It’s August already.  They don’t call this time of year “the dog days” for nothing.  After a pretty frenetic Spring, things have slowed down a bit.  But that doesn’t mean that nothing is happening.  We at NEIS are using this relatively “slow(er)” time to re-group, plan, groom and educate those who are in need of knowing about nuclear hazards.

  • Educating Congress on “The Age of Decommissioning”

Panelists at Congressional Briefing on Reactor Decommissioning, July 16, 2018, Washington D.C.

NEIS spent the better part of a year making plans with national allies to hold a Congressional briefing on “The Age of Decommissioning” — issues pertaining to reactor decommissioning and radioactive wastes.  The team had to raise $10,000, solicit expert witnesses, and then get a Congressional sponsor to find space in the Capital to conduct the session. Read more

A new NEIS “Know Nukes” program made its debut this August 6th at the Chicago Hiroshima  Anniversary Observance, held at the site of the Henry Moore Sculpture to Nuclear Power on the campus of the University of Chicago.  The site – memorialized by the world-famous sculpture — is the exact location where the Nuclear Age began on Dec. 2, 1942, with the experiment conducted by scientist Enrico Fermi and his team working on the Manhattan Project that produced the first human initiated and controlled chain reaction.

NEIS Board member Linda Lewison proposed the project early in summer, and envisioned it as an ongoing, monthly educational “tour” of one of the most significant, yet equally ignored historic memorial sites in the Chicago area.

NEIS Board Member Linda Lewison at the Moore Sculpture

Rather that bombard audiences with facts and figures, Lewison invited listeners to reflect on what thoughts and feeling the sculpture evoked in them.  She led them along with three questions to consider:

  • What do we see when we look at this sculpture?
  • What happened here and what is its relevance today?
  • What can we do? What actions can we take to make a difference?

Lewison said, “Millions of tourists in Chicago every year visit the sculpture “Cloud Gate” or “The Bean” as it has been nicknamed in Grant Park. The sculpture behind me, named “Nuclear Energy,” by Henry Moore is one of the greatest sculptures in the world and yet people walk by it every day not knowing its significance….Everyone goes to see the Bean but this is much more important.”

She went on to emphasize the need for immediate and future action, and not just passive memorializing.  Plans are in development to conduct the program on a more regular if not monthly basis in the future.

The observance has been held for decades at this location, which was dedicated in 1967, the 25th anniversary of the chain reaction experiment.  This year’s event was organized by Hyde Park resident and peace advocates Roberta Siegel and Brad Lyttle (who, it was announced, turned 90 this year).

In addition to Lewison’s presentation, the program consisted of attorney and musician Marian Neudel, lead a number of classic folk songs in between speakers; Bradford Lyttle, the venerable peace

Event organizer and legendary peace activist Brad Lyttle

and justice regular participant, who addressed  what nuclear madness means to all of us and the future of our planet;  Jack Lawlor from the Buddhist Peace Fellowship Chicago chapter who read the Buddha’s Discourse on Love; and Charles Strain also from BPF Chicago, who gave a short reading on the dangers of militarism.  The event concluded with a short silent meditation

The event was attended by about 35 people, the majority of whom were older and gray haired.  Numerous University of Chicago students walked by and through the memorial, but showed little interest in stopping or finding out what was happening.

THE ANNUAL EVENT HAS PURPOSE: On December 2, 1942, the Nuclear Age was born on the very spot this event will occur.  Seventy-three years ago on this date, the U.S. ushered in the Age of Nuclear War, with the bombing of the Japanese city of Hiroshima.  The first atomic bombing in history killed 20,000 Japanese soldiers, and 70,000–126,000 civilians.  These were but the first of the world’s nuclear victims, to be followed by tens to hundreds of thousands more Americans, Russians, Chinese, Marshall Islanders, Western Shoshone and numerous other people from around the world who have since died in the process of making and testing nuclear weapons, or just having the enormously bad luck of living down wind of the tests of the thousands of nuclear weapons that followed.

Despite the dire and continued warnings of some of the most brilliant people the Planet has produced – Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, Andrei Sakharov, Linus Pauling among them – the world still harbors tens of thousands of nuclear weapons, thousands of which remain on “hair-trigger alert” to this day.  Not having learned the lessons of near Armageddon events in 1956, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1965, 1967, 1979, 1980, 1983, 1995, and 2010, national rulers with small minds but infinite destructive power continue the adolescent but dangerous game of nuclear brinksmanship to this day.

This event serves as both a memorial to those lives lost, and a reminder – a warning – that more lives, perhaps all life on Earth remain in jeopardy of extinction as long as nuclear weapons are permitted to exist.

“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”  ― Albert Einstein

“The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.”  —     Albert Einstein, Telegram, 24 May 1946

Congressional Briefing: “Decommissioning Nuclear Power Plants: What Congress, Federal Agencies and Communities Need to Know”

WHEN:   Monday, July 16 2018   |   2 PM – 3:30 PM Eastern

Live webcast will be streamed at: www.eesi.org/livecast

WHERE: Room HC-8, U.S. Capitol Building, Washington, D.C.

WHO:

  • Mayor Al Hill, of Zion, Illinois, home of the decommissioned Zion Nuclear Power Station
  • Robert Alvarez, Senior Scholar, Institute for Policy Studies; former Department of Energy Senior Policy Advisor to the Secretary and Deputy Assistant Secretary for National Security and the Environment
  • Geoffrey H. Fettus, Senior Attorney for Energy & Transportation, Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Kevin Kamps, Radioactive Waste Specialist, Beyond Nuclear
  • Bob Musil (moderator), President and CEO of the Rachel Carson Council; former Executive Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility

Contact: Dave Kraft, Director, Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS), (773)342-7650 (o); neis@neis.org

Amaury Laporte, Environmental and Energy Study Institute, (202) 662-1884 alaporte@eesi.org

WHAT:

Illinois has more reactors (14) and high-level radioactive waste (>10,000 tons) than any other state. As the Nuclear Age draws to a close and we enter the Age of Decommissioning, we find huge technical misunderstanding and regulatory inadequacies about what constitutes environmentally responsible action to dismantle these inevitably closing reactors, and deal with the radioactive waste storage, transport and disposal problems they leave as their legacy. The Illinois community of Zion has already experienced firsthand the devastating effects of decommissioning done wrong or thoughtlessly.

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) invites you to a briefing on the urgent need to safely decommission nuclear power plants, which are increasingly shutting down. The United States is facing a significant wave of nuclear plant closures for which it is unprepared. Most of the existing U.S. reactor fleet will inevitably close over the next two decades, as plants near the ends of their operational lifespans. Decommissioning is the process of dismantling the closed plant and securing or removing radioactive waste while lowering the site’s residual radioactivity to safer levels. Getting decommissioning right is critical to communities’ health and safety, while getting it wrong could pose an existential threat.

Leading scientists, policy experts, NGO advocates, and local elected officials with experience of decommissioning will speak at the briefing. It will cover the impacts of decommissioning, current decommissioning options, waste storage vs. transport, thorny unsolved problems and best practices, financing and liability, a just transition for communities and workers, how communities and states can and can’t weigh in on these issues, and how they should inform the fast-changing legislative and regulatory landscape.

 

This briefing is co-sponsored by Beyond Nuclear, Ecological Options Network, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition (IPSEC), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS), Nuclear Resource and Information Service (NIRS), Riverkeeper, Safe Energy Rights Group, Unity for Clean Energy (U4CE), and others.

Contact Amaury Laporte at alaporte@eesi.org, (202) 662-1884

** NEIS was founded in 1981 to provide the public with credible information on the hazards of nuclear power, waste, and radiation; and information about the viable energy alternatives to nuclear power. For more information visit the NEIS website at: http://www.neis.org

Written By Kari Lydersen, Energy News Network, July 13, 2018.

Members of Congress are scheduled to receive a briefing next week from nuclear energy experts and watchdogs on pending nuclear waste storage proposals and the decommissioning of nuclear plants that have closed or could soon. Among the organizers of the July 16 briefing and a related national lobby day is the Chicago-based Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS).

[Photo: An inflatable high-level radioactive waste cask at a protest against a proposed interim storage facility in New Mexico.]

Like advocates for communities with economies linked to coal, the NEIS is calling for a “just transition” for the neighbors of nuclear power plants. The coalition hosting the testimony notes that five nuclear plants have closed since 2013, “at least 10 more are expected to close in the next few years, including three owned by FirstEnergy,” and 16 are going through decommissioning – essentially remediation of waste and radiation.

Along with the economic impacts similar to those created when coal plants close, nuclear plant closings also usually mean nuclear waste is stored onsite for years to come. The federal government proposes to move this waste to a Consolidated Interim Storage site (CIS), until a long-term repository like the one long-proposed at Yucca Mountain is created. Sites in New Mexico and Texas are being concerned for CIS. Meanwhile Midwest nuclear watchdogs point to a study by Oak Ridge National Laboratory that found Illinois was theoretically an ideal site for CIS.

Nuclear Energy Information Service director Dave Kraft spoke with the Energy News Network before the Congressional briefing. The following interview was lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

Q: How might Illinois be impacted by Consolidated Interim Storage, or long-term storage in Yucca Mountain?

We’ll be 100 percent impacted on the transportation issue – since as much as 80 percent of the high-level waste going to Yucca Mountain is expected to go through Illinois by rail or truck. And it’s possible there would be barge shipments of radioactive waste on Lake Michigan from [closed reactors in] Wisconsin and Michigan. Beyond that we don’t know about the wild card proposal that Illinois would be an ideal location for a CIS site, as the Oak Ridge study indicated. If the ones in Texas and New Mexico don’t work out, who knows what the rest of the short list would look like.

Q: Is nuclear being seen more and more as an environmental justice issue?

Nuclear has always been an environmental justice issue. It’s just that it gets overwhelmed by the more obvious ones in the fossil fuel industry. When you have coal mines that collapse and workers that get killed and black lung disease to contend with and coal ash ponds rupturing, that’s all pretty obvious stuff. But beyond the dramatic, the very subtle aspects of how nuclear communities are impacted are virtually the same as fossil fuels. You have the uranium industry contaminating water supplies in the Southwest, indigenous land. One of my colleagues, a Dine [Navajo] activist, said you might find an old coal miner, but you will never find an old uranium miner. They know first-hand what the impacts of uranium have been on their communities.

Whenever the industry needed a waste dump, one of the first places they’d turn would be a Native American tribe. When you have nothing and someone promises you money and jobs, what do you do? Now we have the fact that nuclear plants are closing and no one is talking about an exit plan.

Q: How about in the Midwest, is nuclear an environmental justice issue here?

Not so much in terms of indigenous tribes, but in terms of some of the communities affected. For one example, the Palisades reactor in Covert, Michigan, which has a [sizable low-income and] black community. When you have a nuclear facility and it closes and not only kills your economy, what does it do to the real estate market, are you able to sell your home? That transcends people of color and minorities, it’s truly a class and economic issue which is an environmental justice issue as well.

When you look at the rail routes that would be used for transporting these materials, you see they are virtually identical to the ones being pummeled by the oil train derailments – rural communities, communities that might not have a first-rate emergency responders program, the communities the rail industry abandoned a century ago. These are the folks in line to deal with any accidents that occur. And even through urban centers, you look where the rail routes go, largely through minority communities.

Q: There’s increasing focus on a just transition for coal communities, both coal mining areas and municipalities with coal-fired power plants. Is just transition a concept being pushed around nuclear too?

It’s just in its beginning stages. Legislators are finally waking up to the fact that it’s the same issue, just a different energy resource that has to be dealt with. They’re understanding with fossil fuels and nuclear, something has to be done proactively, communities have to be taken care of proactively. New York is grappling with it because of the closure of Indian Point – they’re seeing some of the problems with decommissioning, not having an oversight board and the issue of economic redevelopment. This is being examined, though it hasn’t gelled nationally yet. But we’re in the beginning stages of having a movement. On the select issue of orphaned waste, there is the national legislation Tammy Duckworth sponsored out there to deal with communities that are stuck with waste, that didn’t sign up 40 years ago to be a radioactive waste dump. [U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) is a co-sponsor of the The Stranded Act of 2017 (S. 1903), which would authorize $100 million over seven years to compensate communities storing high-level radioactive waste after reactors close.]

Q: So how do things look in Zion, Illinois, one of those towns dealing with a nuclear closed plant and orphaned waste?

Zion could easily become the national poster child of everything that could go wrong. When [then-owner] ComEd abruptly without any warning and unilaterally closed the Zion reactor in 1998, the community of Zion lost 75 percent of its tax base overnight. It lost a sizable portion of their workforce, and with a reduced tax base they had to raise taxes which drove businesses and people away, and caused a housing crisis in the sense of abandonments…and they’re still stuck with reactive waste. Not even Donald Trump is stupid enough to open a hotel next to that.

Q: What do you think should be done with nuclear waste in places like Zion?

Environmental groups came together in 2002 to come up with a national proposal for what should be done with radioactive waste, and that applies to Zion. First, stop making it. To begin with, our motto is don’t just do something, stand there. Safeguard it, use hardened on-site storage. That’s immediate, you have to do that now regardless of what happens. Protect the communities you have damaged, that’s an obligation. Number two, you do not invest in CIS in other states. All that does is create more waste sites that have to be abandoned and cleaned up, and that doubles the transportation problem, because you have to move it again if and when you get long-term disposal.

The third thing, Yucca Mountain is not a credible, valid and protective site for storage of highly radioactive nuclear waste. So you have to create a new process outside of politics, genuinely scientifically based [to find a different long-term storage site]. You’ll have to deal with the minefield of local consent later. But at least do the credible science first which never happened at Yucca Mountain.

Q: You’ve said before that you think the push for Consolidated Interim Storage is linked to nuclear generators’ push for supports from ratepayers, what critics call bailouts. How is that the case?

To us the linkage has been clear for years. It’s being played out now in public and rationalized in different ways. The industry is looking to be absolved of its past sin of not having a solution [for waste]. If it has a solution then it can keep running for years. The bailout is inextricably linked to the waste issue – the solution to one plays into the other.

Q: In Illinois, most environmental and clean energy groups ended up supporting the state’s energy law even though it included the supports for Exelon’s nuclear plants. But the Nuclear Energy Information Service opposed the bill to the end, and called for communities with closing power plants to be “bailed out” rather than the nuclear plants. What does that mean in practice? Who should be “bailing out” the communities – ratepayers, or companies?

In letters to Governor [Bruce] Rauner and 40 other legislators, we made the case it’s the communities that should be bailed out, not profitable corporations. There’s nothing in the state constitution that mandates the legislature guarantee the profits of a private company. Any community needs to have a piggy bank for a rainy day. To the extent the communities didn’t prepare [for possible plant closures], that’s partly on them. You’re going to have to have a really tough conversation with all the parties, and everyone is going to have to pony up into the fund. We have suggestions on ways to do that. Whether it is stated in law or not, the ethical and moral thing is that company-town employers have a bigger obligation to do something when they leave than a mom and pop store would. They come in with all kinds of promises that rarely are met and leave a big mess that doesn’t get cleaned up.

Q: In Illinois or nationally, do you maintain that nuclear plants are not in fact needed for energy security?

Absolutely not. We have a surplus of power, the grid is operating quite fine. We got through that Arctic plunge of a few years ago. While nuclear [proponents] brags about how available they were [during the Polar Vortex of 2014], no one looks into how available renewables were and they were quite available. We would posit that solar will be there for 3.5 billion years and beyond.

Q: What about wind, should Illinois’ Future Energy Jobs Act have done more to incentivize wind energy?

It was a tough legislative fight to get what we got. In retrospect, solar made out well and wind didn’t. Wind could have been more prolific and widespread [if the law emphasized it more], but it didn’t. Because realistically it was the main competitor to Exelon’s nuclear plants and no one wanted to take that on. You talk about resilience and reliability, a renewable infrastructure gives you the ability to incrementally add and subtract what you need, you can decide how many wind turbines to build or to run. With a nuclear plant you get 1000 megawatts or nothing.

 

When he was 11, my stepson taught me one of the most valuable Life-lessons I’ve learned when he said, “You know Dave, man isn’t a “rational” animal.  He’s a “rationalizing” one!”

Truer words have never been spoken when examining the nonsense rationalizations being paraded around by execs of unprofitable electric utilities and their governmental handmaidens for bailing out unprofitable nuclear and coal plants that the market-based system utility lobbyists introduced years ago would otherwise see closed.

A “rationalization” is usually a specious excuse or explanation offered to cover up a serious flaw or failure.  In some cases – like state-mandated nuclear and coal plant bailouts — a legalized fig-leaf, if you will.

Virtually every bailout rationalization offered to date by the Exelons and Dynegys, Trumps and Perrys of the world fall flat on their face when analyzed in detail by the majority of professional agencies and staffs employed to make the crucial, day-to-day decisions that keep the electric grid functioning.  National security, grid resilience, onsite fuel reserves – all such claims have been handily debunked by the experts, historical evidence, or both.

Now Exelon informs the world that its Dresden and Byron reactors are now in “financial distress.”  How sad.  So are Illinois ratepayers after the last $2.4 billion bailout Governor Rauner and Speaker Michael Madigan awarded them in 2016.

Exelon claims “… the company will not at any point seek subsidies from Illinois ratepayers to keep Dresden and Byron open…”.  But that’s what Exelon management said in 2014 about the then five reactors they said were in “financial distress,” too.  This time, they instead are relying on the twisted illogic trying to pass as public policy they hope will come from a Trump Administration Soviet-style protectionist mandate; or twisty balloon-dog machinations they hope regional system operator PJM will invent to facilitate the next wealth transfer from ratepayers to shareholders.

In 2014 our organization brought two propositions to the bailout negotiations that went ignored, and are being ignored today:  1.) nowhere in the State Constitution is the Legislature obligated to guarantee the profitability of a private corporation; and 2.) it is the communities whose jobs and economies are threatened by reactor and coal plant closures that need the bailing out, not profitable private corporations.

We recommended institution of a “just transitions” negotiation among affected parties as an alternative to repeated nuclear hostage crises, to create an economic transition plan for closures before they become imminent crises.  We provided testimony to this effect to both the Senate and House energy committees; and spoke with over 40 state elected and appointed officials prior to the bailout.  We again proposed this concept in a State Journal Register op-ed published in December 2016 after Governor Rauner signed Exelon’s bailout into law.

It is long past time to institute this pro-active approach to protecting affected communities and ratepayers.  Economic blackmail is a poor way to conduct energy policy; and legalized extortion no valid substitute for real market-based solutions.

The utility bailout mania triggered by Exelon has swept the nation like some form of energy-HIV.  Empty, fig-leaf rationalizations created to provide some pretense of legality makes a mockery of the agencies and regulations already in place which seem to be doing the grid reliability job quite well, thank you.

Harsh economic realities will soon begin to force legislatures and Congress to embrace one obvious conclusion:  you cannot create an energy future by bailing out the past.

Sources:

 

S.1903 – The Stranded Act Of 2017

NEIS would like to commend IL Sen. Tammy Duckworth and IL Rep. Brad Schneider for introduction of S.1903 and H.R. 3970 respectively – the “Stranded Act of 2017;” and acknowledge State Sen. Melinda Bush and Zion Mayor Al Hill for their tireless efforts to obtain much deserved community compensation for the storage of 1,000+ tons of high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) in the community of Zion. Reactor communities nationwide which have become de facto high-level radioactive waste storage sites deserve some measure of economic and enhanced safety compensation for the continued risks they accept for being compelled to store this hazardous substance indefinitely, and for the negative economic consequences this storage brings to the communities.

The provisions found in Sen. Duckworth’s S.1903 are an excellent first step towards rectifying this economic injustice brought about by previous Congress’ indifference towards and politicization of the Nation’s high-level radioactive waste disposal problem. S.1903 wisely recognizes that the creation of “orphaned” HLRW through inevitable and unpredictable reactor closures is a national problem, requiring a uniform national solution.

As a commendable first step, S.1903 also realistically addresses the fact that ultimate, environmentally responsible HLRW disposal will continue to take time – if done properly, and not out of political expedience; and that these communities deserve compensation for conditions they did not create, but are forced to endure.

While an admirable first step addressing economics, NEIS hopes and urges that equally necessary subsequent actions will come from the Congress to protect our communities from continued HLRW abuse and potential radiologic accidents. While S.1903 addresses the economic harm done by de facto HLRW storage in a community, these communities equally need much better environmental protection for as long as the HLRW remains. Congress should next mandate “hardened on-site storage” (HOSS) for these dangerous materials to safeguard the public and environmental health and safety of these communities. Both the nuclear industry and the federal NRC vigorously resist this enhanced but deserved safety measure on the excuse of “cost.” In the case of Zion, for example, one wonders what the “cost” of replacing Lake Michigan – the drinking water supply for 16 million people – would be should a serious accident occur at the spent-fuel dry-cask pad that will remain in the Zion community for well beyond the 7 year period for economic compensation found in S.1903.

The temptation to want all spent-fuel to be quickly but imprudently moved out of reactor communities should not justify establishing expensive and alleged temporary “centralized interim storage” (CIS) facilities to take these wastes. Nor should that desire become the political rationalization to revisit re-opening of the now closed and demonstrably flawed Yucca Mt. site in Nevada. Both of these so-called “solutions” are driven more by political expediency than by sound public policy, environmental protection or science.

This nation truly needs a permanent deep-geological disposal facility for its high-level radioactive wastes. Contaminating new communities to establish alleged “temporary” storage sites, and opening a deficient Yucca Mt. facility do not serve the best long-term interests of the nation, only the short-term needs of the nuclear industry and its allies in public office. A new site selection process is needed to provide the best scientific solution to the spent-fuel problem. Playing musical chairs with the wastes, or sending it to a politically expedient hole in the ground somewhere “away” fails to provide this solution, and will only serve to delay opening a truly best solution for HLRW disposal.

 

 

TWO NEIS TV SHOWS FROM CAN-TV CHICAGO

CAN-TV presents two shows sponsored by NEIS from the “Where Are the People: The Human Toll of the Nuclear Age, from Fermi to Fukushima” week, taped in Chicago as part of the observance of the 75th anniversary of the first human controlled nuclear chain reaction, Dec. 2, 2017.

1.)   “The Human Toll of the Nuclear Age: Fermi to Fukushima,“ a half-hour in-studio show featuring Arnie Gundersen, chief engineer at Fairewinds Energy Education Corp of Vermont, Dr. Norma Field, professor emeritus at University of Chicago Dept. of East Asian Studies, interviewed by NEIS director Dave Kraft.

Watch Now >

This show will also appear on the CAN-TV cable network channels on the following dates and times:

Sunday, December 17th, 8:00 PM, CAN TV27

Monday, December 18th, 11:00 AM, CAN TV27

2.)   “Where Are the People? A look at the human toll of the Nuclear Age, from Fermi to Fukushima,” a 2-12 hour presentation with powerpoints by Arnie Gundersen and Norma Field, hosted by Dr. Yuki Miyamoto of DePaul University, Dept. of Religious Studies, on Dec. 2, 2017.

 

This show will also appear on the CAN-TV cable network channels on the following dates and times:

Wednesday, December 13th, 6:00 PM, CAN TV27

Thursday, December 14th, 9:00 AM, CAN TV27

 

NUCLEAR HOT SEAT WEIGHS IN:

These events were also taped by Libbe HaLevy, host of the weekly internet show, “Nuclear Hot Seat,” who later interviewed both Arnie and Norma.  Here are links to the recent Nuclear Hot Seat shows from NEIS’ week of programs:

Dec. 8, 2017:  SPECIAL: U-Chicago Atomic Propaganda Orgy Decoded by Fairewinds’ Arnie Gundersen & NEIS – Errors, Omissions & Lies, Oh My! – NH #337

Dec. 13, 2017:  Nuclear Reactors/Climate Change Lies: Gundersen Busts Nuke Industry’s PR Ploy – NH #338

More shows based on interviews from this week of events will air on Nuclear Hot Seat in the future.

NEIS extends heartfelt thanks to Arnie Gundersen, Dr. Norma Field, Dr. Yuki Miyamoto, Libbe HaLevy, and our friends at CAN-TV Chicago, Chicago’s “jewel in the crown” of public media.

Please listen and enjoy these shows. We’re working for you, and proud of it!!

 

 

CHICAGO–  Two Better Government Association (BGA) reports on nuclear safety a year in the making document the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC’s) systematic pattern of disregard for assertive and responsible regulation, and co-optation by the industry it is charged to regulate, asserts Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS), a Chicago-based safe-energy, nuclear power watchdog organization.

“These BGA reports document and confirm contentions NEIS has made for decades to Illinois state and federal officials and elected representatives,” notes David A. Kraft, director of NEIS.  “In particular, NEIS raised these concerns with over 40 state officials and legislators we talked to during the past three years leading up to the Exelon nuclear bailout of 2016, only to be met with a thunderous round of indifference,” Kraft continued.

The two BGA reports are the second and third installments of a BGA series on nuclear power issues in Illinois.  The first appeared on November 17, 2017, and demonstrated NRC’s indifference to chronic radioactive leaks at nuclear power reactors in Illinois and nationally.  The current installments describe a chronic pattern of NRC indifference to regulation, capitulation to nuclear industry – in Illinois, read EXELON – demands, and agency intimidation of whistle-blowers.

“When the chief regulatory agency in the nation develops an allergy to regulation, the notion of ‘nuclear safety’ is reduced to a fiction existing only on paper,” asserts Kraft.  “In short, because of this abdication of regulatory responsibility, and compounded by the 2016 Exelon bailouts, Illinois is now left flying naked on nuclear safety for the next decade,” Kraft observes.

With “nuclear bailout mania” sweeping the country to prop up old, uneconomic nuclear reactors that would otherwise close, coupled with an indifferent or complicit NRC’s pre-emptive authority over the states on nuclear safety matters, the public is left totally undefended against nuclear power mishaps, accidents and catastrophes as long as these reactors continue to operate.

“NEIS is sending an open letter to the Illinois delegation to Congress, and to members of Illinois State Government – as well as candidates for Governor — demanding reform of this untenable situation,” Kraft states.  “In particular, states like Illinois with operating nuclear plants have an immediate and vested interest in forcing their delegations to Congress to enact massive reforms of the NRC at the very least; and granting states the binding authority to set safety standards higher than those of the NRC at best, “ Kraft urges.

While urging Congressional and Illinois state legislative action in its letter, NEIS also warns, “we feel that the potential for reducing Illinois to the status of “Belarus of the Midwest” via nuclear accident now calls for [immediate action].  We have politely asked for reform for three decades; the BGA reports (and last year’s Exelon nuclear giveaway) indicate that things have only gotten worse.

“Silence is tacit approval, if not complicity.  Given that all parties are now informed of the problem, and in a most public manner, backed up by credible witnesses, any future indulgence of NRC’s or any other agency’s lax enforcement of nuclear safety makes all now-informed parties complicit and personally responsible for any future harm resulting from nuclear incidents and accidents in Illinois.”

2018 is an election year.  Nuclear safety reform should be an important issue in the most nuclear-reliant state in the nation, NEIS contends.

“NEIS intends to hold such parties publicly accountable for Illinois nuclear safety moving forward by all legal means available,” the letter concludes.

Exelon operates 11 reactors in Illinois, and owns three that are permanently closed.  If it were a nation, it would be the 11th largest nuclear power in the world.  The four oldest reactors at Dresden and Quad Cities – mentioned often in the BGA reports — are the same design and older than the four reactors that melted down and exploded at Fukushima, Japan.

 

LINKS TO THE BGA REPORTS OF DEC. 20, 2017:

Story 1: Nuclear Regulator Downplays Safety Warnings

Story 2: 687 Cases, 0 Upheld. The Feds’ Record Overseeing Nuclear Whistleblowers

LINK TO THE NOVEMBER 17, 2017 BGA REPORT:

https://projects.bettergov.org/power-struggle/

 

A week after the “Nuclear Reaction” party ended at University of Chicago, and the dusty fallout from the artsy multi-colored mushroom cloud simulation settled to the Earth, producer Libbe HaLevy’s Nuclear Hotseat show took the University to task for its infomercial promoting nuclear power:

Listen to the Nuclear Hotseat Show

To observe the 75th anniversary of the Nuclear Age on Dec. 2, University of Chicago brought in such energy luminaries as former DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz and Exelon CEO Chris Crane ostensibly to acknowledge the great scientific achievement of the splitting of the atom.  What was presented sounded more like an advertisement for more nuclear, new nuclear, and forget about any of those dark consequences – like Chornobyl and Fukushima, the Rio Puerco uranium tailings spill, Mayak, and of course, Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Ciu’s “Marshmallow-Mushroom Cloud” — a kinder gentler nuclear holocost symbol

NEIS also made plans to observe this anniversary, and used it to proclaim, “The Nuclear Age is over.  We are now entering the Age of Decommissioning, where responsible adults recognize we now have to clean up the nuclear messes of the past 75 years,” according to NEIS’ director, Dave Kraft.  NEIS planned a week of events to provide a counterpoint to the over-congratulatory mood of the University of Chicago events.

Arnie Gundersen and Libbe HaLevy at the DePaul “Where are the People?” event, Dec. 2. engineer and former nuclear power vice-president Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Energy Education

To balance the University’s anticipated nuclear-kumbaya messaging NEIS conducted programs throughout the week with nuclear engineer and former nuclear power vice-president Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Energy Education of Vermont;  Dr. Norma Field, professor emeritus at University of Chicago Dept. of East Asian Studies; and Dr. Yuki Miyamoto, professor of ethics at DePaul University Dept. of Religious Studies, and second-generation Hiroshima survivor.  And to make sure the events and messages were not lost, NEIS brought in Libbe HaLevy, producer of Nuclear Hotseat, and a Three Mile Island survivor.

The main speaking event took place at DePaul University on Dec. 2, the actual 75th anniversary day.  Throughout the week Gundersen and Dr. Field were taped at the studios of CAN-TV, Chicago’s cable access TV station, on the topic of “Where are the People? – A look at the human toll of the Nuclear Age from Fermi to Fukushima.”  Both were also interviewed by Jerome McDonnell of WBEZ Chicago Public Radio’s “WorldView” show, speaking on “The End of the Nuclear Age:  Where are the People?”  Gundersen did a final presentation on why NOT nuclear power in a climate disrupted world on Sunday, Dec. 3rd at the 3rd Unitarian Church of Chicago, which was taped by four radio outlets.

The University’s first Nuclear Reaction panel of the day: “The Role of Nuclear Energy in a Climate Constrained World,” included Exelon CEO Chris Crain and University economics professor Michael Greenstone, and was moderated by former WBEZ Odyssey show host Gretchen Helfrich.  Regrettably, the moderator never had the participants describe what a “climate constrained world” was and what it would look like, let alone question whether nuclear power could function in it, before allowing the panelists to assert their pre-determined conclusion without sufficient evidence that nuclear power was essential in some form moving forward.  While both conceded new nuclear power was too exorbitantly expensive to be a significant player in any kind of future world, let alone a climate disrupted one, both argued for the continuation of present nuclear plants even if running at financial loss.

These and other assertions were challenged during the brief question and answer period by NEIS/Sierra Club member Steven Sondheim, and NEIS Board President Gail Snyder.  Snyder’s question was perhaps the blockbuster that addressed the nuclear Emperor’s most significant wardrobe problem:

“Mr. Crain you had mentioned merging economic and environmental policy, and Mr. Greenstone, you had mentioned the challenge of how to compensate people, and for some people to ‘take the hit’ for technology. I haven’t heard either of you address nuclear accidents.  I haven’t heard Fukushima being brought up, or Chernobyl, or the impacts of uranium mining on American Indian communities.  So, I’d like to know where the negative impact of nuclear power fits into the calculus of how energy should be chosen?…It really is being excluded from this argument of carbon, and one can’t talk about energy being clean, and base it only on carbon without talking about these extremely negative impacts when nuclear goes wrong.”

The day’s second panel, “The Role of Nuclear Weapons in the Modern World,” left Drs. Norma Field and Yuki Miyamoto aghast.  Coupled with the gayly colored mushroom cloud unleashed over the University the next day on Saturday, Dec 2 – the actual 75th

Dr. Norma Field (l.) and Dr. Yuki Miyamoto at WBEZ studios “Worldview” show.

anniversary day – Dr. Field commented in frustration, “I’m stricken with the thought that we educators have failed in getting out the word that it is truly inadequate to keep looking at these clouds from the side–what happened underneath?!”

It was later learned that a die-in protest had actually taken place during this art event, and that the University had somehow repressed it.  Students lay motionless on the ground in front of the world famous Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang as his colored mushroom cloud was detonated above the crowd.  Said India Weston, a transmedia performance artist and protest organizer:  “A lot of the [University’s] events have been contradictory to one another and primarily frame things in more of a positive light than not,…and yet, there’s no sort of threshold of acceptable nuclear energy exposure.”

She continued, “The University website claims that the cloud would dissipate harmlessly after about a minute, but that’s just not how radiation works,” Weston added. “It’s a geo-trauma that affects us all and will for generations and generations. So I was hoping to make more visible the all-too-invisible effects of radiation on the human body.”

The following day on Saturday, Dec. 2nd, NEIS co-sponsored an event with Dr. Yuki Miyamoto and the Department of Religious Study at DePaul University titled, “Where are the People? – A look at the human toll of the Nuclear Age from Fermi to Fukushima.”  Guest speakers Arnie Gundersen and Dr. Field spoke and answered questions for over 2-1/2 hours on the regularly absent question of the negative effects of the Nuclear Age on people across the globe.

[NOTE:  This program at DePaul, and a second in-studio TV interview with Gundersen and Dr. Field were both taped by Chicago’s premiere community public television station, CAN-TV.  Both will be posted online within the next week.  The URLs will be posted on the NEIS website.  We thank CAN-TV for its exceptional dedication to true community access television service. – NEIS].

Gundersen explains why nuclear power won’t help alleviate climate disruption at 3rd Unitarian Church.

In wrapping up her coverage of the week’s events, Libbe HaLevy asked NEIS director Dave Kraft for his impression of the University of Chicago’s Nuclear Reaction events (which she later described as a “bubble-babble”):

“It’s probably one of the most intellectually dishonest symposiums I’ve ever seen at an institution of higher learning.  It was nothing but a propaganda statement for the nuclear industry, which is desperately trying to stay alive, and is marshaling all its allies in academia, government and the military to put across this false notion that, somehow, nuclear power is going to make our grid more reliable, where the evidence points to the contrary.”

And so, as the Nuclear Age ends as it began – in secrecy, selective truth and memory, and unrealistic expectations —  the Age of Decommissioning is born.

NEIS’ “The End of the Nuclear Age: Where are the People?” week continued Thursday,  Nov. 30th,  featuring nuclear expert, engineer, and former nuclear utility vice-president Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Energy Education Corp, and Dr. Norma Field, professor emeritus, Dept. of East Asian Studies, University of Chicago, as guests with Jerome McDonnell on WBEZ’s Worldview show.

WBEZ’s Worldview Show

 

Arnie Gundersen

Sandwiched in between these two amazing guests was former DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz by telephone. He will be keynoting the University of Chicago’s events on Friday, Dec. 1, at 5 p.m.  All of Friday’s events will happen at the Reynolds Club/Mandel Hall located at 5706 S. University Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637. BIG thanks go to Jerome McDonnell and the WorldView Team at WBEZ for understanding the significance of this message and giving it air time.

Dr. Norma Field

Come hear both Arnie Gundersen and Dr. Field this Saturday, Dec. 2, 1:00 p.m. at DePaul University, Lincoln Park campus, where they will continue the discussion of “Where are the People?” most affected by the Nuclear Age.

NEIS is sponsoring these and others events to observe the 75th anniversary of the first chain reaction, done by Enrico Fermi on Dec. 2, 1942, at the University of Chicago, as part of the Manhattan Project during World War II.  The world hasn’t been quite the same ever since.

Link to Facebook Event Information