tritium is “mildly radioactive” does not hold when it is taken in the body as tritiated water—the dominant means for exposure. The Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board—which advises the US Energy Department about safety at the nation’s defense nuclear sites—informed the secretary of energyin June 2019 that “[t]ritiated water vapor represents a significant risk to those exposed to it, as its dose consequence to an exposed individual is 15,000 to 20,000 times higher than that for an equivalent amount of tritium gas.”

As it decays, tritium emits nearly 400 trillion energetic disintegrations per second. William H. McBride, a professor of radiation oncology at the UCLA Medical School, describes these disintegrations as “explosive packages of energy” that are “highly efficient at forming complex, potentially lethal DNA double strand breaks.” McBride, underscored this concern at an event sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, where he stated that “damage to DNA can occur within minutes to hours.” [2]

“No matter how it is taken into the body,” a fact sheet from the Energy Department’s Argonne National Laboratory says, “tritium is uniformly distributed through all biological fluids within one to two hours.” During that short time, the Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board points out that “the combination of a rapid intake and a short biological half-life means a large fraction of the radiological dose is acutely delivered within hours to days…”

A new approach to tritium regulation. Makhijani pulls together impressive evidence clearly pointing to the need for an innovative approach that addresses, in addition to cancer, a range of outcomes that can follow tritium exposure, including prenatal and various forms of genomic damage. In particular, he raises a key point about how physics has dominated radiation protection regulation at the expense of the biological sciences.

It all boils down to estimation of a dose as measured in human urine based on mathematical models. For tritium, dose estimation can be extraordinarily complex (at best) when it is taken inside the body as water or as organically bound, tritide forms. So the mathematical models that can simplify this challenge depend on “constant values” that provide the basis for radiation protection.

In this regard, the principal “constant value” holding dose reconstruction and regulatory compliance together is the reliance on the “reference man.” He is a healthy Caucasian male between the age of 20 to 30 years, who exists only in the abstract world.

Use of the reference man standard gives rise to obvious (and major) questions: What radiation dose limit is necessary to protect the “reference man” from serious genomic damage? And what about protection of more vulnerable forms of human life?

According to the 2006 study by the National Research Council, healthy Caucasian men between the age of 20 and 30 are about one-tenth as likely to contract a radiation-induced cancer as a child exposed to the same external dose of gamma radiation while in the womb.

In his monograph, Makhijani underscores the need to protect the fetus and embryo from internal exposures to tritium—a need largely being side-stepped by radiation protection authorities. “Tritium replaces non-radioactive hydrogen in water, the principal source of tritium exposure,” Makhijani writes, pointing to unassailable evidence that tritium “easily can cross the placenta and irradiate developing fetuses in utero, thereby raising the risk of birth defects, miscarriages, and other problems.”

He is not alone in such an assessment. According a 2022 medical expert consensus report on radiation protection for health care professionals in Europe, “The greatest risk of pregnancy loss from radiation exposure is during the first 2 weeks of pregnancy, while between 2-8 weeks after conception, the embryo is most susceptible to the development of congenital malformations because this is the period of organogenesis.”

In the United States, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s efforts to reduce exposure limits and protect pregnant women and their fetuses is best described as foot-dragging. By comparison, the required limit for a pregnant worker in Europe to be reassigned from further exposure is one-fifth the US standard—and was adopted nearly 20 years ago.

Long-term environmental retention. A 2019 study put forward the first ever empirical evidence of very long-term environmental retention of organically bound tritium (OBT) in an entire river system, deposited by fallout from atmospheric nuclear weapons explosions.

When released into the environment, tritium atoms can replace hydrogen atoms in organic molecules to form organically bound tritium, which is found soil, and river sediments, vegetation, and a wide variety of foods. It’s been more than a half century since the ratification of the Limited Test Ban Treaty, and tritium released through nuclear weapons testing has undergone significant decay. Yet because of the long retention of organically bound tritium, in greater than expected concentrations, it still remains a contaminant of concern.

For instance, despite its 12.3-year half-life, a much larger amount of organically bound tritium from nuclear tests than previously assumed is locked in Arctic permafrost, raising concerns about widespread contamination as global warming melts the Arctic. Organically bound tritium can reside in the body far longer than tritiated water, to consequently greater negative effect.[3]

Nuclear weapons, nuclear power, and tritium. The tritium problem has several dimensions that relate directly to the world’s current and future efforts vis a vis nuclear power and nuclear weapons.

Now that nuclear power reactors are closing down, especially in the aftermath of the Fukushima accident, the disposal of large volumes of tritium-contaminated water into lakes, rivers, and oceans is becoming a source of growing concern around the world. The Japanese government has approved the dumping of about 230 million gallons of radioactive water, stored in some 1,300 large tanks sitting near the Fukushima nuclear ruins, into the Pacific Ocean. Once it incorporates into water, tritium is extraordinarildifficult, if not impossible to remove.

Protests in Japan by a wide segment of the public and in several other nations—including Russia, the Marshall Islands, French Polynesia, China, South Korea and North Korea—object to the disposal of this large volume of contaminated water into near-shore waters.

Then there’s the matter of boosting the efficiency and destructive power of nuclear weapons with tritium gas—a use that has dominated demand for this isotope. Because five percent of the tritium in thermonuclear warheads decays each year, it has to be periodically replenished. Over the past 70 years, an estimated 225 kilograms of tritium were produced in US government reactors, principally at the Savannah River Plant in South Carolina. Those reactors were shuttered in 1988. Since 2003, tritium supplies for US nuclear warheads are provided by two Tennessee Valley Authority nuclear power reactors. The irradiation of lithium target elements in the reactors has fallen short of meeting demand because of excess tritium leakage into the reactor coolant.

The hazards of tritium production for weapons are far from trivial.

For instance, since June of 2019, the Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board has taken the Energy Department to task for its failure to address the risk of a severe fire involving tritium processing and storage facilities at the Savannah River Site. According to the Board, such a fire may have a 40 percent chance of occurring during 50 years of operation and could result in potentially lethal worker doses greater than 6,000 rems—1,200 times the annual occupational exposure limit. Doses to the public would not be inconsequential. Meanwhile, the Energy Department is under pressure from the nuclear weapons establishment to step up demand for tritium. Unless there is “a marked increase in the planned production of tritium in the next few years,” the 2018 US Nuclear Posture Review concluded “our nuclear capabilities will inevitably atrophy and degrade below requirements.”

The Energy Department estimates it will take 15-20 years to achieve a major multibillion overhaul of its tritium production infrastructure.

Meanwhile, the quest for fusion energy highlights a startling fact: The amount of tritium required to fuel a single fusion reactor (should an economic, fusion-based power plant ever be created) will likely be far greater than the amount produced by all fission reactors and open-air bomb tests since the 1940s. A full-scale (3,000 megawatt-electric) fusion reactor is estimated to “burn” about 150 kilograms of tritium  a year.[4]

The cost for a one-year batch of tritium fuel for a fusion reactor, based on the current market price, would be $4.5 billion. An annual loss to the environment from a single fusion reactor could dwarf the release of tritium from all nuclear facilities that currently dot the global landscape.

The tritium overview. Evidence is mounting not just in regard to increased health risks from tritium-contaminated water and from organically bound tritium, but also as relates to the harm tritium can visit on the unborn. At the same time, it has become clear that regulation of tritium in the United States is grossly insufficient to the current risk from tritium contamination, not to mention future risks that could arise if tritium production, use, and associated leakage rise. Arjun Makhijani provides a useful roadmap for sparing workers and the public from the dangers this pernicious contaminant will pose in the future, absent more effective regulation that includes lower limits for human tritium exposure.


[1] See:; and

[2] William MacBride, UCLA School of Medicine Vice Chair for Research in Radiation, Principal Investigator of UCLA’s Center for Medical Countermeasures Against Radiation — National Institutes of Health, Jan 27, 2014. See:

[3] See

[4] Advocates assume that only the initial loading of 150 kg will be needed, as the reactor will “breed” the remaining amount of tritium to run the plant after a year of operation.

Preview YouTube video Nuclear Watch: Radiation and nuclear countermeasures program overview 1/27/2014

Nuclear Watch: Radiation and nuclear countermeasures program overview 1/27/2014

Monday, June 26, 2023

Friday, June 23, 2023

At 3 million pounds, the first foundation for New Jersey wind is complete but its maker sees trouble ahead ," ("Inquirer," Jute 22, 2023)

At 3 million pounds, the first foundation for New Jersey wind is complete but its maker sees trouble ahead 

Paulsboro plant assembles wind turbines headed for Jersey Shore.

by Frank Kummer

    The first foundation ever assembled for a wind turbine in the U.S. resembles a big yellow rocket as it rests horizontally at the Paulsboro Marine Terminal on the Delaware River in Gloucester County.

    The three million-pound, 300-foot-long, all-steel foundation, known as a monopile, is composed of three four-inch-thick tubes welded together. The top section is tapered and coated with protective epoxy paint.

    The monopile will eventually be rammed 100 feet into the ocean floor about 15 miles out to sea southeast of Atlantic City. Then a tower with turbine and blades will be bolted to its flanges, rising 906 feet from the ocean at its highest blade tip, putting it in the ballpark of the highest skyscrapers in Philadelphia.

    There will be 98 of these turbines in the first installment of offshore wind in New Jersey. The project, known as Ocean Wind I, is owned by global wind developer Orsted and has the capacity to produce 1,100 megawatts of electricity, enough energy to power 500,000 homes annually. It is expected to begin producing power by late 2024 or early 2025.

    But Lee Laurendeau, CEO of EEW American Offshore Structures, the company working with Orsted to make the monopiles, is losing sleep over the project. He foresees a precarious situation for New Jersey’s attempt to become a leader in manufacturing and supply chain for offshore wind manufacturing and capture thousands of jobs that go with it.

    At issue is a wrinkle in how New Jersey handles new federal tax credits that Laurendeau and wind proponents say could allow New York and other states to grab a big chunk of offshore wind manufacturing — something New Jersey hopes to dominate.

    In New Jersey, offshore wind developers can’t take advantage of a big federal tax credit. But the developers say they need that freed-up capital to construct buildings, take loans, and hire more people as planned to make parts.

    Laurendeau said New Jersey’s tax-credit issue threatens EEW’s $300 million expansion, planned to provide monopiles for multiple offshore wind installments approved by the state’s Board of Public Utilities. EEW says his company needs the tax credits to make the expansion financially workable.

    “Offshore wind has $100 billion of announced projects,” Laurendeau said. “And we have to ask, ‘Do we want $100 billion of those parts coming from across the ocean, or do we want to build them here?’”

    A completed monopile foundation at EEW AOS where the massive monopile foundations for the offshore wind turbines are manufactured, in Paulsboro, NJ, Friday, June 16, 2023.

    A completed monopile foundation at EEW AOS where the massive monopile foundations for the offshore wind turbines are manufactured, in Paulsboro, NJ, Friday, June 16, 2023.Jessica Griffin / Staff Photographer

    A tax-credit snarl

    The credits were created under the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which allows for a tax credit up to 30% for offshore wind projects that begin construction before Jan. 1, 2026. Credits were also created under the 2020 Stimulus Act.

    But a New Jersey law, passed before those acts, states that any such credits must be returned to ratepayers and not used by offshore wind developers. No other state has that requirement. Offshore wind manufacturers say they need the credits because material, labor and borrowing costs skyrocketed dramatically following the pandemic.

    Laurendeau wants legislators to come up with a solution fast that allows offshore wind companies can apply for the credits, as they fear missing key benchmarks related to wind projects. Meanwhile, New York is luring supply chain and port infrastructure businesses, including a $350 million offshore wind turbine tower manufacturing facility. General Electric plans to build turbine blades and nacelles, which house gears and drivetrains, in that state.

    New Jersey, Laurendeau said, is set to become a manufacturing hub.

    “But if you blink,” he warned, “you’re going to lose it.”

    On Tuesday, Democratic state Reps. Louis Greenwald and Paul Moriartyintroduced a bill that would “allow qualified offshore wind projects to elect to retain the benefit of the federal tax credits.” The bill states that the federal tax benefits “were established in order to bolster and support the offshore wind industry in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the unique macroeconomic challenges.” It has been referred to the Assembly budget committee. Democrats control both the Assembly and Senate.

    Welders work on a monopile foundation at EEW AOS in Paulsboro, Gloucester County. The monopiles are one piece of the offshore wind turbines slated to be erected in New Jersey.

    Welders work on a monopile foundation at EEW AOS in Paulsboro, Gloucester County. The monopiles are one piece of the offshore wind turbines slated to be erected in New Jersey. Jessica Griffin / Staff Photographer

    Fading appetite for subsidies

    Under Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, New Jersey has invested $250 million in EEW’s state-of-the-art manufacturing facility, as well as $637 million to build the New Jersey Wind Port in Salem County where turbines can be assembled and shipped. The state also hopes for some parts manufacturing at the site. Overall, New Jersey has committed about $1 billion for offshore wind in subsides and credits, according to the Office of Legislative Services.

    But it appears there is little appetite for more, especially among the state’s GOP. Both legislators and the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities are under pressure to ensure that offshore wind doesn’t dramatically increase energy rates for consumers as detractors fear.

    “I’m going to have a difficult time supporting any type of future subsidies,” Sen. Paul Sarlo (D., Bergen), chairman of the state Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, said during a May 23 hearing. “These are large players, international players, who knew what they were getting into when they built these facilities.”

    Further, wind opponents have latched onto whale deaths this year as a way to rally people to their cause. Despite experts’ insistence that there is no link between the dead whales and the turbines, some groups have suggested that surveying of the ocean floor for turbines and transmission lines could be impacting whales.

    » READ MORE: N.J. whale deaths have sparked right-wing conspiracy theories on Facebook

    Dawson Tilghman, a laborer with EEW AOS, works with a grinder as part of the manufacturing of massive monopile foundations for offshore wind turbines in New Jersey.

    Dawson Tilghman, a laborer with EEW AOS, works with a grinder as part of the manufacturing of massive monopile foundations for offshore wind turbines in New Jersey.Jessica Griffin / Staff Photographer

    Offshore wind and jobs

    Laurendeau said offshore wind has a multiplier effect on the economy. EEW has contracts with 250 New Jersey-based suppliers for everything from office chairs to equipment. He said that hiring would ramp up in coming years.

    “You’re talking suppliers and subcontractors, and all the work here is being done by union contractors,” Laurendeau said. “So it’s probably 1,000 jobs here.” He estimates that the projects would support “probably 4,000 jobs” in New Jersey.

    Wind proponents estimate that tens of thousands of jobs could be linked to offshore wind in coming years if the state dominates manufacturing.

    Former state Sen. Stephen Sweeney, vice president of the Iron Workers union, wrote the law a decade ago that allowed offshore wind projects to proceed. He said he is concerned that New Jersey’s competitive advantage is close to crumbling.

    The Sweeney Center for Public Policy at Rowan University outlined the issue in a recent paper. The center is named after the former senator, who was New Jersey’s longest running Senate president until he lost reelection in 2021. He is chair of the policy center’s advisory board.

    “New Jersey has made a big investment,” Sweeney said. “But the manufacturing projects won’t survive. They won’t be able to get them financed. If we don’t move quickly, all these manufacturing jobs are in jeopardy.”

    Offshore wind isn’t going away, despite the wishes of opponents, Sweeney said. The federal leases are set, and the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has approved a final environmental impactstatement for Ocean Wind I — a major hurdle.

    But Sweeney said what stands to be lost is the state’s hope to become a manufacturing hub not only for monopiles, but other components.

    EEW American Offshore Structures’ situation is an example, Sweeney said. So far, the company has been importing the big sections for the monopiles from its German parent company and assembling and painting them in Paulsboro. The next phase is to make them from scratch entirely in New Jersey.

    Sha Reed is helping oversee one of the new buildings, a $300 million project for EEW AOS, which is manufacturing the massive monopile foundations for the offshore wind turbines.

    Sha Reed is helping oversee one of the new buildings, a $300 million project for EEW AOS, which is manufacturing the massive monopile foundations for the offshore wind turbines.Jessica Griffin / Staff Photographer

    Falling behind

    EEW has 100 employees in Paulsboro but is a year behind on its second phase of construction, which calls for four new buildings to house plate-cutting and rolling mills and adding 437 permanent workers capable of producing 100 monopiles a year.

    That would require buying hundreds of tons of American steel and hiring local employees such as Sha Reed. Reed, who just graduated in May from Rowan University with a degree in construction management, was working in a tile store in the winter when Laurendeau stopped in looking for material for a home project. The two hit it off and Laurendeau eventually hired Reed, who is now helping oversee one of the new buildings, a $300 million project. Reed still finds it hard to believe his luck.

    “When an opportunity comes up, you just got to take it,” Reed said, “especially to be part of something so unique and dynamic, right?”

    Others in the industry, including Terrence Kelly, a spokesman for Atlantic Shores, also say the need to act is urgent. Atlantic Shores, a joint venture between Shell New Energies and EDF-RE Offshore Development, has an order for 103 monopiles in another wind project approved by the state. The 1,500-megawatt wind farm off Atlantic City would power 700,000 homes. Atlantic Shores is depending on EEW’s Paulsboro expansion, Kelly said.

    Both Orsted and Atlantic Shores have another wind farm each approved by New Jersey’s BPU.

    “The impact is pretty significant,” Kelly said. “Part of our commitment … was $848 million guaranteed spending in New Jersey. The cascading consequences will require us to either look elsewhere or figure out a novel solution that hasn’t revealed itself yet.”


    Friday, June 16, 2023

    NRC Schedules Predecisional Enforcement Conference with BWXT

    Nuclear Regulatory Commission - News Release
    No: II-23-020 June 15, 2023
    Contact: Dave Gasperson, 404-997-4417 

    NRC Schedules Predecisional Enforcement Conference with BWXT
    The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff will hold a predecisional enforcement conference with officials from BWXT Nuclear Operations Group Inc. on June 21 to discuss two preliminary violations of regulatory requirements that occurred at the Lynchburg, Virginia, fuel fabrication facility in January 2023.
    The conference starts at 10 a.m. Eastern time in Suite 800 at the NRC’s Region II Office, Marquis One Tower, 245 Peachtree Center Avenue, NE, in Atlanta. The NRC staff will be available to answer questions from the public after the formal portion of the meeting.
    Members of the public can also listen to the meeting by dialing 301-576-2978 and entering the conference number 753930684#.
    The preliminary violations of NRC requirements were discovered after a January 19 event when a storage tank at BWXT's Uranium Recovery Facility overflowed, spilling uranium solution onto the floor and into a ventilation system. Two safety controls designed to prevent this failed, increasing the risk of an accidental criticality.
    BWXT took immediate corrective actions in the affected area. The event did not endanger the plant workers, the public, or the environment.
    A subsequent inspection revealed an apparent breakdown of safety controls designed to prevent an accidental criticality at BWXT's facility. The NRC's inspection findings related to that event are described in a May 5 inspection report.
    During the conference, BWXT will have the opportunity to provide its perspective or additional information about the apparent violations. The NRC will review the information provided during the meeting and finalize its enforcement decision in a publicly available document.

    Thursday, June 15, 2023

    The dangerous business of dismantling America’s aging nuclear plants

    The dangerous business of dismantling America’s aging nuclear plants

    Accidents at New Jersey’s Oyster Creek power plant have spurred calls for stricter oversight of the burgeoning nuclear decommissioning industry

     By  May 13, 2022 at 6:55 a.m. EDT

    All three incidents occurred on the watch of Holtec International, a nuclear equipment manufacturer based in Jupiter, Fla. Though the company until recently had little experience shutting down nuclear plants, Holtec has emerged as a leader in nuclear cleanup, a burgeoning field riding an expected wave of closures as licenses expire for the nation’s aging nuclear fleet.

    Over the past three years, Holtec has purchased three plants in three states and expects to finalize a fourth this summer. The company is seeking to profitably dismantle them by replacing hundreds of veteran plant workers with smaller, less-costly crews of contractors and eliminating emergency planning measures, documents and interviews show. While no one has been seriously injured at Oyster Creek, the missteps are spurring calls for stronger government oversight of the entire cleanup industry.

    Workers walk past the site of a building demolition at Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in New Jersey. Regulators have documented at least nine violations of federal rules at the plant under Holtec’s ownership. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

    Workers walk past the site of a building demolition at Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in New Jersey. Regulators have documented at least nine violations of federal rules at the plant under Holtec’s ownership. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

    In the nearly three years Holtec has owned Oyster Creek, regulators have documented at least nine violations of federal rules, including the contaminated water mishap, falsified weapons inspection reports and other unspecified security lapses. That’s at least as many as were found over the preceding 10 years at the plant, when it was owned by Exelon, one of the nation’s largest utility companies, according to The Post’s review of regulatory records.

    Joseph Delmar, a spokesman for Holtec, defended the company’s record, saying it takes safety and security seriously. The recent incidents “are not reflective of the organization’s culture,” he said, adding that the worker who knocked down the power line “did not follow the proper safety protocols.” Delmar said the company has decades of experience building equipment to store nuclear waste and employs veteran plant workers to dismantle reactor sites.

    “While the decommissioning organization may seem new, the professionals staffing the company are experienced nuclear professionals with intimate knowledge of the plants they work at,” Delmar said in an emailed statement.

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    Holtec is, however, pioneering an experimental new business model. During the lifetime of America’s 133 nuclear reactors, ratepayers paid small fees on their monthly energy bills to fill decommissioning trust funds, intended to cover the eventual cost of deconstructing the plants. Trust funds for the country’s 94 operating and 14 nonoperating nuclear reactors now total about $86 billion, according to Callan, a San Francisco-based investment consulting firm.

    After a reactor is dismantled and its site cleared, some of these trust funds must return any money left over to ratepayers. But others permit cleanup companies to keep any surplus as profit — creating incentives to cut costs at sites that house some of the most dangerous materials on the planet.

    Even after reactors are shut down, long metal rods containing radioactive pellets — known as spent fuel — are stored steps away, in cooling pools and steel-and-concrete casks. Nuclear safety experts say that an industrial accident or a terrorist attack at any of these sites could result in a radiological release with severe impacts to workers and nearby residents, as well as to the environment.

    Holtec International opened the 50-acre Krishna P. Singh Technology Campus in Camden, N.J., in 2017. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

    Holtec International opened the 50-acre Krishna P. Singh Technology Campus in Camden, N.J., in 2017. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

    The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the independent federal agency tasked with overseeing safety at nuclear sites, conducts regular inspections during the decommissioning process. But state and local officials say the NRC has failed to safeguard the public from risks at shut-down plants, deferring too readily to companies like Holtec.

    “The NRC is not doing their job,” said Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), who has pushed the agency to adopt stricter regulations around plant decommissioning. “We need a guaranteed system that prioritizes communities and safety, and we don’t have that right now.”

    The NRC’s leadership is divided over the role regulators should play. The agency was created in 1974, as the first generation of commercial reactors was going online, and its rules were mainly designed to safeguard the operation of active plants and nuclear-material sites. As reactors shut down, the NRC began reducing inspections and exempting plants from safety and security rules.

    Last November, the NRC approved a new rule that would automatically qualify shut-down plants for looser safety and security restrictions. Christopher T. Hanson, a Democrat nominated by President Donald Trump and promoted to the role of chairman by President Biden, has said the changes would improve the “effectiveness and efficiency” of the decommissioning process.

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    Commissioner Jeff Baran, also a Democrat, voted against the proposed rule and called for the NRC and local governments to play a bigger role. “Radiological risks remain at shutdown nuclear plants that must be taken seriously,” he cautioned in public comments. Baran added that the agency already takes a “laissez-faire” approach to decommissioning and that the new rule “would make the situation even worse, further skewing the regulation towards the interests of industry.”

    Dan Dorman, the NRC’s executive director for operations, said in an email that the agency lifts restrictions at plants only if it determines the plant will continue to be safe. In addition to citing Holtec for violations at Oyster Creek, the agency has required the company to take corrective measures, including external security assessments of all its nuclear sites.

    “Our increased oversight and the recent enforcement actions demonstrate our concern about the situation at Oyster Creek,” Dorman said.

    The emissions stack at Oyster Creek, which was permanently shut down in 2018. The plant’s single reactor generated enough electricity to power 600,000 homes. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

    The emissions stack at Oyster Creek, which was permanently shut down in 2018. The plant’s single reactor generated enough electricity to power 600,000 homes. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

    Holtec faces mounting criticism beyond Oyster Creek. Michigan officials have said they worry Holtec will leave residents on the hook for cleanup costs at the Palisades plant on the shores of Lake Michigan. Massachusetts officials have protested Holtec’s plan to take 1 million gallons of contaminated water from the defunct Pilgrim power plant and dump it into Cape Cod Bay.

    While Holtec acknowledges a funding shortfall at Palisades, Delmar says the fund will appreciate in value to cover the cost of the cleanup. At Pilgrim, Holtec has said the potential radiation dose from the Cape Cod release would be far less than the average traveler receives on a typical cross-country flight.

    In the Southwest, Holtec has ignited a different controversy. As the company acquires old plants, it is proposing to ship the highly radioactive spent fuel to New Mexico, where it plans to build a storage facility. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) has vowed to fight the plan, telling Trump in a 2020 letter that storing radioactive material in the oil-rich Permian Basin region would be “economic malpractice.”

    Holtec says it is working in partnership with a group of local officials who believe the benefits of the facility — including new jobs and investment — outweigh the risks. On its website, Holtec says the facility will provide “a safe, secure, temporary, retrievable, and centralized facility for storage of used nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste until such time that a permanent solution is available.”

    The growing debate marks the latest twist in the tortured saga of nuclear power, which once was hailed as a miracle technology capable of producing large quantities of clean, affordable energy. In the early 1970s, the federal Atomic Energy Commission estimated that about 1,000 reactors would be built in the United States, and that nuclear sources eventually would provide at least half of the world’s power.

    But those ambitions soon collided with fears about nuclear radiation, especially after disastrous meltdowns at Chernobyl in Ukraine and Fukushima in Japan. Nuclear energy peaked at around 18 percent of global electricity production in the 1990s and now comprises about 10 percent, according to the U.S. Energy Information Association.

    Reactors in the United States initially were licensed for 40 years, and most were renewed for another 20 years. Of 94 reactors that are still active, licenses at over half are set to expire in the next two decades, according to Julia Moriarty, a senior vice president at Callan.

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    Recently, worries about climate change have led some governments to embrace nuclear as a low-carbon source of power. Biden has called nuclear essential to the nation’s climate goals, and Washington last year set aside $6 billion for extending the licenses of some plants and $2.5 billion for developing new nuclear technologies.

    But the nation continues to puzzle over the problem of nuclear waste. This material, which emanates invisible but harmful radiation for hundreds of years, is stored in protective containers on the grounds of nuclear plants, scattered in dozens of towns across the country. A plan to build a national waste repository in Nevada’s Yucca Mountain stalled amid decades of political gridlock, leaving these towns saddled indefinitely with the threat of an accidental release or terrorist attack.

    Holtec is approaching those communities with an offer to clean up the mess.