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 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.


[1]  “Save Ohio’s two nuclear plants and continue their contributions to clean energy: Henry Spitz (Opinion),“ and Cleveland Plain Dealer, Jan 16, 2017.

[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,

[6] Illinois Sierra Club press statement, Dec. 7, 2016,


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:


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.



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.


  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.


The accident continues

CHICAGO—The nuclear disaster at Fukushima enters its fourth year today, and the more things change, the more they remain the same, a local nuclear watchdog organization observes.

“We’re entering year four of a global disaster which will NEIS demonstrators outside the Japanese Consulate in Chicago on 4th anniversary of Fukushima disaster continue to go on for at least three more decades, and cost Japan hundreds of  billions of dollars,” notes Gail Snyder, Board President of Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS), a Chicago-based safe-energy/nuclear watchdog organization.

While costly, incremental progress is being made at Fukushima, the clean-up project remains riddled with many of the flaws and problems noted early on, and feared by both the Japanese public and international observers alike.  These include:

  • The ongoing dumping of radioactively contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean, and consequent contamination of fish and plant life;
  • Control of the clean-up operations by Japanese mafia (yakuza) organizations, leading to poor training and contamination of workers, who are also underpaid and have few benefits or health options;
  • The capitulation of government to the wishes of the Japanese nuclear industry, the legendary “Nuclear Village” of industry insiders.
  • The complex, multi-layered system of awarding sub-contractor contracts to do the clean-up, which is rife with corruption;
  • The weakening of radiation exposure standards for both workers and the general public; and ignoring of other contaminated prefectures besides Fukushima;
  • The deliberate spreading of radioactive waste disposal and contamination across all of Japan as a matter of formal government policy;
  • Continued cover-ups on the part of TEPCO with no legal consequences for their actions. Recently Japan Times revealed that TEPCO was knowingly discharging radioactive water containing strontium and cesium into the Pacific Ocean for the past 10 months, but did not notify anyone until caught.

“It is not acceptable that the government of Japan permits continued contamination of the

Pacific Ocean without consequence,” Snyder asserts.  “We are here today to inform Prime Minister Abe that these and other unacceptable actions will no longer be tolerated by the World Community.   If Japan does not cease its contamination of the planet in the coming year, does not engage in responsible clean-up activities, does not engage in responsible radiation monitoring, then We, the World Community will be forced to bring formal charges against them in an appropriate world court venue,” Snyder warns.

“We will be back here next year, and every year after that.  We will see progress from the Japanese government on the cleanup, of they will see consequence,” Snyder concludes.

Illinois has four reactors of the same type but older than the reactors that melted down and exploded at Fukushima in 2011.  Two of these — Quad Cities 1 & 2 — are on the list for either corporate welfare bailout or closure via the recently introduced Exelon legislation.

A demonstration will take place outside the Japanese Consul’s office in Chicago from 11 to 1 today.


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:


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.


Nuclear Regulatory Event Report #50594
Scroll to Event #50594

Nuclear Regulatory Event Report #50591

Original Preliminary Event Report October 27th

1st Updated Preliminary Event Report October 31st

2nd Updated Prelimary Event Report “Alert” November 6th

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


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.



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.