Metropolis Radiation Site Emergency

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CHICAGO– The Honeywell Metropolis Works facility in Metropolis, Illinois has reported another leak of Uranium Hexafluoride (UF6), a radioactive and toxic chemical compound, produced at the facility which converts uranium ore into uranium hexafluoride for the production of nuclear fuel for nuclear power facilities.   The incident occurred on Sunday, Oct. 26th at about 8 p.m., and lasted through the night

While company spokes people report no Uranium Hexafluoride was released outside the facility residents in the area have reported detecting an unusual odor and taste. Reports of a vapor plume over the facility were explained as water vapor from the suppression system but on a radio interview, John Paul Smith, United Steel Workers Local 7-669 Media Secretary and Health and Safety Chair, claims a vapor release of 6 minutes was observed before the suppression system’s mitigation towers were turned on.

Union workers, who are currently locked out of the facility, maintain that while an equipment malfunction may have occurred, the response would have been different had they been present. Union workers have decades of experience responding to emergencies.

“The nature of what the facility does is inherently dangerous no matter who works there,” points out Gail Snyder, Board president of Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS), an Illinois nuclear watchdog organization.  “While the union person says they would have had a better response to an emergency due to their experienced work force, they cannot guarantee that union workers will be able to contain every accident either.”

The leak occurred around 7:30pm on Sunday, October 26th and the company declared an all clear around 2:30am Monday, October 27th according to Keith E. Davis with the Metropolis/Massac County Emergency Management Agency.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Region Two, based out of Atlanta Georgia, regulates the Honeywell facility and has sent an inspector who is expected to be onsite on Tuesday, October 28th. Roger Hanah, Senior Public Affairs Officer based out of the NRC Region Two office said the NRC does not have an onsite inspector stationed at the Honeywell facility because it is not a facility that processes highly enriched Uranium.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) has five monitoring stations outside the facility to detect Uranium Hexafluoride which are checked every Monday. Data collected from IEMA’s monitoring stations on Monday, October 27th will we be available in approximately four days by request through a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request. The IEMA monitoring stations purpose is mainly radiological and are set up to detect Uranium Hexafluoride. The stations do not detect Hydrofluoric Vapor, according to Kelly Horn of IEMA.  Hydrofluoric Vapor can be produced when Uranium Hexafluoride is combined with water and can become Hydrofluoric Acid a toxic chemical if it comes in contact with people.

Local people have reported having a strange chemical taste in their mouth and smelling an unusual smell around the plant site.  Comments to this effect appear linked to various YouTube postings pot up by local people.

In January of this year, Attorney General Lisa Madigan fined Honeywell $90,000 for three such dangerous releases. The Honeywell Metropolis Works facility received a notice of violation from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for failure to govern the use of and adherence to written procedures resulting in the release of uranium hexafluoride and exposure of five workers at the facility on two separate days in May of 2012. Honeywell has also been fined $11.3 million for a felony offense of illegal storage of hazardous waste as well as $119,000 fine by Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) for 17 serious safety violations.

“This incident shows that if you want nuclear power, you can’t just have nuclear power plants,” observes Dave Kraft, director of NEIS.  “You have to take all the other facilities in the long chain of the nuclear fuel cycle too, or you can’t have the reactors.  And, every step of the way, the question becomes not IF there will be a radioactive contamination incident, only WHEN, WHERE, and HOW BAD,” Kraft concludes.

“The Honeywell Metropolis Works (licensee) uranium conversion facility is located on a 1,100 acre site (60 acres within the fence line) near Metropolis, IL. The licensee is authorized to possess 150 million pounds of natural uranium ore and to convert this material to uranium hexafluoride (UF6). The uranium conversion process occurs in the Feed Materials Building (FMB).”  Source: NRC Inspection Report

References :

2014

Press Release: Attorney General fines Honeywell
http://illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/pressroom/2014_01/20140108.html

2012

NRC Inspection Report and Notice of Violation

http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1221/ML12212A243.pdf

2011
Honeywell pleads guilty to felony offense and is fined 11.3 million
http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/1e5ab1124055f3b28525781f0042ed40/def2f68123e736b38525785000721a93!OpenDocument

OSHA fines Honeywell $119,000, 17 serious safety violations
https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=NEWS_RELEASES&p_id=20130

Radio Interview of Union Representative
http://ricksmithshow.com/october-27%2C-2014-show

 

At least 15 NEIS members went to New York City to march in the historic Climate March on Sept. 20th, marching with over 2,500 others from around the country in the event’s “No Nukes!” Nuclear Free/Carbon Free contingent.  A lot of our friends from Frack Free Illinois were also there.  Over 1,000 bright yellow flags and signs made an unmistakably clear point to New York and the world: “Nuclear Power? – No Thanks!”

The huge organized turnout of the safe-energy, anti-nuclear contingent was largely the effort of Nuclear Information and Resource Service and its president, Michael Mariotte.  NIRS  coordinated national planning calls for months prior to the march.  This organizing paid off, as thousands marched under the “Nuclear Power? – No Thanks!” banners and signs.

Mariotte had arranged for the contingent to have a uniform and eye-catching look.  NIRS arranged for the purchase of 650 bright yellow flags with the sun circled by the “Nuclear Power? – No Thanks!” message printed in 5 languages.  This symbol originated in Germany, and is a universal symbol in European marches and demonstrations.  In addition nearly 400 black signs on cardboard tube poles with the message, “Don’t Nuke the Climate!” were also passed out.  This, along with huge homemade banners from a number of other  organizations from many states helped the contingent stand out visually.

NIRS and Mariotte also arranged for the contingent to be one of only four issues to have their own pre-March rally with speakers and a mainstage with sound.  This rally took place at 73rd and Central former residence of John Lennon and site of his assassination.  Speakers included Dr. Arjun Makhijani of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Leona Morgan from Diné No Nukes, Japanese activist Yuko Tonohira, Jessica Azulay (AGREE), working to close Indian Point; Hunter Lovins, with Rockt Mt. Institute; and Julia Walsh (Frack Action & New Yorkers Against Fracking).  Mariotte and Mary Olson of NIRS moderated the rally.  Musical interludes were provided by the Raging Grannies group.

While the mainstream media largely ignored or trivialized the March and the rich variety of causes and messages present, Democracy Now! did an especially good job of highlighting the message that nuclear has no legitimate role to play in solving the global climate crisis.  In particular interviews with Bianca Jagger, author Naomi Klein, and Asad Rehman of Friends of the Earth hammered this theme home hard in D/N segments.

It is known that Sierra Club and other organizations sponsored buses, trains and other means of getting people from Illinois to attend the March.  Given the estimated 410,000 people marching, it is safe to say that several thousand people from Illinois came to New York to rally for climate action.

In addition to participating in the historic march, NEIS Board president Gail Snyder conducted a workshop on “Exelon’s nuclear war on renewables” on Saturday at the people’s Climate Convergence Conference, held at St. John’s University.  On Saturday afternoon NEIS Director Dave Kraft participated in a NIRS-organized strategy panel attended by nearly 70 safe-energy leaders from organizations from around the country.

Our friends at Frack Free Illinois invited NEIS participants to attend a premiere showing of Josh Fox’s new “Solutions Grassroots Tour” performance in Brooklyn after the Sunday March.  Ten members from the two groups heavily lobbied Fox to bring the show to Chicago and parts of Illinois sometime soon.

On Monday after the March, NEIS director Dave Kraft also participated in a demonstration outside the U.N. with activists from Okinawa protesting the planned new U.S. naval base on the island.

By far, this writer’s favorite sign at the March was small but powerful: “Respect Existence, or Expect Resistance!”  If there is any take-away that we can bring back to you here, it’s simply this:  over 400,000 people say “No more business as usual!” on the climate crisis.  And well over 2,000 marched saying, “Get the Nukes out of the EPA carbon rules!”  We now have to translate that resolve and energy into concrete action.  O

See a photo gallery of the event

 

CHICAGO—  A study released Thursday (Oct. 2, 2014) by the nuclear power trade group alleging dire economic consequences for Illinois should  currently unprofitable nuclear reactors be closed by Exelon Corporation leaves safe-energy advocacy groups wondering – was this report designed to deliberately mislead the Illinois Legislature?

Exelon's unprofitable Byron nuclear reactors, threatened with closure if the Illinois Legislature does not "appreciate" them more with a bailout.
Exelon’s unprofitable Byron nuclear reactors, threatened with closure if the Illinois Legislature does not “appreciate” them more with a bailout.

The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) of Washington, D.C. released a 29-page report titled, The Impact of Exelon’s  Nuclear Fleet on the Illinois Economy,  The report alleges that, “the consequences for the state’s economy and environment would be dire,” should Exelon make good its threat to close as many as 5 reactors in Illinois.

“Rarely have we seen so short a report by the nuclear industry filled with so many errors of omission and commission, inconsistencies, and faulty analysis,” observes David Kraft, director of the Chicago-based Nuclear Energy Information Service, a nuclear watch-dog organization.  “On its own that would not be such a bad or unexpected thing.  But this report is designed to manipulate legislators into prying an initial $580 million out of Illinois ratepayers’ pocketbooks,” Kraft continues.

“This report is largely a collection of ‘water is wet’ findings that there would be negative consequences for local communities and the state if Exelon decides to close nuclear reactors,” notes Kraft.  “The report uses inflated figures, figures inconsistent with what the Legislature was previously given, and completely leaves out critical and substantial information that would seriously contradict their findings, “Kraft points out.

Among the larger flaws of the study are:

  • A co-mingled presentation of the positive economic effects of operation and negative effects of closure between in some instances all 11 operating reactors, versus the 5 reactors Exelon has stated it might close, with the effect of muddling the true economic picture.
  • Enormous inconsistencies between the numbers presumably provided by Exelon to the Legislature in passing HR1146, – a resolution  passed in May in support of continued nuclear reactor operation —  and the numbers presented in the NEI report (as well as the Exelon Corporate website, see attached Table), suggesting…
  • Questionable and seemingly padded assumptions about numbers and multiplier effects used to reach their conclusions.
  • A failure to acknowledge let alone analyze the positive effects on the economy after such plant closures from job creation from reactor decommissioning and in the energy sectors like renewable energy, efficiency and presumably natural gas that would occur to provide replacement power for the closed reactors.
  • A failure to use the readily available history of ComEd’s closure of the two Zion reactors in 1998, and the devaluation of the Clinton reactor when it was sold as examples of how communities – and apparently Illinois — managed to survive when a nuclear utility like Exelon unilaterally pulled the plug on them.

An excellent and more detailed critique of the NEI study titled, “NEI’s Exelon Numbers Don’t Add Up,” has been done by Michael Mariotte, President of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) of Takomoa Park, MD.

“The NEI report is released during an election year and written with a tone designed to create a sense of fear and dire emergency in legislators who will be voting in the Spring on whether to subsidize Exelon’s five unprofitable nuclear reactors to the tune of at least $580 million, with more subsidies possible in the future.  With intelligent analysis and design, these predictable negative effects can be minimized and dealt with,” Kraft asserts.

The NEI is the trade association for the U.S. nuclear power industry.  While there is nothing unusual for the NEI to defend nuclear power, it should be noted that Exelon Corporation – the beneficiary of this report – contributes over $7.2 million per year to the operation of the NEI (FY 2012 numbers); and Exelon CEO Philip Crane is also NEI’s current Chairman.  These facts cast legitimate skepticism on the report’s accuracy.

[NOTE: The NEI was previously taken to task in 1998 by the Better Business Bureau’s National Advertising Division over NEI ads making unqualified claims about the benefits of nuclear power that BBB ruled were unjustified, noting that in advertising law, “a claim that is technically truthful can still be misleading….”.]

On a parallel track, and as a result of the passage of HR1146, four State agencies are currently preparing reports on topics similar to those addressed in the NEI report.  These State reports are due out in November, after the election.

“NEIS is concerned that these State reports will be equally misleading,” Kraft warns, “in that the agencies were not given the staff or financial resources to conduct research beyond the narrow prescripts mandated in HR1146, and no public process or means of input was created.  Despite the best efforts of the staffs involved, these reports may end up being nothing more that expensive ‘studies to show,’ and not provide the Legislators with the complete set of balanced, pro-and-con information they will need to make a competent decision,” Kraft states.

“The State is hereby put on notice – we will not quietly accept biased industry studies and self-fulfilling prophecies from state agencies as ‘justification’ to pick the ratepayers’ pockets to the tune of $580 million or more,” Kraft asserts.  “A ’Nuclear war’ on renewables can get quite messy, and fast,” Kraft notes.