Insures continued nuclear risks and radioactive waste generation.

CHICAGO–  Governor Bruce Rauner signed the Exelon nuclear bailout bill into law today, insuring over the next 10 years a legislatively mandated  $2.35 billion rate hike, and the production of nearly 900 tons of additional high-level radioactive wastes and the other risks that nuclear power poses for Illinois.

“What a terrific Christmas gift for the children and future of Illinois,” quips David Kraft, director of Chicago-based Nuclear Energy Information Service.

“The issues of radioactive waste and continued nuclear risk were all but absent in the discussions related to the Exelon nuclear bailout bill,” notes Kraft.  “Exelon was brilliant in distracting everyone with issues they knew would be flops, like the demand charge, so that the main goal – bailing out failed nuclear reactors — would be achieved, and serious issues like nuclear waste and reactor safety would be avoided,” Kraft observes.

Illinois has more operating reactors than any other state – eleven, with three permanently closed.

As a result it also stores the most high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) in the form of the “spent” reactor fuel – over 10,000 tons as of current inventory.  All HLRW ever created at these reactors is stored at the reactor sites, with no place to go for disposal at present.

Continued nuclear risk is also a concern.  The now bailed out Quad Cities reactors are among the oldest reactors in the country, and are the same design and older than the reactors that melted down and exploded at Fukushima in Japan in 2011.  Concerns have also been raised about the earthen dam that creates the vital cool pond for the downstate Clinton reactor, also now bailed out.

Continued reactor operation means more radioactive wastes will be created, with no place to go; more radioactive emissions  — yes, nuclear reactors are NOT emissions-free! – into the air and water, and continued vulnerability to nuclear accidents and potential disasters.  To paraphrase nuclear engineer David Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists, “One ‘bad day at the office’ can ruin an entire economy for decades.”

“Governor Rauner has demonstrated either total ignorance or total disregard for these critical safety issues,” Kraft asserts.  “That’s no way for a chief executive to run the most nuclear-reliant state in the U.S.,” he concludes.

“If one were to amortize the $2.35 billion electric rate hike bailout over the 1,500 direct jobs Exelon claims would be lost if it had closed the Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear stations, Governor Rauner and Exelon are forcing Illinois ratepayers to pay $1.57 million per job “saved.”  We could buy these workers out cheaper, close the reactors, and stop the production of 900 tons of high-level radioactive wastes over the next 10 years,” Kraft points out.

NEIS will be pressing for future action on radioactive waste management and decommissioning; and on creating a “just transitions” program to prevent future economic crises from reactor closures.

 

 

Entergy Corp. has announced that it will be closing down the Palisades nuclear reactor near Covert, MI, earlier than expected.

NEIS Board President Gail Snyder was interviewed about Palisades by NBC News Chicago in December. Gail’s family has property in the area near Palisades. Listen to her here:

35-year old environmental, safe-energy group sends strongly worded letter to legislators advising rejection of corporate “wealth transfer”

 CHICAGO–  In a strongly worded letter to state officials warning of “no rational basis for the Exelon nuclear bailout,” a 35-year old Illinois environmental organization today urged legislators to reject the proposed bailout.

Calling it “a ‘wealth transfer’ of billions of dollars from [Illinois] ratepayers to Exelon’s shareholders,” Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS) stated that, “this nuclear bailout is not defensible from an environmental, jobs, business or any other rational standard,” referencing testimony and supportive documents it provided the Illinois House Energy Committee last week at a hearing on November 16th.

Recent developments in negotiations among representatives of the environmental community, Exelon and ComEd have resulted in a radically altered legislative proposal which has jettisoned some of the more controversial “deal breaker” elements of the proposal, including ComEd’s proposed “demand charge” basis for setting rates, radically changing solar net metering, and a bailout for financially distressed coal plants (many of which were slated for closure).  However, the core elements that started the whole process over 2 years ago remain:  the proposed Exelon bailout of money-losing nuclear reactors, and the fixing of the Illinois renewable energy portfolio standard.

“We believe that not only is Exelon not deserving of a bailout for its own business failures, but the Legislature itself has failed to do its ‘due diligence’ in the matter before taking the easy way out and letting Exelon undeservedly pick ratepayers’ pockets,” maintains NEIS director David A. Kraft.

Kraft points out that, while the legislature in 2014 approved a seven month, four-agency ‘study’ of the POTENTIAL negative effects of reactor closure on Illinois (HR1146), it failed to examine the other negative implications of approving a nuclear bailout.  “When is the legislature going to approve an equally thorough examination of the detrimental effects on the renewable energy and energy efficiency community in Illinois – which currently supports ~5 times more jobs in Illinois than ALL of the Exelon reactors combined – of a multi-billion dollar nuclear bailout, a 10-year legislatively imposed rate hike?” Kraft asks.  “Those 114,000 Illinois workers would like to have that question answered, too.”

Additionally, the NEIS correspondence notes six other alternatives to a nuclear bailout and major ratepayer rate hike that the legislature, and presumably Exelon, have ignored.  “We infer that for legislators and Exelon, it’s simply easier to bilk ratepayers than to get Exelon to do the hard but essential business work to find ways to improve its own profitability,” the NEIS letter asserts.

The letter to state officials also corrects an often repeated fallacy that reactors once closed cannot re-open.  This falsehood has often been used by Exelon representatives and state and local officials to urge quick, if imprudent, actions to bailout the nuclear plants.

“Our correspondence with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) confirms that there is no legal obstacle preventing a nuclear utility from petitioning the NRC to re-open a reactor whose operating license has been terminated,” Kraft points out.  “This information may come as a startling revelation to the local and state officials who have been told otherwise,” Kraft notes.

The text of the letter, NEIS’ testimony before the Illinois House Energy Committee and supportive documents it references will be available on the NEIS website by 4 p.m. Central time, Nov. 23, 2016.  Copies can be request in advance by e-mail.

NEIS concluded its remarks to state officials by stating, “if you really want renewable energy and energy efficiency to be a part of Illinois’ energy future, have the courage to vote on these issues separately from the issue of the Exelon bailout.  To act otherwise is simply to capitulate to economic extortion – both bad energy policy and bad business practice.”

 

Exelon bill designed to bailout failing nuclear plants, transfer wealth, kill renewables, NEIS testifies

SPRINGFIELD, May 16, 2016— Nuclear Energy Information Service of Chicago testified today before the Illinois State Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee that the new Exelon legislation amounted to a “corporate welfare bailout” designed to kill renewable energy and “transfer wealth from Illinois ratepayers to Exelon shareholders.”

Photo courtesy of US NRC
Clinton nucear plant. Photo courtesy of US NRC

Speaking at a Subject Matter hearing, NEIS Director David Kraft urged legislators to reject the flawed Exelon legislation – Amendment 3 to SB.1585, the so-called “Next Generation Energy Plan” – and fix the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) as soon as possible, and before considering any Exelon reactor bailout schemes.

“Exelon’s obstructionism has done real harm to Illinois renewable energy,” Kraft notes.  “[Exelon] now suggests that it will continue to do that harm unless its failed and anachronistic business model is ‘rewarded’ – bailed out.  It is simply inappropriate and irresponsible – and dumb energy policy – to reward such self-fulfilling prophecy,” Kraft told the Committee.

The RPS program has been unable to access millions of dollars in collected money to build new renewable energy generating facilities in Illinois due to an unforeseen glitch in the original law.  Exelon lobbyists have helped stall that fix for the past 4 years, while at the same time creating pro-nuclear front groups to lobby the Illinois Legislators for a financial bailout of allegedly money-losing nuclear reactors in Illinois.

The original amount Exelon suggested was $1.6 billion over five years, an amount which has been scaled back in successive versions of their hardship story, in part due to positive gains in the local energy markets.  While not stated directly in the current Exelon bill, the bailout ask is now estimated to be anywhere from $100 to $150 million per year for the money losing Clinton-1 and Quad Cities 1&2 reactors.  While pleading financial hardship at these reactors, Exelon’s Christopher Crane pledged to shareholders in Exelon’s 4Q report earlier this year that they would receive an annual 2.5% increase in dividends over the next three years.

“Some hardship,” observes Kraft.  “These reactors are Exelon’s private assets.  There is no rational justification for ratepayers – the public – to subsidize these private assets, and certainly not without getting some kind of equity for use of their money,” Kraft asserts.  “If Exelon keeps the assets, let their shareholders pay for their operation,” he said.

Exelon claims that their legislation would “level the playing field for all clean energy sources to compete…” and “…recognize the zero-carbon benefits of nuclear power.”

“Why single out the low-carbon benefits for reward?” Kraft asks.  “Should not RE/EE be rewarded for the facts that they not only are lower-carbon emitters than nuclear, but they eliminate the costly and risky societal burdens of radioactive waste production and disposal, and nuclear proliferation of materials, expertise, technology and ultimately nuclear weapons and terrorism.  Should not these positive societal benefits be compensated for additional reward?” Kraft points out.

Kraft also criticized the Exelon threat of job and economic loss stemming from their proposed closure of Clinton and Quad Cities, noting that renewable energy and energy efficiency, sectors which the Exelon nuclear bailout could severely damage and Exelon’s obstruction of the RPS fix already has, account for 12 times the number of direct jobs statewide as would be lost at the two reactors, and as much as 25 times the total number if including indirect jobs.  “If legislators are concerned about jobs across the State, they should focus on fixing the RPS,” Kraft maintained.  He also recommended establishing “just transition funds” for all reactor communities which will inevitably face reactor closures when the reactor licenses expire.  This suggestion has received positive response from some legislators.

 

NRC regulators cited for “major misses,” lack of safety culture

CHICAGO—All but three of Exelon’s 11 operating reactors in Illinois are reported as having “near misses” events – events that qualify a precursors to potential meltdowns, according to both a Greenpeace Report released today, and the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) documents on which the report is based.

Greenpeace Safety Study Reports US is "Nuclear Tightrope" Walking
Greenpeace Safety Study Reports US is “Nuclear Tightrope” Walking

“As legislators and the Governor move to decide Illinois energy future and whether to bailout three of Exelon’s aging and financially failing reactors, they should well consider the potential safety risks of staying with nuclear power, and whether or not the federal regulators are doing their job to adequately protect Illinois from enormous economic and environmental harm,” warns Dave Kraft, Director of the Chicago-based Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS), a safe-energy advocacy and anti-nuclear environmental organization.

The Report, “Nuclear Near Misses: A Decade of Accident Precursors at U.S. Nuclear Plants,” published by Greenpeace USA  today, chronicles events reported to the NRC at U.S. reactors from 2004 through 2014 that would qualify as, “near misses or accident precursors at US nuclear power plants over the past decade that risk analysts have determined are precursors to a meltdown.”

These events cover events dealing with potential and actual flooding; loss of offsite power (a contributor to the explosions and meltdowns of the three GE Mark-I containment reactors at Fukushima, Japan, in 2011); and other human-error and natural event related conditions.

As disturbing as the list of 163 reported incidents during the decade studied is, the Report’s description of the utter failure of the NRC to regulate properly is cause for even more alarm.

“NEIS has long maintained that ‘NRC’ has stood for ‘not really concerned’ when it comes to safety regulation,” notes NEIS’ Kraft.  “Congressional staff and insiders – and even former NRC Commissioners — have long described NRC as an agency captive of the industry it’s supposed to be regulating.  This Report DOCUMENTS using NRC’s own reports just how true this assessment is,” Kraft continues.

“If Illinois officials choose to continue down the nuclear path by bailing out Exelon’s aging reactors, they are now advised that Illinois cannot expect much from the NRC in the way of regulatory protection,” Kraft asserts.

Of the 11 operation Exelon reactors in Illinois, only Braidwood-1 and – ironically – the aging and financially-failing Quad Cities 1&2 reactors are not listed in the report for that decade.

Download the Report

For more information about the details of the report, contact:
Jim Riccio, Greenpeace
jim.riccio@greenpeace.org

Perry Wheeler, Greenpeace
301-675-8766
perry.wheeler@greenpeace.org

 

OPPORTUNITIES MISSED, LESSONS NOT LEARNED

The 5th anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster seems an apt time to recall the advice of philosopher and essayist George Santayana, who warned: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  Regrettably, the Orwellian truth is that the history of the ongoing Fukushima nuclear disaster is not only being “forgotten;” it is being radically altered by what the late Jeff Patterson, past President of Physicians for Social Responsibility, called “nuclear industry SCUM: Secrecy, Cover-Up, and Minimization,” that nuclear industry advocates and their supporters in governments proliferate.  This inevitably results in opportunities being missed, and lessons going unlearned.

In Chicago the week before the March 11th anniversary, the Japanese Consulate announced a series of memorial events relating to the disaster.  Virtually all the focus was on the effects of the tsunami.  Virtually nothing was mentioned about the ongoing nuclear disaster.  This massive and obvious denial of the existence of what is arguably one of the largest industrial disasters in the human history recalls the same kind of reaction the Japanese government took towards the Rape of Nanking and the Korean “comfort girls.”  It is hard to learn anything useful that would prevent the recurrence of Rising Sun Flag Radioactivefuture disasters when the perpetrators don’t even acknowledge the existence of the ongoing problem.

Recent headlines lend credence to Patterson’s SCUM theory.  As recently as Feb 24th it was revealed [3] that both TEPCo and the Japanese government knew that reactors had melted down as early as March 12, 2011, yet both denied this until May of that year, and for years refused to admit to the extent of the damage.  Reports of under-reporting radiation levels [5], worker exposures and injuries, and extent of hazard have all been trickling out over the past five years.

Japan’s responses to the disaster in light of the revelation of situations far worse than officially acknowledged have been equally Orwellian – if not outright criminal.  In the five years since the disaster, the Japanese Government has: repeatedly understated or outright lied about the seriousness of the initial disaster, and the subsequent levels of pollution and contamination relating to it and the clean-up [1,2,3]; enacted “secrecy laws” that would result in the prosecution of journalists reporting negatively on the disaster and the so-called “clean-up” operations;  decided that all of Japan should “share the pain” of the disaster, by spreading around to all other prefectures the millions of bags of radioactively contaminated debris [8] collected in the Fukushima area, as well as incinerating this waste in those other prefectures; deemed foods grown in the Fukushima area safe for consumption and export; minimized the emergence of a spike in thyroid-related conditions, as well as the 100+ surgeries that have taken place relating to thyroid disease [8]; refused clean-up help from the 700+ retired nuclear personnel of the Skilled Veterans Corps for Fukushima, who not only had professional expertise to offer, but who because of age were attempting to reduce exposure to younger workers of reproduction ages.

The government has totally ignored the demonstrations of hundreds of thousands of Japanese people protesting the restart of Japan’s reactors (echoing sentiments of 2/3 of the population), and calling for their replacement with renewable energy.  Currently, it is in effect forcing evacuees to return to potentially contaminated areas or else lose their victim compensation.  And certainly not the least – it has failed to prosecute anyone from TEPCo or the government for their contributing roles in the ongoing disaster.

It has taken five years for anyone to finally be indicted [4] for their actions/inactions relating to the disaster.  While the Japanese government itself could not find any wrongdoing serious enough to indict anyone for the perpetual radioactive contamination of the Pacific Ocean and large swathes of eastern Japan, and the displacement of 160,000 people and 3,200 evacuation-related deaths, a rarely used civilian judicial panel finally did on February 29, 2016 – five years after the fact, and after repeated government inaction.  Three former TEPCo officials were recently (and some news accounts point out – finally) indicted on charges of professional negligence resulting in injury and death.  Perhaps the government reasoned that if Nanking was not so bad, Fukushima must simply be a misdemeanor.

TEPCo too has engaged in its own levels of obfuscation and questionable behaviors relating to the clean-up.  They have lied on numerous occasions to the Japanese government, as well as the international community [2,3,4,5]; employed clean-up sub-contractors and personnel reportedly with ties to the Yakuza; provided workers little training and not much in the way of personal protection from irradiation and contamination; demonstrated no ability to stanch the flow of radioactively contaminated water from the reactors and into the Pacific Ocean, finally publicly admitting that they felt they would have to release contaminated water directly at some point.  It has also reneged on mediated victim compensation payment agreements [7].

Although further removed in time and buried in the collective consciousness of a society that seems to demonstrate the recall capacity of a fruit fly, the Chornobyl disaster of 30 years ago continues to offer its own unique examples of “SCUM”.  While numerous health organizations, NGOs and individual governments

Construction of the newly completed replacement sarcophagus.

Construction of the newly completed replacement sarcophagus

report deaths and health effects into the hundreds of thousands, the “official story” number of 56 radiation-related deaths is the one most conveniently used in news stories and public statements.  The explosion of thyroid-related conditions and surgeries is minimized by the terse clinical observation that this is somehow acceptable, since it is “relatively easy” to provide treatment for thyroid disorders.  The stories of the 800,000 liquidators receive little attention these days, and their diseases and suffering are relegated to “stress” and “nuclear phobia” – as if these would have existed absent the nuclear disaster.

High-priced, slick documentaries abound, claiming the “recovery” of wildlife in the Contaminated Zone.  These often “forget” to mention that much of this alleged recovery can be attributed to the near-total absence of the apex predator – mankind.  They further fail to mention the numerous studies showing the opposite is actually true when one examines in greater depth the overall health and reproductive capabilities of many of the remaining wildlife inhabitants of The Zone that aren’t good photogenic subjects for heartwarming documentaries – the insects, bacteria, fungi, plant species, etc., which make up the base of the web of life in the region.

Ignoring the rhinoceros in the living room – the current de facto civil war raging in Ukraine – the Kyiv-based Ukrainian government continues to insist that it will build an additional 13 nuclear reactors [9] on top of the 15 currently in operation in a nation on the cusp of war and self-annihilation — some of which were under threat during the hotter hostilities.  Apparently, the phrase, ”loss-of-offsite-power” accident has not yet been translated into Ukrainian.

 

THE U.S. (LACK OF) RESPONSE POST FUKUSHIMA/CHORNOBYL

One should not get the erroneous impression that the “SCUM” phenomenon applies solely to Japan and Ukraine.  The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the nuclear industry here have contributed heavily to the list of lessons-not-learned and missed opportunities to improve safety.  Consider:

  • Going against the recommendations of its hand-picked expert analysis team making post-Fukushima “lessons-learned” recommendations, the NRC denied an emergency interveners 2.206 petition which called for safety improvements in the 24 U.S. reactors of the same design that melted down and blew up at Fukushima – four of which are in Illinois.  These improvements would have added filtered vents (which were added to European and Japanese reactors after the Fukushima meltdowns) to keep radioactive materials inside the plant during meltdowns; and improvements to the emergency cooling systems for the “spent fuel pools” containing the reactor’s spent fuel. [10]
  • The NRC also delayed for years the implementation of several other “lessons learned” recommended by NRC staff.
  • After the Chornobyl disaster in 1986, regulators insisted that there were no lessons to be learned here in the U.S. because the U.S. utilities did not operate any reactors of the design type of Chornobyl, which NRC deemed inferior to U.S. designs. After the Fukushima disaster, in which three U.S.-design GE boiling water reactors widely used in the U.S. melted down and exploded, the NRC insisted that lessons were not applicable to the U.S. because the Japanese had modified these designs and operated them differently than is done in the U.S.
  • In December 2012 NRC whistle-blowers revealed that the NRC had been covering up the severity of accident potential from floods at U.S. reactors downstream of dams.[13]
  • In August 2015 the NRC rejected another recommendation emanating from the high-level task force it convened after the March 2011 Fukushima disaster which called for making Severe Accident Management Guidelines for reactor emergency response planning for Fukushima-level emergencies mandatory at nuclear reactors, stating the staff recommendation did not meet a strict cost-benefit standard. [12]NRC regulation 6-21-11
  • In September 2015 the NRC abruptly cancelled a cancer study [11] it had commissioned with the National Academy of Sciences to definitively determine the health impacts of living near nuclear reactors. The Academy had already done considerable work in this direction when NRC terminated the study, claiming it would not be “cost effective” to obtain this definitive answer.
  • Most recently seven NRC nuclear engineers felt compelled to file an emergency 2.206 safety-related petition with their superiors at NRC after uncovering a safety flaw found in 98 of 99 U.S. reactors which has existed since the reactors were built. Their concerns and recommended actions were denied two times previously by NRC officials higher in the chain of command.  This forced the NRC engineers to file as “citizen petitioners” rather than as NRC employees to bypass the NRC regulatory obstruction.  The condition was first identified at Exelon’s Byron Illinois nuclear station in 2012.  In spite of the fact that the safety condition persists, and is of a concern level that NRC regulations require that the reactors be fixed or be shut down, NRC has taken no action to implement the fixes four years after being reported. [14]

Historically, repeated instances like these show that NRC has demonstrated a near anaphalactic-allergic response to assertive regulation of the U.S. nuclear industry – so much so that critics insist that NRC must stand for “not really concerned.”  This abdication of regulatory responsibility comes to the detriment of protecting the U.S. public and the environment.

A former senior aide to the Commission bluntly observed [15] in 2012, that the “[C]ommission and that agency [NRC] were complete and total captives of the nuclear industry. One and the same.”

The one and only “lesson to be learned” from the nuclear disasters at Fukushima and Chornobyl is that – this is what you get when the regulators stop regulating.  Perhaps these anniversaries suggest – or warn — it is time to do major house cleaning at the NRC, and establish a truly independent regulator that will make public health and safety its prime concern – before we’re forced to start observing more such anniversaries here in the U.S.

 

SOURCES:
  1. Sources reveal Fukushima radiation cover-up — ‘Massively high levels’ hidden since last July — Nuclear Official: “Something like this cannot happen”, Japan Times, 12, 2014.
  2. ‘TEPCO covered up the truth about Fukushima disaster’, RT News, Oct. 28, 2014.
  3. TEPCO Admits to Fukushima Meltdown Coverup, Simply Info, Feb. 24, 2016.
  4. Former TEPCO Bosses Indicted Over Fukushima Nuclear Disaster; The indictments are the first against officials at TEPCO. 02/29/2016 04:53 am ET – Huffington Post/World Post.
  5. 142 workers’ radiation exposure higher than reported by Tepco, Japan Times, 3/26/14.
  6. Fukushima Keeps Fighting Radioactive Tide 5 Years After Disaster, by Jonathan Soble, New York Times, March 10, 2016.
  7. TEPCO ‘breaks vow,’ refuses more compensation for Fukushima nuclear victims, The Asahi Shimbun, June 27, 2014.
  8. Crippled Fukushima Reactors Are Still a Danger, 5 Years after the Accident: Japan’s citizens, and scientists worldwide, do not have answers to basic health and environment questions, by Madhusree Mukerjee, Scientific American, March 8, 2016.
  9. World Nuclear Power Reactors & Uranium Requirements, 1 March 2016.
  10. NRC letter of correspondence from John Lamb, July 8, 2013.
  11. NRC cancels health study around nuclear plants, including San Onofre, Orange County Register, Sept. 11, 2015.
  12. Concerning decision: Nuclear history doomed to repeat itself?, by Barbara Vergetis Lundin, Fierce Energy, August 31, 2015.
  13. Nuclear Safety Whistleblowers Blast NRC For Covering Up Flood Risks To Plants Lying Below Dams, Huffington Post, December 4, 2012.
  14. Dangerous Flaw Threatens to Close Nation’s Nuclear Fleet, Roger Witherspoon, Energy Matters, March 4, 2016.
  15. Nuclear Power Play: Ambition, Betrayal And The ‘Ugly Underbelly’ Of Energy Regulation Ryan Grim, Huffington Post, 12/29/11.

 

NEIS hosted the first training session of the newly formed Radiation Monitoring Project (RMP) in Chicago on October 30th.  Nuclear researcher Lucas Hixson of Enformable Environmental Services of Michigan conducted an intensive training for 10 eager trainees on the topics of radiation and the field use of monitors.

The Chicago event was the first of what will be a series of trainings around the country sponsored by the RMP.  The next trainings are tentatively slated to be held in Chicago sometime in January; and in Albuquerque in March, 2016.

Hixson led participants through an intense classroom training on radiation basics lasting nearly five hours.  This was followed for the next three hours by hands-on training using the monitors provided by the Project to take readings on selected radioactive samples Hixson provided.  An edited video of the training will soon be available on the RMP webpage hosted on the website of  Diné No Nukes of Albuquerque, NM.

The purpose of the RMP is to professionally train a cadre of frontline community members and activists who either live in or near nuclear/radiation-related facilities; or who are affected by some radiation contamination in the use of industry-grade radiation monitors.  The Project intends to compile and archive data; and act as a validity check to industry and government information concerning contamination and spills of radioactive materials.  Having the participants professionally trained and equipped with industry-standard monitors enhances the validity of their findings.

The Project is a joint venture of Diné No Nukes of Albuquerque, NM; Sloths against Nuclear State of Brooklyn, NY; and NEIS of Chicago Illinois.  These groups raised close to $17,000 this year to purchase 15 hand-held devices.  Fundraising continues (see below) and will go to cover the costs of future trainings, and purchase additional radiation monitors.

The RMP intends to offer the use of the monitors free of charge to individuals and groups living in or near communities threatened by some form of radiation contamination.  Candidates will have to submit a formal application (see below) to be considered for receiving a monitor; and will have to agree to participate in a formal training conducted by RMP.  Accepted applicants will also be urged to submit their data to RMP for archiving.

While other radiation monitoring projects have been in operation for years, it seems that the RMP model is the first of its kind in the U.S.  While the fundamental purpose of the Project is to protect people and communities from radiation hazards, its overarching goal is to train a constantly growing cadre of professionally trained people whose information and data cannot be disputed or dismissed as irrelevant.

After Fukushima it became abundantly clear that citizens cannot count on the information coming from government agencies and the nuclear industry as being valid and unbiased, if not outright falsified.  Nor can they count on the government to do monitoring when and where it counts.  The RMP intends to create a corps of citizen experts whose data and training will serve as a reality check on the usual “the public was never in any danger” pronouncements of groups like the NRC and EPA.

Individuals and organizations interested in being considered for participation in the RMP can submit an application form by e-mail.

Download the RMP  Application

 

The Project continues to accept donations. 

Donors willing to support the RMP can send donations in one of several ways:

Send the link along on Twitter and Facebook, with a little blurb about your experience at the Training.  Up to 7% of your donation will go to GoFundMe fees.  So….

Donors wishing to make TAX DEDUCTIBLE contributions can do so through the NEIS website at:

Donate to NEIS

and selecting the Radiation Monitoring Project from the “special purpose” field.

NEIS will also accept checks by mail made out to NEIS, and marked “RadMonitoring Project” in the memo field.

The full title of the RMP is, “The Radiation Monitoring Project: Protecting Our Communities.  Watching the Watchers.”  You are on notice NRC; we WILL be watching from now on.

 

Extremely Dangerous and Radioactive Nuclear Waste Shipments

CHICAGO – Thousands of nuclear waste shipments would cross through Illinois, if Congressional plans for the country’s first nuclear waste repository in Nevada move forward. Today, Nuclear Energy Information Service, along with dozens of environmental and clean energy groups nationwide, released maps of the likely routes radioactive shipments would use.  The groups want state residents to tell Congress: Yucca Mt. is not the right place; and premature transportation of high-level radioactive waste HLRW is dangerous and unnecessary.

According to the map (see attached), 7,821 shipments of highly radioactive waste fuel from scores of nuclear power plants east of the Mississippi River, including the 14 in Illinois,  would pass through the state on interstates, railways and even barges, including five if Illinois’ largest cities with a total population of 3.3 million people. This is the 5th largest amount of HLRW passing through any state.  Each shipment would contain several times more radioactive material than the Hiroshima bomb blast released, with 20 to 50 tons of irradiated fuel assemblies in each canister. Department of Energy studies completed in the 1990s confirmed that accidents in transporting the waste to Yucca Mountain would be a certainty, due to the large number of shipments that would be required. The shipments would also be vulnerable to attack or sabotage along the hundreds or thousands of miles that each cask would travel.

“Illinois is not ready for mass transportation of nuclear waste,” asserts David Kraft, director of the Chicago based Nuclear Energy Information Service, an Illinois nuclear power watchdog organization.  “Most first responders are part-time or volunteer; some are not even trained to handle a radioactive waste accident. We have all witnessed horrible oil train derailments and explosions in recent months. An accident involving tons of nuclear waste in Chicago or Aurora could force thousands of people to evacuate their homes, schools, and businesses; and radioactively contaminate dozens of square miles,” Kraft points out.

The Illinois Department of Nuclear Safety (under IEMA) has committed to escorting every shipment of HLRW into, through and exiting Illinois.  With the State’s current budget crisis, and layoffs and downsizing of State agencies and departments, that commitment must be seriously questioned at the present time.  This makes unleashing thousands of shipments of HLRW on to Illinois roads and rails a potentially more dangerous proposition.

Some in Congress – including a very vocal but ill-informed Rep. John Shimkus (R.15th) of Illinois — want to force a nuclear waste dump to open in Nevada, over President Obama’s and the state’s objections as well as that of  the Western Shoshone Nation. The president has defunded the proposed Yucca Mountain repository since 2010, effectively abandoning the controversial project, while Nevada has demonstrated the site is not suitable for storing nuclear waste and opposes the project. Nevada controls land and water rights the federal government would need to complete the project. To overcome that obstacle, Congress would need to enact a law overriding the state’s rights. Doing so would then open the door for the nuclear waste shipments to begin.

“Congress should support the people of Nevada and abandon Yucca Mountain,” said NEIS Board President Gail Snyder.  “It is unconscionable to risk the lives of Illinois residents transporting nuclear waste through our neighborhoods and communities, just to dump it at Yucca Mountain, where we and the Dept. of Energy know it will leak anyway. We need real solutions to the nuclear waste problem, and we are never going to get them until Congress abandons Yucca Mountain. Until then, the waste can be stored more securely where it is now, without putting it on our roads and railways, traveling through our communities,” concluded Snyder.

NEIS is calling on the Illinois delegation to Congress to oppose Yucca Mountain and ensure transportation of nuclear waste occurs only when there is a scientifically proven, environmentally sound, and socially responsible long-term management plan; and an operational HLRW permanent disposal facility in place. The nuclear waste problem can never truly be resolved until nuclear power plants are permanently shut down and stop generating radioactive material. New reactors would only exacerbate the problem: more dump sites would need to be created, and the transportation of lethal radioactive waste would have to continue indefinitely.

Large-scale nuclear waste transport would also occur if, as some in Congress advocate, a “centralized interim storage” (CIS)  site for HLRW were created. In that case, the waste would either have to move twice (once to the “interim” site, and then to a permanent site), thus doubling the risks; or the “interim” site would become a de facto permanent waste dump–without going through the necessary scientific characterization.

A 2012 report released from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory concluded,

“The one-site solution for stranded SNF based on minimizing the transportation distance matches the base case scenario with four and five storage sites for the most favorable ISFSI site in Illinois (47 and 44). The more cost-effective and flexible three-site ISFSI solution (Fig. 48) would move this site to northwest Illinois. Although the northwest Illinois location may not quite be optimized with respect to transportation distance for the case of stranded plant fuel, it may well fit into a national scheme for the current SNF storage issue. Therefore, establishing this general location as the initial consolidated ISFSI location would seem to have merit….

“This critical finding is encouraging considering the fact that Recommendation #3 of the Transportation and Storage Subcommittee of the BRC, as excerpted previously, gave priority to the SNF stored at the orphaned plants. ORNL’s conclusion is that, if the BRC’s said recommendation is to be implemented as the pilot project of a larger, longer-term national fuel disposition campaign, the northwestern Illinois location seems to have geographical attributes and transportation infrastructure advantages that would facilitate the entire planning, implementation and operation phases of the campaign.” (see attached file)

Siting a CIS facility in Illinois for the nation’s “orphaned” HLRW (from reactors that have already closed, such as Exelon’s Zion Station north of Chicago) would add an additional 9,000+ tons of HLRW to the 9,000+ tons that Exelon’s reactors in Illinois have already produced – all with no place to go for disposal.  Experts believe this HLRW would sit in Illinois until at least 2048 at the earliest, thus making Illinois a national de facto HLRW dumpsite.

“Rep. Shimkus’ zeal for moving HLRW around prematurely could inevitably lead to Illinois becoming the de facto HLRW dump for entire nation, “ Kraft points out.  “As Einstein once said, ‘Intellectuals solve problems.  Geniuses prevent them.’  We could use a few more geniuses on the HLRW issue in the Illinois delegation to Congress, and Rep. Shimkus does not seem to be one,” Kraft concluded.

“The nation needs a permanent, deep geologic HLRW disposal facility.  That’s a given, and we support that,” Kraft continues.  “Engaging in a dangerous high-level radioactive waste shell game that unleashes 70,000+ tons of HLRW onto the nation’s crumbling road and rail infrastructure and waterways, just so the nuclear industry can continue to make more even more HLRW is irresponsible and does not solve the problem of finding the permanent disposal facility location.  Neither does sending it to an inadequate hole in the ground, nor a ‘temporary’ CIS.  For those reasons we and scores of other safe-energy and anti-nuclear organizations nationwide are urging citizens and municipalities to TELL their Congressional representatives to reject the ‘Fukushima Freeway’ concept of radioactive waste management,” Kraft concluded.

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Stop Fukishima Freeways Campaign

The State of Nevada has updated their nuclear waste transportation page.
State of Nevada Nuclear Waste Transportation Page

 

** 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. 

Rejection a huge defeat for Exelon, and loss of a regulated market to abuse

CHICAGO—Exelon Corporation was handed a stunning defeat today when the Washington, D.C. Public Services Commission (PSC) rejected Exelon’s merger bid with East Coast utility PEPCO.

The rejection denies Exelon a sorely needed new market in a regulated environment to help prop up its failing and anachronistic business model.  Exelon’s nuclear fleet – the nation’s largest — has been failing in the deregulated markets it helped create in Illinois (in the late 1990s).  Exelon decided to “go retro” to bolster profitability by going back into regulated markets such as PEPCO’s, where profits would be guaranteed.

The D.C. PUC cited in its unanimous rejection that the proposed Exelon/PEPCO merger was “not being in the public interest:“

From the Commission press release:

“Chairman Kane stated, “The public policy of the District is that the local electric company should focus solely on providing safe, reliable and affordable distribution service to District residences, businesses and institutions. The evidence in the record is that sale and change in control proposed in the merger would move us in the opposite direction.”

Sources close to the proceeding indicate that the Commission also viewed Exelon’s business model, and specifically its behavior in other markets like Illinois as being decidedly anti-efficiency and renewable energy, something which is “in the opposite direction” from where the D.C. PSC felt customers would benefit.

“Exelon’s overt hostility to renewables and energy efficiency, both here in Illinois with its current legislation, and in its anti-renewable lobbying efforts in Congress, has come back to bite them big time,” notes David Kraft, director of the Chicago-based Nuclear Energy Information Service, an Illinois nuclear-watchdog organization and renewable energy advocacy group.

In early 2015 Exelon lobbyists helped introduce legislation in Springfield called the “Low Carbon Portfolio Standard,” (HB3293 & SB3328) which was not acted upon during the Spring 2015 session.  Critics view this legislation as clearly anti-renewable energy, more evidence of its failed and anachronistic “big box” business model, and a bailout for five money-losing Illinois nuclear reactors.  Some expect that Exelon will try to sneak this legislation through the Fall veto session, or else resurrect it during the Spring of 2016.

“For the better part of  two years, NEIS has been sounding the alarm with Illinois public officials and largely disinterested journalists that Exelon has been spearheading a nationwide “nuclear war” against renewable energy.  Finally, someone in a position of authority and responsibility has gotten the message, saw evidence that this was ‘not being in the public interest,’ and acted to protect their constituents,” Kraft continued.

“We can only hope that Illinois legislators and Governor Rauner take a lesson from the D.C. PSC, and reject Exelon’s Illinois plans to gut renewable energy and energy efficiency in Illinois,” Kraft concludes.

 

Chicago, IL.—The “Radiation Monitoring Project”, a national initiative to establish monitoring of radioactivity in communities contaminated by the nuclear fuel chain, received over half its $15,000 fundraising goal in a single anonymous donation earlier this week.

The Radiation Monitoring Project is a collaboration among three organizations: Diné No Nukes (DNN) of the Southwest region, Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS) located in Chicago, Illinois and Sloths Against Nuclear State (SANS) based in Brooklyn, NY. These organizations represent communities across America affected by various stages of the nuclear fuel chain—such as uranium mining and milling, waste transport and storage, and nuclear reactors.

Fund Title“This gift was totally unexpected,” notes Dave Kraft, director of NEIS. “It makes it very likely that we will not only reach our initial targets, but may enable us to purchase even more radiation monitors for distribution than initially planned.  Whoever the donors are, we thank you, and so do the communities your gift will be protecting,” says a grateful Kraft.

Due to the lack of public monitoring of radioactivity and access to real-time data regarding radioactive contamination, the three organizations are working together to establish mechanisms to monitor radioactivity and the means to access the information online.

As long as the American public is not aware of the radioactive pollution in their area, the more they are susceptible to adverse health effects,” states Charmaine Whiteface from Defenders of the Black Hills, an organization dealing with radioactive contamination on Lakota and Cheyenne lands.

Nationally, many communities are in dire need of this type of monitoring to protect human populations, but lack the necessary resources or technology to do much about it. Through this project, these organizations are not only addressing the need for monitoring to protect the public health and safety, but they are also providing culturally appropriate education and support for communities to protect themselves.

This first stage of the project is to raise funds to secure at least 10 radiation detectors (also known as Geiger Counters) as well as to host multiple trainings in different regions to use said devices. The group is using the platform Go Fund Me and receiving tax-deductible donations via NEIS, which received the donation this week from an anonymous donor.

In response to Fukushima, the 2013 WIPP plutonium leak in New Mexico, and in the wake of the recent May 2015 radiation leak at Indian Point nuclear reactor (less than 60 miles north of New York City), residents in urban areas are becoming alarmed to the real dangers of nuclear energy production. Just like the disasters at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, residents of these areas will be permanently impacted by the radioactivity, health effects, economic upheaval, relocation, and the many costs never paid for by the nuclear industry itself.

Unknowingly, a huge percentage of Americans in the Western United States live everyday near radioactive waste sites contaminated from past mining. Beginning in the 1870s, uranium was discovered in Colorado and mined during the 19th century in both Colorado and Texas. The most contaminated sites were created during the Manhattan-Project or Atomic Energy Commission mining-era, largely on indigenous lands and within sources of drinking water for many indigenous peoples. In places like Churchrock, New Mexico—site of the world’s largest uranium tailings spill in 1979—both ground and surface water were contaminated. Today, the majority of these past mining areas remain un-remediated. Residents in Churchrock are still living with contamination from past mining and the 1979 spill. Such rural locations are not in the news and, in the past, did not receive the media attention that was created around Three Mile Island or Fukushima,

Arnie Gundersen of Fairwinds Energy Education – an internationally recognized nuclear issues expert, especially on the Fukushima nuclear disaster — says in support of the project: “Radiation exposure to Native Americans is one of the great untold stories of the nuclear era. These detectors will help the truth to be told.” 

This project ties together the entire nuclear fuel chain by addressing the similar needs of different communities working to protect themselves and future generations by identifying contaminated sites and preventing unnecessary exposures at these places.

The project and fundraiser commenced on the anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster this year, April 26, 2015. The organizations plan to reach the goal of $15,000 by July 16, 2015 which is the anniversary of the Churchrock Spill as well as the first nuclear test explosion in 1945 at the Trinity Site in southern New Mexico.

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About the Project: http://www.dinenonukes.org/radiation-monitoring-project/

Go Fund Me: http://www.gofundme.com/radmonitoring

About the Organizations:
Diné No Nukes
Nuclear Energy Information Services
Sloths Against Nuclear State