Tag: nuclear power (page 1 of 2)

Goodbye Nuclear Power. Construction of Two of Four Remaining Planned U.S. Plants Just Canceled

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(Originally published on August 1, 2017 at The Progressive)

wind power

Two of the last four commercial nuclear power plants under construction in the United States—both of them at the V.C. Summer site in South Carolina—have been cancelled. A decision on the remaining two, which are in Georgia, will be made in August.

“DING DONG, Summer is dead,” says Glenn Carroll, one of a core group of safe energy activists who have labored for decades to rid the southeast of these last four reactor projects.

“This project has been a multi-billion-dollar disaster,” adds Stephen A. Smith of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “We also call on Georgia Power and their utility partners to protect their customers from the similarly risky, mismanaged project” at the Vogtle site in Georgia.

Should those two plants in Georgia also be cancelled, as seems increasingly likely, the United States would be free of all new commercial reactor construction for the first time since the 1950s. It would mark the definitive death of the dream of “too cheap to meter” radioactive energy, and end an era marked by massive cost overruns, soaring operating and maintenance expenses, a string of bankruptcies, two major meltdowns, an unsolved radioactive waste burden.

The U.S. nuclear fleet, which  Richard Nixon projected in 1974 would reach 1,000 reactors by the year 2000, never got higher than about 250 on line or in the works. Currently, 99 nuclear plants now operate in the United States. Five have shut in the last several years, with dozens more poised to follow, primarily due to their inability to compete with cheap gas, solar, and wind power.

The fate of two reactors under construction in South Carolina was sealedJuly 31, with the unanimous vote of the board of the publicly owned Santee Cooper utility, which owns 45 percent of the project. The SCANA Corporation, which owns 55 percent, immediately followed with a statement saying it would also abandon construction, first proposed in 2007.

Santee Cooper had been forced to raise rates five times to pay for construction at Summer. SCANA had raised them nine times.

The two Summer reactors were slated to come on line in 2017 and 2018. The plants were to be Westinghouse AP 1000 designs, an upgraded version of the traditional light water reactor, of which some 430 are now licensed worldwide. Westinghouse pioneered and built the Pressurized Water Reactors that count for about half the world’s fleet.

The AP 1000 was meant to provide a safer, more economical upgrade. But anunending stream of technical failures and soaring costs, as well as plummeting prices for gas, wind, and solar, and a drop in electricity demand, doomed the project. In a catastrophic financial failure, the four reactors it was building in South Carolina and Georgia drove Westinghouse into bankruptcy in March. (The iconic company dated back to the 1800s, when it won the contract to produce and deliver the first major loads of commercial electricity from Niagara Falls to the American northeast using technology developed by the legendary Nikola Tesla.)

The Westinghouse bankruptcy has driven its parent company, Toshiba, to the brink of bankruptcy as well. Toshiba has offered some $2.2 billion to help finish the South Carolina project, but many doubt the giant company could actually make good on the pledge. Some $11 billion or more could be needed to finish the two new Summer reactors. Among other things, their owners have concluded that they could not meet a 2021 completion date to qualify for a critical federal tax credit.

The news about the South Carolina plants is just the latest in a series of death shudders from the nuclear power industry.

Reactors under construction at Olkiluoto, Finland, and Flamanville, France, are also massively over budget and teetering on the brink of collapse. In the American northwest, construction of five reactors for the Washington Public Power System triggered the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. More than forty reactors remain shut in Japan in the wake of the 2011 multiple meltdowns and explosions at Fukushima. Two U.S. reactors, Fermi I near Detroit and Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, have also melted, along with the catastrophic 1986 explosion at Chernobyl.

In Georgia, America’s two remaining nukes under construction at the Vogtle site are on the precipice. Though President Barack Obama provided the project with $8.3 billion in federal loan guarantees, the massive cost overruns, multi-year delays, Westinghouse’s bankruptcy and public anger over repeated rate increases have cast a long shadow.

Worldwide, only China is still proposing to build large numbers of atomic reactors, a decision it will hopefully soon reverse.

With massive hot water and steam emissions, plus carbon emissions in plant construction, waste management and the production of nuclear fuel, atomic reactors are a significant factor in unbalancing planetary weather patterns. Their cancellation, alongside the rise of green technologies like solar and wind power, bring the Earth a giant step closer to preservation.

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See Harvey Wasserman’s Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth. He edits www.nukefree.org. This article is written with profound thanks to the great activists who helped make this vital victory happen.

Tunnel Collapse at Hanford Nuclear Dump—Harbinger of the Collapse of the Entire Industry?

by Harvey Wasserman

Originally published at The Progressive on May 10, 2017

hanford 4 harvey

The collapse of a tunnel at the massive nuclear waste dump at Hanford,

Washington, 200 miles east of Seattle, has sent shock waves through a nuclear power industry already in the process of a global collapse.

Hundreds of workers were told to “take cover,” and to refrain from eating or drinking anything while in the area. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry said, “everyone has been accounted for and there is no initial indication of any worker exposure or an airborne radiological release.” But Edwin Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists emphasized that “collapse of the earth covering the tunnels could lead to a considerable radiological release….this a potentially serious event.”

Robert Alvarez, a former DOE official, told the Post in an email that “the tunnels now store contaminated train cars and a considerable amount of highly radioactive, ignitable wastes including possible organic vapors.” Inspection of the tunnels has not been possible, he said, because radiation levels are too high.

We may never know the full extent of the damage from this latest incident at Hanford, which has been plagued by serious problems for years. Many critical nuclear industry oversight positions remain unfilled by the Trump Administration.

The 580-square-mile Hanford facility dates back to the 1940s production of the first atomic bombs, and is the nation’s major repository for high-level radioactive wastes from seven decades of nuclear weapons production. Since 1989, the Department of Energy has spent billions cleaning up nine reactors and other radioactive facilities there. One commercial reactor, the Columbia Generating Station, still operates at Hanford.

The tunnel collapse happens at a time when the nuclear power industry appears to be in an accelerating death spiral.

Two reactors under construction at Vogtle, Georgia, may be on the brink of cancellation. Some $13 billion in cost overruns sparked a Westinghouse bankruptcy, and primary owner Southern Company is looking for billions more to finish a project already years behind schedule and billions over budget. Huge rate increases within Georgia have seriously poisoned the climate for more state money.

Southern representatives recently asked the White House for help, (and termed the response “A-Plus”). But Vogtle was begun with some $8.35 billion in guaranteed federal loans from Barack Obama. Whether the feds will shell out another $4.3 billion is another story, as is the question of whether that would actually be enough to do the job, and how long it would really take.

In neighboring South Carolina, SCANA Corp. may pull the plug on its massive double-reactor V.C. Summer project, which is also billions over budget and a contributor to the Westinghouse bankruptcy. Should both Summer and Vogtle go down, there will be zero new reactors under construction in the U.S. for the first time since the 1950s. It would mark the definitive end of the “Peaceful Atom” as a source of future new large-scale power capacity in the United States.

Some atomic devotees are pushing small-scale “modular” reactors as a possible future energy source. But they’re untested, underfinanced, uncompetitive and unlikely to come to fruition.

Ninety-nine reactors remain licensed to operate in the United States. They average well over thirty years of age. Most cannot compete with fracked gas or renewables, and would close rapidly in a free-market situation. Last year New York Governor Andrew Cuomo intervened to save four upstate reactors with $7.6 billion in subsidized rates. A similar bailout is underway in Illinois.

Throughout the United States, reactor owners are now flooding state legislatures with bailout scams. In Ohio, FirstEnergy’s pleadings for $4.5 billion for Davis-Besse near Toledo and Perry near Cleveland are meeting stiff resistance. How long the nation’s operable reactors stay open will depend entirely on how much money their owners can gouge out of the public.

Meanwhile the Hanford tunnel collapse further challenges the industry’s credibility on dealing with radioactive waste. Three years ago America’s only major operable facility for the permanent disposal of plutonium contaminated nuclear weapons waste, at Carlsbad, New Mexico,  failed because of an underground explosion that forced plutonium into the accessible environment. Some twenty-two workers tested positive for internal radioactive contamination and the facility was shut for three years. Fierce debate has erupted over the disposal of wastes left behind by the shutdown of California’s San Onofre reactors, between Los Angeles and San Diego, with billions of dollars at stake. Other such fights are sure to escalate as more reactors close.

Industry advocates claim much of this could be solved by opening a national waste dump at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, a project nixed by the Obama Administration. The Trump budget proposes some $120 million to start a Yucca revival process. But $12 billion has already been spent on what amounts to a tunnel through a dormant volcano in the middle of the desert. Estimates to finish Yucca run to $96 billion and beyond. Finish times stretch to a decade or more.

Nuclear energy faces a seriously clouded future.

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Written by Harvey Wasserman

Edited by Myla Reson

 

How Nuclear Power Causes Global Warming

dealy-nuke-power

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.

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[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

Diablo Shutdown Marks End of Atomic Era

By Harvey Wasserman

June 23, 2016

As worldwide headlines have proclaimed, California’s Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) says it will shut its giant Diablo Canyon reactors near San Luis Obispo, and that the power they’ve been producing will be replaced by renewable energy.

PG&E has also earmarked some $350 million to “retain and retrain” Diablo’s workforce, whose union has signed on to the deal, which was crafted in large part by major environmental groups.

On a global scale, in many important ways, this marks the highest profile step yet towards the death of U.S. nuclear power and a national transition to a Solartopian green-powered planet.

diablo solartopia 6.23.2016

For Californians, as we shall see, there’s an army of devils in the details, which cannot be ignored. But let’s deal with the big picture first.

The three most important lines on nuke power’s Diablo tombstone may be these:

1. A major U.S. utility has admitted that the energy from a nuke—one of the world’s biggest—can be effectively replaced with renewables.

Over the past decade the nuke industry has spent more than $500,000,000 hyping an utterly failed “nuclear renaissance” partly on the premise that green power can’t make up for the energy production lost by shutting reactors. One of the world’s top nuclear utilities has now signed a major public document saying that this is not true.

2. A major union has approved an agreement that provides retraining for soon-to-be-displaced workers at a soon-to-be-shut nuke.

For years the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and other unions representing atomic workers have fought reactor shut-downs because of lost jobs. The IBEW’s partnership in this agreement shows that with planning and funding, a smooth transition for displaced reactor workforces can be charted.

3. The agreement was crafted with leadership from two major national environmental organizations—Friends of the Earth (FOE) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The corporate “nuclear renaissance” hype has conjured up a cadre of “environmentalists for nuclear power.”  Like clockwork the corporate media breathlessly reports from time to time that formerly green activists are now flocking like lemmings to the atomic sea.

Thus the Wall Street Journal recently published a major feature alleging a pro-nuke shift at the Sierra Club, which it then mutated into yet another re-run of the “greens for atoms” meme. The piece was sharply denounced by Sierra Club’s executive director Michael Brune, who reaffirmed the club’s staunch opposition to nuke power.

As environmental mainstays, FOE and NRDC’s role in this Diablo agreement re-confirms the core stance of a green community whose “No Nukes” stance has deepened since Fukushima and with the rise of renewables.  Greenpeace, the Abalone Alliance, Mothers for Peace, Alliance 4 Nuclear Responsibility, World Business Academy in Santa Barbara and many others hold more fiercely than ever to the anti-nuke/pro-renewables positions they’ve sustained for decades.

A tiny, top-down “greens for nukes” front group is currently shouting around California in support of Diablo.  But this agreement renders the “atomic environmentalist” charade even more marginal.

Meanwhile corporate media outlets throughout U.S. have accepted this Diablo news as nuclear power’s definitive death notice. The SFGate called it the “End of an Atomic Era.” I saw it reported that way on a streaming news wire high above downtown Cleveland. What Linda Seeley, a multi-decade veteran of the San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace, thought was a local radio interview went nationwide on NPR.

Closing Diablo will make our largest state nuke-free. The agreement embodies the sixth and seventh U.S. reactor shut-downs announced in the last month, the fifteenth and sixteenth since 2012. WPPSS2, the only other operating reactor on the west coast, is bleeding cash and may be among the next to go.

Safe energy activists can warmly embrace this announcement. More have been arrested at Diablo than any other U.S nuke. This would never have happened without citizen activism.

So all you tried and true “No Nukes” greenies … go out and have a party!

But … then listen to the rest of the news, and get back to work.

• What PG&E has actually announced is something that’s been expected for quite a while, which is that it won’t pursue NRC re-licensing. The agreement thus predicts closures in 2024 and 2025, when Diablo’s current licenses expire.

• But unlicensed operations continue at New York’s Indian Point. Fail-proof legal safeguards are needed to make sure that doesn’t happen at Diablo.

• The agreement comes just prior to a crucial June 28 hearing in front of the California State Lands Commission. PG&E wants the State Land Commission to renew leases issued in 1969 and 1970 that allow Diablo’s cooling systems to pollute coastal territory. Just after that, then-Gov. Ronald Reagan signed the California Environmental Quality Act, imposing a wide range of requirements and reporting on state lands. Diablo can’t meet those requirements, and PG&E doesn’t want to do the studies.

At least two of the three commissioners have indicated they would expect PG&E to now comply with CEQA. But many fear this agreement might incline them to now let those requirements go unenforced until the alleged new shut-down date, rather than forcing the reactors to close in 2018 and 2019, when the leases expire. Grassroots activists are circulating petitions and exerting as much pressure as they can to make sure the commissioners hold the line.

• PG&E is now in what amounts to a federal murder trial, and may hope this agreement will soften the prosecution. Despite repeated warnings, in 2010 the company’s badly maintained gas network blew up in San Bruno. It killed eight people through what amounts to criminal negligence. The usually docile California Public Utilities Commission has already fined the company $1.4 billion. PG&E executives may see this agreement as something of a federal plea bargain in an extremely serious prosecution.

• Worldwide studies show cancer and infant disease rates climb when reactors open, and decline when they shut. Such numbers have been confirmed at Diablo and at Rancho Seco in studies commissioned by the World Business Academy, which warns that the longer Diablo operates, the more the public health will suffer.

• Diablo is in clear violation of state and federal water quality laws. It daily sucks in 2.5 billion gallons of sea water which it returns far hotter (18-20 degrees Farenheit) than allowable. Regulatory hearings on the near horizon would tell whether PG&E will be forced to build cooling towers to spew the heat into the air instead of the water. Cooling tower cost estimates range from $2 billion to $14 billion. Should the towers be required, PG&E would face a wild melee over who’d pay for them. But faced with a shut-down date, regulators might just let Diablo continue in violation (as has been done at New Jersey’s Oyster Creek).

• PG&E may be short hundreds of millions of dollars in funds necessary to decommission Diablo. Bitter disputes have already erupted over decommissioning San Onofre and other down U.S. reactors, including Vermont Yankee. Major technical problems, including serious leaks, have already emerged at Diablo and are certain to escalate in both confrontation and cost.

• PG&E and its fellow centralized utilities worldwide are terrified of home-owned roof-top solar panels, whose escalating spread could spell their doom. While hyping its entry into the solar world, PG&E will continue to assault net-metering and other essentials of the distributed generation revolution that threatens its core.

• The agreement includes no guarantee from Mother Nature that one of the dozen earthquake faults surrounding the plant won’t go off before the reactors finally shut. Diablo is half the distance from the San Andreas that Fukushima was from the epicenter of the quake that destroyed it. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s former resident inspector Dr. Michael Peck has warned PG&E has never proven Diablo could withstand such a shock.

• Tsunami expert Dr. Robert Sewell has also testified that a nearby undersea landslide could cause a wave capable of destroying Diablo, including its vulnerable intake pipes. His official report has been buried by the NRC for more than a decade.

There is more …

But above all, no independent observer believes PG&E has signed this agreement out of love for the planet, its workers, the public well-being or the spirit of the law. It could mark a significant leap toward shutting Diablo Canyon, but it does not seal its fate. Indeed, unless accompanied with fierce activism, some fear it could offer PG&E political cover to prolong its operations.

Globally, this landmark treaty embodies a nuclear utility’s admission that renewables can replace nukes, that union-endorsed provisions can ease the transition for workers at closing reactors and that a purported “green shift” to nuke power is mere industry hype.

None of which mitigates the reality Diablo Canyon could be melting as you read this. No matter what this agreement says, no matter when the anointed close-down date … until those reactors at Diablo Canyon are dead, dismantled and somehow buried, we all live at the brink of a potential apocalypse.

Harvey Wasserman’s SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH is at www.solartopia.org, along with his upcoming AMERICA AT THE BRINK OF REBIRTH: THE ORGANIC SPIRAL OF US HISTORY.  With Bob Fitrakis he has co-authored six books on election protection (www.freepress.org). He was arrested at Diablo Canyon in 1984. 

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Diablo Shutdown Marks End of Atomic Era by Harvey Wasserman is crossposted at EcoWatch.com

WILL LANDMARK COURT DECISION SPEED DIABLO'S DEMISE?

http://ecowatch.com/2015/02/24/court-ruling-diablo-nukes-demise/

Landmark Federal Court Decision: Will It Speed Diablo Nuke’s Demise?

Harvey Wasserman | February 24, 2015
New revelations about earthquake dangers have shaken the future of California’s Diablo Canyon nukes.

In a rare move, Washington DC’s Federal U.S. Court of Appeals will hear a landmark challenge to their continued operation.
California’s two remaining reactors are surrounded by more than a dozen seismic fault lines. The Shoreline fault runs within 600-700 yards of the Diablo cores, which also sit just 45 miles from the massive San Andreas fault—half Fukushima’s distance from the epicenter of the quake that destroyed it. Photo credit: San Francisco Citizen
The suit says Diablo’s owners illegally conspired with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to weaken seismic standards. “This is a big victory,” says Damon Moglen of Friends of the Earth. “The public has a right to know what the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Pacific Gas & Electric won’t admit—hundreds of thousands of people are put at immediate risk by earthquake danger at Diablo Canyon.”

Diablo is also vulnerable on state and federal water quality regulations, economic concerns and more. Citizen activism has also shut operating reactors at Humboldt, Rancho Seco and San Onofre. Proposed projects have been cancelled at Bodega Bay and Bakersfield.

California’s two remaining reactors are surrounded by more than a dozen seismic fault lines. The Shoreline fault runs within 600-700 yards of the Diablo cores, which also sit just 45 miles from the massive San Andreas fault—half Fukushima’s distance from the epicenter of the quake that destroyed it.

The two 1,100-plus megawatt Diablo nukes overlook a Pacific tsunami zone, nine miles southwest of San Luis Obispo. Since the 1980s they’ve hosted some 10,000 arrests—more than any other U.S. site.

U.S. courts generally treat the nuclear industry as a law unto itself and rarely question NRC proceedings.

But in this case, says Friend of the Earth’s S. David Freeman, “PG&E’s recent study revealed that the earthquake threat at Diablo Canyon, as measured by its original license, could be far greater than that for which the reactors were designed. So PG&E and the NRC secretly amended the license to relax the safety requirements.”

Freeman is former head of the Tennessee Valley Authority, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District. Dr. Michael Peck, the NRC’s own chief seismic expert, warned that the Diablo reactors could not meet seismic safety standards. Peck was then transferred to NRC offices in Chattanooga.

The case follows a successful FOE filing showing that the NRC conspired with Southern California Edison to ignore steam generator violations at San Onofre. Amidst a massive grassroots upheaval, San Onofre was officially shut in 2013 (similar violations at Ohio’s Davis-Besse reactor have had little impact).

Safe energy activists staged major January gatherings in San Luis Obispo and San Francisco. A “Don’t Frack/Nuke Our Earth” conference may soon follow in the Bay Area.

Earthquake issues are not the only ones poised to doom Diablo.

The two reactors dump huge quantities of hot wastewater directly into the ocean. They’re out of compliance with state and federal water quality standards. So PG&E might soon be required by state law to build cooling towers, with cost estimates ranging from $2 billion to $14 billion.

The state Water Resources Control Board may meet on the issue this spring. The San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace and others ask the public to write the board and attend its next public hearing.

If required to build those towers, which might take years to do, PG&E would ask the California Public Utilities Commission to make the public pay for them. A vehement grassroots opposition would instantly erupt.

PG&E is much hated. Its negligence caused a 2010 gas explosion that killed eight people in San Bruno. Huge state and federal fines, criminal indictments and visceral public contempt have followed.

The CPUC is also under public fire amidst an astonishing array of scandals and law-breaking. Former chair Michael Peevey has retired in disgrace and faces a series of indictments for conspiring in secret with the utilities he was meant to regulate.

PG&E currently makes money at Diablo, says attorney John Geesman, “Only because ratepayers guarantee it against market price levels—nuclear power in states where prices are set by competitive markets are either closing (e.g., Vermont Yankee, Kewaunee, etc.) or going to the legislatures and seeking sweetheart subsidies (e.g., Illinois).” Forcing Diablo to actually compete in the marketplace would throw it into the red … and maybe out of business.

Amidst all that chaos, a requirement to pay for cooling towers might force Diablo shut. Parallel issues have erupted in New Jersey (a 2017 closure was negotiated at Oyster Creek), New York (Indian Point), Florida (Turkey Point) and elsewhere.

Draft shutdown resolutions are now circulating among cities, towns and counties in PG&E territory. A similar wave of endorsements helped force the two reactors at San Onofre to close.

A ratepayer revolt is also being organized by Code Pink’s Cynthia Papermaster. With PG&E customers withholding all or part of their bill, the potential economic impacts could be incalculable.

Diablo’s current license is set to expire by 2024. PG&E has begun the re-licensing process, but has missed key deadlines, prompting speculation they may give up.

According to intervenor sources, the California Coastal Commission (CCC) has equal standing with the NRC on the license renewal. PG&E is late with answers to six pages of the CCC’s questions. Public comment period at the commission’s open meetings begins at 9 a.m.

The California Energy Commission has a bi-annual scoping review upcoming in Sacramento. The CEC addresses California’s energy future, aiming for a reliable supply. It lacks “direct regulatory authority over whether the plant continues to operate,” says Geesman. But its recommendations are “taken very seriously” and “have resulted in legislation,” according to another source close to the process. The CEC is “very public-friendly and very important” with five commissioners “who listen.”

The Diablo Canyon Independent Peer Review Committee and the Independent Safety Committee may also play a role, and are open to public testimony.

A constant flow of Diablo-related legislation is expected in the coming months.

A possible state-wide initiative could require cooling towers and make the utility pay for them, or take up waste issues, or the seismic issue, or force a strong feed-in tariff to support the conversion to renewables.

Just under 400,000 signatures would be needed to get on the 2016 ballot. Doing that and then actually winning the vote would be a daunting task.

But to head off a 1976 ballot measure, the legislature passed an effective ban on new nuke construction. The ballot measure then failed, but the ban remains in place.

California also has a powerful anti-fracking movement that parallels its No Nukes campaign. A joint May conference in San Francisco may launch a unified green push.

With combined grassroots forces pushing on water, seismic, regulatory, economic and other issues … through the legislature, NRC, courts, Water Board, Coastal Commission, CPUC and other agencies … with creative lobbying and activism, a resolution campaign, rate revolt, initiative process and more … California is poised to make itself nuke free.

Will that happen before the next catastrophe?

The answer will come from the people of California … now maybe with a boost from the courts.

Harvey Wasserman edits NukFree.org and hosts the Solartopia Green Power & Wellness Show. He wrote SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth.

OHIO'S CRUMBLING HUNK OF RADIOACTIVE JUNK

http://ecowatch.com/2015/02/14/ohioans-pay-bill-keep-davis-besse-alive/

OHIO’S CRUMBLING HUNK OF RADIOACTIVE JUNK

Harvey Wasserman WWW.ECOWATCH.COM

As the world’s nuke reactors begin to crumble and fall, the danger of a major disaster is escalating at the decrepit Davis-Besse plant near Toledo, Ohio.

Now the plant’s owners are asking the Ohio Public Utilities Commission to force the public to pay billions of dollars over the next 15 years to subsidize reactor operations.

But Davis-Besse’s astonishing history of near-miss disasters defies belief. Its shoddy construction, continual operator error and relentless owner incompetence would not be believed as fiction, let alone as the stark realities of a large commercial reactor operating in a heavily populated area.
Time and again Davis-Besse has come within a fraction of an inch and an hour of crisis management time. Today its critical shield wall is literally crumbing, with new cracks opening up every time the northern Ohio weather freezes (like this week).

The company’s owners have blacked out the entire Northeast including 50 million customers—the largest such disaster in world history.

They allowed boric acid to eat within 3/16th of an inch of a Chernobyl-scale disaster that would’ve permanently irradiated the Great Lakes region. They have set the record for fines by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and continue to drain billions of ratepayer dollars from Ohio’s bleeding economy.

Now they want those ratepayers to fork over billions more to keep this reactor running beyond the brink.

Hear about Davis-Besse’s astonishing story, by listening to this incredible hour-long interview with local attorney Terry Lodge and Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear, along with Tim Judson of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, three of the key expert activists working to get Davis-Besse shutdown.

Many wild stories have been told about atomic power over the decades, but it’s hard to top the true tales from Davis-Besse. In this case, hearing is believing—and holding your head in dismay:

http://greenpowerwellnessshow.podbean.com/

If you want Davis-Besse shut write the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio at docketing@puc.state.oh.us. Use this label in the subject line of the email, as well as the body of the email message, so PUCO can route the public comments to the correct proceeding: OPPOSITION COMMENT UNDER CASE # 14-1297-EL-SSO.

At Last! A Frack/Nuke Alliance!!

 

Our Earth is being destroyed by fracking and nukes.

These two vampire technologies suck the energy out of our planet while permanently poisoning our air, water, food and livelihoods.

The human movements fighting them have been largely separate over the years.

No more.
Listen to the passionate hour-long dialog on saving our Earth with long-time anti-fracking activist David Braun who speaks with Linda Seeley of the San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace, the legendary grassroots group that has fought Diablo Canyon for more than four decades.
In the wake of Fukushima, the global campaign to bury atomic power has gained enormous strength. All Japan’s 54 reactors remain shut. Germany is amping up its renewable energy generation with a goal of 80 percent or more by 2050. Four U.S. reactors under construction are far over budget and behind schedule. Five old ones have closed in the last two years.

In New England and elsewhere, as the old nukes go down, safe energy activists shift their attention to the deadly realities of fossil fuel extraction.

The issues are familiar. Fracking in particular poisons our water and spews out huge quantities of lethal radiation. Ironically, in Ohio and elsewhere, the seismic instability it creates threatens atomic reactors still in operation.

In California, the burgeoning movement to shut the two remaining nukes at Diablo Canyon has run parallel with the powerful grassroots opposition to fracking. In both cases, water issues in this drought-plagued state have moved front and center.

Now the gap is being bridged. In a passionate hour-long dialog on saving our Earth, long-time anti-fracking activist David Braun speaks with Linda Seeley of the San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace, the legendary grassroots group that has fought Diablo Canyon for more than four decades.

In their Solartopian radio conversation, and in a call to convene this coming spring, we see the seeds of an intertwined alliance that can help save our Earth:

http://prn.fm/solartopia-green-power-wellness-hour-02-03-15/

OHIO'S ANTI-GREEN SUICIDE

Swing state Ohio is plunging ever deeper into the fossil/nuke abyss.

Its Public Utilities Commission may soon gouge the public for $3 billion(BILLION!) to subsidize two filthy 50-year-old coal burners and America’s most dangerous nuke.

Approval would seal Ohio’s death notice.
Ohioans speak out against the $3 billion bailout to subsidize coal plants and the Davis-Besse nuclear plant owned by its unregulated affiliate, FirstEnergy Solutions. Photo credit: Ohio Citizen Action
None of those coal/nuke burners can compete with the rising revolution in renewable energy. Throughout the world, similar outmoded facilities are shutting down.

In 2001, Ohio deregulated its electric markets. But the state’s nuke owners demanded nearly $10 billion in “stranded cost” handouts so the obsolete Davis-Besse and Perry reactors on Lake Erie could allegedly compete with more efficient technologies.

Today, despite the huge subsidies, renewables and fracked gas have completely priced them out of the market.

Davis-Besse—a Three Mile Island clone—is infamous worldwide for its horrific breakdowns, including two of the five worst in U.S. history since 1979 as listed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In 2002 a boric acid leak was found to have eaten nearly all the way through its reactor pressure vessel. A Chernobyl-sized disaster was missed by a fraction of an inch. The ensuing fines comprise the biggest in NRC annals. The $600 million spent on replacement power could have funded an opening transition to a renewable economy. Instead, fires, operator error and chronic malfunctions continue to define Davis-Besse’s public-sponsored dotage.

Designed in the 1960s and opened in the late 1970s, Davis-Besse threatens the entire Great Lakes region. Unique in all the world, another dead nuke’s vessel closure head (from Midland, Michigan) was pasted in, failed, and was then replaced yet again within a ramshackle shell now thoroughly cut, cracked and compromised by cold weather, malfeasance, uncaring incompetence and more.

In short, Davis-Besse is being run by owners who believe—with good reason—that they can get away with anything.

Perhaps that’s because, should it blow, FirstEnergy is shielded by federal law from virtually all liability for downwind financial, ecological and human health damage, which would be incalculable.

So now the company wants the public pay still more billions to keep Davis-Besse operating, no matter the consequences.

The demand epitomizes Ohio’s technological, economic and ecological demise.

Republican Governor John Kasich’s first act upon taking office in 2011 was to kill a $400 million federal grant meant to restore passenger rail service linking Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati. Virtually unique among the western world’s capital cities, the last passenger train left Columbus in 1979.

The project would have created hundreds of jobs while reviving depressed communities along the route. A Wall Street multi-millionaire, Kasich has instead lavished public cash on the state’s obsolete highway system. Meanwhile the corporate-owned legislature has fought the sale ofTesla electric cars.

In 2008, Ohio adopted one of America’s most advanced green energy programs. Its sophisticated array of targets and incentives sparked a clean energy boom. Millions of private investment dollars began pouring in for massive wind, solar and conservation projects. As in Germany’s transition to green power, Ohio energy prices were poised to plummet along with greenhouse gases and radioactive waste. Thousands of jobs were on the drawing boards.

But as Koch-funded Republicans took control of the state in 2010, Ohio became the first American state to roll back its green power program. Rampant fracking has brought increasedseismic activity and destroyed much of the state’s drinking water. Ohio’s ancient coal burners are being propped up with public cash. Its dying nukes—Perry was the first U.S. reactor to be damaged by an earthquake—continue to operate at huge public danger and expense.

In Illinois, New York, California, Michigan and elsewhere, the nuclear industry is demanding public cash to keep rickety, uncompetitive reactors in operation. But Ohio is unique for its across-the-board assault on green energy, passenger rail service, electric cars, fossil-fueled green house gases and common sense about reactor radiation, safety and heat emissions.

Ohio’s PUC will soon decide on this latest scam to squander still more public money on its cancerous fleet of fossil/nuke dinosaurs.

If they cave once again to the corporate interests, you can officially consign the Buckeye State to the radioactive ash heap of failed technological, ecological and economic history.

Based in central Ohio, Harvey Wasserman is author of SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH and edits nukefree.org. His Green Power & Wellness Show is at prn.fm.

CHARLIE HEBDO & NUCLEAR TERROR

Terror Attack on Charlie Hebdo Ignites Fear of Global Nuclear Disaster

 | EcoWatch

The powerful global response to the terror attack on the French magazine Charlie Hebdo must now face a terrifying reality: It’s a horrible thing when an organ of free speech is assaulted and journalists die.

It will be an apocalyptic thing when it happens to an atomic reactor and whole continents are irradiated, with children first to suffer, a death toll in the millions and eco-economic impacts beyond calculation.

Slain cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo were allies of anti-nuclear movement. Here’s a cover from the September-October 2012 issue of Charlie Hebdo.

For decades our global security apparatus and its attendant media mavens have pretended that the radioactive elephant in the room of global terror does not exist. But after Fukushima, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, 9/11, Charlie Hebdo and so much more, a terrible reality has become all too clear.

We have seen four American-designed reactors explode and three melt at a single Japanese site. A severely escalated thyroid cancer rate has followed, with more health disasters yet to come. Some two dozen sibling GE reactors currently operate in the U.S.

We have seen an entire continent—and more—irradiated by Chernobyl, with at least one major study calculating well over a million downwind deaths. Chernobyl-style reactors still operate in Europe.

We have seen a U.S. reactor rocked by a 1979 hydrogen explosion and melt-down (repeatedly denied by its owners) that poured still-unknown quantities of radiation into the Pennsylvania countryside.

Today, the Ohio Public Utilities Commission is poised to force ratepayers to subsidize the fault-riddled Davis-Besse nuke—a Three Mile Island clone—with millions of gouged dollars to keep it running despite profound vulnerability to its own advanced deterioration and the absolute impossibility of protecting it from a possible terror attack.

It has long been established that the accused 9/11 attackers contemplated hitting the reactors atIndian Point, 35 miles up the Hudson from Manhattan.

Neither U.S. military nor local police forces could not have stopped such an attack, which could have poisoned millions of people in the American northeast and gutted the entire U.S. ecology and economy.

Worldwide there are more than 430 commercial reactors still operating. There are more than 50 in France, just under 100 in the U.S.

Not one of them can be effectively guarded against a concerted terror attack. Each could spew massive radiation releases and do untold damage to the human race, the planetary ecology, the global economy.

Every serious student of terrorism knows that such an attack is merely a matter of time. Every serious expert on atomic reactors knows the potential human costs simply cannot be calculated.

It’s impossible for a sane world to comprehend why someone would want to attack one of these reactors.

But it’s impossible to deny that there are probably those right now contemplating how to do just that.

Perfectly protecting these reactors is impossible. But their owners are almost entirely shielded from liability from the consequences of such an attack.

And the fallout would utterly dwarf any other catastrophe the world has yet seen.

We now have the ability to replace all these reactors with renewable sources and added efficiencies that are cheaper, cleaner, more reliable and—above all—safer than atomic reactors.

No city will be irradiated by an attack on a wind farm. No downwind children will die from a terrorist machine-gunning at a solar facility.

All across the world, from Illinois and Ohio to France and Japan, corrupt corporate reactor owners demand public subsidies to keep these obsolete, non-competitive, supremely dangerous machines in operation.

But in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, and of so much else we now know about today’s world, there’s no excuse for running these reactors—anywhere.

Why must we wait for the inevitable disaster to occur, and for the talking heads to then tell us that such insanity “could not have been predicted?” And that there is “nothing to worry about?”

Charlie Hebdo was an anti-nuclear publication. Its cartoons repeatedly lampooned the horrible dangers of this insane technology.

Its warnings now bear an added dimension, far deeper than the atomic industry—or the world’s leaders—seem willing to face.

As millions march in fear and mourning, will we now ignore Charlie twice? Are you willing to pay the next radioactive price?

Or will you act, and shut them all down?

Harvey Wasserman wrote SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH and has reported on security risks at nuclear reactors since the 1970s.

Activists Permanently Shut Vermont Nuke

Activists Permanently Shut Down Vermont Yankee Nuke Plant Today

 

Ecowatch.com

hwassermanThe Vermont Yankee atomic reactor goes permanently off-line today, Dec. 29, 2014. Citizen activists have made it happen. The number of licensed U.S. commercial reactors is now under 100 where once it was to be 1,000.

Decades of hard grassroots campaigning by dedicated, non-violent nuclear opponents, working for a Solartopian green-powered economy, forced this reactor’s corporate owner to bring it down.

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Vermont Yankee is the fifth American reactor forced shut in the last two years.

Entergy says it shut Vermont Yankee because it was losing money. Though fully amortized, it could not compete with the onslaught of renewable energy and fracked-gas. Throughout the world, nukes once sold as generating juice “too cheap to meter” comprise a global financial disaster. Even with their capital costs long-ago stuck to the public, these radioactive junk heaps have no place in today’s economy—except as illegitimate magnets for massive handouts.

So in Illinois and elsewhere around the U.S., their owners demand that their bought and rented state legislators and regulators force the public to eat their losses. Arguing for “base load power” or other nonsensical corporate constructs, atomic corporations are gouging the public to keep these radioactive jalopies sputtering along.

Such might have been the fate of Vermont Yankee had it not been for citizen opposition. Opened in the early 1970s, Vermont Yankee was the northern tip of clean energy’s first “golden triangle.” Down the Connecticut River, grassroots opposition successfully prevented two reactors from being built at Montague, Massachusetts, where the term “No Nukes” was coined. A weather tower was toppled, films were made, books were written, demonstrations staged and an upwelling of well-organized grassroots activism helped nurture a rising global movement.

A bit to the southwest, in the early 1990s, it shut the infamous Yankee Rowe reactor, which had been hit by lightening and could not pass a verifiable test of its dangerously embrittled core.

But Vermont Yankee persisted. Entergy, a “McNuke” operator based in New Orleans, bought Yankee from its original owners about a dozen years ago. It signed a complex series of agreements with the state. Then it trashed them to keep Vermont Yankee spiraling ever-downward.

But hard-core organizers like Deb Katz’s Citizen Awareness Network never let up. Working through a network of natonal, state and local campaigns, the safe energy movement has finally forced Entergy to flip the off switch.

Protestors hold signs during a vigil to support the closing of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant at the Statehouse Monday, Jan. 23, 2012 in Montpelier, Vt. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

Protestors support the closing of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant at the Statehouse in January 2012 in Montpelier, Vermont.

Vermont Yankee is the fifth American reactor forced shut in the last two years. Two at San Onofre, California, were defeated by citizen activism. Wisconsin’s Kewaunee went down for economic reasons. Crystal River in Florida was driven to utter chaos by incompetent ownership.

Five reactors are officially under construction in the U.S. But their fate is also subject to citizen action. Two others targeted for Levy County, Florida, have recently been stopped by ratepayer resistance.

Throughout the U.S. and the world, the demise of atomic energy is accelerating. Some 435 reactors are listed worldwide as allegedly operable. But 48 in Japan remain shut in the wake of Fukushima despite the fierce efforts of a corrupt, dictatorial regime to force them back on line. Germany’s transition to a totally nuke-free green energy economy is exceeding expectations. The fate of dozens proposed and operating in China and India remains unclear.

But the clock on the inevitable next disaster is ticking. Cancer rates and thyroid problems around Fukushima continue to accelerate. Massive reactors like California’s Diablo Canyon and Indian Point, New York, are surrounded by volatile earthquake faults that could reduce them to seething piles of apocalyptic rubble, killing countless thousands downwind, gutting the global economy.

Every reactor shutdown represents an avoided catastrophe of the greatest magnitude.  As the takeoff of cheap, clean, safe and reliable Solartopian technology accelerates, greedy reactor owners struggle to squeeze the last few dimes out of increasingly dangerous old nukes for which they ultimately will take no responsibility. Vermont Yankee alone could require 60 years for basic clean-up. Fierce debate rages over what to do with thousands of tons of intensely radioactive spent fuel rods.

It remains unclear where the money will ultimately come from to try to decontaminate these sites, but clearly they are all destined to be dead zones.

As will the planet as a whole were it not for victories like this one in Vermont. This weekend the No Nukes community will celebrate this accursed reactor’s final demise.

Many hundreds more such celebrations must follow—soon!

Harvey Wasserman edits NukeFree.org and works to shut all Vermont Yankee’s mutant siblings so Solartopia can take root.

 

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