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.


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

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

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renewable energy statewide, a way to keep dirty coal plants running, and a way to continue and make permanent the outdated system of “centralized baseload power”, in spite of the fact that the Legislature already granted ComEd 10 years of rate increases to finish a “smart grid” which was supposed to replace the outdated baseload utility model, and be more renewables friendly.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

–Dave Kraft, Driector—


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

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

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

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


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


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

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


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


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

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

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



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

 Dear family of PSR.

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

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

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

We will all miss him!

Catherine Thomasson, MD

Executive Director,   Physicians for Social Responsibility

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


Waste Con Mtg Nov 14 DC homepage-11182013
NEIS Board member Linda Lewison at NRC Washington DC “waste-con” meeting, Nov. 14.

Rust never sleeps, and neither do the NRC and nuclear industry.  In their annual effort to sabotage public participation, NRC scheduled its 12 “waste confidence” hearings before the holidays, as did the Illinois State IDNR on fracking issues.  Now, it seems Congress wants to get in the act by moving the disastrous nuclear waste legislation, S. 1240 – the “Nuclear Waste Administration Act,” currently in Sen. Wyden’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee – for a December vote.Don’t let our bureaucratic rulers get away with this sabotage – take action one more time to stop irresponsible radioactive waste policy.

And finally – realize that it takes money to bring these Alerts to you.  Please consider renewing your membership or making a year-end contribution to NEIS so we can start 2014 on solid and secure financial footing

Stay well, and thanks for all you do!  Happy Holidays!

–Dave Kraft—

1.)   Stop Mobile Chernobyl – Stop Senate bill S.1240

Your U.S. Senators need to hear from you — NO high-level radioactive waste shell game! 

The Nuclear Waste Management Act of 2013, S. 1240 would set up so-called “temporary” storage sites for high level radioactive waste (HLRW) from nuclear power reactors with no guarantee of a permanent disposal site.  If storage is “centralized” that means the waste will move twice, doubling the potential for transport accidents.

“To or through,” Illinois has become a target for the unnecessary transport and storage of HLRW. A 2012 study done at Oak Ridge National Lab suggests that Illinois would be the ideal FIRST candidate for these “parking lot dumps” – adding as much as 9,000 more tons to Illinois’ present 9,000+ ton inventory of HLRW.

The legislation also mandates a “volunteer” system. Would your community WANT to be the nation’s temporary or permanent garbage dump for highly radioactive waste?

CALL NOW202-224-3121 (Capitol Switchboard); or, call Sens. Durbin (202-224-2152) and Kirk (202-224-2854).  Tell them:  Oppose S. 1240!

Sign-on-line at: http://www.nirs.org/ .

Download a handout on S. 1240 from the NEIS website, and pass it out in groups you attend.


By a 2 to 1 margin, the citizens of Illinois made it clear to NRC on Nov. 12th that they do not have confidence in NRC’s claims that high-level radioactive waste can or should be stored indefinitely at U.S. reactor sites.  Citizens at other hearings after Chicago echoed both those numbers and sentiments.

If you have not sent NRC your comments opposing the NRC’s “Waste Confidence” Rules, you still have several opportunities.  Please select from among these options, and get your comments in ASAP:

  • Attend the NRC online webinar, scheduled for Dec. 9th.  You can make comments at this session; Public Teleconference to Receive Comments on Waste Confidence DGEIS and Proposed Rule (Teleconference only – facilitated and transcribed.) Prior to the start of the meeting, please dial 1-888-603-9749 and provide the operator with passcode 5132332   Meeting Notice
  • E-mail comments opposing NRC’s waste confidence rule before Dec. 20 to:  Rulemaking.Comments@nrc.gov, citing Docket ID No. NRC–2012–0246
  • by fax to 301-415-1101; by mail to Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington DC 20555-0001, ATTN: Rulemakings and Adjudications Staff


Upwards of 350 people attended the first of five public meetings scheduled by the Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources on their proposed fracking rules.  Of the 40+ people called to give comments (three from NEIS!), not a single one spoke in favor of the IDNR  rules.  If you were not there, you still have a chance to have your say on the fracking rules:

  • Make comments online:  As if scheduling all the hearings around holiday time was not sufficient to discourage public input, IDNR now reports “problems” with accepting online comments.  Keep persevering; your comments will get through;
  • Attend one of the remaining four public hearings.


The NEIS Night with the Experts program will be different this month.  Instead of a speaker, we invite our members to attend this program and participate in the discussion afterwards:

NIGHT WITH THE EXPERTS — Atomic States of America film showing

Where: Film Studies Center (Cobb 306) of the University of Chicago, 5811 South Ellis Avenue,

The showing is part of the Energy Activisms film series, presented by CIS and the Program on the Global Environment.


Water is Life! Facing Our Water Crisis II:  8:45 am – 4:00 pm, Mertz Hall, 1125 W. Loyola Ave., Loyola University Lake Shore Campus, (near intersection of Devon Avenue and Sheridan Road)

REGISTRATION:  $10 adults, $5 students;  To register for conference in advance, make check out to CMW with CAPOW! in memo line and mail check to: Chicago Media Watch, 1030 Asbury, Evanston, IL 60202


Consider making a year-end, tax deductible contribution to NEIS today.  Thanks in advance.


CHICAGO–  Over 140 people attended the NRC’s public meeting on its controversial “waste confidence” rule in Oak Brook, Illinois on Tuesday.  The message was very clear to NRC:  “We have NO confidence in NRC’s ‘waste confidence’ rule!”  Of the 56 registered speakers, 38 spoke out against the NRC’s proposed draft generic environmental impact statement (DGEIS) and proposed rule.  Of the 18 who spoke in favor, the overwhelming majority were Exelon employees (5) from nuclear power plants, or representatives from corporations, associations or government entities which financially benefit directly from nuclear power operation.  Some of those who spoke against the waste confidence rule came from as far away as St. Louis, MO, and Michigan.

NEIS info table at event
NEIS Board member Carol Kurz staffing info table at NRC meeting

NRC had not originally intended to hold a waste confidence meeting in the Chicago area.  They claimed that historically people in Illinois did not turn out to such meetings.  They instead scheduled one for Orlando, FL.  NEIS intervened, and asked both Illinois Senators Durbin and Kirk to request that Illinois be added to the list of sites.  Sen. Durbin’s office did in fact send a request.  Shortly after NRC Chair Allison Macfarlane sent a letter informing us that Illinois would indeed get a meeting.  It is interesting to note that the Orlando hearing which preceded the Chicago session had 21 people total who spoke at the Florida meeting.

A rough head count give the number of activists in attendance at at least 60 (not everyone chose to speak).  People enthusiastically signed petitions and Sierra Club Nuclear Free Campaign postcards, took literature, engaged in conversations with the pro-nuclear crowd and NRC (but, I repeat myself), and engaged in a variant of Dave Lochbaum’s “Bullshirt Bingo”, holding up No Confidence! message cards prompted by NRC language use.

The event began with an Open House exhibition, which surprisingly turned into an overflow situation.  Exhibitors from both sides of the issue attended with displays and literature.  At one booth a pro-nuclear group passed out small packets of mock “uranium pellets”.  As a humorous contrast special guest Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear was dressed in a radiation suit passing out samples of mock radioactive waste (Atomic Fireball candies), asking people to take their fair share home with NRC assurances that it would be safe for at least 60 years.

Media was virtually absent from the event.  Two radio interviews had been conducted prior to the event.  But the session itself was attended by a sole independent reporter, Kari Lydersen, and Mike Kalas of Chicago Independent Television.  At the end of the session, Kalas gave a blistering commentary aimed both at the media and the NRC about the lack of media participation.  He also pointed out that, not surprisingly, that almost all of those speaking in favor of the waste confidence rule either worked in the nuclear industry, or had direct financial benefit from it, while the overwhelming majority of those opposed did not.  A copy of Kari Lydersen’s article appeared in Midwest Energy news on Friday, November 15th.

NRC for its part did a credible and very cooperative job.  They accommodated all tabling requests without hesitation, had ample materials available in both hard copy and electronic versions, conducted a reasonably good intro session, and facilitated largely without a hitch, other than some technical problems with the microphones provided.  They were both courteous and flexible with time, but did politely inform people if they went over allotted time.  They kept the mics open until all registered speakers presented, and then opened it up to the audience for last comments.  They ended the meeting – scheduled to end at 10 p.m. — shortly after 11 p.m.

Pictures will soon be available online.

How to make comments:
People are still able to make comments to NRC on this waste confidence rule through December 20th.  They can do so in several ways:

  • Online through the federal government’s rulemaking website, www.regulations.gov using Docket ID NRC-2012-0246;
  • by e-mail to Rulemaking.Comments@nrc.gov; by fax to 301-415-1101;
  • by mail to Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington DC 20555-0001, ATTN: Rulemakings and Adjudications Staff;
  • or by hand delivery to 11555 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Md., between 7:30 a.m. and 4:15 p.m. on federal workdays.


“NO Confidence in NRC’s ‘Waste Confidence’!” – Safe Energy Advocates Declare

CHICAGO—Safe energy advocates from numerous organizations around the Great Lakes Basin converged on Oak Brook, Illinois to deliver a message to the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC):  “We have NO confidence in NRC’s ‘Waste Confidence’ rule!”

The NRC has scheduled a meeting to take public comment on its draft generic environmental impact statement (DGEIS) dealing with the storage of high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) in the form of spent reactor fuel rods currently stored at over 70 sites nationwide.  The Chicago meeting is one of a series of 12 being held around the country, although NRC initially left Chicago off its list, and had to be forced into scheduling a session in Illinois – the state with the most reactors and most HLRW.

The NRC has been forced by a 2012 federal court ruling to justify with hard data, not just verbal assurances as was historically the case, that all the radioactive wastes ever generated by all U.S. reactors can be safely stored onsite at these reactors – indefinitely, if necessary.  If NRC cannot do this, they will lose their authority to give out operating licenses to new reactors, or re-license old reactors, such as the four Exelon reactors applying for license extension at Byron and Braidwood in Illinois.

“Fifty years into the Nuclear Age, and as yet no place to permanently dispose of the more than 70,000 tons of spent reactor fuel, 9,000+ tons in Illinois alone,” notes Dave Kraft, Director of Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS), an Illinois nuclear watchdog organization.  “The nuclear industry has no bathroom, so to speak; yet, NRC continues to allow them to keep excreting more waste with nothing more than the verbal assurances of its Waste Confidence Rule to claim the public is protected.  Those days of ‘fairy dust safety’ are over.”

“The NRC it must abandon its so-called “Waste Confidence” policy and stop licensing nuclear reactors when there is no proven solution to the waste problem – except to stop making it,” maintains Maureen Headington of Stand Up, Save Lives! of Burr Ridge, Illinois.

This sentiment is echoed both local and nationally:

“The Sierra Club is dedicated to creating a sustainable future for all mankind that is without dependence on fossil and nuclear fuels…The problem of what to do with radioactive waste – to pick the “safest of the unsafe” alternatives – will be with us for all time.  We only get one chance to get it right,” warns Linda Lewison of the newly formed Sierra Club Illinois Nuclear Free Committee.  “We do not have confidence in the NRC.   How can they continue to license and relicense nuclear reactors with no plan in place for a permanent geological repository?…We don’t buy this lack of a plan.”

The NRC must develop a new and complete Generic Environmental Impact Statement to the Court’s satisfaction if it is to regain its ability to license nuclear reactors.  Part of the GEIS process is to gather public comment on the proposed rule through public meetings like the one in Oak Brook.  Not everyone is convinced that NRC is addressing the most important issues in its proposed GEIS:

“…NRC has not lived up to its duty to the American people in regards to radioactive nuclear waste.  For too long the government has been kicking the can down the road about where to put the tons of nuclear waste that have been piling up at America’s nuclear power plants,” says Dr. Lora Chamberlain of Nuclear Free Illinois.  “We want the NRC to stop the making of this dangerous waste and find a permanent solution… Our children deserve a safe nuclear free future.”

NRC has been criticized not only for the lack of hard data to back up its claims for safe storage of the spent fuel, but for the lackadaisical attitude it has displayed towards even simple regulation:

“While reviewing the [DGEIS] for comment, the term “adequate” repeatedly appears regarding the steps currently used to store toxic nuclear waste.  Whenever I hear the term used by NRC staff… I cringe,”   states Bette Pierman of Michigan Safe Energy Future in South haven, Michigan.  “I am not sure how the use of this term is supposed to be reassuring to the public since it means “good enough.”   The connotation connected with “good enough” is mediocre.  So, I ask you, how safe would you feel with an “adequate” pilot on a turbulent transcontinental flight?  Or, how quickly would you employ an “adequate” heart surgeon if you required surgery?  Yet, [NRC] throws the word “adequate” around to the public like that is supposed to reassure us about the safety of …what you propose as the generic treatment of waste storage for a number of years far into the future.  This member of the public does not share your confidence!”

The consequences of the GEIS and the Court ruling could have near-term implications beyond reactor licensing.  Without the existence of a permanent, deep-geological disposal facility in which to dispose of the spent-fuel, it has been stockpiling at existing reactor sites around the country, stored in the required “wet pools,” or in outdoor, air-cooled “dry-casks.”

The past and recent closure of many reactors has resulted in former reactor sites becoming de facto waste dumpsites.  Proposed Federal legislation (S.1240) gives priority to move this waste to “centralized interim storage” (CIS) facilities, for alleged temporary storage.  However, this plan is opposed by many safe-energy groups around the country – who refer to CIS as “parking lot dumps” — as unsafe and unnecessary.  Further, what is largely unknown to the public and public officials alike is that a 2012 study at done at Oak Ridge National Laboratory recommends Illinois as the optimal candidate for the first of these CIS facilities.  This would result in Illinois taking for indefinite storage up to 9,000 tons of additional spent fuel beyond the 9,000+ tons is already has.

“Illinois residents did not agree to become the nation’s nuclear waste dump but that is what we are.  If a permanent geologic repository is not created the State of Illinois will likely get more waste shipped to and through it, putting us even more in danger of an accident at a nuclear facility or while waste is being transported,” observes Gail Snyder, Board member of NEIS from Homer Glen, Illinois.

At the end of the day, the whole process comes down to trust.

“The NRC says to the Courts and the public, ‘Trust that we will be on the job insuring safety of highly radioactive, long-lived, spent nuclear fuel indefinitely into the future,’ when one month ago they could not even guarantee they would have employees able to report to work,” Dave Kraft points out.  “They’re not responsible for storing marshmallows or ping pong balls; they’re responsible for the mistake-free storage of some of the deadliest material humankind has ever created.  After 30 years of verbal, unsubstantiated waste “con,” the public has no further confidence in NRC’s waste confidence,” Kraft concludes.


There are times when a lone brave voice — bucking both public opinion and sometimes seemingly even reality — is called for, for the good of a nation, society, or planetary survival.

CNN’s decision to broadcast the commercially disastrous pro-nuclear docu-mercial ‘Pandora’s Promise’ is not one of those times.

Pandora 3The 2013 documentary by Robert Stone purports to present the narrative of several self-described formerly anti-nuclear environmentalists who supposedly have “seen the light,” and now support nuclear power in the future.  Despite an aggressive ad campaign, the $1 million-plus documentary grossed $66,643 over its 7 week run in the summer of 2013 – roughly translating into a total national viewing audience of about 6,664.  It did garner a decent 61% on Rotten Tomatoes.com, however.  

The docu-mercial was properly panned by a significant number of the press that would seem logically to count:  the generally pro-nuclear New York Times, and even the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.  The latter, in a review titled, “Pandora’s False Promise,” wrote:

“The film unabashedly promotes nuclear power as the only energy source that can both meet worldwide demand and help reduce carbon emissions quickly enough to minimize further damage to the Earth’s atmosphere….

“The flaw in the film’s approach is its zealous advocacy of one solution — one silver bullet — to meet the tremendous challenges of providing for some nine billion people by 2050, while also protecting societies from the ravages of climate disruption. The kind of thinking that led some of these environmentalists to single-mindedly protest nuclear power plants during the 1970s and 1980s leads them to just-as-single-mindedly advocate a push toward nuclear power 40 years later.

“Nuclear power may indeed end up being part of the energy mix that leads to both a more stable climate and adequate livelihoods around the world. But the challenges posed by nuclear power — like the risk of weapons proliferation and reactor accidents, and the need to securely store radioactive used fuel for many generations — are not adequately addressed in the film.

“Rather, Stone and his subjects seem as intent on promoting nuclear power as the one clear solution as they once were in denying that it had any place in responsible energy planning. Since they’ve now “seen the light,” viewers are expected to join their new-found cause.

“…What is disingenuous about Pandora’s Promise is the way the new judgment is conveyed. The film mocks groups that continue to protest nuclear power, treating one-time colleagues as extremists and zealots. An audience discussion after a preview at the University of Chicago made it clear I was not the only one who sensed the self-righteous tone of the newly converted in the film’s narrative. In the end, by dismissing the protestors and failing to engage them in significant debate about the pros and cons of nuclear energy, the film undermined its own message.”

As a fig leaf for their decision to air such a biased film, CNN on its website writes,

Jeff Zucker, president of CNN Worldwide, said, “Both of these special films represent exactly the type of engaging, thought-provoking content that is the mission of CNN Films.”  “Through our acquisitions and commissions of exceptional factual content, we aim to encourage dialogue on the issues raised in the films with our filmmakers, experts, and other stakeholders via our robust television, digital and social platforms,” he said.  (emphasis ours)

If the folks at CNN really wanted a considered and fair national debate on the controversial issue of nuclear power, they might have as a counterpoint turned to people with nuclear backgrounds who now do NOT support nuclear power.  We would recommend the three former Nuclear Regulatory Commission Commissioners Peter Bradford, Victor Gilinsky, and former Chair Greg Jaczko, who was Chair of the Commission until forced out in 2012 by internal politics for being too safety conscious after the Fukushima disaster.  These are people who were on the INSIDE of nuclear power, who know that nuclear power is greater than the false, seductive Pandora’s promises offered in this film.  Even though Jaczko has expressed some support for future designs, he is unequivocal in his criticism that ALL current U.S. reactors need to be fixed or closed.  Perhaps that should be Stone’s next film.

That Robert Stone misses the essence of the Pandora myth illustrates the deceptive nature of advertising and the movie itself.  While “hope” may have been in the bottom of the box Pandora opened, it was still a box containing all the EVILS of the world — a warning that false hope can be dangerous and destructive.  Or as the legendary and late folk singer Steve Goodman once sang, “And just remember that you’ll only fall for the lies and stories that you really WANT to!”  O

NEIS Director Dave Kraft will be available for comment and interview on the film, which he has seen previously, on Thursday and Friday at the NEIS office, and is available for phone, Skype or studio appearance.

ADDENDUM:  CNN will nationally broadcast the much criticized, pro-nuclear power film Pandora’s Promise on Thursday, November 7. CNN is airing the film without offering any opposing viewpoints despite requests and petitions from Beyond Nuclear and others. To help provide balance and a critical perspective on nuclear power, The Atomic States of America film will be available to view free online from November 6 – 8. Atomic States provides a comprehensive exploration of the history and impact of nuclear power to date, and investigates the truths and myths about nuclear energy. Please help promote the film’s availability to your networks and friends.

The film will also be shown Thursday, December 5,  7 PM at the Film Studies Center (Cobb 306) of the University of Chicago, 5811 South Ellis Avenue, Chicago.  A discussion will follow the film.  The showing is part of the Energy Activisms film series, presented by CIS and the Program on the Global Environment.

There are times when a lone brave voice — bucking both public opinion and sometimes seemingly even reality — is called for, for the good of a nation, society, or planetary survival.

CNN’s decision to broadcast the commercially disastrous pro-nuclear docu-mercial ‘Pandora’s Promise’ is not one of those times.

Press Statement

Article on radioactive waste buildup captures public attention.

Dave Kraft, Director, NEIS  •  October 25, 2013

An article in the Bloomberg Press of Oct. 25, 2013 titled “Illinois Biggest Atomic Dump as U.S. Fails to Pick Site,”  has received a lot of media attention today.  While it should be and is appreciated that Bloomberg writes about radioactive waste issues at all, the article in reality is a lot like one about the sky being blue, or water being wet.

With 14 reactors total, and 11 constantly producing more high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) in the form of irradiated or “spent” fuel, as it is called, it’s no wonder we’ve accumulated over 9,000 tons of the nation’s HLRW in Illinois.

The real “story” of the story, though, seems to be to create a perceived “need” for what the nuclear industry, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and their political allies in Congress and the Obama Administration really want next – “centralized interim storage” (CIS)  facilities for the HLRW.

These allegedly temporary storage sites – “parking lot dumps,” as some describe them — are proposed in legislation before the Senate (S.1240).  Their purpose is to take and store the spent fuel from reactor sites until some magical time in the future when the nation finally opens a permanent, deep-geological disposal repository.  By creating a seeming urgency and need to act, however impulsively, the industry and its allies are creating the narrative to accept the only alternative out there – the one they propose and support, which is CIS.  Rather than having a needed intelligent debate and real scientific examination of options involving all affected segments of the population, the industry and its allies hope to project CIS as an inevitable fait accompli.

Being from Illinois we’ve been saying for decades: if you don’t have a permanent disposal site, you should not be allowed to make more waste.  We didn’t allow the builders of the John Hancock Building and the former Sear’s Tower to construct those skyscrapers without bathrooms.  Yet, the NRC allowed and allows the nuclear industry to do just that – operate and produce even more waste without the existence of a certified disposal facility.

For 30 years we’ve supported the need to construct a permanent, deep geologic disposal repository, but our position requiring the prior existence of a waste solution and disposal facility was ignored.   But now when Everett Redmond and others from the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI, the nuclear industry trade and lobbying group)  cry crocodile tears, it’s an “emergency,” requiring extraordinary and imprudent measures like “centralized interim storage” (CIS) facilities?  That’s nonsense!

We need a high-level radioactive waste RE-pository, not a SUP-pository. The only purpose served by CIS is to allow more high-level waste to be created without guaranteeing a final disposal solution.  It’s a nuclear industry convenience, not a societal or environmental need.

What the Bloomberg article has conveniently left out is that Illinois is at the top of the list for the first of such CIS facilities, according to a 2012 report from Oak Ridge National Lab.  The construction of  CIS in Illinois would add an additional 9,000+ tons of spent fuel for storage here to the 9,000+ tons we already have.

We have reported this situation to Senators Richard Durbin and Mark Kirk.  While their staffs have dutifully received our warning, the Senators and the rest of the Illinois delegation has dealt with our information with a thunderous round of indifference.

The nuclear industry, with NEI leading the charge clamored loud and long for dry casks in the 1980s.  NRC typically rubber stamped their implementation at reactor sites, while conveniently ignoring their own criteria and regs at the time.  BOTH claimed then that dry casks were needed, and could safely store wastes for up to 100 years onsite.  So, what has made dry cask storage suddenly so “unsafe” as to require their removal to CIS facilities?  At which time were they lying to the public and Congress, then? or now?

According to a paper that geologist and now NRC Chair Allison Macfarlane gave in Illinois in 2005, Yucca Mt.  FAILS two of the four international safety standards for the siting of a high-level waste repository.  THAT does not sound like a very good long-term solution to our national radwaste problem  Yet members of Congress are asking to open Yucca – anyway.

And now NEI, the industry and their Congressional allies are clamoring for “centralized interim storage” as a temporary fix until we get a permanent disposal repository.  This new nonsense only creates MORE contaminated sites, uses the exact same technology — dry casks —  that the industry is so schizoid about in terms of safety, and introduces the additional hazard of unnecessary waste transportation on a degraded transport infrastructure, while having to move it a second time when we build the permanent disposal facilities.  (Yes, we will need more than one).

As for the Blue Ribbon Commission’s “concern” about reactor communities not “signing on” or giving consent for indefinite waste storage duty, the nuclear hostages in those reactor communities most certainly did not sign on for 20 year reactor license extensions that NRC passes out like indulgences, nor the 80 year reactor life span extension that NRC is studying at NEI’s request.  To so use the people of reactors communities already victimized by nuclear power in this manner is simply venal, opportunistic and disingenuous.

On November 12th, the public will have an opportunity to weigh in with its opinions on what to do with HLRW at an NRC public meeting in Oak Brook, Illinois, from 6 to 10 p.m.  This will be a long overdue opportunity for the public to tell the NRC, the nuclear industry, and their political allies what to do about the waste problem, “Not TO, not THROUGH Illinois!”  The correct option is – stop making it!  And permanently dispose of all you’ve made in a responsible manner!