A number of us in Chicago were rolling our eyes and yelling at our radios listening to former EPA Administrator Carol Browner, now spokesperson for the Exelon sponsored “Nuclear Matters” interviewedyesterday on our local public radio station, WBEZ, on Monday January 26th.

Dave Kraft, Director of Nuclear Energy Information Service was able to counter her points in an interview the following day on the same radio station.

Carol Browner, Nuclear Matters Interview:

Dave Kraft, Nuclear Energy Information Service Interview:

UPDATE

CHICAGO– A more serious incident occurred at the Honeywell Uranium conversion facility in Metropolis, Illinois than was originally reported by the plant operators to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The NRC Event Report states,

“DISCOVERY OF AFTER-THE-FACT EMERGENCY CONDITION – ALERT DECLARATION NOT MADE DURING EVENT INVOLVING URANIUM HEXAFLUORIDE LEAK After review of additional observations and other evidence not directly involved with the response, Honeywell has determined that the event should have been upgraded at 1942 [CDT] on 10/26/14, to an ‘Alert’ classification per our classification criteria.”

“Emergency response and public awareness to a hazardous release from Honeywell depends on the reliable, honest and timely reporting by Honeywell. No government agencies can detect in real time an ongoing release of radioactive Uranium Hexafluoride (UF6) or toxic Hydrogen Fluoride (HF) at the facility”, stated Gail Snyder, Board President of Nuclear Energy Information Service.

In a phone conversation with Roger Hanah of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) he conveyed that Honeywell’s Emergency Response Plan includes stationing a person in position to view and observe the incident and that the person was not originally stationed in a location that allowed him/her to see the release of Uranium Hexafluoride (UF6) from the building. An updated NRC Event Report states “the NRC inspection found that Honeywell did not recognize that the HF (Hydrogen Fluoride) released from the FMB (Facilities Management Building) warranted an emergency classification of ALERT. “ As a result Honeywell did not notify the Nuclear Regulatory Commission at that time. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency which issues the site permit and regulates the process where the leak occurred was not notified of the incident until a few days after it happened.

Currently the production of Uranium Hexafluoride (UF6) is shutdown at the facility while an internal investigation and corrective actions are evaluated and discussed with the NRC. In a confirmatory action letter resulting from an NRC emergency inspection, Honeywell is required to “review and revise [their] emergency preparedness procedures, if necessary, and conduct appropriate training to provide assurance that events can be classified correctly, and appropriate emergency response actions can be implemented.” From this wording it does not indicate if Honeywell’s failure to accurately understand and convey the seriousness of the incident was a failure of their Emergency Response Plan or insufficiently trained or inexperienced workers.

On-strike union workers have claimed that replacement workers are not well trained and do not have the experience to operate the facility as safely as union workers would.

“The NRC has previously approved the Emergency Response Plan and allowed the facility to operate with replacement workers. So will the NRC undergo its own internal investigation to determine how the NRC allowed either plans, less qualified workers or some combination of those to operate the facility in a way that would allow for a plume of Uranium Hexafluoride or Hydrogen Fluoride to be released, not noticed, not accurately categorized and delayed in reporting?” asks Gail Snyder.

The Honeywell facility does not have a ten-mile Emergency Planning Zone around it like nuclear energy facilities do which require some preparedness information be provided to the public on what to do in the event of an emergency. Joe Miller from Massac County’s Emergency Management department said, “the sirens that are activated offsite during an emergency may not always be heard by people who are inside a residence or building,” where other sounds from televisions, radios etc…may not allow them to hear the sirens.  Emergency Management Director for the City of Metropolis, Keith Davis, who is also the director for the 911 service of the county, said that during an emergency Honeywell determines the severity and classification of an event as well as the action recommendations which are then directed to dispatch. Prompt public notification of an emergency can come in the form of sirens and reverse 911 calls or through the emergency alert system.  The original reporting from Honeywell or its revised status of an “alert” would not have initiated public notifications.  If the status was raised to a “Site Area Emergency” that would indicate the possible offsite release of Uranium Hexafluoride (UF6) and/or Hydrogen Fluoride (HF) which would initiate public notifications.

On October 26, 2014 Honeywell reported a leak of Uranium Hexafluoride (UF6) claiming the leak was contained within the building, later admitting that the leak was not contained in the building and was released into the environment while still claiming it did not go offsite of the facility. A union worker on strike outside the facility filmed the plume coming out of the top of the building and drifting across the property before water suppression systems were activated.  Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) states that their department’s radiation monitoring equipment stationed outside the facility’s fence boundary did not monitor anything unusual. The other dangerously toxic chemical, Hydrogen Fluoride Gas (HF), which could be a significant risk to the neighboring community is not monitored by IEMA.

The first NRC “updated” Preliminary report, dated October 31st, maintains the “Not Applicable” classification rather than the “Alert” classification. It also states “initial indications are that no detectable offsite release of material (UF6 or HF) was present,” and that “monitoring fence HF detectors from the control room indicated no detectable HF at the fence.” The Honeywell facility has Hydrogen Fluoride detectors on site but according to an article posted by the United Steel Workers, who are in a labor dispute with Honeywell and have been locked out of the facility for over three months, HF monitors are not stationed on the West side of the property’s fence line, the direction the plume was going. A Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff member confirmed that it was likely that HF monitors were not stationed along the fence line in areas where people did not live. The west side of the Honeywell facility is bordered by a forested area. A coal facility is just beyond the forested area. The only agency that might monitor for Hydrogen Fluoride is the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA).  Attempts to contact the IEPA to confirm that they do not monitor for Hydrogen Fluoride at the facility could not be obtained by the time of this press release.

The most recent NRC “updated” Preliminary report, dated November 6th, states that “The NRC has concluded no detectable radioactive material was released,” and that “Honeywell has determined that if any HF, which is not radioactive but is chemically hazardous, travelled beyond their property it would have been of such a low concentration as to pose no public safety hazard.” From October 31st to November 6th Honeywell changed its statement from “initial indications…no detectable offsite release” to “if any HF travelled beyond property.”  Currently there is no confirmation that HF absolutely did not leave the site because there are not monitors around the entire site, and we have found no other governmental agency that monitors HF at the site. Other than direct monitoring of HF, determination of whether HF went beyond the property is done through computer modeling. The Honeywell Company and the NRC have both run modeling programs to determine the quantity of material released. The results of the modeling may be available in the report issued by the NRC from the emergency inspection of the facility which will be finalized and available in a few weeks.

The NRC’s Event reporting form has five “License Emergency Classifications.”  Uranium Processing facilities have two allowed classifications of emergencies, “Alert” and “Site Area Emergency,” according to Roger Hanah of the NRC. The original Preliminary Event report form had the “Not Applicable” box selected. Honeywell originally referred to the emergency as a “plant emergency” which does not alert the heads of emergency response agencies to the potential for offsite releases or that they he should be prepared to potentially have to call staff in if Honeywell requires outside assistance. An “Alert” level would have raised the awareness and preparedness of the various emergency response agencies. No outside response was requested.

Honeywell submitted an additional event report on or around November 3rd, after the original incident and during the shutdown of the production of Uranium Hexafluoride Honeywell that reported the “UNPLANNED MEDICAL TREATMENT OF A CONTAMINATED INDIVIDUAL.” The employee slipped and fell in a gravel area: “A whole body radiological survey of the employee and plant clothing was performed,” contamination was present with the most occurring on the upper back of the employee’s plant issued coveralls. Upon the completion of first aid activities, the employee routinely exit monitored from the facility and reported to an off-site medical facility for further evaluation. No additional contamination found on the employee.” It could not be determined from the report or questions to the NRC if the employee was injured or contaminated in relation to repair or clean-up work from the event on October 26th. The inspection report related to the Oct. 26th event or other regular inspection reports in the future may convey more information about the contaminated employee.

“The staggering number of mistakes, inaccuracies, changed stories, and inadequate responses on the part of both Honeywell and the NRC beg for an independent investigation into Honeywell’s ability to run so sensitive a facility, and NRC’s ability to adequately regulate it,” asserts Dave Kraft, Director of NEIS.  “NRC’s existing regulatory scheme does not seem capable of protecting the public health and safety in a timely and responsible manner.  Illinois’ Congressional Delegation needs to look into this matter,” Kraft states.

Sources

Nuclear Regulatory Event Report #50594
DISCOVERY OF AFTER-THE-FACT EMERGENCY CONDITION – ALERT DECLARATION NOT MADE DURING EVENT INVOLVING URANIUM HEXAFLUORIDE LEAK
http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/event-status/event/2014/20141106en.html
Scroll to Event #50594

Nuclear Regulatory Event Report #50591
UNPLANNED MEDICAL TREATMENT OF A CONTAMINATED INDIVIDUAL http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/event-status/event/2014/20141104en.html

Original Preliminary Event Report October 27th
http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1430/ML14300A675.pdf

1st Updated Preliminary Event Report October 31st
http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1430/ML14304A326.pdf

2nd Updated Prelimary Event Report “Alert” November 6th
http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1431/ML14310A139.pdf

Confirmatory Action Letter from NRC to Honeywell is not available on their website yet.
Dated November 7, 2014 from Honeywell Attn: Dave Pritchett from NRC: Victor M. McCreee

United Steel Workers
HONEYWELL ADMITS TO MISCLASSIFYING EMERGENCY
http://usw7-669.com/story/honeywell-admits-misclassifying-emergency

 

Metropolis Radiation Site Emergency

In cooperation with

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References :

2014

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

2012

NRC Inspection Report and Notice of Violation

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See a photo gallery of the event

 

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

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

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

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

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

Among the larger flaws of the study are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

EXELON NUCLEAR – HOLDING ILLINOIS HOSTAGE YET AGAIN?

The business press has announced that Exelon Corporation now considers the two Byron nuclear reactors south of Rockford as candidates for closure, joining a list that included the two old Quad Cities reactors, and the single Clinton reactor in central Illinois.

CEO Chris Crane and other Exelon executives state that these reactors are losing money, or simply not profitable enough to operate in a current energy market dominated by low gas prices and increasing use of wind power.  Crain’s reports that these six reactors, “…employ more than 2,300 with an annual payroll of $193 million, pay $51 million in taxes to localities and the state and provide enough electricity to light more than 4.2 million homes.”

While Crane had previously stated he would not be asking the State legislature for help, he and Exelon execs have engaged in “briefings” with the likes of Rep. Mike Madigan and Sen.  John Cullerton.  Exelon lobbyists have even floated the idea that poor, disadvantaged nuclear plants operating in a free market system, should now somehow be entitled to a special financial credit for providing cleaner air and 24/7 baseload power.

Ratepayers – it’s time to hide your wallets!

With the exception of being concerned for the welfare of the 2,300 workers and the potentially devastated tax bases that these reactor closures would represent, everything these “briefings” are pointing to is — wrong, wrong, wrong.

Any kind of Legislature-mandated special rate consideration for nuclear reactors is wrong on every count, and should be rejected.

For starters, for decades Exelon and other nuclear reactor operators have extolled the low operating costs of their plants.  Apparently, this is now questionable.  Whether the ancient 42 year-old Quad Cities reactors, or the relatively new 28 year-old Byron reactors – which just last year applied for a 20 year operating extension with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission – it appears that alleged low operating costs either don’t exist, or are not enough to keep the reactors competitive in the 21st Century energy market.

Second, that market happens to be the one crafted by then-ComEd lobbyists in the late 1990s.  Be careful for what you wish (or lobby for) – you might get it.  ComEd/Exelon opted to leave the regulated market structure in favor of what they gambled would be a higher profit free market/merchant plant system.  Now, they don’t like the results of that corporate decision, and seek protection from the capricious child they sired.

Third – if reactors qualify for special rate benefits simply for performing in the manner they were designed and which ComEd/Exelon used as a selling point when building them, shouldn’t other energy resources get similar financial credits for their unique abilities and societal benefits?   Energy efficiency does not create nuclear waste, a societal cost for the next 6,000 generations.  Shouldn’t EE get credit for this avoided cost?  Unlike nuclear power, neither wind nor solar power contributes to the threat of nuclear weapons or materials proliferation.  In fact since they consume no fuel at all, they produce ZERO pollution.  Should not wind and solar get a special and additional non-nuclear proliferation or zero-pollution credit for these major societal benefits?

These three factors (and others) all point to a deep, fundamental problem markedly different from being buffeted by a tough current energy market: Exelon executives have consistently embraced an anachronistic, inflexible, eggs-in-one-basket, and now demonstrably lousy business plan for meeting 21st Century energy needs.  And now they are looking to the 20th Century ratepayer bailout system for relief.

It’s not like they weren’t warned.  As I look at my bookshelf at the 296-page, 2-inch thick testimony of Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain institute titled, “Least-Cost Electrical Service as an Alternative to the Braidwood Project,” filed July 3, 1985 as part of a ComEd rate hike request to build new nuclear reactors, it becomes painfully obvious just how incapable Exelon execs have been these past 28 years to anticipate correctly and adjust to future energy trends.

Much talk in the trade press recently speaks to the “end of utilities” and the crises these face as the 21st Century market continues to bring on renewables with a roar, and demand for electricity stagnates under better energy efficiency measures.  Duke power has recently “got it,” recognizing that they can no longer exist as a utility if they act merely as electron retailers.  They are evolving into becoming an “electric service provider” instead.  These concepts were raised with ComEd in the 1990s by members of the Evanston Energy Commission, which included now U.S Rep. Jan Schakowsky, myself and others, when we were charged to advise the City of Evanston on its franchise negotiations with then-ComEd.  ComEd, and later Exelon execs made the corporate decision to move in a different direction.  They now are paying the price.  Or rather, want Illinois ratepayers or their customers to pay it.

If Exelon intends to survive as a utility, it likewise needs to make these two radical transitions – to 21st Century renewable energy, and to divorce profits from merely selling electrons.  The Legislature should not impede these necessary transitions by granting undeserved, preferential rate relief.

But Exelon will persist in its old ways.  It will hide behind the hostages of the 2,300 workers who might lose their jobs, and loss of $51 million in taxes to localities and the state to continue doing business the way IT wants to, without concessions to change a faulty business model.  Worse, it may be that Exelon will attempt to block reform of the Renewable Energy Portfolio standard unless it gets its ransom money from the Legislature.  Besides showing what a bad actor and lousy neighbor they are, these two possibilities would have truly negative impacts on the State.

During the recent NRC public hearing on the Environmental Impact Statement for the relicensing of the Byron and Braidwood reactors, local politicians, Chamber of Commerce members, School District officials and others could not say enough about what a good neighbor and financial contributor Exelon’s reactors were to their local communities – read “economies.”  We thought it strange that all these economic benefits were offered as testimony at an environmental impact statement hearing, so we put a question to the crowd for their consideration:

What will you do when the reactors close, and the gravy train is over?  If Exelon decides overnight to close the plants, or the NRC orders them closed for some reason, what would an overnight  loss of 75% of your school’s budget, or 50% of your tax base – such as had already occurred to the community of Zion when ComEd pulled the plug in 1998, and Clinton, when the reactors were sold at bargain basement prices, devaluating it in the local tax base – mean to your communities?  What will you DO then?

We did offer the suggestion that the relicensing period offered a time for these civic leaders to begin to plan for such closures, since they were inevitable.  We offered a direct suggestion that communities need to begin negotiations with Exelon to create an escrowed “reactor termination fund”, to protect the local schools, economies and tax bases from the abrupt loss of funds in case of the closure of the reactors.  Money could be deposited into the fund as a small, negotiated percentage of plant profits, and could be used during a “closure period” by the local communities to offset some of the abrupt negative effects of the loss of so large a local employer.  And finally — we also pointed out that reactor operation or closure would be an Exelon corporate choice, official federal mandate, or nuclear disaster – not up for a community vote.

We received no reply.

Perhaps if the Legislature is to be involved in this new Illinois nuclear hostage crisis, its proper role would be to negotiate for the release of the nuclear hostages – unharmed; not reward the hostage takers.

EMERGENCY ALERT!  Your Action Needed TODAY!

In cooperation with Exelon Corporation,  Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan has introduced a RESOLUTION, HR 1146, NUCLEAR POWER PLANT CLOSURES,  (http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/default.asp )  which if passed would essentially “nuke” renewable energy in Illinois, and guarantee that nuclear and coal would be the mainstay of Illinois electricity production for the foreseeable future.  We attach a highlighted version of the Resolution with this Alert on our Literature page and available here:

The Resolution is actually a piece of a national program Exelon is orchestrating (with the help of folks like ALEC and others) to keep old nuclear plants which have been losing money for years in operation.  Last week in the Legislature, Madigan and Exelon conspired on an agreement to kill the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard fix, in exchange for Exelon keeping running for the next year five nuclear reactors it said were unprofitable, and was threatening to close.  This week Exelon and Madigan are attempting to unleash every aspect of State government to support the continuation of running nuclear reactors, potentially awarding them “clean energy credits” like solar and wind would get, and use the upcoming EPA air standards as a way to use nukes to offset the pollution from coal plants, many of which face shutdown from the tireless work of environmental groups around the state, allowing them to continue operating.

This Resolution is not just a pro-nuke resolution.  It is an overt effort to destroy renewable energy statewide, a way to keep dirty coal plants running, and a way to continue and make permanent the outdated system of “centralized baseload power”, in spite of the fact that the Legislature already granted ComEd 10 years of rate increases to finish a “smart grid” which was supposed to replace the outdated baseload utility model, and be more renewables friendly.

WHAT YOU MUST DO BY MONDAY, MAY 26 (they’re in session on the holiday):

This is the most serious threat to renewable energy we’ve ever seen coming from the State Legislature.  If Michael Madigan wants to “nuke” renewables, then we must have the guts and determination to go “kamikaze” on Mike Madigan and Exelon.  This Resolution is the Armageddon of energy for Illinois.  Here’s what we ask, beg, implore each and every one of you to do:

1.)  CONTACT YOUR STATE LEGISLATORS, (http://www.illinois.gov/Government/Pages/LegislativeBranch.aspx )  telling them to oppose HR1146, no ands ifs or buts.  No compromises.  Just VOTE NO.

2.)  Contact Speaker Michael Madigan’s Office, (mapes@hds.ilga.gov ; jmiller@hds.ilga.gov ;  (217) 782-5350;  (773) 581-8000), with two messages:  1.) KILL HR1146, and 2.) if the Resolution passes, you will be withholding all financial and volunteer support for any and all Democratic candidates for local, state, and federal office in the next election in November.

3.) “Kamikaze” Mike:  this one might not be the most important, but it will be the most fun.  Contact any of the Democratic fundraising and volunteer organizations you know, and tell THEM that you will not be providing support to the party’s candidates this Fall, if Michael Madigan’s Resolution is not killed.  And don’t just say it; mean it and do it!

People, please get this – polite people get polluted!  We are up against the wall.  Exelon and Madigan are prepared to turn back the clock 40 years on our State’s energy future.  You’ve got to overcome any sense of “embarrassment” or even party loyalty and directly confront this threat.  These people don’t care about you or your kids.  You’re going to have to be tough and brave enough to confront them head on, and that might mean doing some unfamiliar and uncomfortable things.  The very future of renewable energy in Illinois, and the 90,000 direct and indirect jobs it provides,  is at stake with this vote.  Whose side will you be on?

 

ACTION ALERT! –Attempt to Repeal IL Nuke Moratorium, Events, More…

Well, the holiday is over.  The pro-nuke tribe is at the gates yet again.  Time to get back into the trenches, and fight for safe energy once more.  Please take action on as many of these as you can.  Thanks in advance!

–Dave Kraft, Driector—

1.)  THEY’RE BACK!  SEN. MIKE JACOBS INTRODUCES S.3417, TO REPEAL THE ILLINOIS NUCLEAR MORATORIUM:

Just like rust or a bad case of herpes, the pro-nuclear lobby is back again.  This time Sen. Mike Jacobs  (D., 36th, Moline; Chair of the Senate Energy Committee) has introduced S.3417, calling for the repeal of the section of the Public Utilities Act which prohibits the construction of new nuclear reactors in Illinois until a demonstrated method for high-level, spent fuel radioactive waste disposal has been developed by the Federal Government.  This common-sense law – akin to requiring a home builder to install bathrooms as part of the plan – has prevented Illinois from becoming a de facto waste dump for even more reactors than the 14 we already have.  This is the 5th time such legislation has been proposed in the past 6 years.  Each previous time, NEIS, you, and other environmental groups have beaten back the attempt; even persuaded a previous co-sponsor of such a bill to recognize that her legislation was not in the best interests of Illinois, causing her to withdraw support for her own bill.

This has not dissuaded Sen. Jacobs – whose family has historic ties to Exelon/ComEd – from introducing the current inanity.  Nor have the many other facts and snips of reality, such as:

  • No utility interest: Exelon has not only stated it will not be building any new reactors anytime soon, but that it may CLOSE three reactors in Illinois in 2014-15;
  • No energy need: Use of renewable energy and natural gas use has increased in Illinois, driven by the State’s mandated Renewable Energy Portfolio standard;
  • No “nuclear renaissance”: The nation is retreating from nuclear power nationwide.  Five reactors were closed or announced closure in 2013-14.  Numerous utilities have scrapped plans to build new reactors, even with federal loan guarantees dangled as bait to build more;
  • No benefit for Illinois ratepayers or taxpayers:  The inability under the best of circumstances to bring new reactors online for at least a decade or more into the future;
  • No waste disposal solution yet: The Federal Government still has not opened a permanent disposal facility for spent-fuel high-level radioactive waste, 27 years after Illinois enacted it protective legislation.

One can only speculate on Sen. Jacobs’ intentions or frame of mind in proposing this legislation.  The bottom line is – it’s a proposed “solution” to a non-existent problem, which will bring absolutely NO benefit to Illinois for at least another decade at best, if then.  It WILL, however, remove the only protection the state has from additional high-level radioactive waste generation, at a time when DOE reports and recent Congressional legislation may attempt to bring AN ADDITIONAL 9,000 tons of highly radioactive spent-fuel to Illinois for storage for up to 35 (or more) years.

 

What You Can Do:
  1. Contact your State Senator, asking him/her to oppose S.3417 should it come to the Senate floor for a vote;
  2. Contact Senate leader John Cullerton (773-883-0770; 217-782-2728), urging him to make sure the bill never reaches the Senate floor for a vote;
  3. Contact Sen. Mike Jacobs, (309-797-0001; 217-782-5957), asking him spend his valuable time introducing legislation that would fix some of Illinois’ REAL problems, like the budget, pensions, and education.
  4. Check the NEIS webpage, www.neis.org, for updates and Fact Sheets.

SAVE THE DATE – INDIAN DOCUMENTARIAN BRINGS FILM TO CHICAGO:

NEIS kicks off its 2014 “KNOw-Nukes!” film series with a showing of the new documentary, “High Power,” by Indian documentarian Pradeep Indulkar.  The film will be shown along with a panel discussion with the filmmaker on Thursday, March 6th, 6:30 p.m. at DePaul University’s Schmitt Academic Center, Room 154, 2320 N. Kenmore Ave., in Lincoln Park, Chicago.  The showing is being done in cooperation with the DePaul Dept. of Religious Studies, and independent DePaul students.  The showing is free, and open to the public.

The film chronicles the horrible effects on the local population and environment resulting from the opening of the Tarapur Nuclear Power Plant in India.  With India’s plans to build many more such nuclear reactors, and the Fukushima disaster still ongoing, this film serves as a warning not just to the people of India, but of the world.

SAVE THE DATE #2 —  3RD ANNIVERSARY OF THE ONGOING FUKUSHIMA NUCLEAR DISASTER, TUESDAY, MARCH 11TH:

NEIS is coordinating efforts in the Chicago area to observe the third anniversary of the continuing Fukushima nuclear disaster.  As part of a nation-wide effort, NEIS will be leading a protest and letter signing event at the Japanese Consulate in Chicago the morning of the 11th.  Details for the event are in development.  Check the NEIS website and Calendar of events for developing details; and contact the NEIS office if you are interested in participating.  Films about Fukushima will be shown the evening of the 11th, location TBD.

IF YOU SUPPORT OUR WORK, THEN PLEASE – SUPPORT  OUR WORK!:

As we enter our 33rd year, NEIS still remains the only organization in Illinois devoted exclusively and full-time to the issues of nuclear power and radioactive waste, and radiation hazards.  Trouble is – it’s getting harder and harder to raise the funds to keep going; and we don’t see any groups waiting in the wings to continue the work if we’re gone.

With the new threat to the Illinois moratorium on nuclear reactors, the threat of 9,000 tons of long-lived dangerous spent reactor fuel coming to Illinois, the radiation threat from fracking, and the irresponsibly conducted decommissioning of the Zion nuclear reactor site underway, NEIS is stretched thin as it is.  We definitely need your support, and need it now.

Please visit our website today and become a member or make a contribution to a less nuclear world at a level you can comfortably afford.  You may not get any public Olympic recognition for doing it, but you will have done an important thing at a time when it was sorely needed.

 

 

It is with great sadness that we report the death of our friend and colleague Jeff Patterson of Physicians for Responsibility.  We received the following announcement just this morning.

 Dear family of PSR.

I’m sorry to inform you that Jeff Patterson died last night.  He had a heart attack at the hotel and an arrhythmia in the ambulance.  Mary called John Rachow this am to inform PSR and his friends.

Our thoughts and well wishes for support are with Mary, who will be heading back to WI cancelling their vacation.

The world has lost a generous and kind man, who did so much for so many!

We will all miss him!

Catherine Thomasson, MD

Executive Director,   Physicians for Social Responsibility

Jeff was just beginning a vacation with his partner Mary in St. Martins.  To show the kind of person he was, he responded to an e-mail request from NEIS to be its first expert in the 2014 “Night with the Experts” series in February.  He was willing to do this while still on vacation using Skype.

The power of his work and message can be seen online in the first segment of the Mountain of Waste 70 Years High Conference, held in Chicago in December of 2012.

One of his most notable contributions in his various presentations was to remind us all how the nuclear industry deals with their nuclear message using “SCUM” – Secrecy, Cover-Ups, and Minimization.

NEIS worked collaboratively with Jeff several other times in the past few years. Always sharp, on target with his messages, and a consummate professional, he was also remarkably upbeat and very humorous when the situation required.  It always was a pleasure to work with him, and he always eagerly responded to opportunities to collaborate with NEIS.

To say that he will be missed is woefully inadequate.  We lost a giant, and a friend today.  Our deepest empathies go to Mary, his partner, who always accompanied him on the crusade for a less-nuclear world.

 

atommuell190pxCHICAGO- Scores or national safe-energy and anti-nuclear organizations delivered blistering comments against the NRC’s “waste confidence” rule today, the last day public comments were accepted by NRC.

NEIS submitted supplemental comments to the ones it already delivered to NRC at the public meeting held in Oak Brook IL on Nov. 12th.  NEIS also signed on to a joint filing spearheaded by attorney Diane Curran and others.  The 68-page filing was accompanied by four additional supportive documents provided by nationally renown nuclear experts, and totaling hundreds of pages.  These can be seen in their entirety on the NIRS website at: See Documents

NRC will now review all comments, and report its decision on the controversial and flawed Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Rule in 2014.  It is more than likely that NRC will disregard this mountain of public opposition – as it traditionally does – and approve the DGEIS.  At that point it is likely that all these groups will unite and take NRC back to Court.

In the meantime though, no new reactors are receiving licenses, nor are old ones having their licenses extended.