NEIS Board President Speaks at Chicago Hiroshima Observance

On Sunday August 6, over 60 people gathered at the Henry Moore Sculpture to Atomic Energy on the Hyde Park campus of the University of Chicago – the place where the first human controlled chain reaction experiment occurred on Dec. 2, 1942 – to observe the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan in 1945.

Estimates vary, but over 200,000 people were killed by the two bombs dropped on these cities, ushering in the age of nuclear warfare.

Many speakers gave moving speeches including one second generation atom bombing survivor.  Overall, the messages were messages of peace, and of resistance to the continued threat of nuclear weapons.

And, nuclear power.  NEIS President Gail Snyder and Secretary Linda Lewison gave moving presentations to conclude the event

The Annual event was put together by long-time peace activist Brad Lyttle, Zen teacher Taigan Dan Leighton, and moderated by peace activist and NEIS supporter Roberta Siegel.

The legendary entertainer, musician, and just great human being Bonnie Raitt once again invited NEIS (and 5 other cause groups she supports) to table at her concert held at Wrigley Field in Chicago on July 17th. Sharing the bill with James Taylor, Raitt performed impeccably before a noticeably loyal fan base crowd. The tabling was hosted as part of the “Green Highway” team that accompanies her on tour, inviting groups she supports to table and give info to concert-goers.

Raitt also made time to invite the NEIS Team back stage after her set for a short chat about fighting nukes, pipelines and other environmental injustices. Board members Stephanie Bilenko, Kathleen Rude and Linda Lewison, and NEIS Director Dave Kraft got to spend some time catching up with Bonnie, who is a long-time regular supporter of NEIS and other anti-nuclear groups.

 

In preparation for taking on the reactionary Trump environmental agenda, Greenpeace hosted a two day training on non-violent direct action (NVDA) in Chicago, Saturday and Sunday, July 1-2 – just in time for Independence Day. Many REAL patriots attended this event, including NEIS Board members Stephanie Bilenko and Kathleen Rude.

NEIS will engage in whatever activity it takes to create a carbon-free, nuclear-free world in opposition to the destructive and planet-threatening energy agenda of the Trump Administration.

To quote Julia Ward Howe: “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies.” You better believe that!

Pictured: NEIS Board member Kathleen Rude briefing attendees of Greenpeace NVDA training in Chicago, July 2.

“Carbon-Free/Nuclear-Free by 2040!” – or, we’re toast.

NEIS was honored to march with the national Veterans for Peace as part of their national conference in Chicago, Aug. 13th. The VFP theme was: “Education! NOT Militarization!” as VFP decried in insidious infiltration of all grade levels of U.S. schools by military recruiters and ROTC programs, while funding for basic education goes unmet.

NEIS Director Dave Kraft was asked to address the VFP crowd at the site of Chicago Vietnam Memorial.  He spoke on the connections between nuclear weapons and nuclear power, both historic and present, and called for the end of the Nuclear Age, a call which was enthusiastically received by the VFP marchers.  In a parting shot to the pro-nuclear Trump Administration (Trump Tower Chicago is right across the Chicago River from the Vietnam Memorial), Kraft energized the crowd by invoking the legendary fictional TV announcer Howard Beale, getting the crowd to its feet and shout towards Trump Tower, “We’re as mad as hell, and we’re not gonna take this anymore!”

 

Two absolutely brilliant statements about the ongoing Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan are captured by Chicago media treasure CAN-TV on the 6th anniversary of the Fukushima disaster. Ten NEIS supporters staged an event outside of the Japanese Consul Office in Chicago on March 11th. NEIS President Gail Snyder, and Professor Emeritus Dr. Norman Field gave impassioned statements urging greater efforts to stem the ongoing radioactive pollution of the Pacific Ocean. The safe-energy advocates collected postcards to be sent to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, urging that he and the Japanese government seek international help to stop the ongoing pollution.

Water IS Life: Stop Polluting the Pacific Ocean!

Today, we observe the 6th anniversary of the ongoing nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station in Japan.  Six years after what is arguably the world’s worst nuclear disaster, one which was avoidable even under the extraordinary conditions of the massive earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, Japan’s destroyed reactors continue to dump between 300-400 tons of water contaminated with radionuclides daily into the Pacific Ocean.  These radioactive discharges not only represent an immediate health threat to the local bio-systems, they have now been detected with certainty as far away as the U.S. Pacific West Coast.

After 6 years we have seen:

  • the failure of the ice wall containment to keep radioactive run-off water out of the Pacific Ocean;
  • the ever growing contaminated water tank farms;
  • confirmation of three complete core melts, with no idea how to clean them up;
  • government imposition of radiation standards on the general population of Japan, especially young school children most vulnerable to the effects of radiation, many times greater than those allowed for nuclear plant workers in Europe and North America;
  • accusations taken to the United Nations of human rights violations perpetrated against children and women in Japan from the contaminated areas;
  • corruption complaints against the numerous private contractors conducting the so-called cleanup efforts;
  • and finally, the daily flow of 400 tons of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean – the WORLD’S largest body of surface water.

In spite of Japan’s best efforts, it is clear that no substantive progress has been made, and no solution is in sight.  Fukushima is now a  WORLD catastrophe.  It requires a WORLD intervention.

In essence Japan’s inability to contain the ongoing Fukushima disaster constitutes a crime against humanity, one that will last far into the future.  It also demonstrates Japan’s inability to get the situation under control on its own, a situation which therefore calls for international intervention – voluntarily accepted or not; and/or sanctions from the world community whose health and future the continued contamination jeopardizes.

As we learned this past year at Oceti Sakowin (Standing Rock), “Water is Life;” and the Pacific Ocean is the WORLD’S water.  Japan must consider internationalization of the continued efforts to stop the Fukushima catastrophe.  We feel there is no choice remaining but to petition the United Nations to create an international intervention team to stop the ongoing contamination of the Pacific Ocean, and of Japan.

EVENING PROGRAM

Short films and discussion about the Fukushima disaster will take place at the NEIS Office in the evening of march 10th: 6:30 – 9:00 p.m.,  3411 W. Diversey, Ste. 13, Chicago IL  60647.  This is in Logan Square, Chicago, at Kimball, Milwaukee and Diversey Aves., at the Logan Square Blue Line “L” stop.  Open to the public.  Admission free.

 

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WILL NUCLEAR POWER’S DEATH SPIRAL KILL US ALL?

Harvey Wasserman’s Solartopia show of March 9th, featured the Moe, Larry and Curly of the anti-nuclear movement – Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear, Tim Judson of Nuclear Information and Resource Service, and Dave Kraft of Chicago’s Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS). We discuss Fukushima on the 6th anniversary of the disaster, and the nuclear bailouts in Illinois, New York and Ohio.

We began by assessing the final collapse of the push for new nukes in the US, especially with the collapse of Westinghouse and France’s Areva. But we then examine the far more terrifying turf of dying old uncompetitive nukes being kept on line with huge state-based hand-outs.

Basically it boils down to your money AND your life.

 

Letter to the Editors     

The “nuclear hostage crisis” is finally over.  Governor Rauner and the Illinois Legislature has ordered all Illinois ratepayers to pay the $2.35 billion ransom to Exelon Corporation over the next ten years, ostensibly to save the ~1,500 jobs at the Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear reactors.  That amounts to $1.57 million for each job “saved.”  Heckuva job, Raunie!

But this threat of job loss has only been postponed not eliminated.  Every operating reactor has an inevitable ending hanging over it known as its operating license termination date – the date beyond which the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says, “Game over, lights out!”  That date is publicly available, and was known in advance for Clinton and Quad, and for all other Illinois reactors – meaning that every reactor community in Illinois will at some point be going through the same psychodrama that unfolded around Clinton and Quad Cities recently.

Make no mistake – the impact of Exelon’s closure threats were real, needed to be taken seriously, and would have been hugely painful to those communities.  Loss of jobs, reduced tax base and reduction of public services are all very real effects experienced by the Zion community when ComEd closed those reactors in 1998, effects from which it still has not recovered, according to Mayor Al Hill.

Responsible governance calls for this never happening again.  Responsible governance calls for pro-active plans to insure that workers are protected, and local tax bases are not decimated overnight by legally allowed corporate caprice.  Illinois needs a “reactor exit strategy” in place BEFORE the next nuclear hostage crisis occurs.

Gov. Rauner said he supported the Exelon bailout because, “closing the plants would have “devastated the two communities.”  If he really and truly believes that, then he should have worked to bail out the potentially devastated communities, not the hugely profitable Exelon corporation.

For over 2 years our organization argued that the State must insist that a “just transitions” program be instituted to protect reactor (and perhaps coal) communities from the withdrawal of “company town” utilities like Exelon.  Absent such a proactive plan, this “bailout tango” will be repeated in the future when Byron, LaSalle, Dresden and Braidwood start to become “unprofitable” for Exelon.

We spelled out potential funding mechanisms, which are eminently negotiable. We left copies of this plan at the offices of over 40 legislators and state officials, including Governor Rauner’s office, Rep. Madigan’s office, Sen. Cullerton’s office, the AG’s office, and numerous individual legislators including Sen. Radogno, the Clean Jobs Bill sponsors, and others.  We personally gave copies to Sen. Chapin Rose who represents the Clinton community, and representatives from the Quad Cities chamber of commerce and City Administrator of Clinton.  We made it part of our testimony before the House and Senate Energy Committees.  We urged that it become a topic of discussion and negotiation in the recently enacted legislation.

No luck.

Evidently. legislators love 6-hour public hearings, and annual bailout proceedings.  It’s much easier to pass the bills along to disempowered ratepayers than to engage in responsible governance.

Already, Exelon has announced to Bloomberg Press that it’s possible that the Byron nuclear station could become economically challenged as early as 2017.  We asked legislators during the House Energy Committee hearing on the Exelon bailout if they will convene more six hour hearings to debate more bailouts when Dresden becomes challenged, or Braidwood, or LaSalle.  Then, they can start with the coal communities.  Or alternately, they can plan ahead for the inevitable.

Now that Exelon has received its pound of flesh, the public needs protection.  The Spring legislative session would not be too soon to enact a “just transitions” provision that protects both communities affected by powerplant closures, and Illinois ratepayers now forced to pay ransom to delay them.

But then, that would require governance.  And this is Illinois.

 

Published Version

NOTE: A version of this letter appeared in the State Journal Register, Dec. 13, 2016

Star Journal Register

 

An old Mark Twain adage states that a falsehood gets half-way around the world before Truth gets its boots on.  Its wisdom and accuracy is thoroughly proven – by the fact that Mark Twain was probably not the one who said this.

The wisdom of the adage has again been amply demonstrated by recent articles written by pro-nuclear advocates calling for the bailout of money-losing nuclear plants based on the dubious contention that they are needed to combat climate change. 

While this contention is flat out wrong, it does prove yet another adage:  “Never send in an engineer when you need an economist.”

The recent guest letter in the Cleveland.com/Cleveland Plain Dealer by Henry Spitz, a professor in nuclear and radiological engineering at the University of Cincinnati College of Engineering and Applied Science [1] has made claims that are contestable at best, flat out wrong at worst concerning both the need to bail out failing nuclear plants to combat climate change, and that recent events in Illinois and New York demonstrate that environmentalists and legislatures are somehow endorsing this position. Upton Sinclair warnings aside, his interpretation of events is quite erroneous.

In the case of the Illinois example he cites, he claims, “Illinois recognized the value of nuclear power to meeting its clean energy goals by adopting a zero emission standard.” [1]  This glib pronouncement totally ignores the complex and often irrational political process that created that outcome.

Exelon Corporation originally created a “nuclear hostage” crisis in Illinois by using the threat of job loss to try to get the legislature to pass a multi-billion dollar nuclear bailout during election years; and the fig-leaf, after the fact “benefit” that nuclear plants were necessary to meet the state’s anticipated EPA carbon footprint reduction goals.  Over several years the Company’s political strategy rationales for the nuclear bailout changed in substance and frequency as much as did the explanations for why we invaded Iraq back in 2003.  In the end Exelon’s final motive was reported in Crain’s Chicago Business on Nov. 11, 2016 [2]:

“Exelon now has dubbed the legislation, which still hasn’t been introduced officially, as the Future Energy Jobs Bill. That underscores the company’s emphasis on preserving and creating jobs rather than the environmental benefits of keeping nuclear plants open.

The bill “was not driven by the Clean Power Plan, although it had meeting those goals as an added benefit,” Exelon said in a statement. “This bill is about economics—both for Illinois consumers and for the state’s future prospects for economic development.” [2]

This telling statement was made after Exelon attempted to make alliances with downstate coal companies to get the votes needed for passage of the nuclear bailout bill, which would have resulted in some coal plants getting bailouts as well.  This gambit failed when environmental groups withdrew their support for the Exelon legislation.  So much for nuclear utility Exelon’s fig-leaf commitment to abating climate change through nuclear power.

Professor Spitz continues saying, “The Illinois measure also strengthened and expanded the state’s renewable portfolio standard, requiring greater use of solar power and wind turbines, and it expanded energy efficiency programs.” [1]

What Prof. Spitz either ignores or is unaware of is that the “strengthen[ing] and expand[ing of] the state’s renewable portfolio standard” had been held hostage for several years, and its passage was not some energy alleluia moment; but rather a political trade-off predicated on the passage of some form of nuclear bailout first.  This was the only way Exelon lobbyists would permit fixing Illinois’ broken renewable portfolio standard. Legislative leadership ordered the competing parties – Exelon, environmental groups, utility ComEd — to negotiate among themselves, and come back with legislative sausage where everybody got something, whether or not deserved or sound energy policy.

In plain English – environmental groups would get no such renewables expansion unless they first agreed to a nuclear bailout.  There are legal terms that define such conditions.  None are particularly flattering.

Prof. Spitz and others go further in their efforts to rationalize the continued existence of uneconomic nuclear reactors by claiming – quite falsely – that “environmentalists” are backing such plans.  Professor Spitz asserts,

“What’s so striking about the Illinois action is that environmentalists joined labor and business leaders in backing it. Among the environmental groups that signed on were the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Environmental Defense Fund. Something like that would have been unimaginable five years ago but it suggests that the environmental community now recognizes that nuclear power must play a role in the battle against climate change.” [1]

As a self-described scientist, Professor Spitz should understand that, just as correlation does not imply causality, coincidence does not necessarily equal agreement.

Many instances of this blatant distortion of reality have occurred over the past year, most notably involving an attempt by the Wall Street Journal  to push that angle back in late June, 2016 [3].  This assertion was quickly rebutted by clarifying statements from Sierra Club director Michael Brune and others, and in a spectacularly devastating article by Miranda Spencer of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting [4] at the time:

“Sierra Club remains opposed to dangerous nuclear power, and our efforts to make sure these plants shut down continue. Our successful work to stop and retire coal, oil, and gas operations has not precluded this important work, nor will it in the future. It’s imperative that we move toward an economy powered by 100% clean, renewable energy like wind and solar right away.” [5]  — Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director, June 17, 2016

But, let’s see what “the environmentalists” in Illinois said about the nuclear bailout legislation Professor Spitz gushes over.  Was it really a recognition that nuclear has a role to play in battling climate change?  Illinois Sierra Club director Jack Darin apparently did not think so – and neither did many other environmental groups — at the bill-signing on December 7, 2016:

“These are huge leaps forward for clean energy, but the Future Energy Jobs Bill was also a compromise that includes ratepayer support for two nuclear power plants. To be clear, the Sierra Club remains opposed to nuclear power, and we do not consider nuclear to be clean energy.  While we fought for our clean energy priorities, we strongly opposed Exelon’s proposed “Low Carbon Portfolio Standard,” which would have subsidized all of Exelon’s six nuclear reactors, to the exclusion of renewable power. We defeated that proposal, and championed the Illinois Clean Jobs bill as a much better alternative. However, after nearly two years, legislative leaders and the Governor convened all stakeholders with the directive to agree on a single, comprehensive energy proposal. We fought and won to make renewable energy and energy efficiency the cornerstones of the compromise legislation, and of Illinois’ energy future.” [6] – Jack Darin, Director, Illinois Sierra Club, Dec. 7, 2016

This is hardly the ringing endorsement of nuclear’s roles in combating climate change that Prof. Spitz and others assert.

When you buy into nuclear power, it really is a lot like buying a burrito – you have to take everything they stuff inside it, and can’t cherry pick the contents after the fact.  You have to take the radioactive wastes, the Fukushima’s and Chornobyl’s, the perpetual cost overruns, the counterfeit and substandard parts, and above all – the multi-billion dollar bailouts of economically failing reactors, along with the, um, oh yeah, less-carbon intensive electricity.  But that’s not how nuclear is sold by its supporters, which tend to glibly gloss over, distort, or ignore these downsides, and more often than not seem to possess the Alfred E. Newman attitude of, “What – me worry?”

These nuclear wealth-transfer schemes (from public ratepayer wallets to private company shareholder portfolios) mortgage our energy future by bailing out the past.  Ask any blacksmith or clipper ship sail manufacturer you meet how far that will get you.

If nuclear proponents can so egregiously misinterpret an outcome, whether by ignorance of readily available and necessary facts or by deliberately cherry-picking the data to arrive at a self-aggrandizing outcome, then perhaps the public’s mistrust of nuclear power has not been so misplaced after all.  If that’s how they do their science and engineering, we’re all in big trouble.

 

SOURCES:
[1]  “Save Ohio’s two nuclear plants and continue their contributions to clean energy: Henry Spitz (Opinion),“ Cleveland.com and Cleveland Plain Dealer, Jan 16, 2017.  http://www.cleveland.com/opinion/index.ssf/2017/01/save_nuclear_power_in_ohio_and.html

[2] “Trump election takes some air out of Exelon’s Illinois energy bill,” Crain’s Chicago Business, November 11, 2016

[3] “Environmental Groups Change Tune on Nuclear Power,” Amy Harder, Wall Street Journal, June 16, 2016.

[4]  “WSJ Fakes a Green Shift Toward Nuclear Power,” Miranda Spencer, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), June 24, 2016.

[5] Sierra Club Statement on Nuclear Power Plants, June 17, 2016,  http://content.sierraclub.org/press-releases/2016/06/sierra-club-statement-nuclear-power-plants

[6] Illinois Sierra Club press statement, Dec. 7, 2016, http://content.sierraclub.org/press-releases/2016/12/sierra-club-statement-signing-future-energy-jobs-bill

 

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: