It’s not nearly as much ironic as it is emphatic that on the same day Exelon Corporation announced that it might close the economically unviable Three Mile Island 1 reactor in Pennsylvania, SCANA is reported to have suggested that it might only complete one of two “next-generation” reactors it had proposed for South Carolina.  Add to that the recent Westinghouse (and by extension, Toshiba) bankruptcy and the message is clear: nuclear of the past can’t compete in the present, and apparently has no future either.  In short – the Nuclear Age is over.

But old bad habits die hard, especially when they are funded by somebody else’s pocketbooks, like, say, powerless ratepayers who have no choice.  And Exelon is not about to give up on its nuclear jones when there are plenty of ratepayers left to fleece.

Exelon is playing the same ‘nuclear hostage crisis’ game of, “Give us a bailout, or we’ll kill your local economy!” in Pennsylvania that they played in Illinois – and which they ironically opposed in Ohio when utility bailouts competed against Exelon’s corporate interests.  This nuclear extortion – dare we say ‘terrorism’? – game was successfully used in New York as well, and threatens to spread like some form of radioactive ebola to other states and their legislatures.

The threat of job and tax base loss to the reactor communities inspires local political leaders dependent on that largesse to lobby like crazy in state legislatures for nuclear bailouts – especially in election years, as we learned in Illinois.  And while these are legitimate concerns needing to be addressed, nuclear bailouts are not the answer.  There are other, more practical and economic ways to soften the blow of losing a “company town” employer and preserving a tax base that can support essential public services like schools and police/fire departments until local economies can rebound from the loss of an Exelon-sized employer.

One way is to establish “just transitions” funds for reactor (and we would suggest, coal) communities PRIOR to closures, threatened or real.  These would be escrowed funds set up that would become available only upon termination of a reactor operating license, to be used to preserve essential public services, and mitigate economic impacts through job re-training and attracting and establishing replacement business and industry.  The funding mechanisms are negotiable, and numerous; and would involve the utility, the community, and possibly the state.

The point is – the utility would no longer be in a position to put the economic gun to the puppy’s head to force the state legislatures to grant an unwise bailout.

But if bailouts are the “answer” (and if they are, what on earth was the question?), then be sure to bailout the right party.  It is the affected communities that need the bailout, not for-profit private corporations.  No state constitution requires the legislature to insure the profitability of private corporations; that’s why corporations have boards of directors.  The legislatures supposedly are to represent the interests of the people – like the ~4 million ratepayers in Illinois who are now forced to pay Exelon Corporation $230 million per year, for the next ten years, and get nothing back in return for this coerced ‘investment.’

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

In Illinois NEIS made this suggestion public in our testimony before the legislative energy committees, suggesting that Gov. Rauner provide funding for the Clinton and Quad Cities communities affected by Exelon’s closure plans, not profitable Exelon.  Instead Governor Rauner decided to increase the Exelon bailout period from the original six years to ten!

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

It is time to end the Exelon ‘nuclear hostage crisis.’  There are now plenty of blueprints available illustrating the folly of nuclear bailouts, and ways to avoid them.  Given the End of the Nuclear Age, one can only hope that Pennsylvania legislators will realize by now that it’s stupid energy policy to mortgage your energy future by bailing out the past.

Today’s Chicagoland press accounts of the arrest of two alleged ISIS supporters — Yusuf Abdulhaqq and Schimento – aka Abdul Wali – show the pair holding the ISIS flag while standing in front of the “Welcome” sign for Illinois Beach State Park in Zion.

What is perhaps most disturbing is what is NOT being reported about this incident:  that those dramatic photos were taken a ten minute walk south of the 1000+ tons of high-level radioactive wastes (HLRW) being stored at Exelon’s Zion Nuclear Power Station, currently undergoing decommissioning.  [See:  Google Maps]

These wastes are the accumulation of the entire lifetime output from the now-closed reactors.  They are currently being stored in what are called “dry-cask” canisters, and are extremely hazardous should they be released into the environment by “accident”, or terrorist intent.

Because the federal government  long ago reneged on its pledge to permanently dispose of these high-level radioactive wastes  in a deep geological disposal facility back in 1998, currently all such HLRW from every reactor in the nation is being stored onsite at those reactor sites, with no place to safely go.  This transforms communities with closed reactors into de facto high-level radioactive waste storage dumps.

Since 2002 the safe-energy and environmental community has advocated that these “orphaned” wastes be stored in much safer configurations, employing what is known as “hardened onsite storage” (HOSS).  This method would utilize the currently used “dry-cask” canisters, but in a much more robust configuration to minimize conceivable hazards.  Both the nuclear industry and the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) have repeatedly rejected this proposal as “too expensive.”  Our organization suggested this method be utilized at the decommissioned Zion reactor site; but again, this was rejected by Exelon and its contractor

Given that these wastes sit only a few hundred yards from the drinking water supply for 16 million people known as Lake Michigan, one can rightly ask – how much is the Lake worth, by comparison?

While it is tempting to urge for quickly moving such wastes out of Zion, the reality is that 1.) there is no place for the wastes to go; and 2.) placing 1,000 tons of high-level radioactive wastes on our crumbling roads and rails, and possibly our fresh waterways without first preparing and greatly improving that infrastructure would be more dangerous and irresponsible.  If these wastes represent a hazard sitting still at Zion, they represent an even greater hazard at 40-60 mph on our roads and rails, as the recent March 15th derailment of rail cars carrying molten sulfur in Lake Forest amply demonstrate.

NOTE: a March 9, 2017 report by The American Society of Civil Engineers gives Illinois  “D” and “D-“ rating for its roads and transit lines, respectively – and that’s higher than the national average!

Federal proposals to create “centralized interim storage” (CIS) sites around the country to take these orphaned wastes are equally problematic, since they would first require presently hazardous transportation of the wastes, and because they would create even more radioactively contaminated sites requiring clean-up at a future date when the federal government opens a final disposal facility.  At that point the wastes would have to be transported a second time to the disposal facility.  It is also not widely known that a June 2012 study from Oak Ridge National Lab indicates that Illinois would be the optimal location for the first of such CIS facilities.  The first such site would not likely be ready to accept wastes for the next 8 to 10 years; and given the demonstrated pace at which the federal government moves, might itself become a de facto permanent storage site indefinitely.

NOTE:  One estimate done for the Zion wastes alone at a CIS over a 40-year period shows it would cost between $153-$289 million.

So – what should be done now?  NEIS again recommends that,

1.) since the radioactive wastes represent a clear hazard, and

2.) there is no place to responsibly send the HLRW to, that

3.) local communities that have become de facto HLRW dumps are given maximum protection in the meantime by storing the HLRW in “hardened onsite storage” facilities onsite at the reactor sites, and

4.) that these communities receive compensation for the economic damage that being an unwilling de facto HLRW dump has done to their communities.  From there we can resurrect a responsible and science-based investigation to identify an appropriate final disposal facility.

Insures continued nuclear risks and radioactive waste generation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Download the Report

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

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

 

Extremely Dangerous and Radioactive Nuclear Waste Shipments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SHARE WIDELY! Facebook, tweet, etc / your own page and posts!
Stop Fukishima Freeways Campaign

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

 

** NEIS was founded in 1981 to provide the public with credible information on the hazards of nuclear power, waste, and radiation; and information about the viable energy alternatives to nuclear power. 

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

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

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

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

From the Commission press release:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RadMonitoring_PR_Banner

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

PART 2: “NUCLEAR: IT ISN’T CLEAN, GREEN OR RENEWABLE”

CHICAGO- [NOTE: With the Illinois Legislative session scheduled to end May 31st, and the Legislature soon to vote on the future direction of Illinois energy services, NEIS is initiating a series of releases over the next few weeks designed to address some of the myths, misconceptions, and ignored aspects of the debate.]

Nuclear Illinois — Exelon’s 14 reactors circle Chicago

In a recent exchange in the Illinois Senate Energy Committee on Wednesday, May 13, Sen. Chris Nybo  attempted to get Sen. Don Harmon, sponsor of the Illinois Clean Jobs Act, to describe nuclear power as clean and renewable.  Sen Harmon steadfastly resisted this attempt to linguistically detoxify nuclear power.

“Nuclear power is NOT ‘clean,’ it is NOT ‘green,’ and it is NOT ‘renewable,’” Dave Kraft, director of the Chicago-based Nuclear Energy Information Service states emphatically.

“Labeling something does not make it so,” Kraft continued.  “You can dress a pig in silk, marry it, and call it your spouse all you want.  But one morning, you will wake up in bed to the reality of your delusion.”

Using nuclear power to generate electricity may result in less carbon entering the atmosphere.  But, in the same process large amounts of radioactive materials are unnaturally concentrated, manufactured, and ultimately released into the environment by nuclear power plants, the fuel chain required to provide and manufacture the fuel, and ultimately the radioactive wastes produced.

“Radioactive wastes are NOT clean.  An energy source that produces hazardous high-level radioactive wastes which must be kept out of the environment for 225,000 years at great societal cost can hardly claim to call itself ‘clean,’” Kraft asserts.  “Trading more plutonium for less carbon is simply dumb energy policy, and totally unnecessary given the viable alternatives that already exist,” he concludes.

Nuclear power plants are also responsible for other kinds of radioactive pollution and contamination:

  • Exelon’s Illinois nuclear reactors have already generated nearly 10,000 tons of long-lived “high-level” radioactive spent-fuel wastes, the most of any state in the U.S., adding ~300 tons more each year;
  • Exelon’s 11 Illinois nuclear reactors generate over 98% of the radioactivity found in all of the “low-level” radioactive wastes generated in Illinois in any particular year;
  • Reactors are permitted by regulation to routinely discharge quantities of radioactive materials into the air and waters, provided they are below regulatory standards;
  • Radionuclides are “accidentally” released into the environment due to management, equipment and personnel failures. The largest “accidental” release of radioactive tritium (a radioactive form of hydrogen) in the U.S. was released by Exelon’s newest Braidwood reactors in the late 1990s.  Over 6 million gallons were released, some of which found its way offsite, an incident which resulted in Exelon having to provide a new drinking water supply for the adjacent community of Godley;
  • Uranium mining has created over 10,000 active and abandoned mines; and resulted in the creation of over 150 million tons of radioactive mill tailings, largely piled in open-air heaps at 51 sites, mostly on Native lands. The largest release of radiation in North America occurred at Church Rock, NM, on Diné lands in 1979, when a tailings pond dam burst into the Rio Puerco River, sending radioactive contaminants 25 miles downstream and into the area’s only major source of drinking and grazing water.

“For decades nuclear proponents have been disingenuously using the phrases “clean”, “non-polluting,” and “renewable” to describe nuclear power,” Kraft points out.  “Most recently this has occurred in Illinois with Exelon’s HB 3293 ‘Low-Carbon Portfolio Standard‘—an attempt to pitch its failed and money-losing reactors as essential ‘low-carbon’ sources to help the state meet the upcoming U.S. EPA Carbon Rule standards.  This opportunistic use of the EPA Rule to justify a $1.6 BILLION bailout is the latest attempt of Exelon to re-write reality for corporate profit,” Kraft says.

Exelon claims its reactors are not being valued enough for their contribution of not releasing carbon into the atmosphere as fossil fuel power plants do.  This re-writes history, according to Kraft:

“First, no Exelon reactor ever built in Illinois was built (and paid for by ratepayers) with the express purpose of removing carbon or fighting global warming,” Kraft points out  “They were built to make money for then-ComEd and now Exelon shareholders.  That they are ‘lower-carbon’ is an accidental, not intentional benefit.  Other truly renewable energy sources produce NO carbon emissions, and have no fuel costs or wastes associated with their generation of electricity,” Kraft points out.

No definition of “renewable energy” used in government includes nuclear power as a “renewable” source:

WIKIPEDIA (1):

“Renewable energy is generally defined as energy that comes from resources which are naturally replenished on a human timescale such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves and geothermal heat.”

U.S. DEPT. OF ENERGY  DEFINITION OF RENEWABLE ENERGY (2):

“Renewable Energy:  Energy derived from resources that are regenerative or for all practical purposes cannot be depleted. Types of renewable energy resources include moving water (hydro, tidal and wave power), thermal gradients in ocean water, biomass, geothermal energy, solar energy, and wind energy. Municipal solid waste (MSW) is also considered to be a renewable energy resource.”

“The Illinois Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard law also does not include nuclear power as a ‘renewable’ energy source,” Kraft points out, “and for good reason:  it’s not.”

For decades the nuclear industry and its promoters at the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) have been trying to “prettify” nuclear energy as being “clean,” “non-polluting,” and “renewable.  In 1998 fifteen national environmental groups filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau’s National Advertising Division in opposition to claims made by Nuclear Energy Institute ads stating at the time, “…nuclear energy generates electricity without polluting the air or water…” was “environmentally clean” and produces electricity “without polluting the environment.”

The BBB/NAD sided with the environmental groups against these overly broad nuclear industry claims, urging the nuclear industry and NEI specifically to stop the potentially deceptive ads:

“…NAD recommends that water and air pollution claims be carefully qualified to avoid any potential for consumer confusion and that broad, unqualified claims that nuclear energy is “Environmentally Clean” or produces electricity “without polluting the environment” be discontinued.” (3)

“In spite of this very specific public rebuke by the BBB/NAD, Exelon ads under its “Nuclear Matters” campaign (4) that appeared in the New York Times from April through October of 2014 refer to nuclear power as ‘clean’ and ‘carbon-free’ and ‘emit zero air pollution’ – all claims which were criticized by BBB/NAD as “inaccurate,” “overly broad,” and “misleading,”  and further noting that, “It is a fundamental principle of advertising law that a claim that is technically truthful can still be misleading.” (3, p. 20)

“It would behoove our legislators to engage in decidedly more critical thinking when evaluating the ‘technically truthful’ assertions of Exelon Corporation found in its Low-Carbon Portfolio Standard legislation,” warns Kraft. “In fact, given Exelon’s and the nuclear industry’s long and documented history of misleading people while being technically truthful about how ‘clean, green and renewable’ nuclear power is, the only rational course of action seems to be to completely reject Exelon’s bailout in the absence of proof,” he concludes.

(1) Wikipedia – definition of “renewable energy”

(2) U.S. Dept. of Energy website:  definition of renewable energy

(3) Opinion rendered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus, Inc., National Advertising Division, Dec. 3, 1998,  22 pages.

(4)  “Nuclear Matters” ads placed in New York Times, 4/3/14 and 10/1/14