Category: No Nukes (page 2 of 3)

The End of Indian Point and the Myths of Nuclear Power in America

 

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(cross-posted from Counter Punch)

The good—the very good—energy news is that the Indian Point nuclear power plants 26 miles north of New York City will be closed in the next few years under an agreement reached between New York State and the plants’ owner, Entergy.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has long been calling for the plants to be shut down because, as the New York Timesrelated in its story on the pact, they pose “too great a risk to New York City.” Environmental and safe-energy organizations have been highly active for decades in working for the shutdown of the plants. Under the agreement, one Indian Point plant will shut down by April 2020, the second by April 2021.

They would be among the many nuclear power plants in the U.S. which their owners have in recent years decided to close or have announced will be shut down in a few years.

This comes in the face of nuclear power plant accidents—the most recent the ongoing Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan—and competitive power being less expensive including renewable and safe solar and wind energy.

Last year the Fort Calhoun nuclear plant in Nebraska closed following the shutdowns of Kewanee in Wisconsin, Vermont Yankee in Vermont, Crystal River 3 in Florida and both San Onofre 2 and 3 in California. Nuclear plant operators say they will close Palisades in Michigan next year and then Oyster Creek in New Jersey and Pilgrim in Massachusetts in 2019 and California’s Diablo Canyon 1 in 2024 and Diablo Canyon 3 in 2025.

This brings the number of nuclear plants down to a few more than 90—a far cry from President Richard Nixon’s scheme to have 1,000 nuclear plants in the U.S. by the year 2000.

But the bad—the very bad—energy news is that there are still many promoters of nuclear power in industry and government still pushing and, most importantly, the transition team of incoming President Donald Trump has been “asking for ways to keep nuclear power alive,” as Bloomberg News reported last month.

As I was reading last week the first reports on the Indian Point agreement, I received a phone call from an engineer who has been in the nuclear industry for more than 30 years—with his view of the situation.

The engineer, employed at nuclear plants and for a major nuclear plant manufacturer, wanted to relate that even with the Indian Point news—“and I’d keep my fingers crossed that there is no disaster involving those aged Indian Point plants in those next three or four years”—nuclear power remains a “ticking time bomb.” Concerned about retaliation, he asked his name not be published.

Here is some of the information he passed on—a story of experiences of an engineer in the nuclear power industry for more than three decades and his warnings and expectations.

THE SECRETIVE INPO REPORT SYSTEM

Several months after the accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania in March 1979, the nuclear industry set up the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) based in Atlanta, Georgia. The idea was to have a nuclear industry group that “would share information” on problems and incidents at nuclear power plants, he said.

If there is a problem at one nuclear power plant, through an INPO report it is communicated to other nuclear plant operators. Thus the various plant operators could “cross-reference” happenings at other plants and determine if they might apply to them.

The reports are “coded by color,” explained the engineer. Those which are “green” involve an incident or condition that might or might not indicate a wider problem. A “yellow” report is on an occurrence “that could cause significant problems down the road.” A “red” report is the most serious and represents “a problem that could have led to a core meltdown”—and could be present widely among nuclear plants and for which action needs to be taken immediately.

The engineer said he has read more than 100 “Code Red” reports. What they reflect, he said, is that “we’ve been very, very lucky so far!”

If the general public would see these “red” reports, its view on nuclear power would turn strongly negative, said the engineer.

But this is prevented by INPO, “created and solely funded by the nuclear industry,” thus its reports “are not covered by the U.S. Freedom of Information Act and are regarded as highly secretive.” The reports should be required to be made public, said the engineer. “It’s high time the country wakes up to the dangers we undergo with nuclear power plants.”

THE NRC INSPECTION FARCE

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is supposed to be the federal agency that is the watchdog over nuclear power plants and it frequently boasts of how it has “two resident inspectors” at each nuclear power plant in the nation, he noted.

However, explained the engineer, “the NRC inspectors are not allowed to go into the plant on their own. They have to be escorted. There can be no surprise inspections. Indeed, the only inspections that can be made are those that come after the NRC inspectors “get permission from upper management at the plant.”

The inspectors “have to contact upper management and say they want to inspect an area. The word is then passed down from management that inspectors are coming—so ‘clean up’ whatever is the situation is.”

“The inspectors hands are tied,” said the engineer.

THE 60- AND NOW 80-YEAR OPERATING DELUSION

When nuclear power plants were first designed decades ago, explained the engineer, the extent of their mechanical life was established at 40 years. The engineer is highly familiar with these calculations having worked for a leading manufacturer of nuclear plants, General Electric.

The components in nuclear plants, particularly their steel parts, “have an inherent working shelf life,” said the engineer.

In determining the 40-year total operating time, the engineer said that calculated were elements that included the wear and tear of refueling cycles, emergency shutdowns and the “nuclear embrittlement from radioactivity that impacts on the nuclear reactor vessel itself including the head bolts and other related piping, and what the entire system can handle. Further, the reactor vessel is the one component in a nuclear plant that can never be replaced because it becomes so hot with radioactivity. If a reactor vessel cracks, there is no way of repairing it and any certainty of containment of radioactivity is not guaranteed.”

Thus the U.S. government limited the operating licenses it issued for all nuclear power plants to 40 years. However, in recent times the NRC has “rubber-stamped license extensions” of an additional 20 years now to more than 85 of the nuclear plants in the country—permitting them to run for 60 years. Moreover, a push is now on, led by nuclear plant owners Exelon and Dominion, to have the NRC grant license extensions of 20 additional years—to let nuclear plants run for 80 years.

Exelon, the owner of the largest number of nuclear plants in the U.S., last year announced it would ask the NRC to extend the operating licenses of its two Peach Bottom plants in Pennsylvania to 80 years. Dominion declared earlier that it would seek NRC approval to run its two Surry nuclear power plants in Virginia for 80 years.

“That a nuclear plant can run for 60 years or 80 years is wishful thinking,” said the engineer. “The industry has thrown out the window all the data developed about the lifetime of a nuclear plant. It would ignore the standards to benefit their wallets, for greed, with total disregard for the country’s safety.”

The engineer went on that since “Day One” of nuclear power, because of the danger of the technology, “they’ve been playing Russian roulette—putting one bullet in the chamber and hoping that it would not fire. By going to 60 years and now possibly to 80 years, “they’re putting all the bullets in every chamber—and taking out only one and pulling the trigger.”

Further, what the NRC has also been doing is not only letting nuclear plants operate longer but “uprating” them—allowing them to run “hotter and harder” to generate more electricity and ostensibly more profit. “Catastrophe is being invited,” said the engineer.

THE CARBON-FREE MYTH

A big argument of nuclear promoters in a period of global warming and climate change is that “reactors aren’t putting greenhouse gases out into the atmosphere,” noted the engineer.

But this “completely ignores” the “nuclear chain”—the cycle of the nuclear power process that begins with the mining of uranium and continues with milling, enrichment and fabrication of nuclear fuel “and all of this is carbon intensive.” There are the greenhouse gasses discharged during the construction of the steel and formation of the concrete used in nuclear plants, transportation that is required, and in the construction of the plants themselves.

“It comes back to a net gain of zero,” said the engineer.

Meanwhile, “we have so many ways of generating electric power that are far more truly carbon-free.”

THE BOTTOM LINE

“The bottom line,” said the engineer, “is that radioactivity is the deadliest material which exists on the face of this planet—and we have no way of controlling it once it is out. With radioactivity, you can’t see it, smell it, touch it or hear it—and you can’t clean it up. There is nothing with which we can suck up radiation.”

Once in the atmosphere—once having been emitted from a nuclear plant through routine operation or in an accident—“that radiation is out there killing living tissue whether it be plant, animal or human life and causing illness and death.”

What about the claim by the nuclear industry and promoters of nuclear power within the federal government of a “new generation” of nuclear power plants that would be safer? The only difference, said the engineer, is that it might be a “different kind of gun—but it will have the same bullets: radioactivity that kills.”

The engineer said “I’d like to see every nuclear plant shut down—yesterday.”

In announcing the agreement on the closing of Indian Point, Governor Cuomo described it as a “ticking time bomb.” There are more of them. Nuclear power overall remains, as the experienced engineer from the nuclear industry said, a “ticking time bomb.”

And every nuclear power plant needs to be shut down.

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This article by Karl Grossman was originally published on Counter Punch

Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College of New York, is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet. Grossman is an associate of the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion.

Entergy to close Indian Point nuclear plant in landmark agreement

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Photo: Leah Rae / Riverkeeper

RIVERKEEPER PRESS RELEASE

(cross-posted from Riverkeeper.org)

For immediate release: January 9, 2017
Contact:
Cliff Weathers, Riverkeeper Communications Director
cweathers@riverkeeper.org; 914-478-4501, ext. 239
Hayley Carlock, Scenic Hudson Director of Environmental of Advocacy
hcarlock@scenichudson.org; 845-473-4440, ext. 210

  • Reactors scheduled to cease operations within four years

  • Spent fuel will be transferred to secure ‘dry cask’ storage

  • More inspections of vital components will be required during operations

  • $15 million environment and community fund established

Ossining, NY — New York State and Entergy have reached an agreement for the shutdown of the two aging nuclear reactors at the Indian Point Energy Center by 2021. These dates are very likely sooner than what could have been achieved through litigation, which could have dragged on much longer, with no guarantee of success. The agreement also cuts 14 years off the closing date requested by Entergy. Riverkeeper was party to the agreement on behalf of its partners, which include Scenic Hudson. Under this agreement:

    • The Unit 2 reactor will permanently cease operations no later than April 30, 2020 and the Unit 3 reactor will permanently cease operations no later than April 30, 2021.

    • Entergy will also move a set yearly number of spent fuel rods from their dangerous storage pools to dry cask storage on site — a much safer solution for this radioactive material.

    • Riverkeeper retains the right to compel full compliance with the closure agreement.

    • Riverkeeper and Scenic Hudson have the right to challenge and take enforcement action against any future violations Entergy may commit at Indian Point.

The agreement includes an emergency provision that will allow the reactors to remain open for a maximum of four additional years — subject to approval by New York State — only by reason of war, a sudden increase in electrical demand, or a sudden shortage of electric energy. Riverkeeper and Scenic Hudson will be able to challenge any extension of the 2020 and 2021 closure deadlines.

Entergy will amend its relicensing request to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, asking for renewals until 2024 for Unit 2 and 2025 for Unit 3, accounting for the four additional “emergency” years.

The agreement includes further commitments by Entergy, including:

New safety inspections of “core baffle former” bolts. Entergy will conduct visual and ultrasonic inspections of critical baffle former bolts — which fasten together the plates surrounding the nuclear fuel that direct cooling water entering the reactor vessel — in Unit 3 in spring 2017 and in Unit 2 in 2018 and a repeat inspection for Unit 3 in 2019. It will also inspect all new bolts for degradation and replace bolts that are deficient.

In a March 2016 inspection at Unit 2, Entergy found that at least 227 of 832 bolts were either missing or impaired, degraded by the high levels of radiation inside the reactor. In a report to regulators, Entergy said that degraded and missing bolts created an “unanalyzed condition that significantly degrades plant safety.”

Annual inspections by New York State. Entergy has agreed to annual inspections by state-designated representatives on issues pertaining to continued operation of its two reactors through 2021. The duration and scope of, and participation in, the inspections will be agreed upon by Entergy and New York State in advance of each inspection.

Creation of a $15 million environment and community fund. To compensate for impacts on the Hudson River during the closure period, Entergy will establish a $15 million fund for river restoration and remediation as well as projects providing public benefits to the community. Environmental funding will prioritize dam removal, wetlands protection, control of invasive species and habitat surveys.

“This agreement provides what we’ve been fighting for for decades: a definite early closing date for Indian Point — our biggest existential threat in the region. It’s a win for the safety of our communities, a win for the Hudson River and all the rich variety of life within it, and a win for a clean, sustainable energy future,” Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay said. “Riverkeeper is thrilled that the Governor stepped up to get this deal done — just like he promised he would.”

“Of particular interest to Riverkeeper during these negotiations were the provisions in the agreement to assure that Entergy’s continued authority to operate Indian Point would be shortened to reflect the plant’s agreed upon closure dates, and that there could be no extension of the 2021 shutdown deadline except due to a sudden and unexpected energy emergency. We wouldn’t have become a party to this agreement without such safeguards,” said Gallay. “Riverkeeper will play a major role in assuring the details of the agreement are strictly complied with.”

“Once Indian Point is closed, we won’t need to rely on fossil fuels to make up for its energy. Peak demand in the region will have declined by more than the 2,000 megawatts the plant generates, and the replacement power will be carbon neutral as the State further increases its clean energy investments,” said Gallay. “There will be little impact on electricity bills — between $1 and $2 dollars a month — which is a small price to pay for minimizing the risk that this plant poses. Going forward, new efficiency and renewable energy projects will drive still greater savings for consumers, thanks to aggressive energy investments by the state. It’s a new day for New York and the Metro region.”

Scenic Hudson and Riverkeeper have been fighting for changes to Indian Point’s operations to halt the the killing of billions of aquatic organisms by its antiquated once-through cooling technology. Decades of such slaughter and habitat degradation have contributed to the decline of numerous important fish species in the river. Both organizations have also called for the plant’s shutdown, based on concerns related to safety, security, and environmental impacts, and have worked with many groups and state agencies toward this objective.

“Closure of Indian Point represents a landmark victory for the Hudson River and the people of New York.” said Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan. “Governor Cuomo promised to shut down the plant, and he has kept that important promise. We thank Attorney General Schneiderman for his important role. Scenic Hudson has worked for decades to stop the massive environmental damage to the Hudson River caused by the plant’s withdrawal of billions of gallons a day of cooling water. The accelerated closure and other provisions of the settlement will protect the health and safety of New Yorkers and the integrity of the Hudson River. Tireless advocacy over several decades by Scenic Hudson, Riverkeeper and our partners has paved the way for a healthier Hudson River and a safer valley.”

“Governor Cuomo’s announcement is great news for the nearly 20 million people living within a 50-mile radius of Indian Point. NRDC has long opposed relicensing its two reactors because of Indian Point’s history of operational, safety and environmental problems, as well as the grave risk of a nuclear accident so close to the nation’s largest city, ” said Kit Kennedy, director of the energy and transportation program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Fortunately, Governor Cuomo’s groundbreaking clean energy policies will ease the transition to safer and cleaner power alternatives that don’t produce dangerous waste or increase carbon emissions. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s key role in this groundbreaking agreement also shows important leadership.”

“Governor Cuomo promised to close Indian Point and he flat out delivered,” said Riverkeeper board member Hamilton Fish. “And under Eric Schneiderman — also a party to this deal — the New York AG’s office has become the staunchest defender of the public interest in the nation. But ultimately this historic agreement is the legacy of all the citizen activists – at Scenic Hudson, NRDC, Clearwater, IPSEC, WESPAC and countless others – who have fought so tirelessly over the years to safeguard public health and to protect an endangered environment.”

“Thanks to Governor Cuomo for his tireless and tenacious efforts to close Indian Point,” Riverkeeper Vice Chairman Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. said. “The agreement marks a milestone in America’s historic transition from a dirty, dangerous energy system to clean, safe, wholesome, local and patriotic power supply. It is a victory for the Hudson fishery, for public safety, and for the New York economy.”

Parties in the agreement include Riverkeeper, the State of New York, NYS Office of the Attorney General, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, NYS Department of Health, NYS Department of State, NYS Department of Public Service, Entergy Nuclear Indian Point 2, LLC, Entergy Nuclear Indian Point 3 LLC and Entergy Nuclear Operations.

View the agreement >

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Cross-posted from Riverkeeper.org by Myla Reson – No Nukes!

Clearwater Statement on Indian Point Shutdown

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REGARDING INDIAN POINT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JANUARY 6, 2017

Clearwater Is Cautiously Optimistic Regarding News of Proposed Indian Point Shutdown

BEACON, NY – Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, America’s Environmental Flagship who has long fought for the closure of the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant in Buchanan, NY received news this afternoon that the power plant would be closed in 2021, as the result of an agreement being negotiated by New York State with the plant’s owners, Entergy. Reactor Unit 2 of the plant is due to close in April 2020, and Unit 3, which would close down the plant for good, is due to close in April 2021. Unit One, which did not meet earthquake standards, closed in 1974.

Citing dangers to public health and safety and ecological damage to the Hudson River, Clearwater has long advocated for the closure of Indian Point.

“This is definitely a step in the right direction, but it still leaves us in danger for three to four more years. Indian Point has had an abysmal history of emergency shutdown, radioactive leaks, equipment failures, transformer explosions, degraded bolts inside the reactor core, and other problems. Without a viable evacuation plan, if something should go wrong between now and then,” said Manna Jo Greene, Environmental Action Director for Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, “the 20 million people that live or work within 50 miles of the plant and beyond remain in danger.”

“The intense water withdrawals used to cool the plant will continue to harm Hudson River fish and other aquatic species. This means four more years of massive fish kill, including billions of eggs and larvae through April 2021,” said Dave Conover, Clearwater’s Interim Executive Director.

“The good news is that they have agreed to move old (but still highly radioactive) fuel rods from the severely overcrowded fuel pools, to safer dry-cask storage, to make long-overdue repairs, and to allow more inspections and better oversight” said Greene.

To execute the shutdown, a transition plan must protect workers; retaining those who have institutional memory to ensure safe decommissioning. Recently a phase out plan was negotiated for Diablo Canyon, the last operating nuclear plant in California, which is scheduled to close in 6 years.

Their transition plan includes replacing the aging nuclear facility with 100% renewable energy, while retaining the most valuable workers, and retraining those who are not as needed after closure for jobs in the renewable energy industry. Clearwater believes that the New York plan for a “just” transition should include New York’s entire nuclear fleet of six reactors, and be based on realistic but accelerated implementation of on- and off-shore wind, community and large-scale solar, more large and low-impact hydroelectric facilities, with robust storage systems to ensure reliability.

Even without a plan for renewable replacement energy in place, both the NY State Independent System Operators and the NYS Department of State have determined that there is currently sufficient energy on the grid to do without Indian Point due to energy efficiency and reduced energy consumption and the rapid increase in renewable resources.

Clearwater is also calling for a comprehensive plan to ensure safe decommissioning that is funded by Entergy, and doesn’t end up becoming a burden to ratepayers or taxpayers.

With regard to the Article 78 lawsuit recently filed by Clearwater, Goshen Green Farms and others challenging the NYS Public Service Commission’s 12-year mandatory Tier 3 Nuclear Subsidy, Greene said, “The $7.6 billion dollar subsidy was designed mainly to bail out unprofitable nuclear plants in the western part of the state – and remains an unacceptable use of ratepayer dollars, which would be better invested in renewable energy infrastructure, storage and energy efficiency.”

An amended petition is due to be filed next week.

Media Contact: Manna Jo Greene, Environmental Action Director, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater (845) 807-1270.

[posted by Myla Reson on behalf of Solartopia – No Nukes!]

POTLUCK with GREG PALAST, HARVEY WASSERMAN & Special Guests

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JOIN GREG PALAST, HARVEY WASSERMAN & Special Guests

CALIFORNIA GREEN POWER & ELECTION PROTECTION

POTLUCK

Saturday, January 7, 2017 @ 7pm

Santa Monica, California.

RSVP via Ilene Proctor at (310)858-6643  ilenepr@sbcglobalnet.
Jan Goodman, jansorders@gmail.com (310) 729-2394

Free & open to the public. Donations accepted.

 

###

 

WHAT DO WE DO NEXT? Or . . . Funny Things Will Happen on the Way to the Trumpocalypse

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Harvey Wasserman & Honored Guests

FOUR Bay Area Talks

(Sunday & Monday – December 18 & 19)

Sunday, December 18, 2016

12 Noon

San Francisco Public Library

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100 Larkin Street

San Francisco, California 94102

(Downstairs in the Latino/Hispanic Room)

““““`

Sunday, December 18, 2016

7 – 9 PM POT LUCK with Joanna Macy and Dennis Bernstein

(plus Kris Welch – hopefully)

Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists

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1606 Bonita (@Cedar)

Berkeley

Second Floor, Connie Barbour Room.

$5 donation requested – no one turned away for lack of funds

(sponsored by BFUU Social Justice Committee & Code Pink Women for Peace)

Monday, December 19, 2016

12 Noon

Forest Books

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Japantown Peace Plaza

1748 Buchanan at Sutter

San Francisco, California 94115

Monday, December 19, 2016

6 – 9 PM

OCCUPY! at Global Exchange

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2017 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

(Near 16th Street BART)

““““`

Funny things will happen on the way to the Trumpocalypse.  We will fight like hell.  We will win a few (already the TPP). And we’ll never lose, because it’s never over til it’s over. We will also take California (and then the world) to Solartopia, because we have no choice.
At this gathering we’ll discuss the 2016 Selection, including how it was REALLY rigged, how we will cope with the coming of The Donald, and how we will shut Diablo Canyon while making California the decentralized post-grid renewable energy capital of the world.
And all because of you!  Don’t miss these talks!!!

Harvey’s 10.28.16 Green Power & Wellness Show with Kucinich & Gundersen

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Solartopia Green Power and Wellness Hour – 10.28.16

WORLD PEACE, ORGANIC FOOD, GLOBAL WARMING and STOPPING NUKE POWER come to Solartopia with two legendary guests: DENNIS KUCINICH and ARNIE GUNDERSEN.

Dennis spent 16 years in the US Congress and played a critical role in the Ohio Senate helping to stop a proposed nuclear waste dump.  He now works with his wife Elizabeth on issue of world peace, stopping climate chaos and converting our agriculture to organic post-industrial methods that will help preserve our ability to live on this planet.  A brilliant, tireless, incomparable activist, it’s an honor to have Dennis on the show
Likewise Arnie Gundersen, the legendary nuclear engineer who served as our lifeline to reality during the Fukushima catastrophe.  A long-time insider to the nuclear industry, Gundersen came to realize its tragic shortcomings.  He and his wife Maggie, also a veteran of the industry, have put their careers and lives on the line to deal with the true cost of this lethal industry.  The Gundersen’s latest major report provides definitive proof that further investments in nuke power will not help the climate crisis, while further operations at the 99 remaining in the US are a threat to us all.  An accomplished, compelling speaker, Arnie’s essential wisdom is a critical cog in the race to Solartopia.

 Listen

Video: Harvey Wasserman at World Beyond War 2016 Conference

Above is the video of Harvey Wasserman’s Saturday, September 24, 2016 presentation at the 2016 World Beyond War conference held in Washington, D.C.

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How Nuclear Power Causes Global Warming

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by Harvey Wasserman

(originally published on The Progressive on September 21, 2016)

Supporters of nuclear power like to argue that nukes are the key to combatting climate change. Here’s why they are dead wrong.

Every nuclear generating station spews about two-thirds of the energy it burns inside its reactor core into the environment. Only one-third is converted into electricity. Another tenth of that is lost in transmission. According  to the Union of Concerned Scientists:

Nuclear fission is the most water intensive method of the principal thermoelectric generation options in terms of the amount of water withdrawn from sources. In 2008, nuclear power plants withdrew eight times as much freshwater as natural gas plants per unit of energy produced, and up to 11 percent more than the average coal plant.

Every day, large reactors like the two at Diablo Canyon, California, individually dump about 1.25 billion gallons of water into the ocean at temperatures up to 20 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the natural environment.

Diablo’s “once-through cooling system” takes water out of the ocean and dumps it back superheated, irradiated and laden with toxic chemicals. Many U.S. reactors use cooling towers which emit huge quantities of steam and water vapor that also directly warm the atmosphere.

These emissions are often chemically treated to prevent algae and other growth that could clog the towers. Those chemicals can then be carried downwind, along with radiation from the reactors. In addition, hundreds of thousands of birds die annually by flying into the reactor domes and towers.

The Union of Concerned Scientists states:

The temperature increase in the bodies of water can have serious adverse effects on aquatic life. Warm water holds less oxygen than cold water, thus discharge from once-through cooling systems can create a “temperature squeeze” that elevates the metabolic rate for fish. Additionally, suction pipes that are used to intake water can draw plankton, eggs and larvae into the plant’s machinery, while larger organisms can be trapped against the protective screens of the pipes. Blocked intake screens have led to temporary shut downs and NRC fines at a number of plants.

And that’s not all.

All nuclear reactors emit Carbon 14, a radioactive isotope, invalidating the industry’s claim that reactors are “carbon free.” And the fuel that reactors burn is carbon-intensive. Themining, milling, and enrichment processes needed to produce the pellets that fill the fuel rods inside the reactor cores all involve major energy expenditures, nearly all of it based on coal, oil, or gas.

And of course there’s the problem of nuclear waste. After more than a half-century of well-funded attempts, we’ve seen no solution for the management of atomic power’s intensely radioactive waste. There’s the “low-level” waste involving enormous quantities of troublesome irradiated liquids and solid trash that must be dealt with outside the standard civilian waste stream. And that handling involves fossil fuels burned in the process of transportation, management, and disposal as well

As for the high-level waste, this remains one of humankind’s most persistent and dangerous problems. Atomic apologists have claimed that the intensely radioactive spent fuel rods can somehow be usable for additional power generation. But after a half-century of efforts, with billions of dollars spent, all attempts to do that have utterly failed. There are zero successful reactors capable of producing more reactor fuel than they use, or able to derive more energy from the tens of thousands of tons of spent fuel rods they create.

Some reactors, like Fukushima, use “mixed-oxide” fuels that have proven to be extremely dirty and expensive. It’s possible some of this “MOX” fuel containing plutonium, actually fissioned at Fukushima Unit Three, raising terrifying questions about the dangers of its use. The mushroom cloud that appears on video as Fukushima Unit Three exploded stands as an epic warning against further use of these impossible-to-manage fuels.

The MOX facility under construction near Aiken, South Carolina, is now projected to require another ten years to build with another ten possible after that to phase into production. U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz said on September 13, 2016, at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace that the mismanaged project was “impossible” to carry out and that it could cost $30 billion to $50 billion. Even the current pro-nuclear Congress won’t fully fund the project and the Department of Energy DOE continues to recommend abandoning it.

There are no credible estimates of the global warming damage done by the intensely hotexplosions at the four Fukushima reactors, or at Chernobyl, or at any other past and future reactor meltdowns or blowups.

Atomic apologists argue that the disposal of high-level reactor wastes should be a relatively simple problem, lacking only the political will to proceed. The industry touts New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Project, or WIPP, which has long been the poster child for military attempts to deal with plutonium contaminated trash from the nuclear weapons program. Accepting its first shipment of waste in 1999, WIPP was touted as the ultimate high-tech, spare-no-expense model that proved radioactive waste disposal “can be done.”

But a series of disastrous events in February,  2014, led WIPP to stop accepting wastes—the sole function for which it was designed. Most significant was an explosion of radioactive waste materials (The theory that the waste was mistakenly packed with organic rather than clay-based kitty litter has been widely accepted – but it has not been proven). Twenty-two WIPP workers working above ground at WIPP tested positive for internal radioactive contamination. The entire facility remains closed. In a phone interview, facility management told me it may again accept some wastes before the end of this year. But at least part of the cavernous underground labyrinth may never be reopened. The Los Angeles Times estimated the cost of this single accident at $2 billion.

Overall, the idea that atomic power is “clean” or “carbon free” or “emission free” is a very expensive misconception, especially when compared to renewable energy, efficiency, and conservation. Among conservation, efficiency, solar and wind power technologies, there are no global warming analogs to the heat, carbon, and radioactive waste impacts of nuclear power. No green technology kills anywhere near the number of marine organisms that die through reactor cooling systems.

Rooftop solar panels do not lose ten percent of the power they generate to transmission, as happens with virtually all centralized power generators. S. David Freeman, former head of numerous large utilities and author of All Electric America: A Climate Solution and the Hopeful Future, says: “Renewables are cheaper and safer. That argument is winning. Let’s stick to it.”

No terrorist will ever threaten one of our cities by blowing up a solar panel. But the nuclear industry that falsely claims its dying technology doesn’t cause global warming does threaten the future of our planet.

############

 

[Updated & Edited by Myla Reson on September 29, 2016]

Harvey Wasserman wrote SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH. He edits nukefree.org. You can find his GREEN POWER & WELLNESS SHOW at www.prn.fm

Will Christie Whitman Follow Her 9/11 Apology With One for Her Nuke Shill Game?

 

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The  attacks on the World Trade Center Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. (photo: Aristide Economopoulos)

By Harvey Wasserman

Cross-posted on Reader Supported News on September 11, 2016

oon after the 9/11 terror attacks 15 years ago today, then-US EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman assured New Yorkers the air was safe to breathe.

Today she has issued a “heartfelt” apology, admitting that her misleading advice caused people to die. But will she also apologize for pushing lethal atomic reactor technologies that could kill far more people than 9/11?

Back in 2001, Whitman went public to “reassure the people of New York and Washington D.C. that their air is safe to breathe and their water is safe to drink.” She also said, “The concentrations are such that they don’t pose a health hazard….”

The Environmental Protection Agency itself later said there was insufficient data to offer such assurances.

The 9/11/2001 collapse of the World Trade Towers and the nearby Building 7, along with the attack on the Pentagon, coated lower Manhattan and other downwind areas with huge quantities of toxic dust. Among the components of the deadly cloud were asbestos, mercury, lead, glass, heavy metals, concrete, and countless other poisons from vaporized windows, computers, carpets, structural steel, and much much more. Clearly anyone breathing the dust that spread throughout the region was at risk.

But the Bush administration had other interests. Among them was reopening Wall Street and the stock exchange. Bush himself showed up at the site without a respirator, as did then-New York mayor Rudy Giuliani. School children were brought back into the area far sooner than was safe, as were thousands of residents and workers.

To unofficial observers, the administration’s assurances were cavalier and irresponsible. “Bush, Rudy & Whitman to New Yorkers: Drop Dead,” read one angry blog in the Huffington Post.

Since then, numerous first responder and area residents have been sickened and died from 9/11-related sicknesses that were both predictable and avoidable. “I’m very sorry that people are dying, and if the EPA and I in any way contributed to that, I’m sorry,” Whitman said. “We did the very best we could at the time with the knowledge we had.”

Whitman’s apology has not been met with universal applause.

I don’t believe her for one second,” said John Feal to the NY Daily News. As executive director of the FealGood Foundation, a first responders’ advocacy group, Feal is pushing the Zadroga Bill, meant to ensure health coverage for Ground Zero sufferers.

“If she was sincere she would have walked the halls of Congress with me,” Feal said. “If she was sincere, she could have gone to one of the 154 funerals with me. She was reckless and careless because of her words, and believe it or not, words have consequences. God’s going to be her judge.”

“I knew the air was no good but as a first responder that’s what I signed up for,” said Rich Alles, formerly a chief with the NY Fire Department. “But what she did jeopardized the health of every school child who returned to school in Lower Manhattan, every educator who went back to school to teach them and every person who lived in that area who returned home to breathe in toxic dust.”

A former GOP governor of New Jersey, Whitman has since signed on as a paid advocate for atomic energy. This June, she co-wrote an op ed asking for massive subsidiesto keep money-losing nukes in Illinois online.

Whitman has co-chaired the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition (CASEnergy), funded by the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry PR front. Apparently her deceptions after 9/11 have not yet caught up with her at the dying reactors whose increasingly dangerous operations she advocates.

The nuke industry’s primary focus now is to get public handouts to keep open the 100 decrepit, money-losing reactors still operating in the US. The ones backed by Whitman in Illinois were designed in the 1960s, and are dangerously embrittled. The entire US fleet is aging and increasingly subject to catastrophe. A new reactor recently opened in Tennessee has already suffered two shutdowns.

All reactors emit massive quantities of wastewater and steam, which heat the planet. They generate thousands of tons of spent fuel that cannot be managed. And they regularly emit radiation that kills and maims entire downwind populations, as did 9/11.

It’s only a matter of time before another commercial nuke explodes, like the one Soviet reactor at Chernobyl and the four US-designed GE reactors at Fukushima.

The question for Christine Todd Whitman is this: when the next reactor blows up, will you again apologize for your inexcusable role in it, as you’ve now done for your inexcusable cover-up of the health impacts at 9/11?

And if you do, who will care?

 

 


 

Harvey Wasserman wrote SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH and edits www.nukefree.org. His Green Power & Wellness Show is at www.prn.fm.

Nuclear’s Last Stand? New York’s Cuomo Rushes in to Save Dying Plants

ny nuke

by Harvey Wasserman

Image by GuenterRuopp

New York’s “liberal” Governor Andrew Cuomo is trying to ram through a complex backdoor bailout package worth up to $11 billion to keep at least four dangerously decrepit nuclear reactors operating.

To many proponents of safe energy, the move comes as a shock. Its outcome will have monumental consequences for nuclear power and the future of our energy supply.

For years, Governor Cuomo has made a public show of working to shut down two Entergy-owned reactors at Indian Point, thirty-five miles north of Manhattan. He and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman have fought Entergy in court, trying to stop operations. They warn that the reactors are too dangerous to run so close to New York City, which cannot be evacuated in case of a major accident.  More than ten million people live within a fifty-mile radius of Indian Point, whose two operating reactors opened in the 1970s.

Entergy is now trying to get the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to extend the expired operating licenses for the two plants, Indian Point Two and Three. (Indian Point Unit One was shut in October 1974 due to its lack of an Emergency Core Cooling System).

Cuomo claims he still wants to close Indian Point Two and Three. Like most aging reactors, they have been continually plagued with leaks, mechanical failures, structural collapse, and unplanned shutdowns. Recent revelations of major problems with critical bolts within Indian Point’s core structure, and tritium leaks into the broader environment, have deepened public opposition.

The national and local groups fighting to shut Indian Point, some for decades, include Riverkeepers, Clearwater, the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition, the Nuclear Information & Resource Service, Beyond Nuclear, Friends of the Earth, and many more.

But now Cuomo wants to earmark more than $7 billion in public money, for starters, to keep four upstate nuclear reactors on line. One is the Ginna reactor, near Rochester; the other three—FitzPatrick, Nine Mile Point One, and Nine Mile Point Two—occupy a single site on Lake Ontario. Fitzpatrick is owned by Entergy. The rest are owned by Exelon, the nation’s largest nuclear power owner/operator.

All four reactors are in various stages of advanced deterioration and were slated for permanent closure. Without massive public subsidies, none can compete with natural gas or with wind and solar, which are rapidly dropping in price.

Entergy announced last fall that economic factors would force it to shut Fitzpatrick in January 2017. Exelon told the New York Public Service Commission that it would probably shut Nine Mile 1 and Ginna next year as well.

Environmentalists hailed the announcements. The aging U.S. fleet now involves about 100 reactors, down from a maximum of about 130, and 900 fewer than the 1,000 Richard Nixon predicted in 1974. Many of them, like Ginna, are well over forty years old. Many are known to be leaking various radioactive substances, most commonly tritium, as at Indian Point. Major leaks have also recently been revealed at FitzPatrick. Structural problems like Indian Point’s missing bolts and a crumbling shield building at Ohio’s Davis-Besse are rampant.

Nonetheless, in a complex twelve-year package ostensibly meant to promote clean energy, Cuomo’s PSC has passed a huge subsidy plan meant to keep the four upstate reactors going

The deal’s arcane terms involve a transfer of Fitzpatrick from Entergy to Exelon.  The handouts from the public to the nuclear industry would be spread over more than a decade. Ironically, they could, under certain circumstances, also be used to keep open the two reactors at Indian Point.

Cuomo has made much of “saving” some 2,000 reactor jobs jobs in a depressed region where unemployment is rampant. But Stanford economist Mark Jacobson has shown that the billions spent to keep the reactors open could create tens of thousands of jobs throughout the state if spent on pursuing wind and solar energy and increased efficiency. Those sources could provide New York with far more energy at a much cheaper rate, without the long-term safety, ecological, and public health problems caused by the aging reactors.

Cuomo has also cited former climate expert James Hanson, claiming the prolonged nuke operations will not emit carbon. But the pro-nukers ignore the four reactors’ huge hot water and steam releases.

U.S. reactors each dump some 800 million to 1.25 billion gallons of hot water and steam into the environment every day, a major source of global warming. The estimate for the daily emissions at California’s double-reactor plant at Diablo Canyon is about 2.5 billion gallons of hot water per day. Only about one-third of the energy U.S. reactors produce actually makes it onto the grid in the form of useable electricity. About ten percent of that is then lost in transmission.

Nuke operators throughout the United States are watching to see if New York’s proposed subsidies will keep set a precedent for states to jump in and keep money-losing reactors operating as they crumble. Exelon has lost a fight for billions in Illinois. Environmental, consumer, and even competing utilities are fighting huge bailout demands from FirstEnergy for its Davis-Besse reactor near Toledo.

At the turn of the twenty-first century, the industry fought for deregulation, arguing that its reactors would do well in a “free market economy.” But in the process it demanded (and got) about $100 billion in public handouts for “stranded costs” that it argued were unfairly imposed on its massively inefficient technology.

Now that the reactors are failing even after that huge cash infusion, the industry wants another round of huge subsidies

Meanwhile, there are some positive signs. In California, a turning-point deal has been cut at Diablo Canyon with the state, Pacific Gas & Electric, the plant’s unions and major environmental groups to shut the two huge reactors in about nine years, when their licenses expire. In the meantime, the utility will shift almost entirely to carbon-free wind and solar, and will “retain and retrain” the bulk of the plant’s workers.

California’s anti-nuke community worries that the nine years left for Diablo to operate are too much. The two reactors sit on or near a dozen earthquake faults, and are just forty-five miles from the San Andreas, half the distance Fukushima was from the epicenter of the quake that destroyed it.

But the deal marks the first time a nuclear utility has admitted that all the power from its reactors can come instead from renewables. And it’s the first major phase-out plan to allow for a transition for both the plant’s workers and the nearby communities, which will lose a substantial tax base when the reactors close.

With such developments as a backdrop, the New York fight could be a serious turning point in nuke power’s last battle.

The reaction among New York anti-nuke groups to Cuomo’s handout has been fierce. The battle heads back to the PSC in the form of public comment, and then into the courts. Opponents are buoyed by the growing success of the state’s solar industry. As the interests tied to Solartopian technologies expand, their opposition to bailouts like this escalates.

It’s unclear how the battle over nuclear power in New York will be resolved. “The fight,” promises Tim Judson of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, “is far from over.”

Harvey Wasserman, a co-founder of the global “No Nukes” movement, has been writing forThe Progressive (where this article is cross-posted) since 1967. He is author of Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth, and edits www.nukefree.org.

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